Shwe Gas Movement Shwe Gas Campaign Tue, 10 Jan 2012 03:56:41 +0000 en hourly 1 Asian firms shine investing spotlight on Myanmar Tue, 10 Jan 2012 03:54:18 +0000 gloriashwe5764

By Ploy Ten Kate and Yoko Kubota

BANGKOK/TOKYO • As Myanmar emerges from a half century of isolation, Asian companies with high tolerance for risk are sizing up business opportunities in what was once one of Asia’s wealthiest nations.

But “first mover” advantage won’t necessarily count for much.

Shares in Singapore’s Yoma Strategic Holdings Ltd. have more than tripled to four-year highs in the past month after the company said it would develop land north of former capital Yangon into a project known as “Star City” that will include housing estates and shopping malls targeting a new middle class.

Yoma is just one of many Asian companies poised to move following three months of the most dramatic changes in the resource-rich country since the military took power in a 1962 coup in what was then Burma.

“Myanmar is now in everyone’s spotlight,” said Apisak Tantivorawong, president of Thai lender Krung Thai Bank PCL.


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What beckons for Burma in 2012? Tue, 10 Jan 2012 03:40:05 +0000 gloriashwe5764  

Published: 9 January 2012

The past two months have seen a flurry of international activity from Burma, including high-profile visits from George Soros, Hillary Clinton and William Hague (Reuters)

Following British Foreign Secretary William Hague’s visit to Burma last week, speculation is centering on the possibility that 2012 could be the year in which European sanctions are eased, or dropped altogether. Here we get responses to recent developments from three experts on Burma who all acknowledge that change is underway in the country, but for some the events of the past nine months must be even more closely scrutinised.

Sean Turnell, economist with Burma Economic Watch at Macquarie University, Australia

I think when real and irreversible reforms are underway sanctions indeed should be progressively eased, starting with those that have the biggest potential multipliers (i.e., broad import bans, investment, and so on). The last that should be lifted – although these too should be constantly reviewed to make sure the right people are being targeted – are the financial sanctions. We should be focussing upon individuals and entities that were at the heart of the problem through targeted financial sanctions, but de-emphasising some of the broader measures.

I am somewhat hopeful that a program of step-by-step sanctions easing, calibrated against specific reforms, could create a virtuous circle – in which case, sanctions would have proved their efficacy (if perhaps in a different way than people have thought they may have helped induce change).

In reality, I guess determining that these reforms are real is a judgement call. Personally I think something real is underway, but it is still somewhat short I think for sanctions easing, especially from the US. I suspect Europe will be very tempted though. In the meantime, I think everyone, including the US, will be wanting (and, indeed, have done so) to demonstrate a certain goodwill already – a down payment on what reforms can ultimately deliver in terms of international engagement.

Derek Tonkin, former British Ambassador to Thailand and Vietnam and Chairman of Network Myanmar

William Hague’s recent visit had none of the depth and preparation of Hillary Clinton’s. It was light-weight, perfunctory and without substance. Hague had nothing to offer in the way of gestures or confidence-building measures and we are left with the UK’s continuing discouragement of trade, tourism and investment. The UK is still the hard man of Europe. I am only left wondering at the extent to which his visit may have undermined Thein Sein and his reform programme and given comfort (and more) to those opposed to change.

My own view of sanctions is that they have all along been seriously counterproductive. At long last the west is trying to disentangle so-called targeted sanctions from the blocking of development aid so that the IMF, World Bank and ADB can at least provide technical assistance to Burma. There is a chance that EU sanctions could be softened provided there are significant releases of imprisoned political activists before then (Union Day 12 February seems to be the next opportunity) and provided the 1 April by-elections are reasonably free and fair. No doubt quite a debate will take place in Brussels at which the UK is likely to resist any changes unless progress on reform is substantive by then.

The EU is stuck with a complex mish-mash of “restrictive measures” which they have no intention of submitting to any public scrutiny with respect to their relevance or effectiveness. Sooner or later the whole edifice will come tumbling down unless the hard-liners in Naypyidaw – those Aung San Suu Kyi hasn’t met and doesn’t know – get the upper hand and Thein Sein is either replaced or pressurised to take a tougher line on the argument that whatever Burma does, the west will always move the goal posts and ask for more.

My best guess is that the ‘enlightened’ in the EU will prevail over the ‘conservatives’ (UK, Netherlands, Czech Republic) and that the Danes, Swedes and Finns will move out of the conservative camp. David Cameron’s decision to veto any change in the EU Treaty will not inspire support for his position on Burma.

Maung Zarni, visiting fellow at the London School of Economics and founder of the Free Burma Coalition

First off, EU has become a laughing stock because it can’t “manage democracies” among its own members or fix the EU’s economy and institutional and ideological crisis, let alone tell the rest of the world run by variously dodgy governments.

So, if EU is opening an office – effectively a trading post – it’s merely pursuing its own collective interests, if these exist as such, and those of the bureaucrats who run the backbone bureaucracy from their cushy offices in Brussels. Eurocrats have been known to be dying to coddle the Burmese generals, coming up with all kinds of empirically rubbish justifications regarding their (internally promoted) engagement with Naypyidaw. The EU’s point man in Bangkok, David Lippman, has personally lobbied Aung San Suu Kyi to endorse the lifting of EU sanctions, with no apparent success.

It is important to understand that the EU sanctions – officially worded as “EU Common Position” (on Burma/Myanmar) – have exempted French oil and gas interests as well as other mineral extractive sectors from within the EU.

There are so many EU-based European commercial interests – banks, consulting firms, construction firms, credit agencies, insurance companies, venture capitalists, development industry, etc. – which have been beating the drum for the commercial re-penetration of Burma, the place they vacated after the fall of Berlin Wall. Germans have been unashamedly pushing ahead with commercial engagement with Burma, arguing commerce is going to bring Burma closer to democracy and an open society.  They should tell that to the Chinese dissidents and democrats in China.

Now the Brits have a different agenda. They have pursued a schizophrenic Burma policy of quietly building their own local proxies through short-term Chevening Fellowship program, among other mechanisms, which is a premiere propaganda venue of the British government through which scores of free market-enamoured local elites are brought to the UK for crash courses on democracy, marketisation of the economy and NGO-isation of the social sector. All the while it has neutered the political elements by marginalising the genuinely democratic voices, the voices that refuse to be silenced on issues of political prisoners, the plight of Burmese farmers, the military-committed atrocities in the regions of ethnic nationalities.

Along with double proxies (for the regime and for foreign commercial interests), the late Dr Nay Win Maung of Myanmar Egress, for example, most of these clever men and women who more or less toe the British line are wheeled out at British Embassy events in Rangoon or various international venues, as well as for encounters with visiting dignitaries to Burma and presented as “civil society leaders”.  I call this “donor-manufactured civil society”.

There is a revolving door between the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London and British commercial and financial sector. Vicky Bowman, former British Ambassador, now the second in command of External Relations Department at British-owned Rio Tinto, the world’s third largest mining firm and one of the dirtiest corporations, is just one of many examples.

So, I am sure the British Foreign Office which has kept other EU interests at bay from Burma will find justification for making it possible for British firms to pursue their interests in Burma.

It has been the British opposition within the EU which has kept the sanctions in place. Now that the unashamedly pro-market Tories are in power I wouldn’t be surprised if Hague and his senior colleagues will no longer stand in the way of the Germans, Italians, Swedes, etc. in lifting EU sanctions.

EU has never really been serious about democratisation in Burma, or anywhere in the world, most blatantly in places like Palestine where it has long attempted to undermine the democratically elected group because it isn’t pliant enough for western interests.

If William Hague and other have made the time to go to Burma they are primarily motivated by the desire to see how they can creatively promote British interests in Burma and her neighbourhood. Hague has publicly told the Financial Times the FCO’s business is British business – literally and figuratively.

Whatever the public opinion in Burma, or whatever needs to be done to push for change, is immaterial. If the Brits and other EU interests judge now is the time to rush in for the resource and market scramble then it doesn’t matter what I think – or even what Aung San Suu Kyi thinks.

Democratic Voice of  Burma

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Asian firms shine investing spotlight on Myanmar Tue, 10 Jan 2012 03:26:23 +0000 gloriashwe5764

Reuters  Jan 9, 2012 – 1:05 PM ET

By Ploy Ten Kate and Yoko Kubota

BANGKOK/TOKYO • As Myanmar emerges from a half century of isolation, Asian companies with high tolerance for risk are sizing up business opportunities in what was once one of Asia’s wealthiest nations.

But “first mover” advantage won’t necessarily count for much.

