[ReadingRoom] News on Burma - 22/11/07
- Asean dances to junta's tune
- EU, Asean clash on Burma sanctions, but both call for reforms
- Asean human rights mean no foreign interference
- Asian Leaders, Seeking Myanmars Gas, May Go Soft on Sanctions
- Will the Golden Land be broken into Nuggets?
- Myanmar tops natural gas production in Asia
- Chin people fined for not attending pro-junta rally
- Junta bans vehicular movement to KIA HQ
- ASEAN family gets Protective about Burma
- Two U.N. votes condemn junta rights abuses
- Chinas power and will to push for change in Myanmar limited at ASEAN
- Myanmar regime scores victory at summit
- Gem sales continue despite calls for boycott
- Burma Army now attacking villagers, burning rice barns and blocking access to fields during harvest
Asean dances to junta's tune
Bangkokpost: 22 Nov.07
In its typical Asean way and for no good reason, leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have decided it is much safer to save the ugly face of the ruling Burmese generals than to offend them in public. Thus, the myopic last-minute decision to cancel the scheduled briefings on Burma by United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari.
In defending the about-face, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Burma had emphasised that Mr Gambari, who has visited Burma four times, "should only report to the UN Security Council and not to Asean or the East Asia summit".
The tone this time was a far cry from the tough talk at the United Nations General Assembly by the Singaporean representative and by Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont against the junta's brutal crackdown on monk-led demonstrations in Rangoon in September.
Without doubt, Asean has shamelessly vacillated and kowtowed to the junta - as it has done before whenever confronted by the junta's defiance or intransigence. Mr Gambari, who had travelled from New York in order to brief Asean leaders, has every right to feel disappointed.
More importantly, Asean leaders unwittingly lost a good opportunity, which the briefings would have given, to engage Burma in a constructive manner. Sadly in this case, Asean did not even bother to follow its professed mantra of constructive engagement. Instead, it plunged all-out to embrace the other catch-phrase, which is not to interfere in the internal affairs of member countries.
Asean had a brief moment of triumph when the 10 leaders, including Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein, signed the Asean Charter, billed as a milestone for the regional grouping in its 40 years of existence since its inception in 1967. The rules-based document gives Asean a legal entity, sets a goal on democracy, pledges the setting up of a regional human rights body and aims to turn Asean into an economic community similar to the European Union, minus a single currency, by 2015. The endorsement of the Asean Charter represents a major step forward, although much needs doing to realise the charter's goals. The practice of non-interference, for instance, has to be removed if Asean is to be able to push Burma into restoring democracy. The regional human rights body which has yet to be set up would be a sham if it is not given teeth to sanction member countries that violate human rights.
Pitifully however, the moment of triumph and jubilation was spoiled by the very people who enthusiastically endorsed the Asean Charter. The last-minute dumping of Mr Gambari represents a retreat for the grouping. It also constitutes a victory for the Burmese junta: the generals got everything they wanted, including a watered-down charter.
Asean, whose effectiveness and credibility was already in doubt vis-a-vis the Burma issue, now definitely looks worse in the eyes of the international community and civil society. Once again, Asean has missed an opportunity to redeem itself. And, once again, Asean has shown the world that it lacks the dignity and moral obligation to do the right thing.
US Trade Representative Susan Schwab said in Singapore on Tuesday that the current situation in Burma makes a free-trade deal between Asean and the US impossible in the near term. She also said Asean has a special responsibility for the situation in Burma. Whether her statement was meant as a warning for Asean to change its attitude on Burma is debatable. But the message is clear: the United States is not happy with Asean's handling of the Burmese issue.
Asean made a mistake in 1997 by admitting Burma into the group, hoping it would be able to effect a change in the attitude of the Burmese generals. Ten years later, the generals remain as stubborn as ever. Sadly, Asean has not only not learned its lesson but continues to make the same mistake with regard to Burma.
EU, Asean clash on Burma sanctions, but both call for reforms
The Nation: 22 Nov.07
Singapore - The European Union clashed Thursday with Asean on sanctions against Burma, but both organizations jointly called for democratic reforms in the military-ruled country.
Asean and the EU are holding a half-day commemorative summit in Singapore, marking 30 years of relations that have long been tense on disagreements over how to deal with Asean member Burma.
While the two groups hailed the economic growth in their partnership, 10-nation Asean's refusal to impose even temporary sanctions on Burma after its violent crackdown in September on anti-government protests has whipped up the issue again.
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, EU external relations commissioner, said the 27-member EU was supporting a "carrot and stick" approach on Burma by supporting UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari's mission while imposing "smart sanctions."
"These are sanctions that are going for the junta, for the regime, for those who are getting all the money, but the people are very poor," she told reporters.
Waldner rejected Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's assertion that sanctions would only hurt the poor people of Burma.
"On the contrary, we are working in favour of the population," she said. "We are helping them. We help them on housing, on education as well."
EU foreign ministers have imposed tougher sanctions on the Burma regime after the violent suppression of the protests that by government estimates killed 15 people in Yangon although diplomats and human rights groups said the toll was much higher.
The new restrictions include a longer list of Burma officials who are subject to a travel ban and an assets freeze.
An investment ban on state-owned enterprises has also been extended to include businesses owned or controlled by the regime or "by persons and entities associated with the regime," an EU statement said.
The recent crisis in Burma has dominated the Asean summits in Singapore since the weekend with leaders of 16 countries stressing the need for Rangoon's military junta to implement reforms but disagreeing on how to deal with the notorious country.
US Trade Representative Susan Schwab warned that an Asean-US free trade agreement was in jeopardy by the regional bloc's failure to take tougher action against Burma.
Waldner said the EU was not trying to link the Burma issue to negotiations for a free trade agreement, noting that such talks would take a long time.
"Let's wait and see," she said. "We will just carry on."
She stressed the need for both Asean and the EU to have the political will to proceed with the negotiations.
