Opinion


The general election due to be held late next year is widely considered to be an important milestone in the transition towards democracy, but there have been some worrying portents. (more…)

News dailies, weeklies and tabloids of all hues are a common sight in Rangoon these days. Whether they are covering politics, elections, business or fashion, there is certainly no dearth of news stories today. (more…)

Modern Myanmar’s political metamorphosis from dictatorship towards democracy has resulted in lifting the heavy burden of political and financial sanctions and led to an influx of tourists and foreign investors. Newly formed joint ventures have strengthened ties between Myanmar and countries in Asia and beyond. The former cash-based economy is transforming into a modern credit-based system. During the last three years, global brands have brought infrastructure and job opportunities. Despite economic progress being yet to be matched by advances in some other sectors, including education, the people remain hopeful that further political reforms will lead to a more equal and free society. Much credit must be given to those whose vision has driven the emergence of the new Myanmar, for it those who are most adaptable to change that survive in the age of globalisation. (more…)

Just a little more than a generation ago, many countries in Asia, with the exception of Japan, were associated with endemic poverty, hardline ideological regimes, and state-controlled economies that barely met the needs of the people. The people power uprising in Burma, now Myanmar, in 1988 was quickly crushed by military regimes intolerant of political change as was the movement pushing for democracy which occurred in China’s Tiananmen Square in 1989. (more…)

The 8-8-88 uprising occurred in Burma (as it was then known) more than 26 years ago, but it was only 25 years later, in August 2013, that the people of Myanmar (as it is now called) were officially allowed to commemorate it. Today marks another significant anniversary in the country’s long struggle for democracy: Sept. 18, the day 26 years ago that a military coup brought about the violent suppression of the 1988 uprising. (more…)

Recently, The Irrawaddy disclosed information that the government wanted to keep hidden from the public, and as a result we are now on the “blacklist” of Rangoon Division’s chief minister.

That’s what one lower-level minister in the divisional government and a lawmaker in the divisional legislature voluntarily told The Irrawaddy, though they requested anonymity. (more…)

This week Thein Sein, President of Burma, will be visiting The Hague, in the Netherlands. As a man with a lot of blood on his hands, you might be thinking this is long overdue. But instead of being indicted at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his involvement in war crimes and crimes against humanity, Thein Sein will be receiving red carpet treatment from the Dutch government.
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This has been a monumental year for the quotidian struggle for greater LGBT rights in Myanmar. International attention was drawn to Myanmar’s LGBT community when Myo Min Htet and Tin Ko Ko held an unofficial wedding ceremony in Yangon, celebrating their relationship in front of friends and family. As a result, conservatives throughout the country called for the strict enforcement of Section 377 of the penal code, a law punishing “carnal” same-sex relations with lengthy jail sentences, reinforcing the scathing divide over old and new Myanmar. Reform of the current, military inspired constitution could facilitate the end of such extreme responses by fostering greater inclusion in Myanmar’s fractured society, since LGBT issues cross all racial, religious, and ethnic lines. As discussion of constitutional reform continues, addressing how the LGBT community would benefit has become timely.
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Oil Mountain, Myanmar—The mood at a ramshackle bar in this village on Ramree Island, in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State, is one of fatalism punctuated by the occasional comic trope.
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There has been so much regression on democracy and human rights in Myanmar recently that many people, this editorial page included, have suggested the United States must consider reinstating broad sanctions.
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Following her recent participation in the ASEAN Regional Forum in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, which included bilateral meetings with counterparts from 11 countries, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj declared, “I myself feel that the visit was very successful.” Her trip will set the stage for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to Myanmar in November. These engagements come as public and government opposition to Chinese infrastructure projects in Myanmar rises, offering India the opportunity to fill the strategic gap left by China’s waning influence in the Southeast Asian country. (more…)

There was a time when ethnic Arakanese Buddhists and stateless Rohingya Muslims in western Burma lived and worked together. They were once neighbors, albeit uneasy ones, sharing a tense but relatively stable existence.
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A lot has changed in Burma since the country’s transition began in 2011. This remains an indisputable – albeit somewhat overplayed – fact. Keen to participate in the country’s uneven process of opening up, uncomfortable compromises have had to be made on all sides – something which seemed unthinkable only a few years ago. In the realm of macro-level policies shaping the future of Burma, though, the power players dominate. There is a marked asymmetry between the traction given to voices propounding a tried-and-tested model of ‘development’, and those pushing for a more heedful and cautious approach. Despite the coverage afforded to Burma in recent years, few people seem to be asking either why this is, or what the consequences might be.
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When Myanmar’s military junta dissolved itself in 2011, the country took steps to transition to a more democratic society, including releasing political prisoners and relaxing restrictions on the press. But, its progress toward democracy has stalled.
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There must have been a sigh of relief as Ooredoo, a Qatar-based telecoms company, finally started offering SIM cards to the people of Myanmar, who previously had to pay hundreds of dollars for somewhat dysfunctional service. Telenor, another foreign telecoms license winner, has meanwhile vowed to provide network coverage for 90 per cent of Myanmar’s population within five years. Myanmar has never had it so good.
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Burma’s relatively new, quasi-civilian leadership has yet to prove that it is responsible and accountable to the country’s citizens, who, for the first time after decades under an oppressive military regime, have been given the promise of representation. But the problems in Burma that most affect the lives of its people are rarely reaching parliament, which has chosen instead to focus on convoluted political shuffles and superficial reforms.
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There is not a conversation or discussion on the Myanmar peace process that does not include two words: “trust” and “distrust”. As far as the peace process is concerned, no matter who speaks on any given occasion, the two words are either mentioned in passing or featured prominently.
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Allan Lokos and Susanna Weiss, two New Yorkers who run a meditation center on the Upper West Side, arrived in Myanmar in December 2012 eager to explore a nation just emerging from decades of military rule. As practitioners of Theravada Buddhism themselves, visiting this largely Buddhist land, with its golden pagodas and crimson-robed monks, was more than just a holiday.
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Since reports about the cancellation of a proposed US$20 billion railway line connecting China’s southern Yunnan province with Myanmar’s Rakhine western coast emerged in late July, conflicting accounts about the 1,200 kilometer project’s status have raised new questions about the neighboring countries’ commercial relations.
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The new Indian government has begun its tenure with a busy calendar of international travel. Most recently, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has been in Naypyitaw, Myanmar for the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting (AMM), the East Asia Summit meeting of foreign ministers, and the ASEAN Regional Forum.
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