Celebrating Philips AVENT In Myanmar, Baby Products Promotion
JUU SAN THAR CROWNED MISS GLOBE MYANMAR 2014
Khin Wint Wah Awarded Missosologist's Choice of Missosology Website
China's Kunming Attacks Spark Online Rumors, Comment and Crackdown
Last weekend's deadly knife attacks in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming could spark further Internet controls, as police punish online "rumor-mongers" and warn those who try to start a debate on the causes behind the attacks.
But netizens are still hungry for alternative sources of information to official news reports on the slashing rampage at the Yunnan provincial capital which the authorities have blamed on separatists from the troubled Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, northwest of the country.
China's public security ministry said police have already punished 45 people for "provoking panic" and "disturbing public order" online.
They are accused of fabricating news and spreading rumors online in the wake of the attacks, which left 29 people dead and more than 140 injured, on social media platforms including QQ, WeChat and Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like service.
Veteran Hangzhou journalist Zan Aizong said there is a huge demand for alternate sources of news to complement the official line taken by the government.
"At the moment, only Xinhua news agency is putting out reports about the Kunming incident; the regional press aren't allowed to report on it freely," Zan said.
"There is relatively little information coming through official channcel, and it's not very detailed or confirmed," he said.
He said security camera footage from Kunming railway station existed, but hadn't been shared with the public.
Zan said there were still many questions around how the attack had been allowed to happen.
"Passengers needed to already have train tickets, and pass through a security checkpoint to get into the waiting room, so how did the attackers get past the checkpoint carrying knives?" he said.
"This was the responsibility of the police and station security."
Interest in online rumors
The information vacuum means that online rumors often get far more play in China than they would in a country with a free press, Zan said.
Among those punished by police was a Web user surnamed Wang from the eastern province of Zhejiang, who posted online a report that "attackers from Xinjiang" had killed more than 10 people near the West Lake in provincial capital Hangzhou and injured over 80 others, the ministry said on its official Sina Weibo account.
A similar report was posted online in the southwestern province of Sichuan, saying that three attackers "speaking the regional dialect of an ethnic minority group" slashed at passers-by in Chengdu with long knives.
A third post appeared on an online forum on Tuesday, warning that similar attacks were planned at 5.00 p.m. that day in a number of Chinese cities.
Under a Supreme People's Court ruling in September 2013, anyone "spreading rumors online" can be jailed for up to three years.
Chinese authorities have also issued a strong warning to popular "Big V" tweeters, warning them not to post or retweet online "rumors."
'Mistaking the black for the white'
Earlier this week, the Internet security group of the Beijing police department accused influential microbloggers, including soccer commentator-turned-writer Li Chengpeng and journalist Luo Changping, of "ignoring facts" and "mistaking the black for the white".
Public figures should "be responsible for their words" and threatened action "when laws are breached", it warned.
Last year, China arrested a number of liberal online commentators who lent their support to a movement to call on high-ranking government officials to reveal details of their assets, and those of their families.
Li Chengpeng had commented online of the attacks: "These people came from nowhere and attacked regular citizens. What was their motivation?"
A second post also questioned the motives behind the attacks.
"Do you know why they killed people? Figuring out the cause of the attack will be more useful than tackling them with force," the writer said.
The widely shared posts stirred up furious debate on China's tightly controlled Internet, with many accusing the posters of sympathizing with terrorists.
Meanwhile, officials have blamed the Internet for contributing to terrorist attacks in China.
On Thursday, Zhang Chunxian, ruling Chinese Communist Party secretary in Xinjiang--home to the mostly Muslim ethnic minority Uyghurs--said that "about 90 percent" of terrorists use circumvention tools like Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to get around China's system of blocks, filters and censorship known as the Great Firewall.
Zhang said that the attacks were not an indication of a faulty government's ethnic and religious policies, nor did they prove that the government's recent crackdown was inappropriate, the English-language Global Times newspaper, which has close ties to the Communist Party, reported.
"Such terrorist attacks grew after 9-11, Chechen terrorism, and the July 5 riot in Xinjiang," the paper quoted Zhang as saying.
China has said the Kunming attacks were an act of terrorism perpetrated by Uyghur separatists who had planned to leave the country on "jihad."
