June 19, 2012
1. Burma: Three Men Given Death Sentence For Murder That Sparked Riots
2. Burma Opposition spokesman could receive jail sentence
3. Investors baulk as Burma finally opens doors to the West
4. How do we help Burma?
5. Myanmar's Suu Kyi takes to stage in Dublin with Bono
6. Burma army and KIA battle in five places in Shan state
7. Burma: Reporters Without Borders Saddened By Death Of Journalist Ludu Sein Win
8. Laos, Myanmar seek to enhance legislative cooperation
9. Myanmar's president promises second wave of reform
10. Aussino plans to sell petrol in Myanmar
11. Safety fears restrict relief work after Myanmar riots
12. Suu Kyi says Myanmar must clarify citizenship laws
13. Philippines seeks Myanmar help in China dispute
Burma: Three Men Given Death Sentence For Murder That Sparked Riots
June 18, 2012
By Hanna Hindstrom
The three Muslim men accused of raping and killing Thida Htwe – the Arakanese girl whose death sparked sectarian violence across Burma’s Arakan state this month – were sentenced to death by the District Court in Kyaukphyu in western Burma on Monday, according to lawyers.
Htet Htet (also known as Rawshe), Mahmud Rawphi (aka Hla Win) and Khochi (aka Myint Swe) were found guilty of raping, murdering and robbing Thida Htwe from Thabyaychaung village in Ramee Township on her way home from a sewing lesson on 28 May 2012.
Lawyers said the court heard testimonies from eight people, including Thida Htwe’s brother, in a trial that lasted less than two weeks. Htet Htet, accused of masterminding the plot, committed suicide in jail last week, but was handed the sentence posthumously in accordance with Burmese criminal law.
Thida Htwe’s controversial death unleashed long-simmering religious and ethnic tensions in Burma’s westernmost Arakan state this month, starting with the violent murder of ten Muslim pilgrims by an angry mob in the state capital Sittwe. It culminated in the country’s worst sectarian riots in decades, which has left at least 50 people dead, thousands of homes destroyed and more than 32,000 people displaced.
The violence has also thrown a spotlight on the plight of the stateless minority group, the Rohingya, who are denied citizenship by the Burmese government and widely despised within Burmese society. Analysts say the riots represented a “symptom” of festering tensions and a state-sponsored policy of discrimination.
The verdict has brought mixed reactions in line with the increasingly polarised debate on the ongoing violence. Ba Shein, People’s Parliament representative in Kyaukphyu township commended the police force for its quick work.
“It is lucky to have this case solved in such a short period of time otherwise there would be other unwanted problems. They managed to arrest the culprits, seize evidence and hear witness accounts within about 10 days after the crime was committed – I would congratulate the police force their hard work.”
Many social media commentators have again responded to the verdict by lashing out against the Rohingya.
Meanwhile, human rights groups have expressed concern about both the speed and the legitimacy of the trial. “We condemn the imposition of the death penalty in all cases as cruel and inhumane treatment,” Phil Robertson, head of Human Rights Watch Asia division told DVB. “But we’ve also had no access to information about this case so there is no way to say whether the three men on trial are in fact guilty.”
“My concern would be whether there was any kind of proper judicial system,” added Chris Lewa, Director of the Arakan Project. “This was quite quick, so it seems like a move to try to calm the Rakhine population.”
She warned that the ruling might spark further unrest in Northern Arakan state, where reports are surfacing of mass arrests of young Rohingya men by state authorities since the fighting ebbed off on Friday.
“There is no longer communal violence in Maungdaw, this is state sponsored violence,” she said. “The situation has gotten really bad. The army and NaSaka have been conducting mass arrest of young Rohingya males. Some people have seen them transported in trucks in handcuffs and blindfolded and the worst is that no one knows why.”
She added that hundreds of young men have been trying to cross the border to Bangladesh, but most are being turned away. The Bangladeshi government continues to block refugees from fleeing the violence in Northern Arakan state, despite growing international pressure to let them in.
The sectarian violence has become a crucial litmus test for President Thein Sein’s reformist government. Last week, democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi underscored the need for “rule of law” to address the violence, but faces accusations of sidestepping the Rohingya issue.
Robertson said that those involved in the mob attack that left ten Muslims dead in early June must also be brought to justice by authorities in order to avoid accusations of double standards.
The two sentenced men have seven days to appeal the ruling, but the case still needs to be presented to the Supreme Court for a final decision.
Burma Opposition spokesman could receive jail sentence
Updated 18 June 2012, 21:38 AEST
Burma's main opposition spokesman, Nyan Win, could face several months in prison for suggesting that ballot sheets from April's landmark election were tampered with.
