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    Why is the UK so silent on Burma’s human rights abuses?

    President of Myanmar, Thein
    Sein (L) in 10 Downing Street Photo: EPA

    By Michael Harris

    Telegraph UK:
    July 18, 2013

    Unless the Foreign Secretary ups the pressure on
    Burma the apparatus of the military dictatorship will remain, writes Michael
    Harris
    If you want to know how much has changed in Burma
    since the much-vaulted transition, try and put on a punk gig in the capital,
    Rangoon. It’ll take two months and require the signatures of eight bureaucrats
    from varying levels of government. You may never get permission. But to punks
    in Burma, the idea they may even be able to play publicly at all is progress.
    This is transition Burma, a country full of
    contradictions where the military no longer hold captive Aung San Suu Kyi and
    have released some of the thousands of her fellow political prisoners – yet the
    full apparatus of the military state still exists. The worry is, while the UK
    and US drop sanctions and William Hague took the time to congratulate President
    Thein Sein in London for the progress made, little is being done to keep this
    progress on track. With the army implicit in the ethnic cleansing of the
    Rohingya Muslims and the country on the verge of widespread unrest, Burma is
    merely a few steps away from a full blown military dictatorship.
    The transition to civilian rule is supposed to be
    making steady progress, yet power lies in the same place – with the military.
    As one journalist told us, “the generals have only changed their suits”. The
    sight of Aung San Suu Kyi alongside 43 of her National League for Democracy
    compatriots elected to Parliament in 2012 was hugely symbolic. But it is no
    more than symbolism for the League to hold an eleventh of the seats in the
    lower house.
    The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP),
    a front for the old military junta, still controls all the main institutions of
    state. The USDP controls the presidency, nearly half the seats in the lower
    house and over half the seats in the upper house of the Burmese parliament.
    When the seats directly appointed by the military are included, the USDP has an
    overwhelming majority in both chambers. The majority of these USDP
    parliamentarians are former army officers or government officials with strong
    military connections. The lifting of economic sanctions will prompt new trade
    with Burma, but the West will be dealing directly with these generals who
    control both the state and many of the major economic interests.
    So it’s surprising to see that even with power
    lying with the military and its associates, Burma is still far freer than it
    was. The generals have responded positively to the tough sanctions imposed by
    the EU and US. The last time Index visited Burma in 2010, our researcher had to
    go undercover and feared for his liberty. Before meeting dissidents, he would
    be taken to at least two separate locations by go-betweens.