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News on Burma - 4/12/07

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  • CHAN Beng Seng
    1.. Activists petition China to regulate dam projects in Burma 2.. Burma to try protesters for arson, possession of weapons c.. Myanmar rejects calls to
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 4, 2007
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      1. Activists petition China to regulate dam projects in Burma
      2. Burma to try protesters for arson, possession of weapons
      3. Myanmar rejects calls to include Suu Kyi in reforms
      4. UN Burma chief to leave country
      5. Burmese Buddhist Monks outcasts in their own country
      6. Military presence at monk food offering
      7. Farmers suffer losses after forced crop growing
      8. Junta to confiscate houses at eastern gate of Shwedagon
      9. Tourism in Burma down after protests
      10. China’s CNPC and Yunnan sign Burma-related pipeline agreement
      11. 3-D Fund offers Myanmar 5 mln USD for fighting diseases next year
      12. Myanmar back on a roadmap to nowhere
      13. Junta - puppet dictatorship

      Activists petition China to regulate dam projects in Burma
      The Nation: 3 Dec.07

      Bangkok - Burmese anti-dam activists on Monday sent a petition to Chinese President Hu Jintao urging him to better regulate Chinese companies involved in the construction of 10 hydropower projects worth 30 billion dollars in military-run Burma.

      The Burma Rivers Network petition - endorsed by 50,000 "affected people," 98 Burmese organizations and 24 international organizations - called on the Chinese government to require the 10 Chinese companies involved in dam building in Burma to conduct proper social and environmental impact studies and reveal details on the projects to the affected communities.

      "The dams would represent over 30 billion dollars in investment," the petition said. "This would be by far the biggest inflow of money to a military regime that Transparency International rates as the world's second most corrupt."

      China is currently under considerable pressure from the international community to use its close economic relations with Burma's ruling junta to bring about political reform in the country after a brutal crackdown in September on peaceful anti-government protests led by Buddhist monks.

      "These Chinese dams will cause huge environmental and social damage for the peoples in Burma and will damage China's international image," said Aung Ngyeh, spokesman of the Burma Rivers Network.

      The Burma Rivers Network, a non-governmental organization comprised of representatives of ethnic organizations from potential dam-affected communities in Burma, has used its petition to highlight the extent of Chinese companies' involvement in Burmese hydropower sector, which has been largely ignored because of a lack of publicity and transparency surrounding the deals.

      "In recent years, the number of Chinese businesses involved in hydropower projects in Burma has increased dramatically," the letter to Hu said.

      "At least 10 Chinese corporations have been named in connection with these dams on the Irrawaddy, Salween (Nu), Shweli and Paunglaung rivers, including Gezhouba Group Co (CGGC), Sinohydro Corp, Yunnan Machinery and Equipment Import and Export Co, and China Power Investment Corp," it added.

      Most of the planned hydropower dams are situated in conflict areas, where the Burmese military is waging jungle wars against ethnic minority groups, such as the Karen and Shan.

      While the Chinese companies are hoping the projects would earn revenues from electricity exports to neighbouring Thailand, Burmese military stands to gain politically by opening these areas up to their troops and through forced relocations of thousands of ethnic minority populations opposed to the government, observers charged.

      The dam building is likely to a have huge social impact not only at the project sites but also on the border areas between Burma and China and Thailand.

      "The impacts of the proposed dams in border areas will lead to instability and increased refugees flows into China, creating further opportunities for the spread of HIV/AIDS and drug trafficking into China," the Burma Rivers Network said.

      It urged the Chinese government to insist that Chinese companies conduct social impact assessments and environmental impact assessments that meet international standards before going ahead with construction.

      Deutsche Presse-Agentur

      Burma to try protesters for arson, possession of weapons
      The Nation: December 3, 2007

      NAYPYITAW-- Protestors who participated in the September uprising in Yangon will not be prosecuted if they merely acted peacefully and without illegal weapons, Burma's top cop said Monday.

      "Only those individuals involved in arson or the possession of illegal weapons will be brought to trial," Burma police chief Khin Yi said in Naypyitaw, the new administrative capital.