However, Uyghur sources have told RFA that the group had been "desperate" to leave China for Laos in order to escape oppressive government policies affecting their religious freedom and economic opportunities.
China says a total of 105 "terror attacks" and severe crimes took place during 2013, the People's Liberation Army Daily newspaper reported this week.
Reported by Lin Ping and Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.
Inside under siege Ukrainian military base
7 hours ago
Tensions remain high in Crimea ahead of a proposed referendum on March 16, which could see the Ukrainian region become part of Russia.
Ukraine's interim prime minister has warned the Crimean parliament that "no-one in the civilised world" will recognise the vote, which has the support of Moscow.
The BBC's Ben Brown visited a Ukrainian naval base in Sevastopol, Crimea, that had been surrounded by what appeared to be Russian forces.
He spoke to Lt Cdr Olaxander Yesin, who said that he was still following orders from Kiev and that those on base would not surrender unless ordered to do so by their commanding officers.
Thein Sein Orders Commission, Court to Draft ‘Protection of Religion’ Law
RANGOON — Burma President Thein Sein has ordered a new commission and the country’s highest court to draft a proposed so-called “protection of race and religion” law, which could include a controversial measure to restrict interfaith marriage, according to lawmakers.
A petition signed by about 1.3 million people has called for the president to pass into law a version of a bill drafted by lawyers on behalf of leading monks in the nationalist 969 movement.
If enacted without amendment, the bill—which is thought to be targeted at Muslims in Burma—would require Buddhist women to get permission from their parents and local government officials before marrying a man from another faith. It also includes restrictions on converting to another religion, a limit to the number of children people can have, and measures to stop polygamy—which is already strictly illegal in Burma.
Late last month Thein Sein, without formally expressing support for the bill, forwarded it to Parliament for discussion, but Speaker Shwe Mann immediately sent it back, insisting that it was the executive branch’s responsibility to draft laws, then pass them to Parliament to debate.
On Friday, Shwe Mann announced in Parliament that he had received a new letter regarding the bill, according to Pe Than, a lawmaker from the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party.
“He [Thein Sein] informed Parliament that his government will form a commission to draft a [protection of race and religion] law,” he said.
However, in a move that baffled lawmakers, Thein Sein has reported decided that sections of the law covering certain issues would be drafted by the Union Supreme Court.
“His commission will take two issues: that one man is only able to have one wife and converting to another religion. The other two issues— interfaith marriage and restricting population—he will let the Union [Supreme] Court draft,” Pe Than said.
He said the move to have a branch of the judiciary draft a law was unprecedented, and that he did not understand why the president has chosen to do so.
Pe Than said that the law would address the fear among many Burmese Buddhists that the country’s dominant religion is under threat from Muslims. Tension between Buddhists and Muslims has run high since inter-communal violence broke out in Rakhine State in mid-2012, and later spread around the country.
“For me, I will not block this law as we all need to protect our race,” he said. “But one thing about protection of race is that while we need to protect our fence, we should not disturb other people’s fence.”
Mi Myint Than, lawmaker from the Mon Regional Democracy Party, confirmed the president’s decision.
“Usually, most draft laws come from the government administration. But on this issue, the president just sent it to the Parliament [originally],” she said, adding that it was more appropriate for a government ministry to draft the law.
“It’s a little strange. I can’t understand why,” she added.
Presidential spokesman Ye Htut last week commented on the earlier forwarding of the proposal to Parliament. On the sidelines of a meeting in Naypyidaw on March 1, Ye Htut told The Irrawaddy that the president’s wish in doing so was for Parliament to consider the issue, since so many people had expressed support for it, and not to make any political gain.
“According to our Constitution, no one from any political party can take political advantage from a religious issue,” he said.
Yadanar Khin's Family @ Ngwe Saung Beach, Myanmar
# ေငြေဆာင္ကမ္းေျခေရာက္ ရတနာခင္တို႔ မိသားစု #
Jaguar Land Rover to Enter Myanmar’s Car Market
RANGOON — The iconic British-made cars of Jaguar Land Rover will be on sale in Burma from May, the Indian-owned automaker’s local distributor said Monday.
Capital Automotive Ltd—which also distributes Ford vehicles in Burma—has been officially appointed as Jaguar Land Rover’s local dealer, representatives of both companies announced at a press conference in Rangoon.
