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.
Second Arakan probe to focus on policeman’s killing – The Irrawaddy
February 7th, 2014
RANGOON — A new government commission set up to investigate recent violence in northern Arakan State will try to establish the “root cause” of the death of a policeman said to have been killed by a Rohingya mob on Jan. 13, but does not say if it will address allegations made by the United Nations that almost 50 Rohingyas were killed either side of the policeman’s disappearance.
While specifying probing the death of policeman Aung Kyaw Thein, the commission remit mentions only other “deaths and injuries and loss of property in the incidents,” with regard to alleged violence in Maungdaw Township in northern Arakan State during January.
The new inquiry features both Arakanese Buddhist and Muslim representatives and was announced in the state mouthpiece The New Light of Myanmar on Feb. 7, and will be headed by Dr Tha Hla Shwe of of the Myanmar Red Cross Society. It is expected to report its findings to President Thein Sein’s government by the end of February. (more…)
Thai politician turned protest leader follows own script in political drama – The Christian Science Monitor
February 7th, 2014
PHUN PHIN, THAILAND - The politician’s house is hidden behind two giant billboards, one of Thailand’s revered monarch and the other of the crown prince. “Long Live the King. May it please Your Majesty the King, on behalf of Thaugsuban family,” read the signs.
In this corner of southern Thailand’s rubber-growing heartland, respect for the royal family is strong. But so too is respect – some might say fear – of the family of Suthep Thaugsuban, a veteran politician and dealmaker who is the face of antigovernment protests in Bangkok. He is a key player in a complex drama that, at its core, pits a conservative elite against an arriviste billionaire.
Last weekend’s parliamentary elections saw Mr. Suthep’s movement in full throttle: Protesters blocked polling stations in the capital in a bid to defeat Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s formidable political machine. In the south, an opposition stronghold, many districts had no candidates and hence no ballot.
The opposition Democrat Party, which boycotted the vote and backs the protesters, has asked Thailand’s constitutional court to annul the election. It’s unclear when special elections will be held for the uncontested seats, leaving the country in legislative limbo.
Protesters still occupy parts of Bangkok, though the crowds are thinning out. Ms. Yingluck’s caretaker administration is also fending off an uproar among rural supporters over unpaid rice subsidies. And Suthep continues to issued dire threats against the beleaguered premier. On Tuesday, he told a rally that the end was near. “Yingluck, it’s time for you to step down, your bad karma is catching up with you,” he said. (more…)
Southern animus – The Edge Review
February 7th, 2014
www.theedgereview.com – digital/app download available here (subscription)
PHUKET – About two dozen red, white and blue clad-protestors sat under a marquee outside City Hall in Phuket Town, watching TV coverage from Bangkok of the three month-old anti-government demonstrations that have stymied the administration headed by Yingluck Shinawatra’s Peua Thai party.
Charin Changin, Deputy Head of the Anuban School three hundred yards down the road from the almost—deserted rally, said that despite the small numbers, “most of the south supports the Democrat Party, so most people also support the protest.”
The Democrat Party is Thailand’s second-biggest party and draws much of its support from Thailand’s south, home to nine million people. But it boycotted the just-held Feb. 2 election after its members resigned as MP’s and lined-up behind the protestors led by Suthep Thaugsuban, himself a Deputy Prime Minister in Thailand’s last Democrat Party-led government, which was soundly beaten by Yingluck’s Peua Thai in 2011 elections.
Southern animus toward the government is partly down to the fact that Yingluck is seen as a puppet of her elder brother Thaksin, a former Prime Minister who was ousted in a 2006 coup and lives in self-imposed exile since fleeing graft charges in 2008. “Everything he control in Thailand, the police, everything, and his sister, “ Ansari Mansuri, Imam at the Yameay Mosque in Phuket, told The Edge Review. (more…)
With election disrupted, Thai protestors regroup – The Irrawaddy
February 3rd, 2014
BANGKOK — After blocking voting across parts of Bangkok and much of the anti-Government south of Thailand, the opposition-backed protest movement is marching again across the Thai capital.
The protestors are dismantling two stages set up for their January 13 “shutdown” of the capital, relocating to a park close to Bangkok’s main banking and finance district and saying they will target private residences of members of Thailand’s caretaker government.
With a 26 per cent turnout in Bangkok and with voting not taking place due to a boycott and blockade in the opposition-dominated south, the election, called in late 2013 by a Government under pressure from sometimes-violent street demonstrations, looks unlikely to do much to heal Thailand’s political divide. Overall turnout was 46 per cent out of the 44.6 million eligible voters in 68 of 77 provinces, while voting was disrupted in 18% of constituencies, amid scenes of anger and disappointment among some would-be voters.
“I want to vote, what they do is too much,” said Supawan Hachawee, standing behind a line of police keeping would-be voters and anti-government protestors apart in Bangkok’s Din Daeng area on Sunday. (more…)
Thailand: Millions kept from voting by anti-government protests – Los Angeles Times
February 2nd, 2014
BANGKOK — Protesters blocked polling stations and obstructed ballot boxes in parts of Bangkok and southern Thailand on Sunday, disrupting a contentious national election that appeared unlikely to resolve the country’s long-running political standoff.
In a coordinated campaign by anti-government demonstrators, some 6 million voters were prevented from casting ballots, according to election officials.
