Friday, November 20, 2009

Corruption threatens global economic recovery, greatly challenges countries in conflict

Berlin, 17 November 2009

As the world economy begins to register a tentative recovery and some nations continue to wrestle with ongoing conflict and insecurity, it is clear that no region of the world is immune to the perils of corruption, according to Transparency International’s 2009 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), a measure of domestic, public sector corruption released today.

“At a time when massive stimulus packages, fast-track disbursements of public funds and attempts to secure peace are being implemented around the world, it is essential to identify where corruption blocks good governance and accountability, in order to break its corrosive cycle” said Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International (TI).

The vast majority of the 180 countries included in the 2009 index score below five on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 10 (perceived to have low levels of corruption). The CPI measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption in a given country and is a composite index, drawing on 13 different expert and business surveys. The 2009 edition scores 180 countries, the same number as the 2008 CPI.

Fragile, unstable states that are scarred by war and ongoing conflict linger at the bottom of the index. These are: Somalia, with a score of 1.1, Afghanistan at 1.3, Myanmar at 1.4 and Sudan tied with Iraq at 1.5. These results demonstrate that countries which are perceived as the most corrupt are also those plagued by long-standing conflicts, which have torn apart their governance infrastructure.

When essential institutions are weak or non-existent, corruption spirals out of control and the plundering of public resources feeds insecurity and impunity. Corruption also makes normal a seeping loss of trust in the very institutions and nascent governments charged with ensuring survival and stability.

Countries at the bottom of the index cannot be shut out from development efforts. Instead, what the index points to is the need to strengthen their institutions. Investors and donors should be equally vigilant of their operations and as accountable for their own actions as they are in demanding transparency and accountability from beneficiary countries.

“Stemming corruption requires strong oversight by parliaments, a well performing judiciary, independent and properly resourced audit and anti-corruption agencies, vigorous law enforcement, transparency in public budgets, revenue and aid flows, as well as space for independent media and a vibrant civil society,” said Labelle. “The international community must find efficient ways to help war-torn countries to develop and sustain their own institutions.”

Highest scorers in the 2009 CPI are New Zealand at 9.4, Denmark at 9.3, Singapore and Sweden tied at 9.2 and Switzerland at 9.0. These scores reflect political stability, long-established conflict of interest regulations and solid, functioning public institutions.

Overall results in the 2009 index are of great concern because corruption continues to lurk where opacity rules, where institutions still need strengthening and where governments have not implemented anti-corruption legal frameworks.

Even industrialised countries cannot be complacent: the supply of bribery and the facilitation of corruption often involve businesses based in their countries. Financial secrecy jurisdictions, linked to many countries that top the CPI, severely undermine efforts to tackle corruption and recover stolen assets.

“Corrupt money must not find safe haven. It is time to put an end to excuses,” said Labelle. “The OECD’s work in this area is welcome, but there must be more bilateral treaties on information exchange to fully end the secrecy regime. At the same time, companies must cease operating in renegade financial centres.”

Bribery, cartels and other corrupt practices undermine competition and contribute to massive loss of resources for development in all countries, especially the poorest ones. Between 1990 and 2005, more than 283 private international cartels were exposed that cost consumers around the world an estimated US $300 billion in overcharges, as documented in a recent TI report.

With the vast majority of countries in the 2009 index scoring below five, the corruption challenge is undeniable. The Group of 20 has made strong commitments to ensure that integrity and transparency form the cornerstone of a newfound regulatory structure. As the G20 tackles financial sector and economic reforms, it is critical to address corruption as a substantial threat to a sustainable economic future. The G20 must also remain committed to gaining public support for essential reforms by making institutions such as the Financial Stability Board and decisions about investments in infrastructure, transparent and open to civil society input.

Globally and nationally, institutions of oversight and legal frameworks that are actually enforced, coupled with smarter, more effective regulation, will ensure lower levels of corruption. This will lead to a much needed increase of trust in public institutions, sustained economic growth and more effective development assistance. Most importantly, it will alleviate the enormous scale of human suffering in the countries that perform most poorly in the Corruption Perceptions Index.

To view the CPI 2009 Table click here.


Transparency International is the global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption.
Media contact(s):
Gypsy Guillén Kaiser
+49 30 34 38 20 19 or + 49 30 34 38 20 662

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

ယြမ္ေငြႏွင့္ တ႐ုတ္-အေမရိကန္ ကုန္သြယ္မႈ ျပႆနာ


ဂလုိဘယ္လုိက္ေဇးရွင္းေခတ္လုိ႔ ေခၚဆုိတဲ့ နယ္ျခားမဲ့ ကမၻာ့ကုန္သြယ္မႈနဲ႔ စီးပြားေရးဆုိင္ရာ ကူးလူးဆက္ဆံေရး ကြန္ယက္စနစ္ ေခတ္ၾကီးအတြင္းမွာ ႏုိင္ငံေတြရဲ႕ ေငြေၾကးဆုိင္ရာ မူဝါဒေတြဟာ ကမၻာ့စီးပြားေရးကုိ ဘယ္လုိ လာေရာက္ထိခုိက္ႏုိင္လာမလဲဆုိတဲ့ အေတြးအျမင္ကုိ စီးပြားေရးပညာရွင္ အေတာ္မ်ားမ်ားက ေရးသားခဲ့ပါတယ္။

ဒီေဆာင္ပါးမွာေတာ့ နယ္ျခားမဲ့ ကမၻာ့ကုန္သြယ္မႈနဲ႔ စီးပြားေရးဆုိင္ရာ ကူးလူးဆက္ဆံေရး ကြန္ယက္စနစ္အတြင္း ျဖစ္ေပၚေနတဲ့ ေဒၚလာနဲ႔ ယြမ္ေငြ အတက္အက်ေၾကာင့္ ကမၻာ့စီးပြားေရးကုိ ဘယ္လုိ ထိခုိက္သြားေနလဲဆုိတဲ့ အေမရိကန္ စီးပြားေရး ပညာရွင္ ႏွစ္ဦးရဲ႕ သုံးသပ္ခ်က္ေတြကုိ တင္ျပသြားပါမယ္။

၂၀၀၈ ခုႏွစ္မွာ စီးပြားေရး ႏုိဘယ္ဆုရရွိခဲ့တဲ့ အေမရိကန္ ႏုိင္ငံသား ေပါခ႐ူမန္ (Paul Krugman) နဲ႔ အေမရိကန္ အစုိးရမွာ စီးပြားေရးနဲ႔ ကုန္သြယ္မႈဆုိင္ရာ အၾကီးအကဲေဟာင္းအျဖစ္ တာဝန္ထမ္းေဆာင္ခဲ့တဲ့ ပါေမာကၡ ပီတာေမာရီစီ (Peter Morici) တုိ႔က တ႐ုတ္ေငြေၾကး ယြမ္ကုိ တန္ဖုိးေလွ်ာ့ခ်ေအာင္ ၾကိဳးစားေနတဲ့ တ႐ုတ္အစုိးရရဲ႕ ေငြေၾကးဆုိင္ရာ ထိန္းခ်ဳပ္မႈ မူဝါဒဟာ ကမၻာ့ကုန္သြယ္ေရးမွာ အခက္အခဲေတြ၊ စီးပြားေရးဖြံ႔ၿဖိဳးမႈ ေႏွးေကြးမႈေတြကုိ ျဖစ္ေပၚလာေစႏုိင္ေၾကာင္း သတင္းစာေတြထဲမွာ သတိေပး ေရးသားလုိက္ပါတယ္။

၂၀၀၇ ခုႏွစ္ ဒီဇင္ဘာလက စတင္ၿပီး ကမၻာ့စီးပြားေရး ဆုတ္ယုတ္မႈနဲ႔ ရင္ဆုိင္ခဲ့ရၿပီးေနာက္ ဘာလင္၊ တုိက်ဳိ၊ ဘန္ေကာက္၊ နယူးေဒလီ စတဲ့ ကမၻာ့ေငြေၾကးေစ်းကြက္ေတြမွာ ေငြေၾကးႏႈန္း ျပန္လည္တုိးျမႇင့္ခဲ့ၿပီး၊ ေဒၚလာေငြေစ်းႏႈန္း က်ဆင္းသြားခဲ့ပါတယ္။ ေဒၚလာေစ်းႏႈန္း က်ဆင္းခဲ့မႈေၾကာင့္ ေရနံစိမ္းေစ်းႏႈန္းေတြ ျမင့္တက္ခဲ့ေပမယ့္၊ တ႐ုတ္အစုိးရကေတာ့ ယြမ္ေငြ တန္ဖုိးကုိ ဆက္လက္ေလွ်ာ့ခ် ထိန္းခ်ဳပ္ေနတာေၾကာင့္ ကမၻာ့ေငြေၾကး ေစ်းကြက္စံနစ္ထက္ ကုိယ္က်ိဳးကာကြယ္ေရး ေငြေၾကးဆုိင္ရာ မူဝါဒကုိ က်င့္သုံးေနတယ္လုိ႔ ကမၻာ့စီးပြားေရး ပညာရွင္ေတြက ေထာက္ျပခဲ့ၾကတယ္။


