Wednesday, 30 October 2013

OIC to visit violence hit Myanmar in November

World Bulletin / News Desk




A group of six foreign ministers and OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu will visit Myanmar in a bid to take up the violence targeting Muslims residing in this country in two weeks.

Ihsanoglu told AA following a special session held at UN Security Council that they will visit Myanmar to make an emphasis on Rohingya Muslims’ right of citizenship in their own country.

Ihsanoglu said Rohingya Muslims were not regarded as the citizens of Myanmar (Burma) with a decision in 1982 and the second basic problem was related to their right to live. OIC Secretary General also said that he has been in contact with US President Barack Obama, EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton regarding the Myanmar issue since the first day he came into the Office and a deal with Myanmar government was reached in the end, despite the great pressure from radical Buddhist monks, to open a humanitarian aid office in this country.

Meanwhile, OIC’s permanent UN observer Ufuk Gokcen told AA that, apart from a draft penned by the EU, an OIC draft to end the violence in Myanmar will have reached UN Security Council by 1 November.

The revelation of Myanmar visit by OIC came following a special session held between UNSC and OIC thanks to an initiative by UNSC term president Azerbaijan.

More than 140,000 Rohingya Muslims had to leave their homes after their homes and workplaces were burnt down and many were massacred by radical Buddhists in 2013. The violence especially targeted Rohingya Muslims in Arakan region situated in the western part of the far eastern country.
The country was under a strict military regime between 1962 and 2011.

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Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Captive Rohingya 'Now Being Sold By Thai Officials to People Traffickers'


A Ranong Immigration truck heads for the Andaman Club pier on Satuday
A Ranong Immigration truck heads for the Andaman Club pier on Satuday
Photo by phuketwan.com

Maung Kyaw Nu's comment.

Rohingya detainees are again sold to Human traffickers !Big Sale ! Every Rohingya detainee is sold at the rate of 2000+ USD!

Thailand Human Rights violation and Human  trafficking issue is leading to wards the worst of the worst stage in the world  due to some greedy monsters .Genocide escapees Rohingyas are sold after sold @2000 to 2500 US Dollars in  the boarders. We have evidences that a few greedy officials ,some greedy Thai Muslim and a handful Rohingyas are  trafficking Rohingyas along side the boarders.This monsters combination group is very strong and have good contact with higher level.It should be urgently investigated and all trafficking related parties to be booked for trail.  This monsters tarnish the image of Thailand  in the world. In the main times we ,the Rohingyas  become victims after victims at the hands of traffickers.Many victims' news are unheard and we are sure that they were sold to fishing trawlers of Malysia,Indonesia and Thailand. How the Thai civil societies and world communities keep silence about this fearful human tragedies.


STOP TRAFFICKING AND SAVE THE ROHINGYAS!

Maung Kyaw Nu,
President ,
Burmese Rohingya Association in Thailand (B.R.A.T)

TOURISM


By Chutima Sidasathian and Alan Morison
Monday, October 21, 2013
Latest Thai officials are now selling captive Rohingya to human traffickers in blatant breach of Thailand's anti-trafficking policy, say informed sources. More 

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Sein Win, Force for Press Freedom in Burma, Dies

OBITUARY


Myanmar, Burma, press freedom, media, censorship
Sein Win collected the Golden Pen of Freedom award from the International Federation of Newspaper Publishers in the late 1980s. (Photo: Win Family)

BANGKOK — Sein Win, a renowned journalist in Burma who championed press freedom and endured three stints in prison as he chronicled several decades of his country’s turbulent history, died Thursday at age 91.

His family said he died in a Rangoon hospital after a long period of ill health.
His work won him international honors, but in his own country his accomplishments were rewarded with jail time and a quarter-century ban on foreign travel. Sein Win was The Associated Press’ correspondent in Rangoon, Burma’s largest city, from 1969 to 1989. His daughter Aye Aye Win has held the job since then.

Sein Win began his journalism career after the 1942 Japanese invasion of what was then called Burma. He started as an unpaid translator at a Burmese-language newspaper, and later worked as an apprentice reporter, editor, publisher and foreign correspondent.
He worked under Japanese occupation, British colonialism, parliamentary democracy and military rule. He lived long enough to see censorship lifted, and the return this year of private daily newspapers under the elected government that took over from the military in 2011.

“In my experience as a journalist for over 40 years under various types of governments, I always find the independent press as a suspect and victim of the governments,” he said in a 1989 speech to the International Press Institute in Berlin. “The colonial government regarded the independent press as a rebel. The national democratic governments treated us like their rival and the national autocratic regimes branded the free press as enemy.”

The son of a junior civil servant, Sein Win was born Feb. 12, 1922, in Kyaunggon, a town west of Rangoon, which at the time was the capital.

As the Japanese were defeated and the British returned, Sein Win was part of a tiny circle of educated Burmese that included the country’s independence leaders. Most belonged to the Anti-Fascist Peoples Freedom League, the party of Gen. Aung San, father of the country’s current opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Sein Win recounted in a 2002 interview that he was one of the few reporters with a motorbike, and all but the top independence leaders would grab rides with him. Because he wore a respectable-looking U.S. Army surplus uniform, police waved him through checkpoints, so the AFPFL used him to carry sensitive material such as documents.
On July 19, 1947, as Britain was preparing to grant Burma independence, Aung San and six ministers in his transitional Cabinet were assassinated. Sein Win mused later that if a heavy rain had not forced him to turn back and let another reporter cover the meeting, he might also have been killed.

Independence came in 1948, but repressive colonial-era press laws remained in place under the parliamentary government of Prime Minister U Nu.
Heavy security deposits were demanded from critical newspapers, and editors and newsmen were arrested on flimsiest charges,” Sein Win said in his Berlin speech.

