- Myanmar junta chief’s
- India cautions on ‘adverse’ UN
- UN chief says Myanmar elections
not legitimate if political prisoners not freed
- Obama admin. split on Burma
- Don’t legitimize Burma’s
- Burma needs a war crimes inquiry
- Post-election offensive feared
against Myanmar rebel groups
- Than Shwe plans no retirement
- Political prisoners hold little
hope of release before polls
- Junta accused of slowing,
cutting Net ahead of polls
- Philippines dubs Myanmar
election a “farce”
- Myanmar nuclear plan could speed
- Burma’s brutal repression
continues with a sham election
- How to win an election before
- Suu Kyi party says Myanmar vote
will prolong dictatorship
- Burma shuts border until after
- Burma’s nuclear adventure – the
- A lost opportunity in Burma
- ‘Than Shwe fears the ICC’
- Tensions cloud Myanmar vote
- And the winner is … the junta
- ‘The generals’ election’
- No more charades
- U.S. push for Burmese war crimes
probe hits Chinese wall
- Cries of foul play as ‘new
Burma’ is hoisted
Myanmar junta chief’s
‘retirement’ unlikely: Philippines
Agence France Presse: Thu 28 Oct 2010
Hanoi – Myanmar has said that its military ruler Than Shwe
will bow out of politics after next month’s elections, but
the assurances should be viewed with deep scepticism, the
Philippines said Thursday.“I cannot imagine that after two
decades where he held on to power he will suddenly give it
up and no more. I cannot believe that,” Philippines Foreign
Secretary Alberto Romulo said on the sidelines of a regional
Romulo said his Myanmar counterpart Nyan Win had confirmed
at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
meeting in Hanoi that Than Shwe would not take part in the
November 7 polls.
“He said he will not run. But you know they can elect
anybody who did not run,” he told reporters, referring to
the process under which a president and vice-presidents will
“It remains to be seen (whether he will bow out), but my
feeling is that he will be elected to a higher office,
perhaps the presidency, something where he still (holds)
A foreign ministry official from one of the ASEAN
delegations also said Nyan Win had said Than Shwe would not
run for any seat in the November 7 polls — widely criticised
as a sham aimed at cementing the junta’s grip on power.
“Than Shwe is not running. He will bow out of the political
scene,” the source told AFP.
Under Myanmar’s new parliamentary system, there will be two
national assemblies — one lower and one upper house — and a
number of regional assemblies.
The source said that Nyan Win reported he was himself
running for a post in the one of the regional assemblies and
was sure to win because he enjoyed strong popularity in his
But, being a regional lawmaker, he won’t be eligible for a
Myanmar also introduced its new flag during a meeting of
senior officials on Monday, according to the source. The
banner features a large, lone star which is meant to
represent the country’s unity.
Than Shwe’s future has been the subject of much rumour in
Myanmar lately, with many scenarios envisioned. But after
the biggest military reshuffle in decades which took place
in September — which left him on top of the heap in the
military — several experts have tipped him to move into the
India cautions on
‘adverse’ UN probe – Dan Withers
Democratic Voice of Burma: Thu 28 Oct 2010
India has questioned the value of holding a UN Commission of
Inquiry (CoI) into war crimes in Burma, an Indian diplomat
recently told a General Assembly committee.
The probe, now supported by more than a dozen nations, may
be “counter productive” and “end up adversely affecting the
very people it is supposed to help,” Acquino Vimal said,
according to the Press Trust of India.
Vimal pointed out that UN chief Ban Ki-Moon’s recent report
on Burma made no mention of the CoI, which was first
proposed in March by UN special rapporteur on human rights
in Burma, Tomás Ojea Quintana. “We believe that the focus of
efforts of the international community should be on ensuring
constructive engagement with Myanmar [Burma],” Vimal said.
In comments which bore a striking resemblance to Chinese
policy on Burma, Vimal also stressed the importance of
“peace and stability” on India’s borders. Burma’s
controversial 7 November elections would be a “step forward”
in the country’s “national reconciliation process and
democratic transition,” he added.
The diplomat’s comments come days after Nobel-prize winning
Indian economist Amartya Sen made a statement bemoaning his
country’s policies towards the Burmese regime. In July,
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh welcomed junta leader Senior
General Than Shwe on a state visit to India.
“It breaks my heart to see the prime minister of my
democratic country – and one of the most humane and
sympathetic political leaders in the world – engage in
welcoming the butchers from Burma and to be photographed in
a state of cordial proximity,” AFP quoted Sen as saying.
India had forgotten its ideals and was emulating China
because of fears over its communist rival’s growing
influence in the region, he said.
