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  • CHAN Beng Seng
    1.. Burmese journals suspend publication due to government demands 2.. ASEAN can do more on Burma 3.. Gen Sonthi is in grave error 4.. ASEAN s failure and
    Message 1 of 14 , Sep 28, 2007
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      1. Burmese journals suspend publication due to government demands
      2. ASEAN can do more on Burma
      3. Gen Sonthi is in grave error
      4. ASEAN's failure and Thailand's shame
      5. Burma 'cuts all Internet links'
      6. More raids on monasteries in Burma
      7. A reason for the silence
      8. China Braces for Prospect of Changes in Myanmar
      9. US puts sanctions on Burmese leaders

       

      Burmese journals suspend publication due to government demands


      Sep 28, 2007 (DVB)–Many privately-owned weekly news journals in Burma have decided to stop publication in protest at official demands to publish pro-government propaganda.

      Burmese authorities are ordering the publications to print articles written by state media and other stories blaming the All Burma Student’s Democratic Front and the National League for Democracy for the protests.

      “They are forcing us to publish their announcements and propaganda in our publications and we can’t let them do that to us,” said a Rangoon journalist.

      Kumudra, Seven Days, Pyi Myanmar and many other news journals have decided to stop or suspend publication, and have already informed the censor board of their decision. Rather than give the real reason for their decision, they blamed the ongoing instability which is preventing journalists from being able to go out and report.

      The journalist said that reporters from the weekly journals were this morning invited by information minister brigadier-general Kyaw Hsan to a domestic media informational tour to be organised by the censor board. Those who wanted to attend were asked to put their names on a list.

      The journalist compared the current situation with that during the 88 uprising.

      “In 88 journals published news about the riots and shootings, but it is not as easy to do that now. The situation has changed – soldiers are shooting at everything now – so we can’t do it,” said the journalist.

      Reporting by Nay Htoo
      Democratic Voice of Burma

       


      ANALYSIS ON BURMA
      The Nation: 28 Sept.2007

      Asean can do more on Burma

      New York—Asean is facing one of biggest dilemmas in its 40-year history whether to step in directly to prevent possible bloodsheds or shy away under from the ongoing conflict inside one of its members.

       

      Asean foreign ministers, who are scheduled to meet on Thursday to finalise the draft of Asean Charter, would discuss the crisis in Burma and what Asean could do to promote peace and national reconciliation.

      In past 15 years, there were precedence both in Cambodia and East Timor when Asean initiated joint actions to help end the political crisis there. Asean sent a troika-team inside Phnom Penh in 1997 to reconcile intra-political fighting among various parties as part of effort to usher Cambodia into the group. After three years delay, Cambodia joined Asean in 1999.

      Asean's role in Cambodia was not a complicate one as the country was not an Asean member yet. Asean was invited to restore peace as well as law and order in Cambodia. Therefore, Asean initiative was not considered an intervention in the internal affair of a country.

      Then, two years later, Asean faced a new dilemma with the crisis in East Timor, which directly involved an active and biggest member of Asean, Indonesia, which pushed Asean a step further to engage in an internal issue.

      Indonesia, under President Yusuf Baharuddin Habibi, appealed for Asian presence including those from neighboring countries, which were the Asean members to send peacekeeping forces to East Timor. As the Asean chair in 1999-2000, Thailand played active roles in the overall schemes of things.

      At the Asia Pacific Economic Leaders meeting in Oakland, New Zealand in November 1999, Thai Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai chaired a meeting of Asean leaders and pledging to help Indonesia.

      "We will do everything we can to help our friend," Chuan told the meeting. Then, he dispatched Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan to Jakarta immediately to consult with President Habibi and General Wiranto.

      With joint international appeals made by leaders of US, Australia, Japan, EU and the UN, an international peacekeeping forces was formed. Asean chose to respond individually with Thailand and Philippines sending the largest contingents followed by Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.

      Limited Asean experience in conflict-resolution showed that willingness and trust of Asean members is pivotal to help ease and end a crisis within the region, especially those involved a member country.

      To be effective, the Asean effort must be co-ordinated with visible and strong UN-led and international effort. The issue at hand is whether Burma, which was admitted into Asean in 1997, would have a similar trust demonstrated by Indonesia and Cambodia. Burma can take its own initiative to engage Asean or vice versa.

      Since its admission, Burma has failed to respond to Asean joint calls repeatedly for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and stepping up political process that would lead to national reconciliation and end political impasse.

      Without positive gestures from the junta, which has increasingly isolated itself from the world, Asean has to take a bold and pro-active step to engage Burma with assistance from the UN and international community.

      In 2000, Thailand proposed to dispatch a trio team for a fact-finding trip to Burma, but it was rejected outright by Rangoon. This time, Asean foreign ministers must tighten the screw on Burma as the grouping must take up collective responsibility.

      Asean is currently facing twin dilemma. First of all, if the situation in Burma deteriorates, the grouping fails to response - and the time is running -  it will be condemned by the international community for its indifference.

      In the next few days, if the current confrontation leads to bloodshed and Asean does not have any plan to deal with the event, it would make a mockery of the grouping's effort to wrap up the Asean Chart.

      In the long run, it will impact on the Asean grant plan to create the Asean community, which includes a security community.

      By Kavi Chongkittavorn


       

      Editorial
      BangkokPost: 28 Sept.2007

      Gen Sonthi is in grave error

      Recent comments by Council for National Security chairman Sonthi Boonyaratkalin condoning the violent suppression of largely peaceful demonstrations across Burma are despicable, and the outgoing army chief should be held accountable for his seriously irresponsible remarks.

      Although accurate information on exactly what is taking place in Burma at present is difficult to come by, due to ever-tightening restrictions on media and communications, there have been reports of widespread beatings, arrests and even murders by state authorities. And it is clear that the history of violent suppression of dissent against the ruling junta, let alone massive street protests, means many innocent lives are at risk.

      Talking on television on Wednesday night, Gen Sonthi, who is soon expected to be a deputy prime minister in the cabinet he appointed following the coup last year, said that there had been no violence or political suppression in Burma. He also questioned whether there had been any assault against monks that have been leading the protests, but said if there had been, it may have been the result of security forces "trying to defend themselves".

      Instead of using Thailand's influence over the ruling Burmese military council, led by Senior Gen Than Shwe, to call for the immediate halt of the brutal suppression of peaceful protests that have been growing over recent weeks, Gen Sonthi is making us the first country to openly condone it _ an unjustifiable position by all means.

      While other governments have begun to speak out to warn Burma that the eyes of the world are upon them, it is those that have the most sway over the ruling military council that remain regrettably meek _ China, India and Asean. It seems the lure of international trade and profit is again taking precedence over human rights and justice.

      Gen Sonthi was at least honest in his comments that countries like China and Thailand are reluctant to speak out against the Burmese regime due to the eyes they have on Burma's vast natural resources. But that does not make it right.

      The Burmese junta must be made to realise, in no uncertain terms, that it is unacceptable to run a nation through violence, intimidation and fear, and that the brutal suppression of these protests, in any form, will not be tolerated.

      The long-repressed people of Burma, with great bravery and spirit and great risk to themselves and their families' safety, are at last speaking up against the unmentionable oppression they have suffered under for decades _ and it is time the world, and Thailand, heeded their concerns.

      For too long now human rights abuses have been perpetrated by the ruling military junta in Burma without any real repercussions.

      If the ruling junta there is permitted to again stamp out dissent through the most abhorrent of methods that defy all international human rights laws, we all will have done the people of Burma and ourselves a gross injustice.

      It is unacceptable to allow the violent repression of political opposition in Burma to continue in this vein for much longer. The untold number of political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, the iconic leader of the Burmese pro-democracy movement, must be released immediately and full, multi-party talks held to find a way forward for a free and open Burma.

      Political change in Burma would be in the best interests not only of the people of Burma, but also everyone else in the region, including Thailand, and now is the time to use all the avenues available to help the downtrodden Burmese people attain the freedoms and rights that they are entitled to.

      Gen Sonthi's comments belie the fragile nature of our own respect for basic human rights and freedoms. While no country, the US and the UK included, has a completely clear conscience to lecture on the rights set out under the UN Charter, defending such brutal suppression of innocent civilians, political opponents and monks is unacceptable.


      FOCUS / BURMA : CRACKDOWN ON PROTESTERS
      BangkokPost: 28 Sept.2007


      Asean's failure and Thailand's shame

      Burma's entrenched military remains defiant, intransigent and repressive

      By THITINAN PONGSUDHIRAK

      The Burmese military regime's ongoing crackdown on street demonstrators fed up with economic mismanagement and oppression appears inevitable.

      As days of spontaneous nationwide protests over steeply rising consumer prices grew into weeks, the Burmese people took to the streets in the major cities and remote townships, spearheaded by monks.

      It was only a matter of time before the entrenched military, in the name of the State Peace and Development Council, struck back gruesomely.

      The violence harks back to heinous parallels witnessed by the international community nearly two decades ago, when military gunfire mowed down several thousand street activists.

      At issue now is what measures are still in play to avert further violence and to promote a change in the SPDC's mindset and government.

      Unlike the similar violence in 1988, the SPDC's brutal suppression this time reveals the limitations of the outraged international community, betrays Asean's failure, and highlights Thailand's shame in its foreign policy dealings with the rogue junta.

      International condemnation has achieved little, exhortations from Washington and Brussels even less.

      Economic sanctions, in particular, have not produced their desired effect, and may have hurt the Burmese people more than the military.

      Previous pressure from the United Nations for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other opposition figures and the return to dialogue and democratic rule, has come to naught.

      The SPDC remains defiant, intransigent and repressive. Burma has been a knot of frustration and despair.

      International pressure has been focused on the major powers surrounding Burma and on Asean, which accepted Rangoon as a new member a decade ago.

      However, the SPDC has virtually invented its own "great game" in which it has become a masterful manipulator and has been winning at it to the consternation of the wider world.

      Thanks to abundant natural sources, especially natural gas deposits, the SPDC has played the major powers off one another.

      China is Burma's largest economic partner, and has extensive geopolitical and energy interests at stake. India's energy interests are no less substantial, an irony for the world's largest democracy to be so engaged with an outdated military-authoritarian regime.

      An energy exporter itself, Russia is keen to remain in play so long as New Delhi and Beijing are making inroads into Burma.

      Unless and until Beijing, Delhi and Moscow stand in unison in pressuring the SPDC for change, little will change in Naypyidaw, Burma's new capital handpicked by junta leader Senior General Than Shwe, whose construction costs underpin the junta's economic mismanagement.

      The SPDC's great game is not confined to the big players. Asean is culpable for what has happened in Burma over the past decade since its membership in East Asia's most resilient but increasingly less relevant grouping.

      The current spate of violence in Burma exposes Asean's Achilles' heel. Burma's membership has been an albatross from the outset. It has not brought what it promised. The logic of constructive engagement is dead.

      Propelled by its cardinal norm of "non-interference" in the domestic affairs of other member states, the "Asean way" is being put to the test in Burmese streets in the coming days.

      Always full of sound and fury, Asean has done too little to be taken seriously by the international community.

      The SPDC's crackdown is particularly poignant for the 10-member grouping because this year marks its 40th anniversary and its planned promulgation of a binding charter with a human rights component.

      Incoming Asean secretary-general, Thailand's former foreign minister Surin Pitsuwan, should be given a chance to broach his bold idea on "flexible engagement", espoused and quickly doused in the early 1990s.

      Thailand under former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra did plenty of business with the SPDC.

      Indeed, Mr Thaksin's Burma policy of trade and investment ostensibly for the benefit of his satellite business at the expense of Thai taxpayers was partly responsible for his downfall.

      The only time in the contemporary period when Thailand's Burma policy was based on principles and moral underpinnings more than trade and economic gains was the 1990s under Mr Surin and former prime minister Chuan Leekpai, who did not visit Rangoon as a Thai leader.

      The interim government of Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont has much to answer for on its Burma policy. This government is supposed to be all about morality and ethics, but it has turned out otherwise. In view of three cabinet members' constitutional violations over conflicts of interest and Prime Minister Surayud's own allegedly questionable land possession, his government is morally bankrupt at home.

      Its close post-coup dealings with the SPDC, including the Thai military junta's personal visits with Senior Gen Than Shwe, are deplorable in the light of what has taken place.

      Short of a mutiny of sorts within the apparently solidified Burmese army, and in the absence of a vibrant middle class, labour unions and private sector, the Burmese protesters are likely to confront more bloodletting in the immediate term.

      While the international community can do little and the major powers around Burma will not want to do much, Asean can certainly exert more pressure, ultimately the threat of a sequenced expulsion, to palpably change the SPDC's tune.

      For Bangkok, the least we could do is to avoid future complicity in the SPDC's suppression of its own people.

      * The writer is Director of the Institute of Security and International Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University.


       Burma 'cuts all Internet links'
       

      Oslo (dpa) - Burma disappeared from the entire Internet on Friday as more street confrontations were under way in Rangoon, the Oslo-based opposition radio station Democratic Voice of Burma said.

      The state telecommunications company claimed there was a break in an underwater cable, according to reports.

      Meanwhile, protesters were reported to have gathered near the Sule pagoda in Yangon, defying a ban issued by the army.

      The move to cut Internet connections appeared to be aimed at preventing reports including photos and video footage from ongoing confrontations between protesters and the military from reaching the outside world, the station's news editor Moe Aye said in a telephone interview.

      In Rangoon on Friday, the army blocked the main roads to the City Hall and were patrolling the downtown area by foot and in trucks.

      BangkokPost: Sep 28, 2007


      More raids on monasteries in Burma



      Oslo (dpa) - At least two monasteries were raided overnight Friday in the former capital of Burma, the Oslo-based opposition radio station Democratic Voice of Burma said.

      The radio station has been unable to establish how many monks were arrested in Rangoon, the station's news editor Moe Aye said in a telephone interview.

      A school near the notorious Insein prison has also been converted into a temporary detention centre housing at least 300 monks, according to accounts received in Oslo.

      "The army has ordered the monks to remove their robes, but the monks have refused," Moe Aye said, adding that the atmosphere was tense.

      Late Thursday, angry crowds encircled soldiers who blocked off a monastery in South Okkalapa Township on the outskirts of Rangoon.

      The crowds later dispersed after some sort of deal was reached, but the army was reported to have returned to the township and arrested people, specifically targeting young men, Moe Aye said.

      People are very angry over the beating of the monks in connection with the crackdown that began Wednesday, according to the reports compiled in Oslo.

      In Yangon Friday, the army has blocked the main roads to the City Hall and were patrolling the downtown area by foot and in trucks.

      A confrontation was also brewing in North Okkalapa Township, while people were trying to regroup in parts of Yangon.

      BangkokPost: 28 Sept.2007
       


      A reason for the silence

      With regard to Burma, here is just one reason why Thailand and China are keeping quiet:

      Thailand is making massive investments in three dams on the Salween in Burma in the midst of growing international criticism of Burma's military government, especially after the military's arrest and detention on May 30 of the dissident Burmese leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

      The projects have sparked controversy over Thailand's willingness to ignore the continuing human rights violations by the brutal military dictatorship of Burma. The 2,800km river originates high in the Tibetan mountains, flows through China's Yunnan province into Burma, and then forms the border between Thailand and Burma before emptying into the Andaman Sea. It is Southeast Asia's second largest river, after the Mekong.

      Three hydropower dams are planned for the Salween. The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) plans to build two dams _ the Upper and Lower Salween dams _ on sites adjacent to Thailand's Mae Sariang district in Mae Hong Son province, where the river forms a natural 130km section of the Thai-Burmese border.

      The Upper Salween, on the border of Thailand's Salween wildlife sanctuary, would be able to generate 4,540 megawatts of power. The lower dam on the Salween national park would generate 792 megawatts. Together costing an estimated $6.15 billion (211 billion baht), they would flood about 3,200 hectares of prime forest land on the Thai side and about 5,600 hectares on the Burmese side.

      HODGETTS JIM
      BangkokPost: 28 Sept.2007


      China Braces for Prospect of Changes in Myanmar



      By DAVID LAGUE
      NYTines: September 27, 2007

      BEIJING, Sept. 26 — As China publicly calls for stability and reconciliation in Myanmar, it is also preparing for the possibility that the mounting protests could lead to the downfall of the military junta heading its resource-rich neighbor, regional experts said Wednesday.

      China is Myanmar’s most important trading partner, investor and strategic ally, and has consistently thwarted attempts to put pressure on Myanmar’s rulers, through sanctions or other measures. On Wednesday, China blocked an effort by the United Nations Security Council to condemn Myanmar. In January, China blocked a Council resolution condemning Myanmar’s human rights record.

      But China has also maintained discreet links with opponents of Myanmar’s military rulers and tolerates the activity of some exiled opponents on Chinese soil, the experts said. And China has urged the junta to avoid a repeat of the violent crackdown on demonstrations in 1988 that led to extended periods of house arrest for the opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

      In a meeting with Myanmar’s foreign minister, U Nyan Win, on Sept. 13, Tang Jiaxuan, a member of China’s State Council and a former foreign minister, said the Chinese government hoped that its neighbor could restore stability and promote national reconciliation, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

      “If Aung San Suu Kyi became the leader of Burma tomorrow, China would be the first country to roll out the red carpet,” said Bertil Lintner, an analyst of Myanmar politics based in Thailand. “But they wouldn’t like to see it happen.”

      China, already stung by human rights advocates who have warned that its ties with Sudan’s repressive government could cast the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing as the “Genocide Olympics,” wants to avoid further damage to its reputation from Myanmar’s handling of political dissent, analysts and foreign diplomats in Beijing say. They also say China would prefer that the Burmese junta maintain stability in a nation that is an important supplier of raw materials.

      Two-way trade between the countries increased 39.4 percent in the first seven months of this year over the same period in 2006, reaching $1.11 billion, according to official Chinese government customs figures.

      Experts say China is eager to import energy from a country that has proven natural gas reserves of 0.54 trillion cubic meters, according to a 2007 statistical review of world energy.

      China would also like to keep a pliant government in place to develop strategically important access to the Indian Ocean, according to security experts.

      In an effort to expand its influence in Myanmar, China has become the junta’s biggest arms supplier and has extended discounted loans and development aid to the nation.

      There have been reports that China wants to build a $2 billion oil pipeline from Myanmar’s coast on the Bay of Bengal to Yunnan Province in China that would allow the delivery of oil from the Middle East without passing through the Strait of Malacca, a waterway that could be easily closed during a period of international tension or conflict.

      Officially, China maintains its customary diplomatic stance of noninterference in the internal affairs of other countries. “As a neighbor of Myanmar, we hope to see that its society is stable and its economy developing,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Jiang Yu, said Tuesday at a regular news briefing in Beijing.

      But, analysts say, there is evidence that China has been hedging its bets on political developments in Myanmar. Mr. Lintner, the Thailand-based analyst, said Beijing maintained unofficial contacts with exiled Myanmar opposition groups in Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries. Other experts agree that these informal contacts with exiles, along with recent official statements from Beijing calling for a peaceful settlement of differences among all groups in Myanmar, suggest that China has doubts about the junta’s survival.

      “One day, they expect the military will no longer be running the place,” said Trevor Wilson, an expert on Myanmar at the Australian National University who was the Australian ambassador to Myanmar from 2000 to 2003.

      “It will be political parties, maybe even the current opposition, running the place,” he said, “and China needs to keep open some channels of communication with them and not put them entirely offside.”

      Despite China’s close economic and political ties with the junta, there are also signs that it is dissatisfied with some aspects of its performance. Mr. Wilson said senior Chinese diplomats in Myanmar had been bluntly critical of the junta’s poor economic management and its inability to stem the flow of illicit drugs across the Chinese border.

      At times, political tensions in the early years of this decade led to the suspension of new Chinese loans to Myanmar, he said. Regional experts also noted that China had openly called on the junta to show restraint in dealing with the protests.

      In his meeting this month with Myanmar’s foreign minister, Mr. Nyan Win, Mr. Tang, the Chinese diplomatic envoy, also said Beijing wanted Myanmar to move toward “a democracy process that is appropriate for the country,” Xinhua reported.

      That did not mean that China wanted Myanmar to adopt Western-style democracy, analysts said, but it was a suggestion that the junta should move toward a settlement with its opponents.


       

      US puts sanctions on Burmese leaders

      Washington (dpa) - The United States on Thursday enacted sanctions against 14 top officials of Burma's ruling military regime for the violent crackdown against democratic activists.

      The US Treasury Department placed the sanctions on the chief of the ruling State Peace and Development Council, Senior General Than Shwe, who also serves as defence minister and effectively rules the junta.

      The sanctions freeze any assets and prohibit Americans and US companies from having business transactions with Shwe and the 13 others, including Lieutenant General Thein Sein, the acting prime minister, and Vice Senior General Maung Aye, the commander of the army.

      The second day of violent clashes Thursday between security forces and monks and democracy activists have left at least nine people dead, and prompted strong international condemnation against the ruling junta.

      US President George W Bush announced the plans to place sanctions on the regime during a UN address in New York on Tuesday.

      Bush earlier on Thursday appealed to Burma's security forces to reject the use of violence against the pro-democracy demonstrators challenging the repressive military regime.

      "I urge the Burmese soldiers and police not to use force on their fellow citizens," Bush said in a statement.

      The European Union has also begun considering sanctions.

      "The world is watching the people of Burma take to the streets to demand their freedom, and the American people stand in solidarity with these brave individuals," Bush said.

      The unrest throughout the country followed more than a week of demonstrations throughout Burma.

      "Every civilised nation has a responsibility to stand up for people suffering under a brutal military regime like the one that has ruled Burma for too long," Bush said.

      Bush called on countries in the region to pressure the Burmese regime to end the violence against the peaceful protestors.

      The US government has had sanctions on Burma to limit textile exports since 2003 following a crackdown against democratic activists and the jailing of Nobel Peace Prize laureate and pro-democracy leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi, who remains in detention.

      BangkokPost: Sep 26, 2007

    • CHAN Beng Seng
      1.. Burmese groups call for unity in fight against junta 2.. New Indian army chief calls Myanmar crackdown internal matter 3.. Sonthi says live with Burma
      Message 2 of 14 , Oct 2, 2007
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        1. Burmese groups call for unity in fight against junta
        2. New Indian army chief calls Myanmar crackdown ‘internal matter’
        3. Sonthi says 'live with Burma'
        4. Feeble response to brutal regime
        5. Who will step forward to help?
        6. Thailand's policy of cowardice on Burma
        7. Lessons from the Burmese uprising
        8. Cracks emerge in Myanmar military unity
        9. China Has Much at Stake
        10. Whiteshirts - Junta's Storm Troopers
         

        Burmese groups call for unity in fight against junta

        Ethnic leaders of six anti-Burmese government groups, Burmese opposition members and Burmese students met in Chiang Mai yesterday to announce their intention to continue with their fight against the junta.

        The Nation October 2, 2007

        They expressed hopes that a federal government could be formed in Burma by early 2008.

        The groups said they would expedite coordination with people inside Burma to fight against the junta, which they regard as an illegitimate government.

        The groups included the All Burma Students' Democratic Front (ABSDF), the Karen National Union (KNU), the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), the Kachin National Organisation (KNO), the Karen National Association (KNA), the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), the New Mon State Party (NMSP), the Shan State Army (SSA) and the Restoration Council of the Shan State (RCSS).

        Besides supporting the protest movement led by Buddhist monks in Burma, they condemned the conduct of the Burmese junta and called for the United Nations and Asean to take up roles to solve the problem. They also demanded that Asean revoke Burma's membership.

        Colonel Yawd Serk, an RCSS chief who joined the meeting, said the groups must work together to stop the oppression inside Burma.

        "This alliance and the people must establish a government to show the world this is a real people's government and the other is run by dictators who are fooling the world," he said.

        Meanwhile, a Chulalong-korn University expert said the international community was merely voicing concerns over the brutal crackdown in Burma but would take no action because certain countries have a vested interest in exploiting its resources.

        Pornphimon Trichote, a Burma expert at the university's Institute of Asian Studies (IAS), said countries like China, India, Russia, Singapore, South Korea and even Thailand were heavily involved in Burma and therefore US sanctions would not work as long as they did not support them.

        "China is more like a father than a big brother to Burma. It has influence all over the country, and is building hydro-electric dams and gas pipelines," Pornpimon told a symposium on the Burma crisis at Chulalongkorn University yesterday.

        Pornpimon said although China was most unlikely to relinquish its interests in Burma, she urged Thailand and other countries to rethink their positions and recognise the fact they could still do business with a new democratic government in Burma. If this was realised, it would likely be under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi.

        "We should have a long-term vision. Why should we be satisfied in dealing with a dictatorial regime which kills its people and its monks? The [Burmese] people have been suffering for too long."

        Sunaet Chutitranond, director of the IAS Chulalongkorn University, said monks have been a vital force in fighting for justice against corrupt regimes, even before the British colonial era in Burma.

        He said the junta supports Buddhism as a way of legitimising its rule - citing the building of large temples and Buddha statues.

        However, it has faced opposition from mostly young monks who have also been affected by the economic crisis.

        Pravit Rojanaphruk



        India’s new army chief on Monday called a bloody crackdown by Myanmar’s military junta against pro-democracy protests an “internal matter.”

        India’s army, which is battling numerous insurgencies in the remote northeast bordering Myanmar, favours a “good relationship” with the military junta, said army chief Deepak Kapoor, who took charge on Sunday.

        “We have a good relationship going with Myanmar and I am sure we will try and maintain that,” Kapoor told reporters in New Delhi, adding the turmoil in Myanmar was “an internal matter.”

        The statement came a week after the United States tightened sanctions on Myanmar’s military rulers and urged countries like China and India to do more to help end the crackdown on anti-government demonstrators.

        New Delhi has been criticised for its low-key reaction to the authoritarian regime’s brutal suppression of the month-long protests.

        At least 13 people were killed last week during protests led by the highly influential Buddhist monks.

        Meanwhile, an Indian opposition-led protest in New Delhi urged the government to “raise its voice” in support of the pro-democracy movement.

        “All the countries are asking us why India is not saying or doing anything. We demand that the government stand up and speak (for democracy) with courage,” said former defence minister George Fernandes.

        He was flanked by activists waving placards reading “India, speak up for Burma!” (Myanmar’s former name) and “Attacks on monks are an attack on humanity.”

        Others chanted “Long live Aung San Suu Kyi,” carrying photographs of the detained democracy icon.

        Fernandes was joined by refugees from Myanmar, swelling the protesters’ numbers to about 450, according to the police. There are around 2,000 refugees from the country in New Delhi.

        India last week expressed “concern” and urged dialogue to resolve differences between the junta and the pro-democracy protesters. It also called for accelerating the process of “broad-based national reconciliation and political reform.”

        But analysts say India is walking a diplomatic tightrope, juggling energy and strategic concerns with a commitment to democracy.

        India, which rolled out the red carpet for military strongman Than Shwe in a 2004 visit, was until the mid-1990s a staunch supporter of Suu Kyi.

        New Delhi kept the military junta at arms length after the 1988 crackdown on democracy protests, but changed track when it decided its security interests in the northeast were in jeopardy.

        Since India began engaging the generals, there has been cooperation between Indian and Myanmar’s security forces in flushing out the northeastern rebels.

        Fali S. Nariman, an Indian constitutional expert at the protest, criticised what he described as “security achieved through suppression of human rights.”

        “When human rights of a people are involved you cannot dismiss it as an internal matter… Aung San Suu Kyi has become a legend. She has become a second (Nelson) Mandela,” he said, referring to the South African freedom leader.

        Besides security, India is also vying with China and other Asian countries for a share of Myanmar’s vast energy resources — triggering accusations that it is weakening US and European economic sanctions.


        Sonthi says 'live with Burma'
        Bangkokpost: 1 Oct.2007

        (Agencies) - The Burmese military regime is unlikey to reform anytime soon, Thailand's junta chief Sonthi Boonyaratkalin said on Monday, amid global outrage over a crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Rangoon.

        "The military rulers have their own stance which is unlikely to change. Any pressure to let democracy take place in (Burma) is difficult," said Gen Sonthi, chairman of the Council for National Security in an interview with a local TV station.

        Burma "has developed its own military regime for a long time to protect its national interests," said Sonthi, who last year led a bloodless coup in Thailand that ousted elected premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

        Neighbouring Burma has sparked global outrage over its clampdown on anti-junta demonstrations last week that killed at least 13 people, including a Japanese journalist, and jailed hundreds.

        Defence Minister Boonrawd Somtas told the AFP news agency that the current protests against the Burmese junta were unlikely to bring any political change to the country run by the military since 1962.

        "The ongoing anti-junta movements would start to ease and they are unlikely to lead to any changes" in Burma, he said.

        "Such changes would not happen unless China, India and Russia exert serious pressure on the junta," the minister said.

        China, Burma's staunchest ally and a main trading partner, has always refused to become involved in the "internal affairs" of the Southeast Asian nation.

        Despite global outrage over the Burmese crackdown, China has so far refused to condemn the junta's heavy-handed treatment.

        The anti-junta protests erupted on August 19 in Rangoon after a massive hike in fuel prices, but escalated two weeks ago with the emergence of the Buddhist monks on the front line and drew up to 100,000 people onto the streets last week.


        Feeble response to brutal regime
        Bangkokpost: 1 Oct.2007

        In reply to a new round of killing, torture and beatings by the detested Burmese military junta, the United Nations has relaunched an old and failed response by sending a special representative who has faced the dictators several times, always emerging as the beaten man. Ibrahim Gambari took the long route to Rangoon, through Singapore, and soon will be speaking with one general or another. Because he is essentially an old friend of those violent military officers, the Nigerian will be well treated, and will be assured that the military takes the UN concerns over murder and mayhem seriously. It might be just as productive for him to note the Thai government's travel advisory and postpone his trip to Burma until a better time.

        It is an unpleasant fact that when the most hideous governments begin to slaughter their citizens, the world is united in words, yet paralysed in action. The unworthy military group which controls Burma at gunpoint knows what will happen next: Nothing all that serious. Many UN members and even Burma's own partners in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have expressed outrage. An envoy has travelled halfway around the world to express distaste. And the authorities in Rangoon continue to beat, shoot and arrest even monks and innocent bystanders.

        Civilised nations have long agreed as a matter of principle and of international law to keep out of each other's affairs. This polite, common-sense behaviour does not account for the uncivilised governments. Burma today stands naked to the world, without a single country or prominent leader standing to defend its actions. Yet the United Nations, the superpowers, Burma's neighbours and its business partners all are unwilling to act in any manner that could turn the Burmese government from barbaric to humane.

        It is unfortunate that in the past 20 years, the Burmese dictators have grown so strong that they are able to smile at UN condemnation, beat monks and kill their citizens, and shoot and kill even foreign visitors, all at the same time. There is no apology, no explanation and no accountability. In essence, Burmese authorities are hiding behind the rules followed by civilised nations in order to protect their own barbarism.

        In an increasingly connected and aware world, it should be possible to rein in repulsive regimes like the self-styled State Peace and Development Council. There is no reason to rule out force, if it is required to stop the appalling and distressing events that people around the world are witnessing from Burma. The UN would seem to be best for deciding just when a despicable regime steps over the boundary. In fact, the world body has rarely been able to take such a clear stand. Often, one or two selfish nations will stop an otherwise general consensus to act. For example, there is no hope today that China and Russia would agree to punish the Burmese generals so they agree to act responsibly.

        What is distressing for now is the unwillingness of Burma's most important neighbours to do the right thing. India only recently stated that it has decided to hold its nose and do business with a detested regime suspected of involvement in a drug trade that is harming thousands of Indians. China tries to sound lofty in claiming it does not get involved in others' domestic affairs, as if expecting praise for the equivalent of failing to help an accident victim or stopping your neighbour from beating his wife. Then there is Thailand's government, blind and unfeeling toward the torturing of Burmese monks and killing of peaceful citizens.

        No one responsible has asked for the use of military force to unseat the Burmese regime. But the UN can do more than send yet another diplomatic mission to plead with a thuggish regime. The UN should be strongly appealing to world leaders, financial houses, businesses and the media to lend their weight to solve the chronic Burmese problem. Asean, once a leader in regional affairs, should be at the forefront of demands for a proper government in Burma.


        Who will step forward to help?
        Bangkokpost: 1 Oct.2007

        Bush is a spent force, credibly and morally, so perhaps it is time Beijing threw off the yoke of non-intervention

        By PHILIP CUNNINGHAM

        At first glance, the unfolding crisis in Burma offers America a golden opportunity _ after four years of bad news from Iraq and Afghanistan, suddenly a popular uprising in a land hungry for the ostensibly American values of freedom, democracy and perhaps even capitalist development.

        Problem is US President George W. Bush has almost single-handedly frittered away US prestige and credibility to the point where just hearing him mention the word freedom is enough to send the smart, and in some cases shell-shocked, running for cover.

        Under his watch, an immigrant country that had a not-entirely-unearned reputation for caring about human rights and humanitarian causes has become a global laughing stock, if not bogeyman.

        Mr Bush has dug himself into a diplomatic hole so deep it is beginning to resemble a black hole. That a man at the end of his tether might be desperate for a bit of high ground, something to cling to, something to show he isn't an entirely spent force, is understandable, but a US intervention now in Burma would be an unmitigated disaster.

        Anything Mr Bush or his minions have to say is coloured by the actions of an arrogant administration that has shamelessly promoted torture, eavesdropping and kidnapping, not to mention a self-serving and totally manipulative war on terror. Mr Bush invaded Iraq for all the wrong reasons, a family vendetta being central among them, and he has continued to shamefacedly lie about it.

        Unfortunately for the people of Burma in their hour of need, Mr Bush has shot the wad of US credibility, and anything he touches is likely to be contaminated, if not broken and crumbled to bits, by know-nothing neo-con greed. Had Mr Bush not invaded the wrong country, or had he faced up to his mistakes with at least an ounce of accountability, the US government, as the representative of the American people, might not be hamstrung in its ability to help.

        Had Mr Bush and the cosseted "chickenhawk" architects of the war in Iraq, the most abjectly craven of whom are now pressing for a war with Iran, shown even a glimmer of humility to atone for setting Iraq on the road to disaster which has cost a million-plus souls, perhaps Uncle Sam could offer a lending hand without scaring the very people he seeks to help.

        But Mr Bush remains unrepentant and imperious, making the prospect of a ham-fisted US-led intervention in Burma too frightening to contemplate.

        Burma needs help, desperately, but with a "friend" like Bush trying to capitalise on his "freedom" agenda, they might do well to look elsewhere.

        Asean is a good place to start. Burma is a member and informal personal, cultural and trade links provide intelligence and potential leverage. Surin Pitsuwan, designated Asean's new secretary-general, is a veteran diplomat who as foreign minister under prime minister Chuan Leekpai chose not to support Burma's dictators, in sharp contrast to the profiteering in Rangoon and elsewhere by the successor government led by Thaksin Shinawatra.

        And Japan, the largest aid donor and home to a community of Burmese exiles has a modest role to play.

        But the real wild card in the Burma conundrum, with immense leverage for better or worse, is China.

        Just as it might be prudent at this checkered moment in US history for the US to tame its impulse to intervene, China conversely needs to discard its traditional policy of radical non-intervention, the product of a time when China was poor and powerless, to a more responsible global role commensurate to its rising power.

        Chinese President Hu Jintao and his Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi have inherited a seemingly idealistic and lofty model of diplomacy that was only truly lofty in proportion to China's poverty and inability to project power. Even during the heyday of non-intervention under the guidance of Zhou Enlai and Chen Yi, China engaged in significant, albeit largely clandestine, meddling in Southeast Asia and provided some significant development assistance in Africa.

        Times have changed and China is neither altogether poor nor powerless. Indeed it is a lopsided power in which the supremacy of economic considerations is playing havoc with environmental and humanitarian concerns at home and abroad.

        For China to now claim fealty to political non-intervention at a time when it is economically active, if not rapacious, as it secures and consumes natural resources across the globe from Burma to Zimbabwe at an unprecedented rate is disingenuous. It's like trumpeting economic reform in the absence of political reform, it's awkward, ungainly and ultimately off-pitch.

        What Mr Hu's foreign policy needs is what pre-Bush America once claimed to possess in spades, a willingness to engage in humanitarian intervention not because it can be commercially profitable or even politically advantageous but simply because it is the right thing to do. China's deaf ear to people crying out for help is the mirror image of the US telling people what they need to do; both extremes overlook the genuine possibility of outreach to the downtrodden, the bullied and disenfranchised.

        In recent months, China has made modest adjustments to its Africa policy, recognising that being "neutral" with respect to cruel and tottering regimes in Zimbabwe and Sudan is not only a public relations failure in the run-up to the Olympics, but endangers long-term stability and interests in the region.

        Similarly Beijing, which has enjoyed profitable if not entirely cordial relations with Burma's military dictators, is said to be cultivating some support among opponents of the current regime. In addition to solid trade and military ties, China additionally boasts perhaps a million of its own citizens eking out a living in Burma as petty capitalist Peace Corps of sorts, providing an unusual degree of leverage and exposure in both formal and informal terms.

        For China's foreign policy to meet the needs of Burma's downtrodden calls for deft, timely intervention, a prudent policy guided by something more than laissez faire trade-at-any-cost and something less than the bombs-and-bullets of military intervention of the sort currently favoured by the Bush administration.

        A more nuanced and humanitarian thrust from China, effectively unmooring itself from the darkest forces in Burmese society, while putting economic considerations on hold, could prevent things from spiralling out of control and provide a bridge of interregnum stability until a new government can coalesce. The risk of continuing to put its weight behind the despicable Than Shwe is that China will be tarnished if not unwelcome in the inevitable post-Than Shwe Burma that is certain to emerge from the ashes of the current crisis.

        For the moment, the bravery of journalists covering the courageous mass demonstrations allows the world to peer into Burma's closed society with compassion and concern. And clearly help is needed. But for now, US governmental help would be as unhelpful as China's unwillingness to engage in truly humanitarian intervention.

        * Philip Cunningham is a freelance writer and political commentator.


        Thailand's policy of cowardice on Burma

        Thailand is hiding among other Asean countries when it comes to Burma.

        The Nation, October 1, 2007


        A careful study of comments and statements by senior officials including Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, the chairman for the Council For National Security, and Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram shows a complete lack of moral courage and appreciation of the democratic struggle there. While the international community has expressed outrage and applied pressure, Thais are behaving as if they were similar to or a part of the Burmese junta.

        In response to a question on the Burmese situation posed at a luncheon talk at the Asia Society in New York on Wednesday, Surayud said with a deadpan face that as the head of a Buddhist nation, he urged the Burmese junta not to use force as this was not the Buddhist way. He should have known by then that five people had already been killed. When asked about the fate of opposition party leader Aung San Suu Kyi, he simply said that Burmese leaders did not keep the promise they made four years ago to free her. For a general, who at one time held was responsible for defending the country from the Burmese troops, these comments were rudimentary and uncaring indeed.

        After long, drawn-out wrangling between Surayud's advisers and top Foreign Ministry officials on Thursday, the prime minister's speech was amended at the last minute to include new paragraphs on Burma. But three out of the four added paragraphs were taken from Asean's joint statement on Burma. Of course, the grouping's declaration was bold and candid and reflected by far its toughest position on Burma since the country joined Asean in 1997. It's sad but true that the Thai delegation did not have the courage to say something of its own. They did not even bother rewording or rephrasing those sentences.

        Sonthi's insensitive comments earlier also added salt to the wounds. He said quite blatantly that the demonstrators tried to incite the military junta. As a Thai-Muslim Army chief, he should have kept his mouth sealed, but he instead was showing off and defending the junta for the whole world to see. Of late, his comments on domestic and international affairs have bordered on the ridiculous. The whole situation could have been made worse if Defence Minister Boonrawd Somtas had not postponed his scheduled visit to Burma last week.

        Nitya's comments on Burma throughout have shown restraint and limitation as well as a lack of conviction for democracy. He mentioned time and gain that Thailand supports peace and stability in Burma. That much was clear. Juxtapose his views with those of other foreign ministers from the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore, and one can notice the differences. These countries came out with no-nonsense statements and firmer positions, calling for the release of all prisoners and for the country to move towards democracy. They also warned that the current confrontation could have implications for Asean and the whole region and that the grouping cannot remain silent or uninvolved in this matter. Now Asean has to go beyond its verbal commitment and translate its concern into action by demanding compliance from Burma. Indeed, the Burma crisis will be the first test case for the Asean charter.

        These countries had the common sense to respond to the moral climate of the times in supporting the Burmese people's concerted call for change, but Thailand is nowhere to be seen. There were also contradictions in Thailand's position on Burma. As a Buddhist, frontline state, the government should come out with statements that are more forceful and stronger, not wishy-washy. It is not often that the Thai government has the opportunity to speak effectively for the Burmese people.

        Somehow, the government has not learned from its recent history. Thailand backed the Khmer Rouge, which committed genocide during its reign of horror between 1975-1978. From 1978-1995, almost three-million Cambodian refugees lived in camps along the Thai-Cambodian border, later going to third countries. How many of them recall their experience here with appreciation? Currently, the government is committing the same faux pas with the Burmese.

        As a frontline state to Burma, Thailand has utterly failed to show leadership for the grouping. Asean has a long-standing tradition in permitting a frontline state to have the prerogative on matters concerning its security. During the Cambodian conflict, Thailand, as a frontline state, played a leading role and had full Asean support. In the case of Burma, Bangkok has not asserted itself during this administration or the previous one. Since it shares a 2401-kilometre border with Burma, Thailand should have more say in Asean policies toward the country. The Foreign Ministry has instead preferred a passive approach. Just look at the problems caused by the Burmese junta's intransigence against its people that Thailand has to deal with. Somehow, Rangoon has effectively blackmailed Bangkok for its energy needs. Through inept attitudes and policies, the Thais have failed to respond to Burmese people's request for basic rights and freedoms.

        A few months remain for this government and instead of pushing for more reforms, it has decided to dig a deeper hole to stay entrenched. Thailand's diplomacy has been sidelined or, worse, become dispensable within the region. The future is bleak for Thailand to reclaim its place as a leading democratic voice in the region and regain its international credentials.

        Kavi Chongkittavorn


         Lessons from the Burmese uprising

        By Paul Reynolds
        World Affairs correspondent BBC News website

        Riot police in Rangoon
        Burmese military has managed to hold together

        The military crackdown in Burma is a reminder that street demonstrations do not necessarily lead to success for popular uprisings.

        The key factor is the destabilisation of the existing regime and if protests cannot bring that about, they become vulnerable to the kind of repression the Burmese authorities have imposed.

        So far, the Burmese military has held together. The campaign for democracy in Burma still hopes for rapid success but fears that the project will be more long-term.

        In our day, we have perhaps become so used to seeing pro-democracy protestors toppling authoritarian governments that the difficulties involved can be underestimated.

        A handbook for overthrowing such governments would have to include the following factors:

        Widespread public protests, bringing in many different social and economic groups An opposition leadership with clear ideas around which people can rally The ability to use the media in some form to get a message across A mechanism for undermining the existing regime - whether by internal coup in the case of a military junta, the emergence of reformers, or the simple exhaustion of an existing government leading to its collapse External pressure from key countries able to exert influence.

        Experience has shown that a combination of the above is usually necessary for success.

        Examples

        In Eastern Europe in the 1990s, for example, several factors came into play. There were the protests, the communist governments were exhausted, reformers came to the fore, the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev withdrew its support and the local security forces switched sides.

        However, in Uzbekistan in 2005, protests in the city of Andijan were swiftly repressed because they did not lead to wider influences being brought to bear.

        And in China in 1989, the democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square were eventually dispersed by force because the Chinese government cracked down instead of cracking up.

        In Burma, the protesters have been faced with an implacable military government. Maybe elements of the armed forces will rebel and overthrow the old guard. But this has not happened yet.

        In the meantime, the regime has blocked off the media, including the new phenomenon of the internet, which proved instrumental in helping to mobilise opinion abroad.

        External pressure, in the form of international condemnation and talk of sanctions, has not been strong enough to be decisive.

        The China connection

        I watched the unfolding events while on a visit to China, and it was interesting to note the approach to events in Burma there.

        On satellite television, one could see the concern growing in Europe and the United States. This emphasised the way in which the foreign policies of Western governments are influenced by non-governmental organisations, human rights groups and also celebrities.

        On French television, the actress Jane Birkin was interviewed at length about Burma and the next day led a delegation to see President Nicolas Sarkozy.

        In China there was none of that. The media almost ignored the crisis in Burma. The first 10 minutes of the nightly news concentrated, as it always does, on the comings and goings of the senior Chinese leadership, which seemed to consist mostly of making speeches.

        The government in Beijing is not susceptible to influence on human rights grounds. It has a policy of pursuing its own interests world wide (which require the acquisition of large amounts of natural resources) while keeping out of world crises as far as possible.

        There is only one point of pressure on China - the Olympic Games being held in Beijing next year.

        The Chinese government is desperate that there should be no boycott. The Olympics are presented as the symbol of China's "peaceful rise", as it is called.

        So China has to pay some attention to world opinion. That has led to it calling for restraint in Burma, but not much more.

        The prospect in Burma now is for another lengthy campaign for democracy of the kind that has had to be waged since the last major crackdown in 1988.

        There will always remain the hope among activists, though, that one of the other decisive factors can suddenly turn things around


         Cracks emerge in Myanmar military unity
        By Larry Jagan
        AsiaTimes Online 1 Oct.2007

        BANGKOK – Myanmar's protests have lost steam as security forces clamp down, killing over a dozen and arresting as many as 1,000 people involved in the recent street protests that have grabbed global headlines. Now there are indications that the ruling State Peace and Development Council's (SPDC's) top two generals are at loggerheads over how to proceed in the aftermath of the crackdown.

        SPDC second-in-command General Maung Aye reportedly opposed using force against the tens of thousands of monks who took to the streets, bringing him into conflict with Senior General Than Shwe, according to sources close to Maung Aye. Some soldiers in the old capital of Yangon and the city of Mandalay last week reportedly refused to obey their senior officers' commands to attack or shoot at protesting monks, according to diplomatic sources in Yangon. Several aid workers in Mandalay reportedly witnessed soldiers there refusing to open fire when ordered by commanding officers.

        General Than Shwe, the SPDC's top general, personally gave the orders to the local commanders in Yangon to shoot into the crowd, a military source told Asia Times Online. "The two main commanders in Yangon have told their subordinates that the senior general directly ordered the attack last week," he said. That shoot-to-kill policy has backfired on the junta, with international condemnation coming from the West as well as neighboring countries included in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Myanmar is a member.

        United Nations special envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari met with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Sunday and is reportedly now pressing to meet with both Than Shwe and Maung Aye. So far the SPDC leadership has declined to meet with the UN envoy, perhaps, some analysts speculate, precisely because the top two generals now view the next steps in dealing with the crisis differently.

        There are unconfirmed reports that Than Shwe's wife and one of his daughters, as well as his top business associate, Tay Za, flew out of the country on a Air Bagan flight to Singapore last week and have since traveled on to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Their apparent flight came against the backdrop of growing questions about troop loyalty due to orders to shoot at monks and the possibility that they could have broken rank and joined with the street protestors.

        "If the current crackdown results in more bloodshed, a mutiny within the 400,000-strong armed forces is a distinct possibility," said Win Min, a Myanmar analyst based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. "Family members of the grassroots soldiers are suffering from increasing food and fuel prices like the people who are demonstrating, though top level officers are getting amazingly rich."

        Indeed, there have already been notable instances of a breakdown in the chain of command, according to diplomats. On September 20, for still unclear reasons security forces positioned at the barricades blocking access to Aung San Suu Kyi's house allowed marching monks to pass and pray in front of the house, an episode that was widely reported worldwide. The following day, however, another group of monks bidding to pass her compound was turned away by a larger number of security personnel.

        On Saturday, Maung Aye personally took control of the operations in Yangon and he reportedly posted soldiers with sub-machine guns at the entrance to University Avenue where Suu Kyi is under house arrest.

        It is unclear if the apparent divergent views between the SPDC's top two generals have resulted in a full-blown rift. But there are signs that Than Shwe fears a possible internal military power play, similar to the one in 1992 that resulted in his rise to power.

        Maung Aye apparently believes the use of the civilian organization, the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), to control the crowds is damaging the army's authority and threatens even broader instability, according to a source close to his family. Plainclothes USDA members have used crude weapons and taken the lead in brutally assaulting and detaining protestors. Notably, the organization is the brainchild of Than Shwe, which he helped to establish in 1993 to create the illusion of grassroots support for the military's civilian programs and has relied on in the past to crack down on political opposition.

        Curfews and detentions
        After detaining key members of the 88 Generation Student Group that started the protests on September 19, military authorities have apparently been at a loss in identifying who is leading the protests. They have recently swooped on Yangon's Buddhist monasteries and temples, arresting hundreds of monks, in an apparent effort to locate the protest leaders and halt the demonstrations.

        Key opposition figures, among them actors, artists, journalists and writers, including even the renowned comedian Zargana, have also been detained. Most of the leading members of Suu Kyi's pro-democracy party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), have likewise been arrested in recent days.

        While there is a lull in the street protests at present, with both the military and protestors apparently regrouping and reorganizing, there is little doubt that a major movement to overthrow the military regime is in the making. While the monks were the leading force in recent weeks, former and current activists and student leaders are now reportedly organizing behind the scenes.

        Senior monks and students recently formed a joint "strike committee" to lead future demonstrations. "We are going for it, this is our time. We have to take this chance now as there may never be another one," a senior former student leader recently told Asia Times Online from hiding inside the country. "The students will support the monks' peaceful protests," he said.

        After weeks of mainly peaceful protests led by the monks, the regime finally dropped their policy of restraint last week and hit back, killing at least 13 and injuring many more. Dusk-to-dawn curfews are now in place in Yangon and Mandalay and more than 20,000 troops have been deployed in the former capital. Soldiers are stationed outside Buddhist monasteries and temples to prevent the monks from returning to the streets and they have reportedly been warned that they would be shot if they ignored the warning.

        Up until a week ago the monks had been primarily protesting against the local authorities' use of violence to quell an earlier march near Mandalay, where several monks were badly beaten by violent vigilantes wielding sticks. All along, though, the monks have also been calling on the government to reduce prices, supporting the first of the public protests that broke out more than a month ago after the government raised certain fuel charges by up to 500%.

        "They know better than anyone the impact the rising fuel and food prices is having on the people at the grassroots," said Myanmar analyst Aung Naing Oo, noting that monks rely on the donation of daily alms for their survival. "They understand that this has become harder and harder, especially over the last two years. What they used to collect from four or five houses, now takes more than 30," he said.

        But Buddhist monks are now clearly in the political vanguard, depending on which monks you listen to, alternatively for national reconciliation, dialogue between the military and the political opposition National League for Democracy, or outright regime change through popular protests. The fact that the Buddhist clergy has recently taken on such an overt political role is exceptional.

        After the military first assaulted monks near Mandalay, a new group emerged known as the All Burma Monks Alliance, which represents a younger, more radical segment of the Buddhist clergy. They have since urged ordinary people "to struggle peacefully against the evil military dictatorship until it is banished from the land".

        "Normally monks are not political," said Win Min, based at Chiang Mai University in northern Thailand. "They focus on their individual enlightenment according to traditional Buddhism. What is happening now shows that the situation has reached the point where they can no longer tolerate it."

        So far Suu Kyi's NLD has been a bystander and her members seemingly uninvolved in organizing the spontaneous monk-led marches. But the charismatic leader is known to have strong support among the protesting monks and she would seem to be the key to any potential political settlement to the recent unrest.

        Than Shwe is known to harbor a strong personal grudge against her and he would likely be unwilling to enter into any compromise that shared power with her NLD. The wildcard is whether another military faction inside the SPDC views things differently and might be willing to take the chance of trying to remove their recalcitrant leader for their own political gain.

        Larry Jagan previously covered Myanmar politics for the British Broadcasting Corp. He is currently a freelance journalist based in Bangkok.


         
        BURMA: China Has Much at Stake
        Analysis by Antoaneta Bezlova

        BEIJING, Oct 1 (IPS) - Jarring against a dearth of official news about the turmoil in Burma, the ‘Southern Weekend’ -- one of China’s more liberal official newspapers -- has chosen to run a lengthy feature about an ethnic Chinese entrepreneur striking it rich in the jade business in that neighbouring country.

        But the feature was curiously apt. Describing the country as the "jade kingdom on earth" where fortune is easily made as long as one is hard-working, the article effectively perpetuated a centuries-old perception here of Burma here as a country of riches from which successive Chinese dynasties commanded a tribute.

        Tellingly, the weekender article steered around Burma’s current state of turmoil and the brutal suppression by the military junta of peaceful demonstrations led by Buddhist monks.

        The event eerily resembles China’s own suppression, in 1989, of student-led democracy protests. And it comes at a time when Beijing is preparing to hold the 17th congress of its ruling Communist Party and is wary of anything could jeopardise the country’s fragile social stability.

        However much the official Chinese press chooses to ignore popular calls for political change in Burma, China’s rulers have a long history of involvement in the country’s fortunes and hold a unique capacity to influence its future.

        Going back 800 years to the Yuan Dynasty, the Mongol rulers of China invaded Burma three times. There were two more invasions by the succeeding Ming Dynasty. And under the sway of the last imperial dynasty, the Qing, Burma came to be regarded as a vassal state whose kings were regularly sending tributary missions to Beijing along with gifts of elephants.

        This traditional patron-vassal relationship became fiercely ideological under the reign of China’s communist Chairman Mao Zedong (1949-1976) when Beijing wanted to establish itself as the leader of a world revolution and take over the leadership of the communist movement from Moscow.

        Under Mao, China financed and trained long-running insurgencies over the whole of South-east Asia. In Burma, it supported the now defunct Burmese Communist Party, which several times came close to winning power.

        Over the years the Chinese grew to dominate Burmese trade in many commodities, including rice. Resentment sometimes exploded into anti-Chinese riots. Chinese shops and warehouses were ransacked and Chinese homes burnt down.

        Such anti-Chinese riots gave China an excuse to invade Burma in 1968. In an undeclared war, that was little noticed because it took place during the Tet offensive in Vietnam, Beijing sent 30,000 heavily armed troops who rapidly occupied swaths of the country and forced the government of Gen. Ne Win to negotiate.

        But the effort to spearhead a communist revolution across the region and the cost of subsidising large-scale insurgencies like that in Burma had exhausted communist China -- itself impoverished and starving.

        The death of Mao in 1976 signalled the end of an era of ideological crusades and failed industrial campaigns. China assumed a low profile in international affairs and concentrated on rebuilding relations and gaining an economic foothold in the region.

        Since 1990 China has been the only big country backing the military junta that rules Burma, supplying it with aid and arms. Observers reckon Beijing has provided the generals with more than two billion dollars worth of arms and ammunition. In return, China has received teak and gems, promises of Burma’s oil and gas reserves through a planned pipeline and access to a large market for its cheap consumer goods.

        Around a million Chinese are said to have migrated to Burma, dealing in trade, constructing dams and laying a road that, when ready, will stretch from the Chinese border across Burma to its shores. Isolated by western countries, Burma’s rulers have become ever more dependent on trade with China. Two-way trade doubled between 1999 and 2005 to 1.2 billion US dollars.

        Protecting its investments and business interests, China has also come to play the role of Burma’s staunchest supporter at the United Nations. It has consistently resisted action against Rangoon, insisting that its behind-the-scenes political negotiations work better with the regime than imposing sanctions.

        While the international community deplored the bloodshed in Rangoon and other cities last week, China blocked calls for a strong statement condemning Burma’s repressive actions. China’s U.N. ambassador Wang Guangya told the media afterwards that the situation in Burma did not "constitute a threat to international and regional peace", the formal threshold needed for Security Council action.

        Yet despite appearances of inaction on Beijing’s part, foreign diplomats here believe China would seek to exert pressure on the Burmese military to prevent a repetition of the 1988 massacre, when 3,000 peaceful protesters were killed by the army.

        "The stakes are too high for China," said one Western diplomat. "They have been criticised for remaining passive in Sudan for far too long and don’t want to have another Darfur crisis unfolding right at their doorstep".

        The approach of the 2008 Beijing Olympics has brought heightened international scrutiny on China and its leaders are loath to see the preparations marred by any association with a Burmese massacre that some are already calling the "Asian Darfur".

        In meetings with Burmese leaders last month, Chinese diplomats were unusually forthright about the possibility of violent suppression of peaceful protests that were gathering momentum in Rangoon and other cities.

        "China, as a friendly neighbour of Myanmar (Burma’s formal name as used by the junta), sincerely hopes Myanmar would restore internal stability as soon as possible, properly handle issues and actively promote national reconciliation," the Xinhua News agency quoted state councillor Tang Jiaxuan as telling visiting junta leader Gen. Than Shwe.

         
        RIGHTS-BURMA: Whiteshirts - Junta's Storm Troopers
        By Marwaan Macan-Markar

        BANGKOK, Sep 30 (IPS) - In much the same way that Italy’s Benito Mussolini and Germany’s Adolf Hitler unleashed their respective ‘blackshirts’ and ‘brownshirts’ to terrorise dissenters, Burma’s military regime has deployed its ‘whiteshirts’ against protesting Buddhist monks and civilians.

        At formal events in the South-east Asian country, these storm troopers -- members of the pro-government militia the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA)-- appear in white, long-sleeved Burmese-style shirts and dark green sarongs.

        But at other times, they appear in civilian attire and pass off as members of the public with missions that range from being the eyes and ears of Burma’s brutal military regime to using force to crush dissent. In fact, it was the USDA that the junta first turned to when former university student leaders and opposition party activists took to the streets in mid-August to protest against a sudden 500 percent spike in fuel prices.

        ‘’The military government used the USDA to break up these protests and to harass, intimidate and attack the unarmed civilians demonstrating against the oil price increase,’’ says Naing Aung, secretary general of the Forum for Democracy in Burma (FDB), a group made up of Burmese political exiles living in Thailand. ‘’They later went to the protestors’ homes and arrested them.’’

        Similar acts of terror were on display after the junta ordered its heavily armed troops and the much feared riot police to crush public discontent that had ballooned to a popular uprising by Monday, Sep. 24, led by thousands of Buddhist monks. ‘’The USDA’s members acted like the police in plain clothes to go after the protesters,’’ Naing Aung told IPS. ‘’They worked together with the soldiers and the riot police.’’

        When not abusing unarmed civilians on the streets, over the past month, the whiteshirts flexed their muscles in others areas to contain rage against the junta that had broken to the surface after nearly 20 years of silent criticism. One of its tasks was to target media outfits in the country that paint an unflattering picture of Burma, which the ruling junta renamed Myanmar years ago.

        Members of the USDA were among those responsible for ‘’at least 24 serious violations of the freedom to report news and information since Aug.19,’’ states a note released by two groups, the Burma Media Association, a body made up of Burmese journalists operating outside the country, and Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF), the global media rights watchdog. The USDA men were part of a raiding party that ‘’confiscated equipment’’ from Burmese journalists working for Japanese news organisations.

        Little wonder then the USDA has been on the radar of human rights monitors. A statement released in April by the global lobby Human Rights Watch (HRW) described how some 100 men ‘’carrying clubs and other home-made weapons attacked and beat Myint Naing and Maung Maung Lay, members of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters,’’ in a village 100 km north-west of Rangoon. ‘’The attacks were carried out by members of the USDA.’’

