According to the newly released U.S. State Department Country Reports on Human Rights, conditions in Burma have deteriorated over the past year. Human rights abuses committed by Burma's ruling military junta include politically motivated arrests and detentions, and the suppression of freedom of speech. Burma also restricts domestic human rights organizations and fails to cooperate with international human rights organizations.
The State Department report says that during 2005 "there were several cases of pro-democracy activists who died in custody. They include Aung Haing Win, a member of the National League for Democracy. He was arrested on May 1 and died on May 7. Burmese authorities informed his family he had a heart attack. An autopsy, says the State Department report, "revealed that the body showed twenty-four injuries and bruises."
On July 4 and 5, 2005, Burmese authorities arrested Hla Myint Than, a Bago Township National League for Democracy member, and seven others. They were accused of listening to the Burmese broadcasts of Radio Free Asia and the British Broadcasting Company, and having a group discussion of the news. All but Hla Myint Than were released on July 6. They were later rearrested along with two others and charged with contacting the independent Federation of Trade Unions of Burma, possession of a satellite telephone, reporting news about forced labor, and illegally traveling to Thailand. All eight received lengthy prison terms.
In a 2005 report, "Driven Away," the Kachin Women's Association of Thailand documented trafficking of Burmese girls and women to China. They either were forced into prostitution or compelled to become the brides of Chinese men. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Barry Lowenkron says the U.S. is working with others to press Burma on human rights issues:
"This regime is reprehensible and the hardships. . .the Burmese people endure are unacceptable. We will work very hard with our ASEAN partners. We will work very hard with countries in the region and beyond."
President George W. Bush says that the U.S. remains committed to the advancement of "the nonnegotiable demands of human dignity," in Burma and elsewhere.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.