[ReadingRoom] Resending: News on Burma - 19-9-08
- Apparently, this email was not forwarded by the mailing list.so, I am sending it again.-cbs------ Original Message -----From: CHAN Beng SengSent: Friday, September 19, 2008 4:59 PMSubject: News on Burma - 19-9-08
- Burmese activists protest on 20th anniversary of coup and Phanida and Huaipi
- FAO to distribute more agricultural inputs to the delta
- Food shortage forces 2,000 Chin into India
- Myanmar activists 'defied our laws'; That was why Govt had to clamp down on them
- A day of shame and a day of hope
- Haul Generals before the ICC: rights groups
- Rangoon rent-a-witness
- NLD leader sentenced for trying to complain to ILO on use of child soldiers
- Villagers live and die for Burmese Army
- Burma again singled out for anti-narcotics negligence
- Ceasefire groups on cross roads
- Suu Kyi accepts first food delivery in a month
- Censor Board tightens screws
- Plainclothes informers planted in Sittwe
- NHPC to ink pact with Myanmar for hydel projects soon
- Impractical trade policy hits Burmese manufacturers hard
- 10 years on: What next for the CRPP?
- Burma seat should be questioned
- Child soldiers and the China factor
- Burma regime allows Suu Kyi to receive mail
Burmese activists protest on 20th anniversary of coup and Phanida and Huaipi
Mizzima News: Thu 18 Sep 2008
Anti-government leaflets were distributed in Myitkyina, Kachin State on Thursday to condemn the 20th anniversary of the military coup in Burma.
Spokesperson of the 'All Kachin Students Union' (AKSU) told Mizzima that activists distributed and pasted anti-regime leaflets elsewhere in Myitkyina such as in high schools, university, colleges, government offices and residential blocks.
"We want to show our solidarity with all the students and monks in Burma while our second objective was to stage demonstrations on the 20th anniversary of the military coup," AKSU spokesperson said.
The students, who distributed about 400 leaflets printed on A-4 size papers, said they will continue to distribute the leaflets despite local authorities removing and seizing the posters, one of them said.
"The authorities removed and seized the leaflets as soon as they found them at about 9 a.m. today. We heard that the authorities announced cash rewards for information leading to our arrest. However we will continue what we have to do," he added.
On September 18, 1988, Burmese military made coup after brutally and ruthlessly cracking down on a nationwide uprising which left at least 3,000 dead and many injured.
Meanwhile, to denounce the junta's brutal military coup, pro-democracy activists in New Delhi, staged demonstrations near condemning the generals, who has persistently cling on to power for the last twenty years despite of international and internal pressures.
Dr. Tint Swe, Minister of the Prime Minister's Office (West) of the National Coalition Government of Union of Burma (NCGUB), during his speech at the protest, urges the people to remain resolute and unwavering in their struggle for democracy.
"We must work for our cause. Democracy can be achieved and restored only by the force of the people. All the people must continue their struggle bravely and resolutely. We must fight," he said.
Similarly, Burmese activists and their supporters in various parts of the world including Malaysia, United States, and Japan held demonstrations condemning the junta for its military coup 20 years ago and call for the immediate political reformation in Burma.
FAO to distribute more agricultural inputs to the delta - Aung Kyi
Myanmar Times: Thu 18 Sep 2008
Workers load FAO supplies for transport to the delta last week.
THE United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is extending its activities to assist vulnerable farmers and fishermen in the delta to restore food production and livelihoods following Cyclone Nargis, said Mr Rene Suter, the organisation's senior emergency and rehabilitation coordinator in Myanmar.
Mr Suter said FAO has played a key role in facilitating the coordination of humanitarian partners active in the agricultural sector, including Welthungerlife, UN Development Program, Cooperazione E Sviluppo, International Development Enterprises and Mingalar Myanmar.
With funding support from the governments of Italy, the United Kingdom, Sweden, as well as from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund, FAO has already provided 1085 tonnes of rice seed, 275 power tillers, 75,512 gallons of diesel fuel for power tillers, 340 water pumps, 600 buffaloes, 60 tonnes of concentrated feed, veterinary health supplies and other essential inputs to meet urgent needs for the monsoon cropping season.
Further FAO assistance is scheduled to be dispatched in the coming weeks and months, Mr Suter said.
"Distributions of more agricultural inputs to the most vulnerable farmers and fisher household in the storm-hit areas are being prepared in collaboration with FAO implementing partners," he said.
FAO agricultural expert U Aung Kyi said the organisation is now distributing 1117 tonnes of fertiliser to small-scale farming households in Laputta,Mawlamyaingkyun, Ngaputaw, Dedaye and Bogale townships, in addition to the 671 tonnes it distributed in most of these areas last month.
"We have also sent 6 tonnes of insecticide and 1900 knapsack sprayers to those areas and they will be handed over to farmers soon," he said.
"For the upcoming planting season in October and November, we have also been distributing 117,600 packets of vegetable seeds to landless households in areas worst affected by the cyclone since August," he said.
FAO fisheries consultant U Saw Lah Paw Wah said the organisation is delivering fisheries packages - including fishing nets, lines and other accessories - to 605 vulnerable fishing families in Bogale and Dedaye townships.
"Until the end of the planting season for monsoon rice, much of the assistance was focused on the crops sub-sector," said Mr Suter.
"Since then priorities have started to shift towards the recovery of fisheries-based livelihoods. Distributions of more inputs for the most vulnerable fishers and fish farmers affected by Cyclone Nargis are needed in the coming months," he said.
He also underlined the importance of adequate donor support for agricultural sector, including the crops, livestock, fisheries and forestry sub-sectors.
"To achieve the sector goals outlined in the Revised Flash Appeal, it is crucial that the projects of appealing agencies receive the required funding support in time," he said.
Mr Suter said that during the initial phase to the Nargis response, the agriculture sector was the least-funded of all sectors.
"We hope that this will change during the early recovery phase," he said.
Food shortage forces 2,000 Chin into India - Lawi Weng
Irrawaddy: Thu 18 Sep 2008
An ongoing food shortage in Chin State in western Burma has forced 2,000 ethnic Chin to cross the Indian border to Mizoran to find work, according to the Chin Human Rights Organization in Thailand.
