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News on Burma (resending)

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  • CHAN Beng Seng
    1.. Gambari to arrive in Burma on Saturday; will meet with all parties 2.. Sittwe students attack military junta with cartoons 3.. Nay Win Tun: Burma s Gem
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 1, 2007
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      1. Gambari to arrive in Burma on Saturday; will meet with "all parties"
      2. Sittwe students ‘attack’ military junta with cartoons
      3. Nay Win Tun: Burma’s Gem Stone Tycoon
      4. Burma Campaign UK welcomes DFID’s decision to double aid to Burma
      5. China key to reform in Myanmar: French FM
      6. India’s Burma problem
      7. Monks warned against protesting
      8. New sanctions missing the target, say critics
      9. Myanmar’s generals hit where it hurts
      10. Rangoon man arrested for talking to foreign media
      11. UN Envoy's Visit - Facelift for Junta?
      12. Suu Kyi talks with junta no breakthrough
      13. Ethnic leaders dismiss talk of Burma’s collapse should junta fall
      14. Weekly Business Roundup
      15. Tay Za: A targeted sanction hits the bulls-eye
      16. New targeted sanctions greeted with hope, caution


      Gambari to arrive in Burma on Saturday; will meet with "all parties" - Lalit K Jha
      Irrawaddy: Thu 1 Nov 2007 

      Special UN Envoy on Burma Ibrahim Gambari will arrive in Burma on Saturday to meet with top junta leaders and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in an effort to open a path to reconciliation between the military-led government and pro-democracy groups.

      Gambari is scheduled to stay through Thursday. However, before he arrives in Burma, he will meet with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Istanbul on Friday.

      “During his forthcoming visit to Myanmar, Gambari will follow up on his offer to facilitate implementation of the recommendations made to the government during his last mission, including immediate steps to address the human rights concerns in the wake of the recent crisis and a framework for meaningful and time-bound dialogue between the government and Aung San Suu Kyi as a necessary part of an inclusive national reconciliation process,” said the secretary-general’s spokesperson, Michele Montas.

      Montas said Gambari will also follow up on implementation of confidence-building measures, including a proposal to create a constitutional review mechanism and a poverty alleviation commission.

      “Gambari will consult with a broad range of representatives of Myanmar society, including all the groups which he was not able to see last time,” Montas said.

      Critics are highly skeptical of the success of Gambari’s second visit to Burma in a month. The trip follows nearly a week of consultations with some of the key players in the region. Beginning in mid-October, Gambari visited, Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, New Delhi, Beijing and Tokyo, where he met with leaders to discuss the Burma issue.

      Gambari visited Burma in the first week of October, during which he met junta officials and met twice with Aung San Suu Kyi. However, he did not meet with other leaders of pro-democracy groups or with leaders of ethnic political parties.

      US Ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, urged the Burmese government to cooperate with Gambari during his visit to the country.

      In a statement, Khalilzad said the 45-year-old military dictatorship has curtailed basic freedoms of speech, assembly and worship.

      Before the recent crackdown against peaceful demonstrators, there were an estimated 1,200 political prisoners in Burma’s prisons, he said. Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, whose political party was elected by an overwhelming majority in 1990, has been under house arrest for more than a decade. The election was nullified by the junta.

      According to the military government, the latest crackdown resulted in ten deaths and the imprisonment of about 4,000 people, Khalilzad said.

      “However, non-official sources estimate the numbers killed, injured and imprisoned to be much higher. Despite recent releases, the government continues to arrest and detain more activists,” Khalilzad said.


       
      Sittwe students ‘attack’ military junta with cartoons
      Narinjara News: Wed 31 Oct 2007 

      Sittwe: Cartoons are being used to hit out at the Burmese military junta for its crackdown on Buddhist monk-led demonstrations. Students in Sittwe, capital of Arakan state in Burma are creating cartoon posters and hanging them in the entrance wells of famous Buddhist temples and monasteries, said a student from Sittwe.

      The students carried out their protest, drawing and hanging posters, during the night of 29 October. The students pasted many cartoon posters in the entrances of temples and monasteries throughout Arakan State capital.

      The posters feature images of such things as the Burma Army killing demonstrating monks, while also including some text written in Burmese.

      The students said the writing included in the cartoon posters read, “Buddhaan Tranan Dai Dai,” “Danman Tranan Dai Dai,” and “Thinga Tharanan Dai Dai.” Translated into English, the phrases mean, “Kill all Buddha,” “Kill all Dharma,” and “Kill all Monks.”

      The cartoon poster protest surfaced in Sittwe after plans for demonstrations were shelved on 26 and 28 October, when authorities deployed police reinforcements around the city.

      People from Sittwe had plans to stage demonstrations on the day of the full moon religious festival, 26 October, but they did not get the chance to hold a demonstration that day, the student said.

      Townspeople had also tried to stage a demonstration on 28 October, but that plan was also kept in abeyance.

      Authorities in Sittwe have been closely watching some temples and monasteries, including Atula Marazin temple and Aye Zaydi monastery, since the poster protest against the junta.

