Burma’s military-backed government has one of the worst human rights records in the world. The Burmese army rapes, loots, burns, tortures and kills. It spends billions of dollars on the military while the population goes without access to proper healthcare, education and food.
- The widespread use of forced labour
- Over 1 million people forced from their homes
- Hundreds of political prisoners, many of whom are routinely tortured
- Widespread use of child soldiers
- Rape as a weapon of war against ethnic women and children
Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, spent a total of more than 15 years under house arrest. Her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won 82% of the seats in elections held in 1990. The people of Burma overwhelmingly rejected military rule yet the military refused to transfer power to Burma’s democratically elected leaders.
When she was released in May 2002, there was hope that it would be a step towards democracy in Burma and lead to serious political reform. However, during a tour of northern Burma in 2003, Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters were attacked by the Union Solidarity and Development Organization (USDA), a government sponsored militia. The attack took place in Depayin on 30 May 2003. As many as 70 people were killed in the attack and over 100 people arrested, including Aung San Suu Kyi.
The dictatorship responded to international criticism over the Depayin massacre by announcing a ‘roadmap to democracy’ in August 2003, in an attempt to avoid further international pressure and sanctions. The sham elections held on 7th November 2010 were part of that ‘roadmap to democracy’.
Ahead of the elections the dictatorship increased harassment of democracy activists, banned the National League for Democracy and placed severe restrictions on parties and candidates. There were widespread allegations of voter intimidation and bribery during the election.
The 2010 election brought in a new military drafted constitution which legalised dictatorship with a civilian front. A Parliament was created, but it is dominated by pro-military parties and the military have 25% of the seats. As any change to the constitution requires a majority of more than 75 percent, this means the military can veto any efforts in Parliament to try and make the constitution more democratic. Real power lies with the President, the Commander-in-Chief and the new National Defense and Security Council, who are not accountable to Parliament.
While there have been some small reforms in Burma and there is potential for change, there hasn’t been real democratic change yet. In fact, human rights abuses have increased. The number of ethnic people forced to flee their homes because of human rights abuses and conflict has tripled since Thein Sein became President in 2011 to over 300,000. Out of sight in the jungles, attacks continue in Shan, Kachin and Karen states and there has been a big increase in the use of gang rape by the Burmese army.
We desperately need your help.
Burma Campaign UK is making a difference, but without support from members of the public our work would end.
Burma or Myanmar?
As far as individuals, organisations and media are concerned, Burma Campaign UK takes no position, as we believe it is more important to talk about what should be done about ongoing human rights violations in the country, rather than what it should be called.
However, as far as governments are concerned, switching to the use of Myanmar will be seen as yet another reward for the government, which we believe would be unjustified given that Burma remains a country ruled by a military backed government which has yet to relinquish any powers, repeal repressive laws, has hundreds of political prisoners in jail and is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.