The land that is known as Arakan by the foreigners is called Rakhaing-pray by its own people, Rakhaing-thar (Arakanese) who were titled this name in honour of preservation on their national heritage and ethics or morality.

The Prospect Burma - Hla Pe Memorial Scholarship - Deadline: 1 May 2015

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Wednesday, March 4, 2015 0 comments

Deadline: 1 May 2015
There is one Prospect Burma - Hla Pe Memorial Scholarship for applicants who are proposing to register full-time for taught Masters programmes at SOAS in the academic session 2015/16.
The scholarship is shared with International Student House (ISH). The value of the scholarship provided by SOAS will be £16,000.  In addition, ISH provides free accommodation.
Eligible Programme
  • Any full-time Masters programme
  • Part-time programmes are not eligible
Candidate Criteria
  • Applicants must possess a good honours degree from a U.K. university or equivalent recognized by the School.  (Applications from Burma/Myanmar are required to possess or predicted to obtain a Master's degree, awarded in First Class in addition to the 5+ years Bachelor Degree from the University of Yangon, Magway or Mandalay. Those with Second Class, Division 1 in their Master's degree will be considered but not given preference. 
  • Applicants must choose a dissertation topic on a subject connected with Burma, which may include, but is not limited to, the Burmese economy, Burmese society or the political situation in Burma.  When applying for your Master's programme, please include evidence of this in your personal statement.
  • Open only to those ordinarily resident in Burma/Myanmar.
  • Applicants must have an offer of admission to pursue a full-time masters programme at SOAS by the scholarship application deadline. Priority may be given to applicants with unconditional offers.
  • Applicants must meet the English language condition of their offer of admission to study at SOAS as soon as possible but no later than 1 June 2015.  If your offer is conditional on English, please arrange your English test and ensure you meet the English requirements as soon as possible.
Candidate Assessment
  • Candidates will be assessed on academic merit by a Selection Panel consisting of three academic members, one from each Faculty. 
  • The assessment of your application will be based on the information in your application. Selectors will be looking at the degree results and also at academic references, statement and other relevant information
  •  A list of nominees will be selected by the Selection Panel and their applications submitted to the donor for final decision. The following criteria will be taken into account: applicant's motivation and commitment to their chosen programme, disadvantaged background, evidence of their potential to contribute to Burmese society upon completion of the programme and their intention to return to Burma, leadership potential and demonstrated past volunteering and community service. 
Scholarship application deadline 
  • Scholarship applications must be received no later than 17:00 (UK local time) on 1 May 2015. 
  • You must submit a complete online application to your programme as soon as possible and then submit an application for the scholarship.  Applicants applying for scholarships must also submit an application for admission well in advance.  Please note that complete applications for admission can take up to 4 weeks to be considered by the Department, although this duration can vary depending on the time of year.  You should be prepared to wait up to 6 weeks in busy periods.It is recommended to apply for the programme about six weeks BEFORE the scholarship deadline (that is, by 27 March 2015).
  • Late or incomplete applications will not be considered.
Notification of results
Successful candidates will be notified by the end of July.  If you have not heard from us by the end of July, you should assume that your application was unsuccessful.
Scholarship application procedure
You must follow two steps:
  • STEP 1Apply for your programme
You must submit a COMPLETE on-line application for admission.
Applicants must have an offer of admission to pursue a full-time masters programme at SOAS by the scholarship application deadline. A complete application for admission includes transcripts, an explanation of the grading system for any degrees obtained outside of the UK, two references, CV and a personal statement.  The panel will be considering your scholarship application TOGETHER with your on-line application for admission.  Please note that complete applications for admission can take up to 4 weeks to be considered by the Department, although this duration can vary depending on the time of the year.  You should be prepared to wait up to 6 weeks in busy periods. It is recommended to apply for the programme about six weeks BEFORE the scholarship deadline (that is, by 27 March 2015).   
  •    STEP 2: Apply for the scholarship
You must apply for this scholarship via the on-line scholarship application form.
For enquiries, please contact:
Scholarships Officer
Thornhaugh Street
Russell Square
United Kingdom

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7074 5091/ 5094

Je suis Rohingya: The West’s dilemma

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Monday, February 23, 2015 0 comments

By Derek Tonkin   |   Monday, 23 February 2015

The controversy over the use of the term “Bengali” to describe Muslims in Rakhine State known as “Rohingya” seems set to continue following the second visit by UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee to Myanmar.

For many in the West, this controversy is an unfortunate distraction. For Myanmar and its neighbours though it goes to the very root of the crisis. Some 95 percent of all Muslims resident in Rakhine are of Bengali origin, although this may well go back many generations and in some cases even centuries. They would now seem to be under pressure to deny their Bengali heritage and ancestry.

A single reference in a linguistic essay published in 1799 by a British visitor, Francis Buchanan, to the Burmese court of Ava is the only historical record extant that there were people who described themselves as “Natives of Arakan”, or “Rooinga”.

He never used the term again. Nor was the word used by any of his contemporaries. It was likewise unknown throughout the period of the British administration of Rakhine – then called Arakan – from 1826 to 1948. Yet this single historical reference of uncertain relevance has today become one of the main pillars of the “Rohingya” narrative, all the proof needed of a Rohingya ethnicity supposedly going back 1000 years.

Rakhine was seriously depopulated during Burmese rule from 1785 to 1826. Contemporary estimates put the local population at the time of the British invasion at around 100,000. However, an American Baptist missionary, the Reverend GS Comstock, recorded that the population in 1942 was estimated at around 250,000, of whom about 167,000 were “Mugs” (Rakhine), 40,000 Burmese, 20,000 “Mussulmans”, 5000 new arrivals from Bengal, and sundry other ethnic groups.

This indicates an eight-to-one ratio of Buddhists (Rakhine and Burmese) to Muslims. By the time of the first full census of 1872, the population of Arakan had doubled to 484,673. Buddhists (364,023) still exceeded Muslims (64,313) by a ratio of nearly 6 to 1. At the 1931 census there were still more Buddhists (721,432) than Muslims (384,475). But the ratio had fallen dramatically to less than 2 to 1 as a result of immigration from the Chittagong region of Bengal.

The Japanese invasion of Burma brought massive intercommunal violence, which saw the flight in 1942 of most Muslims in southern Arakan to the north, and of most Buddhists to the south. By the time of independence in 1948, Arakan was in disarray, with a cross-border jihadist movement in full swing.

It was against this background that the Muslim communities of Arakan understandably felt that they needed to redefine their status. The designations that the British had used were judged to be out of date and out of place. The pre-1785 Muslims began to call themselves “Rwangya”, a word of uncertain etymology. The “Chittagonians” also felt that they no longer wished to be designated as such, and the non-Chittagonian “Bengalis” likewise, and both groups cloaked themselves in the “Rwangya” mantle. So Rwangya it was until the mid-1950s. But other possible designations emerged, and we can trace in Burmese periodicals a lively discussion among the Muslim scholarly and political elite about various alternatives.

As 1960 drew near, “Rohingya” was used for the first time as a newly emerging ethnicity and political label to describe several Muslim communities, but dominated by the resourceful and hard-working Chittagonians. It is an ethnicity with whose origins many will have much sympathy, designed largely for self-preservation in an increasingly hostile environment. But in the process, the former quasi-indigenous Muslim communities have faded as the Chittagonians moved to centre stage.

