- Myanmar’s cyber generation boots
up for first-time vote
- ‘Generation Wave’ youths
challenge Burmese junta
- Irrawaddy people agree with poll
- Kachin army cements ‘unwavering
- Burma’s tax system corrupt,
- Farce of the Burma vote
- The hidden impact of Burma’s
arbitrary and corrupt taxation
- Myanmar media confirm junta
chief retains power
- Myanmar’s pro-junta parties
field army of candidates
- Generals in reshuffle buying
- KIO demands federal union before
- Delhi notes China’s Indian Ocean
- Poverty in Burma is appalling
- Political transition: a chance
- Democracy groups struggle to
challenge Myanmar’s junta
- Burma’s vote to nowhere
- Burma poll will only entrench
those in power
- Junta’s strategic election moves
- Three political parties enter
- Border Guard Force accepts
children from DKBA
- Burma’s generals act to ensure
there are few witnesses to election
- How the CIA bedded down in Burma
- Myanmar opposition in disarray
as polls approach
- China to build 3 pipelines to
deliver Myanmar oil-report
- Tay Za launches broadband
service in Rangoon
Myanmar’s cyber generation
boots up for first-time vote
Agence France Presse: Wed 1 Sep 2010
Yangon – One of Myanmar’s self-described “pioneer bloggers”
proudly opens his popular website — officially banned by the
military rulers — and scrolls to his updates on the
approaching election. Tin San has been carefully researching
the candidates running in Myanmar’s first polls in two
decades, and for his next post he is busy reading up on the
“Most people in Myanmar are not familiar with voting. We
need to have resources and information to vote how we like,”
says the 30-year-old. Like all those in the country aged
under 38, he has never voted before.
The November 7 election has been widely criticised by
activists and the West as a sham orchestrated by the ruling
generals to shore up their rule. Some favour a boycott by
voters, many of whom are disillusioned with the process.
But Tin San, whose name AFP has changed for his protection,
is among a group of optimists who advocate participation and
online debate of the polls, despite some of the world’s most
repressive Internet controls.
“I have quite a lot of influence on my readers so I want
them just to think about the information,” he says.
“As far as I know, most young people are not interested in
the election, even though they want change. But this is the
beginning of change — it’s a stepping stone.”
Judging by the busy cyber cafes across the main city Yangon,
the web offers a way to tap the city’s youth, despite slow
connections, frequent power cuts and huge risks over online
activity that the regime deems subversive.
Google users look up South Korean celebrities — in line with
the current Asia-wide craze — while other cafe-goers read
world news stories on the BBC website. Several are
chattering on Google Talk or browsing Facebook.
Staff are quick to help clients find proxy servers to bypass
blocks on certain websites, even though they are strictly
forbidden to do so on threat of closure, according to media
watchdog Reporters Without Borders.
The rights group describes Myanmar’s legislation on Internet
use, the Electronic Act, as “one of the most liberticidal
laws in the world”, with dissident netizens facing lengthy
Tin San, who has about 2,000 Facebook friends and thousands
more blog followers, says he holds informal gatherings
across Yangon to discuss the Internet’s uses — and how to
dodge the junta’s restrictions.
“Political websites are banned but you can still read them,
for example through (web aggregator) Google Reader,” is one
of his tips. He also offers advice about privacy settings on
social networking sites.
During the “Saffron Revolution” monk-led protests in 2007,
Myanmar’s citizens used the web to leak extensive accounts
and video to the outside world, sparking a total Internet
ban by the iron-fisted regime.
Connections have also been slowed down on politically
significant dates such as August 8, the anniversary of a
mass political uprising in 1988.
“I think the government is quite afraid of blogs and
bloggers,” says Tin San, one of nearly 1,500 members of the
online Myanmar Blogger Society.
Controls are expected to be tightened again during the
election, but for now many are fearlessly talking politics
online while they still can.
“I receive 10 to 20 emails from my friends each day about
the things the government does in Myanmar,” says 28-year-old
Win Oo, who lives in Yangon and whose name has also been
He says a friend recently sent him a cartoon of the junta
chief Than Shwe looking like a clown. Prominent blogger Nay
Phone Latt was jailed in 2008 for 20 years, later reduced to
12, for allegedly storing such an image on email, among
“If I want to look at things like that, I sit in the corner
of the Internet cafe, not in the middle, because we never
know about the other users or the owner,” says Win Oo, who
also intends to vote this year.
For those who can dodge the firewalls and take the risks,
the Internet offers more freedom to discuss the election
than print journals, which face rigid censorship over their
Yet few political parties have taken their campaign online.
Two that have attempted it — the Myanmar Democracy Congress
party and the Peace and Diversity Party — have had their
Even if their sites were allowed, the web’s reach outside
the major cities of Yangon and Mandalay is severely limited.
