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Published by The Myanmar Times

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Published by: The Myanmar Times on Jun 23, 2014
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WWW.MMTIMES.COM ISSUE 734 | JUNE 23 󰀭 29, 2014
U San Sint‘terminated’
Religion minister expected axe to fall – but is he a scapegoat for the Mahasantisukha Monastery raid?
Protest law amended
Township police will only be able to reject applications if a protest is likely to “create hatred” based on race or religion, USDP representative says.
First students pass exams from Insein jail
Four years after formal education  was launched behind the walls of Myanmar’s most famous prison, Insein welcomes its first matriculants.
Shops shutter as price of imported LPG soars
Price of gas used in cooking more than triples because of disruption of imports from Thailand, forcing some  business to close amid rising costs.
For civil servants, retirement a struggle
They are meant to be the golden  years, but many of Myanmar’s civil servants are ill-equipped for life after work – particularly when their housing benefits are removed.
The speculation curse
Major construction projects, from Thilawa to Hanthawaddy airport, spark property speculation – but often it is the buyers who end up getting burned.
JUNE 23 󰀭 29, 2014
online editor
Kayleigh Long
The local lowdown & best of the web
Brave new Burma: doublespeak and opposite day 
The termination and accepted resignation of the Union Minister for Religion and the Chief Minister of Rakhine State were, for obvious reasons, interesting and newsworthy events in their own right. Perhaps more fascinating, though, is the lengths the government has gone to in explaining the retirement, in particular. In times gone by, announcements about hirings and firings were made in state media and rarely elaborated on – and when they were, it was accepted wisdom that words like “resignation” or “retirement” could often be intended more as a euphemism for “disgraced and discharged”. There’s no small amount of intrigue and scandal surrounding the Minister for Religion’s termination. That it’s a bit of a debacle has been made clear in official statements, as well as the response to the developing story on the monastery raid. Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson U Ye Htut has spent the better part of the last week issuing statements to the effect of “Nothin’ to see here, folks,” to quell speculation about the circumstances surrounding the Rakhine Chief Minister’s very ordinary retirement. However, many aren’t quite sure how to reconcile this one-man rapid-fire press release approach with the old “and that’s that”, wondering whether to take it at face value or if, perhaps, he doth protest too much. That said, by all accounts so far it would seem there is nothing wildly out of the ordinary at work and that his insistence on the matter is understandable, given the tangled mess of affairs in that part of the country.
Kyi’s cake
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi eased into 69 last week, celebrating her birthday in a low-key fashion. Addressing the media in Nay Pyi Taw, Suu Kyi said she’s not a big believer in making resolutions, and that each year she works toward the same goal – and it’s not rule of law!“It’s the time to glance back on what you have done in the past year. As a politician, I prefer to contemplate what I have done best for the country, rather than what I have gained personally. I wish you—my friends, colleagues, the NLD members and anyone who loves me—to enjoy wellbeing, and that you pray for me, and I urge you to keep supporting and walking with me on my ongoing political  journey.”
Crocodile tiers
Thailand and Malaysia were issued with a good old-fashioned slap on the wrist by the US State Department last week, joining Myanmar in the Tier 3 naughty corner following the release of the annual Trafficking in Persons Report highlighting their failure to curb trafficking and modern-day slavery The rest of the ASEAN bloc remains steady with Cambodia and the Philippines still on the Tier 2 watchlist, while Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Brunei and Laos enjoy a straight up Tier 2 ranking.
Quote of the week:
“Frankly, everybody commits atrocities every now and then.”
New York Times
 columnist Nick Kristof’s rather jolly, if somewhat ham-handed lead into explaining the situation in Rakhine State, during a reader Q&A. He was asked about atrocities committed during the waves of violence in 2012 not seeming typically Buddhist.
In brief:
Ugly round of smug “When I first came to Burma” one-upmanship breaks out at Strand happy hour Tourist discovers previously unphotographed angle of Shwedagon Pagoda
Next week:
Upon completing course of rabies  jabs, domestic cat enjoys greater legitimate international travel privileges than an entire ethnic population“Pretty much everyone” secretly pleased when “creepy” expat’s carpetbagging business venture failsLegislating on population control: simpler and more effective than contraception, education?