Independent Myanmar has viewed this transformation of the Muslim community in Rakhine with increasing alarm. The 20,000 souls recorded by the Rev Comstock in 1842 have mushroomed as a result of immigration to 1 million or more. At least another 1 million “Rohingya” are reported to have sought asylum overseas, mainly in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. This presents an astonishing picture of a population of some 2-3 million Rohingya whose renewed congregation in Rakhine would present a totally unacceptable situation for the local non-Muslim population.

The Rohingya narrative, incorporating an apparent 100-fold natural increase in the Rohingya population since the 20,000 souls of 1842 and allegedly unsupported by immigration, may well strike many as fanciful, if not preposterous.

It has, however, become politically correct not to challenge this narrative. Senior representatives in the UN and Western governments are being urged to proclaim the Rohingya identity. That is a political decision which only they can take. It is important though that they should be aware that their recognition of the Rohingya identity in Myanmar and overseas is bound to give moral and political support to a highly questionable and pretentious narrative.

“Je suis Rohingya” undoubtedly has its attractions. Membership of the Rohingya community is survivalist and embraced for political and cultural reasons outside Myanmar as an act of solidarity with an undeniably oppressed community.

I doubt that in most cases this has all that much to do with self-identification. It would indeed be an intrepid Rakhine Muslim spouse who, however dutiful, would tell her husband that she still feels more Bengali than Rohingya, especially if advice given by local religious and political leaders is that they ought now to embrace the Rohingya identity and consign their Bengali origins to oblivion.

At the 1931 census, the largest Muslim community in Rakhine State were the Chittagonians. They are now in the vanguard of the Rohingya movement. Of the 186,327 enumerated in 1931, 156,833 declared that they were born in Myanmar. That is, more than 84 percent were already second-generation migrants and some third-generation or more. By 1948 most of them would have met the test for citizenship explained by President U Thein Sein to the UN high commissioner for refugees Antonio Guterres when they met on July 11, 2012: that the third generation of Bengalis who came to work with British encouragement in the agricultural sector prior to 1948 and decided to stay because it suited them were entitled to citizenship under the law.

That was no doubt why when Myanmar and Bangladeshi authorities discussed the repatriation of some 200,000 mostly rural Rakhine Muslims who had in 1978 fled to Bangladesh – where they were already popularly known as Rohingya – the task was relatively easy. According to the then-British ambassador, Charles Booth, who quoted Myanmar sources, some 65pc of those who had fled held National Registration Certificates (NRCs) issued under the 1948 Citizenship Act.

It is regrettable that after the 1982 Citizenship Act came into force, very few Muslims in Rakhine State – but not, it seems, those elsewhere in Myanmar – were able to exchange their NRCs for new identity cards. Although article 6 of the 1982 act guaranteed that anyone who was a citizen before the act would remain a citizen, they were instead obliged unwillingly to accept temporary “white cards”, which will soon be invalid.

We can only hope that the process of verification currently in train will make it possible for those who qualify to be welcomed back as Myanmar citizens. Claiming to be Rohingya, though, has not made their task any easier.

Derek Tonkin is a former British ambassador to Thailand and Vietnam and currently an adviser to Bagan Capital Limited.

United Nations looks to the past to break Rakhine deadlock

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Tuesday, February 17, 2015 0 comments

By Thomas Kean | Monday, 16 February 2015

The United Nations resident coordinator in Myanmar has appointed a prominent historian to provide advice on UN activities in Rakhine State, in a move some say could backfire due to the way his research has in the past been used by Rakhine nationalists.

A UN spokesperson said Jacques Leider, an academic from Luxembourg who has been researching Rakhine State for 25 years, had been recently appointed by resident coordinator Renata Lok-Dessallien to improve understanding of the dynamics in Rakhine State.

“For the UN to continue to work effectively for all the peoples in the Rakhine State, it is necessary to gain a thorough understanding of the context in which it operates,” the spokesperson said.

“The United Nations therefore works in consultation with all knowledgeable persons on Rakhine State in informing itself to this end. Mr Leider’s expertise has been sought by the Office of the Resident Coordinator in this regard.”

Mr Leider declined to comment when contacted by The Myanmar Times last week. One of his first duties in the new role was to hold a briefing for members of the Yangon diplomatic community about the history of the Rakhine conflict on February 10.

One diplomat who attended the briefing said Mr Leider emphasised the long history of diversity in Rakhine State and described the current state of tensions as a relatively contemporary phenomenon.

While this could perhaps offer hope for reconciliation between the two communities, the diplomat said that “from a realist point of view it’s quite difficult to see it happening because at this stage things have gone beyond rationality”.

“I must give the UN resident coordinator credit for trying a new way to approach the issue but ... the feeling among those who attended seemed to be that it would be difficult for this approach to have much impact.”

However, others have been less positive about the appointment, particularly because Mr Leider’s work is often used by anti-Rohingya nationalists to justify the denial of citizenship and other rights to Muslims.

Mr Leider argues that Muslims in Rakhine State have only adopted the Rohingya name since the 1950s in order to advance claims that they are a culturally distinct and separate ethnic group.

“Rohingyas conflate the history of all Muslims in Rakhine’s past with their own condition in Myanmar today and they hold the belief that ‘Rohingyas’ have existed in Rakhine for many generations,” he wrote in a paper for the Myanmar Peace Center in 2013.

Matt Smith, executive director of Fortify Rights, said Mr Leider’s research was “famous in circles that have participated in deadly violence against Rohingya”.

“I know this because I’ve had discussions about his positions with people who perpetrated violence in Sittwe in 2012,” he said.

Mr Smith said it was difficult to see the wisdom of hiring such a polarising figure, and questioned the timing so shortly after Rakhine political leaders had declared they would no longer coordinate with the UN.

“Advancing a narrative that discounts Rohingya ethnicity-claims would not only be unwise, but would further entrench the situation. It doesn’t strike me as clever,” he said.

However, a number of people interviewed for this article spoke highly of Mr Leider’s knowledge and understanding of Rakhine State.

“I have formed the highest opinion of his intellectual integrity and historical knowledge,” said one regular writer on Rakhine issues, who asked not to be named. “I welcome his appointment, because he knows the facts, so far as they are known.”

Chris Lewa of the Arakan Project described Mr Leider as “a well-known, balanced and respected scholar”.

“He challenges some of the historical myths propagated by both sides in Arakan,” she said. “More academics like him are needed to conduct unbiased and fact-based research in the field of anthropology and history.”

____Myanmar Times

UN under fire over resident coordinator’s advisor on Rakhine

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Friday, February 13, 2015 0 comments

Mr Jacques Leider, an historian from Luxembourg, was hired in late January as a senior consultant to the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar. Photo: Youtube Mr Jacques Leider, an historian from Luxembourg, was hired in late January as a senior consultant to the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar. Photo: Youtube
The appointment by the United Nations of a controversial academic as an advisor on Rakhine State has been slammed by Rohingya politicians, who allege he is biased in favour of Rakhine Buddhists.

Jacques Leider, an historian from Luxembourg, was hired in late January as a senior consultant to the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Ms Renata Lok-Dessallien, the UN said in a statement on February 11.

Dr Leider specialises in the history of the pre-colonial Rakhine kingdom of Mrauk-U, but his stand on Rohingya ethnicity has consistently put him at odds with members of the Rohingya community and some human rights groups.

Dr Leider has argued that the term Rohingya is a political label, rather than one of ethnicity, that was not popularised until the late 1990s.

“My answer is that Rohingya is not an ethnic concept,”Dr Leider told The Irrawaddy in a 2012 interview.

“For me, Rohingya is the term, which is an old word that has been claimed as above all as a political label after the independence of Myanmar,”he told the magazine.

His appointment as an advisor to Ms Lok-Dessallien comes as the UN has become increasingly drawn into the contentious debate over the term Rohingya, the group’s right to self identify and its citizenship status. The UN has recently tried to distance itself from the debate, with officials stating that the focus on terminology is inhibiting progress in resolving broader issues in Rakhine.

But doing so has proved challenging. Last year the government launched a pilot citizenship verification program in Rakhine State under which some residents were granted a form of citizenship on condition that they identify as Bengali, rather than Rohingya. The government refers to the Rohingya as Bengalis because it believes they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Dr Leider has also said that the Rakhine Buddhist community has been largely ignored in discussion over the situation in Rakhine State. In an interview with Maw Kun magazine he dismissed as “extreme” claims by groups such as Human Rights Watch that the Rohingya face ethnic cleansing.

His writings and speeches have been cited by Rakhine groups and hardline monks as evidence to bolster their claims that the Rohingya do not exist in Myanmar and are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Members of the Rohingya community have been sharply critical of Dr Leider’s work, saying that his position on the question of Rohingya ethnicity discredits their standing in Myanmar and allege that he is biased in favour of Rakhine nationalists.

The decision to hire Dr Leider as an adviser to Ms Lok-Dessallien was roundly denounced by Rohingya politicians on February 12.

U Khin Maung Myint, a leading member of the National Democratic Party for Development, a Rohingya political party, said the NDPD would consider boycotting the UN over its decision to hire Dr Leider.

“He is biased, he is a Rakhine sympathiser, he has been working hand in hand with Rakhine nationalists,”he said.

His claim that Dr Leider has a pro-Rakhine agenda was shared by other Rohingya politicians, who also expressed concern that his appointment would only increase tensions between the state’s Buddhist and Muslim communities.

U Kyaw Min, chairman of the Democracy and Human Rights Party, another Rohingya party, said that Dr Leider favoured Rakhine Buddhists and questioned why a historian had been hired for the job.

U Shwe Maung, a Rohingya MP who represents Rakhine’s Buthidaung constituency for the Union Solidarity and Development Party, accused the UN of failing to consult with both Rakhine and Rohingya groups before hiring Dr Leider.

“If the resident coordinator wants to hire an expert she should consult with both communities and find someone without a history of bias,”he said.

Dr Leider has previously worked at the Luxembourg embassy in Bangkok on issues related to political and economic affairs in Myanmar.

The scope of Dr Leider’s work with Ms Lok-Dessallien and the impact it will have on UN policy toward Rakhine remains unclear.

Rakhine Buddhist groups have regularly protested against the UN’s humanitarian work in the Western state since the outbreak of sectarian unrest there in 2012, alleging that it favours the Rohingya community.

“For the United Nations to continue to work effectively for all the peoples in the Rakhine State, it is necessary to gain a thorough understanding of the context in which it operates,”the UN statement said.

“The United Nations therefore works in consultation with all knowledgeable persons on Rakhine State in informing itself to this end. Dr Leider’s expertise has been sought by the Office of the Resident Coordinator in this regard.”

A UN spokesperson in Yangon referred further questions to Dr Leider, who said he was travelling to Rakhine and would be unavailable to comment on his position until the end of the month.

Since his appointment, Dr Leider has briefed diplomats in Yangon on the situation in Rakhine, including at the US embassy on February 2.

A US embassy spokesperson confirmed that the briefing was attended by ambassadors and diplomats from other embassies.

Govt Plans to Nominate Mrauk-U for World Heritage Listing

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Tuesday, February 10, 2015 0 comments

A view of a Buddhist temple at the old Arakanese capital of Mrauk-U, Arakan State. (Photo: Steve Tickner / The Irrawaddy)
RANGOON — Burma’s government and Arakan State authorities have begun taking measures to better preserve the remains of the old Arakanese capital of Mrauk-U in order to prepare the site for nomination for the Unesco World Heritage List, a senior official said on Tuesday.

Kyaw Oo Lwin, director general of the Ministry of Culture’s Archeology Department, told The Irrawaddy that his department had been working with state authorities since late last year to carry out digital mapping and improve preservation of Buddhist temples and palace grounds. He said the steps were part of a government plan to nominate the site with the help of Unesco officials and other foreign experts.

“To become Unesco World Heritage listed, we need to take at least four and a half years [to prepare] before we can apply for inclusion on the list. This is the minimum period. That’s why we’re now starting to collect data and survey information on the ground,” he said.
From the 15th century to the late 1800s, Mrauk-U was the seat of Arakanese kings, who at the height of their power controlled an area covering large parts of eastern Bengal, modern-day Arakan State and the western part of Lower Burma. Much of the city’s remains are well-preserved and some 380 historic temples are scattered between the lush hills of northern Arakan.

Kyaw Oo Lwin said it was important for the Unesco nomination process to describe and preserve how local communities have been living among and with the monuments in Mrauk-U. “We have to… collect the numbers of temples, old sites. And not only these things but we also will have to survey the living [culture] of residents in this area too,” he said.
Kyaw Oo Lwin said the Arakan State government had committed about US$670,000 to the nomination process this year and another $500,000 next year, adding that the central government could offer little in the way of funding support for the process.

If successfully listed, Mrauk-U would become the third World Heritage site in Burma. The listing would mobilize international funding and support for protection, management and research at the site. It would also boost the country’s expanding tourism industry, a sector that the government has identified as a key driver of future economic growth.

In June last year, Unesco accepted the first inscription of a Burmese heritage site, the Pyu Ancient Cities in Prome, on the World Heritage List. In October, Unesco organized a first workshop to prepare World Heritage nomination for the ancient temple complex of Bagan in central Burma, a process that will be completed in the coming years.

Mrauk-U is located on the Kaladan River in northern Arakan State, some 60 kilometer inland from the state capital Sittwe. The site used to draw tens of thousands of tourists annually, until inter-communal violence between Arakanese Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims erupted in mid-2012, displacing tens of thousands of people, mostly Muslims, in Sittwe and surrounding townships, including Mrauk-U Township.

Following the violence, authorities closed down the old city for foreign tourist and although the ban was lifted after several months the area has seen only a trickle of tourist visitors since.