      It was learnt that General Myint Shwe, from the Defence Department in Rangoon, has been given authority over the Burmese Army in Arakan State and is currently staying in Sittwe to monitor and control the situation in the city and other towns of Arakan State.


       
      Nay Win Tun: Burma’s Gem Stone Tycoon - Wai Moe
      Irrawaddy: Wed 31 Oct 2007 

      Burma’s gem stone industry, one of the largest in the world, is now dominated by Nay Win Tun, who controls Burma’s largest gem trading business.
      The CEO of Ruby Dragon Jade & Gems Co Ltd is a young businessman in his early 40s. He is believed to be among the Top 10 richest persons in Burma.

      His company donated a massive slab of jade, weighing more than 3,000 tons, to the ruling junta in the early 2,000s.  The high quality jade was more than 70-feet long by 20-feet high by 16-feet wide.

      Nay Win Tun is the right hand man of Aung Kham Hti, the leader of the Pa-O ethnic ceasefire group, and is also an executive of the Pa-O National Peace Group and Jade Dragon (Gems) Co Ltd, the parent company of Ruby Dragon Jade & Gems Co Ltd.

      He manages ruby and jade mines located in Pha Kant and Tawmaw in Kachin State; Khamti in Sagaing Division; Mogok in Mandalay Division; and Mongshu in Shan State.

      The family members of high ranking Burmese army generals are believed to be shareholders of Ruby Dragon Jade & Gems Co Ltd, according to business sources.

      Nay Win Tun also owns businesses in neighboring countries such as Thailand, Singapore and China.
      He operates luxury hotels in several of Burma’s beach resorts and in Pha Kant, a popular town for jade trading in Kachin State.

      The New Light of Myanmar, the state-run newspaper, reported on March 9, 2007, that Lt-Gen Myint Swe of the Ministry of Defence attended the opening ceremony of the Royal Ruby Jade Hotel Resort and Spa in Rangoon, owned by Nay Win Tun.

      Nay Win Tun owns homes on fashionable Than Lwin Street (Windermere) and in Golden Valley in Rangoon. His business office is on Pyay Road in Rangoon.

      Rangoon is also the site of a large gem factory and a large commercial gem complex owned by Ruby Dragon & Gems Co Ltd.



      Burma Campaign UK welcomes DFID’s decision to double aid to Burma
      Burma Campaign UK: Thu 1 Nov 2007 

      The Burma Campaign UK welcomes the announcement by The Secretary of State for International Development, Douglas Alexander MP, to double British aid to Burma from £8.8 million this year to £18 million by 2010. Douglas Alexander made the announcement during the first debate on Burma in the House of Commons on Monday.

      The Burma Campaign had condemned DFID’s failure to take action on any of the key recommendations made by the International Development Committee and has been calling on DFID to implement the recommendations of the Committee.

      “We are delighted that DFID is finally listening and recognizes the urgent need for more aid to Burma,” said Zoya Phan, Campaigns Officer at the Burma Campaign UK. “However, this is just a first step. DFID now needs to implement all of the recommendations made by the International Development Committee, including funding for cross border aid, which is the only way to reach some of the most vulnerable people in Burma, and projects supporting human rights and democracy in Burma.”

      The International Development Committee, a cross-party committee of MPs which scrutinizes the work of DFID, has called for key changes in DFID’s aid policy, including:

      • A quadrupling of aid to Burma by 2013, taking aid from £8.8m to £35.3m a year.

      • Providing cross-border aid in addition to in-country aid, to ensure aid reaches internally displaced people who cannot be reached through in-country mechanisms because of restrictions imposed by the regime.

      • Funding projects promoting human rights and democracy, including exile based Burmese women’s groups and the trade union movement.

      • Setting up alternative mechanisms to provide funding for HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB in parts of the country that the 3D fund can’t reach because of restrictions by the regime.


      China key to reform in Myanmar: French FM - Rene Slama
      Agence France Presse: Wed 31 Oct 2007 

      China is pivotal to strengthening UN efforts to bring about reform in Myanmar and must push the military junta to talk with the democratic opposition, France’s foreign minister told AFP.

      In an interview before leaving here for China, where he was to meet Premier Wen Jiabao, Bernard Kouchner urged Beijing to use its influence to create real dialogue between the regime and detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

      He said the international community must support UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari, who has been tasked with dealing with Myanmar, to ensure there is a sustained contact with the reclusive regime.

      “A national dialogue must be established,” Kouchner insisted, adding it was “illusory” to imagine there could be an immediate regime change.

      Kouchner, sitting in the teak panelled offices of the French ambassador in downtown Bangkok, said he would push China to press for more talks after Aung San Suu Kyi met briefly last week with a junta official.

      At first tense, Kouchner — co-founder of medical aid group Medicins Sans Frontieres and a former UN administrator of Kosovo — relaxed in the interview as he talked about what he would be doing in Beijing, the last leg of a short Asian tour to rally support for UN efforts to bring reform.

      China, a major supplier of weapons to Myanmar, has been criticised for not taking tougher action after the generals’ bloody crackdown on September’s mass protests, the biggest challenge to the regime in 20 years.

      At least 13 people were killed and thousands were detained, including many Buddhist monks who led the protests.