The Asean region is the fifth-largest export market for the EU and the fifth-largest trading partner of the 27-member organization while the EU is the second-largest trading partner for most countries in Asean after the United States.
Asean exports to the EU now account for about 13 per cent of its total exports while EU exports to Asean account for around 4 per cent of its total exports.
Asean human rights mean no foreign interference
The Nation: 22 Nov.07
SINGAPORE -- Asean's new human rights body has been slammed as "toothless", and a mechanism to stop other nations interfering in any member state's policies on freedoms and civil liberties.
But a senior official at the Asean summit here said Wednesday the new body was a genuine effort to promote and protect the basic rights of the group's citizens. It was not a "shield to foreign meddling".
Asean signed its first charter on Tuesday. It decided to establish a body to "promote and protect" rights and fundamental freedoms.
The Asean foreign ministers' meeting commissioned a task force to write the body's terms of reference. These are expected to be completed within a year at about the time the charter comes into force after ratification.
However, a confidential report leaked to the news media yesterday suggested the body should not intervene in domestic politics, such as the current situation in Burma.
"Its recommendations confirm the humanrights agency will be a toothless body with no power to rein in blatant violators such as Burma," a story carried by the Associated Press said.
The leaked report reveals the extent to which Asean is reluctant to hold any of its members accountable, or to shame them for outright human rights violations - such as the Burmese junta's crackdown on street protests in September that killed at least 15, it added.
The rights body should draft a "longterm roadmap" for the promotion of human rights, according to the leaked report.
Such a body should also have "respect for national independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity and national identity of all Asean member states".
The task force recommended the rights body uphold Asean's bedrock policy prohibiting member countries from interfering in one another's domestic affairs - an edict Burma has often invoked to parry criticism.
The report adds the rights body should oppose attempts by foreign countries to interfere in any Southeast Asian country's humanrights problems.
Thailand's Foreign Ministry deputy permanent secretary Pradap Pibulsonggram, who led the Thai team on the highlevel task force that drafted the charter, dismissed the report.
He said the body's real intention was to protect and promote basic rights. "The charter addresses clearly in article 14 that the body must promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms," Pradap said.
He said Burma did not object to the language used in the charter or the terms of reference for the rights group.
"We will protect human rights in accordance with our Asian values; nobody can use any other values to judge us," Pradap said.
Asean countries, as members of the United Nations, will guarantee human rights to a standard not less than that of the UN, he said.
Supalak G. Khundee
Asian Leaders, Seeking Myanmars Gas, May Go Soft on Sanctions - Cherian Thomas
Bloomberg: Wed 21 Nov 2007
Asian leaders meeting in Singapore this week are reluctant to take tough action against Myanmar as they dont want to lose access to its natural-gas reserves, analysts said.
Myanmar, run by a military junta which in September launched the biggest crackdown on pro-democracy campaigners in two decades, has 19 trillion cubic feet of reserves, according to BP Plc. Thats enough to meet Chinas needs for a decade.
Gas commands a premium for fuel-hungry Asian nations as crude oil prices inch toward $100 a barrel. Almost a decade of sanctions against Myanmar led by the U.S. has been undermined by Asia, in particular by Chinas quest for more energy.
Fuel economics are driving Asias stand on Myanmar,' said Subramanyam Chandrashekhar, director at South Asia Analysis Group, a New Delhi-based international affairs research institute. If Myanmar has to be reformed, the international pressure should be on China.'
China is Myanmars closest ally and one of its biggest trading partners. As a permanent, veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, its support is essential for any international effort to bring about change in the Southeast Asian country formerly known as Burma.
China said last week it will reject sanctions on Myanmar at the East Asia summit in Singapore and wont press for a timetable for democratic reforms sought by the U.S. and the United Nations. The summit, which starts tomorrow, brings together the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as well as Japan, Korea, India, Australia, New Zealand and China.
China, the biggest contributor to global growth, last year consumed 1.96 trillion cubic feet of gas, according to BP Plcs Statistical Review of World Energy released in June this year. India, the second-fastest growing economy in the world after China, estimates its demand for gas will more than double to 14 billion cubic feet a day by 2025.
Besides China and India, Thailand, South Korea and Japan are also competing for a share as Myanmar discovers more gas reserves. Myanmar has offered about 18 offshore areas to explorers in China, India, Vietnam and Thailand, including China National Petroleum Corp. and Indias Oil and Natural Gas Corp.
Thailand was the first country to import gas from Myanmar. China is in an advanced stage to build a pipeline to its southern regions from Myanmars gas fields.
Myanmars market is developing and none want to rock the boat at this early stage,' said Tony Regan, an energy consultant with Nexant Ltd. in Singapore. India is aware that Thailand and China are ahead of them in the pecking order to access to Myanmars gas they arent going to go too far' against Myanmars regime.
Indias government has made just one statement on Myanmar following Septembers crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators, in which more than 100 people died and several hundreds detained, according to the United Nations.
We are concerned at the situation in Myanmar and are monitoring it closely,' Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Sept. 26. As a close and friendly neighbor, India hopes to see a peaceful, stable and prosperous Myanmar, where all sections of the people will be included in a broad- based process of national reconciliation and political reform.'
Thats a far cry from the days when India supported the democracy movement of Myanmars main opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who was conferred with Indias prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru award in 1993.
Asean, which includes Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar, will today sign a watered-down charter that doesnt explicitly mention penalties for violating human rights.
The European Union yesterday tightened sanctions against Myanmar, by toughening visa restrictions and banning imports of Myanmars gems and precious metals, as Asean prepared to sign the charter.
Everybody is entitled to do what they want to do,' Aseans secretary general Ong Keng Yong said referring to Myanmar. If you have a problem child in the family, what do you do? Do you send the child to a sanatorium? Aseans tradition is different.'
The United Nations Special Envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari was yesterday asked to scrap a briefing for Southeast Asian leaders after the nations junta protested against the plan, Singapores Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.
