An Independent Survey of Events in Myanmar
Kachin general makes US visit amid fighting at home
Radio Free Asia - 14 April 2014
The deputy commander-in-chief of one of Myanmar’s largest ethnic rebel armies has begun a 12-day visit to the United States to meet with lawmakers and officials amid ongoing clashes with government troops that could mar nationwide ceasefire negotiations.
Kachin Independence Army (KIA) General Gun Maw met Monday with political affairs and human rights officials at the State Department after arriving in Washington a day earlier.
“We came here to share our situation with those who are interested in Myanmar and Kachin and with U.S. government officials,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
His four-member delegation was expected to raise issues related to a nationwide ceasefire agreement that Myanmar President Thein Sein’s government hopes will end decades of conflict with rebel groups and speed up reforms as the country emerges from decades under military rule.
Thingyan Water Festival and New Year
Press Statement - 11 April 2014
Secretary of State
On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to congratulate and send best wishes to the people of Myanmar on the occasion of Thingyan.
The United States is committed to working in partnership to help your country realize the promise of peace, democracy, expanded economic opportunity and justice for everyone in your country. We cherish the hope that your work to achieve a historic ceasefire and political dialogue will be the basis for national harmony and a shared vision for the future.
Your leadership as ASEAN Chair demonstrates your increasing impact in the region, and showcases your country’s progress and potential.
As you gather with family, friends, and neighbors to honor your rich traditions and culture with prayer, celebration and renewal, know that the people of the United States send their best wishes for a peaceful and happy New Year.
Suu Kyi in Germany
Channel News Asia/AFP - 11 April 2014
Speaking in Berlin today to accept a human rights award, she said the country formerly called Burma still needs a democratic constitution, true national reconciliation and a change of mindset among its ex-military rulers.
She urged the world to keep a close eye on the government and to ask: "Does it want to go toward a truly democratic union or does it want to go towards an authoritarian state disguised in democratic garb?"
Suu Kyi was receiving the Willy Brandt Award - the latest in a long line of human rights awards she has picked up since being permitted to travel again in 2012. She also met German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday.
Thanking her international supporters for backing the cause of freedom, she cautioned that "Burma is not yet a democracy. We have been given the chance to build a democratic society, we have not yet built one. But because we have been given the chance, because we now have a choice, we are at a most sensitive, most dangerous time in the path of our evolution."
Referring back to a 1962 coup, the daughter of Burma's independence hero Aung San said: "People forget that we were under military dictatorship for more than half a century".
- Suu Kyi says she won't single out any groups for reconciliation - Bloomberg
- An open letter to Aung San Suu Kyi: Sufyan bin Uzayr - Foreign Policy in Focus
- Burma not yet a democracy, at dangerous crossroads: Suu Kyi - NTD.tv
Statement by UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator
UNIC Yangon - 9 April 2014
United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar Ms. Renata Dessallien has issued the following statement concerning the Investigation Commission which examined Incidents in Sittwe on 26-27 March 2014:
"I welcome the response of the Government of the Union of Myanmar to the attacks against the UN and INGO premises in Sittwe, in particular the Government’s public condemnation of the violence, the rapid establishment by the President of the Investigation Commission chaired by the Deputy Minister of Border Affairs, and the recognition that the incident which sparked the attacks was purely unintentional……[see full text at this link]
The statement concludes: "If we are perceived as being culturally insensitive, we need to build back better with more cultural and conflict sensitivity. If we are perceived as not transparent, we need to find ways to be more transparent without hampering vital humanitarian services. If we are perceived as being biased, we need to explain better what we do and why, both in our humanitarian and development work, and we must increase our development assistance to Rakhine communities.
"I join the Investigation Commission in expressing deep sorrow for the death of the 11 year old girl during the violence of the 27 March. It is so often the innocent who suffer most by violence. We look forward to a building back better with the full support and understanding of the Government and Rakhine communities so that such violence never recurs.
Government accuses UK of interfering in Rakhine
Myanmar Times - 10 April 2014
Presidential spokesperson U Ye Htut has accused Britain of interfering in Myanmar's internal affairs after it summoned the Myanmar Ambassador in an effort to convince the government to allow humanitarian aid activities to resume in Rakhine State.
"The president has already explained to the secretary-general of the UN [Ban Ki-moon] that the government has taken the necessary measures to ensure the safety and protection of all international organisations [working in Rakhine State]," U Ye Htut said. "So we don't need to say anything more."
U Ye Htut, who is also a deputy minister for information, also took issue with Britain's usage of the term "Rohingya" in a statement issued following the meeting with the ambassador. He said no official documents from the British colonial period had ever referred to Muslims in Rakhine State as Rohingya. "It's unreasonable for the British to now urge recognition of the term," he said. "It appears they are trying to intervene in our internal affairs and we don't accept it."
Derek Tonkin examines the British experience in coping with the Muslim issue in Arakan in their censuses [1872, 1881, 1901, 1911, 1921, 1931, 1941]
- Text of Statement by Commission of Inquiry (Burmese text)
- UN welcomes establishment of probe into recent attacks on aid workers
- Govt. to protect NGOs after sluggish response to Sittwe riots - DVB
- Myanmar President meets US Assistant Secretary of State on Rakhine - AP
- Commission criticizes Arakan Govt's 'weak' handling of riots - The Irrawaddy
UK Activities in Burma
HM Government - April 2014
This document explains the British Government's approach and activities in support of Burma's current transition towards democracy and economic reform.
