Freedom in the World
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Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
The military regime forged ahead in 2009 with its “roadmap to democracy,” a plan intended to legitimize its grip on power. The process called for national elections that were expected to be held in 2010, and the junta continued to arrest and imprison political dissidents in 2009, ensuring their marginalization ahead of the voting. It also extended the house arrest of opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in August, ostensibly punishing her for a bizarre incident in which an American man swam across a lake and stayed uninvited in her home for two days. Tensions between the military and armed ethnic groups increased in the fall, as the groups refused to incorporate themselves into the military’s Border Guard Force, impeding the government’s goal of national unity by 2010.
Although the United States sought “constructive engagement” with the Burmese regime in 2009, economic sanctions remained in place. The global recession added to the country’s difficulties, which include a lack of contract enforcement and effective property rights, as well as arbitrary and ill-informed macroeconomic policymaking.
Burma is not an electoral democracy. The SPDC rules by decree; controls all executive, legislative, and judicial powers; suppresses nearly all basic rights; and commits human rights abuses with impunity. Military officers occupy almost all cabinet positions, and active or retired officers hold the top posts in all ministries as well as key positions in the private sector. The SPDC does not tolerate dissent and has a long history of imprisoning anyone who is critical of the government.