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Human Rights

Internationally Condemned Regime

Since an army coup overthrew Burma’s last democratically-elected government in 1962, Burma’s military dictatorship, called at the time the Burmese Socialist Programme Party (BSPP), has been internationally condemned for years as one of world’s most brutal regimes in the world. Since the 1988 staged coup when SLORC took power – in a bloody massacre of thousands of unarmed demonstrators in the streets – human rights violations have increased and the political and socio-economic conditions have deteriorated even further.

Reports by the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch continue to deplored the continuing violation of human rights in Burma, which include extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, rape, torture, inhuman treatment, mass arrests, forced labour including the use of children, forced relocation, and denial of freedom of assembly, association, expression and movement.

Personal Testimonies

Economic Collapse

Burma’s economy has deteriorated steadily under military dictatorship until becoming one of the world’s least developed nations in 1988. Since 1988, the situation has only gotten worse. Known as the rice bowl of Asia only 50 years ago, Burma today is failing its people and particularly its children. Most families have to borrow food or money “a few times a year”. One quarter of all households live below subsistence level and three out of ten children are malnourished. Most of this poverty is in the countryside which nonetheless generates three quarters of the nations wealth and 92% of employment. Other reports have revealed that “rice soup” which refers to the water in which the rice was cooked, is now being sold on the market, bought as a food supplement in place of the rice people can no longer afford.

See Voice of a Hungry Nation: Peoples’ Tribunal on Food Scarcity and Militarization in Burma

No Freedom of Expression or Association

(Crush all Destructive Elements (put picture of sign saying this))

In the fifties, Burmese press was one of the freest in Asia – before the coup in 1962, there were more than 30 newspapers. Now there is just one national newspaper, the New Light of Myanmar, one television station and one radio station which are all state-controlled. In Burma, there is no freedom of expression or association. The junta has laws against the convening of more than five people, all media is state-controlled and even art exhibits must pass through censorship screening. Restrictions are enforced through an elaborate military intelligence infrastructure and other state-controlled mechanisms. All films, books, and magazines must be presented tot he Press Scrutiny Board before being made public. Each publication must mention the three “national causes”: non-disintegration of the Union, non-disintegration of national solidarity and consolidation of national sovereignty.

  • Reporters Sans Frontiere
  • Committee to Protect Journalists
  • Telecommunications are not accessible for the majority of Burmese and are not a positive tool for change in Burma. Most people cannot afford to own a telephone, and if they do get access to one, it is likely tapped. The punishment for owning a fax machine without a permit could mean imprisonment, torture and murder, as in the case of James Leander Nichols, (link to his story) a Scandinavian consul. The sole internet provider in the country is the military’s Myanmar Post and Telecommunications which also has strict rules for its use.

    Freedom of association and assembly are denied. Political gatherings are banned and political parties such as Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) are closely monitored and its members harassed or arrested. Amnesty International estimates that in early 1998 at least 1,200 political prisoners were detained or imprisoned under severe conditions in Burmese jails. Amnesty International has identified at least twenty detention centres where interrogation is habitually accompanied by beatings, electric shock treatment and other forms of torture. Many prisoners have died in detention.

    Lack of Health and Education

    Burma is currently in the midst of a health and educational crisis. All social services in Burma, including the country’s health and education systems, have suffered terribly under 38 years of military dictatorship. Neglecting social services in favour of military expenditures, the junta spends 11% of its budget on education and less than 2% on health care. According to the United Nations statistics, the junta spends 222% more on military spending than it does on health and education combined. In a country suffering from an AIDS epidemic which stems from intravenous heroin use and sexual transmission, the regime encourages and profits from the heroin industry and (see Drugs) and has taken no action against the trafficking of Burmese women into prostitution (local commanders are accused of promoting the trade). (see women)

    Three out of ten children never even start school, while only 40% of those who do are able to finish the primary levels. Burma’s universities have been closed most of the past 12 years, since the 1988 student-led uprisings. Since 1988, the military has opened the post secondary schools briefly only to shut them down immediately when students began to rally for change. Burma’s military dictatorship represses any opposition through its extensive military intelligence apparatus and enormous army which has more than doubled in size since 1988 (soon to approach the 500,000 number) in a country with no external enemies.

    Religious Persecution

    (U.S. Department of State, Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 1999: Burma, September 1999)

    Burma: Section I. Freedom of Religion

    Most adherents of all religions duly registered with the authorities generally enjoyed freedom to worship as they chose; however, the Government imposed some restrictions on certain religious minorities. Burma has been ruled since a 1962 coup d’etat by highly authoritarian military regimes; since a reorganization in late 1997, the military junta has called itself the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). The military has governed without a constitution or legislature since 1988. The most recent constitution, promulgated in 1974, permitted both legislative and administrative restrictions on religious freedom, stating that “the national races shall enjoy the freedom to profess their religion … provided that the enjoyment of any such freedom does not offend the laws or the public interest.” In practice, the Government systematically restricted efforts by Buddhist clergy to promote human rights and political freedom, and, according to multiple detailed credible reports, government authorities in some ethnic minority areas coercively promoted Buddhism over other religions.

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