Burma’s Ethnic Minorities Still Face Discrimination: UN
24 October 2012: Human rights violations and discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities in Burma still continue, a report by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) said.
Mr. Tomás Ojea Quintana said ethnic minority groups are still facing various forms of restrictions on freedom of religion or belief including construction of Christian places of worship in Chin State while acknowledging ‘dramatic and accelerated changes’ in the country.
“Any durable political solution must address the root causes of the conflict and the particular concerns of ethnic minority groups,” added Mr. Quintana, who conducted his sixth mission to Burma in July and August 2012.
He also drew attention to the government-run residential schools operated under the Progress for Border Areas National Races Development Program, where ethnic students are coerced to convert to Buddhism.
A report released last month by the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) said these residential schools, also known in its Burmese acronym as Na Ta La, are being used to recruit, indoctrinate and coerced convert Chin Christian youths to Buddhism.
CHRO’s Advocacy Director Rachel Fleming said, “We warmly welcome the fact that the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burma has highlighted violations of religious freedom faced by the Chin. This important issue is too often overlooked by the international community.”
“President Thein Sein’s government urgently needs to address deep-rooted issues of discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities like the Chin. That should include far-reaching institutional reform. Unless and until that happens, achieving lasting peace and national reconciliation will not be possible.”
Run in the guise as part of a 30-year Master Plan for development of ethnic areas and chaired by President Thein Sein, the program has got a total of 29 Na Ta La schools in the country, of which a third are in Chin State, according to the CHRO’s report.
Mr. Quintana renewed his call for ethnic minorities in Burma to be granted the fundamental rights enshrined in, among others, the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.
In the report submitted to the sixty-seven regular session of the General Assembly of the UN, Mr. Quintana also highlighted policies preventing the teaching of minority languages in schools in Burma.
Burma must tackle its human rights challenges in order for democratic transition and national reconciliation to make progress, according to the report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma.
Mr. Quintana called on the international community to ensure that human rights considerations remain at the forefront of its engagement with Burma during this period of transition.
Van Biak Thang