26 March 2007

Burma Gas Rights

Human Rights Watch has expressed concern that the proposed development of gas fields off the coast of Burma will exacerbate serious human rights abuses and serve to entrench the brutal military rule in the country. Construction of overland gas pipelines would involve the use of forced labor, and result in illegal land confiscation, forced displacement, and unnecessary use of force against villagers.

This comes at a time when it has also been revealed that India is supplying arms to Burma's military junta in an attempt to counter China's influence over their neighbour. However, pro-democracy activists fear the junta will use the weapons to target ethnic minorities, suppress opposition, and resist democratisation.

The introduction to the Annual Human Rights Country Reports published earlier this month included the following summary about Burma:

"The military government in Burma extensively used executions, rape, torture, arbitrary detention, and forced relocation of entire villages, particularly of ethnic minorities, to maintain its grip on power. Prisoners and detainees were subjected to abuse and held in harsh, life-threatening conditions. Surveillance, harassment, and imprisonment of political activists continued; Nobel Laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi remained incommunicado under house arrest, and over 1,100 political prisoners languished in prison. The use of forced labor, trafficking in persons, conscription of child soldiers, and religious discrimination remained widespread. The government reconvened the sham National Convention, handpicking delegates and prohibiting free debate. Touted as part of a 'democracy road map', the convention was designed to nullify the results of the 1990 election and adopt a new, regime-friendly constitution. The regime's cruel and destructive misrule also resulted in refugee outflows, the spread of infectious diseases, and the trafficking of drugs and human beings into neighboring countries."