Tag Archives: International Labour Organisation

Sons of sorrow

sons of sorrow

Accompanying all the latest to-do over whether or not Burma’s regime is trying to obtain nuclear weapons has been the usual background noise about the menace of its conventional armed forces. Foreign pages’ editors excitedly describe the army as having half a million troops, as if they are all poised on the border to spill over into neighboring territories at a moment’s notice.

Nobody knows the real size or capability of the army in Burma, although that doesn’t stop analysts the world over from sifting through secondhand sources for something with which to make a claim about this or that. Not even the army itself is likely to know precisely how many personnel it actually has, given that unit commanders play with numbers to satisfy the requirements of their superiors.

But one thing we do know is that not all of these soldiers are adults. Last week a Thailand-based group released a new report on the recruitment of children to the Burma army. The report, entitled “Child soldiers, Burma’s sons of sorrow,” explores government claims to be addressing the problem of child soldiers, and presents evidence to the contrary. Continue reading

What next for human rights abuse in Burma?

Burma’s military government has by now dramatically compounded the death and misery brought to its country with Cyclone Nargis. While carrying on with the same sort of games it has played against the global community for years, it has caused untold needless loss of life and greatly magnified people’s suffering today and tomorrow.

The regime has failed to open the door to sufficient foreign aid for the millions who need help. Its agents, whether under orders or of their own accord, have also obstructed local and overseas efforts to deliver relief and have misdirected their energies at futile exercises like the holding of the May 10 constitutional referendum and the arrests of state officers accused of not staying at their posts throughout the havoc of that day.

The authorities have been scrambling to get back on top and at least give the appearance of being in control. Once they’ve obtained a semblance of normalcy and official behavior becomes a little more coherent, human rights abuses directed against storm refugees and people in nearby areas especially will increase. Continue reading

Raging against the mocking of justice

There are, despite the odds, human rights lawyers in Burma. In fact the efforts of some to defend a working legal culture from official vandalism and neglect surpass those of their counterparts in more open societies of Asia.

Take the advocate representing someone accused of involvement in the nationwide protests of last August and September that arose in response to a dramatic hike in fuel prices. After being illegally imprisoned for over two months and kept in remand for a number of months more, his client was put on trial recently. When the arresting policeman took the stand, the cross-examination went in part roughly as follows:

Defense lawyer: I put it to you that your allegation is based upon information from sources rather than your direct knowledge.

Police officer: We investigated the information.

Lawyer: But you have not included these sources in your list of witnesses?

Officer: They are not included.

Lawyer: Do you have any documentary proof of the allegation?

Officer: I myself do not have documentary proof. Continue reading