Burma low in Global Peace Index

June 3, 2009 (DVB), Home to the world's longest running civil war and crippled by restrictions on political liberties, Burma has ranked 126 out 144 countries in the 2009 Global Peace Index, only narrowly above Colombia and North Korea.

Released yesterday, the results of the Global Peace Index (GPI) suggest that an intensification of violent conflict in some countries, food and fuel shortages and the economic recession have combined over the past year to the detriment of global peace.

Iraq came bottom for the third year running, while New Zealand was ranked first, followed by Denmark and Norway.

In Burma, the index pays particular attention to the scale of internal conflict, lack of respect for human rights and the government's prioritising of military expenditure over health and education.

Various sources estimate that the junta allocates 40 per cent of government spending to the military, despite having no external enemies, and only three per cent on healthcare.

In 2000 the World Health Organisation ranked Burma's healthcare system second worst in the world, with the then war-ravaged Sierra Leone bottom.

The GPI also highlights the absence of any females MPs and freedom of the press in Burma. Civil liberties, including freedom of expression and restrictions on ability to unionise and form political organizations, received a score of 0.88 out of 10.

The index was compiled by a panel of international experts, and used a range of 23 indicators to assess the level of peace within a country.

The government's conflict with ethnic Karen National Union army has lasted for over 60 years and is thought to be the world's longest running civil war. Karen state, in eastern Burma, holds almost half a million internally displaced people.

Instances of forced labour in Burma are high, while the government has been accused by Human Rights Watch as being the world's leading recruiter of child soldiers, which some observers claim should be classified as a war crime.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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