Home Tags Posts tagged with "Burma"

Burma


Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, has won Myanmar’s general election, officials say.

With more than 80% of contested seats now declared, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party has more than the two-thirds it needs to choose the president, ending decades of military-backed rule.

A quarter of seats are automatically held by the military, meaning it remains hugely influential.

Under the constitution Aung San Suu Kyi cannot become president herself.

Despite this, the election was seen as the first openly contested poll in Myanmar – also known as Burma – in 25 years.Aung San Suu Kyi's Party Wins Historic Majority

By early Friday, the NLD needed two more votes to reach the threshold required for a majority.

Then at midday, the electoral commission said the party had taken 348 of the 664 seats in the two houses of parliament. This represents a two-thirds majority of the contested seats.

Votes are being counted and the final tally is not expected for several days.

The process of choosing Myanmar’s new president will begin in January, when parliament reconvenes.

Current President Thein Sein and the head of the military had already said they would respect the outcome and work with the new government.


They and the NLD are expected to being talks next week on the way forward.

About 30 million people were eligible to vote in the election – turnout was estimated at about 80%.

It was widely seen as a fair vote though there were reports of irregularities, and hundreds of thousands of people – including the Muslim Rohingya minority, who are not recognized as citizens – were denied voting rights.

The ruling military-backed Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP) – which won the last, widely criticized election five years ago – has so far gained about 5% of seats contested.

Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has won her own seat after the country’s historic parliamentary election.

Aung San Suu Kyi has requested meetings with the military-backed leadership next week to discuss national reconciliation.

Her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), has taken a decisive lead in results from November 8 election.

With about 40% of seats declared, the NLD has taken nearly 90% of the vote, leaving the military-backed USDP party with about 5% of seats.

However, a quarter of seats are reserved for the military.

Aung Suu Kyi sent letters to President Thein Sein, the commander of the armed forces and the parliamentary speaker.

She has not declared victory yet, and is treading carefully, say correspondents – calling for meetings next week with the three most senior figures in the current government to discuss an orderly transfer of power.

Photo AP

Photo AP

“A peaceful implementation of the people’s desire, which they expressed via the November 8 election, is very important for the country’s dignity and people’s peace of mind,” she wrote in letters made public by the NLD, according to the Irrawaddy news website.

“So I want to discuss with you in the spirit of national reconciliation. So please arrange a time for the meeting that would be convenient for you next week.”

In a response on his Facebook page, Information Minister Ye Htut reiterated that the government would respect the results of the poll, but said the requested meeting would only take place after the election commission had done its work, said AP news agency.

Aung Suu Kyi earlier retained her own seat and will return as lawmaker for her Kawhmu constituency in Rangoon – though she leads the NLD she is barred by the constitution from being president.

However, she has said “that won’t stop me from making all the decisions”.

The election commission is slowly releasing results.

The USDP, which has been in power in Myanmar since 2011, has taken 10 of the 491 seats being contested in both houses of parliament, compared to 163 by the NLD.

A quarter of the 664 parliamentary seats are set aside for the army. For the NLD to have the winning majority and be able to select the president, it will need at least two-thirds of the remaining seats – or 329.

About 30 million people were eligible to vote in last week’s election in Myanmar. Turnout was estimated at about 80%.

Hundreds of thousands of people – including the Muslim Rohingya minority, who are not recognized as citizens – were denied voting rights.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, is voting in the first openly contested general elections in 25 years after decades of military rule.

The ruling Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP), backed by the military, is one of the frontrunners.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) is expected to make large gains, although she is barred from running for the presidency.

Large crowds gathered in Yangon as Aung San Suu Kyi arrived to cast her vote.

Across the country, long queues formed at some polling booths, with reports of people queuing from long before dawn.

About 30 million people are eligible to vote in the election in Myanmar.

Clear results are not expected until November 9.

Photo Reuters

Photo Reuters

More than 6,000 candidates from over 90 parties are vying to be elected to the 664-seat parliament in the first national elections since a nominally civilian government took power in 2011.

