Burma/Myanmar 2012-2016

Written by  //  October 24, 2016  //  Government & Governance, Myanmar/Burma  //  4 Comments

(BBC) Should it be Burma or Myanmar?
CIA World Factbook: Burma
Aung San Suu Kyi
(The Elders) Desmond Tutu: Speaking to Aung San Suu Kyi – at long last! 2 December 2010

Calls Grow For Access To Northern Rakhine Amid Lockdown
(Eurasia Review) Human rights and humanitarian aid groups are urging Burma’s government to allow access to displaced populations in northern Arakan State amid tightened security following a series of attacks on border police nearly two weeks ago.
In a statement released on Friday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the country’s government and army to “urgently ensure humanitarian aid can reach ethnic Rohingya and other vulnerable populations in northern Rakhine [Arakan] State”, as fears grow about the impact of the continuing lockdown.
14 September
Obama says U.S. ready to lift Myanmar sanctions after Suu Kyi’s visit
(Reuters) With Suu Kyi no longer an opposition figure, the United States has been weighing a further easing of sanctions against Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, as Obama looks to normalize relations with a country Washington shunned when it was ruled by a military junta.
As Suu Kyi arrived for the meeting, the White House issued a statement saying it would reinstate Myanmar to the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), which provides duty-free treatment for goods from poor and developing countries.
A group of 46 non-governmental organizations circulated a letter they wrote to Obama on Monday expressing concern about easing sanctions on Myanmar while human rights abuses by the military and against Rohingya Muslims persisted.
On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee, criticized what he described as Suu Kyi’s “dismissive” reaction to concerns he had raised about her country’s record on human trafficking.
13 September
Keep the Pressure on Myanmar
(NYT Editorial Board) When Myanmar’s leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, meets with President Obama and members of Congress in Washington this week, one of the items for discussion will be easing the remaining American sanctions on Myanmar. That may be a tempting move, …  but it would be a mistake to lift all remaining sanctions now.
The oppression of the Rohingya, who are deprived of basic rights, including citizenship and freedom to worship and marry, is appalling. More than 120,000 Rohingya remain detained in government camps. Thousands have fled the country, many into the hands of traffickers. The use of forced labor in Myanmar, including sex trafficking, is widespread. In June, the Obama administration listed Myanmar among the world’s worst offenders in human trafficking.
12 September
myanmar-myitsone-map-updated-jan-2014  Brahma Chellaney: China’s Dam Problem With Myanmar
(Project Syndicate) China is a big fan of dams. Indeed, over the last 50 years, the country has constructed more dams than all other countries combined. But there is one dam that China never managed to get built: the Myitsone Dam in Myanmar. And Chinese leaders can’t seem to let it go.
The Myitsone Dam was to stand at the headwaters of the Irrawaddy River, Myanmar’s lifeline. It was designed as a hydroelectric power project, which would generate energy for export to China, at a time when Myanmar’s economy depended on its giant neighbor. Ruled by a brutal military junta, Myanmar faced crippling United States-led sanctions and broad international isolation.
Where others saw human-rights violations, China saw an opportunity to advance its own strategic and resource interests. When the Myitsone Dam project was introduced, China was also establishing a foothold in Myanmar’s Kyaukpyu port on the Bay of Bengal, from which it would build energy pipelines to southern China. …
But in 2011, just two years after the $3.6 billion project got underway, Myanmar’s government suddenly suspended the dam’s construction – a slap in the face to China. Moving toward democratic reform, President Thein Sein’s government was eager to cast off the view of Myanmar as a Chinese client state.
Sein got what he wanted. Myanmar’s reversal on the Myitsone Dam became a watershed moment for the country’s democratic transition. It helped to bring an end to Myanmar’s international isolation, and an easing of the long-standing Western sanctions that made Myanmar so dependent on China in the first place. In 2012, Barack Obama became the first US president ever to visit Myanmar.
1 August
Canada must pressure Burma to end abuse of Muslim minority
Hate movement led by Buddhist Monk Wirathu has significant support in Burma and the acquiescence of the government.
By Faisal Kutty, counsel to KSM Law, an associate professor at Valparaiso University Law School in Indiana and an adjunct professor at Osgoode Hall Law School.
(Toronto Star) Human rights activists claim Wirathu and his group, called 969, are the main forces behind riots that have killed scores and displaced thousands of Rohingya (a million strong ethnic Muslim minority living among more than 50 million Buddhists) since 2012.
Disturbingly, evidence suggests his hate movement has significant support in the country and even the acquiescence of the government. In fact, decades before Wirathu, described by some as the “Buddhist Bin Laden,” came on the scene, various state policies existed singling out the Rohingya.
Months after democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi won the country’s first national elections, calls to end the mistreatment of the Rohingya fall on deaf ears. In fact, the Nobel Laureate herself refuses to use the name “Rohingya.”
14 May
Aung San Suu Kyi’s Cowardly Stance on the Rohingya
10 May
US defies Myanmar government request to stop using term Rohingya
Ambassador Scot Marciel says Washington will continue to call persecuted Muslim minority by name objected to by Aung San Suu Kyi’s administration
18 April
Myanmar’s Suu Kyi vows to amend junta-era constitution
(New Delhi Times) Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi vowed Monday to push for constitutional amendments to build a true democracy in the Southeast Asian country as it emerges from decades of military control. Suu Kyi made the comments in a nationally televised address to mark the start of the Buddhist new year, highlighting her hopes for the future and also the difficult tasks ahead for her new government.
“Our policies and principles are to ensure national reconciliation, internal peace, the rule of law, amendments to the constitution and keeping the democratic system dynamic,” she said.
We hope that there would be protection for ethnic minorities including the Rohingya
1 April
Gwynne Dyer: Burma: ‘The Lady’ takes power
Are the generals really letting go? They have got very rich over the past half-century of military rule, and the Burmese army’s corporate domination of the economy leaves even the Egyptian army in the shade. They are certainly not going to let any new democratic government investigate how they got so rich, or do anything to cut off the cash flow that sustains them.
They are also going to watch very closely how Suu Kyi’s government handles the tricky question of negotiating ceasefires in the many military confrontations with Burma’s numerous minority peoples.
The last military president, Thein Sein, tried very hard to get a “Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement”, but failed. Now it is Suu Kyi’s turn to try, but the army won’t let her make a deal that will “damage national unity”. Just what that means is unclear, but the original military takeover in 1962 was triggered by an elected civilian president’s attempt to give Burma what it desperately needs: a federal system of government. The army still won’t allow that.
Myanmar’s Ruling Party Wants To Make Aung San Suu Kyi The ‘President’s Boss’
(NPR) … despite the constraints placed on her, Suu Kyi vowed to be “above the president” if her party won November’s election — which it did, in a landslide.
