Suu Kyi’s party drops first hints on plans – Nikkei Asian Review

Aung San Suu Kyi speaking at June 2013 World Economic Forum debate in Naypyidaw (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

YANGON – In a rare discussion of the party’s economic thinking, Han Tha Myint said the NLD wants to press on with the liberalization of the banking sector. In October 2014, nine foreign banks were awarded restricted licenses to operate in Myanmar as part of a gradual opening up to foreign investment. Foreign banks are limited to a single branch each, cannot serve individuals or locally owned companies, and are prohibited from making loans in kyat, the local currency. Han Tha Myint maintained the NLD would loosen these restrictions, saying, “It will be much better for the economy.”

Malarial malady in Myanmar – The Edge Review

Mae La refugee camp, north of Mae Sot in Thailand, and home to tens of thousands of Burmese refugees from a region where drug resistant malaria is re-emerging (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

YANGON – Southeast Asia is a potential flashpoint in the global fight to control malaria, with the widespread emergence of malarial parasites resistant to the front-line treatment artemisinin. Now researchers fear hundreds of millions of people are at risk in South Asia after drug-resistant malaria was found just 25 kilometres from the Indian border in northwestern Myanmar. “Emergence of artemisinin resistance in Southeast Asia poses a serious threat to the global control of Plasmodium falciparum malaria,” reads a new research report published in renowned medical journal The Lancet.

Myanmar education battleground sees a rare compromise – Nikkei Asian Review

Protestor seeking education reform marching in Yangon on Feb. 8 (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

YANGON – After 3 months of protest, a Feb. 10 deal on education reform allows activists help revise a divisive education law passed last year. Zaw Htay, a senior officer in President Thein Sein’s administration, told the Nikkei Asian Review that the deal between the government and the protestors was historic. “There has never been a compromise like this between the government and students in our history,” said Zaw Htay. But whether or not the education stand-off is over will depend on how parliamentarians react to the revised law. “So far, this is just a paper agreement, so we will wait and see what the parliament does,” lawyer Robert San Aung told the Nikkei Asia Review.

Obama visit unlikely to boost Aung San Suu Kyi – Nikkei Asian Review

U.S. President Barack Obama fields questions at Yangon University on Nov 14 2014 (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

YANGON – Standing next to Suu Kyi on Nov. 14, Obama said that barring the NLD leader “doesn’t make much sense.” But he did not raise the issue when speaking later at Yangon University. Nor did Suu Kyi’s eligibility come up during an hour-long question and answer session with students after the speech. Opinions differ about the importance of the clause. Lamin Oo, a Myanmar filmmaker whose name was mentioned by Obama during his speech, said afterwards that “if that issue was an important one for [young people] it would have come up in questions.” However, Kyaw Thu, a former actor turned philanthropist, said the constitution should be changed to allow Suu Kyi stand. “Obama should push for this with Thein Sein,” Kyaw Thu said.

Changed times – The Edge Review

Thida Aung and Tin Tin Tan await Obama's arrival near Yangon's Secretariat (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

YANGON – Myanmar has jailed several journalists this year, while one reporter, Ko Par Gyi, was murdered by the army in the country’s east. Some new laws have been heavily criticised, while calls to amend the country’s constitution, which gives the army a veto-wielding 25 percent of parliament seats, have not prompted any change yet.”I think we certainly did see a lot of reforms in 2012 and 2013, but 2014 has perhaps added an element of realism, with the concerns over the constitutional amendment process,” Melissa Crouch, Research Fellow at the National University of Singapore, told The Edge Review.

Fine Phayre – The Irrawaddy

The Phayre's by night (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

YANGON – Rip-Off Rangoon, where a plate of Lok Lak about half as good as you’d get in Phnom Penh costs US$10. Where a handful of veneered restaurants and bars slap on an extra couple thousand kyat, every few months, for diminishing portions of an exponentially-depreciating quality of fare. Refusing to join the race to the bottom is The Phayre’s Gastrobar a new restaurant with nighthawk aspirations next door to the famous Pansodan Gallery.

KDDI, Sumitomo raise stakes in Myanmar mobile battle – Nikkei Asian Review

On Sept. 2 in Yangon, an early morning queue for MPT's new  3G SIM cards  (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

YANGON – After partnering with KDDI and Sumitomo, Myanmar’s state-backed MPT in early September launched the first batch of 5 million $1.50 3G mobile SIM cards that it plans to sell this year. The release of the cards created minor havoc in Yangon’s downtown shopping district and elsewhere, drawing long queues.

Bye, by-elections – The Edge Review

Aung San Suu Kyi speaking at June 2013 World Economic Forum debate in Naypyidaw (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

YANGON – There was some feigned surprise when the election commission announced last weekend that Myanmar will not, after all, hold by-elections for 35 vacant parliamentary seats. The main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), said it was happy with annoucement. Commission head Tin Aye met with NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi on September 6, the day before the commission’s announcement.

Painting by numbers – The Edge Review/RTÉ World Report

Census taking in Pa-O village in Shan State in April  (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

YANGON – A little over six years ago, after holding a rigged referendum to adopt a disputed constitution, Myanmar’s junta announced, with almost comic certainty, that “the population of the country is 57,504,368,” despite not having held a census since 1983. Six years on, Myanmar’s nominally-civilian government can claim a better grasp on how many people actually live in the country.