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U Myint Aye leads the Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters (HRDP), one of the Palme Center’s partners in Burma. For many years the organization has promoted human rights in a country where even the concept of human rights has been banned.

– We are in a kind of a reform process. But poverty and violations of human rights are widespread, says U Myint Aye.

He states that fifty years of isolation from the outside world and a notorious military junta in power for decades have left many Burmese unaware of their rights. Therefore, an important part of HRDP’s efforts is to spread information about human rights.

– In 2000, we printed the UN Declaration of Human Rights and handed it out in town. In those days it was completely taboo to talk about human rights. But it is not enough just to inform, people are not enthused by that. We also need to work practically, said U Myint Aye.

HRDP works with issues such as forced labor, trafficking and so-called land grabbing or land confiscation. The latter is a major problem in Burma which is a country rich in natural resources yet to be exploited. The regime needs land to offer the foreign companies and there are regularly reports on whole villages being forced to flee after their land has been confiscated. With or without compensation.

U Myint Aye leder Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters (HRDP), en av de organisationer som Palmecentret samarbetar med i Burma. Organisationen har i många år främjat mänskliga rättigheter i ett land där till och med begreppet mänskliga rättigheter har varit förbjudet.

– Nu befinner vi oss i en sorts reformprocess. Men fattigdomen är stor och kränkningar av de mänskliga rättigheterna är utbredda, säger U Myint Aye.

Femtio års isolering från omvärlden och en ökänd militärjunta vid makten har gjort att många burmeser inte är medvetna om sina rättigheter, menar han. Därför är en viktig del av HRDP:s arbete att sprida information.

– År 2000 tryckte vi upp FN:s deklaration om mänskliga rättigheter och delade ut på stan. Då var det helt tabubelagt att prata om mänskliga rättigheter. Men det räcker inte med att informera, människor entusiasmeras inte av det. Vi måste också arbeta praktiskt, säger U Myint Aye.

HRDP arbetar bland annat med frågor som tvångsarbete, trafficking och så kallad landgrabbing eller konfiskering av mark. Det senare är ett stort problem i Burma som är rikt på naturresurser som ännu inte har exploaterats. Regimen vill ha mark att erbjuda utländska företag och med jämna mellanrum rapporteras om hela byar som tvingas på flykt efter att marken har blivit konfiskerad. Med eller utan ersättning.

För en bonde som blivit bestulen på sin mark kan det vara i stort sätt omöjligt att ensam driva en juridisk process. Därför hjälper HRDP till.

Commentary by Danilo Milic, Program Coordinator Belgrad

The Serbian government formed in 2008 lasted a full term despite predictions from several experts.  However, the fact that this government was a coalition of several political parties with a small majority in the Parliament (128 out of 250 MPs) became evident during last six months when differences in the coalition became more obvious and especially in the campaign when some of the parties presented themselves almost as they were in the opposition during last four years.

Local and Parliamentary elections were held in time while Presidential elections were held ten months before the end of the Presidential term. The president of Serbia, Mr Boris Tadić (from Democratic Party) resigned, estimating that his new Presidential campaign will give additional boost to results of his party.

The campaign was relatively quiet, without any violence but with negative campaign between two largest political parties – Democratic Party (DS) and Serbian Progressive Party (SNS). Major topics in the campaign were economy, unemployment and corruption.

Turnout at the elections was at the level of 59 percent.  Since the electoral register are not properly updated and probably contains a higher number of voters than it should, together with the fact that there was a noticeable dissatisfaction in political parties among the voters, the turnout can be interpreted as satisfactory.

SNS was a relative winner of the Parliamentary elections with 24 percent of votes and 73 MPs in the Parliament. Still, this result is lower than expected by polls. The same thing happened to DS who got little over 22 percent which will give them 67 seats in the Parliament.

The Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) meanwhile almost doubled their support comparing with 2008 elections. Although they were in the government during last four years, they used the campaign in order to present themselves as successful part of that government and willing to do more for the citizens if they get stronger support. The coalition around SPS will have 44 MPs in the new Parliament.

It is important to note that there will be no party in the Parliament that is representing extreme right. For the first time Serbian Radical Party stayed under the threshold with 4,6 percent won on the elections.

It is almost certain that SPS will have a decisive role in negotiations on future government. Their first option is to form a government similar to the acting one. Still, they have a second option and possible cooperation with SNS in case they do reach agreement with DS.

The presidential elections will have a second round on 20 May. DS candidate Boris Tadić got the support of 25,4 while SNS candidate Tomislav Nikolić got 25 percent.

Caption: Pavle Dimitrijevic, Bureau for Social Research (BIRODI), moderator; Radivoje Grujic, International Foundation for Electoral Systems and Zoran Gavrilovic, BIRODI – during panel discussion on media reporting on election campaign.

Published: 2013-07-03

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