This week Just Asia begins with Burma, where two Reuters reporters have been freed by a presidential amnesty. Wa Lone, 33 and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29 had spent more than 500 days in prison, after being convicted under the Official Secrets Act and sentenced to seven years in jail last September. Their jailing was seen as an assault on press freedom and raised questions about Burma’s democracy. The country’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was widely criticized for defending their imprisonment.
Next, Indonesia has seen the death of 440 election staff due to exhaustion, while another 1,878 staff are ill. After working long hours on election day, the workers died from fatigue-related illnesses caused by having to count millions of ballot papers by hand. Indonesia held its presidential and legislative election simultaneously on April 17. It was the largest single-day elections in the world. Indonesia’s General Election Commission has agreed to compensate the victims’ families.
Moving to Thailand, the country’s National Human Rights Commission is conducting a disciplinary inquiry into outspoken Commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit. Angkhana has repeatedly spoken out about Thailand’s pressing human rights problems under the military.
Once considered a model for national human rights bodies in Southeast Asia, Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission has faced interference from successive Thai governments since 2009.
Next, Pakistan’s Senate has voted to end child marriage, despite opposition from religious parties. The Child Marriage Restraint Bill, raising the age of marriage for girls to 18, now has to pass through the National Assembly, and then the provincials levels. Human rights activists welcomed the vote, saying child marriage increased rates of deaths during childbirth and increased poverty and illiteracy.
In Bangladesh, enforced disappearances have been a growing phenomenon under the government of Sheikh Hasina since 2009. The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) has been raising the issue of enforced disappearances to the United Nations Human Rights Council for several years. For more information, Just Asia speaks to Md. Ashrafuzzaman Zaman, Liaison Officer at the AHRC & ALRC.
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