Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Irrawaddy Magazine

The Irrawaddy Magazine

The Irrawaddy Business Roundup (May 28, 2016)

Posted: 27 May 2016 07:53 PM PDT

A Buddhist novice monk rides a train as he travels the Rangoon-Mandalay railway line on Oct. 22, 2012. (Photo: Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters)

A Buddhist novice monk rides a train as he travels the Rangoon-Mandalay railway line on Oct. 22, 2012. (Photo: Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters)

PwC Warns Investors Over Increased Scrutiny

Investors in Burma may find themselves under increased scrutiny if they have entered into business agreements with local companies tied to the previous administration, a major accounting and consulting firm has warned.

In an article published in the Bangkok Post newspaper this week, a manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting (Thailand), the Bangkok branch of the global firm known as PwC, wrote that political change in Burma could bring uncertainty.

A National League for Democracy-led government took power in late March, and while the military retains control of key security-related ministries, the party of Aung San Suu Kyi can be expected to take a degree of control of the country's economy.

"Myanmar's NLD has not publicized a comprehensive economic plan, but the authorities have verbally committed to increasing transparency, fighting corruption and challenging many of the 'crony capitalist' characteristics of the old system," wrote manager George McLeod.

That could mean reviewing government contracts, land deals and tax arrangements, the article said, adding that the new circumstances "may force [existing foreign investors] to examine their relationships and the possibility that their local partner could have their public works projects, tax records and other past conduct revisited."

New investors, meanwhile, should look at how their local partners attained their wealth, especially if they may have benefited from relationships with officials in previous administrations.

"Local companies engaged in sensitive or highly regulated sectors with significant 'government touchpoints' such as natural resources, arms or rice exports [pre-2010] could be especially prone," it said.

Myanma Railways to Tender $2.2b Upgrade

Burma's newly formed Ministry of Transport and Communication will call for private companies to bid to take part in an upgrade of the railway line connecting the country's two largest cities, state media said.

The Global New Light of Myanmar said the work on the Rangoon to Mandalay line was valued at US$2.2 billion. It did not say who would fund the project, but noted that the government's rail operator, Myanma Railways, was working with Japan's aid agency, JICA, which has injected large sums into infrastructure projects in the country in recent years.

Citing Myanma Railways General Manager Ba Myint, the report said a transparent tendering process would begin before the end of this year, and the upgrades themselves would go on for 10 years.

"The first phase of the upgrading project will kick off on the Yangon-Taungoo railroad section next year following the tender process. …" it said. "Upon completion, entire journey from Yangon and Mandalay will take only eight hours."

Industry Group Says the Tin Industry in Burma's Borderlands Is 'Still Booming'

The special administrative region of the Sino-Burmese border area controlled by an ethnic Wa armed group continues to turn out large quantities of tin ore and stockpiles remain "sizable," a tin industry organization has said.

ITRI, a UK-based company that represents and provides data on the tin industry, this week published a news article headed with the words "Myanmar tin ore trade still booming."

It cited Chinese customs data that show China's imports of tin ore and concentrates from Burma totaled more than 46,000 tons in April. That makes total output from Burma for the first four months of the year 174,868 tons, of which about 21,000 tons is pure tin, ITRI said.

While detailed information on where the tin comes from is not available, analysts say the vast majority of tin mined in Burma comes from the Wa Special Region 2. The region is controlled by the United Wa State Army (UWSA), Burma's biggest non-state armed group. The army was formed by former cadres of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) after the party disintegrated following a 1989 mutiny. It is believed to have been provided with advanced weaponry from China.

Tin concentrates mined in huge quantities in the region's Man Maw area are refined inside China. Huge increases in the exports over the past few years have fueled a slide in global tin prices.

ITRI said that while production would decline during the next few months due to seasonal rains, production would rise again after October. However, this forecast "is based on some widely divergent underlying trends," the body said.

"Mining activity at some 200 sites in the Man Maw area is reported by informed sources to have declined considerably this year, with the number of workers having [been] more than halved from peak levels," it said.

"However there are sizeable stockpiles of ore above ground and available for processing and there is always a possibility of new sites being discovered and exploited."

Thai State Energy Firm Wants to Buy Chevron's Burmese Asset

PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP) is hoping to buy at least one of US firm Chevron's oil and gas assets in Burma, a company official reportedly said.

Reuters said Pannalin Mahawongtikul, executive vice president for finance, discussed the explorer's plans with reporters. The company is part of the larger PTT, a public company spun off from Thailand's state energy firm. The government retains a majority stake in the group.

"We focus on projects which are operating, so that we can book revenue immediately after the purchase," Pannalin said, according to Reuters, signaling that Chevron's stake in the Yadana gas field was the major investment target outside of Thailand.

The newswire reported last month that Chevron was looking to offload its 28.3 percent stake in the Yadana and Sein gas fields in the Andaman Sea. France's Total is leading the consortium that produces gas from the fields and sends most of it to Thailand via pipelines.

Chevron is also selling an offshore oil and gas exploration block it won in a tender and on which it has signed a production sharing contract with the government, Reuters said, as part of efforts to preserve cash amid low global energy prices.

Burma Gives Tiny Bhutan New Aviation Rights: Report

The Burmese government has revised an agreement with Bhutan to allow airlines from the tiny Himalayan country to fly in and out of Burmese airports, according to Bhutan's publicly owned newspaper.

The newspaper, Kuensel, said in a report that a delegation from Burma's Department of Civil Aviation had visited Bhutan and signed a new version of a 2002 agreement on aviation services between the two countries.

Since that agreement, Bhutan's first private airline, Bhutan Airlines, has commenced operations and currently flies from the Bhutanese cities of Jakar and Trashigang to airports in India and Thailand.

The new agreement means the airline, as well as national carrier Druk Air, "have the right to operate passenger and cargo services with unrestricted capacity, frequency and aircraft type to and from all points in Myanmar other than Yangon and up to a total of five services each way per week to and from Yangon," the report said.

It also predicted that many of the people of Bhutan—who number only about 750,000—would be keen to visit their fellow Buddhist-majority country.

"With many holy Buddhist sites in Myanmar, Bhutanese pilgrims are expected to explore Myanmar as a destination," it said. "The agreement is also expected to promote trade between the two countries."

