Burma Democratic Concern has the firm determination to carry on doing until the democracy restore in Burma.

Friday, 10 February 2012

AP - Prominent Myanmar monk taken in for questioning
Reuters - Myanmar refugees tell of violence despite peace calls
GMA News - DFA Sec. del Rosario meets Suu Kyi and Myanmar leader
KTAR.com - Legal challenge launched to Suu Kyi's candidacy
The Japan Times - Long courting of Myanmar may finally pay off
IRIN - MYANMAR-THAILAND: Dying for lack of reproductive healthcare
Sin Chew Jit Poh - Myanmar political exiles return after two decades
The Malaysian Insider - CIMB Group chief leads Asean support for Myanmar
Asian Correspondent - What’s in a name – Burma or Myanmar?
Asian Correspondent - Burma: Economists, generals and culture vultures
Scoop - Burma’s New Media Law May Fail to Ensure Press Freedom
The Wall Street Journal - Too Bad, Burma: Big Bank Loans Unlikely Anytime Soon
Washington Times - Civil war threatens reforms in Myanmar
VOA News - China Hosts Burma-Rebel Peace Talks for Economic, Strategic Benefit
Daily Mail - The Temple that brings monks closer to God (because it's nearly 5,000ft up a mountain)
National Times - Sanctions squeeze all but the tycoons
The Nation - Don't forget ethic minorities while democratising Burma, activists warn
The Nation - Burma's Forever Group eyes revenue boost
The Irrawaddy - Burmese Army Attacks Shan Base
The Irrawaddy - Strike Enters Fifth Day, Spreads to Other Factories
The Irrawaddy - Electricity: Burma’s Missing Ingredient for Success
Mizzima News - Education and health focus of U.N. conference
Mizzima News - The election will offer ‘intense rivalries’: NUP
Mizzima News - EU official to talk about aid package
DVB News - Burma ‘struggling’ with tourism boom
DVB News - Exiles emotional upon return to Burma
DVB News - Fighting breaks out in Shan state
Prominent Myanmar monk taken in for questioning
Associated Press – 4 hrs ago

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — A prominent Buddhist monk who was one of hundreds of political prisoners freed in Myanmar last month was detained Friday after a pre-dawn visit by authorities, an official said.

Shin Gambira, 33, was one of the leaders of the so-called Saffron Revolution, a 2007 anti-government uprising led by Buddhist monks against the then-ruling junta. He was detained after a military crackdown on protesters and released Jan. 13 as part of a mass prisoner release that has been hailed as a sign of Myanmar's new government's willingness to make reforms.

Friday's detention of Gambira, however, had echoes of the previous administration, which was known for whisking away its critics in the middle of the night.

An official from the Home Ministry said that Gambira was "taken away" from the Yangon monastery where he was staying and brought for "questioning in relation to incidents that happened after his release."

The official, who spoke on condition on anonymity, said that Gambira and other monks had illegally entered monasteries that had been shut after the 2007 uprising.

Authorities went after Gambira after he ignored a summons to report for questioning, the official said.

It was not immediately clear how long Gambira would be detained.

Gambira had also publicly voiced skepticism about the new government's commitment to democratic reforms.

His detention comes amid widespread international attention on Myanmar, where the new nominally civilian government has drawn cautious praise.

The U.S. and European Union have called the progress positive steps forward but say they will be closely watching an upcoming April by-election before deciding whether to lift sanctions that were imposed during military rule.
Myanmar refugees tell of violence despite peace calls
By James Pomfret | Reuters – 4 hrs ago

NONGDAO, China (Reuters) - In an obscure part of southwest China, a refugee crisis from one of the world's longest running and least known conflicts in Myanmar is slowly unfolding, largely ignored by the outside world and denied by China.

Thousands of refugees bringing tales of rape and violence have flooded across the border into China, fleeing fighting between Myanmar government troops and ethnic minority Kachin rebels.

Conflicts between the Myanmar government and various minority rebel groups erupted soon after independence from Britain in 1948.

The Myanmar government is keen to end the violence as it introduces democratic reforms after five decades of iron-fisted military rule and as Western governments call for peace as they prepare to lift sanctions.

Concrete moves to end the conflicts is a condition for the full lifting of the embargoes.

While pacts have ended the fighting in most parts of Myanmar, the bloodshed has not stopped in Kachin state in the far north despite a call from the central government for an end.
Kachin state, a broad spur of Himalayan foothills wedged between China and India, has for generations produced some of the world's finest jade, as well as opium and timber.

Now it is central to the energy plans of both Myanmar and China, home to hydropower dams and twin pipelines that will transport oil and natural gas to China's southwestern Yunnan province.

In the town of Nongdao in a far western nook of Yunnan, talk of Myanmar's return to democracy and the release of political prisoners ordered by President Thein Sein rings hollow to refugees such as Da Shi Jar Raw.

