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[ReadingRoom] News on Burma - 15/11/07

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  • CHAN Beng Seng
    1.. You will win if you use Suu Kyi seriously 2.. Burma likely to escape censure by Asean 3.. Myanmar under fire over forced labour at ILO 4.. We are in
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 16 1:10 AM
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      1. You will win if you use Suu Kyi seriously
      2. Burma likely to escape censure by Asean
      3. Myanmar under fire over forced labour at ILO
      4. We are in control: Myanmar defence official
      5. Media blackout blocks updates on country’s security
      6. Singapore doctor — and alleged banker — to Myanmar’s generals
      7. UN Security Council divided in discussion of Burma
      8. Two Prominent Burma's activists and more arrested 
      9. Boycott clouds gem show in Burma 

      You will win if you use Suu Kyi seriously - Kyaw Zwa Moe
      Irrawaddy: Junta: Wed 14 Nov 2007 

      Believe it or not, Aung San Suu Kyi has prolonged the lifespan of Burma’s repressive junta.

      Provided that history repeats itself—and the present discussion fails—she would again have served her purpose. Her sincere statements and pictures of her with the generals are all the junta needs to keep itself in power.

      Something as simple as Suu Kyi’s recent public statement has raised hopes for a genuine dialogue, while also prolonging the lifespan of the generals. Perhaps her statement alone can give the junta another five years to manipulate events to its advantage.

      For example, in 1994, when Suu Kyi was under house arrest, the generals, including junta chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe, met with her. It was their first encounter since she had been put in detention in 1989. Later the state-run media ran pictures of Suu Kyi with the generals, giving the world the impression that “talks” were taking place.

      In 1995, Suu Kyi was released from house arrest after having completed the maximum term of her six-year-detention. No talks ever occurred.

      In September 2000, she was again arrested for attempting to make a political trip to Mandalay. In May 6, 2002, when she was released, everyone thought a political breakthrough was imminent.

      The junta released a statement, titled “Turning of a New Page,” which said: “Today marks a new page for the people of Myanmar [Burma] and the international community. As we look forward to a better future, we will work toward greater international stability and improving the social welfare of our diverse people.”

      Suu Kyi said in her statement: “Both sides agree that the phase of confidence building is over. We look forward to moving across to a more significant phase.”

      The word “dialogue” raises people’s hope. Sadly, the “dialogue” evaporated by May 2003 when Suu Kyi’s motorcade was ambushed near Depayin by junta-backed thugs and hundreds of people were killed. After that, she was again sentenced to house arrest.

      Later, the world clearly learned that the “dialogue” of May 2002 was a fraud. Former UN Special Envoy Razali Ismail, quoting Suu Kyi, wrote that “…the dinner with the generals was in fact a monologue with the senior general doing all the talking.”

      Fast forward to November 2007, following the junta’s bloody crackdown on the monk-led demonstrations. The generals have again manipulated events to get pictures showing Suu Kyi, the junta’s liaison officer Aung Kyi and UN Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari together, again raising hopes for a “dialogue.”

      And, again, Suu Kyi herself raised hopes in her most recent statement, released on November 8: “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 is said to be “very optimistic” about the prospects for national reconciliation between the military government and pro-democracy groups. An NLD spokesperson said that she believed the military generals now have the will to achieve national reconciliation.

      If history repeats itself, her pictures and words will again give the generals more time, and time for the UN and the world to forget.

      It’s really a game of doubles, as they say in the world of spies. In other words, she is using the junta, trying to achieve her goals.

      And the junta is using Suu Kyi, trying to manipulate her—and all the people who want change to come to Burma.

      Undoubtedly, Suu Kyi is willing to be used, if there’s a chance that the Burmese people will benefit. But by taking that chance, the junta is given more time to draw out each step of the process that may—or may not—lead to genuine dialogue.

      Time is all the junta really wants.

      Another example: the junta’s self-appointed National Convention was tasked to draft guidelines to write a constitution. Amazingly, it has taken 14 years to accomplish the task, finally completed in September.

      Being aware of the time issue, Suu Kyi emphasized a timeframe in her most recent statement: “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.”

      This time around, there is more skepticism within the international community about what the junta says and does. When the UN Special Envoy briefed the UN Security Council on Tuesday and credited the regime with taking positive steps toward a dialogue, many Western diplomats expressed doubts about the regime’s sincerity.

