Myanmar: ‘Arbitrary arrest’ and ‘torture’ still widespread in Burma: UN

    The United Nations on Saturday raised concern over the Burmese army’s “arbitrary arrest and torture” of men accused of being Kachin rebels, and urged further efforts to end hostilities in the far north.
    UN special rapporteur on rights in Burma Tomas Ojea Quintana welcomed recent talks in China aimed at stopping the unrest in Kachin state that has undermined wider political improvements in the former pariah nation.
    But he stressed the impact on local communities of the heavy fighting, which has displaced tens of thousands since a 17-year ceasefire between the army and rebel Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in broke down in June 2011.
    Following a visit to the prison in state capital Myitkyina, Quintana said he was “concerned about the ongoing practice of arbitrary arrest and torture during interrogation by the military of Kachin men accused of belonging” to the KIA.
    The envoy, who was speaking as he concluded a wide-ranging visit to Burma Saturday, said a large military presence in Kachin has meant that “serious human rights violations” continue.
    The Burma government last month announced a unilateral ceasefire but the violence went on, with government troops capturing a key outpost and edging closer to the rebels’ headquarters near the Chinese border.
    Talks in China earlier this month were seen as only a limited step by the Kachin, who are fighting for greater autonomy and want negotiations to address their demands for more political rights.
    A further round of talks involving other Burma ethnic groups are set to begin in northern Thailand in the coming days.
    The government of reformist President Thein Sein, which took power following the end of decades of junta rule in 2011, has reached tentative ceasefires with most major ethnic rebel groups.
    But around a dozen rounds of talks with the Kachin have failed to quell the violence.
    Quintana said camps for thousands of people forced to flee their homes were becoming “permanent as the conflict goes unresolved”, adding humanitarian access remained a “challenge” despite a recent government decision to allow a UN convoy to deliver relief to rebel-held areas.
    He also addressed the ongoing crisis in Burma’s western Arakan state, where two bouts of clashes between local Buddhists and a stateless Muslim minority last year displaced over 125,000 people.
    Quintana described one of the camps for Rohingya Muslims as akin to “a prison” and urged the government to address the issue of freedom of movement, which prevents locals from working and earning a livelihood.
    “The camps cannot become permanent settlements for the communities,” he warned, adding that  humanitarian access to Muslim camps, which continues to be hampered by local hostility towards international aid workers, must be improved.
    The UN rapporteur also condemned the government’s ongoing incarceration of political prisoners across the country, as well as allegations of widespread torture and abuse inside Burma’s notorious jails.
    “I am particularly concerned by the situation in Buthidaung prison in northern Rakhine [Arakan] state, on which I have received serious allegations that Muslim prisoners have been tortured and beaten to death.”
    It follows the release of statistics, which suggest that at least 68 Rohingya prisoners – accused of inciting last year’s sectarian clashes — have died in custody.
    Source: Democratic Voice of Burma