Sein Win became editor and publisher of the Burmese newspaper The Guardian in 1958. He was jailed for nearly a month in 1960, though the charges were eventually dropped.
The dark ages of Burmese journalism began after a military coup ousted the parliamentary government in March 1962. The Guardian and other daily newspapers were nationalized.
In 1963, Sein Win earned a seat on the International Press Institute’s board and the Golden Pen of Freedom award from the International Federation of Newspaper Publishers. It was another quarter-century before was he allowed to travel abroad to meet IPI colleagues and collect his award.

Strongman Gen. Ne Win tossed thousands of real or imagined opponents into jail. “I was one of them, spending three years under ‘protective custody’ without interrogation or trial,” Sein Win recounted later.

Sein Win joined The Associated Press in 1969 and became one of the few sources for news from the isolated country.

Without him, we would have been lost,” said Denis Gray, who oversaw Burma coverage as the news agency’s bureau chief in neighboring Thailand from 1976 to 2011. He called Sein Win “an absolute gold mine of knowledge.”

A pro-democracy uprising challenged Ne Win’s erratic and despotic rule in 1988. Its first wave was crushed, and although Ne Win formally ceded power, the shadow government he installed rounded up people he felt had betrayed him. One of the alleged plotters was a news source and a friend of Sein Win.


On the night of July 28, 1988, AP’s bureau in Bangkok received a telex.
“Daddy has been taken away,” it read. “He won’t be available to answer your queries.”

Sein Win was held for 28 days in Rangoon’s Insein prison, but when he was released, he later wrote, supporters of democracy appeared to be gaining the advantage.
“For the first time in a quarter-century, people — thousands and thousands of them — were chanting, crying for democracy, and there were no secret police, no soldiers with bayonets fixed and with fingers on the triggers to stop the demonstrators,” he wrote.

But the army soon reasserted its authority. In 1989, Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest, where she would remain for about 15 of the next 20 years. Her party won elections in 1990, but the military government refused to step aside.
Sein Win gave up his AP job in 1989. He worked for Japan’s Kyodo News Service before retiring.

More than two decades later, in 2011, a semblance of democracy was restored when a military-backed but elected government took power. Some of the most notable reforms initiated since then by President Thein Sein have improved freedom of the press.

Credit:The Irrawaddy News.

PRESS RELEASE: 133 Ethnic Civil Society Organizations Express Concern and Reservation Regarding Foreign Military Engagement with the Burmese Military

17 October 2013
 
Press Release
133 Ethnic Civil Society Organizations Express Concern and Reservation Regarding Foreign Military Engagement with the Burmese Military
 
Today, October 17, 2013, 133 civil society organizations, representing 15 of Burma’s ethnic nationalities, submitted a joint letter to President Barack Obama of the United States, Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom, and Prime Minister Tony Abbott of the Commonwealth of Australia expressing great concern and reservation regarding their military engagement with the Burmese military. Along with details of human rights atrocities and ongoing conflict the Burmese military continues to perpetrate, the joint letter pens explicit preconditions that must be met prior to any military engagement and states the criteria for military engagement should it move forward.
The undersigned organizations describe in the letter the egregious abuses they have experienced at the hands of the Burmese military: “They have destroyed our villages, stolen our land, forced us to serve as their slave labor, to carry their equipment as they hunt down, torture, kill, and enslave our fellow ethnic brothers and sisters, and rape, gang-rape, and sexually assault our women and girls…We know the Burmese military intimately, like no one else could.  We speak of the past, and we speak of the present.  We do not want this to be our future.”
“The Burmese military’s lack of commitment to democratic reform is evident in its continuing attacks against ethnic minorities and its failure to work honestly toward genuine peace.” The military broke a 17-year-old ceasefire with the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) in June 2011 and continues to ignore requests to stop the attacks, resulting in the displacement of 100,000 people.  The military has violated multiple signed ceasefires with the Karen, Mon, and Shan, and continues to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Economic reform, rather than democratic reform, along with global recognition and legitimacy, are the priorities of the Burmese military and government, and providing trainings via military engagement would prove anything but beneficial for the ethnic people of Burma“The Burmese military does not commit human rights abuses accidentally, out of ignorance, because they do not know any better, or because they are not properly trained. Burmese military leadership orders their officers and soldiers to violate human rights in order to control property and resources.”
“Training junior officers and soldiers does not address the main problem: that soldiers are committing human rights abuses on the orders of their military and political leaders.”

The letter urges several preconditions and criteria prior to any military engagement. Examples of preconditions include but are not limited to the following:
  • Require the Burmese military to demonstrate a genuine interest in reform by stopping all attacks throughout the country in both ceasefire and non-ceasefire areas, withdrawing from conflict zones;
  • Require the Burmese government and the Burmese military to publicly acknowledge that human rights abuses have and continue to be committed by the Burmese military and commit to a zero tolerance policy;
  • Require the Burmese military to establish, with international support, an independent military police force that will investigate allegations of human rights abuses by soldiers, and the creation of an open judiciary process where such soldiers are given fair trials and sentences.
“Allowing military engagement with the Burmese military without requiring the Burmese military to demonstrate an interest in genuine reform and to adhere with the established preconditions conveys an undeserved legitimacy on the Burmese military and will jeopardize any effort to persuade the Burmese military to agree to national reconciliation.”
The joint letter to President Obama, Prime Minister Cameron and Prime Minister Abbott was submitted on behalf of 133 ethnic nationality civil society organizations worldwide, the full list of signatories is included with the letter.
Please find the full text of the joint letter here.

