[ReadingRoom] News on Burma - 30/7/09
- Diplomats say Suu Kyi expects 'guilty' verdict
- Predicting Suu Kyi's trial is "contempt of court": Junta's mouthpiece
- Army recruits youths by providing money and food to families
- US extends Myanmar sanctions
- Clinton's Flawed Burma Message
- Don't sell Burma short
- Bargaining Burma's political prisoners
- Suu Kyi verdict set for Friday in Myanmar
- Suu Kyi insists her trial will test rule of law in Burma
- Burma's information ministry in new email campaign
- New report on 'food security' in Burma
- Suu Kyi warns junta on 2010 elections
- Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is Amnesty International's "Ambassador of Conscience"
- Why Myanmar's elections will work
- Burma's opposition must wage proxy fight
- NLD at a 'critical stage': Win Tin
- The Lady should be for turning
Diplomats say Suu Kyi expects 'guilty' verdict
Associated Press: Wed 29 Jul 2009
The defense team for Burma's democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has delivered its final arguments, closing the case ahead of a Friday verdict the Nobel laureate has said will be "painfully obvious."
The high-profile trial that began in May has drawn international condemnation from rights activists, world leaders and celebrities who have called for her immediate release. But neither outside pressure nor the possibility of closer ties with the West has deterred the ruling junta, which appears determined to find her guilty and keep her behind bars through elections planned for next year.
Judge Thaung Nyunt said on Tuesday that the court would make a ruling on Friday, according to defense attorney Nyan Win. The lawyer said he preferred not to speculate on the outcome, but that he had "never seen any defendant in a political case (in Burma) being set free." He did not directly describe Suu Kyi's trial as politically motivated.
Suu Kyi's lawyers had not been expecting a ruling until next month, and it was not immediately clear why the court moved the date for the verdict forward.
The detained 64-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate could be imprisoned for five years if she is convicted on charges that she violated the terms of her house arrest by harboring an American visitor - John William Yettaw - who swam uninvited to her lakeside home and stayed for two days.
Diplomats from the US, Japan, Singapore and Thailand were allowed to attend the last day of the trial on Tuesday, one of the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity, citing embassy protocol.
Suu Kyi - who has been in detention for 14 of the past 20 years - thanked the diplomats during the hearing "for trying to promote a just outcome," but said she was not optimistic.
"I'm afraid the verdict will be painfully obvious," Suu Kyi said, according to several diplomats who heard her comments in court.
Suu Kyi's defense team delivered its final arguments in the trial on Tuesday - a day after the prosecution closed its case - but was not allowed to put a foreign ministry official on the stand, Nyan Win said. He said the court ruled that the ministry official's testimony was "not important." The court rejected all but two of the defense's witnesses.
The opposition leader's lawyers - who have not contested the facts of the case - have argued all along that the law used by authorities against Suu Kyi is invalid because it applies to a constitution abolished two decades ago. They also say that government guards stationed outside Suu Kyi's compound should be held responsible for any intrusion in her property.
Suu Kyi emerged as a democracy icon during a popular uprising in 1988 that the military - which has ruled since 1962 - brutally suppressed. Her party won national elections in 1990, but Myanmar's generals refused to relinquish power.
Yettaw is charged as an abettor in violating the terms of Suu Kyi's house arrest and could also be sent to prison for five years. He has pleaded not guilty, and explained in court his aim had been to warn Suu Kyi because he feared she would be assassinated.
Predicting Suu Kyi's trial is "contempt of court": Junta's mouthpiece - Mungpi
Mizzima News: Wed 29 Jul 2009
New Delhi - With speculation rife that the court will pronounce pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi "guilty", Burma's state-run newspaper on Wednesday warned against predicting the outcome saying it amounts to 'contempt of court'.
A commentary in the New Light of Myanmar, the junta's mouthpiece, on Wednesday justified the trial against pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, her two live-in party mates and John William Yettaw, the American man, who swam across a lake and sneaked into Aung San Suu Kyi's home, saying they have violated the law.
The newspaper while justifying the charges and trial said, "Everyone who breaches the law shall face a lawsuit and obey the court decision."
On Tuesday, the court heard final arguments by the defence attorneys, formally ending the over two-month long trial. Now the court's verdict is awaited on Friday.
Nyan Win, one of the defence lawyers, told Mizzima on Tuesday that legally the trial has proved Aung San Suu Kyi's innocence and there is not sufficient ground to find her guilty. But he refused to comment on the possible outcome of the trial.
But many observers including senior leaders of the National League for Democracy, Win Tin, said the court will find her "guilty" and sentence her to a prison term.
However, the newspaper on Wednesday warned against such comments saying, "biased writings about the trial in progress, writings about which side will win or lose in that trial, predicted writings about the possibility of the defendant's conviction and writings about tendency to give instructions to the judgment of the judge" amounts to contempt of court.
But Win Tin said the trial itself is unfair and there are no grounds to charge the pro-democracy leader as it is not her fault in a stranger forcing his way into her house, as she had not invited him.
He said the court is not acting independently in filing a lawsuit against the Burmese Nobel Peace Laureate and even in the trial, stating instances of the court dismissing two out of the four defence witnesses while allowing several prosecution witnesses.
He said even in the last stage of the trial - submission of final arguments by lawyers of both sides - the court has shown partiality towards the prosecution by setting a two-day gap after the defence had submitted their arguments.
"Daw Suu had told her lawyer that she was not happy with the two-day gap between the defence and prosecution's submission of their final arguments," Win Tin said.
