- In Myanmar, house arrest looks
- Airtime scrapped for ‘political’
- Why Thailand invests in Burma
- Wikileaks says Burma passes
Asean news to Beijing
- NZ government ditches Myanmar
- Unwavering and unbowed
- U.N. faces hurdles as it seeks
mediator’s role in Burma
- Foreign policy and the Burmese
- Democracy comes first, says Suu
- Junta turns to Khin Nyunt for
- NLD report documents election
- ‘She gives them strength in
- Reports of forced labour
increase after elections
- Suu Kyi calls for Japan’s
continued support for democracy in Myanmar
- Suu Kyi among top 100 Global
- UN envoy meets Suu Kyi
- Myanmar restricts speech of new
- Suu Kyi meets with CRPP
- NY Times misreads Suu Kyi
- Amid calls for ‘Panglong II,’
Ramos-Horta offers to mediate
- New Myanmar is the hell-hole old
- Lift sanctions burden from
Burma; Further punishment for Rangoon only benefits
- General Than Shwe has a game
- Myanmar junta’s proxy wins 77%
of contested seats
- The colour of money
- Journals suspended for Suu Kyi
- “If We Want Change, We Have to
Make It Happen”
- Suu Kyi sees military role in
- Burma AIDS clinic eviction after
Suu Kyi visit
In Myanmar, house arrest
Los Angeles Times: Thu 2 Dec 2010
The release of Aung San Suu Kyi is a breakthrough, but about
2,200 people — activists, writers, musicians and comedians —
remain in prison on political charges, facing torture,
inadequate medical care and years in solitary confinement.
Yangon – In the decaying lakeside mansion where Aung San Suu
Kyi spent much of the last two decades under house arrest,
the Myanmar opposition leader and Nobel laureate was
forbidden to use the Internet or the telephone or to watch
She did, however, have two maids, was free to read
newspapers and listen to radio, and had access to a doctor.
For the other 2,200 or so political prisoners in Myanmar,
conditions are quite different.
Sentenced to impossibly long prison terms for speaking out
against the repressive military government, they face
torture, barely edible food, little or no medical care and
years in solitary confinement. Some are forbidden to speak
“There’s a great difference between prison and house
arrest,” said Phyo Min Thein, an opposition politician and
brother-in-law of a political prisoner serving a 65-year
sentence. “Aung San Suu Kyi was treated well, while those in
prison are treated with extreme oppression. Is it fair?
Everything isn’t fair. We live under an unfair system.”
Before and after her release, Suu Kyi vowed to spotlight the
plight and press for the release of other political
prisoners in Myanmar, also known as Burma.
For hundreds of activists who have openly challenged
military rule, there’s little hope of fair treatment at the
hands of a clique of generals that has remained largely
impervious to international condemnation, pressure or
The “crimes” prosecuted by the regime include demonstrating,
passing on rumors, “undermining the state” and possessing
uncensored videotapes. Those who have been jailed include
comedians, musicians, artists and a writer convicted of
inserting a message in a Valentine’s Day poem.
For many, the decades-long sentences are abstract numbers,
their release dependent more on a political deal or a
hoped-for change in government than in serving out their
“There’s a signboard inside with the length of your
sentence,” said Phyo Min Thein, who served 15 years for
opposing the regime, including five during which he wasn’t
allowed to talk. “My first five years, I hoped for freedom.
After that, you just have to live.”
One of the toughest challenges is staying mentally fit. The
lack of news, human contact or contact with loved ones eats
away at you, former prisoners and family members said,
deepening your isolation.
“You become more hungry for information than for food,” Min
Ko Naing, a leader of the student movement that rose up
against the regime in 1988 who is serving a 65-year
sentence, one said.
Some described small acts of defiance: hiding a banned book
by Suu Kyi in a hole carved out of the floor under a chamber
pot, smuggling out appeals to the United Nations or singing
protest songs, even if it meant severe punishment or years
added to their sentence.
In 2008, the regime transferred many prisoners to remote
sites, making family visits more difficult.
“Before 2008, I visited him twice,” said a relative of
prisoner Ko Ko Gyi, who is serving a 65-year sentence for,
among other charges, illegal use of the telephone system.
“But since then I haven’t. It’s a long way.”
Former prisoners said they tried to stay sharp by singing,
reciting Buddhist verses, playing mental games and
meditating. Suu Kyi, who was released from house arrest Nov.
14, said she drew strength from dawn meditation sessions.
“Some people go mad talking to themselves,” Phyo Min Thein
said. “You start imagining you see your mother in front of
Family visits, when they’re permitted, may be limited to an
hour or two a month, with guards hovering.
Some of the detainees are sentenced to more than century in
prison, and in Myanmar, political prisoners are rarely
released for good behavior. U Khun Htun Oo, 67, a political
representative of the Shan ethnic minority in failing
health, received 93 years in 2005 for a private discussion
about political transition.