Only Japan, which lost one of its citizens, a video journalist who was shot by the military in Yangon on Sept. 27 during anti-government protests, has taken action against Myanmar among the Asian countries.
Japan last month cancelled a 552 million yen ($4.7 million) grant to Myanmar, joining the U.S. and the EU in pressing the junta to stop its crackdown on pro-democracy campaigners.
Still, the potential from Myanmars gas fields are high. Chevron Corp., the second-largest U.S. energy company, last month said it will keep its stake in a natural-gas project in Myanmar even as it risks losing tax benefits from the project under a bill approved by a U.S. congressional committee on Oct. 23.
Chevron has a 28.3 percent stake in the Total SA-operated Yadana project in Myanmar. It obtained the stake through its 2005 purchase of Unocal Corp. The Yadana project sells natural gas by pipeline to Thailand.
Natural gas is the largest source of revenue for Myanmar, according to the New York-based Human Rights Watch. Myanmar earned $2.16 billion by selling gas, mainly to Thailand, in 2006, Human Rights Watch estimates. And that amount accounted for half the countrys total exports, it said.
Will the Golden Land be broken into Nuggets? - Aung Zaw
Irrawaddy: Wed 21 Nov 2007
The question of ifthen whenthe regime finally falls has dominated the Burmese community recently. Then the question turns to: Will Burma slide into an Iraqi-style nightmare or a fragmented jigsaw puzzle like Yugoslavia?
The answer from ethnic leaders, so far, is a resolute No! to the anarchic scenario.
Some Burma experts and Asean ministers, particularly the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Singapore, have cautiously mentioned the ethnic diversity in Burma and expressed concern about a possible Iraqi situation enveloping the country.
It is certainly true that Burma was suddenly plunged into a civil war in 1948 after it gained independence from the British. But then, the fragile and ill-equipped Burmese army faced serious mutiny, ethnic insurgency and communist threat.
Now, almost 60 years later, the threat of guerilla insurgency in Burma has faded to the extent that it is almost confined to the pages of history.
Several armed ethnic groups, including the once-powerful Kachin, have signed ceasefire agreements with the Burmese military government.
The regime, for its part, has claimed that 17 ethnic groups have returned to the legal fold. Many of those groups have managed to maintain the regional status quo and, in turn, their business interests in timber, and often opium and drug smuggling from northern Burma.
In Shan State, the powerful Wa armyknown for years as a drug-running militia with some 20,000 soldiers, has joined the said legal fold, even sending delegates to the junta-sponsored National Convention.
Nowadays, the Wa pose no serious military threat to the regime, let alone equip other armies with weapons and new ammunition. Nor do the ethnic armies who continue to resist the military those outside the legal foldmainly the Karen, Shan and Karenni groups.
On top of that, the political landscape in the region has changed over the past 20 years.
The Cold War is long gone and Thailands buffer zone policy is no longer active along its borders.
Several fortified ethnic military headquarters fell to the Burmese army in the early and mid-1990s. Today, the Karen and Shan ethnic armies are only akin to resistance groups, controlling minimum territory and preventing a Burmese army onslaught.
The Karen National Liberation Army is no longer able to equip its foot soldiers with weapons and ammunition. They aim to wage hit n run guerilla warfare; thats all.
Along the Thai-Burmese border, there is only low intensity fightinginsurgent groups can no longer launch military offensives on, nor infiltrate into, major cities in Burma.
On the northern front, China ceased its support for the Communist Party of Burma in the 1980s. The CPB witnessed its own demise when it was severed apart by a serious mutiny in 1989.
And neither China nor Thailand will be supporting any renewed armed struggles along their borders anytime soon. They prefer stabilitythe kind of stability that prevails along the Thai-Cambodian border, which brought an end to the arms trade between Thailand and Cambodia.
All this means that the KNLA and other ethnic groups have few supplies and only a black market in Thailand to rely on, provided they have the cash from their timber trade or other nefarious businesses to trade with.
Not only has the military muscle to fight the regime diminished, but the political perspective and will to see in a new Burma has also been modified.
Many ethnic leadersthe Karen, Shan, Kachin, Arakanese, Chin and Mon, based along the borders with Thailand, India, Bangladesh and Chinashare a similar view, if not a common goal. They desire a federal union and autonomy in their state. And, of course, they dont want a Burmese military presence.
A spokesman for the main ceasefire group, the Kachin Independence Organization, said talk of the countrys fragmentation is farfetched.
Tu Ja, vice-secretary of the KIO, said, I dont know what they [the experts] are talking about. We all want peace, autonomy and equal rights. If we get those, I dont see any problem among us.
Founded in 1961, the KIO was one of 17 ethnic groups which signed a ceasefire agreement with the Tatmadaw (ruling junta) in 1993. The KIO now also attends the military-sponsored National Convention.
A comment from the general-secretary of the Karen National Union, Mahn Sha, is further indication that ethnic leaders can hold moderate views: The perspective of those experts is groundless and their viewpoints are totally in line with what the junta says.
The conflict in Burma is not a fight among ethnicities, he adds. We are only fighting against the military rulers, not against the army.
The longest-running rebel group in Southeast Asia, the KNU, has never signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese regime.
In addition, several Arakanese and Shan politicians, who recently took part in the uprising led by monks, also dismissed any possible Iraqi-style anarchy.
Aye Tha Aung, chairman of the Arakan League for Democracy, secretary of the Committee Representing Peoples Parliament and former political prisoner, said that the notion propagated by the regime that the country could not restore democracy because of the diversity of ethic minorities is a lame excuse.
Representing 11 ethnic parties legally registered in Burma, Aye Tha Aung said, We (the ethnic parties) drew up our own constitution and we unanimously voted out the word secession in it.
The fight for democracy is also a fight for the rights of ethnic people, the leading Arakanese politician told The Irrawaddy by phone. He cited late Prime Minister U Nus comment: Federal without secession.
When asked about the future role of ethnic armies, Aye Tha Aung said, We need a Union Tatmadaw in Burma, and the ethnic armies will be the federal police forces to guard our states.