Khin Tun, Capital Automotive’s managing director, said a showroom selling the carmaker’s high-end vehicles would be open in May in Rangoon’s Insein Township.
“This is the first time brand new Jaguar and Land Rover cars will be sold in Burma, although used cars have already made it into the country. There will also be more models from the Jaguar and Land Rover brands here soon,” Khin Tun said.
Jaguar Land Rover has its headquarters in Coventry, England, but is owned by India’s Tata Motors Ltd. Tata is also selling its own-brand vehicles in Burma, and has set up a plant assembling pickup trucks in Magwe Division. Burma’s auto market is currently dominated by secondhand imports from Japan, however.
But Khin Tun said he is confident the luxury cars, despite their high prices, will sell well in Burma.
“There are a lot of rich men in Myanmar,” he said.
Steve Martin, the regional dealer principal of Jaguar Land Rover, said the models available in Burma would include the Jaguar XF, the Land Rover Defender, the Land Rover Discovery 4 and Range Rovers including the Sport and Evoque models.
The Rangoon dealership will offer servicing and spare parts to car owners, and local technicians will be trained at Land Rover’s headquarters, he said.
“It will be one-stop service. More brand-new latest models will be here within 18 months,” Martin said.
Army Increases Attacks in North Myanmar, Seizes 2 Shan Rebel Camps
The Burma Army captured two strategically important outposts of the Shan State Army-North (SSA-North) following a two-day offensive last week, according to Shan ethnic rebels.
Palaung and Kachin armed groups, meanwhile, are also reporting an increase in military operations in northern Burma in recent weeks.
SSA-North Col. Parng Hpa said government troops attacked two rebel camps located in SSA-North territories in Kyethi (Kesi) and Mongshu townships.
On the night of Feb. 28, Shan rebels were forced to withdraw from their camp in Kyethi, located about 16 km away from the SSA-North headquarters at Wan Hai, after two consecutive days of bombardments and attacks, Parng Hpa said.
He added that while the camp in Kyethi was under fire, three government battalions took control of another SSA-North camp in Mongshu Township, which the group has been using as a hub to transport mining products from areas under its control.
“These two places are militarily and economically important to us,” Parng Hpa told The Irrawaddy on Monday. “They [the government troops] can pose a military threat to our Wan Hai headquarters since they’ve seized those camps.”
The Wan Hai area in Kyethi and Mongshu townships is located at a strategically important junction connecting northern and southern Shan State.
“Such kinds of acts would hinder the trust-building process between the government and us, for peace,” Parng Hpa said of the attacks.
The SSA-North and government signed a ceasefire in January 2012. However, fighting has continued, with the SSA-North claiming that it has engaged in more than 100 clashes since the ceasefire was signed, while the rebels lost five camps to government troops.
The recent seizure of two SSA camps reportedly coincided with the arrival of Sao Khun Hsai, the general secretary of Shan State Progress Party, the political wing of SSA-North, in Naypyidaw to join discussions about the nationwide census organized by the Department of Immigration and Population.
There is widespread concern among ethnic armed groups and NGOs over the census, which will start this month, with many opposing the categorization of the country’s ethnic minorities by the government and the UNFPA.
The SSA-North area under attack is located west of the Salween River, while the allied United Wa State Army (UWSA) is based on the opposing river bank, according to another Shan rebel source, who said the government offensive also served to put pressure on the Wa.
In March 2011, the Burma Army launched a large-scale military offensive in the area displacing more than 30,000 civilians.
The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) also have forces in northern Shan State.
The TNLA, which represents the Palaung ethnic population, said on Tuesday that it experienced a sharp increase in Burma Army attacks since last month.
TNLA general secretary Mike Phone Kyaw said there were about 20 clashes in Kyauk Mae and Manton townships in February, adding that this month TNLA fighters had fought with the army two times.
He said the 77th Light Infantry Division had been deployed during the operations, adding that the unit had been active in attacks in northern Shan State in the past.
Both the KIA and TNLA have not yet reached ceasefire agreements with the government despite several rounds of talks last year.
Kachinland News reported that the 77th Light Infantry Division on Sunday conquered a KIA post called Loi Hkam Bum, located in Namtu Township, northern Shan State.
