An Independent Survey of Events in Myanmar
Election Chief under fire for raising prospect of coup
The Irrawaddy - 18 December 2014
Senior members of political parties in Burma have criticised Union Election Commission (UEC) chairman Tin Aye for comments he made this week signaling the possibility of another military coup if “instability” threatened the nation.
During remarks at meeting with artists at the Micasa Hotel in Rangoon, in which he also defended the Burma Army’s continued role in politics, Tin Aye on Tuesday said the military would seize power in the event of political or ethnic turmoil in the country. He added, however, that such an outcome would not be desirable.
Members of opposition and ethnic political parties have responded unfavorably, saying the comments were inappropriate, coming from the UEC chairman at a time when the prospect of constitutional reform is stirring considerable debate in Burma.
Derek Tonkin writes: Under the Constitution, the Commander-in-Chief may take power if so authorised by the President. It is not clear whether Tin Aye had these provisions in mind, or was contemplating a coup outside the Constitution - probably the latter.
The President's statement starts at approximately 27.00 minutes into the video.
- The bubble will definitely burst: Interview with Serge Pun - The Irrawaddy
- Time to close Thailand's refugee camps? Doug Bandow - Cato Institute
- What are Myanmar's Buddhist Sunday Schools teaching? Matthew Walton
Survey: Myanmar people 'cautiously optimistic'
Asian Foundation/Deutsche Welle- 15 December 2014
Published by The Asia Foundation and titled "Myanmar 2014: Civic Knowledge and Values in a Changing Society", the report reveals that a majority (62 percent) of respondents believes things in Myanmar are going in the right direction, while 28 percent say they don't know.
But the poll - based on over 3,000 face-to-face interviews conducted between May and June across all 14 states - also finds limited knowledge among the public about government institutions and their functions, a low level of social trust, a high degree of political polarization, and deep apprehension about economic opportunities.
The nationwide survey, released on December 11, is the first to document public knowledge and awareness of new government institutions and processes in the Southeast Asian country. The poll comes at a critical time amid longstanding religious and communal conflicts and ahead of a presidential election next year. President Thein Sein's quasi-civilian government has earned international praise for undertaking political and economic reforms that have resulted in the lifting of most Western sanctions.
US$3.8 billion FDI in first 8 months of Fiscal 2014-5
Mizzima - 14 December 2014
Foreign direct investment in Myanmar stands at US$3.8 billion for the first eight months of the 2014-15 fiscal year provided by 108 companies from 19 countries, according to the Directorate of Investment and Companies Administration. Singapore topped the list of countries, followed by companies from Hong Kong, according to a recent announcement by DICA. Twenty-eight Singaporean companies invested a total of more than $2.148 billion in the first eight months of the 2014-2015 fiscal year. Myanmar’s fiscal year runs April to March. Singapore investments in Myanmar account for about one-third of the total foreign investments in Myanmar.
China stands as the third largest investor in Myanmar, with 18 firms investing US$228 million. South Korea is fourth with firms investing US$128 million. The list of the countries includes Singapore, Hong Kong, China, South Korea, Thailand, UK, Malaysia, Netherlands, India, Japan, Canada, Malaysia, Philippines, UAE, Luxembourg, Brunei, Germany, Norway, Samoa and Sri Lanka.
Derek Tonkin writes: The dominance of Asian countries (China, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea) is only to be expected. Western investment is likely to be selective in hi-tech industries where they are internationally dominant. Financial services offer scope for Western engagement at a later stage. The elections due late next year represent an inhibiting factor.
US sends mixed message to Burmese military
Matthew Pennington AP: The Irrawaddy - 12 December 2014
Congress, acting at the administration’s request, is expected to allow US training in some noncombat activities for the military in Burma. This would be part of a sweeping defense policy bill slated to pass Friday. The administration says this does not mean closer ties are imminent with a military known for rights abuses. Patrick Ventrell, a National Security Council spokesman, said the provision would “give us the flexibility to pursue slightly broader engagement if the military takes steps to implement reforms and support Burma’s democratic transition.”
Derek Tonkin writes: I would not have thought that the US message was in any way "mixed", but in essence unambiguous.
FAQs on the Myanmar Census process
UNFPA Myanmar - 10 December 2014
A new UNFPA-supported booklet: "Questions and Answers about Myanmar’s Census", seeks to address questions that have arisen in the wake of the 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census. Through extensive consultation, different communities across Myanmar have shown interest, raised concerns and also become more curious about the census and the "what's next" after the population count. This publication is part of a larger effort to shape a people-centred approach to census data release and dissemination. It aims to help to build public trust, understanding, acceptance and use of census data at all levels. The questions raised and answered provided all emanate from consultations with diverse and numerous groups in states and regions in Myanmar.
