Thursday 13 Dec 2018 | 03:12 | SYDNEY
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Myanmar

Myanmar’s skewed democracy was predictable

The National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB) was made up of exiled pro-democracy leaders who were elected to the national parliament in 1990 (which was subsequently annulled) in one of the military junta’s very brief flirtations with democracy. I worked with them – largely

Myanmar’s press freedom mirage

It has been a bad year for press freedom across Southeast Asia. Myanmar has been no exception. Media freedom fell to new lows this month as a self-proclaimed anti-Rohingya supporter, American Rick Heizman, was welcomed with open arms in Myanmar. Heizman, a little-known musician and

Elections a sham in Rakhine State

People go to the polls on Saturday in Myanmar, or at least some of them do. On 3 November 2018, the Union Election Commission will coordinate by-elections across 13 electorates. Most are to fill seats from vacancies due to deaths of senior members of parliament. There are two reasons these

Myanmar: media stranglehold

In a park in downtown Yangon, a mix of passers-by and snack venders milled about, watching curiously as a pack of reporters jostled amongst themselves for a position. The focus was fixed on several dozen people standing in rows, some holding black balloons, others holding signs. One sign read “

The Rohingyas: a new terrorist threat?

This is the final in a series of three articles on the Rohingya crisis, featuring Morten Pederson on the domestic drivers of conflict, and Nicholas Farrelly on the consequences for neighbouring Bangladesh.  There have been a small number of militant Muslim groups in

The Rohingya are stuck

This is the second of a series of three articles on the Rohingya crisis, featuring Morten Pederson on the domestic drivers of conflict, and Andrew Selth on the potential danger from transnational terrorist networks.  Most of the Rohingya who were forced from their homes in

No safe return for Rohingya refugees

This is the first of a series of three articles on the Rohingya crisis, with subsequent articles by Nicholas Farrelly and Andrew Selth to discuss the situation in Bangladesh and the potential danger from transnational terrorist networks.  The Report of the Independent International Fact-

Myanmar’s fourth estate

The arrest in Myanmar of two Reuters journalists, accused of possessing secret government papers, has put the spotlight on the freedom of the press and the country’s weak justice system. A court last week upheld the charges and the case will shortly go to trial.  The case looks set to only

Rohingya: UN takes a cautious step forward in Myanmar

For months, Myanmar has sought a deal with the United Nations, to validate its assertions that is prepared to facilitate the “safe, voluntary, and dignified return” of Rohingya refugees in camps in Bangladesh. In an arrangement struck late Thursday night, two UN agencies agreed to work with Aung

Helping the UN help Myanmar

Last month, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres announced the appointment of Swiss diplomat Christine Schraner Burgener as his Special Envoy on Myanmar, marking the start of a new chapter in long-standing efforts by the UN to mediate Myanmar’s internal conflicts and promote human

Myanmar: no country for young men

After two years in the job, Myanmar’s President U Htin Kyaw resigned last Wednesday. The 71-year-old has been in poor health for some time. A close confidante of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, U Htin Kyaw was a steady and stable hand. His resignation highlights the growing problem of ageing leadership

The urgent need for leadership on the Rohingya crisis

Jubaida is one of a million refugees in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh. When she thinks back six months, her memories of playing marbles with friends rest oddly alongside episodes of torture, death, and images of the burning home her family fled. She is 11. Jubaida, her parents, sister, and three

Russian pragmatism on display in South East Asia

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Myanmar recently in a clear display of Moscow’s pragmatism. Many Western observers, especially from the US, present Vladimir Putin as either a Machiavellian mixer with almost superhuman abilities – he who put Donald Trump in the White House and

Best of The Interpreter 2017: The Rohingya Crisis

In July, shortly before an escalation of clashes in Rakhine state intensified the exodus of Rohingya people from Myanmar, Elliot Brennan wrote of Myanmar: Naypyidaw has failed to enable moderates in Rakhine state and an emergent yet hitherto weak Muslim insurgency has emerged. The situation must

Myanmar: The limits of sanctions

Imposing sanctions always creates challenges. Sanctions provide targeted states with an excuse to shift blame onto outside forces. They tend to concentrate wealth into the hands of the most politically connected. They are rarely powerful enough to shift behaviour, especially when the behaviour being

Myanmar’s evolving maritime security landscape

Myanmar links South and Southeast Asia and lies on maritime shipping routes from the Indian and Pacific Oceans. A key pillar of its national development agenda is establishing an efficient and integrated transport system to become Asia's newest maritime hub. Recent political and economic reforms

Defusing the ticking time-bomb in Cox’s Bazar

Over the last month, almost half a million Rohingyas have fled from Rakhine State in Myanmar to Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. That represents approximately half of the entire Rohingya population in Myanmar. There are now 600,000 to 800,000 Rohingya refugees (officially designated as Undocumented

Aung San Suu Kyi still bent on constitutional change

Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party took power in Myanmar promising change, but are yet to deliver. The problems faced by the incoming administration were considerable, and now the Rohingya crisis has prompted some calls for this fallen idol to hand back her Nobel Peace

Myanmar: A test case for India’s regional ambition

India has scored a string of recent geopolitical victories in Asia: the alleged sale of the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile to Vietnam; a further deepening of the strategic relationship with Japan, marked by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to India; and the recent de-escalation of tensions

A big step back for Myanmar

It is always difficult to know exactly what is happening in Myanmar, particularly when eye-witness accounts and reliable reports are dismissed by the Naypyidaw government as ‘misinformation’ and ‘fake news’, when false images of atrocities are posted on the web alongside genuine ones, when

The twisted politics of terrorism in Myanmar

The major and protracted humanitarian crisis in Myanmar's northern Rakhine State has serious local, regional and global implications. Many have rightly deplored the human rights situation and called for urgent humanitarian assistance while the world has become preoccupied with the silence of Aung

Aung San Suu Kyi: The myth turns to dust

For much of her career, Aung San Suu Kyi has been less a real person than the character in a film script - one with the crudely redemptive arc of a Hollywood blockbuster. The story goes something like this: the beautiful daughter of an assassinated national hero opposes a gang of tyrannical

The Tadmadaw returns to the ‘four cuts’ doctrine

In the past week, some 40,000 people from Myanmar's Rakhine State have fled to Bangladesh amid reports of indiscriminate killing and property damage by the Myanmar military. The violence comes in the wake of attacks by Muslim Rohingya on at least 20 police stations and an army base. These attacks

Article 66(d): A menace to Myanmar’s democracy

The fetters on Myanmar's democracy are many. The 2008 constitution gives the military 25% of seats in parliament; it gives the military control over three of the most powerful ministries; it forbids Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming President. The military is prosecuting wars in the north and the

The three issues impeding Myanmar’s transition

More than a year since Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy came to power after a landslide election and six years since the transition began, Myanmar has come a long way on the road to reform. There are many successes. The health system has significantly improved – basic essential

Incident at Three Pagodas Pass

After decades of strained bilateral relations, Australia’s defence ties with Myanmar are gradually being restored. The office of the Defence Attache (DA) in the Australian embassy in Yangon (formerly Rangoon), which closed in 1979, was reopened in 2014. This coincided with a port visit by HMAS

Suu Kyi’s Myanmar, one year on

Twelve months ago, Aung San Suu Kyi was appointed State Counsellor of Myanmar, becoming the de facto leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) Government that swept to power in (relatively) free and fair elections in 2015. Over the past several weeks, both the government and Suu Kyi herself

The Rohingya tragedy: Time to talk to the Tatmadaw

Rakhine State is the home of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims, a group often described as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. Traveling through this region is an exercise in restriction, but also revelation. It's clear the current policy settings of international governments have