Burma has a quasi-parliamentary system of government in which the national parliament selects the president, and constitutional provisions grant one-quarter of national, regional, and state parliamentary seats to active duty military appointees; all other seats are open to elections. The military also has the authority to appoint the ministers of defense, home affairs, and border affairs and assume power indefinitely over all branches of the government should the president declare a national state of emergency. In November 2015 the country held nationwide parliamentary elections that the public widely accepted as a credible reflection of the will of the people. The then opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), chaired by Aung San Suu Kyi, won 390 of 491 contested seats in the bicameral parliament. Parliament elected NLD member U Htin Kyaw as president in March and created the position of State Counsellor for Aung San Suu Kyi in April, cementing her position as the country’s de facto leader.
The three leading human rights problems in the country in 2016 were human rights violations in ethnic minority areas affected by conflict, restrictions on freedoms of speech, and abuses against and restrictions on members of the Rohingya population. Authorities failed to protect civilians in conflict zones from killing, gross abuses, and displacement, but took some preliminary steps to address reports of abuses. While authorities returned approximately 20,000 Rohingya and other Muslim households displaced in 2012 communal violence to their locations of origin inside Rakhine State, more than 120,000 remained displaced in camps. An additional estimated 30,000 civilians were displaced due to the government’s security operations beginning in October in response to attacks by militants on Border Guard Police posts in Maungdaw, northern Rakhine State.
Other significant human rights problems persisted, including rape and sexual violence; forced labor; politically motivated arrests; widespread corruption; land-related conflict; restrictions on freedom of speech, assembly, and association; and intimidation and occasional arrests of journalists. Conditions in prisons and labor camps also remained harsh. Trafficking in persons, including forced labor of adults and children, continued. Although the government took some limited actions to prosecute or punish officials responsible for abuses, many such actions by government actors and security officials continued with impunity.