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December 23 2013

After 44 Years, Southeast Asian Games Returns to Myanmar

Opening ceremonies of the 27th Southeast Asian games in Myanmar. Photo from official Facebook page of SEA Games

Opening ceremonies of the 27th Southeast Asian games in Myanmar. Photo from official Facebook page of SEA Games

After 44 years of long absence, South East Asian Games has once again returned to Myanmar. The last time Myanmar hosted the game was in 1969 in Yangon. The opening ceremony for the 27th SEA Games was held in the new capital city of Nay Pyi Taw on December 11 with the international media describing it as Myanmar's ravishing coming out party. Actually, the government has conducted an aggressive SEA games awareness promotion in the country many months before the event. To add a little bit of spice to what international and domestic media have reviewed, here are what netizens inside the country have been commenting throughout the games.

The opening ceremony was enthusiastically received and acclaimed by many people. Aye Chan Mon shared[my] an article dedicated to the opening ceremony of the SEA games.

The 27th SEA Games opening ceremony was celebrated on 11th December. I'm not saying this because I am a Myanmar. But I am very proud as a Myanmar citizen for holding the ceremony with such splendor. It has been many years that we have been afraid doing any events in the country. I would like to say that now we have seized our chance to reconstruct our dignity as Myanmar.

However, there are also people who tend to think negatively and are posting on Facebook to criticize. Everyone has the freedom to criticize. I could not do anything but feel sad to see the criticism by our own people.

Instead of blaming among ourselves, I turn away to discover what international media are saying about the ceremony. [...]

Then the article described the reviews written by the foreign media such as Malaysian Insider, Asia One, The Times of India, The Chronicle Journal and Bangkok Post. At the end, the author concluded by saying:

[...] Anyway if we look at the international reviews, there are more praise than criticism that we have performed beyond their expectations. Let's think of this successful celebration of this ceremony as opening a door to the international community or the beginning of our path away from the dictatorship or our official announcement to the world.

Official mascot of the 27th SEA Games

Official mascot of the 27th SEA Games

Demo Wai Yan wrote in his blog[my]:

[...] We can see that there are many different views on the 27th SEA Games which we can have in our own land after 44 years. But we need to distinguish between our views.

Our athletes are trying very hard to bring their best for the game that is being held in our own land. Today the competition of Myanmar athletes is not like making a propaganda film of the military regime but they are trying all they can for the country's image. In this moment we have to support the athletes whether they win or lose. [...]

Meanwhile, a minor riot broke out near the stadium in Yangon on December 16 when Myanmar lost to Indonesia 1-0 in football and could not make it to the finals. Naturally, there was a huge public disappointment on the performance of the Myanmar football team. Zaw Htet Han expressed[my] his thoughts about the riot:

There is vandalism even in the countries that are successfully practicing democracy. And there are also pyromaniacs. Forget about the immature question whether Myanmar deserves democracy. Every single country in the world deserves 100 percent democracy.

Myanmar's performance in the games reflected[my] the country's weaknesses, according to Khin Maung Nyo:

At the moment, I am seeing things differently. I see that the football match (especially the ones we lost) represent our weaknesses in economy and administration. It reflects the gap in our expectation and the reality, and our need for the development of human resources in different fields. This cannot be done within a day or a night. It takes time.

On the other hand, the women football team was cheered by everyone for their giving their best even though they only got a bronze medal instead of gold. Myanmar Political Jokes congratulated[my] the women's team:

Although they lost unfortunately after the penalty shoot out, it was obvious that they have given their best for the country. We are very proud of the Myanmar women football team. It was a very exciting match for the thousands of audience in the stadium, in front of the TV and living abroad. It feels almost crazy to watch both team playing intensely. Actually the Myanmar audience are not blind about winning or losing. Audience knows if players have really tried. And we are not afraid to face the failure.

People did not lose their mind for no apparent reason when Myanmar lost to Indonesia the other day. The audience who went to the match knew that the Myanmar men's football team had played not seriously enough to win the game. This is why 60 millions fans were angry.

Today even when the women team has lost the game, we are very proud of them. They have tried all their best until the end for the country.

Ye Htut also praised[my] the team:

Thank you, young heroines for making Myanmar audience happy.

Their coordination, team spirit and selflessness are the examples that not only the footballers but also all of us should take.

After the closing ceremony, he also highlighted[my] the victories of ethnic athletes:

[...] 180 of the medals were obtained by the ethnic athletes such as Kachin, Kayar, Chin, Mon, Shan and Rakhine. When we said that we are going to have these games, people from both inside and outside the country have doubted if we would have the ability. They asked whether Myanmar athletes would be able to do that.

Now, together with all the ethnic people in the country, we have proven that they are wrong.

With this kind of spirit, let us journey to the future country.

July 13 2013

Interview with Young Burmese Glue Sniffers

Inhalant abuse through the use of cheap glue is a worsening problem among poor children in Myanmar. Yin Yin Hnoung, a medical student from the University of Medicine in Mandalay, interviewed some of these children and analysed[my] the causes and impact of this particular drug abuse.

She starts by describing how she saw some children inhaling glue at Mahar Myat Mu Ni pagoda, a famous tourist spot in Mandalay:

A group of children was playing at a shady spot at Maha Muni Pagoda, Mandalay. (They are) around 5 to 15 years old. [...] Their daily job is to beg from pilgrims and visitors, to receive whatever food given and to collect used plastic containers. [...] If (we) checked the group of children running here and there, (we) would find some children sleeping or napping. It was a can with “TV” brand known as “TV Glue”. They were napping while inhaling (glue from) that container. There are around 100 children who are using that glue can that smells strongly like petrol as a drug and they are staying around Maha Muni Pagoda.

She approached some of the kids and conducted a friendly interview. A 14-year old boy hugging his 4-year old brother narrated his family background:

A glue can used to sniff by children. Photo from Yin Yin Hnoung's Facebook

Some of the poor children in Myanmar use this can of glue for inhalant abuse. Photo from Yin Yin Hnoung's Facebook

It's about three years I have been here, sister. I'm 14. I went to school till Grade 5. My dad already died. My mom just gave birth to a baby like 10 days ago. My stepfather is a carpenter at Tampawati [Author's Note: A township name in Mandalay city]. He doesn't feed us so we both have to go out and beg.

