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.(...more)
Friday, 24 August 2012
Tuesday, 21 August 2012
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.(...more)
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?(...more)
Wednesday, 15 August 2012
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.(...more)
Friday, 10 August 2012
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.(...more)
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.(...more)
Tuesday, 7 August 2012
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.(...more)
Friday, 22 June 2012
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).(...more)
Monday, 28 May 2012
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.(...more)
Sunday, 13 May 2012
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.(...more)
Saturday, 12 May 2012
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.(...more)
Monday, 30 April 2012
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.(...more)
NAYPYITAW, Myanmar, April 30 – Myanmar will choose a team of 50 peace negotiators led by a vice-president to settle a conflict in Kachin State and bring all ethnic groups into the political fold ahead of 2015 elections, the main government peace envoy said on Monday.(...more)
Wednesday, 18 April 2012
Since he took office a little more than a year ago, the President of Burma, U Thein Sein, has proved himself the architect of one of the most unlikely democratic transitions anywhere in the world…
And whether or not he succeeds will be important not just for Burma’s 55 million people but for all of Asia.(...more)
Friday, 13 April 2012
The successful completion of the by-elections of April 1 provides grounds for renewed hope for future developments in Myanmar. In spite of dire predictions of manipulation, the results indicate that the government of President Thein Sein has essentially fulfilled its promise of a fair set of by-elections – ones that were swept by the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), which won 43 of 45 seats.
The government-supported political organization, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which had previously held those seats, lost.
Now, however, if Myanmar is to evolve into a state that begins to approach its political, social and economic potential, the delicate process begins – the building of multiple levels and layers of trust between and among the various forces in the complex maze of societies that comprise Myanmar.(...more)
Myanmar’s highly anticipated by-elections, held on April 1 for some 45 parliamentary seats, has borne its first diplomatic fruit. The United States announced a relaxation of certain economic sanctions and movement on the resumption of full diplomatic relations with Naypyidaw in reward for the country’s recent democratic progress.
However, the opposition National League for Democracy’s landslide victory of 43 out of the 45 seats may be somewhat overstated and questions remain about the sincerity of President Thein Sein’s government’s commitment to sustainable reform.(...more)
Thursday, 12 April 2012
One year into the new semi-civilian government, Myanmar has implemented a wide-ranging set of reforms as it embarks on a remarkable top-down transition from five decades of authoritarian rule. In an address to the nation on 1 March 2012 marking his first year in office, President Thein Sein made clear that the goal was to introduce “genuine democracy” and that there was still much more to be done. This ambitious agenda includes further democratic reform, healing bitter wounds of the past, rebuilding the economy and ensuring the rule of law, as well as respecting ethnic diversity and equality. The changes are real, but the challenges are complex and numerous. To consolidate and build on what has been achieved and increase the likelihood that benefits flow to all its citizens, Myanmar needs the international community to come closer, seeking opportunities for greater engagement rather than more reasons why sanctions should be sustained.(...more)
Friday, 23 March 2012
CHIANG MAI – A mass movement is spreading across Myanmar on a scale not seen since tens of thousands of Buddhist monks led anti-government demonstrations in 2007 and the massive nationwide pro-democracy uprising against the old military regime in 1988. This time the mobilizing force is a by-election contested by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party to fill 48 seats in parliamentary bodies currently dominated by military aligned representatives.
Wherever Suu Kyi appears on the campaign trail thousands of people of all ages have shown up to listen to her speeches, or just to line the roads and cheer along the routes of her motorcade. Big screen televisions, expensive sound systems and other sophisticated paraphernalia at her rallies are clear indications of support from sections of the private business community, which until recently had links almost exclusively with the traditional military establishment.
Until a year ago many Western observers, including prominent European Union diplomats in Bangkok who cover Myanmar, asserted that Suu Kyi was a spent political force, that many young people didn’t even know who she was because she had spent years under house arrest. Instead they felt that a new “Third Force” was emerging, one that challenged the supposed uncompromising stands of both Suu Kyi and the NLD, and the military-dominated government.
The present mass movement shows clearly how wrong they were…(...more)
Friday, 17 February 2012
DAWEI, Myanmar — When 200 activists in green T-Shirts marched along a pristine Myanmar beach to protest plans for a coal plant, they expected a long, tough struggle against the powers that be. But then, something bizarre happened.
A deputy Cabinet minister asked for a meeting. He listened patiently to their concerns about pollution. And then he told them the government agreed: It would halt construction of the controversial 4,000-megawatt plant on Myanmar’s southern panhandle.
In a long-repressed country whose people have grown accustomed to living in fear of government authority, it all seemed too good to be true. Just last year, anyone who dared even demonstrate in public would have likely have been beaten or detained by security forces.
“We were shocked,” said Aung Zaw Hein of the activist group, the Dawei Development Association, which staged the protest last month. “He asked us, ‘do you love your region?’ Then he said, ‘We love it, too. We just need to work together.’”(...more)
Saturday, 11 February 2012
These days, the media is full of upbeat reports about all the changes taking place in Myanmar (Burma). It is true that the government in Burma has undertaken certain reforms.(...more)