Archive for Burma/Myanmar

Shiva’t Up Your A**

We printed the Mohammed pix, so…

A New Zealand bar manager in Myanmar has been arrested for allegedly insulting Buddhism after posting an online advertisement showing a psychedelic image of Buddha wearing headphones, police said Friday.

The offense carries a penalty of up to two years in prison.

Police arrested Philip Blackwood on Wednesday along with two Myanmar nationals, including the bar’s owner, Tun Thurein, and an employee. Authorities then shut the V Gastro Bar, a tapas bar and lounge, which had opened just two weeks earlier in an upscale Yangon neighborhood.

Is Yangon anywhere near Rangoon? I can’t find it in my 1960 edition Golden Book Encyclopedia. Of course, I can’t find Myanmar either.

But what little I know about Buddha suggests he wouldn’t throw people in prison for such an “offense”. Indeed, if he was offended at all, he’d just chalk it up to suffering. Which is to Buddhism as forgiveness is to Christianity, tikkun olam is to Judaism, and, um, well, uh, peace is to Islam (whew!).

PS: I tried to find an image of Mohammed wearing headphones, but failed. Apparently no one is that depraved.


Aung San Suu Kyi, MP

You can call her the Right Honorable MP from Basingstoke if you want, just don’t call her late for the session:

Opposition leader and Nobel peace prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi won a seat in Myanmar’s parliament Sunday, her party said, a momentous victory following a decades-long fight for democracy.

Staff from Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, said she won and that several hundred people were waiting at NLD headquarters to celebrate the news, party spokesman Nyan Win said.

The chairman of the Yangon region of the election commission, Ko Ko, said official results may be known by Monday morning.

The formerly banned National League for Democracy was vying for 45 seats in the election. While the balance of power in the parliament will not change even if the opposition were to win all 45, the vote itself marks a symbolic victory for many in the country who have lived under military rule for 50 years.

Suu Kyi, 66, won by a landslide the last time Myanmar held multiparty elections, in 1990, but the junta ignored the results and placed her under house arrest.

I don’t have high hopes, but this is plenty good news as it is. Sure beats the Irrawaddy River choked with the bodies of saffron-robed monks.

Myanmar’s legislature has 664 seats, more than 80% of which are still held by lawmakers aligned with the military-backed ruling party, Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

Sunday, Win, the NLD spokesman, said the party had received more than 50 reports of voting irregularities.

In one area, ballot sheets had wax placed over the check box for the NLD, making it easier to erase the mark later and annul the vote, he said. In another area, ballots were found that had already been filled out, he said.

Wax! Brilliant!! (Note to Florida Election Commission: file this idea away for later use.)


This is Beautiful

Long time readers know that I lose (almost) all my deeply ingrained cynicism when it comes to Aung San Suu Kyi. Her courage and determination may—repeat may—have overpowered one of the most brutal military dictatorships in recent times.

I can only tip my cap:

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has pledged to improve ties with Burma if current reforms continue.

After meeting Burmese President Thein Sein, Mrs Clinton said the US would reward Burma’s leaders if they kept “moving in the right direction”.

After talks with Mr Thein Sein in the remote capital, Nay Pyi Taw, Mrs Clinton met pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in the main city, Rangoon.

The US maintains tight sanctions on senior leaders in Burma’s hierarchy.

But a series of reforms this year has led to speculation that decades of isolation could be about to end.

“The United States is prepared to walk the path of reform with you if you keep moving in the right direction,” Mrs Clinton said.

“These are incremental steps and we are prepared to go further if reforms maintain momentum. In that spirit, we are discussing what it will take to upgrade diplomatic relations and exchange ambassadors,” Mrs Clinton told reporters.

“Over time, this could become an important channel to air concerns, monitor and support progress and build trust on both sides,” she said.

But you know how I know I really love this story?

Chinese state media has reacted furiously to Mrs Clinton’s visit to Burma.