The post The Irrawaddy Business Roundup (May 28, 2016) appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

Fearing Extreme Weather, Farmers Scale Back Rice Cultivation

Posted: 27 May 2016 07:47 PM PDT

The drop in rice production follows the devastating impact of Cyclone Komen, which ravaged the farm sector with heavy flooding in 12 out of 14 states and regions from June to August last year. (Photo: Nyein Chan / Myanmar Now)

The drop in rice production follows the devastating impact of Cyclone Komen, which ravaged the farm sector with heavy flooding in 12 out of 14 states and regions from June to August last year. (Photo: Nyein Chan / Myanmar Now)

ZALUN TOWNSHIP, Irrawaddy Division — Aung Kywe remembers how he had to stand by helplessly last year when massive floods in the wake of Cyclone Komen affected the Irrawaddy Delta and destroyed half of his 14 acres of paddy.

That traumatic experience came on top of years of decreasing yields, Aung Kywe said, adding that this monsoon season he will leave much of his land in Kawkatkyi village, Zalun Township, fallow to avoid risking loss of money with another failed harvest.

"Paddy plots on the lower-lying land are almost sure to be flooded," he said, adding: "Paddy yields have also decreased year by year, from 100 baskets per acre to 75 baskets." A basket of rice weighs around 25 kilograms.

In neighboring Maubin Township, also located in the heart of Burma's "rice bowl" delta region, farmers spoke of similar measures to limit exposure to what many believe are increased occurrences of climate change-related extreme weather, such as drought, heat and floods.

Kyaw Minn, from Palaung village, said: "I will not grow monsoon paddy this year, but will cultivate other seasonal crops when the water level drops after the rainy season."

Farmers in the delta generally grow two rice crops, one in the rainy season and one in the cooler season in lower-lying areas that are fed with receding flood waters. They might also grow a third, short-cycle crop, such as beans, in the hot months before the monsoon.

Thein Aung, chairman of the Independent Farmers League in Irrawaddy Division, said that because of rising concerns among farmers, vast areas of land will go uncultivated this year.

"The farmers from our villages will not be growing paddy in a total of 200,000 acres situated on the lowlands," he said, before adding that the impact on overall paddy production would probably be limited as these fields are some of the least-productive tracts.

The Irrawaddy Delta is home to millions of subsistence farmers whose income and food security relies on their annual harvest, and to a lesser extent fishing.

The drop in rice production follows the devastating impact of Cyclone Komen, which ravaged the agricultural sector with heavy flooding in 12 out of 14 states and divisions from June to August last year.

Some 260,000 acres of monsoon paddy fields were flooded and 52,000 acres damaged, according to official figures, which showed that the cyclone and flooding killed 120 people nationwide and affected more than 400,000 households.

Sein Win Hlaing, chairman of the Paddy and Rice Producers Association, said: "Rice production declined by 20 percent last year due to the weather's impact." He added that the fall in rice production would hamper Burma's export volume, which stood at around 1.5 million metric tons of rice before 2015.

Cyclones and other extreme weather are set to increase further and this trend should ring alarm bells with the agriculture sector and the new National League for Democracy (NLD) government, said Tun Lwin, an independent meteorological expert and former government official.

"Traditional agricultural methods are no longer suitable for the changing weather conditions," he warned, adding that the monsoon would be shorter and produce more volatile weather.

Ba Hein, the minister for agriculture, livestock and natural resources for Irrawaddy Division, said development of the agricultural sector and of the water management infrastructure was ignored by previous, military-led governments.

"The delta has many rivers and streams, and these have not been properly managed," he said, adding, however, that the state government had limited funds to improve water management infrastructure and that it was unlikely that the central government would provide more resources soon.

His administration, Ba Hein said, would focus on helping farmers find solutions to the changing weather conditions and boost overall agricultural development by, for example, launching new contract farming systems in cooperation with the Myanmar Rice Producers Association.

Thike Soe, an officer of the Agricultural Department in Maubin Township, said his department was trying to educate farmers about the changing weather patterns and the need to use different rice varieties in order to adapt to the changes.

"There will be a shortage of water supply for cultivation and crop yields may decline. So, they should grow rice seeds that can be harvested in a shorter period," he said, adding that such varieties were available to farmers on local markets.

Soe Tun, chairman of the Myanmar Rice Association, echoed this idea but stressed water management should be improved in order to harness available water resources in times of drought.

"Myanmar has some alternative sources of water supply, including four major rivers. If the water from these rivers can be used efficiently, the country's agricultural sector is sure to resurge," he said.

This story originally appeared on Myanmar Now.

The post Fearing Extreme Weather, Farmers Scale Back Rice Cultivation appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

Dateline Irrawaddy: ‘There Should Be No Political Prisoners In A Democratic Country’

Posted: 27 May 2016 07:40 PM PDT

The Irrawaddy's Ye Ni discusses human rights in Burma with Aung Myo Min of Equality Myanmar and Bo Kyi of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

The Irrawaddy's Ye Ni discusses human rights in Burma with Aung Myo Min of Equality Myanmar and Bo Kyi of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Ye Ni: Welcome to Dateline Irrawaddy! This week, we'll discuss human rights in the context of the new government's 100-day plan. I am joined by Ko Aung Myo Min, executive director of Equality Myanmar, and Ko Bo Kyi, joint secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. I’m The Irrawaddy's Burmese-language editor Ye Ni.

Soon after U Htin Kyaw's government assumed power, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi announced the release of many political prisoners. Proposals were then submitted to the parliament to revoke legal provisions used by the previous military, and military-backed, governments to prosecute political dissidents. Ko Aung Myo Min, what do you think of these actions?  Do you think there will be further human rights progress in the months to come?

Aung Myo Min: We have said that there should be no political prisoners in a democratic country, and we are grateful that [the government] has released them. It is also good that [the government] is trying to amend laws that can turn anyone into a political prisoner at any time, and is talking about ceasefires [between the Burma Army and ethnic armed groups] and national reconciliation.

But then, it is undeniable that the new government faces serious challenges in introducing change. The power of the military is still felt in all branches of executive power. While elected lawmakers sit in the parliament, the military still holds 25 percent of seats. And in some cases, I have found that [military representatives] have argued with and opposed elected lawmakers.