Just one in every 455 of Myanmar’s inhabitants were Internet
users in 2009, based on statistics from the International
Telecommunication Union, a UN agency in Geneva.
About two thirds of the population, estimated at about 50
million, live in the countryside and have limited access to
information about the election, the main parties and the
issues at stake.
“It’s quite ok for urban youths who have Internet access but
what about youths in rural areas, small town people and
farmers? How do we help them?” asks a business editor in
Web-savvy city dwellers still hope their online activity,
however restricted, will help to spread political awareness
across the country.
“The Internet can help to change the outcome of an election,
maybe not this one but the next,” says a 26-year-old student
of Yangon-based civil society group Myanmar Egress, which
has promoted participation in the polls.
“We are already in a transition period so we have to
concentrate on sharing things, updating news, doing more,”
he says. “We can eat the fruit in 10 years — it will not
‘Generation Wave’ youths
challenge Burmese junta
France24: Wed 1 Sep 2010
The Burmese opposition is gearing up ahead of the upcoming
parliamentary elections in November. A Young Burmese man
told us how he and other activists are expressing their
dissatisfaction with the ruling junta through rap music and
street art. The Burmese people will head to the polls on
November 7th, more than 21 years after Aung San Suu Kyi’s
opposition LND party won a legislative election ignored by
the ruling junta. Although the vote has not yet taken place,
international observers have already emitted serious doubts
on its credibility.
According to Burma’s electoral laws, a quarter of existing
seats in regional and national parliaments are reserved for
members of the military, and more than 70 high ranking
officers have recently left the army to run for office.
Meanwhile, most opposition candidates were threatened and
pressured into opting out of the race, or deterred by the
exorbitant participation fee demanded by the electoral
Three years after the “Saffron Revolution” of 2007, during
which hundreds of thousands of opponents, led by Bhuddist
monks, took to the streets, the junta still has a tight grip
on the country. Some opponents have joined clandestine
movements like Generation Wave, despite the risk of being
arrested. The movement is made up of around 50 Burmese
youths, aged 15 to 25, that have been staging multiple
symbolic actions across the country. Although they describe
themselves as an apolitical movement, they firmly support
Aung San Suu Kyi.
Bo Bo is 22. He is a member of the clandestine group
I was forced to flee my country two years ago, because my
ideas didn’t go down so well with the military secret
service. I was used to discussing my political views with
friends and family, denouncing how the junta violates the
human rights of its citizens. But in Burma, it’s dangerous
to express one’s views too openly. One day, the police came
to my parent’s house to try to arrest me. I was forced to
flee the country with other militants of Generation Wave,
and cross the border illegally to Thailand.
“Young Burmese opponents cross the border illegally by
groups of 5 or 10 to attend our training sessions in
Since then, we have tried to organise Burmese youths into
opposition movements. We hold secret training sessions in a
house right by the Burmese border. Most young Burmese don’t
know what their rights are, what democracy and human rights
are – we try to inform them. They will only feel the urge to
fight for regime change once they are aware of what is going
on in their country. The young Burmese who come to our
training sessions cross the border illegally by groups of 5
or 10. They run the risk of being arrested at any time.
“We write activist songs to inform people”
We also use music and poetry to raise awareness in the
country. High-school students and college students are
naturally attracted to rap and hip hop, so we compose rap
songs that denounce the regime, to inform people of the
situation. We have a studio in Thailand where we record our
songs onto CDs that are sold on the Burmese black market.
The money we make allows us to record more CDs.
Graffiti and stickers are another way of raising awareness.
Most members of Generation Wave are in Burma – they paint on
walls, by day or by night, depending on the level of
security, so as not to get caught. Sometimes I cross the
border to help them.
“22 members of our movement are in prison”
As an activist, I have no future. I have no passport, no
legal papers. Things are made even harder by the fact that I
have to remain in hiding and can’t move freely. Sometimes, I
can talk to my family over the phone, but I have to be
careful because we are closely watched. 22 members of our
movement are in prison right now.
I think that one day, we will succeed in overthrowing the
military regime, and our country will be rid of its
dictatorship. As the 2010 elections approach, we hope there
will be more protests like those of 2007. I don’t know if it
will happen, but I hope so. We’re ready for new non-violent
action. Our goal is to inform people that the upcoming
elections are neither free nor fair, and to convince them
not to go vote.”
Irrawaddy people agree
with poll boycott: NLD – Ko Wild
Mizzima News: Wed 1 Sep 2010
Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Many Irrawaddy residents and party
members have agreed to boycott Burma’s first elections in 20
years on November 7, according to National League for
Democracy party vice-chairman Tin Oo. “The people would like
to boycott the election. They said they would like to cast
their votes for the NLD but as the NLD had decided to
boycott the election, so they also should boycott the
forthcoming election. They [said they] have no option but to
boycott the election”, Tin Oo said.