However, 25% of seats are reserved for unelected military representatives, who are expected to side with the USDP.

Aung San Suu Kyi, a former Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is barred from the presidency as the constitution disqualifies anyone with foreign offspring.

On November 5, Aung San Suu Kyi said she would be “above the president” if her party won. The NLD must take 67% of all contested seats in order to gain a majority.

Current President Thein Sein said he would accept the election result.

Hundreds of thousands of people – including minority Rohingya Muslims – have been denied voting rights, raising concerns about the fairness of the poll.

Ahead of the vote, security has been stepped up across the country, with some 40,000 police guarding polling stations.

Ruled by the junta for nearly half a century, Myanmar has seen economic and political reform in recent years.

Aung San Suu Kyi has already raised concerns about poll fraud and voting irregularities. In the 1990 election, the NLD won a majority, but the results were largely ignored by the generals.

For its part, the government has warned that rapid change could lead to civil unrest.

0

Myanmar’s government has signed on October 15 what it says is a nationwide ceasefire deal with eight armed ethnic groups.

The signing ceremony in Myanmar’s capital, Nay Pyi Taw, was the culmination of two years of peace talks.

However, the most active rebel groups – seven of the 15 groups involved in negotiations – stayed out of the deal.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been engaged in armed conflict with various groups seeking greater autonomy since independence from the British in 1948.

The government hopes today’s deal will be the first step on a path to a lasting political settlement.

Among the groups which have not signed are the largest armed group, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), and the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), whose Kachin Independence Army (KIA) controls large areas of north-eastern Kachin state and regularly clashes with the Burmese army.Myanmar signs ceasefire deal with rebels

Political discussions are now due to begin within months on the structure of a new, and likely more federal, system of government.

However, there are still concerns that peace with the groups signing the agreement could be short lived, if the Burmese army ignores the ceasefire, as it has with others.

Earlier this week, all of the groups signing were removed from the government’s list of “unlawful associations”, a step towards bringing them into mainstream politics.

The Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) Peace Council, the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), the Chin National Front (CNF), the Pa-O National Liberation Organization (PNLO), and the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) were removed from the list on October 13.

They joined three other armed groups removed on October 12: the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF), the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), and the Karen National Union (KNU) – Myanmar’s oldest armed group, which has been fighting for nearly seven decades.

The seven groups which have not signed are not far behind, and have agreed a draft deal, negotiators said.

Many of Myanmar’s ethnic minority groups have long demanded greater autonomy, or outright independence, from central government, which is dominated by the Burmese majority.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has previously urged rebel groups to focus more on a lasting deal than a quick one, was not at the signing ceremony.

State media had reported that representatives from the European Union, India, China, Japan, and the United Nations would be at the signing.

0

Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to begin her first visit to China on June 10, at a time of tension between the two countries.

Aung San Suu Kyi will meet President Xi Jinping and PM Li Keqiang, but no other details have been provided.

Relations between Myanmar (also known as Burma) and China have cooled in recent years, partly because of violence near their mutual border.

Myanmar has been fighting rebels in its eastern Kokang region, which borders China’s Yunnan province.

China is concerned about violence spilling over the border. At least five people in Yunnan died in March when an aircraft from Myanmar dropped a bomb on a sugar cane field.

China sent patrols to the border in response.

The Chinese government department handling Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit would not be making any details of the trip public nor inviting media, other than state media, to any events.Aung San Suu Kyi China visit

This visit is meant to improve ties between Myanmar’s opposition leader and China but she will be closely watched for various issues.

Many are already calling on Aung San Suu Kyi to recognize her similarities to fellow Nobel Peace prize winner Liu Xiaobo during her visit.

Chinese dissident and writer Liu Xiaobo is serving an 11-year sentence for “inciting subversion of state power”.

While Myanmar’s military junta was under Western sanctions and Aung San Suu Kyi was under house arrest, China remained a loyal ally.

Since reforms were introduced in 2011, the government of President Thein Sein has allied itself closely with the US, although China continues to help develop major infrastructure projects in Myanmar.