Nyan Win, spokesman for the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, answers a question during a press conference at the party headquarters in Rangoon on February 20, 2012. [AFP]
Nyan Win complained that a thin layer of wax had been put over check boxes for National League of Democracy (NLD) candidates, which meant a mark made on the wax could later be rubbed off to cancel the vote.
A senior official at the country's Election Commission, Thaung Hlaing says the body had asked Nyan Win to publicly withdraw the allegation, as it affected the impression the polls were free and fair.
He says the NLD failed to respond to the request, leading the Election Commission to submit a complaint to Zabuthiri Court in Naypyidaw.
Nyan Win is due in court on June 26th, and faces up to six months in jail and a fine equivalent to $US1.20 if convicted.
Nyan Win, who also acts as lawyer to the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, says he is not guilty.
The National League of Democracy went on to win 43 of the 44 constituencies where it fielded candidates, which gave Opposition Leader, Aung San Suu Kyi her first ever seat in parliament.
The authorities have said a subsequent investigation by the Election Commission found no evidence of ballot tampering.
Investors baulk as Burma finally opens doors to the West
by: Paul Garvey
From: The Australian
June 19, 2012 12:00AM
COMPANIES and investors have been waiting for years for Burma to open its borders to foreign investment. But now that the wait is almost over, it's unclear whether investors are still keen to move in.
Burma's reconnection with the rest of the world culminated at the weekend when the country's opposition leader and pro-democracy poster child, Aung San Suu Kyi, finally made it to Stockholm to accept her Nobel peace prize, 21 years after it was awarded.
The award was the latest milestone in the re-emergence of Burma, once considered the bread basket of Southeast Asia but which was cut off from the rest of the world for decades as the ruling military junta ran the country into the ground.
Now, though, the country appears committed to a path of genuine reform. Elections have been held and Suu Kyi has been released from house arrest and is travelling around the world.
The generals continue to hold power but with the new-found legitimacy that comes with having Suu Kyi free and involved in the system. The sanctions that have crippled the country are steadily being lifted, opening the way for foreign companies to enter the country.
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On the surface, Burma would appear to have the key ingredients needed for an economic renaissance: vast, untapped natural resources -- including oil and gas, copper, tin and iron -- and a large, cheap labour force.
Sadly for the Burmese people who have waited decades for their economy to open up to the rest of the world, the country may just be unlocking its doors when investors are cautious.
And the ethnic violence that flared up last week is only a small part of the reason.
Plenty of companies, from major multinational corporations down to private investors looking to back start-up opportunities, have been eyeing Burma for years. Today, however, with commodity prices falling and questions being asked about the longevity of the China-inspired minerals boom, investors are wondering whether now is the right time for such a high-risk investment in Burma.
A year ago in Hong Kong, most of the city's wealthy individuals would have been contemplating some sort of investment into Burma in the hope of turning a cheap early-stage opportunity into their next fortune. One private investor in Hong Kong said he had previously backed opportunities in Burma but had walked away from any further investments given the present investment climate. Falling equity prices on stockmarkets around the world meant there were cheap opportunities in established countries offering far greater transparency and certainty.
That said, there are some adventurous groups that are still seriously weighing investments. Hong Kong-based Leopard Capital, an investment fund chaired by Marc Faber, is preparing a specialist fund dedicated to Burma.
And while the present uncertainty may have scared off a lot of the groups considering smaller entry-level investments, multinationals equipped with the right balance sheets and long-term investment horizons keep a watch on the country.
Speaking at the recent World Gas Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Royal Dutch Shell chief executive Peter Voser told reporters the oil and gas giant was monitoring the situation in Burma closely.
"We're always looking to expand into new areas, and depending on how sanctions are lifted and how the overall political situation develops, we will most probably look at the options available there," he said.
Kevin Taylor, president of the Asia-Pacific operations of British telecommunications giant BT Group, told The Australian last week that Burma was one of the key new markets the company was looking to enter.
"We haven't made an absolute decision yet, but we do need to think about the different scenarios," he said.
Perhaps the most symbolic entry to date has been the news that Coca-Cola would be returning to Burma after an absence of more than 60 years, leaving Cuba and North Korea as the only countries where the ubiquitous drink is unavailable.
It seems at this stage that Burma is a play more for the corporate giants prepared to be patient, rather than the smaller entrepreneurial ventures capable of moving quite quickly. That is especially so in the resources sector, where opportunity appears to abound but where infrastructure is nonexistent.
Carlo Caiani of consultancy Caiani says: "The mineral endowment is large to huge, but they don't have any infrastructure to support it." He says shortage of power, water and skills are the key challenges to the mining sector's development.
"There's no question they've got significant reserves, but to develop these, including the rail and port infrastructure, is a 10 to 20-year game."
The lack of infrastructure extends to the banking system, which is all but nonexistent, while corruption and cronyism remain major problems.
Burma's most profitable businesses have a habit of winding up in the hands of the generals and their associates. Those companies wanting to set up shop in the country need to have a local partner with strong connections, but those ventures must also be wary of partnering with someone whose baggage could catch up later.
There is also considerable competition for assets from China, which shares a border with Burma and sees it as a key strategic neighbour.
At present, says Hans Vriens, managing partner of consultancy Vriens & Partners, who has spent considerable time in Burma, almost all the oil and gas imported into China has to pass through the Strait of Malacca and the disputed South China Sea. In the event of a conflict, Vriens says, China's oil and gas import trade routes could quickly be cut off.
Still, Burma represents an important alternative route between China and the Indian Ocean. A pipeline already connects a gasfield off Burma directly to the southern Chinese province of Yunnan, and an oil pipeline is set to follow soon.
Vriens says that after many failed attempts to modernise -- "the country has been completely mismanaged and misgoverned for the past 60 years" -- this time the country is too far down the path of reform to turn back.
"People equate democracy with jobs, so now after this political change and the ongoing changes, that's why the generals are so desperate to bring in jobs," he says. "They understand there's a limited timeframe to succeed."
Importantly, he says, there is a strong desire in Burma to attract Western companies, rather than Chinese groups, as investors.
"They are especially desperate for Western investment. The impression they have is the Chinese investors have come to rape and pillage."
While Vriens believes there is "a stampede" of companies wanting to get involved, it looks as though the weak market conditions around the world may dampen enthusiasm.
After decades of anticipation, the European crisis and its impact on markets look set to slow Burma's re-emergence.
How do we help Burma?
Radek Sikorski (IN MY VIEW) / 18 June 2012
A cross the Middle East, and now in Burma (Myanmar), one of the great questions of contemporary global politics has resurfaced: How can countries move from a failing authoritarianism to some form of self-sustaining pluralism?
Foreign ministers everywhere, in turn, face crucial policy questions: When a country launches such a political transition, when should other countries help, and what is the best way to do so?
Happy transitions, to paraphrase Tolstoy, are all alike; but every unhappy transition is unhappy in its own way. The happy transitions across much of Central Europe following the end of the Cold War were made easier by the fact that the old communist order more or less died on its feet and surrendered power peacefully. This, along with generous support from Western Europe, the US and others, helped to create a mood conducive to reconciliation, allowing each country to tackle in a measured, non-vengeful way the many difficult moral issues arising from the recent dark past.
Above all, perhaps, these transitions took place amidst a wider network of legitimate institutions — the European Union, OSCE, NATO, and the Council of Europe — championing the rule of law. This supportive context provided a roadmap for national policymakers, helping them to build democratic institutions and marginalize extremists. Elsewhere in the world, things are not so easy. Discredited regimes may cling all the more ruthlessly and ruinously to power, as in Syria. Or they may create all sorts of new problems on their way out of power, as in Libya. Or they may be struggling to introduce democratic accountability while maintaining stability, as in Egypt.
In Burma, we see another model — a bold attempt after decades of military rule to move in a controlled but purposeful way toward a new, inclusive form of government. Here there are striking similarities to what happened in Poland as communism ended. A military elite favours step-by-step reform, but wants to protect its position and is determined to avoid a descent into chaos. The opposition is led by a charismatic leader with huge popular support. And the ruling elite opens a number of parliamentary seats to a popular vote, only to be shocked by a landslide opposition win.
Moreover, as was true in Poland, Burma’s opposition leaders must strike a delicate balance: satisfy their impatient supporters, while offering those still in power the prospect of a worthwhile future.
But there are key differences. Burma has a very different internal political dynamic, not least because of the complex relationships among its various ethnic and linguistic communities —social cleavages that were not an issue in largely homogeneous Poland’s transition.
Moreover, unlike Poland when communism collapsed, Burma already has powerful business tycoons flourishing under the existing system — and they mean to maintain and develop their privileges. Above all, there is no immediate international institutional context encouraging steady change and establishing standards and benchmarks: Burma must find its own path. Earlier this month, I visited Burma, where I met President Thein Sein and the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as former political prisoners and many other activists. I came away convinced that Burma is a country on the move – and moving firmly in a good direction.
All sides accept that this large and resource-rich country has under-performed for far too long. They also agree that a step-by-step approach, based on reconciliation, is better than an open struggle for power, which could quickly take on a calamitous ethnic dimension. That consensus will remain credible as long as political reform continues and economic growth accelerates. The EU should ensure that its development assistance – and the process of delivering it – enhances pluralism and reconciliation by benefiting all of Burma’s communities fairly and transparently.
Poland is making its own direct contribution, above all by helping senior Burmese decision makers, opposition leaders, and business representatives to understand the “technology of transition” — that is, the sequencing of technical reforms, which has helped to make Poland one of Europe’s healthiest economies today. Our business representatives came with me to present large-scale investment projects.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of my visit to Burma was a willingness to open up and learn from other countries that have navigated the painful transition from dictatorship to democracy. A young woman at our democracy workshop told the assembled journalists and lecturers, “We thought that Burma was a one-off example. Now we see that countries far away have had very similar experiences. We feel less lonely — it all worked out for you.”
Given that spirit — and appropriate foreign assistance — I am confident that it will all work out for Burma, too.
Radek Sikorski is Poland’s foreign minister
© Project Syndicate
Myanmar's Suu Kyi takes to stage in Dublin with Bono
Published: 19/06/2012 at 09:48 AM
Online news: Asia
Aung San Suu Kyi received a rock star welcome in Ireland, with U2 singer Bono among those performing at a concert to honour the Myanmar democracy icon after flying in with her on his private jet.
Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi accepts the Ambassador of Conscience Award next to Irish singer Bono (R) in Dublin, Ireland on June 18, 2012. Aung San Suu Kyi landed in Ireland with U2 star Bono by her side for a flying visit on her European tour that was to see her pick up a prize honouring her unwavering commitment to human rights.
Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi took to the stage with Bono to receive a prize from Amnesty International at the rights group's "Electric Burma" concert in a packed Dublin theatre.
She was later given the freedom of the city of Dublin at a special ceremony and crowds joined in singing "Happy Birthday" as she was given a cake to mark her 67th birthday, which is on Tuesday.
Bono thanked Suu Kyi for being at the concert, saying: "We know there are many many other places you could be and we understand the signal your presence here sends out and we are humbled, we are grateful."
Suu Kyi sat alongside Bono -- who has long supported Suu Kyi's freedom struggle and dedicated the song "Walk On" to her -- after the pair travelled from Oslo, Norway, where they had co-hosted a peace forum.
"To receive this award is to remind me that 24 years ago I took on duties from which I shall never be relieved but you have given me the strength to carry out," Suu Kyi said in reply.
"I have discovered how much more people care. I had not expected this. I had not known how much they cared. This has come as a surprise to me and a very moving one."
The concert, attended by around 2,000 people, opened with Ireland's Riverdance troupe performing against an atmospheric set designed to look like a nocturnal beach scene.
Suu Kyi received Amnesty International's Ambassador of Conscience Award, the rights group's most prestigious prize, after performances from world artists including Benin singer Angelique Kidjo and US rapper Lupe Fiasco.
She won the award in 2009 but was under house arrest in Myanmar at the time so could not collect it.
The concert also featured a recorded message from Dave Lee Travis, the British DJ nicknamed the "Hairy Cornflake", who Suu Kyi has said kept her spirits up during her time under house arrest.
Myanmar comedian-activist Zarganar, another of the performers, said he spent almost 11 years in prison in his country "because of making jokes".
Bono, wearing his trademark black glasses, wrapped up the event with a performance of "Walk On", followed by U2's "One".
In Dublin, Suu Kyi also met with Irish President Michael D. Higgins.
After the concert at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, thousands of people turned out at an open-air event to see Suu Kyi given the Freedom of the City of Dublin, some 12 years after she was named for the honour.
The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Andrew Montague, paid tribute to "a democracy and human rights activist of world renown", promising Suu Kyi: "The Irish people will stand by you."
Suu Kyi briefly thanked the crowds but warned them that the "troubles are not over yet" in Myanmar.
An emotional Suu Kyi delivered her Nobel lecture at Oslo City Hall on Saturday, more than two decades after the peace prize was awarded to her in 1991. She was unable to accept it at the time.
After visiting Ireland, Suu Kyi's 17-day European tour takes her to Britain on Tuesday.
She will celebrate her birthday with a family reunion in the southern English town of Oxford, where she studied at the prestigious university and lived for several years with the late Michael Aris, her English husband and father of her two sons.
Oxford University, where she studied politics, philosophy and economics, will award her with an honorary degree on Wednesday.
On Thursday, Suu Kyi is to address both houses of parliament in London as well as meet Prime Minister David Cameron and heir to the throne Prince Charles.
Suu Kyi's tour, which also takes in Switzerland and France, is her first trip to Europe for 24 years.
It has been clouded by continued violence in western Myanmar where dozens of people have been killed and more than 30,000 people displaced by clashes between Buddhist Rakhines and stateless Muslim Rohingya.