The Global Times, which often runs bombastic nationalistic editorials, warned the US not to impinge on China’s interests.

“China has no resistance toward Myanmar [Burma] seeking improved relationship with the West, but it will not accept this while seeing its interests stamped on,” said a comment piece in the paper.

Best news of the day! I have tears in my eyes.

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Obama Cozies Up To Another Dictator

It’s a good thing that the world always has a healthy supply of these dolts around.

U.S. President Barack Obama announced Friday that he will send Hillary Clinton to Myanmar next month, the first visit by a U.S. secretary of state in more than 50 years.

The announcement came after Obama talked on the phone with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi while traveling from Australia to Indonesia to attend the ASEAN economic summit.

Clinton’s trip is an indication that Myanmar, also known as Burma, has made some progress toward democracy and that the time could be right to forge a new relationship between the nations, the White House said.

“That possibility will depend upon the Burmese government taking more concrete action,” Obama said. “If Burma fails to move down the path of reform, it will continue to face sanctions and isolation. But if it seizes this moment, then reconciliation can prevail, and millions of people may get the chance to live with a greater measure of freedom, prosperity and dignity. And that possibility is too important to ignore.”

I hope he’s right. It’s just that he was saying the same thing about the Arab Spring, and it hasn’t worked out as planned. I guess I’m questioning the judgment of his advisers in the State Department, and long-time readers know that I think he was hired before he was ready for prime time. But if it makes the world a calmer, kinder, place, I’m all for it.

– Aggie

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Ooh! Ooh! Aung San, Over Here!

I’m, like, your biggest fan:

Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has obtained internet access, two months after she was freed from years of house arrest.

Technicians set up wireless broadband at her home after the military government authorised an internet connection, her staff said.

However, her assistant told the BBC that Aung San Suu Kyi had not yet used it as the signal strength was too weak.

Ms Suu Kyi is believed never to have been online.

Her assistant added that she had also been feeling a little too unwell to try the internet.

When you’re feeling better, Daw, we’ll be here. I just love your work. (Just between us, I kind of have a crush. You’re still hot. Love the blouse!)


Aung San Who She?

The generals don’t want to know her:

Residents and staff at an HIV/Aids centre in Rangoon have been told that they will have to leave, two days after a high-profile visit by Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Burmese pro-democracy leader drew large crowds when she met residents at the clinic on Wednesday.

Late on Thursday, local officials told people at the clinic that their resident permits would not be renewed.

Mr Yazar, the clinic manager, said he believed the two were linked.

“I think they were shocked to see the crowd when Daw Aung San Suu Kyi visited the centre,” he told BBC Burmese.

“So many people came to support her and the patients. This could be the main reason they are worried about.”

We have to face up to the fact that we live in a world where someone so decent as Aung San Suu Kyi can be all but crushed by the Burmese junta in power. I don’t say that with a metaphysical shrug, but with a realistic set of my jaw. Bumper stickers won’t fix it.

Before you get too disheartened, though, even something so purely evil as the junta can’t crush the spirit of Aung San Suu Kyi—or the Burmese people, it seems. I can’t think of a people so hopeless (unless it’s the Haitians), yet so hopeful.

See how sick they look, yet see how happy they look. They give me hope.


On Diversity, Apartheid, Leftists and Choo-Choo

BTL has written movingly about freedom, diversity in Israel, and baseball. All in less than 24 hours!

Here you have an image of my neighborhood Leftist responding to everything that BTL just said.

Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah… I can’t hear you!

– Aggie

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Life Ain’t Easy For a Woman Named Suu Kyi

I try not to fall for cults of personalities. Behind every Che Guevara and Mahatma Gandhi usually lies a nasty piece of work.

But, really, who can resist the courage and charms of Aung San Suu Kyi? There’s something mythic about her.



I hear that sniggering. You all think that the old bastard BTL has gone soft and has a crush on the Daw. So what if I do? I’ll fight anyone who has a mean thing to say about her. You have to admit the old broad looks pretty good for sixty-something. But then house arrest leaves a lot of time for pilates.