Given the possibility that Aung San Suu Kyi’s party will do well in upcoming elections, Beijing is determined to put pragmatism first and build a relationship with a woman whose politics it deplores, she adds.

As head of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to play a key role in the presidential elections this November.

Aung San Suu Kyi is unlikely to run for president, however, as a clause in the constitution blocks her from standing because her husband and children are foreign citizens.

A boat carrying about 200 Rohingya Muslims has capsized off western Burma, aid agencies say.

The boat was evacuating people ahead of Cyclone Mahasen, which is expected to hit the area later in the week.

It sank off Pauktaw township in Rakhine state late on Monday, leaving an unknown number of people missing.

Tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims are living in temporary camps in Rakhine after violence last year.

The UN had called for an urgent evacuation ahead of the storm, warning that many areas where displaced people are now living are in low-lying coastal areas at risk of flooding or tidal surges.

Aid agencies said that three boats carrying between 100 and 200 people got into trouble after setting out on Monday night.

At least one boat, which was towing the other two smaller boats, sank, and dozens of people are still missing.

Barbara Manzi, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), said the search-and-rescue operations were ongoing.

A boat carrying about 200 Rohingya Muslims has capsized off western Burma

A boat carrying about 200 Rohingya Muslims has capsized off western Burma

“It appears that this boat left the camp with the blessing of the authorities before hitting rocks,” she said.

Burmese officials began evacuations this week, after warnings the cyclone may hit neighboring Bangladesh from Thursday, bringing heavy rain and flooding to western Burma.

This could hit an estimated 140,000 displaced people – mostly Rohingya – who are living in makeshift shelters in Rakhine, aid groups say.

They have been displaced since violent clashes between Rakhine’s Muslim and Buddhist communities in June and October 2012.

“The government has been repeatedly warned to make appropriate arrangements for those displaced in Rakhine state,” Isabelle Arradon, deputy Asia Pacific director of the rights group Amnesty International, said in a statement on Monday.

“Now thousands of lives are at stake unless targeted action is taken immediately to assist those most at risk.”

Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said that if the government failed to evacuate those at risk, “any disaster that results will not be natural but man-made”.

But some people have reportedly refused to leave because they fear having nowhere else to go.

“We are very worried about the cyclone… we do not have enough food to eat,” a member of the Rohingya community told Agence-France Presse news agency.

“Many people are in trouble. But we have no idea what we should do.”

According to NASA, Cyclone Mahasen was north-east of Sri Lanka on Monday. It was expected to strengthen as it moved north, the agency said.

Five years ago, Cyclone Nargis struck Burma’s Irrawaddy Delta region, killing at least 140,000 people and leaving three million in urgent need of assistance

[youtube vNpIM9Bh-9I]

Burma has imposed a state of emergency in Meiktila following three days of communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims.

A statement announcing the decision on behalf of President Thein Sein was broadcast on state television.

Thein Sein said that the move would enable the military to help restore order in the riot-hit town, south of Mandalay.

At least 20 people are reported to have been killed since the violence began, but exact figures are unclear.

Meiktila MP Win Thein said scores of mostly Buddhist people accused of being involved in the violence had been arrested by police.

He said that he saw the bodies of eight people who had been killed in violence in the town on Friday morning.

Burma has imposed a state of emergency in Meiktila following three days of communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims

Burma has imposed a state of emergency in Meiktila following three days of communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims

The disturbances began on Wednesday when an argument in a gold shop escalated quickly, with mobs setting mainly Muslim buildings alight, including some mosques.

Fighting in the streets between men from rival communities later broke out.

Meanwhile people in Meiktila said they are affected by food shortages because the main market in the town has been closed for the last five days.

Barack Obama said Burma is on a “remarkable journey” of reform that has much further to go, on his first visit to the South East Asian nation by a serving US president.

A desire for change had been met by an agenda of reform, he said, and he was there to extend a “hand of friendship”.

But, in a speech at Rangoon University, Barack Obama urged Burmese people to accept Muslim Rohingyas after recent violence.