      In fact, the ball has been in the junta’s court for decades. They have simply never wanted to engage the other side. They just want the clock to keep ticking.

      UN envoy Razali expressed shock in his account of his meeting with Suu Kyi while she was in Insein Prison just after the Depayin attack in May 2003: “… she said, amazingly, that she was prepared to turn the new page for the sake of the people and reconciliation, saying she was still prepared to talk to the government.”

      But, hope springs eternal. This time, maybe the generals actually see a longer future—and a more economically prosperous Burma—if they seriously engage Suu Kyi and take concrete steps toward what Suu Kyi calls “democratic solidarity.”

      If the generals play that card, everyone will win. If they don’t play it, more bloodshed lies ahead.

      Burma likely to escape censure by Asean - John Burton in Singapore and Amy Kazmin in Bangkok
      Financial Times: Wed 14 Nov 2007 

      George Yeo, Singapore’s foreign minister, has compared next week’s annual summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations, to be held in the city-state, to a family gathering. If so, it will be an acrimonious one.

      Burma is expected to face criticism over its crackdown on the country’s democracy movement but its military rulers are likely to escape the tough punishments that could be meted out by the 10-nation group, such as expulsion or sanctions.

      Asean leaders have made it clear that they consider sanctions to be counterproductive in promoting negotiations between the Burmese junta and the democracy movement.

      Ibrahim Gambari, the United Nations special envoy to Burma, acknowledged that stance in a presentation this week to the Security Council.

      Asean has decided to follow the UN’s lead on Burma, which is one reason why Mr Gambari has been invited to the summit.

      Asean is likely to welcome Mr Gambari’s statement to the UN that Burma has taken some steps towards meeting international demands for greater political freedom, although reports of human rights abuses continue to raise concerns.

      Asean’s caution on the Burma issue reflects its policy of non-interference in internal affairs. However, the Burma situation has highlighted an emerging debate within Asean about a new charter and whether the organisation should adopt a more western approach that focuses on human rights, open societies and markets.

      Analysts say some Asean members were uncomfortable with the strong statement issued by Singapore, the current Asean chair, expressing “revulsion” at the height of the Burma crisis last month. They believe Asean should give Burma’s generals more time to prove that they are introducing reforms.

      However, some officials and diplomats believe Asean could do more and that in doing so could persuade China, Burma’s main ally, to follow suit. “The Asean consensus position is quite important in terms of setting the diplomatic tone and it’s important for China because China tends to hide behind Asean,” said a foreign diplomat in Bangkok.

      “It’s very important for Asean to show that this wasn’t just a temporary embarrassment that they were feeling at the pictures on the TV screen, but a recognition of the more fundamental structural problems.”

      Foreign diplomats also believe that Asean is unwilling to punish Burma for practical reasons – sanctions would deny the group access to the country’s natural gas reserves, with Thailand among the main buyers.

      Additional reporting by John Aglionby in Jakarta and Harvey Morris at the United Nations

      Myanmar under fire over forced labour at ILO
      Agence France Presse: Wed 14 Nov 2007 

      Myanmar was sharply criticised for its forced labour practices at the International Labour Organisation on Wednesday.

      “Every time a tourist or businessman goes to this country, every time they use the roads, they should know that these roads have been built by forced labourers and children,” said Leroy Trottman, head of the Workers Group at the ILO.

      “Our group finds the situation on the ground to be disappointing, and a sign of a flagrant lack of respect for the members of this organisation,” he said during a board meeting of the 56-member body.

      The ILO, which is made up of workers’ groups, employers and national states, examined Myanmar’s labour rights record during the session.

      In March, the ILO deferred an international legal challenge against Myanmar over forced labour, after the country’s military junta agreed to give victims a means of redress.

      But the ILO secretariat said in a statement submitted to the board meeting on Wednesday that such a mechanism remained out of reach for most.

      “People affected by forced labour and their relatives have the greatest difficulties, for material as well as financial reasons, in lodging complaints if they do not live in Yangon itself,” the ILO report said, referring to Myanmar’s capital.

      Myanmar’s ambassador to the ILO assured the meeting that there is “no impunity in the judicial system” in his country, and that every effort was being made to respect the convention on forced labour.

      ILO chief Juan Somavia said in June he was not satisfied with Myanmar’s cooperation and was ready to increase the pressure if necessary.

      Although the junta says it has banned forced labour, human rights groups have long said that little action has been taken, especially in areas where foreign visitors are barred.

      We are in control: Myanmar defence official - Martin Abbugao
      Agence France Presse: Wed 14 Nov 2007 

      Myanmar’s ruling junta is in control after recent bloody unrest and will take more action against those who violate the law, the country’s deputy defence chief said Wednesday.

      Deputy Defence Minister Major General Aye Myint also said the generals would “not accept” outside interference they deemed harmful to their country’s sovereignty.

      His comments came as a United Nations human rights envoy visited Myanmar to investigate the death toll and detentions from a recent crackdown on anti-government protests.

      “Now the situation in Myanmar is in normalcy. We totally control all the situation,” Aye Myint told a news conference in Singapore after attending a meeting of Southeast Asian defence chiefs.

      He said there had been some arrests, but suspects were only taken in for questioning.

      He said 49 people were being detained in Yangon and 42 in other cities, without specifying when the arrests were made.

      “After questioning, most of them are released,” he said.

      “We will be taking actions according to the violation of the law and also the terrorism act. I think Myanmar is now stable… We will not accept influences that will harm our sovereignty.”

      Amnesty International has estimated that 700 people arrested over the recent protests are still in detention.

      Singapore Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean, who chaired the meeting, said the Myanmar defence official updated others on the situation in his country.

      The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) defence ministers expressed hope for progress in a UN-brokered effort for national reconciliation in Myanmar, he said.

      UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari has visited Myanmar twice in a bid to bring the ruling generals, democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other parties together in the reconciliation process.

      “We all want to see a stable Myanmar,” Teo said.

      Singapore elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew warned in October that an unstable Myanmar was a ticking “timebomb” which the region should help defuse.

      The defence ministers’ gathering was held ahead of the annual ASEAN summit next week to be hosted by current chair, Singapore. Myanmar is expected to be a dominant topic at the meeting.

      ASEAN Secretary General Ong Keng Yeong rejected calls by some human rights groups to prevent Myanmar from signing a landmark ASEAN charter, which will for the first time call for the establishment of a human rights body in the bloc.

      He said that as far as the junta is concerned, Myanmar is a democratic country that respects human rights.

      “They have not objected to it,” Ong told reporters.

      But they look at these issues in the “terms of Southeast Asia, not in the terms of the Western liberal world.”

      What the generals reject is “what they see to be somebody else’s rule of law and democracy that is being imposed on them,” Ong said.

      Western nations led by the United States and countries in the European Union have imposed sanctions on Myanmar, but ASEAN has taken a controversially different track of engaging the regime.

      Ong also said the leaders might issue a separate statement on Myanmar at the end of their summit next Tuesday.

      Aye Myint said the generals believe their so-called seven-step roadmap for democracy is the only “viable” long-term political solution.

      “Nobody can understand Myanmar better than our government and our people so we should follow according to our seven-step roadmap,” he said, referring to the process that includes the writing of a new constitution.

      Burma: Media blackout blocks updates on country’s security
      Adnkronos International: Wed 14 Nov 2007 

      Rangoon - While Burma’s brutal crackdown has generated headlines around the world, a media blackout inside the country means very few people know whether there has been any political progress.

      The US envoy to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad on Wednesday complained that the military leaders in Burma (or Myanmar) have made no move to accept democratic reforms, while human rights groups say mass detentions and torture are commonplace.

      The country’s deeply-revered monks led up to 100,000 people on the streets of Rangoon in September in the biggest protests against the ruling junta in nearly two decades.

      The demonstrations were violently suppressed and there were mass arrests and reports of beatings.

      The generals say 10 people were killed in the crackdown but diplomats put the toll much higher. No one knows the precise number of arrests.

      Reports on Wednesday quoted dissidents as saying that two prominent anti-government activists, including a Buddhist monk have been arrested.

      Human rights organisation, Amnesty International, says there are “grave and ongoing human rights violations”.

      “Widespread arbitrary detentions, hostage taking, beatings and torture in custody and enforced disappearances clearly disprove any claims from the Myanmar government of returning normality,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty’s Asia-Pacific programme director.

      While it has been difficult for the international media to report from within Burma, there has also been a media blackout which restricts almost all outlets.

      “Most people in the country do not watch the national television news bulletins because the news is completely opposite to the reality,” said a resident of the Burmese city of Rangoon (also known as Yangon), in an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI).

      “The junta continues to ‘inform’ through officials channels.”

