Wednesday, October 31, 2007

China's So-Called Internal Affair

Burma: Zoya Phan at the Conservative Conference

Razali Ismael UN envoy to the country, about the current violence

Sir David Frost talks to Zoya Phan, an exile from Mynamar, formerly knowns as Burma, and Razali Ismael, former and why the people are agitating f...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

China and the struggle in Burma ( Most Watched Video)

Monks march as UN envoy prepares return visit

9 minutes ago

YANGON (AFP) - About 100 Buddhist monks marched Wednesday in central Myanmar for the first time since the junta's deadly crackdown on anti-government protests last month, witnesses said

The peaceful demonstration came as officials said UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari would arrive in Myanmar at the weekend for his second round of talks with the ruling generals amid ongoing international concern over September's violence.

The monks marched for about 30 minutes in the town of Pakokku, the scene of one of the most serious confrontations with the military as mass street rallies escalated towards their bloody conclusion, which left 13 people dead.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Myanmar airline to stop flights to Singapore

Reuters - Saturday,
October 27 SINGAPORE,

Myanmar airline Air Bagan will suspend flights to Singapore next month, travel agents said on Saturday, making it one of the first casualties of increased international sanctions against's Myanmar's military junta.

The airline, which is on a U.S. government blacklist because of its close ties to the junta, would stop flights to Singapore on Nov. 5, an agent at Singapore's New Shan Travel Service told Reuters, citing a memo the airline sent to travel agents.

The airline could not immediately be reached for comment.

Singapore, one of Myanmar's biggest investors, is under pressure from rights groups to use its economic clout to push the ruling generals down a more democratic path, after the junta's bloody crackdown against a monk-led revolt last month.

In an email to about 15 tour operators who sell Air Bagan tickets, Gopi Bala, Air Bagan's senior sales and marketing manager, said the U.S. sanctions had cut off the carrier's access to spare parts, Singapore's Today newspaper said on its Web site.

The final blow came this week when its banks in Singapore informed the airline they would "stop dealing with us for the time being", the paper cited Gopi as saying.

Washington has increased its sanctions against Myanmar's military rulers, but on Monday Singapore's foreign minister ruled out sanctions from Southeast Asian nations against Myanmar.

New Shan Travel Service also said passenger traffic on the Yangon-Singapore route had not been good.

Junta accuses U.S. of inciting recent demonstrations

The Associated PressPublished: October 28, 2007

YANGON, Myanmar: Myanmar's military government stepped up its propaganda campaign against the United States on Sunday, accusing Washington of inciting the recent pro-democracy demonstrations in a bid to install a puppet government.

"Recent protests in the country were created by the loudmouthed bully, using the exiled dissidents and traitors together with communists, internal and external anti-government destructionists," said a commentary Sunday in the Myanma Ahlin daily.

Read More: About Mouth Piece Media of Ruling Generals

UN: Breaking News

At UN headquarters, the Secretary-General’s latest report to the General Assembly on the situation of human rights in Myanmar is out as a document.

In his observations, the Secretary-General said the tragic events of recent weeks in Myanmar clearly constituted a serious setback for the country, as the Government’s repressive response to the demonstrations comes at a time when Myanmar is striving to move forward towards national reconciliation and the restoration of democracy.

The Secretary-General believes that the Myanmar Government should seize the opportunity to take bold actions towards democratization and respect for human rights.

He also urged the Myanmar Government to be more responsive to the extremely fragile humanitarian and socio-economic context within which the recent demonstrations and crisis broke out.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

UN envoy and Japanese officials urge Myanmar to begin talks with opposition

26 October 2007 – In Tokyo today, the United Nations Special Envoy for Myanmar joined senior Japanese officials in calling on authorities in the South-East Asian nation to begin a genuine dialogue with the opposition to resolve the ongoing crisis there.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Racheting up... toward isolating Burmese Generals

Justice for Human Rights in Burma
October 25, 2007

Recent developments in Burma are partly encouraging and mostly discouraging. SPDC is still thumbing the nose of international community by arresting and sentencing long prison terms to innocent protesters; it mouth piece media are still writing and airing rubbish; recently appointed a committee to draft a constitution for its "19 years and counting" process of its own political solution to Burma crisis and etc.. These developments are very disturbing.

Partly encouraging is, unlike Razali mission, Mr. Gambiri is shuttling throughout Asia and working his diplomatic mission albeit at a UN speed (although at the fastest speed allowed in UN speed limit). Hopefully, his mission will emerge into a similar form of six-party talk on North Korea with requirements that must be met by parties involve and consequences. Preferably, he should be allowed to convey a message that a possibility of a UN tribunal if the conditions are not met when meeting with the generals. That will speed up things much faster.

SPDC is cunning and shrewd. Do not forget they already outlived and out-maneuvered Razali and Kofi Annan. Few days ago SPDC tried to play politics by demanding that DASSK revokes her call for “sanctions toward Burma”. It is a cunning assertion. The assertion intends to pitch her and the exiled groups against the people. She and the exiled groups never ask for an encompassing sanction that will hurt ordinary citizens of Burma. Neither there exist a sanction of that nature on Burma. After all, the international community is targeting only the SPDC’s elites and its close associates with their respective sanctions. In other words, the international is acting and calling for isolating SPDC’s elites and their close associates. It is not isolating Burma. We must see the difference clearly, especially the Burmese media outlets that are airing information into Burma. They should see and understand that difference---isolating Burma vs. isolating the SPDC.

