Human Rights Situation in Burma

Human Rights Situation in Burma 3

HumanRights Situation in Burma

Myanmar,in earlier times known as Burma, is a country located in Southernpart of Asia. After the armed coup that overthrew the democraticBurmese government in 1962, the world has witnessed great levels ofhuman rights violation in Burma (Selth,2012, p 66).Even the recent changes in the government after the 2012 by-electionshave not comprehensively addressed this challenge. Majority of Burmacitizens lives in of their government as the government is solelyresponsible for most of these human rights abuses that have beenaffecting the citizens. These rights violations range from rape tochild labor. This paper seeks to explore the human rights situationin Burma, including what the actions taken to remedy the situationand the international treaties ratified by the Burmese government inthe face of this crisis.

Theongoing crisis in Burma originates from the attempts of the militaryrulers of the nation to crush all form of opposition. People whooppose or criticize the government face possible harassment, unlawfularrest, torture, prison confinement, and in some cases extrajudicialexecutions. Themajority of Myanmar`s 55 million people live in poverty coupled upwith the ongoing human rights violations (Freeman, 2011, p. 99).Thousands of people have been jailed for expressing their views onthe rulers of the nation. A notable example is DawAung San Suu Kyi, a former Nobel Peace Prize winner. After hisrelease on November 13, 2010, he has been a symbol of hope to thesuffering citizens of the nation.


Humanrights refer to the morally acceptable principles that set standardsof human behavior and are protected by legally binding laws(Forsythe,2009, p. 6).When fundamental human rights are ignored, abused, or denied, thesituation is referred to as a human rights violation. Civil,political, cultural and economic rights can all be violated.

AsRoberts(2010, p. 226)notes, documenting the human rights situation in Burma is not an easytask. The Burmese government works hard to cover up the atrocities itcommits against its people. Journalists are not allowed to visitBurma. When they are allowed to cover stories in Burma, their work isclosely monitored by the government. As a result, most of theinformation on the crisis remains undisclosed. The abuse of humanrights in Burma is not limited to civil and political rights. Otheraspects of human rights such as privacy and ownership of property arealso violated as will be explained in the subsequent paragraphs.

Useof Child Soldiers

Duringongoing crisis, the Burmese army has been found to rely heavily onthe use of child soldiers. Most of the soldiers serving in themilitary right now aged around twenty years were taken away fromtheir families before they were eighteen years old. By estimate, overfive thousand children serve in the Burmese army in different ranksand capacities. Illiterate children from poor families are the mostvulnerable to recruitment. In most cases, as Pedersen(2007, p. 74) notesthey are recruited by force against their will. Those who refuse aretaken away from their families and executed. This situation is aviolation of the 2012 joint action plan with the United Nations thatsought to end the use of child soldiers in Burma.


Traffickingin persons for the purposes of labor and sex are a common occurrencein Burma. In the country’s border with China, displaced Kachinwomen and girls end up in sex slavery. Women who flee Burma intoThailand and Malaysia frequently end up as slaves in fishing boatsand factories. The Burmese military rule is not directly responsiblefor the human trafficking. However, as ThantMyint-U (2008, p. 47),it is solely responsible for the ongoing crisis, which is the parentcause of the vulnerability that pushes women and girls into humantrafficking.

Creationof Refugees and Internally Displaced people (IDPs)

Violationof human rights has forced many Burmese people to flee their homesinto refugee camps located in Thailand, Malaysia and Bangladesh.These three countries have not ratified the United Nations Conventionon Refugees, significantly reducing their ability to cater forrefugees (Pedersen, 2007, p 79). Reports estimate that over quarter amillion people have been displaced in Burma since 2011.


Someof the weapons of war widely used in Burma include rape and sexualabuse. For instance, on September 3, 2013, a group of Burmese gangraped several women in Kachin State before abandoning them naked inthe forest. The Burmese security forces also target Rohingyawomen for rape and sexual violence. The Burmese government refusedsign the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative at the UN in September2013. Experts feel that the international community has not workedhard enough to compel the Burmese government to sign this agreementthat help prevent rape and sexual violence according to Roberts(2010, p. 243).


TheBurmese army has killed many civilians over the last two years. Thesevictims include men, women, and children. In September 2013, Burmesesoldiers fired at two farmers sitting outside their home, killing oneof them. The forces have been reported to kill RohingyaMuslims in their camps on top of murdering many Kachin civilians andthe disappearances of even more.

