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"The idea of human rights begins with a fundamental commitment to the dignity that is the birthright of every man, woman and child," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton while introducing the annual Human Rights Report: "Progress in advancing human rights begins with the facts. And for the last 34 years, the United States has produced the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, providing the most comprehensive record available of the condition of human rights around the world."

The Report raised grave concerns about the human rights situation in Burma. Burma is ruled by a military regime dominated by the majority ethnic Burman group. The State Peace and Development Council, which is headed by Senior General Than Shwe, has assumed the duties of the government, and at all levels of the government, ultimate authority rests with military officers. The government also controls the security forces without civilian oversight.

The Report states that in 2009, the government of Burma "continued its egregious human rights violations and abuses. . . . including increased military attacks in ethnic minority regions, such as in the Karen and Shan state."

The Human Rights Report also states that "the regime continued to abridge the right of citizens to change their government and committed other severe human rights abuses."

There were reports of unlawful and arbitrary killings by security forces; of deaths of people held in government custody; of disappearances, rape and torture. The government frequently detained civic activists without charges. Citizens were imprisoned for political motives, and prisoners and detainees were held in harsh and life-threatening conditions.

In short, the government of Burma kept a tight leash on possible criticism of, or activism against, its policies by restricting its citizens' privacy, freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and movement. At the same time, it allowed violent treatment and discrimination against women, recruitment of child soldiers, discrimination against ethnic minorities, and trafficking in persons. The government took no significant actions to prosecute or punish those responsible for human rights abuses.

"The principle that each person possesses equal moral value is a simple, self-evident truth," said Secretary of State Clinton. With the facts in hand and the goals clear in our heads and our hearts, we recommit ourselves to continue the hard work of making human rights a human reality."

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