Shares in Singapore’s Yoma Strategic Holdings Ltd. have more than tripled to four-year highs in the past month after the company said it would develop land north of former capital Yangon into a project known as “Star City” that will include housing estates and shopping malls targeting a new middle class.

Yoma is just one of many Asian companies poised to move following three months of the most dramatic changes in the resource-rich country since the military took power in a 1962 coup in what was then Burma.

“Myanmar is now in everyone’s spotlight,” said Apisak Tantivorawong, president of Thai lender Krung Thai Bank PCL.


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Myanmar awards onshore oil, gas blocks Mon, 09 Jan 2012 08:50:31 +0000 gloriashwe5764
Volume 31, No. 609
January 9 – 15, 2012

KUALA LUMPUR – Myanmar awarded 10 onshore oil and gas blocks to eight firms in its biggest energy tender in years and is now offering nine offshore blocks, two Yangon-based sources with direct knowledge of the deals told Reuters last week.

The winning firms were mostly from Asia, including Malaysia’s Petronas and Thailand’s PTT Exploration and Production, as Western firms have shied away from the country.

Myanmar has been moving fast to implement political reforms and attract investment, drawing praise from western nations but no easing of sanctions that analysts say may see oil majors miss out on opportunities.

The political opening has gathered pace since the tender closed on August 23, and could see bids from further afield for the next round, with one of the sources saying Japanese firms had shown an interest.

Myanmar failed to strike deals on the remaining eight blocks as these were not seen as lucrative, said the sources, who could not be identified as they are not authorised to speak to the media.

The Ministry of Energy and state-owned Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise are now offering nine offshore blocks, of which five are deepwater. No details were available on the bidders for the offshore blocks.

“The Ministry of Energy has asked for proposals. Some oil and gas companies have come for the data presentations. There has been a lot more interest in the deepwater blocks coming from the Japanese,” said the first source.

Japanese Trade Minister Yukio Edano was due to visit Myanmar on January 12-14 with a business delegation that includes the president of Japan’s top refiner JX Nippon Oil and Energy.

A trade ministry official said the trip would promote cooperation in the energy and mining field, including pushing for investment in oil and natural gas in Myanmar.

Myanmar’s proven gas reserves at 11.8 trillion cubic feet at the end of 2010, or 0.2 percent of the world’s total according to the BP Statistical review, have drawn interest from China and India where resilient economic growth is fuelling energy demand.

Southeast Asian countries are also facing rising demand to use cleaner-burning gas for power generation.

Countries in Southeast Asia bagged the bulk of the awards, led by Petronas and PTT winning two blocks each. Petronas officials were not immediately available for comment. Little known Indonesian firm PT ITSTECH Resources Asia won the rights to explore one block.

Interest from major, state-linked Chinese players was lukewarm, paving the way for lesser-known Tianjin New Highland and Hong Kong-listed EPI Holding to secure a block each, the sources said.

With limited interest from the usually aggressive Chinese resource firms, India’s Jubilant Energy also bagged one production sharing block.

The sources said Switzerland-based Geopetrol International Holdings Inc secured the rights for a marginal oil field. Russian-linked CIS Nobel Oil Company also won a production sharing contract for one oil and gas field.

Myanmar’s aggressive oil and gas pitch to investors comes as western diplomats hold talks with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose political participation is now key for a civilian government hoping to end economic sanctions.

These trade embargoes were put in place over the past two decades due to the country’s poor human rights record under the military junta, leaving the resource rich country poverty stricken.

After a new civilian government took power last year, which in turn initiated talks with Suu Kyi, released political prisoners and reached out to armed ethnic groups, hopes for an unwinding of sanctions have grown. On January 6, British Foreign Secretary William Hague met separately with Myanmar’s government and Suu Kyi, seeking the same reforms and offering similar concessions as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did late last year.

“Myanmar is opening up its country and its oil and gas sector almost in unison with Clinton leading the way,” said Victor Shum, an oil consultant at Purvin & Gertz in Singapore.

“Many western oil majors may take a wait and see approach with this due to the sanctions but in doing so, they could miss the boat,” he added.

The second Yangon-based source said in the event of still weak interest from western and also Chinese oil companies for the deepwater and shallow blocks, Myanmar could fall back on investment from Southeast Asian countries. – Reuters

Myanmar Times


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Another Development Project Canceled Mon, 09 Jan 2012 08:48:26 +0000 gloriashwe5764

U zaw Min, Ministry of Energy 2 called a press conference this morning and announced cancellation of 4000 megawatt coal power plant in Dawei.