Crowds of people, some waving US flags, lined the streets as he arrived.

The visit was intended to show support for the reforms put in place by Thein Sein’s government since the end of military rule in November 2010.

Activists have warned that the visit may be too hasty – political prisoners remain behind bars and ethnic conflicts in border areas are unresolved.

On Monday another prisoner amnesty was announced, with about 50 of the 66 inmates freed reportedly political detainees. About 200 political prisoners remain behind bars, activists say.

Barack Obama spent about six hours in Burma and did not visit the capital, Nay Pyi Taw.

The highlight of his visit was a speech at Rangoon University, which was at the heart of pro-democracy protests in 1988 that were violently suppressed by the military regime.

Addressing students, he said America would help to rebuild Burma’s economy and could be a partner on its journey forward.

Referring to his 20 January 2009 inauguration speech in which he pledged the US would extend a hand to any country that was willing to unclench its fist, he said: “Today I’ve come to keep my promise and extend the hand of friendship.

“But this remarkable journey has just begun, and has much further to go.

“Reforms launched from the top of society must meet the aspirations of citizens who form its foundation. The flickers of progress that we have seen must not be extinguished.”

He called for an end to communal violence between Muslims and Buddhists in the western state of Rakhine that has left more than 100,000 people displaced. They are mostly Muslim Rohingyas who are stateless and face severe discrimination in Burma.

“National reconciliation will take time, but for the sake of our common humanity, and for the sake of this country’s future, it is necessary to stop the incitement and to stop violence,” he said.

Earlier Barack Obama met Thein Sein, saying the reform process “here in Myanmar… is one that can lead to incredible development opportunities”.

He used the country name preferred by the government – US officials described the move as a “diplomatic courtesy” but not a policy shift.

Barack Obama met Burma pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the lakeside home where she spent years under house arrest

Barack Obama met Burma pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the lakeside home where she spent years under house arrest

Barack Obama then met pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the lakeside home where she spent years under house arrest. She thanked the US for its support but warned that difficult times could lie ahead.

“The most difficult time in any transition is when we think that success is in sight,” she said, saying people should not be “lured by a mirage of success”.

The US president and his team also made a brief stop at Shwedagon Pagoda, the Rangoon landmark that has been at the heart of many key moments in the country’s history.

Barack Obama was accompanied by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – who was returning to Burma almost a year after her first visit.

Thein Sein’s government came to power after widely criticized polls in November 2010 that saw military rule replaced with a military-backed civilian government.

Since then – to the surprise of many – his administration has embarked on a reform process. Many – but not all – political prisoners have been freed, censorship has been relaxed and some economic reforms enacted.

Aung San Suu Kyi was freed from house arrest shortly after the polls. Her NLD party, which boycotted the elections, has since rejoined the political process. It now has a small presence in parliament after a landslide win in by-elections deemed generally free and fair in April.

In response to the reforms, many Western nations have relaxed sanctions against Burma and begun a process of engagement.

But rights groups have cautioned against a rush to embrace the South East Asian nation, warning that political prisoners remain behind bars and ethnic conflicts are unresolved.

After visiting Burma, Barack Obama headed to Cambodia to join a meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations, in a trip that underlines the shift in US foreign policy focus to the Asia-Pacific region.

[youtube 46CHyeHbXK8]

[youtube jrtwn4w_ttM]

A strong earthquake has rocked central Burma, and there are unconfirmed reports of casualties.

The 6.8-magnitude quake hit some 120 km (70 miles) north of the second-largest city of Mandalay, at a depth of just 10 km, the US Geological Survey said.

Burma’s local media say a bridge under construction collapsed in the town of Shwebo, closest to the epicentre.

In Mandalay, terrified residents dashed out of their homes for safety, fearing more tremors.

The earthquake hit at 07:42 local time, the US Geological Survey said.

An unnamed government official in the capital Naypidaw told Agence France-Presse that so far two people were known to have died, three have been injured and five people are still missing.

A police officer in Shwebo said five construction workers who had been working on the Radana Thinga bridge near the town were missing after “a huge steel beam fell into the river”.