The trial, which began on May 18, has attracted the attention of human rights activists, politicians, world leaders and celebrities calling for her immediate release along with other political prisoners in Burma.
The commentary on Wednesday also attacked such calls saying calling for Aung San Suu Kyi's release while she is facing a court trial amounts to contempt of court.
Despite the newspaper's claim that Aung San Suu Kyi would be released if she is found not guilty, Win Tin said it is obvious that the junta is all set to continue detaining her.
"It seems to me that the junta is all set to detain her in anyway. But it may possibly buy-time in doing so if the pressures mount," Win Tin said.
He added that with the kind of international as well as internal pressure mounting over the trial, the Insein prison court might not pass a strong verdict on Aung San Suu Kyi.
"But it is likely that the prosecution will go to a higher court and appeal and then they will sentence her," he added.
According to him, it is unlikely that the Insein prison court will sentence her heavily at the moment to ease the mounting pressure, but that does not mean Aung San Suu Kyi will be acquitted.
"In anyway, they will detain her," he added.
He also said, Wednesday's commentary in the New Light of Myanmar might be a warning that the junta intends to crackdown on opposition figures, who are commenting on the trial and speculating on the junta's possible plans.
Army recruits youths by providing money and food to families
Narinjara News: Wed 29 Jul 2009
Paletwa: Tribal youths are being recruited by the Burmese Army on the Indo-Burma border from the southern part of Chin State by providing opportunities including food to the youth's families, said a local source.
The army stationed in border areas has been recruiting many tribal youths including Khami, Mro and Chin to serve in the Burmese Army by providing opportunities including food to the youth's family members, the source said.
If a youth agrees to join the army, it gives 100,000 kyats cash to him as well as food supplies like rice, oil, and salt, chilly to the family of the youth, he said.
The recruitment is being done by some battalions including LB 35, LIB 289 and LIB 550 on the Indo-Burma border.
Three Khami youths from Prin Dai village in Paletwa Township joined the LB 34 last week after they were given such opportunities by the army. They were identified as Pro Aung, (21) son of late Kho Ret, Tun Lin (19) son of Owe Lan and Rarmu (20) son of U Kri Daung.
Village residents said that families have been facing famine since the beginning of the rainy season. So they are pushing the youths to join the army in order to get food.
Even though the army authorities are providing opportunities to the youths, many tribal youths are unwilling to join the army.
"We have bitter experiences regarding the Burmese Army. The army has used our people as porters, tortured and sometimes soldiers have raped women in the area for decades. Therefore many youths refused to join the army," an elder said.
According to source close to the army, the number of youths joining the army has fallen in recent years. So the army authorities are trying to lure and recruit Burmese youths by providing many opportunities.
At present, some tribal families on the Indo-Burma border are facing a famine situation and there is shortage of rice. So the army authorities are taking advantage to recruit youths by supplying food to their family members.
US extends Myanmar sanctions
Agence France Presse: Wed 29 Jul 2009
US President Barack Obama on Tuesday extended sanctions against Myanmar, including a ban on gem imports, as the military regime prepares a verdict for democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The White House in a brief statement said Obama signed into law a bill overwhelmingly approved by Congress that would prolong sanctions on all imports from Myanmar for three years. The sanctions were due to expire this week.
The measure also confirms a ban on US sales of Myanmar's gems, which had until last year still entered the US market due to a now-plugged loophole.
Congressman Joseph Crowley, who introduced the bill in the House, said that the junta in Myanmar, earlier known as Burma, "must be stopped."
"We must show the military regime currently ruling with an iron fist in Burma that there are consequences for their actions," said Crowley, a New York lawmaker from Obama's Democratic Party.
He denounced Myanmar's "brutal campaign against its own people," which has triggered a major refugee problem, along with the regime's refusal to let UN chief Ban Ki-moon even see Aung San Suu Kyi on a recent visit.
Aung San Suu Kyi has been in jail or under house arrest for 13 of the last 19 years since the junta refused to recognize her party's landslide victory in Myanmar's last national elections, in 1990.
A Myanmar court on Friday will deliver a verdict on the Nobel Peace Prize winner, who faces up to five years in prison over a bizarre incident in which an American man swam uninvited to her lakeside house.
Myanmar, one of the world's poorest countries, is the source of some of the world's most beautiful rubies - a key source of revenue for the junta.
The European Union, Australia, Canada and New Zealand also have slapped sanctions on Myanmar's gems, although some Asian nations continue to buy them.
Editorial: Clinton's Flawed Burma Message
Irrawaddy: Wed 29 Jul 2009
Despite Aung San Suu Kyi's insistence on her innocence, the learned support of her lawyers and the international community, it's clear that the generals are determined to keep her locked up.
The final verdict in her bizarre trial in Rangoon's Insein Prison will be announced on Friday, and security around Rangoon is being beefed up in readiness for possible protests.
Suu Kyi is charged with breaking the terms of her house arrest order by giving refuge to an American trespasser, John William Yettaw, and faces a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment if convicted.
Suu Kyi told her lawyers on the final day of the trial that the proceedings would show "whether or not the rule of law exists in the country." The sad fact, however, is that Suu Kyi is fighting a losing battle in a country where the basic rule of law is not respected.
Analysts say the trial is politically motivated and is an attempt to exclude Suu Kyi from future politics and the 2010 election.
It is certain that the regime plans to hand out punishment to the Nobel Peace Prize winner and perhaps drag the court proceedings out still further.
High-ranking US officials recently said that Suu Kyi's trial has complicated the Obama administration's policy review on Burma. It is increasingly obvious that it's a wrong strategy to tie the trial to a policy review and to a decision on whether to increase or renew sanctions on Burma.