      He said there were only 21 monks and 59 laymen still in Burma jails on charges related to the protests.

      Khin Yi also said only 15 people died in the unrest, a number that UN special human rights' envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro announced as the government's official death toll last month.

      On December 11, Pinheiro plans to announce his own estimates of the death toll, as well as the number of people arrested since the peaceful anti-government protests in Yangon, the former capital, led by Buddhist monks.

      The demonstrations, the largest since 1988, ended in a brutal crackdown on September 26-27, and led to the arrests of more than 3,000 people. With arrests still occurring on a daily basis, it is difficult to know the real number of people detained for participating in the protests, sparked by a shock fuel price hike announced on August 15.

      Khin Yi's comments came during a news conference in Naypyitaw, 350 kilometres north of Yangon, held to announce the continuation of the junta's seven-step road map to democracy.

      A 54-member constitution drafting committee started work on a new charter for the country on Monday, Burma Information Minister Kyaw Hsan said.

      It took the junta 15 years to write up the guidelines for a new constitution, which must now be drafted and then passed by a general referendum, according to the junta's seven-step plan.

      The lengthy process, dubbed a sham by the international community, has lost all credibility since the September demonstrations which were seen as a call for real political change.

      Kyaw Hsan acknowledged that the recent protests had "disturbed" the seven-step road map.

      But he warned that calls by the opposition National League for Democracy party to set up an interim government "will not be tolerated once it reaches a dangerous point."

      In the wake of the September crackdown, which unleashed a fresh wave of international criticism of Burma's military rulers, junta chief Senior Than Shwe agreed to open a dialogue with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on the precondition that she drop her support for economic sanctions against the regime.


      Myanmar rejects calls to include Suu Kyi in reforms
      Agence France Presse: Mon 3 Dec 2007

      Military-ruled Myanmar on Monday brushed off mass pro-democracy protests as “trivial” and refused to include detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in its own plodding reform plans.

      Top officials spoke to reporters at the first press conference since the military staged a deadly crackdown on protests in September, leaving at least 15 dead and 3,000 jailed, according to a UN envoy.

      Buddhist monks and former student leaders led the protests in the main city of Yangon and in provincial towns around the country, in the biggest challenge to military rule in nearly two decades. But Brigadier General Kyaw Hsan, the information minister, brushed off the protests as the work of “bogus” monks organised by exiled dissidents and the United States. “Actually, the August-September protests were trivial for the whole country,” Kyaw Hsan said.

      “It is found with sound evidence that ex-convicted bogus monks got joined with anti-government groups inside and outside the country,” he said.

      “Those unrests and violence, not participated by the majority of the people and the majority of monks, have been put under control,” he said.

      Myanmar’s national police chief Khin Yi said that the protesters had hoped to overthrow the government. “The demonstrations and protests were planned and conspired months ahead to topple the government,” Khin Yi told reporters.

      He accused a non-government organisation called the Forum for Democracy in Burma of working with exiled dissidents to orchestrate the protests, and said the US embassy had also helped train the activists. “The American Centre held a three-day training course on infiltrating and organising the public,” he said.

      “The uprisings dissolved within a very short time frame simply because the general public did not take part and our security forces were able to make pre-emptive strikes,” he added.

      The crackdown drew international condemnation and demands for Myanmar to make democratic reforms and to free Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest. But Kyaw Hsan rejected those calls, saying the junta would stick to its own self-styled “road map” to democracy.

      A 54-member panel appointed by the junta began work Monday on drafting a new constitution, which the regime says will eventually lead to elections.

      A National Convention of delegates also chosen by the military wrapped up 14 years of talks in September, laying out principles to be enshrined in the new charter.

      There is no timeline for completing the charter, and Kyaw Hsan ruled out any role for Aung San Suu Kyi or her National League for Democracy (NLD) party, which won elections in a landslide victory in 1990. “No assistance or advice from other persons is required,” he said, adding that no changes to the National Convention’s work would be considered. “It is not reasonable or fair to amend those principles adopted by the delegates,” he said.

