Opinion


Two weeks ago the Obama administration declared that it will drop all remaining economic sanctions imposed on Myanmar. Since 1997, when the sanctions were established as a response to the gross human rights abuses being committed by the country’s ruling junta, they have prevented any tangible trade between the two countries.

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Myanmar is in a critical period where the direction of the power sector can provide revolutionary inclusive sustainable growth, or become a crippling anchor keeping the economy submerged under rising tides.

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State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s appointment of the Kofi Annan-led commission on Rakhine State clearly evidences the government’s recognition that these issues have risen to an international scale. Such a commission, and the inclusion of foreign experts, could not have been conceived of even a year ago.

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Since World War II, there have been five great Asian development success stories founded upon land tenure reforms that allocated land ownership, or equivalent long-term land rights, into the hands of small farmers.

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On the morning of August 31st, I had the honor of attending the opening session of the Union Peace Conference—21st Century Panglong Nay Pyi Taw. As the nation’s top leaders from government, Tatmadaw, parliament and ethnic armed organisations, as well as the UN Secretary-General, each took to the podium, there was an inescapable feeling of being part of an historic moment.

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During State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi’s first visit to the United States after the National League of Democracy won a historic victory in the 2015 elections, international experts and scholars called on US policymakers to reestablish cooperation between the US military and the Burma Army.

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In the past few weeks, colourful signboards have been erected around Yangon reminding people of their obligation to pay tax.

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Burma’s long oppressed ethnic groups and critics of the country’s military generals are beginning to understand that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s US visit will bring business opportunities, wealth and blanket amnesty to many rich and powerful people who remain out of favor.

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The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party recently held its first conference since losing power following the National League for Democracy’s landslide victory in last November’s elections.

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The success of Aung San Suu Kyi’s latest trip to Washington may mark a new chapter in Myanmar’s relations with the United States but the ongoing civil war in the country gives China control over crucial levers of pressure on its neighbour that the distant superpower can hardly match.

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Initial analysis of the gender balance at the recent 21st-century Panglong Conference offers some fascinating insights into attitudes toward women among different sectors of those involved in the country’s peace process.

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Myanmar’s new government is making its international debut. In mid-August, Beijing welcomed Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on her first visit to China since becoming Myanmar’s state counsellor and foreign minister. This followed her trips to Myanmar’s ASEAN neighbours Laos and Thailand and preceded President U Htin Kyaw’s landmark visit to India. On September 14 to 15, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will travel to Washington, DC. Myanmar’s busy diplomatic calendar carries special significance after the landslide electoral victory of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in November 2015.

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Public financial management reforms are central to Myanmar’s entire transition. Improvements to social services like garbage collection, investment in new roads and bridges, and raising standards of health and education are all premised on the government being able to raise more revenue and then effectively spend it achieving policy goals. In order for the National League for Democracy government to achieve its goals for economic and political reform, it is therefore a critical area for prioritisation.

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The Minister of the International Department of the Communist Party of China’s central committee, Mr Song Tao, had a busy round of meetings during a five-day goodwill visit to Myanmar that began on August 10.

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Myanmar’s new government is making its international debut. In mid-August 2016, Beijing welcomed Aung San Suu Kyi on her first visit to China since becoming Myanmar’s state counselor and foreign minister. This followed her trips to Myanmar’s ASEAN neighbors Laos and Thailand and preceded President U Htin Kyaw’s landmark visit to India. On Sept. 14-15, Suu Kyi will travel to Washington, DC. Myanmar’s busy diplomatic calendar carries special significance after the landslide electoral victory of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in November 2015, following political reforms that dismantled Myanmar’s decades-long military rule.

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It is time for the United States to stop agonizing about economic sanctions against Burma. However, the answer is not simply to remove all sanctions, but to keep targeted sanctions in place while providing a constructive pathway forward to later eliminate those remaining as Burma continues its process of democratic reform.

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China is a big fan of dams. Indeed, over the last 50 years, the country has constructed more dams than all other countries combined. But there is one dam that China never managed to get built: the Myitsone Dam in Myanmar. And Chinese leaders can’t seem to let it go.

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Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has had a busy few weeks. She attended the Association of Southeast Asian Nations foreign ministers’ meeting in Laos at the end of July in her capacity as foreign minister; traveled to Beijing in mid-August in her capacity as state counselor (and was by all accounts successful in getting relations with Myanmar’s giant neighbor off to a decent start); returned to Laos for the ASEAN summit and related meetings Sept. 6-8 in her capacity as de facto head of government; and will embark on a multi-country trip in mid-September, including stops in London, Washington D.C. and New York (to address the United Nations General Assembly).

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When U Mya Hlaing came home three years ago he found an eviction notice plastered to his front door. It accused him of being a squatter on his own farmland and told him to pack his bags within two weeks or face 30 days in prison. His village would be destroyed to make way for a multibillion dollar industrial project.

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In an attempt to find a sustainable solution to the complicated issues between Muslims and Buddhists in Rakhine State, former UN secretary general Kofi Annan is visiting Myanmar this week.

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