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File picture of the Wunna Theikdi Indoor Stadium in Naypyitaw after a fight broke out between Yangoon United FC and Naypyitaw FC during a football match on 4th August. (Photo: Heain Htet / Mizzima)

Myanmar is all geared up to host the 27th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in December 2013. The SEA Games is the biggest sporting event in Southeast Asia. The opening ceremony is being planned at the newly built Wunna Theikdi stadium which has the capacity to accommodate 30,000 spectators. In addition the stadium will be the venue for other sports tournaments and major soccer matches.

The question that arises is, are we ready for an event of such magnitude? If recent incidents are any indication, we are not. Such incidents tarnish the reputation of peace loving and friendly Myanmar people and the entire country. A soccer match turned ugly at the Naypyitaw stadium on 4th August.

The unruliness that took place in domestic matches can certainly rear its ugly head again during international sports events during the SEA Games.

Similar attacks by unruly crowd also took place in the World Cup qualifier soccer match between the Myanmar and Oman team in July 2011 at the Thuwunna Stadium in Yangon. Over enthusiastic Myanmar fans threw missiles of umbrellas, footwear, water bottles, etc. forcing the referee to stop the match after 39 minutes in the first half.

As a result of this humiliating act, the Myanmar team suffered a loss of 2:0. The FIFA also ordered the Myanmar Football Federation (MFF) to pay a penalty of US$ 30,000.

An overview of these two incidents of disturbances created by the unruly mob of fans shows that there were security lapses, mismanagement by the sports authority and lack of proper arrangements.

For example, at the Yangon Thuwunna Stadium incident on July 2011, the collapsible iron grill door at main entry gate was damaged when eager spectators pushed to enter the stadium. They all had entry tickets which they displayed at the entry gate. The damaged iron-grill door caved in under the pressure of the crowd pushing against it. The uncontrollable crowed rushed into the stadium after it. It is fair to say that the incident is a result of mis-management in the arrangements made by the sports authority.

The other unfortunate incident on August 4, 2013 happened due to security lapses. The disturbance in the stadium was sparked by a brawl among the fans. The MFF had requested the Region Government to provide security cover for the football match but the latter could not provide adequate security personnel. The incident could have been kept under control had there been enough security police.

One cannot assume that mis-management and security lapses will not happen again in the future. The host country should ensure that there is no re-occurrence of mob unrests during international sports events in general and SEA Games in particular. It is also the responsibility of the fans and spectators of matches in Myanmar to preserve and promote Myanmar's good reputation and image.

It is natural human instinct to cheer and support one's home team in international sports events. But the fans should preserve sporting spirit by consciously avoiding unruliness and impolite behavior in the future.

 

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(Editorial) - The 25th anniversary of the 8888 Uprising Day is only a few days away. Preparations to commemorate the anniversary have been underway amid significant changes going on in Myanmar right now. Judging from the current situation, nationwide celebration and commemoration of the historic day is a possibility.

Commemorating the 8888 Uprising Day is not only a noble act but also important as it the day on which we remember and honor many who sacrificed their lives and blood for the country. Their sacrificed had a profound yet basic objective - to end exploitation of the people.

Everyone is aware of that fact that 26 years of one-party dictatorship in Myanmar ruined every aspect of our lives, namely education, health, social welfare, political freedom, economy, human rights, employment, etc. The one-party dictatorship focused only on the prolonging their power and exploiting the country's resources. It pushed our country into an abyss of poverty.  The rich were getting richer while the poor were getting poorer. The country was stuck in a vicious cycle of poverty. The people found these circumstances and predicament unacceptable.

Led by students, people from all walks of life- workers, farmers, doctors, teachers, monks, etc, took to the streets to express their dissent and grievances. The protesters were ordinary people from all classes and stratum. They protested against the oppressive rulers and their exploitation. They demanded justice and an accountable democratic government. But the repressive dictators responded to the demands made by unarmed protesters with bullets. The uprising was violently cracked down and suppressed. Thousand lost their lives fighting for justice. Many more were incarcerated in prison for years. The political aspirations of the protesters were snuffed out and has not materialized till date.