Victor Biak Lian, a board member of the Chin Human Rights Organization, said that Chin refugees continue to cross the border every day. The exodus started about two weeks.
About 50 village elders from different areas of Chin State traveled to Mizoran to appeal for international aid to address the food famine, he said. The Chin Human Rights group previously reported that 31 children have died from a lack of food.
The food shortage was caused by a plague of rats, which ate rice stocks in many of the villages.
Chin leaders say they have not received food relief aid from the Burmese military government. Burmese authorities also have reportedly banned ethnic Chin people from receiving food supplies donated by Burmese in foreign countries.
According to a Mizoram-based Chin relief group, the Chin Famine Emergency Relief Committee, about 100,000 of the 500,000 people in Chin State face food shortages. The food shortage began in December 2007. Many people are surviving on boiled rice, fruit and vegetables.
A famine occurs about every 50 years when the flowering of a native species of bamboo gives rise to an explosion in the rat population, say experts. The International Rice Research Institute has warned of "widespread food shortages" in the region.
Myanmar activists 'defied our laws'; That was why Govt had to clamp down on them, says DPM Wong - Kor Kian Beng
The Straits Times: Thu 18 Sep 2008
PERSISTENT defiance of the laws, not political pressure from the Myanmar government, was the reason why a number of Myanmar nationals working or studying here were asked to leave when their immigration passes expired.
Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng said this in a written reply to a question tabled by Nominated MP Eunice Olsen at this week's sitting of Parliament.
She asked if Myanmar's military rulers had pressured or requested the Government to clamp down on anti-junta activists and deny them residence in Singapore.
In his reply, released yesterday, Mr Wong said the Myanmar nationals disregarded Singapore laws by staging illegal activities, like outdoor protests, to pursue their political agenda.
This was despite repeated police advice to stick to lawful avenues.
Three Myanmar nationals left Singapore for countries of their choice after their immigration passes were not renewed by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA).
When contacted for further details, the Home Affairs Ministry identified the individuals as being members of the Overseas Burmese Patriots (OBP).
An informal grouping of activists, the OBP emerged in October last year to raise awareness about the political situation in Myanmar.
Citing illegal activities that the group staged, the ministry said:
'The OBP is by no means the only patriotic group in Singapore or the only group that has organised activities to express their concern about the situation in Myanmar. However, unlike other groups which have conducted their activities in a lawful manner, the OBP has chosen to do so in open and persistent defiance of our laws.'
One such activity was a street protest on Nov 20 last year during the Asean Summit. Some 40 people, carrying banners, walked down a pavement outside the Orchard Parade Hotel to voice their discontent with the junta.
Citing the incident, Mr Wong said the group intentionally protested near the summit's Shangri-La Hotel venue to court public and media attention.
'Their unlawful behaviour was an unnecessary distraction to our security forces and could have compromised the security arrangements for the summit delegates, some of whom were heads of Asean governments.'
Police investigated the incident and, after consulting the Attorney-General's Chambers, 'exercised leniency and administered stern warnings in lieu of prosecuting the offenders in court', he said.
Reports said the three Myanmar activists who left Singapore took part in this protest.
Mr Wong said that while a vast majority of the 50,000-strong Myanmar community had been law-abiding and expressed views in a lawful manner, a small group 'chose to break the law and yet defiantly demand the right to stay in Singapore as an entitlement'.
'They have tried to politicise the issue through the media and through uninformed foreign groups, in the process distorting the actions to remove them from Singapore as being politically motivated.
'They hope that political pressure will force the authorities to accede to their demands to continue staying in Singapore. The ICA has rightly decided that such persons are undesirable, and that they should leave.'
Foreigners are expected to respect the laws and local sensitivities in the same way that Singaporeans abroad are obliged to do so, he said.
'Some of these Myanmar individuals have enjoyed education subsidies and other benefits but have chosen to repay this with disrespect for our laws and to defy the authorities,' he added.
When told of the latest government statements, OBP spokesman Myo Myint Maung, a Singapore Management University third-year student, indicated that there would be no change in his group's position:'We will continue with our political agenda in the most appropriate way that will serve justice and democracy without endangering Singapore society.'
Picture of contrasts
THE Home Affairs Ministry cited contrasting approaches that Myanmar nationals here took when reacting to political developments back home. Most of the illegal activities were organised by the Overseas Burmese Patriots (OBP).
Aug 25, 2007: Procession without permit from Orchard MRT station to City Hall MRT station by 29 Myanmarese to denounce fuel price hikes in Myanmar.
Nov 20, 2007: OBP-led street protest by 40 nationals with banners outside the Orchard Parade Hotel to demonstrate against the ruling junta in Myanmar.
Dec 9, 2007: An arts exhibition to protest against the situation in Myanmar, organised by an OBP member without obtaining the necessary licence. She did so despite police advice.
April/May 2008: A highly publicised anti-referendum campaign by OBP outside the Myanmar Embassy. It drew up to 1,800 who sported red T-shirts and caps with the word 'No'. They were at the embassy off Tanglin Road to vote on a new Constitution, now in effect.
July/August 2007: Regular prayer sessions and gatherings at the Burmese Buddhist Temple in Balestier. These events, attended by more than 1,000 at times, were held in support of protesters in Myanmar, at the height of monk-led protests in Yangon and other cities.
Foreign Minister George Yeo attended one such prayer session to expresssolidarity with the people of Myanmar.
August/September 2007: Fund-raising and a campaign at Peninsula Plaza shopping centre to obtain signatures for a petition to the junta to stop reported atrocities against monks and protesters.
October 2007: Indoor forums and candlelight vigils hosted by local tertiary institutions, such as the Singapore Management University and National University of Singapore.
Police also gave permits for an indoor assembly involving speeches and prayers at the Peninsula Excelsior Hotel on Oct6. A police permit was also given for another indoor event at the same venue on Nov17.
