Aung Zaw

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Vicious sectarian and ethnic violence has set back the fragile political reforms introduced in Myanmar last year. As tensions flare in the majority-Buddhist country that I and other exiles still call Burma, many fear that the deadly anti-Muslim riots are no accident but the product of an effort led by army hard-liners to thwart both the reforms and Myanmar’s opening to the world.

When I returned to my homeland last year — for the first time in 24 years — I witnessed a rising wave of extreme nationalism and anti-Muslim hate speech. I heard senior army officers and government ministers express unfounded fears that Muslims would force their religion on Buddhists and try to “steal” Buddhist women.…  Seguir leyendo »

There has been no shortage of good reasons to be optimistic about Myanmar over the last two years. Political prisoners have been freed. Travel restrictions have been lifted. The economy has been loosened up. Newspapers are flourishing and censorship relaxed. The government of President Thein Sein has reached out to ethnic rebels and to many exiles, including myself. The Burmese are scrambling to keep up with the flood of tourists and businessmen pouring into our resource-rich nation.

Still, with all the positive developments many Burmese have remained skeptical of the government. Count me among them. Most of the power and wealth are still controlled and managed by the military, whose past abuses have not yet been acknowledged.…  Seguir leyendo »

It is over a week since Cyclone Nargis brought devastation to Burma, and its people are in mourning - although there has been no official condolence from the ruling junta. Now, everyone is pointing the finger at Senior General Than Shwe, his ministers and army leaders - first, for failing to issue advanced warning of the cyclone to those living in the Irrawaddy delta region, and second, for responding so slowly to the devastation.

Most shocking, the regime stalled aid packages coming into the country and delayed issuing visas to international aid and medical workers. While the rest of the world has been eager to help, Burma's generals are only interested in consolidating their power.…  Seguir leyendo »

Burmese generals have long professed to be protecting and preserving Buddhism - claims that they sought to illustrate with frequent pilgrimages to the country's monasteries. Now these self-styled devotees have shown their true colours, ordering their forces into those same monasteries with murderous intent.Their targets are Burma's venerated monks, who have played a prominent role in the vanguard of the independence struggle for many decades. In recent weeks they have again stepped in to fill the vacuum left by the imprisonment, resignation and exile of opposition members and activists forced by the country's ruling junta.

In the years since the uprising of 1988, the opposition movement in Burma has been decapitated.…  Seguir leyendo »