      Beijing backed a UN Security Council statement that “strongly deplored” the junta’s use of force, although it successfully pushed for a tougher version of the text to be watered down.

      It was largely due to China’s influence that Gambari was able to travel to Myanmar at the end of last month to meet with the generals, Kouchner said.

      The UN mission “is already a small miracle, which must continue,” he said.

      “We have to give some sense of permanence to this mission. I say this with caution, and it will be possible only with the support of the ASEAN countries and also, of course, China and India.”

      Genuine talks, he added, are “within our reach. A national dialogue must be imposed and our ASEAN friends… are going to propose that to Myanmar’s envoy. We must support them in their determination.”

      Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a regional grouping which includes Myanmar, meet November 20 for a summit in Singapore.

      ASEAN is under pressure to take a harder line against its most troublesome member and has said it supports Gambari’s efforts.

      China has pledged to assist Gambari in his mediation, but must now help “to expand and give him some new possibilities,” Kouchner said.

      The French minister said that if Gambari visited Myanmar in early November as planned, “we already have a concrete result. But it is necessary that this mission continue.”

      The UN envoy will be followed into Myanmar by Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the UN special rapporteur on human rights.



      India’s Burma problem - Nava Thakuria
      Asia Sentinel: Thu 1 Nov 2007 

      The carnage in Burma after the junta cracked down on widespread protests in September and October appears to be stirring unrest in India’s own remote northeastern states.

      Surrounded by Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Burma and Bangladesh, the region is only tenuously connected to India itself and has long been beset by numerous insurgencies.

      Bangladesh juts up to the north from the Indian Ocean, nearly severing the region’s eight states from India itself.  Scores of rebel groups in the area have been fighting the government virtually since India’s independence from Great Britain.

      Despite the fact that New Delhi has created a separate ministry for the region and begun building a wide range of infrastructure projects, public resentment against the central government remains high. Indigenous activists complain that the government is only interested in exploiting the region’s oil, coal, tea and timber resources while remaining deaf to their needs. Armed groups also use the jungles of northern Burma as their hideouts and training camps.

      The northeast has a volatile stew of militant organizations, most of them ethnically based and some so small that even the locals don’t know who they are. According to some counts, there are as many as 35 such groups in Manipur, with another 34 in Assam, many of them Islamist. Only the states of Arunchal Pradesh and Mizoram are relatively free of rebel groups, perhaps because of Indian infrastructure development efforts in the latter.

      The sudden uprising in Burma has changed the scenario. While New Delhi has maintained a studied silence on the junta’s crackdown, public meetings and rallies in the northeast have condemned Burma’s military rulers and offered support to pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy, which overwhelmingly won 1991 parliamentary elections whose results were thrown out by the generals.

      In recent weeks the northeast has seen a growing number of pro-democracy rallies and conferences, prayer meetings, candlelight vigils and other events that have drawn tens of thousands of people.  Nearly 20,000 assembled at Mawphlang, near the Meghalaya capital of Shillong, for instance, urging New Delhi to intervene in the Burmese crisis. Robert Kharshing, a Member of Parliament elected from Meghalaya and one of the organizers of the public meeting said, “We want the government to withdraw its present policy on Burma and extend support to the democratic movement led by Suu Kyi.”

      Officials are unsure how much the anti-Burma sentiment is being transferred into anti-New Delhi sentiment, but the possibility is growing. Some 40,000 Chin refugees from Burma have settled in the tiny state of Mizoram since the 1988 democracy uprising was crushed.  Although the Chin have not been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, they lead a relatively comfortable existence in Mizoram, since the Chin and India’s Mizo peoples share similar linguistic and religious traditions.

      New Delhi has responded to the restive region with ambitious efforts to build infrastructure. The famed Stillwell Road, which passed through some of the toughest terrain in the world during World War II as a vital link between Burma and India, is being rescued from ruin and will be reopened and repaved. In 2001, then-Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh inaugurated the construction of a road connecting the Burmese towns of Kalewa and Tamu with Moreh in Manipur, one of three historic trade routes linking the northeast to Burma.

      New Delhi, even after inviting criticism for its strategic ties with Burma’s military rulers, justifies its stand, emphasizing engagement rather than alienation. During a recent visit to the northeast, External Affairs Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee, reiterated that New Delhi had been involved “in a variety of projects with Myanmar in diverse fields,” such as roads, railways, telecommunications, IT, technology, and power.

      “As a close and friendly neighbour, India hopes to see a peaceful, stable and prosperous Myanmar [Burma], where all sections of people will be included in a broad based process of national reconciliation and political reform,” Mukherjee said, using the junta’s name for the country.

      The foreign minister’s comments invited criticism from many. “India cannot take a contradictory position on democracy in the region by advocating it for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, Bhutan and not least for Nepal – and stay silent on its other large neighbour, Burma,” Sanjoy Hazarika, an author and filmmaker, told Asia Sentinel. “We can no longer say that Burma’s turmoil is that country’s internal politics. It directly impacts our security and economic interests in the northeast, not to speak of larger national concerns.”