While India used to offer unqualified support to Burma’s
democracy movement, over the past two decades it has changed
tack. The country is now investing heavily in Burma,
particularly in the energy and extraction industries, and
maintains a strategic partnership with the country in a bid
to counter growing Chinese influence in the region.
Momentum behind the UN commission of inquiry, which would
investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity by the
junta and Burma’s ethnic rebel armies, appears to be
flagging. Although 13 countries, led by the United States,
back the probe, the Washington Post recently revealed that
China is engaged in a diplomatic campaign to scupper the
Professor Ian Holliday, a specialist in China-Burma
relations at the University of Hong Kong, recently told DVB
that the Chinese Communist Party may also fear
investigations into its own human rights record. “The core
concern is not to allow anybody to stick their nose into
China,” he said.
China and Burma maintain an uneasy alliance, with the larger
country enjoying access to Burma’s resources and backing the
junta on the international stage. China is also believed to
see the military as the best bet for ensuring stability on
UN chief says Myanmar
elections not legitimate if political prisoners not
freed – Vijay Joshi
Associated Press: Thu 28 Oct 2010
Phnom Penh, Cambodia — The United Nations chief warned
Thursday that unless Myanmar’s junta frees political
prisoners its planned Nov. 7 elections may not be considered
legitimate or credible.Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon told
The Associated Press in an interview that freeing the more
than 2,000 political prisoners in Myanmar would at least
help create a “perception that this election will be more
The Southeast Asian country’s military rulers have enacted
laws that prevent pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and
other political prisoners from contesting the elections,
which have been slammed by critics as a sham.
Ban acknowledged that the political prisoners may not be
“able to actually participate in the vote, but it will
create a favourable political atmosphere which will make
this perception better.”
“But without releasing all political prisoners then there
may certainly be some issue of legitimacy or credibility,”
he said in an interview ahead of his bilateral meeting with
Myanmar Prime Minister Gen. Thein Sein in Hanoi this week.
This is the closest that Ban has come to criticizing the
elections after repeatedly taking a diplomatic tone by
urging the junta to make the elections more inclusive, fair
and credible. But even his latest comments were tempered by
hope that the junta would surprise everybody by making some
concessions to the pro-democracy movement in a country that
has been ruled by the military since 1962.
The junta has kept Suu Kyi under house arrest for 15 of the
past 21 years. She is expected to be released on Nov. 13,
just six days after the election.
“We expected and hoped that she should have been released
much earlier. Now at this time I would strongly urge the
Myanmar authorities that it is not too late even at this
time to release all political prisoners so that the Nov. 7
elections could be more inclusive and more participatory and
credible one,” Ban said.
The junta has touted the elections as a big step forward in
the country’s so-called roadmap to democracy. But the
results are considered a foregone conclusion, as the junta
has already taken steps to block transparency and ensure
that the military remains in power by repressing the
country’s main opposition party and limiting campaigning.
Suu Kyi’s party is boycotting the elections as undemocratic
after winning a landslide victory in 1990 that was dismissed
by the military leaders.
That leaves the key junta-backed party as the only strong
contender to win the upcoming contest.
Ban sidestepped the question of whether the government that
takes power after the elections would be considered
legitimate or democratic.
“I am not in a position to judge any results, first of all.
What I am emphasizing is that the Myanmar authorities should
ensure all possible measures to make this election
inclusive, credible and transparent,” he said. “There will
be an opportunity for me and the international comuntity to
make a judgment on this process.”
He dismissed suggestions that the U.N. had failed in its
effort to democratize Myanmar, and instead blamed the
“It is surely because of a lack of support, lack of
political will on the part of Myanmar authorities,” he said,
adding that the U.N. will “continue to be engaged” with
Myanmar after the elections.
“We will continue to facilitate this political,
democratization process,” he said.
Obama admin. split on
Burma engagement: senator
Reuters: Thu 28 Oct 2010
Washington – President Barack Obama’s administration faces
internal divisions that have so far prevented it from
seizing opportunities to engage Myanmar’s military rulers, a
key senator said on Wednesday.Senator Jim Webb, the chair of
a Senate subcommittee on East Asia who traveled to Myanmar
last year, is an outspoken proponent of deepening ties with
the isolated country, which he said risked becoming a “a
province of China” otherwise.
The Obama administration last November launched the
highest-level talks with the reclusive junta in 14 years,
but has since publicly expressed deep disappointment with
Myanmar’s response to U.S. outreach.
“I don’t think that this administration took advantage of
the opportunities that were presented to it,” Webb told a
small group of defense reporters in Washington.
Webb said U.S. diplomats at the State Department were
divided over the issue, and effectively failed to act on
diplomatic signals from Burma last year that offered an
opportunity for “a different formula” on engagement.
“There was a big division in the State Department over
whether to do that or not,” he said.
“I think Secretary (of State Hillary) Clinton was inclined
to a certain point to want to try. But there was an awful
lot of pressure on the other side.”
The comments come ahead of a trip by Clinton to this week’s
East Asia summit in Vietnam, and just days before Myanmar’s
November 7 elections, which rights groups deride as a sham
designed to entrench military power in the country formerly
known as Burma.
The elections will be the first since 1990 polls won by
detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National
League for Democracy (NLD) party but ignored by the junta.
Washington has dismissed preparations for the November polls
as failing to meet basic democratic standards, and has also
expressed concern over growing ties between Myanmar and
Asian nuclear renegade North Korea.
“It’s a very complicated issue, because we all respect Aung
San Suu Kyi and the sacrifices she has made,” Webb said.
“And yet, on the other hand, we are in a situation where if
we do not push some form of constructive engagement, Burma
is going to basically become a province of China.”
(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Andrew Quinn)
Don’t legitimize Burma’s
elections – Ashin Issariya
Wall Street Journal: Thu 28 Oct 2010
The government that emerges after Nov. 7 will be no less
corrupt and unlawful than the present one.All actions are
based on intentions. For instance, the goal of monks is to
bring peace and kindness to the people, and so Burmese trust
their actions. In contrast, when the military regime says
they will hold elections, Burmese are skeptical because they
know the intention is only to maintain power at their
When Burma’s monks marched through the streets in 2007, we
did so because we saw the pain of the people, and knew we
had to respond. People have suffered needlessly for many
years because of the military system of control and
Our involvement in what would become the Saffron Revolution
began Sept. 5 in the town of Pakokku in Magway Division. We
began our peaceful demonstration by reciting the prayers of
loving kindness, urging the authorities to open their eyes
and finally take action to alleviate the sorrows of the
people. In response, local authorities and members of the
military-supported civilian group, the Union Solidarity and
Development Association, violently attacked my brothers.
In response to this horrific insult, we, the monks of the
All Burma Monk’s Alliance, demanded an apology from the
authorities who purport to be Buddhist. No apology has ever
The same organization that participated in that violent
crackdown is now masquerading as a political party, the
Union Solidarity and Development Party, in the upcoming
elections. The people of Pakokku remember the September 2007
attacks and are very upset to see the perpetrators now
presenting themselves as candidates. This story of the
corrupt elite taking political power in Pakokku is repeating
itself throughout the country right now.
The USDP’s members are running uncontested in many areas
because of wide restrictions on any independent political
parties. And where there are other parties, the USDP is
doing everything it can to manipulate the process and ensure
a win. Moreover, people are hesitant to participate because
this is not a real election; it is just more of the same
deceptions that always happen in my country under the
Like most people of Burma, I am all too familiar with the
schemes that the military regime uses to maintain its power.
Once when I opened a library in my town so that people could
have some access to knowledge, the USDA came and wanted to
take books from my library. I would not give them the books
because I knew their only interest was to take photos and
claim they had built the library. This is the type of social
manipulation the USDA is known for. When a road needs to be
built in an area, the USDA goes house to house forcing
families to give large amounts of money or even to help
build the road themselves. Then when the road is finished,
the USDA proclaims that it has helped the people by building
In such a system, there are endless barriers for people who
seek to build a better society. Monks are not free to even
give the sermons they would like. Recently, the regime’s
Minister of Livestock Breeding and Fisheries Maung Maung
Thein, a former Brigadier General who is now running for
office, held a ceremony in Thabya village, Tenasserim
Division. During the ceremony, a young monk preached about
the sin of killing. As a result, district authorities
disrobed the monk. For that monk, this is a deep humiliation
and an end to his heartfelt vocation, as well as a great
loss to our religious community. It is a sacrilege to be
disrobed. What price is that to pay for speaking the truth?
Even though monks cannot vote in these upcoming elections,
we cannot remain silent. Despite restrictions, monks are
still taking measures to educate people about the problems
of the elections, including distributing leaflets and
stamping money with boycott slogans. This is done with great
risk. In September, monk U Okkantha, who was arrested for
anti-election campaigning, was sentenced to 15 years in
Nevertheless, the work continues and we are finding ways to
act. We do this because we know these elections are a lie
that will not improve the lives of the people. After the
election, Burma’s ruling class will sit in the new
parliament buildings in the isolated capital Naypyidaw.
There they will pretend to work, far away from the harsh
reality of the lives of the people of Burma. And what’s even
more, the new constitution gives the military complete
independence from any civilian control and they will be able
to continue their campaigns of persecution. How is this
supposed to improve our country?
