Friday, November 30, 2007

Burma's missing monks still a mystery


By IANS
Friday November 30, 06:42 PM

Bangkok, Nov 30 (DPA) Two months after Myanmar's brutal crackdown on peaceful protests led by Buddhist monks in Yangon, the former capital city of the country is noticeably short of monks, a senior US diplomat said here Friday.

'Prior to September, almost any place you looked in Rangoon (Yangon) there were 25 to 50 monks, they were everywhere, but now you only see one or two,' Shari Villarosa, charge d'affaires of the US embassy in Myanmar, said at a press conference.

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UN envoy criticises continued Myanmar detentions, repression


AFP Photo: UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari, seen here, has criticised the Myanmar junta's continued arrest of dissidents...

Fri Nov 30, 6:08 AM ET
PHNOM PENH (AFP) - UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari Friday criticised the Myanmar junta's continued arrests of dissidents following a crackdown on pro-democracy protests, saying it undermined national reconciliation.

Rights groups and activists inside the country have accused the government of detaining prominent activists and also of closing a monastery linked to the demonstrations in September.

Rights group Amnesty International said this week that at least 16 people had been seized since early November, despite the junta's promise to Gambari, the UN secretary general's special representative to Myanmar, that there would be no more arrests.

"Any further arrests of people are contrary to the spirit of national reconciliation and also run counter to the effort to promote dialogue" between the government and political opposition, Gambari told reporters at the end of a two-day visit to Cambodia.

"Any action that runs contrary to the spirit of national reconciliation... should be avoided," he said, adding that dialogue, including with detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, was the only way out of Myanmar's political crisis.

"If Aung San Suu Kyi is to become part of the solution and part of the dialogue, then it is very essential that she be released from detention," he said.

Gambari was in Cambodia as part of a regional trip to assess the positions of Myanmar's neighbours after the junta's bloody suppression of September's pro-democracy protests.

Troops killed at least 15 people and arrested about 3,000, drawing international condemnation and pressure for increased sanctions.

Shari Villarosa, the charge d'affaires at the US embassy in Yangon, told reporters that she hoped Gambari would be allowed to return soon to Myanmar to push forward efforts at building a dialogue between the junta and Aung San Suu Kyi.

"Hopefully he can get back in and get something that to all observers will look like real dialogue, because it's hard for most observers to see that right now," Villarosa said at a briefing in Bangkok.

"We remain very supportive of his good offices role," she added.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Cambodia is a member, has come under increasing pressure to deal with its most unruly member since the unrest broke out.

Following talks Thursday with Gambari, Cambodian foreign minister Hor Namhong rejected sanctions against Myanmar, a diplomatic ally, saying instead that incentives should be used to push the junta towards democracy.

Hor Namhong did say, however, that Gambari's mission to Myanmar had his country's support.

"Cambodia... is in a privileged position to convey key messages to Myanmar and I believe they will do that," Gambari said shortly before departing for Laos on Friday.

Earlier on Friday, Myanmar's Prime Minister Thein Sein arrived in Cambodia for an official three-day visit, during which he will hold discussions with his counterpart Hun Sen.

Hor Namhong told reporters at Thein Sein's arrival that the situation in Myanmar had improved since the crackdown, and that the unrest would not be discussed.

"We are not going to raise anything. We think the situation is moving ahead... what happened is in the past," Hor Namhong said.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Ongoing Arrests of Political Activists in Burma


Press Statement
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
November 29, 2007
The United States condemns the Burmese regime’s continued arrest of democracy activists and harassment of Buddhist monks. Recent reports of monastery closings by Burma’s ruling generals also are deeply troubling. This repression belies the regime’s claims to cooperate fully with the United Nations, which has repeatedly sought an end to the detention of political activists. These continuing arrests bring into serious question Senior General Than Shwe’s commitment to a genuine dialogue on a transition to democracy in Burma.

The United States reiterates its call for Than Shwe to release Aung San Suu Kyi and countless other detainees and political prisoners as a necessary condition for a genuine dialogue with democratic and ethnic minority groups on a transition to a civilian, democratic government in Burma.

2007/1061




Released on November 29, 2007

Myanmar Investment: Right or Wrong?


AP Photo: Members of the Burmese community and the Burma Campaign UK group protest in body bags covered in fake blood outside the offices of French company Total Oil in central London in this May, 12, 2006 file photo.

Thursday November 29, 1:41 pm ET
By Thomas Hogue, AP Business Writer


Myanmar Crackdown Rekindles Ethical Debate Over Doing Business With Repressive Regimes

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) -- The recent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Myanmar has rekindled a decades-old debate: Is it morally right to do business in countries with repressive regimes?

Some foreign businesses, including French jeweler Cartier, cut ties with the country after the suppression of the protests in September and October. But others remain, arguing that they help the people of the impoverished country by creating jobs.

France's Total SA contends that cutting off Myanmar, also known as Burma, hurts ordinary people more than it harms the military regime and could hinder moves toward democracy. Total and Chevron Corp., which are partners in a natural gas field off Myanmar's coast, also provide health and social programs for local communities.

"We feel the country would have evolved much more if more responsible companies had remained," said Jean-Francois Lassalle, Total's vice president of public affairs for exploration and production. "Development of human rights goes along with the development of the economy."

More broadly, the arguments form part of a larger debate over whether economic sanctions work.

South Korea has invested in some business ventures in North Korea in an attempt to encourage the communist state to abandon its nuclear weapons programs and open its economy. But Iran has been hit by limited United Nations sanctions for defying demands to freeze uranium enrichment.

In the past, companies and governments wrestled with whether they should do business with apartheid-era South Africa. The effectiveness of that boycott -- which some corporations ignored -- is still disputed.

"This is not a slam dunk kind of debate," said W. Michael Hoffman, the executive director of the Center for Business Ethics at Bentley College in Waltham, Massachusetts.

The United States has banned new investment in Myanmar since 1997, and the European Union has had less stringent restrictions since the mid-1990s. But both allow pre-existing investments to continue, including Total's natural gas operation in the offshore Yadana field. Chevron has a 28 percent stake in the project, which it inherited when it took over Unocal Corp. in 2005.

The approximately $2 billion in gas sold every year to Thailand from the Yadana field and from another field operated by Malaysia's Petronas provides the bulk of Myanmar's foreign exchange earnings.

"Only a few people are benefiting from these investments ... the majority of people are not," said Soe Aung, spokesman for the National Council for the Union of Burma, an umbrella organization based in Thailand for exile groups.

An estimated 90 percent of Myanmar's 54 million people lives on about $1 a day.

But some argue that Western sanctions harden the regime against negotiations for a democratic opening and that they strengthen the influence of China -- which shows little interest in democratic reform -- in Myanmar affairs.

Chevron and Total provide free healthcare to 50,000 people along the Yadana pipeline, where local infant mortality rates are a sixth of the national rate and enrollment in school has doubled due to the creation of 44 schools in 23 villages, Chevron said.

Activist groups call this propaganda.

"Every time we focus on a company doing business in Burma, they throw some money at a local foundation ... and throw some pictures up on their Web site of smiling, happy people," said Mark Farmaner, acting director of the Burma Campaign UK.

"They don't put up pictures of the MIG jets that the generals bought with their first oil and gas paychecks," he said.

Total and former partner Unocal Corp. were accused of cooperating with the military in human rights violations during construction of a pipeline across Myanmar to Thailand in the 1990s. Both companies denied the accusations, though Unocal settled a related lawsuit in the U.S. in 2005.

The top U.N. official in Myanmar says some companies do help ordinary people.

"They (Total) are providing fairly significant support to communities near the pipelines, and probably more support than we do in our support in other parts of the country," said Charles Petrie, the humanitarian coordinator for the U.N. in Myanmar.

Petrie said he sometimes asks the head of Total in Myanmar to raise human rights issues with the government "because I feel the government is going to be less likely to close the door on Total than on us."

Authorities in Myanmar plan to expel Petrie by Dec. 5 for criticizing the regime for not meeting the needs of its people.

Burma Campaign UK has a "Dirty List" of more than 100 companies it says provide income to the government while doing business in Myanmar, including timber and gem companies, and hotel and tour operators. Even the British guidebook company Lonely Planet has been listed for encouraging tourism to Myanmar.

"We want to hit the regime in the pocket," Farmaner said.

Adidas AG, Levi Strauss & Co. and underwear manufacturer Triumph International are among those that have pulled out of Myanmar or won't buy products there.

"The way we view this is as safeguarding our reputation," said William Anderson, head of social and environmental affairs in the Asia Pacific region for Adidas.

