- Birthday celebrations for Rangoon’s largest resident
- Bullet Points: 20 October 2014
- Mrs Abe helps put Japanese investment in softer light
- Burma fined after unruly fans invade football pitch, rip up seats
- Unite and Rule: A letter from Pastor Timothy
- Magwe village inundated by flash flood
- Koh Tao murders: UK police can only observe, says Thai police chief
Posted: 20 Oct 2014 05:45 AM PDT
Beloved Rangoon elephant Mo Mo celebrated her sixty-first birthday over the weekend.
She was greeted by crowds of children and treated to a birthday feast at the city zoo on Sunday.
Posted: 20 Oct 2014 05:35 AM PDT
On tonight’s edition of Bullet Points:
You can watch Bullet Points every weeknight on DVB TV after the 7 o'clock news.
Posted: 20 Oct 2014 05:31 AM PDT
Akie Abe, the wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, gave a speech at the "Myanmar Festival 2014" in Tokyo on 18 October urging Japan's business leaders to think of Burma as a potential long-term business partner rather than a source of cheap labour.
Ms. Abe has a reputation for being one of the most outspoken first ladies in modern Japanese history, and she isn't shy about publicly stating her opposition to some of the primes minister's key policy goals—including such controversial issues as nuclear power and her husband's unpopular plan to increase the consumption tax. In fact, Akie has opposed her husband on so many issues that Japan's media has dubbed her the "in-house" opposition party.
While some critics say Ms. Abe's actions are a political ploy to soften the prime minister's ultra-conservative reputation, Akie has demonstrated her long-term commitment to Burma by raising money to build schools in the country and even writing her master's thesis about Burma.
Yet the Japanese government is also eager to convince Burma that it's not only interested in making profits from Burma's cheap labour force. Shortly after Burma "opened up" in 2011, Japan organized a conference in Tokyo which led to the cancellation of billions of dollars' worth of Burma's debt obligations, clearing the way for Burma to receive loans from international financial institutions. In addition, when Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida visited Naypyidaw in March, Burma's state media announced that Japan had pledged to increase its financial contribution to various UN agencies in Burma by US$16 million.
At the time, Burma's state-owned media reported that Japan's $US 16 million contribution was part of an overall $75.2 million aid package Tokyo has been providing to UN programmes administered by the UNHCR, UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) in Burma, and that Japan insisted that its latest contribution be earmarked for ethnic populations displaced by violence— including UNICEF deliveries of emergency food aid for children and pregnant women. In addition, the money was reportedly allocated to support UNHCR programmes for IDP camp management, services and shelters.
During the Japanese foreign minister's visit in March, Burmese media outlets also reported that Japan had simultaneously announced it would provide the Burmese government with an additional US$23.4 million in loans to the Burmese government, in part to develop the Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ) near Rangoon.
Several Japanese companies—including Suzuki, Toyota and Mitsubishi—have made commitments to invest in Thilawa, Japan's flagship development project in the country. However, Japan has been criticized for its general lack of transparency regarding the Thilawa project, and the venture has been delayed by farmers who claim their land was confiscated in order to make way for the SEZ; their compensation was woefully insufficient; and that they were resettled in uninhabitable locations that are unsuitable for farming.
But Japanese and other foreign companies are still keen to invest in Thilawa, which is expected to be one of the few industrial zones in Burma with reliable water and electricity supplies along with ready access to the sea. Foreign investors are also encouraged by signs that government regulation of companies operating in the SEZ will be lenient.
For instance, earlier this month Burma announced rules which allow manufacturers based in Thilawa to use asbestos, imported industrial waste and toxic chemicals. The new rules also permit investors to engage in a wide range of business activities, most of which will benefit from Burma's plentiful supply of cheap labour.
Regardless of whether Ms. Abe's recent statement about Japanese policy towards Burma is part of a calculated political ploy to soften the image of Japan's ultra-conservative prime minister, don't expect Akie to slow down any time soon. For those who want to learn more about Ms. Abe, you can follow her on Facebook, where she's been known to post unflattering pictures of her husband. And for those interested in Ms. Abe's musings prior to her husband's second stint as prime minister, check out her blog, entitled "Smile Talk with Akie Abe."
The Myanmar Festival 2014 was held in Tokyo from 17-19 October and celebrated 60 years of diplomatic relations between Japan and Burma. Although last year the Japan Times billed the festival as purely a cultural event, this year Ms. Abe gave her controversial speech at a business forum held during the festival.
According to the festival's website, the day before the cultural festival began several Burma-related business activities were held, and during the cultural festival itself Japanese companies apparently had a chance to display their products and services designed for the Burmese market.
One of the Japanese companies participating in the event was "Vision to Motion," which said on its website that "We will participate in Myanmar Festival 2014 to introduce Myanmar culture, our line of services offering that support Myanmar market entry, and report what we are doing in Myanmar. Please feel free to visit our booth…"
Posted: 20 Oct 2014 12:46 AM PDT
The Myanmar Football Federation was ordered to pay a US$24,000 fine and play one competitive international match behind closed doors within the next two years due to the unruly behaviour of fans at the U-19s games against Iran and United Arab Emirates (UAE) last week.
