Burma. According to
Countryaah, the government's attempt to end the decades-long
armed conflicts with ethnic groups' rebel movements in the
north and northeast continued. At the beginning of the year,
there were various kinds of agreements with all major rebel
groups, but the agreement with the guerrilla Kachin
Independence Army (KIA) political organization KIO was
broken already in January when the army attacked a
Kachin-controlled area around the city of Laiza near the
Chinese border. The government first stated that the army
had acted without the knowledge of the political leadership,
but later explained that the military used aircraft and
helicopters to stop guerrilla operations.
New talks between the KIO and the government began in
May, and in October the parties were able to agree, among
other things, to partially withdraw their soldiers from
certain areas and on the ceasefire. The KIA and KIO's quest
for an independent state for the minority people kachin was
not discussed. In July, one of the country's largest
guerrilla groups, the Wastaten United Army (UWSA) in Shan
State in the north, entered into an agreement with the
government on certain troop retreats and continued peace
In January, the 25-year-old ban on people gathering with
more than five people in public places was abolished.
In March, serious violence erupted between Muslims and
Buddhists in Meiktila south of Mandalay in central Burma.
Dozens of people were killed in connection with the unrest
that would have originated in a riot inside a store, after
which Buddhist mobs attacked the Muslim minority in the
city. Several mosques were burned down. The violence then
spread to a number of other places in the central parts of
the country. Mosques, Muslim homes and shops were burnt
By the end of the month, dozens of people (mainly
Muslims) had been killed and nearly 13,000 people (a clear
majority of Muslims) felt compelled to flee their homes.
According to the police, those who were arrested mainly
Buddhists and suspects were among some believers that the
wave of violence was organized by a Muslim hostile group
within the influential Buddhist monk community in the area.
However, other judges considered the violence to spread
spontaneously, possibly with the influence of ethnic
violence between Muslims and Buddhists in the western state
of Rakhine, where human rights organizations warned that
ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority Rohingya was
ongoing. When emergency states were introduced in central
Burma, the situation became calmer.
President Thein Sein visited Europe for the first time in
February. He met with a number of leaders for the EU and
individual countries in order to strengthen Burma's
relations with the West.
In the same month, Democratic campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi
was formally elected chairman of his party NLD (National
Democratic Alliance), which in Rangoon held its first
congress ever. As a result of the abolition of the state
monopoly for newspaper publishing in August 2012, four
privately owned daily newspapers were published in April -
the first independent privately owned daily newspapers in
the country in almost half a century.
In the same month, the EU lifted all sanctions against
Burma and individual Burmese leaders, with the exception of
the arms embargo. The United States chose to retain some
sanctions in view of the violence against Muslims. According
to a government-appointed investigation, 190 people were
killed in the violence in the west in the summer of 2012 and
around 100,000 became homeless. The investigation
recommended that the security forces on site be doubled, but
the human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW)
warned that the security forces were suspected of
participating in the violence.
When President Thein Sein visited the United States in
May, Barack Obama praised the Burmese government for
political and economic reforms in recent years, but the US
president criticized the violence against the Rohingya
Muslim minority in the western state of Rakhine. It was the
first official US visit by a Burmese head of state since
1966. While the US visit was underway, six Muslims were
sentenced for the outbreak of violence in Meiktila in March.
No Buddhist was found guilty. In Rakhine, a law was passed
which says that Rohingyas are only allowed to have a maximum
of two children. No Buddhist restriction was imposed on
Violence between Muslims and Buddhists also erupted in
Shan State in the Northeast. A month later, a Muslim man was
sentenced to 26 years in prison for the murder of a Buddhist
woman in Shan State. This time, too, no Buddhist was
convicted of participating in the violence. In July, 23
people were sentenced to prison for participating in the
violence wave in Meiktila. The following month, new violence
broke out between the two groups after police refused to
hand over a Muslim, suspected of raping a Buddhist woman, to
a crowd. Violence of similar kind continued during the fall.
On a visit to Britain in July, President Thein Sein
promised that all political prisoners would be released
before the end of 2013. Earlier in the year, the government
had appointed a commission to investigate the situation of
the remaining political prisoners in order to release them.