တ႐ုတ္နဲ႔ ကုန္သြယ္ေနတဲ့ ႏုိင္ငံေတြမွာ တ႐ုတ္ ယြမ္ေငြေၾကာင့္ ကုန္သြယ္မႈေတြမွာ လုိေငြျပလာခဲ့ပါတယ္။ ႏုိင္ငံျခား တုိင္းျပည္ေတြကေန ကုန္ပစၥည္းေတြဟာ တ႐ုတ္ႏုိင္ငံဆီကုိ တင္ပုိ႔ေရာင္းခ်မႈ ေလ်ာ့နည္းလာေစၿပီး၊ တ႐ုတ္နဲ႔ ကုန္သြယ္ေနတဲ့ ႏုိင္ငံေတြမွာ ကုန္ပစၥည္းထုတ္လုပ္မႈ သိသာစြာ ေလ်ာ့က်လာေစခဲ့တယ္လုိ႔ ေထာက္ျပၾကပါတယ္။ တ႐ုတ္နဲ႔ ကုန္သြယ္တဲ့ ႏုိင္ငံေတြမွာ ကုန္ထုတ္လုပ္မႈ ေလ်ာ့က်လာခဲ့ျခင္း၊ အလုပ္လက္မဲ့ တုိးျမင့္လာျခင္း၊ ဝယ္လုိအား က်ဆင္းလာျခင္း စတာေတြေၾကာင့္ ကမၻာ့စီးပြားေရး ျပန္လည္နာလန္ထူလာႏုိင္ဖုိ႔ အေတာ္ၾကာေနလိမ့္ဦးမယ္လုိ႔ ပညာရွင္ႏွစ္ဦးက ေဟာကိန္းထုတ္ ေျပာဆုိခဲ့ၾကပါတယ္။

အျပန္အလွန္ အက်ဳိးသက္ေရာက္မႈအရ တ႐ုတ္အစုိးရရဲ႕ ေငြေၾကးတန္ဖုိး ေလွ်ာ့ခ်မႈ မူဝါဒဟာ တ႐ုတ္ႏုိင္ငံရဲ႕ ထုတ္ကုန္တင္ပုိ႔မႈ (Exports) ကုိ ေလ်ာ့က်လာေစႏုိင္တာေၾကာင့္ တ႐ုတ္ႏုိင္ငံရဲ႕ စီးပြားေရးကုိ ျပန္လည္ၿပီး ထိခုိက္လာေစမွာျဖစ္ေၾကာင္းနဲ႔ ဒီအခ်က္ကုိ တ႐ုတ္အစုိးရအေနနဲ႔ အေလးအနက္ စဥ္စားသင့္ေၾကာင္း သတိေပး ေရးသားခဲ့ၾကပါတယ္။ တကမၻာလုံး စီးပြားေရးကုိ အႏၲရာယ္ က်ေရာက္ေစႏုိင္တဲ့ ေငြတန္ဖုိးေလွ်ာ့ခ်တဲ့ ေငြေၾကးဆုိင္ရာ ထိန္းခ်ဳပ္မႈ မူဝါဒကုိ စီးပြားေရးပုံစံအရ ကစားမႈမ်ဳိး တ႐ုတ္အစုိးရအေနနဲ႔ မျပဳလုပ္သင့္ေၾကာင္း အၾကံေပးခဲ့ၾကပါတယ္။

လက္ရွိ တ႐ုတ္ ယြမ္ေငြတန္ဖုိး ေလွ်ာ့ခ်တဲ့ စီးပြားေရးေငြေၾကးဆုိင္ရာ မူဝါဒေၾကာင့္ အေမရိကန္ အပါအဝင္ ဥေရာပႏုိင္ငံေတြ၊ အိမ္နီးခ်င္းႏုိင္ငံေတြနဲ႔ စီးပြားေရးကုန္သြယ္မႈမွာ တ႐ုတ္ႏုိင္ငံက ပုိေငြ (Surplus) ျပသေနေပမယ့္၊ ဒီႏုိင္ငံေတြမွာေတာ့ ကုန္သြယ္မႈ လုိေငြ (Deficit) ေတြ ျပသေနေၾကာင္းနဲ႔ ႏုိင္ငံျခား သြင္းကုန္ပစၥည္းေတြ တ႐ုတ္ႏုိင္ငံမွာ ေရာင္းခ်တဲ့အခါ တန္ဖုိးၾကီးလာေစမႈေၾကာင့္ တင္သြင္းေရာင္းခ်မႈ ေလ်ာ့နည္းလာေစခဲ့ေၾကာင္း ပညာရွင္ႏွစ္ဦးက ေထာက္ျပပါတယ္။

၂၀၀၀ -၂၀၀၉ စီးပြားေရး ဆုိင္ရာ အညႊန္းၿပ ကိန္းဂဏန္း အခ်က္အလက္မ်ား

မၾကာေသးခင္က ထုတ္ျပန္ခဲ့တဲ့ အေမရိကန္-တ႐ုတ္ ႏွစ္ႏုိင္ငံ ကုန္သြယ္ေရး စာရင္း အစီရင္ခံခ်က္အရ အေမရိကန္နဲ႔ တ႐ုတ္ကုန္သြယ္မႈမွာ ၂ဝဝဝ ခုႏွစ္တုန္းက တ႐ုတ္ႏုိင္ငံဟာ ပုိေငြ (Surplus) ၂၈ ဘီလီယံ ရွိခဲ့ၿပီး၊ အေမရိကန္ကေတာ့ ၄၂၂ ဘီလီယံ လုိေငြ (Deficit) ျပခဲ့ပါတယ္။ ဒါေပမဲ့ ၂၀၀၉ ခုႏွစ္မွာ တ႐ုတ္က ပုိေငြ (Surplus) ၂၆၇ ဘီလီယံနဲ႔ အေမရိကန္က လိုေငြ ၈၅၃ ဘီလီယံ (Deficit) ျပခဲ့ေၾကာင္း ေဖာ္ျပထားပါတယ္။

၂၀၀၀ ခုႏွစ္မွာ တ႐ုတ္အစုိးရ လက္ထဲမွာ အရန္ထားရွိတဲ့ ႏုိင္ငံျခားေငြေၾကး ပမာဏဟာ ၁၆၆ ဘီလီယံ ရွိခဲ့ၿပီး၊ အေမရိကန္ အစုိးရမွာေတာ့ ၃၁ ဘီလီယံပဲ ရွိခဲ့တယ္။ ၂၀၀၉ ခုႏွစ္မွာ တ႐ုတ္အစုိးရ လက္ထဲမွာ ႏုိင္ငံျခား အရန္ေငြေၾကး ၂.၂၇၃ ထီြလီယံအထိ တုိးျမင့္လာၿပီး၊ အေမရိကန္အစုိးရ လက္ထဲမွာေတာ့ ႏုိင္ငံၿခား အရန္ေငြေၾကးဟာ ၂၀၀၉ ခုႏွစ္ ေအာက္တုိဘာလမွာ ၄၇ ဘီလီယံပဲ ရွိခဲ့ပါတယ္။

တ႐ုတ္အစုိးရရဲ႕ အရန္ထားရွိတဲ့ ႏုိင္ငံျခားေငြေၾကးရဲ႕ အမ်ားစုဟာ အေမရိကန္ အစုိးရက အာမခံထားရွိၿပီး ေခ်းယူထားတဲ့ ေငြေခ်းလတ္မွတ္ေတြ ျဖစ္ပါတယ္။ အေမရိကန္က တ႐ုတ္ႏုိင္ငံဆီကုိ ျပန္ဆပ္ဖုိ႔ အေၾကြး ဘီလီယံ ၈ဝဝ ေက်ာ္ ရွိေနတယ္။ အေမရိကန္က တႏွစ္ကုိ ဘီလီယံ ၅၀ အတုိးေငြကုိ ျပန္ဆပ္မယ္လုိ႔လည္း ကတိျပဳထားခဲ့ပါတယ္။ ဒါေပမဲ့လည္း အေမရိကန္ ရင္ဆုိင္ေနရတဲ့ စီးပြားေရး ျပႆနာေတြ၊ ဘ႑ာေရး လုိေငြျပသေနမႈေၾကာင့္ တ႐ုတ္အစုိးရက သူတုိ႔ေခ်းေငြေတြကုိ ျပန္ရရွိဖုိ႔ စုိးရိမ္မကင္း ျဖစ္ေနပါတယ္။

၂၀၀၀ ခုႏွစ္မွာ တ႐ုတ္ႏုိင္ငံရဲ႕ ကုန္ထုတ္လုပ္မႈ (GDP) ဟာ ၁.၂ ထီြလီယံရွိခဲ့ၿပီး၊ အေမရိကန္ရဲ႕ ကုန္ထုတ္လုပ္မႈဟာ ၉.၈ ထြီလီယံရွိခဲ့ပါတယ္။ ၂၀၀၉ ခုႏွစ္မွာ တ႐ုတ္ႏုိင္ငံ ကုန္ထုတ္လုပ္မႈ (GDP) ဟာ ၄.၃ ထြီလီယံနဲ႔ အေမရိကန္ႏုိင္ငံရဲ႕ ကုန္ထုတ္လုပ္မႈဟာ ၁၄.၂ ထြီလီယံ ရွိခဲ့ေၾကာင္း ကုန္သြယ္မႈဆုိင္ရာ အစီရင္ခံစာထဲမွာ ေဖာ္ျပထားပါတယ္။

တ႐ုတ္ႏုိင္ငံမွာ ဘီလီယံနာ ခ်မ္းသာသူဦးေရဟာ ၈ ဦးကေန ၂၀၀၉ ခုႏွစ္မွာ ၇၉ ဦးအထိ တုိးလာခဲ့ေပမယ့္၊ အေမရိကန္မွာေတာ့ ဘီလီယံနာ ၂၉၈ ဦး ရွိရာကေန ၃၅၉ ဦးပဲ ရွိခဲ့လုိ႔ ဘီလီယံနာ ခ်မ္းသာသူဦးေရဟာ အေမရိကန္မွာ ၂၀ ရာခုိင္ႏႈန္းသာ တုိးတက္ခဲ့တာ ေတြ႔ခဲ့ရပါတယ္။ ၂၀၀၀ ခုႏွစ္မွာ ကမၻာ့ကုမၸဏီၾကီးေပါင္း ၅၀၀ မွာ တ႐ုတ္ႏုိင္ငံမွ ကုမၸဏီၾကီး ၈ ခု၊ အေမရိကန္ ကုမၸဏီေပါင္း ၁၈၀ အမည္စာရင္းထဲမွာ ပါဝင္ခဲ့ပါတယ္။ ဒါေပမဲ့ ၂၀၀၉ ခုႏွစ္မွာေတာ့ တ႐ုတ္ကုမၸဏီၾကီး ၃၇ ခု၊ အေမရိကန္ ကုမၸဏီၾကီး ၁၄၀ စာရင္းထဲ ေဖာ္ျပျခင္း ခံခဲ့ရတယ္။

