(BBC) Should it be Burma or Myanmar?
CIA World Factbook: Burma
Cyclone Nargis: 3.2 Million Burmese Affected, Limited Humanitarian Assistance Poses Health Threat as Conditions Worsen 14 May 2008
Guardian files on Cyclone Nargis
(BBC) Burma and China: Tale of two disasters 19 May 2008
Aung San Suu Kyi
(The Elders) Desmond Tutu: Speaking to Aung San Suu Kyi – at long last! 2 December 2010
Burma’s daily newspapers return to challenge state monopoly
Independent papers published on Monday for first time since 1960s
Myanmar riots stoke fears of widening sectarian violence
(Reuters) – Myanmar declared martial law in four central townships on Friday after unrest between Buddhists and Muslims stoked fears that last year’s sectarian bloodshed was spreading into the country’s heartland in a test of Asia’s newest democracy.
Icon Under Fire: Burma’s Suu Kyi Eyes Presidency Amid Criticism
(Spiegel) Burma’s NLD has long basked in the reflected glory of its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who is eyeing the Burmese presidency in 2015. But the party is holding its first-ever conference this week amid growing internal tension and mounting criticism of the pro-democracy icon.
Balancing conservation and growth in Myanmar
Aid and investment in Myanmar are expected to boost economic growth, especially in the sphere of natural resources. The government says it is aiming for green growth, but how will it balance development with environmental preservation, Aaron Russell asks. CIFOR Forests News Blog (1/9)
Myanmar reforms: Social issues standing in way?
While democratic reforms in Myanmar have been grabbing headlines, observers warn that they are having little impact for the many citizens burdened by poverty, ethnic disputes and censorship. “Change is happening in the upper levels of government … but the lives of the people are largely the same as before,” said Sein Win, an editor at Mizzima News, which was founded by exiles from Myanmar. IRINNews.org (11/19)
Burma greets Obama with great expectations
Barack Obama is the first serving US president to visit Burma and hopes are high his arrival signals a better economic future
Expectations for Obama’s visit are high across this poor and troubled country. For the reformist president Thein Sein – who in under two years has led Burma from being a pariah nation to host of the most powerful man in the world – the visit is the most concrete sign yet that he has successfully brought his country in from the diplomatic cold.
For pro-democracy campaigners such as Win Htein – who was elected to parliament in April for the National League of Democracy led by Nobel prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi – it will reinforce efforts to take on the still hugely powerful military. For the poor, such as Yi Yi Cho – who ekes out a living from a snack stall in Rangoon’s Ahlone neighbourhood – Obama’s arrival means a better economic future.
Will Burma’s forests survive as the country opens its doors to the world?
As the nation embraces democracy and encourages development, questions are being raised over the fate of biodiversity
(The Guardian) The country’s Northern Forest Complex, a 12,000-square-mile tract that runs along the border from India to China in Burma’s Kachin State, is home to tigers, bears, elephants, and hundreds of bird species. The heart of that forest, at nearly 8,500 square miles, is Burma’s Hukaung Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, the largest tiger preserve in the world.
Now, as Burma cautiously embraces democracy and opens up to the world — President Obama will visit the country next week, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to do so — a key question is what impact an influx of outside capital and foreign expertise will have on the country’s wild lands, biodiversity, and natural resources. The sanctions imposed by Western governments in response to the military dictatorship’s brutal human rights record arguably helped to preserve Burma’s remote areas by denying access to credit and foreign investment that would have otherwise been used for road building in the northern jungles.
But with Western governments now lifting sanctions to reward the government’s democratic reforms, some experts warn that an influx of foreign capital might open the floodgates to development and cause significant environmental harm.
Obama to address human rights during Myanmar visit
U.S. President Barack Obama will urge Myanmar’s leaders to end ethnic violence and protect human rights during his upcoming visit there. The Myanmar government needs to continue its steps in restoring peace, allowing humanitarian access and bringing perpetrators of ethnic violence to justice, according to White House national security adviser Tom Donilon. Of special concern are Muslim communities in Rakhine State, along Myanmar’s western border, Donilon noted. AlertNet/Reuters (11/15)
Latest Myanmar violence displaced some 22,500 people, UN says
The United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Myanmar, Ashok Nigam, said that the government must do more to enforce the laws in Rakhine state and end clashes between ethnic Buddhists and Muslims that have in one week destroyed more than 4,600 houses and displaced more than 22,500 people. State television reported that at least 84 people died in the latest clashes. “I am gravely concerned by the fear and mistrust that I saw in the eyes of the displaced people,” Nigam said. Al-Jazeera (10/29), The Washington Post/The Associated Press (10/28), Reuters (10/28)
UN: Rakhine clashes jeopardize Myanmar reforms
The fresh wave of violence between Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine threatens to derail reform efforts nationwide, the United Nations warns. The unrest was triggered in May by the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman by a group of Muslim men, while the latest vigilante attacks — leading to an unspecified number of deaths and the razing of villages — follows the death Sunday of a Buddhist trader. BBC (10/26), The Economist/Banyan blog (10/24), IRINNews.org (10/25)
Aung San Suu Kyi’s Buddhism Problem
(FP) Why isn’t Burma’s democracy icon speaking up for minorities — and against her country’s nationalistic, racist, xenophobic, and occasionally violent Buddhist majority?
