Thursday, January 7th, 2016


Another year draws to a close, but it was far from ‘just another year’ in Burma.

In November, people from all walks of life across the country headed to their local polling stations to cast votes in Burma’s general election. The National League for Democracy (NLD) was the beneficiary of an overwhelming mandate for change.
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It was an eventful year for Burma, capped by a historic general election that saw the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) romp to a decisive victory that surpassed even their staunchest supporters’ expectations. In an election year, high-profile leaders such as Thein Sein, Aung San Suu Kyi and Min Aung Hlaing were naturally a near-constant presence in the news, along with Tin Aye, head of the commission that oversaw Burma’s Nov. 8 poll. But other, lesser known groups and individuals also took their turn in the spotlight this year, including the youth who volunteered during the country’s devastating floods and student activists who bravely led a protest march for education reform that was violently suppressed by the authorities. Here, The Irrawaddy outlines some of the country’s most renowned, respected or notorious figures and groups, from politics, the military, business and other sectors, who were prominent voices in 2015.
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Sixty-eight years ago today Britain’s Union Jack was lowered in Burma for the last time. Independence is a special feeling, made all the more potent in modern Myanmar by the long struggles against colonial rule and military dictatorship.
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U Myint Tun was alone in his field in Sagaing Region when four officers pulled up in a military jeep with the bad news: His land now belonged to the government and he could no longer farm it. This was April 1996.
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The Ethnic Nationalities Affairs Center (ENAC) was founded in 2013 to support Burma’s political dialogue through the development of inclusive policy recommendations created by both grassroots and elite stakeholders.
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Former political prisoner Yan Naing is a politician and activist from the Irrawaddy Delta. A member of Burma’s Muslim minority, he was a second generation supporter of the National League for Democracy.
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Kyaw Zwa Moe: Welcome to Dateline Irrawaddy. This week, we’ll discuss the controversy over the Koh Tao murder case ruling—whether the two Burmese men, who were given the death sentence, are guilty or are scapegoats, and if the appeal will be considered. Ko Min Oo, who is a member of the investigation committee on the case formed by the Myanmar Embassy to Thailand and The Irrawaddy’s reporter Kyaw Kha will join me for the discussion. I’m Irrawaddy English editor Kyaw Zwa Moe.
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Thailand’s most prominent forensics expert, Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand, who is head of the country’s Central Institute of Forensic Science, was recently called on by the defense team representing two Burmese men accused of murder to reexamine crucial DNA evidence. Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo were arrested last year for the killing of British backpackers David Miller and Hannah Witheridge on a Thai resort island on the night of September 15, 2014. However, the handling of the case by Thai police has been the subject of significant controversy and the two Burmese men have alleged they were tortured into a confession. The trial is continuing on Koh Samui. The Irrawaddy’s Saw Yan Naing spoke with Dr Pornthip about her team’s findings and ongoing involvement in the case.
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The Burmese government has vowed to continue assisting two migrant workers accused of murdering British tourists David Miller and Hannah Witheridge in Thailand, after the pair were sentenced to death by the Koh Samui provincial court on Thursday.
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The activists cracking jokes and ambling through the wards of Yangon General Hospital in Myanmar seemed too jovial to be political prisoners. They were detained by the military-backed regime for more than eight months, and had recently been transferred here from jail while they recovered from a hunger strike.
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Several months after arriving back home, Hlaing Min is still struggling to adjust.

“I feel like I double my mother’s worries because I’m yet to find any job for my living,” said the 33-year-old who was one of over 500 trafficked Burmese fishermen rescued from Indonesia earlier this year.
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Four leaders of a protest to prevent backhoes from entering Hpakant region on December 16 were detained by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
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Fighting is spreading over larger areas of northern Shan State as the Tatmadaw and a newly allied ethnic armed group move in reinforcements, according to the Ta’ang National Liberation Army.
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Kayah State should go back to its former name of “Karenni State”, political activists say. The issue was discussed at the Karenni State Conference, held from December 15 to 19 at Bardo village in Loikaw township, Kayah State.
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The National League for Democracy promised change and now overseas workers are eagerly awaiting an ensuing tide of reforms.
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The sentencing of a senior Yangon reporter for taking part in a prayer event on behalf of persecuted colleagues has raised concerns that the military-backed government is not going to relent in its prosecution of journalists during its last few months in office.
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The Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South (RCSS/SSA-S) and United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) met to discuss recent fighting between the Ta’ang National Liberation Army/Palaung State Liberation Force (TNLA/PSLF) and the RCSS/SSA-S,
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Since her party’s thumping election victory last month, Myanmar’s democracy leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has said little and made few public appearances. So when she emerged recently in her constituency, she was mobbed by reporters and photographers, eager for some hint about how her party will govern after the new Parliament is seated next month.
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Presidential spokesperson Ye Htut said the government would distribute “pensions” to outgoing lawmakers and other government administrators in line with existing laws, despite criticism of the scheme in recent days.
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A proposed piece of legislation published in Monday’s state-run newspapers seeks to protect the former president after he or she steps down, including a provision granting blanket immunity to the head of state for actions taken while in office.
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