Human rights groups say their estimate of 2,200 political
detainees in Myanmar is probably conservative, because many
in rural areas go uncounted. Periodically the government
declares an amnesty, although criminals are the main
beneficiaries. In 2008, it released 9,000 people; eight were
“And they know they can re-arrest you any time; they play
games,” said Bo Kyi, joint secretary of the Assistance Assn.
for Political Prisoners (Burma), a Thailand-based activist
group. “Aung San Suu Kyi can definitely be arrested again
soon. Now the military regime is trying to find an
accusation against her.”
In fact, many believe it’s a matter of time before the
defiant leader is detained again by generals threatened by
her popularity and vocal appeals for democracy.
Some former prisoners surmise that her release has served
the government’s interests by deflecting attention from
rigged elections held a week earlier, but that once the
inner circle led by Senior Gen. Than Shwe feels threatened
anew, it will find a pretext to lock her up again.
The regime maintains the outward appearance of following
laws, replete with formal charges, witnesses and legal
representation, when in fact many verdicts are decided by a
few powerful people, said David Mathieson, Myanmar
researcher with the activist group Human Rights Watch.
Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations, Thant Kyaw,
denied last month that politics played a part in the
convictions. “There are no political prisoners in Myanmar,
and no individual has been incarcerated simply for his or
her political beliefs,” he told a U.N. committee.
Families disagree, saying that the food in Myanmar’s 44
prisons and at least 50 labor camps is often bad because
corrupt officials pocket the budget, with rice gruel at
breakfast, rice and watery bean soup at lunch and a thin
vegetable soup at dinner.
And prisoners deemed “troublemakers” face years in solitary
confinement, they say, and torture sessions that include
kneeling for hours, severe beatings for moving, being
suspended by the wrists and water torture.
Conditions varied depending on the prison. A former inmate
of Insein Prison said he spent five years in an 8-by-12-foot
room that housed up to seven people. Prisoners were given 15
minutes a day to clean out their waste and wash themselves,
using a plate, not a bowl.
“It’s very difficult to bathe with a plate,” he said.
Family members say their relatives eventually become inured.
During Htay Kywe’s first prison sentence, his father died,
leaving him quite depressed. During his second sentence,
during which his mother died, he took personal setbacks in
stride, relatives said.
“They never tell us about torture, they don’t want us to
worry,” said a relative of husband-and-wife student
protesters Ko Jimmy and Nilar Thein. “Frankly, we don’t want
to know either. It would only make things harder.”
Many relatives said that though they’re happy for Suu Kyi,
they hope political change will ease their family’s plight.
“I hope Ko Ko Gyi gets pardoned,” said a relative. “His two
nieces are growing up without knowing him. We all really
Airtime scrapped for
‘political’ artists – Shwe Aung
Democratic Voice of Burma: Thu 2 Dec 2010
Around a dozen entertainment artists were yesterday
blacklisted by Burma’s information ministry and will no
longer be given airtime on television and radio stations.
The list of those banned includes singers, actors, directors
and writers, as well as the former actor Kyaw Thu, who now
runs the acclaimed Free Funeral Service Society, an official
at Yangon [Rangoon] City FM radio station told DVB. The
majority had visited the care home for HIV patients in
Rangoon that was initially ordered to close following a
visit by Aung San Suu Kyi last week.
It remains unclear whether material produced by the writers
included in the list will be banned from print publications,
a tabloid journal editor in Rangoon said. Likewise,
performance artists are yet to find out whether the ban
extends to live shows.
The MoI oversees Burma’s notorious censor board, which
blocks all politically sensitive material from being
distributed and orders that any printed worked is vetted by
the board prior to publication.
“We are artists and not political activists,” said Kyaw Thu.
“However, what matters for our country matters for us. We
were just doing humanitarian work as it’s the right thing to
do for human beings.
“The artists are contributing what they can and it’s quite a
disgraceful act to ban and blacklist them for it.”
He added that the ruling junta should make the distinction
between humanitarian work and political activity. This it
famously failed to do following 2008’s devastating cyclone
Nargis, when numbers of Burmese aid workers and teams of
people who buried corpses were given lengthy jail terms.
Mainstream artists in Burma tend to steer clear of including
political commentary in their work. The country’s most
famous performer, the comedian Zarganar, is serving a
35-year prison sentence after he gave interviews to foreign
media critical of the junta’s response to the cyclone.
Kyaw Thu’s wife, Shwe Zeegwat, is also included in the ban,
along with writer Than Myint Aung, who is in the FFSS.
Joining them are singers Saung Oo Hlaing and Than Thar Win,
rapper Anegga, punk-rock musician Kyar Pauk and film
directors Maung Myo Myin, Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi and Cho Tu Zaw.
Why Thailand invests in
Burma – Simon Roughneen
Financial Times: Thu 2 Dec 2010
There is some confusion over whether Thailand or China is
the biggest source of foreign investment in Burma. But it’s
clear that Thai interest is gathering pace: the Saha Group
is the latest Thai cash-rich business to enter the hermetic
south-east Asian country, announcing a plan to open 25
stores there by 2012.And Burma offers more than just a
untapped market. For Thai businesses, the country also
offers respite from the environmental and other corporate
standards that exist at home.