He then continued with his reasons for sniffing glue:

We have a debt of 30,000 kyats (37 US Dollars) which we borrowed when my mom gave birth. As we don't have enough (to give back) yet, I'm inhaling glue to forget about it. We earn around 1,000 to 1,500 kyats (1.25 to 1.8 US Dollars). A can of glue costs 400 kyats (0.5 US Dollars) We can buy it at hardware stores outside the pagoda. A can lasts about a week. It's not because I want to inhale, sister. But if I bought one can, I can stay without eating anything for a whole day. All my frustrations are gone, too. I don't even feel painful if someone punched me during a fight. I'm feeling well when I am inhaling it. That's why I started using it.

The kid she interviewed mentioned about teenage boys committing crimes after sniffing glue:

Such guys usually break into betel nut stalls at night and sell whatever they could take. They aren't hesitant to fight (against others), too. [...] Sometimes, they come and rob my glue can.

A 15-year old boy also narrated his story:

I have been to Gaw Mashin school (World Vision in their usage). I have to study there. I have meals to eat. But I'm not happy. How can I be happy? As there is no glue, I can't live there. That's why I ran away.

She also talked to a young lady living near the area:

I usually reprimand those children as if they were my own children or siblings. They don't like me as I always keep those glue cans from them and throw away.[...] I live with my husband and a child. [...] Even my husband used to sniff glue but I forced him to quit. My son is now two years old. As he sniffed glue while carrying our son, the baby felt congested in his chest. He quit it in order not to harm our son.

The young mother believes that it was a trash collector at Mandalay railway station who taught the children how to sniff glue. Young girls are also seen sniffing glue in the area. Pagoda security officers usually cane children caught sniffing glue.

Yin Yin Hnoung concluded her piece by mentioning what needs to be done to help those children. She wrote:

Due to poverty, children have to beg in order to earn for their families when they should be going to school instead. They are malnourished due to insufficient meals. When they can't earn enough money (to live), they sniffed glue because they are frustrated. Their income is spent on sniffing glue. Then, they beg again. The money given by kind visitors is spent on glue. If they are caned for sniffing (glue), they sniff glue again to forget the pain. They are then addicted to sniffing glue in such cycle.

She urged authorities to look into this issue as well:

It makes a historical place like Mahamuni Pagoda that can attract many tourists ugly with hundreds of children sniffing glue. Future human resource will be reduced. [...] That is why I write urging government authorities, Myanmar Maternal and Child Welfare Associations and NGOs to control sniffing glue effectively and to nurture those children again.

June 14 2013

Anger Over Attacks Against Myanmar Migrants in Malaysia

The ethnic violence in Myanmar seems to be spreading in nearby countries.

Some Myanmar Buddhist migrants in Malaysia have been attacked in recent weeks which many people believe are related to the ongoing ethnic and religious tension in Myanmar. According to Eleven Media, 6 died and 12 were hospitalized with injuries during the violent attacks against Myanmar nationals in Malaysia from May 30 to June 8.

Myanmar's Embassy in Malaysia initially dismissed the news which angered many Burmese netizens. Ye Htut, Myanmar's Deputy Minister of Ministry of Information clarified[my] the report:

(We) read the news on the Internet about the clashes near a Myanmar monastery at KamPung and Selayang and that some Myanmar nationals died. (We) immediately asked the Myanmar Embassy in Malaysia about this issue at 5 pm and again at 8 pm via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ambassador said the news was false. [...]

A Myanmar national put 11 red roses at Malaysia Embassy Yangon for Myanmar nationals killed at Malaysia.

A Myanmar national put 11 red roses in front of Malaysia's Embassy in Yangon in honor of Myanmar migrants killed in Malaysia. Photo – Ye Moe's Facebook.

Wai Lin Oo expressed[my] his frustration with the Embassy's response:

It's actually happening! If you want to approve Embassy's words, just prepare a flight in Myanmar to carry the dead bodies back.

Fang Ran asserted[my] a similar point.

People are suffering. They are just simply liars who don't even go outside the Embassy. And they charge us extreme taxes. I can't even mention in words how they often reprimand ( citizens who are seeking refuge in the Embassy). [...] When can we depend on Myanmar government? It's really discouraging. Where is respect for human rights of Myanmar nationals?[...]

Myo Set compared[my] how the governments of other countries are behaving when faced with a similar situation:

When a Japanese was killed in 2007 in Myanmar, a Japan Minister came at once. When Myanmar workers had issues with a Korean factory owner, the Korean Embassy suddenly became involved in the case. North Korea cleared away the books about Kim Jong Ill from book shops in Myanmar. What a shame! US came down to Myanmar once there were issues of Yettaw.

Our turn?

In Malaysia, the Ambassador's mouth got a stroke. Ministry of Information is crippled and Myanmar government is paralyzed.

We are Burmese, a community page of Myanmar citizens around the world questioned the silence of NGOs and media regarding the abuses suffered by Buddhists in Malaysia: 

When riots in Meikhtilar Township in Myanmar happened, (the global) media and international organizations (like the) UN, Human Rights Watch (reported) about it and some even exaggerated the (situation), labeling it ethnic cleansing, genocide, Muslims in Myanmar are being brutally massacred, or something like that….But why are they silent than normal about the current massacre in Malaysia targeting Myanmar Buddhists? How many lives must the Burmese Buddhists sacrifice further to put the (situation) on pages and screens? Please show the so-called RIGHTS you all repeatedly use whenever you get every chance to make the Burmese Buddhists dishonorable in every page and every screen worldwide.

On June 4, when voices became louder and attacks became more serious, the Myanmar government issued an Aide Memoire to Malaysia's Ambassador in Myanmar urging the Malaysian government to investigate the issue immediately and take legal actions against responsible persons. On June 6, Malaysia reported that 900 Myanmar nationals were detained during a security sweep. Myanmar government is preparing[my] to send a team of special representatives to Malaysia.