Burma army and KIA battle in five places in Shan state
Fighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Burma's armed forces broke out today in at least five different places in northern Shan state after two Burmese army columns were sent to the area as reinforcements, local residents told the Kachin News Group (KNG).
Both sides suffered casualties from skirmishes near two towns - Pangsai (also Kyukok) and Mongkoe (also Munggu), situated along the Muse to Kutkai road route.
KIA sources estimate that more than a dozen Burmese soldiers were killed during the fighting. The KIA also lost a solider and another solider was injured according to a KIA officer on the front-lines. The fighting consisted of forces from the KIA's battalion 36 who were supported by a Kachin civilian force called the People’s Army and government forces from Infantry Battalion No. 45, IB No. 123 and IB No. 125, said a KIA officer who requested anonymity.
This morning at 5am, Kachin forces attacked police stations and military bases in Pangsai for about 30 minutes, but the number of casualties remains unknown, according to residents.
Fighting has occurred over the past few days in the Mongkoe area especially in a stretch of territory from Naw Gu to Man Mau.
At least two unarmed civilians were also shot dead in their homes this by month by Burmese soldiers, a Monggu resident told the Kachin News Group by phone.
North western Shan state is home to the site where the Kachin Independence Organization was formed 52 years ago. Currently the KIA’s 4th brigade comprises seven battalions based in northern Shan state, an area that also includes part of the Mandalay to Muse road, the country’s largest border trade route with China.
Currently controversial twin oil and gas pipelines that will deliver gas from the Arakanese coast to China's southern Yunnan region are also currently under construction along a stretch of land that is also KIO territory.
Burma: Reporters Without Borders Saddened By Death Of Journalist Ludu Sein Win
By: Eurasia Review
June 19, 2012
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Reporters Without Borders is saddened to learn of the death overnight of the veteran Burmese journalist Ludu Sein Win in a Rangoon hospital. Formerly with the banned Ludu Newspaper, he had since worked for a variety of publications.
“We express our condolences to the family and friends of Ludu Sein Win. With his death we have lost not only a shining example of Burmese journalism, but also a courageous fighter for democracy and press freedom,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“Man of letters, committed intellectual and prolific journalist, Sein Win worked tirelessly for the betterment of his fellow citizens. Neither the 13 years he spent in prison nor the partial paralysis he suffered as a result of a heart attack prevented him from expressing his opinions or giving the benefit of his wisdom to readers and also to the many people who visited his home to listen to him and discuss the future of Burma with him.”
Sein Win, who suffered from lung cancer, was admitted to Rangoon’s private Shwegondaing Hospital early yesterday where he died just before midnight.
Born on August 13 in the central city of Mandalay, Sein Win was educated at Lafon Memorial High School and Mandalay and Rangoon universities. He began his journalism career in 1964 at Ludu Newspaper, which was banned by the military junta in 1967.
He was arrested and sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment, which he served first on Coco Island in the south, before being moved to Insein Prison in Rangoon in 1971. He was released in 1976, then arrested again soon afterwards and jailed for a further four years.
He was freed in 1980 after suffering a heart attack, which left him partially paralysed for the rest of his life.
Besides writing on politics for several weekly and monthly publications, such as Weekly Eleven Journal to which he contributed from 2005, in his books he turned his attention to topics such as ethics, youth, journalism and love.
Frequently critical of the military government, in particular in interviews he gave to Burmese media outlets in exile, he used 15 different pen names and his work was frequently censored by the junta. In 2006, his name was removed from a list of the leading Burmese personalities of 2005 published by Weekly Eleven Journal.
In March 2008, his work was banned completely from all publications on the orders of the government censor board, after he made highly critical comments about the government and called for the overthrow of the dictatorship by a popular movement: “Believe in the Burmese people’s heroism. Believe in People Power. Defeat the Despot with People Power.”
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Laos, Myanmar seek to enhance legislative cooperation
Publication Date : 19-06-2012
Laos and Myanmar are seeking ways to enhance their legislative cooperation within bilateral and multilateral frameworks.
Officials from both countries expressed common points of view when they met in Vientiane yesterday during a visit
by a parliamentary delegation from Myanmar, led by the Speaker of the Amyotha Hluttaw, U Khin Aung Myint.
“We should prepare memorandums of understanding as a legal reference for our future cooperation,” said Lao National Assembly President Pany Yathortou, who led the Lao delegation at the meeting.
She suggested more exchange visits and sharing of experience between the two parliaments at various levels, in fields such as technical expertise and the training of personnel.
The sharing of experience and information concerning legislation, especially relating to legislative bodies and socio-economic development promotion and management, was also raised by the Lao side at the meeting.
