dinsdag 31 maart 2015

Is this the best she can do?


Queen Maxima talks at Yangon University about inclusive finance and the use of mobile phones and internet banking as blessing to the rural poor. She said that people who have a small income would profit greatly from improved access to financial services, so they can transfer money easily and safely. 
It is also useful, the Queen said, for putting aside savings for pensions or to compensate for business setbacks. She did acknowledge that trustworthy financial services are required for a financial system to work properly. 
She told the students that they are the generation of the mobile revolution.

The Queen did not mention the other revolution that the students are ibvolved in in Myanmar: the struggle for a more inclusive society, with democratic freedoms for all Myanmar citizens.

Although we understand that she is not in a position to make political statements, we would have expected her to at least express her solidarity with the arrested students and their families, who are again going through the ordeals that were so familiar during the dictatorship. If only from a humanitarian point of view, as representative of the Dutch people.

zondag 29 maart 2015

Oproep aan Maxima

Majesteit,

Deze week bezoekt U Myanmar, voorheen Birma, in uw rol als VN pleitbezorgster voor inclusieve financiering, zodat meer arme mensen toegang krijgen tot geld, om zo ontwikkeling te stimuleren. U heeft ontmoetingen met de centrale bank, met leden van het parlement en met president Thein Sein.
Ook gaat u studenten aan de universiteit van Yangon toespreken.

Sinds de verkiezingen in 2010 is er in Myanmar een regering aan de macht waarin zowel militairen en burgers zitting hebben, en is er een begin gemaakt met democratische hervormingen. Na een periode van optimisme, zijn er nu in toenemende mate zorgen dat het hervormingsproces stagneert. Studenten spelen van oudsher een belangrijke rol in de vreedzame strijd voor meer democratie in Myanmar: studenten initieerden protesten en demonstraties tijdens de dictatuur, en velen van hen hebben een hoge prijs betaald voor hun protest.

Zoals u ongetwijfeld weet, zijn studenten nu opnieuw in verzet. Sinds medio november vorig jaar voeren zij actie tegen de nieuwe Onderwijswet, die op 30 september 2014 door het parlement is aangenomen. De studenten protesteren tegen de in hun ogen te veel gecentraliseerde controle van de regering op het onderwijs; ze willen meer autonomie voor onderwijsinstellingen en  universiteiten, en meer academische vrijheid dan in de nieuwe wet wordt geboden. De studenten vinden dat autonoom onderwijs, academische vrijheid, studentenvakbonden en inspraak horen bij een democratisch systeem. De Onderwijswet is ook een aanleiding om de onderliggende kwesties over een vrijere samenleving en meer economische rechtvaardigheid aan de orde te stellen.

Aan de vreedzame protesten van de studenten is op 10 maart jongsleden op hardhandige wijze een eind gemaakt. Op een manier die herinneringen oproept aan de dictatuur, sloeg de oproerpolitie met knuppels op ongewapende studenten in. De oproerpolitie opereerde samen met knokploegen. Ook dat roept herinneringen op aan de jaren van dictatuur, waar staatsgesponsorde knokploegen de vrije hand hadden om protest te smoren.

127 studenten werden gearresteerd. Er zijn rapportages over mishandelingen na arrestatie. Een aantal arrestanten is inmiddels vrijgelaten, maar 65 van hen zijn op 25 maart in staat van beschuldiging gesteld, 5 studenten die zijn ondergedoken zijn in absentia aangeklaagd, en elf studenten die op borgtocht vrij zijn, worden later aangeklaagd.

De aanklacht bestaat uit: onrechtmatig demonstreren, verstoring openbare orde, onmogelijk maken van het werk van overheidspersoneel, het verspreiden van informatie die onrust veroorzaakt en die oproept tot verstoring van openbare orde.
Als de studenten veroordeeld worden, kunnen de gevangenisstraffen oplopen tot 6 jaar.

Omdat, U juist op dit moment Myanmar bezoekt, en studenten in Yangon gaat toespreken, vragen wij U met klem, mede namens Birmezen die zich inzetten voor democratisering van hun land, om deze kans te benutten om te spreken over de onmisbare rol van vreedzaam protest in een democratie. Wij vragen U om Uw medeleven met de gevangen studenten en hun families te tonen, en Uw zorg uit te spreken over de staat van de democratische hervormingen, nu de overheid zich opnieuw bediend van methoden die herinneren aan de dictatuur.

