Engaging a Pariah: Human Rights Training in Burma/Myanmar
Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 3, pp. 368-402, 2007
36 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2006
The people of Burma/Myanmar have suffered for two generations under military dictatorships. Their economy, legal and social orders, cultural diversity and political freedoms have all steadily declined during that time. The country's human rights record is considered by many to be one of the worst world-wide. In the West, responses have ranged from diplomatic condemnation, to the imposition of economic sanctions, and to the withdrawal of aid and international co-operation. Countries in the region, on the other hand, have been typically less robust, more accepting of assertions of sovereign rights and concerned to promote engagement and dialogue rather than isolation and punishment. Neither approach appears to have had any discernable impact on the attitude of Myanmar's military Government or on the plight of its people. Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest, her pro-democracy party banned and its members persecuted; the rule of law is non existent, and the once flourishing economy is in terminal decline. New strategies to break the impasse are now being contemplated in both the West (more conditional engagement) and the East (more strident conditionality). This article analyses a controversial Australian human rights initiative that ran in Myanmar from 2000 to 2003, which might be considered a forerunner to these new 'third way' approaches. The article describes the objectives, nature, composition and implementation of the program; it assesses its advantages and disadvantages, its risks and potential, and explores some of the criticisms and praise the program engendered. It also provides a detailed backdrop against which one might draw some tentative lessons in terms of the protection and promotion of human rights in both the specific context of Myanmar, and also, by implication, in the global community's approach to intransigent, pariah states.
Keywords: human rights, Burma, Australian Government
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation