April 20, 2013 by Peter Lee
Will President Obama become a late and unlikely convert to realpolitik and allow John Kerry to sacrifice America’s nuclear non-proliferation principles on the battered altar of North Korean diplomacy? And will the fearsome pivot to Asia turn into a dainty pirouette, an American pas de deux with China as the two great powers search for a way to dance around the North Korean nuclear problem?
Potentially, the North Korean nuclear crisis is a good thing for the US and South Korea–and perhaps even for China!—if President Obama is ready to bend on some cherished non-proliferation beliefs. That’s what the North Korean leadership is begging him to do, amid the nuclear uproar.
Obama’s Secretary of State, John Kerry, seems to be interested in getting, if not on the same page, in the same chapter with North Korea, and maybe pick up a geopolitical win (with Chinese acquiescence) similar to the successful effort to push Myanmar (Burma) out of its exclusive near-China orbit.
March 6, 2013 by Ramzy Baroud
One fails to understand the unperturbed attitude with which regional and international leaders and organizations are treating the unrelenting onslaught against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, formally known as Burma. Numbers speak of atrocities where every violent act is prelude to greater violence and ethnic cleansing. Yet, western governments’ normalization with the Myanmar regime continues unabated, regional leaders are as gutless as ever and even human rights organizations seem compelled by habitual urges to issue statements lacking meaningful, decisive and coordinated calls for action.
Meanwhile the ‘boat people’ remain on their own. On February 26, fishermen discovered a rickety wooden boat floating randomly at sea, nearly 25 kilometers (16 miles) off the coast of Indonesia’s northern province of Aceh. The Associated Press and other media reported there were 121 people on board including children who were extremely weak, dehydrated and nearly starved. They were Rohingya refugees who preferred to take their chances at sea rather than stay in Myanmar. To understand the decision of a parent to risk his child’s life in a tumultuous sea would require understanding the greater risks awaiting them at home.
November 19, 2012 by Peter Lee
To outside observers, the carnage inflicted on the Rohingya minority – a five-month spasm of violence and de fact ethnic cleansing ostensibly stemming from the rape of a Buddhist woman by three Rohingya men – in Rakhine Province is indefensible and inexplicable.
What is even less understandable to Westerners is the virtually universal closing of ranks among local and national governments, pro and anti-government Buddhist monks, junta apologists and pro-democracy activists, President Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi, all uniting to deny the apparently undeniable fact that an old fashioned pogrom is taking place against Rohingya minority and other Muslims.
Friends of Myanmar are puzzled and dismayed that the progressives they have championed have joined forces with the country’s most reactionary forces to deny the overwhelming evidence that Rohingya – a dark-skinned Muslim ethnic minority with cultural and linguistic ties to neighboring Bangladesh – are being driven out of their homes by a campaign of intimidation, arson, and violence in 2012 that builds upon years of marginalization and demonization.
October 26, 2012 by Richard Javad Heydarian
Depending on one’s ideological bent, America’s so-called “pivot to Asia” could be interpreted in varying ways. However, one thing that is increasingly clear is that the Obama administration is intent on re-asserting America’s strategic centrality in the Asia-Pacific. This was very explicit in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2011 piece for Foreign Policy, entitled “America’s Pacific Century.”
The U.S. pivot to Asia is motivated and shaped by both economic and military-strategic factors. Essentially, it is still an ongoing process that will depend on the cooperation of regional allies as well as the evolving patterns of Sino-American relations.
September 10, 2012 by Sam Sussman
Myanmar has been called a country frozen in time, usually in reference to Bagan’s historic temples or Yangon’s state-run taxi fleet of 1980s automobiles. Five months after Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won forty-three of forty-five seats in a parliamentary bi-election, the phrase fits the country’s politics as well.
Long-time military ruler Than Shwe has given way to reformist Prime Minister U Thein Sein. Suu Kyi has made formerly unimaginable appearances in European capitals. The United States and the European Union have suspended economic sanctions effective since the military regime’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in 1988. Yet with the next concrete step toward democratization promising parliamentary elections in 2015, Myanmar finds itself on the frustrating precipice of a still unrealized democracy.