NLD leaders discussed electoral issues, youth culture and
women’s affairs with party members, residents and villagers,
“Our tour was aimed at educating and motivating people to do
what they should. We helped them understand the current
political conditions and advised that they need to carry out
suitable actions peacefully,” he told Mizzima.
Tin Oo, 83, said that although he had not visited his
hometown Pathein for a long time, he had no intention of
visiting relatives, but that the objective of the tour was
to reorganise NLD members and colleagues and talk to local
He and his colleagues saluted the statue of national
independence hero General Aung San, the father of detained
NLD general secretary Aung San Suu Kyi, near Titekyi
Monastery in Pathein, and vowed that they too would continue
to fight for freedom.
Also on the roadshow were NLD central executive committee
member Hla Pe, party members Win Myint and Kyi Win from
Irrawaddy Division, and party women’s and youth leaders.
They also visited Kyonpyaw, Pantanaw, Maubin, Bogalay and
A legal scholar, Tin Oo entered politics in 1988. In
September that year he became the party’s vice-chairman and
in December, chairman.
In 1989, he was imprisoned for seven years. Then in 2003 he
was arrested again after in the “Depayin Massacre” and was
sentenced to nine months in Katha Prison before being put
under house arrest in 2004. He was released on February 13
The NLD have been conducting such roadshows around the
country since June, visiting around 200 townships in
Sagaing, Mandalay, Magway, Tenasserim, Pegu, and Irrawaddy
divisions and Shan, Mon, Kachin and Arakan states.
Registrations for 42 political parties have been approved by
the junta’s electoral watchdog, the Union Election
Commission, and 32 have submitted lists of members to the
commission according to the junta’s electoral laws,
state-run newspaper New Light of Myanmar reported on
Tuesday. Among the parties, the junta-backed Union
Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and the National
Unity Party (NUP) have the maximum numbers of candidates,
which junta rules make costly to submit.
The international community including the United Nations has
demanded that the election process be credible and
inclusive. However, many countries including the United
States, Britain, Australia and those of the European Union,
have condemned the junta’s apparent stage-management ahead
of the polls in favour of parties it supports and the
exclusion of opposition leader Suu Kyi and her NLD party
from the process as among many of the signs that the
elections would be neither free nor fair.
Kachin army cements
‘unwavering stance’ – Aye Nai
Democratic Voice of Burma: Wed 1 Sep 2010
One of Burma’s most prominent armed ethnic groups has made a
final deadline day decision to reject the junta’s request to
transform into a Border Guard Force. The country’s ruling
generals set 1 September as the day that all ceasefire
armies make the transformation, which would bring them under
control of Naypyidaw and see their lower-ranking troops
assimilated into the Burmese army.
Many have however rejected, and in response the generals
have threatened war in Burma’s volatile border regions where
the majority of ethnic minority groups are located.
Deputy-general of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA),
Wawhkyung Sin Wa, said that it was the group’s “unwavering
stance” to see a federal union emerge in Burma with autonomy
for ethnic minorities.
But the controversial 2008 constitution that set the ball
rolling for elections this year makes it clear that the
future of Burma lies as “one nation, one army”, while senior
Burmese army official Win Thein in June told the United Wa
State Army (UWSA), Burma’s largest ceasefire group, that
“there shouldn’t be various armed groups in one country”,
meaning transformation was inevitable.
Wawhkyung Sin Wa said that the KIA would now look to achieve
its goals of a federal state “via peaceful negotiations and
a dialogue”. Asked what would happen if Burmese troops
launched an attack, he remained coy.
“It depends on what the government will do to us. For us, we
are taking a stable stance on maintaining peace and looking
There are also reports that the New Mon State Party (NMSP)
has officially rejected the Border Guard Force proposal,
although this has not been confirmed.
Burma’s tax system
corrupt, activists say – Ron Corben
Voice of America: Wed 1 Sep 2010
Bangkok – A new report on Burma’s tax system says it lacks
transparency and accountability, and many taxes are paid to
corrupt officials. Burma rights activists say arbitrary
taxation adds another layer to the economic burdens and
rights abuses many Burmese suffer. The report, released in
Bangkok, from a network of human-rights organizations said
Burma’s military has transformed taxation “into extortion
and a tool of repression.” The government and the military
arbitrarily collect taxes in the form of cash, land, goods
and labor, said the report, based on interviews with more
than 340 people during the past two years.
In addition, people said they are charged arbitrary fees at
checkpoints, and forced to pay donations for festivals,
school buildings, school registration and equipment.
