Myanmar
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Current Political Situation
Curated by Edith Bronder
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Pope Francis meets with Myanmar's famed dissident Aung San Suu Kyi - Raw Story

Pope Francis meets with Myanmar's famed dissident Aung San Suu Kyi - Raw Story | Myanmar | Scoop.it
Straits Times Pope Francis meets with Myanmar's famed dissident Aung San Suu Kyi Raw Story Pope Francis called for inter-religious dialogue in Myanmar on Monday at an audience for Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi in which the two also discussed...
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‘Burma’ versus ‘Myanmar’: A Touch of Desperation

‘Burma’ versus ‘Myanmar’: A Touch of Desperation | Myanmar | Scoop.it
UK ministers having difficulty sticking to policy of referring to Myanmar as Burma.
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Burmese army recruits female soldiers as it struggles to tackle rebel groups - The Guardian

Burmese army recruits female soldiers as it struggles to tackle rebel groups - The Guardian | Myanmar | Scoop.it
Burmese army recruits female soldiers as it struggles to tackle rebel groups The Guardian Once limited to working only as nurses in the military, Burmese women are now being actively recruited by the country's ministry of defence, according to an...
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Myanmar: Three More Bomb Blasts Leave One Dead and Six Wounded in ... - IBTimes.co.uk

Myanmar: Three More Bomb Blasts Leave One Dead and Six Wounded in ... - IBTimes.co.uk | Myanmar | Scoop.it
IBTimes.co.uk
Myanmar: Three More Bomb Blasts Leave One Dead and Six Wounded in ...
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Latest Myanmar violence blamed on religious and ethnic extremists

Latest Myanmar violence blamed on religious and ethnic extremists | Myanmar | Scoop.it
THANDWE, Myanmar (Reuters) - The Buddhist mob mutilated and burned Khin Naing so severely his son couldn't recognise the body, one of series of attacks that suggest a resurgence of a monk-led movement (Latest Myanmar violence blamed on religious and...
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Myanmar unrest raises stakes for tourist industry - South China Morning Post

Myanmar unrest raises stakes for tourist industry - South China Morning Post | Myanmar | Scoop.it
AFP Myanmar unrest raises stakes for tourist industry South China Morning Post Recent anti-Muslim bloodshed close to Myanmar's most popular tourist beach raises the stakes for an industry dependent on the former pariah state's fluid transition to...
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Burma's Internet to Receive High-Capacity Upgrade - The Irrawaddy News Magazine

Burma's Internet to Receive High-Capacity Upgrade - The Irrawaddy News Magazine | Myanmar | Scoop.it
The Irrawaddy News Magazine Burma's Internet to Receive High-Capacity Upgrade The Irrawaddy News Magazine According to the state-run Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT), Burma's cross-border Internet link to China currently has a bandwidth...
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Most Burmese Refugees in Thailand Don't Want Return: Survey - The Irrawaddy News Magazine

Most Burmese Refugees in Thailand Don't Want Return: Survey - The Irrawaddy News Magazine | Myanmar | Scoop.it
The Irrawaddy News Magazine Most Burmese Refugees in Thailand Don't Want Return: Survey The Irrawaddy News Magazine Nine out of 10 refugees on the Thai-Burma border would prefer to resettle in third countries or stay in Thailand instead of being...
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Special Report - Myanmar old guard clings to $8 billion jade empire | Reuters

Special Report - Myanmar old guard clings to $8 billion jade empire | Reuters | Myanmar | Scoop.it
HPAKANT, Myanmar (Reuters) - Tin Tun picked all night through teetering heaps of rubble to find the palm-sized lump of jade he now holds in his hand. He hopes it will make him a fortune.
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Myanmar's Jade, Curse Or Blessing?

Myanmar's Jade, Curse Or Blessing? | Myanmar | Scoop.it
The world's primary jade source is also home to 500,000 heroin-addicted miners, most of them HIV positive.
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Telenor Predicts Fivefold Myanmar Wireless Surge

Telenor Predicts Fivefold Myanmar Wireless Surge | Myanmar | Scoop.it
Telenor ASA Chief Executive Officer Jon Fredrik Baksaas said mobile-phone subscriptions in Myanmar, a new market for the wireless carrier, will surge more than fivefold to about half of the population by the end of 2017.
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Mobile operator unveils franchise service aimed at Myanmar women | ZDNet

Qatar-owned operator Ooredoo, which owns one of two foreign telco licenses in Myanmar, hopes to bring 30,000 women into the local economy with a franchisee model to sell prepaid airtime.
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Ceasefire deal unlikely unless all armed groups participate - ethnic leaders

Ceasefire deal unlikely unless all armed groups participate - ethnic leaders | Myanmar | Scoop.it
Ceasefire deal unlikely unless all armed groups participate - ethnic leaders
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Calls for Change to Constitution Get New Backing

Calls for Change to Constitution Get New Backing | Myanmar | Scoop.it
The speaker of Myanmar’s parliament is calling for an amendment to the country’s constitution to allow opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to run for president in elections scheduled for 2015.
Edith Bronder's insight:

Constitutional Change in Myanmar: The Western Interventionist Dilemma

During her present visit to Europe, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has laid particular emphasis on the need to amend the 2008 Constitution. Though it was approved by 92.48% of the population in a national referendum in May 2008, few dispute that the voting at the time simply reflected popular resignation to accept what was on offer, since the alternative would have been a continuance of direct military rule which no one, not even the Tatmadaw (the military) themselves, wanted to see.

The strongest endorsement of support for substantive changes to the Constitution came from the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, though his views are supported by all 27 other members of the European Union with whose Foreign Ministers Suu Kyi had a working lunch on Monday 21 October 2013. However, when David Cameron said on 23 October 2013 at a joint press conference with Suu Kyi that "the Constitution has to be changed…. and we will do everything we can to build the international pressure to send the clearest possible message to the Burmese Government that these changes must be made", we might well ask exactly what changes Britain and the European Union plan to propose, which they presumably will have to do without consulting the Burmese people. Perhaps the West, with its chastened predilection for interventionism, still thinks it knows what is best for other peoples?

The exclusion of Suu Kyi from the presidential candidacy hangs by a thread

The only particular change mentioned by David Cameron, and then only in general terms, was the removal of provisions which seemingly exclude Suu Kyi as a presidential candidate. This is no doubt a reference to the exclusion of those whose "legitimate children" owe allegiance to a foreign power, which could affect Suu Kyi because her two sons are British citizens. Both Kim and Alexander I suppose might be asked to renounce their duty of allegiance to the British throne, to which I doubt they would agree, or Suu Kyi herself could formally disown them, in the manner that Lt Gen Khin Nyunt and his wife did in 1998 with respect to one of their sons who had married a Singapore girl. But such solutions are rather too dramatic. The only sensible solution is to remove the barrier. It is to my knowledge to be found in no other national Constitution.

Other alleged disabilities in Article 59, though, do not seem to be of real substance. Suu Kyi is a widow, so that the British citizenship of her late husband, Michael Aris, is surely no longer a problem. Suu Kyi has also reportedly expressed concern that the Constitution stipulates that the President must have military experience, thus excluding women - though the Tatmadaw has recently announced that they are seeking applications from women to join the Army with the rank of Second Lieutenant. If Suu Kyi would look at the Burmese text of Article 59(d) of the Constitution (and the Burmese text alone is authoritative), she will note to her relief that presidential candidates are only expected to have "vision" ("a-myin") in respect of State affairs, "such as" political, administrative, economic and military matters. Furthermore, the grammatical particle "sa-thi", the equivalent of the English "and so on" or "et cetera", makes it clear that the list is purely illustrative and not definitive as "the affairs of the Union" clearly cannot be restricted just to the four spheres mentioned. The official English translation only requires candidates to be "well acquainted" with affairs of State, which Suu Kyi undoubtedly is.

In every other respect, Suu Kyi is more than eligible

Suu Kyi can also take comfort that Dr Sai Mauk Kham, a Shan medical practitioner, is possibly even less qualified than she is. He currently occupies the post of Vice-President, which requires precisely the same qualifications as the President. Dr Sai Mauk Kham has never served in the Tatmadaw, and the extent of his military connections seem to be confined to an association with the Shan State National Army and playing golf with the military at Lashio Golf Club. Suu Kyi is at least the daughter of a General and has had unique contact at the highest level with the Tatmadaw for a very long time. Dr Sai Mauk Kham, by his own admission, had no political experience at all until elected at the November 2010 Elections, while Suu Kyi has been fighting political battles ever since she spoke publicly at the Shwedagon Pagoda on 26 August 1988. Dr Sai Mauk Kham has had administrative experience as the Managing Director of a private hospital in Lashio. Suu Kyi has run, or rather ruled the most successful political party since the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League which her father General Aung San helped to found in late 1944.

Neither Suu Kyi nor the Vice-President could reasonably claim to know all that much about business and economics. (Nor for that matter could the Tatmadaw generally, but that would probably not be sufficient reason to rule out in principle any Tatmadaw candidate for the presidency.) Recently Suu Kyi  claimed that businessmen she has talked to "have no confidence in the situation in the country. They are not happy about the political situation and they are not happy with the rule of law situation. They are not happy with the lack of infrastructure - no roads, no electricity, in some place no water." This is some truth in what she says, but that has not inhibited droves of Japanese businessmen and investors from snapping up opportunities in Myanmar, while literally scores of Western corporates have been tendering for projects in the telecoms, oil and gas and other infrastructure sectors. The US Campaign for Burma has itself listed 35 US conglomerates already investing in Myanmar, while another 19 are said to show serious interest. The reality is that Western corporates are ready to engage in Myanmar precisely in order to remedy the lack of infrastructure which Suu Kyi laments. How else are Myanmar's problems to be resolved?

But is constitutional change such a burning priority after all?

At a discussion with a small group of journalists on 21 October 2013, Suu Kyi  is reported to have said that "reform has gone as far as it can without changes to the constitution. Unless this constitution is amended, we have to take it that the present administration has no interest in reforming further." The reality on the ground, however, is that there are several very pressing problems which require the earliest possible solution, but none of them is dependent on constitutional amendment. These are set out very clearly in the latest report to the UN General Assembly of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Tomás Ojea Quintana. There is firstly the lawlessness which has affected the Muslim community in Myanmar, notably in Rakhine State, where dispossessed 'Rohingyas' are living in appalling conditions, unable to earn traditional livings as farmers and fishermen - serious distress highlighted not only by Quintana, but also by scores of visiting politicians and human rights groups. (Suu Kyi has an idiosyncratic view of the problem, not at all expected from a Nobel Peace and Sakharov Prize Laureate, which is perhaps why she is these days so frequently criticized for her bias in favour of the Buddhist majority.) Then there are the ethnic tensions, notably in Kachin State, whose solution may well require eventual amendment to the Constitution to provide for greater autonomy, but this will first need to be negotiated before any changes can be made. The Government are also acutely aware of the need to improve the living standards of the population at large, to provide employment and to relieve rural poverty as a

matter of urgency. Finally, the issue of the remaining political prisoners, whose release has been promised by President Thein Sein before the end of the year, should be uppermost in Western minds. Quintana has numerous other recommendations to make on related human rights issues.

 

While I can see that there are elements in the Constitution which the West might well like to see amended, and Quintana himself cautiously makes three recommendations (paragraphs 95 b, c and d) in this context, many possibly desirable changes are unlikely to happen for some time yet. While I can envisage some amendments in the interests of harmonization and clarification before general elections due in late 2015 - changes which might require a national referendum if they affect entrenched clauses - we are unlikely to see early action. The Western standing to intervene is in any case controversial.  Debate over their Constitutions is likewise taking place currently in both China and Vietnam, but the West has no plans to my knowledge to intervene to secure the exclusion from their Constitutions of scarcely “democratic” references respectively to the leading roles of the Chinese and Vietnam Communist Parties in the political, social and economic life of these two countries. China has on paper the most democratic of Constitutions, guaranteeing the freedoms of speech, assembly, association, demonstration and religious belief - unless the Communist Party uses its clout to decide otherwise. A democratically-worded Constitution, in other words, is no guarantee of true democracy, although it helps.

 

Even the most difficult of Constitutions eventually dissolve

 

No Constitution is ever set in stone. If there are to be changes, they should come from the internal dynamics of the country. On 11 September 1988, even though they had control over 100% of the voting - not just today's 25% military blocking vote - representatives in Parliament of the Burma Socialist Programme Party voted unanimously to amend the 1974 Constitution in favour of a multi-party system and to replace the socialist-style command economy with a capitalist market economy. Amendments to the 1974 Constitution required, as does the 2008 Constitution, a 75% vote in favour, followed by a national referendum for amendments to entrenched clauses. The circumstances of the day in September 1988 however provoked the recognition that the Constitution must be changed, even though representatives had the power to block any changes. But before the changes could be realized, on 18 September 1988 the Tatmadaw dismissed the Parliament and took back power.

 

There is talk of a dream ticket at the 2015 elections, with Suu Kyi emerging as a non-executive President in a largely ceremonial role, while Thura Shwe Mann is established as a Prime Minister. Many in the West - and in Myanmar - would welcome such an outcome. The difficulty with this dream, however, is that there is no provision at all in the Constitution for such an arrangement. There would need to be amendments to create both positions. But the Tatmadaw will not let go the reins of control quite so easily.