But he and his ethnic parties did not support the regimes National Convention drafting constitutionBecause it does not guarantee democracy and ethic minorities rights, he says.
Surprisingly, Aye Tha Aung also expressed a moderate view. If there is gradual change that guarantees democracy and autonomy at the military-sponsored National Convention, he said, We are willing to attend.
However, the threat of secession and anarchy will remain as long as the Burman First attitude is maintained.
Some observers note that the currently rigid structure in the ruling councilmainly dominated by Burman military leaders and the regimes intransigenceis ammunition for the ethnic leaders who inspire independent states and can only encourage separatist movements.
The key to a successful federal union is not only to guarantee autonomy, but to preserve peace and prosperity.
Hseng Noung, a leading Shan activist in exile, believes most Shan villagers want genuine peacethey simply dont want army generals and warlords to rule their communities.
There is no doubt that the regime will fall, she said. But the Tatmadaw will remain.
Ethnic leaders say opposition groups are not looking to dismantle 400,000 soldiers and impose a regime change, but rather, they wish dialogue and compromise. They still believe the country would be better off without Than Shwe and his hardliners, but they will forever believe that their country will need a professional army to protect its people.
Hseng Noungs concern is how regional commanders who are powerful warlords will react to any new situation, if there is a sudden change.
She cautioned that if there is a serious mutiny within the armed forces, it is likely to bring about chaos and instabilityalthough there is little sign of that happening in the foreseeable future.
She dismissed the Iraqi-style nightmare theory: These are just excuses to prolong the military rule.
In fact, anarchy and chaos in Iraq is the diet people are force-fed each day in state-run newspapers in Burma. This is how the military leaders create paranoia and fear to prolong their rule.
There should be no doubt that democracy, peace and prosperity in Burma (or a Federal Union of Burma?) will only make it stronger, not weaker.
Myanmar tops natural gas production in Asia
New Kerala: Wed 21 Nov 2007
Myanmar is the biggest producer of natural gas in Asia and has the potential to ascend higher globally because many gas projects remain to be implemented, Yangon Times reported Wednesday.
Currently, the country ranks 10th at the world level with its gas sale, up from 11th previously, while it represents the first in Asia, Yangon Times quoted the World Energy magazine as saying.
Myanmar started production and export of gas to Thailand in the late 1990s through a pipeline from the Yadana field in the gulf of Mottama, and Yetagun field off the Tanintharyi coast.
Energy authorities of Myanmar and Thailand have been negotiating the construction of a marine, joint-venture natural gas pipeline since September for more export of gas to Thailand from the M-9 block in Myanmars Mottama offshore area, officials disclosed.
The Thai PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP) Public Co Ltd, which has been engaged in gas exploration at the block, has so far found large commercial gas deposits at seven test wells since 2005.
With a total of estimated gas reserve of more than 226.5 billion cubic-meters (BCM) and a production rate of about 8.49 billion cubic-meters (MCM) per day, the M-9 field is expected to be able to produce gas and export to Thailand by late 2011.
In recent years, the country also found huge gas deposits in the Shwe and Shwephyu fields at block A-1 in 2004 and the Mya field at block A-3 in 2005.
Myanmar has an abundance of natural gas resources, especially in offshore areas.
With three main large offshore oil and gas fields and 19 onshore ones, Myanmar has proven recoverable reserve of 18.012 trillion cubic ft (TCF) out of 89.722 TCF estimated reserve of offshore and onshore gas, experts said.
The country is also estimated to have 3.2 billion barrels of recoverable crude oil reserve, official statistics indicate.
Myanmar figures also showed that in fiscal 2006-07, the country produced 7.7 million barrels of crude oil and 13.039 billion cubic metres of gas (BCM). Gas exports during the period was 13.028 BCM, worth $2.03 billion.
Statistics revealed foreign investment in Myanmars oil and gas sector had reached $2.769 billion in 75 projects in 2006 since the country opened to such investment in 1988.
Currently, 13 foreign oil companies, mainly from Australia, Britain, Canada, China, Indonesia, India, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand and Russia are operating 33 onshore and offshore projects in Myanmar.
Chin people fined for not attending pro-junta rally
Khonumthung News: Wed 21 Nov 2007
Junta authorities in Chin state, Burma have unleashed a kind of vendetta on people who did not attend the rally to support the outcome of the regimes National Convention held in the state on November 9.
The Township Peace and Development Councils (TPDC) authorities from Thangtlang Township in Chin state have started to fine Kyat 1,500 (Burmese currency) to each person who flouted the order of the authorities to join the pro-junta rally.
On November 9, the local authorities forced the people in Thangtlang to come out on the streets to join the rally to support the outcome of NC and shout pro-junta slogans.
Some people attended the rally because they were forced. The people know what is black and what is white, a local in Chin state said.
Around 6,000 people from Thangtlang Township joined the pro-junta rally while around 100 reportedly refused to attend, according to a local in Thangtlang.
Earlier, the Burmese military junta organized rallies in other towns such as in Falam, Rihkhaudar and Hakha in Chin state to support the tenuous 14-year long convention to draft a state constitution as part of juntas seven step road map to disciplined democracy in Burma.
The National Convention held in the outskirts of Rangoon, the former capital of Burma began in 1993 and was wrapped up in September 2007.
Junta bans vehicular movement to KIA HQ - Myo Gyi
Mizzima News: Wed 21 Nov 2007
Vehicular movement along the Laiza-Myit Kyina Road on the Sino-Burmese border was banned by the Burmese military junta authorities today, local residents said.
Vehicles including passenger buses have been told not to enter Laiza, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), an ethnic armed ceasefire group, controlled town on the Sino-Burmese border by the Burmese Army based in Laija Yang, about three miles from Laiza, locals said.
The ban began this morning. Soldiers at Laija Yang stopped all vehicles and in the morning even people were restricted from entering the town. But in the afternoon restriction was relaxed a little and some motorcycles were allowed passage, a Kachin youth told Mizzima.