Call for restoration of humanitarian access in Rakhine
FCO Press Release - 7 April 2014
"We continue to be gravely concerned by the situation in Rakhine State. The already dire humanitarian situation has deteriorated following the expulsion of Médecins Sans Frontières in February, and violence against the offices and residences of humanitarian aid workers in March, leading to the forced cessation of critical humanitarian relief operations. As a result, hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people in Rakhine, mainly from the Rohingya community, are not receiving vital medical and humanitarian aid.
"Minister for Asia, the Rt Hon Hugo Swire MP, summoned the Burmese Ambassador to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 7 April. He called on the Burmese Government urgently to restore humanitarian access to all communities in need, and to ensure the security of humanitarian aid workers and all communities in Rakhine State. He also expressed the Government’s deep concern about the conduct of the census - in particular the reversal of the Burmese Government’s commitment to allow the Rohingya to self-identify their ethnicity. We have repeatedly urged the Burmese Government to ensure the conduct of the census meets international norms and standards. We are engaging in further discussions, together with the UN and other donors, on further steps we might take."
- Burma: 'Country of Concern': latest update 31 March 2014 - UK Government
- Myanmar vows to protect riot-hit agencies in Rakhine State - Mizzima
- As census winds down, 85% of Burmese population counted - The Irrawaddy
- Myanmar: Quintana comments negatively on the current census
- Myanmar census set to explode myths of the junta: Nirmal Ghosh - The Nation
- House of Commons: Comcerns expressed about the conduct of the census.
IRI Survey on Democracy in Myanmar
International Republican Institute - 3 April 2014
A national public opinion poll released today by IRI, the Institute’s first in the country, shows that Burmese citizens overwhelmingly see democracy as the most desirable form of government, but are also supportive of the country’s general direction. In the wake of the country’s transition to a civilian government following decades of military rule, citizens strongly support a more democratic Burma.
Not surprisingly, Burmese approved of the country’s recent political reforms. 62% of respondents said democratization has increased over the last year and the same number said women’s rights have improved as well.
After years of economic stagnation and international isolation, Burmese citizens are positive about the country’s trajectory with 88% of respondents saying Burma is heading in the right direction. Furthermore, 85% of respondents believe the current economic situation in Burma is good or very good. Compared to one year ago, 85% claim their personal economic situation has stayed the same or improved, and 81% expect their personal economic situation will stay the same or improve in the next year.
Despite overall positive views of the economy, respondents listed unemployment (19%), ethnic or sectarian violence (16%) and high prices (9%) as the three biggest problems still facing Burma as a whole, and specific issues related to the economy such as low income and farm subsidies are serious concerns.
- Experts criticise US-backed IRI survey - Eleven Media
- Full text of the IRI Survey [34 pages - 1.39 MB]
- Version in Burmese of the IRI Press Release
- Burmese public views Govt reforms, military favourably: Poll - 'The Irrawaddy'
IMF Completes Review of Staff-Monitored Program
IMF Press Release - 28 March 2014
Myanmar is undergoing a far-reaching economic transition. Key recent economic reforms include adopting a floating exchange rate and removing exchange restrictions; establishing an autonomous central bank; and significantly increasing spending on health and education.
The current economic outlook is favorable. Real GDP growth in fiscal year (FY) 2012/13 (year ending in March) reached 7.3 percent, led by services, and is expected to rise further to 7½ percent in FY2013/14 and 7¾ percent in 2014/15. Growth of credit to the private sector is projected to moderate from current high levels but remain rapid at around 30 percent. The fiscal deficit in FY2013/14 is expected to be broadly in line with the budget target of 5 percent of GDP, but should fall to 4½ percent in FY2014/15, as a result of one-off revenues from telecommunications licenses.
However, inflation is expected to exceed 6 percent by end FY2013/14 and remain elevated in FY2014/15. The external current account deficit is projected to widen further to about 5 percent of GDP in this period. As a result, the Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM)’s accumulation of international reserves during FY2013/14 has been slower than projected, but should pick up in FY2014/15 as foreign direct investment and other inflows outweigh the current account deficit.
Latest News and Comment on the Census
- 'Rohingya' poses problem - Article in The New Light of Myanmar
- Myanmar up for the count: Nicholas Farrelly - ANU 1 April 2014
- Census marred by controversy over ethnic question - The Irrawaddy
- Reported experiences of the census in 'Rohingya' villages - Rohingya Blogger
- Chapter XII on 'Race' and related Tables from the 1931 Census
- Some remarkable popular concerns at the 1881 Census - Network Myanmar
Severe disruption of humanitarian assistance in Rakhine
Relief Web - 2 April 2014
A UN delegation led by the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Myanmar Renata Dessallien and country heads of UN agencies returned from Sittwe today after visiting camps for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and meeting with State and Union level authorities.
“What happened in Sittwe last week was not just an attack on international organisations, but an attack on the entire humanitarian response in Rakhine State,” said Ms. Dessallien. “We have had constructive discussions with the Myanmar authorities, who have assured us that their international obligations to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian staff will be met. Our main priority now is to work with the Government to put the necessary conditions in place to allow more than a thousand humanitarian staff to get back to work to assist vulnerable people from all communities.”