Title: Buddha Wept: LGBT Rights in Burma Credit: Craig Young Comment Tuesday 6th December 2011 - 9:16am1323116160 Article: 11152 Rights
Rainbow Wellington has criticised the Key administration for its negligence and apathy over international LGBT and other human rights issues. Burma/Myanmar is one particular area of serious concern. Although Burma was one of the sites of earliest civilisation in Southeast Asia, its early empires were devastated after a Mongol invasion in the thirteenth century led to the disintegration of these multiethnic empires and ethnic infighting has characterised the region ever since. During the nineteenth century, the British Empire took advantage of this fragmentation to expand eastward, introducing social, economic, administrative and cultural upheavals that further transformed Burmese society. When the Second World War dawned, the Burmese National Army initially welcomed the Japanese Empire as liberators, before they changed sides in 1944. After four years more, a weakened Great Britain allowed independence for Burma in 1948- at which point its endemic ethnic infighting flared up again, leading to political instability until the advent of a Burmese military junta in 1962. Thereafter, Burma tried to become self-reliant, but its isolationism and refusal of foreign aid left it stagnant and repressive. There have been intermittant uprisings by ethnic minorities, and Buddhist monks and students have waged nonviolent resistance against the regime. After unrest in 1988, the State Law and Order Restoration Committee launched another military coup and imprisoned Aun Sung Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy in 1989. She has been under house arrest for nearly twenty one years, with intermittent periods of freedom. In the nineties, Burma partially ended its isolation, joined ASEAN in 1997 and has engaged in joint ventures with neighbouring China and India. China and India refuse to criticise the regime and China has exploited its relationship to insure Burmese oil pipeline flows to its rapidly growing western Yunan Province. It also wants a Bay of Bengal port, which India views nervously, given its traditional enmity. By contrast, the United States, France, Canada and Great Britain have consistently upheld human rights against the Burmese junta. In 2007, there was a further spate of student-led and Buddhist monk uprisings and demonstrations against the State Peace and Development Committee, whichwas merely SLORC under another name. In 2008, Cyclone Nargis led to widespread devastation across Burma, leading to an estimated two hundred thousand casualties, one million homeless and ricefield agriculture devastated. Although there was a malaria epidemic, the United Nations was refused humanitarian relief access to the country. In 2010, SPDC allowed the country to hold questionable 'elections', won by the pro-junta "Union Solidarity and Development Party." General human rights and civil liberties are abysmal. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the American Association for the Advance of Science, International Labour Organisation and UN General Assembly have all strongly criticised forced labour, child slavery, forced prostitution, media censorship, arbitrary arrest, detention without trial, executions and ethnic cleansing, military use of rape against female insurgents amd other issues. As one might guess, male homosexuality is banned under Section 377 of the Burmese Penal Code. Other clauses also deny other human rights to Burmese LGBT inhabitants. These include Section 269-270, which render it an offense to spread STIs and HIV, despite the total absence of a national HIV/'AIDS prevention and treatment programme. Section 290 bans 'public nuisances.' Sections 292-294 ban 'pornography' and 'obscenity.' Section 469 prohibits same-sex marriage. Section 5 (j) of the Emergency Powers Act is a 'public morality' clause. Despite this, there is an LGBT movement in exile, led by Aung Myo Min of the All-Burma Democratic Students Democratic Front and Campaign for Burmese Lesbigay Rights (in exile). There are no commercial venues or LGBT community organisations within Burma itself. This is scandalous. Burma is located within neighbouring South-East Asia and our fellow Commonwealth nations and traditional allies Britain, Canada and the United States are outspoken in defence of human rights and civil liberties in that troubled country. When does New Zealand intend to start speaking up against Rangoon's tyranny? Recommended: David Steinberg: Burma/Myanmar: Oxford: Oxford University Press: 2010. Craig Young - 6th December 2011    
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