"They used big rockets to hit the villages and they burned the fields," the 32-year-old told Reuters, describing attacks by government soldiers in the country also known as Burma.

"The Burmese soldiers are raping women and shooting children," she said. "They killed a lot of mothers so we don't dare go back."


Labang Roi Tawng took her four young children and fled on a four-day trek in December to the border and safety at a camp in China of more than 500 people.

"The military were killing, shooting and raping people, doing terrible things, so we were very afraid and ran," she said.

At least 10,000 refugees have entered China since fighting erupted between Myanmar's military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) after a 17-year-old ceasefire broke down last June. Some Chinese media reports have put the number at 40,000.

"How long the fighting continues, we cannot say," said Lahpai Zaulat, with the Kachin Relief and Development Committee at Longdao, another area where refugees have flocked.

"More and more will come," he said of the flow of people fleeing, adding new huts were being built every week.

At one camp, where a mass of huts nestled between an open rubbish heap and farmland, organizers said refugees were arriving at a rate of about 10 a day.

Most of the Kachin villagers have fled to several areas along the fenceless border including Mai Jai Yang in Kachin state, and Nongdao, Longchuan and Leiji on the Chinese side.
The flow of displaced appears to be under control for now, with authorities grudgingly providing land for shelters.

Many refugees in two border camps visited by Reuters looked relatively healthy and well fed despite often dirty and crowded conditions in huts of plastic tarpaulin strung over bamboo.

But what baffles many Kachin is that President Thein Sein's order for troops to end their offensives has fallen on deaf ears. The only explanation the government has provided is problems with communications equipment.

But few are convinced by that.

"The military has ignored government orders to stop fighting," Khon Ja, a Kachin activist based in Myanmar's commercial capital of Yangon, told Reuters.

"This should be the highest crime."

Channels for dialogue with the KIA are open and talks are going on, but without any real progress.


For its part, China, keen to secure Myanmar's energy supplies and wary of an influx of displaced, officially denies the existence of the refugees. They are an embarrassment to a government which enjoys close ties with Myanmar and has stood by it in the face of Western sanctions.

"Remember these people aren't refugees, they're just here temporarily to escape the conflict," said a Chinese government official in the border town of Ruili after police detained a Reuters news team for nearly five hours.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin, speaking at a briefing on Friday, described the refugees as "border people" and said there were "not as many of them as outside reports say."

"China has all along dealt with this issue in a humanitarian way, and has provided daily necessities," he said.

China has been relatively tolerant in allowing the Kachin to stay, many without identity papers, sometimes in border towns among Chinese citizens who share the same ethnicity. But it is wary of allowing non-government organizations (NGOs) to help.

"The NGOs can't come to help us because China doesn't have any refugee laws," said refugee Joseph Dabang. "Really we have tremendous trouble and we have no money."
Many Kachin are Christian and Christian organizations are helping to run camps and supply rations.

In another camp, that spilt into a plantation, corrugated iron shacks were crammed with bedding and scores of children gathered at a school set up with plastic sheeting for walls.
Teacher Htu Raw darted between blackboards as she taught two classes at the same time, getting children to recite English words like "flower" and "cup."

"I'm very sorry for the children so it doesn't matter if I'm tired," said the round-faced teacher as a room full of wide-eyed children watched her every move.

"Many of these children have lost parents. But these students are now my children."
GMA News - DFA Sec. del Rosario meets Suu Kyi and Myanmar leader
February 10, 2012 6:20pm

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario met with Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi at her home on Thursday as she geared up for the start of electoral campaign for the April by-elections there.

The meeting "was aimed at strengthening the ties between the two countries" according to state media reports.

Del Rosario and Suu Kyi posed for photos in front of the democracy leader's house in Yangon, where she held a press briefing for her National League for Democracy (NLD) party after their meeting.

Secretary del Rosario also met with Myanmar President U Thein Sein and held discussions with Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Friday.

The DFA said del Rosario “congratulated the Myanmar leadership on the political, economic and social reforms it has undertaken,” including the release of Suu Kyi.

It also said the Myanmar leader thanked the Philippines government for its support and encouragement to the various reforms that the Myanmar Government has undertaken.

Myanmar’s president “also expressed appreciation for the Philippine support towards the lifting of economic sanctions against Myanmar,” the DFA added.

“The Myanmar President invited the Philippine business community to invest in various sectors of Myanmar economy such as oil and gas, agriculture, mining, forestry and timber products, development of deep sea ports, infrastructure, among others,” the DFA said.

Election campaign

Suu Kyi and her allies are contesting 48 seats in various legislatures including the 440-seat lower house in the April 1 by-elections that could give political credibility to Myanmar and help advance the end of Western sanctions.

Suu Kyi addressed a crowd of supporters, mostly from the party's youth wing. "Concerted efforts can shake even the whole world," she told the gathering.

Official campaigning begins this weekend, but Suu Kyi had been delivering speeches in villages and cities in recent weeks, giving the unmistakeable feel of a campaign.

As the southeast Asian nation emerges from half a century of isolation, diplomats from the region have been holding meetings with Suu Kyi.

Joining the diplomats are business executives, mostly from Asia, swarmed into Yangon in recent weeks to hunt for investment opportunities in one of the last frontier markets in Asia.

They are encouraged by statements from the European Union and the US that sanctions could be lifted if voters were able to vote freely in April's elections.

Myanmar is also at the center of a struggle for strategic influence as the United States sees a chance to expand its ties there and balance China's fast-growing economic and political sway in the region.
KTAR.com - Legal challenge launched to Suu Kyi's candidacy
jg (February 10th, 2012 @ 5:46am)

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) - Aung San Suu Kyi's bid for a seat in Myanmar's Parliament has been challenged by a rival candidate.

Suu Kyi's spokesman Nyan Win said Friday that Tin Yi of the Party for Unity and Peace had submitted a complaint to the district election commission that the Nobel peace laureate was not eligible to run in the April 1 by-election.

The basis for his protest was a constitutional provision barring persons enjoying the benefits of a foreign citizen from serving in parliament.

Nyan Win said Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party submitted a rebuttal stating that the complaint was based on hearsay and false information.

In 1990, Suu Kyi also filed to run in the general election, but was disqualified after a similar objection.
Friday, Feb. 10, 2012
The Japan Times - Long courting of Myanmar may finally pay off

Japanese government and business officials have flocked to Myanmar in recent months with a keen interest in the untapped investment opportunities in the country, which is embarking on democratic and economic reforms after decades of seclusion.

Japanese entities that have been nurturing ties with Myanmar are encouraged that the time has finally come for various cooperative projects to resume operations after years of being in limbo under the country's military regime, while Myanmar welcomes Japan's assistance.

"With Myanmar's government starting to open up to the international community, what we have been working on for all these years may finally bear fruit," said Shigeto Kashiwazaki, managing director of the Asian business research department at Daiwa Institute of Research.

Kashiwazaki was referring to a quasi-stock exchange called Myanmar Securities Exchange Center Co. (MSEC) that Daiwa Institute, under Daiwa Securities Group Inc., and the Myanmar Economic Bank, the country's largest bank, set up as a joint venture in June 1996 with the aim of developing a securities market in Myanmar.

U Soe Thein, executive director at MSEC, said he is "always positive to any assistance given" by Japan and "appreciates all of those programs." Before working at MSEC, he worked as a public official for more than 40 years and was involved in receiving Japanese assistance.

Japan has provided aid to Myanmar since 1954, including grant since 1975. In cumulative terms, Japan is the top provider of official development assistance to Myanmar, at $3.27 billion as of 2010. It also began providing loan aid in 1968 although it has suspended giving new loans since 1987 due to delays in repayments.

U Soe Thein noted that technical assistance from Japan may be even "more beneficial" if its training programs are specially designed for a target country, and if the trainers or lecturers in the programs have knowledge or experience of the nation.

"Having in mind these realities, both sides should try to mitigate the adverse impacts and maximize the benefits," said U Soe Thein in an email.

MSEC was set up in response to a request by the Myanmar government, which wanted to prop up the market economy in the country. But to date, at MSEC, with 11 staff members, including two Japanese, the shares of just two firms and some government bonds are traded.

The 1997 Asian financial crisis prompted Myanmar to tighten regulations for financial institutions and as a result many problems with its financial regime, including the existence of multiple exchange rates, an opaque legal framework and weak banking system, were left unresolved, making it difficult for foreign firms to do business there.

The imposition of economic sanctions by the United States and European countries, the Myanmar junta's crackdown on democracy-leaning parties such as the one led by Aung San Suu Kyi, and reports of human rights abuses since the 1980s also dissuaded the Japanese government and businesses from deepening economic ties with Myanmar.

"Our joint project to develop a securities market in the country has been virtually halted for more than 10 years," Kashiwazaki said. "But now as Myanmar implements economic measures, we can finally get down to business."

Myanmar, a country with abundant resources and a cheap labor force, is widely seen as the last untapped market in Asia. Since a military-backed civilian government took over power from the junta last March and implemented a series of democratic reforms, it has attracted investment interest from firms around the globe.

Japan and Myanmar have decided to launch negotiations on a bilateral investment treaty following Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba's visit to the country in late December, the first visit by a Japanese foreign minister to Myanmar since August 2002.

Such a pact, if realized, would help improve the levels of protection and liberalization of investment and make it easier for Japanese companies to do business in Myanmar.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano also visited the country in January, accompanied by around 100 business representatives and ministry officials, including senior executives from trading house Mitsui & Co., Sharp Corp. and Toshiba Corp., and expressed Japan's plan to help vital infrastructure projects in Myanmar.

"Myanmar is a key junction that connects Southeast Asia and China. I have no doubt about its growth," said Takashi Kawamura, chairman of the board at Hitachi Ltd., who participated in the business visit led by Edano.

"Japan should be able to make a strong showing (in Myanmar), such as through its energy-saving technologies," Kawamura said during his visit to Myanmar.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency, Japan's aid agency, has also stepped up efforts to assist Myanmar. In December, it invited 30 businesspeople and government officials from the country, including from the Myanmar Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance and Revenue, for a three-week training program in Japan, where they received lectures such as on Japanese farming, monetary systems and automobile manufacturing.

"We organized such a training program so that promising people from Myanmar will learn from our knowledge and expertise," said Tomonori Nagase, an official at JICA's Southeast Asia and Pacific Department.

"But at the same time, through such a program, we hope to forge better ties between Japan and Myanmar by getting to know each other," he said.

During the program, they visited places such as the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry; the Bank of Japan; Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ; and Tokyo Stock Exchange Group Inc.

"We have long been engaged with Myanmar but the reforms are unfolding at a faster pace than expected. The government seems serious this time," Nagase said.
MYANMAR-THAILAND: Dying for lack of reproductive healthcare

BANGKOK, 10 February 2012 (IRIN) - Lack of access to reproductive health services in Myanmar has led to high rates of maternal deaths and unplanned pregnancies among the country's displaced, migrant and refugee populations, say health experts.

"There are huge unmet reproductive health needs for contraceptives, family planning, and access to skilled birth attendants," said Priya Manwell, the UN Population Fund's (UNFPA) humanitarian response coordinator for the Asia Pacific region.

Populations that are on the run or outside their home countries are often unable to gain access to reproductive healthcare, say health workers.

Without skilled birth attendants or contraception, complications from unsafe abortions and post-partum haemorrhage are common along the Thai-Burmese border, where there are more than 150,000 Burmese refugees, according to a new report by the international NGO, Ibis Reproductive Health.

"In Burma, the sad state of reproductive health... [bars] far too many, especially mobile populations, including migrants, refugees, and IDPs, from accessing appropriate, timely, and basic health services," Vit Suwanvanichkij, a research associate at the US-based Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told IRIN.

Nationwide, only 37 percent of women gave birth with a trained birth attendant in 2007, according to the most recent government data reported to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Health displaced

Displaced people in Myanmar's east face "a health disaster", with a maternal mortality rate (MMR) of 721 deaths per 100,000 live births - three times the national average of 240, according to a 2010 NGO-collaborative report, Diagnosis Critical.

Some 10 percent of Myanmar's national MMR has been traced to unsafe abortions.

"A lack of safe, legal abortion creates conditions where women in both eastern Burma and Thailand are likely to either self-abort or engage untrained providers who may use methods likely to cause harm or even death," said Cari Siestra, co-author of Ibis Reproductive Health's recent report.

The lack of health infrastructure in eastern Myanmar has led to frequent reproductive complications from preventable illnesses, such as malaria, which is "the number-one killer of pregnant women", said Suwanvanichkij.

"Malnutrition, malaria, and repeat pregnancies without adequate birth spacing all impact [on] women's ability to carry pregnancies, even wanted ones, to term," added Sietstra.

Overall health challenges include a shortage of workers, investment and proper infrastructure, San San Myint, a national technical officer and reproductive health specialist at the WHO country office in Myanmar, told IRIN.

"Reproductive health coverage is [available in fewer than] 150 townships out of 325 townships. The main problem is funding and geographical barriers."


Reproductive health improves for refugees on the Thai side of the border, who have better access to trained providers, according to Sietstra.

But Thailand's estimated two million Burmese migrant workers, are often reluctant to seek medical assistance.

"Undocumented Burmese migrants are hesitant to access services because of their immigration status," said Jaime Calderon, the Southeast Asia regional health migration adviser at the International Organization for Migration office in Bangkok.

This is compounded by providers' discriminatory policies, language constraints and inability to pay, say health workers along the border.

"Put this awful constellation of vulnerabilities together and the result is that far too many women again are sickened, disabled, or die from preventable causes, such as complications of pregnancy and abortions," said Suwanvanichkij.

While Myanmar's recent political reforms have the potential to translate into better care if there is long-term investment in the health system, "we still need to address the immediate needs of people urgently", said Taweesap Sirapapasiri, UNFPA's programme officer for Thailand.
Sin Chew Jit Poh - Myanmar political exiles return after two decades
Foreign 2012-02-10 14:56

YANGON, February 10, 2012 (AFP) - Myanmar academics who fled a brutal crackdown on student protests over two decades ago returned to their homeland for the first time on Friday in a gesture of support for the country's reforms.

The exiles, who escaped through the jungle into Thailand after the bloody army assault on a failed uprising in 1988, were greeted by family and a small crowd of local journalists as they arrived in Yangon airport.

Aung Naing Oo said he was "overwhelmed" setting foot on home soil after almost half a lifetime away, and fellow exile Aung Thu Nyein was visibly moved.

The two men, senior staff of the Vahu Development Institute (VDI), an organisation working on development, economic reform and governance issues in the country, are in Myanmar for a short visit.

Their colleagues Zaw Oo and Tin Maung Than returned for good on Friday.

The academics cite the country's dramatic changes in the last year as a reason for their decision to open an office in Yangon, Myanmar's commercial hub.

A controversial 2010 election heralded the end of nearly half a century of outright military rule and a new regime has surprised skeptical observers with reforms including accepting democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi as a political force.

The government, which remains dominated by former generals, has also initiated a major release of jailed dissidents -- including key 1988 student leaders.

Aung Naing Oo said speed of developments in the country over the last year had been astonishing, given that they were initiated by an army that has been blamed for the country's decades of economic decline.

"I think in some ways it is a kind of miracle and I think the former military officers in government will suddenly wake up and realise that they have to catch up with the rest of the world," he told AFP ahead of the visit.

"We don't know how much we can do, we will go back with an open mind."

The academics, who plan to visit the capital Naypyidaw, will hold meetings with government officials, the private sector and other groups.
The Malaysian Insider - CIMB Group chief leads Asean support for Myanmar
By Lisa J. Ariffin February 10, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 10 — A delegation of Southeast Asia’s top businessmen led by Malaysia’s top banker Datuk Seri Nazir Razak has pledged to support Myanmar as a potential investment partner while it undergoes a political and economic transformation.

In a meeting in Yangon earlier this week, the group met with Myanmar’s investment authorities, local business leaders and Aung San Suu Kyi to assure them that the ASEAN
Business Club (ABC) was committed to regional investment that was sustainable and would empower rather than crowd out local business enterprise as Myanmar nationals make up a large number of migrant workers who have contributed to the region’s growth.

The delegation said a reformed Myanmar could play a strategic role within the ASEAN economic community and discussed ways ASEAN businesses could support this linked process as they carried out trade and investment with Myanmar.

Myanmar’s Deputy Minister of Rail Transportation Thura U Thaung Lwin, who sits on the country’s investment commission, pledged that the government was committed to improving its legal and tax framework for foreign investment and outlined existing plans for special economic zones.

The delegation also included CIMB Group chairman Tan Sri Md Nor Yusof, AirAsia Bhd chief executive Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, Malaysia’s state investment firm Khazanah Nasional Bhd’s chief director of investments Tengku Azmil Raja Abdul Aziz and Singapore-owned investment firm Temasek Holding’s director Goh Yew Lin.
Asian Correspondent - What’s in a name – Burma or Myanmar?
Posted by Jo Lane on February 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

I AM always amazed at the utter confusion on people’s faces if I ever mention the name Myanmar. Yes Burma they know but Myanmar – where’s that exactly? Well there are plenty of places in the world that have changed names over the years such as Kolkata (Calcutta), Iran (Persia) and Cambodia (Kampuchea).

There are often political reasons for these name changes and it’s good to understand so you can then decide how you will refer to the place yourself.

Well let’s go back in time then. The country was called the Republic of Burma when it became independent from Great Britain in 1948. It was called that until 1989 when the military regime took over and changed the name to Myanmar.

As a result the pro-democracy movement and those that want to undermine the legitimacy of the ruling regime have elected to continue calling it Burma. The U.N. has recognised the name Myanmar, “presumably deferring to the idea that its members can call themselves what they wish” according to linguist Richard Coates.

In the media the BBC refers to it as Burma, the Washington Post will too but add, “also known as Myanmar” in each story. Lonely Planet calls it “Myanmar (Burma)”, CNN uses Myanmar, Wikipedia says “Burma, officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar” and here at Travel Wire Asia, and sister publication Asian Correspondent, we prefer Burma.

Anyway that gives some of the history but the name options are a lot more complicated than just that. So let’s dig a bit deeper.

Essentially linguists hold that both words actually mean the same thing, that one is derived from the other. “Burma” is the colloquial form of “Myanmar”, considered the formal and literary form of the word. “Myanma” was the word often used and “Bama” the spoken word that derived when the “m” eroded into a “b” over time.

Hold on to your hats though, because it’s more complicated still. The name Burma is also seen to refer to the country’s ethnic majority, the Burmans or Bamar, and naming a country after one group of people is not considered particularly inclusive in a nation that is actually multi-ethnic.

