A Suu Kyi presidency would bring ‘chaos,’ says firebrand monk – The Irrawaddy
November 28th, 2013
BY SIMON ROUGHNEEN AND SANAY LIN
RANGOON — U Wirathu, the Mandalay-based monk who heads the “969” anti-Muslim movement, believes that democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi would not be a good president for Burma.
“I wish [President] Thein Sein to be re-elected. If he refuses to go for the post, my vote will go to Shwe Mann,” said the controversial monk—whose speeches and sermons are said to have fueled anti-Muslim violence across Burma since June 2012.
Both Suu Kyi, the former dissident and now opposition parliamentarian, and Shwe Mann, a former No. 3 in the old military junta, have stated their interest in becoming president after the 2015 parliamentary elections. Incumbent Thein Sein, Shwe Mann’s Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) colleague, has not said whether or not he will put his name forward after the 2015 elections.
While describing Suu Kyi as “a good revolutionary” and praising her for having “sacrificed her life for the people,” U Wirathu described the long-time political prisoner as “weak at governance.” (more…)
A New Dawn? – The Irrawaddy
November 28th, 2013
Could the SEA Games revitalize Myanmar sport?
Story appears in Dec. 2013 Irrawaddy print magazine
By SIMON ROUGHNEEN / NAYPYITAW
Yangon was once Southeast Asia’s aviation hub, pre-junta Myanmar had probably the region’s best education system, and the country’s living standards were as good as those of any of its neighbors. All that changed, however, after a 1962 coup. Gen Ne Win’s search for the “Burmese Way to Socialism” led to Myanmar’s rapid economic decline, leaving it a moth-eaten economic outlier where nowadays only a quarter of the population has electricity.
That fall from grace was also mirrored in the country’s sporting performance. In the 1960s, Myanmar topped the SEA Games medal table twice, and as late as 1979, it managed a third place on the medal-winners ranking. For the most part, however, since the SEA Games were last held in Myanmar in 1969, the country has slipped into sporting oblivion, falling way behind neighbors such as Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and, more recently, Vietnam, who all have done well at the SEA Games.
“The government didn’t support the people who play sports or assist talented young people to develop their sport abilities,” U Khin Maung Htwe, a long-time sports journalist in Yangon, told The Irrawaddy. “Our country had a good name in the past for sports, but during the military era, the government wanted us to be isolated.” (more…)
A taste of India in Yangon – The Irrawaddy
November 28th, 2013
Story appears in Dec. 2013 Irrawaddy print magazine
YANGON – In any conversation about India, it’s very important to get in a mention of your tolerance of spicy food as soon as possible. That should be followed up by a mention of how India is the world’s biggest democracy, a vast and colorful nation of contrasts and strong smells and Bollywood and handy cricket players and more gods and call centers than can be counted.
Once the clichés are out of the way, it’s often better just to eat. And the spicier the better, for I can handle some of the hottest – just saying. Well, as hot as a freckly, grey-skinned, ginger-headed and probably drunken Irishman can handle.
In Yangon, there’s arguably no better place for Indian food than The Corriander Leaf, between the Summit Parkview and Yangon International Hotels on the Ahlone Road, and all told a ten or fifteen minute taxi ride from the downtown Sule Pagoda area, depending on the traffic. (more…)
School of law a small step to rule of law – The Irrawaddy
November 27th, 2013
RANGOON – Burma’s need for “rule of law” is a long-standing mantra of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi—a slogan the former political prisoner has held up as a contrast to the opaque and arbitrary nature of military rule.
With a civilian-led but army-backed government in power since early 2011, a wide array of social and economic reforms have been passed or are in train, though many of these, such as rules requiring police permits for public protests, have been criticized as restrictive. Still other laws, such as new draft bill on forming NGOs, have been praised, though the latter has yet to be signed into law.
“In our country law and order and better rule of law are needed,” said Nyan Win, a confidante of Suu Kyi and a 1968 law graduate from the University of Yangon. (more…)
Ahead of elections, Thilawa pitched as jobs booster – The Irrawaddy
November 26th, 2013
RANGOON — Officials hope that the soon-to-start “Special Economic Zone” at Thilawa near Burma’s commercial capital Rangoon will underpin a jobs boom in time for the country’s 2015 elections.
Building work at the 6,000-acre Thilawa SEZ will begin soon, according to Set Aung, deputy governor of Burma’s Central Bank. Set Aung told The Irrawaddy that “we hope that construction will be finished by 2015 and that commercial operations at Thilawa will have commenced by then.”
