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 group.
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 safely.
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.
According to 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 several occasions.
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.