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Myanmar

    May 02, 2015

    Released 3 May 2015 00.01 am Myanmar time / 2 May 05.31pm GMT

    At least a dozen media workers in Myanmar will spend World Press Freedom Day (3 May) behind bars as authorities are leading an intensifying crackdown on journalists, Amnesty International said in a statement today.

    The past year in Myanmar has been marked by an increasingly restrictive climate for media, as authorities have resorted to old tactics of harassing and imprisoning journalists.

    “The fact that 12 media workers will spend World Press Freedom Day languishing in prison speaks volumes about the reality journalists face in the country. The past years have seen a vibrant media scene emerge in Myanmar, but the authorities are doing their best to undermine this. Those journalists who dare to report on topics considered ‘sensitive’ by the government or military are harassed and imprisoned,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Research Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

    March 17, 2015

    The conviction and prison sentence handed down today against two managers and the owner of a bar in Myanmar for displaying an image of the Buddha wearing headphones should be overturned immediately and is a chilling indication of the growing climate of religious intolerance in the country, Amnesty International said. 

    Tun Thurein and Htut Ko KoLwin from Myanmar and Philip Blackwood from New Zealand were today imprisoned for “insulting religion”. The charges stem back to December 2014 when the Buddha image was used to promote their Yangon bar online.

    “It is ludicrous that these three men have been jailed simply for posting an image online to promote a bar. They should be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Research Director for South East Asia and the Pacific. 

    March 10, 2015

    The violent police crackdown on largely peaceful protesters in Myanmar amounts to unnecessary and excessive use of force and must end immediately, Amnesty International said.

    Police today forcibly dispersed student protesters who had gathered in Letpadan township in Myanmar’s central Bago Region to protest a new education law. Eyewitnesses told Amnesty International that when protesters tried to dismantle a police blockade, police started beating protesters, including some who had fallen to the ground, with batons.

    “The violent response by police in Myanmar against the student protesters in Letpadan was completely disproportionate. Police clearly used excessive force against protesters, and also beat helpless people who had fallen to the ground, which amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under international law,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Research Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

    “Eyewitness accounts and images of police beating fleeing demonstrators with batons are a stark reminder of just how repressive the climate still is for activism in the country.”

    March 03, 2015

    Myanmar’s parliament mustreject or extensively revise a series of proposed laws that would entrench already widespread discrimination and risk fuelling further violence against religious minorities, Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said today.

    A package of four lawsdescribed as aimed to “protect race and religion” – currently being debated in parliament – include provisions that are deeply discriminatory on religious and gender grounds. They would force people to seek government approval to convert to a different religion or adopt a new religion and impose a series ofdiscriminatory obligations on non-Buddhist men who marry Buddhist women.

    “Myanmar’s Parliament must reject these grossly discriminatory laws which should never have been tabled in the first place. They play into harmful stereotypes about women and minorities, in particular Muslims, which are often propagated by extremist nationalist groups,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.

    February 09, 2015

    In December 2014 one woman died and several other people were injured when police opened fire on protestors at the Letpadaung site.© AP/Press Association Images

    Canadian company Ivanhoe Mines Limited and Chinese mining interests have profited from, and in some cases colluded with the Myanmar authorities in serious human rights abuses and illegal activity around the Monywa copper mine complex, which includes the notorious Letpadaung mine, Amnesty International said in a report released today.

    January 20, 2015

    The release of peaceful activist Dr Tun Aung, jailed simply for trying to prevent communal violence, is a positive step, but authorities in Myanmar should also free the dozens of other prisoners of conscience still behind bars, Amnesty International said.

    Dr Tun Aung, a Muslim community leader and medical doctor, was released from prison yesterday. He was first jailed in 2012 after trying to calm the crowd during a riot involving Buddhists and Rohingya in Rakhine State, western Myanmar, and was sentenced to up to 17 years’ imprisonment under various trumped-up charges.

    “This is a very welcome move by the authorities and we are delighted that Dr Tun Aung is finally free and will be reunited with his family. His release will come as encouragement for all of those inside and outside the country who campaigned for his freedom,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Research Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

    “But he should never have been imprisoned in the first place – the charges against him were baseless and the trials he faced farcical.”

    November 27, 2014

    Two years after police used incendiary weapons against monks and villagers protesting a mining project in central Myanmar, no one has been held accountable, Amnesty International said ahead of the anniversary of the attack. 

    The organization also highlights ongoing problems with the way the Letpadaung mine is being developed and the risk of further abuses. Construction is proceeding without resolving ongoing environmental and human rights concerns. Thousands of farmers remain under the threat of forced evictions since their lands were acquired for the mine in a flawed process characterized by misinformation.

    On 29 November 2012, police used white phosphorous munitions in their attack on a peaceful protest against the Letpadaung copper mine in Sagaing Region, injuring at least 99 monks and nine other protesters. Many suffered extremely painful burns and some have been left with lifelong injuries and scarring.

    October 07, 2014

    An amnesty of thousands of prisoners in Myanmar is essentially an empty political gesture as scores of peaceful activists are believed to remain behind bars, Amnesty International said.

    The Myanmar authorities today announced that some 3,000 prisoners would be released in an amnesty, but none of the country’s prisoners of conscience – activists detained solely for peacefully expressing their views – appears to be included in the release.

    “This is nothing but an empty gesture on the authorities’ part. The timing, so close to the ASEAN summit in Myanmar in early November, smacks of political opportunism,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director.