      Since the crackdown, the United States and the European Union have toughened sanctions on Myanmar to push the regime to open a dialogue on democracy.

      In hopes of defusing the global pressure, the junta appointed a liaison officer to coordinate contacts with Aung San Suu Kyi.

      The person chosen, Aung Kyi, told the press conference that his three meetings with the Nobel peace prize winner had yielded “positive developments,” but he declined to elaborate.

      The top US diplomat in Yangon, Shari Villarosa, warned on Friday that the new constitution would have no international credibility unless the military brought the NLD and other political groups into the process.

      “If they can somehow open it up so that there is more debate and it looks more representative, then it will gain more international acceptability,” she told reporters in Bangkok.

      “If they continue on the track that they are on, without any changes whatsoever, it will have no credibility,” she said.

      UN Burma chief to leave country
      Mizzima News: Mon 3 Dec 2007

      Charles Petrie, the United Nations in-country coordinator in Burma, will leave the Southeast Asian nation on Tuesday after the ruling junta refused to renew his accreditation last month, a UN official in Rangoon said.

      The Burmese military junta, on November 2, summoned Petrie to its new capital, Naypyidaw, and handed him a statement stating their displeasure with the UN coordinator’s actions, stating they did not want him to continue serving in Burma.

      The Burmese junta particularly protested over Petrie’s statement on UN Day in October, a statement that urged the Burmese ruling junta to pay attention to protestors on the street and warned of a deteriorating humanitarian crisis in the country.

      “The government of the Union of Myanmar does not want Petrie to continue to serve in Myanmar, especially at this time when cooperation between Myanmar and the United Nations is crucial,” the junta said in its statement handed to Petrie.

      The UN official, who declined to be named, said “Petrie will leave tomorrow,” adding that an acting resident coordinator has been appointed on Petrie’s behalf.

      While the official declined to give further details, a report by the AFP said Dan Baker has been appointed as the acting resident coordinator of the UN in Burma.

      The Burmese government, in early November, said it had reached an agreement with UN Special Envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, to appoint a temporary resident representative in Rangoon.

      Gambari, visiting the country to facilitate talks between the ruling generals and opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Ky for the second time since the government’s violent crackdown on protestors, reportedly conveyed a message from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to the ruling generals on the expulsion of Petrie.

      The Secretary General condemned the move by the Burmese junta and expressed his support for the statement issued by Petrie.

      Petrie has led the UN country team in Burma since 2003.

      Burmese Buddhist Monks outcasts in their own country - Shah Paung
      Irrawaddy: Mon 3 Dec 2007

      Burma is a Buddhist country. But, under this military government, it no longer offers a place or security for Buddhist monks.

      This was confirmed again by the latest cruel action by the regime in closing Rangoon’s Maggin monastery and evicting its monks, lay people and the HIV/AIDS patients in its treatment center and hospice.

      Among the nine evicted monks was 80-year-old U Nandiya, father of the monastery’s abbot, U Indaka, a former political prisoner detained once more in an unknown location.

      U Nandiya is also being detained by the Burmese authorities, and it’s reported that he will be sent back to his home town, Myothit, in Taungdwingyi Township, Magwe Division. Three novices will also reportedly be sent home. A member of the State Sangha Mahanayaka Committee, the official council of monks, will accompany them.

      The monastery’s six HIV/AIDS patients are being cared for in a “safe house” staffed by volunteers of a group led by Phyu Phyu Thin until she was forced to flee and go into hiding from the authorities.

      According to the 88 Generation Students group, U Nandiya is been held under guard at Maha Theik Pan Kyaung in Rangoon’s Yankin Township of Rangoon.

      The group said that on Sunday the authorities also arrest a lay person, Aung Zaw Win, when he inquired about the fate of the evicted monks.

      The crackdown on Buddhist monks, in which more than 3,000 were arrested during and after the September demonstrations, is clearly continuing. Several monks reportedly died in the crackdown and many are still in prison.

      The authorities are now reported to be hunting down monks who are following a call by the Alliance of All Burmese Buddhist Monks for a boycott of the annual state-run examinations. The boycott is intended to show solidarity with the monks who participated in the September demonstrations.

      Soe Tun, a member of the 88 Generation Students group, said from his hiding place: “Our religion and our entire nation have been insulted [by the regime actions].”

      He also accused the State Sangha Mahanayaka Committee of failing in its duty to tackle problems arising in relations between the monasteries and the state.

      “From village to national level, the Sangha Mahanayaka has a duty here, but now it only follows government orders,” Soe Tun said.

      Military presence at monk food offering
      Democratic Voice of Burma: Mon 3 Dec 2007

      Authorities in Moegok township, Mandalay division, tightened security around a local monastery and pagoda out of concern that a gathering of monks for a food offering could turn into another protest.

      Around 400 monks attended the breakfast offering at Thati Phatan monastery on 30 November, according to a local resident.

      Local authorities were worried about the large number of monks assembling at Thati Phatan and feared they would move on to Chanthar Gyi pagoda, a well-known pagoda near the monastery.

      The local resident said the authorities had called in security forces because they did not want the gathering to lead to renewed demonstrations.

      “They were worried that the monks would go out into the town and protest again,” he said.

      “So they sent in military trucks and soldiers in body armour to the areas surrounding the monastery and set up roadblocks on the way to the monastery and were checking everyone.”

      Local officials had also visited the monastery several times on 29 November to try to pressure the head monk, 75-year-old U Thu Nanda, not to hold the offering.

      Thati Phatan monastery is located on the east side of Moegok township, and has about 18 monks and novices.

      Farmers suffer losses after forced crop growing
      Democratic Voice of Burma: Mon 3 Dec 2007

      Farmers in Mandalay and Magwe divisions have been faced with rising debts and failed harvests after local authorities forced them to grow particular crops.

      In Ma Hlaing township in Mandalay division, township chairman U Myo Thand ordered farmers in his territory to grow rice paddy on fields that are only suitable for growing cotton, corn and beans. He said those who disobeyed the orders would be arrested and imprisoned.

      The farmers did grow paddy rice as he ordered, but the crop failed because the land was unsuitable. This has left the farmers with no income from their crop this yearm forcing some to sell up farmland and cattle to repay their debts.

      The chairman has continued tell farmers to clear other land to make paddy fields and those who have refused or failed to clear their lands within the deadline he gave them have been arrested.

      One farmer from Habyebin village, U Chit Yan, was among those detained for not complying with the chairman’s orders. “On 29 July, the township chairman ordered me to clear the banana plantations my family has owned for generations, and he gave me five days to clear it,” the farmer said. “But I couldn’t do it on time as there was some heavy rain, and then he held me in detention for 24 hours.” A few days later Chit Yan was arrested again for not growing what the township chairman had asked, and that time he spent seven days in detention.

      The township chairman was repeatedly unavailable for comment.

      Farmers in villages around Taung Twin Gyi township, Magwe division, were forced by authorities to grow sugar cane to sell to the government. Local officials told them that those who did not grow the crop would face punishment. But now that the time has come to harvest the crops, the authorities have said that they will no longer be buying the sugar cane due to the shortage of fuel at the number 9 sugar factory at Aung Lan township in Magwe division.

      After hearing that they would not be able to sell their sugar cane to the government, the villagers requested permission to set up home factories to make Burmese traditional sweets instead, but permission was denied by the authorities.

      Township farmers have also suffered under a government scheme to buy fertilizer. The farmers were offered the fertilizer at the start of the season at 6,000 kyat, which they could use then but would not have to pay for until after the harvest. But now officials have said they must pay 15,000 kyat for the fertilizer, despite the lack of income the farmers have received from their sugar cane crops. Authorities have blamed the increase in price on the cost of transporting the fertilizer.

      Junta to confiscate houses at eastern gate of Shwedagon
      Mizzima News: Mon 3 Dec 2007

      The Burmese military junta will soon confiscate houses near the eastern gate of Burma’s most famous Buddhist shrine, Shwedagon Pagoda, and relocate residents, a monk in Rangoon said.

      The Monk, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, said the junta has decided to empty the area, east of Shwedagon, and clear all residents, as many of the residences reportedly supported the monk-led protests in September.

      Several residents have also reportedly been arrested for taking part during protests in August and September. “On September 26, authorities fired tear gas in the vicinity of the eastern gate of Shwedagon. The people living in the ward were enraged and responded with violence, throwing stones at the soldiers,” a 33-year-old monk said, explaining why the local people supported the monk-led protests

      Despite reconnecting several telephone lines, which authorities had cut-off in September, the phone lines of monasteries located near Shwedagon, including Ma Har Wi Thote Dar Yone and Nyaung Tone, remain disconnected. “They [the junta] even sealed-off the Maggin monastery, so they have proven that they dare to confiscate the people’s residences,” the monk said.

      Tourism in Burma down after protests
      Democratic Voice of Burma: Mon 3 Dec 2007

      Tourism industry workers in Burma have noted a significant drop in the number of tourists visiting the country this year following the government’s crackdown on protests in September.

      A hotel manager in Bagan, Mandalay, said that there had been a marked decrease in the number of tourists travelling to Burma compared with last year. “Normally, this hotel would already be full by this time in previous years, but now, only 20 out of our 80 hotel rooms are occupied,” the manager said.

      Another hotel manager in Mandalay said that there was a 50 percent drop in the number of tourists compared with other years, but said that he could not talk about the reasons for the decline. “You know why that is. But it’s not okay for me to tell you,” he said.

      In Nyaung Shwe, Shan State, a guest house owner at Inlay Lake, blamed the drop on the recent unrest in the country. “There are still tourists. But the number of customers we receive this year is too low compared with last year – it has dropped to 25 percent of what it was,” said the owner. “This is really bad for us. I think this is because of the problems our country had recently.”

      Tourism in Burma has been a topic of intense debate between those who believe tourism can benefit the ordinary people in the country and those who link the tourist industry to human rights abuses by the military regime.

      China’s CNPC and Yunnan sign Burma-related pipeline agreement - Elaine Kurtenbach
      Associated Press: Mon 3 Dec 2007

      China National Petroleum Corp, the country’s biggest oil and gas producer, has signed an agreement with the southwestern province of Yunnan to cooperate in oil refining, a step toward building a pipeline to neighboring Burma.

      The agreement, signed on Sunday in Beijing, calls for CNPC and Yunnan to cooperate in building an oil refining base in Yunnan, a landlocked province that has suffered from fuel shortage partly because of its lack of refining facilities, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

      If approved by the central government, the refining base would have an annual capacity of 10 million tons a year. State-owned CNPC is also planning to build a 1 million ton-a-year ethylene refining facility, the report said.

      The agreement will play a significant role in coordinating plans for design and construction of an oil pipeline to neighboring Burma, Dow Jones Newswires reported, citing an unnamed executive with PetroChina, CNPC’s publicly traded unit.

      Initial plans call for the oil pipeline to run from Burma’s western port of Sittwe to Kunming city in Yunnan. Its initial capacity will be 20 million metric tons a year, equivalent to around 400,000 barrels a day, the report said. The crude oil pipeline is still in the design phase, and no timetable for construction has been fixed, Dow Jones cited the PetroChina official as saying.

      The refinery project presumably would require approvals from China’s economic planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission, and from the State Environmental Protection Agency. The reports made no mention of endorsements for the plan from the State Council, China’s Cabinet, or from those two agencies.

      China, eager to reduce its growing dependence on oil shipped via the Strait of Malacca from the politically volatile Middle East, has been cultivating alternative supply routes.

      According to state media reports, China intends the pipeline from Burma to eventually reach Chongqing, a huge industrial hub to the northeast of Yunnan. The refinery plan calls for construction of several oil products pipelines linking cities in Yunnan, which is a subtropical, largely agricultural province. “This is a great event for the Yunnan people and for Yunnan’s economic development,” the Kunming local newspaper Chuncheng Evening News cited top provincial officials as saying.

      CNPC also agreed to develop bio-diesel production in Yunnan, the reports said.