Peanut: World’s Ugliest Dog 2014. Photo: AFP
Page 2
 Awn Sengfrom
 Photo: Jason (SENSE  Photography)
Tour of Duty 
As Myanmar has opened up, tourists have come in droves. The vast majority leave the country having had a great time, their camera loaded with pictures of pagodas, monks and thanaka-faced babies, with a few stories to boot. But this isn’t about those tourists. This is about the miserable, the perpetually unimpressed. The kind of tourist who makes you want to ask why they bothered to leave the house at all. The kind of tourist who goes to Shwedagon and complains about the Wi-Fi signal. I’ve not done any rigorous scientific research into the matter but I feel fairly confident in saying they’re also the kind of person who likes to leave reviews on TripAdvisor.Below is a collection of snippets from reviews of various Myanmar attractions lifted from the TripAdvisor site. All of these fell under the ranking of “Terrible”.
Circle train:
“Terrible. It was a nearly three hour train ride through unending slums and poverty that encircle the pleasant and clean premium city of Myanmar.”
“Not Angkor but very nice”
Gems Museum
“Probably the worst museum I’ve ever seen.”
Golden Rock
“I hope it Falls Over”
Irrawaddy Confluence near Myitkyina
“Not very impressive”
Anisakan Falls
“Waterfalls was dry”
Hampshire Falls and Caves (Pwe Kauk)
“Tacky. I would suggest that the falls are not really for western visitors. There are dozens of stalls selling local produce and the falls themselves have been ruined. Similarly the Buddha images in the caves are really tacky. I would never want to come here again and would not recommend it .”
Balloons over Bagan
“ There’s no thrill factor”“Grossly overrated, not worth USD 310 for one hour of underwhelming pleasure” (To be fair, $310 for an hour of “underwhelming pleasure” does seem like a lot)
Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue
“Being a Jew, I was not there to pray, just want to see the interior. There was no chance in hell that I would wear something on my head from a communal bin in a synagogue in the middle of the slum/cesspool that is Little India/Chinatown of Yangon.”
Inle Lake
“Where Are The Cats ???”
Snake pagoda
“Don’t go !!! This is the most disgusting pagoda ever. It is situated in the middle of a dirty village in the back of beyond... There is nothing at the top worth looking at.”
Mt Popa
“It was the worst experience in my entire 30 days in SEA”“Mount Popa: Mt. POOPa: Lots of poop and overall tacky”
 Thomas Kean
Rakhine govt chief allowed to resign
THE resignation of the chief minister of Rakhine State on June 19 had been expected for several months, sources told
 The  Myanmar Times
 last week, as a senior government official said he left because of his deteriorat-ing health and concerns over his ability to manage the troubled state’s affairs.U Hla Maung Tin, a mem- ber of the ruling Union Soli-darity and Development Party, “resigned of his own volition”, according to an announcement printed in state-run media.Presidential spokesperson U Ye Htut told
 The Myanmar Times
 last week that U Hla Maung Tin resigned because of his worsening health situation.“U Hla Maung Tin is well regarded by the [president] for his efforts toward the develop-ment and tranquility of Rakhine State,” U Ye Htut said. “He thought he would not  be able to handle the challenges facing Rakhine State so he put forward a letter of resignation and the government accepted it.”Several sources told
 The My-anmar Times
 that rumours of his impending departure had  been spreading since Buddhist rioters damaged INGO offices in the state capital Sittwe in late March.“As far as I know he present-ed himself for resignation two months ago,” said Rakhine State Hluttaw MP U Aung Mra Kyaw. “He has been facing some pres-sure from the international com-munity, the union parliament, the regional parliament and at the state level.” However, U Aung Mra Kyaw said the chief minister had re-signed voluntarily. The MP add-ed that a regional parliament session would be called at the end of this month to discuss the issue further but it will be up to President U Thein Sein to name a successor. U Aung Mra Kyaw speculated that U Hla Maung Tin might be succeeded by a serving member of the military, as the govern-ment may believe an officer will  be better placed to maintain or-der in the state, which has been hit by successive waves of vio-lence since June 2012 that have left hundreds dead and around 140,000 displaced.
