|News Headlines - September 18, 2012|
September 18, 2012
Mission of Burma - Dan's Silverleaf - 9/14/12
By Andy Odom Mon., Sep. 17 2012 at 7:00 AM
Mission of Burma's 1982 album, Vs., is a classic, but they've now reached a unique tipping point. Their output since 2002's reunion has surpassed that of when they were initially active in the early '80s, and the praise for each album, the latest being Unsound, has been consistent. Such a late-career renaissance is unique, especially when vitality and urgency is preserved.
In fact, their set at Dan's appeared to be a celebration of the band as a unit. This was particularly apparent when deciding what song to play for their encore, which ended up being "Academy FIght Song." A rather obvious choice considering it's one of their signature songs, but all the more interesting considering another signature song, "That's When I Reach For My Revolver," went missing, even after making appearance the night before in Houston." Drummer Peter Prescott even commented on how sad it was that a bunch of old men couldn't remember their own song titles. Don't trust anyone over 30? Screw that.
That could have worked as a slogan for the evening. Denton's excellent Shiny Around the Edges and Austin's punchy The Gary opened the show, each highlighting some aspect of Mission of Burma's sound. Shiny's dark songs were a great ice-breaker, and Mike Forbes' sax, already a known commodity, pushed that affect over the edge with his jagged trills and runs, as singer/drummer Jenny Seman pounded her floor tom.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the evening was watching the crowd, which did trend slightly younger. While Dan's has the unfair reputation of being a country bar by some, one doesn't often see a mini-mosh pit in front of the stage, like the one that broke out during Mission of Burma's set.
Tuesday September 18, 2012
Parkson ventures into Myanmar
SINGAPORE: Seven years after entering Vietnam, South-East Asian department store owner Parkson Retail Asia Ltd is battling headwinds, but that isn't deterring it from expanding into Myanmar in search of growth.
Singapore-listed Parkson, which has 54 stores criss-crossing Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia, was one of the first to enter the Indochina market, and now hoped to apply some of the lessons learnt from Vietnam to Myanmar, where it expected strong consumer spending and economic reforms.
“We are dealing with a country with a huge population and very little services provided. Retail is still very much, compared to neighbouring countries like Vietnam, in the backwaters,” Parkson's group managing director Alfred Cheng told Reuters.
Parkson competes with regional players such as Robinson Department Store PCL, AEON Co Bhd and Ramayana Lestari Sentosa Tbk PT, but is the largest player in Vietnam.
Cheng: ‘We are dealing with a country with a huge population and very little services provided.’ Cheng: ‘We are dealing with a country with a huge population and very little services provided.’
Comparing his experience in Vietnam, Cheng expected Parkson to see double-digit sales growth in Myanmar in the first four to five years, potentially in the 20% to 30% range.
Parkson's early years in Vietnam could give it an upper hand in understanding consumer spending trends in Myanmar a similar emerging market, Cheng said, adding that many businesses in Myanmar were already familiar with Parkson due to trading activity between the two countries.
Although Cheng conceded that Myanmar was not ready for a full-fledged department store now, it planned to open a relatively small one at 40,000 sq ft in Yangon before March 2013 to test consumer behaviour and train local staff. After years of isolation, resource-rich Myanmar has sped up policy changes, prompting companies to express interest in investing in the country. Reuters
Myanmar reforms press council after criticism
(AP) – 16 hours ago
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar's government on Monday replaced a press watchdog agency criticized as repressive with a new more liberal council in another boost for freedom of expression.
The action came at the initiative of new Information Minister Aung Kyi, whose predecessor was more closely identified with the hardline policies of the former military government.
The new council reduces the powers that the earlier agency, established Aug. 9, had to vet foreign publications and initiate criminal and civil complaints against journalists. Aung Kyi took office at the end of August.
There has been an easing of restrictions on freedom of expression since last year, when the elected nominally civilian government of President Thein Sein began political and economic reforms after almost five decades of repressive military rule.