Last week, at the Asean Ministerial Meeting in Phuket, Thailand, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made contradictory statements on Burma. She had earlier said that Burma's relationship with North Korea would destabilize the region, and she offered incentives to the regime.
Clinton also said that if Suu Kyi were released, "this would open up doors for investment and for other exchanges that would help the people of Burma."
It is naïve to expect that the regime would exchange Suu Kyi's freedom in return for cash and investment. The regime leaders won't compromise and such a deal is far from their thoughts.
It is safe to assume that the regime leaders are quite confident that they can weather the international pressure with the support of such friends as China.
According to a recent report from Burma's Ministry of National Planning and Development, foreign investment jumped from $172.7m in the 2007- 2008 fiscal year to a current peak of $984.9m. The ministry said China accounted for 87 per cent of total investments - mainly in energy and natural resources.
With this level of Chinese support, Burmese rulers and their armed forces are assured of the financial and political backing to continue their crimes in the ethnic regions for decades to come. The oppressed people of Burma will continue to live in extreme poverty.
The regime's ultimate goal is to remain in power as long as it can. Suu Kyi poses a real threat to the Than Shwe's road map and his grip on power - and so do more than 2,000 political prisoners held by his regime.
Secretary of State Clinton should have learnt from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who had earlier delivered a firm message to the generals, telling them to free Suu Kyi and all political prisoners, to make the road map inclusive, to work for national reconciliation and to ensure that the 2010 election is credible.
Clinton and Ban were each acting as temporary negotiators in Burma's hostage drama, where the Burmese feel themselves prisoners in their own country. Clinton's message, however, failed to strike the correct tone.
Don't sell Burma short - Ko Bo Kyi
Far Eastern Economic Review: Wed 29 Jul 2009
Mae Sot, Thailand - The Obama administration's attempts to find a new approach to dealing with Burma are laudable, even if the world doesn't know which direction it will take yet. The U.S. must maintain a tough stance whilst it seeks new avenues for engagement. Although regional cooperation as part of a new U.S. "carrot and stick" strategy has potential, thus far the incentive element lacks depth. The renewal of U.S. trade sanctions against Burma by the U.S. Congress is welcome; there must be no change to these measures until the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) show at least a modicum of respect for basic rights.
The U.S. has long predicated their policy on the release of democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. "If she were released, that would open up opportunities at least for my country to expand our relationship with Burma, including investments in Burma," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters at last week's Association of Southeast Asian Nations security forum. However, Mrs. Clinton made no mention of Burma's other 2,100 plus political prisoners.
The importance of Aung San Suu Kyi cannot be underestimated. She is still a unifying figure, and one who is universally respected by all of Burma's ethnic nationality groups. But the Obama administration must not retreat from one critical benchmark for democratic progress in Burma: the unconditional release of all political prisoners. After all, what can Aung San Suu Kyi achieve alone, if her supporters and other political actors languish in prison?
Aung San Suu Kyi is not the only political leader in prison who can help bring national reconciliation to Burma. Others include ethnic-Shan leader U Khun Tun Oo and former student leader Min Ko Naing. And there are some 10,000 former political prisoners living in Burma today. All of them represent the voice of peaceful democratic opposition in Burma; all of them have a vital role to play in Burma's democratization process, which must be truly inclusive if it is to be successful.
It is dangerous to optimistically endorse the 2010 elections as the solution to Burma's stagnant political system, as imperfect as the elections will clearly be. The elections will be based on the regime's 2008 constitution, designed to entrench military rule. Twenty-five percent of parliamentary seats are reserved for members of the military, and impunity for Burmese army personnel for past and future human rights violations is enshrined in the constitution. The document bars any person married to a foreigner from serving as president of the country, thereby excluding Aung San Suu Kyi as her husband was British.
Extreme caution needs to be exercised when considering the concept of "participation" in the 2010 elections. "The government has said many times that there are no political prisoners in Myanmar. They are, indeed, the ones who are
serving their terms in accordance with the law for their harming stability and peace of the State, and committing other crimes. Daw Suu Kyi, like them, is not a political prisoner, but the person who is on trial for breaching an existing law," wrote Lu Thit in an editorial titled "Wipe out anti-public desire elements" in the junta's mouthpiece The New Light of Myanmar last Thursday. In all likelihood, Burma's military rulers will consider it a huge concession to allow current and former political prisoners simply to vote in any election.
When the Obama administration announces its policy review, it needs to clarify what new incentives they will offer to the SPDC. First of all, any proffered 'carrot' should only be in exchange for the unconditional release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all of Burma's political prisoners. Secondly, the U.S. must press for a guarantee that all current and former political prisoners be allowed to freely participate in the country's democratization process, without restrictions. Specifically, this should include participation in a review of the 2008 constitution; dialogue for national reconciliation; and the right to stand in independently monitored free and fair elections. Any fresh approach to Burma by the U.S. is welcome, as long as these fundamentals are not cast aside.
The international community remains divided on how best to deal with Burma. The regime depends on this. Ultimately, the divisions help maintain the status quo and ensure their continued rule.
And it is Burma's political prisoners who will continue to pay the price. In November last year, the authorities began to systematically transfer political prisoners to remote jails around Burma. Of the 237 political prisoners transferred since then, 75% have been moved to the country's most remote jails - up to 1,200 miles from Rangoon.
