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.
Indonesia to Australia: stop crossing the line – The Christian Science Monitor
January 17th, 2014
Indonesia isn’t satisfied with Australia’s apology for entering Indonesian water to return boats with asylum seekers.
BAGAN, MYANMAR - Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said today that Australia‘s recent incursions into Indonesian waters were “disturbing” and dismissed Canberra’s apologies for the recent incidents as not enough.
“We find it unacceptable for them to simply say that it is something that had taken place without their knowledge,” says Mr. Natalegawa, speaking to The Christian Science Monitor after a meeting of southeast Asian foreign ministers in the northern Myanmar town of Bagan today.
Australia apologized to its northern neighbor earlier today, saying that Australian naval operations to stop so-called “boat people” from entering Australian waters had “inadvertently” crossed into Indonesian domain. Australia said that the navy’s moves were due to technical errors and happened without the government’s knowledge. (more…)
Sectarian violence in Burma has regional impact, says Indonesian Foreign Minister – The Irrawaddy
January 17th, 2014
BAGAN – Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said Friday that Burma’s ongoing Buddhist-Muslim violence has ramifications outside of the country, citing attempts by Indonesian terror groups to attack Burma’s Embassy in Jakarta last May, a plot hatched apparently in retaliation for attacks on Muslims in Burma since mid-2012.
“While it is an internal matter, it obviously impacts all of us. There have been cases of terrorist activities driven by these developments elsewhere, so we have to be keenly concerned,” the minister told The Irrawaddy, speaking after the closing of a meeting of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) foreign ministers. (more…)
On South China Sea, ASEAN chair Burma ready to mediate – The Irrawaddy
January 16th, 2014
BAGAN, Mandalay Division — Burma’s government is hopeful that it can make progress on mediating the divisive South China Sea dispute during its 2014 chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
Ye Htut, Burma’s deputy information minister and spokesman for President Thein Sein, said Burma hopes the issue can be resolved through dialogue, with Naypyidaw pinning its hopes on making progress with a long-delayed agreement over the disputed sea.
“We are hoping we can move forward on the CoC on the South China Sea. We will try our best to achieve this,” Ye Htut told The Irrawaddy, referring to the long-delayed Code of Conduct (CoC) for claimant parties to the South China Sea. (more…)
Thailand’s premier rejects calls to step down as protests roil Bangkok – Los Angeles Times
January 14th, 2014
BANGKOK – As anti-government protesters continued their siege of the capital, Thailand’s embattled prime minister on Tuesday rejected growing calls for her resignation, saying she had a “duty to preserve democracy.”
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra dismissed the protesters’ threats to detain her if she didn’t step down, insisting that she was not clinging to power for her own sake. “I’d like to say right now I am not holding on [to power] but I have to keep political stability,” Yingluck said.
Bangkok endured its second consecutive day of mass street demonstrations aimed at delaying a Feb. 2 election that the ruling government is expected to win. The latest round of protests has so far been peaceful.
The protesters, led by opposition politician Suthep Thaugsuban, threatened to cut power and water to government ministers’ homes in one of their more aggressive moves in Thailand’s months-long political crisis. (more…)
Protesters begin Bangkok ‘shutdown’ calling for Yingluck to step down – The Irrawaddy/BBC World Service: Outside Source
January 13th, 2014
BANGKOK — Hundreds of thousands of protesters seeking an unelected council to run Southeast Asia’s second biggest economy took to the streets of Bangkok on Monday, blocking off several major roads and intersections in an attempt to “shut down” the city and force interim Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down.
“We want a government that doesn’t have corruption,” said protester Sukira Komuang, sitting under a banner reading “Restart Thailand,” and awaiting the arrival of protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban to the same intersection that four years ago was the epicenter of a violent army crackdown on supporters of the current government.
The latest round of Thailand’s now eight-year-old cycle of street protests started after the Yingluck-led government sought to push a wide-ranging amnesty bill into law, a move interpreted by opponents as a gambit to allow her elder brother Thaksin return to Thailand without having to face jail. Over the years, the on-off protests have involved groups both supporting and opposed to the current administration,
“This government is for one family, not for the people,” Sukira Komuang said, referring to the Shinawatra clan. Thaksin Shinawatra, himself a former Prime Minister, fled Thailand after being hit with corruption charges in 2008. (more…)
Constitution reform set to overshadow busy Parliament schedule – The Irrawaddy
January 11th, 2014
By SIMON ROUGHNEEN & HTET NAING ZAW
RANGOON — What looks likely to be a querulous Parliament session will open in Naypyidaw on Monday, with legislators set to discuss a series of controversial measures on voting eligibility, inter-religious marriage and protestor rights, as well as new laws aimed at modernizing Burma’s business realm.
