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Page history last edited by 楊聰榮 Edwin Tsung-Rong Yang 7 years, 8 months ago

Burma/ Republic of the Union of Myanmar (Updated May 2013) Population: 55 Million Since early 2011, Burma/Myanmar1 has embarked on a series of political and judicial reforms with the potential to create a more democratic society. However, it is a long process which requires monitoring of the compliance with international human rights standards and a genuine interest by the Burmese government and the international community. Freedom of expression and association remain limited. Over 160 political activists are imprisoned, many more are kept under strict surveillance. The constitution ensures the military’s powerhold and grassroots human rights defenders are vulnerable to abuse, as are people from ethnic and religious minorities, in particular Muslims. In April 2012, the European Union outlined a number of benchmarks which were expected to be fulfilled by the Burmese Government in order for the EU to suspend sanctions against the country. The benchmarks included the release of all remaining political prisoners, the end of conflict, particularly in Kachin State, improved access for humanitarian assistance throughout the country, and increased assistance and improved treatment of ethnic Rohingya Muslims. A year later, in April 2013, the European Union decided to suspend all sanctions on Burma except of an arms embargo, despite the acute situation for the Rohingya, and Muslims in general, and intensified armed conflict in Kachin. Rule of Law The justice system is not independent and courts serve political interests. Widespread corruption also mars the rule of law. National security laws grant wide-­‐reaching powers to detain, without charge, anyone suspected of acting in ways that would endanger the sovereignty and security of the state. Ensuring that lawyers are able to practice without restrictions is a corner stone of a society built on the rule of law. The Contempt of Court Act poses a threat against human rights lawyers, and a number of cases have shown evidence of arbitrary revocation of licenses. The Burmese Government is still to ratify most international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar (the UN Special Rapporteur), Tomás Ojea Quintana, has encouraged the Government of Burma 1 Civil Rights Defenders refers to the country as Burma but take no political stand in doing so. to ratify international conventions and treaties, highlighting the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). Burmese prisons host over 160 political prisoners which is noteworthy and prison amnesties recurrently coincide with high-­‐profile international or regional meetings as a way of emphasizing the government's benign policies. The UN Special Rapporteur has also stressed the importance of allowing the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and national monitoring groups full access to prisons. The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (the MNHRC) was established in 2011 by presidential decree. The MNHRC is drafting its enabling act, such an act or law is a perquisite for fulfilling the Paris Principles on international standards for independent national human rights institutions. This far, the MNHRC has been criticized for lack of impartiality and inclusive representation, including of civil society, and lack of investigative power. Freedom of expression and assembly & Situation of the Media For decades, successive governments have cracked down on political opposition and democratic forces, restricting people’s right to voice opinions, to organise and to meet. The 1975 State Protection Act allows for detention without charge or trial of anyone considered a threat to national security. The Peaceful Demonstrations & Gathering Law from July 2012 allows peaceful protests yet numerous applications for protests have been rejected. Certain venues are prohibited for protests, including factories, hospitals and government offices. In 2012, a 50 year-­‐old pre-­‐publication censorship was abolished. Due to other legislation and regulation which still restrict freedom of speech, self-­‐censorship remains widespread. Lifting of prior censorship law has nonetheless enabled some of the former independent exile media to move into the country or initiate such a move, including Irrawaddy and Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) who now officially have journalists in the country whereas before, any presence was underground. The recently proposed Printers and Publishers Registration Law would allow the Ministry of Information to revoke or terminate licenses for offenses such as disturbing the rule of law, inciting unrest and violating the Constitution. Situation of Human Rights Defenders Many analysts fear that Burma is facing a land grab crisis, and many human rights defenders (HRDs) in Burma work to support communities facing forced evictions or expropriation, with little prospect of resist or challenge land confiscations. According to the Constitution, the State owns all lands and natural resources. Based on this provision, the relatively new Farmland Law from 2012 allows the State to take over any land for a project in the national interest, including development. Decisions on how land will be used, by whom and for what purposes will have far reaching consequences for the people of Burma, the majority of whom are smallholder farmers living in rural areas. Increasingly, rural livelihoods are under threat as smallholder farmers are being forced from their land due to granting of land concessions. Recent legislation makes it possible to form independent unions and to strike; however, it still enables government control over such actions. Religious and Ethnic violence The violence against the Rohingya and other Muslims has escalated since May 2012. The Citizenship Law from 1982 essentially denies Burmese citizenship to Rohingya on ethnic grounds because they are not recognized to be one of the eight national races”. Numerous international organisations have urged Burma to reform the law. There are current discussions within the Parliament regarding an amendment of the law, however there are clear divisions and no tangible proposals have been put forth this far. The sincerity behind alleged attempts by the Burmese government to come to terms with the ethnic violence is highly questionable. The Rakhine Investigation Commission, established in mid-­‐2012 to investigate the violence which took place between June and October 2012, was met with widespread disappointment when it issued its delayed report in April 2013. The UN Special Rapporteur noted that the commission’s recommendation to keep the communities apart during dialogue and reconciliation efforts could lead to a permanent arrangement of segregation. The report also recommended a Truth Finding Commission. To be meaningful, such an entity should not only provide the truth, but also ensure accountability. Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons The number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) has increased dramatically following recent violence in the country and amounts to an estimate of over 300 000 individuals (more than 100 000 in Kachin State) according to the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Refugee camps, primarily in Thailand but also in a number of other countries in the region have hosted Burmese refugees for nearly two decades and today, the number of refugees is over 400 000 (only approximately 83 000 are registered refugees as the influx has been immense since 2005). In line with attempts by the government to reshape a tarnished image, authorities are increasingly discussing repatriating the families that fled state-­‐sanctioned abuses and conflict. Even though Burmese refugees in for example Thailand face discrimination, poor working conditions and inadequate protection of their human rights by the Thai Government, repatriation to Burma is complex. Furthermore, there are justified concerns about whether ceasefires in some parts of the country are in fact lasting. UNHCR closely monitors the potential of repatriation for both IDPs and refugees and have concluded that repatriation of the refugee population is premature, a stance which is widely shared among international and local human rights organisations.

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