Suu Kyi has a Buddhism problem. Specifically, she faces an obstacle in the chauvinism and xenophobia of Burma’s Theravada culture, which encourages a sense of racial and religious superiority among majority Burman Buddhists at the expense of ethnic and religious minorities. Although the world has been largely focused on the drama between Burma’s military leaders and “The Lady,” fraught relations between ethnic Burmans, who make up 60 percent of the country’s population, and the non-Burman minorities, who make up the remaining 40 percent, could leave the country politically fragmented — and strengthen the military’s hand just as it has been forced to loosen its grip.
‘Super’ Cabinet Seeks to Save Myanmar
The current cabinet reshuffle shows the president’s commitment to the reform, according to many analysts. “The signs are very good that this new Cabinet will help unblock the recent log-jam in the reform process and generally push for greater economic liberalisation,” said the Australian economic expert, Sean Turnell. “Many of the new ministers and deputy ministers are very committed economic reformers.
But Thein Sein’s other aim is to improve the efficiency of the government bureaucracy and inject new blood into the administration. Competency, efficiency and effectiveness are now to be the watchwords for the government and the civil service, many diplomats in Rangoon believe.
“The battle between the hardliners and reformers has been exaggerated,” a presidential advisor told IPS on condition of anonymity. “The faultline is between competence and incompetence; between effectiveness and ineffectiveness.”
Burma floods drive tens of thousands from their homes
(The Guardian) Worst monsoon flooding in years submerges hundreds of thousands of hectares of rice fields, causing 85,000 to flee
Myanmar government ends direct media censorship
(AP) — Myanmar abolished direct censorship of the media Monday in the most dramatic move yet toward allowing freedom of expression in the long-repressed nation. But related laws and practices that may lead to self-censorship raise doubt about how much will change.
Under the new rules, journalists will no longer have to submit their work to state censors before publication as they for almost half a century. However, the same harsh laws that have allowed Myanmar’s rulers to jail, blacklist and control the media in the name of protecting national security remain unchanged and on the books.
Nobody’s people in a no-man’s land
Nearly a million Rohingya living in Myanmar are unwanted at home and shunned by neighbouring countries.
(Al Jazeera) The Buddhist Rakhines and the Muslim Rohingya have a long tradition of intense hostility that goes back to the steady flow of Muslim immigrants from Bengal’s Chittagong region into Arakan province, migration that was encouraged by the British. Thousands of Rakhines and Rohingya died in riots in Arakan in 1942 during the Second World War. The Japanese also massacred large number of Rohingya because they supported the British.
In 1947, some Rohingya leaders formed the Mujahid Party and raised the demand for a separate Muslim Autonomous Region in northern Arakan. That upset the Rakhines and the Burmese military junta alike, and General Ne Win unleashed “Operation King Dragon” in the Rohingya-dominated areas of Arakan in 1978. The mass torture and extra-judicial killings, gang rapes and demolition of mosques forced nearly one-third of the Rohingya population to flee to Bangladesh. From there, many of them moved into India enroute to Pakistan and elsewhere in the Middle east.
How Not to Invest in Myanmar
The Risks for the World’s Newest Frontier Market
(Foreign Affairs) After several decades of isolation, Myanmar has moved to the center of frontier markets’ maps. But Myanmar’s potentially fractious political climate and dangerously fragile economy mean that a rapid opening may bring unsettling results along with sudden wealth. With the global economy weakening, and even juggernauts such as India and China creaking, the lure of rapid growth will be hard for investors to resist. But waves of foreign direct investment chasing high returns have overwhelmed fragile, newly opened economies in the past. In these countries, which usually lack fiscal discipline and strong monetary policy controls, often times there are wild swings in exchange rates, money supply, and inflation. A lack of standards increases the likelihood of creating financial bubbles as banks race to lend. A raft of questionable real estate projects, a familiar problem for Thailand in the late 1990s, often follows. The sudden inflow of foreign direct investment may recede just as quickly at the first sign of instability.