Economist Alison Vicary from Macquarie University’s Burma
Economic Watch said Burma’s tax system is oppressive and
“The agencies collecting taxes are actively involved in the
control and suppression of the population,” Vicary said.
“That much of the taxation that actually collected at the
local level is going to the incomes of local officials
rather than to the central government.”
According to rights activists, military-backed organizations
have been extorting funds from communities ahead of the
November 7th general elections.
Vicary said the abusive tax system has contributed to
Burma’s economic deterioration. And she believes little will
change after the balloting.
The lack of accountability makes life in Burma harder for
much of the population, said Cheery Zahau, a human rights
coordinator with the Human Rights Education Institute of
“It added to the problems to the basic survival, they
[Burmese people] cannot save money, they cannot, in many
cases, send their children to school,” Zahau said. “They do
not have enough money for hospitals, for health care
anymore. So it makes the whole social welfare collapse for
the people; it becomes a burden for the people.”
The report also said the tax system’s denies most Burmese
the right to an adequate standard of living, health care,
housing, food, and education. It recommends that
international donors, such as development banks, should only
give Burma aid when governance standards and human-rights
protections have improved.
Farce of the Burma vote –
Bangkok Post: Wed 1 Sep 2010
There can be no more cynical regime in Southeast Asia than
that of Burma’s military junta. The generals and colonels
who have controlled that poor country since 1962 have looted
the economy, mistreated citizens and made Burma a worldwide
synonym for tyranny. It is going to be difficult to top
their current cynical move. The generals are about to bring
to fruition a manipulated election that will endorse a
rigged constitution to give the military control of the
country forever. And all this is being passed off as an
exercise in democracy.
The breathtaking military “reshuffle” last week is a case in
point. No one is sure of the details because the junta has
never felt the need to announce its important moves, let
alone explain or justify them. But it appears that around
six dozen senior officers were moved.
To call this a reshuffle is to demean the word. Thailand has
reshuffles, where officers retire and move within the very
public, designated chain of command. Burma’s military
movements had quite a different cast – and sinister at that.
The November elections are pre-arranged to be neither fair
nor free. For starters, the military is guaranteed 25% of
the 498 seats in the legislature.
The opaque musical chairs orchestrated by the ruling
generals last week put certain officers in military
positions to claim those 125 seats. Others were released
from active service to run for many of the other seats
supposedly meant for non-military civilians.
Ironically, the Burmese junta actually ran a free election.
Back in 1990, a fair vote was held countrywide wherein the
people rejected the military and its puppet political
parties, and overwhelmingly elected pro-democracy civilians,
the majority of whom were loyal to the banned leader Aung
San Suu Kyi.
But because they got a result they did not want, the ruling
generals simply ignored the election outcome and spent the
next 20 years in a campaign of arrests, intimidation,
imprisonment and torture of democratic Burmese.
This time, the election will reflect the wishes of the
military dictatorship. The junta is openly backing several
political parties, including with monetary funding. Voters
from Rangoon to the smallest village have been instructed on
what is expected of them on election day.
The largest group of democrats is the National Democratic
Force. Some 200 candidates have raised the fees required to
run for about 1,200 national and regional seats.
Ms Suu Kyi is the only Burmese with credentials as a
national political leader. She has been banned, again, from
the entire election process. In the first place, she is
under house arrest on various trumped-up charges that would
be laughed out of any court except the ones controlled by
the Burmese military. She also is the widow of a foreigner,
an offence so serious to the junta that it also disqualifies
her from any political participation in her country.
The result of this political tragedy is a foregone
conclusion. The military-written constitution will govern a
military-run election where almost all candidates have been
officially and ostentatiously military-approved. Mrs Suu Kyi
has rightly called for a boycott. There is no reward for
voting in a pre-determined election.
Outsiders may be helpless to alter the course of this
shameless power grab by the junta, but they can expose it.
It is most important that the Thai government and all other
governments in the region refrain from endorsing this
We have to give them so
much that our stomachs are empty of food: The hidden
impact of Burma’s arbitrary and corrupt taxation
Network for Human Rights Documentation: Wed 1 Sep 2010
“On average, villagers have to provide military government
organizations with more than 10,000 kyat a month. Even
though villagers have no food to eat they still have to pay
them. At the hands of the SPDC the villagers have to work
harder but they still have not enough food for their
families. ”Burma’s military regime has transformed taxation
from a routine and legitimate function of government into
extortion and a tool of repression. ND-Burma’s report
highlights that the state of Burma is implementing a system
of corrupt taxation which fails to comply with any accepted
norms, fails to stop the diversion of government revenues
into private pockets, and contributes to the ongoing and
systematic violation of their most basic human rights: the
right to an adequate standard of living, to housing, to
education and the right to be free from forced labor.
