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Published by The Myanmar Times

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Published by: The Myanmar Times on Dec 19, 2012
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By Ei Ei Toe Lwin and Htoo Aung
HUNDREDS of people calling foran end to the conflict in KachinState and elsewhere in Myanmarmarched peacefully through Yangonon September 21 as part of eventsheld throughout the country to markthe International Day of Peace.The Yangon peace march, fromSule Pagoda to the bank of InyaLake on Pyay Road, was organisedby 19 civil society groups.Other events throughout thecountry included prayers for peaceheld at Manwungyee in KachinState and in front of MahamuniPagoda in Mandalay. In the KayinState capital, Hpa-an, writers,artists and others spoke at a peaceevent organised by the KayinWomen’s Action Group.The Yangon Region Police Officesaid charges would be broughtagainst those who organised themarch because it took place withoutofficial permission. An estimated 250 people, manywearing blue T-shirts and blueheadbands emblazoned with theslogan “Stop Civil War” took partin the march.Waving posters and singingsongs, the group left Sule Pagodaat about 9:30am and marched viaBotahtaung Pagoda, Theinbyu andBanyardala roads, Shwegondineintersection, and Bagaryar andKan Lan roads before crossing PyayRoad, to the bank of Inya Lake, nearInya Road.The circuitous route through 10townships was necessary becausethe authorities had banned the groupfrom marching on Pyay Road. After gathering on the bank of thelake at about 3:30pm, the marchersdisplayed banners calling for peacebefore standing at 4pm to offer fiveminutes of silent prayer for thosefrom both sides who have died inconflicts and for those living inrefugee camps. A monument for peace waserected on the lake’s bank andballoons with the slogan “May theentire nation enjoy genuine peace”were released.The marchers also distributeda five-point statement callingfor an immediate halt to conflictthroughout the nation, practicalsteps by President U Thein Sein tostop the conflicts, the release of astatement by the hluttaws callingfor an end to civil war, a judicialcommittee to enforce the rule of lawin war zones, and for all citizens toparticipate in the effort to achievepeace.
Peace marchers face charges
More page 12Activists march in Yangon on September 21 to mark the International Day of Peace. More images of the event on pages 12 and 17.
Pic: Ko Taik
     t     H     e
September 24 - 30, 2012
Myanmar’s first international weekly Volume 33, No. 645 1200 Kyats
September 24 - 30, 2012
SEX, lies and videotape. Itwas once a famous movie,but over the past week it hasturned into real life. An anti-Islamic video calledthe
 Innocence of Muslims
,which makes Pussy Riot’s gigin the cathedral seem like achildren’s prank, has ignitedriots around the world.The crass 14-minute video,replete with lies about Islamand the Prophet Muhammad,veers from ridicule intogratuitous malice. Thoseresponsible obviouslysought to provoke outrageand must have known itcould precipitate clashesthat would lead to the loss of innocent lives, which it hasalready done.Thankfully, the protestshave been largely peaceful inthis region, although Westernembassies in Indonesia andMalaysia remain heavilyguarded in case mattersescalate and turn as violentas in the Middle East. It is asombre situation, and withoutintending to be undulyfrivolous, we must be gratefulto Catherine Mountbatten-Windsor’s breasts for bringingsome relief to an otherwiseprofoundly depressing weekfor humanity.It seems doubly ironic,given that Kate and Willswere visiting Malaysia whenthe protests erupted, thatsex, lies and photographyreared its impish head onceagain. Knowing our innatevoyeuristic instincts, probablymore people checked outKate’s boobs than viewed theinflammatory anti-Muslimvideo. As Julia Roberts saidin
 Notting Hill
