About Leila Chacko

Leila Chacko is an Amnesty International USA country specialist for Viet Nam, Japan and the Pacific Islands. For five years she lived in New Zealand, running a non-profit organization advocating for immigrant women's rights. She has a BA in Politics and East Asian Studies from New York University, a JD from American University and a LLM in International Law and Politics from the University of Canterbury. Her LLM dissertation investigated the correlation between the legalization of prostitution and human trafficking. She has spoken widely about human sex trafficking and domestic violence in immigrant communities.
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Arrested for Opening Up Monasteries?

Plus ça change (plus c’est la même chose).  For those who were lulled into believing that the government of Myanmar is new and improved, and that reforms are taking place with unsurpassed speed, the rearrest of former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience U Gambira is a much-needed wake-up call.  The human rights situation in that country is still precarious, and we need to be vigilant lest they slip back into their old ways.

Ashin Gambira (aka Nyi Nyi Lwin) was arrested on December 1, 2012 – his third arrest since his ”release” in January.  Under the general prisoner amnesty, prisoners’ sentences were merely suspended, rather than expunged. That means the time that remained on U Gambira’s original sentence of 63 years when he was released in January would be added back if he is convicted of these new charges.


3 Ongoing Human Rights Concerns in Myanmar

aung san suu kyi myanmar burma

Aung San Suu Kyi  © AFP/GettyImages

Some superstars take pride in being known by just one name, but Amnesty International USA’s star guest on September 20th goes by five: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. A town hall event aimed at the next generation of activists had young people on busses at 4 AM to make the trip to Washington, DC. The venue was perfect — the Newseum, a museum dedicated to the First Amendment.

Addressing the Rights Generation, Amnesty’s Frank Jannuzi asked the audience to keep their phones and electronic devices on during the event. Hashtags and suggested messages scrolled on the large screen as students found their networks and tweeted the story. Mid-Atlantic student leader Stephanie Viggiano was on Facebook with a video she created that day with her phone.


Raising a Regional Flag “Embarrassed the People of Indonesia in the Eyes of the World”

Johan Teterissa

Johan Teterissa in his cell at the Waiheru detention centre. (Photo Al Jazeera English)

Johan Teterissa is that forgotten prisoner in a dark cell who needs the Amnesty candle.  The Indonesian elementary school teacher was recently transferred to Batu Prison on Nusakambangan Island in Indonesia, which is even further away from family and friends in Maluku.

His family couldn’t see the cuts bleeding from being beaten with electric cables upon his arrival at Batu Prison.

In June 2012 Amnesty International received credible information that he and other prisoners at Madiun Prison did not have adequate access to clean drinking water. The prison authorities were also limiting the amount of water available to Johan and other prisoners for bathing.

What was his crime?  Johan is serving a 15-year sentence for peacefully unfurling the banned regional flag, the “Benang Raja,” at the end of a dance performed for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during a ceremony in Ambon, Maluku. The police escorted twenty-two activists, including Johan, off the field. Once out of sight of the president, the police beat the activists, forced them to crawl on their stomachs over hot asphalt, and forced billiard balls into their mouths.  Johan has never received adequate medical care for his injuries. Prison authorities turned away an independent doctor who tried to see him in July 2010.


‘Beehive’ Journalist Silenced for Exposing Foreign Land Grabs in Cambodia

Mam Sonando arrested in Cambodia in 2005

Mam Sonando has long been targeted by Cambodia authorities for speaking out. Here he was arrested in 2005 and charged with “defaming the government.” (Photo TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP/Getty Images)

When you think of a beehive, what comes to mind? A constant hum of activity; bees working together; social interaction for a common goal. This sort of activity is not welcome in Cambodia. With its in depth reporting on difficult political issues, Beehive Radio in Cambodia embodies the image of a real beehive.

On June 26, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen called for the arrest of 71 year old Beehive Radio journalist Mam Sonando. He is charged with offences against the state following a broadcast that focused on forced evictions.

The government is forcefully evicting residents in the Kratie region from land it is selling to a Russian rubber company. In May military police in Kratie opened fire at a group of around 1,000 families who refused to leave their land. They killed a 14 year old girl and injured 2 others. In addition to Kratie, thousands of other people face forced evictions throughout Cambodia.