Saturday, 22 September 2012

US courts military contacts with Myanmar

Filed under: International Law: War,Myanmar,Southeast Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 08:27 PDT

Discreet talks have been held between US and Myanmar defence officials about prospects for re-establishing training programmes and exchanges with Myanmar’s military.

The security talks involve military representatives as well as civilian defence officials from both sides, including officials from the US joint chiefs of staff and staff in the offices of US assistant secretaries of defence.

The development follows Myanmar’s rapid opening under the reformist administration of President Thein Sein and highlights US anxieties about its close relationships with China and North Korea, particularly the military assistance the country receives from Beijing.

In a separate move on Thursday the UK and France are believed to have begun the process of re-accrediting military attaches to Myanmar, withdrawn as a result of international sanctions, according to European diplomats.


Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Burma/Myanmar Democracy Activist Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Calls for U.S. Support, Easing of Sanctions at USIP

Filed under: Myanmar — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 17:07 PDT

Longtime democracy champion Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, appearing at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) on September 18 at the beginning of a 17-day visit to the United States, called for continuing U.S. support on behalf of the Southeast Asian nation’s transition to democracy and for a further easing of the U.S. economic sanctions that remain in place following decades of military dictatorship.

“I do not think that we need to cling on to sanctions unnecessarily, because I want our people to be responsible for their own destiny and not to depend too much on external props,” she told an audience in USIP’s Carlucci Auditorium and watching on the web. Burma, also known as Myanmar, will need external support from its friends, she said, but “in the end, we have to build our own democracy for ourselves.”

Suu Kyi, who is now a member of Burma’s parliament and chair of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), thanked Americans, “who have stood by us through our hard years of struggle for democracy,” and sketched out the challenges remaining to “rebuild our nation in a democratic mold.” She cited as reform priorities establishing the rule of law across Burma’s executive, legislative and judicial branches; ending the country’s ethnic conflicts with a commitment to mutual respect and human rights; and instituting amendments to Burma’s constitution.

The event was jointly sponsored by USIP and the Asia Society, the lead partner in USIP’s initial efforts to assist Burma in its political transition. The Institute is working with the Asia Society and the Blue Moon Fund to share information and experiences on issues identified by Burmese related to the rule of law, religion and peacemaking, democratic governance, conflict resolution and the capacity of Burma’s media to promote conflict-sensitive approaches.


Saturday, 15 September 2012

The Rohingya crisis: ASEAN vs Red Cross

Filed under: Human Rights,Myanmar,South Asia,Southeast Asia — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 18:06 PDT

The cloud of gross human rights violations against the Rohingya Muslims during the last few weeks that have darkened Myanmar’s sky will hinder the transformation of ASEAN into a single community of nations by 2015.

In its press release on Aug. 1, Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated that Myanmarese security forces had committed killings, rape and mass arrests against Rohingya Muslims after failing to protect both the Muslims and Arakan Buddhists during deadly sectarian violence in June.

Government restrictions on humanitarian access to the Rohingya community have left over 100,000 people displaced and in dire need of food, shelter and medical care.

However, ASEAN remains silent on this human rights violation in a part of ASEAN.


Burma churches supported in peace building initiatives

Filed under: Myanmar,Religion and peacebuilding — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 18:00 PDT

The World Council of Churches’ decision-making body has expressed its support for the active participation of Christians in Burma who promote peace at the grass-roots level.

In a minute on Burma (Myanmar) adopted by the Central Committee on 4 September 2012, at a meeting in Crete, the WCC governing body recommended that the council’s Commission of the Churches on International Affairs “continue to monitor the situation and global advocacy on peace, security, reconciliation” and “support the Myanmar Council of Churches in its mission and witness in coordinating peace and reconciliation initiatives.”


Sunday, 9 September 2012

Myanmar: Grappling with graft

Filed under: Human Rights,Myanmar — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 07:52 PDT

It is no secret that endemic graft has gripped Myanmar for decades. Military commanders oiling their greasy hands in severely underfunded institutions such as the courts and the police force have bound the rule of law more to the whims of their senior-in-command than to any form of justice.


Friday, 7 September 2012

Myanmar: The importance of consultation

While Myanmar has many pressing needs, the process of law reform should not be rushed. Regardless of the intentions of the legislature, to make drastic changes in haste is to tempt fate and risk disaster: something as trivial as a single word out of place can have far-reaching and unintended consequences.

Better outcomes are more likely to be achieved if the government opts for unhurried transition rather than overnight transformation. The time invested in systematic planning will pay dividends in the many years to come.

In addition to attenuating the speed of change, it is important that the legislative process incorporates formal consultation procedures that enable all stakeholders to participate insofar as is practicable.


Friday, 31 August 2012

An Unconventional Road to Peace

Filed under: Myanmar,Peaceworkers in the news,Southeast Asia,Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 21:40 PDT

MAE SOT, Thailand – In a country where talk of a ceasefire brings representatives from 11 different armed ethnic groups to the table, Myanmar’s chief peace negotiator, Railway Minister Aung Min, is experimenting with an unusual solution to decades of separatist struggles.


Friday, 24 August 2012

Ridding Myanmar of Inequalities Established Under Colonial Rule

Filed under: Myanmar — story spotted by Matthew Hall @ 04:35 PDT

As of this moment, Myanmar has many things to change and many issues to handle, issues that are so interconnected that it is hard to figure out where to start. In this sudden transition, with a lot of stakeholders coming into view and factions formed among these stakeholders, it is hard to say who has the power to bring about change and who has shedded the ways of the old regime to take on the reformist view. The lines of division are many and the threshold of trust, very low.

Whenever I think up of an issue important to Myanmar people, the chances of it being dealt with depends on the political will of the stakeholders in the political process, cooperation among these stakeholders which requires a minimum level of trust, and the capacity of the people in power to bring forth change.


Myanmar grapples with the weight of new-found ‘free media’

Filed under: Media and Conflict,Myanmar — story spotted by Matthew Hall @ 04:32 PDT

Something remarkable happened in Myanmar this week. For the first time in 48 years, newspapers and magazines were allowed to go to print without first having a censor approve and edit their articles.


Tuesday, 21 August 2012

BURMA/MYANMAR: Rebel fighters sign pact to eliminate child soldiers

Filed under: children and youth,Human Rights,International Law: War,Myanmar — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 23:34 PDT

CHIANG MAI, Burma/MYANMAR: Two ethnic groups in Myanmar recently became the first rebel fighters to sign a “deed commitment” with Swiss-based rights group Geneva Call, pledging to eliminate underage soldiers and protect children in armed conflict.

As signatories the Karenni National Progressive Party/Karenni Army (KNPP/KA) and the New Mon State Party/Mon National Liberation Army (NMSP/MNLA) must ensure that children aged under 18 are not recruited into or used by their armed forces. They are also required to meet obligations related to the well-being and rights of children affected by armed conflict, such as education and assistance for children in areas under their control.


Myanmar Pressed to Free Remaining Political Prisoners

Filed under: Human Rights,Myanmar — story spotted by Matthew Hall @ 23:30 PDT

YANGON, Myanmar — Since President Thein Sein took office in March last year, more than 650 political detainees have been freed, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), a group that collects information on prisoners. The releases were a key factor in the U.S. decision last month to lift some investment and financial sanctions as Myanmar’s leaders begin to implement reforms after decades of often-brutal military rule.

But the United States, other Western governments, human rights groups and the opposition continue to demand an amnesty for all political detainees remaining in the country. The question is: How many, exactly, are there?


Wednesday, 15 August 2012

ASEAN: Chartering human rights

Filed under: Cambodia,Human Rights,Myanmar,Southeast Asia,Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 08:03 PDT

Mid-July saw ASEAN sink to unprecedented depths when leaders failed to issue a joint communiqué at its latest Ministerial Meeting in Cambodia because of disagreement over reference to the South China Sea dispute with China. Unsurprisingly, the Indonesian foreign minister called this latest roadblock to “ASEAN consensus” “utterly irresponsible”.

ASEAN consensus focuses on agreement among the governments of member states instead of consensus with the population. It routinely avoids and even suppresses public participation in key debates and initiatives relevant to the public interest. Nowhere is this more evident than the process of drafting an ASEAN human rights declaration.

The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) is tasked with drafting the declaration, but has done this largely behind tightly closed doors. Limited consultations with civil society organizations have been held in some member states, and at no point was a draft published, leaving the public and human rights groups in the dark. There has only been one formal consultation at the regional level, but participation has been heavily restricted and the draft declaration was not published.


Friday, 10 August 2012

Reform dance in Myanmar

Filed under: Myanmar — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:15 PDT

BANGKOK – A shake-up of Myanmar’s quasi-civilian government is in the pipeline, one that could highlight underlying tensions between reformists and hardliners in President Thein Sein’s delicately balanced administration. Extensive cabinet changes and an overhaul of the civil service are supposedly imminent, as the president seeks to reform and modernize the country’s outdated government machinery.


Myanmar Government Forms Core Press Council

Filed under: Media and Conflict,Myanmar — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 09:06 PDT

YANGON – Myanmar’s new government has formed a 20-member core press council aimed at protecting media persons, compiling journalism ethics and settling press disputes, the government announced Friday.


Tuesday, 7 August 2012

When Buddhism Derails in Myanmar

Filed under: Myanmar,Religion and peacebuilding — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 11:16 PDT

Alarming news and images of attacks and killings by the Buddhist majority in Rakhine Province against a Muslim minority there have been slowly trickling out onto the Internet and the wider world. Pictures of charred bodies and crying fathers have stirred largely unheeded calls for intervention, mostly from Muslim nations…

Such is the irony in a country famous for its Valley of the Temples and its unrivaled devotion to the Buddha. Alas, while Buddhism through a Western lens can appear rosy for its message of compassion, inner peace and self-cultivation, in Asian societies Buddhism as an institution has much broader political applications.


Friday, 22 June 2012

Asean’s Tricky Human Rights Charter

Filed under: Cambodia,Human Rights,Myanmar,Southeast Asia,Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 14:34 PDT

Like the previous Asean Charter which was finally enacted towards the end of 2008, the drafting process for the proposed Asean Declaration for Human Rights (ADHR) has been an arduous one.

The five-page draft was completed by the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) in Burma last week after long negotiation sessions over controversial phrases and future implications of the region’s first declaration on human rights.

At this juncture it is an imperfect document yet due to be vetted by Asean foreign ministers next month. The Asean chair, Cambodia, wants a final draft to be approved at the 21st Asean Summit in November. Time is running out to consider input from various civil society organizations (CSOs).


Monday, 28 May 2012

Suu Kyi set for overseas venture after 24 years in Myanmar

Filed under: Myanmar — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 21:46 PDT

Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi ventures outside Myanmar for the first time in 24 years on Tuesday in an unmistakable display of confidence in the liberalisation taking shape in her country after five decades of military rule.


Sunday, 13 May 2012

The Force of a Woman

Filed under: Books, reports, sites, blogs,gender,Myanmar — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 08:14 PDT

The Lady and the Peacock: The Life of Aung San Suu Kyi
By Peter Popham
(The Experiment, 448 pp., $27.50)

Aung San Suu Kyi mania is sweeping Rangoon. The paraphernalia for sale on the streets of Rangoon now includes the hitherto banned image of Aung San Suu Kyi on posters, stickers, key rings, and baseball caps. At one store, staff are hurriedly screen-printing new t-shirts with line drawings of her face while hundreds of freshly stamped flags bearing the peacock and star logo of her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), are being hung up to dry—the shop owner is expecting a rush on sales after the NLD’s landslide victory in Burma’s by-elections earlier this month. The party won forty-three out of the forty-four seats it contested, and even snatched up all four seats available in the new capital and government stronghold of Naypyitaw. It was a staggering victory, and most people I spoke to in Rangoon attributed it to the powerful allure of the party’s world-famous chairperson, Aung San Suu Kyi.


Saturday, 12 May 2012

Pillay urges ASEAN to set the bar high with its regional human rights declaration

Filed under: Cambodia,Human Rights,Myanmar,Southeast Asia,Thailand — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 08:10 PDT

GENEVA – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Friday offered her encouragement to ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) in drafting a regional human rights declaration, but called for a meaningful consultation on the draft with the widest spectrum of people in the region before it is presented to ASEAN’s foreign ministers in July.


Monday, 30 April 2012

Suu Kyi, her party to attend Myanmar’s parliament Wednesday, say they still dispute oath

Filed under: Myanmar — story spotted by Catherine Morris @ 07:43 PDT

YANGON, Myanmar – Aung San Suu Kyi said she and other lawmakers in her opposition party will attend Myanmar’s parliament on Wednesday for the first time and will take the oath of office though they still fiercely dispute its wording.

Suu Kyi said she was not backing down on the issue, however, and that her party would continue to seek constitutional change through legislative actions. The oath is part of the constitution, and her party also seeks to change other statutes it considers undemocratic.

“Politics is an issue of give and take,” she told reporters in the main city, Yangon, on Monday. “We are not giving up, we are just yielding to the aspirations of the people.”

Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy object to phrasing in the oath that obligates them to “safeguard the constitution,” which was drafted under military rule and ensures the army inordinate power.

The party wants “safeguard” replaced with “respect,” a change made in other laws including electoral legislation that enabled Suu Kyi’s party to officially enter politics for the first time in decades.

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