      Burmese state television has repeatedly run the images of smiling generals greeting the United Nations’ special envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, who has just returned from a visit to the country.

      Local dailies - whether in English or Burmese - such as the New Light of Myanmar and the weekly Myanmar Times, also run images of pro-democracy leader and Nobel prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi together with Aung Kyi, the man appointed by the government to mediate with opposition leaders.

      On a daily basis the state-run, New Light of Myanmar, accuses the BBC and VOA (Voice of America) of lying about the situation in Burma saying that they incited the monks to protest.

      Despite these accusations, the Burmese people appear to have chosen to listen to international news bulletins.

      “If we gather to watch satellite channels in public places we risk ending up in prison for seven years,” one monk who wished to remain anonymous told AKI.

      After September’s crackdown, “many monks have returned home for fear of being arrested,” said another young Buddhist monk.

      Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch and other groups have called for China, Thailand, the US and other countries to boycott an international gem sale taking place in Burma.

      They claim the regime uses the gem auction to raise money and finance its corrupt regime.

      Human Rights Watch said the state-run Myanmar Gems Enterprise generated sales of almost 300 million dollars in 2006-2007 - an increase of almost 45 percent over the previous year’s gem earnings.

      Meanwhile, UN human rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, who is on a five-day visit to Burma, met cabinet ministers in the junta’s remote, jungle capital Naypyitaw on Wednesday.

      Pinheiro’s visit which ends on Thursday, is part of an investigation into widespread allegations of human rights abuses since the regime’s violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests in September.

      Singapore doctor — and alleged banker — to Myanmar’s generals - Martin Abbugao
      Agence France Presse: Wed 14 Nov 2007 

      Myanmar is facing a fresh scolding from ASEAN summit host Singapore but ties between the two nations run deep, with the city-state acting as doctor and alleged banker to the junta’s ageing generals.

      Singapore earned international praise for leading the 10-member regional bloc’s condemnation of Myanmar’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in September, expressing “revulsion” at the use of deadly force there.

      Two months on, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and especially Singapore, which will welcome leaders for their annual gathering from Sunday, is under pressure to match the tough words with action.

      The city-state, whose hospitals are among the best in the region, has for years provided medical care to Myanmar’s top brass, among them junta leader Senior General Than Shwe and the late prime minister Soe Win.

      Soe Win spent months at a Singapore hospital this year before flying home, where state media said he died in October.

      But the harsh glare of the international spotlight has recently turned to Singapore’s business and alleged banking ties with the secretive junta.

      “Singapore has been the favourite place for them to stash their money,” said Debbie Stothard of the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma, a human rights group.

      “If Singapore actually decided to freeze their assets… that would paralyse the regime overnight.”

      Verification of individual accounts here is difficult because of Singapore’s strict bank secrecy laws, analysts say.

      In an interview with The Straits Times newspaper last month, Foreign Minister George Yeo said Myanmar’s neighbours “can’t do what the big powers can do in terms of trade embargo or freezing bank accounts.”

      Officials led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong have strongly denied allegations that the city-state allows its banks to keep illicit funds on behalf of Myanmar’s military rulers.

      Yeo told parliament last month that the de facto central bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, does not track the amount of money remitted into or out of Singapore by any country.

      But the bank “operates a strict and rigorous regime against money laundering,” Yeo said, stressing that if there were any links with illicit activity, the central bank would “not hesitate to take action.”

      In terms of business links, International Monetary Fund figures show Singapore was the third-largest supplier of imports to Myanmar last year, behind China and Thailand.

      Yeo says Singapore has limited economic influence over Myanmar.

      “Generally speaking, our businessmen are not doing well in Myanmar and many regret having invested there,” Yeo said.

      The foreign minister also said Singapore has not made any defence sales to Myanmar in recent years, qualifying previous sales as insignificant and involving items “not suitable for countering civilian unrest.”

      Singapore property developer Keppel Land manages two hotels in Myanmar, and Myanmar state media say a Singapore company is among the energy firms jointly exploring for oil and gas in the impoverished country’s northeast.

      The city-state’s three homegrown banks have representative offices in Myanmar.

      Dave Mathieson, a consultant to Human Rights Watch in Bangkok, said Singapore got a “wake-up call” when the United States last month announced new sanctions on Myanmar, with three Singapore-linked firms in their sights.

