IHS Janes - 27 January 2015
Myanmar's Ministry of Defence has proposed a 2015 defence budget of Kyats 2.61 trillion (USD2.5 billion), according to reports in the country. The figure represents a year-on-year nominal increase of 10% and approximately 3.7% of national GDP.In presenting the defence budget to parliament, defence minister Lieutenant General Wai Lwin said the expenditure will be directed at supporting operational expenses, procurement, salaries, constructing and maintaining military facilities, and providing education and training to military personnel.
Command Paper 8975 of January 2015
This Command Paper sets out the government’s response to the Foreign Affairs Committee's (FAC) report of 27 November 2014 into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) human rights work in 2013.
On Burma (Myanmar), the FAC had recommended:
"We recommend that the government reiterate to the government of Burma that the current situation is still highly unsatisfactory, and that the UK will strongly advocate the re-imposition of sanctions by the EU if there is no progress over the next 12 months in improving the conditions of the Rohingya community, and in securing the unconditional release of all political prisoners. We also recommend that the UK government closely monitors whether former political prisoners who wish to stand for elections in 2015 are able to do so. (Paragraph 45)"
The UK Government's response on this recommendation may be read on pages 10 and 11 of the Report. In general, the Government shares the FAC's concerns, but concludes:
"The elections this year will be a major opportunity to consolidate Burma's progress towards democracy. Credible and inclusive elections in 2015, along with definitive progress towards sustainable nationwide peace, will be the key tests of Burma's commitment to pursuing the transition process. In the lead-up to those elections, we will continue to keep up the pressure, and continue to review, together with our international partners, what the most appropriate response should be to the human rights challenges faced by the people of Burma. For the moment, however, our judgement remains that progress in Burma is better encouraged through engagement, rather than by seeking the re-imposition of EU sanctions, which would require the unanimous consent of all 28 EU member states."
Derek Tonkin writes: It was predictable that the Government would not share the FAC's advocacy of renewed sanctions in the event of a lack of progress on human rights issues. The Government would also have been puzzled by the reference to former political prisoners wishing to stand for election as they are not currently debarred from doing so, nor were they so debarred at the time of the 2010 elections when a number of former political prisoners stood successfully, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The FAC in preparing their Report would not appear to have been well briefed by reliable and independent sources and may have attached too much importance to activist lobbying.
Editorial: The Nation (Bangkok) - 25 January 2015
Wirathu's ugly attack on the UN rapporteur shows he is unfit to wear the saffron robes; the Thein Sein government should cut him adrift.....
Wirathu's recent and past actions have not only tarnished Buddhism in Myanmar, but also the religion itself. His latest outburst is a further outrage for which he must be condemned.
Myanmar leaders must find the courage to speak out. If not for the sake of Buddhism, they should do it for the sake of their country's reputation.
British Embassy Rangoon - 23 January 2015
The UK government will continue to engage with the Burmese military to promote adherence to democratic accountability, international law and human rights.
The Burmese military (Tatmadaw) remain a core political force in Burma and will be key to the process of political reform. Engaging with the Tatmadaw remains a sensitive issue. However, it is important to engage the military and encourage them to support reforms. It is only through wide engagement, including the military, that we will see greater democracy in Burma.
Educational courses also form part of our engagement. We use these opportunities to convey messages on professionalisation, the rule of law, military governance under civilian government, human rights and humanitarian law. Continue reading....
Murder of two teachers in Kachin State
Nicholas Farrelly: Mizzima - 23 January 2015
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is often criticised for her inability to adjust to new challenges. To her credit, since she was released from house arrest in late 2010 she has made great strides as a political player. Her speeches are on topic and her campaign tactics are better than ever.
But she needs the people of Myanmar to put their faith in her. That is also why she has been so reluctant to court controversy. Human rights activists can judge her harshly for her inability to advocate on behalf of the Rohingya or Kachin.
Yet, sadly, there are no votes to be won in taking a bold stand on these issues, and millions may be lost. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi – after all her sacrifices and those of her party – cannot afford to let that happen.
Derek Tonkin writes: a perceptive and realistic analysis of the prospects for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy at the General Elections later this year. "It makes sense to temper hopes of a democratic stampede". An incremental approach to power would seem to be her best strategy.
The Irrawaddy - 22 January 2015
Yun Sun, a non-resident Fellow with the Brookings Institute, examines the background to resent issues connected with the timber trade, and concludes:
"Under the four principles established by President Xi Jinping for China’s peripheral foreign policy- amity, honesty, mutual benefits and tolerance - China needs to demonstrate genuine concern and support for Myanmar’s national reconciliation and development through real actions. Allowing the illegal trade to prosper fuels the conflict and deepens the disparity between the government and ethnic groups. Watching local communities’ futures be destroyed is neither amicable nor honest. Nor is it beneficial to Myanmar. Simply claiming that Sino-Myanmar relations are in great shape does not do the job. Real actions need to be taken by China to punish the guilty and protect the innocent."
Derek Tonkin writes: This is a brave article by the Chinese academic Yun Sun. It highlights what many of us have long suspected - that the insurgency in Kachin State is strongly related to the exploitation of natural resources, notably jade and timber. There are powerful forces at work which make a peace deal with the central government rather less attractive than might be supposed, taking into account the likely loss of revenue for the various Chinese and Myanmar factions involved resulting from a negotiated end to the conflict.