when puzzlingover the male obsession withbreasts: “They’re odd looking,they’re for milk, your motherhas them, you’ve seen athousand of them. What’sall the fuss about?”Well, tell that to Kate, orthe more firmly endowedThai artist, DuangjaiJansaunoi, who went toplesson a TV show in June andused her knockers to executea painting – and shocked thenation.For Thailand, despitemisperceptions in the West, isamong the most conservativesocieties on the planet.Not a nipple, or bare bottom,or any other naughty bits everappear on Thai television orin the press. Sometimes onewonders how Thais learnhow to reproduce. And that aptly brings usto Singapore and Lee Kuan Yew. There is plenty of sex inSingapore, but as far as Leeis concerned far too much of itis done for fleeting pleasure,not procreation. Duringlast month’s national daycelebration, he lamented thatif his young compatriots didnot smarten up, Singaporeas we know it today wouldvanish due to the patheticallysmall birth rate.But Lee himself is toblame for this. Early in hispremiership in the 1960s,he developed an irrationalfear that over-populationmight wreck his dream of a super-efficient, squeaky-clean, short-haired island.Imbued with eugenicnotions he imposed harshanti-breeding provisions onhis people. Women wereurged to get sterilised, whilerecalcitrant breeders wereinstructed to “Stop At Two” orface stiff financial penalties.Of course, his son’sgovernment now seeksdesperately to boost thebirth rate with lavishbenefits, dating servicesand risqué adverts. Buttoo late the phalarope, forSingaporeans have becomestaunchly material boys andgirls, and have evolved intoa community of childlessnesters.One is tempted to suggestthat they, and perhaps allof us, should rent a fewvideos that are provocativein a healthy sexual way, andthen should emulate Kate’scavorting behaviour on theFrench balcony. If nothingelse, it would take our mindsoff the religious holocaustthat the anti-Islamic videonow threatens us with.
From Kate to theQuran in one move
Rohingya sit in a tractor loaded with bags of donated rice outside atemporary relief camp on the outskirts of Sittwe in June.
Pic: AFP 
By Nehginpao Kipgen
SINCE May this year, Myanmarhas witnessed an escalation in thesimmering tension between two groupsof people in Rakhine State. The violencebetween the Rakhine (also known as Arakan) and Rohingya (also knownas Bengali) has led to the death of atleast 88 people and displacement of thousands of others. Unofficial reports,however, put the number of deaths inthe hundreds.The immediate cause of the violencewas the rape and murder of a RakhineBuddhist woman on May 28 by threemale Rohingya. This was followed bya retaliatory killing of 10 Muslims by amob of Rakhine on June 3. It should benoted that tension between these twogroups has existed for several decades.Several questions are being routinelyasked: Why has little apparently beendone to resolve the conflict? Is therea possibility of reaching a permanentsolution to this protracted problem?Much blame has also been directed atboth the Myanmar government andthe opposition, led by Daw Aung SanSuu Kyi. As members of the internationalcommunity are trying to promotetheir own national interests in newlydemocratic Myanmar, sectarian violencesuch as we have seen in Rakhine Statehas not been paid serious attention,especially by Western powers.While Human Rights Watch hascriticised the Myanmar governmentfor failing to prevent the initial unrest,majority Muslim nations, such asIndonesia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia,Pakistan and Malaysia have criticisedwhat they allege is discriminationagainst the Rohingya based on theirreligious beliefs.The sensitivity of the issue hassilenced many from discussing itpublicly. Even the internationallyacclaimed human rights champion andleader of the democratic opposition,Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has madeonly brief comments about the conflict,emphasising the need to establish anadequate citizenship law.The root of the problem begins withthe nomenclature itself. Althoughmany of the Muslims in RakhineState call themselves Rohingya, theMyanmar government and many of the country’s citizens call them illegalBengali migrants from neighbouringBangladesh.Since the governments of Myanmarand Bangladesh have refused to acceptthem as their citizens, the Rohingyahave automatically become statelessunder international law. Under suchcircumstances, are there any possiblesolutions to the problem?President U Thein Sein suggestedthat the United Nations HighCommissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)should consider resettling the Rohingyain other countries. Although suchproposal may sound ideal to many,there would definitely be challenges interms of implementation.For example, will there be a nationor nations willing to welcome andembrace the million or so Rohingyapeople? Moreover, UNHCR chief  