- Suu Kyi invited to national-level workshop on economic
- Myanmar government urges peace talks with ethnic
- Human rights abuses at gas pipeline
- Signs of change but Burmese govt must do much
- Panglong is the foundation of human rights in
- President invites Burmese abroad to return home; urges
armed groups to surrender
- Myanmar papers lift slogans attacking foreign
- Land seizures ongoing: Mon NGO
- Enhanced ties between Sri Lanka and Myanmar
- NLD offers young members political training course in
- Building civil society in Burma
- Energy companies silent in Myanmar
- Will Naypyidaw’s olive branch bear fruit?
- Growing numbers of displaced Kachin suffer from Burmese
regime’s blockage of aid
- Myanmar cuts export tax to help offset currency
- Dams on Burma’s Irrawaddy River becomes a national
- Myanmar government urges Suu Kyi to register
- Suu Kyi, Burmese gov’t agree to work together to avoid
- New Myanmar government to drop foreign exchange
- How sanctions made Burma’s richest man
- Burmese army exploits prisoners
- Myanmar gov’t appoints team to spread information
- Burma pursues divide-and-rule policy for ethnic
- North Korea seeking rice deal with Myanmar
- IMF to help Myanmar unify multiple exchange rates
Suu Kyi invited to national-level workshop on
Mizzima News: Thu 18 Aug 2011
Mai – A last-minute official invitation to attend a national-level workshop on
economic development was delivered by hand to the home of Burma’s opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Friday. President Thein Sein will also attend the
workshop to be held in Naypyitaw, the capital. Members of the workshop
organizing committee on Wednesday went to Suu Kyi’s home on University Avenue
Road in Rangoon to deliver an official invitation. Suu Kyi is the
general-secretary of the National League for Democracy.
This will be the
first official function attended by both President Thein Sein and Suu Kyi, who
was released from house arrest late last year.
political party representatives and businessmen will attend the
“She received the invitation letter yesterday. She has been
invited to attend the workshop on Friday and Saturday,” NLD spokesman Nyan Win
In response to a Mizzima question, he said that he did not know
whether Suu Kyi would attend or not, but another party source said that Suu Kyi
had agreed to attend as an observer.
The workshop will be held in the
Myanmar International Convention Centre in Naypyitaw.
representatives from each of the 37 political parties that contested in the 2010
election have been invited to the workshop. Two ministers and up to three
businessmen from each of the 14 states or regions have also been invited to
Myanmar government urges peace talks with
ethnic rebels – Aung Hla Tun
Reuters: Thu 18 Aug 2011
Yangon – Myanmar’s new government on Thursday called for peace talks
with armed separatists along its borders with Thailand and China, the latest in
a series of conciliatory gestures towards long-time opponents of the former
military regime. In a statement read out on national television, it urged rebel
groups engaged in conflict with the military to contact regional governments and
start dialogue as soon as possible.
Numerous ethnic militias have battled
for decades with the central government, to preserve de facto autonomy held by
groups like the Shan, Wa, Kachin, Karen and Mon. Ceasefires have been agreed
previously, but no political deals have ever been made.
groups, which are willing to work for peace after resolving armed conflicts, are
invited to contact respective state/division governments,” said a statement
attributed to cabinet secretary, Tin Myo Kyi. “After that, the union government
will form a delegation to have peace talks.”
Myanmar’s army has battled
since June with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and has also clashed with the
Shan State Army. Both Shan and Kachin states border China, the country’s biggest
economic ally, which is concerned conflicts will harm its energy interests in
Separate clashes have also taken place along the eastern
border with Thailand between government troops, ethnic Mon rebels and the
powerful Karen National Union.
In the run up to an election last year,
the first in two decades, the military junta ordered ethnic groups to disarm and
join the political process, promising to give militias a job in an army-run
Border Guard Force and hinting strongly the groups would be crushed if they
Several smaller groups agreed, but the larger armies ignored the
call. Although there has been low-level fighting this year, no major government
offensive have so far been launched.
The government rarely acknowledges
publicly that its troops are engaged in combat with ethnic militias but in a
televised speech Wednesday, President Thein Sein said state officials in Kachin
had been in talks with the KIA and he hoped for a peaceful
The government’s rare public call for
peace comes three weeks after democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi wrote an open
letter to Thein Sein offering to mediate between the government and the
different rebel groups, saying reconciliation “could not be achieved through
Suu Kyi was released from a seven-year stint of house
arrest in November last year and has been a staunch advocate of autonomy under a
federal republic for at least three of Myanmar’s ethnic groups.
has called for a “Second Pinlong Agreement,” a revival of a peace plan drafted
in 1947 and backed by her late father, independence hero Aung San. He was
assassinated soon after the draft and the deal was never put into
The public call from the four-month-old, nominally civilian
government, was the latest in a series of olive branches offered by the
notoriously reclusive leadership in recent weeks.
Suu Kyi, 66, whom the
previous military dictatorship kept in detention for a total of 15 years before
her release last November, has twice held talks in recent weeks Labour Minister
Aung Kyi. Both sides have expressed optimism the they can cooperate to help
bring peace to the country.
The government Thursday invited Suu Kyi to
join a workshop on economic development and reforms, starting on Friday, in the
new capital Naypyitaw, her spokesman said.
Suu Kyi is seen as critical to
Myanmar’s future and has a tremendous influence over Western governments, which
have maintained economic sanctions on the new administration.
analysts believe the government’s gestures towards engagement and reform could
be genuine but say it is likely the retired generals running the country are
using Suu Kyi to gain leverage with the West and boost their image at home and
(Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Miral Fahmy)
Human rights abuses at gas pipeline – Sai Zom
Irrawaddy: Thu 18 Aug 2011
Land confiscations and
other human rights violations have been reported in northern Shan State during
the last few weeks since the start of the Shwe pipeline project to export gas
and oil to China. Problems have mainly occurred in Kyaukme and Hsipaw townships
where the pipeline passes on its way to Kunming, China. Two other affected areas
of northern Shan State are Kutkhai and Pang Hsai townships.
resident from Hsipaw Township, who gave his name as Sai Tun, said that although
the local authorities did not confiscate his land, they forced him to rent it to
them at much lower than the market value. However, he did not know the money
actually came from a private company involved in the pipeline
“The authorities said that they want to use my land and would
give me 500,000 kyats (US $665) for one acre per month as a fee. But they didn’t
tell me why they wanted my land and what they are going to do with it,” said Sai
Sai Tun explained that hiring out land makes the landowner jobless.
