International


The last three years in Burma have seen remarkable change, as the country starts out on the hard, but essential, journey towards democracy. Working closely with the U.S. and the international community, the U.K. has supported Burma’s progress. We continue to work with the government, political parties, and armed groups to reach a nationwide ceasefire and establish an inclusive nationwide political dialogue. But there is still much to do to ensure Burma continues to move forward on its path to democracy.
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Yanghee Lee, the new UN rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burma, visited the Arakan State capital Sittwe and has met with leaders of the Arakanese Buddhist and Rohingya Muslim communities in the troubled region, local sources said.
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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced Tehran’s readiness to help Myanmar settle the problems of the Muslim community living in the Southeast Asian country.
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Myanmar’s opening attracted much interest not only from Asian neighbors but also from those in the West that once considered the country a pariah.
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The United States, which has made a priority of improving relations with Myanmar, said on Friday it was “very concerned” by reports that four journalists and a newspaper boss were sentenced to 10 years’ hard labor there this month.
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Myanmar is preparing to grant up to 10 foreign bank licenses next month, a senior government official said, allowing overseas lenders to start doing business in the country after decades of being frozen out.
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Standard Chartered’s decision to not move forward with the licensing process is “a missed opportunity for Myanmar”, according to experts.
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The first ever British Chamber of Commerce has been registered to work in Burma, in a move the UK hopes will assist companies from the former colonial power looking to set up operations here.
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The State Department’s top human rights official is accusing Myanmar authorities of resorting to police-state tactics after five journalists from a weekly magazine got 10 years at hard labor for a disputed story about a weapons factory.
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The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) have denounced the sentencing of four journalists and the CEO of Unity Journal to ten years hard labour for reporting the existence of a secret weapons factory in January.
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The UN’s newly appointed special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar will begin her first visit to the country later this week.
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Gap Inc. began considering operating in Myanmar almost a year after the United States and the European Union formally eased sanctions on the former pariah state; it took another year of preparation before the company became the first U.S. retailer to make clothes in the country formerly known as Burma. In June, Gap announced it will be putting “Made in Myanmar” jackets and vests on its shelves later this summer.
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Citing a growing list of human rights violations in Myanmar, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday called for a range of new punitive measures against the government of President Thein Sein, including visa bans, an end to U.S.-Myanmar military cooperation, and a serious look at whether to impose economic sanctions on the former international pariah.
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A senior United States military officer has used an address to leaders of the armed forces in Nay Pyi Taw to outline the benefits of civilian leadership of the military, as Washington continues to push for the Tatmadaw to come under civilian control as part of a larger process of professionalisation.
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The appointment of a new chief minister in Rakhine State could result in the easing of some restrictions on international organisations operating in the state, a senior United States official said last week.
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More disturbingly, both Buddhist ultra-nationalism and anti-Islamic hate speech are on the rise, emboldened by prominent monks who urge the government to restrict inter-faith marriage, religious conversions, family planning and polygamy, all of which will adversely affect Burma’s sizeable Muslim minority.
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A Kazakh gas magnate, a furniture maker and two brothers once under international sanctions are part of a colourful cast flocking largely unnoticed to Myanmar’s emerging oil frontier. (more…)

UK parliamentarians held a discussion in London’s Westminster Hall on Thursday about the ongoing persecution faced by the Rohingyas and other ethnic minorities in Burma and debated what the UK government must do to stem human rights violations in that country.
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After years as a staunch critic of Burma’s former military junta, Canada signaled a sea change in its priorities toward the country earlier this month when it welcomed a tycoon with deep ties to the drug trade, but denied entry to a human rights activist because she lacked financial resources.
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A delegation of US officials led by the Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour Tom Malinowski met with representatives from the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party and the Karen State Progressive Party in Karen State’s capital Hpa-an on Monday to discuss issues related to the upcoming 2015 national elections.
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