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April 03-09, 2015

Weekly Media Monitoring report for Burma
Posted on April 9, 2015
1. Lawyers network to offer advice, representation for journalists
Private Media:

Irrawaddy, April 3: “Lawyers network to offer advice, representation for journalists”

  • Lawyers across Burma have teamed up to create a network offering legal assistance to journalists and media agencies, in response to a surge in suits filed against members of the fourth estate.
  • The new Lawyers Network for Journalists and Media, officially launched in Rangoon on Wednesday, comprises about 80 lawyers working in various parts of the country
  • “There has been an increase in legal charges against journalists and media agencies, and there is still a lack of legal protection for them,” said Than Zaw Aung, a lawyer in the network.
  • Twelve media are workers are currently serving prison sentences, while several others are awaiting trial. Many were arrested under legal provisions that experts call outdated and unjust, such as colonial-era laws covering state secrecy, defamation and incitement.
2. ‘Hand over white card or face dire consequences’
Private Media:

Burma Times, April 3: ‘Hand over white card or face dire consequences’

  • Government collaborators in Kiladong, Maungdaw South demanded that all Muslims in the area hand over their white cards immediately.
  • The announcement made over loudspeaker also warned that those failing to hand over their white cards will be hunted down by security forces. 
  • The government has declared that all white cards will expire on March 31 and has fixed May 31 as the last date of handover. But in many places, the white card has already been withdrawn.
  • Locals say that handing the white card will leave them without any official papers providing the government with an excuse to claim they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and push them over the nearby border.
  • Local residents who handed over the white card have not been given the receipt that serves as a temporary identity card.
3. White cards surrendered in Rakhine
State-owned Media:

Myanmar Times, April 7: “Over 66,000 white cards surrendered in Rakhine”

  • Immigration officials in Rakhine State have collected almost 67,000 white cards since a hand-back program began on April 1, say senior officials.
  • In February, the President’s Office announced that the cards, which have been distributed to temporary citizens, would be invalid from March 31. Holders have been given until May 31 to return them.
  • 83% of white card holders live in Rakhine State.
  • Those who hand in the cards are supposed to have been given a receipt, which they can then use to apply for citizenship from June. Officials say the process is running smoothly, but this contradicts other reports which claim that many Rohingyas are not receiving receipts.

Myanmar Times, April 9: “White card hand back program hits 100,000”

  • Authorities in Rakhine State have now collected more than 100,000 of the cards since a handback program began on April 1, a senior official said yesterday. o More than 83% of white-card holders live in Rakhine State, and most are held by Rohingya.
  • Those who surrender their cards are given a receipt that they can use in the process of applying for a permanent citizenship document, the National Registration Card (NRC), or pink card.
  • State- and township-level scrutiny boards will review applications for citizenship that are supported by the necessary evidence. Applications can be made starting in June.
Private Media: 

Radio Free Asia, April 6: “Myanmar authorities step up collection of temporary identification cards”

  • Myanmar authorities have collected about 40,000 temporary identification cards from displaced and stateless Rohingya Muslims in restive Rakhine state, part of the process of applying for citizenship, an official said Monday.
  • There are a total of about 700,000 white card holders in Rakhine state, and 37 immigration groups have been collecting the cards around the state, he said.
  • The Rohingya must turn in all the cards by May 31 so they can apply for Myanmar citizenship by June 1, according to the citizenship law of 1982, he said.
  • The citizenship law does not recognize the term Rohingya as an ethnic minority of Myanmar, so that members of the group cannot obtain government documentation by using the term to identify themselves.
  • It was unclear whether those who surrendered their cards would be able to begin the citizenship process, the report said, because they do not have any other form of national identification.
  • Yanghee Lee, the United Nations special rapporteur on Myanmar, said the expiration of the temporary white cards raised more uncertainties about the status of the Rohingya and further increased their vulnerability.
4. Failure to Amend Burma’s Constitution Raises Questions on Reform: US
Private Media:

Irrawaddy, April 7: “Failure to amend Burma’s Constitution raises questions on reform: US”

  • The US Embassy in Burma said that Burma’s failure to amend a military-drafted Constitution raised questions about the credibility of reforms, “but did not go so far as to say it would undermine the legitimacy of upcoming elections.”
  • Concern is growing in the international community that political reform in Burma is sliding back.
  • Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, barred by the 2008 Constitution from becoming president, told Reuters last week that boycotting the parliamentary elections, expected in November, was an “option” if the charter was not changed.
  • The Constitution reserves one-quarter of Parliament and key cabinet posts for the military, giving it an effective veto over politics, and bars presidential candidates with a foreign spouse or child.
  • The US Embassy said the Constitution should be amended to allow civilian control of the military and provide “the right of citizens to elect freely the leaders of their choice.”
5. Myanmar holds rare talks as Suu Kyi pushes for charter change
International Media:

Yahoo News, April 9: “Myanmar holds rare talks as Suu Kyi pushes for charter change”

  • Myanmar's President Thein Sein held rare talks Wednesday with influential allies and rivals including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi as she intensifies efforts to lift a constitutional ban on her presidential bid.
  • The talks come as the country braces for an election that is viewed as a test of reforms in the former junta-run nation.
  • The president, Suu Kyi and a few dozen other political figures attended the closed-door talks. They touched on a landmark draft ceasefire agreement forged last week with several ethnic armed groups.
  • A smaller group will meet again on Friday to discuss changes to the constitution.
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