Some points of particular interest:
- All available evidence so far indicates that the population census in Myanmar has been conducted properly and that information should be of good quality.
- The areas that have been missed have been clearly identified. The census results will be reported for all areas where information could be collected, which in percentage terms covered nearly all of the country (about 98%).
- It is clear that the 135 code list is a listing that not everyone in the country recognizes nor accepts. Government has acknowledged the need to address the challenge of how people self-identify in terms of ethnicity.
- The census did make provision for “mixed blood” identification. However, it is important to understand that the census is not a tool to define ethnicity and or assign codes to ethnic groups.
- The Government made a commitment to undertake a consultative process to review and replace the currently contested “135” ethnic classification listing. Once done, this would require Parliamentary approval before coming into effect.
Google Translate adds Myanmar to list of languages
Mizzima - 12 December 2014
Google Translate has just added 10 more languages including Myanmar to allow internet users to translate text on websites into their own language. In a press release on December 11, Google Translate said they were adding 10 languages to Translate, bringing the total number of supported languages to 90. “Myanmar language has been in the works for a long time as it's a challenging language for automatic translation, both from language structure and font encoding perspectives,” read a Google Translate blogpost. “While our system understands different Myanmar inputs, we encourage the use of open standards and therefore only output Myanmar translations in Unicode.”
The new languages include Myanmar, Malayalam, Sinhala, Sundanese, Kazakh, Tajik and Chichewa. These 10 new languages will allow more than 200 million additional people to translate text to and from their native languages, according to the press release. The languages are available on translate.google.com.
Derek Tonkin writes: To read articles on this website, or entire pages, in Myanmar (Burmese), click on the link in the right-hand column and the website will automaticaly appear in Myanmar (Burmese). This link will be included in the "GTranslate" link immediately above in due course. The new facility may also be used to translate from Myanmar to English. The quality of the translation is likely to remain in the developmental stage for some time.
EU to provide €688 million in grants 2014-2020
EEAS Press Release - 8 December 2014
The European Union (EU) has announced it has allocated EUR 688 million (USD 900 million) to Myanmar under its bilateral cooperation programme over the period 2014-2020 to reinforce its support to the country's multiple transition. The funds will help to develop rural areas and agriculture; improve food and nutrition security; support education; improve governance and the rule of law; and contribute to peacebuilding.
With this support over the next seven years, the EU will build on its on-going initiatives and continue to promote peace, inclusive growth, sustainable development and democratic governance for the benefit of all people in Myanmar.
Can Burma's democracy and Obama's foreign policy success be saved?
Doug Bandow: Forbes - 8 December 2014
A thoughtful, comprehensive and realistic analysis by a highly qualified and leading Forbes contributor. He observes that: "Washington could reimpose economic sanctions; indeed, it recently added to its blacklist someone believed to be impeding the reform process. However, returning to the policy of the past would be a dead end, since the ruling junta always cared more about preserving power than promoting prosperity. There’s no reason to think that calculation has changed for the generals. And if Europe was not prepared to follow suit, the gesture almost certainly would be ineffective.....
"It would be tragic if Burma’s reform process remains stalled. But there’s no magic bullet to spur progress. Washington needs to act with both patience and prudence, fully aware of its limits.
"The best strategy would be to work with Europe and Japan to develop a list of priority political reforms and to communicate to Burma that continued progress will determine further allied support and cooperation. Washington and friends should recognize political realities in Naypyitaw and respect the military’s insecurities during the transition; for instance, a genuine power transfer could be combined with guarantees, however unpleasant in principle, for those yielding authority."
- A make or break year for Myanmar: Hunter Martson - The Diplomat
- Stalled reforms herald a bleak future: Larry Jagan - Bangkok Post
UK House of Lords debate on Soft Power and Conflict Prevention
Hansard House of Lords - 5 December 2014
During this debate, Lord Williams of Baglan made the following observations about the BBC:
"Another country I want to mention, which has already come up in the debate, is Burma, or Myanmar, as it is now called, where I recently chaired a conference on transition and reform for Chatham House. The BBC has broadcast in Burmese for 75 years - through the period of colonial rule, Japanese occupation, military dictatorship and now, I hope, a transition to representative government.
Derek Tonkin writes: The intervention by Lord Williams illustrates the difficulty of assessing the progress of media freedom in Myanmar. On the one hand much publicity has been given this year to the severe prison sentences handed down to journalists accused of illegal entry into a military installation as well as to the recent killing of a free-lance journalist by the military. While this might be seen as "backsliding" on media freedom, it should be born in mind that these two serious events involved first and foremost the military authorities, and that just as there may well be instances which appear to show the curtailment of media freedom, other reports suggest that there is continuing progress in the direction of improved media independence.