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For your monthly Burma (or Myanmar) update and intake of news, have a look at this summary of the most useful reports and opinion pieces about Burma to have been published around the world in the last few weeks.

To begin with, read this poignant piece on the 25-year anniversary of the 1988 riots when peaceful demonstrators were fired on by government troops. In our chaotic world of today, this episode of peaceful protest being met with government force is particularly resonant. Read how the terror unfolded from the view of Dr. Myat Htoo Razak and Dr. Win Zaw.

The violence continued for 10 days – this was life under Dictatorship in Burma.

Next, a discussion on how Intellectual Property Rights will impact the future of development in Myanmar, written in Asia Sentinel Magazine. Here.

A well crafted and intellectual piece arguing that the formation of rigorous and broad, but loose Intellectual Property laws will be most beneficial for a country like Myanmar – in the early stages of technological development. Leniency will increase the chances that local industries will learn from the global multinationals that have begun working in the emerging Myanmar market – the ‘last Asian frontier’. But, it begs the question – will the Myanmar government be brave enough to resist the inevitable pressure from the big global companies for the exact opposite of what is required – stringent IP laws? Of course, MNCs want as little competition as possible and will prefer to keep their technology closely guarded.

Probably the most important recent development concerns the peace settlement and national ceasefire talks between all armed ethnic rebel groups and the National Army of Myanmar. This article from Dr. Maung Zarni, a well-respected dissident blogger and London School of Economics academic, takes an utterly scathing approach to the Government’s motives behind the settlement and the reality behind the so-called peace agreement. Read it here.

The unlikelihood of peace is supported by this report in The Irrawaddy, an excellent Burma news source. The 11 leaders of the different ethnic groups in Burma, under the heading of the United Nationalities Federal Council, met in Chaing Mai in Thailand at the weekend. The meeting was said to have ended in argument with the ethnic leaders determined to change the constitution to include a federal system of government when the second ever elections in Burma take place in 2015.

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Now the news of the first ever interfaith peace agreement in Burma, from the ever reliable Democratic Voice of Burma (good news): Here.

Even the self-styled Buddhist Osama Bin Laden, Monk Wirathu (see video), has signed. Does this signal real change? Hopefully so, but the government must instigate grassroots education to ensure that the peace agreement actually comes to something real. Segregation and ethnic divide is not country-wide and there must be a reason for this.

Action to take: Harness the historic level of friendship between religious communities, especially in Yangon, to boost the likelihood of harmony in the future. There can be no doubting the importance of this move from the Buddhists monks, but the Government must follow suit and lead the calls against religiously motivated violence.

For a bit of depth: A revised UN response plan to the Rakhine crisis has been published, a year on from the beginning of the inter-communal violence between Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya.  The plan has been adapted to include long-term aims. As the report states:

“The Revised Rakhine Response Plan for July 2012 to December 2013 aims at ensuring a smooth transition from the humanitarian phase to early recovery and development. The Plan advocates for durable solutions of peace-building, reconciliation between affected communities, and safe and voluntary return of IDPs to their places of origin.”

 This is a crucial step to ensure long-term peace in the troubled Rakhine area. But the international humanitarian effort must be careful to avoid inadvertently creating segregation between communities with refugee shelters that become permanent residences and a perceived bias in aid distribution. Read it here.

Finally, enjoy a beautiful selection of photos documenting the oft-discriminated and ill-treated Rohingya in North-Western Myanmar, from journalists Matt Rain and Alia Mahboob. The Rohingya are deemed racially inferior and are perceived to be foreigners in their own country because of their religious identity and historic links to the Bengalis. 200 were killed last year and around 140,000 were displaced by Buddhist extremists.

‘The Rohingya – a forgotten people’ is a portrait of a group shut off from the world and well worth a look.

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