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[ReadingRoom] News on Burma - 15/1/08 (resending)

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  • CHAN Beng Seng
    ... From: CHAN Beng Seng Sent: Tuesday, January 15, 2008 4:52 PM Subject: News on Burma - 15/1/08 1.. Burma bomb blasts aims to bring back unity among the
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 16, 2008
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      ----- Original Message -----
      Sent: Tuesday, January 15, 2008 4:52 PM
      Subject: News on Burma - 15/1/08

      1. Burma bomb blasts aims to bring back unity among the military
      2. Frequent meetings with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi vital
      3. Monk's words stir the spirit of Myanmar's resistance
      4. Rangoon municipality removes CCTV cameras
      5. From Orphan to Soldier, another life in Shan State
      6. Japan supports health care in Burma
      7. SA mag joins panty plan to oust Myanmar junta
      8. Burma's unlucky number 8
      9. Bully at the home: Demoralized Burmese Military regime
      10. India and Burma: time to choose
      11. Burma junta profits from Chinese pipeline
      12. Thailand likely to lift the ban on timber imports from Burma
      13. Come and laugh at us, plead Burma's people

      Burma bomb blasts aims to bring back unity among the military: Analyst - Maung Dee
      Mizzima News: Mon 14 Jan 2008

      The recent bomb blasts in Burma including former capital Rangoon could be the junta's plot in an effort to re-unite its military, which reportedly suffers a rift during the crackdown on protestors in September, analysts said.

      Since last Friday, three bombs have reportedly exploded in various places of Burma including its commercial hub Rangoon and its new administrative head, Pyinmana, killing at least two and injuring five people, the government-owned New Light of Myanmar said.

      The government's quick reaction in pointing fingers at the Karen National Union (KNU) an ethnic Karen armed rebel groups based along the eastern borders, could be another way of finding 'common enemy' to re-unite the military after it has reported a rift on the brutal treatment of protesting monks in September, Htay Aung, a Thailand based Burmese analyst.

      "It is like a tradition in the army to find a common enemy for unity as there are disagreements among themselves. Earlier they [the junta] would declare the Burma Communist Party [BCP] as common enemy and later the west. Now it looks like they are targeting the KNU in order to divert the attention," Htay Aung said.

      On Friday a small bomb exploded at the toilet of Pyinmana railway station, near the junta's new jungle capital Nay Pyi Taw, killing one woman. In the evening of the same evening, another bomb exploded at a filed in Phyu town of Pegu division, killing one person and injuring three women and a child, the New Light of Myanmar said.

      Further on Sunday, a bomb exploded near the Rangoon railway station injuring a woman, the paper. The paper accused all the three incidents to be instigated by the KNU members and warned the people to be aware and to inform of any suspects.

      However, the KNU denied any involvement in al the three incidents and rejected all allegations as false and bias.

      Pado Manh Shar, general secretary of the KNU said, "Our policy is not to harm innocent people. And since we did not give any orders to carry out such activities, we strongly reject all this allegations."

      Win Min, another Burmese analyst in Thailand said, while the culprit behind the bomb explosion cannot be confirm, the junta might be quick in blaming the KNU in an effort to provoke a sense of patriotism among the army and bring back unity.

      "If the military feels that there is an enemy, it is easier to unite. So, it might be possible that the junta wants to put this sense by declaring the KNU as a common enemy for the military," Win Min added.

      The Burmese military, which has maintained an un-broken rule of more than 45 years in Burma, was reported to have suffered a rift among the low raking soldiers on its hard handedness on protestors led by monks in September.

      While the rift and power struggle between Burma's top two military men, Snr. Gen Than Shwe and Vice Snr. Gen Maung Aye, has been reported for sometimes, the September event was the first rift it suffered among low raking soldiers, who were reluctant to brutally suppress the highly revered Buddhist monks.

      "If any group [armed insurgents] wants to explode bombs, why would they want to do it in toilets and in dustbins? They would directly place their bombs near their target. So, to me I think the junta has purposely placed the bombs," Htay Aung added.

      Frequent meetings with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi vital: NLD - Than Htike Oo
      Mizzima News: Mon 14 Jan 2008

      Burma's chief Opposition party today said there was need for frequent meetings with detained pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, for discussions on the future course of political negotiations with the ruling junta.

      Following the fourth meeting between Burmese junta's Liaison Minister Aung Kyi and detained party leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Friday, spokesperson of the National League for Democracy (NLD), Nyan Win, said they would like more frequent meetings with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as it was crucial for the party leadership to plan the process of negotiation.

      "Though we do not see any prospect for a meeting with her [Aung San Suu Kyi], as a party we should be allowed to meet frequently to discuss matters related to the party. So, we are hoping that such a thing would be allowed," Nyan Win told Mizzima. Details of the last meeting between the Burmese democracy icon and the junta's relation officer remains unknown, he added.

      Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who was last arrested in May 2003, met her party leaders – Aung Shwe, U Lwin, Nyunt Wai and Nyan Win, for the first time – on November 9, 2007, after more than four years.

      The NLD leaders, during their last meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, discussed measures with regard to Junta Chief Snr Gen. Than Shwe's demands and the situation after the September protests, Nyan Win said.

      In a rare statement issued following the bloody crackdown on protestors in September, Junta head Senior General Than Shwe said he was personally willing to meet the detained Burmese pro-democracy leader, if she abandoned "Confrontation", gave-up "obstructive measures" and stopped her support for "sanction" and "utter devastation".

      In what seems to be the first response to Than Shwe's demands, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, in a statement released through the visiting UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari, expressed her desire to cooperate with the ruling junta for national reconciliation and also welcomed the junta's appointment of a liaison officer and hoped that the meetings between them would be fruitful.

      However, the government, in December said it was ready to go ahead with its planned roadmap to democracy and would not allow any other group to derail the process, which it claimed would lead to democracy.

      Aung Naing Oo, a Thailand based Burmese analyst, said, "It is very much possible that the junta will continue to hold meetings with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, while not bothering to produce any results. Like what we have seen in the National Convention, which the junta used to buy time and delay the process of negotiation for about 14 years."

      Aung Naing Oo said the current talks could be another of the junta's ways of delaying the process of political reforms.

      "Even after rounds and rounds of talks, it is very much possible that there would still be no results. Even now, some observers are of the opinion that the junta is holding the meeting as a preparation for the next visit of UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari," Aung Naing Oo added.

      During a press conference in Burma's new Jungle capital, Nay Pyi Taw, on December 3, the junta's Liaison Minister Aung Kyi said, the first meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was to gain an understanding of one another, the second was to discuss the framework for the future, while the third was to discuss the facts that should be included in the framework.

      However, so far the junta has made no announcement of the fourth meeting with the Burmese opposition leader.

      Monk's words stir the spirit of Myanmar's resistance - Paul Watson
      Los Angeles Time: Mon 14 Jan 2008

      Cloaked in allegory and drawing on history, his lectures give Buddhists hope after a bloody crackdown by generals.

      Sagaing, Myanmar — In one of his most talked-about lectures, Buddhist monk Ashin Nyanissara tells the legend of a king who ruled more than 2,500 years ago. The king believed that spitting on a hermit brought him good fortune.

      At first, it worked like a charm, but before long his realm was annihilated under a rain of fire, spears and knives.

      Today's audiences easily find the hidden message: The assault by Myanmar's military government on monks leading protests last fall looks like a modern version of the ancient monarch's abuse. And they hope the ruling generals will suffer the same fate.

      In the recent crackdown, many monks were beaten and defrocked in prison. Human rights activists say several monks were among the 31 people the United Nations says were killed by the government.

      It was a traumatic wound to a mainly Buddhist society, one that forced a lot of soul searching among people who practice one of the oldest forms of the religion, which emphasizes critical thought and reasoning over blind faith.

      The stern-faced Nyanissara, a 70-year-old monk in owlish glasses and a maroon robe, is able to stare down generals with chests full of medals by stepping carefully through the minefield that makes free speech lethal here.

      Shielding himself with allegory, he crisscrosses the country giving lectures that draw on history and legend to remind people that rotten regimes have fallen before. As the generals try to crush the last remnants of resistance, he is cautiously keeping the fire alive.

      But he knows it isn't the first time in 45 years of military rule that the government has attacked monks who challenged its absolute authority. In at least four previous crackdowns, dating back to 1965, the military rounded up thousands of monks, killing some, defrocking others, while closing monasteries and seizing property.

      Each time, the brutal repression outraged many people, but in the end they felt powerless to do anything about it, the crises passed, and the generals continued to oppress with an iron fist.

      It's the nature of any government's leaders to "strongly test their political power. They don't want to lose it," he said in a recent interview at the International Buddhist Academy, which he founded in this riverside town whose forested hills the faithful believe Buddha walked on his path to enlightenment.

      "But in any faith, when politics and religion come into competition, religious leaders always defeat anything. Religion is the leader. Jesus Christ was killed, but which was more powerful? Religion or politics?"

      The institute sits in a valley beneath the Sagaing Hills, where hundreds of golden spires, called stupas, rise like spiritual beacons from monasteries and pagodas that dot the hillsides, 12 miles southwest of Mandalay.

      The first monks to demonstrate against the government last year took to the streets in Pakokku, 60 miles southwest of Sagaing.

      Still trapped in the latest cycle of political turmoil, many of Myanmar's people are looking to Nyanissara for more than spiritual guidance.

      At midday recently, he had just returned from addressing hundreds of the faithful in a village pagoda and was hurrying to leave for an afternoon lecture, a daily routine that keeps him constantly on the move to meet the demand for his wisdom.

      Barefoot in a corridor of the university where student monks and nuns are trained for missionary work, the monk ran a disposable razor over his tonsured head and down across his face and neck, removing the faintest midday stubble as he spoke.

      Then, flanked by young aides and walking as straight and sure-footed as a man half his age, the monk got into his black sport utility vehicle, which sped on a 110-mile journey to his next stop.

      Nyanissara draws large, rapt audiences wherever he goes, whether they are poor villagers crowded into small monasteries or city residents sitting in orderly rows on a side street.

      On a recent night, a few thousand people filled a street in Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, sitting quietly as they waited for the monk to arrive.

      When he emerged from his SUV, people bowed their heads to the ground as he made his way to a stage, where he sat cross-legged on a gilded chair as big as a throne.

      In large public gatherings such as these, when the generals' spies lurk in the audience and listen for any hint of trouble, his lectures are often built around the same lesson: Cruel rulers create bad karma. And they will suffer for what they have done.

      That's a moral not easily shrugged off by a government whose leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, is intensely superstitious: He consults astrologers to make important decisions.

      The ruling generals also churn out propaganda images portraying themselves as devoted Buddhists, receiving the blessing of sympathetic monks. If their faith is true, they know their actions will determine their next life in reincarnation's endless cycle of death and rebirth.

      "They have to be afraid they'll be coming back as cockroaches," wisecracked one Western envoy.

      Several of Nyanissara's lectures have been burned onto DVDs, with titles such as "Last Days of Empire." The generals have arrested people caught selling them, but they are still widely available across Myanmar, also known as Burma.

      "The DVDs are very popular," the Western diplomat said. "A lot of people have mentioned watching them, or knowing of them."

      To most people here, the pain of seeing monks beaten up in the streets is more than just an insult to religious faith. To many, it's as if the military had harmed their own family, and the anger does not ease quickly.

      Almost any Buddhist with a son has watched with pride as his head is shaved to make him a novice monk in an initiation ceremony called shin-pyu, a moment as life-defining as a baptism, christening or bar mitzvah.

      It is a religious duty for Buddhist boys to become novice monks from age 7, and most in Myanmar answer the calling, Nyanissara said.

      Just as Buddha left his own family to seek enlightenment, they live in a monastery for a few weeks, during which they are allowed to have only eight possessions: a robe, a belt, footwear, a razor, an umbrella, a glass for water, a begging bowl and a filter to make sure no living thing slips into their food to be eaten.

      "They learn morality and how to pay respect to their elders, and Buddhist monks too," said U Kondala, abbot of a monastery with a library of 16th century copies of Buddha's laws and philosophy, handwritten on palm fronds folded like Chinese fans. "After understanding the ways of the Buddha, they are more polite and clever, and consider the welfare of other people."

      Novices return to normal life with a profound respect for monks who were their teachers. When thousands joined protest marches last fall, their chants gave comfort to people who had known them since childhood.

      "All of the monks who came out of the monasteries into the streets only recited verses from the teachings of the Buddha," Kondala said. "The people are suffering, they are getting poorer and poorer, so the monks wanted to protect them against any danger."

      Nyanissara said the region surrounding Sagaing is now home to one out of every 10 of Myanmar's 400,000 monks, robed legions that listen carefully to his lectures to see the right path ahead.

      "It's a very big army," the monk said, and he laughed a little. But he wasn't smiling.

      Rangoon municipality removes CCTV cameras
      Democratic Voice of Burma: Mon 14 Jan 2008

      Closed circuit television cameras installed at busy traffic junctions in Rangoon have now been removed by the city authorities due to high maintenance costs, said sources.

      An official from the Rangoon city development committee said the CCTV cameras were installed in Rangoon at the beginning of 2007 as part of a more effective surveillance system in the former capital, but only lasted 10 months before vanishing in October.

      "There is no budget for maintenance of the equipment," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

      "It's not only the cameras - the two LCD traffic warning signboards near the Sedona hotel and Inya lake bank have been broken for some time as well and there have been no repairs yet," he said.

      "I think the authorities are embarrassed to take them down as it hasn't been long since they were installed."

      The official said this kind of technical equipment was not suitable for Rangoon, where electricity is not consistently available.

      A Rangoon taxi driver said the CCTV cameras previously installed at Sule, Shwebontha, Kokkine, Hle Dan and 8-mile junctions in Rangoon have now disappeared.

      "The traffic police already have to harass drivers on a daily basis because of the need to earn extra money to cover their force's costs," said the driver.

      "It would be a struggle for them to also bear the burden of maintaining the CCTV cameras."

      From Orphan to Soldier, another life in Shan State - Antonio Graceffo
      Shan Herald Agency for News: Mon 14 Jan 2008

      He lives his life surrounded by landmines, trapped on one side by Burmese soldiers who would kill him if they had the chance and on the other side, by Thai police who would arrest him as an illegal alien. His entire world is approximately two miles long and eighty feet wide, along a fortified ridge top, where the soldiers, orphans, widows, amputees, and refugees, men, women, and children wage a defensive war, praying for the day that the SPDC reign of terror will end.

      Tong Yi is only 21 years old, but he has seen more than many people twice his age. In 1986 the SPDC burned his village and drove the villagers out.

      "It sounded like a battle, but only one side was shooting. We didn't have any weapons. Soldiers were shooting the men who ran away. Some people were captured and made to work as porters. Like slaves, they had to work for free, carrying weapons and ammunition to kill other Shan people."

      "The SPDC soldiers gang raped some girls in our village. I saw SPDC take one woman, 40 years old, and raped her. They tied her up in the house and burned it."

      Tong Yi's parents were away from the village, out in the rice fields, so today, he doesn't know if they are alive or dead. He has one brother who would be twenty-five now, but they haven't had any contact since that terrible day, more than ten years ago.

      "Some villagers went to city, some to the jungle, others escaped to Thailand."

      Shan monks found Tong Yi in the jungle and took him to Thailand.

      "It took us three months walking through the jungle to get to the border. Every morning, the monks went begging for food and they shared it with me."

      Tong Yi spent the next five years serving as a novice monk in a Wat in Thailand. At the temple Tong Yi learned to read for the first time.

      "Back in the village, we didn't have a school."

      There are approximately 1.5 million Shan people living in Northern Thailand, where they are referred to as Tai Yai, belonging to the Tai ethnic group. Many of the military and political leaders inside of Shan State received their education at temples in Thailand. Thai is a lingua franca among the Shan nationalities (ethnic groups living within Shan State include Pa-o, Palaung, and Lahu). The monks at Tong Yi's temple were Shan, so they were able to teach him Shan literacy in addition to Thai.

      For most boys from Shan State, the only opportunity to learn to read and write their native tongue is either at the school in Loi Tailang or a Shan temple on the Thai side of the border.

