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[ReadingRoom] News on Burma - 3/4/08

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  • CHAN Beng Seng
    1.. Just say No 2.. New Myanmar constitution keeps military dominant 3.. Appeal to the people of Burma on the upcoming referendum 4.. Burmese electorate
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 3, 2008
      1. Just say 'No'
      2. New Myanmar constitution keeps military dominant
      3. Appeal to the people of Burma on the upcoming referendum
      4. Burmese electorate still waits to see constitution text
      5. High time for distribution of draft constitution: Burma Lawyers' Council
      6. Prisoners offered sentence reductions to vote "Yes"
      7. Anti-referendum flyers spread in Southern Arakan
      8. Call to reject Burma constitution
      9. New Myanmar constitution keeps military dominant
      10. USDA a stooge of Burmese junta
      11. Junta arrests more opposition members
      12. Junta-backed thugs continue attacks on opposition
      13. 25 per cent of Burma's Karenni State internally displaced
      14. India to build Myanmar port
      15. N Korea exporting multiple-launch rockets to Myanmar
      16. Myanmar's Yetagun gas pipeline leaking

      Burma: Just say 'No'
      BangkokPost: 3.4.08

      Rangoon - Pro-democracy backers of Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday urged the nation to be brave next month and vote against a constitution proposed by the military junta..

      The National League for Democracy (NLD) issued a statement calling on the public "to clearly and bravely vote 'No' when you mark your ballots."

      The party accused the junta of handpicking the drafters of the constitution, saying it was written without consulting any opposing voices.

      The final version of the constitution has not been released to the public, but leaked copies show the basic law would give the military continued dominance over the government even after elections slated for 2010.

      Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace prize winner who is under house arrest, would be barred from running for president because she married a Briton.

      The military would also receive broad powers to declare a state of emergency, allowing the generals to take direct control of the government while granting them immunity from prosecution.

      The NLD said the constitution would not bring democracy to Burma, which has been ruled by the military since 1962.

      "It cannot give any guarantee for democracy and human rights, which are strongly needed by the people," the party said.

      "It is not in accord with the basic democratic principle that the sovereign power of the state is derived from the people," it added.

      The United States also accused the junta of creating a "climate of fear and repression" by continuing to arrest activists, saying 11 were detained over the weekend. A Thai group has counted 52 arrests since January.

      "These blatant human rights abuses contribute to the climate of fear and repression in Burma as the regime prepares to conduct a referendum on its draft constitution," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement.

      The referendum in May will be the first balloting in Burma since 1990, when the NLD won a landslide victory that was never recognised by the junta.

      The junta says the referendum will pave the way to multiparty elections in 2010, but analysts say the constitution leaves political parties with little room to campaign for the polls.

      Many of the 54 million Burmese have never voted before, so the NLD also issued a one-page guide explaining exactly how ballots are cast -- instructing people how to inspect the voter roll, tick the ballot, and then ensure it is kept secret as it goes into the box.

      The statement was the party's official stand on the referendum, although the NLD's youth wing had last week joined other dissidents in campaigning against the charter.

      The secretive regime surprised the world by announcing its election timetable in February.

      The junta says it is building a "discipline-flourishing democracy," but critics accuse the generals of trying to enshrine their control of the government while distracting the world's attention from its deadly crackdown on protests last year.

      Buddhist monks in September led the biggest anti-government marches seen in nearly two decades, but the military responded by opening fire on the crowds and beating protesters in the streets.

      The junta last month rebuffed an offer by a UN envoy to send observers and provide technical support for the polls.

      The regime has outlawed speeches and leaflets about the referendum, and the NLD's ability to campaign is severely hampered because the party is only allowed to maintain one office in Rangoon.

      Aung San Suu Kyi has been confined to her home for 12 of the last 18 years, and her top lieutenant is also under house arrest. (Agencies)

      New Myanmar constitution keeps military dominant
      The Straits Times via AFP: Wed 2 Apr 2008

      LEAKED copies of Myanmar's new constitution, in hefty green paperbacks secretly circulating in Yangon, show the military will receive sweeping powers that ensure its dominance even after elections.

      Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, the detained pro-democracy leader who is the regime's most formidable foe, is clearly barred from the presidency and she would be unlikely to qualify even for a parliamentary seat, the document shows.

      The ruling junta plans to bring the constitution to a referendum in May, in anticipation of elections slated for 2010.

      The public has so far had no chance to review the final draft, and a handful of leaked copies of the 194-page document are the only versions so far available.

      A copy obtained shows that while the constitution would set up a civilian government and grant civil rights to the people, it is peppered with caveats that allow the military to easily reassert direct control in the interest of national security.

      States of emergency could be declared not only to battle insurgencies, but to combat the threat of 'disintegration of national solidarity'. The military would receive immunity from prosecution for actions taken under emergency rule.

      Existing security laws used to jail political dissidents and suppress dissent would remain in effect, and parties would be required to practise 'discipline-flourishing genuine multi-party democracy'.

      'It's basically a blatant blueprint for continued military rule, and it's fairly open and honest about that,' said Mr Dave Mathieson, a researcher for Human Rights Watch.

      'There's all these little brutal caveats all through the document, and they all say that the Burmese army will continue to rule the country, either behind the scenes or in full view,' he said.

      Some of the provisions give the military very open influence. One quarter of the seats in Parliament are reserved for the armed forces, and the president is required to be 'well acquainted' with military affairs.

      Ms Aung San Suu Kyi would be barred from running for office because she married a Briton and her children are British nationals.

      But most members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) and other political dissidents would struggle to meet the requirements to stand for Parliament.

      Candidates are barred if they or their parties accept support from foreign governments or religious organisations.

      The government routinely accuses the NLD of taking foreign funds, while Buddhist monks last year led mass anti-government protests that were violently crushed by security forces.

      Candidates with criminal records are also barred from running, which would exclude most top democracy leaders, who have served prison sentences for their political activities.

      'The constitution makes it even harder for the opposition groups and civilian politicians to manoeuvre,' said Myanmar analyst Aung Naing Oo, based in Thailand.

      'It may be very difficult for any of the parties to get even 25 per cent of the seats,' he said.

      The country, formerly known as Burma, has had no constitution since 1988, when the current junta seized power. Information Minister Kyaw Hsan last week defended the proposed charter as 'better than nothing', saying the constitution could be amended over time.

      But the final draft shows amendments would be almost impossible without the military's consent.

      A majority of 75 per cent of parliamentarians are required to approve amendments, meaning civilian politicians would need at least some support from the military MPs to approve amendments.

      That makes amendments unlikely to happen soon, said Mr Aung Naing Oo, adding that he believed the charter would do little to end Myanmar's political deadlock.

      'Human rights abuses are at the centre of the conflict in Burma, so the entrenchment of the military in the constitution means the human rights abuses will go on, the conflict will go on,' he said.

      Appeal to the people of Burma on the upcoming referendum
      NLD: Wed 2 Apr 2008

      (1) The draft constitution, which will be put forward to vote in the upcoming referendum, was not written by the elected Peoples' Representatives.

      (2) It was written unilaterally by the people who were selected by the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).

      (3) Furthermore, it is not in line with the fundamental principle of democracy that "State sovereign power should ascend from the people" and therefore, it will not guarantee democracy and human rights, which the entire people of Burma are enthusiastically wishing for.

      (4) The history of our country and of the world proves that no organization that governs the country will last long and be stable without the support of the people.

      (5) Therefore, we urge the people from all walks of life, ethnic nationalities and organizations to go to the polling stations without fail and to decisively cast a 'NO' vote.

      According to the decision made by the Central Executive Committee in the meetings on 20 March 2008 and 31 March 2008

      (Unofficial Translation)

      Central Executive Committee
      National League for Democracy

      Burmese electorate still waits to see constitution text "
      Irrawaddy: Wed 2 Apr 2008

      Just weeks before the planned May referendum on the proposed new constitution, the Burmese electorate has still not been issued with the text of the document, although photocopies and electronic versions are secretly circulating among journalists, senior government officials and diplomats in Rangoon.

      Information about the referendum is notably absent in ethnic areas, where people are being offered temporary citizen identity cards and urged to vote "Yes."

      According to the text of the 194-page draft constitution obtained by The Irrawaddy, some minority rights are guaranteed. In Chapter II, titled "The State Structure," the draft document states that Burma is composed of seven states—Kachin, Kayeh, Kayin, Chin, Mon, Rakhine and Shan—and seven regions: Yangon, Mandalay, Ayeyawaddy, Sagaing, Taninthayi, Bago and Magway.

      "Self-administered" zones and divisions are listed in some regions and states—Naga in Sagaing region, Danu, Pa-O, Palaung, Kokang and Wa in Shan state.

      The draft constitution speaks of a parliament, called Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (Union Assembly), comprises two chambers: Pyithu Hluttaw (People's Assembly), composed of representatives elected on the basis of population and army representatives, and Amyotha Hluttaw (National Assembly), comprising representatives of different states, regions and of the armed forces.

      The military has a quota of 110 out of 440 seats in the People's Assembly and 56 of the 224 seats in the National Assembly. The constitution legitimizes a military takeover in the event of an emergency. It would empower the president to transfer legislative, executive and judicial powers to the military's commander in chief for a year if a state of emergency arises.

      Observers say that, taking advantage of a lack of unity and of the internal rift among ethnic rebel groups, the military wants to see if it can pressure them to lay down their arms and turn them into local security forces.

      Khun Sai, of the Thailand-based Shan Herald Agency for News, said that Burma's regime is stepping up its efforts to persuade armed ethnic groups to disarm and to form political parties so they can run in the general election planned for 2010.

      In February, two senior leaders of the ruling junta, Maj-Gen Khin Aung Myint, Minister for Culture, and Lt-Gen Ye Myint, head of Military Affairs Security, visited the Burma-China border, where they held talks with Wa, Kachin, Shan and Kokang armed insurgent groups. They reportedly asked the ethnic leaders to disarm their armies.

      So far, there has been no immediate reply from the ceasefire groups, who have also refrained from comment on the draft constitution.

      Aung Kyaw Zaw, China-Burma border-based political analyst, said there appeared to be three factions among the ethnic ceasefire groups: the octogenarian leaders who want to retire from the politics; others who want to maintain their business interests and "good relations" with the junta; and officers who want to prepare their troops to be ready to fight against the Burmese army if necessary.

      Recently, Gen Aung Naing, the aging army chief of the Thai-Burmese border-based ethnic Mon ceasefire group, the New Mon State Party (NMSP), visited Rangoon for disarmament talks with the Burmese military government, according to Mon sources.

      High time for distribution of draft constitution: Burma Lawyers' Council - Loa Htaw
      IMNA: Wed 2 Apr 2008

      The Burma Lawyers' Council has urged Burmese military junta to distribute the draft constitution to the Burmese people immediately before the referendum in May, said a statement released yesterday.

      The people only have about one month to learn of the contents of the constitution and decide whether they should support it or go against it.

      "The onus is on the regime to distribute the draft constitution as soon as possible. The time of holding the constitution is very close and they must allow the people to see and read the constitution," said the statement.

      Last month, the junta set up a commission for a nationwide constitutional referendum and they have begun campaigning among civil servants and people across the country to vote positively.

      According to the people the commission has not talked about the constitution during the campaign. But the commission insisted that the people must support the constitution unless they want to wait another decade for elections.

      Burma has had no constitution since 1988 and the junta took 14 years to draft the current constitution.

      Prisoners offered sentence reductions to vote "Yes" - Naw Say Phaw
      DVB: Wed 2 Apr 2008

      Prison authorities in Insein prison are reportedly trying to convince inmates to support the national referendum in May in exchange for an early release.

      According to a family member who visited an inmate yesterday, prison authorities have told prisoners their sentences could be reduced if they agree to vote in favour of the new constitution after their release.

      "They're collecting the prisoners' ID card numbers and telling them they will reduce their prison sentences if they support the national referendum after their release," the family member said.

      Under the referendum law introduced in February, people serving prison terms for any offence are ineligible to vote while they are detained.

      Anti-referendum flyers spread in Southern Arakan
      Narinjara News: Wed 2 Apr 2008

      Anti-referendum flyers have been spreading in some townships in southern Arakan but no one knows who is responsible for the distribution in the area.

      A local resident told Narinjara yesterday over the phone that the authority always blames the opposition politicians when such incidents take place in the area, but this time he heard the plan was being conducted by ordinary people. In the township, the sentiment of people against the military government is high due to the hardship of daily life, so the people are creating the anti-referendum flyers and distributing them in the area.

      The anti-referendum flyers were distributed secretly by unknown individuals in Taungup three days ago, as well as on the motor road between Taungup and Thandwe; both townships are located in southern Arakan.

      In the flyers, the anonymous protestors urged the public not to cast "yes" votes in the referendum because the constitution is not to the advantage of the Burmese people, and will only allow the Burmese army to rule the country continually. People are urged to be united against the upcoming referendum.

      Another source from Taungup said that the dissatisfaction of the Arakanes people with the military government has been increasing by the day because people are facing more and more hardships in surviving. They added that at any time the discontent may explode and the peoples' revolution could emerge again in Burma.

      Call to reject Burma constitution
      BBC News: Wed 2 Apr 2008

      Burma's opposition National League for Democracy has urged voters to reject the new army-backed constitution in a referendum next month.

      The country's military leaders say the proposed constitution is part of a process leading to elections in 2010.

      The NLD said the planned constitution, which bars its leader Aung San Suu Kyi from key political posts, would not guarantee human rights or democracy.

      Burma has not had a constitution since 1988 when the current junta took power.

      Position clarified

      In 1993, a national convention was set up to draft a new constitution, in what turned out to be a lengthy and intermittent process, from which the NLD was excluded.

      In October 2007 the junta appointed a 54-member committee to the task and on 19 February announced that their work was complete and that a referendum would be held on the document in May.

      While it has previously criticised the draft constitution, Wednesday's statement clarifies the NLD's position on the referendum.

      "We urge the people from all walks of life, ethnic nationalities and their organisations to go to the polling stations without fail and to decisively cast a 'no' vote," it said.

      The NLD statement said that the proposed constitution "cannot give any guarantee for democracy and human rights, which are strongly needed by the people".

      "It is not in accord with the basic democratic principle that the sovereign power of the state is derived from the people," the NLD said.

      Although the text of the draft constitution has not been publicly released, news agencies say leaked copies show that it enshrines the military's dominant role in politics beyond the multiparty elections slated for 2010.

      The constitution would also bar the NLD's leader, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, from the presidency or a seat in the legislature because she married a British man.

      Ms Suu Kyi led the NLD to victory in a multi-party election in 1990 but the military ignored the result and she has spent 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest.

      USDA a stooge of Burmese junta: Opposition researchers
      Mizzima News: Wed 2 Apr 2008

      In order to maintain its illegitimate stranglehold on the country, the Burmese military junta has created Burma's only civil society group the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) to use it to shore up its reign, an opposition group said.

      The Thailand based Network for Democracy and Development in a report released on Monday said, the junta effectively uses the USDA to suppress opposition activities. It called the civil organization a stooge of the junta.

      Htay Aung from Research and Documentation department of NDD said, "The organization is at the forefront in attacking and defaming pro-democracy and opposition activists who are struggling against the evil military dictatorship."

      "The USDA even resorts to violence against opposition groups in many cases and support the junta in perpetuating its power," Htay Aung said.

