Despite Election, No Progress in Myanmar

May 27, 2011
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The government is even increasingly targeting unarmed civilians as part of its counter-insurgency tactic.

885 Rights abuses continue to be reported: Khin Myint* was 14 when he was drafted as a child soldier. His mother contacted ILO to help him get discharged. She now volunteers as a facilitator and connects other parents of child soldiers with ILO. Photo: IRIN

More than six months since Myanmar held its first general elections in 20 years, human rights abuses continue unabated, say activists.

"There has been no appreciable change in the human rights situation in Myanmar since the elections," Benjamin Zawacki, Amnesty International's Myanmar researcher, told IRIN in Bangkok.

According to the rights group, some of the worst abuses include the imprisonment of thousands of political opposition members and the military's active targeting of civilians in ethnic areas, particularly in the eastern Shan, Karen and Kayah states.

"Despite verbal promises of improvement, the government is doing as little as possible, and only in an attempt to appease the international community," David Scott Matheison, Human Rights Watch senior researcher on Myanmar, added.

While 65 prisoners of conscience were released on May 17, more than 2,000 political activists remain in prison. The steps taken

by the Myanmar government are insufficient to aid the transition towards democracy, says Vijay Nambiar, special adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Myanmar.

Fifty-one of the prisoners released had less than one year to go to finish their sentences, said Zawacki.

The UN Special Rapporteur, Tomas Ojea Quintana, recently spent a week assessing the human rights situation in Myanmar from Thailand.

The militarization and targeting of unarmed civilians in ethnic areas continues to foster violence and human rights abuses, including forced labour, conscription, extrajudicial killings and sexual violence, Quintana told reporters in Bangkok on May 23.

"The situation of ethnic minority groups in the border areas presents serious limitations to the government's intention to transition to democracy," Quintana maintained.


The government is increasingly targeting unarmed civilians as part of its counter-insurgency tactic.


"There is an escalation not only in the conflict itself between the military and armed groups, but the military is actively targeting civilians," Zawacki said.

Government impunity


Rights activists and the UN envoy are calling for an investigation into the situation of human rights in Myanmar.