      The Shan spoken language is about 60% similar to Thai, so it was not difficult for Tong Yi to become fluent. The two languages use distinct alphabets, which although both derived from Pali (Sanskrit) are extremely different. Tong Yi learned to read Thai as well as Shan, which is a great accomplishment.

      "The Thai police don't ask children for an ID card. But once I turned 15 I had to leave Thailand."

      Since his village was gone and his family was dead, Tong Yi went to live at Shan State Army (SSA) headquarters, at Loi Tailing. On the military base there is a temple, a school with nearly 1,000 students (250 of whom are orphans), and a village for IDP Internally Displaced Persons, which is currently giving shelter to 350 families.

      At age 15, Tong Yi entered a school for the first time in his life. In Loi Tailang, however, it is not unusual to see teenagers attending elementary school, since most of them didn't have a school in their village before coming to live under the protection of the SSA army. Some boys are as old as 24 when they finish high school.

      For the most part, once people have taken refuge at Loi Tailang, it would not be safe for them to return to Burmese controlled areas. If the SPDC knew that these people had been to Loi Tailang they would be subject to arrest, torture, imprisonment, and possibly execution because they have had contact with the rebels. Most of the Shan don't have a Burmese identity card anyway, so returning to the interior of Burma to work or attend university wouldn't even be a possibility.

      Fortunately, an outside NGO established the SSSNY, School for Shan State Nationality Youth, a kind of college open to the best and the brightest of any ethnicity living in Shan State. The school is fully sponsored by donations and only accepts a limited number of students. Tong Yi was lucky enough to qualify for one of 36 spots. This year, because of budget and security problems, only 24 Shan youngsters will have the opportunity to attend SSSNY. Said another way, only twenty-four children, of the nearly 8.5 million inhabitants of Shan State will have access to higher education.

      Lack of access to education is just one more human cost of this long and destructive war, which has been ragging in secret for more than forty years.

      In the nine month long SSSNY course, Tong Yi and his classmates attended intensive classes, taught entirely in English, with foreign teachers.

      Many of the students were orphans. Others didn't know if their families were alive or dead.

      "They have no contact with their family. Farmer families don't know about telephones."

      Thanks to the kind intervention of the foreign teachers, one SSSNY student was reconnected with his younger brother he hadn't seen since his parents were murdered. The boy was now 16 years old, but living a terribly difficult life as an exploited undocumented alien.

      "His brother was alive, but working illegally as a construction worker in Thailand. He was earning exactly enough to eat but couldn't save anything and had no education."

      Tong Yi speaks excellent English now and works for the foreign department of the Shan State government. He is extremely bright and enjoys reading. He has an insatiable curiosity about the outside world, but because he is officially a stateless person, his reality is limited to the confines of Loi Tailang.

      Tong Yi wanted to send this message out to the world.

      "I hope some day all Shan people will have freedom and peace. I hope the American people will help us. Now we are waiting for the US or other countries to come to help. We are far away from the international community, so very few foreigners can come here. That is why we are suffering at the hands of the SPDC."

      The Shan have respect for Thai king and for Thailand but the other group they talk about is the Americans. To a man, they have all asked me when the Americans will come to help them.

      I didn't want to tell them the Americans won't come until the Shan discover oil.

      Antonio Graceffo (USA): Host, writer, and fixer for American television

      Adventure and martial arts author, Antonio Graceffo has lived in Asia for more than six years, publishing four books, available on amazon.com and several hundred articles in magazines and websites around the world. He has worked as a consultant and writer for shows on the History and Discovery Channel and appears on camera in "Digging for the Truth," and "Human Weapon." For the last several months, Antonio has been embedded with the Shan State Army rebels in Burma. Antonio is host of the web TV show, "Martial Arts Odyssey." The latest episode, shot inside of Burma with the Shan State Army, is running on youtube, click here. http://youtube.com/watch?v=rCjNaHnk7Jw Antonio is the author of four books available on amazon.com Contact him Antonio@... see his website www.speakingadventure.com

      Japan supports health care in Burma
      Irrawaddy: Mon 14 Jan 2008

      Japan has pledged US $1.79 million to support a project for the improvement of maternal and child health care services in Burma.

      In a ceremony at the Sedona Hotel in Rangoon on Monday, a Memorandum of Understanding concerning the grant aid of the Japanese government for the project was signed between the Japanese ambassador to Burma, Yasuaki Nogawa, and Ramesh Shrestha, representative of the United Nations Children's Fund in Burma.

      According to a press release by the Japanese embassy in Rangoon, the Japanese government will provide grant aid of $1.79 million for: the purchase of rapid test kits and medicines to treat malaria; vaccines for measles and tetanus; essential medication and equipment for reproductive health care; and other maternal and child health care. The press statement said the material will be distributed to township hospitals and rural facilities in Burma through UNICEF, in collaboration with the Burmese regime.

      In his remarks, the UNICEF representative said, "This latest pledge will support our collective effort to protect Myanmar's [Burma's] children against vaccine-preventable diseases, malaria and other fatal diseases, and save their mothers from pregnancy-related deaths."

      "UNICEF will ensure that this assistance will target those most in need," added Shrestha.

      From 1999 to 2006, the government of Japan already provided a series of assistance packages for seven consecutive phases of those same projects, amounting to some $31.9 million, according to the Japanese ambassador.

      Japan, one of the largest donors to Burma, in October cancelled nearly $5 million in aid in protest at the military's bloody crackdown on peaceful demonstrations, in which 31 people died, according to a UN official, including Kenji Nagai, a video journalist for Tokyo-based APF News, who was shot dead on September 27 as he filmed the crackdown in Rangoon.