“Other landowners from my village also face the same situation as me but with
different rental fees. But 500,000 kyats is the minimum price that they gave
us,” he added.
“I don’t think the price is enough for our land because I
have seen that they are digging everywhere. When they return my land back, what
am I supposed to do with that destroyed land?” asked Sai Tun.
explained that the pipeline passes five or six miles away from Hsipaw, and that
there are at least a dozen landowners who have been forced by the authorities to
rent their land.
The Asia World Co. Ltd.—owned by Steven Law (aka Tun
Myint Naing)—is the main constructor of the pipeline projects in northern Shan
State. Htoo Trading Co. Ltd.—owned by Burmese business tycoon Tay Za who has
close links to former junta members—is also approaching Burmese leaders to
obtain pipeline building projects.
The Memorandum of Understanding of the
Shwe Gas Project was signed by the former military regime’s second leader, Vice
Sen-Gen Maung Aye, during a trip to China in 2009 where he met Chinese
Vice-President Xi Jingping. China is the only nation currently buying natural
gas from Burma, netting the Burmese government at least US $1 billion per
The former Burmese regime has not only agreed to sell China natural
gas, but also to build a transit oil pipeline to move fuel from the Middle East
to China through the Southeast Asian nation.
Thailand-based Shwe Gas
Movement (SGM)—a pressure group opposed to the Burmese government’s Shwe Gas
project—said that Burma will get at least $30 million every year from over 4,000
kms of transit oil pipeline.
Wong Aung, a global coordinator of SGM, told
The Irrawaddy on Wednesday: “This project will negatively affect local people
living near to the pipeline site. They will face human rights violations
including losing their jobs and land.
“This project is very important for
China in political, military and economic fields, and so it always protects the
Burmese government in the international community. That’s why the Burmese
government cannot refuse what China desires.”
He added that the pipeline
could even cause a civil war because it would go through ethnic areas, and could
cause even more human rights violations such as land confiscation, forced labor
and illegal detentions.
The Shan State Army (SSA) is currently operating
in Kyaukme and Hsipaw townships. SSA spokesman Maj Sai Hla said that they have
no plans to start attacking the pipeline project, but would do if they think it
has been harming local people and the Shan community.
Signs of change but Burmese govt must do much
more – Editorial
The Nation (Thailand): Thu 18 Aug 2011
Enhanced role for opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is a positive
development but Asean must remain cautious about the military’s motives. It
seems the Burmese regime in Napyidaw has been doing the right thing regarding
opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi over the past few weeks. The recent meeting
in Rangoon with Labour Minister U Aung Gyi gave the impression that the Thein
Sein administration was heeding international appeals, including those of Asean,
to promote dialogue with the opposition. Now Suu Kyi has been invited to attend
a poverty reduction conference, which she intends to go to. Information Minister
Kyaw Hsan has stated that the government has no plan to crack down on Suu Kyi or
her supporters – in order to help overcome the political divide with them. More
activities should be forthcoming that will promote national reconciliation with
the ethnic minorities as well.
Since the November poll last year, there
have been high expectations the new administration will carry out economic,
political and social reforms. So far there has been very little progress inside
the country, and this has led to Asean’s reluctance to say outright whether it
will award the 2014 chairmanship of the regional grouping to its often
recalcitrant newest member. This is an important issue, and the generals in
Napyidaw still have much to do to convince Asean that the country is worthy of
holding the chairmanship. Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa will not
be scheduled to visit Burma if there is insufficient progress on matters of
concern to the international community. After all, if he does visit the country
in the near future, it would be tantamount to a rubber stamp for the future
The best development would be Suu Kyi’s signal that progress
is being made. Asean is indeed waiting for her views regarding the outcome of
her talks with the authorities and her ability to engage with broader society,
especially her supporters in outlying provinces. At present, her personal
rapport with Asean, especially its representatives in Napyidaw, has been
strengthened following her release from house arrest last year ahead of the
November election. Prior to her release, she had virtually no contact with
At this juncture, Suu Kyi’s views from the inside would be crucial
to justify any positive move from Asean, especially regarding the 2014
chairmanship. While Asean will eventually award the chair to Burma at some point
in the future, it wants to do so without losing respect and face in the
international community. Burma’s readiness to host a regional or international
summit is not a real issue because it has the capacity and ability to do so.
Concrete political progress is more important.
The admission of Burma to
the grouping in 1997 was an easier process without much thought over the
international pressure that was brought to bear. But these days, there will be
greater complications if Asean does not take into account the sentiments of key
Western dialogue partners. Washington has said repeatedly that the Burmese chair
should add value to Asean’s reputation.
There is one caveat: Whatever
reform undertakings are going on inside Burma, they must be sustained at all
costs. Otherwise, they will just serve as scaffolding schemes for the military
leaders to succeed in their political manoeuvres. Their persistence on the
seven-point “road map” finally paid off against all international criticism and
sanctions, but they need to do much more to facilitate real and meaningful
If Asean’s doubts continue unabated about Burma’s political
future, the grouping should be willing to wait before awarding the country such
a high-profile role on the international stage. The stakes are too high forAsean to afford another mistake.
Shan scholar: Panglong is the foundation of
human rights in Burma
Shan Herald Agency for News: Thu 18 Aug 2011
Sai Seng Wan, Shan academic working with the Restoration Council of Shan
State / Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA), presenting his paper at the 4th
International Conference on Human Rights and Development at Bangkok’s
prestigious Chulalongkorn University today, says without going back to the
Panglong Agreement, the pre-independence alliance pact between Burma and the
Frontier Areas, the human rights issue in Burma, particularly in Shan State,
will never be resolved. “Human Rights in Shan State are inseparable from the
Panglong Agreement”, he said. “Not daring to invoke the Panglong Agreement in
solving the union’s problems is similar to walking with a piece of cloth
fastened over one’s eyes.”