The following individuals are available for media inquiries:
In Sydney, Australia: Seng Maw Lahpai - Kachin Association of Australia
Languages: English, Kachin and Burmese
Mobile: +61 402 927 888, Email: smlahpai@gmail.com

In Thailand: Seng Zin – Kachin Women’s Association Thailand
Language: English, Kachin and Burmese
Mobile: +66 846 142 330, Email: kwat.advocacy@gmail.com

In London, UK: Saw Raymond Htoo - Karen Community Association UK
Languages: Burmese, Karen, Karenni, English
Mobile: +44 751 981 9862, Email: rphtooms@gmail.com

In London, UK: Kai Htang Lashi – Kachin National Organization, UK
Languages: English, Kachin and Burmese
Mobile: +44 792 082 6694, Email: htangkai@gmail.com

In Washington, DC, USA: Myra Dahgaypaw - U.S. Campaign for Burma
Languages: English, Burmese, Karen
Office: +1-202-234-8022, mobile: +1-718-207-2556, email: myradah@uscampaignforburma.org


credit:Burma Partnership
 
 
By Burma Partnership
 

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Myanmar Urged to Ratify Chemical Weapons Treaty

Myanmar Urged to Ratify Chemical Weapons Treaty

By Rachel Vandenbrink
2013-10-11
myanmar-opcw-oct-2013.jpg
A view of the headquarters of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague on Oct. 11, 2013.
AFP
The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to a global chemical weapons watchdog on Friday has prompted a call for Myanmar to ratify a key international treaty banning the arms.

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Myanmar must ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention two decades after signing if it wants to prove to the international community it is serious about reforms.  

Despite political and economic reforms enacted since Myanmar’s military junta gave up power more than two years ago, experts say there are still looming questions about possible chemical weapons stockpiles and allegations that the military used chemical weapons against ethnic rebel groups.
Reformist President Thein Sein’s government has denied the claims.

Myanmar is one of a handful of countries that have not fully committed to the treaty, which prohibits the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer, and use of chemical weapons.

The intergovernmental organization enforcing the treaty, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, was selected Friday as the winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for its work to rid the world of the deadly agents and its current work helping Syria eliminate stockpiles of poison gas.

The award of Nobel Prize to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) once again highlights how far Myanmar is from fulfilling international norms, despite the government’s rhetoric of reform,” HRW’s deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said.
“Chemical weapons pose a grievous rights threat to mankind, so why is Myanmar one of the hold-out nations in the world that has still not ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention?” he asked.

Robertson called on President Thein Sein to send the treaty to parliament and urged lawmakers to ratify it immediately in order to “bring Myanmar into line with international action against these abhorrent weapons.”
The call comes three days before the treaty formally enters into force for Syria, which has allowed OPCW inspectors to come into the country on a mission to investigate and destroy stockpiles of poison gas.

Signed but not ratified

Myanmar signed the convention in January 1993, a move that made it part of the first group of countries indicating a willingness to join.

But by not ratifying the treaty, it has not agreed to submit itself to international inspections and refrain from steps that would violate the convention.

Remaining non-signatories to the treaty are Angola, Egypt, North Korea, South Sudan, while Israel, like Myanmar, has signed but not ratified the convention.

In February, a technical assistance team from the OPCW visited the Myanmar capital Naypyidaw and met with lawmakers to discuss implementation of the treaty.

Myanmar’s government asserts the country has no chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons programs.

But ethnic armed rebel groups including the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) have accused the Myanmar military of using chemical weapons as recently as last year in their long running war in the country’s borderlands.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, the U.S. government voiced suspicions of a possible chemical weapons program under the military junta in Myanmar, naming China and North Korea as possible suppliers. Since then the U.S. has been less vocal in its concern about the issue.

According to global security nonprofit organization the Nuclear Threat Initiative, there is currently “no evidence” to suggest Myanmar has a chemical weapons program.

Allegations about a possible nuclear program are equally murky, with Myanmar facing suspicions of engaging in illegal trade with North Korea that possibly included covertly setting up an atomic program.

Last month Myanmar signed with U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an additional protocol on nuclear disarmament that gives weapons inspectors wider access to facilities that could be used to develop nuclear technology.

The signing came ten months after Thein Sein pledged to abide by the U.N.’s arms embargo on North Korea and to allow the IAEA full access to Myanmar weapons sites.

source: the Radio Free Asia.

Press Release UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY: ESTABLISH CLEAR BENCHMARKS TO ADDRESS CONTINUING ABUSES IN MYANMAR

Wartime Abuses in Kachin State, “Ethnic Cleansing” in Rakhine State, Tens of Thousands Denied Access to Aid
(Bangkok, October 9, 2013) — The United Nations General Assembly should adopt a strong and comprehensive resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar to promote much-needed human rights reform in the country, Fortify Rights said today. When it considers a forthcoming resolution on Myanmar, the UN General Assembly should condemn the wide range of ongoing human rights violations by the government and armed forces of Myanmar and provide clear benchmarks for measurable improvement, including establishing the presence of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Myanmar.

“Positive political changes have come to Myanmar but the human rights situation is deeply concerning,” said Matthew Smith, executive director of Fortify Rights. “The pending resolution should acknowledge Myanmar’s political progress but shouldn’t gloss over the immense amount of work that remains to be done.”

On December 24, 2012, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 67/233 to focus attention on ongoing human rights abuses in Myanmar while noting significant progress underway within the country. The 2012 resolution expressed concern about “arbitrary detention, forced displacement, land confiscations, rape and other forms of sexual violence, and torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, as well as violations of international humanitarian law.” It called for the government of Myanmar to “ensure accountability and end impunity” for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

The human rights violations articulated in the UN General Assembly’s 2012 resolution remain prevalent in Myanmar, and impunity continues, Fortify Rights said.

Recent investigations by Fortify Rights in the conflict zones of Kachin State and northern Shan State—where the Myanmar army and Kachin Independence Army (KIA) have fought a deadly war since June 2011—reveal entrenched impunity for abuses perpetrated by the Myanmar army, such as extrajudicial killings, abusive forced labor, rape and sexual violence. Fortify Rights documented abuses perpetrated by the Myanmar army in recent months, including violations of international humanitarian law, such as extrajudicial killings, failure to adequately protect civilian life, and the use of forced labor. Both the Myanmar army and the KIA continue to recruit and use child soldiers, and to deploy antipersonnel landmines throughout the conflict zone. Neither party has taken significant steps to address these abuses.