Mongolian scientists study 200-year-old mummified monk who is 'still alive’

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Wednesday, February 4, 2015 0 comments

Two-centuries-old body discovered last week, covered in cattle skin, in Ulan Bator is in meditative trance, according to some Buddhist experts--

Scientists in Mongolia are examining a 200-year mummified monk who some Buddhists believe is still alive because he is in a deep meditative trance.
The preserved body of the monk, sitting in the cross-legged lotus position, was discovered last week, covered in cattle skin, in the Songino Khairkhan district of the capital, Ulan Bator.
The ash-coloured mummy has reportedly been sent to the National Centre of Forensic Expertise in Ulan Bator for further study.
Gankhüügiin Pürevbat, the founder of the Mongolian Institute of Buddhist Art at Ulan Bator Buddhist University, told the Siberian Times, a news website: “The lama is sitting in the lotus position vajra, the left hand is opened, and the right hand symbolises of the preaching Sutra.
'This is a sign that the lama is not dead, but is in a very deep meditation according to the ancient tradition of Buddhist lamas”.

Some experts on Buddhism said the monk could be in “tukdam”, a kind of deep meditative state that crosses over between life and death.

Dr Barry Kerzin, a monk and a physician to the Dalai Lama, told the website: “If the person is able to remain in this state for more than three weeks - which rarely happens - his body gradually shrinks, and in the end all that remains from the person is his hair, nails, and clothes.”

Local media said a 45-old-man had been arrested because the monk’s body had been stolen from a cave with the intention of selling it off. It was unclear in what circumstances it was originally found.
The preserved body of the monk 
The preserved body of the monk
The mummified monk is generally thought to have died in the 19th century. His identity is unknown.

In a similar case, the body of Dashi-Dorzho Itigilov, a lama in Russia’s Buryatia region, showed few signs of decay when it was exhumed in 2002. Monks say Itigilov is “not completely dead” and the temperature of his body rises during ceremonies at the monastery where it is kept near Ulan Ude.

Itigilov died in 1927 while meditating, having asked fellow monks to bury him in the lotus position after he passed away. His body was packed in salt.

Published on Monday, 19 January 2015
Written by Nay Htun Naing

Whenever UN's special envoys arrive in Myanmar, they have always provoked Bengali Rohingya problems. After criticizing them and watching them for a long time, it may be assumed that their words and movements are done intentionally.

In last year Asean Summit held in November, 2014, United Nations Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon attended it. He only highlighted Bengali issue and went back.

At the last week of December 2014, UN's Press Release on Bengali appeared and it was one sided.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, gave her second official visit to the country from 7 to 16 January 2015. She made her first visit to Myanmar in July last year. At the end of her second visit, she also incited the Bengalis issues.

At the end of her visit, she held a press conference on January 16 and she herself read out the statement. Nearly one-third of the Press Release is Rakhine State and Bengali issue. During her nine-day visit, she spent three days in Rakhine State.

Concerning the Bengali issue, the thing we've pointed out is whether the United Nations or International Organization are being misinformed. Although some knew that this news is not true, there are some people who wanted to make it to the point. It is a concern.

Yanghee Lee on her beginning of second visit to Myanmar met human rights activists and politicians. There was no problem in doing so.

When coming back from Rakhine State and meeting with private media, there were some questions to rise. It was a question of what kind of standard they made in choosing the media.

There were six media men Yanghee Lee met. They are Thiha Saw, Sonny Swe, Sithu Aung Myint, Ma Thida (Sausngchaung), Toe Zaw Latt and Kyaw Zwar Moe.

When looking back at the media men, Thiha Saw is from Myanmar Times Journal. Sonny Swe is the C.E.O of  Mizzama News media. He was one of the co- founders of Myanmar Times journal established under military intelligence. He is also the son of Brig-Gen Thein Swe (Retired), the Department head of International Relations of Intelligence Office. Mizzama news was once an opposition media established in India. Now, their reputation is fading.

Another one is Sithu Aung Myint. We don't understand why he was chosen. He is a columnist for Mizzama News and it may be assumed that two journalists from Mizzama were invited. Ma Thida (Saungchaung) is one of the leader of “Petinthan” (Echo Journal) and chairperson of PEN Myanmar. Toe Zaw Latt is from DVB News. Kyaw Zwar Moe is an English editor from the Irrawaddy.

Most of the media men Yanghee Lee met were in favour of Muslim affairs. For the Irrawaddy, they stand firmly from the Bengali side and so many criticisms emerged for their standings among the public.

For Sithu Aung Myint, no elaboration is needed. Mmedia was founded by the extremists Islamists.

In his articles written in 2013, it was founded that he had intentions to blames Rakhine Nationals in Bengali issue. In his article "Still burning Rakhine", published in November 7, 2013 issue of Myanmar Times journal; it could be clearly be seen.

In 2014, he not only blamed the Rakhine National but also protrayed Rakhines as extremists. In his article of " Who was responsible for Rakhine Problem" published in April 3, 2014 in Myanmar Times and "The Falling of Rakhine democracy" published in April 4, Yangon Times, this fact could be seen.

When it reaches 2015, he never changes his standings. In the first week of January, Voice of America (VOA) Myanmar News broadcasted his opinion article of "Listen to the voices of international families". The article's message is supporting the UN's standing released on last week of December. 

He earned a place among those who support Bengali issue, but his writings caused one sided accusations among the Rakhines.

Here, we have to ask him if he ever visited Rakhine State or if he made detailed observations among the Rakhine and Bengali communities.

In 2012, we went to Rakhine State when the Rakhine conflicts reached its climax, when Sittwe was burning fiercely. We covered voices from both sides and understood that Rakhines were not extremists.

Whatever the Bengali issue or China issue, Eleven Media Group's standing is clear. We stand for the sake of national security and national economic benefit. One thing for sure is that Bengalis will never become a Myanmar ethnicity.

That's why international societies and some media including United Nations never pay attention, or listen to us when it comes to Bengali issue.

At the Asean Summit, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon made a private press brief with ten news agencies. Eleven Media was not invited. Similarly, Yanghee Lee excluded EMG when meeting private media.

Therefore, we asked UN's information officer to Myanmar. Eleven Media was free and independent Media, that has strongest public support and why it was uninvited. What standards UN has made?

UN's officer replied that he has no right to answer. We were not surprised that an information officer from UN declined to answer.

United Nations has spoke several times that Bengalis were discriminated in Rakhine State. Rakhines have been oppressed by the UN and international organizations. That is one thing to be aware of.

Another thing is that UN and international organizations called Bengalis, who are absolutely not Myanmar nationals,  as Rohingya. In the press release appeared on December, that fact was included.

UN has urged to give Bengalis the Myanmar citizen rights, and to allow them to go freely within Myanmar.

Myanmar government has officially declared that there is no Rohingya in Myanmar. Though the government accepted the use of Bengali, their citizenship is decided according to 1982 Citizenship Law.

The Myanmar people's desire is the same with the government. In Myanmar, there is no Rohingya.

But, the UN doesn't accept this.

Yanghee Lee said that although there is a dispute in naming, when submitting the report, she will use the word "Rohingya”. She insisted to use the word objected by the Myanmar public and Rakhine.

She added that if the Rohingya are accepted as Bengali, many rights including the rights to citizenship may be lost.

So, we don't want to argue whether these people are called Rohingya or Bengalis. They can be named as their wish. The Government has officially set the word Bengalis and for the examining the rights of citizens, those called themselves as Bengalis are to be scrutinized.

If they desire to be Myanmar citizen, they must allow themselves to be called Bengalis. If Rohingya is used, they will be left out. So, this problem must settle with the government.  Those want to be the Myanmar citizens, whether he may be Bengali or Rohingya, they will be decided by 1982 Citizenship Law.

What is true is that there is no Rohingya ethnic in Myanmar. But the word Rohingya race was used.

In Myanmar Encyclopedia, Volume-9, page-89, the subject about "May-Yu border district" was mentioned. May-Yu was a district comprising of Buthidaung, Maungdaw, and western parts of Yathedaung Townships. There was a paragraph in May-Yu district statement.

It stated, "In May-Yu border district, there are nearly 400,000 or 500,000 people living there. Most of their livelihoods are agriculture and fishing. Majority of them (about 75 percent) are of Rohingya race where Rakhine, Dainet, Mro, Khamwe ethnics are also residing there."

Those who favour Bengalis mentioned this fact and said that Rohingya lived in Myanmar. According to the paragraph, there were Rohingya. But, it never used the word "ethnic" just mentioned as the word Rohingya.

Among Myanmar ethnicities, there is no Rohingya. They entered Myanmar from neighboring country in colonial era. When their numbers were large, they demanded establishing a Muslim State. That is one thing to note.

Another thing is in 1955-56, during Pha-Sa-Pa- La Era, Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL ). One big mistake was made under U Nu administration. U Nu was the first Prime Minister of Myanmar. Wanting to win at the election, he allowed people from neighboring country to enter Myanmar. He issued temporary citizenship cards and identity cards and permitted those people to vote at the 1956 parliamentarian election. In these regions, Pha-Sa-Pa-La won and elected Begalis entered the Parliament.

After 1960s, the population of the Bengalis, so-called Rohingya, reached almost 500,000 in Buthidaung, Maungdaw, and western parts of Yathedaung. Their distribution is so great that they reached to Rakhine State and gradually increased in numbers.

The operation of collecting Bengali census was made in 1966, “Myat Mon” operation in 1969, “Sabei” operation made in 1974 were made for scrutinizing the Bengalis. “The Dragon king” operation made in 1978 is the most serious one among these operations.

Due to the Dragon King operation, more than 150,000 Bengalis fled to Bangladesh. At that time, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spoke for the first time about them. According to them more than 250000 Bengalis fled to Bangladesh and according to international media, nearly 100000 Bengalis were killed.

In July 1978, “Hintha” operation was drawn for reaccepting the fleeing Bengalis. According to that operation, nearly 190,000 entered Myanmar again. That number is larger than the number of Bengalis that fled Myanmar.

In post-1980s, till now, there may be Bengalis of 500,000 to 800,000 living in Rakhine State. Among them, about 500,000 may be elligible according to 1982 Citizenship Law. If they meet the standards mentioned in the Law, they will become Myanmar citizens. But at least, 30,0000 won't become Myanmar citizens.

The 1982 Citizenship Law is the most suitable act for Myanmar. Neighboring countries like India, Bangladesh and China, are over populate.

So, it is not possible to amend the 1982 citizenship Law. The UN is urging Myanmar to amend the law. There are two things that the UN and international organizations must aware of.

First, it was impossible to accept Rohingya as nationals. The second thing is that deviating from the 1982 Citizenship Law, accepting Rohingya as Myanmar citizens will never be done.
We are not supporting everything the government is doing.

We have strongly criticized the facts that reform process is stopping in the President Thein Sein administration, corruption is uncontrollable, the judicial pillar is being destroyed and unfair in giving sentences, poverty among the public reached the highest, poor farmers became the subject of oppression, and imprisonment of journalists prevails.

But for the Bengalis issue, the government handling of this issue is fair, we supposed. President Thein Sein and Rakhine State Chief Minister Maung Maung Ohn's handling of Bengalis issue is correct. Besides, they are supported by the Myanmar public.

No matter President Thein Sein or whoever or which party becomes president of Myanmar in future, Bengalis will never become nationals. Even if the NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi said and NLD party will carry out for the Bengalis to become nationals, the Bengalis never become nationals. Whoever thinks that the Bengalis as national, a big public protest will appear.

President Thein Sein and his government's approach on the Bengali issue is still correct. But, it couldn't be use as bait for the winning at the election.

Recently, President Thein Sein made a remark that White Card holders should be allowed for voting in coming election. It couldn't be done like this.

If the White Card holders are allowed for voting, they must go under the 1982 Citizenship Law. If they meet the standards of the Law, they will become citizens of Myanmar.

Rakhine State and Bengalis issue not only concern with the Rakhine nationals. It is not a problem between the Rakhine national and the Bengalis. It concerns with the entire country. The problem isn't a regional problem but it is a nationwide problem.

To repeat my word, Bengalis issue isn't a matter of Rakhine State alone. It concerns with more than 50 million people of Myanmar. It is a national issue.

At the moment, the number of Bengalis in Rakhine State is between 500,000 to 800,000. For the entire Myanmar, it is between one and a half of million to 2 million. So, Bengalis are everywhere in Myanmar. They live in Kachin State as well as Taninthayi Region to Kayin State to refugee camps in Thai-Myanmar border areas.

When the millions of Bengalis' population is distributing across Myanmar, to use the words like" accept Bengalis as nationals" couldn't be say easily. If accepted, the identity of a nation can be lost. Therefore, the UN couldn't give pressure in doing so or pushing Myanmar for that matter thinking it (the issue) isn't a significant thing.

Yanghee Lee said that Rakhine State problem is a complicated matter for international societies. It became confusing because of the UN and some of the international societies. For our country, the problem is real simple. As the Bengali issue becomes the national issue, Bengalis will never be accepted as nationals.

For the UN or the international societies to be aware is that they have to bear in mind and accepted that Rohingya or Bengalis aren't Myanmar nationals. Beside, the citizenship must decide according to 1982 Citizenship Law.

Turning aside from the above mentioned two points and instigating Bengalis will not solve the problem. It will only contribute more to the problem.

Don't say to amend the 1982 Citizenship Law. If it is necessary to amend for modernizing, the facts mentioned in the Law couldn't be amended.

Concerning the Bengalis refugees, clarification is needed. It may be around 800000 Bengalis in Rakhine State. At least, 300000 Bengalis may not meet the requirement of the 1982 Citizenship Law.

Bengalis Illegally entering Myanmar in the refugee camps may reach above 100,000 after the 2012 conflicts.

There are two points in UN's press Release. One thing is to give the Bengalis citizenship. The second thing is to allow them to go freely in the nation.

For being the citizens, if they meet the criteria of the Law, they will become Myanmar citizens. The Immigration and Population Department will investigate for that issue. They will go according to the procedures and customs.

If they become the Myanmar citizens, the government will allow them to go freely in the nation.

There are criticisms that people from the Rakhine refugee camps are allowed to go freely while people from Bengali camps are restricted. The people in Rakhine refugee camps are Myanmar nationals.

Those living in the Bengali refugee camps aren't Myanmar nationals. It is natural that they are restricted in going freely.

If one look at the refugee camps in Thai- Myanmar border areas, the same thing could be seen. I have been to some refugee camps in Thai- Myanmar border areas. Those living in the camps have no right to go outside apart from the designated areas. There is some illegal goings from the camps but no official right for going freely in Thailand is granted.
But, Myanmar nationals living in Thailand are not problem makers.

