The Human Truth Foundation

Human Rights and Freedom in Myanmar (Burma)

By Vexen Crabtree 2018

#buddhism #buddhist_extremism #china #equality #freedom #hinduism #human_rights #islam #myanmar #Myanmar_(Burma) #politics #tolerance

Myanmar (Burma)
Union of Myanmar

[Country Profile Page]
StatusIndependent State
Social and Moral Index166th best
LocationAsia
Population53.7m1
Life Expectancy66.12yrs (2017)2

Myanmar (Burma) is amongst the worst places in the world at ensuring human rights and freedom, and it has severe cultural issues when it comes to tolerance and equality. Myanmar (Burma) does worse than average in terms of opposing gender inequality3, LGBT equality4, freethought5 and in supporting press freedom6. And finally, it falls into the worst 20 in commentary in Human Rights Watch reports7, supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms8 (amongst the worst in Asia), speed of uptake of HR treaties9 (one of the highest in Asia) and in its nominal commitment to Human Rights10 (amongst the worst in Asia). After attacks on security force outposts by Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) militants, in 2017, the Burmese military "launched a large-scale ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya Muslim population" and engaged in widespread crimes against humanity11. Human rights are poorly defended because of Burma's "weak rule of law, corrupt judiciary, Buddhist extremism12, and unwillingness to prosecute members of the security forces"11. Since a military coup in 2021, civil life has deteriorated even further12. Despite all this, China continued to strengthen economic ties to Burma and has actively shielded its government from international action11.


1. Myanmar (Burma)'s Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance

#equality #human_rights #morals #politics #prejudice #tolerance

Compared to Asia (2020)13,14
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Rank13,14
1Hong Kong23.3
2Taiwan28.2
3Japan44.5
4S. Korea46.5
5Cyprus48.5
...
42Iraq129.8
43Malaysia131.5
44Syria133.1
45Myanmar (Burma)133.9
46Afghanistan140.8
47Iran141.0
48N. Korea146.8
Asia Avg102.2
q=51.
Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance (2020)13,14
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Rank13,14
1Sweden9.9
2Denmark14.7
3Norway15.5
4Netherlands16.5
5New Zealand19.0
...
174Malaysia131.5
175Tonga132.9
176Syria133.1
177Myanmar (Burma)133.9
178Marshall Islands134.6
179Samoa136.1
180Angola136.2
World Avg89.0
q=199.

The best countries in the world at ensuring human rights, fostering equality and promoting tolerance, are Sweden, Denmark and Norway13. These countries are displaying the best traits that humanity has to offer. The worst countries are The Solomon Islands, Palestine and Somalia13.

The data sets used to calculate points for each country are statistics on commentary in Human Rights Watch reports, its nominal commitment to Human Rights, speed of uptake of HR treaties, supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms, supporting press freedom, eliminating modern slavery, opposing gender inequality, the year from which women could participate in democracy, its success in fighting anti-semitic prejudice, LGBT equality and freethought. The regions with the best average results per country are Scandinavia, Baltic States and Europe13, whereas the worst are Melanesia, Micronesia and Australasia13.

For more, see:

"Despite the appearance of civilian rule, the military remained the primary power-holder in the country" and they blocked attempts legal attempts to restore democratic control11, with over 90 cases being brought via the often-abused 2013 Telecommunications Act section 66(d), although the President Htin Kyaw managed (against Parliament's wish) to reduce the maximum sentence from 3 to 2 years for offences.

2. Human Rights & Tolerance Data Sets

2.1. Human Rights Watch Comments

#human_rights

Human Rights Watch Comments (2017)7
Pos.Higher is better
Score7
1UK9
2France9
3Germany9
4Canada8
5Netherlands8
...
107Turkmenistan-8
108Algeria-8
109Central African Rep.-8
110Myanmar (Burma)-9
111Eritrea-9
112Somalia-9
Asia Avg-5.0
World Avg-1.9
q=123.

Human Rights Watch comments concentrate mostly on negative issues, however, they also make positive comments for those countries that engage in human rights defence around the world, or who make improvements at home. By adding up positive and negative comments (including double-points for negatives that involve large scales and crimes against humanity), the Social and Moral Index turns HRW commentary into quantified values. Some countries may be unfairly penalized because HRW have not examined them, and, some countries "get away" with abuses if they manage to hide it, or if it goes unnoticed - a negative point has been given for those countries in which HRW specifically state that access to investigators has been barred. The points were limited to a minimum of -10 because there are some points at which things are so bad, with abuses affecting so many, it is difficult to be more specific about the depths of the issues.