The next immediate follow-up action in the pipe-line should be sending Burma’s envoys (ambassadors) abroad who have served in the military back to Rangoon. The international community should rescind the acceptance of Burma’s credentials. There are about 30 Burmese embassies abroad. They are envied lucrative posts. Just think about this, a used Toyota Land Cruiser or Escalade (worth $30,000-$40000) fetches $600,000 (yes 600 million kyats) in Rangoon. These diplomatic assignments are regarded as transfers so they can take all the belongings home when their assignments are done.

Eventually, international community should consider either brings the generals (from Sr. Gen Than Shwe downward to Brigadier Generals) to ICC or a UN Tribunal. They should start compiling the list and make the SPDC known that it is not just a mere possibility but it is going to be the SPDC elite’s eventuality.

Win Moe
Fort Wayne, Indiana

Unity Lacking On Diplomatic Approach to Burma's Junta

By Jill Drew
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, October 25, 2007; Page A13

BANGKOK, Oct. 24 -- While activists focus on increasing pressure on Burma's military leaders to open a dialogue with the country's pro-democracy activists, diplomatic consensus is eroding on what steps to take next.

Pro-democracy advocates had hoped that last month's protests -- led by monks, who are revered in Burma -- would galvanize world opinion and create enough outside pressure to force the junta's leaders to the bargaining table. Indeed, for the first time, the U.N. Security Council approved a formal censure of Burma and called for all political prisoners to be released.

But now there are growing divisions among countries about the best approach to Burma. And those who sense that democracy is closer than it has been in decades are grappling with how the country's transition would be managed.

"That bright and shining moment, that's crumbled," said one diplomat, who spoke frankly on condition of anonymity. He was referring to the strong language in September from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which expressed "revulsion" at Burma's bloody crackdown on the protesters, in which at least 10 and perhaps hundreds were killed. Now, some of ASEAN's 10 members are questioning current sanctions against Burma's government, arguing that countries should engage the generals rather than cut them off. "There is no consensus," the diplomat added.

ASEAN is scheduled in November to celebrate Burma's 10-year anniversary as a member of the group and adopt a new charter that could include clauses addressing issues of human rights and good governance. Some diplomats had hoped that before the high-profile meeting, ASEAN would unify to take an active role in helping Burma, which the generals call Myanmar, toward a dialogue on democracy.

"The attempt by ASEAN to rein in the Burmese regime has been futile," said Kraisak Choonhavan, a former Thai senator now running in elections scheduled for December to reestablish a democratic government in Thailand after a 2006 coup. Kraisak said he opposes the view expressed by some governments, which urge closer cooperation with Burma's leaders, because he believes it would lead to more refugees fleeing into neighboring Thailand.

About 3 million Burmese migrants already live in Thailand, Kraisak said. "All the migrants tell one story -- about abuse of power by the military."

China and India, meanwhile, which are vying to deepen their strong business ties in resource-rich Burma, have taken a hands-off attitude in the aftermath of the government's crackdown. U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari met Wednesday with China's assistant foreign minister, He Yafei, in the first of two days of talks about Burma. The Chinese official expressed support for Gambari's attempt to structure a meaningful dialogue, but reiterated China's position that Burma's problems are an internal matter.

Activists say they believe China might be vulnerable to pressure to reconsider its position because the day it picked to open the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Aug. 8, is the same date when in 1988 the Burmese military crushed a student-led protest, killing an estimated 3,000 people.

Burmese authorities, meanwhile, have arrested seven more dissidents since Saturday, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), which tracks, documents and reports on those missing and detained in the country. The government continues to stage rallies throughout the country condemning last month's protests.

At the same time, the generals are trying to convey a greater sense of movement and openness. They invited U.N. human rights envoy Paulo S¿rgio Pinheiro to visit the country before the ASEAN summit in Singapore in November. Activists urge that he be given wide freedom to go where he wants and interview whomever he pleases. Pinheiro has not been granted a visa to Burma, despite several requests, since 2003. Burma's leaders also said they would invite selected journalists from ASEAN nations to the country in advance of the summit.

This month, the generals appointed a liaison to lay the groundwork for talks with Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who as of Wednesday has been imprisoned or detained by the regime for exactly 12 years, a point underscored in protests staged by her supporters in 12 cities around the world. The military leaders, however, have set conditions that make it unlikely any talks will occur, experts say.

"The government is just playing games," said Bertil Lintner, an author and prominent expert on Burma.

He said it is naive to think that Burma's top military ruler, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, would step aside as a result of a dialogue. Lintner said he believes the government is eating up time, as it has many times before, hoping world attention fades.

Monks in Mandalay, Burma's second-largest city, have returned to collecting alms each morning. But in Rangoon, also the scene of protests led by monks last month, few of them are visible.

One Burmese adviser to last month's protesters, interviewed on condition of anonymity in the back of a darkened coffee shop in Rangoon this week, said he believed that only continued global attention would move the junta into dialogue. He acknowledged that a transition to democracy in Burma would raise difficult problems but said that anything is better than the current state of affairs.

"We are daily faced with depression," he said, describing the many dysfunctional aspects of Burma's economy, most of which is controlled by the military government. "The hard part is to shape a democracy in such a situation. We are a spiritually collapsed, physically poor, economically darkened country."

