For the past half-century, the Burmese junta controlled all branches of power in Myanmar, impoverishing the country and abusing its people. But within the last year, President Thein Sein has showed an inclination toward reform: Burma held parliamentary elections in April, when the opposition National League for Democracy was allowed to openly campaign and won 43 seats, including one for its leader, longtime dissident Aung San Suu Kyi. Still, it remains unclear how far the government's reforms will go, and numerous conflicts between the state and the country's ethnic minority militias remained unresolved. The parliament -- like all other branches of government -- continues to be dominated by the party supported by the military junta. Some of the worst rights abuses take place in the border regions of Burma, which are populated by ethnic minorities, including the Chin, Karen, and Rohingya, who are frequent victims of abuses. Government confrontations with ethnic militias displaced tens of thousands of refugees in 2011, though several insurgency groups agreed to ceasefire deals by the year's end. Some 10,000 of these refugees who fled from Burma to China currently live in makeshift camps and face food and water shortages.
Above, Rakhine Buddhist monks pray in Yangon on June 10, 2012 as hundreds of demonstrators gather at the Shwedagon pagoda after unrest flared in the western Myanmar state and at least seven people were killed.
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