[ReadingRoom] News on Burma - 10/9/08
- Cyclone refugee charged after submitting petition
- More dissidents in Central Burma arrested
- Myanmar, Russia to jointly explore oil, gas
- Appeasing the junta - the UN's dangerous detour
- Pakokku monk vows to continue regime boycott
- Gambari should push for tripartite dialogue
- Suu Kyi companion hospitalized
- Building upon success
- Burma's diplomatic stalemate
- NLD calls junta to ensure well-being of Suu Kyi
- Directive orders monks to avoid political activity
- Corruption rampant in the Delta
- Junta forcibly buys paddy from farmers before harvesting
- Sino-Indian competition for Burmese oil and natural gas
- Special Statement No. 16/09/08
- USDA candidates for 2010 election shortlisted
- Hmawbi residents forced to work on road construction
- Government cuts currency red tape for donors?
- Japanese companies to set up special economic zone in Myanmar
- Daewoo on hunt off Burma
- All ceasefire groups to surrender in 2009
Cyclone refugee charged after submitting petition - Aye Nai
Democratic Voice of Burma: Tue 9 Sep 2008
Cyclone refugee U Nyan Win has been arrested in Naypyidaw where he was trying to secure the right for other survivors of Cyclone Nargis to remain at refugee camps 3 and 5, according to sources close to him.
Nyan Win, who is from camp 3, collected the names, signatures and fingerprints of 200 refugees and went to the capital to plead their case.
While he was there, three of his friends who had helped him collect the signatures were summoned to Laputta police station and ordered to collect the names, signatures and finger prints of 50 people on blank pieces of paper by the region's chief military strategist.
The three tried to refuse but were forced to carry out the orders by the police.
Once the papers had been collected, it was written in the space above the signatures that Nyan Win had been collecting fake signatures so that he could illegally profit from the allocation of plots of land to the refugees.
The letters were sent to the capital and Nyan Win was arrested at the Buddhist monastery where he was staying.
He is now being charged with dishonesty and forgery under articles 420 and 486 of the penal code, sources said, and could face a prison sentence of up to eight years.
The three people who were forced to collect the second round of signatures for the police are planning to report the incident to the relevant authorities.
A monk who joined the villagers of Yway in a signature campaign to protest against the plan to move them forcibly to Bokone village was also summoned to Laputta police station and interrogated five days ago, locals said.
More dissidents in Central Burma arrested - Saw Yan Naing
Irrawaddy: Tue 9 Sep 2008
At least eight dissidents in Yenanchaung Township in Magwe Division, central Burma, including members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), were arrested by security forces on Monday, according to several local sources who spoke to The Irrawaddy on condition of anonymity.
The eight arrested men were named as: Myint Wai, Win Myint Hlaing, Khin Win, Tint Lwin, Aw Gyi (aka Win Hlaing), Than Aung, Nang Win and Maung Maung.
The arrests appear part of an ongoing concerted campaign by Burma's ruling military authorities to monitor and stamp out opposition during the anniversary of last year's monk-led demonstrations.
Monday's arrests follow the detention at the weekend of 10 members of the NLD in Magwe Division's Pwinbyu and Sinpyukyun townships, said Nyan Win, a spokesman for the NLD.
The detained men were named as: Nyein Maung, Thein Aung, Htay Myint, Win Maung, Kyi Htay Aung, Ko Ko Oo, Than Htun and three unidentified persons, according to NLD sources.
The 10 dissidents are currently being detained in custody in Pwinbyu Township and will reportedly be summoned for trial on September 19, a youth member of the NLD said.
Several sources told The Irrawaddy that the Burmese authorities arrested the NLD members on suspicion of involvement in the Buddhist monk-led demonstrations in September 2007, in which the UN has said that at least 31 protesters died during a brutal crackdown by Burmese security forces.
In late August, some 11 NLD members were arrested in Rangoon's Hlaing Thayar Township, said sources. The authorities accused them of taking part in last September's uprising.
And last Friday, six more activists in Hlaing Thayar Township were arrested.
Perhaps fearing another uprising during the anniversary of last year's demonstrations, Burmese security forces have been deployed in many areas around the country and are reportedly monitoring those who were involved in the 2007 uprising, including monks.
According to Thailand-based human rights group, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), more than 30 activists were arrested by Burmese military authorities in August; 21 of who are still imprisoned.
Myanmar, Russia to jointly explore oil, gas
Xinhua: Tue 9 Sep 2008
A Myanmar's oil company and a Russian one will jointly explore oil and gas in two onshore areas in Myanmar, the state-run newspaper New Light of Myanmar reported Tuesday.
According to a production sharing contract signed last weekend between the state-operated Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) and the Closed Joint Stock Oil Company "Nobel Oil" of the Russian Federation, the exploration will be done in Hukaung and U-ru regions.
Other three Russian oil companies have been engaged in oil and gas exploration in Myanmar under respective contracts since 2006. The first, which is JSC Zarubezhneft Iteraaws along with the Sun Group of India, has been exploring oil and gas at block M-8 lying in the Mottama offshore area.
The other two Russian companies - Silver Wave Sputnik Petroleum Pte Ltd and the Silver Wave Energy Pte Ltd of Kalmykia have been drilling Zeebyutaung test well-1 at the inland block B-2in Pinlebu township of northwestern Sagaing division under similar contract reached in March 2007.
There has been seven foreign companies operating onshore, including Essar Oil Ltd, Focus Energy Ltd, MPRL Exploration and Production Private Ltd, Goldpetrol, CNOOC, Sinopec Oil Company and Chinerry Assests, according to statistics.
There exists 19 onshore oil fields in Myanmar including Yenangyaung, Ayadaw, Chauk, Myanaung, Mann, Kyaukkhwet/Letpando, Htaukshabin, Kanni and Nyaungdon.
Besides the onshore areas, Myanmar has abundance of natural gas resources in the offshore areas. With three main large offshore oil and gas fields and 19 onshore ones, Myanmar has proven recoverable reserve of 18.012 trillion cubic-feet (TCF) or 510 billion cubic-meters (BCM) out of 89.722 TCF or 2.54 trillion cubic-meters (TCM)'s estimated reserve of offshore and onshore gas, experts said, adding that the country is also estimated to have 3.2 billion barrels of recoverable crude oil reserve.