Still, he welcomes the challenge of a transition to democracy, he said, and thinks other Burmese do, too, especially students. "Most students have been kept out of politics for the past 40 years," he said. "I was afraid they didn't know our political careers, how our generation protested the government. But in September we learned we have many youths willing to sacrifice for the cause."

Debbie Stothard, coordinator of Altsean-Burma, a human rights advocacy group, said she hopes it does not come to that. "We would prefer to avoid another round of bloodshed," she said. "If people came out, it would be a repeat of September. These people cannot defend themselves. Their courage should be matched by the political will of the international community."

She quoted opposition leader Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate, who in 1994 cited a Burmese saying to describe government stall tactics: "It's very, very difficult to wake somebody up who is pretending to be asleep."

Citizens Wait, Worry in Junta's Climate of Fear

By Jill Drew
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, October 24, 2007; Page A01

RANGOON, Burma, Oct. 23 -- She does not know if the police have her picture. But that uncertainty has not eased her fear.

Twice soldiers have entered this woman's Rangoon neighborhood. They came at night, with photos taken during pro-democracy demonstrations. "They look at everyone and then they take you," she said in a low voice, speaking on condition she not be identified. "I don't sleep."

The nighttime raids began last month, after Burma's military junta violently put down the country's largest protests in nearly 20 years, led by Buddhist monks. At least 10 people were killed in the crackdown, the government has acknowledged, and thousands were arrested. The arrests have continued even after an 8 p.m. curfew was lifted last week. This woman joined the protests, and now she waits to be taken next.

Those active in Burmese politics say the arrests have succeeded in capturing many key organizers of the protests while injecting new fear into people who have lived for more than 40 years under a military dictatorship known for its brutality.

As U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari jets across Asia, pressing for an active dialogue to bring democracy to Burma, people in the country's two largest cities, Rangoon and Mandalay, watch and wait. Many private homes, no matter how ramshackle, have satellite dishes to catch Western news. And though few people can afford their own computers or even their own telephones, logging in to international news sites is easy at Internet cafes, so many here have access to the latest information.

More :


The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, has completed his meetings in Beijing, as part of his consultations in regional capitals. He had detailed and extensive discussions today with State Councilor Tang Jianxuan and Vice-Foreign Minister Wang Yi, as well as yesterday with Assistant Foreign Minister He Yafei.

Gambari delivered a personal message from the Secretary-General to State Councilor Tang, thanking the Chinese Government for its active support to the UN good offices so far and encouraging China to intensify its constructive engagement in support of UN efforts.

Gambari and his Chinese counterparts discussed the need for the Government of Myanmar to move forward by starting a dialogue with the opposition without delay and pursuing a more inclusive national reconciliation process in order to address the legitimate concerns of the Myanmar people, as well as the need for the international community to find new ways of encouraging Myanmar to make concrete progress in this regard.

Following the meetings, the Chinese Government issued a statement of support to the UN good offices and Gambari’s efforts on behalf of the Secretary-General.

Gambari is now in Tokyo where he is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura.

Asked where Gambari will go after his Tokyo visit, the Spokeswoman recalled that what is being discussed with the authorities in Myanmar is when he can travel there. He is to return to Myanmar sometime in the first week of November, but the precise dates have not been set.

Gambari, she said, will probably travel to Singapore before going to Myanmar.

Montas added that the United Nations was trying to obtain more information about a reported meeting today between Aung San Suu Kyi and a government liaison before responding.

UN rights expert to probe allegations of abuses during crackdown

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro

24 October 2007 – The United Nations independent human rights expert on Myanmar said today he would use his upcoming official visit to the troubled country to verify allegations of abuses during the recent Government crackdown on peaceful demonstrators, determine the numbers and whereabouts of those detained or killed, and collect testimony about what happened.

Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, the Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, told the General Assembly’s third committee (social, humanitarian and cultural issues) that although he has not been allowed into the country since 2003, he has received extremely worrying reports about the Government’s response to the protests, which began in mid-August after a sudden surge in fuel prices.

“I have been able to verify, through different independent and reliable sources, allegations of the use of excessive force by the security forces, including live ammunitions, rubber bullets, tear gas, bamboo and wood sticks, rubber batons and catapults (slingshots),” he said. “This largely explains the killings and the severe injuries reported.”


UN envoy concludes talks with Chinese officials on Myanmar crisis

UN envoy concludes talks with Chinese officials on Myanmar crisis

Ibrahim Gambari
25 October 2007 – The United Nations Special Envoy for Myanmar today wrapped up his consultations in Beijing, as he continues his six-nation tour of regional capitals ahead of a planned return to the South-East Asian nation in early November.

Dispatched by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to consult with regional leaders on how to address the ongoing crisis in Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari has met so far with officials in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and India.

While in Beijing he had detailed and extensive discussions with State Councillor Tang Jianxuan and Vice-Foreign Minister Wang Yi, as well as with Assistant Foreign Minister He Yafei, UN spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters in New York.

Mr. Gambari delivered a personal message from the Secretary-General to State Councillor Tang, thanking the Chinese Government for its active support to the UN’s good offices and encouraging China to intensify its constructive engagement in support of UN efforts.

