Monday, April 30, 2012

UNSG Ban Ki-moon in Burma!

Ban Ki-moon delivering a speech at Burmese Parliament.
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is making a landmark visit to Burma to meet Aung San Suu Kyi and press the government for more democratic reforms.

Mr Ban has said that Burma's transition has reached "a critical moment".

The trip is the latest high-profile diplomatic visit to the once-isolated nation and his first since a reformist government took office a year ago.

On Saturday, the EU foreign policy chief announced the EU would open an embassy-level office in the country.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

To Respect but Not Protect: Joke on NLD?

(This is The Nation’s Satirical Piece “The right to respect but not protect : White House – EU – NLD” by Tulsathit Taptim on The Nation site, 25 April 2012.)

Here's my take on what the people who matter may want to say to one another if there was no hindrance of diplomatic etiquette and political correctness. Imagine a Skype conference between a senior Washington official, a National League for Democracy spokesman and a top European Union representative.

White House official: What on earth is going on over there?

NLD spokesman: We are not taking the parliamentary oath. It's as simple as that.

White House official: I know. But tell me why you can't "protect" the Constitution while you can "respect" it. What's the difference? Correct me if I'm wrong, but if you respect something, don't you naturally want to protect it?

First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-1826) – Part 8

(Chapter VIII of Narrative of The Burmese War by Major John Snodgrass, British Army, the Military Secretary to the Commander of the British expeditionary force and the Assistant Political Agent in Ava.)

Siam-Burma Elephant Duel (1593).
The inveterate enmity and constant warfare existing between the Burmese and Siamese nations for some time encouraged an opinion, that the latter kingdom would not fail to assist in the attack upon the territories of their old enemy.

The landing of the British at Rangoon opened to the court of Siam a favourable, and long-sought, opportunity of revenging the many humiliating defeats they had sustained from their more powerful and war-like neighbour, and of recovering their lost possessions on the coast of Tenasserim.

Such an opportunity the Siamese government would no doubt have profited by, and not improbably may have contemplated the seizure of Mergui and Tavoy, when their reduction by the British not only deprived them of all hope of acquisition in that quarter, but probably alarmed their fears and jealousies at the approach of an European settlement putting a stop to their annual marauding excursions for the purpose of carrying off the unprotected peasantry of these provinces; and it may also be questioned, whether they did not regard the vicinity of a British force with greater alarm and jealousy than they would have felt at any success of the Burmese.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Myanmar's Five Economic Priorities

Vikram Nehru.
Myanmar’s successful by-elections and Aung San Suu Kyi’s landslide victory deservedly captured the international headlines a fortnight ago. But those headlines overshadowed an equally pathbreaking economic development. The day the preliminary election results were announced, the government held Myanmar’s first foreign exchange auction at which the U.S. dollar was traded at 818 kyat. The official rate had been 8.5. The challenge now is to keep the reform momentum going without causing macroeconomic or political instability.

The exchange rate auction is part of a “managed float” that requires the central bank to intervene to keep the exchange rate between certain limits. Myanmar must institutionalize the process by developing an independent central bank, ensuring the foreign exchange auction becomes a permanent feature of the economy, and keeping the real exchange rate at a level that encourages the production of agricultural goods and manufactures.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Blackouts, Coal-fired Generators and Watermelons?

(This is my thoughts about how and why the power-hungry-lefties wearing the cloaks of environmentalist-greenies, thus named the green-outside-red-inside Watermelons, are damaging not just the livelihood of people but also the fledgling economy of extremely-poor Burma.)

Candle-light diner, Rangoon style.
Frequent power blackouts are common occurrences especially in Rangoon and the whole Burma in general. And it has been a chronic problem since late 1960s.

In the 70s and 80s when I was living right smack in the middle of Rangoon the power normally came on only at nights, sometimes at midnights, for less than a couple of hours and that was just long enough to run the water-pumps so that the households could get the meager amount of government-supplied water for their domestic use.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-1826) – Part 7

(Chapter VII of Narrative of The Burmese War by Major John Snodgrass, British Army, the Military Secretary to the Commander of the British expeditionary force and the Assistant Political Agent in Ava.)

General Maha Bandoola.
The time had now arrived when the disasters and defeats of three months, with the hopeless condition of the Burmese army at Rangoon, could no longer be concealed: wongees and princes had successively assumed the superintendence of the war, proclaiming to the king and the nation the approaching destruction of the British force, and had each in turn atoned for their loudly-vaunted threats of driving invaders back into the ocean, by the conspicuous failure of their plans and operations, and the signal defeat of their feeble efforts to compel us to retire.