I am confused why people in the international community want
to wait and see what the elections will bring. The people of
Burma already know what will happen. It will be the same
faces and the same system that we have been living with for
decades. The name “elections” does not change anything for
International leaders should think more deeply. Supporting
these elections is not supporting gradual progress to
democracy; rather it is a message to the suffering people of
Burma that international support is given to the military
regime and their friends to continue to do what they will. A
different message must be sent.
The monks’ religious boycott of alms from Burma’s corrupt
elite that began after the violence of 2007 is ongoing. We
still demand the release of monks and all political
prisoners and call for an end to the people’s suffering. And
for these purposes, myself and others will continue to
organize and act.
The Venerable Ashin Issariya, also known as King Zero, is a
founding member of the All Burma Monks Alliance.
Burma needs a war crimes
inquiry – Elaine Pearson
Guardian (UK): Thu 28 Oct 2010
The proposed UN inquiry would call the Burmese regime to
account, but it depends on global support that’s so far
lacking.Support for an international commission of inquiry
into war crimes in Burma got a major boost as the UN’s
special rapporteur on Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana,
strengthened his call for a commission of inquiry into
violations of international law in Burma. “Failing to act on
accountability in Myanmar will embolden the perpetrators of
international crimes and further postpone long-overdue
justice,” he said in a report delivered to the UN general
assembly last week.
Since Quintana first broached the issue in his March 2010
report, more than a dozen countries – including the UK,
France, US, Canada and Australia – have publicly voiced
their support for a commission of inquiry.
Despite this growing momentum for justice, not one of these
countries is showing concerted leadership to make the
commission of inquiry a reality. Instead, there are various
excuses given for delaying justice. But the victims of
atrocities in Burma should not have to wait any longer.
Over the course of the world’s longest-running civil war –
now more than six decades old – Burma’s security forces have
committed deliberate attacks on civilians, carried out
summary executions, sexual violence and torture, they have
used child soldiers and committed other war crimes with
total impunity. Ethnic minority armed groups have also
committed serious abuses.
For nearly 20 years, the UN has been passing annual
resolutions on Burma, condemning human rights violations and
calling on the government to stop abuses and hold the
perpetrators accountable. Yet the government has failed to
act, hence the UN special rapporteur’s call for a commission
of inquiry to be set up through the UN general assembly or
the human rights council or on the secretary general’s own
Such a commission would investigate reports of violations of
international humanitarian law and human rights law by all
parties to the conflict in Burma. It would be different from
the usual UN reports, because a commission would collect
information to establish that crimes have been committed. By
shining the spotlight on the violations, this would give
recognition to victims, and compel the Burmese government to
seriously address the problem.
Concerned governments have a prime opportunity to move on
the commission of inquiry recommendation with the annual
Burma resolution at the general assembly. So why don’t they
act? Diplomats have given various reasons for not wanting to
pursue accountability now, but the main excuse is the
looming elections – “It’s not the right time.” It is true
that the first elections in 20 years are about to take place
in Burma on 7 November. Yet all the evidence suggests these
elections will simply entrench military rule with a civilian
face – a quarter of all parliamentary seats are reserved for
military officers. More than 2,000 political prisoners
remain behind bars, and the pro-military party, the Union
Solidarity and Development party (USDP), will be the only
party to field candidates for every open seat. Yes, generals
are shedding their uniforms, but no one should be hoodwinked
into thinking there is any genuine civilian transition
underway that could be threatened by an international
Some governments seem concerned that pushing for an
international process of accountability may negatively
affect the conduct of the elections by driving Burma further
into isolation. A few Asian leaders have suggested a
commission of inquiry could lead to renewed intense fighting
in Burma. If anything, embarking on an accountability
process will put all parties to the conflict on notice that
there are consequences for serious abuses. As we have seen
from Liberia to the Balkans, justice could instead
facilitate a process in which highly abusive figures are
marginalised and a more reformist leadership is able to
emerge in Burma.
Some states are concerned that acting on a commission of
inquiry may affect whether democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi
will be released shortly after the elections, as her current
term for house arrest expires. While we all want to see Suu
Kyi released, her liberty is not a meaningful indicator of
progress in Burma. She has been released and detained many
times over the last 20 years. Burma’s military rulers are
masters at using one woman’s freedom as a bargaining chip to
distract and deter the international community from taking
actions that would harm the military’s interests.
Another argument is that certain powerful countries, namely
China, are actively lobbying against a commission of inquiry
for Burma. A commission will only succeed if the major
players who have come out in support of a commission are as
active in support for it as China is in efforts to scupper
it. In the past, commissions of inquiry have been created by
the security council despite China’s initial reservations,
most recently in the case of Darfur. But there will need to
be a commitment to a campaign of sustained advocacy and
high-level démarches to ensure enough votes to support it.
