Saturday, December 08, 2007

Reign of terror in Burma

The crackdown on the Burmese population by the government was much more violent and deadly than the Burmese dictatorship has admitted according to Human Rights Watch in a new report. Pro-democracy activists staged protests this fall against the decades-long military rule in the country. Buddhist monks joined the demonstrations in the streets but the government unleashed the full force of its military and security apparatus in crushing the movement and cutting off communications with the outside world.

Spokesmen for the government claim only a handful of civilians were killed and a small number detained. Reports from Burmese refugees via Human Rights Watch indicate those numbers are much higher and a reign of terror continues.

According to the press release from Human Rights Watch,
Human Rights Watch research determined that that the security forces shot into crowds using live ammunition and rubber bullets, beat marchers and monks before dragging them onto trucks, and arbitrarily detained thousands of people in official and unofficial places of detention. In addition to monks, many students and other civilians were killed, although without full and independent access to the country it is impossible to determine exact casualty figures.

“The crackdown in Burma is far from over,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Harsh repression continues, and the government is still lying about the extent of the deaths and detentions.”

Human Rights Watch found that the crackdown was carried out in part by the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), a “mass-based social welfare” organization with more than 23 million members that the Burmese military is grooming to lead a future civilian government. It operated alongside the Swan Arr Shin (Masters of Force) militia, soldiers and riot police in beating and detaining protestors.

Human Rights Watch said that hundreds of protestors, including monks and members of the ’88 Generation students, who led protests until being arrested in late August, remain unaccounted for. Human Rights Watch noted that before the protests there were more than 1,200 political prisoners languishing in Burma’s prisons and labor camps.

“The generals unleashed their civilian thugs, soldiers and police against monks and other peaceful protestors,” said Adams. “Now they should account for those killed and shed light on the fate of the missing.”

Human Rights Watch called for greater international action, including by the United Nations Security Council, to press the Burmese government to undertake major reforms. On December 11, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, will present his findings on the crackdown to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Human Rights Watch criticized the lack of action by countries with good relations and influence on Burma, such as China, India, Russia, Thailand, and other Association of Southeast Asian Nations members. China has made it clear that it will not allow the UN Security Council to take up Burma in any meaningful way. Despite the killing of a Japanese journalist by Burmese security forces, Japan has reacted timidly.

“It’s time for the world to impose a UN arms embargo and financial sanctions, to hurt Burma’s leaders until they make real changes,” said Adams. “Countries like China, India and Thailand have the responsibility to take action to help hold the generals accountable and to end this long nightmare of military repression.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this.

I am originally from Burma --

my blog is