Archive for the ‘Burma (ភូមា)News’ Category
YANGON, Oct. 1 (Xinhua) — Myanmar President U Thein Sein’s week-long historic visit to the United States, which ended on Sunday, has opened a new chapter in the bilateral ties since the two countries establish diplomatic relations at ambassadorial level.
Thein Sein’s visit to the U.S. from Sept. 24 to 30, which was the first by a Myanmar leader in 46 years, came 18 months after he assumed office in March 2011.
While in the U.S., Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid a call on Thein Sein at the Mark Hotel in New York. U Thein Sein repeated his dedication to democratic transition, describing the U. S. recognition as a shot in the arm to Nay Pyi Taw to continue its chosen path.
Noting that it was the third meeting between the pair, Clinton said the U.S. has watched the steady reform process continued by the president and his cabinet and it is responding to every step of Nay Pyi Taw to acknowledge its reform efforts and to encourage further reform.
In recognition of the continued progress toward reform, the U.S. took a next step in normalizing commercial relationship between the two countries by easing U.S. restriction on import of Myanmar goods into the U.S..
Washington hoped that the action would provide opportunities to Myanmar people to sell their goods in U.S. market.
Clinton promised Thein Sein to continue consulting with U.S. Congress and other relevant stakeholders about additional steps.
Clinton also recognized the several efforts of the president, acknowledging his political reform and endeavors to bring an end to ethnic conflicts to ensure peace and stability in the country.
Besides, Thein Sein also held private talks with Chairman of Clinton’s Global Initiative former U.S. President Bill Clinton and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Moreover, he met with members of the Asia Society and leaders of the European Council, US-ASEAN Business Council and US Chamber of Commerce.
During his visit in the U.S., Thein Sein attended the 67th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York on Sept. 27, where he delivered his first ever speech as the president of Myanmar at the UN.
He said that his country will be participating more actively in UN activities in various fields and take challenges of the 21st century in a bold and resolute manner while standing as a responsible and respectable nation on the world stage.
“Myanmar is now ushering in a new era,” he announced.
On domestic affairs, Thein Sein said Myanmar’s parliament, the judiciary, the armed forces, the national races, political parties, civil societies and the people at large have been taking tangible irreversible steps in the democratic transition and reform process.
“Leaving behind a system of authoritarian government wherein the executive, legislative and judicial power were centralized, we have now been able to put in place a democratic government and a strong, viable parliament following a practice of check and balance,” he said.
Citing encouraging and inclusive political process and significant development in the country, Thein Sein said “the government and other stakeholders have now been able to foster a new political culture of patience and dialogue.”
Praising Aung San Suu Kyi as main opposition leader and Noble Peace Laureate for the first time, Thein Sein said, “As a Myanmar citizen, I would like to congratulate her for the honors she has received in this country (U.S.) in recognition of her efforts for democracy.”
He maintained that “the political progress in our country is enhancing its political legitimacy. This in turn facilitates the creation of basic political stability thereby paving the way for economic and social transformation necessary for better living standard of the people.”
In the economic sector, he stressed the need to pay careful attention to the investment in the extractive sector like energy to ensure transparency and impartiality.
Relating to ethnic conflicts in the country, he expressed belief that cessation of all armed conflicts are a prerequisite for the building of genuine democracy, saying that high priority is being placed on achieving a lasting peace in the country and disclosing that the government has so far produced ceasefire agreements with 10 ethnic armed groups.
“While further strengthening confidence building measures, we will continue the peace talks,” he said, citing the holding of informal consultations for such move with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
Regarding the issue of communal violence in western Rakhine state, he held that the issue will be resolved by taking short- term and long-term measures through a multifaceted approach taking into account political, economic and social aspects.
He said being an independent and sovereign state, Myanmar has the right to secure its border and safeguard and protect its sovereignty and pledged to do its utmost to solve the issue in line with international norms.
Pointing out that Myanmar’s democratic transformation process is a complex and delicate one that requires patience, the president called for understanding and support from the UN and its member states, the international community as a whole and the people of Myanmar and stressed the importance to view Myanmar from a different and new perspective.
Near the end of his visit in New York, Thein Sein met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and had talks on continued cooperation between Myanmar and the UN and extension of UN development aid to the country.
YANGON, Aug. 30 (Xinhua) — Myanmar government Thursday published detailed name list of 2,082 out of 6,165 black-listed persons lifted recently in line with the government’s current reform policy.
