Ethnic leaders welcome U.S. envoy’s call to investigate abuses

September 16th, 2011

Rai Maroah – Ethnic armed groups welcomed statements from America’s new special envoy to Burma urging the establishment of a commission to investigate claims of human rights abuses in ethnic areas.

The statement came at the end of U.S. Special Representative to Burma Derek Mitchell’s recently concluded five-day visit to the country. Mitchell spoke of “the importance of establishing a legitimate and credible mechanism for investigating reported abuses in ethnic areas as a first step toward building trust and promoting national reconciliation through accountability.”

“His suggestion should become reality. We also encourage the establishment of such a system,” said Nai Hongsa, the general secretary of the New Mon State Party (NMSP).

The Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) also welcomed the U.S. envoy’s urging of the Burmese government to solve the conflicts in the ethnic areas as a first step towards stability, security, and legitimacy.

KNPP secretary Khu Oo Rei said, “The Burmese military regularly abuses human rights in ethnic areas, while some ethnic armed groups also cause abuses. The Burmese government should take action against violators of human rights.”

Major Sai Hla, spokesperson for the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S), said an independent committee would need to be formed to be of real service to the people. Major Sai Hla said the SSA-S would assist members of such a committee to travel to areas where human rights abuses are occurring in order to help those suffering.

Some welcomed the news that the new Burmese government recently formed a National Human Rights Commission, although many were doubtful that such a commission led by retired Burmese military officers would be able to do its job effectively.

UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur for Myanmar Tomás Ojea Quintana has repeatedly called for the formation of a UN-led Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to investigate allegations of Burmese war crimes and human rights abuses.

The U.S. is among the sixteen countries to support this demand since it was first proposed in March 2010.

Mr. Derek Mitchell stated that by releasing all political prisoners unconditionally and engaging in meaningful outreach to the political opposition, including Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic political parties, Burma could demonstrate its genuine commitment to reform and national reconciliation.

Mitchell arrived in Burma on 9 September and met with officials from the government, chairmen from parliament, representatives of ethnic, political, and social organizations, and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

United Nations’ Member States will meet in New York next month to discuss the UN General Assembly Resolution on the situation of human rights in Burma.


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