After failed attempts to persuade military leaders to allow changes to the constitution, she has also apologized to her supporters for not being able to be president.
The Guardian view on Myanmar’s new government: a hard row to hoe
Myanmar still has two governments – civilian and military. One will need to give way to the other
… Three important issues will all strain whatever degree of cooperation between the civilian government and the military exists. First, there is an urgent need for progress toward settlement of the ethnic insurgencies … Second, fighting will only end if federal status is given to minority areas, but that will involve dislodging the military in those places and, ultimately, rewriting the constitution. The special case of Arakan, by contrast, needs a firm hand – and obedient security forces – because Arakanese prejudice against the Rohingya is so entrenched.
25 March
Aung San Suu Kyi: What the ‘interviewed by Muslim’ BBC Today programme comment can tell us about her views
Given her tolerant, liberal background, why did she appear to rage about Mishal Husain after that difficult interview?
Suu Kyi has been struggling to attain power in Burma for the past 28 years. She is vastly popular with her fellow countrymen, more than 90 per cent of whom are Buddhists, like her. But her enemies in the military regime have never stopped trying to blacken her name. Their favourite method was to say that she wasn’t properly Burmese because she had been married to an Englishman, had lived in the West for many years and produced two foreign sons. And by depicting her as foreign, they tried to lump her together with the Muslim minority who are also regarded by many Burmese Buddhists as aliens with no right to remain in the country.
My hunch is that Suu Kyi feared that if she spoke up for the Rohingya, it would make it easy for her enemies to repeat this argument – and if the Burmese masses fell for it, that could erode her standing and her chances of coming to power. So she has been sitting uncomfortably on the fence for the past five years. Now she is coming to power with a solid parliamentary majority, perhaps she can relax and tell us what she really thinks.
22 March
Aung San Suu Kyi to hold ministry in Myanmar’s government
Leader of National League for Democracy is on list of cabinet members, confirming she will take up a formal position of power
Aung San Suu Kyi will be a minister in Myanmar’s new cabinet when it takes power in April, the speaker of parliament has said, ending weeks of speculation over whether the leader of the country’s governing party would hold a formal position in government.
“It doesn’t matter how many ministries she takes as she will run the whole government anyway,” said Win Htein, a senior National League for Democracy politician close to Aung San Suu Kyi.
Only 18 of 21 ministers were disclosed in Tuesday’s short and vague announcement in parliament. However, a separate list obtained by Reuters news agency, which it said was from parliament sources, showed that Aung San Suu Kyi would lead four ministries: minister of the president’s office, foreign affairs, electric power and energy, and education.
11 March
Iain Marlow: A host of issues tests Myanmar’s nascent democracy
(Globe & Mail) The state, despite ceasefire agreements, is engaged in vicious conflicts with armed ethnic groups. There has been a rapacious extraction of natural resources, from minerals to jade and teak, that flows illicitly through cronies and across the border to China. Prolific poppy-growing and opium production is second only to Afghanistan. The judiciary is untrustworthy. There is little infrastructure.
To be sure, visitors to Rangoon are confronted by a bustling emerging market. Gross domestic product growth is around 8 per cent. Rangoon is humming with non-governmental organizations, fancy restaurants, cafés and air-conditioned malls. The last semi-civilian government of Thein Sein, which took over from the military in 2011 and began a process of democratic reforms – and led to Canada’s establishment of an embassy there in 2013 – has helped smooth the transition to outright democracy. The media are now freer than it was under the military. Civil society groups are flourishing. Most people now have cellphones.
But much of the country is rural and poor. And even the transition under the last government uncaged ethnic hatreds between the majority Buddhists – particularly extremist monks – and poor Muslims, such as the Rohingya, whose disenfranchisement during the voting process was one of the only major disappointments of the election.
There is very little time to celebrate Myanmar’s hard-won democracy. The really hard work begins now, and few know that more than Ms. Suu Kyi, who has waited decades for this moment. In a January speech, she pledged that her first order of business would be to make peace with Myanmar’s various ethnic groups.
1 March
The great land rush — Myanmar: The dispossessed
(Financial Times) For both would-be investors and the genuine reformers in Myanmar’s new government, conflict over land is a great spectre overshadowing their plans. A committee set up by parliament in 2012 to explore so-called land grabs since 1988 said in November that it had received about 17,000 complaints. Activists say these are a fraction of the number of actual disputes. Most of the alleged victims are farmers, in a country where as many as two-thirds of the population are estimated to depend directly or indirectly on agriculture. … Myanmar’s land battles are also deterring investment in a country that wants more of it. They form one of the most significant risks identified by businesses coming in. That includes past land-grabbing by the state. Investors fear the horrors of contested ownership, with all the legal complications, financial penalties and bad publicity that it can bring.
The country is also blessed with rich natural resources. Oilfield auctions since the end of absolute military rule have attracted players ranging from Chevron of the US, the Netherlands and UK’s Royal Dutch Shell and India’s Reliance Industries to a Kazakhstan gas magnate and assorted local tycoons.
Some extractive industries are dogged, however, by allegations of human rights abuses and corruption. The production of highly prized green jade has been estimated at $31bn annually, or almost half of official gross domestic product. Much of it is smuggled across the northern border to feed a market driven by China’s new rich.
Myanmar has ambitions to become Asia’s next factory floor, as China grows more expensive and its workers more assertive. Gap and H&M source clothes from factories in the industrial areas springing up and growing around Yangon, the country’s biggest city and commercial centre. Big hurdles ranging from infrastructure to electricity supply still need to be overcome, but labour costs are low. The minimum wage is just 36 cents an hour, compared with at least $1.65 an hour in China.
The Myanmar authorities have launched plans for a network of industrial zones, in the hope of fuelling a boom. An area at the heart of the island on which Kyaukphyu is located is due to become a complex of more than 4,000 acres with deep-sea port facilities, factories and fisheries. Officials have touted the Kyaukphyu special economic zone as a “mini-Singapore”, potentially providing a trade corridor between China, Africa and the Middle East.
30 January
Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi: The dark side of the hero
(The Age, Australia) Soon the world will witness a remarkable sight: a beloved Nobel Peace Prize winner presiding over 21st-century concentration camps. Aung San Suu Kyi, one of the world’s genuine heroes, won democracy for her country, culminating in historic elections in November that her party won in a landslide. As winner, Suu Kyi is also inheriting the worst ethnic cleansing you’ve never heard of, Myanmar’s destruction of a Muslim minority called the Rohingya.
A recent Yale study suggested that the abuse of the more than 1 million Rohingya may amount to genocide; at the least, a confidential UN report to the Security Council says it may constitute “crimes against humanity under international criminal law”.