While the majority of Burma’s people live in abject poverty,
the military regime and its cronies spend more than 50% of
the national budget on the military and less than 1.3% on
health and education combined. ND Burma’s research revealed
that people are forced to hand over large proportions of
their income and property in official and unofficial taxes
leaving more and more people struggling to survive.
The military’s corrupt practices violate their signature of
the UN Convention on Corruption and their signatures of the
Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against
Women and Convention on the Rights of the Child. They cause
longterm damage to the economy and destroys the viability of
subsistence and medium scale farming and enterprises, i.e.
the economic activities that that sustain most of the
civilian population. A subsistence farmer in Burma could be
forced to pay more than 50% of his or her livelihood in
so-called taxes. This report documents the range of corrupt
acts that occur under the guise of taxation including;
farmers being forced to grow certain crops and sell them at
low price to the army, goods being confiscated and not
returned until a payment is given, Tatmadaw and government
officials forcing people to pay arbitrary high payments at
checkpoints, forced “donations” for festivals, school
buildings, etc, forced labour, and the loss of earnings and
health or fees incurred in order to avoid these burdens.
The regime’s attacks on the civilian population take the
form of murder, torture, and sexual violence, and this
report demonstrates that those attacks also entail imposing
severe economic hardship on the population in violation of
their human rights.
“The people of Burma are poor but the regime that oppresses
them is not.”
Sean Turnell, Burma Economic Watch.
Myanmar media confirm
junta chief retains power
Associated Press: Tue 31 Aug 2010
Yangon, Myanmar — A message from Myanmar’s junta chief
Senior Gen. Than Shwe appeared in state media Tuesday,
dispelling reports that he had stepped down from the army as
part of a major military reshuffle ahead of elections. The
message was a typical note of congratulations to Malaysia on
its Independence Day and made no reference to the military
reshuffle — the largest in more than a decade. But it was
carried on the front page of the country’s three official
newspapers and the subtext was clear: Than Shwe is still in
The military reshuffle that occurred Friday retired more
than a dozen senior leaders, though it has yet to be
officially announced by the highly secretive junta. It was
an apparent move to prepare for Nov. 7 national elections,
the first in two decades.
Than Shwe has ruled the country since 1992. The rumors of
his retirement, along with that of his second-in-command
Maung Aye, suggested they were being groomed for roles as
president and vice president in the new government after
Since military reshuffles are often never formally
announced, when rumors of such shifts spread through Myanmar
society, citizens carefully follow television and news
reports to see if leaders are referred to with new titles.
“Senior General Than Shwe, chairman of the State Peace and
Development Council, has sent a message of felicitations” to
the king of Malaysia to mark the country’s Independence Day,
the New Light of Myanmar and other newspapers reported.
The message referred both to Than Shwe’s military rank and
his title as head of the ruling junta’s government, known as
the SPDC, effectively putting to rest reports by several
media outlets that had reported his resignation last week.
The elections are portrayed by the regime as a key step to
shifting to civilian rule after five decades of military
domination, but critics call them a sham and say the
military shows little sign of relinquishing control.
Friday’s reshuffle included about two dozen officials,
notably the junta’s third- and fourth-ranking generals,
Thura Shwe Mann, who served as Joint Chief of Staff, and Tin
Aung Myint Oo, who was the army’s Quartermaster General,
according to officials who are close to the military but
could not be named because the reshuffle was not formally
It was the second since April, when 27 senior officials,
including Prime Minister Gen. Thein Sein, retired from the
Under the country’s new constitution, 25 percent of the
seats in Parliament will go to military representatives. If
retiring generals run for Parliament they would not be
counted in the military’s quota although they are likely to
enhance the army’s influence.
The polls will take place without the country’s leading
opposition party, headed by detained democracy leader Aung
San Suu Kyi, which says the elections are unfair and is
parties field army of candidates
Deutsche Presse-Agentur: Tue 31 Aug 2010
Yangon – Myanmar’s two pro-junta parties have submitted
large candidate lists for the country’s November 7 general
election, dwarfing the number of pro-democracy candidates,
party sources said Tuesday. Parties had to submit their
candidate lists to the Election Commission on Monday to
qualify for the November 7 polls, Myanmar’s first in two
The pro-junta Union Solidarity Development Party, whose
membership is packed with retired military men, will field
1,163 candidates, enough to fight all contested seats in the
lower, upper and regional houses of parliament.
Another pro-government party, the National Unity Party, has
registered 994 candidates, the party’s executive committee
member Han Shwe said.
Myanmar’s two main pro-democracy parties, the National
Democratic Force and Democratic Party Myanmar (DPM), have
only registered 160 and 49 candidates, respectively.