 

Former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson once famously said that a week is a long time in politics. A month would seem to be an eternity. It is still two years to the 2015 elections. We have just had two years of relative cooperation between Suu Kyi and the civilianized regime.  The West might soon find itself in an interventionist dilemma: how far should they really go in supporting Suu Kyi's determination to see the Constitution amended and where in any case do their best interests lie? Reassuringly though, Suu Kyi said in a BBC radio interview on the "Today" programme on 24 October 2013: "I believe in keeping doors open in politics. I don't believe in shutting doors and saying I won't do this and I won’t do that. If the Constitution is not amended in the near future, we'll have to go on working to have it amended." This does at least suggest that she has no present plans to upset the applecart - which is good news for investors.

 

 

 

Derek Tonkin

 

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Myanmar to host construction, power & mining exhibition - Eleven Myanmar

Myanmar to host construction, power & mining exhibition
Eleven Myanmar
The International Construction, Power & Mining Exhibition will be held in the end of this month at the Myanmar Convention Center, Yangon, according to the UMFCCI.
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Myanmar Police Cast Wider Net for Bombing Suspects - Radio Free Asia

Myanmar Police Cast Wider Net for Bombing Suspects - Radio Free Asia | Myanmar | Scoop.it
Myanmar Police Cast Wider Net for Bombing Suspects Radio Free Asia Myanmar police have cast a wider net for perpetrators of a slew of recent bombings based on evidence provided by six suspects arrested so far, a presidential spokesman said...
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Sectarian bloodshed grips Myanmar - Aljazeera.com

Sectarian bloodshed grips Myanmar - Aljazeera.com | Myanmar | Scoop.it
Aljazeera.com
Sectarian bloodshed grips Myanmar
Aljazeera.com
Sectarian bloodshed has forced women and children to flee to forests in western Myanmar after Buddhists have killed at least five Muslims.
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Violence in Thandwe the work of "outsiders"

Violence in Thandwe the work of "outsiders" | Myanmar | Scoop.it
The office of President U Thein Sein has issued a statement indicating recent violence in Rakhine State's Thandwe, which left at least five dead and saw over 70 homes razed, may have been orchestrated by outside forces.
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Ford opens first dealership in Myanmar - MLive.com

Ford opens first dealership in Myanmar - MLive.com | Myanmar | Scoop.it
Straits Times
Ford opens first dealership in Myanmar
MLive.com
Ford Motor Co. Oct. 4 celebrated the grand opening of the first authorized Ford dealership in Myanmar.
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Only 30 % of Myanmar has access to electricity - Minister - Eleven Myanmar

Only 30 % of Myanmar has access to electricity - Minister
Eleven Myanmar
Myanmar currently provides electricity to 30 percent of the population according to the Minister Electric Power, Khin Maung Soe.
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Thailand uses slaves from Myanmar to peel its shrimp - Quartz

Thailand uses slaves from Myanmar to peel its shrimp - Quartz | Myanmar | Scoop.it
Thailand uses slaves from Myanmar to peel its shrimp
Quartz
In some ways, Thailand is a fairytale of economic development. Thanks in large part to exports, its GDP per capita is now eight times what it was in 1980.
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Freedom to create: Myanmar’s artists explore an open society | Art Radar Asia

Freedom to create: Myanmar’s artists explore an open society | Art Radar Asia | Myanmar | Scoop.it
RT @ArtRadar: #Myanmar contemporary art insights by an expert http://t.co/KrIk9egJSe
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Ex-Google exec returns to his native Myanmar with big plans - The Nation

Ex-Google exec returns to his native Myanmar with big plans The Nation Myanmar-born former Google business operations and strategy manager Nay Aung has an ambitious goal: to make online activities, from payment to...
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Burma Support Withheld on UN Pledge to End Sexual Violence - The Irrawaddy Magazine

Burma Support Withheld on UN Pledge to End Sexual Violence - The Irrawaddy Magazine | Myanmar | Scoop.it
Burma’s government fails to support a declaration launched on the sidelines of the United Nations this week to end sexual violence in conflict zones.
Edith Bronder's insight:

DEREK TONKIN  writes: There has so far been no comment from the Myanmar Government or from civil rights organisations inside Myanmar and opposition political parties, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Details of the UK-sponsored initiative may be found at this link. The Declaration, which is open for endorsement until 4 October 2013, has been signed so far by seven out of ten ASEAN countries, not including Laos, Brunei and Myanmar, nor yet by Myanmar's neighbours China, India and Bangladesh. The declaration has so far received the endorsement of 113 of the UN's 193 members, or just under 60%.


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‘Termination Compensation’ to be approved by year end

Myanmar employers and representatives of employees have determined that the 'Termination Compensation' policy will be approved by the end of the year.
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