Myanmar

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Democracy Index 2017: new report provides a snapshot of the state of democracy worldwide

31 Jan 2018 — "Democracy Index 2017: Free speech under attack", 31 January 2018 The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index provides a snapshot of the state of democracy worldwide for 165 independent states and two territories...[It] is based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture...A special focus of this year’s report is the state of media freedom around the world and the challenges facing freedom of speech...[W]e present our Media Freedom Index and global ranking...In the 2017 Democracy Index the average global score fell from 5.52 in 2016 to 5.48...The average regional score for North America (Canada and the US) remained the same. All the other six regions experienced a regression, as signified by a decline in their regional average score. In a reversal of recent trends, Asia and Australasia was the worst-performing region in 2017... Larry Diamond, one of the world’s leading democracy scholars, says that we have been going through a “democracy recession”, and this trend of stagnation and/or regression has been reflected in our annual Democracy Index since its launch in 2006...The star performer in this year’s Democracy Index...is The Gambia, which was upgraded from an “authoritarian regime” to a “hybrid regime”.

Thailand: Court convicts 6 traffickers of Myanmar fishers; CSO vows to appeal acquittal of boat captain

31 Jan 2018 — " Acquitall of fishing boat captain angers human rights campaigners", 31 January 2018 The Human Rights and Development Foundation has pledged to appeal against a court decision to acquit fishing trawler captain Prawit Kimsai over the enslavement of 15 migrants from Myanmar.  The Court of Appeals...convicted six defendants, including Somphon “Ko Nang” Jirojmontri, former president of Trang’s Fisheries Association, and Wichai Riabroi, a security guard who supervised the human-trafficking victims. It also upheld the lower court’s order that the defendants pay Bt1.99 million compensation to the migrants.  However, the court upheld Prawit’s appeal...saying there had not been sufficient evidence to back allegations that he had forced the victims to work under harsh conditions.  However, the court upheld Prawit's appeal against conviction, saying there had not been sufficient evidence to back allegations that he had forced the victims to work under harsh conditions. “This is an interesting case on debt bondage,” Papop Siamhan, coordinator of the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) Anti-Human Trafficking in Labour Project, said... He said the 15 victims were forced to work like slaves because their agents told them that they had to repay the huge debts incurred in trying to find them jobs in Thailand.  The case was highlighted in the media in October 2015, when authorities stepped in to help 15 fishing workers from Myanmar who had reportedly been held |captive, subjected to physical |violence and denied their full wages.         

Thailand: Court awards 1.99 million baht to trafficked Myanmar fishers; 6 accused get 10-year prison term

31 Jan 2018 — In October 2015, Thai authorities received reports about 15 Myanmar fishers reported to have been suffering from physical violence and wage deprivation on board fishing verssels owned and operated by Thai companies.  Initially, the court rejected the trafficked victims' request to be considered plaintiffs in the trafficking case because this offense is considered as one against the state. On appeal, the court granted this request and stated that "...The damaged parties should therefore be treated as the persons bearing the direct impact of the act and should be entitled to become co-plaintiffs in the case..." In January 2018, the Court of Appeals convicted 6 accused traffickers and sentenced them to 10 years in prison. The Court also ordered them to pay the victims 1.99 million baht as compensation.

Myanmar: Report raises allegations of labour and land rights violations against Malaysian company, Stark Prestige; company did not respond

16 Jan 2018 — A report raised serious allegations against Myanmar Stark Prestige Plantation Company (MSSP), a Malaysian company.  These report alleges that: (1) MSPP activities have caused severe negative social and environmental impacts to indigenous villagers; (2) MSPP cleared the villagers’ betel nut and cashew orchards from which they depend their livelihood, [as such]; (3) the villagers are forced to work as day labourers for MSPP and are paid low wages; and (4) residents were pressured to sell their lands to MSPP.  Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Myanmar Stark Prestige Plantation Company to respond.  It did not.

