An Independent Survey of Events in Myanmar
Myanmar: Regressed, stalled or moving forward?
Center for Strategic and International Studies - October 2014
Myanmar is in the third year of a historic transition. There is active debate in Washington whether the reforms have regressed, stalled, or progressed. Between August 17 and 22, 2014, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) organized a delegation to examine the status of the Myanmar transition in three key dimensions: health and development; political reform and governance; and conflict resolution with the country’s minority groups.
The burning question in Washington about Myanmar’s transition is: are things regressing, stalled, or moving forward? The short answer is all of the above. In August, 2014, CSIS organized a delegation to examine the status of the Myanmar transition in three key dimensions: health and development; political reform and governance; and conflict resolution with the country’s minority groups. This report is a summary of CSIS’ observations and thoughts on strengthening U.S. support for Myanmar’s transition. The bottom line: active U.S. engagement remains critical to supporting the Myanmar transition.
Myanmar: The Politics of Rakhine State
International Crisis Group: 22 October 2014
The International Crisis Group’s latest report, Myanmar: The Politics of Rakhine State, looks at how the legacy of colonial history, decades of authoritarian rule and state-society conflict have laid the foundation for today’s complex mix of intercommunal and inter-religious tensions. Rakhine State, whose majority ethnic Rakhine population perceive themselves to be – with some justification – victims of discrimination by the political centre, has experienced a violent surge of Buddhist nationalism against minority Muslim communities, themselves also victims of discrimination. The government has taken steps to respond: by restoring security, starting a pilot citizenship verification process and developing a comprehensive action plan. However, parts of this plan are highly problematic, and risk deepening segregation and fuelling tensions further, particularly in the lead-up to the 2015 elections.
- Press Release about the report - ICG 22 October 2014
- Interview with Jonathan Prentice ICG on the report - Deutsche Welle
- Ray of hope for Myanmar's Rohingya: Nirmal Ghosh - ANN 23 October 2014
- US think-tank faults Burma on Arakan response - Matthew Pennington AP
I would personally have welcomed a closer analysis of the 'Rohingya' label, in an endeavour to discover its origins. It is not correct (Page 22) that the term "was not widely used in written records from the colonial and precolonial periods". The fact is that it is not to be found at all. Although after independence the term was used on isolated occasions in official documents and speeches during the 1950s, this usage was in my view neither significant nor remarkable. In the late 1940s/early 1950s, other designations like "Rwangya" were more current, but even then had only limited application.
The report (Page 33) that "camp leaders have considerable coercive powers" must throw further doubt on the uncritical acceptance of "self-identification" as an unquestionable principle of ethnicity.
'Operation 'Dragon King' - Repatriation of Muslim Refugees from Bangladesh 1979
- British Embassy report on the reception arrangements - 23 February 1979
- British Ambassador's despatch on the completion of the repatriation - 3 July 1979
- Associated Press (AP) report from Teknaf Road - 5 June 1978
- Unoited Press International (UPI) report from Dacca - 29 June 1978
- United Press International (UPI) report from Cox's Bazaar - 10 October 1978
Charter plan kills chance of Suu Kyi becoming President
Japan Times/Kyodo - 22 October 2014
Myanmar’s joint house committee on constitutional amendment recommended in a report presented to parliament Wednesday that a clause be maintained in the charter effectively barring opposition party leader Aung San Suu Kyi from running for the presidency.
The committee’s 116-page report to the Union Parliament proposes that lawmakers “keep as original” the much-criticized provisions of the charter, including those limiting the eligibility of a presidential candidate and granting the military a quarter of uncontested seats in both houses.
Derek Tonkin writes: It is difficult to see how, in the time available before the planned general elections in late 2015, any changes of substance can possibly be made to the Constitution, which would in any case require a national referendum. In the circumstances, the NLD are more likely to concentrate on winning as many seats as possible in order to put themselves in a much stronger position to press for constitutional change after the elections.
Legislators in the first 'Post-Junta' National Parliament
Renaud Egreteau: Journal of Current SE Asian Affairs - October 2014
Abstract: In an attempt to better grasp the realities of Myanmar’s national legislature, which was formed after the 2010 elections, the paper examines the personal profiles and social backgrounds of its elected and appointed members. Data are provided on the social composition of Myanmar’s first “post-junta” parliament as a dataset for further comparative research on the resurgence of legislative affairs in the country.
The study draws on official publications containing the biographies of 658 national parliamentarians. Focusing on six socio-demographic variables, the findings suggest that the typical Burmese legislator still closely mirrors the conventional image of Myanmar’s characteristic postcolonial leader: a man, in his mid-fifties, ethnically Bamar, Buddhist, holding a Myanmar university degree, engaged in business activities or in the education sector (in the case of the 492 elected legislators) or in the security sector (for the 166 military appointees). However, the profile of Myanmar’s first post-junta legislature offers a quite unexpected level of diversity that may augur well for the emergence of a new civilian policymaking elite in Myanmar.
Latest Views and Op-Eds
- Is Burma the new Cambodia? Guy Nicholson - Corporate Knights
- Burma's Forests - Research and Analysis by the British Embassy
- Unite and Rule: A letter from Karen Pastor Timothy - Democratic Voice of Burma
- UN Special Rapporteur fears 'backtracking' on rights, press freedom
- Report of the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar
- Press statement by Burma Partnership on Myanmar Civil Society Forum
Why does Myanmar keep persecuting the Rohingya Muslims?