      Burma spends just 0.3% of its gross domestic product on health, the latest UN figures show, while economic sanctions by the United States and the European Union leave the country as one of the developing world's lowest recipients of foreign aid.

      SA mag joins panty plan to oust Myanmar junta - Melanie Peters
      Pretoria News: Mon 14 Jan 2008

      A popular South African women's magazine has joined the global call for people to join the "panty protest" against Myanmar's regime by sending women's underwear to the junta's embassy in Pretoria.

      Marie Claire's current issue calls on its readers to send their knickers to the embassy as a form of protest against human rights abuses.

      Thein Win, chairperson of the Free Burma Campaign South Africa, said: "It is an excellent idea. Send more panties to sap more power so that they know people do not support them."

      The worldwide protest started late last year after Lanna Action for Burma, a pro-democracy group based in Thailand, urged supporters around the world to join its "Panty Power" campaign.

      Its website urged supporters to "post, deliver or fling" underwear to, or at their nearest embassy to insult the country's leadership.

      Activists seeking to pressure the regime are targeting the "superstitions" of its senior generals.

      It is reported that the 73-year-old head of the military, Than Shwe, and members of the military junta believe that contact with women's panties - clean or dirty - will sap them of their strength. Embassies have received underwear from Thailand, Australia, Singapore and the UK.

      Burma's unlucky number 8
      Boston Globe: Mon 14 Jan 2008

      The government of China has been striving to make certain that Aug. 8, 2008, the start of this summer's Olympic Games in Beijing, will be an auspicious date. The Communist authorities have even set the start of their gala for 8 p.m. on 8/8/08.

      For the people of Burma, that same date has a grievous meaning. On the day Beijing stages its ultimate coming-out party, victims of the junta ruling Burma will commemorate the 20th anniversary of a popular uprising against military dictatorship that was violently suppressed. Leaders of that freedom movement, known as the 88 Student Generation, were among the first to be arrested when Buddhist monks led popular protests against the junta in September. They are among the 700 September protesters still incarcerated, joining more than 1,100 other political prisoners who were already suffering torture and abuse in junta prisons.

      The numerological coincidence of China's Olympic gala and Burma's mournful memory will serve a positive purpose if it reminds the world of Burma's agony in the two decades since Aug. 8, 1988 - and of the shameful symbiosis between China's government and the Burmese junta. Beijing has been the principal arms seller and commercial partner of the narco-trafficking generals in Burma. In the United Nations Security Council, it is the threat of a Chinese veto that shields the junta from an international arms embargo.

      The bosses of Beijing, who are trying to put on their best face between now and the '08 games, have to be happy that the International Olympic Committee has declined to make respect for human rights a criterion for hosting the games. But they cannot be happy that the other rising power in Asia, democratic India, has shown a decent respect for international opinion by halting arms sales and transfers to Burma's military dictators.

      Until recently, India appeared to be competing with China to see which could be the bigger weapons peddler to the junta. But then something unusual happened. The Hindustan Times recently reported that India had stopped selling arms to Burma. Laura Bush, the president's wife, referred to India's arms cutoff during a videoconference observation of Human Rights Day on Dec. 10. And citing diplomatic sources, The Washington Post reported that India has privately confirmed its policy change to US officials.

      For unknown reasons, the Indian government has declined to acknowledge publicly its laudable act of solidarity with the people of Burma. Perhaps India, the birthplace of Buddhism, could not bear to go on selling weapons to uniformed thugs who were beating and killing Buddhist monks last fall. But India should be proud to be defending its cultural heritage by aligning itself with the freedom movement of Burma. Meanwhile, the world must see that when it comes to violations of human rights, Beijing's number is up.

      Bully at the home: Demoralized Burmese Military regime - Aung Thu Nyein
      Mizzima News: Mon 14 Jan 2008

      I read an article in 1999. It's about an English girl, 27 years old Rachel Gowing went to Burma and staged a solo protest in Rangoon calling for a democratic change in Burma. She handcuffed herself to the lamppost and sang a pro-democracy song in Burmese. She was sentenced to seven years in prison for this crime by Burmese military junta. (She was later released after serving two months). In a leading newspaper, it wrote about her story, and in that article, I still remember the idea, not in exact word, "How can tourists visit to Burma today? The regime might arrest the person who may have just whistled 'We shall overcome", a widely popular song of world activists and NGOs". After 9 years, this scenario became real.

      Nowadays the regime is scared of mere chanting prayers and Metta Sutra.

      "May all harms vanish
      May all anger vanish
      May all sufferings vanish".

      The prayers in just about loving kindness and non-threatening to the junta. The regime is afraid of even monks who chant prayers and Metta Sutra of Lord Buddha. They are suffering from a delusion. They see someone wearing religious clothes –Traditionally Burmese men and women wear earth-tone clothes in religious ceremony–. are and feel they may be trouble makers; see someone tying Sutta thread (cotton wrist band), it may be as a signal for anti government movement.

      These days, when the senior abbots talked about Dewadat (apostate monk who defied Lord Buddha), they thought they were being targeted. Then they banned preaching of sermons by the abbots and seizing the audio tapes of these popular sermons distributed widely among the population.

      Similarly they still show no guts to talk with the opposition. They defended themselves from talking with the opposition leader by issuing Announcement (1/2007) which set pre-conditions for talks with opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. On the other hand, the opposition forces have already told them that there will be ample room for the armed forces in future Burma with due dignity and pride. More importantly, the democratic opposition makes it clear that the struggle is not aimed at abolishing the armed forces, but just calling for reforms in governance and negotiation instead, in consideration for the sake of the country and its people. Even then, they are still reluctant to meet the opposition.

      Addtionally, world media is their enemy, they think which is threatening to their survival. Then they are trying to control and restrict the use of internet by issuing draconian rules and regulations and switching connection off and on. Recently, the regime hiked the license fees of satellite dishes drastically, which is tantamount to a virtual ban of the use of these dishes. They seem to believe that if the people were isolated and dozed with state propangada, the people will believe what they say. But obviously, the people don't rely news in their state-media outlets and state-run newspaper 'New Light of Myanmar' just mere nothing to them. Since violent crackdown on sangha protest, Burmese people will no longer believe all their propaganda.

      Furthermore, since after September sangha protest, Burma issue reaches attention to international community's radar. The violent crackdown makes the legitimacy of the regime in all time low and currently in international relations, it hurts them as the most serious setback. In whatever regional and some bilateral meeting, in international conferences, Burma becomes an agenda to be discussed. Burma issue is now on the UNSC's radar screen as well. Literally, international policy makers are asking to the SPDC, "what's your points?".

      Former Singapore leader Lee Kuan Yew called the regime's generals as 'rather dumb' in his recent interview. But the regime failed to launch a diplomatic protest against Singapore. If they have self-confidence, they must summon the Singapore ambassador to the Foreign Ministry and must hand over a protest note for this insult. And even more they can say a strong condemnation to island-state and can threaten that lee's loose tongue might hamper bilateral relation between the two countries. Now how they responded to this remark seems self-admitting. In comparism, there was diplomatic tension between Thailand and Singapore recently. The Singapore government gave a democracy lecture when Thai military staged a coup in September 2006 and then the Singapore received ousted former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatara in Singapore on a private visit. The Thai government protested to Singapore through diplomatic channels and the Thai caretaker government threatened to stop the ongoing military training programs to Singapore soldiers in Thailand under the ASEAN plan. Tension between Thai and Singapore was heightened considerably and could be resolved only after some months. In addition, last year, Indonesian government retialiated island state for one diplomatic hitch by ending their sand export to the island's construction business.

      But the Burmese military regime which losts their self-esteem dare not do such diplomatic manoeuvres. If say so, they might even lose their heaven for their precious medical tourism site.

      Moreover the US Secretary of State Ms. Condolezza Rice put the Burmese junta in a box of 'the last outposts of tyranny' in her speech. And the first lady Laura Bush publicly called for the regime to step down if they cannot fulfill democratic reforms. But the regime did not dare respond to these two ladies in anyway even by way of diplomatic protest. If they have self-confidence, they can still do something, but when they know they are wrong they just have to suffer. It is very much obvious that the regime morlae is all the time lowest and losing its self-confidence.

      The regime is like the pampered and spoiled child of a family. It's like the bully at the home who lost its self-confidence and bullies other younger and weaker children, but kowtow to bigger and stronger children. They rule at home, but turn tail abroad. But the bully regime of Burma is more dangerous than the spoiled child. They holds 400,000 strong army to bully its owned people and racklessly spoiling and damaging its natural resources and its future potential. The spoilt child may break toys and dolls, but the regime damage the whole country and its generations.

      After the September monk-led movement, the regime's self-confidence has reached its lowest ebb. Though they say something they know well themselves they cannot do it. They dare not arrest some people, especially the artistes of 'Thee Lay Thee' variety dance troupe. The regime first sacked them out for their performance and then recalled and reinstated them in their previous posts.

      At the same time the people have become bolder knowing that they cannot tolerate the bully anymore. It is obvious from their voices from radio interviews on their grievances more vividly and boldly. The regime doesn't want to hear these voices. They are just pretending they hear nothing and they are so close to the camel in Aesop's fables, digging its head in the sand. They cannot survive any longer in this way and cannot find a solution either.

      India and Burma: time to choose - Meenakshi Ganguly
      Open Democracy: Mon 14 Jan 2008

      A change of policy towards Burma's military dictatorship is needed to put India on the right side of history, says Meenakshi Ganguly.

      India's prime minister Manmohan Singh once despaired out loud that India was surrounded by failed states. The rest of the sub-continent, concerned about the military and economic might of India, was outraged. Yet, the neighbourhood is in more trouble than ever. Pakistan is in crisis, Sri Lanka is at war with itself, Bangladesh remains in a state of emergency under de facto army rule, the peace process in Nepal has stumbled and Burma's generals used abusive and at times lethal force to put down a peaceful campaign to demand democracy.

      At the same time, India's claims that its standing in the region and growing economic power should give it more clout in global diplomacy are under the microscope. India often calls for peace, negotiations, or early elections. Oddly, though proud of its standing as the "world's largest democracy", when it comes to human-rights violations in neighbouring countries, officials in New Delhi describe the situations as "internal affairs" of those countries. India does not want to be seen as the regional bully, they explain.

      When it is pushed to do more, New Delhi retreats into belligerence. Its officials, told of widespread "disappearances" in Sri Lanka, respond by pointing to the secret renditions that have been carried out by the United States during its global war on terror. Allegations of torture in Bangladesh are compared to the practices at Abu Ghraib. The ill-advised support to the Burmese junta draws comparisons to US support of dictatorships in Pakistan and the middle east.

      While these are satisfying debating points, they do not make good or sensible policy. As with every government that tries to hide behind the faults of others, the Indian government should certainly not emulate what it criticises. Instead, India should show that it can take the lead.

      This is particularly crucial when it comes to the repressive junta in Burma. Although Burma has dropped off from network news-cycles and newspaper editorials since the protests of August-September 2007, the global community is largely united on this issue, saying that human-rights abuses are no longer acceptable. But unless China, India and Thailand take a strong stand, the regime will simply ride out the storm, stuffing dissidents in jail and getting away with the killings of unarmed protestors.

      Little was ever expected of China and Thailand, but India is celebrated as a democracy, one that accommodates religious and ethnic diversity, boasts of its active civil society and free media. So it has come as a great shock for many around the world to see India continue with a business as usual approach. Burmese foreign minister U Nyan Win visited New Delhi on 2 January 2008, and Manmohan Singh apparently urged political reform in a process that included detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and all the various ethnic groups. However, a $100 million project to provide a transit route to India's northeastern states was also discussed.

      In December 2007, Human Rights Watch called upon members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), China, India, the European Union, the United States and other countries that have economic ties to Burma to suspend any further development of Burma's oil and gas sector and for targeted financial sanctions on companies owned and controlled by the Burmese military or whose revenues substantially benefit the military. It is lucrative revenues from gas sales that help allow the regime to ignore demands to return to civilian rule and improve the country's human-rights record. India's Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) is among the twenty-seven companies based in thirteen countries as having investment interests in Burma's oil and gas fields.

      Do the right thing

      This is an opportunity for India to show leadership. Under pressure from the international community, India has suspended military assistance to Burma. India should insist to the generals that they show flexibility and begin serious negotiations for a return to civilian rule. The regime has allowed the United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari and human-rights envoy Paulo Pinheiro to visit Burma. But these tightly controlled visits will mean little for a regime that is determined to consolidate its repressive rule.

      India can no longer afford embarrassing friendships. It should say that without tangible progress on democracy, release of political prisoners and accountability for violations in recent crackdown, all business deals (and not just military sales) will be put on hold. Given the massive poverty in Burma - remember, the spark for the protests was a sharp rise in fuel prices that meant that many were paying more than half of their daily wage just to take the bus to work - and the plundering of the country's wealth by the country's leaders, it should be clear that doing business with Burma is not helping average Burmese. Instead, it is lining the pockets of the elite.

      The protests have been silenced for now. But the clamour for freedom in Burma will re-emerge. This is the fifth time in nineteen years that major protests have erupted. Ultimately, the will of the people will be heard.

      Doing the right thing in Burma could be the beginning for India to take a leadership role in global politics. It will also send a message that India will not support human-rights abuses, whether in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh or Nepal. It will put India on the right side of history.

      * Meenakshi Ganguly works on south Asia for Human Rights Watch

      Burma junta profits from Chinese pipeline
      Telegraph Media Group Limited - UK: 01.14.2008
      Author: Graeme Jenkins (from Kyaukphyu, Burma)

      China is building pipelines to carry huge new gas supplies from Burma after securing new contracts with the Rangoon junta.

      A 900-mile pipeline is to be built - possibly this year - to take gas from the coast of Burma to China after Beijing won contracts to explore three large offshore areas for gas.

      Some of the contracts were awarded three days after China and Russia jointly vetoed a UN resolution proposed by the US a year ago.

      The gas deposits are the largest known in this energy-hungry region. The richest proven reserves in a block already explored and secured by China are worth between $37-52 billion (£18-26 billion).

      The waters covering this treasure have been closed to local fishermen and it is impossible to witness the work going on there.

      In the regional scramble for the contracts, India is reported to have provided government loans and the South Korean company Daewoo gave the junta an arms factory.

      At the centre of this bonanza is the sleepy island of Rambree.

      Rambree was once the scene of bitter fighting between the British and Japanese in the Second World War.

      Today the principal activities are fishing, agriculture and playing football on the beach. Soon it will be the starting point for a pipeline carrying gas and oil to China.

      Foreigners are not welcome here. As soon as The Daily Telegraph arrived it became clear the local authorities were monitoring the newspaper's movements.

      Few local people expect to benefit from the off-shore gas. In the town of Kyaukphyu there is electricity for only one hour and 45 minutes a day. There are about five cars, which all belong to officials.

      The pipeline will start from Kyaukphyu, where the gas will come ashore, and carry it 900 miles to Kunming in south western China.

      Next to the naval base at Kyaukphyu a deep-water harbour is being built. It will be a terminal for oil from the Middle East and Africa, which will be piped to China along the same route.

      It is a crucial strategic development for China, easing what president Hu Jintao has called the "Malacca dilemma" — his country's dependence on shipping through the narrow Malacca Straights.

      Meanwhile, the Shwe Gas Movement, a campaign group, estimates the Burmese regime could make USD17bn over 20 years from one of the three offshore 'blocks' alone.

      "People are afraid they will lose their land," said a local man. Residents of Baday (aka Myaday) Island have reportedly already been told they must leave their homes - without compensation. The whole island, now containing five villages, will be dedicated to the energy industry.

      But in repressive Burma there is no public information about these projects, and very little public discussion.

      "When the people discuss it, they are scared," said a local activist. "They think that talking about the pipeline is just like talking about politics and they dare not say anything about it.

      "The gas belongs to all the people of the region. It shouldn't be taken unless they benefit," he continued. "Only the army will get money. They will use it to but weapons to kill the people."

