The Human Truth Foundation

Human Rights and Freedom in Myanmar (Burma)

By Vexen Crabtree 2018

#buddhism #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
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 when it comes to opposing gender inequality3, LGBT equality4, freethought5 and in supporting press freedom6. And finally, it falls into the worst 20 in terms of commentary in Human Rights Watch reports7, supporting personal, civil & economic freedoms8 (one of the worst in Asia), speed of uptake of HR treaties9 (amongst the highest in Asia) and in its nominal commitment to Human Rights10 (one of the lowest 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, and unwillingness to prosecute members of the security forces"11. Despite all this, China continued to strengthen economic ties to Burma and actively shielded its government from international action11.

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

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

Human Rights, Equality & Tolerance (2020)12,13
Pos.Lower is better
Avg Rank12,13
177Myanmar (Burma)133.9
178Marshall Islands134.6
World Avg89.0

The best countries in the world at ensuring human rights, fostering equality and promoting tolerance, are Sweden, Denmark and Norway12. These countries are displaying the best traits that humanity has to offer. The worst countries are The Solomon Islands, Palestine and Somalia12.

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 Europe12, whereas the worst are Melanesia, Micronesia and Australasia12.

For more, see:

2. Human Rights & Tolerance Data Sets

After coordinated attacks on security force outposts by militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), in August 2017, the Burmese military "launched a large-scale ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya Muslim population in Rakhine State" and conducted large-scale abuses against human rights (include widespread rape), which together constituted crimes against humanity11.

"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.

Human rights are poorly defended because of Burma's "weak rule of law, corrupt judiciary, and unwillingness to prosecute members of the security forces"11.

"Religious minorities, including Hindus, Christians, and Muslims, continue to face threats and persecution in a country that is approximately 88 percent Buddhist [and in] Sagaing Region, a Buddhist mob attacked Christian worshippers, destroying homes and personal property" although the government has taken some steps to stop extremists.11

2.1. Human Rights Watch Comments


Human Rights Watch Comments (2017)7
Pos.Higher is better
109Central African Rep.-8
110Myanmar (Burma)-9
World Avg-1.9

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


Nominal Commitment to HR (2009)10
Pos.Higher is better
3Costa Rica23
189Marshall Islands4
190Myanmar (Burma)4
World Avg15.1

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
180Myanmar (Burma)14.93
181St Kitts & Nevis15.00
183Papua New Guinea15.23
World Avg10.02

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
1Hong Kong1
3New Zealand3
151Congo, DR151
153Myanmar (Burma)153
155Central African Rep.155
World Avg79.7

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)14

2.5. Press Freedom

#democracy #freedom #mass_media #politics #UK

Press Freedom (2013)6
Pos.Lower is better6
150Myanmar (Burma)4471
World Avg3249

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

Slavery (2018)15
Pos.Lower is better
% Victims15
147Papua New Guinea1.03
150Myanmar (Burma)1.10
World Avg0.65

The taking of slaves has been an unwholesome feature of Human cultures since prehistory16. 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' friends17. 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 life18. But they were not the only ones to blame; in Africa internal nations such as the Asantes sold and bought tens of thousands of slaves19.

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 slavery20. 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 dignity21. 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.22. Some industries (diamond, clothing, coal) from some countries (Burundi15, Eritrea15, Indonesia23) are a particular concern. The Walk Free Foundation, say that in 2016, 40.3 million people were living in modern slavery24.

For more, see:

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

3. Gender Equality Data Sets

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


3.1. Gender Inequality

#gender #gender_equality #human_rights #misogyny #women

Gender Inequality (2015)3
Pos.Lower is better3
80Myanmar (Burma)0.37
World Avg0.36

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
1New Zealand1893
43Myanmar (Burma)1935
46Dominican Rep.1942
World Avg1930

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
139Antigua & Barbuda-10
140St Vincent & Grenadines-10
142Myanmar (Burma)-10
World Avg12.6

Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) folk is rife across the world. Legal restrictions co-exist alongside social stigmatisation and physical violence25. 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 laws26. Despite this, homosexual activity is outlawed in around 80 countries25. 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

Freedom of Thought (2021)5
Pos.Lower is better5
149Myanmar (Burma)3.8
153Sri Lanka3.8
World Avg3.0

Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Belief are upheld in Article 18 the United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights27. It affirms that it is a basic human right that all people are free to change their beliefs and religion as they wish28. 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 era29 of the 19th century. In democratic countries, freedom of belief and religion is now taken for granted30. In 2016 a study found that over 180 countries in the world had come to guarantee freedom of religion and belief31. The best countries at doing so are Taiwan, Belgium and The Netherlands5,32 and the worst: Afghanistan, N. Korea, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia5,33.

Long-term studies have shown that religious violence and persecution both decrease in cultures where religious freedom is guaranteed34. Despite this, there still are many who are strongly against freedom of belief28, 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 religion35 and "the denial of religious freedoms is inevitably intertwined with the denial of other freedoms"36 and the solution is, everywhere, to allow religious freedom and the freedom of belief.

For more, see:

5. Popularist Human Rights Abuses Against the Rohingya

#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 governments37 and this is giving enemies of democracy powerful new tools of interference38. The worst aspects of popularism are a disregard for minorities39 and any unpopular subcultures (wherein popularism becomes 'the tyranny of the majority')40 and the other main disadvantage is the pursuit of shallow and short-sighted policies that harm the nation in the long-run41,42,43; issues that require strong international co-ordination and long-term planning such as environmentalism and protecting biodiversity are suffering as the result of selfish nationalism44. 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.

"Popularism: When Mass Instincts Defeat National Strategy" by Vexen Crabtree (2018)

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)45

The anti-human-rights international community called the OIC, decided to support the UNHRC on this one issue:

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)46

6. Freedom of Belief and Religion

#christianity #hinduism #islam #myanmar #religion_in_myanmar #religion_in_south_africa #south_africa

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.

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 publicprayer session on May 31.

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