The international community needs to heed the call of the UN
special rapporteur to act, because as he points out,
“Justice and accountability are the very foundation of the
UN system.” Getting a commission of inquiry for Burma will
entirely depend on how much the EU, the US and like-minded
states are prepared to engage, rather than on how much the
spoilers want to shoot it down.
offensive feared against Myanmar rebel groups – Peter
Deustche Press Agentur: Thu 28 Oct 2010
Bangkok – Few people have high hopes for real change after
Myanmar’s November 7 general election, its first in 20
years, but for the country’s ethnic minority rebel groups,
the polls threaten to bring change for the worse.
‘The election is not for the Kachin people,’ said Laphai Naw
Din, editor of the Kachin News Group, which operates on the
Thai-Myanmar border. ‘After the election, the war will
The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) is one of six guerilla
groups in northern and north-eastern Myanmar that have
refused to submit to the ruling military junta. In 1994, the
Kachin signed a ceasefire with the regime, allowing them
semi-autonomy to govern in their territories in Kachin state
and even keep their own army.
Last year, however, the junta insisted the ‘ceasefire
groups’ were to cease to exist. As part of the regime’s
election preparations, the ceasefire areas were to set up
political parties and turn their armies into ‘border guard
forces’ under the military’s control.
Among the rebels who refused to comply were the KIA with an
estimated force of 7,000, the United Wa State Army with
30,000 fighters, the Shan State Army/North (SSA) with 5,000,
the Karen National Liberation Army with fewer than 8,000,
the New Mon State Party with 1,000 and a breakaway faction
of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army with 1,400.
In retaliation, the regime has barred rebel-controlled
portions of the Kachin, Karen, Wa and Shan states from
The election commission also rejected applications from a
Kachin party and Kachin independents to contest the polls.
More worrisome, the junta has cut off all communications
with the KIA since September 1 and in public speeches has
referred to the movement as an ‘insurgency’ for the first
time since signing the ceasefire.
Whether the military in Myanmar, which was once named Burma,
would launch an offensive against the Kachin and other
ethnic groups in the post-election period remained open.
‘I would say the ethnic minorities shouldn’t be worried
about being attacked by the Burmese army for the next six
months,’ said Khunsai Jaiyen, editor of the Shan Herald
Agency, another news agency based along the Thai-Myanmar
Khunsai argued it would take the regime three months to set
up a new government and it might take another three months
for them to get used to their civilian clothes.
The pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party, packed
with former military men, was expected to win the polls.
The Shan people can vote for the Shan Nationalities
Democratic Party, a Yangon-based party that has fielded 157
In the 1990 election, the Shan Nationalities League for
Democracy won 23 seats in a statewide victory. There are
hopes that the new party would do similarly well this time
Khunsai said he was confident that if the military attacks
the SSA, the United Wa State Army, one of the best-armed
insurgencies in South-East Asia thanks to its lucrative
methamphetamines trade, would come to its aid.
In August last year, the military launched a 48-hour attack
on Laogai, the capital of the Kokang region in Shan state,
crushing the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, as
the Kokang rebel army was called.
The attack sent 30,000 Kokang refugees across the border
into China, irking Myanmar’s big neighbour and one of its
Since the Kokang attack, the six rebel armies have formed an
alliance, promising to come to each other’s aid should the
junta launch another attack.
Thai military sources suspected the most likely first target
would be the Karen National Liberation Army, which has been
weakened by years of fighting and internal dissension.
‘If the Karens were defeated in a swift military offensive,
the Myanmar army could claim they had ended the oldest
insurgency and that would send a chilling sign to the other
groups,’ said Maung Zarni, a research fellow at the London
School of Economics and Political Science.
The Karen have been fighting for the autonomy of their state
since 1949 with the military having failed for the past six
decades to defeat them.
Whatever their outcome, the November 7 polls were not
expected to miraculously improve the Myanmar army’s fighting
‘They cannot win, unless they are prepared to commit
genocide,’ Maung Zarni said.
Than Shwe plans no
retirement from power – Wai Moe
Irrawaddy: Wed 27 Oct 2010
Though junta supremo Snr-Gen Than Shwe’s plans for his
post-election role still remain uncertain after state-run
media described him as the commander in chief during the
week, observers say at least two ways remain for him to
retain control of the country in the next 10 years.
Rangoon’s business community suggest that Than Shwe might
appoint himself as the next president of the Republic of the
Union of Myanmar, becoming the constitutional head of state
while his loyal generals retain control of the armed forces.
However, military sources in Naypyidaw said whether Than
Shwe retires his uniform or not, he will control the armed
forces as chairman of the military council, much like the
Central Military Commission of China and North Korea.
The state-media’s reference to his position as the commander
in chief followed a near two-month silence after Lt-Gen
Myint Aung was appointed as his successor in the major
military reshuffle in late August.
