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

by Mizzima News  |  published on January 20, 2013

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.

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.”

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