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2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Burma

By US Department of State  •  March 11, 2010

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Burma, with an estimated population of 54 million, is ruled by a highly authoritarian military regime dominated by the majority ethnic Burman group. The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), led by Senior General Than Shwe, was the country’s de facto government. Military officers wielded the ultimate authority at each level of government. In 1990 prodemocracy parties won more than 80 percent of the seats in a general parliamentary election, but the regime continued to ignore the results. In May 2008 the regime held a referendum on its draft constitution and declared the constitution had been approved by 92.48 percent of voters, a figure no independent observers believed was valid. The constitution specifies that the SPDC will continue to rule until a new parliament is convened, scheduled to take place following national elections in 2010. The military government controlled the security forces without civilian oversight.

The regime continued to abridge the right of citizens to change their government and committed other severe human rights abuses. Government security forces allowed custodial deaths to occur and committed extrajudicial killings, disappearances, rape, and torture. The government detained civic activists indefinitely and without charges. In addition regime-sponsored mass-member organizations engaged in harassment, abuse, and detention of human rights and prodemocracy activists. The government abused prisoners and detainees, held persons in harsh and life-threatening conditions, routinely used incommunicado detention, and imprisoned citizens arbitrarily for political motives. The army continued its attacks on ethnic minority villagers. The government sentenced Aung San Suu Kyi–general secretary of the country’s independence movement, the National League for Democracy (NLD)–to 18 additional months of house arrest for violating the terms of her confinement. The government routinely infringed on citizens’ privacy and restricted freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and movement. The government did not allow domestic human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to function independently, and international NGOs encountered a difficult environment. Violence and societal discrimination against women continued, as did recruitment of child soldiers, discrimination against ethnic minorities, and trafficking in persons, particularly of women and girls. Workers’ rights remained restricted. Forced labor, including that of children, also persisted. The government took no significant actions to prosecute or punish those responsible for human rights abuses.
Ethnic armed groups and some cease-fire groups allegedly committed human rights abuses, including forced labor and recruitment of child soldiers.

View the full report.

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This post is in: Children and Youth, Crimes Against Humanity, Displacement, Human Rights, Political Prisoners

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