ေငြေၾကးထိမ္းခ်ဳပ္မႈေၾကာင့္ ျဖစ္ေပၚလာမည့္ ကုန္သြယ္မႈ ဆုိင္ရာ ျပႆနာမ်ား

အျပည္ျပည္ဆုိင္ရာ ေငြေၾကးရန္ပုံေငြအဖြဲ႔ (I.M.F) ၊ အာရွႏုိင္ငံေတြ အပါအဝင္ ႏုိင္ငံတကာ အစုိးရေတြက လက္ရွိ ရင္ဆုိင္ေနရတဲ့ ကမၻာ့စီးပြားေရး အက်ပ္အတည္းကေန ျပန္လည္နာလန္ထူလာေအာင္နဲ႔ ေဒသတြင္း ကုန္သြယ္မႈ ဖြံ႔ၿဖိဳးလာေစဖုိ႔ တ႐ုတ္ယြမ္ေငြကုိ တန္ဖုိးျမႇင့္ေပးဖုိ႔ ဖိအားေပးေနေပမယ့္၊ တ႐ုတ္အစုိးရကေတာ့ သူ႔ႏုိင္ငံအတြင္း စီးပြားေရး ဦးေမာ့လာတဲ့အထိ ဆက္လက္တင္းခံဖုိ႔ ရွိေနပါတယ္။ ဒီလုိသာ တင္းခံဦးမယ္ဆုိရင္ ႏုိင္ငံတကာ ကုန္သြယ္မႈမွာ အဟန္႔အတား၊ တားဆီးပိတ္ပင္မႈေတြကုိ ရင္ဆုိင္လာရႏုိင္ပါတယ္။

ခ်မွတ္လာမယ့္ ကုိယ္က်ဳိးကာကြယ္ေရး စီးပြားေရး မူဝါဒေတြေၾကာင့္ ဖြ႔ံၿဖိဳးဆဲႏုိင္ငံေတြအတြက္ စီးပြားေရး တုိးတက္မႈေတြ ေႏွးေကြးလာႏုိင္ပါတယ္။ မဖြ႔ံၿဖိဳးေသးတဲ့ ႏုိင္ငံငယ္ေတြအတြက္ စီးပြားေရး၊ ႏုိင္ငံေရး ျပႆနာေတြနဲ႔ ရင္ဆုိင္လာရလိမ့္မယ္လုိ႔ ကမၻာ့စီးပြားေရး ပညာရွင္ေတြက သုံးသပ္ထားၾကပါတယ္။ ဒါေပမဲ့ ကုန္သြယ္မႈမွာ ေငြေစ်းႏႈန္း ကုိက္ညီေအာင္ မထားရွိႏုိင္၊ မေျဖရွင္းႏုိင္ခဲ့ျခင္းေၾကာင့္ တ႐ုတ္ႏုိင္ငံအေပၚ ကုန္သြယ္ေရး ပိတ္ဆုိ႔မႈခံရလုိ႔ ၂၀၀၅ -၂၀၀၈ ခုႏွစ္ကာလမွာ တ႐ုတ္အစုိးရက ယြမ္းေငြတန္ဖုိးကုိ ၁၇ ရာခုိင္ႏႈန္း တုိးျမႇင့္ေပးခဲ့ဖူးပါတယ္။

ယြမ္ေငြႏွင့္ တ႐ုတ္-ျမန္မာ ႏွစ္ႏုိင္ငံ ကုန္သြယ္မႈ တေစ့တေစာင္း

ပမာဏ အလြန္ၾကီးမားတဲ့ အေမရိကန္-တ႐ုတ္ ကုန္သြယ္မႈမွာ ယြမ္ေငြေၾကးတန္ဖုိး အတက္အက်က ႏွစ္ႏုိင္ငံ ကုန္သြယ္မႈနဲ႔ ကမၻာ့စီးပြားေရး ကုန္သြယ္မႈေတြကုိပါ အဟန္႔အတား၊ အတားအဆီးေတြ၊ ျပႆနာေတြကုိ ျဖစ္ေပၚလာေစႏုိင္သလုိ နယ္ျခားမဲ့ ကမၻာ့ကုန္သြယ္မႈနဲ႔ စီးပြားေရးဆုိင္ရာ ကူးလူးဆက္ဆံေရး ကြန္ယက္စနစ္မွာ ဒီယြမ္ေငြတန္ဖုိး အတက္အက်ဟာလည္း အိမ္နီးခ်င္း ႏုိင္ငံေတြျဖစ္တဲ့ တ႐ုတ္-ျမန္မာ စီးပြားေရးနဲ႔ ကုန္သြယ္မႈေတြကုိပါ သက္ေရာက္ေနပါတယ္။

တ႐ုတ္-ျမန္မာ နယ္စပ္ကုန္သြယ္မႈမွာ တ႐ုတ္ေငြေစ်းကို ေျပာရမယ္ဆိုရင္ေတာ့ ေစ်းႏႈန္းဟာ ေန႔စဥ္နဲ႔အမွ် အေျပာင္းအလဲ ရွိေနတတ္ပါတယ္။ ေန႔စဥ္ဆိုတဲ့ ေနရာမွေတာင္ တရက္ထဲမွာတင္ အခ်ိန္မေရြး ေျပာင္းလဲေနတတ္ပါတယ္။ အုိလံပစ္လုိ ပြဲေတာ္ေတြ၊ ႏွစ္သစ္ကူးပိတ္ရက္ေတြမွာ ေငြေစ်းအတက္အက် အၿမဲရွိတတ္ပါတယ္။ ဒီလုိအခ်ိန္အခါေတြမွာ တ႐ုတ္ထုတ္ကုန္ေတြကုိ ႏုိင္ငံျခားကုိ တင္ပုိ႔ေလ့ရွိျခင္း၊ ႏုိင္ငံျခားသြင္းကုန္ေတြကုိ တ႐ုတ္ျပည္ဆီ မဝင္ႏုိင္ေအာင္ ဟန္႔တာမႈမ်ဳိး ျပဳေလ့ရွိပါတယ္။ ဆုိလုိတာက ေငြေၾကး အတက္အက်နဲ႔ ကုန္သြယ္မႈကုိ ထိန္းခ်ဳပ္ေစျခင္းပါ။

၂၀၀၈ ခုႏွစ္ တ႐ုတ္အစုိးရက တရားဝင္ ထုတ္ျပန္တဲ့ ကုန္သြယ္မႈ စာရင္းဇယားအရ တ႐ုတ္-ျမန္မာ ကုန္သြယ္မႈ ပမာဏဟာ စုစုေပါင္း ၂.၆၂၆ ဘီလီယံရွိခဲ့ၿပီး၊ တ႐ုတ္ဘက္က တင္ပုိ႔ကုန္ ပမာဏကေတာ့ ၁.၉၇၈ ဘီလီယံေတာင္ ရွိခဲ့တယ္လုိ႔ ေဖာ္ျပခဲ့ပါတယ္။ တ႐ုတ္ရဲ႕ ကုန္ပစၥည္းေတြသာ ျမန္မာႏုိင္ငံေစ်းကြက္မွာ ေရာင္းခ်ႏုိင္ခဲ့ၿပီး၊ ယြမ္ေငြတန္ဖုိးေၾကာင့္ ျမန္မာႏုိင္ငံက တင္ပုိ႔ကုန္ နည္းပါးခဲ့ပါတယ္။

ျမန္မာႏုိင္ငံမွာ ေငြေၾကးစနစ္ ခုိင္မာမႈ မရွိျခင္း၊ ပုိ႔ကုန္ အရည္အေသြး ျမင့္မားမႈ မရွိသေရြ႔လည္း တ႐ုတ္-ျမန္မာ ႏွစ္ႏုိင္ငံ ကုန္သြယ္မႈမွာ အမ်ားၾကီး ကြာဟာမႈ ရွိေနပါလိမ့္မယ္။ ဒါ့အျပင္ တ႐ုတ္အစုိးရ၏ ယြမ္ေငြတန္ဖုိး ထိန္းခ်ဳပ္ေနမႈေၾကာင့္လည္း ႏွစ္ႏုိင္ငံ ကုန္သြယ္မႈမွာ လုိေငြျပေနမႈ ႏွစ္အတန္ၾကာ ရွိေနခဲ့ပါတယ္။ တ႐ုတ္ႏုိင္ငံအစုိးရဟာ အိမ္နီးခ်င္းႏုိင္ငံေတြနဲ႔ ကုန္သြယ္မႈ ျပဳရာမွာလည္း ေငြေၾကးတန္ဖုိး အတက္အက်ကုိ လုိသလုိ ထိန္းခ်ဳပ္ၿပီး ကုိယ္က်ဳိးစီးပြားၾကည့္ကာ ကုန္သြယ္မႈ ျပဳေလ့ရွိပါတယ္။

လက္ေတြ႔က်က်၊ အေျမာ္အျမင္ရွိရွိ အေျဖရွာျခင္း မရွိ၊ အက်ဳိးတူ ႏွစ္ႏုိင္ငံ ပူးေပါင္းေဆာင္ရြက္မႈ မရွိ၊ ထင္သာျမင္သာတဲ့ ခုိင္မာတဲ့ ေငြေၾကးစနစ္ မရွိ၊ ပြင့္လင္းလြတ္လပ္မႈ ရွိတဲ့ ႏုိ္ငံေရး၊ စီးပြားေရးစနစ္ မရွိသေရြ႔ တ႐ုတ္-ျမန္မာ နယ္စပ္ကုန္သြယ္မႈမွာလည္း ျမန္မာႏုိင္ငံဘက္က ဆက္ၿပီး လုိေငြျပေနပါလိမ့္မယ္။

(ေဆာင္းပါးရွင္ ျမတ္စုိးသည္ ၂၀၀၆ ခုႏွစ္တြင္ အေမရိကန္ႏုိင္ငံ အင္ဒီယားနားတကၠသုိလ္မွ စီးပြားေရး စီမံခန္႔ခြဲအုပ္ခ်ဳပ္မႈ ဘာသာရပ္ျဖင့္ မဟာဝိဇၨာဘြဲ႔ ရရွိခဲ့သည္။)


- ေပါခရူမန္၊ “World Out of Balance” ၊ နယူးေယာက္တုိင္းမ္စ္၊ ႏုိင္ဝင္ဘာ ၁၅. ၂၀၀၉။
- ပါေမာကၡ ပီတာေမာရီစီ၊ “China’s yuan, not the dollar, is too cheap”၊ ႐ုိက္တာ၊ ႏုိဝင္ဘာ ၁၅ .၂၀၀၉။
- အျပည္ျပည္ဆုိင္ရာ ေငြေၾကးရန္ပုံေငြ အဖြဲ႔ (I.M.F) အစီရင္ခံစာ။

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Monday, November 16, 2009

'I see China's future in you

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Obama tells Myanmar junta to free Suu Kyi

Associated Press Writer

SINGAPORE – President Barack Obama on Sunday told Myanmar's junta to free pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi during an unusual face-to-face interaction with a top leader of the ruling military.

