Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Dhaka's getting worse

Students are protesting continuing military rule in Bangladesh. The military took power last January, allegedly in order to prepare the country for unrigged elections. Alas, this has not happened.

When I visited Dhaka in 2004, it was a place of unspeakable poverty, and according to Transparency International, had among the world's worst corruption. But so far as I could tell, people could move, speak and organize reasonably freely. The press was certainly vigorous and regularly criticized the government. It was hardly a paragon of human rights. To me, human rights include the right to have enough to eat and the right of all children to go to school. But among all the world's poor countries, its human rights record was not too bad.

Still, I left Dhaka thinking that life would get better there. It has actually shown itself capable of competing in the textile business in the absence of the multifibre agreement. The people there were also remarkably gracious. I thought there was a chance for corruption to be reduced, and for the middle-class to grow. I hope that I will someday be proved correct, but today I don't have a lot of hope.

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