        One event that earned this paramilitary group international notoriety was the May 2003 attack on pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her opposition National League for Democracy (NLD). The brutality unleashed by an estimated 2,000 pro-government thugs while Suu Kyi and her party leaders were campaigning in Depayin, upper Burma, led to some 70 deaths and hundreds of injuries.

        But, after the ‘’Depayin massacre,’’ as pro-democracy groups describe the violence, it was Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi and her colleagues who got arrested while the whiteshirts got away. Suu Kyi has been under house arrest since then, recording a total of 11 years in incarceration over the past 19 years.

        Officially, however, the USDA is presented with a lily-white image ever since it was created in 1993 by Burma strongman senior Gen. Than Shwe. The Burmese public has been told that the USDA is a ‘’social welfare organisation’’ with a development mission for the good of all citizens, according to a study released in May 2006 by the Network for Democracy and Development, a group of Burmese political activists living in exile.

        ‘’The USDA has managed to insert itself into the distribution of aid and assistance by NGOs (non-governmental organisations),’’ adds the study. ‘’The USDA further functions to provide high attendance levels at mass rallies held in support of the (junta’s) policies or in denunciation of the opposition or international community.’’

        Burmese citizens within the country that IPS spoke with earlier this year admitted that coercion was often used by local USDA officials to force members to join the paramilitary group. It has an estimated membership of some 23 million across the country has public servants, teachers, local officials and even high school students.

        Till the recent bloody crackdown -- in which protesters including Buddhist monks, have been killed, beaten and arrested -- the junta had set about promoting the USDA as the ‘’political face’’ of the regime.

        Its reach and organisational structure, spanning Burma’s villages, townships, divisions and cities, was considered pivotal in the regime’s design to have the USDA serve as the civilian side of the junta. The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), as the junta is officially known, has been under growing international pressure to push through political reforms to create a functioning democracy.

        Yet the USDA’s involvement in the crackdown since mid-August may have undermined the official image that the SPDC has projected for this force for Burma’s ‘’public welfare.’’ The USDA’s reputation is at ‘’its lowest,’’ says Zin Linn, information director of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, the country’s democratically-elected government forced into exile.

        ‘’The hands of the USDA have been stained with blood since the Depayin massacre,’’ he said in an interview. ‘’The latest assaults by its members have removed all doubts about their role to suppress the people on the junta’s orders. The public is very angry with them.’’ (END/2007)


         
      • CHAN Beng Seng
        1.. Australian government rejects Burmese ambassador 2.. Burmese authorities target citizen journalists 3.. Burmese regime arrests UN worker 4.. Burmese major
        Message 3 of 14 , Oct 4, 2007
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          1. Australian government rejects Burmese ambassador
          2. Burmese authorities target citizen journalists
          3. Burmese regime arrests UN worker
          4. Burmese major and son flee into Thailand
          5. Thailand a key to new Myanmar sanctions 
          6. Burma's junta hunting protesters
          7. Monks fear government raids on monasteries
          8. Swedish and Danish news correspondents told to leave
          9. Burma road goes through Beijing
          10. Generals extend blood-stained hands to Gambari
          11. No clean hands for foreign businesses
          12. What next for the long-suffering people?

           
          Australian government rejects Burmese ambassador
           
          Oct 4, 2007 (DVB)–The Australian government has refused the appointment of a Burmese general as ambassador to Australia because of the brutality of the military regime.
           
          The decision to reject the appointment was made around two months ago, but was not made public at the time. Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer gave his reasons for the refusal at a media conference on 2 October.
           
          “Burma has a very brutal military regime and I refused to accept a general from that regime, who has had command in a couple of provinces in Burma over the years,” said Mr Downer.
           
          The Minister said that a civilian and “professional diplomat” should be sent as a representative.
           
          “We will not be accepting anybody from the military regime in Burma as a representative of Burma in Australia. That is completely unacceptable,” he said.
           
          Mr Downer went on to express his concerns about the recent brutal crackdowns on protestors, citing estimates of at least 30 deaths and 1,400 arrests.
           
          Reporting by DVB

          Burmese authorities target citizen journalists
          Democratic Voice of Burma: Wed 3 Oct 2007 
          Government authorities are initiating a media campaign targeting citizen journalists who took footage of government brutality during the recent protests in Rangoon and distributed it to foreign media, according to journalists and reporters in Burma’s former capital.

          The government has called upon state-run media agencies and government supporters to publish photographs of citizen journalists and take action against them.

          Reporters said that the government’s campaign against citizen journalists is being carried out by photographers and cameramen from the News and Press department of the Ministry of Information and reporters from the state-run Myanmar News Agency, in cooperation with the army, government guards and Swan Arr Shin members.

          The MNA, whose office is located in front of the Interior Minister’s Office on Theinphyu road, is also working with the Special Information Unit of the Burmese police, according to a veteran journalist in Rangoon.


           
          Burmese regime arrests UN worker
          New York (dpa) - The UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Rangoon was seeking information early Thursday about one of its local workers arrested by the military regime, a UN spokesperson said.
           
          The worker's husband was also arrested, and the UNDP office in the Burmese capital was trying to obtain more information about the incident, Michelle Montas said.
           
          Authorities said the Burmese dictators waiting until after the departure of UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari from Rangoon to pounce on the UN employee.
           
          Gambari left on Tuesday to return to New York to report of his discussions with government military leaders and political leaders, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest for more 10 years for advocating democracy.
           
          The Burmese military has mounted widespread search for demonstrators after successfully cracking down on the largest anti-government protests in 19 years. Western diplomatic sources said thousands of people may have been arrested during nightly raids on homes.
           

           
          Burmese major and son flee into Thailand
          Officer slams junta's crackdown on monks

          BANGKOK POST and AGENCIES
          October 4, 2007
           
          A senior Burmese military officer has fled to Thailand saying he refused orders to attack Buddhist monks in last week's anti-junta protests and denouncing the military regime. Major Htay Win, 42, and his 17-year-old son say they rowed over a river separating Burma and Thailand. They were aided by Karen who live in the area and have been persecuted by the military junta.
           
          They hope to get asylum in Norway or Sweden. Their story was reported by Norwegian radio and newspapers yesterday.
           
          ''As a Buddhist myself, when I heard that monks had been shot dead on the streets and that other people had been shot dead, I felt very upset,'' the major said in a video interview.
           
          ''As a Buddhist, I did not want to see such killing.''
           
          He told the Norwegian media he had heard rumours of about 200 killed during the protests, but had not witnessed any killings and could not confirm the numbers.
           
          ''If he had refused to obey orders, he would have been killed,'' the major's son said in the interview printed in Norway.
           
          It is the first known case of a military officer fleeing Burma since the junta ordered the crackdown that left at least 13 people dead, with more than 1,000 people detained.
           
          Speaking through an interpreter, the major said the monks who led the largest anti-government protests in Burma in almost 20 years were ''very peaceful''.
           
          ''Later, when I heard they were shot and killed and the armed forces used tear gas, I was really, really upset and thought the army should stand for their own people,'' he said.
           
          He did not know which commanders had ordered troops to shoot or who had fired at the monks and demonstrators.
           
          ''I don't know if they will be punished by someone or not, but as a Buddhist, we believe that if you do those things, then bad karma will come back to them. That is our belief,'' he said.
           
          He added he wanted Burma to be a ''free and prosperous country''.
           
          ''I don't mean a rich country, like in Europe, but a country where people can earn a proper income,'' he said.
           
          ''I want to see Burma peaceful and for people to live in freedom.''
           
          Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said if the officer's entry into Thailand was considered under Thai law as seeking political asylum, he would be allowed to leave for a third country.
           
          Thailand would follow the position of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) on Burma.
           
          Thai human rights activists will appeal to incoming Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan today to boost the regional grouping's leading role in defusing the problem in Burma. They will petition him on the sidelines of a Chulalongkorn University seminar, asking that Asean support a resolution to be issued tomorrow by the UN Security Council.
           
          Mr Surin, a former foreign minister, will take up the job next year.
           
          In Chiang Mai, academics and activists urged Thailand and other Asean member countries, China and India to pressure the Burmese junta to respect human rights and return democracy to its people.
           
          They called on the government to stop all forms of support for the junta, including loans, energy investment especially by PTT Plc, and the building of dams along the Salween river

           
          Thailand a key to new Myanmar sanctions 
          AsiaTimes: Wed 3 Oct 2007 

          As international condemnation mounts against Myanmar’s military government and its recent armed crackdown on street demonstrators, the country’s money-spinning oil-and-gas sector could soon be the target of new and tighter Western-led sanctions. Should new bans on energy trade and investment come to pass, more than any other regional country Thailand will find itself caught between a diplomatic rock and an economic hard place.

          Natural gas exports to Thailand are by far the Myanmar government’s largest source of foreign revenues, accounting for nearly US$160 million per month in take-or-pay contracts negotiated before the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis - and well before the recent spike in global energy prices. According to statistics from the Asian Development Bank, gas exports contribute nearly one-third of Myanmar’s total official export revenues. And there are several big new bilateral investment plans underway to pump up further natural gas and electricity exports from Myanmar to Thailand.

          Under former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand came under US criticism for expanding its business ties with Myanmar’s junta. His government’s so-called “forward engagement” policy towards Myanmar was out of line with US- and European-led trade and investment sanctions, but was in accord with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which, since admitting Myanmar into the grouping in 1997, had preferred economic engagement over isolationism to influence the regime.

          After the recent military crackdown, however, ASEAN has been openly critical, signaling to some analysts that the grouping might try to throw its lot in with whatever punitive measures Western countries may move to impose. However any meaningful collective action would need to include Thailand and it seems doubtful the country’s interim military government would be willing to pull the plug on crucial energy supplies for morality’s sake.

          That means any new sanctions against Myanmar’s energy industry are likely to have as marginal an impact on Myanmar’s ruling junta’s staying power as the punitive measures the US first imposed in 1997. China and India are both bidding to negotiate greater access to Myanmar’s untapped energy resources. And both countries have notably refrained from criticizing the regime after last week’s crackdown. Energy analysts note that if Thailand were to abandon its contractual arrangements in Myanmar, China and India would likely move to take up the slack.

          Natural gas is Myanmar’s hotly contested prize, with several regional countries bidding to explore new blocks up for tender. In the early 20th century Myanmar, then known as Burma, was an important regional oil producer from its deep onshore fields. However, oil production had dwindled in recent decades and large - although not massive - natural gas resources have more recently been discovered and foreign investments have helped to boost output.

          New sanctions targeting existing rather than only new investments in Myanmar’s energy industry would at least temporarily dent the regime’s ability to profit from these resources. Potential targets of Western-led and ASEAN-upheld sanctions could hit some of the largest energy companies in the world, including France’s Total, the US’s Chevron, Malaysia’s Petronas, South Korea’s Daewoo and Korea Gas Corp, and, hypothetically, Thailand’s PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP).

          There are also several small and medium sized Western upstream oil and gas companies - including so-called larrikin outfits - which currently operate below the political radar, but if forced to withdraw due to new sanctions on existing investments would at least temporarily disrupt Myanmar’s ability to tap offshore wells, until China, India or another non-Western-aligned country moved in to fill the technology gap.

          Energized competition
          The politics of imposing new sanctions against Myanmar would be highly complex and potentially damaging to the Thai economy if Bangkok were to take part. Myanmar is already expanding its energy export base, emerging as a key new supplier to China and possibly also to India and South Korea. China and India are locked in competition for gas supply from fields now operated by South Korean companies offshore near western Myanmar.

          China has secured at least the initial advantage for a gas pipeline plan approved by the Myanmar government to send supplies to southwest China and the idea for another pipeline taking product landed in Myanmar from Africa and the Middle East - giving China an additional supply route to the congested Malacca Strait - is also on the table.

          India has mooted a similarly ambitious pipeline plan with Myanmar, which conceivably would send gas through Bangladesh and supply areas in eastern India. But it’s still unclear if Dhaka, which has stonewalled other energy projects with India, would support any India-Myanmar initiative which passes through its territory.

          Thailand’s own supplies of natural gas, which currently fuel 65% of the country’s total electricity output, are fast diminishing at a time industrial demand for the resource is simultaneously rapidly rising. According to BP figures, proven gas reserves in the Gulf of Thailand will likely run dry over the next 17 years. There are still untapped resources in the joint Thai-Malaysia development area as well as in the contested overlapping claims area with Cambodia - but even if maximized are not expected to bridge the emerging shortfall.

          Meanwhile, state energy company PTT predicts that national natural gas demand will grow from 3.32 billion cubic feet per day (cfpd) at present to 6.1 billion cfpd by 2015. Thailand’s power generation capacity, meanwhile, is projected to increase to 58,000 megawatts by 2021 from its current level 28,500 megawatts in the current power plan. Myanmar gas currently meets over 25% of total Thai demand and plans to steadily increase those volumes are now on the cards.

          Gas is now piped from the offshore Yadana field, operated by France’s Total in partnership with the US’s Chevron, as well as from the offshore Yetagun field in the eastern Andaman Sea. These two fields alone supply an average of 900 million cfpd to Thailand. Volumes from those same fields are set to increase by another 300 million cfpd by 2011 in a big new offshore project operated by Thailand’s PTTEP.

          Additionally, there are a growing number of joint Thai-Myanmar hydropower projects planned or under development on the Salween River, which forms part of the shared border between the two countries. These include the 7,110 megawatt Tar-Hsan and 1,500 megawatt Hut Gyi dams, both of which were signed by Myanmar’s junta and Thai companies, including the state-run monopoly the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand.

          Both controversial projects are designed specifically to supply power to Thailand, but analysts say could conceivably be rerouted to China if Bangkok were to back new Western-led sanctions. China is currently backing other hydropower projects on the upper reaches of the same river designed to supply power to its fast growing south-western regions.

          So far Thai officials have sent mixed signals about their intentions and have downplayed Thailand’s significance to new sanctions imposed against the regime. Defense Minister Boonrawd Somtas told reporters that the current protests were unlikely to unseat Myanmar’s junta and that political change was unlikely unless China, India and Russia exerted “serious pressure”.

          Meanwhile, top Thai energy official Piyasavati Amranand has said Myanmar’s recent troubles have prevented his officials from negotiating any new gas supply deals and that any planned talks would be delayed until the political situation stabilizes. At the same time, he said that Thailand’s intention to secure new natural gas supplies from Myanmar remains unchanged.

          * Andrew Symon is a Singapore-based journalist and analyst specializing in energy and mining issues.


           
          U.S. diplomat: Burma’s junta hunting protesters
          Associated Press: Wed 3 Oct 2007 

          Rangoon, Burma - Soldiers announced they were hunting pro-democracy protesters in Burma’s largest city Wednesday and the top U.S. diplomat in the country said she heard that military police were pulling people out of their homes during the night.

          Military vehicles patrolled the streets before dawn with loudspeakers blaring, “We have photographs. We are going to make arrests!”

          Shari Villarosa, the acting U.S. ambassador in Burma, said in a telephone interview that people in Rangoon were terrified.

          “From what we understand, military police … are traveling around the city in the middle of the night, going into homes and picking up people,” she said.

          The U.N.’s special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, declined to comment on his four-day mission to Burma, where the military junta last month crushed mass pro-democracy demonstrations led by the nation’s revered Buddhist monks.

          Hundreds of monks and civilians were carted off to detention camps during protests last week. The government says 10 people were killed in the violence, but dissident groups put the death toll at up to 200. They say 6,000 people were detained.

          Villarosa said embassy staff had gone to some monasteries in recent days and found them completely empty. Others were barricaded by the military and declared off-limits to outsiders.

          “There is a significantly reduced number of monks on the streets. Where are the monks? What has happened to them?” she said. The Democratic Voice of Burma, a dissident radio station based in Norway, said authorities have released 90 of 400 monks detained in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin state, during a midnight raid on monasteries on Sept. 25.

          A semblance of normality returned to Rangoon after daybreak, with some shops opening and light traffic on roads.

          However, “people are terrified, and the underlying forces of discontent have not been addressed,” Villarosa said. “People have been unhappy for a long time … Since the events of last week, there’s now the unhappiness combined with anger, and fear.”

          Some people remained hopeful that democracy would come.

          “I don’t believe the protests have been totally crushed,” said Kin, a 29-year-old language teacher in Rangoon, whose father and brother had joined a 1988 pro-democracy movement that ended in a crackdown in which at least 3,000 people were killed.

          “There is hope, but we fear to hope,” she said. “We still dream of rearing our children in a country where everybody would have equal chances at opportunities.”

          The military has ruled Burma since 1962, and the current junta came to power after snuffing out the 1988 pro-democracy movement. The generals called elections in 1990 but refused to give up power when Suu Kyi’s party won.

          Simmering hatred for the military’s 45-year rule exploded in mid-August after the regime hiked fuel prices by as much as 500% — a crushing burden in this impoverished nation.

          The marches soon ballooned into mass pro-democracy demonstrations led by the nation’s revered Buddhist monks.

          The military smashed the protests on Sept. 26 and 27 with live ammunition and tear gas, and by beating up demonstrators.

          Among those killed when troops opened fire on unarmed protesters in Rangoon last week was Japanese television cameraman Kenji Nagai of the APF news agency.

          Nagai’s body was flown out of Burma on Wednesday to Tokyo.

          Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said Japan, which is Burma’s biggest aid donor, was considering cutting back donations to protest Nagai’s death. Video broadcasts appeared to show a soldier shooting Nagai at point-blank range.

          Gambari went to Burma on Saturday to convey the international community’s outrage at the junta’s actions. He also hoped to persuade the junta to take the people’s aspirations seriously.

          He met junta leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe and his deputies and talked to detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi twice.

          Gambari avoided the media in Singapore, where he arrived Tuesday night en route to New York. He was not expected to issue any statement before briefing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday.

          The junta has not commented on Gambari’s visit and the United Nations has only released photos of Gambari and a somber, haggard-looking Suu Kyi — who has spent nearly 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest — shaking hands during their meeting in a state guest house in Rangoon.

          In Singapore, Gambari met with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations bloc of which Burma is a member.

          A Singapore government statement said Lee told Gambari that ASEAN “is fully behind his mission” to bring about “a political solution for national reconciliation and a peaceful transition to democracy.”


           
          Monks fear government raids on monasteries
           
          Oct 3, 2007 (DVB)–Monks in the Magwe division town of Pakokku have been taking part in night watches to protect their monasteries from raids by soldiers.
           
          "We have been taking turns to guard our monastery at night for five days already. In some wards, people from the local neighborhood are also joining in night watches to help the monks. We are living in fear as we don't know when the raid will happen," said an unnamed monk.
           
          Young men in Mandalay division's Moegok township have also been volunteering for night-guard duties at local monasteries to prevent the monks from being arrested by authorities and soldiers in midnight raids.
           
          "Youths in many wards in Moegok are guarding local monasteries to prevent monks from getting detained by authorities. . . They have about 50 youths guarding each monastery at night. Everyone has been asked to come and gather at the monasteries to protect monks when they are alerted to any suspicious characters during night," said a Moegok resident.
           
          Reporting by Aye Nai and DVB

          Swedish and Danish news correspondents told to leave
           
          Rangoon - Burma's military junta eased a curfew on the main city of Rangoon on Tuesday, as the suffocating security presence was scaled back slightly following the suppression of mass anti-government protests.
           
          Loudspeakers mounted on trucks drove through downtown Yangon and residential townships, announcing that the curfew would from now on run from 10pm to 4am, two hours shorter than the 9pm to 5am period announced a week ago. The restrictions, which included the designation of Rangoon as a 'restricted area', were announced last Tuesday just before the government launched a bloody crackdown on the protests, leaving at least 13 dead and 1,000 in detention. People, cars and buses were returning to the streets of the former capitalon Tuesday, as residents tried to get back to work, but the atmosphere remained tense and key monasteries continued to be blockaded.
           
          Although the security presence has dropped off since Monday, soldiers were still stationed at the main rallying points. Soldiers stood guard outside the Shwedagon Pagoda, while at a nearby monastery, security forces could be seen within the compound. In the northeastern township of South Okkalapa, one of the monasteries raided there last week remained under heavy security with six military trucks parked outside.
           
          Meanwhile Swedish and Danish media reported that Burmese officials are allegedly urging several Swedish and Danish news media outlets to withdraw their correspondents from the country for their own safety, AHN online reported Tuesday. According to Swedish and Danish reporters, they have been contacted by a man who introduced himself as Burmese's police authority representative. They said that a man named Hay Chu, offered tabloid journalists a "safe passage home." The man who identifies himself as Chu said, "Police can no longer guarantee the safety of foreigners."
           
          Meanwhile, Danish news media said they have been receiving calls of a similar nature. 
           
          However, both Swedish and Danish news media have not confirmed if they have journalists inside Myanmar. They claim their journalists reporting on the recent massive anti-regime protests in the troubled country are all stationed elsewhere, the online said.
           

          Broad goes through Beijing

          Three hard facts are setting the boundaries for the talks United Nations negotiator Ibrahim Gambari is undertaking as he shuttles between Burma's ruling generals and the detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

          The Nation October 3, 2007


          First, despite the heroic leadership of the Buddhist clergy and the pro-democracy community, almost 50 years of military misrule and terror tactics have worn down Burma's people, who will likely find it hard to maintain their defiance without obvious splits among the ruling generals or widespread desertions among ordinary soldiers.

          Second, Burma's generals know that they face a stark choice: either maintain power or risk imprisonment, exile, and possible death. In their eyes, this leaves them with virtually no choice but to hold on to power at all costs.

          Finally, as long as China provides political, financial, and military support for Burma's rulers, it will be all but impossible for any meaningful change to occur. Until China decides that it has more to gain from a more legitimate government in Burma than it does from the current incompetent military regime, little can happen.

          China's decision to block the UN Security Council from condemning the Burmese regime's assault on the Buddhist monks and other peaceful protestors underscores its long-standing political support for the junta. This past January, China, alongside Russia, vetoed a Security Council resolution that condemned Burma's human rights record and called on the government to stop attacks on ethnic minorities, release political prisoners, and begin a transition towards national reconciliation and democracy. For years, China has also blocked meaningful sanctions against Burma.

          China's economic ties to Burma's rulers are strategically important for both sides. Annual bilateral trade, estimated at $1.1 billion - a huge figure, given Burma's total GDP of $9.6 billion - provides an economic lifeline for the Burmese government. China is also Burma's largest military supplier.

          At the same time, the $2 billion oil pipeline that China is seeking to build from Burma's southern coast to China's Yunnan province will allow China to get Middle East oil to its southern provinces more easily and securely. When completed, the pipeline will make China much less susceptible to foreign military pressure in the event of international conflict.

          So the stakes in Burma are high for China, as are Chinese fears of about how any future "national reconciliation" government might react to China's record of complicity with the corrupt military rulers.

          It should be remembered that America and its allies, faced with strategic fears of a similar type during the Cold War, also supported repugnant and oppressive regimes in places like Zaire, Chile and Indonesia. But America and the West did, at key turning points, realise that times had changed so much that these dictators had outlived their usefulness. Thus, despots like Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines and Chun Doo-hwan in Korea were jettisoned, because the price of supporting their despicable regimes became greater than the benefits.

          In today's Internet age, the costs of China's support for Burma's generals are rising fast. Just as in Darfur, where China's perceived support for the Sudanese government translated into harsh criticism and threats to brand the 2008 Olympics the "Genocide Games", China's backing of the Burmese generals, particularly if the death toll rises, could cause similar problems. Indeed, an Olympic boycott will become more likely if scenes of murdered or brutalised Buddhist monks are flashed around the world. Moreover, Burma's public health woes and drug and human trafficking are increasingly being exported to southern China.

          Although China has expressed some vague concerns over the crisis to the Burmese government, it has not taken any action that could meaningfully affect the regime's calculations, despite its singularly unique leverage.

          To encourage China to take the lead in fostering national reconciliation in Burma, the international community must convince China that pushing for reform and change can be a win-win proposition. The international community must make clear that China's interests would be protected during a transition to a more open society in Burma, and that some version of the oil pipeline project will be supported by any new regime. 

          Because China has been competing with India for access to Burma's natural resources, India also needs to be actively included in efforts to pressure the Burmese regime, a process that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations might effectively coordinate. In a statement issued on September 27, Asean foreign ministers expressed a surprising degree of condemnation of the crackdown in Burma. They could play an essential leading role in a process including the Burmese parties, China, India, the European Union, Russia and the United States that could devise a roadmap for change in Burma.

          Such an international process simply cannot happen without China. The road to change in Burma runs through Beijing.

          * Jamie F Metzl, who served on President Bill Clinton's National Security Council, is executive vice president of the Asia Society.


           
          UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari ended his mission to Burma on Tuesday, leaving the Burmese people still helpless before a ruthless regime determined to stamp out opposition no matter how much abhorrence it arouses in the international community.

          What did he achieve? We’ll have to wait for a day or two more, probably until Friday, before knowing the answer to that question.
           
          But already an answer is forming. Just look at the pictorial clues. The UN released a collection of official photographs that resemble a family snapshot album.
          After an absence from the public scene of some weeks, the top generals line up for a photocell with their distinguished guest from New York. Than Shwe and the others—Maung Aye, Thura Shwe Mann and acting Prime Minister Thein Sein—seem almost smug in their freshly-laundered uniforms. Than Shwe has reason to be satisfied—he looks considerably younger than his advanced age, officially given as 74.
           
          They all seem blissfully unaware of the carnage they have caused in the streets and monasteries of their country.
           
          Newsreel footage of the photo call shows Gambari giving a slight bow as he firmly shakes hand with the generals. He smiles—but is there really anything to smile about? Did he have problems removing the stains left by the press of the generals’ blood-soaked palms?
           
          Contrast this bizarre scene with the photographs of an unsmiling Aung San Suu Kyi meeting Gambari at a government guesthouse near her home, where she has spent nearly 12 of the past 18 years under house arrest. She certainly had nothing to smile about.
           
          It’s deplorable that Gambari allowed himself to be used as a propaganda tool by the regime, who had already humiliated him and the organization he represented by keeping him waiting two days before summoning him to a meeting. On the first day of Gambari’s “urgent” mission to Burma he was sent off on a sightseeing tour of remote areas of northern Burma, which included a visit to a rally of regime “supporters” paid or pressed to attend.
           
          Again, the contrast is staggering—between these stage-managed photographs and the pictures of the bloody events in Rangoon.
           
          Even as Gambari was meeting the generals, security forces in Rangoon, nearly 400 km to the south, were tightening their steel grip over the city, continuing their raids on city homes and reportedly sending arrested monks to detention camps far removed from the former capital.
           
          At least 2,000 monks and protesters are being detained in detention centers and jails. No one knows their fate. Many could already have died from abuse, torture and from the wounds they received during their clash with troops and police. Secret military courts have sentenced an unknown number of monks to long terms of imprisonment.
          It’s clear that Gambari was in no position, and possessed no real authority, to challenge the generals directly. He is just the latest in a line of UN special envoys who, between then, have achieved absolutely nothing.
           
          By sending them on futile missions to Burma, the UN has only raised false hopes and has contributed to the generals’ grip on power.
          On a previous visit to Burma, Gambari said the junta appeared ready to “turn a new page.” It must have been a blank page. Arousing false hope in this way only helps the generals survive.
           
          The Burmese people are crushed by the junta and powerless to resist. But must this mean that the UN is to remain powerless to help them?
          Betrayed by their own government, the Burmese people are now betrayed by the UN, from whom they can expect no help. Instead of being part of the solution to the Burmese crisis, the UN is in reality part of the problem.
           
          But the Burmese people’s struggle is not yet over. More blood will inevitably flow. And Gambari, or whoever the UN sends on a next junket to Burma, will again be seen shaking the blood-soaked hands of the generals.
           

          “Leave Burma Now”: ITUC Tells Multinationals

          Brussels,:  The ITUC is writing to several hundred companies known or suspected of having business links to Burma to pull out of the country and “stop propping up the brutal regime”, and is calling on governments to extend economic sanctions to cover all economic sectors.  While numerous foreign companies have ceased doing business with Burma, under pressure from the international trade union movement and human rights and democracy groups, many multinational companies still have relations with the military dictatorship.

          “No company can claim to have clean hands if it is doing business in or with Burma, since the Generals take their cut out of every deal. We have been calling for several years on companies to disinvest, and those who have refused to do so will now be exposed to the full weight of public  condemnation for effectively supporting a ruthless, corrupt and bloody dictatorship”, said ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder.

          Burma’s economy is built on absolute repression of its workforce, with the use of forced labour still rife in the country despite international pressure on the regime to respect fundamental rights. The case for full and effective sanctions is now absolutely compelling, and any company which does not withdraw voluntarily must be made to do so by governments and international and regional organisations including the United
          Nations and the European Union.  The international trade union movement and the European Trade Union Confederation have for many years called on the EU to include Burmese state monopolies covering gas, oil, mining, tropical woods and precious stones in the list of companies with which EU-based multinationals are forbidden to do business.

          “The junta’s murderous reaction to the demonstrations in recent days shows how far they will go to maintain total power, and continue lining their own pockets at the expense of the massive majority who are deprived of access to proper healthcare, education, decent food and other essentials.  Only a tiny few benefit from Burma’s links to foreign business, and they are the very authors of the murder, torture and  violence which is still going on,” said Ryder.

          Top of the ITUC list are several key multinationals with well-documented business links to Burma, including Caterpillar (USA), China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC), China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), Daewoo International Corporation (Korea), Siemens (Germany), Gas Authority of India (GAIL), GlaxoSmithKline (UK ), Hyundai (Korea), ONGC Videsh Ltd (India), Swift (Belgium), and Total (France).  Several hundred other companies are currently being investigated for links to Burma, and the results will be published shortly.  Military aid will be a special focus of the trade union campaign, which will also look closely at the junta’s growing economic links with India, China and several other countries.  India’s trade for example has grown from some US$ 341 million in 2004-5 to $650 million the following year, with a target of US$ 1billion set for 2006-7.

          “Companies which think they can continue to pretend that their business with Burma somehow helps ordinary people there are seriously mistaken. They will come under unprecedented pressure to pull out,” said Ryder.

          A meeting of the global trade union committee on Workers’ Capital this week in Madrid will also examine shareholder and investment strategies in support of the worldwide campaign.

          The ITUC is asking its affiliates to join worldwide Burma democracy and human rights demonstrations this Saturday.

          Founded on 1 November 2006, the ITUC represents 168 million workers in 153 countries and territories and has 305 national affiliates. Website: http://www.ituc-csi.org

          For more information, please contact the ITUC Press Department on: +32 2224 0204 or +32 476 621 018.


          What next for the long-suffering people?

          Neighbouring countries can no longer turn a blind eye to the repression in Burma, now that the UN Security Council is primed to frame further resolutions pressuring the ruling military junta

          By MICHAEL VATIKIOTIS and LEON DE RIEMATTEN

          Now that the military junta in Burma has brutally cracked down on the protesters in the streets of Rangoon and Mandalay, beating up monks and hauling them off in horrific scenes that have shocked the world, the big question is: What next for this country's long suffering people? Can the army, which has ruled the country for 45 years, force all this popular anger back into the bottle? What will they do this time to keep the cork in place?

          The army managed to do just this in 1988 after killing at least 3,000 people. But that was then. Today might be different for several reasons.

          Two common assumptions about Burma are slowly becoming less valid. The first is that powerful regional neighbours like India and China can be relied upon to shore up the military regime with critical political and economic support.

          The second is that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which Burma joined in 1997, will act as a secondary shield against sanction and global opprobrium.

          China and India have been forced by the violent crackdown on peaceful protesters, many of them Buddhist monks, to go beyond the usual plaintive pleas for respect of stability and sovereignty.

          Beijing has said it ''whole-heartedly hopes Burma will push forward a democracy process that is appropriate for the country''.

          India's External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has expressed concern and called for dialogue and a ''broad-based process of national reconciliation and political reform''.

          Meanwhile, Asean has broken a long tradition of refraining from commenting on the internal affairs of member states and expressed revulsion at the bloody military crackdown, which few diplomats believe has killed only a handful of people.

          Overly cautious as these statements are, they point the way to a more proactive role by Burma's neighbours, small and big, that could help prevent further bloodshed. For assuming that this confrontation between the unarmed populace and soldiers is irreversible, the only way to stem the senseless shedding of blood on the streets is for some kind of dialogue process and compromise, with the help and encouragement of the international community.

          Neighbouring countries can no longer turn a blind eye to the repression in Burma, now that the UN Security Council is primed to frame further resolutions pressuring the ruling military junta. And as Asean prepares to frame a new charter, it looks likely that new measures will be tabled by the end of the year to sanction member states for human rights and other abuses.

          In this time of crisis, it is important to remember that serious issues need to be resolved so Burma can move forward. These issues include continued ethnic conflict within the country's borders, severe economic failure, and humanitarian decline.

          Even before the protests began a few weeks ago, sparked by a steep fuel price increase, there was unhappiness among ethnic minority groups over the new constitution framed by the military rulers.

          Many of the cease-fire agreements that persuaded rebel groups on the country's margins to put aside their weapons, have shown an inclination to reach for them again.

          This leaves the question of how the present stand-off might be defused. The effectiveness of the crackdown and images of deserted streets in the country's two main cities suggests that ''people power'' alone will not bring about political change.

          There has been some speculation about a split within the ranks of the military, with some junior officers reluctant to fire on unarmed civilians and monks. This has given rise to hopes of a more progressive faction of the army taking over, perhaps by way of a coup.

          Should this be the case, hopefully more progressive officers will link up with Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest, in the interests of reconciliation and national unity.

          Certainly it would be naive to assume that the military will simply give up its grip on power without a managed, transitional phase.

          The question, then, becomes who will manage this transition? This is uncharted territory in today's Southeast Asia. The severe problems facing the country would suggest a role for an international consortium of donors and agencies. Something, perhaps, like the Cambodian experience, which involved the United Nations in a brief but successful exercise in political transition through a supervised national election.

          But intensely felt national sentiment would suggest that the Burmese people may not be as willing as the Cambodians to tolerate such an intrusive presence on the ground.

          Burma, after all, was once the most advanced nation in the region. So, much like the Philippines in the mid-1980s, it will be up to the people of Burma to design and execute their own reform programme. Democracy, as examples like Iraq suggest, cannot be imposed.

          Understandably, the people of Burma, supported by the international community, would like to see a swift return to civilian rule and popular sovereignty.

          Few countries in the world have endured so much deprivation and debilitating isolation for so long. The trick will be how this can be managed without making it look like the army has surrendered to popular protest. Just as the military in Indonesia was gradually eased out of politics, with very few of its officers held accountable for abuses, so it can be assumed that Burma's generals will be looking for a soft landing.

          * Michael Vatikiotis and Leon de Rietmadden work for the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue in Southeast Asia.


        • CHAN Beng Seng
          1.. Criticism of Total Operations Grows 2.. India cuts to the chase with Myanmar 3.. Trade and security trump democracy 4.. Burma s junta sets terms for talks
          Message 4 of 14 , Oct 5, 2007
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            1. Criticism of Total Operations Grows
            2. India cuts to the chase with Myanmar
            3. Trade and security trump democracy
            4. Burma's junta sets terms for talks with Aung San Suu Kyi
            5. Asean's move: act decisively
            6. Asean FMs may head to Rangoon
            7. Foreign Investment Finances Regime
            8. UN Getting Nowhere With the Generals
            9. Appeal from an interfaith and interethnic network group of communicators inside Burma
            10. Myanmar dragnet nabs clappers, citizen journalists
            11. Christians in Burma pray for peace and release of detainees
            12. PMLC calls for nationwide prayer meetingss

             
            BURMA: Criticism of Total Operations Grows
            By Michael Deibert

            PARIS, Oct 4 (IPS) - The Yadana natural gas pipeline runs from gas fields in the warm waters of the Andaman Sea through a sliver of southern Burma and into Thailand. It also runs through the heart of the debate on corporate responsibility as to how foreign businesses should operate in a country ruled by a military dictatorship accused of widespread human rights abuses and violent suppression of dissent within its borders.

            Following two weeks of protests lead by Buddhist monks against the military junta lead by General Than Shwe, the Burmese government's ferocious subsequent clampdown has shone a particularly bright spotlight on the activities of Total S.A., the French oil company that served as the driving force behind the Yadana pipeline and which continues to be deeply involved in Burma.

            "Total is involved in what is essentially the single largest foreign investment project in Burma, the single largest source of hard currency for the regime," says Marco Simons, the U.S. legal director for EarthRights International, an organisation working on documenting human rights and environmental abuses. "They have entered into a direct business relationship with the Burmese military."

            The Yadana pipeline was constructed by Total through the 1990s in partnership with the U.S. petroleum company Unocal (which merged with the Chevron Corporation in 2005 and ended operations as an independent company), along with the wholly state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) and Thailand's PTT Exploration and Production Public Company Limited (PTTEP), at the time state-owned but now largely privatised.

            Burma's State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) military rulers renamed the country Myanmar in 1989.

            From the outset, accusations swirled around the project that it was conducted under conditions of extreme coercion against the local population.

            In the wake of recent protests, a group of Burmese refugees in Belgium succeeded earlier this month in getting a federal public prosecutor to reopen an investigation into the potential illegality of some of Total's actions in Burma, with the oil giant standing accused of, at best, turning a blind eye to widespread human rights abuses during the construction of the Yadana pipeline.

            Last year a French court cleared Total of charges that slave labour helped it build the pipeline, following an out of court settlement with the alleged victims.

            With video footage smuggled out of Burma showing military personnel apparently firing into crowds of unarmed protesters and savagely beating others, various groups are calling for companies such as Total to consider what their business is funding in the country.

            "As one person in Rangoon described it to us, they are living in hell," says Mark Farmaner, media director of The Burma Campaign UK, an advocacy group formed in Britain in 1991 to push for progress on democracy and respect for human rights. "There is intense fear, people are afraid to move around, there are thousands of people in hiding and thousands in detention, and it's extraordinary that Total would have such a dictatorship as their business partner."

            A recent statement by Total's vice-president for public affairs, Jean-François Lassalle, carried on the company's website, had the following to say about the recent unrest.

            "We are convinced that through our presence we are helping to improve the daily lives of tens of thousands of people who benefit from our social and economic initiatives. . . a forced withdrawal would only lead to our replacement by other operators probably less committed to the ethical principles guiding all our initiatives. Our departure could cause the population even greater hardship and is thus an unacceptable risk."

            There was, however, no explicit condemnation of the Burmese government's actions, nor was there a call for restraint, even as Ibrahim Gambari, special envoy from the United Nations, arrived in Burma to express concern about the steps taken to quash the demonstrations.

            Gambari has since met with both junta leader Shwe and with the country's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and is expected to make a formal report to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on his return to New York.

            The French government itself, meanwhile, has been accused of only selectively condemning the violence in Burma.

            When President Sarkozy called on French companies to "freeze" new investments there, it was viewed by some as a cynical end-run around the fact that Total, by its own admission, had made no new investments in Burma for several years.

            In further cause for skepticism, BK conseil, the former company of France's current foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, advised Total in 2003 on improving the public face of its operations in Burma.

            Formed as a one-off consulting concern by Kouchner and Total lawyer Jean Veil, Kouchner, who was the company's only official employee, visited the site of the Yadana pipeline in March 2003. He wrote a report in September 2003 exonerating the company of any wrongdoing. The report was carried on Total's website. (END/2007)


              
            India cuts to the chase with Myanmar
            By Siddharth Srivastava
            AsiaTimes: Oct 5, 2007 
             
            NEW DELHI - There is international pressure on India not to engage with the military junta in Myanmar that severely cracked down on pro-democracy protestors recently. But it seems New Delhi has other ideas.
             
            Betraying its soft approach towards Myanmar, New Delhi has advised the United Nations Security Council against imposing sanctions, which should only be used as a "last resort", on Myanmar. Instead, India has told the military regime to consider launching a probe into the protests.
             
            Reports have emerged that Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee conveyed India's concerns to his Myanmar counterpart, U Nyan Win, during a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly summit in New York last week.
             
            Mukherjee "suggested that the [Myanmar] government could consider undertaking an inquiry into the recent incidents and the use of force", said a statement issued by the foreign ministry. The minister also hoped the "process of national reconciliation and political reform, initiated by the government of Myanmar, would be taken forward expeditiously".
             
            Such open-ended diplomatic words can mean only one thing: that India does not want to annoy the military junta in any way, while maintaining the decorum of international dismay on the matter.
             
            "Feelers have been sent via diplomatic sources in the West about India's position regarding Myanmar. However, there has been no advisory or official communication that India should withdraw any business relations," a senior foreign ministry official told Asia Times Online.
             
            Mukherjee, during recent visits to Thailand and South Korea, expanded a bit on New Delhi's thinking. He said that India does not have any problems dealing with military regimes as it considers such issues "internal matters". New Delhi has to deal with four military-ruled states in its region - Bangladesh, Pakistan, Thailand and Myanmar. This is apart from communist-ruled China, Mukherjee said.
             
            Publicly, Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown leads Europe's activism, assigning moral responsibility to India and China to influence Myanmar. The United States has talked about sanctions without defining a time frame. Washington has urged India and China to do more to "support the cause of freedom" of the people of Myanmar.
             
            Tom Casey, the US State Department deputy spokesman, said the US "specifically called on India, China and the ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] countries to do more to support the cause of political dialogue and of freedom for the people of Burma [Myanmar]".
             
            The Indian official told Asia Times Online, "New Delhi understands a bit about the hypocrisy in the latest utterances from Europe and the US that will have to back words with action. European subsidiaries and companies continue to invest in Myanmar and have no intentions to withdraw. The Western governments should put pressure on them first."
             
            Indeed, New Delhi is keen to push a pro-Myanmar agenda to leverage energy sources and reduce the influence of China, which has gas projects in the country.
             
            Pulled up by the Prime Minister's Office for allowing China to steal a march in Myanmar, India's Oil Minister, Murli Deora, visited the country at the time of the protests and pledged Indian investments of US$150 million for gas exploration.
             
            India's state-run explorer - Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) - and its counterpart, the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, signed production-sharing contracts for the development of three deep-water exploration blocks off Myanmar's western Rakhine coast. All three blocks are believed to have good hydrocarbon potential as they are close to shallow water blocks A-1 and A-3 where ONGC is part of a consortium developing a gas find.
             
            Energy-hungry India and China are in competition over the massive Shwe natural gas development project, in which ONGC and India's utility Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) are partners under the majority stakeholder, South Korea's Daewoo.
             
            Irked by delays in implementing the Myanmar-Bangladesh-India pipeline, and with strategic support from China at international forums, Myanmar has inked a memorandum of understanding with PetroChina to supply 6.5 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas from Block A of the Shwe gas fields in the Bay of Bengal for over 30 years. PetroChina is the listed subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corporation.
             
            The advent of China as an end-user creates an awkward situation as India will effectively be supplying gas to China, its biggest competitor for oil and gas.
             
            Shwe is expected to generate up to $600 million in revenue every year for Myanmar over the next two decades.
             
            The competition is stiff. Companies from South Korea, Thailand and US energy giant Chevron are looking to exploit Myanmar's natural resources. In recent statements following the unrest, Daewoo said it has no plans to change investments. "Politics is politics. Economics is economics," a spokesperson said.
             
            France's Total and Malaysia's Petronas currently pump gas from Myanmar through a pipeline to Thailand, which takes the bulk of Myanmar's gas output. Total has defended its presence in Myanmar, saying oil and gas reserves are not necessarily located in democracies.
             
            This week, authorities in Belgium moved to reopen a case brought by Myanmar refugees alleging that Total was involved in crimes against humanity in the country. (See France's Total mired in Myanmar Asia Times Online, October 4, 2007.) New York-based Human Rights Watch has called on firms invested in Myanmar to use their influence on the military regime to end its abuses.
             
            London-based Amnesty International has said that China is the main source of arms for Myanmar, followed by India, Serbia, Russia, Ukraine and other countries, and urged them to stop weapons supplies. Amnesty recently reported that India plans to sell military helicopters to Myanmar in a move that could undermine a European Union arms embargo.
             
            But Myanmar's proven gas reserves of 19 tcf at the end of 2006 are proving to be very difficult to resist. Recently, PTT Exploration and Production International Limited of Thailand found natural gas in its Block M-9 offshore concession, indicating a reserve of 8 tcf, official Myanmar media reports said.
             
            This year, Indian intelligence agencies cautioned New Delhi about the possible shutout of Indian interests by Russian and Chinese oil firms in Myanmar.
             
            Clearly, fast-developing India has more pressing issues to tackle than backing ideals of democracy in Myanmar.
             
            This is especially so when reports say that Iran and Pakistan have decided to move ahead with a gas pipeline without the participation of India. New Delhi, it is widely believed, has been putting off negotiations on the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline due to pressure from Washington. The US does not want India to deal with Tehran due to the latter's independent nuclear program.
             
            "We prefer it [IPI] to be a tripartite deal, but if it does not happen we will sign it with the Pakistanis," caretaker Iranian Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari recently told reporters. 
             

            Trade and security trump democracy
             
            Burma's saffron revolt and the first flush of images and news through cell phones and internet blogs may create premature expectations about a new era of public protest.
            Published on October 5, 2007

            A closer look at the varied interest of Burma's neighbours in maintaining the current regime suggests the more things change, the more they remain the same.

            The Burmese crisis has discredited the country's repressive regime, but not enough to isolate the leaders from their closest trading partners and political allies. China, Russia and India have weighed their economic and strategic interests against expressions of world outrage, and for now decided against showing a united front against General Than Shwe and his coterie of generals and colonels.

            China - Burma's main trading partner, arms supplier, and the only country believed to have any leverage over the generals - expressed "concern", but reaffirmed its policy of "non-interference" in the "internal affairs," as stated by Zhang Zhijun, a vice minister of the Chinese Communist Party International Department in Beijing on September 25.

            On September 27, the foreign ministers of Asean, also issued a surprisingly strong statement through its chairman, George Yeo, Singapore's minister for foreign affairs. The foreign ministers "expressed their revulsion to Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win over reports that the demonstrations in Burma are being suppressed by violent force." The day before, a spokesman for Singapore's Foreign Ministry had urged the Burmese authorities "to exercise utmost restraint". Such a statement, especially concerning Burma, is unusual for Singapore, another important trading partner. Immediately after the Burmese military had crushed a previous, much bigger anti-government movement in 1988, Singapore had delivered a substantial quantity of military hardware to Burma.

            A spokesperson for India, which like China has economic and strategic interests in Burma, expressed "concern" on September 26. But India, a democracy, cannot easily ignore international and domestic opinion in the way China does. On October 1, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee suggested that Burma conduct an inquiry into the use of force in Yangon and other cities.

            All these countries have historical reasons for the wary response. China was the first major country to show interest in Burma's riches. Renowned for planning far ahead, the Chinese had expressed their intentions in a Beijing Review article as early as September 2, 1985. The article, "Opening to the Southwest: An Expert Opinion," written by Pan Qi, former vice-minister of communications, outlined possible outlets for trade from China's landlocked provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan, through Burma, to the Indian Ocean. It mentioned Burmese railheads of Myitkyina and Lashio in the northeast and Irrawaddy River as possible conduits for export of Chinese goods.

            Hence, interest in protecting those trade routes has, in recent years, led China to upgrade Burma's naval bases and access intelligence collected from Chinese-supplied equipment, without the Chinese Navy having any permanent presence there.

            Since 1988, China has also supplied Burma with more than US$1.4 billion worth of military hardware, including fighter, ground-attack and transport aircraft; tanks and armored personnel carriers; naval vessels and surface-to-air missiles.

            By late 1991, Chinese experts assisted in a series of infrastructure projects to spruce up poorly maintained roads and railways. Chinese military advisers arrived the same year, the first foreign military personnel to be stationed in Burma since the Australians had a contingent there to train the Burmese Army in the 1950s.

            Thus, Burma is of vital strategic and economic importance to China, and it's highly unlikely that Beijing would jeopardise that by joining Western boycotts or encouraging a more democratic system in Burma. China wants "stability" in Burma, not regime change. In January this year, China - along with Russia - used its veto power to block a US- and UK-sponsored resolution, approved by a majority of UN members, in the UN Security Council. Not even appeals by activists for a boycott of the 2008 Beijing Olympics have yet swayed China into being more critical of the Burmese regime.

            Russia has also supplied Burma with military hardware. In late 2002, Burma purchased eight MiG-29B-12 air-superiority combat aircraft and two dual-seat MiG-29UB trainers from Russia, at a cost of about $130 million, and the nation negotiates to purchase Russian air-defense systems. In May, Russia signed a deal to build a 10-megawatt nuclear-research reactor in Burma - and Russia, like China and India, shows interest in energy cooperation with Burma. Hardly surprisingly, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on September 28 that although he was "sorry about civilian deaths" in Rangoon, it was "premature" to speak about sanctions.

            Burma's close relationship with China caused concern in India. To counter China's growing influence, India at first supported Burma's pro-democracy movement from the uprising in 1988 to the early-1990s. But when it became clear that the movement would not achieve power within the foreseeable future, India too courted the junta. Burmese troops stationed along the country's north-western border are now, at least in part, supplied from the Indian side, and some Burmese army officers have trained at the Indian military academy in Pune. The Indian government also encourages border trade. The north-eastern state of Manipur is the main conduit for consumer goods from India and raw materials in the other direction.

            Enticing Burma to distance itself from China, however, was not New Delhi's only concern; the rapidly expanding Indian economy needs energy, and Burma has ample resources of natural gas. India apparently fears that any strong position from the Indian side vis-a-vis the Burmese generals would play into the hands of China, and India could lose the foothold it managed to gain in Burma over the past decade.

            Singapore's stronger reaction could be interpreted as acute embarrassment over its close relationship with the Burmese regime, a target of worldwide condemnation. Apart from arms deliveries in 1988 and most likely also later, Singapore has trained Burmese intelligence officers in cyber warfare and even helped establish a cyber-warfare centre in Rangoon, which monitors the activities of dissidents in the country and in exile.

            Perhaps more importantly, Singapore is the banking centre of choice for Burma's generals and their business cronies. Most have Singapore bank accounts, as does the powerful 43-year-old tycoon Tay Za, who is close to junta leader Than and his family. Tay's Htoo Trading Company was one of two main contractors that built Burma's new administrative capital, Naypyidaw. The other was the Asia World Group, headed by Tun Myint Naing, or Steven Law, son of Lo Hsing-han, who, in the 1970s, was branded by US authorities as the King of Opium in Burma's sector of the Golden Triangle. Both Tay and Law are frequent visitors to Singapore, and Than himself goes there for medical treatment.

            Htoo Trading reportedly "shut down" operations in late September, but some observers suggest that the company will simply adopt a new name to dodge a September 27 US Department of Treasury order, prohibiting US citizens from doing business with Burma's notorious elite. Burma's elite and the Singapore banks have reason to be nervous, if their accounts come under greater scrutiny by the US Treasury. US sanctions against a Macau bank in September 2005 for dealings with North Korea caused near-collapse of that bank.

            But, in the end, the generals may get away with their crimes - because of their economic and strategic importance to neighbours and other allies.

            * Bertil Lintner is a Swedish journalist based in Thailand, and the author of several works on Asia, including "Blood Brothers: The Criminal Underworld of Asia" and "Great Leader, Dear Leader: Demystifying North Korea Under the Kim Clan".


            Burma's junta sets terms for talks with Aung San Suu Kyi
             
            Rangoon - Burma's junta on Thursday announced that it was ready to start reconciliation talks with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi if she would stop her "confrontation" tactics and support of sanctions against the country.

            A state-run television broadcast Thursday night said Senior General Than Shwe, who heads the junta, had made these conditions known to visiting United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari.

            Gambari's visit to Burma, which ended Tuesday, included separate meetings with Than Shwe and Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate who has spent the past four years under house arrest in Rangoon.

            UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has suggested in New York that Gambari's trip was far from successful, casting doubt on the Burma TV announcement which may be designed to cast blame for failed negotiations on Suu Kyi, analysts said.

            Gambari was sent to Burma to assess the country's political situation in the aftermath of a brutal crackdown on peaceful monk-led protests in Rangoon against the military's 45-year reign in the country.

            The crackdown sparked international condemnation, even from Burma's South-East Asian allies, and calls for renewed efforts to force a political resolution to Burma's political stalemate, which has pitted an entrenched military regime against the forces of democracy for the past 17 years.

            Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) Party won the 1990 general election by a landslide, but has been blocked from power since by the military who claimed Burma was not ready for civilian rule because of its security threat from ethnic minority insurgencies.

            In 1995, the regime began to draft a new constitution to address the country's power-sharing issues, but the military-controlled process was dubbed a sham by the NLD and most western observers, who claimed it was designed to keep the generals in power indefinitely.

            The National Convention process to draft the principles for a new constitution was wrapped up on August 20.

            The conclusion to the 14-year-old efforts was swiftly overshadowed by a groundswell of protests against the doubling of fuel prices imposed on August 15.

            The anti-inflation protests were picked up by Burma's 400,000- strong monkhood in early September and grew into a barefoot Buddhist rebellion that shook Rangoon between September 18 and 27.

            The peaceful movement was extinguished by a brutal crackdown on September 26-27 that left 10 dead, according to government sources. The actual death toll is believed to be much higher.

            Since last week's crackdown, thousands of dissidents have been arrested.

            In the same broadcast announcing its terms for talks with Suu Kyi, Burma public TV claimed that of the 2,093 arrested, some 692 had already been released.

            Nearly all Western governments and multinational donors ended their aid programmes to Burma in 1988, after the army's brutal suppression of a pro-democracy movement that year that left an estimated 3,000 dead.

            The US later imposed sanctions against US companies, prohibiting them from doing business with Burma.

            The European Union has imposed visa sanctions against the junta's leaders but stopped short of stopping their companies from doing business in the country.//dpa


             
            Asean's move: act decisively
            Words don't work; the grouping must take action to pressure the Burmese junta to restore democracy

            The Nation October 5, 2007

            The time has come for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to show its moral courage and reprimand its rogue member. Since its admission in 1997, Burma has been the regional grouping's main problem. Asean foreign ministers have issued a strong statement expressing "revulsion" over Burma's violent suppression of peaceful protesters. It was the first statement of its kind; the first to target a fellow member of the organisation. Now, Asean must prove that it is willing to go beyond words. Tangible action must be taken against the military junta in Rangoon.

            The United Nations special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, has just completed a mission inside Burma to discuss ways to end the conflict and accelerate the national reconciliation process. Asean should not fall back on its passivity. This is the best time to rein in Burma, otherwise the effectiveness of the rules-based organisation will be jeopardised.

            The UN and Asean have to work together to bring about positive change in Burma. It is ironic that recently in New York the Asean foreign ministers were scheduled to discuss, and wrap up, the draft of the Asean Charter. Instead they had to discuss the Burmese crisis because of growing international pressure.

            Asean responds well to international pressure but the grouping often falls short of action when that pressure subsides. This has been the case for the past decade. Therefore, the international community, especially Western countries, must keep the pressure on.

            Asean has protected Burma all along, arguing that the member countries do not have influence over the Burmese junta. Citing the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of members, Asean remains indifferent to the crackdown inside Burma. In the early 1990s, before Burma joined Asean, the group fiercely defended Burma's repressive actions. Later on, the grouping's core members became fed up with Burma's recalcitrance and complacency, and became more critical. But Asean has not gone beyond its verbal attacks.

            This lack of moral authority is being exposed as the whole world expresses outrage over the atrocities committed by the military in Burma. Asean has to come to grips with the reality in Burma, and with its moral obligation to ensure the wellbeing and protection of human rights of the Burmese people.

            The main objective of Asean by 2015 is to promote the quality of life of all of its citizens. The gross violations of the past week pose a huge challenge to the grouping's plan to set up a human rights body. The terms of reference have yet to be written and agreed upon. It would be a travesty if the Asean human rights body turns out to have no teeth to conduct investigations and punish perpetrators of crimes against humanity.

            Pending the outcome of Gambari's mission, Asean should build on its progress, or lack thereof. It is imperative that the UN and Asean join hands to make a positive impact. After all, they have worked together in other peace-making operations in Cambodia and East Timor.

            The most important thing to demand of the junta in Burma is the release of all political prisoners, especially Aung San Suu Kyi. Recently, when protestors, including Buddhist monks, stopped by her house, where she has been incarcerated for most of the past 19 years, it was clear that she continues to be the symbol of their democratic aspirations. Asean has to acknowledge her status and relevance in the political scheme of things there.

            Some Burma apologists think that it would be better to work with the military regime to bring about progress, but Aung San Suu Kyi is the best person to make an appeal for national reconciliation. The Burmese people are willing to listen to her rather than the junta, which has consistently lied to them and failed to deliver on promises of democratic reforms for almost two decades.

            Asean must seize this opportunity to ensure that the situation in Burma does not leave a permanent scar on its future. If the Burmese junta continues to have its way, as it has for nearly half a century, the grouping's Charter will make a mockery of the effort to build a true Asean community.




            Asean FMs may head to Rangoon

            BANGKOK POST and DPA

            Thailand and Singapore have agreed on the idea of sending foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to Rangoon to negotiate with the Burmese junta to end the pro-democracy crackdown there.

            Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont told Czech Republic ambassador Ivan Hotek, who paid a courtesy call at Government House yesterday, that Thailand was closely monitoring the situation in Burma and trusted that negotiations, not the use of force, could restore peace.

            He told the ambassador that he had discussed the issue with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and both countries agreed to having the regional group send foreign ministers to talk with the military regime.

            The situation in Burma will be an issue in the Asean summit held in Singapore next month, he added. Singapore chairs the 10-member group.

            National Legislative Assembly member Gothom Arya yesterday urged Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram, who is in the United States, to use Thai influence to put pressure on the Burmese junta to cease the crackdown.

            Mr Gothom said he was disappointed the government could assure only ''the fire in the neighbour's house would not spread to ours''.

            ''The US has cancelled visas and banned oil trade with Burmese firms. Australia rejected a military Burmese ambassadors. Japan postponed aid. France is pressuring the Total oil firm to halt its investments,'' Mr Gothom said. ''What Thailand has done is to support the Burmese junta.''

            Mr Nitya said from Washington DC after a meeting with US Congressmen that Thailand had to be cautious in its policy on Burma because problems in the neighbouring country would directly affect the kingdom.

            Meanwhile, Norwegian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bjorn Svenungsen said Norwegian diplomats met yesterday with a Burma army major who said he defected to Thailand because he did not want to shoot at civilians and monks.

            The meeting took place at the Norwegian embassy, but he declined to offer details or say if the officer, who in recent interviews was identified as Major Win, had applied for asylum.

            The former officer and his son, aged 17, arrived in Bangkok on Tuesday after five days on the run from Burma.


            Foreign Investment Finances Regime

            Companies Should Condemn Crackdown

            (New York, October 2, 2007) – Chinese, Indian, Thai, and other companies doing business in Burma should ensure their operations do not contribute to or benefit from human rights abuses, Human Rights Watch said today. The military government in Burma has launched a violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators that so far has led to many deaths, enforced disappearances, and mass arbitrary arrests.

            “Companies doing business in Burma argue their presence is constructive and will benefit the Burmese people, but they have yet to condemn the government’s abuses against its own citizens,” said Arvind Ganesan, director of the Business and Human Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “Keeping quiet while monks and other peaceful protesters are murdered and jailed is not evidence of constructive engagement.”  
             