“Mr. Gambari and his Chinese counterparts discussed the need for the Government of Myanmar to move forward by starting a dialogue with the opposition without delay and pursuing a more inclusive national reconciliation process in order to address the legitimate concerns of the Myanmar people,” she stated.

They also discussed the need for the international community to find new ways of encouraging Myanmar to make concrete progress in this regard, she added.

Following the meetings, the Chinese Government issued a statement of support for the UN’s good offices and Mr. Gambari’s efforts on behalf of the Secretary-General.

The Special Envoy is now in Tokyo where he is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura.

Mr. Gambari’s upcoming trip to Myanmar is set to be followed by a visit from the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, before the middle of next month.

Mr. Pinheiro said yesterday that he would use the visit to try to verify allegations of abuses during the recent Government crackdown on peaceful demonstrators, determine the numbers and whereabouts of those detained or killed, and collect testimony about what happened.

Amnesty International: Crackdown on Recent Protests

In response to over 100,000 people engaging in peaceful demontrations in recent days, security forces have begun a violent crackdown on the protests, led by 30,000 monks. The military government's forces clubbed and tear-gassed protesters, fired shots into the air, and arrested hundreds of the monks. Several people were reportedly shot to death.
» Read Amnesty's letter to the UN Security Council

China, Russia: No to Myanmar sanctions

Foreign Ministers Yang Jiechi of China and Sergey Lavrov of Russia said at a meeting with India's Pranab Mukherjee that, instead of punishment, they support efforts by U.N. special envoy Ibrahim Gambari, who was in China on Thursday talking to leaders about the issue, to open talks between the opposition and the ruling generals.

"The initiatives (Gambari) has taken, he should be encouraged," Mukherjee told reporters. "There should not be any sanctions at this stage."


Air Bagan to suspend Singapore flights

Air Bagan to suspend Singapore flights

Mizzima News (

October 25, 2007 - Air Bagan Limited has announced that it is temporarily suspending flights to Singapore starting November due to sanctions targeted at the airlines owned by Burmese business tycoon Tayza.

A letter signed by the airline's sales and marketing manager today said following the imposition of sanctions against the airline, Banks in Singapore have notified that "they will no longer deal with us for the time being."

"As such we are now facing some major hurdles that need to be dealt with in the next few months. In view of the above… we will temporarily be suspending operations to Singapore," the letter said.

"Our last flight to Singapore will be on November 4, 2007," the letter added.


Lantos Announces Tough New Sanctions to Halt Imports of Burmese Gemstones

Lantos Announces Tough New Sanctions to Halt Imports of Burmese Gemstones

Washington, DC – Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, announced today that he will introduce sanctions designed to pressure the military junta currently ruling Burma. The sanctions package, known as the Block Burmese JADE (Junta’s Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act, will crack down on the Burmese practice of avoiding U.S. sanctions by laundering gemstones through third countries before they are sold. More than 90 percent of the world’s rubies and fine-quality jade comes from Burma.

“Burmese rubies sold in the United States are laundered through third countries to avoid our sanctions, but nothing can wash away the moral stain of supporting this illicit market,” Lantos said. “There is a direct link between these blood-red gemstones and the bloodied robes of monks who were brutally suppressed when they took to the streets to demand democracy and human rights. It is high time for the world to reject Burmese gemstones, because their sale funds the ruling junta’s ongoing campaign of brutality against its own citizens.”


Recent Actions of Office of Foreign Assets Control by the President Bush

The following individuals have been named by the President under the executive order, "Blocking Property and Prohibiting Certain Transactions Related to Burma:"

Here is a link.

Financial sanctions against Burmese regime figures and supporters

The Reserve Bank of Australia has been directed by the Australian Government to take steps under the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations 1959 to implement financial sanctions against Burmese regime figures and supporters. Details of these individuals are contained in the Annex.
Any transactions involving the transfer of funds or payments to, by the order of, or on behalf of any person listed in the Annex are prohibited without prior approval from the Reserve Bank.

Full Text at following link.

Burmese regime needs to be punished

Mizzima News
October 22, 2007 -

The Burmese military junta rejected a U.N. statement calling for negotiations with the opposition, and said it is determined to follow its own seven-step "roadmap to democracy," after the UN Security Council made a presidential statement, which was the first official resolution to receive the full support of the 15-member United Nations Security Council, including China and Russia.

At the same time, the regime refused to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to visit prisoners, and it continued serious abuses and torture. As usual, the Burmese military junta has come out again with another trick of hoodwinking the people of Burma and the international community in its characteristic style.

The military rulers have appointed an official to liaise with detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and they have appointed a committee tasked with drafting the country's constitution after September's bloody crackdown and UN envoy Mr Ibrahim Gambari's visit. These announcements are aimed at undermining the on-going UNSC's efforts.

The question is: will Mr Gambari have a chance to meet the senior Generals again or will he only be able to meet liaison officer General Aung Gyi? The time will answer the question. Again the question is: what will United Nations Security Council do as it's the next step given the Burmese regime's defiance and it's using terror as a weapon to prevent slaughtering of monks and civilians?

Obviously, condemnation and resolutions of world bodies are not enough for Burma's ruling Generals. The U.NSC and its members must not fail the Burmese people again when they need protection the most. The UNSC must apply more effective actions on the Burmese regime's brutality and insincerity. The world leaders must bring actual penalties to the Burmese regime and its ruling Generals.