“We could only register 49 candidates because of a lack of
money,” DPM chief general secretary Than Than Nu told the
German Press Agency
Generals in reshuffle
buying diamonds, gold
Irrawaddy: Tue 31 Aug 2010
Rangoon—Family members of recently retired top military
officers and government ministers in Burma have been
collecting diamonds, gold jewelry and solid gold, according
to business sources. Diamond and gold traders in Rangoon
said family members and relatives of those who have been
recently removed from their top military posts and who will
have to resign ministerial posts after the election, appear
to be transforming their property into diamonds and gold.
“Ministers and generals don’t keep money in cash,” said a
businessman in Rangoon. “They have converted it into strong
and valuable items such as diamonds and gold. They don’t
need to buy land and cars anymore because they already have
as much they want. Those things are not as valuable and as
movable as diamonds and gold that they can carry along with
their families wherever they go.”
A number of jewelery dealers told The Irrawaddy that the
generals’ family members did not come to the market to buy
diamonds and gold, but instead send their close business
associates and brokers to take care of it for them.
The current price of solid gold is 652,500 kyat [US $665]
for one kyat-thar [approximately 0.015 kg].
A gold trader close to the regime’s top generals said gold
bars and gold have been purchased in visses [one viss is
approximately equivalent to one kilogram].
“It is really difficult to estimate the amount of gold they
have,” said a gold trader. “For many years they have bought
it, and they are still buying it.”
Family members of the generals are reportedly buying more
diamonds than the ministers themselves.
“Diamonds are everyone’s fancy and can be worth millions or
billions. Although it is small, it is a treasure that makes
the possession stronger and more valuable. Families of top
generals are particularly buying expensive diamonds,” said a
diamond shop owner in Rangoon.
According to military sources in Naypyidaw, Snr-Gen Than
Shwe is well known as the richest of the generals followed
by the family of his deputy, Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye.
Ministers Aung Thaung of the Ministry of Industry No. 1 and
Htay Oo of the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation are
said to be the wealthiest among government ministers.
Almost all the important positions in the army have recently
been filled with a new generation of army officers. The
state-run media has been silent on the reported resignations
of top military officials in the Burmese leadership
KIO demands federal union
before surrendering weapons
Kachin News Group: Tue 31 Aug 2010
Burma’s ethnic Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has
put its foot down and in a statement today has reiterated
that it will not transform its armed-wing the Kachin
Independence Army (KIA) till a genuine federal union comes
about and lasting peace is restored in Burma. If the ruling
junta restores lasting peace through protracted dialogue
with the KIO and implements the goals and aims set forth in
the 1947 Panglong Agreement, which was signed by Kachin and
other ethnic leaders for a multi-ethnic union with equal
rights, the KIO will transform its armed-wing and other
departments, the KIO statement released on August 30 said.
The statement made it clear that the KIO’s stance and goal
are based on democracy (existing sovereignty of the people)
in a peaceful and developed country.
Wawhkyung Sin Wa, Deputy General Secretary of KIO said, the
statement will be important and meaningful for any group or
organization related to the KIO as well as the Kachin
For the first time in its over 16 year ceasefire period, the
KIO was ordered on August 22 to surrender weapons from
September 1 by the junta.
The surrender order came in the wake of the junta and KIO
meeting over 15 times on the contentious Border Guard Force
issue, where the regime demanded transformation of the KIA.
The junta has repeatedly rejected the KIO’s proposal for a
political dialogue before the armed-wing issue is addressed,
said KIO officials.
On the junta’s controversial November 7 elections, the KIO
has, however, stated that it would like it to be “free and
In order to inform pro-democracy groups, the statement
pointed out that the KIO will cooperate with whoever works
towards a consolidated and genuine federal union of Burma.
The KIO had signed a ceasefire agreement with the junta
hoping for a meaningful political dialogue. It also approved
the new junta-centric 2008 constitution despite severe
opposition from the Kachin people and pro-democracy outfits.
As an offshoot of its rejecting the junta’s BGF proposal,
the KIO is regaining the support of the Kachin people and
pro-democracy organizations, who had been alienated because
of the KIO’s proximity to the junta.
The statement on KIO’s new policy was the result of two
meetings — the meeting between KIO officials and Kachin
public representatives on August 14 to 16 and the first
Party Congress for KIO members on August 27 to 29 in Laiza,
said Deputy General Secretary Sin Wa.
Delhi notes China’s Indian
Agence France Presse: Tue 31 Aug 2010
New Delhi – India on Tuesday said China was demonstrating
“more than normal interest” in the Indian Ocean as two
Chinese warships made a rare visit to military-ruled
Myanmar. India is watchful of China’s growing presence in
the region, including its major investments in ports being
built in Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
The Chinese ships docked in Yangon on Sunday afternoon and
were set to launch a series of exchanges with Myanmar’s
navy, Xinhua news agency reported.