            Human Rights Watch said that companies operating in Burma should use their influence with the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) to put an end to ongoing human rights abuses. In the current environment, companies should urge the SPDC to halt the crackdown, release all political prisoners, and open a real dialogue with opposition and ethnic groups. If the situation does not improve, companies should be prepared to reconsider their operations in the country.  
             
            Human Rights Watch said that there is no transparency in Burma about how much the government receives in oil and gas payments, nor clarity about how the funds are spent. The military receives the largest share of the official budget and the SPDC allocates only a pittance to social programs including health and education.  
             
            Foreign investment in Burma’s oil and natural gas sector is especially significant. Sales of natural gas account for the single largest source of revenue to the military government. Gas exports accounted for fully half of the country’s exports in 2006. Burma’s gas business brought in revenue of US$2.16 billion in 2006 from sales to its main buyer, Thailand. These funds flow directly to the government and provide the junta with a major source of financing that is completely independent of its citizens.  
             
            Current investors in Burma’s oil and gas industry include companies from Australia, the British Virgin Islands, China, France, India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Russia, and the United States.  
             
            The SPDC has greatly expanded investment in Burma’s oil and natural gas industry in recent years. Allowing foreign investment in oil and gas is apparently aimed at bringing in more revenue to keep the government afloat at a time when economic mismanagement and profligate spending on the military and the building of a new capital at Nay Pyi Taw have drained government finances. Natural gas exploration, development and production projects are under way in approximately 30 different gas fields. These projects are organized as joint ventures with the Burmese government’s Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE).  
             
            “Outside investment in Burma’s oil and gas industry has thrown a lifeline to the country’s brutal rulers,” added Ganesan. “The businesses that help finance the military shouldn’t argue that the government’s crackdown is not their problem.”  
             
            Details of the Deals  
             
            At present the SPDC receives the bulk of its gas money from the onshore “Yadana” and “Yetagun” gas fields. The Yadana consortium is led by Total of France and includes UNOCAL (now Chevron) of the United States and Thailand’s state-controlled PTT Exploration and Production Co Ltd (PTTEP). The Yetagun consortium, led by Malaysia’s state-owned Petronas, includes Japan’s Nippon Oil as well as PTTEP. PTTEP, a subsidiary of the largely state-owned PTT Public Co Ltd (PTT) of Thailand, buys the gas for export to Thailand.  
             
            Major offshore natural gas projects are under development. A consortium of South Korean and Indian firms, in partnership with the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, has made a large gas find off the coast of Arakan State in western Burma. Known as the “Shwe” gas project, it is expected to produce massive revenues once it is in production. Estimates of the gas yield of the Shwe deposits range between US$37 to US$52 billion, and could lead to a total gain in revenues to the junta or future Burmese governments of US$12 to US$17 billion over 20 years.  
             
            The Shwe gas consortium is composed of the South Korean company Daewoo International, state-owned companies from India and South Korea, and the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise. Some of the foreign partners also have separate deals with the Burmese government entity for other concessions.  
             
            On September 24, for example, India’s state-controlled Oil and Natural Gas Co (ONGC), whose subsidiary ONGC Videsh is a partner in the Shwe consortium, signed a deal with Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise to explore for gas in three more offshore blocks. Under the deal, Oil and Natural Gas Co pledged to invest US$150 million through ONGC Videsh.  
             
            India’s Office of the President holds nearly 75 percent of the shares in Oil and Natural Gas Co. India’s minister for oil, Murli Deora, traveled to the Burmese capital last week to sign the agreement as thousands of protesters in Burma took to the streets to call for political freedom, an end to the SPDC’s abuses, and economic improvements.  
             
            India, like China and Russia – which are also major investors in Burma’s natural gas sector – has provided
            political and military support to the SPDC. India and China are in competition to buy the Shwe gas. In August, a top Burmese energy official publicly confirmed that China was strongly favored to buy the gas, but indicated that a sales agreement was not yet final.  
             
            Chinese firms are also actively seeking to build oil and gas pipelines in Burma. One proposed pipeline would transport gas from the offshore Shwe project to China. A second pipeline would carry Middle Eastern oil across Burma into China, bypassing the busy shipping lanes of the Straits of Malacca. These proposals to build overland pipelines across Burma have raised serious
            human rights concerns, in light of past experience. Major controversies arose in the 1990s over construction of pipelines and associated infrastructure to transport Yadana-Yetagun gas. UNOCAL and Total were sued in the US and France, respectively, by Burmese villagers who accused them of complicity in atrocities by the Burmese army during operations to remove villagers from areas slated for development and to facilitate pipeline construction. The companies ultimately settled the lawsuits.  
             
            Two Chinese companies that have shown strong interest in the proposed new Burma-China pipeline projects are Sinopec and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC). Both are Chinese state-owned oil companies and are involved in gas exploration in Burma as well. They also are official “partners” (major sponsors) of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and are under increased scrutiny for the human-rights impact of their investments in Sudan and Burma.  
             
            India and China have been reluctant to criticize the recent crackdown. Russia joined China in blocking UN Security Council action on Burma.  
             
            In addition to foreign investors (both state-owned and private), the companies doing business with Burma include banks that arrange financial transactions and companies that import products from Burma. For example, timber exports to China have been substantial. The SPDC also draws significant revenue from sales of gems, notably rubies and jade. These gems are polished in third countries and then find their way to retail stores in Europe and the US, where sanctions permit imports of Burmese-origin goods that are processed in third countries.  
             
            The US has imposed new financial sanctions, intended to target overseas accounts of Burmese generals, and some European leaders have called for additional, targeted sanctions if the SPDC fails to halt its violent repression of dissent.  
             
            “The junta’s largest trading partners should insist that Burma’s rulers stop stuffing their own pockets and instead use these immense revenues to improve the lives of ordinary Burmese,” said Ganesan.

             
            BURMA: UN Getting Nowhere With the Generals
            By Marwaan Macan-Markar

            BANGKOK, Oct 2 (IPS) - Few foreigners are as qualified to talk about the mind and the manner of Burma’s dictatorship as Razali Ismail, a Malaysian diplomat who served five years as special United Nations envoy charged with facilitating political reform in that military-ruled country.

            ''When you are talking to the military chief there it is not a dialogue that you indulge in. In fact, you cannot expect to have a dialogue with him,’’ Razali, who has traded diplomacy for a career in business, told IPS during a telephone interview from Kuala Lumpur.

            Attempts by foreign envoys to discuss domestic politics with Senior Gen. Than Shwe, Burma’s strongman, are treated with a measure of contempt, as if it is ‘’an internal issue,’’ he added. ‘’In his mind, there is a sense of intrusiveness.’’

            What is more, the years he spent engaged with the Burmese junta confirmed that progress marches at a retarded pace. ‘’It is a very slow process dealing with an authoritarian government,’’ he said, reflecting on what he achieved since he began his U.N. mission in 2000.

            It was only in late 2002 that the country’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from years of house arrest following talks Razali had with the regime. But the Nobel Peace laureate’s emancipation was brief. She was forced back into another spell of house arrest in May 2003, which has still not been lifted. And Razali quit his post in early 2006 after he failed to persuade the junta to see reason -- which came on top of him being denied an entry visa to Burma for two years.

            Razali’s experience with Than Shwe and with one of the dictator’s former deputies, Gen. Khin Nyunt, offers some clues as to what the Burmese public and the international community can expect from the latest encounter between the world body and the reclusive, 73-year-old military chief.

            On Tuesday, Ibrahim Gambari, the U.N.’s special envoy to Burma, met with Than Shwe in the South-east Asian nation’s remote capital, Naypyidaw. It came three days after Gambari flew in on an emergency mission to convey the international community’s concern about the recent ‘’repression of peaceful protests’’ in Burma and to resume a ‘’constructive dialogue’’ to prod the regime towards political reform and democracy. The outcome of this meeting remains unknown.

            A similar cloak of secrecy was thrown over the meetings Gambari had on Sunday. The most significant was his encounter with Suu Kyi, a discussion that lasted for over an hour at a government-run guesthouse in Rangoon, the commercial capital. The Nigerian diplomat also had meetings with lower ranking government officials, such as Lt. Gen. Thein Sein, the acting prime minister, Brig. Gen. Kyaw San, the information minister, and Maj. Gen. Khin Aung Myint, the culture minister.

            This week’s visit to Burma, which the junta renamed Myanmar, was the third Gambari has made since mid-2006. After the two previous missions -- in May and November -- Gambari sought refuge in vague diplomatic lingo to convey what he had achieved. When describing his second visit, he said that there had been ‘’hard bargaining’’ between the two sides on some troubling political issues.

            But last year’s missions did not come against a backdrop of bloodshed and brutality on the streets of Burma’s main cities. Nor did it come in the wake of international outrage at the U.N. headquarters and some capitals of the world to the harsh measures the junta had pursued to crackdown a peaceful protests of Buddhist monks and civilians against new economic hardships and the junta’s oppressive rule.

            In fact, as Gambari arrived in Burma on Saturday, there was speculation among Burma analysts that he would be given an opportunity to meet the senior generals who matter. The absence of such an encounter on Sunday and Monday only heightened such concern, since a failure by the U.N. envoy to talk to the leading generals would have led to a simple conclusion -- a mission with no meaning.

            The troika that holds the levers of power in the junta includes Gen. Maung Aye and Lt. Gen. Soe Win. Than Shwe who earned his stripes as a specialist at psychological warfare and is also known for his ruthless shoot-to-kill measures, deployed against the separatist Karen ethnic rebels in the east of the country, became the head of the junta in 1992.

            And since then, Than Shwe has had a steady stream of U.N. envoys who have sought his attention but who have come away ignored, denied subsequent access and, most importantly, empty-handed. The list begins with Yozo Kokota of Japan, who served as a U.N. human rights envoy from 1992-1996, and Alvaro de Soto of Peru, who served as a U.N. special envoy from 1997-1999.

            In all, there have been six U.N. envoys with different mandates who have sought change in Burma. And hardly any of them have enjoyed the liberty to work in a free environment to pursue their various missions. The Orwellian conditions the regime subjects U.N. envoys to was best conveyed during the last visit Paulo Sergio Pinheiro made to Burma in November 2003. The Brazilian diplomat discovered that the room assigned him to interview human rights victims was bugged.

            It is a record that has given rise to a view about how Than Shwe sees the world body and its special envoys. ‘’Than Shwe treats meetings with U.N. envoys like a war. That is a result of his military thinking,’’ says Win Min, a Burmese academic at Chiang Mai University, in northern Thailand. ‘’He first sends lower ranking ministers as he would send front-line troops to find out what the U.N. wants and what questions he may have to answer.’’

            This week’s crucial meeting with Gambari had another element, too, Win Min explained in an IPS interview. ‘’It would have been shameful for him to meet Gambari, since Than Shwe does not want any outsider or foreigner to know what is going on in the country and to offer solutions.’’

            And as long as the junta remains in power, the U.N. and the international community will have little alternative other than working with the generals, says Razali, the former U.N. envoy. ‘’The bottom line is that you have to work with the military. You cannot get rid of them.’’

            (END/2007)

             
            Appeal from an interfaith and interethnic network group of communicators inside Burma
             
            1. We wholeheartedly support and respect the courageous movement of the selfless peace-loving monks, students, opposition party members and the public in their current struggle. We honour them for leading the action for justice and democracy, knowing very well that there will be brutal reprisals. 
            2. We absolutely abhor and condemn the military leaders who are master-minding the cowardly military crackdown that is escalating.
            3. We earnestly request and appeal to all other faith communities in Burma and around the world to join in solidarity and action with the demonstrators at this very crucial time in Burma's history. We ask that they start a movement of prayer vigil for justice and peace and blessing to all the demonstrators and their families. We fully believe and are convinced that, not by might, but by the power of the spirit of justice and equality and compassion towards fellow human beings, truth and common-sense will prevail. 
            4. We fervently urge and appeal to the UN and ASEAN nations to re-think their acceptance of the murderous junta as their members. Their acceptance legitimises and acknowledges the junta as a legal government. This is totally despicable and we urge the UN and ASEAN to immediately demand democracy and help the peaceful demonstrators, if not we will consider them as contributors to the current atrocities.
            5. We fully insist that the UN Special Envoy Mr Ibrahim Gambari must send a very firm and strong message to the junta that they are murderous illegal usurpers of the people's peace, freedom and justice. Gambari must staunchly refuse to enter into any discussions with the junta if they are prohibited from meeting Aung San Suu Kyi and the leaders of the demonstrations and democracy movement.
            6. We truly want all justice and peace-loving countries in the world to renounce the military junta as utterly ruthless self-centred dictators. The world is now a witness to the robotic-killing squads that the military are using against their own innocent people. China, India and Russia must now prove that they are not 'paying lip-service' to freedom, democracy and human rights.
            7. We must not let the efforts of the admirable demonstrators – the dead, dying, injured, arrested, imprisoned, tortured, monks and people be in vain. We must not ignore what is happening in Burma. If we do so, the specter of the evil deeds will perpetually haunt the whole world and we will not be able to live with our guilty conscience.
            * This network is working for social change and political transformation towards democracy. Burma, Friday 28 September 2007 

             
            Myanmar dragnet nabs clappers, citizen journalists - Summary
             
            Yangon - In their ongoing dragnet on dissent in Yangon, where tens-of-thousands took to the streets in protests last week, military authorities have arrested people who merely clapped for the demonstrators or took pictures of the events, sources said Thursday. On Wednesday night security personnel raided homes situated along Kyartawya Street, east of the Shwedagon Pagoda, and arrested scores of people who had allegedly given moral support to the monk-led peaceful demonstrations that rocked Yangon between September 18 to 26, informed sources said.

            "Their crime was for clapping and encouraging the monks," said one observer.

            The Shwedagon, Yangon's most sacred shrine, was the springboard for the monks' barefoot marches against the regime last month that ended in a brutal crackdown that left ten dead, according to the government. Others believe the death toll was much higher.

            Several amateur photographers who took photos of the protests and crackdown and posted them on Internet sites have also been detained, sources said. According to the Oslo-based opposition radio station Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), at least 20 journalists have been arrested since the crackdown began.

            "The State Peace and Deevlopment Council is now targeting journalists, mainly local journalists," said DVB editor Khin Maung Win.

            Last month's protests have been hailed by the Western press as a triumph for the Internet and citizen journalists, who managed to get photos and information out of the country via the Internet despite the regime's heavy clamp on news and newsmen.

            But the new wave of journalism in Myanmar has not proven impervious to the regime's old methods of suppressing news through terror and intimidation.

            A Japanese photo-journalist was shot dead in the crackdown on demonstrators.

            Security personnel have been raiding households in Yangon on a nightly basis since the regime began to crack down on the anti-military protests on September 26.

            Democratic Voice of Burma on Thursday said it had received accounts of new raids on monasteries in the former Myanmar capital Yangon. At least four more monks were arrested, the radio station's news editor Moe Aye said, in addition to the hundreds nabbed in the early stages of the crackdown.

            "There is clearly a dragnet out there," said one Western diplomat.

            Thousands have already been arrested in Yangon and no independent agency has been permitted to visit them.

            "I am very concerned about the fate of the detainees because their numbers are apparently quite high, and there is no outside body that is allowed to visit them," said Finnish ambassador to Yangon Lars Backstrom.

            The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been denied access to Myanmar's prisons.

             
             
            Thousands of Christians began a fast throughout Burma on Wednesday to pray for the release of arrested pro-democracy protesters and for peace to prevail in Burma.

            A local resident in Myitkyina, in upper Burma’s Kachin State, said about 6,000 people from 57 parishes in the Myitkyina region were participating in the fast from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. in various churches. Collections were taken for the relief of needy people.

            “They pray for a change of mind by the Burmese military leaders,” he said.

            Pastors of some churches were reported to have condemned the junta for its violent crackdown on dissension.

            Other fasts were being held in Bamaw, Lashio, Moekaung, Mohnyin, Kengtung, and in Rangoon and Mandalay divisions.

            The fasts were organized by members of the Myitkyina-based Kachin Baptist Convention.

            The Kachin Independence Organization, the biggest ethnic Kachin ceasefire group, which signed a truce with the Burmese military junta in February 1994, had no comment to make on the fast, a KIO official.


            A statement issued by the People’s Movement Leader Committee has called for nationwide prayer meetings to honour those who were killed in the recent protests.

            PMLC was formed on 27 September and is comprised of a number of Burmese groups including the All-Burmese Monks Alliance, the 88 Generation Students and the Ethnic Youth Cooperation Group.

            The statement calls on monks, students and civilians of all religions and ethnic groups to gather at their own places of worship from 5 October to 7 October to light candles and observe a period of silent prayer. Buddhists are also asked to raise sangha flags at their houses and monasteries.

            “[The prayer meetings will] mark our great sorrow for the monks, students and civilian martyrs who sacrificed their lives, under the inhumane torturing and ruthless murdering of a handful of dictators, during the movement to bring us national independence,” the statement says.

            Guidance for prayer is also given, asking people to pray for Burma’s freedom from suppression and the release of those detained.

            “We vow to completely wipe the military dictatorship out of our new society’s history to fulfil the wish of those who have died and wanted democracy, equality and independence,” the guidance concludes.

             
          • CHAN Beng Seng
            1.. Burma dragnet still spread 2.. Burma needs to feel the heat from all sides 3.. Maintaining momentum 4.. Burmese monk speaks of interrogation horror 5..
            Message 5 of 14 , Oct 8, 2007
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              1. Burma dragnet still spread
              2. Burma needs to feel the heat from all sides
              3. Maintaining momentum
              4. Burmese monk speaks of interrogation horror
              5. Drugs and Astrology: How 'bulldog' Wields Power
              6. Junta shows Suu Kyi on TV
              7. No action on Burma: UN Security Council
              8. Myanmar and the loss of legitimacy
              9. Myanmar turns cameras on dissidents
               
               
               

               
              Burma dragnet still spread
              BangkokPost: 8 Oct.07

              Rangoon - More than a week after crushing a peaceful, monk- led rebellion, the Burmese junta continues to arrest and interrogate alleged participants in the anti-regime revolt, state media acknowledged Sunday.

              On Saturday, authorities rounded up another 78 "abettors" to the protests, which rocked Rangoon from September 18-25, peaking with 100,000 monks and laymen followers in the streets of the former capital, said The New Light of Myanmar, a government mouthpiece.

              Of the 78 detainees, six were later released. Of the estimated 2,700 people, including 533 monks, authorities have arrested over the last 10 days about 1,600 have already been released, including some 400 monks, state media claims.

              The numbers cannot be verified because the military rulers have not allowed an independent agency to conduct an investigation into the atrocities committed last month. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been blocked for months from making prison visits in the country.

              The military claims that only 10 people died in the crackdown, but Burmese activists claim the total death toll was closer to 200, citing witness accounts of mass cremations following the mayhem and a steady flow of corpses from Rangoon's notorious Insein prison.

              Burma's so-called "saffron revolt," named for the saffron robes worn by Buddhist monks, was crushed on September 26-27 by Burmese anti-riot police and soldiers.

              The crackdown has outraged world opinion and strengthened international pressure on the regime to initiate a dialogue with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the world's only jailed Nobel peace laureate.

              Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Prize in 1991 for her leadership role in a courageous anti-military movement, has been under house arrest in near complete isolation since May 2003 at her Rangoon family compound.

              Since her first incarceration in 1989, she has spent nearly 12 of the last 17 years under house arrest.

              In talks on October 2 with United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari, the junta head Senior General Than Shwe agreed to personally meet with Suu Kyi on the preconditions that she drop calls for "confrontation" with the regime and end her support for Western sanctions, imposed on the country since 1988 in the aftermath of the military's even more brutal crackdown on its own people that left an estimated 3,000 people dead.

              Observers fear the preconditions are a manoeuvre to place blame on Suu Kyi if the dialogue fails to take place.

              Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party won the 1990 general election by a landslide but ever since has been blocked from taking power by the military.

              Burma has been under military rule since 1962. (dpa)


              Burma needs to feel the heat from all sides

              A firm pincer move is urgently needed to deal with the Burmese junta at the regional and international level in order to produce a desired outcome.
              The Nation October 8, 2007

              Asean must press Burma to take more time out, while the UN goes for targeted sanctions. These combined measures must be sustained over time to work. This is the first time since 1988 that there has been an international outcry over the regime's crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators, including monks and students, with additional appeals coming from dozens of former world leaders. Thanks to the junta's own doing, Burma is today's hot news.

              Asean has to do more than just issue a condemnation of Burma. The upcoming Asean summit, scheduled for November 19 to 21 in Singapore, could serve as a venue for concrete action. As host, the republic has the enormous, if not impossible, task to protect the grouping's interest in such a way that the international community does not regard its response with "revulsion", to use the term that most Asean foreign ministers are quoted as using when describing the current situation in Burma.

              At 40, Asean must be bolder and yet more pragmatic when it comes to issues related to unity and survivability. Members of other regional organisations would be suspended or expelled for such grotesque violations of human rights, especially those targeting a revered religious community. This is not the practice in Asean. If the grouping were to take such a severe action now at this pivotal moment in its history, it would have two immediate effects.

              First of all, it would set a precedent that Asean fears could lead to a similar action being taken against other members. From July 1995 onwards, Asean admitted new members that were former adversaries without sufficiently preparing for each country's membership. Inclusion is better than exclusion at all costs went the argument after the end of the Cambodian conflict. From 1995-1999, four new members were added, bringing together all of the countries of Southeast Asia under one umbrella and fulfilling the dreams of the founding fathers in 1967.

              Unlike the European Union, Asean operates on an agreed-upon lowest common denominator. Over the past decade, similar political outlooks, with the small exception of Cambodia, and solidarity among new members have incrementally diluted values and norms shared by core members. Equal voting rights and the need for consensus has further slowed the decision-making process, and watered down the Asean charter. Shameful as it may seem, even at this crucial moment no Asean member would dare or care to include sanctions as part of the charter.

              Furthermore, Asean leaders understand that their strength comes from unity, even with a rogue member. To expel Burma would be to commit self-destruction, which Asean will not do. This is not the first time Burma has been a controversial subject. The Burmese crisis has featured prominently in Asean discussions with its dialogue partners since 1991, even before the country joined the grouping. A tireless campaign favouring equal treatment for the junta has won the grouping numerous bouts with outside supporters. Burma's admission to the Asia-Europe Meeting last year in Helsinki and Washington's willingness to meet directly with Burmese officials were cases in point.

              In the past, Asean had no reason to give in to international pressure, let alone Burma. However, thanks to the proliferation of new media, this time round the moral climate is so contagious and reactions are high on Burma. Therefore, Asean initiatives receptive to a certain degree to outside pressure are indispensable. As Asean chair, Singapore has mastered this diplomatic undertaking. That said, it would be a surprise if Asean leaders take the most practical step and call for Burma to stay away from the grouping's meetings and programmes until the situation improves.

              For Asean, the situation in Burma would be sufficient to justify sanctions for non-compliance. Upon its request in 2005, Burma agreed to skip its turn as Asean chair and allow other members to move ahead with the annual conference. The reason given was that Burma needed time to concentrate on national reconciliation and its political problems.

              To defuse this Asean time bomb, as former Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew aptly described it, Burma should be persuaded to take a time-out from Asean of its own volition. This would be a win-win situation and save Asean from disgrace. For selfish reasons, keeping Burma away from Asean for now gives the grouping extra room to manoeuvre in coping with pending UN-related pressure. Asean would then be able to support necessary UN-led efforts to end the Burmese impasse. This approach would immediately quell criticisms of Asean and permit the grouping to sign its charter as planned on November 20 in Singapore.

              At the international level, Asean would comply with any UN Security Council resolution that calls for sanctions, if one comes. Along with Western governments and their major investors, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia must be prepared for targeted sanctions.

              A concerted financial embargo, along the lines of that used against North Korea last year, could break the junta's spine.

              Understanding Asean's limitations and what it can practically do is the first step to engaging the grouping on Burma. Asean must also chip in before Burma breaks into smithereens. Only with Asean's help can international and regional pressure synergise and produce the desired outcome.

              Kavi Chongkittavorn


              Maintaining momentum

              Exiled Burmese democracy advocate Zaw Min hopes the current unrest builds and finally unseats the junta
              The Nation October 7, 2007

              Zaw Min, the spokesperson for Burma's Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS), has lived in exile, mainly in Thailand, since 1990.

              "At the time, Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), which included several affiliated parties such as the DPNS, won the general election, but the junta, then led by General Saw Muang, rejected the results and put the NLD leader under house arrest," said Zaw Min, 45.

              In the past few weeks, Zaw Min, who earned his first degree in English literature from the University of Mandalay in 1986 and a master's degree from the London School of Economics in 2003, has been closely monitoring the latest developments in Burma from his base in Bangkok.

              "There were no demonstrations in Rangoon last Monday and Tuesday due to a heavy military presence.

              "According to my sources, the biggest demonstrations took place from September 25 to September 29, during which the number of demonstrators was estimated to be up to 100,000 scattered in several places in Rangoon.

              "About 400 monks and laymen were said to have been killed, with up to 3,000 arrested by the junta.

              "The trigger was a sharp rise in fuel prices, resulting in much higher food and travel expenses, worsening the plight of most Burmese, who have long suffered from chronic poverty and hyper-inflation.

              "In 1990, I remember a cup of coffee or tea was very cheap, but it's now 200 kyat (Bt5.5), whereas income has remained unchanged over the years. The average salary is currently less than the equivalent of Bt1,000 per month.

              "With the latest fuel-price hike, a two-way bus fare to go to work and return home now accounts for up to 20 per cent of a worker's daily wage. So many people were fed up and joined the demonstrations against the junta.

              "We've demanded that the junta quickly reduce food and fuel prices, release all political prisoners and open a new dialogue with political parties," said Zaw Min.

              In general, the Burmese have less political awareness and alertness than their Thai counterparts due to the widespread destruction of political, economic and social institutions in the past several decades.

              "Our democratic struggle has suffered since the end of World War Two, or in the past 50 years. In addition, we've suffered from a lack of national economic development since the 1950s.

              "In fact, several generals also ran Thailand in those years, but these Thai generals appeared to be smarter than their Burmese counterparts.

              "For instance, Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram was able to generate economic growth for Thailand in the late 1950s while he was in power.

              "Together with the building of democratic and related institutions, Thailand was therefore in a better position to promote democracy and citizens' freedoms than Burma.

              "Our worst period was after 1962, when General Ne Win took over. Various institutions for a civil society were destroyed. Power strictly came from the gun barrels.

              "I think our generals have also suffered from the post-colonial mentality, resulting in a very inward-looking policy as they hoped to lead the country in safe isolation. In this context, there are similarities to North Korea.

              "As a result, the people have suffered from chronic poverty and the lack of decent education.

              "As of now, I hope the anti-junta demonstrations will be able to maintain the momentum and spread out into many more cities so that it becomes a nationwide event [as it did with the 1988 student uprising] so that we may successfully overthrow the junta.

              "Victory may come in a year or two years or 10 years. That I don't know, but it should be sooner rather than later. For me, it's already been a 19-year struggle. In South Africa, Mandela's struggle was 27 years before it was successful," he said.

              Nophakhun Limsamarnphun


              To the 18-year-old novice monk, the makeshift jail seemed like a deliberate mockery of life in the Buddhist monastery from which he had been dragged. Sitting in rows from one end of the room to the other were hundreds of hushed, cross-legged figures, their heads bowed and their eyes shut tight.

              The smell, though, was not of incense but unwashed bodies and soiled clothes, and the sounds that broke the hush were of pain rather than of prayer.

              This was the scene last week inside the Government Technology Institute in Rangoon, one of four buildings used as holding centres for the thousands of monks, democracy activists and ordinary civilians arrested during Burma’s vanquished pro democracy uprisings.
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              Built by the British during colonial rule in 1905, its crumbling, redbrick schoolrooms have lain empty for years. Now, however, the military junta has reopened them to teach the people a lesson it intends them never to forget: defy us at your peril.

              Such is the climate of fear on the streets of Rangoon that few details have emerged of what has gone on inside the holding centres, whose existence has not been officially confirmed by the government. However, via a trusted intermediary, The Sunday Telegraph was able to obtain the first-hand account of a novice monk who was released from the technology institute camp last week.

              Showing vicious bruises on his face and arms from soldiers’ truncheons, he told how he spent seven terrifying nights there after being arrested, along with scores of other monks, at a Rangoon monastery early on the morning of September 27.

              “Day and night, we had to sit in crowded rows with our heads bowed down. If we spoke, looked up or fell asleep, we would be hit,” said the monk, who asked not to be named. “We weren’t allowed to move it all, not even to go to the lavatory – we had to just do it where we were sitting. Once in the morning, and once in the afternoon, the guards would come and give us water, but it would be only one or two bottles for 50 people or more.”

              Some of the prisoners, he said, had severe wounds sustained during arrest, with cuts and gashes on arms and legs that had gone right through to the bone.

              Yet despite the filthy, insanitary conditions in which they were being held, no medical treatment was offered whatever. During his time in custody, he claimed, he saw numerous fellow inmates pass out as they sat in the holding area. Three, he believes, died from their injuries.

              Every now and then, prisoners would be taken off in groups of 10 for interrogations in neighbouring rooms, where they would sit on the floor opposite rows of plain-clothes intelligence officers who sat behind a long trestle table. Each prisoner would then go through remorseless questioning aimed at identifying ringleaders.

              Many of his fellow inmates, the monk said, were innocent bystanders who had been arrested by mistake, but after interrogation, their testimony was checked with local intelligence officials in their neighbourhoods. If they corroborated their claims, they would be freed: if not, they would remain for further questioning.

              At one point, a group of abbots from a monastery thought to be sympathetic to the military regime were brought in to ask the monks to swap their filthy robes for civilian clothes.

              The request, however, was interpreted as a symbolic “defrocking” designed to humiliate them. It prompted an outburst from the prisoners that led some of their soldier guards to show remorse.

              “Some of the monks said to the soldiers, ‘You are committing a religious crime by trying to remove our robes from us, how can you do this?’ They said, ‘We are sorry, we know we are committing a religious crime, but we have no choice’.”

              After being released last week, the 18-year-old novice was given a travel order telling him to return to his home village outside Rangoon rather than go back to his monastery in the city. Exactly how many others are still in custody remains unclear.

              The Burmese authorities admit to having detained nearly 3,000, and claim that all but 109 have been released, but human rights groups and Burmese journalists in Rangoon view such claims with scepticism.

              “In Rangoon alone, we think that up to 25 monasteries were raided last week, and those are just the ones we know about,” said one local political analyst whose staff have been monitoring the situation.

              “We think there could be anything up to 9,000 in jail right now, and the government is still looking for people.”

              The hunt, he said, was focused on rooting out members of the National League for Democracy, the dissident activist group whose members are thought to have loosely co-ordinated the protests.

              More than 300 had been arrested nationwide, he said, although key members remained at large. As one of the conditions for his release, the novice monk was made to sign a paper agreeing not to tell anybody about what had happened to him. He decided to speak out none the less.

              Yet, despite his ordeal, he emphasised that he felt sorry for his captors, as well as for his fellow captives.

              “Because I am a monk, I simply mean love and kindness towards these people,” he said.

              “I pity them and I pray for them.”

              http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/10/07/wburma207.xml  


              Drugs and Astrology: How 'bulldog' Wields Power
              Gaurdian 6 Oct.2007
               
              Paranoia, corruption and megalomania are the hallmarks of the brutal dictator Than Shwe.
               
              He would not be the most obvious choice as the man to organize the catering at your daughter's wedding. But then Senior General Than Shwe, Burma's military dictator, is not a man driven by convention. They say you can judge the man by the company he keeps. In this case the wedding planner for one of the world's top 10 dictators was Lo Hsing Han, one of south east Asia's infamous opium lords, 'reinvented' as a Rangoon businessman.

              Welcome to the world of General Than Shwe - nicknamed, in muted whispers, the 'Bulldog'. Alliances in the tight circle surrounding him are oiled by money, influence and business opportunities, including arms and heroin dealing, and defined by paranoia, self-enrichment and astrology.

              Than Shwe, 74, in power since 1992, is famed in Burma for his megalomania. The junta's bunker capital, Naypyidaw - 'The King's Place' - was built on the advice of his astrologer. A common rumor - exiles and dissidents paint the picture of a mad despot - is that the superstitious Than Shwe believes he is a Buddha. He commissioned a Buddha statue, whose face is uncannily like his own, which stands in Rangoon's most sacred pagoda, Shwedagon, where opposition activists go to venerate Aung San Suu Kyi.

              But it was last year's extravagant wedding of Than Shwe's daughter that offered his subjects a rare glimpse inside this secretive world. A video was leaked onto the internet, showing a well-fed Thandar Shwe, perspiring under the weight of diamond-encrusted necklaces and hair bands and swathed in yards of silk as plump junta members sat on gold-trimmed chairs in front of a five-tiered wedding cake and champagne. For the Burmese, who struggle to find basic foodstuffs, the lavishness of the scene seemed surreal.

              Lo Hsing Han, chair of Burma's Asia World conglomerate which owns a share in Rangoon's famous hotel Traders, organized the catering, while another crony, Tay Za, head of the Htoo Trading Company, footed much of the bill. While Lo Hsing Han's relationship with the junta has focused on a joint interest in the heroin trade, Tay Za's has more personal links. The tycoon is reputed to have dated one of Than Shwe's daughters, Khin Pyone - although Htoo Trading denies the relationship. When Than Shwe and his family go on holiday, it has often been to the beach at Ngwe Hsaung where Tay Za owns a resort. He has traveled there on occasion to avoid visiting foreign delegations or UN emissaries.

              According to Irrawaddy - the opposition magazine - Than Shwe last year asked the businessman to procure five armored Toyota Land Cruisers.

              The quid pro quo for Tay Za's close relationship with General Than Shwe has been access to arms deals. Tay Za serves as the representative in Burma for Russia's aircraft maker Mapo and helicopter firm Rostvertol. Opposition groups say that in the 2002 Tay Za was instrumental in securing a deal that saw Russia sell 10 MiG-29 jet fighters for US$130m to the junta.

              The life enjoyed by Than Shwe is a far cry from his humble beginnings. Born in 1933, and failing to complete his high school education, Than Shwe was a clerk before joining the army in 1953 where he began working as a psychological warfare officer. By the age of 50 he had risen through the ranks to take command of a relatively tranquil post in the Irrawaddy delta, close to Rangoon. He spent his time reading Time magazine, playing golf or dressing up in traditional Burmese outfits. He was, as he remains, sullen and unresponsive.

              By the time dictator Bo Ne Win was shunted aside after the coup that followed the brutally suppressed democracy uprisings of 1988, Than Shwe was one of three in line to replace him. Profiting from the rivalry between the other two, he came out ahead. According to some, his most dreaded political weapon was his ability to bore everyone else into submission.

              After orchestrating the move to Naypyidaw, in 2005, Than Shwe became even more isolated from the 50 million people of Burma whose economy he is largely responsible for grinding into the dirt. When he is seen in public it is more often than not to participate in some arcane ceremony to bolster the military's grip on power.
               

               
              Junta shows Suu Kyi on TV

              BangkokPost: 6 Oct.2007 Rangoon - The Burmese junta claimed it had freed hundreds of detained monks, but said it was hunting for four Buddhist clerics it described as ringleaders of the uprising.

              The military rulers restored Internet access after a week, one of a number of steps that appeared aimed at appeasing world opinion as the United Nations debated the crisis.

              The dictatorship also ordered its tightly controlled media on Friday to broadcast rare footage of detained democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi on state television for the first time in at least four years.

              Rights groups have called for a global day of protests on Saturday over the crackdown on peaceful protests demonstrations in Burma.

              Events are to take place at midday local time, and have already been scheduled in Thailand, as well as Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Spain, the UK and the United States.

              The TV report showed Aung San Suu Kyi with UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari and said he met the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) twice and held talks with regime leader General Than Shwe during his four-day visit this week.

              Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has spent most of the past 18 years under house arrest, and her image has not appeared in state media since before her last period of detention started in 2003.

              The junta has said Than Shwe was ready for a face-to-face meeting with her, provided she first drops her call for sanctions against the country, and an NLD spokesman said she was looking positively at the offer of dialogue.

              The TV report - broadcast as UN members were discussing the crackdown on protesters - referred to her as "Daw Aung San Suu Kyi," using a respectful form of address, rather than just her name, as was common in the past.

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              Aung San Suu Kyi, 62, whose NLD won 1990 elections but was never allowed to govern, continues to symbolise the nation's democratic aspirations.

              The regime also admitted that security forces last week raided 18 monasteries and jailed more than 700 people - part of the more than 2,000 people detained in the sweep - but said only 109 monks now remain in custody.

              Buddhist monks were at the vanguard of the largest anti-regime protests the country has seen in almost 20 years before they were crushed last week, leaving at least 13 people dead.

              The state media report said Gambari had told Burma "to find a political solution by avoiding a violent crackdown," to pull back troops and end an overnight curfew, and to "start solid steps for the democracy process."

              He had also asked that the International Committee for the Red Cross be allowed to meet with the detainees and that all political prisoners be released as soon as possible, state media said in unusually detailed reporting.

              Culture Minister Khin Aung Myint, a regime spokesman, had replied that the protests were "not in a democratic way," that the protesters were only detained for investigation, and that "there are no political prisoners" in Burma.

              In New York, Burma was under the spotlight at the United Nations over its bloody crackdown last week, images of which have horrified the world.

              At least 13 people were killed when troops opened fire at the peaceful demonstrators, but most observers believe the true death toll is far higher.

              Gambari, addressing the world body, warned the generals that their crackdown on anti-government protests "can have serious international repercussions."

              "No country can afford to act in isolation from the standards by which all members of the international community are held," said Gambari.

              US ambassador the UN Zalmay Khalilzad warned: "If the Burmese regime does not respond constructively to the demands of the international community in a timely manner, the United States is prepared to introduce a resolution in the Security Council imposing sanctions."

              The State Department, meanwhile, said a meeting earlier Friday between the top US diplomat in Burma and the junta was "not a terribly edifying meeting from our perspective."

              UN ambassador Wang Guangya of China - a major trade partner and arms supplier of Burma - said that putting pressure on the military rulers to achieve greater democratisation "would only lead to confrontation."

              China has already opposed UN sanctions when in January in a rare double move with Russia it vetoed a draft US-sponsored resolution urging the Burmese rulers to free all political detainees and end sexual violence by the military. (Agencies)


              No action on Burma: UN Security Council

              New York - With the UN Security Council divided over actions to support democracy in a country ruled by a military junta, special envoy Ibrahim Gambari said Friday he plans to return to Southeast Asia and Burma in early November to see "all people and stay as long as possible."

              The Nation: 6 Oct.2007

              Gambari said his three-day visit to Burma was "tightly controlled" by the military and he was not allowed to see the people he wanted to see. As a compromise, he said the government allowed him some liberty but he had to comply with some of their own programme.

              Gambari had planned to return to Rangoon by mid-November, but he now said the visit was pushed up so he can visit some Asian capitals and return to Rangoon. The planning for the trip is underway, Gambari told reporters after briefing the council about his findings and meeting with the body behind closed doors.

               He said he had demanded the military leaders take action on a series of issues he presented them, including national dialogue with a deadline to achieve "results reflecting the will of the people."

              "We want time-bound, concrete and serious results," Gambari said, adding that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is also "very anxious" to see those results.

              Gambari met with Suu Kyi twice during the three-day visit, describing her as "frail, but looking better this time than last November when I met her" in Rangoon. He said "deep mistrust" exists between Suu Kyi and the military leaders and the UN is trying to bridge that mistrust.

              When asked whether Suu Kyi had called for sanctions against the military, Gambari told reporters he could not interpret what she had said.

              Gambari told the council that as of Friday, a total of 2,095 people arrested had been released, including 728 monks, and the government had promised to free more.

              Gambari rejected the military's assertion that the popular demonstrations were instigated by opposition elements and the protests were limited to Rangoon and Mandalay.

              "It is clear that the demonstrations over the past few weeks are for the most part the expression of deep and widespread discontent about socio-economic conditions in the country," he said.

              UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon branded the repressions as "abhorrent and unacceptable," and said the "unknown predicament" of thousands of people arrested without due process is a matter of serious concern.

               The 15-nation council issued no official statement on the situation in Burma after hearing Ban, Gambari and council members. The United States and Britain called for strong measures like sanctions while China said the Burma people should resolve their own problems.

              US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad expressed impatience with the inaction, saying it was "time for the council to do more than listen to briefings."

              In Washington, the White House urged the council to respond "seriously" - including with possible sanctions. The US has already imposed sanctions on the regime's leadership, including a travel ban and an assets freeze.

              "What we are considering is any further steps, whether it be additional sanctions or other types of actions," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

              Khalilzad said the US is ready to submit a draft resolution to impose sanctions on Burma's military junta, a move supported by British Ambassador John Sawers.

              Sawers and Khalilzad said the situation in Burma is a threat to international peace and security, but that description was rejected by Chinese's Ambassador Wang Guangya, who also opposed a council statement suggested by his American counterpart.

              Russia and some other council members preferred Gambari's diplomacy, saying that he should return to Burma as soon as possible. Ban said Gambari will return to that country in mid-November.

              Singapore's Ambassador Vanu Gopala Menon  told the council that any solution to the problems in Burma must include the military. His country currently chairs the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), which has condemned the repression of demonstrations.

              "The military is a key institution in Burma that cannot be automatically wished away," Menon said, speaking as Asean chair. "If the military is not part of the solution, there will be no solution."

              The Burma UN Ambassador U Kyaw Tint Swe, who also addressed the council, argued that Menon was not speaking as head of the Asean group at UN headquarters, but only in his national capacity.//dpa


              Myanmar and the loss of legitimacy
               By David I Steinberg
               
               The tragic recent events in Myanmar, whose true magnitude remains unknown, are one more indication to the international community of the illegitimacy of the military junta. This position, however, is far more complex when internally viewed. To the Western world, popular elections and the delivery of goods, services and security are those elements that comprise legitimacy. Thus, to the external world Myanmar has miserably failed.
               
               Although there is a dispute about what the May 1990 elections were for, there is no question that the National League for Democracy (NLD) swept the field with about 80% of the seats and 59% of the votes, but were denied recognition. Even though the macro-economic position of the country since 1988 has vastly improved, from foreign exchange holdings of perhaps US$30 million then to some $770 million last year and increases are likely due to newly explored offshore gas reserves, the living standards of ordinary citizens has declined, and at last half are either below or at the poverty line.
               
               The standards of education and health are abysmal and Myanmar has the lowest per capita income in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. So by all Western measurements, the military regime has no legitimacy. Even the name of the country is a surrogate indicator of legitimacy: the United States and some international news outlets such as England's BBC still choose to use "Burma" while the United Nations and much of the rest of the world use "Myanmar".
               
               Yet internal measurements of legitimacy are more complicated. Although Western measurements may be accepted by some of the urbanized elite and those exposed to the outside world, many in Myanmar may believe the traditional view of the sorry state of their lives: that this is due to the Buddhist concept of reincarnation where deficiencies in past lives have affected, even caused, their present problems.
               
               Although there are traditional Buddhist views of the proper attributes of kingship or administration, which the present regime has lacked, belief in the personal responsibility for one's sorry state may still carry weight. So the failure to deliver goods and services may be somewhat mitigated by a traditional view of the cycle of life.
               
               The essential element of legitimacy in Myanmar has been Buddhism. As someone once wrote, "To be Burman is to be Buddhist," and virtually all of the Myanmar population (some two-thirds of the national population) are Buddhist. Buddhism looms large in the political equation. Buddhism is a matter of profound belief and an administrative necessity for virtually all higher levels of government, for under the military (but not the previous civilian government) one must be Buddhist and Burman to rule. There are virtually no Christians or Muslims in the higher ranks of the military or civil service.
               
               The military leaders, as well as U Nu (first prime minister of independent Burma and prime minister overthrown by Ne Win in 1962) and his entourage and opposition, have been devout Buddhists, but they have also used Buddhism as a political tool as well as an individual credo. U Nu built a pagoda to establish legitimacy for the state and for his administration. U Nu won the 1960 elections by promising to make Buddhism the state religion. Ne Win and every military leader have built pagodas, and hundreds have been repaired in Pagan and other areas, much to the horror of archeologists and art historians because of inappropriate methodologies.
               
               Practically every day in the New Light of Myanmar, the official publication (and previously known as the Working People's Daily), there are stories and pictures of the military paying obeisance to the monks, making offerings, or performing some other appropriate act. There has been a calculated policy of associating the military leadership and rule with Buddhism.
               
               In addition, the Buddhist hierarchy is administratively controlled by the military. What is taught in Buddhist institutions, the number of Buddhist sects, and other administrative aspects are under military control. All monks are registered with the government. What is not subject to their immediate command are individual monasteries and the younger monks. The past two weeks have seen these younger monks in the streets.
               
               We do not know how many have been killed, and the military in its usual manner will doctor statistics, either to report fewer deaths and detainees or in another case to inflate school enrollment. But this "saffron revolution", as some have called it, changes the equation. There was a revolt of monks in Mandalay in 1992 that was quickly squelched by the military. But today's is different, not only because it was broadcast to the world, but perhaps more importantly because the BBC and CNN images that we saw were evident through the ubiquitous Burmese urban phenomenon of satellite dishes reporting those networks.
               
               The military profoundly believe in its role in society, however badly they may have carried out their responsibilities. They think of themselves as the only force holding the country together, having in effect destroyed any other significant institution in the country. Yet now, because of this crackdown on the Sangha (Buddhist monkhood), they may have lost the modicum of support they once had among the population. Their role may be as strong as before, but their rule may be less secure.
               
               It would be remarkable if these actions by the junta do not cause disquiet among members of the military itself. Many may be profoundly disturbed by the actions of their colleagues. This may be an important factor in military discontent because the suppression since 1988 has resulted in political, economic and social malaise, and this particularly egregious suppression may feed festering internal military concerns about their own leadership.
               
               We know that there have been policy and personality differences among the top commanders, with rivalries among their children for economic spoils, but the recent protests may bring on the military's worst fears - division among the ranks, which the military, aware of the propensity in Myanmar society for personalization of power and factionalism, has abhorred. It may not be the monks that directly effect change in Myanmar, but they may have contributed to its strengthening. The legacy of this revolt will not be stilled by the enforced quiet that pervades the cities.
               
               The frustration of the monks is not only a result of the apparent disrespect for Buddhism by the top of the military hierarchy, but also because these younger monks are also affected by the general social miasma, as many customarily move in and out of the Sangha. The military controls all effective avenues of social mobility - it determines who goes to university and what positions are available in the private sector beyond petty trading in the bazaars.
               
               It controls the quasi-political organizations, the media, and influence strongly the non-governmental organizations. The military is the primary source of social mobility, and all this must frustrate the young, who see no future outside of a military-controlled society. They have little to lose. This feeds discontent. Although the present military seems powerful, and has more than doubled in size since 1988 and is far better equipped, its hold on society and on its own members will become more tenuous as this frustration mounts and finds expression in some other incident, not necessarily mandated from the top of the hierarchy, but more likely from the lower echelons where unthinking attempts are made to please their superiors at any cost.
               
               One cannot predict when this might happen, but the likelihood exists, and this could help trigger discontent within some of the military, who feel the reputation of the tatmadaw (armed forces) itself has been besmirched, and must be restored to the historical glory that the military has rewritten to justify its claim to power.
               
               David I Steinberg (yonsan1@...) is distinguished professor, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, and is on sabbatical during the autumn semester 2007 as senior visiting research scholar at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore.


              Myanmar turns cameras on dissidents
               By Richard Ehrlich
               
               BANGKOK - Myanmar is apparently using photos sent to websites, television stations and other media to arrest protesters, while at the same time praising China's 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown which turned foreign news videos into virtual wanted posters to capture dissidents.
               
               Myanmar security forces have detained over 2,000 people in the wake of last week's popular unrest and military crackdown. The authorities claim to have already released over 680 of those detained, but there are new reports of continued arrests. "Residents say military trucks patrol neighborhood streets during the night with loudspeakers broadcasting warnings: 'We have photographs. We are going to make arrests'," the Thailand-based, Irrawaddy magazine and other news organizations reported on Wednesday.
               
               Myanmar's junta employed camera-wielding security forces during September's pro-democracy marches while harassing and assaulting independent journalists who tried to cover the unrest. The regime appears to be also gleaning the faces and identities of protesters from countless video and still photos shot in Yangon by journalists, bloggers and local residents who used cell phones, e-mail and websites to transmit pictures to the outside world during more than two weeks of public marches.
               
               Bold, shouting and angry faces of Myanmar citizen protesters appeared on television screens, websites and news publications worldwide, attracting emotional international support and a seemingly insatiable demand by the outside world for more and more images. The Internet community, global media and world leaders gleefully praised the stunning use of cyberspace as a powerful way of showing the outside world Myanmar citizens demanding for democracy in their closed and repressed country. Now these images are being used against the protesters.
               
               The Myanmar authorities' use of photos to hunt people echoes China's June 1989 crackdown on a student-led mass protest in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, when Chinese security forces killed hundreds of people. China quickly captured and punished several fugitive protestors, thanks partly to foreign broadcasters who beamed unedited video news feeds through Beijing's government-run satellite transmitters to editors in newsrooms overseas.
               
               For example, televised pictures of a Chinese man on the American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)news network who complained about China's military killing civilians at Tiananmen Square, soon appeared on Chinese government-controlled television broadcasts alongside warnings that he needed to be caught.
               
               Within days, Xiao Bin, a factory sales chief from Dalian city, was seized and shown on Chinese state television saying his ABC interview was a criminal activity and apologizing in fear. ABC's staff condemned China for turning their news footage into incriminating evidence against Xiao Bin, but it was too late.
               
               Without explicitly mentioning Tiananmen Square, or China, the Myanmar regime indicated it wanted to copy the 1989 crackdown because Beijing became rich by enforcing stability. "A civil commotion in a big Asian nation in 1989," was the euphemistic phrase used by the Myanmar government's New Light of Myanmar newspaper on Tuesday, apparently indicating Tiananmen Square.
               
               "As the big Asian nation was able to solve the problem at its initial stage, to prevent it from spreading, the nation has now become an economic power. If the [Chinese] nation failed to solve the problem at its initial stage, its peace, stability and progress will not reach the present stage," the paper said, apparently supportive of the way Beijing's brutal suppression created enough stability to attract the Olympic Summer Games next year.
               
               US president George W Bush, meanwhile, is a "hypocrite" to complain about Myanmar's crackdown, the paper said. "About 100,000 people staged a protest in Washington calling for an end to the Iraq War. Of them, about 200 were arrested" on September 15," the paper said on Wednesday. "The [Washington] police also beat those who led the protest," the New Light of Myanmar said.
               
               Washington's police, some wearing riot gear, arrested at least 189 people among the several thousand who marched to the Capitol in Washington DC, where a handful of protesters and police were injured, according to US news reports.
               
               "If American President Bush accepts that the arrest and beating of his people who got involved in the protest is a matter of enforcing the law, why can't he accept that Myanmar should take such action against saboteurs who created unrest in the nation with the intention of harming peace and development - at the instigation of certain foreign countries - as a matter of enforcing the law?"
               
               Bush's wife, meanwhile, trumped Myanmar's editorial rhetoric when she called for Myanmar troops to turn traitor against the regime, disobey the military's chain of command and join the pro-democracy movement.
               
               "I want to say to the armed guards and to the soldiers [in Myanmar]: 'Don't fire on your people. Don't fire on your neighbors. Join this movement'," First Lady Laura Bush said in a September 26 radio interview broadcast into Myanmar by the Voice of America (VOA), which is financed by the US government.
               
               The head of VOA's Burmese language service, Than Lwin Htun, told a Congressional Human Rights Caucus in Washington on October 3 his "personal views" were that the crackdown "reminds me of my days in 1988, when I was a student activist in Burma [Myanmar], and the government was saying only 200 or so so-called 'looters' had been killed, but my colleagues and I knew for sure that over 3,000 peaceful demonstrators had died."
               
               Than Lwin Htun said his sources in Yangon "have already published the names of 138 people who have perished at the hands of the army last week". Myanmar's junta has said that only 10 people died in the clashes. After crushing the 1988 insurrection for democracy, the military regime later changed the country's name to Myanmar, which the United Nations has recognized, but the United States has not and still refers to the country as Burma.
               
               Richard S Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based journalist from San Francisco, California. He has reported news from Asia since 1978 and is co-author of the non-fiction book of investigative journalism, Hello My Big Big Honey! Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews. His website is www.geocities.com/asia_correspondent. 
               

            • CHAN Beng Seng
              1.. Junta in move to seize UN data discs 2.. Junta s point man to talk to Suu Kyi 3.. Opposition decries Singapore-Burma ties 4.. Economic sanctions: why do
              Message 6 of 14 , Oct 10, 2007
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                1. Junta in move to seize UN data discs
                2. Junta's point man to talk to Suu Kyi
                3. Opposition decries Singapore-Burma ties
                4. Economic sanctions: why do they matter?
                5. The trouble with sanctions
                6. Burma’s diplomatic offensive
                7. Suu Kyi wants “proper dialogue”
                8. Thailand’s PTT to continue buying natural gas from Myanmar
                9. Myanmar bans outbound package tour
                10. Despite claims of release junta’s arrest list rises
                11. Junta crushed ‘Saffron Revolt,’ but what next?
                12. The Drama behind the decision to use deadly force
                13. Secret cremations hide Burma killings
                 
                 

                Junta in move to seize UN data discs

                 
                Kenneth Denby, Rangoon | October 09, 2007

                BURMA's junta is attempting to seize UN computers containing information on opposition activists in the latest stage of its brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations.

                The move on foreign envoys came as the military rulers announced gestures of reconciliation at 50 monasteries and a nunnery.

                Donations of up to $9000, and of rice, cooking oil, toothpaste and medicine, were accepted by the monks, the official New Light of Myanmar newspaper said yesterday.

                In Buddhism, refusing to take alms is regarded as a snub akin to effective excommunication, and acceptance of the gifts would indicate the soldiers have been brought back into the faith.

                Buddhist monks had last month declared a boycott on donations from soldiers and their families as they spearheaded mass protests that brought up to 100,000 people on to the streets of Rangoon.

                UN staff were thrown into panic over the weekend after Burmese police and diplomats entered their offices in Rangoon and demanded computer hard drives.

                The discs contain information that could help the dictatorship identify key members of the opposition movement, many of whom have gone underground.

                UN staff spent much of the weekend deleting information.

                Many images of the unrest were disseminated through email by Burmese bloggers. Even after the Government shut down the internet, photographs and films were smuggled out on tiny storage drives and memory cards by travellers to Thailand.

                Some of the demonstrators have reportedly been arrested after being identified in footage of the rallies.

                The junta is going after the UN in the belief that its officials allowed images to be transmitted through their own internet links - channelled via satellite phones and therefore less vulnerable to interference by the authorities.

                "It's part of this systematic, repressive response to the demonstrations," said a Western diplomat in Rangoon.

                "We've seen them focus on people who directly participated in the demonstrations by picking them up through the videos. Then they've arrested people with cameras containing images of the demos.

                "And now they're trying to track down the means that were used to send them out."

                On Friday, Burmese officials went to Traders Hotel in central Rangoon, where several UN agencies have offices. They also entered the offices of the Japan International Co-operation Agency in the Sakura Tower.

                "Police and representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs showed up at JICA and the UN offices at Traders, asking to enter and look at the hard drives of the computers," a UN official said.

                The staff refused their request and asked them to submit it in writing to the UN's resident co-ordinator in Burma, Charles Petrie. When a formal letter did arrive, it did not mention the computer hard drives, but asked only to see the licences for the UN's satellite phone equipment.

                Mr Petrie confirmed that the authorities had approached the UN, but denied this amounted to a raid. "All they asked was to see the permits for the V-Sats (satellite phones)," he said. "We told them that we will provide them through the appropriate channels."

                UN officials are waiting to see whether the authorities will make a determined effort to seize data and equipment.

                Such a move would further enrage world opinion at a time when the UN is deliberating on a response to the junta's crackdown. The UN Security Council was meeting overnight to consider a resolution by the US, Britain and France.

                The Times, AFP


                Junta's point man to talk to Suu Kyi
                Rangoon - The Burmese military junta appointed a cabinet minister to build relations with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi Monday, as the United Nations weighed action against the regime for its bloody crackdown on protesters.

                Junta chief Than Shwe named the deputy labour minister, Aung Kyi, as the "manager for relations" with the Nobel Peace Prize winner, just four days after the military supremo made a heavily conditioned offer to meet with her, state television said.

                Than Shwe was following a recommendation made by UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari, who concluded a mission here last week, to name an official who would "continue relations with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in the future," state television said.

                The announcement came amid an international outcry over the deadly crackdown on peaceful anti-government protests late last month, when Buddhist monks led up to 100,000 people in the streets in the biggest challenge to military rule in nearly two decades.

                At least 13 people died and more than 2,100 were locked up as security forces beat down the protests with live rounds, baton charges and teargas.

                Aung San Suu Kyi, who has come to symbolise Burma's peaceful resistance against tyranny, has spent most of the last 18 years under house arrest.

                The junta rarely has any direct dealings with her, but naming Aung Kyi to build relations with her seemed to indicate the military was prepared for at least a minimal level of contact.

                Four days earlier Than Shwe made an offer to meet with her, although the proposal hinged on major conditions including a demand that she drop her support for international sanctions on the regime.

                During Gambari's mission here, he was allowed to meet with both Than Shwe and Aung San Suu Kyi before returning to New York to brief the UN Security Council on Friday.

                The Council was set to consider later Monday a non-binding statement drafted by the United States, Britain and France to condemn the military regime.

                The text condemns "violent repression of peaceful demonstrations" and urges Burma's rulers to "cease repressive measures" and release detainees as well as political prisoners, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

                However, diplomats in New York said it was likely to be toned down at the request of China, Russia and possibly Indonesia.

                Over the last week Burma has made a series of rare public gestures attempting to cool the international outcry over its deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

                State media Monday said the the junta had donated thousands of dollars as well as food and medicines to monasteries in Yangon, in an apparent gesture of reconciliation with the monks.

                During the weekend the military trumpeted its release of more than half of 2,171 people arrested in the crackdown and noted that nearly 400 of 533 monks detained had been "sent back to their respective monasteries."

                The protests in Burma began in mid-August after a huge overnight hike in fuel prices left many people in the impoverished nation unable even to afford their bus fare to work.

                But it was only when the revered monks took the lead that the rallies escalated into a genuine threat to more than four decades of military rule here.

                The United States has led criticism of the regime, warning Friday that it could push for UN sanctions, including an arms embargo, if the ruling generals pursue the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

                Any sanctions resolution is likely to face resistance and possibly a veto from China and Russia, who deem the turmoil in the southeast Asian country an internal matter and not a threat to wider peace and security. (AFP)


                Opposition decries Singapore-Burma ties

                SINGAPORE -- Police arrested several members of a Singapore opposition party who tried to stage a small protest in front of the state palace housing the offices of top government leaders on Monday.

                The protest was to condemn Singapore's close ties with Burma in the wake of the military junta's recent brutal crackdown on demonstrators, the party said.

                Four members of the Singapore Democratic Party, led by party chief Chee Soon Juan and all wearing red tee-shirts, waved placards with the slogans ''No arms,'' ''No deals with the Junta'' and ''Free Burma'' on a photo of Aung San Suu Kyi.

