Categories
Misc.

Obama’s State of the Union remarks on Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar

President Obama just finished his State of the Union address.

I Tweeted his remarks about Myanmar and wanted to share them here as well:

Here’s the rest of the passage, for context. You can find the full text and a video of the speech on the New York Times’s site.

We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all. In many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day. So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades: by connecting more people to the global economy and empowering women; by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve and helping communities to feed, power, and educate themselves; by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths; and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation.

Above all, America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom during this period of historic change. I saw the power of hope last year in Rangoon – when Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed an American President into the home where she had been imprisoned for years; when thousands of Burmese lined the streets, waving American flags, including a man who said, “There is justice and law in the United States. I want our country to be like that.”

In defense of freedom, we will remain the anchor of strong alliances from the Americas to Africa; from Europe to Asia. In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy. The process will be messy, and we cannot presume to dictate the course of change in countries like Egypt; but we can – and will – insist on respect for the fundamental rights of all people. We will keep the pressure on a Syrian regime that has murdered its own people, and support opposition leaders that respect the rights of every Syrian. And we will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace. These are the messages I will deliver when I travel to the Middle East next month.

Categories
Misc.

Aung San Suu Kyi Arrives in Thailand

First post about one of the many happenings this week:

Aung San Suu Kyi arrived here in Bangkok last night on her first trip outside Myanmar in 24 years.

The AP has the backstory:

For 24 years, Aung San Suu Kyi was either under house arrest or too fearful that if she left Myanmar, the government would never let her return.

Now, in a sign of how much life there has changed, the democracy activist and long-time political prisoner is resuming world travels, arriving Tuesday night in neighboring Thailand after an 85-minute flight from her homeland.

In a story headlined “Amid Disorganization, Aung San Suu Kyi Visits Thailand,” The New York Times reports:

“We’ll have to play it by ear, I guess,” said Thani Thongphakdi, a spokesman for the Thai Foreign Ministry.

He was referring to the visit of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar’s democracy movement and a newly elected member of Parliament who arrived in Thailand on Tuesday. Ignoring a row of photographers awaiting her, she left the airport quickly without commenting.

A trip outside Myanmar is a personal milestone for Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi — her first journey abroad in 24 years. But planning it appears to have been an afterthought. For example, no one from her office contacted the Thai Foreign Ministry, which normally coordinates such high-profile visits. “As far as I know, we have not been approached by her team,” Mr. Thani said a few hours before she was to land.

The Wall Street Journal says:

During her visit to Thailand, Ms. Suu Kyi will encounter the economic transformation that has changed the face of Bangkok and much of the rest of Southeast Asia during her time in Myanmar, also known as Burma. While Thailand and other neighboring countries have ratcheted up decades of rapid growth, Myanmar remains an impoverished backwater, cut off for years by strict sanctions from the U.S. and European Union and beset by power outages and crumbling infrastructure.

And:

Global business leaders gathering in Bangkok for the World Economic Form meetings will likely seek assurances from Ms. Suu Kyi about doing business in the country and attempt to learn more about what kind of policy agenda she might pursue in Myanmar’s Parliament.

This morning Suu Kyi spoke to a large gathering of migrant workers from Myanmar in Samut Sakhon, outside Bangkok.

For images and text dispatches, see Tweets from Anasuya, Zoe Daniel, and Jonah Fisher.

Particularly memorable is this image, snapped by Zoe:

2012 05 30 assk samut sakhon

(All emphasis mine.)

(Image: Zoe Daniel, on Twitter.)

Categories
Thailand

Thailand News: The Week Ahead

2012 05 29 assk

There’s lots on tap here in Thailand over the next few days:

  1. Aung San Suu Kyi arrives in Bangkok tonight on what will be her first international trip in 24 years. Reuters has a scene-setter. Suu Kyi will be speaking at the World Economic Forum on East Asia, which runs from tomorrow (Wed.) through Friday. Here’s the gathering’s program of events (PDF file).
  2. A verdict is due tomorrow (Wed.) in the lèse-majesté case against Chiranuch “Jiew” Premchaiporn. Al Jazeera has a video report on her case and the lèse-majesté issue. Chiranuch faces 20 years in jail.
  3. The yellow shirts‘ People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), according to The Bangkok Post, will rally tomorrow (Wed.) against the government’s reconciliation bill. The Post says: “The government is confident that this week’s World Economic Forum on East Asia will proceed smoothly despite the spectre of mass street protests…” (For the record, it is unclear how many supporters might turn out for this rally.)
  4. Also tomorrow (Wed.), a five-year ban on 111 ex-Thai Rak Thai politicians expires. Al Jazeera has a story. More on the subject in my next post.
  5. And finally, there’s this: The Bangkok Post says Thailand’s intellectual property department “will submit a letter to the US ambassador in Bangkok voicing its concern over pop princess Lady Gaga’s tweet about buying a fake Rolex in the city.”

