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from Andrew R.C. Marshall:

Jailing dissidents is not only a Burmese tradition

Ever heard of Tun Aung? I hadn't until researching my recent Reuters special report on Myanmar's year of reforms. Human rights activists claim his plight is proof that the country's reformist government, like the military junta it replaced, is relying on repressive laws and secretive trials to silence perceived enemies.

Tun Aung, a practicing medical doctor and Islamic leader, was arrested in June 2012 after clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine State killed at least 80 people. He was accused of inciting unrest in the town of Maungdaw, although Amnesty International said credible eyewitness reports suggested that Tun Aung "actively tried to defuse the violence."

He was not allowed to choose his own lawyer, nor to meet privately with his state-appointed one, "giving him no chance of a fair trial," says Amnesty. Even so, Tun Aung was sentenced to a total of 15 years in jail.

Seven of them were for offenses under the Emergency Provisions Act (1950), one of a number of laws "commonly used to arbitrarily detain activists or criminalize dissent" under Myanmar's old junta, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). These laws, which still remain on Myanmar's books, help create "an environment conducive to politically motivated arrests," says AAPP. At least 200 dissidents remain behind bars, says the group.

from The Great Debate:

Re-thinking U.S.-China relations

The United States and China have been searching for a new way to frame their relationship.  President Barack Obama’s trip this week to Southeast Asia, the focus of much U.S-Chinese tension, reminds us that with new leadership now set in both countries, it is time for them to carry on with that important task.

The new head of China’s Communist Party Xi Jinping called for a “new type of great power relationship” when he visited Washington last spring. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that Washington and Beijing “are trying to do something that is historically unprecedented, to write a new answer to the age-old question of what happens when an established power and a rising power meet.”

from Andrew R.C. Marshall:

Aung San Suu Kyi is in the House

 The worst-kept secret in Naypyitaw, the eerily under-populated capital of Myanmar, is who lives in a new bungalow in its dusty northern suburbs.

The house looks unwelcoming, and perhaps it's meant to. It is painted a penitential shade of beige and ringed by a high fence topped with razor wire. "To protect against enemies," said a guard through a mouthful of betel juice, before shutting the heavy wooden gate that separates Naypyitaw's famous new resident, Aung San Suu Kyi, from a curious world.

from Andrew R.C. Marshall:

ANALYSIS: Big win for Suu Kyi’s party in Myanmar election? Maybe not

By Andrew R.C. Marshall

MAWLAMYAING, Myanmar (Reuters) - Cho Cho May knows who she will vote for in next month's Myanmar by-elections: the candidate for the party created by the former military junta. "No need to ask me that question," she says. The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) candidate is her boss.

Finding another USDP supporter elsewhere in this normally sleepy river town is harder. When Aung San Suu Kyi, who leads the rival National League for Democracy (NLD), is on a two-day campaign tour of the region, Mawlamyaing's streets throng with people waving NLD flags and shouting "Long live Mother Suu!" Watch Suu Kyi's huge convoy go past -- it includes a truck just to carry the flowers that people give her -- and you wonder how anyone could beat her party at the polls.

from Anya Schiffrin:

Excitement and democracy come to Burma

After the heady days of the Arab Spring last year, it is now Burma’s excitement that’s in the news. Aung San Suu Kyi is hard at work on the campaign trail, political prisoners are being released, and there is talk of the European Union lifting sanctions and the World Bank returning to this Southeast Asian country, which has been isolated from the West for decades.

Visiting Burma for the first time in 1994, I found it the most frightened place I had ever been. I wandered alone for a week in this gorgeous country, the only tourist admiring the historic Buddhist paintings on the walls of the famous temples of Bagan. I visited the market in Rangoon, where women whose faces were decorated with white circles of crushed bark sat smoking fat cigars. In whispered conversations, people  told me how afraid they were of the military government and then moved away quickly because they did not want to be seen with a foreigner. Everyone who went to Burma in those days was haunted by it: the lush landscape with its thatched huts, the gentleness of the people, the loneliness of their existence and the quiet desperation. The problems seemed intractable: the poverty, the corruption and the total lack of freedom.

from Andrew R.C. Marshall:

SPECIAL REPORT: MYANMAR DECLARES WAR ON OPIUM

By Andrew R.C. Marshall

TAR PU VILLAGE, Shan State, Myanmar (Reuters) – In Myanmar’s new war on drugs, meet the weapon of mass destruction: the weed-whacker.

Its two-stroke engine spins a metal blade, which is more commonly deployed to tame the suburban gardens of wealthy Westerners. But today, in a remote valley in impoverished Shan State, Myanmar police armed with weed-whackers are advancing through fields of thigh-high poppies, leaving a carpet of stems in their wake.

from The Great Debate:

Is Burma the next Mexico?

By Federico Varese
The opinions expressed are his own.

Hillary Clinton had many "hard issues" to tackle during her recent visit to Myanmar. Yet there was no mention of one of the most, if not the most, difficult issue Burma faces: their lucrative drug trade.

Northern Burma is the home of the “Golden Triangle,” a hub for opium production and the location of hundreds of heroin and amphetamine refineries. So how do political leaders and the international community plan to tackle this problem in the event that Burma truly becomes  a democratic country?

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures 14 November 2010

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A salute to all those who managed to get pictures, text and video out of Myanmar (Burma) of the release of Nobel Peace Prize winner and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a truly historic moment.  No foreign journalists were given visas to cover the election or Suu Kyi's release and there's no Internet.  Respect to you all.

MYANMAR-SUUKYI/

Aung San Suu Kyi (C) waves to supporters gathered to hear her speech outside the headquarters of her National League for Democracy party in Yangon November 14, 2010. Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi called on Sunday for freedom of speech in army-ruled Myanmar, urged thousands of supporters to stand up for their rights, and indicated she may urge the West to end sanctions.  REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

from The Great Debate UK:

Political motives behind the trial of Suu Kyi

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Soe Paing- Soe Paing is Director of the Office of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, based in the U.S. The opinions expressed are his own. -

The arrest and the filing of criminal charges against Aung San Suu Kyi for alleged violation of house arrest rules under Section 22 of the 1975 State Protection Law or "Law to Safeguard the State Against the Dangers of Those Desiring to Cause Subversive Acts" indicate that the incumbent military regime in Burma is not interested in the offer of Aung San Suu Kyi's party -- National League for Democracy (NLD) -- to join the elections scheduled for 2010 if certain conditions are met.

from Our Take on Your Take:

Images of a democracy icon

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Detained Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is one of the most difficult people for journalists to photograph as access to the democracy icon is severely limited. Often the only way to see an image of Suu Kyi is on the posters and placards of demonstrators protesting her detention, or in the case above against fresh charges brought against her.

View this week's Your View slideshow here.

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