      The report, titled 'USDA or Pillar of Military Dictatorship', documented details of how USDA members brutally attacked Burmese pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's motorcade on May 30, 2003 at Depeyin in central Burma, and the monk led protest in Pakokku in August 2007 and saffron revolution in September 2007.

      The 100-page report includes five chapters which details the USDA's involvement in various fields including education, economics and government departments. The report says USDA members are used to organize sham mass rallies, mass meetings against opposition groups, and in support of the junta's plans.

      The NDD said the report was compiled on the information based on interviews with 20 USDA members and first had accounts of former USDA members, who fled to the Thai-Burmese border.

      "We present in this report how the USDA is preparing for the ensuing constitutional referendum and gearing up for holding the general elections in 2010," Htay Aung said.

      The Burmese military regime inaugurated the national convention for the first time on January 9, 1993. The USDA was formed within two weeks of the inauguration of national convention and was registered as a social organization, not a political one.

      The NDD further said that facts reveal that in the past 15 years the USDA has been used as a tool by the junta for the perpetuation of its power despite the claim of being just a national organization.

      Junta arrests more opposition members - Phanida
      Mizzima: Wed 2 Apr 2008

      In yet another example of the junta's continuing brutal crackdown on dissidents, sources say Burmese authorities on Tuesday arrested two more Burmese opposition members.

      Tin Myint and Tun Aung, both members of Burma's main opposition party National League for Democracy, remain in custody since being taken for interrogation on Tuesday night by Special Branch Police, a NLD youth member told Mizzima.

      The NLD youth said Special Branch Police detained Tin Myint, chairman of the Thingankyun Township NLD, and Tun Aung, a youth member of the Thingankyun NLD, at about 11:00 p.m. (local time).

      "Both of them have not returned home. We don't know who the police were; they just said they were on duty. We still don't know where the two of them are being kept," the NLD youth added.

      Burmese authorities commonly fail to inform family members of the whereabouts of those taken for interrogation, leaving relatives alone to contemplate the fate of loved ones.

      Similarly, on March 30, several NLD members including Aung Than Tun, Aung Kyaw, Ye Zaw Htike, Tin Oo Maung and Khin Soe were reportedly arrested in Rangoon.

      On Monday, Amnesty International condemned Burma's ruling junta for arresting and sentencing activists involved in last year's August and September protests.

      Amnesty International reported that the government has conducted at least forty secret trials of protestors inside prisons.

      Junta-backed thugs continue attacks on opposition - Min Lwin
      Irrawaddy: Wed 2 Apr 2008

      As Burma prepares for a referendum on a constitution drafted by the country's military rulers, activists and members of the main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), have come under increasing attacks from junta-backed thugs.

      The latest incident occurred around 7:30 on Monday evening, when Myint Hlaing, 74, the NLD chairman for Rangoon's Hlaing Tharyar Township, was assaulted near his home. According to sources, he was hospitalized after an unknown attacker inflicted a two-inch cut on his head.

      Last Thursday, Myint Aye, 54, a leading human rights activist from Sanchaung Township in Rangoon, required treatment at the city's main neurological hospital for head wounds after he was beaten by two unidentified men near his home.

      Nyan Win, a spokesperson for the NLD, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday of another incident about a month ago, when knife-wielding pro-junta thugs chased several party members in Taunggok Township in Arakan State.

      The recent attacks come as Burma's military regime steps up training for "volunteers" who will be tasked with controlling protests against a referendum in May on the junta-sponsored draft charter.

      Sources in Rangoon say that local authorities have been giving riot-control training to state-backed organizations, including volunteer firefighters, Red Cross personnel and members of Ward Peace and Development Councils in Rangoon's South Dagon, South Okkalapa and Thingangyun Townships.

      "They were instructed how to beat the activists and crack down on crowds if protests happen," said one person who had witnessed the training sessions. "The firefighters were shown how to beat the protesters and members of the Red Cross learned how to pick them up and throw them on trucks, separating those who are dead from the ones who are still alive," the witness added.

