An Independent Survey of Events in Myanmar
Burma: Written Question in the House of Commons
Asked by Dr Matthew Offord (Hendon) on 18 November 2014
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what guidance his Department has issued on the use of the word Rohingya in communications with the government of Burma.
Answered by: Mr Hugo Swire on 25 November 2014
No guidance has been issued and it is a word that we continue to use in communications with the government of Burma. The history of the word Rohingya is contested in Burma, but whatever the history we believe in the right of minorities to choose the name by which they are identified. I and other British Ministers are on record using the word Rohingya.
Derek Tonkin writes: The history of the word is contested as much outside Myanmar as inside. There are concerns about a regrettable lack of transparency concerning its origins. It is accordingly seen by some as contrived, synthetic and divisive, which tends to hinder rather than promote a solution of the several serious problems facing Muslim communities in Myanmar.
Latest Views and Op-Eds
- America's foreign policy and Myanmar's democratic transition - Aung Tun
- Opposition to keep pushing for constitutional change - Aung San Suu Kyi
- Myanmar regime in test of solidarity - Alan P MacDonald
- Education protests offer lessons - Mael Raynaud
- Disappointment with 2015 Elections and constitutional change - CP Kuppuswamy
- Bengali Muslims who emigrated to Assam not 'Illegal Bangladeshis' - Kaustubh Deka
Mizzima - 22 November 2014
Thousands of Myanmar Catholics marked 500 years of the Church's presence inside the country in a lively celebration at a Yangon cathedral held four years late because of religious restrictions under the former junta.
Believers, many wearing colourful traditional dress from ethnic minorities across the diverse Southeast Asian nation, released balloons and sang hymns in the first of three days of parades and services that show a resurgence in confidence for Catholicism after reforms under a quasi-civilian regime.
"It is a day to say we are so proud that the faith came here 500 years ago," Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the Archbishop of Mumbai and the Pope's envoy, told congregants at a ceremony at St Mary's Cathedral to kick off the festivities.
"Myanmar is so special to Pope Francis because the Church is small, because the Church has got challenges, because the Church has got a great future," he added.
UN urges citizenship for Rohingya in Myanmar
Al Jazeera/Agencies - 22 November 2014
The UN General Assembly’s human rights committee has approved a resolution urging Myanmar to allow its persecuted Rohingya minority "access to full citizenship on an equal basis" and to scrap its controversial identity plan. The resolution adopted on Friday expresses "serious concern" over the plight of the Muslim minority in Rakhine state.
So far, Myanmar's 1.3 million Rohingya have been denied citizenship and enjoyed limited rights. Many within the government and local Buddhists see the Rohingya as illegal immigrants though the Rohingya community maintains it has ancestral roots in the country. The UN resolution urges the government protect the rights of all those residing within its borders and allow "equal access to full citizenship for the Rohingya minority," to "allow self-identification" and ensure equal access to services.
Meanwhile, Myanmar's representative voiced concern over the use of the term "Rohingya" stating that its usage would heighten tensions in Rakhine state. "Use of the word by the United Nations will draw strong resentment from the people of Myanmar, making the government's effort more difficult in addressing this issue," Myanmar Ambassador Tin Kyaw told the committee.
- Rakhine protests after UN passes Resolution on Burma - Kaladan Press
- UK Minister welcomes UNGA Third Committee Resolution - UK Government
- Text of draft Resolution as considered in the Third Committee - UN document
- UN Press Release on the discussion (final item) - UN Meetings Coverage
Derek Tonkin writes: The Resolution is likely to be approved by the full UN General Assembly shortly before the Christmas break. Myanmar had sought to bring these annual Resolutions to a close, but the troubles in Rakhine State and other continuing human rights issues had ensured that this would not happen this year. The Republic of Korea did not sponsor the draft Resolution as they had in previous years. There were accordingly no Asian sponsors. The UN coverage report suggests that the discussion was a low-key affair with only Italy speaking as representative of the EU sponsors and Myanmar making a number of reservations on the draft text, which was however agreed without a vote.
Thein Sein says plight of Rohingya minority a fabrication
Reuters - 21 November 2014
Myanmar President Thein Sein has denied that minority Muslim Rohingya are fleeing "torture" in western Rakhine state, telling the Voice of America Burmese Service such media reports were fabrication. International concern was overblown, Thein Sein told the VOA on Thursday at his presidential residence in Naypyitaw. "It is just a media story that boat people are fleeing torture," he said. The president said that there were more people who wanted to live in Myanmar "because it is spacious, (with) many places to live in and work. Some people are writing negative things with malice. International organizations are also helping them well."
ISEAS - Trends in Southeast Asia
Establishing Infrastructure Projects: Priorities for Myanmar’s Industrial Development
Part I: The Role of the Private Sector
Part II: The Role of the State
Stuart Larkin, Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) in Singapore, argues that Myanmar has attracted much interest with its “opening up” and wide-ranging reforms of recent years. But the Thein Sein government’s lovefest with western donors over “Washington Consensus” policies may intensify resource curse dynamics without delivering the infrastructure upgrade that Myanmar needs for labour-intensive manufacturing export competitiveness. Foreign investors struggle with local conditions and the very people who may be able to get big projects off the ground, the local tycoons, are often shunned by their president and precluded from western financing by USA blacklisting. The alternative model is the “developmental state” where the state harnesses big business for the purpose of rapid industrialization, for which there is much successful precedent in the region, unlike the western neo-liberal approach. Granted the necessary infrastructure concessions, Myanmar’s tycoons can then seek financing from the new China-led multilateral development banks (MDBs).