                The protest attracted little attention from passersby and did not draw any crowd as Singapore's citizens tend to shy away from such activities, which are frowned upon by the government.

                The four protestors were arrested a few minutes later and taken to police vans waiting nearby, the SDP said in a statement.

                Earlier in the day, they had tried to send a letter of petition signed by more than 1,000 people to the Burmese Embassy condemning the military junta's harsh treatment of democracy protestors in Burmese, but staff at the embassy refused to accept the petition.

                Chee, who has been the most vociferous critic of the government although his party does not have any seats in parliament, has been jailed several times before for defying the country's law banning street protests involving gatherings of five or more people.

                The law requires police permits for such activities, and those are rarely given.

                Chee, interviewed by reporters earlier, said the protest was to demand an explanation for arms sales and investments in Burmese by Singapore state investment companies.

                Last week, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Singapore takes ''neither hot nor dirty money'' nor ''condones money laundering'' when he was asked in an interview with U.S. television network CNN whether he would consider making Singapore company laws more transparent because Myanmar's junta leaders are suspected of keeping their funds in Singapore, the Straits Times reported Saturday.

                Lee was also asked in that interview if Singapore hospitals should turn away the junta's top leaders who often come to the city-state for medical treatment.

                Lee said he considered such an action ''petty indignities'' that were ''really against human nature.''

                ''I mean somebody is sick, he wants to come to Singapore, he needs treatment, and you're telling me I shouldn't treat him because he's not a good man?...It goes against the Hippocratic Oath of doctors,'' Lee claimed.

                Burma leaders who have undergone medical treatment include top leader Than Shwe, who is said to be suffering from intestinal cancer, and Prime Minister Soe Win, who is reportedly suffering from leukemia.//Kyodo News


                Snr-Gen Than Shwe’s offer of a conditional dialogue with democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi following a visit by UN special envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, has set off a new political debate not only in the international community, but also amongst exiled Burmese opposition groups.

                The junta’s hard-line leader has insisted that before he will speak with Suu Kyi, she must give up her “confrontation” with the regime and end her longstanding calls for economic sanctions.

                While the international community may be wondering if the general’s demands are indeed a reasonable precondition for talks, the debate among exiles and other long-time observers of the Burmese situation revolves more around the junta’s motives for setting such conditions.

                It is, of course, entirely up to Suu Kyi herself to decide how she will respond to the general’s call. But it is worth considering why the regime has raised the issue of sanctions at this time, when the world’s attention is on the military’s brutal suppression of peaceful protests against growing economic hardship. Is the regime merely trying to scuttle any potential dialogue by setting unacceptable conditions? Or is it trying to scapegoat Suu Kyi for the country’s deepening economic crisis, which is due far more to the junta’s corruption and gross mismanagement of resources than to the impact of sanctions?

                The regime has always claimed that it is impervious to Western sanctions, and constantly boasts in the state-run media that the country’s economy is on the right track, achieving double-digit annual growth and drastically rising per capita income since it seized power in 1988. It cites statistics that show budget surpluses for the past three years and a US $20 million trade surplus last year as evidence of its effective handling of the economy.

                Meanwhile, economic and other sanctions, especially those imposed by the United States, have grown more stringent since they were first put in place by the Clinton Administration in 1997. Under the Democracy and Freedom Act of 2003, US President George W. Bush added further punitive measures against the regime, including a ban on visas for members of the regime and its supporters, in response to the Depayin massacre of May 2003. But given the small scale of US investment in Burma, the impact of these sanctions has been limited.

                The European Union, which has a bigger stake in the Burmese economy through large-scale investment by France’s Total Oil Company, has been more reluctant to impose harsh sanctions, which must be based upon a consensus among member states. To date, it has confined itself to banning sales of arms to the Burmese junta, and a visa blacklist of prominent members of the regime.

                Despite the limited effect of Western sanctions, and despite the country’s putative economic gains, it is clear that the situation for the average Burmese citizen has gone from bad to worse under the country’s current masters. The fruits of the market-oriented economy introduced in 1988 are now clearly seen only in the hands of the ruling elite, as the gap between the rulers and the ruled continues to widen to new extremes.

                According to a report released by the International Monetary Fund in September 2006, Burma has the lowest per capita GDP in the region. In 2005, the average Burmese citizen had an annual income of $170, compared to $350 and $400 in Cambodia and Laos, respectively¬, even though these two countries introduced market-oriented reforms later than Burma. The difference, it seems, is that Cambodia and Laos, unlike Burma, have both implemented policies that have won the support of international development agencies such as the Asia Development Bank.

                Burma’s problem is that the current regime has failed to demonstrate to the ADB, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, that it is capable of good governance—an essential precondition for the sort of large-scale package of development assistance needed to rebuild Burma’s economic and social infrastructure.

                It is in this area that the US has exercised its greatest influence over Burma. The US, which plays a key role in these major world organizations, has blocked the flow of development assistance into Burma by insisting that all assistance must be contingent upon evidence of good governance.

                The recent protests throughout Burma occurred in the wake of a dramatic increase in fuel prices in August, which had an immediate and devastating impact on the livelihoods of countless ordinary Burmese. The reaction to the regime’s attempt to pass on the costs of its unsustainable economic policies to the general public has made it absolutely clear that Burma’s economy is heading for disaster, and cannot be saved without a huge and comprehensive package of international development assistance. But the generals, who said when they seized power in 1988 that they alone could lead the country out its economic misery, cannot accept this reality.

                While Cambodia and Laos have made the concessions required to receive much-needed international aid, the Burmese regime still punishes those who have the temerity to groan under the weight of its ill-considered economic decisions. Then, when the world witnesses how unfit they are to govern, the generals blame Suu Kyi for their image problems, and suggest, by bringing up the issue of sanctions, that she has somehow single-handedly undermined their otherwise flawless policies.


                The trouble with sanctions - Fareed Zakaria
                The Washington Post: Mon 8 Oct 2007 

                The Burmese government’s grotesque crackdown on pro-democracy protests will have one certain effect. The United States and the European Union will place more sanctions on Burma. Its economy will suffer, its isolation will deepen. And what will this achieve? Sanctions are the Energizer Bunny of foreign policy. Despite a dismal record, they just keep on ticking. With countries such as Burma, sanctions have become a substitute for an actual policy.

                One of the lessons of Iraq surely is that decades of sanctions destroy civil society and empower the worst elements of the country, those who thrive in a gangland atmosphere. If the intention here is to help bring about a better system for a country, devastating its society is a strange path to the new order. Burma is a particularly complicated place for such an experiment because it is riven with ethnic divisions and conflict. The Burmese government has been fighting 17 ethnic rebel groups for more than 50 years. Many of the rebels control territory and run their own drug and resource cartels. Bringing liberal democracy to Burma would be a challenge anyhow, and it is being made more difficult by the evisceration of its society.

                By design, sanctions shrink a country’s economy. But “the state gains greater control of a smaller pie.” says Robert Pape, a University of Chicago professor who has authored a wide-ranging study on the topic, “and [the state] shifts resources in the country toward groups that support it and away from those that oppose it.” In other words, the government gets stronger. We can see this at work from Cuba to Iran. “Even in Iraq,” says Pape, “there were far fewer coup attempts in the era of sanctions than in the previous decades.”

                In Burma, one effect of Western sanctions was to shut down the country’s textile exports during the late 1990s, forcing hundreds of thousands of people out of jobs. There is evidence that many of the women ended up in the sex trade, enough evidence that in 2003 State Department spokesman Richard Boucher acknowledged it but expressed the hope that over time sanctions would change Burma. In addition, as legitimate businesses dry up, black markets spring up, and the thugs and gangs who can handle these new rules flourish. Burmese gems are now traded actively in this manner. Then there are drugs, whose production and supply multiply. In all of this, the military, which controls border crossings, ports and checkpoints, prospers.

                In the early 1990s, after refusing to accept the results of an election won by Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese regime began — very haltingly — to open up the economy. But those Western sanctions helped end this flirtation. Thant Myint-U, a former senior U.N. official and the author of “The River of Lost Footsteps,” a wonderful and affectionate portrait of Burma, argues that had that process of trade, travel and investment been encouraged, “Burma today would look more like Vietnam. It would have many more connections with the world, much more economic and social activity, and the regime would be far more constrained and reluctant to use force or engage in crackdowns.”

                The other effect of sanctions has been that American firms have mostly been replaced by Chinese companies. (This is precisely what’s happened on a larger scale in Sudan, where American firms discovered and built the country’s oilfields, then had to abandon them because of the worsening human-rights situation, and now find that the fields have been picked up by Chinese state oil companies.) And while it is perfectly fair to blame Beijing for supporting a dictatorial regime, the Indians, Thais, Malaysians and others have also been happy to step into the vacuum in Burma. Is this a net gain for America, for Burma and for human rights?

                Thant, who has a celebrated pedigree in Burma — he is the only grandson of U Thant, the third secretary general of the United Nations — hopes for sustained diplomatic pressure, involving the United States, China and India, to get the regime to begin a process of real reform. “If the three countries can reach some consensus, that’s the only outside pressure that is likely to matter,” he says. “America can still play a crucial role. What the Burmese really want — if they had a choice — is not to be another province of China. They aspire to be a proud, independent country. There are many people there, even in the regime, who want to have good relations with America and the West. But my fear is that the West, momentarily aroused, will reflexively impose new sanctions and then move on. The result will be that the West’s role in Burma will decline even more, China’s will rise, and Burma will be further away from a liberal democratic future.”

                The writer is editor of Newsweek International and co-host of PostGlobal, an online discussion of international issues. His e-mail address is comments@...


                Burma’s diplomatic offensive - Aung Zaw
                Irrawaddy: Mon 8 Oct 2007 

                Is Than Shwe’s offer to meet detained Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi a sign of weakness or a diplomatic offensive?

                According to state-run television, Snr-Gen Than Shwe set conditions for talks with Suu Kyi, demanding that she must abandon “confrontation” and “utter devastation,” give up “obstructive measures” and her support for sanctions.

                The general, according to the state-run press, said that he would meet directly with her for dialogue, if she agrees to these four conditions.

                A sign of weakness?

                Probably not. More probable is that this is a clever and calculated diplomatic offensive launched by Than Shwe and his experienced diplomats. The former psychological warfare officer was indeed manipulating in order to deflect external and internal opinion and criticism with the aim of buying time.

                Than Shwe has had two face-to-face meetings in the past with Suu Kyi and reportedly holds a grudge toward the Nobel Peace Prize winner.

                He and his hardliners masterminded a plot to kill Suu Kyi and her supporters in Depayin, a remote area in central Burma where no journalists, film crew or photographers were able to witness the carnage in May 2003.

                Suu Kyi and her deputy Tin Oo (former army chief in the 1970s) narrowly escaped the thuggish attack and were taken in custody to a safe location by intelligence officers belonging to Gen Khin Nyunt, who was then still in power.

                Although no film footage or photographs of the attacks reached the outside world, the incident prompted international condemnation. Than Shwe, however, launched a clever counteroffensive.

                Shortly after the attack, the regime surprised the world by releasing dozens of photographs of meetings between Suu Kyi and top leaders, including Than Shwe, to demonstrate that the regime had conducted dialogue with her, while accusing her of destabilizing the regime.

                Now, after crushing the street demonstrations in Burma, the regime has stepped up its damage-control campaign, with the blessing of China and neighboring countries.

                At the UN, Burma’s UN ambassador, Kyaw Tint Swe, said his country was committed to forging ahead with national reconciliation and asked for “patience, time and space” for his regime. He opposed Security Council action on Burma.

                Asking for patience, time and space? The regime showed no patience when it brutally crushed the monks and innocent people who demonstrated peacefully in city streets last month.

                The bad news is that Burma’s diplomatic offensive and Burmese deception might work at some level. Some diplomats and officials at the UN, far from the scene of the recent bloody events, may be ready to swallow Burmese diplomats’ statements.

                At home, the regime stepped up its offensive against monks. The New Light of Myanmar reported today that during raids on monasteries, “42 uncensored pornographic VCDs, one uncensored pornographic DVD, 10 condoms, sexual tonic medicine sachet, dildo (with belt), one statuette of woman and a man hugging each other, 13 women’s wear longyis (sarongs), eight panties and a love letter and perfume/glycerin bottles, men’s wear longyis, two cordless phones and 18 different kinds of swords, 10 alcohol bottles, 9 mm round of ammunition, and leaflets” were confiscated.

                Burmese Buddhists maintain that this slur campaign against the Sangha will only add salt to the wounds and will prove counterproductive. It’s a further provocation in the propaganda war, they say.

                The regime has no shortage of contingency plans to overcome obstacles to its aim to prolong military rule. Whenever it faced crisis, the regime leaders made strategic decisions to counter domestic dissent, growing international criticism and possible UN actions.

                After crushing the 1988 uprising, the regime promised elections in 1990, giving itself plenty of time to rebuild the army and consolidate its position of power.

                Then, after ignoring the election outcome, it called in 1993 for a National Convention to draft a new constitution, a strategy to buy still more time.

                After the Depayin attack of 2003, the regime introduced a seven-point “road map,” another delaying tactic. The first step, drafting guidelines for a new constitution, has just been completed.

                The offer by Than Shwe to meet Suu Kyi is thus nothing more than farce, but a well- calculated diplomatic offensive, nonetheless.

                Some foreign visitors who recently met Than Shwe in Naypyidaw said the old man’s hands shook as he greeted them, perhaps a sign that he is not well. Now in his late 70s, he might indeed not have long to live, but the former psychological warfare officer isn’t giving up easily—his craftiness and his psychosomatic functions are still working.


                Suu Kyi wants “proper dialogue” - Lalit K Jha
                Irrawaddy: Mon 8 Oct 2007 

                The UN Envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, last week said that the popular Burmese pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for more than 11 of the last 18 years, is anxious to engage in dialogue with the ruling military junta.

                UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari posing for a picture with detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi during discussions in Rangoon. [Photo: AFP/UNIC-HO]

                Gambari, who met the iconic Suu Kyi twice during his four-day stay in Burma last week, told reporters at the UN headquarters that from his own observations, “She (Aung San Suu Kyi) appears to want proper dialogue.”

                He was responding to a question on whether Suu Kyi has shown any flexibility on the four conditions set by the Burmese general for any dialogue with her.

                In response to a question, Gambari said, “The Secretary General has characterized it (dialogue) as being without preconditions, because that would be the best way to move forward. You just start talking. Because there is so much distrust between her and the senior general, the bridge has to be built; and the best way in our view is to start.

                “I think there is an opening for dialogue. From this, the expectation is not a dialogue for the sake of it, not an open-ended dialogue, but dialogue that is targeted at achieving national reconciliation in an all-inclusive manner; a constitution that reflects the will of the majority of the people, and also a government that is responsive to the needs of their own people.”

                When asked about the health of Suu Kyi, Gambari said, “… You saw her picture; some people say she looked frail, but actually I thought she looked better than last November, when I saw her last. She herself said she is in fairly good health, under the circumstances of her continued detention.”

                Gambari added that the important thing is to have her restrictions eased.

                “In terms of her own position on sanctions, I think we have to find ways to get her own point of view on record, rather than me interpreting her position,” Gambari said.

                Gambari said the UN is waiting for a concrete response from the Burmese government on the issues raised by him. These include: release of political prisoners; humanitarian access to those in need; cessation of hostilities against ethnic minorities; health and educational issues; and co-operation with the ILO.

                “Then we have added some new ideas; for example, how to deal with the underlying process of discontent of an economic and political nature, and also possible ideas about constitution review. Now we are just waiting for the response. We will judge by what they actually do,” Gambari said in response to a question.

                After his third briefing before the Security Council in ten days, Gambari said five points of consensus have emerged.

                “One is that unity among Council members is the key to really getting Myanmar and the authorities to move along the lines that we all want, which is peaceful, democratic Myanmar, with full respect for human rights,” he said.

                “Secondly, there is strong support among all Council members for the role of the good offices of the Secretary General.

                “Third, there is a consensus… that the status quo ante is unacceptable and unsustainable and is probably unrealistic. We cannot go back to the situation before the recent crisis. The underlining factors—socio-economic and political—must be addressed,” he said.

                Fourth is the critical role of Asean, the neighboring countries and regional powers.

                “The fifth point that emerged by consensus in the discussions is that a return visit to Myanmar and to the region would be useful in order to keep the momentum, which we must not allow to slip,” Gambari said.


                Thailand’s PTT to continue buying natural gas from Myanmar
                Asia Pulse:  Mon 8 Oct 2007 

                Thailand’s largest oil and gas conglomerate PTT PUBLIC CO. LTD. will continue procuring natural gas from Myanmar despite an outcry from the international community and calls for foreign companies to switch investments elsewhere following the Myanmar junta’s crackdown on the country’s pro-democracy citizens and monks.

                Chitrapongse Kwangsukstith, senior executive vice-president for PTT’s Exploration & Production and Gas Business Group, said he was confident that the company would sign a purchase agreement for natural gas from the M9 petroleum field in the Gulf of Martaban with concerned Myanmar authorities before the end of the year.

                * Under the initial agreement, PTT will buy between 300-400 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) and the volume could be increased if the exact amount of natural gas of the M9 field is known, Mr. Chitrapongse said.

                * Despite calls by the international community for foreign firms to boycott business dealings with military-ruled Myanmar, he said that PTT would continue purchasing natural gas from the Yadana and Yetagun fields which now supply about 1,000 mmcfd to Thailand.


                Myanmar bans outbound package tour
                Xinhua General News Service: Mon 8 Oct 2007 

                Myanmar has banned outbound package tour arranged by domestic travel and tour companies, the local Voice journal reported Monday.

                Meeting with hoteliers and businessmen from travel agencies in Nay Pyi Taw recently, Director of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism U Hlaing Win said that domestic travel agencies are allowed only to arrange inbound package tour services within the country for domestic and foreign travelers but not for outbound package tour services for them.

                The official warned of taking action against companies which break the tourism-related rules and regulations.

                However, whether the package tours such as pilgrimage, Singapore and Bangkok ones being introduced by some companies are covered by the ban or not, remained unclear, the report said.

                According to the ministry figures, there are 733 registered travel and tour companies in Myanmar.

                Tourist arrivals in the country through Yangon entry checkpoint alone hit over 47,000 in the first four months (April-July) of the fiscal year 2007-08, up 20 percent from 2006-07 correspondingly, other local reports said.

                These tourists came in the form of free independent traveler and package tour.

                During the period, visitors with other visas reached over 26, 000, up 5 percent correspondingly, the report added.

                According to local statistics, in 2006-07, a total of 654,602 foreign tourists visited Myanmar, gaining 198.48 million U.S. dollars, an increase of 11.4 percent compared with the previous year.

                Of the 654,602 tourists visiting Myanmar in 2006-07, 276,613 entered through Yangon checkpoint, 5,763 through Mandalay and Bagan checkpoints and 372,226 through border checkpoints, the figures show.

                Of the types of tours, package tour accounted for 25 percent, while free independent traveler 47 percent and the rest with other visas 28 percent.

                The tourists visiting Myanmar mostly came from Thailand, China, South Korea and Japan in Asia, Germany, France and Italy in West Europe and some countries in North America.

                Myanmar so far has over 600 hotels with 23,000 rooms, in addition to the 733 travel companies.


                Despite claims of release junta’s arrest list rises
                Mizzima News: Mon 8 Oct 2007 

                Even as the Burmese military junta continues its crack down, the number of Burma’s opposition political party members who are being arrested has risen to over 400, an activist group said today.

                The Thailand based Assistant Association for political Prisoners - Burma (AAPP-B) said despite the regime’s announcement that it had released several protesters, rampant midnight raids on the residence of activists and opposition party members – the National League for Democracy – continues.

                K Bo Kyi, Secretary of the AAPP-B said the junta has categorized those arrested into three groups – activists, those joining in the protests and bystanders or onlookers applauding the protesters.

                “Those released are mainly bystanders or onlookers who had cheered the demonstrators,” Bo Kyi said.

                The junta last week said it had released 1,215 protesters and arrested 2,093, figures activists and diplomats disagree with.

                “At least 4,000 people including more than 1,000 monks have been arrested by the junta during the protests,” Ko Bo Kyi said and added that the exact number of deaths and those arrested remain unconfirmed.

                The junta on Sunday announced that it had arrested 78 more people and continues to detain 135 monks.

                The presence of the Burmese Army in the city continues to be felt as convoys of the military keep making the rounds of the city, sources in Rangoon said.

                Meanwhile, family members of those arrested remain unaware of their whereabouts and are terribly worried.

                “We are extremely worried about his [U Myint Thein’s] health, because he has to go for his regular medical check up, but we don’t know where he is and what his health condition is,” wife of U Myint Thein, NLD spokesperson who was also arrested, said.


                Burma’s “saffron revolt” has been crushed by an entrenched junta, but the brutality inflicted on Buddhist monks who braved its guns may be the only thing that could splinter the ranks of its fiercely loyal military.

                As Burma’s prisons fill with monks and other demonstrators and the bloodstains of revolt are expunged from the streets, many in Burma fear they might never see the return of democracy.

                The Southeast Asian nation also known as Burma has witnessed British colonial domination, a fleeting era of democracy and 45 years of iron-fisted military rule.

                Yet the monks are deeply revered in this mostly Buddhist nation, and imprisoning them upsets the faithful, no matter what their occupation or political bent.

                “The crackdown by the military against the monks may be a major element in the destruction of the very military unity they seek. Many may be profoundly disturbed by the actions of their colleagues,” says David Steinberg of Georgetown University, an author of several books on Burma.

                The beating and mass arrests of the monks, who led pro-democracy demonstrations last month across the country, struck at the junta’s greatest fear—that factions within its ranks may side with those seeking change.

                And that side showed unexpected strength. The world was caught by surprise at the determined, organized and wide-ranging opposition that sprang up in the last two months.

                Drawn in by graphic images of the crackdown, governments around the world responded with unprecedented condemnation, some sanctions and calls for neighboring China and India, major trading partners of Burma, to use their leverage on the junta.

                Given the past record, however, neither outside pressure nor possible talks between the junta and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi are likely to have significant effect on the intransigent leaders.

                But the military, in trying to woo a hostile people, has constantly trumpeted an image as Buddhism’s protector, building new pagodas, repairing monasteries and offering alms to monks.

                “Buddhism has been a critical element in this legitimacy process. But all of a sudden you have delegitimization of a lot of that effort,” Steinberg said.

                One faithful Buddhist summed up common sentiment after emerging from a pagoda in Rangoon last week.

                “If the military kill monks, merciful monks, they are not Buddhists, they are savages,” the retired teacher said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of fear.

                Others unleashed their hatred of the regime by screaming abuse and even exposing their genitals to soldiers.

                “Terror reigns in Rangoon now, but anger is there also and it’s not going away,” said Monique Skidmore, a Burma expert at Australian National University. “The pro-democracy movement sees this as the beginning of the end (of the junta), even if it takes 10 years.”

                Red-robed monks, university students, labor activists, ordinary people and remnants of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party all took part in the protests.

                “A new generation has emerged of people we have never heard of before. Even if this new movement has been suppressed now, it’s not been decapitated, so it may rise again,” says Donald M Seekins, a Burma expert at Meio University in Japan.

                However the movement shapes up, activists may again have to face the army’s guns alone.

                Experts, including some Chinese academics, say even Beijing has limited influence over the generals, never mind the United Nations.

                “China’s soft spot would be a boycott of the Olympics next year. That’s something they definitely don’t want,” says Seekins. “I don’t see the American team not going to Beijing, but if there is a boycott movement it would be very embarrassing to China.”

                Chinese security experts tasked with studying risks to the 2008 Beijing Olympics believe chances of a boycott over Burma, Darfur, Tibet or other issues are slim because governments and world leaders are resistant to the idea. US President George W Bush, for one, has already accepted the Chinese president’s invitation to attend the games.

                World pressure on the junta to hold talks with Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner under house arrest for 12 of the past 18 years, also shows little promise.

                Following last week’s trip by UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari to Burma, the junta chief, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, said Thursday that he would be willing to meet with Suu Kyi, but only if she stops calling for sanctions and fulfills other demands.

                However, the two already met five years ago and those talks broke down in acrimony.

                “I don’t believe there is one shred of evidence that they [the junta] are sincere,” says Josef Silverstein, a retired Rutgers University professor who has studied Burma for more than half a century. “[Than Shwe] is still the commander and she’s expected to come crawling to him on her belly.”


                Irrawaddy: The Drama behind the decision to use deadly force
                Mon 8 Oct 2007 
                Filed under: News, Inside Burma

                The decision to use deadly force—to shoot Buddhist monks and activists in Rangoon—was made by junta leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe, but there were moments when the army—senior and junior officers—appear to have disagreed on how to handle the protests.

                A source in Rangoon, who has since left the city, told The Irrawaddy that there was a time when the possibility of a coup seemed real, there were some top commanders who did not want to use deadly force and there was real tension within the junta.

                The drama, which began prior to the bloodiest days of the protests, involved Than Shwe and his core of hardliners versus Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye, the military commander in chief, who, in a strategy meeting in Naypyidaw prior to the bloodshed, argued against using the military to put down the street demonstrations.

                Instead, Maung Aye proposed using police and paramilitary forces, said a source close to Maung Aye, the No. 2 man in the junta. Than Shwe, who presided at the meeting, decided to use the army.

                Also at the meeting were Joint Chief of Staff Gen Thura Shwe Mann; Quartermaster General Lt-Gen Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo; Military Affairs Security head Lt-Gen Ye Myint; and Secretary one Lt-Gen Thein Sein.

                Perhaps reflecting Than Shwe’s distrust of placing too much authority in the hands of any one commander, he authorized the suppression to be carried out by various commanders, including Maung Aye, Thura Shwe Mann, Ye Myint, the Home Affairs Minister, Maung Oo; the Head of Bureau of Special Operations-5, Lt-Gen Myint Swe; and the Minister of Industry, Aung Thaung.

                When the monk-led protests in Rangoon gained momentum, Maung Aye went to the former capital on September 27 to meet with battalion commanders. Seven battalions were deployed in Rangoon to control the street demonstrations, each with about 500 soldiers.

                Some army officers reportedly were in hopes of avoiding the use of deadly force against monks and civilians.

                Indeed, sources close to the army said Maung Aye issued an order not to shoot monks and activists.

                However, the junta’s No. 3 man, Thura Shwe Mann, backed by Than Shwe, bypassed Maung Aye’s order, and issued a shoot-to-kill order.

                Perhaps illustrating the confusion in the ranks, Maj-Gen Ko Ko, the regional commander of the Southern Command, reportedly received the order to use deadly force from Thura Shwe Mann. Ko Ko reportedly told Shwe Mann he would like the order to come from Maung Aye.

                Tensions in the ranks increased during the peak of the crisis, sources said, and some regional commanders sent clear signals to Maung Aye that they were ready to obey any order he gave them, but the army chief did not make any move against Than Shwe.

                Some battalion commanders and regional commanders reportedly wanted Maung Aye to meet Aung San Suu Kyi during the crisis, especially after she appeared in front of her residence to speak with protesting monks. Suu Kyi and Maung Aye reportedly got along well during a dinner with Than Shwe and then intelligence chief Khin Nyunt several years ago.

                The sources said Maung Aye ordered additional soldiers stationed in front of Suu Kyi’s house to protect her in case of plots against her by hardliners.

                After UN Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari’s visit to Naypyidaw, it was reportedly Maung Aye who encouraged Than Shwe to offer to meet with Suu Kyi. Faced with growing pressure from inside and outside Burma, Than Shwe made an offer to meet but with conditions that almost guaranteed Suu Kyi would not accept, such as an end to economic sanctions, no public confrontations and other meausres. Surprisingly, none of the conditions have been rejected out of hand and some observers are leaving the door open to a future meeting between the two.

                While speculation increased—perhaps wishful thinking—that the nationwide civil unrest might prompt more forward thinking elements in the military to stage a coup, it was simply not to be.

                Maung Aye’s critics say he’s proved himself to be too soft to challenge Than Shwe. Pragmatic observers, say, in fact, Maung Aye has his own particular weaknesses, and he’s clearly been out maneuvered by Than Shwe. He has few close colleagues, is relatively isolated in Naypyidaw, and doesn’t have a well established power base. In the 2006 army reshuffle, Than Shwe put even more of his men in key positions in the armed forces.

                When Khin Nyunt was in power as army intelligence chief, rumors swirled around Maung Aye and Khin Nyunt, saying they had agreed to remove Than Shwe if an opportunity arose.

                But Than Shwe took action against Khin Nyunt first, placing him under house arrest in October 2004.

                But for some, hope springs eternal. The army commander in chief is still believed to have enough backing among elements of the army to make a challenge, if he ever decided to stage a coup against Than Shwe.

                “He has all the cards, but he didn’t want to play,” complained the source.

                The question now is—if all the reports are true—for how much longer will Maung Aye have a seat at the table?


                Secret cremations hide Burma killings
                Sunday Times: Mon 8 Oct 2007 

                The Burmese army has burnt an undetermined number of bodies at a crematorium sealed off by armed guards northeast of Rangoon over the past seven days, ensuring that the exact death toll in the recent pro-democracy protests will never be known.

                The secret cremations have been reported by local people who have seen olive green trucks covered with tarpaulins rumbling through the area at night and watched smoke rising continuously from the furnace chimneys.

                They say they have watched soldiers in steel helmets blocking off roads to the municipal crematorium and threatening people who poke their heads out of windows overlooking the roads after the 10pm curfew.

                Their accounts have been volunteered to international officials and aid workers in Rangoon, Burma’s main city. The consensus in the foreign community is that the consistency of the stories makes them credible.
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                “There has been no attempt to identify the dead, to return the bodies to their families or to give them even the minimum Buddhist religious rites,” said a foreign official who has collated information on the toll of dead and injured from a wide variety of sources.

                Horrifying rumours are sweeping the city that some of those cremated were severely injured people thrust into the ovens alive, but these have been treated with extreme caution by independent observers and have not been verified.

                However, it is widely accepted that the cremations began on the night of Friday, September 28, more than 24 hours after soldiers opened fire on unarmed Buddhist monks and civilians demonstrating on the streets of Rangoon.

                They have continued at intervals right up to the end of last week, according to local people. Taxi drivers refused to take a foreigner to the area, saying they were too frightened and that the army moved bodies after the shoot-on-sight curfew.

                The best estimate among foreign diplomats here is that between 100 and 200 people lost their lives in the Rangoon disturbances. The number of Buddhist monks arrested is put at about 1,000, while about 3,000 civilians have also been detained. The regime’s own statement is that 2,093 people are in custody.

                The Chinese army carried out a similar practice of anonymous cremations in Beijing after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, when many unidentified bodies were disposed of at the city’s Babaoshan crematorium. The true number of dead has never been established.

                A more disturbing aspect of the Burmese regime’s conduct is the apparently continuous stream of deaths days after the guns fell silent.

                “We have first-hand evidence from respected Burmese doctors that hospitals and clinics were ordered not to give any treatment to the wounded,” said a foreign medical expert, “so it’s not possible to assess the victims by those treated in public hospitals.
                “We do know that some injured people were treated in hiding in people’s homes. We assume that beaten, injured or wounded people taken into custody have got no treatment and may have died.”

                This evidence has given rise to grave concern for the wellbeing of elderly monks and very young novices rounded up, by all accounts, with brutality.

                There has been a drumbeat of allegations that soldiers and militiamen unleashed crazed violence against these holy men when they crashed into monasteries in the small hours of the night over the past week. Blood-stained robes, shattered statues and defaced holy pictures have been caught on digital images smuggled out of the country.

                Some of the worst violence appears to have occurred at the Mwe Kya Jan monastery in northwest Rangoon. According to graphic testimony published in yesterday’s Thai newspapers, the soldiers lined the monks up against a wall and smashed each of their shaven heads against the wall in succession. The monks were roughed up and thrown into trucks, but the abbot was so severely beaten that he died on the spot, the reports claimed.

                It was not possible to corroborate these reports yesterday owing to a heavy security presence at the monastery. But two boy monks asking for alms on a street in a nearby area appealed for help in their limited English.

                “We are very frightened,” said the elder, who was about 14, while the younger, about 10, said: “I want to go home to see my mother and father again.”

                Foreign observers experienced in monitoring human rights here say the stories of beatings, abuse and starvation in custody are likely to be accurate.

                The regime has refused to grant access for the International Committee of the Red Cross to inspect the conditions of those in detention. Humanitarian workers said they hoped the British, French and American governments would take the lead in pressing the case for access at the UN security council and in private talks with the Burmese leaders and with China.

                An attempt to observe an alleged detention centre at the Rangoon Institute of Technology was halted by soldiers who waved away a car at gunpoint. Through sheets of monsoon rain, trucks could be seen parked outside what appeared to be an administration block, but there was no sign of activity.

                The United Nations special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, said on Friday in New York that he feared “mass relocations” of monks and protesters had taken place.

                The systematic arrests have continued at night – a convoy of lorries and other vehicles rumbled past my hotel windows long after midnight – initially puzzling diplomats and activists, who wondered how military intelligence drew up its lists of those to be arrested.

                The answer, it seems, was a grimly paradoxical use of the internet, whose liberating role in disseminating images and sound of the protests was prematurely celebrated by many as marking the world’s first globalised on-line revolt, instantly dubbed the Saffron revolution.

                It is now clear that the regime was techno-savvy, patient and thorough. It kept the internet open long enough to allow its own cyber-operatives to down-load the images and recordings of street protests to identify the protesters. The internet is now shut down.

                “Every Burmese street has a block registration with photographs of each resident on the wall of the local administration office,” said an international aid official, whose agency used the system to help track recipients of aid. Burmese have given accounts of soldiers and plain-clothes men arriving to make arrests with computer-generated photographs of their targets pulled off the internet.

                On Friday government security agents raided the offices of Japan’s international aid agency, attempting to seize e-mail records and computers, several foreign sources said. After protests, the agents backed off. The news caused staff at other aid agencies to take steps to secure their own computer records.

                The one ray of optimism in Rangoon this weekend has come on the political front. On Friday night a Burmese crowd in a teashop gasped to see the first pictures for many years of Aung San Suu Kyi on television.

                The news programme showed the world’s most famous political prisoner meeting Gambari at her home at 54 University Avenue.

                The junta’s leader, Than Shwe, told Gambari he would meet her under certain conditions, an offer that was reported to have been rejected but which, in local political terms, was remarkable.

                But among the deeply superstitious Burmese there was a murmuring of hope after another piece of inauspicious news for the generals. There was delight in the teashops at the reported death from cancer of Soe Win, the junta’s “prime minister”.

                Unlike his fellow countrymen, Soe Win had benefited from the best therapy that local doctors, aided by specialists in Singa-pore, could provide. The “tea-shop telegraph” also flashed the news that Soe Win’s brother had died in a failed attempt to donate marrow to fight the illness.

                In a land where portents, stars and horoscopes are revered, it was a dreadful omen.


              • CHAN Beng Seng
                1.. A junta synonymous with horror 2.. Big jump in Burma crop 3.. India gives no ground on Burma 4.. Human Rights Watch slams arms sales to Myanmar 5.. Myanmar
                Message 7 of 14 , Oct 15, 2007
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                  1. A junta synonymous with horror
                  2. Big jump in Burma crop
                  3. India gives no ground on Burma
                  4. Human Rights Watch slams arms sales to Myanmar
                  5. Myanmar to hold new gems sale despite boycott call
                  6. Myanmar Airways International ceases operation
                  7. Lack of unity kept ethnic groups out of the showdown
                  8. Indian envoy meets detained Burmese democracy icon
                  9. Farmers forced to sell rice to Burma Army
                  10. Junta makes villagers pay for development projects 
                  11. Burma junta divided at highest level
                  12. Nobel Laureates Voice their Outrage at Human Rights Abuses in Myanmar
                   

                   
                  A junta synonymous with horror

                  Even as one of the world's great humanitarian struggles fades from the TV screen, the Burmese people are at risk of being felled like trees in a far-off forest

                  By PHILIP J CUNNINGHAM

                  After years of frustrating quietude, Burma's long-simmering discontent has broken out into an open boil. A daring spiritual protest was followed by a cruel and callous bloodletting, the kind of event that brings out the best and worst of the global media.

                  The uplifting image of maroon-robed barefoot monks with upturned alms bowls gliding down grubby Rangoon streets surrounded by masses of adoring civilians was the penultimate performance art, created by anonymous thousands, hand-delivered to journalists as a gift to a jaded world.

                  Such footage was obtained under trying conditions and supreme personal risk, the work of intrepid individuals willing to forsake comfort and safety to tell a story that needs to be told.

                  Compelling images, enhanced by an exotic setting, captured the gist of the Burma story. It is in the nature of the medium to focus on stories with good visuals; indeed television news at its most engaging is packed with sights and sounds that not only awe but educate.

                  To the extent the maroon revolution was televised, the work was done mostly by amateurs.

                  Then the screen went dark, as Buddhist monks, the penultimate moral authority in the orthodox Theravada Buddhist culture of Burma, were shot at and beaten in scores, cameras confiscated and thousands of witnesses and participants put under lock and key.

                  Despite the momentary lull, the crackdown bodes ill for the superstitious Than Shwe kleptocracy that has until now been able to rule Burma with an iron fist, because even the military, through its mindful cultivation and supervision of the Buddhist clergy, would be the first to admit that no good karma can come from the killing of monks.

                  By the same token, no good can come of the killing of journalists, who collectively, despite individual imperfections and failings, serve as a lay clergy of sorts, moral arbiters for much of the world outside of closed countries like Burma, from Moscow to Baghdad, from Johannesburg to Japan.

                  When Burma reinvented itself as Myanmar after the bloody massacre of Burmese students in 1988, the Japanese media, like the blindly politically correct CNN, embraced the unhappily revised status quo with such linguistic zeal that a Tokyo-based reporter would have to argue with editors to use the word ''Burma'' rather than ''Myanmar'', even, absurdly, in at least one instance, in an article that made reference to George Orwell's Burmese Days.

                  But the cold-blooded on-camera killing of Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai on Sept 27, 2007 as he filmed the unfolding of a protest in the streets of Rangoon, has shocked and galvanised the Japanese media, even the quasi-governmental NHK, enough to cause Japan's ''neutral'' stance to be reconsidered.

                  As the regime that calls itself ''Myanmar'' becomes synonymous with horror, the old word ''Bi-ru-ma'' the Japanese rendering for Burma, is likely to make a comeback.

                  That the killing of a single Japanese citizen has provoked more outrage than the deaths of a dozen unknown local demonstrators speaks partly to the tribal nature of the media in today's world, but also points to the importance of access and the elements of good story-telling.

                  Nagai's story can be shared effectively because documented facts and images exist that make a rounded telling possible. His parents and co-workers were interviewed, his camera work put on view. But even allowing for bias in the coverage, Nagai's fate was not only supremely newsworthy, but appropriately paired with the pain and loss suffered by dignified Burmese monks and civilian demonstrators.

                  Kenji Nagai was shot in the back while doing his job, his body and passport returned but not his camera. Through him, the world got a shocking glimpse of Burma's shoot-to-kill politics. Even a casual TV viewer fuzzy on the details _ and who isn't, given the dearth of information coming out of Burma _ can see that there is something terribly wrong about a regime that operates in such a way.

                  The brutal imagery of people with guns gunning down people without guns speaks for itself.

                  If it bleeds, it leads. Long the mantra of the tabloid press and TV stations desperate to find an audience, these callous words might as well be the mantra for the global cable and network giants.

                  CNN and other news giants have done a decent job using other people's footage to catch up with a story that took the world by surprise in part because of their own negligence, bestowing Burma with 15 minutes of fame and then a bit more.

                  But few if any card-carrying cable stars and camera crews can get into Burma, effectively putting the story back on the back burner. Photos posted to the internet strain to fill the gap, and a range of motley voices from refugees and militant minorities to a handful of bloggers inside Burma have tales to tell, but bloggers are not journalists and verification remains vague.

                  Even as one of the world's great humanitarian struggles fades from the screen, the 24/7 news show must go on.

                  Entertaining practitioners of TV journalism will while away valuable air-time as before, inadvertently focusing on the celebrity of celebrity, re-directing attention away from the afflicted to the affluent and their own fastidiously groomed selves.

                  Meanwhile, as Burma, the land once lovingly described by Kipling as full of ''sunshine, palm trees and tinkly temple bells'', recedes from view, its people are at risk of being felled like trees in a far-off forest, invisible and all but unheard.

                  Philip J Cunningham is a freelance writer and political commentator.


                  Big jump in Burma crop: UN
                   
                  State's output second only to Afghanistan
                  The Nation October 12, 2007
                   
                  Corruption, high-level collusion and weak border security were major factors behind the increase of opium production in military-ruled Burma, making the country the second largest opium producer in the world, the United Nations said yesterday.

                  Opium poppy cultivation in Burma increased from 21,500 hectares in 2006 to 27,700 hectares this year - an increase of 29 per cent, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

                  However, experts at the UNODC who released the report on opium production in the Golden Triangle were unable to specify how high ranking the people involved were, and how they benefited from the production.

                  "A 'high' level could be any definition or any range or any level," Sharig Bin Raza, the representative of UNODC Myanmar (Burma) Office told a press conference.

                  Opium production was mostly focused in southern Shan State, which was not the most stable part of the country and the government's control could be loose, he said. "There is the presence of a number of troops - insurgents, and cease-fire groups. It is a combination of these factors; corruption and collusion, and this is what the UNODC intends to take up with the concerned authorities," Bin Raza said.

                  Second only to Afghanistan, Burma's share of the global opium poppy cultivation fell from 55 per cent in 1998 to 11 per cent last year, before increasing slightly to 12 per cent this year, the UN report said.

                  The sharp increase in the amount of opium grown in Burma in 2007 was worrying and undermined progress towards a drug-free Southeast Asia, the UN drug chief Maria Costa said in a press statement issued from Vienna.

                  However, some success was seen in Burma. Areas under control of cease-fire groups in Special Region One of Kokang, Special Region Two of Wa and Special Region Four of Shan were now opium-free areas, said UNODC Illicit crop expert Xavier Bouan.

                  The Burmese government announced a plan in 1999 to eradicate opium cultivation within 15 years and had managed to control growing and production in some areas including the upper Shan State, he said.

                  Attempts to eliminate cultivation by the Wa could not be considered a success story as the ethnic tribe had outsourced the production of opium to other groups, an official at Thailand's Narcotics Control Board said.

                  Of other countries in the Golden Triangle, Laos saw its opium cultivation decline from 2,500 hectares last year to 1,500 hectares this year - or down 40 per cent.

                  Meanwhile, cultivation in Thailand, which claimed it has 30 years of experience in poppy eradication, increased 30 per cent from 157 hectares in 2006 - to 205 hectares this year, the UN report said.

                  Pipop Chamnivikaivong, from the Narcotics Control Board, blamed inaccessibility of opium poppy cultivation areas in Chiang Mai's Omkoi district for the failure to control the cultivation.

                  The relaxation of narcotic suppression after the military coup was also a factor, he said.

                  Supalak G Khundee


                  India gives no ground on Burma

                  The world has been horrified by graphic images of the latest crackdown by Burma's military junta.

                  The Nation October 12, 2007

                  But the bullets and clubs unleashed on Buddhist monks have worked. The monks have retreated and an eerie normalcy has returned to Rangoon, Burma's principal city and former capital.

                  That crackdown continues under cover of darkness. When the sun sets in Burma, fear rises. Everyone listens, half awake, for the dreaded knock on the door. Any night, the military's agents can come for you, take you away and make sure you are never heard from again.

                  In recent nights, the junta's henchmen have burst into monasteries, lined up sleepy monks and smashed their shaved heads against the walls, spattering them with blood. Scores of others, perhaps hundreds, have been carted off for interrogation, torture or execution. The nighttime assault on a United Nations employee and her family made international news, but hundreds of less well-connected Burmese have been similarly abused.

                  For 45 years, Burma's people have been subjected to the junta's reign of terror. My father was born in Rangoon long before the 1962 coup that brought the current regime to power. Afterwards, many of my relatives, prosperous Indian merchants who had been settled in Burma for generations, abandoned homes and businesses in order to save their skins as chaos enveloped the city.

                  A relative who now lives in Bangkok, but who returned part-time to Rangoon in response to overtures from Burma's cash-starved rulers, recalled those days: "We lived through hell. We never knew when we woke up each morning what would happen. People were being denounced left and right. They could just come and take you away and take everything away from you."

                  Those who couldn't leave Burma, or didn't want to, have lived with this fear ever since.

                  The United States and Europe have issued strong statements condemning the crackdown and calling upon Burma's neighbours, especially India and China, to exert their influence on the regime. The response from both has been muted (as it has from Thailand, which also has strong economic ties with Burma).

                  China balks at interfering in the "internal affairs" of a neighbour from whom it gets precious natural gas and potential access to the sea. India, which "normalised" bilateral relations a few years ago, is reluctant to alienate Burma's military, with which it has worked closely to counter rebels in India's northeast who had been using the common border to tactical advantage. To this end, India has provided aid, including tanks and training, to Burma's military.

                  But the main reason for India's good relations with Burma's ruling thugs is the country's vast and still largely unexploited energy reserves, which India desperately needs to fuel its economic boom. India has invested US$150 million in a gas exploration deal off the Arakan coast of Burma, and India's state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation and Gas Authority of India Ltd have taken a 30 per cent stake in two offshore gas fields in direct competition with PetroChina, which has also been given a stake.

                  India and China are simply doing what the US and European countries have done for so long: trump rhetoric about democracy and human rights with policies that serve their strategic and energy security interests. US relations with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are two examples, and America's Chevron and France's Total, two of the world's oil giants, continue to do a brisk business in Burma, thanks to loopholes in the sanctions.

                  But the rise of India and China means that the time-tested posture of Western democracies toward emerging states to "do as we say, not as we do" will become less tenable. If the European Union and the US want democratic India to act according to its stated moral values and not its vital national interests when these appear to conflict, they had better be prepared to do the same.

                  Feeling the heat, including threats from some US senators to link America's nuclear deal with India to its actions in Burma, India has announced that it is asking for the release of Burmese democratic opposition leader and Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest. But the credibility of all democratic regimes, not just India's, is at stake in what unfolds in Burma.

                  Mira Kamdar is a fellow of the Asia Society and the author of "Planet India: How the Fastest-Growing Democracy is Transforming America and the World".


                  Human Rights Watch slams arms sales to Myanmar
                  Agence France Presse: Thu 11 Oct 2007 

                  Nations such as China, Russia and India are helping prop up Myanmar’s military junta by supplying them with weapons, Human Rights Watch said Thursday as it appealed for an arms embargo.

                  The New York-based watchdog called on the UN Security Council — currently meeting in New York — to impose and enforce a ban on the sale of arms to Myanmar, which it said used the weapons to commit abuses against its people.

                  “It’s time for the Security Council to end all sales and transfers of arms to a government that uses repression and fear to hang onto power,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

                  “Instead of continuing to protect Burma’s abusive generals, China and Russia should join other Security Council members to cut off the instruments of repression,” he said. Myanmar was previously known as Burma.

                  At least 13 people were killed and about 2,100 arrested in a violent crackdown on rallies across Myanmar last month, which had posed the biggest threat to the junta’s rule in nearly two decades.

                  The Security Council on Wednesday reached a broad consensus on a statement which “strongly deplores” the recent bloody crackdown, after pressure from Myanmar’s allies China and Russia to water down a stronger draft.

                  “The nations of the world are arming and training the Burmese military at the same time that they condemn Burma’s human rights violations,” Adams said.

                  “These countries should back up their rhetoric with actions to avoid complicity in attacks on the Burmese people.”

                  Human Rights Watch singled out India as one of the main suppliers, saying it had sold Myanmar maritime surveillance aircraft, tanks and artillery.

                  China, meanwhile, has supplied Myanmar with advanced helicopter gunships, fighter planes, naval vessels, tanks and small arms including mortars, landmines, and assault rifles, the group said.

                  Russia signed a deal to supply Myanmar with MiG-29 fighter planes in 2002, it added.

                  The statement said Myanmar had received technical assistance from South Korean company Daewoo, rocket systems from North Korea, and cited reports of Israel selling tanks to the regime.

                  The military used the arms bought from overseas to put down numerous ethnic insurgencies, but in the process destroyed villages and terrorised civilians, Human Rights Watch said.


                  Myanmar to hold new gems sale despite boycott call
                  Agence France Presse: Thu 11 Oct 2007 

                  Military-ruled Myanmar said Thursday it would auction off its world-renowned gems and jade next month, despite growing calls for a boycott on its precious stones — a major money-spinner for the junta.

                  The November 7-19 auction will be the fifth such sale this year, the official New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.

                  Each auction attracts buyers from around the world who spend as much as 100 million dollars, making the gem sales a key source of revenue for the cash-strapped regime.

                  The announcement comes in the wake of the biggest anti-government rallies in nearly 20 years and a subsequent crackdown by security forces that left at least 13 dead, sparking international condemnation.

                  One of the poorest countries in the world, Myanmar supplies up to 90 percent of the world’s rubies and has rich jade deposits that are highly prized in neighbouring China.

                  Despite sanctions on the regime, many stones from Myanmar are smuggled through neighbouring Thailand, where they are often cut and polished for eventual sale in the United States or Europe.

                  Iconic New York jeweler Tiffany’s is among the few that refuses to sell stones from Myanmar, but the industry group Jewelers of America this week asked the US Congress to specifically ban all gemstones mined in Myanmar.

                  “Jewelers of America members believe it is their responsibility to support and respect the protection of international human rights within their sphere of influence and to make sure the sourcing of gemstones is not complicit in human rights abuses,” said the group’s president Matthew Runci.

                  Cartier also said this week that it had stopped buying gems which might have been mined in Myanmar until further notice.

                  For the past 700 years, the so-called “Valley of Rubies” in the Mogok region of northeast Myanmar has been mined for “pigeon blood” rubies — considered the finest in the world — as well as for sapphires and other rare gems.

                  A top-notch ruby can cost more per carat than a diamond, making it a must-have accessory for the newly rich in Asia, Russia and the Middle East.

                  Last year, an 8.62-carat Burmese ruby fetched a record price of 3.7 million dollars — or 425,000 dollars per carat — at a Christie’s auction.

                  Imperial jade — emerald-green in colour — is another Myanmar treasure highly sought by the Chinese, the main customers for the country’s gems.

                  The stones are mined at a huge human cost, with reports of horrific working conditions in Myanmar’s ruby mines, which outsiders are forbidden to see.

                  Groups of Myanmar exiles want a boycott of the junta’s gems auctions, claiming that mine owners rely on forced labour.

                  There are also reports of soaring AIDS infection rates among mine workers due to needle-sharing by heroin addicts and widespread prostitution, with drugs shipped in by local traffickers, according to the US group Campaign for Burma.

                  “Burma’s gem industry is dominated by the military regime and its cronies,” said Jeremy Woodrum, the group’s director.

                  “No one with a conscience should buy a ruby because it is almost assuredly from Burma.”

                  But Myanmar’s auctions usually attract hundreds of buyers, especially from China and Thailand, although obtaining a visa has become more difficult since the crackdown.

                  Myanmar holds the auctions to try to stifle the thriving black market trade in gems, but many precious stones are still smuggled over to Thailand.


                  Myanmar Airways International ceases operation
                  Democratic Voice of Burma: Thu 11 Oct 2007 

                  Myanmar Airways International has ceased operating and is making arrangements to hand over its passengers to other airlines, according to an MAI staff member.

                  The employee, who did not wish to be named, said that the airline no longer has any aircraft to fly. The MAI previously flew one Boeing 707-800 and two McDonnell Douglas MD-82s on routes between Rangoon and Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

                  The staff member put the decision to stop operating down to low ticket demand due to boycotts of tourism and Burmese businesses. Tourists have been reportedly been cancelling visits to Burma since the military regime began its violent suppression of monks and other people involved in recent demonstrations.

                  However, another MAI employee said that the aircraft had been withdrawn by the companies which lease them, leaving MAI unable to operate.

                  Forty percent of MAI currently belongs to the state-owned Myanmar Airways, while Hong Kong-based Region Air Myanmar owns 49 per cent, and a Burmese entrepreneur owns the remaining 11 per cent.


                  Myanmar Airways International ceases operation
                  Democratic Voice of Burma: Thu 11 Oct 2007 

                  Myanmar Airways International has ceased operating and is making arrangements to hand over its passengers to other airlines, according to an MAI staff member.

                  The employee, who did not wish to be named, said that the airline no longer has any aircraft to fly. The MAI previously flew one Boeing 707-800 and two McDonnell Douglas MD-82s on routes between Rangoon and Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

                  The staff member put the decision to stop operating down to low ticket demand due to boycotts of tourism and Burmese businesses. Tourists have been reportedly been cancelling visits to Burma since the military regime began its violent suppression of monks and other people involved in recent demonstrations.

                  However, another MAI employee said that the aircraft had been withdrawn by the companies which lease them, leaving MAI unable to operate.

                  Forty percent of MAI currently belongs to the state-owned Myanmar Airways, while Hong Kong-based Region Air Myanmar owns 49 per cent, and a Burmese entrepreneur owns the remaining 11 per cent.


                  Lack of unity kept ethnic groups out of the showdown - Shah Paung
                  Irrawaddy: Thu 11 Oct 2007 

                  Burma has many ethnic armed groups, some of which have already reached ceasefire agreement with the military government—but all of them sharing the same aim of fighting against military rule.

                  Karen soldiers paraded in a celebration at their Thai-Burmese border-based camp
                  Ethnic armed groups failed to participate in the recent countrywide protests, however, leading many observers to ask why. Did they lack military might? Or was a lack of unity the reason?

                  According to ethnic leaders, they did not want to get involved for fear their involvement would harm monks and peaceful demonstrators. They also did not want to block the way of Burmese soldiers fleeing to liberation areas during the crisis.

                  Mahn Sha, general secretary of the Karen National Union, said forces of its military wing, the Karen National Liberation Army, had supported the demonstrators by launching at least five attacks daily on regime forces.

                  “It was anyway not a good time for us to move our forces into cities as the military government would take the opportunity of saying ethnic armed groups were killing people,” he said.

                  The fighting between the KNLA and Burmese troops didn’t help much in pressuring the military government into decreasing its crackdown on peaceful demonstrators.

                  Sai Lao Hseng, Shan State Army spokesman, said it would not have been easy to use ethnic forces to support the peaceful demonstration in the cities.

                  “We were worried and did not want the demonstrators to be hurt by employing military means,” he said.

                  Many ethnic residents of the cities were involved in the demonstrations, said Khun Manko Ban, leader of the Democratic Organization for Kayan National Unity and an elected representative in the 1990 election.

                  Some ethnic leaders, including Cin Sian Thang, a member of the Committee Representing People’s Parliament and chairman of the Zomi National Congress, and Thawng Kho Thang, also a member of the CRPP and the United Nationalities League for Democracy, were arrested during the crackdown on peaceful demonstrations on September 28.

                  Nai ong Ma-Nge, a New Mon State Party spokesman, said it was very difficult for the ethnic ceasefire groups to co-operate while under government control. It could not be said that they did not support the demonstrations, since their political standpoints were not clear.

                  Some ceasefire groups didn’t dare speak out because of business deals with the military government, he said.

                  According to dissident groups, about 200 protesters were killed and around 6,000 were arrested during the demonstrations. The state-run media reported that only 10 protesters died and over 2,000 people were arrested.

                  In the 1988 uprising, the Burmese military some 3,000 demonstrators across the country died and thousands more were imprisoned.

                  During that time, in the Karen State and Mon State liberation areas there was also fighting between the KNLA and the NMSP.

                  The NMSP reached a ceasefire with the Rangoon government in 1995, the year that the Karen Democratic Buddhist Army broke away from the KNU and agreed on a ceasefire with the military government. The Kachin Independence Organization also reached a ceasefire agreement with the military government in 1993.

                  Burma’s history shows that ethnic armed groups lack the unity to fight for the overthrow of the Burmese military rulers. Some ethnic leaders agree that unity within the various ethnic groups is weak and needs to be stronger.

                  “We are trying to build up the unity among our ethnic groups, but we still have our weak points and need to do more about it,” said Mahn Sha.

                  Sai Lao Hseng agreed with Mahn Sha. Some ethnic policies are false and there were many disagreements within the ethnic groups, creating lack of unity, he said.

                  “What we need is for all ethnic groups and the Burman people to unite to reach our goal,” Sai Lao Hseng said, “That is why we are still far away from our goal of democracy. We can never reach our goal without unity.”


                  Indian envoy meets detained Burmese democracy icon - Syed Ali Mujtaba
                  Mizzima News: Thu 11 Oct 2007 

                  The Indian ambassador to Burma met pro democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi a couple of weeks ago and there are indications that talks could take place between the military junta and pro democracy groups soon.

                  India’s Ambassador met Suu Kyi once and the Foreign Secretary met her twice. The generals and the Nobel Laureate have made some reconciliatory gestures and indications are that dialogue will soon begin between the junta and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, India’s External Affairs spokesman said here on Tuesday.

                  “India has been both privately and publicly seeking release of Suu Kyi and pressing the junta to hold talks with her to make her inclusive in all processes,” he said.

                  New Delhi notes that the present military regime in the neighbouring country has reached agreements with 17 ethnic groups. “Myanmar’s [Burma’s] process of national reconciliation initiated by the authorities should be expedited,” sources said.

                  New Delhi was hopeful that the UN Special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari’s endeavour would bear fruit. “We are ready to work with like-minded countries on Burma and have been extending support to Special UN Envoy Ibrahim Gambari,” the official said.

                  India has also asked the military regime to hold an inquiry into the recent bloodshed. It is of the opinion that military crackdown this time was not as severe as in 1988-89 and feels that there should be a ‘credible inquiry’ in the recent incidents and report should be published, a Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson said.

                  “We are concerned at the situation in Burma and are monitoring it closely. It is our hope that all sides will resolve their issues peacefully through dialogue.” he said.

                  “As a close and friendly neighbour, India hopes to see a peaceful, stable and prosperous Burma, where all sections of people will be included in a broad-based process of national reconciliation and political reform,” he added.


                  Farmers forced to sell rice to Burma Army     
                  Kachin News Group  Thursday, 11 October 2007 

                  With weeks to go before paddy ripens for harvest in Kachin State, Northern Burma, farmers are being forced to sell rice at half the price to Burmese military bases near their villages.  The pressure has been on since early this month, said local farmers.
                   
                  Farmers have been forced to sign and declare to sell the 'dutiful rice' which means 2 1/2 (two and half) tin per acre (Burma's standard unit of measurement of rice is 1 tin = 10.5 Kg) to local military bases, according to local farmers.
                   
                  Yesterday, all farmers in Dumbang village on Ledo Road in Hukawng Valley were summoned to a meeting in the village by the army authorities and made to sign the an agreement to sell rice at half price—Kyat 2,500 per tin (about US $ 2).  The farmers were also made to agree by the military that they would be paid within a month after they signed, farmers who attended the meeting told KNG today.
                   
                  "We now have a big problem selling rice to the army called the 'dutiful rice' which is counted on the basis of total acre of paddy fields owned by the farmers but not based on how many acres of active paddy fields owned," a farmer in Dumbang village told KNG.
                   
                  Some farmers in the village own 20 acres but they actually plough about five acres due to problems surfacing. However, they have been ordered to sell rice from a total of 20 acres of paddy fields by the army.
                   
                  Currently in Myitkyina, capital of Kachin State the prevailing market price for one tin of rice is between Kyat 4,500 and Kyat 5,000 (about US $ 3.3-4), according to sources close to farmers.
                   
                  In Hugawng Valley, Myikyina Town, Waingmaw Town and Mogaung Town, the military junta has already divided the three main areas and the responsibilities of the army in Kachin State -- Myitkyina based Northern Command Headquarter (NC or Ma-Pa-Kha) in Myitkyina and Waingmaw areas, Mogaung based N0 (3) Military Operation Command (MOC or Sa-Ka-Kha-3) in Mogaung areas and Danai (Tanai) base Regional Operation Command (ROC or Da-Ka-Sa) in Hugawng Valley, respectively, farmers said.
                   
                  As Burma is a rice-cultivating country, rice is also the main crop in Kachin State but farmers have not received any financial support or farming equipment from the ruling junta since 1988, following the ouster of General Ne Win's Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP).


                  Junta makes villagers pay for development projects      
                  IMNA  Thursday, 11 October 2007 

                  The Burmese military junta which is in the habit of boasting about its development work through state run media like the MRTV has been extorting money from the people in southern Mon state, Burma to build a clinic.
                   
                  The junta gives a regular account on television of the number of bridges, schools, hospitals and clinics it has constructed for the people and how is it is developing the country.
                   
                  Following its attempts at wresting control of the areas in southern Mon state from a Mon rebel group, the regime set up military bases and upgraded a village to a town even as clashes occur between the Mon insurgents and its troops.
                   
                  "The military government officers extorted Kyat 10,000 from each family which could pay that amount in Yinye village," a source close to the Village Peace and Development Council (VPDC) said.
                   
                  The VPDC and some local officers went from house to house to forcibly demand money from about 350 families. For the poorer families the authorities took around 6,000 Kyat to 8,000 Kyat a household.
                   
                  Before demanding the money from the people, the local authorities in the area promised that they will build a clinic for the villagers and the government will pay for it.
                   
                  But when the project started, the authorities collected money from the local people for the cost over the last three days and spent a small percentage of the amount.
                   
                   Junta officials regularly force villagers to repair the roads and force them to patrol their villages. Following the movement of Mon insurgents around the village, the regime troops regularly impose curfew and confine the people, local people said.


                  Burma junta divided at highest level
                  By ABITSU | October 11, 2007

                  The First Post : Evidence is emerging from Burma that a split occurred within the ruling junta over how to handle the recent demonstrations and that the army was close to mutiny, waiting only for the word from its commander in chief, General Maung Aye. Maung Aye (far right) is number two in the Burmese junta, second only to General Than Shwe (near right). A battle-hardened, no-nonsense general, he is nonetheless regarded as a realist who carefully weighed the pros and cons of using troops to suppress the monks.

                  Reports emerged at the height of the bloody crackdown in Rangoon, Mandalay and other cities that confusion existed within the army over how to deal with the demonstrators. Some units were said to have refused to open fire.

                  A clearer picture of what happened in those critical days is emerging  from sources contacted by the Thai based exile magazine, the Irrawaddy, considered to be one of the most reliable reporters on Burma.

                  ‘Sources close to the army’ have told the magazine that Maung Aye issued an order for troops to hold their fire. He had earlier pressed Than Shwe to use only police and paramilitary units to clear the streets of demonstrators, but the junta leader had overruled him.

                  Than Shwe was supported by the number three in the junta, Thura Shwe Mann, deputy commander in chief of the army, who bypassed Maung Aye and gave the order to use force to end the demonstrations.

                  Perhaps illustrating the confusion in the ranks, says the Irrawaddy, the regional commander in Rangoon, a Major General Ko Ko, reportedly told Thura Shwe Mann he would rather wait to hear the order come from Maung Aye. Maung Aye wavered, the shooting started - and Ko Ko seems to have paid for his hesitation with his job.

                  Even at the height of the bloodshed, say the Irrawaddy’s sources, ’some regional commanders sent clear signals to Maung Aye that they were ready to obey any order he gave them, but the army chief did not make any move against Than Shwe.’

                  Some senior officers reportedly appealed to Maung Aye to meet opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to engage her help in ending the crisis. Maung Aye is said to have increased the guard on her home, where she is under house arrest, to protect her from the armed pro-government thugs who roamed Rangoon during the crackdown.

                  For at least the past six years, reports have come out of Burma that Maung Aye was planning to topple Than Shwe. The magazine Time Asia  reported in December 2000: ‘Maung Aye’s time is coming. Junta watchers in Rangoon expect he may succeed Than Shwe in the coming year.’

                  The same junta watchers are now asking themselves why Maung Aye didn’t pounce this month, with Than Shwe and Thura Shwe Mann on the back foot. ‘He has all the cards, but he didn’t want to play,’ one source told the Irrawaddy.

                  Other commentators surmise that Maung Aye is waiting for the dust to settle. “He appears to be cultivating an image of a reasonable man with whom the world could do business,” says writer Myint Thein.

                  Maung Aye has his work cut out, if that’s the case. This is the general who crushed a Karen rebel army in 1997, walked with muddy boots over the Karen flag lain in surrender before him and ordered the rebel commander to kneel before him and capitulate.


                  Nobel Laureates Voice their Outrage at Human Rights Abuses in Myanmar
                  By ABITSU | October 12, 2007

                  New York, NY (PRWEB) October 11, 2007 — The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity (EWF) released a statement signed by 70 Nobel Laureates (so far) expressing their outrage with the junta’s grave human rights abuses that have sharply escalated in Myanmar since September 27th.

                  Expressing their solidarity with the Burmese people, the Laureates denounce the oppressive rule of the military government whose ongoing violent repression of peaceful demonstrations led by monks and other demonstrators has resulted in an unknown amount of deaths and arrests.

                  The Laureates urge the international community, and particularly the countries with influence on the Burmese government, to apply pressure on the junta to secure basic democratic freedoms and to ensure the protection of human rights.

                  The statement also calls for the release of colleague Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been held under house arrest for much of the past 18 years as a result of her leadership of the pro-democracy movement.

                  EWF was established by Elie and his wife Marion, soon after he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1986. EWF’s mission, rooted in the memory of the Holocaust, is to combat indifference, intolerance and injustice through international dialogue and youth focused programs that promote acceptance, understanding, and equality.

                  Please click here to view the statement signed by 70 Nobel Laureates.
                  http://www.eliewieselfoundation.org/CM_Images//UploadedImages/Statement%20on%20Myanmar.pdf


                   


                   

                • CHAN Beng Seng
                  1.. Trade, security trump democracy in Burma 2.. Burmese junta dismisses UN statement 3.. Desperate Burmese Labor in Thailand 4.. Despite poor human rights
                  Message 8 of 14 , Oct 16, 2007
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                    1. Trade, security trump democracy in Burma
                    2. Burmese junta dismisses UN statement
                    3. Desperate Burmese Labor in Thailand
                    4. Despite poor human rights record, Myanmar easily finds foreign suppliers for its military
                    5. Regular UN engagement, monitoring of Human Rights in Burma urged
                    6. Protesting dogs are now on the regime’s wanted list
                    7. Italian jeweller Bulgari joins boycott of Myanmar’s precious stones
                    8. India sealed Kaladan deal as Myanmar bled
                    9. Insurer stops coverage of MAI flights
                    10. Reconciliation is far away, but transition plan is needed
                    11. Do not give up on the Burmese revolution yet
                    12. Statement on dialogue
                    13. ITUC calls for end of business links with Burma
                    14. "Put your money where your mouth is" Asean activists urge tougher EU sanctions on Burma
                     

                     
                    Trade, security trump democracy in Burma
                    The world is appalled by images and accounts of brutality in Burmese cities and looks for ways to pressure the military regime.
                    The Nation October 15, 2007
                     
                    But one point is clear: the standard tools of Western liberals and NGOs are not likely to be effective in our multi-polar world and in Burma specifically. In the 1970s and 1980s, activists shamed Western companies doing business in apartheid-era South Africa by boycotting products or calling for divestment. Corporations doing business in Burma are beyond the reach of the activists. So activists should target the governments backing the junta rather than the companies active in Burma.

                    For some time now, activists have targeted two oil companies, Total of France and Unocal, a Chevron subsidiary, because they have major investments in Burma.

                    Representing a group of Burmese civilians, the Washington-based International Labour Rights Forum sued Unocal in the US under the Alien Tort Claims Act, which allows any litigant, even a non-American, to sue a multinational company for a tort that violates the law of nations or any US treaty, even if that act was committed outside the US. Unocal, accused of using forced labour in Burma, did not admit wrongdoing, but settled the case out of court.

                    Total, too, was sued in a French court, and settled the matter with litigants about two years ago. The firm initiated a socio-economic development programme in areas near the Yadana pipeline and, to assuage critics, invited Bernard Kouchner, France's foreign minister, to visit the site. His report was largely positive.

                    But criticisms of companies or quiet lobbying by companies did not stop the Burmese junta. As the situation in Burma deteriorates, activists in France and elsewhere plan protests at Total's facilities, and Belgian prosecutors decided to reopen a case against Total for crimes against humanity.

                    Whether economic sanctions can change the behaviour of a regime like Burma's is a complex issue, and the extent to which the regime in Rangoon can survive because of contributions foreign firms make through taxes and other payments is unknown, given the opaque nature of the country's finances, including other sources of revenue, not all of them legal.

                    The underlying assumption behind campaigns and lawsuits is that Western firms have leverage to influence intransigent regimes. This ignores how globalisation has reshaped our world.

                    The biggest investors in Burma are companies from China, Thailand, Singapore and India. As globalisation shifts centres of production, logistics and marketing from traditional centres to new locations, the decision-makers also change. A Western company is susceptible to pressure because it operates in a competitive marketplace and must respond to a range of stakeholders. Part of a free society, the company must deal with activists chaining themselves to its facilities, seeking newspaper photographs and expecting no worse punishment than warnings from local police. Firms from China and Singapore don't face such scrutiny; firms from Thailand and India, while investing abroad, have not yet aroused the attention of local activists about their activities overseas.

                    This allows Chinese firms, often state-owned entities, to act exactly the way their owners want. Such investments prop up unrepresentative regimes. Last year, a senior executive of the European Investment Bank in Luxembourg lamented that its standards on environmental and social issues were so high that it regularly loses business to Chinese lenders, often in the least-developed countries. Western firms and governments are powerless in this regard. Burma's leaders know this.

                    Many Western activists haven't grasped this concept, that substitutes are readily available in a globalised world, although Western governments have factored it in, and lean on China to influence Burma. At first glance, asking China to do something seems bizarre: in 1989, China used the People's Liberation Army against its own non-violent students. Why would China care about monks in Burma?

                    The answer may lie in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Many in the West realise that this is the one great opportunity to push China to change the way it does business worldwide, particularly if it wants to be taken seriously as a world power. Hence, the pressure on China over the conduct of Sudanese-supported militia in Darfur, and now Burma, two states regarded as China's responsibility. The world expects China to rein in these governments.

                    One of the outcomes of multi-polar globalisation - in which China, India, Singapore, Thailand, Brazil and Russia have become important players - is reduced leverage for the West. The business interests that benefit from Burma are no longer in London, Paris or New York and more likely to be in Kolkata, Beijing or Singapore - beyond the reach of the activists.

                    Holding a candlelight vigil in front of the Burmese embassy in any city of the world is symbolic and necessary, so that ordinary citizens can express revulsion. Such protests publicly humiliate Burma's diplomats in the cities where they like to shop and be seen as part of the smart set. Picketing in front of gas stations is another story: the fuel at the gas station may actually have come from Texas, even if the station's logo is that of a French company doing business in Burma. That company may not be the most important investor in Burma. Increasingly, in fragile states, countries like China call the shots. Unencumbered by local pressures, they can invest anywhere, irrespective of risks to reputation.

                    The rise of China raises opportunities, threats as well as challenges. It is vital that China becomes a responsible superpower. But how China views the world is not the way the world has worked in the past. China wants to reshape the debate, and its handling of Burma shows that. It has spoken of the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of a country, to prevent the UN Security Council from taking aggressive action on Burma. The challenge for the international community is to show that the values they want to see reflected in the behaviour of Burmese authorities aren't external or Western values, but universal values. Globalisation ensures some shared virtues: bringing about lower prices is one shared value, and freedom of expression and opposition to corruption and violence are others.

                    And one area where global values trump localist exceptionalism is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, approaching its 60th anniversary, and which all nations of the world, Burma and China included, say they respect.

                    * Salil Tripathi is a London-based writer who specialises in Asian and international economic affairs.


                    Burmese junta dismisses UN statement: opposition demands reform
                    Associated Press: Sat 13 Oct 2007 

                    Burma’s military regime dismissed a UN statement calling for dialogue with the pro-democracy opposition, insisting that it would follow its own roadmap toward reform—a plan critics say is a ruse aimed at extending the government’s grip on power.

                    The main opposition National League for Democracy, however, hailed the UN declaration and urged the ruling generals to comply with demands for negotiations with pro-democracy forces and ethnic minorities, and the release of political prisoners.

                    State-run TV and radio issued a statement Friday arguing that conditions inside Burma—a reference to the anti-government protests that were violently suppressed by troops on September 26 and 27—were not the concern of the outside world.

                    “Myanmar’s current situation does not affect regional and international stability,” said the statement, attributed to Col Thant Shin. “However, we deeply regret that the UN Security Council has issued a statement contrary to the people’s desires.”

                    “The government of Myanmar will continue to implement the seven-step roadmap together with the people,” the statement said, referring to the junta’s plan that promises a new constitution and an eventual transition to democratic rule.

                    The road map process is supposed to culminate in a general election at an unspecified date in the future. But so far only the first stage—drawing up guidelines for a new constitution—has been completed, and critics say the convention that drafted the guidelines was stage-managed by the military.

                    Detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD endorsed the Security Council statement.

                    “Since Myanmar is a member country of the United Nations and as the government has declared it would work with the UN, we earnestly underscore the need to urgently implement the demands made by the Security Council,” the NLD said.

                    The 15-member Security Council issued its first statement on Burma on Thursday in an attempt to pressure the military rulers—in charge of the isolated country since 1988—to enter a dialogue with the opposition and make moves toward democratic reforms.


                    Desperate Burmese Labor in Thailand - Andrew Higgins
                    Wall Street Journal Online: Sat 13 Oct 2007 

                    Myawaddy, Myanmar — Shortly after dawn six days a week, scores of young women scramble down a muddy track north of this border town and clamber aboard metal boats for a short trip across the Moei River, the narrow, cocoa-brown boundary between Myanmar and Thailand.

                    The women, victims of the economic ruin visited on this country by the world’s most enduring military dictatorship, are on their way to work in a factory on the opposite riverbank in Thailand. In the late afternoon, they cross back to Myanmar.

                    The commute serves a global textile industry driven by powerful forces. One is the misery of the nation formerly known as Burma, home to legions desperate for work. Another is America’s appetite for low-cost lingerie.

                    The women work at Top Form Brassiere (Mae Sot) Co., a unit of a Hong Kong-listed company, Top Form International Ltd. Most of the six million bras it will sew at its plant along the Moei River this year will end up in U.S. stores under names like Maidenform and Vanity Fair.

                    In the early morning, Buddhist monks go out on the streets of Mae Sot, Thailand, to collect alms and say prayers.

                    The labels say “Made in Thailand.” The workers, though, come mostly from Myanmar.

                    “There is nothing over there for them,” says Michael Lurer, boss of the Top Form factory. The 32-year-old American argues that his jobs, providing take-home pay of about $3 a day, offer an opportunity for the hungry from Myanmar. “They have no food, no income, no nothing,” he says, standing outside his riverside plant, a few miles from the Thai town of Mae Sot.

                    Debate over globalization, particularly over locating production in impoverished lands, has raged for years. Fans say it brings economic opportunity and development. Critics say it drives down wages world-wide and encourages exploitation.

                    Isolated Myanmar, where military rulers last month crushed peaceful protests led by Buddhist monks, offers an especially raw example of the border-crossing pressures and dilemmas unleashed by international trade.

                    Globalization is reaching into the most remote and politically toxic nooks and crannies of the world economy. U.S. and European sanctions stop most Western companies from setting up shop in Myanmar. But the long arm of trade gets around the barriers in places like this border zone, by sucking labor into neighboring countries.

                    Myanmar also poses an ethical conundrum for Westerners concerned about the role multinationals may play in propping up rogue regimes. Myanmar is such an economic wasteland that many of its roughly 56 million people lust for jobs few others want to do. Cost-conscious factory bosses across the border, while acting simply out of self-interest, end up providing jobs that both the people of Myanmar and its military government need.

                    The former British colony was once the world’s largest rice exporter, with a promising economy. The military took power in 1962 and launched a self-reliance drive, seizing businesses and booting out Indian businesspeople.

                    Military rulers in the late 1980s began to court foreign investment and trade, which developed with Asian neighbors, but repressive policies continued to stymie relations with the West. In recent years, although surging energy prices boosted Myanmar’s revenue from natural gas, the regime blew a large chunk of its cash on building a new capital and on fuel subsidies.

                    Here in Myawaddy, a big frontier town, shops sell local garlic and other produce, but are otherwise stocked almost entirely with goods from Thailand and China. Myawaddy has only a handful of paved roads and few cars. Electricity is erratic. Jobs are scarcer still.

                    The main employer, a big garment factory, shut down several years ago as orders dried up, in part because of U.S. and European sanctions. The biggest enterprise now is a distillery, Grand Royal Whisky, which churns out rot-gut booze that sells for $1 a bottle. Smuggling across the river is the principal growth industry.

                    The Moei is lined with small jetties, from which boats — for a small fee — carry people and goods between Thailand and Myanmar.

                    Myanmar is “rotting like a dead fish,” says Saw Sei, a penniless 39-year-old who last week walked across Friendship Bridge from Myawaddy to the Thai town of Mae Sot. To start what he hopes will be a new life, he borrowed the equivalent of $15 from friends — at 10% monthly interest — and says he’ll take any job in Thailand that pays $1.50 a day or more.

                    Myawaddy was quiet during the protests in Myanmar’s two largest cities, Yangon and Mandalay, and the junta’s crackdown on them. Still, security agents monitor local monasteries and tail visitors through the town’s potholed backstreets.

                    Myanmar’s economic desperation, which deepened in August with boosts in the price of motor fuel and cooking gas, was a catalyst for the protests. It has driven at least 100,000, and possibly two or three times this number, to seek work over the border in and around Mae Sot. In all, more than two million people from Myanmar are thought to work in Thailand, though only a quarter of that number have Thai work papers.

                    The relatively fortunate get jobs in a few factories like Top Form, which says it registers all of its migrant workers and pays the minimum daily wage set by regional authorities: 147 baht, around $4.30. Mr. Lurer says he employs 1,450 people, mostly women from Myanmar. The factory is clean and well-ventilated. It has a staff nurse and works with a local hospital.

                    Some workers complain that they have to pay a third of their wages for food and lodging on the premises, whether needed or not. Top Form says it is required to provide lodging for migrant workers, and that the money goes to an outside owner of the dormitory. Beds are in a ramshackle temporary shelter made of metal sheets until builders finish a big new dorm.

                    Mr. Lurer says employees are supposed to sleep on the premises. Many do. But, he says, he can’t stop some crossing the river to Myanmar. Unlike many factories, which keep staff virtually imprisoned, “We’re not going to lock the gates,” he says.

                    Most Burmese, as everyone still calls them, who cross the river for jobs toil illegally for a fraction of the minimum wage. They labor in sweatshops, on building sites, in brothels or at other grubby work shunned by most Thais. Hospital figures show that foreigners in Mae Sot who had the health checks required by work permits totaled only 21,337 this year — no more than a fifth of the migrants.

                    Take S D Fashion Co., sealed off behind a high wall and big metal gate. It employs hundreds of workers from Myanmar but hasn’t had a single one screened for health this year, according to hospital records. Its human-resources manager says the factory has registered some but not all of its workers, blaming bureaucracy.

                    Labor activists denounce what they say is systematic exploitation in the border zone. They have had some success in curbing the worst abuses. A Thai labor tribunal in May ordered an S D Fashion subcontractor to give the equivalent of $36,000 to 134 underpaid workers. The case had begun when workers, mostly unregistered, tried to negotiate better conditions and were promptly fired.

                    Ma Naing, 43, crossed the Friendship Bridge from Myanmar 18 years ago and has since labored at half a dozen Thai factories. Not one paid even half the minimum wage, she says. She says her last boss had her handcuffed when she refused to sign a form saying she received the legal wage. She later escaped with help from a labor-rights organization tipped off about her ordeal.

                    Despite rampant abuse, neither workers nor labor-rights activists want foreign buyers to cancel orders from factories on the border. This, they say, would merely leave migrants without work and shift the abuse to other places with low labor costs.

                    “There is too much cheap labor in the world — this is the big problem,” says Than Doke, an activist in a 1988 student-led uprising in Myanmar that, like the recent protests, was brutally suppressed. Now in exile in Mae Sot, he helps run a group called the Burma Labour Solidarity Organization.

                    In 2003, it and a Norwegian group compiled detailed evidence that a Mae Sot factory was using underage and underpaid workers to produce goods bearing the brand name Tommy Hilfiger. The U.S. garment company says the production either was unauthorized or involved counterfeits. According to labor activists, the factory fired 800 workers and closed.

                    “There is a real moral dilemma for everyone involved,” says Kevin Hewison, a scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who has studied Myanmar’s migrant labor. Abuse needs to be tackled, he says, but “if this leads to workers losing jobs and being sent back to Burma, a lot of people will be hurt.”

                    Sanctions present a similar dilemma. The U.S. barred investment in Myanmar in the late 1990s and cut off trade in 2003. Europe imposed more limited restrictions in 2004. Most major Western companies now avoid direct involvement in Myanmar, except for a “grandfathered” investment by Chevron Corp. in a Myanmar gas field and pipeline and a stake in the same project held by France’s Total SA. The White House wants to tighten the economic squeeze in response to the regime’s current repression.

                    The aim is to punish Myanmar’s secretive leaders. But the sanctions hit ordinary people hardest — and help drive job seekers across the Moei River.

                    Just before the military’s assault on protesters Sept. 27, Mr. Lurer of Top Form visited sewing workshops in Yangon. He says he went to figure out why bra workers with years of experience kept turning up at his Thai plant pleading for work. The reason, he says, is that Myanmar’s bra factories have nearly all shut down because Western markets won’t take their goods.

                    After his return from protest-clogged Yangon, which he left just hours before the army started shooting, Mr. Lurer faced a small protest of his own. About two dozen of his Burmese workers took umbrage when a supervisor criticized their production rate. During a lunch break, they marched off to a Buddhist temple. The supervisor followed and asked them to sign resignation papers. They refused and went back to the factory.

                    Mr. Lurer called in the workers and showed them a copy of Time magazine with pictures of the turmoil in Myanmar. He says he told them they were free to stay or leave and, whatever their decision, would “not get shot, unlike over there.”

                    One worker, Moe Moe, who lives with her husband and a child in a hut on the Thai side, says she spoke up with complaints and was told to stop making trouble. All of the workers except her returned to the job. Mr. Lurer says he has checked the workers’ production figure and discovered that the supervisor was wrong to reprimand them.

                    For Asian bra factories, labor is a far smaller part of expense than materials. But the availability — and therefore the cost — of labor varies sharply from place to place. It’s the labor variable that lures underwear and other manufacturers to the Thailand-Myanmar border.

                    Amnart Nantaharn, head of the Mae Sot branch of the Federation of Thai Industries, blames the spotty registration of migrant workers on cumbersome Thai bureaucracy. He says labor activists — several of whom were attacked in the past by unknown assailants — stir up trouble needlessly.

                    Factory bosses shouldn’t worry too much about formalities such as work registration, Mr. Nantaharn says. “I tell them we can protect them” by talking to soldiers, police and others. “You don’t always have to pay money.”

                    Mr. Lurer at Top Form says his plant allows “no monkey business. None.” His biggest buyer is an intimate-apparel business, recently bought by Berkshire Hathaway’s Fruit of the Loom unit, which includes the brands Vanity Fair, Lily of France, Bestform and Vassarette. No one at Berkshire was available for comment, and several efforts to reach Fruit of the Loom officials for comment were unsuccessful.

                    Another big customer is New Jersey-based Maidenform Brands Inc. It says it requires all suppliers to comply with all labor laws and hires auditors to review each factory.

                    Top Form International sells more than 55 million bras a year. It does about 60% of its manufacturing in China. But the company said in a recent annual report that it would continue moving production “from expensive locations to low cost and labour abundant areas.”

                    The result: staff cuts in China’s increasingly expensive Guangdong province and near Bangkok, coupled with expansion on the Moei River. Mr. Lurer is building a new workshop and wants to add more Myanmar bra stitchers. He has also opened a separate Top Form plant in the center of Mae Sot. There, Myanmar workers make what he says are state-of-the-art seamless panties, also for export.

                    Like many factory bosses on the border, Mr. Lurer takes a dim view of labor activists, who have twice taken Top Form to labor tribunals over compensation claims by workers who said they’d been fired. Top Form won one case and lost one. Mr. Lurer says his plant gets “stabbed in the back” because it employs only registered workers who have the right to complain.

                    Min Lwin, secretary of the Federation of Trade Unions Burma, an exiled labor group, says Top Form follows the rules more than most companies. While some workers are “upset with conditions” at Top Form, he says, others “think Michael [Lurer] is their savior.”

                    Mr. Lurer is a migrant himself, having grown up in Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Hong Kong and studied at a university in Dalian, China. He learned multiple languages, including some Burmese. Frequently on the road, he’s had bad luck with transport. He totaled a car on a mountain road and was in a plane crash at Mae Sot airport.

                    Before opening the riverbank plant in 2004, Mr. Lurer, Top Form’s regional director, had traveled across Thailand looking at sites. He checked out the border with another impecunious neighbor, Laos, but concluded that Laos, with only 6.5 million people, didn’t have a sufficient number of people so hungry for work they would cross the border into Thailand for it. Myanmar had a population more than eight times as large as Laos and was bursting with desperate people hunting for jobs.

                    It did have a few drawbacks. A big one was the presence of heavily armed men in rugged areas nearby. The stretch of riverbank across from his Thai bra factory is controlled by an outfit called the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, an armed rabble from Myanmar’s restive Karen ethnic group. Members of the DKBA used to fight the Myanmar junta. Now they collaborate with it.

                    Mr. Lurer, who has struck up a rapport with the group, says he occasionally hears gunfire in the distance at night but hasn’t had any trouble. DKBA troops monitor river traffic from a rickety hut covered with tropical foliage.

                    More menacing for Top Form, says Mr. Lurer, are copycats trying to break into bra making. Last year, a knitting factory owned by Hong Kong and Thai interests poached about 10 of his workers and tried to expand into the lingerie business. The effort flopped. The border region, says Mr. Lurer, “is a cutthroat place.”

                    –Wilawan Watcharasakwet and James Hookway in Bangkok, Thailand, contributed to this article.


                    Despite poor human rights record, Myanmar easily finds foreign suppliers for its military - Grant Peck
                    Associated Press: Sat 13 Oct 2007 

                    Military-ruled Myanmar is a pariah state to many because of its dismal human rights record, slapped with an arms embargo by the U.S. and European Union. But to some of the world’s other top weapons dealers, Myanmar is just another customer.

                    India, the world’s most populous democracy, and North Korea, Asia’s most repressive dictatorship, are both suppliers to Myanmar’s military, and neither has signaled it would stop business after the junta’s crackdown on pro-democracy protests last month.

                    As is the case with the biggest suppliers to Myanmar Russia, China and Ukraine such arms sales may be widely criticized for helping the regime stay in power, but they don’t clearly violate any laws, treaties or international agreements.

                    “Together these countries can supply anything Burma could possibly want, and they have more or less done so in the last 15 years,” said Siemon Wezeman, a researcher for the Arms Transfers Project of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI.

                    Most known arms transfers to Myanmar are legal, and some are even reported to the United Nations. But other transactions are murkier, as countries more sensitive to international opinion apparently try to mask their activities. Analysts say these include India, as well as Israel and Singapore.

                    The only restrictions on selling military equipment to Myanmar, also known as Burma, are self-imposed. The tightest embargoes are maintained by the United States and the European Union, while several other nations, such as South Korea, have less sweeping or informal sanctions.

                    The U.S. and European restrictions ban sales and re-sales of virtually all military-related equipment to Myanmar. But it is difficult to stop third parties from selling used equipment and licensed technology.

                    As a result, the junta has become the eager client of countries that “have garnered reputations for being willing to supply almost any regime,” said Dr. Paul Holtom, another SIPRI researcher.

                    Myanmar’s army of more than 400,000 is the second-largest in Southeast Asia after Vietnam’s, and bigger on a per capita basis. Because it is one of Asia’s poorest countries, its military has until recently operated without much of the sophisticated weaponry of its neighbors, but has made huge modernization efforts since 1988.

                    The reasons for selling to Myanmar are many and first among them is profit.

                    By far the largest amount of Myanmar’s arms have been imported from China, according to SIPRI’s register of transfers of major conventional weapons. Its database, which represents conservative estimates, shows Myanmar importing US$1.69 billion (euro1.19 billion) in military goods from China between 1988 when the current junta took power after violently crushing a pro-democracy uprising and 2006.

                    Goods bought from China over the years have included armored personnel carriers, tanks, fighter aircraft, radar systems, surface-to-air missiles and short-range air-to-air missile systems.

                    Russia comes in second at US$396 million (euro279.4 million), then Serbia and Ukraine.

                    Geopolitical considerations also play a role in weapons sales to Myanmar.

                    India, for instance, had been a harsh critic of the 1988 crackdown. But it apparently overcame its aversion to dealing with the regime after watching China gain a commercial, political and military foothold in Myanmar, posing a potential strategic threat, especially as it opened up the prospect of Indian Ocean access for Beijing.

                    India also sought to enlist Myanmar’s cooperation in its long-running struggles against separatist groups in its northeast.

                    India shows up on SIPRI registry beginning in 2005. India has confirmed the delivery of two secondhand, British-made BN-2 Islander light transport aircraft, but insists they are not fitted out for military use. Reports of transfers of light artillery, armored personnel carriers and tanks remain unconfirmed.

                    Most controversial has been the planned sale of Indian-manufactured ALH attack helicopters. Various parts of the aircraft are supplied or made under license from several countries that embargo arms to Myanmar. Anti-junta campaigners insist the sale which is now in limbo would be in violation of the EU embargo, and have put India on notice that it could endanger commercial links with Europe.

                    India denies supplying weapons to Myanmar, but has acknowledged the two countries have defense agreements to help fight rebels on their common border.

                    Many countries are eager to unload aging equipment, and Myanmar is a willing buyer. Russia, Serbia and Ukraine, for instance, all have large Cold War-era defense industries and leftover hardware, and are intent in wringing profit from them.

                    Israel is also considered by arms researchers to be a major supplier of weapons and arms technology to Myanmar, though few details can be verified. A 2000 report by the London-based publication Jane’s Intelligence Review detailed extensive alleged links, but the Israeli government denies any arms sales.

                    The most mystery shrouds the junta’s deals with North Korea, widely believed to have supplied weapons such as Scud-type missiles that other nations are unwilling or unable to provide.

                    Details of Pyongyang’s dealings with Myanmar are hard to verify, because the two nations are among the world’s most secretive. Impoverished North Korea is cited by researchers as a “source of last resort” for arms buyers who cannot obtain what they want elsewhere.

                    Pyongyang is also hampered by the low quality of its arms.

                    “Burma does not (yet) need North Korea to supply rather inferior weaponry when it can get better stuff from Russia, China or a host of other nations,” Wezeman wrote in an e-mail response to questions.

                    Still, SIPRI lists Pyongyang as delivering 16 large artillery pieces to Myanmar in 1999, but reports in such publications as Jane’s Intelligence Review and Far Eastern Economic Review suggest much more extensive dealings.

                    Myanmar is said to have sought to purchase submarines from Pyongyang a deal believed to have fallen through and surface-to-surface missiles such as Pyongyang has supplied to other nations.


                    Regular UN engagement, monitoring of Human Rights in Burma urged
                    National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma: Sat 13 Oct 2007 

                    The National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB) warmly welcomes the Presidential Statement of the United Nations Security Council of 11 October 2007 and the formation of a “Core Group for Burma” which reflect concerns of the international community over the Burmese military’s use of brute force against peaceful demonstrators, which left many people, including monks, dead and injured and thousands imprisoned without due process of law.

                    The NCGUB humbly salutes the people of Burma whose courage, determination, and sacrifice have helped expose to the world the true deplorable features of the Burmese generals who would resort to all means, including the killing of religious leaders, to maintain their power.  The UNSC
                    Presidential Statement, endorsed by all 15 member nations of the UN Security Council, therefore constitutes a tribute to these heroes of Burma as well as a warning to the Burmese generals to change their ways.

                    The statement also highlights the most serious concerns of the people of Burma:

                    1. An “early release” of all political prisoners and detainees
                    2. “Genuine” dialog between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, all concerned parties, and ethnic leaders “with the direct support of the United Nations”
                    3. National reconciliation and peaceful solution

                    For the people of Burma to achieve these aspirations and progress made according to the UNSC Presidential Statement, UN engagement with the Burmese junta needs to be consistent. This can only be attained by the institutionalization of UN facilitation process and continuing presence of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser or his representative in Burma.

                    Furthermore, since NCGUB believes that political progress can never be assured unless human rights conditions improve, the UN Human Rights Special Repporteur for Myanmar must be able to perform his mandate of human rights investigation and monitor the implementation of the
                    resolution adopted by the Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council on Myanmar.

                    Most importantly, it is imperative to ensure that the Burmese military junta complies with the framework of conditions set and at a pace expected by the people of Burma and the UN Security Council.  The clock should start ticking now and the world must be prepared to act if otherwise.

                    The NCGUB wishes to express its deep appreciation to all UNSC member nations, countries that have persistently shown concern over the injustices being committed in Burma, and all individuals who have gone out of their way to empathize with the plight of our people. The special adviser to the UN Secretary-General, Mr Gambari, will soon embark on another mission of peace for Burma and the NCGUB wishes him every success in his endeavors.  The people of Burma will prevail!


                    Protesting dogs are now on the regime’s wanted list - Saw Yan Naing
                    Irrawaddy: Fri 12 Oct 2007 

                    The Burmese authorities have a new enemy to hunt down—dogs which are roaming Rangoon with pictures of Than Shwe and other regime leaders around their necks.

                    A resident of Shwegondine, Bahan Township, told The Irrawaddy on Friday that she saw a group of four dogs with pictures of the regime’s top generals around their necks.

                    Sightings were also reported in four other Rangoon townships—Tharkayta, Dawbon, Hlaing Tharyar and South Okkalapa.

                    Some sources said the canine protest had started at least a week ago, and was keeping the authorities busy trying to catch the offending dogs. “They seem quite good at avoiding arrest,” laughed one resident.

                    Associating anybody with a dog is a very serious insult in Burma.

                    Spray-painters are also at work, daubing trains with the words “Killer Than Shwe” and other slogans.


                    Italian jeweller Bulgari joins boycott of Myanmar’s precious stones
                    Agence France Presse: Fri 12 Oct 2007 

                    Italian jewellery and luxury goods maker Bulgari said on Friday it had asked its suppliers to certify that their jewels did not come from Myanmar.

                    “Even though the company has never bought stones directly from Myanmar, but only on the international markets, it has expressly asked its suppliers for guarantees on the geographical origin of their precious stones,” Bulgari said in a statement.

                    Myanmar’s military government last month violently suppressed the largest protests against its rule in nearly two decades, unleashing bullets and tear gas in the commercial hub Yangon and killing at least 13 people.

                    The move by Bulgari, the world’s third-biggest jeweller, follows a similar one from French jewellers Cartier, a subsidiary of Switzerland’s Richemont, and by US company Tiffany which itself stopped buying Myanmar jewels in 2003.

                    One of the poorest countries in the world, Myanmar supplies up to 90 percent of the world’s rubies and has rich jade deposits that are highly prized in neighbouring China.

                    Despite sanctions on the regime, many stones from Myanmar are smuggled through neighbouring Thailand, where they are often cut and polished for eventual sale in the United States or Europe.

                    For the past 700 years, the so-called “Valley of Rubies” in the Mogok region of northeast Myanmar has been mined for “pigeon blood” rubies — considered the finest in the world — as well as for sapphires and other rare gems.

                    The stones are mined at a huge human cost, with reports of horrific working conditions in Myanmar’s ruby mines, which outsiders are forbidden to see.


                    India sealed Kaladan deal as Myanmar bled - Shyamal Sarkar
                    Merinews.com: Fri 12 Oct 2007

                    India succeeded in inking a deal for the $ 103 million Kaladan Multi-Modal Transport Project, which had hit a major bottleneck. The deal was finalised in the backdrop of turmoil-stricken Myanmar, as India was driven by its own interest. An analysis.

                    IN THE MIDST of the social turmoil in Myanmar, which saw a repressive military killing and making arbitrary arrests, India pulled off a coup of sorts to finalise the agreement for the $ 103 million Kaladan Multi-Modal Transport Project, which had hit a major bottleneck.

                    Even as Myanmar bled, India went ahead unabashedly to finalise the agreement, which envisages developing the Sittwe port in Arakan state in the neighbouring country. By its own admission India has been driven by its own interest to acquire a transit route to southeast Asian countries through Myanmar.

                    While Pranab Mukherjee External Affairs Minister persuaded his Myanmar counterpart in New York to diffuse the explosive situation and begin talks with democracy icon Aung Suu Kyi, Indian officials worked frenetically to see to India’s interest. India is now quietly mediating between the obdurate military junta and pro-democracy leader Aung san Suu Kyi to initiate national reconciliation. It is learnt that the Indian ambassador in Yangoon, Bhaskar Mitra met Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest, last week.

                    The Sitwee sea port project on the Kaladan river in Myanmar will open up India’s landlocked north-eastern states - Assam, Manipur, Meghalya, Mizoram, Tripura, Sikkim, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh - to international trade routes through the Bay of Bengal and give a fillip to the country’s ‘Look East’ policy. It will also offer an alternative route for India, given that Bangladesh had refused to allow transit facilities. The project papers will be signed in the coming weeks.

                    A major upgradation of infrastructure of Sittwe, dating back to British rule in Myanmar, is on the cards. The port is about 250 kilometres from the Mizoram border and is located on the northwestern coast of Myanmar where the Kaladan River merges with the Bay of Bengal.

                    The military junta had been soft-pedaling on finalising the project. The bone of contention was the control of the port. Given that India is investing heavily in this project, it wanted control of the port, which was not going down well with Myanmar. India had little option but to compromise and has finally agreed to hand over the port soon after it is developed. The other thorny issue was that though Myanmar was committed to shelling out about $ 10 million in the project it is now unwilling to invest the money. India therefore has decided to provide the regime a soft loan of about $10 million helping resolve the issue.

                    The multi-modal transport project also takes in to account building roads and waterways in Mizoram and Myanmar that would connect Kaletwa in Myanmar with the National Highway 54 at Nalkawn in Mizoram.

                    The port’s development is likely to take three years and will facilitate movement of cargo vessels on inland water routes along Kaladan River to Sittwe. It will take 12 hours from Haldia to and 36 hours from Vishakapatnam to connect Sittwe port.


                    Insurer stops coverage of MAI flights
                    Mizzima News: Fri 12 Oct 2007 

                    The Myanmar Airways International suspended its flights after the London based insurance company put a stop to its insurance coverage till the end of October.

                    The London Market Aviation Insurer of MAI’s lesser Lion Air gave a notice to Burma’s state-run airlines. It was “due to the recent crisis in Myanmar” which forced suspension of MAI’s Bangkok and Malaysia flights, said the statement issued today by the airline.

                    “We are in the process of getting new aircraft as replacement,” the statement added.

                    However, the flight to Singapore is still operating with MAI’s code share partner 3K (Jetstar).

                    The airline previously told Mizzima that passengers decreased due to visa restrictions on tourists, anti-regime protests and the brutal crackdown in the country.

                    The airlines cancelled the flights to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur as of yesterday, the state run media said.


                    Reconciliation is far away, but transition plan is needed - Kyaw Zwa Moe
                    Irrawaddy: Fri 12 Oct 2007 

                    The word “reconciliation” can barely be found in books about Burma’s political history. The recent bloody crackdown has made national reconciliation seem even more elusive and distant.

                    Yet national reconciliation is the only thing that can prevent more bloodshed in Burma. But how can Burma create a spirit—a will—for true reconciliation?

                    In fact, reconciliation may seem too idealistic, at this particular moment. The military regime and the people are as polarized as ever since the bloody days of September when monks and protesters were gunned down.

                    Bloodshed makes reconciliation very hard. The Burmese people, the entire world, reeled at images of blood soaked monks’ robes, pools of blood on monastery floors, and blood stained sandals abandoned on the streets of Rangoon. Critics and diplomats inside the country who witnessed the crackdown say it was “very systematic.”

                    The Burmese people’s anger over the way the monks were treated will never end. Public opposition to the ruling regime will never end.

                    And, the aftershocks, especially in Rangoon, continue day and night, with troops hunting down activists and monks who played important roles during the demonstrations.

                    The regime seems determined to keep cracking down on democratic forces until the opposition is totally eliminated.  Myanma Alin, the junta’s mouthpiece, said on Wednesday all “destructive elements” would be uprooted.

                    For now, tolerance—the will for reconciliation—seems to be gone, on both sides. But for how long can we afford to go on without reconciliation?

                    Only a few days ago, the junta’s Foreign Minister Nyan Win said in the UN General Assembly, “Normalcy has now returned to Myanmar [Burma].”

                    But in truth, there is no normalcy without reconciliation.

                    The US ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, said recently it is “time to prepare for a transition” in Burma. As farfetched as it sounds now, that is exactly what opposition pro-democracy groups, inside and outside Burma, must seriously consider and begin making appropriate plans.

                    This week the regime appointed a liaison officer, called Minister for Relations, to work with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

                    Here are some significant areas that must be realistically addressed, looking beyond the anger and distrust that exists today:

                    1. Transition planning must be inclusive. All sides must accept that all parties: opposition groups, ethnic groups and the military have legitimate and vested interests in finding a path toward reconciliation and the transition to a power-sharing arrangement.

                    2. The junta must announce a national ceasefire.

                    3. All political prisoners must be released.

                    4. Suu Kyi must play a key role in the reconciliation and transition process.

                    5. Asean must play a leadership role in negotiations between the ruling junta and opposition groups. The generals will be more flexible in dealing with Asean than the West. China should be invited to take part in the process.

                    6. Economic responsibilities should be in the hands of economic experts.

                    We all know it will be difficult, but the reconciliation process must begin. There’s no other choice.

                    The top US diplomat in Rangoon, Shari Villarosa, told reporters in Hawaii, referring to a political solution in Burma, that all nations need to “push it and push it and push it some more.”

                    The UN and the international community have no other choice but to keep pushing the idea of national reconciliation and governmental transition in Burma.

                    Only in that way can we save the lives of more Burmese people and monks, who—make no mistake—are willing to die for freedom.

                    The world doesn’t need to see any more bloodshed on Burma’s streets. We must all work harder to find a way to national reconciliation—no matter how distant or farfetched it may sound.



                     

                    Do not give up on the Burmese revolution yet - Victor Mallet
                    Financial Times: Fri 12 Oct 2007 

                    It is remarkable how quickly the world has given up on the popular uprising in Burma, abandoning the country once more to the oppressive rule of the generals who have run it with singular incompetence and brutality since 1962.

                    The reasoning is simple: with the failure of US President George W. Bush’s democratisation drive in the Middle East, democracy itself is in worldwide decline; in Burma, where troops gunned down and jailed the marching Buddhist monks, the army is too strong and the protesters too weak for democracy to have a chance; let us therefore return to the uncomfortable but familiar status quo ante.

                    This analysis is too hasty and the conclusion flawed. Such arguments recall the pessimism about the Soviet bloc. Even after the wave of east European revolutions had begun in 1989, I remember watching an academic explain on British television how Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania would survive because he had forged a nation and ruled it with a rod of iron. The next day he was dead.

                    Burma’s armed forces are strong – they number 400,000 in a nation of 50m – but they lack legitimacy and the reclusive generals are deeply unpopular. This is not an Asian authoritarian government, like those of China or Vietnam, that has delivered growth and prosperity. A third of Burmese children under five are malnourished. As Lee Kuan Yew, founding father of Singapore, put it in a recent interview, the generals are “rather dumb” when it comes to the economy.

                    But the army – it is argued by apologists for the junta – is the only institution capable of unifying the ethnically diverse peoples of Burma. Not true. The army has steadily increased its numbers but has struggled for decades to unite Burma by force; it has finally engineered an uneasy peace across most of the country only by resorting to extreme violence, by driving its enemies into exile and by co-opting tribal warlords and giving them control of smuggling and the opium trade. This is not a recipe for long-term stability.

                    Although it is the army, not the opposition, that has a dismal record, it has become fashionable to dismiss Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy leader, as a naive, foreign-educated liberal with scant understanding of her own country.

                    Not true either. Her father, Aung San, was the founder of the modern Burmese army and she has always taken care to show respect for the military and to pursue national unity. Her National League for Democracy and its allies won an overwhelming victory across Burma in the 1990 election (the result of which was never honoured by the junta), winning even in constituencies inhabited predominantly by soldiers and their families.

                    It is also absurd for foreign governments that have connived with Burma’s military dictators to blame Ms Suu Kyi and the NLD for lacking experience in government. She has spent 12 of the past 17 years under house arrest or in prison. Most of the NLD’s 392 elected members of parliament have either been jailed, exiled or silenced, and 73 have died.

                    Authoritarian critics of Ms Suu Kyi have nevertheless seized on remarks by Thant Myint-U, grandson of a former UN secretary-general, who rather unconvincingly criticises her politics and argues strongly against economic sanctions (which she supports) in the closing pages of The River of Lost Footsteps (Faber 2007), his history of Burma. The critics should keep reading. Mr Thant Myint-U also insists that only a free and liberal society can provide stability and prosperity in such a diverse country. “That a democratic government for Burma should be the aim is not in doubt,” he writes.

                    The junta’s only real asset, other than fear, is the support of Burma’s powerful and unprincipled neighbours, trading partners and arms suppliers: China, India, Thailand and Singapore.

                    Full economic sanctions would fail not because they are wrong but because they would not be fully implemented. It was always a stretch in any case to imagine Chinese leaders who oversaw the shooting of pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing in 1989 wagging their fingers at Burmese military commanders for doing the same. When he ran Tibet in the 1980s, Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, declared martial law and cracked down hard on protesting Buddhist monks.

                    The futility of sanctions, however, does not mean the Burmese should be left to their fate. Burma’s military rulers have been caught off-guard by the protests and have reluctantly agreed to negotiate with the detained Ms Suu Kyi. An embarrassed Singapore government has shown uncharacteristic leniency in allowing Burmese to hold unauthorised demonstrations outside their embassy in Singapore.

                    It is time for Asians to show that freedom and human rights are more than “western” concepts. A

                    (Message over 64 KB, truncated)

                  • CHAN Beng Seng
                    1.. Bloodshed makes reconciliation hard 2.. Japan suspends US$5-million grants to Burma 3.. Pagodas have a historic place in the fight for democracy 4..
                    Message 9 of 14 , Oct 17, 2007
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                      1. Bloodshed makes reconciliation hard
                      2. Japan suspends US$5-million grants to Burma
                      3. Pagodas have a historic place in the fight for democracy
                      4. Burmese migrants in Thailand donate two million Kyats
                      5. Cnooc won’t close taps on Myanmar gas supplies
                      6. Myanmar regime change could ‘create another Iraq’
                      7. Thailand proposes UN-backed multiparty talks on Myanmar
                      8. EU to step up sanctions on Myanmar, ban timber, gems
                      9. Keeping the momentum on Burma
                      10. Special Announcement
                      11. To 2007 generation, let’s join hands, students and people, to bring out the truth!
                      12. India’s identity crisis in Myanmar
                      13. Arms easy to buy for Myanmar junta
                       

                       
                      Bloodshed makes reconciliation hard

                      Reconciliation is far away, but a transition plan is needed

                      By KYAW ZWA MOE

                      The word ''reconciliation'' can barely be found in books about Burma's political history. The recent bloody crackdown has made national reconciliation seem even more elusive and distant.

                      Yet national reconciliation is the only thing that can prevent more bloodshed in Burma. But how can Burma create a spirit, a will, for true reconciliation?

                      In fact, reconciliation may seem too idealistic at this particular moment. The military regime and the people are as polarised as ever since the bloody days of September when monks and protesters were gunned down.

                      Bloodshed makes reconciliation very hard. The Burmese people, the entire world, reeled at images of blood-soaked monks' robes, pools of blood on monastery floors, and bloodstained sandals abandoned on the streets of Rangoon. Critics and diplomats inside the country who witnessed the crackdown say it was ''very systematic''.

                      The Burmese people's anger over the way the monks were treated will never end. Public opposition to the ruling regime will never end. And, the aftershocks, especially in Rangoon, continue day and night, with troops hunting down activists and monks who played important roles during the demonstrations.

                      The regime seems determined to keep cracking down on democratic forces until the opposition is totally eliminated. Myanma Alin, the junta's mouthpiece, said last Wednesday that all ''destructive elements'' would be uprooted. For now, tolerance — the will for reconciliation — seems to be gone, on both sides. But for how long can we afford to go on without reconciliation?

                      Only a few days ago, the junta's Foreign Minister Nyan Win said in the UN General Assembly, ''Normalcy has now returned to Myanmar [Burma].''

                      But in truth, there is no normalcy without reconciliation. The US ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, recently said it is ''time to prepare for a transition'' in Burma. As farfetched as it sounds now, that is exactly what opposition pro-democracy groups, inside and outside Burma, must seriously consider and begin making appropriate plans.

                      Last week the regime appointed a liaison officer, called Minister for Relations, to work with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. But we haven't seen any tangible moves following the appointment.

                      Here are some significant areas that must be realistically addressed, looking beyond the anger and distrust that exists today:

                      1. Transition planning must be inclusive. All sides must accept that all parties: opposition groups, ethnic groups and the military have legitimate and vested interests in finding a path toward reconciliation and the transition to a power-sharing arrangement.
                      2. The junta must announce a national ceasefire.
                      3. All political prisoners must be released.
                      4. Daw Suu Kyi must play a key role in the reconciliation and transition process.
                      5. Asean must play a leadership role in negotiations between the ruling junta and opposition groups. The generals will be more flexible in dealing with Asean than with the West. China should be invited to take part in the process.
                      6. Economic responsibilities should be in the hands of economic experts.

                      We all know it will be difficult, but the reconciliation process must begin. There's no other choice.

                      The UN Security Council issued its first presidential statement on Burma last Thursday in an attempt to pressure the Burmese generals to enter a dialogue with the opposition. But the junta dismissed the UN statement, insisting that it would follow its own roadmap toward democracy.

                      The top US diplomat in Rangoon, Shari Villarosa, told reporters in Hawaii, referring to a political solution in Burma, that all nations need to ''push it and push it and push it some more''.

                      The UN and the international community have no other choice but to keep pushing the idea of national reconciliation and governmental transition in Burma. The international community and Burmese opposition groups must all work harder to find a way to national reconciliation — no matter how distant or farfetched it may sound.

                      Only in that way can we save the lives of more Burmese people and monks who — make no mistake — are willing to die for freedom. And the world doesn't need to see any more bloodshed on Burma's streets.

                      * KYAW ZWA MOE is Managing Director of The Irrawaddy Publishing Group.


                      Japan suspends US$5-million grants to Burma
                       
                      Japan cancelled nearly US$5 million in aid to Burma in its first action to protest against the junta's bloody crackdown on demonstrations in which a Japanese journalist was shot dead.

                      Japan, however, did not say whether would end all assistance to the country.

                      Japan's Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said Japan was cancelling grants of up to 552 million yen (US$4.7 million, around 18 percent of the total grants and technical assistance Tokyo gave Burma last year.

                      "The Japanese government needs to show our stance. We cannot take action that would effectively support the military regime at this moment," Komura told reporters.

                      Japan, in a rare break with the United States and the European Union, has been one of the largest donors to Burma.

                       The cancelled grants had been intended to finance the construction of a human resources centre in Burma. It was the only concrete grant aid project for which Japan was exchanging notes with the government.

                      "We presume there will be some requests in the future. We will make a judgement on each case by looking at the situation at that point of time," said a government official who declined to be named.

                      Among the victims of the Burma's crackdown on peaceful protesters was Kenji Nagai, a video journalist for Tokyo-based APF News, who was killed on September 27 as he filmed the crackdown in Rangoon.

                      Television footage showed him apparently being shot at close range by security forces.

                      The state-run New Light of Myanmar on Monday said Nagai's death was an accident but complained that Nagai "dishonestly" entered the country on a tourist visa.

                      "He met his tragic end due to the fact that he was together with the protesters at an improper site at an improper time," it said, adding that Burma had a "magnanimous" attitude towards Japan.


                      Pagodas have a historic place in the fight for democracy - Shah Paung
                      Irrawaddy: Mon 15 Oct 2007 

                      Burma’s pagodas have always served as a safe haven for Burmese people to gather. Until now, that is.

                      The troops who raided Rangoon’s most sacred monasteries, tramping through them in heavy boots, beating and arresting the monks, are now firmly in control. Pilgrims and other visitors are staying away, silence reigns.

                      Residents report that troops are stationed at Rangoon’s two most famous pagodas and rallying centers during the recent demonstrations, the Shwedagon Pagoda in Bahan Township, and Sule Pagoda, in the city center. There is also a strong troop presence at Kyaikkasan Pagoda in Thingangyun Township, where many monks were rounded up in the crackdown and several were reported to have died.

                      Local people say that about 15 military trucks packed with soldiers recently drove up to Kyaikkasan Pagoda and sealed it off, leaving only one entrance still open.

                      Residents said most of the troops stationed at the Sule Pagoda had been redeployed at the Kyaikkasan Pagoda. Troops had also been stationed at the Damayones religious hall, where pilgrims gather for Buddhist rites.

                      “The troops are taking over the pagodas,” a woman resident said, “It is as if they are guarding them like internment camps.”

                      Residents pointed out that even during the colonial era, political gatherings had been allowed at Rangoon’s Shwedagon Pagoda.

                      In 1920, university students gathered at a pavilion at the southwest corner of the Shwedagon Pagoda and planned the strike against the new University Act which grew into a mass protest movement.  The strike resulted in the establishment of a national education system financed and run by the Burmese.

                      A second strike by university students in 1936 was centered at the Shwedagon Pagoda.

                      In 1938, striking workers from the oilfields of Chauk and Yenangyaung Townships, Magwe Division, set up camp at the Shwedagon Pagoda. The strike grew into what became known as the “1300 Revolution.”


                      Burmese migrants in Thailand donate two million Kyats
                      Kachin News Group: Mon 15 Oct 2007 

                      In a major expression of solidarity over 2,000 Burmese migrant workers in Surat Thani in southern Thailand donated 2 million Kyats (about US $ 1,504) to the All-Burmese Monks Alliance (ABMA) yesterday.  The funds were raised to support the peaceful demonstrations led by Buddhist monks for restoration of democracy in the military ruled country.

                      “We donated the money to support the monks who led the demonstrations peacefully and have been striving for democracy,” one of the organizers in the fund raising campaign said.

                      “We want to help the people of Burma who are fighting so bravely for democracy in such a peaceful manner,” said a migrant worker in Surat Thani.

                      The donation was organized by six or seven workers in Surat Thani. There are around 3,000 migrant workers from Burma including ethnic – Kayin, Arakan and Shan.

                      Meanwhile, Burmese people in exile have been demonstrating wherever they are, against the Burmese military junta for its ruthless and violent suppression of peaceful protesters in Burma.


                      Cnooc won’t close taps on Myanmar gas supplies - David Winning
                      Wall Street Journal Online: Mon 15 Oct 2007 

                      Cnooc Ltd. won’t pull out of Myanmar and may increase its footprint in the gas-rich country, a top executive said, despite criticism that China’s thirst for energy is leading it to undermine international efforts to isolate Myanmar’s military government.

                      The U.S. and other Western countries want to tighten already tough sanctions on the government of Myanmar, also known as Burma, following a bloody crackdown by the Southeast Asian nation’s government on protesters that began last month. The U.S. is also targeting companies that do business in Myanmar.

                      But the plans by one of China’s top oil producers show why the success of such efforts may be limited. Yang Hua, Cnooc’s chief financial officer, said Cnooc’s presence in Myanmar is “making people’s lives better” by developing resources that would otherwise go untapped. He also pointed to simple commercial reasons to stay.

                      “If we pull out, then we can’t successfully invest our money in terms of exploration success,” Mr. Yang said in an interview.

                      Mr. Yang’s explanation echoes the justifications given by other big oil companies operating in a country that BP PLC says has proven natural-gas reserves of 18.99 trillion cubic feet. Among the energy giants with a presence in Myanmar are Total SA and Chevron Corp., which each have invested more than $300 million in a project to develop the Yadana gas field and build a pipeline.

                      Cnooc, majority owned by China’s government, and other big Chinese energy companies, such as PetroChina Co., have been targeting Myanmar not only for its natural-gas reserves but also because of its potential to host oil and gas pipelines running to China’s landlocked southwestern provinces. Beijing wants the pipelines so that some of its future crude oil and gas imports can bypass the congested and sometimes dangerous Strait of Malacca near Singapore, thereby boosting China’s energy security.

                      Mr. Yang also confirmed, for the first time, that Cnooc is in talks with Thailand’s PTT Exploration & Production PCL, or PTTEP, about potentially swapping stakes in a string of offshore natural-gas blocks in Myanmar in order to share the investment risks and exploration costs. “These transactions are very normal in the oil business. We don’t have any concrete things, but discussions are going on,” he said.

                      A person familiar with the situation said PTTEP and Cnooc were discussing swapping as much as 20% in their Myanmar blocks and a deal could be sealed by the end of this year. PTTEP President Maroot Mrigadat declined requests for an interview last week.

                      Indian companies, too, have targeted Myanmar’s gas reserves, overlooking reports of human-rights abuses to secure access to gas supplies.

                      Myanmar’s ruling military junta has long been criticized and subjected to sanctions for human-rights abuses. Late last month, government soldiers opened fire on crowds protesting against the junta, and imposed a curfew in major cities. The bloodshed prompted the U.S. to impose tighter financial restrictions aimed in part at choking off foreign investment into the country.

                      The United Nations Security Council issued its first statement on the Myanmar crackdown last week, saying it “strongly deplores” the government’s actions and calling for it to talk to the pro-democracy opposition. China, a permanent member of the council, approved the statement, although previously it had said little to criticize the country’s leadership.

                      It isn’t clear whether such sanctions will work based on experiences with other resource-rich nations where the Chinese are involved in developing energy supplies. Despite U.S. sanctions against the government of Sudan, which is accused abetting mass killings in its Darfur region, China has been ramping up investments in the East African country in its pursuit of crude oil. Its state oil titans are also engaging Iran on possible energy deals.


                      Myanmar regime change could ‘create another Iraq’: ASEAN chief - Martin Abbugao
                      Agence France Presse: Mon 15 Oct 2007 

                      Pushing through a sudden regime change in Myanmar could “create another Iraq” and leave the country engulfed in violence, the head of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) warned Monday.