Jewelers of America, which represents more than 11,000 stores in the U.S., has also called for the U.S. Congress to include Myanmar gemstones in the list of items barred from import until the release of all political prisoners and an end to human rights abuses.

The U.S. and EU are now considering beefing up their sanctions primarily to close loopholes that allow American and European businesses to deal in gems and timber from Myanmar.

But for sanctions to be effective, Myanmar's Asian trading partners such as China, Thailand and India would need to be involved, said Leon de Riedmatten, a Bangkok-based representative of Switzerland's Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. Companies like Total should do more to pressure the regime on human rights, he said.

"We should not ask these companies to withdraw. We should just ask them to use the leverage they have," de Riedmatten said.

Total says that goes too far.

"We are an investor, not a political entity," said Lassalle.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Burma and Pakistan : The broken promises of military rule



By Susan Banki and Hassan Abbas

WHEN TWO of Asia's most prominent female politicians are under house arrest at the same time, it's easy to draw parallels. The scary part: comparing the off and on detention of Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto with the longstanding house arrest of Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma makes Pakistan look good. But in both cases, this is no time for complacency on the part of the international community.

The women have similar paths. Both were democratically elected after their fathers were killed while serving as the leaders of their respective nations. Twice, Bhutto was elected prime minister and took office, and both times, her government was dismissed early. But at least she served for nearly five years. Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party won a landslide victory over Burma's ruling junta in 1990, has never been permitted to take office, and has spent 12 of the past 17 years under house arrest.

The two nations have tread similar paths as well. Pakistan's formation in 1947 and Burma's independence in 1948 both triggered predictable post-colonial power struggles, in which the military establishments used internal instability as a pretext for abolishing civilian rule.

In Pakistan, a record of irregular elections and the creation of the military-led National Security Council indicate a blurring of the lines between civilian and military rule. In Burma, which hasn't had a civilian ruler since 1962, the ruling junta has built up the military at the expense of human development, producing the largest army in all of Southeast Asia, and the worst record in health and education. Pakistan is not far behind in these terms.

In both countries, the dominant group's hold on political and economic power led to strong public reaction. In Pakistan, annulled elections and a military crackdown against the eastern wing led to Bengali calls for greater autonomy. With the assistance of the Indian Army, the Bengalis got their independent state in 1971.

Burma's marginalized populations have not been as successful. Several ethnic minority groups have been struggling for independence for decades, but without a powerful neighbor to support them, Burma's ethnic minorities have lost ground to the Burmese military almost every year. Hundreds of thousands of Burmese have fled to neighboring countries as refugees, where they have lived in limbo for decades.

Waves of protests in recent months have brought pressure to bear in both countries, but in the face of repression, these efforts may not go very far. President Pervez Musharraf's dismissal of Pakistan's chief justice generated so much outrage that hundreds of thousands of ordinary people inspired by lawyers' brave protests came out in streets and the justice was reinstated four months later by the Supreme Court. He was recently dismissed again in an arbitrary fashion. Now domestic demands and US pressure have influenced Musharraf to agree to national elections in January, but it is doubtful whether the elections will be free and fair.

In Burma, a violent crackdown against peaceful protests brought censure from the international community, to which the Burmese junta responded with bellows that it would not be bullied by the superpowers. Slightly conciliatory gestures allowing the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights to enter the country and permitting Aung San Suu Kyi to meet with members of her outlawed opposition party should be met with skepticism. They are likely a ploy to silence members of Asean, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, from adopting tough measures against Burma, when it holds its 13th summit this weekend.

However, in the case of Pakistan, at least there is a date to which Musharraf can be held accountable. Burma hasn't even offered the pretense of elections anytime soon. Discussions about "national reconciliation" - code words for designing a system whereby the military junta keeps all of its control but pacifies the international community - have been ongoing for more than a decade. Incidentally, Musharraf also used the "reconciliation" drama to withdraw corruption cases against Bhutto and some of his allies recently.

Both countries' military governments have a history of reneging on their promises. If international attention dies down, that is precisely what they are expected to do. The pressure to hold free and fair elections in Pakistan in January must be applied consistently until then, along with demands to restore removed judges. On Burma, the United States should encourage Asean to consider suspending Burma at its upcoming summit and link its continuing economic sanctions to specific timelines for democratic change.

The international community has done well to condemn the autocratic actions of Pakistan's and Burma's rulers. But to effect any positive change, it needs to keep up the heat and stop looking at military institutions there as potential harbingers of change.

Susan Banki is a research fellow at the Institute for Governance, Ethics, and Law at Griffith University in Australia. Hassan Abbas is a research fellow at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and author of "Pakistan's Drift into Extremism: Allah, the Army and America's War on Terror."

**************
Pakistan:

Today's news at CNN, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf stepped down as the country's military leader Wednesday, the day before he was to be sworn in for a third presidential term -- as a civilian. His retirement as general caps a 46-year career in the nation's armed forces and ends eight years of military rule.

Musharraf had been reluctant to relinquish his army role because his power base resides in the military, not with the Pakistani people.

The president has been under pressure to step down as military leader and end emergency rule, under which critics say he has consolidated power. During the past two days, he has made farewell visits.

President Pervez Musharraf said "I have loved this army. From tomorrow morning, this relationship will change, and I will be no more in uniform."

Burma

Should Than Shwe step down country's military leader to end Burma's political deadlock? Should military leaders involve in political process?

Please send your comments to msoe9872@aol.com

Pinheiro speaks on campus



Lily Szajnberg
Issue date: 11/28/07 Section: Campus News
Media Credit: Kori Schulman


Paulo Sergio Pinheiro discussed his fact-finding mission to Myanmar for the U.N. last night.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro has just returned from a five-day fact-finding mission in Myanmar, but before addressing the United Nations, he presented the latest analysis of the ongoing crisis in his talk, "Burma Report: The Facts on the Ground" last night at the Joukowsky Forum.

In his first public appearance since returning from the nation now in thick of a "Saffron Revolution," the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar and Cogut visiting professor at Brown's Center for Latin American Studies urged Brown students and faculty to stay engaged in the current conflict.

Forbidden entry to Myanmar since 2003, when the country underwent a change in leadership, Pinheiro was granted the rare opportunity of investigating the deaths and detentions imposed by the military government's, or junta's, violent crackdown on peaceful protesters in recent months. Pinheiro, who was appointed to his U.N. position in 2001 and has lectured at Brown periodically since 1997, will present a report on his findings to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on Dec. 11.

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Junta Continues 'Arbitrary' Dissident Arrests:Amnesty


BANGKOK (AFP)--Amnesty International has condemned ongoing "arbitrary" arrests of dissidents in military-run Myanmar two months after the junta's bloody crackdown on peaceful protests.

The arrests were made despite the junta's promise to UN special envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari, who visited the country in early November, that there would be no more arrests, the international rights group said in a statement Tuesday.

"Two months after the violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators, arrests continue unabated as part of the Myanmmar government's systematic suppression of freedom of expression and association, contrary to its claims of a return to normalcy," said Catherine Baber, the group's Asia-Pacific Program Director.

Amnesty said at least 16 people, including Su Su Nway, a prominent labor activist, and Gambira, a Buddhist monk who became a key leader of the massive anti-junta protests in September, had been arrested since early November.

Monks were at the forefront of the protests, which began as demonstrations against a surprise hike in fuel prices in August and snowballed into the biggest anti-government demonstrations the junta has faced since 1988.

The September suppression left at least 15 dead and 3,000 imprisoned, sparking global outrage against the junta with the U.S. and the European Union tightening sanctions against the country's military rulers.

Amnesty said Gambira was reportedly charged with treason.

The 16 arrested include a senior member of detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party and several ethnic leaders, it said.

"Amnesty International is deeply disappointed by the fact that these arrests are still taking place despite the government's promises to the contrary," it said, adding that four of the 16 had been released.

Up to 700 people arrested in connection with the protests remain behind bars, Amnesty said, adding that Myanmar also holds 1,150 political prisoners.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thaksin faces up to 26 years in jail




AMPA SANTIMATANEDOL
Bangkok Post:

The Assets Scrutiny Committee will, in two weeks, press four criminal charges against deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra for abuse of authority when he was in power, which could land him in jail for 26 years if he is found guilty.

The four charges announced by the ASC yesterday relate to Mr Thaksin's alleged illegal concealment of his share holdings in Shin Corp and his administration allegedly having favoured his company's telecoms businesses.

ASC secretary Kaewsan Atipho said the sub-committees looking into Mr Thaksin's alleged abuse of authority were basing the charges on four cases.

Under the process, the ASC will file the criminal charges with the Attorney-General's Office, which is responsible for taking the cases to court. This would take about two weeks, said Mr Kaewsan.

In the first case, Mr Thaksin allegedly failed to declare to the National Counter Corruption Commission his total Shin Corp shareholdings while in office.

The alleged stake holding concealment also led to the second charge related to the sale of Shin Corp shares by his family to Singapore-based Temasek Holdings.

The ASC has already frozen 66 billion out of the 73 billion baht that Mr Thaksin's family netted from the Shin Corp sale.

In the third case, Mr Thaksin allegedly ordered the issuance of a cabinet resolution in 2003 to convert the mobile-phone operators' concession fee into excise tax that caused about 40 billion baht in damage to two state enterprises, TOT Plc and CAT Telecom Plc.

In the fourth case, the ASC sub-panel found Mr Thaksin allegedly ordered the Export and Import Bank to lend a 900-million-baht soft loan, out of a total of four billion baht, to the Burmese government to improve its infrastructure and telecom sector in 2004. This came with the condition that the Burmese government purchase materials from Shin Corp, said Mr Kaewsan.

After the loan agreement, Burma reportedly contracted Shin Corp's subsidiary, Shin Satellite, to be a major supplier to its 600-million-baht broadband satellite telecoms project.

Altogether, the four charges would make Mr Thaksin liable to a maximum 26 years in jail.


Mr Kaewsan said ASC sub-panels are still investigating three more cases to see whether they can be linked to any abuse of authority by Mr Thaksin.

''Information is being gathered on the three cases from all the officials involved. Up to now there is no evidence linked to Pol Lt-Col Thaksin,'' he said.

One of the three cases involves the reduction in revenue sharing of pre-paid mobile phone services between TOT and private mobile phone operators to 20% from 25%, causing the TOT some 70 billion baht in financial damage.

Another case concerns a contract between Advanced Info Service (AIS) and the TOT that was changed during the Thaksin administration, obliging the TOT, instead of private operators, to bear 25% of mobile phone roaming service costs, costing the TOT 13 billion baht for the contract's term.

The third case is related to the amendment of Shin Satellite's concession which allowed Shin Corp to cut its stake in the firm from 51% to the minimum 40%. The change was seen as an attempt to help foreign investors avoid laws limiting foreign shareholdings in telecom firms to 49%.

The share holding restructuring was allegedly carried out to raise funds for Shin Satellite to launch iPSTAR, the world's largest broadband satellite, for commercial purposes. This was considered to breach a concession contract requiring the firm to launch Thaicom 4, a basic communications satellite.

The ASC sub-panels are questioning people involved in the cases and gathering related evidence.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

GRAVE CHILD RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN BURMA ARE REPORTED TO SECURITY COUNCIL


GRAVE CHILD RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN BURMA
ARE REPORTED TO SECURITY COUNCIL

In his report to the Security Council on children and armed conflict in Myanmar released today, the Secretary-General said although there has been progress in terms of dialogue with the Government of Myanmar and two non-State actors (the Karen National Union and the Karenni National Progressive Party), all parties continue to be implicated in grave child rights violations.

The Secretary-General recommended for the Government of Myanmar to take into account its responsibilities to ensure that all armed groups with which it shares a ceasefire accord are made accessible to the monitoring and reporting mechanism.

He urged the Government to continue taking disciplinary action against those responsible for aiding and abetting the recruitment of children, and to systematize and institutionalize this disciplinary process.

The Government of Myanmar is encouraged to accede at the earliest opportunity to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (2000) and to adjust national legislation accordingly.

The Secretary-General also recommended that the Myanmar Government allow international and humanitarian organizations access for delivery of humanitarian services, and to accept the proposal of the U.N. refugee agency’s Assistant High Commissioner for Operations for an inter-agency humanitarian needs assessment.

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UN: Myanmar must free all child soldiers

By ALEXANDRA OLSON, Associated Press Writer
Fri Nov 23, 9:44 PM ET

UNITED NATIONS - Myanmar should release all its child soldiers and allow U.N. officials to verify government claims that officers have been punished for recruiting minors into the army, the U.N. chief said in a report released Friday.

There are credible reports that Myanmar's army continues to recruit children under 18despite an official prohibition of the practice, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his report to the U.N. Security Council.

Recruiters often lure poor children with promises of shelter and food, while others are picked up for not having identification cards and threatened with arrest unless they join the army, Ban said. Army commanders sometimes pay "brokers" $30 and a bag of rice for each recruit.

The army is under "enormous pressure" to increase recruitment rates, and reportedly makes soldiers who want to leave the army recruit as many as four replacements.

The U.N. has also received credible reports that a number of children have been arrested and sentenced to prison for up to five years for desertion, Ban said.

The report covered the period between July 2005 and September 2007 — just before Mynamar's government drew international condemnation for brutally crushing pro-democracy protests. The U.N. has since intensified efforts to nudge the ruling junta and the opposition into a reconciliation process.

Both Myanmar's government and ethnic guerrilla groups have long been accused of using child soldiers, and both sides have acknowledged the allegations in recent years amid UN efforts to highlight the issue.

Responding to a report last month by New York-based Human Rights Watch, Myanmar's government said it had strengthened regulations forbidding the recruitment of minors since establishing a committee to oversee the problem in 2004.

Some 141 minors were dismissed from the military and returned to their parents between 2004 and August 2007, said Ye Htut, deputy director general of Myanmar's Information Ministry. Disciplinary action was taken against nearly 30 military personnel for violating recruitment rules, he said.

Ban acknowledged that "the government has shown increasing interest in addressing underage recruitment and has engaged the United Nations on the issue." He said the U.N. has received periodic updates since 2005 from Mynamar's Committee for the Prevention of Recruiting Underaged Children from Military Recruitment.

But he said the U.N. has been largely unable to verify government claims that those responsible for underage recruitment have been disciplined or that any children have been released. The U.N. team has not been given access to any minors the government claims to have freed, he said.

Ban also criticized the government for denying U.N. official access to areas where guerrilla groups operate, leaving investigators unable to verify the most recent reports of children in their ranks.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Philippines: EU Lawmakers Vow To Block Free-trade Deal With ASEAN Without Reforms In Burma



MANILA, PHILIPPINES: The European parliament will oppose any free-trade deal between Europe and Southeast Asia unless Myanmar makes democratic reforms, visiting parliamentarians warned Friday (23 Nov).

"Without any change in Myanmar, there will be no agreement from the European parliament on the FTA" with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, German lawmaker Hartmut Nassauer told reporters.

Nassauer, head of a nine-member European parliament delegation visiting the Philippines, rejected suggestions by some ASEAN members that sanctions should not be imposed on the military-led country. Europe will maintain sanctions and isolate Myanmar as long as reforms are not put in place, he said.

At the very least, Nassauer added, Myanmar should release long-detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners.

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Asean dances to junta's tune


EDITORIAL
Bangkok Post

In its typical Asean way and for no good reason, leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have decided it is much safer to save the ugly face of the ruling Burmese generals than to offend them in public. Thus, the myopic last-minute decision to cancel the scheduled briefings on Burma by United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari.

In defending the about-face, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Burma had emphasised that Mr Gambari, who has visited Burma four times, "should only report to the UN Security Council and not to Asean or the East Asia summit".

The tone this time was a far cry from the tough talk at the United Nations General Assembly by the Singaporean representative and by Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont against the junta's brutal crackdown on monk-led demonstrations in Rangoon in September.

Without doubt, Asean has shamelessly vacillated and kowtowed to the junta - as it has done before whenever confronted by the junta's defiance or intransigence. Mr Gambari, who had travelled from New York in order to brief Asean leaders, has every right to feel disappointed.

More importantly, Asean leaders unwittingly lost a good opportunity, which the briefings would have given, to engage Burma in a constructive manner. Sadly in this case, Asean did not even bother to follow its professed mantra of constructive engagement. Instead, it plunged all-out to embrace the other catch-phrase, which is not to interfere in the internal affairs of member countries.

Asean had a brief moment of triumph when the 10 leaders, including Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein, signed the Asean Charter, billed as a milestone for the regional grouping in its 40 years of existence since its inception in 1967. The rules-based document gives Asean a legal entity, sets a goal on democracy, pledges the setting up of a regional human rights body and aims to turn Asean into an economic community similar to the European Union, minus a single currency, by 2015. The endorsement of the Asean Charter represents a major step forward, although much needs doing to realise the charter's goals. The practice of non-interference, for instance, has to be removed if Asean is to be able to push Burma into restoring democracy. The regional human rights body which has yet to be set up would be a sham if it is not given teeth to sanction member countries that violate human rights.