He told Reuters that one woman had died and 10 people had been injured in the nearby town of Kyauk Myaung after a house collapsed.

“This is the worst earthquake I felt in my entire life,” 52-year-old Shwebo resident Soe Soe told Associated Press.

Residents in Mandalay described panic in the streets as they fled the shaking buildings.

“I ran from my bed carrying my daughter out to the street. There were many people in the road. Some were shouting and others felt dizzy,” San Yu Kyaw said.

“People are now scared of more earthquakes,” he added.

The earthquake – which was felt as far away as Bangkok in neighboring Thailand – was followed by two strong aftershocks.

The US Geological Survey issued a yellow alert, indicating that “some casualties and damage are possible”.

Earthquakes are relatively common in Burma.

In March 2011, at least 75 people died when a powerful earthquake hit Burma near the borders with Laos and Thailand.

 

Burma’s President Thein Sein has acknowledged major destruction in Rakhine state, the scene of recent ethnic unrest.

“There have been incidents of whole villages and parts of the towns being burnt down in Rakhine state,” said Thein Sein’s spokesman.

He was speaking after Human Rights Watch released satellite pictures showing hundreds of buildings destroyed in the coastal town of Kyaukpyu alone.

It says the victims were mostly Muslim Rohingya, targeted by non-Muslims.

Presidential spokesman Zaw Htay said the government was tightening security in Rakhine state, which is also known as Arakan.

“If necessary, we will send more police and military troops in order to get back stability,” he added.

There is long-standing tension between ethnic Rakhine people, who make up the majority of the state’s population, and Muslims, many of whom are Rohingya and are stateless.

The Burmese authorities regard the Rohingya as illegal immigrants and correspondents say there is widespread public hostility to them.

The satellite pictures released by Human Right Watch, a US-based group, show Kyaukpyu district on 9 October, and then on 25 October.

On 9 October, hundreds of closely packed houses can be seen on the peninsula, as well as scores of houseboats along the northern shoreline.

But in the image taken on Thursday, few boats remain and the 35-acre district is almost entirely empty of houses.

HRW said many residents are thought to have fled by boat.

A local reporter who visited the site said the area had been completely destroyed, with some buildings still smouldering.

At least 64 people were killed this week, officials said, in the first serious outburst of violence since June, when a state of emergency was declared in Rakhine.

At that time deadly clashes claimed dozens of lives and thousands of people were forced to flee their homes – many are yet to return.

HRW said it feared the death toll from the latest unrest could be much higher, based on witness reports and “the government’s well-documented history of underestimating figures that might lead to criticism of the state”.

Non-Muslims are reporting that this time they too were fired on by government forces during the unrest, and suffered many casualties.

The government has declared a curfew in the affected areas, but its response since the violence first broke out is being widely criticized as inadequate.

On Friday six towns were hit by clashes and a night-time curfew is in place in several locations including Min Bya and Mrauk Oo where the latest spate of violence began.

It is unclear what prompted the latest clashes. The Rakhine Buddhists and Muslims, believed to be mainly Rohingya, blame each other for the violence.

In Bangladesh, border officials said they believed several boats with Rohingyas on board were waiting to try to cross the river from Burma. One official said 52 Rohingya had been sent back in the last few days.

Muslims throughout Burma have abandoned plans to celebrate the festival of Eid al-Adha because of the violence.

In August, Burma set up a commission to investigate the violence between Buddhists and Muslims in the west of the country. Authorities earlier rejected a UN-led inquiry.

[youtube tZtRXwpdmBY]

At least 56 people have been killed and hundreds of homes torched since Sunday, as clashes spread in Burma’s Rakhine state.

Several were killed overnight as violence erupted despite a night-time curfew in at least two towns.

The latest clashes are the first serious outburst of violence since June when a state of emergency was declared in Rakhine after 90 people were killed.

But tensions remained high between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Muslims.

It is unclear what prompted the latest clashes. The Rakhine Buddhists and Muslims blame each other for the violence.