A day of shame and a day of hope - Editorial
Irrawaddy: Thu 18 Sep 2008
Today, September 18, is the anniversary of two important events in Burma's political history. The first is the bloody coup that installed the current regime in power 20 years ago, and the second is the start of last year's uprising by Buddhist monks who took to the streets to seek a peaceful end to decades of brutal military rule.
The coincidence of these two anniversaries serves as a sad reminder of Burma's plight as a nation struggling for survival under rulers hell-bent on holding onto power. In the 19 years that separate these two events, Burma moved not one step closer to peace and political reconciliation. It is as if the country's history simply collapsed on this day.
As if to underline the futility of the Burmese people's desire for freedom, this September, too, has been a month of arrests, torture, intimidation and trials that make a mockery of the law.
The streets of Rangoon are now monitored by soldiers, police and armed thugs known as Swan Arr Shin, the Masters of Force, who are constantly on the alert against any signs of potential unrest. In recent weeks, they have arrested a number of prominent activists, including Nilar Thein, a mother who has not seen her infant daughter since she was forced to go into hiding after last year's protests. She is now in prison and at risk of torture, according to Amnesty International.
The regime has also apprehended at least 14 other activists in recent weeks. One of the detained activists is the younger brother of the prominent activist-monk U Gambira, who is also in prison for his leading role in last year's "Saffron Revolution."
There is also growing concern over the fate of Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's most famous torchbearer for the democratic cause. For four weeks from the middle of August, she refused to accept food deliveries to her home, where she has been under house arrest for 13 of the past 19 years. This prompted fears that she had gone on a hunger strike - something she hasn't done since 1989, when she was first refused permission to leave her home. These fears have been confirmed by reports that she is now malnourished and receiving intravenous fluid to help her recover her strength.
Despite claims that it is moving towards democracy, the Burmese regime continues to hold more than 2,000 political prisoners. And even after signing numerous ceasefire agreements with ethnic insurgent groups, forced labor, rape and mass killings are still commonplace in border regions.
Burma's rulers have succeeded only in placing the country near the bottom of every human development index. Burma is now among the worst countries in the world in terms of poverty, education, healthcare and corruption. The result of decades of economic mismanagement has been dire: more than a third of children in Burma are malnourished, the average household spends up to 70 percent of its budget on food, and more than 30 percent of the population lives under the poverty line, according to United Nations estimates.
It is difficult to believe that Burma's economy was once regarded as one of the strongest and most promising in the region. But now the country's immense natural wealth serves only to enrich the junta and a handful of cronies.
The regime is quick to blame its Western critics for Burma's precipitous economic decline, but it refuses to acknowledge that the US and the EU have imposed sanctions for a reason. Burma's human rights record is appalling, and the junta's refusal to engage in meaningful reconciliation talks with the democratic opposition has sent a strong signal to the West that the ruling generals have no interest in moving the country forward.
All of this has earned Burma a place among the world's pariah states. But the junta doesn't seem to mind that Burma now stands alongside North Korea, Zimbabwe and Sudan as a country that routinely brutalizes its own population.
Burmese people, however, are keenly aware that their country has been dragged down to this shameful state. More than anything else, the two anniversaries that we mark today show that Burma is a nation divided between those who have no shame, and those who, despite their fear and their past failures to liberate their country, still nurture some hope for the future.
Haul Generals before the ICC: rights groups
Mizzima News: Thu 18 Sep 2008
The first anniversary of the commencement of monk-led mass protests in Burma sees the launch of the latest campaign direct at rallying international support and awareness around the continued rights violations in Burma perpetrated by the ruling junta against its own people.
An initiative co-sponsored by Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Partners Relief and Development UK, Change for Burma! seeks to bring the Burmese regime's leaders before the International Criminal Court (ICC) on a wide range of charges related to crimes against humanity.
Urging those in the UK, Europe and throughout the world in support of the mission's goals to contact their local parliamentary representative, Change for Burma! also calls for a universal arms embargo against the Burmese armed forces.
Speaking in support of this most recent attempt to further bring pressure upon Naypyitaw, British MP John Bercow, Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Burma, said, "We've got to have a mass popular demonstration of discontent. We've got a personal and collective responsibility to do something".
Though chronicling and raising awareness of rights abuses throughout Burma and its varied communities, the project gives considerable attention to the plight of Chin State in Northwestern Burma, where an estimated 90 percent of the population is Christian - the highest figure in Burma.
Chin State is currently facing a famine which is said to affect 100,000 people.
"Virtually unseen by the world, thousands of farmers have been reduced to starvation in Chin State, the poorest part of Burma," laments the movements founders.
"The regime won't permit food aid or aid workers into the devastated areas. Villagers are too weak Burma is one of the poorest countries in the world," continues the organization's onslaught against the junta. "It is ruled by one of the world's most brutal regimes, guilty of every possible human rights violation."
Change for Burma! further accuses the Burmese regime of systematic religious persecution, including the desecration of crosses and churches, the forceful display of Buddhist propaganda during Christian services and the denial of promotion within the government and armed forces to members of the Christian community.
In contrast to Chin State, in the whole of Burma the Christian population is estimated to be less than five percent, with nearly 90 percent of Burmese being Buddhist.
Rangoon rent-a-witness - Awzar Thi
United Press International: Thu 18 Sep 2008
Win Maw was always running a risk by sending news from the protests in Rangoon to an overseas radio station last year. But when the police caught up with him in November, they had a problem. He hadn't actually done anything illegal.
As it is not an offense for someone in Burma to contact a foreign broadcaster, the investigating officer in Win Maw's case had to stretch the law quite some distance to come up with an alleged crime. In the end, he chose a highly malleable section of the criminal code on upsetting public tranquility, one that has been used against many people in Burma since last year and one that can be stretched very far indeed.
But this decision should have introduced some new problems. The section on public tranquility requires the police to show that the accused either intended to or did in fact upset public tranquility through his behavior. It is not enough for them to merely prove that Win Maw was sending news abroad. They have to demonstrate that he did so with a specific intent or desired result.
In March, the Special Branch officer handling the case, Police Major Ye Nyunt, submitted his complaint to the court. In it, he claimed that Win Maw had upset public tranquility specifically by sending false news overseas that would alarm the public. So it follows that this is what would need to be proven in court, through evidence revealing the contents of what he sent and its conceivable consequences.