Supersession and disgrace had rapidly followed each other, through a long list of commanders, in the vain hope that one would at last be found possessed of sufficient talent to turn the tide of war on that side, where not only numbers, but, as they still boasted, valour also lay; and it was not until the catalogue of these heroes was expended, that his Burmhan majesty turned his eyes to one then distant, at the head of his veteran legions, who had long stood pre-eminently high as a warrior and statesman; and had been the means of adding to the Burmese empire some of the most valuable acquisitions of his present majesty.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Gun That Saved Rangoon in February 1949!

It was February 1949 and Burma was in the middle of the rapidly worsening civil war. Battles were breaking out all over Burma. Thazi, the most crucial railway junction in the middle of the country was under siege by combined Karen and Kachin rebel force.

Insein, the Karen Township right on the doorsteps of Rangoon was in KNDO's hands while the Twante Canal the only gateway to the delta and upper Burma both to and from Rangoon was also in the Karens' hands.

KNDO forces were much stronger and more heavily-armed than the lightly-armed UMP battalions they were facing off at the beginning of the Battle of Insein. Also all three Karen Rifles battalions had mutinied and by the end of January the First Karen Rifles from Taungoo and the Second Karen Rifles from Prome were rushing down towards Rangoon to reinforce the KNDO troops digging-in at Insein.

Rangoon was on the brink of falling into Karen hands, but the Karen tide was unexpectedly turned when the Second Karen Rifles was totally destroyed on its way to Rangoon by much weaker Third Burma Rifles Battalion.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

KIA Forced-Recruits Surrendered!

Surrendered KIA soldiers.
On the morning of 16 April more than forty strong KIA (Kachin Independence Army) regular troops led by KIA sergeant Kyaw San has laid down their arms and surrendered at a Burmese army outpost in the Shan village of Talawgyi in Myitkyinar Township.

Since the hostilities restarted between KIA and Burmese army a year ago many of KIA troops has surrendered and this recent group has brought along with them 23 AK-47 Chinese rifles, ammunitions, night-vision-binoculars, radio wireless sets, and shoulder-fired RPG (Rocket-Propelled-Grenade) launchers.

The KIA troops who surrendered to the Burmese army IB-37 (Infantry Battalion 37) during the annual water festival were claiming to be ordinary Shan and Kachin villagers from the Talawgyi Village and they were forcibly recruited into KIA against their will.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-1826) – Part 6

(Chapter VI of Narrative of The Burmese War by Major John Snodgrass, British Army, the Military Secretary to the Commander of the British expeditionary force and the Assistant Political Agent in Ava.)

The events of the month of July were followed by several important results, opening, for a time, wider field to our foraging parties, enabling a few of the inhabitants to return to their homes, and obliging the enemy to draw their reinforcements from the more distant parts of the country.

For some time after the expedition landed at Rangoon, the warlike character and natural courage of the people, with their habits of implicit obedience to their chiefs, enabled the government to raise sufficient levies from the provinces immediately contiguous to the seat of power: but the case was now different; a serious impression had already been made upon the men of that part of the kingdom, who were no longer forward or desirous of serving, but downcast and dejected, with the remembrance of their recent losses, and requiring the utmost vigilance and authority of their chiefs to keep them together.

Friday, April 13, 2012

British PM David Cameron in Burma

British Prime Minister David Cameron has arrived in Burma today. He met Burmese President Thein Sein in the Presidential House in Naypyidaw at noon. He is meeting opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi this afternoon in her Rangoon house. He is giving a press conference after the meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-1826) – Part 5

(Chapter V of Narrative of The Burmese War by Major John Snodgrass, British Army, the Military Secretary to the Commander of the British expeditionary force and the Assistant Political Agent in Ava.)

The Great Dagon Pagoda, in itself a fortress, was occupied by a battalion of Europeans, and may be considered as the key of the British position, the rest of the force occupying the two roads running from it to the town; the numerous religious edifices, convents, and pilgrims’ houses upon them, affording good shelter to the troops against the inclemency of the season.

Two detached posts completed the position: one at the village of Puzendown (Pa-zun-daung), where the Pegu and Rangoon rivers meet, about a mile below the town; the other at Kemmendine, for the protection of the shipping against the enemy’s fire-rafts.

Monday, April 9, 2012

As Currency Floats, Myanmar’s Banks Rise Again

YANGON (Reuters) - Every table and much of the floor at Co-Operative Bank in Myanmar's commercial capital is stacked with thick bricks of the local kyat currency. Money counting machines clatter. Workers carry sacks of cash slung over their shoulders.

A few blocks away, brokers in a small colonial-era building leaf through bundles of cash, part of an ancient "hawala" money transfer network used widely in Asia and the Middle East, and one of the only ways to get cash out of Myanmar.

"I have no doubt that the banks can catch up very fast," Serge Pun, chairman of SPA Group, a Myanmar investment company whose holdings range from real estate to financial services, told Reuters in an interview. "But we need the regulatory authorities to be ahead of us."

