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[ReadingRoom] News on Burma - 12/11/07

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  • CHAN Beng Seng
    1.. Burmese standoff appears to be softening 2.. Asean and Suu Kyi develop a new rapport 3.. Aung San Suu Kyi likely to be released soon 4.. Aung San Suu Kyi
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 12, 2007
      1. Burmese standoff appears to be softening
      2. Asean and Suu Kyi develop a new rapport
      3. Aung San Suu Kyi likely to be released soon
      4. Aung San Suu Kyi meets her colleagues
      5. Decoding Aung San Suu Kyi;s statement
      6. Small-scale protest in Rangoon
      7. Burmese intelligence chief meets ceasefire groups
      8. More action needed over Myanmar: MPs tell ASEAN
      9. US seeks global pressure after Myanmar junta rebuffs reforms
      10. How Burma’s generals think
      11. How to save Burma’s future generations?
      12. The generals’ mythical compromise
      13. Weekly business roundup
       

      Burmese standoff appears to be softening

      Far-reaching or superficial, there seems to be an easing of tension between the junta and Aung San Suu Kyi

      By THOMAS FULLER

      In a surprising break from years of deadlock in Burma, the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi said she was ready to ''cooperate'' with the government, and the ruling junta said on state television that she would be allowed to meet with the leadership of her political party _ something that has not happened in at least three years. ''In the interest of the nation, I stand ready to cooperate with the government in order to make this process of dialogue a success,'' Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said in a statement read in Singapore by the UN special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari. He had just concluded a six-day mission to the country.

      The junta also said that its liaison, Aung Kyi, would meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The moves appeared to represent a small but possibly significant step toward reconciliation between the sides, which have been at loggerheads since 1990, when Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's party overwhelmingly won in elections.

      The junta ignored the results and placed her under house arrest, where she has spent 12 of the last 18 years.

      Some analysts said the violent suppression of demonstrations in September, especially the crackdown on peacefully protesting monks, had weakened the government's standing and might have created an opening for a gradual return to democracy.

      ''This could be the beginning of an orderly change process,'' said Zarni, a visiting research fellow at Oxford University. ''In terms of real substantive change there is no other way than evolutionary.''

      Mr Zarni, who goes by one name, says he has noticed signs of a change in the ruling generals' attitude toward Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

      For years, he said, the state-controlled media called her Daw Suu Kyi, omitting the part of her name that refers to her father, Aung San, the revolutionary hero revered by the Burmese army as its founder. Now they use her full name.

      Far-reaching or superficial, the seeming easing of tension between the junta and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi seems to be at least partly engineered by Mr Gambari, who issued his own statement on Thursday saying he had established a ''process'' that would ''lead to substantive dialogue'' between her and the generals.

      The progress came at the end of a trip that showed few signs of success. Mr Gambari bowed to the junta's demands that Charles Petrie, the highest-ranking UN official in Burma, leave the country.

      Mr Petrie, who said he would leave by the end of the month, angered the ruling generals in October by saying that Burma's humanitarian situation was deteriorating.

      And the military leadership appeared to snub Mr Gambari.

      He was denied a meeting with the country's top man, Senior General Than Shwe, and his initiatives were rejected, including the suggestion that he directly broker talks between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and representatives of the junta.

      Mr Gambari was lectured by the country's information minister, Brig-Gen Kyaw Hsan, and the minutes of their meetings were published in The New Light of Myanmar, the government mouthpiece.

      Brig-Gen Kyaw Hsan accused Mr Gambari of being biased in favour of Western powers, suggested he was ignorant of Burma's history, declared his previous visit did not bear fruit and warned, ''It would be a very serious mistake if Burma's affair is viewed superficially.''

      He demanded that Mr Gambari ''play a leading role in organising and persuading others to relieve and lift sanctions'' on Burma.

      The attacks on the United Nations' mediation efforts, which took up over two pages of the Wednesday edition of The New Light of Myanmar, led some analysts to question whether the government was serious about moving toward democracy.

      Aung Din, a former Burmese student activist who is policy director of the United States Campaign for Burma, a Washington-based lobbying group, said he believed that the ruling generals were sensing a rift between the United States, which is pressing for a harder stance against them, and some European countries that are currently debating whether the government should be offered enticements like financial assistance for reform.

      ''They know to play a game to divide the international community,'' Mr Aung Din said.

      Mr Gambari is returning to New York to report to the Security Council and says he plans to return to Burma several weeks from now.

      David Steinberg, director of Asian Studies at Georgetown University, says future missions may have more urgency because the government lost legitimacy in the eyes of many people in the overwhelmingly Buddhist country when it reacted violently to the peaceful protests by monks.

      ''They can't go back to where they were before _ this is a watershed crisis, a different kind,'' Mr Steinberg said.

      ''The frustrations in the populace are cumulative. The next crisis is going to be more bloody, more difficult.

      ''Unless there are changes within that government, you're going to have real trouble,'' Mr Steinberg concluded. AP

      http://www.bangkokpost.com/News/10Nov2007_news19.php


      Asean and Suu Kyi develop a new rapport
      Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's reaction last week to the situation in Burma was constructive as he implicitly indicated that Asean has finally accepted National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
      The Nation:  November 12, 2007

      In a carefully worded statement issued after meeting with UN special envoy for Burma Ibrahim Gambari on Friday, Lee noted Suu Kyi has expressed readiness to cooperate with the Burmese government to open dialogue on national reconciliation and said he believed the UN's help is needed to facilitate this effort. It was the first time Asean has acknowledged Suu Kyi and her political role. The grouping has called for her release since 2003 following international pressure, but it has never been this enthusiastic.

      Earlier, Suu Kyi released a statement through Gambari in Singapore that mentioned Asean's role. She wrote: "I believe that stability, prosperity and democracy for my country, living at peace with itself and with full respect for human rights, offers the best prospect for my country to fully contribute to the development and stability of the region in close partnership with its neighbours and fellow Asean members, and to play a positive role as a respected member of the international community." As such, she also accepts Asean as an indispensable player.

      A total of 12 years have elapsed since two failed attempts to link up Asean and Suu Kyi. She was released in July 1995 after six years under house arrest ahead of the Asean ministerial meeting in Brunei Darussalam. A few days later she wrote a letter to Asean foreign ministers urging them not to recognise the regime in Rangoon.

      Her letter was sent directly to ministers, but there was no response. Truth be told, there was no precedent in Asean of a dissident leader's direct correspondence with Asean leaders being answered. Asean's strict protocol would just not permit that kind of intervention. Indeed, it was Suu Kyi's first known attempt to develop a rapport with Asean leaders. But they rejected her.

      Another attempt was made for her to meet Rangoon-based Asean diplomats in one of their residences ahead of the meeting in Brunei. Burma, which was about to accede to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, protested and as a result the meeting was immediately called off.

      In the more than a decade since then, Asean has become extremely tolerant and has believed naively that Burma, admitted in 1997, would yield to peer pressure as well as contribute to the grouping's solidarity and common objective in pursuing dialogue and national reconciliation. This has been wishful thinking on the part of Asean.

      Apart from Suu Kyi's new-found pragmatism, the Burmese regime has also come forward to re-establish dialogue with the UN. Despite the mixed signals following comments made by Charles Petrie, the head of the United Nations Development Programme in Burma, the UN in its "good office role" remains the key facilitator in ending the deadlock.

      Why did the junta leaders not reject the UN's role this time round? There are many reasons, but three stand out. First, international pressure has not yet evaporated, as the junta and many analysts would have wished. If planned sanctions spread to include the banking sector, they would further damage the Burmese economy, and its trading partners, especially those in Asean, would suffer.

      Second, the junta's leaders known who their friends on the UN Security Council are, so it is better for them to deal at that level. In the worst-case scenario China and Russia would come to the rescue. After all, they have made it clear that they will not back any measure that Burma does not support.

      At the end of last month, the Rangoon regime reacted angrily to a Thai proposal calling for peace talks modelled after the successful six-party talks with North Korea. In his second letter to General Than Shwe, Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont suggested that Burma hold talks with representatives from China, India, the UN and Asean to search for a solution after the violent crackdown against monks and civilians.

      The idea was first hatched during a meeting between Surayud and Gambari during the latter's trip here. Surayud was careful to exclude the big players such as the US, Russia and the EU from his plan at this juncture. They could join in the second stage if the situation allowed. Even with such a friendly approach, the regime was upset. The Thai envoy in Rangoon was summoned for a lecture on the Burmese way of thinking.

      Finally, through the UN, Asean can be actively engaged with Burma and the credibility of the country as a member of Asean can be rehabilitated at the same time. Burma has obviously been studying the Cambodian situation back in the 1990s when the UN was a major player there. Successful UN operations in the past have always included the presence of international monitoring units and others. A peaceful transition of power in Burma, which the junta still resists, would involve the presence of an international supervisory board with numerous subcommittees to handle complicated issues related to national reconciliation, power sharing and the reconstruction process. Junta leaders want to be informed and engaged in the process at every level.

      It remains to be seen how all players will engage with one another from now on. The litmus test is whether the junta really wants dialogue. The Burmese junta's brutality has been a blessing in disguise for Asean in more ways than one. True to its survival instincts, Asean is now determined to make the best out of the worst situation. Fittingly, this comes on the eve of its 40th anniversary.

      * Kavi Chongkittavorn


      Aung San Suu Kyi likely to be released soon
      Mizzima News: Sat 10 Nov 2007 

      In a sign of progress, Burma’s democracy icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for 12 of the past 18 years, will be released soon, a party spokesperson said on Saturday.

      Myint Thein, spokesperson for the National League for Democracy (NLD), told Mizzima today that the detained party leader will soon be release and conditions to kick-start a dialogue process are taking shape.

      “Currently the situation is good. She [Daw Aung San Suu Kyi] is in good health. She is not yet released but will be released soon,” said Myint Thein.

      Citing the possibility of the government tapping his telephone, Myint Thein said, “As you know the condition of my phone, please understand that I cannot say anything too loud at the moment. But situations are good.”

      The comment from the NLD spokesperson came a day after four NLD party leaders met with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in a landmark meeting at a government guest house on Friday.

      During the meeting Suu Kyi told party leaders that she has agreed to cooperate with the ruling junta to explore a possible dialogue process in consideration of ethnic nationalities, according to another party spokesperson, U Lwin, who was among the four leaders who met the Nobel Peace Laureate.


      Aung San Suu Kyi meets her colleagues - Saw Yan Naing
      Irrawaddy: Fri 9 Nov 2007 

      Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi spent two and a half hours with four NLD leaders at a government guest house in Rangoon on Friday afternoon, according to a party spokesperson. It was first time she has been allowed to meet with any of her colleagues in three years.

      A Burmese pro-democracy activist holds a picture of Aung San Suu Kyi during a protest in New Delhi October 19. Suu Kyi met leaders of her party on Friday for the first time in more than three years amid cautious hope she and the junta may start talks on political reform.

      The four NLD leaders were named as: Chairman Aung Shwe, Secretary U Lwin, Nyunt Wai and spokesperson Nyan Win. They held talks from 12:30 p.m. to about 3:00 p.m., said spokesperson Han Thar Myint.

      Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Friday, Han Thar Myint said, “They [the NLD leaders] talked freely at the meeting. They discussed the conditions for talks between Aung San Suu Kyi and junta chief Than Shwe. They also discussed ways for helping protesters who were arrested and injured during the monk-led demonstrations in September.”

      Han Thar Myint said that the pro-democracy leader earlier met with Aung Kyi, the recently appointed Minister for Relations, in the government guest house before the leaders of the NLD arrived. Suu Kyi and Aung Kyi resumed talks after the NLD party leaders left the government guest house.

      Han Thar Myint said that he could not give more information about the meeting at the moment.

      Meanwhile, Aung San Suu Kyi is said to be “very optimistic” about the prospects of a UN-supported process for reconciliation between the military government and the pro-democracy parties, according to a report by Associated Press.

      Another NLD spokesman, Nyan Win, speaking to AP after the meeting, said that Suu Kyi believes the military authorities now have the will to achieve national reconciliation.

      Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested and put under house arrest after the “Depayin Massacre” in May, 2003, when she and her supporters were brutally attacked by military-backed thugs in Sagaing Division.

      In a statement released by UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari on her behalf, Aung San Suu Kyi said that she was ready to participate in talks with the country’s military rulers, who have kept her in detention for 12 of the past 18 years.

      Aung San Suu Kyi met Gambari for an hour on Thursday in the former capital before the envoy left for Singapore.


      Decoding Aung San Suu Kyi;s statement - Aung Zaw
      Irrawaddy: Fri 9 Nov 2007 

      Two weeks ago, I wrote a commentary suggesting a need to hear from detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Now it is welcome news that Suu Kyi has released a message through UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari.

      The Lady finally broke her silence with her first public message since she began her current term of house arrest in 2003.

      Gambari was vindicated, for until yesterday the latest UN mission to Burma teetered on the edge of failure. But Suu Kyi saved the day—and Gambari’s job—by releasing a statement through the UN envoy.

      What is important now is to carefully analyze Suu Kyi’s statement and understand how she currently stands politically.

      First, Suu Kyi carefully reinforced the UN’s position in the country by saying that she was grateful to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for what she called his unwavering support for the cause of national reconciliation, democracy and human rights in her country.

      Then she quickly tackled the really important issue. After seeing several of the regime’s “liaison officers” come and go in the past, she welcomed the appointment of retired General Aung Kyi as minister for relations, charged with liaison between her and the regime.

      “Our first meeting on 25 October was constructive and I look forward to further regular discussions,” she said. “I expect that this phase of preliminary consultations will conclude soon so that a meaningful and time-bound dialogue with the SPDC (State Peace and Development Council) leadership can start as early as possible.”

      Suu Kyi skillfully emphasized the appointment of a liaison minister as a binding process because past assignments of this kind had been seen as a shrewd regime strategy to buy time and create breathing space.

      This was a well-calculated move on her part as in her message she called for direct dialogue with top military leaders, not with Aung Kyi.

      After calling for dialogue, she demonstrated her willingness to cooperate with the regime and welcomed the good offices of the UN to facilitate the dialogue process.

      “In the interest of the nation, I stand ready to cooperate with the government in order to make this process of dialogue a success and welcome the necessary good offices role of the United Nations to help facilitate our efforts in this regard,” Suu Kyi said.

      More interestingly, she highlighted the role of her opposition party, the National League for Democracy, the 1990 landslide election winner.

      As general secretary of the NLD, the Nobel Peace laureate stressed that she would be guided by the policies and wishes of her party.

      In fact, this is nothing new, but this time she took a new direction and added: “However, in this time of vital need for democratic solidarity and national unity, it is my duty to give constant and serious considerations to the interests and opinions of as broad a range of political organizations and forces as possible, in particular those of our ethnic nationality races.”

      This was indeed a well thought-out message, mentioning ethnic nationalities and addressing the concerns and fears of possible national chaos and disintegration.

      Suu Kyi, who regularly listens to the radio in her Rangoon home, must have learned of the concerns expressed by some “Burma experts” and regional governments about a possible Iraq or Yugoslavia scenario if sudden change occurred in Burma.

      Her message is that she is not looking for regime-change but for “democratic solidarity and national unity.”

      Suu Kyi stressed again that she is seeking the path of dialogue and not the devastation and confrontation regime leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe accuses her of. “To that end, I am committed to pursue the path of dialogue constructively and invite the government and all relevant parties to join me in this spirit.”

      Her message is timely, coming shortly before an Asean summit in Singapore. The detained democracy leader did not forget to mention the regional body and acknowledge the role of Asean.

      Suu Kyi said in her message: “I believe that stability, prosperity and democracy for my country, living at peace with itself and with full respect for human rights, offers the best prospect for my country to fully contribute to the development and stability of the region in close partnership with its neighbors and fellow Asean members, and to play a positive role as a respected member of the international community.”

      Although there have been calls for Asean to suspend Burma’s membership, Suu Kyi’s position is to work with the regional organization. This is a direct message to Asean leaders and Burma’s two giant neighbors, China and India, who still remain non-committal on the Burma issue, adopting a wait-and-see attitude.

      She made no mention of Western nations or the US, ignoring regime charges that she is a “puppet of the West.”

      Her message is short but meaningful and conciliatory, sending a signal to several key players inside and outside the country.

      Internationally, Suu Kyi wants the UN to play a key role in the Burma crisis and to continue to facilitate dialogue, but she also acknowledges the important role of Asean and the governments of the region.

      Domestically, she stressed that she would cooperate with the government in order to make the process of dialogue a success and to “give constant and serious considerations to the interests and opinions of as broad a range of political organizations and forces as possible, in particular those of our ethnic nationality races.”

      Now it remains to be seen how Asean, China and India will respond to her message. Inside the country, all key players including leading Buddhist monks, the ‘88 Generation Students group and ethnic leaders will also need to respond to what she has to say.

      And finally, the generals have a duty to get back to her soon.


      Small-scale protest in Rangoon
      Democratic Voice of Burma: Fri 9 Nov 2007 

      Students in Botahtaung township, Rangoon, staged a short-lived protest yesterday before being dispersed by government security forces, according to an eyewitness.

      Around 50 students assembled on Bo Aung Kyaw street for the demonstration.

      The protestors were holding pictures of junta leader senior general Than Shwe with women’s underwear superimposed on his head, and they shouted slogans condemning the government for its crackdown on monks.

      Bystanders clapped their hands in support of the protestors.

      The demonstration only lasted a few minutes before government security forces appeared and the protestors dispersed.

      The witness was unsure if any arrests were made because all the demonstrators and bystanders fled the scene as soon as the government forces arrived.


      Burmese intelligence chief meets ceasefire groups - Myo Gyi
      Mizzima News: Fri 9 Nov 2007 

      The Burmese military junta seems to be stepping up efforts to further tame armed ethnic groups in northern parts of the country. Major General Ye Myint, chief of the Burmese Military Affairs Security (MAS), has met with leaders of seven ethnic armed groups based along the Sino-Burmese border since October, sources said.

      The groups have agreed and abided to ceasefires with the Burmese Military for several years now. It is believed that the Burmese military’s long term goal is to convince the opposing ethnic groups of a voluntary disarmament.

      A source close to the ceasefire groups has told Mizima, that junta leader Than Shwe has appointed Major General Ye Myint as a special representative for negotiations with ethnic ceasefire groups.

      The recent meetings took place at Kyaing Tong and Lashio in Shan State and Myitkyina in Kachin state from October 24 to November 3.Ye Myint kicked off the meetings with members of United Wa State Army (UWSA) on the morning of October 24, followed by afternoon talks with an armed group based in Maila Special Region (4).

      On October 28, the junta’s representative traveled to Lashio in northern Shan state, where he held talks with members of the Shan State Army (North), the Kachin Defense Army (KDA) and special region (1) based Kokang armed groups, sources said.

      A third round of meetings was held on November 2 in the Kachin state’s capital Myitkyina, where Ye Myint met with the New Democratic Army – Kachin (NDAK) and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

      The meetings which could not be independently confirmed with the concerned ceasefire groups came after four armed groups, including the KIA, released a joint statement in mid-October.

      “The meetings are coinciding with the visit of Gambari and are held at a time when international pressure on the junta is increasing,” said Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Burmese military analyst based along the Sino-Burmese border.

      “We also heard that Ye Myint wants to dismiss Gambari, saying the UN’s interventions are a biased effort. But the ceasefire groups denied Ye Myint saying such,” Aung Kyaw Zaw added.

      While SSA (N) demanded the release of its detained General Soa Htin, Ye Myint reminded the ceasefire groups to strictly abide by the agreements between them and the junta, and to solve problems together.



       

      More action needed over Myanmar: MPs tell ASEAN
      Agence France Presse: Fri 9 Nov 2007 

      The ASEAN bloc should engage in more action and less talk to help bring about democratic change in military-ruled Myanmar, the region’s legislators and non-government groups said Friday.

      Delegates at a forum organised by the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Caucus on Democracy in Myanmar were told that the 10-nation grouping should recognise it has the economic clout to pressure Myanmar rather than just lamenting it has limited influence there.

      “ASEAN members must make some serious decisions… ASEAN can no longer be used by the military junta as cover for their economic incompetence and brutal political oppression,” Singapore legislator Charles Chong told the forum.

      “If ASEAN, after 40 years of existence, cannot muster the political will to work together and with the UN in order to resolve this urgent matter, then ASEAN is fundamentally at risk.”

      In a rare break with its policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of members, Association of Southeast Asian Nations foreign ministers previously expressed “revulsion” over the Myanmar junta’s savage crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in September.

      But Chong and other speakers said ASEAN needed to demonstrate this “revulsion” through concrete action including the possibility of imposing sanctions.

      “In the light of what is happening in Burma, ASEAN has not done anything that strong,” said Anelyn de Luna, of the anti-junta non-profit group Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma, using Myanmar’s former name.

      “Yes, they came up with the statement but after that what?” she told AFP.

      Chong recalled that ASEAN officials have always said that the grouping of nations has little economic influence over Myanmar, western sanctions have not worked and India and China should bring more effective pressure on Myanmar.

      “All these may not be completely incorrect, but this does not mean that ASEAN should just continue to lament but carry on business as usual,” he said.

      “ASEAN must recognise the true economic power that it possesses with its investments, trade deals and other ties with Myanmar.”

      ASEAN should also use its its influence and ties with other countries and the UN to “lobby for support for international efforts to bring about reform in Myanmar,” he said.

      Tin Maung Maung Than, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, criticised statements by Thant Myint-U, a historian and grandson of former UN Secretary General U Thant, who warned recently sudden regime change in Myanmar could lead to Iraq-style anarchy.

      “This Iraq syndrome… it’s a misleading analogy at best. It is a completely false analogy,” he told the forum, adding that the Myanmar civil service is still there even if it is emasculated.

      “It is not that there is a vacuum if the military retreats from decision-making… It’s not that they are running the country, the country is on auto-pilot,” he said.

      Tin Maung Maung Than said even if there is regime change, the military as an institution “will not wither away, it will still be there as a professional military.”

      Thai Senator Jon Ungphakorn said ASEAN should suspend Myanmar’s membership until there is clear progress in the country.