Or so it would be if Burma had a sane legal system. That it does not is apparent from what was brought to the court in lieu of the requisite proof.
First, there was the material evidence, or rather, the lack of it. Among the items seized from Win Maw were some legally-published books, some pictures of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, which are also legal, and a computer hard drive.
The hard drive should have helped the police case, right? After all, if Win Maw was to have committed an offense of the sort with which he was accused, then surely there would be some evidence of it in the contents of the computer drive. But no, the police have not yet submitted the hard drive's contents to the court, just the drive itself.
Then there were 18 suspicious-sounding "political" texts. What were these? Diabolical tracts urging overthrow of the state? Draft federal constitutions? Again the answer is no. When pressed in court, the police admitted that they were nothing other than English-language learners from the American Center, where the accused had in the past gone to study.
So much for the material evidence. Secondly, there were the prosecution witnesses. Eight were listed, of which six were police. That leaves two witnesses who were ordinary civilians. Who were these people and what was their part in the case against Win Maw?
In fact, they were procedural witnesses, required by law to verify that they had seen the police search Win Maw's house and seize the items that they recorded.
The purpose of having two persons witness a search is so that if there are inconsistencies or uncertainties in the police account, then they can later be called to testify and verify what was or was not done.
But in the inferior criminal justice system operating in Burma today, this purpose has either been completely misunderstood or has been reduced to a point of mere formality and irrelevance, at least for Police Major Ye Nyunt.
That's because he has apparently decided to dispense with the difficulty of finding witnesses in the vicinity of a search at the time it is undertaken, which is what the law envisages, and instead just brought his own people along with him.
The two listed as witnesses of the search of Win Maw's house are, it seems, rent-a-witnesses whose names appear on the lists in cases against other people that the same officer has been responsible for investigating: different cases, different suburbs, different dates and sometimes even different charges, but always the same two witnesses.
The concept of an independent judiciary has long since been erased from Burma's courts, and with it has gone the hope of any other sort of independence. Even an independent witness, let alone a witness that actually has anything to say, is too much to expect. The police officer bringing the case has also lost all sense of what evidence consists; either that or he has lost all respect for it. In either event, the outcome is the same.
Burma's justice system was not built upon fine sentiments or noble ideals. It was, from the start, a device for strict control; before 1948, it was used by a foreign regime, now it is being use by an indigenous one. But whereas it has never stood for lofty principles, in the past it at least recommended itself through some minimum procedural safeguards for human security.
It is the stripping of these measures from the system that has caused the greatest harm and made the lives of people all around the country more uncertain than at any other time in modern history. More than in any oppressive law, it is in the easy capacity of a policeman to rent his witnesses that the defeat of the system of justice is most pronounced.
(Awzar Thi is the pen name of a member of the Asian Human Rights Commission with over 15 years of experience as an advocate of human rights and the rule of law in Thailand and Burma. His Rule of Lords blog can be read at http://ratchasima.net )
NLD leader sentenced for trying to complain to ILO on use of child soldiers - Phanida
Mizzima News: Wed 17 Sep 2008
Thet Wei, Chairman of the Sanchaung Township National League for Democracy (NLD) was sentenced to two years in prison on Tuesday for trying to lodge a complaint to the ILO on the use of child soldiers by the Burmese military junta.
The Rangoon, Pabedan Township court found him guilty after charging him with 'obstructing discharge of duty by public servant'.
Before being sentenced the opposition leader was frequently charged and then his charges were dropped. Again he was released on bail and rearrested soon after, repeatedly.
"U Thet Wei has been sentenced to a prison term. He was charged under section 359 and 189 of the Penal Code. Then the Pabedan Court dropped the charges under section 189 (threat of injury to public servant) and sentenced him in another case under section 359," Ko Pho Phyu, the defence counsel said.
The police arrested him in January for being in possession of a 'memory stick' in which complaint letters on the use of child soldiers to be sent to the ILO was stored.
He was arrested on January 19 while he was visiting a friend who was facing trial and then released on bail later. Then the police revoked the bail and framed charges against him again under Section 33(a), 33(b) of the Electronic Law. He was sent to Insein prison.
Yet again the charge under the Electronic Law was dropped on February 22 and he was released on bail.
"He was sentenced to two years in prison with hard labour. I feel extremely upset and do not want to say anything," his wife Daw Than Than said.
Thet Wei had revealed that initially junta officials came and told him that he would be acquitted on the condition that he issue a statement saying all the complaint letters were bogus and based on wrong information but U Thet Wei refused.
Villagers live and die for Burmese Army - Hseng Khio Fah
Shan Herald Agency for News: Wed 17 Sep 2008
To escape relentless persecution and human rights abuse, including forced labour by the Burmese Army villagers in Southern Shan State are fleeing to the Thai-Burma border, according to SHAN sources on the border.
Soldiers belonging to the Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) No. 524 and Infantry Battalion (IB) No. 246 based in Kunhing have been subjecting villagers to forced labour including security, portering duty and domestic work like collecting firewood and building fences for the battalion, said Sai Panti (28) from Kunhing who fled to Fang district on August 20.
"Each person from every household has to take turns for sentry duty at the local command post five days a week. If we refuse to comply, we will be fined Kyat 1,500 (US$1.25) per day," said Sai Panti.
"Moreover, widows are required to pay Kyat 2,500 (US$2) if they can't go to work and a person who is absent from portering must pay Kyat 10,000 (US$8). We have no time to eke out a livelihood," complained Sai Panti's wife Nang Herng (23).
Similar incidents took place in Keng Tawng sub-township, Mongnai Township.
On July 16, a group of Burmese soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) No. 569 based in Keng Tawng, went on patrol around Kunhing area and called on the headman of Hsai Khao village, Hsai Khao village tract, and ordered villagers to carry soldier's weapons and to show troops the shortcut to the location of the rebels, according to a local villager who fled to the border.
Sai Nanda (28) who is not a native of Hsai Khao was chosen as the guide, but as he was not able to show the way, he was beaten on his head until blood flowed, said a source.