Wij vragen U ook, om in uw gesprekken met parlementariërs, de overheid en de president, elke gelegenheid aan te grijpen om een relatie te leggen tussen economische ontwikkeling en democratie met respect voor mensenrechten. Economische ontwikkeling alleen is niet genoeg, het moet hand in hand gaan met democratisering en inspraak van de bevolking in beslissingstrajecten. Het recht om vreedzaam te protesteren en bescherming tegen een bevooroordeeld rechtssysteem zijn onontbeerlijk.

Majesteit, wij vertrouwen erop dat U onze pleitbezorgster voor de rechten van de studenten en alle andere Birmezen die zich inzetten voor democratisering van Myanmar zult zijn. Wij kunnen ons niet voorstellen, dat U, juist nu, studenten in Myanmar toespreekt zonder Uw solidariteit te tonen.

Met vriendelijke groet,
Burma Centrum Nederland

(English summary of open letter to the Dutch Queen, visiting Myanmar this week

Your Majesty,

This week, you will visit Myanmar as UN representative for inclusive finance and microcredit. You will meet MP’s, the Central Bank and the President.
You also will address students in Yangon.

Students have historically played an important role in the democracy movement in Myanmar. They initiated many of the protests against the dictatorship, and have paid a high price for their resistance.
As you know, students have been protesting the Education Law since mid November last year. The demands include more academic freedom and more autonomy for universities and other educational institutions. The protests are also sparked by the slowing down of the reform, the lack of freedoms in society and the injustices of the economic system.

On March 10, the government has violently cracked down on the peaceful student protests. Students were beaten in a way that reminded everyone of the brutalities of the dictatorship. Students that were arrested have been charged last week, could face up to 6 years in prison.

Because you are visiting Myanmar in these troubled times, we urge you, on behalf of all the Burmese struggling for democratic freedoms, to address the issue of the student arrests, and the importance of peaceful protests in a democratic society. We ask you to share your empathy with the students in prison and their families, as well as your concern about the pace of the reform process, now that the government is openly resorting to the methods of the dictatorship.

We expect you to use this opportunity to emphasise that economic development alone is not enough. It has to go hand in hand with genuine participation of people in decision making, implemented democratic reforms and rule of law.

Your Majesty,  we trust you to be an advocate for us and all Burmese people who are fighting peacefully for democracy in Myanmar, and that you will show your solidarity to the students in Myanmar when you address them.

Kind regards,
Burma Center Netherlands)


maandag 10 juni 2013

Burma Policy Briefing: Access Denied

Access Denied


Land Rights and Ethnic Conflict in Burma

Policy briefing - 8 May 2013
TNI & Burma Centrum Netherlands
The reform process in Burma/Myanmar by the quasi-civilian government of President Thein Sein has raised hopes that a long overdue solution can be found to more than 60 years of devastating civil war
Burma’s ethnic minority groups have long felt marginalized and discriminated against, resulting in a large number of ethnic armed opposition groups fighting the central government – dominated by the ethnic Burman majority – for ethnic rights and autonomy. The fighting has taken place mostly in Burma’s borderlands, where ethnic minorities are most concentrated. Burma is one of the world’s most ethnically diverse countries. Ethnic minorities make up an estimated 30-40 percent of the total population, and ethnic states occupy some 57 percent of the total land area and are home to poor and often persecuted ethnic minority groups. Most of the people living in these impoverished and war-torn areas are subsistence farmers practicing upland cultivation. Economic grievances have played a central part in fuelling the civil war. While the central government has been systematically exploiting the natural resources of these areas, the money earned has not been (re)invested to benefit the local population.

Read full beriefing following this link:

http://www.tni.org/sites/www.tni.org/files/download/accesdenied-briefing11.pdf

Conclusions and Recommendations
  • The new land and investment laws benefit large corporate investors and not small- holder farmers, especially in ethnic minority regions, and do not take into account land rights of ethnic communities.
  • The new ceasefires have further facilitated land grabbing in conflict-affected areas where large development projects in resource-rich ethnic regions have already taken place. Many ethnic organisations oppose large-scale economic projects in their territories until inclusive political agreements are reached. Others reject these projects outright.
  • Recognition of existing customary and communal tenure systems in land, water, fisheries and forests is crucial to eradicate poverty and build real peace in ethnic areas; to ensure sustainable livelihoods for marginalized ethnic communities affected by decades of war; and to facilitate the voluntary return of IDPs and refugees.
  • Land grabbing and unsustainable business practices must halt, and decisions on the allocation, use and management of natural resources and regional development must have the participation and consent of local communities.
  • Local communities must be protected by the government against land grabbing. The new land and investment laws should be amended and serve the needs and rights of smallholder farmers, especially in ethnic regions

maandag 29 april 2013

BCN-TNI seminar report

Read the latest briefing by TNI and BCN 
 
 
 
While there have been undeniably positive trends in Burma over the past year, these have not yet been translated into ethnic peace and justice. 


