Archive for category Burma

Can Malaysia’s leaders emulate Myanmar’s political reform?

— Koon Yew Yin
The Malaysian Insider
Mar 02, 2012

MARCH 2 — One of the leading papers in the region, The Nation, recently conducted an interview with Myanmar President Thein Sein’s chief political adviser, Ko Ko Hlaing. In that exclusive interview, Ko Ko Hlaing told the Bangkok paper that Myanmar’s political reform is “irreversible” because of the president’s strong will.

He stressed that the specific constitutional provision towards democracy, the Myanmar people’s taste of newfound freedom, and the need for the country to follow the international trend ensured that the reforms would have to proceed.

In the interview, he also gave an insider’s glimpse into the thinking and philosophy of the former strongman who ran of Myanmar for close to 20 years. According to him, Senior General Than Shwe, following his resignation as head of state in 2011, was not running the country from behind the scenes as commonly alleged and would not be making a comeback. Read the rest of this entry »


Is Myanmar the new Asian tiger?

by Pepe Escobar
Al Jazeera
07 Feb 2012

Despite some reforms, Myanmar remains a hardcore military dictatorship and lacks a civil society.

Bangkok, Thailand – While the big story of 2012 in south-west Asia is the increasingly lethal US-Iran psychodrama, there’s no bigger story in south-east Asia in the Year of the Dragon than the controlled opening of Myanmar.

Everyone and his neighbour, East and West, has been trekking to Myanmar since US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit last November. It’s virtually impossible these days to book a flight or a hotel room.

Like Ashgabat in Turkmenistan and Astana in Kazakhstan a few years ago, the new capital Naypyidaw (“the abode of kings”) – built from scratch with natural gas wealth halfway between Rangoon and Mandalay – is surging as a new promised land. Read the rest of this entry »

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Suu Kyi becomes key to complex Myanmar politics

By Didier Lauras (AFP)
23rd Jan 2012

YANGON — Aung San Suu Kyi is playing an increasingly important role in Myanmar, helping shore up a fragile alliance of former junta generals whose recent reforms have amazed observers, analysts say.

After half a century of total military domination, the Southeast Asian nation held widely-criticised elections in 2010 after ordering some of its members to shed their army uniforms to lead a “civilian” government.

Suu Kyi, released from house arrest days after that poll, has since taken a pivotal position, following talks with President Thein Sein last summer and her subsequent decision to run in an April 1 by-election.

The 66-year-old’s participation in the upcoming vote is one of a series of positive changes that have marked a break with the old junta approach to leadership and led to thawing relations with the West, which has imposed tough sanctions on the isolated nation.

Observers say power in the new regime balances between two key former generals turned eager reformers — the president and Shwe Mann, the speaker of the lower house of parliament — with Suu Kyi becoming a third key player. Read the rest of this entry »


Najib at loss for words about new Myanmar Protest Bill which requires only 5 days’ notice when he describes his own Peaceful Assembly Bill as “revolutionary” but which requires 30 days’ notice

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak must be at a loss for words to describe the new Myanmar Protest Bill requiring its citizens to give five days’ notice to the authorities to protest peacefully when he can claim that his own Peaceful Assembly Bill is “revolutionary” but which requires 30 days notice.

Myanmar has always been regarded as the worst laggard country in ASEAN in its utter disregard and contempt for human rights and it must be very mortifying and shameful for the Malaysian government, parliamentarians and people that we now have to learn from Myanmar on how to respect human rights and fundamental constitutional liberties of our people, at least on freedom of assembly!

Does Najib want to send the Home Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hashim to Myanmar to learn to be more respectful of the fundamental liberties at least with regard to freedom of assembly for the respective citizenry?

This is one powerful reason why the Peaceful Assembly Bill which Najib presented for second reading yesterday should be withdrawn or all Malaysian MPs would not be able to hold their heads high whether in regional or international conferences when the Myanmar Parliament could pass a bill on freedom of assembly requiring only five days’ notice to the authorities while the Malaysian government is demanding 30 days’ notice.

I thought the day will never come for me to say this – the Malaysian Prime Minister and Cabinet should learn from Myanmar at least on freedom of peaceful protest and assembly. Read the rest of this entry »


How far can Burma bend for change?

Peter Hartcher | October 18, 2011
The Age

One of the world’s most famous champions of freedom, Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi, spent most of the past 21 years under house arrest, considered a pariah by the military dictators who cancelled elections, shut down free speech and cut Burma off from the democratic world.

A year ago it was forbidden to print her name in a newspaper. But now, the long-suffering Nobel peace prize winner is not only allowed her freedom, she was invited to a well-publicised dinner with the President and his wife. The beginning of a liberalisation in one of Asia’s most repressive countries, or a manipulative gimmick to trick the world into easing tough sanctions?
Read the rest of this entry »


AIPMC statement on detainees’ “swap” between Malaysia and Myanmar

20 October 2011

AIPMC notes with serious concern recent developments of the Malaysian government’s plan to implement the ‘detainees exchange program’ with Myanmar. This plan will result around 1,000 people from Myanmar, detained in Malaysia, deported from the country.

There will be a possibility of persecution for those who are sent back to Myanmar.

Those who flee Myanmar, namely ethnic and other persecuted minorities, remain at risk from persecution of all forms – forced labour, land confiscation, rape, and torture among them – should they continue to live under the military regime. Thus, they risk their lives to find asylum in neighboring states, in pursuit of a dignified, secure and peaceful life elsewhere.

We wish to reiterate that such a ‘swap deal’, which would see Burmese nationals returned to persecution in their homeland, serves political interests well ahead of these exceedingly serious human rights concerns. Read the rest of this entry »


Kit Siang: Stop detainee-swap deal

Tarani Palani | October 20, 2011
Free Malaysia Today

Put in an effective system in place first to protect Myanmar refugees and asylum seekers from persecution in their homeland, says the AIPMC chair.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) has voiced concern over the planned exchange of detainees between Malaysia and Myanmar.

Its Malaysian caucus chair, Lim Kit Siang, today said that the planned exchange raised concerns as there may be a possibility of persecution of those sent back to Myanmar.

“Those who flee Myanmar, namely ethnic and other persecuted minorities remain at risk of persecution of all forms should they continue to live under the military regime.

“We wish to reiterate that such a ‘swap deal’ serves political interests well ahead of these exceedingly serious human rights concerns,” said the Ipoh Timur MP.

Lim called for the planned swap to be halted before an effective system is put in place to protect the Myanmar refugees and asylum seekers from persecution in their homeland.

He also questioned if such a swap deal was in accordance with international law. Read the rest of this entry »


A Step Forward, On a Long Path

AIPMC Press statement
13 October 2011

As part of the government of Myanmar’s earlier announcement of a general amnesty to release 6,359 prisoners starting from yesterday, at least 200 political prisoners have since been released. However, many more political prisoners, prisoners of conscience remain in indefinite detention. Thus, the AIPMC today reiterates its call for the release of all political prisoners.

While we welcome this news, AIPMC notes that the international community, especially ASEAN, must remain wary of suggestions that equate genuine democratic reform and political reform with this long over-due release. With each passing year, the international community has come to expect that the regime will concede a number of prisoners. Yet, we fear that this approach does little to counteract the grievous lack of substantive democratic reform.

Given ASEAN’s ongoing engagement with its fellow member state, Myanmar, we ask that ASEAN utilize this opportunity to join with the international community in strongly urging the junta to ensure that this amnesty extends to all political prisoners. Read the rest of this entry »


ASEAN must strengthen UN efforts to bring about peace and justice in Burma/Myanmar

For the AIPMC, the election in Burma/Myanmar was already a foregone conclusion.
We did not consider them an election at all. In fact, we named them a non-election for the country’s people.

Our conclusion was based on careful scrutiny of the facts on the ground, including a strictly controlled constitution-drafting process, a rigged referendum in the midst of the disaster caused by Cyclone Nargis, the use of the election laws and other laws to exclude the opposition, the widespread intimidation of political candidates and the exclusion of significant sections of the electorate from the electoral process.

Today, we are horrified that our worst fears are turning into reality. The counting process of the votes has not been transparent, and complaints about advance voting fraud and other irregularities are growing stronger. Burma/Myanmar’s Union Election Commission now needs to heed the call of the country’s citizens and political parties to ensure a transparent counting process, investigate all claims and refuse to certify any results until these investigations are complete.

ASEAN has welcomed the elections in Burma/Myanmar as a significant step forward in the implementation of the regime’s seven-step road map. The AIPMC does not share this assessment. These elections were a fake. They are not going to bring about a government by the people, with the people and for the people, a government that will wholeheartedly seek the sustainable development of Burma/Myanmar and its people.
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Fraud, voter intimidation mar Burma vote

By South-East Asia correspondent Zoe Daniel, wires

Updated 2 hours 34 minutes ago

Allegations of fraud and voter intimidation are overshadowing Burma’s first election in 20 years.

The allegations are not unexpected. Burma’s military leaders may have resigned to become civilians ahead of the poll but the lead up to the election has been rife with manipulation to make sure the junta’s party wins.

Election laws have banned the key opposition, ruled out some ethnic groups and quarantined a quarter of the parliament for the military.

