News / Asia

Deadly Crime Story Emerges as Flash Point in Burma

In Burma, official media are weighing in on a story that rarely gets covered in the government press: crime. The story involves a clash between soldiers and civilians that left two men dead. The incident reportedly had witnesses and comes at a sensitive time ahead of the country's first election in two decades.  

And now the Burmese government is accusing foreign media of distorting the incident to encourage public unrest.

Its mouthpiece, the New Light of Myanmar newspaper, has described the shooting as a "drunken brawl."  It reports the two men were shot and killed last week when young soldiers opened fire on a group of youths following a traffic accident in the city of Bago. The story explicitly states the incident was not a fight between the military and the public.

Burma's state-run media rarely report on crime or public discontent. But news of this shooting was so widespread that the government had to respond, says Toe Zaw Latt, the Thai-based bureau chief for the exile-run newspaper, the Democratic Voice of Burma.

"This is to a kind of counter, to hose-down the anger of the local residents. Because it happened in the middle of downtown and quite a lot of people witnessed it. And quite a lot of people, especially local residents, are very angry about it," he says.

A lawsuit has been filed against the officers involved, says the New Light of Myanmar, and stresses that Burma's military preserves what it refers to as a "fine tradition" of punishing offending servicemen. The military is routinely criticized by human rights groups for alleged abuse of power and human rights violations.

Tow Zaw Latt says the incident underscores the Burmese government's concern about public opinion ahead of the November elections.

"New Light of Myanmar says it is not armed forces and Burmese having quarrel. It is some young army officer and some other local residents," he says. "So they're trying to distinguish this from armed forces. They're trying to maintain their image particularly at this important time."

The New Light of Myanmar accuses politicians, activists and foreign radio stations of plotting against the government by misleading the people about the deadly fight to incite protests. The report warns the government is preparing to take action against any people who provoke unrest. It did not specify what response authorities are planning.

The warning comes as the country prepares for its first election since 1990.  In the run-up, several military leaders have shed their uniforms in recent months to join the Union Solidarity and Development Association, the political wing of the military regime. Critics say the party is engaged in an effort to simply rebrand the government's image rather than make institutional changes to a system that has kept the military in power since 1962. But Burmese officials say the vote is a key point on the country's so-called "roadmap to democracy."

Senior leader General Than Shwe traveled to China last week in what analysts say was an effort to secure Beijing's support for the election.

On his arrival, General Than Shwe said he was seeking to boost mutual trust and understanding in what he called the "friendly" relationship with Beijing. China shares a border with Burma, where Beijing has significant oil and gas investments.

China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu also played up the countries' close ties but did not officially endorse Burma's election. China, she said, has a policy of not interfering in another country's internal affairs, and that the international community should refrain from making a negative impact on Burma's political process and regional peace.

The last time Burma held an election, the opposition defeated the military party by a large margin. But the government never allowed the National League for Democracy to take power. Instead, it has kept opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest. Her party is boycotting the upcoming election, calling it is a sham. But other splinter groups are taking part, saying any election is better than nothing.

You May Like

Video Obama: Action on Climate Change 'Economic, Security Imperative'

President spoke to reporters on sidelines of UN Climate Summit outside Paris, where leaders are working to agree on binding measures

IMF Bets on China’s Resolve to Reform

IMF announcement already raising questions about just how much Beijing is committed to such reforms

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs