Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Burma Military Rulers Give Hints of Change?

Burma (also known as the Republic of Myanmar) is a southeast Asian country which has been under millitary junta rule since 1962 and has been heavily influenced by soviet-style centralization and minimal citizens' rights. Since that time, it has been host to a plethora of human rights abuses, especially in the past few years as people have protested the results of the May 2008 election. It is estimated that over 2,100 individuals are being held as political prisoners. Free speech, free religion, and freedom to assemble are all rights which the current military regime does not respect. The 2009 US State Dept. Human Rights Report for the country claims that "Government security forces allowed custodial deaths to occur and committed extrajudicial killings, disappearances, rape, and torture."

This BBC article takes a more optimistic approach to things. The simple fact that the reporter was invited to cover the Burmese parade suggests "either the military want to open up to gain the legitimacy they would like for the election, and more journalist visas and invitations will follow, or it was a good opportunity to show their strength and resolve to the outside world, and the door will soon slam shut." Based on the country's spotty record on international opinion and human rights, the latter option seems to be the most plausible. Nevertheless, the increased transparency is something to be hopeful about, however shallow it might seem. In a country where very basic rights are routinely violated by the state, any sort of change for the better should be recognized.

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