Situation of human rights in Myanmar

The process of consolidating democracy and creating a culture of human rights continues to be complex in Myanmar. There is still a significant lack of understanding about the democratic society and its active role in the life of the country. It undermines respect for human rights and the rule of law, democratic institutions and sustainable development. A positive progress can be observed at central level, for example all members of the parliament were trained recently on democratization of public and civic space. In this context, a progress has been made in the area of ensuring greater respect for the rule of law by reinforcing legal and judicial institutions; conversely shortcoming have been recorded in the victims’ right to be treated fairly. For example, majority of people in detention do not fully comprehend the charges and often meet their lawyers only on the first day of their trial.

There are difference between the rule of law and rule by law. The country has still in force a number of laws being in contravention of international human rights standards. Amendments are needed to several outdated Penal Code provisions, including provisions, which criminalizes consensual same- sex conduct, and the definition of rape in section.

A very little progress has been made in this regard to ensure safety and security of human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists and others who publicly speak out against injustices and abuses. There is a need to reinvigorate the transparent and participatory approach to drafting laws and for its implementation, as consultation on draft laws is sporadic in Myanmar.

Section 66 (d) of the 2013 Telecommunications Law which criminalize the defamation represents a critical threat to freedom of speech. Many cases of journalists charged with posting on social media satirical or incorrect information regarding the government have been documented.

Natural disasters such as seasonal floods affect the life of hundred thousand of people in Myanmar and have inevitably a massive impact on human rights situation. The humanitarian situation has deteriorated seasonally as a result of massive displacements caused by natural disasters. Malnutrition is a problem facing several areas. In this context, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 provide recommendations on how to mitigate negative impact of natural disasters and climate change on the enjoyement of human rights. A positive development has been observed in the area of health by adoption of the National Health Plan (2017-2021). The strategy document provides set of priorities and recommendations focusing on universal health coverage.

In the areas of Business and human rights and land rights, communities reported that initial phases or preparatory work had had a largely negative impact on their lives. It is still very rare practice to carry out environmental impact assessments before the issuance of permits. No progress has been made in ensuring access to remedy through appropriate mechanisms for those previously negatively affected by special economic zones. Land confiscation is a major concern of communities.

The security situation has worsened steadily and caused violence and human rights violations. The risk of serious human rights violations among the civilian population is especially worrying. These include reports of killings, torture and even the use of human shields.

A large number of people are long-term internally displaced persons and refugees in the Thai-Myanmar border area. Landmines and unexploded remnants of war are another major factor preventing returns. Under the prevailing conditions of conflict-related rights violations and displacement, women and children are extremely vulnerable to violations of their rights and violence, including sexual violence, domestic violence as well as such violence when committed by the authorities, including the security forces. A progress has been registered in the respect of the child rights. The government actively implements its National Education Strategic Plan 2016-2021 in order to improve the availability, accessibility, acceptableness and adaptability of education across the country.

Increasing religious intolerance and incitement to hatred and violence is a matter of particular concern and poses a risk of increasing destabilization. Attacks against Muslim communities, hate speech, negative sentiments non-Buddhists are recorded in across the country and demonstrate clear violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief.

The situation is particularly grave in the Rakhine State where religious intolerance towards Muslim communities triggered reprehensible series of attacks against security forces. In response the government imposed restrictions on movement, which in fact, hamper economic growth and human development, access to education, health care and livelihoods. A continued segregation of communities and enforcement of discriminatory local orders are especially worrying.

Recommendations:

  • Strengthen the rule of law by ensuring respect for the right to a fair trial; enhancing the independence of the judiciary and lawyers; ceasing arbitrary arrest and prosecution of human rights defenders, journalists.
  • Review, amend or repeal legislation that limit fundamental freedoms, particularly the Telecommunications Law, Citizenship Law and initiate a process of consultation with all stakeholders in order to review the Constitution;
  • Implement and respect provisions of international humanitarian law including refraining from laying new landmines; releasing all children (aged 18 and under) in their ranks; launching investigations into allegations of violations committed in conflict areas; ensuring access to all people in need of humanitarian assistance;
  • Encourage and ensure women’s participation in all peace and security negotiation initiative, including by collecting official data on the participation of women in the peace process;
  • Ensure access to adequate health, education and other basic services for all citizens without discrimination;
  • Ensure private sector involvement in the implementation of the sustainable development agenda, including the implementation of the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in special economic zones.
  • Combat impunity, in particular with regard to religious intolerance and hate speech and condemn publicly incidents of incitement and develop, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, mechanisms of protection.
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