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Tales of the two letters

By Aman Ullah

On 24 September 1988, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi wrote a letter of appeal to the Amnesty International to bring the human rights violations in Burma by the military regime. In her letter she wrote that: –
“On 1 September Mr Heder of your organization spoke to my office here requesting firstly that Amnesty should be informed as soon as conditions in Burma have changed sufficiently to permit Amnesty staff to enter the country and secondly that Amnesty be kept informed of all new violations of human rights. As you are doubtless aware, the country has in recent weeks been subjected to such turmoil and suffering at the hands of the military regime that conditions have not so far allowed me to pursue contact with Amnesty.

I am writing now to suggest that there is a very practical way in which your organization can be of service to the cause of human rights in Burma. From next Tuesday the foreign ministers of the world will begin to address the General Debates of the United Nations Assembly. I and my associates who were struggling for the restoration of peace and democracy in Burma believe it is vital that many ministers as possible should in their speeches express their concern for the continued violation of basic human rights in Burma and in particular their unqualified condemnation of the way in which unarmed demonstrators, including school children and Buddhist monks, have been massacred in large numbers by the arm forces. We appeal to you to bring these matters to the urgent attention of foreign ministers who are addressing the Debate under Item 4 of Agenda and to urge them to make substantive reference in their speeches to the prevailing situation. For my part I shall today be raising this matter with the ambassadors of those nations represented in Burma. I would further urge you to communicate the substance of this letter to any other international organization with which you are in contact, such as International Commission of Jurists, who might be in position to influence the course of the General Debate.

Your assistance in this matter will earn your organization the gratitude of millions of people in Burma.” (Aung San Suu Kyi, ‘Freedom from Fear’, Revised Edition, Penguin Books, London 1995, pp-208’209)

In her letter to the Ambassadors of 26 September 1988, she wrote that: –
“I wish to make a personal appeal to the foreign ministers of all countries accredited to Burma to address the issue of human rights in this country in the most unqualified terms under Item 4 of the Agenda of the General Debate during current session of the United Nations Assembly. The Debate is scheduled to begin in New York on 27 September 1988, so you will appreciate there is a great urgency. I would be most grateful if you would therefore kindly forward this appeal to your Foreign Minister on my behalf. I have made similar appeals to Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists to urge them to raise this issue with the foreign ministers attending the Debate. I feel sure it will be agreed that the indiscriminate killing in recent weeks of unarmed demonstrators including school children, students and Buddhist monks is a legitimate subject for international condemnation. “ (Ibid, p. 2011)

However, today this Amnesty International to whom Daw Aung San Suu Kyi wrote a letter for appeal to bring the human rights violations in Burma by the military regime to the urgent attention of foreign ministers who are addressing the Debate under Item 4 of Agenda and to urge them to make substantive reference in their speeches to the prevailing situation, appeal to the United Nations Human Rights Council to adopt a strengthened resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar under agenda item 4.

On the Amnesty International’s written statement to the 34th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, 27 February-24 March 2017, wrote that :-
“One year after the National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government took office, the deterioration in the human rights situation in Myanmar requires immediate and urgent action from the United Nations Human Rights Council .

In Rakhine State, state security forces have responded to attacks by armed groups on police posts with a campaign of violence against the Rohingya civilian population, which may amount to crimes against humanity. In northern Myanmar fighting between the Army and armed ethnic groups has escalated leading to fresh violations of international humanitarian and human rights law against the ethnic civilian population. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) estimates over 100,000 people have been displaced in Rakhine State and northern Myanmar in the last five months. The limited space for freedom of expression nationwide has closed down even further following a surge of “online defamation” cases.

The international community cannot adopt a “wait and see” attitude in the face of increasing violations. The continuing power of the military to violate rights with impunity and the unwillingness or inability of the new administration to counter discrimination and impunity require immediate action. The Council should adopt a strengthened resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar under agenda item 4, extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and requesting her to provide more regular reporting to the Council on the resolution’s implementation, including on meeting the reform benchmarks requested by HRC Resolution 31/24. It should also mandate an independent international investigation into human rights violations and possible crimes against humanity committed in Rakhine State since October 2016, to avoid impunity, ensure justice to victims and survivors and identify causes of violence.”

In its statement the Amnesty International recalls that crimes against humanity are crimes of such serious magnitude that they affect humanity as a whole. We consider that the gravity of the violations in Rakhine State and the government’s ongoing failure to independently and effectively investigate them justify the ongoing involvement of the international community in investigating them.”

Daw Suu informed to Amnesty International that,” it is vital that many ministers as possible should in their speeches express their concern for the continued violation of basic human rights in Burma and in particular their unqualified condemnation of the way in which unarmed demonstrators, including school children and Buddhist monks, have been massacred in large numbers by the arm forces.” And appealed to you to bring these matters to the urgent attention of foreign ministers who are addressing the Debate under Item 4 of Agenda and to urge them to make substantive reference in their speeches to the prevailing situation.”

On the other hand the Amnesty International informed to the UN Human Rights Council that, “One year after the National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government took office, the deterioration in the human rights situation in Myanmar requires immediate and urgent action from the United Nations Human Rights Council. …….Amnesty International and the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human rights (OHCHR) have chronicled extensive human rights violations by the security forces, including unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, rape and other crimes of sexual violence, other forms of torture and ill-treatment, destruction of property and denial of humanitarian access. According to UNOCHA, the violence has displaced over 92,000 Rohingya, 69,000 of whom have fled to Bangladesh. Evidence collected by Amnesty International and OHCHR suggests these violations may be widespread and systematic and therefore may amount to crimes against humanity.”

At the same time the Amnesty International appealed to the UN Human Rights Council that, “The Council should adopt a strengthened resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar under agenda item 4 and should mandate an independent international investigation into human rights violations and possible crimes against humanity committed in Rakhine State since October 2016, to avoid impunity, ensure justice to victims and survivors and identify causes of violence.”

Time and tide change many things, 19 years ago Daw Suu was in opposition and raised question against the military regime. In her letter to the Ambassadors she wrote that, “I feel sure it will be agreed that the indiscriminate killing in recent weeks of unarmed demonstrators including school children, students and Buddhist monks is a legitimate subject for international condemnation.”

The Amnesty International mentioned its statement that, “One year after the National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government took office, the deterioration in the human rights situation in Myanmar requires immediate and urgent action from the United Nations Human Rights Council.”

The United Nations said in a report last month that the army and police had committed mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya Mus¬lims in northern Rakhine State and burned villages in a campaign that may amount to crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

Setting up a full international commission of inquiry into the findings – similar to those for Syria and North Korea – has been seen as a test of international resolve at the main annual session of the council that ends on March 24.

Now Daw Suu is in position, she led ruling government. The Amnesty as well as the whole world is raising question against her government and only thing that she is doing to remain in silence. But her government not only discard, deny, and defy to all the allegations but also looks set to es¬cape an international investigation into alleged atrocities against its Rohingya minority.


About Author:
Mr. Aman Ullah, a Rohingya historian based in Bangladesh and he was a former school teacher in Ann township and the southern part of Maungdaw, Arakan State, Myanmar, who has contributed in the field of Rohingya history and humanitarian stance.