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Burma’s Military and Economic Elites Continue to Steal the Livelihoods of Rural People

Farmers in Wundwin Township Block Tractor © Public Affairs Network, MeikhtilaAs more and more farmers are losing their lands and livelihoods to corrupt businesses long-associated with the Burma Army, the current government is doing its best to preserve the interests of these wealthy elites at the expense of disempowered rural people. With the onset of the gold rush into Burma, these cronies of the military-backed government are abusing their position to reap the financial rewards of the potential flood of new investment while rural people, who make up 90% of the population, are losing their livelihoods.

One such example is from Bwi Daw Village in Kachin State where residents reported last week of local businessmen confiscating their land at gunpoint and subsequently destroying their crops with tractors to make room for a fish farm. For these villagers, there is no legal remedy and have now lost the ability to put food on the table for their families […]

July 30, 2012  •  By Burma Partnership  •  Tags: , , ,  •  Read more ➤

A Long Way to Go for People in Burma’s Ethnic Areas

KIA troops stand at attention during a military drill at a base in Kachin State. Photo © The IrrawaddyLeaders of ten ethnic and opposition political parties met with President Thein Sein this week for the first time. The meeting in Naypyidaw afforded the opportunity for the MPs to raise key issues, including the rule of law, changes to the electoral system and peace building. However, the government’s response to an MP’s request for the inclusion of ethnic languages and literature in school curriculum was illustrative of how it views the rights of ethnic people and minorities.

Railway Minister and Thein Sein’s chief negotiator with armed ethnic groups, Aung Min, said that the government would allow teaching the Mon language and would provide US$1 million to fund it. However, Banyar Aung Moe, an Upper House MP for the All Mon Regions Democracy Party said, “[Aung Min] told us that the teaching time would be out of school hours. I am not satisfied with this as our party proposed allowing teaching in the government’s school time.”

Also this week, the speaker of the Lower House of Parliament, Shwe Mann, reportedly told Banyar Aung Moe that the government agrees to set up a federal union at some point in the future in order to achieve peace. However, when looking at the reality that ethnic people face, it is easy to take such comments as those from Aung Min and Shwe Mann as little more than empty placations […]

July 23, 2012  •  By Burma Partnership  •  Tags: , , , ,  •  Read more ➤

Burma Peace Funds Must Do No Harm

Norwegian State Secretary met with IDPs during his visit in Burma © Karen newsBy Paul Sein Twa

In the past few months, various media reports have quoted some concerns and opinions of KESAN regarding the ongoing peace process in Burma. This statement clarifies and expands upon these issues.

Our perspective on the peace process and peace funds

Sustainable peace is the long-term vision of Karen people. That vision incorporates rule of law, the protection of human rights, democratic governance, security of livelihood and equitable access to natural resources and essential services. We are not there yet.

Peace funds can be an important tool for building a culture of peace in Burma. Well managed peace funds can serve as positive instruments to advance shared multi-ethnic and government agendas for peace. However, peace funds must contribute to addressing deep rooted and structural obstacles to realizing peace in the country and strengthen community decision making processes to identify the priorities of ethnic people. The effective management of peace funds includes maximum transparency, support for a shared framework for peace, inclusive and meaningful consultation with a wide-range of non-state actors, multi-party dialogues and clear monitoring and accountability mechanisms. What we have witnessed so far is that the current peace fund process falls short of these good practices – and standards […]

July 17, 2012  •  Tags: , , ,  •  Read more ➤

Too Much Too Soon: US Lifting of Sanctions Risks Perpetuation of Human Rights Violations

Thein Sein meets with Hillary Clinton © MizzimaOn June 14, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, speaking at the annual ILO conference in Geneva, warned the international community against dealing with the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), “The Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise … with which all foreign participation in the energy sector takes place through joint venture arrangements, lacks both transparency and accountability at present.”

Despite this warning, on July 11, the US issued an executive order allowing American companies to invest in Burma’s oil and gas sector, and specifically with MOGE, “Today, the United States is easing restrictions to allow U.S. companies to responsibly do business in Burma.”

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s concerns with MOGE stem from the fact that it is a military controlled, state enterprise that has long been associated with some of the gravest human rights abuses documented in Burma, predominantly in ethnic nationality areas where the country’s natural resources are concentrated […]

July 16, 2012  •  By Burma Partnership  •  Tags: , , ,  •  Read more ➤

Still No Freedom for Burma’s Students

Arrested Student Activists Freed © AFPOver the weekend, Thein Sein’s government has shown to harbour the same paranoia regarding students that successive military regimes have held for the past fifty years as nearly two dozen student activists were arrested on Friday evening.

