Posts Tagged ‘Burma’


Fall from grace

The events in Burma have been particularly shocking and the plight of the Rohingya people particularly dire.  Thousands have fled their homes into neighbouring Bangladesh and many thousands have been shot, drowned, tortured, raped or burned alive in their homes as the Burmese army seems to be conducting a programme of what amounts to a crime against humanity.  The violence appears to be indiscriminate and has been condemned by the UN and human rights agencies.  Amnesty has published details giving background to the conflict.

Rakhine state is on the precipice of a humanitarian disaster.  Nothing can justify denying life-saving aid to desperate people.  By blocking access for humanitarian organisations, Myanmar’s authorities have put tens of thousands of people at risk and shown a callous disregard for human life.  Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s Director for Crisis Response.

A representative from Crisis Response said:

The Myanmar authorities are obliged under international law to treat all those living in Rakhine State, including the Rohingya, without discrimination.  Instead they have chosen to treat a whole population as an enemy which may be attacked, killed, deprived of homes and uprooted indiscriminately.  The Daily Star (5 September)

Of particular sadness is the role of the Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi who has been silent up to now while these appalling events have taken place and is now claiming that there is a ‘huge iceberg of misinformation’ and that the army are responding to terrorist attacks.  There have been some attacks but the scale and ferocity of the army response is far beyond what is reasonable.

Many of us remember the years we followed the imprisonment and house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi and were cheered when she was released.  Her peace prize was well merited but there are calls now that it should be withdrawn.  Many Amnesty members would have written letters urging her release.  It is heartbreaking to see her at the head of the government making unsupported claims about what is going on in Rakhine State and not speaking out about the terrible actions against the Rohingya.

As ever the British government seems less than energetic in its approach to this crisis in a former colony.

For far too long, British policy toward Burma has deferred heavily to the views of its de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.  UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was at it again at the weekend, suggesting she use her “remarkable qualities” to unite her country and stop the violence in Burma’s western Rakhine State, which, he said, afflicts “both Muslims and other communities.”  This after a fortnight in which hundreds of Rohingya Muslims have been reported killed, their homes burnt to the ground, and more than 120,000 desperate people have fled for their lives to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape the vicious brutality of the Burmese security forces.  This followed a coordinated attack by Rohingya militants on two dozen police and border posts in late August. Security force operations in response to the attacks last year were described by the United Nations as very likely crimes against humanityHuman Rights Watch (6 September)

The British government could do a lot more including pressing the Burmese to make the Rohingya citizens of the country.  They should also press them to allow aid agencies unrestricted access.  Religious freedom should be allowed.

The Burmese government is hoping to persuade the Russians and Chinese to frustrate any sanctions by the UN and Aung San Suu Kyi was quoted to be in conversation with President Erdogan of Turkey – hardly an exemplar of good behaviour.


If you live in the Salisbury area and would like to join us then a good time would be on Monday 18th at Sarum College where Ice and Fire are performing free.

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Reading this blog can sometimes seem depressing as we highlight individuals imprisoned for their beliefs; the widespread use of torture around the world; the use of the death penalty and recently, a desire by some of our (UK) politicians to abolish the Human Rights Act.

Successes

There are successes however, some of which have been a long time in the making. After six years of legal proceedings and campaigning by Amnesty members around the world, Shell Oil have at last been made to pay for the devastation caused by oil spills in the Niger Delta.

wire tap imageOthers successes have been unprecedented. For the first time ever, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal ruled that UK secret services acted illegally in their surveillance activities.

And that’s not all. Because of you Guadalupe found justice in El Salvador. With a window of just 48 hours, we asked you to tweet El Salvador’s members of parliament calling for a pardon for Guadalupe – a young woman imprisoned after suffering a miscarriage. Every tweet counted: her pardon was granted by a majority of just one vote. Thank you. We’re continuing our work to ensure Salvadoran women are not criminalised by the total abortion ban in the country

Burma has dropped off the radar in the last couple of years and things have improved there.   But not totally and there are still prisoners of conscience. For example, long-standing prisoner of conscience Dr Tun Aung has recently secured release.

