Posts tagged Myanmar
Posts tagged Myanmar
Bangladesh rebuffs pleas to admit people fleeing Myanmar violence
Bangladesh has rebuffed pleas from the United Nations and other groups to allow in Rohingya Muslims displaced by sectarian clashes in Myanmar, continuing to turn away their boats at its borders.
“It is not in our interest that new refugees come from Myanmar,” Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Dipu Moni told reporters in Dhaka, the capital, on Tuesday.
Border guards “foiled two separate attempts of Rohingyas to enter” Bangladesh on Wednesday, the national news agency reported, sending 70 people back to Myanmar. About 1,500 Rohingya fleeing Myanmar in boats have been turned back since the weekend, when clashes broke out with the majority Rakhine Buddhist population, the Associated Press reported.
“It is not in our interest that new refugees come from Myanmar,” Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni told reporters in Dhaka on Tuesday. She reiterated that position Wednesday, the national news agency said.
The United Nations’ refugee agency has called on Bangladesh to provide a haven for people fleeing the fighting in coastal Rakhine state, where rival mobs of Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims have burned homes and at least a dozen people have died. The violence in western Myanmar erupted after the lynching of 10 Muslims in retaliation for the rape and murder of a Buddhist girl, allegedly at the hands of three Muslims.
The Rohingya minority, estimated by the U.N. to number about 800,000, lack official acceptance from both Bangladesh and Myanmar, leaving them in effect stateless as the violence explodes. Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry has stressed that it is working with Myanmar “to ensure that developments in the Rakhine state do not have any trans-boundary spillover.”
The U.S. joined the public calls on Bangladesh on Wednesday, with State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland urging the country to ensure refugees aren’t turned back to their persecutors, Agence France-Presse reported.
“By closing its border when violence in Arakan state is out of control, Bangladesh is putting lives at grave risk,” Human Rights Watch refugee program director Bill Frelick said Tuesday. “Bangladesh has an obligation under international law to keep its border open to people fleeing threats to their lives.”
Pictured: Rohingya Muslims sit in a boat after being intercepted by Bangladesh’s Border Guard members in Teknaf on Wednesday. Credit: European Pressphoto Agency
Myanmar opposition postpones parliamentary debut over oath wording
NEW DELHI — The major opposition party in Myanmar headed by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi said Sunday it will postpone its parliamentary debut because of an impasse over the wording of the oath of office, an early sign of tension with the government.
Members of the newly emboldened opposition had been scheduled to take their seats Monday.
The oath requires lawmakers to protect the constitution, written by the country’s former junta. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party objects to the charter on the grounds that it fails to safeguard many rights and reserves one-quarter of parliamentary seats for unelected military officials.
“We are not boycotting, but we are just waiting for the right time to go,” said Suu Kyi, after a meeting on the issue in Yangon, according to the AFP news service. The Nobel Prize winner won her first seat in parliament in April 1 elections in which her party swept 43 of the 45 seats being contested.
The government, which is dominated by former military officials, has so far rejected the party’s request to change the oath’s wording from “safeguard” to “respect” the constitution. The opposition party has petitioned Myanmar’s constitutional court and Suu Kyi has written to Thein Sein, Myanmar’s president, asking that it be altered.
The National League for Democracy, which boycotted the 2010 election on the grounds that it was illegitimate, switched gears last year and decided to contest elections in a bid to influence policy from within. Suu Kyi has said that one of her priorities as an elected official will be to amend the 2008 constitution.
The wording difference is a wrinkle in otherwise steadily improving relations between Suu Kyi’s party and the long-isolated government. In recent weeks, she has called on the European Union to suspend economic sanctions, although some ethnic minorities say it is too early to do that. And she has planned her first international trip in 24 years, something she refused to do in the past, fearful the former military regime wouldn’t let her back into the country.
In another sign of Myanmar’s early, gradual reintegration into the international community, Japan on Saturday agreed to forgive $3.7 billion in debt and resume development aid as a way to support the country’s democratic and economic reforms.
Pictured: Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, center, arrives at the National League for Democracy headquarters to attend the final day of a party meeting in Yangon on Sunday. Credit: Ye Aung Thu / AFP/Getty Images
Slowly, Myanmar Dares To Believe Change Is Real
In Myanmar, there are signs in the most unlikely places that people are starting to believe recent political reforms are for real, and aren’t just a trick.
Take a recent performance of the Moustache Brothers vaudeville troupe in the northern city of Mandalay.
The troupe performs in the family home — it’s not allowed to perform in public. Its biting political satire, aimed at the generals and their cronies, has made the troupe a favorite of Western tourists and diplomats.
But these days, there’s more music and less politics to the act, though brother Lu Maw still manages to get in a few shots, much to the delight of his audience.
“While you are [here in] Burma, please, don’t take anything, don’t steal anything. Government? They don’t like competition,” he says to laughter.
In fact, competition has played a key role during a busy month in Myanmar, also known as Burma. In by-elections on April 1, democracy activist and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won 43 of the 45 parliamentary seats up for grabs.
The dizzying pace of political reform by Myanmar’s military-backed government has surprised many and, coupled with the election result, has led to an easing of economic and political sanctions by the West.
But the reforms are by no means irreversible, nor are Myanmar’s myriad problems easily solved.
In this new political environment, brother Par Par Lay admits the Moustache Brothers are easing up a bit. But he, for one, still isn’t convinced the reforms are real.
The same guys are still in power — they’ve just taken off their uniforms, he says. He agrees that the changes so far have been good but notes there are many political prisoners still behind bars. Locked up by the military on three separate occasions, Par Par Lay has reason to be suspicious.