                      ASEAN secretary general Ong Keng Yong said regime change in Myanmar would have dire regional implications and that the best outcome was to thrash out a consensus between the military and the opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

                      Ong said sudden change was not a realistic solution for Myanmar, one of the bloc’s 10 members.

                      “Whether you are in ASEAN or not, if you sit back and understand the constitution and make-up of Myanmar and you say you want to have a regime change, you are going to create another Iraq,” he told AFP.

                      “It’s an Iraqi situation because there are at least 17 different major factions making up the population of Myanmar.

                      “Just look at Iraq. They (US-led forces) removed the former Iraqi army, the former Iraqi police and now what is happening? I think regime change is a very fashionable buzzword in certain quarters but it is not realistic.”

                      Myanmar’s ruling generals sparked global outrage when soldiers and riot police used weapons to disperse anti-government demonstrations last month, killing at least 13 people.

                      More than 2,000 people were arrested following the protests — the biggest against the military government in almost 20 years.

                      UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari — currently on a swing through Southeast Asia to push nations in the region to pressure the regime — met Monday in Bangkok with Thai leaders.

                      Ong said regime change should not be part of the solution.

                      “If we look at the next step as a regime change, that is not really realistic. Even if you can force it onto the situation in Myanmar, that is very, very dangerous,” he said.

                      Singapore, which currently holds ASEAN’s rotating chair, has said the generals must be part of any peaceful solution.

                      ASEAN admitted Myanmar to its ranks in 1997, and the group has long had a policy of non-interference in the country’s affairs.

                      However, using unusually sharp language, ASEAN foreign ministers voiced their “revulsion” at the junta’s crackdown last month.

                      Ong also said pushing Myanmar too hard might drive the junta towards China, which could gain strategic access to the Indian Ocean, a move which would have geopolitical implications for countries bordering the ocean and Western navies.

                      “At this moment, China is not a littoral state of the Indian Ocean. But if the Myanmar government decides to throw caution to the wind and go with the Chinese, China will become a littoral component of the Indian Ocean,” he said.

                      “So if you sit back and look at the real politics of it, I think you will have to accept the inevitable conclusion that the position of Myanmar is not something that anybody can just take for granted.”

                      As well as Myanmar and Singapore, ASEAN also includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.


                      Thailand proposes UN-backed multiparty talks on Myanmar
                      Agence France Presse: Mon 15 Oct 2007 

                      Thailand on Monday proposed that the United Nations organise multiparty talks to bring together Myanmar’s neighbours for discussions with the military junta on resolving the nation’s crisis.

                      Thailand’s army-installed Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said he made the recommendation during his talks with UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari, who is on an Asian tour aimed at winning support among Myanmar’s neighbours for tougher action against the junta.

                      Surayud said the talks would bring together officials from the military regime and its neighbours China and India as well as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which counts Thailand and Myanmar as members.

                      “We suggested the United Nations should set up talks with ASEAN, China and India to end the unrest in Myanmar unconditionally… in the same way that the UN did for the North Korean (nuclear) talks,” Surayud told reporters.

                      He urged Gambari to bring up the proposal with Chinese and Indian leaders as one way to search for practical solutions to Myanmar’s troubles.

                      The military has ruled for 45 years in Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, but last month Buddhist monks led up to 100,000 people in the streets of Yangon in the biggest challenge to the regime for nearly two decades.

                      The regime responded violently, ordering soldiers into the streets in a crackdown that left at least 13 dead and more than 2,000 locked up.

                      Amid international outrage at the violence, the United Nations sent Gambari to Myanmar last month to meet with junta chief Than Shwe and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

                      Gambari is set to return to Myanmar in mid-November, but Surayud said he would send a letter to the junta asking that the envoy be allowed to visit before the end of October.

                      “We will ask that he be allowed to stay there long enough for him to complete his mission,” he added.

                      About 20 protesters gathered outside Surayud’s offices as he met with Gambari.

                      Dressed in red, the colour of the student movement that led a 1988 pro-democracy uprising, they shouted, “Gambari, Free Burma!”

                      Some held pictures of Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest, and waved placards saying “UN act now.”


                      EU to step up sanctions on Myanmar, ban timber, gems
                      Agence France Presse: Mon 15 Oct 2007 

                      European foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Monday were set to beef up the EU’s sanctions against Myanmar, introducing an embargo on timber, gems and metals.

                      “In view of the seriousness of the current situation and in solidarity with the people of Burma/Myanmar, the EU deems it necessary to increase direct pressure on the regime through stronger measures,” said the ministers’ draft agreement.

                      “The situation in Burma (Myanmar) is of huge concern to the people of te UK and across the European Union,” said British Foreign Secretary David Miliband as he arrived for the talks.

                      The import bans, for which no implementation date was specified in the draft text, will notably affect Myanmar’s teak and jade trade.

                      The measure was to be addressed on a full day for the foreign ministers who will also notably discuss the EU reform treaty and Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

                      The Myanmar sanctions will cover the import of Myanmar timber, metals, minerals and precious and semi-precious stones, according to the draft text, which adds that the measures are designed to “do no harm to the general population.”

                      The European Union would at the same time confirm the continuation of “substantial humanitarian aid programmes aimed at the most vulnerable populations.”

                      If the Myanmar regime creates “a political process involving all the parties in Burma… then there will be economic incentives and economic support for the people of Burma,” Miliband said.

                      “If the regime refuses then obviously there will be further sanctions,” he added.

                      The EU ministers will also express their support for the UN special envoy to Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, and back “further UN engagement, including by the Security Council.”

                      “Our measures aim to reinforce the message of Mr Gambari… Indeed he is the only one who has a chance for leverage at this moment,” said EU External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner

                      “I support a delayed entering into force of additional restrictive measures to show our resolve to act, on the one hand, but also to give to give the mission of UN special envoy Gambari the necessary leeway.

                      “I think he should have sticks and carrots in order to be able to work,” she added.

                      The EU already has broad sanctions in place against Myanmar’s leadership and their families — with 375 people on a visa-ban, asset-freeze list — and officials have stressed the importance of putting pressure on neighbouring countries and in particular China and India.

                      The statement drawn up for the foreign ministers also “strongly condemns the brutal crackdown on demonstrators” led by Buddhist monks in Myanmar and urges the regime to exercise restraint.

                      The EU measures will spare the energy sector and therefore the activities of the French group Total in the country.

                      The foreign ministers’ draft text stipulates that the EU “stands ready to review, amend or reinforce the measures” in view of Gambari’s progress.

                      The clear message to the regime is “that they must engage with the process being led by Ambassador Gambari,” said Miliband.

                      Gambari demanded on Monday that Myanmar’s ruling junta immediately stop arresting pro-democracy activists and targeting dissidents, saying the crackdown was “extremely disturbing.”

                      While flagging their intentions to boost sanctions in recent weeks, EU officials have stressed that they have a limited effect on a regime already greatly isolated by the West.

                      More than 90 percent of Myanmar’s business is done with Asian nations, especially China and India.


                      Keeping the momentum on Burma - Bernard Kouchner and David Miliband
                      International Herald Tribune: Mon 15 Oct 2007 

                      The world has reacted with horror to the Burmese regime’s brutal crackdown against its own people. Monks, nuns and ordinary citizens took to the streets peacefully in protest at the deterioration of the economic situation in the country. They were met with guns and batons.

                      We cannot know for sure the number of those who were killed, but it is likely to be many more than the regime is willing to admit. The whereabouts and welfare of many who have been detained remain uncertain. Meanwhile, the persecution continues: The security forces carry out new raids and new arrests every night.

                      It is vital that international pressure on the Burmese regime is maintained. The generals may have hoped that by shutting off the Internet and targeting the media they could hide their crimes from the eyes of the world. If so, they have failed. This horrific repression has provoked disgust and anger across the globe.

                      The immediate priority is to end the violence and secure the release of all of the political detainees. At the same time, it is vital that the regime works urgently with the UN special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, to establish a genuine process of national reconciliation.

                      That process will need to be very different from the widely discredited “National Convention Process” over which the regime has labored for many years without winning the confidence of Burma’s population. It must involve Aung San Suu Kyi and the leaders of all Burma’s political opposition and ethnic groups. And it must have international legitimacy, with the United Nations and Burma’s neighbors closely engaged.

                      Everyone who has influence on the Burmese regime must now use it to convince them of this new reality. The generals have now seen a very strong statement by the UN Security Council deploring the violence, calling for the release of all political prisoners and supporting genuine dialogue with all concerned parties and ethnic groups in Burma.

                      The junta will have heard members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations express their revulsion at the recent violence by the security forces. China, as well as joining the Security Council statement, directly supported Gambari’s recent visit to Burma.

                      Other neighbors - India and Thailand, for example - can also play a vital role in helping to build a better future for the people of Burma. It is clear that for Asean in particular turning a blind eye to such a repressive government would damage its credibility and jeopardize the whole process of democratization and development of the region.

                      Last month, as the demonstrations grew in intensity, the European Union made it plain that it would not hesitate to impose tougher measures against the regime if it resorted to force against peaceful demonstrators. Sadly, the regime failed to heed this, and many similar, warnings. So Europe’s foreign ministers will be meeting on Monday to discuss how to toughen up sanctions against the Burmese regime.

                      EU sanctions currently include a travel ban and asset freeze on specific individuals and a ban on commercial dealings with specific state companies with close ties to the regime. On Monday, the European Union will target those sectors from which the regime draws much of its revenue, including timber, precious metals and gems, and will make clear that whether further measures are imposed will depend entirely on the regime’s willingness to allow genuine political progress.

                      All the signs point to a regime that feels the pressure. These new measures will help to maintain that pressure by focusing on the business interests of the regime rather than the wider population.

                      The EU must also offer positive incentives for progress. The EU needs to consider a package of positive measures to the Burmese people should the regime show its willingness to genuinely work for reconciliation. In the meantime, we will continue to provide vital humanitarian assistance to the Burmese people in order to alleviate the suffering of the population.

                      EU sanctions, of course, can only be part of a wider process aimed at creating genuine reconciliation in Burma.

                      The key role must be played by the Burmese people themselves, in all their diversity. This will be demanding; Burma, as some scholars have said, is a fragile “unfinished mosaic,” with dozens of ethnic minorities, idioms and cultures. Burma’s regional partners have understandable concerns that the necessary political changes should not endanger regional stability. So the process must be broad-based and inclusive. And, as Aung San Suu Kyi has said, the military must play an important part in a future democratic Burma. But the military dictatorship must end.

                      The Burmese people have been denied democracy and economic development for 45 years. They have taken to the streets once again and, in the face of horrific violence, demanded a better future. It’s high time their leaders responded.

                      * Bernard Kouchner and David Miliband are foreign ministers, respectively, of France and Britain.


                      Special Announcement
                      National League for Democracy: Mon 15 Oct 2007 

                      National League for Democracy (NLD) General Secretary was put under house arrest by the authority for the first time from 20th July 1989 to 10th July 1995. On the next day after being released from her house arrest, she said at press conference attended by foreign reporters in English, “We have to choose either dialogue or utter devastation”. She just compared ‘dialogue’ and ‘utter devastation’ to choose.

                      At another press conference held at NLD HQ on 6th May 2002, she said, “I see ’sanction’ is the tool imposed by a democratic country on another country to achieve democracy. In fact, it must stress on the long term interest of the people rather than short term interest. Face to face and friendly dialogue can resolve all problems. We never asked for sanctions.”

                      Moreover, she said, “I’ve never wavered on my stand to achieve democracy only by peaceful means, because it is very important for the future of Burma. If we cannot achieve democracy by peaceful means, the people must suffer a lot of woes and troubles in future. We’ve never emphasized only on confrontation.”

                      Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (DASSK) made her tour on the prescribed dates and places in
                      consultation with the authority concerned. On her Upper Burma tour, she had a chance to see projects being undertaken with the permission of the authority. Upon her arrival from the trip, she even tried to get the equipments and tools required in a project.

                      She called for convening Parliament in 1998 with the consensus of all the delegates of States, Divisions and Townships NLD Organizing Committees. Then the authority detained MPs for a long period in the pretext of discussing with them. Calling for convening Parliament is absolutely not the confrontation. It is made in accordance with the ‘Pyithuhluttaw (Parliament) Act’ enacted by the authority themselves.

                      NLD delegates attending NC sent an official letter to the concerned authority to discuss on NC Procedural Codes while they were attending NC from 1993 to 1995. But the authority ignored our letter and at last NLD delegates left NC by consensus, sent another official letter to the authority concerned informing them that the NLD delegates will wait until the discussion on said procedural code possible and have been waiting for their reply. It has nothing to do with DASSK.

                      DASSK said on ‘dialogue’ at the press conference held on 6th May 2002 held at NLD HQ, “Our NLD has frequently said we are flexible to enter into dialogue to achieve good result from it for the entire people.”

                      Similarly on 4th January 2003, at the 55th Anniversary Independence Day celebration, she said, “Our reconciliation spirit, dialogue spirit, unity and amity spirit for the entire country have never been dwindled. We have no personal grudge against anyone. Resolving problems is the most important thing. We never hesitate to join hands with any organization, any institution, State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) or Tatmadaw (Army). We can join hands with anyone for the country.”

                      Seeking solution by dialogue to resolve the problems for the sake of country and the people is the normal phenomenon. The success of dialogue depends on the sincerity, give and take attitude on win-win situation, of all the parties concerned. The commitment and motivation for success of the dialogue is also very much important. Moreover, if one wishes to resolve the problems really and sincerely, there will not be pre-conditions for the dialogue. The main necessity to resolve the current and immediate problems is
                      the will to enter into dialogue.

                      We hereby announce that we intend all these true facts and points known by the entire people.

                      By resolution reached at CEC meeting held at Party HQ on 8th October 2007
                      Central Executive Committee
                      National League for Democracy
                      No. 97/B, West Shwegondaing Road,
                      Bahan Township, Yangon
                      Dated: 9th October 2007
                      13th Waning day of Tawthalin, 1396 BE


                      To 2007 generation, let’s join hands, students and people, to bring out the truth!
                      2007 Generation Students’ Union: Mon 15 Oct 2007 

                      The truth is that the people are constantly hearing profuse grumbles about encountering unprecedented troubles in the country.

                      The truth is that people are seeing with anguish soldiers raiding monasteries as in battlefield, razing the temples, arresting, beating and forcibly defrocking hundreds of monks, coercing simple persons to testify as witnesses, and arresting and beating young people (assets of future) on all kinds of pretexts.

                      The truth not printed in dailies is that monks, students, youth and people are fleeing or hiding from all these unsanctioned distresses day and night, not daring to live, sleep or eat in their own country, on their own soil, in their own home or monastery.

                      The realistic truth is that, in order to see the country’s future shining gloriously in the world, students and people should not let this abusive tyranny and evil system of laws continue to exist.

                      The truth not aired on TV news is that the current situation and suffering of the people is such that lives of people could not survive or improve under the abusive administration and that a day’s earnings are not sufficient for a morning’s meal.

                      The events encountered by us new generations and the people bears proof to the absolute justification of demands for human rights, sacrifices and struggles by previous successive elder generations.

                      We 2007 Generation would completely smash the evil regime by consciously sharing the historical traditions of elder student brothers who have served their duty. The resolve of youth and people has been invigorated.

                      “Though we students have been positioned to be far-flung from our parental people and not to congregate with each other, we must strive for assembly so as to speedily remove the evil regime with uniform minds and unity of strength. We urge all to implement in practice ‘prosperity of entire people of all ethnicity regardless of class or strata and reject enrichment of a handful of despots’”.



                      India’s identity crisis in Myanmar
                      The Boston Globe: Mon 15 Oct 2007 

                      When arguing for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council or assuring the Bush administration that India can be trusted with American nuclear technology - even though it has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty - Indian officials recite the mantra that India is the world’s biggest democracy. But India’s shameful collaboration with the military junta in Myanmar that has been arresting and killing Buddhist monks and civilian protesters raises a serious question: Is India betraying its democratic values for the sake of its great-power ambitions?

                      There is no mystery about the reasons for India’s complicity with Myanmar’s generals. There are purely commercial motives, a thirst for access to Myanmar’s oil and natural gas reserves. There’s a desire to gain the junta’s cooperation in crushing insurgent groups that have been crossing from Myanmar into India’s northeast to mount guerrilla operations. But above all, India has abandoned solidarity with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her colleagues because Indian policy makers are obsessed by their strategic competition with China.

                      There is a tragic dimension to India’s practice of realpolitik in its contest with China. Domestically, India is the antithesis of China. The Communists in Beijing rule a hierarchical one-party state; India’s multiparty system accommodates many disparate interests. The regime in Beijing throws reporters in jail for revealing state secrets if they publish news about high-level appointments before those promotions are officially disclosed. India boasts a diverse and cantankerous free press.

                      But when India sets out to compete with China in a 21st-century version of the Great Game once played by European colonialist powers, India transforms its outward appearance into a mirror image of China. In Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, India’s betrayal of its own national identity has become an embarrassing spectacle.

                      India had once been Suu Kyi’s most ardent supporter. She lived in India for several years with her late husband; her mother once served as Myanmar’s ambassador to India. And of course Buddhism sprang from India.

                      But when Human Rights Watch called last week for a Security Council arms embargo on the junta, it named India along with China and Russia as “nations supplying Burma with weapons that the military uses to commit human rights abuses.” Human Rights Watch described “a vast array of military hardware” India has supplied to the junta, including artillery, aircraft, tanks, and helicopters for use against minority ethnic groups in border areas and citizen protesters.

                      In other words, India sells some of the world’s most vicious dictators weapons to kill people in Myanmar who yearn for democracy. This is not the behavior of a true democracy.


                      Arms easy to buy for Myanmar junta
                      AP | October 14, 2007

                      By GRANT PECK -BANGKOK, Thailand — Military-ruled Myanmar is a pariah state to many because of its dismal human rights record, slapped with an arms embargo by the U.S. and European Union. But to some of the world’s other top weapons dealers, Myanmar is just another customer.
                      India, the world’s most populous democracy, and North Korea, Asia’s most repressive dictatorship, are both suppliers to Myanmar’s military, and neither has signaled it would stop business after the junta’s crackdown on pro-democracy protests last month.

                      As is the case with the biggest suppliers to Myanmar - Russia, China and Ukraine - such arms sales may be widely criticized for helping the regime stay in power, but they don’t clearly violate any laws, treaties or international agreements.

                      “Together these countries can supply anything Burma could possibly want, and they have more or less done so in the last 15 years,” said Siemon Wezeman, a researcher for the Arms Transfers Project of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI.

                      Most known arms transfers to Myanmar are legal, and some are even reported to the United Nations. But other transactions are murkier, as countries more sensitive to international opinion apparently try to mask their activities. Analysts say these include India, as well as Israel and Singapore.

                      The only restrictions on selling military equipment to Myanmar, also known as Burma, are self-imposed. The tightest embargoes are maintained by the United States and the European Union, while several other nations, such as South Korea, have less sweeping or informal sanctions.

                      The U.S. and European restrictions ban sales and re-sales of virtually all military-related equipment to Myanmar. But it is difficult to stop third parties from selling used equipment and licensed technology.

                      As a result, the junta has become the eager client of countries that “have garnered reputations for being willing to supply almost any regime,” said Dr. Paul Holtom, another SIPRI researcher.

                      Myanmar’s army of more than 400,000 is the second-largest in Southeast Asia after Vietnam’s, and bigger on a per capita basis. Because it is one of Asia’s poorest countries, its military has until recently operated without much of the sophisticated weaponry of its neighbors, but has made huge modernization efforts since 1988.

                      The reasons for selling to Myanmar are many - and first among them is profit.

                      By far the largest amount of Myanmar’s arms have been imported from China, according to SIPRI’s register of transfers of major conventional weapons. Its database, which represents conservative estimates, shows Myanmar importing $1.69 billion in military goods from China between 1988 - when the current junta took power after violently crushing a pro-democracy uprising - and 2006.

                      Goods bought from China over the years have included armored personnel carriers, tanks, fighter aircraft, radar systems, surface-to-air missiles and short-range air-to-air missile systems.

                      Russia comes in second at $396 million, then Serbia and Ukraine.

                      Geopolitical considerations also play a role in weapons sales to Myanmar.

                      India, for instance, had been a harsh critic of the 1988 crackdown. But it apparently overcame its aversion to dealing with the regime after watching China gain a commercial, political and military foothold in Myanmar, posing a potential strategic threat, especially as it opened up the prospect of Indian Ocean access for Beijing.

                      India also sought to enlist Myanmar’s cooperation in its long-running struggles against separatist groups in its northeast.

                      India shows up on SIPRI registry beginning in 2005. India has confirmed the delivery of two secondhand, British-made BN-2 Islander light transport aircraft, but insists they are not fitted out for military use. Reports of transfers of light artillery, armored personnel carriers and tanks remain unconfirmed.

                      Most controversial has been the planned sale of Indian-manufactured ALH attack helicopters. Various parts of the aircraft are supplied or made under license from several countries that embargo arms to Myanmar. Anti-junta campaigners insist the sale - which is now in limbo - would be in violation of the EU embargo, and have put India on notice that it could endanger commercial links with Europe.

                      India denies supplying weapons to Myanmar, but has acknowledged the two countries have defense agreements to help fight rebels on their common border.

                      Many countries are eager to unload aging equipment, and Myanmar is a willing buyer. Russia, Serbia and Ukraine, for instance, all have large Cold War-era defense industries and leftover hardware, and are intent in wringing profit from them.

                      Israel is also considered by arms researchers to be a major supplier of weapons and arms technology to Myanmar, though few details can be verified. A 2000 report by the London-based publication Jane’s Intelligence Review detailed extensive alleged links, but the Israeli government denies any arms sales.

                      The most mystery shrouds the junta’s deals with North Korea, widely believed to have supplied weapons such as Scud-type missiles that other nations are unwilling or unable to provide.

                      Details of Pyongyang’s dealings with Myanmar are hard to verify, because the two nations are among the world’s most secretive. Impoverished North Korea is cited by researchers as a “source of last resort” for arms buyers who cannot obtain what they want elsewhere.

                      Pyongyang is also hampered by the low quality of its arms.

                      “Burma does not (yet) need North Korea to supply rather inferior weaponry when it can get better stuff from Russia, China or a host of other nations,” Wezeman wrote in an e-mail response to questions.

                      Still, SIPRI lists Pyongyang as delivering 16 large artillery pieces to Myanmar in 1999, but reports in such publications as Jane’s Intelligence Review and Far Eastern Economic Review suggest much more extensive dealings.

                      Myanmar is said to have sought to purchase submarines from Pyongyang - a deal believed to have fallen through - and surface-to-surface missiles such as Pyongyang has supplied to other nations.


                       

                    • CHAN Beng Seng
                      1.. Burma will change on its terms only 2.. Pressure builds on Thai firms over Burma 3.. Burmese junta rebuff int l pressure, vow to march on 4.. A monument
                      Message 10 of 14 , Oct 18, 2007
                      • 0 Attachment
                        1. Burma will change on its terms only
                        2. Pressure builds on Thai firms over Burma
                        3. Burmese junta rebuff int’l pressure, vow to ‘march on’
                        4. A monument to junta’s fear
                        5. In Myanmar, rivers, forests suffer
                        6. EU falls short on sanctions
                        7. AIPMC Statement supporting a Global Arms Embargo on Myanmar
                        8. Special Announcement
                        9. Honorary citizenship for Aung San Suu Kyi
                        10. ASEAN will never suspend Burma, says Malaysia
                        11. The geopolitical stakes of 'Saffron Revolution'
                        12.  Myanmar's beating of monks 'very bad' - Dalai Lama

                         
                        Burma will change on its terms only
                         
                        So much has been written about how China can use its influence to push for change in Burma but the international community may be heading for a big disappointment if it thinks Beijing can simply wave a magic wand over the Burmese junta.
                         
                        The NationOctober 17, 2007


                        To begin with, it's just not in Beijing's nature to condemn neighbouring countries, especially ones with the potential to satisfy China's strategic interest.

                        Besides being the gateway for China's access to the Indian Ocean, Burma's vast natural resources and energy are just too lucrative for Beijing to risk losing by taking a hard-line approach towards the military-run state.

                        So long as China's interest is at stake, Beijing is not going to bring out the big stick.

                        Like everybody else, China wants to be on the winning side regardless of who takes the helm. Whether it's Aung San Suu Kyi or Thaksin Shinawatra, one can be sure Beijing will roll out the red carpet if either of these individuals comes to power in Burma or Thailand.

                        Since the military takeover in 1962, after the overthrow of the U Nu government, the Burmese junta has been extremely Sinophobic. And General Ne Win's "Burmese way to socialism" never had the Chinese or the Soviet model in mind. He wanted to do it his own quirky way.

                        In fact, Rangoon's inward-looking policy not only bred anti-Chinese sentiment but also gave rise to words such as "Black Jews" - in reference to the country's Indian merchants.

                        But to dismiss the Burmese attitude towards the Chinese as being one-sided would be unfair. Communist China wasn't exactly squeaky clean either.

                        China was not only arming the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) in its fight against the nationalist Kuomintang in northern Burma. This was also seen as a way to keep Rangoon at bay.

                        But the end of CPB in 1989 didn't mean an end to the cross-border ties between old comrades. Ethnic Chinese warlords like Lin Ming-xian (U Sai Lin) and Li Ziru had originally gone to Burma's northern frontier to spread the word of Marx. They stayed behind and eventually became power players in Burma's opium production - and ethnic insurgency. Like others, they invested and laundered their drug money on the Chinese side of the border.

                        Indeed, just about all of Burma's ethnic armies - the Wa, Chin, Kachin, and others - invest handsomely in Chinese border towns and districts and continue to have close personal ties with top Chinese officials at the provincial level.

                        And while the end of CPB may have paved the way for stronger diplomatic ties between Beijing and Rangoon, China has never ceased in its dealings with ethnic armies operating inside Burma, despite knowing that these arrangements don't sit well at all with the Burmese generals.

                        Today, China's frustration with Burma tends to centre on its own domestic concerns. Beijing does not want anything to tarnish the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing, as this is seen as a springboard to boost its presence on the international stage.

                        Nonetheless, China is concerned that its relationship with the Burmese junta could translate into anti-Chinese sentiment both in and outside of Burma.

                        A recent drive-by shooting at the Chinese consulate in Mandalay may have irked the Chinese government. Still, it was nothing for Beijing to get all worked up about.

                        "It's just a little irritation. We don't think it's going to develop into something serious," said a Chinese official on the Burmese border in Yunnan, who has been monitoring Burma's northern frontier.

                        The logic for many in the international community is that if Beijing is willing to stick its neck out for Burma, it can also use its friendship to persuade the Burmese junta to change course.

                        Two weeks after street demonstrations in Rangoon, China used its clout in the United Nations to block efforts by the United States and European countries to have the UN Security Council condemn Burma's bloody crackdown against the monks and unarmed demonstrators.

                        In the end, a watered-down statement from the Security Council called for "reconciliation" in Burma and was only passed after some serious horse-trading between the Chinese and Western countries.

                        Nevertheless, the course of events created the impression that Beijing still holds tremendous clout over Burma. But Beijing knows only too well that the Burmese junta doesn't want to be anybody's lapdog. The Burmese generals have much more up their sleeves than just the China card; Pakistan, India and Russia are also some of Burma's other "important friends".

                        Just weeks before the bloody crackdown in Rangoon, Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win was in Beijing. That official trip also took him to Moscow. Interestingly worryingly perhaps more than 100 Burmese officials have been sent to Russia for training in nuclear technology. 

                        A few days ago human rights groups were barking up Asean's tree, door-stopping Surin Pitsuwan, the incoming secretary general of the regional grouping, urging him to get tough on Burma.

                        Strangely, a decade ago Burma was admitted into Asean because the regional grouping was concerned that Rangoon might be drifting too far towards China.

                        But today, ten years later, Burma is farther from Asean than it has ever been before. Any changes inside of Burma, it seems, will be on Burma's terms and nobody else's. 

                        Don Pathan


                        Pressure builds on Thai firms over Burma
                         
                        A growing number of human and labour rights organisations in Europe are calling on Thai companies to cease their business operations with Burma as a way to step up pressure on its military regime, criticised as being one of the world's biggest human-rights violators.
                         
                         The Nation October 17, 2007
                        According to Chanin Donavanik, president of the Thai Hotels Association (THA) and owner of the Dusit International hotel chain, at least two non-governmental organisations from Europe have written to Thai companies asking them to stop doing business in Burma.

                        Chanin did not say how the THA would respond to the request but admitted the recent bloody crackdown had affected business in Burma and the hotel industry was not excepted.

                        He said the THA was taking a wait-and-see approach. Any major decision would have to wait until the situation returned to normal.

                        Thai companies that have been hit hard by the disturbances include the Baiyoke Group and Thai Airways International, observers said.

                        "The hotels are empty at the moment," Chanin said.

                        Octavio Gamarra, senior vice-president of Dusit International, said the group's management contract with a hotel in Rangoon, the Dusit Inya Lake, would terminate at end of this year. The group has not yet decided whether to withdraw the management, but is closely monitoring the situation. Dusit has been managing the hotel for nearly five years.

                        According to Kasikorn Research, Thai-run hotels in Burma include those of the Baiyoke hotel group, the Novotel at Mandalay, the Andaman Club on Song Island (opposite Ranong province), the Golden Triangle Paradise Resort and the Myanmar Allure Hotel in the border town of Tachilek, which is adjacent to Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district.

                        Suchat Sritama 


                        Burmese junta rebuff int’l pressure, vow to ‘march on’ - Mungpi
                        Mizzima News: Tue 16 Oct 2007 

                        The Burmese military junta on Tuesday made clear its determination to ‘March on’ with its planned roadmap to democracy, despite increasing international pressure on the regime to hold a dialogue with pro-democracy opposition.

                        The junta, in an article published in its mouthpiece, New Light of Myanmar newspaper, on Tuesday criticized last week’s ‘Presidential Statement’ of the UN Security Council which deplored the regimes’ brutal crackdown on protesters and called for the immediate release of political prisoners, saying the statement can not derail their plan.

                        “The situation in Myanmar [ Burma] does not constitute a threat to the regional and international peace and security,” the article said.

                        The junta also flatly rejected that there are no political prisoners in Burma and reiterated that it will continue with its planned seven-step roadmap to democracy despite pressure by the international community.

                        “We will March On,” said the article written under a pseudonym — Banya Aung. “There is no reason to change the course. We warmly welcome those who join us with genuine goodwill. We will remove all the hindrances and obstacles that may lie ahead.”

                        The junta’s response came as Japan, one of the junta’s biggest donors of aid, announced to cut-off US $ 4.7 million funding for a human resources centre in Burma as a reflection of its stance on the military-ruled country after the brutal crackdown on monk-led protests last month that killed several people including a Japanese photojournalist Kenji Nagai.

                        The Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura on Tuesday told reporters that Japan cannot support Burma this time around and will persuade the junta to move towards democratic reforms.

                        Meanwhile on Monday, foreign ministers of European Union approved a new set of sanctions against the junta including an embargo on the export of wood, gems and metals. The EU also imposed import and an investment ban on the sectors of wood, gems and metal.

                        However, the EU confirms that it will continue with humanitarian aid assistance aimed at the most vulnerable population of Burma and Burmese refugees living in neighboring countries.

                        The EU also called on all concerned countries to put in place further restrictive measures, including a ban on new investment.

                        George Bush, President of the US, which imposed targeted sanctions on the Burmese regime, similarly called for more international pressure, to make it clear to the Burmese generals that they will be completely isolated and not accepted into the international community.

                        Meanwhile, the Burmese junta, trying to show that normalcy has returned to the country eased the imposition of curfew and reopened internet accesses. But, contrary to its claims, the junta during the weekend arrested six more activists including two prominent 88 generation student, who led some of the protests in August.

                        Ibrahim Gambari, the UN Secretary General’s special envoy to Burma, who is currently in the region to hold consultations with key Asian nations on Burma, said the unabated arrest of activists by the junta “would have detrimental effects on the process of national reconciliation and on the peaceful and prosperous Myanmar [ Burma].”

                        The Nigerian diplomat, after consulting Thai officials on Burma, left for Malaysia on Tuesday and will continue to Indonesia, India, China and Japan. He told reporters that he plans to revisit Burma in mid-November after concluding his consultation trip.

                        Gambari said he has received confirmation at the level of the head of state from Myanmar to grant him permission to visit the country again in mid November 2007, adding that “the situation in Myanmar [ Burma] could move in the right direction,” if efforts are made.


                        A monument to junta’s fear - Kenneth Denby, Naypyidaw, Burma
                        The Australian: Tue 16 Oct 2007 

                        Even before you have arrive in Naypyidaw, it is obvious the world’s newest capital is a place like no other in Burma.

                        It is not just the isolation, in a jungle 320km from the sea; it’s not just the active discouragement of foreigners, which is circumvented easily enough.
                        It is the road leading into it.

                        Ten lanes wide, cut flat and straight through hills and forests, it is the grandest and fastest stretch of road in a country where potholed tracks qualify as major highways.

                        Occasionally, a cement lorry or a rickety open-backed minibus drives past. But otherwise, the traffic consists of sputtering motorbikes, horse-drawn carts and lines of women carrying baskets on their heads.

                        The grandiose public buildings and shopping centres, like the broad roads, are meant as a model of the advanced Asian city, but many of them stand empty and unused. Unknown millions have been lavished on the new capital’s construction, in a country where most people live on less than a dollar a day.

                        Its inaccessible location is intended to protect the junta of Senior General Than Shwe, but many believe the Government’s increased isolation is hastening its downfall.

                        I am the first Western journalist to visit the capital since the junta’s crackdown on pro-democracy protests last month. Foreigners should have permission to visit, and travel agents refuse to sell train tickets to Pyinmana, the closest town. But no one stopped me getting off the train.

                        The port of Rangoon had been Burma’s capital since the British conquest of the country in 1885, and remains its greatest city - a seething stew of extreme poverty, lively commerce and rich culture. So it came as a surprise in 2005 when the junta announced the new capital and the relocation of all government functions. Over months, long convoys made the 10-hour journey to Naypyidaw, carrying entire government departments and their civil servants.

                        “I miss Rangoon,” one man, an employee of the Planning and Economic Development Ministry, said. “I miss my life there, my parents and friends.”

                        In structure, Naypyidaw is hardly a city at all, but rather a series of zones carefully dispersed to isolate the different parts of the city from one another.

                        The hotel zone is where foreigners stay, in places with names such as the Royal Kumudra, the Golden Myanmar and the Aureum Palace. For $77 a night, I enjoyed foreign cable TV and airconditioning in a self-contained bungalow. I saw not a single other guest.

                        The civilian heart is a town of white, blue and pink four-storey flats. A shopping complex contains scores of premises, all unfinished or unoccupied.

                        But not all of Naypyidaw is a building site. The city hall has high white walls and curving tiled roofs, like the palace of Ming the Merciless.

                        North of here are the identical ministry buildings. The one I entered had manual typewriters instead of computers and the silvery-blue glass at the front was already showing cracks.

                        The first sign of life comes at the city’s market and bus station, the only place in Naypyidaw where messy human reality impinges on Than Shwe’s sterile folly.

                        The telephone directory is 12 pages long, compared with 470 for Rangoon, but according to the Government almost a million people live here.

                        Members of Burma’s Muslim minority are excluded, and there are almost none of the monks who turned against the Government last month. But the most surprising thing is the absence - except for a few unobtrusive policemen - of the armed forces.

                        The generals live in yet another zone, where soldiers parade before titanic statues of Burma’s ancient kings.

                        The obvious question is: why?

                        The most plausible explanation is that the generals are escaping from the increasingly clamorous people. Rangoon, after all, is a city of protest and opposition, of the democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains a threat to the junta even under house arrest.

                        By removing the Civil Service, it can at last avoid a repeat of the 1988 uprising, when government workers took to the streets alongside students.

                        “The move to Naypyidaw will be the undoing of the generals,” one foreign diplomat in Rangoon said. “Their isolation from the population makes them less intimidating … and it’s a death blow to their intelligence gathering.”

                        So perhaps this is the irony of the retreat to the jungle: far from being a demonstration of strength, it is a symptom of fear.


                        In Myanmar, rivers, forests suffer
                        Associated Press: Tue 16 Oct 2007 

                        Truckloads of illegal timber cross the Myanmar border to sawmills in China, while markets along the Thai border openly sell bear paws, tiger skins and elephant tusks.

                        Further inland, the repressive military regime plans to dam one of Asia’s purest rivers, and allows gold and gem mines to tear up hillsides and pollute groundwater for quick cash.

                        Myanmar has become notorious in the region for ignoring international and its own environmental laws in a single-minded effort to make the money that environmentalists say helps keep the regime in power.

                        “They may have laws on the books but they mean extremely little,” said Sean Turnell, an expert on the Myanmar economy with Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. “I would say environmental considerations mean zero to them. It wouldn’t even enter their heads.”

                        After decades of self-imposed isolation, the junta in the late 1980s began courting foreign investors with offers of stakes in gem mines, forest tracts and hydroelectric projects. Foreign investment allowed the regime to double its military to 400,000 soldiers while offering neighbors like China and Thailand access to cheap raw materials and energy to feed their growing economies.

                        A Myanmar government spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on its environmental record. Chinese government officials could not be reached for comment and Thailand denied its investment in Myanmar contributes to the country’s environmental destruction.

                        Hardest hit in the rush to develop the country formerly named Burma have been its rivers and forests, environmentalists say.

                        Over the past decade, they say, two dozen dams have either been built or are scheduled to be built mostly with the help of Chinese and Thai firms. They accuse the government of uprooting tens of thousands of villagers to make way for the dams to provide electricity mostly to Thailand and China.

                        Among the planned dams are at least five on the Salween, which rises in Tibet and is considered one of Southeast Asia’s last untamed rivers. A first dam is also planned on the Irrawaddy, which activists fear will result in the forced relocation of 10,000 villagers and the decimation of its shoreside fishing communities.

                        “This region is one of the world’s biodiversity hot spots,” said Naw La of the Kachin Development Networking Group, a coalition of environmental groups watching Myanmar. “If this dam is built on the Irrawaddy, the fish populations will decrease. A lot of people will be suffering because their livelihoods will disappear.”

                        Along Myanmar’s border with China, illegally felled timber is transported to China, according to the Britain-based group Global Witness. From there, it becomes flooring and furniture for European and American homes.

                        Global Witness said most of the logging takes place in an area described as “very possibly the most biodiverse, rich, temperate area on earth,” home to red pandas, leopards and tigers.

                        About 95 percent of Myanmar’s total timber exports to China are illegal, Global Witness said, costing its treasury $250 million a year. Much of the profits go to Chinese firms as well as regional military commanders and ethnic guerrilla groups, it said.

                        The borders along China and Thailand also are host to massive, unregulated markets that sell everything from illicit gems to animal parts. At the Tachileik market on the Thai border and Mong La market on the Chinese border, vendors openly sell tiger and leopard skins, bear paws, ivory and live turtles.

                        The markets are filled with Western tourists looking for souvenirs and Asia businessmen supplying traditional medicine and food markets in China and other Asian countries, activists said.

                        “Given the high demand and extent of the trade in Myanmar, many species will be lost,” said Chris Shepherd, a senior program officer for conservation group Traffic. “Rhinos in Myanmar are probably already extinct due to trade. Tigers are on a huge decline. Elephants are in huge decline. The list goes on and on.”

                        Even the few environmental success stories in Myanmar seem to have a dark side.

                        The junta in 2001 created the world’s largest tiger reserve in Hukaung Valley with help and funding from the U.S.-based Wildlife Conservation Society. It contains as many as 150 tigers — about a third of the total in Myanmar.

                        But the Kachin group says the junta has allowed widespread gold mining in the reserve. Three gold mines are polluting the rivers through the valley with mercury, cyanide and other chemicals, the group said in a report released this year.


                        EU falls short on sanctions
                        International Trade Union Confederation: Tue 16 Oct 2007 

                        The ITUC and the European TUC have described the European Union’s new sanctions policy on Burma, announced today, as a step in the right direction, but falling well short of what is needed to put the Burmese military junta under real pressure.  The exclusion of oil and gas from the scope of the new sanctions means that the major source of foreign finance for the junta will remain basically intact.  The previous EU bans have been extended to include a ban on European exports to Burma of equipment for the metal, timber, minerals and gemstone sectors, as well as import and investment prohibitions covering these sectors.

                        “These new restrictions are welcome, but they don’t go far enough.  The oil and gas sector is the single largest source of revenue for the military regime, and we are extremely disappointed that the EU has left this huge revenue stream untouched,” said ITUC General Secretary Guy Ryder.

                        With some 400 foreign companies having business links to Burma, European companies in the oil and gas sector have come under particular pressure to sever their links as part of the global campaign for all companies to disinvest.  While those in the new sectors covered by the revised EU sanctions will need to sever their links, the international trade union movement will continue to press for comprehensive global sanctions covering all sectors.

                        “People in Europe might rightly wonder why the European Union, having rightly extended sanctions to some products, has failed to do so for others, especially given the importance of oil and gas income to the junta”, said ETUC General Secretary John Monks.

                        Founded on 1 November 2006, the ITUC represents 168 million workers in 153 countries and territories and has 305 national affiliates.
                        Website: http://www.ituc-csi.org

                        For more information, please contact the ITUC Press Department on: +32 2 224 0204 or +32 476 621 018.


                        AIPMC Statement supporting a Global Arms Embargo on Myanmar
                        ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus: Tue 16 Oct 2007 

                        AIPMC: Global Arms Embargo on Myanmar necessary

                        The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) firmly supports the call of former world leaders for a global arms embargo on Myanmar . A United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution on an arms embargo will serve to protect civilians in the conflict-stricken country.

                        The embargo is necessary immediately, given the recent use of violence by the Myanmar military junta during its brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters.

                        AIPMC also urges ASEAN to support, if not initiate, such a UNSC resolution. ASEAN stands in good stead given that none of its member-countries sells arms to the regime. AIPMC understands that ASEAN wishes to see a global decrease in arms shipments. An arms embargo on Myanmar is consistent with ASEAN’s vision for a stable and secure region.

                        The Myanmar military junta has shown, on numerous occasions during its reign, that it does not use its weapons for self-defence of the country but to suppress its own people and in recent times against foreigners, including a Japanese journalist.

                        AIPMC commends the initiative of 20 former heads of state and leaders, led by Former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, when appealing to President Hu Jintao of China to use his good office for an immediate stop to the violent assault against the people of Burma .

                        The Caucus also supports the call for the commencement of a dialogue between military leaders and various pro-democracy stakeholders in Burma . Parliamentarians in the region once again strongly call on the immediate release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, all political prisoners, monks and others detained recently.

                        AIPMC sees the urgency for an arms ban on Myanmar not only for the safety of the people of Burma but also to ensure regional security. The regime’s violence must not be tolerated. This is an opportunity for the international community to curb the regime’s unruly behaviour.

                        AIPMC Steering Committee


                        Special Announcement
                        National League for Democracy: Tue 16 Oct 2007 

                        UNSC has now issued its Presidential Statement with consensus of all UNSC members for the national reconciliation and democratization process in Burma.

                        Despite of this Presidential Statement, the concerned authority is continuing their arbitrary arrests at any time anywhere elsewhere in Burma on the peaceful protesters who expressed their desire peacefully.

                        Though some have been released from their detention, we heard that thousands of monks, nuns, people, political party leaders, MPs, NLD party members, students and youths are still in these detention centres, prisons and interrogation centres, and languishing in these places.

                        Such unlawful arrests, interrogation, and persecution determine the national reconciliation process.

                        Thus we called for the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) to stop immediately the arrests on these peaceful protesters of monks, lay devotees, students and the people. And also we called for the unconditional and immediate release of those who expressed their desire peacefully.

                        By the meeting resolution reached at CEC meeting held on 12-10-07

                        Central Executive Committee
                        National League for Democracy
                        No. 97/B, West Shwegondaing Road
                        Bahan Township, Rangoon
                        4th Waxing day of Thadingyut, 1369 BE
                        Rangoon


                        Honorary citizenship for Aung San Suu Kyi
                        Canadian Press | October 17, 2007

                        OTTAWA : Canada is responding to Myanmar’s bloody crackdown on its citizens by promising to bestow honorary citizenship on that country’s leading prisoner of conscience. The Conservative government will ask Parliament to recognize Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi as an honorary Canadian citizen, according to a copy of the Throne Speech leaked Tuesday to The Canadian Press.
                        The junta that rules the country formerly known as Burma has confined Ms. Suu Kyi to her home under house arrest for years in response to her pro-democracy efforts.

                        “Our government will immediately call upon Parliament to confer honorary citizenship on Aung San Suu Kyi,” the speech states.

                        “Her long struggle to bring freedom and democracy to the people of Burma has made her the embodiment of these ideals (of democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law) and an inspiration to all of us.”

                        Myanmar’s military junta was defiant Tuesday in the face of international efforts to sanction its repression of protests last month.

                        State-controlled media reported that the generals who run the country are still holding 500 demonstrators in prison. Protests have left at least 13 people dead, including a Japanese cameraman whose shooting death at point-blank range by a soldier was beamed around the world.

                        The junta also poured scorn on a recent United Nations Security Council statement condemning violence used by the army to crush the anti-government protests.

                        Those protests were launched by pro-democracy monks calling on the government to end their repression and hold talks with Ms. Suu Kyi.

                        She is not the first foreigner given honorary citizenship in Canada. Nelson Mandela, for example, was given similar recognition by the government of former prime minister Jean Chrétien.


                        ASEAN will never suspend Burma, says Malaysia
                        ABC News :  | October 17, 2007
                         
                        South-east Asian countries will never suspend Burma from their 10-nation bloc despite its bloody crackdown on mass protests, Malaysia’s foreign minister said after talks with a UN envoy. The military regime in Burma has come under heavy international pressure since quelling last month’s peaceful rallies, but Syed Hamid Albar dismissed suggestions the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) could suspend its membership.

                        “If you want Myanmar (Burma) to continue to be engaged, first we should not be talking about suspending. Nobody can talk when you are threatening with all sorts of things,” the foreign minister told a press conference.
                         
                        “Secondly, there is no mechanism for suspension in ASEAN. ASEAN will never take that route,” he said after a meeting with United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari.
                        Mr Gambari is on a regional tour trying to increase pressure on the regime to halt its violent suppression of dissent, release political detainees and launch talks with the pro-democracy opposition.
                         
                        Malaysia sponsored Burma to join ASEAN in 1997, but has recently become highly critical of the ruling generals, who snubbed Mr Syed Hamid during a visit last year.
                        However, the minister said Burma’s neighbours must work to prevent the impoverished nation from becoming even more internationally isolated, notably by fostering dialogue between it and the United Nations.
                         
                        Mr Syed Hamid was upbeat about developments in Burma since Gambari’s first visit earlier this month, noting that the situation remained calm and that the regime had appointed an official to maintain “relations” with detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
                         
                        He said, however, that more needed to be done, but he stressed that change must come from within the country.


                        The geopolitical stakes of 'Saffron Revolution'
                        By F William Engdahl
                         
                        There are facts and then there are facts. Take the case of the recent mass protests in Burma or Myanmar, depending on which name you prefer to call the former British colony.
                         
                        First it's a fact which few will argue that the present military dictatorship of the reclusive General Than Shwe is right up there when it comes to world-class tyrannies. It's also a fact that Myanmar enjoys one of the world's lowest general living standards. Partly as a result of the ill-conceived 100% to 500% price hikes in gasoline and other fuels in August, inflation, the nominal trigger for the mass protests led by saffron-robed Buddhist monks, is unofficially estimated to have risen by 35%. Ironically the demand to establish "market" energy prices came from the IMF and World Bank.
                         
                        The UN estimates that the population of some 50 million inhabitants spend up to 70% of their monthly income on food alone. The recent fuel price hike makes matters unbearable for tens of millions.
                         
                        Myanmar is also deeply involved in the world narcotics trade, ranking only behind Hamid Karzai's Afghanistan as a source for heroin. As well, it is said to be Southeast Asia's largest producer of methamphetamines.
                         
                        This is all understandable powder to unleash a social explosion of protest against the regime.
                         
                        It is also a fact that the Myanmar military junta is on the hit list of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the Bush administration for its repressive ways. Has the Bush leopard suddenly changed his spots? Or is there a more opaque agenda behind Washington's calls to impose severe economic and political sanctions on the regime? Here some not-so-publicized facts help.
                         
                        Behind the recent CNN news pictures of streams of monks marching in the streets of the former capital city, Yangon, calling for more democracy, is a battle of major geopolitical consequence.
                         
                        The major actors
                         
                        The tragedy of Myanmar, whose land area is about the size of George W Bush's Texas, is that its population is being used as a human stage prop in a drama scripted in Washington by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the George Soros Open Society Institute, Freedom House and Gene Sharp's Albert Einstein Institution, a US intelligence asset used to spark "non-violent" regime change around the world on behalf of the US strategic agenda.
                         
                        Myanmar's "Saffron Revolution", like the Ukraine "Orange Revolution" or the Georgia "Rose Revolution" and the various color revolutions instigated in recent years against strategic states surrounding Russia, is a well-orchestrated exercise in Washington-run regime change, down to the details of "hit-and-run" protests with "swarming" mobs of monks in saffron, Internet blogs, mobile SMS links between protest groups, well-organized protest cells which disperse and re-form. CNN made the blunder during a September broadcast of mentioning the active presence of the NED behind the protests in Myanmar.
                         
                        In fact the US State Department admits to supporting the activities of the NED in Myanmar. The NED is a US government-funded "private" entity whose activities are designed to support US foreign policy objectives, doing today what the CIA did during the Cold War. As well, the NED funds Soros' Open Society Institute in fostering regime change in Myanmar. In an October 30, 2003 press release the State Department admitted, "The United States also supports organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy, the Open Society Institute and Internews, working inside and outside the region on a broad range of democracy promotion activities." It all sounds very self-effacing and noble of the State Department. Is it though?
                         
                        In reality the US State Department has recruited and trained key opposition leaders from numerous anti-government organizations in Myanmar. It has poured the relatively huge sum (for Myanmar) of more than $2.5 million annually into NED activities in promoting regime change in Myanmar since at least 2003. The US regime change effort, its Saffron Revolution, is being largely run, according to informed reports, out of the US Consulate General in bordering Chaing Mai, Thailand. There activists are recruited and trained, in some cases directly in the US, before being sent back to organize inside Myanmar. The US's NED admits to funding key opposition media including the New Era Journal, Irrawaddy and the Democratic Voice of Burma radio.
                         
                        The concert-master of the tactics of Saffron monk-led non-violence regime change is Gene Sharp, founder of the deceptively-named Albert Einstein Institution in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a group funded by an arm of the NED to foster US-friendly regime change in key spots around the world. Sharp's institute has been active in Myanmar since 1989, just after the regime massacred some 3,000 protestors to silence the opposition. CIA special operative and former US military attache in Rangoon, Col Robert Helvey, an expert in clandestine operations, introduced Sharp to Myanmar in 1989 to train the opposition there in non-violent strategy. Interestingly, Sharp was also in China two weeks before the dramatic events at Tiananmen Square.
                         
                        Why Myanmar now?
                         
                        A relevant question is why the US government has such a keen interest in fostering regime change in Myanmar at this juncture. We can dismiss rather quickly the idea that it has genuine concern for democracy, justice, human rights for the oppressed population there. Iraq and Afghanistan are sufficient testimony to the fact Washington's paean to democacy is propaganda cover for another agenda.
                         
                        The question is, what would lead to such engagement in such a remote place as Myanmar?
                         
                        Geopolitical control seems to be the answer - control ultimately of the strategic sea lanes from the Persian Gulf to the South China Sea. The coastline of Myanmar provides naval access in the proximity of one of the world's most strategic water passages, the Strait of Malacca, the narrow ship passage between Malaysia and Indonesia.
                         
                        The Pentagon has been trying to militarize the region since September 11, 2001 on the argument of defending against possible terrorist attack. The US has managed to gain an airbase on Banda Aceh, the Sultan Iskandar Muda Air Force Base, on the northernmost tip of Indonesia. The governments of the region, including Myanmar, however, have adamantly refused US efforts to militarize the region. A glance at a map (click here) will confirm the strategic importance of Myanmar.
                         
                        The Strait of Malacca, linking the Indian and Pacific Oceans, is the shortest sea route between the Persian Gulf and China. It is the key chokepoint in Asia. More than 80% of all China's oil imports are shipped by tankers passing the Malacca Strait. The narrowest point is the Phillips Channel in the Singapore Strait, only 1.5 miles wide at its narrowest. Each day, more than 12 million barrels in oil supertankers pass through this narrow passage, most en route to the world's fastest-growing energy market, China, or to Japan.
                         
                        If the strait were closed, nearly half of the world's tanker fleet would be required to sail further. Closure would immediately raise freight rates worldwide. More than 50,000 vessels per year transit the Strait of Malacca. The region from Maynmar to Banda Aceh in Indonesia is fast becoming one of the world's most strategic chokepoints. Who controls those waters controls China's energy supplies.
                         
                        That strategic importance of Myanmar has not been lost on Beijing.
                         
                        Since it became clear to China that the US was hell-bent on a unilateral militarization of the Middle East oil fields in 2003, Beijing has stepped up its engagement in Myanmar. Chinese energy and military security, not human rights concerns, drives their policy.
                         
                        In recent years Beijing has poured billions of dollars in military assistance into Myanmar, including fighter, ground-attack and transport aircraft; tanks and armored personnel carriers; naval vessels and surface-to-air missiles. China has built up Myanmar railroads and roads and won permission to station its troops in Myanmar. China, according to Indian defense sources, has also built a large electronic surveillance facility on Myanmar's Coco Islands and is building naval bases for access to the Indian Ocean.
                         
                        In fact Myanmar is an integral part of what China terms its "string of pearls", its strategic design of establishing military bases in Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia in order to counter US control over the Strait of Malacca chokepoint. There is also energy on and offshore of Myanmar, and lots of it.
                         
                        The gas fields of Myanmar
                         
                        Oil and gas have been produced in Myanmar since the British set up the Rangoon Oil Company in 1871, later renamed Burmah Oil Co. The country has produced natural gas since the 1970s, and in the 1990s it granted gas concessions to the foreign companies ElfTotal of France and Premier Oil of the UK in the Gulf of Martaban. Later Texaco and Unocal (now Chevron) won concessions at Yadana and Yetagun as well. Yadana alone has an estimated gas reserve of more than 5 trillion cubic feet and an expected life of at least 30 years. Yetagun is estimated to have about a third the gas of the Yadana field.
                         
                        In 2004 a large new gas field, Shwe field, off the coast of Arakan, was discovered.
                         
                        By 2002 both Texaco and Premier Oil withdrew from the Yetagun project following UK government and non-governmental pressure. Malaysia's Petronas bought Premier's 27% stake. By 2004 Myanmar was exporting Yadana gas via pipeline to Thailand, worth $1 billion annually to the Myanmar regime. In 2005 China, Thailand and South Korea invested in expanding the Myanmar oil and gas sector, with export of gas to Thailand rising 50%.
                         
                        Gas export today is Myanmar's most important source of income. Yadana was developed jointly by ElfTotal, Unocal, PTT-EP of Thailand and Myanmar's state MOGE, operated by ElfTotal. Yadana supplies some 20% of Thai natural gas needs.
                         
                        Today the Yetagun field is operated by Malaysia's Petronas along with MOGE, Japan's Nippon Oil and PTT-EP. The gas is piped onshore where it links to the Yadana pipeline. Gas from the Shwe field is to come on line in 2009. China and India have been in strong contention over the Shwe gas field reserves.
                         
                        India loses, China wins
                         
                        This past summer Myanmar signed a memorandum of understanding with PetroChina to supply large volumes of natural gas from reserves of the Shwe gasfield in the Bay of Bengal. The contract runs for 30 years. India was the main loser. Myanmar had earlier given India a major stake in two offshore blocks to develop gas to have been transmitted via pipeline through Bangladesh to India's energy-hungry economy. Political bickering between India and Bangladesh brought the Indian plans to a standstill.
                        China took advantage of the stalemate. It simply trumped India with an offer to invest billions in building a strategic China-Myanmar oil and gas pipeline across Myanmar from Myanmar's deepwater port at Sittwe in the Bay of Bengal to Kunming in China's Yunnan province, a stretch of more than 2,300 kilometers. China plans an oil refinery in Kumming as well.
                         
                        What the Myanmar-China pipelines will allow is routing of oil and gas from Africa (Sudan among other sources) and the Middle East (Iran, Saudi Arabia) without depending on the vulnerable chokepoint of the Malacca Strait. Myanmar becomes China's "bridge" linking Bangladesh and countries westward to the China mainland independent of any possible future moves by Washington to control the strait.
                         
                        India's dangerous alliance shift
                         
                        It's no wonder that China is taking such precautions. Ever since the Bush administration decided in 2005 to recruit India to the Pentagon's "New Framework for US-India Defense Relations", India has been pushed into a strategic alliance with Washington in order to counter China in Asia.
                         
                        In an October 2002 Pentagon report, "The Indo-US Military Relationship", the Office of Net Assessments stated the reason for the defense alliance would be to have a "capable partner" who can take on "more responsibility for low-end operations" in Asia, provide new training opportunities and "ultimately provide basing and access for US power projection". Washington is also quietly negotiating a base on Indian territory, a severe violation of India's traditional non-aligned status.
                         
                        Power projection against whom? China, perhaps?
                         
                        As well, the Bush administration has offered India a deal to lift its 30-year nuclear sanctions and to sell advanced US nuclear technology, legitimizing India's open violation of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. At the same time Washington accuses Iran of violating same, an exercise in political hypocrisy to say the least.
                         
                        Notably, just as the saffron-robed monks of Myanmar took to the streets, the Pentagon opened US-Indian joint naval exercises, "Malabar 07", along with armed forces from Australia, Japan and Singapore. The US showed the awesome muscle of its 7th Fleet, deploying the aircraft carriers USS Nimitz and USS Kitty Hawk, guided missile cruisers USS Cowpens and USS Princeton, and no less than five guided missile destroyers.
                         
                        US-backed regime change in Myanmar together with Washington's growing military power projection via India and other allies in the region is clearly a factor in Beijing's policy vis-a-vis Myanmar's present military junta. As is often the case these days, from Darfur to Caracas to Yangon, the rallying call of Washington for democracy ought to be taken with a large grain of salt.
                         
                        F William Engdahl is the author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order, Pluto Press Ltd. Further articles can be found at his website, www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net.

                         Myanmar's beating of monks 'very bad' - Dalai Lama
                        NZ Herald October 17, 2007
                         

                        WASHINGTON - The Dalai Lama has labelled the Myanmar junta's beating of protesting Buddhist monks "very bad" and said it reminded him of China's treatment of Tibetans.
                         
                        The exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader, in Washington to receive a Congressional award that has angered China, said he had expressed to US President George W. Bush gratitude to First Lady Laura Bush for championing democracy in Myanmar.
                         
                        "When I saw the picture of (a) Burmese monk, like the Tibetan monk, like myself," the Dalai Lama told reporters, pausing as he pointed to his maroon robes and shaved head.
                         
                        "That reflects beating by Chinese (of) Tibetan monks - very similar - so therefore, naturally, I felt some very, very strong sort of feeling."
                         
                        President Bush met with the Dalai Lama on Tuesday despite China's warning that US plans to honour the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader could damage relations between Beijing and Washington.
                         