2.2. Nominal Commitment to HR

#human_rights

Nominal Commitment to HR (2009)10
Pos.Higher is better
Treaties10
1Argentina24
2Chile23
3Costa Rica23
4Ecuador23
5Germany23
...
187Singapore5
188Nauru5
189Marshall Islands4
190Myanmar (Burma)4
191Palau4
192Malaysia4
Asia Avg12.7
World Avg15.1
q=194.

There are many international agreements on human rights, and, many mechanisms by which countries can be brought to account for their actions. Together, these have been the biggest historical movement in the fight against oppression and inhumanity. Or, putting it another way: these are rejected mostly by those who wish to oppress inhumanely. None of them are perfect and many people object to various components and wordings, but, no-one has come up with, and enforced, better methods of controlling the occasional desires that states and peoples have of causing angst for other states and peoples in a violent, unjust or inhumane way. Points are awarded for the number of human rights agreements ratified by the country, plus the acceptance of the petition mechanisms for disputes. The maximum possible score in 2009 was 24.

2.3. HR Treaties Lag

#human_rights #international_law #micronesia #politics #small_islands

HR Treaties Lag (2019)9
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Yrs/Treaty9
1Ecuador2.15
2Uruguay2.25
3Tunisia3.65
4Colombia3.68
5Costa Rica4.05
...
177Comoros14.82
178Fiji14.85
179Samoa14.85
180Myanmar (Burma)14.93
181St Kitts & Nevis15.00
182Singapore15.02
Asia Avg10.97
World Avg10.02
q=195.

Human Rights (HR) Treaties Lag is a count of how long it took each country to sign each of 11 key HR treaties. From the date of the first signatory of each treaty, all other countries have one point added to their score for each day they delayed in signing. Results are presented as average time in years to sign each one. The lower a country's score, the more enthusiastically it has taken on international Human Rights Treaties - which are, of course, minimal standards of good governance. The slowest are the countries of Micronesia, Melanesia, Australasia and Polynesia all lagged by over 12 years per treaty. The best regions are The Americas, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean.

For more, see:

2.4. Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom

#freedom #politics

Personal, Civil & Economic Freedom (2014)8
Pos.Lower is better
Rank8
1Hong Kong1
2Switzerland2
3New Zealand3
4Ireland4
5Denmark5
...
150Angola150
151Congo, DR151
152Algeria152
153Myanmar (Burma)153
154Venezuela154
155Central African Rep.155
Asia Avg94.6
World Avg79.7
q=159.

The Human Freedom Index published by the Fraser Institute is...

... a broad measure of human freedom, understood as the absence of coercive constraint. It uses 79 distinct indicators of personal and economic freedom in the following areas: Rule of Law, Security and Safety, Movement, Religion, Association, Assembly, and Civil Society, Expression, Relationships, Size of Government, Legal System and Property Rights, Access to Sound Money, Freedom to Trade Internationally, Regulation of Credit, Labor, and Business. [...]

The highest levels of freedom are in Western Europe, Northern Europe, and North America (Canada and the United States. The lowest levels are in the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. [...]

Countries in the top quartile of freedom enjoy a significant higher per capita income ($37,147) [compared with] the least-free quartile [at] $8,700). The HFI finds a strong correlation between human freedom and democracy.

"The Human Freedom Index" by The Fraser Institute (2016)15

2.5. Press Freedom

#democracy #freedom #mass_media #politics #UK

Press Freedom (2013)6
Pos.Lower is better6
1Finland638
2Netherlands648
3Norway652
4Luxembourg668
5Andorra682
...
147Russia4342
148Singapore4343
149Iraq4467
150Myanmar (Burma)4471
151Gambia4509
152Mexico4530
Asia Avg4378
World Avg3249
q=178.

The freedom to investigate, publish information, and have access to others' opinion is a fundamental part of today's information-driven world. Scores on the Press Freedom Index are calculated according to indicators including pluralism - the degree to which opinions are represented in the media, media independence of authorities, self-censorship, legislation, transparency and the infrastructure that supports news and information, and, the level of violence against journalists which includes lengths of imprisonments. The index "does not take direct account of the kind of political system but it is clear that democracies provide better protection for the freedom to produce and circulate accurate news and information than countries where human rights are flouted".

