Editorial


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.
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Even as the world smiled benignly at the democratic opening up of Myanmar and the extended foreign tour of its opposition leader, Aung San SuuKyi, the country’s complex domestic dynamic, hidden for years, has surfaced. (more…)

For more than two decades, Burma’s former ruling generals relied heavily on the country’s energy sector to keep themselves in power. Even after a year of much-heralded reforms, however, their grip on this key source of national revenue remains intact. This has to change—and it’s up to would-be foreign investors to ensure that it does. (more…)

Now that information travels more freely in and out of the country, news coming out of Myanmar about the violent treatment of the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic group living in the Rakhine state on the border with Bangladesh, should disturb the conscience of those who love peace and freedom. Even more disturbing however is the silence of most of the world, including Myanmar’s Southeast Asian neighbors, in the face of clear human rights violations perpetrated by the state and its people against the ethnic group. (more…)

Many in Burma don’t have the luxury of worrying about economic advancement (see above). They are just trying to stay alive. Buddhists and Muslims are killing each other and burning down each other’s houses in Burma’s western coastal Rakhine State, and the government seems unable to stop the violence. The Muslim Rohingya minority is already one of the world’s most oppressed groups, and hatred for them among the local ethnic Rakhine population is reaching a fever pitch. A humanitarian disaster now looms. (more…)

For 25 years, India walked a tightrope in Myanmar between the need to build relations with an important neighbour that was also a strategic gateway to South-east and East Asia, and its conscience. Aung San Suu Kyi was the discomfiting reminder of that conscience. In the struggle to keep a balance between the two, New Delhi could neither go full steam ahead with the military regime that had kept Ms Suu Kyi under arrest, nor go all out to support the pro-democracy movement she led. That partly explains why no Indian Prime Minister visited Myanmar after Rajiv Gandhi in 1987. Now that Ms Suu Kyi, who was released in 2010, is participating in the country’s political reforms, India has signalled with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit earlier this week that it wants nothing other than a full normalisation of relations, and quickly. The reasons are no secret. With the western world having suspended sanctions on Myanmar, the country is gradually opening up its resource-rich economy, and as a neighbour, India clearly does not want to be left behind in the race. Equally important, Myanmar borders four states in India’s insurgency-hit Northeast. One reason why India did business with the military regime was to keep it from nurturing rebel groups. Prospects for stability in that region have increased with the Myanmar government’s decision seriously to pursue reconciliation with various armed ethnic rebel groups on its own side. The development of the border areas could help keep both sides stable and peaceful, give an economic leg-up to the Northeast, plus help connect India to the ASEAN countries. (more…)

Today, on her first full day on foreign soil since becoming Burma’s democratic icon 24 years ago, Aung San Suu Kyi was greeted by crowds of ecstatic supporters in the Burmese enclave of Mahachai, near Thailand’s capital. But nine years ago on this day, it was a very different crowd that surrounded her. (more…)

The monopoly of Myanmar’s communication and information technology should be eased to allow for economic development, say international investors, local activists and businesspersons. (more…)

Two countries should forget past, start anew. (more…)

The new and supposedly progressive government of Myanmar faces many challenges in throwing off the sordid past of 48 years of military tyranny. One deeply troubling heritage is the drug trade. Neighbours including Thailand have given President Thein Sein a long rope, but all agree that the long years of Myanmar drug trafficking must end. (more…)

Burmese Vice-President Tin Aung Myint Oo is famous for his foul mouth and being one of the former regime’s most corrupt generals. But recently, some visitors were astonished to see the battle-hardened military man preach teachings from the Buddha. (more…)

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the National League for Democracy have taken their seats in the Southeast Asian nation’s parliament, a month after the party’s victory in widely-watched by-elections. In a protest over the wording of the oath of office that they “safeguard” Burma’s controversial 2008 military-drafted Constitution, they had initially refused to take their seats until the wording of the oath was amended. But in a compromise, they were sworn in on May 2 and it is hoped they and the government will work together to continue to build Burma’s future.  (more…)

AS U.N. SECRETARY General Ban Ki-moon was urging the world last week to expand investment into Burma, the Irrawaddy, a Burmese magazine-in-exile, was publishing a story about 7,800 acres of Burmese farmland being confiscated by the government to make way for copper mining. (more…)

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s long resistance to Myanmar’s brutal dictatorship gave her people — and the world — hope that her country would someday be free. Her swearing in this week as a member of Myanmar’s Parliament is an important step forward, but the struggle to establish a real democracy is not over.
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It has become a pattern. Whenever the ethnic Muslim Rohingya boat people from Myanmar reach Thai shores, the authorities arrest them as a matter of course, then provide them with water and food before pushing them out to sea again so they can go to their intended destination. (more…)

When authoritarian rulers embrace reform they almost always do so in the hope of retaining power rather than transferring it (more…)

In Burma, it takes real nerve to accuse the military of anything. That’s why it came as a surprise to many when the family of a Kachin woman last seen on Oct. 28 filed a lawsuit against soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion 321 for her alleged abduction. The husband and father of the missing woman, 28-year-old Sumlut Roi Ja, said that the soldiers arrested all three—supposedly on suspicion of having links to the Kachin Independence Army—but only the two men managed to escape. (more…)

On Thursday, Burma’s President Thein Sein’s delivered a speech before Parliament to mark the anniversary of his government’s first year in power. The speech, which was broadcast live on the state-run MRTV television station, was generally well-received by most Burmese. However, some longtime political observers were more skeptical, noting that the president appeared to be papering over a number of issues that could undermine his efforts to deliver further reforms. (more…)

The US this month waived objections to limited World Bank assistance for Myanmar. The UN has agreed to work jointly with Naypyidaw to hold an international aid conference. The European Union says it will provide €150m over the next two years, nearly as much as its contribution in the past 15. Myanmar is coming in from the cold. (more…)

Furthering its promise to partner with Burma in its reform process, the U.S. has increased dialogue on another important rights issue: human trafficking. (more…)

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