Obama delivered the strong message during his summit with leaders of 10 Southeast Asian nations, which included Myanmar Prime Minister Gen. Thein Sein.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that Obama called on Myanmar to free his fellow Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, and end oppression of minorities.

"Obama brought that up directly with that government," Gibbs said, indicating that the president addressed Thein Sein.

For decades, Western governments have avoided direct contacts with leaders of Myanmar because of the regime's poor human rights record and suppression of democracy.

A joint statement issued after the summit — the first ever between a U.S. president and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — devoted a paragraph on Myanmar, a major irritant in relations between the two sides.

But the statement did not call for the release of political prisoners, including Suu Kyi, who has spent 14 of the last 20 years under detention by the military regime. It only urged Myanmar to ensure that the elections it intends to hold in 2010 are "conducted in a free, fair, inclusive and transparent manner."

However, a direct appeal from Obama carries more weight as he is the most powerful leader to have conveyed the message directly to a top Myanmar official.

Thein Sein did not address leaders' concerns about Suu Kyi, said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. "We expected a bit more but it was not forthcoming. We hope (democracy) ... in Myanmar will become a reality sooner than later," he told reporters.

He said a reference to Suu Kyi was not included in the statement because there was no consensus.

White House aides said ASEAN was unlikely to include an explicitly critical statement on one of its members, since it would amount to Myanmar criticizing itself. That's why Obama raised the issue directly in his remarks to the group, said the aides.

Obama, in a broad policy speech in Tokyo on Saturday, also made a point of mentioning Suu Kyi by name.

Before the summit, the 11 leaders gathered for a photo shoot for a few minutes, but Obama and Thein Sein stayed far from each other and made no contact of any sort.

The Myanmar government has said the 2010 elections are another step toward democracy, but has not clarified whether Suu Kyi will be allowed to participate. The junta refused to honor the result of the last elections in 1990 when Suu Kyi's party won by a landslide.

Although the United States recently eased its policy toward Myanmar by initiating talks with the generals, it has made clear economic sanctions won't be lifted unless Suu Kyi is released.

Earlier this month, two senior U.S. diplomats went to Myanmar for talks, and also had a private meeting with Suu Kyi. It was the highest-level U.S. visit to Myanmar in 14 years.

Sunday's U.S.-ASEAN summit — held just after the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum — is the outcome of the new thinking in Washington that ignoring Myanmar will not yield any results, and relations with Southeast Asia should not be held hostage by the junta.

Associated Press writers Charles Hutzler, Jennifer Loven and Eileen Ng contributed to this report.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Clinton Urges Asian Pressure on Burma for Free Elections

By David Gollust
11 November 2009

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is urging Asian countries to join the United States in pressing Burmese authorities to make elections planned for next year free, fair and credible. Clinton briefed fellow foreign ministers from the APEC Pacific-rim countries in Singapore on the Obama administration's efforts to engage the Burmese military government.

Clinton says bringing stability to Burma through political reform should be a shared objective of that country's neighbors, including regional powers India and China.

At a news conference after a day of meetings with fellow foreign ministers of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, Clinton said the region already suffers from spill-over effects of Burma's political problems.

"Left alone, the internal problems within Burma are not confined within Burma's borders," she said. "We have seen refugee flows out of Burma. People taking to boats, ending up in Malaysia, ending up in Indonesia, ending up in Australia, crossing the border into Thailand. That instability is not good for anyone."

The Obama administration sent two senior envoys last week to Burma to begin a promised attempt at dialogue with authorities there.

Clinton said she has no illusions that bringing change to Burma will be easy or quick and said U.S. sanctions against the military government will remain in place until, as she put it, "we see meaningful progress in key areas."

The United States has demanded the release of detained Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, though Clinton said under questioning the future role of the Nobel peace laureate in the country's political life is for the Burmese to decide.

"We think this has to be resolved within the Burmese people themselves, so we are not setting or dictating any conditions," she said. "We want to help facilitate the space and opportunity for the Burmese people to work out the challenges they face in having free and credible elections and setting forth a plan for a more prosperous and peaceful future."

Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy Party won elections in 1990, but was barred from taking office, was allowed to meet last week with the visiting U.S. diplomats.

A senior U.S. official who briefed reporters said Aung San Suu Kyi is supportive of the U.S. outreach effort. He said the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under various forms of detention for much of the past two decades, is "absolutely" necessary if the United States is to move forward with any fundamental engagement with Burma.

U.S. President Barack Obama attends a summit-level session of the 21 APEC countries here early next week and will also have a meeting Sunday with the 10 leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian nations.

Burma is an ASEAN member country and its Prime Minister Thien Sein is expected to take part in the session with Mr. Obama, though the White House says they will not have a one-on-one meeting.

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Clinton urges Myanmar to begin planning 2010 vote

By David Alexander
Wednesday, November 11, 2009; 8:00 AM

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday urged Myanmar to begin planning for its 2010 elections and said Southeast Asian nations could play an important role in ensuring the vote is "free, fair and credible."

Clinton, speaking at a news conference on the sidelines of the APEC meetings in Singapore, said Washington would like to see the reclusive military-led government of the former Burma begin internal consultations soon about the country's political future.

"We're seeking ... a process inside Burma that would inspire a dialogue among all of the stakeholders so that there could be a growing consensus within Burma itself about the way forward," she said.

Clinton's remarks came a week after U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell traveled to Myanmar on Washington's highest-level visit to the country in 14 years.

The exploratory mission was aimed at explaining the results of a U.S. policy review toward Myanmar. The Obama administration decided in September to pursue deeper engagement with Myanmar to try to spur democratic reforms.

Clinton said U.S. economic sanctions on Myanmar would remain in place until Washington sees what it believes is "meaningful progress in key areas."

A U.S. State Department official said later that freeing Aung San Suu Kyi, the detained leader of the opposition National League for Democracy, was one necessary step.

"It would be an essential precondition for the United States to move forward with any ... fundamental engagement that would include sanctions lifting with the regime," the official said on condition of anonymity.

U.S. officials said they hoped Myanmar's leaders would begin a dialogue soon with internal groups that have an interest in the country's political future.

"That dialogue has to be an open dialogue that includes internal stakeholders," one State Department official said. "We would very much like to see ... not just the handpicked parties of the government, but also the ethnic groups, the NLD and the so-called third-way groups."

The official said the United States had begun consultations on Myanmar with India, China, Thailand and other neighboring nations with an interest in Myanmar's stability.

The official said Washington hoped China would encourage Myanmar to launch an internal dialogue. "China has a powerful interest in ensuring Burma remains a stable country," he said.

Clinton urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to "reach out to the Burmese leadership, persuade them that it is time to start planning for free, fair and credible elections in 2010, 2010 is nearly here, (and) that it would be useful to have validation of those elections."

Clinton emphasized that when Myanmar is left alone, it's problems spill over its borders and affect its neighbors.

"We see refugee flows out of Burma, people taking the boat, ending up in Malaysia, ending up in Indonesia, ending up in Australia, crossing the border into Thailand," she said. "That instability is not good for anyone."

"Any country that does business in Burma wants to be sure that their investments and their business are safe and the best way to ensure that is to move toward democracy and the kind of stability that democracy creates," Clinton said.

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Japan urges Myanmar to release Suu Kyi before poll

By Yoko Nishikawa

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan urged Myanmar on Saturday to release detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi before next year's election, adding it was ready to provide more aid if democratisation in the country advanced.

The comments came a few days after a U.S. delegation made a landmark visit to Myanmar as part of a new policy of engagement by the Obama administration.

"It is extremely important that Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners are all released before the general election to be held in 2010," Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama told Myanmar's visiting prime minister, according to a Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman.

Hatoyama also urged General Thein Sein to ensure all stakeholders could take part in the election.

Japan has distanced itself from the policy of Western powers, which have imposed tough sanctions on Myanmar, and from that of China, which has pumped billions of dollars into the country.

It has prefered engagement and dialogue to push for democratisation of the authoritarian military-run state, and welcomed Washington's recent move, saying it was getting closer to Tokyo's approach.

The talk between Hatoyama and General Thein Sein took place on the sidelines of the Tokyo summit among Japan and five Mekong region countries -- Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

It was the first time since 2003 a Myanmar leader had visited Japan.

Hatoyama acknowledged signs of improvement in the democratisation process in the country formerly known as Burma, and welcomed improving ties between Washington and Myanmar.

"Based on recent positive moves, Japan will gradually expand its assistance to Myanmar in areas of humanitarian assistance, including those through NGOs, and human development assistance," Hatoyama was quoted as telling General Thein Sein.