Religious affairs minister was expecting to get axed
SOURCES close to sacked Minister for Religious Affairs U San Sint say he had been expecting to be fire or face concocted criminal charges as a result of his disagreements with other mem- bers of the government.U San Sint was dismissed by Presi-dent U Thein Sein on June 19 and charged with criminal breach of trust  by a public servant, which carries a possible life jail term, and the govern-ment said he may face further charges.The charge stems from his alleged misuse of K7.2 million to build a pago-da in Nay Pyi Taw’s Lewe township that  was officially consecrated on December 20, 2013. He appeared briefly in court on June 19 and reports said he was transferred to Yamethin Prison. His family is said to be under house arrest.But there was little doubt that his dismissal was related to his criticism of the raid on Mahasantisukha mon-astery on June 10, and many observers have suggested the charge was a pre-text to remove him from office. A senior figure in the nationalist Ma Ba Tha movement, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the case, said U San Sint had known the axe was coming.“He told me that he knew what  would happen to him because of his conflict with other government offi-cials. He said, ‘I don’t care if they dis-miss or transfer me but I will do what I believe is right. I don’t want to be on the wrong side of history,’” said the source, who regularly travelled with the religious affairs minister. “The minister was warned three or four months ago for his comments on the need to eliminate corruption among government and parliamen-tary officials. He even predicted that he would be assassinated or sent to prison on false charges.”Government spokesperson U Ye Htut said the Mahsantisukha issue  was one of a number of problems that prompted the government to sack U San Sint.“Since the monastery dispute start-ed, the president told him to settle it … But his handling of this issue led to disunity between the two sides. Final-ly, it led to misunderstanding between the government and the monks,” U  Ye Htut told reporters. “He did some things without informing the presi-dent so finally we took action. In the past, the president admonished him  very often … This was the final straw.But U Ye Htut rejected the sugges-tion that U San Sint was a scapegoat for criticism of the government’s role in the raid. He said further charges against the former minister may be laid after a Bureau of Special Investi-gation probe.“We told him to tackle [Mahasan-tisukha] in a peaceful way but he cre-ated disunity that could be dangerous for the government. We had no choice.”The Mahasantisukha raid, which  was carried out by the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee and officials from the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Yangon Region government, pro- voked an outpouring of criticism, with some monks warning it could spark monk-led anti-government protests.The statement dismissing U San Sint was released almost immediately after a press conference about the raid at which presidential adviser for re-ligious affairs U Ant Maung said the Sangha committee had made the cor-rect decision.But U Parmaukkha, better known as Magwe Sayadaw, said it was unfair to target U San Sint while “the most corrupt groups” are let off.“He is not the right person to be charged,” he said. “I think it is just a game and the minister is now the bait.” Amyotha Hluttaw representative U Phone Myint Aung said the corruption charge was laughable. “It’s not reasonable to punish someone over K7 million … A minister could easily settle it with an auditor,” he said. “Doing this to a minister only harms the government’s dignity.” While unpopular with many of his colleagues, U San Sint, a former deputy regional commander, had a loyal public following, particularly in  Ayeyarwady Region, where he served as hluttaw speaker from 2011 to 2013.In late 2012 he supported a motion from MPs to sack the regional govern-ment and accused Union Solidarity and Development Party vice chair U Htay Oo of interfering in the dispute. When he was nominated for the ministerial post, hundreds protested in  Ayeyarwady Region calling for him to  be allowed to remain as speaker, while a petition against the appointment gar-nered more than 1000 signatures.U San Sint was also reluctant to ac-cept the post, saying that he believed he could contribute more as regional speaker, but ultimately had little choice.
Former Minister for Religious Affairs U San Sint (centre).
Photo: Supplied
‘He did some things  without informing  the president ... This  was the final straw.
U Ye Htut
Presidential spokesperson
U San Sint reportedly transferred to Yamethin prison and his family placed under house arrest

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