The Thai prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, heard as much
last month, when he visited the Map Ta Phut industrial
estate (pictured), in south Thailand. Seventy-six projects
on the estate remain closed, after a court ruling regarding
residents’ complaints about leukemia and cancer rates in the
area. A business lobby group is unhappy – and handed Abhisit
a letter, outlining its grievances over the government’s
handling of the case.
Compare that to Burma. where there’s little chance of a
court intervening so forcefully. And it’s seemingly with
that disparity in mind that Abhisit has hailed a landmark
agreement to develop a massive port and road transportation
facility in Burma. The deal – at Dawei, beside the Andaman
Sea – is between a Burmese company, the state-run Myanmar
Port and Development Co., and the Italian-Thai Development
Worth $8.6bn, the project is the single largest foreign
investment into Burma to date. It will cover 250 square
kilometres, and involve the building of a deep-sea port to
be linked to Kanchanaburi in central Thailand by a new
highway. The attraction for investors is an overland
shortcut to China and east Asia – bypassing the Straits of
Malacca, and linking to an as-yet-unrealised labyrinth of
Chinese-backed road and rail links in the Mekong region.
Domestic behemoths Siam Cement and PTT Chemicals – which
have both been hit by the Map Ta Phut moratorium – have
expressed their interest. Burmese businessman Zaw Zaw, who
is under US sanctions for his links with Burma’s rulers, is
also reportedly involved in the venture, which the country’s
dictator, Than Shwe, sees a domestic equivalent to the
China’s Shenzhen economic zone.
The construction deal was signed five days before Burma’s
election last month, and it’s noteworthy that Thai
politicians have becoming friendlier towards the Burmese
ruling junta in recent years. When in opposition, Abhisit’s
party was hostile to the military rulers next door – and
critical of the then Thai prime minister, Thaksin
Shinawatra, for cosying up to them. Such antipathy has now
Under Abhisit, Thailand welcomed the election, despite
allegations of ballot stuffing and voter intimidation.
According to leaks first published in Chinese state media,
the junta’s party has swept 76 per cent of the vote.
Wikileaks says Burma
passes Asean news to Beijing – Ba Kaung
Irrawaddy: Thu 2 Dec 2010
Burma, along with Laos and Cambodia, might be working for
Beijing as spies within the Association of Southeast Asian
Nations (Asean), according to a US cable leak attributed to
Singapore’s Minister Mentor, Lee Kuan Yew.
“Within hours, everything that is discussed in Asean
meetings is known in Beijing, given China’s close ties with
Laos, Cambodia, and Burma,” a secret cable stated, quoting
Lee Kuan Yew in a conversation with US Deputy Secretary of
State James B. Steinberg on May 30, 2009.
According to a leaked text posted on the Wikileaks website,
the cable was sent from the US Charge d’Affaires in
Singapore, Daniel L. Shields, to US Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton in June. The conversation, which was aimed
at “eliciting MM Lee’s views on China and North Korea,” took
place in Singapore’s Presidential Palace.
Lee Kuan Yew was also quoted as saying in the same
conversation that “Beijing is worried about its dependence
on the Strait of Malacca and is moving to ease the
dependence by means like a pipeline through Burma,”
referring to China’s major oil pipeline construction from
Burma’s Arakan coast to China’s Yunnan province.
As China’s strategic ally, Burma often seeks China’s support
in the United Nations whenever its human rights record is
raised. And China is widely assumed to wield influence on
the Burmese regime.
The leaked cable also referred to an earlier discussion
between MM Lee and China’s Deputy Chief of the People’s
Liberation Army (PLA) General Staff, Ma Xiaotian. Lee was
quoted as recalling that when he asked Ma Xiaotian what
China could do about North Korea, the Chinese official
replied: “they [North Korea] can survive on their own.”
“MM Lee said he interpreted this as meaning that even if
China cut off aid, the DPRK (North Korea) leadership would
survive. This is a leadership that has already taken actions
like killing ROK (South Korean) Cabinet Members in Burma,”
the cable stated, referring to an incident in which North
Korean commandos attempted to assassinate South Korean
President Chun Doo-hwan during an official visit he made to
Rangoon in October 1983.
The attempt to kill the South Korean president with a bomb
was widely believed to have been masterminded by North
Korean leader Kim Jong II before he succeeded his father Kim
Among the hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables
leaked by the Wikileaks website, there is little mention of
Burmese issues. But in its website, it stated that there are
over 3,000 records related to Burma. The documents remain
inaccessible to the public but are expected to be released
While the Wikileaks website lists US embassies around the
world as sources for much of leaked information, the US
Embassy in Rangoon is not included.
In another leaked memo released on Nov. 28 but dated July 31
2009 with its original source being US Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton, Burma was mentioned as one of the priority
issues in US foreign policy.
The memo mentioned a request for reporting of biographic
information relating to the United Nations, including
information about “credit card account numbers; frequent
flyer account numbers; and work schedules.”