Among the refugees, comparing human rights standard, priority is given on poverty stricken appearances. International media publishing these images, they created the situation of Bengalis are worsening. Actually, there were inhumane cases or violation of human rights among the Bengalis refugees. The UN should pay more attention on those cases.

Another thing is that there are some organizations and media using the name of Rohingya outside Myanmar. We are investigating where these organizations and media got support and how they are standing, what are they doing. We will write as soon as the detailed facts and figure are obtained.

Some organizations don't use the word Bengali, Rohingya but based in outside of Myanmar made movements and they became rich. The lives of Bengalis in the Bengalis refugee camps compared with them, the gap is like the sky and earth.

For the UN, it becomes a custom for paying attention to Bengali affairs only in connection with Myanmar. Whenever they visited Myanmar, they only emphasized on Bengali issue.
For the United Nations, there are many things in Myanmar which need attention rather than Bengalis issue.

In Kachin State, 20 percent of population is in IDP camps. It's been at least four or five months that UN's assistance doesn't go to Kachin refugee camps.

Previous assistances didn't cover the number of refugees. It is like UN is turning a blind eye to Myanmar nationals IDPs under the severe weather with insufficient food.

The UN didn't make an effort for giving effective supports to the IDPs.  There may be various reasons that the food and shelters and assistances didn’t reach the IDPs. But, the UN's strenuous effort couldn't be seen either.

Yanghee Lee's second visit didn’t reach Kachin refugee camps. She cancelled her schedule to go to some refugee camps in northern Shan State giving the excuses of safety on clashes between the government and the ethnic armed forces. It wasn't a sound excuse.

In Kayin State where stability is seen, clearing of land mines couldn't be done till now. No one has been implemented mine clearing in last four years. The UN has given no pressure. For them, they may have excuses but it isn't worth saying.

For the UN, there are many things to be done in refugee camps in eastern Shan State, Shan State, Mon State and Taninthayi Region.

But, there is no significant arrangement. Although they undertook some projects in Myanmar, they prioritised the completion of those projects rather than fulfilling the needs of local residents. 

Myanmar has a lot of human rights’ problems and challenges. The current situation is a time to pay a special attention for general election.

Although there have been perfunctorily     efforts, finally the UN made a very favourable impression on only Bengali’s issue when reviewing the UN’s exhortation.

Due to the results, UN’s power is now decreasing in Myanmar. So also UN’s image is being damaged. The UN is looked like an organization that favours only Bengali’s affair and they don’t play a vital role in Myanmar.

At present, Ban Ki-moon is the UN’s Secretary General. His position term will end in 2016. At the time of Kofi Annan, former UN’s Secretary General, he didn’t make strong desire on Bengali issue. However, when the incumbent Ban Ki-moon had taken office, there are many accusation made by the UN.

Yanghee Lee, UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights for Myanmar, is a South Korean citizen like Ban Ki-moon.

Tomas Ojea Quintana, former UN’s Special Rapporteur of Human Rights in Myanmar, got a bad name for Bengali issue due to one-sided accusation.

In July last year, Yanghee Lee paid a first visit to Myanmar. Regarding Bengali’s affair, entire Myanmar people hoped to emerge free and fair reviews. However, it has failed. She also made unilateral accusation and pushes for Myanmar like Quintana.

UN’s incitement to Bengali’s issue had damaged the relations between Myanmar and UN. Moreover, the UN’s movements are leading the damages of relations not only between Myanmar and UN but also between Myanmar and South Korea.

Surely, Begali’s issue is not a problem among Rakhine nationals and Bengali Rohingya. It concerns all entire Myanmar people. Nobody can give the pressure on Myanmar.

Thailand tourist murders court procedure begins

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Friday, December 26, 2014 0 comments

Win Zaw Htun (L) and Zaw Lin in a jail cell Win Zaw Htun (pictured left) and Zaw Lin were arrested in early October

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Court proceedings have begun against two Burmese men charged with the murder of two British tourists in September on the island of Koh Tao in Thailand.

Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, both 21, are accused of killing Hannah Witheridge, 23, from Norfolk, and David Miller, 24, from Jersey.

Thai prosecutors say they have compiled a strong case against the defendants, who both deny killing the tourists.

The suspects, both migrant workers, could be executed if found guilty.

The bodies of Miss Witheridge and Mr Miller were found on a beach in the popular tourist destination on 15 September. Mr Miller died from drowning and a blow to the head, while Miss Witheridge died from head wounds.

According to previous court documents, both men have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder, rape, criminal cover-up, illegally entering Thailand and staying in the country without permission.

Brought forward The investigation has been marred by allegations of both police incompetence and of confessions extracted by torture, he said.
Hannah Witheridge and David Miller The bodies of Hannah Witheridge and David Miller were found on a Thai beach
In October, the two men retracted the confessions they made following their arrest three months ago.

They claimed they only confessed after being beaten and threatened by police.

300 years old stone script found in Arakan

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Saturday, December 20, 2014 0 comments

Mrauk U, 20 December 2014:
Centuries old stone scripts
Centuries old stone scripts are found in an Arakanese palace which might threw more light on the history of Rakhine people.

The precious stone script, understood as around 300 years old, was found at the palace ground of Mrauk Oo, an ancient cultural city of Arakan Kingdom, said an official of the archeological department.

“It is true that the stone scrip was found. But it is not a complete structure. Anyhow we have put it in our department” informed U Aung Kyaw Zan, the in-charge of State archaeological department.

The script was sculpted by 1074 Arakan era (1712 AD) and the character of the alphabet is found circular in nature that shows its appearance in Mrauk Oo period, added the responsible officer.

The local people disclosed that the stone script was found in the eastern part of the palace ground while digging for repairing on December 8 last. Almost half of the square-cut stone scrip was damaged which had an area of four square feet and thickness of  five inches.

“We found it during the digging on the floor steps for repairing” confirmed Daw Khin Than, the director in-charge of preserving ancient cultural heritage association.

The content of the script was similar to these lines like 874 waning of the Nattaw, His Majesty the King Sanda Wisaya, The pagodas and statutes were destroyed, Insurgency in all around the country etc.

The Arakan Kingdom witnessed a massive turmoil in 1000 Arakan era. The unrest faced by the then King Sanda Wisaya was probably scripted in the stone, commented U Maung Thein, secretary of preserving ancient cultural heritage association.

Koh Tao’s dark side: dangers of island where Britons were murdered

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Monday, November 24, 2014 0 comments

Koh Tao in Thailand
Koh Tao, where Hannah Witheridge and David Miller were murdered, is steeped in paradoxes. Photograph: Alamy
Six weeks on, there is little to mark the spot on the idyllic rocky beach inlet on Koh Tao where Hannah Witheridge and David Miller met such brutal deaths; just two tiny piles of stones separated by a line of twigs in the sand, someone’s modest, anonymous, temporary memorial.

