Tag Archives: buddhism

Htin Kyaw elected Myanmar’s first civilian president

Htin Kyaw will become Myanmar's first civilian president. (Reuters)
Htin Kyaw will become Myanmar’s first civilian president in over 50 years. (Reuters)

As Barack Obama once famously said, ‘Elections have consequences.’myanmar

Indeed, few elections were more consequential in 2015 than the landmark vote in Myanmar, the country’s first freely open democratic election after a decades-long fight by activist Aung San Suu Kyi, a daughter of one of the country’s founding fathers, who began fighting to open Burmese political space in the early 1990s. The most outward consequence of that victory was Tuesday’s election of a new president, and the majority commanded by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) meant that it could essential name the president.

With one exception. The most obvious choice, Suu Kyi, by far the country’s most popular figure, is barred from running because of a constitutional technicality. Instead, electors chose the next best thing: a close ally and friend fighting alongside Suu Kyi for decades.

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RELATED: Burmese opposition victory a policy triumph for Clinton too

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Accordingly, Myanmar’s new president — and its first truly civilian president after a half-decade of military rule — is Htin Kyaw.

A 69-year-old British-educated computer sciences expert and author, Htin Kyaw was a civil servant in the 1980s before joining Suu Kyi’s democratic crusade. A longtime intimate of the Nobel peace laureate, he made it immediately clear upon his election that it would be Suu Kyi calling the shots in the new government. Suu Kyi herself has said that she will be ‘above the presidency,’ though she may yet take a role, such as foreign minister, in the new government. Continue reading Htin Kyaw elected Myanmar’s first civilian president

Amid the CCP handover of power to Xi Jinping, ethnic Tibetan issue remains a thorny problem

The first thing you notice about Qinghai province is that it’s rather desolate — more Utah than Alaska, and the first thing you notice about Rebkong is that it’s a dusty town far away from even the provincial capital.  A world away from the center of Qinghai, itself a world away from Beijing.

I visited Rebkong in April earlier this year with an American friend based at the time in Shanghai, along with Xining (Qinghai’s capital) and other spots in Qinghai province, which lies in the northwest of the People’s Republic of China.  Just a couple of hours away from Beijing by air, Qinghai is indeed a world away, lying as it does on the far east of the Tibetan plateau.  With just 5.6 million people, the province contains just a handful of China’s trillion-plus population — the only province with fewer people is Tibet proper, with around 3 million.

We went to Qinghai, frankly, because getting PRC approval for the permits and guides to visit Tibet province has become such an incredible hassle since the 2008 Tibetan protests.  A kind of ‘Tibet without Tibet.’ But that was probably too twee a slogan, because Qinghai — known historically to Tibetans as Amdo — is as much Tibetan as what lies within the PRC boundaries of the Tibetan ‘autonomous region.’

The region (Amdo or Qinghai, as you like) has been under Chinese control since it was secured by the Qing dynasty in 1724.  It’s home to several important Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, including Kumbum monastery (སྐུ་འབུམ་བྱམས་པ་གླིང།, or ‘Ta’er si’ in Mandarin Chinese, 塔尔寺), founded in 1577 on the site of the birthplace of Tsongkhapa, an important figure in the development of Buddhism and the founder of the Gelug (‘yellow-hat’) school of Buddhism — its importance to Tibetan buddhism is second only to Lhasa, Tibet’s capital.  Indeed, what we know as ‘Tibet’ today is really just the western part of the historic Tibetan empire, which included not just Amdo, but Kham, which is now the western part of Sichuan province in the PRC. So we were delighted to see a corner of greater Tibet not already fawned over by Richard Gere and so many others.

Xining itself is a mix of Muslims (Hui Chinese), Tibetans and Han Chinese, but outside the capital, Qinghai is indisputably Tibetan, and it’s the birthplace of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama.

After a night in Xining quaffing barley wine at the local Tibetan bar, we found a local guide who agreed to show us around for the next couple of days, beyond just a quick trip to Kumbum, but a true journey into the Tibetan hinterland.  We started our days with tsampa, a high-power concoction of yak butter and barley flour (it reminded me of a buttery version of the energy gels you eat during marathons), gorged ourselves on momo (yak-meat dumplings) and snacked on fresh yak-milk yogurt in between visiting monasteries, such as Rgolung (Youning si’ in Chinese), which nestles upon a handful of ledges in the cliffs of eastern Qinghai province.

As it so happens, our young, kind guide was from Rebkong, so we spent a night there, and we saw the monastery, Rongwo (pictured above, center and bottom), where he studied as a child and young adult, and we saw the square just outside, Dolma Square (pictured above, top).

That square has become a center of the latest Tibetan protest against the governing Chinese regime when 18-year-old Kalsang Jinpa lit himself on fire [graphic photos] there, one of six Tibetans in the past week to die in a wave of self-immolations in protest of Chinese rule.  The situation in Rebkong is becoming tense, according to reports [graphic photos], with 20-year old Nyingchag Bum self-immolating Monday:  Continue reading Amid the CCP handover of power to Xi Jinping, ethnic Tibetan issue remains a thorny problem