Myanmar ethnic violence limiting transition to democracy: UN rights expert

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[JURIST] Continued ethnic violence in Myanmar presents “serious limitations” to the government’s transition to democracy, according to Tomas Ojea Quintana [official profile; JURIST news archive], a UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar. Quintana made a statement [text] Monday in conclusion to his mission to Thailand to study the government of Myanmar, where he has not been allowed to visit. He does not believe that the government is doing enough to provide a political solution to the ethnic conflicts in the border areas. Though he did say that the creation of national, state, and regional legislatures was a positive step, that it was alone not sufficient to stop the problem. Quintana said:

the situation of ethnic minority groups in the border areas presents serious limitations to the Government’s intention to transition to democracy. Violence continues in many of these areas. Systematic militarization contributes to human rights abuses. These abuses include land confiscation, forced labor, internal displacement, extrajudicial killings and sexual violence. They are widespread, they continue today, and they remain essentially unaddressed by the authorities.

He also concluded that infrastructure projects had resulted in human rights abuses and said private companies should have a duty to no be complicit with such abuses.

Myanmar is struggling to transition to democracy with problems such as detaining political prisoners. Last week, Myanmar began releasing close to 15,000 prisoners, but many human rights groups claim the government is still holding many more political prisoners. Quintana urged Myanmar’s military government to release 2,202 political prisoners [JURIST report] last December. Quintana called for the release of the “prisoners of conscience,” many of whom, he says, suffer from health problems as a result of the harsh detention conditions. Quintana claims the release is necessary to promote democracy. In March, Myanmar underwent a transfer of power [BBC report] from a military regime to a civil system after holding its first elections in 20 years. However, critics argue that the new regime is merely a sham since it is made up of military generals and with the military party winning 80 percent of the vote.

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