Opinion


For a while, when Myanmar opened after decades of isolation and sanctions, it seemed the government could do no wrong as American and European governments rushed to embrace the country. Now, according to headlines from the West, little or nothing seems right.
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The debate over which electoral system is best suited to Myanmar seems to have been put on the backburner for now, but it is only a matter of time before the issue resurfaces, potentially ahead of crucial November elections.
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This year’s Union Day came and went on 12 February, significantly without the signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Accord (NCA) that President Thein Sein had so hoped for as his presidential legacy. Instead, a face-saver Union Day pledge of sorts was signed by a “coalition of the willing” – 50 political parties and 4 ethnic armed groups. Nine of the 13 armed groups attending the event at the capital, Naypyidaw, refused to sign.
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The Burmese government recently came under fire for back-pedaling on a pledge to grant the country’s beleaguered Rohingya minority the right to vote. On February 12, the government announced the imminent suspension of all temporary ID cards held by over half a million Rohingya Muslims in western Burma, dashing hopes that they might be allowed to vote in Burma’s first general election in over fifty years, scheduled for the end of this year.
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Over the last three weeks, fighting has broken out in Myanmar’s northeast between the military and several ethnic minority militias, including the ethnic Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and, allegedly, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). The KIA is one of the most powerful insurgent groups in Myanmar. At least 30,000 civilians have fled across the border into China, and the fighting has killed at least 130 people. The Myanmar military has attacked rebel groups with air strikes, and the fighting shows no sign of letting up.
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Myanmar’s university students are known at home and abroad for their strident activism against dictatorship. In the old days, grainy images of defiant marchers, demanding greater rights and an end to authoritarian rule, circulated around the world.
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Fighting between government forces and the army of Pheung Kya-shin – known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) – has resumed in the Kokang region of Shan State for the first time in more than five years.
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The controversy over the use of the term “Bengali” to describe Muslims in Rakhine State known as “Rohingya” seems set to continue following the second visit by UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee to Myanmar.
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(Unofficial Translation)

Since Feb 9, the intense conflict in the Kokang autonomous region in Myanmar’s Shan State has lasted for many days. The conflict between the government military and multiple local armed ethnic groups is very tense with continual sporadic fighting. Will this trigger a full civil war in Myanmar and affect the elections later this year? What are the impacts on Sino-Myanmar relations?
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We are citizens of Myanmar according to Section 11 of 1947 Constitution, Section 4(2) of 1948 Citizenship Act. Therefore, we are citizens of Myanmar according to 1974 Constitution.
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EVERY year Myanmar celebrates Union Day on February 12th to mark the signing of the Panglong agreement in 1947, which unified the country then known as Burma. President Thein Sein had hoped to use this year’s Union Day to sign a national ceasefire accord with most of the many armed ethnic groups which, for decades, have battled a government until recently in the hands of brutal military rulers. Instead, Myanmar’s army was embroiled in some of the heaviest fighting in years, after rebels from among the Kokang—an ethnic-Han people in northern Shan State on the Chinese border—tried to seize control of Laukkai, the Kokang region’s capital (see article). At least 75 government and rebel troops have been killed, and thousands of civilians have fled.
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On Feb. 11, Myanmar’s President Thein Sein rescinded a voting rights offer to the country’s Rohingya community amid intense pressure from far-right Buddhist groups. Last week hundreds of Buddhists took to the streets to denounce the continuation of a 2010 law that extended the right to vote to the country’s more than 1 million ethnic Rohingya. Myanmar does not regard the minority group as citizens.
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For more than forty years state media dominated Myanmar’s media landscape. State newspapers and television channels routinely fed the public the government’s view, often amounting to flat out propaganda.
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One week before the Chinese New Year, the former leader of the ethnic Kokang National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Peng Jiasheng, launched ferocious attacks on the government military in Kokang. Peng was driven out of power during the Kokang Incident in 2009 and has since disappeared from public view. While it remains unclear at this moment whether Peng will regain control of Kokang, the renewed conflict and his reemergence have added major uncertainty to Myanmar’s peace process and could potentially affect the upcoming elections.
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Last week two seemingly unrelated events attracted the attention of this writer. The first was the announcement in the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar that the temporary ID documents known as white cards will expire at the end of March and those who hold them will lose their voting rights.
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Was it an intelligence failure? That’s what many Burmese were asking when they heard the news that 47 Burmese soldiers had been killed in recent clashes with ethnic minority insurgents near the border with China. And many thought that it was. The conflict erupted just as the country was celebrating Union Day, causing serious setbacks to a tenuous and ongoing peace process that was geared toward achieving a nationwide ceasefire agreement between the government and an array of armed insurgent groups.
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During the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw session on February 2, MPs voted to allow holders of temporary identity cards, better known as white cards, to vote in a referendum on amending the constitution.
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In this week’s episode of DVB Debate, the panel reflects on the legacy of General Aung San, the man revered as the father of modern Burma.
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In 2009, Burma’s then consul general in Hong Kong sent a letter to local newspapers and fellow diplomats posted in the Chinese territory. It was addressing concerns over the treatment of refugees from Burma’s Rohingya population, a Bengali-speaking Muslim minority long marginalized in the country. Incidents of shipwrecked boats bearing half-starved, desperate Rohingya from Burma had won wider attention in the region.
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I used to be proud of being a Bamar. In the early days of my life, I was overwhelmed with pride for our rich culture, civilization and centuries-long history. We Bamar are a people who founded three great empires and produced warrior kings who were feared by our neighbors. In the view of the average Bamar, we are superior to any ethnic group politically, economically or culturally, and other minority groups have always looked up to us with fear and envy.
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