March 3, 2014

Burma Briefing No. 32

Every quarter, the British Foreign Office publishes updates of ‘countries of concern’ as part of its Human Rights and Democracy report. Burma is included in these updates.

Analysis of the most recent British Foreign Office Human Rights and Democracy Country Update for Burma, published on 31st December 2013, reveals that the report provides a misleading and inaccurate description of the current human rights situation in Burma.

• The report falsely claims that Thein Sein ordered the release of all prisoners and persons facing trial for political offences.

• The report avoids using the word ‘Rohingya’, despite the Rohingya suffering some of the most serious human rights abuses in Burma today.

• The report uncritically quotes the Burmese government claims about zero tolerance of hate-speech despite the Burmese government tolerating hate speech and publicly defending those preaching hate speech.

• No mention is made of hundreds of arrests of political activists.

• Violations of international law get no explicit mention.

Since the British government changed its policy of prioritising human rights in Burma, and instead prioritised trade and investment, the quarterly reports have increasingly tended to downplay serious human rights abuses, or even ignore them altogether. The tone is now generally positive, and is not critical of the Burmese government.

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