As Aung San Suu Kyi arrives in the United States to meet with President Barack Obama and attend the United Nations General Assembly, the international community must maintain pressure on Myanmar’s authorities to improve the country’s human rights record.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s trip to the US comes as the new civilian-led government enters its sixth month in office. In this time, it has taken some steps to address human rights but still faces challenges bequeathed by a half a century of military rule.
“We have seen encouraging changes as Myanmar eases out from under the shadow of military rule. But there is still a lot more to do to ensure a decisive break with the country’s ugly past of human rights violations,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.
“For almost a quarter of a century, the United Nations General Assembly has adopted a resolution on human rights in Myanmar. It is important that the same happens this year. The gains made so far have to be consolidated and built upon, not left incomplete or eroded.”
A new quasi-civilian government, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, came to power in March 2016 after a resounding victory of her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), in the 2015 elections. Upon taking office, it faced a daunting series of human rights challenges.
“For almost a quarter of a century, the United Nations General Assembly has adopted a resolution on human rights in Myanmar. It is important that the same happens this year.”
Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.
In addressing those challenges, the NLD’s power is severely constrained by the enduring influence of the Myanmar military, which continues to control key ministries and can block constitutional changes with a quarter of all seats in parliament.
The importance of a UNGA resolution on human rights in Myanmar is further underlined by the fact that none of the recommendations made in previous resolutions have been fully implemented.
“When it comes to ongoing conflict, the plight of the Rohingya, humanitarian assistance for displaced communities, holding human rights violators to account, curbing hate speech, and reforming repressive laws, little has improved.”
“When it comes to ongoing conflict, the plight of the Rohingya, humanitarian assistance for displaced communities, holding human rights violators to account, curbing hate speech, and reforming repressive laws, little has improved,” said Rafendi Djamin.
“Any decision to drop the UNGA resolution should be based on an objective assessment of the human rights situation in the country, not on political considerations. The reality on the ground makes clear that it is still too early to relax international pressure.”
For the past 24 years, the European Union (EU) has introduced a resolution addressing the human rights situation in Myanmar at the United Nations General Assembly. The resolution brings much needed pressure to bear on Myanmar’s authorities.
Amid signs that the EU may prematurely break with that tradition, Amnesty International and other non-governmental organizations have called on the international community to back a resolution this year to help Myanmar press ahead with much-needed human rights reforms.
The key recommendations laid out in last year’s resolution (Resolution 70/233) have not been fully implemented.
Amnesty International, ALSEAN-Burma, Article 19, Civil Rights Defenders, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) issued this statement.