There is no doubt that this is a deliberate, psychological tactic by the regime to cut off political prisoners from their family support system, and crush their resolve. Food and medical supplies in Burma's prisons are so inadequate that political prisoners rely on their families to help them meet their most basic needs. Families have been forced to find additional funds to make the long-distance trips to visit their loved ones in prison. Held in remote facilities, many of which do not have prison doctors, and separated from their family support systems, political prisoners are at increasing risk of chronic and life-threatening health problems.
Of course, Burma's political prisoners are not the only ones suffering in the country. Human rights groups have documented grave violations against civilians in Eastern Burma, including the rape of women and children, forcible recruitment of child soldiers, and the use of civilians as human "landmine sweepers." Recent attacks along the Thai-Burma border have forced an estimated 4,000 Karen villagers to flee to Thailand for safety.
If U.S. President Barack Obama really wants to make his mark on Burma, he has the perfect opportunity, particularly if he joins forces with his U.K. counterpart Gordon Brown. The U.K. chairs the U.N. Security Council in August whilst the U.S. has its turn in September. Together they should push the U.N. Security Council to initiate a Commission of Inquiry into crimes against humanity in Burma.
Difficult though it may be, the U.S. and others need to grapple with the complexity of Burma's issues. Otherwise, the country's political prisoners - along with thousands of innocent women and children who urgently need protection from the junta's brutality - will suffer the consequences.
* Ko Bo Kyi spent seven years as a political prisoner in Burma. He is co-founder of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) and a recipient of the 2008 Human Rights Defender Award from Human Rights Watch.
Bargaining Burma's political prisoners - David Scott Mathieson
Hufftington Post: Wed 29 Jul 2009
Mae Sot - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appears to have been granted a belated booby prize from Burma's military rulers after his recent trip. On July 13, Ban bleakly reported to the Security Council that his visit was a major lost opportunity for the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) to demonstrate their commitment to change. They did not allow him to visit Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi nor did they release any political prisoners.
Yet after Ban's speech, the Burmese ambassador to the UN, Than Shwe, said that his government was "processing to grant amnesty to prisoners on humanitarian grounds and with a view to enabling them to participate in the 2010 elections." This step was one of three benchmarks Ban announced before his visit, the others being the resumption of a substantive dialogue inside Burma, and to create conditions conducive to a credible and legitimate election.
Burma's president, General Than Shwe (no relation to the ambassador), had assured Ban during his visit that the long-planned elections would be "free, fair, and credible."
Can the SPDC be trusted to release all of Burma's 2,100 political prisoners and allow them to run in elections? Unfortunately we've been through this all before.
Recent amnesties in Burma have been little more than public relations stunts. In September 2008, 9,000 prisoners were released, but only six of them, including the 78-year-old journalist U Win Tin were political activists. The amnesty was to detract attention from the one-year anniversary of the brutal 2007 crackdown against monks and other activists in which at least 21 people were killed. In February this year, to illustrate cooperation with a visiting UN human rights envoy, another amnesty freed 6,000 prisoners. Only 24 of these were imprisoned for political activities.
Meanwhile, in the two years since the 2007 crackdown, the number of political prisoners in Burma doubled, to 2,100 and courts have sentenced hundreds of activists to long prison terms.
Political prisoners in Burma are incarcerated because they have called on the military government to protect basic freedoms. They have urged Burma's rulers to engage with Burmese society and address long neglected social issues such as health, education and basic living standards. Or they have spoken to foreigners about repression in their country.
They include Burma's most famous comedian Zargana, sentenced to 59 years of imprisonment for providing aid to cyclone victims and then publicly criticizing the government's poor relief efforts (his sentence was later reduced to 35 years). The student leader Min Ko Naing has spent most of the last 20 years in prison for heading the 1988 democracy uprising. A young Buddhist monk, U Gambira, led other monks in the September 2007 protests and is serving 68 years in prison. Authorities hunted Ma Su Su Nway, a firebrand labor activist, for months before she emerged from hiding to stage a protest near a visiting UN human rights envoy in late 2007.
Many of these prominent activists have been transferred to isolated prisons in Burma's hinterlands, far from family and friends. The squalid conditions, including lack of adequate health care and basic sanitation, have exacerbated chronic health problems. The International Committee of the Red Cross has not been allowed inside Burma's prisons for nearly four years.
Burma's political prisoners are the nucleus of an emerging civil society network inside Burma consisting of activists, writers, journalists, bloggers, hip-hop artists, monks, nuns, and aid workers. Their activities are peaceful; their message is of cooperation, consultation and community. These are the very people who should be preparing now for multi-party elections next year.
Despite the SPDC's promises, even if a few of these 2,100 prisoners are released, it is unlikely that they will be permitted to participate in the 2010 elections. Without political party registration or electoral laws, there is widespread uncertainty about who can run in the first elections for twenty years. Systematic intimidation and repression of political activities are not conducive conditions for any sort of democratic process. Moreover, Burma's new SPDC-orchestrated constitution bars convicted criminals from running.
It's time now for Burma's allies and trade partners, including Security Council members China and Russia, to act and call Ambassador Than Shwe's bluff. They should push Burma to free all 2,100 political prisoners and enable them to participate fully in the elections. As long as these brave individuals remain in prison they are the starkest reminder of Burma's illegitimate political reforms.
Suu Kyi verdict set for Friday in Myanmar - Hla Hla Htay
Agence France Presse: Tue 28 Jul 2009
A court in military-ruled Myanmar will deliver its verdict in the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi on Friday in a case that could see the pro-democracy leader jailed for up to five years, her lawyer said.
Myanmar's junta has sparked international outrage for prosecuting the Nobel peace laureate on charges of breaching the rules of her house arrest after an American man swam uninvited to her lakeside house in May.