Pany proposed that the legislative bodies of Laos and Myanmar support their governments in implementing the agreements signed by the two sides, as well as promoting trade and investment among business operators from the two countries.
Laos and Myanmar have maintained cooperation through regular visits by the leaders of the two countries.
U Khin Aung Myint said Myanmar saw an opportunity to expand cooperation between the two parliaments within the Asean framework of the three pillars under the Asean Inter Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA), to which Myanmar would like the Asean Charter to give a greater role.
He spoke about the general election that took place in Myanmar in 2010, saying it was held under free and fair conditions and reflected the transition to democracy. He emphasised that the main task of the Myanmar parliament is to build national reconciliation and lead the country towards true democracy.
The Lao side ex pressed admiration for the achievements of the people of Myanmar in national construction, and appreciated the success of the implementation of the seven steps towards building national reconciliati on and democratisation.
Pany said she highly valued the visit of the Myanmar delegation, which contributed to developing friendly and cooperative ties between the two neighbouring countries, and building an effective relationship between the two legislative bodies.
U Khin Aung Myint and his delegation arrived in Laos on Saturday and will stay in the country until tomorrow. He also paid a visit to Prime Minister Thongsing Thammacvong yesterday.
Today, the Myanmar delegation will leave Vientiane for a northern province, and will return to Vientiane tomorrow to call on President Choummaly Sayasone.
Laos is the first country U Khin Aung Myint has visited since he assumed his post as Speaker of the Amyotha Hluttaw. He will leave Laos for Vietnam tomorrow.
Myanmar's president promises second wave of reform
ReutersReuters – 38 mins ago
(Reuters) - Myanmar's government wants to triple GDP per capita over the next few years, President Thein Sein said on Tuesday, outlining what he called "a second wave of reforms" that would focus on the country's economic development after decades of stagnation.
"... By the 2015/2016 budget year, for our government, we are aiming to work to increase GDP per capita three times from the base year," he said in a speech carried live on state television that detailed a five-year national plan.
Thein Sein took office in March 2011 and his government has quickly pushed through a wave of political and economic reforms, notably bringing in a managed float of its currency and drawing up a new foreign investment law.
"In the first year of power, the national government has been speedily working on political reforms and national reconciliation," the former junta general said.
"From this year onwards, we are working on a second wave of reforms which will focus especially on the development of the country and the public. On the other hand, we will continue to work on national reconciliation, national peace and stability and the rule of law, and the safety of the public."
(Reporting by Reuters staff reporter; Writing by Alan Raybould; Editing by Martin Petty)
Aussino plans to sell petrol in Myanmar
Magdalen Ng, Asia News Network (The Straits Times), Singapore | Business | Tue, 06/19/2012 7:54 AM
The beleaguered home furnishings company Aussino Group hopes to revive its fortunes by moving away from its bedlinen retail business to start selling petrol in Myanmar.
It will buy a company with a foothold in Myanmar, which is projected to be one of the best growth prospects in the region.
Aussino's strategy was outlined by the firm in a filing with the Singapore Exchange yesterday.
It disclosed that it has signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding with the Max Myanmar Group Of Companies.
Aussino proposes to acquire the entire issued share capital of Max Strategic Investments, which intends to operate petrol kiosks in Myanmar after the acquisition.
Little is known about the firm.
An Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority search revealed that Max Strategic was set up only on June 15, and has a paid-up capital of S$2 (US$1.57). Its sole shareholder is David Wang, 27.
Under the memorandum, Aussino will buy Max Strategic's share capital for S$60 million. The funds will be raised by a share issue.
Once the acquisition has been completed, 85 percent of all of Aussino's business and undertakings will be sold to Anthony Lim, a director and controlling shareholder.
Aussino has operations in Australia, China, Malaysia and Singapore, where it has outlets in 12 locations including Plaza Singapura, The Clementi Mall and Jurong Point.
No details were provided as to how much Lim will pay for the stake. It is also unclear if the company will move out of the bedlinen business completely after the deal.
In the announcement, Aussino said: “The proposed acquisition presents an opportunity for the company to acquire a new operating business with growth potential in an emerging market.”
“In addition, [it has] the potential to significantly increase the market capitalization of the company, and potentially widen [its] investor base.”
This announcement was enough to send Aussino's shares soaring 22.4 percent to close at 10.4 cents on Monday.
The company was placed on the Singapore bourse's watch list last September, after recording three consecutive years of losses.
Firms that lose money for three years running, or if their average daily market capitalization falls below S$40 million over 120 market days, go on the watch list. They may then have their shares suspended from trading or be delisted, but may apply to be taken off the list if their financial health is restored within two years.