The KIA has said the Burma Army seized a number of rebel posts since last month, including a deadly attack on a rebel platoon stationed in Kachin State’s Bhamo Township about an hour’s drive from Laiza, a town on the Burma-China border where the KIA is headquartered.
In recent months, the Burma Army also carried out operations in KIA territory in Mansi Township, southern Kachin State.
The increase in Burma Army operations in Kachin and northern Shan states risks undermining planned nationwide ceasefire talks between the government and ethnic groups.
President Thein Sein’s government is eager to sign a joint nationwide ceasefire agreement with the groups in order to show the international community that his government is making progress in resolving Burma’s decades-old ethnic conflicts. The government has signed ceasefire agreements with 14 armed groups since 2012.
Mike Phone Kyaw of the TNLA said the increase in Burma Army attacks in northern Shan State casts doubt on the government’s peace initiative, adding that in the past the Burma Army signed ceasefire agreements with some ethnic groups to be able to attack others.
“Our ethnic armed groups have to be careful about why they are attacking us now. They did these similar things in the past,” he said, adding that he also doubted whether Thein Sein had full command over the military.
“President Thein Sein should maintain control of his troops if he wants to have a nationwide ceasefire agreement in the country,” Mike Phone Kyaw said.
MSF ordered out of Rakhine State
MSF was informed of the decision by Rakhine State government officials on February 26. However, it remains unclear just how their activities in other parts of the country will be affected.
While all MSF clinics were closed on February 27, at least some were expected to reopen on March 3.
Deputy Information Minister U Ye Htut confirmed that the eviction was ordered on the grounds that a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between MSF and the Ministry of Health in Nay Pyi Taw had already lapsed. He confirmed negotiations are taking place to redefine the scope of the organisation's activities outside Rakhine State.
"MSF's MoU with the [Union] Ministry of Health expired in January 2013 and since last year they have been negotiating,” he told The Myanmar Times on February 28. “The MSF team are now in Nay Pyi Taw to discuss about a new MoU, to implement as soon as possible.”
The shutdown while the terms are renegotiated caused confusion for patients seeking treatment at MSF-run clinics.
On the morning of February 27, more than 50 people gathered before 9am for treatment at the now-closed Muslim clinic in northern Rakhine State’s Maungdaw township. The clinic sees some 200 patients a day.
A source in Maungdaw, who requested anonymity, described the prospect of MSF being ousted as “an incredible problem” that would make life “very, very difficult” for those needing medical treatment.
“In Maungdaw, there are two clinics: one for treating Rakhine patients, and one for treating Rohingya. There are not enough facilities in the state’s hospitals to treat Rakhine and Rohingya people, and the movement restrictions placed on Rohingya mean those who live in villages, IDP camps and remote areas cannot seek treatment [at government facilities],” they said. "They also cannot get the hospital referrals and facilitated transport that MSF provided."
But state government health official U Aung Thurein said he was confident there would be no shortfall in treatment. "With the help of the [Union] Ministry of Health and other NGOs, [the state government] can fill in the gaps,” he said on February 27.
There is a widespread perception among ethnic Rakhine that MSF favours the state’s Muslim population. Opposition to the organisation’s presence has mounted in previous months, with protestors taking to the streets to demand it close operations. U Ye Htut said this perceived bias was a key factor in the decision to order MSF to leave. “They do not operate with impartiality," he said.
Calls to force MSF out grew after an official from organisation was quoted by Reuters as saying it had treated 22 Muslims following alleged violence in Du Chee Yar Tan village in January. The government insists that no civilians were seriously harmed in the incident.
A leaked state-level memo circulated in the days leading up to to the eviction order said MSF’s comments constituted “incitement to break the state’s security, rule of law, law and order and peace”. The organisation was “seeking to create to occur conflicts there, bias on race and person", the letter read.
The MoU with the Ministry of Health encompassed all of the organisation's operations in Myanmar. MSF provides healthcare in Shan and Kachin states, as well as Yangon Region, where some 30,000 people receive treatment for HIV/AIDS. It also treats around 3000 TB patients, most of whom are also HIV positive.
MSF representatives say they are not yet in a position to comment on their eviction from Rakhine, but have confirmed that negotiations on a new MoU are ongoing.