An Independent Survey of Events in Myanmar
Myanmar's Parliament works on constitutional amendment
Xin Hua - 24 July 2014
The Constitutional Amendment Implementation Committee of Myanmar has submitted its preliminary report. The Committee has said in a statement that it has reviewed a total of 340 clauses from several sections of the 2008 constitution, taking into consideration advice from all parties including the public, organizations, political parties and the army. The remaining clauses will be reviewed similarly, the committee said….
Following the final report, it is expected that the proposed constitutional amendments will be brought to the agenda of the parliament for discussion in the near future. Two key sensitive sections of the constitution, which are Section 436 and Section 59(f), will top the debate.
Section 436 of the constitution prescribes that the amendment of the constitution needs the approval of more than 75 percent of all parliament members (MPs). Of them, the non-elected military representatives account for 25 percent or one fourth dominating the parliament, while the rest are shared by various political parties and ethnic groups.
Moreover, changes to some provisions of the sections of the constitution also need the prior support of over 75 percent of all MPs and following the approval of the MPs, a national referendum is to be held, in which more than 50 percent of eligible voters have to support the move. The committee is said to propose to revise the percentage to 66 percent or two thirds so as to enable the possibility of amendment by the parliament.
Derek Tonkin writes: Xin Hua revealed as early as 21 May that the Committee would be likely to propose replacing 75% by 66% in Section 436. The NLD signature campaign does not include any recommendation concerning the percentage. The NLD say that their campaign is directed primarily at influencing opinion in parliament, not in the Committee itself where they are represented.
Myanmar: Between economic miracle and myth
Stuart Paul Larkin: ISEAS Perspective - 11 July 2014
The writer, who is a Visiting Fellow at ISEAS in Singapore, points out that U Thein Sein’s government and international donor agencies are optimistic that Myanmar can become a middle-income nation and significantly increase its per capita income by 2030 if political reforms and current growth rates of around 8 per cent are maintained.
However, foreign investments into resource enclaves and the recycling of “resource rents” earned by government elites into the country’s real estate and consumer imports boom may undermine its economic potential and perpetuate a “resource curse”. For growth to be inclusive and sustainable, the economy requires structural change to accommodate labour-intensive manufacturing-exports platforms. A currency devaluation is necessary to promote competitiveness, along with infrastructure development. Continue reading…..
Latest News and Views
- MSF invited back to Rakhine State - Myanmar Times
- Between resource curse and export-led development: Stuart Larkin - Financial Times
- Fears about Myanmar's political and economic realities: Kat Caulderwood - IBT
- Tipped as next Army Chief, Mya Tun Oo gets promotion - The Irrawaddy
- Burma opens up, but true democracy is still elusive: Annie Gowen - Washington Post
- NLD says 5 million sign petition to change Constitution - Reuters
- Myanmar's Constitutional Uncertainty: Sebastian Sergio - The Diplomat
- New UN Rights Rapporteur meets with Rohingya, Arakan leaders - The Irrawaddy
- The real victims of US sanctions on Myanmar: Simon Tay, Cheryl Tan - Japan Times
Agence France-Presse - 20 July 2014
Myanmar's latest clashes began after a Buddhist woman was paid to make false rape claims against two Muslim men, state media reported Sunday. Two men - a Buddhist and a Muslim - died in riots in Mandalay that flared on July 1 following social media reports that the Muslim men had raped a Buddhist employee at their tea shop. More than 20 others were wounded as violence rocked the city for several days, the latest in a series of sectarian clashes that have troubled the nation for two years.
But a police investigation found the woman was paid to fabricate the accusation against the men, the New Light of Myanmar [in fact, only the Burmese-language version 'Myanmar Ahlin'] reported. The report, citing the Ministry of Home Affairs, said a medical examination of the woman - named as Phyu Phyu Min - found "no sign of rape or other violence. After a detailed investigation she confessed that she accused the two men because she was paid" to do so by two other people who apparently had a personal dispute with the tea shop owners. The woman has been arrested alongside one of the people alleged to have paid her.
