An Independent Survey of Events in Myanmar
Political stability is the basis to make elections a success
Global New Light of Myanmar - 1 November 2014
Text of address by President Thein Sein to the meeting of senior political and official representatives in Naypyitaw on Friday 31 October.
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Readout of the President’s Call to President Thein Sein
White Hoiuse Press Release - 31 October 2014
President Obama spoke by phone with President Thein Sein of Burma to discuss his upcoming travel to Burma for the East Asia Summit and U.S.-ASEAN Summit. President Obama and President Thein Sein discussed the status of Burma’s ongoing political and economic reforms.
The President stressed the importance of the government of Burma taking additional steps to address the tensions and the humanitarian situation in Rakhine State including through revisions to the Rakhine Action Plan and other measures to support the civil and political rights of the Rohingya population. The President welcomed the commitment of Thein Sein and his government to the peace process and said every effort should be made conclude a national ceasefire in the short term. President Obama also underscored the need for an inclusive and credible process for conducting the 2015 elections. President Obama reiterated the United States’ firm commitment to helping the people of Burma achieve a more free, open, and prosperous nation.
Change to law barring Suu Kyi from presidency mooted
ABC Radio Australia/AFP - 31 October 2014
Myanmar's parliament will consider amending the country's constitution, which currently bars opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president. Myanmar president Thein Sein has been urged by US president Barack Obama to hold "inclusive and credible" elections in 2015. It comes as Myanmar's president Thein Sein opened unprecedented talks with top army brass and political rivals including Ms Suu Kyi.
"They agreed to discuss the issue of amending the constitution in parliament, according to the law," presidential spokesman Ye Htut said. Thein Sein and Ms Suu Kyi walked into the meeting together to begin talks that are the first of their kind in the nation as it moves to emerge from decades of outright military rule.The meeting in the capital Naypyitaw happened a day after the White House said Mr Obama spoke to Thein Sein and Ms Suu Kyi about the polls, less than a fortnight before the US leader visits Myanmar.
UN human rights expert commends reforms to date
UN Human Rights Commissioner press release: 30 October 2014
The new United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, commended the process of reform that has improved the political, economic social and human rights landscape over the past three years, but said that “more is required if gains are to be genuine, sustainable and win the support of the people of Myanmar”.
In her first address to the UN General Assembly, Ms. Lee warned against of possible signs of backtracking on the country’s reform process which must be addressed to avoid undermining gains made to date.
“Several conflicts continue to cause significant suffering to local communities, with currently an estimated 613,000 internally displaced persons in the country,” she noted. “Serious human rights violations are being committed on both sides, and I am particularly concerned by continued reports of arbitrary detention, torture and impunity on the side of the military.”
The expert stressed that sustainable peace must address the root causes of the conflict which lie in the denial of fundamental human rights, and urged the authorities to ensure that accountability for human rights violations is included in ceasefire and peace agreements. Continue reading.....
Thein Sein to host quadripartite talks
Democratic Voice of Burma - 29 October 2014
President Thein Sein has announced plans to hold a meeting between representatives of the government, parliament, military and political parties.
Sai Lek, spokesperson for the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), said his party received an invitation from the president to join the meeting, which will take place at the presidential residence in Naypyidaw on 31 October. The meeting will focus on the peace process, national reconciliation and the country’s reform efforts.
“The invitation listed three subjects for discussion at the meeting: ensuring a smooth political transition; continuing the peace process; and national reconciliation negotiations. [SNLD] Chairman U Khun Htun Oo has been invited to attend the meeting on behalf of the party and in his capacity as a representative of the United Nationalities Alliance,” said Sai Lek.