Of the 2,082 persons, 935 are Myanmar dissidents residing at home and abroad, while 1,147 are foreigners from various countries and regions, both the East and the West, according to the website of the President’s Office.
The Myanmar dissidents include those from anti-previous military government organizations in exile and media persons.
The lifting of the once black-listed Myanmar nationals, some of whom hold foreign citizenship, will encourage and enable them to return to Myanmar in light of Myanmar’s political and economic reform process, the official media said.
Since taking office on March 30, 2011, President U Thein Sein’s new government has, on a number of occasions, urged Myanmar experts residing abroad to come back home to join hands with the government to do their bit for economic prosperity and national development.
There still remains more than 4,000 people once black-listed by the previous military government.
YANGON, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) — Myanmar new government Tuesday announced further cabinet reshuffle, allowing two ministers and auditor-general to resign and move one deputy minister to other post, according to an order of the President’s Office.
The two ministers, who were permitted to resign, are Minister of Construction U Khin Maung Myint and Minister of Electric Power- 1 U Zaw Min, while the auditor-general, who also resigned, is U Lun Maung.
U Soe Win, who was Deputy Minister of Information, was shifted to Ministry of Religious Affairs as deputy minister.
Tuesday’s announcement represents the second series of the government’s major cabinet reshuffle taking place a day after the first on Monday.
Myanmar new government’s major cabinet reshuffle, carried out since Monday, is said to have been made in line with its reform policy, more than a year after its installation on March 30, 2011.
In Monday’s move, nine ministers were reassigned mainly with four transferred to the President’s Office, and one, that is the Minister of Information, was replaced.
15 deputy ministers were also newly named to 13 ministries.
The series of major cabinet reshuffle happened 12 days after U Tin Aung Myint Oo, who resigned from the post of vice president for health reason, was replaced by U Nyan Tun, who was former Naval Chief, through approval of the parliament.
BANGKOK, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) — Myanmar could expand its economy by 7 percent to 8 percent per year for a decade or more and become a middle income nation by 2030 if its reforms stay on track, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said in a report released here on Monday.
Analyzing the opportunities and challenges facing Myanmar after decades of isolation, the report “Myanmar in Transition” is ADB’s first major assessment of the country since it began political and economic reforms in 2011. It noted that Myanmar is showing good potential for growth and could become one of the next “rising stars” in Asia.
If the government keeps a firm and lasting commitment to reforming, economically and socially, the country would follow the pace of Asia’s fast growing economies and raise its per capita income to 2000 to 3000 U.S. dollars by the year of 2030.
Stephen Groff, ADB’s vice president for East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said that Myanmar has to strive for strong and inclusive growth, which is imperative for poverty alleviation and improved living standards.
Key development agendas for Myanmar which has the lowest per capita GDP among Asian countries also include maintaining macroeconomic stability, improving infrastructure and human capital and mobilizing resources for investment, he said.
In terms of advantages, Groff said Myanmar boasts abundant natural resources and labor force. “Its strategic location, close to China and India and the ASEAN bloc, leaves it perfectly positioned to prosper from Asia’s dynamic economic growth,” he said.
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar’s government said Monday it was abolishing the harsh practice of directly censoring the country’s media, the most dramatic move yet toward allowing freedom of expression in the long-repressed nation.
Under the new rules, journalists will no longer have to submit their work to state censors before publication as they for almost half a century. However, deep concerns remain about restrictive press laws remaining on the books, which give the government great power to crack down on journalists and even close publications deemed a threat to national security.
This Southeast Asian nation’s reporters had long been regarded as among the most restricted in the world. But President Thein Sein’s reformist government has significantly relaxed media controls over the last year, allowing reporters to print material that would have been unthinkable during the era of absolute military rule — like photographs of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Information Ministry, which has long controlled what can be printed, made the announcement on its website Monday. The head of the ministry’s Press Scrutiny and Registration Department, Tint Swe, also conveyed the news to a group of editors in the country’s main city Yangon. The move had been expected for months but was repeatedly delayed.
Tint Swe had also previously said the censor board itself would be abolished when censorship ends. But Monday’s announcement indicated the board will remain in place, and it will retain the powers it has always had to suspend publications or revoking publishing licenses if they deem publishing rules are violated.
Nyein Nyein Naing, an editor from the Seven Day News Journal who attended Monday’s meeting, said journalists will still have to submit their articles to the censor board. But now, she said, they will be required to do so after publication, apparently to allow the government to determine whether any publishing laws are violated.