Panglong, signed on 12 February 1947 by Gen
Aung San on Burma’s side and Sao Hkun Pan Sing, Sinwa Naw, U Hlur Hmung and
others for Federated Shan States, Kachin Hills and Chin Hills respectively, had
promised “Full autonomy in internal administration” and “rights and privileges
which are regarded as fundamental in democratic countries.”
Independence, the Kuomintang forces led by Chiang Kai-shek, defeated by Mao
Zedong’s Communist forces, retreated to Shan State. On the pretext of fighting
against the KMT, the Burma Army then occupied Shan State, setting up military
bases in “areas such as Yawnghwe, Kalaw, Taunggyi, Mongpawn, Loilem, Laikha and
Mongkeung where there were no signs of the KMT.”
Human rights violations
committed by the Burma Army even before the union was 10 years old included
extrajudicial killings, beatings, tortures, rapes (including a Buddhist nun who
was killed afterwards), arbitrary detention, forced labor, forced portering,
forced requisition of vehicles, forced relocations and enslavement “amounting to
committing ethnic cleansing.”
On the Shan side, its leaders had made
efforts to deal with the issue politically notably by hosting the Inter States
Seminar in 1961 to amend the 1947 constitution and by the Shan Nationalities
League for Democracy (SNLD) led by Hkun Tun Oo that won the most seats in Shan
State in the 1990 elections. Most of them including Khun Tun Oo ended in
Seng Wan suggests a 5-point proposition, based on Panglong,
for the ending of Burma’s woes:
Withdrawal of the Burma Army (which is not a Union Army but a
Burmese/Burman Army) from Shan State and other ethnic areas
• For Burma Proper to have its own separate
• To set up a central government
with an equal number of representatives from each state
• To draft a new constitution that ensures equal
rights for each state
• To set up a union
armed forces managed jointly by every member state
leaders are afraid of Panglong due to the inclusion of the invisible clause:
Right of Secession. “They shouldn’t,” said Seng Wan, “because Shan State has
technically become separate since the 1947 constitution, born out of Panglong,
was declared null and void in 1962.”
Groups fighting for democracy also
need not fear Panglong either. “The path of Shan State independence and the path
of the democratic forces are interdependent and supportive of each other,” he
said. “We are fighting against a common enemy. When our respective goal is
reached, we can form a new union like the European Union.”
presentation will be between 17:00-18:00 today. Shan Women’s Action Network
(SWAN) that achieved fame with License To Rape: The Burmese military regime’s
use of sexual violence in the ongoing war in Shan State will also be
participating in the forum, represented by Nang Zarm Hawm.
President invites Burmese abroad to return
home; urges armed groups to surrender
Mizzima News: Wed 17 Aug
Rangoon – President Thein Sein reportedly invited Burmese citizens
who live in foreign countries to come back home to Burma, and he urged armed
groups to surrender to the government, during a meeting in Naypyitaw on
Thein Sein, who met with representatives from social and
business organizations at the Myanmar Convention Centre in Naypyitaw, said that
Burmese citizens who had gone abroad for different reasons would be allowed to
return to Burma. More than 40 organizations were invited to attend the 20-minute
meeting with the president.
But, the invitation is not a general amnesty,
but rather an invitation for them to work for the development of the nation. He
said that armed groups should surrender to state officials or regional
governments as soon as possible.
Thein Sein said that if people who have
committed crimes came back to Burma, their sentences would be commuted but those
who committed serious crimes would be held accountable.
political organizations said that the government’s invitation was “meaningless”
because it was not a general amnesty.
“They should release all political
prisoners, establish genuine peace everywhere and hold all-inclusive political
dialogues. They did not do those things, and they invited back Burmese citizens
in foreign countries just to show off. Such an empty invitation, saying it just
to show off, is meaningless and unnatural,” said Ngwe Lin, the general-secretary
of the Democratic Party for a New Society.
Meanwhile, on the political
front, the Ministry of Home Affairs has said that it will allow the Free Funeral
Service Society (Rangoon) to officially register as a civic charity
“It is a blessing for people who are doing charity work. It
will bring benefits to the people, and it encourages me,” said Kyaw Thu, the
chairman of Free Funeral Service Society (Rangoon).
Myanmar papers lift slogans attacking foreign
Reuters: Wed 17 Aug 2011
Yangon – Myanmar’s
state-run newspapers dropped back-page banners attacking Western media for the
first time in four years on Wednesday, the latest indication its new government
could be softening its stance towards opposition voices. Three official
newspapers dropped half-page slogans that were running daily, accusing the Voice
of America (VOA) and the British Broadcasting Corp (BBC) of “sowing hatred among
the people”, and other Western media of “generating public outrage”.
slogans also told readers not to be swayed by “killer broadcasts designed to
cause troubles”. They had been a fixture in state newspapers since a bloody army
crackdown on monk-led protests in August 2007.
The BBC, VOA and two other
foreign news organisations provide local-language news bulletins on short-wave
radio frequencies and satellite television that are primary news sources for
many people in the former Burma.
Myanmar’s government has long struggled
to control overseas’ news. Removing the slogans is seen as the latest gesture of
openness since elections last year ended five decades of army rule and ushered
in a civilian-led administration.
Some private media, which routinely
exercise self-censorship, have run stories recently quoting lawmakers critical
of government policies and the country’s reclusive Information Ministry
announced last week it had formed a “Spokespersons and Information Team” to
State newspapers have also been less critical of
Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the figurehead of Myanmar’s democracy movement
who was freed last year when her period of house arrest expired.
Myanmar’s television media remains strictly controlled by the government,
foreign journalists are still mostly barred from legally reporting in the
country and most foreign media websites remain blocked.