      3-D Fund offers Myanmar 5 mln USD for fighting diseases next year
      Xinhua General News Service: Mon 3 Dec 2007

      The Three-Disease (3-D) Fund will provide Myanmar with 5.7 million U.S. dollars to fight three diseases of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria in the 2008-09 fiscal year beginning next March, a local news journal reported Monday.

      The 3-D fund will be extended through the World Health Organization (WHO) which will administer the program under a memorandum of understanding signed late last month between the 3-D fund and the WHO at the request of a work coordination body comprising the Myanmar relevant ministries, United Nations agencies and social organizations, said the Flower News.

      The 3-D fund had provided the country with 4 million dollars for use in 2007-08, the initial year of its five-year project to fight the three diseases.

      The entire 3-D fund project, worth about 100 million dollars, was set to be funded by a group of six donors — the European Commission, Sweden’s Sida, the Netherlands, United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, Norway and Australia’s Aus AID.

      The project is being implemented under the guidance of the Work Coordination Committee led by Myanmar Health Minister Dr. Kyaw Myint.

      The 3-D fund was developed in 2006 to compensate for grants which were suspended in August 2005 by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.

      According to the latest official figures based on the findings from a HIV/AIDS projection and impact analysis workshop organization by the Myanmar government and the World Health Organization in September this year, the infection rate of HIV in Myanmar declined to 0.67 percent in 2007 from 0.94 percent in 2000.

      In the wake of the danger being posed by the three diseases on the public health, Myanmar has taken steps to control the three disease as a national duty .

      As part of the project for control of AIDS and syphilis, efforts are being made for giving educative talks on AIDS, for 100- percent use of condoms in targeted groups in 170 townships in the country and for effective treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, said the report.

      Work is also underway for preventing spread of HIV among those who use drugs through injection and from mother to foetus at 37 hospitals and 106 townships, while preventing such spread through blood transfusion and introducing safe blood transfusion.

      Besides, 13 strategies on preventive measures and rehabilitation are now being implemented under five-year national strategic plan (2006-2010) adopted collectively by the relevant ministries, local non-governmental organizations, UN agencies and community-based organizations.

      In cooperation with foreign organizations in the fight, Myanmar is actively taking part in implementing the ASEAN HIV/AIDS Control Plan, the HIV Prevention Plan in Mekong Region countries, and regional and central level plans of UN agencies.

      Moreover, Myanmar is also cooperating with neighboring countries to combat and control TB and HIV/AIDS under a special plan.

      HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria are the three major communicable diseases of national concern designated by Myanmar.

      Myanmar back on a roadmap to nowhere - Bertil Lintner
      Asia Times: Mon 3 Dec 2007

      With the opposition subdued and the authorities vigorously hunting down the organizers of the September demonstrations - and the international community held at bay with promises of more ineffectual talks mediated by United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari - Myanmar’s ruling junta has put back on track its so-called “Seven-point Road Map” which it says will lead the country towards “national reconsolidation”.

      A newly formed 54-member State Constitution Drafting Commission was set to meet on Monday for the first time to “coordinate matters relating to the drafting of a new state constitution”, according to a recent article in the state mouthpiece newspaper The New Light on Myanmar. That is supposed to represent the third step on the Road Map - but a closer look at the proceedings shows clearly that they are not a blueprint for democratic reform, but rather a plan to make military rule constitutional.

      After general elections were held in May 1990, the junta suddenly - and to the dismay of many - announced that it would not convene the democratically elected 485-member Pyithu Hluttaw, or National Assembly, but rather planned to launch a “National Convention” entrusted with drafting a new constitution. For three years nothing happened, but in 1993 the convention was eventually in session. It was suspended in 1996, after the National League for Democracy (NLD) - which had won a landslide victory in the 1990 election - walked out, branding the process a sham and a farce.

      In August 2003, intelligence chief General Khin Nyunt was appointed prime minister, and shortly afterwards he launched his seven point Road Map plan, which survived his ouster on corruption charges a year later. According to official documents from Yangon, the first step of the plan was “reconvening the National Convention”, which had been adjourned since 1996. When that was done, however, of the 1,080 delegates only about a dozen were actually elected by the people in 1990.

