BANGKOK –- In most electoral democracies, it would have been an improbable scene. Despite facing arrest warrants for insurrection and murder, an anti-government protest leader was escorted by security into the country’s parliament house, where he lobbied the senate head to replace Thailand’s elected government with an appointed administration. The body language suggested that protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban was no mere supplicant. A row of senators led by Speaker Surachai Liangboonlertcha greeted Mr Suthep, clasping hands and smiling as if deferring to the bluff former deputy prime minister. Outside, as night fell, several thousand backers of Suthep’s People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) sat on the street, listening to speeches bellowed through megaphones from the top of a truck as the meeting took place. “They have exchanged opinion for now, that is all,” said Senator Anusart Suwanmongkol, speaking afterwards.
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-eaten laws remain in place, such as the 1914 Companies Law and, even older, the 1872 Evidence Act.
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.