Western sanctions to remain in place until an estimated 2,100 political
prisoners are released. (Reporting by Aung Hla Tun; Editing by Martin Petty
and Sanjeev Miglani)
Land seizures ongoing: Mon NGO
Irrawaddy: Wed 17 Aug 2011
Ongoing cases of land confiscation have
been reported in Burma’s Shan, Arakan, Mon and Karen states, as well as in
Tenasserim Division, according to human rights groups and local
The Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) released a
report on Monday that claims that some 20,000 acres of land have been seized
over the past 10 years by the Burmese military in Mon and Karen states and
Nearly 4,000 acres of rubber plantations have
reportedly been confiscated since December 2010 from residents of Kywe Thone Nyi
Ma Island and the easterly neighboring villages on the mainland in Yebyu
Township in Tenasserim by Burmese Navy Unit No. 43, under the command of Ka
Dike. The lands were reportedly seized to make way for the construction of navy
regional command headquarters, military training grounds and army
The Zaykabar Company—which is owned by Khin Shwe, a prominent
Union Solidarity and Development Party member—reportedly confiscated 800 acres
of farmers’ land in Kyaikmayaw Township, Mon State.
Speaking to The
Irrawaddy on Tuesday, Nai Aue Mon of HURFOM said, “Nearly 240 rubber plantation
owners have been made homeless.”
HURFOM has submitted its report to
President Thein Sein, to the All Mon Region Democracy Party and the UN Human
Rights Special Rapporteur for Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana. Nai Aue Mon said he
wants the matter investigated, as well as the group’s allegations of human
rights violations by the Burmese army.
Pho Phyu, a lawyer who has
previously represented Rangoon and Irrawaddy farmers in land seizure cases, said
land confiscations have been taking place in three ways: seizures by the
commander-in- chief of the region; by private companies; and by financiers who
are backed by the military.
“The government must change its policy on
agriculture,” said Pho Phyu. “The government loan of just 20,000 kyat [US $27]
per acre to farmers is not enough. They then have to borrow more money from
financiers who charge interest. In the end, they cannot repay the loan and lose
The Yuzana Company was granted 200,000 acres in the Hugawng
Valley Tiger Reserve in 2006 to establish tapioca and sugar cane plantations,
according to a report by the Kachin Development Networking Group.
confiscations by the company evicted some 600 farmers from their lands between
2006 and 2008 without full compensation, and displaced them to areas far from
their original homes.
Meanwhile, with the backing of Shan State
administration chief Khin Maung Than, Loilem district administrator Kyaw Khaing
Soe sold three miles of land beside the Panglong-Lacha highway to a Chinese
businessman. He also demarcated land into plots beside the football stadium in
Panglong, according to local residents.
“The battalion commander in the
region, some of the lecturers from Panglong University and government ministers
received those plots,” said an internal source. “The State government didn’t
know what they were doing. They backdated the documents to December 2010 because
this was during a transition of government.”
confiscations have been taking place in Arakan State, affecting local residents
near the Kyauk Phyu seaport project and gas pipelines that will connect to
“We are discussing the farmers’ complaints with State ministers,”
said Tin Pe, a State and Region candidate from the Rakhine Nationalities
Development Party. “But I don’t know the result yet.”
Enhanced ties between Sri Lanka and
Asian Tribune: Wed 17 Aug 2011
Colombo – Sri
Lanka’s Deputy Minister of External Affairs Neomal Perera receiving Myanmar’s
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs U Maung Myint at Sri Lanka’s Ministry of
External Affairs. Myanmar’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs U Maung Myint, on
a bilateral visit to Sri Lanka, called on Deputy Minister of External Affairs
Neomal Perera at the Ministry of External Affairs on 15th of
During the bilateral discussions both Sri Lanka and Myanmar
pledged to further enhance and consolidate relations between the two countries
based on cultural and religious affiliations which date back to many
The Myanmar Deputy Minister gave an updated account of the
political process underway in the country, highlighting the recent election of
the new Constitutional Government of the Union of the Republic of Myanmar. He
reiterated their firm commitment to further strengthening democracy in the
Extending the personal best wishes of the President and the
Foreign Minister of Myanmar to the President and the Minister of Foreign Affairs
of Sri Lanka, the visiting envoy congratulated Sri Lanka on the successful
elimination of terrorism and steering the country towards economic and social
Deputy Minister Perera identified the need for connectivity
as a priority area in further enhancing opportunities for collaboration between
the two countries, particularly with the advent of peace and stability in the
Both sides acknowledged the need to convene the 3rd session of
the Joint Commission in Myanmar at a mutually convenient time towards the latter
part of 2011. The gem and jewellery sector, trade in services and Buddhist
circuit tourism were focused upon as potential areas for a collaborative
While recalling the State visit of the President to Myanmar
in 2009 for the 60th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations, Myanamar visiting
envoy reiterated the need for high level visits in the future and proposed to
have a mechanism in place for Foreign Ministry level consultations.
Deputy Minister of Myanmar who arrived in Sri Lanka at the invitation of the
Deputy Minister of External Affairs would be in the country from 15th – 18th
August 2011. During his stay, he called on the Minister of External Affairs,
Prof. G. L. Peiris. He also visited Anuradhapura and Kandy and held discussions
with the Chief Minister of the North Central Province and expressed resolve to
work towards strengthening religious ties between the two countries.
NLD offers young members political training
course in Bangkok
Mizzima News: Wed 17 Aug 2011
Mai – National League for Democracy (NLD) Vice Chairman Tin Oo organized a
political science training course for members of the NLD youth wing and Youth
Network in Bangkok recently. Tin Oo gave a welcoming speech in Rangoon Tuesday
to participants who returned from a training workshop held from August 7 to 15
at the Sena Palace Hotel in Bangkok, according to the NLD Web
Overseas donors supported the political training trip for young
Burmese. The 14 youth who took part flew to Thailand from Burma and returned to
Rangoon when the workshop was completed. The classes were taught by
As part of their political orientation, they visited the Thai
Parliament and the headquarters of Thailand’s opposition Democratic
The NLD has been active in offering education courses and holding
meetings to establish networks for young people.
Building civil society in Burma – Editorial
Voice of America: Wed 17 Aug 2011
leader Aung San Suu Kyi recently made her first political trip outside Rangoon
since being released from house arrest. The United States has long encouraged
the government of Burma to engage in a meaningful political dialogue with the
Southeast Asian nation’s democratic opposition and ethnic minorities. An open
and respectful discussion of the issues facing the country and its people
provide a means toward national reconciliation and a shared way
It is thus that the U.S. takes note that Burmese opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi recently made her first political trip outside Rangoon
since being released last fall from a lengthy house arrest. She met with
supporters in two towns and comforted victims of recent flooding in the region.