      All three are linked to Myanmar national Tay Za, who observers say is a close associate of the junta.

      “It’s about time the US did something like that,” Mathieson said, calling on Singapore to take action as well.

      Zaid Ibrahim, president of the ASEAN Caucus on Burma, a parliamentary group, urged Singapore and other ASEAN states to take individual action.

      “I’m looking for one country in ASEAN that stands up for democracy,” Zaid told Singapore lawmakers during a recent forum.

      “Why can’t Singapore do something to show your displeasure?”

      UN Security Council divided in discussion of Burma - Lalit K Jha
      Irrawaddy: Wed 14 Nov 2007 

      A sharply divided UN Security Council deliberated on events in Burma on Tuesday following a briefing by Ibrahim Gambari, the special UN envoy, on his five-day visit to the country last week, in which he noted there were positive developments, but bottlenecks remained in moving towards a national reconciliation process.

      After more than four hours of deliberations, the Security Council finally abandoned the idea of issuing a formal statement or a UN Presidential Statement, as was done after its last meeting on the issue on October 11.

      As a result, for the sake of unity among its 15-members, the task of capturing the mood of the council’s deliberations was given to the presiding president for the month of November.

      Ambassador Marty Natalegawa of Indonesia told the press there was a “compromise” between two groups within the Security Council—one led by China, which considered Gambari’s mission a success—the other led by the United States, Britain and France, which took the position that the Burmese military junta was not in line with the expectations of the Security Council.

      Natalegawa’s statement welcomed new contacts between the military junta and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and Gambari’s meeting with leaders of the National League of Democracy, but he strongly criticized the junta’s continued detention of thousands of political prisoners.

      He welcomed a recent statement by Suu Kyi that a “meaningful and time-bound dialogue” should start as soon as possible and encouraged all sides in undertaking such a dialogue.

      Expressing concern over the fate of the protestors arrested during recent demonstrations, Natalegawa said members of the Security Council called on Burmese authorities to allow access to political prisoners by humanitarian assistance organizations.

      He said the Security Council acknowledged the important role of Asean-member countries in the region in supporting a peaceful transition to democracy in Burma.

      “Progress in Myanmar [Burma] can be best achieved if the international community speaks with one voice,” he said.

      However, following his remarks, the US deputy permanent representative expressed his concern over the situation in Burma.

      “There are some members of the council—the United States and others—who believe that it is appropriate to have a PRST (presidential statement) no less than we did in October; and others who believe that it is not required. So we will continue our discussion on that,” he said.

      “Our message to the people of Burma is that we are concerned about the continued difficulties they live under, although there have been some signs of movement as a result of Prof Gambari’s visit. We are still far away from the type of opening that would allow for a serious, legitimate national reconciliation process that is inclusive and likely to stand the test of time,” he said.