                        Long before protests in Myanmar first flared in August, Laura Bush made public calls for the release of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and called on the United Nations to take up the Myanmar issue.
                         
                        At least 10 people were killed and many more arrested during the suppression last month of the pro-democracy protests led by Buddhist monks. Myanmar police are still raiding homes and arresting activists.
                         
                        The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, following a harsh Chinese crackdown in Tibet.
                         
                        Suu Kyi received the Nobel prize in 1991 and fellow Nobel laureates have repeatedly urged the country's military rulers to release her from years of confinement.
                         

                        The Dalai Lama said he had made an "expression of my solidarity with the demonstrators" and also told the Myanmar junta to tread lightly with fellow Buddhists.
                         
                        "The junta, they are also Buddhists, so logically they should follow Buddhist teachings: non-violence or compassion - and beating a monk is very bad," he said.
                         
                        - REUTERS

                         
                      • CHAN Beng Seng
                        1.. India does a complete about-turn on Burma 2.. Singapore squirms as Burmese protest 3.. 88 generation students call for more decisive UN action 4.. People
                        Message 11 of 14 , Oct 18, 2007
                        • 0 Attachment
                          1. India does a complete about-turn on Burma
                          2. Singapore squirms as Burmese protest
                          3. 88 generation students call for more decisive UN action
                          4. People oppose junta in staged rallies to support National Convention
                          5. Bloodstained rubies fund Burmese regime
                          6. Burmese economy has hit bottom; people are suffering
                          7. Asean ‘won’t agree to sanctions or suspension’; No mechanism for such action
                          8. Keep up the pressure on Than Shwe’s cronies
                          9. China faces a tricky balancing act in Burma
                          10. The empty debate on Myanmar sanctions
                          11. Amnesty International releases new video and audio testimony of Myanmar ‘Witch Hunt’ and brutal repression
                          12. UN, ASEAN Lock Hands on Burma

                          Thai talk: India does a complete about-turn on Burma
                           
                          The Burma crisis has been described as a "strategic dilemma" for India.
                           
                          The Nation October 18, 2007
                          New Delhi
                           
                          The government here claims there are genuine concerns over energy and security interests to consider. But critics have raised the question of the responsibility of a nation that has always prided itself on being "the world's biggest democracy".

                          "Why is the voice of Indian democracy silent about the momentous struggle for liberty and rights in Burma?" asked Karan Thapar, president of ITV of India, in an eloquent article published here soon after the Burmese junta cracked down on the protestors.

                          He was speaking on behalf of many when he wrote: "We seem to have forgotten that Aung San Suu Kyi grew up in India, was educated in Delhi and once considered this country a second home. In 1992 we gave her the Nehru Prize. We've forgotten that the tens of thousands of monks marching in silent protest through the streets of Rangoon, Mandalay and Pegu look on India as a spiritual shrine. Indeed, we call ourselves the land of the Buddha."

                          On that same day, a well-known Indian foreign policy analyst told me that China was India's biggest reason for the policy shift from a pro-democracy stand before 1988 to one sympathetic to the generals.

                          "Why? After the 1988 massacre and the military suppression, China moved into India with a vengeance and, as a result, we lost our position in Burma to China. It's a geopolitical move. It's a strategic decision," the academic told me.

                          It's as simple as saying India "lost" Burma to China because it had taken a moral stand - and it didn't take long for politicians to decide that morality would have to give way to pragmatic concerns.

                          When international pressure built up for India to play its part in nudging the Burmese generals into "national reconciliation" all that External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee managed to say publicly was: "It's our hope that all sides will resolve their issues peacefully through dialogue. As a close and friendly neighbour, India hopes to see a peaceful, stable and prosperous Burma, where all people will be included in a broad-based process of national reconciliation and political reform."

                          But that didn't sit well with what a local paper described as "Minister Murli Deora's fly-by-night mission to Burma while Rangoon bleeds". The minister cut short his bridge session to fly to Rangoon on September 23, just as the protests got underway, on a "strategic mission" to sign an energy deal on the Rakhin coast of Burma.

                          It's no secret that India's strategic interests in Burma include a gas deal worth about $100 million. The petroleum minister's visit at the time that the protest was building up might have been a deliberate attempt to show the Burmese generals India was serious about making up for its setback over China's win over India in a recent gas deal.

                          Talk to any Indian technocrat and politician, and you'll hear the strategic argument. Burma's vast oil and gas reserves can meet a big chunk of India's demand of 2.8 million barrels a day.

                          "If he is diplomatic, an Indian official would tell you we need to help support national reconciliation. But if he is really frank, the same official would admit that India had reversed its policy from being a vociferous supporter of Aung San Suu Kyi in the early 1990s. The present pro-junta stand serves its "look-East" policy to check China's influence and protect India's own energy and security needs, a veteran journalist told me.

                          Another strategic analyst pointed out that India would not publicly admit it, but there is a growing fear of China's encircling India through Burma. He said China has been supplying arms and know-how to the Burmese, and Beijing has begun to upgrade ports and facilities close to India, which shares a 1,700-km-long border with Burma.

                          India, in trying to counter Chinese influence, has provided the generals with helicopters, military hardware, counter-insurgency training, arms and ammunition. Burma has responded by helping India deal with armed militants operating from its territory.

                          In Delhi, I saw a group of pro-democracy activists and Buddhist monks from Burma raise clenched fists to protest against the reign of terror at home. They were openly dazed by the ambivalent attitude taken by the Indian government.

                          One refugee told me: "India has a special role to play. The principles of the Buddha, Gandhi and democracy are under attack in my country right now. Don't forget that all three originated here in India."

                          Former defence minister George Fernandes added an angry public statement: "It's time we forgot oil and China and took the lead in aiding the democracy movement in Burma. The junta, for me and for those fighting against it, is a bunch of criminals and the [Indian] government should view it so."

                          Soe Myint, managing editor of the Delhi-based news agency Mizzima, one of the few windows through which news from Burma is filtering through, had this to say: "Burma has been in the international news for some time now. However, our lack of democracy and human rights go unreported. Even in the Indian media, news coverage has been minimal. Mostly it's been a case of no coverage for days. In '88-89, India supported us. Now, it supports the generals."

                          As China effects a subtle shift in its policy - by not exercising its veto right over the issuance of a statement against the Burmese junta by the UN Security Council - India may also be contemplating a diplomatic repositioning. But that change will come only in a low-key, almost muted fashion. As one Delhi-based diplomat told me: "When it comes to the game of diplomatic subtleties, we Indians surely won't let the Chinese win without a real fight."

                          By Suthichai Yoon


                          Singapore squirms as Burmese protest
                          By Alex Au
                          AsiaTimes Online 18 Oct.07

                          "Police take a stern view against those who organize and participate in illegal assemblies or processions. It is an offense to do so without a permit." This sharp warning was carried in the country's national daily on September 27, 2007 in an attempt to warn off anyone intending to organize marches. The country was not Burma, but Singapore. 
                           
                          A month earlier, on August 25, 2007, 30 to 40 Burmese residents in Singapore had marched two kilometers down Orchard Road, the main shopping street, to a point near the City Hall. They did so to show solidarity with the then-nascent protests in Rangoon over the recent fuel-price hikes. "They just wore ordinary white T-shirts, carried no placards, and no one shouted slogans," reported an observer. "It was entirely peaceful." The point was to send pictures back to Burma to encourage their compatriots.

                          Barely 20 steps from the starting point, the group was intercepted by a police inspector and four or five officers videotaping the participants. The inspector "advised" the participants not to proceed, or else they might face charges. To underline the seriousness of the warning, ID particulars of 23 of the participants were recorded. Despite this, the march continued, only to encounter the same police officers about one kilometer further on, near the presidential palace. Another warning was given.

                          A week later, at the end of August, the 23 participants received letters from the police requiring them attend police interrogation over this "illegal procession". They had to make signed statements, and were issued a warning not to participate in any such activities again. Said one of those who was called up, whose name has to be withheld for her own safety, "the police told us: 'If you do it again, you will be deported immediately'."

                          As protests intensified in Burma, with monks joining in and being beaten and arrested for their trouble, Singaporeans too were increasingly moved by events over there. University students began to organize, choosing October 4 to hold a mass event across four campuses.

                          The police were not far behind. At the Singapore Management University, a 7.30pm peace vigil was set to take place in the open deck on the ground floor of the library building. "At mid-afternoon, the police contacted the Dean of Students telling him that unless we had a permit, the Peace Vigil would be an illegal assembly," said Mark Myo, one of the organizers. The event thus had to be moved indoors into the library.

                          Something similar happened at the Kent Ridge campus of the National University of Singapore. The campus newspaper, The Ridge, reported that "appeals were made to hold outdoor vigils", but the proposal was rejected, "as it is not in keeping with the university culture and may not serve an academic purpose". In the end, at Kent Ridge, the vigil didn't take place at all.

                          The most contentious case could be the battle of wills that took place at the end of September between the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and the police. The SDP had set up a petition table outside the Myanmar embassy and invited people to come sign two petitions - one to Singapore's prime minister, the other to the Myanmar ambassador. At one point over 200 people, Singaporeans and Burmese, showed up. They lit candles, stuck messages onto the embassy gates and stayed on peacefully as a gesture of solidarity.

                          Throughout, the police tried to tell people to leave, videotaping faces in an attempt to scare individuals off. "We advise you to leave; we are investigating this case," repeated the officer-in-charge ad nauseum. Some left; others moved a little, but still hung around.

                          At the entrance to St Martin's Drive, where the embassy was located, more policemen were deployed to prevent people from walking up the narrow road towards the embassy and the petition-signing area. A man named Wunna was among those who tried to enter. "The plainclothes policemen stationed there warned me not to proceed into the road, or else they would investigate," he said. He decided not to risk it, and turned back.

                          By then, Singapore's foreign minister, George Yeo, had already issued a statement on behalf of Asean "demand[ing] that the Myanmar government immediately desist from the use of violence against demonstrators."

                          It would hardly do for the Singapore government to engage in similar behaviour. Even short of violence, prosecution and deportation would put them in the same moral basket as the Myanmar military junta.

                          It is an open secret that the Singapore government and many companies here happily do business with the Myanmar generals. As reported in the newspaper Today, on October 5, "Myanmar's official data reports Singapore as its second-largest investor with over US$1.57 billion, mostly in the services sector." Flowing in the other direction are funds connected with the regime, substantial amounts of which are believed to be parked in Singapore banks.

                          Moreover, the Myanmar generals regularly come to Singapore for medical treatment.

                          This cozy relationship may explain the fact that police surveillance of the 30,000 - 60,000 strong Burmese community in Singapore has been going on for a long time. Said Aung Naing: "Sometimes, we feel that they are tapping our phones. During one recent conversation with my husband, we heard a woman's voice in the background."

                          Aye Aye, a petite young woman with Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi's face emblazoned on her T-shirt, recalled a police officer telling her once, "We keep records on you."

                          Wunna added: "At events such as prayer sessions, birthday celebrations, and the annual water festival, we see police vans nearby."

                          Intelligence officers regularly contact organizers of events to find out what they are up to. "Just before the birthday celebrations for Aung San Suu Kyi in June this year," Wunna recalled, "the intelligence officer contacted one of the organizers with detailed questions about the agenda, what kinds of documents they were going to distribute, and so on."

                          That reminded Aung Naing, an engineer with a master's degree, "The same thing happened just prior to the water festival in April."

                          The Burmese community uses a small street beside a Buddhist temple for this festival. Different groups park vehicles along this street, decorated as focal points for their celebrations.

                          "In 2006, our lorry had a big poster, four feet x six ft, of Aung San Suu Kyi on it. But this year, the police contacted us and told us not to put up her picture," he said.

                          His wife chipped in: "We negotiated and thought we could to put up a smaller picture, three ft x five ft."

                          But on that day itself, a monk from the temple told them the police had called with a warning that the picture had to be taken down within 30 minutes. "If not, they would come and arrest us," she recalled the monk saying.

                          That was April, before the crisis in Burma broke out. Now, with the world's attention focused on the plight of Burmese deprived of liberties, arresting them in Singapore may prove rather hard to do.

                          The Singapore government is caught in an acute dilemma. On the one hand, they have to make suitably outraged remarks about the crackdown against demonstrators in Burma; on the other hand, they do not want the Burmese community in Singapore to protest and inspire Singaporeans to take to the streets too. The Lee government's draconian ban on any kind of street march or protest rally is central to its grip on power.

                          Another dilemma has to do with the transition that sooner or later will happen in Myanmar. Memories of what happened after the fall of Indonesia's Suharto, with whom Singapore had been very cozy for decades, are still fresh. Singapore continues to suffer suspicion from the new democratic polity in Jakarta nine years after the dictator's fall in 1998.

                          With the rapidly changing situation in Myanmar, Singapore has to walk a fine line between the generals and those arrayed against them.

                          The SDP's agility in seizing the issue and championing the cause of the protestors presented another headache. The government would be aghast at the prospect of an opposition party burnishing its credentials as a result of its timely outspokenness.

                          The government's response may well be Machiavellian. A few days after the standoff at the embassy, many in the Burmese community received a mysterious sms that warned them not to go to the Myanmar embassy to sign petitions but instead sign petitions at Peninsula Plaza where it was "more effective and safe". Peninsula Plaza is the shopping mall that serves as the hub of social life for the Burmese community.

                          Thiha recalled, "We could not recognize the number. We don't know who sent it."

                          In his opinion, "the undercover police approached active members of the community to do a parallel petition."

                          Despite that, Thiha said, "I appreciate that the Singapore police, at least, is corruption-free. But I want to suggest that they in turn should appreciate the situation in Burma, and our movement."

                          Kyaw Swar, a geologist, thought Singapore should lighten up more. "There should be freedom of expression. Even if a country is small, rights should not be alienated from human beings."

                          "They should not deal with the generals," stressed Thiha, bringing up the subject of medical treatment for them. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was recently on CNN saying that offering the junta leaders medical treatment was only being humanitarian, in keeping with the Hippocratic oath.

                          "If Osama bin Laden needed medical treatment," Thiha asked, "will Singapore allow him to come or not?"

                          Alex Au is an independent social and political commentator, freelance writer and blogger based in Singapore. He often speaks at public forums on politics, culture and gay issues.


                          88 generation students call for more decisive UN action
                          Democratic Voice of Burma: Wed 17 Oct 2007 

                          The 88 Generation Students group has called for “more decisive measures” from the United Nations to counter the Burmese authorities’ continued suppression of pro-democracy protestors.

                          In a letter addressed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the members of the Security Council, the group welcomed the recent presidential statement adopted by the Council, but claimed that it had had little impact on the military regime.

                          “While the regime announces to the world that it is willing to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, on the other hand, it is trying to eliminate democracy forces by using violence and arbitrary arrest,” the letter said.

                          The letter draws attention to ill-treatment of detainees and the “climate of fear” created by the government’s crackdown.

                          “Thousands of protestors, including monks and students, continue to suffer ill-treatment and severe torture in detention centres and some have passed away in custody. Many monks in detention are forcibly disrobed and sent to prison labour camps,” it reads.

                          The group calls for the Security Council to adopt a binding resolution on Burma with targeted sanctions, including an investment ban and an arms embargo, and requests the continued presence of UN Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari in Burma to ensure that genuine dialogue takes place.

                          The group emphasises the need for repercussions for the military regime if they do not comply with UN demands.

                          “We seriously stress that lack of an international enforcement action in Burma grants the Burmese military junta a licence to kill,” the letter concludes.


                          People oppose junta in staged rallies to support National Convention - Saw Yan Naing
                          Irrawaddy: Wed 17 Oct 2007 

                          People forced to attend state-run rallies in support of the National Convention and the proposed draft constitution openly opposed the rally organizers by shouting anti-government messages, according to sources who attended the rallies.

                          A large number of people from different walks of life including children attend a pro-government rally at the Thuwunna Sports Ground in Rangoon, on October 13

                          In Rangoon, state media reported 120,000 people attended a rally, but sources said officials used coercion, threatening those who didn’t want to attend with paying a compensation fee to those who participated. Similar rallies were staged throughout the country.

                          Sources say authorities threatened people in Sittwe with a 1.000 kyat fine if they did not support the National Convention ceremony. Many people chose to pay the fine, sources said, but the government said they must attend anyway.

                          The government held similar ceremonies in Shan, Arakan, Kachin and Karenni states, and in Pegu, Mandalay and Rangoon divisions, according to The New Light of Myanmar.

                          It reported 110,000 people attended in Pegu division; 138,000 in Mandalay division; 71,000 in Sittwe; and 13,000 in Mongnai Township in southern Shan State.

                          A Rangoon resident told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday, “People gathered in fear of military threats, not for what they believe. It is not their real will, and they are not interested in it. It is regime propaganda.”

                          In Myitkyina in Kachin State in upper Burma, a resident said authorities forced three people from each house to attend the ceremony.

                          “During the ceremony, people didn’t care what the organizers were talking about,” he said. “They were just going around and talking with each other.”

                          During the rallies, organizers asked the crowds to shout “Oppose” each time a speaker read off one of the “four desires of the people.” one item read, “Eliminate foreign elements that threaten the stability of the nation.” Instead of “Oppose,” the crowd responded by shouting, “Our cause, Our cause” said one source, laughing.

                          “It showed people participate in opposing the government as much as they can,” said the source.

                          A resident in Sittwe in western Burma said that during the ceremony there, when organizers asked people to shout “Oppose,” some in the crowd shouted, “Release the detainees.”

                          “It was very funny,” he said.


                          Bloodstained rubies fund Burmese regime - Beat Balzli
                          Spiegel Online: Wed 17 Oct 2007 

                          Most of the world’s finished rubies originate in Burma, where the junta earns millions by mining them. Jewelers in Europe and Asia rake in handsome profits from the stones and believe they’re helping rebels — as long as the stones come through middlemen. They are probably wrong.

                          Rubies command tens of thousands of euros per carat on world markets. This 18.28 carat ruby and diamond ring was auctioned by Sotheby’s in Geneva in 2006.
                          Everyone was in the mood for a party a week ago Saturday at the Kristall mountain lodge and restaurant in Idar-Oberstein, a picturesque small town known as Germany’s “Gemstone City.” After an elaborate laser show, hotel guests attending the Intergem trade convention danced late into the night. At two in the morning, the insiders of this discreet industry were still celebrating “extremely good business deals,” according to one participant.

                          Buyers for Europe’s top jewelers come to Idar-Oberstein to purchase precious stones, gems and diamonds — and they hit pay dirt again this year, with rare merchandise from Southeast Asia. Large, deep red rubies from Burma command prices of tens of thousands of euros per carat, making them the most exclusive stones a gemstone dealer can offer. “We sold various Burmese rubies at the show,” confirms Konrad Henn from gemstone trading company Karl Faller. He says the rubies his company buys and sells come almost exclusively from the regions of Mogok and Mong Hsu. But Henn has never ventured to visit the mines there. “The risk would be too great, and the prices we could get directly on location wouldn’t be any better than what we pay our longstanding Thai suppliers,” he says.

                          In fact, the gem dealers might risk losing their appetite for rubies if they visited restricted areas in Burma. In addition to cracking down on uprisings led by defiant monks and the opposition, the Burmese military regime forces workers to extract the precious stones under brutal conditions in its heavily guarded mines.

                          Roughly 90 percent of the global supply of rubies comes from Burma. According to eyewitness accounts, mining bosses mix amphetamines into the workers’ drinking water to boost productivity. Sometimes children also work in the muddy mines. “Alongside teak, gas and oil, gems are the fourth financial mainstay of the junta,” says Ulrich Delius from the German-based Society for Threatened Peoples.

                          There are no exact figures for the junta’s gem trade. Estimates of the amount of income generated by the business range as high as hundreds of millions of dollars per year. At the state-organized gem auction in Yangon, where only middling quality stones come under the hammer, the regime has taken in some $300 million so far in 2007.

                          Chinese, Thais and Indians are the main customers of the Burmese generals. These big buyers also control the trade with Europe and the US. They don’t ask awkward questions.

                          And their German customers are not about to rock the boat. According to customs statistics, which only reflect part of the trade, rubies and sapphires worth up to €1 million are annually imported from Burma straight to Germany. The state-owned Myanmar Gem Enterprise also exports tons of jade every year, and a large number of Buddha statues in German living rooms originate from the area controlled by the Burmese military regime.

                          ‘Fiery Gems’ From a Fairytale World

                          As for indirect trade, a far greater number of Burmese stones are smuggled by dealers via Bangkok to vaults in Germany — and virtually no one involved seems to have a guilty conscience. In contrast to unregistered blood diamonds from African regions ravaged by civil war, which have been internationally banned from sale under the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme, Burma’s gems are highly presentable and respectable, even among the finest jewelers in Germany. The management of the renowned Hamburg-based jeweler Wempe, for example, has no ethical qualms whatsoever. The German jeweler praises the “pigeon-blood red rubies” from Burma in its catalog as “fiery gems” from a fairytale world.

                          Every year, the upscale international retailer sells five to eight expensive pieces of jewelry “with top-quality rubies from Myanmar.” The gems are supplied by German dealers like Karl Faller or competitors in Switzerland. “According to our dealers,” the company explains in a statement, “the gems are brought by prospectors across the border to Thailand, where they are purchased by our dealers.”

                          Michael Hahn is a Düsseldorf gem dealer and president of the German gemstone importers association. He goes one step further, saying the high-quality gems are smuggled by Burmese rebels from oppressed minorities across the jungle border into Thailand. Hahn is one of the dealers who then buy the gems in Bangkok. He feels a boycott would only have negative consequences for the people, not for the regime. He says this opinion is shared by leading figures in the German gem industry.

                          Could buying rubies be a charitable act? Ulrich Delius, from the Society for Threatened Peoples, doesn’t think so. “It is cynical,” he says, “to maintain that opposition forces and minorities finance their operations with rubies.”

                          The American jeweler Brian Leber is quite familiar with the Robin Hood theory as a justification in the gem trade — and as a myth. He’s urged a boycott of Burmese rubies for years.

                          Leber says the Karen people, an oppressed ethnic minority in Burma, were “involved to a certain extent in the smuggling 20 years ago.” But after an ethnic-cleansing offensive by the government and the expulsion of over a million people, it would be “absurd to maintain that (the Karen) control the gem trade.” He adds that the Burmese regime has dramatically stepped up patrols along the country’s borders. Corrupt members of the government cash in on profits from smuggling, according to Leber.

                          His fight has just begun. Although the US has banned direct imports of Burmese gemstones, America has allowed the trade to continue via Bangkok, following an intervention by the powerful jewelers’ lobby. Politicians in Brussels have just started to consider a similar tightening of current EU sanctions.

                          Meanwhile, Burma was decidedly not an issue at the gem trade show or at the party in the mountain lodge in Idar-Oberstein, according to one dealer who still raves about a terrific set there by a jazz trio called “The Crooks.”

                          URL: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,511710,00.html


                          Burmese economy has hit bottom; people are suffering - Wai Moe
                          Irrawaddy: Wed 17 Oct 2007 

                          Two of Rangoon’s biggest hotels have closed their doors in what business owners say is a drastic downturn in the tourist industry and the overall economy following the pro-democracy demonstrations.

                          Signs of a failed economy are everywhere, say business people. Teashops have fewer customers, day workers are relying on rice handouts from their employers and prostitutes are walking the streets in daylight— unembarrassed—trying to survive.

                          Business sources told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the Kandawgyi Hotel and the Hotel Nikko have closed their doors for lack of customers.

                          Many hotels in Rangoon are reportedly empty, and business has dried up at tourist agencies and airline offices.

                          A shop owner in Rangoon said on Tuesday that business is suffering, following the demonstrations and the government’s increase in fuel prices on August 15, which raised the cost of public transportation and increased food prices.

                          “This situation really hit our pocket,” said the shop owner. “We keep going with our business because we do not want to close. Rice shop owners keep running their shops not because the economy is good but because people need rice. All pockets are empty.”

                          Most businesses made only a small profit before fuel prices were increased, said the shop owner, but since then, profits have gone to pay for increased fuel prices.

                          “There is inflation in Burma and the currency is losing more of its value,” he said.

                          After August 15, gasoline and diesel fuel prices more than doubled, while the cost of compressed gas, used to power buses, increased five-fold, driving up ticket prices for those who depend on public transportation.

                          In 1988, the unofficial exchange rate for 25 kyat was US $1; in the early 1990s, 100 kyat equaled $1; currently, 1,300 kyat equal $1 on the unofficial market.

                          People have even cut back on going to the ever-popular tea shops, the traditional place for friends to gather, said one Rangoon resident. Now, he said, people try to save money any way they can.

                          “If I go with my family to a tea shop and have food there, it will cost about 6,000 kyat,” he said. “When my income was good, it was no problem for me. But now my income is not good, and I have to use this money for food.”

                          “Most people cannot eat meat because the price is skyrocketing,” he said. “Meat prices increase about 200 kyat every week. Poor people now buy only vegetables because they are cheaper.”

                          Workers who rely on temporary day work are sometimes given rice by their employers, he said, which helps the very poor survive. The poorest families buy food one day at a time, he said.

                          Even younger people with educations who have jobs with large companies are feeling the strain. “All jobs are insecure,” he said.

                          Rangoon sources said women who rely on prostitution to earn money can now be seen on Rangoon streets even in daylight.

                          “Women are at the 10-mile highway bus station, around RC-2 (Regional College 2) and on Waizayanter Road trying to find customers,” he said.

                          “They are not embarrassed to be seen in the daytime. They are trying to survive too, and it’s hard to find customers. People now only think about daily food.”

                          A taxi owner in Rangoon said before the rise in fuel prices he could save a little money each month, and he could pick and choose when to drive during the day. Now he drives all day searching for customers, and it’s hard to pay the monthly rental fee for his taxi.

                          A Burmese economist who lives in Thailand said a UN survey found that the average Burmese citizen used 70 percent of their income for food.

                          “It is difficult to find a real money-making business in Burma at the moment,” he said. “So many people are poorer. It’s the sign of a failed economy.”


                          Asean ‘won’t agree to sanctions or suspension’; No mechanism for such action, Syed Hamid says after meeting Gambari - Carolyn Hong
                          The Straits Times (Singapore): Wed 17 Oct 2007 

                          ASEAN will not agree to sanctions or a suspension of Myanmar from the grouping even after its violent crackdown on protesters, Malaysia’s Foreign Minister said yesterday.

                          Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said Malaysia and Asean have pledged full support for UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari’s mission to resolve the conflict.

                          ‘If you want Myanmar to continue to engage, we should not be talking about suspension. No one will talk if they are threatened with all sorts of things.

                          ‘And there is no mechanism for suspension in Asean. Asean will never take that route,’ he said after meeting Professor Gambari.

                          The UN envoy is on the second leg of a six-nation regional tour aimed at producing a concerted approach to the Myanmar issue.

                          He flew in yesterday from Bangkok, where he met Thai leaders, including Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont on Monday. General Surayud proposed that Asean, China and India hold multi-party discussions modelled on the North Korean nuclear talks to resolve the stalemate in Myanmar.

                          But Datuk Seri Syed Hamid said Malaysia preferred to allow the UN to take the leading role as it has the support of the international community, and especially as Myanmar has shown positive response.

                          He said Malaysia believed that Prof Gambari’s efforts have resulted in some tangible progress, and thus preferred the UN to continue to lead the efforts.

                          ‘These are all positive developments. Let us allow for this to come up successfully as the momentum is there already.

                          ‘Talk about other mechanisms may complicate the current mechanism.’

                          He also said Malaysia believed in dialogue, rather than sanctions, which will hurt the people of Myanmar.

                          He said Asean must give encouragement to Myanmar to work with the United Nations, and to allow Prof Gambari to return to the country soon.

                          Prof Gambari will meet Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi today, to whom he will pass a message from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon on how Asean could help with the crisis.

                          He leaves for Indonesia today before going to India, China and Japan.

                          Malaysia’s stand FOREIGN MINISTER Syed Hamid Albar outlined Malaysia’s position.

                          No to sanctions

                          ‘The action must produce results. We must know who we are targeting. We do not want anything to happen that will cause difficulties to the people of Myanmar.’

                          No to suspension from Asean

                          ‘If you want Myanmar to continue to engage, we should not be talking about suspension. No one will talk if they are threatened with all sorts of things. And there is no mechanism for suspension in Asean.’

                          No need for multi-party talks

                          ‘Talk about other mechanisms may complicate the current mechanism. I think Gambari has gone this far, under very difficult circumstances, we must allow him to continue his work.’


                          Keep up the pressure on Than Shwe’s cronies
                          Irrawaddy: Wed 17 Oct 2007 

                          To keep up the momentum on the Burma issue and to persuade the military leaders to sit at the negotiating table, the international community and individual governments need to put pressure on the cronies who prop up the regime leadership.

                          One of the principal targets would be Tay Za, CEO of Htoo Trading Group and founder of Air Bagan, which recently launched services to Singapore and Thailand.

                          The young tycoon in his early 40s is Burma’s wealthiest business man, thanks largely to his close friendship with the country’s top leaders, including Snr-Gen Than Shwe and Gen Thura Shwe Mann, number three man in the regime.

                          Tay Za was recently in the hot seat, however.  During the September demonstrations, he left Burma in a hurry to seek refuge elsewhere. News reports suggested that he left Burma on September 27.

                          Than Shwe’s wife Kyaing Kyaing and members of her family also left Burma the day before, on September 26, apparently for reasons of personal safety.

                          When street demonstrations started, Tay Za asked his staff to keep an aircraft on standby at Rangoon airport.

                          It has been suggested that he, Kyaing Kyaing and her party flew to Dubai. Diplomatic sources in Bangkok believe they went first of all to Singapore and then flew on to Laos on a chartered flight. From there they reportedly flew to Dubai, although some reports also suggest that they flew to Macau.

                          More troubles loom on the horizon for tycoon Tay Za because of his strong ties to the Than Shwe family.

                          Since the crackdown, people have been avoiding flying on Tay Za’s Air Bagan, and the airline’s planes have been reportedly grounded because of a shortage of passengers.

                          Public anger at Tay Za and the Htoo Trading Company is on the rise. The Htoo Trading Company was temporarily closed down during the demonstrations, and staff had to wait until now for their delayed salaries.

                          Air Bagan, which began operations in 2004, has a fleet of five aircraft, including A-310 airbus planes. It expanded its international network this year with the start of direct flights to Singapore and plans to fly later in 2007 to Kunming and Seoul.

                          Kyaing Kyaing and members of her family have shares in Air Bagan. More importantly, Tay Za and Kyaing Kyaing keep assets and savings in Singapore, where Tay Za has bought luxury apartments.

                          In 1990, while still in his twenties, Tay Za set up his company with an initial capital investment of US $333,333, concentrating on the export of timber and gaining access over the years to large areas of virgin forest.

                          Three years into the life of the Htoo Trading Company, Tay Za expanded his dealings with the regime by supplying the military with aircraft parts. He created Myanmar Avia Export, Burma’s sole representative of Russia’s Export Military Industrial Group, known as MAPO, and of the Russian helicopter company Rostvertol.

                          Military analysts say he was instrumental in the junta’s purchase of advanced MiG-29 fighter-bombers and helicopters from Russia.

                          Despite the presence of Russian arms dealers in Rangoon—confirmed by western diplomats—Htoo denies involvement in arms trading, although admitting that it does sell helicopters to the regime.

                          Tay Za’s close connection to the regime is undoubtedly one of the keys to his success. Ties to the top are vitally important when doing business in Burma, and Tay Za has no shortage of friends in high places.

                          He cleverly recruited the children of powerful generals in order to take them on board his company, which appears to be one of Tay Za’s business strategies. Aung Thet Mann, son of the junta’s number three, Gen Thura Shwe Mann, who is tipped to take over the leadership when Than Shwe goes, is on Tay Za’s executive business board.

                          Aung Thet Mann’s company, Ayer Shwe Wah, is now part of Htoo, and the general’s son is reaping big cash rewards from the arrangement. When the regime relaxed its ban on rice exports, Aung Thet Mann’s company was awarded the first rice export licence, providing for the delivery of 11,000 tons to Bangladesh and Singapore.

                          The US and the EU imposed visa bans on Tay Za and businessmen who are closely associated with the Than Shwe regime. But it is important to take further steps to freeze assets Tay Za holds overseas, possibly in Singapore.

                          The US government should talk to one of its strongest allies in the region about the possibility of taking action against Tay Za. Rumor has it that Tay Za is considering moving his bank accounts and other assets in Singapore to Macau.

                          Tay Za and the Than Shwe regime are tightly linked–if Tay Za and his empire begin to feel shaky, we’ll see Than Shwe make more political concessions with the opposition and show readiness to bend to international pressure.


                          China faces a tricky balancing act in Burma - Priscilla Clapp
                          Financial Times: Wed 17 Oct 2007 

                          The world is looking to Burma’s neighbours, the Association of South East Asian Nations, India and China to take the lead in pressing the insular, defiant Burmese military regime to accept the United Nations’ call for genuine dialogue with its political opposition. Any talks should begin with Aung San Suu Kyi, the detained opposition leader, and should address the underlying economic and social conditions that triggered the Saffron Revolution of August and September.

                          The greatest expectations, however, ride on China, which shares a 1,400-mile border with Burma, has growing economic interests in the country and has until now shielded its regime from international action. Does China really have leverage over Burma’s generals and, if so, will Beijing use it to press for political trans­ition and reform in the country?

                          To answer that question we must first bear in mind that China and Burma have a troubled history, most recently during the Cultural Revolution when China supported serious communist insurgencies in Burma. The generals who rule Burma today cut their teeth fighting against these insurgencies and are still deeply suspicious of Chinese designs on their country. Thus Beijing must tread very carefully in presuming to advise the Burmese generals on how to manage their internal affairs, for fear that it could only make them more intransigent.

                          Second, China must also consider its interests in harnessing Burmese energy and raw materials to the development of its economically backward province of Yunnan, for which they have a development programme stretching out at least 30 years.

                          To protect these interests over the long term, Beijing must balance its support for the current regime with the prospects for maintaining good relations with a future civilian democratic government in Burma. It must be careful not to foster resentment among the Burmese public that might turn into violence against the large Chinese immigrant population in Burma, as it has in the past. Thus Beijing must find ways to reach out to opposition democracy forces in Burma and help the international community to protect them.

                          Third, Beijing must be mindful of how its support for democratic transition and dialogue with the opposition in Burma will be perceived by its own dissidents. Can Chinese officials rationalise their dissatisfaction with incompetent military governance in Burma to justify support for democratisation in Burma without inviting questions about supporting democratisation in China? In other words, can they argue convincingly to a Chinese audience that political transition in the Burmese context is necessary not for the sake of democratisation, but to prevent the military government from destroying the country?

                          And finally, Beijing must consider China’s image as a rising world power, where it will be increasingly expected to act responsibly. If China can take a more politically responsible role in Sudan, it cannot afford to ignore the behaviour of its close neighbour to the south west. The Burmese regime’s latest travesties, carried out in memorable colour as the world watched, appear to have left Beijing with no alternative but to join the world in condemning the generals and supporting UN calls for dialogue and political transition in Burma. This is a big step for China and a calculated risk at home.

                          While Beijing is undoubtedly disgusted with the generals’ performance both politically and economically, it is unlikely to act unilaterally to bring them into line. Rather, Chinese leaders will find it more attractive to keep the UN in the lead, supporting its efforts to press the Burmese regime into genuine dialogue and political reform, but working at the same time to moderate the language of UN statements and resolutions, as they have recently in the UN Security Council and the Human Rights Council.

                          They will also work to facilitate UN access to the generals, as they did with Ibrahim Gambari, the UN secretary-general’s special adviser, in September. But they will not support harsh action against the regime and will carefully modulate their own public pronouncements, as much to protect themselves at home as to save face for their Burmese clients.

                          The human tragedy the generals have created in Burma is a true conundrum for China that will seriously test its diplomacy over the coming months. If the UN effort bears fruit and a negotiated transition gets under way in Burma, China can legitimately expect to share the rewards.

                          However, if the UN fails to move the generals into dialogue with the opposition and the Burmese regime proceeds defiantly to force its own military constitution on the country, China will inevitably share the blame, both inside Burma and in the eyes of the international community.

                          The writer was US chargé d’affaires in Burma from 1999 to 2002.


                          The empty debate on Myanmar sanctions - Shyamali Puvimanasinghe
                          South China Morning Post: Wed 17 Oct 2007 

                          For over a decade, arguments have raged about imposing sanctions against Myanmar’s military regime. Some favour sanctions as a way of sending a message to the generals, while others say they have little practical significance, given that the country has few direct economic ties with the west.

                          These arguments have found their way back into the press in the aftermath of last month’s bloody crackdown on the monk-led protests. The choice between sanctions or economic engagement is important, but the problem is that there is not enough meaningful discussion on the topic. The argument continues to get Myanmar nowhere while taking up precious time and space that could be used for better purposes. Here are three alternatives.

                          First, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) must have access to Myanmar’s prisons, police stations and unconventional places of detention. Thousands of people, including monks, were taken away during and after the protests, and most are at risk of torture and abuse.

                          The ICRC has a mandate, an office and staff in Myanmar for monitoring such conditions and reporting in confidence to the government. But it has been locked out since 2005, after demands were imposed on it that would have breached the terms of its work under the Geneva Conventions. If the prison doors were reopened to it, that would create a channel for direct contact between the government and the outside world.

                          Second, humanitarian work must also be secured and redoubled. Agencies already operating in the country must be given guarantees, such as that obtained by the World Food Programme, that they will not be hampered. International groups need more strategies to strengthen and expand their work, particularly on health, schooling and labour issues. They face a lot of obstacles, but have staff and know-how. The involvement of informed people and organisations can produce results, as it has in the past.

                          Third, the United Nations must propose a special monitoring group to operate in the country. Just sending in an envoy now and then is not sufficient. A clear vision for work on the ground is vital if outside efforts are to be worth anything; the persistent lack of any such plan is one of the reasons that so many people have wasted time falling back into the to-and-fro about sanctions.

                          The chances of setting up a mission in Myanmar immediately may seem remote. That is in part because of the self-reinforcing belief that it is somehow beyond the reach of the outside world. But Myanmar is not North Korea: even if its generals are isolated, the country certainly is not. In this gap there exists room to make headway. And after the events of last month, there is new international and regional resolve to do so.

                          No more time or energy should be wasted in either proposing or opposing sanctions. Those who are serious about effecting change in Myanmar would be wise to apply themselves elsewhere.

                          Shyamali Puvimanasinghe is a member of the Asian Human Rights Commission, a regional human rights non-governmental organisation based in Hong Kong


                          Amnesty International releases new video and audio testimony of Myanmar ‘Witch Hunt’ and brutal repression
                          Amnesty International USA: Wed 17 Oct 2007 

                          “We have seen police asking money from families of detainees if they want their family members to be released. Young people who are on their way to offices and schools are not only stopped and checked but also robbed.” Testimony from prominent activist Mie Mie recorded shortly before her arrest on October 13

                          Amnesty International today released new video and audio testimony of ongoing night raids, arbitrary arrests and appalling detention conditions in Myanmar as well as audio statements from two prominent activists shortly before their arrest last weekend.

                          The release of audio statements from inside Myanmar and filmed interviews with a number of Burmese people forced to flee to Thailand in the last few days comes after last weekend’s detention of six people. Prominent activists Htay Kywe, Mie Mie and Aung Thu, all members of the 1988 Generation Students group, were among the detained.

                          “These accounts of homes being raided at night, family members seized as hostages and people herded into overcrowded and unsanitary detention centers flies in the face of the authorities’ persistent claims that normality has returned to Myanmar. Last weekend’s arrests also contradict the authorities’ assertions that no political prisoners are being held,” said Catherine Baber, Head of Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Program.

                          The latest testimonies, gathered on film and by phone by a team of Amnesty International researchers on the Thai-Myanmar border, also include eye-witness accounts of the indiscriminate beating of demonstrators and on-lookers, including children and monks during last month’s protests.

                          “Some of the injured were so bloody that you couldn’t tell where blood was coming from. Some of the monks lost the top part of their robes. I saw civilians trying to help an injured monk. Most of their injuries were head injuries. The riot police were aiming for the head,” said a 31 year-old monk who witnessed a violent confrontation between protesters and police at Shwe Dagon pagoda on September 26.

                          The video footage, shot in the Thai border town of Mae Sod, also features first-hand testimony from a former detainee of the torture he previously suffered at the hands of the Myanmar security forces including beatings, prolonged suspension by the hands and use of electro-shock.

                          “They put a hood over my head and kept me in a kneeling position. If I fell down then one of the five guards would kick me. They interrogated me as a group. They kicked me in the back and in the chest and they hit me on my head. And they used an electric wire to whip me,” said Nay Tin Myint, who fled from Myanmar after fifteen years of detention and torture.

                          Since the crackdown there have been an increasing number of reports of death in custody as well as beatings, ill-treatment, lack of food, water or medical treatment in overcrowded unsanitary detention facilities across the country.

                          “The world needs to know now what is happening in Myanmar’s detention centers. If the authorities have nothing to hide, why are they still refusing to grant even the International Committee of the Red Cross full and unfettered access to all those detained?” said Baber.

                          Visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have been suspended since January 2006 after the ICRC refused to accede to conditions that they be accompanied by members of government affiliated agencies.

                          “The current arbitrary arrests, secret detention and widespread reports of ill-treatment and torture make a mockery of promises made by the Myanmar authorities to cooperate with the United Nations, when the Security Council last week called for early release of all political prisoners. The international community must act with greater urgency to increase the pressure on Myanmar’s authorities to immediately halt arrests of peaceful protesters, open up detention centers to independent observers and release all prisoners of conscience,” said Baber.

                          “On behalf of the Burmese citizens, we nee

                          (Message over 64 KB, truncated)

                        • CHAN Beng Seng
                          1.. Asean s credibility is on the line 2.. ... Asean s credibility is on the line What the international community expects, the Association of Southeast Asian
                          Message 12 of 14 , Oct 22, 2007
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                            1. Asean's credibility is on the line
                             
                             

                             
                            Asean's credibility is on the line

                            What the international community expects, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations must deliver

                            By DANIEL COLLINGE

                            For those within the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) hoping to celebrate 40 years of non-interference during the organisation's 40th anniversary, the timing of recent events within Burma could hardly have been worse.

                            The peak of the protests within Burma occurred just as senior government officials from around the globe were coming together for the UN General Assembly in New York and the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

                            As governments rushed to issue statements of condemnation regarding the Burmese military's violent crackdown on peaceful protests, everyone waited to hear what Asean's response would be.

                            With individual and collective credibility on the line, Asean leaders had little choice but to join in the chorus of condemnation. Indeed, Asean did more than just join in; the strongly worded statement issued by the Asean Chair on Sept 27 succeeded in making Asean's voice heard, sending a strong message to the world that the body did care about what went on within the borders of its member states.

                            The timing of events in Burma not only helped to produce unprecedented international condemnation; it also set in motion processes within the United Nations for follow-up action.

                            Although Asean's statement may have succeeded in maintaining the credibility of the organisation, it by no means let Asean off the hook.

                            On the contrary, Asean's strong words created greater expectations regarding its role in helping to bring about national reconciliation, democracy and respect for human rights within Burma.

                            Expectation has focused mainly on Asean's role in working with the United Nations. The statements made and mechanisms established at the UN level have been fully in tune with Asean's own words on Burma.

                            Therefore, it seems only natural that if Asean really means what it says, it will direct its efforts through the UN bodies and related mechanisms, rather than seeking to go it alone.

                            So far, Asean's actions have been encouraging. Asean's member governments supported the mission of the UN secretary-general's special adviser to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, from Sept 29 to Oct 2, and these efforts were duly acknowledged in the presidential statement of the Security Council adopted on Oct 11.

                            Yet this is just the beginning of the UN's revitalised engagement with Burma, and it is crucial that Asean maintains an active role in working with the UN in this regard.

                            Not only will this demonstrate Asean's sincerity over its professed desire to see national reconciliation, a peaceful transition to democracy, and the release of all political detainees; it is also necessary to ensure the success of the UN's own efforts.

                            First, Asean must assist the UN Human Rights Council in implementing the resolution agreed upon at its special session on Oct 2.

                            As with Asean's statement, this resolution also called for the release of all political detainees, for national dialogue with all parties with a view to achieving genuine national reconciliation, and for democratisation and the establishment of the rule of law.

                            The UNHRC designated the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, as the mechanism through which this resolution would be implemented.

                            Asean must use all means available to it to bring the Burmese government to allow the special rapporteur entry into the country, and to help ensure that he gains access to the people and places needed to establish the numbers killed, injured and detained during the recent protests.

                            Second, Asean must continue to support the efforts of Mr Gambari to bring about political dialogue between the military generals and pro-democracy leaders, particularly Aung San Suu Kyi, along with his efforts to secure the release of all political detainees.

                            This assistance should include logistical support, such as helping Mr Gambari to gain entry into Burma, but also requires greater efforts towards establishing a channel of communication with Mr Gambari to help follow up on progress made during his visits.

                            Third, Asean members should follow up on action taken at the UN Security Council. The Presidential statement adopted by the Security Council on Oct 11 illustrates how UN bodies are working together on Burma, with the statement welcoming the mission of Mr Gambari and the UN Human Rights Council resolution, while itself emphasising the importance of releasing all political prisoners and creating conditions for genuine dialogue with all concerned parties.

                            Furthermore, the statement kept Asean in the spotlight, maintaining the sense of expectation that this inter-governmental organisation should spearhead the joint efforts of the UN bodies.

                            The statement marks the first time that the Security Council has taken any formal action over Burma. Furthermore, the fact that China agreed to this statement represents a notable shift in their position of non-interference.

                            Asean must now help to build on these developments within the UN's most powerful body by indicating to China that political reform within Burma is an issue of genuine concern for Asean, and that it fully supports China's involvement.

                            With Indonesia currently being the only Asean member of the UN Security Council, it has a particular responsibility to help ensure that the Security Council remains engaged on Burma, and should actively explore possibilities for further action by the Security Council, such as the imposition of an arms embargo.

                            On Nov 21, Asean leaders will meet in Singapore to sign the Asean Charter, hoping to demonstrate that Asean is moving purposively towards their vision of a community of caring societies.

                            However, the time has now come when Asean will be judged by its actions rather than its words. The scene has been set for Asean to play an important role in moving Burma towards national reconciliation, democracy and respect for human rights.

                            It is an opportunity that Asean must now grasp.

                            * Daniel Collinge is a consultant on Asean advocacy with the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia), a regional human rights organisation based in Bangkok.


                            The information ministry’s censor board has issued a ban order on over 20 writers and cartoonists who supported last month’s protests.

                            An editor of a weekly journal in Rangoon told DVB that magazines and journals have received an order from the censor board instructing them not to publish the work of 22 writers and cartoonists, including 88-year-old high profile writer Dagon Taryar, veteran journalist Ludu Sein Win and cartoonist Aw Pi Kyae.

                            “This is not an official order. [The censor board] also told us to cancel publication of any articles written by banned writers which had previously been approved by the board,” the editor said.

                            “They are going to ban everyone who showed courage and spoke out against the government. There will be only cowards left.”

                            Dagon Taryar, who was involved in the student-led fight for independence from the British, said yesterday he was “not surprised” hear about the ban on him but felt sorry for other banned writers as writing was their only form of employment.

                            “I have no enemy and I don’t regard anyone as my enemy when I talk about them. I’m not surprised to hear about the ban,” said Dagon Taryar.

                            “But still, this is bad for a lot of writers as they rely on writing to make a living.”

                            Dagon Taryar spoke to DVB last month and urged the military junta to stop their brutal crackdown on protesters if they were serious about moving towards democracy.

                            “Peaceful protests are common in democratic countries. If you look at the history of Burmese political movements, you’ll see that even monks have played a part,” he said



                             

                            Burmese nationals returning from overseas are being arrested by government officials on their arrival at Rangoon airport if they are suspected of having participated in anti-government protests while they were away.

                            Following the government’s brutal crackdown on demonstrations in Burma, protests were held around the world to show support for those killed and arrested. Many Burmese nationals who were abroad at the time joined in protests outside Burmese embassies.

                            According to Rangoon airport employees, government officials have lists and photos of people who joined protests in front of Burmese embassies abroad and are checking every Burmese passport holder who comes through the airport and taking some of them into custody for questioning.

                            “Recently, we saw them arrest two people; one from Tamwe and another from San Chaung township, at the airport arrival gates. They are checking everyone’s faces against the photos,” said a Rangoon airport employee.

                            Additional sources told DVB that some people who were taken into custody were released after about three days of questioning while those who were confirmed to have been involved in protests were beaten up and sent directly to Insein prison.


                            Incentives could be offered to Burma’s military rulers in exchange for democratic reforms following a bloody crackdown that sparked international outrage, the UN envoy for the country said Thursday.

                            Ibrahim Gambari, who was visiting Indonesia on a six-nation tour to press Asia to help resolve the Burma crisis, also called on regional economic powerhouse China to “continue to do more to really move” the authorities in Burma along the path of change.

                            “We are going to continue to see China as an ally,” he told reporters.

                            Gambari said one approach could be “a combination of strong encouragement of the authorities in Myanmar [Burma] to do the right thing along with some incentives to say that … the world is not there just to punish Myanmar.”

                            He did not elaborate, but his remarks come as the EU and other countries are threatening to widen sanctions imposed on the country, suggesting a carrot-and-stick approach may be applied to the nation.

                            British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said this week that economic support could be given to Myanmar if it opens a dialogue with its opponents, including democracy leader laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

                            Gambari met with junta leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe and Suu Kyi during a recent trip to Burma, but has so far failed to bring about a dialogue between the two sides. He is scheduled to revisit the country next month after first stopping in Japan, India and China.

                            On Wednesday, Gambari said he wanted the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to help “deliver concrete results” in efforts to encourage talks between the junta and the pro-democracy opposition in Burma.

                            The grouping, which does not believe in sanctions and traditionally avoids interference in the internal affairs of member states, has never been able to influence events in the country.

                            Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said his country, which moved from a brutal military dictatorship to a multiparty democracy in 1998, was open to sharing its experience with Myanmar.

                            “We were able to transform ourselves into a fully fledged democracy,” Wirajuda said after meeting Gambari. “We wish Myanmar can come to us and we can share our experience.”


                             

                          • CHAN Beng Seng
                            1.. Burmese are watching next protest 2.. Residents refuse to attend rally denouncing protests 3.. Time for Asean and China to act 4.. UN fiddles while Myanmar
                            Message 13 of 14 , Oct 23, 2007
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                              1. Burmese are watching next protest
                              2. Residents refuse to attend rally denouncing protests
                              3. Time for Asean and China to act
                              4. UN fiddles while Myanmar burns
                              5. Will the Olympic Card Nudge China to Act?
                              6. Burmese Military Defector Says Diplomacy Unlikely to Succeed
                              7. Talking Nonsense on Burma
                              8. Several firms on US Myanmar blacklist linked to Singapore
                              9. World may never learn death toll in Myanmar protests, British official says
                              10. Junta presses on with “Exclusive” constitution drafting
                              11. Gen Thura Shwe Mann: Ready to be new army commander?
                               

                              Burmese are watching next protest: Joseph Goldstein
                              New York Sun: Mon 22 Oct 2007 

                              The Burmese are watching the calendar with apprehension.

                              Friday marks the beginning of a monthlong festival, Kahtein, on whose central ritual, giving monks gifts of new red robes, some democratic activists are pinning their hopes for further street demonstrations against the junta that rules the country.

                              As monks across Burma go about their morning begging rounds, they are reportedly refusing to accept alms from military personnel. Within the country, this boycott persists as the most organized and visible sign of opposition to the Burmese government since the junta ended mass street demonstrations last month with gunfire and nighttime arrests.

                              This quiet act by the monks is a potential source of unease for Burma’s soldiers, as the giving of alms to monks is one way Buddhists accumulate merit for the afterlife. It is a rebuke against the junta, whose efforts to publicize the devoutness of the country’s rulers is evidenced in the state-controlled press, where news items painstakingly catalog the donations of individual generals.

                              With the coming of Kahtein, Burmese activists are waiting to see how the junta will try to crack the boycott and force monks to allow the military to participate in this largest of Buddhist donation rituals. Recent refugees from Burma are bringing to Thailand rumors that the junta may outlaw the festival this year. Such restrictions or further arrests at monasteries could become the catalyst for future monk demonstrations, half a dozen Burmese politicians in exile and recent refugees who participated in last month’s demonstrations told The New York Sun last week.

                              “Something will happen surely by 30 days after the full moon,” a monk from Rangoon said, referring to the period of the festival, which is timed to the lunar calendar. The monk, 31, who asked that his name be withheld because of fear of Burmese authorities, said through an interpreter that he crossed to Thailand after leading protests last month among the 450 monks studying with him at the Kabaye Sangha University. Of the possibility that Kahtein will prompt further civil unrest, the monk said: “Monks and civilians are aware of this, and not only them, but the SPDC too,” calling the ruling party, the State Peace and Development Council, by its acronym.

                              The interviews with this monk and other recent refugees were conducted in a house along the Thailand-Burma border belonging to an exile chapter of Burma’s main opposition group, the National League for Democracy. On Saturday the junta lifted a temporary ban in the capital city of Rangoon on gatherings of more than five people, according to news reports. Also lifted was a curfew, under cover of which security forces had been searching homes for activists in hiding. These moves signal that the junta no longer considers further demonstrations imminent.

                              In contrast, many Burmese now in Thailand said they believed that the uprising would resume in a matter of months. Some said they believe Kahtein will provoke further unrest, while others said the next demonstrations would start with workers and students, not monks. The next few months will tell whether these expectations are more than the desperate hope of a suffering people.

                              Kahtein, which comes at the conclusion of a three-month period during which tradition dictates that monks stay near their monasteries, is the main time for giving gifts to monks. In addition to the distinctive red robes Burmese monks wear, monasteries receive donations of slippers, umbrellas, and other items on the short list of possessions a monk requires. These gifts are tagged with the names of donors and gathered in public places around the country.

                              “This could become the spark,” a Burmese politician who was imprisoned for five years for participating in demonstrations in 1974 said. The politician, Bo Kyaw Nyein, said in a telephone interview from Chiang Mai, Thailand: “The monks’ denial in accepting religious offerings can be a very effective and potent political defiance tool.”

                              A chain reaction would be needed for the coinciding of the boycott and the festival to trigger further protests against the junta. Activists speculate that the boycott will prompt reprisals against the monks, which might then lead monks to demonstrate. But events could also peter out before resulting in a single demonstration.

                              Monks formed the core of the last round of street protests, which grew into the largest popular challenge to the junta’s rule in nearly 20 years. The involvement of the monasteries nationwide began in response to news of the brutality that the military meted out to monks in Pakokku to the west of Mandalay.

                              The monks there had been protesting the junta’s decision to raise fuel costs sharply, when state security forces assaulted several of the monks and fired warning shots, according to news reports. The boycott on alms began as a response to the events at Pakokku, monks have said.

                              The widespread arrests of the last month may have depleted the monasteries of the monks who led the last protests, raising questions of whether monasteries will organize more marches against the junta anytime soon. One monk who crossed into Thailand on Wednesday said through an interpreter that the junta has ordered novice monks to return home, in a bid to empty the monasteries.

                              The monk, Ven Sawbana, said he stood for about 10 minutes with one demonstration last month Burma’s southern Mon state. He said he came across the demonstration accidentally while on a shopping trip on behalf of his monastery. A onetime prisoner in Burma, sentenced for serving with an opposition army largely composed of the Karen minority group, Ven Sawbana, 45, said he decided to flee after he learned that many other former prisoners he knew were being re-arrested.

                              Of the prospects of further street demonstrations soon, he said: “I don’t have any hope. Monks all over the country were separated. No one can move.”

                              But a student leader said that even in hiding, student activists were planning details of the next round of demonstrations. Ye Htun Kyaw, 33, who served seven years of a 21-year sentence for demonstrating in 1998 said that student leaders would lead future demonstrations along more circuitous routes, away from military barricades and government buildings, in an effort to sustain them for longer periods and allow them to grow before the inevitable clash with security forces.

                              “The activists in hiding are waiting for an opportunity,” Ye Htun Kyaw said. “Next time we will march for a longer time, for as long as possible.”



                              Residents refuse to attend rally denouncing protests
                              Independent Mon News Agency: Mon 22 Oct 2007 

                              Though residents were being forced to denounce the recent protests led by monks and NLD members by the Township Peace and Development Council (TPDC) in Mon state of Burma, they did not support the move.

                              “Most of the residents didn’t go to denounce the recent demonstrations. Our household also didn’t go there,” a resident in Mudon Town Mon State said.

                              TPDC authorities in Mudon Township held a rally to denounce the recent demonstrations at the football playground in Mudon Town . The rally concluded at about 8 a.m. today.

                              “I saw a crowd of people around the playground this morning. The people who went there were from rural areas in the township. Residents in Mudon did not attend,” he said.

                              A young woman in Mudon said she did not know about the rally.

                              “The local authorities told the villagers to attend the rally. They took 1,000 Kyat from each household which did not attend,” a villager near Mudon Township said.

                              According to villagers from southern Mudon Township , the villagers had been brought there by force even though they were busy with farming and their day to day jobs.

                               

                              Time for Asean and China to act

                              By Michael Vatikiotis
                              Regional director for Asia, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, Singapore

                              The clock is ticking on Burma's neighbours to reach consensus on a framework to push the junta's generals forward on allowing peaceful transition to democracy.

                              The announcement of a constitutional drafting committee in Burma may look like another step along the military junta's seven-step road map, but in fact it is more bad news for the international community's determined effort to encourage a peaceful transition to democracy in the country.

                              The appointment of the 54-member committee appears to close off the possibility of making the process more inclusive, and denies the fledging dialogue process between the junta and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi of a major area of compromise.

                              The junta appears to be doing just what everyone feared: Closing ranks and resisting pressure to make concessions to the domestic opposition and concerned members of the international community. This makes it all the more important for Burma's neighbours, big and small, to agree on a strategy involving political and economic aid and assistance. The military regime may now be talking to UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari, but the absence of regional accord on the way forward ensures that Burma's generals can play divide and rule, however loud the calls for change, however strong the threat of sanctions.

                              There have been calls for Burma's powerful neighbours China and India to take the lead, but there has been a paucity of constructive advice about how to change the status quo. One idea gaining currency is a core group based on the Permanent Five members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Norway, Japan and Singapore as Asean standing chairman.

                              While such a configuration may send the right message in terms of global concern, it may be the wrong way to persuade China and India to change their views as it smacks of great power arm-twisting. Burma's military rulers will also be able to spout the usual rhetoric of neo colonial conspiracy.

                              Far more effective would be a core group or mechanism anchored in the region, rather than in New York. China in particular needs cover from regional neighbours before breaking with the long and now-outdated tradition of non-interference. Therefore support from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian nations (Asean), of which Burma is a member, is critical.

                              If Asean can agree to support a peaceful transition, with appropriate measures of carrots and sticks, there is no question that major powers like India, China and Japan, upon which the Burma authorities depend for vital trade and aid, will have to follow.

                              The question is: How? Asean's track record on Burma isn't all that consistent. For years since admitting Burma as a member in 1997, the regional grouping has made ineffectual attempts to influence the regime, never quite able to confront the repression and isolation that has kept the country one of the poorest in the region, with close to 60% of the population living on an average income below US$400 (12,600 baht) a year.