It has been 25 years now. Earlier people were banned from observing the anniversary of the unforgettable 8888 uprising. Now it is believed that the people can commemorate the anniversary on nationwide scale openly. There are no more restrictions.

It is important to observe the anniversary and reflect on the dreams and goals of the people who took to the streets 25 years ago. We should remember the noble sacrifice that was made for the country.

The 8888 uprising called for democracy, safe guarding human rights, unity and peace. Hence, let us pave the way and follow the road that will lead us to democracy. Let us not betray or stray from the noble dreams of the popular uprising. Let us adhere to these dreams of a democratic, united and peaceful Myanmar faithfully while commemorating the 25th anniversary of this profound democratic struggle and uprising.

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Editorial - Myanmar was one of the first countries that rectified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) when it was decreed on December 10, 1948. It is mentioned that "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights" and no one shall be discriminated against by "distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status." The UDHR has become the international thermometer to be respected and followed by governments around the world.

Myanmar was condemned for its human rights records in the past, but after reforms initiated by the newly elected government, the international community has welcomed it back into the fold while watching carefully its development. Many countries have lifted political and economic sanctions against Myanmar, and they expect to see the country’s authorities respecting human rights and the rule of law.

However, recent incidents in Mandalay were disturbing, when on July 7 and 8, police officials arrested transvestites and gay persons who hang around the corners of Mandalay palace moat as "public nuisances". The suspects claimed that the police harassed and abused them during their detention, saying they were forced to strip and punished in “undignified ways.”

Such police activities are contrary to human rights norms, which demand that every person is treated humanely, including criminals and detainees.

Moreover, international law states: "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." The constitution of Myanmar endorses this and therefore the incident falls under the bills of rights defined in the constitution.

It is worth suggesting that the existing laws and regulations be reviewed to correct the weaknesses and to stand in line with international human rights norms.

It is necessary to review oppressive laws, which are frequently used by the police to harass someone at random.

The LGBT community, for its part, should restraint from demeaning themselves in front of a society which still views them negatively. They should avoid any activities which create the impression that they are a "public nuisance".

Law enforcement officers are an important part of building a society that respects the Rule of Law. However, they must take their responsibility seriously and refrain from abusing their power. Human rights awareness training should be available to all law enforcement officials.

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EDITORIAL—The Shwe Gas Movement launched a briefing paper in Royal Rose Hall in Yangon on July 17, presenting "Good Governance and The Extractive Industry in Burma (Myanmar): Complications of Burma's Regulatory Framework". The briefing paper aims to educate policymakers, corporations, various governments, inter-governmental groups, and other stakeholders, producing a proper policy framework in the extractive industry of Myanmar.

While the new government transforms the country into a democratic society, the investors and energy-hunters worldwide have been seeking to extract rich natural resources from Myanmar, and it is crucial for local regulatory framework in this regards to be strengthened. The paper offers a critical analysis of the current limitations and implications thereof.

Myanmar is endowed with rich natural resources and given an essential condition for the country's development. However, the country needs a comprehensive policy: how the resources shall be managed; how environment shall be preserved and protected; how ethnic nationalities' fundamental rights shall be franchised while promoting development to their lives; how resources shall be shared between the central and state/regional government.

It is crucial to seek a sustainable management of these resources for generations instead of selling out everything at once. For such management, strong laws and regulations must be implemented in this sector, and accountability and transparency must be promoted in all steps of these extractive projects.

As the ethnic areas are particularly abundant with these natural resources, these projects must not affect negatively on their interests, their fundamental rights and their way of life. Thus, it is important that prior and informed consent be gained from local communities with regards to these projects, including from civic organizations.

The Shwe Gas Movement briefing highlights that the current constitution and legislation must not solely represent a centralized government, but simultaneously protect the people and environment of Myanmar. The framework should strengthen accountability and transparency in the sector particularly.

In conclusion, there is a direct relationship between the good governance and management of extractive industry in the country.