Regarding Burma, the memo asked for information on “Views of
UNSC (United Nations Security Council) and member states on
Burma” and also plans and intentions of the UN Secretary
General on Burma and level of trust in his Special Adviser,
who was then Nigerian national Ibraham Gambari. Also, views
were sought from Burmese officials on the UN Chief and his
special adviser; the development and democratization
activities of UNDP in Burma; and details of the UNDP
Resident Coordinator’s relationship with Burmese officials.
NZ government ditches
Myanmar for Burma
National Business Review (New Zealand): Thu 2 Dec 2010
The government is to change its position on Myanmar and
return to calling it Burma.
The Asian nation was known as Burma until 1989 when the
military government officially changed it to Myanmar.
The Government has accepted a recommendation from Foreign
Affairs Minister Murray McCully to use Burma, Radio New
Mr McCully said the change signalled that New Zealand
refused to recognise the legitimacy of the ruling military
The Government’s position allows for the use of Myanmar
where the country is recognised as such, including at the
Australia, France and the UK prefer to use Burma while the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Burma is a
member, use Myanmar.
Unwavering and unbowed –
Times of Malta: Thu 2 Dec 2010
An international political analyst once described Burma (now
officially Myanmar) as Asia’s Heart of Darkness. In a sense,
this is painfully true. Burma is a nation strategically
positioned between India and China, inhabited by 53 million
and once the richest producer of commodities in Southeast
Asia. It remains torn between a profound thirst for
democracy and freedom and the unbending totalitarian regime
that has ruled it for 62 years since its Independence from
In the midst of this political saga stands a demure,
delicate and fragile looking woman. Her name is Aung San Suu
Kyi. She is the daughter of one of the most important
figures of modern-day Burma, General Aung San, who was
assassinated in 1947. Suu Kyi was orphaned at the age of two
and truly knows very little of her father in her upbringing.
Yet, his legacy has been unavoidable and has, for Suu Kyi,
determined her life and her family’s destiny for almost
Before returning to care for her sick mother, Suu Kyi lived
a normal life as mother and housewife in suburban England.
Married to an English scholar, Michael Aris, she continued
studying, achieving a PhD in 1985. The tumultuous events
surrounding Burma in 1988 led to a string of events that saw
her enter Burmese politics at a stage when many believed
Burma would turn a page and become a fully fledged modern
nation. Sadly, this would not happen.
Suu Kyi found herself leading the National League for
Democracy Party that would, in 1990, win the elections with
a landslide victory. The NLD would garner 59 per cent of the
votes and control 80 per cent of the parliamentary seats.
The generals would have none of this result. Power would not
be handed over and Suu Kyi’s trials and tribulations were
just about to begin. She would spend the next 15 years out
of 21 either incarcerated or under house arrest. Isolated
from her husband and family, she would witness the
systematic decimation of her party.
Many nations around the world have recognised Suu Kyi’s
titanic efforts to restore democracy in a pacifist and
non-violent manner. For her efforts, she has received
innumerable awards, among which the Nobel Peace Prize in
Many have accused Suu Kyi of being too moderate. She has
eschewed violence at every turn. Suu Kyi remains adamant
that moral right should prevail over might and force. In
this sense, she is likened to another historical figure,
Nelson Mandela. Of course, the conditions and historical
backgrounds of these two personalities differ, yet, by and
large, the quality of perseverance and stoic tenacity are
very similar in both. It takes inner strength and steely
courage to survive years of isolation and frustration
without cracking or giving up in the face of apparent
After 20 years of isolation and severe sanctions, especially
from the West, the Burmese Junta have made two apparently
significant moves. The first is to call elections after an
absence of 20 years. Many have called this a bogus political
exercise. Suu Kyi remained under house arrest during the
proceedings and the NLD did not participate, hence, leading
to it being dissolved by the Burmese regime.
The second and more important move was Suu Kyi’s release
from house arrest on November 13. Alas, this is not the
first time Suu Kyi has been released. This cat-and-mouse
game has been going on for over 20 years and probably any
pretext will see Suu Kyi back in prison or house arrest!
There seem to be three possible reasons as to why Suu Kyi
has been released. The first is that the release is a signal
from the generals they consider her a manageable threat and
that her age will now hamper her in re-establishing any
significant power base that has been eroded over time.
Secondly, it could be optimistically endorsing a change of
tact on the part of the regime signalling a slow path to
civilian rule and part democratisation. Finally, it could be
a way for the generals to play for time and restart economic
relations with trading partners in an attempt to
re-invigorate an impoverished and underperforming economy.
The real reasons will be played out in the coming weeks and
months. It is unlikely that things will remain status quo
and one waits for developments since, after all, Suu Kyi has
made it clear her release is not constrained by any
Truly, the events in Burma are far removed from our present
day realities. Yet, it would not be amiss to reflect on the
stark reality that surrounds 20th century Burmese history.
