Burma. According to
Countryaah.com, Burma's relationship with the outside world was
characterized by the unresolved Rohingya crisis in the state
of Rakhine. Strong criticism was directed at the continued
persecution of the Muslim minority group. More than 720,000
Rohingyans are estimated to have moved to Bangladesh since
August 2017 when the wave of violence broke out. During the
year, Bangladesh and Burma held several rounds of talks on
how the refugees would return. One shock was that the
refugees feared for their safety and that homes were missing
in Rakhine after many villages were destroyed during the
military's offensive against the Arsa (Arakhine Rohingya
Salvation Army) rebel group.
The human rights group Amnesty International reported in
May that Arsa killed dozens of Hindus in connection with an
attack in Rakhine in August 2017, Arsa denied.
In November, Bangladesh announced that it had decided to
stop the movement of a first larger group as the refugees
feared for their safety. The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR and the
UN Children's Fund UNICEF welcomed the message.
UN Special Investigator Marzuki Darusman noted in
September that the Rohingya were still subject to murder and
outright genocide and forced displacement to camps in
Rakhine. At the same time, the UN had difficulty accessing
the area. The report to the UN Human Rights Council stated
that the Rohingya were subject to genocide and that a number
of Burmese high commanders, including ÖB Min Aung Hlaing,
should be brought to justice. The Council decided that it
was necessary to gather evidence for any future
prosecutions. The report was rejected by Burma, who claims
that the offensive was necessary to quell an uprising.
In September, the International Criminal Court (ICC)
stated that it has launched a preliminary investigation into
mass exiles of Rohingyans. The ICC considers itself
empowered to investigate this despite the fact that Burma
did not sign the Rome Statute.
Burma civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi refrained from
attending the UN General Assembly in New York in September,
just as 2017. At a World Economic Forum meeting in Vietnam,
she acknowledged that the Rakhine issue could have been
better handled but did not criticize the military.
She also attended the ASEAN Asian Summit in Singapore in
November. There, Malaysian and Indonesian leaders criticized
Burma's handling of the Rohingya crisis. The criticism was
unusual as the ASEAN countries usually avoid criticizing
In October, the EU announced that Burma is at risk of
losing its duty-free status under the "Everything but Arms"
program as a result of the negative trend. Critics said it
could hit poor people, such as women in the tech industry,
and advocated more targeted sanctions on senior commanders.
The EU, Australia, Canada and the US also imposed sanctions
on army, border guard and police officers who were
considered to be involved in the abuse.
Despite worries in Rakhine and more economic uncertainty
in the outside world, including China, the World Bank
estimated that growth would end at just over 6.8% for the
fiscal year ending March 2019.
The criticism of Suu Kyi for not sharply criticizing the
persecution of Rohingya led to her losing several honors for
her former democracy struggle, for example, Canada revoked
her honorary citizenship.
Freedom of the press was under continued pressure and
Burma dropped a few more investments in an annual
compilation from Reporters Without Borders. One notable case
concerned two journalists from the Reuters news agency who
were sentenced in September to seven years in prison for
reporting a massacre of ten men and boys in the village of
Inn Din. The journalists were convicted of violating the
Secrecy Act, despite the fact that the military admitted the
deaths and seven soldiers were sentenced.
Win Myint from the ruling National Democratic Alliance
(NLD) succeeded Htin Kyaw in March as president. Htin Kyaw,
who suffered from health problems, became the country's
first civilian president in 50 years.
Periodic intensive fighting was fought between government
soldiers and ethnic armed groups in the states of Kachin and
Shan. Thousands of civilians flocked. But in July a new big
meeting was held between the government, the military and
representatives of the country's largest ethnic groups. For
the first time, all armed groups, including those who have
not entered into a ceasefire, participated. The Panglong
Conference is part of a process to fulfill the government's
promise to end long-standing civil disputes.