A few hundred yards away along Sairee beach, the main tourist drag on the Thai holiday island, life continues as normal. Business, says a French man running a dive shop – much of Koh Tao’s tourism is based around diving – is actually busier than expected for the monsoon season. “After the murders you did notice that there were fewer people for a bit. But it was only really the British that stayed away. With everyone else, they didn’t even really notice.”
If this appears curious then Koh Tao, the smallest and most remote among a trio of tourism-dominated islands in the Gulf of Thailand, abounds in such paradoxes.
It is a place where visitors spend their days learning the rigorous safety standards of diving before hopping, without helmets and clad in shorts and vest, on to rickety rental motorbikes. Tourist deaths are not unknown – two bodies of drowned westerners were found in the sea within a couple of days this month – but it is known as one of the safer spots in Thailand.
The biggest contradiction centres around the deaths of Witheridge, 23, and Miller, 24 – the British backpackers brutally beaten on the head yards from their hotel, the former also raped, the latter left to drown in shallow surf. Just about everyone on Koh Tao insists visitors are safe, but many also agree, quietly, that the Burmese migrant workers arrested for the murders are innocent – meaning the real killer or killers remain at large.

Hannah Witheridge and David Miller were brutally murdered while staying on Koh Tao.
Hannah Witheridge and David Miller were brutally murdered while staying on Koh Tao. Photograph: PA
The island, two hours by boat from the nearest airport, has a low-key, undeveloped feel and mainly attracts younger backpackers. But the ramshackle charm and gentle, palm-dotted beaches are drawing more visitors each year, necessitating new workers.
Many are Burmese, with around 3,000 now on Koh Tao, according to one community leader. “The migrants come here for just one reason – they want a better life, and they’re looking for a job so they can send money back home,” said the man who, like almost everyone else on the island, asked to not be named.
Increasing numbers of Burmese staff the bars and restaurants, in part due to their competent English – an educational legacy of British rule in their home country.
More than 3 million Burmese live in Thailand. As well as low pay and poor conditions, rights groups say, the frequently undocumented migrants face regular and open discrimination, and it is not unknown for police to wrongly blame them for crimes. As the hunt for the Britons’ killers dragged into a third week and the junta’s prime minister, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, said migrants were the most likely culprits, there was understandable nervousness on Koh Tao.
“Shortly after the killings the migrant community started to tell us there was a lot of torture going on, a lot of abuse by the police,” recalled Andy Hall, a British activist who has lived in Thailand for a decade, mainly working with Burmese. “We sent a team down and interviewed the workers, and they were saying, ‘Help us, or they’re going to find a scapegoat.’ And then the Burmese men got arrested.”
Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, the two Burmese migrant workers arrested for the murders of Witheridge and Miller.
Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, the two Burmese migrant workers arrested for the murders of Witheridge and Miller. Photograph: Bangkok Post / Barcroft Media
Police said they had confessed, explaining that they found Witheridge and Miller kissing on the beach and, being “aroused”, beat them viciously with a hoe. The case was solved.
Except it was not. Within a few days the men said they had been tortured and withdrew the confessions. Rights groups expressed alarm. The police deny the allegations of torture.
Britain called in a senior Thai diplomat to express its concern. Finally, with deep reluctance and only after David Cameron personally pressured Chan-ocha at a summit in Milan, Thailand agreed to let Metropolitan police detectives review the case.
Now the situation is at an impasse, with prosecutors still awaiting a much-delayed police report. Last Wednesday, a judge remanded the suspects in custody for another 12 days, but warned that without a prosecution they must be freed in little more than a month.
Opinion in Thailand is split. While the government and police chiefs maintain they have their men, others argue the investigation is too obviously motivated by what one Bangkok Post editorial called “rampant ethnic prejudice”.
Among the sceptics is Nakhon Chomphuchat, the leading Thai human rights lawyer defending the suspects. “If I thought they had done it I couldn’t work for them,” he told the Guardian. “Of course, no one can ever say with 100% accuracy, but I’m pretty certain they didn’t.”

Chomphuchat and others note numerous concerns beyond the confessions. A key part of the police case is DNA evidence supposedly tying the men to the scene. However, Thailand’s most senior pathologist expressed alarm on learning the samples were not collected by trained forensic officers. Meanwhile, CCTV of the key night shows one suspect, Wai Phyo, wearing the same pristine white T-shirt in which he was later arrested.
Chomphuchat and others also stress how unlikely it is for two unworldly young men to commit such a vicious crime and then work as normal for three weeks, even volunteering for DNA tests. In an interview with the Guardian during their court hearing the pair appeared awed and naive, talking excitedly about their love of Manchester United and the thrill of being transferred on a police helicopter.
On Koh Tao, many Thais believe the culprits are Burmese. “A local wouldn’t do it – the locals are friendly,” said a man in his 40s. “But with more development we need migrant workers to help, and these can bring more problems.” Another man, a taxi driver, said: “CCTV shows the men were there, and there’s the DNA tests. Even if we don’t know who the real killer is they’re not Thai, for sure.”
There are several counter theories circulating on Koh Tao about who killed Witheridge and Miller. Most centre around men associated with a dominant Thai family on the island, one of several that run dive schools, resorts and bars. A version recounted repeatedly - without any evidence - is that Witheridge had an argument with one of them at a beachside bar run by the family, shortly before the killings.
The associated media coverage has seen Koh Tao characterised as mafia-run. One English woman, who has lived in the area for many years, says the term is misleading: “The mafia here aren’t the sort who carry guns in violin cases, or knock on doors extorting people. They’re the families that go back for generations, and who ran the islands before the police even got here.”
Zaw Lin (left) and Wai Phyo have retracted their confessions in the murder case.
Zaw Lin (left) and Wai Phyo have retracted their confessions in the murder case. Photograph: Andy Hall for the Guardian
Nonetheless, there is real fear. Several islanders who believe they know who killed Witheridge and Miller have fled. Those who remain stay silent, for good reason, according to the woman: “If you speak out you’ll suddenly find the landlord of your business doesn’t want to know [you] anymore, or you can’t get a visa. Very occasionally, people disappear.”
The curiosity is that for the vast majority of tourists Koh Tao is safe, at least by the perilous standards of Thailand.
In the last 12 months 362 Britons died in Thailand, more than did so in France, which attracts nearly 20 times more British tourists. This is partly down to Thailand’s younger tourist demographic but also the country’s treacherous roads.
Tourists do fall off motorbikes on Koh Tao – one diving instructor says a student a week is unable to finish a course as they’re swathed in bandages – but the slower, sparser traffic makes very serious incidents less common.
Sairee beach has its rowdy bars along the narrow network of lanes by the beachfront. However, the nightlife culture is tempered by the numbers going diving early in the morning. Drugs are not unknown, but not endemic as on Koh Phangan, the adjoining island famed for its full moon beach parties. Likewise, swimmers do get caught out by currents, but not notably more than elsewhere.
A police diver searches for clues near the spot where Witheridge and Miller were killed
A police diver searches for clues near the spot where Witheridge and Miller were killed Photograph: Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters
There is even a local theory that the dominant families actually keep Koh Tao more secure – they have become fantastically rich through tourism and take a dim view of crime. “I’ve never felt as safe living anywhere,” said one young Canadian woman based on the island.
This is what makes the murders of Witheridge and Miller simultaneously so exceptional and difficult to resolve. If the theories are correct, and the real killers are wayward elements of a dominant family, their wealth and hold over police makes it very unlikely they will face charges.
At the centre of this impasse – and facing possible execution by lethal injection – are Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo. However much the evidence might tip in their favour, to not prosecute would mean acknowledging that a high-profile investigation endorsed by the junta was flawed.
Equally central, and in danger of being forgotten amid their current silence, are the grieving families of Witheridge and Miller, who have yet to express a view.
Last week lawyers for Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo passed a handwritten letter from the pair to the Guardian, appealing to the British families to share any information that could spare them.
A key moment will come with the completion of the Met’s report, which will be shown first to the grieving relatives. They have so far ignored their right under Thai law to participate in the judicial process.
Amid the maze of contradictions and powerful vested interests, one of the few optimistic voices comes from Zaw Lin, usually the less buoyant of the arrested pair. Asked by the Guardian how he judged his fate, he replied: “There are so many people helping us, we are sure we can get justice. And we didn’t do it.”