"The Myanmar army’s targeted abuses against civilians in situations of armed conflict must be brought to an end and perpetrators should be held accountable, and the resolution should clarify that," said Matthew Smith. “Impunity for wartime abuses will be a serious obstacle to lasting peace in Kachin State and should be clearly addressed.”

More than 100,000 Kachin have been forcibly displaced since June 2011, and at least 65,000 have fled to 51 camps in KIA-held territory, where the government of Myanmar continues to deny access to international humanitarian agencies. Since June 2011, UN agencies have only been authorized by the government to provide minimal short-term aid deliveries to 20 percent of those displaced in KIA-controlled territory, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Kachin civil society, Kachin faith-based organizations, and the Kachin Independence Organization—the political wing of the KIA—have led the relief effort and attempted to fill humanitarian gaps with limited resources.

The UN General Assembly should urge Myanmar to heed its 2012 call for the government to abolish all restrictions on humanitarian access to displaced persons in dire need of aid—including those in Kachin, Shan, and Rakhine states.

The UN General Assembly should also condemn the ongoing “ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingya and Kaman Muslim population and call for the establishment of an independent international investigation into ongoing human rights violations against Muslims in Rakhine State. In December 2012, the UN General Assembly “express[ed] its serious concern” over the situation in Rakhine State, and violence and abuse in the state has since continued. Anti-Muslim violence has spread throughout Myanmar, fueled by nationalist-Buddhist extremism, and it erupted again on September 29 in Rakhine State’s Thandwe Township, where security forces failed to protect Kaman Muslim communities from targeted arson attacks.

Tens of thousands of internally displaced Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State still lack access to adequate humanitarian aid, and more than 35,000 Rohingya in 113 isolated villages are in need of urgent aid, according to OCHA. The UN General Assembly must call upon the government of Myanmar to ensure that aid reaches these groups in dire need without delay.

The majority of an estimated one million Rohingya Muslims are effectively denied access to citizenship through Myanmar’s controversial 1982 Citizenship Act. The government further applies abusive restrictions on the daily lives of Rohingya, including on their right to freedom of movement, religion, education, livelihood, and marriage. The UN General Assembly should press the government of Myanmar to amend the 1982 Citizenship Act to bring it in line with international standards and to lift all abusive restrictions on ethnic and religious minorities, including Muslims, Fortify Rights said.

The UN General Assembly should also address the broader need for law reform in Myanmar. Despite its progress on political reforms, Myanmar still enforces laws and policies that fail to meet international human rights standards. For instance, various provisions in the Penal Code, the Peaceful Assembly Law, the Electronic Transactions Act, and the Unlawful Associations Act are used as pretexts to restrict basic freedoms and are inconsistent with international human rights standards. Draft legislation, such as the Law on the Formation of Organizations—which is currently under consideration by the Parliament—further threatens basic freedoms. Article 445 of the Myanmar Constitution also requires urgent attention to remove the codification of impunity for state actors who may have committed grave human rights abuses.

In November 2012, President Thein Sein promised US President Barack Obama his government would permit the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to establish a presence in the country, but his government has since stalled efforts to do so. The General Assembly should recommend that the government of Myanmar make good on its commitment and invite the OHCHR to establish a presence in the country with a full human rights protection, promotion, and technical assistance mandate.

On July 15, Burmese President Thein Sein committed to free all prisoners of conscience by the end of 2013. Scores of activists throughout the country, however, have since been arrested and prosecuted for exercising their human rights. This includes two staff members of the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters— U Aung Myint, age 44, and Hla Myo Naing, age 34—who were arrested in Irrawaddy Region on September 5 and September 17, respectively, after providing awareness-raising trainings on human rights to local communities. Other arrests since the President’s July statement include: Naw Ohn Hla, 52, a prominent activist sentenced on August 29 to two years hard labor for protesting a Chinese-led copper mine in Sagaing Region; U Kyaw Hla Aung, 74, a prominent Rohingya lawyer, human rights defender, and longtime humanitarian worker arbitrarily detained in Sittwe, Rakhine State on July 15; and ten Rakhine activists who were convicted for peacefully protesting a Chinese-led natural gas project and sentenced on September 26 to three months in prison.

The UN General Assembly should encourage the government of Myanmar to make good on its promise to clear Myanmar’s jails of prisoners of conscience by not only freeing all prisoners of conscience and political prisoners but also affording all prisoners due process rights and ensuring humane treatment in conformity with international standards, Fortify Rights said.

The UN General Assembly should strengthen its 2012 call for Myanmar to become a party to international instruments in the fields of human rights, labor law, refugee law, and humanitarian law. The UN General Assembly should urge the government of Myanmar to act upon the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission’s (MNHRC) recommendation in June 2013 that Myanmar ratify both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. In addition, the UN General Assembly must call upon Myanmar to become a party without reservation to other key treaties to promote and protect human rights, such as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

The UN General Assembly should also instruct Myanmar to enforce and uphold the international instruments to which it is already a party, such as the Geneva Conventions of 1949 governing the protection of civilians during armed conflict, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. It should also recommend that the MNHRC be established by law in line with the Paris Principles—which were created by the UN to establish minimum standards for bona fide national human rights commissions.

Finally, the General Assembly should urge the government of Myanmar to establish transitional justice mechanisms of accountability and truth-seeking to address decades of past abuses and enable Myanmar to abandon the shadow of unresolved grave human rights violations.

“For Myanmar to demonstrate progress on human rights, the government must embrace and enforce core standards of international human rights law,” concluded Matthew Smith.
For more information, please contact:
Matthew Smith, matthew.smith@fortifyrights.org, +66.85.028.0044 (Thailand), @matthewfsmith
Key Recommendations
The Pending UN General Assembly resolution on Myanmar should recommend the government of Myanmar:

  • End armed conflict-related abuses, including violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and ensure perpetrators of abuse are held to account.
  • Ensure immediate and unrestricted humanitarian access to displaced persons.
  • Protect at-risk populations, including Muslims, from mob violence and abuses by security forces, and immediately release individuals who have been arbitrarily detained without basis during or following incidents of anti-Muslim violence, unless they are properly charged and tried in trials that meet international standards of fairness.
  • Immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners.
  • Facilitate the establishment of an office of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Myanmar with a full mandate.
  • Amend or repeal laws and legislation that are not in line with international human rights standards, including laws that violate the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association as well as laws that discriminate against ethnic and religious minorities.
  • Adopt international human rights instruments and establish a mechanism to ensure accountability for past grave human rights violations.