Friday, April 6, 2012

Nay Zin Latt Calls on US and EU to Honour ‘Promise’

Dr. Nay Zin Latt the President's adviser.
Burma has called on the United States and European Union to honour its ‘promise’ to lift economic sanctions after staging a series of by-elections in which Aung San Suu Kyi won a landslide victory.

Free and fair elections, along with access to ethnic conflict areas for humanitarian aid and the release of political prisoners, had been key US and EU conditions for sanctions to be lifted.

In the last few months,  Burma has released almost all of its acknowledged political prisoners, struck peace deals with ethnic rebels, given access to aid convoys, and finally staged elections widely regarded as having been free and fair.

European Union ministers will meet last this month to review their sanctions, while United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she welcomed the elections but would begin only a "targeted easing" of restrictions on investment and financial services to Burma linked to further reform.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-1826) – Part 4

(Chapter IV of Narrative of The Burmese War by Major John Snodgrass, British Army, the Military Secretary to the Commander of the British expeditionary force and the Assistant Political Agent in Ava.)

General Archibald Campbell.
Every effort to communicate either to the court of Ava, or to the commanders in our front, the terms upon which the government of India was still ready to conclude a peace, had hitherto failed; and it was not till after the affair of 28th of May, that a disposition was evinced of listening to a statement of the wrongs which were complained of, and the redress that would be required, before the British forces could leave their shores.

Convinced, however, by the specimen they had already received of the military qualities of their enemy, and the consequent expediency of trying to gain time for preparation, the Burmese chiefs at length had recourse to their favourite system of intrigue and cunning, in an attempt to lull their adversaries into inactivity by professions of friendship, while they were busily employed in fortifying their position, and in completing and equipping their army.

A Most Unlikely Liberator in Myanmar

Burma's President U Thein Sein.
KYONKU, MYANMAR — For most of his career he was a loyal apparatchik in one of the world’s most brutal military regimes. But in the 12 months since he became president of Myanmar, U Thein Sein has been leading this country of 55 million down a radical path from dictatorship to democracy, vowing, as he told the nation earlier this month, to “root out the evil legacies deeply entrenched in our society.”

There are no pat answers as to why Mr. Thein Sein, a bespectacled and bookish 66-year-old with a sphinxlike smile, decided to shake up one of Asia’s poorest and most hermetic countries. And little has been published about the president, a former general who has been called Myanmar’s Mikhail Gorbachev, perhaps prematurely given the fragility of reforms.

But a trip to Kyonku, his birthplace, located in a remote corner of the country, offers some insights into his character and clues as to what prompted him to embark on such an ambitious reform program.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

US Eases Burma Sanctions!

From the beginning of this Administration, we have pursued a policy of engagement to support human rights and reform in Burma. We knew that the challenges were great, but we also believed that a new approach was needed to support the aspirations of the people. And this week, the government and the people made further progress in advancing those aspirations.

The results of the April 1st parliamentary by-elections represents a dramatic demonstration of popular will that brings a new generation of reformers into government. This is an important step in the country’s transformation, which in recent months has seen the unprecedented release of political prisoners, new legislation broadening the rights of political and civic association, and fledgling process in internal dialogue between the government and ethnic minority groups.

These elections and the progress that we have seen are precisely the kind of step that the President and I envisioned when we embarked on this historic opening. President Thein Sein and many of his colleagues inside the government helped launch their country on a historic new path. And while there is much to be done and significant tests lie ahead, we applaud the president and his colleagues for their leadership and courage, and we congratulate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for her election to the parliament as well as the election of many of her colleagues.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Central Bank’s Very First FX Auction

(The Second April release from Central Bank of Myanmar for its inaugural FX auction.)

The Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) today announced that Maynamar’s exchange rate regime has moved from a peg of Ks. 8.50847 to the Special Drawing Right (SDR) to a managed floating exchange rate. This announcement came with the results of the first foreign currency auction held in Yangon, Myanmar on 2 April 2012.

From today the value of the Myanmar Kyat will be determined by the financial markets with the Central Bank of Myanmar reserving the right to periodically intervene to mitigate against undue exchange rate volatility and to support the liquidity of the Kyat in the foreign exchange market.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Which Ministry Daw Suu’s Gonna Get?

(Translation of Min Htin’s article “Which ministry Daw Suu’s gonna get?”)

Daw Suu celebrating her by-election victory.
In this world of nations there are two major groupings, namely the West group led by the Americans and the East group led by the Chinese and Russians, competing in political and economic and military fronts.

Geographically our Burma is situated in the East group’s territories and we also have a long common-border with China. The obvious result for ages has been that our successive leaders have consistently practiced the policies leaning towards East instead of a balance policy between the East and West.

No one can deny the obvious conclusion that we are in the present state of limbo as a result of not getting along with the West. Trade and Financial Sanctions imposed unilaterally by the West are the undeniable evidence.