This is almost as big as Mandela’s release. Except you knew Mandela was out for good, and on his way to running his country. Suu Kyi’s liberty will last about as long as a sailor’s on shore leave.

But at least she didn’t praise Yasser Arafat and the PLO upon her release—as far as I know—unlike Mandela.

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The Best News

It won’t last—I don’t see how it can—but Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is free:

Myanmar’s military government freed its archrival, democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, on Saturday after her latest term of detention expired. Several thousand jubilant supporters streamed to her residence.

A smiling Suu Kyi, wearing a traditional jacket and a flower in her hair, appeared at the gate of her compound as the crowd chanted, cheered and sang the national anthem.

Speaking briefly in Burmese, she thanked the well-wishers, who quickly swelled to as many as 5,000, and said they would see each other again Sunday at the headquarters of her political party.

The 65-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate, whose latest period of detention spanned 7 1/2 years, has come to symbolize the struggle for democracy in the Southeast Asian nation ruled by the military since 1962.

The release from house arrest of one of the world’s most prominent political prisoners came a week after an election that was swept by the military’s proxy political party and decried by Western nations as a sham designed to perpetuate authoritarian control.

Supporters had been waiting most of the day near her residence and the headquarters of her party. Suu Kyi has been jailed or under house arrest for more than 15 of the last 21 years.

One of the best looking 65 year-old dames I’ve ever seen.

The armed goons who rule the country aren’t about to give up power that they only just finished re-theiving. The virtue and justness of their opposition only fuels them more. (See the massacre of the monks from a few years ago.)

Suu Kyi knows the difference between release and liberty:

“My release should not be looked at as a major breakthrough for democracy. For all people in Burma to enjoy basic freedom, that would be a major breakthrough,” she said after her earlier release in 2002.

It is unlikely the ruling generals will allow Suu Kyi, who drew huge crowds of supporters during her few periods of freedom, to actively and publicly pursue her goal of bringing democracy to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

The last elections in 1990 were won overwhelmingly by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, but the military refused to hand over power and instead clamped down on opponents.

Right. Twenty years offers something of a track record of despotic behavior.

I’m happy that Suu Kyi can nip down to her local for a pint and a packet of crisps—and for some of us that would be enough—but it’s a long way from freedom.


Aung San Suu Who?

Tell the bi*ch she belongs at home anyway, especially the kitchen and the bedroom:

Just days after the Obama administration decided in August to support the prosecution of Burma’s top military rulers for war crimes, China’s U.N. ambassador, Li Baodong, paid a confidential visit to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s chief of staff to make his opposition clear: The U.S. proposal, he said, was dangerous and counterproductive, and should not be allowed to proceed, three U.N.-based sources familiar with the exchange told Turtle Bay.

Malinowski said the problem is less about Chinese or Russian opposition, which was to be expected, so much as a failure of U.S. leadership. “One should recognize why the Chinese are against this: They recognize it would be a consequential measure,” Malinowski said. “If you allow Chinese opposition to deter you then what you are saying is that you are only going to take steps on Burma that are inconsequential.”

The Obama administrations gets a point for trying to make an issue of Burma’s appallingly cruel junta, and their years of human rights violations and outright killing.

But it loses bags of points for engaging with the UN at all. If it weren’t China standing in the way of progress, it would be Russia. Or any one of the dozens of criminal regimes who, obscenely, must be considered our peers. (For this time only, I won’t even go into the vile Human Rights Council.)

I recall my questions from Sunday morning. What do we expect to happen in a situation as evil as Burma, protected by a criminal regime in China, in a forum as devoid of morality as the United Nations? Even if we care, why do we bother?

But then, I asked the same question of the Buddhist monks, whose beaten and bullet-ridden corpses and saffron robes choked the Irrawaddy River after their “nonviolent” uprising a few years ago. Some took me to task at the time, but the question still stands.


