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News on Burma

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 of 14 , Oct 18, 2007
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          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 4 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 5 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 6 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 7 of 14 , Oct 26, 2007
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                  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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