Australia has taken a lead in the diplomatic war on Burma's junta, refusing to accept a military commander as the rogue state's new ambassador to Canberra. The world leaders must apply same diplomatic pressure on the Burma's regime, refusing and expelling diplomats from Burma who had served in the military if the regime continues to refuse the visits of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and ICRC in Burma to conduct and function independently.

The world leaders must understand: it is a trick by the regime and should not keep watching and waiting the regime's Opera show. All stakeholders in Burma do not consider the regime's Road Map to be a sincere political process. The junta's sincerity and genuineness toward Burma and its people can be judged by the facts that people's elected representatives, led by Aung San Suu Kyi and U Tin Oo were unlawfully apprehended after their attempted assassination failed and have still not been released.

Of utmost importance is the unconditional release of all political prisoners, and the ruling Generals must stop arresting, other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment to innocent civilians. If the regime is to show seriousness and commitment to solve the country's problem, they must move quickly with the process of fundamental change. Failing to implement change will support the call for additional sanctions and legal actions against the oppressive regime.

(The writer Myat Soe is Research Director of Justice for Human Rights in Burma. He graduated from Indiana University , and earned his MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.)

Burma cannot avert undesirable consequences over soaring fuel prices

The unabated crack down on protests against soaring fuel prices is evidence that the regime is unwilling to resolve the plight of Burmese citizens, under severe long-term economic mismanagement. In truth, the military junta showed its true colours in carrying out the attack on its own citizens. Its lackeys (members of the Union Solidarity and Development Association and Swan Arrshin) are no better than common criminals who are more than willing to resort to street violence against the practicing of democratic principles and basic rights. Without a doubt the ruling generals will continue to implement a rule of terror and coercion against its own citizens as they have done in the past.

Instead of looking towards rapid economic adjustment and finding a solution to the country's economic malaise, the regime is trying to escalate tension with opposition groups and civilian populations. If the regime is not held accountable on the failure of its own aggressive energy policy and the public's anxiety over fuel prices, there cannot avert possible undesirable consequences. Those consequences are: increasing fuel price will impact on the whole macro-economy, and the economic insecurity can rapidly lead to social and political instability.

Higher oil prices would undoubtedly drive up the prices of other fuels, magnifying the overall macroeconomic impact. Naturally, the higher the oil-price increase, and the longer higher prices are sustained, the bigger the macroeconomic impact. Definitely, higher oil prices will lead to inflation. It will increase input costs and reduce non-oil demand. Tax revenues fall and the budget deficit increases, due to rigidities in government expenditure. Also, higher oil price will increase typically leads to upward pressure on nominal wage levels. Wage pressures together with reduced demand tend to lead to higher unemployment, at least in the short term. The lower exchange rates and lower real output will also affect the overall impact on the economy over the longer term. In addition, a loss of confidence, lower consumer spending power and inappropriate policy responses could amplify the economic effects in the medium term. The energy price hike would therefore have a negative impact on the economic interests, and this economic weakness can make the economy more vulnerable to financial turmoil.

To make matters worse, the junta's recent announcement No. 1/2007, which blamed demonstrations against the fuel price hike and promised to take effective action in accordance with the existing laws to crack down on the dissidents, clearly stated that the citizens have no space to express their views openly and peacefully. This announcement evidently defied the international community by refusing to pursue democratization and national reconciliation. When the real representatives of the people, together with 1,500 other prisoners of conscience, are still under lock and key, there will be no progress in democratic transition. The whole world has recognized that. At the same time, economic prosperity can't take place in a country where the people are prisoners in their own country.

Finally, the higher prices are inflicting substantial damage on the country's economy. It is not a political issue; it is purely an economic issue where the ordinary citizen is peacefully and openly addressing the problems of their daily lives. The regime must release all those who were arrested in the protests against the recent sharp hike in fuel prices. The majority of the people in the country are suffering. Lip service to this issue, blaming the opposition, and attacking its own citizens will not take the place of substantial reforms and will not resolve the country's problems. The regime must clean up its own mess in a civilized manner, and must take responsibility for the brutal crack down on its own citizens.

(The writer Myat Soe is the Research Director of Justice for Human Rights in Burma. He graduated from Indiana University, and is a MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University .)


Burma: Land of political, economic and social depression

Time was when Burma was the wealthiest country in Southeast Asia and the world's largest rice exporter. But the country is now on a suicidal downslide, suffering as it is from decades of political, economic and social depression. Past years of political wavering proved obscure for the country. Coups and countercoups, arrest and detention, assassinations, disappearance, torture, degrading treatment, and suspension of civil liberties became the order of the day. The political situation in Burma has a direct impact on the poor quality of education and healthcare available to the general public.

Also because of the regime's failure to provide individuals with basic necessities, such as access to adequate food and housing, its maintenance of huge discrepancies in wealth, economic and social depression envelopes Burma. In the most extreme cases of misdistribution, many suffer from poverty while the elite of the regime live in relative luxury. Such injustice came from unfair hiring procedures, lack of available jobs and education, and insufficient health care. All these conditions are leading people to believe that they have not received a "fair share" of the benefits and resources available in Burmese society. Instead of addressing systemic economic injustice and creating social and economic safety nets, the regime is trying to escalate tension with opposition groups and civilian populations.


