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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one of Burma’s ethnic minorities when the government announced last month that their temporary identity cards would be rescinded.
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The sudden outbreak of hostilities in northern Shan State’s remote Kokang region has taken many by surprise. Some have posted messages on social media sites saying that “those people” are not Myanmar citizens, and a government official even branded the hostilities a “Chinese invasion.” (more…)

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…)

(Unofficial Translation)

Myanmar’s civil war started in 1960 when Ne Wen grabbed power, established a military government, denied ethnic groups the right of self-determination and began the Burmanization of the ethnic minorities. Since then, Myanmar has endured a civil war lasting more than 5 decades without any sign of ending. The Burman ethnic group makes up about 2/3 of the 60 million population in Myanmar, with a few large ethnic minority groups including the Shan, the Karen, the Kachin, the Mon and the Wa. There are 25 public ethnic armed groups and more than 10 low-profile ethnic armed groups in the country. In Shan State, there are more than 10 such groups constantly engaged in operations. Some of these groups were descendants of KMT soldiers or of BCP. However, the ones fighting most fiercely with the government military are not those with deep ties in China, but rather the KIA, who have historic U.S. connections and support.  The U.S. has played an non-negligible role in the war between the Tatmadaw and the KIA.
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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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“To whom should I apologize?” Khin Nyunt infamously retorted in 2013, a year after his release from almost a decade of house arrest, when asked by a reporter whether he would express contrition for his role in Burma’s former military junta. If the former prime minister’s new autobiography is any measure, his quest to find a suitable cause for atonement continues.
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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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In this teeming camp for displaced Rohingya Muslims in western Burma, it’s easy to overlook the Internet huts. The raw emotion they generate is much harder to ignore.
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Twenty-three years after more than a dozen members of a well-known student militia were massacred in northern Burma, a survivor of the incident has published a book recounting his experience.
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One week before the Chinese New Year, the former leader of the ethnic Kokang National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Peng Jiasheng, launched ferocious attacks on the government military in Kokang. Peng was driven out of power during the Kokang Incident in 2009 and has since disappeared from public view. While it remains unclear at this moment whether Peng will regain control of Kokang, the renewed conflict and his reemergence have added major uncertainty to Myanmar’s peace process and could potentially affect the upcoming elections.
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