Connect with us

World

Phuket Gazette World News: Myanmar human rights on US visit agenda; NKorea rocks more missiles, Iran hangs spies; France drones on; China tackles elderly

Published

 on 

PHUKET MEDIA WATCH
– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Obama walks a fine line with Myanmar president’s landmark visit
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: President Barack Obama will walk a fine line between fostering a U.S. ally in China’s backyard and trying to defend human rights when the president of Myanmar becomes the first head of his country to visit the White House in 47 years on Monday.

Rights groups and some U.S. lawmakers fear Obama has moved too quickly since forging a dramatic breakthrough in relations in 2011 after half a century of military rule in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

U.S. officials argue that reforms by President Thein Sein’s quasi-military government – freeing democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and hundreds of political prisoners, scrapping censorship, legalizing trade unions and protests – are transformative and deserve support from Obama, who confirmed the end of Myanmar’s pariah status with the West with a landmark visit last November.

However, ethnic or sectarian violence, particularly in the western state of Rakhine, has worsened since Washington started easing sanctions, and a Reuters special report published last week found apartheid-like policies segregating minority Muslims in prison-like ghettos there.

At least 192 people died last year in violence between ethnic Buddhists in Rakhine and Rohingya Muslims, who are denied citizenship by Myanmar. Most of the victims, and the 140,000 people made homeless in the attacks, were Muslims.

The Myanmar government’s rights record has long been poor, especially in resource-rich areas inhabited by ethnic Shans, Karens and Kachins.

The Washington-based U.S. Campaign for Burma says 1,100 ethnic Rohingya and 200-250 Kachin have become political detainees in the past year, and the situation has led some to question how far Washington should go in its policy shift.

“When they abuse ethnic minorities, it really undercuts their credibility and undermines our ability to work with them,” said Republican Representative Trent Franks, one of a group of U.S. lawmakers arguing for lifting U.S. sanctions more slowly.

Obama administration officials believe that to deepen and sustain the reforms, Thein Sein has to be able to demonstrate tangible benefits to overcome opposition from powerful military leaders. To back that, Washington has narrowed the scope of its ban on business dealings with Myanmar officials and businessmen.

“Yes, there is still more work to do but … the progress they have made has been significant and they have put in place an ambitious reform agenda and we encourage them to keep doing more,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday, after Myanmar freed 23 political prisoners.

On Monday, the two countries are expected to announce plans to work out a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement that would lead to regular talks on boosting trade, labour standards and investment, a business leader familiar with the issue said.

Strategic importance

Even critics in Congress of Obama’s Myanmar policy support the U.S. strategic goal of bringing Myanmar, a nation of 60 million people tucked between China and India, out of its isolation from the West.

The long U.S.-Myanmar estrangement was a drag on America’s relations with ASEAN, the 10 nation Southeast Asian regional grouping that looks to Washington as a counterbalance to the more assertive China of recent years.

Ernest Bower, senior adviser for Southeast Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said improving relations with Myanmar fits into the wider U.S. policy of revitalizing its Asia-Pacific relationships.

“Myanmar is the keystone state that links China, Southeast Asia and India, and if we didn’t get it right, we wouldn’t be able to play the chess game that is required in order to deal with China,” he said.

But the concerns about rights abuses are holding back a fuller U.S. embrace of Thein Sein, a retired general, who was taken off the U.S. Treasury Department’s Specially Designated Nationals visa blacklist last year to facilitate engagement.

Thein Sein was a close confidante of former military ruler Than Shwe, who ran Myanmar for 19 years, a period that saw mass jailing of opponents, the gunning down of pro-democracy protesters and widespread abuses in ethnic minority areas.

Jennifer Quigley, head of the U.S. Campaign for Burma, said that even without the killings in Rakhine, the Myanmar military’s heavy hand in forced land seizures and corrupt trade in natural resources in Kachin and other states in multi-ethnic Myanmar should give Western countries pause.

Myanmar’s most coveted resources – natural gas, minerals, gems and timber – lie in ethnic areas that have been war zones for decades and remain largely untouched by reforms, she said.

“Our biggest concern about welcoming Thein Sein to the White House is that it reinforces this positive impression of him and of what is going on in Burma, while we have serious misgivings that he is not interested in pursuing critical reforms,” said Quigley.

The military has run Myanmar since a 1962 coup by Ne Win, whose 1966 visit to Washington at the invitation of President Lyndon Johnson was the last such visit by the country’s head of state.

The European Union has moved faster than the United States on Myanmar, lifting its last sanctions on trade, the economy and individuals last month, although it retains an arms embargo.

Earlier this month, Obama scrapped a ban on U.S. entry visas to Myanmar’s military rulers and their associates but kept sanctions on investing or doing business with figures involved in repression since the mid-1990s.

Franks and Democratic U.S. congressman Rush Holt are using budget legislation to press the Obama administration to hold back on expanding nascent U.S. military ties with Myanmar’s armed forces until the country stops abuses of ethnic groups and enacts reforms to reduce the military’s huge role in the economy.

“The Burmese military is the historic perpetrator of human rights abuses, and, one may presume, also the current perpetrator, so sanctions against them should be the last to go,” said Holt.

North Korea fires short-range missiles two days in a row
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: North Korea fired a short-range missile from its east coast on Sunday, a day after launching three of these missiles, a South Korean news agency said, ignoring calls for restraint from Western powers.

Launches by the North of short-range missiles are not uncommon but, after recent warnings from the communist state of impending nuclear war, such actions have raised concerns about the region’s security.

“North Korea fired a short-range missile as it did yesterday into its east sea in the afternoon, ” South Korea’s news agency Yonhap reported, citing a military official.

A South Korean defence ministry official confirmed the Yonhap report, but did not provide any details.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was concerned about North Korea’s launch of short-range missiles, urging Pyonyang to refrain from further launches and return to stalled nuclear talks with world powers.

Ban, who spoke to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti during a visit to Moscow, called Saturday’s launch a “provocative action”.

Tension on the Korean peninsula has subsided in the past month, having

— Phuket Gazette Editors

 

Get more from The Thaiger

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Press Room1 hour ago

Best island boat tours from Phuket – must-visit islands and unforgettable experiences you should not miss out on

Thailand3 hours ago

Thailand News Today | Foreigners anger Chiang Mai locals for kissing in temple

World3 hours ago

Former Coventry footballer seriously ill in Thai hospital

Crime3 hours ago

Weapons used by jealous Thai man to murder and chop up lover found

Guides3 hours ago

Foodie Zone: Should you try Keto diet? 2022

Chiang Mai3 hours ago

River in Chiang Mai overflows, floods spread

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Thailand4 hours ago

3-year jail term for carrying crops, fruit & veg into Japan

Thailand4 hours ago

Bank repossesses the wrong house in central Thailand

Thailand4 hours ago

Innocent man jailed 7 months for 15.8 million baht theft demands justice

Weather4 hours ago

Thailand’s cold season expected to hit in late October

Thailand5 hours ago

ฺThai boxer blackmails 20 women into sending nude pics

World5 hours ago

South Korea gives North Korea a warning

Visa6 hours ago

Philippines offers attractive alternative to Thailand’s 10 year LTR visa

Phuket6 hours ago

Thousands join Chinese ceremony at Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Coronavirus (Covid-19)6 hours ago

Bang Sue’s Central Vaccination Centre officially closed

Thailand1 year ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism2 years ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism2 years ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism2 years ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Trending