      Certainly India, which was supportive of the pro-democracy movement in Burma until 1993, has legitimate concerns on its eastern flank, given growing Chinese influence in Burma. Burma, with proven reserves of about 2.5 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, is being pursued feverishly by India and China, both of which are starved for energy. But an Indo-Burma gas pipeline, projected to pass through Bangladesh and which was regarded by New Delhi as an economic opportunity for the northeast, has been put on hold.

      A destabilized Burma is causing problems for the northeast on various fronts, says Hiten Mahatna, a Guwahati-based political analyst. Not only is the region bearing the brunt of Burmese refugees, its residents has been exposed to illegal drugs and arms trafficked from the country. With Burma’s proximity and high HIV/AIDS rates, Manipur has become one of the highest HIV-infected states in India, and its youth are falling prey to drugs illegally supplied from Burma’s Golden Triangle, says Mahatna.

      “New Delhi cannot overlook these troubles. In fact, it is in the northeast’s interest to have a stable regime in Burma. Being the largest democracy in the globe, we obviously want a democratic government there,” Mahatna said.

      http://www.asiasentinel.com/index.php  


      Monks warned against protesting
      Democratic Voice of Burma: Thu 1 Nov 2007 

      Following yesterday’s peaceful demonstration in Pakokku, local authorities have urged monks not to go ahead with any further protests, according to a local monk.

      Township authorities summoned the monastery administrators from about five high-profile monasteries and told them to urge the monks not to not to continue with their protests, according to an unnamed monk.

      The monks themselves were not invited to attend the meeting.

      “The meeting lasted about an hour and the township authorities told the monastery administrators to tell us not to continue with the protests,” said the monk.

      The local authorities did not say if any action would be taken against the monks if they continued to demonstrate.

      Around 200 monks from several monasteries in Pakokku joined the demonstration yesterday, which they said was a continuation of the protests held in August and September.

      Security forces did not intervene in yesterday’s demonstration, and those involved have not so far faced any repercussions from the authorities.

      One monk who took part in the march told DVB yesterday that there would be more and larger protests in the future, as their demands for lower commodity prices, national reconciliation and the release of political prisoners had still not been met.

      “We did not have much time to organise the protest as we did not actually plan for it, so there weren’t a lot of monks. But there will be bigger and more organised protests soon,” the monk said.


       
      New sanctions missing the target, say critics - William Boot
      Irrawaddy: Thu 1 Nov 2007 

      New sanctions supposedly aimed at hurting the military regime and its business associates in Burma will achieve little, warn some international Burma watchers and analysts.

      One regime expert described the latest sanctions by several Western governments as little more than “theater.”

      For instance, a list of financial restrictions recently imposed by the Australian government looks good at a glance, but on closer inspection is merely cosmetic.
      The restrictions do not affect the one area where Naypyidaw earns the most money— gas and oil concessions and sales.

      Although Australia says it has imposed financial curbs on more than 400 members of the Burmese military leadership or business affiliates, Australians and Australian companies engaged in oil and gas exploration on the regime’s behalf are not affected.

      Burma Campaign UK names the Australia-based Danford Equities Corporation among five companies, mostly in tourism, on its “dirty list” for doing business in Burma.

      Danford signed up last November for a joint venture with the junta-controlled Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise in the Yetagun offshore gas reserve in the Andaman Sea.

      Major US oil company Chevron also continues to operate in Burma unaffected by Washington’s latest sanctions. And France’s Total petroleum company seems untouched by European Union sanctions.

      A Burma specialist at Georgetown University in the US, David Steinberg, told a seminar in Singapore that sanctions by several countries in the wake of the junta crackdown in street protesters would be inconsequential to a regime which has specialized in being isolationist.

      Steinberg, a visiting professor at Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies was quoted in the city-state’s media saying, “This is theater, not policy.”

      He had criticized Western sanctions before as “emotionally satisfying” but ineffective. He advocates engagement with the junta rather than isolation to try to bring the generals to the negotiating table.

      Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo meanwhile re-enforced the no-sanctions view of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Burma is a member. He told a French government delegation touring East Asia that isolating the junta would solve nothing and possibly lead to greater repression.

      Critics of Asean however have said it would be folly to allow Burma to take part in the organization’s historic charter signing in Singapore in November, which is aimed at closer economic ties among the ten member countries—and introduces a human rights advocacy agency.

      The Alternative Asean Network on Burma, a Bangkok-based NGO of academics and activists campaigning for greater social justice in Asean, has produced a five-point argument in favor of Burma’s neighbors using their economic muscle to bring about change in the impoverished country.

      “Asean countries must exercise their substantial influence on Burma’s military leaders to secure the delivery of genuine political and economic reforms, instead of using China as an excuse for inaction,” a Network statement suggests.

      The NGO points out that Burma:
      • relies on petrol and diesel from Malaysia and Singapore to keep businesses running and military vehicles on the road;
      • relies on trade with Asean for 51 percent of foreign exchange revenue, with gas sales to Thailand alone accounting for 48 percent in 2005/06;
      • relies on Thailand and Singapore as their biggest sources of new Foreign Direct Investment, constituting a total of 98 percent of FDI in the past two years;
      • relies on Singapore’s financial services to store and move the wealth that they drain away from Burma.

