U.N.: Myanmar rights better but need work

March 11, 2013 at 4:17 PM
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NAYPYITAW, Myanmar, March 11 (UPI) -- The human rights situation in Myanmar has improved but a gap remains between efforts and implementation, a U.N. independent expert said Monday.

"While the process of reform is continuing in the right direction, there are significant human rights shortcomings that remain unaddressed, such as discrimination against the Rohingya in Rakhine state and the ongoing human rights violations in relation to the conflict in Kachin state," Tomas Ojea Quintana, special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, said in a release.

Fighting between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims have left 115,000 people displaced in Rakhine state while 75,000 people have fled their homes in Kachin since fighting began in June 2011 between government troops and the Kachin Independence Organization.

"The government must establish the truth about what happened in Rakhine state during the two waves of communal violence last June and October, and hold those responsible for human rights violations to account," Ojea Quintana said while offering his support to pursue further investigations.

He also urged the government to ease restriction on freedom of movement for the 120,000 people in refugee camps in Rakhine and to begin their relocation into communities before the beginning of the rainy season.

He recognized progress in other areas, such as the release of more than 800 prisoners of conscience since May 2011, but called for the immediate release of the more than 250 similar prisoners.

Special rapporteurs are appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council to examine and report on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The unpaid positions are honorary and the experts are not U.N. staff.

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