"If the general election in 2010 is conducted in a manner we expect, Japan will be in a position to strengthen its assistance to Myanmar," he added.

In the fiscal year that ended in March 2008, Japan provided 1.18 billion yen ($13.13 million) in grant aid and 1.64 billion yen in technical assistance to Myanmar.

(Editing by Andrew Roche)

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

U.S. Presses Myanmar for a More Open Government

Scot Marciel, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state, in Bangkok Thursday.


U.S. diplomats returned from a rare trip to Myanmar facing a new challenge: How to nurture a budding dialogue with the country's secretive military regime without boosting its legitimacy in the eyes of the outside world.

Speaking to reporters in Bangkok on Thursday, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Scot Marciel, said that he and another top administration official stressed the need for a more open government in Myanmar, including free and fair elections next year, during meetings with senior government officials and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday and Wednesday.

But he said it was unclear whether the junta would be willing to take significant steps -- such as freeing Ms. Suu Kyi and other political prisoners -- that the U.S. and other Western nations are pushing in advance of the elections, the first to be held in Myanmar since 1990.

Such measures would be necessary, he said, before the U.S. would consider further conciliatory moves such as removing its longstanding sanctions against the country. "We're willing to move in terms of our bilateral relationship, but we're only going to do it if there's real progress," he said.

The trip was the highest-ranking U.S. delegation to Myanmar in 14 years, and part of a new Obama administration initiative designed to restore U.S. influence there after years of frosty relations. The country's military regime, which seized power in 1962, is widely criticized for human rights violations and is increasingly viewed as a potential source of instability in the region as it builds up its military power.

U.S. officials say they are particularly concerned about recent indications Myanmar is expanding its ties with North Korea, including unverified reports it may be pursuing a program of nuclear proliferation. They say further discussions with the regime could help shed light on those concerns while also potentially opening the door for a bigger role for opposition groups in the country's government.

More discussions are expected, including a possible meeting between President Obama and senior Myanmar officials during an economic summit in Singapore later this month.

But skeptics fear the dialogue will yield little given the regime's history of ignoring outside pressure and inducements. The meetings could also backfire by enhancing the prestige of Myanmar's leaders, especially if they succeed in wresting more concessions from the American side.

The American officials "are setting themselves up for a trap here," says John Dale, an assistant professor and Myanmar expert at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. He and other Myanmar experts believe the regime desperately wants to gain international acceptance and is hoping to use negotiations with American representatives to lend credibility to the coming elections, which dissidents believe will only cement the junta's lock on power.

If U.S. officials are "at the table long enough, it helps them claim the elections are legitimate," he says.

Attempts to reach representatives of the Myanmar government, which rarely speaks to foreign journalists, were unsuccessful.

Part of the problem with the U.S. mission, critics say, is that it's unclear what would constitute sufficient progress to merit more rapprochement from the American side. On Thursday, Mr. Marciel said the elections, whose date remains uncertain, wouldn't be credible if they didn't include representatives from the opposition groups that won the last national vote in 1990— an outcome the regime subsequently ignored. But it was unclear whether that meant Ms. Suu Kyi herself should participate, or if the U.S. would accept some other compromise.

It was also unclear whether other steps the U.S. and international advocates are seeking -- such as the involvement of independent election monitors and the removal of curbs on local media -- would necessarily help lead to a fair outcome.

The vote will occur under a constitution that many advocates believe will guarantee an unfair result. Approved by Myanmar residents in a 2008 referendum amid widespread reports of intimidation, it reserves many government posts and 25% of parliamentary seats for military officers, and allows the president to hand over power to the military in emergencies. It also effectively bars Ms. Suu Kyi from seeking elected office because her two sons are foreign citizens.

Mr. Marciel said he thought the constitution was "flawed" but didn't elaborate on whether it would have to be scrapped for a fair election to be held. He also declined to speak in detail about the latest meetings with Ms. Suu Kyi.

Backers of the U.S. effort -- including Ms. Suu Kyi herself -- believe that talking with the junta is better than doing nothing, even if the odds of success are slim. And U.S. officials insist they harbor no illusions about their effort's likelihood of success.

"The elections could be an opportunity" to improve Myanmar's situation, but only if they're done right," Mr. Marciel said. "We will see progress if and when it happens."

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Burma: International Religious Freedom Report 2009

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
International Religious Freedom Report 2009
October 26, 2009

Highly repressive, authoritarian military regimes have ruled the country since 1962. In May 2008 the Government announced voters had approved a new draft Constitution in a nationwide referendum. Democracy activists and the international community widely criticized the referendum as seriously flawed. The new Constitution provides for freedom of religion; however, it also grants broad exceptions that allow the regime to restrict those rights at will. Although authorities generally permitted most adherents of registered religious groups to worship as they choose, the Government imposed restrictions on certain religious activities and frequently abused the right to freedom of religion.

There was no change in the Government’s limited degree of respect for religious freedom during the reporting period. Religious activities and organizations were subject to restrictions on freedom of expression, association, and assembly. The Government continued to monitor meetings and activities of virtually all organizations, including religious organizations. The Government continued to systematically restrict efforts by Buddhist clergy to promote human rights and political freedom. Many of the Buddhist monks arrested in the violent crackdown that followed pro-democracy demonstrations in September 2007, including prominent activist monk U Gambira, remained in prison serving long sentences. The Government also actively promoted Theravada Buddhism over other religions, particularly among members of ethnic minorities. Christian and Islamic groups continued to struggle to obtain permission to repair existing places of worship or build new ones. The regime continued to closely monitor Muslim activities. Restrictions on worship for other non-Buddhist minority groups also continued. Although there were no new reports of forced conversions of non-Buddhists, the Government applied pressure on students and lower-income youth to convert to Buddhism. Adherence or conversion to Buddhism is generally a prerequisite for promotion to senior government and military ranks.

During the reporting period, social tensions continued between the Buddhist majority and the Christian and Muslim minorities. Widespread prejudice existed against citizens of South Asian origin, many of whom are Muslims. Although official religious discrimination was limited, de facto preferences for Buddhism remained.

The U.S. Government advocated religious freedom with all sectors of society, including government officials, religious leaders, private citizens, scholars, diplomats of other governments, and international business and media representatives. Embassy representatives offered support to local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and religious leaders and acted as conduits for information exchanges with otherwise isolated human rights NGOs and religious leaders. Since 1999, the U.S. Secretary of State has designated Burma as a "Country of Particular Concern" under the International Religious Freedom Act for particularly severe violations of religious freedom. The U.S. Government has a wide array of sanctions in place against the country for its violations of human rights. The passage and signing into law in July 2008 of the Tom Lantos Block Burmese Junta Anti-Democratic Efforts (JADE) Act further strengthened these sanctions.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has an area of 261,970 square miles and a population the International Monetary Fund estimates at 50 million. The majority follow Theravada Buddhism, although in practice popular Burmese Buddhism coexists with astrology, numerology, fortune telling, and veneration of indigenous pre-Buddhist era deities called "nats." Buddhist monks, including novices, number more than 400,000 and depend on the laity for their material needs, including clothing and daily donations of food. The country has a much smaller number of Buddhist nuns. The principal minority religious groups include Christians (primarily Baptists, Roman Catholics, and Anglicans, along with several small Protestant denominations), Muslims (mostly Sunni), Hindus, and practitioners of traditional Chinese and indigenous religions. According to official statistics, almost 90 percent of the population practices Buddhism, 4 percent Christianity, and 4 percent Islam. These statistics almost certainly underestimate the non-Buddhist proportion of the population. Independent scholarly researchers place the Muslim population at between 6 and 10 percent. A tiny Jewish community in Rangoon has a synagogue but no resident rabbi and lacks enough resident believers to constitute a minyan, the quorum needed for certain religious rites.

The country is ethnically diverse, with some correlation between ethnicity and religion. Theravada Buddhism is the dominant religion among the majority Burman ethnic group and among the Shan, Arakanese, and Mon ethnic minorities in the east, west, and south. Christianity is the dominant religion among the Kachin ethnic group of the north and the Chin and Naga ethnic groups of the west, some of whom also continue to practice traditional indigenous religions. Protestant groups report recent rapid growth among animist communities in Chin State. Christianity is also practiced widely among the Karen and Karenni ethnic groups of the south and east, although many Karen and Karenni are Buddhist and some Karen are Muslim. Burmese citizens of Indian origin, who are concentrated in major cities and in the south central region, predominantly practice Hinduism, though some ethnic Indians are Christian. Islam is practiced widely in Rakhine State, where it is the dominant religion of the Rohingya minority, and in Rangoon, Irrawaddy, Magwe, and Mandalay Divisions, where some Burmans, Indians, and ethnic Bengalis practice Islam. Chinese ethnic minorities generally practice traditional Chinese religions. Traditional indigenous beliefs are practiced widely among smaller ethnic groups in the highland regions. Practices drawn from those indigenous beliefs persist in popular Buddhist rituals, especially in rural areas.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

Highly authoritarian military regimes have ruled the country since 1962. Since independence in 1948, many of the ethnic minority areas have served as bases for armed resistance against the Government. Although the Government negotiated cease-fire agreements with most armed ethnic groups after 1989, active Shan, Karen, and Karenni insurgencies continued. Successive civilian and military governments have tended to view religious freedom in the context of perceived threats to national unity or central authority.

The current military government, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), has governed without a constitution or legislature since 1988. In May 2008, the Government announced that its draft Constitution had been approved with 92 percent of the vote in a nationwide referendum. According to the Constitution, the SPDC will continue to "exercise state sovereignty" until the Parliament is convened sometime after the scheduled 2010 elections. The law governing the referendum stated that citizens and most ethnic minorities were eligible to vote; however, it excluded members of religious orders and individuals serving prison terms, including political prisoners.

Many diplomatic observers and human rights organizations criticized the lack of fairness and transparency of the referendum and questioned the validity of the results.

