Amnesty International Report Myanmar 08

The human rights situation in Myanmar continued to deteriorate, culminating in September when authorities staged a five-day crackdown on widespread protests that had begun six weeks earlier. The peaceful protests voiced both economic and political grievances. More than 100 people were believed to have been killed in the crackdown, and a similar number were the victims of enforced disappearance. Several thousands were detained in deplorable conditions. The government began prosecutions under anti-terrorism legislation against many protestors. International response to the crisis included a tightening of sanctions by Western countries. At least 1,150 additional political prisoners, some arrested decades ago, remained in detention.

A military offensive continued in northern Kayin State, with widespread and systematic violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. In western Rakhine State, the government continued negotiations on a large-scale Shwe gas pipeline, preparations for which included forced displacement and forced labour of ethnic communities.

In September, the government completed drafting guidelines for a new Constitution, the second step in their seven-step “Road Map” for moving toward democracy. In December, the government appointed a 54-member commission of military and other officials to draft the Constitution. The National League for Democracy (NLD), the main opposition party, has not participated in this process since the early stages, and legislation criminalizing criticism of the process remained in place.
The government had ceasefires in place with the armies of all but three ethnic groups, but forced displacement, labour, and portering by the military continued in all seven ethnic states.
Following a visit by the Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General on Myanmar, the Myanmar authorities met with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi toward starting dialogue on national reconciliation, but the NLD party leader remained under house arrest, where she has been for 12 of the past 18 years. read all

Thai-National security v democracy

Information and Communication Technology Minister Ranongruk Suwunchwee on censorship and the internet
BKK Post
With all the hoopla lately over banned websites and lese majeste, I decided to meet Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Minister Ranongruk Suwunchwee and talk about the practice of censorship (as a matter of national security) versus freedom of speech (as a component of democracy).
Coincidentally, inside her office at Parliament House, the television was showing Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga addressing the parliament over this very issue. So I was invited to sit down and watch TV with the minister.

The Justice Minister announced that some 2,300 websites have been banned, while more than 40 lese majeste cases not relating to internet sites are being looked at by the police.

Minister Pirapan went on to stress how the foreign media and foreign governments should respect Thailand’s lese majeste law as it is a matter of national security, not dissimilar to the United States banning al-Qaeda or terrorist-related internet content, or even the law requiring visitors to take off their shoes and belts for inspection when entering the US. continue

Earlier in the month, Inner City Press asked for the UN’s response to the National League for Democracy, that they will not discuss the planned 2010 election without discussion the 2008 constitution, adopted during the chaos after Cyclone Nargis. The UN does not want to answer that question publicly. Perhaps it will be like Gambari’s last trip, with embarrassing questions piling up while the UN remain silent.

UN’s Ban and Myanmar’s Than Shwe, Gambari’s new visit not shown

UN’s Gambari Is Not Sure to Meet Than Shwe, Myanmar Refugees Are Sold Out as Courtesy by UNHCR

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, January 30 — The UN on January 30 confirmed that envoy Ibrahim Gambari is traveling to Myanmar from January 31 through February 4. What they would not say, however, is who Gambari will meet with. Inner City Press asked if, unlike Gambari’s last trip, he has an appointment with regime strongman Than Shwe. UN Deputy Spokesperson Marie Okabe said only, senior government officials. But how senior?

This is a pattern with the UN. Agence France Presse of January 30 reports that the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR refused to comment on the condition of teenage refugees from Myanmar held in Thailand, out of “courtesy” to Thailand’s government. Inner City Press asked Ms. Okabe to confirm or deny the AFP account. Ms. Okabe said, you have yesterdays’ hand-out. Yes, but is the AFP not true? Does UNHCR decline to tell the truth out of courtesy to governments? It wouldn’t be the first time.