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Rights Groups Warn Fiji Heading Towards Civil Unrest

Amnesty International is predicting civil unrest and conflict with Fiji's military government, as army commanders continue to tighten their grip. The international human rights organization claims conditions in the troubled South Pacific nation are getting worse by the day. Army chief Commodore Frank Bainimarama was reinstated as interim prime minister, earlier this month, following the president's decision to abrogate the constitution. Amnesty International is painting a serious picture of life in Fiji, as the military continues to increase its authority.

Army extends grip on power

The armed forces' grip on power now extends into almost all corners of the civil service, while a compliant police service is also supporting the army chief, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

Amnesty claims the military is using intimidation to quell dissent.

The group's Pacific analyst, Apolosi Bose, says, as Fiji's fragile economy continues to crumble, the prospects of a public backlash against the military government will increase.

"The crime rate will definitely increase and there is a possibility of a greater law-and-order situation in Fiji," Bose said. "There are also soldiers who are going to be losing their jobs because of the decree to lay off people who've reached 55. So, couple that with the fact that people are not generally happy with the way things are happening, you could have a situation where there could be civil conflict."

Bloodless coup leads to 'new order'

Commodore Bainimarama seized power in a bloodless coup in December 2006, unseating an elected government the army strongman says was racist and corrupt. His actions were declared illegal by Fiji's Court of Appeal, earlier this month, a ruling that prompted the country's president - a close ally of the army commander - to dismiss the judiciary and abandon the constitution.

Creating what he called a "new order", President Ratu Josefa Iloilo reappointed the military government with even greater powers.

Commodore Bainimarama has insisted democracy will only be restored only when he has rewritten the constitution and changed electoral laws that he claims are biased against the country's ethnic Indian minority.

Political turmoil leads to economic woes

As the army's controversial reform program inches forward, Fiji's economy, which depends on tourism and the sugar cane industry, continues to stutter, putting at risk thousands of jobs.

The United Nations Security Council said Monday the military's grip on Fiji is "a step backwards" and demanded the restoration of democracy and fair elections, as soon as possible.

Since his reappointment, Commodore Bainimarama has shown scant regard for such international condemnation.

He has imposed emergency restrictions, including censorship of the media, and refuses to hold elections before 2014.