#Sweden and the #EU - support democracy in #Burma, not dictatorship!

#Sweden and the #EU - support democracy in #Burma, not dictatorship!

Published on February 17, 2015

Here is the Swedish original: 


Sweden and the EU - support democracy in Burma, not dictatorship!

Last Thursday (12/2) Swedish daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet exposed the Swedish Raoul Wallenberg Institute's support for Burma's human rights commission MNHRC. The Commission consists of former junta representatives. It was created by the Burmese Government to investigate serious human rights violations - but it seems rather to cover them up.

Burma is still a dictatorship. The reform process that brought the outside world so much hope has come of itself. The election to be held in 2015 cannot be fair as long as the current constitution remains, a constitution that guarantees the military political control and impunity for past human rights violations.

And large-scale human rights violations continue. Recently, two young teacher in northern Burma were raped and killed and the government has threatened to prosecute journalists who dare to suggest that the military is involved. In western Burma hundreds of thousands of stateless ethnic rohinya are trapped in giant camps. Their situation constitutes a crisis of immense proportions. The discrimination against Rohingyas, as well as against other minority groups, has clear links to authorities.

These crimes and threats are not new. What is new, is the world's silence on human rights violations in Burma. The past year human rights and freedoms in the country has experienced a sharp decline. Amnesty International warn of an increasing numbers of peaceful activists prosecuted. In light of this continued Swedish support to the MNHRC is highly doubtful.

Also the Swedish Institute ISDP, financed by aid funds from the Swedish Foreign Ministry, claims itself to work in close cooperation with the Burmese government. Winston Set Aung, one of ISDP's associates, leads Burma's state-owned Thilawa SEZ Management Committee – co-owner of an industrial zone south of Yangon where locals have been displaced. According to critics Winston Set Aung is engaged in whitewashing. Physicians for Human Rights reveals how his organization made residents move under threat, and arranged new home that do not even meet the standards for refugee camps in humanitarian disasters.

"We would prefer Sweden and Swedish organizations to assist the vulnerable in Burma, such as those who have lost their homes and livelihoods," says U Mya Hlaing from Thilawa Social Development Group, "instead of further strengthening business tycoon who do not prioritize working for the people."

Burma's rulers can also rejoice in a new support from the EU worth millions of euros. The support has as one of its main objectives to build the capacity of the Burmese state, a state that is still controlled by the military.

Although both Sweden and the EU have stated goals to support democratization and human rights in Burma what is collectively being signaled is rather a support for the same old political elite, through their silence on human rights violations, assistance to government agencies, lifted sanctions and introduction of trade agreements.

Burma's ongoing reform process is designed by the military. It is clear that human rights and popular participation is not prioritized in this process. True democracy must be built from below by a strong civil society and active grass roots.
The independent organizations that are growing in Burma's civil society have a crucial role in reviewing power, organizing people's interests and pushing for change, not least in the struggle for constitutional change to the upcoming elections.

But they are carrying out an unequal struggle. The international community must show that they stand on the side of the democratic forces.

Swedish Burma Committee
Jerker Ekvall, chairman of Swedish Burma Committee
Shantana Shahid, spokeswoman Swedish Burma Committee


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