16 November
Myanmar in graphics
An unfinished peace
(The Economist) ON FEBRUARY 12th 1947 General Aung San, the father of independent Burma, signed the Panglong agreement with representatives of the Shan, Chin and Kachin people—three of the largest of the many non-Burman ethnic groups that today make up about two-fifths of Myanmar’s population. The agreement said that an independent Kachin state was “desirable”, and promised “full autonomy in internal administration” to “Frontier Areas”, as today’s ethnic states were then known. Aung San was assassinated just over five months later. Under the 60 years of mostly military rule that followed, the spirit of the Panglong agreement has never been honoured. Many hope that the resounding victory of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party could revive the Panglong spirit.
Myanmar remains embroiled in several of the world’s longest-running civil wars. Over the years scores of ethnic militias have taken up arms against the central government. For six decades the Burmese army justified its repressive rule by saying it was essential to hold the country together. The outgoing government has signed ceasefires with many of the ethnic armies, but some have broken down. …
the workforce in neighbouring Thailand, a manufacturing powerhouse, is ageing and growing more expensive. Myanmar’s population of 51m is both young and cheap. The country abounds in natural resources, including gold, jade, timber, rubies, oil and natural gas. Yet many of those resources lie in territory controlled by ethnic armies.
12 November
Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won Myanmar’s election. The National League for Democracy took over two thirds of the country’s parliamentary seats, giving it a full mandate to rule. The military, which said it would respect the people’s’ vote, automatically retains 25% of the seats
9 November
Myanmar ruling party concedes poll defeat as Suu Kyi heads for landslide
(Reuters) – Myanmar’s ruling party conceded defeat in the country’s general election on Monday, as the opposition led by democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi appeared on course for a landslide victory that would ensure it can form the next government.
Mark Farmaner: Think Myanmar Is A Democracy Now? Think Again.
(World Post) When the new Parliament sits, the realities are going to start hitting home. Newly elected MPs will be joined by 116 MPs, 25 percent of the total, who are appointed by the head of the army. These MPs will choose one of the two vice presidents, who will, like them, be a soldier.
6 November
Why Obama Won’t Challenge Burma’s ‘Lady’
With a big national election on Sunday, Aung San Suu Kyi’s democracy movement is looking … not so democratic. And the U.S. is looking the other way.
(Politico) … while the U.S. won’t take a position on the election, it’s sticking with Suu Kyi no matter how much the reality fails to live up to the hype, and gambling that the payoff will be worth the price. It’s something of a broader metaphor for the tricky line the Obama administration has walked in its four-year-old effort to bring Myanmar out of the cold and into the international fold while reassuring Congress that it’s not selling out democracy activists and ethnic minorities.
The Nov. 8 elections– and the months of political maneuvering and wrangling that follow them – will be the biggest test yet of that strategy. That’s because on its face, the election will be neither free nor fair: Under the military-written constitution that the government refuses to amend, Suu Kyi cannot be president because her late husband was British and her two sons are foreign citizens, and the military retains a guaranteed 25 percent of parliament.
Instead, after pointing to Myanmar as a success story early on, the administration has been slowly, subtly lowering expectations about the election and pointing out how far the country has come from four years ago. It’s also warning that trade benefits and further economic and military ties could be endangered. “There are clearly going to be very strict limits on our engagement with the country absent continued progress,” says[Ben] Rhodes [President Obama’s deputy national security advisor for strategic communications].
4 November
Myanmar Buddhist radicalism fuels Thai push for state religion
(Bangkok Post) A campaign to enshrine Buddhism as Thailand’s state religion has been galvanised by a radical Buddhist movement in neighbouring Myanmar that is accused of stoking religious tension, the leader of the Thai bid said.
Experts say the campaign could appeal to Thailand’s military junta, which is struggling for popularity 18 months after staging a coup, and tap into growing anti-Muslim sentiment in a country that prides itself on religious tolerance.
While Buddhists form an overwhelming majority in both countries, Thailand has avoided the nationwide religious violence that has killed hundreds of people in Myanmar, most of them Muslims.
26 August
Myanmar’s Buddhist Extremists Threaten Muslims
The 969 Movement considers most of the world its enemy
According to Nandaw Batha and other 969 monks, religious pluralism is part of a historical and international conspiracy to destroy Buddhism in Myanmar. Muslims are the principle antagonists and — according to Buddhist 969 members in Rakhine state who have become a cause célèbre of the wider movement — the Rohingya even more so.
25 June
Myanmar parliament votes to keep military veto
(BBC) A vote in Myanmar’s parliament has failed to remove the army’s veto over constitutional change, dealing a blow to hopes for fuller democracy.
The bill received a majority of MPs’ votes but not the 75% needed to pass.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy is expected to see big gains against the ruling party in an election likely to take place in the autumn.
The NLD swept the last free general election in 1990 but the then-ruling military junta ignored the results.
