President Thein Sein will leave office in late March with a complicated legacy. He steered the country through a transition that peaked with its first free election in decades, though he will leave behind a host of problems for the next administration. Retired General Thein Sein took office in 2011 following an election the year prior that was boycotted by the opposition, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), and panned as fraudulent.

The next project of Nyo Min Lwin, a director known for creating movies outside of the mainstream, engages with a topic rarely explored in Burma’s film industry.

For much of the first 20 years of her life, Maran Ja Seng Hkawn was raised by her grandmothers in Kachin, Myanmar’s northernmost state, without her parents or siblings by her side and under the scrutiny of military intelligence.

“Most Burmese women can’t understand freedom,” says writer Pyo Let Han.

It is an arresting thought yet voiced without hesitation, just one idea in a long conversation. Pyo Let Han is discussing her decision to become a feminist writer – a rare job title in Burma.

This paper was a matter of some controversy last week when we ran a job advert in which we said we were looking to employ “Marketing Executives (Female only)”.

On January 11 I accompanied fellow students from Australian National University on a visit to two villages in Ayeyarwady Region to deliver stationery to primary school children. The trip also provided an opportunity to witness how the grassroots has responded to Myanmar’s political and economic transformations.

The death sentences handed down to two migrant workers from Burma by a Thai court on Christmas Eve ignited widespread condemnation in Burma. Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, both 22, were convicted of the murder of British tourists David Miller and Hannah Witheridge on the Thai resort island of Koh Tao in September 2014. The police investigation and proceedings were widely criticized for serious shortcomings, including allegations of police torture to extract initial confessions which the Thai authorities refused to investigate seriously.  Forensic experts from Thailand and Australia have raised serious questions about DNA evidence linked to the rape of Witheridge, on which the prosecution heavily relied. Defense lawyers have said they will appeal the decision. (more…)

It was an eventful year for Burma, capped by a historic general election that saw the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) romp to a decisive victory that surpassed even their staunchest supporters’ expectations. In an election year, high-profile leaders such as Thein Sein, Aung San Suu Kyi and Min Aung Hlaing were naturally a near-constant presence in the news, along with Tin Aye, head of the commission that oversaw Burma’s Nov. 8 poll. But other, lesser known groups and individuals also took their turn in the spotlight this year, including the youth who volunteered during the country’s devastating floods and student activists who bravely led a protest march for education reform that was violently suppressed by the authorities. Here, The Irrawaddy outlines some of the country’s most renowned, respected or notorious figures and groups, from politics, the military, business and other sectors, who were prominent voices in 2015.


Retired Snr-Gen. Than Shwe

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

President Thein Sein

Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen. Min Aung Hlaing


As a Burmese I am heartened to hear the news of the four leaders working diligently to end half a century of authoritarian rule and usher in a democratic transition.

Nov. 25 marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Karen Women’s Organization (KWO) chose this date to release our report “Salt in the Wound: Justice Outcomes and SGBV Cases in the Karen Refugee Camps, 2011-13”. The report documents the results of 289 cases of sexual- and gender-based violence (SGBV) in the seven Karen-majority refugee camps located along the Thai-Burma border.

The citizens of Burma have just finished voting for a new government and parliament in what many see as a historic election. (more…)

“Change” is a word that crops up in many conversations in Burma these days. Three years ago, when I last visited, the country’s biggest city, Rangoon, had no modern shopping centers, no ATMs, no night clubs. Now it has all of them, in startling profusion. Cars were relatively few; today there’s a traffic jam at every corner. In 2012, cell phone networks were so rudimentary as to be irrelevant, and finding a decent Internet connection was a struggle; Facebook, which welcomed its first users just a few months before I arrived, boasted a few thousand customers in the entire country. Today half of Burma’s population of fifty million has smartphones, and virtually all of those phones are connected to the Internet. Experts put the number of Facebook users at six and a half million. (more…)

In assessing the outcome of the Burma Socialist Programme Party’s stewardship of the nation and the economic consequences of the Burmese Way to Socialism, Dr Maung Maung – the last president of the country under the regime – made the following observations. (more…)

With tens of millions of ballots cast and countless futures pondered, it has all come to this. Myanmar is forced to watch and wait as the National League for Democracy manoeuvres itself closer to power. (more…)

A week has now passed since Myanmar’s historic November 8 polls. Shortly after noon on November 13, the opposition National League for Democracy hit the required threshold of seats to pass legislation in the next parliament and ensure one of its two presidential candidates will take the top job come March 2016. (more…)

The landslide victory of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) in last Sunday’s elections is a turning point in Myanmar’ s history. The NLD will have an opportunity to rule alone, given its super majority in the national parliament. (more…)

When Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party forms government in Myanmar, it will face enormous limits that the military-drafted 2008 constitution places on the scope of a civilian government. Yet Suu Kyi still ought to be able to find enough room to make a difference. (more…)

Burma’s recent election will usher a sea of new faces into the national Parliament, installing a fresh batch of lawmakers who will select the next president—an as-yet-unknown figure that pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has vowed to act “above.” (more…)

In Mingala Taungnyunt township in central Rangoon, where Muslims account for 70 per cent of the local population, a homeopathic doctor called San Tin Kyaw, a 49-year-old Muslim, is running for election this weekend.

Twenty-five years ago, the state of public health for large populations was like that of a doctor trying to treat a patient without a proper diagnosis. The diseases and injuries that cut lives short and caused widespread suffering were not rigorously tracked.

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