It should serve as an inspiration for us all to do our
utmost every day to preserve freedom, democracy and the
right to live in peace within the parameters of legitimate
U.N. faces hurdles as it
seeks mediator’s role in Burma – Marwaan Macan-Markar
Inter Press Service: Thu 2 Dec 2010
Bangkok – Barely a week after a ranking United Nations
official visited military-ruled Burma, the country’s
strongman has sharply reminded the global body about the
challenges that await any envoy who refuses to march in step
with the junta.On Wednesday, Senior Gen Than Shwe declared
that the Nov. 7 general election was “free and fair” and
that the South-east Asian nation was heading towards handing
“over state power to the public.”
The reclusive military leader’s views of the country’s first
general election in two decades — made during a speech to
mark the anniversary of a 1920 student strike against
British colonialism – could not have been more blunt.
They ran counter to those expressed by Vijay Nambiar, U.N.
special envoy to Burma.
Only days before, Nambiar told reporters at the end of his
trip to Burma, also known as Myanmar, that he had informed
the military government about the many concerns expressed
about the Nov. 7 poll.
The questions about the elections – which many western
governments described as having been rigged to ensure
victory for a junta-backed party – need to be taken up “as
transparently as possible,” Nambiar informed journalists at
the end of his weekend visit.
“This is important for laying the foundation of a credible
transition” to democratic rule, he was quoted as having
said, according to the Associated Press news agency.
But Than Shwe’s snub is not the only challenge Nambiar faces
as the United Nations mounts its third attempt in a decade
to meet its declared political mission for Burma: to use the
office of the U.N. secretary-general “to facilitate the
process of national reconciliation and democratisation
through his special advisor for Myanmar.”
Nambiar, who is also chief of staff for U.N.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, has to grapple with the new
political equation in Burma following the release from house
arrest of the widely popular democracy leader Aung San Suu
Since her release in mid-November, the 65-year-old Nobel
Peace laureate has been treading a cautious, yet determined
path to breathe life into the besieged democracy movement,
which she has been the icon of since late 1988.
On Wednesday, Suu Kyi, who has been shut away for over 15 of
the past 21 years as a prisoner in her home, appealed to a
broad slice of the country – including soldiers and civil
servants — to unite under the banner of national
“I have worked to fulfil national reconciliation, and I will
keep trying to promote national reconciliation,” said Suu
Kyi during a speech in Rangoon, the former capital, to mark
Burma’s National Day, as the anniversary to celebrate the
1920 student strike against British colonial rule is called.
Suu Kyi is open to the United Nations playing a role to
bridge the wide political gulf between the military, the
pro-democracy movement and Burma’s ethnic minorities. “She
wants the U.N. to play a role, but how and what form is not
clear,” said a European diplomat who visits Burma
But the military government harbours other ideas. “They are
not receptive to an explicit U.N. political presence on the
ground, which is what Suu Kyi wants,” the diplomat, who
spoke on condition of anonymity, told IPS. “The government
does not see a role for the U.N.”
Little wonder why analysts concede that Nambiar’s mission
should force the United Nations to examine its political
relevance in Burma. “I don’t think the U.N. has much clout
to bring the parties together under the current
circumstances,” Aung Naing Oo, a Burmese political analyst
living in exile, told IPS. “The military feels it is in a
position of power and economically strong so it does not
need to listen to the U.N. on national reconciliation.”
In fact, the junta’s rejection of U.N. mediation efforts has
been a familiar feature of its political exchanges with the
world body over the past 10 years. At times, these have even
exploded into open disagreement between ranking government
officials and a visiting envoy or the junta doing an
about-turn on promises made.
Suu Kyi, too, has snubbed the world body during her last
seven-year period as a political prisoner.
Nambiar’s predecessor, Ibrahim Gambari, hit a diplomatic low
during a 2008 visit to Burma when the then detained
pro-democracy leader turned down two requests by Gambari for
a meeting. Even an attempt by two of Gambari’s aides to show
up outside the gates of Suu Kyi’s home and shout Gambari’s
name proved futile.
But this political minefield has not dimmed the world body’s
quest to make its presence felt in order to pave the way for
national reconciliation. In November, Nambiar’s office
received more funds to increase its staff to four for its
Burma mission, up from the two during Gambari’s stint as the
“There is definitely a role for the U.N. to play in Burma,
but they have to move beyond thinking it is just about the
military and Suu Kyi,” said David Scott Mathieson, Burma
consultant for Human Rights Watch, a New York- based global
rights watchdog. “There are so many other elements to be
considered, including the concerns of the ethnic groups.”
“The situation now is far more complex,” he told IPS. “It is
the Mount Everest of diplomatic efforts. And Nambiar is
starting at the shores of the Indian Ocean.”