ABOUT FORTIFY RIGHTS

Fortify Rights is an independent organization that strives to strengthen the human rights movement through rigorous defense and protection of human rights. We provide technical support to human rights defenders and conduct independent monitoring and strategic advocacy. By independently documenting and exposing human rights violations while teaming with activists to advocate for change at local, national, and international levels, we aim to fortify the human rights movement.
We are a non-profit human rights organization based in Southeast Asia and registered in Switzerland and the United States. Follow us on Twitter @FortifyRights.

Download the release here (.DOC format)

Friday, 11 October 2013

Syria chemical weapons monitors win Nobel Peace Prize

Syria chemical weapons monitors win Nobel Peace Prize

The OPCW had helped chemical weapons become "taboo", Norwegian Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said

Related Stories

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the body overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal, has won the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Nobel Committee said it was in honour of the OPCW's "extensive work to eliminate chemical weapons".
The OPCW, based in The Hague, was established to enforce the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention.
OPCW director general Ahmet Uzumcu said the award was a "great honour" and would spur it on in its work.
He said the deployment of chemical weapons in Syria had been a "tragic reminder that there remains much work to be done".
The OPCW recently sent inspectors to oversee the dismantling of Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons.
It is the first time OPCW inspectors have worked in an active war zone.
The watchdog picks up a gold medal and 8m Swedish kronor ($1.25m; £780,000) as winner of the most coveted of the Nobel honours.

Analysis

The OPCW has been working to rid the world of chemical weapons for the past 16 years. For the most part, this task has been laborious and unheralded.

A staff of about 500, working from its headquarters at The Hague, is charged with making sure that the 189 signatories to the Chemical Weapons Convention are abiding by its terms.
But it is only in recent weeks, following the use of chemical weapons in Syria, that the OPCW has become a household name.

It is facing its biggest challenge ever - to verify and destroy Syria's entire chemical weapons programme by the middle of next year. The Nobel committee clearly feels it needs all the support it can get.

It is not uncommon for organisations to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It has happened 24 times since 1901. Non-proliferation has been an occasional theme, with campaigners for nuclear disarmament and against land mines among those recognised.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon praised the award, saying the OPCW had "greatly strengthened the rule of law in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation".
'Vindication' Announcing the award in Oslo, Norwegian Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said it wanted to recognise the OPCW's "extensive work".

"The conventions and the work of the OPCW have defined the use of chemical weapons as a taboo under international law," he said.

"Recent events in Syria, where chemical weapons have again been put to use, have underlined the need to enhance the efforts to do away with such weapons."
The Nobel Committee also criticised Russia and the US for failing to meet an April 2012 deadline to destroy their chemical weapons arsenals.
The OPCW's Ahmet Uzumcu said the organisation had been working "with quiet determination to rid the world of these heinous weapons", away from the spotlight, for the past 16 years.

He said the Syria mission was the first time the OPCW had worked to such a short timeframe and in an ongoing conflict, and that it was "conscious of the enormous trust" placed on it by the international community.

Praising the commitment of his staff and the support of member states, he said the Nobel Peace Prize would "spur us to untiring effort, even stronger commitment and greater dedication" to bring about a world free of chemical weapons".

The OPCW's Ahmet Uzumcu in The Hague, 11 Oct The OPCW's Ahmet Uzumcu said the prize would spur the organisation's efforts
The head of the OPCW inspection team in Syria, Ake Sellstrom, said: "This is a powerful pat on the back that will strengthen the organisation's work in Syria."

The OPCW is made up of 189 member states and the principal role of its 500-strong staff is to monitor and destroy all existing chemical weapons.
It draws on a network of some of the best laboratories and scientists in the world to help it in its work, the BBC's science correspondent Pallab Ghosh says.
The 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention has contributed to the destruction of nearly 80% of the world's chemical weapons stockpile.

Syria is expected to sign the treaty in the coming days.
French President Francois Hollande said the Nobel prize was a "vindication" of the international efforts in Syria and pledged continued support for the OPCW's work there and elsewhere.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said the "Nobel Committee has rightly recognised [the OPCW's] bravery and resolve".
European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso, EU President Herman Van Rompuy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel all congratulated the OPCW.

Notable omission There were a record 259 nominees for this year's Peace Prize, but the list remains a secret.
Pakistani schoolgirl campaigner Malala Yousafzai and gynaecologist Denis Mukwege of the Democratic Republic of Congo had been tipped as favourites to take the award.
Malala praised the work of the OPCW after the announcement and thanked those who had offered her encouragement.
"I would like to congratulate them on this much-deserved global recognition," she said in a statement.
"I would also like to thank the people and media in Pakistan, and those from all over the world, for their support, kindness and prayers. I will continue to fight for the education for every child, and I hope people will continue to support me in my cause."

OPCW

  • Born out of the Chemical Weapons Convention signed by nations in 1993
  • Convention entered into force in 1997, allowing OPCW to start its work
  • Within 10 years, inspectors had destroyed 25,000 tonnes of weapons
  • By 2013, about 80% of world's declared stockpile had been destroyed
  • Thousands of tonnes remain in the possession of the US and Russia
Others who had been listed as contenders were Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning), the US soldier convicted of giving classified documents to Wikileaks and Maggie Gobran, an Egyptian computer scientist who abandoned her academic career to become a Coptic Christian nun and founded the charity Stephen's Children.

But an hour before Friday's announcement, NRK reported the award would go to the OPCW.
The European Union won the prize in 2012 in recognition of its contribution to peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.


