Posts Tagged ‘Myanmar’

Myanmar opposition vows to continue fight for Aung San Suu Kyi

September 24, 2008

AFP,   Sep 24, 2008

YANGON (AFP) – Myanmar’s pro-democracy party on Wednesday vowed to continue pushing for their leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s release after several of her close confidants were freed from prison by the ruling junta.

Seven dissidents from the Nobel peace laureate’s party were among the 9,002 prisoners freed Tuesday in an amnesty that state media said was ordered so they could take part in elections promised by the ruling generals for 2010.

The most prominent was 79-year-old journalist and activist Win Tin, Myanmar’s longest-serving political prisoner, who spent nearly two decades behind the bars of Yangon’s feared Insein prison.

National League for Democracy (NLD) spokesman Nyan Win said that although they welcomed the amnesty, they would continue to fight for the freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent most of the last 19 years under house arrest.

“We will send an appeal for her release from detention this week to the cabinet in Naypyidaw,” Nyan Win told AFP, referring to the nation’s capital.

“We are always hoping for her release. There are still many long-serving political prisoners … All should also be released,” he added.

The release of Win Tin and the six other NLD members was immediately hailed by the United Nations, the United States and rights groups around the world.

“We worked together to defend Win Tin’s innocence and we are immensely relieved that he has finally been freed,” press freedom organisations Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association said in a joint statement.

“We hope other journalists and prisoners of conscience will also be freed and that Win Tin will be able to resume his peaceful struggle for press freedom and democracy in Burma,” they added, using Myanmar’s former name.

Win Tin was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment on July 4, 1989 for acting as an adviser to Aung San Suu Kyi and writing letters to the then-United Nations envoy to Myanmar.

Upon his release Tuesday, Win Tin, still dressed in a blue prison-issue outfit but looking strong and healthy, vowed to journalists that he would continue to fight the ruling generals.

Human rights groups estimate that about 2,000 political prisoners are locked away in Myanmar.

Aung Naing Oo, a Myanmar analyst based in Thailand, welcomed the release of Win Tin and other colleagues of Aung San Suu Kyi but said the move showed the junta believed its hold on power was secure.

“I think the military is more confident now than before by releasing some key prisoners, including the longest-serving prisoner,” Aung Naing Oo told AFP in Bangkok.

“Maybe they think he’s no longer relevant or can no longer muster support,” he added.

Myanmar’s military government has said it will hold multi-party elections in 2010 but critics say the polls are just a way for the generals to solidify and legitimise their power.

Arms Trade Treaty could fail without human rights

September 23, 2008

Amnesty International, 17 September 2008

Every year,more than 300,000 people are killed with conventional weapons. Millions more are injured, abused, forcibly displaced and bereaved as a result of armed violence. Many of the weapons used to commit these violations are sourced on the poorly regulated international arms market.

Amnesty International’s new report, Blood at the Crossroads: Making the case for a global Arms Trade Treaty, uses nine detailed case studies of the catastrophic human rights consequences of unrestrained arms trading.

Launched as UN member states prepare to meet in October to consider further steps to move towards negotiations on an Arms Trade Treaty, the report says that world leaders should adopt a “Golden Rule” to help protect human rights when arms are transferred between countries.

The “Golden Rule” states simply: that governments must prevent arms transfers where there is a substantial risk that they are likely to be used for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

From the ongoing conflict in Darfur, military crackdowns in Myanmar and Guinea to the proliferation of sectarian violence in Iraq, the report shows how and why the current variations and loopholes in national arms legislation allow massive violations of human rights to occur. It also demonstrates that without an effective human rights provision, a global Arms Trade Treaty could fail to protect those most vulnerable.

The report is launched during a global week of action by activists and supporters of the Control Arms Campaign. Campaigners are reminding governments that “The World is Watching”, a theme during the week of events and activities to ild up pressure for an agreement on an effective Arms Trade Treaty as quickly as possible.

Worldwide support for a UN process to develop a global Arms Trade Treaty was reflected when 153 states voted in favour (1 against (US), and 24 abstained) during the General Assembly in December 2006. Then during 2007 almost 100 states submitted their views to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, proposing human rights protection as one of the top considerations.

In the run up to October’s UN discussions at the General Assembly First Committee meeting on Disarmament and Security, a few states – including China, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Russia and the US – have been attempting to block, delay and water down proposals. These attempts could make the treaty fail in its objectives and allow the continued unchecked trade in arms.

“Despite the massive green light from most of the world community, a small minority of sceptics want to keep the status quo shambles so they can turn a blind eye to blatantly irresponsible arms transfers, rendering most national arms controls and UN arms embargoes weak and ineffective,” said Brian Wood, Amnesty International’s arms control manager.