It must be noted that press freedom is not an indicator of press quality and the press itself can be abusive; the UK suffers in particular from a popular brand of nasty reporting that infuses several of its newspapers who are particularly prone to running destructive and often untrue campaigns against victims. The Press Freedom Index notes that "the index should in no way be taken as an indicator of the quality of the media in the countries concerned".

Amidst continued threats and intimidation of journalists, "the government increased its use of overly broad and vaguely worded laws to detain, arrest, and imprison individuals for peaceful expression"11 and the right to protest is still far too limited11.

2.6. Slavery

#burundi #eritrea #france #human_rights #indonesia #slavery

Human trafficking remained a serious problem in several areas [of Burma], particularly in the north where armed conflict and widespread displacement exacerbated financial instability. Women and girls in Kachin and Shan States who went to China in search of work faced abuses. Many women and girls were sold to Chinese families as "brides" and often faced horrific abuses including being locked up, subjected to sexual slavery, forced to bear children of their "husbands" by rape, and forcibly separated from their children. The Burmese government put few measures in place to protect women and girls from these abuses or assist women and girls who escaped or sought to do so.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)11

Slavery (2018)16
Pos.Lower is better
% Victims16
1Japan0.03
2Canada0.05
3Taiwan0.05
4Australia0.06
5New Zealand0.06
...
147Papua New Guinea1.03
148Belarus1.09
149Brunei1.09
150Myanmar (Burma)1.10
151Turkmenistan1.12
152Rwanda1.16
Asia Avg0.79
World Avg0.65
q=167.

The taking of slaves has been an unwholesome feature of Human cultures since prehistory17. Private households and national endeavours have frequently been augmented with the use of slaves. The Egyptian and Roman empires both thrived on them for both purposes. Aside from labourers they are often abused sexually by their owners and their owners' friends18. The era of colonialism and the beginnings of globalisation changed nothing: the imprisonment and forced movements of labour continued to destroy many lives except that new justifications were invented based on Christian doctrine and the effort to convert non-Christians. By 1786 over 12 million slaves had been extracted from Africa and sent to colonial labour camps, with a truly atrocious condition of life19. But they were not the only ones to blame; in Africa internal nations such as the Asantes sold and bought tens of thousands of slaves20.

The abolition of the slave trade was a long and slow process. Until a relatively modern time, even philosophers, religious leaders and those concerned with ethics justified, or ignored, the problem of slavery21. The first abolitionists were always the slaves themselves. Their protests and rebellions caused the industry to become too expensive to continue. After that, it was the economic costs of maintain slave colonies that led the British to reject and then oppose the slave trade globally. Finally, the enlightenment-era thinkers of France encouraged moral and ethical thinking including the declaration of the inherent value of human life and human dignity22. A long-overdue wave of compassionate and conscientious movements swept across the West, eliminating public support for slavery, until the industries and churches that supported it had no choice but to back down.

'Modern slavery' includes forced labour (often of the under-age), debt bondage (especially generational), sexual slavery, chattel slavery and other forms of abuse, some of which can be surprisingly difficult to detect, but often target those fleeing from warzones and the vulnerable.23. Some industries (diamond, clothing, coal) from some countries (Burundi16, Eritrea16, Indonesia24) are a particular concern. The Walk Free Foundation, say that in 2016, 40.3 million people were living in modern slavery25.

For more, see:

3. Gender Equality Data Sets

Myanmar (Burma) has made some steps towards ending gender inequality but much more needs to be done.

See:

3.1. Gender Inequality

#gender #gender_equality #human_rights #misogyny #women

Gender Inequality (2015)3
Pos.Lower is better3
1Switzerland0.04
2Denmark0.04
3Netherlands0.04
4Sweden0.05
5Iceland0.05
...
77Argentina0.36
78Bahamas0.36
79Thailand0.37
80Myanmar (Burma)0.37
81Belize0.38
82Mauritius0.38
Asia Avg0.36
World Avg0.36
q=159.

The UN Human Development Reports include statistics on gender equality which take into account things like maternal mortality, access to political power (seats in parliament) and differences between male and female education rates. Gender inequality is not a necessary part of early human development. Although a separation of roles is almost universal due to different strengths between the genders, this does not have to mean that women are subdued, and, such patriarchialism is not universal in ancient history. Those cultures and peoples who shed, or never developed, the idea that mankind ought to dominate womankind, are better cultures and peoples than those who, even today, cling violently to those mores.

