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.
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.
CambodiaLandgrabs, corruption, allegations of racism and, as it turned out, claims by the opposition that the vote was flawed, all overshadowed July 2013 elections in Cambodia. Both Hun Sen's long-ruling Cambodian People's Party and the opposition, led by Sam Rainsy, are claiming victory after a contest notable for the high percentage of young voters, and, it seems, the fading memory of the brutal Khmer Rouge era. Photo – Boeng Kak lake in central Phnom Penh. Sand now occupies the former lake, the landfill serving as the foundation for what will be a hotel/office complex, in what has been possibly Cambodia's best-known landgrab case. Photo taken by Simon Roughneen, Nov. 2012.
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.
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.
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.
MalaysiaAfter several opposition-backed protests by Malaysians seeking reform of what they see as a rigged electoral system, the May 2013 election saw a narrow win for the Barisan Nasional, who lost the popular vote but retained office via what the opposition said was a gerrymander. Photo – Police fire teargas at protestors seeking changes to the electoral system. Taken by Simon Roughneen, Kuala Lumpur, July 2011.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…)
Blair follows in Clinton’s footsteps at Myanmar Peace Center – The Irrawaddy
November 15th, 2013
RANGOON – They were the late-1990s peacemakers–Third Way buddy-cops whose ready smiles, demonstrative hand gestures and varnished empathy helped broker deals in places as different as Kosovo and Northern Ireland.
And as night follows day, on Friday Tony Blair trailed Bill Clinton to Rangoon’s Myanmar Peace Center, with the former British Prime Minister giving a similar speech to the ex-US President—only 22 hours later and to a slightly smaller crowd.
Echoing the geographic content of Clinton’s Thursday talk, Blair’s Friday foray mentioned the Middle East, Northern Ireland and Nigeria. And as Clinton gave a touching first-person anecdote about reconciliation in post-genocide Rwanda, Blair recounted a meeting held right after the 1998 Omagh bombing, a terrorist act carried out by an Irish Republican Army (IRA) splinter group that ranks as the single deadliest atrocity of the thirty-year conflict in Northern Ireland.
Blair recalled being told by one of the bereaved that “I just lost the two people dearest to me in the world. But I want you to go and work to make sure that no one suffers the way I am now.” (more…)
Naypyidawdling – The Edge Review/RTÉ World Report
November 15th, 2013
www.theedgereview.com (magazine available here, but app/subscription only)
http://www.rte.ie/news/player/world-report/2013/1201/ – radio version here. Broadcast Dec. 1
Making sense of Myanmar’s capital
By SIMON ROUGHNEEN / Naypyidaw
With its water-slides, swings and cafés half-hidden in the shrubbery, Naypyidaw’s Fountain Park is designed as an evening retreat for Myanmar’s civil servants and their families – somewhere to chill out after a day’s toil inside the city’s imposing and far-flung government buildings.
In major cities elsewhere in the world, urban parks function as relaxing oases, getaways from the hectic city outside.
But in Myanmar’s eight-year-old capital, the logic seems to be the reverse, with imperious highways – not streets – linking the city’s far-flung districts, and the roadways, some nearly wide enough to have a horizon line of their own, mostly as quiet as a rural side-road.
The idea of Fountain Park, it seems, is to drown out the silence outside. “I’m a Barbie girl in a Barbie world” screeched from the park’s speakers, a gratingly-memorable line from a song once listed by Rolling Stone magazine as among the world’s most annoying. (more…)
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton praises Burma transition – The Irrawaddy
November 14th, 2013
RANGOON — Speaking in Rangoon on Thursday, former US President Bill Clinton talked up Burma’s political reforms, calling the country’s transition from military rule to a nominally civilian government “remarkable.”
“The whole world has been pulling for Myanmar since you opened up,” Clinton added.
It wasn’t all backslapping, however, as the former American president, whose two terms in office ended in 2001, warned that Burma needs to involve ethnic minorities more closely in government, saying “it is important to have inclusive and transparent politics.”
On his first visit to the former military-ruled country, Clinton gave a 40-minute speech that was wide-ranging in its political allusions—drawing on the former president’s first-hand work on peace processes in the Balkans, the Middle East and Northern Ireland—but was short on specifics directly related to Burma. (more…)
Naypyidaw’s synthetic Shwedagon shimmers, but in solitude – The Irrawaddy
November 13th, 2013
A pagoda constructed as a replica of the most sacred shrine in Burma shines a light on the quirks of the country’s built-from-scratch capital.
NAYPYIDAW — While the entry fee for foreigners visiting Rangoon’s Shwedagon Pagoda has been jacked from US$5 to US$8—coinciding with the tourist high season—accessing Naypyidaw’s Uppatasanti Pagoda costs no more than whatever a visitor wants to donate to the giggly ladies who watch over pilgrims’ shoes, which must be removed inside the temple gate before taking the lift up to the pagoda promenade above.
There’s supposedly a $5 entry fee for Naypyidaw’s smaller-by-a-foot facsimile shrine, but nobody asked for money during The Irrawaddy’s temple tour, a two-hour traipse during which about 40 others visited the temple. Similarly absent were the white elephants—deemed auspicious in local lore—that are kept near the pagoda, though the giant beasts usually shelter indoors and away from the glaring sun during daytime, before emerging for visitors at dusk. (more…)
Security in, spitting out for SEA Games – The Irrawaddy
November 11th, 2013
NAYPYIDAW — At the entrance to the new Wunna Theikdi sports complex in Naypyidaw, an array of soldiers and police peer into the taxi, taking turns to fire off questions.
“Excuse me sir, where are you going?”
“Do you have business here?”
“The Games do not start for more than a month.”
A 10-minute huddle of conversations and phone calls later, entry to the complex is granted, but only after The Irrawaddy can confirm that interviews have been lined up inside. (more…)