An uncertain political era has begun, bringing both opportunities and new challenges in quick order. Many needs can be listed and, ultimately, political solutions must be agreed.
But for this to be achieved, it is vital that ethnic issues are prioritized at the centre of national politics; activities are broadened at the community levels to strengthen the participation of civil society; and transparency about peace strategies and initiatives is made a bedrock for all political, military and economic actions by the different sides.

In February, TNI-BCN hosted a two-day seminar, involving ethnic groups from different regions of Burma/Myanmar,1 on the theme “political reform and consequences for ethnic conflict”. Those participating included 28 representatives from Burmese civil society, parliament and armed opposition groups.2

The seminar took place at a critical time. The reform agenda under the quasi-civilian government of President Thein Sein has continued to gain domestic momentum and international approval. The socio-political landscape is undoubtedly more dynamic and open than in March 2011 when President Thein Sein assumed office. Over the past year international leaders, including US President Barack Obama, have visited Burma, while Thein Sein has been received in countries around the world, including China, Belgium, Norway and other European states.

On the ground, reform is at an early stage, and livelihoods and security remain unstable in many communities. Ethnic conflicts and military practises from the past continue, while new upheavals are occurring during a time of uncertain political and economic change. Hopes remain that Burma faces a better future. But over a thousand lives have been lost in violence since the Thein Sein government came to power, and a further 200,000 civilians have been internally displaced. As in other political eras since independence in 1948, the main casualties are ethnic minority peoples.

The seminar focused on four main areas: peace talks and ethnic conflict; political parties and civil society; economic developments in the borderlands; and the international community. In addition, it was recognised that state failure continued during previous times of constitutional change (1948, 1962, 1974 and 1988). Transition from decades of military rule remains uncharted territory for all parties and stakeholder groups. For these reasons, frank and inclusive discussions are considered vital if needs and grievances are to be addressed and Burma is to achieve a democratic era of peace and justice for all.
The spread of ethnic ceasefires with the government was welcomed. But confidence in peace initiatives and reform is being tested by worrying trends and events. These include offensives by government forces (Tatmadaw) in the Kachin and northern Shan states; continued militarization in many ethnic borderlands; Buddhist-Muslim communal violence in the Rakhine state and other areas; and land-grabbing on a disturbing scale. In consequence, humanitarian needs remain immense and, in several areas, internal displacement has continued to rise.

Criticisms are not always publicly expressed by government, opposition and international representatives involved in peace talks. But difficulties are deeply felt among communities and civil society groups on the ground. Sentiment has been growing that peace initiatives are topdown, military-based, non-transparent and often excluding the voice of the local people.
As a result, there is little consensus about the prospects of peace initiatives underway. For while the notion of an “inclusive process” under the “Union Peace-making” initiative of President Thein Sein is being promoted, the reality is rather more complex in the field. Ceasefire talks have taken place through different government approaches to different ethnic groups; there is no over-arching strategy nor national agreement on reform schedules and goals; the Myanmar Peace Centre is regarded a government project that does not reflect non-Burman peoples; business rather than politics and communities is the focus of many ceasefire activities; international agencies have different interests and priorities; and, in several ethnic regions, Tatmadaw officers appear to be continuing longterm strategies of military pacification and “regional clearances” of their own.

Against this backdrop, two different tracks have emerged towards a nationwide peace process: a government initiative, coordinated by U Aung Min, and an ethnic-based initiative by armed members of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC). A first meeting between the two sides was held in February 2013. But many difficulties lie ahead. Controversial issues include political dialogue, national inclusion, Tatmadaw agreement, economic policies, demilitarization, humanitarian access and the resettlement of displaced people, including an estimated 150,000 refugees (mostly Karen and Karenni) still living in Thailand.

To improve understanding, a popular suggestion is that there should be an ethnic peace centre as part of efforts to broaden civil society involvement and national focus on the ethnic cause. Any successful peace process must be anchored in the community. But, for the moment, the perception remains that government and Tatmadaw leaders are in no hurry, with a “hidden agenda” as they bid to strengthen central control; they prefer to continue dealing with different ethnic groups differently; and, with few exceptions, officials are more focused on bedding in the existing political system and status quo before the next general election in 2015.

