Bangladesh. Bangladesh came to a head during the year
when hundreds of thousands of people fled from neighboring
Burma after escalating violence. The majority belonged to
Burma's Muslim minority, Rohingya. The refugee flow
increased sharply in August after the Burmese military hit
back hard after attacks on police carried out by a rebel
In November, the number of Rohingy in Bangladesh was
estimated to be just over 600,000, including many children
and women. Most lived in camps near the town of Cox's Bazar
and lived under severe hardship.
In a speech before the UN General Assembly in September,
Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina proposed creating
UN-monitored protection zones in Burma, saying her
government wanted to ensure that the refugees could return
Foreign ministers from several countries, including
Japan, China and Germany as well as Sweden's Margot
Wallström and EU Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini,
visited Bangladesh in November to discuss the crisis and
Dhaka's plea for financial support. Sheik Hasina visited
Sweden in June.
Countryaah.com, the Hasina government has continued to be criticized for
a stubborn attitude towards civil society, the media and the
opposition. The human rights group Human Rights Watch
attracted attention in a July report on political
disappearances and that hundreds of people have been held in
secret custody since 2014. In addition, questions were
raised about independent bloggers, gay activists and
religious minorities being adequately protected against
militant groups. The elite police force RAB (Rapid Action
Battalion) also received criticism. One of RAB's locations
in Dhaka was attacked in March by a suicide bomber and
police officers who manned roadblocks were also attacked on
The Supreme Court announced in July that a constitutional
amendment adopted in 2014 violated the Constitution. The
addition allowed Parliament to put the judge of the court
before the national court. The court's decision was
criticized by the ruling Awami Federation and several
government members. In November, Chief Justice Surendra
Kumar Sinha resigned, who has often fought against the
government's attempts to interfere in the justice system.
The government had previously accused him of bribery.
During the year, preparations for parliamentary elections
began in 2019. In February, the government appointed a new
head of the electoral commission. Several groups, including
the largest opposition party Bangladesh's Nationalist Party
(GDP) and its support parties, considered it biased.
Investigations continued against GDP leader Khaleda Zia
for corruption, among other things. Several of her party
members were also arrested for similar suspicions and acts
of violence against members of the Awami League. Prosecutors
demanded in December that Zia's son, Tarique Rahman, and
just over 40 others be sentenced to death for a grenade
attack in 2004 against a party meeting led by Sheikh Hasina,
then opposition leader. More than 20 were killed. Rahman,
who lives in exile, dismisses the charge.
The economy showed good growth. It was just over 7% for
the financial year 2016-17, which ended last June. The
manufacturing sector grew by 10% while agriculture grew by
almost 3%. Bangladesh was also reported to have made
progress on gender equality. A compilation of the World
Economic Forum network showed that the country was in 47th
place among 144 countries, an advance with 25 placements
compared to 2016 and the best in South Asia. Sweden was
fifth on the list, which was topped by Iceland.
Bangladesh topped another bleak list: In 2015, more than
one in four deaths in the country were estimated to be
linked to environmental pollution - the highest proportion
in the world, according to a study published by the medical
journal The Lancet in October.
Over 150 people died in floods and clay land during the
year. The floods affected up to 8 million people, according
to the UN.