The United Nations and Amnesty International have warned that Burma is backsliding on its commitment to human rights.
In it annual report, Amnesty said the human rights situation in the country has “stalled” while in a UN statement, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said on Wednesday that Burma “seems headed in the wrong direction and needs urgently to get back on track”.
Criticism comes at a time when thousands of people have recently been displaced during conflict in the Kokang region of northeastern Shan State and during a period of simmering tensions between Muslims and Buddhists in the country following pogroms targeting the Rohingya community in Arakan State.
Over the past year, human rights abuses saw political exclusion of the disenfranchised Rohingyas, the shooting of protestor Khin Win at the Latpadaung mine, and the manslaughter of freelance journalist Par Gyi while in Burmese army custody.
“The international community has seen the transition in Myanmar [Burma] as a story of promise and hope, but recent developments are calling into question the direction of that reform, and even threatening to set it back,” Zeid said.
He warned that the denial of Rohingyas’ right to self-identification “should sound a clear warning bell” to the international community, and called for “a new democratic Myanmar [to be] built on the strength of its diversity.”
Supporting the decentralisation of military governance, he said thew ongoing civil conflicts in the country must stop, otherwise an impasse will be “tragic for Myanmar’s peace process”. The UN human rights chief added that “ensuring accountability for the military will be a key test for the transition.”
A day earlier, Amnesty International Secretary-General Salil Shetty noted: “This has been a devastating year for those seeking to stand up for human rights and for those caught up in the suffering of war zones.”
Shetty said that it is “essential to confront violations against civilians, and to bring to justice those responsible”, adding that it is imperative to have “true accountability and justice” when rules to protect civilians are violated.
“One obvious and practical step is waiting to be taken: Amnesty International has welcomed the proposal, now backed by around 40 governments, for the UN Security Council to adopt a code of conduct agreeing to voluntarily refrain from using the veto in a way which would block Security Council action in situations of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.” she said.
The Burmese military has stood accused on several occasions of violations of human rights that may constitute war crimes.