Aussino's plight has not improved. It suffered a net loss of S$1.04 million in the third quarter ending March 31 while revenue declined 12.8 percent to S$11.12 million from a year ago.
Its loss for the nine months was S$4.39 million.
Aussino attributed the poor performances to a S$3.2 million fall in sales from closed stores and counters in China.
Safety fears restrict relief work after Myanmar riots
ReutersReuters – Fri, Jun 15, 2012
SITTWE, Myanmar (Reuters) - Armed troops patrolled Myanmar's northwest city of Sittwe on Friday as a fragile peace held in the wake of days of sectarian violence that has stoked nationalist fervor and displaced 30,000 people, with many feared dead.
Heavy rain kept many residents indoors in the Rakhine state capital and police and aid groups struggled to get food to thousands of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingyas displaced by rioting and arson that have presented a big test to Myanmar's 15-month-old quasi-civilian government.
United Nations officials told Reuters three of their staff, two from the UNHCR refugee agency and one from the World Food Programme (WFP), all Myanmar nationals, had been detained by police in the Rohingya-dominated town of Buthidaung for unknown reasons.
The WFP had provided hundreds of sacks of rice to some areas, said Aye Win, spokesman for its operations in Myanmar.
"We will try to get to other camps as soon as we can, when it is safe and secure. We are doing as much as we can. We will go in but security is paramount," he added.
More than 20 houses were burned down late on Thursday in a village near Sittwe, residents said, adding to the 2,500 torched in the past week. But there were no reports of further deaths.
An unknown number of people fleeing the turmoil were currently adrift in boats on the Naf River that marks the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh, the UNHCR said. Bangladesh, like Myanmar, does not recognize Rohingyas as citizens, and has turned back several boats this week.
The violence, which the government said had killed 29 people and displaced 30,000 as of Thursday, is a major setback for a rapidly reforming Myanmar that has seen a year of dramatic political change after 49 years of oppressive military rule.
The new government has made peace and unity among Myanmar's many ethnic groups its mantra and has struck ceasefire deals with minority Karen, Shan, Mon and Chin rebels, among others, after decades of hostilities.
The Muslim community's Friday prayers were canceled in Sittwe and surrounding villages to avoid a repeat of riots that erupted in the town of Maungdaw a week ago and spread to other parts of Rakhine state.
"Officials do not want large gatherings and want to avoid more violence. They (Muslims) will be able to pray at home," Shwe Maung, a Muslim member of parliament for the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, told Reuters.
What triggered the rampage of rock-hurling, arson and machete attacks is unclear and the subject of heated debate, with protests taking place in other regions and Facebook pages and other websites inundated with inflammatory comments.
There is entrenched, long-standing animosity in the state bordering Bangladesh between Rakhine Buddhists and stateless Muslim Rohingyas, of whom there are an estimated 800,000, most living in abject conditions.
The crisis has put President Thein Sein in a tight spot. His government is under pressure from rights groups and Western countries to show compassion towards the Rohingyas but if there is any change in policy towards them, it could face the wrath of the public, many of whom regard them as illegal immigrants.
U.N. special envoy to Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, who visited Rakhine state on Thursday, praised the government for a "prompt, firm and sensitive" response to the crisis and in a statement called for a "full, impartial and credible" investigation into the incident urgently.
A dawn-to-dusk curfew remained in place in Sittwe and many Rohingyas had been moved out by security forces, said Hla Maung, who is in charge of a camp looking after Rakhine Buddhists, close to a near-empty Rohingya neighborhood.
On a visit to the Philippines, Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Wunna Maung Lwin told Reuters everything was being done to ensure the situation remained stable.
"We have taken care of everything, we give priority to the stability of the state. Sittwe is back to normal," Wunna Maung Lwin said.
Nobel laureate and opposition parliamentarian Aung San Suu Kyi expressed concern over the violence on Thursday.
Speaking in Switzerland on the first leg of a five-country European tour, she sidestepped a question about whether she supported granting citizenship to Rohingyas and said resolving the Rakhine conflict required "delicacy and sensitivity".
Relations between the two communities have always been uneasy and tension flared last month after the gang rape and murder of a Buddhist Rakhine woman that was blamed on Muslims.
That led to the killing of 10 Muslims in reprisal on June 3, when a Buddhist mob stopped a bus they were travelling on. The passengers had no connection to the murdered woman. State media said three Muslims are on trial for the woman's death.
(Reporting by Reuters staff reporters; Additional reporting by Manny Mogato in Manila; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
Suu Kyi says Myanmar must clarify citizenship laws
By Victoria Klesty
LOSBY GODS, Norway | Tue Jun 19, 2012 2:25am IST
(Reuters) - Opposition leader said on Monday Myanmar must clarify citizenship laws underlying ethnic tensions in the country, but declared she was unsure whether Muslim Rohingyas at the centre of clashes could be regarded as nationals.