      According to the witness, the training started at 10 p.m. and continued until midnight. Trainees received 500 kyat (US $0.45) and a meal for attending. The instructors were blue-uniformed Swan Ar Shin militia members and the supervisor for each ward was identified by a red stripe on his shoulder.

      In recent years, Burma's military junta has turned increasingly to civilians to stem unrest. Before troops crushed last year's monk-led uprising, plainclothes agents were instrumental in snuffing out earlier protests against a dramatic rise in fuel prices.

      Random attacks on opposition members have also increased as part of an ongoing campaign of intimidation. In April 2007, several members of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters, a human rights advocacy group founded in 2002, were mobbed and severely beaten by around one hundred members of the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Association in Hinthada Township, Irrawaddy Division.

      In June 2007, Than Lwin, an NLD member who was elected as a representative for Madaya Township, Mandalay Division, in 1990 was attacked after praying for the release of NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Than Lwin is currently in Mandalay prison.

      25 per cent of Burma's Karenni State internally displaced
      Asia Tribune: Wed 2 Apr 2008

      Higher percentage of population displaced than in Sudan, Iraq, Uganda, Colombia or the Democratic Republic of Congo (Over one quarter of the Karenni population of eastern Burma has been forced from their homes due to years of military oppression, a figure expected to increase as militarisation of the state continues unabated, according to a new report from Burma Issues.

      In Karenni State, located in eastern Burma, 81,000 villagers are currently internally displaced, representing 27 per cent of the state's population. Between 70 and 80 per cent of those displaced are women and children.

      What is needed is Thailand's immediate action to enable international support for cross-border aid and for the governments of SE Asia, China and India to support a UN Security Council Resolution on Burma, Khu Thaw Reh, Mae Hong Son Area Coordinator for Burma Issues, a non-governmental organization working in Thailand, said.

      IDPs in Karenni State face severe food shortages, inadequate shelter, cannot access health care or education services and are vulnerable to violence and exploitation from Burmese soldiers,said Khu Thaw Reh said.

      He urged Burma to move quickly into genuine dialogue with ethnic groups to address issues of human rights and socio-economic grievances.

      Unarmed villagers are forced to flee their homes to escape military attacks and human rights abuses perpetrated by the Burmese army, while others are forced from their homes to make way for income generating projects benefiting the military junta. Over the last five years the number of internally displaced persons in Karenni State has increased by 42 per cent, a number expected to increase if the situation continues to worsen, according to Khu Thaw Reh.

      Sudan, Colombia, Iraq, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have the five largest displaced populations in the world. In Sudan nearly 13 per cent of the population is displaced, Colombia 8.5 per cent, Iraq over 6 per cent, Uganda over 6.5 per cent, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo nearly 2 per cent.

      The percentage of the population displaced in Karenni State is twice as high as the level in Sudan which has the world's largest internally displaced population, however, they receive little assistance or international attention, Khu Thaw Reh said.

      Displaced people in Karenni State need humanitarian assistance urgently, but they also need a genuine solution to their displacement crisis which involves a significant change to Burma's political, economic and social systems, he said.

      Living Ghosts: The spiraling repression of the Karenni population under the Burmese military junta, a new report released by Burma Issues, documents the worsening situation for the Karenni people over the past six years, including reduced access to health care and education, the impact of increased growth of poppies and production of synthetic drugs in the state, and the ongoing oppression by both state and non-state armies. This in-depth report is based on interviews with villagers, surveys and observations from Burma Issues field staff collected between 2001 and 2007, and documents the threat to regional and international security.

      India to build Myanmar port - Gavin Rabinowitz
      AP: Wed 2 Apr 2008

      India will build a $120 million seaport and transportation system in Myanmar under a deal signed Wednesday, officials said as India pressed ahead with investment in its much-criticized neighbor.

      India has been investing in Myanmar despite international calls for sanctions on the Southeast Asian country's military government, which violently suppressed pro-democracy protests several months ago.