In recent days, state-run newspapers and broadcast media
have described Than Shwe as the junta chairman and the
commander in chief in reports about visits he made to
rehabilitation projects in the Irrawaddy delta hit by
Cyclone Nargis in May 2008.
It was not the first time that the junta media has mentioned
the military positions of the two top generals, Than
Shwe,77, and his deputy, Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye,73, since
the August military reshuffle.
On Oct.5, The New Light of Myanmar noted the deputy
Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services, Maung Aye,
separately met outgoing and incoming Chinese and Thai
military attachés to Burma in Naypyidaw on Oct.5.
This conflicts with earlier reports from military sources in
Naypyidaw that Than Shwe and his deputy signed their
retirements from the armed forces when other top generals
including junta No.3 Gen Shwe Mann, Secretary-1 Gen Tin Aung
Myint Oo and other lieutenant generals were ordered to
retire from their military positions in late August.
“At the time, A Ba [“the grandfather” as Than Shwe is
commonly called in the military] also signed his
retirement,” said a source in Naypyidaw. “So other generals
were prepared to retire from their uniforms saying ‘even A
Ba has decided to take off his uniform.’”
“But A Ba’s reversal of his resignation and that of his top
deputy has surprised many, who now see the earlier move as a
‘pre-emptive strike’ to placate potential disgruntlement
among military officers in Naypyidaw,” he said.
The state media reports about Than Shwe’s and Maung Aye’s
ranks in October contradicted previous news about their
retirement and replacement by loyal generals, Lt-Gen Myint
Aung, former adjutant-general, and Lt-Gen Ko Ko, a former
chief of Bureau of Special Operations-3.
Sources in Naypyidaw said Myint Aung and Ko Ko are attached
to the War Office and remain in waiting to take over their
new positions, however.
Military officials in Naypyidaw, meanwhile, speculate that
Than Shwe and Maung Aye are retaining their top positions
until after the election to preserve unity among senior
officers during the period of readjustment after the August
Although Myint Aung and Ko Ko are tipped as successors for
the Tatmadaw’s top two positions, the state media has not
mentioned them since late August.
The most noticeable promotion in the reshuffle is that of
Lt-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, the former Bureau of Special
Operations-2, who replaced Gen Shwe Mann as joint-chief of
staff (Army, Navy, Air Force).
Min Aung Hlaing has been seen accompanying Than Shwe to the
Irrawaddy Delta this week as well as on other tours in the
country in recent months. He also went with Than Shwe on
state visits to India, China and Laos.
Whether Myint Aung or Min Aung Hlaing—both are in their
50s—succeeds Than Shwe to the top slot, both are considered
How Than Shwe will retain control over Burma’s power
structure after he resigns from the top post in Burma’s
military hierarchy remains in question, however.
Some observers suggest that by designating the two young
loyal generals to the top ranks, Than Shwe will keep a grip
on power for two electoral terms and will not need to
reshuffle the military for another 10 years, that is
assuming the deputies remain loyal to their master.
Observers express caution about all news and rumors
emanating from the military in Burma, however.
“All is speculation since Burma is a most secretive nation,”
said an editor of a private Rangoon journal. “Everything can
change at the last minute in an authoritarian state like
“At present, only Snr-Gen Than Shwe knows the future of the
leadership in military-ruled Burma,” he said.
Political prisoners hold
little hope of release before polls
Mizzima News: Wed 27 Oct 2010
New Delhi – Burmese elections next month cannot be presumed
free and fair unless the military junta releases all
political prisoners prior to November elections and allows
them to participate, a range of Burma analysts,
pro-democracy advocates and the UN have said.As the military
continues to jail many political prisoners, their role in
shaping the future political scene in Burma is fading almost
completely. Junta’s electoral laws bar prisoners from the
In the world’s largest democracy, political activist Jaya
Jaitly said India allowed prisoners to vote, let them
contest in parliamentary elections and some even served in
high government positions.
“If we give an Indian example, Indira Gandhi threw all
opposition leaders into jail in 1975. When the government
announced elections, the leaders could contest … despite
their detention. George Fernandes was being detained at that
time as well. We took his photo and campaigned through out
the country in cars. Then he won with the second largest
number of votes. For that reason, why can’t someone join the
vote whether detained or living under house arrest?”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also called on the Burmese
junta to release political prisoners during his visit to
Burma after Cyclone Nargis. He reiterated his call in August
this year, after the junta announced the election date, and
urged that all political prisoners be released, adding that
the election needed to include them to be free and fair.
Ban further reiterated those calls said yesterday in
Bangkok. He said that while the UN was committed to
long-term engagement with military-ruled Burma that it was
not too late to make next months election more credible,
The United Nations would work with the new government formed
after the much-criticised ballot on November 7, and that the
junta could improve its international image by releasing all
political prisoners immediately, he told a press conference
at Government House in Bangkok.
“It’s not too late, even now. By releasing political
detainees, [the junta] can make this election more inclusive
and participatory,” Reuters quoted Ban as saying. “We will
really be expecting this election will be a free one, fair
one and inclusive one.”
But the junta had made no signals of releasing political
prisoners before November 7, despite western democracies and
regional countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines
adding their calls to the UN’s to make this happen. Burmese
parties and individual candidates have recently started
adding their voices for the release political prisoners, for
the polls to be inclusive.
Kaung Myint Htut, an individual candidate standing for a
seat in the South Okkalapa Township constituency said: “It
is routine that political prisoners are released after a
general election. That is my dream, which is quite possible
… I wish they could be released today or tomorrow. They
could play a role assisting the election that is a turning
point of our country’s change. They can debate and discuss
their views, which would be a valuable contribution to the
country’s freedom and self-determination. If this doesn’t
happen, I wish them to be released after the election. I
will continue to call for their release to be realised”.
However, Ashin Htarwara, a Buddhist monk who participated in
the 2007 Saffron Revolution, was not holding out much hope
that political prisoners, student leaders and jailed monks
would be released under the Burmese military dictatorship.
“If the junta released [political prisoners] and called an
election, we could say the election was fair, instead of
continuing to lock them up in prisons. We’ve heard nothing
so far from the junta about releasing political prisoners,”
the monk said. “The prisoners frequently being released now
are mostly criminals, which is why I’m deeply concerned
about the situation.”
NLD vice-chairman Tin Oo said better political change could
be allowed to happen if imprisoned political leaders were
released and the junta started a national reconciliation
“We have opened the door. It would be better if the
government released political prisoners and sought dialogue
to solve the problems. That is the principle by which we
stand,” he said.
Many prominent activists and opposition leaders are still
serving or have served lengthy terms in the junta’s infamous
prisons, such as the NLD’s Aung San Suu Kyi, Shan leader
Khun Tun Oo, General Sai Htin, 88 Generation Students leader
Min Ko Naing, satirist Zargana, blogger Nay Phone Latt, and
the many other NLD leaders, activists and monks who
participated in the Saffron Revolution, which started in
2007 calling for decreased commodity prices.
Despite the junta’s claims that there were no political
prisoners in Burma, the Thailand-based Assistance
Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPPB) had
recorded that more than 2,010 prisoners remained behind bars
for their political beliefs.
The United Nations, international advocates, NGOs, activists
and many governments have frequently called on the Burmese
junta to release all political prisoners.
Junta accused of slowing,
cutting Net ahead of polls – Myint Maung
Mizzima News: Wed 27 Oct 2010
New Delhi – Burmese internet users on the Bagan Net provider
are having their connections cut regularly and when working,
they slow to a crawl, according to cybercafé owners and
With little more than a week until election day, Burma’s
Bagan Net internet service from Myanmar Teleport had been
very poor for the past three days, they said, adding that
they had no warning of impending difficulties.
“Bagan Net told us nothing … . The internet connection has
been cut frequently but we can access local websites such as
Myanmar Times online and People Magazine’s website. Although
we could access our e-mail occasionally, after 10 minutes of
use, the connection breaks down. Sometimes, we can use just
about five minutes”, a cybercafé owner in Kyauktada
Township, downtown Rangoon, told Mizzima.
The Burmese junta’s severe censorship laws and poor
development of networks has earned Burma’s internet access
environment the pejorative nickname of the “Myanmar Wide
An editor from a weekly journal told Mizzima: “I think that
the closer we come to election day, the more often
connections will be cut. I think their [the Burmese junta’s]
intention is to block the flow of information out of the
country. Not only internet connections, but also phone links
have been disturbed. People think the junta is doing it
Because of the poor internet connection, the number of Net
users had declined, another cybercafé owner said.
“Just a few people came to use the internet. They used to
use Facebook and Google Talk, but these days, they could not
access them … my cybercafé has nearly been empty,” the owner
from Thingangyun Township told Mizzima.
An internet user said: “We can’t use the internet. Some
cybercafés were closed. One of my friends who needed a
Departure Form [D Form] to go to a foreign country, could
not apply online as the government’s D Form site was down.
We haven’t been able to surf other sites as well. I went to
many cybercafés … but the connection was down at all of
Web connections in Arakan, Kachin, and Karen states and
Tenasserim, Mandalay and Sagaing Divisions have also been
A Bagan Net employee said that he was unaware of when
connections would be restored.
An official in charge of the provider said connections were
under maintenance, according to a cybercafé owner in South
Okkalapa Township, Rangoon Division.
