MaBaTha’s influence reportedly waned significantly following the government’s public denunciation of the group in July, although members of the organization continued circulating anti-Muslim materials in some villages and continued fanning religious tensions using social media. There were mass protests in Rakhine State and Rangoon in July opposing the government’s use of the term “Muslim community in Rakhine State” to refer to Rohingya, instead calling for the use of the pejorative term “Bengali.” The latter denotes what the protesters believed is the Rohingya’s status as undocumented immigrants as well as their cultural and ethnic roots in Bangladesh. Followers of a Buddhist monk in Karen State constructed a Buddhist structure and planted a Buddhist flag inside an Anglican church, and constructed a pagoda near a mosque in the Muslim-majority village of Hlaingbwe in April. Buddhists also reportedly prevented Muslim residents from buying or renting land or conducting business and threatened madrassah leaders to stop teaching. Religious and civil society leaders increasingly organized intrafaith and interfaith events and developed mechanisms to monitor and counter hate speech.
The U.S. government, including the Secretary of State, the Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, and the Ambassador, advocated for religious freedom and tolerance and consistently raised concerns about the violence in Bago Division and Kachin State, conditions in Rakhine State, including those facing Muslim communities and ethnic Rakhine, and the rise of anti-Muslim hate speech and tension. The embassy regularly highlighted concerns about religious-based tension and anti-Muslim discrimination and called for respect for religious diversity and tolerance. The embassy advocated for religious freedom and tolerance with all sectors of society.
Since 1999, Burma has been designated as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom. On October 31, 2016, the Secretary of State redesignated Burma as a CPC and identified the following sanction that accompanied the designation: the existing ongoing arms embargo referenced in 22 CFR 126.1(a) pursuant to section 402(c)(5) of the Act.
Download full report on Burma HERE.