The abolition in August of direct media censorship was the most substantive move so far toward freedom of the press. However, several laws still exist that pose legal threats to the media, and daily newspapers remain a state monopoly.
The new council, like the old one, is an interim body pending establishment of a permanent press council after a new media law is passed by parliament.
The defunct interim council had 20 members, while the new one has 28, including some from the old body and an increased number of journalists, and is chaired by a retired supreme court judge.
'State to benefit from ties with Myanmar'
TNN | Sep 18, 2012, 05.02AM IST
KOLKATA: Though India alone can't limit Chinese influence in the country, it can be done if ties between India and Myanmar improve, feel experts. Moreover, West Bengal and Kolkata will also can benefit greatly from it. if relations between India and Myanmar improve.
Speaking at a seminar organized in Kolkata by the Centre for Eastern and North Eastern Regional Studies - Kolkata (Ceners-K) and The Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi, on Monday, Major General (retd) Arun Roye of Ceners-K said that the major projects of India in Myanmar were yet to take off.
"India should concentrate on projects with the private sector where large scale funds and investment are required. Indian companies could go for be encouraged to set up joint projects with ASEAN and Japanese companies that as they are likely to have an increased presence in the region. As India alone can't limit Chinese influence in the country, engagement with these countries will help in reducing Chinese influence," he said.
This was felt by experts at a seminar organized in Kolkata by the Centre for Eastern and North Eastern Regional Studies - Kolkata (Ceners-K) and The Indian Council of World Affairs, New Delhi, on Monday.
In 2002, the Indian Consulate General in Mandalay was re-opened and the Consulate General of Myanmar was set up in Kolkata. Apart from Myanmar's strategic importance, there are immense possibilities for trade ties between the two countries and West Bengal - being the gateway to the northeast - would pay an important role. However, for this, the situation in the northeast first needs to improve.
Speaking at the event, Major General (retd) Arun Roye of Ceners-K said, "The major projects of India in Myanmar are yet to take off. India should concentrate on projects with the private sector where large scale funds and investment are required. Indian companies could be encouraged to set up joint projects with ASEAN and Japanese companies, as they are likely to have an increased presence in the region. As India alone can't limit Chinese influence in the country, engagement with these countries will help in reducing Chinese influence.
"A serious study therefore must be conducted in India on the ethnic issues plaguing Myanmar. that have resulted in a continuing state of internal conflict in that nation, including ones that have in the past been exploited by the People's Republic of China. This would also contribute to resolving India's ethnic problems.
The border regions are also involved in the production of opium poppy and it appears that Chinese interests have got involved in the heroin trade. India may even like to co-operate with the Government of Myanmar to develop programmes promoting socio-economic development within the ethnic areas of the border regions," added Roye.
He pointed out how the Indian and Myanmarese Armies had co-operated in 1995 to strike against insurgent groups. Even as the ambushes were on, the Indian government announced an award for Aung San Suu Kyi. The ruling military junta in Mynamar immediately called off the operations.
According to Lt Gen (retd) J R Mukherjee, if development of the northeast is to take place, the security situation will have to improve.
"Assam is the hub of the northeast and we have to develop this state. Recently, there were ethnic clashes between the Bodos and immigrants in lower Assam. There were also ethnic clashes in Myanmar between the Buddhists and Rohingyas and the latter entered Mizoram, Assam and Tripura. The Rohingyas weren't provided shelter by Bangladesh and nearly 50,000 fled. Many of them entered Mizoram, Assam and Tripura. Elsewhere in the country, there were threats of retaliatory attacks on people from the North East.
Things his is how things are interconnected. In Nagaland and Manipur, everybody pays tax to militants. A truck moving to the Indo-Myanmar border at Moreh, Manipur, has to pay nearly Rs 1 lakh to insurgent groups. Automatically, the commodity pricing goes up.
The security situation will have to improve if we are to think of better relations with Myanmar and development of the northeast," he said.