"The verdict will be given this coming Friday. We are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst," defence lawyer Nyan Win told AFP Tuesday after the trial wrapped up with a final reply by Suu Kyi's legal team.
Judges Thaung Nyunt and Nyi Nyi Soe indicated to the court at the notorious Insein prison in Yangon, where Suu Kyi is being held, that sentencing was expected on the same day, Nyan Win said.
"We have a good chance according to the law, but we cannot know what the court will decide because this is a political case," said Nyan Win, who is also the spokesman for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.
"If she is released unconditionally she will be home on that day - if not, the sentence will be together with the verdict."
The verdict is widely expected to be a guilty one given the previous form of Myanmar's courts, which have handed down heavy sentences to dozens of dissidents over the past year.
But the Suu Kyi case has been repeatedly delayed since it started on May 18 amid signs that the regime is trying to quell the storm of international outrage over its treatment of the opposition leader.
U2 singer Bono publicly announced during a concert in Dublin on Monday that Suu Kyi had been named Amnesty International's ambassador of conscience for 2009, the rights group's highest honour.
Diplomats from Thailand, Japan, Singapore and the United States attended Tuesday's hearing, a Myanmar official said on condition of anonymity. Most of the trial has taken place behind closed doors.
British Foreign Office Minister Chris Bryant said during a trip to Thailand on Tuesday that London was considering more sanctions but was "hoping the government of Burma will do the right thing" and release Suu Kyi.
"The regime's record in Burma is not a - how can i put it - elegant one. So of course we have fears. But sometimes miracles happen," he said, referring to the country by its former name.
He also praised neighbouring Thailand for leading efforts to ensure that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Myanmar is a member, had issued "robust" criticism of the trial earlier this year.
But Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Tuesday postponed an upcoming trip to Myanmar at the junta's request because it would coincide with Friday's verdict, the Thai government said.
Critics have accused the junta of trying to keep Suu Kyi locked up ahead of elections next year, and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led calls for her release at an ASEAN conference last week.
Suu Kyi has been in jail or under house arrest for 13 of the last 19 years since the junta refused to recognise the NLD's landslide victory in Myanmar's last national elections, in 1990.
The court made the announcement about the verdict after hearing final comments by lawyers for Suu Kyi, her two female aides and US national John Yettaw, in response to closing statements delivered by prosecutors on Monday.
All face similar sentences.
Her lawyers say that she was not responsible for the intrusion by Yettaw - who has said that he was inspired by a divine vision that she would be assassinated - and that she was charged under outdated laws.
But Myanmar's rulers have strongly defended the trial.
State media on suggested that Yettaw "might have been sent to the country by an anonymous country or organisation" - possibly the United States - and may have been trying to smuggle her out of her house.
Suu Kyi insists her trial will test rule of law in Burma - Saw Yan Naing
Irrawaddy: Tue 28 Jul 2009
Aung San Suu Kyi insisted after Tuesday's final session of her trial before Friday's scheduled verdict that the proceedings would show "whether or not the rule of law exists in the country," according to her lawyer Nyan Win.
Suu Kyi made the comment to Nyan Win after the court announced a verdict would be announced on Friday. Suu Kyi is charged with breaking the terms of her house arrest order by giving refuge to an American trespasser, John Yettaw, and faces a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment if convicted.
Nyan Win, who is also a spokesman of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, told The Irrawaddy that his legal team had tried its best in accordance with the law.
Suu Kyi was innocent, Nyan Win insisted. "She [Suu Kyi] did not break the law. According to the law, it will be unlawful if the court even sentences her."
During Tuesday's two-hour morning session, a defense plea for more witnesses to be heard was rejected by the court, Nyan Win said.
Win Tin, an NLD executive leader who joined Suu Kyi supporters outside Insein Prison on Tuesday, said her two female companions and Yettaw also appeared at Tuesday's session.
Suu Kyi's companions Khin Khin Win and Win Ma Ma also face a charge of giving unlawful refuge to Yettaw. They are represented by Hla Myo Myint.
Nyan Win was one of four lawyers representing Suu Kyi at Tuesday's session. The others were Kyi Wynn, Hla Myo Myint and Khin Htay Kywe, according to Khin Maung Swe, an NLD spokesperson.
Diplomats from Japan, Singapore, Thailand and the US were allowed to attend Tuesday's session, according to an Associated Press report.
Last weekend, Suu Kyi told Nyan Win that she is unhappy with the continual delays in her trial, which she said gave the prosecution more time to prepare its final arguments. The trial began on May 18 and has been interrupted by several adjournments.
The proceedings against Suu Kyi have drawn wide international condemnation.
Last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and several Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) foreign ministers called for the release of Suu Kyi and more than 2,100 other political prisoners during the Asean Ministerial Meeting and Asean Regional Forum at Phuket in southern Thailand.
The Burmese state-owned newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar, carried an editorial last weekend saying that "demanding the release of Suu Kyi means showing reckless disregard for the law."
The opposition leader has spent nearly 14 of the past 20 years under house arrest. Her latest term of detention began in May 2003, when she and her supporters came under attack by junta-backed thugs while traveling in central Burma.
Burma's information ministry in new email campaign - Ahunt Phone Myat
Democratic Voice of Burma: Tue 28 Jul 2009
The Ministry of Information in Burma has begun emailing government-generated newsletters to exiled Burmese activists and journalists in an attempt to counter news-sharing by exiled opposition groups.
The website responsible for the emails is the Kyaymon online newspaper, run by the government's Ministry of Information, which carries headlines such as 'Shame on you Clinton' and 'America's ugly failure in the ASEAN summit'.