Previous Nobel Peace Prize laureates include anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela, US President Barack Obama, the Dalai Lama and Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Nobel Committee has in the past publicly regretted never awarding the prize to Mahatma Gandhi, the pacifist leader of the Indian nationalist movement against British rule, even though he was nominated five times.

source:BBC World news.

FORMER PARIAH MYANMAR TAKES ASEAN CHAIR


Phil Robertson
Phil Robertson shared a link Former pariah Myanmar takes ASEAN chair: ""Sadly, respect for human rights has never been an important qualification for being ASEAN chair," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at New York-based Human Rights Watch. "Myanmar's human rights record is still highly problematic but this is nothing that ASEAN ever had a problem with," he told AFP. "No one should forget that with a few exceptions, #ASEAN continues to be a grouping of frequently dictatorial rights abusing states."

#Burma #Myanmar"

Former pariah Myanmar takes ASEAN chair
www.google.com
Bandar Seri Begawan — Myanmar won a new diplomatic prize Thursday for its dramatic political reforms, taking the helm of Southeast Asia's regional bloc despite warnings from some critics that the move was premature.
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Thursday, 10 October 2013

Myanmar: Will anyone speak up for the world's most persecuted minority?

Commentary: Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims continue to be targets of ethnic cleansing.






















Myanmar violence buddhists muslims october 2013Enlarge
Muslim residents take shelter at a house in Thabyu Chai village near Thandwe, in Myanmar's western Rakhine state on October 2, 2013. Terrified women and children hid in forests and security forces patrolled tense villages in western Myanmar as police said the toll from fresh anti-Muslim unrest rose to five. (SOE THAN WIN/AFP/Getty Images)
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CHICAGO — Myanmar may be the newest poster-child for democracy, but the country continues its campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in Arakan State.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has dubbed the violence by Myanmar, otherwise known as Burma, “crimes against humanity.” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said earlier this year that Myanmar urgently needed to address the “disturbing” humanitarian situation of the Rohingya.

Since June 2012, HRW has documented the role of the Myanmar government and local authorities in the forcible displacement of more than 125,000 Rohingya and other Muslims in an ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Coordinated attacks by the government, monks and even civilians have resulted in killing, burning and making homeless tens of thousands of Rohingya, according to the group; even children have not been spared. “Hog-tied” corpses have been buried in mass graves and young women raped. Desperately needed humanitarian aid has been denied.

The worst atrocities against the Rohingya have occurred since Myanmar became more “democratic. ” The violence started in June 2012, after Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party overwhelmingly won by-elections two months earlier.

One wonders whether that was the moment those behind the "ethnic cleansing" were waiting for. The army in Sittwe has besieged the Rohingya, a tactic that is pushing them close to starvation. There is nothing subtle about state complicity in the crimes that seem directed at eradicating the Rohingya from Myanmar.

Myanmar’s President, Thein Sein, has gone so far as to say that Rohingyas are "not our ethnicity ... we will send them away if any third country will accept them."

President Sein has even proposed the solution: he wants the Rohingya to be placed in UN-sponsored refugee camps, or resettled elsewhere.

For decades, the state has tried to get rid the Rohingya. Shortly after the military seized power in 1962, it began to dissolve Rohingya social and political organizations. The 1974 Emergency Immigration Act stripped Burmese nationality from the Rohingyas. Under the 1982 Citizenship Law, Rohingya were declared “non-national” or “foreign residents.”
The result is that hundreds of thousands of Rohingya in Myanmar and abroad are effectively stateless. Since 1984, Myanmar has even outlawed Rohingya families from having more than two children. Arbitrary arrests by soldiers are common, as are land grabs by the government.

Rather than criticize the state and promote a counter-narrative, media in Myanmar have tried to legitimize the violence by describing the Rohingya using the derogatory term “kalar,” meaning a dark-skinned person of South Asian appearance.

The press also calls the Rohingya trespassers from Bangladesh, ignoring the history of the Rohingya as indigenous to Myanmar. For centuries they have lived in Arakan State, a western region along the Bay of Bengal.

The Rohingya speak a different language from the majority of people in Myanmar, giving their detractors another rationale for classifying them as outsiders. Those who have been exiled to Bangladesh are shunned as intruders when they attempt to return.

Today, Rohingya babies are not issued birth certificates. Rohingya cannot marry without government permission, which is almost never given. Existing Rohingya marriages are not recognized unless heavy bribes are paid. Rohingya are not even permitted to travel outside their villages.

The Rakhine state government has closed down Islamic schools and banned Muslim children from state education.

If it won't acknowledge violence against the Rohingya as genocide, the international community should at least acknowledge that a humanitarian disaster has unfolded in Myanmar while the world slept.

It appears that the United States, Europe, China and Muslim countries are not facing up to the reality that the nightmare continues. Answers for this collective behavior are scarce. If maintaining the appearance of democracy in Myanmar is good for business, it comes at a huge humanitarian cost, as the Rohingya are finding out.

Dawood I. Ahmed is a lawyer from Pakistan who has worked at the United Nationa and is a doctoral candidate in human rights at the University of Chicago. Nadia Ishaq is a New York based attorney. She advocates on human rights concerns pertinent to South Asia. She previously worked in the region as a cross border transactional attorney.

Myanmar: “Prisoners of conscience must be released without any conditions” – UN rights expert


Source: OHCHR-Bangkok
9:21 AM (7 hours ago)

to

Myanmar: “Prisoners of conscience must be released without any conditions”
– UN rights expert

GENEVA (9 October 2013) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the
human rights situation in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, has welcomed the
latest presidential amnesty on 8 October resulting in the release of 56
prisoners of conscience, while raising concerns over ongoing arrests of
activists and conditions attached to arrests.

“I commend the Government for this latest amnesty, and celebrate the
release of these people who had been unjustly imprisoned under the previous
military Government,” Mr. Ojea Quintana said. “These releases are not only
important for the victims and their families, but also for the ongoing
process of democratic transition and national reconciliation.”

