An Independent Survey of Events in Myanmar
Latest News and Views
Myanmar media say latest Mandalay clashes caused by false rape claim
Agence France-Presse - 20 July 2014
Myanmar's latest clashes began after a Buddhist woman was paid to make false rape claims against two Muslim men, state media reported Sunday. Two men - a Buddhist and a Muslim - died in riots in Mandalay that flared on July 1 following social media reports that the Muslim men had raped a Buddhist employee at their tea shop. More than 20 others were wounded as violence rocked the city for several days, the latest in a series of sectarian clashes that have troubled the nation for two years.
But a police investigation found the woman was paid to fabricate the accusation against the men, the New Light of Myanmar [in fact, only the Burmese-language version 'Myanmar Ahlin'] reported. The report, citing the Ministry of Home Affairs, said a medical examination of the woman - named as Phyu Phyu Min - found "no sign of rape or other violence. After a detailed investigation she confessed that she accused the two men because she was paid" to do so by two other people who apparently had a personal dispute with the tea shop owners. The woman has been arrested alongside one of the people alleged to have paid her.
- Authorities say rape case causing Mandalay unrest was faked - The Irrawaddy
- Myanmar finds rape case causing unrest was faked - Associated Press
British Chamber of Commerce launched in Myanmar
British Chambers of Commerce - 16 July 2014
Today, the UK has become the first country to launch a completely new, locally registered Chamber of Commerce in Myanmar. The role of the Chamber is to promote, foster, support, and represent UK business interests in Myanmar - directly helping British firms identify market opportunities and providing them with a first port of call when looking to trade in that particular market.
This is part of the wider Overseas Business Networks Initiative (OBNi) - an ongoing partnership between the British Chambers of Commerce, UK Trade and Investment and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The aim is to transform the support available for British SMEs looking to do business in high-growth, hard-to-access global markets. It is also a crucial part of the Prime Minister’s drive to double the UK’s annual exports to £1 trillion and to increase the number of UK exporters by 100,000 by 2020.
The British Chamber of Commerce in Myanmar is being supported by four British businesses who are acting as founding patrons - BG Group, Jardines, Prudential and Standard Chartered Bank. The Chamber has five Gold Sponsors - Agrekko, British American Tobacco, Herbert Smith Freehills, Shell and Stephenson Harwood and it has already secured 86 founding members.
Derek Tonkin writes: This is the latest in a series of British trade, investment, development and financial services initiatives in Myanmar which as a result and for all practical purposes now exclude the likelihood of any return to the days of sanctions and isolation which characterised British policies from 1988 to 2011 - unless there were to be a very serious reversal of the reform process. The only Western country not yet committed to whole-hearted engagement is the United States where notions of 'conditionality' still persist, particularly in Republican circles anxious to deny President Obama's claims of a foreign policy 'success' in a country the US still calls 'Burma' on every possible occasion, though in other Western countries the dichotomy Burma/Myanmar is no longer an issue of any real substance.
- UK FCO Minister of State Hugo Swire on Burma - The Diplomat
- Launch of British Chamber of Commerce - UK Government.
- UK supporting Burma's business governance - British Embassy Yangon
- UK supporting Burma's green growth - British Embassy Yangon
- Oxford University strengthens ties in Burma - The Irrawaddy
New UN Special Rapporteur on her first visit to Myanmar
OHCHR Press Release - 14 July 2014
The new United Nations Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, will undertake her first official visit to the country from 17 to 26 July 2014 to gather first-hand information on the current human rights situation in Myanmar.
“A frank and open exchange of views will be vital to help me better understand the realities on the ground,” Ms. Lee said. “And it is my intention, as Special Rapporteur, to work closely with the Government and people of Myanmar, towards the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.”
The new Special Rapporteur served as member and chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2003-2011). She is currently a professor at Sungkyunwan University, Seoul, and serves on the Advisory Committee of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. Ms. Lee is the founding President of International Child Rights Center, and serves as Vice-chair of the National Unification Advisory Council.