Foreign policy and the
Burmese balancing act – Roberto Herrera-Lim
Foreign Policy: Thu 2 Dec 2010
Western governments recently cheered Aung San Suu Kyi’s
release, but don’t expect any major changes to their Myanmar
(formerly known as Burma) policies in the near term. By
contrast, Asian countries will probably increase their level
of engagement, no matter what the country’s politics,
because they want access to its natural resources. So what
does this all mean for Myanmar’s relations with the East and
Divining the intentions of Myanmar’s generals is never easy,
especially their calculations around the release of the
country’s most famous dissident. It could be an act of
economic desperation, the result of a power play between the
old guard and relatively more moderate factions within the
military, or simply the regime’s efforts to achieve some
form of normalization. Regardless of the motives, however,
the effects are clear: While the West remains distrustful of
recent moves, other Asian countries will increase their
dealings and investments with Pyinmana, giving these
governments greater leverage with the generals who
effectively run the country (albeit in civilian clothes). In
other words, there will a widening gap between how the West
and Asia deals with the Burmese regime, for the next year at
The current U.S. administration, whose priorities in Asia
lie elsewhere, will not expend much political capital on the
country. Influential pro-democracy constituencies in
Washington can easily find arguments for continued sanctions
and against engaging with the country’s nominally “civilian”
leadership. While the country held its first general
election in 20 years on Nov. 7, it was not free, fair, nor
credible. Furthermore, most Myanmar watchers are mindful of
May 2003 when, barely a year after Suu Kyi’s first release
from detention, an armed group apparently recruited by the
regime’s front, the Union Solidarity and Development
Association (USDA), attacked her convoy, killing about 100
people. Senior generals seen as responsible for the attack
are now in the new parliament as part of the
government-sponsored majority belonging to the Union
Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), the successor of
the USDA. ??
Meanwhile, many countries in Asia (including China, India,
and Thailand) will continue to pursue policies toward
Myanmar based on their economic interests and a sense that
the country is an arena for strategic competition with
rivals. China is already Myanmar’s de-facto regional patron.
Other countries are now pursuing postures more similar to
Beijing’s than to Washington’s, which, in turn, eases the
environment in Asia for further Chinese pursuit of Burmese
resources such as natural gas. This year, for instance, CNPC
started construction for its oil and gas pipeline projects
from Arakan (Rakhine) state off the Andaman Sea to the
southern Chinese province of Yunnan. The gas pipeline will
draw its supply from the Shwe fields off the Arakan coast in
the Bay of Bengal and transport it to Kunming and Nanning in
China. The oil pipeline, meanwhile, will transport oil
offloaded by tankers from the Middle East at Ramree (Maday)
Island in Kyaukphyu to Ruili in China’s Yunnan province; it
will be able to carry roughly 10 percent of China’s imports
from the Gulf. For Thailand, meanwhile, Myanmar supplies
about a fourth of Thai gas needs, and the amount is expected
to increase by 2013, based on new agreements by Thai state
energy company PTT.
The next few months will be critical for Myanmar’s political
and economic trajectory. In the days after her release, Suu
Kyi was understandably vague about her plans. She did,
however, emphasize “national reconciliation” and flirted
with the line that Western sanctions might need to be
rethought. Increasingly, Suu Kyi will likely test the limits
of the government’s tolerance and willingness to pursue
political reform. But she’ll have to be careful, as the
generals will probably be assessing whether their experiment
of releasing Suu Kyi succeeds — and they’ll recalibrate as
necessary. If they sense that increased instability is the
likely outcome of her freedom, the leadership will likely
revert to old practices, including increasing the military’s
role in maintaining order and possibly finding an excuse to
again arrest Suu Kyi. On the other hand, if Myanmar’s
leaders believe their gamble has paid off — and that the
economic and diplomatic gains from her release outweigh the
risks to their control over the country — the pro-democracy
movement could be given some breathing room. In this case,
if the regime can claim it has fulfilled former prime
minister Khin Nyunt’s seven-step roadmap (announced in
2003), then a more significant, though slow, thawing of ties
with the West becomes more likely. This process will, of
course, take time. But if the momentum generated by Suu
Kyi’s release is sustained, some change might become a more
realistic expectation within a couple of years.
* Roberto Herrera-Lim is a director in Eurasia Group’s
Democracy comes first,
says Suu Kyi – Shefali Rekhi with Aung San Suu Kyi
The Straits Times: Thu 2 Dec 2010
Sounding much like the firebrand of the past, Myanmar
opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said yesterday that she
will work to convince fellow citizens that power lies in
their hands, and that they must use it properly to achieve
In her first interview with a regional publication since her
Nov 13 release after seven years of house arrest, she told
The Straits Times yesterday that modern methods of
communication have made her task much easier.
Despite the ever-present threat of arrest, the democracy
icon hopes to facilitate democracy in Myanmar by building a
global network and engaging the country’s military regime at
the same time.
‘What I am interested in is creating a wide network of
people not just for Burma, but people all over the world to
encourage the democratic process in our country,’ she said
in the phone interview, using the old name for Myanmar.
‘That’s what I want to do at the moment. I see that as my
role -as a facilitator of such a network.’
That network could include the United States, the European
Union, and countries in the region.
‘I would like them to work in concert. Not just the EU and
the US…but also Asean and other Asian countries. If they
could coordinate their efforts, I think it would help the
process of democratisation in Burma greatly,’ she said.