The ban on the movement of vehicles in Laiza came after Burmese authorities on November 17 night, raided the residents of leaders of KIA in Myit Kyina, capital of Kachin state, and seized several Chinese mobile phones.
The relationship between the KIA and the junta has always been like this. When ever the junta is displeased with the KIA, they do something like this. The junta wants to show the KIA its power, added the youth.
According to the business community in Laiza due to the instability several traders, particularly jade traders, have gone over to the Chinese side of the border.
Laiza, being a border trade zone, depends largely on border trade and the ban on movement in and out of Laiza has hit the common trader hard, a local businessman said.
With hundreds of vehicles both passenger and cargo trucks moving in and out of Laiza, should the ban continue long, local residents will face a lot of difficulty, the businessman added.
A days ban will not have much impact. But if it continues it will impact not only local residents but also the KIA, the businessman said.
Since mid-November, the Burmese junta has forced ethnic ceasefire groups in Shan State and Kachin State to sign pre-written statements denouncing the Burmese pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyis statement cooperating with the junta for a possible dialogue on behalf of the countrys ethnic minorities.
While several ethnic armed groups agreed with the ruling junta and released statements against Suu Kyis statement, the KIA, one of Burmas longest surviving insurgent group, refused to comply with the juntas request.
A Burmese military analyst based on the Sino-Burmese border said, the sudden ban on movement of vehicles in and out of Laiza could be directly linked to the KIAs refusal to release a counter statement.
The juntas intentions are obvious. It is to totally disarm and to disband the group. They will do anything to eliminate the KIA, Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Sino-Burmese based military analyst said.
But the problem with the KIA is that amongst themselves there are groups that want to go along with the junta though there are a few who have political vision. But with the formation of the Kachin consultative group, they have come to their senses. Thats why they rejected the juntas pressure to release the statement against Daw Suu, added Aung Kyaw Zaw.
ASEAN family gets Protective about Burma - Marwaan Macan-Markar
Inter Press Service: Wed 21 Nov 2007
South-east Asian leaders closed ranks this week behind a view that places a higher premium on protecting the life of the regions governments, no matter how oppressive they are, than on being accountable to their respective peoples.
This is the message that went out to the regions 550 million people whose governments belong to the 10-member Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN). On Tuesday, presidents and prime ministers signed a historic charter for ASEAN that aimed to transform the regional bloc into a new rules-based legal body.
The charter that was endorsed at a summit in the affluent city-state of Singapore was the highpoint of celebrations in the region this year to mark the 40th anniversary of ASEAN, an entity that emerged during the Cold War to stall the spread of communism and to strengthen economic ties. The founding members were Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. The end of the cold war resulted in ASEAN expanding to include Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
ASEAN leaders views on Burma, also known as Myanmar, removed all doubts as to whose interests the governments have in mind when they talk about regional unity or the ASEAN family. The group threw a protective shield around the Burmese military regime, which had come in for international criticism, even from among some ASEAN leaders, for its harsh crackdown of peaceful street protests in late September.
This attempt to placate military strongmen was clarified when the ASEAN charter was unveiled, for the much anticipated regional human rights body expected to have been conceived through this document was only embraced as an idea. References to this body having a mechanism to enforce human rights were absent from the text. Gone also were recommendations that had been made to consider imposing sanctions or even expel a member if grave human rights violations were committed by a regional government.
In doing so, ASEAN revealed that it was sticking to its long-held principles of non-interference in the domestic politics of a fellow member. Consequently, it has raised questions about how meaningful the regional blocs makeover is, as reflected in comments made by editorial writers and political activists.
It was so sad on the auspicious occasion of the signing of the ASEAN Charter that the Association of South-east Asian Nations, as a group, had to again defend Burmas appalling human rights record, wrote The Nation, an English-language newspaper in Thailand, on Wednesday. Now, even with the Charter, ASEAN is still hopeless and unable to act against its pariah member.
Others were troubled by the lack of a noticeable change from the past, which was seen an essential to make this regional body relevant to the citizens living in the 10 countries. ASEAN is not sincere about wanting to restructure itself in a manner that embodies democratic values and justice for the people of ASEAN, says Roshan Jason, executive director of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (APIMC), a coalition of parliamentarians from the region campaigning for democracy and human rights in Burma.
It is outrageous that they can have such a watered-down document as the ASEAN charter, he added during a telephone interview from Kuala Lumpur. This reflects the ASEAN culture of most leaders having absolute power. The views of the leaders do not reflect the broader political culture in the region.
And that is true not only for the regions current political embarrassment, Burma, but for most of the countries in South-east Asia. With the exception of two, Indonesia and the Philippines, they are all plagued with democratic shortcomings. Malaysia and Singapore have one-party states with severe restrictions placed on government critics and opposition parties, while Laos and Vietnam are ruled by communist parties that have little interest in democracy.
Thailand, meanwhile, has been under military regime that came to power following a coup last September, while Cambodias struggle to build a democracy is under threat from an increasingly authoritarian government. And Brunei is under the grip of an absolute monarch.
Differences are as stark on the economic front, too, with the city-state of Singapore having all the comforts and conveniences of a developed country against poverty-stricken nations such as Laos and Cambodia. And those in-between, such as Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand, having a sizeable number of rural and urban poor despite steady economic growth.
The need for a charter which has taken nearly two years to draft by a team of the regions senior statesmen and bureaucrats arose as ASEAN desperately sought a new role on the global stage in the post-Cold War era. Besides a political union, the landmark document was deemed essential to strengthen the region against the rise of Asian powers such as India and China.
For the first 40 years, ASEAN was very much a state-focused organisation, dominated by the elite, says Devi Fortuna Anwar, director for programmes and research at The Habibi Centre, a Jakarta-based independent think tank. The idea of the charter was a welcome move. It would have been impossible to imagine one five years ago.
