Burma's Belated Memorial for the '88 Generation
 
 

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Burma's Anti-Muslim Riots: A Buddhist Dilemma

 
 

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Obama's Swing State Swing Yields Southeast Asia Gains
(LinkAsia: November 23, 2012)
Yul Kwon:
President Obama has just concluded a whirlwind visit to Southeast Asia. His trip included stops in Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia. It was billed as a campaign to win over so-called "swing states" - countries that both the US and China are trying to bring into their respective spheres of influence. Perhaps the most important part of the trip was the six hours that Obama spent in Myanmar. Until recently, the country was seen as a client of China, mostly because China was one of the few nations that did business with the former Burmese military regime. But now, after a year of reform, western countries are crowding in with investments and aid. Here's how Japanese public broadcaster NHK covered Obama's visit.

--

NHK World NEWSLINE
Airdate: November 19, 2012

Reporter:
Obama met with President Thein Sein. He referred to the nation for the first time in public as Myanmar, the name made official by the military. The US government usually calls it Burma.

Barack Obama:
I shared with President Thein Sein, our belief, the process of reform he has taken is one that will move this country forward.

Reporter:
Local people lined the streets waving US flags to welcome the American president. Obama then met with long-time democracy activist, Aung San Suu Kyi, at her home.

Barack Obama:
I'm proud to be the first American president to visit this spectacular country. We've seen some very encouraging progress.

Aung San Suu Kyi:
We are working to a genuine success for our people and for the friendship of our two countries.

Reporter:
Some human rights activists called the visit premature. But Obama said they should take the opportunity to encourage what he called "the better impulses in the country."  
 
 

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Syrian Opposition Unites, Rohingya Groups Speak Out, and More Top News This Week

REUTERS/Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham/Handout


US-approved Syrian opposition group forms governing body

After US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for a "more trustworthy" Syrian opposition last week, New TV reported that a leader in the Free Syrian Army announced that the Free Army is reorganizing its ranks to gain the trust of the international community, adding that his leadership has started to settle inside Syria. The Syrian opposition also announced during its ongoing meetings in Doha that it accepted a proposal to establish a transitional government headed by opposition member Riyad Saif. The initiative, headed by Saif, stipulates creating a unified leadership dubbed the Syrian National Initiative, from which a government in exile will be formed.

World groups organize global day of action in support of Myanmar's Rohingyas; Suu Kyi under fire for ignoring violence

Myanmar's Rohingyas are fleeing Rakhine State after a new wave of attacks from the Buddhist majority. Press TV reported that Rohingya groups around the world held a global day of action for the Rohingyas on November 8. International rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch, have also criticized Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi for her silence on the issue. The president of Arakan Rohingya National Organization, Noor al-Islam, added in an interview during a rally in London that if the persecuted had been Rakhine's Buddhists, Suu Kyi would have spoken out. Additionally, the aid group Doctors Without Borders says its workers have been threatened and stopped from reaching violence-hit areas in Myanmar. The group says thousands are left without medical care in the western Rakhine State as a result, adding that many of the victims are extremely vulnerable.

Tens of Thousands Demand Nobel Peace Prize for Malala Yousafzai

 

BBC Arabic reported that over 60 thousand people signed a petition calling for Pakistani rights activist Malala Yousafzai to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The 15-year-old girl is recovering in The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, Britain, after suffering an armed attack by the Taliban movement in Pakistan. Malala and her campaign for education gained notoriety around the world after she wrote her memoirs in the Urdu section of the BBC about life under the teachings of the extremist Taliban movement that rejects girls' right to an education.

Oil Giant Shell Undercuts Iran Sanctions with $1.4B Grain Barter

 

Dubai TV reported that the Royal Dutch Shell Company aims to circumvent international sanctions imposed on Iran by concluding a swap through which it would pay its USD 1.4 billion debt to the Iranian national oil company with a grain barter deal through the American agribusiness Cargill. Through the deal, Shell would deliver grain to Iran worth USD 1.4 billion, or what amounts to nearly 80 percent of Iran's yearly grain imports. Sources also revealed that the Royal Dutch Shell company, Tehran's second largest customer, imports 100,000 barrels of Iranian oil per day, and continued to purchase oil until the sanctions went into effect on July 1st.