Statistics show that foreign investment in Myanmar's oil and gas sector had reached 3.243 billion dollars in 85 projects as of the end of 2007 since the country opened to such investment in late 1988, standing the second in the country's foreign investment sectorally after electric power.
In 2007, foreign investment in the oil and gas sector more than tripled to 474.3 million U.S. dollars compared with 2006, accounting for 90 percent of the total during the year which stood504.8 million, according to the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development.
Currently, 13 foreign oil companies, mainly from Australia, Britain, Canada, China, Indonesia, India, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand and Russia, are involved in oil and gas projects in Myanmar, according to official sources.
Appeasing the junta - the UN's dangerous detour - Kyaw Zwa Moe
Bangkok Post: Tue 9 Sep 2008
You know that the United Nations' efforts to broker reconciliation talks in Burma are failing miserably when all the visiting UN envoy wants to talk about is the ruling junta's "roadmap" to a sham democracy. Ibrahim Gambari's latest trip to Burma was more than a disappointment: it was a disgrace. In the course of his nearly week-long visit, the UN envoy held two brief consultations with members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and spent the rest of his time speaking with handpicked advocates of a political process that deliberately excludes anyone who questions the military's right to rule.
It should have come as no surprise, then, that detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi declined to meet with Mr Gambari lest she further legitimise his failed mission, which is still being carried out under a mandate that he has evidently abandoned.
The objectives of Mr Gambari's mission are clear: to secure the release of Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, and to initiate a dialogue between leaders of the regime and the democratic opposition.
He has failed on both accounts, and has now taken it upon himself to sell critics of the regime on the idea that an election slated for 2010 could be the way forward.
The 2010 election is the fourth step in the regime's seven-step "roadmap" to a "disciplined democracy". In his discussions with senior members of the NLD, Mr Gambari said that the UN would do its utmost to ensure that polling is conducted in a "free and fair" manner.
It is difficult, however, to have much faith in the UN's ability to guarantee anything in Burma.
After all, it had no influence whatsoever on the regime's decision to foist a phony referendum on a country still reeling from the effects of Cyclone Nargis in early May. Indeed, it virtually had to beg to be allowed to assist victims of the deadly storm.
Strangely, the UN's crucial role in the ongoing relief efforts in the Irrawaddy Delta appears to have given it no political leverage inside Burma.
On the contrary, the world body seems to be going out of its way to avoid displeasing the ruling generals.
Perhaps this reflects a new humanitarian focus, one that obscures the political quagmire underlying the country's seemingly endless suffering. Or maybe it is something more cynical _ an attempt to take the path of least resistance, even if it means sidelining Mrs Suu Kyi and her party.
Either way, the UN is taking a dangerous gamble on the goodwill of the Burmese junta. And even if the regime honours any promises that it may have made _ which is extremely unlikely, given its record _ it is ludicrous to buy into its vision of a future where the military is the ultimate arbiter of what constitutes a true democracy, particularly when its starting point is the eradication of the democratic opposition.
The UN must realise that the "roadmap" is nothing more than an attempt to return Burma to the days before the NLD's historic electoral victory in 1990. Unless it gets back on track and starts pushing seriously for genuine dialogue between the generals and Burma's legitimate leaders, the UN will be justifiably accused of sacrificing the country's interests to save face.
The United Nations and the rest of the international community must never make the mistake of believing that Mrs Suu Kyi or the principles she represents are irrelevant.
Until genuine reconciliation is reached, Burma will remain a victim of the generals' whims _ and every apparent step forward will be followed by seven steps back.
* Kyaw Zwa Moe is Managing Editor of The Irrawaddy Publishing Group.
Pakokku monk vows to continue regime boycott - Nan Kham Kaew
Democratic Voice of Burma: Mon 8 Sep 2008
Young monks from Pakokku will continue to refuse alms from government officials until they apologise for beating, insulting, killing and imprisoning monks during the Saffron Revolution last year, a local monk said.
A young Pakokku monk said the government's crackdown had cut the number of monks in his monastery significantly.
"Last year, there were about 600 monks. This year, there are only just over 500 left. It is better for the Sasana when there are more monks," the monk said.
"We young monks are still maintaining the boycott. I am not sure about the older ones," he said.
"It is not good to torture monks like that. Even normal people do not like to be beaten up. People should even avoid harming animals."
The monk said regime officials could begin to redeem themselves by apologising to the monks.
"Beating up monks is a mortal sin. If they think about that it is a frightening prospect for them," the monk said.
"If they do not apologise, despite knowing they have sinned, they will pay for it. If they apologise, that is another matter," he said.
"We are still feeling saddened. They know themselves that evildoers won't last long. Those would act as kings have to follow the ten rules that bind kings."
Gambari should push for tripartite dialogue: UNA - Saw Yan Naing
Irrawaddy: Mon 8 Sep 2008
Instead of holding dialogue with the Burmese military government about elections in 2010, the United Nations (UN) special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, should urge the regime to initiate a tripartite dialogue aimed toward reaching national reconciliation in Burma, according to the United Nationalities Alliance (UNA), a Rangoon-based coalition of 12 ethnic political parties.
The UNA stated in an open letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Monday that in order to build national reconciliation, tripartite talks involving the Burmese junta, the political opposition parties and the ethnic political parties was first and foremost required.
The UNA urged the UN to exert "appropriate pressure" on the junta to engage in a tripartite dialogue. Unless national reconciliation was established, the UNA warned, there would be no peace and tranquility in Burma.
"What are the UN's mandates assigned upon Ibrahim Gambari?" the UNA questioned.
Answering its own question, the UNA stated that the UN's mandate was to build national reconciliation in Burma.
The open letter went on to say that the UN special envoy's mission had not brought about any tangible outcome despite his having visited Burma six times since he was appointed as the special advisor to Burma in 2005.
The ethnic political alliance also alluded to the junta's "seven-step road map" toward democracy, calling the national convention, the state constitution and the referendum "sham processes" which were legitimized "without the real will of the people in Burma."
The UNA's open letter was also sent to the president of the UN Security Council, as well as to ambassadors of the permanent members of the UN Security Council - the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China.
The UNA won 67 seats in the 1990 general elections.
Suu Kyi companion hospitalized: NLD - Wai Moe
Irrawaddy: Mon 8 Sep 2008
A woman living with Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been hospitalized, leaving the detained democracy activist alone under house arrest and adding to concerns about her well being, according to a spokesman for the National League for Democracy (NLD).
NLD spokesman Nyan Win told The Irrawaddy that one of two women living with Suu Kyi was hospitalized earlier today and that her mother, Suu Kyi's other companion, was also at the hospital taking care of her daughter.
"We don't have any details about her health problem. We are trying to find out now," said Nyan Win.
The hospitalized woman has been identified only as the daughter of Khin Khin Win, an NLD member who has lived with Suu Kyi periodically since 1997. Khin Khin Win and her daughter have stayed in Suu Kyi's home continuously since she was released from prison and placed under house arrest in September 2003.
The two women, who are Suu Kyi's only companions, assist her with housekeeping and cooking meals, said party sources.
Meanwhile, the NLD said that Suu Kyi is still not accepting food supplies that the party normally delivers to her home every Friday.
In a statement released yesterday, the NLD said that Suu Kyi has not accepted any food for the past three weeks. The statement also urged Burma's military junta to ensure her well being.
"We expressed our concerns about her situation. At the moment, only the authorities know about her condition. We are worried about her," said Nyan Win.
According to the NLD statement, Suu Kyi has refused to accept her food supplies in protest against her unlawful detention, and also to demand greater freedom of movement for her two female companions, who have been forbidden to leave Suu Kyi's home.
The statement also said that Suu Kyi is protesting the authorities' failure to honor a promise to allow her to receive monthly medical checkups by her physician. A doctor visited Suu Kyi on August 17, but her previous checkup was in January, the statement said.
Suu Kyi also has severely limited access to her lawyer, Kyi Win, with whom she is preparing a legal appeal against her detention, which was extended in May.
When she met with her lawyer on August 17, she also instructed him to look into the legality of restrictions placed upon Khin Khin Win and her daughter.
Kyi Win told The Irrawaddy that Suu Kyi noted that since the women have not been charged with or convicted of any offense, it was illegal to restrict their movements.
Building upon success - Dawn Calabia and Megan Fowler
United Press International: Mon 8 Sep 2008
Three months after Cyclone Nargis, the world has an outdated image of the situation inside Burma. Although aid agencies delivered assistance within days after the storm and continue to do so, the story of a recalcitrant government that rejects aid from the generous nations of the world has not been updated.
Aid agencies today report an unprecedented level of access and mobility in the Ayeyarwady Delta, which is a tribute to the successful fight by the United Nations, the Association of Southeast Asia Nations and the United States for humanitarian access. But the gains in delivering relief supplies, gathering information about needs and supporting local communities are at risk without continued commitment to food security, livelihood and early recovery activities.
For two weeks, Refugees International interviewed the staff of over forty humanitarian organizations inside Burma. All reported access to any requested part of the delta, including ethnic minority areas, and the ability to send international staff to train, implement and monitor programs without obstruction. Since June, over 1,000 visas have been granted to international aid workers. Similarly, agencies report the ability to resolve problems with the government, and praise the Tripartite Core Group - the cyclone response structure comprised of working levels of the Burmese government, ASEAN and the United Nations - as an effective mechanism for resolving disputes. The TCG has ably removed obstacles related to visas, Foreign Exchange Certificates and the importation of food, among others.
Agencies also praised the Post Nargis Joint Assessment (PONJA), the first comprehensive, independent assessment of humanitarian need. For a country that has not conducted a national census in over 20 years, the information that it contains represents a major leap forward. PONJA is to be updated regularly to report on aid operations and their effectiveness, and ASEAN will establish six offices in the delta to better monitor and evaluate aid activities.
Burmese community based organizations were first responders that are now working to increase their capacity to provide effective aid. Local organizations with international support are providing training and funding to ensure that Burmese humanitarian groups can better assess and organize community assistance, improve their organizational structures and coordinate activities with each other and with international agencies. The work of local organizations is vital for the success of humanitarian operations in Burma as these groups promote self-reliance and reduce vulnerabilities. Support for groups that provide capacity building and training services to these organizations is as important as the provision of direct relief.
Improved information sharing and coordination between the U.N. and international and local NGOs, coupled with easier international access to the delta and donor support, have reduced suffering, saved lives and improved the overall humanitarian response to the affected population. While a large majority of cyclone victims have received some sort of assistance, and most are receiving regular food aid, the process of transitioning from relief to self-sufficiency will require international help well through 2009 and perhaps beyond. The international community must continue funding humanitarian assistance and begin livelihood and other early recovery activities that will allow the gradual phasing-out of emergency aid.
The demands of the relief effort have emboldened some ministers within the government of Burma to facilitate international cooperation, a story ignored by international reports that focus on the government's obstructionism. Their success has created a new set of operational rules that are unique to the delta, including increased mobility for international staff; operations approved quickly through "letters of agreement;" the use of community organizing strategies; and improved communication between the international community and the government through the TCG. This new standard for humanitarian operations inside the cyclone-affected areas should be commended by international organizations and donor governments and its application to the rest of the country should be advocated by all actors.
Nonetheless, hardliner isolationists are still determined to prevent further international involvement in Burmese affairs. This obstructionism has raised hurdles for relief operations, such as the failed attempt to impose strict guidelines on international agencies in June. More seriously, this conservative faction is attempting to exert its influence over on-going operations outside the delta, and is meddling with the annual memoranda of understanding (MOUs) of a number of long-standing operational agencies. With little clear direction being given from the senior leadership, multiple government officials appear to be implementing competing pro- and anti-engagement policies simultaneously in hopes that their actions will curry favor with top officials.
The sooner the U.S. and other donor countries reaffirm their commitment to early recovery operations at least through 2009, the better the chance that the new openness in the delta will take hold. Ministers who have risked their political capital to support international involvement must be encouraged by donor commitments to more than a short-term infusion of humanitarian assistance. Without these commitments, isolationists may argue that humanitarian operations were more about scoring political points against the regime rather than aiding Burma.
Gaps and delays in funding will hamper relief activities and could cause ruptures in the supply of essential goods. The U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance has led an exemplary operation to provide cyclone relief, granting almost US$50 million to international NGOs and U.N. agencies. OFDA programs are scheduled to transition to the U.S. Agency for International Development in January 2009. Refugees International is concerned that to date no funding has been requested or identified by the Bush Administration or authorized by Congress to continue the needed relief programs in 2009.
Similarly in April 2009, the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office will hand over responsibility for future aid to the European Commission. Currently the EC plans 6 million (US$8.5 million) for cyclone operations, substantially below current ECHO funding levels. The British government has provided £45 million(US$79 million) through March 2009, but has not determined funding past that date. Australia has announced $55 million (US$45 million) for its 2008/2009 cyclone programs.
Humanitarian agencies have largely maintained their operations throughout the country while responding to the cyclone. Though many agencies temporarily pulled staff from regional offices throughout the country to work in the delta, few programs halted their nationwide operations to respond to Nargis.
Many humanitarian activists in Burma hope that the assessment, monitoring and access breakthroughs that characterize the delta operations will eventually lead to a revision of overall Burmese policy on humanitarian activities. Currently, the restrictions placed on agencies in other parts of the country remain unchanged.
Many actors also hope for benefits from increased contact with Burmese officials, and one agency has indeed reported expanded access in another part of the country as a direct result of relationships built during cyclone operations.
It is too soon to tell if there will be a national transformation on humanitarian access. To encourage this transition, international agencies and donor governments must continue to demonstrate their willingness to engage in the delta and lend support to those Burmese officials who are pushing for a greater international role. Without this vital support - both financial and political - the international community may risk squandering the largest humanitarian opening inside Burma in the past twenty years.
(Dawn Calabia is Senior Advisor and Megan Fowler Communications Director at Refugees International. The organization generates lifesaving humanitarian assistance and protection for displaced people around the world and works to end the conditions that create displacement. Calabia and Fowler assessed the cyclone response effort in Burma in August 2008.)
Burma's diplomatic stalemate - Aung Htoo
Democratic Voice of Burma: Mon 8 Sep 2008
If we compare United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari's visit to Burma to a chess game, we can say that during his latest trip from to 23 August he attempted to sacrifice a queen for five pawns.
The five pawns that Gambari wanted from the State Peace and Development Council military regime in return for the extinction of the National League for Democracy were the release of political prisoners, talks between the SPDC and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, development of economy, the opening of a UN liaison office in Rangoon and the visit of UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to Burma in December for political discussions.
Why do I refer these five points as pawns?
The call for the release of political prisoners is no longer new or surprising. It had been repeatedly demanded by Burma's pro-democracy moment as a whole well before Gambari mentioned it. As a representative of the UN, he should ask for more than political prisoners' freedom. Gambari should have talked about the elimination of repressive laws and the improvement of the legal and judiciary systems in the country to ensure that there would be no more arbitrary detentions in the future.
Instead of meeting between the SPDC and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Gambari should have asked the military regime to formally arrange a genuine political dialogue with political party leaders, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, whose parties won in the May 1990 elections.
Gambari's call to the SPDC for economic development in Burma will go nowhere since the regime does not have any capacity to bring it about.
The opening of a UN liaison office in Rangoon is also not a surprise - it is a normal procedure for the UN.
As for the visit of the UN secretary-general to Burma in December for political discussions, it is not in itself something to be much pleased about. The important thing is what he is going to talk about when he meets the junta.
I have previously suggested that Gambari's visit to Burma in August could make the situation worse for the country. I predicted that he might try to urge the SPDC to make the elections in 2010 free and fair. This kind of attempt is actually to the military regime's advantage because it supports the regime's effort to legitimise the elections.
When Gambari met with the NLD leaders in his recent trip, he actually tried to convince them to go along with his efforts regarding the 2010 elections. He tried to convince them to accept the SPDC's 2010 elections. In reality, the recognition of the 2010 elections is equivalent to the elimination of the 1990 election results and the acceptance of the 2008 state constitution. Gambari had five pawns in mind, but even before he got them he tried to undermine the queen by talking the NLD into accept the 2010 elections. We cannot condemn those who criticise Mr Gambari for doing what the SPDC wants him to do.
However, the NLD leaders could protect the queen by stating their strong demands to the military. The fact that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been at the forefront of Burma's pro-democracy movement like a queen, refused to meet with Gambari was absolutely the right step to take diplomatically.
But this diplomatic struggle was just the beginning. We should learn from it and ensure we are well prepared to continue to fight in this arena.
Our defensive line for the diplomatic struggle is the 1990 elections result. We should never take a step back from that line. Our main offensive target is the SPDC's 2008 state constitution. It is not the 2010 elections because the elections will be held on the basis of the constitution. The 2010 elections will bring the 2008 constitution into effect. If we can overturn the 2008 constitution, the 2010 elections will automatically be abandoned. Therefore, if we can let the whole world know the reasons why we cannot accept the 2008 constitution, we will be able to oppose the legitimacy of the 2010 elections very effectively.
As far as I see the situation, we still do not have a systematic working strategy to get our message out to the world of why we cannot accept the 2008 state constitution. It is worrisome to note that international governments, especially the European Union, ASEAN and Japan, have echoed Mr Gambari's views on the upcoming elections in Burma in 2010.
It is difficult for people inside Burma to find out about and understand the SPDC constitution. The military regime has never allowed its citizens to learn about the constitution and continues to prevent its people from discussing the constitution. Decree 5/96, violation of which can lead to up to 20 years' imprisonment, is still in effect.
