I love America; I have many American friends; and I value America's leadership in the world. You could not find a more pro-American Brit than me. And yet - there I was, sitting peacefully and quietly by a pool in San Diego, reading, when 'Boom' - the drone-strike hit. A gaggle of loud Americans descended and the peace was shattered.
Burma's President Thein Sein arrived in London last night, the first such visit in almost thirty years. Today, he and David Cameron will meet. Until a year ago, such a visit would have been unthinkable. Burma's regime was a pariah, facing sanctions and growing calls for an inquiry into crimes against humanity.
As a Christian, there is one thing I dislike even more than blasphemy, and that is legislation that prohibits it. Such laws invariably contribute to increasing intolerance, violence and injustice, and are widely open to misuse. And the key point is, if your God needs man-made laws to protect him from insult, he must be a pretty small and weak deity.
North Korea is ruled by the only dictatorship in the world that is both a dynasty and, in its own propaganda, a deity. If you worship anything other than the Kim family, you end up in one of the prison camps, or <em>kwan-li-so</em>.
In his superb article '<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jack-healey/human-rights-wishlist_b_2405607.html?utm_hp_ref=impact&ir=Impact" target="_hplink">A Human Rights Wish-list for 2013</a>', Jack Healey encouraged us to chose our own wish-list. I have taken up that suggestion.
What do I want for Christmas? A genuine democracy and true peace in Burma, the restoration of democracy in the Maldives, an end to religious intolerance in Indonesia, a just and peaceful solution for the people of West Papua, and freedom for North Korea.
It is right to invite President Yudhoyono to Britain, it is right to seek to deepen our friendship, and it is right to applaud Indonesia's achievements. But in a spirit of friendship, David Cameron and the British Government should not shy away from addressing the challenges as well as lauding the accomplishments.
Even if prisoners are not actually executed, life in North Korea's gulags is virtually a death sentence. Over 200,000 people are incarcerated in labour camps reminiscent of those set up by Stalin, where every day is a struggle for survival.
Four years ago today, gunmen under orders from Burma's dictatorship came to a house in Thailand in broad daylight and shot dead a man as he sat on his veranda. The man who was assassinated was the General Secretary of the Karen National Union (KNU), Padoh Mahn Sha Lah Phan, one of the most prominent spokesmen for Burma's ethnic nationalities.
When a democratically elected president is forced to resign by rebels within the police and military, threatened with bloodshed if he refuses, frog-marched by police and military to a press conference to announce his decision, detained for several hours, beaten up as he addresses a peaceful gathering of supporters, and then a warrant for his arrest is issued, I call that a coup d'état.
10/02/2012 15:15 GMT
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