Burma’s Reforms Undermined by “Political Repression, Cronyism and Ongoing Conflicts,” says New Report

Burma’s much lauded reforms, including the release of opposition politician Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, are being undermined by a crackdown on newly gained press freedoms, civil war, anti-Muslim violence and corruption, a report by the New York based International Center for Transitional Justice has warned.

“The spread of anti-Muslim violence to Mandalay and the recent harsh sentencing of some journalists show that Myanmar’s transformation into a prosperous, functioning democracy is still far from guaranteed,” the ICTJ said in a statement.

“Myanmar’s transition has not yet taken root,” Patrick Pierce, co-author of the report said, “The military still wields significant political power and influence. The continuing dominant role of former generals and business cronies comes with a reluctance to address both ongoing and past violations.”

President U Thein Sein has repeatedly committed the international community that his government is intent on improving rule of law and democratic reforms in Burma, while opening the country up to an influx of foreign investment.

The ICTJ report noted that Burma had made progress since coming out of military authoritarianism where state-sponsored human rights violations – including killings, torture and arbitrary detention – were routine. The report also added that the progress was still relatively weak while the government persecuted a full blown war in Kachin and parts of Shan State, which has already displaced more than 100,000 people, failed to grapple with anti-Muslim violence wracking the country and rein in land confiscation.

“Donors and policy makers have made important commitments to support development and democratic reforms in Myanmar,” Ms Anna Myriam Roccatello, Deputy Program Director for ICTJ said, adding, “It’s time to link these more firmly with commitments from the government to uphold the rights of victims with a reluctance to address both ongoing and past violations.”

The ICTJ study follows a series of reports by human rights organisations condemning ongoing human rights abuses in Burma. In May, the Karen Human Rights Group warned of a spike in land grabs in Eastern Burma following the establishement of a ceasefire between the government and the Karen National Union, while the rate of land grabs, often backed by local government authorities, has led the Asian Human Rights Commission to label it a “frenzy.”

In June, Minority Rights Group International rated Burma last of all countries in Asia when it came to the rights of minorities placing it in the same league as conflict-torn Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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