Ms Suu Kyi is barred from running for president because her two sons hold British not Burmese passports – a ruling she says is unfair.
Earlier in June, a parliamentary committee proposed changes to the constitution article that bars Ms Suu Kyi – but they did not change the part that affects her status.
1 June
The Economist explains The plight of the Rohingyas
The Rohingya are a Muslim people in a Buddhist-majority country. Some Rohingya can trace their ancestry in Rakhine state back hundreds of years, to a time when it was an independent kingdom called Arakan (and Sittwe was called Akyab). Hundreds of thousands more, however, migrated from what was then Bengal after the British seized Akyab in the 1820s, beginning the gradual conquest of the whole of what was then Burma. In contemporary British records these immigrants were listed as Chittagonians or Mahommedans. They came to get jobs mainly in the booming port city of Akyab, which exported most of the country’s rice. By 1920s Burma was the biggest rice-exporter in the world.
However, this mass immigration was bitterly resented by the local Buddhist Rakhine, who viewed the incomers merely as satraps of their hated colonial masters. The Rakhine had no control over immigration policy, which, as Burma was administered as part of Britain’s Indian empire, was entirely in the hands of the colonial power. To this day the Rohingya are merely called “illegal immigrants” by the Rakhine, or at best by the pejorative term “Bengali”. Hatreds were stirred further during the second world war when the retreating British armed some of the Rohingya to help them fight the advancing Japanese. The Rakhine claim that these weapons were then turned against them. The Burmans, the majority ethnic group of Myanmar, also resented the influx of Rohingya and since Burma won independence from the British in 1948 have consistently refused to give them citizenship. The Rohingya were not included as one of the country’s 135 official indigenous ethnic groups in the notorious 1982 citizenship act.
Obama calls on Myanmar to end Rohingya discrimination
(Al Jazeera) Myanmar should treat Rohingya Muslims decently to be successful in its transition to democracy, US president says.
Matt Dillon Puts Rare Celebrity Spotlight on Rohingya
(TIME) American actor Matt Dillon put a rare star-powered spotlight on Myanmar’s long-persecuted Rohingya Muslims, visiting a hot, squalid camp for tens of thousands displaced by violence and a port that has served as one of the main launching pads for their exodus by sea.
Though Rohingya have been victims of state-sponsored discrimination for decades, conditions started deteriorating three years ago after the predominantly Buddhist country of 50 million began its bumpy transition from a half-century of dictatorship to democracy. Taking advantage of newfound freedoms of expression, radical monks started fanning deep-seated societal hatred for the religious minority. Hundreds have been killed by machete-wielding mobs and a quarter million others now live under apartheid-like conditions in camps or have fled by boat -hundreds of dehydrated, hungry Rohingya washing onto Southeast Asian shores in recent weeks.
Denied citizenship, they are effectively stateless with almost no basic rights. As they become increasingly marginalized, several groups are warning that the building blocks of genocide are in place.
(PBS Newshour) Thousands of Rohingya Muslims have attempted to flee Myanmar, where they are seen as illegal immigrants, Lucy Watson of Independent Television News reports from Rakhine State, where 140,000 Rohingya are living in camps and yearning to escape.
29 May
UN and Myanmar spar over Rohingya at migrant talks
Seventeen nations attend summit in Bangkok on Southeast Asia crisis but talks not being attended at minister level
(Al Jazeera) Representatives from 17 nations are meeting in the Thai capital on Friday for talks on the crisis, which has seen thousands of desperate people flee on boats across the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea aiming for Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Myanmar’s delegate to the talks in Bangkok rebuked the UN’s refugee agency for calling on the country to recognise the Muslim Rohingya minority as citizens to stem their exodus from its shores.
28 May
Beyond the Middle East: The Rohingya Genocide
Ramzy Baroud
(The American Muslim/TAM) The whole Southeast Asian region is culpable. They have ignored the plight of the Rohingya for years. While tens of thousands of Rohingya are being ethnically cleansed, having their villages torched, forced into concentration camps and some into slavery, Burma is being celebrated by various western and Asian powers as a success story of a military junta-turned democracy.
“After Myanmar moved from dictatorship toward democracy in 2011, newfound freedoms of expression gave voice to Buddhist extremists who spewed hatred against the religious minority and said Muslims were taking over the country,” reported the Associated Press from the Burmese capital, Yangon.
That “newfound freedom of expression” has cost hundreds of people their lives, thousands their properties, and “another 140,000 Rohingya were driven from their homes and are now living under apartheid-like conditions in crowded displacement camps”.
While one may accept that freedom of expression sometimes invites hate speech, the idea that Burma’s supposed democracy has resulted in the victimisation of the Rohingya is as far from the truth as it gets. Their endless suffering goes back decades and is considered one of the darkest chapters in Southeast Asia’s modern history. When they were denied citizenship in 1982 – despite the fact that it is believed that they descended from Muslim traders who settled in Arakan and other Burmese regions over 1,000 years ago – their persecution became almost an official policy.