      Among other things, the AANB urges “a temporary freeze on large Burmese-held bank accounts and other financial assets in Singapore as part of a money-laundering review.”

      The military regime in Burma has been showing signs of panic about its dependency on banking in Singapore for most of its foreign business transactions. Junta leaders have reportedly been reviewing Burma’s banking arrangements with the friendly city-state in the wake of international condemnation and calls for action following the recent violent army crackdown in Rangoon and other cities.

      But some analysts say the angst seems misplaced given the Singaporean government’s opposition to sanctions against Burma.



      Myanmar’s generals hit where it hurts - Bertil Lintner
      Asia Times: Thu 1 Nov 2007 

      For Htet Tay Za, a 19-year-old member of Myanmar’s elite who attends an exclusive and expensive international school in Singapore, life is often a party. A picture recently obtained by the Chiang Mai-based publication The Irrawaddy shows the young man being kissed on the cheek by a bikini clad Caucasian woman.

      In another portrait, the partying youngster is seen in festive mood beside a male friend puffing on a water pipe. But the party may be over soon for Htet Tay Za, as his father who pays the bills for his lavish lifestyle, Tay Za, figures prominently in an October 19 executive order from the US Treasury Department that aims to block his assets and make it illegal for US citizens to have any business dealings with him and his private companies.

      Earlier US sanctions, first imposed in 1997 and increased following an attack on pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her followers in May 2003, were often criticized because they broadly banned all new investment into and imports from Myanmar. The latter measures forced textile factories to close down or to move across the border to Thailand. Thousands of workers lost their jobs, while the economic impact on members of the ruling junta was minimal.

      This time, however, the US has imposed what it is referring to as “smart sanctions” that target specific individuals and companies. The punitive tactic is similar to the one the US applied in September 2005 against Banco Delta Asia in Macau, which the Treasury Department referred to in a statement at the time as “a willing pawn for the North Korean government to engage in corrupt financial activities”.

      The move froze US$24 million in assets belonging to companies controlled by the North Korean government and as a result the entire bank almost collapsed. In the end, the money was released and moved to a bank in Russia. But it forced the North Korean government back to the negotiating table to resume the then stalled six-nation talks on Pyongyang’s controversial nuclear program.

      The recent action against the Myanmar government and corporate entities still may not force the junta to embark on a serious dialogue with the country’s hobbled pro-democracy movement. Unlike previous US sanctions, however, this time they will certainly hurt the ruling generals and their business cronies more than ordinary Myanmar workers and citizens.

      Tay Za is the 42-year-old manager of the Myanmar-based Htoo Trading Company, which among other subsidiaries controls the Singapore-registered Htoo Wood Products, Pavo Trading, and Air Bagan. Through the new sanctions, all of those companies are now blacklisted by the US government. The businessman is known to be very close to junta leader General Than Shwe and when he first launched into business he made a point of employing the children of powerful generals - which presumably paved the way for him to land lucrative government contracts.

      Among those currently or formerly on his payroll are Aung Thet Mann, the son of General Shwe Mann, the junta’s third ranking official after Than Shwe and army chief General Maung Aye. According to a 2005 report in The Irrawaddy, Tay Za is also close to Than Shwe’s son, Kyaing San Shwe, whom Tay Za presented with a US-made Hummer, for undisclosed reasons.

      Htoo Trading, which is engaged in timber exports, property development, palm oil production, arms deals and aviation, was one of two construction companies granted lucrative contracts to build the new national capital at Naypyidaw, to which the government moved from Yangon in November 2005. Also included on the new US sanctions list is Tay Za’s wife, Thidar Zaw, and another son, Pye Phyo Za, who spends most of his time in a luxury apartment in Singapore.

      Junta who’s who
      The US Treasury Department’s two new lists, one of which mentions by name 14 generals and government ministers, and the second an additional 11, are all now barred from entering the US and will have any assets they may hold in US financial institutions frozen. Those measures may be mainly symbolic, as few if any of the military officials have assets held in US banks or were likely planning to spend their next holiday in Hawaii or Florida.

      But there are other important businessmen affiliated with the junta who could be adversely affected. The US sanction list notably includes Khin Shwe, president of Zaygabar and one of Myanmar’s leading real estate moguls, and Htay Myint, chief executive officer of the Yuzana Company, a large property developer.

      Khin Shwe first attracted international attention in 1997 when he hired a US public relations firm, Bain and Associates Inc, in what turned out to be a futile attempt to improve the junta’s image and standing in Washington. Bain and Associates now appears to have washed its hands of Myanmar’s junta. The firm’s homepage (http://www.bainpr.com/), perhaps for good reason, omits Zaygabar among its list of “clients with whom we’ve worked”.

      In Yangon, Zaygabar owns industrial parks, a golf and country club frequented by army officers, a hotel and the city’s tallest residential condominium. The fact that Khin Shwe’s daughter, Zay Zin Latt, is married to another of General Shwe Mann’s sons, Toe Naing Mann, some analysts believe may have helped him secure lucrative government contracts and concessions. Outside Myanmar, Khin Shwe is known to have business relations with companies in Japan, South Korea and Thailand. He is currently chairman of the Myanmar-Japan and Myanmar-Korean Friendship Associations and also chairs the Myanmar-Thai Development Corporation.