      The second-highest ranking member of Myanmar's ruling junta, Senior Gen. Maung Aye, signed the deal with Indian Vice president Mohammad Hamid Ansari during the Myanmar official's visit to India, according to a statement from India's Foreign Ministry.

      The statement gave no details of the deal. Indian officials earlier said the $120 million Kaladan project would see India upgrade waterways and highways along Myanmar's Kaladan River and develop the port of Sittway in the country's northwest.

      "This project will greatly enhance connectivity between Myanmar and India, in particular with India's northeast states," the statement said.

      India has established deep economic and military ties with the junta over the past decade and has said it believes talking quietly is a better approach than sanctions.

      The agreement was signed the same day as Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party urged voters to reject a military-backed draft constitution, saying it was undemocratic and drafted under the junta's direct control.

      The junta has also announced general elections in 2010.

      The statement quoted Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as saying Myanmar needs to speed up its promised democratization process and make it include all sections of society including Suu Kyi.

      India shifted its policy from supporting Suu Kyi to engaging the generals in the early 1990s, partly due to a desire for access to Myanmar's large natural gas reserves.

      The transportation system will give India greater access to the reserves, which India needs to fuel its rapid economic growth.

      India has also recently sought to bolster its influence in Myanmar in an attempt to counter China, which has become the junta's main ally.

      In addition, India has been eager to secure the cooperation of the Myanmar military to help contain separatist groups fighting New Delhi's rule in northeastern India near the Myanmar border. Several of the groups have set up bases across the 830-mile border and used them to launch attacks in India.

      N Korea exporting multiple-launch rockets to Myanmar
      Nasdaq via AFP: Wed 2 Apr 2008

      North Korea has started exporting multiple-launch rockets to military-ruled Myanmar, after the two nations agreed to normalize ties last year, a Japanese television report said Wednesday.

      The weapons exports are in violation of economic sanctions imposed on North Korea after the communist state conducted a nuclear test in October 2006, Japan's public broadcaster NHK reported, citing unnamed diplomatic sources.

      It said "full-scale" exports of the weapons had been handled by an unnamed Singapore trading company.

      Multiple-launch rockets are 24 centimeters in diameter and about one meter long, each with a range of about 65 kilometers, the report said.

      NHK didn't give any further details.

      North Korea and Myanmar agreed in April to restore relations. Yangon severed ties in 1983 following a failed assassination attempt by North Korean agents on then-South Korean president Chun Doo-Hwan during his visit to Myanmar.

      The bombing killed 17 of Chun's entourage including cabinet ministers, along with four Myanmar officials.

      Myanmar and North Korea have been branded "outposts of tyranny" by the U.S., which imposes sanctions on both countries.

      Myanmar's Yetagun gas pipeline leaking - PTTEP
      Reuters: Wed 2 Apr 2008

      An offshore gas pipeline from Myanmar's Yetagun gas field is leaking, causing a loss of supplies to Thailand of about 400-500 million cubic feet per day (cfd), Thai shareholder PTTEP said on Wednesday.

      PTT Exploration and Production PCL PTTE.BK was informed of the leak on Tuesday and Malaysia's Petronas, operator of the gas-rich field in the Gulf of Martaban, was trying to find the cause, chief executive officer Anon Sirisaengtaksin told Reuters.

      "They are investigating the reasons and we have to wait for information from Myanmar," Anon said without elaborating.

      PTTEP, a subsidiary of top energy firm PTT PCL PTT.BK, owns 19.3 percent of the Yetagun gas field and Petronas has a 40.9 percent stake.

      Other shareholders include Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise and Nippon Oil Exploration (Myanmar).

      PTTEP operates five blocks in Myanmar and is a minority partner in the Yetagun and Yadana gas developments. About 1.1 billion cfd of gas output from the two fields is exported to Thailand. ($1 = 31.50 Baht) (Reporting by Pisit Changplayngam; Writing by Khettiya Jittapong; Editing by Michael Battye)

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