MYANMAR: No Retreat
Myanmar Article Index : Current 2010 2011 2012
INFORMATION WARFARE: Microsoft Does China
SUBMARINES: Miami Survives The Heat
ETHIOPIA: Under New Management
ARTILLERY: Looking At The DF-16
INTELLIGENCE: OSINT Gets Some Respect
MYANMAR: No Retreat
LIBYA: Facing The Consequences
CHINA: The Assimilation Wars
MURPHY'S LAW: The Armies Of Ignorance
SURFACE FORCES : Is This The End Of Sejong?
SUBMARINES: Vietnamese Kilo Hits The Water
LEADERSHIP: The Bill For Independence Comes Due
SYRIA: The Bloody Long Shot
NAVAL AIR: Hull Number 16 Replaces Shi Lang
SOMALIA: Kismayo Saved By Attacker Greed
COUNTER-TERRORISM: India And The Sinister Saudi Connection
ATTRITION: The Long Goodbye
SUBMARINES: The Cocaine Boats Head For Europe
YEMEN: Al Qaeda Fleeing UAVs For Safety In Syria
AIR WEAPONS: The Mavericks Of Indonesia
NBC WEAPONS: Once More Anthrax Is Back
NIGERIA: A Fatal Mistake
INFORMATION WARFARE: Victory and Deceit
WARPLANES: Low, Fast And Out Of Control
MURPHY'S LAW: Chinese Culture Clash In India
ATTRITION: Heron TP Grounded No More
POTENTIAL HOT SPOTS: Well And Truly Pissed In Mali
INFORMATION WARFARE: No Place To Hide
THAILAND: Less Violence, More Negotiation In The South
KURDISH WAR: Iran Invades Turkey
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September 17, 2012: China is not happy that its $3.6 billion dam project in the northern tribal lands is still stalled because of popular opposition. Pipeline building projects (to get Persian Gulf oil to western China more cheaply) are also under pressure. Because of that, and the recent switch from dictatorship to dictator-approved democracy, finding the right people to bribe in Burma has been difficult. The Chinese will keep trying until they find the right combination of Burmese officials they can buy or coerce.
Meanwhile, the military keeps fighting tribal rebels in the north. Peace deals are frequent and don't last mainly because the army continues its aggressive patrolling and tend to fight any armed rebels it encounters. Even with the new democratic government, there is not a lot of trust between the tribal groups and the more numerous lowland Burmese.
Another intractable situation concerns the Moslems in northwest Rakhine State. In the last three months violence there has caused over a thousand casualties, most of them Moslem, and left thousands of buildings destroyed. This has displaced nearly 100,000 people (about 75 percent Moslem). The Moslems and Buddhists have never gotten along in Rakhine State and there's always been some tension. Until recently the military government suppressed any open talk of these problems. But since the elections last year, there's been more freedom of the press and that has included more public discussion by Buddhists about how much they dislike the Moslem Rohingyas. Burma is about 70 percent ethnic Burmese (Burman) and 90 percent Buddhist. Only four percent of the 60 million Burmese are Moslem and a little over half of the 2.4 million Moslems are Rohingyas. Burma and neighboring Thailand and parts of Vietnam are an island of Buddhism surrounded by Moslems who are seen as aggressive and threatening. That fear goes back for centuries, even though most of the Moslem converts to the south and east were obtained by persuasion, not conquest. India, to the west, was a different story, the Moslems there have been fighting for nearly a thousand years to force Hindus (and any other non-Moslems) to convert. The current wave of Islamic terrorism is seen as another chapter in that sad story.
Most of the current Burmese ethnic and religious violence is in Rakhine State, which has a population of 3.8 million with about 800,000 of them Moslems, mostly Rohingyas. These are Bengalis, or people from Bengal (now Bangladesh) who began migrating to Burma during the 19th century. At that time the British colonial government ran Bangladesh and Burma and allowed this movement, even though the Buddhist Burmese opposed it. Britain recognized the problem too late, but the Bengali Moslems were still in Burma when Britain gave up its South Asian colonies after World War II (1939-45).
