Burma’s government is headed by President Thein Sein; the military-run State Peace and Development Council was officially dissolved in 2011, although former and active military officers continued to wield authority at each level of government. In November 2010 the then-military regime held the country’s first parliamentary elections since 1990, which were neither free nor fair. The government’s main party, the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), claimed an overwhelming majority of seats in the national parliament and state/regional assemblies. Military security forces report to military channels, and civilian security forces, such as the police, report to a nominally civilian ministry headed by an active-duty military general.
Significant developments during the year included the emergence of a legislature that allowed opposition parties to contribute substantively to debates; democratic reforms such as the amendment of laws allowing opposition parties to register and Aung San Suu Kyi to announce her bid for Parliament; the release of hundreds of political prisoners; the relaxation of a number of censorship controls, the opening of some space in society for the expression of dissent; and an easing of restrictions on some internal and foreign travel for citizens.
Significant human rights problems in the country persisted, including military attacks against ethnic minorities in border states, which resulted in civilian deaths, forced relocations, sexual violence, and other serious abuses. The government also continued to detain hundreds of political prisoners. Abuses of prisoners continued, including the alleged transfer of civilian prisoners to military units. These units reportedly were often engaged in armed conflict in the border areas where they were forced to carry supplies, clear mines, and serve as human shields.
Government security forces were responsible for extrajudicial killings, rape, and torture. The government detained civic activists indefinitely and without charges. The government abused some prisoners and detainees, held persons in harsh and life-threatening conditions, routinely used incommunicado detention, and imprisoned citizens arbitrarily for political motives. The government infringed on citizens’ privacy and restricted freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and movement. The government impeded the work of many domestic human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). International NGOs continued to encounter a difficult--although somewhat improved--environment. Recruitment of child soldiers, discrimination against ethnic minorities, and trafficking in persons--particularly of women and girls--continued. Forced labor, including that of children, persisted.
The government generally did not take action to prosecute or punish those responsible for human rights abuses, with a few isolated exceptions. Abuses continued with impunity. Rampant corruption and the absence of due process undermined the rule of law.
Ethnic armed groups also committed human rights abuses, including forced labor and recruitment of child soldiers.