Myanmar Stark Prestige Company did not respond

16 Jan 2018

Response by Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Limited

16 Jan 2018 — ...With regard to local resident relocation and land expropriations, Myanmar Wanbao by now has extended 12.36 billion kyats in three rounds providing to the local residents who are impacted by Letpadung Copper Project for their compensation and subsidies.  The first compensation was given between April 1, 2011 and February 28, 2013... ...Since the Letpadung project started, Myanmar Wanbao, as a responsible company has been paying great attention to the environment conservation...The SGS experts confirmed the operation has met the ISO certification requirements, and the three certificates of ISO 9001:2015, ISO 14001:2015, OHSAS 18001:2007 were issued at January 24, 2017.  Besides, the company also gained ECC certificate issued by Myanmar Nature Resources and Environment Conservation Ministry...

Myanmar: Community residents protest vs. megaprojects due to environment damage and inadequate compensation; company responds

5 Jan 2018 — Residents of Myanmar town of Letpadung protest against Chinese-operated infrastructure megaprojects and allege that the operations are causing serious environmental damage.  Furthermore, residents in the community allege that there have been land expropriations without adequate compensation. Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Wanbao Mining Copper Ltd. Company to respond. The company's response is linked below.

Myanmar: Wage committee sets workers’ daily salary at K4800 while unions say k5600-6600 more reasonable due to high cost of living

3 Jan 2018 — "National wage panel approves K4800 minimum wage", 03 January 2018 The National Committee for Minimum Wage…decided to set the basic daily salary of workers at K4800 or K600 per hour. The ongoing minimum wage is K3600, set in September 2012, but workers have been asking for a daily rate of K5600-6600. …Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar member, argued that K5600-6600 was a more reasonable figure as workers struggle with high cost of living….  “…We (workers) are asking for increase in wages since we are starving….” said U Ye Naing Win, secretary of Cooperating Committee of Trade Unions…. The government and employer…should research whether the proposed K4800 is sufficient to cover the daily living cost of workers and their families, he added. He also said the government and employers should put in place welfare plans for the workers if they are unable to offers salaries more than K4800.

Thailand: Thai factory sacks nearly 400 Myanmar workers without notice or compensation; social welfare cards not released despite deduction of fees from salaries

3 Jan 2018 — "Thai factory sacks nearly 400 Myanmar workers", 29 December 2017 Nearly 400 Myanmar workers employed by the IPD Packaging Ltd factory in Beung Kum district of Bangkok were fired…without any reason, said some of the workers. According to Ko Than Soe, 390 legal Myanmar workers – with certificates of identity and passports – were unexpectedly sacked by the factory without any notice or compensation. “Now, we have to stay at the Aid Alliance Committee (AAC) shelter because our rented room agreement will expire soon….” said Ma Moe Thuzar…. Workers said their monthly social welfare fees had been cut from their salaries, but they could not benefit from Thailand’s healthcare facilities because the company did not provide the social welfare cards to the employees.

Commentary on Facebook's legal responsibility to avoid enabling human rights abuses via its platform; incl. co comments

29 Dec 2017 — "Could Facebook be tried for human-rights abuses?", 20 Dec 2017 ...[Facebook] has to reckon with its role in passively enabling human-rights abuses... [T]he platform is a central source of online information, and in Myanmar propaganda legitimizing crimes against humanity can have massive reach and influence...  When asked about what resources the company has allocated to address misinformation and hate speech, Facebook spokesperson Ruchika Budhraja responded via email that “we have steadily increased our investment over the years in the resources and teams that assist in ensuring our services are used by people in Myanmar to connect in a meaningful and safe way.” ...[P]osing the question of a platform’s legal culpability for human-rights abuses seems a quixotic pursuit... less to do with the innocence or guilt of platforms and more to do with the realities of human-rights law... Facebook does seem to understand that it has a responsibility to address manipulation on the platform, and to its users in Myanmar, regardless of the fact that tensions between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhist nationalists have existed long before their market presence... But when asked how the company frames that responsibility—as a moral, ethical, legal, or business concern—Facebook had no on-the-record response... The incoherence of platforms’ response to their very real public harms and the lack of imagination in accountability mechanisms might explain the doomed appeal of crafting a single coherent legal charge...