Fri 30 Jun 2006
Filed under: News,Opinion
Once again the pariah government of Burma tops an international blacklist-this time one compiled by the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force set up to tackle money laundering and terrorism financing.
While the US and its allies and the UN have sent troops to combat dictators and armed militias in Bosina, Serbia, Somalia, the Congo, Darfur and Iraq-just to name some-they have left Burma’s military dictatorship off their intervention agenda.
In recent months, Burmese troops have looted, burnt or destroyed hundreds of villages, killing and raping and driving and forced as up to18,000 Karen people from their homes, yet while the response from the UN and the international community amounted to a torrent of words there has been no action.
Burma’s human rights record is appalling and should be motivation enough for the UN Security Council to take immediate action. The World Health Organisation ranks Burma’s health care system as the world’s second worst after Sierra Leone. A third of children under five suffer severe malnutrition. Burma has one of the lowest per capita number of pharmacists in the world-just 127 to serve the whole country. HIV/AIDS is rife but mainly goes unreported. Burma is the world’s second biggest producer of opium and the largest manufacturer of amphetamine-type stimulants.
Press freedom is non-existent, marginally better than in totalitarian North Korea. Corruption in Burma is rampant at every level of government-Transparency International rates it better only than Bangladesh and Chad.
Economic freedom is an oxymoron-in a study by the Heritage Foundation, Burma is just in front of Iran and North Korea. Human Rights Watch estimates that Burma has the highest number of child soldiers of any army-75,000-some as young as 11.
Nine out of 14 states and provinces in Burma are sown with landmines, making large swathes of land worthless for cultivation and killing and maiming thousands of people.
The International Labor Organization ranks Burma top of its list of Asian countries practicing forced labor. The US State Department accuses Burma’s military government of failing to combat trafficking of people for “the purpose of forced labor and sexual exploitation.” Burma is depleting its natural resources with alarming greed and Global Witness estimates that timber is trucked from Burma to China at the rate of 15 metric tons every seven minutes, throughout the year.
More than a 1,000 political prisoners rot in jails. National League of Democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, celebrated her 61st birthday under house arrest – as she did during many of the last 17 years. Her only crime is her popularity with the Burmese people.
In 2005, two Nobel Peace Prize recipients, the former president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel, and South Africa’s Bishop Tutu, commissioned an international law firm to prepare a report that delivers unambiguous evidence to show why the UN Security Council should take action on Burma.
The question is why has it not done so?