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Thousands of people, both Muslim Rohingyas fleeing persecution in Myanmar and Bangladeshis seeking jobs in Malaysia, have been abandoned at sea recently in Southeast Asia by smugglers fearing arrest as Thailand cracks down on human traffickers. At least 8,000 people are in peril, yet the Southeast Asian nations off whose shores they drift have been reluctant to save them.
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Around 1,600 refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh were rescued off the coast of Indonesia on Sunday and detained in Malaysia on Monday. (more…)

Myanmar is undergoing a historic transition. After decades of armed conflict and economic stagnation, the country is beginning to make important strides toward realising its potential and the aspirations of its people.
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Sitting at his home in Taunggyi, 100-year-old U Khan is still proud of what he did for Gen. Aung San, the father of Burma’s independence, on Feb. 12, 1947.
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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…)

The sun is sinking into the Rangoon River, one of lower Burma’s main waterways. It is dotted with small boats on their way to dusky moorings. Arkar Min, 21, rides a water taxi with seven men, all of them silent. They’ve spent the day hauling fish into trucks. Now they rest against one another, backs between knees, arms around shoulders, heads on laps, lulled by the rhythmic thump of the engine. (more…)

Whether it is a disappearing umbrella, a questionable dinner party for the well connected, a fake rape report, the wrong wrecked motorcycle, or a ‘hip’ Buddha graphic in poor taste, if it is put online in Myanmar, eager netizens will soon be circulating it throughout the nation and around the world. That’s the nature of the medium.
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School was a bust for San Mon Aung, a well-to-do kid growing up in the aftermath of Burma’s 1988 uprising. It was all palm juice, card games and women, he said, not enough to satisfy his intellectual ambitions.
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The Burmese military celebrates its 70th Armed Forces Day this month. Over those seven decades, the military have wreaked incredible carnage on the country, yet staged an ostentatious military parade in the capital, Naypyidaw, with rows of tanks, marching soldiers and rockets. It was an emblem of the slow pace of change in a country that is supposed to be marching towards democracy. (more…)

With general elections in Burma drawing ever nearer, questions arise over the future of the key political players beyond this exciting milestone. Many are convinced that the incumbent Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has very little chance of securing another victory, while the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) and other big ethnic parties are in the box seat. If this turns out to be case, and we see a primarily civilian government, what will next year’s political landscape look like, and how can we expect the relationship between civilian politicians and the military to evolve?
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Exactly four years have passed since Thein Sein’s reformist government was sworn in. Propped up by a new constitution, the nominally civilian government shocked both its citizens and the world by springing into a transformative set of democratisation pledges. The recent crackdown on and arrest of student protestors has led many to recall some of the darkest days of the former regime, when prisoners of conscience were held in secretive detention.
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Tamalar Paw and Thar Doh are desperate to see peace in their ethnic Karen State—more so, they say, than Burma’s President Thein Sein and the Karen rebel leader Mutu Say Poe.
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Nearly every night, just across the frontier in Burma’s Shan State, the hills of Kokang are on fire. It stains the fog of Yunnan’s mountains, and the border villages see eight hours of twilight. Yet the mood is oddly serene. Locals don’t seem too worried about conflict brewing at their doorstep. On the roof of one hotel, the staff has set up a television set so they can keep up with their favorite late-night programs, and they glance only occasionally toward the orange glow, usually as an afterthought to something they hear from that direction. They simply trust that the Burmese will keep the killing to their own side of the border, but recent events suggest otherwise. (more…)

Photo essay, please see link below for full story.

Thein Myint’s bamboo hut is filled with villagers looking for help: Mothers, fathers, sons and daughters of the missing. Their boys were kidnapped by the Burmese Army and recruited for active service. In the 20 square foot shack in the shanty town of Dine Su, on the edge of the Yangon River in the country also known as Myanmar, people crowd into the small space filling every available crevice. The men spit betel juice though the cracks in the worn boards and the women fan each other to keep cool. Younger children peek in from outside, their fingers clawing through the steel mesh in the glassless window.
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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…)

Public opinion is a critical force in shaping and transforming society. But how can we know what public opinion is? (more…)

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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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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It’s mid-afternoon on Tuesday, and I am still hiding in the jungle with a 55-year-old man named U Mote Sate, Burmese for Beard. We still don’t know how to get back to the highway, or how to get to a motorbike when we get there, so we can escape to safety.
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Stateless Rohingya Muslims in Arakan State were dealt the latest blow to their prospects for obtaining recognition as one of Burma’s ethnic minorities when the government announced last month that their temporary identity cards would be rescinded.
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