Thursday, January 15, 2009

Burma's Human Rights conditions deepens in 2008: HRW

By Salai Pi Pi

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Burma in 2008 was one of the worse violators of Human Rights, when its ruling junta refused assistance to its citizens, faced with severe humanitarian crisis caused by Cyclone Nargis, said Washington-based Human Rights Watch in its World Report 2009.

The 564-page report said Burma's already dismal human rights record got worse in 2008 after the deadly Cyclone Nargis killed more than 84,000 and left 2.4 million people devastated.

"The biggest concern with Cyclone Nargis was the SPDC's delayed response to it by blocking assistance," David Scott Mathieson, HRW"s Burma consultant told Mizzima, referring the Southeast Asian nation's rulers by its official name – State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).

Despite the international communities' willingness to enter cyclone devastated areas to help survivors, the junta refused to entertain the requests for weeks, while pushing forward with its referendum on a draft constitution, which critics said was designed to legitimize and cement its rule.

Besides, Burma's military rulers have also been criticized by the report for randomly arresting dissidents and sentencing them to long prison terms.

The number of political prisoners in 2008 nearly doubled from what was over 1,100 in 2007 to over 2,000, the report said.

"Human rights violation in Burma has gotten worse and continue to be perpetrated by the Burmese Army and other armed groups called state paramilitary forces," David Scott Mathieson, Burma research of HRW told Mizzima.

The human rights violation in Burma includes Burmese regime's attack against the political opposition and arrest and sentencing of hundreds of political activists including monks, judges, journalists and other people, Mathieson said.

Since August 2008, Burmese military regime's courts had handed out harsh sentences ranging from 4 months to 68 years to at least 250 political activists on charges relating to involvement in peaceful demonstrations or freedom of expression.

A student activist Bo Min Yu Ko was sentenced to a total of 104 years in prison in early January in what is the longest term so far said the Thailand based Assistant Association of Political Prisoners (Burma).

Moreover, On June 4, 2008, the Burmese junta arrested several former political prisoners for their role in cyclone relief activities including prominent comedian and dissident Zarganar.

The report also said, child soldiers in Burma, despite international condemnation, is still being used in both the Burmese Army and non-state armed groups.

Another point that the HRW noted was the extension of the detention period of Nobel Peace Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest.

"SPDC's extension of her [Aung San Suu Kyi] detention is completely unacceptable. She had done nothing wrong. She should be release immediately," Mathieson said.

While human rights violations in Burma are rampant, the HRW term neighboring countries such as India and China as spoilers for ignoring the human rights conditions in Burma while engaging with the junta.

The HRW urged the United States' incoming president Barrack Obama and his administration to put human rights at the heart of foreign, domestic, and security policy, and also to push the spoilers - Russia and China – to take a pro-active role in addressing the human rights situation in Burma.

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