Pitifully however, the moment of triumph and jubilation was spoiled by the very people who enthusiastically endorsed the Asean Charter. The last-minute dumping of Mr Gambari represents a retreat for the grouping. It also constitutes a victory for the Burmese junta: the generals got everything they wanted, including a watered-down charter.

Asean, whose effectiveness and credibility was already in doubt vis-a-vis the Burma issue, now definitely looks worse in the eyes of the international community and civil society. Once again, Asean has missed an opportunity to redeem itself. And, once again, Asean has shown the world that it lacks the dignity and moral obligation to do the right thing.

US Trade Representative Susan Schwab said in Singapore on Tuesday that the current situation in Burma makes a free-trade deal between Asean and the US impossible in the near term. She also said Asean has a special responsibility for the situation in Burma. Whether her statement was meant as a warning for Asean to change its attitude on Burma is debatable. But the message is clear: the United States is not happy with Asean's handling of the Burmese issue.

Asean made a mistake in 1997 by admitting Burma into the group, hoping it would be able to effect a change in the attitude of the Burmese generals. Ten years later, the generals remain as stubborn as ever. Sadly, Asean has not only not learned its lesson but continues to make the same mistake with regard to Burma.

The toothless tiger


By Achara Ashayagachat

Thailand's next government becomes chairman of Asean and inherits a big mess over what to do with the hot potato of Burma after the group missed its opportunity to confront the problem squarely.

With the end of the 13th summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Singapore Thursday, and despite plaudits from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres after the signing of its charter, Asean in fact has become less united.

Due to Burmese pressure, Asean's plans to create a region-wide human rights-checking mechanism turned into a disgraceful flop, as the new body will have no powers to investigate any human rights abuses in the region.

The agreement in Singapore has already drawn criticism from many civic society organisations as they see that it actually protects human rights violators such as the Burmese junta.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Burmese prominent student leader condemned the ASEAN's handling of military-ruled Burma.


BOA NEWS:
A Burmese prominent student leader in exile who led the 1988 nationwide uprising condemned the ASEAN. He criticized the organization's handling of military-ruled Burma.

“Without tangible threats of actions by the world body and regional leaders, the Burmese regime will not change” said Ko Moe Thee Zun , a former student leader of Burma's 1988 uprising, and a prominent student leader in exile. He added, “We also believe that the "targeted sanctions" are working, and the Asean’s leaders must support.

“Pressure is only major factor to speed up its long-delayed roadmap, and dialogue without a time frame is meaningless. SPDC is notorious for dragging their feet. Even its own path to democracy is dragging for 19 years and counting,” he said at the public gathering meeting in LA.

BREAKING NEWS: Burma shuns Thailand-proposed talks


Bangkok Post:
Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said on Thursday his proposal to hold multi-party talks to restore democracy in Burma was turned down by Burma's ruling junta.

Speaking to journalists here after attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Singapore, Gen. Surayud said Burma Prime Minister Thein Sein told the meeting that the junta wanted to work with the world body on the matter.

"Since Burma has made a decision that they would work out the issue with the United Nations, therefore Thailand and ASEAN stand ready to provide any assistance if need arises," said the Thai premier.

Gen. Surayud floated the idea that the United Nations organise regional talks with the involvement of China, India and the 10-member ASEAN to help bring an end to the current crisis in Burma when he met UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari in Bangkok last month.

The Thai leader also said newly-appointed prime minister Thein Sein would like to make his first visit to Thailand on November 29 as a customary practice among new Asean leaders.

Lt-Gen. Thein Sein has officially been declared prime minister of the isolated country following the former premier Soe Win's death October 12.

However, Gen. Surayud said the Burma leader's request could be rescheduled after the new year as Thailand is now preparing for the auspicious occasion of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej's 80th birthday celebrations next month and gearing up for the December 23 general election.(TNA)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

U.N. official sees Burma hope if pressure kept up


By Robert Evans

GENEVA (Reuters) - There is a good chance of democratic change in Myanmar if the outside world keeps up pressure on its military rulers, a United Nations human rights investigator said on Wednesday.

The international protest at the military's harsh crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations "definitely achieved something," Paulo Sergio Pinheiro told reporters.

But Pinheiro, the U.N. Human Rights Council's special investigator for Myanmar, warned of the dangers of waning international pressure.

"A good opportunity will be lost for a real transition", he told a telephone news conference after his first visit to the former Burma in four years.

Pinheiro was encouraged by the large number of young people who had turned out peacefully in the September protests.

"Now the only way is for the international community to talk less and display more coordinated action," he said. "I don't see any other possibility for the time being."

The position of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and that of China, are key, he said.

It is important that countries whose foreign policies are not always aligned should try to keep their positions close, he said from Brown University in Rhode Island where he teaches.


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EU, ASEAN clash on Burma sanctions, but both call for reforms


Singapore - The European Union clashed Thursday with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) on sanctions against Burma, but both organizations jointly called for democratic reforms in the military-ruled country.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Free Burma activists take to the streets in S'pore



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The Straits Times: Video News

Following Monday's peaceful but small demonstration along Orchard Road by a group of nine students, a string of similar activities sprung up around town today. In what could be one of the largest street gathering by activists in recent years, over 40 Burmese nationals living in Singapore came together outside Orchard Parade Hotel in a peaceful protest against the junta. Earlier in the day, four Singaporeans marched towards the summit venue holding a petition, while a member of an opposition party was led away by police in a separate incident. Claire Huang reports.

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Activists attack ASEAN on lack of Burma pressure


Reuters Photo: Demonstrators stage a skit during a protest outside the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur...

By James Pomfret

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A leading Myanmar dissident slammed ASEAN's failure to pressure the junta over its crackdown on pro-democracy protests, as the 10-member group unveiled a charter on Tuesday that enshrined human rights and democracy.

"It's a historical moment for them to sign the charter, which is supposed to be the charter for the protection and promotion of human rights, and now they let the (Myanmar) regime take over their agenda," said Khin Ohmar, a former student leader of Myanmar's 1988 uprising, in which up to 3,000 people died.

"Now they're taking sides with the regime it seems. I think it's a bad step and backtracking," she said at the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club.

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The world is flat – but not to the Burmese generals


Myat Thu Pan
Mizzima News (www.mizzima.com)

November 20, 2007 - The world, according to Thomas Friedman the Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times journalist, is flat. He was referring to the instantaneous cyber connection in the outsourcing of tech jobs from the United States to India in his book "The World Is Flat." But the generals in Burma did not realize that the world is even flatter now, as evidenced by the leaking of their brutal crackdown on the monk-led recent demonstrations on the streets of Rangoon. More than a dozen young Burmese bloggers with nothing but high-tech competence and a savviness unknown to the regime, were making the world even flatter than Mr. Friedman's world.

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UN special envoy arrives to disappointment at Singapore summit


ASEAN SUMMIT

Singapore (dpa) - UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari arrived in Singapore Tuesday after South-East Asian leaders scrapped his key address to a regional summit on military-ruled Burma.

Gambari was supposed to brief leaders of 16 countries at the East Asian Summit - led by the 10-country Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEN) - but the event was cancelled Monday night after Burma stressed that he should only report to the United Nations.

He instead is to hold bilateral meetings with the leaders.

So far, the leaders of the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Australia and Malaysia have scheduled meetings with Gambari, who has made two visits to Burma since a violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Rangoon in September.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

The saffron moment, lightning in the darkest hour


May Ng
Mizzima News (www.mizzima.com)

May Ng is a regional Director( NY Chapter) of Justice for Human Rights in Burma(J.H.B).

November 16, 2007 – The United Nations and its envoys have been busy with Burma since the day the Burmese government began cracking down on peaceful demonstrators. But six weeks later, with increasing government abuses and deteriorating living conditions, lives of the Burmese people have become worse.

The military continues its oppressive rule. Two more protest leaders from recent mass demonstrations, Su Su Nway and Ashin Gambira, a leader of the Burmese monks, were arrested, while Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the U.N. independent rights investigator, was still in Burma.

