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Ma Ba Tha is proving to be one of the most effective groups in Burma at extracting concessions from the quasi-civilian government.
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A dozen young women sit on the curb outside a garment factory in Hlaing Tharyar township, holding brightly coloured umbrellas as shelter from the midday sun.
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The controversy over the exodus of tens of thousands of stateless Rohingya from Myanmar and Bangladeshi migrants in rickety vessels has exposed chinks in the armor of regional maritime security forces.
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Htun Myat Oo keeps a photo of Aung San Suu Kyi on the dashboard of his San Francisco cab. Many of his passengers recognize the image. It’s the face of Myanmar’s struggle for democracy, made famous in the covers of Time, the front pages of Newsweek and the biopic by Luc Besson.
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Myanmar is pursuing a narrative that rests on dubious evidence.

The firebrand Buddhist monk, U Wirathu, frequently remarks that Islam poses an existential threat to Myanmar. A central tenet of this argument is the citation of one Muslim militant organization, the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO). The RSO is often accused of being responsible for coordinated attacks against the Myanmar Defense Services, as well having international links to terrorist organizations that seek to promote jihad in Myanmar. Indeed, these organizations have claimed they are supporting local resistance groups and exporting jihad to Myanmar’s shores. This policy brief questions the credibility of the narrative that the Rohingya pose an extremist Islamic threat, arguing that attention should be focused instead on resolving the plight of the Rohingya and attenuating their grievances.
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With tears in his eyes, Aung Myo Myint tells the story of his first love. As a young man, filled with a fierce passion for equality and democracy in his home country of Burma, he had taken up arms against the military government with other like-minded students. Deep in the Burmese jungle, Aung Myo Myint fell in love with another young man, a fellow student-cum-soldier who shared his ideals and fought alongside him. But while their comrades preached equal human rights for all, the two men knew they were not accepted by the rest of the group. Unable to cope with the stigma, the couple separated.
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While most Australians were happily tucking into bacon and eggs on Saturday morning, Jade Horrobin was finishing off the last of her week’s rations.
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An openly gay man who is the subject of a new documentary in Myanmar on Wednesday welcomed its inclusion in an ongoing film festival in the country, but warned that human rights violations still regularly occur in the former military dictatorship, despite its rapid transition to democracy in recent years according to RFA on 17 June.
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Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi began a five-day visit to China on Wednesday, the first time the National League for Democracy chairwoman has made an official trip to Burma’s northern neighbor.
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I have been a supporter of Burma’s democracy movement since 1993. For most of that time, the prospect of change seemed remote, and I felt increasingly discouraged.
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In the past week, my Facebook thread has been replete with posts about a group of people who until now has failed to make it to general public awareness: Rohingya. Ordinary individuals, who before have never even heard of the name, are expressing outrage at the “maritime pingpong” of around 6,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants who have been adrift in the Andaman Sea—starving and drinking their own urine in unseaworthy boats or “floating coffins”.
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“They can imprison my body, but never my mind,” U Nay Myo Zin told us just before police led him into the Dagon township courtroom last week.
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Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants on board a foundering vessel off Indonesia fought with axes, knives and metal bars in vicious clashes that left at least 100 dead, survivors said as they recovered from their ordeal.
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Thousands of Bangladeshis and ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar are seeking refuge after the rickety boats they were fleeing on were abandoned by human traffickers caught up in a recent dragnet. Many have been taken into temporary camps in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, but those countries have grown reluctant to take on more, with aid agencies estimating that several boats remain on the waters between Thailand and Indonesia. Here’s a look at the current crisis by the numbers.
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Sitting in a bamboo hut in a filthy wasteland of southeast Delhi, Mohammed Salim Ullah, a stateless Rohingya, seemed unaware of the crisis facing members of his community stranded in Southeast Asian waters.
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The next general election, scheduled for late this year, is not shaping up to be the benchmark of democratic consolidation that many Myanmar observers had hoped. The government, which is still largely controlled by senior military officers, has failed to strike a power-sharing agreement with either the mainstream opposition or ethnic armed resistance groups. Not only does this endanger the legitimacy of the election, it also exposes a dangerous leadership vacuum within both the government and the opposition. (more…)

Burma’s Rohingya face an existential threat — and we must not look away.

Driving through Sittwe, the dusty provincial capital of Rahkine state in northwest Burma, you notice a small poster affixed to nearly every shop and home. In English these signs read “white card,” and they alert anyone passing by that the building’s occupant sides with recent government efforts to prevent Burma’s most threatened ethnic and religious minority group, the Rohingya, from participating in the upcoming national elections. Most of Burma’s Rohingya are, in fact, stateless, and “white card” refers to the special identity documents issued to them by the government in lieu of the papers held by Burmese citizens. A few months ago officials decided that white card holders would not be allowed to participate in the national vote scheduled for this fall — effectively excluding the overwhelming majority of Rohingya. (more…)

Thousands of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims have been fleeing persecution at home, and now their refugee boats are being turned away by neighboring countries, leaving them stranded at sea. Others had been locked up in jungle camps in Thailand. An untold number have died of starvation, sickness and abuse.
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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…)

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