BURMA DIGEST magazine, with the support of our readers’ online votes, has chosen ‘Burma’s human rights defence lawyers’ as Burma’s Persons of the Year 2008, for the following reasons _
* to highlight the incredibly long prison sentences recently given to all kinds of pro-democracy activists, including not only politicians but also students, monks, musicians, poets, comedians, bloggers, lawyers, etc
* to highlight regime’s attempts to eliminate ALL political opposition before going to elections in 2010
* to highlight human rights lawyers’ courageous efforts to legally defend pro-democracy activists facing severe persecution in regime’s kangaroo courts
* to highlight regime’s TOTAL & COMPLETE persecution, jailing not only pro-democracy activists but also their lawyers as well
* to highlight essential need for continued legal defence of pro-democracy activists, despite regime’s crack down on human rights defence lawyers
* to highlight the need to establish credible free and autonomous judicial and legal systems in Burma
* to highlight the “Rule of Law” being an indispensable ingredient in building any respectable form of democracy
As usual, Persons of the year is chosen based on two factors _
1. the number of votes cast by the readers for a particular person(s)
2. the merits of choosing that person as the POY.
As the “Person of the Year” is not an election or an opinion poll, votes alone cannot make the decision on the POY, the characteristics of the nominated persons need to be taken into consideration as well. For example _
* POY Burma should be a person living inside Burma in the same difficult poor conditions suffered by the people, and standing in front of the people on the streets, bravely defending their rights. Only in very very exceptional circumstances may we consider an exile person to be the POY.
* Important politicians/persons may have died during the last 12 months, some in tragic circumstances, and they may be nominated by their admirers, and may even get quite a number of votes. But a POY should be a living person, a person after becoming the POY can still carry on his/her noble works of fighting for the human rights of people in Burma.
* Some followers of a leading politician may do repeated block voting for their leader. Such votes may not carry much weight.
These are only a few examples, not an exhaustive list of rules.
But, anyway, no vote is lost or wasted, every nominated person is given a consideration. Finally the persons most appropriate, given the current circumstances inside Burma, have to become the POY (Persons of the Year).
* The views expressed by authors in the articles are their own, but not necessarily reflect the policy standpoint of BURMA DIGEST editorial team.