"You must be a member of the rebel group, as you don't know the way," a villager quoted soldiers as saying.
He was sent back to the village after he sustained many injuries. But no one including the village headman dared to report the incident to top authorities.
"The soldiers did not even go to the place where they said they wanted to go," complained the villager.
The human rights situation in Shan State is reported monthly by the Shan Human Rights Foundation based in Chiangmai.
Burma again singled out for anti-narcotics negligence
Mizzima News: Wed 17 Sep 2008
For the seventh year running, Burma has been labeled as having "failed demonstrably" in its efforts to combat illicit narcotics, according to the United States government.
Notification of Burma's dubious distinction as the only country to be labeled such since the classification originated in fiscal year 2002, came yesterday in Washington, D.C. during a press conference by the United States Assistant Secretary of State in charge of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
Assistant Secretary of State David Johnson informed assembled reporters that "Bolivia, Burma, and Venezuela, "failed demonstrably" during the last 12 months to make sufficient or meaningful efforts to adhere to the obligations they have undertaken under international counter-narcotics agreements."
Johnson pointed to Burma's continuing place of origin for the majority of methamphetamine pills in Asia, in addition to an upward trend in poppy cultivation previously judged to be in decline, as definitive statistics in determining Burma's placement on the State Department's 2008 list of 20 Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries.
"The military regime has made little apparent effort to curb production of the pills and little effort to stop poppy cultivation," continued Johnson in his indictment of the junta's anti-narcotics activities. "Their efforts to reduce demand, interdict drug shipments, and combat corruption and money laundering continue to be lackluster."
The United States President is responsible for categorizing which of the designated countries, if any, are to be deemed as having "failed demonstrably," a categorization that opens the door for sanctions against the country in question.
However, the President may also waive the inference of any sanctions if such punitive measures would be understood as counterproductive to the interests of the United States.
In his notice of Presidential Determination, also issued Tuesday, President Bush informed the State Department that "support for programs to aid Venezuela's democratic institutions and continued support for bilateral programs in Bolivia are vital to the national interests of the United States," thereby forfeiting the possibility of sanctions tied to narcotics production against the government's of Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales.
The Presidential 'pardon' for Venezuela and Bolivia means that Burma remains the only country on this year's list of the Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries to face possible sanctions in connection with their failure on the narcotics front.
However, when Johnson was questioned by reporters as to what additional sanctions this could possibly imply for the already heavily sanctioned regime in Naypyitaw, the Assistant Secretary of State declined to go into any depth as to what, if any, measures were open for the United States to pursue.
The list for fiscal year 2008 is identical to that of 2007, with Burma's neighbors India and Laos - in addition to Venezuela and Bolivia - being joined on the register by Afghanistan, the Bahamas, Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, and Peru.
Ceasefire groups on cross roads
Independent Mon News Agency: Wed 17 Sep 2008
Over a 15 year period over 15 armed ethnic groups in Burma reached ceasefire agreements with the ruling military regime, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). The groups signed the pact with different political objectives. Despite being aware of the separate strategies of the groups the SPDC did sign ceasefire agreements. Some groups surrendered to the junta and the SPDC recognized them as ceasefire groups or 'ethnic peace organizations'.
Only a few organizations, like the New Mon State Party (NMSP), the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and Shan armed groups fighting for greater autonomy and the establishment of a federal union in Burma signed a ceasefire pact with the SPDC for a 'political dialogue'. But many small groups with limited political ideology were just targeting 'business activities' while dealing with the junta.
The strategy of the SPDC towards the ceasefire groups was quite clear. The regime did not have plans for a political dialogue with these groups at all. It adopted a systematic plan to assimilate them by offering business opportunities, weakening their political ideology, and alienating them from their own people. The bottom line was to bring them to a situation where they would surrender their arms to the Burmese Army under the agenda of 'working for peace'.
The leaders of some ceasefire groups amassed wealth cornering business opportunities from the regime. There has been a huge gap in terms of assets between the leaders and their followers. More and more followers left the organizations, and finally only opportunists remain in some ceasefire groups.
Probably before the 2010 general elections, the regime will mount pressure on these ceasefire groups to surrender their arms or put their armies under the Burmese Army's command. It is only then that the junta will allow group leaders to contest the elections. In the manipulated elections, the ceasefire group's leaders will be elected as MPs to local parliaments in the ethnic States.
However, some ceasefire groups with a semblance of political ideology face an uphill task to decide on the surrender of arms and contest the elections as a political party under the SPDC's militarized Constitution. Some ceasefire groups are likely to break the ceasefire while many leaders may not go back to the revolt they had started. A split among ceasefire groups is likely.
Extension of existing civil war and an unstable situation in various ethic areas will be the order of the day if the regime refuses to go for a political settlement with ceasefire groups. The people in the frontier areas will again suffer from gross human rights violation as a result of ceasefire pacts being broken.
Suu Kyi accepts first food delivery in a month - Huaipi
Mizzima News: Tue 16 Sep 2008
Burma's detained pro-democracy leader has accepted two deliveries of fresh food supplies after rejecting such offerings for the past month, her party spokesperson said on Tuesday.
Nyan Win, spokesperson of the National League for Democracy, said their group was able to send two food baskets to the party leader's house on Rangoon's University Avenue on Monday night and on Tuesday morning.
"She took both the supplies yesterday and this morning," Nyan Win told Mizzima, adding that the food was sent to her by a NLD youth member, Myint Soe.
Aung San Suu Kyi had previously refused to accept any food supplies for almost one full month, since mid-August, leading observers to speculate she was on hunger strike.
But Nyan Win said she had refused to accept food supplies as a demonstration against the government's intransigence to meet her demands.
Kyi Win, the Nobel Peace Laureate's personal lawyer who met with her last week, said the government has now agreed to allow her to receive letters from her family and to receive foreign magazines. The junta also agreed to ease restrictions on the movement of her aide, Khin Khin Win, and her daughter, Win Pa Pa.
Nyan Win said, "She has agreed to re-accept food supplies, after the government partially met her demands."
