MPs vote against MNHRC

Lower house law­mak­ers over­whelm­ingly sup­ported tak­ing ac­tion against the hu­man rights com­mis­sion yes­ter­day, in­creas­ing pres­sure on the gov­ern­ment to crack down on the mis­han­dling of a child tor­ture case.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - Thanhtoo@mm­times.com HTOO THANT

LAW­MAK­ERS in the lower house yes­ter­day voted in favour of tak­ing dis­ci­plinary ac­tion against the Myan­mar Na­tional Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion af­ter the body’s botched han­dling of a child tor­ture case.

In an is­sue that united MPs across party and mil­i­tary lines, the law­mak­ers agreed that the MNHCR had failed in its obli­ga­tion to pro­tect the young vic­tims when the mem­bers bro­kered a fi­nan­cial set­tle­ment.

“We need to be ask­ing who the com­mis­sion was pro­tect­ing when it ne­go­ti­ated cash com­pen­sa­tion in­stead of fil­ing a law­suit – the vic­tims, or the of­fend­ers?” said MP U Wai Hlaing Tun (NLD; Pathein). “In my opin­ion, the com­mis­sion should be dis­solved.”

With the pas­sage of the ur­gent pro­posal, the gov­ern­ment is un­der ad­di­tional pres­sure to in­ves­ti­gate any wrong­do­ing by the com­mis­sion­ers, and take ac­tion against them if ev­i­dence is found.

The Pres­i­dent’s Of­fice an­nounced last week that the rights body’s in­volve­ment in the con­tentious case would be re­viewed.

Two teenage vic­tims, Ma San Kay Khine and Ma Thazin, en­dured years of phys­i­cal vi­o­lence and psy­cho­log­i­cal abuse be­fore even­tu­ally es­cap­ing bondage at the Ava Tai­lor­ing shop on 40th Street in Yan­gon and re­turn­ing to their par­ents.

Myan­mar Now chief cor­re­spon­dent Ko Swe Win ini­tially re­ported the case to the Kyauk­tada town­ship po­lice in June, but fol­low­ing in­ac­tion, turned to the hu­man rights com­mis­sion.

Out­raged that the MNHRC ap­peared to be wash­ing its hands of the case af­ter the set­tle­ment, Ko Swe Win wrote about the closed-door fi­nan­cial ne­go­ti­a­tion that saw the case closed with a pay­ment of K5 mil­lion (US$4065) to the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies. His ar­ti­cle prompted im­me­di­ate and over­whelm­ing so­cial me­dia back­lash.

Fu­elled by pub­lic out­cry over the im­punity, the po­lice even­tu­ally ar­rested five fam­ily mem­bers con­nected to the tai­lor­ing shop and the abuse of the young do­mes­tic work­ers. Pho­to­graphs of the teenagers re­vealed burns and scars along their arms, and bones that did not heal prop­erly af­ter be­ing bro­ken.

In yes­ter­day’s par­lia­men­tary ses­sion, 14 Na­tional League for Democ­racy law­mak­ers, one MP from the Ta’Arng (Palaung) Na­tional Party and one mil­i­tary MP de­bated the ur­gent pro­posal sub­mit­ted by rep­re­sen­ta­tive U Htay Win Aung (NLD; Daw­bon).

“The lower house ap­proved the pro­posal, so now the Union gov­ern­ment is urged to con­duct an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and take ac­tion [against the MNHRC] if they are found guilty. The gov­ern­ment must iden­tify if the com­mis­sion­ers han­dled the case with hon­est in­ten­tion,” U Hla Moe, sec­re­tary of the Pyithu Hlut­taw’s Rights Com­mit­tee, told The Myan­mar Times af­ter the par­lia­men­tary ses­sion.

The de­bate also cov­ered whether the com­mis­sion – Myan­mar’s pre­em­i­nent or­gan­i­sa­tion to mon­i­tor hu­man rights abuses – needs to be re­struc­tured.

Daw Nan Moe from the Ta’Arng (Palaung) Na­tional Party said that the en­tire com­mis­sion should be scrapped, or at the very least re­vamped with new mem­bers.

Ma­jor Aung Zin Min agreed. “Some mem­bers have been weak in co­op­er­at­ing with the rel­e­vant gov­ern­ment de­part­ments, and their ne­go­ti­a­tion process means they tried to help of­fend­ers avoid le­gal pun­ish­ment. So they have failed to sup­port jus­tice and act re­spon­si­bly,” he said.

U Zaw Win, a mem­ber of the com­mis­sion who at­tended yes­ter­day’s par­lia­men­tary de­bate, at­tempted to de­fend the com­mis­sion’s “hon­est in­ten­tions in try­ing to rem­edy the sit­u­a­tion for the vic­tims”. He also claimed the com­mis­sion had in­formed Yan­gon po­lice about the abuse.

He said the MNHRC sent a let­ter dated June 29 re­quest­ing that the Yan­gon Re­gion Po­lice Force re­spond within a month to Ko Swe Win’s com­plaint let­ter.

“Our com­mis­sion can only send sugges­tions to re­spec­tive gov­ern­ment de­part­ments. We have no rights to make a de­ci­sion or tak­ing ac­tion,” U Zaw Win said.

A po­lice tri­bunal has been tasked with in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Kyaukatada town­ship sta­tion’s al­leged fail­ure to re­spond to the ini­tial com­plaint.

Ap­par­ently unswayed by the MNHRC mem­ber’s de­fence how­ever, the Pyithu Hlut­taw MPs voted 374 in favour of dis­ci­plin­ing the com­mis­sion, while one voted against and eight ab­stained.

U Zaw Htay from the Pres­i­dent’s Of­fice said yes­ter­day that the gov­ern­ment will form an in­ves­tiga­tive in­quiry into the MNHRC, but is first await­ing a re­port of the case to be sub­mit­ted by the com­mis­sion mem­bers.

– Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Ye Mon and trans­la­tion by Thiri Min Htun

‘We need to be ask­ing who the com­mis­sion was pro­tect­ing when it ne­go­ti­ated cash com­pen­sa­tion.’

U Wai Hlaing Tun NLD lower house MP

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