Mizzima – A periodic review of human rights transgressions in Burma reveals a spike in election related violations as the date for the country’s first general election in twenty years draws ever nearer.
The survey, compiled by the Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma (ND-Burma), identified 60 cases of election related rights violations in the first seven months of this year.
The most prevalent instance of abuse, accounting for 27 percent of all cases, concerned intimidation and coercion, including civilians being required to give money and census information to the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
Second most prominent was the denial of freedom of movement, documented in 23 percent of cases. With respect to the approaching elections, ND-Burma found “monks and other influential villagers suspected of organizing in preparation for the elections closely watched and denied travel documents, restricting their movement.”
Yet, electoral related violations alone account for only a fraction of all abuses throughout the country.
In total, 352 instances of rights infractions committed by the regime are chronicled for the period covering January through July 2010. Of these, 69 cases dealt with forced labour and 56 the confiscation or destruction of property.
However, in the recently released report, ND-Burma draws special attention to a further 238 chronicled cases of arbitrary taxation.
“The military,” contends the findings, “has transformed taxation from a routine and legitimate function of government into a tool of repression and extortion.”
In a country estimated to realize two-thirds of its population employed in agriculture, ND-Burma points to the “average subsistence farmer in Burma maybe being forced to pay more than 50% of his or her livelihood in so-called ‘taxes’.”
Bolstering the assessments of a number of foreign governments recently airing their support for the establishment of a UN commission of inquiry into rights abuses in Burma, ND-Burma believes the violations documented “are acts that may constitute breaches of international humanitarian law and international human rights law” owing to their widespread and systemic occurrence.
Other documented transgressions directly linked with the elections include arbitrary arrest, lack of freedom of expression, vote buying and favors extended with an agreement to in turn support the USDP at the polls on November 7.