      Two Prominent Burma's activists and more arrested 
      Burma's security forces have arrested two prominent anti-government activists — a Buddhist monk and a labor rights advocate, fellow dissidents said Tuesday.
      The United States and other Western countries deplored the arrests during a U.N. Security Council meeting, saying they raised doubts about the ruling junta's sincerity in moving toward democracy and cooperating with the United Nations.
      News of the arrests came as U.N. human rights investigator Paulo Sergio Pinheiro was on the third day of a five-day mission to investigate human rights conditions in the wake of the government's violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests in September.
      U Gambira, a Buddhist monk who helped lead demonstrations in Rangoon that were crushed by the military junta, was arrested several days ago, exiled Myanmar dissidents in Thailand said.
      Su Su Nway, a prominent female activist who has been on the run for more than two months, was arrested Tuesday morning in Rangoon, they said.
      U Gambira, also known as U Gambiya, was a leader of the All-Burma Monks alliance, a group established to support pro-democracy protests after small demonstrations began in August.
      Monks inspired and led the movement until it was crushed Sept. 26-27. The authorities began their crackdown by raiding several monasteries in Rangoon in the middle of the night and taking the monks away.
      Activists who have just arrived at the Burma-Thailand border confirmed that U Gambira had been arrested, said Stanley Aung of the Thailand-based dissident group National League for Democracy-Liberated Area.
      "I am very worried about U Gambira," said Bo Kyi, head of the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. "I fear he will be tortured."
      In an e-mail to The Associated Press, Bo Kyi appealed to Pinheiro to meet with U Gambira before he leaves Burma.
      Other dissident groups also reported U Gambira's arrest, although details differed. Some said he was arrested Nov. 4, the same day an article he wrote was published in the Washington Post. In it, he vowed to continue the struggle against the military regime.
      Another account said he lost touch with colleagues Nov. 10. He has been active in publicizing his cause abroad, apparently using a satellite phone.
      Su Su Nway was arrested as she was trying to place a leaflet on a building near a hotel in Rangoon where Pinheiro has been staying, the NLD-LA's Aung said.
      His account confirmed one given in Rangoon by a Burmese official who insisted on anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media. The contents of the leaflet were not known.
      Pinheiro has said his mission is to determine how many people were killed and detained in the crackdown. Burmese authorities said 10 people were killed when troops opened fire on crowds of peaceful protesters. Diplomats and dissidents, however, say the death toll was much higher.
      The government acknowledged detaining almost 3,000 people but says it has released most of them. Most of the prominent political activists remain in custody.
      In an address to the U.N. Security Council, Burma's Ambassador U Kyaw Tint Swe insisted there "had been no further arrests in connection with the demonstrations." He made no mention of Su Su Nway or U Gambira.
      But Britain's ambassador to the U.N., John Sawers, said Su Su Nway's detention "raises a question mark over the regime's" assurances to U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari days earlier that political arrests would stop.
      U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad denounced both arrests and said the junta must "release all political prisoners" if it wants to show its commitment "to cooperating with the United Nations."
      Gambari said that if the arrests were confirmed, "it would be extremely worrisome because what we want to do is move forward, not back."
      Nevertheless, Gambari, who visited Burma last week for the second time since the September turmoil, told the Security Council he was making progress in nudging the junta toward meaningful dialogue with the pro-democracy opposition. He urged the Security Council to give his diplomatic effort time to succeed.
      "On balance, the positive outcomes of this latest mission show that the government of Myanmar, while stressing its sovereignty and independence, can be responsive to the concerns of the international community," Gambari said. "The situation is qualitatively different from what it was a few weeks ago."
      Su Su Nway, 35, was active in the August protests of an oil price increase. She dramatically escaped arrest when pro-government thugs broke up a demonstration on Aug. 28, an event captured on video and shown on television around the world.
      The September demonstrations, which attracted as many as 100,000 people at their height, grew out of the much smaller August protests.
      After the Aug. 28 confrontation, Su Su Nway went into hiding, but was reported to occasionally participate in more protest activity. She had regular contact with the media until her cell phone was disconnected in early September.
      The Democratic Voice of Burma, a Norway-based radio station run by Burmese dissidents, reported that on Oct. 27, she laid flowers at the spot where Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai was shot dead a month earlier by government security forces while he was covering the Rangoon demonstrations.
      Su Su Nway served nine months in prison in 2005-06 for her labor activism. She is also a member of detained opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party.
      Pinheiro disturbed by Burma arrest: The United Nations says its human rights envoy to Burma, Sergio Paulo Pinheiro was disturbed by the arrest of a prominent labour activist, Su Su Nway.
      The activist was arrested in Rangoon on Tuesday as she put up anti-government posters near the hotel where Mr Pinheiro was staying. A senior UN official said he expected the UN envoy to raise the issue with the Burmese authorities.
      Mr Pinheiro is expected to be allowed to meet some of the detainees before he leaves Burma on Thursday.
      -NLD spokesperson U Nyan Win told the BBC that more arrests should be stopped.