The meeting is due to be attended by the following 14 individuals: President Thein Sein and his two vice-presidents; parliamentary speakers Shwe Mann and Khin Aung Myint; National League for Democracy Chairperson Aung San Suu Kyi; the military’s Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing; Vice-Commander-in-Chief Gen Soe Win; Union Election Commission Chairman Tin Aye; SNLD Chairman Khun Htun Oo; Shan State Nationalities Democratic Party Chairman Sai Aik Pao (who will attend on behalf of an alliance of ethnic political parties called the Nationalities Brotherhood Federation); the National Democratic Force Chairman Khin Maung Swe (representing the Federal Democracy Alliance); Than Tin from the National Unity Party; and an as yet unnamed representative from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party. Continue reading.....
- NLD rejects hybrid voting system - Democratic Voice of Burma
- NLD reject USDP plan for PR voting system for central regions - The Irrawaddy
Death in Army custody of journalist
- US, UK Embassies urge Government enquiry into journalist's killing - The Irrawaddy
- Myanmar journalist killed by Army was former bodyguard of Suu Kyi - Reuters
- Justice for the killing of journalist by Army must be found - Burma Partnership
- Does the Army still have a licence to kill? The Irrawaddy
Special Economic Zones: Trilogy by Josh Wood in 'New Mandala'
- Dawei Special Economic Zone - 23 October 2014
- Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone - 24 October 2014
- Thilawa Special Economic Zone - 25 October 2014
Myanmar: Regressed, stalled or moving forward?
Center for Strategic and International Studies - October 2014
Myanmar is in the third year of a historic transition. There is active debate in Washington whether the reforms have regressed, stalled, or progressed. Between August 17 and 22, 2014, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) organized a delegation to examine the status of the Myanmar transition in three key dimensions: health and development; political reform and governance; and conflict resolution with the country’s minority groups.
The burning question in Washington about Myanmar’s transition is: are things regressing, stalled, or moving forward? The short answer is all of the above. In August, 2014, CSIS organized a delegation to examine the status of the Myanmar transition in three key dimensions: health and development; political reform and governance; and conflict resolution with the country’s minority groups. This report is a summary of CSIS’ observations and thoughts on strengthening U.S. support for Myanmar’s transition. The bottom line: active U.S. engagement remains critical to supporting the Myanmar transition.
- The Burmese Experiment: Benjamin Aloi - McGill International Review
- Fast-tracking Myanmar's reform: Stephen Groff ADB Vice-President for East Asia
Myanmar: The Politics of Rakhine State
International Crisis Group: 22 October 2014
The International Crisis Group’s latest report, Myanmar: The Politics of Rakhine State, looks at how the legacy of colonial history, decades of authoritarian rule and state-society conflict have laid the foundation for today’s complex mix of intercommunal and inter-religious tensions. Rakhine State, whose majority ethnic Rakhine population perceive themselves to be – with some justification – victims of discrimination by the political centre, has experienced a violent surge of Buddhist nationalism against minority Muslim communities, themselves also victims of discrimination. The government has taken steps to respond: by restoring security, starting a pilot citizenship verification process and developing a comprehensive action plan. However, parts of this plan are highly problematic, and risk deepening segregation and fuelling tensions further, particularly in the lead-up to the 2015 elections.
- Press Release about the report - ICG 22 October 2014
- Interview with Jonathan Prentice ICG on the report - Deutsche Welle
- Ray of hope for Myanmar's Rohingya: Nirmal Ghosh - ANN 23 October 2014
- US think-tank faults Burma on Arakan response - Matthew Pennington AP
I would personally have welcomed a closer analysis of the 'Rohingya' label, in an endeavour to discover its origins. It is not correct (Page 22) that the term "was not widely used in written records from the colonial and precolonial periods". The fact is that it is not to be found at all. Although after independence the term was used on isolated occasions in official documents and speeches during the 1950s, this usage was in my view neither significant nor remarkable. In the late 1940s/early 1950s, other designations like "Rwangya" were more current, but even then had only limited application.
The report (Page 33) that "camp leaders have considerable coercive powers" must throw further doubt on the uncritical acceptance of "self-identification" as an unquestionable principle of ethnicity.