3.2. Year Women Can Vote

#christianity #gender_equality #human_rights #politics #women

Year Women Can Vote
Pos.Lower is better
Year
1New Zealand1893
2Australia1902
3Finland1906
4Norway1913
5Denmark1915
...
40Turkey1934
41Brazil1934
42Cuba1934
43Myanmar (Burma)1935
44Philippines1937
45Uzbekistan1938
Asia Avg1907
World Avg1930
q=189.

Women now have equal rights in the vast majority of countries across the world. Although academic literature oftens talks of when a country "grants women the right to vote", this enforces a backwards way of thinking. Women always had the right to vote, however, they were frequently denied that right. The opposition to women's ability to vote in equality with man was most consistently and powerfully opposed by the Catholic Church, other Christian organisations, Islamic authorities and some other religious and secular traditionalists.

4. Prejudice Data Sets

4.1. LGBT Equality

#equality #homosexuality #human_rights #intolerance #sexuality #tolerance

LGBT Equality (2017)4
Pos.Higher is better
Score4
1Netherlands103
2Belgium90
3Sweden86
4Brazil81
5Spain79
...
139Antigua & Barbuda-10
140St Vincent & Grenadines-10
141Mauritius-10
142Myanmar (Burma)-10
143Barbados-10
144Ethiopia-14
Asia Avg-02.1
World Avg12.6
q=196.

Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) folk is rife across the world. Legal restrictions co-exist alongside social stigmatisation and physical violence26. LGBT tolerance and equal rights have been fought for country-by-country across the world, often against tightly entrenched cultural and religious opposition. Adult consensual sexual activity is a Human Right, protected by privacy laws27. Despite this, homosexual activity is outlawed in around 80 countries26. The Social & Moral LGBT Equality Index was created to compare countries and regions, granting points to each country for a variety of factors including how long gay sex has been criminalized and the extent of LGBT legal rights. Graded negative points are given for criminality of homosexuality, unequal ages of consent, legal punishments and for not signing international accords on LGBT tolerance. The signs in many developed countries are positive, and things are gradually improving. Europe is by far the least prejudiced region (Scandinavia in particular being exemplary). The Middle East and then Africa are the least morally developed, where cultural bias goes hand-in-hand with state intolerance, all too often including physical violence.

For more, see:

4.2. Freedom of Thought

#europe #freedom_of_belief #freethought #human_rights #netherlands #religion #religious_tolerance #secularism #the_enlightenment

In this 88% Buddhist country, minorities such as Hindus, Christians and Muslims face "threats and persecution", and their religious activities are "tightly regulated", even in their own homes11. Article 361 of the Constitution specifically names Buddhism as the favoured religion, with Therevada Buddhism in particular being supported by Government. Sociologists Grim & Finke still place Myanmar into the worst possible category when it comes to religious freedom and persecution: Severe restrictions on religious freedom and freedom of belief stem simultaneously from top-down pressure from government and institutionalized religion, and from bottom-up grassroots movements that often go even further than the government in harassing those who do not believe the right things (2011)28.

Freedom of Thought (2021)5
Pos.Lower is better5
1Belgium1.0
2Netherlands1.0
3Taiwan1.0
4Sao Tome & Principe1.3
5Ecuador1.3
...
146Angola3.7
147Andorra3.7
148Uzbekistan3.7
149Myanmar (Burma)3.8
150Zimbabwe3.8
151Palestine3.8
Asia Avg3.7
World Avg3.0
q=196.

Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Belief are upheld in Article 18 the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights29. It affirms that it is a basic human right that all people are free to change their beliefs and religion as they wish30. No countries voted against this (although eight abstained). This right was first recognized clearly in the policies of religious toleration of the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe in the post-enlightenment era31 of the 19th century. In democratic countries, freedom of belief and religion is now taken for granted32. In 2016 a study found that over 180 countries in the world had come to guarantee freedom of religion and belief33. The best countries at doing so are Taiwan, Belgium and The Netherlands5,34 and the worst: Afghanistan, N. Korea, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia5,35.