      “Doing nothing actually degrades ASEAN. It makes ASEAN lose credibility on the world stage,” he told the forum.

      In addition to Singapore, Myanmar and Thailand, the other ASEAN members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.


      US seeks global pressure after Myanmar junta rebuffs reforms - P. Parameswaran
      Agence France Presse: Fri 9 Nov 2007 

      The United States on Thursday asked the international community to step up pressure on Myanmar’s ruling military generals after they appear to have rebuffed a UN push for genuine national reconciliation.

      UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari’s latest mission to Myanmar to push for democratic reforms met with little success, as the generals ruled out a three-way meeting with arrested democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

      Gambari also left Myanmar Friday without meeting with military junta chief Senior General Than Shwe or getting any assurances of freedom for Aung San Suu Kyi or other jailed politicians and activists.

      “Our message has been consistently that the regime in Burma (Myanmar) has shown no signs of movement except when faced with significant international pressure,” said US deputy assistant secretary of state Scot Marciel.

      “So it is important for the entire international community to make sure that it is pushing the regime to begin this genuine dialogue to move towards national reconciliation and freedom of political prisoners,” he told reporters.

      The White House said it was “sorely disappointed” that Than Shwe did not meet with Gambari.

      “This contradicts junta statements that they wanted to work with the United Nations,” US national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters.

      The United States is expected to decide on its next action at the UN after Gambari’s briefing on his return to New York.

      Washington vowed on October 11, when the UN Security Council took its first formal action on Myanmar following a bloody military crackdown on pro-democracy protests, that it would bring the matter again to the 15-member panel “in two weeks or so” if the junta ignored UN demands.

      Among other demands, the UN wanted the junta to “create the necessary conditions, for a genuine dialogue” with Aung San Suu Kyi, “in order to achieve an inclusive national reconciliation with the direct support of the United Nations.”

      Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition alliance won elections in 1990 but has never been allowed to govern and she has been held in detention for 12 of the past 18 years.

      Although the junta is allowing Aung San Suu Kyi to meet Friday with members of her National League for Democracy party for the first time in more than three years, Marciel expressed caution, saying the generals had not yet agreed to participate in such a dialogue.

      He also wondered how the democracy leader could consult with the people while under house arrest to engage in any genuine dialogue.

      “I don’t want to get too much into hypotheticals but for example, if the regime once a week picked up Aung San Suu Kyi from her house to the government rest house and announce they are having a dialogue, that wouldn’t be satisfactory to I think for us and the rest of the international community,” he said.

      The US Campaign for Burma, a group fighting to establish democracy in Myanmar, said there was “no signs that the military regime is serious about national reconciliation.”

      “It is time for the UN Security Council to compel the regime to participate in the reconciliation process,” said the group’s co-founder Jeremy Woodrum.

      He also said that Aung San Suu Kyi’s message delivered by Gambari that she is “ready to cooperate” with the junta “is nothing new.

      “She has been saying this for the past decade but the regime only offers cosmetic responses,” he said.

      Marciel also asked Southeast Asian leaders meeting for summit talks in Singapore later this month to send “a clear message” to Myanmar’s junta to open talks with opposition and minority ethnic groups to bring about a “real transition” to democracy.


      How Burma’s generals think
      Wall Street Journal Online: Fri 9 Nov 2007 

      It’s always hard to know what military dictators really think. So it’s worth examining closely a recent public statement by one of Burma’s leaders on the occasion of United Nations Envoy Ibrahim Gambari’s visit to the country. There is some interesting information between the lines.

      In a transcript of parts of their conversation, published in the state-run New Light of Myanmar Tuesday, Burma’s Minister of Information Kyaw Hsan takes Mr. Gambari and the West to task for imposing sanctions in the wake of last month’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators, including Buddhist monks.

      Citing Burma’s “subtle” and “very complicated” history, the minister says that the government is exerting “endeavors for national development and improvement of the food, clothing and shelter needs of the people.” As for the protests, he suggests that “true monks” didn’t participate, and that “law and order” have been restored. Of the 2,927 people detained in connection with the marches, he adds, 2,836 have been released. For that, the minister continues, Burma expects financial sanctions imposed by Western nations to be lifted:

      “If we receive assistance from international organizations including the U.N. and developed nations, our development pace will gain greater momentum and democratic reforms will reach their goal sooner.”

