Monday, 7 April 2014

UN expert alarmed at worsening human rights situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine state

Filed under: Human Rights,Myanmar,Religion and peacebuilding,Southeast Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 11:10 PDT

An independent United Nations expert today sounded the alarm on the deteriorating human rights situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, adding that the evacuation of aid workers following recent attacks on the humanitarian community would have severe consequences for life-saving work in the area.

“Recent developments in Rakhine state are the latest in a long history of discrimination and persecution against the Rohingya community which could amount to crimes against humanity,” said the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana.

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Saturday, 5 April 2014

Myanmar activists launch anti-‘hate speech’ campaign

Filed under: Human Rights,Media and Conflict,Myanmar,Peaceworkers in the news,Religion and peacebuilding — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:58 PDT

BANGKOK – A group of Myanmar activists, including former political prisoners, are launching a campaign on Friday to tackle the ‘hate speech’ against Muslims that has engulfed social media and spread into Burmese society.

Panzagar, literally “flower speech”, is a movement set up by Nay Phone Latt, a blogger and executive director of Myanmar ICT For Development Organization (MIDO) who spent nearly four years in jail for writing about the monks’ protests in 2007 that ended in a bloody crackdown.

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Friday, 14 March 2014

Myanmar: The systematic repression of the Rohingya minority continues | by Maung Zarni

“What can we do, brother? There are too many. We can’t kill them all.”

He said it matter-of-factly—a former brigadier and diplomat from my native country, Myanmar, about Rohingya Muslims.

We were in the spacious ambassadorial office at Myanmar Embassy in an ASEAN country when this “brotherly” conversation took place. I am familiar with Myanmar’s racist nationalist narrative. I have also worked with the country’s military intelligence services in pushing for the gradual re-engagement between the West and our country, then an international pariah. Apparently, knowledge of my background made the soldier feel so at ease that he could make such a hateful call in a friendly conversation on official premises in total candor: Islamophobia normalized in the highest ranks of the bureaucracy and military in Myanmar.

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Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Southeast Asia’s Stark Democracy Lessons

Filed under: Cambodia,Myanmar,Southeast Asia,Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 17:29 PDT

Southeast Asia is no stranger to the challenges of unity and reconciliation. The early phases of nation-building were characterized by struggle and upheaval stemming from the reluctance of established conservative elites to share power. Democratic forms of government were deemed unsuited to societies that were organized along hierarchical lines and dominated by narrow interest groups.

By the mid-1970s, however, popular protest movements had begun to exert pressure on conservative elites, partly by harnessing popular support but also by threatening a communist-led takeover. The resulting compromise was a system of partially open, semi-democratic systems that generally promoted a broader base of wealth and prosperity but still limited freedom.

By the mid-1990s, this compromise was coming undone…

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Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Myanmar army releases child soldiers

Filed under: children and youth,International Law: War,Myanmar,Southeast Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 21:16 PDT

NEW DELHI – The Myanmar army released 62 child soldiers Wednesday in its latest bid to meet international human rights standards, although critics said more children still remain in uniform.

Since the army agreed to end the practice in June 2012, about 170 children and young adults have been let out of the army. No exact figures are available on the total number of child soldiers in Myanmar, although human rights group Burma Campaign UK has estimated there are 5,000.

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Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Defining Myanmar’s “Rohingya Problem” | Benjamin Zawacki

Filed under: Human Rights,International Law: War,Media and Conflict,Myanmar,South Asia,Southeast Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 07:00 PDT

Much has been written either empathetically or as a challenge of Myanmar’s “Rohingya problem.” Between June and November 2012, the Rohingya bore the brunt of communal violence, human rights violations, and an urgent humanitarian situation in Rakhine State, and still face an uncertain future.

A great deal of rhetoric has attended these accounts—by officials and citizens of Myanmar, Rohingya organizations, journalists, human rights groups, and others—essentially attaching labels to the situation. And while there have been a number of thoughtful attempts to define or even explain the Rohingya problem in historical or political terms, they have been largely drowned out by emotive outbursts and media-friendly sound bites.

This is not only unfortunate, it is also consequential, for as was seen in 2012, rhetoric can influence both the way in which a crisis plays out as well as in how it is responded to. In other words, how we talk about what it is we are talking about matters… full article (pdf)

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

World less peaceful than five years ago

Filed under: Africa files,Cambodia,Middle East,Myanmar,Rwanda,South Asia,Southeast Asia,Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 11:16 PDT

WASHINGTON – The world – especially the Greater Middle East – has become less peaceful than it was five years ago, according to the 2013 edition of the annual Global Peace Index (GPI) released here Tuesday by the Institute for Economics and Peace.

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A Tentative Peace in Myanmar’s Kachin Conflict

Filed under: Myanmar — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 11:09 PDT

The deal that has now been struck between the Myanmar government and the Kachin armed group is a major step forward, but securing a sustainable peace will require much more work.
Myanmar

“Reaching a peace agreement between the government and the KIO has been one of the biggest challenges of the overall ethnic peace process. But before this peace can be claimed, many difficult underlying political issues need to be resolved.”

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Monday, 8 April 2013

Remarks by President Carter in Yangon, Myanmar

Filed under: Human Rights,Myanmar — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 19:00 PDT

It is an honor and pleasure for Rosalynn and me to come to Myanmar, a country that we have wished to visit for many years.

I have been eager to learn more about your country’s ongoing transition process — towards democracy, peace, human rights, and economic development for all citizens.

During my visit, I have had the opportunity to meet with: President U Thein Sein, the Speaker of the Lower House, the Union Election Commission, members of the Cabinet, the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of political parties, ethnic community representatives, former political prisoners, the National Human Rights Commission, civil society organizations, farmers, the media, and religious leaders.

I am grateful to all of these people for sharing their thoughts with me — their aspirations for the future, and their concerns about the challenges your country is facing.

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Thursday, 6 December 2012

Protests Sweep Through ASEAN

Filed under: Cambodia,Myanmar,Nonviolence,Southeast Asia,Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 17:11 PDT

U.S. President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Burma and the 21st Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Phnom Penh dominated news coverage in the region during the past month — and rightly so. Obama’s Burma trip put a global spotlight on the reforms being implemented by the civilian government in that country, while the ASEAN Summit exposed the continuing failure of the regional grouping to address the maritime disputes between China and several ASEAN member countries over the South China Sea.

But aside from these issues, the month of November was also memorable because of the phenomenal protests that took place across Southeast Asia. For example: The anti-government Pitak Siam (Protect Thailand) network mobilized 20,000 people in Bangkok; more than 15,000 participants joined Malaysia’s “Green Walk”; a bus strike in Singapore, the first labor strike in the city in almost three decades, stunned the city-state; and a peaceful protest camp set up by monks and farmers to oppose a copper mine project was brutally dispersed by Burmese riot police.

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Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Governments should hear the global outcry against corruption

A growing outcry over corrupt governments forced several leaders from office last year, but as the dust has cleared it has become apparent that the levels of bribery, abuse of power and secret dealings are still very high in many countries. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2012 shows corruption continues to ravage societies around the world.

Two thirds of the 176 countries ranked in the 2012 index score below 50, on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be very clean), showing that public institutions need to be more transparent, and powerful officials more accountable.

“Governments need to integrate anti-corruption actions into all public decision-making. Priorities include better rules on lobbying and political financing, making public spending and contracting more transparent and making public bodies more accountable to people,” said Huguette Labelle, the Chair of Transparency International.

“After a year of focus on corruption, we expect governments to take a tougher stance against the abuse of power. The Corruption Perceptions Index 2012 results demonstrate that societies continue to pay the high cost of corruption,” Labelle said.

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A Good Office? Twenty Years of UN Mediation in Myanmar

Filed under: Books, reports, sites, blogs,Myanmar — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 07:17 PDT

The UN Secretary-General’s good offices on Myanmar, now in their twentieth year, have been one of the longest such diplomatic efforts in the history of the organization. With Myanmar now in the midst of major political, economic, and social reforms, and questions invariably being raised about the future of those “offices,” it is an opportune time to revisit the history and achievements of the past twenty years of mediation efforts.

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Saturday, 17 November 2012

Engaging Myanmar for right reasons

Filed under: Myanmar,Religion and peacebuilding,Southeast Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 23:12 PDT

On Monday, President Obama is expected to become the first sitting U.S. president to visit Myanmar (Burma), the strongest endorsement yet of the country’s reform efforts. There is no doubt that tremendous political change has taken place in Myanmar, including the election of opposition party members – among them Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi – to the new government. Washington has lifted long-standing sanctions and normalized relations with the once-isolated country.

We at the American Friends Service Committee, which has quietly provided humanitarian assistance inside Myanmar since 2005, welcome these developments, even though they come against a backdrop of violence that threatens to destabilize Myanmar once more…

We urge Obama to use this trip to start framing a policy aimed at peace and reconciliation. Such a policy must have two cornerstones…

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Friday, 16 November 2012

Myanmar: Goodbye clenched fist, hello sweaty palm

Filed under: Cambodia,Human Rights,International Law: War,Myanmar,Southeast Asia,Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 17:23 PDT

HE WILL be on the ground for less than a day. Still, when Barack Obama arrives in Myanmar on November 19th, one leg of a three-country South-East Asian tour, it will be quite a moment: the first ever visit to the country by a sitting American president, which sets the seal on one of the fastest rehabilitations of a former American foe.

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Burma or Myanmar? Landmark Obama visit brings up unusual problem of protocol

Filed under: Myanmar — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 17:19 PDT

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama’s landmark visit to Myanmar, known by the U.S. as Burma, brings up an unusual problem of protocol: What does he call it?

If recent practice by visiting U.S. officials is any guide, Obama will sidestep the issue by using neither name Monday when he becomes the first sitting American president to visit the country.

