Britain’s Human Rights and Democracy report for 2011 highlights ongoing human rights abuses in Burma, despite some welcome reforms, according to a statement by Burma Campaign UK (BCUK). It said 2011 was marked by some unexpected and positive political developments in Burma, but, "The situation in some ethnic minority areas worsened.”
The report documented ongoing human rights abuses that "could be classified as possible war crimes and crimes against humanity,” said BCUK, including:
- “In March, the Burmese Army moved into areas of Shan State held by ethnic armed forces. We received reports that seven villages were razed to the ground, and civilians indiscriminately targeted. An estimated 30,000 people fled their homes.
- “In June, conflict broke out in Kachin State, bringing a 17-year ceasefire to an end. Human rights abuses targeting civilians were reported, including torture, rape and unverified reports of murder. There were allegations that the Kachin Independence Army was also using forced portering and child soldiers.
- "Rreports of gender-based violence by the military in conflict areas; the Burmese government has done little to investigate these cases.
- “The use of child soldiers in the Burmese military and some armed ethnic groups.”
Despite the possible abuses, the BCUK noted that Burmese President Thein Sein has been invited to the UK.
In the past year, BCUK said the British government has tended to focus more on the positive developments in Burma, and talked less about human rights abuses. The government agreed to the suspension of European Union sanctions despite none of the benchmarks that were set being met, it said. These included the unconditional release of all political prisoners, the end of conflict in ethnic states, and allowing humanitarian assistance to be delivered freely in ethnic states.
It noted that the government has moved to normalize relations with Burma quicker than other countries, with the British Prime Minister visiting Burma, and the invitation to Burma’s president to the UK.
Burma Campaign UK said it welcomed the report for highlighting the fact that severe human rights abuses continue to take place, and for its acknowledgment that minority rights “remained perhaps Burma’s greatest challenge, requiring…constitutional amendments.”
It said most governments have tended to ignore or failed to understand the importance of an inclusive process of national reconciliation, despite Aung San Suu Kyi’s repeated statements.
“The international community, including the British government, has been too quick to move towards normalizing relations with Burma, despite very serious human rights abuses continuing,” said Zoya Phan, BCUK campaigns manager.