Bangladesh has refused to take these Moslems back as Bangladeshis, and the Rohingya have come to consider themselves a separate group. Burma never let the Rohingya become citizens, which helped stoke tensions between the Moslems and Buddhists. Bangladesh has long had too many people and illegal migration to neighboring areas (mainly India) has been a growing problem. In the 1990s, an outbreak of violence led to over a quarter million Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh. Some 28,000 are in refugee camps in Bangladesh, another 200,000 live outside the camps in Bangladesh and some are in Thailand, where they are considered economic migrants and thus illegal. The Rohingya have the support (for being allowed to stay in Burma) of the worldwide Moslem community. This makes the Burmese more determined to defeat this "Moslem invasion" and the more militant Buddhists are demanding that the Rohingya be expelled from Burma. That won't work because no one will take them. Moslem countries don't believe in that kind of retreat and that scares the Burmese Buddhists even more. Despite the stand-off, thousands of Rohingya are fleeing, mostly to Bangladesh, which does not want them. The Burmese are forcing Rohingya in the northwest to move to all-Rohingya communities and encouraging Rohingya to stay away from non-Moslems.
There is similar fear of the non-Burmese (and often non-Buddhist) tribes in the north. In this case it's the Burmese who are invading the thinly populated tribal territories and the tribes don't like it. The tribal areas were not part of Burma until Britain made it so when their Burmese colony was granted independence after World War II. That bit of post-colonial nation building has never worked out.
The generals who ran the half-century old military dictatorship are still key players in the new democracy. The reform minded generals (who convinced their fellow generals to allow democracy or face eventual economic collapse and civil war) got themselves and many of their allies elected to the new parliament. Other generals still control the military, police, and large chunks of the economy. While the generals have given up a lot of power, they still hold onto a lot of it and are unwilling to give it all up. The democratic reformers, who have been fighting the generals for decades are proceeding carefully, as they also want to avoid provoking the hardline generals into another military takeover and civil war.
The generals are slowly giving up a lot of their power, along with the tools they used to maintain their dictatorship. The parliament is passing laws, despite many pro-military members, that attack military privilege and control. With more long-time reformers in the government many aspects of military rule are being torn down. This includes censorship and tools like a secret blacklist, that named Burmese who were not to be allowed to travel abroad and foreigners who were never to be allowed to enter Burma. The pro-military members of the government are fighting complete elimination of the blacklist, and pro-military officials can still make it difficult for reformers to get passports.
August 28, 2012: President Thein Sein pardoned three Burmese Moslems employed by the UN who were recently convicted by a Rakhine State court of aiding Rohingya rioters and inciting unrest.
August 26, 2012: India believes that several tribal separatist groups have fled to Burma after Bangladesh security forces attacked the camps they had long used along the Indian border.
Burma plays the race card
Myanmar's pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has extolled Buddhism for allowing her a sense of inner freedom during her 15 years of house arrest. She's also said that Buddhist precepts can guide her country's democratic transition, encouraging reconciliation with the military instead of anger and revenge.
But the more nationalistic face of this Buddhist tradition, brought into focus by recent violence directed against Rohingya Muslims in the western state of Rakhine, could yet derail democratic reforms in Myanmar (also known as Burma).
In fact, Suu Kyi has a Buddhism problem, specifically the chauvinism and xenophobia of Burma's Theravada Buddhist culture, which encourages a sense of racial and religious superiority among majority ethnic Burmese Buddhists (60% of the population) at the expense of ethnic and religious minorities. The resulting tensions could leave the country politically fragmented and strengthen the military's hand just as it has been forced to loosen its grip.
This is why Derek Mitchell, the first U.S. ambassador to Burma in 22 years, was right in August to call the fate of the ethnic nationalities the country's "defining challenge." It is also why this issue should be on the top of the agenda this week when Suu Kyi comes to Washington to receive the Congressional Gold Medal. So far, Suu Kyi's response to treatment of the stateless Rohingya Muslims in Burma has been disappointing.