But what has been disappointing is the direction of the current political trend in the region after some signs of promise, she said in a telephone interview from the Indonesian capital. The pendulum is weighing in favour of countries with less democracy. ASEAN has suffered in its democratic journey.
It shows that state security is more important than human security, added the political science professor. Most ASEAN governments are living in glass houses.
Two U.N. votes condemn junta rights abuses
Mizzima News: Wed 21 Nov 2007
Two resolutions in the United Nations General Assembly, yesterday, deplored the treatment meted out to civilians and monks by the Burmese junta and call for an immediate end to human rights violations and the release of all political prisoners.
These resolutions send a strong signal from the international community to the governments of those countries that their failure to uphold the rights and fundamental freedoms of their citizens is unacceptable, and must end, British Ambassador John Sawers told reporters following the votes.
Both resolutions, which are non-binding, were passed by the General Assemblys Human Rights Committee, the General Assembly has yet to vote on either resolution.
One resolution, directed solely at Burmas generals, accuses the regime of beatings, killings, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances of demonstrators during the recent round of protests. The motion carried by a vote of 88 to 24, with 66 abstentions.
The second resolution, garnering 97 votes in favor with 23 against and 60 abstentions, grouped abuses by the Burmese government with those committed by governments in Iran and North Korea.
However member countries of the Non-Aligned Movement debated vociferously in opposition to the two resolutions, arguing that the negative language in the texts would only serve to hinder the chances for dialogue and reconciliation.
Additional objections were made on the basis that questions of human rights abuses are best left to the United Nations Human Rights Council. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, representing the Council, recently returned from an exploratory mission to Burma.
While the margin of votes for and against the resolutions were impressive, the total of favorable votes as a percentage of all votes present, which is inclusive of abstentions, was far less encouraging. When calculated thusly, the two proposals received support from 49 and 54 percent of Assembly representatives, respectively. The resolution tabled specifically against Burmas generals garnering less than 50 percent support.
All ten ASEAN countries, India, China and Russia who are standing members of the Non-Aligned Movement, voted against the resolution. Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand abstained. Cambodia was absent.
Chinas power and will to push for change in Myanmar limited at ASEAN, analysts say
Associated Press: Wed 21 Nov 2007
There were hopes that China could use its growing clout this week at a summit of Southeast Asian leaders to get Myanmar to end an often brutal crackdown on dissent and allow reforms in the isolated, impoverished nation.
But the expectations for progress with Myanmar quickly fizzled at the gathering in Singapore, highlighting the limits of Beijings power and possibly desire to push hard for change in the isolated country, also known as Burma.
The sticky issue of Myanmar is often a hot topic at meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The 10-nation group allowed Myanmar to join a decade ago, hoping that membership would inspire change in the country, ruled by juntas since 1962. But little has improved, and Myanmar continues to be an embarrassment for ASEAN.
Myanmar grabbed the worlds attention again two months ago when troops and police shot at pro-democracy protesters, killing at least 15 people. The peaceful marches were led by Buddhist monks, who were demonstrating against fuel hikes and inflation that were grinding down the impoverished masses.
Although the bloodshed drew global anger, Myanmar only got a light slap from neighboring China its staunchest diplomatic ally, biggest trading partner and major supplier of weapons.
Just days before Wednesdays ASEAN summit, Beijing seemed to be taking a tougher approach on Myanmar. Chinas state media on Saturday quoted a vice minister of foreign affairs as saying Myanmar should speed up reforms. When Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao arrived in Singapore, he issued a statement urging the country to move toward national reconciliation.
Denny Roy, a China expert and senior fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, said Beijing publicly condemned Myanmar to stifle most of the criticism that China is part of the problem. But he said, I think the Chinese are careful to avoid pushing so hard that they alienate the target regime.
China went silent on the Myanmar issue after ASEAN under pressure from the junta abruptly withdrew an invitation to U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari to address the group and discuss his ongoing talks with Myanmar.
The diplomatic debacle highlighted how ASEAN often struggles to agree on how to deal with Myanmar. The Philippines and Malaysia have supported a hard line against the country, while the junta is traditionally backed by Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam which have their own human rights problems.
If ASEAN could forge a strong, united stand against the junta, it could place more pressure on Beijing to walk in step with important regional partners, who support China on many political and diplomatic issues. So in some ways, China has been blamed for what have been essentially ASEANs failings on Myanmar. Although China isnt an ASEAN member, it was invited to the gathering, along with Japan, South Korea and India.
China also has a tough job influencing Myanmar because the junta often shows it cares more about clinging to power than pleasing global opinion and easing the hardships of its people.
We shouldnt underestimate the nationalism and prickliness of Burmas dictators. This is a ruling elite that tends toward extreme xenophobia, said Dan Lynch, a professor at the School of International Relations at the University of Southern California. China could, I suppose, threaten to cut off military support, Lynch added. But its unclear the junta would respond as expected to such pressure, particularly if it meant handing power over to the opposition.
Beijing also knows that regime change in Myanmar could bring instability on its southern border. A new leadership that would seek close relations with the United States also could create new security worries for the Chinese, Lynch said.
Criticizing Myanmar is difficult for China because the countrys foreign policy has long eschewed meddling in other nations domestic affairs, said June Teufel Dreyer, a political science professor at the University of Miami. Joining Myanmars opponents is especially difficult for China because the juntas critics want it to allow free and fair elections political reforms that Beijings Communist leaders have also resisted.
If China pressures Burma to do something, Dreyer said, would that not give other countries the right to tell Beijing what to do?
Associated Press reporter Charles Hutzler in Beijing contributed to this report.
Yes, Big Brother Is Watching
Author: Lennox Samuels
In a land of government lunacy, residents need official permission to use the phone and to travel across town. An on-scene journal from beleaguered Burma
The ramshackle taxis that clog downtown Rangoon look ready for the scrap heap. No American auto dealer would offer more than a few hundred dollars for any of these aging and shabby cars, but here, in this impoverished nation, the drivers have paid up to $20,000 for the privilege of ownership. The reason: ordinary Burmese say they are not allowed to import or buy new cars. That's the prerogative of diplomats, foreign-company employees, the fortunate rich and, of course, the military regime.
