It has been deeply disheartening to see the international community not recognize the reality of what is happening in Burma outside of Rangoon. Just yesterday a group of Kachin sent a petition to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and other global leaders, imploring for global help to end the ongoing conflict and human rights abuses. With all the news we hear about attacks against villages, rape, displacement, and even harassment and arrests of activists – we are left wondering there can be such an international applause for change? There have been a few changes in Rangoon, but there have also been increased attacks in ethnic areas.
On Monday, the regime was supposed to released more political prisoners. However, after they got assurance from ASEAN that they would be getting the chairmanship of the regional body in 2014 – a great prize of international acceptance they have been pushing for – the political prisoners were kept locked up. Instead of releasing them, they moved some of the leaders to other prison. This is a worrying sign that when Burma’s government gets international support, necessary steps that would ensure real change get pushed aside.
The reforms that have happened in Burma are meager. People can now access BBC news website inside the country, but only 1% of the population has access to the internet anyway. There have been more people displaced this year in Burma (over 170,000) than people who have access to the internet (about 110,000). The international community must look beyond what is happening in Rangoon and look at the big picture. To see the scope of human rights and conflict in Burma go here.
Secretary Clinton has now decided to go to Burma in early December. While we are glad she is focusing on Burma, she needs to make sure that she does not become blind sided by the military’s propaganda. In our press release today we “welcomed the announcement of Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s trip to Burma scheduled for December 1, 2011. We urge Secretary Clinton to prioritize seeking an end to the Burmese regime’s systematic and widespread use of rape as a weapon of war, forced labor, forced relocation, torture, extrajudicial killings, child soldiers and use of human shields and the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners.” Read our Executive Director Aung Din’s remarks in the Washington Post.
Moreover, we are glad the National League for Democracy is now legal, but are also worried about other democratic parties that won in the 1990 elections, especially ethnic parties. Their fate is uncertain.