Ko Ko Gyi, a leader of the 88 Generation Students Group who spent 18 years in prison, is more optimistic. Ko Ko Gyi was one of the political prisoners released earlier this year and says he believes Myanmar’s president, Thein Sein, is a “good man” and sincere about reform. He’s not as sure about the rest of the military.
“Nobody knows,” he says. “But we think the present government of former military leaders, they realized themselves they will have to change, they cannot go on like this.”
Pictured: Girls perform a traditional dance while celebrating Thingyan, Myanmar’s New Year water festival, in Yangon, on April 15. The New Year has brought new hope as the country undergoes rapid political change. Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters/Landov
LAIZA, Myanmar — There’s little sign of a democratic awakening in Laja Yang.
Despite the political reforms that have captivated attention in other parts of Myanmar, this dusty village remains a ghost town, abandoned last year when clashes broke out between the Myanmar military and ethnic Kachin rebels, who began their fight for independence in the 1960s.
With most of its residents gone, the village now lies along a bloody ethnic fault-line in the country’s north, a fortified encampment threaded with foxholes and trenches.
New Type Of Resistant Malaria Appears On Thai-Burmese Border
Malaria experts have been holding their breath and hoping it wouldn’t happen. But it has.
Malaria parasites resistant to the last, best drug treatment, called artemisinin combination therapy, or ACT, are infecting people along the border of Thailand and Myanmar.
This is 500 miles away from the first focus of ACT-resistant malaria in Cambodia. And it’s a different form of resistant malaria, which means it arose independently of the Cambodian type rather than spreading from there. We’re talking here about Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest and most common form of malaria.
The discovery ruins the World Health Organization’s hope that resistance to ACT might be stamped out for good in Cambodia. Now it’s a two-front war.
An international team of researchers is publishing the news in The Lancet.
Meanwhile, many of the same scientists report in Science that they’ve zeroed in on changes in the parasite’s genes that drive this new form of resistance. That gives hope that its spread may be monitored and that new drugs might someday be devised to foil resistance.
But the bad news outweighs the good. The new resistance raises concern that the tantalizing prospect of eliminating malaria might slip away again, as it did when the parasite developed resistance to the drug chloroquine in the 1960s through the 1990s. More than 600,000 people die of malaria each year, but the toll has been falling.
Pictured: A micrograph shows red blood cells infected by the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. John C. Tan/AP
How Far Will The Changes In Myanmar Go?
Once an international pariah ruled by a repressive military regime, Myanmar has in recent months become one of Southeast Asia’s hottest destinations.
Last year, a nominally civilian government took over and began political changes in the country also known as Burma. Now, foreign investors and tourists are flooding in, and foreign governments are considering lifting their sanctions.
In stark contrast to the uprisings that have shaken the Arab world, Myanmar’s metamorphosis is occurring from the top down. But crucial questions remain unanswered, and it’s unclear whether the changes are permanent.
One place to look for clues is in Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s new capital, which replaced Yangon. Dominating the government town is a massive complex of buildings housing the country’s parliament.
The country’s 2008 constitution mandated the parliament. Before the legislature’s members were elected just over a year ago, the law was essentially whatever the generals said it was.
Saw Nyein Thin, an ethnic Karen lawmaker dressed in traditional red and white garb, says that the fledgling institution still has a long way to go.
“This parliament is not yet strong enough to legislate effectively,” he says. “It’s still too young. But I think that it will gradually accumulate enough power to do its job.”
Despite being dominated by the ruling party and the military, which hold 80 percent of the seats, the parliament has passed laws legalizing street protests and labor unions. It’s now drafting a press law, which the government says will ease censorship.
Even bigger changes may be in store. On April 1, voters will elect 48 new lawmakers, one of whom is likely to be pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi. The Nobel laureate was released from house arrest in November 2010.
Pictured: Supporters greet Myanmar’s pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, atop her vehicle, as she arrives at an election campaign rally in Thongwa village, Myanmar, on Sunday. The country’s new government is holding legislative elections on April 1. Altaf Qadri/AP
Pagoda festival long banned in Myanmar celebrated again
In Myanmar, thousands thronged a sacred shrine studded with diamonds for a Buddhist festival that was banned for more than two decades under a military regime, the latest sign of change in the Southeast Asian nation.
And what a sight it was. Every day World Now chooses a remarkable photo from around the world. Today the festivities at the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon yielded lots of amazing shots, including this dazzling photo of a rainbow of women in ceremonial dress, walking barefoot to the sound of gongs.
Gatherings of more than five people were liable to be baned in the past, the Associated Press reports. Smaller pagoda ceremonies were allowed, but larger festivals were seen as trouble.
“The previous regime, they wanted people to be repressed, suppressed, quiet and stable,” a saffron-robed monk named Pyinya Wuntha told the Associated Press. “Now the government has changed and the system has changed.”
Myanmar has been slowly opening to the outside world after years of repression. Amnesty International has condemned the Myanmar regime in the past for jailing “thousands of people in their continuing efforts to crush all dissenting views.”
Signs of change began appearing in 2010, after the regime allowed the election of a new government, which remains backed by the still-influential military. Last month the country released 651 prisoners, including prominent pro-democracy leaders, and signed a cease-fire agreement with ethnic Karen rebels in the east.
Pictured: Myanmar women in ceremonial dress wait to take part in the Buddhist celebrations at the centuries-old Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon on Wednesday. Credit: Altaf Qadri / Associated Press