Friday, January 11th, 2013

Mon State government officials want to participate in the upcoming Mon National Day and are requesting local ethnic organizations for their approval, according to Mon leaders. The request is being met with skepticism by local leaders, who point out that Burma’s government has long ignored expressions of Mon culture and identity. (more…)

Winding up the 4-day United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) meeting yesterday, General Secretary of the 11 member organization alliance Nai Hongsa reiterated this morning that there would be nothing to talk about at the next round of peace talks with Naypyitaw’s point man U Aung Min as long as the offensive against Laiza, the headquarters of its leading member Kachin Independence Organization / Kachin Independence Army (KIO/KIA) continues. (more…)

The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) is willing to hold conditional peace talks with the Burmese government, the 88 Generation Students group said on Thursday, quoting a KIA general. (more…)

A policeman was killed and four civilians were injured when a freight train derailed on its way to Myitkyina in northern Burma, after being struck by an explosion on Wednesday evening. (more…)

Burma’s ministry of mining has agreed to drop its controversial defamation lawsuit against the Voice Weekly news journal, launched after they printed corruption allegations against the agency in March last year. (more…)

The Burmese government has pledged to amend the draconian publishing law that requires all publications to register with and submit copies to the censorship board, but will stop short of abolishing the legislation. (more…)

In a presidential address to Parliament on Thursday, Thein Sein hinted that he would approve increasing the salaries of civil servants in the coming fiscal year. (more…)

More than 1,200 Kachin people living in Yunnan Province marched to the Sino-Burmese border on Thursday in an act of solidarity with their ethnic brethren in Kachin State. At the same time, thousands of Kachins protested on the Burmese side of the border. (more…)

Burma’s President’s Office has announced that two committees have been formed to promote the development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with effect from January 9. (more…)

Famed for its soothing menthol smell and muscle pain-relieving properties, Tiger Balm is sold in more than 100 countries – but now the leaping tiger, based in Singapore for nearly a century, is returning to the country where it was invented. (more…)

Thai authorities said Friday that about 700 people from Myanmar’s beleaguered Rohingya minority who had entered Thailand illegally were found in two separate raids in the country’s south and that they would be sent back to Myanmar. (more…)

A group of ethnic Kachins protested outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok Friday against government bombardments in Myanmar’s northern state of Kachin, a day after other Kachins attempted a demonstration in China. (more…)

China has sent soldiers to its border with Myanmar amid concern that escalating violence between the Southeast Asian country’s government and ethnic separatists is spilling over, an official Chinese newspaper reported on Friday. (more…)

More than 2,000 people have fled Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state and Bangladesh on boats run by smugglers putting their lives at risk, the United Nations refugee agency said today, warning that the situation of those displaced by the violence in Rakhine grows more desperate every day.

At a news briefing in Geneva, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Adrian Edwards, noted that the final destination of the boats is uncertain, although they are believed to be heading to other countries in Southeast Asia.

“It is unclear how many actually make it to their final destinations, where they often risk arrest, detention and possible refoulement through deportation to Myanmar,” Mr. Edwards said, referring to the international customary law principle of ‘non-refoulement,’ which guards against the return of people to countries where, for example, they might be subjected to torture.

“UNHCR continues to seek access to individuals arriving by boat who are arrested and detained by government authorities,” Mr. Edwards added.

Several waves of clashes between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims – the first of which occurred in June last year – have left 115,000 people displaced, as well as more than 100 dead, according to UN estimates.

UNHCR fears that more people will undertake the dangerous journey from the Bay of Bengal if there is no imminent end to the violence.

The number of those displaced this month adds to an estimated 13,000 people who left from the Bay of Bengal on smugglers’ boats in 2012. At least 485 people are believed to have died or remain missing in four reported boat accidents last year.

However, Mr. Edwards highlighted that the real death toll could be much higher. “It is hard to tell due to the clandestine nature of these irregular movements,” he said.

Many of the people fleeing are Muslims from Rakhine state and refugees who have been living in Bangladesh. While most appear to be men travelling alone, Mr. Edwards said there are increasing numbers of women and children among smuggled passengers, signalling growing desperation and lack of prospects.

The spokesperson said the UN refugee agency has asked for access to newly-arrived people from Myanmar in Thailand and Malaysia, where it seeks to secure their release if they have been detained. In Bangladesh, some 30,000 refugees are being hosted in two camps, but many more are living in makeshift sites and among the local communities.

UNHCR is also calling on countries in the region to maintain open borders and ensure humane treatment of people seeking asylum from Myanmar or elsewhere, and reiterated its readiness to support States in assisting refugees.

In addition, the UN agency is appealing to shipmasters to rescue boats in distress.

“We applaud recent government actions to allow for the disembarkation of people rescued by commercial vessels in the Bay of Bengal and call upon all States in the region to act in a spirit of generosity and flexibility should similar situations arise in the future,” Mr. Edwards said.

He added that in March, UNHCR will co-organize a regional roundtable on irregular maritime movements in the Asia-Pacific, bringing together governments, relevant organizations and other stakeholders to discuss practical regional approaches to the problem.


After decades of minimal trade between Burma and the United States, the bilateral flow of exports and imports has dramatically increased by three times, Burma’s Ministry of Commerce has announced.

Burmese President Thein Sein shakes hands with US Senator James Mountain Inhofe at the Credentials hall of the Presidential Palace, Naypitaw. (Photo: President’s Office) “From 2003 to 2010-11, trade between Burma and the US fell short of US $100 million,” said a Ministry spokesman. “In 2011-12, with a new government in office, the total amount of trade has increased to $300 million.”

The significant factor in this increase is, of course, the easing of economic sanctions on Burma by the US government last year. Since then, many US investors and major firms have made known their interest in entering Burma’s trading, agriculture and energy sectors.

On January 9, a US delegation led by Senator James Mountain Inhofe visited Burmese President Thein Sein at the Presidential Palace in Naypyitaw to discuss bilateral cooperation.

During the meeting, they are reported to have discussed Burma’s oil and gas sectors, and the forming of committees to ensure the implementation of trade and business agreements.