August 28, 2012 by Linnea M. Beatty
In the past 18 months, Burma, also known as Myanmar, unexpectedly released more 600 political prisoners including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Laureate and de facto leader of the opposition movement. Internet websites such as the BBC and Gmail have ceased to be blocked. Parliament passed legislation that included a labor law that allows unions, illegal since 1974, and laws outlawing forced labor. The Press Censorship Board no longer requires publications to have all articles approved in advance. The National Human Rights Commission was established by President Thein Sein to investigate current incidences of rights violations by the government.
And while the security apparatus that can incarcerate anyone who speaks out against the government – rules, regulations and the authorities that enforce them—remains intact, such laws are currently not being enforced in Rangoon and Mandalay. These are important signals, not yet institutionalized, that demonstrate that political space is broadening in Burma’s core areas. Less change is seen in the ethnic periphery areas of the country. Recent anti-Rohingya rioting, continued active military conflict in Kachin state, and lack of political freedoms outside of large cities, continues and is at odds with this new Burma.
Read the rest of Linnea M. Beatty’s insightful dissertation by clicking here.
July 25, 2012 by Conn M. Hallinan
When we think of “resistance,” what mostly comes to mind is guerrilla warfare: Vietnamese closing in on the besieged French at Dien Bien Phu; Angolans ambushing Portuguese troops outside of Luanda; Salvadorans waging a war of attrition against their military oligarchy. But resistance doesn’t always involve roadside bombs or military operations. Sometimes it is sprayed on a Teheran wall, or rapped in a hip-hop song in Gaza. It can be a poem in Medellin, Colombia—arguably one of the most dangerous cities in the world—or come from a guitar shaped like an AK-47. In short, there are few boundaries or strictures when it comes to the imagination and creativity that people bring to the act of defiance.
That art can be powerful stuff is the central message that Brazilian filmmaker Iara Lee brings to her award-winning documentary “Cultures of Resistance.” Her previous films include “Synthetic Pleasures,” about the impact of technology on mass culture, and “Modulations,” on the evolution of electronic music. Her most recent film is “The Suffering Grasses,” about the civil war in Syria.
Lee began “Cultures” in 2003, just before the Bush administration invaded Iraq, and her six-year odyssey takes her through five continents and 35 cities: Burma, Brazil, Rwanda, Iran, Burundi, Israel, Nigeria, the Congo, and Liberia, to name a few. In each case she profiles a grassroots movement that embodies the philosophy of non-violent resistance to everything from political oppression to occupation.
July 25, 2012 by Kourosh Ziabari
For Muslims around the world, Ramadan is a month of peace and calmness. That is hardly the case for the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. The ethnic rift between them and the ethnic Buddhists since June has spiraled out of control, leaving scores of Rohingya Muslims dead and homeless. Many have crossed the border into Bangladesh. Amnesty International’s Benjamin Zawacki said the latest violence has been “primarily one-sided, with Muslims generally and Rohingya specifically the targets and victims.”
Branded by the United Nations as one of the most persecuted minorities of the world, Rohingya’s live in the Rakhine State, located in west of Myanmar. With a population of 3 million, the Rakhine state borders Bay of Bengal to the west and the majority of its residents are Theravada Buddhists and Hindus.
July 17, 2012 by Ramzy Baroud
The widespread killings of Rohingya Muslims in Burma – or Myanmar – have received only passing and dispassionate coverage in most media. What they actually warrant is widespread outrage and decisive efforts to bring further human rights abuses to an immediate halt. “Burmese helicopter set fire to three boats carrying nearly 50 Muslim Rohingyas fleeing sectarian violence in western Burma in an attack that is believed to have killed everyone on board,” reported Radio Free Europe on July 12.
Why would anyone take such fatal risks? Refugees are attempting to escape imminent death, torture or arrest at the hands of the Ethnic Buddhist Rakhine majority, which has the full support of the Burmese government.
June 4, 2012 by Binoy Kampmark
“The Joint Force will be prepared to confront and defeat aggression anywhere in the world.”