24 May

Aung San Suu Kyi’s inexcusable silence
Aung San Suu Kyi was a moral icon, a human rights champion – so why has she been silent about the Rohingya Muslims?
Mehdi Hasan, award-winning British journalist, broadcaster, author and social commentator.
(Al Jazeera Opinion) These Rohingya “boat people”, however, are a symptom of a much bigger problem. As Kate Schuetze, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Researcher, has observed: “The thousands of lives at risk should be the immediate priority, but the root causes of this crisis must also be addressed. The fact that thousands of Rohingya prefer a dangerous boat journey they may not survive to staying in Myanmar speaks volumes about the conditions they face there.”
Those oppressive conditions range from a denial of citizenship to Myanmar’s 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims to severe restrictions on their movement, employment and access to education and healthcare, as well as a discriminatory law imposing a “two child” limit on Rohingya families in their home state of Rakhine.
So, where does Suu Kyi fit into all this? Well, for a start, her silence is inexcusable. Her refusal to condemn, or even fully acknowledge, the state-sponsored repression of her fellow countrymen and women, not to mention the violence meted out to them by Buddhist extremists inspired by the monk Ashin Wirathu (aka “The Burmese Bin Laden”), makes her part of the problem, not the solution.
“In a genocide, silence is complicity, and so it is with Aung San Suu Kyi,” observed Penny Green, a law professor at the University of London and director of the State Crime Initiative, in a recent op-ed for The Independent. Imbued with “enormous moral and political capital”, Green argued, Myanmar’s opposition leader could have challenged “the vile racism and Islamophobia which characterises Burmese political and social discourse”.
She didn’t. Instead, she spent the past few years courting the Buddhist majority of Myanmar, whose votes she needs in order to be elected president in 2016 – if, that is, the military will allow her to be elected president, or even permit her to stand – by playing down the violence perpetrated against the Muslim minority, and trying to suggest a false equivalence between persecutors and victims of persecution.
In a BBC interview in 2013, for example, Suu Kyi shamefully blamed the violence on “both sides”, telling interviewer Mishal Husain that “Muslims have been targeted but Buddhists have also been subjected to violence”.
Yet in Myanmar, it isn’t Buddhists who have been confined to fetid camps, where they are “slowly succumbing to starvation, despair and disease”. It isn’t Buddhists who have been the victims of what Human Rights Watch calls “ethnic cleansing” and what the UN’s special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar has said “could amount to crimes against humanity”. It isn’t Buddhists who are crowding onto boats, to try and flee the country, and being assaulted with hammers and knives as they do so. It isn’t Buddhists, to put it bluntly, who are facing genocide.

