The Truly Independent Survey of Events in Myanmar
'Military will always have a special place' in government
Washington Post interview with President Thein Sein - 20 May 2013
The military that ran Burma for decades will continue to play a major role in the country, the former Burmese general who has presided over the transformation of a nation that only three years ago was considered one of the world’s most repressive said Sunday.
The army has a proud history in Burma and “will always have a special place” in government, Burmese President Thein Sein said in an interview Sunday with The Washington Post, on the eve of a White House meeting with President Obama.....
Thein Sein dismissed as “pure fabrication” the allegation from human rights monitors that the Burmese army condones or even participates in ethnic pogroms against the nation’s Muslim minority. The army “is more disciplined than normal citizens, because they have to abide by military rules,” he said through an interpreter. Continue reading.....
Statement on the visit of President Thein Sein of Myanmar
Press Secretary: White House - 15 May 2013
President Thein Sein’s visit underscores President Obama’s commitment to supporting and assisting those governments that make the important decision to embrace reform, and highlights the dedication of the United States to helping the Burmese people realize the full potential of their extraordinary country.
Derek Tonkin writes: The use of the country description "Myanmar" reflects US concern for correct international protocol.
- Myanmar's promises unfulfilled as leader meetsa with Obama - Washington Times
- From cars to cola, US firms cross into Burma - USA Today
- White House visit by Thein Sein a sign of changing times - Washington Post
- Burma: New doubts about the pace of reforms - Human Rights Watch
- On and off the table for Thein Sein's White House visit - Simon Roughneen
- Burma releases political prisoners ahead of US state visit - The Irrawaddy
US Burma Sanctions
US Treasury Resource Center - accessed 17 May 2013
Derek Tonkin writes: In the context of President Thein Sein's forthcoming visit to the US, readers may wish to be reminded of the current status of the US sanctions regime, which remains complex and still impinges on non-US companies seeking to do business with and invest in Myanmar.
The expectation is that trade relations with the US will be normalised before the end of the present year, with the restoration of the US Generalized System of Preferences. Other concessions may also be announced at the time of the visit. The US however remains wedded to its policy of "action for action" based on benchmarks which all other Western countries except Canada have consigned to history on the grounds that perfection is impossibly idealistic.
In March 2013 the US Department of the Treasury issued a series of 'FAQs' about the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) containing both general information and specific information on Burma/Myanmar. The specific Q & As on Burma Sanctions may be found at this link.
An Associated Press report which appeared in the 'Washington Post' on 18 May 2013 has noted that: "The Obama administration didn’t add anyone to the U.S. government’s Myanmar sanctions list over 3½ years, despite recommendations from the U.S. Embassy in Yangon to blacklist hundreds of top officials and their business cronies, as well as military and private companies, according to an Associated Press examination of hundreds of pages of government documents, and more than a dozen interviews with officials and business leaders in Myanmar and Washington…….
The U.S. list includes just 39 individuals and 65 companies, after stripping out aliases and duplicate entries. Australia’s sanctions list named 392 individuals, before it was repealed in June 2012. The EU listed 656 individuals and companies, plus another 1,207 companies in the timber, metals and gem industries, money-makers for the military that were banned to European investors. The EU suspended its restrictions a year ago, then lifted them entirely last month......
The last powerful tool it has to punish the bad guys and encourage the good ones has fallen way out of date, even though legislation instructs the government to keep the list current. That risks reinforcing a corrupt economic system that has concentrated wealth in the hands of politically-connected businessmen."
The latest 'Burma SDN list' may be found at this link, extracted from the complete OFAC list of SDNs. A Search Facility also exists. A 'Washington Post' article of 22 May 2012 includes a more easily understandable matrix of sanctioned individuals and companies as at 1 May 2012.
Derek Tonkin writes: The OFAC 'Burma' SDN list is clearly in a state of shambles from which it is never likely to recover as pressures to finally lift all sanctions grow on the US President and Congress.
Will Aung San Suu Kyi be President of Burma?
Andrew Selth: The Lowy Interpreter - 16 May 2013
One question uppermost in the minds of many who attended last week's Lowy Institute's panel discussion on Burma (a video of the event is included in the article) was whether Aung San Suu Kyi might become president when Thein Sein's five-year term expires in 2015. There is no simple answer to this question, but it may be helpful to look at some of the challenges that the popular opposition leader would need to overcome for her to be president. Continue reading.....
- Suu Kyi reiterates need for constitutional amendment - Eleven Media
- Myanmar: An uneasy alliance: Gwen Robinson, Lionel Barber - FT
- Nic Dunlop on his photographic essay "Brave New Burma" - DVB 15 May 2013
Election fever grips Myanmar
Larry Jagan: Bangkok Post - 13 May 2013
Myanmar's next national elections - more than two years away - are already preoccupying the country's leaders and the opposition. "Everyone is focused on 2015," said a Myanmar government official, who declined to be identified. "All the parties have started to gear up for the next election campaign."
The scene is now set for a tense struggle in the lead up to the next elections. The campaign has begun in earnest, according to Myanmar analysts. Winning the next election is likely to weigh heavily on both the government and the opposition as they vie for power and influence in order to convince the electorate that they are worthy of their vote in 2015. Continue reading.....
Adjournment debate in the UK House of Commons
BBC Democracy Live - 8 May 2013
In the first adjournment debate of the 2013-14 Parliament, Conservative MP David Burrowes led a discussion on human rights in Burma. Mr Burrowes, a member of the all-party group on Burma, said: "Burma is at a new dawn of democratic government but there are still far, far, far too many in Burma whom the light has yet to reach."
He urged the government during the debate on 8 May 2013: "Do not let the Rohingyas and our other forgotten communities be left forgotten in the shadows." More than 190 people were killed and 100,000 displaced in deadly clashes between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in late 2012.
Myanmar President vows to protect rights of Muslims
Associated Press - 6 May 2013
In a speech broadcast on state television late Monday, Thein Sein vowed his “government will take all necessary action to ensure the basic human rights of Muslims in Rakhine state, and to accommodate the needs and expectations of the Rakhine people.”
“In order for religious freedom to prevail, there must be tolerance and mutual respect among the members of different faiths,” he said. Only then, he added, “will it be possible to coexist peacefully.”
During his speech, the Myanmar leader also announced he would implement the recommendations of a special government-appointed panel set up last year to investigate the causes of the conflict.
Bipartisan US Commission claims reforms are failing
UPI - 3 May 2013
A U.S. government commission recommended that Myanmar remains on a U.S. State Department blacklist of 15 governments responsible for "systematic" violations of freedom of religion. In its annual report, the Commission on International Religious Freedoms, a bipartisan advisory board appointed by the president and Congress, said the Myanmar government continues to persecute and discriminate Muslim groups.
- Thein Sein expected to visit US later this month - Agence France-Presse
- US announces Burma sanctions move - BBC News Asia
- Continuation of national emergency with respect to Burma - Presidential Notice
- Termination of 1996 Visa Ban - US Secretary of State
Conference of labour organisations in Myanmar
ILO - 30 April 2013
One year after Myanmar passed its Labour Organization Law, delegates from some 500 labour organizations gathered in an unprecedented conference to hone their skills in labour organization, collective bargaining and occupational health and safety, among other areas of crucial importance to the country's workers.
“This is a powerful expression of freedom of association which was introduced little more than one year ago, and the associated rights of assembly and speech,” ILO Deputy Director-General for Management and Reform Greg Vines told the participants at the opening of the two-day conference in Yangon, “Building a new Myanmar”.