Although activists and political leaders have studied the constitution to some extent, it has not been in enough depth due to the lack of reference books and information and the many restrictions. The constitution booklets have still not reached many townships and villages in remote areas. The majority of people in Burma have not yet read the SPDC's 2008 state constitution. It is almost impossible to access constitution-related books and papers in order to make a comparative study of the SPDC constitution against international norms.
The SPDC has intentionally created this situation. The regime does not want its people to know anything about the constitution. Nor does it want its people to study, analyse and criticise the constitution. If people don't know anything about the constitution, the regime can easily lie to them and use the constitution against them.
Therefore, on one hand the SPDC obscures constitutional issues from its people. But on the other hand, the regime tries to push for what it wants within and outside the country by claming that the new constitution has been adopted. For instance, ceasefire organisations have come under pressure to go along with the 2008 constitution. Political parties have been asked to register in order to contest the 2010 elections. Moreover, the SPDC has been calling widely for the recognition of the state constitution not only in the international arena but also at the UN, and assistance in implementing the processes set out by its own constitution.
The SPDC uses the same strategy of obscuring constitutional issues from the international community. So far, there has been no official translation of the 2008 constitution available for public use. The military regime has said it has already had an English version of the constitution prepared but this has not been made public.
Foreign countries have the capacity to study the SPDC constitution by translating it into English or their own languages but most countries have not yet done so because of the time, money and professional expertise they would have to invest. Up to now, Burma's opposition has still not come up with an exact translation of the constitution in English. There have been some analytical papers on the 2008 constitution but they have not been published in full in English. Even with the material that has been published in English, the opposition has still not been able to distribute it widely. This means that the international community cannot yet form an opinion of whether and why the SPDC constitution is good or bad. The military regime has benefited from the fact that the international community has limited knowledge about its constitution.
Conversely, I would like to point out the negligence of those who understand the 2008 constitution but go along with the SPDC by pretending they don't know where it is leading Burma. One of them is the UN special envoy Gambari. Constitutional experts at the UN office in New York have already explained the SPDC's 2008 constitution to him. Basically, Gambari must have already realised that democracy in Burma will never prevail if we follow the path of the SPDC constitution.
Understanding the motivations of Gambari, who urges people to accept the 2010 elections despite their uncertainties, is another matter. What we, the people of Burma, need to do is to tell Gambari and his superior Ban Ki-moon very firmly that we cannot accept any political process that includes the 2010 elections based on the SPDC's 2008 state constitution. If we cannot be straightforward with them, the situation of our country will worsen far more than we can imagine.
It is time to develop without further delay an inclusive working strategy to make governments all over the world understand our unwavering stance and accept our analysis of the SPDC constitution, and to convince them to support our approach.
NLD calls junta to ensure well-being of Suu Kyi
Associated Press: Fri 5 Sep 2008
The political party of detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi urged Burma's military government Friday to ensure her well-being as she continued to refuse food deliveries to protest her detention.
The National League for Democracy "expressed concern" that Suu Kyi has not accepted food delivered to her home for almost three weeks, the party said in a statement.
It did not say whether she was on a hunger strike, a question that has remained unanswered since the first mention of her refusal to accept food over a week ago.
The 63-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate has been held in detention by the ruling military junta for 13 of the past 19 years, mostly under house arrest, and relies on food delivered by her party for sustenance.
Friday's statement called Suu Kyi's action a protest, which had only been alluded to until now.
"She is refusing food supplies in protest against her unlawful detention under the security law," the party said.
Suu Kyi also wants greater freedom of movement for two female companions who live with her and help take care of the house, it said. They are currently not allowed to leave the compound.
She is also protesting that authorities have not allowed her to receive a monthly medical checkup by her physician as they earlier promised, it said. A doctor visited Suu Kyi on August 17, but her previous checkup was in January, the party said.
"Her safety and well-being are the soul responsibility of the authorities who have unlawfully detained her," it said.
Suu Kyi's lawyer, Kyi Win, was allowed to meet with her for 30 minutes on Monday, and said she told him that "I am well but I have lost some weight."
Rumors of a possible hunger strike have circulated widely in Rangoon, where Suu Kyi's isolation has only increased the mystique that surrounds her.
Similar hunger strike rumors spread in 2003 and in 1989, but proved untrue.
Supporters have speculated that Suu Kyi is frustrated over the United Nations' failure to bring about democratic reform in the country, which has been ruled by the military since 1962.
Suu Kyi canceled meetings with UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari during his six-day visit to Burma last month, and he left without seeing her.
UN envoys and other senior officials have visited the country nearly 40 times since 1990, and the UN General Assembly has passed numerous resolutions calling for change.
Directive orders monks to avoid political activity
Democratic Voice of Burma: Fri 5 Sep 2008
A directive has been sent by the state Sangha Maha Nayaka committee to monasteries and lecturing colleges in Chauk, Magwe division, ordering monks not to take part in political activities.
The directive was issued as new monks scholars arrived at the monasteries around the time of the one-year anniversary of the Saffron Revolution.
A Chauk monk said that the rules stated that monks could not get involved in party politics or join or participate in the activities of any organisations that are not sponsored by the Sangha Maha Nayaka.
The directive also urged monks to concentrate on their religious duties and not to act in a way that could tarnish the reputation of the Sangha.
The rules stated that swift action would be taken against any monks found to be breaking the law.
The monk said the directive had come from Magwe Division Sangha Maha Nayaka.
Security has been tightened around monasteries in Chauk and monks are being closely watched, the monk said.
"Last year the Sangha Maha Nayaka issued directives as instructed [by the authorities]. It is the same this year but security in both Pakokku and Chauk is quite tight," he said.
"These Swan Arr Shin and USDA are shaving their heads. I don't know whether they are going to beat up monks or not if we protest, but they are looking at us as if they are going swallow us alive when we go out to collect alms."
Monks in Chauk are continuing their boycott of government officials by refusing alms from them and they have told the abbots of the Sangha Maha Nayaka to speak out against the SPDC for forcibly disrobing, imprisoning and torturing monks.
"The abbots must know one way or another that the authorities are torturing, killing and imprisoning their own monks," the monk said.
