comprehensive report ever produced to document the human rights situation in Burma is now available online.
The year 2008 proved to be a critical year in Burma’s recent history. Compounding an environment of ongoing human rights abuse, 2008 was a year characterized by natural disaster, severe political repression and the reverberations of the previous year’s popular uprising. The advent of Tropical Cyclone Nargis in May provided the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) military junta with an opportunity to demonstrate to the international community that political differences could be set aside for the good of those affected by the devastating storm. Instead, regime recalcitrance, obfuscation and outright corruption cost untold Burmese lives and showed a weary international community that the situation Burma may well get worse before its gets better.
While regime reluctance to permit foreign assistance in the cyclone relief effort could have been explained as the paranoia of a reclusive and xenophobic Police State after many years of isolation, the cynicism of conducting a referendum on the SPDC-backed draft Constitution in the middle of a national emergency could be afforded no such concessions. The stage management of the May 2008 referendum and concomitant abuses of fundamental freedoms carefully documented in the Burma Human Rights Yearbook 2008 provide an ominous warning that the forthcoming 2010 parliamentary elections are unlikely to be free or fair.
In addition to the SPDC’s gross negligence and mishandling of cyclone relief efforts and the convening of a referendum widely viewed as fraudulent, a broad spectrum of human rights abuses continued to be perpetrated across the country. Burma’s civilian population continued to be subject to systematic violations including arbitrary arrest, torture and extra-judicial execution, rape, forced labour, extortion, the curtailment of fundamental freedoms, religious and ethnic discrimination, forced relocation, recruitment of child soldiers, deprivation of livelihood and the destruction of property, among others. The Burma Human Rights Yearbook 2008 presents clear evidence that all of these violations and more were ongoing throughout 2008 in a climate of near-complete impunity and are designed to keep Burma’s civilian population subservient to the autocratic rule of the military.
With the proposed 2010 parliamentary elections looming, the Burma Human Rights Yearbook 2008provides an excellent contextual tool and platform for a discussion of continued political repression within Burma and the ramifications of rights abuse, particularly the doubling of political prisoners over the course of 2008, suffocation of political space and prospects for inclusion of ethnic minorities in the post-election political landscape.
In spite of the sheer volume of evidence clearly demonstrating the SPDC’s unrelenting oppression of the Burmese population, several of Burma’s neighbours, including China, India and Thailand continue to prop up the regime as they vie for a percentage of Burma’s considerable natural resources. However, this kind of engagement can easily lead to maintenance of the status quo; economic interests must not be allowed to subjugate the rights of the Burmese people.
It is with a considerable measure of regret that the HRDU reflects on the last 15 years of comprehensive human rights documentation and sees very little improvement in the rights situation of Burma’s citizens. Sadly, many of the issues examined in the Burma Human Rights Yearbook 2008are the same as those discussed in the very first Burma Human Rights Yearbook, 15 years ago. Despite the frustrating lack of progress, the circumstances in Burma demand that documentation and advocacy efforts continue to ensure that the abuses of the SPDC remain at the forefront of international attention.
The Burma Human Rights Yearbook 2008 is now available for download in PDF format (1,092 A4 pages / 13.3 MB) from the Online Burma Library. To download your copy, please visit:http://www.burmalib rary.org/ docs08/HRYB2008. pdf.
The HRDU is the research and documentation department of Burma’s opposition government-in- exile, the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB). The HRDU was formed in 1994 to comprehensively document the human rights situations in Burma, in order to protect and promote the internationally recognised human rights of those persons in the country.
The Burma Human Rights Yearbook 2008 can be downloaded in PDF format (1,092 pages / 13.3 MB) from the NCGUB website at www.ncgub.net or on the Online Burma Library at www.burmalibrary. org. All previous editions of the Burma Human Rights Yearbook may also be found on the NCGUB website, along with the highly-acclaimed HRDU thematic report, Bullets in the Alms Bowl ; An Analysis of the Brutal SPDC Suppression of the September 2007 Saffron Revolution Protests.
Questions, comments and requests for further information may be forwarded to the HRDU via email atenquiries.hrdu@ gmail.com .