Will ASEAN or the UN Human Rights Council do anything in response harsh sentencing by the SPDC?

November 20, 2008

That the Burmese regime recently sentenced a group of pro-democracy activists to prison terms of as long as 65 years may shock the international community. But for people living in Burma, the harsh sentences are just a regular part of decades of SPDC oppression. The people know that whenever they oppose the regime, they will be punished severely.

The long prison sentences were given to Buddhist monks who led the 2007 Saffron Revolution, leaders of the 88 Generation Students, social and labor activists. Lawyers representing the activists were even charged. The lawyers were simply challenging the regime, which is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, to uphold and implement the ASEAN Charter, which includes the protection of human rights. A United Nations Human Rights Council has also been recently founded, and harassment of political activists should reach the Council and its special representatives to Burma.

The people in Burma are currently in a dire situation, due to serious repression of opposition as the regime moves on with its “7-point roadmap” to utter control. Up next: elections in 2010. Meanwhile, Burma’s human rights record remains abysmal.

People in Burma hope for help from the international community. But the UN and international governments have shown the weakness of their stance on the situation in Burma. This gives the regime more opportunities to harass political activists. Now, we wait to see what ASEAN and the UN’s new human rights mechanism can do. The question is: are these charters and mechanisms paper tigers?


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