There is now a substantial degree of civilian participation in government. The president and most ministers are civilians. But then, the military and the army chief still have the final say on really important issues, and we still can't change this. As a result, there may be friction between the new government and the old [military-dominated] bureaucracy. But at the same time, things may proceed successfully if the military is willing to cooperate.

YN: Ko Bo Kyi, is it reasonable to say that all political prisoners have now been released?

Bo Kyi: It can't be said that all political prisoners have been released. There are still arrests being made. Currently, 64 [political] prisoners are still serving time, and over 100 are facing trial—so the number of political prisoners may even increase. But we can't just talk about numbers: We have to find and address the cause.

There are still political prisoners because there is no rule of law—[people] can't enjoy their rights to the full. As long as civil wars, land disputes and industrial disputes remain unresolved, there will still be political prisoners. I'm not suggesting that these problems be solved within 100 days. But they need to be comprehensively settled in the long run.

Meanwhile, the parliament should define 'political prisoner,' so that political prisoners can be treated with respect in prison and permitted certain entitlements. The 'socialist' concept that all those placed behind bars should be treated the same is a major hindrance to prison reform. Prisons are overcrowded, further eroding the fundamental rights of prisoners. There are situations in which prisoners are not treated as human. For example, Insein Prison [in Rangoon] can accommodate only 5,000 prisoners; when numbers reach 8,000 or above, they have to sleep on their sides. This is not how a human should be treated.

There are many ways in which prisoners [in Burma] are denied their right to life, good health and wellbeing. We need to think about prison reform—but reforming the prison system is not enough; we also need to enact associated security sector reforms. And we should work towards judicial independence, and provide security for judges so that they can make judgments without bias. Reforms will succeed only when we take all these things into consideration.

YN: Ko Bo Kyi, I'm interested in what you said about human rights progress being linked to security sector reform.

Ko Aung Myo Win, the U Thein Sein government formed the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission to address human rights issues [in Burma]. What are your thoughts on the functioning of that commission and its complaints-handling mechanism? Do you think it is up to the task?

AMM: To be frank, it is not up to the task. That commission is responsible for both promoting and protecting human rights. But in terms of handling complaints and facilitating justice, its power is very limited and it does not receive proper recognition [from the government].

The commission is not authorized to make rulings—instead it forwards its findings about human rights issues to relevant government departments and offers advice. This bestows on ministerial and departmental personnel, who are charged with taking practical action, a very important role—but responses have generally been inadequate, despite the submissions of the human rights commission.

The human rights commission does not have the power to influence the army. For example, the commission investigated the case of Ko Par Gyi [a freelance journalist who died in military custody in 2014] and released a report, which called for the case to be transferred [from a military court] to a civilian court, and be heard publicly, because the military itself was implicated in the case. This didn't happen.

We heard that the suspects were tried at a military court. It seemed like a show of disrespect for the human rights commission. And the commission could do nothing. The military in the end just issued an empty statement saying that the suspects had been 'punished.' This shows that much remains to be done in terms of reforming the security sector.

Human rights abuses happen most frequently in ethnic minority areas where rule of law is weak and armed clashes [between the Burma Army and ethnic armed groups] are going on. The human rights commission cannot prevent human rights violations happening in ethnic minority areas. And the army does not take responsibility. Where are we supposed to find the rule of law?

YN: If only the military were willing, security reforms could be made. But take a look at the Ward and Village Tract Administration Law [enacted by the previous government in 2012 but based on earlier, colonial-era legislation], which permits local authorities to perform random house searches to check for 'unregistered' overnight guests. Do the military still need to enforce these laws on the grounds of 'security'? Can we say they are wrong to do such things even when they are done from the perspective of national security? Or can we say that they are right, because it guards against instability?

BK: We have to ask the following questions: Are we a real sovereign country? Can the military, which have taken responsibility for national security over successive periods, really protect the country?

We have to consider national security alongside the security of the individual. Everyone is responsible for protecting the sovereignty of their country. But while formulating laws, we must approach [them] not only from the perspective of national security, but from the perspective of personal freedom. If we pay too much attention to security, our country will go back to dictatorship. If we pay too much attention to personal freedom, it may disrupt the stability of the country. We have to strike a balance.

The practice of authorities checking houses for overnight guests dates back to the colonial period. The British imposed such laws to suppress Burmese patriots, and to prevent people from actively supporting them.

These laws have been applied in subsequent periods, however, with the military regime using them to suppress people and prevent them from supporting political dissidents. Its harmfulness is such that, even if a person living independently returns to sleep overnight at their parents' house without informing the authorities, he and his parents could be fined or imprisoned.

Such practices should be curtailed even in conditions of instability and chaos. Personally, I would suggest annulling the entire law. However, other surveillance mechanisms should be upgraded to protect the people and prevent crime. Our current surveillance capacity is lacking; it seems as if they can only catch those [criminals] who don't run. To enhance surveillance capacity, we need to have security sector reform.

YN: Ko Aung Myo Min, how would you compare the human rights situation in ethnic minority areas under the U Thein Sein government with the situation now?

AMM: It can't yet be said that the human rights situation [in ethnic minority areas] has improved. There is gunfire even as [the Burma Army and ethnic armed groups] talk of ceasefire. Human rights violations are still going on. Furthermore, the Unlawful Associations Act [which criminalizes contact with ethnic armed groups] threatens everyone in such areas. We still see abductions, torture and killings in northern Shan State and in Kachin State. The rule of law is deteriorating further there.

In recent years people had begun to overcome their reluctance to file complaints—but now they think that, even if they complain, nothing will happen. This feeling has spread like an epidemic. It seems that people have no faith in the law, and have adopted a fatalistic attitude.

The camps of internally displaced persons are proof of human rights violations. Due to clashes, there are even camps in places such as Hsipaw [a highway hub town and tourist destination in northern Shan State]. Kachin State still has many camps and the number is increasing in Arakan State. That people have been forced from their homes is an abuse of their human rights

Sometimes the situation is complex. Previously, clashes occurred between the Burma Army and ethnic armed groups, but they are increasingly taking place between ethnic armed groups. No matter which side commits what, innocent civilians are robbed of their security. Villages are destroyed—we don't know by whom—and it is bad regardless.