"If they don't admonish wicked rulers, or if the other party doesn't accept it or take it seriously, the abbots themselves have a duty to carry out a religious boycott," he said.
"The Sangha Maha Nayaka must be held accountable."
Corruption rampant in the Delta - Aung Thet Wine
Irrawaddy: Fri 5 Sep 2008
Local authorities in the Irrawaddy delta have been siphoning off humanitarian assistance meant for refugee communities and have been selling on the relief supplies for substantial profits, according to several sources in the cyclone-ravaged delta.
Villagers from Laputta Township also alleged that the victims of Cyclone Nargis are also conscripted to hard labor in exchange for meager food rations.
"There is a black market near the Kan-nar Road," a trader from Ward 7 in Laputta told The Irrawaddy. "The vendors sell tarpaulins, clothes, mosquito nets, blankets and other utensils. They don't sell these things explicitly. First, they negotiate quietly with the buyers. Money is exchanged guardedly when they reach agreement," he added.
In order to supply assistance to communities in the cyclone-affected areas, international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) must deal with local authorities and village headmen, who usually present inflated figures of people in their villages who are in need. Then they collect basic foodstuffs such as rice, cooking oil and salt from the humanitarian organizations mainly based in Laputta.
However, most of these rations never reach the cyclone victims, claimed the residents in Laputta. The sources added that some village headmen keep the relief supplies and then take them to sell.
"The black market situation in August is not as good as it was in June and July," a youth who had volunteered for 14 weeks for an INGO said. "Now there are fewer sellers. One month after the cyclone, village headmen were making good livings selling relief supplies on the black market. Now the humanitarian aid has run out."
"However, blankets and mosquito nets are still widely available for between 3,000 and 5,000 kyat (US $2.50 to $4.50) each," he added.
"Although the rice-growing season is now finished, there is still a corrupt market in the trade of machinery and tools," a villager from Ka-Nyin-Kone in Laputta Township said.
Village headmen are also allegedly forcing villagers to work in reconstruction projects such as building roads and schools.
"When the secondary school at Ka-Nyin-Kone was destroyed by the cyclone, the monks from Min Kyaung monastery handed over a donation for its reconstruction, including payment for carpenters," the villager said. "However, U Sein Myint, the village headman, summoned the villagers and forced them to work on the construction of the school without payment. If they failed to do so, they were beaten."
The villager, who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons, said that the villagers in Ka-Nyin-Kone did not dare complain because the headman was a close friend of the local military officers.
"On August 7 and 8, U Sein Myint called meetings and said to the villagers that they can go and complain anywhere they like. But he boasted that he would still be village headman in 2010. Then he brought along some soldiers who were stationed nearby to threatened us," said the villager.
Authorities in Ka-Nyin-Kone are reportedly supporting the armed forces in the area with wages of at least 20,000 kyat ($18) per soldier per month.
Sources in the delta told The Irrawaddy that apart from openly exploiting disadvantaged villagers, the local authorities act with the full support of the local military.
Junta forcibly buys paddy from farmers before harvesting
Kachin News Group: Fri 5 Sep 2008
Intent on stocking up on rations for the Burmese Army, the military junta is forcibly buying paddy at reduced prices from farmers before the agricultural community can harvest the crop at the end of the season in November. The paddy collection drive is on in villages in Waingmaw Township in Kachin State in northern Burma, complained local farmers.
Early this month, farmers in Nawnghkying village in Waingmaw Township on the riverside of Mali Hka (Irrawaddy River) were forced to sell their paddy and accept 2,000 Kyat equal to US $ 1.7 per Tin (1 Tin = 40.9 litres in Burmese measurement in volume) of rice, which is four times less than the prevailing market price of 8,000 Kyat equal to US $ 6.8 per Tin, a local farmer told KNG.
According to farmers in Nawnghkying, the authorities of Boa Constrictor in Khatcho village in Waingmaw came to Nawnghkying and ordered each household to sell two Tins of paddy per acre of paddy field they own. The authorities of Khatcho Boa Constrictor have already advanced money to the farmers.
Local farmers added that they have to send the paddy demanded to the Nawnghkying village administration office (Ya-Ya-Ka) as soon as the harvest season starts in November. If they cannot send it in time to the Ya-Ya-Ka office, they have been instructed to send it directly to the Boa Constrictor in Khat Cho village.
The authorities are forcing Nawnghkying farmers to sell paddy, although the regime has not provided any support in terms of fertilizer or other farming equipments, a farmer told KNG today.
Owners of paddy fields, who hired out their plots to others, were also given the same instructions of selling the paddy demanded to the junta, added farmers.
There are over 400 households in Nawnghkying village and they have been farming in the village relying on the water from the Ugang Bum (Ugang Mountain).
The same situation occurred over the last two years where the authorities forced the residents to sell 10 Tins from each acre, said a resident.
Sino-Indian competition for Burmese oil and natural gas
Harvard International Review: Fri 5 Sep 2008
Implications for India's External Relations
This article examines Burma's energy market and Sino-Indian competition to gain access to its vast reserves while seeking to highlight continued Indian shortcomings. This article argues that although India may be able to make significant headway with the Junta and obtain a greater stake in the development of Burma's oil and natural gas fields, attempting to undercut and dislodge the Chinese will prove to be an ultimately fruitless task that damages India's long-term interests and ties with ASEAN, other Asian democracies, and the West. As such, India must re-evaluate its current policy towards the Junta.
Burma's Energy Market - Few Open Doors for India
The competition between India and China for influence in Burma reflects a larger jockeying for power between the two Asian giants. Burma's recoverable gas reserves are around 51 trillion cubic feet due to the discovery of a large offshore field opposite Thailand and another opposite Bangladesh. This gas commands a premium for both India and China, as current crude oil prices consistently rise above US$120 a barrel with some predicting this figure to possibly even reach US$200. China undoubtedly uses it political influence in Burma to swing the Junta in favor of some of its major companies, such as PetroChina, as business and political interests often intersect in this region and the Junta has a monopoly over Burma's natural gas sector as well as nearly all other economic activity. Given India's clear limitations in lobbying for its state-owned firms, it cannot expect major victories over the Chinese in securing natural resources in Burma, especially since India recently lost its "preferential buyer" status on several fields, likely a result of Chinese pressure on the Junta.