 

Image: Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai talks to her father, Ziauddin Yousufzai, as she recuperates at the The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, in this undated handout photograph released to Reuters on November 8, 2012. REUTERS/Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham/Handout

 
 

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Burmese Democracy Activists Skeptical About Reforms
(LinkAsia: October 19, 2012)
Yul Kwon:
In Myanmar, the former military regime has ushered in tremendous reforms over the past year. Less media censorship, along with the release of more than 700 political prisoners, have led the US to ease economic sanctions against the country. It seems the pro-democracy movement, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, is succeeding. But some are still skeptical. Here's NHK with more.

--

NHK World NEWSLINE
Airdate: October 16, 2012

Reporter:
This is where Aung San Suu Kyi used to live while under house arrest. Back then, walking along this street was prohibited, but now it's become a bit of a tourist attraction.

Tourist:
A Nobel Prize winner lives here, which is interesting. You can also see that people are extremely positive about changes, and that is a really good thing.

Reporter:
Images of Aung San Suu Kyi used to be banned, but her face is everywhere at this souvenir shop at the headquarters of her National League for Democracy Party. From coffee cups to umbrellas, these items earn the party about 500 US Dollars a day, that's about half the amount most ordinary people in Myanmar make in a year. Visitors from overseas seem happy that Myanmar is opening up. But what about Democracy activists inside the country? I visited Min Ko Naing, he was a key member of the '88 Generation, the group that led the anti-military movement of 1988. He spent more than 15 years prison.

Min Ko Naing:
Whether or not people say these changes are real. We must be active and force them to become real. Actions are more important than words. Aung San Suu Kyi chose to enter parliament and is moving forward, and that encourages me too to do what I can in my own way, because I want everyone in Myanmar to join this movement for Democracy. That's my motivation.
 
 

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Thein Sein and the Power of Reform: A Burmese Leader's Newfound Popularity

 
 

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Japanese Companies Ready to Pounce as Myanmar Reforms
(LinkAsia: June 1, 2012)
Yul Kwon:
Over the past few decades, Myanmar has been closed to foreign businesses, except those from China and some Southeast Asian nations. It's also been under sanctions from western countries. But those sanctions are fading fast as Myanmar takes steps toward democracy and freer markets. Many countries see Myanmar as the last frontier in Asia. It has plenty of natural resources, a cheap labor force, and pent-up demand for everything from roads to consumer goods. And NHK tells us that Japanese companies are getting excited.

--

NHK World NEWSLINE
Airdate: May 30, 2012

Reporter:
Tokyo's stock exchange has signed an agreement with Myanmar's central bank. Moves are underway to set up the first stock market in the country. The aim is to deepen bilateral ties and gain a strong base to promote investment in local farms.

Than Nyein, Governor, Central Bank of Myanmar:
He arrived here for a long time and working together for a long time. And I think we believe that he is a very true and very capable partner for us.

Reporter:
Shigeto Inami is a Japanese business person who helped to win the deal. He's the president of a local college in Myanmar. It was created by Japan's diverse security group, together with the local bank. The plan is to expand the college to set up the new exchange.

Inami has lived in Myanmar for 14 years. He stayed behind even when many western firms left the country due to US and European sanctions. He has built a wide network of personal connections with government officials and other key figures. He wears ethnic clothing to work to fit in with the local society. While working on the project, Inami ran into strong competition from South Korea. But in the end, the deep trust he had earned over the years from local officials made all the difference.

Shigeto Inami, Managing Director, Myanmar Securities Exchange Center:
Japanese people take time and nurture relationships, and it's not all about money. I think that our culture struck a chord with the people in Myanmar.

Reporter:
A major Japanese bank is also making inroads in Myanmar ahead of its competitors from other countries. Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation had joined hands with Myanmar's leading commercial bank. Sumitomo Mitsui is aiming to tap the partner's network to offer loans and other financial services to Japanese firms when the local market opens its doors to foreign banks. In Myanmar, most payments are made with cash since automatic teller machines are not so common there yet. This branch handles as many as five million banknotes a day.

Yoshiyuki Morii, Chief Representative, SMBC Yangon Office:
This is Myanmar's leading bank, so its methods are actually the most advanced for this country.

Reporter:
Sumitomo Mitsui plans to recommend to the local partner that it introduces teller machines and other systems. This will help to boost operational efficiency and improve its services. Japanese firms aim to play a leading role in setting up a financial market in Myanmar to boost the local economy and gain the fruits of growth. The trial has just begun.
 