Long-term studies have shown that religious violence and persecution both decrease in cultures where religious freedom is guaranteed36. Despite this, there still are many who are strongly against freedom of belief30, including entire cultures and many individual communities of religious believers. Their alternative is that you are not free to believe what you want and they often state that you cannot change religion without being punished (often including the death penalty): this is bemoaned as one of the most dangerous elements of religion37 and "the denial of religious freedoms is inevitably intertwined with the denial of other freedoms"38 and the solution is, everywhere, to allow religious freedom and the freedom of belief.

For more, see:

In May [2017], authorities sent a letter to a Christian man in Rangoon, warning him not to continue to pray in his home with others without first receiving approval from authorities. In Sagaing Region, a Buddhist mob attacked Christian worshippers, destroying homes and personal property.

In April, a mob of about 50 to 100 Buddhist ultranationalists put pressure on local officials and police in Rangoon´s Thaketa township to close two Islamic schools. The authorities carried out the mob´s demand and have not reopened the schools, denying several hundred students access to education. Following the closures, local officials charged seven Muslims who participated in a public prayer session on May 31.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)11

5. Crimes Against Humanity: The Ethnic Cleansing of the Rohingya Muslim Minorities

5.1. Violent Popularism

#buddhism #buddhist_extremism #democracy #nationalism #politics #popularism

In politics, popularism is the effect of uninformed mass opinion on governance. It can transpire through the government being too sensitive to the loudest voices of the masses, through grassroots movements that are too narrow in scope to represent the entire population, through nasty forms of nationalism and jingoism. Popularist slogans are often catchy policies based on simple one-line policies that do not have a proper depth of research or meaning; hence, they appeal to 'the masses' and it is the job of politicians to convince the populace to pursue wiser courses of action than they would if left to their own devices. In the modern world, Internet-based and social media campaigns are becoming the most important source of public pressure on governments39 and this is giving enemies of democracy powerful new tools of interference40. The worst aspects of popularism are a disregard for minorities41 and any unpopular subcultures (wherein popularism becomes 'the tyranny of the majority')42 and the other main disadvantage is the pursuit of shallow and short-sighted policies that harm the nation in the long-run43,44,45; issues that require strong international co-ordination and long-term planning such as environmentalism and protecting biodiversity are suffering as the result of selfish nationalism46. The solution to popularism is to ensure the politicians are professional, well-trained, well-educated, and who are not afraid to engage in long-term strategy that is unpopular in the short term.

For more, see:

The cost of not standing up to populist attacks on human rights was perhaps starkest in Burma. Vitriolic nationalist rhetoric increasingly propagated by Buddhist extremists, senior members of the Burmese military, and some members of the civilian-led government helped to precipitate an ethnic cleansing campaign against Rohingya Muslims, following a militant group's attacks on security outposts. An army-led campaign of massacres, widespread rape, and mass arson in at least 340 villages sent more than 640,000 Rohingya refugees fleeing for their lives to neighboring Bangladesh. [... There is] little immediate hope of the Rohingyas' safe and voluntary return, or of bringing to justice the people behind the atrocities that sent them fleeing.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)47

In a rare move, even the anti-human-rights international community called the OIC, supported the UNHRC:

Nations of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) called for a special session of the UN Human Rights Council where they supported a resolution condemning Burma's crimes against humanity. The effort was notable because it represented a rare instance in which OIC members backed a resolution criticizing a particular country.

"World Report 2018" by Human Rights Watch (2018)48

5.2. The Failure of Facebook to Control Hate 49

#buddhist_extremism #Facebook #misinformation #social_media

The United Nations has accused Facebook in particular as being the facilitator for a wave of hate and misinformation, enticing the populace into continued violence against Rohingya Muslim minority in Rakhine State. Much of this content is disseminated through fake accounts on Facebook

Free Basics [Facebook Internet provision in developing countries] gives internet access for the majority of people in Burma, at the same time it severely limits the information available to users, making Facebook virtually the only source of information online for the majority. [...] In March 2018, the UN Myanmar investigator Yanghee Lee said that the platform had morphed into a `beast´ that helped to spread vitriol against Rohingya Muslins. [...]

The activity of Facebook undermines international aid to Burma, including the UK Government´s work. Facebook is releasing a product that is dangerous to consumers and deeply unethical. [...] This situation is acknowledged by Facebook itself, who said that the hate material was 'awful' and it wanted to get rid of it.

"Disinformation and 'fake news´: Interim Report"
House of Commons (UK Government) (2018)50