Khin Maung Swe, leader of the small National Democratic Force (NDF) party, told The Irrawaddy that the coming session would be hectic, with MPs likely to be deluged with an array of diverse topics covering business, governance, religion and the economy.
“There are so many things that will come up in the Parliament,” he said. “We have to cover many issues.” (more…)
Hong Kong recruiters pitch for Burmese home help – The Irrawaddy
January 8th, 2014
RANGOON — A delegation of Hong Kong recruitment agencies is in Burma in an attempt to drum up interest in a proposed scheme to allow Burmese citizens to work as domestic helpers in the Chinese special administrative region.
Ahead of a discussion with officials from Burma’s Ministry of Labor in Naypyidaw on Thursday, the Hong Kong Chamber of Employment Agencies met with Burmese recruiters in Rangoon on Wednesday, explaining the nature of domestic work in Hong Kong along with related matters such as labor law and the respective rights and obligations of employers and workers in the sector.
Anticipating a decline in the numbers of maids from Indonesia and the Philippines, the two main source countries in the past, Chamber chairman Joe Chow told The Irrawaddy that there could be up to 20,000 jobs to be filled over the next four years, for Burmese seeking work as domestic helpers in Hong Kong.
“The numbers from the previous countries of recruitment are receding and there is now opportunity for other countries,” Chow said. (more…)
Burma’s state mouthpiece to relaunch as broadsheet in March – The Irrawaddy
January 7th, 2014
RANGOON — The New Light of Myanmar, Burma’s English-language government newspaper, will relaunch as a broadsheet within the next two to three months, according to its chief editor.
Than Myint Tun said that “approximately at the beginning of March we will relaunch The New Light of Myanmar.”
The chief editor hinted to The Irrawaddy that The New Light of Myanmar—long-derided as vehicle for Panglossian government PR—will have a gravitas-laden new look.
“We will have a broadsheet, as opposed to the current tabloid format, and will have a wide variety of news,” he said. (more…)
Go easy on us – The Irrawaddy
January 6th, 2014
This article appeared in the The Irrwaddy’s January 2104 monthly print magazine, published Jan. 1.
Myanmar officials ask for patience from would-be investors
YANGON – Mitsubishi might be among the Japanese brandnames lining up to invest in Myanmar, with deals done for revamping Mandalay’s airport and building a power plant at the proposed Dawei Special Economic Zone in Myanmar’s far south, but that didn’t hinder a senior company representative from telling it like it is to some Nay Pyi Taw government representatives.
“There are too many laws, frankly speaking. We have to study so much to enter into the country,” said regional Asia and Oceania CEO Toru Moriyama, speaking at a business seminar in Yangon hosted by Nikkei, the Japanese media conglomerate.
While Myanmar has passed several new codes aimed at attracting investors and pepping-up economic reforms, such as the 2012 Foreign Investment Law, some moth-eatenlaws remain in place, such as the 1914 Companies Law and, even older, the 1872 Evidence Act. (more…)
Filipino workers Join Burma’s opening economy – The Irrawaddy
January 6th, 2014
MANILA — New data showing that Philippine workers based in Burma remitted US$150,000 to their homeland in 2013 is perhaps another small signal of Burma’s economic reintegration with the wider world.
The numbers, in the latest Philippine central bank statistics on remittances to the Philippines, show a rise from $0 to $150,000 for August 2013, with Burma joining the 24 Asian countries and dozens of others worldwide where about 10 million Filipinos have moved to work and send money back to families at home.
Money remitted by overseas Filipino workers is worth about 10 percent of the Philippines’ $250 billion economy, with the latest central bank data showing $18 billion worth of remittances for the first 10 months of 2013—numbers that are likely to jump later when money sent back to families affected by the Nov. 8 Typhoon Haiyan—known as Yolanda in the Philippines, where it killed over 6,100 people—is taken into account. (more…)