Burma -- a failed state compared to neighbours

By Myat Soe September 21, 2006

Burma, an impoverished and underdeveloped country, has suffered from decades of internal political disputes, low levels of foreign investment, lack of technical expertise, ruling regime’s xenophobia, and its political schizophrenia. Due to these, Burma has been left behind in every sector when compared with other neighbouring countries. All social services in Burmaa, including the country’s health and education systems, have suffered terribly for over 40 years of military rule. Basic infrastructure has been neglected; priorities are decided and funds allocated based on an ideology which has all the hallmarks of the military - rather than according to real need. If truth were told, long-term economic mismanagement under the military rule has not permitted the economy from developing in line with its potential. Even thought the generals always claim that significant growths have been achieved in Burma, the country still remains a poor Asian country with no improvement of living standards for the majority of the population over the past decade.

As reported by the Fund for Peace, Burma has been defined as a failed state, and the country is in danger of collapse. As indicated by the source, the country is ranked according to twelve social, economic, political, and military indicators, including economic decline and inequality, demographic pressures, war, and corruption. A failed state is defined as “one in which the government does not have effective control of its territory, is not perceived as legitimate by a significant portion of its population, does not provide domestic security or basic public services to its citizens, and lacks a monopoly on the use of force.”

On the other hand, the regime’s Prime Minister Soe Win claimed on July 21, 2006 that the economy grew by 13.6% in the fiscal year (FY) 2004, and the country’s gross domestic product to 19 percent in the 2006-2007 fiscal years, up from 17.5 percent last year. However, the regime’s economic statistics are unavailable or very unreliable. The number might actually come out from skyrocketing inflation and the use of natural resources. One of the recent regime’s initiatives is to sell Burma’s large natural gas, but the economic growth in general could not be sustained given existing patterns in the use of natural resources.

Also, since GDP is measured in Kyats, they have a serious problem when they want to track the change in output over time. The problem is that the value of the Kyat to purchasing power is itself changing. As prices have risen over the years, the value of the Kyat has steadily fallen. Trying to keep track of the GDP using Kyats in different years is like trying to keep track of a child’s height using a ruler whose length changes each year. The regime’s statistics were reported in nominal terms, not in real term. . For example, one of the main causes for continued sluggish growth is the large trade deficit. All citizens in the country are relying on foreign products. Burma’s imports are always greater than exports. We won’t see this large deficit in the regime’s statistics because of the great volume of black market trading. The distinction between nominal and real values is crucial in macroeconomics. Whenever we want to track significant changes in key macroeconomic variables, such as GDP, the average wage rate, income, or any of its components, the economists use real variables. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, there are increasing signs of a pick-up in economic activity, but there is still little evidence to support the junta’s claims that the economy is growing at double-digit rates.

In actual fact, the ADB (Asian Development Bank) reported in the recent years that an assessment of economic development in Burma is handicapped by incomplete information and deficiencies in the reliability of data. Inflation appeared to rise to double-digit rates in 2005. Significant improvements in economic performance are unlikely in view of structural weaknesses in domestic policies, which include the monetization of fiscal deficits and a dual exchange rate. In deed, a major ongoing problem is the failure to achieve monetary and fiscal stability.

Moreover, Burma had experienced a severe banking crisis. Before 1997, there were 43 foreign bank offices in Burma. Now, 22 foreign banks remain in Rangoon. A majority of foreign bank representative offices have withdrawn from Burma due to lack of credibility and confidence on government’s financial policies. The World Bank has approved no new lending for Burma since 1987, and has no plans to resume its programme. The country is currently in arrears to the World Bank, and has failed to enact economic and other reforms. Burma became a member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in 1952, the International Financial Corporation (IFC) in 1956, the International Development Association (IDA) in 1962, and the ADB in 1973. Since July 1987, the World Bank has not given any loans to Burma. Since 1998 Burma has been in non-accrual status with the Bank. The IMF performs its mandated annual Article IV consultations, but there are no IMF assistance programmes.

Burma's total foreign debt now stands at over $ 6 billion. The debt is too low if the Burmaa compares with other neighbouring countries. However, no financial organization will approve lending for Burma if the regime is in power. The international community, financial institutions, and foreign investors do not trust the regime’s policies and commitments toward its own citizens. It is true that the real problem and solution for economic growth in Burma is “regime itself”.

(The writer Myat Soe is Research Director of Justice for Human Rights in Burma. He graduated from Indiana University, and earned his MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.)

Burma's regime: No time frame for democratization process

Despite more than 28 resolutions adopted by the U.N. General Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights, calling for national reconciliation and democratization in Burma, as well as the actions undertaken by the U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and his office over the past ten years, and the four envoys to Burma mandated by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, the SPDC's unlawful methods of political and ethnic repression have intensified and consolidated. In reality, the United Nation resolution becomes music to the ears of the notorious generals in Burma who have few friends in the region. It also lent its support to the junta's new roadmap to the military way of democracy.


BURMA: National Convention with 1,300 political prisoners

We cannot consider the National Convention to be a sincere political process until these conditions are met. Therefore, we urge international communities, governments and institutions to keep up the pressure and to use their power and influence to stop the ongoing political oppression and violation of human rights inside Burma.


ASEAN: Globalization vs. the impact of Burma’s political impasse

Thu 23 Jun 2005

Along with the new millennium, the global economy and the borderless world, has become a reality in the Southeast Asia region. This new climate of globalization impacts economic developments in the region, which has a relatively large population base, inexpensive labour, and an abundance of natural resources. Accordingly, the region’s international business is changing rapidly, and one primary reason is increased foreign investments and free trade agreements. Indeed, the volume of international trade in this region has increased dramatically over the last two decades, and the economic activity in the region continues to burgeon.

