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U.N. On Burma Human Rights

The United Nations has released a sobering report on the continuing human rights abuses in Burma.

The U.S. shares the report's conclusion that the referendum on the Burmese military junta's draft constitution was not credible. The referendum was conducted in an environment of fear and intimidation. The regime criminalized criticism of the referendum process and otherwise severely restricted freedom of speech, assembly, and association. These restrictions prevented the Burmese public from freely debating the draft constitution in order to make an informed decision.

The U.N. report noted that there are at least one-thousand nine-hundred political prisoners in Burma. The most well known of these is Nobel laureate and National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. According to the U.N., most of Burma's political prisoners are held under appalling conditions. A case in point is Paw U Tun, a member of the 88 Generation pro-democracy students group. He has reportedly suffered from a severe eye infection while in detention. He requested medical assistance but was allegedly refused immediate care by authorities.

Finally, there are still over one-million Burmese who have not received disaster assistance because the government has obstructed international efforts to reach them. The United States remains committed to helping victims of this humanitarian disaster and calls on the Burmese junta to uphold its pledge to allow international humanitarian workers and supplies access to cyclone-affected areas.

Amnesty International reports that thousands of Burmese people have been forced from official shelters and given approximately six-thousand-six-hundred kyat [Burmese currency] and two small portions of rice to return to their ruined villages. Forcibly relocating storm victims in Burma without access to adequate relief aid, said U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, will put them at even greater risk.

The Burmese government needs to act immediately to allow international aid workers access to all of the cyclone victims. The U.S. continues to urge Burma's military junta to release all political prisoners and begin talks with democratic and ethnic minority leaders on a transition to democracy.