– Leon Panetta, ‘Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership’, Jan 5, 2012
Empires huff and puff, and sometimes stutter. Bloodied heels are not taken as a warning that their time has come – rather they are simply seen as part of the job prescription. Despite a slow economy and stagnation in such theatres as Afghanistan, the United States is moving inexorably into the Pacific, and the military wise men are intent that they do so with speed. The 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance called “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense” is the guiding document in that mission. It is little secret that a primary focus of the report is China and its busy profile.
May 22, 2012 by Peter Bosshard
Some projects are so destructive that no reputable actors want to get involved with them. Think of the oil wells in Sudan’s conflict zones, China’s Three Gorges Dam, and the gas pipelines in Burma. If the price is right, however, some will still be tempted to do business on such projects through the back door. The World Bank is currently taking such an approach with a big credit for Ethiopia’s power sector.
The Gibe III Dam, now under construction in Southwest Ethiopia, will devastate ecosystems that support 500,000 indigenous people in the Lower Omo Valley and around Kenya’s Lake Turkana. The UN’s World Heritage Committee called on the Ethiopian government to “immediately halt all construction” on the project, which will impact several sites of universal cultural and ecological value. In August 2011, the Kenyan parliament passed a resolution asking for the suspension of dam construction pending further studies.
May 15, 2012 by Tan Teck Boon
When several countries in Southeast Asia announced their intention to develop nuclear power recently, many inhabitants of that region were spooked. Even as developed countries are shutting down their nuclear power plants, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam have indicated that they will be building their first nuclear power plants. The biggest concern is that Southeast Asia is prone to frequent natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis.
If a major earthquake or tsunami set off a nuclear disaster equal to that which struck Japan in March 2011 were to hit any one of those countries mentioned above, the devastation for the region as a whole will almost certainly be much greater since countries in Southeast Asia are located in close proximity to one another.
April 27, 2012 by Iqbal Ahmed
Luminaries smelled blood. Hillary Clinton, Kevin Rudd, and David Cameron came and went, openly advocating for continued democratic reform. All met with Ms. Aung Sun Suu Kyi. In the aftermath of grandiose state visits from such luminaries to Burma (officially known as Myanmar), Aung Sun Suu Kyi and military leaders face a long and difficult task to bring about political, social, and economic reforms in a country that has remained under a brutal military junta and isolated from most of the world since 1960.
In politics, relationships matter less. Interest matters most. U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, a high-ranking Republican, recently expressed his glowing enthusiasm and hopes for the reform in Burma. He thought Burma is on the path to achieve something that once seemed impossible. Ironically, Sen. McConnell is also the “architect” of the economic sanctions against Burma.
April 16, 2012 by Peter Bosshard
Ikal Angelei, the founder of Friends of Lake Turkana in Kenya, receives the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in San Francisco today. The award will honor an activist who is defending the interests of 500,000 poor indigenous people against a destructive hydropower dam, and has successfully taken on many of the world’s biggest dam builders and financiers. Ikal Angelei grew up on the shores of Lake Turkana, the world’s biggest desert lake.
This lifeline of Northwestern Kenya is under threat from the giant Gibe III Dam, currently under construction on the lake’s main water source, the Omo River in Ethiopia. When she learned about this threat, Ikal founded Friends of Lake Turkana with a few friends in 2007. Working together with partners around the world, she started an international campaign to stop the mega-dam which threatens her people’s livelihoods.
April 4, 2012 by The Morningside Post
This is the fourth post in a TMP series titled “The Great Debate,” a round-up of opinions from experts, officials, professors and students on a pressing question in international affairs.
After decades of military rule, Myanmar’s government has embarked on a surprising run of reforms over the past year–beginning to open the country’s economy, loosening controls on the media, and freeing political prisoners. These efforts culminated in last week’s parliamentary elections, the first in which Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) had field candidates since the military overturned her election more than 20 years ago. Myanmar has pledged to permit outside observers to monitor the elections, yet some reports have emerged last week of irregularities and intimidation.
In the end, the NLD won 43 out of the 45 vacant seats, but the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), created by the former junta, still holds most of parliament’s 664 seats.