February saw two historic victories in the age-old battle for the right to privacy and free expression. The USA and UK’s past intelligence-sharing on Communications surveillance was ruled illegal and the Security Services conceded their current regime for intercepting legally privileged communications is also unlawful. These landmark rulings, in which Amnesty were co-claimants, should mean there are more significant positive changes ahead.


A great step towards justice was made in January when three journalists imprisoned in Egypt had their sentences overturned on the basis of a flawed trial. Peter Greste was allowed to return home to Australia but Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohammed are awaiting a retrial in Egypt, currently set for 22 April. Egypt must now drop all charges against them and free, not retry these prisoners of conscience.

Forced to sign a confession after being kidnapped and tortured by marines, Claudia Medina Tamariz has had the last of the charges against her dropped, and she is now a free woman.  Claudia thanked the 300,000 Amnesty members around the world who demanded justice.  We continue to call for an investigation into the torture she suffered, and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

A month after Claudia’s release, the Mexican president came to the UK and we delivered your Stop Torture petition signatures to him – in a giant piñata. Ahead of the visit you called on the UK representatives meeting him to raise the issue of torture. Guess what? They did. Thanks to Amnesty supporters campaigning, the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Scotland all helped send a strong message: it’s time for Mexico to respect human rights.

So campaigning does sometimes work.

Burma

Posted: March 19, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

There was rejoicing when Aung San Suu Kyi was released from detention at her house in November 2010.  It seemed at last that the political situation in Burma would improve and human rights and political normality would be established.  The IDC report Development and Democracy in Burma’  showed that improvements have indeed taken place.  Around 1000 political prisoners have been released; censorship has been reduced and trades unions have been formed.

This has led to a removal of controls put in place during the time of the general’s junta and trade links are being 3925established.  There has been a visit by Hilary Clinton and other politicians to the country.  There is a sense that things have improved and we can now relax as far as human rights are concerned.

Unfortunately, this seems to be a little way from the truth and that there are still serious things going on in the country.  Every quarter, the Foreign and Colonial Office publishes reports on ‘countries of concern’ and one such was for Burma in December last year.  According to the Burma Campaign UK, the FCO is seriously underplaying the human rights in Burma in its effort to promote the country for trade and investment.  One can see the attraction: Burma has the potential to be one of the richest countries in SE Asia with huge natural resources including the world’s largest source of teak and substantial oil resources.  The Chinese are of course interested and will have no interest in the human rights issues, hence a desire to see UK businesses getting their foot in the door.

Specifically, Burma Campaign say that the FCO report;

  • Falsely claims that Thein Sein ordered the release of all prisoners and persons facing trial for political activity
  • Fails to mention the human rights abuses against the Rohingya which have dramatically increased with violent attacks forcing 140 000 Rohingya people to flee.  Villages have been destroyed and women and children hacked to death
  • does not mention the arrests of thousands of political activists.

Médecins san Frontières were forced to stop work in another troubled state Rahhine because of threats and violence.

A picture is created of the EU and the FCO keen to promote trade in preference to human rights and even decline to mention ‘Rohingya’ for fear of upsetting the government there.

This seems to follow the pattern of several countries in recent times.  First there is concern expressed, sanctions are talked about and even imposed.  Then something happens in the country and normality of a kind is established.  There is a desire to establish contact and get things back to normal.  Then the country is forgotten and disappears off the news pages and political agendas.

There is nothing wrong in establishing trade with countries like Burma and there is an argument that trade can do a lot to promote better understanding between nations.  But Burma had to change its ways because it became more and more concerned that almost the only country willing to trade with them with no questions asked was China.  It needed to get the support of the West for its technology and to reduce its dependence on one country.  So the West still has leverage.

Campaigns against minorities are still being carried on and as far as the ethnic communities are concerned, it’s still business as usual.  Let us not forget Burma.

For further information go to www.burmacampaign.org.uk