Since some of the injured Myanmar migrants cannot afford the hospital bills, the Malaysia Kampung Free Funeral Service Social Team (Kampung FFSS) gave donation to the victims. U Aung Ko Win, President of the Kanbawza Bank who also runs Myanmar Airways International (MAI) donated[my] $50,000 US dollars and cut the MAI air ticket fees of the Malaysia-Myanmar route by 50% for the convenience of migrants who wish to go back to Myanmar. Another well-known wealthy personnel, U Zaw Zaw, who is President of Myanmar Football Federation announced[my] that he will donate 1,000 air tickets for those who want to go back to Myanmar, plus additional $20,000 US dollars donation to Kampung FFSS.

Many netizens on Facebook changed their profile pictures to black to grieve the deaths of Myanmar citizens in Malaysia.

April 20 2013

Myanmar: Suu Kyi Beats Lady Gaga in Time Magazine Poll

Aung San Suu Kyi, photo by Htoo Tay Zar, taken from Wikipedia

Aung San Suu Kyi, photo by Htoo Tay Zar, taken from Wikipedia

Aung San Suu Kyi was voted as the Time Magazine's most influential person of the decade on 17 April, 2013. She won against Lady Gaga by 61 percent of the total votes. It came as a proud moment for Myanmar people who untiringly voted for her to show their utmost support for ‘The Lady.’ It is also regarded as a New Year present for Aung San Suu Kyi from her people as April 16 is the first day in the Myanmar calender.

Following her victory after the voting closed, many people shared their joy and enthusiasm on Facebook. Here are some of the posts:

Helen Ayekyaw wrote that the ‘gift’ is fruit of unity in the country:

your children has given a present for Mom, which is a fruit of our unity. Wish you are happy.

Taw Win Daund complimented the voters:

Say it who is the winner and say it loud….!!!.. :)
Give yourselves a big hand coz u worth it..

Hmuu Zaw also congratulated her and wrote about the significance of the poll victory:

Daw Suu is an icon of Myanmar. Our president is also a symbol of Myanmar's reformation. In any case, we have voted to present our country; our people's pride can be seen here. Lady Gaga's fans are also mobilizing people to vote for her in various fan pages. There is a stark difference in number of followers, internet users and the internet speed. I don't want to say anything about TIME's matching two people of different areas (I mean an Icon and a Pop-star; it would be better if she is matched with Obama or Hilary Clinton). There might be different opinions on the style of voting. But we can see the TIME's intention of allowing us to vote multiple times. Some people might think this is not necessary but this means a lot to us who recently have been able to look outside of a closed-society. Lady Gaga's fans and people from TIME magazine might be surprised (if they check IP, they will know who are voting). For Myanmar people who are living here or abroad, we have come to a cross-point. The word Myanmar that had been neglected always, now comes into recognition. We have started a new year with good news.

He also mentioned some of the other challenges facing Myanmar:

I fully hope that in the future we will be united as well for nation, peace, development and putting Myanmar in the right place. TIME's voting has finished but we still have Nation Building, and State Building has been only 2 years old. As the President said we have to walk ahead taking lessons and challenges from the past years.

Here are also some of the voters’ sentiments the day and night before the match was closed


Photo of a family voting for Aung San Suu Kyi, shared by Taw Win Daund

Freedom News Group was regularly updating the voting results:

Lady Gaga 46% and Aung San Suu Kyi 54%. Only two hours left to vote for Aung San Suu Kyi

Demo Fatty wrote in behalf of other Burmese who can't access the internet:

We, 2 million people are voting also on behalf of 40 million people who also wanted to vote for Daw Suu but do not have internet. So what? Let's vote, everybody!

Michael Z Chu also expressed his concern:

Lady Gaga vs our Beloved Leader Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is getting close plz everyone vote vote vote n tell all ur friends n family also


Photo of a child voting for Aung San Suu Kyi, shared by Zaw Min Tun

One of the voters, Tin Ko Ko Oo wrote:

Don't give up! respect those who voted all night long.

Kaung Thant asserts that Suu Kyi will remain a beloved figure even if she loses in the poll:

Whatever the result will be, Mother Suu is always going to be in the heart of her people.

April 04 2013

Myanmar Now Sells Cheap SIM Cards

Great news for mobile phone users in Myanmar. Major telcos CDMA and WCDMA networks will start selling mobile SIM cards for only 1500 kyats or about 2 US Dollars. Just five years ago, a SIM card in Myanmar could cost more than $2000.

March 18 2013

Myanmar: ‘Save Our Zoo’ Campaign

The government of Myanmar wants to relocate the Yangon Zoological Gardens which has been a city landmark since 1906. In fact, about 450 animals were already transferred to another zoo in Nay Pyi Taw, the country's new capital. Minister Soe Thein argued that the zoo is already a health threat for residents in the city. He added that the zoo can be transferred to Hlaw Kar National Wildlife Park which is outside of Yangon.

Netizens have launched an online campaign to block the relocation. Mahar Kyaung, who posted the “Save Our Zoo” photo on facebook, reminded authorities that zoos in other countries are also located in city centers:

The Saigon Zoo in Vietnam which opened in 1864 is at the center of the town. Similarly, the Ragunan Zoo which also opened in 1864 is located in Jakarta city. Manila Zoo which opened in 1959 in the Philippines is also in the city proper.

The real big purpose (I heard) is that they are planning to build hotels in the location of the Yangon Zoo.[...]

Photo - Ma Har Kyaung Facebook Page

Photo – Ma Har Kyaung Facebook Page

He then cited his reasons for opposing the proposal:

Since current Zoological Garden is a historical zoo;
Since it was founded with funding raised from the public;
Since it will be a waste of country's budget as it will need to renovate the Hlaw Kar Park;
Since it will be inconvenient to go out of town for friends and relatives visiting Yangon after their visit to Shwedagon Pagoda (Author's Note: Yangon Zoo is very close to Shwedagon Pagoda and those from small towns and villages who visit Yangon usually go to the zoo after Shwedagon Pagoda);
Since I knew the idea of the ex-general (Minister Soe Thein) who wants to make profit by relocating the zoo.