“However, the release of prisoners of conscience is something that should
be based on principle and should therefore occur immediately and
unconditionally,” the expert said, while noting that the Code of Criminal
Procedure enables the attachment of conditions to the discharge of
prisoners, such as the imposition of the remaining sentence if the
President judges that a condition of release has been broken.

“Administrative obstacles should also be removed which hinder former
prisoners’ freedom to relocate to different states and regions in Myanmar,
restrict them in running for public office, as well as hinder their
acquisition of passports and professional work licences,” he said. “The
release of prisoners of conscience must be without any conditions.”

The human rights expert also expressed concern over ongoing arrests and
convictions taking place which he believes are politically motivated,
including individuals involved in land rights protests: “These releases
need to be accompanied by legislative reforms, including the Peaceful
Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act, to ensure that new prisoners of
conscience do not take the place of old ones.”

“There are also other cases that need to be included in the President’s
commitment to release all political prisoners by the end of the year,
including the four INGO workers who have been arbitrarily detained in
Buthidaung Prison since June and July 2012, and human rights defenders in
Rakhine State such as Dr. Tun Aung and U Kyaw Hla Aung, who have also been
arbitrarily detained since June 2012 and July 2013 respectively,” he said.

The Special Rapporteur will present his latest report on the human rights
situation in Myanmar to the General Assembly in New York on 24 October
2013.

ENDS

Mr. Tomás Ojea Quintana (Argentina) was appointed by the United Nations
Human Rights Council in May 2008. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent
from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity.
He has worked at the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. He was also
the Executive Director of the OHCHR Programme for Protection and Promotion
of Human Rights in Bolivia. Most recently, Mr. Ojea Quintana has
represented the Argentinean NGO “Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo” in cases
concerning child abduction during the military régime. Learn more, log on
to:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/MM/Pages/SRMyanmar.aspx

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Are invisible forces orchestrating Myanmar's anti-Muslim violence?

Opinion

Are invisible forces orchestrating Myanmar's anti-Muslim violence?

The military has much to lose from democratic reforms and may be using the bloodshed as a way to reassert control.

Last Modified: 09 Oct 2013 16:14
Francis Wade

Francis Wade is a Thailand-based freelance journalist and analyst covering Myanmar and Southeast Asia.(please listen here)
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The Buddhist Rakhine consider Muslim Rohingya to be Bengalis and have directed most of the sectarian bloodshed at them, writes Francis Wade [EPA]
Myanmar's president made his first trip to the violence-hit town of Thandwe last week, days after a 94-year-old Muslim woman was slain by Buddhists in a nearby village. Spurred on by an unrelated argument between a Muslim political leader and a Buddhist taxi driver two days prior, a mob approached her home in a nearby village on October 1. Her daughter managed to escape, but returned to find a charred house and a mother with cuts to her neck, head and stomach.

The state-run New Light of Myanmar later quoted President Thein Sein as saying that he had suspicions about the nature of the Thandwe attacks, where close to 100 houses were razed. "Ethnic Rakhine [Buddhists] and ethnic Kaman [Muslims] have been living here in peaceful co-existence for many years,” he said. "External motives instigated violence and conflicts. According to the evidence in hand, rioters who set fire to the villages are outsiders.”

For someone who has demonstrated such ineptness at confronting head-on the anti-Muslim violence over the past 16 months, the statement is surprising. In it, he finally appears to acknowledge that organised networks of Buddhist extremists are operating in Myanmar. 

It's something that observers have long suspected: the method and style of attacks in Rakhine state, Mandalay region, Shan state and beyond, have been eerily similar, with small trigger events causing mobs to form quickly and descend on towns en masse, weapons already prepared. In most cases, police have stood by and watched, and often locals at the scene have claimed the mobs are formed of "outsiders". A photograph taken near Thandwe this week shows a truckload of armed men sporting red bandanas,which appears at odds with the idea that these groups are just rabbles of aggrieved local civilians.
The role of Buddhist monks in advocating violence against Muslims has also taken many by surprise, although monks were also involved in attacks on mosques during anti-Muslim violence in 1997.

Not a new phenomenon
If there is an organised element to this, then it raises the question of who, and why. There's no clear answer, but powerful forces in Myanmar, particularly the military, would benefit from this unrest. On several occasions in the past few decades, violent clashes directed at an ethnic minority group have coincided with political sensitivities in the country: the 1967 anti-Chinese riots, when the military orchestrated attacks on Chinese-owned properties, in part to distract from General Ne Win's damaging mismanagement of the economy; and in 1988, when attacks on Muslims broke out in Taunggyi and Prome as anti-regime protests swept the country. Many at the time believed the military had sought to inflame ethnic tensions in order to split what could have otherwise been a cohesive anti-regime front.

Can this theory be applied to Myanmar today? Thein Sein's democratic reforms will have unnerved the military, which receives more than one-fifth of the total state budget. With moves towards democratic rule, questions are asked of the colossal resources channeled to the armed forces, and whether its position as the patriarch of Myanmar society is still relevant. This week, the military-backed ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party warned that the country would be in "serious danger and face consequences beyond expectation” if the constitution was overhauled. One of the main reasons the opposition has for revising the junta-drafted 2008 constitution would be to dilute the power of the military. 

Societal unrest, whether it be communal tensions or ongoing conflict with ethnic armies, provides a prime opportunity for any military to reassert its waning influence. Already this has worked to surprising effect in a country where ethnic and political divides run deep. Rakhine, who have long resisted military encroachment on their state, now ask for their protection against what they see as an Islamic tide sweeping the state. Prominent members of the pro-democracy movement have said they would join forces with the army to fight off "foreign invaders”, namely the Muslim Rohingya minority. The role of Buddhist monks in advocating violence against Muslims has also taken many by surprise, although monks were also involved in attacks on mosques during anti-Muslim violence in 1997
.
Rohingya, an existential threat? 
There's no smoking gun in all this, but the evolution of the conflict that began in Sittwe last June between the people of Rakhine and Rohingya suggests something beyond a localised tussle for ethnic or religious dominance. Importantly, the latest attacks in Thandwe were directed at Kaman Muslims, while the vast majority of the violence to hit Rakhine state since June last year has targeted the Rohingya, who are distinct from the Kaman. While the Kaman had until then lived peacefully in the state, the Rohingya were long seen by Rakhine as illegal Bengali immigrants, and their presence there considered an existential threat to the Buddhist population. Campaigns of violence against the Rohingya were therefore justified in the eyes of many Rakhine as a means of defending the land and preserving Buddhism.