The prohibition against new-car ownership is just one of the myriad rules the junta imposes in its obsession with controlling every aspect of Burma. While it pays lip service to "true patriotism," the government goes out of its way to make things as difficult as possible for its citizens. Small wonder most Burmese scoff at the generals' trumpeted national manifesto, which includes the objective to "uplift the morale and morality of the entire nation."
In this Orwellian society, not only are some people more equal than others, Big Brother is always watching as well. "This is a police state," a Western diplomat says flatly. Xenophobia, paranoia and awareness of its own illegitimacy have led the junta to construct a form of governing that leaves no room for flexibility, let alone freedom, says a fugitive member of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy. I meet him in a darkened office after first walking more than 15 blocks, occasionally stopping to look over my shoulder or loiter in front of a shop for fear I was being followed. The regime's policies, ostensibly aimed at maintaining "law and order," often border on lunacy. Consider the "internal visas." Even by the standards of authoritarian societies, these domestic travel curbs are extreme. Burmese who live in one part of town and want to spend the night or a few days with a friend or relative who lives in another part of the same city must first get permission from local officialsappropriately called wardensand pay a fee. Foreigners, the relatively few who are allowed in, are restricted to a particular geographical area, unless they get permission to go elsewhere. In Mandalay a foreigner crossing the street from the Sedona Hotel to tour historic Shwe Nandaw Palace must present $10 cashand his passport.
Burmese who want cell phone service must first apply to the government for a SIM card. The process often takes years and costs about $1,500, in a country where many earn about $50 a month. Those who can afford it often buy the coveted SIM card from a person who acquired it through the lottery, as some Burmese dub it, or the black market. They generally pay that person a virtual fortune of about $2,500. Having a land line or a cell, mind you, does not entitle owners to call anywhere they want. Many use their phones only for local calls. If they want to be able to call outside the immediate areasay from Rangoon to Mandalaythey must first ask the government. Calling outside the country requires further clearance. And it is highly likely that some government apparatchik will be listening in. Phoning a diplomat from one of the best hotels in the country, I'm cut off midsentence. "Better not to get into that," the man says sharply.
Phone charges, meanwhile, resemble larceny: $11 a minute to the United States. It may be that Burma's generals need the money to fund their new capital at Naypyidaw, a billion-dollar indulgence that's virtually uninhabited except for government ministers and civil servants. (To travel to Naypyidaw, by the way, a foreigner must receive express permission.) It is said the decision to build a new administrative capital came after the junta leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, consulted an astrologer about whether the numbers were favorable for the move. At least his behavior has a precedent: legend says that in 1430, King Minsawmon of Rakhine changed that state's capital with the help of astrologers, in the wake of a series of bad omens.
Than Shwe and his colleagues in the ruling State Peace and Development Council spend most of their time in Naypyidaw, apparently to the chagrin of their wives, who prefer the relative glamour of Rangoon, not to mention the shopping in cosmopolitan Singapore. The senior general, or "number one brother," as one cab driver jibed, does still have a manorial estate in Rangoon. It is not far from downtown, where beggars and street urchins hound the few tourists walking near Sule Pagoda, one of September's main demonstration sites.
The regime insists the poverty that "saboteurs" and "neo-colonialists" keep carping about is exaggerated. "In Myanmar, perhaps, they cannot sometimes afford expensive foods, but they will never go hungry," a writer named only "Shwe" thunders in a rambling, rather baroque editorial in The Myanmar Times. The writer evidently has never visited Mandalay's Mingun Jetty Place, where scores of families live in shacks, scratching out a living and endangering their lungs by using raw coal as fuel. And Shwe surely could not be aware of a stretch of road between Amarapura and Sagaing that is postcard-idyllicexcept that many Burmese live in haphazard lean-tos, using nearby woods and streams as their toilets.
The generals prefer to blame the misery on sanctions imposed by the United States, European Union and others, ignoring the incompetence and kleptomania that have hobbled the economy and left the country owing the World Bank and International Monetary Fund some $3.5 billion. And never mind the fortunes the generals spend on vanity projects and the military apparatus. The standing army alone is said to number a half-million, even more than Burma's 400,000 monks. "There is no pretense that [the junta] is doing anything for the people," says a Western diplomat. "They talk about what people can do for them." The government and its proxies have taken to referring to Burma, which they call the Union of Myanmar, as "the motherland" and exhorting citizens to have "Union spirit" in the face of foreigners trying to "destabilize" the nation. The rulers also talk about uplifting the nation's education standards. But most people say they instead have steadily eroded Burma's once-admired school system. Relatively few people still speak English in this former British colony, and residents say there is little effort to teach it in schools. "The teacher writes an English word on the board and then repeats, several times, the same word in Burmese," says a university graduate. "What sense does that make? Of course, they don't want people to know English." The University of Rangoon was a regional powerhouse in the 1950s, but the generals shuttered it after crushing the 1988 uprising, which was led by university students. The main campus on University Avenue, not far from the brand-new U.S. Embassy, is now rundown, used only for some postgraduate programs; satellite campuses operate in other parts of the city.
Even those lucky enough to go to university have few prospects after graduating, unless they boast government connections. A doorman at a top Rangoon hotel tells me he has a degree in history. The young man delivering room service at my Mandalay hotel recently graduated with a degree in physics. Physics! And on his business card my Mandalay taxi driver has printed in parentheses, "B.Sc. Chemistry." "Not much you can do with a degree except hang it on the wall," the 42-year-old says, not without humor.
Myanmar regime scores victory at summit
Author: Sarah Stewart
Myanmar's new prime minister Thein Sein was expected to face a tongue-lashing at a Southeast Asian summit just weeks after the regime's crackdown on protests. Instead, he will walk away with a victory. Thein Sein scored a major diplomatic coup by blocking UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari from briefing regional leaders on his two visits to Myanmar since the junta violently suppressed mass street rallies in September. Analysts said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) averted a looming Myanmar walkout by caving in to its demands - maintaining the bloc's unity but paying a high price in credibility.