A similar sense of frustration over ethnic progress exists among ethnic political parties in the new parliamentary system. In general, greater unity is being achieved through ethnic parties in such networks as the Nationalities Brotherhood Federation. A consensus is growing towards federal goals similar to those of the UNFC. There has also been increasing inter-action between ethnic parties, armed ethnic groups and civil society in many parts of the country, especially in the Karen and Shan states. All support the ideal of parliamentary politics. However the criticism is widespread that the present political system and state legislatures do not represent ethnic needs or causes; ethnic parties are unable to promote real discussion or decision-making on critical challenges facing their peoples; and there is no indication as to how armed ethnic groups, their territories and goals can be incorporated in the new political system. Federalism remains a controversial issue.

A further concern is that Burman-majority parties, which dominate the parliamentary system, do not adequately understand or reflect the aspirations and requirements of ethnic minority peoples who make up an estimated third of the population. Ethnic groups are especially critical that Burman-majority parties – whether the pro-government Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) or opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) – have appeared reluctant to speak up or independently intercede on the violence in the Kachin state and other ethnic borderlands. To try and rectify these failings, proportional representation or the agreement of the NLD to single “ethnic democracy” parties standing for elections in the ethnic states is being mooted. For the moment, however, both the USDP and NLD appear to count on “split” votes among parties in ethnically diverse areas. This greatly favours the prospects of nationwide Burman-majority parties in the “first past the post” system in the country’s elections.

Despite these differences, all sides recognise that constitutional amendments are essential if the present political system is to be made to work and truly represent all peoples. In particular, ethnic political parties want to establish a federal system that guarantees their political, economic, socialcultural and religious rights. Furthermore, the reservation of a quarter of all seats in the legislatures for Tatmadaw appointees is an undemocratic anomaly that requires reform agreement between political and military leaders. But there is presently little expectation of major constitutional change before the next general election in 2015. In the meantime, there are concerns that ethnic politics will continue to be eclipsed on the national stage. This would be a historic mistake. As in previous political eras, the marginalisation of ethnic interests will only sustain grievance and conflict, further perpetuating the risk of state failure.

In this reform vacuum, ethnic groups and local communities have become extremely concerned over the pace and style of economic change under the Thein Sein government, often involving Asian investors and business favourites of the ruling elite. The view is widely held that economic designs are behind many government strategies towards ethnic groups, including recent offensives in the Kachin and Shan borderlands. The China-backed Myitsone dam project in the Kachin state is currently suspended. But other major projects, such as the oil and gas pipelines from the Rakhine state to China and the Dawei Development Project with Thailand, are continuing, and displacement and the lack of local consultation or benefit are increasingly the source of unrest and protests among community groups. Many ethnic organisations believe that there should be a moratorium on further economic projects in their territories until inclusive political agreements are reached.

Economic resentment also risks fuelling communal tensions, including with Indian and Chinese minorities, that have been reflected not only in Buddhist-Muslim or “Rakhine-Rohingya” violence but also in inflammatory exchanges on the internet and in local media. In fact, security repression of protests at the Letpadaung copper mine – a joint-venture between Tatmadaw and Chinese state-owned companies – has warned that concerns over non-consultation, displacement, the exploitation of natural resources and enforced economic projects are not simply an ethnic minority affair. It is vital therefore that transparent and inclusive decision-making processes over economic policies are prioritized at both the national and local levels. Longoverdue attention needs to be paid to the economic basis of ethnic grievance and conflict.

Finally, while the entry of international donors and agencies into Burma’s ethnic politics is generally appreciated, ethnic groups often feel that they are pursuing their own agendas and/or repeating the same errors as the government. They appear to have no common strategy or end-goal; it is often hard to understand their focus or ways of working; sanctions are being dropped and human rights issues, for long the Western priority, appear to have been downgraded; and they have not had influence in dealing with such crises as government offensives in the Kachin borderlands, Buddhist-Muslim violence, and the continuing trends of land-grabbing and economic marginalisation. Rather than prioritizing ethnic and political realities today, they seem more focused on economic engagement with Nay Pyi Taw and hoping to build up President Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi as reformist leaders for the long-term.

Over the past year, a general structure has developed among the different international peace efforts. These include the Norway-backed Myanmar Peace Support Initiative, Euro-Burma Office-supported Working Group on Ethnic Coordination and Japan’s Nippon Foundation. For all, their main gateway to the country is through the Myanmar Peace Centre, which is widely regarded a government extension. Meanwhile China remains the most dominant international actor, engaging directly with both the government and ethnic opposition groups. As demonstrated by China hosting recent talks in the Kachin conflict, Chinese stakeholders are likely to continue working hard to ensure their pre-eminent position for a variety of economic, regional and security reasons that are quite different to Western agendas and perspectives.