The punishment was handed down by the Asian Football Confederation's Disciplinary Committee, which noted that during the group match between Burma and Iran on 13 October at the Thuwunna Stadium in Rangoon, which Iran won 2-0, some local spectators ripped up seats and threw them onto the pitch. They also ignored a regulation to remain in designated spectator zones.
In addition, the Disciplinary Committee noted that at the end of the quarter-final match on 17 October, when Burma defeated UAE 1-0, hundreds of fans invaded the park in celebration. Some are alleged to have taunted members of the opposition team and caused damage to some sports equipment.
The AFC committee said that should Burmese fans display the same kind of behaviour or violate regulations at the semi-final match against Qatar on 20 October, the Burmese team could be subjected to further punishments, such as playing the final match behind closed doors if they win.
The MFF said it will appeal to the AFC to have the penalties lightened.
"The MFF would like to extend its gratitude to all football fans who wholeheartedly supported the Burma U-19s' team in a disciplined manner during this historic victory," the Burmese football federation said, noting that the victory qualified Burma not only for the semi-finals, but as one of Asia's four representatives at the U-20 World Cup to be held in New Zealand next year.
"The AFC U-19 championship is a high-profile pancontinental event, and it is closely followed by spectators from other Asian countries and other continents," the MFF added. "The display of undesirable behaviour by some fans not only resulted in the AFC's disciplinary measures, but could also harm Burma's reputation.
"Should this kind of situation take place again, Burma could lose its capacity to host international matches. It is to all Burmese fans' knowledge that a display of undesirable behaviour in the World Cup qualifying match against Oman in 2011 also resulted … in a fine and a ban on playing qualifiers at home."
A World Cup qualifier between Burma and Oman in July 2011 was abandoned after home fans in the Rangoon stadium pelted the pitch with rocks, shoes and water bottles as their team lost.
A ban by FIFA on Burma participating in the 2018 World Cup was later lifted.
The news of Sunday's disciplinary action comes a day ahead of Burma's crucial semi-final match against Qatar in Rangoon on Monday.
Posted: 19 Oct 2014 10:57 PM PDT
We have recently seen a stirring of dissension within the various Karen groups over who is pro- Burmese and who is not. In the last 60 plus years, the Burmese are renowned for using the tactic against all the ethnics with ‘Divide and Rule’. The Ethnics' admirable characteristics of simplicity, loyalty and easily trusting others have been abused again and again for decades. This is why the ‘Divide and Rule’ tactic of the Burmese authoritarians towards the ethnics has been very effective in the past. Whatever weakens the Ethnics also weakens the chances of democratic change, as these go hand in hand. Not only has the ‘Divide and Rule’ policy been effective with the Ethnics but also with those who are striving for democracy among the Burmese people themselves, such as the NLD party and other political parties in Burma.
The Karen splits began at the end of 1994 and early 1995. While the Karen National Union (KNU) headquarters in Manerplaw was facing an enormous military onslaught from the Burmese army, some leaders at KNU headquarters mistreated and wrongly judged their own soldiers—causing not only a split, but also the fall of Manerplaw. Since then, the Karens have been split into many groups, one after the other.
This has become a pattern in our history for three reasons:
Many Karen today are tired of seeing division within their own ranks, and their desire is to see all Karen united. During the KNU's 15th Congress, the KNU announced that all Karen should unite, but they also said Karens must unite under the leadership of the KNU political organisation. By asking all other Karen groups to come together under their organization, the KNU demonstrated that they think they are superior. This in itself is wrong, and their approach is no different than the Burmese authoritarians. The KNU have adopted the Burmese regime’s dictatorial spirit. In reality, this will never unite the Karens. True unity can only take place if there is a common goal and a showing of respect to all Karen groups. The KNU should learn to apologise for their poor leadership, which is what caused the splits in the first place. No one is perfect, and we can all learn to forgive one another. If we don’t treat our own Karen with equality and respect, then how can we expect equality and respect from others.
At the beginning of 2010, I reminded the KNU before meeting with the Burmese authoritarians that we should concentrate on unifying all Karens first before meeting with the Burmese. However, the KNU rejected our request for unity among the Karens first, and thinking big of themselves the KNU rushed into meeting with the Burmese authoritarians rather than prioritizing unity among our own Karen. Whether this was intentional or unintentional, without efforts to unify the Karen there can never be true peace.
Many times when we are in leadership positions we commonly mistake that we think we can make no mistakes, like God. However, being in a leadership position, we have to accept that we are more tempted to make a mistake than ordinary people due to the misuse of power and the pursuit of self-interest and self-glory. This attitude and motivation clouds our vision and hinders our goals of freedom and the realization of a great future for our nation. This kind of leadership can be found in all Karen groups. The Karen have to consider what kind of leadership they want and they have
the right to choose their leaders. Under bad leadership there will always be splits. Only under good leaders who not only care for the people but also have the vision, integrity and high morals can the Karen truly be united.
For a year now, I have studied and deliberated how we can unite under one name and a common goal. I have presented my concept to all the Karen groups and one thing that encouraged me is they all agreed to unite.
After discussions with leaders of all the Karen groups; Gen. NaKham We; Gen. Nerdah Mya; Gen. Baw Kyaw Heh; Col. Tiger; and all other military commanders from all the groups, everyone agreed to unite under the original identity of all Karen: Kawthoolei. One common thing all the Karen groups have is a desire to once again be united as a people. Kawthoolei is not a political party or an umbrella organization; it is the identity of all Karen. It is in the interest of all Karen and our common national pride.
When we announced Kawthoolei for the purpose of uniting all Karen, some Karen leaders who are pro-Burmese made a noise that they don’t agree, they don’t know, or they don’t want to sign up to join under the Kawthoolei banner. This is understandable because those who have a national interest in freedom for our Karen will totally agree, but those who do not are the ones who have betrayed their own Karen. Every Karen has the right to stand up and do the right thing for their own people, but when doing the right thing there is no need to ‘request permission’ from anyone. One of the principles of Saw Baw U Gyi is: Karens must decide our own destiny. We do not let the Burmese authoritarians decide our Karen future or rely on the Burmese authoritarians' peace program to realize a good future for the Karen. A good future for us Karen will not arrive or be realized through the actions of others.
The majority of the citizens of Burma have oppressed under a notorious military regime and its government since 1962. Kawthoolei is not narrow-minded just for our own Karen.
Kawthoolei also has a much broader purpose and firm objectives without compromise:
The above 3 main objectives are designed to make Burma a true Democratic Federal Union that leads to long-lasting peace for all citizens in Burma.
A simple and effective strategy to overcome ‘DIVIDE AND RULE’ is to respond with ‘UNITE AND RULE’.
The purpose of this article is not to blame anyone, but rather to recognise our mistakes of the past and learn to become the good leaders which all Karens expect to possess the ability to gain freedom for our Karen people and lead us to a great future for this generation and generations to come.
Dr. Timothy Laklem has been the head of the KNU/KNLA Peace Council's foreign affairs department since 2007, when Brig-Gen Htay Maung and his followers from KNU's 7th brigade formed the KNU/KNLA Peace Council due to differences with other KNU leaders.
Posted: 19 Oct 2014 10:35 PM PDT
More than 100 homes, farms and plantations in Magwe Division's Kanyin village were inundated by a flood triggered by heavy rains on 17 October.
Local residents in Kanyin said their homes and farm equipment were damaged by an abrupt surge in the water level on Friday evening that also left farms and fields buried in mud.
Residents who were most affected by the flood were evacuated to a temporary shelter at the village monastery where they were provided supplies and donations by fellow villagers – no official relief had arrived as of Sunday.
Kanyin experienced a similar disaster eight years ago during fresh floods when the entire village was inundated. Residents have called on local authorities to install proper irrigation ditches and sluice gates.
Local sources on Monday said water levels were returning to normal.
Posted: 19 Oct 2014 08:33 PM PDT
Thai Police are ready to cooperate with British observers in the case of two British tourists murdered on Koh Tao, according to Pol Col Prachum Ruangthong, superintendent of Phangan police station.
However, the British police would only be allowed to observe the investigation, said Pol Lt-Gen Prawuth Thawornsiri, a spokesman for the Royal Thai Police.
Thailand's police are willing to cooperate with British officers following up on the case in Thailand, but they cannot participate in the investigation as the law does not allow it, added Pol Lt-Gen Prawuth.
Police have completed their investigation and the case is now with prosecutors, he said, adding it is impossible to interfere in the work of the prosecution.
If British police have any questions, they can ask Thai police to carry out additional investigations, Pol Lt Gen Prawuth said.
Police are duty-bound to prove the credibility of evidence which backs up their case against two Burmese migrant workers — Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun — who have been charged with the murder of David Miller and the rape-murder of Hannah Witheridge on Sairee Beach.
Thawatchai Siangjaew, chief of Public Prosecution Region 8 and the case’s chief prosecutor, said the arrival of British police will not have any bearing on the judicial process because the investigation is complete.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha denied reports in the British media that he will allow the foreign police to participate in the investigation.
The BBC and The Telegraph reported on Saturday that British investigators would arrive in Thailand to “help with the investigation” after Prime Minister David Cameron persuaded Gen Prayut to allow the move at last week’s Asia-Europe Meeting in Milan.
The reports said British police would independently verify the suspects’ DNA samples and probe whether the suspects’ confessions were obtained using force.
Meanwhile, a 4 October change.org petition (below, screenshot taken early Monday), urging the UK government to independently investigate the murders, passed 100,000 signatures on Friday.
UK law says petitions with at least 100,000 signatures may be debated in the House of Commons under some conditions, but it is unlikely an online petition with no way to verify signers would be accepted.
This article was first published in the Bangkok Post on 20 October 2014.
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