When approached by DVB, the assistant editor of Kyaymon, Aung Kyaw Thwin, said that the action was entirely orchestrated by the government.
"We have been sending you newsletters under direction from our information minister and there is no personal motive behind this," he said.
Burma's information minister, Brigadier General Kyaw Hasn, has reportedly sent out instructions to all media workers in Burma that include statements such as "strive for realization of the seven-step Road Map through media" and "train better qualified press workers who favour the profit of the nation".
A UK-based Burmese journalist, Bo Bo Lan Sin, said that the newsletters were actually a refreshing alternative to other more generic government news.
"[Kyaymon] newsletters are not that boring; the more news variety than the government blogs," he said, adding that he had only recently found out who was sending the emails.
His comments were echoed by the secretary of the Burma Media Association, San Moe Wei.
"The whole thing is clear; they are sending out the newsletters because no one bothers to go on to their websites and read their news," he said.
State-run media, such as the Myanma Ahlin newspaper, is loaded with news on ribbon-cutting ceremonies and editorials penned by pro-government journalists.
Burma's media environment is amongst the most repressive in the world, with media watchdog Reporters Without Borders last year ranking it 170 out of 173 in its annual Press Freedom Index.
Media laws are very tough, and journalists inside Burma face severe punishment if seen to be criticising the government.
Media workers are often under strict surveillance, with internet café owners forced to take screen-shots of each computers every five mintues which are then sent to the Ministry of Information.
"It's easy for them to get a hold of our email addresses; they surf through blogs and find out which internet user is 'politically concerned'", said Burmese blogger, Mr Thinker.
"The media in exile has been using this newsletter method to spread their information and now [the government] has begun to do the same thing."
It is unclear how many people the government is targeting in this campaign, although the email received by DVB had been sent to around 400 other addresses.
New report on 'food security' in Burma - Mungpi
Mizzima News: Tue 28 Jul 2009
Agricultural credit should be made available in order to prevent rural indebtedness and to improve agricultural production in Burma, said Dr. Noeleen Heyzer the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economics and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).
Dr. Heyzer, who is on a week-long visit to military-ruled Burma to launch ESCAP's study on Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security, said in order to ensure food-security and sustainable agriculture, countries in the region including Burma should take immediate steps in enhancing the purchasing power of the poor by undertaking pro-poor public expenditure, cash for work, rural infrastructure programmes and by developing the foundations for social protection.
ESCAP, at the request of member states, in 2008 conducted a study on timely analysis and policy options on how to ensure food security and sustainable agriculture. The report was officially released in April 2009 but she is visiting Burma to release a localised version for the country.
"She [Dr. Heyzer] is launching the report in Naypyitaw today," Mitchell Hsieh at the UNESCAP information office in Bangkok told Mizzima.
The Executive Secretary, who began her trip to Burma on Monday and will remain till Saturday, in a statement on Tuesday said, "Adequate and sustained agricultural credit is crucial to prevent rural indebtedness and improve agricultural production, livelihoods and wage employment in rural areas."
"These measures would reduce the hardships currently experienced by farmers and help address social impacts from the current economic crisis including return migration and human trafficking," she added.
ESCAP's study is also a response to some of the key findings of the Economic and Social Survey 2008, which showed that investment in the agricultural sector was declining and that a lack of agricultural credit was driving up farmers' indebtedness.
Dr. Heyzer said it is the first step in a development partnership with Burma, whose agricultural economy contributes 42 per cent of the country's Gross Domestic Products (GDP) and 70 per cent of its labour force, to discuss its agricultural economy and policy.
Dr. Sean Turnell, an Associate Professor at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, told Mizzima earlier that Burma's rural economy is on the verge of collapse with lack of funds in its rural credit system.
Turnell said farmers particularly in the cyclone-devastated areas of the Irrawaddy delta are facing severe shortage of funds eventually threatening shortage in food production.
According to Turnell the government's bizarre economic policies particularly on rural agriculture and fuelled by the current global economic downturn has put farmers in a tight corner with difficulties in finding credit even from local money lenders.
The ESCAP's study suggests that the marketing of agricultural produce may be improved by removing restrictions on the movement of food including rice. Regional cooperation is needed for the development and transfer of technologies for production, post harvest and storage of food.
Dr. Heyzer said ESCAP is in a strategic position to be in a development partnership with the Burma and the "Launching the study here in Naypyitaw is the beginning of this development partnership."
The Executive Secretary will also discuss agricultural economic policies including for rice, agricultural credit, rural infrastructure and livelihood opportunities in Burma as possible stimulus for the economy and well being of the people.
Besides meeting the Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation, Dr. Heyzer, during her trip, will also hold talks with the Burmese Prime Minister General Thein Sein, Foreign Minister Nyan Win, the Minister of Planning and Economic Development Soe Tha, and Chairman of the Civil Service Selection and Training Board Kyaw Thu.
The UNESCAP's executive secretary is visiting the country at the invitation of Burmese Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation Htay Oo.
Suu Kyi warns junta on 2010 elections - Thurein Soe
Democratic Voice of Burma: Mon 27 Jul 2009
Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has again warned the ruling junta in Burma that without national reconciliation prior to next year, the 2010 elections would be futile.
The government has penciled in March next year for the first general elections since Suu Kyi's opposition National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory in 1990 that was never honoured.
The opposition leader was speaking to her lawyer Nyan Win on Friday during what should have been the final day of her trial.
"Daw Suu said the upcoming elections in 2010 would not be credited as legitimate unless national reconciliation has been carried out before that," said Nyan Win, adding that she had urged the United Nations to warn the junta about the necessity of reconciliation.