If they were to continue to relocate the zoo to Hlaw Kar, we should send our aunts visiting Yangon to U Soe Thein's home if they want to visit a zoo.

Many netizens seemed to agree with him. Naing Lin Ngwe expressed[my] his worry:

Another activism movement to halt a project is on its way again.

Yan Naung Soe sarcastically wrote[my]:

I pray to Buddha and may other gods praise. May they (ministers) have no idea to relocate the Shwedagon Pagoda.

Ko Gyi Kyaw asks[my] if residents are complaining against the zoo:

To say it (zoo) is unhealthy, are the residents around there protesting against it? You (Minister) were not even born when the zoo was founded.

Zin Mar Lwin shared[my] her disappointment:

They often think that it is a development to relocate something to elsewhere. Frustrated.

Yar Zar Di Yar Zar urged[my] authorities to stop making illegal profit:

Enough with all the demolitions happening in the country now. (You) should already be pleased with the wealth already hoarded.

A number of Facebook users who had seen the post asked the question “Again?”, “What do they want this time?” etc.

Since the zoo is currently being managed by business tycoon Tay Za of Htoo Trading, the company said it would follow instructions from authorities on the issue of relocation.

March 14 2013

Protests Against Suu Kyi Over Myanmar Copper Mining Probe

The controversial China-backed copper mine mega project in Monywa, Sagaing Division in Myanmar can continue operations but it must first improve its environmental and social impact commitment. It must also provide a detailed assessment plan and compensation for local residents

This was the recommendation of the committee formed by the Myanmar government last November to probe the violent dispersal of a protest camp near the mine site. The committee of 16 members headed by opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi released its official report[my] last March 12, 2013.

The 10-page report confirmed that riot police used smoke bombs to disperse protesters which included local villagers, activists, and monks who are opposed to the mining operation.

The report also advised authorities to be transparent about the contract involving the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEHL) and Wan Bao Company.

Many netizens seem to be pleased to read the first report of its kind in Myanmar. Nathan Maung wrote[my] a short note about the report:

I've just read the report by the investigation commission on Latpadaung Copper Mine. I can see the effort and quality of the commission led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. This report is not a report that everyone can accept but it reflects all the initial promises of revealing all things as the truth. (Those who are too emotional and making effort only for blaming do not need to read this.) What the commission reported is that UMEHL and Wan Bao should amend the contract with transparency then the project may be continued.

Zay Htet added[my]:

It's really a detailed report. To make it happen, it's not too difficult if it is done with good will. There are many example (projects) in other countries that are systematically carried out.. I totally accept this (report). That's invaluable experience and the beginning of cooperation, an important effort. I'm pleased.

Htet Linn also asserted[my] that the report is fair enough:

Daw Suu (Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) is unbelievable. It's remarkable that she made it as fair as possible for win-win situation as much as she can even though many criticized this whole thing as a political trap for her.

But some locals in the project area protested against the report and Wan Bao company by demanding a complete stop in the copper mine project. Meanwhile, Suu Kyi went to Monywa to hold a press conference on March 13, 2013. Some activists protested against the report in Yangon as well. They claimed[my] that “whoever supported the project will be known as criminals in history”.

Copper mine protest

Monywa locals protesting against the copper mining investigation report. Screentshot from Eleven's Media youtube video

Suu Kyi welcomed the protests and even reminded her detractors that everybody can protest against her under the law and even in front of her house in Yangon. Suu Kyi was defended by many netizens especially on Facebook. Here are some of the comments.

Myo Kyaw Htun[my] : Lack of knowledge, short term mindset – it's difficult (to deal) with such politics. Please sympathize with someone who is running here and there and solving every issue and problem regardless of her age. Whenever something happens, if all would be just protesting without doing any work, there will be no productivity but just going back.

Andy AP: I'm just wondering, did they really read the report from beginning to end???

Kyaw Thu Tun[my] : If they can't accept it, protest against government bravely. Why they yell “We don't want Daw Aung San Suu Kyi” while she just did her duties courageously as a member of parliament when government appointed her without any bias to government or Wan Bao, she is neither supporting their job nor being responsible for what they did.

Lin Thurein[my] : Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is solving all the mess done by military junta including current president. [...] As nobody was daring enough to be involved in such sensitive situation, they transferred that mess to her. And she bravely accepted her duty as a public leader. How can they claim the results (of the report) are not fair just because they don't want it?

May Thingyan Hein[my]: Daw Aung San Suu Kyi should not be the target of protests. They should read the investigation report carefully. She suggested specific reforms that the Ministry of Mining, UMEHL and Wan Bao Company have to follow. [...] The public should demand them (UMEHL, Ministry and Wan Bao) to follow all those suggestions clearly.

Mommy Htar[my] : It's very clear. The commission cleverly pointed out the downside of the project and asked the proponents to amend the contract including compensation (to locals) with transparency and to redo the processing of assessment on how the farmers and ecosystem are affected by the mining. For example, they reported the low compensation received by farmers under the current contract. The opinion of the commission cannot be “do or don't”. They can only “report” the situation.

Both Wan Bao company and UMEHL announced their intention of complying with the recommendations given by the committee. Meanwhile, the government formed a committee to ensure that reforms are first implemented before the mine project is allowed to proceed.

March 06 2013

China Executes Burmese Drug Lord on Live TV

Naw Kham, the Burmese leader of a major drug trafficking gang in the infamous ‘Golden Triangle’ area in mainland Southeast Asia, was executed through lethal injection in Kunming, China last March 1, 2013. Although he was not well-known before his death, his life instantly became a trending topic in Myanmar after his execution.

A number of Myanmar Facebook users were frustrated to learn that Chinese media networks aired the execution on live TV [viewer discretion advised].

Khin Khin Oo writes[my] her frustration:

Broadcast the execution? What an inhumane thing!

Naw Kham Before Execution

Naw Kham before execution. Screenshot from CCTV News video.

Than Thar Win, a well known local singer, also criticized[my] the live broadcast of the execution:

It's acceptable to punish a criminal. But I think broadcasting the execution process live by some Chinese channels should not have happened.