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Breaking News: Surprise Pressure From Burma’s Neighbors


By WAYNE ARNOLD
Published: November 20, 2007

SINGAPORE, Nov. 19 — An emerging rift among Asian leaders over Myanmar burst into the open at a regional summit meeting on Monday when the Philippine president suggested that her country might not ratify a new regional charter unless Myanmar committed to democratic reforms and released the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

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Students defy Burma protest ban at ASEAN summit


By Koh Gui Qing
Mon Nov 19, 6:55 AM ET

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - A small group of international students at Singapore universities sought to defy a ban on protest in the city-state on Monday, calling for democracy in Myanmar at a summit of Southeast Asian nations.

Singapore has banned all outdoor protest at the ASEAN summit and rejected an opposition party's request to stage a Myanmar protest. It has also designated the summit venue as a "protected areas," giving police the authority to search or detain anyone in the area or ask them to leave.

The students said they plan to move in groups smaller than four in other to get around police restrictions. Under Singapore laws, any public gathering of more than four people requires a police permit.

One group of students was warned by police not to enter protected areas.

"I am calling on the military regime to ease its repression and to release Aung San Suu Kyi," said Pia Muzaffar, a British student at the National University of Singapore.

Muzaffar and two fellow students walked hand-in-hand down Singapore's main shopping street Orchard Road, wearing red T-shirts saying "We pursue peace, justice and democracy for Burma," in red T-shirt.

Another band of three students was making its way to the summit venue via another road, outnumbered by surrounding media and videotaped by Singapore plainclothes police.

"We want to say that the world is still watching and has not forgotten about Burma," Muzaffar said.

Myanmar prime minister Thein Sein is due to arrive in Singapore on Monday afternoon, in the first appearance of a top junta member at an international forum since the regime's bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests in September.

Thein Sein is set to brief leaders of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) at a dinner on Monday and will also meet Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

"We hope that Myanmar could push forward the democratic process and reconciliation through peaceful means," a Chinese foreign ministry official told reporters late on Sunday.

China, the closest the isolated Myanmar junta has to an ally, is opposed to Western countries' sanctions against Myanmar.

Security around the summit venue was tight, with 2,500 police officers mobilized, roadblocks set up in the streets and police searches of anyone going into the area.

On Tuesday, the 10-member ASEAN block is set to sign a charter that advocates democracy and human rights.

(Reporting by Koh Gui Qing and Vivek Prakash, writing by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

UN Briefing On Myanmar Called Off On Government Objections


SINGAPORE (AFP)--Southeast Asian leaders have called off a briefing by U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari on the situation in Myanmar after the military government objected, Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar told AFP Monday.

"The briefing is off," Syed Hamid told AFP in an interview as leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, held informal talks ahead of their annual summit on Tuesday.

"Myanmar feels that they deal with the U.N. and it is their own domestic matter. This evening, Myanmar objected and we base our decisions on consensus."

ASEAN has come under mounting international pressure to rein in member state Myanmar in the wake of September's suppression of mass pro-democracy protests that left at least 15 dead.

Gambari had been invited by ASEAN summit host Singapore to brief Southeast Asian leaders plus their counterparts from Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea on his two recent missions to Myanmar on Wednesday.

But the Malaysian minister said while the bloc supported Gambari's efforts in the military-run state, he would not be asked to collectively brief the region's leaders on his work.

"If they want any briefing, Myanmar will do the briefing," Syed Hamid said.

"It is an ASEAN matter. We will continue to support the U.N. but we cannot take the matter out of the ASEAN forum and take it into some other forum."

The minister, however, insisted the move should not be "considered a slap to the U,N,," noting: "As far as ASEAN is concerned, we support the efforts of the U.N."

"This does not preclude if anyone wants to see Gambari - that's up to them," he added.

Asked whether Gambari would meet leaders one-on-one while in Singapore, Syed Hamid replied: "That may be the best option available for him and for those who want first-hand information on how he's handling the Myanmar situation."

Earlier, two of Syed Hamid's counterparts suggested the briefing could be downgraded to exclude ASEAN's six East Asia dialogue partners.

"If Gambari's briefing takes place, it should be limited only to the ASEAN leaders," Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said -- a position echoed by Thailand's Nitya Pibulssongram.

ASEAN for the 40 years of its existence has followed a policy of reaching decisions based on consensus - meaning no votes are taken, so nations cannot be outvoted into accepting something they do not want.

Syed Hamid pointed out: "The host country invited Gambari - it was not something that was done by ASEAN."

US says ASEAN credibility at stake on Burma's Regime


SINGAPORE (AFP) - The credibility of Southeast Asian nations is at stake over their handling of military-run Myanmar, United States Trade Representative Susan Schwab said Monday.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) annual summit, she said it was a "sad commentary" that the issue of Myanmar was stealing the spotlight.

"The reputation and the credibility of ASEAN as an organisation has been called into question because of the situation in Burma," Schwab told reporters, referring to Myanmar by its former name, which is preferred by US officials.

"There's no way that I could come here without expressing our concern," she said, adding she believed ASEAN leaders recognised that "it just can't be business as usual" in their dealings with the junta.

"They take it seriously. The question is what the results will be," Schwab said.

ASEAN is under intense international pressure to rein in the junta after a bloody September suppression of anti-government protests led by Buddhist monks. At least 15 people died in the crackdown, which sparked global outrage.

The US Senate on Friday unanimously adopted a resolution urging the bloc to suspend its errant member, but that suggestion was quickly rejected by ASEAN secretary general Ong Keng Yong, who said confrontation is not the answer.

Stepped-up US sanctions against the ruling generals announced last month targeted firms with offices in both Myanmar and summit host Singapore.

The bloc says its controversial policy of engaging the junta is the only way forward, and has rejected mounting calls to impose sanctions on Myanmar.

Detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was taken


Myanmar's detained Suu Kyi taken to state guesthouse By Aung Hla Tun
1 hour, 59 minutes ago

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar's detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was taken on Monday from her villa to a state guesthouse where she is believed to have met the ruling junta's liaison minister, opposition sources and witnesses said.

Witnesses said a government car with tinted windows left Suu Kyi's tightly guarded lakeside villa in the main city of Yangon and returned about one hour later.

There was no comment from the regime, but the most likely explanation was a meeting with Aung Kyi, a senior member of the ruling military junta appointed as a go-between after September's pro-democracy protests.

"We heard about the meeting between U Aung Kyi and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi this afternoon," said Nyan Win, a spokesman for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.

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COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION: Adopts additional restrictive measures





BREAKING NEWS

Burma/Myanmar:
Council adopts additional restrictive measures

2830th GENERAL AFFAIRS Council meeting

Brussels, 19 November 2007


The Council adopted today a common position amending common position 2006/318/CFSP
renewing restrictive measures against Burma/Myanmar in view of the seriousness of the current situation in the country (14443/07). This follows a political agreement by the Council on 15 October.

The common position is aimed at :

− reinforcing existing measures in respect of Burma/Myanmar by extending and updating the list of persons subject to a travel ban and a freezing of assets. The scope of the investment ban on Burmese State-owned enterprises is also extended by including enterprises that are owned or controlled by the regime or by persons or entities associated with the regime.

− introducing additional restrictive measures against Burma/Myanmar by targeting the sources of revenue of the regime, including in sectors where human rights abuses are common. To that end, it prohibits the export from the member states to Burma/Myanmar of relevant equipment and technology destined for enterprises engaged in the industries of logging,timber, and mining of metals and minerals, precious or semi-precious stones, as well as related technical and financial assistance. It also prohibits the import into the Community of round logs, timber and timber products, metals and minerals, as well as precious and semi-precious stones. Moreover, new investments in enterprises in Burma/Myanmar that are engaged in these industries are also prohibited.

Last October the Council strongly condemned the brutal repression perpetrated by Burmese authorities against peaceful protestors and the continuing serious violations of human rights in Burma/Myanmar.

The Council adopted common position 2006/318/CFSP renewing restrictive measures against Burma/Myanmar in April 2006. These measures confirmed and updated previous measures, the first of which were adopted in 1996.

P R E S S
R u e d e l a L o i 1 7 5 B – 1 0 4 8 B R U S S E L S T e l . : + 3 2 ( 0 ) 2 2 8 1 8 2 3 9 / 6 3 1 9 F a x : + 3 2 ( 0 ) 2 2 8 1 8 0 2 6

press.office@consilium.europa.eu http://www.consilium.europa.eu/Newsroom

COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION: Council Conclusions on Burma


2830th GENERAL AFFAIRS Council meeting
Brussels, 19 November 2007
The Council adopted the following conclusions:


"1. The European Union remains concerned by the situation in Burma/Myanmar and reiterates its call on the government to take substantive steps to address the concerns of its people and the international community. The Council underlines its call for an end to the continuing arrests, therelease of those detained in recent protests and all other political prisoners, as well as the early launch of a credible, comprehensive and inclusive process of national reconciliation.