While he is unclear of the entirety of the demands put forth by Burma's democracy icon, Nyan Win said they included the removal of all restrictions besides detention.
The NLD, which had expressed concern for their party leader's health condition in an earlier statement, on Tuesday issued another statement clarifying that the Nobel Peace Laureate had never staged a hunger strike.
The statement said Aung San Suu Kyi had refused to accept food supplies in demonstration against the government's refusal to accept her demands.
"She and her aides have been living on limited food, and with her aide Khin Khin Win falling sick, she had given most of the limited food to her aide. That caused her to be weak," the statement said.
Censor Board tightens screws
Mizzima News: Tue 16 Sep 2008
Local journalists are up in arms over censorship but can do little but unanimously voice that they are facing severe censorship at a time when the Chief of the Censor Board is on tour.
Journalists attached to periodicals said that censorship has became more severe while the director of the notorious 'Press Scrutiny Board' popularly known as 'Literary Kempetai', Maj. Tint Swe, is out of station.
A monthly magazine editor said the Deputy-Director Maj. Aung Kyaw Oo imposed stricter restrictions on magazines and journals to avoid unnecessary mistakes which can put him in trouble.
"He censors many more news and articles whenever Maj. Tint Swe is on official tour. We are pained when we see these censored manuscripts. He seems not to want to take responsibility and tries to avoid trouble," he said.
He also requested not to quote him in reporting news arguing that the junta is watching domestic journalists and imposing tighter restrictions on them.
The print media in Burma is incurring heavy losses due to the overcautious and stricter censorship. The publishers of print media in Burma have to submit their draft printed copy to the censor board. They have to remove the censored articles, news and re-typeset it again for the final copy and have to submit it for final approval. Only after these stages have been crossed the publishers can distribute their papers and magazines in the market.
Mizzima learnt that the Censor Board wanted removed about half of the 80 domestic news items from a weekly journal at the draft copy stage.
"The Director could be approached for reconsideration of censored news and articles after slight modifications. We cannot do this with the new person," a weekly journal editor said.
In news censorship, a directive was issued to delete all news covering government ministries and departments without interviewing the responsible person of the departments concerned.
"He's been in this office for about four months. He is tough. He has no literary or journalistic background. But Maj. Tint Swe has a background in journalism. He behaves sympathetically and has some attachment with journalists," a magazine editor said.
The censorship chief is a writer of junta's propaganda material and he is known to use the pen name Ye Yint Tint Swe.
Maj. Tint Swe is still in Naypyitaw (the new capital) attending the departmental monthly coordination meeting at the Information Ministry even after the press conference has been held. The domestic journalists are facing these difficulties for a week after he left to attend the press conference.
Literary magazines such as Mahaythi, Cherry, Ahtwe Ahmyin, Nwe Ni, Sabephyu are severely hit by the strict censorship. The circulation of these monthly magazines has declined significantly.
A monthly magazine which had a previous circulation of over 10,000 copies is now selling 7,000 copies and a magazine with an earlier circulation of 3,000 copies is now selling at just below 1,000 copies.
"The censor board badly cuts and deletes widely read popular articles and it is hardly readable with so many deletions and omissions. On the other hand, the people cannot afford to buy these magazines as the prices are rising, in an already bad economic situation," a veteran magazine editor who wished not to be named said.
As the market for the monthly literary magazines shrink they are relying more on advertisement revenue to cover production costs.
"Future magazines might rely on advertisement revenue which will be an alternative source of income. The market is shrinking in Burma day by day for magazines with only literary content," he said.
In this competitive and difficult situation faced by the Burmese journalistic fraternity, the authorities are imposing stricter restrictions, monitoring journalists and there are less news and official prees releases.
(Rangoon based Mizzima undercover reporter wrote this news with additional inputs by Nam Davies)
Plainclothes informers planted in Sittwe
Narinjara News: Tue 16 Sep 2008
Arakan State capital Sittwe has become a major city in the opposition movement against the Burmese military junta due to government misrule in the state and discrimination against Arakanese people, said a student from the government technical college on condition of anonymity.
He said, "Our people are supporting the activities of the monks who are trying to protest the military government due to the peoples' dissatisfaction with the military government's discrimination against the Arakanese people."
In the last 45 days, there were three attempted protests by monks in Sittwe but all the plans were foiled by the authorities when they received information just before the demonstrations were scheduled to occur.
"Even though the protests were not successful, monks in Sittwe vowed to stage anti-government protests in the near future if they get the chance, and the monks are looking for opportunities to stage a demonstration," he said.
Because of the unrest in Sittwe, the authorities have deployed many plainclothes informants in key places in the city, including monasteries and temples, to closely watch the monks' activities.
A monk from Sittwe said that recently there are not only additional security forces, but also many informants and spies looking for information from people.
The monk also added, "Many anti-government flyers have been spreading for two months in Sittwe, and monks also tried to stage anti-government protests three times in Sittwe in the last month and a half, because people are unable to tolerate the authorities' behavior towards the Arakanese people."
Most Arakanese disagree with the present military government because of its neglect of the state's development during the last 20 years.
"You can compare our state with Burma proper. There are many natural resources such as gas in our state, but our people neither have nor received electricity or other facilities to develop our land. I visited many places in Burma proper including the towns of Pyay, Meikthila, Myin gyin, and Chauk, where people get at least 20 hours of electricity per day, while our people get only two hours per day. How to neglect by the present military government of our state," the monk said.
The monk added that all people in Burma are suffering under the military government, but Arakanese people are suffering more than other people. There are no factories and no business institutes to develop the state.
Many analysts believe that Arakan State has many opportunities to develop within Burma, but the current military government has deprived it of these chances due to Burman chauvinism.
NHPC to ink pact with Myanmar for hydel projects soon
Economic Times (India): Tue 16 Sep 2008
State-run NHPC is likely to sign an agreement in a day or two with the Myanmar government for developing two power projects of around 1,800 MW capacity jointly.
The Chairman and Managing Director of NHPC, S K Garg, is already in Myanmar along with senior ministry and other company officials. The memorandum of understanding is most likely to be inked in a day or two, official sources said.