China, Russia, the US and many other nations, are highlighted in the report as trading arms to countries with well documented human rights violations.

China and Russia remain the largest suppliers of conventional arms to Sudan that are used for serious ongoing human rights violations by the Sudanese armed forces in Darfur. Russia supplied military helicopters and bomber aircraft, while China sold Sudan most of its arms and ammunition.

In Iraq, the US Department of Defense has funded most of the supply of over one million rifles, pistols and infantry weapons for 531,000 Iraqi security force personnel in a poorly managed and unaccountable process since 2003. This supply has compounded the massive proliferation of arms and gross human rights abuses that began under the former Saddam government.

The new supplies have sometimes involved dubious players in international supply chains and a lack of accountability by Iraq, US and UK governments, leading to diversions of supplies to armed groups and illicit markets.

In Myanmar, despite the persistent pattern of well documented human rights violations committed by Myanmar government forces, China, Serbia, Russia and the Ukraine have between them supplied armoured personal carriers, trucks, weapons and munitions. India has recently offered to supply more arms.

The report shows graphically how violations of the UN arms embargo continue on Cote d’Ivoire, Somalia and Darfur in Sudan because of weak national laws and lack of commitment and capacity by some governments. The failure of over 80 percent of states to establish laws to control arms brokering and arms transportation makes this problem worse.

A UN Group of Governmental Experts examined the Arms Trade Treaty from February to August 2008 and its report will be considered at the UN First Committee of the General Assembly in October.

Amnesty International and its partners are now calling for states during their discussions at General Assembly to agree in December to start a negotiating process during 2009 so that the international community can benefit from a legally-binding and universal Arms Trade Treaty by the end of 2010.

“Discussions on an Arms Trade Treaty have reached a crossroads,” says Helen Hughes, one of the researchers on the report. “Governments can either carry on ignoring the horrific consequences of irresponsible international arms transfers or they can meet their obligations in an Arms Trade Treaty with a ‘Golden Rule’ on human rights that will actually help save people’s lives and protect their livelihoods.”

Myanmar activist at risk of torture

September 20, 2008

Amnesty International, 16 September 2008

An anti-government activist leader in Myanmar remains at risk of torture following her arrest last Wednesday.Nilar Thein went into hiding more than a year ago after leading some of the initial anti-government protests in August 2007.  She was taken to Aung Tha Pyay Detention Centre in Yangon (Rangoon, Myanmar’s largest city) for interrogation after her arrest and is at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

Nilar Thein was arrested on her way to visit the mother of Ant Bwe Kyaw, another detained activist, in a suburb of north eastern Yangon. Ant Bwe Kyaw and Kyaw Min Yu, Nilar Thein’s husband (also known as Ko Jimmy), were among 13 anti-government activist leaders from the “88 Generation Students Group” who were arrested on 22 August 2007.

A total of 35 activists from the “88 Generation Students Group” appeared before a court inside Yangon’s Insein prison on 9 September to face a range of politically-motivated charges. Several of the charges they are facing are made under vaguely-worded security laws routinely used to criminalise peaceful political dissent.

The “88 Generation Students Group” is made up of anti-government activists who took part in the 1988 pro-democracy uprising against the then 26 years of military rule.

The day after the 13 anti-government activist leaders of the group were arrested on 22 August 2007, Nilar Thein led around 500 people in a demonstration in Yangon. The demonstration demanded the release of fellow activists and continued the protest against the sudden increase in fuel prices that had been imposed by the state on 15 August 2007.

When authorities began a hunt for the leaders of the protests, Nilar Thein went into hiding. After considering the unhealthy and dangerous conditions of living in hiding, she decided to leave her baby daughter behind in the care of her family.

Rumours began to circulate three weeks after her husband’s arrest on 22 August 2007 that he had died in police custody. The rumours turned out to be false and are believed to have been planted by the government to bring Nilar Thein out of hiding.

Whilst in hiding, Nilar Thein continued to appeal to the international community to take action in resolving the grave human rights situation and the abuses that women suffer under the military regime in Myanmar.

A year after the violent crackdown on anti-government protests of September 2007, the military leaders in Myanmar are showing no signs that they will relent in their efforts to silence all political dissent. Nearly 300 individuals have been arrested for their peaceful political activities so far in 2008.

Nilar Thein has been imprisoned twice before for her pro-democracy activities. She was detained for two months in 1991. She was arrested in December 1996 for participating in the student demonstrations in Yangon that of that year. She was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment and was released in 2005.

Amnesty International is urgently calling on the government of Myanmar to stop making further arrests and to release all those detained or imprisoned merely for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, including both long-term and recent prisoners of conscience.

Read More

No moving backwards for Myanmar (Feature, 8 August 2008)
Imprisoned for giving water to monks (News, 31 March 2008)

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