In this changing landscape, ethnic groups often feel trapped between different Burma government and international interests. They thus hope that, in the coming year, domestic and international understanding of ethnic needs and interests are broadened. As they point out, ceasefires of varying kinds have already existed in Burma for over two decades now. The challenge is to move forward to nationwide agreements that will bring about inclusive and lasting peace. “Third party” support could be very helpful. At the same time, international actors must pay greater attention to the economic impact of investments in the borderlands. Developments that will benefit the people have always been wanted. But, despite the spread of ceasefires, perceptions of exploitation and exclusion have been increasing during the past year, and this could become a very regressive trend if urgent attention is not paid soon.

In summary, while there have been undeniably positive trends in Burma over the past year, these have not yet been translated into ethnic peace and justice. An uncertain political era has begun, bringing both opportunities and new challenges in quick order. Many needs can be listed and, ultimately, political solutions must be agreed. But for this to be achieved, it is vital that ethnic issues are prioritized at the centre of national politics; activities are broadened at the community levels to strengthen the participation of civil society; and transparency about peace strategies and initiatives is made a bedrock for all political, military and economic actions by the different sides. Experience has long taught that ethnic marginalisation and “divide-and-rule” will lead to failure. Only by keeping ethnic challenges in clear view can confidence build among the peoples in Burma’s reform process, leading to the democracy, peace and equitable development that have long been overdue.

NOTES
1. In 1989 the then military government changed the official name from Burma to Myanmar. They are alternative forms in the Burmese language, but their use has become a politicised issue. Although this is changing, Myanmar is not yet commonly used in the English language. For consistency, Burma will be used in this report. This is not intended as a political statement.

2. The seminar followed the Chatham House Rule, which reads as follows: “When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.” See: http://www.chathamhouse.org/about-us/chathamhouserule

This briefing has been produced with the financial assistance of Sweden, the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Bangkok, the Royal Danish Embassy in Bangkok and the Royal Dutch Embassy in Bangkok. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of TNI and BCN and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the donors.

http://www.tni.org/briefing/political-reform-burmamyanmar-and-consequences-ethnic-conflict

dinsdag 26 maart 2013

Burma Centrum Nederland presenteert:
 

Brave New Burma

het nieuwe boek van schrijver/fotograaf Nic Dunlop



Waar:
Woensdag 17 april vanaf 20:00 uur in Perdu, Kloveniersburgwal 86, Amsterdam

Vrijdag 19 april vanaf 17:30 in Reisboekhandel Evenaar, Singel 348, Amsterdam

 U bent van harte welkom bij een van deze bijzondere gelegenheden
 

Programma:

17 april: Journaliste en Birma kenner Minka Nijhuis interviewt Nic Dunlop over zijn werk. Daarna toont Dunlop aan de hand van zijn foto’s hoe hij de militaire dictatuur en de transitie in Birma in beeld heeft gebracht.

19 april: Na een korte inleiding van Saskia Kunst, programma coördinator van Burma Centrum Nederland, geeft Nic Dunlop een lezing over zijn werk.


Nic Dunlop registreerde de afgelopen twintig jaar het leven in Birma onder de militaire dictatuur.
Hij neemt ons mee naar de frontlinies van de burgeroorlog en de bedrieglijk kalme steden; hij bezoekt oppositie-leidster Aung San Suu Kyi en maakt ons deelgenoot van de levens van gewone mensen die proberen te overleven in het voorheen zo geïsoleerde land.

Zijn foto’s en verhalen, samengebracht in Brave New Burma, vormen een indringend portret in beeld en woord van een land dat zich eindelijk ontworstelt aan jarenlange dictatuur.
 

Nic Dunlop woont en werkt vanuit Bangkok. Zijn foto’s zijn wereldwijd gepubliceerd.
In 1999 kreeg hij de prijs voor Excellence in International Journalism van de John Hopkins University voor zijn succesvolle zoektocht naar Comarde Duch, de commandant van Pol Pot’s  beruchte detentiecentrum Tuol Sleng in Cambodia.
Hij schreef er het boek The Lost Executioner, a story of the Khmer Rouge over.

