The military rulers of Myanmar have jailed thousands of people in their continuing efforts to crush all dissenting views. Most prominent of those detained was Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was released on November 13, 2010 and has been the beacon of hope and change for nearly two decades in Myanmar, the Southeast Asian nation formerly known as Burma.
Many of Myanmar's 55 million people live in poverty and suffer from ongoing human rights violations. Those who express dissenting views face harassment, arbitrary arrest, torture, imprisonment and sometimes even extrajudicial executions. Political prisoners probably number in the hundreds, maybe more. No transparent process has been carried out to determine the correct number. AI has called upon the UN to assist the government in convening a panel, including the National League for Democracy, to ensure that all political prisoners are identified.
Since May 2010 AI has also called on the UN to establish an international commission of inquiry into grave crimes in conflict zones including extra judicial killing, arbitrary detention, torture and forced labor on a large scale.
The Myanmar government declared a state of emergency in Rakhine State on June 10, following an outbreak of communal violence in the previous week among the Buddhist Rakhine, Muslim Rakhine, and Muslim Rohingya communities. It remains in effect in several areas.
Since then, Myanmar's Border Security Force (nasaka), army and police have conducted massive sweeps in areas that are heavily populated by Rohingyas. Hundreds of mostly men and boys have been detained, nearly all held incommunicado, and some subjected to ill-treatment.
Most arrests appear to have been arbitrary and discriminatory, violating the rights to liberty and to freedom from discrimination on grounds of religion.
Political prisoners in Myanmar are still held under vague laws frequently used by the government to criminalize peaceful political dissent. They are being held in grim conditions, with inadequate food and sanitation. Many are in poor health and do not receive proper medical treatment. Many were tortured during their initial interrogation and detention, and still risk torture as a punishment at the hands of prison officers.
On August 19, 2007 protesters of the 88 Generation Movement took to the streets of Yangon, then Myanmar's capital city, to peacefully protest overnight increases in gasoline prices by 66%, and compressed natural gas prices up five-fold. The huge rises in oil and gas prices have exacerbated living expenses, placing obstacles for many in the nation.
On August 21 and 22, demonstrators that were involved in organizing and participating in the August 19 protests were detained by government security forces, and had their homes searched without arrest or search warrants. In cities and townships nationwide, demonstrators who peacefully assembled, to express their dissent were continually and violently dispersed, beaten, and detained by both government security forces and its closely linked civilian organizations – Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) and Swan Arrshin.
It is believed that the demonstrators will be charged under Law 5/96, which allows up to 20-year prison sentences for anyone who is found guilty of expressing opinions which disrupt the stability of the state, or "undermine, belittle and make people misunderstand the functions being carried out by the National Convention." Further, on September 7, individuals detained for other peaceful dissent not related to the one just mentioned, were tried in prison and handed life sentences. By no means were these trials held to international legal norms. It is feared that the same methods of trying individuals will be used in the latest crackdown and arrests.
Amnesty International is concerned that the vague and sweeping provisions of Law 5/96 criminalize the peaceful expression of political beliefs, and has called for its repeal. AI has called upon the government of Myanmar to uphold universal human rights standards enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, especially those of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, freedom from torture and ill-treatment, and fair trial. AI is also concerned that torture and other forms of ill treatment have been used to extract ficticious confessions that will be presented as evidence against the detainees. Detainees often do not receive immediate medical treatment, access to lawyers, family, and the courts. Myanmar currently has at least 1,158 political prisoners detained – one of the highest of such populations worldwide.
Two years after a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign forced around 700,000 Rohingya to flee Myanmar for Bangladesh, refugees are still trapped in unbearable conditions in overcrowded camps, Amnesty International said in a new briefing.
Responding to the decision by the Insein Township Court to sentence filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi to one year in prison on charges of undermining the military, Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s Director for East and South East Asia, said:
With the threat of returns to Myanmar once again looming over Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, Amnesty International warned that Rakhine State remains unsafe while those responsible for atrocities continue to evade justice.
Tens of thousands of older women and men from ethnic minorities across Myanmar who faced military atrocities and were forced to flee their homes are being let down by a humanitarian system that often fails to adequately address their rights and needs, Amnesty International said in a report published today. “Fleeing my whole life”: Older people’s experience …
Following a recent investigation in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, Amnesty International has gathered new evidence that the Myanmar military is committing war crimes and other human rights violations. The military operation is ongoing, raising the prospect of additional crimes being committed. The new report, “No one can protect us”: War crimes and abuses in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, …
The UN Security Council must mark the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions this year by ending its catastrophic failure to protect millions of civilians around the world whose lives and livelihoods are routinely ravaged by violations of the laws of war, Amnesty International said today.
Responding to news of the amnesty and release of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International’s East and Southeast Asia Director said the following.
Responding to news that a Myanmar court has rejected the appeal by Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s Director of Crisis Response said: “The decision to keep these two brave and innocent Reuters journalists behind bars plays in the hands of the Myanmar authorities’ attempt to hide the truth …
Bangladesh and Myanmar authorities must immediately halt plans to send Rohingya refugees back to Rakhine State, Amnesty International said today.
Amnesty International announced today that it has withdrawn its highest honor, the Ambassador of Conscience Award, from Aung San Suu Kyi, in light of the Myanmar leader’s shameful betrayal of the values she once stood for. On 11 November, Amnesty International’s Secretary General Kumi Naidoo wrote to Aung San Suu Kyi to inform her the organization is revoking the 2009 award. Half way through her …