Burma violence tests Suu Kyi and foreign backers



An escalating conflict in Muslim areas of western Myanmar has emerged as a big test for both Aung San Suu Kyi and international powers who have long lauded her as a hero of democracy, The Financial Times reports:

Claims of raids by militants and army abuses of civilians have posed awkward questions for the nation’s de facto leader and for the western countries that backed her long struggle against the former ruling military junta……The clampdown in Rakhine state has highlighted how outside condemnation of the persecution of Rakhine’s Rohingya people contrasts with domestic hostility to them as immigrant outsiders. The troubles have also underscored the gravity of the country’s internal battles and the limits of the landmark civilian-led government’s powers, including its lack of authority over the still-influential military.

“We are living in many conflicts in Myanmar, not just this one,” said Kyaw Lin Oo, a Yangon-based analyst. “The government needs to have a strategic position on how to handle all this.”

But Burma’s by-elections provide an opportunity to build on lessons learned in other transitions, says Steve Cima, the International Republican Institute’s Resident Country Director (IRI is a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy):

It is important that Burma’s political stakeholders do not overlook the importance of by-elections because there are only 19 seats to be contested. Instead, they should look at it as an opportunity to strengthen their respective institutions and build confidence in the electoral system.  The by-elections will offer all political stakeholders a chance to reflect on lessons learned and improve systems, strategies and policies. If they are successful the by-elections will set a positive precedent in the early phases of the 2020 electoral cycle.

Dr Than Htut Aung, CEO of eleven media group, talks to journalists during a press briefing on the lawsuit against 17 editors from the daily eleven newspaper filed by ministry of information and the oppressions against the media before the election at a hotel Saturday, June 20, 2015, in Yangon, Myanmar. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)


Myanmar’s Mizzima Media Group is deeply concerned about the arrest and charging of Dr Than Htut Aung, CEO of the Eleven Media Group, and Wai Phyo, chief editor of Eleven Media Group, this week under section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law, reports suggest:

The two journalists have been charged under section 66(d) of the 2013 Telecommunications law by the Yangon Regional Government for posting on Facebook that “a chief minister” has accepted a US$100,000 watch from a person recently released from prison having served time on drug charges. …Mizzima is committed to media freedom and is concerned about laws whose use can severely limit freedom of the press. At a media conference this week, a Myanmar government minister reiterated their commitment to freedom of the press. Ironically, Mizzima is currently facing such a case, which has been brought against it by Eleven Media Group Chief Reporter Marn Thu Shein.

British NGO ARTICLE 19, which campaigns for freedom of expression, has called on Myanmar prosecutors to drop the criminal case brought against Mizzima Media.

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