Despite concerns voiced in the state-controlled media that the trip could incite
unrest, she was met by hundreds of peaceful supporters and the events came off
without incident. She also participated in the opening of two libraries during
her trip to Bago, valuable investments in education and an important
contribution to the growth of civil society. In three speeches, Aung San Suu Kyi
called for national unity and urged that the people’s voice be heard in national
Beyond her trip, Aung San Suu Kyi also has met with the Minister
of Labor and Social Welfare Aung Kyi.
Outreach by Aung San Suu Kyi and
the National League for Democracy are an important part of civil society
building in Burma. The United States supports such efforts and welcomes
initiatives from all parts of Burmese society towards those ends. We continue to
call on the Burmese government to ensure that all of its citizens are free to
travel, express their views and participate fully in the nation’s political
Energy companies silent in Myanmar
United Press International: Tue 16 Aug 2011
Thailand — Energy projects developed by Asian neighbors to Myanmar are in part
to blame for regional conflicts and mass displacements, an environmental group
claims. Chinese energy companies are working to construct oil and natural gas
pipelines across Myanmar. Several dams are planned as well for the Irrawaddy
Meanwhile, fighting in the region between the army of Myanmar and
several ethnic national groups is creating problems for the civilian population
in the northern parts of the country.
EarthRights International notes
that civilians are fleeing the area. As many as 30,000 villagers have fled
The advocacy group complains that while mass
displacement is growing worse in the region as the fighting intensifies, energy
companies in the area remain silent on the issue.
International in a statement said this inaction is inexcusable given the level
of influence they have over the military and government in Myanmar.
group says that energy companies working with the government require state
security protection for their projects.
Will Naypyidaw’s olive branch bear fruit? – Ba
Irrawaddy: Tue 16 Aug 2011
Two closed-door meetings
between Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Burma’s pro-democracy movement, and Aung
Kyi, a Burmese government minister, which were immediately followed by Suu Kyi’s
unhindered public tour of a town near Rangoon on Sunday, have generated optimism
among her supporters that a rapprochement is under way between the democratic
opposition and the new Burmese government. “There is some progress between us
and the government, and Daw Suu has asked the minister for a timeframe for the
future meetings,” said an official from Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy
Suu Kyi and the government have kept the details of their
discussions secret thus far, but sources said that the topics of the two
meetings included the release of political prisoners, the armed conflicts in
ethnic areas and the status of the NLD, which was officially dissolved last year
for failing to register under the election laws.
As a direct result of
the meetings, some of the government’s 2,000 plus political prisoners are
expected to be released within weeks, according to inside party sources. It is
unclear, however, whether those prisoners being released will include prominent
dissidents such as former student leader Min Ko Naing.
But even if some
prisoners are actually released during this period of apparent détente between
the government and Suu Kyi, past periods of leniency have frequently been
followed by crackdowns, such as the Depayin massacre and re-arrest of Suu Kyi in
So the question remains: How substantive will the government’s
olive branches will be?
One clear indication will be whether the
government officially acknowledges the legal existence of the NLD as a political
party, with Suu Kyi as its leader. The NLD has exhausted the country’s legal
methods for obtaining renewed legal recognition following its dissolution by the
government last year, and have even considered enlisting the help of the UN on
On Friday, Government information minister Kyaw Hsan said at a
press conference in Naypyidaw that the NLD needs to register through the formal
The move will require the party to agree to a condition under
the election laws that states the party will act in accordance with the 2008
Constitution, which was drafted by the previous military regime and the NLD has
dismissed as undemocratic—in fact it was the primary reason the party boycotted
the 2010 election.
While Suu Kyi has urged her followers to regard the
current talks with cautious optimism, there is concern that the government might
be using her for public relations purposes only.
Some observers point out
that in the coming months, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)
will make a final decision on whether to award Burma its 2014 chair, and the
government may be using the meetings with Suu Kyi to persuade Asean to act in
If Burma is given the Asean chair, it will provide much-needed
legitimacy for Naypyidaw’s military-dominated government, which came to power
through a heavily-criticized election. And because some Asean members and the
association’s most influential Western partners have said the case must be
decided based on Burma’s political and economic reforms, the government is
motivated to put on a good face at this time.
“They are using her [Suu
Kyi] as much as they can, as they seek normalization of their deepening and
“constitutionalized” class rule as a military-business class in terms of
international relations,” said Dr. Zarni, a visiting fellow with the London
School of Economics and Political Science.
“They may have figured out
that her popularity is that of a pop star, as opposed to a revolutionary figure
who will inspire the masses to serious and sustained revolt,” he said. “So the
generals obviously have rethought and reworked their approach to containing
In another apparent attempt to project a reformist image, the
Burmese government has reportedly sought the help of the International Monetary
Fund in modernizing its currency exchange system. And in a related event, the
government information minister announced on Friday that the country will
withdraw foreign exchange certificates (FECs) from the market.
while talk from Naypyidaw related to certain reform topics has become louder,
the armed clashes between government troops and the ethnic Kachin Independence
Army (KIA) in the north show no signs of slowing.
There is also a
reported division among the government’s top leadership, consisting of areformist group led by President Thein Sein and a conservative hard-line camp
led by Vice-President Tin Aung Myint Oo.
If the reports prove true, Thein
Sein will have to go to great lengths if he chooses to fight against the
entrenched corruption and bureaucratic intransigence within the system, as well
as the interest groups dependent on it.
It is noteworthy that the
country’s state-run newspapers portrayed Tin Aung Myint Oo in a strong positive
light on their front pages for two consecutive days last week—he was seen
greeting flood victims in Mon State and telling local authorities that the new
government in Naypyidaw is effectively exercising executive, legislative and
judiciary powers in line with the Constitution.
