Amnesty Raps Myanmar Govt. Over Restrictions

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LONDON: Amnesty International has lashed out at Myanmar’s government for gagging the media ahead of national elections in the southeastern Asian country.

The London-based human rights group released a statement on Wednesday, saying the government of President Thein Sein is resorting to threats, harassment and imprisonment to intimidate the media ahead of Myanmar’s general elections, scheduled to be held in the last week of October or the first week of November this year.

The rights group said that over the past year the government has intensified restrictive measures against freedom of expression, adding that at least 10 members of the media are currently in prison.

It stressed that all media staff in jail have been incarcerated in the last 12 months.

Myanmar’s government, which replaced the junta rule in 2011, has pledged to implement democratic reforms in the country.

Amnesty International said that the restrictive measures on the media disprove claims of liberty and freedom in the country by the government in Naypyidaw.

Myanmar’s government has not yet commented on this report. 

Myanmar has also recently been criticized by international human rights bodies for a new population law, which was signed on May 19. The law would allow regional governments to introduce family planning regulations allegedly aimed at lowering birth rates in the country’s different states.

“This will seriously worsen ethnic and religious tensions. We fully expect that the Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine state will be target number one of this legislation,” Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director of the Human Rights Watch (HRW), said.

Robertson added that the new law defied international calls “for reconciliation and respect for rights in Rakhine,” Myanmar’s western state, which is home to the Rohingya Muslim minority group.

The government in Myanmar refuses to recognize members of the Rohingya Muslim minority as its citizens and insists they are “illegal” immigrants, even though they have lived in the country for centuries.

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