BurmaTin Maung Win (pseudonym), a Burmese prisoner of war being held by rebels in Kachin State near the Burma-China border. (Photo: Simon Roughneen, December 2012). A military dictatorship for almost 50 years, Burma's recent reforms have legitimised western business interests as governments remove sanctions. However sectarian and ethnic fighting continues in Kachin, while Buddhist-Muslim tensions have erupted into violence in Arakan in the west and in central Burma.
PakistanStories from Kashmir after the 2005 earthquake, and from Sindh after the 2010 floods. These children were left homeless by the 2010 floods and had spent 2 weeks sleeping outdoors on the outskirts of Sukkur, Sindh Province by the time I took this photo.
Middle EastImpact of shelling and gunfire at a Sunni-Alawite interface in Tripoli, Lebanon. (Photo: Simon Roughneen, August 2008). This same street has seen fighting again in early 2013, partly an extension of sectarian clashes in Syria. Here are some stories from Israel, Lebanon and the West Bank from 2008 and 2010.
ThailandRedshirt protestors fire home-made weapons at Thai army positions in Bangkok during 2010 anti-government protests (Photo: Simon Roughneen). Stories here from Thailand on those protests, 2011 floods, harsh conditions facing Burmese migrants in Thailand, and more.
HaitiOne of tens of thousands of buildings felled in Port-au-Prince during the Jan.12 2010 earthquake (Photo: Simon Roughneen). Around 220,000 people were killed with 3 million more left homeless. Some reports here from the immediate aftermath of the disaster.
AfricaFarmer moving drought-affected cattle in southern Ethiopia, March 2006 (Photo: Simon Roughneen). Stories from recent years covering issues such as war in Darfur, drought in Kenya, drugs in Ethiopia, slums in Freetown, starting business in Nairobi, independence in South Sudan.
Timor-LesteSupporters of opposition party FRETILIN rally prior to East Timor's July 2012 parliamentary elections (Photo: Simon Roughneen). After the departure of International peacekeepers and the last UN mission, Timor-Leste faces the challenge of using gas and oil revenues to boost living standards and create a more diverse economy, before the resources run out.
The PhilippinesThe Manila metro (Photo: Simon Roughneen). As of mid 2012, The Philippines was growing economically, but relations with China remain thorny. While the country had peaceful and free elections in 2010, issues such as impunity for murders of journalists, corruption, and poverty in urban slum areas persist.
KosovoPosters in Pristina thanking the UK for its role in helping Kosovo break from Serbia (Photo: Simon Roughneen). Serbia and allies such as Russia opposed Kosovo's independence, with protests in Belgrade and Mitrovica right after the Feb. 2008 independence declaration.
IndiaMen waiting to board train from Bangalore, India's IT hub, to Guwahati, a day's travel away in India's northeast (Photo: Simon Roughneen). India's economy has stalled in the past year or so, with the government slow to reform in key sectors. Hundreds of millions of Indians have seen improved living standards in recent years, but, underlining the challenges of governing this vast country, hundreds of millions more remain poor. Some related stories here.
VietnamTraffic in Hanoi (Photo: Simon Roughneen). Vietnam's economy has sputtered in recent years, after a decade of high growth and hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign investment. Recent corruption scandals and whispers of in-fighting among the ruling Communist Party has been accompanied by more jailings of government critics, highlighting the one-party state's intolerance of dissent.
Burmese optimism after White House visit – Christian Science Monitor
May 21st, 2013
YANGON - Myanmar President Thein Sein’s historic Monday meeting with US President Obama has been well-received at home, with Burmese seemingly happy that the country is gaining some positive recognition on the world stage after decades of isolation.
Myanmar and the United States signed a new trade and investment promotion agreement on Tuesday, which they hope will boost the currently-miniscule commerce between the two countries, currently valued at $90 million.
“We are happy that our country is changing to democracy,” says Kyaw Moe Tha, an artist from Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-largest city. “And it is important for us that America and other Western countries increase contact with us.” (more…)
Trade and Investment Key Issues During Thein Sein’s US Visit – The Irrawaddy
May 21st, 2013
Rangoon—The first state visit to the United States by a Burmese president in almost 50 years went off largely as expected, with a strong emphasis on trade and investment, and some discussions of the ethnic and religious violence that has clouded the country’s transition from army rule.
US President Barack Obama promised American backing for the Burma government’s reforms, which he described as a work in progress, saying, “As President [Thein] Sein is the first to admit, this is a long journey and there is still much work to be done.”
Ahead of the Burmese President’s trip to Washington, it was widely expected that economic issues would be central to his visit.
William Aung, director at Thura Swiss, a Rangoon-based business consultancy, says that the trip panned out as expected. “U Thein Sein would ask Obama about technical, financial assistance and request US companies to invest in Myanmar,” he told The Irrawaddy. (more…)
Letter from Kampar: winning the election, losing Malaysia – Foreign Affairs
May 20th, 2013
http://www.foreignaffairs.com/features/letters-from/winning-the-election-losing-malaysia (published on Foreign Affairs on May 18)
He wouldn’t give his full name or his age — except to say that he had vivid childhood memories of Japan’s World War II occupation of Malaysia — but Lee, a Chinese-Malaysian shopkeeper in Kampar, a onetime tin-mining hub in the northwestern Malaysian state of Perak, didn’t hold back. “Politics in this country is about this: money politics,” he said, using the local shorthand for corruption. “The BN” — Barisan Nasional, or National Front — “is clever at it, and that means it is difficult for the opposition to win in this country,” he added. (more…)
On and off the table for Burma President’s White House visit – The Irrawaddy
May 17th, 2013
RANGOON — “It’s been quite a while,” might be the first thing US President Barack Obama and his Burmese counterpart Thein Sein say to each other when they meet next week.
