Lenders Urge Central Bank to be More Flexible on Regulations
RANGOON — Bankers are urging the Central Bank of Myanmar to reconsider a recent regulation that might leave many of Burma’s commercial lenders struggling in the market.
On Nov. 16, private lenders, officials from the Central Bank and President’s Office Minister Soe Thane met to discuss the state of Burma’s banking industry and its future when a new government is formed next year. In particular, attention was paid to one of the primary difficulties confronting commercial banks: a new reserve requirement ratio, or the percentage of deposits that a bank must keep on hand, that will come into effect soon.
The new regulation, decided upon in July and intended as a means of back-up funding, will require all banks to store 5 percent of their total deposits at the Central Bank in cash, whereas currently deposits can take the form of bonds or cash.
“Five percent is actually not too much, but the problem is that we’re not able to provide that amount in cash,” Pe Myint, managing director of the Cooperative Bank, told The Irrawaddy. “We’ve proposed to reduce this amount to 2 or 3 percent.”
Presently, 10 out of Burma’s 20 private banks are able to meet the 5 percent requirement, while the Central Bank’s decision is forcing the rest to send the amount in a more piecemeal fashion.
Than Lwin, a senior banking consultant for Kanbawza Bank, said he understands the reasoning behind the new regulation, but that the Central Bank should also take into consideration what is realistic for local banks, rather than leave them struggling.
“As the country continues to develop, the Central Bank must bear in mind that the market will also change, meaning that it [the Central Bank] must constantly be flexible with its regulations,” he said.
The Asia Green Development Bank is one such bank that sees no alternative than to gradually send money to the Central Bank so that it does not harm its standing in the market. Soe Thein, its executive director, is calling for a bit more flexibility in a society that is still predominantly cash-based.
“We [bankers] accept the 5 percent regulation. What we want is just more time to be able to give this cash to the Central Bank,” he said.
Though the local banking industry today is better than it was even five years ago, many believe that the Central Bank, which became an independent body after Burma’s quasi-civilian government came to power in 2011, has not been doing enough to drive further improvement in the financial sector. For instance, it has been roundly criticized for its lack of transparency with regard to how much money it has in its reserves.
Looking ahead to the next government, Than Lwin said: “The Central Bank must be far more aware of ground-level situations in the market.”Irrawddy
Myanmar Govt Rejects Calls for Rohingya Citizenship
RANGOON — A spokesperson for President Thein Sein took to social media on Saturday to reject recommendations that Rohingya Muslims be granted a path to citizenship.
“Our government’s stance is that we wholly reject use of the term ‘Rohingya’. We will grant citizenship rights to Bengali people who have stayed within the boundary of Rakhine [Arakan] State based on the 1982 Citizenship Law,” read a Facebook post shared by Minister of Information Ye Htut, using the government’s preferred term to refer to the stateless minority.
“We will not grant the right of citizenship if it is not suitable to the 1982 law, even when there is pressure on us. This is our own sovereign power. There are laws in America and Britain and other Western countries about the right to grant citizenship. If it is not suitable to the rule of law in their countries, they do not grant citizenship.”
The minister’s comments were made in the wake of the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review, a comprehensive human rights examination comprising recommendations from foreign governments, rights groups and civil society.
The Burmese government rejected more than half of the review’s 281 recommendations, including all those related to restoring civil and political rights to the country’s stateless Rohingya Muslim minority, estimated to be 1.1 million people overwhelmingly concentrated in northern Arakan State. Irrawaddy
Ongoing Cases of Abuse Put Child Rights in the Spotlight
Whether at home, school or in the workplace, it is not uncommon for children in Burma to be hit or slapped for an indiscretion. This type of physical admonition—in other words, corporal punishment—is not currently prohibited under Burmese law.
According to the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, 47 countries have explicitly prohibited all corporal punishment of children and at least 51 states have committed to a full ban.
The Global Initiative calls for the repeal of provisions in Burma’s 1993 Child Law and of the Penal Code that may be interpreted as sanctioning corporal punishment and for a clear prohibition to be enacted.
Many adults in Burma, including parents and guardians, seem to believe they have the right to physically admonish a child for his or her benefit, particularly inside the family home. Adults slapping or beating their children is regarded as normal among most conservative members of Burmese society.