    “If the Myanmar authorities were genuine about improving respect for human rights, they would follow through on the long-standing promise to clear the country’s jails of the dozens of peaceful activists still behind bars.”

    July 10, 2014

    The sentencing of five media workers in Myanmar each to 10 years’ imprisonment with hard labour for “disclosing state secrets” makes today a dark day for freedom of expression in the country, Amnesty International said.

    A court in the town of Pakokku today handed down the sentences to four reporters and the CEO of the Unity newspaper – Lu Maw Naing, Yarzar Oo, Paing Thet Kyaw, Sithu Soe and Tint San.

    They were arrested between 31 January and 1 February 2014 and charged with violating the Official Secrets Act, after Unity published an article about an alleged chemical weapons factory in Magwe region.

    “This is a very dark day for freedom of expression in Myanmar. These five media workers have done nothing but cover a story that is in the public interest,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

    “Amnesty International considers all five men to be prisoners of conscience and calls for their immediate and unconditional release.”

    May 02, 2014

    At least six media workers have been detained since the turn of the year as Myanmar authorities are stepping up a disturbing crackdown on freedom of expression and jailing new prisoners of conscience, Amnesty International said ahead of World Press Freedom Day on 3 May.

    “The crackdown on free media in Myanmar is a deeply worrying attempt to silence dissenting views. It casts doubt on the government’s promises to improve respect for human rights,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia-Pacific Director.

    “We are seeing a continuation of the practice of arresting and detaining human rights defenders and peaceful political activists – a hallmark of the country’s previous military government.”

    “Myanmar must immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience including the six media workers who have been detained this year. The authorities should scrap or amend draconian legislation that restricts the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly.”

    February 21, 2014

    The Myanmar parliament has reportedly only made token and insignificant changes to a draconian anti-protest law, raising serious questions about the authorities’ commitment to human rights reforms, Amnesty International said.

    The contentious Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law places far-reaching restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and is often used to target activists and human rights defenders.

    The amendments reportedly passed in parliament on 19 February still leave peaceful protesters at risk of arrest and imprisonment while allowing authorities to prohibit demonstrations they do not agree with.
           
    “These amendments do not go nearly far enough. It is positive that authorities have shown a willingness to reform the law, but the reform is meaningless if the same people are still at risk of being locked up and harassed for speaking out peacefully,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    January 22, 2014

    New arrests of peaceful protesters in Myanmar seriously undermine the credibility of the far-reaching Presidential pardon issued at the end of 2013, Amnesty International said today.

    At least three people have been charged in January under a draconian anti-protest law for acts of peaceful protest. These include two land rights activists and a Buddhist monk on hunger strike. These are the first protest-related charges since a government pardon on 30 December 2013 of all those convicted under several repressive laws.

    “The Myanmar government has done much to try to convince the world that it is turning a corner on human rights. But these charges clearly show how the same repressive tactics are continuing,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director.

    “The new charges seriously call into question the government’s commitment to human rights. Last year’s amnesties and pardons will have been meaningless if the authorities simply continue to harass those peacefully exercising their rights.”

    November 15, 2013

    The release of several prisoners of conscience in Myanmar today is a positive step, but time is running out for the government to keep its promise to release everyone imprisoned for peaceful activism by the year’s end, Amnesty International said.

    Myanmar today announced the release of 69 political prisoners, including several prisoners of conscience. 

    “Today’s release is of course welcome, but the fact remains that there are many imprisoned for peaceful activism still behind bars in Myanmar. President Thein Sein has promised to release all prisoners of conscience by the end of the year, but time is running out for the government to show that this was not just empty words,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director.

    “We continue to receive reports of peaceful activists and human rights defenders being harassed and at risk of imprisonment for nothing but expressing their opinions. This has to end immediately, otherwise releases like the one today will be meaningless.”

    July 17, 2013

    Amnesty International has called into question President Thein Sein’s recent commitment to clear Myanmar’s jails of prisoners of conscience by the end of the year. On the same day he made this promise to delegates at a conference in London, police in Myanmar’s Rakhine state arbitrarily detained a 74-year-old Rohingya human rights defender.

    “The government continues to rely on repressive laws to silence dissent and jail peaceful protesters in Myanmar,” said Amy Smith, Amnesty International’s Myanmar researcher. “For there to be lasting change in the country, these practices need to be stopped and the laws need to be brought in line with international standards.”

    During a speech at the independent policy institute Chatham House in London on 15 July 2013, President Thein Sein said, “I guarantee to you that by the end of this year, there will be no prisoners of conscience in Burma.”  

    May 13, 2013

    Heavy monsoon rains and a tropical cyclone threaten the lives of tens of thousands of displaced persons in western Myanmar unless the authorities immediately step up efforts to protect them, Amnesty International said.

    More than 140,000 individuals – mostly from the Rohingya Muslim minority – are currently displaced across Rakhine state and have been living in temporary shelters since violence erupted between the Buddhist and Muslim communities in Rakhine state in June 2012. Around half are located in low-lying areas prone to flooding.

    According to information released by the US military, cyclone “Mahasen” is expected to reach the area by late Wednesday or early Thursday morning.

    “The government has been repeatedly warned to make appropriate arrangements for those displaced in Rakhine state. Now thousands of lives are at stake unless targeted action is taken immediately to assist those most at risk,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

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