Nic Dunlop maakte als co-regisseur de film Burma Soldier, een intiem portret van de Birmese soldaat Myo Myint, die zwaar gewond raakte in de strijd in Birma, getuige was van het onrecht dat door zijn collega soldaten werd gedaan, en 15 jaar gevangen zat vanwege zijn activisme als lid van de Nationale Liga voor Democratie, de partij van Aung San Suu Kyi. De film is bekroond met de Grand Jury Prize van het United Nations Association Film Festival en werd genomineerd voor een Emmy Award voor Outstanding Individual Achievement in Writing.

 Over Nic Dunlop:
“An outstanding photographer who is also a talented writer.”
– John Ryle, Financial Times

“Nic Dunlop’s pioneering work in Cambodia, documenting the scourge of landmines, is reinforced by the dark grace of his pictures from Burma. They expose the slave labour imposed by the illegitimate regime and illuminate the heroism of Aung San Suu Kyi and her pro-democracy comrades.”
– John Pilger

zaterdag 23 maart 2013

Communal violence


In 2002, in the wake of the terrible communal violence in Gujarat, India, writer and social activist Arundhati Roy wrote a powerful essay, which has been lingering in my mind after violence broke out in Rakhine State, and came back forcefully upon hearing the news of the anti muslim riots in Meiktila, Central Burma/Myanmar.
What Arundhati Roy wrote: `… Last night a friend from Baroda[i] called. Weeping. It took her fifteen minutes to tell me what the matter was. It wasn't very complicated. Only that Sayeeda, a friend of hers, had been caught by a mob. Only that her stomach had been ripped open and stuffed with burning rags. Only that after she died, someone carved 'OM' on her forehead.

Precisely which Hindu scripture preaches this?

Our Prime Minister justified this as part of the retaliation by outraged Hindus against Muslim 'terrorists' who burned alive 58 Hindu passengers on the Sabarmati Express in Godhra. Each of those who died that hideous death was someone's brother, someone's mother, someone's child. Of course they were.

Which particular verse in the Quran required that they be roasted alive?

The more the two sides try and call attention to their religious differences by slaughtering each other, the less there is to distinguish them from one another. They worship at the same altar. They're both apostles of the same murderous god, whoever he is. In an atmosphere so vitiated, for anybody, and in particular the Prime Minister, to arbitrarily decree exactly where the cycle started is malevolent and irresponsible. Right now we're sipping from a poisoned chalice—a flawed democracy laced with religious fascism. Pure arsenic.

What shall we do? What can we do?

We have a ruling party that's haemorrhaging. Its rhetoric against Terrorism, the passing of POTA[ii], the sabre-rattling against Pakistan (with the underlying nuclear threat), the massing of almost a million soldiers on the border on hair-trigger alert, and most dangerous of all, the attempt to communalise and falsify school history text-books—none of this has prevented it from being humiliated in election after election .…

Within hours of the Godhra outrage, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal[iii] put into motion a meticulously planned pogrom against the Muslim community. Officially the number of dead is 800. Independent reports put the figure at well over 2,000. More than a hundred and fifty thousand people, driven from their homes, now live in refugee camps. Women were stripped, gang-raped, parents were bludgeoned to death in front of their children. Two hundred and forty dargahs and 180 masjids were destroyed—in Ahmedabad the tomb of Wali Gujarati, the founder of the modern Urdu poem, was demolished and paved over in the course of a night. The tomb of the musician Ustad Faiyaz Ali Khan was desecrated and wreathed in burning tyres. Arsonists burned and looted shops, homes, hotels, textiles mills, buses and private cars. Hundreds of thousands have lost their job.
A mob surrounded the house of former Congress MP Iqbal Ehsan Jaffri. His phone calls to the Director-General of Police, the Police Commissioner, the Chief Secretary, the Additional Chief Secretary (Home) were ignored. The mobile police vans around his house did not intervene. The mob broke into the house. They stripped his daughters and burned them alive. Then they beheaded Ehsan Jaffri and dismembered him. Of course it's only a coincidence that Jaffri was a trenchant critic of Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, during his campaign for the Rajkot Assembly by-election in February.
Across Gujarat, thousands of people made up the mobs. They were armed with petrol bombs, guns, knives, swords and tridents. Apart from the VHP and Bajrang Dal's usual lumpen constituency, Dalits and Adivasis[iv] took part in the orgy. Middle-class people participated in the looting . …

