World Bank: Myanmar has enormous potential

17 February, 2013
Economy

World Bank East Asia and Pacific vice president Axel van Trotsenburg said he was “very, very encouraged” and sensed a feeling of optimism in Myanmar. The World Bank has announced US$245 million in assistance for priority needs of Myanmar which includes a gas turbine project to provide power for an additional five million people, healthcare and education. The World Bank also recently approved a US$440 million zero-interest loan to Myanmar to help the country improve its finances and pay back a bridge loan from Japan.

After meeting, Government and SSA schedule more talks in Naypyidaw

19 February, 2013
Politics

A Shan rebel spokesman said Myanmar government peace negotiators and Shan rebel leaders in Thailand agreed to meet again in Myanmar’s capital in the near future after discussions yesterday, signalling growing trust between the two sides. Yesterday, Shan representatives asked the government delegation to review the current ceasefire agreement and urged them to open a political dialogue with the Shan in the near future. The establishment of a joint peace monitoring group in order to monitor peace process in Shan State were also discussed. The peace team also verbally agreed with the request for government-issued national ID cards for internally displaced Shan and Shan refugees, when they return to their home villages.

Thai couple face raft of charges over torture and enslavement of child

19 February, 2013
Politics

Myanmar labour officials recently visited an ethnic Karen girl who escaped from a Thai couple two weeks ago after being abducted and forced to work as a servant for over five years. The girl, whose identity is being protected, will begin treatment for her injuries. She will require extensive plastic surgery to separate her left arm from the left side of her chest, which grew attached after her skin melted away, and long-term care to repair severely damaged nerve tissue. The Ministry of Labour also sent an official letter to the Thai government calling for severe punishment of the couple who face a raft of charges over the case and requested that representatives from Myanmar be allowed to observe the court proceedings. The suspects have been charged with assault, illegal detention and other charges related to enslavement, forced labour and violations of Thailand’s labour law. They could face an additional charge of violating the 1998 Labour Protection Act.

UN Envoy calls for amendment of Myanmar citizenship law

17 February, 2013
Politics

The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur for Human Rights to Myanmar, Mr. Thomas Quintana, urged parliament again to amend the 1982 Myanmar Citizenship Law to give equal citizen’s rights to all nationals. He added that human rights violations in the country persist as the government’s on-going reform process is lacking in its implementation on the ground. He expressed his disappointment over the government’s continued detention of four INGO staff members in Rakhine State without clear charges against them. Quintana highlighted the on-going practice of arbitrary arrest and torture during interrogation by the military of Kachin men and large military presence which remains beyond the reach of accountability mechanisms. He said that his major concern lies with the lack of adequate healthcare in the larger Muslim camps and urged the authorities to ensure that adequate medical care is provided to all IDP camps.

UN welcomes release of 24 child soldiers

19 February, 2013
Politics

The United Nations welcomed the release of 24 children by Myanmar’s armed forces, and called for further discharges of underage soldiers by the government in line with its commitment to end the practice. Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF’s Representative in Myanmar said discharges like these should be accelerated to achieve the double objective of zero under-age recruitment and full discharge of those that are under 18 in the armed forces.

Military spending challenged in parliament

19 February, 2013
Politics

Myanmar’s notorious armed forces will continue to receive the largest portion of next year’s national budget. The defence ministry has been allocated 20.86% of the national budget for the fiscal year 2013-2014, a decrease from the previous year when it received around one quarter of the national budget. Opposition MPs said the government did not provide much detail for the allocation and criticized the lack of transparency in the ministry’s expenditure and activities, particularly in the conflict-torn and resource-rich Kachin state. Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi were among the MPs who called for amendments to the 2013-2014 National Planning Bill, insisting that the budget must “reflect the people’s desire”.