Burmas military regime dismissed a UN statement calling for dialogue with the pro-democracy opposition, insisting that it would follow its own roadmap toward reforma plan critics say is a ruse aimed at extending the governments 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 Burmaa reference to the anti-government protests that were violently suppressed by troops on September 26 and 27were not the concern of the outside world.
Myanmars 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 peoples desires.
The government of Myanmar will continue to implement the seven-step roadmap together with the people, the statement said, referring to the juntas 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 stagedrawing up guidelines for a new constitutionhas been completed, and critics say the convention that drafted the guidelines was stage-managed by the military.
Detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyis 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 rulersin charge of
the isolated country since 1988to enter a dialogue with the opposition and make
moves toward democratic reforms.
Desperate Burmese Labor in Thailand - Andrew
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 worlds 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 Americas 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 worlds 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 Myanmars 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 hell take any job in Thailand that pays $1.50 a day or more.
Myawaddy was quiet during the protests in Myanmars two largest cities, Yangon and Mandalay, and the juntas crackdown on them. Still, security agents monitor local monasteries and tail visitors through the towns potholed backstreets.
Myanmars 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 cant stop some crossing the river to Myanmar. Unlike many factories, which keep staff virtually imprisoned, Were 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 hasnt 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 Myanmars 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 Frances Total SA. The White House wants to tighten the economic squeeze in response to the regimes current repression.
The aim is to punish Myanmars secretive leaders. But the sanctions hit ordinary people hardest and help drive job seekers across the Moei River.
Just before the militarys 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 Myanmars bra factories have nearly all shut down because Western markets wont 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. Its 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 shouldnt 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 dont 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 Hathaways 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 Chinas 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 theyd 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, hes 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 Forms 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, didnt 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 Myanmars 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 hasnt 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.
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 worlds other top weapons dealers, Myanmar is just another customer.
India, the worlds most populous democracy, and North Korea, Asias most repressive dictatorship, are both suppliers to Myanmars military, and neither has signaled it would stop business after the juntas 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 dont 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.
Myanmars army of more than 400,000 is the second-largest in Southeast Asia after Vietnams, and bigger on a per capita basis. Because it is one of Asias 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 Myanmars arms have been imported from China, according to SIPRIs 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 Myanmars 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 Janes Intelligence Review detailed extensive alleged links, but the Israeli government denies any arms sales.
The most mystery shrouds the juntas 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 Pyongyangs dealings with Myanmar are hard to verify, because the two nations are among the worlds 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 Janes 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.
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 militarys 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
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
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-Generals 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!
Irrawaddy: Fri 12 Oct 2007
The Burmese authorities have a new enemy to hunt downdogs
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 regimes top generals around their necks.
Sightings were also reported in four other Rangoon townshipsTharkayta, 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.
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
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.
Myanmars 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 worlds third-biggest jeweller, follows a similar one from French jewellers Cartier, a subsidiary of Switzerlands 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 worlds 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 Myanmars ruby mines, which outsiders are
forbidden to see.
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 Indias 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 Indias 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 countrys 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 ports 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 MAIs lesser Lion Air gave a notice to Burmas state-run airlines. It was due to the recent crisis in Myanmar which forced suspension of MAIs 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 MAIs 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.
Irrawaddy: Fri 12 Oct 2007
The word reconciliation can barely be found in books
about Burmas 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 spirita willfor 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 peoples 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 juntas mouthpiece, said on Wednesday all destructive elements would be uprooted.
For now, tolerancethe will for reconciliationseems to be gone, on both sides. But for how long can we afford to go on without reconciliation?
Only a few days ago, the juntas 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. Theres 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, whomake no mistakeare willing to die for freedom.
The world doesnt need to see any more bloodshed on Burmas
streets. We must all work harder to find a way to national reconciliationno
matter how distant or farfetched it may sound.
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
The reasoning is simple: with the failure of US President George W. Bushs 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.
Burmas 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 Burmas 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 NLDs 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 juntas only real asset, other than fear, is the support of Burmas 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. Burmas 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
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