Human Rights Issues

Military Abuse--Military generals have ruled Myanmar since 1962. Their rule has been corrupt, cruel, and repressive. Military abuse is the main reason for Myanmar’s significant number of refugees as the military beats, tortures, and kills civilians. In 2007, Burmese forces killed and injured peaceful protesters, including monks. On top of violently attacking civilians, the military destroys, steals, and confiscates their food and property and forces them into labor. The use of anti-personnel landmines is another huge problem, and the military even goes so far as to force civilians to walk ahead of troops in order to trigger landmines. Treatment of women is atrocious as well; the military uses sexual violence against women and girls, including rape, and participates in the trafficking of women. The list of human rights abuses goes on as the military also recruits child soldiers and is responsible for forced expulsion of the population. Additionally, citizens have been denied basic freedoms including freedom of expression, association, assembly, and media. In the November 2010 election, not only did the military intimidate citizens, but it also rigged the election in order to continue having power.

Child Soldiers
--Myanmar is infamous for recruiting high numbers of child soldiers. In fact, in 2009 Myanmar had the highest number of child soldiers in the world. Human Rights Watch estimated in 2010 that every fifth Burmese soldier was under the age of eighteen. Both a lack of adult volunteers and high desertion rates cause the Burmese army and opposition groups to recruit child soldiers, starting at an age of eleven years old. The children are often put through the same training as the adults and are forced to lie, break the law, and commit human rights abuses against other citizens. These children are preyed upon by recruiters who are rewarded money for each child they recruit. The recruiters seek the children out when they are alone at marketplaces, stations, and other public places and tell them that they can either go to jail or join the army. If the child says he or she does not want to join the army, the recruiter might beat the child until he or she changes his or her mind. Although organizations are working to improve this problem, the number of child soldiers in Myanmar is growing, and no significant improvement can be seen.

Refugees--Ethnic conflict and military abuse have led to the displacement of more than 3.5 million Burmese. Millions of migrant workers and refugees are now living in Thailand, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Singapore. In 2009, more than six hundred Burmese refugees were entering Delhi each month; over thirty thousand Burmese refugees have fled to Thailand since November of last year. Additionally, approximately half a million people are internally displaced. Even in areas where armed conflict has ended, people continue to be displaced. Conditions for these refugees are extremely poor. For internally displaced people, children are often extremely malnourished. In other countries, Burmese refugees face violence, persecution, abuse, harassment, discrimination, deportation, and the denial of legal rights and protection. Not only are refugees mistreated, but they are often turned away or forced to leave and return to Myanmar. Some refugees have been forced to return up to five times. Refugee camps are often overcrowded, and sometimes refugees are even kept locked up. Many refugee camps are poor.