Under the JV, two projects worth about Rs 15,000 crore with a total capacity of 1,800 MW would be jointly developed by NHPC and Myanmar government-owned Department of Hydropower implementation (DHPI).
These include a 1,200 MW Tamanthy and 600 MW Shwzaya projects on Chindwin river. Power from these projects would be transmitted to India through a proposed transmission link via Manipur.
Impractical trade policy hits Burmese manufacturers hard - Moe Thu and Htet Win
Mizzima News: Tue 16 Sep 2008
Burmese economists firmly believe the country's 'Export first, import second' foreign trade policy has a negative impact on industries and the manufacturing sector as it hinders the flow of modern technology and machineries.
Economists in Rangoon felt that the government's policy while in principle encourages export it has poor trade facilitation and fails to streamline the complex nature of imports, which makes it extremely difficult for manufacturers to get ahead in the field.
The policy, according to economists, prevents the flow of modern technology and machines to the country, which is a severe setback for major industries such as agriculture, mining and those that manufacture value-added products.
The agro-based Burmese economy has so far failed to introduce use of modern hi-tech machineries and is still largely conventional in its mode of production, which according to experts, is a major setback for the economy.
According to statistics at the Ministry of Commerce, Burma enjoyed a trade surplus of nearly US$2.1 billion in the fiscal year 2006-2007, up from $1.58 billion the previous year, and it is the highest surplus level recorded since the country began adopting a market-oriented economy in the late 1980s.
In spite of enjoying trade surplus, a Rangoon-based economist said "export first, import second" will eventually need to change as it heavily hampers the inflow of technologies and machines, which are essential in manufacturing sectors.
According to the policy, imports are needed to obtain foreign income, which result in seeking hard currency by paying more prices from the exporters, a major factor that encourages the practice of black market of currencies in Burma.
"We must prefer export but we shouldn't put import in the second slot," said the economist, who is in touch with local importers' difficulties.
Through imports of technologies and machinery, the manufacturing sector could be strengthened, the economist said, adding that it will in turn enhance production of finished goods that could be exported.
In the absence of high end technologies and heavy machineries, Burma's exports mainly include raw materials.
The economist said prioritising on exports should not lead to negligence of importing crucial items that could boost manufacturing. For sustaining trade surplus, export is largely dependent on the import, particularly for a developing country such as Burma.
The academic also said, by reversing the policy, it will enhance a greater investment on capital assets including high end technology as well as heavy machineries, which in the long-run will benefit the manufacturing sector.
A greater development in the manufacturing sector, that produces finished or value-added products, would garner more prices than exporting of just raw materials, which currently are solely monopolised by the military government's business cronies including Htoo Trading Co, Myanma Economic Holdings Ltd and Myanma Economic Corporation.
Such businesses are irresponsible socially, ethically and environmentally in Burma, the academic added.
However, the ruling junta when it comes to the purchase of military hardware follows import first policy, an unbalanced expenditure on the national budget for a developing economy such as Burma.
"It is widely believed that the majority of the country's foreign earnings - mostly from natural gas exports - have gone to the continued procurement of military hardware and software rather than to projects for long-term benefits such as reforms in the national economic aspect," economic observers said.
Economists said weak structure of imports will fuel worries for domestic businesses and consumers, as small and medium-sized enterprises are already feeling the pressure from discriminated imports, resulting in the loss of confidence by investors. Lack of investor confidence is lack of businesses and job opportunities for a broader base of the populace.
10 years on: What next for the CRPP? - Htet Aung Kyaw
Democratic Voice of Burma: Tue 16 Sep 2008
As the Committee Representing the People's Parliament marks ten years since its formation, DVB asked three elected representatives what the organisation has achieved and how it should move forward.
CRPP secretary Aye Thar Aung, who is also secretary of the Arakan National League for Democracy and an ethnic people's representative, explained how the CRPP came about.
"In order to bring into effect the result of the 1990 election, a demand was made to the SPDC in 1998 to recognise the election result and convene a parliament within 60 days led by the Nation League for Democracy, who won most of the seats," he said.
"The secretary general of the NLD, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, also invited, met and held discussions with ethnic national parties, urging them to cooperate in the emergence of a parliament."
The ethnic parties who took part in the discussions were Aye Thar Aung's Arakan National League for Democracy, the Mon National League for Democracy led by Nai Tun Thein, the Zomi National Congress led by U Pu Cin Sian Thang and the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy led by Khun Tun Oo, who is now in detention.
Before the 60 days had elapsed, 110 MPs including all ethnic nationality representatives apart from Aye Thar Aung and all NLD MPs except central executive committee members were being detained in government guesthouses, and 43 NLD townships had been sealed off.
Saw Mra Aung of the Arakan National League for Democracy, who had been elected chair of the parliament, was among those detained.
Those who were not arrested formed the CRPP on 16 September 1998, with signatures of support from 251 elected MPs.
The initial 10-member committee was made up of nine NLD members, led by Aung Shwe, with Aye Thar Aung to represent the ethnic nationalities.
CRPP's statements were broadcast almost every day by supportive media outlets.
When the MPs were released, Khun Tun Oo, Nai Tun Thein, and Pu Cin Sian Thang were accepted as new members.
The CRPP's activities were hampered by further arrests, including of Aung San Suu Kyi and Aye Thar Aung, but after Aung San Suu Kyi was released in October 2001, it was strengthened with new members.
The first new member was U Htaung Ko Thang of the United Nationalities League for Democracy. He was followed in December 2002 by U Soe Win of the National Democracy Party and the National Democratic Party for Human Rights' U Kyaw Min, who is now in prison.
U Hla Maung of the Patriotic War Veterans, independent MP U Thein Pe from Kantbalu and U Yan Kye Maw of the Kokang Democratic Party also became members, bringing the total to 19.
Soe Win of the National Democracy Party said the CRPP had brought together elected representatives from different parties with a common goal.
"Daw Suu tried very hard to unite the election-winning parties and ethnic nationalities as [her father] general Aung San had done at the Panglong Conference [in 1947], and that is how the CRPP emerged," he said.
