On Tuesday, Stephen Crabb, a Conservative Member of the British House of Commons, made a parliamentary speech that calls for action to counter the “gross violations of human rights perpetrated by the military regime” in Burma. In part, Crabb said:
I would like to ask again whether it is the view of HMG [NF: Her Majesty’s Government] that the Burmese regime is committing genocide. Does the Minister agree that there is a need to thoroughly investigate allegations of crimes against humanity and genocide or attempted genocide? If so, what action is he taking?…it is clear that, across the full range of basic human rights, the Burmese dictatorship systematically restricts, denies and undermines the freedoms that should be enjoyed [by] all peoples in Burma.
On the other side of the world, Asia Rights, an electronic journal based at the ANU’s Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, has recently devoted attention to “Burma, also known as Myanmar, [which] is ruled by a military junta which suppresses almost all dissent and wields absolute power in the face of international condemnation and sanctions”. The seventh edition of Asia Rights includes a brief editorial by Jennifer Badstuebner on Burma’s human rights record.
More interesting than her rehearsal of the standard issues is an article by David Kinley, Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Sydney, and Trevor Wilson, a recent former Australian Ambassador to Burma, titled “Engaging a Pariah: Human Rights training in Burma/Myanmar”. Their article provides an explanation of a controversial Australian government policy to train Burmese government officials. They describe it as an “innovative, albeit modest, attempt to address the widespread abuses of human rights that have marked Myanmar’s military governments since they took power nearly 50 years ago in late 1958”.
Kinley and Wilson’s account of the human rights training program that they both helped implement is one very informative perspective on what is, obviously, a controversial Australian initiative. It is particularly noteworthy in light of the even more controversial efforts to train Burmese counter-terrorism officers about which I have previously written.
As governments around the world continue struggling to effectively deal with the Burmese junta’s intransigence, the full texts of both Crabb’s speech and the Kinley and Wilson article are important contributions to a wider debate. There are no easy solutions to the puzzle of taking critical and productive action on the Burmese stalemate.
High-level and well-informed discussions are certainly one way to continue shining light on to these darkest of issues.