Burmese groups ‘repression risk’

BBC News
16 February 2010

Burma’s ethnic minorities are vulnerable to increased repression ahead of elections in the country later this year, a rights group has warned.

Amnesty International said minority groups were important for the political opposition of the country.

But it said their role had not been sufficiently recognised, as international attention tended to focus on opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Burmese junta has previously denied repressing ethnic groups.

It says it will hold elections – the first in 20 years – at some point this year but no date has yet been set.

Amnesty said Burma’s ethnic minorities – up to 40% of the population – had played “an important but seldom acknowledged role” in the opposition movement.

But it said they faced surveillance, harassment and discrimination when trying to carry out legitimate political activities.

Benjamin Zawacki from the group told the BBC it was “almost inevitable” that, in the run up to the elections, the world’s media and organisations would look to Ms Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD).

“The ethnic minorities states are simply beyond the spotlight that’s typically placed on Myanmar [Burma],” he said.

“So it’s that much easier for the regime to persecute and to repress ethnic minority activists simply because they feel they can do so without a great deal of attention, much less accountability for those abuses,” he said.

The article continues at BBC News.

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