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February 15, 2009

Human Rights Abuses:
Myanmar’s opposition calls on UN to take action

Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party urged the United Nations on Saturday to take action against human rights abuses in military-ruled Myanmar, voicing hope and frustration over the visit of another U.N. envoy.

UN human rights investigator Tomas Ojea Quintana was scheduled to arrive late Saturday for a six-day stay that comes less than two weeks after a visit by U.N. special envoy Ibrahim Gambari and in the wake of a judicial crackdown on pro-democracy activists.

There have been no signs of progress since Gambari's visit, which was aimed at promoting democracy and political reconciliation and trying to secure Suu Kyi's freedom. The Nobel laureate has been under house arrest for more than 13 years.

"There are numerous human rights abuses in Myanmar but human rights missions ought to be followed by action to address such violations," Nyan Win, spokesman for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, said when asked to comment on Quintana's visit.

In recent months the junta has locked away pro-democracy activists in an apparent attempt to clear away dissent prior to general elections promised for 2010. Military courts sentenced hundreds of pro-democracy activists to harsh prison terms of up to 104 years behind bars.

The UN said in a statement that Quintana will evaluate progress on human rights issues since his visit last summer.

It said Quintana has asked to meet government officials and privately with prisoners of conscience and leaders of political parties, a clear reference to Suu Kyi, whom he was not allowed to see on his last trip.

On Friday, the government extended the house arrest of 82-year-old Tin Oo, the deputy leader of Suu Kyi's party, for another year. Tin Oo was arrested with Suu Kyi in May 2003.

The timing was a blatant snub to the United Nations, which has persistently called for the release of political prisoners.

Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962. The current junta came to power in 1988 after crushing a pro-democracy movement and killing as many as 3,000 people.

It called elections in 1990 but refused to honor the results when Suu Kyi's party won overwhelmingly.

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