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.
Hot season highlights Rangoon’s water woes – The Irrawaddy
April 26th, 2013
RANGOON — Pointing down at the three inches of water at the bottom of the school’s concrete tank, Seng Htoi wrinkles her nose. “It’s a bit salty for drinking, so we use it for washing mostly. But if we drink it, we have to purify it first,” she says.
The water supply here in Rangoon’s North Dagon Township is tapped from groundwater, but the u-bend pipe coming in over the top of the tank is running dry. A few finger-marked flecks of dust around the edges signal that someone was just checking the pipe for signs of even a trickle of much-needed water.
It is the hot season in Burma, and for millions, this means getting enough water—for drinking, cooking and washing—is heavy, thirst-inducing work when daytime temperatures top 40 degrees Celsius. (more…)
Delight and disappointment as Burma gets first cheap SIM cards – The Irrawaddy
April 24th, 2013
RANGOON — Until 10.30 am on Wednesday morning, Htet Htet Khaing was one of the tens of millions of Burmese who do not have a mobile phone subscription. That changed when her name was one of 70 called out at the Aung monastery on Mahabandoola Garden Street in Rangoon, in one of hundreds of public lotteries taking place for 350,000 widely-coveted new low-cost SIM cards.
“I’m so happy to win, a bit surprised too, as many people want [a SIM card],” said the 22-year-old student, speaking while local officials lifted green dockets out of silver bowls, holding them up for the crowd to see and hollering out the final few names and numbers in the draw.
The price of the new SIM cards—1500 kyat (US $1.70)—has prompted widespread interest in recent weeks in a country where telecoms costs have typically been wallet-emptying and where only an estimated 5-10 percent of people have a mobile phone subscription. (more…)
Ahead of 2015, voting system debate heats up in Burma – The Irrawaddy
April 22nd, 2013
RANGOON — Some of Burma’s smaller political parties want to change the country’s current first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting system ahead of national elections scheduled for 2015.
Parties such as the National Democratic Force (NDF) are seeking a move toward proportional representation (PR), which some say allows for a wider representation of parties in a country’s parliament and is based more closely on the spread of votes in an election than the FPTP system.
“There are many small parties in Myanmar now. The PR system can better guarantee our place,” says Khin Maung Swe of the NDF. Some of Burma’s smaller parties have been pushing for a voting system change since mid-2012.
However, the lead opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), is against any amendment of the current system, at least before the next election.
Party spokesperson Nyan Win told The Irrawaddy that “our stand is that the PR system is not fit at the present time, for the next election. We have to educate the Burmese people about any new system, and that will take time.” (more…)
Wait for official Arakan report, says Burma government – The Irrawaddy
April 22nd, 2013
RANGOON — Following publication of a Human Rights Watch report alleging government complicity in ethnic cleansing in Burma’s Arakan State, the government says it will not comment on the situation in the troubled region until its own findings are published.
Those findings are likely to be released on Tuesday.
“We have already formed the commission involving people from all sides of the community,” said Ye Htut, spokesperson for President Thein Sein, when asked by The Irrawaddy about the Human Rights Watch report.
Human Rights Watch alleged on Monday that “Buddhist monks organized and encouraged ethnic Arakanese backed by state security forces to conduct coordinated attacks on Muslim neighborhoods and villages in October 2012 to terrorize and forcibly relocate the population.”
“We don’t need to pay attention to any such reports as the Human Rights Watch,” added Ye Htut, who is also Burma’s deputy information minister . (more…)
Sad state of affairs: ASEAN AWOL vver Rohingya issue – The Irrawaddy
April 19th, 2013
RANGOON — According to Burma’s government, the Rohingya do not exist. Denied citizenship by an internationally criticized 1982 law, the stateless “Bengali immigrants” have in the past faced pogroms, persecution from the Burmese government and more recently from other Burmese.
Thousands of Rohingya have fled to countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand over the past year, giving Burma’s neighbors and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) an ostensible stake in addressing the Rohingya crisis.