Those laws, in place since a military coup in 1962, include edicts prohibiting journalists from writing articles that could threaten peace and stability, oppose the constitution or insult ethnic groups. Critics say some laws are open to interpretation and give the government enormous power to go after its critics. They have been used repeatedly in recent years to jail members of the press.
Nyein Nyein Naing welcomed the government announcement. But she added: “We have to be very cautious as (the state censor board) will keep monitoring us.”
It was not immediately clear to what degree continued government scrutiny could lead to self-censorship. Some topics remain highly sensitive, like corruption and alleged abuses committed by army officers during the previous ruling junta. Overzealous authorities could use the threat of prosecution to prevent articles from being published or exact harsh punishments for material they don’t like.
Late last month, the censor board wielded some of that power by ordering the suspension of two weekly magazines — The Voice Weekly and Envoy — for speculating on a still-anticipated Cabinet reshuffle. Those punishments have since been lifted, and the two magazines are due to begin publishing again on Aug. 18.
Shawn Crispin, the Committee to Protect Journalist’s Southeast Asia representative in Bangkok, said that “if the government is sincere in ending pre-publication censorship, it would represent a significant step forward for press freedom in Burma.” Myanmar is also called Burma.
However, if press laws are not reformed as well, “then all of these promises can be easily rolled back if they feel a free press threatens government security,” Crispin said.
Their third meeting aimed at assessing reforms comes amid tensions in Rakhine state.
The meeting came as the government gave rare approval to a visit by a 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) team to the troubled Burmese state of Rakhine amid concerns of human rights abuses on the ethnic minority Muslim Rohingya.
Government and opposition officials confirmed the meeting between the two leaders, the first since Aung San Suu Kyi was sworn in as member of parliament in May and the third since August last year when maiden talks between the two were held.
Like the previous two meetings, no details were released of the latest talks, held at the country’s capital Naypyidaw and attended also by key Cabinet ministers, including Soe Thane, who leads a government panel conducting peace talks with ethnic groups.
The Thein Sein-Aung San Suu Kyi meeting was aimed at finding a broad consensus on political and other reforms and bringing an end to long running ethnic conflicts in the country, according to various officials.
Suu Kyi was recently appointed to lead a parliamentary committee on the rule of law and in her inaugural address to the legislature last month sought laws to protect the rights of ethnic minorities.
President Thein Sein’s administration, which came to power in March last year after decades of brutal military rule, has struck ceasefire agreements with 10 ethnic armed groups but fighting continues with other groups such as those in Kachin state in the north which has displaced tens of thousands of people.
Recent clashes between Buddhist ethnic Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine state in the west of the country have also left dozens dead and tens of thousands homeless.
The Burmese government has come under international pressure over the June clashes after the United Nations voiced concerns of a crackdown on Rohingya and Human Rights Watch issued a report alleging abuses by security forces in the region.
Aung San Suu Kyi had said that “the most important lesson” from the Rakhine conflict is the country’s “need for rule of law,” which she added is also key to resolving the numerous armed ethnic conflicts in the country.
In what is seen as a conciliatory move, Thein Sein has agreed to allow the OIC to deliver “urgent aid” to displaced Rohingyas, the global Muslim group said in a statement on its website at the weekend.
The approval came after he met Friday with an OIC delegation led by Jusuf Kalla, a former Indonesian Vice-President, the statement said.
The delegation briefed the president “on the concern of the Muslim world about the ongoing regrettable developments in the humanitarian situation in [Rakhine state] and on the readiness of the OIC to deliver urgent assistance to the entire [Rakhine state], without discrimination,” according to the statement.
Saudi, Turkish aid In a separate report, Saudi Arabia said its leader, King Abdullah, has ordered U.S. $50 million in aid to be sent to the Ronhingya in Rakhine. Last week Turkey announced similar financial assistance. A report on the Saudi state news agency said the Rohingya community had been “exposed to many violations of human rights including ethnic cleansing, murder, rape and forced displacement,” according to Reuters.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu flew to Sittwe, Rakhine’s capital, last week to assess the humanitarian needs following the June violence and is expected to brief an OIC summit in Mecca on Tuesday on the latest situation, reports say.