There are now camps in Arakan State which were not there before. And because of hatred and misunderstanding between communities, the two sides feel insecure and remain suspicious of each other, which could contribute to renewed conflict anytime. So, I have found no evidence that the human rights situation has improved in such areas.

YN: Thank you for your contributions!

The post Dateline Irrawaddy: 'There Should Be No Political Prisoners In A Democratic Country' appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

This Week in Parliament (May 23-27)

Posted: 27 May 2016 07:31 PM PDT

A view of the Union Parliament in Naypyidaw during its opening session on Feb. 8, 2016. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

A view of the Union Parliament in Naypyidaw during its opening session on Feb. 8, 2016. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

May 23 (Monday)

The Union Parliament approved the resignation of Kyaw Tint Swe from membership on the national legislature's Legal Affairs and Special Cases Assessment Commission following his appointment as minister of the State Counselor's Office.

It approved the name change of a ministry—from Ministry of Health to Ministry of Health and Sports.

It also approved the president's proposal to arrange agricultural loans for farmers for the 2016-17 fiscal year, allocating 5 billion kyats (US$4.2 million) in loans from Burma's Central Bank.

May 24 (Tuesday)

The Lower House received the draft law to annul the "Law to Safeguard the State Against the Dangers of Those Desiring to Cause Subversive Acts," which was sent by the Upper House.

May 25 (Wednesday)

The Lower House approved the draft law to annul the "People's Council Law," which the Upper House had also earlier approved. The People's Council Law (Law No. 8/1974) was enacted during the rule of the Burma Socialist Programme Party under the late Gen. Ne Win. Under the law, the party formed councils at different levels to supervise administrative and judicial work.

The Lower House also approved the draft law to revoke the "State Council Law" (Law No. 10/1974), which had also been earlier approved by the Upper House. Under the law, the State Council has the overall power to manage the country.

May 26 (Thursday)

The Union Parliament approved the draft law to annul the Law to Safeguard the State Against the Dangers of Those Desiring to Cause Subversive Acts.

In the Lower House, two lawmakers submitted urgent proposals, requesting the government take care of damage to roads, bridges and mobile towers caused by heavy rains and serious food shortages in Chipwe, Low Saw, and Khaung Lam Pu of Kachin State. Concerned ministers explained their response plans and the Lower House put the two proposals in the record.

May 27 (Friday)

In the Upper House, the minister for transportation and telecommunications replied to questioning from lawmaker Sai Than from constituency No. 5 of Karen State, saying that his ministry had no plan to issue licenses for smuggled unlicensed vehicles.

The Upper House was informed that the Lower House had approved the draft laws to annul the People's Council Law and the State Council Law.

The post This Week in Parliament (May 23-27) appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

Rangoon to Remove Unpopular Concrete Traffic Blocks

Posted: 27 May 2016 07:24 PM PDT

Rangoon's maligned concrete traffic blocks, now an endangered sight in the city. (Photo: Hein Htet / The Irrawaddy)

Rangoon's maligned concrete traffic blocks, now an endangered sight in the city. (Photo: Hein Htet / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — To alleviate worsening congestion in the city, and in response to numerous car accidents, the Rangoon Division government is gearing up to remove concrete traffic blocks currently placed between the lanes of busy roads, according to Rangoon Traffic Police Col Aung Ko Oo.

Col Aung Ko Oo said the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC), Rangoon's municipal council, would oversee the removal of the concrete blocks at eight sites in the city, including Myaynigone Junction, Eight Mile, and Pyay, Ahlone, Insein, Kabaraye Pagoda, Parami and Shwegondaing roads. But firstly, blocks will be removed from a section of downtown's Anawrahta Road—although some will remain in place for "safety reasons," which he would not specify.

According to Aung Ko Oo, the Rangoon Traffic Police had recommended to the divisional government that the concrete blocks be substituted with strips of vegetation or iron fencing, to divide the lanes of traffic. They also recommended creating more one-way systems, and better signposting of smaller link roads, as a means of managing congestion and improving safety. The concrete blocks, once removed, will be kept at a location in the Sawbwar Gyi Gone area. Their ultimate destination has not been made clear.

Under the previous mayor of Rangoon, Hla Myint, 1.6 billion kyats (US$ 1.4 million) were spent on the concrete blocks—over 44,000 in total costing a little over 30,000 kyats (US$25) each—partly to designate separate bus lanes, intended to curb the aggressive over-taking habits of Rangoon bus drivers.

Rangoon residents have complained that the concrete blocks, which were installed in busy road sections across the city, have not eased the city's traffic volume. Additionally, the blocks have caused a number of accidents, with vehicles crashing into these solid barriers. The project was considered a waste of public funds.

Kyaw Kyaw Htun, who represents Hlaing Constituency-1 in the Rangoon Division Parliament for the National League for Democracy, submitted a proposal last week on the subject of Rangoon's mounting traffic congestion, which was approved in the divisional parliament on Thursday.

Kyaw Kyaw Htun had claimed that removing the concrete blocks, regulating street vendors, and installing better sign-posting for smaller link roads, could decrease traffic congestion by 15-20 percent—although he envisaged it as a long-term strategy.

"We should not get rid of the street vendors. Because they are our citizens, we must understand their situation," said Kyaw Kyaw Htun.

Kyaw Kyaw Htun said he had advised the divisional government to develop an open-air market in a convenient location where the street vendors could operate—although he considered it unlikely to be implemented soon.

Kyaw Kyaw Htun also stated that the 960 police officers currently supervising traffic in Rangoon were insufficient. Around 120 extra traffic police officers are to be sent from the capital Naypyidaw to Rangoon—although Kyaw Kyaw Htun was skeptical that this would improve conditions markedly.

"We should not expect too much," said Kyaw Kyaw Htun.

As another means of addressing traffic congestion, the divisional government is currently searching for large car parking sites in Rangoon's outskirts. However, with limited public transport options besides overcrowded buses, it is unclear what effect this would have—if any—on congestion in the city center.

Myo Win, owner of the Dagon Hlaing bus line, which operates in Rangoon, welcomed the removal of the concrete blocks. He claimed that they had harmed his business, because the separate bus lines created by the blocks were too narrow; when a solitary bus breaks down, it effectively blocks the routes of multiple bus lines, prompting chaos.