“The coverage aims to
show the tooth of the conservative forces in the government, and we have yet to
see some sort of consensus among the top ranks,” said the leader of a major
political party represented in the national Parliament, who described the
situation as more of an internal conflict than a power struggle.
despite the positive signals emerging from talks with Suu Kyi, there is still
confusion and uncertainty over the direction Burma’s government is heading, as
well as its motivations.
Growing numbers of displaced Kachin suffer
from Burmese regime’s blockage of aid
Kachin Women’s Association
Thailand: Tue 16 Aug 2011
The refusal of Burma’s military regime to
allow international aid to the growing numbers of war-affected Kachin is causing
critical hardship for these displaced communities. Ongoing atrocities by the
Burma Army troops, despite continuing ceasefire negotiations with the Kachin
Independence Army (KIA), are driving increased numbers of villagers to flee to
towns or border areas. Numbers of displaced along the mountainous China-Burma
border have risen from 16,000 in July to nearly 20,000, sheltering in 15
makeshift camps. Over 3,000 are seeking refuge in the Kachin capital Myitkyina
and the nearby town of Waimaw.
On August 9, a 39-year-old woman and her
17-year-old daughter were gang-raped and killed by troops from Burma Army Light
Infantry Battalion 37 near Waimaw. On July 31, a 15-year-old boy was shot and
killed when he fled from a Burmese patrol near Kamaing, west of
The regime stated in its August 12 press conference that
authorities had opened centres in Kachin towns for the displaced, who were being
assisted by various local organizations. In fact, these displaced are mainly
sheltering in churches, where local communities are struggling to provide
support, and international and local NGOs have been expressly forbidden to
Tens of thousands of sacks of rice stockpiled in the World
Food Program’s Myitkyina storehouse have been untouched since the fighting began
on June 9, when the Burma Army broke its 17-year-long ceasefire with the
Those displaced in camps along the China-Burma border are surviving
on donations of rice and occasional other food supplies from local communities.
Lack of proper food is starting to cause malnutrition among the
“We urge international donors to push for access to the
war-affected in Kachin State,” said Shirley Seng, spokesperson of the Kachin
Women’s Association Thailand. “They must not stand by while the regime blocks
aid to those who desperately need it.”
A map of areas of fighting and
displacement in Kachin State can be viewed on www.kachinwomen.com
Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT) is a non profit-making organization working
on behalf of Kachin women. We have a vision of a Kachin State where all forms of
discrimination are eliminated; where all women are empowered to participate in
decision making at a local, national and international level; and where all
Kachin children have the opportunity to fulfill their potential.
Myanmar cuts export tax to help offset
Reuters: Mon 15 Aug 2011
Myanmar cut export taxes on certain goods for the second time in as many months
to help exporters who have been hurt by the appreciation in the local currency,
the kyat .
Total taxes on export revenue have been cut to 2 percent from
7 percent for six months from Monday, Aug. 15, a senior Commerce Ministry told
Reuters, declining to be identified.
Taxes were cut from 10 percent at
the end of June.
The kyat has risen around 20 percent against the dollar
over the past year.
Despite Western sanctions, investment money has
flooded into the country because of its abundant mineral resources and the
repatriation of funds by wealthy Burmese buying up state assets last year in a
The seven export items covered by the temporary
measure are rice, beans and pulses, sesame, rubber, corn, marine products, and
animals and animal products.
Businessmen said the measure did not go far
“It’s a pity the latest measure does not cover some other
important export items like garments and wood products,” said Myint Soe, a
vice-chairman of the Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry
Hotel and tourist sector officials said they were also suffering
from the strong kyat. (Reporting by Aung Hla Tun; Editing by Alan
Dams on Burma’s Irrawaddy River becomes a
national cause – Zin Linn
Asian Tribune: Mon 15 Aug 2011
It was noteworthy, the Chairman of the Kachin Independence Organization
(KIO), Lanyaw Zawng Hra sent an official letter dated May 16 to Hu Jintao, the
President of the People’s Republic of China urging China to stop the
controversial Myitsone dam construction on Irrawaddy River in Kachin State of
Burma, Kachin News Group (KNG) said on 23 May, 2011.In the open letter the KIO
warned Myitsone and six other hydroelectric power plant projects could lead to
civil war between the KIA, the armed wing of the KIO, and the Burmese Army
because Burmese troops have been deployed to the KIO control areas to provide
security for the dam-construction projects.
According to Kachin News
Group, numerous complaint letters concerning construction of the Myitsone dam
have been sent to the Burmese and Chinese governments by local people, the
Kachin National Consultative Assembly (KNCA) and the KIO. However, no action has
been taken to tackle the worries expressed by the Kachin community.
official letter to Hu Jintao says, “Except the Dam Project in Mali-N’mai
Confluence (Myitsone dam), we have no objections against the other six Hydro
Power Plant Projects. However, we have also informed the Asia World Co Ltd to
make a decision only after assessing the consequences of the Dam
The Kachin Development and Networking Group (KDNG) has
warned publicly that the Myitsone dam construction is going to displace 15,000
neighboring Kachin natives and millions of people living downstream of the dam
construction location because of inundation.
According to the
environmentalist group, thousands of people have been forced to move from their
home villages near the 6,000-megawatt dam construction project site. The
displaced villagers have to struggle finding new livelihoods, adequate
healthcare services and education for their children at new villages, the
watchdog group said.
In the past, Kachin people had made an official plea
to the former junta’s boss Senior-General Than Shwe to stop the project due to
environmental damage. But he always turned a deaf ear to the call. The junta
boss regularly obeys the rules of the Chinese authorities over the dam
Construction at Myitsone began December 21, 2009, led by
China’s state owned China Power Investment Corporation (CPI) in cooperation with
Burma’s Asia World Company (AWC) and the Burmese government’s No. 1 Ministry of
Electric Power. Remarkably, AWC owner is former drug lord Lo Hsing Han. As a
result, the KIO warned CPI employees not to enter its area in the dam
construction sites north of the Mali-N’mai Rivers. The reason was that KIO has
stopped cooperating with the Burmese government when the government discontinued
the 1994 truce on September 1, 2010.