The ruling regime has adopted the new name not only to break from the nation’s colonial past but claims it’s a way of being more ethnically inclusive. Sure, sure the cynics might say but many ethnic groups do prefer the name Myanmar for this exact reason.

However, even though the name changes are closer to their actual Burmese pronunciations and more inclusive, opposition has developed largely to the way in which the name was changed – without a referendum, with bloodshed and above all with the air of assumed authority.

In an article in the Washington Post was this comment:

“In some ways, Myanmar makes more sense,” said Aung Din, a former student protester and leader of the pro-democracy group U.S. Campaign for Burma. “But you look at the way the government did it. As if by changing the name, they could change the past … as if it could make people forget all those killed in the streets, all the suffering they caused.”

And have caused since, many would add. The BBC has similarly done an expose on the name in which there was this quote:

Mark Farmener, of Burma Campaign UK, says: “Often you can tell where someone’s sympathies lie if they use Burma or Myanmar. Myanmar is a kind of indicator of countries that are soft on the regime.

“But really it’s not important. Who cares what people call the country? It’s the human rights abuses that matter.

“There’s not a really strong call from the democracy movement saying you should not call it Myanmar, they just challenge the legitimacy of the regime. It’s probable it will carry on being called Myanmar after the regime is gone.”

It’s a good point and one I tend to agree with, particularly as the overwhelming majority of locals I spoke to defer to the name Myanmar. There didn’t even seem to be a question to them about what the country was called – it was simply Myanmar. They spoke largely of the ethnic and colonial overtones of the other name. There were many interesting discussions (for those interested these were people of varying ages, ethnicity, locations and education). One man even told me that Aung San Suu Kyi herself only used “Burma” with foreigners and English media, but at home she called it Myanmar like everyone else. Although in an interview with Lonely Planet last year she stated she preferred Burma (read this here).

So do you defy the regime or offend the locals? Well there’s no doubt the renaming of the nation will remain a contested issue and the only way it can be resolved is to put it to the people that matter – the 58.8 million that live there. And when a democratic government takes up the reins, they can decide once and for all, in a referendum, the official name of their own country.
Asian Correspondent - Burma: Economists, generals and culture vultures
By Kyi May Kaung Feb 10, 2012 12:55PM UTC

On February 11th, three notable economists, including Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, will give lectures in Rangoon. In my previous piece I mentioned that both Ronald Findlay and Hla Myint were born in Burma, and as states scholars before World War II and in the democratic period immediately after Independence from Great Britain, studied at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and London School of Economics respectively.

Hla Myint (Burmese have one name only. Most don’t have first and last names) http://ping.fm/MqSgf was stranded in the UK during the war. In the postwar period he worked at LSE, and became, with Sir Arthur Lewis, one of the pioneers of development economics. http://ping.fm/9b38N

In Rangoon where I studied economics, Prof. Findlay was one of my mentors and my MA thesis supervisor. I remember reading a short article by H. Myint (this is one of the ways he signed his name) about how the name of the field itself had metamorphosed from “economic backwardness” to “underdeveloped countries” to “developing countries”.

I was one year late to become a student of his, as he left Burma in 1962, the year of Ne Win’s coup. He had been working as Rector of Rangoon University, and the rumor was that he and his British wife Joan, had sold their house in England to come and work in Burma, but Ne Win, the dictator made things hard on intellectuals with a western education, and he left. Shortly before he did so, I went with my friend, a very beautiful young woman from a very rich family, who had just gotten a Columbo Plan scholarship, to his house on campus.

As I remember it, Dr. Findlay was also there – it was noontime or so, and we were between classes. Yin (not her real name) talked about what career prospects she might have and what subjects she should take in Canada. Dr. Hla Myint did not seem to be in a bad humor. He joked “It won’t matter. You’ll be lost anyway.” Yin did not understand it. I explained what he meant when we walked back to the classrooms.

Ne Win had a poor education. It was said he had been a postal clerk before he joined the Burma Defense Army (under Aung San) against the Japanese invaders. He had the dictator’s classic insecurity and desire to dominate. All the time I was in Rangoon, I heard stories of how he had beat up someone with a golf club; how he beat up a university instructor who had had a bit too much to drink at a Burma Research dinner and had insulted Ne Win’s second wife Kitty. As late as the year 2000, when I interviewed Louis Wallinsky, then 92 or 93, in Washington DC, Louis told me of how he had witnessed Ne Win beat up the driver of their car at the Rangoon Golf Club because the car pulled up too quietly behind him as he tied his shoe laces. At that time Wallinsky was the then PM U Nu’s economic advisor.

Findlay likewise had a bad time, even though he was a brilliant economist (still is) – a likeable person and a mild-mannered one, and a gifted, generous teacher. He was passed over for the economics department professorship, solely on account of his racial origins, I thought, and given a research professorship, where he no longer taught.