Thehuman rights violations explained above among many others show theongoing human rights crisis in Burma (Selth,2012, p. 70.The actions of the military government violate many human rightsincluding but not limited to the right to life, freedom from slavery,right to a fair trial, freedom of the press and freedom of movement.

Roleof Culture in the Human rights Situation in Burma

Burmais an ethnically and religiously diverse country. The ongoing crisisin the country comes as a result of an organized pattern of humanrights abuses brought about by the conflicts in areas with minorethnic communities. This connection shows that culture is one of thefactors that is fuelling the crisis in Burma. In areas occupied byminority communities that are on the receiving end of the oppressiveactions of the Burmese government, the conflict has been used as atool by the military. According to Pedersen (2007, p. 87), they useit to induce forceful control and development of the ethnic minoritygroups at the expense of human rights.

Pedersen(2010, p. 92) argues that the ongoing human rights crisis in Burmacan be viewed as a misguided attempt at ethnic cleansing. It appearsas an attempt by the Buddhists to promote anti-Muslim hate. Since2012, RohingyaMuslims are the targets of an ethnic cleansing campaign by Burmesetroops. Attempts to get rid of Rohingya Muslims from the country havecreated the artificial and unnecessary human rights crisis in Burma.Thousands of them have fled Burma by boat, many of them drowning inthe process.Mental culture is to a large extent viewed to be the main cause ofthe ongoing crisis in Burma. According to the Burmese regime, anybodywho opposes the government, for example, AungSan Suu Kyiis viewed as a foreigner.

Culture,on top of fuelling the ongoing crisis in Burma, also impedes anyattempts made by the international community to end the crisis. Themilitary-led government in Burma holds the strong stand that blanklyprohibits that participation of any foreigner in the politicaldebates in the country (Selth, 2012, p. 72). They argue that noforeigner can comprehensively understand the ideas and traditions ofthe Burmese people that cause and fuel the crisis. As a result ofthis stand, the Burmese government does not cooperate withinternational bodies that can help end the crisis, for example, theUnited Nations.

MeasuresTaken to address the

Severalsteps have been advanced to address the human rights situation inBurma. Key stakeholders in this exercise are the United Nations, TheUnited States government and Asia Watch. As Roberts (2010, p 236)notes, the attempts taken to address the human rights crisis in Burmaare three-pronged as elaborated below

InternationalCommissions of Inquiry – They have been set up to investigaterecent, present, and past rights abuses in central Burma and otherparts of the country.

BenchmarkedCooperation – Underthe coordination of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rightsoffice in Burma, all economic, political and military cooperationcarried out in Burma follow the well-formulated benchmarks settowards solving the crisis.

Maintenanceof Sanctions – Tofacilitate the achievement of key benchmarks, economic and politicalsanctions are being upheld to pile pressure on the Burmese governmentto end the crisis.

InternationalTreaties Ratified by Burma

Burmahas ratified several international agreements although theimplementation of most of them has been questionable (Freeman, 2011,p. 101). Notably, Burma is not a party to many human rightsagreements having ratified only four Geneva Conventions but none ofthe subsequent protocols. In means and methods of warfare, Burma hasonly ratified the 1954 Hague Convention and one subsequent protocol.Consequently, Burma’s crimes are not punished.

Evenwith the ratified agreements, Burma is seen to violate fundamentalhuman rights with unmatched impunity. The perpetrators of violence inthe country are arrested or prosecuted for the crimes. The corruptlegal system of the country creates a suitable environment forviolation of human rights. Pressure now falls on the internationalcommunity to intervene and hold the Burmese government accountablefor its actions.


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Freeman,M. (2011). Humanrights: an interdisciplinary approach.Cambridge, UK, Polity Press.

Pedersen,M. B. (2007). Promotinghuman rights in Burma: a critique of Western sanctions policy.Lanham, Md, Rowman &amp Littlefield Publishers. 74

Roberts,C. B. (2010). ASEAN`sMyanmar crisis: challenges to the pursuit of a security community.Singapore, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. 226

Selth,A. (2012). Burma(Myanmar) since the 1988 uprising: a select bibliography.Nathan, Qld, Griffith Asia Institute. 66

ThantMyint-U. (2008). Theriver of lost footsteps: a personal history of Burma.