'Operation 'Dragon King' - Repatriation of Muslim Refugees from Bangladesh 1979
- British Embassy report on the reception arrangements - 23 February 1979
- British Ambassador's despatch on the completion of the repatriation - 3 July 1979
- Associated Press (AP) report from Teknaf Road - 5 June 1978
- Unoited Press International (UPI) report from Dacca - 29 June 1978
- United Press International (UPI) report from Cox's Bazaar - 10 October 1978
Charter plan kills chance of Suu Kyi becoming President
Japan Times/Kyodo - 22 October 2014
Myanmar’s joint house committee on constitutional amendment recommended in a report presented to parliament Wednesday that a clause be maintained in the charter effectively barring opposition party leader Aung San Suu Kyi from running for the presidency.
The committee’s 116-page report to the Union Parliament proposes that lawmakers “keep as original” the much-criticized provisions of the charter, including those limiting the eligibility of a presidential candidate and granting the military a quarter of uncontested seats in both houses.
Derek Tonkin writes: It is difficult to see how, in the time available before the planned general elections in late 2015, any changes of substance can possibly be made to the Constitution, which would in any case require a national referendum. In the circumstances, the NLD are more likely to concentrate on winning as many seats as possible in order to put themselves in a much stronger position to press for constitutional change after the elections.
Legislators in the first 'Post-Junta' National Parliament
Renaud Egreteau: Journal of Current SE Asian Affairs - October 2014
Abstract: In an attempt to better grasp the realities of Myanmar’s national legislature, which was formed after the 2010 elections, the paper examines the personal profiles and social backgrounds of its elected and appointed members. Data are provided on the social composition of Myanmar’s first “post-junta” parliament as a dataset for further comparative research on the resurgence of legislative affairs in the country.
The study draws on official publications containing the biographies of 658 national parliamentarians. Focusing on six socio-demographic variables, the findings suggest that the typical Burmese legislator still closely mirrors the conventional image of Myanmar’s characteristic postcolonial leader: a man, in his mid-fifties, ethnically Bamar, Buddhist, holding a Myanmar university degree, engaged in business activities or in the education sector (in the case of the 492 elected legislators) or in the security sector (for the 166 military appointees). However, the profile of Myanmar’s first post-junta legislature offers a quite unexpected level of diversity that may augur well for the emergence of a new civilian policymaking elite in Myanmar.
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Why does Myanmar keep persecuting the Rohingya Muslims?
Editorial: Los Angeles Times - 14 October 2014
"For years, the government of Myanmar has treated its Rohingya Muslim people as intruders - an impoverished minority among a Buddhist majority, considered illegal immigrants, restricted in where they can live and work. The United Nations considers them one of the most persecuted groups in the world. Even as Myanmar has liberalized its political system, moving from military rule to democracy, the government has declined to ease its treatment of the Rohingya despite constant urging to do so by the human rights community and U.S. officials." Read on.....
Derek Tonkin writes: Debate about the treatment of Rakhine Muslims continues unabated. I thought however that I would offer to the Los Angeles Times a comment on the sentence highlighted above. The LA Times has confirmed receipt of my comment, but has not (yet) chosen to publish it. I wrote:
In your editorial of 14 October on the Rohingya Muslims, you say: "The United Nations considers them as one of the most persecuted groups in the world." They have certainly been treated appallingly over the years, as UN, governmental and human rights bodies have made starkly and repeatedly clear in their reporting.
It is however the case that the UN as such, from the Secretary-General downwards through the various rapporteurs, special advisers and agencies, has never made such an assessment. The nearest any UN spokesperson came to this was on 31 May 2013 when the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar at the time Tomás Ojea Quintana rightly described the Rohingya Muslims as “the most vulnerable and marginalised group in Myanmar.”
No UN spokesperson however would ever presume to make an assessment of this nature covering the whole world.
British Ambassador to Thailand (1986-89) and Vietnam (1980-82)
Burma- Country of Concern
UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office - Update 16 October 2014