Wednesday, February 25, 2009

US lashes 'brutal' Myanmar rights record

(The Raw Story-AFP)- The United States lashed out at the Myanmar regime's human rights record Wednesday, saying the military was "brutally" suppressing its citizens and razing entire villages.

In an annual global report on human rights, the State Department said Myanmar's ruling junta carried out numerous extrajudicial killings along with rape and torture without punishing anyone responsible.

"The regime brutally suppressed dissent," it said, faulting the junta for "denying citizens the right to change their government and committing other severe human rights abuses."

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, crushed a 2007 uprising led by Buddhist monks, killing at least 31 people, according to the UN. In May last year, a cyclone left 138,000 people dead or missing.

"The regime showed contempt for the welfare of its own citizens when it persisted in conducting a fraudulent referendum in the immediate aftermath" of the cyclone, the State Department said.

It said that Myanmar also "delayed international assistance that could have saved many lives."

The regime forcibly relocated people away from their homes, particularly in areas dominated by ethnic minorities, with troops then confiscating their property or looting their possessions, the report said.

"Thousands of civilians were displaced from their traditional villages -- which often were then burned to the ground -- and moved into settlements tightly controlled by government troops in strategic areas," the report said.

"In other cases villagers driven from their homes fled into the forest, frequently in heavily mined areas, without adequate food, security or basic medical care," it said.

The State Department also said that women and members of certain minority groups are completely absent in the government and the judiciary.

Myanmar's most famous woman, pro-democracy advocate and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, has been under house arrest for most of the last 19 years.

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