Annual Report: Myanmar 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Myanmar 2011

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Head of state: Senior General Than Shwe
Head of government: General Thein Sein
Death penalty: abolitionist in practice
Population: 50.5 million
Life expectancy: 62.7 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 120/102 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 91.9 per cent


Elections in Myanmar were carried out amid severe restrictions on freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association. The authorities arrested government critics and ethnic minority activists for political activities. Some 2,200 political prisoners remained in detention, many suffering from ill-health. The government forcibly displaced residents of villages, or in some cases entire areas, to facilitate government-run or supported development and infrastructure projects.


In November, Myanmar carried out its first national elections in two decades amid credible reports of widespread fraud and irregularities. The election process was designed to maintain the military's grasp on authority, and many ranking officers resigned from the military in order to contest the polls and participate in the new government as civilians. A government-sponsored party reportedly won an overwhelming majority of the vote.

The winner of the 1990 elections, the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, boycotted the polls. A week after the elections, the government released Aung San Suu Kyi after seven and a half years under house arrest.

Throughout August the government continued to pressure ethnic minority armed groups that had previously agreed to ceasefires, to become Border Guard Forces. Sporadic battles before and after the elections displaced people internally and forced some to seek refuge across the Thai border.

Throughout the year, there were growing calls for an international Commission of Inquiry to investigate allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Myanmar.

Elections-related violations

Electoral laws promulgated in March and further directives later in the year violated the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association. They disenfranchised or otherwise excluded many individuals and groups, including Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners, by prohibiting them from joining political parties, voting or contesting the elections. Campaign speeches broadcast on state media were prevented from criticizing the government or mentioning any of the country's problems. Authorities arrested some individuals who spoke out on elections-related issues or criticized the government, both before and after the polls.

  • On 27 September, authorities sentenced Ashin Okkanta, an ethnic Mon monk arrested in January, to 15 years' imprisonment for campaigning against elections and calling for the release of all political prisoners in Myanmar.
  • During the final two weeks of September, authorities arrested 11 students in Yangon for handing out leaflets urging people not to vote, six of whom remained in detention.

Repression of ethnic minority activists

The government continued to repress ethnic minorities protesting in relation to the elections as well as those who peacefully opposed the impact of development and infrastructure projects on the environment. Authorities also persecuted ethnic minorities for their real or suspected support of armed groups.