Burma. According to countryaah, the UN had no major successes in trying to push the military junta into democratic reforms. Envoy Ibrahim Gambari visited in February and met with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in her house arrest but was not received by junta leader Than Shwe. The World Organization suffered a severe loss of prestige when Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon in July received an audience with Than Shwe but was not allowed to meet Aung San Suu Kyi.
At that time, Aung San Suu Kyi was facing trial, charged with violating the rules of her house arrest by letting an uninvited guest stay overnight in her barred villa. The 54-year-old American John Yettaw had, for unclear reasons, swam across a lake to the opposition leader’s beach site, where he had to stay until he had recovered after the long swim. In early August, Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to three years in prison, which was immediately converted by the junta into 18 months of continued house arrest.
Yettaw was sentenced to seven years in prison, but was pardoned and deported following a plea from a visiting US senator, Democrat Jim Webb. He was the highest-ranking American to visit Burma in many years, and it signaled a new line from the United States towards the country. President Barack Obama wanted to try to influence the junta through commitment, not just punishment and isolation. Unlike Senator Webb, Senator Webb got to meet both Aung San Suu Kyi and Than Shwe. Shortly thereafter, a meeting in New York was held between Burma’s Minister of Health and US Deputy Foreign Minister Kurt Campbell in conjunction with the UN General Assembly’s autumn session. Campbell then visited Burma in November, thereby marking the United States’ desire for improved relations.
The many ethnic conflicts within Burma were reminded many times during the year. The UN announced increased efforts for the Muslim minority Rohingya in the state of Rakhine, which is denied citizenship, often put into forced labor and not allowed to move freely in the country. In June, in the state of Karen in eastern Burma, several thousand civilians were forced into Thailand during an army offensive against separatist guerrilla Karen National Union. And in the state of Shan in the north, about 30,000 people fled into China, escaping fighting between the army and local militia in August. A large part of the refugees were Chinese who mainly traded in the area.
As special envoy, UN Deputy Secretary-General Ibrahim Gambari was in the country several times. He announced in November 2007 that the regime and the opposition had agreed to a process that he hoped could lead to meaningful dialogue. Gambari referred to a statement by Aung San Suu Kyi that she would “cooperate with the authorities” in the interest of the nation. Labor Minister Aung Kyi was appointed as the contact person by the junta. After three dialogue meetings between Aung San Suu Kyi and Aung Kyi, the process ceased.
Since the election victory in 1990, the NLD as the main political party has been greatly reduced. In 2007, only about 80 of the 392 elected NLD representatives from the 1990 elections were thought to be politically active. The others were either dead, imprisoned or fleeing, or had withdrawn from political activity following threats.
The distrust and poor climate of cooperation between civilian and military authorities was most clearly expressed during the massive persecution of the Rohingya population in 2017.
In October 2016, several border posts in Rakhine State were attacked by the Arakan Rohingya Liberation Army (ARSA) armed group. The attack was severely hampered by the military in Myanmar, and the civilian population was particularly injured. In August 2017, a new attack on the security forces came from the rebel group. Hard fights drove large groups into flight, both among the Rakhine and Rohingya populations. In search of insurgents and sympathizers, the military struck particularly hard on the Rohingya population. In a month, over 500,000 Rohingya fled across the border to Bangladesh. Over the next few months another 200,000 followed. The refugees reported burnt-out villages, persecution, systematic killings and mass rape carried out by the military, sometimes under the leadership of local vigilante groups. Doctors Without Borders have estimated that at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed just the first month after the military offensive began. The military, for its part, claimed that the Arakan Rohingya Liberation Army was behind the killings of over 100 Hindu villagers. Relief organizations and journalists were given very limited access to the affected areas.
In March 2017, the UN Human Rights Council set up a commission to investigate allegations of military human rights violations in Rakhnie, Kachin and Shan states. The August 2018 report concluded with a recommendation that Army Chief Min Aung Hlaing and five other named generals should be investigated and charged with genocide in Rakhine State and for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan State. In the report, the commission emphasized that the civilian part of Myanmar’s government is not responsible for the abuses. The civil authorities, however, face strong criticism for failing to initiate necessary measures to protect civilians and to prevent escalation of the Rakhine refugee crisis. The Commission also criticized civil authorities for denying that the abuses have taken place and for preventing independent scrutiny of the abuses.