2. The EU reaffirms its strong support for the UN efforts to bring about positive change in Burma/Myanmar. The EU welcomes the visit of the UNSG's envoy, Mr Ibrahim Gambari there, from 3 to 8 November 2007. The EU looks forward to Mr Gambari's return and reiterates its call on the government of Burma/Myanmar to afford him all possible assistance, access and freedom of action in order to carry out his mandate.

3. The Council welcomes the recent visit of UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar, Mr Sergio Pinheiro, from 11 to 15 November, and looks forward to his report to the December session of the Human Rights Council.

4. The Council welcomes the appointment of Mr Piero Fassino as EU Special Envoy for Burma to support the UN's good offices mission. This appointment underlines the importance that the EU attaches to development, democratic change, reconciliation and the improvement of the human rights situation in Burma/Myanmar.

5. The Council welcomes Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's constructive statement relayed through Mr Gambari, and urges the government of Burma/Myanmar to seize this opportunity to enter into a meaningful dialogue leading to stability, prosperity and democracy for Burma/Myanmar. The EU calls for all restrictions on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to be lifted so that she can play a full part in the process of national reconciliation.

6. The EU welcomes the efforts by ASEAN and the neighbours of Burma/Myanmar to influence the Burmese authorities, and encourages its partners in ASEAN and the region to use every opportunity, including the 11th ASEAN Summit and the East Asia Summit, to maintain the pressure for a credible and inclusive process of national reconciliation. The EU will use the occasion of the upcoming EU-ASEAN commemorative Summit to discuss the situation in Burma/Myanmar.

7. The Council notes today's adoption of the Common Position implementing restrictive measures against Burma/Myanmar. Recalling the Council Conclusions of 15 October 2007, the Council also notes that relevant bodies are taking forward work to elaborate further restrictive measures.

8. The EU again expresses its readiness to assist Burma/Myanmar in a process of transition. The EU regrets that the Burmese government has made this impossible so far. The EU is planning, with international partners, to increase humanitarian support to the Burmese people. The EU stands ready to review the restrictive measures, to engage with Burma/Myanmar in its development and to
find new areas of cooperation, should the situation improve."
____________________

ASEAN and the international community: redefining dysfunctional

Christopher Smith
Mizzima News (www.mizzima.com)

November 19, 2007 – With the 13th ASEAN summit about to kick into full gear in Singapore this week, it is time for a realistic assessment of what can be expected of ASEAN regarding the continuing crisis in Burma, and why ASEAN and the international community continue to pursue counterproductive policies.

In a press release this past weekend, Altsean-Burma advises that "ASEAN and its dialogue partners must adopt a common position to ensure that the Burmese military regime delivers genuine reforms within a clearly stated timeframe to strengthen and complement UN efforts."

This is precisely what needs to happen. However, ominously, the paper goes on to specify what that common position must be. In other words, it is not a call for dialogue, but rather a demand to adopt certain preordained policies. It is a fundamental error in strategy and negotiation to which all sides are presently guilty.

Though much has been made of the perceived benefits of a carrot and stick approach to Burma, especially in the footsteps of the United Nations Special Envoy to Burma's continuing mission, the fact remains that carrots and sticks do not work if there is no common goal, and it is entirely unclear whether ASEAN and the international community share the same vision with respect to Burma.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Burma crisis to dominate ASEAN summit, but free trade, climate also high on agenda


The Associated PressPublished: November 17, 2007

SINGAPORE: Myanmar has often been compared to a relative of questionable character, an embarrassing intrusion at family get-togethers.

Bereft of friends and reviled by many, Myanmar is set to spoil the party again.

The recent crackdown by the country's military junta on peaceful pro-democracy protesters will figure prominently at an annual summit this week of Asian leaders, much to the chagrin of its colleagues in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the region's main political and economic bloc.

After a series of ministerial-level meetings, ASEAN leaders will hold their summit Tuesday, followed by a tete-a-tete with leaders of China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand in the so-called East Asia Summit on Wednesday.

Host Singapore's Foreign Minister George Yeo said the ASEAN leaders' informal dinner Monday will be "the critical meeting" for adopting a common position on Myanmar.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

France joins Canada in imposing sanctions on Burma's Regime


Megan Ainscow , For CanWest News Service
Published: Saturday, November 17, 2007

PARIS -- France and its European Union partners will follow Canada's lead and step up economic sanctions against Myanmar in the wake of human rights violations over the last few weeks by the ruling military junta.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier praised the decision Friday after meeting with his French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner.

Bernier pointed out that Canada has implemented "the most severe economic sanctions in the world" against Myanmar, also known as Burma, and expressed his pleasure that the France will join in acting against the regime.

Canada announced Wednesday a ban on all exports to and from Burma, and on new Canadian investment in the country, among other sanctions.

Kouchner said that France is "working with our European partners on sanctions" and stressed the importance of dialogue rather than violence to solve the conflict.

A protest by thousands of monks across Burma in September was met with vicious retaliation by the Burmese government. Thousands were interrogated, and random raids resulted in arrests and beatings.

UN envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro reported that at least 14 people were killed in the crackdown after an investigative visit to the country this week that ended Thursday.

Bernier also acknowledged French support for the NATO mission in Afghanistan, and specifically the Canadian deployment in Kandahar.

"They've provided us with six Mirage airplanes. I think this is very useful for our Canadian Forces ... and I hope we will have other co-operation but we're working together and I think this country and its government is doing its part like the other countries.

"The goal at the end is to work together to ensure that this country is more secure and after that can have some economic development. But I'm very pleased with the participation of the French government in Khandahar."

Kouchner also noted additional French commitment to Afghanistan.

"There is also material support, the support of military offices, and technicians, and I hope it will develop in the future, and also provide access to the population for better health," he said.

Canada has about 2,500 soldiers in Afghanistan, most in the volatile southern area around Kandahar.

France has about 1,000 troops in the country, most stationed with the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul.

China Calls for Quick Reforms in Burma


YANGON, Myanmar Nov 17, 2007 (AP)

Share China called on Myanmar to speed up democratic reforms, state media reported Saturday an unusual move for Beijing, which has traditionally refrained from criticizing the military regime.

The call came as a U.N. human rights investigator wrapped up a trip to the country that he said had helped him to determine that at least 15 people died during the junta's crackdown on pro-democracy protests in September.

China's Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi also expressed support for U.N. attempts to reconcile the regime and the suppressed democracy movement during a two-day meeting with the junta that ended Friday. The state-controlled New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported the meeting only after Wang had left the country.

China, a communist country whose own record on democratic reforms and human rights has been criticized, is one of Myanmar's largest trading partners and its main political ally.

Beijing does not usually publicly criticize Myanmar's military government, a reflection of its position of strict noninterference in the internal affairs of the country.

But in recent weeks, it has been credited with working behind the scenes to pressure Myanmar to embrace democratic reforms after the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations.

China also provided important backing for the mission of Ibrahim Gambari, the U.N. secretary general's special envoy on Myanmar, by supporting a Security Council declaration and helping persuade Myanmar to allow him to visit twice.

As Wang's visit ended Friday, U.N. human rights investigator Paulo Sergio Pinheiro announced that at least 15 people died in Myanmar's biggest city when the military crushed the demonstrations, five more than the government had acknowledged.

"This is just in Yangon," Pinheiro said. "The government has not told me all the casualties in the country."

He said numbers were based on post-mortems and other official information, adding that he would continue seeking relevant information from other sources.

Singapore bans protest at ASEAN summit

By Koh Gui Qing
Sat Nov 17, 2:18 AM ET

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore has banned all outdoor protest at a summit of Southeast Asian nations and rejected an opposition party's request to stage a Myanmar pro-democracy protest, police and activists said on Saturday.

Leaders of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) are set to sign a common charter that would turn the 40-year-old group into a legal entity. Myanmar prime minister Thein Sein is expected to come, which would mark the first appearance of a top junta member at an international forum since the regime's bloody crackdown on protesters in September.

About 2,500 police have been mobilized for the event and roadblocks have been set up in streets around the venue, where ASEAN will meet other Asian leaders, including Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao and Japan's Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.

A police official told Reuters that two applications for an outdoor protest had been rejected, but one for an indoor protest had been approved. He declined to say who the applicants were or where the indoor protest would be held.