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SGM Burmese site now available Mon, 09 Jan 2012 05:04:38 +0000 gloriashwe5764

Shwe Gas Movement’s website is now available in Burmese! The site is available by going to the English website and clicking on the “Burmese Version” Link on the top right hand corner or clicking here (

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SGM featured on U.S. Campaign for Burma Blog Mon, 09 Jan 2012 02:46:43 +0000 gloriashwe5764 Short excerpt:

“Along with his colleagues, Wong Aung, the coordinator at the Shwe Gas Movement spoke to us not only about their concerns and the devastating impacts regarding the construction of the pipelines but also their demands for a more accountable and transparent process involving local stakeholders. For example, prior to the commencement of the project, an environmental feasibility study was performed but was never released to the public for review…”

To read the full post, please click here.

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EU to open office in Myanmar after reforms Fri, 06 Jan 2012 08:29:23 +0000 gloriashwe5764

Thu Jan 5, 2012 1:01pm EST

* Office to open as soon as possible

* EU already reviewing sanctions policy

* More progress sought on human rights

By David Brunnstrom

BRUSSELS, Jan 5 (Reuters) – The European Union will open a representative office in Myanmar to manage aid programmes and promote political dialogue, an EU spokesman said on Thursday.

The move follows the handover of power to a civilian government in Myanmar last year — albeit one stuffed with former military men and backed by the army — and a series of political and economic reforms since then.

Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said an agreement to open the office in Yangon had been reached with the Myanmar government. It would not be a full delegation but would report to the EU ambassador in Bangkok, capital of neighbouring Thailand.

“It will be responsible for management of aid programmes but will also have a political role,” he said. “We will open it as soon as it is administratively possible.”

Last November, the European Union said it was looking at whether reforms in Myanmar could justify the bloc further easing sanctions imposed after bloody military crackdowns on a pro-democracy movement.

It said positive moves by the civilian government since the elections had exceeded expectations but urged the reclusive Asian country to release more dissidents — hundreds of whom remain in detention.

Mann said the EU was still reviewing its policy and looking at what help it might be able to provide to Myanmar, including the possibility of assisting the national Human Rights Commission.

“We are now working on setting up an early contact with our human rights experts here in order to take that forward,” he said.

Sustained political reform in Myanmar could pave the way for an end to stiff economic sanctions and lead to Western investment in oil, gas and other sectors to compete with Myanmar’s neighbours, especially India, Thailand and China.

News of the EU plans came as Britain’s William Hague was making the first visit by a foreign minister from the former colonial power to Myanmar since 1955, before the military takeover in what was known as Burma in 1962.

Hague welcomed a pledge by Myanmar to continue reforms and release more political prisoners, saying such progress, if sustained, would lead to deeper economic and political ties with the West.

His trip follows one late last year by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who also promised concrete support if Myanmar moved faster on political reforms and the release of political prisoners.

Ashton sent her top foreign policy adviser to Myanmar last year, and the EU, in a move to encourage reform, slightly eased sanctions in April by ending travel bans and asset freezes on 24 civilian government officials. (Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Rosalind Russell)


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Norway’s stake in PetroChina causes row Fri, 06 Jan 2012 00:59:27 +0000 gloriashwe5764

Pension fund’s refusal to divest from China National Petroleum Corporation subsidiary despite controversial pipeline in Myanmar causes dismay

Toh Han Shih
Updated on Dec 27, 2011
Analysts and NGOs are dismayed at a refusal by the Government Pension Fund of Norway, Europe’s largest pension fund, to divest from PetroChina, citing a controversial Chinese-built oil and gas pipeline in Myanmar.

“As the second-largest sovereign wealth fund in the world, Norway’s government pension fund is in a powerful position to promote responsible investment in Burma,” according to Shwe Gas Movement, a Myanmese non-governmental organisation. The pension fund manages roughly US$600 billion of assets. “It is shameful that the Norwegian government is endorsing human rights abusers in Burma through the investments of its pension fund,” said the NGO’s Wong Aung.

EarthRights International, an NGO based in the United States and Southeast Asia, described the Norwegian Ministry of Finance’s decision as “a troubling setback for socially responsible investing”.