Now there are allegations that voters have been threatened with job losses or even loss of citizenship if they do not vote for the ruling party. Read the rest of this entry »


Support a UN Commission of Inquiry into international crimes in Myanmar not next weekend’s general election


Your Excellencies,

The 17th ASEAN Summit has concluded, and, as elected representatives of the peoples of ASEAN, we are disappointed by its outcome and by your passivity in the face of this weekend’s election in Myanmar.

The election is about to be conducted under a new constitution, enacted in 2008, which was drafted by an assembly whose members were handpicked by the country’s current ruling military regime and conducted without open and inclusive input from the people of Myanmar. The constitution is designed to assure the continued dominance of the military regime under the guise of a democratically elected civilian government, notably reserving one-quarter of seats in parliament for the military.

Additionally, five electoral laws and four decrees promulgated earlier this year violate democratic principles by restricting current political prisoners, including Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and other key leaders of the country’s democracy and ethnic movement, from participating in the polls.

In light of this, Myanmar’s general election can in no way be acknowledged as conforming to internationally accepted standards of freedom and fairness. They are a farce and a non-election for the country’s people. Your hopes that Myanmar will open up the process and create conditions conducive to free and fair elections less than a week before they are due to take place are therefore misguided. Read the rest of this entry »

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Burma’s poll farce

Financial Times
September 5, 2010

Burma’s elections are shaping up to be the detestable sham the dictatorship’s sternest critics have warned. Unlike those held – and then callously ignored – in 1990, no credible opposition is running. Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy won the 1990 poll, is a prisoner after spending 15 of the past 21 years under arrest. She is barred from participating. Not satisfied with the quarter of parliamentary seats reserved for the military, dozens of officers retired last week so they could contest “civilian” seats. Philip Crowley, a US assistant secretary of state, accurately said of this mockery: “A dictator in civilian clothing is still a dictator.”

Sadly, if predictably, the opposition has splintered under the pressure. Ms Suu Kyi’s NLD party has boycotted the poll. The breakaway National Democratic Force has decided it is better to fight the election, however flawed. Its candidates have faced intimidation, strict censorship and a registration fee of $500, not far short of annual per capita income in the impoverished country. The two main opposition parties are expected to field only 200 candidates against the more than 1,000 standing for the junta-backed Union Solidarity Development party.

The generals must be feeling pretty pleased with themselves. They have rarely looked more secure. Read the rest of this entry »


Burma’s ailing dictator resigns military post

by Ben Doherty
27th August 2010

Than Shwe and other generals quit military to apparently ensure they stay in charge as civilians after November elections

Burma’s reclusive and ailing dictator, Than Shwe, has resigned his military post, exiled Burmese media have reported, paving the way for him to become president in Burma’s government after the elections.

Shwe, the despot who has brutally ruled south-east Asia’s poorest country as commander-in-chief of the armed forces since 1992, yesterday handed control of the army to his adjutant general. However, the 77-year-old will remain head of the Burmese government.

More than a dozen other senior military officers also resigned, in an ominous sign for the country’s forthcoming elections. Inside Burma, Shwe’s resignation of his military role is being seen as a significant step towards ensuring he and his military cadres remain in charge after 7 November’s national elections, the first to be held in Burma for two decades.

“I think this means only one thing – he wants to be president,” a source inside Burma told the Guardian. Read the rest of this entry »


Hanoi ASEAN Summit should take a strong stand to demand free, fair and inclusive elections in Myanmar allowing participation by Aung San Suu Kyi or ASEAN should withhold recognition of legitimacy for election result

The 16th ASEAN Summit currently being held in Hanoi should take a strong stand to demand free, fair and inclusive elections in Myanmar allowing participation by Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi or ASEAN should withhold recognition of legitimacy for the Myanmese election result.

Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said in Hanoi yesterday that all countries, including Malaysia, must play their part for the concept of ASEAN community to become a reality.

He said ASEAN must take the multilateral resolutions agreed at the regional stage seriously if the grouping is to realize the ASEAN community by 2005.

Najib and all ASEAN leaders must be mindful that the ASEAN community is based on three pillars, economic, political and socio-cultural, in particular the human rights commitments made by all the ASEAN governments in the ASEAN Charter “to strengthen democracy, enhance good governance and the rule of law, and to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms” (Section 7).
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ASEAN must condemn ASSK’s 18-month house arrest as an unacceptable violation of ASEAN Charter on human rights

ASEAN and individual ASEAN governments must make clear their condemnation of another 18-month house arrest of Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi by the Myanmese military junta as an unacceptable violation of ASEAN Charter on Human Rights.

ASEAN Foreign Ministers at their meeting in Phuket last month had endorsed the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the ASEAN Commission on Human Rights, which is to be launched at the ASEAN Summit in October but the latest egregious violation of human rights by the Myanmar military junta raises the question whether such an ASEAN Human Rights Commission would represent a step forward in the promotion and protection of human rights or just a figleaf to give legitimacy to continuing gross human rights violations in the region.