Today is expected to be the final day of Suu Kyi's trial, which was delayed on Friday by the prosecution team failing to testify.
Critics claim the trial is a ploy to keep her in detention beyond the 2010 elections, although Burma's revised constitution which was ratified two weeks after cyclone Nargis last May bars her from running for office.
Earlier this month the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Burma in an attempt to kick start dialogue between the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and opposition groups, as well as push for the release of Suu Kyi.
Nyan Win said that Suu Kyi's comments reflected the general feeling within the party, and this had been stressed to Ban Ki-moon during his visit.
Prosecution lawyers are today expected to give their final statements in the trial in which Suu Kyi has been charged with breaching conditions of her house arrest.
It is unclear when a verdict is likely to be given. If, as is widely expected, Suu Kyi is found guilty, she could face a sentence of up to five years.
A number of delegates attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum last week independently called for her release, while a joint communiqué issued following the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting said her release was a necessary prerequisite for free and fair elections next year.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is Amnesty International's "Ambassador of Conscience"
Amnesty International: Mon 27 Jul 2009
(Dublin) - Amnesty International today announced that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is being awarded its most prestigious honour - the "Ambassador of Conscience" Award for 2009.
This year's award will be presented in Dublin by Amnesty International and the Irish rock band U2, previous recipients of the award and long-time supporters of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
"This month marks the twentieth anniversary of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's arrest and twenty years since Amnesty International declared her a prisoner of conscience. In those long and often dark years Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has remained a symbol of hope, courage and the undying defense of human rights, not only to the people of Myanmar but to people around the world," said Irene Khan, Amnesty International's Secretary General.
Daw Suu's fellow Nobel laureate Vaclav Havel, who received the inaugural "Ambassador of Conscience Award" in 2003, joined in the congratulations:
"I know from my own experience that international attention can, to a certain extent, protect the unjustly persecuted from punishments that would otherwise be imposed. That is why, shortly after I was elected President, I nominated Mrs Suu Kyi for the Nobel Peace Prize, which she did subsequently receive. Goodness knows what would have happened if her fate had not been highlighted as it is again today. I welcome Amnesty's decision and am delighted at the solidarity, that U2 and all of you are showing towards this courageous woman - the Ambassador of Conscience of each one of us."
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the Myanmar opposition party the National League for Democracy, and has been detained for over 13 of the past 20 years, mostly under house arrest. Her house detention order was set to expire on 27 May 2009, but she was arrested and placed on trial on 18 May. Over 2,100 other people are currently imprisoned in Myanmar for their political beliefs and should be freed.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's trial for violating the terms and conditions of her house arrest resumed on 24 .July. If convicted Daw Aung San Suu Kyi could face up to five years in jail.
Amnesty International's "Ambassador of Conscience" Award recognises exceptional individual leadership and witness in the fight to protect and promote human rights.
The Ambassador of Conscience Award, now in its sixth year, recognises exceptional leadership and witness in the fight to protect and promote human rights. Past winners of the award include Nelson Mandela, U2 and Vaclav Havel.
The Award - inspired by a poem written for Amnesty International by Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney - aims to promote the work of the organization by association with the life, work and example of its 'Ambassadors', who have done much to inspire the world through their work and personal example.
Why Myanmar's elections will work - James Gomez
Asia Times: Fri 24 Jul 2009
Yangon - Any recent repeat traveller to Myanmar would have noticed the change. Compared to just a few years ago, there are more paved roads, including a modern tollway connecting the central city of Mandalay to the newly built capital of Naipyidaw. On the new roadways, travelling vehicles' license plate numbers, make and model are captured digitally and stored to a centrally maintained computer system.
Meanwhile, mobile telecommunications have become cheaper and more widespread, with disposable SIM cards costing US$20-$50 widely available in urban areas. Internet cafes have sprung up and do booming business across the country, although technically private proprietors must keep records of all those who log-in at their shops.
Within the old capital of Yangon, modern buildings have sprung up, including serviced apartments for expatriates and high-end hotels. Shops have more goods for sale, while the average age of the reconditioned Japanese vehicles that ply the local roads is now much younger than previously.
Then there are the nouveau rich, who frequent the few modern cafes and high-end hotel bars in the big cities of Yangon and Mandalay. Many are of Chinese origin, whose children are being educated at top-notch universities overseas. Others are the offspring of top generals. There is also a new group earning an international standard of living through work at the various development organizations increasingly active in the country.
These are the often overlooked economic fruits of Myanmar's development authoritarianism, still modest, but similar to those touted by other repressive regional regimes that have based their political legitimacy on maintaining economic growth. Although Myanmar remains mired in poverty and suffers from chronic economic mismanagement and official corruption, certain recent economic gains are noticeable.
If this phenomenon is not taken into account, as it has been by sections of the local population, the long running efforts towards democracy promotion in Myanmar will be in vain. Myanmar's authoritarian, economic growth-driven allies, including Singapore and China, have encouraged the country's military leaders to stay the course of democratic elections scheduled for 2010, even as Western critics prejudge the polls as a sham.
Nominally democratic, in practice highly repressive, Singapore understands that regularly-held elections provide procedural and international legitimacy to its heavy-handed and sophisticated authoritarian rule. The symbolic move towards democracy will also bolster Myanmar's regional standing, where its institutionalized repression will not be checked by the Association of Southeast Asian Nation's (ASEAN) new human rights body anytime soon.