      Htay Myint’s Yuzana is a somewhat smaller company, but has substantial investments in property as well as agricultural and fishery ventures. According to The Irrawaddy, he serves as president of the Construction Owners Association, the Fishing Vessel Owners Association and the Myanmar Project Association, and is the owner of one of Myanmar’s biggest supermarket chains. Htay Myint’s contacts with the junta were strongest with former prime minister Gen Khin Nyunt, who was ousted in a purge in October 2004. But the fact that Yuzana is still doing booming business in Myanmar indicates that he must have other high-level contacts as well.

      Not on the US new sanctions list is Tun Myint Naing, also known as Steven Law, managing director of Asia World Company, the country’s biggest and most diversified conglomerate. Asia World was the other main contractor involved in the building of Naypyidaw.

      Whether Law and his Asia World will be added to the list remains to be seen, but according to an e-mail received by Asia Times Online from the US State Department, what has been announced so far “is not meant as the final word”. Meanwhile, Asia World maintains close relations with the junta and it recently has been involved in road construction in northeastern Shan State, the renovation of Yangon’s international airport, and the construction of a deepwater port near the old capital. Law is also known to have had business interests in Singapore, including the recently dissolved Kokang Singapore Pte Ltd, and others through his wife, Cecilia Ng, who is a Singaporean citizen.

      The effects of the new sanctions were felt within days of their announcement. Tay Za’s Air Bagan has cancelled its international flights to both Bangkok and Singapore and remains basically grounded. Banks in Singapore, the financial center of choice for Myanmar’s generals and junta-affiliated business tycoons, have reportedly become slow in processing any transactions to and from Myanmar.

      The reason, some observers suggest, is that Singapore’s banks want to check whether any of their clients are on the US sanctions list - in which case they could face a similar situation to that of Macau’s Banco Delta Asia. Singapore is not legally obliged to uphold the new US sanctions, but its banks are evidently nervous about the adverse publicity the punitive measures could have on their global reputations. Air Bagan’s bank accounts in Singapore have already reportedly been blocked, though it’s unclear if this is a permanent or temporary intervention.

      What is clear is that it will be much more difficult for Myanmar’s generals and their business associates to deposit both their legitimate and ill-gotten gains in Singaporean banks. Myanmar workers based abroad, many of whom send remittances to their relatives back home, will notably be less affected by the new measures as they tend to use informal underground banking systems such as “hawala” to avoid unfavorable exchange rates and excessive government taxes.

      The new sanctions also likely mean less partying in Singapore for the generals, their cronies and siblings. And because most international bank transfers pass through either the US or Europe, whatever funds the junta already has parked in Singapore will likely need to stay there or risk being frozen or confiscated. The medium-term efficacy of the US’s smarter sanctions is more difficult to ascertain, as the junta will likely seek out new destinations for its funds. But suddenly life just got considerably harder for Myanmar’s ruling generals.

      * Bertil Lintner is a former correspondent with the Far Eastern Economic Review. He is currently a writer with Asia-Pacific Media Services.


       
      Rangoon man arrested for talking to foreign media - Wai Moe
      Irrawaddy: Thu 1 Nov 2007 

      A Rangoon resident has been arrested for talking to foreign news media, according to a family member.

      A family member told The Irrawaddy on Friday that authorities came to the home of Tin Yu in Hlaing Tharyar Township in Rangoon on Wednesday evening and took him away for interrogation.

      “They (authorities) told us that he was arrested because he talked to foreign media. But they did not say which specific news media,” said a relative. “They also did not tell us where they took him.”

      A spokesperson of the main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, Nyan Win, who is also a lawyer, said that talking to the media is not illegal in Burma. However, there is also no real rule of law in Burma so people sometimes are sentenced to prison for talking to the media.

      “The media gives information to people,” said Nyan Win. “Giving information to media means you are contributing to the good of society. If he was arrested for talking to the media, it is a big mistake.”

      However, in Burma there are frequent reports of people arrested and sentenced to prison for giving information to foreign media and even for listening to foreign language news media, such as the BBC, VOA and Radio Free Asia.

      In 1989, a lawyer, Nay Min, was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment for giving information to the BBC  Burmese Service.

      In the early 1990s, Ba Myint and others from Sanchaung Township were arrested and sentenced to five years in prison for listening to foreign language broadcasts and for passing the information on to friends at a teashop.

      In 1996, a 70-year-old villager in Taungtha Township in central Burma was sentenced to three years imprisonment for listening to the BBC Burmese Service.

      According to a Burmese journalist familiar with the Ministry for Information, the authorities frequently warn citizens not to talk to foreign news media. He said people can be sentenced up to 40 years imprisonment.

      Burmese state-run newspapers run stories almost daily that attack the foreign media, especially the BBC, VOA, and RFA. One newspaper called such radio stations “the murders on air.”


