`Serious` rights violations persist in Myanmar: UN

Last week, the new military-backed government in Myanmar released thousands of prisoners.

Last Updated: Oct 20, 2011, 10:43 AM IST

New York: Serious human rights violations persist in Myanmar despite a mass amnesty for more than 6,300 prisoners including some political opponents, the UN rights envoy to the country has said.

"Despite these positive developments, many ongoing and serious human rights issues remain to be addressed," the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Tomas Ojea Quintana, said yesterday in a report to the General Assembly.

Quintana said while progress had been made on the human rights front in recent months, he noted that ahead of by-elections expected by year`s end, "there should be no prisoners of conscience remaining in detention”.

"This is a central and necessary step towards national reconciliation and would greatly benefit Myanmar`s efforts towards democracy," the UN envoy said.

Last week, the new military-backed government in Myanmar released thousands of prisoners including Zarganar, a prominent comedian and vocal government critic.

However, most of an estimated 2,000 political prisoners, including key figures involved in a failed 1988 student-led uprising, remain behind bars.

President Thein Sein, a former general and senior junta figure, has surprised critics by signalling a series of political reforms since taking power following a controversial election last November.

Quintana called for the removal of restrictions on the activities of political parties, and said that "respect for the freedoms of expression, assembly and association should be ensured”.

"I firmly believe that much more is needed," the envoy said.

He called on Thein Sein`s government to address "ongoing tensions in ethnic border areas and conflict with some armed ethnic groups," which he said "continue to engender serious human rights violations”.

Those violations include "extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, arbitrary arrest and detention, internal displacement, land confiscations, the recruitment of child soldiers, as well as forced labour," he said.

PTI