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In an exclusive interview with DVB’s Deputy Executive Director Khin Maung Win, President Thein Sein addressed the media’s role in the country’s reform process.
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Burma’s President Thein Sein has told parliament that the government is not responsible for the sentences of 10 years with hard labour handed down to journalists from Unity Weekly last month, saying it was a judicial decision. In a letter, the president said the reporters were accused of breaking national security laws and the matter was dealt with by the courts, not the government. He also stated that he wished to see an independent and ethical media in Burma.
Burmese mountaineering team Thabawa Khawthan, literally “nature’s call”, has announced plans to scale Hkakabo Razi, at 19,000 feet the highest mountain in Southeast Asia and the tri-border point for Burma, India and China. The team says it is hopes to reach the Himalayan peak in Kachin State by the end of August, weather permitting. The first successful expedition to ascend the mountain was led by Japanese climber Takashi Ozaki and Nyima Gyaltsen, a Burmese national Tibetan who hoisted the old Burmese flag on the peak in 1996.
Rumours that the retirement age for Burmese civil servants are to be raised from 60 to 63 are unfounded, Union Civil Service Board Chairman Kyaw Thu told parliament on Thursday in response to an MP’s question. There are currently more than 80 000 retired civil servants in Burma.
Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Communications Maung Toe told parliament on Thursday that 31 out of a total 36 government ministries now have active websites, and an additional 10 union-level organizations are also online. However, several observers have complained that the ministries mostly upload details of their office activities and meetings rather than providing information to the public.
Members of Burma’s Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), a bloc of ethnic leaders undertaking peace negotiations with the central government, convened in Laiza, Kachin State on Thursday to discuss their next steps towards ending the country’s six decades of civil war. The 16-member alliance created a new leading committee of elected representatives to serve as delegates and decision-makers as negotiations become more precise. The NCCT will spend the coming days discussing the latest draft of a nationwide ceasefire agreement, which the government aims to achieve by the end of this year.
Parliamentary Speaker Shwe Mann has called on the Burmese government to take a more considered approach when dealing with the press. He specifically referred to the case of the five Unity journalists, who were charged under Burma’s Official Secrets Act in January and sentenced to ten years with hard labour earlier this month. The sentence sparked domestic and international condemnation, with critics denouncing what they see as a backslide on media reforms. More about this on DVB Bullet Points.
Malaysia's second largest bank CIMB Group is planning to obtain banking licences in Burma and Vietnam, Channel News Asia reported on Wednesday, citing chief executive Nazir Razak who told reporters that CIMB aims to open branches in all Southeast Asian countries by 2015 when a planned partial integration of the ASEAN economies will be completed.
Plans for a railway connecting western Burma’s Arakan coast with Yunnan, China, have been cancelled due to strong public opposition, DPA reported on Wednesday. The agency cited an unnamed official stating that no progress has been made since signing an MoU for the project in 2011, and “Most people view the project as having more disadvantages than advantages". The official added that the Chinese government has made no indication that they will bid for a new contract.