- Myanmar should switch its development model: Stuart Larkin - FT
- Fast-tracking Myanmar's reform: Stephen Groff ADB Vice-President for East Asia
- Buma Army says deadly shelling of rebels was 'unintentional' - The Irrawaddy
- Peace talks in Myanmar jeopardized by killing of rebels: Thomas Fuller NYT
- US Ambassador visits Kachin State - The Irrawaddy
Despite the headlines, progress in Myanmar isn't slipping away
Jean-Marie Guéhenno and Richard Horsey: Reuters-Blog - 19 November 2014
Is Myanmar’s reform effort going into reverse?
Not even close. Yet if international support for its political transition seriously weakens in the face of recent setbacks, the prophecies of Myanmar’s critics may be fulfilled. The international community needs to show staying power and accept that the road to reform is long.
Myanmar is four years into a transition from 50 years of authoritarian rule and chronic, grinding civil conflicts. That change was never going to be easy. We should not be surprised that certain areas remain problematic or new difficulties arise.
Bad-news stories about Myanmar’s transition are easy to find. But the good-news stories reflect a broader trend. There is now substantial freedom of the press, for example, when not long ago there was no space for independent media. Nearly all political prisoners from the era of military government have also been released. Continue reading.....
Derek Tonkin writes: A welcome antidote to the flurry of negative reporting, mostly by US media, of the present "bumpy patch" in the democratisation process in Myanmar. It might have been helpful if participants in the lack-lustre debate on Human Rights in Myanmar in the UK House of Commons on 19 November 2014 had first read this article.
Military MPs object to constitutional change
The Irrawaddy - 17 November 2014
Military parliamentarians late last week objected to a proposal to change a key provision of Burma’s Constitution entrenching their political power, and on Monday a colonel in the legislature indicated that the entirety of the document was off limits, as far as his colleagues were concerned.
National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmaker Win Myint put a proposal before Parliament on Thursday suggesting that parliamentarians amend Article 436 - a provision restricting further amendments to the military-drafted Constitution - only to face the objection of military representatives.
Derek Tonkin writes: With the Obama visit and the ASEAN Summit successfully negotiated, the military are taking a hard look at the political scene. Stung by growing US criticisms of the reform process, and the pressures applied over the 'Rohingya' issue, the military may well have concluded that further concessions on their part will not secure any positive international response and that for the foreseeable future they might as well batten down the hatches.
It would in the circumstances come as no surprise that, at least until after the 2015 elections at the end of next year, no constitutional changes of any substance are likely to be enacted. This will evoke criticisms in the Western world, but the military dominated regime is used to this and can cope with any fall-out. The likelihood of the renewal of sanctions can however be discounted as far as Western countries other than the US are concerned.
- Upper House votes to adopt PR nationwide - Democratic Voice of Burma
- Myanmar constitutional amendment to be table in January - Mizzima
- Parliament poposes high level charter talks - The Irrawaddy
- Army chief defends constitution, says meeting Suu Kyi is problematic - Irrawaddy
- Is Suu Kyi admitting defeat? DVB
- Military Chief denies presidency ban targets Aung San Suu Kyi - VOA
- Suu Kyi party admits 'cannot win' fight to change constitution - Straits Times
- Myanmar rules out constitutional change before 2015 polls - Agence France-Presse
Reactions to the Obama visit
- Continued Burma sanctions 'limit what Obama can achieve' - The Irrawaddy
- President Obama is in Burma - or is it Myanmar? Matt Schiavenza - The Atlantic
- Activists, ethnic leaders cry neglect during Obama visit - The Irrawaddy
- China and Myanmar sign US$ 7.8 billion in deals - Reuters
- Video: MSNBC report by former US Ambassador Stuart Holliday.
White House press releases of remarks by President Obama in Myanmar
- Transcript of the Joint Press Conference with Suu Kyi - 14 November 2014
- Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative - Yangon Town Hall 14 November 2014
- Remarks after civil society roundtable - Yangon 14 November 2014
- After bilateral meeting with President Thein Sein - Naypyitaw 13 November 2014
- After roundtable at parliamentary resource center - Naypyitaw 13 November 2014
Reports on Obama Visit to Myanmar
- Obama: 'Doesn't make much sense' to bar Suu Kyi as President - Reuters
- Obama presses Myanmar leader as country's progress slows - Bloomberg
- Obama urged to say 'Rohingya' on Myanmar visit - Associated Press
- Obama, Suu Kyi reaffirm friendship despite differences: Christi Parsons - LA Times
Click on the photograph above to listen to the Q & A session
- Obama: Move to democracy in Myanmar is real - Associated Press
- Obama's tarnished saint: Adam B Lerner- Politico Magazine
- US says Burma should draft new plan to give Rohingya citizenship - The Irrawaddy
- Obama 'optimistic' about reforms, but says 'work not done here' - The Guardian
Myanmar's Transition: Economics or Politics
Gwen Robinson: Transitions Forum - November 2014
While the West’s attention focused on reported military abuses in Kachin state, the plight of stateless Muslim “Rohingya” in the country’s west, and the exclusion of some Muslim and ethnic groups from Myanmar’s controversial census in early 2014, the government stepped up reforms ranging from consumer protection laws to insurance industry deregulation, transparency in public tender processes, and the opening of banking and other business sectors.
Against this sharply contrasting backdrop, old battle lines between pro- and anti-democratic forces are being redrawn as new rivalries emerge within and between executive and legislative branches. Traditional power centres have eroded or transformed, giving way to multiple forces and an emerging “new order” of leaders who will shape Myanmar’s future.