       
      UN Envoy's Visit - Facelift for Junta?
      By Marwaan Macan-Markar
      BANGKOK, Oct 24 (IPS) - While they welcome the return of a U.N. human rights envoy to Burma, political exiles from the country are asking pointed questions such as who stands to gain most from the high-profile visit.

      The concerns of groups like the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a network of former Burmese political prisoners who have fled the country, are with reason. After all, nearly a month after the Burmese junta mounted a brutal crackdown on unarmed Buddhist monks and civilians protesting on the streets of Rangoon and elsewhere, the South-east Asian nation still remains gripped by fear.

      ‘’For whose benefit is this visit? Is it to help the people of Burma who have been victims of the military regimes crackdown or to help restore the regime’s image?’’ asks Bo Kyi, a former political prisoner and a senior member of AAPP, which is based in Mae Sot, a town near the Thai-Burma border. ‘’I am worried that this visit will help to ease the international pressure on the regime and nothing more.’’

      Others who represent the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB), the democratically elected government forced into exile since 1990, have similar reasons to be sceptical. ‘’We don’t want this to be another attempt by the junta to buy more time for its own political agenda. The military regime always offers such gestures when under tremendous international pressure,’’ says Zin Linn, information director of the NCGUB.

      Such comments made to IPS follow the junta’s decision Monday to lift a four-year ban on Paolo Sergio Pinheiro, a Brazilian diplomat, enabling him to return to Burma in the coming weeks. The U.N. human rights envoy was last in the country in November 2003, a visit that gained notoriety after Pinheiro discovered that a room he was talking to political prisoners had been bugged.

      The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), as the junta is formally known, has come under a wave of international criticism for the harsh measures used to stifle street protests that first began over the sudden spike in fuel prices and then mushroomed into an anti-government demonstration. In late September, the generals conceded some ground by permitting a special U.N. envoy for Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, to visit the country on a political mission.

      But such a concession did not stop the junta, which has renamed the country Mynamar, from going after dissidents, Buddhist monks and any suspected opposition sympathiser with force. Sources in Rangoon say that the regime’s recent lifting of a curfew at night has given little comfort, since families fear a knock on the door after dark followed by arrests.

      And even an announcement by the SPDC in early October that it has appointed a deputy minister to serve as an intermediary between the leader of the junta and the head of the pro-democracy opposition has not been translated into action. Aung Sang Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy leader who has spent 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest, continues to remain isolated from any move towards reconciliation. And so, too, members of her political party, the National League for Democracy.

      By the weekend, the junta admitted that it had detained nearly 3,000 people since the late-September crackdown and warned that it was going to target more people suspected of being involved in the anti-government demonstrations. The street protests that began in mid-August were a rare sign of public outrage that had not been seen in nearly two decades.

      Pinheiro's visit is being viewed as a litmus test of how open the junta is towards engagement with the international community. ‘’His visit should not be limited to a diplomatic exercise of only meeting officials, but he should be permitted to conduct an investigation on all human rights violations that took place,’’ Debbie Stothard of ALTSEAN, a regional human rights body, told IPS. ‘’We would like Mr. Pinheiro to speak to the monks and other victims who were detained to find out what happened to them.’’

      As relevant, says Bo Kyi, is for the U.N. to secure a guarantee from the SPDC that witnesses and victims who speak to Pinheiro will not be arrested after he leaves Burma. ‘’There is a serious problem over whether he will be able to conduct his inquiries in a free and open manner. And for that he needs to be assured that people who talk to him will not be abused by the regime and detained.’’

      The AAPP, in fact, has documented cases of how the SPDC targeted political prisoners and activists who had revealed details to Pinheiro during his previous visits. ‘’The SPDC had people following Pinheiro wherever he went and they would threaten people to only say good things if interviewed by Pinheiro,’’ adds Bo Kyi. ‘’People in Burma know this and they will be afraid to talk to him this time.’’

      Such impediments, however, have not stopped Pinheiro from painting a grim picture of human rights violations in Burma when presenting his regular reports to the U.N. General Assembly and the U.N. Human Rights Council. In the past, he has shed light on the plight of the 1,100 political prisoners in the country, the use of forced labour, the harsh restrictions on political and civil liberties and the large scale abuse directed at the country’s ethnic minorities.

      That Pinheiro’s impending visit will exceed all his previous visits in terms of political pressure and high expectation stems form another disturbing feature. Since the brutal suppression of the peaceful protests, no clear record has emerged of the number of people who were killed. While the junta sticks to a death toll of 10, anti-government groups say that some 200 people were killed.

      ‘’There is much that we will look for before saying that some progress has been made and this visit is some kind of a success,’’ says Zin Linn, of the NCGUB. ‘’Mr. Pinheiro should know that there is currently a reign of terror inside Burma.’’

       
      Suu Kyi talks with junta no breakthrough: analysts - Seth Meixner
      Agence France Presse: Fri 26 Oct 2007 

      The Myanmar junta’s talks with detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi were no more than a bid to deflect criticism of its bloody crackdown on protesters before top UN envoys visit, analysts say.

      The Nobel peace prize winner on Thursday was briefly allowed out of her home, where she has spent 12 of the past 18 years under house arrest, to meet with Labour Minister Aung Kyi, who was named to build ties with the opposition.