Yours, Myanmar’s, and Ours

Being a somewhat thin-skinned American, annoyed at ubiquitous accusations of racism and intolerance, I enjoy a good genocide (or mere massacre) among other peoples in exotic lands. I’ve read of (and chronicled) Egyptians shooting Sudanese migrants, Han Chinese/Tibetan clashes, South African persecution of Zimbabwean refugees, Iraqi abuse of homeless Palestinians—oh, I could go on.

So I will:

Stateless refugees from Myanmar are suffering beatings and deportation in Bangladesh, according to aid workers and rights groups who say thousands are crowding into a squalid camp where they face starvation and disease.

In a campaign that seems to have accelerated since October, the groups say, ethnic Rohingya refugees who have been living for years in Bangladesh are being seized, beaten and forced back to Myanmar, which they had left to escape persecution and abuse and which does not want them.

“Over the last few months we have treated victims of violence, people who claim to have been beaten by the police, claim to have been beaten by members of the host population, by people they’ve been living next to for many years,” said Paul Critchley, who runs the Bangladesh program for the aid group Médecins Sans Frontières, also known as Doctors Without Borders.

“We have treated patients for beatings, for machete wounds and for rape,” he said, quoting a report issued Thursday that describes the situation as a humanitarian crisis.


The Rohingya may want to compare notes with the Karen people (below) about how cruel the Burmese junta can be.

BTW, you know how we joke about violent Buddhist insurgencies every time we hear about a bloody sectarian massacre?

Well, we found one!

At least 70 people have been arrested in Bangladesh after the worst violence in the southeast since a peace deal was signed in 1997 with tribal groups seeking autonomy, police said Wednesday.

A Bengali settler was killed in clashes between the Bengalis and tribal groups late Tuesday, police said, bringing the death toll to at least three after two people died Sunday when troops opened fire on the feuding sides.

Police said at least 400 houses and shops, a Buddhist temple and two churches were torched during the clashes, the worst violence since a peace deal to settle the demands of tribal people in the area in 1997.

Violence first erupted on Sunday in the remote area’s Baghaichhari town and spread to two of the three hill tract districts, where two key tribal groups fought for autonomy for two decades before signing the peace treaty in 1997.

The slow-burning insurgency by largely Buddhist tribal groups has claimed more than 2,500 lives since it began in the early 1980s, according to official figures.

Bloodthirsty Buddhist bastards…

But you can still tell the non-Buddhist insurgents from the “other” kind:

Sikh protesters shout slogans against Taliban and Pakistani goverment during a strike in Jammu, India, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010. The protest took place after the decapitated bodies of two Sikhs were found almost a month after they were kidnapped in Pakistan’s Khyber tribal region. The placards held by the protesters read: ‘Death to Taliban.’

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Great Minds Think Alike

What were we just saying about the moral bankruptcy of communist regimes?

Human-rights groups urged China to halt its investment in a Myanmar gas project over fears of abuses and unrest.

The 609-mile Shwe gas pipeline project runs from Myanmar’s Arakan state to China’s Yunnan province. State-owned China National Petroleum Corp. holds a 50.9 stake in the project in partnership with the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise.

Voice of America reports that more than 100 groups and political parties across 20 countries participated in the Shwe Gas Movement petition Wednesday to China’s President Hu Jintao, presented to Chinese embassies in Asia, Australia and Europe.

“There are already reports of human-rights violations in Arakan state connected to the project’s exploration phase, including arrests and beatings of fishermen, and abuses will escalate as the project progresses,” the petition states.

Based on previous experiences in Myanmar, the petition points out, partnerships with the MOGE on infrastructure development projects “invariably” lead to forced displacement, forced labor and loss of livelihoods.

And China asks: “what’s your point?”

I see theirs: if they’ve invested in Sudan and Iran, among other benighted spots, why not put a little money in Burma? Money’s money, and oil’s oil.


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