Burma's Belated Memorial for the '88 Generation
 
 

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Burma, Not Quite Out of Orwellian Danger
 
 

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Burma's Anti-Muslim Riots: A Buddhist Dilemma

 
 

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Press Freedom Slipping Fast Across Asia
(LinkAsia: February 1, 2013)
Thuy Vu:
A survey on press freedom shows Asia is slipping. In fact, no Asian country made the top 25 in guaranteeing journalists' freedom. Here's Japan's public broadcaster, NHK with a report.

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NHK World NEWSLINE
Airdate: January 30, 2012

Reporter:
Reporters Without Borders released its annual survey assessing the commitment by governments to protect freedom of the press. Japan plunged 31 spots to 53rd place out 179 countries and territories. The non-profit group says the Japanese government lacked transparency and failed to give the media sufficient access to information following the 2011 nuclear accident in Fukushima. Reporters Without Borders spokespersons say Japan's fall from its normally high ranking should serve as a warning.

The survey says media in Finland enjoy the most freedom followed by other European nations such as the Netherlands and Norway. Myanmar rose 18 places to 151st. It abolished official censorship in 2012. China ranked 173rd, almost unchanged from 2011. And North Korea remained second to last at 178. Eritrea remains last on the World Press Freedom Index.
 
 

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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.

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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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Syrian Eid Truce Broken, Sudanese Arms Factory Bombed, and More News This Week

REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

 

Brahimi-brokered Eid al-Adha ceasefire quickly broken

New TV reported over the week that UN-Arab League Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi had been working with the Syrian government on a ceasefire for the Eid al-Adha holiday. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad announced a conditional truce on behalf of the Syrian regime, but armed opposition groups such as Ansar al-Sharia rejected the conditions and made their own demands. Sure enough, the ceasefire was broken on Friday, the first day of Eid.

Afghanistan: Dozens killed in Eid suicide blast

BBC Arabic reported on Friday that in the most violent attack in Afghanistan in months, 41 people were killed and at least another 50 were injured when a man blew himself up inside a mosque in the city of Maimana, the capital of the Faryab region in northern Afghanistan, during the early morning prayers for Eid al-Adha. The suicide bomber was reportedly wearing a police uniform. Many of the victims were government soldiers, and prominent local authorities were inside the mosque at the time of the explosion.

Sudan blames Israel for bombing of arms factory in Khartoum

Press TV reported on Wednesday that Sudan has blamed Israel for an air raid on an ammunition factory in Khartoum that killed two people. Sudanese Culture and Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman announced that evidence pointing to Israel was found among the remnants of the explosives, adding that Sudan reserved the right to retaliate. Hamas also accused Israel of orchestrating the bombing. However, Al Jazeera reported on Thursday that Israel denied the claims, and Israeli defense official Amos Gilad described Sudan as a "dangerous terrorist state."

More violence erupts against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar

Press TV reports that at least 112 Rohingya have been killed in Rakhine State, and homes of Rohingya Muslims have been torched all across Myanmar in a new round of sectarian violence perpetrated mainly by Buddhist extremists. The violence had died down after a spate of killings in August that drove a number of Rohingya to flee the country, but they are again forced to leave their homes in light of the new wave of attacks.

 

Image: A member of the Free Syrian Army talks on the radio during an operation in Haram town, Idlib Governorate, October 26, 2012. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

 
 

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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.

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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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Reforming Myanmar Takes an Important Step Towards Press Freedom

 
 

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