The opposition Singapore Democratic Party said on its Web site the government had rejected its application for a protest to "call on ASEAN member states to take concrete measures to promote democracy in the region rather than just make empty promises."

Under Singapore laws, any public gathering of more than four people requires a police permit.

"The Charter states that ASEAN would promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people in the region. How does ASEAN intend to do this if its chair bans outright any form of political activity?" the SDP said.

An SDP member told Reuters the party had not decided if it will stage a protest anyway.

PROTECTED AREAS

In September 2006, during the IMF-World Bank meetings in Singapore, SDP leader Chee Soon Juan ignored a police ban on outdoor protest and made headlines worldwide with a dramatic standoff with police, which formed a human barricade around the handful of SDP activists, blocking them in a city park for four days and nights to stop them from holding a democracy march.

Police said that for the duration of the ASEAN summit, four areas, including the summit venue and the president's palace, had been marked as "protected areas." This means that police can search or detain anyone in the area or ask them to leave.

A group of international students from the National University of Singapore plans a Burmese democracy demonstration outside the summit venue, a statement on the SDP Web site said.

"The students will wear red t-shirts and stand in groups of four to remain within Singapore's stringent laws against the freedom of assembly," it said.

Diplomats expect that the annual ASEAN summit will be dominated by the Myanmar issue.

Human Rights Watch has urged ASEAN to establish deadlines to implement a binding regional human rights mechanism.

On Friday, the U.S. Senate voted to urge ASEAN to suspend Myanmar until the military regime shows respect for human rights.

The charter that ASEAN is set to sign on Tuesday does not include provisions for suspension or exclusion of members, one of the committee members who drafted the text told Reuters on Friday.

Singapore and other ASEAN members have said that keeping Myanmar inside ASEAN offers better chances of putting the country on the road to democracy.

(Reporting by Koh Gui Qing; writing by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

Friday, November 16, 2007

ASEAN can help Burmese regime in peaceful transition to democracy

By Channel NewsAsia's Philippine Correspondent Christine Ong |
Posted: 16 November 2007 1903 hrs

MANILA: The Philippine Foreign Secretary, Alberto Romulo, is optimistic that ASEAN will be able to exert its influence on Myanmar, and help the nation to achieve a peaceful transition to democracy.

In an exclusive interview with Channel NewsAsia, Mr Romulo expressed his hope that the signing of the ASEAN Charter by member countries next week in Singapore will compel Myanmar to finally implement democratic reforms.

The landmark ASEAN Charter, scheduled to be signed at next week's 13th ASEAN Summit, was among the key documents initiated by the Philippines when it chaired the grouping previously.

"The Philippines hopes that the signing of the ASEAN Charter in Singapore will finally compel Myanmar to actually implement its long-delayed roadmap to democracy," said Mr Romulo.

The Foreign Secretary pointed out that the ASEAN charter may lose its significance if the grouping is unable to bring errant members into line.

Myanmar has been under pressure from fellow ASEAN members, as well as the world community, to move forward with democratic reforms after a violent crackdown on protesters in September which left at least ten dead.

"I think that is what the leaders of ASEAN should impress upon Myanmar," said Mr Romulo. "It should no longer procrastinate or string along the organisation with more promises, which in the last ten years they have been making.

"Strengthening democracy, deepening and enhancing governance and rule of law, adhering to human rights, there should be national reconciliation immediately... First step (is the) release of Aung Sung Suu Kyi without conditions."

Mr Romulo warned that further non-compliance by Myanmar could well erode the credibility of the entire grouping.

"It's not only Myanmar's credibility, but ASEAN and the countries composing ASEAN," he said.

"And in particular, when we sign the charter without implementation of the reforms - good governance, rule of law, protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the strengthening of the democratic process, then it is a hollow manifestation of these principles by ASEAN."

The Foreign Secretary is particularly proud of efforts by the Philippines to promote human rights.

"One of the important contributions that the Philippines made in the ASEAN Charter is the creation or establishment of a human rights body," he said.

ASEAN countries are also members of the United Nations, Mr Romulo continued to say, and human rights form a fundamental aspect of UN activities.

US Senate asks ASEAN leaders to suspend Burma's regime

Friday, November 16, 2007

Washington, D.C. - Today, the Senate unanimously adopted a resolution by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) encouraging the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to take action to ensure a peaceful transition to democracy in Burma.

Recently, hundreds of thousands of Burmese citizens led by courageous Buddhist monks risked their lives in demonstrations to demand a return to democracy and respect for human rights in their country. The repressive military government in Burma responded with force and brutally cracked down on the peaceful protesters. The junta continues to arrest and detain Burmese activists.

Next week, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meets in Singapore for the 13th ASEAN Summit. The Boxer resolution states that Congress “would welcome a decision by ASEAN, consistent with its core documents and its new charter, to review Burma’s membership in ASEAN and to consider appropriate disciplinary measures, including suspension, until such time as the Government of Burma has demonstrated an improved respect for and commitment to human rights.”

Boxer said, “I appreciate the strong comments from ASEAN member nations condemning the junta’s violent suppression of peaceful protesters in Burma. It is now time for ASEAN to back its words with actions.”

Boxer, who is chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, held a hearing on Burma last month.

###

US Senate asks ASEAN leaders to suspend Myanmar
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US Senate unanimously adopted a resolution Friday urging an upcoming ASEAN summit to suspend military-ruled Myanmar from the group for its bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests.


The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had issued a rare rebuke to Myanmar's generals following the September crackdown, expressing "revulsion" and demanding that the ruling military junta immediately stop the use of violence against protesters.


"It is now time for ASEAN to back its words with actions," said Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer from California, whose resolution was adopted Friday ahead of next week's ASEAN summit to be held in Singapore.


"I appreciate the strong comments from ASEAN member nations condemning the junta's violent suppression of peaceful protesters in Burma (Myanmar)," said Boxer, chairwoman of a Senate panel on East Asian and Pacific affairs.


The Boxer resolution said the US Congress "would welcome a decision by ASEAN, consistent with its core documents and its new charter, to review Burma's membership in ASEAN and to consider appropriate disciplinary measures, including suspension, until such time as the Government of Burma has demonstrated an improved respect for and commitment to human rights."


ASEAN leaders are planning to sign a landmark charter which seeks to promote human rights and democracy but rights groups say there is no clear mechanism for the grouping to take action against Myanmar.
Fourteen people were killed in the main city of Yangon during the military suppression of pro-democracy protests in September led by Buddhist monks described as the biggest anti-government demonstrations in nearly 20 years.


Amnesty International has estimated that 700 people arrested over the protests were still in detention, although the government has said only about 90 of the nearly 3,000 originally rounded up are still being held.
The crackdown was condemned globally, with the United States and European Union stepping up sanctions against Myanmar.


ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dawn Political Discussion: The Probability of having Genuine Dialogue

Pressure is one more factor to speed up the dialogue and equally negotiation between them. Is western economic sanction really effective to change the attitude of Gen than shwe and his ally? What about Tribunal Court? International Court of Justice?

Read More:
http://komoethee.blogspot.com/

You can't enter into a dialogue with empty hands (pls read without tangible threats of actions that will hurt SPDC's elites and their immediate famili

Bringing these criminal generals to ICC/UN Tribunal (cooperation with our international allies) should be in the pipeline for immediate actions.

Indeed. Dialogue without a time frame is meaningless.

UN investigator meets prisoners

YANGON, Myanmar - A U.N. human rights investigator said he was able to meet with several prominent political prisoners Thursday before ending his five-day mission to Myanmar.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro was sent by the U.N. to investigate allegations of widespread abuse in connection with the ruling junta's bloody September crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

He went to Insein Prison in Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, where he was able to talk with several political detainees, including labor activist Su Su Nway, who was arrested Tuesday, he said at a news conference at Yangon's airport.

Pinheiro also met with 77-year-old journalist Win Tin, held since 1989, and members of the 88 Generation Students group, who have been especially active in nonviolent anti-government protests in recent years. Pinheiro did not reveal details of their conversations.

He said he had requested a meeting with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest, but it had not been granted by the government.


He added, however, that he was satisfied with the cooperation he had received from the government, and noted that U.N. special envoy for Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari, who visited a week earlier, had been allowed to meet Suu Kyi.

One of Pinheiro's goals had been to determine the numbers of people detained and killed by the regime in the recent unrest. He privately told diplomats Wednesday that no exact number could yet be determined, according to one envoy who asked not to be identified, citing protocol.

The military government said 10 people were killed when troops opened fire on crowds of peaceful protesters on Sept. 26-27. Diplomats and dissidents, however, say the death toll was much higher.

