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Showing posts for "Aung San Suu Kyi"

Myanmar’s Ethnic Violence: Is the Cauldron Going to Explode?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Buddhist novice monks look from a monastery during fighting between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities in Rakhine State. Buddhist novice monks look from a monastery during fighting between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities in Rakhine State (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters).

The past weeks have seen a series of brutal episodes of ethnic violence in central Myanmar, between Buddhists and Muslims, as groups of Buddhists have attacked Muslim homes and villages and then murdered people who fled the homes in cold blood, according to multiple news reports. Many reports suggest that local groups of monks and some members of the security forces have been involved in instigating the violence.

This year may well prove to be the critical year for Myanmar’s survival as a multi-ethnic state. Read more »

Suu Kyi Fails a Test

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Myanmar pro-democracy leader Suu Kyi shakes hands with supporters after giving a speech in Monywa, Myanmar. Myanmar pro-democracy leader Suu Kyi shakes hands with supporters after giving a speech in Monywa, Myanmar (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters).

About a week ago, the National League for Democracy (NLD) held its first national congress, a kind of meeting of all party activists from across Myanmar. In theory, many activists hoped the congress would work together to set a policy agenda—like a Democratic or Republican convention—that the party could use and build on for the planned 2015 national elections. In addition, many party activists believed, the NLD would broaden its senior leadership, currently centered around Aung San Suu Kyi, to include younger leaders. Read more »

The Comedown of Aung San Suu Kyi

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks during a ceremony where she was awarded an honorary doctorate degree at Seoul National University in Seoul February 1, 2013. Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks during a ceremony where she was awarded an honorary doctorate degree at Seoul National University in Seoul February 1, 2013 (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy Reuters).

Over the past year, as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has made the transition from democracy icon kept under house arrest for almost two decades to working politician, she has found the going harder than some of the people who were in similar situations, like Nelson Mandela in the early 1990s. Despite her best intentions, Suu Kyi seems to have surrounded herself with few competent political advisors, experts on business and the economy, or interlocutors with leading ethnic minority groups in Myanmar. Read more »

Conflict Continues in Rakhine State

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Myanmar people of Rohingya ethnicity who are living in Malaysia, display placards during a rally outside Malaysia's Foreign Ministry in Putrajaya. Myanmar people of Rohingya ethnicity who are living in Malaysia, display placards during a rally outside Malaysia's Foreign Ministry in Putrajaya (Bazuki Muhammad/Courtesy Reuters).

The continuing violence in Rakhine (or Arakan) State in western Myanmar, as well as the expanding war in Kachin State (see an excellent piece on Kachin State by Bertil Lintner here) threaten the reforms that Thein Sein continues to push through. Some specialists on western Myanmar are now urging that Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been mostly quiet on the conflict, become a kind of personal special envoy to both sides in Rakhine State to try and cool tensions. In a new article in The National, I examine the roots of the conflict, and discuss my ultimately pessimistic conclusions about whether it can be resolved. You read the entire piece here. Read more »

Are the New Democracies Pro-Democracy?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi scatters rose petals at the memorial of India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru in New Delhi November 14, 2012. In the past, Suu Kyi has expressed disappointment with India for engaging with Myanmar's military junta. Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi scatters rose petals at the memorial of India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru in New Delhi November 14, 2012. In the past, Suu Kyi has expressed disappointment with India for engaging with Myanmar's military junta (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

Last month, democracy icon and Burmese parliamentarian Aung San Suu Kyi traveled to New Delhi at the invitation of Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh to deliver the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture.  Despite the two countries’ close proximity—India and Myanmar share an 800-mile border—the occasion marked Suu Kyi’s first visit to India in forty years. In recent years, Suu Kyi has publically expressed her disappointment in the Indian government’s decision to reverse decades of pro-democracy support regarding Myanmar, and pursue a more realist policy of accommodating the ruling junta. Thus, Suu Kyi’s address in New Delhi marked a potential shift in Indian-Burmese relations, and an opportunity for India to publically express support for its neighbor’s democratic transition. Read more »

U.S. Policy Toward Myanmar: Too Much, Too Soon?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Crowds line a street outside the home of Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi as U.S. president Barack Obama arrives to meet her in Yangon November 19, 2012. Crowds line a street outside the home of Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi as U.S. president Barack Obama arrives to meet her in Yangon November 19, 2012 (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters).