The anti-Rohingya violence, which took place in June, led to scores of deaths, the burning of settlements and a refugee exodus of 90,000 people into neighboring Bangladesh. There, more than 200,000 refugees from Burma still languish in makeshift camps from the last anti-Rohingya pogrom 20 years ago. According to the United Nations, the Rohingyas, who number about 800,000 worldwide, are one of the world's most persecuted minorities.
They are subject to forced labor, extortion, police harassment, movement restrictions, land confiscation, a de facto one-child policy and limited access to jobs, education and healthcare. A 1982 Burmese law denies them citizenship, based on the presumption that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, even though many have lived in Burma for generations. There's also their darker skin color, which makes them "ugly as ogres" by comparison to the "fair and soft" complexion of native Burmese, as a Burmese consul general stated in 2009.
Burmese President Thein Sein has said that the solution to the Rohingya problem is to put them into internal U.N.-administered camps, or to expel them. This proposal already has enhanced his popularity as a defender of the Buddhist faith, with monks taking to the streets in support.
But other minorities have been put-upon by Buddhist nationalism too, which views them as threats to "the land, the race and the religion." Many of these groups, such as the Karen, the Shan, the Mon and the Kachin, have been in a state of rebellion off and on against the central government since Burma gained independence in 1948.
Buddhism played a key role in undermining the military's grip on power. Opposition of monks to the regime, which boiled over in 2007's Saffron Revolution, posed a significant challenge to the military's popular legitimacy by depicting it as an enemy of Buddha sasana, or righteous moral rule. To deflect that challenge, the government has played the race card, largely through propaganda stressing that Buddhism is the religion of "true Burmese" and that the health and purity of a uniquely Burmese form of Buddhism are at risk from "outside" contamination.
Although this strategy wasn't successful enough to fend off assaults on the military's legitimacy, it was effective at feeding Buddhist chauvinism and insecurity. The result has been a rising tide of nationalism in which the Buddhist majority might rally behind Suu Kyi and her monastic allies for greater democratic rights, but still sees other groups in a subordinate and often racist light.
As the violence against the Rohingyas played out, the newly liberated Internet lit up with racist invective. Using a pejorative for the darker-skinned Muslims, one commenter declared, "We should kill all the Kalars in Burma or banish them, otherwise Buddhism will cease to exist." A nationalist group set up a Facebook page entitled "Kalar Beheading Gang," which attracted 600 "likes" by mid-June. Meanwhile, monks in Rakhine state distributed pamphlets urging Buddhists not to associate with Rohingyas.
In Europe in June to receive her belated Nobel Peace Prize as the crisis peaked, Suu Kyi seemed at a loss to respond. Asked whether the Rohingya should be treated as Burmese citizens, she answered, "I do not know," followed by an equivocating statement about citizenship laws and the need for border vigilance. Neither she nor her National League for Democracy party denounced the attacks or the racist vitriol that followed them. NLD spokesman Nyan Win simply said: "The Rohingya are not our citizens."
Fledgling reforms in Myanmar marred by ethnic clashes
CARLOS SARDINA GALACHE
SITTWE, MYANMAR — Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Sunday, Sep. 16 2012, 10:19 PM EDT
By day, before the government curfew chases everyone inside, this bustling port town on the western coast of Myanmar appears eerily normal and ominously empty.
Since a spasm of deadly sectarian violence in June, the city’s Muslims – estimated at 40 to 50 per cent of the population – are nowhere to be seen. The biggest Muslim-majority neighbourhood, Narzi, is deserted. The conflict has driven some 100,000 Rohingya, a Muslim minority long reviled in mostly Buddhist Myanmar, into crude refugee camps or hiding.
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Ms. Suu Kyi speaks during a meeting with members of the Myanmar community at the Royal Festival Hall in central London on June 22, 2012.
Raw Video: Democracy icon Suu Kyi leaves for U.S. visit
The plight of the long-persecuted and stateless Rohingya is likely to intrude on an otherwise triumphant visit to the United States by Myanmar’s opposition leader and democracy icon, Aung San Suu Kyi. She has remained silent in the face of pressure from Britain, the United Nations and human rights groups to support their demand for citizenship.