Stay tuned…

(Image: Reuters.)

Categories
Misc.

A Few Odds and Ends

2012 05 02 bangkok grocery nyc

Here are some items from the last several days that I wanted to point out, at least belatedly:

  • On Aung San Suu Kyi and reforms in Myanmar:

    The AP provides the context on Aung San Suu Kyi’s parliamentary swearing in today:

    Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was sworn in to Myanmar’s military-backed parliament Wednesday, taking public office for the first time since launching her struggle against authoritarian rule nearly a quarter century ago.

    The opposition leader’s entry into the legislature heralds a new political era in Myanmar, cementing a risky detente between her party and the reformist government of President Thein Sein, which inherited power from the army last year.

    Meanwhile, representatives of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have an op-ed in today’s WSJ headlined “Burma’s Reform Is Still on Parole.”

  • On Chiranuch “Jiew” Premchaiporn:

    The AP says:

    A Thai judge postponed a verdict that had been expected Monday for a webmaster accused of failing to act quickly enough to remove Internet posts deemed insulting to Thailand’s royalty.

    Judge Nittaya Yaemsri said more time was need to process documents in the case, which has drawn global criticism because many see it as an assault on freedom of speech. A new court date was set for May 30.

    Here’s more from the Bangkok Post

  • On David Thomson and Bangkok’s Nahm restaurant:

    Australian Chef David Thompson’s restaurant here in Bangkok, Nahm, has come in at number 50 on the newest list of the “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.”

    (Previously at Newley.com: Here’s an earlier post on Thompson and the issue of foreigners cooking Thai cuisine. And here’s an audio slide show I made about Thompson in 2009.)

  • And finally, speaking of Thai food:

    Thanks to my good friend Dan S. for Tweeting the photo, above, of Bangkok Center Grocery in New York City.

    If you’re interested in the Thai language, you might like to know that the image prompted a a back-and-forth on Twitter, embedded below and on Storify here, about the establishment’s name and its spelling in Thai:

(Image: @NewYorkFitness.)

Categories
Misc.

Aung San Suu Kyi found guilty in Myanmar

The verdict was widely expected, but it was officially announced — after a delay on July 31 — early this afternoon, local time.

Myanmar’s imprisoned pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was pronounced guilty of violating the terms of her detention by allegedly harboring an American well-wisher, John Yettaw, who swam across a lake, uninvited, to her house in May.

Suu Kyi has already spent nearly 14 of the last 20 years under house arrest.

Today’s verdict: She will serve an additional 18 months of detention. This is, technically, a reduced term, as she was initially sentenced to three years of hard labor. (Five minutes after the verdict was announced, Myanmar’s Home Minister issued the reduced sentence.)

Critics will say that this apparent show of clemency amounts to a shrewd political move: Myanmar’s government, which has faced unwanted scrutiny since Yettaw’s strange activities in May, can now argue that they’ve treated Suu Kyi with leniency. And an additional year and a half of detention means that she will be unable to influence elections — dismissed by many as a sham designed to put a civilian face on a military dictatorship — scheduled for 2010.

Of course, activists note that the 64-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate should never have been arrested in the first place. And even if her initial detention were legitimate, surely the guards who were in charge of securing her house should be blamed for Yettaw’s intrusion.

Today I visited the Myanmar embassy here in Bangkok; it was quiet — business as usual. And I spoke with a Burmese activist who works with a group pushing for democracy in Burma. He said the trial verdict is a “slap in the face of the international community,” noting that many parties, over the years, have tried to engage with the government, but all efforts have failed. I also spoke with a representative of Amnesty International; his group has called the verdict “shameful,” and AI says the only resolution is the “immediate and unconditional release” of Suu Kyi.

Here are some additional news reports:

  • AP: “Myanmar’s Suu Kyi returns to house arrest”
  • Reuters: Myanmar’s Suu Kyi ordered back into house detention
  • NY Times: “Pro-Democracy Leader in Myanmar Is Convicted”
  • WSJ: “Suu Kyi Sentenced to 18 Months House Arrest” (And don’t miss their interactive timeline about Suu Kyi’s life.)