Khin Zarny Htut added[my]:

Being guilty is being guilty. But as a human being.,I feel a bit sad for such lethal execution.

There are also those who blamed the Myanmar government for not requesting a prisoner swap arrangement with China. La Yeik Cho said[my]:

Our government should ask for criminal transfer. Why did they leave Naw Kham's fate in China's hand?

Another Facebook user, Nay Min Kha, compared[my] the situation of foreign criminals in Myanmar and Myanmar prisoners in other countries:

We have been releasing those (foreigners) who committed crimes in Myanmar easily. I do not hear any similar treatment for Myanmar citizens who are detained abroad. In fact, even if Naw Kham committed crimes, he should be sentenced to death only in Myanmar. [...]

Nay Tar Gay thinks[my] Chinese citizens who are found guilty of committing high crimes in Myanmar would be transferred to China:

Regardless of the type of charges, the criminals should be transferred to mother nation and charged against law in one's own country. It is very sure that Myanmar government would transfer him (to China) if he were a Chinese national.

On the other hand, some netizens pointed out that there is no difference between execution in Myanmar and China. Ei Maung posted a short note explaining why the Myanmar government was correct in its decision not to request a prisoner transfer deal in the case of Naw Kham:

It's true that a nation must protect its citizens. And yes, Vienna convention suggested nations to transfer prisoners as showing respect.

But, it's crazy to say Myanmar government should request the transfer of a drug king. Are those people out of their mind? [...] Not transferring a mass murderer or drug king is nowhere near disrespecting. They have their “national security” to concern over respect in those cases.[...]

“Don't make ridiculous conclusion” just because you don't like the government. Even if Myanmar government makes such request, China is unlikely to agree and, such rejection would “unnecessarily affect the relationship”. Government is doing the right thing…

Winston Compunuts mentioned that there is no extradition agreement between the Chinese and Myanmar governments:

In order for prisoner exchange or extradition to take effect, there needs to have agreements for it between such nations. Geneva convention only guarantees humane treatment and access to fair representation (even that definition widely varies in different countries). Extradition treaties must first exist before the arrest occurred. As far as I know, there is no such agreement between China and Burma. I think the Burmese government was right NOT to pursue it since it's highly unlikely to be successful and why waste tax dollars on something unwarranted. There are cases when even a superpower like the United States couldn't even save their citizens or bring them home to serve their prison sentence.

Hkam Awng's brief clarification[my] about the status of Naw Kham went viral:

He is someone who became a wanted person in Myanmar, Laos and Thailand after he implemented his drug route from Myanmar to Laos, then to Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong and China. [...] Finally, it reached over the limit of patience of four countries (Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and China) after he hijacked a Chinese ship, killed the sailors and threw the dead bodies into the river. [...] To be able to cooperate for drug trafficking, such countries signed the 1988 UN Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drug and Psychotropic Substances but Myanmar did it with exception for the article of criminal exchange. That is why Myanmar government never transferred Khun Sa and other ‘Wa‘ leaders who had been charged by US. [...] Anyway, I'm also against the capital punishment and death penalty. [...]

On March 2, 2013, Myanmar netizens flooded the Facebook page of Chinese Embassy in Myanmar by posting R.I.P messages for Naw Kham.

March 02 2013

Deadly Clash Between Police and Farmers in Myanmar

Pacerunning shared a short video recording of a woman being attacked by the police during a clash between farmer protesters and police in Maupin, Myanmar. In the video, one officer pushed a woman and it seems another officer was trying to attack her while others were trying to stop him.

The clash [my] between around 500 farmers and 200 police broke out on February 26, 2013 in Maupin of the Irrawaddy Division in Myanmar. One police was killed and a total of 45 people were injured. It started [my] when the police tried to disperse the group of militant farmers who refused to evacuate the land previously seized by the military government. One of the farmer says: [my]

We are so impoverished that if we do nothing, we will not be able to eat. So we can not back down.

The clash was subdued the following day. The government website reported that a state of emergency was issued in the area. Later, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced that stability was restored in the district.

According to The Irrawaddy, land protests have been rising in the country in the past two years:

Land protests have taken place in many parts of Burma since the former military regime handed over power to a quasi-civilian government two years ago. Land ownership problems plague many farmers, because under current laws, they rarely have actual ownership of their farmlands, even if their families have used them for generations.

Aye Nai also notes the rising cases of land grabs and subsequent land protests in the countryside:

With Burma primed for massive investment as the country continues with ongoing political reforms, land grabs have been on the rise. According to experts, the country’s shaky legal infrastructure allows forced relocation and appropriations to continue.

However, local farmers are feeling increasingly empowered in the absence of military rule to protest against development projects that threaten to forcibly remove them off land they work.

February 24 2013

February 23 2013

Request Google to Look into Myanmar

Many Burmese netizens requested[my] the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Information who met with Google's Southeast Asia Country lead for Public Policy and Government Affairs to convince the company not to block Google Play in Myanmar and to put Burmese (Myanmar) language in Google Translate.

February 21 2013

Media Freedom Still Murky in Myanmar Despite Progress

Myanmar's decision to dissolve its notorious censorship board was praised by many groups as a step forward in promoting media freedom in the country. But press freedom watchdogs also highlighted the continuing threats, difficulties and attacks experienced by Myanmar-based journalists throughout the past year.

For example, independent reporters continue to face a high risk of being slapped with various lawsuits if they expose controversies in the bureaucracy or criticize high ranking government officials. On February 7, 2013, Myanmar parliament has formed a commission to investigate the writer behind the internet blog post titled “Above the Law” [my]. The post was written by someone who used the pseudonym “Dr. Sate Phwar” in the blog Voice of Myanmar [my]. The article accused members of parliament of disregarding the constitution and also for making decisions on their own without regarding the president's remarks. He sarcastically wrote:

why not add this new amendment in the constitution that whatever the constitution may dictate, the Chairperson of the Hluttaw (parliament) and his companions can decide among themselves by casting votes in the Hluttaw (parliament).

