The Worst of the Worst 2011 - Burma (Myanmar)

Population: 53,400,000
Capital: Rangoon

Political Rights: 7
Civil Liberties: 7
Status: Not Free

Ten-Year Ratings Timeline for Year under Review
(Political Rights, Civil Liberties, Status)
Year Under Review2001200220032004200520062007200820092010

2010 Key Developments: In November 2010, the military junta oversaw Burma's first parliamentary elections since 1990, thoroughly rigging the process to ensure a sweeping victory for the pro-military Union Solidarity and Development Party. The country's main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, refused to contest elections it deemed undemocratic and was formally dissolved by the government in September. However, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the party's longtime leader, was released in mid-November after years under house arrest. The authorities cancelled voting in several border areas populated by ethnic minorities, where the government had limited control and low-intensity civil conflict continued.

Political Rights: Burma is not an electoral democracy. The military junta long ruled by decree; it controlled all executive, legislative, and judicial powers, suppressed nearly all basic rights, and committed human rights abuses with impunity. Although the 2008 constitution, which the 2010 elections put into effect, establishes a parliament and a civilian president, it also entrenches military dominance, and allows the military to dissolve the civilian government if it determines that the "disintegration of the Union or national solidarity" is at stake. Criticism of the constitution is banned by a 1996 order that carries a penalty of 20 years in prison. The military retains the right to administer its own affairs, and members of the outgoing military government receive blanket immunity for all official acts. Given the lack of transparency and accountability, corruption and economic mismanagement are rampant at both the national and local levels.

Civil Liberties: The junta drastically restricts press freedom and owns or controls all newspapers and broadcast media. Media crackdowns continued in 2010, with at least 10 journalists detained during the year and two video journalists receiving multidecade prison sentences under the repressive Electronic Act. The authorities practice surveillance at internet cafes and regularly jail bloggers. The 2008 constitution provides for freedom of religion. It distinguishes Buddhism as the majority religion but also recognizes Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and animism. At times the government interferes with religious assemblies and discriminates against minority religious groups. Buddhist temples and monasteries have been kept under close surveillance since the 2007 monk-led protests and subsequent crackdown. Academic freedom is severely limited. Teachers are subject to restrictions on freedom of expression and are held accountable for the political activities of their students. Since the 1988 student prodemocracy demonstrations, the junta has sporadically closed universities and relocated many campuses to relatively isolated areas to disperse the student population. The judiciary is not independent. Judges are appointed or approved by the junta and adjudicate cases according to its decrees. Some of the worst human rights abuses take place in areas populated by ethnic minorities, who comprise roughly 35 percent of Burma's population. In these border regions the military arbitrarily detains, beats, rapes, and kills civilians. Burmese women have traditionally enjoyed high social and economic status, but domestic violence and trafficking are growing concerns. In the 2010 elections, only 114 out of 3,000 candidates were women. The Women's League of Burma has accused the military of systematically using rape and forced marriage as a weapon against ethnic minorities.

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