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No more tolerance of denial of justice

THE latest charge against the ruling junta in Myanmar is that its soldiers shot dead a number of prisoners in order to control the situation when some 1,000 detainees panicked after being forced inside a hall after its zinc roofs were torn off in last month's cyclone.

The charge was raised by the human rights expert for Myanmar, Tomas Ojea Quintana, in his first report to the UN Human Rights Council. Ojea Quintana called on the junta to investigate the charge, which follows a report by a Thailand-based rights group that soldiers and police had killed 36 prisoners to quell a riot at the notorious Insein prison.

While the allegation has yet to be proved as true (Yangon's envoy has denied it), it fits in well with the military junta's record of intolerance of dissent of any kind. We know about the brutal way the military generals handled protests led by monks and how they continue to suppress dissent with physical oppression.

The generals' refusal to allow easy access for foreign humanitarian relief workers to help the victims of the cyclone is nothing short of "a crime against humanity," as international relief agencies have declared. It is simply unacceptable that the rights of people to relief when caught in disasters are secondary to the prerogatives of "national sovereignty."

The military junta maintains that "unscrupulous" citizens and foreign media are providing a false picture of the effects of the cyclone, which left 134,000 dead or missing and 2.4 million people in desperate need of help without shelter, livelihood or possibly even sufficient food.

The Myanmar generals seem believe that the international community will allow them to act in any way they wished. It is not the case, many world governments say, but the reality is that the international community, which is ready with help for the cyclone victims, is left to stand by while the military generals continue to be derelict in their duties towards there own people.

The world should act with firm determination to spare the people of Mynmar from their oppressive regime. Thousands more could die if aid does not reach them in time while the military generals play their games to ward off what they see as potential threats to their continued stay in power. If the world fails to act now, then it would be a failure of empathy and perhaps even an act of moral cowardice on the part of the international community.

Source: Gulf Today
Posted: 08/06/2008

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