Email This Story :
Europe’s “wait and see” approach to army-dominated Burma is “irresponsible”, Amnesty International has said, urging the EU to back an inquiry into crimes against humanity in the country.
The Burma government “has continued to violate human rights on a massive scale”, four years after the brutal suppression of a monk-led protest, known as the Saffron Revolution, said Amnesty’s Burma researcher Benjamin Zawacki.
He said reports from ethnic minority areas suggest 50,000 people may be internally displaced by conflict, while abuses have continued under a new regime, which came to power after controversial November elections.
In an article on Friday for the online exile news magazine Irrawaddy, Amnesty urged the European Union and its member states to lend their support to the establishment of a UN commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity.
“‘Wait and see’ — what the government will do before the elections, how the elections will be conducted, whether the new government will make any changes — has been the prevailing and irresponsible approach,” he said of the international community, including the EU.
“We have waited for years, even decades, and seen quite enough: these violations call for accountability.”
Hostilities between the military and armed ethnic rebels in Kachin State in the north and Karen and Shan states near the Thai border in the east, have been “accelerated or renewed” since the election, Zawacki said.
There have been recent accounts of the army using prisoners as porters, human shields and minesweepers and of rape and other forms of sexual violence, he said. The number of displaced people was thought to be 30,000 in Shan State and 20,000 in Kachin State as of the end of July.
The UN special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, is to present a report to the UN in October and Zawacki said an EU-led resolution on Burma is likely to follow.
Amnesty welcomed the public support of 12 EU nations for a commission of inquiry, but “regrets” that the EU as a bloc and influential members Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden have not openly backed the move.
On a recent rare visit to the country Quintana, who angered Burma’s ruling generals last year by suggesting that rights violations could warrant a UN inquiry, said serious concerns remained, particularly the plight of more than 2,000 political prisoners.
Burma’s government has appeared keen to improve its image recently, holding the first talks between democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and President Thein Sein, a former general.
The regime has also called for peace in minority areas, but its overtures have so far been met with distrust by rebel groups.
A report on Friday’s parliamentary session in the state-run New Light of Burma said rebels wanting an end to the conflicts should get in touch with the government, which plans to set up a “team for peace talks”.
Minister for Information Kyaw Hsan said the regime would “conduct peace negotiations with armed groups in accordance with the 2008 constitution to make peace with them, maintaining balance of the both sides”, the paper reported on Saturday.