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Published by The Myanmar Times

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Published by: The Myanmar Times on May 27, 2013
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WWW.MMTIMES.COM ISSUE 678 | MAY 20 - 26, 2013
Tourist arrivalscontinue to soar
More than 250,000 oreign visitors arrives at Yangonairport in the rst ourmonths o 2013, an almost 44percent increase on the sametime last year, as tourismoperators brace or another bumper year.
Relie in Rakhine State ascyclone spares communities
Thousands o peoplein Rakhine State began returning totheir homes on May 17 ater a weakenedCyclone Mahasencrossed the coasto Bangladesh theprevious evening with only minimalimpact. However, thecyclone highlightedthe vulnerability o communities inRakhine State thathave already been weakened by two bouts o viciousrioting in 2012. Beorethe cyclone hit, thegovernment promisedto start buildingcyclone shelters inthe region to protectcommunities romuture disasters.
China courts NLD
For more than two decadesthey had no ocial ties, but China and the NationalLeague or Democracy arequickly making up or losttime – but at signicant risk or Myanmar's oppositionparty.
Kyat hits new low,speculation andprices on rise
The kyat has hit a two-yearlow against the dollar, leadingto speculation and earsthat petrol prices will risesharply, but the dip in valuecould boost agricultural andgarment exports, say experts.
Designer labelsdemand bettersaety in actories
International ashion brandslike Benetton are backing a  workplace saety agreementor Bangladesh ater thedeadly collapse o a nine-storey garment actory lastmonth, which killed morethan 1100 people.
MT nominated for ve 2013 Awards for Editorial Excellence from the Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA)
 AS well as being a haven ordiscerning diners, PhnomPenh’s Secret Room is alsothe spot where topics o theday are oten thrashed outpassionately by the city’smost interesting people. A recent trip to that irre-sistible hideaway providedconrmation o this when thediscussion o a mixed group veered onto that ever stimu-lating topic – sexual proclivi-ties.Since several participants were o Antipodean heritage,it was no surprise that they  became most vocal aboutNew Zealand’s decision lastmonth to legalise same-sexmarriage.In hindsight, aside romthe intensity o the opposing views, what was most striking was that no one noted a sig-nicant development on thisront, namely the plan to allow gay marriage in Vietnam. Yes, you heard right. Thisinitiative was not taken in a politically correct, liberal de-mocracy like New Zealand orSweden or Canada, but in Vi-etnam, which has one o the world’s most authoritarianregimes.However, while harshly repressive on the politicalront, Vietnam’s ruling Com-munist Party does permit a degree o social latitude thatshames much o the rest o the region.O course, the primary motive or this is sel-sur- vival: Let the masses drink and cavort when they are soinclined and can aord it, because that will keep theirminds o the inept peror-mance o their government.But let’s ignore the motiveor now. The act is that theassertion by Deputy Ministeror Health Nguyen Viet Tienthat Vietnam aims to legalisesame-sex marriage as soon aspossible was worthy o un-qualied applause. And it is not oten thatsomething like that can besaid about Vietnam.However, in this case itcan, especially given thatTien’s bold declamatory statement was endorsed by his minister, which meantthat it must also be support-ed by the Politburo, the rul-ing party’s supreme body.“As human beings, homo-sexuals have the same rightsas everyone else to live, eat,love and be loved,” Tien told a government conclave discuss-ing the country’s Marriageand Family Law last month. Wow. I he had been amongthe passionate little group inthe Secret Room glasses wouldhave been raised to him, along with shouts o “Hat’s o!”In a way, his initiativeshould not come as too mucho a surprise, since homosex-ual relations are technically not illegal at present in Viet-nam and discreet gay bars doexist.Indeed, in August last year, the nation’s rst gay pride march took place with-out any untoward incidents,and an online gay soap opera has a large ollowing.That said, however, hom-ophobia remains strongamong Vietnam’s growingmiddle class and more espe-cially its rural masses andthat is why the party has soar maintained its ban on gay marriage.But as Tien’s orthrightstatement indicated, changeis clearly aoot – and indeedis already underway.This month, the National Assembly in Hanoi is sched-uled to consider the legalisa-tion o gay unions.It is an astonishing stepand contrasts markedly withgrowing anti-gay sentimentacross the rest o the region.In Malaysia, or example,the ourth annual Sexual Di- versity Festival was vetoed be-cause the authorities claimed– without any clear evidence– that it was "a threat to publicorder”.Human Rights Watch, theinternational non-govern-ment organisation, said theestival ban showed that a  virulent homophobic mind-set still pervades the Malay-sian bureaucracy. And so it does. Malaysia’srabidly anti-gay laws encour-age discrimination and areused to prosecute sexual acts between consenting adults,particularly those who haveupset the political leadership.Similar antediluvian ac-tions and paranoid state-ments have been made by leading gures in Indonesia,Malaysia and the Philippines.In neighbouring Vietnam,however, the reverse is takingplace and the governmenthas already scrapped nes orsame-sex couples who holdinormal weddings.I, as seems likely, Hanoiproceeds to legalise same-sexmarriage, it will become therst Asian country to do soand will gain great interna-tional kudos or it.