      About 200 represented former rebel groups that had entered into ceasefire agreements with the government, and the rest, or more than 800, were handpicked by the military to represent “workers”, “peasants” and other social groups. Despite the breadth of the convention, no serious discussions were allowed. The delegates were required to sit in their national costumes and listen to endless speeches by military officers. One of the few who dared to raise any important issues, and suggest some new clauses to the draft that the military had prepared, was Hkun Htun Oo, leader of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, SNLD.

      The party had emerged as the second biggest in the country after the National League for Democracy, capturing 23 seats in the never-to-be-convened National Assembly. The NLD got 392 seats, while the military-sponsored National Unity Party had won in only 10 constituencies. On February 9, 2005, Hkun Htun Oo was arrested along with 30 other Shan leaders, charged with “defamation of the state” - and sentenced to 93 years’ imprisonment. Sai Noot, the SNLD general secretary, was sentenced to 85 years on a similar charge, while the rest received 75-year sentences.

      The National Convention wound up in September, ending step two on the Road Map: “After the successful holding of the National Convention, step by step implementation of the process necessary for the emergence of a genuine and discipline-flourishing democratic system.” The third step now underway will be the “drafting of a new constitution in accordance with the basic principles laid down by the National Convention.”

      Little is known of those basic principles, as to date they have never been made public. But gleaning from occasional announcements in the government-controlled media, the following appear to be some of the parameters:

      • The president of the country must have at least 10 years of military service.
      • Establishment of a bicameral system with an indirectly elected Upper House and a Lower House, which in theory will be elected by universal suffrage. However, 25% of seats in both houses will be filled by non-elected military officials.
      • The minister of defense and the minister of border areas development will be appointed by the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, not by the parliament or the prime minister.
      • In case of emergency the military will have the constitutional right to seize power and that seizure should be considered legitimate.

      Legal experts familiar with certain provisions of the draft have said it is not based on basic democratic principles. However it is clearly designed to bar NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi from holding any office in a future Myanmar. The draft constitution stipulates that a member of the assemblies should have no connection with any foreign government, or children who are not Myanmar citizens. Suu Kyi is a Myanmar citizen who was married to a recently deceased British citizen and her two sons Alexander and Kim Aris, who were stripped of their Myanmar citizenship in 1989 and have since become British nationals.

      Democratic missteps

      It is still uncertain how long the Road Map’s step three will take, but given that the first two steps took 14 years to complete, it seems evident that the junta is in no hurry to implement even its own version of what it has referred to as “disciplined democracy”, which to most others is synonymous with a continuation of military rule dressed up as democracy. When the draft constitution is finally finalized, step four states that the charter will be “adopted” through a “national referendum”.

      There seems little chance that regardless of what the charter says that it won’t be adopted. In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation on October 18, 2006, Tun Aung Chain, an alternate chairman of the National Convention, was asked what kind of referendum it will be, he said: “In my opinion, it may be like the one in 1973, a referendum by voting.”

      That was a telling reply: In December 1973 - when Myanmar was still ruled by General Ne Win and his Burma Socialist Program Party (BSPP) - a referendum on a new constitution was held, but the voting hardly met any acceptable democratic standards. Due to various polling irregularities, including a lack of privacy for voters which allowed supervising authorities to easily see whether they case a “yes” or “no” vote, it was hardly surprising that 90.19% approved that constitution. It was promulgated on January 3, 1974, and abolished when the military stepped in to assume direct state power after crushing a nationwide uprising for democracy in September 1988.

      Assuming as some analysts do that the referendum on a new constitution will be held some time next year, step five would follow: “Holding of free and fair elections for the legislative elections according to the new constitution.” This would in theory lead to step six: “Convening of hluttaws [legislative assemblies],” and then the final step seven: “Building of a modern, developed and democratic nation by the state leaders elected by the hluttaw, and the government and other central organs formed by the hluttaw.”

