Clinton must demand Myanmar human rights reforms

The US Secretary of State’s visit to Myanmar should be considered a success if authorities respond immediately by undertaking bold and far-reaching human rights reforms, Amnesty International said.  On Thursday Hillary Clinton will begin a two-day visit to Myanmar, the highest-level visit there by a US official in more than 50 years. Clinton must insist that Myanmar’s leaders release all political prisoners and stop targeting ethnic minority civilians, said Benjamin Zawacki, Amnesty International’s Myanmar specialist. “Myanmar’s human rights situation has improved modestly in some respects but is significantly worsening in others,” he said.  “The US Secretary of State’s visit sets a clear challenge for the government to respond with bold and meaningful steps, including the release — once and for all — of every remaining prisoner of conscience, and ending atrocities against ethnic minority civilians.”  Myanmar has released at least 318 political prisoners this year, but more than a thousand remain behind bars, many of whom are prisoners of conscience.  Amnesty International says their release should be immediate and unconditional and not part of what some Myanmar officials call a “process”.  In several ethnic minority areas, including in parts of Kayin, Kachin and Shan States where conflict has reignited or intensified over the past year, the Myanmar army continues to commit human rights violations against civilians on a widespread and systematic basis.    “Clinton should make it abundantly clear to the authorities that she expects nothing less than to see political prisoners freed and ethnic minority civilians protected,” said Zawacki.    The US has long advocated the establishment of an international Commission of Inquiry into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity against ethnic minority civilians in Myanmar.  Article 445 of Myanmar’s Constitution codifies immunity from prosecution for officials for past human rights violations.    “Clinton should reiterate the US’s commitment to accountability in Myanmar through an international commission if the authorities do not draw a line under decades of impunity,” said Benjamin Zawacki.    Previous Myanmar governments successfully cited visits by foreign governments and international organizations as evidence of human rights progress or concessions to human rights concerns.