All throughout the time I was writing my MA thesis, he was in small office at the Economics Institute. I seemed to be the only one who went to his office, to deliver chapters I had written. In 1969, he left Burma to work at Columbia University in New York.


By then we had lived through the July 7, 1962 shooting of students, the demonetization of kyat 100 notes and the rice riots of 1967, which Ne Win diverted to anti-Chinese riots.
The worst part of the military junta has been its treatment of its people, not realizing they are, to use Adam Smith’s words, the wealth of the nation.
Scoop - Burma’s New Media Law May Fail to Ensure Press Freedom
Friday, 10 February 2012, 5:28 pm
Press Release: International Federation of Journalists

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the Burma Media Association (BMA) in its concerns that Burma’s proposed new media law may not guarantee freedom of media as the government promised.

The new media law, drafted by the Ministry of Information’s Press Scrutinization and Registration Department (PSRD) was introduced in January at a media workshop jointly organized by Myanmar Writers and Journalists Association and Singapore-based Asia Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC).

Despite inviting local journalists, foreign-based Burmese journalists and journalists from Asian countries to the two-day event, the participants were not given the opportunity to thoroughly discuss the substance of the law. According to Oslo-based Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), Mr. Tint Swe, the Deputy Director General of the PSRD only presented the Table of Contents of the draft law but no details of the law itself.

Sources close to the PSRD told the BMA that the draft law was adapted from the repressive Printers and Publishers Registration Act enacted after the 1962 military coup.

“It is important that any new media laws introduced by the government of Burma improve press freedom, and provide greater freedom and security for journalists”, IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

“The media laws need to represent a fresh start for the media environment in Burma. They should be drafted to ensure they are best suited to the modern media context and are able to protect press freedoms.

The IFJ joins the BMA in urging the government of Burma abolish the 1962 Printers and Publishers Registration Act, and associated laws designed to restrict freedom of expression, such as the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, Article 505/B of the Criminal Code and the 1923 Official Secrets Act.”

Although Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index 2011 ranked Burma a slightly better position (169th) than in 2010 (174th) as a result of political reforms including partial amnesties and a reduction in prior censorship, the country remains largely under the control of an authoritarian government run by former members of the military junta assuming new positions as civilian politicians. A number of journalists still remain in prison as of the start of 2012.
February 9, 2012, 9:11 AM SGT
The Wall Street Journal - Too Bad, Burma: Big Bank Loans Unlikely Anytime Soon
By Patrick Barta

Now that the U.S. has agreed to lift some of its restrictions blocking the World Bank and other multilateral institutions from working in Myanmar, it should only be a matter of time before they start pouring money into the country, right?

Not exactly.

The world’s so-called international financial institutions (IFIs), which were launched decades ago in part to help poorer nations like Myanmar, were blocked for years from doing extensive work in the Southeast Asian nation in large part because of objections from Western countries including the U.S., which exercise considerable influence at the institutions.

On Monday, though, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed a partial waiver of its restrictions that officially enables the U.S. to support “assessment missions and limited technical assistance” by the World Bank and other similar organizations, including the Asian Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Offers of big development grants or loans – the kind that the World Bank and other groups extend to developing countries to fund infrastructure, poverty alleviation and other much-needed projects – are another matter, and would require further green lights from the U.S. Although leaders in the U.S. and Europe have taken numerous steps to repair relations with Myanmar since its government embarked on major economic and political reforms over the past year, they are still waiting to see the results of a planned April 1 parliamentary by-election in the country, which is also known as Burma, before deciding whether to lift sanctions further.

Then there’s the matter of the roughly $11 billion that Myanmar owes the World Bank, ADB, and various foreign governments, and which must be repaid or restructured before more extensive lending can start again. Most of the debts were incurred decades ago, before the banks pulled out, with some $8.4 billion in debts built up during the socialist military regime headed by late strongman Gen. Ne Win between 1962 and 1988. Myanmar owes $489 million to the ADB, the ADB said, and several hundred million dollars to the World Bank. It also owes at least $6.4 billion to Japan, $2.1 billion to China and $580 million to Germany, according to the Myanmar government.

Although Myanmar has said it’s engaged in talks with some of its creditors to settle those debts, paying it all off won’t be easy. Myanmar has vast natural resource reserves and a growing economy, but it also only has about $7 billion in foreign exchange reserves.

Even if the debts were paid and Western governments cleared the way for a full resumption of lending, it would likely take a long time before money could flow. Shareholders in the institutions want to be sure their money will be spent wisely, and that Myanmar’s ministries have sufficient controls in place to make sure some of the money doesn’t disappear – a big worry in a country that ranked 180th out of 183 nations in Transparency International’s latest survey of corruption perceptions around the world. Staff at multilateral lenders also lack solid data on the health of Myanmar’s economy and financial institutions, which they’ll want before committing large sums.

