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UK NGO calls for review of aid in wake of police crackdowns


Police crack down on the students protest in Letpadan, Bago Region, Myanmar, March 10, 2015. Photo: Thet Ko/Mizzima

Burma Campaign UK is calling on the British government, European Union, USA and other donors to conduct a full review of all their direct and indirect assistance to the government of Myanmar, to ensure that international aid is not being used to modernise and improve the institutions of an authoritarian regime, instead of assisting a genuine transition to democracy.

The call came on March 11 in the wake of recent violent attacks on and arrests of protesting students in Letpadan and Yangon.

The NGO claims the crackdown exposes the shallow nature of Myanmar’s reform process.

“In an authoritarian country such as Burma, it cannot credibly be argued that police were acting completely independently or were simply out of control. If firm orders had been given to police that violence was not to be used against students, and those orders enforced by commanders, it is unlikely police would have acted as they did,” the NGO says.

The NGO said that since the students began their protest march in January they have faced threats, harassment, obstruction and had their protest banned. The education law itself and the threats and harassment of those opposing it, originate with the central government, and cannot only be blamed on local police forces. Yangon students and activists supporting them have also faced violence and arrest from police and regime-backed thugs.

“Burma Campaign UK is concerned about the muted response of the international community to the crackdown on protesting students, which stands in stark contrast to statements and actions taken after similar crackdowns by the previous regime. This mirrors a general reluctance to strongly condemn or take action on human rights violations by the government of Burma. Gaining international acceptance, getting sanctions lifted, and receiving aid and investment, was a prime motivator for the reform process. Weak and muted responses to human rights violations encourage the government of Burma to believe it can continue to commit human rights abuses without consequences,” Burma Campaign UK said.

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