Network Myanmar Tue, 28 Apr 2015 14:13:46 +0000 en-gb An Independent Survey of Events in Myanmar
International Crisis Group - Brussels 28 April 2015

Myanmar is preparing to hold national elections in early November 2015, five years after the last full set of polls brought the semi-civilian reformist government to power. 

The elections, which are constitutionally required within this timeframe, will be a major political inflection point, likely replacing a legislature dominated by the Union 

Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), established by the former regime, with one more reflective of popular sentiment. The opposition National League for Democracy 

(NLD) party of Aung San Suu Kyi is well-placed to take the largest bloc of seats.

Derek Tonkin writes: This briefing by the ICG provides an excellent guide to the background to the general elections planned for November 2015 and of the issues and political parties involved. It merits careful reading and retention for reference as the elections approach.

Thant Mynt-U, Priscilla Clapp, Tom Freston: New York - 24 April 2015
Democratic Voice of Burma - 27 April 2015
Burma is one of 20 countries whose military expenditure is more than four percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to a new report by a Swedish think tank.  Alongside Burma in the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) list are Oman, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Chad, Libya, Israel, Russia, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and Syria.

According to the report, Burma, Pakistan and Bangladesh are among the top purchasers of military equipment from prolific weapons seller China. The report also included a list of weapons Burma has bought from China, India and Russia in the last year. This includes warships, MiG-29 jet fighters, Mi-35P and Mi-24P military helicopters, tanks, shoulder-held rocket launchers and radar equipment.

The Asian Development Bank has estimated Burma’s military spending to be 4.8 percent of the GDP.

Derek Tonkin writes:  The SIPRI report also provides what many would consider to be a fairer comparison of national defence expenditure, namely, the actual amount spent on defence per head of population. Quite clearly, richer countries need to spend only a smaller proportion of their GDP to achieve the same level of defence preparedness as their poorer neighbours.

Among ASEAN countries, Myanmar only spends US$ 44.2 per capita, compared with Singapore 1,789.0, Brunei 1,320.0, Malaysia 163.0, Thailand 85.3, Vietnam 46.0, Philippines 32.9, Indonesia 27.8, Cambodia 18.1 and Laos unrecorded. So just to catch up with Thailand, Myanmar would need to double its expenditure in terms of GDP – to more than 8%. 

UN Press Office - 24 April 2015
The Secretary-General convened a meeting of his Partnership Group on Myanmar today. The Group welcomed the high-level participation by Myanmar as a reflection of the positive direction of the reform process in that country and its constructive engagement with the international community.

Member States voiced their continued support to the reform efforts of the Government in the areas of democratization, socio-economic development, and national reconciliation. They underlined the importance of the upcoming elections as a decisive phase in the reform agenda.

They also commended the resolve shown by President Thein Sein's Government and the ethnic armed groups in reaching a nationwide ceasefire accord, which took place on 31 March 2015. They expressed hope that early agreement would be reached on the framework for political dialogue that met the expectations of all stakeholders.

Referring to the ongoing communal tensions in Rakhine and elsewhere, Member States emphasized the need for firm and decisive action by the Government to prevent further conflict by resolving the substantive issues affecting those displaced by outbreaks of communal violence and addressing the underlying issues pertaining to status verification and citizenship for all the affected communities. They welcomed recent positive initiatives to address the humanitarian concerns. On the larger issues of citizenship and status, they hoped the Government would urgently undertake new measures in line with its national laws as well as international standards.

Interview with Professor Robert Taylor - Mizzima Weekly 
Professor Taylor notes that "the question of ethnicity in Myanmar politics has obviously been revitalised with the return to open politics and a free press since 2010. Much of the discussion is highly emotional, not grounded in history, and conceptually misleading.....
"Ethnicity since independence has mixed into a political cocktail from which demagogues drink and politicians, rather than providing the public guidance and leadership, do little to drain off except by appeasement.....The issue of ethnicity in Myanmar politics is not now being resolved, but rather encouraged, thus detracting public attention from other concrete issues such as the economy  or administrative and legal reform."  Read on.....

Myanmar's Ethnic Parties and the 2015 Elections
Marie Lall, Nwe Nwe San,Theint Theint Myat and Yin Nyein Aye
European Union - International Management Group (IMG)
This report was conceived in the light of European Union (EU) programmes to support peace efforts and electoral processes in Myanmar, as part of the EU Instruments for Stability (IfS) action in support of the peace process, between April 2013 and March 2015.

The ethnic political parties were the first legitimate opposition to the Union Solidarity and
Development Party (USDP) dominated assemblies after the 2010 election.The purpose of the research is to understand the role that ethnic parties play in Myanmar politics today, their views on the reform and peace processes, their thoughts about the Ethnic Armed Groups (EAGs), and the challenges they face for the 2015 elections in light of the NLD's re-entry into politics.
The Guardian - 6 July, 12 November and 16 November 1961
These pages from The Guardian in 1961 record the surrender of Mujahid insurgents at formal ceremonies at Maungdaw, Mayu Frontier District, Rakhine State, on 4 July and 15 November 1961. The ceremonies were presided over by the Vice-Chief of the General Staff, Brigadier (later Lt General) Aung Gyi. At the ceremony on 4 July 1961, he is reported in The Guardian to have made the following comments:
"Rohinja is one of the minorities of the Union and Rohinjas must be loyal"
"The VCGS (Brigadier Aung Gyi) pointed out that like all other minorities such as Nagas, Shans, Yingphaws [a minority in Kachin State], Lisus, people of Chinese origin in Kokang and others who live on both sides of the 2,000 mile long frontier, there are people of Chittagonian origin living on both sides of the border. As Lisus on the Burmese side of the frontier is [are] taken as Burmese citizens, similar status applies to the Rohinjas who have been residing on Burmese side of the border for generations. But those minorities must be loyal to the Union, Brigadier Aung Gyi emphasized......

"In a 45 minute long speech VCGS impressed on the Rohinjas that they were Union citizens and there was no racial or religious discrimination in the country and that everyone in the Union are brothers and sisters of one big family.

"He stressed the need for every Union citizen to be loyal to the Union and to cooperate with the authorities to establish the rule of law and restore peace and security in the country....."

The full text of Brigadier Aung Gyi's speech on 4 July 1961 in Burmese may be found at this link.

Derek Tonkin writes: The articles are unequivocal in two respects. Firstly, that according to the VCGS those who call themselves Rohinja/Rohingya are Union citizens and one of the ethnic minorities of the Union, but secondly that they are of Chittagonian origin livng on both sides of the border, in what was then still East Pakistan, as well as in Arakan.

Myanmar and the British General Elections on 7 May 2015
"Myanmar" is not mentioned in any of the election manifestos of the seven main British political parties. However, "Burma" makes a brief appearance in the Conservative Party manifesto, with a promise on Page 77 (of 84) to "support a democratic transition in Burma".
Derek Tonkin writes: The Conservative manifesto is more detailed and expansive on foreign affairs and defence than other manifestos. It is probably the judgement in Nay Pyi Taw that the policies of engagement, trade and economic aid of the present coalition are more favourable to Myanmar than the lack of interest shown by other parties. The likely results of the elections though hang in the balance.
Nation (Bangkok) and Eleven Media - 16 April 2015
Myanmar has set a modest target of attracting US$6 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) in the current fiscal year, with strong optimism that the target would be surpassed as in the previous year.

Aung Naing Oo said that the FDI target was set in line with the government's 20- year FDI Promotion Plan. According to the DICA chief, the manufacturing sector may lead this year's FDI inflows into Myanmar followed by the oil and gas and services sectors. He expects a sharp increase in Japanese investments, thanks to the development of the Thilawa Special Economic Zone, while Singapore, Hong Kong and China are likely to maintain their high rankings in the list of top investors.

Aung Naing Oo said that investments from European countries would likely surge next year if the EU-Myanmar Investment Protection Agreement could be signed later this year.

On the ASEAN side, he expected to receive more investments from Malaysia and Thailand. The newly opened economy may welcome more Thai investors, as the neighbouring country's outbound investment strategy focuses mainly on Myanmar and the Philippines. Read on for detailed analysis.....

Derek Tonkin writes: The strength of Asian business interest in Myanmar is likely to overshadow any concerns at the political level which Western leaders might harbour in the wake of an apparent slow-down in political refoms. It is now highly unlikely that any resumption of "restrictive measures" would be undertaken, though reactions in the US Congress tend to be unpredictable and continuing US restrictions on financial movements are a disincentive to some European investors.



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