The Rohingya issue will also shadow Myanmar President Thein Sein, who will make his debut at the UN General Assembly later this month. While his fledgling political reforms have prompted many western nations to ease their sanctions on Myanmar, his recent call for the Rohnigya to be expelled en masse to another country drew international condemnation.
Some 800,000 Rohingya live among two million Rakhine Buddhists in Arakan state and its capital, Sittwe, and periodic outbreaks of violence have erupted for decades. The government has now allowed some journalists there in recent weeks, in an apparent desire to show a certain openness to the world. The scars of the ethnic hatred were visible in a visit last month.
The latest clash was triggered by the reported rape and killing of a Buddhist girl in late May. Three Muslim men were detained and a week later, a Rakhine mob set upon a bus and killed 10 Muslim passengers. Soon Buddhist and Rohingya mobs went on a rampage of retaliatory killing and burning of each other’s homes, sending thousands of each group fleeing for refuge.
Human Rights Watch, which investigated the clashes, said the security forces – mostly Rakhine – did not intervene at the outset of the violence on behalf of either group, and then participated, committing killings, rapes and mass arrests of Rohingya.
Refugees on both sides confirmed that account in interviews.
Thoung Ngwe, a 45-year-old Rakhine woman living in the Budawmaw monastery refugee camp, said that when a group of Rohingyas attacked her neighbourhood, residents called the police, but they arrived only after five hours when the clashes were over and 70 seventy houses had been destroyed.
In the Tat Kal Pyin camp for Rohingya refugees, a man from Dwa Myaung village said, “the [Rakhine] and the Buddhist monks tried to set fire to the Muslim houses in my village. Then the Muslim community tried to stop the fire and the police forces started to shoot at the Muslims, so it was impossible for them to stop the fire.” The man, 34, had worked for a French non-profit group and was afraid to be identified by name.
The government eventually sent in troops to separate the communities and prevent renewed violence. But they are not merely separated: the Muslim population is caged into specific areas – refugee camps outside the city and confined to small ghetto-like quarters heavily guarded by the police and the army – while the Arakanese can move freely.
Those “Muslim quarters” were closed to foreigners. But some residents reached by phone said they were essentially prisoners, forced to buy food from the policemen guarding them at as much as 10 times the market price.
“This is not a religious conflict,” said Lieutenant Colonel Myo Min Aung, a stout man in his 30s in charge of the security force sent to Arakan. “This conflict was created by foreign extremists.”
It is a view that has widespread currency among the Buddhist population in Arakan and across Myanmar, where the Rohingya are often described as foreigners. While 135 minority groups are legally recognized as citizens, a 1982 law excluded the Rohingya.
A handful of prominent figures have supported them since the clashes. Ashin Gambira, a Buddhist monk and pro-democracy leader of the 2007 Saffron revolution, recently publicly condemned racism against Rohingya. But they are a distinct minority: two weeks ago, hundreds of Buddhist monks demonstrated for days in support of the President’s suggestion to deport the Rohingya.
Ms. Suu Kyi has kept silent on the issue, which arose repeatedly during her recent European tour, except to say that she does not know whether the Rohingya should be considered citizens or not. But U Win Tin, a founding member and leader of her political movement, was more direct. In an interview, he dismissed the Rohingya as “illegal immigrants” whose “human rights” should be respected but who should nevertheless be “contained” in camps.
The crisis in Arakan state opened a rift for the first time between a large part of the democratic opposition in Myanmar and their supporters abroad.
The Rohingya “pretend they suffer so much,” said Ko Ko Gyi, one of the leaders of the 88 Generation Students Organization. But, he added, “if the international community makes force or pressure on this Rohingya issue, it will have to face not the military government but most of our people.”
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Release All Political Prisoners and Stop War in Burma
Lifting Sanctions on Burma's Regime would be a Mistake
Mr. Sa Long
New Delhi, India