Children from poor backgrounds suffer most egregiously. Many are forced to drop out of school and enter the workforce at an alarmingly young age, working in tea shops, restaurants or as domestic helpers where they are vulnerable to physical punishment or other abuse by unscrupulous employers.
Unfortunately, only a handful of cases of child abuse gain media attention.
A recent case involved an eight-year-old girl living in the home of a military lawmaker in Rangoon Division’s Bahan Township who was repeatedly beaten while naked by a household maid.
Pictures of the abused young girl went viral on Facebook on Thursday and the Bahan Township police have since pressed charges against the housemaid under Article 66 of the Child Law for maltreatment.
Nyo Nyo Tin, a Rangoon Division lawmaker, said further charges were likely after prosecutors gathered more evidence. However, she said the maximum punishment of two years imprisonment under Article 66 was too lenient.
“It shows the legislative sector still needs to focus on enacting laws that are effective,” she said.
Increased use of social media and mobile phone technology has enabled citizens to more easily highlight alleged evidence of injustice, share information and implore the authorities to take action.
Nang Phyu Phyu Lin, an independent consultant with the Gender Equality Network, said the public was more actively speaking out against incidents of child abuse and behavior was gradually changing. However she noted the prevailing view that adults’ slapping or beating a child “to correct them for misbehaving” was generally deemed acceptable.
Burma’s military government signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991 and enacted the Child Law in 1993.
Article 19 of the former mandates states to protect the child “from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.”
However, Article 66(d) of Burma’s Child Law outlaws willful mistreatment of the child, “with the exception of the type of admonition by a parent, teacher or a person having the right to control the child, which is for the benefit of the child.”
Rights groups have cited clear and robust legal protection as vital to protecting children’s rights. Outspoken lawmaker Thein Nyunt has initiated several unsuccessful attempts to amend the Penal Code and the Child Law to provide better protections for children from sexual abuse—including proposals to apply capital punishment to rape offenders.
“If such cases of abuse are increasing, we have to reconsider amending the Child Law in order to protect children,” said Thein Nyunt, who leads the New National Democracy Party, adding that legal complaints regarding the abuse of young domestic workers were rarely filed.
“We will have to wait and see how the new legislators take up the issue [of child rights] in the parliament.”
Thein Nyunt did not win reelection in Burma’s Nov. 8 general election but pledged that he and his party would continue to work for better child protection measures.
Despite the hurdles to legal reform, with Burmese citizens beginning to pay more attention to child rights issues, Nang Phyu Phyu Lin hopes behavioral and attitudinal change will follow.
“As we were hit in our childhood, we tend to treat our kids the same way as we suffered,” Nang Phyu Phyu Lin said. “Only with more awareness for children’s rights can we stop ourselves from treating them that way.” Irrawaddy
RANGOON — Six people have died and another five are wounded after what appears to be an accidental explosion sparked Sunday night at a home in Hakha, the capital of Chin State.
Five of the deceased were members of the same family, who lived as tenants in the home where the explosion occurred in Hakha’s Zae Thit quarter. Investigators believe that the gunpowder stockpile belonged to one of the deceased. The explosion leveled the home with such force that it knocked a truck parked nearby onto its side.
“We are still investigating what happened on the ground,” Hong Ngai, the chief minister of Chin State, told The Irrawaddy “I think a witness can say exactly what happened there, he is now at the hospital.”
Hakha police confirmed that six had died in the inferno but declined to give further details, saying that an investigation was ongoing. Local authorities had earlier suggested the household lit a small bonfire for heat on the cool evening, which then accidentally spread to the gunpowder cache.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Monday, Zabiak Thawn, the deputy editor of the local Hakha Post newspaper, said the deceased family had recently moved into the home after their previous home collapsed during the August landslides. irrawaddy
Officials: Ringleader Behind Paris Attacks Killed in Raid
France confirmed the suspected mastermind of last week's Paris attacks was killed in a police raid Wednesday, and officials said he has been implicated in four of six foiled attacks in the country this year.
The Paris prosecutor's office said the bullet-riddled body of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a Belgian national of Moroccan descent, was found inside an apartment targeted in the seven-hour police raid in Saint-Denis, a northern suburb of Paris.
Abaaoud, who was 27 or 28 years old, was identified from fingerprints.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said France did not know before last week's attacks that Abaaoud was in Europe. He also urged European Union ministers to act quickly and decisively to develop a plan to fight terrorism when they meet in Brussels Friday.