Burma ranks among worst nations for civilian freedom: Rights Group

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

New Delhi (Mizzima) - A United States-based Freedom House in its annual global release on freedom in the world, has ranked Burma among the 'worst of the worst' countries, where civilians enjoy negligible political and civil liberties.

The Freedom in the World 2009, which examines the state of freedom in 193 countries and 16 strategic territories, ranked Burma along with North Korea, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Libya, Sudan, Equatorial Guinea and Somalia among the worst countries that impose restrictions on the lives of civilians.

The report said freedom "retreated in much of the world in 2008, the third year of global decline," and countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa, the former Soviet Union, and a few countries in Asia including China, North Korea and Burma saw the most reversals.

The Freedom House survey categorized countries, according to the political rights and civil liberties which their civilians enjoy, into three categories – Free, Partly Free and Not Free. Burma along with 41 other countries was ranked as 'Not Free'.

In 2008, Burma's military rulers have widely attracted criticism and condemnation from international communities for its high-handedness on opposition activists by arresting and sentencing them to long prison terms.

Following the September 2007 monk-led mass protests, Burma's military junta escalated its crackdown on dissidents by arresting several activists, including prominent student activist Min Ko Naing and group.

Since August 2008, the military junta has conducted secret trials in prisons and handed down harsh sentences of imprisonment upto 68 years. Among those handed harsh prison terms, a dissident Buddhist monk, Ashin Gambira, who had played a vital role in leading the September 2007 protests, was given 68 years of prison term.

Burma's military rulers have said that the country is building a roadmap to democracy and are gearing up to hold general elections in 2010. However, critics doubt whether the elections will be free and fair.

The junta in May, amidst a severe crisis faced by the country's southwestern coastal region after it was hit by Cyclone Nargis, held a referendum to approve a draft constitution, which critics and opposition parties said was a tool to cement military rule.

Regional and international communities including the United Nations have urged Burma's military rulers to implement a broad based dialogue with all political stake holders and to speed up the process of democratization.

Burma has been under military rule since 1962.

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