HRW Calls on ASEAN to Set Conditions for Burma

Posted November 17th, 2011 at 5:30 am (UTC-5)
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Human Rights Watch says the Association of Southeast Asian Nations needs to set clear benchmarks for Burma before it assumes chairmanship of the 10-member regional grouping in 2014.

The U.S.-based human rights group says those benchmarks should include the immediate release of all political prisoners, the repeal of laws used to suppress peaceful dissent, an end to abuses in ethnic conflict areas, and the holding perpetrators of war crimes accountable for their actions.

ASEAN foreign ministers announced this week they will recommend to their leaders that Burma be allowed to assume the rotating chair, after undertaking a number of democratic and social reforms under the new nominally civilian government.

But Ellen Pearson, the deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, says Burma has “long been a millstone around ASEAN's neck” which will not be removed by awarding it the chair in 2014.

HRW is urging ASEAN leaders to press the new Burmese government to account for all remaining political prisoners. A Thailand-based human rights group says more than 1,600 dissidents remain behind bars, disputing the Burmese government's claims that only 300 are still imprisoned.