It’s possible the banks could face pressure from Myanmar boosters – led by companies that want to re-enter the country after being away for years due to sanctions – to offer some money later this year as a goodwill gesture to encourage Myanmar with its reforms. Already, leaders of the key multilateral institutions are scheduling meetings to discuss their options going forward, especially in light of Ms. Clinton’s latest move. But people familiar with the banks’ thinking say the most likely outcome, even if their hands are untied on lending, would be to keep sending high-level delegations to study conditions on the ground, buying the banks more time before they have to put cash on the table.

Whatever happens, development economists generally agree that getting the ADB, World Bank and other such groups back into Myanmar could help boost living standards and help the country modernize its antiquated economic system, which has left its residents with some of the lowest living standards in Asia. Analysts estimate that Myanmar needs billions of dollars of foreign money to help pay for new roads, bridges, power plants, railways and other assets — all the kinds of things multilateral institutions can help with, though foreign nations such as Japan and China could also provide some of that money.

The IMF, for its part, has held recent meetings with Myanmar officials about simplifying the country’s complex foreign exchange system, which involves multiple exchange rates and which has long been cited by foreign companies as a major deterrent to investing there.

The ADB said in a statement to the Wall Street Journal that it hasn’t been asked by its member governments to expand its assessment activities in Myanmar yet, though it is widely assumed that such a request will come soon following Ms. Clinton’s latest move.

“Any analytical work by ADB on Myanmar would be subject to consultations with ADB’s shareholders, and close coordination with other multilateral institutions and development partners,” the bank said. It noted that any resumption of lending would require further progress in the country’s engagement with the outside world – and “a resolution to the arrears issue.”

Efforts to reach World Bank officials were unsuccessful. In a statement on its website posted in December, the World Bank said “a great deal needs to be done to open up and improve the economy and the living conditions of the people of Myanmar,” and that “the World Bank can provide examples from other countries that have successfully made this transition.” But it added that arrangements for clearing debts to the bank would be need to be sorted out before lending could restart.
Washington Times - Civil war threatens reforms in Myanmar
By Ashish Kumar Sen
Updated: 11:26 a.m. on Friday, February 10, 2012

A civil war between Myanmar's army and Christian rebels in the Asian nation’s northernmost state is threatening the military-backed government’s efforts to normalize relations with the West.

The Obama administration and the European Union have made peace with rebel groups a key condition for lifting sanctions on Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

Myanmar's government has achieved cease-fires with some rebels and promoted political reforms to shed the country’s status as an international pariah.

The fighting in the state of Kachin, however, has escalated since the breakdown of a 17-year truce with the government in June. It has continued despite President Thein Sein’s orders in early December that the army end the war. The Myanmar army and the Kachin Independence Army blame each other for provoking the recent hostilities.

Ethnic Kachin activists and human rights groups accuse the army of raping, torturing and executing civilians. They claim soldiers looted their food and forced some Kachins to walk in front of soldiers to trigger landmines.

Bauk Gyar, a Kachin activist who was in the conflict zone in December, said women, children and the elderly are not spared.

“Everyone has suffered abuses. And after they persecute these people, they kill them,” she told an audience at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington last week.

The rebels have also been accused of killing civilians.

In recent months, tens of thousands of Kachins have fled to refugee camps across the border in China.

Thein Sein, a retired general, has taken a number of steps during the past few months that have resulted in a thaw in his country’s relationship with the West.

Among his most significant reforms was his decision to allow opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent many years in prison and under house arrest, to participate in parliamentary elections on April 1. The government has also released hundreds of political prisoners and signed cease-fire agreements with ethnic rebels throughout the country.
Ending the decades-long ethnic rebellions is proving to the biggest challenge for the government.

“The ethnic issue is the most long-standing and difficult problem to resolve,” said a Western official who asked not to be identified citing the sensitive nature of the matter.

“The government has negotiated cease-fire agreements, but the question now is: Are these agreements going to be enforced?”

Uncertainty also hangs over the fate of more than 500 political prisoners freed as part of a government amnesty since October. The prisoners’ release is conditional. They can be forced to serve out the remaining portion of their prison terms if they are arrested again.

Among those released was Zarganar, a popular comedian and outspoken government critic, who remains skeptical about the reforms.

“We have been released, but we are not free,” Zarganar, who uses only one name, said in an interview in Washington last week.

He called on Thein Sein to sign an unconditional release of all political prisoners and said the reforms were nothing more than a “beautiful facade.”

Zarganar said the government needs to have a better plan to end ethnic conflicts and address their causes.

“Just saying, ‘Stop the war,’ is not a resolution,” he added.

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