Human rights in Burma: Wikis


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Organs of the United Nations and major international human rights organisations have issued repeated and consistent reports of widespread and systematic human rights violations in Burma. The United Nations General Assembly has repeatedly[1] called on the Burmese Military Junta to respect human rights and in November 2009 the General Assembly adopted a resolution ""strongly condemning the ongoing systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms" and calling on the Burmese Military Regime "to take urgent measures to put an end to violations of international human rights and humanitarian law."[2] International human rights organisations including Human Rights Watch[3] and Amnesty International [4]

Violations of human rights claimed include claims that there is no independent judiciary in Burma. That the military government restricts Internet access through software-based censorship that limits the material citizens can access on-line.[5][6] That Forced labour, human trafficking, and child labour are common.[7] and the rampant use of sexual violence as an instrument of control, including systematic rapes and taking of sex slaves as porters for the military. A strong women's pro-democracy movement has formed in exile, largely along the Thai border and in Chiang Mai. There is a growing international movement to defend women's human rights issues.[8]

The Freedom in the World 2004 report by Freedom House notes that "The junta rules by decree, controls the judiciary, suppresses all basic rights, and commits human rights abuses with impunity. Military officers hold all cabinet positions, and active or retired officers hold all top posts in all ministries. Official corruption is reportedly rampant both at the higher and local levels."[9]

Brad Adams, director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, in a 2004 address described the human rights situation in the country as appalling: "Burma is the textbook example of a police state. Government informants and spies are omnipresent. Average Burmese people are afraid to speak to foreigners except in most superficial of manners for fear of being hauled in later for questioning or worse. There is no freedom of speech, assembly or association."[10]


Forced labour

According to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions several hundred thousand men, women, children and elderly people are forced to work against their will by the administration. Individuals refusing to work may be victims of torture, rape or murder. The International Labour Organization has continuously called on Burma to end the practice of forced labour since the 1960s. In June 2000, the ILO Conference adopted a resolution calling on governments to cease any relations with the country that might aid the junta to continue the use of forced labour.[6]

Freedom of speech and political freedom

A 2004 Amnesty International report says that, between 1989 and 2004, more than 1,300 political prisoners have been imprisoned after unfair trials. The prisoners, including National League for Democracy (NLD) leaders Aung San Suu Kyi and U Tin Oo, have "been wrongfully denied their liberty for peaceful acts that would not be considered crimes under international law", Amnesty International claims.[11]

The Freedom House report notes that the authorities arbitrarily search citizens' homes, intercept mail, and monitor telephone conversations, and that the possession and use of telephones, fax machines, computers, modems, and software are criminalized.

Freedom of the press

The Burmese media is tightly controlled by the government. Newspapers, journals and other publications are run under the Ministry of Information and undergo censorship before publication. Media do not criticise government officals or policy.

Freedom of religion

The authorities generally permitted most adherents of registered religious groups to worship as they choose; however, the Government imposed restrictions on certain religious activities and is accused of abusing the right to freedom of religion.

State-sanctioned torture and rape

A 2002 report by The Shan Human Rights Foundation and The Shan Women's Action Network, Licence to rape, details 173 incidents of rape and other forms of sexual violence, involving 625 girls and women, committed by Burmese army troops in Shan State, mostly between 1996 and 2001. The authors note that the figures are likely to be far lower than the reality. According to the report, "the Burmese military regime is allowing its troops systematically and on a widespread scale to commit rape with impunity in order to terrorize and subjugate the ethnic peoples of Shan State. The report illustrates there is a strong case that war crimes and crimes against humanity, in the form of sexual violence, have occurred and continue to occur in Shan State. The report gives clear evidence that rape is officially condoned as a 'weapon of war' against the civilian populations in Shan State." Furthermore, the report states that "25% of the rapes resulted in death, in some incidences with bodies being deliberately displayed to local communities. 61% were gang-rapes; women were raped within military bases, and in some cases women were detained and raped repeatedly for periods of up to 4 months."[12]

In a 2003 report, "No Safe Place: Burma's Army and the Rape of Ethnic Women", Refugees International document the widespread use of rape by Burma’s soldiers to brutalize women from five different ethnic nationalities.[13]

Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International also report frequent torture of prisoners, including political prisoners.

Children's rights

According to Human Rights Watch [7], recruiting and kidnapping of children to the military is commonplace. An estimated 70,000 of the country’s 350,000-400,000 soldiers are children. There are also multiple reports of widespread child labour.