Although the issues facing the region have been addressed in the past, one of the important issues should be resolved. It is the ASEAN’s Burma policy. It was derived from the policy of “constructive engagement” initiated in 1991 by the Former Thai Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun as Thailand’s foreign policy towards Burma. This policy was later regionalized as ASEAN’s Burma policy and it has a direct impact on regional development and trade matters.
Even though ASEAN leaders tried to convince the region that their policy was working, they acknowledge that it brought in extreme contradictions among its members. Some political leaders in the region have criticized Burma’s regime and said that Burma had used ASEAN as a shield against criticism by members of the international community including the United Nations, EU nations and the United States. The fact of the matter is that Burmese generals are not using ASEAN as a shield it is ASEAN which has allowed the Burmese regime to use it as a shield.

(Myat Soe is Research Director of Justice for Human Rights in Burma)

Get Tough on Rangoon : It's time to turn the tables on Burma's thugs.

BY COLIN L. POWELL Thursday, June 12, 2003

There are a number of measures that should now be taken, many of them in the proposed legislation. It's time to freeze the financial assets of the SPDC. It's time to ban remittances to Burma so that the SPDC cannot benefit from the foreign exchange. With legislation, we can, and should, place restrictions on travel-related transactions that benefit the SPDC and its supporters. We also should further limit commerce with Burma which enriches the junta's generals. Of course, we would need to ensure consistency with our World Trade Organization and other international obligations. Any legislation will need to be carefully crafted to take into account our WTO obligations and the president's need for waiver authority, but we should act now.

By attacking Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters, the Burmese junta has finally and definitively rejected the efforts of the outside world to bring Burma back into the international community. Indeed, their refusal of the work of Ambassador Razali and of the rights of Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters could not be clearer. Our response must be equally clear if the thugs who now rule Burma are to understand that their failure to restore democracy will only bring more and more pressure against them and their supporters.
Mr. Powell is the secretary of state.

Future Sino-Burma relation at risk

Thu 8 Feb 2007

It was not a surprise to Burmese democrats and the international community that China vetoed a US-drafted resolution calling on the Burmese regime to stop persecution in the country, killing the measure in the UN Security Council. This is what we were expecting from China, to use veto power in the UNSC. The fact of the matter is: we want the world and our future generation to know China’s stand on Burma’s conflict, as it is a Burmese historical record. First, China will have to pay a huge political price when building a relationship with Burma’s future generation. Secondly, we must make it clear to Beijing that China will be held accountable for its own motion.

Mizzima News: Future Sino-Burma relation at risk - Myat Soe

BURMA: Dialogue or Die

Myat Soe
Mizzima News( )
It is evident that the end of political oppression in Burma, which includes unconditional release of all political prisoners, must be a precondition for dialogue even though it is unrealistic to expect the regime to dismantle the system overnight. Fundamental changes are required before any normalization of the relationship between opposition groups and rulers is possible.

Lifting the state of emergency and rescinding unjust laws, relaxing censorship and political restrictions on the NLD and other political groups, and most importantly, the unconditional release of NLD and student leaders, will go a long way in resolving the political deadlock in Burma. If the regime is to show seriousness and commitment to solve the country's problem, they must move forward quickly in the process of fundamental change. Failing to implement change will lend support to the call for additional sanctions and legal actions against the oppressive regime.
Recently, the NBR (National Bureau of Asian Research, based in Seattle), the ICG (International Crisis Group, based in Brussels) and the regime’s handpicked scholars came out with a statement contending that sanctions hurt innocent people; they do not hurt the ruling junta. But, those pro- SPDC lobbyists and so-called Burma experts were not daring to speak the truth. They concealed the real facts and did not address the root causes of Burma’s conflict.
The fact of the matter is that it is not just because of economic sanctions that people in Burma face horrendous hardship. It is the regime’s spending on political oppression on its own people and mismanagement in general that empties the coffers. There are currently more than 1300 political prisoners in the notorious jails, over one million victims and displaced persons are in the border areas and in the war zones of Burma, and 4 million citizens have left their own country since 1988. In fact, the country has been suffering from brain drain since the1960's because of the military rulers' hostile attitude toward the educated. A whole generation has lost the opportunity to receive proper education. In addition, the country has been deprived of educated, human capital that is crucial in rebuilding the country. A case in point is the increasingly severe shortage of qualified teachers. Furthermore, the country's economy has been plummeting to the bottom while inflation is skyrocketing. The only progress that is made is in official corruption.
Additionally, according to United Nations statistics, the regime spends 222% more on military spending than it does on health and education combined. All social services in Burma, including the country’s health and educational systems, have suffered terribly over 40 years of military dictatorship. Basic infrastructure has been neglected and priorities are decided and funds allocated on a military-ideological basis rather than real need. The military regime’s spending priorities focus on procuring weapons and expanding its army. The regime vastly expanded the size of the army (from around 180,000 men under arms in 1988 to 340,000 in late 1993) and in 1990 purchased new weapons from China in a $1.2 billion deal that included jet fighters, tanks, and naval patrol boats. Additional weapon purchases from Russia (MIG fighter jets), India, Ukrain, and other countries have been significant as well. It was reported that Beijing provided Rangoon with loans and grants to help the latter escape its financial and economic crises. The most recent Chinese aid was a $200 million loan in late August. (See “Business & Economy”,; “Will the Road to Rangoon Pass Through Beijing”, A report by Justice for Human Rights in Burma (JHB); and “Beijing's Road to Rangoon Paved With Impediments”, .)

