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Suu Kyi wins Myanmar polls sans social media

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New Delhi: With Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) cruising to victory in Myanmar polls, the citizens are eagerly waiting for a peaceful transfer of power.

The Union Election Commission said the National League for Democracy (NLD) party had crossed the 329 threshold of seats needed for an outright majority in both houses of the 664-member parliament.

With 21 lower house seats on Friday, the tally for NLD stood at 348 seats with 82.9 per cent of the votes confirmed.

Despite Suu Kyi winning the free vote in 1990, the military usurped the power and house arrested her for nearly 20 years.

In the era of hashtags, Twitter handles and Facebook trends, elections battlegrounds have shifted to a new platform. Besides fighting it on the battlefield, elections are also fought on social media platforms.

The new-age trend began with Barack Obama using social media as a strategic weapon for his campaign strategy in 2008. The growing trend of using social media migrated to Myanmar’s neighboring country India in 2014 when Narendra Modi’s online brigade played a crucial role in parliamentary polls.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi efficiently used social media for his electoral campaigns. And the social media platforms did give his candidature a huge boost. Reportedly there were 58 million tweets in 2014 relating to Modi’s campaign.

However, Suu Kyi who is considered a global leader, does not have a Twitter account. In the modern era where social media is on a rampage to help people to create a consensus, Suu Kyi relied on her dynamic personality and her works to garner support from her countrymen.

In the annals of contemporary political struggles, Suu Kyi’s journey to freedom and resurgence of her political career is laudable. Nearly two decades of house imprisonment and frequent crackdown by the ‘junta’, did not deter her from her political journey.  With her able leadership, she proved to be an embodiment of hope and better future.

It is obvious that a person of Suu Kyi’s stature does not need any social media for campaigning. Her traditional way of campaigning was enough to secure a landslide victory. However, as results of the polls poured in, her followers tweeted them, so did some notable global leaders.

While Obama and Modi had to initiate campaigning themselves, Suu Kyi’s enticing works compelled others to tweet from their accounts and congratulate her.

However, Twitter cited security concerns and barred Obama from owning an account. The same may be true for Suu Kyi as she was in a country ravaged by frequent coups, civil wars, and rights violations. Moreover, the reach of internet is poor in Myanmar so campaigning via social media platforms would not have borne satisfactory results.

Furthermore, the people were tired of the autocratic rule and rights violation and the change in power was imminent. Monitored by global watchdogs, the free, fair, election showed that it’s the people who decide the fate of leaders on real platforms and not on virtual ones.

(Picture Courtesy: www.abc.net.au)

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Over 7,000 people granted National Verification Cards (NVC) in Rakhine State of Myanmar

Aung San Suu Kyi has prioritized three main tasks for Rakhine - repatriation of refugees who have crossed over to Bangladesh and providing humanitarian assistance effectively; resettlement and rehabilitation; and bringing development and lasting peace to the region

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Rohingya
Displaced Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine. Wikimedia.

Myanmar, October 29, 2017 : More than 7,000 people have been granted national verification cards (NVC) in Myanmar’s Rakhine since an authentication process started on October 1, authorities said on Sunday.

The process is one of the recommendations proposed by an advisory commission on the state, led by former UN chief Kofi Annan, reports Xinhua news agency.

Using biometric methods for the national identity system, the process is being carried out in areas where stability returned to normalcy, U Aung Min, director of the Rakhine State Immigration and Population Department, said.

National verification process is the first step toward scrutinizing citizenship in accordance with the 1982 Citizenship Law, the officer said, urging local people to hold national verification cards as long as they live in Myanmar under the 1949 and 1951 Union Citizenship Acts.

Meanwhile, Myanmar has formed nine private sector task forces to join the mechanism of Union Enterprises for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development (UEHRD) in Rakhine, chaired by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

ALSO READ UN Report on Rohingya Hunger Crisis Suspended on Order of Myanmar Government

The newly established mechanism aims to allow the government and all local and international organizations to work in all sectors and all strata of society for the development of the state.

Suu Kyi prioritised three main tasks for Rakhine – repatriation of refugees who have crossed over to Bangladesh and providing humanitarian assistance effectively; resettlement and rehabilitation; and bringing development and lasting peace to the region.

The government is also ready to implement a national verification and repatriation process in accordance with agreed criteria set out in a joint statement between foreign ministries of Myanmar and Bangladesh in 1992. (IANS)

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Myanmar’s Rohingya Insurgency issues detailed list of demands this week that struck a far more pragmatic note

A detailed list of demands was issued this week that struck a far more pragmatic note while describing the use of violence in the past as self-defense

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Rohingya
Rohingya refugees collect aid supplies including food and medicine, sent from Malaysia, at Kutupalang Unregistered Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Feb. 15, 2017, VOA

Yangon, March 30, 2017: The Rohingya Muslim insurgency, whose sneak attacks in October killed nine border guard officers in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State, issued a detailed list of demands this week that struck a far more pragmatic note while describing the use of violence in the past as self-defense.

Ata Ullah, the commander of the Faith Movement, now rebranded as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), signed the March 29 list, which has been verified and seems to have been timed to the anniversary of Aung San Suu Kyi’s first year in power. Arakan is another name for Rakhine.

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A new presentation

In a preamble to the 20 demands, the ARSA said it does not associate with any terrorist organizations, eschews attacks against civilians and religious minorities, and wants to state “loud and clear” that its “defensive attacks” are only aimed at the “oppressive Burmese regime.” They said they would support international peacekeeping troops in the state.

Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, won elections in late 2015 and swore in its president, Htin Kyaw, one year ago today. Suu Kyi, barred from the presidency by the 2008 military-drafted constitution, assumed the roles of foreign minister and state counselor. But the military still controls 25 percent of parliament and three key ministries.

By far the most polished and level-headed presentation of the group’s goals, the list stands in stark contrast to grainy YouTube videos posted in the days after the attack, which showed men holding guns and reading off declarations in a forest hideout.

Among other things, the demands include calls for political representation, citizenship rights, access to relief aid, education opportunities, freedom of movement and religion, the return of property, the ability to participate in trade and commercial activities, and the return of Rohingya refugees.

“It’s significant they deny connections to terrorist organizations, deny targeting civilians, and speak mostly of rights-based objectives,” said Matthew Smith, executive director of the NGO Fortify Rights, in an email. “We have no evidence that the group is well-trained, well-financed, or well-organized, but it’s clear they aren’t going anywhere.”

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Muslim insurgencies began in 1940s

Since Myanmar became independent in 1948, Muslim insurgencies in Rakhine have emerged under different political contexts over the decades, a reflection of self-determination sought by members of other faiths and ethnic groups across the country. Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya as one of its many ethnic groups, denies them citizenship and has pushed them out of the political sphere.

The International Crisis Group said in a report last year that the Faith Movement was formed around 2012 after inter-communal violence in Rakhine killed hundreds and sent more than 120,000 Rohingya into IDP camps in the state capital Sittwe, where they remain today. Its leaders are centered in the Rohingya diaspora in Saudi Arabia, the report said.

Accusations of atrocities

As part of the hunt for militants in the wake of the October attacks, Myanmar’s armed forces have been accused of numerous atrocities, including rape and arson. An estimated 1,000 people have been killed.

The government has vehemently denied the more serious of the accusations, but mounting testimonies pushed the United Nations Human Rights Council to green light a fact-finding mission last week. It is not clear whether the U.N. will gain access.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh, and the area of the state where the attacks occurred remains under lockdown except for rare visits and supervised tours.

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A hard line by the Myanmar military

Zaw Htay, a spokesman for the president’s office, did not immediately return requests for comment on the Rohingya demands. But Myanmar’s Commander-in-Chief, Min Aung Hlaing this week gave an indication of how the government will view the demands of the ARSA and the prospect of a U.N. probe.

At the annual Armed Forces Day in the capital Naypyitaw, the general called the Rohingya illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

“We have already let the world know that we don’t have Rohingya in our country,” he said, according to reports of his speech.

Two senior U.N. officials working among the Rohingya refugees said more than 1,000 Rohingya might have been killed during the four-month security operation. However, Myanmar presidential spokesman Zaw Htay has previously said fewer than 100 people had been killed during the operation. (VOA)

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Rakhine Crisis: Myanmar state counselor calls on ASEAN for support

Rakhine is home to roughly 1.1 million stateless Muslim Rohingya who live in squalid refugee camps after being displaced by communal violence with Rakhine Buddhists in 2012

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Rakhine Crisis
Aung San Suu Kyi. Wikimedia
  • Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi on Friday asked member states of a regional economic and security organization for “constructive support” in resolving the Rakhine Crisis
  • Rakhine is home to roughly 1.1 million stateless Muslim Rohingya who live in squalid refugee camps after being displaced by communal violence with Rakhine Buddhists in 2012 that left more than 200 people dead
  • “We are working to build understanding, harmony and trust between communities while standing firm against prejudice, intolerance, and extremism,” Aung San Suu Kyi told the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Oct 04, 2016: Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi on Friday asked member states of a regional economic and security organization for “constructive support” in resolving the Rakhine crisis in the country’s troubled western Rakhine state.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto national leader, is trying to drum up regional support for an advisory commission on Rakhine which she created in late August to review conflict resolution between majority Buddhists and minority Muslim Rohingya in the restive state. It will also look at humanitarian assistance, development issues, and strengthening local institutions.

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Buddhist nationalists and political parties in Rakhine oppose the appointment of three foreigners to the commission, including former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who chairs the body and have called for its disbandment.

“We are working to build understanding, harmony, and trust between communities while standing firm against prejudice, intolerance, and extremism,” Aung San Suu Kyi told the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the body’s Inter-Parliamentary Assembly which is meeting on Sept. 30-Oct. 3 in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw. “In doing so, we ask for the constructive support of our regional neighbors.”

“Progress in every field will not be possible overnight, but we are determined to persevere to bring about positive change in Rakhine state as in other areas of our country affected by conflict,” she said.

Rakhine is home to roughly 1.1 million stateless Muslim Rohingya, considered illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, who face persecution and are denied basic rights, including those of citizenship and freedom of movement. Their plight has drawn condemnation from the international community.

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About 120,000 Rohingya live in squalid refugee camps after being displaced by communal violence with Rakhine Buddhists in 2012 that left more than 200 people dead.

Rakhine Crisis
Emergency food, drinking water and shelter to help people displaced in Rakhine State. Representational image. Wikimedia

The Buddhists and the state’s dominant Arakan National Party (ANP) believe that the three foreign members of the advisory commission will side with the Rohingya and turn the issue into an international one. The commission’s six other members are Myanmar citizens.

Annan, who was heckled by protesters during the commission’s first visit to Rakhine in early September, later told reporters at a press conference in the commercial capital Yangon that the body’s mandate is to provide recommendations to the government on measures for finding solutions to the state’s complex problems in accordance with international standards, and that it will remain “rigorously impartial.”

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The commission must submit a report on its findings to the Myanmar government in 12 months.

A previous investigative committee was formed just after the outbreak of communal violence in 2012, but the suggestions it provided in a subsequent report were not implemented.

(BBG Direct)