11 May
Thousands Of Bangladeshi And Rohingya Migrants Are Trapped At Sea
(AP) — Hundreds of migrants abandoned at sea by smugglers in Southeast Asia have reached land and relative safety in the past two days. But an estimated 6,000 Bangladeshis and Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar remain trapped in crowded, wooden boats, migrant officials and activists said. With food and clean water running low, some could be in real danger.
Worried that vessels will start washing to shore with dead bodies, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the United States and several other foreign governments and international organizations have held emergency meetings, but participants say there are no immediate plans to search for vessels in the busy Malacca Strait.
The Rohingya, who are Muslim, have for decades suffered from state-sanctioned discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, which considers them illegal settlers from Bangladesh even though their families have lived there for generations.


Rakhine22 October
Myanmar: The Politics of Rakhine State
(International Crisis Group) The problems faced by Rakhine State are rooted in decades of armed violence, authoritarian rule and state-society conflict. This crisis has affected the whole of the state and all communities within it. It requires a sustained and multi-pronged response, as well as critical humanitarian and protection interventions in the interim.
Failure to deal with the situation can have impacts for the whole country. As Myanmar is redefining itself as a more open society at peace with its minorities and embracing its diversity, introducing the seeds of a narrow and discriminatory nationalism could create huge problems for the future. Political solutions to the decades-long armed conflict, including the building of a federal nation, will be much more difficult.
The largest group in the state are the Rakhine, who are Buddhist, and there is a significant Muslim minority, including the Rohingya – a designation rejected by the government and Rakhine. The Rakhine community as a whole has tended to be cast internationally as violent extremists – ignoring the diversity of opinions that exist, the fact that the Rakhine themselves are a long-oppressed minority, and rarely attempting to understand their perspective and concerns. This is counterproductive: it promotes a siege mentality on the part of the Rakhine, and obscures complex realities that must be understood if a sustainable way forward is to be found.
The grievances of the Rakhine are similar to those of Myanmar’s other ethnic minorities – including longstanding discrimination by the state, a lack of political control over their own affairs, economic marginalisation, human rights abuses and restrictions on language and cultural expression. Decades of Rakhine anger have begun to morph. Since the transition to the new government, many Rakhine have increasingly felt that the most immediate and obvious threat that they face in rebuilding their communities and re-asserting their ethnic identity is one of demographics. There is a fear that they could soon become a minority in their own state – and, valid or not, there is no doubt that it is very strongly felt in Rakhine communities.
Muslim communities, in particular the Rohingya, have over the years been progressively marginalised from social and political life. Many have long been denied full citizenship, with significant consequences for their livelihoods and well-being. There are now efforts underway in the legislature to disenfranchise them, which could be incendiary. The Rohingya see this as their last remaining connection to politics and means of influence. Without this, it would be hard for them to avoid the conclusion that politics had failed them – which could prompt civil disobedience or even organised violence.
3 July
How The World Is Ignoring Myanmar’s Potential Genocide
(Think Progress) The international community has praised Myanmar’s skyrocketing economic growth and 2010 elections — the first in 20 years — as sufficient reason to restore relations with the former pariah state. However, critics claim that beneath the guise of democratization and an economic boom lies a much darker reality for Myanmar’s ethnic and religious minorities.
From 1962 to 2011, Myanmar was ruled by an iron-fisted military junta — which renamed the country from Burma in 1989 — that mercilessly suppressed all dissent despite punishing international sanctions. Throughout the decades, the military persecuted a range of minorities living in Myanmar, notably the Karen people of South and Southeast Myanmar and the Rohingya Muslims of Rakhine state. Forced labor, state-sanctioned terror, and mass displacement became the norm for generations of marginalized groups living under Myanmar’s military rule. While the junta officially relinquished power in 2010, Myanmar’s constitution reserves a quarter of all parliamentary seats for the military, and the ministers of the interior, defense, and border affairs must all be sitting generals. But moderate reforms, such as allowing Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to run for Parliament, have convinced many E.U. member states and the U.S. that Myanmar is serious about improving its human rights record and implementing democratization.
The government’s cautious reforms have been rewarded with huge economic benefits from the same countries that previously refused to trade with Myanmar. After the E.U. lifted all sanctions except for an arms embargo last year, the U.S. followed suit, dropping most of its restrictions on trade and opening the country to investors. And while Lt. Gen Crutchfield’s talk was aimed at providing the Burmese military with training in rule of law and disaster relief, the meeting also signaled that the U.S. is ready to grant legitimacy to a government that many advocates claim is actively involved in ethnic cleansing.

