Received by mail from Human Rights Education List:
Dear Colleagues, Human rights educators in Burma/Myanmar are in mortal danger and in urgent need of international support.
On December 10, 2006, human rights activists in Burma celebrated the 58th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in their first annual meeting of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters. The autocratic military junta – the Union Solidarity Development Association (USDA) refers to the country as “Myanmar”, but human rights groups use the country’s historic name of Burma. The Burmese founding members of the new human rights group recognize the hazards of even talking about the Universal Declaration. On Human Rights Day, they stated:
“We are hoping for the best and prepare for the worst. We dare to face everything for Human Rights. So we need the recognition of the International Community, especially the United Nations.” At their 2006 inaugural meeting, the Human Rights Day proclamation of Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was enthusiastically received by the group.
Human Rights Defenders and Promoters have engaged in peaceful programs of popular education for human rights. The government’s response has been brutal. On April 18, 2007, a group of about 100 USDA supporters carrying clubs and sharpened bamboo sticks attacked the activists after which two human rights educators were arrested. Four other activists not involved in the attacks were also arrested. Myint Naing and Maung Maung Lay sustained serious injuries and were admitted to Rangoon General Hospital following the attack.
On Friday, May 4, 2007, the human rights educators faced trial in a local court in Hinthada Township, Irrawaddy Division. Teaching the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is evidently considered so dangerous by the government that members of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters were denied bail. The on-line Burmese news service, Irrawaddy.org reported that six human rights activists and teachers “were jailed in Hinthada for causing public mischief”. Noting Burma’s responsibilities under the UN Charter (Articles 55 and 56) to promote universal human rights, the defendants said they were “operating within the law during their rights campaign in Hinthada when they were attacked and beaten by a group of people who operate outside the law.”
Professor Richard Pierre Claude, whose training manual Popular Education for Human Rights is used by Human Rights Defenders and Promoters urged human rights educators worldwide to draw the plight of their Burmese colleagues to the attention of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, with a mail, to contact Mr. Paolo Sergio Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, and to register their concern with the Myanmar Embassy in their respective countries.