- Criticism over slow response to rape charges - Myanmar Times
- Hluttaw silent on religious conflict: Ei Ei Toe Lwin - Myanmar Times
- Authorities say rape case causing Mandalay unrest was faked - The Irrawaddy
- Myanmar finds rape case causing unrest was faked - Associated Press
British Chamber of Commerce launched in Myanmar
British Chambers of Commerce - 16 July 2014
Today, the UK has become the first country to launch a completely new, locally registered Chamber of Commerce in Myanmar. The role of the Chamber is to promote, foster, support, and represent UK business interests in Myanmar - directly helping British firms identify market opportunities and providing them with a first port of call when looking to trade in that particular market.
This is part of the wider Overseas Business Networks Initiative (OBNi) - an ongoing partnership between the British Chambers of Commerce, UK Trade and Investment and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The aim is to transform the support available for British SMEs looking to do business in high-growth, hard-to-access global markets. It is also a crucial part of the Prime Minister’s drive to double the UK’s annual exports to £1 trillion and to increase the number of UK exporters by 100,000 by 2020.
The British Chamber of Commerce in Myanmar is being supported by four British businesses who are acting as founding patrons - BG Group, Jardines, Prudential and Standard Chartered Bank. The Chamber has five Gold Sponsors - Agrekko, British American Tobacco, Herbert Smith Freehills, Shell and Stephenson Harwood and it has already secured 86 founding members.
Derek Tonkin writes: This is the latest in a series of British trade, investment, development and financial services initiatives in Myanmar which as a result and for all practical purposes now exclude the likelihood of any return to the days of sanctions and isolation which characterised British policies from 1988 to 2011 - unless there were to be a very serious reversal of the reform process. The only Western country not yet committed to whole-hearted engagement is the United States where notions of 'conditionality' still persist, particularly in Republican circles anxious to deny President Obama's claims of a foreign policy 'success' in a country the US still calls 'Burma' on every possible occasion, though in other Western countries the dichotomy Burma/Myanmar is no longer an issue of any real substance.
- UK FCO Minister of State Hugo Swire on Burma - The Diplomat
- Launch of British Chamber of Commerce - UK Government.
- UK supporting Burma's business governance - British Embassy Yangon
- UK supporting Burma's green growth - British Embassy Yangon
- Oxford University strengthens ties in Burma - The Irrawaddy
New UN Special Rapporteur on her first visit to Myanmar
OHCHR Press Release - 14 July 2014
The new United Nations Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, will undertake her first official visit to the country from 17 to 26 July 2014 to gather first-hand information on the current human rights situation in Myanmar.
“A frank and open exchange of views will be vital to help me better understand the realities on the ground,” Ms. Lee said. “And it is my intention, as Special Rapporteur, to work closely with the Government and people of Myanmar, towards the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.”
The new Special Rapporteur served as member and chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2003-2011). She is currently a professor at Sungkyunwan University, Seoul, and serves on the Advisory Committee of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. Ms. Lee is the founding President of International Child Rights Center, and serves as Vice-chair of the National Unification Advisory Council.
Journalists sentenced to hard labor for stories on chemical weapons
Newsweek - 11 July 2014
Five journalists have been sentenced to ten years hard labor in Myanmar for publishing stories about a weapons factory, with claims their reporting violated national security.
The stories, published in late January, alleged that Myanmar’s military had plans to build a weapons factory on a 3,000-acre plot of farmland it seized in Myanmar's Magwe Region, and that the operation would include the development of chemical weapons. The magazine later published a denial from authorities that chemical weapons were being made.
Investigative report: Military facility hides secrets from the world
Bangkok Post 'Spectrum' - 13 July 2014
“Observing from the outside, and even having a peek into the factory may not shed much light as to what is actually going on,” independent security consultant Dan Kaszeta said. “Trucks go in, trucks go out out - there’s a spaghetti factory of pipes and valves inside. Even a highly trained specialist can’t necessarily tell you what’s going on in the mess of pipes and vessels without knowing some of what’s in the pipes."