How long? The last time a Burmese president visited the White House, Charles de Gaulle was president of France and England had just won the football World Cup. “The Sound of Music” was voted Best Picture at the Academy Awards and the average price of a new car in the United States was just over US$2,500. In Asia, China’s inaptly named “Cultural Revolution” was just underway, while Indonesia’s equally euphemistic “New Order” regime was asserting control over that vast archipelago.
Burma was four years into what would be five decades of military rule under then President Ne Win, who despite sending his country along the “Burmese Road to Socialism”—at the height of the Cold War, no less—received a warm welcome in Washington. (more…)
As cyclone nears, conflicting messages from the storm’s path – The Irrawaddy/BBC World
May 14th, 2013
chat here covering some of the issues below - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0184xrn
RANGOON — As Burmese authorities evacuate people in anticipation of Thursday’s storm, some say they are being moved into harm’s way, while in Bangladesh concerns mount that refugee shelters could buckle against strong winds.
Two days ahead of Cyclone Mahasen’s projected landfall along the Bangladesh and Burma coasts, the evacuation of thousands of Burmese Buddhists and Muslims sheltering in low-lying camps continued throughout Tuesday, according to aid workers and government officials.
Tens of thousands of people, the majority of them Rohingya Muslims, fled their homes in Arakan State during two bouts of deadly Buddhist-Muslim violence in 2012 that left at least 192 people dead and 140,000 homeless. Of those, around 70,000 have been staying in flimsy, low-lying coastal camp shelters, likely to be blown down or washed away by possible 100-mph winds and storm surges of several feet when the cyclone makes landfall later this week. (more…)
After disputed election, tensions rise in Malaysia – The Irrawaddy/RTÉ World Report
May 9th, 2013
story here. Broadcast May 12 http://www.rte.ie/news/player/world-report/2013/0512/
Georgetown, Malaysia – Tens of thousands of black-garbed Malaysians gathered in a football stadium on Wednesday night to hear opposition leaders denounce the outcome of Sunday’s election, which extended the Barisan Nasional’s (BN, or National Front) 56-year run in office.
The vote was marred by cheating, say supporters of the Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Alliance) opposition, clad in black as a protest against the result.
Seeking a recount for 29 seats he contends were won by dubious means, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim told the crowd in the opposition stronghold of Selangor – a business and industry hub near Kuala Lumpur – that “I would not quit until we reach Putrajaya, until we expose all (fraud) and claim Putrajaya for the rakyat (people).” (more…)
Malaysia’s ruling coalition hangs on against winds of change – Christian Science Monitor
May 6th, 2013
ALOR SETAR, MALAYSIA - Malaysia’s ruling coalition won a keenly-contested election Sunday, extending its 56-year run in charge of this Southeast Asian nation but with what looks to be its narrowest majority since independence from the UK in 1957.
Ahead of the election, some analysts thought the ruling National Front was vulnerable to a challenge spearheaded by Anwar Ibrahim, a former government insider who broke with the ruling coalition in the 1990s and sought to rally anger against government corruption and a bulge of youth voters hungry for democratic change. (more…)
Governing coalition wins Malaysia election – Los Angeles Times
May 6th, 2013
SIMON ROUGHNEEN AND MARK MAGNIER
PENANG, Malaysia — Malaysia’s ruling National Front coalition won a hotly-contested election Sunday, election commission officials announced, as voters opted for continuity and experience over opposition calls for reform.
The 13-party National Front win was called by the election commission early Monday morning, after it exceeded the 112 seat threshold needed for a majority. It was the coalition’s 13th consecutive general election victory since the country gained independence from Britain in 1957.
Prime Minister Najib Razak, 59, head of the majority United Malays National Organization party, led the ruling coalition to victory, hammering home the message to his largely rural conservative Muslim Malay base that the inexperienced opposition would ruin the economy and erode national security.
Malaysia set for closest-ever election – Christian Science Monitor
May 3rd, 2013
PENANG – Malaysia’s ruling coalition has since 1957 steered the country between race riots, a brief and stormy marriage with Singapore, and a communist insurgency to the country’s position today as one of the great economic success stories of the developing world.
But now its 56-year run in power since independence from Great Britain could be headed for the rocks. Malaysians will vote in a new parliament on May 5, and polls show a coalition led by former government insider Anwar Ibrahim has a shot at winning control of Southeast Asia’s third largest economy.
“This election is the first one that is not a foregone conclusion,” says Clive Kessler of the University of New South Wales. Despite economic growth under the current government, perception of corruption and growing calls for more democracy and greater accountability have dogged it, giving the opposition a foothold from which to challenge the government. (more…)
Evasive and divisive: Myanmar probe into Rakhine violence falls short – The Edge Review
May 3rd, 2013
pdf/digital versions here – http://www.theedgereview.com/
Yangon – The Muslims listening weren’t happy. Five of the 27 original members of the Rakhine Investigation Commission to the Government of Myanmar had just presented the findings of their long-awaited and much-delayed report into last year’s sectarian violence in the west of the country.
Among the recommendations the commissioners advocated included sending more soldiers to the region and strengthening the controversial border police — deemed part of the problem by human rights groups.
When asked at the press conference if the commission had found or heard of mass graves or encountered evidence of complicity among Myanmar security forces in the attacks on Muslims in Rakhine state — allegations contained in a Human Rights Watch report published a week previously — the five commissioners on the podium shook their heads.
“We did not hear of any mass graves,” said Yin Yin Nwe. “As for the army, all we know is that they moved to restore order between the two sides, after a few days.” (more…)