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Distinguished Committee Members,

As Ambassador of Switzerland to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar I would like to commend the efforts that your organisation underwent to establish the Truth and Justice Commission (TJC) and to allow it to pursue its work with the most independence possible.

My country has been supporting truth commissions, living memory activities and reconciliation efforts in many countries in the world, starting with South Africa and continuing with Guatemala, Argentina and Colombia, and currently in the Philippines, Nepal and the Balkans. Experience has shown that true peace can only be achieved when victims and survivors have been able to tell their story and the organisations and institutions concerned have taken responsibility as a collective; the individual perpetrators atoned for their deeds and the victims and survivors, through this process, achieve remedy and a degree of closure - even though one cannot undo what has happened. In doing so, survivors and perpetrators can be freed of the shackles of the past and can move forward in dignity. The telling can become an act of letting go and of restoring the dignity that has been shattered by the former experiences.

Nothing will bring back to life the 36 people who died under the responsibility of the ABSDF Northern Command in the period of 1991-1992. But how the organisation comes to term with what was committed in its name, and how the survivors receive some measure of satisfaction is the real test of the ABSDF’s true valour today, as it strives to return to Myanmar and become an active part of the current changes in the country.

The report establishes a narrative of the events both from the survivors’, the witnesses’ and the alleged perpetrators’ perspective. It looks at the abuses that were committed, puts them into a context and acknowledges them. Finally, it comes up with recommendations that have the great advantage of being few and implementable. If followed, they can make a real difference to the specific survivors and victims of these events, and perhaps to the many other survivors and victims of human rights violations and abuses in Myanmar. It takes courage for an organisation to admit recommendations that are uncomfortable. But by being willing to go through with a process like this, the ABSDF is showing commendable moral leadership.

We know, and you are going through the experience, it is a painful process for all involved: the survivors in retelling their painful stories, the alleged perpetrators in facing what they have committed, the Commission members in witnessing the pain and the organisation in having to take responsibility and own up to what was done in its name. This takes true courage.

After 25 years, learning to face what perhaps seemed justifiable at the time and acknowledging that today it no longer is, calls perhaps for more courage than fighting in the battlefield. I commend you for taking this difficult step in your already long journey for peace. I am honoured that the ABSDF chose to work with my embassy during this process. It has been a privilege to be part of this. I wish you all the best in this next step of your journey towards peace and my country is ready to continue accompanying you in these efforts.

Christoph Burgener

Ambassador of Switzerland

Yangon, Myanmar, February 2015