Since the monk-led “saffron revolution” of 2007, the junta
has strictly controlled access to the internet. During the
anti-government protests that year, the junta shut down all
services out of the country, claiming a break in an
Net users and observers have accused the junta of again
disturbing services intentionally as the election, to be
held on November 7, draws near.
Nearly 60,000 Burmese have their own internet connections,
according to figures from the Ministry of Communication,
Post and Telegraph.
While Burma has been connected to the World Wide Web since
2000, the junta considers use of the internet so threatening
that just connecting can be seen, under its laws, as a
dissident act. The military government restricts access
using censoring software that blocks sites, especially free
online e-mail and pornography. The government also charges
exorbitant fees for access.
Philippines dubs Myanmar
election a “farce” – Ambika Ahuja
Reuters: Wed 27 Oct 2010
Hanoi – Myanmar’s election is a democratic farce, the
Philippines said in a document outlining President Benigno
Aquino’s position at an Asian summit this week where
differences over the military-ruled nation could bring
discord.The 10-member Association of South East Asian
Nations (ASEAN) faces divisions over reclusive and
recalcitrant Myanmar, days before its first election in two
decades, at the gathering in Vietnam of leaders aiming to
forge an economic and political union in the next five
Myanmar’s grim record on human rights damages ASEAN’s
reputation and credibility and is an obstacle to cooperation
with some of its international partners.
It is also a source of friction within ASEAN, which groups
Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the
Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
“It is increasingly evident that the forthcoming elections …
will continue to be a farce to democratic values of
transparency, fairness, provision for ‘level playing field’,
credibility and all-inclusiveness,” the Philippines
government said in the document prepared for Aquino’s
meetings this week and seen by Reuters on Wednesday.
The Myanmar military, which has ruled since 1962, says the
election will be fair and will return the country to
civilian rule but critics say it is a sham aimed at ensuring
the generals remains firmly in control.
Some ASEAN members, such as the Philippines and Indonesia,
have been pressing for reform. Others, such as Vietnam and
Cambodia, have called for respect of ASEAN’s long-held
principle of non-interference.
EXCLUDED FROM POLITICS
Detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party
swept the country’s last polls in 1990 but was never allowed
to govern, has been kept in detention and excluded from
politics for most of the past 21 years.
The exclusion of Suu Kyi from the election and the detention
of more than 2,000 political prisoners “is a clear signal
that the Myanmar government does not intend to provide space
and opportunity for the election process that the U.N. and
ASEAN demand,” the Philippine government said in the paper.
“The Philippines strongly urges for real and meaningful
change for the Myanmar people,” it said.
Earlier, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said
Myanmar’s election lacked credibility but neighbours hoped
it was not too late to improve prospects for the vote.
“There is obviously a credibility deficit at this time in
terms of where the election appears to be heading, in terms
of its preparation,” Natalegawa said before a meeting with
his counterparts from the region, including Myanmar.
“We are not pessimistic, even at this late stage, that we
can all work together to ensure that an election in Myanmar
can be part of a solution rather than part of more
ASEAN offered Myanmar help with the vote, with some members
suggesting observers. Myanmar declined the offer.
ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan said on Tuesday
Myanmar could make it difficult for ASEAN to establish the
confidence and credibility “for us to move on as a region.”
(Additional reporting by Yoko Kubota in Tokyo; Writing by
Robert Birsel; Editing by John Ruwitch and Miral Fahmy)
Myanmar nuclear plan could
speed up: scientist
Agence France Presse: Wed 27 Oct 2010
Bangkok — Myanmar is carrying out a secret atomic weapons
programme that could “really speed up” if the army-ruled
country is aided by North Korea, according to a top nuclear
The comments follow a June documentary by the
Norwegian-based news group Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB)
that said Myanmar was trying to develop nuclear weapons,
citing a senior army defector and years of “top secret
Robert Kelley, a former director of the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA), inspected the files smuggled out of
Myanmar by Sai Thein Win and said the evidence indicated “a
clandestine nuclear programme” was underway.
“This is not a well-developed programme. I don’t think it’s
going very well,” he told the Foreign Correspondents’ Club
of Thailand late Tuesday.
“But if another country steps in and has all of the
knowledge, the materials, and maybe the key to some of the
things that are plaguing them, including bad management,
this programme could really speed up.”
Kelley said North Korea was “certainly the country I have in
Myanmar, which is holding its first elections in two decades
on November 7, has dismissed the reports of its nuclear
intentions and brushed aside Western concerns about possible
cooperation with North Korea.
The DVB documentary gathered thousands of photos and
defector testimony, some regarding Myanmar’s network of
secret underground bunkers and tunnels, which were allegedly
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