A recent Freedom House report spotlights the world’s most repressive countries—places where freedom and democracy don’t exist.
The non-profit organization, which promotes democracy around the world, cited North Korea, Burma, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Somalia and Sudan as being among the least free countries in the world. Along with Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, these countries received the lowest rating for political rights and civil liberties.
According to Foreign Policy, which published a photo essay based on the report of the 21 least free countries, Kim Jong-il’s Marxist-Leninist regime “maintains a network of prison camps in which thousands of political prisoners are subjected to brutal conditions.” Despite the rigid dictatorship, North Korea does have, according to a BBC report from 2003, some tourism infrastructure in place and hosts around 1,500 westerners annually. However, due to the autocratic nature of the country, visitors’ freedom is severely restricted and their itineraries tightly controlled.
Also on the list is Burma—another Asian nation that is often in the headlines for its systematic human rights abuses and lack of political freedom. Formerly a wealthy country, Burma has become an impoverished dictatorship orchestrated by the ruling junta, led by Senior General Than Shwe.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who wishes to restore democracy to the country but who has been under house arrest for much of the past 19 years, has requested a tourism boycott, fearing that the hard currency tourism will bring will get into the hands of the ruling dictatorship. As reported by the Burma Campaign, she told the BBC in 2002 that, “Our policy with regard to tourism has not changed, which is say that we have not yet come to the point where we encourage people to come to Burma as tourists.”
Cofounder of Lonely Planet, Tony Wheeler, disagrees. He wrote in the Guardian that he supports tourism in the country: “Even Cambodia, where the Khmer Rouge were still kidnapping and killing visitors when I first went there in 1992, has more than a million tourists, 10 times as many as Burma. With a decent, respectable government Burma could easily be just as important a destination. Until then, cutting the country off from the rest of the world isn’t going to help.”
Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Somalia and Sudan have all experienced various degrees of corruption, repression, autocracy and poverty. The latter two have also been devastated by ongoing conflict and genocide. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan continue to rule with Soviet-style dictatorships.
To view the complete photo essay of the 21 countries and read the accompanying text, click on this link: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/07/02/the_least_free_places_on_earth?page=0,0
To view the full report, click here: http://www.freedomhouse.org/uploads/specialreports/wow/WoW2009.pdf
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