Ethnic minorities remain an issue for Myanmar
The role of religious and ethnic minorities in Myanmar has been increasingly drawing attention as the government advances reforms that resulted Wednesday in the formal easing of U.S. sanctions. Progress recently was recorded in the country’s enforcement of anti-slavery laws. The Economist/Banyan blog (7/7), The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (7/11), The Wall Street Journal (7/10), AlertNet/Reuters (6/20)
(HuffPost) Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi declared Saturday that the Nobel Peace Prize she won while under house arrest 21 years ago helped to shatter her sense of isolation and ensured that the world would demand democracy in her military-controlled homeland.
Suu Kyi received two standing ovations inside Oslo’s city hall as she gave her long-delayed acceptance speech to the Norwegian Nobel Committee in front of Norway’s King Harald, Queen Sonja and about 600 dignitaries. The 66-year-old champion of political freedom praised the power of her 1991 Nobel honor both for saving her from the depths of personal despair and shining an enduring spotlight on injustices in distant Myanmar.
How to Help Burma
By Radek Sikorski, Poland’s foreign minister
The rest of us should be constructive and creative, not prescriptive and pernickety. Above all, we should be patient.
(Project Syndicate) The EU’s suspension of sanctions and general readiness to engage constructively make sense. Burma’s leadership should respond by releasing all remaining political prisoners and opening up the entire political process. The EU also should ensure that its development assistance – and the process of delivering it – enhances pluralism and reconciliation by benefiting all of Burma’s communities fairly and transparently.
Poland is making its own direct contribution, above all by helping senior Burmese decision makers, opposition leaders, and business representatives to understand the “technology of transition” – that is, the sequencing of technical reforms, which has helped to make Poland one of Europe’s healthiest economies today. Our business representatives came with me to present large-scale investment projects.
Emergency in Myanmar state following riots
Curfew imposed in Rakhine towns amid fears of further violence between Muslims and Buddhists.
(Al Jazeera) President Thein Sein has declared a state of emergency in western Myanmar following deadly clashes between local Buddhists and Muslim Bengalis.
State television on Sunday said a dusk to dawn curfew has been imposed in the Rakhine state capital of Sittwe and three other townships. Public gathering of more than five persons were also banned.
The move follows rioting on Friday in two other areas of Rakhine state that, according to state media, left at least seven people dead and 17 wounded, and saw hundreds of houses burned down.
Myanmar: Open for business
As political reforms kick in and foreign investment floods in, we ask if Myanmar could be Asia’s next economic tiger.
Myanmar Open to Reducing Army’s Political Role, Minister Says
(Bloomberg) Myanmar’s charter allocates 25 percent of parliamentary seats to soldiers, a requirement opposed by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The country’s transition to democracy in recent months after about five decades of military rule has prompted the U.S. and European Union to ease sanctions.
Aung San Suu Kyi urges ‘healthy scepticism’ on Burmese reform
In first major speech outside Burma for 24 years, NLD leader tells World Economic Forum her people are still desperately poor
(The Guardian) Aung San Suu Kyi has urged the international community to exercise “healthy scepticism” as Burma’s military rulers embark on reform.
After 24 years of isolation in Burma, the Nobel prize winner received a standing ovation as she took the podium at the World Economic Forum in Bangkok for a speech that was broadcast worldwide.
Burma suffering from huge shortfall in HIV and Aids drugs, warn doctors
MSF bemoans ‘tragic’ shortage of antiretroviral drugs as new drug-resistant tuberculosis strand causes further concern
Doctors in Burma are calling for the “devastating gap” between people’s need and access to treatment for HIV and Aids to be bridged. There are approximately 240,000 people with HIV in Burma, half of whom are in urgent need of life-saving antiretroviral treatment (ART), say doctors. According to national estimates in 2010, less than 30,000 of them were receiving it.
Aung San Suu Kyi takes oath at Burmese parliament
National League for Democracy leader and her MPs claim seats after being kept out by military for nearly 25 years
(The Guardian) Aung San Suu Kyi has entered the Burmese parliament to take the oath of office and her seat as an elected member, ushering in a historic new political era after years of oppressive military rule.
The woman who led a nearly quarter of a century struggle for democracy in Myanmar had originally refused to take an oath to “safeguard” the constitution, because her National League for Democracy wants the document amended to reduce the military’s dominance of government.
Burma Gold Rush
(Council on Foreign Relations) As it has become clear that Western sanctions on Burma will be dropped, the once-sleepy city of Rangoon has become like a gold rush village. The few business-class hotels in the city centre, once so empty you could walk whole floors without seeing anyone, are now taking reservations months in advance. Every day, business delegations tour Rangoon and Naypyidaw, the capital.