‘(I hope) that they will talk more to each other and try to
find a common ground on which to approach the problems of
The 65-year-old made it clear, however, that she does not
aspire to become the country’s president or prime minister,
saying her only goal was to ‘establish a strong and lasting
‘I don’t think it is important who is president if the
democratic institutions are genuine and strong and in place.
There will be presidents and presidents after that.’
Speaking in her trademark soft yet forceful voice and with a
slight British accent, Ms Suu Kyi did not sidestep any
questions during the interview -including the fear of
‘It is always a possibility,’ she acknowledged. ‘Not just
with me but with many of my colleagues as well. They have
been in jail and have been kept in jail for many, many years
as well. And they are aware of the fact that they could be
re-arrested. But I don’t think we live in fear.’
Indeed, the threat of another clampdown by the reclusive
regime has not stopped Ms Suu Kyi from striving to bring
about a return of power to Myanmar’s people -a key message
that she sought to emphasise during the interview.
From the moment she was released, she has been reaching out
to supporters within the country, addressing thousands of
cheering people at public gatherings.
The speed at which she returned to work appears to suggest
that Ms Suu Kyi is trying to get as much done as possible
while her freedom lasts.
‘Change has to come from the people and there is nothing
more important than a change in which people think,’ she
‘Our people need to understand that they are empowered; that
they are not powerless and I am trying to instil the idea of
the power of the powerless into them; and that they can use
this power in the right way to make the changes that we
Elaborating, she said she hoped to help people see that
‘their power lies in unity and their ability to communicate
with each other’. Only then, she added, would ‘they be able
to make their hopes and aspirations felt’ by the
Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy had won the
national elections in 1990, sweeping 392 of the 492 seats in
Parliament, but was never allowed to rule. Instead, what
followed were long periods of detention for its leader -15
years in all -with intermittent periods of release.
Yet, she still believes in continuing to try to engage the
military regime. ‘We haven’t made much progress in the sense
we haven’t heard anything from them. It’s always been like
that. We have always had to ask for dialogue continuously,’
she said. She added that she would keep trying: ‘We will
have to make them understand that there is a need for
Ms Suu Kyi also spoke about her personal life. Her husband,
Mr Michael Aris, died in London in 1999. The younger of
their two sons, Kim, finally managed to visit her in Myanmar
after being denied permission for 10 years. It is unclear if
the elder son, Alexander, is also seeking to visit Yangon.
Ms Suu Kyi has not left the country for many years, fearing
she would not be allowed to re-enter. She told The Straits
Times she has no intention of leaving Myanmar any time soon,
though she hopes to visit her sons one day.
Asked if the suffering she faced in putting duty before
family was worth it, she replied humbly that others had done
it too. ‘I am not the only one who has put duty above
family,’ she said. ‘I don’t think I want to make a big issue
out of whether or not I suffered.’
Junta turns to Khin Nyunt
for ethnic advice – Wai Moe
Irrawaddy: Wed 1 Dec 2010
Intelligence sources in Burma have speculated that members
of the military junta have met with former intelligence
officials, including ex-spy chief Gen Khin Nyunt, for advice
about intelligence matters, particularly in dealing with
Since a video clip of Khin Nyunt meeting with Burma’s police
chief Khin Yi was posted on Facebook on Friday, the former
premier and his wife have been moved to a military guest
house near Rangoon, adding fuel to the rumors that senior
military officials have been speaking with Khin Nyunt.
Other officials with the Ministry of Home Affairs, Myint
Thein, Win Naing Tun and Zaw Win, appeared in the video
clip. All used to work under Khin Nyunt when he was in
However, prison officials and intelligence sources said that
officials with the Military Affairs Security (MAS) which
replaced Khin Nyunt’s Military Intelligence (MI) in late
2004, have met regularly with former intelligence officials
in prison and in Rangoon to discuss ethnic issues since 2008
when the junta began planning its Border Guard Force
proposition for ethnic armed groups.
“[MI's] Col. San Pwint met with MAS officials throughout
2008- 09 in Thayet Prison to discuss ethnic issues,
particularly in dealing with armed cease-fire groups,” said
a source close to prison authorities who spoke on condition
of anonymity. “He [San Pwint] told MAS officials that his
boss [Khin Nyunt] was in charge of the ethnic issues and
that he [Khin Nyunt] is knowledgeable about the situation.”
When the MI was in power, two intelligence officers,
Brig-Gen Kyaw Thein and Col San Pwint, were well known as
negotiators with ethnic cease-fire groups. In 1989, Khin
Nyunt historically signed a cease-fire pact with former
troops of the Communist Party of Burma. It was the first of
many cease-fires the junta would agree with ethnic armies in
the years to follow.
When Khin Nyunt and his MI apparatus were usurped by Snr-Gen
Than Shwe and his clique, almost all intelligence officials
and some of their family members were arrested and sentenced
to long-term imprisonment—with the notable exception of
Deputy Intelligence Chief Maj-Gen Kyaw Win and an ethnic
affairs specialist, Brig-Gen Kyaw Thein.