Clashes erupted in the Ratha Taung township late last night but this later spread to the Kyauk Taw township, where security forces opened fire, reports say.

Rakhine state spokesman Win Myaing said on Thursday that the total death toll since violence flared up again on Sunday had reached 56.

More than 1,000 houses have been torched since then and police have deployed reinforcements in the townships of Min Bya and Mrauk Oo, where curfews are now in effect.

It was the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman by three Muslims in May that set off the initial unrest.

A mob later killed 10 Muslims in retaliation, although they were unconnected with the earlier incident, and the violence escalated after that.

In June, about 90 people were killed as clashes spread across the state.

The houses of both Buddhists and Muslims were burnt down and thousands of people fled. Muslims throughout Burma have abandoned plans to celebrate the festival of Eid al-Adha because of the violence.

There is long-standing tension between the ethnic Rakhine people, who make up the majority of the state’s population, and Muslims, many of whom are Rohingya. The Burmese authorities regard the Rohingya as illegal immigrants and correspondents say there is widespread public hostility to them.

In August Burma set up a commission to investigate the violence between Buddhists and Muslims in the west of the country. Authorities earlier rejected an UN-led inquiry.

 

0

After almost 60 years, Coca-Cola is on sale again in Burma.

Coca-Cola is one of the world’s most recognized brands, so are there any countries where the drinks giant still remains unsold?

The company says it sells 1.8 billion servings of the drink every day. But for the last six decades, none has been in Burma.

That’s because of US trade sanctions on the military junta which ruled the country from 1962 to 2011.

Those sanctions were suspended a few months ago, as the country began to move towards democratic reforms.

But the company said on Monday its first delivery had arrived and local production would begin soon.

Coca-Cola’s entry into any country is a powerful symbol, says Tom Standage, author of A History of the World in Six Glasses.

“The moment Coca-Cola starts shipping is the moment you can say there might be real change going on here,” he says.

“Coca-Cola is the nearest thing to capitalism in a bottle.”

After almost 60 years, Coca-Cola is on sale again in Burma

After almost 60 years, Coca-Cola is on sale again in Burma

Coca-Cola’s rival PepsiCo has also announced plans to resume sales in Burma.

There are now just two countries in the world where Coca-Cola cannot be bought or sold – Cuba and North Korea, both of which are under long-term US trade embargoes (Cuba since 1962 and North Korea since 1950).

Cuba was actually one of the first three countries outside the US to bottle Coke, in 1906.

But the company moved out as Fidel Castro’s government began seizing private assets in the 1960s, and has never returned.

In North Korea – the other Coca-Cola free zone – recent media reports suggested it was being sold in a restaurant in Pyongyang. But Coca-Cola says if any drinks are being sold there, they are being smuggled in on the black market, not via official channels.

The dark fizzy soda was created in 1886 in Atlanta, Georgia. From the early days the Coca-Cola company looked to expand worldwide, and by the early 1900s it was bottling the drink in Asia and Europe.

But the big boost came as a result of World War II when Coca-Cola was provided to US troops overseas.

There were more than 60 military bottling plants for Coca-Cola around the world during the war, and locals got a taste for the drink too.

It became powerfully associated with American patriotism, says Tom Standage, and was seen as so crucial to the war effort that it was exempted from sugar rationing.

Dwight Eisenhower, at the time the supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe, was said to be a particular fan and he ensured its availability in North Africa.

He also introduced the drink to top Soviet general, Georgy Zhukov, who asked if a special, colorless version – one that looked like vodka – could be made, and Coca-Cola duly obliged for a while, says Tom Standage.

These days Coca-Cola is regularly ranked as one of the top, if not the top, global brands.

“It has always been about the American dream,” says Bruce Webster, an independent branding consultant who has done work for the Coca-Cola company in the past.

But not all countries have embraced the American-ness that seems to be embodied by Coca-Cola.

It was the French who first coined the pejorative term “coca-colonisation” in the 1950s. Trucks were overturned and bottles smashed, says Tom Standage, as protesters saw the drink as a threat to French society.