An activist speaks during a ceremony to mark the 24th anniversary of the Aug. 8, 1988, demonstrations, which triggered one of the country’s bloodiest uprisings, in Yangon, Myanmar, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2012. Crowds have turned out in cities across Myanmar to publicly commemorate the anniversary of pro-democracy protests, which for the first time won approval; and partial funding; from the government. Khin Maung Win / AP Photo
By YADANA HTUN, Associated Press
YANGON, Myanmar – Crowds turned out Wednesday in cities across Myanmar to commemorate the 24th anniversary of massive pro-democracy protests, with the government giving its approval – and even financial support – for the first time.
Former political prisoners joined hundreds of others at rallies in Yangon, Mandalay and elsewhere to mark the Aug. 8, 1988, start of weeks of protests across the country that were bloodily suppressed by the military.
Government approval for Wednesday’s rallies would be unthinkable a few years ago. While the country was under military rule, citizens did not dare to mark the anniversary publicly for fear of arrest.
President Thein Sein, who has introduced a wave of globally praised reforms since taking office last year, sent two Cabinet ministers to inform organizers on Tuesday that the government was approving their request to hold the rallies. The ministers also handed over 1 million kyat ($1,200) in cash to help fund the events, said Ko Ko Gyi, a leader of the 1988 uprising who spent many years in prison.
“It’s as if the government is also participating in this commemoration,” Ko Ko Gyi said in a telephone interview from Mandalay, where the main rally was being held. “I feel like this is a step toward reform.”
Presidential spokesman Nay Zin Latt said the government recognized the anniversary as a “historic event” and the president wanted to show his sincerity about achieving national reconciliation.
“The president always talks about national reconciliation,” the spokesman said. “This action can help build better mutual understanding.”
After a demonstration by students on Aug. 8, 1988, the uprising spread throughout the country, drawing an estimated million people. Several thousand were killed before the protests were crushed the following month. The military repealed the constitution and imposed martial law.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi emerged as a leader of the democracy movement during the protests. Her political party swept elections held in 1990, but the military refused to let it take power.
“The ’88 uprising was the symbol of the people’s cooperation,” Ko Ko Gyi said. “It makes us remember our friends who are still in prison and those who live abroad. It also reminds me of our hard times.”
Human rights groups say authorities are still holding an unknown number of political prisoners, although the most famous have been released over the past two years, including Suu Kyi.
Last month, authorities temporarily detained more than 20 activists ahead of a planned commemoration of the 50th anniversary of a brutal military crackdown on students in July 1962.
Although all were freed after about a day, their colleagues said the detentions showed that the government remains repressive despite its reforms.
YANGON, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) — Myanmar is committed to accomplishing its obligations for the progress and perpetuation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) while the country is sharing the fortune of ASEAN with other member nations in political, economic and social spheres, Myanmar President U Thein Sein said on Wednesday.
In his message on the occasion of the 45th ASEAN anniversary, Thein Sein stressed the need to endeavor toward the full realization of the Bali Concord-3 “ASEAN Community, in the Global Community of Nations” adopted by ASEAN leaders at the 19th ASEAN Summit in Bali, Indonesia.
Warning that there are also challenges at the time ASEAN is making achievements, Thein Sein emphasized the need for ASEAN people including those of Myanmar to do their utmost in the regional integration efforts, aimed at reducing the development gap among member nations and implementing the master plan on ASEAN connectivity as identified by ASEAN leaders in the Phnom Penh Declaration and Phnom Penh Agenda at the 20th ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in July.
Noting that Myanmar is moving towards a modern and developed nation with disciplined democracy, he said the mission that Myanmar is undertaking is dedicated to the interest of the state and the people and it is also in line with the principles of ASEAN.
He urged the Myanmar people to contribute to maintaining ASEAN solidarity and ASEAN’s centrality in addressing regional and international issues, to strive for the emergence of a people- centered community and to exert efforts to play a more pronounced role in ASEAN in accordance with the active, independent and non- aligned foreign policy of Myanmar as well as to strive for the successful chairmanship of ASEAN in 2014.
Myanmar joined ASEAN in July 1997. In 2011, the ASEAN Inter- Parliamentary Assembly granted Myanmar’s parliament a full-fledged membership.
Renewed violence between Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya has left three people dead in Myanmar, a government official said on Monday, amid growing international concern about the sectarian unrest.
The fighting in western Rakhine state has killed 80 people from both sides since June, official figures show, although authorities say the situation has been generally calm in recent weeks.