Although Kyaw Win and Kyaw Thein retired from their posts
when the MI was abolished, they were not arrested.
Nowadays, Kyaw Win is reportedly busy with his photo studio
business in Rangoon and enjoys painting, while Kyaw Thein is
mainly involved in religious affairs.
“Like Col. San Pwint [who is now serving a 44-year prison
term on corruption charges], Brig-Gen Kyaw Thein has also
met and talked with senior military officials, such as
Lt-Gen Myint Swe, the former chief of the Bureau of Special
Operations-5, and former officials from the MAS, including
Brig-Gen Myat Tun Oo [currently commandant of the Defense
Services Academy],” said an intelligence source in Rangoon.
However, it appears that the military officials’ secret
meetings with Kyaw Thein at a military guest house in
Rangoon have not yielded positive results as the former
intelligence officer in ethnic affairs was reported to say
that he was unable to negotiate with the ethnic groups
without the aid of his mentor, Khin Nyunt, and his
Both Kyaw Thein and San Pwint are reported to have
recommended that Khin Nyunt should be a key negotiator with
Kyaw Thein and San Pwint have previously attempted to agree
cease-fires with different ethnic groups, from the
Sino-Burmese border region in far northern Burma to the
Thai-Burmese border in the south, between 1989 and 2004,
until a few days before the downfall of the military
After Khin Nyunt’s MI was removed from the junta’s power
structure in October 2004, Burma’s new ruling generals and
their new intelligence department, the Military Affairs
Security (MAS), failed to consolidate a working relationship
with the cease-fire groups.
Sources have said that the junta’s key negotiators and the
MAS are not savvy on ethnic issues—a significant difference
from Khin Nyunt’s MI.
“The MAS is quite different from the MI. They do not seem to
have files on their ethnic counterparts like their
predecessors did,” said a senior official with the Kachin
Independence Organization (KIO). “When Lt-Gen Ye Myint
[former MAS chief] started to talk about the Border Guard
Force in 2009, he did not have a grasp of the details of the
situation when we questioned him.”
Most of ethnic cease-fire groups, including the United Wa
State Army and the KIO, have been resisting the junta’s plan
for disarming the ethnic armies and transforming them into
The KIO official said that Khin Nyunt and the MI employed
the same policy on ethnic issues as the current regime,
however they used a completely different approach and
NLD report documents
election fraud – Sai Zom Hseng
Irrawaddy: Tue 30 Nov 2010
The National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu
Kyi, has completed a draft report that documents cheating
and unfair procedures in Burma’s Nov. 7 election and the
party’s central executive committee has approved the report,
according to NLD leader Han Thar Myint.
“The cases are coming mostly from individual candidates
because they were more oppressed in the election than
political parties. There was only one political party which
submitted their case to us,” Han Thar Myint told The
Irrawaddy on Tuesday.
“The candidates who submitted their complaints about the
Nov. 7 election had to show evidence substantiating their
complaint. Although we finished the draft, there are still
many more cases to come. We can’t confirm when we will
release the report because we have to compile many cases and
if necessary translate them into an English version,” said
Han Thar Myint.
Dr. Saw Naing, a 42-year-old dentist, was an independent
candidate who lost in his constituency in South Okkalapa,
Rangoon Division, where he competed for a seat in the
Regional Parliament against regime-backed Union Solidarity
and Development Party (USDP) candidate Aung Kyaw Moe.
When the vote-counting ended the day after the election, the
Union Election Commission (EC) declared Saw Naing the winner
by six votes. But that evening Burma’s state-run television
announced that the ballots had been recounted and Aung Kyaw
Moe had won.
“If the regime is not going to discuss the NLD report, I
will be dissatisfied. I want the regime to review the report
and discuss it with the candidates,” Saw Naing told The
Irrawaddy on Tuesday.
In addition to submitting his case to the NLD for inclusion
in its report, Saw Naing signed a complaint letter and sent
it to junta chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe on Nov. 29.
He said he also wishes to sue the EC in court, but if a
candidate wants to sue the EC or an opposing political
party, the complaining candidate first has to pay a 1
million kyat (US $1,150) court fee. As a result, no
candidate has thus far been able to afford to file a
The NLD documenting team also collected the Nov. 7
experience of Thu Wai, the chairman of Democratic Party
(Myanmar), who was declared to have lost in the general
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Tuesday, Thu Wai said, “Even
though the NLD report won’t effect the outcome of the
election, it will record its history. Whether the results of
the election change depends only on the government.”
On Nov. 17, China’s state news agency reported that the
regime-backed USDP won 883 of the 1,154 parliamentary seats,
or 76.5 percent, in the Nov. 7 election.
‘She gives them strength
in their struggle’ – Htet Aung Kyaw
Democratic Voice of Burma: Tue 30 Nov 2010
Once Burma’s most famous political prisoner, Aung San Suu
Kyi has used her newly-found freedom to offer support to the
families of more than 2000 detained activists and
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