It's become increasingly apparent that Myanmar and its strategic allies in China and Singapore believe that local sentiment is shifting in the junta's favor, due to growing on-the-ground evidence of economic progress. Although the scale of that progress is debatable - particularly in light of the 2007 mass protests against the regime that the military violently repressed - after decades of uninterrupted and corrupt military rule the population could well be primed to accept China- or Singapore-style development authoritarianism.
The turn in economic momentum, which cannot be captured by looking at often doctored GDP (gross domestic product) growth figures, is best witnessed and felt on the ground. It has led some here to grudgingly adopt a different tune about the junta's leadership. In interviews with local people, many said that the regime could be accepted if generals and their affiliated officials did not pocket all the profits from economic activities, including natural resource exports.
Some went as far to say that if the regime took only 50% and redistributed the other half towards broad-based economic development, then the regime would still be acceptable. This perception could be informed by popular opinion about the region's faster growing authoritarian regimes, including China, Singapore and Vietnam, which are often portrayed favorably in Myanmar's state-dominated media.
Many Burmese strive to work in Singapore, which they tend to view as a comparatively modern and developed city. That despite the island state's ruling People's Action Party (PAP) regime does business, including facilitating arms deals, with their repressive government.
The PAP-led government doesn't release official figures of Burmese nationals working in Singapore, but the numbers have increased so much that every year it is increasingly difficult for Burmese working there to get air tickets back to Myanmar during the peak seasons of Christmas, New Year and the Chinese Lunar New Year. Many share similarly positive views of China's extraordinary economic transformation, even though Beijing is the repressive junta's main economic and political supporter.
Although perhaps anecdotal, these emerging sentiments - some suggest the vanguard of an important political shift - have been overlooked by democracy and reform promoters, including in the United States and European Union. Both Western powers maintain harsh economic sanctions against the regime, which some argue has hurt the grass roots population more than the ruling generals.
Thus US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's offer this week of new United States investment for the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi caught many Myanmar analysts by surprise. Any such investments, they note, would only help to bolster Myanmar's emerging military-led development authoritarianism.
Big Western democracy promotion agencies have for decades supported externally based Burmese pro-democracy groups, often to the neglect of grass roots activities inside the country. The recent surge in foreign aid in the wake of Cyclone Nagris, distributed by a wide range of international organizations, claimed to advocate the development of "civil society". However, few of their actual activities are even remotely related to democracy promotion.
This international neglect, compounded with a very justified fear of persecution or imprisonment for political activities, has created suitable conditions for Singapore- or China-style development authoritarianism to take root. Most of the strategies deployed by anti-regime political activists inside the country are limited to organizing welfare activities, signing petitions and meeting on junta-approved days and locations.
These activities have had little, if any, impact and are behind the times when compared to the moves the military is taking towards a development authoritarianism model, which includes the holding of next year's elections. There is a prevailing opinion among political activists inside the country, including among Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party, that their activists will be arrested and detained in the run up to the polls.
That would pave the way for military appointed parties and candidates to capture a thumping statistical mandate at the elections, as the NLD did at the annulled 1990 polls. Myanmar will soon be a "discipline democracy", but one the development-starved population might - to the chagrin of many outside the countries - willingly embrace.
* Dr James Gomez is a Lecturer at Monash University's School of Humanities, Communications and Social Science in Australia.
Burma's opposition must wage proxy fight - Min Zin
Irrawaddy: Fri 24 Jul 2009
In politics, direct and frontal attack is rarely wise. Occupying the flank by co-opting the opponent's game plan for one's own purposes is a powerful ploy.
Co-option strategy, however, is a double-edged sword. It presents the risk of being swallowed by the dominant establishment, or at least having one's reputation damaged, but it also conceals great power and maneuverability.
It depends on how one manages to play it right in a relatively conducive political environment. If well managed, it will become strength. In any case, never rule out this option in exchange for, or fixing solely on, the honor fight when the time is not ripe. To the advantage of oppositions in Burma, a multi-pronged strategy is always called for.
Mainstream oppositions, including the National League for Democracy (NLD) and major ethnic ceasefire groups, have announced they will not take part in the 2010 elections unless the military allows a constitutional revision and inclusive political process. Instead of bringing about a much-needed state-building process in which all parties rally together and make their voices heard, Burma's constitution conceded 25 percent of legislative seats to the armed forces and denied protection of fundamental ethnic rights in a multi-ethnic nation.
More importantly, the constitution allows the military virtually to run the country with the National Defense and Security Council (NDSC), and even to stage a coup d'état "if there arises a state of emergency." The opposition's principled stance of refusing to endorse the military's constitution and contest the 2010 elections, therefore, deserves understanding and support.
However, it does not mean that there is no gap in the castle wall. The opposition should also look at the situation from a power perspective. By dissecting the junta's constitution, the opposition will find the devil lies in the details over which Snr-Gen Than Shwe should lose sleep.
First of all, the new post-2010 election power arrangement will create two power centers - military and government. These two power centers will nonetheless be at loggerheads over the command structure and personal interests. Even within the single power center, the Burmese military has repeatedly mired itself in purges resulting from battalion forces versus the intelligence faction, and other rivalries.
Now, after the elimination of the intelligence faction, various reports confirm that there are serious animosity and tension between the military personnel and the thuggish Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) members regarding the latter's interference with the military's administrative mandate and other issues of self-interest.
The election, so long as it demonstrates a relatively competitive nature, can make elite rivalry become public issues. The government's operation with two centers of power - no matter who pull the strings - could lead to either a serious internal split or miserable inefficiency of the ruling body.
Secondly, the constitution carries destructive seed for the military to grow into a center-versus-periphery conflict. Though Than Shwe enshrined ultimate power for the commander-in-chief of the
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