Myanmar anti-junta crusader and journalist Win Tin dies – Los Angeles Times

April 21st, 2014


in Tin speaks at re-opening of the party's Mandalay office in early 2012 (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

Win Tin speaks at re-opening of the party’s Mandalay office in early 2012 (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

YANGON, Myanmar — Win Tin, who was one of Myanmar’s most respected opposition leaders and who was jailed for nearly two decades by his country’s military rulers, died early Monday at age 84.

His death, attributed to organ failure, came as Myanmar marked the end of Thingyan, the Buddhist New Year, and five weeks after he was admitted to Yangon’s main hospital on the evening of his 84th birthday.

A former journalist who in 1988 co-founded the National League for Democracy party with his longtime ally Aung San Suu Kyi, Win Tin was one of the most prominent leaders of the movement to challenge the military junta that ruled what was then known as Burma.

“He was a major figure for our party and he was so, so admired by our people in Burma,” said Soe Win, another former political prisoner, speaking at NLD party headquarters in Yangon, Myanmar’s commercial capital. (more…)

Myanmar’s (not quite) free media – Nikkei Asian Review

April 4th, 2014


Burmese reporter films Deputy Information Minister and President's spokesman Ye Htut (seated, right) during ASEAN foreign minister's meeting in Bagan in January 2014 (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

Burmese reporter films Deputy Information Minister and President’s spokesman Ye Htut (seated, right) during ASEAN foreign minister’s meeting in Bagan in January 2014 (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

YANGON — After five decades of strict censorship and official suppression, Myanmar’s media are now considered freer than their counterparts in neighboring Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam and the Philippines, according to media watchdog organizations such as Reporters Without Borders.

“We have a free press now,” said Kyaw Min Swe, general secretary of the Interim Press Council, a journalists’ group set up by President Thein Sein to help draft the media law, one of two new journalism codes enacted in mid-March. During 2013, the government issued 31 permits to publish private daily newspapers — in a dramatic break with decades of military rule when only state-run dailies were allowed, including the now partially-privatized New Light of Myanmar.

Encouraging the surge of independent newspapers is the new media law, which aims to ensure the press can “freely criticize, point out or recommend operating procedures of the legislative, the executive and judiciary in conformity with the constitution.” (more…)

Making it count – The Edge Review

April 3rd, 2014


Myanmar kicks off its first census in more than three decades but Rohingya left off list – digital/app download available here (subscription)

By SIMON ROUGHNEEN / Pharmoon, Shan State, Myanmar

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

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

It took around 15 minutes for Than Phay – a stocky, tattooed farmer living with his wife, daughter and 88-year-old mother-in-law – to go through the 41 questions on the pink and white census form.

Sitting in an airy and darkly-varnished timber hut, with a dish of locally-grown strawberries within arms reach of the census form spread over a shin-high table, Than Phay went through the questions with Naing Naing Win, a local teacher working as one of around 100,000 census-takers helping to complete Myanmar’s first population survey in over three decades.

“It was fine, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with [the] questions, and it didn’t take so long,” Than Phay said. (more…)

Moving in – The Edge Review

April 3rd, 2014


Malaysian companies eye-up Myanmar – digital/app download available here (subscription)

YANGON – Malaysian builders are lining up for a piece of Myanmar’s hoped-for overhaul of its rickety infrastructure, with Naypyitaw calling for foreign investors to help lay roads and railways, as well as build more houses for a growing urban population.

Malaysian companies, backed by Putrajaya, see an opportunity. “A lot more Malaysian companies are now coming in to see about the development of Yangon and Myanmar as a whole,” said Sadat Foster, an assistant trade commissioner at Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade), the state trade agency, during an interview in Yangon. “Myanmar is the last frontier in ASEAN,” he added, “In terms of opportunities, it so big.” (more…)

Controversy marks start to Myanmar’s first census in three decades – Los Angeles Times

March 30th, 2014


Man rides past billboard promoting Myanmar's census in Taunggyi (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

Man rides past billboard promoting Myanmar’s census in Taunggyi (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

TAUNGGYI, Myanmar – Wearing a white t-shirt emblazoned with the national census logo, Tin Naing counted off the ethnic groups living in just one section of this regional capital in eastern Myanmar.

“Bamar, Shan, Pa’o, Intha – maybe 10 altogether,” said the bespectacled schoolteacher, who was overseeing 40 census-takers who had been out since dawn Sunday at the start of a 12-day nationwide exercise to count how many people live in this once-ostracized Southeast Asian country.

Documenting Myanmar’s array of ethnicities is but one of the challenges facing the country’s first census in three decades, with critics saying it could spark civil strife by asking delicate questions about identity and religion. Adding to the controversy, on the eve of the census the Myanmar government reneged on a pledge to allow a stateless Muslim minority to list themselves on the survey. (more…)

Water supply strains to meet demands of growing Rangoon – The Irrawaddy

March 28th, 2014


Men dig new water pipe in Rangoon's North Dagon township (Photo: Simon Roughneen

Men dig new water pipe in Rangoon’s North Dagon township (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

RANGOON — As the noontime temperature soared into the high 30s, Tin Oo helped sister Nyaunt Myint, 70, onto a timber bench in the front yard of the family’s home in northern Rangoon.