      Our translation: Financial sanctions are working. The U.S. imposed a targeted asset freeze on 26 individuals and companies tied to the Burmese regime in September and October. The EU followed suit by imposing import sanctions on timber and gems from Burma, which supplies 90% of the world’s rubies. Australia, for its part, announced financial sanctions against 418 individuals late last month. Little wonder it’s a “must” for the Burmese generals to get these measures lifted.

      As for Burma’s allies and others who aren’t taking any real action, they’re now useful propaganda tools for the regime. The minister cites the stance of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and “neighboring countries” (read: India, Thailand and China) as proof that “constructive engagement is better than sanctions.”

      That might be exactly what the U.N. wants to hear. According to the statement, Mr. Gambari assured the generals that certain countries don’t support sanctions, and said the U.N. didn’t oppose the junta’s democracy “road map,” but wanted more “inclusiveness” and a timetable for the process.

      There is no way of knowing how accurately Mr. Gambari’s comments have been rendered here. But they are disappointingly consistent with Turtle Bay’s previous supplications to the regime. If recent events teach anything, it’s that the junta isn’t swayed by talk, only by action.


      How to save Burma’s future generations? - Yeni
      Irrawaddy: Fri 9 Nov 2007 

      Wounds pass through the generations
      The 88 generation never got a rest
      The 96 generation never got a rest

      Now, the 2007 generation has no rest
      The wounds of the 88 generation
      should be healed
      But the potential for the next generation
      has been destroyed

      —Yaw Han Aung

      A Burmese poet, Yaw Han Aung, wrote these words in his poem “Crushed Nation,” after seeing the crackdown on the freedom uprising in September—literally led by young monks [See: http://yaw-han-aung.blogspot.com/].

      Of course, we Burmese have grown up in a totalitarian system, and we are painfully conscious of how our country has lagged behind the rest of the world for decades.

      That knowledge—and experience—is what’s driven thousands of  Burmese to sacrifice their lives—people shot on the streets, imprisoned and forced to flee the country—in the hope of creating a democratic, free and prosperous nation.

      As a university student in 1988, my circle of friends had an acute awareness of the country’s dire straits after the demonetization in September 1987, in which about 80 percent of the currency in circulation was lost.

      We went to the streets calling for change. Unfortunately, many people lost their life, gunned down by soldiers, led by a junta that called freedom-loving people “destructive elements,” puppets of the communists and the CIA.

      In the current freedom demonstrations, which began on August 19, people again took to the streets calling for political and economic change.

      Each new generation has witnessed the further deterioration of the country. According to the UN and other reliable institutions, Burma’s public sector, especially health and education, ranks among the worst in the world. The estimated per capita GDP is less than half of that in Cambodia or Bangladesh. The cost to each new generation—in terms of aspirations and hope—is devastating.

      Traditionally, the Burmese people have believed that society rests on three highly regarded institutions: “Students,” “Monks” and “Soldiers.” All three groups fought for Burma’s independence from the British colonial power and the Japanese occupation. All three had a dream to build a new nation.

      Unfortunately, the power of the military increased rapidly through its fighting various insurgencies—including the Communist Party of Burma and Karen and other armed ethnic separatist groups. But during those years after Burma gained its independence, the soldiers served under the command of a civilian government, headed by U Nu.

      Ultimately, however, starting in 1962, led by the late dictator Gen Ne Win, the “Soldier” class betrayed the “Student” and “Monk” classes through coups, killings, imprisonments and torture. As the poem says, the potential of each new generation as been destroyed. The present regime, led by Snr-Gen Than Shwe, is just more of the same.

      The Burmese understand that every country needs the “Soldier” class and an army to protect its own people—not to kill and oppress. There is a legitimate role for Burma’s military as a national institution—but not as a corrupted, oppressive body. It is shameful for the “Soldier” class to continue to oppress each new generation of the Burmese people.

      Ordinary Burmese remember the poignant words of the father of our country, the independence leader and the founder of the modern armed forces, Gen Aung San:  “There are others who are not soldiers who have suffered and made all kinds of sacrifices for their country. You must change this notion that only the soldiers matter.”

      For a better future, Burma needs two things: First, the Burmese people must never give up. Ordinary people—and students and monks— must work to ensure that future generations have a better life. Second, the “soldier” class must return to its roots as an honorable institution, guided by self-sacrifice, self-discipline and a dedication to serve the people.


      The generals’ mythical compromise - Awzar Thi
      United Press International: Fri 9 Nov 2007 

      While hundreds of persons remain detained or are missing in the aftermath of the uprising that gripped Burma in September, and new sporadic protests emerge, its national newspapers have consisted of the usual phalanx of army officers forcing their largesse onto Buddhist monks and attending an all-important performing arts festival.