Military planners in China fear an embargo in the event of a war or crisis with the United States and are keen to reduce China's dependence on tanker transports through the Malacca Strait and South China Sea. In December 2005, China was awarded rights to natural gas from the biggest fields in Burma, beating out India. Korean-owned Daewood International, the operator of the field, selected PetroChina to extract the natural gas, while state-owned Indian companies control 30 per cent of the field, which holds as much as 7.7 trillion cubic feet, or 218 billion meters, of gas. Further, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) signed six contracts on production and sharing with the Burma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) of the Ministry of Energy from October 2004 to January 2005. The China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (SINOPEC) and its subsidiary Dian Quiangui Petroleum Exploration also work on inland fields, while the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and its subsidiary Chinnery Assets also won contracts to upgrade four old oilfields in central Burma. As of 2006, these projects lead to a total financial commitment of US$163 million. However, this figure is expected to grow considerably as China has begun to heavily invest in Burma's oil and natural sector.
PetroChina plans to build a gas pipeline from the A-1 block in the highly promising Shwe field off the coast of Rahine state to Yunnan. The Shwe field consists of seven blocks of unconfirmed size with the largest being A-1, estimated to contain between 2.88 trillion to 3.56 trillion cubic feet of gas. PetroChina has signed a memorandum of understanding with MOGE to buy gas from A-1 for 30 years, commencing 2009. Further, plans for an oil pipeline linking Burma's deep water port of Sittwe with Kunming in Yunnan were approved by China's National Development and Reform Commission in April 2006 and CNOOC has taken a stake in a Bay of Bengal gas field in Burma while CNPC is reportedly looking into building a more extensive pipeline network. With these deals underwritten by arms sales, unwavering political support, and protection from international pressure to engage in meaningful reforms, China's energy interests in Burma are unlikely to be jeopardized anytime soon. On the contrary, if the Junta continues to become more isolated, China will capitalize upon the development and expand its base in the country.
Chinese enterprises as well as the Chinese government have financed and constructed many infrastructure projects in Burma, especially electric power generation. Between 1996 and 2005, Chinese companies constructed six hydro-power plants and one thermal power station, with these projects accounting for about one-third of the entire national capacity. Also, as of March 2006, there are 11 major ongoing hydro-power projects in Burma with a total generating capacity of 1734 megawatts. Contracts were signed for seven of these projects and all were Chinese enterprises. Further, China has strongly supported the construction of massive state-owned factories such as textile mills, plywood plants, rice mills, pulp and paper mills, sugar mills, agriculture equipment factories, and other light manufacturing facilities in Burma. These factories would not have been possible without Chinese government financing. However, many of the factories are racked by corruption and inefficiency, thus potentially placing a burden on the Burmese government budget and eventually resulting in bad loans to Chinese stakeholders. These moves made in Burma by the Chinese have undoubtedly contributed to the preferential access to oil and natural gas that China enjoys in Burma. Through assisting the Junta in the provision of vital services such as electricity generation, China is assisting the Junta in ensuring regime survival. In addition, by demonstrating a willingness to support what are essentially loss-making enterprises in Burma, Beijing has demonstrated that it views its presence in Burma as a long-term one. Given the lack of accountability in China's authoritarian system, Beijing will continue to invest in high-risk projects in Burma in order to further solidify its presence without sparking a major public outcry domestically. This is a luxury that India does not have.
India's Position in Burma
India has recently been posting growth rates of around 7 to 8 percent per annum and aims to increase this growth to 10 percent. If this is to occur, India will need to secure energy resources quickly, especially since India's population is expected to reach 1.18 billion by 2010, 1.36 billion by 2020, and 1.57 billion by 2030. India's demand for fuel will rise even faster than its population growth and although much demand is met through the use of coal, India's coal reserves are not adequate to support power development on their own. At present, India only relies on natural gas for 13 per cent of its power generation, but this is bound to change as India's gas requirements for electricity are predicted to rise to as high as 199 billion cubic meters by 2030 (India currently consumes roughly 34.5 billion cubic meters). It is also of note that India only produces half of the natural gas it uses and imports 70 per cent of its crude oil, with most source nations found in the Middle East and North Africa, both regions that suffer from much political instability and violence. As India still lacks a blue-water navy that is capable of safeguarding far-flung sea lines and the tankers and other vessels that transport these resources, India is keen to exploit reserves closer to home.
Even though bilateral trade between Burma and India has increased significantly in the last decade, these gains have not been witnessed in the strategic energy sector. Some Indian companies, such ONCG Videsh and GAIL, have been exploiting some of these fields under the Daewoo-led consortium, but it appears that Chinese companies have been given bigger slices totaling an area of over 9.58 million hectares that comprise some of the most promising blocks. Well-known Indian analyst Bajpaee elaborates on India's dilemma:
"Apart from India's poor relations with Pakistan on its western borders, the ongoing violence in India's northeast with sporadic attacks on pipelines and India's poor relations with natural gas-rich Bangladesh and China-friendly Burma have prevented it from fully exploiting its proximity to a region rich in energy resources on its eastern borders."
In some instances, India has even been forced to sign on to a "take or pay" system, where India gives guaranteed earnings to Burma every year, even if India is not able to access the gas. Nonetheless, India is still seeking to build a pipeline through Burma to supply the impoverished states in East and Northeast India. India is also investing US$103 million in the Kaladan multi-modal transport corridor, which seeks to develop Sittwe port and links it to Mizoram along the Kaladan River. Although India was initially slated to be the sole operator of the Sittwe port, Chinese pressure forced the Junta to withdraw this privilege. Rather than let the deal go, New Delhi signed what is termed a BTU agreementbuild, transfer, and use. Under the deal, the Indians will still be able to use Sittwe as an export-import junction for its northeast. But, with the Chinese set to run a gas pipeline beside the port from the nearby offshore Shwe field, Beijing would not want a third country in charge of port operations. Several other pipeline routes are also being discussed.
First: underwater from Shwe to Yechaungbyi village through Rakhine and Chin states; into Mizoram and Tripura states; entering Bangladesh at Brahmanbaria through the Rajshashi border into West Bengal to Kolkatta. Estimated cost: US$1 billion. Second: underwater from Shwe to Palechaung village in Sittwe township; through Rakhine state into the district of southern Bangladesh; entering West Bengal into Kolkatta. Estimated cost: US$1 billion. Third: underwater from Shwe to a liquid natural gas (LNG) terminal; ship the LNG to West Bengal and Kolkatta by LNG tanker. Estimated cost for LNG terminal: US$3-5 billion. Fourth: similar to the first option but traveling through Northeast India thus bypassing Bangladesh entirely. Estimated cost: US$3 billion. And fifth: underwater from Shwe to West Bengal into Kolkatta. No published estimate.
The first option is the most likely route. However, given Bangladesh's objections, India is now contemplating bypassing a third country altogether, something that would raise costs, as the pipeline would have to go along the seafloor of the Bay of Bengal and would require larger pipeline that could reach depths of 2,000 meters. If this project moves ahead, it will be fraught with risks, as the Bay of Bengal, no stranger to adverse weather such as hurricanes, will undoubtedly encounter significant technical difficulties and will take years before it is operational, all while India's demand for natural gas continues to grow exponentially. India is also not likely to receive a great share of the natural gas at Shwe and an uninterrupted supply cannot be guaranteed. Seemingly in response to these concerns, The Indian energy company Essar is to begin exploratory drilling for gas and oil at two Burmese sites. One onshore is near Sittwe in Arakan State. The other, ironically, in the Shwe field in the Bay of Bengal where two other Indian companies, ONGC and GAIL, have been frustrated by the Chinese. Arakan State, which has historically been closed to outside influence, is poised to experience increased development in the next few years as India and China scramble for energy and use of the territory as a conduit to their landlocked regions.
Impact on India's Ties with ASEAN: Courting One at the Expense of the Rest?
India's recent pipeline diplomacy with Burma could lead to greater Burmese independence from ASEAN and as Burma diversifies its gas exports to India and China, ASEAN's leverage over Burma will be decreased substantially. China provides Burma with a major global power that will defend its interests in the international arena while providing capital and trade benefits locally. Further, India, with its credential as the largest democracy on earth, provides Burma with even greater independence from ASEAN. As such, Lall, of the London-based Royal United Services Institute, suggests that ASEAN spare no effort to make sure that Burma remains within its influence and to include both China and India in many of the discussions pertaining to Burma. However, China is unlikely to support any kind of arrangement that does not grant it preferential access to both ASEAN and Burma as it views itself as the natural leader in Asia. Recent strategic moves made by Beijing in South and Southeast Asia, such as the clandestine construction of a submarine base on Hainan island, the construction of the Gwadar port in Pakistan's restive Balochistan province (which clearly has a strategic dimension despite claims by both Pakistan and China that it is solely a commercial project), and a continued Chinese military buildup along with repeated incursions near the disputed Sino-Indian border region, clearly demonstrate that China feels that there is only room for one Asian giant. Although it does not appear that China has voiced concerns over India's minor advances in Burma, Beijing will not sit idly by and watch its influence over Burma erode. Chinese moves to counter Indian intentions may include further arms sales, zero-interest loans or grants, and easier market access to the Chinese economy that has been growing at around 8 to 9 per cent by most accounts since the Deng Xiaoping era. In addition, China's investment climate is more favorable than India's due to more established legislation that governs the regulation of FDI inflows and a perception, right or wrong, that corruption levels in China are not quite as rampant as they are in India. This is not to say that India will not make headway in Burma, specifically in oil and natural gas. However, India will have to reconcile with the fact that, barring a meltdown or some other disaster such as a war or prolonged domestic instability, it will play second fiddle to the Chinese in Burma for the foreseeable future. This should be kept in mind before New Delhi agrees to its next arms deal for the Junta or protects it at the United Nations.
India cannot expect a major victory in Burma in either securing substantial energy supplies at the expense of China or in making strategic advances. China has been cultivating an apolitical relationship with Burma for decades, has showered it with cash and weaponry, and is key to the regime's survival. This has allowed China to establish the necessary infrastructure to fully capitalize upon Burma's expanding oil and natural gas industry and its further investment in other essential infrastructure projects will ensure that Beijing remains the Junta's partner of choice in the future. India is unable to compete with China, given its democratic system of governance, and will have to learn to cope with a China-leaning state on its eastern flank. This disadvantage can be neutralized through developing stronger ties with regional democracies such as Australia, Japan, and Singapore as well as major powers such as the United States and the more prominent European Union nations. However, this will prove difficult if New Delhi maintains its current appeasement policy toward Burma and remains at loggerheads with the United States and the European Union, both of whom are attempting to isolate the Junta. As such, a re-evaluation of India's Burma policy is necessary if India is to maintain its freedom of movement in South Asia and its reputation as a champion of democracy.
* Ryan Clarke is a Ph.D. candidate at the Centre of International Studies at the University of Cambridge. He has previously resided and conducted research in South and Southeast Asia.
* Sangeet Dalliwall is a solicitor in London. She has worked as a consultant in Southeast Asian nations such as Malaysia, Singapore, Burma, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. She has a LLB (Hons), an LLM, and a postgraduate diploma from Oxford University.
Special Statement No. 16/09/08 (Unofficial Translation)
National League for Democracy: Fri 5 Sep 2008
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, general secretary of the National League for Democracy, is the daughter of General Aung San, the founding father of Burma's armed forces, a selfless architect of independence that enabled Burma to become a sovereign nation, and a martyr of the nation who gave his life for the country and the people.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is the leader of the National League for Democracy, a party which won an overwhelming support of the constituents in an election conducted in a fair and free manner, and she is also a political leader who is trusted by all the ethnic and democratic forces.
Since 1989, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has persistently called for and endeavored for the emergence of a genuinely meaningful political dialog so that a political compromise can be reached and national reconciliation achieved in the inte
(Message over 64 KB, truncated)