      The roadmap has so far and could still take ages to travel as long as the military continues to control all organs of the state while the so-called nation-building exercise is in process. And, if anyone - Buddhist monks marching down the streets, students demonstrating for democracy, or ethnic leaders demanding their rights - challenge the new order in the making, the military will have the constitutional right to resume direct power.

      This is definitely not what Myanmar’s people expected when they went to the polls in May 1990. And it is highly unlikely that the international community - other than Myanmar’s allies in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China, and perhaps India - would accept the final goal of the Road Map as something even vaguely resembling a truly democratic system.

      On the other hand, it is still possible that there will be another popular uprising similar to this year’s protests before the military junta even gets to step five on it Road Map. Discontent is simmering all over the country as protestors are harassed and arrested - and many Myanmar citizens say they feel that it is now or never to push for political change. They realize that once the junta’s new constitution is in place - and the international community and media lose interest in the story - it will be that much harder to put an end to military rule because which the new charter is specifically designed to perpetuate.

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

      Junta - puppet dictatorship - Ethan Bourne
      Mizzima: Mon 3 Dec 2007

      The Burmese generals have accused Aung San Suu Kyi of being a puppet of the CIA and of MI-6. She was called names like “kalar mayar”, which means wife of a white. The ruling generals used to say a government formed by her party members would be a puppet regime wanted by the U.S. Government. These accusations have now become cynical jokes which nobody believes and what goes around has now come around. The international community and analysts are now saying Burma ’s military regime has eventually become a colony of China and Russia. The Burmese generals are now acceding to demands by the Chinese and Russian counterparts. As long as the Burmese generals let China and Russia have access to its natural resources, they will veto any resolution proposed at the UN Security Council by the United States and the EU nations.

      The Burmese generals have lifted restrictions on Aung San Suu Kyi due to UN’s diplomacy and the international community’s pressure despite the fact that the generals rejected a U.N. proposal for three-way talks including Aung San Suu Kyi, and plan to expel the main U.N. representative in the country for criticizing the government. The international community has been watching the Burmese situation with caution. The United States has criticized the junta for not accepting democratic reforms yet. Skepticism is ubiquitous about the intentions of the military brass hats in Burma especially that of General Than Shwe. The question is “Is General Than Shwe who headed the Department of Psychological Warfare sincere and straightforward this time?”

      General Than Shwe has been consulting a colonel from the Chinese Embassy in Rangoon on how to rebut international pressure and cheat the international community including the United Nations. The Chinese colonel, according to a western source, is an expert on psychological warfare. At the same time the Military Affairs Security Forces under the order of the Military Affairs Security Agency, headed by Major General Ye Myint, have been tasked to hunt down and arrest the student activists and monks involved in the September Uprising. MASA has ordered the Burmese embassies abroad to continue collecting intelligence about the future plans and operations of dissident groups in foreign countries.

      As far as arms and ammunitions are concerned, despite the arms embargo imposed on the military regime, the generals have been able to buy arms and ammunitions from different exporters in Europe . The biggest suppliers are China , Russia, Serbia and Ukraine. While China has been the biggest supplier of advanced helicopter gun ships, fighter planes, naval vessels, tanks and small arms including mortars, landmines and assault rifles, Russia comes in second at $396 million, then Serbia and Ukraine. The Burmese generals have sought to purchase submarines from North Korea and so far it has not succeeded. However scud missiles may have been provided to Burma. Yet, the Burmese generals prefer Russian technology to low quality North Korean weapons. It is also obvious that Moscow aggressively pursues to arm the military regime with new military technology considering the fact that Moscow sold 15 Mig-29 Fulcrum Fighters to Burma for $150 million in 2001. According to sources in Moscow , Russia’s state-controlled arms exporter, is in the final stages of negotiating the sale of its technologically advanced Tor-M1 and Buk-M1-2 missile defence systems to Burma . The United States Government has been closely monitoring the arms sales and transfers to Burma by Russia.

      Now that the Burmese generals have to rely on China and Russia for arms and ammunitions, intelligence and political support to make sure they are in power. Who knows when the Chinese will send its army to occupy Burma like they did in Tibet? Who is the puppet now? Aung San Suu Kyi or Than Shwe?

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