      On Oct. 20, newspaper headlines declared that the new prime minister, Lt.-Gen. Thein Sein, had the day before watched a performance of the Suwannasama legend, one of ten allegories about previous lives of Gautama Buddha that is known to the majority of people in Burma by way of religious homilies and primary school lessons.

      Suwannasama, the story goes, is a young man who lives with his blind parents in a forest. One day a king on a hunting trip accidentally shoots him dead, but a sympathetic deity brings him back to life. The king is remorseful and devotes himself to the family, thereafter being reborn in a higher plane of existence. The elderly mother and father even regain their sight.

      The choice of drama appears to have been intended as a message that with a little bit of compromise everybody in Burma, like the play’s protagonists, can come out ahead. A long-winded feature article belabored the point, concluding that it would be in the interests of all to heed the folktale’s lessons. And on the days before and after there were other equally gripping reports of senior officers watching the play.

      But the spirit of compromise has itself quickly turned to myth.

      On Oct. 24, a United Nations office in the country issued an unusually frank press release in which it acknowledged that the uprising was a response to severe economic hardship, and exhorted the government to heed the signs of dissent. “The average household is forced to spend almost three quarters of its budget on food, one in three children under five suffer malnutrition and less than 50 percent of children are able to complete primary education,” it read in part.

      The Foreign Affairs Ministry quickly issued a strong rebuttal. A week later the government sent a complaint to the U.N. secretary-general, and has since made clear that it does not welcome the U.N. humanitarian relief coordinator, Charles Petrie, any longer. Petrie has worked closely with senior figures in the regime and had been chary of criticizing them lest his mandate be adversely affected, but apparently this didn’t make any difference.

      At a press conference on Nov. 2 the government unrolled a sheet of statistics to show that things are getting better, not worse, and that “poverty in Myanmar is not very different from the neighboring developing countries and the suffering is not to the extent as exaggerated by the U.N. country team.”

      Here is a major obstacle to any sort of compromise between the junta and just about everyone else.

      The gap between propaganda and actual conditions in Burma is so vast that there is no point at which it may be traversed. Every concerned international organization, including the World Food Program and the International Committee of the Red Cross, has openly stated at one point in time or another — and with increasing frequency – that military rule is the unparalleled cause of poverty there. Yet for its part the government cannot even admit to the existence of this poverty, let along accept responsibility.

      In this also we find the gap between the propaganda of myth and the harshness of reality.

      Suwannasama was brought back to life because he fed and cared for his blind parents. By contrast, the generals are starving their people, and inhibiting anyone else seriously trying to do anything about it.

      The king who accidentally slew Suwannasama was ultimately rewarded because he was contrite. By contrast, Burma’s military remains unable to acknowledge even the most blatantly obvious damage caused by its decades of greed and incompetence.

      Absurd data do not shield a government from the scrutiny of international groups and others based abroad; they just beggar belief and frustrate the efforts of even the most conciliatory parties to make things better. Nor do they shield it from what its people know for themselves; they just make growing demands for change all the more imperative. If it insists upon clinging to them then its compromise too can surely be nothing more than myth.

      At the end of the grade four reading on Suwannasama, students are asked, “How does Suwannasama admonish the king?” The correct answer is: He admonishes the king to serve others with humility, just as he has his parents. In response, the chastened king earnestly pays his respects, acknowledging that, “To you who is without blame, I have done wrong.”

      Someone should remind one or two of the generals that only then does everyone live happily ever after.

      (Awzar Thi is the pen name of a member of the Asian Human Rights Commission with over 15 years of experience as an advocate of human rights and the rule of law in Thailand and Burma whose Rule of Lords blog can be read at: http://ratchasima.net/)


      Weekly business roundup - William Boot
      Irrawaddy: Fri 9 Nov 2007 

      Burma Junta’s cash is safe in Singapore

      Singapore has signaled that as an open international financial center the bank accounts of the Burma junta generals and their business friends are safe from sanctions interference.

      The Monetary Authority of Singapore does “not track the amount of money remitted into or out of Singapore by any country,” said The Straits Times newspaper this week.

      The paper does not say anything sensitive without government clearance, observers note.

      As an international trading and financial center, Singapore can be used to transfer money for many purposes “including payments for goods and services, trades on the stock exchange, even for school fees,’ the paper quoted the government as saying.

      But the MAS is responsible for ensuring that banks and other financial institutions in the city state “have strict procedures to monitor and report any suspicious transactions,” the paper said.

      Singapore prides itself on being listed by the Germany-based anti-corruption-monitoring organization


       

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