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Monday, 12 November 2012

MYANMAR: Concern over international peace efforts

Filed under: Business, Human Rights, Environment,Environment,Human Rights,Myanmar,Southeast Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 21:45 PDT

CHIANG MAI – Civil society groups in Asia are calling for a review of donor-funded peace initiatives in Myanmar, expressing concern that their pace is too fast, they pay little heed to the humanitarian cost of economic development, and may do more harm than good.

“Most of the conflict, human rights abuse and environmental destruction [are] directly involved with planned resource extractions in ethnic areas,” said Wong Aung, an adviser for the Shwe Gas Movement, a watchdog NGO based near the Thai-Burmese border in Chiang Mai, which was set up in response to the exploitation of gas deposits off the coast of Arakan State in western Myanmar.

The NGO is part of the Burma Partnership, an alliance of 16 activist and civil society groups throughout Southeast and East Asia that commends the “well-intentioned” peace funds, but fears they can undermine long-term stability in conflict-affected border areas heavily populated by ethnic minorities. “If… environmental concerns or human rights violations are overlooked, the security situation on the ground will never be resolved,” Wong Aung added.

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Monday, 15 October 2012

Peace Day Activist Prepares for the Worst

Filed under: Myanmar — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 08:43 PDT

Jaw Gun’s reasons for risking his future to protest on the streets of Rangoon last month are very personal. As conflict in Kachin state drags on well into its second year, each casualty reported is a painful reminder of what the activist has lost over the decades…

This grisly conflict has become a blight on the landscape of a country supposedly moving toward democracy, and Jaw Gun knows well its intractability. He questions the rhetoric of a government that, for all its talk of moving on from the years of military rule, shows few signs of wanting genuine peace with Burma’s ethnic minorities. A coordinator at the Kachin Peace Network, he had joined a thousand-strong protest in Rangoon on Sept. 21, the UN’s International Peace Day, demanding that the government halt army offensives against the Kachin.

Yet despite Naypyidaw introducing a law that it says heralds a new era for freedom of expression in Burma, Jaw Gun and a dozen others were tracked down and arrested. Authorities argue that the activists were not granted permission to proceed with the demonstration…

It begs serious questions of the “Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession” bill, brought into force earlier this year amid a chorus of praise from Western leaders. Human Rights Watch has already warned that the charges are reminiscent of the dictatorial response the former junta was known to give to its critics. The group’s deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson, said in a statement last week that the government “will quickly lose its new reformist label if it acts like past military governments by arresting and prosecuting peaceful protesters.”

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NU Leader David Taw Passes Away

Filed under: Myanmar,Peaceworkers in the news — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 08:29 PDT

David Taw, 65, a top leader of the Karen National Union (KNU), passed away in Rangoon yesterday after several months of illness, according to family members…

David Taw was regarded as a pragmatic politician who was not afraid to publicly highlight the weaknesses of the KNU. Though widely respected, he was also disliked by some other members of the KNU leadership for his outspokenness.

On Oct. 2, he and two other influential KNU leaders—Gen Mutu Say Poe and Roger Khin—from the KNU’s central committee were dismissed from the group for allegedly violating its protocols after they opened a new liaison office in Pa-an, capital of Karen State, without informing the central committee.

David Taw was active in advocating peace and development in Karen State.

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Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Rohingya: Roots of violence, hatred run deep

Filed under: Human Rights,Myanmar,Religion and peacebuilding,South Asia,Southeast Asia,Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:01 PDT

Much has been written lately, either empathetically or as a challenge, of Myanmar’s “Rohingya problem”. Since early June, the Rohingya have borne the brunt of communal violence, human rights violations, and an urgent humanitarian situation in Rakhine State, and face an uncertain future. But when considered more closely, is that all? What really is the problem?

The events of this year, as well as the violent events of 1978, 1992, 2001, and 2009, are attributable to systemic discrimination against the Rohingya in Myanmar. That is, to a political, social, and economic system—manifested in law, policy, and practices—designed to discriminate against this ethnic and religious minority. This system makes such direct violence against the Rohingya far more possible and likely than it would otherwise be. Further, in the eyes of the Myanmar authorities at least—as evidenced by the lack of accountability for the civilians and officials alike—discrimination also makes the violence and violations somehow justifiable. That is the problem.

(...more)

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Myanmar blocks peace rally in capital but allows hundreds to march through main city of Yangon

Filed under: Myanmar,Nonviolence — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 08:31 PDT

YANGON, Myanmar – The authorities in Myanmar blocked people Friday from rallying in the isolated capital, but allowed hundreds to march through the country’s main city in Yangon’s largest rally in five years.

In both cases, authorities had refused to grant permits to people marking the International Day of Peace. But police did nothing to stop the procession in Yangon, which started at City Hall and snaked several kilometres (miles) through the city.

Earlier in the day, police refused to let about 100 people board buses for the capital, Naypyitaw. They gave no explanation for withholding a permit, telling the group to disperse or face legal action.

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