 

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Backstory: Myanmar Reforms

 
 

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Life in Limbo: The Stories of Burmese Refugees in Thailand

(LinkAsia: February 3, 2012)
Yul Kwon:
This week, Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi began campaigning outside Yangon for April's by-elections. The Nobel Laureate will continue her tour around the country to win support for other candidates from her party. If the politics of Burma has become easier, it doesn't matter to the hundreds of thousands of Burmese who fled the country's military government. At least 140,000 live in Thailand. And for most of them, life is brutal. NHK has the story of one young refugee.

--

NHK World NEWSLINE
Airdate: January 30, 2012

Reporter:
Mae Sot marks the border between Myanmar and Thailand. The far side is Myanmar. Every day people cross from Myanmar, often illegally, to look for work. They total around 20,000 a year. They expect a better life, but often they find reality is tough. This garbage dump is close to the river. I'm standing at a garbage mountain in the town on the Thai border with Myanmar. The scene is really terrible. Here people from Myanmar make a living by collecting garbage. The mountain of trash is dotted with people. They are searching for scraps of steel and plastic to sell. Thirteen-year-old Zimintu came here with his family five years ago. He earns about a dollar a day, too little to feed his family of four. Picking vegetables out of the garbage is sometimes the only way to get enough to eat.

Zimintu:
My father is sick, so I have no choice but to do this.

Reporter:
A local NGO has built a school near the garbage site to help the children. About 150 students attend the school. They all live at the dorm, but they get medical check-ups and free meals through the school. Zimintu's younger brother studied at the school two years ago. After Zimintu finishes his day collecting garbage, he goes to the school to pick up his brother. He wishes he was also playing with his friends. But he has to support his family.

Zimintu:
Put the sweets in your bag. Let's go home.

Reporter:
He hopes that one day, he too will go to school and become a doctor.

Zimintu:
Working at the dump site is no fun at all. It's just that there's no alternative job. I want to return to my hometown someday.

Reporter:
Zimintu endures a tough job to support his family, but that doesn't stop him from dreaming that one day things will get better. Khemmapat Rojwanichkun, NHK World, Northern Thailand. 

 
 

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Suu Kyi's Hopes

(LinkAsia News - November 4, 2011) YUL KWON, LinkAsia host: After decades of house arrest, Myanmar's pro-democracy icon, Aung San Suu Kyi, says she senses a change in attitude in the country's year- old government. Lately, it's been more willing to engage with the opposition movement that she leads. Japanese broadcaster NHK World has this exclusive interview with the Nobel Peace Prize Winner.

 

- -

NHK World NEWSLINE Transcript
10/28/11 - 9PM Broadcast

AUNG SAN SUU KYI

 

AUNG SAN SUU KYI:  I think the president is very desirous of positive change.

 

REPORTER:  Myanmar held its first general election in 20 years last year. However, Aung San Suu Kyi was effectively barred from participating in the ballot. More than 80% of the rule-makers elected turn out to be supporters of the former military government.

 

The military maintains a strong influence over the country. However, in August, President Thein Sein held his first meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi in an upfront effort to improve ties with the pro-democracy movement.

 

SUU KYI:  The force to its changes... I think we've got to make it strong. This is our responsibility; this is our duty to try to make it as strong as possible. We prefer to emphasize what is positive, and to help the process along. We also are cautious about saying that change has taken place.

REPORTER:  Then, earlier this month, the government granted amnesty to more than 6,300 prisoners, including political detainees, who were accused of criticizing the former military regime.

The United States has suggested that it might review its economic sanctions on Myanmar, if the government allows more political participation by opposition parties and moves closer towards democracy. Even Aung San Suu Kyi says she would be willing to take part in the party's political framework, if the government asks her, but only with one condition.

SUU KYI:  Such matters are very much things that have to be decided with the rest of the party. It's not something that I decide for myself. I think you have to be committed to the process of dialogue, and even sometimes when it is perhaps not everything that you might wish for, you still have to continue and try to make it more meaningful and more substantial.

REPORTER:  Aung San Suu Kyi says she sees the change in the government's attitude as the golden opportunity to advance democracy in the country. Jun Kobayashi, NHK World, Yang Gong.

 
 

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