Myo Win claimed that a city bus could complete its route almost six times in a day before the previous mayor installed the concrete blocks, after which it could manage only three laps [an argument which does not seem the take into account the sharp increase in traffic volumes in recent years]. This slower passage harmed some private bus line owners so gravely that they sold their all vehicles, he said.

Earlier this week, the Rangoon Division Motor Vehicles Supervisory Committee (popularly known by the Burmese-language acronym "Ma Hta Tha") announced that bus lines in Rangoon Division would be reduced from 357 to only 50. A regular criticism from Rangoon's residents was that public bus routes regularly overlap—with as much as 20 bus lines plying some road stretches in central Rangoon—worsening traffic congestion and the efficiency of bus services.

Kyaw Soe, a minister in the previous Rangoon Division government, has admitted that the 129.8 billion kyats (US$ 110 million) spent on road flyovers over the previous five years have failed to substantially alleviate traffic problems in the city.

In December, the Rangoon Division government announced that a traffic control center would be constructed around People's Park, with an estimated cost of 20 billion kyats (US$ 17 million).

The post Rangoon to Remove Unpopular Concrete Traffic Blocks appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Irrawaddy Magazine

The Irrawaddy Magazine

Arakan State Govt’s Attempt to Help IDPs Gets Critical Reception

Posted: 27 May 2016 06:39 AM PDT

Internally displaced Arakanese civilians in Yoe Chaung village, Kyauktaw Township, Arakan State. (Photo: Hla Htay)

Internally displaced Arakanese civilians in Yoe Chaung village, Kyauktaw Township, Arakan State. (Photo: Hla Htay)

RANGOON — Despite pledges from the Arakan State government to allocate more money toward helping the state's internally displaced persons (IDPs), some see it as coming up short.

According to a Facebook announcement on Thursday, the regional government said that it would spend some 870 million kyats (more than US$732,700) to build temporary schools and to aid families living in the 385 buildings housing the state's IDPs.

Min Aung, spokesman for the Arakan State government, said that it has yet to be determined when the plan will go into effect, but that 100 million kyats (US$84,220) will be used to build five schools and that 200,000 kyats (US$168) will be given to each IDP household.

However, some have voiced frustration with the announcement as well as skepticism about the plan's potential to actually improve the situation of IDPs.

Kyaw Lwin, a lawmaker with the Arakan National Party (ANP) for Kyaukphyu Township, said that on May 11 he submitted a proposal to the state parliament aimed at helping IDPs but that details were not discussed, though lawmakers unanimously supported the proposal.

"They should've let us know [about this plan], seeing as how we're lawmakers. But it seems as if they don't care about us," Kyaw Lwin told The Irrawaddy.

Kyaw Tha Maung, who lives with his five children in an IDP camp in Ponnagyun Township, emphasized the urgency of the help needed, particularly regarding access to schools.

"There has been no help yet with providing schooling. We need this," Kyaw Tha Maung said.

Khine Kaung San, who works with the WanLark Foundation, an organization that focuses on rural education, community development and disaster emergency response, said that 200,000 kyats is a small amount of money and that the government should funnel more toward IDPs.

"Giving more money to displaced persons would preserve the dignity of the government," Khine Kaung San said.

The post Arakan State Govt's Attempt to Help IDPs Gets Critical Reception appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

Betel Nut Sales to Be Curbed

Posted: 27 May 2016 06:21 AM PDT

 A seller rolls leaves containing betel nut at a stand in Rangoon. (Photo: Steve Tickner / The Irrawaddy)

A seller rolls leaves containing betel nut at a stand in Rangoon. (Photo: Steve Tickner / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — Just under two months since the National League for Democracy (NLD) came into power, the government is taking bold aim at one of Burma's most iconic habits: chewing betel nut. The Union Government Office announced Friday that there would be a ban on selling betel nut in or near hospitals, schools and government offices.

No details were provided on how far from the buildings the ban would be in effect, nor how it would be enforced.

"Many people across the country chew betel nut, which is one of Burma's customs. This harms the appearance of government offices, schools, hospitals and towns, and also causes mouth, throat and tongue cancers," the government statement said.

"We have therefore sought recommendations about how to reduce and get rid of betel chewing as well as providing alternative livelihoods for betel nut sellers."

The government plans to educate the public on the health dangers of betel nut through TV, newspaper and online campaigns, and will take action against sellers in the proscribed areas. They will also put up educational posters at hospitals, clinics, schools and health bureaus across the country.

A habit for many Burmese men and also women to a lesser extent, betel nut is chewed for its nicotine-like stimulant properties. Its detractors, in addition to citing the negative health effects, point to the characteristic—and, they argue, unsightly—rust-red stains that result from spitting out juice secreted by the nut. The habit's enduring popularity is manifest in the many red-splotched sidewalks, stairwells and buses in Rangoon and other towns across the country.

The post Betel Nut Sales to Be Curbed appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

Efforts to Help Shan State IDPs Hampered in Parliament

Posted: 27 May 2016 05:57 AM PDT

 Ethnic Shan children who fled conflict staying at a Buddhist monastery in Kyaukme Township, Shan State, February 2016. (Photo: Lawi Weng / The Irrawaddy)

Ethnic Shan children who fled conflict staying at a Buddhist monastery in Kyaukme Township, Shan State, February 2016. (Photo: Lawi Weng / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — A Ta'ang National Party lawmaker sought to submit a proposal to the Union Parliament to stop fighting in Shan State so that children in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps could attend school this year, but her efforts were denied.

Nan Moe, a lawmaker for Mongton Township, said that Lower House Speaker Win Myint would only allow her to make her appeal in the form of a question on Wednesday.

"[The government] may not be able to achieve peace for all people in conflict areas, but I want them to help children at IDP camps who haven't been able to study," she said.

"[The House Speaker] didn't tell me why I couldn't make a proposal or even why I could ask a question. I went to the Parliament office to ask, but they couldn't give me an answer."

According to Nan Moe, thousands of children in northern Shan State have been forced from their homes because of ongoing fighting between the Burma Army and ethnic armed groups, including the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Shan State Progress Party (SSPP) and Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

Children in IDP camps are often prevented from studying because of these clashes. Nan Moe said that some 300 IDP children in the Hsipaw area have not had access to education.