This month, the finance ministry, which oversees the pension fund, said it would not follow a recommendation by the pension fund’s Council on Ethics to withdraw the fund’s investment in PetroChina, a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), China’s largest state-owned energy company. According to Norges Bank Investment Management, which manages the pension fund on behalf of the finance ministry, as of the end of 2010, the fund owned 0.04 per cent of PetroChina, which is listed in Hong Kong, Shanghai and New York.

The council’s recommendation was based on what it said were the risks of human rights violations arising from CNPC’s construction of a 1,000 kilometre oil and gas pipeline from the Bay of Bengal through Myanmar into southern China. CNPC owns 51 per cent of the US$2.5 billion pipeline project. The Norwegian finance ministry’s reason for not withdrawing from PetroChina is that it is separate from CNPC.

A PetroChina spokesman told the South China Morning Post: “PetroChina does not have any investment in Myanmar. Our parent CNPC has some investments in Myanmar and is involved in the construction of the pipeline.” CNPC did not respond to queries from the Post.

Paul Donowitz, EarthRights campaigns director, said: “As far as I know, this is the first time the Norwegian finance ministry has completely rejected a council recommendation. The Council on Ethics is known as the leading socially responsible investor in the world, so a finding by this body carries great weight with investors, analysts, and the public.”

The Council on Ethics was established by royal decree in 2004 to evaluate whether the pension fund’s investments violated established ethical guidelines.

Based on the council’s recommendations, the finance ministry excludes certain companies from investment by the fund. Currently, 54 companies are excluded from investment, including American firms like Wal-Mart, British firms like BAE Systems, and Singapore Technologies Engineering, according to the council’s 2010 annual report. In 2009, the Norwegian pension fund divested itself of its stake in a Chinese firm, Dongfeng Motor, for supplying trucks to the Myanmese army.

Norway has invested US$3.7 billion in 15 oil companies allegedly linked to human rights abuses in Myanmar’s oil and gas sector, including US$457 million in companies linked to the pipeline including PetroChina, according to an EarthRights report.

“The decision could have more to do with Norway trying to repair its relationship with China after last year’s controversy over the Nobel Peace Prize,” Donowitz said. In May this year, China’s ambassador to Norway, Tang Guoqiang , said the Norwegian government should apologise for awarding the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo if Sino-Norwegian ties were to be repaired. Norway used to be the top supplier of salmon to China, but since that episode in late 2010 Norwegian exports of salmon to China have dropped sharply.

“This pipeline has always been very controversial, so I was surprised Norway’s fund is investing in it,” said Sean Turnell, associate professor at Macquarie University, Australia.

Dr Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a researcher at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, said: “If the Norwegian Ministry of Finance insists on investing in PetroChina, perhaps Norway wants to follow the US in being more relaxed with the Myanmar regime.”

The US has recently been making friendly overtures to the country, which is still under US sanctions. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton went to Myanmar this month, a visit analysts saw as an effort to counterbalance China’s huge economic influence on its southern neighbour.

In March 2009, Beijing signed an agreement with the Myanmese government under which CNPC would build the oil and gas pipeline. After completion in 2013, the pipeline will transport 22 million tonnes of crude oil a year to China.

The Council on Ethics’ report to the Norwegian finance ministry said 44 Myanmese army battalions, comprising 13,000 soldiers, were stationed along the pipeline, villages had been forcibly relocated and land confiscated. The pipeline passes through zones of conflict in northern Myanmar; some 30,000 people have been displaced by fighting in northern Shan state alone this year.

The Shwe Gas Movement alleges that the army is forcing civilians there to work as porters in its fight against separatists near the pipeline. “The deployment of government troops to secure foreign investments in ethnic-minority areas has fuelled conflict and sparked resentment against projects in Myanmar.”

South China Morning Post- link unavailable ]]> 0 Burmese watch increased interest in homeland Thu, 05 Jan 2012 05:36:08 +0000 gloriashwe5764

By Ellie Bogue of The News-Sentinel

With Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent visit to Burma and the release of Democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest earlier this year, it is starting to look as if there could be a thaw in relations between the United States and the country also known as Myanmar, the first in 50 years, and possibly softening the Myanmar military régime.

Fort Wayne has become the home of nearly 6,000 Burmese refugees. Some are beginning to wonder if enough changes will occur to allow them to someday return to their homeland.

Former Indiana U.S. Rep. Mark Souder believes the current interest has to do with competition with China, which is building a major gas and oil pipeline system that will take these natural resources from Burma to China.

