Opinion


In 1988 the military junta in Burma brutally cracked down on a wave of peaceful uprisings. From then on, the country was under the iron fist of a military dictatorship, which repressed all democratic opposition, violated human rights, and was pervasively corrupt. In reaction, the U.S. government imposed a strict embargo against Burma. After seeing signs of political reform, in 2011 the U.S. government slowly began lifting sanctions against Burma, including through constructing a “carrot and stick” regulatory framework. First, targeted sanctions were imposed against certain entities and individuals directly involved in human rights abuses. Second, a General License was issued to allow U.S. investments in Burma so long as investors complied with reporting requirements. Specifically, all businesses that invested over $500,000 had to submit reports to the Department of State detailing their human rights policies and risk management mechanisms.

(more…)

There was a revealing moment at a recent gathering of newly elected lawmakers in Myanmar’s capital, Naypyitaw, when talk turned to their many training sessions with “international experts” and Western politicians on lofty subjects such as “building democracy” and being good legislators.

(more…)

The international community roared approval when the National League for Democracy (NLD) and its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, swept to power in elections last year. Now, some 100 days after her government took office, pundits are becoming more critical.

(more…)

They make unreasonable demands. They think change happens overnight. They refuse to negotiate with the government. They hijacked the student protests (or was it vice versa?).

(more…)

Northern Burma’s Myitsone mega-project failed because its Chinese proponents systematically dismissed Kachin and Burmese nationalism. The Chinese hydropower developers’ strategy was what I call “anti-ethno-politics”: when the state, NGOs, businesses, or other actors try to depoliticise sensitive questions about how their own activities clash with a nationalism. Such anti-ethno-politics is the Chinese government’s dominant approach to ethnic minorities and economic development in China. But it clearly failed in Burma. Why?

(more…)

On June 23, an outbreak of mob violence targeting Muslims occurred in Thuye Thamein village in Bago Region’s Waw Township. A Muslim accused of arguing with his neighbour was beaten up by a group of people. His house was ransacked and buildings in the village mosque were also targeted.

(more…)

It has been a bad week for Muslim-hating misogynist monk U Wirathu. First the vessel for religious hate and discrimination known as Ma Ba Tha, which he has championed as it pushed its hardline nationalist agenda, was disowned by the country’s principal Buddhist authority, the Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee.

(more…)

Burma’s national League for Democracy (NLD) government has announced a 21st Century Panglong Conference (21CPC), scheduled for the end of August, to address the country’s decades-long ethnic conflict and the need for national reconciliation. The idea for this 21CPC was first mentioned by Aung San Suu Kyi, who as state counsellor is now the de facto leader of the government, in late 2010.

(more…)

It’s not easy to govern a country emerging from a half-century of military rule, particularly with one hand tied behind your back. After sweeping Burma’s historic elections in 2015, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), now faces daunting challenges. It needs to repeal or reform problematic laws, restructure military-dominated bureaucracies, and deal with violent strains of xenophobia and anti-Muslim hatred.

(more…)

In late May, U Phyo Min Thein, the chief minister of Yangon Region, declared that he would rid Myanmar’s largest city of squatters as a matter of urgency. The plan raised more than a few eyebrows, as the city’s “informal” residents are believed to number more than 400,000, and many have been living in makeshift dwellings for almost a decade.

(more…)

In his column in the June 16 edition of Frontier, Sithu Aung Myint wrote that the Chinese Ambassador, Mr Hong Liang, with a delegation from China’s State Power Investment Cooperation, recently visited Kachin State to lobby for the resumption of work on the stalled Myitsone Dam.

(more…)

In a hugely positive step forward for women’s rights and reproductive health this week, it was announced that free long-acting reversible contraceptives are to be made available through the public health system.

(more…)

Delivering peace in Myanmar is the top priority of the country’s first democratically elected government in over 60 years. A close analysis of the recent spike in fighting in northern Kachin State shows that won’t be possible unless those at the table tackle the role of natural resources, particularly jade, in fuelling conflict.

(more…)

First up, she went to Vientiane for meetings hosted by the Lao communist party. Now she has recently returned from Thailand, where that country’s military rulers offered their gilded hospitality to Southeast Asia’s best-recognised democracy activist.

(more…)

State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi wants the forthcoming peace conference to be inclusive but that will depend on changes to the so-called Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement and the attitude of the Tatmadaw.

(more…)

Now here is an interesting juxtaposition of cases: On the same day that ministers announced there would be no legal action against members of a mob that broke into a mosque and assaulted a Muslim man in Bago Region, we learned that U Gambira – a former monk and Saffron Revolution leader – is facing new charges relating to an incident in 2012 when he allegedly forced open monasteries sealed by authorities after the monk-led uprising.

(more…)

It was an unusual suggestion from an unexpected source and it signalled the extraordinary desperation that pervades the thinking of some of the region’s most senior leaders.

(more…)

Any company wanting to benefit from exploiting Myanmar’s rich natural resources should have to give something back to the communities in which it operates.

(more…)

In the November 2015 election, Burma’s long-standing opposition, the National League for Democracy (NLD), swept into office, promising change and new freedoms for the masses after a half-century of military rule. That the party is led by Aung San Suu Kyi, a widely revered Nobel Prize winner and long-time dissident, only added to expectations of dramatic change.

(more…)

“We need to stay patient and tolerant, and let her get on with it, since she is new and inexperienced.” Such are the words uttered by many in Burma who were happy to see the veteran pro-democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi assume de facto leadership of the new government at the end of March.

(more…)

Next Page »