"I was sad that I couldn't submit [a proposal] to Parliament. A lot of people from my area expect me to help them," she said. "I feel guilty that I couldn't help them."

Nan Moe is not the first lawmaker to face challenges from Parliament when it comes to bringing more attention to helping people in IDP camps. Khin Saw Wai, with the Arakan National Party (ANP), saw her proposal to inquire into how Parliament intends to help IDPs in Arakan State turned down. The house speaker told her that it was unclear whether she was focusing on aiding IDPs or bringing the Arakan Army (AA) to the peace negotiation table.

"I made sure I had a lot of facts and witnesses included in my proposal and even sought help with collecting from state lawmakers the number of IDPs, but no success," Nan Moe said.

There is much chatter about projects to be included in the government's 100-day plan. While Nan Moe said that she will wait to see if there is a project aimed at helping IDP children receive an education, she admitted that she has yet to hear about any such endeavor.

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Debate Over Burma’s Household Guest Registration Law Intensifies

Posted: 27 May 2016 05:37 AM PDT

Riot police detain a man in Hlegu, outside Rangoon, late April 4, 2014. (Photo: Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters)

Riot police detain a man in Hlegu, outside Rangoon, late April 4, 2014. (Photo: Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters)

RANGOON — A bill to amend and repeal sections of Burma's colonial-era law requiring citizens to report overnight guests continues to face hurdles in Parliament.

Drafted and submitted to the Upper House of Parliament by the Bill Committee in early May, a bill revoking all sections of the original Ward or Village Tract Administration Law referring to overnight guest registration was tabled by elected parliamentarians and military lawmakers from May 20 until May 24. It was met with divided opinions.

Maintaining that there was no need for the new bill, military lawmakers said that national security would be in jeopardy if the bill were approved, while National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmakers argued that the new bill aligned with democratic norms and preserved freedom of movement for citizens.

During a legislative session on Tuesday, Upper House Speaker Mahn Win Khaing Than said the Bill Committee would take the lawmakers' discussions under consideration when reviewing the draft law.

Originating in 1907, modified by the military-controlled Ministry of Home Affairs in 2012 and most recently updated in January 2016, the law requires citizens to inform local government officials when guests spend the night in their homes, regardless of how long the guests stay. Homeowners who rent their houses are also required to follow the same procedure.

International human rights watchdogs have criticized the law saying that it gives authorities the right to carry out warrantless household inspections. The human rights advocacy group Fortify Rights issued a report called "Midnight Intrusions" last year, calling on the government to dismantle the law.

The report stated that the law represents a systematic and nationwide breach of privacy that was used to hunt down political activists under the military regime and the quasi-civilian government.

The new bill proposes removing articles 13(g) and 17 from the original law, which demand that citizens report overnight guests or get penalized for disobeying.

The Bill Committee invited delegations from more than 40 local civil society organizations (CSOs) and the Ministry of Home Affairs on Thursday in Naypyidaw to hear stakeholders' recommendations.

Tin Myint, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs told The Irrawaddy that repealing these articles would be a big concern for national security because of a lack of stability in remote and border areas.

"Instead of removing these sections, we suggest loosening restrictions," he said.

The new bill would also amend one of the qualifications for ward and village administrators— the candidates must have resided in the ward or village where they run for election for at least five years, altering the original law's 10-year minimum. The bill would also specify that candidates must have graduated from middle school, instead of the vague "appropriate education" required under the old law.

Thant Zin Aung, chairman of the Forward Institute and consultant to the Rain Maker CSO, said he supported the guest-reporting requirement, citing unstable security in some remote areas of the country. However, he argued that the new bill still lacked details.

"Current modifications of the new bill are not enough," he said. "It has to be completely changed."

Zaw Min, chairman of the Upper House Bill Committee, told The Irrawaddy that the committee promised CSOs it would take their recommendations into account.

"The [practice of the] government is different now. We will respect suggestions from individuals and will not use veto power," he said.

Many local CSOs that observed the election process for ward and village tract administrators in January 2016 joined the debate and urged the government to revamp or amend the law in order to ensure more transparency and accountability in the election process.

A report issued last week by the Peace and Justice Myanmar (PJM) highlighted that the public's understanding of ward and village administrator elections was "extremely weak," based on a survey it compiled by interviewing more than 10,000 residents from over 2,000 households in different states and divisions around the country.

"Only 58 percent of the interviewees were aware of the existence of the law, and a majority of them didn't understand the law," the survey stated.

The post Debate Over Burma's Household Guest Registration Law Intensifies appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

Restrictions On Blacklisted Exiles To Be Lifted

Posted: 27 May 2016 04:46 AM PDT

Thein Swe, of the Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population, speaks with media representatives on Thursday, May 26, 2016 in Naypyidaw. (Photo: Thiha / The Irrawaddy)

Thein Swe, of the Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population, speaks with media representatives on Thursday, May 26, 2016 in Naypyidaw. (Photo: Thiha / The Irrawaddy)

NAYPYIDAW — The Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population, as part of its 100-day plan, will relax restrictions on all of those who were blacklisted by previous governments for their political beliefs, said Minister Thein Swe.

The minister revealed the plan as he met three media agencies at his ministry on Thursday.

"Today people can express their beliefs in line with the law because [Burma] has become open democratically and politically. Restrictions will be relaxed for all of those who were blacklisted for their political beliefs," said Thein Swe.

He said his ministry will streamline procedures for political exiles to apply for permanent residence (PR) or citizenship, adding that the changes on entry visa procedures will come within the new government's first 100 days.

"Some [types of] visas last for a short period of time. We'll extend [their duration] in line with international norms. [Exiles] today have to fill in forms when they come back and they are also asked for many documents. We are planning to simplify that procedure," said the minister.

The ministry was not able to provide exact figures for the numbers of blacklisted political exiles the rule change would apply to, due to the involvement of several ministries that are still reviewing their documents.

Under previous governments, ministries and universities also blacklisted those who did not return from their state-funded studies in foreign countries. They will also benefit from the rule change.

Providing more details on the ministry's 100-day plan, Thein Swe said he was also going to submit laws to the Parliament concerning foreign workers, worksite safety and occupational health.

"If we don't enact a foreign workers law, we will not be able regulate them," the minister said.

