Editorial


The former military government took 15 years to write and approve Myanmar’s constitution. In short, it is a constitution written for the continuation of military dictatorship in Myanmar.
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Last week there was debate in the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, or Union Parliament, over the future of the Constitutional Tribunal, one of the new institutions established under the 2008 constitution. In discussions over proposed constitutional amendments, it was suggested that the Constitutional Tribunal should be abolished.
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Although many Americans would have a hard time finding Sri Lanka or Myanmar on a map, these two Asian countries are in the midst of major political transformations with important and uncertain outcomes.
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Disturbing images and reports of decrepit vessels crammed with Rohingya people from Myanmar adrift in the Andaman Sea have featured prominently in Western newspapers and media websites of late. In April, a Thai government crackdown on human trafficking prompted smugglers to abandon their human cargoes at sea, leaving dozens of boats packed with migrants drifting aimlessly for weeks. Almost without missing a beat, media and rights groups condemned Myanmar for creating this humanitarian crisis – in the process reviving the old narrative of the pariah state.
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While the EU continues to struggle with the Mediterranean refugee crisis, South East Asia has been facing a potential catastrophe as Burma’s Rohingya flee their homes in search of safety across the Andaman Sea. The scenes of thousands of people stranded on boats and the harrowing discovery of mass graves have recently commanded the world’s attention, but the Rohingya minority’s desperation is not new and they are no strangers to injustice.
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Negotiations on a nationwide ceasefire agreement between the government and ethnic armed groups that had appeared to be progressing well, recently hit a stumbling block.
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Much has been said and written about Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s recent visit to China, and some commentators have even suggested that it may signal a shift in Beijing’s policy toward Myanmar—away from the government and toward a more favorable view of the pro-democracy opposition.
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For 17 months, negotiations between the government and the ethnic armed organisations (EAOs) sought to reach a nationwide ceasefire agreement for Myanmar. Negotiations must continue until a way toward peace is found.
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Proposed amendments to the 2008 constitution are now up for debate in parliament. After voting on the first six proposed changes on June 25, parliament has continued to discuss a broader range of amendments contained in a second bill. The debate concluded yesterday, after 63 MPs discussed the bill.
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Conversely, a morning newspaper can have the reverse effect, as it did this week when I read an article in the July 7 Bangkok Post by Songkran Grachangnetara about the detention of 14 students in Thailand.
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Political parties representing Burma’s ethnic minorities could pick up a sizeable number of seats in a general election later this year, presenting a stumbling block for the ambitions of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and her party.
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In every country, there are always tensions between medical practitioners charged with keeping those incarcerated in good health, and prison officials. As medical ethics and jail policy are often at odds with each other, this is a never-ending dispute.
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Prior to the heinous murders of British tourists Hannah Witheridge and David Miller in Thailand last September, migrant workers’ presence and everyday lives on Koh Tao Island were not publicly discussed. This situation abruptly changed once migrants were identified by case investigators as key suspects behind the killings.
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Many wondered whether Daw Aung San Suu Kyi would comment on sensitive human rights issues under the noses of her Communist hosts. The long-term imprisonment of Liu Xiaobo, a fellow Nobel laureate, had some speculating that Myanmar’s icon of democracy would wade into China’s difficult domestic politics.
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The school’s red-brick walls are pockmarked by bullets, and holes have been blasted by rocket-propelled grenades. The classroom is littered with the detritus of war – empty ammunition boxes, spent shell casings, garbage, worn-out army boots and backpacks.
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Can Myanmar have true democracy without genuine peace? Widespread armed conflict, including intensified civil wars in the northern Kachin and eastern Shan States, will challenge the state appointed election commission to organize polls across vast areas of the country if and when constitutionally mandated elections are held in November. An incomplete and fraying peace process will jeopardize electoral security, maximum voter participation and the democratic legitimacy of the results.
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We saw last week the culmination of the first round of parliamentary discussion on the constitution, in which attempts to introduce limited amendments failed to win the necessary majority. Today begins the potentially more important second round, with far more at stake. However, an analysis of the alignment of powers in parliament suggests that not much is likely to change.
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As Myanmar heads toward national elections scheduled for November, the government of President Thein Sein is intensifying attempts to thwart the democratic aspirations of Myanmar’s people.
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Aung San Suu Kyi’s path to the presidency of Myanmar remains blocked, after parliament nixed crucial constitutional amendments. Inside the country and abroad, many are wondering what is next for the Nobel peace laureate and her opposition party, the National League for Democracy.
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Whatever fleeting, slender hopes Aung San Suu Kyi had of maneuvering her way into the presidency next year are now dashed.
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