Saturday July 7 marked fifty years since the massacre of students by the Ne Win-led military regime and the subsequent bombing of the student union building at the University of Rangoon. To mark the event, a group of students planned to hold a ceremony at the long-empty building and lay a wreath at its door. Yet in a shameless act of fear, the authorities arrested around twenty student activists in a pre-emptive act, and detained them until after the event had been scheduled to take place. Students were not only arrested in Rangoon, but in Lashio, Mandalay, Shwebo, and Myingyan too. According to an 88 Generation Student spokesperson, the authorities claimed they just wanted to talk to the organizers of the event but this scarcely fools anyone […]

July 10, 2012  •  By Burma Partnership  •  Tags: , ,  •  Read more ➤

Burma’s Parliament Must Strive for Greater Transparency and Accessibility

This Wednesday, on July 4 the Parliament will resume its work and for the first time will be attended by NLD members elected in the last April 1 by-elections. However, while many media will be in Naypyidaw to report on this symbolic moment, most won’t be able to report what the agenda of the Parliament is for this forthcoming session.

Since it started its activities, Burma’s Parliament has been operating under a veil of secrecy. Many crucial laws that have a direct impact on the country and people’s life have been drafted and adopted behind closed doors, without any substantial deliberation or debate among Members of Parliament.

If the Parliament is to become a democratic tool it must increase its transparency and accessibility. Greater openness will give more legitimacy and trust to the institution. Creating space for people’s participation in the legislative process will be essential for better laws that meet the needs of the people and not just the regime and its cronies […]

July 2, 2012  •  By Burma Partnership  •  Tags: ,  •  Read more ➤

Business as Usual for Burma

With the gold-rush for Burma’s plentiful resources already on us, the New Myanmar Investment Summit that was held in Rangoon last week was an opportunity for Thein Sein’s government to show the world that Burma is indeed ready for a rapid increase of foreign investment. In a televised speech President Thein Sein announced that a new foreign investment law will be enacted soon. The same week, news emerged that foreign companies will be granted a five-year tax holiday and will be allowed 100% ownership in certain sectors, though not including energy. The reality, however, is that Burma is far from ready, and warnings have already been sounded.

One such warning was issued by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in a speech for the International Labour Organisation in Geneva, “The Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise [MOGE] … with which all foreign participation in the energy sector takes place through joint venture arrangements, lacks both transparency and accountability at present.” Previous investment in the oil and gas sectors has resulted in increased militarization around projects leading to human rights abuses such as land confiscation, forced displacement, torture, rape, and even killings. That MOGE, the same entity that was directly responsible for these violations, will now be dealing with any foreign investors in the oil and gas sectors has not been a deterrent. Nine overseas firms from Asia and Europe signed exploration deals with the state owned company since March. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s warnings, it appears, will not be heeded by resource hungry energy firms desperate to capitalize on Burma’s opening, regardless of any moral concerns […]

June 25, 2012  •  By Burma Partnership  •  Tags: , ,  •  Read more ➤

Refugees deserve right to choose when to return home

By Khin Ohmar

‘When I met Burmese migrant workers and refugees during my recent visit to Thailand, many cried out: ‘Don’t forget us!”‘ said Aung San Suu Kyi as the world watched her deliver her acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded 21 years ago.

“They meant: ‘don’t forget our plight, don’t forget to do what you can to help us, don’t forget we also belong to your world,”‘ she explained.

The timing could not have been better – today is World Refugee Day.

Today, let us not forget them. Instead, let us remember why people left Myanmar. Let us listen to their voices as rhetoric about positive changes in Myanmar threatens to drown them out […]

June 20, 2012  •  Tags: , ,  •  Read more ➤

Burma and Bangladesh Must Answer Cries for Help

Sectarian violence that erupted a week ago in Arakan State has continued over the last week leading to the displacement of over 30, 000 people in need of shelter, medical assistance and food. In light of the serious humanitarian crisis that faces Rakhine and Rohingya people, international and Bangkok based human rights activists released a statement calling for the international community, including diplomatic missions in Burma and the United Nations, to send independent monitors to assess the situation and take appropriate steps to address any worsening of the situation.

The Asian Human Rights Commission also sent an open letter to Burma and Bangladesh calling on both governments to take a cooperative and humanitarian approach to the violence and to enable the provision of adequate food and health services to the affected populations.

However, despite Vijay Nambiar, the UN’s special envoy, visit to Arakan State, no humanitarian supplies have reached the victims of the violence and Bangladesh has been turning away people fleeing Arakan State, announcing that it will not allow any refugees from Burma on its territory […]

June 18, 2012  •  By Burma Partnership  •  Tags: , , , , ,  •  Read more ➤

Burma’s Inequalities Must be Addressed Through National Reconciliation and Broad Reforms

The past week has brought shocking news of sectarian tensions erupting in violence in Arakan State, while 9 June marked one year since armed conflict broke out in Kachin State, ending a 17-year long ceasefire agreement between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). These problems highlight the urgent need for national reconciliation across political, ethnic and religious lines, and comprehensive reforms that address deep inequalities in Burma.

On 8 June, the Kachin Women’s Association – Thailand (KWAT) released a new report at a press conference with other Kachin organizations to highlight the ongoing armed conflict and human rights abuses. KWAT’s report documents how in the last year, the people of Kachin State have faced arbitrary arrest, torture, forced labor, rape and sexual violence at the hands of the Burma Army who continue to commit these crimes with impunity. Among the most horrendous accounts are those of women being gang-raped, tortured and used as sexual slaves by Burma Army soldiers […]

June 11, 2012  •  By Burma Partnership  •  Tags: , , , ,  •  Read more ➤