The continued house arrest of Suu Kyi represents at least four things:

  • Firstly, the mortal fear the Myanmar military junta has for the 64-year-old Nobel Peace Laureate who had spent 14 of the past 20 years in incarceration and recognition her unsurpassed power to evoke the hopes of the people of Burma for democracy, justice and national reconciliation. This is the reason for the term of 18 months of additional house arrest, barring her from campaigning in next year’s national elections although the Myanmar military junta had already in a sham referendum written a new constitution to exclude her from being a candidate.

  • Read the rest of this entry »


Aung San Suu Kyi – AIPMC calls for ASEAN suspension of Myanmar and to consider sanctions option

[The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Caucus on Myanmar (AIPMC) after a meeting in Bangkok on Monday night (25th May 2009) issued the following statement]

ASEAN MPs call on tougher ASEAN actions on Myanmar including Suspension

The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) calls on ASEAN to suspend Myanmar’s membership in the regional bloc if the country’s military regime continues to detain its democracy leader, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s unjust current six-year house arrest is due to expire on 27 May 2009, but the regime has brought on further trumped-up charges against her and is likely to detain her for a further three to five years. Read the rest of this entry »


Aung San Suu Kyi – AIPMC to meet in Bangkok to demand ASEAN governments take tough stand to secure her release

The United Nations Security Council has called for the release of Burmese pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners in Burma and expressed its concern over her current trial.

In a unanimous statement, the 15-council members expressed their concern about the “political impact” of the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi charging her with violating the terms of her house arrest.

What is Malaysia and ASEAN doing to express in the strongest possible terms that Aung San Suu Kyi should be released on Wednesday May 27 on the expiry of her six-year illegal detention or the Myanmar military junta must face condemnation by the other ASEAN states? Read the rest of this entry »


Nation-Building Cannot Begin from Irrational Premises

By Farish A. Noor

It has become ever-so-trendy of late to talk about nation-building in the most inclusive and open-ended of terms. After assuming office more than a month ago, the Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak began speaking at length about the notion of a ‘United Malaysia’ – which was in turn claimed by opposition parties in the country as their idea as well. In Thailand a slew of parties have claimed monopoly over the concept of a singular, united Thailand. While in Burma since the 1960s the aims of nation-building have been the same as they are now: to bring together the disparate array of ethnic, cultural and linguistic groups under the same banner of a singular Burmese identity.

Now there is nothing wrong with nation-building per se (for indeed one cannot imagine any form of governance without some semblance of a nation-building project accompanying it), and there is nothing wrong with wanting to bring different communities together. What has to be questioned critically, however, is this: What is the final aim of such nation-building projects; what are the premises upon which they are based; and can such projects ever get to their appointed destinations if the premises upon which they are laid are somehow faulty themselves? Read the rest of this entry »


ASEM FMM 9 should endorse the proposal for an international inquiry of 15 years of human rights abuses in Myanmar like those conducted for atrocities in Darfur, Rwanda and Yugoslavia

The reimposition of restrictions on reporters and diplomats attending the trial of Burmese pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi a day after opening up the proceedings yesterday betray the true colours of the Myanmar military junta with regard to its utter disregard to universal principles of human rights and the ASEAN Charter.

The Myanmese military junta must not be allowed to get away with its nefarious agenda, which is to keep Suu Kyi in continued incarceration although her six-year illegal detention is to expire in six days time on May 27 and to extend it during next year’s elections.

It is not to ASEAN’s credit that the regional organization has been so mute and helpless to the flagrant violation of human rights in the continued persecution of Suu Kyi, who had already been detained for more than 13 of the past 19 years, as not a single ASEAN head of state or government had said a single word at the first crisis faced by the ASEAN Charter on the commitment of the individual ASEAN countries to promote and protect human rights.

It is six days to the countdown of expiry of Suu Kyi’s illegal detention on May 27 and all ASEAN governments must put maximum and daily pressure on the Myanmar military junta to release the Nobel Peace Prize Laureatte next Wednesday or face dire consequences.
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Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial – “Grave concern” by Thailand, ASEAN Chair welcome but grossly inadequate

The statement of “grave concern” by Thailand, as the ASEAN Chair, about the fragile health and perilous personal safety and freedom of Burmese pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi is welcome but grossly inadequate.

While the reminder to the Myanmar military junta about the call of ASEAN leaders for the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi is appropriate, it is meaingless unless ASEAN leaders are prepared to take concrete measures to address the first crisis faced by the ASEAN Charter which had committed the member ASEAN nations to protect and promote human rights in their respective countries. Read the rest of this entry »