The leaders of the mob had computer-generated cadastral lists marking out Muslim homes, shops, businesses and even partnerships. They had mobile phones to coordinate the action. They had trucks loaded with thousands of gas cylinders, hoarded weeks in advance, which they used to blow up Muslim commercial establishments. They had not just police protection and police connivance, but also covering fire.
While Gujarat burned, our Prime Minister was on MTV promoting his new poems. It took him more than a month—and two vacations in the hills—to make it to Gujarat. When he did, shadowed by the chilling Mr. Modi, he gave a speech at the Shah Alam refugee camp. His mouth moved, he tried to express concern, but no real sound emerged except the mocking of the wind whistling through a burned, bloodied, broken world. Next we knew, he was bobbing around in a golf-cart, striking business deals in Singapore. …

At the Goa meeting of the BJP's national executive[v], the Prime Minister of Secular, Democratic India, Mr. A.B. Vajpayee, made history. He became the first Indian Prime Minister to cross the threshold and publicly unveil an unconscionable bigotry against Muslims, which even George Bush, and Donald Rumsfeld would be embarrassed to own up to. "Wherever Muslims are," he said, "they do not want to live peacefully."  Shame on him.
But if only it were just him: in the immediate aftermath of the Gujarat holocaust, confident of the success of its 'experiment', the BJP wants a snap poll. "The gentlest of people," my friend from Baroda said to me, "the gentlest of people, in the gentlest of voices, says 'Modi is our hero.'"[vi]

But in India if you are a butcher or a genocidist who happens to be a politician, you have every reason to be optimistic. No one even expects politicians to be prosecuted. To demand that Modi and his henchmen be arraigned and put away, would make other politicians vulnerable to their own unsavoury pasts—so instead they disrupt Parliament, shout a lot, eventually those in power set up commissions of inquiry, ignore the findings and between themselves make sure the juggernaut chugs on. …’

Obviously, there are a lot of differences between what happened in India in 2002, and what is happening in Burma/Myanmar since the end of 2012. But still, let’s hope and pray and – most importantly – let’s work towards a Burma that doesn’t copy the flawed democracy of its big neighbor, with its violent outburst of communal hatred condoned by those in power, and it’s terrible social injustices.
full text of Roy’s essay:http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?215477




[i] Baroda is a town in Gujarat
[ii] POTA – Prevention of terrorism Act, adopted in 2002, extending powers of prosecution against those suspected of being terrorists.
[iii] Hinduist inspired civil organisations
[iv] Casteless hindus and tribal people
[v] This meeting took place not long after the riots in Gujarat
[vi] Narandra Modi is still chief minister of Gujarat and a possible candidate for PM in the upcoming national election

vrijdag 28 september 2012

Conference on responsible development and investing in Burma


Burma Centrum Nederland Conference:

Investing in Burma – challenges and opportunities.

11 and 12 October 2012

For information and registration: rikje@burmacentrum.nl



Venue: `De Burcht’ / Henri Polak Laan 9 / Amsterdam / Ph 0031 (0) 20 6241166

Program

Day 1

09.30 - 09.45:    Registration and coffee
09:45 - 10:15:    Opening address by Mrs. Agnes Jongerius

10:15- 11:00:     Session 1: Setting the scene - economic and political developments in Burma
Dr. Khin Zaw Win will give an overview of the current situation in Burma, putting developments, reforms and the ongoing process of transformation in the context of economic development.
11:00 – 11:30:    Discussion

11:30-12:15:      Session 2: The new investment law
Mr. U Ye Tun will share an analysis of the investment law, and its implications for foreign investors in Burma.
12:15 - 12:45:    Discussion

12:45- 14:00:     Lunch

14:00- 14:45:     Session 3: Responsible investment
Mrs. Donna Guest will speak on doing business in Burma in the context of corporate social responsibility, human rights (including labor rights) and economic policy development.
14:45- 15:15:     Discussion

15:15- 15:45:     Coffee/tea

15:45- 16:30:     Closing session: Wrap up the day
Ms Sue Mark will summarize what has been shared during the day, and draw some primary conclusions.
Mr. Hans Terhurne, who has been keeping track of the discussion through mindmapping, will share the mindmap he has made.

16:30- 17:00       Short introduction on the history of “ de Burcht”              

17:00                   Evening: Drinks and dinner reception

Day 2

09:15:                  Coffee
09:45- 10:30:     Session 4: Practical entrepreneurship in Burma
Mrs. Dr. Toe Nadir Tin will share her experiences doing business in Burma over the last 35 years. She will discuss what the reforms have meant for practical entrepreneurship
10:30-11:00:      Discussion

11:00-11:45:      Session 5: Investment opportunities
Mr. Bernard Pe-Win will talk about the opportunities for investment in Burma from an insider’s perspective. He will give examples of what is possible, and will also pay attention to possible setbacks.

