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Myanmar and UN again at odds over human rights, constitution

Myanmar has strongly rejected criticism of its human rights record by the United Nations, slamming the world body for its interference and “intrusive language“.

The third committee of the United Nations General Assembly in New York released its evaluation of Myanmar’s human rights record on November 18.

The UN criticised Myanmar on numerous counts, among them the adoption of the controversial “protection of race and religion laws” which discriminate against women and ethnic minorities.

The UN also called for a fully elected parliament to lead the democratic transition, effectively taking issue with the 2008 constitution which guarantees the military 25 percent of seats.

U Kyaw Tin, Myanmar’s ambassador to the UN, responded in a written statement saying it was none of the UN’s business to interfere in Myanmar’s legislative process. “Those laws fall within the domestic jurisdiction and are not contrary to international legal obligation,” he said.

“Every sovereign state has the right to choose its own political system in accordance with history, traditions, values, realities and its constitution,” U Kyaw Tin said. He also complained about the UN using “intrusive language”.

U Kyaw Tin also objected to the UN call for Myanmar to step up its effort to end remaining human rights violations and abuses, including arbitrary arrest and rape. “It is regrettable that the changes on the ground did not receive corresponding changes in the mind-set of the authors of this text,” the ambassador responded.

A major source of disagreement between the UN and Myanmar remained the issue of the Muslim Rohingya minority. The UN reiterated its serious concern over the Rohingya in Arakan (Rakhine) State. The assembly “calls upon the government of Myanmar to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all individuals, including persons belonging to the Rohingya minority”, the resolution said, calling for the Rohingya to have full citizenship and related rights.

He further argued that discrimination based on race or religion was not an issue in Myanmar.

“It is their [the ethnic and religious minorities’] ineligibility in meeting the criteria which requires citizenship of the candidate and both parents.”

Although the community lived in Myanmar for generations, the Rohingya minority is not one of the 135 ethnic groups recognised under the country’s 1982 citizenship law. They are severely limited in their rights in a policy of government-enforced segregation in Arakan

(Rakhine) State. Most were disenfranchised by the government ahead of the November 8 general elections.

The resolution issued by the UN is non-binding. Despite its harsh criticism, the text was not purely negative and highlighted positive developments, such as economic reform and the elections.

The UN’s rebuke comes one week after the report of the Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council, a separate UN body in Geneva, where UN member states also slammed Myanmar for rejecting key human rights issues.

Note: changes have been made, MYANMAR TIMES is not responsible for these.