      Thailand likely to lift the ban on timber imports from Burma
      Bangkok Post: 01.14.2008

      The northern province of Mae Hong Son is considering lifting a ban on Burmese timber imports, citing disadvantages from indirectly buying Burmese timber from neighbouring countries. Mae Hong Son governor Thongchai Wongrianthong said the province is thinking of resuming the timber trade with ethnic Burmese minorities which get approval from the ruling Burmese junta.

      "Mae Hong Son borders Burma, but we let business opportunities slip away while Malaysia, China and Singapore have imported timber from Burma. Thailand ends up buying Burmese timber from Malaysia," he said.

      Meanwhile, Mae Hong Son authorities seized 926 items of processed golden teak wood and timber processing machines in a raid at a factory in Muang district on Friday.

      On the previous day, authorities confiscated a number of processed pieces of timber from the factory belonging to Direk Puyati.

      Muang district police chief Pathom Prachankhet said Mr Direk claimed he purchased the wood from the Forest Industry Organisation in Tak's Phop Phra district.

      However, Pol Col Pathom said the timber was fresh and was possibly felled illegally less than three weeks earlier.

      A source said a smuggling ring had supplied timber from Thailand and Burma to a police general, who is reportedly building a golden teak house in Samut Prakan which he plans to sell to wealthy businessmen or politicians.

      In Kanchanaburi, governor Amnart Pakarat wants better protection for the Khao Chang Phuak forest in tambon Huay Khayeng of Thong Pha Phum district.

      The governor made the statement after the recent discovery that 1,000 rai of the forest had been cleared for rubber plantations.

      He said officials also found 13 stumps of hundred-year-old deciduous dipterocarp trees, measuring more than two metres in diameter, and processed timber in Ban Huaykob in tambon Nonglu, in Kanchanaburi's Sangkhla district.

      He urged authorities to beef up forest protection measures and take action against encroachers.

      The governor conceded that a lack of manpower hampered forest conservation work.

      The 10th Forest Protection Unit in Kanchanaburi, which has less than 10 officials, has to take care of a vast area of forest, which stretches over seven million rai, he said.

      He is to report the problem to the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry so that appropriate action would be taken.

      Come and laugh at us, plead Burma's people
      The Observer, UK: 01.14.2008
      Author: Chris McGreal in Mandalay

      From their shopfront theatre in Mandalay, the Moustache Brothers tell bad jokes in barely comprehensible English about Burma's backward-looking generals and every few years they get flung into jail for it.

      There are three in the troupe - actually two brothers and their cousin - and each evening they wait for the tourists to turn up and justify their performance of slapstick, dance and strangled humour about the army looking after itself while the rest of Burma goes to the dogs.

      It's not the money they need the tourists for, although that undoubtedly helps in a country where most people spend most of their cash just on feeding their families. But in the peculiar world inhabited by Burma's military leadership, jokes against the government are just about acceptable provided they are told to foreigners.

      The Moustache Brothers have been part of the tourist trail since two of its members, Par Par Lay and Lu Zaw, were released from seven years in labour camps for bringing humour to what everyone in Burma knows: the system is so riddled with corruption you cannot tell the difference between a thief and a government worker.

      The Moustache Brothers have reached an uneasy truce with the regime (Lay was detained for a month after the pro-democracy demonstrations in September) that permits them to perform, provided it's in English, only in their own theatre and for tourists.

      This has left the troupe in agreement with the junta on one thing at least: that a tourist boycott of Burma is a mistake. The military wants foreigners to keep coming because they provide a kind of legitimacy as well as hard currency. That is a good reason not to go. But ordinary Burmese say tourism provides many with the means to feed their families.

      Some money will fall into the state's hands but, as a reporter pretending to be a tourist - the only way a journalist can get into Burma - it was easy enough to direct where most of the cash goes by avoiding corporate hotels, eating in smaller restaurants and buying from family-owned shops. It's also a good way to hear from ordinary people what is going on.

      Tourists are witnesses to the state of the monasteries after the regime purged them of monks to break the pro-democracy protests. The monks who remain are often willing to talk discreetly about the assaults on them and their supporters and about how the military is keeping up the pressure despite the generals' attempts to persuade the outside world that everything is back to Burma's abnormal form of normality.

      The key, though, is to stay away from organised tours that funnel visitors into hotels and on to trips run by the regime's lackeys. Of all the ordinary Burmese I asked if they agreed with a tourist boycott, only one said yes, on the grounds it would deepen the misery and force people to revolt. But then he also thought that the Americans were on the verge of invading to overthrow the regime.

      It's not clear-cut, though. The sports and cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa stung many whites because it said that, however much they saw themselves as an outpost of European civilisation, most of Europe did not agree with them.

      But popular boycotts of countries such as Burma or Zimbabwe have less impact than hitting a regime where it really hurts. Zimbabwe's ruling elite can no longer go shopping in Europe and they have been forced to pull their children out of British boarding schools and American universities. Their companies are blacklisted. That hurts.

      Burma's business elite, which is closely aligned to the regime, is also complaining, not least a construction and airline magnate called Tay Zar. His businesses have run into serious problems because of the popular boycott at home and sanctions by the West. He is pleading with foreign governments to lift the boycott and is making it known to the generals.

      The UK can afford to take the moral high ground on Burma because it has no weapons deals at stake or oil interests to protect. Which is why we do not hear much from France on the subject: Burma is the home of the Total oil company, which hands over hundreds of millions of dollars a year to the regime in revenues.

      The Moustache Brothers can give you chapter and verse on this. If you want to help Burma, they say, come and visit. Just don't fill your car up with Total petrol on the way from the airport.

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