                              The screw started to turn after the latest outburst of protest and the brutal crackdown which followed. Singapore, the current chairman of Asean wrote to the government expressing the group's "revulsion" at the violent repression of demonstrators. There followed a chorus of disapproving comments from other Asean capitals. But alas, almost a month after the crackdown began, no one can agree on a plan.

                              Time is running out. Once Asean heads of government gather in Singapore for a summit toward the end of November, if nothing concrete is proposed, the generals in Burma will correctly conclude that they have been given a pass again.

                              Most Asean leaders have expressed full and unqualified support for Mr Gambari's mediating mission in Burma. But they should go further and seek a high level consultation with China and India. Such a move would indicate an emerging regional consensus for political reconciliation and transition in Burma and further strengthen Mr Gambari's hand.

                              Next, Asean and China should agree on a mechanism to facilitate aid and assistance to Burma. For all of its strategic clout, China will not want to take the lead. Such a working group might be composed of Asean's immediate past chairman (the Philippines), the current chairman (Singapore) and the incoming chair (Thailand) as well as China and possibly India. Indonesia will ask for a role and should be given one in the form of a high-profile convenor or envoy to lead this group, which might be dubbed "Friends of Burma".

                              Something like the six-party talks framework pioneered by China in a bid to end the nuclear crisis in North Korea has some resonance in the case of Burma. Pyongyang's stubborn recalcitrance was broken only by China's intervention, yet China managed to find a mechanism that made this intervention seem benign and mutually beneficial for all parties. A mechanism like this for another neighbouring state, Burma, could be convened swiftly once China in particular gives a green light.

                              Once established, the working group could be placed at the disposal of the United Nations and support internal dialogue brokered by Ibrahim Gambari. It is not enough for Asean to simply support Mr Gambari's mission with words; there must be action and a plan to contribute aid, investment and technical assistance to help the Burmese people achieve comparable levels of prosperity in the region.

                              As usual, however, Asean is divided. Malaysia's Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar, perhaps still smarting from his own rude rebuff by the Burmese junta last year, sees no need for Asean's active involvement. Thailand, rather positively, is in favour of a working group mechanism. Indonesia, unhelpfully, appears to place trust in its own ties to the junta in a vain hope that Burma's generals will follow the example of Indonesia's generals a decade ago and go quietly into political retirement.

                              There is an urgent need for Asean to end its disagreements and dithering, and work as one with China to shape a regional consensus. Burma has made it known that it will only speak to Mr Gambari, so Mr Gambari must go with the full backing of the region. Other major powers may want a role, but experience suggests interventionist diplomacy is best managed within the region.

                              In the 1980s, Asean broke all of its rules and backed a mechanism to bring warring Cambodian factions to the table. True, the parties to this conflict were exhausted, weak and divided. Burma's generals are defiant and have all the guns.

                              But the outcome is what counts. Cambodia was subjected to more than a decade of interference and intervention. it emerged a strong, sovereign state. Its democracy may be imperfect, but a robust civil society keeps its leadership playing by basic democratic rules.

                              No one in Asean wants to see Burma destabilised, but Asean, in concert with China, must send a strong signal of concern about the road map since it is now becoming clear that there is no willingness to include the opposition in the process and there is no intention to start a real dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi. Constructive change and stability will only flow from a more inclusive political process. Only Burma's regional friends and neighbours can effectively deliver this message.


                               
                              UN fiddles while Myanmar burns
                              By Bertil Lintner

                              CHIANG MAI, Thailand - Are the United Nations and its agencies becoming part of the problem rather than the solution in Myanmar? That is what many Myanmar people are asking themselves as UN Special envoy Ibrahim Gambari appears to be a lame duck, unable to persuade the ruling generals to agree to anything more than appointing a deputy labor minister, Brigadier-General Khin Kyi, to "liaise" with detained pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

                              The Myanmar government has blatantly rejected an urging by the UN Security Council for restraint and continues to arrest people who took part in street demonstrations last month. At the same time, critics have also begun to question the activities of various UN agencies in Myanmar.

                              On October 4, the Irrawaddy, an independent magazine and website run by Burmese exiles in Thailand, published an online commentary highly critical of the head of the United Nations Development Program's (UNDP's) resident representative in Yangon, Charles Petrie. He was accused of making interviews during the turmoil to international TV networks, which were "meaningless" and "outraged educated and politically active" people in Myanmar.

                              Earlier this year, the UNDP was forced to dismiss four of its staff in Yangon. According to Petrie himself, two had "borrowed" project money, which had been deposited for "village micro projects", while one had "failed to report the misuse of funds" and the fourth was dismissed because of "non-performance", Petrie stated in a reply to questions submitted from Asia Times Online by e-mail.

                              Now, in October 2007, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, UNODC, has presented a report on poppy cultivation in Myanmar, which, according to critics, contains a number of shortcomings and dubious assertions, which also run contrary to several reports compiled by the independent Shan Herald Agency for News, SHAN, which is run by ethnic Shan living on the Thai-Myanmar border.

                              While the UNODC report admits that poppy cultivation has actually increased since 2006, it talks about progress and, in the words of UNODC's Myanmar representative, Shariq Bin Raza, "impressive achievements". SHAN accuses the ruling military of collusion in the drug trade, and "show business" to appease the international community and that UNODC projects to start tea plantations in areas formerly used for opium cultivation near the Chinese border "failed with a big loss".

                              What has been achieved, both UNODC and SHAN seem to agree, is that poppy cultivation inside areas along the Chinese border, which are controlled by local armies and until 1989 by units of the now defunct Communist Party of Burma, CPB, has diminished. In that year, the hill-tribe rank-and-file of the CPB's army mutinied against the party's mainly Burman Maoist leadership and drove them into exile in China.

                              The CPB subsequently split up along ethnic lines into four different armies, of which the United Wa State Army, UWSA, is now the most powerful. The ex-CPB mutineers also entered into cease-fire agreements with the government in Yangon, according to which they were allowed to retain their arms and control of their respective areas.

                              They were also allowed to trade in whatever they wanted, which led to a dramatic surge in opium production in the 1990s. The derivative heroin was also manufactured in the UWSA-controlled area, and the group soon began to protect the production of methamphetamines as well. According to official statistics from the United States State Department, the 1987 harvest for Myanmar - before the CPB mutiny - yielded 836 tons of raw opium; by 1995 production had increased to 2,340 tons.

                              Enter the UN
                              The United Nations was around then invited to start crop substitution and other development programs in the former CPB-controlled area. As a result, and because of vigorous enforcement by the UWSA leadership, a virtually opium-free zone has been created along the Chinese border.

                              But, as SHAN director Khuensai Jaiyen said at a presentation at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand in Bangkok in September this year: "Myanmar's war on drugs has targeted only certain 'token' areas, only in the north and not in the south and central Shan State." Shan State for years has been Myanmar's main opium producing area, and that remains the case also today.

                              Further, Khuensai said, "eradication efforts have had a 'balloon effect', pushing cultivation in the north to the south and central. There is also opium cultivation in western Shan State, where opium has never been grown before." He also said that the Myanmar military "has an interest in maintaining opium production" because the number of government battalions in Shan State since 1988 to present has increased from 33 to 141. "The government policy of 'self-sufficiency' for soldiers has deepened the military's involvement in the trade," Khuensai said.

                              The recent UNODC report does not mention official complicity in the trade. In fact, the report's only reference to the collection of "tax" on drug production in Shan State is a claim that Shan State Army-South, SSA-S, an anti-government rebel army, has encouraged local farmers "to cultivate opium in their area, so they (SSA-S) can gain tax." When contacted by e-mail by AToL, the Yangon-based UNODC researcher Xavier Bouan conceded that all armies in the area, including the government's, "are taxing this crop" - which the UNODC did not mention in the actual report.

                              SHAN has produced two main reports on drugs in Myanmar, "Show Business: Rangoon's 'War on Drugs' in Shan State" in December 2003, and "Hand in Glove: The Burma Army and the Drug Trade in Shan State" in August 2005. Both reports name Myanmar army officers who are directly involved in the trade, and have maps showing how the poppy cultivation has shifted from the Chinese border areas further inland in Shan State.

                              SHAN reports also deal in great detail with the skyrocketing production of methamphetamines in Shan State, mainly in areas controlled by the UWSA. By contrast, the UNODC report does not even mention the manufacture of such synthetic drugs, which appears to be how drug lords affiliated with the UWSA have "substituted" their loss of income from the opium and heroin trade along the Chinese frontier. Millions of pills, known as yaa baa, or Thai for "madness medicine", are flooding into Thailand, causing severe social problems especially in the north, close to the production areas across the border in Myanmar.

                              Flimsy research
                              UNODC defends its stance by saying that their concern is only opium, not synthetic drugs - but that seems a strange strategy for the elimination of drugs in Myanmar. And by concentrating on the "project areas" along the Chinese frontier, UNODC also seems to be neglecting the production of opium in other parts of Myanmar, which even the UN agency admits is increasing.

                              According to the UNODC's recently released report, opium poppy cultivation in Myanmar increased by 29% from 2006 to 2007, or from 315 to 460 tons. But it is reasonable to believe that the increase has been more dramatic than that; the UNODC report admits that its surveyors were not permitted to assess the situation to Sagaing Division adjacent to India - where other sources have reported an increase in opium production.

                              Perhaps even more telling of government interference, the UNODC report states that their researchers did not find any poppies during a trip in February this year to "northern Chin State", another part of Myanmar bordering India. However, reports by India-based organizations - for instance the Mizzima News Group based in New Delhi - state that poppies are being grown in other areas, to which the UNODC team was not taken to by the authorities.

                              Equally puzzling is the UNODC's silence on the UWSA, the authority that controls and governs the agency's main project area along the Chinese frontier. In January 2005, eight major leaders of the UWSA, including its commander Bao Yuxiang and his two brothers, were indicted in absentia by a federal court in the US on charges of heroin and methamphetamine trafficking. Another prominent UWSA leader, Wei Xuegang, an ethnic Han Chinese who is one of the eight, already had a US$2 million reward on his head after being convicted of heroin trafficking 10 years ago. In addition, US authorities are believed to have unsealed indictments against another dozen or so drug lords, who are operating under the UWSA umbrella.

                              Since the indictment was issued, Bao's younger brother Bao Youhua, has died while Wei has built a heavily fortified, luxury mansion near Panghsang, the UWSA's headquarters. On July 4, 2006, Wei, twice a fugitive from justice was appointed "finance minister" in the Wa "government", thus becoming the most powerful of the UWSA's leaders.

                              He and his comrades have used the millions they have earned from the drug trade to buy up real estate in China and Myanmar, and, especially in Myanmar, to invest in perfectly legitimate businesses such as plastic factories, agro-industrial enterprises, mineral smelting, retail trading, import-export, and the tourist industry. One international drug enforcement official based in Thailand called Wei's business empire "one of the biggest money-laundering operations in Southeast Asia today".

                              So, it may, after all, be just "show business" in Yangon's and the UNODC's campaigns against drugs. At the heart of the problem is the lack of openness, transparency and accountability in Myanmar as a whole. Without a fundamental change in Myanmar's rigid military-run system, and real drug enforcement efforts, the opium derivative heroin and methamphetamines will continue to flow across Myanmar's borders. In the meantime, it seems that the UN indeed is part of the problem rather than the solution.

                              Bertil Lintner is a former correspondent with the Far Eastern Economic Review. He is currently a writer with Asia-Pacific Media Services.

                               
                              Will the Olympic Card Nudge China to Act?
                              By Antoaneta Bezlova
                               

                              BEIJING, Oct 19 (IPS) - Having scored a subtle victory in using the Olympics card to nudge China to apply pressure on Sudan, international activists are now hoping to tie the 2008 Beijing Olympics with the unfolding civil crisis in Burma and draw the world’s attention to China’s potential to act there.

                              But, however concerned China may be about its image as an emerging global power and as host of the 2008 Olympics, there is little Beijing can do to influence a country like Burma which cares so little about its face, analysts here counter.

                              "The Burmese junta has been immune to international condemnation of its ruling record for years and there does not exist a public relations problem for them," says Fan Hongwei, a frequent visitor to the country and professor at the South China Affairs Research Institute of Xiamen University.

                              The Burmese generals who have ruled the country with iron grip for 45 years, sent troops into the streets last month, opening fire on hundreds of thousands of peaceful protesters led by Buddhist monks. The crackdown on monks and dissidents that followed reprises the much-condemned crush of democracy movement from 1988, which resulted in some 3000 deaths.

                              Pointing out that the opening date of the Beijing Olympics, Aug. 8, 2008, coincides with the 20th anniversary of the "8-8-88" pro-democracy protests in Burma, the New ork-based Human Rights Watch urged China this week to use its influence with the junta and end the repression.

                              "If China takes a strong stand on Burma now, it will be credited rather than criticised on 08-08-08," said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director of Human Rights Watch. "Doing so isn’t just right, it’s also in China’s self-interest."

                              While Beijing continues to preach its long-time mantra of non-interference in other countries, in recent months international pressure linked to its hosting of the 2008 Olympics games has made Chinese diplomats deploy tactics that experts say have been conducive in conflict countries like Sudan, North Korea and Zimbabwe.

                              After calls by rights activists to boycott the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China sent a special envoy to Sudan to try to defuse tensions in Darfur and persuade the Sudanese government to accept U.N. peacekeeping troops.

                              Taking cue, US First Lady Laura Bush has suggested that international activists should exploit China’s declared ambition to host the "best Olympics ever" and press Beijing to its use leverage with Burma to help solve the crisis.

                              "China has a huge amount of influence over Burma," she was quoted saying earlier this year.

                              China, by virtue of its permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, has always been a powerful player and has acted to shield Burma, a neighbour and major trading partner, from U.N. censure.

                              Isolated by Western opprobrium, Burmese leaders have relied on Chinese trade and investment to stay afloat. Two-way trade has doubled between 1999 and 2006 to 1.4 billion dollars. According to Burmese government figures, China has invested 194 million dollars in the country by the end of last year.

                              After the suppression of peaceful protests in Rangoon and Mandalay in September, the U.S. froze the assets of 14 top military figures and banned imports from Burma, threatening to impose harsher sanctions unless the military junta moves toward democracy. Both the U.S. and Britain have called on China to use its leverage with the Burmese leaders to ease repression.

                              But even though anxious to avoid an image of patron of brutal dictators ahead of the Olympics next summer, China would do little to push for democratic change in Burma, experts here say.

                              This month Beijing supported a Security Council statement rebuking the military regime for its suppression of peaceful protests but insisted on dropping key demands from the original draft. One called for the Burmese government to account for what had happened to detained demonstrators, and another called for a transition to democracy.

                              "There is a fundamental difference in the ways China and the U.S. see Burma," says Gao Heng, a researcher of international relations with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "In the U.S. eyes, Burma is a repressive country in a desperate need of regime change. For China though, Burma is a neighbouring country with a shared 1,400 km border and one which is vital to its national interests."

                              For Beijing the policy priority in the region remains stability. "Only stable and peaceful environment would allow China to continue expanding its trade ties and shore up its business interests in the region," says Gao.

                              China wants access to Burma’s ports on the Indian Ocean and covets its rich reserves of oil and gas. A multi-ethnic state itself, China is loathe to see a democratic change on its border that might ignite simmering tensions between the Burmans and other ethnic groups, which have been clamouring for secession since the end of Burma’s British rule.

                              "The bottom line is that any new government in Burma might not be so willing to protect China’s interests there and continue favour its companies as the current junta has done," says Fan Hongwei of Xiamen University.

                              Politically, China’s Burma clout remains limited. Burma’s military, which seized power in 1962, has not forgotten the costly struggle it waged against the Chinese-backed Burmese communist party insurgency or the full-scale invasion mounted in 1968 by some 30,000 Chinese troops.

                              Fan says China’s power in Burma is increasingly revealed through its economic importance. For a country wealthy enough in power resources to supply 20 percent of Thailand’s electricity, Burma remains dark and trapped in time. A common Chinese pun on Burma’s new name, Myanmar, plays with its Chinese translation of Miandian, or Remote Pasture, replacing it with a homophone that means ‘Power Free’.

                              Pouring money to build dams, lay roads and construct railways, China is seen as filling the vacuum left by the Burmese military. Burma’s excessive spending on the military -- which was as high as 50 percent of the junta’s budget during the 1990s -- has taken money away from health, education and infrastructure, which have deteriorated badly.

                              "The junta has invested very little in any public works and this is where China can play a role in improving Burmese people’s welfare," Fan argues.


                              Burmese Military Defector Says Diplomacy Unlikely to Succeed
                              Democratic Voice of Burma: Sun 21 Oct 2007 

                              Oct 18 - Former major Aung Lynn Htut, who defected to the US in 2005, has called for stronger action against the Burmese authorities, alleging that a United Nations official has provided support to help the military regime withstand diplomatic pressure.

                              In a letter written on 16 October, Aung Lynn Htut alleges that vice-senior General Maung Aye was introduced to an unspecified high-ranking United Nations official in New York in 1995, who then became an advisor to the ruling State Peace and Development Council on UN relations.

                              Aung Lynn Htut claims the UN official traveled to Burma two or three times at the regime’s expense to advise them on international diplomacy.

                              The consequence of this, according to Aung Lynn Htut, is that the Burmese regime has been able to initiate a “diplomatic offensive” and has used political spin and alliances with China and Russia to avoid UN action against them.

                              The accuracy of Aung Lynn Htut’s claims could not be verified.

                              Claiming that the SPDC would not respond to non-binding or diplomatic measures, Aung Lynn Htut said that the regime fears only physical force, and is unaffected by threats of sanctions because they would not be supported by China and Russia.

                              Aung Lynn Htut is a former major in the Burmese military, having served in Light Infantry Battalion No 81 from 1979 to 1983 and then with the Military Intelligence Service. In March 2005 he defected to the US, where he had been posted as deputy chief of mission at the Burmese embassy in Washington DC.


                               
                              Talking Nonsense on Burma - Kyaw Zwa Moe
                              Irrawaddy: Sun 21 Oct 2007 

                              Several ministers and diplomats of Asean countries warned recently a sudden regime change in Burma could lead to an Iraq-type anarchy with rival factions battling each other for power.

                              Are such people that ignorant of Burma, which belongs to the 10-member Asean grouping?

                              “We should not think of a so-called regime change,” said Asean Secretary-General ong Keng Yong of Singapore, which could lead to another Iraq. “Such change implies a dramatic power vacuum,” he said. Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo said the same.

                              First of all, ong Keng Yong and others must know that no one has called for a regime change in the military-ruled country.

                              No one says there isn’t a need for the military regime’s involvement in politics and in the day-to-day running of the country. The Burmese people, including the political opposition groups, all understand the military has to play a key role in a transitional period to democracy.

                              Even the main opposition National League for Democracy party led by detained pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, though it was the big winner of the 1990 elections, has called for an unconditional dialogue which includes the military, opposition groups and ethnic parties. Other opposition and ethnic groups inside and outside the country have said the same thing.

                              The monk-led demonstrations last month demanded three things: national reconciliation, the release of all political prisoners and an improvement in the living standards of the people. Monks haven’t called for a regime change, either.

                              Following the junta’s brutal crackdown against the peaceful demonstrations, some countries in the West have increased their sanctions on the regime, in hope that it may force the junta to start face-to-face talks. Everyone is pushing the stubborn generals to enter a dialogue process.

                              What about the ethnic groups? There are about two dozen ethnic insurgent groups, with probably 17 ceasefire groups. Are they a unified opposition? Far from it. Are they a hotbed for anarchy? Far from it. They have as much to fear from anarchy as everyone else.

                              Actually, most ethnic insurgencies are products of the military rule, though a few rebel groups such as Communist Party of Burma and the Karen National Union began their struggles soon after Burma gained independence in 1948. The 45-year military rule since 1962 fuels the ethnic insurgency movement.

                              In fact, those ethnic armed groups—both ceasefire and non-ceasefire—have called for a form of democracy that would provide autonomy for their respective states. The hope is that, if granted autonomy, the anger supporting the country’s decades-long insurgencies would die out.

                              The junta either can’t stop the insurgency movements or it has deliberately kept the flame of opposition alive to create the impression that the military is essential to “protect” the country from the threat of various ethnic groups.

                              Asean countries may believe that only the junta can control the insurgency movements. Actually, that’s not the case. The ethnic groupings and their dissatisfaction with the current regime is essentially a political issue.

                              Even if the junta did collapse, there are many capable people including Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders who can assume leadership roles in the government. However, at the moment almost all potential leaders are in prison or in exile. And of course, there are also ethnic leaders who are ready and capable to join the leadership as soon as the right conditions exist.

                              Any “power vacuum” would be filled by new, talented people who are now denied the opportunity to serve their country.  And, need it be said, with such open-minded people in government a “power vacuum” would be an opportunity to replenish the soul of the nation with freedom loving people.

                              In fact, anarchy is the best description of Burma’s present state, a military-ruled system of anarchy.

                              Here are a few examples: the regime uses hired thugs to create riots amid peaceful demonstrations. The thugs are called “dutiful citizens.” They were organized to murder Suu Kyi in 2003, but she narrowly escaped. During the 1988 uprising, the then government deliberately created a condition of “anarchy” by freeing thousands of angry criminal prisoners from the jails across the country. The stooges were paid to poison several water wells in Rangoon’s townships among other things. The military deliberately created conditions for them to loot factories and warehouses. Then, the coup-staging generals called it “anarchy.” Yes it was—state-sponsored anarchy.

                              For decades, military rule has proved itself incapable to govern the country. Burma was once one of the most promising and wealthiest countries in the region, before the military took power in 1962. Burma is now a prison, and its people are among the poorest in the world.

                              It’s time for many Asean officials to do some serious soul searching by asking if they want to be a friend of the Burmese people or a friend of the generals.

                              Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo said, “We must prevent anarchy in Burma.” If Asean officials really want to help solve Burma’s crisis, they must stop talking nonsense such as “power vacuum” and “anarchy.”

                              For the Burmese people, it is midnight on a moonless night—it can’t get any darker.


                               
                              Several firms on US Myanmar blacklist linked to Singapore
                              AFP: Saturday October 22, 2007
                               
                              Three companies with strong links to Singapore are among seven firms blacklisted by the United States under fresh sanctions against Myanmar after its deadly suppression of pro-democracy protests. Tay Za, the tycoon behind the three Singapore-linked firms is a charismatic close associate of the ruling junta.

                              Tay Za has "very, very strong links to the junta. He has a very close relationship with (Senior) General Than Shwe’s family. The firms made its money simply because of its proximity to the regime," said Sean Turnell, an economics professor who specialises in Myanmar at Australia's Macquarie University. Dave Mathieson, a consultant on Myanmar to Human Rights Watch in Bangkok, called him “the richest man in Burma.”

                              Myanmar-watchers say Tay Za, 43, is also involved in tourism, infrastructure projects, mobile telephone service, and was involved in the government’s purchase of helicopters from Russia.

                              Tay Za is not among 11 individuals named by Bush as senior regime officials in Myanmar who are also subject to the fresh sanctions.

                              According to President George W. Bush's order the companies which are either based in or linked to Singapore are: Pavo Trading Pte Ltd, Air Bagan Holdings Pte Ltd and Htoo Wood Products Pte Ltd, which is also listed as being from Myanmar's main city, Yangon. Tay Za’s Htoo Trading Co Ltd, which exports teak logs, was Myanmar’s fifth-top exporter, earning 65.1 million US dollars in the fiscal year ended in March, according to the Myanmar Times, a semi-official weekly.

                              The sanctions were announced Friday and are designed to target organisations with ties to Myanmar's ruling junta in the hope it will pile more pressure on the regime.

                              "It's about time the US did something like this," said Dave Mathieson, a consultant on Myanmar to Human Rights Watch in Bangkok. He said the sanctions "actually go after the money" of the junta, adding they also served as a "wake-up call" for Singapore.

                              Also named is Air Bagan Ltd of Myanmar, which last month made Singapore its second international destination. The airline's chairman, Tay Za, arrived on the first flight.

                              The directory at a building in Singapore's central business district lists Air Bagan Holdings and the two other blacklisted Singapore-linked firms as operating from a suite on the 24th floor. But the suite carries no sign and workers in neighbouring offices said they knew nothing about what type of company operates from there, although they have seen people coming and going on weekdays. An opaque blue sticker covered the door and obscured the interior. Phone and email messages to Pavo Trading were not immediately returned.

                              "We can't really comment right now," said Zaw Nay Oo, Air Bagan's corporate affairs manager, who works from the airline's sales office in a city shopping plaza.

                              Government spokespersons in Singapore also could not be immediately reached for comment.

                              The website for Pavo Trading says it is a sister company of Htoo Group of Companies and was established in 1999. "The company's main interest lies in export of timber and timber products from Myanmar," says the website. It says the group's flagship company, Htoo Trading Co Ltd, is a logging firm established 17 years ago.

                              "Htoo Trading is run by Tay Za. He’s one of the few businessmen who’s thrived under this particular regime," said Debbie Stothard of the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma, a human rights group. A son of key junta member General Thura Shwe Mann serves on the board of Htoo Trading.

                              Bush's executive order cuts off the designated officials and organisations -- and those acting on their behalf -- from the US financial system, the US Treasury Department said. It means that "any assets these individuals and entities may have that are within US jurisdiction must be frozen, and US persons are prohibited from transacting or doing business with them," the department said.

                              Singapore is chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and has led regional criticism of the junta's crackdown last month, which killed at least 13 people. More than 3,000 were detained. Observers say Singapore's tough words against the junta must be matched by economic action given the city-state's extensive links with the regime.

                              Human rights activists and other experts allege -- without providing direct evidence -- that junta funds have flowed into, or at least through Singapore, a regional financial centre.

                              Singapore strongly denies allegations that it allows banks based here to keep illicit funds on behalf of Myanmar's secretive generals. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told CNN television recently that the country does not take "dirty money" and does not condone money laundering.

                              The city-state was among the regional countries Bush praised Friday for their response to Myanmar's upheaval.


                              World may never learn death toll in Myanmar protests, British official says - David Stringer
                              Associated Press: Fri 19 Oct 2007 

                              Hundreds of pro-democracy supporters are being detained daily by Myanmar’s military junta, and it may never be clear how many died during the violent suppression of their protests, a senior British diplomat said Friday.

                              The official said figures released by Myanmar authorities showed around 800 people had been arrested in the last 10 days alone. Britain estimates between 2,000 to 2,500 are being held in squalid labor camps, prisons and makeshift detention centers, said the senior diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

                              “There are substantial nighttime raids still going on. They have scooped up hundreds of people,” he said.

                              He said all remaining leaders of the 1988 pro-democracy uprising had been seized by authorities, among a total of 2,927 people arrested since new protests began last month.

                              The British official told reporters it is proving impossible to assess the death toll.

                              “The official figure remains at 10,” he said. “We believe it is many, many multiples more and we will never get to the bottom of that I’m afraid.”

                              British diplomats have received accounts from those held in prisons and labor camps, describing “excrement-smeared rooms, hundreds to a room,” where detainees have been denied food and interrogated.

                              “There is a profound sense of trauma amongst the population, and amongst, I would guess, certain parts of the army and the government too. There is a huge sense of outrage, the anger is quite extraordinary if you just scratch the surface,” he said.

                              Mark Canning, Britain’s ambassador to Myanmar, will attempt to hold new talks with the regime Wednesday, Foreign Office officials said. London has urged the junta to open a dialogue with opponents, saying it will win economic aid in return.

                              But Prime Minister Gordon Brown has warned any failure to institute political reform is likely to lead to an increase of punitive measures by the European Union and United Nations.

                              The British official warned that though mass protests have been quelled, pro-democracy activists aim to continue their campaign.

                              “The population is traumatized and for the moment, they are licking their wounds, but they are determined to carry on showing their resistance,” he said. “The trauma and the anger is so deep, that it is going to come back in some way.”


                              Junta presses on with “Exclusive” constitution drafting - Wai Moe
                              Irrawaddy: Fri 19 Oct 2007 

                              The appointment by Burma’s ruling junta of a committee to write a draft constitution, without the participation of the opposition National League for Democracy, is being regarded as further proof that the generals have no intention of listening to international pleas for an all-inconclusive process of national reconciliation.

                              The committee, appointed on October 18, is being hailed by the Burmese government, the State Peace and Development Council, as another important step on its seven-stage “road map” to democracy, described as “2/2007.”

                              Aung Htoo, Secretary of the Burma Lawyers’ Council, told The Irrawaddy on Friday that the job of writing a constitution still lay legally with winning candidates in the 1990 election. That was enshrined in a junta statement described as “1/90,” which was still technically in effect.

                              NLD candidates won 80 percent of the votes in the 1990 election.

                              “According to the junta’s 1/90 statement, only those elected can write the constitution,” said Aung Htoo.

                              Aung Htoo said the 1/90 statement and a later one, 11/92, calling for the establishment of a National Convention, conflicted with each other. “It means the junta doesn’t follow its statements and the law itself,” he said.

                              Aung Htoo said a further statement, 5/96, ruled out any public participation in drawing up a new constitution, ensuring it would be an “exclusive” process and not an “inclusive” one.

                              Although the proposed draft of the constitution enshrines some civil rights, such as freedom of expression, it retains such articles as 10 (A), 10 (B), “Protection of the State from Threat”, which date from 1975. These laws allow the state to detain citizens without trial for up to five years, said Aung Htoo.

                              NLD spokesman Thein Nyunt confirmed that the party had signed the 1/90 statement in 1990 and still stood by its terms, which dictate that elected candidates in the 1990 election should  write the new constitution.

                              Thein Nyunt rejected the junta’s 5/96 statement. “The 5/96 [statement] means non- participation by the public in the constitution process,” he said. “The constitution is for all Burmese. So all must join in.”

                              Win Min, of Chiang Mai University, said the committee might have been formed at this time because of international pressure and to show the global community that the regime is confident it can proceed without an inclusive process.

                              “Here the important actor is China [which] can push the junta for an inclusive process for national reconciliation and democracy in Burma,” said Win Min.

                              Mahn Sha, general secretary of the Karen National Union, said the formation of the committee showed that the regime was demonstrating to the international community that it was going its own way regardless. The KNU could not accept such a one-sided approach to writing the constitution, he said.

                              “The real solution for real change in this country is dialogue between the military rulers and dissidents,” Mahn Sha said.

                              A spokesman for the New Mon State Party ceasefire group, Nai Oung Ma-nge, told The Irrawaddy that the party had walked out of the National Convention because it felt its proceedings were unjust. The party would not accept any unjustly drafted constitution, he said.

                              In a further comment on events in Burma, Aung Htoo said: “Some diplomats and experts said recently that the role of the Tatmadaw [Burma’s armed forces] prevented anarchism in Burma, even though there are many armed groups. But they failed to see that state-backed terror on civilians is also creating anarchism.”


                              Gen Thura Shwe Mann: Ready to be new army commander?
                              Irrawaddy: Fri 19 Oct 2007 

                              Gen Thura Shwe Mann has effectively taken over day-to-day command of the armed forces and the country’s internal affairs as instructed by Snr-Gen Than Shwe, according to unconfirmed reports from Naypyidaw.

                              Speculation is rampant that he will soon become the army commander in chief, a position currently held by Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye, who also holds the deputy commander in chief of the armed forces position. Snr-Gen Than Shwe is commander in chief.

                              In the past, Thura Shwe Mann, the regime’s No. 3 man, was seen as waiting in the wings, ready to take over a more powerful position in the armed forces. He is currently chief of staff, responsible for the coordination of special operations (Army, Navy and Air).

                              He has been posted in the Ministry of Defense since 2001 and has not gained widespread support among the hard-line army leadership and field commanders. However, he has earned the trust of Snr-Gen Than Shwe, who has been shuffling military appointments and placing his most trusted men in key positions.

                              During the pro-democracy demonstrations, there were rumors that Maung Aye opposed the use of soldiers to crack down on monks and activists. In recent months, Maung Aye’s position and influence has waned, sources said.

                              Recent reports also suggest that Maung Aye has been removed from the Trade Council.

                              For more information about Shwe Mann click http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=6631


                            • CHAN Beng Seng
                              1.. PTT urged to pull out of Burma 2.. Players line up to tackle Burma 3.. Opposition Leader Meets Burmese Official 4.. Junta arrest more activists 5.. Monks
                              Message 14 of 14 , Oct 26, 2007
                              • 0 Attachment
                                1. PTT urged to pull out of Burma
                                2. Players line up to tackle Burma
                                3. Opposition Leader Meets Burmese Official
                                4. Junta arrest more activists
                                5. Monks kept away from rice donation
                                6. Air Bagan suspends flights to Singapore; sanctions cited as Reason
                                7. Myanmar junta may have killed 110 protesters, UN says
                                8. Unity lacking on diplomatic approach to Burma’s junta
                                9. Carter offers himself as Burma envoy
                                10. No more bank accounts for Burmese generals in Australia
                                11. Trade unionists call for boycott against businesses that work with Myanmar regime

                                PTT urged to pull out of Burma

                                ACHARA ASHAYAGACHAT and AFP

                                The state-owned energy conglomerate PTT Plc has been urged to withdraw all business operations from Burma until the junta introduces steps towards democracy in the country.

                                Activists under the Peace for Burma, a Bangkok-based coalition of civil society organisations, yesterday submitted a letter to PTT president Prasert Bunsumpun, urging the company's affiliate, PTT Exploration & Production, to withdraw from the deal to purchase natural gas from the Block M9 natural gas field in the Gulf of Martaban.

                                Led by Sawit Kaewvan, secretary-general of the State Enterprise Workers Relations Confederation, the group said the company should ''phase out existing investments in the country until meaningful steps have been taken by the Burmese junta to introduce genuine democracy''.

                                Investments by PTT and its subsidiaries in Burma have propped up the junta, the activists claimed.

                                ''Revenue from natural gas supplies to Thailand earns the generals approximately US$160 million (5.44 billion baht) per month in sales. Thai gas investments also make up 30% of the junta's hard currency,'' said Pipob Udomittipong, a coalition member.

                                The group dismissed PTT's claim that the money is beneficial to the Burmese people, saying that this assertion falls apart upon examination of the statistics.

                                They said an estimated 40% of the country's budget is spent on the military, an institution responsible for the most egregious human rights abuses against Buddhist monks, the political opposition and ethnic groups over the past 20 years.

                                Thailand's growing demand for energy, which has been used as a reason by energy suppliers to invest in Burma, had been grossly overestimated by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, said the NGOs coalition.

                                ''There are alternative sources of natural gas which should be more actively considered, including the Bongkot field in the Gulf of Thailand. Not nearly enough has been done to develop renewable energy to reduce Thailand's heavy dependence on fossil fuels,'' they said.

                                Meanwhile, a pro-democracy group based in Chiang Mai is urging people all over the world to ''post, deliver or fling'' their undergarments into Burma's international embassies under the latest campaign to chastise Burma's military regime.

                                ''The Burma military regime is not only brutal but very superstitious. They believe that contact with a woman's panties or sarong can rob them of their power,'' the Lanna Action for Burma group said on its website.

                                The generals who rule Burma provoked an international outcry last month when they violently cracked down on peaceful protesters, killing at least 13 people.

                                Those behind the so-called ''Panty Power'' campaign hope that lingerie can succeed where international diplomacy has so far failed.

                                ''We want to raise awareness first, and we want to target the Burmese government officials, letting them know we are against them abusing their power,'' said Tomoko, an activist with Lanna Action for Burma.

                                Tomoko, who goes by one name only, said she had heard that Burmese embassies in Thailand, Australia and the United States had been targeted by the Panty Power campaign, which began last week.


                                Players line up to tackle Burma
                                 
                                As the United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari tours key countries in Asia in order to seek their support for a solution to the Burmese political stalemate, rumours have been rife in New York regarding his plan to set up a new cooperative framework designed as a vehicle to push for genuine democratic reforms in the military state.
                                The Nation October 26, 2007

                                No, it is not about the Thai-initiated six-party talks, as recently proposed by Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont. Gambari has his own version of multi-party talks on the Burma issue, with the aim of expanding the scope of countries involved and a set of clear requests that would be pressed upon the military junta.

                                Rumours have been spreading among Western diplomats that Gambari, toward the end of his Asian tour, will come up with his own formula for a multi-party framework that will comprise all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council - the US, Britain, France, Russia and China - together with India, Japan, Norway and possibly Singapore.

                                The choice of India and Japan is understandable considering their existing strategic interests in Burma. Singapore is likely to partake in Gambari's latest initiative as the chairman and representative of Asean. Norway would be invited because the country has been busy on the international stage in the past few years, acting as a peace broker in Sri Lanka and Indonesia's Aceh province. It is also the birthplace of the Nobel Peace Prize, which was granted to Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in 1991. Furthermore, Norway is willing to spend money on the peace process in Burma.

                                I can understand where Gambari's idea comes from; he might be thinking that the participation of the UN Security Council will add a stronger sense of legitimacy and seriousness when he deals with Burma. Burma's two important neighbours - China and India - will also be able to exercise their influence while keeping an eye on their economic interests in the country. And to garnish the new cooperative framework with a regional enthusiasm and involvement, Singapore, on Asean's behalf, is the right player for Gambari's purpose. So far, Singapore has been adamant in its approach toward the Burmese regime.

                                Although Gambari's design sounds thoughtful and is replete with eagerness to generate a breakthrough, it surely guarantees differences of opinion and even more complications to the current situation.

                                First, and perhaps most significant, is the response from China. It is certain that Beijing will reject Gambari's formula, which will be perceived as further internationalising the Burmese problem. After all, China wishes to see the problem handled in the regional framework, or in other words, in its own backyard. This is because China considers itself the main regional power. More essentially, Burma is and has always been under China's sphere of influence. India, wrangling with the Chinese influence in Burma, comprehends how China's jealousy might be fierce at times.   

                                Will China be content to allow the US, parts of the EU, or even Japan, to poke their noses in what it sees as its protectorate? If it is not content, its reputation would be further tainted. China has already been criticised by the West for protecting the brutal regime in exchange for economic benefits, access to a sea port on the Indian Ocean and the wellbeing of Chinese migrants in Burma. Internationalising the issue would mean questioning the legitimacy of China's role and influence in Burma. This is the last thing Beijing needs when it wants to be concentrating on hosting the Olympics in 2008.

                                The second problem Gambari must take into account is whether the Burmese junta will approve his formula. Like China, Burma feels that its wounds would be ripped open publicly. This fear may cause the regime to tighten its political grasp and drive it even further into isolation. There have been stories that the Burmese junta is wary of a possible US attack - and this could partly explain why it abruptly moved the capital into the jungle.

                                With the US as part of the new Gambari multi-party talks, Burma has every reason to be convinced that such a long-held fear may turn to reality. Moreover, the regime would be suspicious of US neutrality, since Washington has never been shy of lending support to Aung San Suu Kyi, her National League for Democracy, political dissidents and certain ethnic minorities who have refused to conclude cease-fires with the Burmese government.

                                Burma's same suspicion could be extended to include Britain and France, members of the Security Council and representatives of the European Union, which has maintained a hard-line policy toward the regime.

                                Finally, enlarging the number of parties directly involved in the Burma issue might make Asean look silly. At the end of the day, and whether one likes it or not, Burma is still a member of Asean. During the past month, Asean members have expressed concern about the grave situation in Burma and have called for genuine political reconciliation. Some elements in the regional grouping have even condemned the regime. Never before has Asean opted for such strong language regarding a fellow member. Singapore's ex-diplomat, Barry Desker, even suggested a suspension of Burma's membership until it learned to behave.

                                * Dr Pavin Chachavalpongpun is the author of "A Plastic Nation: The Curse of Thainess in Thai-Burmese Relations".


                                Opposition Leader Meets Burmese Official - Seth Mydans
                                New York Times: Thu 25 Oct 2007 

                                n this hand-out photograph from the government of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, left, met with Aung Kyi, a minister from the government in Yangon.

                                The long-detained pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi met with an official of the military government in Myanmar on Thursday in the first tangible sign that the generals were responding to outside pressure after crushing a popular uprising last month.Confirming reports from foreign diplomats, state television announced that the meeting had lasted for an hour and 15 minutes at a guest house a few minutes’ drive from Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi’s home, where she has been held under house arrest for 12 of the past 18 years.

                                A United Nations envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, had pressed the generals to open a dialogue when he visited Myanmar at the beginning of the month, and state television said Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi had met with a special “minister for relations” appointed after that visit. That minister is an experienced government envoy, Aung Kyi.

                                But analysts say it is far from clear that the junta intends any meetings with Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi to be more than gestures to placate the international community.

                                The meeting comes as Mr. Gambari is visiting Asian nations to coordinate policy before returning to Myanmar in November.

                                The junta, which has ruled Myanmar for the past two decades, continues to face criticism and new economic sanctions from abroad a month after violently crushing huge antigovernment demonstrations that were led by tens of thousands of Buddhist monks.

                                The government has said 10 people died in the crackdown, but foreign diplomats and human rights groups with contacts inside the closed nation say they are certain that the number is far higher.

                                The military is also continuing a campaign of intimidation and arrests and appears to have rounded up most of the leaders of the demonstrations.

                                Shortly after Mr. Gambari’s visit, the junta’s leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, said he was ready to meet with Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, but he set conditions that raised doubts about his sincerity.

                                He said she should stop advocating economic sanctions and abandon what he called her backing for “confrontation” and “utter devastation.” The context of these phrases was not explicit, but he seemed to be referring to the international support she receives in advocating democratic change.

                                http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/26/world/asia/26myanmar.html


                                Junta arrest more activists
                                Mizzima News: Thu 25 Oct 2007 

                                While the Burmese military junta claims to have release several detainees, arrested in connection with the recent protests, it has arrested eight more key activists over the week, activists said.

                                The Thailand based Asia-Pacific Peoples’ Partnership on Burma said student activist D-Nyein Aye and 88 generation member Aung Naing were arrested from hiding on Tuesday, while a youth member of the National League for Democracy Thein Swe was arrested on Monday.

                                The APPB also said another five activists were picked up by the authorities on Saturday, accounting for eight arrests over the week.

                                Khin Onhmar, coordinator of the APPPB, said the junta continues to hunt-down key activists even as it claims to be releasing several of those arrested earlier.

                                “The junta wants international pressure to ease off and is therefore releasing several detainees,” she added.

                                Meanwhile, Tate Naing of the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners – Burma (AAPP-B), said the Burmese junta has arrested more than 4,000 monks, activists and ordimary people since it began cracking down on the largest public demonstration in two decades in September.

                                The junta said it has released a majority of those arrested and only 190 more remain in detention, Tate Naing said “there are at least 700 people still remaining in custody.”


                                Monks kept away from rice donation
                                Democratic Voice of Burma: Thu 25 Oct 2007 

                                The annual rice donation ceremony in Magwe division is to go ahead with some restrictions, despite local authorities’ earlier concerns that monks would boycott the event.

                                The rice donation has been held annually for the past five years to mark the end of Buddhist lent, and has always been a popular event, but local authorities were worried that this year monks would refuse to accept alms from government supporters.

                                The local Peace and Development Council refused to organise the ceremony, so it will now be planned by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and its local offices.

                                Township authorities still appear cautious about the event, which will be widely publicised, and have issued restrictions on monks attending in an apparent attempt to prevent large groups of monks assembling.

                                Only one monk from each monastery will be invited to the ceremony to receive the donations. The rest of the alms will be taken to the monks at their monasteries.


                                Air Bagan suspends flights to Singapore; sanctions cited as Reason - Violet Cho
                                Irrawaddy: Thu 25 Oct 2007 

                                Air Bagan Ltd has announced it will suspend flights to Singapore, as of November 4, citing the effects of economic sanctions against the airline’s owner, businessman Tay Za.

                                A letter signed by the airline’s sales and marketing manager said “the final blow” came when the company was informed by its Singapore bank that “they will no longer deal with us for the time being.”

                                “Sanctions have been imposed on our airline and also our parent company in Singapore. This has indeed caused us a lot of pain and anguish, as with these sanctions we now have no access to aircraft spare parts,” the letter said. “We are now facing some major obstacles that need to be dealt with in the next few months.”

                                Air Bagan began flights to Singapore last month, during massive civil unrest in Burma when the military regime suppressed pro-democracy demonstrations.

                                Observes close to Air Bagan said the suspension of flights could last as long as six months.

                                Air Bagan currently flies internationally from Rangoon to Bangkok. Its Web site says it plans to fly to Kunming and Siem Reap in Cambodia, but no date for the start of the service was provided.

                                Tay Za, a wealthy businessman in Burma, is closely associated with the ruling generals. He started the private airline about three years ago.

                                Sanctions were the main reason cited for the suspension of the airline, according to the letter. The US imposed additional sanctions against the Burmese military government on October 19, including freezing the bank accounts of an additional 25 military officials and 12 businessmen or business entities closely associated with the military regime.

                                “More passengers and travelers refuse to use Air Bagan now,” a travel agent with Sinmyanmar, based in Singapore, told The Irrawaddy. “We have stopped taking responsibilities for the sale of tickets for Air Bagan.”

                                With the new sanctions, the company apparently found it impossible to do business in Singapore. Some observers said companies affected by the sanctions may try to do business with banks in Kuala Lumpur and Dubai.

                                Bagan Airlines launched flights to Singapore in September, with a promotional 14-day roundtrip flight between Rangoon and Singapore for US $223 and a 14-day return ticket between Rangoon and Bangkok for $129. Its airfares were about $50 cheaper than other airlines.


                                Myanmar junta may have killed 110 protesters, UN says - Ed Johnson
                                Bloomberg: Thu 25 Oct 2007 

                                Myanmar soldiers may have killed as many as 110 people during a crackdown on anti-government protests last month, said a United Nations official tasked with probing alleged human rights abuses by the military regime.

                                Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, who will travel to the Southeast Asian nation next month, said he had verified “allegations of the use of excessive force by the security forces, including live ammunitions, rubber bullets, tear gas, bamboo and wood sticks, rubber batons and catapults.'’

                                Thirty to 40 monks and 50 to 70 civilians may have been killed in the crackdown, Pinheiro, who is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s special rapporteur on human rights in the country formerly known as Burma, said in New York yesterday.

                                General Than Shwe’s regime has faced global condemnation since it deployed soldiers Sept. 26 to crush the biggest anti- junta protests in almost 20 years. UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari is trying to rally neighboring countries to pressure the regime to take steps toward democracy. He is holding a second day of talks today with officials in China, Myanmar’s closest ally.

                                Reports continue of deaths in custody, torture, disappearances, ill-treatment and lack of access to food, water and medical treatment for those in detention, Pinheiro told a General Assembly committee, according to a statement on the UN’s Web site.

                                Army Raids
                                The army and militia are reportedly “going home by home searching for people and detaining participants in the demonstrations,'’ Pinheiro said. “Relatives of people in hiding have reportedly been taken hostage as a way of pressure.'’

                                A “situation of fear prevails,'’ he added.

                                The junta must unconditionally release all detainees, grant amnesty to those who have been sentenced, reveal the whereabouts of missing people and conduct an independent investigation into the killings, Pinheiro said in a statement to the committee.

                                He also demanded the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent 12 years in custody since the junta rejected the results of parliamentary elections won by her National League for Democracy in 1990.

                                Protesters staged rallies yesterday in cities around the world, including London, Paris, Bangkok and Washington, demanding Suu Kyi’s release.

                                China is one of Myanmar’s biggest trading partners. As a permanent, veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, its support is essential for any international effort to end the political crisis in Myanmar.

                                Gambari will meet Tang Jiaxuan, China’s highest-ranking foreign policy official, and Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi today.

                                “This is a very important stop on this mission,'’ Gambari told reporters yesterday in Beijing.

                                He will travel next to Japan before returning to New York on Oct. 27 to brief Ban on his trip, which included visits to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and India.

                                Gambari, who held talks with junta leaders earlier this month, is scheduled to return to Myanmar in the first week of November, the UN says.


                                Unity lacking on diplomatic approach to Burma’s junta - Jill Drew
                                Washington Post: Thu 25 Oct 2007 

                                While activists focus on increasing pressure on Burma’s military leaders to open a dialogue with the country’s pro-democracy activists, diplomatic consensus is eroding on what steps to take next.

                                Pro-democracy advocates had hoped that last month’s protests — led by monks, who are revered in Burma — would galvanize world opinion and create enough outside pressure to force the junta’s leaders to the bargaining table. Indeed, for the first time, the U.N. Security Council approved a formal censure of Burma and called for all political prisoners to be released.

                                But now there are growing divisions among countries about the best approach to Burma. And those who sense that democracy is closer than it has been in decades are grappling with how the country’s transition would be managed.

                                “That bright and shining moment, that’s crumbled,” said one diplomat, who spoke frankly on condition of anonymity. He was referring to the strong language in September from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which expressed “revulsion” at Burma’s bloody crackdown on the protesters, in which at least 10 and perhaps hundreds were killed. Now, some of ASEAN’s 10 members are questioning current sanctions against Burma’s government, arguing that countries should engage the generals rather than cut them off. “There is no consensus,” the diplomat added.

                                ASEAN is scheduled in November to celebrate Burma’s 10-year anniversary as a member of the group and adopt a new charter that could include clauses addressing issues of human rights and good governance. Some diplomats had hoped that before the high-profile meeting, ASEAN would unify to take an active role in helping Burma, which the generals call Myanmar, toward a dialogue on democracy.

                                “The attempt by ASEAN to rein in the Burmese regime has been futile,” said Kraisak Choonhavan, a former Thai senator now running in elections scheduled for December to reestablish a democratic government in Thailand after a 2006 coup. Kraisak said he opposes the view expressed by some governments, which urge closer cooperation with Burma’s leaders, because he believes it would lead to more refugees fleeing into neighboring Thailand.

                                About 3 million Burmese migrants already live in Thailand, Kraisak said. “All the migrants tell one story — about abuse of power by the military.”

                                China and India, meanwhile, which are vying to deepen their strong business ties in resource-rich Burma, have taken a hands-off attitude in the aftermath of the government’s crackdown. U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari met Wednesday with China’s assistant foreign minister, He Yafei, in the first of two days of talks about Burma. The Chinese official expressed support for Gambari’s attempt to structure a meaningful dialogue, but reiterated China’s position that Burma’s problems are an internal matter.

                                Activists say they believe China might be vulnerable to pressure to reconsider its position because the day it picked to open the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Aug. 8, is the same date when in 1988 the Burmese military crushed a student-led protest, killing an estimated 3,000 people.

                                Burmese authorities, meanwhile, have arrested seven more dissidents since Saturday, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), which tracks, documents and reports on those missing and detained in the country. The government continues to stage rallies throughout the country condemning last month’s protests.

                                At the same time, the generals are trying to convey a greater sense of movement and openness. They invited U.N. human rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro to visit the country before the ASEAN summit in Singapore in November. Activists urge that he be given wide freedom to go where he wants and interview whomever he pleases. Pinheiro has not been granted a visa to Burma, despite several requests, since 2003. Burma’s leaders also said they would invite selected journalists from ASEAN nations to the country in advance of the summit.

                                This month, the generals appointed a liaison to lay the groundwork for talks with Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who as of Wednesday has been imprisoned or detained by the regime for exactly 12 years, a point underscored in protests staged by her supporters in 12 cities around the world. The military leaders, however, have set conditions that make it unlikely any talks will occur, experts say.

                                “The government is just playing games,” said Bertil Lintner, an author and prominent expert on Burma.

                                He said it is naive to think that Burma’s top military ruler, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, would step aside as a result of a dialogue. Lintner said he believes the government is eating up time, as it has many times before, hoping world attention fades.

                                One Burmese adviser to last month’s protesters, interviewed on condition of anonymity in the back of a darkened coffee shop in Rangoon this week, said he believed that only continued global attention would move the junta into dialogue. He acknowledged that a transition to democracy in Burma would raise difficult problems but said that anything is better than the current state of affairs.

                                “We are daily faced with depression,” he said, describing the many dysfunctional aspects of Burma’s economy, most of which is controlled by the military government. “The hard part is to shape a democracy in such a situation. We are a spiritually collapsed, physically poor, economically darkened country.”

                                Still, he welcomes the challenge of a transition to democracy, he said, and thinks other Burmese do, too, especially students. “Most students have been kept out of politics for the past 40 years,” he said. “I was afraid they didn’t know our political careers, how our generation protested the government. But in September we learned we have many youths willing to sacrifice for the cause.”

                                Debbie Stothard, coordinator of Altsean-Burma, a human rights advocacy group, said she hopes it does not come to that. “We would prefer to avoid another round of bloodshed,” she said. “If people came out, it would be a repeat of September. These people cannot defend themselves. Their courage should be matched by the political will of the international community.”

                                She quoted opposition leader Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate, who in 1994 cited a Burmese saying to describe government stall tactics: “It’s very, very difficult to wake somebody up who is pretending to be asleep.”


                                Carter offers himself as Burma envoy - Lee Michael Katz
                                Guardian Unlimited: Thu 25 Oct 2007 

                                Former US president Jimmy Carter is offering to act as a mediator to Burma in response to the military regime’s recent crackdown on protesters.

                                “If the leaders of Myanmar would accept my presence, I’d be delighted” to serve as an envoy, he told Guardian America. Mr Carter has been known for his decades of involvement in international political and humanitarian crisis since leaving office.

                                But Mr Carter, who was president when America boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics, rejects the notion of boycotting the 2008 Beijing Olympics over the issue.

                                There have been suggestions of a boycott if China does not put pressure on Burma to end repression of pro-democracy movements and on the Sudanese government to end the crisis in Darfur. “I don’t think it’s a good idea at all,” he said.

                                The former president and Nobel peace prizewinner also commented on a number of other international and political issues. In the exclusive interview, conducted in early October in New York, Mr Carter:

                                · Warned an attack on Iran would be “a mistake,” that could “precipitate another war for which we’re not prepared.” Carter said the US should establish a diplomatic relationship with Iran and “let them be reassured that they’re not going to be attacked.”

                                · Revealed he held no ill will towards the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, identified by some as a leader in the 1979 taking of American hostages that undermined Mr Carter’s presidency. “I don’t have any animosity,” he said.

                                · Said Mr Bush’s human rights policies would bring problems for the president, even though it is a “good idea” for Mr Bush to work for democracy after he leaves office. “It’ll be hard among human rights activists to forget that we have declared that the Geneva conventions on treatment of prisoners was inapplicable, or that we have done things that are universally construed as torture,” he said. “Or that we have seen the embarrassments of our mistreatment of prisoners in Abu Ghraib and in Guantanamo.”

                                · Endorsed Bill Clinton’s suggestion of taking an unofficial diplomatic role globally promoting America if his wife, Hillary, wins the White House.

                                · Observed that with front-loaded primaries for the 2008 presidential election, it is “unlikely” a dark horse candidate could emerge as president as he did in 1976. But Mr Carter pointed to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel as potential 2008 dark horse or third-party candidates.

                                Mr Carter, promoting a new book, Beyond the White House, said he did not apologise for the title of his highly controversial previous book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, seen by some as a slap at Israel.

                                But he acknowledged in the interview his regret for a “misstatement” suggesting Palestinians agree to stop terrorism in return for Israeli actions. Mr Carter said he removed the statement from further book editions, including the new paperback.

                                The former president also cited what he saw a bright spot over the apartheid linkage controversy. “The criticism that it aroused, it probably increased the sale maybe a couple hundred thousand” more books, he said.


                                No more bank accounts for Burmese generals in Australia - Mungpi
                                Mizzima News: Wed 24 Oct 2007 

                                The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) today announced the imposition of financial sanctions against 418 Burmese military generals and their family members, which will restrict the ability of the generals from conducting financial transactions through Australian banks and financial institutions.

                                The RBA, the central bank of Australia, has implemented sanctions against “Burmese regime figures and supporters” as per the direction of the Australian government and under the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations of 1959.

                                “Any transactions involving the transfer of funds or payments to, by the order of, or on behalf of any person listed in the Annex are prohibited without prior approval from the Reserve Bank,” said the RBA in a media statement release today.

                                Burmese activists welcomed the Australian government’s sanctions but they urged Australia to do more by imposing trade sanctions against the Burmese junta.

                                “It will effect the generals and their cronies from doing business, particularly import and export, as they will not be able to hold any bank accounts through which transactions can be made,” Zaw Naing, member of the Burma Democratic Group (Australia), told Mizzima.

                                “We are pushing the (Australian) government to impose trade sanctions against the Burmese junta,” added Zaw Naing.

                                The 418 names on the list include Burma’s top military brass, their families and those who have benefited from the junta.

                                The RBA move comes after the junta’s brutal crackdown on peaceful protestors last month.

                                The Burmese junta in September killed several people and arrested thousands of monks and activists in response to the largest public demonstrations in nearly two decades, which posed a direct threat to over 45 years of unbroken military rule.


                                Trade unionists call for boycott against businesses that work with Myanmar regime
                                Associated Press: Wed 24 Oct 2007 

                                Trade unionists are calling for workers across the world to boycott companies that do business with Myanmar’s repressive military regime, singling out French oil company Total SA.

                                Myanmar’s junta has arrested thousands people in a crackdown on pro-democracy protests in recent weeks, shooting dead at least 10 when troops fired into crowds of peaceful demonstrators last month.

                                The inward-looking military elite has largely ignored world opinion and pressure during its 45 years in power but makes money from allowing foreign companies such as Total to pump out some of its vast reserves of oil and natural gas.

                                Guy Ryder, secretary general of the International Trade Union Confederation, said Tuesday he wanted to keep up the pressure on corporations that help prop up the Myanmar regime.

                                He drew a parallel with trade union boycotts of South African goods to force changes to the apartheid system of racial segregation.

                                “Our intent and our ambition is indeed to mobilize trade unions nationally and public opinion to bring that type of pressure to bear,” he told reporters. “The parallels with what we did in the apartheid era are rather persuasive.”

                                He said the big business players had not yet addressed union demands to back away from Myanmar.

                                “The Totals of this world have not yet answered. We are going to pursue them,” he said.

                                ITUC has just returned from a joint mission with the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) to the Myanmar-Thai border where they spoke with 13 witnesses of the political and military oppression continuing in Myanmar.

                                In film it shot on Oct. 18 and shared with Associated Press Television, Myanmar national Moe Swe a member of the Yaug Chi Oo Workers Association alleged that Total’s gas pipelines were linked to forced labor and human rights violations.

                                “We want Total to withdraw from Burma,” he said. It supports the junta in buying weapons “to oppress our Burmese people and they violate the workers’ rights.”

                                The European Union on Oct. 15 agreed to expand sanctions against Myanmar to include imports of timber, gemstones and precious metals in response to the junta’s crackdown on pro-democracy groups. It held off applying them to give U.N. mediators more time to sway the military leaders to start talks with pro-democracy groups.

                                But the EU shied away from targeting Burmese oil and gas exports or preventing European companies from operating in those sectors in Myanmar.

                                However, France’s Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Oct. 2 that new sanctions France was drafting would not spare Total, which has been producing 17.4 million cubic meters of natural gas per day from its Myanmar wells, according to the Total Web site.

                                Total, France’s biggest company by market capitalization and revenue, has said it has not made any capital expenditures in Myanmar since 1998. It said any “forced withdrawal” would simply clear the way for another company to step into its place.

                                EU sanctions against Myanmar in place since 1996 have banned arm sales to Myanmar, frozen Myanmar government assets and forbidden senior government officials from traveling to Europe.


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