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Burma freedom is 'worst of the worst'

Jan 13, 2010 (DVB), A Washington-based NGO has labeled Burma one of the worst countries in the world for 'freedom' in an annual report, released yesterday.

Burma ranks alongside nine other countries in the "worst of the worst" category in Freedom House's 'Freedom in the World 2010' report, which includes Libya, Tibet, China, Eritrea, North Korea and Equatorial Guinea.

The organization, funded largely by the US government and the conservative Bradley Foundation, has been producing the report for nearly forty years, which "examines the ability of individuals to exercise their political and civil rights in 194 countries and 14 territories around the world."

Determinants of 'freedom' include whether "people's political choices are free from domination by the military, foreign powers, totalitarian parties, religious hierarchies, economic oligarchies, or any other powerful group".

It also includes a base alignment system, with countries ranked either 'free', 'partially free' or 'not free'. This is based on a score system for civil liberties and political freedom, with seven being the lowest and one the highest. Burma predictably scores seven on both counts.

This will make worrying reading for the international observers who will be closely monitoring the planned elections this year. Critics of the ruling junta have already labeled them a sham that will enable the military to retain power.

"This report reflects the actual situation in Burma," said Soe Aung, foreign affairs spokesperson of the Thailand-based Forum for Democracy in Burma (FDB).

"Moreover, some international and local groups tend to overlook the real situation in predicting that the elections in Burma will bring an opening for a change. The lives of the people [in Burma] should not be gambled at all."

In terms of population, China's inclusion in the 'not free' category made it the largest of the three groupings.

Freedom House emphasizes in its methodology that it "does not maintain a culture-bound view of freedom", whilst noting that "American leadership in international affairs is essential to the cause of human rights and freedom".

Overall the report finds that there has been a "freedom recession" and an "authoritarian resurgence" in the last year.

Reporting by Joseph Allchin


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