Environmental activists and
researchers say the project will force Kachin villagers to abandon their homes
and could face inundation of an area, the size of Singapore, all caused by the
government’s eagerness to satisfy China as it needs more power for its growing
According to Burma River Network, the Irrawaddy River
provides vital nutrients to wetlands and floodplain areas downstream including
the delta region which provides nearly 60% of Burma’s rice. Changes to the
river’s flow and the blocking of crucial sediments will affect millions farmers
throughout Burma and decrease rice production.
The watchdog network also
pointed out that the dams will forever change Burma’s main river ecosystem and
an important Asian river. Eighty-four percent of the Irrawaddy River’s water
originates above the dam sites and will be affected by these dams. The network
said that the dam is located 100 kilometers from a major fault line in an
earthquake-prone area; if the dam breaks, it will flood Kachin State’s capital
city of 150,000 that lies just 40 kilometers downstream of the dam.
statement issued on 11 August (Thursday), Burma’s Nobel laureate Aung San Suu
Kyi said the dam endangers the flow of the Irrawaddy River, which she described
as “the most significant geographical feature of our country.” She warned that
12,000 people from 63 villages have been relocated, although an article in the
government-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper Wednesday reported that 2,146
people had been ordered to leave their homes and relocated.
recently released a letter calling on promoters of the Myitsone dam project to
reassess the plan, pointing out concerns that dams on the Irrawaddy River damage
the environment, decrease rice production, dislodge ethnic peoples. Besides, it
would hurt livelihoods of local communities and there is a risk of possible
“We believe that, taking into account the
interests of both countries, both governments would hope to avoid consequences
which might jeopardize lives and homes,” Suu Kyi emphasized. “To safeguard the
Irrawaddy is to save from harm our economy and our environment, as well as to
protect our cultural heritage,” she added.
One can find an environmental
impact assessment on Thailand-based Burma Rivers Network web-site which was
conducted by a team of Burmese and Chinese scientists. The 945-page
“environmental impact assessment,” fully funded by China’s CPI Corporation and
conducted by a team of Burmese and Chinese scientists, recommends not proceeding
with the Irrawaddy Myitsone Dam. “There is no need for such a big dam to be
constructed at the confluence of the Irrawaddy River” says the
Building of dams has become also a rising political issue in
China’s relations with countries in Southeast Asia; a region increasingly
dependent on the watercourse of rivers may perhaps reduce their capacity to
irrigate paddy fields.
The Burmese government state media has continued
saying that the Myitsone dam project will not produce negative impact on the
watercourse of the Irrawaddy or on the livelihoods of the native
Local ethnic populace has been displaced from their homes to
make way for dams and reservoirs. But construction companies close to the
authorities benefit from those dams. They receive millions of dollars for
designing and building dams. The government officials also gain black earnings
in many ways – illegal taxes, kickbacks and inducement – during building of a
Anyhow, Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s most distinguished opposition
figure, may heighten international reaction of the Myitsone dam project which
seriously disapproved by environmental and human rights groups. The dam projects
are, however, creating widespread political criticism countrywide for the
Myanmar government urges Suu Kyi to register
Associated Press: Fri 12 Aug 2011
Nay Pyi Taw,
Myanmar – Myanmar’s government urged pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on
Friday to officially register her National League for Democracy as a party, a
step that would imply its acceptance of the government’s legitimacy and also
allow it to legally take part in politics. Information Minister Kyaw Hsan’s
suggestion at a rare news conference came two days before Suu Kyi plans to make
her first political foray into the countryside since her release from seven
years of house arrest last November.
It also came as she held a second
meeting with a government minister in what appeared to be preliminary talks on
establishing a dialogue.
Kyaw Hsan said the government has not cracked
down on the NLD’s failure to register in the interests of national
If Suu Kyi’s group reaches an accommodation with the
government, it could serve as a reason for Western nations to lift political and
economic embargoes on the country that have hindered development and pushed it
into dependence on neighboring China.
What Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu
Kyi would expect in exchange for registering her party is unclear, though it
could include the freedom of some of the country’s 2,000 political
The previous military government ordered the NLD’s dissolution
after it refused to register for last November’s general election, which it
called unfair and undemocratic. The NLD contends its deregistration by the
government was illegal, but a lawsuit seeking its reinstatement was dismissed.
It nonetheless continues to carry out organized activities.
nominally civilian elected government took power in March. However, it is led by
retired military figures, and the constitution ensures that the military retains
Suu Kyi’s last political trip to the countryside in 2003 drew
huge crowds but also the wrath of the then-ruling military junta, whose
supporters ambushed her entourage. She was detained and later placed under house
The state-controlled media have warned her against making
political trips, saying they could trigger chaos and riots.
Friday, Suu Kyi held her second meeting with Labor and Social Welfare Minister
Aung Kyi. They met previously on July 25, though details of those talks were not
Kyaw Hsan said both sides agreed Friday to work “toward more
cooperation in implementing democracy according to the constitution,” but gave
He added that future meetings were in the works.
Kyi, who has spent most of the past two decades under house arrest, has
repeatedly asked for a dialogue with the government. Previous such initiatives
have never gotten far.
Suu Kyi’s party overwhelmingly won a 1990 general
election but was barred from taking power by the army.
Suu Kyi, Burmese gov’t agree to work together
to avoid conflicting views – Te Te
Mizzima News: Fri 12 Aug 2011
New Delhi – Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and a
government representative, Minister Aung Kyi, on Friday agreed in a four-point
statement to avoid conflicting views and to work on a reciprocal
It was the second meeting this year between the minister and Suu
Kyi at a government guesthouse in Rangoon.
The meeting lasted 50 minutes.
After the meeting, Aung Kyi read a joint statement to reporters.
statement’s four points are:
1. Will cooperate with the government for
stability and development in the country to fulfill the necessary aspirations of
2. Will cooperate constructively for the flourishing of democracy
in the country and better development in economic and social works.
avoid conflicting views and focus on mutual cooperation.
4. Will continue the
Responding to a reporter’s question on whether there had been
real progress in the meetings, Suu Kyi said, “If there is cooperation, there
must be progress in ethnic affairs and all other things including the
Responding to an open letter sent by Suu Kyi to the newly formed
government and ethnic armed groups calling for a nationwide cease-fire, Aung Kyi
said, “This is one of the agendas under our cooperation.”