Photo shared by Freedom Media Group (Burma) which wrote that a reporter is being attacked by squatters in a relocation area. The caption also added that “it is said in some news that this is set up by the special police force to make people hate the squatters.”

Similarly last year, domestic journal The Voice Weekly was charged with defamation by the mining ministry for reporting the misuse of funds and fraud inside the ministry. Fortunately, the ministry dropped the charges earlier this year.

Recently, a number of journalists received [my] warnings from Google that there may be pending attacks from “state-sponsored attackers.” The warning was given after the Facebook pages of independent local journals The Voice Weekly [my] and Eleven Media Group [my] were defaced by a group called Anonymous Myanmar. However, the government denied any involvement in the cyber attack.

Perhaps in response to the hacking of media sites, the official website [my] of Myanmar's president was attacked last February 5, 2013 by hackers suspected to be members of a group called “Indonesian Fighter Cyber”.

It is also common to find various hate groups, propaganda photos and messages on the social media. During the Rakhine riot in 2012, propaganda photos from both sides of the conflict circulated on the internet.

Meanwhile, Taw Win Daund shared on his Facebook page a photo which is thought to be the photo of hired comment writers. He labeled the photo:

Photo shared by Taw Win Daund

Hired comment writers or military students? Photo shared by Taw Win Daund

Hired comment writers, lobbying the fight between the president Thein Sein and Vice-senior General Min Aung Hlaing by writing hate comments under the posts of the Eleven Media, the Voice Weekly and 7 Days News journal.

There are mixed views on the photo. Steven Myo commented

the writers also include those who have learned in Russia.

La Min Aung refuted the allegation:

this is wrong, using the photos of the students of the military academy to mislead is not good. This is to divide the people and the army.

Although it is hard to say whether it is true or not, hate comments using vulgar language are very common on Facebook in Myanmar.

January 28 2013

Peace March: ‘Stop Violence in North Myanmar'

Last January 21, a group of 50 peace marchers including monks started their 1,300 km long journey by foot to the Kachin state in the northern part of Myanmar from the former capital city, Yangon. The primary aim of the campaign is to raise awareness and demand a stop to the on-going conflict between government military forces and Kachin Independence Army (KIA). About 25 of the marchers hope to reach their destination, the city of Laiza, where the headquarters of KIA is based, in about two months.

Mya Thien wrote on the blog Luthuorthan [my] that

…the nation and its people have lost so much because of the war that was started over 60 years ago. The war has caused many sufferings; the children, the elders and innocent people being part of the victims are a grim sign for international communities and a setback for our country’s democratic transitions.

Peace Marchers in Yangon. Photo from Facebook of Freedom News Group(Burma)

Yan Naing Tun, one of the organizers of the group said [my] that

we could choose to travel by car or by bicycle; but if we are to achieve peace, we are proving our endurance for it

Although the government has announced unilateral ceasefire last week, Kachins claimed that the fighting has continued. Khon Ja, a Kachin ethnic wrote on his facebook that

23 January 2013

Fighting in Hka Ya, between Laja Yang and Laiza continues.

2 Helicopters landed at Lupi, near Pang Wa, close to the Border Mark 5 and Border Mark 6 IDP Camps, dropped Troops and weapons.

Total of 12 villages with 1339 persons trapped in Gaw Gwi vally, the west of Banmaw (the west of Irrawaddy River Bank), and the north of Shwegu.

Padang Hoi also commented on the status.

president thein sein and ye htut announced 18-01-2013 no offensive , so why burma army offensive is continuing in hkayar and with use of at least 7 helicopters at pangwa today.. .what does it mean?…

Refugee Children. Image from the National League for all Burmese Refugees

Renewed violence in 2011 between government forces and rebel groups has displaced more than 90,000 civilians. National League for all Burmese Refugees [my] reported that the Kachin refugee children were unable to access education and had wasted an academic year due to the conflict.

Peace marchers were reportedly blocked by local authorities and by the police for not securing an official permit and for breaking the laws. Aung Min, one of the marchers, answered the authorities by saying that

We are not demonstrating. We are here for the peace for Myanmar people and to stop the war inside the country….. That’s why we didn’t request for official permit; but we have informed and requested help from the respective organizations and the president.

December 01 2012

Crackdown on Mining Protest in Myanmar

During the Buddhist celebration of the Full Moon Day of Tazaungmone, Myanmar riot police violently dispersed the protest camps set up by Buddhist monks and villagers who are opposing the China-backed copper mine project in Monywa, Sagaing Division. The mining protest began last February.

The project is a joint venture between the government-backed Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. (UMEHL) and Wanbao, a Chinese company. UMHEL reportedly compensated displaced farmers with US$610 per acre. But there are villagers whose farms were leased out to the Chinese company without proper notification and they have been very vocal in urging the government to stop the mining project.

On November 27, 2012, the government ordered protesters near Latpadaung and Kyayzintaung area of Sagain Division to leave the six protest camps. When protesters refused to leave the camps, the riot police used water cannon and tear bombs to disperse the crowd. But there are unconfirmed news reports that the police also used other weapons such as fire bombs or phosphorus bombs and even Napalm.

About 50 monks were badly injured with burned skin.

A monk hospitalized with burn injuries. Photo from CJ Myanmar Facebook Page.

A monk hospitalized with burn injuries. Photo from CJ Myanmar Facebook page

Myanmar netizens immediately condemned the use of brutal force to disperse a peaceful protest. Myo Set notes that right after the historic visit of United States President Barack Obama to Myanmar, the government showed its real attitude in dealing with protesters and dissenters:

Dear Hilary, as a Burmese citizen, I would like to clearly inform you that the Burmese Government is now brutally cracking down the mass protest led by monks, activists and farmers against Chinese copper mining investment in Central Burma near Monywa.

It is the first response of Burmese government since the U.S. has abolished its sanctions on Burma.

No negotiations were carried out despite the appeals from protesters.

Ko Htike condemned[my] the duplicity of the government:

They could have easily foreseen that the situation in Latpadaung would deteriorate and deliberately failed to consult the public.

Now, it's clear both parties can't step back. Public has no choice but to move forward. If brutal crack down continues, Latpadaung region would be a cursed place.