That narrative shifted somewhat when violence broke out in Meiktila in central Myanmar in March this year. Meiktila has a Muslim population, but they are not Rohingya, as is the case in Lashio in Shan state, Oakkan in Yangon division and Hpakant in Kachin state, where subsequent deadly attacks on Muslims took place. Rather than an issue confined to one ethnic minority in western Myanmar, it has escalated to a campaign against Muslims in general.

As Myanmar academic Maung Zarni noted in a recent email, not every bout of inter-ethnic violence is state orchestrated. Genuine local grievances can and do result in fits of rage. But, says Zarni, there is a history of manufactured ethno-religious mobilisation "aimed at destablising the order in Burma since the British time”, something that independence hero General Aung San had warned of following the departure of the colonial power.
Can this anti-Muslim ideology really have spread across such vast geographical divides without the aid of an entity like the military, the only entity that can operate on a nationwide scale?
Various analysts have tried to rationalise the evolution of this latest anti-Muslim conflict by likening it to a Yugoslavia-style scenario, where ethnic tensions that were bottled for decades burst to the surface following a shift in the style of rule. This has likely played a role in Myanmar, given attempts by successive rulers since independence to undermine the legitimacy of Muslims as "real" countrymen. Fueled on by the rise of social media, the propaganda and provocation can spread like wildfire, so that Meiktila is now not so distant from Sittwe.
But there is something highly suspicious in the commonalities of attacks across the country. On Saturday, a mob gathered outside a police station in Kyaunggon, near Yangon, and demanded they hand over a Muslim man suspected of an attempting to rape a Buddhist girl a month ago. When the police refused, they torched five Muslim homes. A similar situation triggered the Thandwe riots, with police refusing to hand over the Kaman Muslim leader who was arrested in the wake of the argument. 

Same tactics used by the junta?
 
It's a pattern that has played out across the country, across disparate ethnic states such as the Shan, Kachin and Rakhine. In Kachin state, anti-Muslim violenceis a new phenomenon. Yet the only common thread that unites these ethnic groups' nationalism is a resistance to Burman, and not Muslim, designs on their states.There are few other obvious synapses that bridge these vast ideological and geographical divides, and across which this anti-Muslim sentiment could pass with such speed. How then has this violent reaction to the presence of Muslims? The anti-Chinese riots of the 1960s and 1970s followed major influxes of Chinese into Myanmar, and were in part a reaction to local fears that jobs were going to immigrants. This pretext for the violence cannot be applied in the same way to Muslims.

It is not beyond reason to suspect that an entity that is able to operate on a nationwide scale (of which there are few in Myanmar) may have a hand in current events. Only two hold this position – the military, and the Sangha, the religious council that administers Buddhist institutions and which, given the historic importance of Buddhism to societal cohesion in Myanmar, has its own vested interests in stemming the growth of the country’s Muslim population. So rather than being particular to Thandwe, Thein Sein was echoing something that victims of anti-Muslim violence elsewhere have said, essentially that there is a seemingly invisible force orchestrating the early stages of these attacks.

Who, exactly, it isn't clear. The popular anti-Muslim 969 movement has been traced back to the religious affairs minister under the former junta, but the wider 969 sentiment is alive and well in government today: even Thein Sein, considered a comparative moderate, has publicly called for the removal of the Rohingya, and considers the 969 doctrine, despite its intrinsic links with the violence, to be a "symbol of peace". Last week, Shwe Mann, the powerful speaker of the Lower House, said: "I appreciate the attempts of the Rakhine people to protect Myanmar," which feeds the narrative that Bengalis are trying to take over the country's westernmost state, and must be repelled.

Consequently, it's not too giant a leap to suggest the government could at least be accommodating whatever forces are mobilising mobs to torch Muslim neighbourhoods. If that's the case, however, why would Thein Sein himself hint at this? Again, there's no clear-cut answer, but what's been a surprise to many observers is the disunity in government, with even the military-appointed MPs not always voting as one bloc. Thein Sein appears to want the country to move forward, but others in his cabinet evidently want to retain the control they had under military rule. 

Some of the tactics seen in the anti-Muslim violence are similar to those used by the junta, with the "outsider" mobs reminiscent of the plain-clothed civilian militias like Swan Arr Shin, which were used so effectively by the generals to stir up violence and confuse allegiances during peaceful protests. Factor in the numerous reports of police inaction, and even instructions not to intervene until well into the second day of violence in Meiktila, and the picture grows murkier.

Rather than being a case of either/or, what may have occurred is a synthesis between two major interests – those of an embattled military-political elite with willing collaborators in the Sangha and in Rakhine political parties, and those of a civilian population indoctrinated to consider Muslims as lesser or non-citizens.

One feeds the other, and together work in perfect harmony: military or political leaders looking for a pretext to reassert control in a rapidly evolving country would see the undercurrent of anti-Muslim attitudes in Myanmar society as a classic divide and rule opportunity - help manufacture a threat, and jump in to save the day. It serves as both a PR coup in the face of domestic criticism of the security state in Myanmar, and helps split and weaken society - again a boon for the military. This tactic certainly has historical precedence in Myanmar, and may well have been reinvigorated by a military that today has much to lose from democratic reform. 

Francis Wade is a Thailand-based freelance journalist and analyst covering Myanmar and Southeast Asia.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.
Source:
Al Jazeera