Opinion


On Mar. 13, a Myanmar warplane reportedly dropped a bomb in the Lincang county of Yunnan Province, killing four Chinese civilians. This might mark the worst day of Sino-Burmese relations since June 1967, when Chinese embassy in Rangoon was attacked and Chinese nationals killed as a result of local opposition to the policies of the Cultural Revolution. Over the weekend, Beijing responded in a ferocious manner, lodging diplomatic protest, dispatching fighter jets to the border and demanding investigation, punishment, apology and compensation. (more…)

After a bomb from a Burmese aircraft killed four Chinese near the China-Burma border, many Chinese have been expressing their outrage on the Internet — not only against the Burmese government but against their own for not taking a harder stance.
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At the Defence Services Museum in Nay Pyi Taw there are cabinets devoted to the peace-making exploits of President U Thein Sein. When he wore an army uniform, especially during his time as chief of the Shan State’s Triangle Command, he was responsible for negotiations with ethnic minority armies.
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President Obama has based his foreign policy on the notion that it is better to “engage” than confront hostile nations and that such diplomacy should encourage gradual reforms, rather than revolution or regime change. The results of such outreach to Cuba and Iran are not yet in, but his administration continues to tout Burma as an example of how his strategy can work. There, a once-isolated military regime freed political prisoners and allowed its opposition to participate in a parliamentary election while being showered with U.S. economic and political concessions, including two visits by Mr. Obama. As recently as last month, the State Department’s top official for Asia, Daniel Russel, said Burma could be a model for North Korea: “Change in North Korea does not need to be regime change, as the example of Burma shows,” he said.
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When the government in Naypyidaw looks at the Salween River and other rivers in Burma, they don’t see their beauty: they see Thai baht, Chinese yuan, US dollars and Indian rupees. (more…)

Earlier this week, the Burmese authorities staged a violent crackdown on unarmed student protesters and their supporters, arresting at least 127 and seriously injuring dozens of others. The latest violence took place after a week-long standoff between students and police in the town of Letpadan, 90 miles north of Rangoon, Burma’s largest city. It was the second such incident within the space of just a few days. On Mar. 5, pro-government plainclothes thugs charged protesters in Rangoon itself. Burmese civil society groups and international watchdogs are decrying the violence. The US State Department has also condemned the crackdown. (more…)

After violent crackdowns on student protests in Burma attracted worldwide condemnation, many are no doubt wondering whether the country’s much vaunted political reforms are back to square one.
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Burma’s military-turned-civilian government has resown a seed of hatred between itself and the nation’s students by brutally cracking down on student protestors who have for months been demanding education reform. It was a rash and unwise move, the consequences of which are unpredictable.
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Ugly scenes this week near Rangoon’s sacred Sule Pagoda and City Hall have further tarnished the reformist credentials of a government that should be ashamed of itself. (more…)

When a New York Times editorial in January criticized China’s “wholesale looting” of Myanmar’s natural resources, the Chinese foreign ministry was quick to dismiss the charge as distorted. (more…)

Myanmar’s relationship with China has always been uneasy. After Chairman Mao assumed power in 1949, remnants of the Kuomintang fled into northern Myanmar, creating all kinds of problems for the newly independent government that was already dealing with a widespread armed ethnic insurgency. The US eagerly supported the KMT. (more…)

Than Than Tun and Tun Lwin welcomed me warmly when I arrived at the small wooden house they rent in Insein Township, Rangoon. As they showed me into a modest room, measuring about 7 feet by 10 feet, I noticed that the walls were plastered with nostalgic photos of their son, the late Capt. Aung Kyaw Myint. (more…)

The fighting peacock rides again. That long-standing symbol of the Burmese student movement, an emblem of resistance to authoritarian rule, once again adorns countless bright red flags held aloft by student activists. They’re protesting against the country’s National Education Law, which was approved by parliament in September 2014 despite objections from student unions and expert networks. The students and their allies view the law as explicitly designed to curb academic freedom. (more…)

When an estimated 50,000 ethnic Kokang civilians poured into southwest China last month to escape fighting between the Myanmar Army and Kokang rebels, Beijing called for peace and provided food, medical supplies and camps for the refugees. But China’s stance as a benevolent mediator in Myanmar’s many internal conflicts and its treatment of asylum seekers is far less altruistic than Beijing cares to admit.
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When Myanmar’s Parliament voted on February 2 to approve a bill governing regulations for a planned referendum on constitutional amendments, it unleashed a firestorm. Included in the bill was a provision explicitly allowing holders of temporary ID cards – also known as “white cards” – to vote in the referendum.
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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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