The new Constitution provides for freedom of religion; however, it also grants broad exceptions that allow the regime to restrict these rights "subject to public order, morality, health, and other provisions of the Constitution." It specifically recognizes the "special position of Buddhism as the faith practiced by the great majority of citizens," but also recognizes Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and animism as religions "existing" in the country. It states that the Government shall "render assistance and protect the religions it recognizes."

The Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion. Most adherents of recognized religious groups generally are allowed to worship as they choose; however, the Government imposes restrictions on certain religious activities and frequently abuses the right to religious freedom. The Constitution protects the right to seek redress for violations of freedoms but does not specify how such claims will be addressed. Moreover, anti-discrimination laws do not apply to ethnic groups not formally recognized under the 1982 Citizenship Law, such as the stateless Muslim Rohingyas in northern Rakhine State.

In addition, the Constitution forbids the "abuse of religion for political purposes" and asserts that any act that promotes discord may be punishable by law. It bars members of religious orders from running for public office. Burmese law criminalizes the "defamation" of religion for political purposes. The regime commonly employed nonreligious laws to target those involved in religious and political activism, including the Electronic Transactions Act, Immigration Act, and Unlawful Associations Act.

Although the country has no official state religion, successive military and civilian governments have supported and associated themselves conspicuously with Theravada Buddhism. In 1961the Government’s push to make Buddhism the state religion failed due to countrywide protests by religious minorities. In practice, the Government continues to show a preference for Theravada Buddhism through official propaganda and state-sponsored activities, including donations to monasteries and pagodas, encouragement of education at Buddhist monastic schools in rural areas, and support for Buddhist missionary activities. Promotions within the military and the civil service are reserved for followers of Buddhism. The Ministry of Religious Affairs includes the powerful Department for the Promotion and Propagation of Sasana (Buddhist teaching).

State-controlled news media frequently depict government officials and their family members paying homage to Buddhist monks; offering donations at pagodas; officiating at ceremonies to open, improve, restore, or maintain pagodas; and organizing ostensibly voluntary "people’s donations" of money, food, and uncompensated labor to build or refurbish Buddhist shrines nationwide. State-owned newspapers routinely feature front-page banner slogans quoting from Buddhist scriptures. The Government has published books of Buddhist religious instruction.

The Government controls the organization and restricts the activities and expression of the Buddhist clergy (Sangha), although some monks have resisted such control. Based on the 1990 Sangha Organization Law, the Government has banned any organization of Buddhist monks other than the nine state-recognized monastic orders. Violations of this ban are punishable by immediate public defrocking and criminal penalties. The nine recognized orders submit to the authority of the State Monk Coordination Committee ("Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee" or SMNC), the members of which are indirectly elected by monks.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs Department for the Perpetuation and Propagation of the Sasana oversees the Government’s relations with Buddhist monks and schools. The Government continues to fund two state Sangha universities in Rangoon and Mandalay that train Buddhist monks under the purview of the SMNC. The state-funded International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University (ITBMU) in Rangoon, which opened in 1998, has a stated purpose "to share the country’s knowledge of Buddhism with the people of the world."

Buddhist doctrine remains part of the state-mandated curriculum in all government-run elementary schools. Students at these schools can opt out of instruction in Buddhism and sometimes do, but all are required to recite a Buddhist prayer daily. Some Muslim students are allowed to leave the classroom during this recitation, but at other schools non-Buddhists are forced to recite the prayer.

Official public holidays include numerous Buddhist holy days, as well as a few Christian, Hindu, and Islamic religious holidays. The Government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: the Full Moon Day of Tabaung, the four-day Thingyan (water festival), Buddhist New Year’s Day, the Full Moon Day of Kason, the Full Moon Day of Waso, the Full Moon Day of Thadinkyut, the Full Moon Day of Tazaungmone, Christmas, Idul Alhwaha, and Deepa Vali.

Since the 1960s, Christian and Islamic groups have had difficulty importing religious literature. All publications, religious and secular, remain subject to control and censorship. It is illegal to import translations of the Bible in indigenous languages. Officials have occasionally allowed local printing or photocopying of limited quantities of religious materials, including the Qur’an (with the notation that they are for private use only) in indigenous languages without prior approval by government censors.

Virtually all organizations, religious or not, must register with the Government. Religious organizations register with the Ministry of Home Affairs with an endorsement from the Ministry for Religious Affairs. A government directive exempts "genuine" religious organizations from official registration; however, in practice, only registered organizations can buy or sell property or open bank accounts. Due to these requirements, most religious organizations seek registration. Leaders of registered religious groups also have more freedom to travel than those of unregistered organizations.

The Government discouraged proselytizing by non-Buddhist clergy. These restrictions most affected missionary religions, including some Christian denominations and Islam. The Government generally has not allowed permanent foreign religious missions to operate in the country since the mid‑1960s, when it expelled nearly all foreign missionaries and nationalized almost all private schools and hospitals. The Government is not known to have paid any compensation in connection with these extensive confiscations.

Citizens and permanent residents were required to carry government‑issued National Registration Cards (NRCs) that often indicated religious affiliation and ethnicity. There appeared to be no consistent criteria governing whether a person’s religion was indicated on the identification card. Citizens also were required to indicate their religion on certain official application forms for documents such as passports, although passports themselves did not indicate the bearer's religion.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

The Government selectively enforced existing legal restrictions on religious freedom. During the reporting period, the SPDC continued to rule by decree and was not bound by any constitutional or statutory provision concerning discrimination based on religion, race, gender, disability, language, or social status. Religious activities and organizations were subject to restrictions on freedom of expression and association. The Government’s pervasive internal security apparatus imposed de facto restrictions on collective and individual worship through infiltration and monitoring of meetings and activities of virtually all organizations. The Government subjected all media, including religious publications, and on occasion sermons, to control and censorship. The Government at times interfered with the meetings of religious groups.

According to state-owned media reports, the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), a government-sponsored mass organization in which participation often is compulsory, organized courses on Buddhist culture that millions of people attended. It was not possible to verify this claim independently.

Churches in Chin State often needed to request permission to hold religious ceremonies two to three months in advance, although authorities generally approved these requests.

Authorities frequently refused to approve requests for gatherings to celebrate traditional Christian and Islamic holidays and restricted the number of Muslims who could gather in one place. For instance, in satellite towns surrounding Rangoon, Muslims were only allowed to gather for worship and religious training during major Muslim holidays.

The Government continued to discriminate against members of minority religious groups, restricting educational activities, proselytizing, and restoration or construction of churches and mosques.

Government authorities continued to prohibit Christian clergy from proselytizing in some areas. Christian groups reported that several times during the reporting period local authorities denied applications for residency permits for known Christian ministers attempting to move to a new township. The groups indicated this was not a widespread practice but depended on the individual community and local authority. In some instances, local authorities reportedly confiscated NRCs of new converts to Christianity. Nonetheless, Christian groups reported that church membership grew, even in predominantly Buddhist regions.

State censorship authorities continued to enforce special restrictions on local publication of the Bible, Qur'an, and other Christian and Islamic texts. The most onerous restriction was a list of more than 100 prohibited words the censors would not allow in Christian or Islamic literature, forbidden as "indigenous terms" or derived from the Pali language long used in Buddhist literature. Some Christian and Islamic groups in the country have used these words since the colonial period. Organizations that translate and publish non-Buddhist religious texts appealed the restrictions. In addition, censors sometimes objected to passages of the Bible's Old Testament and the Qur'an that they interpreted as endorsing violence against nonbelievers. There have been no reports of arrests or prosecutions for possession of any religious literature in recent years.

Authorities restricted the quantity of Bibles and Qur'ans imported into the country. Individuals continued to carry Bibles and Qur'ans into the country in small quantities for personal use. There were no reports that authorities intercepted or confiscated Qur'ans at border entry points.

Some Christian theological seminaries and Bible schools continued to operate, along with several Islamic madrassahs. Some of these institutions did not register with the Myanmar Council of Churches but were able to conduct affairs without government interference. The Government allowed some members of foreign religious groups to enter the country to provide humanitarian assistance, as it had done after Cyclone Nargis in May 2008.

Some Muslims paid large bribes to receive NRCs and passports. Authorities often refused to issue NRCs to Muslims who claimed to belong to one of the country's recognized indigenous ethnic groups, such as the Shan or Karen.

Muslims across the country, as well as some ethnic minority groups such as Chinese and Indians, often were required to obtain permission in advance from the township authorities to leave their hometowns. Authorities generally did not grant permission to Rohingya or Muslim Rakhine to travel for any purpose; however, permission was sometimes obtained through bribery. Non-Rakhine Muslims were granted more freedom to travel. Muslims residing in Rangoon could visit beach resort areas in Thandwe, Rakhine State, but could not return to Rangoon without the signature of the Regional Military Commander. Some were able to bribe local officials to allow them to return. Muslims residing outside Rakhine State often were barred from return travel to their homes if they visited other parts of Rakhine State.

Authorities did not allow Muslim government employees, including village headmen, to grow beards and dismissed some who already had beards.

Muslims in Rakhine State, particularly those of the Rohingya minority group, continued to experience the severest forms of legal, economic, educational, and social discrimination. The Government denied citizenship status to Rohingyas because their ancestors allegedly did not reside in the country at the start of British colonial rule, as the country’s citizenship law requires. The Rohingya asserted that their presence in the area predates the British arrival by several centuries. In November 2008, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women urged the Government to review its 1982 Citizenship Law. After completing missions to the country in August 2008 and February 2009, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar specifically noted the Rohingya in his call for the Government to repeal discriminatory legislation and practices. Many of the approximately 21,000 Rohingya Muslims registered in two refugee camps in Bangladesh and the approximately 200,000 Rohingya Muslims living outside those refugee camps refused to return to the country because they feared human rights abuses, including religious persecution.

