Opinion


A Western diplomat said recently that there are two cancers eating away at Myanmar society – one is the ethnic war and the other is religion-based violence. When the disturbances began, I knew it was unconscionable to let it happen, and became part of the not-toolarge number of people addressing it. I have spoken out when others did not because I have long been disturbed by communal violence in Myanmar.
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When the United States removed one of Burma’s most prominent businessmen, Win Aung, from the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list last week, other blacklisted tycoons surely sent silent prayers that they would be next in line for removal from the list that bars them from business with their American counterparts. (more…)

Last week, as the city of Mandalay soaked in the revelry of Thingyan [New Year] celebrations, a young woman was set upon and beaten by a group of men, a social media video appears to show. (more…)

In late November 2013, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi wrote to President U Thein Sein in her capacity as chair of the National League for Democracy to ask that he convene high-level four-party talks to discuss constitutional reform. She proposed that the talks involve the President, herself, Union parliament Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann and Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
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On the eve of the Thingyan holidays – a period increasingly renowned for drunken partying in Myanmar – it emerged that authorities had told stores to stop selling the morning-after pill during the festival. These strong-arm tactics led to many shops removing other forms of contraception, including in some cases condoms, from their shelves.
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This week, several media outlets reported that Myanmar had hired the Podesta Group, a powerful US lobbying firm, to represent its interests in Washington. (more…)

As the economy continues its bustling run – fuelled by frontier-market optimism – it’s worth taking stock of an economic issue that rarely gets the attention it deserves. With so many words spilled on high rents and over-priced hotel rooms, there’s barely any room at the inn for discussion about wages, particularly the pay of the decision-makers who keep the entire system in order.
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What are the best ways to boost investment in Myanmar? That’s a rather general question to start with, and one that generates an understandably wide range of opinions, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. So how can we really find out what would work best? One way could be through Special Economic Zones (SEZs). (more…)

Myanmar’s political transition has spawned debates and deliberations in policymaking circles and strategic communities across the world. The economic and strategic spinoff of the political changes has generated immense attention and interest. Not least in China.
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Burmese activists were outraged to learn late last week that the government had entered into a year-long public relations contract with a Washington-based lobbying firm worth US$840,000. Some took their disgust to social media, begging such legitimate questions as: “If reform is genuine and sincere, why would they need to hire a PR firm?”
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One year to the day since Burma lost one of its leading intellectual figures, Win Tin, The Irrawaddy looks back on his enduring legacy. A beloved democracy activist, journalist and former political prisoner, Win Tin lives on as an emblem of persistence and bravery for those seeking true democratic change in Burma.
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The news out of China is about a “new normal” of slower economic growth – down to about 7 percent. But at the recently concluded 2015 Asia-Pacific Council of American Chambers of Commerce (APCAC) held in Singapore, the focus was on the growth potential of the 10 nations comprising the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the upcoming ASEAN Economic Community, with Myanmar grabbing a significant amount of attention as the new investment destination. (more…)

As a traveler exploring Myanmar, the scale and pace of development in the country is hard to miss. Wherever you look, there is some form of construction or renovation—from old office blocks getting new paint jobs to new luxury hotels being built next to them.
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Burma watchers around the world are paying special attention at the six-party talks held at the presidential residence in Nay-Pyi-Taw on 10 April. Present at the talks were President Thein Sein, the Union Parliament Speaker Thura Shwe Mann, Upper House Speaker Khin Aung Myint, Commander-in-Chief Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing, Chairperson of the National League for Democracy Aung San Suu Kyi and Dr. Aye Maung who represents the ethnic parties. (more…)

Of all the great films about American politics, one that has stood the test of time is a 1972 classic about the triumph of symbolism over substance called The Candidate. Starring Robert Redford, it tells the story of an inexperienced son of a beloved political leader who is pulled into politics on the strength of his family name. Turning the general election into a popularity contest, Redford’s character encourages the media to play up the father/son angle, delivers a series of pleasant but empty speeches, and ultimately wins election to the United States Senate. In the film’s iconic closing scene, as screaming fans chase him on the way to his victory speech, the Senator-elect dodges the crowd, pulls his political consultant into a room and asks blankly, “What do we do now?” (more…)

This week in Myanmar the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw passed a law that gives regional governments the right to restrict how many children a woman has, legally enshrining a human rights breach found in few other countries in the world – with the notable exception of China.
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When pondering media repression in this region, it is not the blatant cases of molesting, detaining and jailing journalists that inflame us most, but the craftier controls enforced by backroom bureaucrats and company bagmen.
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Recent crises raise some interesting questions about the strength of China’s non-interventionist principles.

Despite Chinese Foreign Minister Hong Lei’s unequivocal denial of Myanmar’s assertions of Chinese involvement in the Kokang conflict, the notion of tacit Chinese support may bring up broader questions for observers and leaders alike. Some under the SCO umbrella may be asking, when it comes to protecting its citizens, will China truly respect the principles of sovereignty and non-intervention? Will possible future action against Chinese migrants in our sovereign territory face active opposition by the Chinese government? (more…)

Once again, Myanmar has been rocked by student demonstrations and, once again, the authorities have reacted with force, to the extent of using hired thugs in Yangon to beat and drag protesters away. (more…)

Earlier last week, the attempt of two Buddhist monks to prosecute those responsible for the violent suppression of peaceful protests at the Letpadaung copper mine were rejected. Despite the international condemnation of security forces’ handling of the protests – in which over 100 people were injured – those who orchestrated the crackdown will not face justice. (more…)

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