Yangon’s Hero, Wielding Power of Stop and Go

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Saturday, November 22, 2014 0 comments

Sgt. Khin Myint Maung directing cars in Myanmar’s largest city, where his accolades are also an indictment of others’ corruption. Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times

YANGON, Myanmar — For 12 hours nearly every day, Sgt. Khin Myint Maung stands in one of the most chaotic intersections in this chronically gridlocked city, untangling traffic snarls with patience and unflagging good humor.

It is not the most likely résumé for a recipient of a hero of the year award from a leading daily newspaper, or designation as a “role model” officer by the Yangon police force or a “real-life hero” by a German foundation.

But the 26-year-old from the provinces, only recently promoted to sergeant, has earned all those awards, rising to fame purely by word of mouth. It is nearly impossible to find a taxi driver in Yangon who does not wax lyrical about the sergeant’s ability to direct traffic through rainstorms and searing heat.

“We looove him,” U Nay Win Hlaing, a 37-year-old taxi driver, shouted recently. “There’s no one who doesn’t like him.”

In years past, the streets of Myanmar’s largest city were often so empty that taxi drivers could test the forces of gravity as they screeched down winding thoroughfares.


Twice as many cars now drive the streets of Yangon as did three years ago, when Myanmar lifted severe limits on vehicle imports. Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times

These days, though, the emergence of debilitating gridlock in Yangon is perhaps the most obvious sign that after five decades of cloistered military rule, Myanmar is finally open for business. It has taken only three years for the number of cars registered in the city to double, to more than 400,000.

And in this new Myanmar, where car ownership is no longer the exclusive domain of the superrich, Sergeant Khin Myint Maung has emerged as a new sort of civic hero. Not a human rights campaigner, not a philanthropist nor someone who saved puppies from a blazing fire, but a traffic cop.

Men in uniform are still widely feared and despised in Myanmar, but Sergeant Khin Myint Maung has won the hearts of legions of erstwhile grumpy drivers who roll down their windows and hand him frosty bottles of water and boxes of food. They also give him cash, a gesture that would be inappropriate in the West but that motorists say shows their gratitude and is an unsolicited supplement to his paltry salary. The sergeant accepts all this booty with a flash of his perfect white teeth gleaming in the tropical sun.

On the few days Sergeant Khin Myint Maung has been absent from his post, the surrounding neighborhood has descended into chaos, including two months ago when he traveled to Naypyidaw, the country’s capital, for the ceremony marking his promotion to sergeant.

“For three days, it was terrible. Everyone was honking. Cars weren’t moving. Everyone was upset,” said Daw Phyu Phyu, who manages a shop nearby.

Sergeant Khin Myint Maung’s popularity is not a vote of confidence in the traffic police, who are notorious for shaking down motorists, nor is it a tribute to a new government made up largely of holdovers from the military regime that preceded it. If anything, his fans say, praise for the sergeant is implicit criticism of the rest of the traffic police and the bureaucracy.

“You could never count on civil servants before to do their job,” said U Pe Myint, a commentator and columnist. “Here is a civil servant who is doing his duty.”

Heroes are scarce in Myanmar. The society is stacked with officials, businessmen and informants who served or collaborated with the brutal, dictatorial junta that imprisoned thousands of dissidents and treated ordinary citizens with derision.

“It’s very hard to find civil servants worthy of the award,” said Daw Nyein Nyein Naing, the executive editor of 7 Day News Journal, which began bestowing its annual hero trophies in 2012, around the time the country’s media was unshackled from five decades of censorship.

“Every year, we go through a lot of names,” Ms. Nyein Nyein Naing said. “But we look at their backgrounds, and we find things that disqualify them as heroes.”

Change in Myanmar is proceeding at varying speeds. Bureaucrats still wait for orders as they did during military rule. Farmers remain dirt poor. The middle class is seeing only a small fraction of the lucrative jobs that the government promised to deliver.


Sgt. Khin Myint Maung’s easy smile and his skill at keeping cars moving have made him a favorite of the city’s taxi drivers. Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times

But the streets of Yangon look nothing like those of five years ago, when most of the cars were so old and dilapidated that downtown traffic resembled a rolling junkyard. Forty-year-old jalopies spewed oil onto the pavement, and on rainy days customers had to place their feet over the holes in the floors of taxis to avoid water gushing up from below.

Then, three years ago, the government lifted its severe restrictions on car imports and, as if a switch had been flicked, a car culture was born in Yangon. Used car lots, mostly selling secondhand imports from Japan, became ubiquitous. A radio station with traffic reports is now essential listening for those wishing to avoid the worst gridlock. When President Obama visited this month, residents complained that closed roads had created an “Obama jam.” The traffic police started a Facebook page this year that encourages drivers to send in photos of other drivers breaking the law.

U Win Tin, 34, a woodcarver who lives on the outskirts of Yangon, used to spend half an hour riding to his stall near Shwedagon Pagoda, a famed golden Buddhist shrine. Now the commute takes two hours on a sweltering bus with no air-conditioning. The upside, he said, is that business has picked up with the influx of tourists from China and South Korea who place orders for wooden Buddhas.

“I liked the easy traffic of the past, but I wouldn’t want to go back to the old days,” he said.
The secondhand Japanese imports vie with an array of luxury and exotic cars.

Sergeant Khin Myint Maung directs Range Rovers that would not look out of place in Beverly Hills and American S.U.V.s that seem far too wide for Yangon’s roads.

In a stark reminder of the gulf between rich and poor in Myanmar, he is paid the equivalent of $150 a month, a salary that might buy him one of those cars at the end of his career — if he saved every penny.

The third of five children from a rice-farming family in a remote village three miles from the Bay of Bengal, he shows no resentment toward the wealth that flashes past, only Buddhist fatalism.

“Everyone has their own destiny,” he said during a break from directing traffic at the corner of Dhammazedi and Link Roads, his usual spot not far from Shwedagon Pagoda. “The rich are rich because they did many good things in their past life. Everyone has their own place.”

The sergeant is generous with his smile but thrifty with words. When he accepted his hero award in 2012, he stood onstage in a large banquet hall in a Yangon hotel.

“We gave him three minutes for a speech,” said Ms. Nyein Nyein Naing, who headed the awards committee.
“He just said, ‘Thank you,’ ” she recalled. “And of course he smiled.”

Ancient Arakan Gold and Sliver Coins

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