Tag Archive: religion


Hear the voices of the oppressed

universal-declaration-of-human-rightsSince 1950, the United Nations has commemorated the historic adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a “common standard of achievement for all people and all nations.”

Ironically, on its 64th anniversary today, millions of people around the world still long to realize at least the most basic of this common standard for humanity: the recognition of the “inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

The continuing uprisings in the Arab world, the protests sweeping major cities and urban centers in Europe, the Americas and Africa, the continuing difficult situations in Asia, all highlight deficiencies of human rights in governance and the non-recognition of peoples’ aspirations for inclusion and a desire for meaningful participation in public affairs that affect their lives.

Public demonstrations and assemblies are deeper than mere assertions of the individual’s civil, political, economic and cultural rights. They are demands to take part in decision-making, an assertion of a sovereign power that is abused by many state leaders.

Instead of settling issues through genuine dialogues and consultations, most governments trample basic freedom of expression, assembly and association in the guise of “national interests and security.”

Lately in Singapore, human rights defenders and bus drivers, He Jun Ling, Gao Yue Qiang, Liu Xiangying and Wang Xian Jie, who were employed by the state-controlled public transport operator SMRT Ltd., were charged in court with “inciting an illegal strike” among their co-workers. They protested against poor living conditions in company dormitories and low wages.

In Myanmar, authorities resorted to old violent methods in a clear attempt to silence growing dissent. Riot police attacked protest camps near the Letpadaung mine, setting camps on fire, burning protesting monks and arresting protest organizers Ko Wai Lu, Daw Shan Ma, Ko Myo Chit, Ko Ye Lin, Daw Naw Ohn Hla and Ko Nyi Nyi.

They were calling for environmental protection and reclaiming their lands that were confiscated by the joint venture of China’s Wanbao Company and the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd.  There is continuing ethnic violence in Rakhine state and persecution of Rohingya people.

In the Philippines, extrajudicial executions of human rights defenders and mining activists continue. Armed men believed to be hired goons, or associated with private armies and paramilitary groups, carry out most of the killings. Appalling violations are perpetrated by soldiers acting on behalf of private corporations and/or on mere suspicions.

 

 

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Myanmar’s parliament was to debate on Monday a proposal to abolish a provision in the 1975 State Protection Act that allows the government to restrict the fundamental rights of people suspected of “endangering state sovereignty and security, public peace and tranquility.”

The proposal is the latest among legislative initiatives that are part of Myanmar’s “reform process,” although freedoms of expression, assembly and association continue to be systematically violated.

The purported legislative reforms, with the enactment of several new laws and the review of existing ones, have largely resulted in new forms of controls and restrictions that are applied selectively.

Myanmar’s reform process has resulted in little, if any, improvement on the respect for fundamental freedoms on the ground. It has become largely an empty showcase to appease the international community.

A fact finding mission conducted by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) from October 24 to 30 discovered that the rights to peaceful assembly and of association of particular groups, including former political prisoners, labor rights activists, student unions, and members of ethnic nationalities, are still being denied.

An array of laws that restrict the fundamental freedoms of the rights to expression, assembly and association, including the Emergency Act, the Unlawful Association Act, and the 1988 law relating to the formation of associations, remain.

The right to freedom of assembly, in particular, has been denied to groups that are considered “sensitive” or threatening to the government.

In the last two months alone, scores of individuals have been arrested for organizing and participating in peaceful assemblies.

In September, 13 leaders, organizers, and participants of peaceful assemblies to mark International Peace Day were summoned and subsequently charged under the 2012 Decree on the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession after their application for a permit was rejected by the government.

Leaders and organizers of peaceful demonstrations, including protest actions against a mining project in the Letpadaung region, are also facing threats and harassment from authorities.

However, some street demonstrations were allowed to proceed, including the anti-Rohingya protest actions of Buddhist monks and university students in Rakhine state.

These double standards in the implementation of the law call into question the universal principles of Buddhism on peace, harmony, wisdom and understanding.

The continued violations of fundamental freedoms and new forms of control expose the empty façade of Myanmar’s reform process. Human rights protection in Myanmar will remain illusory if fundamental freedoms are not properly safeguarded in the current legal reforms.

 

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