On Monday Yangon time, President Obama visited Myanmar’s former capital and became the first sitting American president ever to travel to the one-time pariah. His itinerary included meetings with both President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as an address before Burmese students, officials and former generals at the historic University of Yangon. “When I took office as President, I sent a message to those governments who ruled by fear.  I said, in my inauguration address, ‘We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist,’” said Obama during his remarks. “And over the last year and a half, a dramatic transition has begun, as a dictatorship of five decades has loosened its grip.” Read more »

More on the Strife in Rakhine State

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Muslim children collect water at a refugee camp for those displaced by violence earlier this year outside Sittwe, Rakhine State, October 30, 2012. Muslim children collect water at a refugee camp for those displaced by violence outside Sittwe, Rakhine State, October 30, 2012 (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)..

While we on the East Coast of the United States get battered by the hurricane, reports suggest that the most recent wave of strife in Rakhine State has cooled, at least temporarily. The Irrawaddy reports that at least 22,000 people have been displaced by the most recent conflict in Rakhine State, according to the UN, but that calm has been restored for now, albeit with a significantly larger presence of security forces on the streets of major towns and cities in the state, including 5,000 more police and at least 1,000 more border security forces.

Although it is certainly good that some calm has been restored, no one believes that another explosion of violence will not occur soon in Rakhine State. Read more »

Myanmar’s Ethnic Violence: Where Is Suu Kyi?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
People collect pieces of metal from the rubble of a neighborhood in Pauktaw township in Rakhine State, Myanmar that was burned in recent violence October 27, 2012. People collect pieces of metal from the rubble of a neighborhood in Pauktaw township in Rakhine State, Myanmar that was burned in recent violence October 27, 2012 (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters).

Over the past week, violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine State, in the western part of Myanmar, has flared up badly once again. According to reports in local media and the news wires, over the past seven days at least sixty —and as many as one hundred— people have been killed in clashes. The local security forces allegedly have been firing on some crowds, and other reports suggest that the refugee camps set up for Muslims in the area have already become so overcrowded that they can no longer hold new arrivals. Read more »

Evaluating Suu Kyi’s and Thein Sein’s Trips to the United States

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Myanmar opposition leader Suu Kyi is presented with the Congressional Gold Medal by House Speaker Boehner in Washington. Myanmar opposition leader Suu Kyi is presented with the Congressional Gold Medal by House Speaker Boehner in Washington (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters).

The past two weeks have probably been the most high-profile weeks for Myanmar in the United States since the uprisings and crackdowns in Myanmar in 1988. The much-awaited visit of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi drew crowds that could be compared, in some ways, only to visits of Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. And Suu Kyi, in many ways, delivered, showing flexibility on sanctions that will allow for a much greater U.S. presence in Myanmar, displaying the humor and lightness of touch at events that was concealed by years of harsh government policy toward her, and offering a level of forgiveness of her former jailers that could help show the way forward for reconciliation in a future democratic Myanmar. Read more »

Hillary Clinton Meeting With Thein Sein Major Success

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Myanmar's president Thein Sein addresses the sixty-seventh United Nations General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York. Myanmar's president Thein Sein addresses the sixty-seventh United Nations General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters).

As reported yesterday, following a meeting with Myanmar president Thein Sein, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the United States would now be easing the American ban on imports from Myanmar, which will be enormously beneficial to the Myanmar economy. This follows a similar move by the European Union, which now has allowed Myanmar to join the Generalized System of Preferences scheme it has for poor countries to access the EU market.

Though the announcement was important, just as important was the fact that Clinton met with Thein Sein during his trip to the United States —the United Nations General Assembly period is packed with bilaterals, and it would not have been hard for her to skip one more bilateral—and publicly handed Myanmar a reward that reflected positively on President Thein Sein. Read more »