 23 June

Illicit economy engulfs Myanmar state
(Financial Times) The resource-rich Kachin state is at the heart of a power struggle between China’s encroaching economic interests and ethnic militias
28 February
rakhine-stateMedecins Sans Frontieres’ shock at Myanmar suspension
(BBC) The aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres has expressed its shock at the order to cease operations in Myanmar.
It said it was deeply concerned about the tens of thousands of people it was treating, particularly for HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB.
A presidential spokesman alleged to the BBC that Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) was biased in favour of Rakhine’s Muslim Rohingya minority.
18 February
Silence as Myanmar ‘genocide’ unfold
(Asia Times) On January 23, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar and humanitarian chiefs voiced “deep concern” on reports of “alarming levels of violence” against ethnic Rohingya in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State. When their houses were being robbed in DuChiraDan village, Maungdaw, the Rohingya residents called for help, according to reports. The villagers fled the site when they realized that the robbers included police and ethnic Rakhine extremists.
At 3am that morning, a group of military, other security forces, and police raided the village, blocked the entrance, and fired indiscriminately on escaping men, women, and children. At least 40 people were killed and many more injured. The remaining villagers were rounded up, put into two trucks, and carried off to an unknown location. Authorities later declared the village a “no-entry zone”.
Ethnic Rohingya are not recognized as one of Myanmar’s 135 “official national races”. According to the UN, they are one of the world’s most persecuted minority groups. The UN refused a Myanmar minister’s request in 2011 to resettle to second countries all of the estimated 800,000 Rohingya now resident in Myanmar.
President Thein Sein, meanwhile, refuses to amend the 1982 law which stripped all Rohingya of their citizenship. He recently asserted: “the law is meant to protect the country and the government has no plans to revise it”. A census to be completed in 2014 has no category for the Rohingya, only Bengali, an exercise that will effectively erase the minority group’s existence from the country.
The Rohingya’s lack of legal status effectively gives state approval to endemic discrimination.


14 November
Bill Clinton: Sectarian violence in newly opened Myanmar sickens the world
(WaPost) The attacks on Muslims are a topic many in this predominantly Buddhist nation of 60 million try to avoid. Soon after President Thein Sein formed a quasi-civilian government in early 2011 and began making sweeping political and economic changes, deep-seated prejudices against the Muslim minority started to surface.
11 October
Myanmar must embrace minorities
Jim Della-Giacoma is the Asia Program Director of the International Crisis Group. Its report ‘The Dark Side of Transition: Violence against Muslims in Myanmar’ was published on October 1. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
(CNN) Myanmar’s transition has been remarkable, but it has also been tarnished by violence against its Muslim community. Indeed, these deadly attacks pose a threat to Myanmar’s nascent democracy, as well as its image regionally and internationally.
6 August
Tentative Steps: Navigating Burma’s Fragile Democracy
(Spiegel) Burma is slowly transitioning from military dictatorship to democracy, but the old elite still pulls the strings. As the country moves toward freedom, they increasingly find themselves confronted with victims of the old regime.
Every gesture and every word coming from Aung San Suu Kyi in the last two years has been a test. How close is she to the military leaders now? Is she deferring to them? And exactly who is using whom? Are the country’s military leaders trying to burnish their image with a Nobel peace prize winner, or is the Nobel laureate guiding the establishment toward change?
While in captivity, Aung San Suu Kyi’s determination made her a role model. But now that she is free, she has to combine morality and pragmatism, and, once again, the country is paying attention to her. Many in Burma have a story of enmity to tell, and if even the saintly Aung San Suu Kyi is negotiating with the old generals, shouldn’t others feel that it’s alright to do the same?
14 June
Myanmar’s Religious and Ethnic Tensions Begin to Spread Across the Region
(CFR) For decades, during the rule of the military junta, Myanmar’s numerous internal problems spilled over its borders, sewing (sic) chaos along the frontiers with India,Thailand,China, and Bangladesh. Myanmar’s narcotics producers flooded Thailand and other countries with methamphetamines and heroin, Myanmar’s numerous civil wars sent hundreds of thousands of refugees spilling into Thailand and Bangladesh and created a profitable cross-border illegal arms trade in India, and Myanmar’s combination of rape as a weapon of war and massive migration created some of the most virulent strains of HIV/AIDS in Asia, which then spread into China and Thailand. … the entire Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has hoped that, with Myanmar no longer a pariah, it will be easier for the group to reach consensus on regional issues, and ASEAN will be able to punch at a higher weight internationally.
Yet in some ways, the reverse of these aspirations is happening.
21 May
Barack Obama hails Burma’s Thein Sein on US visit
(BBC) The US leader had clearly been conscious of the criticism about the visit and the White House encounter was cordial but not effusive, reports the BBC’s Paul Adams from Washington.
But the fact that it happened at all is significant and suggests that Mr Obama still regards Burma as a success story – albeit one that needs careful attention, our correspondent adds.
1 May
Why are Buddhist monks attacking Muslims?
Of all the moral precepts instilled in Buddhist monks the promise not to kill comes first, and the principle of non-violence is arguably more central to Buddhism than any other major religion. So why have monks been using hate speech against Muslims and joining mobs that have left dozens dead?
This is happening in two countries separated by well over 1,000 miles of Indian Ocean – Burma and Sri Lanka. It is puzzling because neither country is facing an Islamist militant threat. Muslims in both places are a generally peaceable and small minority. … Buddhism took a leading role in the nationalist movements that emerged as Burma and Sri Lanka sought to throw off the yoke of the British Empire. Occasionally this spilled out into violence. In 1930s Rangoon, amid resorts to direct action, monks knifed four Europeans.
More importantly, many came to feel Buddhism was integral to their national identity – and the position of minorities in these newly independent nations was an uncomfortable one.
31 March
Burma’s daily newspapers return to challenge state monopoly
Independent papers published on Monday for first time since 1960s
22 March
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.
8 March
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.
9 January
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)
18 November
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.
15 November
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)
17 September
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.
1 September
‘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.”
25 August
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
20 August
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.
16 August
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.
24 July
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)
16 June