The question for Latpadaung is that will U Thein Sein play the same trick as he did in the Myit Sone Dam issue?

The Myit Sone Dam project was suspended by the government after it was vigorously opposed by residents. But construction work has been restored, according to news reports.

Lwin Aung Soe requested[my] President Thein Sein to defuse the tension in the area:

I'm requesting President U Thein Sein who is supposed to protect the public welfare to grant their wishes.

1) Please hold a press conference regarding the crack down of protest camps asap.

2) Please exert strong leadership to stop the threats and brutal crack down against the protests.

3) Please find an acceptable resolution by forming a committee as agreed by the Parliament to solve the Latpadaung Copper mine issue asap.

Some netizens are comparing how the government responded to the mining protest and the riots in Rakhine state. Here are some comments on Facebook.

Phyoe Pyeat Min[my] : What courage! Perhaps their courage is only for locals of same nation. They are worshipping rioters in Rakhine. The army dogs…

Rainy Casper[my] : They never used such methods of cracking down during the riots where locals suffered. Now the monks are treated in such way. Inhumane animals..

Maynadi Oo[my] : For the sake of China, they are beyond cruelty when dealing with public. Where on earth did that Ministry of Home Affairs go during the riots in Rakhine state??

The riots involving Rohingya and Rakhine peoples have displaced thousands of villagers. The government was criticized for its failure to end the riots and resolve the conflict

The president's office issued a statement justifying the decision to end the protest in order to uphold the rule of law and develop stronger friendship between China and Myanmar which later become a sarcastic joke among netizens. Alex Rain asserted[my] that the protest went peacefully without any kind of rioting.

The peaceful protest and rioting is not the same.

Police have to use weapons to resolve the rioting. Force is necessary to stop rioters from destroying public places etc. It is to keep the whole public safe.

Now, they burn sleeping monks at 3 a.m. and still claim it's for the rule of law, like a fool.

A few hours later after receiving numerous harsh comments criticizing the government, the same website announced[my] that the statement has been revoked and taken down from the website.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi went to meet up with Wanbao company representatives and residents in order to negotiate between government and the protesters. She spoke in the rally and agreed to assist in the negotiation.

November 21 2012

Myanmar Overwhelmed by Obama's Kiss

Barack Obama made history by becoming the first president of the United States to set foot on Myanmar. Many people cheered his visit while others reminded him that it's premature for a U.S. president to visit Myanmar today. Netizens used the hashtag #Oburma to document and monitor Obama's trip. Keywords such as “Myanmar” and “Aung San Suu Kyi” became worldwide trends.

News about Obama's plan to visit Myanmar excited many people. Printing shops hurriedly distributed U.S. flags and Obama merchandise items.

Thant Myint U, a historian and grandson of former United Nations Secretary U Thant, mentioned that Obama's grandfather had been to Myanmar during World War II.

@thantmyintu Remembering that Pres Obama's grandfather served with King's African Rifles in Burma, was prob part of advance down Chindwin to Mandalay.

Obama's historic visit to Myanmar. Photo from CJMyanmar

A young graffiti artist, Ar Kar Kyaw, painted “Welcome Obama” graffiti in Yangon which grabbed media and public attention, although the artwork was almost damaged by rival painters.

Yangon University underwent some renovations since Obama was set to deliver a speech in the school prompting Ko Htike to comment[my]:

It looks like Obama saved the Yangon University which was destroyed by Khin Nyunt. Now that they are renovating, treasuring the institution… it seems Myanmar military junta only appreciates the value of institutions only when others say so.

On the other hand, some assumed his visit as an effort to establish closer relations with a country which has been dealing only with China in the past few decades. Myo Set discusses[my] this viewpoint:

Rather than emphasizing on Kachin [Civil War] issue, Obama is expected to talk more seriously about the Rohingya riots when he comes. In the name of promoting humanitarian aid, he will make effort to irritate China regarding the Kyaut Phyu Pipeline. […] I just want to suggest to Rakhine organisations to provide detailed historical facts and proofs (regarding the Rohingya issue). Furthermore, I wish they could discuss (with Obama) about the geographical situation of Myanmar and the reported overpopulation of Bangladesh together with Myanmar Human Rights Commission. […] Regardless of what Obama will be discussing, his aim is just to take Myanmar from China. I guess the main purpose of lifting the sanctions is also for this. […] I assume we have to face the unnecessary U.S-China rivalry too early than we expected.

Just before President Obama arrived, 49 political prisoners[my] were freed by the government.

Obama was greeted by motorcades and large crowds everywhere. A few years ago, no one would have expected to see U.S. flags in the streets of Myanmar. But what the public appreciated the most was the kiss Obama gave to opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Although Myanmar remains a conservative country, almost everyone online did not think it as inappropriate and even praised it as a “royal kiss“. Thin Thin Tun describes[my] it as a gesture of friendship between the two countries:

Although it's not quite comfortable to see it through “Myanmar's eyes”, (I believe) it is a reflection of the warm and lovely friendship (between U.S and Myanmar).

Thousands of people gathered in the streets of Yangon to greet Obama. Photo from CJMyanmar

Those who did not have a chance to attend Obama's speech at the university enjoyed the live broadcasting from local channels and some went to tea shops to watch it together with neighbours. Nay Myo Zin, on a different note, wrote[my] about the power outage in some parts of Yangon while Obama was delivering his lecture:

A while after the speech was broadcasted, the electricity went off in Yangon. Till now 5:15 pm, we have to stay in the dark. Day time is short as the cold season is approaching. I silently welcome the U.S. president from the dark land of Myanmar. I was thinking I could die happily if we have a chance to live with stable supply of water and electricity while I was listening President's speech. Now, it becomes dark as there is no light in South Dagon township. By flapping the fan, I am wishing no mosquitoes would bite Obama in the dark.

Obama's speech remains the most talked about issue in Myanmar. Rohingya supporters criticized Obama for not strongly condemning the riots in western Myanmar, while others gave high praises for the speech. Meanwhile, Tom Bergreen asserted that Myanmar should not follow the diversity in the way U.S managed to do it:

For the most part I liked his speech, but there are two areas where our opinions diverge.