Journalists sentenced to hard labor for stories on chemical weapons
Newsweek - 11 July 2014
Five journalists have been sentenced to ten years hard labor in Myanmar for publishing stories about a weapons factory, with claims their reporting violated national security.
The stories, published in late January, alleged that Myanmar’s military had plans to build a weapons factory on a 3,000-acre plot of farmland it seized in Myanmar's Magwe Region, and that the operation would include the development of chemical weapons. The magazine later published a denial from authorities that chemical weapons were being made.
Investigative report: Military facility hides secrets from the world
Bangkok Post 'Spectrum' - 13 July 2014
“Observing from the outside, and even having a peek into the factory may not shed much light as to what is actually going on,” independent security consultant Dan Kaszeta said. “Trucks go in, trucks go out out - there’s a spaghetti factory of pipes and valves inside. Even a highly trained specialist can’t necessarily tell you what’s going on in the mess of pipes and vessels without knowing some of what’s in the pipes."
Suspect defense facility in Myanmar
Center for Nonproliferation Studies - 9 May 2014
An expert analysis of the facility at Pauk in Magwe Region. The article concludes:
"A number of the details provided by local residents, including the level of security, presence of foreign workers and visits by high-ranking officials are consistent with the images of the facility. What remains is a large, high-value defense facility with no transparency about its purpose that is alleged by local residents to be engaged in the production of chemical weapons. Until Myanmar completes its long-delayed ratification to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the international community has no mechanisms by which to determine whether the facility is engaged in the production of chemical weapons. In light of the recent allegations and the available satellite imagery, the international community should insist that Myanmar ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention without further delay and clarify the purpose of defense activities at the Pauk facility."
[Note: The Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies is the largest nongovernmental organization in the United States devoted exclusively to research and training on nonproliferation issues.]
- US concerned Myanmar using police state tactics - Associated Press
- Prison sentences for journalists 'very excessive': Suu Kyi - The Irrawaddy
- Presidential Spokesman Ye Htut defends journalists' jailing - Radio Free Asia
Derek Tonkin writes: I have no more idea than anyone else what goes on inside this facility, but the sentencing of the Unity journalists to such a long term of imprisonment has ensured that global atttention will now be intensely focussed on the facility.
Burma: The Clash of Church, State and Society
David Mathieson: Human Rights Watch - 9 July 2014
Burma’s simmering religious tensions flared in its second biggest city, Mandalay this week, as Buddhists and Muslims clashed over reports of an alleged rape involving a young Buddhist girl and a Muslim man. Clashes between mobs of men of both communities occurred on the nights of 2 and 3 July before the authorities imposed a curfew. As usual with Burma’s communal violence, the plot thickens as the dust settles, and it appears as if the violence was not just an organic eruption of communal resentment but another incident in a tableau of nationwide religious tensions. Continue reading.....
Derek Tonkin writes: A compelling analysis of the murky background to recent inter-communal rioting in Mandalay, set against the wider implications of policies on religious issues currently in the process of elaboration by the Myanmar Government.
On the complexity of the issues surrounding the causes of recent rioting, the following interview with a human rights advocate is both credible and disturbing, notably his criticisms of the extremist monk U Wirathu for seeking to infuence the legal process. There is circumstantial evidence that the alleged rape of a Buddhist girl by the Muslim sons of a café owner, and which led to the rioting, was fabricated to distract attention from the rape of a Muslim girl by a Buddhist court official protected by U Wirathu. A third case of alleged rape involving a Muslim man, no less spurious than the cause of the rioting, could also have influenced the situation.