But despite launching a new human rights body at the most recent ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh in November 2012—including a surprise clause acknowledging “universal” human rights norms—the group has largely stuck to its non-interference mantra. (more…)
From Iraq to Syria to Lebanon: Family’s exile tells of of troubled region – National Catholic Register
April 10th, 2013
BEIRUT, Lebanon — A small and spartan apartment above the Mar Elias Church in East Beirut is Iraqi refugee Nohoud Najib’s latest temporary home, a place she hopes will be no more than a way station to resettlement in a Western country.
“We don’t mind where we go, so long as it is safe. Some want to be close to the diaspora, but, for us, that is second,” she says, speaking a decade after the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the subsequent toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime.
The optimism that accompanied the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003, soon was drowned in the bloodletting and sectarian mass murders that ensued.
Though Iraq’s Shia Muslims felt the brunt of Sunni militant wrath to a greater extent than Iraq’s Christians, the latter were largely defenseless, and hundreds of thousands ended up fleeing their ancient, ancestral homeland. (more…)
In Lebanon, a doctor offers comfort and healing to refugees from neighboring wars – Christian Science Monitor
April 9th, 2013
BEIRUT - It takes him a good 20 seconds to get his bearings, but, sitting up in his bed, Matti Tourrani smiles and says hello, muffled by a drowsy cough. His right leg is swollen – so much that it is now twice as thick as his left. “It’s not so painful; I’m more concerned about my knee,” says the elderly man.
Mr. Tourrani has traveled with his wife, Maysoun, from their small village near Mosul in northern Iraq for knee-replacement surgery, a procedure that will cost more than $23,000 and for which the family mortgaged their house.
Their part of Iraq is still violent: Last week a bomb killed two people just a mile from their home. “We’re used to it by now,” Maysoun says.
But the family is concerned that they might have traveled in vain. Before any knee surgery, the leg must heal more, says Irad Beldjebel, a doctor who works helping Beirut’s unknown thousands of refugees. (more…)
Concerns grow in Lebanon about Syrian war impact – RTÉ World Report
April 7th, 2013
http://www.rte.ie/news/player/world-report/2013/0407/ – radio story here
TRIPOLI, LEBANON – Refugee *Ahmed Assam drives a bus in Tripoli, manning a daily run from Lebanon’s second city to towns and villages outside. He’s staying with relatives, who helped him find the job, but he’s lost touch with his siblings in Homs, one of many Ground Zeroes in Syria’s brutal civil war.
He is worried. “I haven’t heard from them for many months,” he laments, adding that “there are people coming from there to here every day, but no word about my family.
Zooming in on a photo on his mobile phone – a young man sat diffidently on a garden chair – Assam says, “my brother, he’s dead, killed by the army.” (more…)
Syria’s war shadow lengthens over Lebanon – The Edge Review
April 4th, 2013
pdf/digital versions here- http://www.theedgereview.com/
DALHAMIEH, Lebanon – Rolling up a green dress sleeve, 12-year-old Syrian refugee *Reina murmurs “chemical, chemical.” Her arm, what’s left of it, is distorted, wrinked and swollen – looking more more like a gnarled and ancient tree root than a human limb.
Inside her family’s shelter, a grimy hut made from a frame of uneven-sized timbers nailed together and covered in plastic sheetings and tarpaulin, others gather round. Most decline to have their full name quoted out of fear of reprisals.
“Look, look,” says Safaa, 16, pulling down a snot-covered sleeve from her baby daughter Noufa’s arm. Scabs and blotches cover the infant’s wrist and foream. Clasping the child to her chest, she stoops to reveal shins covered in rotten wounds, greying at the edges and crusted over in between.
Over the course of Syria’s two-year civil war, both the government and rebels accuse each other of using chemical weapons, a charge both sides deny. (more…)
L’Aquila, four years on – The Edge Review
March 29th, 2013
pdf/digital versions here- http://www.theedgereview.com/
L’AQUILA, Italy – The three bottles of red wine sit corked on the table, exactly where they were that night almost four years ago, when a deadly earthquake hit this mountainside town in central Italy.
Circling his gaze around to the cracks in the white plaster walls of his house, which he’d moved into just 10 months before the disaster and is still paying for, Lucio Paolucci says that he has no idea when – or even if – he can move back in.
“I hope so, I hope, but by now it is four years, and nothing much has changed,” he says, pointing with resignation to the vino. “I keep them there like that as a reminder, a keepsake.” (more…)