Anytime resources are scarce, Souder said, countries will begin jockeying for position. In addition, the U.S. has a strong interest in maintaining a good relationship with India, now a power in the area. China’s pipeline and development of transportation systems throughout the area has been hailed as the new Silk Road.

“This is nothing new,” Souder said. He pointed to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in an effort to get to the Indonesian oil fields, and how even Hitler’s push into Poland was fueled by a need for scarce commodities.

Souder said that with Suu Kyi’s release, Clinton’s visit was a sign the U.S. has noticed a change in its policies.

But he cautioned that the Burmese government has a long way to go before the U.S. will drop sanctions. Burma needs to hold fair, democratic elections, and stick to the results, as well as end its continued war with the rebels in the Chin State and moderate its treatment of political prisoners.

Cho Htoo, a former student who was forced to flee Burma after the 1988 political uprising that brought the ruling junta to power, has been in Fort Wayne since 1998. He said he and many of his friends are skeptical about any change in the Burmese government.

Many of the parliament members are former military leaders, and even if they hold a fair democratic election in 2015, 25 percent of the parliament will still be from the military.

“Until they change the constitution and release the political prisoners, nothing will really change,” Cho Htoo said. Burma still holds 2,073 political prisoners.

He does see it as a small window, a slight moderation in the military government’s hold, and he would like to believe the U.S. is not just showing interest because of China’s development in that area.

“It is not just the United States who is visiting; the ministers of Thailand, Great Britain, Japan and some other countries are also planning visits to Myanmar,” Cho Htoo said.

Thiha Kyi, a refugee who works in financial services and co-produces a Burmese cable-access news program, said it is often difficult to tell what the government in Burma is doing.

“It is hard to predict to them. They are testing the ground for their own safety and total control of the state power.

“Anyhow, Mrs. Clinton’s visit may have had a positive approach to transform the democratization of Burma. They know without changing their policy or involvement of Aung San Suu Kyi, they can not survive for the long run,” Thiha Kyi said.

Thiha Kyi believes the U.S. outlook in that area is broader than just competition with China.

“I think Clinton’s intention is much broader than that. The U.S. is shifting their strategy towards Asia within three years. We can see U.S. alliances with India, Bangladesh and Vietnam and will put U.S. soldiers in Australia. President Obama’s engaging polices (both sticks and carrots) is the main reason that she went to Burma,” Thiha Kyi said.

Kyaw Soe, director of the IPFW New Immigrant Literacy Program, said he is hopeful he’ll be able to travel to his homeland again in his lifetime without fear of arrest.

Soe, a political refugee, came to Fort Wayne in 1993 after being forced to flee his homeland. “I think the change has to come from within,” he said.

He believes the military is split into two factions, the old-school conservative group and the softer, more liberal military, which are looking for reform. Currently there is an internal struggle.

“Yesterday morning Aung San Suu Kyi registered with her party for competing in the election,” Kyaw Soe said.

Before, explained Kyaw Soe, she had refused to participate until the changes made in 2008 to the Burmese constitution were abolished. According to a report to congress from a congressional research group in 2010, five new laws were added to the constitution in what many thought was a fraudulent referendum.

One of the additions was a law on political parties. According to the report, “the law was widely denounced for placing unreasonable restrictions on the participation of many opposition political leaders and Burma’s Buddhist monks and nuns.”

Kyaw Soe said Suu Kyi had refused to register to participate in the 2010 elections, demanding the changes to the constitution be revoked. He thinks she decided to compromise.

“The last time I spoke to her on the phone she told me they were running out of time and they needed to compromise to bring about change,” Kyaw Soe said.

Thiha Kyi said he is not comfortable with her “U-turn” policy. But he was taking a wait-and-see attitude about the outcome.

“At the same time, we need to prepare, in case her mission fails or she is entrapped. She hasn’t much of an option,” Thiha Kyi said.

Kyaw Soe said he had recently spoken to people in the Fort Wayne Burmese community about the current situation in their homeland, and at this time they could not envision going back.

A lot of things would have to change. Rangoon still only has two hours of electricity a day. Many places have no running water or proper sanitation. Few jobs exist and the people continue to be oppressed by the military régime.

After being in Fort Wayne, many people are now used to a higher standard of living. Many children who came here now speak fluent English and very little Burmese. Still others were born here and identify more with American culture.

“A lot of things would have to change; no one trusts the current government. Maybe if Aung San Suu Kyi was prime minister I might think about it,” Kyaw Soe said.

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