If so, there could be jobs for voters in time for the 2015 elections, which will likely take place in late 2015 and will see the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) face-off against the now-unshackled National League for Democracy (NLD), the party led by former dissident Aung San Suu Kyi.
Win Aung, president of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), predicts that the first phase of the Thilawa SEZ will see garment, furniture and car manufacturing factories established—bringing tens of thousands of new jobs for some of Burma’s estimated 37 percent unemployed.
“These will be part of the first of three phases of development at Thilawa,” he told a group of Japanese business representatives in Rangoon last week. (more…)
Japan awakes to revamped Dawei – The Irrawaddy
November 25th, 2013
RANGOON — After last week’s takeover of the proposed Dawei port and economic zone project by the Burma and Thai governments, Japan’s government and private sector are taking a renewed interest in the project after previously appearing lukewarm to the proposition.
“Dawei Special Economic Zone [SEZ] is a very important project for the region,” said Tadashi Maeda, managing executive officer of Japan Bank for International Co-operation (JBIC), a state-owned bank, speaking at a Rangoon business seminar staged by Japanese media company Nikkei.
Bangkok-based Italian-Thai Development (ITD) signed a deal in November 2010 to develop the Dawei SEZ, but in the years since has not managed to convince investors to back the building work needed to realize the port and adjacent facilities—a failure that prompted last week’s bilateral takeover by Bangkok and Naypyidaw. (more…)
Burma’s public service media unlikely before 2015 elections – The Irrawaddy
November 23rd, 2013
Burma’s Information Minister Aung Kyi says it could be late 2015 before state broadcaster Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV) becomes a public service outlet
RANGOON — Burma’s Information Minister Aung Kyi says it could be late 2015 before state broadcaster Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV) is changed to a public service outlet.
A public service media bill aimed at overhauling the government mouthpieces has been sent to Burma’s army-dominated Parliament, but a lengthy discussion period is expected before the changes are implemented and MRTV takes up its projected public service role.
“I think public service media will be discussed in coming sessions of Parliament. It will take at least six months or more to be discussed in both Houses, and if there are any differences or arguments between them, it will go again to the Union Parliament,” Aung Kyi told The Irrawaddy on Friday. (more…)
KIA deputy in landmark Rangoon speech – The Irrawaddy
November 20th, 2013
RANGOON — The Kachin Independence Army’s (KIA) deputy chief of staff on Tuesday evening addressed a packed hall in Rangoon, ahead of talks about a nationwide ceasefire involving all of the country’s armed groups.
Gen Sumlut Gun Maw, a senior figure in the main ethnic minority militia still at war with the Burma Army, spoke to around 700 Kachin at a Baptist church in Rangoon, after arriving in Burma’s commercial hub Monday to apply for a Burmese passport.
In a wide-ranging and lengthy address discussing the state of negotiations between the KIA and the Government, as well as social and economic conditions in Kachin State, Gen Gun Maw put the onus on the Burma government to push for peace.
“The government’s attitude counts for more than the KIA in moving to a nationwide ceasefire agreement,” he said. (more…)
Telenor still negotiating with Burma Govt over telecoms license – The Irrawaddy
November 19th, 2013
RANGOON — Burma’s much-anticipated foreign-offered mobile telecommunications services are unlikely to be available before August 2014, as negotiations continue over finalizing network operator licenses and related telecoms rules.
“We are in discussions with the government about the draft license and we expect that to complete by the end of this year,” Telenor Myanmar CEO Petter Furberg said during a press conference in Rangoon on Tuesday.
After the license is awarded, Telenor says it will launch its mobile network within eight months, beating the deadline set out by the Burma Government, which also stipulates that awardees have five years to offer voice services across 75 per cent of the country and data services, such as mobile internet, across half of Burma’s terrain. (more…)
Senior KIA figure visits Rangoon, fresh fighting in Kachin State – The Irrawaddy
November 18th, 2013
By LAWI WENG & SIMON ROUGHNEEN/ THE IRRAWADDY|
RANGOON — Fighting between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) continued over the weekend in southern Kachin State’s Mansi Township, where fresh clashes displaced about 2,000 villagers, according to Kachin aid groups.
The skirmishes came as KIA Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Gun Maw visited Rangoon, where he said that the militia hopes for a ceasefire with the Army but cautioned that political negotiations need to come after a ceasefire.
“The main issue is a guarantee about political dialogue,” Gun Maw told media in Rangoon on Monday. “We can only know how solid the guarantee is if the parties sit down and discuss.”
However, ongoing fighting in Kachin State is clouding prospects of a ceasefire between the Burma Army and the KIA. (more…)