Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Burma’s union parliament today passed an unprecedented motion to investigate a dissident blogger, who criticised the legislature for acting “above the law” in an internet article published on Monday. (more…)

After 16 years in exile, leading activists of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) returned to Burma this week to host a fundraising event for the country’s remaining prisoners of conscience and for the victims of the ongoing Kachin conflict. (more…)

Myanmar opened up a major portion of its onshore oil blocks for bids Thursday, a move likely to see a surge in interest from Western firms after the removal of sanctions against the once-pariah state.

A notice published in the state-run English-language New Light of Myanmar newspaper said 18 blocks were up for grabs in deals that would see firms partner with state energy companies, including the controversial Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE).

According to the MOGE website, the sites available for exploration would represent more than a third of the country’s around 50 onshore blocks.

Myanmar’s Energy Ministry later said it was also preparing to launch tenders for its offshore blocks.

“We will announce the tender openly through state media and our website. We are just at the beginning (of the process),” ministry spokesman Htay Aung said.

The tender for onshore reserves would be the first since 2011, when most bidders were from Asian countries as tough sanctions and concerns about MOGE’s governance and links to the former junta deterred wider participation.

Firms will be able to bid for up to three blocks each, according to the notice.

Foreign investors have been eagerly eyeing resource-rich Myanmar since Western sanctions began to be dismantled in response to reforms by a quasi-civilian government that took power in 2011, ending decades of junta rule.

Research firm IHS Global Insight has put Myanmar among the world’s top five potential oil and gas exploration and production hotspots.

IHS economist Rajiv Biswas said Western oil companies “have shown considerable interest in participating” in the tender.

He told AFP the country, the world’s 14th largest gas exporter, was an “exciting” destination for oil and gas firms because sanctions had limited investment in exploration.

“Although rapid economic reforms since 2011 have made Myanmar a gold-rush economy, it also remains a new-frontier market with a high level of country risk for foreign investors,” he said, citing political challenges and corruption.

Myanmar ranks 172nd on Transparency International’s 2012 corruption perceptions index. Somalia, North Korea and Afghanistan shared the bottom spot, at 174.

Myanmar’s oil and gas industry accounts for some 34 percent of total exports, according to IHS. Biswas said the sector “will play a key role in the nation’s further economic development, generating new exports and fiscal revenue”.

He added that discovering energy reserves would be “critical” for developing domestic power production as the country fights frequent power outages that have impeded industrial development and fomented public anger.


Police in southern Shan state’s Pinlaung township seized more than 900kg of raw opium during a raid at a cave in the area after being tipped off that the site was being used to produce narcotics. (more…)

More than 130 Rohingya migrants have landed on Thai soil in less than 24 hours, a local official said yesterday, as the kingdom grapples with a flurry of arrivals from the Myanmar minority group. (more…)

Economic sanctions are no longer needed against Myanmar, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday. (more…)

With a steady hand, Myanmar Red Cross volunteer Tin Tin Wae, 22, measures out chlorine powder, adds it to a large bucket of water and begins to stir. This will eventually reach some of the 100,000 displaced people in Rakhine state who have been forced from their homes after violence swept through their communities in 2012. (more…)

The renewed fighting in Myanmar has drawn close to the Chinese border in the past week, and Chinese media are reporting that the government of neighboring province in Yunnan is bracing for impact, moving troops to the border and preparing refugee camps to deal with an influx of refugees from the Kachin rebel-controlled areas (Kachin is the name of both the state in Myanmar and an ethnic group). (more…)

As a longtime reporter here in Burma’s biggest city, Aye Aye Win remembers the anxiety she and her colleagues faced during the country’s former military regime, which for nearly half a century suppressed the flow of information through strict censorship laws and long prison sentences for journalists. (more…)

Reporters Without Borders is today releasing a report entitled “The Burmese Spring” about the rapid progress that freedom of information has made in Burma, but also about the limits of this progress and the dangers it faces. (more…)

Deputy Information Minister Ye Htut serves as the acting spokesperson for the President’s Office. In this capacity, he has made numerous statements to the media about the ongoing conflict in Kachin State. Yeni and Tha Lun Zaung Htet of The Irrawaddy’s editorial team spoke to him in Naypyidaw earlier this week about the ongoing conflict between Burma’s Tatmadaw, or armed forces, and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). Below are some highlights from their conversation. (more…)