Burmese military regime won't respect UN resolution; enforcement is key

Maureen Aung-Thwin [director, Burma Project/Southeast Asia Initiative of the Open Society Institute]: "Over the past two decades, various United Nations entities - the General Assembly, the Human Rights Commission (now Council) and the Security Council, have all condemned the Burmese military regime for egregious abuse of the rights of its roughly 50 million citizens.

For one last time, Brazilian law professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the outgoing UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, delivered a heart-felt, exasperated appeal to the Human Rights Council last month in Geneva.

He had completed a full term of seven years and evidently felt it was not the time to mince words. "I did not create my mandate," he told the hushed and packed room. "You have entrusted me with the follow-up of your resolutions…read the resolutions that you have adopted and see if they have been respected or not in Myanmar" he asked rhetorically. The chamber broke out in thunderous applause.

Later at a press briefing Pinheiro added: "If you believe in gnomes, trolls and elves, you can believe in this democratic process in Myanmar [Burma]."

Unfortunately the HRC does not have enforcement powers. Only the UN Security Council, the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court do. Even with no enforceable powers, it is important for members of the international community - which includes the Burmese regime - to hear a spade being called a spade in an august public forum.

Such statements help keep psychological pressure on the UN organs that do have enforcement powers. Perhaps Pinheiro's parting shots will remind the UN Security Council that the demands of its highly unusual Presidential Statement issued last October have also been totally ignored. That consensus statement, signed off by China and Russia - the regime's biggest supporters - asked the Burmese simply to urge the generals to talk, instead of jailing and harassing their opponents."

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