An Independent Survey of Events in Myanmar
Thailand secretly supplies Rohingya refugees to trafficking rings
Special Report: Reuters - 5 December 2013
Thai immigration officials said he was being deported to Myanmar. In fact, they sold Ismail, 23, and hundreds of other Rohingya Muslims to human traffickers, who then spirited them into brutal jungle camps.
As thousands of Rohingya flee Myanmar to escape religious persecution, a Reuters investigation in three countries has uncovered a clandestine policy to remove Rohingya refugees from Thailand's immigration detention centers and deliver them to human traffickers waiting at sea. Continue reading.....
Statement of US Policy towards Burma
US State Department Press Release - 4 December 2013
Testimony by Judith Beth Cefkin, Senior Advisor on Burma, before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific. In conclusion, Ms Cefkin noted:
"The United States remains committed to reinforcing Burma’s progress on reform. We remain hopeful, but clear-eyed about the challenges. Burma’s road to reform will be a long process. We should anticipate that along with steps forward there will inevitably be setbacks. To prevail and keep our focus on the long-term goals we must have a strategic approach that is steady and carefully considered, but flexible in implementation and keeps pace with conditions on the ground. We must strengthen our relationships with all sectors in Burma while promoting our common interests and values for a peaceful, prosperous, democratic, and reconciled country. We owe it to the Burmese people, and to ourselves given our long-standing commitment to the country, to continue to support them as a remarkable moment of opportunity dawns."
Derek Tonkin writes: This is a definitive statement of the US Administration's current policy towards Myanmar. It avoids the heavy-handed language of 'conditionality' used in the past about action for action, benchmarks and calibration of sanctions, and for this reason is to be broadly welcomed. The general approach is flexible, creative and proactive. Nonetheless, some Representatives took their traditionally hard line.
Testimonies by Vikram J Singh, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia, and by Gregory Beck, Deputy Assistant Administrator Bureau for Asia U.S. Agency for International Development, are also available at this link.
- State, Defense offricials defend warming relations with Myanmar - Stars and Stripes
- US seeks military ties with Burma - Matthew Pennington AP
Clarifying a Contitutional Contretemps
".....It is better to hold a discussion with these [three] leaders at the same time that the review committee is working on its process to amend the constitution. I requested this meeting because I want the process to amend the constitution to be smoother.”".....Min Ko Naing, leader of the 88 Generation Students' Group, a prominent prodemocracy activist organization, said the four-way meeting should be held without delay....."
".....The matter in hand right now is concerned with the constitution, and the demands include meeting with specific figures and following specific procedures. This is a task for the Union Parliament....."
".....Thein Sein’s explanation for declining to call the meeting - that it is improper to meet only with one out of 58 political parties - is similar to the reasoning of the military government when the NLD tried to meet with it in 1998...."
".....The Union Parliament’s Joint-Committee for Reviewing the Constitution is set to present its report in December [by end January?] and debating the matter ahead of time through alternative means could lead to discord with the report’s findings....."
".....The NLD chairperson Daw Aung San Suu Kyi decided at the central executive on 23 November 23 to request a meeting with President U Thein Sein, the Parliament, and the military with the aim for a smoother transition in the amending process of the 2008 Constitution....."
Myanmar to allow foreign banks to set up wholly foreign owned operations
Gwen Robinson: Nikkei Asian Review - 3 December 2013
Myanmar is moving to allow the first group of foreign banks to set up wholly owned subsidiaries in the country. This could take place as soon as the first quarter of 2014, ahead of the market expectations. Banking regulators are preparing a phased plan under which foreign entities would first be allowed to conduct wholesale banking services for corporate customers and eventually to hold full branch licenses.
Three to five foreign banks will initially be granted licenses to set up wholesale banking operations in Myanmar, with a view to gaining full branch licenses within two or three years, regulators told two small groups of foreign and local bank officials in November. The chosen banks would be required to focus at first on corporate and trade banking. The banks would be permitted to carry out work in areas including project finance, international remittance, and treasury and trade services for local and international companies, the regulators said.
Reforming Burma moves up global corruption rankings
The Irrawaddy - 3 December 2013
Transparency International has put Burma 157 out of 177 countries surveyed for its Corruption Perceptions Index 2013.The ranking represents a significant improvement from Transparency International’s survey a year ago, in which the country was ranked 172 out of 176 nations, above only Sudan, Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia.