This leads to the question of where the junta’s money comes from? According to available figures, Gas Authority of India Ltd.(GAIL) signed a MOU in 1998 with Brown& Root, Cairn Energy and Shell to bring in 28 million cubic meters per day of natural gas from Burma to India. Bilateral trade between India and Burma was around $216 million in 1999/2000(April-March). Indian investment in Burma accounted for about only 1.1%, amounting to US $ 4.5 million, while ASEAN countries’ investment in Burma accounted for 50 percent of Burma’s $7.3 billion in foreign investment. The CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) had proposed to have a target of $2 billion in bilateral trade between the two countries by the year 2003. (See “A Question of Democracy”, Burma File p.500-509.)
In July 1992, the French oil company Total signed a contract with the state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) to appraise and develop the Yadana oil field. In early 1993 the commercial viability of the field was established, and the U.S. Company Unocal joined the joint-venture contract. From early 1992, negotiations were held between MOGE and the Thai national PTT oil company to ship any gas discovered directly to Thailand, via a pipeline, which would enter Thailand at Nat Ei Daung (Ban I-tong). The pipeline was completed, on time, on July 1, 1998, and the Petroleum Authority of Thailand will pay $400 million a year for the delivery of 15.8 million cubic liters of natural gas a day once final construction of a gas turbine in Thailand is completed. (See "Yadana Test Flows Delayed Two Weeks," The Bangkok Post, June 30, 1998.)
While the ruling junta is selling many millions of cubic liters of natural gas a day to its neighbors, many cities in Burma are in darkness every night. While the ruling junta is purchasing new weapons from China and Russia and increasing its military spending, many people are dying of hunger and an AIDS epidemic devastating Burma. Beyond a doubt, the ruling junta is selling the nation’s natural resources for themselves and their families to prosper and ignore the welfare of the people who are the true owners of the country.
More to the point, Burma posted significant economic growth right after the 1990 election till the mid 1990’s due to businesses believing there would be a stable political future ahead. Many companies poured in investments to gain a foothold the resource rich land. Despite being ruled by one of the worst human rights offenders in the world, 370 companies linked with the junta. Some of the country's business links remain and it continues to receive investment from well-known international companies. Burma's trade with neighboring India, China, and Thailand is solid. Conventional and border trade with the three neighbors totaled a trade volume amounting to about two billion US dollars in the fiscal year 2001-02.

However, the rosy picture of political stability turned out to be an illusion. The realities map out arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of opposition leaders and students, forced exile or resignation, harassment of the leadership in most uncivilized ways, state-sponsored terrorism against the countries own people, and convening of a sham national convention which is supposed to rubber-stamp a military-imposed constitution. Consequently, the junta has shot themselves in their feet by refusing to handover power to the winners of 1990 election.
Sanctions are not the end game in bringing down an abusive regime. They are only one set among a variety of means. Targeted sanctions directly impacted the regime’s leaders, by freezing their assets and preventing their international travel, without damage to ordinary Burmese citizens. The experience has taught us that certain types of sanctions, under certain conditions, offer the greatest promise of success in countering abusive human rights practices. We must advocate sanctions that are targeted, and designed to have the greatest impact on an abusive regime by depriving it of the tools and means of repression, while avoiding or minimizing any negative impact on the general civilian population.
The sanctions must be inspired by principle, not political expedience, and this should be reflected in benchmarks rooted in international norms and standards, which, if reached, would trigger a lifting of sanctions. The often-cited example of such graduated sanctions was the Reagan Administration’s response to martial law in Poland; tough sanctions were gradually lifted in return for various positive steps by the Polish government, from the release of political prisoners to the formal lifting of martial law. (See “The Role of Sanctions”,
The regime’s handpicked scholars and so-called Burma experts must address the root causes of the conflict in Burma and should not cover up the truth. They should encourage the regime to commit to the process of change, to be anxious to move quickly and determined to pursue the conclusion, rather than simple lobbying to lift the sanctions. A process of fundamental change would only allow our nation an opportunity to re-enter the international community and embark on a more sustainable development path.

Lastly, the concerned nations must call for UN Security Council to step up to Burma’s issue. The U.N must more need to be done by not only condemnation but also effective actions to the Burmese regime's brutality and insincerity. The U.S government still has much leverage to put pressures on the regime in Burma and should lead the charge. Both the administration and lawmakers should be more pro-active and more focused on Burma. Whether or not Burma has their strategic interests in the region, indeed, the Burma will become a strategic and potential location to pave inroads to unexploited market of hinterland of China and India. On the other hand, supporting state-sponsored terrorism is not the Asian value. The ASEAN should not sit on the fence. The whole world has witnessed the ineffectual approaches of ASEAN and its hypocritical policy.
For now, the ruling Generals must answer this, “Dialogue or Die?” The choice is theirs.

The writer Myat Soe is Research Director of Justice for Human Rights in Burma (

Contact to author: Ph: 1-260-493-0655