      Boycott clouds gem show in Burma   
      In recent years, gem dealers from across the globe have flocked to auctions in Burma, where huge piles of jade and chunks of unpolished rubies are put on display by a government eager for hard currency.
      But this time the Gems Emporium, which opened Wednesday and continues through Nov. 26, is clouded by worries that the global market for the colored stones, which dealers call some of the world's most beautiful, may slump in the face of corporate boycotts and government sanctions in the United States and European Union.
      Some of the world's largest and best-recognized jewelers, including Cartier and Tiffany, have told their suppliers they will no longer buy gems of Burmese origin.
      A bill in the U.S. Congress backed by Jewelers of America, an industry association, seeks to bar the import of Burmese gems that are polished or cut in a third country before being shipped to the United States.
      Gem dealers long accustomed to dealing with the authoritarian government in Burma say business uncertainties, more than moral imperatives, make them reluctant to buy Burmese gems.
      Adisak Thawornviriyanan, director of the Gems and Jewelry Traders Association of Chataburi, a province east of Bangkok that is a major center for cutting and polishing Burmese gems, has taken part in auctions for the past four years. But he decided to not to attend this Gems Emporium, the first since the government's crackdown on demonstrators in September.
      "We will wait and see if we can sell our old stock, but I wouldn't dare buy more," Adisak said. "We don't know how strong the U.S. ban will be."
      The 27 countries of the European Union agreed in October to ban the import of Burmese gems and timber. But Japan, China and other major gem-buying countries have no restrictions.
      Brian Leber, a jeweler based outside Chicago who has been active in seeking to close down imports of Burmese gems, compares them to the "blood diamonds" that were blamed for financing or fueling civil wars in Africa.
      "If the U.S. and the EU were to cease buying all Burmese gemstones, I think it would take a huge chunk out of the regime's pocket," Leber said.
      Rubies are the most popular Burmese gem in the United States, with official imports calculated as $87.4 million in 2006, mostly via Thailand, which is the main trading and polishing center for Burmese gems. Unofficial imports of the gems, which are easy to carry into the country, are probably much higher.
      Leber says if the ban passed through Congress, U.S. jewelers would be reluctant to stock rubies. Unlike diamonds, rubies often have a chemical signature that allows gemologists to trace their origin, sometimes with enough precision to determine the mine where they were excavated, experts say.
      Cartier, which announced its in-house ban on Burmese gems last month, says it will conduct random checks on stones like rubies.
      "While this is not an exact science, especially for smaller stones, laboratories are able to provide feedback on the credibility of the supplier's claim," Katharina Feller Baignères, a spokeswoman for Cartier, said by e-mail in response to questions.
      Some suppliers have told the company they cannot guarantee the provenance of their stones and have stopped submitting any type of gemstones that can be found in Burma, Baignères said.
      More often than not, rubies come from Burma, which supplies about 90 percent of the pink and red stones on the world market, especially the larger and most prized varieties.
      "If it comes from Burma it has magic to it," said Peggy Jo Donahue, a spokeswoman for Jewelers of America. "It's very difficult and painful for a lot of gem dealers to think about not having Burma as a source."
      Donahue says partly because of the blood diamond issue, jewelers are being "held to a higher standard," in understanding the consequences of buying gems from certain countries or regions.
      "There's an expectation in today's world that retailers will know more about their supply chains than they did in the past," she said.
      Jewelers of America, which represents 11,000 jewelry shops in the United States, about a third of the total, announced its backing for a strengthened ban on Burmese gems on Oct. 9, two weeks after the Burmese government's crackdown on protests by monks and students.
      The bill was introduced Oct. 18 and passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Oct. 31. It awaits approval by the Ways and Means Committee before being submitted to the full House.
      The bill bans the "importation of any gemstone or rough unfinished geological material mined or extracted from Burma, whether imported as a loose item or as any part or component of a finished piece of jewelry."
      From the standpoint of the Burmese government, the boycotts and sanctions are likely to mean lost revenue, though that is not certain.
      The state-run Myanmar Gems Enterprise, which runs the semi-annual emporium, says gems brought in $296.9 million last year, the third largest revenue earner for the government after fossil fuels and timber.
      Sean Turnell, an expert on the Burmese economy with Macquarie University in Sydney, said countries like Japan and China might make up for some of the lost sales - and smuggling will also mitigate the effect of the boycott and trade restrictions - although the drop in demand from the United States and European Union is likely to affect prices.
      "There is going to have to be a discount," he said. Smuggled rubies in the United States, he said, will "sell at a discount because of the dodgy legal status."
      Turnell also said the boycotts could crimp the ability of generals and Burmese business executives to move their assets out of the country.
      In the absence of a stable currency and with restrictions on holding dollars inside Burma, "gems perform a very important function in moving personal assets around the deck," Turnell said.
      Burma may have several months before strengthened U.S. sanctions hit, if they ever do. With a busy legislative agenda and Burma's crackdown on monks fading from the public consciousness in the United States, there is a good chance the bill may not pass through Congress this session.
      That would please some gem dealers who have based their businesses around Burmese gems.
      Leber says he has received about six threatening phone calls from angry dealers he knows.
      "They called to warn me that I'm messing with something dangerous and to back off or something bad could happen," he said.
      "They're most likely blowhards," Leber added, "but I've told several friends in the industry who they are, just in case I suddenly disappear."

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