U.N. rapporteur to North: Clean up rights act

by Masami Ito

A special rapporteur for the United Nations on human rights in North Korea has urged Pyongyang to take concrete measures to resolve the abductee issue as soon as possible and return the victims to their families.

Vitit Muntarbhorn, a professor of law at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, made his final visit to Japan as a U.N. special rapporteur last week and met with key ministers, including Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada and Hiroshi Nakai, the minister in charge of the abduction issue, as well as relatives of abductees.

The purpose of the visit, Muntarbhorn explained, was to meet with related parties to assess the impact of Pyongyang’s human rights situation on Japan.

“I’ve been meeting the abductee families for many years . . . and what is so sad and tragic about the pain and suffering is that it’s unending,” Muntarbhorn told a news conference at United Nations University in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, on Friday. “People don’t know what’s happened. They can’t stop their grief, and it’s a continuation of that suffering that is so troubling.”

The Thai professor pointed out that many relatives are of advanced age and urged Pyongyang to “set a concrete time frame and take concrete actions in order to resolve the abductions issue as soon as possible” and to resume bilateral talks with Japan, which last took place in August 2008 under the leadership of then Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.

“We want (the families) to see the day when the information will be clear about what happened and to return their loved ones,” he said.