Burma’s stalled democratic transition gave way to a massive human rights and humanitarian crisis starting in August 2017, when the military launched a large-scale ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya Muslim population in Rakhine State. More than 650,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh to escape mass killings, sexual violence, arson, and other abuses amounting to crimes against humanity by the security forces.
2017 marked the country’s first full year under the democratically elected civilian government led by the National League for Democracy (NLD) and de facto civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The NLD-led government took some positive steps, including ratifying the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, engaging in some efforts to resolve past land confiscation cases, and enacting minor reforms to laws regulating speech and assembly. However, the government increasingly used repressive laws to prosecute journalists, activists, and critics for peaceful expression deemed critical of the government or military.
Despite the appearance of civilian rule, the military remained the primary power-holder in the country. It continued to block efforts to amend the 2008 constitution, which allows the armed forces to retain authority over national security and public administration through control of the defense, home affairs, and border affairs ministries. The constitutional provision allowing the military to appoint 25 percent of parliamentary seats affords it an effective veto over constitutional amendments.
The peace process with ethnic armed groups made no meaningful progress. Fighting intensified in Kachin and northern Shan States, resulting in an increase in forced displacement and other abuses against civilians, primarily by government forces.
- Human Rights Watch
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