An Independent Survey of Events in Myanmar
Independence for Scotland.
Derek Tonkin writes: People in Myanmar may well wonder what the fuss is all about. The question to be asked in Thursday's referendum is: "Should Scotland be an independent country?" to which the only sensible answer is: "Of course". In the event of a "Yes" vote, however, negotiations are quite likely to show that the total separation of Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom simply isn't possible without both parties incurring unacceptably high costs. The insuperable issues are likely to be defence, monetary and foreign policies, notably relations with the EU and NATO.
The eventual result is likely to be some form of a UK federation of its principal components, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. That is, the UK will remain, and so will the Union flag. In short, the result of Thursday's referendum really doesn't matter. The national interest will prevail in the end. I predict this will also be the case in Myanmar when the peace negotiations are concluded.
Independence negotiations could take at least five years. At the end of the day there is no guarantee that an agreement will be reached. On so many issues the differences may prove to be impossible to bridge. If negotiations collapse, what then? Another referendum?
Myanmar sees foreign investment topping US$5 billion in 2014-2015
Reuters - 16 September 2014
Myanmar has revised its forecast for foreign direct investment (FDI) to more than $5 billion for the fiscal year that began in April, a senior official said on Tuesday, surpassing earlier expectations and led by new ventures in energy and telecoms.
The figure exceeds an earlier estimate of $4 billion, with investments in the first five months of this fiscal year worth $3.32 billion, said Aung Naing Oo, secretary of the government-run Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC). 31 percent of the investment received by the end of August was in the telecoms sector, with 23.8 percent in oil and gas and 18.4 percent in real estate. Hotels accounted for 13.3 percent and 8.1 percent went into manufacturing, primarily garments.
Total FDI stood at $4.11 billion during the fiscal year to March 2014, up sharply from $1.42 billion a year earlier. That compares with $329.6 million in 2009-2010, a year before the new government took office and embarked on reforms.
Despite its business potential, Myanmar still trails neighbouring markets in terms of foreign investment this year. Thailand received $6.8 billion in the period from January to June, according to the central bank, while Vietnam recorded $7.9 billion of investment for the first eight months of 2014.
ADB predicts GDP to grow to 9.5% by 2030
Global Post/Xin Hua - 12 September 2014
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has predicted that Myanmar will see annual average gross domestic growth (GDP) as high as 9.5 percent by 2030, according to a new report of the regional institution available here Friday.
The country will reach a per capita income of nearly 5,000 U.S. dollars by 2030 from about 900 U.S. dollars now.
However, the forecast growth calls for full realization of the country's economic potential and the need to ensure infrastructural development and investment in human capital and education, stressed Cyn-Young Park, ADB assistant chief economist, in the bank's launch of its new report on Myanmar's growth prospects.
"Myanmar must upgrade its infrastructure and improve the quality of human capital to achieve sustainable economic growth and reap the full benefit from its ambitious reform agenda," the report said.
- Read or download the full 234-page report
- Pipeline carries 1.87 bln cm gas to China in first year - Reuters
UN weighs in on blame game over census tensions
Myanmar Times - 13 September 2014
The head of the United Nations’ technical advisory board for Myanmar’s census has dismissed criticisms of the process and blamed civil society and human rights groups for having “inflamed” tensions surrounding the count.
Paul Cheung, chair the International Technical Advisory Board, a group of international experts assembled by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to advise the government, said critics of the census had made the situation worse. He said the criticisms had harmed the UN’s efforts to discreetly resolve some of the more contentious issues surrounding the count.
“The so-called ‘civil society groups’ have their own agenda. Personally I think they inflamed the situation,” said Mr Cheung, a professor in social policy and analytics at the National University of Singapore who headed the UN Statistics Division until 2012.
Daw Khon Ja, a program director with the Kachin Women’s Peace Network, said that her organisation and others had made many attempts to warn the government and UN of the likely problems with the census but these were ignored. “The census methodologies were not conflict sensitive, they did not comply with [the] ‘Do No Harm’ principle and were not appropriate for Myanmar,” she said. “The Central Census Commission, [and] especially the UNFPA and technical teams, should have listened to [the warnings] and the ethnic CSOs since the beginning.”
The “quite diplomacy” approach espoused by Mr Cheung also came in for criticism. Dave Mathieson, a Yangon-based researcher with Human Rights Watch, said this had only contributed to the problems. “There is a standard trope in elite circles about ‘quiet diplomacy’,” he said, “which actually means ‘tunnel diplomacy’ and in everyday parlance means mumbling to bullies, not standing up to them ... That isn’t diplomacy, it’s called accommodation, and it’s the method of apologists.”
Derek Tonkin writes: The criticisms of the UN approach on the 'Rohingya' issue were fully justified. However, there was something demonic, almost fanatic about the clear intention of some human rights organisations to wreck the census in any way that they could.
On balance, it was right that the census went ahead, despite its faults and the risks involved. It is only regrettable that in Rakhine State the UN got it wrong from the start and should not have insisted on 'self-identification' for the 'Rohingya' in a situation where the reaction from the non-Muslim population was so predictable, leaving the government with no choice but to renege on their reluctant acquiescence to 'self-identification' and thus incurring considerable international opprobrium. Other unique solutions for Rakhine State should have been explored, but were not.
UN officials urge greater support for Rakhine
UN News Centre - 11 September 2014
Two senior United Nations officials have called for increased humanitarian assistance and development efforts to meet the needs of all communities in Myanmar’s Rakhine state following a visit there this week.
“Stability and sustainable peace can be achieved in Rakhine state when the needs of all communities are met,” said Haoliang Xu, Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific of the UN Development Programme. Continue reading.....
Myanmar's man to watch
The Nation - 11 September 2014
Sources say that military chief Min Aung Hlaing is preparing a bid for the presidency - is the return of junta rule just around the corner? People in Myanmar are accustomed to keeping a close eye on their generals. It seems like a reasonable habit when you consider that the military ruled what was then called Burma for more than five decades, relinquishing its absolute control over politics only recently. Even today, despite three years of liberalising reforms, high-ranking officers retain considerable sway.
So you can hardly blame people for sitting up and taking notice earlier this week, when a local weekly published details of a speech made by Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. In the speech, he declared, among other things, that the military is "afraid of no one". Just in case someone didn't get the message, he also noted that "the Tatmadaw [Myanmar's armed forces] will always follow policies set by retired Senior General Than Shwe". Than Shwe was, of course, the head of the ruling military junta in Myanmar from 1992 to 2011. Continue reading.....
Suu Kyi is wrong to support Tin Aye's election decision
The Irrawaddy - 9 September 2014
Sithu Aung Myint, a Rangoon-based journalist, notes: "The by-elections scheduled to be held after the rainy season this year have been cancelled, Union Election Commission (UEC) chairman Tin Aye announced Sunday, citing several reasons. This is hardly surprising. What is unexpected is that Tin Aye met with National League for Democracy (NLD) chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyidaw before he made the announcement in a meeting with political parties in Rangoon. At their meeting, Suu Kyi reportedly agreed to the cancellation of the by-elections. After Tin Aye announced the decision, NLD spokesman Nyan Win told news agencies that the party agreed with the UEC chairman’s decision, since the NLD is also busy these days. But were Burma’s main opposition party and its leader right to accept the abandonment of the by-election?"
The writer explains in detail why, in his opinion, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was wrong to endorse the UEC's decision. Continue reading.....
Recommendations for electoral system to be submitted this month
Mizzima - 9 September 2014
The commission tasked with making recommendations for a future electoral system to be used in the Pyithu Hluttaw is due to submit its report to the lower house of parliament on September 15, U Than Win, (Pyithu Hluttaw, USDP, Taungdwingyi Township, Magway Region) joint-secretary of the commission told Mizzima on September 8.
Chairman of the commission, U Tin Maung Oo (Pyithu Hluttaw, USDP, Shwepyithar Township, Yangon Region) told Mizzima that they plan to submit a proposal that will cause the least controversy possible between the Union Solidarity and Development Party, the National League for Democracy and the major parties representing ethnic minorities.
U Tin Maung Oo said the proposed system would also conform to existing constitutional laws and would not remove the role of the Tatmadaw.
On September 9 the recommendations of all 24 members of the commission would be compiled and assessed for areas of common ground, said U Tin Maung Oo. He added that the report would be submitted to the hluttaw for debate but that no deadline existed for the finalising of any decisions over a future electoral system and that the target of this report was not to deliver a new system in time for the 2015 election but rather to deliver a better future for the nation.
Old sanctions fears stall new Myanmar trade
Wall Street Journal - 8 September 2014
It’s been two years since the U.S. eased sanctions on Myanmar, which had amounted to a near-total ban on doing business in the country. The change came after the country’s military regime allowed the formation of a civilian government in 2011. And now, to edge the country’s leaders towards a democratic transition, U.S. diplomats are pushing for American companies to invest in Myanmar.
But those efforts have been hindered by the legacy of sanctions and the increasing care that banks take on compliance after a rash of record fines. Few U.S. banks are willing to transfer money into or out of the country. And even money transfers through a third country like Singapore often get blocked by U.S. firms if Myanmar appears in a company name, said Charlotte O’Sullivan, a Yangon-based human resources consultant, who has had wires to her personal U.S. accounts blocked. “No matter how many times you tell bank it’s legal, they still freak out,” said Ms. O’Sullivan. “It’s just not worth it to them.”
Many banks see allowing any Myanmar transactions as problematic. Despite lifting of the broad ban, U.S. authorities still blacklist more than a hundred Myanmar companies and individuals because of alleged relationships with the country’s military. “If they are doing financial transactions in the country we have no way of knowing where [the money] is going,” said Mr. Suhr, the SunTrust bank spokesman. Continue reading.....
Responsible Investment in Burma - Hugo Swire
Speech in Singapore on 8 September 2014: UK Government
"The last three years in Burma have seen remarkable change, as the country starts out on its hard, but essential, journey towards democracy. Working closely with the international community, the UK has supported Burma’s progress, including the lifting of the majority of EU sanctions. We are engaging with the government to encourage further democratic and economic reform, and to sustain a credible peace process that delivers peace and security to its border regions.
"Burma is in the middle of an unprecedented period of change: economically, politically and socially. At the same time, as some of you know first-hand, considerable challenges remain for the economy, for poverty reduction and for human rights. Tackling these challenges is vital to creating the more prosperous; more stable; and more open Burma that we all want to see. Business, like government, has a vital role to play in this process."
Myanmar cancels by-elections
Reuters - 7 September 2014
Myanmar has called off an election scheduled for the end of this year to fill 35 vacated seats in parliament, the Union Election Commission announced on Sunday. Election Commission Chairman Tin Aye said that the election would be cancelled because the commission did not have enough time to prepare and because the results would not have any political significance.
Nyan Win, a senior official and Central Executive Committee of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), told Reuters that his party agreed with the decision. “As we’d said earlier, the by-elections wouldn’t result in any significant changes. It would just be a waste of time and money,” Nyan Win said. “Now, we will prepare to do our best in the 2015 general elections,” he said.
The decision did not come as a surprise. There have been rumours for months that the by-elections would not be held this year.
- Opposition parties welcome cancellation of by-elections - The Irrawaddy
- Burmese MPs react differently to cancellation of by-elections - DVB
- Political parties condemn decision to cancel by-elections - Mizzima
- Myanmar cancels planned parliamentary by-election - AP
- By-elections cancelled - Democratic Voice of Burma
- UEC cancels by-elections,citing cost, burden on parties - Myanmar Times