Secular violence between Rakhine Buddhists and stateless Muslim Rohingyas in the northwestern Rakhine region have clouded Suu Kyi's first visit to Europe in nearly a quarter of a century and has tested the country's fragile transformation.
"If we were very clear as to who are the citizens of the country, under citizenship laws, then there wouldn't be the problem that is always coming up, that there are accusations of that some people do not belong in Bangladesh, or some people do not belong in Burma," Suu Kyi told a news conference.
The violence, which displaced 30,000 people and killed 50 in Myanmar, also known as Burma, flared last month with a rampage of rock-hurling, arson and machete attacks, after the gang rape and murder of a Buddhist woman that was blamed on Muslims.
Tensions stem from an entrenched, long-standing distrust of around 800,000 Muslim Rohingyas, who are recognised by neither Myanmar nor neighbouring Bangladesh, and are largely considered illegal immigrants.
"We are not certain exactly what the requirements of citizenship laws are," said Suu Kyi, who spent a total of 15 years under house arrest between 1989 and her release in 2010.
Asked whether the Rohingyas should be regarded as Burmese, she replied, "I do not know."
"There are some who say that some of those who claim to be Rohingyas aren't the ones actually native to Burma, but have just come over recently from Bangladesh," she said.
"On the other hand Bangladesh says no, they don't want them as refugees because they are not native to Bangladesh but come from Burma," said Suu Kyi, who accepted her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize on Saturday and her 1990 Rafto human rights prize on Sunday.
The violence has put both Suu Kyi and Myanmar President Thein Sein in a tight spot. The government is under pressure from rights groups and Western countries to show compassion towards the Rohingyas but a policy shift risks angering the public.
The tension is also testing the quasi-civilian government which emerged from a 2010 vote, which has surpassed expectations in introducing a series of reforms to try to rid the country of its pariah status after decades of isolation and decay.
Suu Kyi became a member of parliament this year following her triumph in a parliamentary by-election that the president had convinced her to take part in after winning her trust.
The world's major powers honoured the shift in Myanmar, suspending long-standing sanctions to encourage a full move to democracy and to share Suu Kyi's cautious optimism.
Suu Kyi left Norway on Monday after three days and flew to Ireland to receive Amnesty International's highest honour at a star-studded concert in Dublin.
Irish rock star Bono, a long-time supporter of Suu Kyi, presented her with the Ambassador of Conscience award, an honour the rights group has given to a handful of campaigners including Nelson Mandela and former Czech President Vaclav Havel.
Suu Kyi was given a two-minute standing ovation at the start of the concert, which featured performances by Irish rocker Bob Geldof, British actress Vanessa Redgrave and Irish dance troupe Riverdance.
She flies to fly to London on Monday evening and will wrap up her tour of Europe with a visit to France.
(Additional reporting by Lorraine Turner and Conor Humphries in Dublin; Editing by Diana Abdallah and Louise Ireland)
Philippines seeks Myanmar help in China dispute
AFPAFP – Fri, Jun 15, 2012
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario (right) shakes hands with his Myanmar counterpart U Wunna Maung Lwin during a meeting in Manila. The Philippines has sought Myanmar's support in its maritime territorial dispute with China as the foreign ministers of the two Southeast Asian countries met in Manila
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert …
The Philippines sought Myanmar's support in its maritime territorial dispute with China as the foreign ministers of the two Southeast Asian countries met on Friday.
Philippine foreign secretary Albert del Rosario said he brought up the two-month long standoff in the South China Sea in his talks with visiting Myanmar Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin in Manila.
"We discussed the West Philippine Sea issue, the peaceful resolution of the dispute in accordance with international law," del Rosario said, using the Philippine term for the South China Sea.
China and Myanmar are close political and economic allies.
Del Rosario said he brought up the "code of conduct" that some Southeast Asian nations had been promoting to prevent conflict in the sea where several of them have conflicting territorial claims.
"Foreign minister Lwin said they are looking at it (the proposed code) and we hope that they will consider it," he added.
The discussion came as Philippine and Chinese ships maintained their standoff over the Scarborough Shoal, an outcropping in the South China Sea which they both claim.
The dispute began after Chinese government vessels blocked Philippine ships from arresting Chinese fishermen at the shoal in April.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters close to the coasts of neighbouring countries while the Philippines says the shoal is well within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.
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Lifting Sanctions on Burma's Regime would be a Mistake
Mr. Sa Long
New Delhi, India