Derek Tonkin writes: The modest improvement in Myanmar's position in the CPI this year is long overdue. Transparency International give considerable weight to non-technical factors like human rights record and the extent of State control of natural resources. In 2012 their ranking of Myanmar seems to have been based on out of date information and ideological criteria, a ranking which I criticised at the time. I do not regard their 2013 ranking as all that reliable. There have been no reports of corruption problems by recent Western investors in Myanmar since the civilianised regime took control on 30 March 2011.
A BBC Bureau for Burma
Peter Horrocks: Director BBC Global News - 2 December 2013
This weekend I received news I never thought I'd hear. The Myanmar Ministry of Information announced that the BBC, along with three other international news agencies, had been given official permission to open a news bureau in Burma, also known as Myanmar.
It is hard to overstate the significance of this news, nor the astonishing pace of change in a country which has long been a byword for media repression and censorship. Continue reading.....
Suu Kyi in Australia
- When Suu Kyi comes to call: Andrew Selth - Lowy Interpreter
- The iconic politician faces uncertain times - Derek Tonkin
- Transcript of Joint Press Conference with the Australian PM Tony Abbott
- Aung San Suu Kyi speaks of struggle for democracy at Sydney Opera House
- Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at Monash University - Youtube
- Suu Kyi receives honorary doctorate at Australian National Unversity
ABC News (includes three video reports) - 27 November 2013
Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has arrived in Australia to encourage global interest in further democratic reform in Myanmar. The country's opposition leader - described by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop as one of the world's most inspiring figures in the past 100 years - will be in Australia for five days.
"I am delighted to be able to welcome her to Australia," Ms Bishop said. "Australia supports the political and economic reforms the Myanmar government has underway, including the April 2012 by-election when Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the National League for Democracy entered the parliament."
- A Suu Kyi presidency would bring 'chaos' says U Wirathu - The Irrawaddy
- Aung San Suu Kyi seduces Australia with presidential ambitions - Xinhua
- Suu Kyi claims no need to speak out on Kachin conflict - Kachin News
- ABC Television Interview with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi - 28 November 2013
- Aung San Suu Kyi seeks constitutional changes - Reuters/Lowy Insitute
- I'm no saint or icon: Suu Kyi - Agence France-Presse
- Suu Kyi wants mercy for Rohingya seeking asylum in Australia - The Guardian
- Australia and the Burma/Myanmar name debate
- Burma's next President - Trevor Wilson, Australian National University
Eleven Media - 24 November 2013
Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has requested a meeting with President Thein Sein, the Parliament, and the Military to ensure that there will be a smooth transition in amending the 2008 Constitution, according to an announcement yesterday from the National League for Democracy.
In their announcement, the NLD said: "The National League for Democracy Chairperson Daw Aung San Suu Kyi decided at the central executive committee meeting on 23 November 2013 to request a meeting with the aim for a smoother transition in the amending process of the 2008 Constitution, which is a central issue for the country."
Derek Tonkin writes: The NLD intention is presumably to discuss procedures, not possible amendments. The USDP as the majority party would no doubt not wish to be left out of any such discussions. The 109 member parliamentary review committee includes only 7 NLD representatives. A request for discussions, presumably separately, with all three principal centres of political power in Myanmar could pose problems. It is not surprising that Government Spokesman Ye Htut has already indicated verbally that the NLD proposal is not a good idea at this stage.
- Debate sparked over President's response to NLD's call - Eleven Media
- Government rejects NLD proposal for quadripartite meeting - DVB
- Government, military yet to accept NLD's proposals for talks - Mizzima
- Speaker urges constitutional amendment without harming peace, stability - Xinhua
200 more political prisoners to be released in Myanmar by year end
Shanghai Daily - 24 November 2013
The Myanmar Government is continuing to scrutinize the remaining political prisoners still behind bars and 200 more such prisoners are expected to be released by the end of this year, state media reported Sunday. The Government's Committee for Scrutinizing Remaining Political Prisoners disclosed the planned move at the Myanmar Peace Center in Yangon.
Myanmar last freed 69 remaining prisoners of conscience on Nov. 15 from prisons across the country under an amnesty order of President U Thein Sein as part of the measures in realizing the government's promise to release all political prisoners by the year-end.
- Aung San Suu Kyi, and Myanmar, faces an uncertain future: Kate Linthicum - LAT
- The Threat to Myanmar's awakening: Joshua Kurlantzick - CFR
- Help Myanmar's peace talks to transform Asia: Thant Myint-U - FT
- Vietnamese lessons for Burma: Curtis Chin and Jose Collazo - WSJ