Friday, January 18, 2013

Burma ‘more free’ than China, says US think-tank


Friday, 18 January 2013 00:00 Mizzima News

US-based rights watchdog Freedom House has released its annual “Freedom in the World” rankings for the past year in which Burma, or Myanmar, was singled out as one of the most improved nations in the world in terms of civil liberties and political rights.

A smiling Aung San Suu Kyi waves to supporters upon arrival in Tavoy during campaigning for parliamentary by-elections in 2012. (Photo: Mizzima)

In a separate column titled “Asia-Pacific: With Guarded Gains, Burma Leaves China Behind,” the think-tank noted: “For years ranked among the world’s most repressive regimes, Burma continued to push ahead with a process of democratic reform that was launched in 2010. While it remains a ‘Not Free’ country, it registered improvements in both its political rights and civil liberties ratings.”

Freedom House pointed to the emergence of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy in parliamentary by-elections, and said the party was allowed to campaign with considerable freedom, winning nearly all of the seats at stake.

The report said that nevertheless, the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party retains an overwhelming majority in the legislature, and “the military’s outsized power is still entrenched in the constitution and in practice.”

With regard to civil liberties, the report said that freedoms of expression and association have improved markedly in the last two years, “but they depend more on current government policy than on deep institutional changes, and the authorities continue to employ repressive crowd-control measures at demonstrations, violate workers’ rights, restrict the operations of NGOs, tolerate land grabbing, and hinder judicial independence.”

However, despite those issues, as well as the continuing conflict in Kachin State, and the sectarian violence in Rakhine State, the report noted: “For all its lingering problems, Burma has now surpassed China on both political rights and civil liberties.”

The Washington-based group says its Freedom in the World survey provides an annual evaluation of the progress and decline of freedom in 195 countries and 14 related and disputed territories.

“The survey, which includes both analytical reports and numerical ratings, measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. Political rights ratings are based on an evaluation of three subcategories: electoral process, political pluralism and participation, and functioning of government. Civil liberties ratings are based on an evaluation of four subcategories: freedom of expression and belief, associational and organizational rights, rule of law, and personal autonomy and individual rights,” it said.

For Freedom in the World report in full, click here
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