The local lowdown & best o the web
MAY 20 - 26, 2013
Page 2
Kayleigh Long
Vietnam leads the region on same-sex debate
Model, vocalist and actress
 Nan Myant Phyo Thin
was bornin 1991 in Yangon. She got her start in 2010 as a hostess at anawards ceremony, and now has 15 lm and seven song creditsto her name. As well as her successul media career, Nan MyatPhyo Thin holds a Bachelor o Medicine and Surgery (M.B.B.S),having graduated rom Yangon’s University o Medicine in 2012.
 By Ei Ei Thu, Photo: Htet Aung Kyaw (Studio HAK)
The Colonel’s secret recipenow available in Gaza
An unconventional deliveryservice has sprung up on Facebook, allowing people to orderKentucky Fried Chicken to theGaza Strip. The deliveries aresmuggled through tunnels romthe AlArish KFC restaurant,35km away in Egypt. The priceor deliveries is 100 shekels –around US$30. Accountant Raat Shororo told
The ChristianScience Monitor 
that he is verypleased with the new service,saying “It has been a dream,and this company has made mydream come true.”
YouTube star brought in onmurder charges
In the US, a hitchhiker whorecently shot to internet ameater he gave a news crewa scrambled account o hisintervention in an attack on aCaliornia utility worker hasbeen arrested and charged withmurder.Caleb ‘Kai’ McGillvarybecame an overnight viral hitrom the YouTube video andsubsequently appeared onUS TV show Jimmy KimmelLive.McGillvary was arrested ata Philadelphia bus station andcharged with killing attorneyJoseph Galy, who was ounddead on Monday.In a post on his Facebookpage on Tuesday, Kai askedriends and ans what theywould do i they woke up in astranger’s house and oundthey’d been drugged and sexually assaulted. Bail has beenset at US$3 million.
Internet activist’s legacy 
The New Yorker 
has launched‘Strongbox’, an online resourcethat allows people to transerinormation to the magazine’s journalists while ensuringgreater protection o theiridentities and sources.Strongbox was a projectdeveloped by the late AaronSwartz, commissioned by aConde Nast editor around twoyears ago. Swartz, a programmer and internet activist,coounded the internet giantReddit.com, worked as a Wikipedia editor, was involved in thedevelopment o the RSS webeed ormat, helped establishCreative Commons,
as well ashaving ties to Wikileaks.Swartz took his own lie inJanuary while acing chargesunder the Computer Fraud andAbuse Act (CFAA).
Photo: AFP
A couple kiss on International Day Against Homophobia andTransphobia on May 17 in Yangon.
Photo: AFP/Ye Aung Thu
 I you'd like to be involved in a NOW! Magazine photoshoot email us at editorial@now.com.mm
Thomas Kean
DESPITE relie in western Myanmaron May 17 at the apparent lack o dam-age inficted by Cyclone Mahasen, a United Nations ocial cautioned it wasstill too early to gauge the ull impact.The cyclone, which the UN earliersaid could threaten some 8.2 millionpeople in Bangladesh, northeast India and Myanmar’s Rakhine State, struck late on May 16. However, it lost speedas it approached the coast and RakhineState was spared the destruction thatmany had eared.Media reports said that 12 people were killed in southern Bangladesh.Earlier in the week, the cyclone broughtheavy rain to Sri Lanka, with at leastseven people killed in foods and mud-slides. President U Thein Sein’s ocesaid early on May 17 that no casualtieshad been reported in Myanmar.United Nations spokesman U Aye Win described the storm as “an anti-climax, but a good one”.However, he said the impact was arrom clear, particularly on people dis-placed by last year’s violence.“It’s too early to say right now,” hesaid on May 17.
“We need to look at thecondition o the [internally displacedperson] camps.”U Shwe Maung, the Pyithu Hluttaw representative or Buthidaung in north-ern Rakhine State, said the people o hisconstituency had been “lucky” so ar.“I have not heard about any majordamage rom [my sta] ... but I think  we need to go back and have a look” beore the storm’s ull eects can bemeasured, the parliamentarian said.He said the UN is particularly con-cerned about tens o thousands o Ro-hingya IDPs who reused to cooperate when the government instructed themto leave the camps or higher ground.The UN has several hundred sta on the ground in Rakhine State, inaddition to its local partners. U Aye Win said UN teams will comb RakhineState or several days, assessing boththe needs o the displaced and the ulldamage inficted by the storm.Early reports indicate that Sittwe was largely unaected by the storm, but the ate o other communities isstill unclear.U Aye Win said that travel to ruralareas o Rakhine State was diculteven beore the storm. At a press conerence in Yangon onMay 16, representatives o the WorldFood Program said there was a risk o mudslides in Maungdaw township, innorthern Rakhine State, in the days ol-lowing the storm.The impact o the storm is just onepart o a larger issue: the need or prop-er shelter or the more than 140,000IDPs in Rakhine State. “Whether or notthere was a storm, these camps are ina precarious position,” said U Aye Win.He said he hoped that the atten-tion paid to the cyclone last week canserve to “reinvigorate” discussions o permanent homes and proper aid ordisplaced people.U Shwe Maung agreed and said he would meet with the Ministry o Social Welare to discuss the storm’s ater-math on May 17. “We are always talkingabout the need or shelter.