During the Cold War, Coca-Cola became a symbol of capitalism and a faultline between capitalism and communism, says Bruce Webster.

It was not marketed in the former Soviet Union due to the fear that profits would go straight into communist government coffers, says Tom Standage.

Pepsi filled the gap and was widely sold.

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, many East Germans bought Coca-Cola by the crate-load, says Tom Standage.

“Drinking Coca-Cola became a symbol of freedom.”

Other than the former Soviet Union, the main region that Coca-Cola has struggled in historically is the Middle East, largely due to a boycott implemented by the Arab League from 1968-1991, as a punishment for it selling in Israel.

Pepsi picked up a lot of the sales in the Middle East – and many local versions of the drink thrived.

Coca-Cola is not trying to get involved in politics, says Bruce Webster, but as a huge brand so closely associated with the US, it sometimes finds itself tangled up in politics, or singled out for criticism.

“The whole strength of the brand is plugging into a way of life that so many people wanted. As an ideology, it polarizes. And sometimes those associations become unattractive,” he says.

“America itself as brand is more tarnished now. People are more ambiguous towards it.”

In 2003, protesters in Thailand poured Coca-Cola onto the streets as a demonstration against the US-led invasion of Iraq, and sales were temporarily suspended, says Tom Standage.

Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has threatened to ban Coca-Cola and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez recently urged people to drink locally-made fruit juice rather than drink Coca-Cola or Pepsi.

But 126 years after its birth, Coca-Cola is still pushing forward in terms of sales, with strong growth – especially, it says, in the emerging markets of India, China and Brazil.

Coca-Cola global expansion

• The first Coca-Cola was served in 1886 at a pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia

• Canada, Cuba and Panama became the first countries outside the US to bottle it in 1906

• Coca-Cola expanded to Asia, opened a bottling plant in the Philippines in 1912, and then in Paris and Bordeaux in 1919

• By 1930 Coca-Cola was bottled in 27 countries around the world.

• By 1959, it was operating in over 100 countries

Source: Coca-Cola

 

Burma has decided to abolish pre-publication censorship of the country’s media, the information ministry has announced.

The Press Scrutiny and Registration Department (PSRD) said that as of Monday, reporters would no longer have to submit their work to state censors before publication.

However, strict laws remain in place which could see journalists punished for what they have written.

Burma has kept tight control over all aspects of its media for some 50 years.

But the civilian government has been gradually easing restrictions since taking office last year.

Burma has decided to abolish pre-publication censorship of the country's media

Burma has decided to abolish pre-publication censorship of the country's media

“Censorship began on 6 August 1964 and ended 48 years and two weeks later,” Tint Swe, head of the PSRD, told AFP news agency on Monday.

“Any publication inside the country will not have to get prior permission from us before they are published.

“From now on, our department will just carry out registering publications for keeping them at the national archives and issuing a license to printers and publishers,” he said.

Tint Swe said the likelihood of permission being granted for private newspapers to be set up was “closer than before” and could happen after a new media law is enacted.

A ministry official told AFP films would still be subject to censorship.

Wai Phyo, editor of the Weekly Eleven journal, told Reuters the move was “a big improvement on the past”, but that editors would now be under increasing pressure to ensure their publications remained legal.

In the past, entire newspapers have been shut because of their reports and many reporters have been jailed.

But in recent months, journalists had been given guidelines allowing them to write about controversial topics, something that would have been unthinkable under the previous military rule.

Some 300 newspapers and magazines covering less sensitive issues had already been given permission to print without prior censorship and restrictions were lifted on 30,000 internet sites, allowing users unrestricted access to political content for the first time.

In October last year, Tint Swe said censorship should be abolished as it was incompatible with democratic practices, while warning that all publications should accept the responsibilities that go with press freedom.

 

 

Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has won Burma by-election for parliament after a landmark vote which saw 45 seats contested.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) said she had easily won the vote in Kawhmu, though official counts have not yet finished.

The NLD was competing in its first elections since 1990.

The vote is a key test of promised political reforms, though the military-backed ruling party remains dominant.

During the campaign, foreign journalists and international observers were given the widest access for years.

The European Union hinted that it could ease some sanctions if the vote went smoothly.

“We hope the whole day can be run in a peaceful way and we’ll make an evaluation later on the basis of all the polling sessions that we will be seeing,” EU observer Ivo Belet said.

Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has won Burma by-election for parliament

Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has won Burma by-election for parliament

The NLD alleged some voting irregularities in the capital, Naypyidaw.

A NLD spokesman told AFP news agency he had sent a letter of complaint to the election commission over allegations ballot forms had been tampered with.

Nyan Win said there had been complaints that wax had been put over the check box for the party, which could later be rubbed off to cancel the vote.

“This is happening around the country. The election commission is responsible for what is occurring,” he said.

Burma’s current government is still dominated by military and ex-military figures from the old regime that ruled the country for decades and was accused of widespread rights abuses.

But since 2010, when a transition to a new generation of leaders began, the government has impressed observers with the pace of change.

Most political prisoners have been freed, media restrictions have been relaxed and, crucially, Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD have been persuaded to rejoin the political process.

They have taken no part in Burma’s political process since 1990, when the NLD won a landslide victory in a general election but the military refused to accept the result.

Aung San Suu Kyi spent much of the following 20 years under house arrest and refused to take part in the 2010 election, which ushered in the current reforms.

The NLD is one of 17 opposition parties taking part in Sunday’s election. Only a fraction of seats are up for grabs and the military-backed party will still dominate.

Aung San Suu Kyi, 66, was standing for a lower house seat in the Kawhmu Township constituency, outside Rangoon.

On Sunday, she visited polling stations in Kawhmu before heading back to Rangoon.

Earlier, Aung San Suu Kyi described this year’s election campaign as not ”genuinely free and fair” and warned that reforms were “not irreversible”.

But she said she and the NLD did not regret taking part.

“Still we are determined to go forward because this is what our people want,” she said.

A small number of representatives from the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), along with the EU and US, have been invited to observe polling.

More than 100 foreign journalists are believed to have received permission to cover the vote.

 

Thein Sein, Burma’s president will grant amnesty to more than 6,300 prisoners starting with tomorrow, according to the local state-controlled media.

The amnesty announcement in Burma was made on state television and did not specify how many of those freed prisoners would be political detainees.

Thein Sein’s announcement came hours after Burma’s new human rights body called for the release of “prisoners of conscience” who did not threaten state stability.

Yesterday, the United States said if Burma will show concrete progress on issues like political prisoners, it would respond.

Burma is currently under Western nations’ sanctions, and one of the key reasons is political prisoners.

Thein Sein, Burma's president will grant amnesty to more than 6,300 prisoners starting with tomorrow

Thein Sein, Burma's president will grant amnesty to more than 6,300 prisoners starting with tomorrow

The number of political detainees is thought to be more than two thousands and includes journalists, pro-democracy activists, government critics, monks involved in anti-government protests in 2007 and members of Burma’s ethnic groups fighting for greater autonomy.

It said that the total of 6,359 prisoners will be released starting with tomorrow.

The amnesty announcement did not say whether the action will include political prisoners, as Burma has in the past carried out large-scale amnesties without freeing political prisoners.

However, recently there have been reports from Burma, citing unidentified government officials, suggesting an amnesty of some political prisoners could be imminent.

Thein Sein amnesty announcement came on the same day that Burma’s new human rights commission called on the president to release “prisoners of conscience”.

The human rights commission said in an letter published in Burma’ state media that those who did not “pose a threat to the stability of state” should be freed to help with nation-building.

Burma held its first elections in two decades almost a year ago – polls which saw military rule replaced with a military-backed civilian-led government.

Starting with that moment, Burma’s government has freed pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and held dialogue with her.

Yesterday, Kurt Campbell, a top US diplomat, said the United States had noted “dramatic developments under way” in Burma.

Kurt Campbell said also that Washington wanted to see concrete progress on issues like political prisoners – and if it did, the United States would respond.