- The meaning of the Mandalay riots: Mong Palatino - The Diplomat
- Mandalay's Chinese Muslims chilled by riots: Thomas Fuller - New York Times
- Lawyers appeal murder charges about Muslim pilgrims lynched in June 2012 - DVB
- Bangladesh prohibits marriage with Muslim Ronhingyas - Indian Express
US Commentaries on the Situation in Myanmar
- Congress slams Myanmar ahead of Kerry visit: John Hudson - Foreign Policy
- Not even Burma? Jennifer Rubin - Washington Post
- Burma, Obama's Go-To Foreign-Policy Success, slipping away: Ian Tuttle - NRO
- Video: House Committee hearing on Human Rights in SE Asia - 9 July 2014
Derek Tonkin writes: There has been a flurry of negative comment recently from the US about the situation in Myanmar, with claims that the country "has backslid into a routine of authoritarianism and repression" [John Hudson - Foreign Policy]. There is undoubtedly good cause for concern on issues like the Rohingya and planned legislation on interfaith relations, which are indeed shared by other Western countries.
What distinguishes US concerns, however, is the Republican campaign to deny the Administration any political kudos from what the latter claim to have been a foreign policy success, a result of President Obama's declared promise in his inaugural address on 20 January 2009 that "we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." The planned visits of first John Kerry in August and President Obama in November this year have given impetus to the debate, in which the antagonists have not shied from blatant hyperbole and partisanship.
Mandalay Riots: Aftermath
- Rape case unrelated to Mandalay riots, alleged victim says - DVB
- Extracts from presidential broadcast: Support for victims - New Light of Myanmar
- More than 360 arrested following Mandalay riots - Democratic Voice of Burma
- Mandalay residents try to make sense of the riots - The Irrawaddy
Does the West really want a Suu Kyi presidency?
Bertil Lintner: The Irrawaddy- 7 July 2014
The writer examines the historical background to US and Australian military relations with Myanmar, and concludes:
"There is fertile ground to build on but, in the end, Burma may find itself in the middle of a new big-power game over which it would have little or no control. It is also plausible to assume that the West would prefer continuity and stability in Burma to any abrupt change after the 2015 general election. While Western powers continue to pay homage to the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, it is more likely that they would prefer for the next government to be more or less the same as the present one. Because, as always, regional security is more important for the West than human rights and genuine democratic development."
Derek Tonkin writes: It used to be said that what The Lady wants from the West, she gets. This is no longer the case. While SuuKyi herself will continue to maintain the closest personal relations with Western leaders who will unceasingly give her strong moral support, analysts are already warning that a land-slide victory in the 2015 elections by the National League for Democracy could have a seriously destabilising effect. There are ominous signs of a developing confrontation between SuuKyi and the Tatmadaw on a range of issues, notably the amendment of the Constitution, over which the Tatmadaw has the power to continue to exercise control.
It seems unlikely even so that the NLD would achieve such success at the elections that they would be able to push through further constitutional amendments against the wishes of the Tatmadaw. Any gloom and doom scenario at this stage would accordingly not be justified. As it is, some investors are already awaiting the outcome of the 2015 elections and could be disenchanted if the NLD were to emerge as a potentially governing political force. Their fears though are unlikely to be realised.
The matter of proportional representation has recently been raised, and a Committee formed to examine the issue in the Upper House. Two recent articles assessing the pros and cons of proportional representation examine the need for a change in the system:
- In a young democracy, vote 'No' on proportional representation - Igor Blazevic
- Proportional Representation: An Unfair Advantage - Hans Hulst
Igor Blazevic gives a cogent and persuasive presentation against a change in the system at this particular time, while Hans Hulst points out that proportional representation is after all a fairer system. Both are right in their own way, but Igor Blazevic wins the argument in my view because any rushed change to accommodate USDP political aspirations (and machinations) would be manifestly contrived, given the impossibility of any serious public consultation before the 2015 elections. My expectation is that the notion of proportional representation will be 'kicked into the long grass' until after the elections, but if the matter were to be forced through against my expectations, the disruption to the 2015 elections could be profound.