“India has come to realise that China has been showing more
than the normal interest in the Indian Ocean affairs. So we
are closely monitoring the Chinese intentions,” Foreign
Minister S.M. Krishna told parliament.
He did not make direct reference to the Chinese ships, but
China is a key ally and trading partner of the junta that
has ruled Myanmar since 1962.
China buys teak and gems from Myanmar and has shielded it
from UN sanctions over rights abuses as a veto-wielding,
permanent member of the Security Council.
India also looks to Myanmar for potential oil and gas
imports and was criticised by rights monitors for hosting
reclusive junta leader Than Shwe on a state visit to New
Delhi in June.
Despite growing trade between China and India, ties between
the emerging giants are wracked by mistrust.
Border disputes in Kashmir and the northeastern Indian state
of Arunachal Pradesh, a short war in 1962 and the presence
of Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in India all
contribute to an atmosphere of suspicion.
Poverty in Burma is
appalling – Lars Birgebard
Democratic Voice of Burma: Tue 31 Aug 2010
Poverty in Burma is widespread and appalling. The failure or
disinterest of the government to provide a policy framework
conducive to development and to direct resources to other
needs than security largely explains the hard conditions
under which so many people in Burma live. With support of
different donors, UN Development Programme (UNDP) has
gradually developed a major programme since 1993 attempting
to address rural poverty. Presently this programme, the
Human Development Initiative, reaches some 6,500 villages
predominantly in border areas inhabited by ethnic
minorities. This has been achieved in an extraordinarily
hostile development policy and security context.
The complexity and difficulties in operating the programme
have been further compounded by restrictions imposed by the
UNDP Board on UNDP activities in Burma as a consequence of
the US policy stand on the country and its influence in
UNDP. Hence, in executing the HDI, UNDP has not been
permitted to cooperate with government institutions or
channel any funds through such institutions. For instance,
it has not been possible to cooperate with the government
structures at local level in the fields of agriculture,
health, education, and so on, in order to coordinate
activities and draw upon their technical staff resources.
Therefore, UNDP has been forced to develop what has become a
gigantic NGO-type organization. This arrangement has both
reduced implementation capacity and undermined the prospects
for sustainability of services delivered and benefits.
As the conditions under which the HDI is implemented by
necessity reduce the prospects for impact and sustainability
of achievements, expectations should be adjusted
accordingly. A further consideration is that whatever impact
achieved is of great importance given the deplorable living
conditions of millions and millions in Burma.
The UNDP Board requires that an Independent Assessment
Mission annually determines whether the UNDP Country Office
implements the HDI within the mandate given to it by the
Board. It is the Mission report for 2010 which is the basis
for the article UN aid has ‘limited impact’ in Burma in DVB
on 25 August. This Mission concludes that two of the three
main projects in the HDI have had limited impact on poverty,
as elaborated in the DVB article. This conclusion is based
on impact evaluations undertaken by the programme itself.
However, the Mission does not find the entire programme
deficient. It gives unreserved credit to the micro-finance
project, which is the third main project in the programme.
This project is outstanding and counts among the 20 most
successful large micro-finance projects in the world. It
proves that properly designed and well managed significant
development gains for the benefit of poor people can be made
also in Burma. Furthermore, the two remaining (small)
projects in HDI – the HIV/AIDS project and the Household
Survey project – are also found to be satisfactory.
The Mission expresses concern about two main projects in HDI
and argues that the primary reason for their limited impact
is to be found in the design. The Mission points out what it
considers to be the design flaws. Doing so begs an answer to
the question of what a modified design with better prospects
for a greater impact could be. The Mission provided a
tentative proposal on principles and a strategic approach
for a revised design. However, given the terms of reference
for the Mission and instructions from UNDP New York, this
discussion is not included in the report, which is now made
public, but in a separate report submitted to the
UNDP-Myanmar Country Office. This may leave the unfortunate
impression to the readers of the official report that
provision of development support for poverty alleviation in
Burma, at least through UNDP, is unsuccessful and has no
prospects. End of story.
This is factually incorrect and not the conclusion of the
Mission. Firstly, one of the three main projects in the
programme, the micro-finance project, is a resounding
success and two smaller projects are satisfactory as already
noted. Secondly, the Mission is firmly of the opinion that
modifications of the design of the two less successful main
projects can significantly enhance impact on poverty. This
opinion is not mere speculations; it is evidenced by
concrete suggestions based on experience. The fact that the
report containing this discussion is not made public
prevents any further elaboration here.