"As we were detained at the time, we were unable to join them. In 2003, I joined as the National Democracy Party representative. When we joined, we had many hopes; we would try to form a parliament by joining hands with our ethnic brothers and build a peaceful Burma with love and unity," he continued.
"But now I have to admit our hopes are still far from being fulfilled. I feel disappointed with myself."
Political analysts say that the lack of CRPP activities became more apparent after the United Nations special envoy Razali reported that talks would be held between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the military government.
Reports in the state media said the CRPP was aiming for confrontation rather than dialogue because of its focus on the 1990 election result.
The CRPP held back on its activities while there seemed to be a real prospect for dialogue, but by the time it became apparent that the promised dialogue would not materialise, the CRPP had lost some of its momentum.
"There were prospects and good indications for dialogue. The NLD started preparing for dialogue and there were also discussions with ethnic parties on the matter," Aye Thar Aung said.
"Many people, including the NLD, put much of their energy into it - we were hopeful about the prospect of dialogue between the NLD and the authorities," he said.
"As I see it, more attention was given to as how our side was going to open the dialogue and at which level, and what the authorities were going to do and how they could find a compromise," he went on.
"The interest in how the dialogue was going to happen became stronger than the interest in CRPP's future activities."
Despite the initial dominance of the NLD, all the parties and representatives within the CRPP play and equal role in decision making, according to Khun Myint Tun, an NLD MP in exile.
"Although the NLD was responsible for forming the CRPP, it is not under NLD authority," Khun Myint Tun said.
"The CRPP is a committee representing the people's parliament using the power given to it by the parliament, so the NLD is included in the CRPP as a member and other groups such as UNLD; it is a committee representing the election-winning parties," he said.
"When CRPP holds a meeting and makes a decision, it is done with the consent of all its members, the NLD can't dominate it. We all have equal rights to discuss and decide there, however many elected members we have," he said.
"That is the unique thing about the CRPP."
Aye Thar Aung said there were diverging views on the best way forward for the CRPP.
"Some people believe that with this kind of political situation in Burma it is best to find a solution through dialogue," Aye Thar Aung said.
"But on the other hand, [the government] is unilaterally implementing its road map and is only working on the dialogue for show, if at all - they will try to accomplish their road map by any means," he said.
"But one of the weaknesses of this side is that the NLD secretary general Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was detained after the Depayin attack and cooperation between NLD leadership and participating ethnic national parties' is not as active as it was before.
"I can see that there are differing views and ideas on how to continue in the future, that's why the CRPP's discussions have become less frequent lately, to the point of not even being able to call a meeting."
Despite the recent lack of activity, Khun Myint Tun insists that the CRPP remains relevant.
"The CRPP was formed to bring into effect the result of the 1990 election and the emergence of people's parliament and so there remains a great need [for the CRPP] to take us along the path to democracy," he said.
"At the moment, there is the credential challenge to the SPDC at the UN, where it is crucial to support the CRPP," he said.
"No one can do that except the CRPP. The 1990 election result and the CRPP were supported by the people. It is up to us how we are going to make them work."
Khun Myint Tun said that dialogue could be a method for bringing about democracy, but was not an aim in itself.
"The demands of the people during the 8888 uprising were the abolition of military rule and the emergence of democracy; this is the aim," he said.
"To make this happen, we accept dialogue as a tactic. We can't just wait for it. You can't just coax the SPDC - it has no plan to hold dialogue," he explained.
"If we believe that problems could be solved by means of dialogue, we have to pressure the SPDC to come to the negotiating table. Dialogue will only happen when we put great pressure on the SPDC."
Burma seat should be questioned
Mizzima News: Mon 15 Sep 2008
When the United Nations considers the petition to strip Burma's junta of their seat in the international body's General Assembly, the United Nations should act on the appeal as an opportunity to jumpstart a flailing mediation process.
While commitment to a process is important, as oft repeated by United Nations representatives, such a commitment needs to be confirmed following the adoption of a correct process. Leaving the seat of Burma vacant at the General Assembly is a step along the correct process, a process that is intended to address both the political stalemate as well as the livelihood of the general population.
The current United Nations approach, adherence to the moribund "roadmap to democracy" as proposed by the governing generals, holds out no hope that Burma's ills will be fundamentally addressed. Any process adopted by the United Nations must realistically be assessed to be in agreement with the goals of the body - including, in the case of Burma, a meaningful political dialogue and a cessation to rights abuses incurred by Burma's general populace. Supporting the junta's 2010 general election plan, the next step in the "seven-step roadmap," singularly affirms a junta-outlined process and ignores the responsibilities of the United Nations to the country.
One responsibility of the United Nations in Burma, often lost amidst a bombardment of political gambits, is to help in alleviating the pervasive poverty across much of the country. An argument for the need to do whatever is possible to address the country's endemic economic crisis should meet with more immediate broad-based support than any wide ranging political affirmation. And here, depriving the Burmese regime of their seat in the General Assembly can be an effective tool at the disposal of the United Nations to pressure the generals to the negotiating table and into reforms in how the country is managed.
Talks to bandage the gaping wounds of the Burmese body politic would likely be heated and lengthy, but while such a process of political dialogue is being convened there is no reason for the daily plight of the Burmese population to be held hostage to the exchange.
To assist in expediting a dialogue between the junta, opposition parties and the United Nations, the removal of the junta's representative should thus be undertaken for reasons stressing the importance of how a state's authority apparatus interacts with and affects the general populace - as opposed to fixating upon the 1990 election results.
This is an important distinction to make, as Naypyitaw would surely be confounded, and treat with ridicule, a United Nations ruling stripping it of its place in the General Assembly and based on a call of respect for democratic norms; not with supporters of the regime - and far from democratic stalwarts - such as Russia and China likely to be seated on the Credentials Committee. Yet the point can be made to Burma's generals, by stressing the importance of how power is exercised, that they cannot simply expect to hide behind the international protection or obstruction of the powerful illiberal governments of today. Legitimacy must be clearly articulated to also derive from how power is perceived to be exercised.
However, such an emphasis on the nature of a government's functioning does not ignore the political crisis holding the country in limbo. A vacant seat in the General Assembly, far from ass
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