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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 January 2006, 16:49 GMT
'No progress' on Burma rights
Aung San Suu Kyi
Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi is one of the country's political prisoners
Burma's military rulers have not made any progress towards democracy despite their promises of reform, according to US-based group Human Rights Watch.

In its 2006 World Report, the rights organisation described the situation in South East Asia as dismal.

It criticised Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra for overseeing a steady erosion of respect for human rights.

Other countries mentioned included China, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, North Korea, Vietnam and PNG.

"Impunity from prosecution for human rights violations is the most important problem in the region, and the most widespread," said Brad Adams, Asia division director at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

"The 'Asian values' argument that human rights are different in Asia has been defeated. But the abusive governments that used to hide behind that rhetoric still commit the worst kinds of abuses without fear of punishment," he said.

'Empty rhetoric'

The report highlighted the fact that in Burma the authorities continue to ban virtually all opposition political activity and to crack down on activists.

Despite the release of 249 political prisoners last July, more than 1,100 people are currently imprisoned for their political beliefs, and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi continues to be held in virtually solitary confinement.

It said the junta's pledges of democratic reform "continue to be empty rhetoric".

The report also criticised the situation in Thailand. It describes Prime Minister Shinawatra's security legislation in the Muslim-majority south as "draconian".

The report said that China was particularly violent towards protesters, restricted religious freedom and continued to curb freedom of expression by victimising journalists and censoring the internet.

It also said that domestic workers in Singapore and Malaysia continued to face a range of abuses, from sexual violence to trafficking.

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