11:45- 12:15:     Discussion
12:15- 13:00:     Closing session – wrap up of the conference
Ms Sue Mark will summarize what has been shared during conference and will draw conclusions and point out what issues need to be addresses further.
Mr. Hans Terhurne will share the mindmap he has made during the conference.

13:00- 14:00: Lunch

This conference is made possible through the support of: Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD); Oxfam-Novib; FNV mondiaal en NL Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Please note that the conference will be held under Chatham House rules.

On the speakers:

Agnes Jongerius
Agnes studied Social and Economic  History at the university Utrecht. She has been working with Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging (FNV) since 1987, being its president from 2005 till 2012. She is vice chairwoman for the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and is actively involved in  the Committee on Human and Trade Union Rights of ITUC.

Bernard Pe-Win
Bernard Pe-Win is a Burmese born British citizen. He spent many years in the UK, Australia and South East Asia. After an absence of thirty years, he returned to Burma in 1990 to re-develop the famous Strand Hotel, The Savoy and several other properties in Yangon. He is currently CEO of Wah Seong Boustead Co. Ltd., whose constituent shareholders are two public-listed companies quoted on the KL Stock Exchange. He holds several directorships in companies related to investment holding, engineering and the energy sector. He served as Vice President Asia & Pacific for American Express with which he was involved for more than two decades. Since 1990 Bernard has participated in international forums and the media, speaking on Burma’s economy and politics. He has strong views in favor of engagement as a way forward to resolve issues in Burma and its development.
Donna Guest
Donna Guest has worked on human rights in South East Asia for over 20 years. Most recently, she served as Amnesty's deputy director for South East Asia and the Pacific. In May 2012, Donna facilitated and led Amnesty's first mission to Myanmar since 2003. From August 2012 onwards, Donna had joined the institute for Human Rights and Business, a London based centre of expertise on the relationship between business and internationally proclaimed human rights standards. For IHRB, she will lead the developing programme in Burma as well as outreach and advocacy with governments, companies and civil society throughout the region.

Khin Zaw Win
Khin Zaw Win served under the Department of Health at Taunggyi and Yangon General Hospital. He was a consultant for Unicef, and holds a masters in Public Policy from the National University of Singapore. From 1994 till July 2005 he was a prisoner of conscience for "seditious writings" and human rights work. At present he is the director of Tampadipa Institute, which builds capacity for civil society organizations around the country and does policy advocacy.

SiuSue Mark (facilitator)
After receiving her Masters of International Affairs from Columbia University ten years ago, Sue embarked on a career in international development. Having worked in Myanmar for over four years, she has developed broad understanding of development dynamics in Myanmar, through work with development agencies, civil society groups, business & government. Currently as the Research & Development Advisor for Pyoe Pin Programme (a DFID/SIDA governance initiative), she is managing research in a number of new market-based economic development initiatives, among them land tenure security, industrial development, and local governance initiatives in ethnic states  She also designs and implements initiatives aimed at civil society strengthening. To facilitate her communication across cultures, Sue speaks English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Chinese, and Spanish.  She is also conversational in Burmese.

Toe Nandar Tin
Toe Nandar Tin has been the Chairperson of Anawa Devi Fishing & General Trading Cooperative Ltd. since 1977. She has 35 years of experience with deep sea fishing, hatchery, fish culture and is at present processing fishery products. She is also CEC of the Myanmar Fisheries Federation, treasurer of the Myanmar Processors and Exporters Association, Vice Chairperson of the Eel Entrepreneur Association, treasurer of Yangon Division Fisheries Federation and advisor to the Myanmar Shrimp Farmer Association. Toe Nandar Tin is also on the Board of directors of the Central Cooperative Society. She obtained a PhD in zoology and is actively speaking out for development in the fishery sector,  which is on decline due to the global crisis.

U Ye Tun
U Ye Tun studied from 1971 -1973 at Taunggyi College, Shan State. Before he graduated he took part in the armed struggle led by the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) against Ne Win’s government.
In 1989, when the CPB fell, he surrendered to the military government. Between 1991 - 1994 he set up Lucky Dragon,  a company that sent logs to Hong Kong. Between 1995 and 2010 he had a Poultry - Broiler farm in Hsipaw town. He became a member of the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP) and won the Parliament (Pyithu Hluttaw) seat for the Hsipaw constituency in 2010 election.
He is serving as an active member of Sport, Culture and People’s Relations in the developing Committee of Pyithu Hluttaw.