Thailand’s embattled prime minster, Yingluck Shinawatra, had called the election in December, hoping it would bolster her slipping grip on power. Although Yingluck’s Peau Thai party is expected to receive a comfortable victory when results are announced, it seemed unlikely that enough people had voted or that enough parliamentary seats would be filled to allow her to form a new government.
Officials said it was possible that voting in areas that were disrupted Sunday could be rescheduled, although protesters have vowed to continue their campaign to undermine the election and announced plans to march through Bangkok again on Monday. (more…)
A tale of two Thailands: Why the south will boycott Sunday’s election – The Christian Science Monitor
January 31st, 2014
http://gulfnews.com/news/world/other-world/a-tale-of-two-thailands-1.1285045 – syndicated to GulfNews
SURAT THANI – For months antigovernment protesters have rallied in Bangkok, blockading roads, occupying buildings, and vowing to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who has declared a state of emergency ahead of parliamentary elections on Sunday.
Behind the backlash in Bangkok is a deep pool of resentment here in southern Thailand, which has sent tens of thousands of protesters to the capital. The region has long had a distinct character from Thailand’s north, where Ms. Yingluck draws much of her support. Home to world-class beach resorts, Thailand’s south is wealthier than other regions. Discerning these differences is key to understanding the polarization that is dividing Thailand.
In the south, the majority supports the Democrat Party, the opposition party that has boycotted Sunday’s election and thrown its weight behind the protesters. At the last election in 2011, the Democrats came in second, but they have not won an election in two decades. Protesters say the electoral system has been hijacked by Ms. Yingluck and her brother, self-exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and needs to be reformed by a “people’s council,” but critics of the protesters see another move to topple an elected, Thaksin-backed government by undemocratic means.
At a restaurant in Surat Thani, a coastal city 330 miles south of Bangkok, Prapaporn Inthuputi, the restaurant’s owner, is glued to the ear-splitting TV coverage of the rallies. While she has not joined the flood of southerners to Bangkok, she shares the protesters’ belief that elections are not the answer to Thailand’s political standoff. (more…)
Myanmar claims Muslim militants targeted police officer – Los Angeles Times
January 25th, 2014
YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar’s government is continuing to push back against calls for an investigation into the reported massacre of more than 40 Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine state, saying that militants had infiltrated the restive region close to the Bangladesh border.
Myanmar’s foreign ministry claimed that an Islamic militant group was behind the disappearance and presumed killing of a police officer Jan. 13 in the village of Du Chee Yar Tan, and warned foreign countries against reaching “unjustified conclusions drawing from unverified information.”
“The attackers include those who took part in the arms training course run by so-called Rohingya Solidarity Organization,” read the foreign ministry statement, referring to a group that analysts in the past have called the main militant Islamist organization in the Myanmar-Bangladesh border area. (more…)
First meeting as ASEAN chair puts Myanmar in the spotlight – The Edge Review
January 24th, 2014
www.theedgereview.com – digital/app download available here (subscription)
Bagan, Myanmar - It was the first big meeting of Myanmar’s first year as the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – a conclave of the region’s foreign ministers held last week in the temple-strewn surroundings of Bagan, on the banks of the Irrawaddy River in north-central Myanmar.
“We will be discussing with our fellow ASEAN countries how to achieve the ASEAN community by 2015,” Myanmar Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin said before the meeting, referring to one of the big challenges facing Myanmar in its role as chair of the association.
The minister was speaking poolside at the lavish Aureum Palace Hotel, where a bridal suite-villa in the middle of Bagan’s temples goes for US$1,000 a night. The location was clearly chosen to impress. Bagan, a tourist draw where some 10,000 temples stood at the height of a 13th century Burmese kingdom, certainly is eye-catching at dusk when the red and brown pagodas merge, in the dust and haze, with the glowing sunset behind the Irrawaddy. (more…)
Burma’s inflation pains sharpest for poor majority: World Bank- The Irrawaddy
January 23rd, 2014
RANGOON — The World Bank has added its voice to concerns about Burma’s surging inflation, saying price rises prompted by a growing economy would likely have a greater impact on the country’s less well-off.
Kanthan Shankar, the World Bank’s Burma country manager based in Rangoon, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that “certainly it [inflation] is a concern and especially if it is to do with food prices, it tends to affect the poorest.”
The International Monetary Fund (IMF), a sister organization to the World Bank, said earlier this week that while Burma’s economy would likely grow between 7-8 percent over the coming three years, the current 6 percent inflation rate would likely persist. (more…)
Bagan’s tourist growth has downsides for lacquerware – The Irrawaddy
January 22nd, 2014
BAGAN, Mandalay Division — With 200,000 tourists visiting in 2013, a 20 percent jump from the year before, according to Burmese Tourism Ministry statistics, it should be boom time for Bagan’s lacquerware businesses.
The region’s lacquerware trade increasingly depends on visitors, coming to amble—and spend— in the ambience of the region’s 2,500 redbrick Buddhist temples, all sitting on a sun-baked plain by the Irrawaddy River.
“Mostly our business now is depending on tourism, maybe 80 percent,” said Maw Maw Aung, who runs the Bagan House Lacquerware Co in New Bagan, one of three towns in the region. (more…)