Burma. According to
Countryaah.com, the Burmese government was subjected to widespread
criticism during the year because of the crisis in the state
of Rakhine and reports of widespread persecution by the
Muslim minority Rohingya. The fiery conflict escalated
sharply in August. The military then went on the offensive
since rebels killed twelve policemen in attacks on police
posts and military missions in Rakhine. The Arsa rebel group
(Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army) took on the attacks. The
military and Buddhist citizenry responded by burning
villages and attacking civilians.
Within a few weeks, half a million Rohingya were
estimated to have moved to Bangladesh. It was referred to as
one of the fastest growing refugee crises since the Second
World War. Tens of thousands of people were also displaced
inside Burma. Hundreds of villages are set on fire and
observers, such as UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad
al-Hussein, warned that the Rohingya was being subjected to
ethnic cleansing. Aid organizations, foreign diplomats and
journalists were long denied access. Satellite images
published by several human rights groups documented the
devastation. Another source was the testimony of refugees.
As the crisis intensified, an international commission,
led by former UN chief Kofi Annan, presented suggestions on
how to improve the situation of the Rohingy. Among the
proposals presented in August were that stateless Rohingy
would be granted citizenship, the right to school and that
more would be invested in jobs and infrastructure. Rakhine
is considered to be Burma's poorest state.
Burma civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is titled
Chancellor of the State, decided not to travel to the UN
General Assembly in September as a result of the Rohingya
crisis. In a speech to the nation that month, she pointed
out that Burma did not fear "international scrutiny". But
critics pointed out that the government did not allow
international investigators to visit the conflict-affected
Suu Kyi was also criticized for not condemning the army's
violence. Claims were raised that she would be deprived of
her 1991 Peace Prize, but the Norwegian Nobel Committee said
it was not possible. However, she lost honors elsewhere, for
example in the UK. Other reviewers pointed out that Suu Kyi
must balance his role; according to the constitution that
the former military junta passed through, the military is
responsible for internal security. Not until November did
Suu Kyi visit several cities in Rakhine.
However, Suu Kyi's ruling party National Democratic
Alliance (NLD) was pleased with forecasts from the
International Monetary Fund that growth would be just over
6.7% for the fiscal year ending March 2018, almost a
percentage point higher than last year. One explanation was
the severe floods that hit the agricultural sector in 2016
and lower natural gas prices.
At the end of October, the military offensive was
reported to have been suppressed, but more than 600,000
people are estimated to have moved to Bangladesh. The same
month, a donor conference was held in Geneva, which promised
$ 344 million in aid.
Burma and Bangladesh agreed in November that the refugees
should return in early 2018. Bangladesh's foreign minister
said the UN refugee agency UNHCR would support the program.
However, uncertainty prevailed as to what degree of
voluntariness prevailed and whether Burma would truly accept
the refugees as most of them are not recognized as citizens.
In November, Burma hosted a meeting between 51 countries
in Europe and Asia, known as ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting). In
connection with it, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel,
EU Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini and Sweden's Margot
Wallström visited both Burma and Bangladesh. Pope Francis
visited the two countries later. The visit to
Buddhist-dominated Burma was the first one a pope conducted.
In order not to clash with the rulers of Burma and prevent
the country's small Christian minority from being subjected
to violence, the pope avoided mentioning the Rohingy by name
during the visit. Burma's OB, General Aung Min Hlaing,
stated that there was no religious persecution.
In Bangladesh, however, the Pope used the word "Rohingya"
at a meeting and asked Rohingya who fled Burma for
forgiveness for the treatment they were subjected to.
In December, Burma announced that the UN Special
Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma was no longer welcome
and cooperation would cease. In July, Yanghee Lee had
described how she was prevented from traveling freely and
expressed concern about the human rights situation.
After several weeks of delay, at the end of May a new
large meeting was held between the government, the military
and representatives of several of the country's 20 largest
ethnic groups. The Panglong Conference is part of a process
to fulfill the government's promise to end many years of
civil war and to give ethnic minorities such as Kachin, Shan
and Wa greater self-government. China intervened and ensured
that seven armed groups could participate in the inaugural