First, and this is a rather general thing and is a criticism of US and western foreign policy in general, I think that the worship of Daw Suu is understandable, but I think it creates a cult of personality around her as an individual rather than embracing her ideas and leadership.

Second, although there cannot be exceptions with respect to human rights and slowing ALL persons to live in dignity… (but) citizenship should be based on a set of laws that are applied equally to all within Myanmar borders. As long as the conflict there is viewed erroneously (IMHO) by foreign media and governments as a sectarian one, resolution is nearly impossible. This should be treated as a constitutional issue and must be decided by Rule of Law.

Of course some netizens were humorous in their comments about Obama's trip. Others were more interested in using traditional astrological belief to determine the day Obama was born. For instance, Win Min Ko shared a photo of Obama pouring water at the Friday corner of Shwedagon Pagoda with a caption:

Friday born Obama.

November 11 2012

Myanmar Hit by 6.8 Magnitude Earthquake

An earthquake with a magnitude 6.8 hit the towns of Mandalay, Pyin Oo Lwin, Shwe Bo and Sagaing in Myanmar at 7:40 a.m (GMT+8). According to reports, 4 workers died and 25 were injured at the construction of a bridge[my] in Shwe Bo. The earthquake was the strongest to hit the country in the past 3 years.

November 05 2012

Website of Popular Burmese Journal Hacked

Screenshot of Burmese journal “The Voice Weekly” which was hacked last November 4, 2012.


October 28 2012

Confusion over Agreement with OIC to Establish Office in Myanmar

The June riots in western Myanmar involving Rohingyas and Rakhine prompted several international Islamic organizations and countries to extend their offer of assistance to resolve the conflict and deliver aid to victims.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), for instance, has proposed the establishment of a permanent office in Myanmar. This initiative sparked phenomenal opposition across the country, especially in Yangon, Mandalay, Pakkoku, Sittwe and Phyar Pone. Online comments are also  almost unanimous in opposing an OIC presence in the country.

Many people in Myanmar believe that an OIC office is not necessary to help the Muslim minority in Myanmar, even some Rohingya political representatives. Dr. Aye Maung, a member of parliament and the president of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party argued[my] that aid and donation can be delivered without setting up an OIC office in the country:

OIC is mainly for religion purposes, an organisation with 57 countries which are cooperating with Islamic countries. It's unlike ASEAN which is a regional and multi-religious association nor European Union.[…] And therefore we can and should receive the donations through the government without opening an OIC office.

Myo Set advised the OIC to communicate directly with other UN bodies and NGOs if they found the government machinery unreliable:

Burma has full cooperation with NGOs and UN which is why no more political coalition is needed if OIC's pure intention is to provide only food, shelter, health care service and security for Muslims. Whatever they wish to supply can go through the UN if Burmese authorities are not reliable.

Ko Htike wrote with the view that the riot was not a religious clash, thereby asserting that the OIC should not shape the situation to be one.

The Rohingya issue is neither a religious clash nor ethnic clash. It's just a problem between illegal immigrants and locals. It is such an ordinary problem which usually occur in many countries across the world. Nothing more.

I think OIC should not shape the situation to be a religious issue. I respect the kindness to provide humanitarian aid. If the intent is for humanitarian reason, other states and regions in Myanmar should be given assistance as well just like what other countries (e.g. Japan, US) are doing.

Ko Htike echoed the popular domestic opinion in Myanmar, opposing the Rohingya's struggle for recognition as an ethnic minority in the country. Opinion on the Rohingyas is divided; the global community consider them as among the most persecuted minorities in Asia.

For several weeks, there has been talk of a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the OIC and Myanmar's Ministry of Border Affairs, though there is little information about whether the agreement actually exists, and if so, what it comprises. When people started posting comments opposing the agreement, Hmuu Zaw from the president's office clarified[my] that the OIC office would only be a temporary liaison office rather than an official representative office. This explanation didn't convince many. Tyfone Athene questioned the possible duration of the temporary office:

Temporary liaison office? how long will it take? 60 or unlimited years?

Poe Pwint Phyu thinks that if the government regarded the original incident a non-sectarian clash, then the agreement with the OIC should not have been signed:

Protest against OIC

Photo - CJ Myanmar Facebook Page

My last question to Mr. President's advisers: Do you see this recent conflict as merely a religious riot (thus you allowed a temporary office for OIC) or urgent issue of neglect and violence which victimized Rakhine natives? The answer will explain the present government's direction and its commitment to Rakhine and the survival of democratic Union—where every girl can freely get education and equal rights from the institution.

Others criticized the lack of transparency on procedures of government ministries. Ah Moe made this request[my] :

Be it a temporary liaison office or permanent branch office, what we are asking for now is to show a copy of that MOU to public, that's what we want mainly.

The government attempted to dissuade people from joining the protests against the setting up of an OIC office; despite this, they were held October 15 in several cities across the country. Bowing to public pressure, the president's office announced on the same day that the government would not permit the setting up of an OIC liaison office in Myanmar. However, it didn't mention the content of the controversial MOU. It was not clear if the government had informed the OIC of this decision.

The government assured[my] the public that it would continue to accept humanitarian aid by coordinating closely with OIC and other international groups.

Meanwhile, the OIC said they have yet to receive a formal notification from Myanmar government regarding a decision to disallow a liaison office.

In related news, the Myanmar Red Cross Society issued a press release denying rumors that it is sponsoring a hidden OIC office inside its building.

October 21 2012

Myanmar: Newspapers Now Printed in Color

Government-sponsored newspapers in Myanmar are now printed in color, this was announced [my] by the Deputy Minister of Ministry of Information on his Facebook. There are only three major daily papers in Myanmar, all published in monochrome version except on special occasions like Independence Day. Weekly publications by other local media groups are called “journals”.

October 18 2012

Myanmar to Ban Viber?

An engineer from Myanmar's Ministry of Communication has warned that Viber services might be banned in the country because of revenue losses of the state and the absence of contracts to protect users. Internet users immediately criticized the statement

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