Antonio Guterres has rejected the ideaof resettlement. Even if the agencyreconsidered its position, would theUNHCR offices in Myanmar andBangladesh have adequate resourcesto process such a large number of people?One possible solution is for thegovernments of Myanmar andBangladesh to reach an amicablearrangement to integrate the Rohingyapopulation into their respectivesocieties. There are about 800,000Rohingya inside Myanmar and another300,000 in Bangladesh.This proposition also has its ownchallenges. Chiefly, will the indigenousRakhine accept Rohingya as their fellowcitizens and live peacefully with them?On the other hand, will the Bangladeshgovernment change its policy and offercitizenship to the Rohingya? Another possible solution is thatMyanmar can amend its 1982citizenship law to pave the way forthe Rohingya to apply for citizenship. As Minister for Immigration andPopulation U Khin Yi told
 Radio Free Asia
recently, under the existing lawforeigners can apply for citizenshiponly if they are born in Myanmar, theirparents and grandparents have livedand died in Myanmar, they are literatein Burmese and meet some additionalcriteria.Finally, to prevent a furtherescalation in tensions, the governmentsof Myanmar and Bangladesh needto secure their porous internationalborders to prevent illegal movements.None of the above suggested policiesare simple and easy to achieve. Despitethe challenges and difficulties, theRohingya issue cannot be ignored fortoo long. Without addressing the crux of the problem, the May incident and theviolence it sparked could recur, witheven more tragic consequences.Until a solution is achieved,international institutions, such asthe United Nations and Associationof Southeast Asian Nations, shouldpressure the Myanmar governmentto take steps to resolve the problemof Rohingya statelessness in a holisticmanner, rather than inciting, orallowing others to incite, hatred alongreligious or racial lines.(
 Nehginpao Kipgen is general secretary of the United States-based Kuki International Forum. His researchinterests include political transition,democratisation, human rights, ethnicconflict and identity politics and he haswritten numerous peer-reviewed andnon-academic articles on the politics of  Myanmar and Asia.
The Rohingya conundrum
September 24 - 30, 2012
By Sandar Lwin
THE editor-in-chief andpublisher of 
The Voice
 pleaded not guilty todefamation charges lastweek, after a Yangon courtfound the publication mighthave committed an offenceagainst the Ministry of Mines.The Dagon Township Court judge, Daw Khin Thant Zin,decided on September 20that there were grounds forconsidering that a report inthe weekly publication haddefamed the ministry andasked the editor-in-chief and publisher if they wouldadmit their guilt.They pleaded not guiltyand will defend themselvesagainst the charges.The case stems from aMarch 12 report in theweekly publication thatquoted unnamed membersof parliament as sayingthat misappropriation of funds and graft had beenuncovered by the Officeof the Auditor General atsix government ministries,including the Ministry of Mines. Shortly afterwards,the ministry announcedit would apply to filedefamation charges againstthe publication.U Kyaw Min Swe, editor-in-chief of 
The Voice
, saidoutside the court he did notbelieve that publicationsshould be charged forreports that are in the publicinterest.U Kyaw Min Swe wasearlier last week appointedsecretary of the re-formedinterim press council and hesaid the body will ensure a“public interest” defence isincluded in the new presslaw.U Zaw Ko Ko, directorof state-owned MyanmaMining Enterprise, said thecourt case was about “tellingthe public that the ministryis clean”.“The court had decidedthat the accusation isvalid but I don’t want thedefendents to face anypunishment,” he said.The ministry initiallysought to charge thereporter, editor-in-chief and publisher but the courtdismissed the suit againstthe reporter because he orshe could not be identifiedby the ministry.“We won’t try again tohave the reporter’s namedisclosed because the editor-in-chief said he will takeresponsibility for it,” U ZawKo Ko said.He said the ministrywould have preferred toresolve the issue outsidethe legal system but hadno “other alternativeprocedures to show ourministry is clean”.“If there had been a presscouncil or something likethat we would have chosen[to resolve it] that wayinstead of filing a lawsuit.”
