An Independent Survey of Events in Myanmar
The first day of debate on a second constitutional amendment bill has been dominated by questions of whether the president and vice presidents should be allowed to take part in political party activities, against the backdrop of a power struggle in the Union Solidarity and Development Party. The debate pitted USDP representatives against military MPs, suggesting the latter would use their veto to again block constitutional changes.
Sections 62 and 63 block the president and vice presidents from being members of parliament, while section 64 bars them from taking part in party activities while in office. The proposal is closely linked to the tussle between President U Thein Sein and Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann for control of the USDP, and parliament’s decision could have significant implications for this year’s election.
The party has officially stated that the Speaker would remain in charge until this year’s election, but some party member and government officials have said that Thura U Shwe Mann is only a temporary leader and would have to relinquish the post to U Thein Sein if the latter decides to run for election.
Elliott Brennan and Christopher O'Hara: Institute for Security and Defence Policy - 15 June 2015
The firebrand Buddhist monk, U Wirathu, frequently remarks that Islam poses an existential threat to Myanmar. A central tenet of this argument is the citation of one Muslim militant organization, the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO). The RSO is often accused of being responsible for coordinated attacks against the Myanmar Defense Services, as well having international links to terrorist organizations that seek to promote jihad in Myanmar. Indeed, these organizations have claimed they are supporting local resistance groups and exporting jihad to Myanmar’s shores. This policy brief questions the credibility of the narrative that the Rohingya pose an extremist Islamic threat, arguing that attention should be focused instead on resolving the plight of the Rohingya and attenuating their grievances.....
Living in poverty under the former junta government, the Rohingya have been largely isolated from the influence of global jihadi and Islamic extremist groups. This, and the robust influence of a strong sense of community, has insulated the Rohingya from radicalization.....
While there is a risk of radicalization in the wake of the recent Rohingya refugee crisis, the threat should not be taken as a given, nor as imminent. The situation must nonetheless be addressed through policy measures by the Myanmar government. Changing the anti-Muslim public sentiment and promoting more conciliatory narratives should be the starting point of this process. Addressing citizenship issues and discriminatory laws is also vital. Following this, rebuilding Rohingya communities and welcoming back Rohingya that have fled the country is necessary. A sort of institutional empathy from the Myanmar government is needed. These policies will not be easy processes nor popular amongst the influential Buddhist nationalist groups and their supporters. But they are needed to address the current discrimination and persecution facing the Rohingya community.....
Derek Tonkin writes: The authors tend in my view to overplay the “threat” which the extremist Ma Ba Tha organisation say they perceive from the RSO. The main line of attack by Ma Ba Tha has been the alleged threat to Buddhism from Islam in general, and this is reflected in their sponsoring of the legislation currently going through the Union Parliament on marriage, conversion, birth control and monogamy. The threat from the RSO is not taken all that seriously, but is one of several convenient tools to whip up popular emotion.
“Rohingya” militancy of course started well before the designation ever became current, or even known. When the Mujahid rebellion broke out in late 1947, action by the Burmese military was pretty ruthless. After one reported massacre on 10-11 November 1948, Thomson and Adloff (1955 - 'Minority Problems in South East Asia') quoted Bangladeshi archives as recording that surviving “Rwangya” were told that “unless they vacated Maungdaw and Buthidaung, they would be tortured and butchered like animals and that they were appointed to wipe out the Rwangyas from Maungdaw and Buthidaung.” This pattern of repression continued over the next three decades.
The offensive which the authors say was launched “beginning in the 1970s” which led to violent clashes and resulted in the displacement of over 250,000 refugees misrepresents the results of the nationwide review into illegal immigration which started in early 1978 and which was completed without too much trouble in other border states except for Arakan. There what US diplomatic cables have described as “mass hysteria” among the local rural population of “Chittagonians” (as US cables described local Muslims) led to their flight into Bangladesh, fearful no doubt of what happened in 1942 when many thousands of Muslims were slaughtered in Central and Southern Arakan as the British withdrew (resulting also in a similar fate for Buddhists resident in Northern Arakan). Other diplomatic archives, notably British, as well as accounts from UN staff, reject allegations at the time that the Burmese military were seeking to drive the Muslims out of Arakan.
That said, there is much to commend in the latter part of the article, notably the section “Addressing Grievances”. I would however draw attention to the following extract from the July 2013 Report of the Inquiry Commission on Sectarian Violence in Rakhine State:
"2.8.5. In 1998, a 5,000-strong Bengali force headed by the Rohingya Liberation Organization (RLO) entered Maungdaw and destroyed Buddhist monasteries, set fire to Buddhist neighbourhoods and killed several Rakhine, again attempting to take over Maungdaw by force. The local police force successfully repelled the attack."
On the Rohingya, Statelessness and 'Trafficking': Su-Ann Oh - ISEAS Perspective
A serious study, seeking "to distil two fundamental issues from the morass of blame, moral panic and emotional wrangling that the Rohingya issue has been sucked into. The first concerns citizenship in Myanmar and the second bears upon the irregular migration routes taken by the Rohingya and the Bangladeshis." Illegal migration into Arakan however, notes Derek Tonkin, was not confined to 1978 and 1992, but has rather continued all the time since independence.
The most persecuted minority in the world: Damian Collins MP - The Huffington Post
Derek Tonkin writes: A puzzling article by a British Conservative MP who, as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, ought to have access to more reliable information than the activist sources he uses uncritically . He is wrong on the matter of alleged impunity (see paragraphs 9.12 and 9.13 of the report of the Committee of Inquiry), wrong to ignore totally the Buddhist casualties at the time of the July and October 2012 fighting (see details in paragraph 5.2.6 of the same report - there were more Buddhist than Muslim injured), wrong to characterise as genocide communal violence which has been endemic in Arakan for a very long time, wrong on the historical and present-day reality of the situation, and wrong in labelling Iraqi Yazidis as "Christian".
Robert Taylor: ISEAS Perspective - 26 June 2015
The confusion over the meanings of ethnicity which has vexed Myanmar politics since independence has its origins in the many misunderstandings which were perpetrated, unwittingly, by the Panglong Agreement and its subsequent interpretations. Written as a hastily agreed constitutional arrangement to ensure the unity of the entire colony prior to independence, it has been reinterpreted as a set of constitutional principles guaranteeing rights to ethnic groups. It did not and, in law, it could not. Continue reading.....
Xin Hua (China) - 26 June 2015
Myanmar's parliament on Thursday vetoed almost all six sections of amendment bills except one for the 2008 constitution after three-day debate.
The only one section, which was voted in favor, is Section 59(d) dealing with the qualification of a presidential candidate. The amendment bill proposes that the candidate shall be well acquainted with the affairs of defense instead of military.
Other amendment bills for the remaining five Sections - 59(f) , 436(a), 436(b), 60(c) and 418(b) - were turned down as the number of voters stood less than 75 percent, the percentage required to pass the bill.
The amendment bill for the Section 59(f), which deals with the eligibility to become president, proposes lifting ban only on a presidential candidate whose son-in-law or daughter-in-law shall not be foreign citizen and enjoy the privileges of a foreign government, but continues ban without change on a candidate whose spouse or one of the legitimate children is a foreign citizen and enjoy the privileges of a foreign government. (Continue to Page 2 of the Xin Hua Report)