Amnesty criticises Asia's worsening human rights record

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 May, 2010, 12:00am

Asia's human rights record has worsened Amnesty International said in a report that paints a gloomy picture of the region where serial offenders such as North Korea and Myanmar remain unchecked.

Amnesty also criticised governments for their lack of accountability and said it was time to ensure that no one is above the law.

'When compared to the rest of the world, Asia-Pacific is a gloomy story,' Catherine Baber, the deputy AsiaPacific director at Amnesty International, said in Hong Kong.

'There has been a crackdown across the region on human rights. Governments are willing to use colonial laws and draconian measures' on their populations, she said.

Sri Lanka came in for particular criticism for the thousands of Tamil civilian deaths in the closing weeks of the war against the Tamil Tiger guerillas.

Baber said that in one display of how countries are being allowed to carry out killings and torture with impunity, the United Nations Security Council had refused to intervene.

Some 7,000 people are believed to have died from government shelling of so-called 'safe zones' but the number could be as high as 20,000.

Seven of the G20 members still were not signatories to the International Criminal Court, Baber said. Within Asia, these are China, Indonesia and India.

China came in for particular mention over its crackdown surrounding the 60th anniversary of the Communist Party and the unrest in Xinjiang Autonomous Region. 'The government was trying to put the blame on a small number of activists for the unprecedented violence, but that just isn't credible,' she said.

Recent major investment in Xinjiang by the government indicated that it realised there were more widespread problems, Baber said.

China continues to send North Korean asylum seekers back across the border, she said, where they faced possible torture. Thailand had also returned Laotian refugees to Myanmar last year.

Thousands of Myanmar's Muslim Rohingya minority fled persecution at home in boats sailing for Thailand and Malaysia.

Thai security forces expelled hundreds of them, setting them adrift in 'unseaworthy vessels with little or no food or water', the report said. Hundreds died as a result. Thailand tried to silence international condemnation in the wake of a series of reports by the South China Morning Post.

Millions more people left their homes in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal and the Philippines in search of better lives in developed economies such as South Korea, Japan and Malaysia where they often faced acute discrimination, the report said.

Other areas where widespread abuse is occurring include the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan where a recent offensive by the Pakistan government resulted in hundreds of thousands of people fleeing. Taiwan is also slammed for reintroducing the death penalty.

Commenting on Hong Kong, Milabel Cristobal, the director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, said the city had still not ratified a refugee law, leaving asylum seekers vulnerable.