Over the past year, the Burmese government released nearly 400 political prisoners, relaxed media censorship, and permitted opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party to assume the 43 parliamentary seats it won in April’s by-election.
But the government failed to hold security forces accountable for serious abuses against civilians during the armed conflict in Kachin State and sectarian violence targeting Rohingya Muslims in Arakan State, obstructed humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of displaced people in both crisis areas, and cracked down on peaceful demonstrators in Rangoon and elsewhere, Human Rights Watch said.
“No one expects that a rights-respecting democracy will arrive overnight, but Burma is still failing basic rights tests on its remaining political prisoners, blocked humanitarian aid, and ensuring accountability for war crimes.
Laws that have been used to imprison peaceful activists, lawyers, and journalists remain on the books, including, among others, the Unlawful Associations Act, the Electronics Act, the State Protection Act, and the Emergency Provisions Act. While Burmese President Thein Sein released an estimated 400 political prisoners in 2012 in general amnesties, as many as several hundred more political prisoners remain in prison. Freed political prisoners face restrictions on travel and education, and lack adequate psychosocial support.