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi Receives Nobel Peace Prize In Oslo

(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.
14 June
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.
10 June
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.
9 June
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.
2 June
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.
1 June
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.
9 May
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.
2 May
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.
24 April
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.
21 April
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.
8 April
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)
2 April
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.

22 March
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.

4 Comments on "Burma/Myanmar 2012-2016"

  1. Divya June 9, 2008 at 5:44 pm ·

    It a sad thing that the Junta has forcibly siezed land from farmers to plant Jatropha.

    The truth is, there is so much global demand for Jatropha, and its such a pity that the market is unable to access the seeds (and oil) because of the Junta.

    What’s the worst thing in this situation? The fact that Crude Jatropha Oil prices are increasing, and the export of Jatropha seeds & oil and has the power to lift the burmese people from the cycle of poverty.

    Apparently, there are companies that are investing in Myanmar, but their refineries are elsewhere, and I wonder if these Jatropha farmers are getting a fair deal out of selling their seeds to these conglomerates.

  2. Margaret August 30, 2009 at 11:32 pm ·

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


    comment here.

  3. Thomas Woodfin June 5, 2010 at 11:01 pm ·

    There is a staggering statistic that

    “at any one time, more than 300,000 children are actively fighting as soldiers with government armed forces or armed opposition groups worldwide. Almost half of the states engaged in warfare in 2002 were reported to use combatants under the age of 15. Children under the age of 18 are actively participating in hostilities in more than 35 countries worldwide – most are between the ages of 14 and 17, but some are as young as seven” (The Inter-Agency Planning Consultation on Child Protection in Emergencies, 2006).

    Debate raged in late 1990s about how to address the growing issue of children being used in conflict. The NGO working group in February 1997 issued a working document commonly known as the Paris Principles but fully titled The Paris Commitments to Protect Children from Unlawful Recruitment or use by Armed Forces or Armed Groups. The Paris Principles began the discussion in harmonization and creation of standards for groups working with armed children in conflict, and reintegration. The document also sets out an agenda by which the ngo group could advocate for the rights of armed children in conflict.

    In April 1997, UNICEF and the Group of NGOs organized a conference in Cape Town, South Africa. The document that was produced from this meeting has become known as the “Cape Town Principles and Best Practices,” and was adopted at this symposium as the standard by which groups working with child soldiers or those groups working to prevent recruitment of child soldiers would focus their efforts. The main thrust of the Cape Town Principles was to encourage governments to:

    Adopt a minimum age of 18 years should be established for any person participating in hostilities and for recruitment in all forms into any armed force or armed group.

    Adopt and ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, raising the minimum age from 15 to 18 years. (Cape Town Principles)

    84 countries have since signed off on the Paris Principles on but other countries have refused.

    It is important to understand why child soldiers are used and to explore ways in which child recruitment may be curtailed. The phenomenon is, however, very complicated. While some children are abducted and used by a fighting force, others join by choice. Given these realities the questions below may guide our discussion into the world of children in armed conflict.

  4. Elder Abuse Attorney St Louis September 3, 2012 at 3:33 am ·

    Very nice this.. I have enjoyed at read this blog. It’s a important thing to understand and very complicated..Thanks for sharing this..

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