Suspect defense facility in Myanmar
Center for Nonproliferation Studies - 9 May 2014
An expert analysis of the facility at Pauk in Magwe Region. The article concludes:
"A number of the details provided by local residents, including the level of security, presence of foreign workers and visits by high-ranking officials are consistent with the images of the facility. What remains is a large, high-value defense facility with no transparency about its purpose that is alleged by local residents to be engaged in the production of chemical weapons. Until Myanmar completes its long-delayed ratification to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the international community has no mechanisms by which to determine whether the facility is engaged in the production of chemical weapons. In light of the recent allegations and the available satellite imagery, the international community should insist that Myanmar ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention without further delay and clarify the purpose of defense activities at the Pauk facility."
[Note: The Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies is the largest nongovernmental organization in the United States devoted exclusively to research and training on nonproliferation issues.]
- US concerned Myanmar using police state tactics - Associated Press
- Prison sentences for journalists 'very excessive': Suu Kyi - The Irrawaddy
- Presidential Spokesman Ye Htut defends journalists' jailing - Radio Free Asia
Derek Tonkin writes: I have no more idea than anyone else what goes on inside this facility, but the sentencing of the Unity journalists to such a long term of imprisonment has ensured that global atttention will now be intensely focussed on the facility.
Burma: The Clash of Church, State and Society
David Mathieson: Human Rights Watch - 9 July 2014
Burma’s simmering religious tensions flared in its second biggest city, Mandalay this week, as Buddhists and Muslims clashed over reports of an alleged rape involving a young Buddhist girl and a Muslim man. Clashes between mobs of men of both communities occurred on the nights of 2 and 3 July before the authorities imposed a curfew. As usual with Burma’s communal violence, the plot thickens as the dust settles, and it appears as if the violence was not just an organic eruption of communal resentment but another incident in a tableau of nationwide religious tensions. Continue reading.....
Derek Tonkin writes: A compelling analysis of the murky background to recent inter-communal rioting in Mandalay, set against the wider implications of policies on religious issues currently in the process of elaboration by the Myanmar Government.
On the complexity of the issues surrounding the causes of recent rioting, the following interview with a human rights advocate is both credible and disturbing, notably his criticisms of the extremist monk U Wirathu for seeking to infuence the legal process. There is circumstantial evidence that the alleged rape of a Buddhist girl by the Muslim sons of a café owner, and which led to the rioting, was fabricated to distract attention from the rape of a Muslim girl by a Buddhist court official protected by U Wirathu. A third case of alleged rape involving a Muslim man, no less spurious than the cause of the rioting, could also have influenced the situation.
- The meaning of the Mandalay riots: Mong Palatino - The Diplomat
- Mandalay's Chinese Muslims chilled by riots: Thomas Fuller - New York Times
- Lawyers appeal murder charges about Muslim pilgrims lynched in June 2012 - DVB
- Bangladesh prohibits marriage with Muslim Rohingyas - Indian Express
US Commentaries on the Situation in Myanmar
- Congress slams Myanmar ahead of Kerry visit: John Hudson - Foreign Policy
- Not even Burma? Jennifer Rubin - Washington Post
- Burma, Obama's Go-To Foreign-Policy Success, slipping away: Ian Tuttle - NRO
- Video: House Committee hearing on Human Rights in SE Asia - 9 July 2014
Derek Tonkin writes: There has been a flurry of negative comment recently from the US about the situation in Myanmar, with claims that the country "has backslid into a routine of authoritarianism and repression" [John Hudson - Foreign Policy]. There is undoubtedly good cause for concern on issues like the Rohingya and planned legislation on interfaith relations, which are indeed shared by other Western countries.
What distinguishes US concerns, however, is the Republican campaign to deny the Administration any political kudos from what the latter claim to have been a foreign policy success, a result of President Obama's declared promise in his inaugural address on 20 January 2009 that "we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." The planned visits of first John Kerry in August and President Obama in November this year have given impetus to the debate, in which the antagonists have not shied from blatant hyperbole and partisanship.
Mandalay Riots: Aftermath
- Rape case unrelated to Mandalay riots, alleged victim says - DVB
- Extracts from presidential broadcast: Support for victims - New Light of Myanmar
- More than 360 arrested following Mandalay riots - Democratic Voice of Burma
- Mandalay residents try to make sense of the riots - The Irrawaddy