“Cooperation is badly needed in our country, and it is a major issue. If we can
resolve this issue, other issues will be resolved more easily.”
is the minister of social welfare, relief and resettlement. He and democratic
opposition leader Suu Kyi met previously on July 25. At that meeting, both sides
said their talks were productive, but they did not disclose details of the
Three days after that meeting, Suu Kyi issued an open letter
calling for peace between the government and ethnic armed groups. Similarly, she
issued a statement on Thursday expressing her concerns over the building of
Myitsone Dam on the Irrawaddy River in eastern Burma.
said it is apparent that the government has made a decision to reach out to Suu
Kyi in an effort to use her influence and prestige in connection with serious
issues that face Burma, including poverty, a civil war, a stagnant economy,
currency concerns, the environment and other matters.
On the other hand,
some observers said the government might be trying to compromise Suu Kyi’s
autonomy and soften her criticism of the government and the former military
Currently, Burma is seeking the chair of Asean for 2014 even
as there are calls from the international community for a UN Commission of
Inquiry to investigate charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity against
the former military regime.
Among the concerns that Suu Kyi has
repeatedly addressed is the immediate release of all political prisoners in
Burmese jails, which now number more than 2,000 prisoners.
New Myanmar government to drop foreign
Deustche Press Agentur: Fri 12 Aug 2011
Naypyitaw, Myanmar – Myanmar’s new government is planning to withdraw
foreign exchange certificates (FECs) from the market, after imposing them on
foreigners for almost two decades, officials said Friday. ‘In the near future
there will be no more FECs, just kyat and foreign currencies,’ Information
Minister Kyaw Hsan told a press conference, one of the first held by Myanmar’s
new elected government since it took office in April.
The FECs were first
introduced in 1993 as a means of keeping foreign currency under government
Visiting foreign tourists were required to purchase 200 US
dollars worth of FECs at the airport on arrival and foreign businessmen and aid
workers were required to use the FEC for official transactions, often at an
exchange rate loss.
The FEC was intended to prevent all foreign exchange
from being traded on the black market, which offered rates of about 1,000 kyat
to the dollar compared with the government’s official rate of 6 kyat to the
dollar and 450 kyat for one FEC.
‘Burma’s multiple exchange rates make
conversion and repatriation of foreign exchange very complex, and ripe for
corruption,’ one US State Department report said of the system.
months, the local kyat currency has strengthened against the dollar and FEC,
apparently on account of a huge influx of dollars into the economy.
Hsan said holders of FECs should not worry, because the government will buy back
the currency from them with dollars or kyat, although he did not specify at what
How sanctions made Burma’s richest man
Financial Times (UK): Fri 12 Aug 2011
his Rangoon home in a light summer rain, surrounded by some of the world’s most
expensive automobiles, Tay Za admits that he does not drive that often and
cannot name the model of Ferrari that he is standing next to – just one of his
20-30 cars. “Actually, I bought them for the pride of Myanmar,” he
Mr Tay Za is believed to be Burma’s richest businessman. He has
also notched up another superlative: he is number one on the European Union’s
sanctions list of “persons who benefit from government economic
European and US nationals are banned from doing business with
him – and his estranged wife, oldest son, mother, brother or sister-in-law. Yet
his wine cellar is stocked with a series of vintages from Chateaux Petrus and
Margaux, while a Rolls-Royce and a Lamborghini stand next to the Ferrari. His
palatial Rangoon home sits down the street from the dilapidated villa where
Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi spent more than 15 years under house
He declines to put a value on his wealth. But he does acknowledge
that the sanctions imposed on Burma, which were ramped up in 2005, have made him
richer and the government more powerful. He continues to trade with China but
independent critics say that western sanctions have prevented the emergence of a
broader business class.
“There was more opportunity because there was
less competition,” he says. “Our government never considers sanctions because
after sanctions [were imposed] they became stronger and stronger.”
Za got his start in the late 1980s, just as Burma was emerging from the chaos of
General Ne Win’s ruinous “Burmese Path to Socialism”, which included mass
nationalisation and a decision to make all bank notes divisible by nine, among
He says he joined other students on the streets in
anti-government protests in 1988, but in the early 1990s he realised there were
opportunities in the timber industry and set up Htoo Trading to take
“People didn’t have the confidence to invest in this part of
the business, so we were the ones to take risks,” he says. He describes buying
standing timber at a price of $10 a tree: “No one was buying at that time
because people didn’t believe in Myanmar yet,” he says. Three years later each
tree was worth $500-$600.
The Htoo Group now has some 60,000 permanent
employees, while Mr Tay Za’s assets range from timber to tourism, banking and
The sanctions that he says have helped to enrich him are now
the focus of a bitter international debate. Some argue they have been
counter-productive and should be progressively lifted, while others counter that
they should remain until there is measurable improvement in the indices of
Burma held its first democratic elections in more than 20
years last November and while there is widespread evidence that the ballot was
rigged to favour allies of the military regime that had run the country for
almost four decades, there have been hopes that the move to a nominally civilian
government four months ago could herald a change in the way the country
functions, particularly economically.
Mr Tay Za, sitting on a sofa
upholstered in pale crocodile skin, says that sanctions have had a more damaging
effect on the people of Burma, one of the poorest countries in Asia. “The main
issue is sanctions: for the basic people, for development it is sanctions,” he
This argument may be self-interested but it is also increasingly
“Sanctions have severely retarded the development of a broad
professional and business class, the very class that will be vital for a
successful democratic transition,” says Thant Myint-U, an author and Burma
Burmese army exploits prisoners – David Scott
Fri 12 Aug 2011
Chiang Mai, Thailand — When I
interviewed 20-year-old Tun Tun Aung (not his real name) he had a bullet wound
in his shoulder that had shattered his arm.
He was shot escaping the
Burmese army early this year, after weeks of service as a front-line
The army usually coerces civilians on Burma’s periphery into this
work, forcing ethnic villagers to carry military supplies through conflict
For major military operations, however, they gather hundreds of
convicted prisoners, who are considered more disposable. Many do not return.
Lucky survivors like Tun Tun Aung escape to Thailand
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