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A Burmese human rights group has urged President Thein Sein’s reformist government to create counselling and rehabilitation programmes for the victims of Burma’s previous regime.
Human Rights Defenders and Promoters Network (HRDP) said that while the human rights situation has somewhat improved since Thein Sein’s nominally civilian government came to power in 2011, progress is hollow without the full reconciliation of the past.
“The current government – proclaiming that the country is now going through a democratic transition – must provide justice for the victims of human rights violations in the past, otherwise their reforms will not be regarded as fair or just,” said Maung Maung Lay, an HRDP board member.
Maung Maung Lay has suffered violations by the military regime first-hand. In 2007 Maung Maung Lay was savagely beaten by a group of 100 men acting on government orders in an incident that ’88 Generation leaders labelled “proof that there is no rule of law in Burma.”
Zin Mar Aung, co-founder of women’s rights group Rainfall, said that the brisk pace of reform seen in 2011 has slowed, blaming “negligent” government officials.
“There are increasing challenges for the development of human rights in Burma. If the authorities cannot effectively deal with them, then the reforms are questionable,” said Zin Mar Aung.
However Sitt Myaing, secretary of the government-backed Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, says all human rights activism is welcome.
“We appreciate the role of human rights activists as their work — educating the people about their rights — can provide a great deal of assistance for the public; something they can rely upon,” said Sitt Myaing. “But in the meantime, their operations should be in accordance with the existing laws.
“Personally, I see that it is necessary to build an understanding between the government authorities enforcing the law and the human rights activists.”
Existing laws, such as Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law, have landed many activists in prison, and have been highly criticised by international observers who claim that law is being selectively enforced against activists.
Last month, DVB reported the arrest and pending trial of Nay Myo Zin, an activist who suffered torture and harassment in Burma’s notorious Insein Prison before his release in a 2012 amnesty. Nay Myo Zin paradoxically now faces trial for charges under Article 18; for leading a protest demanding the release of jailed activists.