United Nations, October 21:

Myanmar’s military government refuses to investigate widespread human rights abuses including summary executions, torture, forced labour, sexual violence and recruitment of child soldiers, the UN special investigator for human rights in the Southeast Asian country said in a report.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said in the report circulated yesterday that this “culture of impunity” remains the main obstacle to safeguarding and securing respect for human rights and has contributed to the increased gap between the poorest and richest in the country.

“These violations have not been investigated and their authors have not been prosecuted,” he said. “Victims have not been in a position to assert their rights and receive a fair and effective remedy.” Among the individuals responsible for committing serious human rights violations, who have not been prosecuted, “are members of the military,” he said.

In the 19-page report to the UN General Assembly covering the period from February to September, Pinheiro said the situation for democracy and human rights advocates has worsened and military operations in ethnic areas have increased with the apparent aim of taking over land and forcing thousands of people to flee their homes. “Given the scale of the current military campaign, the situation may lead to a humanitarian crisis if it is not addressed immediately,” he warned.

The government in Myanmar has refused to allow Pinheiro to visit since 2003 but he said he has obtained information on the human rights situation from a variety of independent and reliable sources.

Myanmar’s UN Mission said no one was available to comment on the report.

Myanmar’s junta took power in 1988 after crushing the democracy movement led by Aung San Suu Kyi. In 1990, it refused to hand over power when Suu Kyi’s political party won a landslide election victory. Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has spent nearly 11 of the last 17 years in detention, mostly under house arrest and is the most prominent political detainee.

At the end of August, Pinheiro said, the number of political prisoners was estimated at 1,185, a figure that does not include numerous prisoners reportedly detained in ethnic areas and secret jails.

The UN investigator said he was “extremely worried” at allegations that 1,038 members of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy were forced to resign since April “following various forms of intimidation and threats.” The government also continues to restrict freedom of movement, expression and assembly, he said.