Believing they have no future in Rakhine State, tens of thousands of Rohingya take to the seas each year at the end of the monsoon season, paying human traffickers to get them to countries such as Malaysia. On arrival, however, many are held by gangs who demand payment for their freedom.
Civil society activists and lawyers are concerned that a religious defamation law that once served as a tool of the military junta to jail its opponents is now being used selectively by the authorities to placate powerful Buddhist nationalists ahead of this year’s elections.
Hoteliers at Ngapali in southern Rakhine State have warned that beaches in the area could be irrevocably damaged unless the authorities stop allowing sand to be taken for construction projects.
In a harsh report this week summing up her latest mission to Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, the UN special rapporteur for human rights, noted “a growing atmosphere of fear, distrust and hostility” and urged the government to reverse what she called “the current slide towards extreme nationalism, religious hatred and conflict”.
Thirty ministries are set to be appointed permanent secretaries, who will become the highest-ranking civil servants.
A government resettlement program for IDPs in Rakhine State is not expected to move forward in 2015 as scheduled, aid workers and displaced people say, in part due to election-year politics and resistance to a citizenship verification program.
After her attacker was sentenced to life in prison, US teacher Kristen Shaffer has emerged from her ordeal and is urging others to speak up.