Conferences, a new phenomenon in Burma, are sprouting up: oil industry conferences; aid conferences; conferences on media reform; conferences on the financial sector. The Burmese are beginning to pick up the jargon and to speak of “building capacity,” and “sustainable engagement.” Outside the venues, street sellers offer souvenirs, snacks, and newspapers. Returning exiles are setting up businesses to cater for travellers, while top-end travel agents, who have struggled, are now inundated with requests.
Myanmar’s army and the economy
The road up from Mandalay — In the sticks, the army’s business activities are all too present
AFTER two decades spent punishing Myanmar with economic sanctions, now Western countries cannot seem to ditch them fast enough. Since by-elections on April 1st were won almost entirely by Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition National League for Democracy, earlier caution on this issue has been cast aside. Australia and America have lifted travel and financial restrictions on hundreds of members of Myanmar’s establishment. The Americans have also promised to ease sanctions on some business sectors, while allowing in American humanitarian groups. Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, recently in Myanmar, says that the European Union should suspend all sanctions, while maintaining an arms embargo.
The moves reward the government for reforms made so far, and are intended to encourage more of the same. And in lockstep with political progress has come welcome economic news: the introduction of a unified exchange rate for the kyat, Myanmar’s currency, and the announcement of plans to set up a stock exchange.
Yet a sense of the challenges Myanmar faces on the way to becoming a proper market economy governed by the rule of law can be had by venturing outside the two big cities.
After election, Myanmar looks to wind down Karen insurgency
As part of its efforts to open to the wider world, the government of Myanmar is looking to end a long-running insurgency with members of the indigenous Karen National Union. Karen leaders met with President Thein Sein as well as opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was recently elected to Parliament. The Wall Street Journal (4/8)
Suu Kyi’s Party Declares Landslide as Myanmar Opens Up
(Bloomberg) Myanmar dissident Aung San Suu Kyi’s party said it is on pace to win every seat it contested in by- elections yesterday that may prompt the U.S. and European Union to lift sanctions and end the country’s global isolation.
The National League for Democracy won 43 of the 44 seats it competed for and leads in the vote count for the remaining district, spokesman Nyan Win said, giving it representation in the 664-member Parliament that will still be dominated by President Thein Sein’s party. The party didn’t field a candidate for one of the 45 legislative seats up for grabs.
Aung San Suu Kyi hails ‘new era’ for Burma after landslide victory
(The Guardian) Thousands celebrate historic byelection victory as the National League for Democracy wins 40 out of 45 open seats
How Myanmar Liberates Asia by Robert D. Kaplan
Myanmar’s ongoing liberalization and its normalization of relations with the outside world have the possibility of profoundly affecting geopolitics in Asia — and all for the better.
Geographically, Myanmar dominates the Bay of Bengal. It is where the spheres of influence of China and India overlap. Myanmar is also abundant in oil, natural gas, coal, zinc, copper, precious stones, timber and hydropower, with some uranium deposits as well. The prize of the Indo-Pacific region, Myanmar has been locked up by dictatorship for decades, even as the Chinese have been slowly stripping it of natural resources. Think of Myanmar as another Afghanistan in terms of its potential to change a region: a key, geo-strategic puzzle piece ravaged by war and ineffective government that, if only normalized, would unroll trade routes in all directions.
Burma Elections: On the Campaign Trail with Aung San Suu Kyi
(TIME) They waited for hours in the merciless Burmese sun for their Lady to arrive. On March 22, Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi traveled in an unlikely convoy of shiny Land Rovers, ancient Jeeps, tractors, motorcycles, trishaws and even the occasional oxen cart to the township of Kawhmu. For the first time in her life, the longtime opposition leader is directly participating in the democratic process by running for a parliamentary seat in Burma’s April 1 by-elections. A year before, simply flashing a clandestine image of the Nobel laureate known simply as the Lady (or, alternatively, Auntie Suu or Mother Suu) could invite arrest. A year before that, Suu Kyi was confined under house arrest at the behest of the country’s ruling junta, who locked her up for most of 20 years. Back then, to talk of the Lady was to speak in whispers.
Most Child Soldiers in the World: Burma
Burma’s dictator Than Shwe has recruited up to 70,000 child soldiers, as young as age eleven. Some of these innocent kids are rounded up and forced into uniform at gunpoint, while others are lured into the Burmese military with promises of money and prestige. The children are then forced to carry out human rights abuses against their own people. In our interviews with child soldiers who have escaped, they recount how children are told by their military superiors that if they try to escape they will be beaten or killed.