Rohingya Muslims were not eligible for NRCs. Although essentially treated as illegal foreigners, they were not issued Foreigner Registration Cards (FRCs). Instead, the Government continued a program with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that issued Temporary Registration Cards (TRCs) to stateless persons in northern Rakhine State, the majority of them Rohingyas. At the end of the reporting period, the UNHCR estimated that approximately 385,000 stateless persons over the age of 10 possessed TRCs. Authorities insisted that Muslim men applying for TRCs submit photos without beards. From March 7-12, 2009, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees visited the country, including Rakhine State, and pledged to expand the organization’s efforts to meet current humanitarian needs.

Without citizenship status, Rohingyas did not have access to secondary education in state-run schools because the Government reserved secondary education for citizens. Muslim students from Rakhine State who completed high school were not permitted to travel outside the state to attend college or university. Authorities continued to bar graduation of Muslim university students who did not possess NRCs. These students were permitted to attend classes and sit for examinations, but they could not receive diplomas because they did not have NRCs, which they could not obtain unless they claimed a "foreign" ethnic minority affiliation. Rohingyas were also unable to obtain employment in any civil service positions.

In 2006 a prominent Muslim religious organization asked the Rakhine State Peace and Development Council Chairman, the Regional Military Commander, and the Ministry of Religious Affairs to lift marriage restrictions for Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State. At the end of the reporting period, they had not yet received a response.

Some Muslims also had difficulty obtaining birth certificates. A local official in Sittwe, Rakhine State, reportedly issued a verbal order in 2005 prohibiting the issuance of birth certificates to Muslim babies born in the area. In Rangoon, Muslims usually obtained birth certificates for newborns, but local authorities refused to allow parents to record the names of the babies on their household registers. Rohingya Muslims who returned to Rakhine State faced difficulty when attempting to register births of their children.

There are still original-resident Muslims living in Thandwe, Rakhine State, but newcomers who are Muslim are not allowed to buy property or reside in the township. Authorities do not permit Muslims to live in Gwa or Taungup.

The Government allowed members of all religious groups to establish and maintain links with coreligionists in other countries and to travel abroad for religious purposes, subject to the country’s restrictive passport and visa issuance practices, foreign exchange controls, and government monitoring, which extended to all international activities by all citizens regardless of religion. The Government sometimes expedited its burdensome passport issuance procedures for Muslims making the Hajj or Buddhists going on pilgrimage to Bodhgaya, India, although it limited the number of pilgrims. An estimated 2,000 Muslims went on the Hajj in 2008, 500 fewer than in 2007. More than 1,000 Buddhists made pilgrimages to Bodhgaya in 2008.

Non-Buddhists continued to experience employment discrimination at upper levels of the public sector. Few have ever been promoted to the level of director general or higher. There is no stated policy of religious exclusion or discrimination within the Burmese military, but there were no non-Buddhists who held senior positions in the armed forces, although a few Christians reportedly achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel. The Central Executive Committee of the National League for Democracy (NLD), the largest opposition group, did not include non-Buddhists either, although there is widespread support for the NLD among most religious groups. The Government discouraged Muslims from enlisting in the military, and Christian or Muslim military officers who aspired to promotion beyond the rank of major were encouraged by their superiors to convert to Buddhism. Some Muslims who wished to join the military reportedly had to list "Buddhist" as their religion on their applications, although they were not required to convert.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs has stipulated in the past that permission to construct or repair religious buildings "depends upon the population of the location;" however, there appeared to be no correlation between the construction of pagodas and the demand for additional places of Buddhist worship. The Government openly supports Buddhist seminaries and permits them to construct large campuses. Buddhist groups generally have not experienced difficulty in obtaining permission to build new pagodas, monasteries, or community religious halls.

In most regions, Christian and Islamic groups that sought to build small places of worship on side streets or other inconspicuous locations were able to do so only with informal approval from local authorities. When local authorities or conditions changed, approvals have been rescinded and, in some cases, authorities have demolished existing religious buildings. Formal requests encountered long delays, generally were denied, and even when approved could subsequently be reversed by a more senior authority.

Christian groups continued to have trouble obtaining permission to buy land or build new churches in most regions. In some cases authorities refused because they claimed the churches did not possess proper property deeds, but access to official land title was extremely difficult due to the country’s complex land law and government titles to most land. In some areas, permission to repair existing places of worship was easier to acquire. In Chin State, authorities have not granted permission to build a new church since 2003.

In February 2009 authorities in Kachin State halted the construction of a Christian orphanage supported by the Shatapru Baptist Church in Myitkyina because it had not obtained official permission for the building, according to media reports. Church sources told the press that they had asked for permission but proceeded with construction since there were no official procedures or guidelines to obtain permission.

It remained extremely difficult for Muslims to acquire permission to build new or repair existing mosques, although internal renovations were allowed in some cases. Historic mosques in Mawlamyine, Mon State and Sittwe, Rakhine State, as well as other areas, continued to deteriorate because authorities would not allow routine maintenance. A number of restrictions are in place on the construction or renovation of mosques and religious schools in northern Rakhine State. In some parts of Rakhine State, authorities cordoned off mosques and forbade Muslims to worship in them. The Government's border security forces continued to conduct arbitrary "inspections" of mosques in northern Rakhine State, demanding that mosque officials show permits to operate the mosques. In some cases, when mosque officials could not produce the permits, officials reportedly ordered congregation members to destroy the mosques.

In the wake of Cyclone Nargis, authorities permitted the caretaker of Rangoon's only synagogue to repair storm damage and restore other parts of the building.

Abuses of Religious Freedom

The Government continued its efforts to control the Buddhist clergy (Sangha). It tried Sangha members for "activities inconsistent with and detrimental to Buddhism" and imposed on the Sangha a code of conduct enforced by criminal penalties. The Government did not hesitate to arrest and imprison lower-level Buddhist monks who opposed the Government. In prison, monks were defrocked and treated as laypersons. In general, they were not allowed to shave their heads and were not given food compatible with the monastic code. Like other political prisoners, they were often beaten and forced to do hard labor.

The Government also subjected the Sangha to special restrictions on freedom of expression and association. Members of the Sangha were not allowed to preach sermons pertaining to politics. Religious lectures could not contain any words, phrases, or stories reflecting political views. The regime told Sangha members to distance themselves from politics, political parties, or members of political parties. The Government prohibited any organization of the Sangha other than the nine monastic orders that fall under the authority of the State Clergy Coordination Committee. The Government prohibited all clergy from being members of any political party.

According to the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners in Burma (AAPP), at the end of the reporting period approximately 200 monks were imprisoned, many of them arrested after the September 2007 peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations. During the reporting period, the Government transferred some of the monks, as well as other political prisoners, to remote jails away from their family members, limiting their access to basic necessities and medicines that visiting relatives generally provide.

The Government took no action to investigate or punish those responsible for extrajudicial killings of at least 30 persons during the regime’s violent suppression of September 2007 demonstrations. The Government did not investigate reports that security forces took large numbers of residents and monks from their homes and monasteries during numerous nighttime raids following the protests.

AAPP-Burma estimated that security forces raided at least 52 monasteries between September 26 and December 31, 2007, in retaliation for the monk-led demonstrations. Opposition activists and members of the clergy reported soldiers forcibly entered the monasteries at night and deployed tear gas, fired rubber bullets, and beat monks with batons and bamboo sticks. International NGOs estimated that at least 150 monks were arrested between September and October 2007.

On April 22, 2009, authorities arrested NLD members U Chit Phay and U Aung Soe Wai from Twuntay Township at their homes after the two had led a prayer meeting for the release of activist leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Similar to the well-known Tuesday Prayer Group that meets weekly at Rangoon’s Shwedagon Pagoda, a group of about 50 NLD members had convened to pray April 21 at a pagoda in Zee Phyu Gone village. Shortly thereafter, officials charged both men under Section 295a of the Penal Code, which prohibits acts and speech intended to offend religious beliefs. The charge carries a prison sentence of up to two years.

In March 2009 U Gambira’s brother and brother-in-law, Aung Ko Ko Lwin and Moe Htet Hylan, were sentenced to five years' imprisonment with hard labor under the Immigration Act. Authorities arrested them after they allegedly made plans to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the formation of the All Burma Monks Alliance (ABMA), in which U Gambira reportedly played a leading role.

On February 20, 2009, state media announced a general amnesty for more than 6,313 prisoners, including several monks. Among the prisoners released were seven Rangoon monks arrested in 2003 for refusing to accept alms from then-Prime Minister Khin Nyunt. AAPP-Burma also confirmed the release of U Kaythara (also known as U Kyaw Min Thet), U Ingura (U Aye Tun Thar), U Thireina (U Kyaw Moe), U Marlaina (U Min Zaw Aung), U Ardatesa (U Aung Ko), U Takekanateya (U Maung Zaw), U Damitika (U Tun Tun), U Nandathiri (U Htay Ye Tun), and U Sandima (U Zaw Min Htet). Authorities also freed Daw Ponena Mee, at 80 years old, the oldest imprisoned nun.

Human rights observers believed the leader of Maggin Monastery, Sayada Aindakaat, remained in detention, as well as other monks arrested in 2007, including U Sanda Wara.

On January 28, 2009, prison officials reportedly ordered an inmate to beat monk U Kelatha at Henzada Prison, Irrawaddy Division, for wearing his prison uniform in the style of monk robes. Authorities had arrested U Kelatha after the September 2007 demonstrations and sentenced him to 35 years in prison.

On January 22, 2009, monk U Arnanda of Thita Tharaphu Monastery, North Okkalapa Township, died in Insein Prison of unknown causes. He was 61 years old.

On January 17, 2009, authorities transferred U Gambira from Mandalay Obo Prison to Hkamti Prison in Sagaing Division, about 1,200 miles north of Rangoon. U Gambira reportedly staged a hunger strike the week before. On November 21, 2008, authorities convicted U Gambira of several charges, including offenses under the Electronics Transactions Act, Immigration Act, and Unlawful Associations Act. Officials sentenced him to 68 years in prison. U Gambira and his brother were held without charge until January 2008. Authorities arrested him on November 5, 2007, and his younger brother Ko Aung Kyaw Kyaw on October 17, 2007.