He added that facts and figures about Burma's religions in the 2014 national census will also be issued, and the ministry was planning to issue ID cards in line with 1982 Citizenship Law, as well as household registration certificates and appropriate ID cards for internal migrants and workers.

The 1982 Citizenship Law is highly controversial, particularly for setting up a tiered citizenship structure as well as its use by successive governments to prevent ethnic Rohingya and several other non-Burman groups from gaining citizenship.

The ministry also said it was planning to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Thai government on the employment of Burmese workers, organize national level occupational seminars, open vocational training schools to produce skilled laborers and issue government-recognized skill-level certificates.

The ministry is also planning to open a migrant workers resource center in the Irrawaddy Delta and in Arakan State.

"We have already started some of the tasks in our 100-day plan, and we will be able to start more very soon," said Minister Thein Swe.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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Rangoon Govt to Shake Up Manufacturing, Electricity Sectors

Posted: 27 May 2016 04:26 AM PDT

People are pictured through electric cables and wires at a street inside Bogyoke Aung San market in Rangoon on Nov. 6, 2013. (Photo: Minzayar / Reuters)

People are pictured through electric cables and wires at a street inside Bogyoke Aung San market in Rangoon on Nov. 6, 2013. (Photo: Minzayar / Reuters)

RANGOON — Rangoon's divisional government will confiscate unused land in the city's industrial zones and revoke permits from private electricity providers in breach of their contracts, said regional Electricity, Industry and Transportation Minister Nilar Kyaw, of upcoming reforms during a parliamentary session this week.

The minister announced on Thursday her intent to continue with the former government's land confiscation plan in Rangoon's industrial zones.

In 2014, the previous government issued an order stating that it would confiscate any inactive land in an industrial zone within six months. Later, it conducted a survey and found more than 4,000 unutilized acres on over 2,000 plots. The government then announced that it would confiscate the land in February 2015, but the warning does not appear to have resulted in land seizures in the months since.

Tint Lwin, lawmaker from Pazundaung Township, said that speculators had bought land in Rangoon's 29 industrial zones intending to rent or sell it, but not to open factories or workshops. As a result, land prices have risen, deterring foreign investment and hindering the efforts of those who want to develop operations in the region, which is the heart of most of the country's manufacturing industries.

Nilar Kyaw said the divisional government formed a survey team last week to assess the situation in nine of the zones and would take further action once the findings were submitted.

The minister said the government was also looking into private companies that were hired by the Yangon Electricity Supply Corporation (YESC) to distribute power to local townships.

In response to a question about widespread recent blackouts in the commercial capital, Nilar Kyaw said some private electricity companies had breached their contracts and provided weak service. She would not list which companies were negligent, but said the ministry would revoke their permits if they were found to be at fault.

The state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said Rangoon accounted for more than half of the country's total electricity consumption, and still required some 15 percent more power generation to meet demand.

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Obama to Make History, Stirs Debate With Hiroshima Visit

Posted: 27 May 2016 02:39 AM PDT

 Japanese protesters hold placards to protest against US President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan, on May 26, 2016.  (Photo: Reuters)

Japanese protesters hold placards to protest against US President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan, on May 26, 2016.  (Photo: Reuters)

HIROSHIMA, Japan — Barack Obama on Friday becomes the first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima, site of the world's first atomic bombing, a gesture Washington and Tokyo hope will showcase their alliance and breathe life into stalled efforts to abolish nuclear arms.

Even before it occurs, though, the visit has stirred debate, with critics accusing both sides of having selective memories, and pointing to paradoxes in policies relying on nuclear deterrence while calling for an end to atomic arms.

The two governments hope Obama's tour of Hiroshima, where an atomic bomb dropped on Aug. 6, 1945, killed thousands instantly and some 140,000 by the year's end, will highlight a new level of reconciliation and tighter ties between the former enemies.

Aides say Obama's main objective in Hiroshima, where he will lay a wreath at a peace memorial, is to showcase his nuclear disarmament agenda. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 for what many said were eloquent speeches on the topic.

Obama has said he will honor all who died in World War II when he visits Hiroshima, accompanied by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but will not apologize for the bombing of Hiroshima. The city of Nagasaki was hit by a second nuclear bomb on Aug. 9, 1945, and Japan surrendered six days later.

A majority of Americans see the bombings as having been necessary to end the war and save lives, although some historians question that view. Most Japanese believe they were unjustified.

"I'm coming, first and foremost, to remember and honor the tens of millions of lives lost during the Second World War. Hiroshima reminds us that war, no matter the cause or countries involved, results in tremendous suffering and loss, especially for innocent civilians," Obama said in written responses to questions published in the Asahi newspaper on Friday.

The White House debated whether the time was right for Obama to break a decades-old taboo on presidential visits to Hiroshima, especially in an election year.

But Obama's aides defused most negative reaction from military veterans groups by insisting he would not second-guess the decision to drop the bombs.

"I will not revisit the decision to use atomic weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but I will point out that Prime Minister Abe and I coming to Hiroshima together shows the world the possibility of reconciliation—that even former adversaries can become the strongest of allies," Obama told the Asahi.

'Good Allies'

World War II flying ace Dean "Diz" Laird, 95, who shot down Japanese fighters and dropped bombs on Tokyo, said he was pleased both that Obama was going to Hiroshima and that he would offer no apology.

"It's bad that so many people got killed in Hiroshima, but it was a necessity to end the war sooner," said Laird, the only known US Navy pilot to shoot down both German and Japanese planes during the war.

"I believe in at least showing the Japanese that we care because they are now our good allies."

Laird suggested the time was past when Japan had to keep atoning for its wartime history: "There were a lot of atrocities but that war is over."

Critics argue that by not apologizing, Obama will allow Japan to stick to the narrative that paints it as a victim.

Abe's government has affirmed past official apologies over the war but said future generations should not be burdened by the sins of their forebears.

China and South Korea, which suffered from Japan's wartime aggression, often complain Tokyo has not atoned sufficiently.

"Given Hiroshima's sensitive identity, the Japanese government is trying to use the historic visit to highlight Japan's image of a 'war victim,' while downplaying its role as an aggressor in World War II," China's state news agency Xinhua said. "… Obama's Hiroshima visit should not be used as an occasion to whitewash Japan's atrocities in World War II."

