The veneer of progress is wearing thin in Myanmar. A year ago, the President of Myanmar, Thein Sein, promised to release all prisoners of conscience. Earlier this year, to mark Myanmar’s Independence Day, the President ordered the release of thousands of prisoners. Now one year on from the promise to release all prisoners of conscience, the promise remains unfulfilled. Even more troubling is the fact that the government is arresting more prisoners of conscience.
I worry about Indonesia. I worry that the democratic progress of the past few years is just slip slidin’ away. While Egypt and Turkey’s passionate and public debates on reform reach the front pages of our newspapers, Indonesia appears calm to the world. But, it looks like the government is worried.
Particularly alarming is a new law on Mass Organizations, passed on July 2, 2013. Suddenly, organizations operating in Indonesia are limited to eight purposes including maintaining the value of religion and belief in God; preserving the norms, values, morals, ethics and culture; and establishing, maintaining and strengthening the unity of the nation. Foreign organizations are required to obtain a permit from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and must operate under new rules that include not disrupting the “stability and oneness” of Indonesia.