Editorial: Los Angeles Times - 14 October 2014
"For years, the government of Myanmar has treated its Rohingya Muslim people as intruders - an impoverished minority among a Buddhist majority, considered illegal immigrants, restricted in where they can live and work. The United Nations considers them one of the most persecuted groups in the world. Even as Myanmar has liberalized its political system, moving from military rule to democracy, the government has declined to ease its treatment of the Rohingya despite constant urging to do so by the human rights community and U.S. officials." Read on.....
Derek Tonkin writes: Debate about the treatment of Rakhine Muslims continues unabated. I thought however that I would offer to the Los Angeles Times a comment on the sentence highlighted above. The LA Times has confirmed receipt of my comment, but has not (yet) chosen to publish it. I wrote:
In your editorial of 14 October on the Rohingya Muslims, you say: "The United Nations considers them as one of the most persecuted groups in the world." They have certainly been treated appallingly over the years, as UN, governmental and human rights bodies have made starkly and repeatedly clear in their reporting.
It is however the case that the UN as such, from the Secretary-General downwards through the various rapporteurs, special advisers and agencies, has never made such an assessment. The nearest any UN spokesperson came to this was on 31 May 2013 when the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar at the time Tomás Ojea Quintana rightly described the Rohingya Muslims as “the most vulnerable and marginalised group in Myanmar.”
No UN spokesperson however would ever presume to make an assessment of this nature covering the whole world.
British Ambassador to Thailand (1986-89) and Vietnam (1980-82)
Burma- Country of Concern
UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office - Update 16 October 2014
- Freedom of expression and assembly
- Human rights defenders
- Access to justice and the rule of law
- Conflict and protection of civilians
- Freedom of religion or belief
- Women’s rights
- Minority rights
- Children’s rights
- Case Study: The Plight of the Rohingya
- Comments on this Case Study
Burma and the Biological Weapons Convention
Andrew Selth: The Lowy Interpreter - 15 October 2014
"It was announced last month that Burma's parliament had approved President Thein Sein's request for the country to become a state party to the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. While in some respects a symbolic gesture, this was an important step that promises to close the book on a security issue that for decades has been mired in controversy.....
"In a message to parliament prior to the vote last month, President Thein Sein emphasised that Burma was the last member of ASEAN to ratify the BW Convention. He felt it was important that the country not be isolated on such an important matter. He also expressed the hope that ratification would 'head off any suggestions that (Burma) has or is developing biological weapons'.
"Whether the recent decision in Naypyidaw puts all suspicions to rest remains to be seen. Burma does not have an unblemished record of abiding by its international obligations, and doubtless there will be some who will remain sceptical of the Government's bona fides. Foreign governments and international organisations, however, will welcome this step as another sign of Burma's wish to be accepted as a respectable international citizen. "
Obama urged to demand extractives transparency
Inter Press Service - 15 October 2014
Reforms, particularly around public information on extractives deals and revenues, could help to ensure that Myanmar’s significant natural resources wealth is used for development rather than simply enriching businesses close to the regime.
“Despite commitments to transparency and good governance, decision-making over the management of Burma’s national resources remains largely hidden from public scrutiny … the gap between the Burmese government’s promises and its delivery is widening,” 16 members of the U.S. Congress warned President Obama in a letter sent Tuesday.
“We therefore urge you, during your visit to Burma, to call on the Burmese government to ensure provisions on transparency and accountability are incorporated into revised laws, regulations and policies governing the extractives sector, and negotiated into new contracts and licenses.”
Derek Tonkin writes: US policy on Myanmar remains an obsession for several members of the US Congress who are constantly pressing for a "recalibration" of the US approach. This obsession is shared by parliamentarians in no other Western country and primarily reflects domestic political pressure to ensure that Myanmar is not constantly proclaimed a US foreign policy success.
Revenues from natural resources, including natural gas exports to Thailand and China, have been included in the national accounts since President Thein Sein's administration came to power. These revenues accordingly form part of the National Budget. It is unlikely that many in the US Congress are aware of this, including those who take a special interest in Burma/Myanmar.
- Myanmar to open more oil exploration blocks to investors - Channel News Asia
- Lawmakers want tougher US line on Myanmar: Mathew Pennington - AP
- US policy on Myanmar under fire as reforms dim - Prashanth Parameswaran
Myanmar (partially) opens the door to foreign banks
Sean Turnell: East Asia Forum - 13 October 2014
On 30 September the Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) announced the names of the nine foreign banks that are to be awarded licences to operate in the country. It was a keenly awaited decision that, as with the telecommunications licences last year, was conducted via a generally well-regarded selection process presided over by a German consultancy firm, Roland Berger.....
"Overall, the entry of foreign banks into Myanmar is a good thing. The ideological lens through which foreign finance in Myanmar has been historically viewed remains a factor to be aware of, but it should not preclude the opening of the country to the one set of institutions that offer a chance for ‘unconnected’ Burmese firms beyond the usual crony cohort to access finance. Advocating for foreign banks will never be an especially popular thing but, for Myanmar’s future, it might just be a necessary one."