An Independent Survey of Events in Myanmar
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 Tim Kyaw told the committee.
- 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 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.
- 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.
For some, Aung San Suu Kyi falls short of expectations
Jane Perlez: New York Times - 12 November 2014
In the four years since she emerged from house arrest as a world-famous champion of democracy, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, 69, has hesitated to take on many of her country’s biggest issues, critics say, and has failed those who expected a staunch human rights advocate. She has instead emphasized a general call for rule of law, a critical issue for a country emerging from a half-century of dictatorship but one, they say, that falls short of addressing particular grievances.
Since entering Parliament two years ago, she has been reluctant to speak out about abuses by government forces against civilians in the ethnic conflict in Kachin State, saying both sides were responsible for killings. As chairwoman of a panel investigating land disputes between poor farmers and a copper mining company accused of unfairly taking their land, she sided with the company. Perhaps most surprising of all, she has refused to admonish the government for its harsh policies against the Rohingya Muslim minority, policies that Mr. Obama criticized last week.
Interview with President Obama
The Irrwaddy - 12 November 2014
US President Barack Obama arrives in Burma today for his second diplomatic visit in as many years. In advance of the Asean and East Asia summits in Naypyidaw, Obama answered questions from The Irrawaddy correspondent Lalit K Jha about his visit, the reforms of the past three years and the future of Burma’s democratic transition.
"We want to see a Burma that plays an active, constructive role in Asean and in the broader Asia Pacific community by contributing to regional security and prosperity, and that benefits from its engagement with the world through trade, investment, and the exchange of new ideas. We are very mindful of the tremendous challenges ahead. But we are committed to helping the people of Burma along the difficult path of transition from six decades of authoritarian rule to a democracy and growing economy that lifts people out of poverty. Your future is important to me personally, and to my country. We want you to succeed."
Aung San Suu Kyi: Colluding with tyranny
Tim Roberstson: The Diplomat - 12 November 2014
"Suu Kyi..... has long endured criticism and vilification from people within the Burmese regime eager to sully her reputation in the eyes of her people, but Win Tin was once her closest ally. He saw the personality cult that formed around her and believed that Myanmar’s struggle, understood solely through the prism of Aung San Suu Kyi, was bad for Myanmar.
"George Orwell cautioned against making gods out of mortals because it imbues them with an aura of infallibility that no one can possibly live up to. But this is not Suu Kyi’s flaw: Her greatest failure is that she’s taken advantage of the perception of her as an unerring statesman and humanitarian and chosen to collude with tyranny against the people who need her most. One feels a sense of mourning for the opportunities lost, for it will be a long time before Myanmar has a leader of such great promise again."
Little choice but to support reformists in Myanmar
Nirmal Ghosh: Straits Times Asia Report - 10 November 2014
President Thein Sein is beset by powerful competing forces and international opinion that remains fixated on the bad news and the role of Aung San Suu Kyi. Domestic problems also weigh heavily on President Obama as his Democratic Party lost control of the US Senate last week.
With just two years of the Obama presidency left, analysts expect increased gridlock in Washington. And ironically, while Myanmar rings with clamours for more democracy, Mr Obama faces a public that has grown cynical about the genuineness and effectiveness of America’s democracy.
But Myanmar’s political transition, if somewhat shaky, remains a foreign policy success and the US is unlikely to yank the welcome mat from under President Sein Thein.
Derek Tonkin writes: A breath of fresh air, a welcome contrast to the unrelieved litany of criticism and complaint from human rights activists and US politicians.
Priscilla Clapp concludes: "The journey from deeply entrenched military oppression to sustainable democracy is long and winding and we cannot expect it to be accomplished overnight. If the US wishes to assist in tackling the country’s deep‐seated problems, such as continuing human rights abuses, land management, ethnic and religious conflict, and the military role in governance, it must remain engaged and not relegate itself to the sidelines with reimposition of sanctions and other policy measures that limit US assistance."
- Text of letter by Members of the House of Representatives to President Obama
- Obama: Champion democracy and human rights with humility: Ernie Bower - CSIS
- US divisions over Myanmar threaten to overshadow Obama visit - FT
- How do you say 'gridlock' in Burmese? Larry Jagan - Foreign Policy
Aung San Suu Kyi's silence on Burma's human rights abuses is appalling
Time Magazine - 7 November 2014
Charlie Campbell writes: The Nobel laureate's refusal to condemn documented atrocities suggests that political calculation has trumped human rights in her thinking. She is not happy with the pace of democratic change in Burma, officially now known as Myanmar. On Wednesday, the Nobel Peace Prize winner gave a press conference to denounce the “stalling” reform process…..
Even so, Suu Kyi’s condemnation is curious. It comes after her steadfast refusal to criticize the military or the government for myriad human rights abuses. In Burma’s west, for example, 90,000 Rohingya Muslims languish in squalid displacement camps, but Suu Kyi repudiates evidence-based allegations of ethnic cleansing by Human Rights Watch and instead calls the crisis an “immigration issue.”…..
But her present recalcitrance suggests that her own political career may be more important, even if we accept the mitigation that it is for some vague greater good. “There is no version of pragmatism that would make silence on human rights atrocities defensible,” says Smith. “These are some of the most serious human rights violations that can be committed.”
Admittedly, Suu Kyi has always said she is a politician, rather than a human rights defender. But the truth today is that she is pretty awful at both.
Derek Tonkin writes: This is the most hostile criticism of Suu Kyi which I have seen for a long time. It does however illustrate the folly of gearing foreign policy to a single charismatic personality, which is what the United States has done since 1988, though the magic is already dissolving.