January 17, 2014

How to Invest in Myanmar

by Stanley A. Weiss and Tim Heinemann

Doing Well by Doing Right

MYANMAR-For a nation that was frozen in place for half a century by a repressive military junta, it is ironic that the government of Myanmar (also called Burma) is charging that change is not happening fast enough. But that was the scene in November, when government officials seized a multibillion-dollar industrial project in the southern port town of Dawei for its owners’ failure to attract foreign investors in a timely fashion. To restart the project, which had previously been run by a Thai company, Myanmar appealed to government officials and private investors in Japan. The first to bite was the Mitsubishi Corporation, which agreed to build a large, coal-fired plant to generate electricity and kick-start operations.

In the middle of the Dawei drama, a local human rights group, known as the Dawei Development Association, warned Japanese investors that they risked becoming complicit in harming half a million minority residents in the area. The group charged that Myanmar’s government had forced thousands of poor farmers off their land “without fair or equal compensation” or “access to adequate housing or livelihoods after being displaced.”

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September 2, 2013

What Myanmar Must Do To Free Itself of China

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON-Once a closed society, Myanmar, previously known as Burma, has emerged since 2010 as one of the world’s democratic hopes. But amidst the euphoria surrounding a seemingly miraculous transformation, American policy makers have missed one essential fact: Myanmar functions as at least five countries struggling to escape overlordship of a sixth. National reconciliation is Myanmar’s greatest need and should be, with an eye toward China, America’s Myanmar policy’s highest priority.

Ethnic Baman or Burmans make up the majority of the country’s 60 million people. Buddhists of the central lowlands, Burmans dominate the government, economy and army. Other significant ethnic groups include the Kachin (who are Christians) bordering China; the Shan (Buddhists) bordering China, Laos and Thailand; the Karen (Christians and Buddhists) bordering Thailand; the Chin (Christians and Buddhists) bordering India; and Muslims bordering the Bay of Bengal and Bangladesh.

The struggle of non-Burmans for an equal place in the country and the opposition of ethnic Burmans is the story of modern Myanmar. Here is the chronology.

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April 5, 2013

The Folly of Sanctions

by Stanley A. Weiss

Playing in theaters across the United States is a film called ” Upside Down, ” about an alternate universe where twin worlds sit stacked like bread in a sandwich, separated by opposite gravities. If our world could somehow have a similar twin, last month would have marked the tenth anniversary of Saddam Hussein’s willingness to abandon his nuclear program without a shot being fired. Headline writers would have sung the praises of the sanctions regime imposed by the United Nations, which compelled Saddam to abandon his push for weapons of mass destruction. Abu Ghraib would still be a little-known, nondescript prison on the outskirts of Baghdad. And 4,808 American soldiers would still be alive to celebrate birthdays, weddings and Little League baseball games.

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February 25, 2013

Hacking a Path Between China’s California and Myanmar’s Dracula

by Stanley A. Weiss

MANDALAY–Reading the news that the Chinese army systematically hacked into United States computer networks brought to mind another group of soldiers who engaged in an entirely different kind of hacking here seven decades ago: Merrill’s Marauders. What makes them most memorable is that it was one of the few times that American and Chinese soldiers fought on the same side against a common enemy.

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February 20, 2013

Myanmar: A Nation at War With Itself

by Stanley A. Weiss

YANGON — Towering high above the center of this ancient city, the Shwedagon Pagoda is one of the great wonders of the religious world. Said to be encased in more than sixty tons of gold, the Shwedagon is older than the city itself. Its earliest legend goes back 2,500 years, when two brothers from lower Burma are said to have met the Buddha shortly after his enlightenment. As proof of their friendship, the Buddha plucked eight strands of hair from his head, which they brought back and enshrined within the Shwedagon. There it remains, alongside the Buddha’s famous precepts, the first of which reads: “Avoid killing, or harming any living thing.”

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June 22, 2012

What The Lady Could Learn From The First Lady

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON – It was the most closely-watched Congressional race of 2000, and the most expensive in the history of the United States. When the dust settled, Hillary Rodham Clinton raised her right hand and took her seat in the United States Senate. As perhaps the most prominent First Lady in American history, and the first elected to Congress, observers excitedly wondered how she would approach an institution ruled by seniority and typically dismissive of new members.

Hillary herself had questions, so even before she was sworn-in, she approached one of the Senate’s longest-serving members, Senator Robert Byrd. The advice from the dean of the U.S. Senate to the new Senator from New York was short and to-the-point: “Be a workhorse, not a show horse.”

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May 1, 2012

Asia’s Quiet War

NEW DELHI, India—It is one of history’s great ironies that the Buddha grew up, attained enlightenment and taught in India, while Buddhism has gained its greatest number of adherents—nearly 40 percent of the population—in China. This discrepancy was on full display last December, with New Delhi and Beijing each jockeying to be the site of the new International Buddhist Confederation. Swayed by India’s status as Buddhism’s birthplace and displeased by China’s treatment of the Dalai Lama, 900 Buddhist delegates to a conference in India voted to establish Buddhism’s de facto world capital here in India’s capital.

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March 7, 2012

Getting Past the Symbolism of Aung San Suu Kyi

YANGON, MYAMAR—Few of us like to be reminded of mistakes made by heroes, particularly heroes of conscience.  Who among us remembers that Martin Luther King Jr. failed miserably when he tried to take the nonviolent strategies that worked so well in the segregated south of the United States to the industrialized north?  Who likes to remember that Nelson Mandela all but ignored the HIV/AIDS crisis raging across South Africa during his presidency, which eventually took the lives of millions, including his own son?

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February 28, 2012

They Don’t Want Democracy. They Want Freedom.

NAYPYIDAW Myanmar— Imagine for a moment what the United States would look like today if California, Texas, Florida, New York and Michigan had taken up armed rebellion against the U.S. government after World War II.  Imagine if the fighting continued for more than six decades, no matter who ran the government, right up until today.  And imagine how hard it would be for the federal government to convince investors that, despite the constant risk of armed attack, it was safe to invest in these resource-rich states.

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February 23, 2012

The First Thing the U.S. Should Do In Myanmar

YANGON, Myanmar— During the years he lived as a child in Indonesia, President Barack Obama learned the culture of Jakarta, spoke the language, survived chicken pox, and recalls frequently feeling “the sting of [his] teachers’ bamboo switches.” As a young military officer training in the United States, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, known as SBY, parachuted out of planes with Fort Benning’s storied 82nd Airborne Division and attended the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. It is an interesting parallel between presidents that each spent formative years in the other’s country.

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