In January 2009 it was widely reported that authorities threatened some Christian house churches in Rangoon with closure if they did not halt regular services. Authorities also forced leaders of those house churches to sign pledges that they would cease worship. At least eight house churches were closed in Rangoon. According to foreign press reports, Muslim clergy in Rangoon were likewise told to stop worship services and readings of the Qur'an at gatherings in private homes.

In November 2008 the Government handed down sentences to several activists, including monks. According to Human Rights Defenders and Promoters (HRDP), authorities sentenced U Thadamma to two years' imprisonment for alleged participation in the 2007 pro-democracy protests. In addition, authorities sentenced six unnamed monks from Ngwe Kyar Yan Monastery to 11 and a half years in prison. During the crackdown that followed the demonstrations, security forces conducted a pre-dawn raid at the Ngwe Kyar Yan monastery in Rangoon and removed an estimated 70 monks. Journalists and foreign diplomatic representatives visited Ngwe Kyar Yan monastery in Rangoon and found bamboo batons, riot control munitions, broken windows, and pools of blood on the floor of the monastery’s dormitory.

Also in November 2008 the international and exile press reported that nine Muslim activists were sentenced in Rakhine State. These arrests have not been confirmed.

In the weeks before the 2008 anniversary of the September 2007 protests and crackdown, security forces temporarily occupied some monasteries in the cities of Rangoon and Mandalay and in Rakhine State that were suspected of involvement in pro-democracy activities.

In September 2008 on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the 2007 protests, state media reported that the State Monk Coordination Committee issued a directive to all monasteries and colleges in Chauk, Magwe Division, warning monks not to participate in political activities.

AAPP reported that on September 5, 2008, authorities raided Marlayon monastery. In the early morning, 20 persons allegedly entered the monastery, ordered monks to lie on the floor, searched the buildings, and removed the abbot. A few days later the abbot publicly denied the account.

On August 23, 2008, authorities arrested monks U Damathara and U Nandara, both from the Thardu monastery in Rangoon. Officials did not acknowledge their arrests, although human rights observers believed they may have been detained as a precaution against future protests. They likely remained in custody.

In August 2008 the State Monk Coordination Committee publicly reminded monks of a 2006 directive that banned monks in Rangoon Division from leaving their monasteries between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. According to sources, authorities did not strictly enforce this policy.

In August 2008 authorities sentenced nine monks to two years’ imprisonment for "the deliberate and malicious…outraging of religious feelings." On July 15, 2008, police arrested the monks at Rangoon Central Railway Station.

On March 30, 2008 the army arrested 11 Muslim community leaders in Maungdaw, Rakhine State. Among those arrested were the president of the Maungdaw District Myanmar Muslim League, U Than Tun (aka Muhammad Solin), community leader Dr. Tun Aung, and local businessman, U Niramad. While authorities did not provide any explanation for the arrests, local residents reported to the media they believed the arrests were the result of the regime’s paranoia about alleged organized Muslim political activity in the area. It was believed that the 11 leaders continued to be held at the end of the reporting period, although no information on their condition has been released.

In October 2007 authorities detained approximately 90 monks, including the head monk of the Ngwe Kyar Yan Monastery, at a monastery in the Kaba Aye monastery complex, where authorities interrogated them. Many novices had departed earlier to avoid arrest, and parents had retrieved other novices.
On September 26, 2007, soldiers and police raided at least six large monasteries in Rangoon and arrested an estimated 100 monks, including Sayada Aindakaat, the leader of Maggin Monastery.

Beginning in 2004 and continuing through the reporting period, a group of Buddhist laypersons known as the Tuesday Prayer Group attempted to gather every Tuesday at Rangoon's Shwedagon Pagoda to pray for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. Authorities sometimes used the pro-regime USDA to block the group from entering the pagoda grounds and make them pray outside the entrance or to shout and clap to drown out their prayers.

On the morning of October 12, 2007, authorities briefly detained Tuesday Prayer Group leader Naw Ohn Hla. Authorities released her later that day but confined her to her Rangoon neighborhood for one year, preventing her from leading the Tuesday Prayer Group.

In January 2007 USDA members verbally and physically attacked Naw Ohn Hla and the Tuesday Prayer Group as they tried to enter Rangoon’s Shwedagon Pagoda. Witnesses reported that approximately 100 men in plain clothes surrounded Naw Ohn Hla and demanded that she and the other members immediately depart. When they refused, witnesses reported that USDA members beat several of the Prayer Group members. Uniformed police at the scene did not attempt to stop the attack, and authorities did not investigate the incident or pursue a complaint Naw Ohn Hla filed.

In July 2006 authorities from Thandwe, Rakhine State, arrested Abbot Wila Tha and his assistant, Than Kakesa, from the Buddhist monastery of U Shwe Maw village, Taungup Township, closed the monastery, and forced 59 monks and novices to leave. Local sources claimed the reason for the arrest was that the abbot refused to accept donations from or conduct religious ceremonies for the authorities. Authorities claimed that the abbot was endangering local stability by talking to monks and novices about democracy, that he was a supporter of the NLD, and that he had supported the visit of Aung San Suu Kyi several years earlier.

There continued to be credible reports from various regions of the country that government officials compelled persons, Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, especially in rural areas, to contribute money, food, or materials to state-sponsored projects to build, renovate, or maintain Buddhist religious shrines or monuments. The Government denied that it used coercion and called these contributions "voluntary donations" consistent with Buddhist ideas of earning merit.

Forced Religious Conversion

Although authorities appear to have moved away from a campaign of forced conversion, there continued to be evidence that other means were being used to entice non‑Buddhists to convert to Buddhism. Authorities pressured Christian Chin to attend Buddhist seminaries and monasteries and encouraged them to convert to Buddhism. Christian Chin reported that local authorities operated a high school that only Buddhist students could attend and promised government jobs to the graduates. Christians had to convert to Buddhism to attend the school. An exile Chin human rights group claimed local government officials placed the children of Chin Christians in Buddhist monasteries, where they were given religious instruction and converted to Buddhism without their parents’ knowledge or consent. Reports suggested that the Government also sought to induce members of the Naga ethnic group in Sagaing Division to convert to Buddhism through similar means.

There were no reports of forced religious conversion of U.S. minor citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States or who had not been allowed to be returned to the United States.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

Preferential treatment for Buddhists and widespread prejudice against ethnic South Asians, particularly ethnic Rohingya Muslims, were key sources of social tensions between the Buddhist majority and Christian and Muslim minorities. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

The Government tightly controlled the limited number of private academic institutions and their curricula. Similar controls extended to Buddhist monastery‑based schools, Christian seminaries, and Muslim madrassahs. During the reporting period, the Government cracked down on private tutoring and attempted to ban the practice. Aung Pe, a private teacher and NLD supporter, remained in prison, reportedly in poor health, and was serving a three year sentence for an alleged violation in 2005 of the Private Tuition Act.

Since 1994, when Buddhist members split from the Karen National Union (KNU) to organize the pro-government Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), there have been armed conflicts between the DKBA and the predominantly Christian anti-government KNU. Although the DKBA reportedly includes some Christians and there are many Buddhists in the KNU, the armed conflict between the two Karen groups has had strong religious overtones. There were also unverified reports DKBA members continued to expel villagers who converted to Christianity.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

Government restrictions on speech, press, assembly, and movement, including diplomatic travel, made it difficult to obtain timely and accurate information on human rights in the country, including freedom of religion. Information about abuses often becomes available only months or years after events and it frequently is difficult or impossible to verify.

The U.S. Government continued to promote religious freedom in its contact with all sectors of society as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. During the reporting period, U.S. Embassy officials discussed the importance of improving religious freedom with government and military authorities, private citizens, scholars, representatives of other governments, and international business and media representatives. Embassy representatives met regularly with leaders of Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religious groups, including ethnic minority religious leaders, members of the faculties of schools of theology, and other religiously affiliated organizations and NGOs. These meetings included regular invitations to the U.S. Chargé d'Affaires' residence to build understanding and tolerance among the groups.

Through outreach and travel, when not blocked by regime officials, Embassy representatives offered support to local NGOs and religious leaders and exchanged information with otherwise isolated human rights NGOs and religious leaders. Members of many of Burma’s ethnic groups and religions participated in English language and current events studies at the Embassy’s American Center. The American Center regularly translated statements and reports by the U.S. Government and NGOs on violations of religious freedom in the country and distributed them via its frequently visited library. The U.S. Government continued to support the UNHCR effort to work with the Ministry of Immigration and Population to issue TRCs, fairly and without bribes or unreasonable requirements, to undocumented Rohingyas. In addition, the Embassy worked closely with Buddhist, Islamic, and Christian NGOs involved in education and teacher training.

The country was first designated a CPC in 1999 and most recently was re-designated on January 16, 2009. As the action under the International Religious Freedom Act, the Secretary of State designated the existing ongoing arms embargo referenced in 22 CFR 126.1(1), pursuant to section 402(c)(5) of the Act. The U.S. Government has a wide array of financial and trade sanctions in place against the country for violations of human rights. The passage and signing into law in July 2008 of the Tom Lantos Block Burmese Junta Anti-Democratic Efforts (JADE) Act further strengthened these sanctions. The United States has also opposed all assistance to the Government by international financial institutions and urged the governments of other countries to take similar actions. U.S. sanctions include a ban on imports from the country, a ban on the export of financial services to the country, a ban on bilateral aid to the Government, a ban on the export of arms to the country, and a suspension of General System of Preferences benefits and Overseas Private Investment Corporation and U.S. Export-Import Bank financial services in support of U.S. investment and exports to the country. The U.S. Government also ended active promotion of trade with the country, limited the issuance of visas to high-ranking government and military officials and their immediate family members, and froze SPDC assets in the United States. U.S. citizens have been prohibited from engaging in new investment activities in the country since May 1997.