It is just dreadful. It was a terrible decision," said Sean Turnell, a Myanmar expert from Australia's Macquarie University after the decision, which came during a heated leaders' dinner Monday. "At least the meeting with Gambari could have sent a signal that ASEAN was concerned," he said. "They missed a golden opportunity to send a signal to Burma." The row blew apart the clubby atmosphere at ASEAN, which is run on the basis of consensus, and embarrassed summit host Singapore, which its neighbours complained had invited Gambari without consulting them.
A Southeast Asian diplomat said that at one point during the dinner, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a retired army general, stood up and raised his voice, asking how ASEAN had come to such a point of discord. Thein Sein "made clear that the situation in Myanmar was a domestic Myanmar thing and that Myanmar was fully capable of handling the situation by itself," said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. "Certainly, this is a victory for Myanmar," said Hiro Katsumata, an ASEAN specialist from the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. "What is lost is the reputation of the association. What they have maintained is the unity of the organisation. So there's a tradeoff here.
Despite coming to Singapore as the pariah of the region, Myanmar has managed to dictate the agenda, also by watering down a landmark charter whose authors had wanted to include a mechanism to punish errant members. "Myanmar is getting everything it wanted - in terms of the contents of the charter ... and also how the UN envoy is treated," Katsumata said. Southeast Asian leaders particularly objected to the Gambari briefing being open to their six dialogue partners - Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, who together with ASEAN make up the East Asia Summit.
It is an ASEAN matter. We will continue to support the UN but we cannot take the matter out of the ASEAN forum and take it into some other forum," Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar told AFP. However, he insisted the move should not be considered a slap in the face to the United Nations. "This does not preclude if anyone wants to see Gambari - that's up to them," he said in an interview Monday.
Syed Hamid also deflected suggestions that the international community would see the cancellation as a victory for Myanmar, which is always keen to avoid any scrutiny of its internal affairs. "Whatever reaction from outside, to me that doesn't matter. What matters is how it affects ASEAN," he said. Katsumata said that despite Myanmar's failings, it was being treated as an "important guest" by its ASEAN partners, who are afraid of sending the generals into the arms of giant northern neighbour China if they get tough. "What is shown here is that Myanmar can block any agenda which they don't like," he said.
Gem sales continue despite calls for boycott
DVB: Nov 21, 2007
A Burmese gem auction at the Myanmar Convention Centre in Mayangon township, Rangoon, has attracted 3596 local and international merchants so far, according to state media reports.
The government-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar said yesterday that 1705 lots of jade had been sold since 17 November.
Sales are due to continue until 26 November, with more buyers expected to attend the event.
International rights group Human Rights Watch has called for a complete international ban on Burmese gems, claiming that the sale of rubies and jade keep the regime in power and finance human rights abuses.
In a statement released on 12 November, the group said that gem auctions are an increasingly important source of revenue for the junta, and have been held ever more frequently in recent years.
Arvind Ganesan, director of HRWs Business and Human Rights Program, said in the statement that buyers were supporting the regime at the expense of the people of Burma.
It is simply unconscionable for traders to help Burmas generals sell off the countrys natural resources for their own benefit while average people are victimized and harassed, he said.
Trading in Burmese gems bolsters the countrys military rulers at a time when they are committing serious human rights abuses, driving their people into further poverty, and rejecting calls for political reconciliation.
A number of countries and retailers have imposed sanctions on the import or use of Burmese gems, but many merchants, particularly from Thailand and China, continue to support the trade.
The governments and companies that have stopped buying Burmese gems deserve credit for not supporting human rights abusers. The rest have the blood of Burmese on their hands, said Ganesan.
Reporting by DVB
Burma Army now attacking villagers, burning rice barns and blocking access to fields during harvest in Northern Karen State
Free Burma Rangers: 6 November 2007
On 6 November, the Burma Army repeatedly shelled rice fields in the Yeh Mu Plaw area of Muthraw District in the Northern Karen State. There are over 1,000 IDPs due to these attacks by Burma Army troops of Military Operations Command (MOC) 1 and Division 88. These two units have been attacking out of camps along the Kyauk Kyi-Hsaw Hta road beginning on 24 October and continuing through 6 November, 2007.
Nine villagers have been wounded and two have been killed in these attacks against villagers trying to harvest their rice. A woman and her thirteen year old daughter were captured earlier last week in this area and have been sent back to Division 88 headquarters. Their condition is unknown. The following is an update of these attacks.
The Burma Army is attacking in the Plaw Ko area north of the Thae Lo Klow river and Yeh Mu Plaw village.. The Burma Army is attempting to disrupt the harvest during this crucial time for local farmers. At present, 64 rice fields are being blocked and controlled by the Burma Army. On 3 November five rice barns were burned (belonging to Saw Dee Gay, Saw Ha Du, Saw Mu Gay, Saw Paw Tha, and Saw Shway Jo) and three paddy fields were been destroyed (belonging to Saw Hay Du, Saw Mu Gwey, and Saw Baw Tu Ha). The Burma Army is shelling the rice fields in order to keep villagers from returning to harvest. One group of soldiers from Tha Wa Jo camp entered the Yeh Mu Plaw village area but have since returned to their camp. Another group of soldiers from Plaw Ko are still in the area, but are North of the Thay Loh Klo river-this is a tributary of the Yunzalin River.
This unit is firing mortar rounds into the surrounding rice fields to keep villagers away and are patrolling the area as of this report. 10 p.m. 6 November 2007.
Backgound: These attacks are the most recent phase of an offensive that has displaced over 30,000 people and killed over 370 villagers in Northern Karen State from 2006 to present, 6 November, 2007
Thank you all for your care and help for these people,
God bless you,
The Free Burma Rangers.