President Barack Obama’s visit to Burma will be a success only if it generates concrete and lasting steps toward improving human rights in the country, Human Rights Watch.
Obama should press for the release of all political prisoners and an end to abuses by state security forces in ethnic minority areas.
Obama should also publicly call for legal and constitutional reform in Burma, including ending military authority to dismiss the government, dropping the military’s 25 % quota of parliamentary seats, and revising laws limiting basic rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly.
Thein Sein reportedly included no political prisoners among the 452 prisoners released in a November 15 amnesty. In four amnesties in the past year, the government has released at least 300 political prisoners, leaving an undetermined number behind bars. Human Rights Watch and others have called for independent international monitors to be given unfettered access to Burma’s prisons to provide an accounting of all remaining political prisoners. Many released political prisoners face travel and other restrictions.
The fundamental right to peaceful assembly remains tightly restricted in Burma. Thirteen activists who led over 1,000 protesters in a September 21 march in Rangoon calling for peace in Kachin State and elsewhere were subsequently summoned to local police stations. Nine protesters now face prison terms on charges of violating the purportedly reformist 2011 Peaceful Assembly Law.
Obama’s trip to Burma risks providing an undeserved seal of approval to the military-dominated government that is still violating human rights. Obama’s success in securing tangible commitments on human rights, not his mere presence in the country, is crucial for promoting genuine and lasting reform, sait Brad Adams, Asia director