‘The Voice’defendantsplead notguilty todefamation
WASHINGTON – The UnitedStates lifted sanctions onPresident U Thein Sein andThura U Shwe Mann asthe Congress hailed Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as a heroof democracy in a lavishceremony unthinkable onlymonths ago.The move to end thesanctions on the presidentand Pyithu Hluttaw speakeron September 19 came justhours after Daw Aung SanSuu Kyi had called for theremaining US sanctions onMyanmar to be lifted.She also met fellow NobelPeace laureate PresidentBarack Obama for the firsttime, after being presentedwith the CongressionalGold Medal in the imposingsurroundings of the historicalRotunda on Capitol Hill.The White House saidPresident Obama reaffirmedUS support for politicaland economic reforms inMyanmar, and full protectionof human rights, in order toshape “a more peaceful, freeand prosperous future” forthe country.“From the depths of myheart I thank you, the peopleof America ... for keeping usin your hearts and mindsduring the dark years whenfreedom and justice seemedbeyond our reach,” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said, asshe was handed the award.“We believe that we cango forward in unity and inpeace,” she said.“There will be difficultiesin the way ahead, but I’mconfident that we shall beable to overcome all obstacleswith the help and support of our friends.”The US Treasury laterdropped both U Thein Seinand Thura U Shwe Mannfrom its list of “SpeciallyDesignated Nationals”, thoseindividuals and companiessanctioned for links toterrorism, narcotics or othercrimes.The two men “have takenconcrete steps to promotepolitical reforms and humanrights, and to move Burmaaway from repressionand dictatorship towarddemocracy and freedom”,the Treasury said in astatement.They had been placed onthe list in 2007 as the UnitedStates stepped up pressureon the then-ruling militarygovernment, in which UThein Sein served as firstsecretary and Thura U ShweMann was joint chief of staff of the armed forces.Freed in 2010 after attotal of 15 years under housearrest, Daw Aung San SuuKyi received a rapturouswelcome on her first visitto Washington since herrelease.“It’s almost too deliciousto believe, my friend, thatyou are here in the rotundaof our great Capitol, thecentrepiece of our democracy,as an elected member of yourparliament,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.But Ms Clinton said adifferent phase of Daw AungSan Suu Kyi’s work was justbeginning as she helps builddemocracy in Myanmar.“The United States willstand with her, with thepresident of Burma andthose who are reformers ...as they fan the flickers of democratic progress andpress forward with reform,”the top US diplomat vowed.Daw Aung San Suu Kyiwas also praised by veteranRepublican Senator JohnMcCain who, in a movingspeech, called her “mypersonal hero.”“I want to thank you ... forteaching me, at my age, athing or two about courage,”said Mr McCain, 76, whospent more than five years inthe notorious “Hanoi Hilton”as a prisoner of war duringthe Vietnam conflict.Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’sown remarks, from a podiumflanked by six US flags andwhite marble statues of  Abraham Lincoln and UScivil war general Ulysses SGrant, were bookended bystanding ovations.“This is one of the mostmoving days in my life,” saidDaw Aung San Suu Kyi, whomodestly described herself as“a stranger from a distantland”.The Obama administrationhas taken pains to ensurethe celebration around hervisit does not detract froma simultaneous trip to theUnited States by U TheinSein, who ushered in thereforms to global surprise.US officials say U TheinSein – who will take part inthe UN General Assemblythis week – deserves tobe recognised for pushingthrough such speedychanges.The United States beganrolling back its economicembargo in July, openingMyanmar up to USinvestment despite Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s earlierunease about US firms doingbusiness with the state-owned Myanma Oil and GasEnterprise.“There are very manyother ways in which theUnited States can help usto achieve our democraticends and help us to buildup the kind of democraticinstitutions that we are insuch need of,” Daw Aung SanSuu Kyi said on September18. “Sanctions are not theonly way.” –
US fetes Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi speaks at American University in Washington on September20.
Pic: AFP 

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