Updates from Burma

A few years ago, I wrote an op-ed discussing the African Union’s advances in protecting human rights on a regional level, and suggested ASEAN could learn from them. Did Aung San Suu Kyi read it? Probably not, but I found it interesting that she recently told a Philippine senator that ASEAN’s human rights involvement in Myanmar should be modeled on that of the A.U. She cited the A.U. in Cote d’Ivoire, which I hadn’t emphasized in my op-ed (at the time, SAARC and Zimbabwe seemed more relevant). Either way, I think she’s onto something in drawing the comparison to Africa rather than the E.U.

According to Democratic Voice of Burma, three men from Mon State who claim to have been tortured and arrested are petitioning the Supreme Court for their release. Of course, Burma’s Supreme Court doesn’t have a great track record on these types of cases. Still, the plaintiffs’ family members are taking an interesting approach. According to one:

“We are not looking to put the blame on anyone or to get compensation. As Buddhists, we just blame it on karma. We just want our loved one released from prison and the family of [San Shwe] be informed about his death so they can hold a funeral.

Basically, they seem to hope that they can at least get their loved ones released from prison if they promise not to threaten elite interests. It will be interesting to see if this approach works.

Unfortunately, the approach of several farmers in Kachin State seeking takings compensation did not work.  Yuzana construction company initially offered the farmers approximately $100 per acre of land. The farmers sued, obviously hoping to obtain more compensation. Instead, the court awarded less – just $8 per acre. This is a valuable and tragic lesson in the unpredictable nature of law and legal institutions in Burma.

In other news, according to Irrawaddy, Rangoon’s government bookstore started selling books containing the new parliamentary laws and bylaws yesterday, but almost immediately ran out. Despite disillusionment with the November 7 elections, it seems people want to understand the political process.

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