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Editorial — While the Interim Press Council and journalists have decried the government’s new Printing and Publishing Enterprise Law, recently approved by the Lower House of Parliament, Mizzima encourages the stakeholders to settle their differences with continued dialogue. Mizzima would like to see both sides emphasize the emergence of a Media Law which could help drive the development of Myanmar media today.

The new law—a substitution for the "1962 Printers and Publishers Registration Law"—should accompany the freedom, duties and responsibilities of the stakeholders, and be a driving force for the development of the Myanmar media.

The legislators should not seek to tighten control over the media, while media professionals should take responsibility and accountability for their reporting as freedom develops. Mizzima believes the people deserve "the right to information" and that this should not be strangled by regulations.

While Myanmar continues on the path to reform, legislators should be aware that having a good start is just as important as the end result. The media stands as a bridge between the government and the people: freedom of expression plays an important role in strengthening both the state and society.

The governing authority will be informed of what the people need through the media, vis-a-vis the government can inform the people about their activities and the objectives of the state though the media. This fact should not need to be overtly or covertly placed in the legislation.

Media reforms play an important role in the comprehensive Myanmar reform process and the international community has been closely watching this development, with many observers using media freedom as a benchmark of genuine reform. Media freedom affects not only the media, but also acts as an image of the whole reform initiative. Mizzima believes delicate measures are needed in the transition and the new legislation in the reform process, including the Media Law. It should contribute to the interests of the state and its citizens.  

The government should be supportive of media freedom, standing hand in hand with media professionals, to maintain the image and the pride of the Myanmar transition. Mutual understanding between the state and its people will instill not only authenticity, but pride, in Myanmar’s stride towards democracy.

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Editorial – President Thein Sein is currently in London to talk trade and investment in Myanmar, the UK being one of the stops on his whirlwind European tour. One notable point on his tour was the announcement he made in a BBC interview that his government would release all remaining political prisoners by the end of the year. But the question we should ask is – why should these people have to wait?

Silence is the condition of those still incarcerated for stepping out of line. Activists locked up can only talk to the walls, their fellow inmates and their jailers. They have no voice in modern-day “democratic” Myanmar. Even opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi remains largely silent on this issue, despite the fact that she herself suffered a less-harrowing form of imprisonment, house arrest, for her political actions and views.

We really should question President Thein Sein’s continuing game-plan, playing with the lives of people accused of political crimes. On his visit to London, he will have been asked about his government’s efforts to improve human rights in his country, particularly over the concerns about communal violence, as well as these people locked up and those who continue to be locked up.  

As far as can be ascertained, there are still a number of people in jail in our country for the “crime” of disagreeing with the government. Hundreds have been arrested under a new law brought in under the president. The continuing arrests of people on political charges is a warning sign that President Thein Sein, despite what he tells the BBC, wants to keep a lid on political dissent and is less than keen on bringing real democracy to Myanmar. Only last week, Wai Phyo, secretary of the NGO, Generation Wave, was arrested reportedly for a “Free Political Prisoners” poster campaign, which he organized back in July 2011. Two other members were jailed for three months and fined last year, but Wai Phyo managed to evade the dragnet.

Talking to media last week, Wai Phyo expressed surprise at his arrest and said the government should be concerned with their image, “destroying the impression of a democratic transition,” and reflecting badly on the president.

Many people welcome the political and economic reform process underway in Myanmar. Some will argue that life has improved and the changes are for the good. But the continued intimidation and threats to those who step out of line, and the continued jailing of those who should have the right to speak their mind and raise concerns, should not be tolerated.

What is clear is that severe limitations on freedoms of association, assembly, and expression remain, especially for those who were previously imprisoned for political activism. If President Thein Sein is serious about moving the country toward just and democratic governance, he should be prevailed upon to ensure the fundamental freedoms of all of its citizens.

The conditions placed on freed political prisoners by Article 401 should be ditched. They should have a real amnesty. Plus the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Act, the Electronic Transaction Law, the Unlawful Associations Act, and other repressive legislation should be removed.

Only by doing this can President Thein Sein go some way towards claiming his democratic transition is really helping his countrymen and women to have a better life.