Buddhist monks inspired and led the movement until it was brutally crushed. The authorities began their crackdown by raiding several monasteries in Yangon in the middle of the night and hauling monks away.

The government has acknowledged detaining nearly 3,000 people but says it has released most of them. Many prominent political activists, however, remain in custody.

Pinheiro had also visited Insein Prison on Monday, but was only given access to officials.

Insein has held numerous political prisoners over the years. Many former inmates describe torture, abysmal conditions and long stretches in solitary confinement.
Pinheiro's trip was otherwise dominated by meetings with junta officials. He had been given access to several detention centers in Yangon in addition to Insein, but was not allowed to meet any prisoners.

Despite worldwide criticism, the junta continued its crackdown on dissidents during Pinheiro's visit.

The latest to be detained were three people handing out anti-regime pamphlets Wednesday at a fruit and vegetable market in Yangon, witnesses said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they feared government reprisals.

The incident followed earlier arrests of two prominent dissidents.

Su Su Nway, a prominent activist who had been on the run for more than two months, was arrested Tuesday morning in Yangon as she tried to place a leaflet near a hotel where Pinheiro was staying, said exiled Myanmar dissidents in Thailand.

U Gambira, a monk who helped spearhead the pro-democracy demonstrations in Yangon, was arrested several days ago, said Stanley Aung of the Thailand-based dissident group National League for Democracy-Liberated Area.

Pinheiro said he did not get to meet with U Gambira

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Canada says to impose tougher sanctions on Burma's regime

OTTAWA (Reuters) -

Canada will tighten existing sanctions against Myanmar after the military junta's recent clampdown on demonstrators, Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier said on Wednesday.

In September, the junta crushed the biggest pro-democracy protests in nearly 20 years, killing at least 10 people.Myanmar was formerly known as Burma.

"Canada has long had measures against Burma. Now, we are going to impose the toughest sanctions in the world ... they are right on moral grounds. The regime in Burma is abhorrent to Canadian values," Bernier said in a speech in Toronto.

He said Canada would:

* ban all exports to Myanmar, except for humanitarian goods, and bar all imports

* freeze Canadian assets of Myanmar citizens connected with the junta

* prohibit the provision of Canadian financial services and the export of technical data to Myanmar

* ban new investment by Canadian individuals and firms

* ban ships and aircraft registered in either country from visiting the other

"There is no more room for compromise with this odious regime," said Bernier. No figures for annual trade between the two nations were immediately available.

Last month, the House of Commons granted honorary citizenship to Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent nearly 12 of the last 18 years in prison or under house arrest.

Dawn Political Discussion: The Probability of having Genuine Dialogue

Dear friends,

We cordially invite you to participate in " Dawn Political Discussion"

Topic: The Probability of having Genuine Dialogue

It doesn’t whether you are a pessimist or an optimist.

We welcome your views and comments.


Sample Question:

Pressure is one more factor to speed up the dialogue and equally negotiation between them. Is western economic sanction really effective to change the attitude of Gen than shwe and his ally? What about Tribunal Court? International Court of Justice? If they distract the path of dialogue, that would be only answer, i think. Which symbolic organization, person communicate with ethnic group? that issue is International concern especially regional countries.

13 November 2007 12:13


Sample Answer:
You can't enter into a dialogue with empty hands (pls read without tangible threats of actions that will hurt SPDC's elites and their immediate families and close associates). Hence, international actions must be in the pipeline, ready to implement once SPDC shows its insincerity. I also believe that the "targeted sanctions" are working.

Sample Answer:
Bringing these criminal generals to ICC/UN Tribunal (cooperation with our international allies) should be in the pipeline for immediate actions. Daw Suu could use this triumph card as an important bargaining chip.

Sample Answer:

Indeed. Dialogue without a time frame is meaningless. SPDC is notorious for dragging their feet. Even their own path to democracy is dragging for 19 years and counting. That is why, both Daw Suu ( in her statement ) and Mr. Gambari ( his retort to Kyaw Sann) explicitly stated dialogue/transition to democracy should be conducted within a reasonable time frame.

Read More:
http://komoethee.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Breaking News: Prominent Activists Arrested

Burmese security forces have arrested two prominent anti-government activists — a Buddhist monk and a labor rights advocate, fellow dissidents said Tuesday.

The United States and other Western countries deplored the arrests during a U.N. Security Council meeting, saying they raised doubts about the ruling junta's sincerity in moving toward democracy and cooperating with the United Nations.

News of the arrests came as U.N. human rights investigator Paulo Sergio Pinheiro was on the third day of a five-day mission to investigate human rights conditions in the wake of the government's violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests in September.

U Gambira, a Buddhist monk who helped lead demonstrations in Yangon that were crushed by the military junta, was arrested several days ago, exiled Myanmar dissidents in Thailand said.

Su Su Nway, a prominent female activist who has been on the run for more than two months, was arrested Tuesday morning in Yangon, they said.

U Gambira, also known as U Gambiya, was a leader of the All-Burma Monks alliance, a group established to support pro-democracy protests after small demonstrations began in August.

Monks inspired and led the movement until it was crushed Sept. 26-27. The authorities began their crackdown by raiding several monasteries in Yangon, Myanmar's biggest city, in the middle of the night and taking the monks away.

Activists who have just arrived at the Myanmar-Thailand border confirmed that U Gambira had been arrested, said Stanley Aung of the Thailand-based dissident group National League for Democracy-Liberated Area.

"I am very worried about U Gambira," said Bo Kyi, head of the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. "I fear he will be tortured."

In an e-mail to The Associated Press, Bo Kyi appealed to Pinheiro to meet with U Gambira before he leaves Myanmar.

Other dissident groups also reported U Gambira's arrest, although details differed. Some said he was arrested Nov. 4, the same day an article he wrote was published in the Washington Post. In it, he vowed to continue the struggle against the military regime.

Another account said he lost touch with colleagues Nov. 10. He has been active in publicizing his cause abroad, apparently using a satellite phone.

Su Su Nway was arrested as she was trying to place a leaflet on a building near a hotel in Yangon where Pinheiro has been staying, the NLD-LA's Aung said.

His account confirmed one given in Yangon by a Myanmar official who insisted on anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media. The contents of the leaflet were not known.

Pinheiro has said his mission is to determine how many people were killed and detained in the crackdown. Myanmar authorities said 10 people were killed when troops opened fire on crowds of peaceful protesters. Diplomats and dissidents, however, say the death toll was much higher.

The government acknowledged detaining almost 3,000 people but says it has released most of them. Most of the prominent political activists remain in custody.

In an address to the U.N. Security Council, Myanmar's Ambassador U Kyaw Tint Swe insisted there "had been no further arrests in connection with the demonstrations." He made no mention of Su Su Nway or U Gambira.

But Britain's ambassador to the U.N., John Sawers, said Su Su Nway's detention "raises a question mark over the regime's" assurances to U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari days earlier that political arrests would stop.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad denounced both arrests and said the junta must "release all political prisoners" if it wants to show its commitment "to cooperating with the United Nations."

Gambari said that if the arrests were confirmed, "it would be extremely worrisome because what we want to do is move forward, not back."

Nevertheless, Gambari, who visited Myanmar last week for the second time since the September turmoil, told the Security Council he was making progress in nudging the junta toward meaningful dialogue with the pro-democracy opposition. He urged the Security Council to give his diplomatic effort time to succeed.

"On balance, the positive outcomes of this latest mission show that the government of Myanmar, while stressing its sovereignty and independence, can be responsive to the concerns of the international community," Gambari said. "The situation is qualitatively different from what it was a few weeks ago."

Su Su Nway, 35, was active in the August protests of an oil price increase. She dramatically escaped arrest when pro-government thugs broke up a demonstration on Aug. 28, an event captured on video and shown on television around the world.

The September demonstrations, which attracted as many as 100,000 people at their height, grew out of the much smaller August protests.

After the Aug. 28 confrontation, Su Su Nway went into hiding, but was reported to occasionally participate in more protest activity. She had regular contact with the media until her cell phone was disconnected in early September.

The Democratic Voice of Burma, a Norway-based radio station run by Myanmar dissidents, reported that on Oct. 27, she laid flowers at the spot where Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai was shot dead a month earlier by government security forces while he was covering the Yangon demonstrations.

Su Su Nway served nine months in prison in 2005-06 for her labor activism. She is also a member of detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party.

_____

Associated Press Writer Alexandra Olson contributed to this report from the United Nations.