The current programme comes to an end in 2011. This provides
a golden opportunity for UNDP to elaborate a revised
programme building on the viable elements of the present
programme. The prospects for something better is clearly
within reach. The potential of this programme is unique in
Burma given its outreach and coverage. The staggering levels
of poverty strongly call for attention. There is no reason
and justification for “donor fatigue”. However, there are
reasons for reflection and reconsideration.
* Lars Birgegard is team leader of the UNDP’s 2010
Independent Assessment Mission of the Human Development
Initiative in Burma. He writes this piece partly in
response to UN aid has ‘limited impact’ in Burma,
published in DVB on 25 August.
Political transition: a
chance for progress? – Noeleen Heyzer
Bangkok Post: Tue 31 Aug 2010
The government of Burma has announced it will hold a general
election on Nov 7, the first to be held since 1990. This may
provide an opportunity for Burma’s military-led government
to improve the country’s political governance. United
Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged the
government to honour its publicly stated commitments to hold
inclusive, free and fair elections, noting that any
transition to democracy should also include the release of
all political prisoners without delay.
In addition to a possible move toward a civilian-led
government, it is also likely that improvements in political
governance will present significant opportunities for
economic and social advancement for the country, for an
emerging middle class, and especially for the estimated
one-third of Burma’s 50 million people currently living in
Cease-fire agreements keep a tenuous peace in Burma today,
between the central government and most of the dozens of
ethnic groups along border areas where decades of conflict
had left hundreds of thousands of villagers displaced in
previous years. New transport routes and the gradual lifting
of government restrictions on travel have increased economic
and trade connections and opened social integration between
the better-off central region and the more remote ethnic
communities in the border highlands to an extent never seen
Over the past five years, the United Nations has
significantly increased its humanitarian aid within the
country, working closely with the government and with
international non-governmental organisations to provide
food, medicine and relief aid to more than 5 million people
in need, and over a larger part of the country. But access
remains uneven and still severely restricted in areas where
the threat of conflict remains.
International donors including the United States and
European countries have welcomed this opening of the
humanitarian space, doubling the funding of critical relief
available to Burma, where sanctions maintained by the very
same countries restrict trade, economic activity and direct
bilateral assistance to Burma. While there is much work to
be done, the increased humanitarian aid has paid off, with
clear progress shown in meeting several of the UN’s
Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
Cyclone Nargis, which struck Burma’s agriculturally-rich
Ayeyarwady Delta region in 2008, taking more than 140,000
lives and destroying hundreds of thousands of hectares of
rice paddy, is still exacting a heavy cost on Burma, as
affected villagers and farmers struggle to recover their
The tragedy of Nargis also led to an opening for the
international community, with Burma’s government allowing
the UN and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and
others to provide direct aid to the affected Delta areas and
to other areas of need in Burma.
Alongside my UN colleagues and Surin Pitsuwan,
secretary-general of Asean, I worked closely with Burma’s
government to increase and target international aid in the
immediate aftermath of Nargis.
Recognising that major economic structural changes were also
needed, I urged the government to look abroad for help, and
offered the assistance of the UN’s Economic and Social
Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Escap) in suggesting
needed technical and policy assistance to the government.
Ultimately, Escap brought Nobel prize-winning economist
Joseph Stiglitz to Burma’s capital on Dec 15 last year to
offer his advice on how best to bring about development and
Despite the sanctions of the United States and Europe,
Burma’s neighbours, India and China, and other countries are
making investments and constructing gas pipelines, deepwater
ports, and roads, and engaging in business activities
sparking significant economic growth in Burma. The next
government, whatever its make-up, will face critical
economic and development choices, and in weighing these they
have the opportunity to make a real difference in the
- Investment or lost windfall? The continuing development of
Burma’s large offshore natural gas holdings means that the
new government will soon benefit from substantial increased
export earnings, revenue that could fund economic and social
investment – or become a squandered windfall, as has
happened in all too many developing nations.
- Opening up the economy to those on the bottom. Closing the
development gap is critical to achieving social and economic
security and is most rapidly achieved through the active
participation of the poor. Improving the assets and skills
of the working poor, and the public services available to
them, directly promotes growth and stability for the economy
as a whole. Countries grow faster when the bottom half is
participating and contributing productively.
- Strategic and structural economic reform. A new government
may possess a unique opportunity to determine the path of
development and economic growth for the country, especially
by promoting and supporting the emergence of a middle class.
Making the economy more inclusive, investing in rural and
social infrastructure and encouraging competition and small
business enterprises are badly needed reforms that a new
government can take on, if Burma is to move forward.
- Helping small farmers and traders. Strategic investments
in agriculture and the rural economy has multiple benefits,
by addressing food security and rural livelihood issues, and
sparking significant economic and development benefits in
the rural communities, where Burma’s poorest people live.
Rural incomes will increase when farmers receive a higher
price for their produce and when their costs of production
are reduced. A recent government decree reforming the
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