Atomic bomb survivors have said an apology from Obama would be welcome but their priority is ridding the world of nuclear arms, a goal that seems as elusive as ever. Some also worried insistence on an apology would keep Obama from visiting at all.

"We're still 10 years from the possibility of a [US] president issuing an apology," said Kenji Ishida, a 68-year-old Hiroshima resident and taxi driver who was born two years after the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

"Japan has to apologize for Pearl Harbor, too, if we're going to say the US must apologize," he said.

Anti-nuclear activists hope Obama's visit will breathe life into a stalled process while critics argue the president has made scant progress and is spending heavily to modernize the US atomic arsenal. Japan, despite advocating disarmament, relies on the US nuclear umbrella for extended deterrence.

The post Obama to Make History, Stirs Debate With Hiroshima Visit appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

Influential Thai Buddhist Monk Too Ill to Face Graft Charges, Say Devotees

Posted: 27 May 2016 02:35 AM PDT

  Buddhist monks walk from Wat Phra Dhammakaya temple to Khlongluang provincial police station to show support for Phra Dhammachayo, the Buddhist abbot charged with graft, north of Bangkok on May 26, 2016. (Photo: Reuters)

Buddhist monks walk from Wat Phra Dhammakaya temple to Khlongluang provincial police station to show support for Phra Dhammachayo, the Buddhist abbot charged with graft, north of Bangkok on May 26, 2016. (Photo: Reuters)

BANGKOK — A stand-off in Thailand between investigators and a powerful Buddhist sect intensified on Thursday after its influential abbot failed to appear at a police station to answer graft charges because followers said he had fainted.

Temples and monasteries in mainly Buddhist Thailand have been rocked by sex and money scandals, prompting widespread calls for reform. The country's political divisions have also created fissures within the religion.

Phra Dhammachayo, abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, missed a Thursday deadline from the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) to turn himself in to face charges of money-laundering and receiving illegal donations.

"If he was to come now, it would risk his life," Ongart Thammanita, a spokesman for Dhammakaya's followers, told reporters. "Doctors will need to treat him first."

Earlier, hundreds of orange-robed monks and other Dhammakaya followers walked from the temple complex north of Bangkok to gather outside a nearby police station where the abbot was due to report.

Citing ill health, Phra Dhammachayo has failed to show up for questioning several times, leading authorities to issue an arrest warrant last week.

The wealthy Dhammakaya sect, which claims millions of adherents worldwide, has been dogged by allegations of corruption, which it has steadfastly denied.

The temple said in a statement on Sunday that Phra Dhammachayo had not left the complex for eight years because of ill health and the DSI could read the charges to the abbot on his sick bed on Wednesday.

The DSI offered to release the abbot on bail if he reported to the station on Thursday, where an ambulance and doctors waited to take him to a hospital.

The DSI told reporters it had yet to decide its next step but would need a search warrant to enter Dhammakaya's complex, which is dominated by a giant stupa shaped like a UFO.

The temple has said it would not obstruct security officers if they came to arrest the abbot but could not prevent his followers from doing so.

"Any intervention by a third party would result in a less than desirable outcome," it said in the statement.

The ruling junta will want to avoid a repeat of a confrontation in February, when soldiers scuffled with monks protesting against what they called state interference in religious affairs.

The leading candidate for the role of the supreme patriarch, the spiritual head of Thailand's 300,000 monks, has ties to the Dhammakaya sect.

The selection process has become a proxy for the color-coded politics that the junta has quashed since seizing power in 2014.

The post Influential Thai Buddhist Monk Too Ill to Face Graft Charges, Say Devotees appeared first on The Irrawaddy.

National News

National News

Former MPs: Where are they now?

Posted: 26 May 2016 02:30 PM PDT

Hundreds of politicians – most of them from the National League for Democracy – took their seats in parliament for the first time on January 31 following their victories in the November 2015 election.

Could water taxis solve Yangon’s traffic?

Posted: 26 May 2016 02:30 PM PDT

Introducing water taxis could relieve Yangon city congestion, a region MP told parliament yesterday in what some saw as the latest far-fetched proposal to solve the traffic issue.

Health ministry looks for 1000 doctors

Posted: 26 May 2016 02:30 PM PDT

The Ministry of Health is direly short on doctors, and a new plan to recruit 1000 more will barely begin to staunch the gap, according to government officials.

Isolated Kachin villages face food shortages due to rain

Posted: 26 May 2016 02:30 PM PDT

Non-stop rain in northern Kachin State has led to food shortages as damaged infrastructure has made remote townships unreachable, MPs told parliament yesterday. Over 6000 people could be without access to food if roads and bridges are not urgently repaired.

With increase of patients, doctors want data on gastric disease

Posted: 26 May 2016 02:30 PM PDT

Doctors fear a highly spiced country diet could be contributing to the spread of colitis, a painful gastric disease that appears to be increasing, particularly in rural areas. Health experts say they are braced for a rise in the number of cases.

Falam township runs dry

Posted: 26 May 2016 02:30 PM PDT

The agriculture ministry cannot supply Falam township, Chin State, with water, the deputy agriculture minister told parliament on May 26. Replying to a question from local MP Zone Hlal Htan, U Tun Win told the Amyotha Hluttaw, "There is no plan at present to supply water to Falam's urban area by piping from Laiva Dam." The deputy minister was speaking on behalf of the Chin State government.

Shakeup planned for peace joint committee

Posted: 26 May 2016 02:30 PM PDT

Members of the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee will be swapped out during a meeting in Nay Pyi Taw today that will be attended by the state counsellor.

Resource extraction data needed, MP says

Posted: 26 May 2016 02:30 PM PDT

Data will be collected for the conservation of Myanmar's natural resources in line with the law, the Amyotha Hluttaw's natural resources and environmental conservation committee has announced.

Animal lovers collect signatures to stop dog poisoning

Posted: 26 May 2016 02:30 PM PDT

Killing dogs violates the precepts of Buddhism, a leading monk has told the regional government as part of a sustained effort by activists to stop the city authorities poisoning strays.

MPs scrape together education plan for IDP children

Posted: 26 May 2016 02:30 PM PDT

Barred from seeking government action in parliament, a Shan State MP is working with local communities to help ensure that the children of families displaced by the fighting receive an education.