Storm adesbut housingneeds remainin Rakhine
GOVERNMENT ocials have acknowl-edged the need or cyclone shelters inRakhine State in the wake o CycloneMahasen.The Cyclone Mahasen developedin Bay o Bengal on May 11 and madelandall in Bangladesh late on May 16. Initial orecasts indicated that thecyclone could hit the Myanmar coast,and measures to evacuate residents innorthern Rakhine State were taken.The cyclone weakened as it approachedthe coastline, however, and no casual-ties were reported in Myanmar.But Minister or the President’s O-ce U Aung Min said the cyclone hadalerted the government to the actthere are no shelters in Rakhine State.“We noted that some areas in thestate need cyclone shelters and will try to construct shelters in those areas inuture,” he said at a press conerence onMay 15.In the absence o cyclone sheltersthe government took steps to evacuatepeople living in low-lying areas to mili-tary shelters, religious buildings andschools, U Aung Min said.Dr Tun Lwin, a ormer director gen-eral o the Department o Meteorology and Hydrology and regular weathercommentator, said cyclone prepared-ness measures had been mostly suc-cessul.“The vice president went to RakhineState and managed the cyclone prepa-ration. In my experience this is the rsttime that has happened. All sectors,including the media, non-governmentorganisations and government de-partments strongly collaborated onpreparedness activities. I am thinkinghow much better it would have been i  we had the same situation [beore Cy-clone] Nargis [in May 2008],” he said.“But I am not satised with thestorm surge orecast rom the Depart-ment o Metrology and Hydrology. Thedepartment orecast that the stormsurge in Maungdaw would be 8 to 10eet on May 16. It is not possible to getthat kind o storm surge with a windspeed o [100 kilometres an hour]even i the storm passed directly overMaungdaw.” At the press conerence, U AungMin also mentioned Cyclone Nargis, which resulted in more than 138,000deaths, saying that the government would do as much as it could to reduceloss o lie and damage and use lessonslearned rom Nargis.“We are preparing as best we canso as to reduce loss o lie and damage. We are going to help all aected people without racial or religious discrimina-tion, and we will coordinate with inter-national aid agencies,” he said, addingthat Vice President U Nyan Tun hadarrived in Rakhine State on May 14 tomanage cyclone preparations.Residents in Rakhine State saidmore preparations had been undertak-en than during previous disasters, by  both the government and public.“The authorities disseminated in-ormation on the cyclone situation andthings people needed to do to prepareor the storm in residential quarters with loudspeakers. They relocated peo-ple in low-lying areas to higher ground.They also made sure people in villages were ready – that’s something we didn’tsee in the past. The public prepared orthe storm by collecting ood, water andimportant documents,” said U KhinMaung Thein rom Kyaukpyu.U Hla Myint rom Maungdaw said it was clear residents were more aware o the danger o cyclones than in the past.“We listened to the storm warn-ings on radio and checked the internetor news as well. The chie minister o Rakhine State visited and arranged torelocate people in vulnerable areas,” hesaid on May 14.
Government promises cycloneshelters ater Mahasen near miss
A Muslim family sits in the back of a truck as they prepare to move to safer ground from their tent at Mansi camp on theoutskirts of Sittwe on May 16 as Cyclone Mahasen approached.
Photo: AFP
‘Whether or not  there's a storm, these IDP campsare in a precarious position.
U Aye Win
United Nations spokesman
US praises govt orpreparation eorts
THE United States has praised both the national and regionalgovernments or their eorts toprepare or Cyclone Mahasen.The US embassy in Yangonsaid in a statement on May 17 that it "commends the eorts"o the governments, "in particu-lar their proactive engagement with the United Nations agen-cies, relie organisations, localcommunities and internally displaced persons" in RakhineState."The government actedquickly in coordination withhumanitarian agencies to iden-tiy vulnerable communities,prepare relocation sites, and as-sist in evacuations. We welcomethe government's commitmentto provide humanitarian assis-tance without discrimination based on race or religion," thestatement said.The embassy warned thatRakhine State will remain sus-ceptible to storms throughoutthe monsoon season. It saidthere was a "critical" need toprovide proper shelter on suit-able land or displaced people,many o whom "remain in in-adequate shelters in low-lyingareas and are vulnerable to theimpacts o monsoon rains andstorms".It said preparations or Cy-clone Mahasen highlighted "theimportance o building trust between communities and withauthorities to ensure the saety o all when acing natural dis-asters"."The US government standsready to support government,local and international partnersin utrue cyclone preparednessand response eorts," it said.
– Staf Writers

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