May 2013

Terrifying anti-Muslim violence surged this week in Myanmar, exposing deep ethnic and religious tensions that are undermining efforts to stabilize the country and move forward with political and economic reforms. Myanmar’s democratic aspirations can never be fully realized if Muslims, who make up about 5 percent of the population, continue to be attacked and marginalized by Buddhists, the majority of the population. At least 44 people have died since March in sectarian mob violence.

New sectarian violence flared Tuesday in northeastern Myanmar, with a mob burning some shops after unconfirmed rumors spread that a Muslim man had set fire to a Buddhist woman. (more…)

Myanmar said the restoration of a policy preventing some Muslim Rohingya from having more than two children is family planning, dismissing criticism that it’s evidence of oppression against the religious minority. (more…)

Myitkyina, Kachin State – Negotiators from both the government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) have agreed to continue discussions on military affairs, the establishment of a ceasefire negotiations monitoring team and the way forward on political dialogue during the latest round of peace talks. (more…)

Unregulated gold mining, agro-industrial farming and hydropower development in Kachin State is affecting thousands of villagers, who are suffering from environmental destruction and a loss of farmland, a Kachin rights group warned. (more…)

Burma’s most heavily armed and powerful rebel group has said it is looking to carve out a legitimate state, as experts say it is flexing its muscles amid tense relations with the government. (more…)

The Burma Army has issued an ultimatum to Karen ethnic armed groups to remove their flags by midday Wednesday or suffer the consequences. (more…)

Foreign investment in Burma is increasing, but is starting from a very low base Burma’s re-engagement with the global economy is one of the most promising developments in Asia since China opened up 30 years ago. (more…)

Myanmar President Thein Sein said during a meeting in Naypyitaw on Monday that the ongoing China-Myanmar oil and gas pipeline is an important and mutually beneficial project, according to China’s Xinhua News Agency which quoted the president in talks with Liao Yongyuan, the general manager of China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), the pipeline’s major financial backer. (more…)

The U.S. is calling on the government of Myanmar to stop the imposition of a two-child limit on a Muslim minority group that has been targeted in bloody communal unrest. (more…)

Chinese envoys to Myanmar (Burma) used to have it easy. The military junta that handed over power in April 2011 counted on Beijing for political support and reciprocated with over $20 billion worth of investment opportunities in Myanmar’s rich natural resources. While Western powers shunned the regime for its right abuses and imposed economic sanctions, Chinese envoys enjoyed unparalleled access to the top brass. Now that the winds of change have blown and the junta is no more, replaced by a civilian administration eager to court the West, China faces a far trickier task in managing relations with Myanmar. Its valuable investments in gas pipelines and hydropower dams have become a lightning rod for critics emboldened by parliamentary democracy and an end to press censorship.

As Myanmar government and Kachin leaders sit down for talks in Myitkyina, hope will be high that progress toward peace will be realized as part of the central government’s continued efforts of reform. Yet, critical voices as to the process are by no means difficult to find. Are we then foolish to hope for a breakthrough this week to one of the country’s most intractable conflicts? (more…)

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Islamic leaders expressed dismay Monday over plans by authorities in western Myanmar to revive a two-child limit on Muslim Rohingya families, a policy that does not apply to Buddhists and comes amid accusations of ethnic cleansing. (more…)

As the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO)’s delegation rolled into Myitkyina on Monday, thousands of supporters filled the streets to greet the rebel convoy in a massive show of support ahead of the next round of peace talks that are set to begin in the state capital on Tuesday. (more…)

Chelsea Clinton is carrying out some of her father’s globe-trotting work in a country where her mother blazed a diplomatic trail — Myanmar. (more…)

Less than six years ago, the West watched amazed and awed as hundreds of thousands of Burmese Buddhist monks seized the city streets in defiance of the military junta, walking through the monsoon rain in their robes, chanting the sutra of loving kindness. Undercover video-journalists filmed it all, and when the riot police and the army went in to club and shoot the monks, the same brave cameramen recorded every blow and every drop of sanctified blood that was spilt. (more…)

Myanmar is on track to becoming Asia’s newest crossroads with the completion of two overland pipelines to China, expected this month. (more…)

Shinzo Abe, accompanied by a large business delegation, is visiting Myanmar – the first by a Japanese prime minister in more than three decades. (more…)

(Unofficial translation)

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, the “super-salesman” cheered by the Japanese media, began his visit to Myanmar on the 24th. This is the first visit by a Japanese Prime Minister since 1977. Western media believe that his trip is aimed at strengthening political and economic ties with Myanmar and mitigating China’s influence in Myanmar. Bloomberg said that Abe would visit the graves of Japanese soldiers in Myanmar. (more…)

A walk around battered, ramshackle Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city and former capital, quickly makes it clear how far the country has fallen behind the rest of Asia over the past half-century. In large part the place is but a ghostly reminder of former glories. Under British colonial rule, before independence in 1948, Rangoon (as it was then) was a thriving, cosmopolitan entrepot, the capital of Burma, one of the region’s wealthiest countries. All that came to an abrupt end in 1962 after a junta of army officers, led by the brutal General Ne Win, seized power and launched the country on the quasi-Marxist “Burmese Way to Socialism”. Private foreign-owned businesses were nationalised, prompting the exodus of hundreds of thousands of people, many of Indian origin. The country’s tenuous attachment to democracy was broken. Myanmar, as Burma was later renamed by its ruling generals, retreated into itself. Comprehensive Western sanctions hit home from the mid-1990s onwards, only slightly alleviated by an injection of Asian money. (more…)

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