As the older sister propped her head under a folded towel, Tin Oo, 63, looked on. “She’s not feeling so well in this weather, and the water situation does not help,” said Tin Oo, voice raised above the sonorous incantations blaring out of a nearby Buddhist monastery.

There’s nothing as dramatic as a drought here, but clean water is hard to come by in this suburb of Burma’s biggest city. Here in North Dagon, some residents drill their own backyard wells, hoping to tap groundwater, while others, like Tin Oo’s family, depend on hand pumps set up in the yard and connected to a leaf-covered lake nearby.

Cranking the rusty old pump is heavy work for the elderly, with the hot season now reaching its peak. But for other, less well-off families in the area, getting water means ferrying buckets and jerrycans from the lake—work best left to the young in such heat. (more…)

Burma Lottery chief has vision of vaulting lottery into 21st Century – Asia Gambling Brief

March 28th, 2014


Football gamblers atching opening day of 2013-14 English football season in Tamwe, Rangoon (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

Football gamblers watching opening day of 2013-14 English football season in Tamwe, Rangoon (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

YANGON – Myanmar lottery chief Thein Naing sits in an office that could be the set of a colonial era movie – veneered walls trapping Yangon’s musty, late-afternoon summer air – a furnace cooled by a whirring ceiling fan. Outside in the steamy, whitewashed corridor, brown paper-wrapped boxes of lottery tickets are stacked, awaiting distribution to vendors across the Myanmar commercial capital.

Despite the creaky trappings, Thein Naing has big plans to modernise the Aung Bar Lay, the Burmese name for the monthly state-run draw that sells around 30 million tickets priced at 200 kyats (20 U.S. cents) each, and contributes $2 million a month in revenue to state coffers, once prize money is doled-out

“We want to have an electronic, or online lottery, as the ticket lottery is very limited,” says Thein Naing, discussing an early-days proposal to piggy-back the lottery onto some of Myanmar’s communications sector reforms. (more…)

Air safety to be tested as Burma readies for tourism boom – The Irrawaddy

March 27th, 2014


Aircraft belonging to Air KBZ, one of Burma's domestic carriers, parked at Heho Airport, gateway to Shan State in Burma's east (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

Aircraft belonging to Air KBZ, one of Burma’s domestic carriers, parked at Heho Airport, gateway to Shan State in Burma’s east (Photo: Simon Roughneen)

RANGOON — As Burma’s economy grows and tourist arrivals rise, aviation safety will be increasingly put to the test in a country long ago described as Southeast Asia’s air travel hub, but which more recently acquired a reputation for having one of the region’s worst air safety records.

“We believe we can handle that,” said Win Swe Tun, deputy director general at the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), when asked by The Irrawaddy if Burma’s air traffic infrastructure could safely manage a possible increase in tourist numbers from 2 million in 2013 to a projected 7 million foreign arrivals per year by 2020.

Earlier, DCA officials speaking at the Myanmar Civil Aviation Conference 2014 said Burma’s air traffic had increased by 32 percent each year over the past two years, with even higher growth expected in the coming years as tourist numbers rise and Burma’s economy expands. (more…)

New film law on the way for Burma – The Irrawaddy

March 25th, 2014


RANGOON — Burma’s Ministry of Information (MOI) is hoping to have a draft Motion Picture Law submitted to Parliament by the end of this year, with the country’s erstwhile film censors saying the proposed regime “will not have serious limitations.”

“We are drafting the new law focusing on the interest of all of the people from the movie world, such as artists, technicians and producers, as well as concerned businessmen and investors. We will also focus on their rights and to promote the movie world,” Thein Htun Aung, director of the MOI’s Myanmar Motion Picture Enterprise (MMPE), told The Irrawaddy on Monday.

The law is being drafted by the Myanmar Motion Picture Organization (MMPO), a sister organization to the MMPE. “For the last two months, we are discussing the draft every Friday,” said Lu Minn, president of the MMPO. (more…)

Whitewash? – The Edge Review

March 21st, 2014


Commission says allegations of massacre of Rohingya are unfounded – digital/app download available here (subscription)

YANGON – On the back foot since January after allegations that at least 40 Rohingya Muslims were murdered in Rakhine State, close to the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, the Naypyitaw Government last week received a vindication of sorts with the publication of a report by an investigation commission sent to the region by Myanmar President Thein Sein.

The United Nations and human rights groups had alleged revenge attacks on Rohingya, who were said to have lynched a Burmese policeman in revenge for earlier alleged disappearances, saw 40 Rohingya killed, with the severed heads of ten dead Rohingya, women and children included, found bobbing in a water tank in the border village of Du Chee Yar Tan.

But the Government-appointed commission concluded that “allegations that the police and the Rakhine community committed acts of atrocity after the death of Police Sergeant Aung Kyaw Thein are unfounded and were circulated by an entity seeking to discredit the present Government of Myanmar.” (more…)

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