In a press release of December 16, 2005 the US State Department says UN involvement in Burma is essential.[14] The US listed illicit narcotics, human rights abuses and political repression as serious problems that the UN needs to address.[14]

In a landmark legal case, some human rights groups have sued the Unocal corporation, previously known as Union Oil of California and now part of the Chevron Corporation. They charge that since the early 1990s, Unocal has joined hands with dictators in Burma to turn thousands of citizens there into virtual slaves under brutality. Unocal, before being purchased, stated that they had no knowledge or connection to these alleged actions although it continued working in Burma. This was a landmark case as this might be the first time that anybody has sued an American corporation in a U.S. court on the grounds that the company violated human rights in another country.[15][16]

According to Human Rights Defenders and Promoters (HRDP), on April 18, 2007, several of its members (Myint Aye, Maung Maung Lay, Tin Maung Oo and Yin Kyi) were met by approximately a hundred people led by a local official, U Nyunt Oo, and beaten up. Due to the attack, Myint Hlaing and Maung Maung Lay were badly injured and subsequently hospitalized. The HRDP believes that this attack was condoned by the authorities and vows to take legal action. Human Rights Defenders and Promoters was formed in 2002 to raise awareness among the people of Burma about their human rights.


Evidence has been gathered suggesting that the Burmese regime has marked certain ethnic minorities such as the Karen for extermination or 'Burmisation'.[17] This, however, has received little attention from the international community since it has been more subtle and indirect than the mass killings in places like Rwanda.[18]

According to Amnesty International, the Muslim Rohingya people have continued to suffer human rights violations under the Burma junta since 1978, and many have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh as a result[19]

"The Rohingyas’ freedom of movement is severely restricted and the vast majority of them have effectively been denied Burma citizenship. They are also subjected to various forms of extortion and arbitrary taxation; land confiscation; forced eviction and house destruction; and financial restrictions on marriage. Rohingyas continue to be used as forced labourers on roads and at military camps, although the amount of forced labour in northern Rakhine State has decreased over the last decade."
"In 1978 over 200,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh, following the ‘Nagamin’ (‘Dragon King’) operation of the Burma army. Officially this campaign aimed at "scrutinising each individual living in the state, designating citizens and foreigners in accordance with the law and taking actions against foreigners who have filtered into the country illegally." This military campaign directly targeted civilians, and resulted in widespread killings, rape and destruction of mosques and further religious persecution."
"During 1991-92 a new wave of over a quarter of a million Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh. They reported widespread forced labour, as well as summary executions, torture, and rape. Rohingyas were forced to work without pay by the Burma army on infrastructure and economic projects, often under harsh conditions. Many other human rights violations occurred in the context of forced labour of Rohingya civilians by the security forces."

Human rights organizations


  1. ^ "List of UN General Assembly Resolutions On Burma". Retrieved Monday, 4th January 2010.  
  2. ^ International Federation for Human Rights (20th November 2009). "UN General Assembly Resolution: Time for Concrete Action". Press release. Retrieved 4th January 2010.  
  3. ^ Brad Adams. "Statement to the EU Development Committee". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 2006-07-11.  
  4. ^ Brad Adams. "Amnesty International 2009 Report on Human Rights in Myanmar". Amnesty International. Retrieved 4th January 2010.  have repeatedly documented and condemned widespread human rights violations.
  5. ^ "Internet Filtering in Burma in 2005: A Country Study". OpenNet Initiative.  
  6. ^ "Burma bans Google and gmail". BurmaNet News. 2006-06-27. Retrieved 2006-06-28.  
  7. ^ "Myanmar: 10th anniversary of military repression". Amnesty International. 1998-08-07. Retrieved 2006-07-14.  
  8. ^ "State of Terror report" (PDF). Women's League of Burma. 2007-02-01. Retrieved 2007-05-21.  
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ [2]
  11. ^ [3]
  12. ^ [4]
  13. ^ [5]
  14. ^ a b U.N. Involvement in Burma "Essential," State Department Says – US Department of State
  15. ^ American Radio Works – Blood and Oil in Burma
  16. ^ Burma oil campaign
  17. ^ Burma's 'slow genocide' is revealed through the eyes of its child victims – Anton La Guardia, Telegraph, 24 June 2005
  18. ^ New evidence backs claims of genocide in Burma – Mike Thomson, Telegraph, 4 March 2006
  19. ^ Burma - The Rohingya Minority: Fundamental Rights Denied, Amnesty International, 2004.

See also

External links

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