02/25/2012, 00.00
MYANMAR

Human Rights Watch: Burma's military regime as "violent as ever"

David Mathieson of Human Rights Watch says the army is impervious to change and perpetrates abuses and violations. Among the soldiers reigns a "culture of sadism". The government promotes reforms, but noy the real changes necessary to amend the constitution.

Yangon (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Burmese army is impervious to change and democratic reform and continues to commit "serious human rights violations" despite the government's attempt to modernize - also in political terms - Myanmar., denounces as a longtime activist for Human Rights Watch (HRW), who has just completed a stay in the country of South-east Asia and has not witnessed any "remarkable" change. "In spite of the changes underway - he warns - it is concerning that the army has not shown any intention of changing."

For months the government headed by President Thein Sein, made up of civilians, but supported by the military, has started a campaign of reform, which has led to the release of - part of - political prisoners, the return of Aung San Suu Kyi and the League National Alliance for Democracy (NLD) and into the political sphere and dialogue with ethnic minorities in view of a peace agreement.

However, the proposals for change are opposed by the powerful military wing, which still dominates in Myanmar while moving "behind the scenes." David Mathieson, a longtime investigator with the New York based group, warns that the reforms so far promoted by Thein Sein can be "reversed" with ease, especially if there are no substantial changes to the Penal Code and the Constitution, amendable only with approval of the army. And the military regime, he adds, still remains "as violent as ever."

The Human Rights Watch activist points out that the military front is resistant to change and "nobody knows what happens inside." However, "culture of sadism" remains a widespread. One element that is especially evident in the ongoing battles against rebel militias in Kachin State in northern Myanmar, on the border with China, where soldiers fire on civilians, devastate property and force people  ino forced labor and rape women and girls regardless of their age.

Finally, David Mathieson points the finger at what he calls the "paradox of Burma Today", where you can discuss topics and issues that were taboo in the past, while " violations of human rights continue." The government has released "many prominent leaders" among political prisoners and activists, the expert at Human Rights Watch concludes, but "hundreds more still remain imprisoned by the Burmese" and their exact number remains a mystery.

 

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