YANGON — A Feb. 3 report by the U.N. Human Rights Council featured harrowing accounts by Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh of army abuses in northern Rakhine, including the gang rape of women and murder of children. In response to the report, Myanmar’s government, which is led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, initially softened its prior outright denials of military abuse and promised to investigate the allegations. But on Feb. 7, it said it needed more information from the U.N. Naypyitaw’s earlier denials had prompted criticism from around the world. On Jan. 20, Yanghee Lee, the U.N. human rights envoy to Myanmar, said: “For the government to continue being defensive when allegations of serious human rights violations are persistently reported, that is when the government appears less and less credible.”
BANGKOK — The United Nations believes that Burma’s economic prospects could be undermined by volatile commodity prices, as the country’s reliance on the the ups and downs of oil and gas revenues could hinder much-needed fiscal modernization The UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia-Pacific predicts 6.2 percent economic growth for Burma in 2012 but warns that the region remains vulnerable to fluctuating prices of commodities such as oil and the ongoing debt crisis in Europe. All the same, Western companies appear eager to tap into Burma’s natural resource bounty, as US and EU sanctions are relaxed or suspended in the wake of a succession of recent reforms such as the freeing of political prisoners and the holding of free and fair by-elections on April 1.
BANGKOK — When incumbent Jose Ramos-Horta lost the March first round of Timor-Leste’s presidential election, some saw it as the end of an era for Timorese politics that began with the country’s independence in 2002. Ramos-Horta, along with opposition leader Mari Alkatiri and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, have dominated since independence, with the top jobs of prime minister and president passing between the sometimes comrades, sometimes rivals. The new President of the country also known as East Timor is former army chief Taur Matan Ruak – a man the from same resistance fighter leadership that fought in the jungles against Indonesia’s elemental 1975-99 occupation, which by some estimates killed a third of the country’s people. Although the new President doesn’t have Ramos-Horta’s international profile, his personal prestige as army head and ex-jungle fighter backed by the opposition Fretilin party machine – meant that Ramos-Horta was knocked out of the race in the first round with 21 percent of the vote. Taur Matan Ruak is a nom de guerre, meaning “two sharp eyes” — a soubriquet he acquired after joining Timor’s Falintil resistance fighters in 1975.