      Although no details of the hour-long talk have been released, images of the meeting were broadcast on state television, a rarity in a country where Aung San Suu Kyi has spent years out of the public eye.

      “It was significant in a sense that at least the military and Aung San Suu Kyi held talks,” Chaichoke Chulsiriwong, an expert on Myanmar at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, told AFP on Friday.

      “But we have to remain cautious,” he added.

      The junta rarely has direct dealings with Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy party won 1990 elections but was never allowed to govern.

      In appointing Aung Kyi, viewed as a moderate in the junta, the ruling generals seemed to indicate the military was prepared for at least a minimal level of contact.

      “But we can never trust this military government. … The ruling generals will do everything to ease international pressure, which is very strong after the crackdown,” Chaichoke said.

      At least 13 people were killed and more than 2,100 people locked up by security forces that suppressed the September protests — the biggest challenge to military rule in nearly two decades — with bullets, baton charges and tear gas.

      The junta has been widely condemned for its actions, and needs to be seen as taking steps ahead of next week’s expected visit by UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari, said Thailand-based Myanmar analyst Aung Naing Oo.

      “It was very clear — the junta had no choice but to hold talks with Aung San Suu Kyi,” he said.

      “The government felt it had to do something positive in order to defuse international pressure.”

      Gambari, who is making his second trip to Myanmar since the unrest began, will be followed by Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the UN special rapporteur on human rights.

      Speaking from Japan where he met top leaders on the Myanmar issue, Gambari said the Thursday meeting was “only the first step” in what he hoped would be a resumed dialogue between Aung San Suu Kyi and the junta.

      Others, though, were not so optimistic.

      “The regime has no will to make any concessions, despite pressure from the international community,” said one western diplomat with extensive experience dealing with the junta. “There is no change in their attitude.”

      The meeting, however, could have been an attempt to dictate what Aung San Suu Kyi can say to the UN envoys, whom she is likely to meet, said Debbie Stothard of Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma, a human rights group.

      The regime was “trying to set limits on what she says and does,” she said.

      Aung San Suu Kyi has staunchly refused to drop her support for international sanctions on the regime, a condition set by junta leader General Than Shwe for further talks toward national reconciliation.

      Knowing she is not likely to change her stance could give the generals an excuse to abandon future talks, said Yoshihiro Nakanishi, a Myanmar expert from Japan’s Kyoto University, where detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi studied during the 1980s.

      “If talks do not materialize, the military government can easily blame Aung San Suu Kyi,” he said.


      Ethnic leaders dismiss talk of Burma’s collapse should junta fall - Saw Yan Naing
      Irrawaddy: Fri 26 Oct 2007 

      Influential Burmese leaders contacted by The Irrawaddy have dismissed a possible “nightmare scenario” raised by some Burma experts who say that—should the junta fall—the country might collapse because of a lack of civilian leaders with experience in government.

      Some Western experts and one Burmese historian suggested the fall of the military junta could bring about ethnic insurgencies, gutted institutions, clashes among leaders with no experience in democracy and continuing aftershocks from the junta’s ruinous economic policies in one of the world’s poorest nations, The Associated Press reported this week.

      All of the ethnic leaders, veteran politicians and scholars contacted by The Irrawaddy disagreed.

      “The perspective of those experts is groundless and their viewpoints are totally in line with what the junta says,” Mahn Sha, the general-secretary of the Karen National Union, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday. “The conflict in Burma is not a fight among ethnicities. We are only fighting against the military rulers, not against the army.”

      The KNU is among the oldest rebel groups in Southeast Asia, and one of the few remaining groups which have yet to sign a ceasefire agreement with the regime.

      Professor David Steinberg of Georgetown University said in the AP report that given the deep-seated hatreds and continued warfare between the government and some ethnic insurgents like the Karen, Karenni and Shan, a fragmentation is possible should the Burmese military abruptly disintegrate.

      Mahn Sha disagreed, saying all people in Burma have a common ground.

      “Everyone—even children— knows that a country needs a military,” Mahn Sha said.

      The secretary of the Arakan League for Democracy, Aye Thar Aung, who lives in Rangoon, discounted the likelihood of ethnic insurgent groups breaking away to form independent states, saying, “None of ethnic groups will restart the insurgencies and rebellions, if they gain the rights they fight for.”

      All opposition and ethnic groups, including the main opposition National League for Democracy, have consistently called for dialogue between the military regime and opposition and ethnic leaders to solve the country’s decades-old political deadlock.

      A spokesman for the main ceasefire group, the Kachin Independence Organization, said talk of the country’s fragmentation is farfetched.

      Tu Ja, a vice-secretary of the KIO, said, “I don’t know what they [experts] are talking about. We all want peace, autonomy and equal rights. If we get those, I don’t see any problem among us.”

      The KIO, founded in 1961, was one among 17 ethnic armed groups which signed a ceasefire agreement with the ruling junta in 1990s.

      “Political reform and democratization is now needed in the country,” Tu Ja told The Irrawaddy by telephone. “If democratization and a genuine federal union prevail in the country, we will be very happy. We don’t need to fight against a government such as that.”


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