Reforms Make Burma More Free than China, US Group Says

By The Irrawaddy 17 January 2013

Burma’s political rights and civil liberties’ situation continued to significantly improve last year and it has now “surpassed China” in terms of these freedoms, US-based group Freedom House said on Wednesday. It warned however, that “lingering problems” threaten Burma’s ongoing reforms.

In its annual report Freedom in the World 2013, the group said Burma “continued to move forward in 2012 with a process of democratic reform.”

The country’s political and civil freedoms improved “due to the successful participation of opposition parties in legislative by-elections and the continued easing of long-standing restrictions on the media, private discussion, public assembly, civil society and private enterprise,” it said.

“Burma has now surpassed China on both political rights and civil liberties,” according to Freedom House. In China, it said, “Communist Party rulers renewed their commitment in 2012 to censorship, suppression of minorities, and grassroots surveillance.”

Burma, Tunisia and Libya were the three countries in the world that experienced the greatest improvements in freedoms and rights last year, according to the Washington-based think-thank.

African nations Mali, Madagascar and Gambia, were considered the countries that had the worst relative decline in freedom.

Freedom House cautioned however, that Burma’s rapid political, social and economic reforms, which were started under President Thein Sein in mid 2011, “depend more on current government policy than on deep institutional changes.”

It also said Burma continued to be plagued by ethnic minority conflict and inter-communal violence, while “authorities continue to employ repressive crowd-control measures at demonstrations, violate workers’ rights, restrict the operations of NGOs, tolerate land grabbing, and hinder judicial independence.”

Freedom House’s report labels 195 countries as ‘free,’ ‘partly free’ or ‘not free.’ Burma is still in a group of 47 nations considered ‘not free,’ which is defined as “a country where basic political rights are absent and basic civil liberties are denied.”