The new casualties, who were not identified, died on Sunday in Kyauktaw about 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of the state capital Sittwe, said the official, who did not want to be named. Five others were reported wounded.
“The situation is calm and back to normal already,” the official told AFP. “We do not know why it started again.”
The violence initially broke out in June following the rape and murder of a Rakhine woman and the subsequent lynching of 10 Muslims by a crowd of angry Buddhists.
The bloodshed has cast a shadow over widely praised reforms by President Thein Sein, including the release of hundreds of political prisoners and the election of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to parliament.
Myanmar’s government has rejected accusations of abuse by security forces in Rakhine, after the United Nations raised fears of a crackdown on Muslims.
The entire state has been under emergency rule since early June with a heavy army and police presence.
New York-based Human Rights Watch has accused Myanmar forces of opening fire on Rohingya, as well as committing rape and standing by as rival mobs attacked each other.
The authorities failed to protect both sides and then “unleashed a campaign of violence and mass roundups against the Rohingya,” the group said in a report released last week.
Decades of discrimination have left the Rohingya stateless, and they are viewed by the United Nations as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities.
Speaking a Bengali dialect similar to one in neighbouring Bangladesh, the Rohingya are seen as illegal immigrants by the Myanmar government and many Burmese, and many have attempted to flee overseas in rickety boats.
Its industry minister says the country’s average income per person could eclipse those of its two neighbors soon.
Burma hopes to overtake neighbors Laos and Cambodia in terms of average income per person within two to three years, as the country embraces political and economic reforms, Burmese Industry Minister Soe Thein said Monday.
“I hope we will have higher average income per person than Laos and Cambodia by 2014-15. It is possible,” he said in an interview with RFA’s Burmese service.
Soe Thein was answering a question on his expectations for the Burmese economy in the next five years.
Burma is languishing with a gross national income per capita of U.S. $379.60, based on U.N. figures in 2009, the lowest among its fellow member states in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)—Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Laos has a per capita income of U.S. $1,130 while Cambodia has U.S. $830, based on 2011 figures by the World Bank.
The gross national income per capita is the dollar value of a country’s final income in a year, divided by its population. It reflects the average income of a country’s citizens.
A nominally civilian government that took over power in Burma in March last year after decades of harsh military rule and financial mismanagement is implementing democratic and economic reforms that have led the international community to ease sanctions on the country.
As part of economic reforms, President Thein Sein’s government, with the help of the International Monetary Fund, launched a managed float of its kyat currency in April to help normalize and unify its multiple exchange rates.
Foreign investment law The country’s parliament is also discussing a foreign investment law, which reports say will spell out new tax exemptions, land-use terms, legal structures, and incentives for foreign companies.
“Our existing law [on trade] are already good. But to be able to compete with [neighboring] ASEAN [countries] and to protect the people, to protect our environment, we are drafting the new law,” Soe Thein said.
“Actually it was already discussed at the parliament in the first session, and now this is going to be discussed again,” he said.
When asked when the much awaited law will be approved, he said, “It doesn’t matter, it will be done at some point.”
“Even if this is not done yet, the existing foreign direct investment law is not bad at all. We can apply it for now. When the new law is approved, we can enjoy better benefits.”
Soe Thein said Burmese authorities will treat foreign companies on an equal basis based on market forces even though Burma has been close to China for decades especially under military rule.
“This is a market economy. Local partners will choose. If we consider efficiency, let’s say if you buy something, you choose a good product. In business, you have to choose the best partner,” he said. Asked whether foreign investments are flowing into Burma rapidly in line with reforms, he said there could be a significant rise early next year.
“We are going to have it. For now, we are still in the process of discussing. I myself have been discussing many times already. It will be a lot more progress by the beginning of next year, I think. Meanwhile, there is some increase.”
On potential employment benefits, the minister said some 110,000 jobs had been created over the last year with a potential for one million jobs when the government enters into peace with ethnic armed rebel groups.
“When the peace process is done, we will have more job opportunities in the [ethnic] regions [through the efforts of] international donors. Creating jobs is considered the number one criteria. We choose factories that can provide more jobs. Eventually we will have up to a million [jobs].”
The government has struck ceasefire agreements with several ethnic armed groups but their leaders said that the ceasefire is just the first step of a process that must include political solutions.
Clashes have been reported regularly in Shan state, Karenni state, Karen state and most notably in Kachin state, where rebels have not reached a truce despite several rounds of negotiations.