Burma Briefing No. 26
President Thein Sein has been hailed by the British government and many other world leaders as a reformer. He has even been described as courageous. In their rush to embrace Thein Sein as a democratic reformer, the British government, which used to talk about justice, accountability, and ending impunity in Burma, seem prepared to ignore the fact that Thein Sein spent 14 years on the ruling council of the previous dictatorship, and was one of its most senior members.
The British government also seems prepared to stay silent about continuing human rights abuses in Burma. They no longer publicly criticise the government of Burma about human rights abuses, even when serious violations of international law are committed.
It is now more than two years since Thein Sein became President, yet Burma still has one of the worst human rights records in the world. Since Thein Sein became President, human rights abuses which violate international law have actually increased. Burma Campaign UK is receiving increased numbers of reports of rape by the Burmese Army and security forces. Hundreds of political prisoners remain in jail, and almost all repressive laws remain in place. The Economist Intelligence Unit recently ranked Burma as still being one of the worst authoritarian regimes in the world.
There has undoubtedly been an increase in ‘civil liberties’ in cities such as Rangoon and Naypyidaw, but none of these are enshrined in law, and so can be reversed at any time. At the same time, in ethnic states, human rights abuses are being committed which are so serious they could be classified as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing.