Thursday, December 27, 2007

Time: Bhutto: 'She has been martyred'

Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto waves to supporters after an election rally in Rawalpindi December 27, 2007, shortly before she was killed in a gun and bomb attack.

Just days before parliamentary polls in Pakistan, leading Prime Ministerial contender and anti terrorism crusader Benazir Bhutto was shot dead during an election rally in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, near Islamabad. "She has been martyred," said party official Rehman Malik. The Associated Press, citing Malik, reported that Bhutto was shot in the neck and the chest before the gunman blew himself up. At least 20 bystanders were killed in the blast. Bhutto was rushed to a hospital But, at 6:16 p.m. Pakistan time, she was declared dead.

Breaking News: Benazir Bhutto assassinated

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated today as a suicide bomber killed at least 14 of her supporters, a spokesman for her party and other officials said. Bhutto suffered bullet wounds, TV networks are reporting.

Three things Burmese can do against China

By Deirel Cinzah

December 22, 2007 - China is the core supporter and the backbone of Burma's military regime. It is not a secret. The Burmese military regime might have long gone without the blind political and economic support of the Chinese Communist regime. China embraced the new formed State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), which was formed in the aftermath of the 8888 national uprising when it bloodied its hands by slaughtering innocent Burmese people. And China began giving economic and political support to the regime since early 1990s. In other words, China chose the military regime over the people of Burma.

Although the people of Burma are unhappy with China's foreign policy towards Burma, they have never taken any action against China. However, things have changed after the 'Saffron Revolution' in September, 2007. The people of Burma abroad along with their foreign sympathizers held demonstrations in front of the Chinese consulates and embassies in several countries for several days. On October 9, some unknown gunmen on motorcycles opened fire at the Chinese consulate in Mandalay , the second capital city of Burma .

It would be very unwise for China not take this message seriously. The end for the military regime is near. Thus, if China wants to maintain a healthy and warm relationship with the future democratic Union of Burma for its long term interests then it is time for China to review carefully its foreign policy toward Burma . China must cease selling weapons, all military equipment and all political and economic support to the regime altogether.

It would be foolish if China thinks the people of Burma can do nothing against it. I the future Burma can take steps without causing loss to the country. First by stopping trade with China and if it happens China would lose one of its important markets that would result in huge financial loss of billions of dollars. Burma can import all the goods that it may need from other countries and can export its goods to other countries as well. More importantly, it would be big problem for China if it cannot import its energy needs such as oil, natural gas and hydro power from Burma .

Secondly, Burma can close down all Chinese military bases in its territory. It may give the Chinese bases to India if the people of Burma decide that India is worthy of reward based on its performances during their struggle for democracy. if their bases are taken by India, it would be a serious threat to China's national security.
Finally, Burma can take political and diplomatic punitive actions. Firstly, Burma can recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state as some countries do today. It can support Taiwan in the United Nations to get recognition and get a seat in the UN. Secondly, if Burma wants to take more serious action, it can even cut off diplomatic relations with China and establish formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan .

Taiwan has taken smart action, especially after the 'Saffron Revolution. Taiwan quickly condemned the Burmese military regime for cracking down on peaceful demonstrators during the 'Saffron Revolution'. Taiwan has officially announced its willingness and readiness to help Burma when Burma regains democracy, and Taiwan has formed a task force in Thailand to help Burmese activists to usher in democracy in Burma . It would go down in history and the people of Burma will remember it.

Can the "Group of Friends" help Gambari?

Dr. Sein Myint
Mizzima News (

December 23, 2007 - Last Wednesday, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon formed a "Group of Friends" of Burma to aide his special envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari. Gambari is in close consultation with both the military generals and pro-democracy leaders in an effort to encourage democracy and human rights in Burma.

The group is comprised of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the US, Britain, China, Russia and France); four ASEAN members (Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam); the EU representative (currently Portugal); plus three major regional players (India, Japan and Australia); and Norway.

To strengthen this noble cause it is worthwhile to analyze how this "Group of Friends" can help Mr. Gambari's mission to Burma.

On the surface, there is no reason to doubt each country's friendship and sincerity towards Burma as Burma has maintained her long standing foreign policy of non-alignment since 1955, when the late Burmese Premier U Nu was one of founding signatories of the first Non-Aligned Movement Conference at Bandung, Indonesia.

However, if we dig deeper and carefully scrutinize the "Group of Friends," each member's "Friendliness" toward the current Burmese military government, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), falls into one of the two camps.

The first camp, the "political and/or economic friends" of the SPDC camp, is led by two permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and Russia, and includes regional giants Japan and India as well as the four ASEAN countries.

The second camp, the "political friends" of the Burmese democratic opposition camp, is led by the US, Britain, and France, all three of whom are permanent members of the UN Security Council, and includes the EU, Norway, and Australia.

The "Group of Friends" is an informal group hoping to assist Mr. Gambari's mediation work in Burma, specifically in helping to find ways and means to persuade the recalcitrant junta leader, Senior General Than Shwe, and his hard-line loyalists, to release detained opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and commence a meaningful dialogue.

Many countries in the first camp, led by China, have publicly stated their view on the matter of releasing Aung San Suu Kyi as an internal affair of Burma that only the Burmese can solve themselves. This camp wishes to leave the generals alone to decide Burma's fate without outside interference.

But the second camp, led by the US, believes that the international community cannot leave the SPDC's gross human rights abuses as an internal affair since the United Nations has a responsibility to protect the millions of people living under harsh military rule and arbitrary laws.

While the US and her group push for a tougher position in dealing with the junta, China and her group resist applying pressure, preferring instead to use gentle persuasion.

So far, the junta has survived sanctions by the US and the EU as they have had little direct impact on the government, and the SPDC has also brushed aside the gentle "constructive engagement" initiated by ASEAN neighbors.

With such diametrical views from the two camps, getting a consensus on how to persuade and pressure the junta to maintain direct talks with Aung San Suu Kyi will demand a high level of diplomatic skill by both the Secretary General and his special envoy.

A senior EU diplomat has said "at least these diplomats have a place to meet and a format to work together". The Japanese Ambassador has also given a somewhat positive note about the usefulness of the group, adding that the group is not against Burma, though perhaps he means it is not against the SPDC.

With such diverse opinions and views amongst group members, one cannot help but wonder, how will the "Friends" of the junta find common ground with the "Friends" of the democratic opposition and provide a magic formula for Mr. Gambari?

In the end, if this magic formula fails to materialize, perhaps it is time for the "Friends" of the democratic opposition to start contemplating a more effective approach.

[Dr. Sein Myint serves as Director for Policy Development with Justice for Human Rights in Burma (JHB).]

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Burmese sailor was rescued as his ship was feared to have sunk in South Korea's waters

Members of the South Korean Coast Guard help transfer a Myanmar seaman (C) to hospital after his arrival at the port of Yeosu. South Korea Wednesday resumed an air and sea search for 14 seamen missing after their freighter sank but officials said it would be a miracle to find anyone still alive.

A Burmese sailor was rescued as his ship was feared to have sunk in South Korea's waters. Other 14 sailors including 2 other Burmese sailors are still missing.

Burma is Not Back to Normal

A Journey from Rangoon to Mae Sot on the Thai-Burma Border
Burma is Not Back to Normal

A small Buddhist Peace Fellowship delegation went to Burma to bear witness to the suffering of the people following the brutal crackdown by the Burmese military at the end of September on monks and the people of Burma. We wanted to communicate the support and solidarity of the international community with the people of Burma, and to be a voice for the voiceless by sharing with our communities on return. Our communities had expressed their concerns and given generously, and we offered the donations to various groups to let them know that the rest of the world deeply cares about Burma. We wanted to explore channels for future further support inside Burma, as well as finding ways to support the monks in exile.

The participants included two people from Thailand including a socially engaged Buddhist monk, Hozan Alan Senauke, a Zen priest and from Buddhist Peace Fellowship USA, and Jill Jameson from Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Australia. Jill has worked with people from Burma since 1994 facilitating grassroots leadership training, peace building and conflict transformation.

Inside Burma and on the Thai-Burma border we met with activists, monks, students, orphans, Western diplomats, and ordinary people in teashops and restaurants. We listened to their stories about events of the last several months, and how they are continuing to work both for the liberation of Burma as well as for their survival and that of their families. Wherever we went, people were very happy to meet with us, and welcomed the opportunity to share their stories.

The generals want the international community to believe that everything has returned to 'normal', that Burma is safe again for tourists, and that the disorder from the protests is over. But the 'normality' for Burma under the military regime is a state of fear and repression. This verbal whitewash from the regime was very different from what we learned from the people we met.

Neither army, police or beggars were evident in downtown Rangoon, but we heard from 'Aung Myint' that beggars and the homeless had been taken to detention centres, and that some of the army were dressed as monks at Shwedagon Pagoda, and others were in plain clothes. Our group was investigated on one of our visits to a monastic orphanage by plain clothes police and fortunately, giving out packets of noodle soup to the children had not been a crime.

People are suffering very deeply. They suffer the consequences of a failed state which spends according to IMF: 0.5% of GNP on health, 0.4% on education and 40% on defenceon controlling their own people. 'Dr. Win' told us that many people just outside of Rangoon can only afford one meal a day, and that with fuel increases some people cannot afford the bus fare to go to work. We visited several Buddhist monastic schools and orphanages. At one of these there were 500 students, and often there was not enough food, only a little rice. Large classes of children sat at cramped benches, and the large dormitories smelt of neglect. During our visit, a health worker was lifting shirts to reveal ulcers and extensive ring worm, which were dabbed with a sulphur cream. Malnutrition, over-crowding and limited staff to care for the children surely exacerbate the problem. The families of children at such an orphanage as this cannot even afford the low fees of a government school. In the Rangoon Division alone we heard there were 162 such Buddhist orphanages. There are also many run by Christian denominations. 'Betty' who visits orphanages in other states, said there could be 'be hundreds of thousands of orphans'. Often, she said, the child's father was a soldier who had been killed, and mother may have been injured by a landmine gathering food in a forest. We also heard these children referred to as the 'scrap children' where many families are too poor to feed all their children. And their future? Many have no option but to join the army, or, to become a monk. And monks and soldiers are about equal in number. But many children are also forced conscripts to the army. Recent reports of child conscripts as young as 10 years have reached the international media. The regime's response to this we heard from 'Stephen' was to fine either the child or its parents, anything to avoid responsibility being taken by the generals.

We had heard how one prominent monk responding to the food shortages had set up a food station to produce low cost boxed meals to distribute through downtown shops and in rural areas. The Venerable was very reluctant to talk about this and fear was palpable. We had hoped to be able to contribute to this program but suspect the program may have been suspended.

People are controlled not only by military force but also by fear. This is all pervasive. People often speak in code to avoid being overheard by unknown security people in plain clothes, or by informers so poor and desperate for basic survival that they will inform on anybody. We also touched this fear, with our antennas out on stalks, hyper-alert with our main concern for our friends not to suffer the consequences of talking with us. But there was also an increase in anger and urgency since last I was in Burma. San, a gentle elderly man confided he would like to get rid of the leaders somehowfor the greater good of all. Sitting at tea shops, people would approach us with a common theme; 'life is so difficult now', and ' 90% of the people are against this regime, and please do tell the international community' and ' do take our message to the Security Council'. All we could do was listen. And as Buddhists, this is a valuable practice. So many people had a deep need to talk and share, to tell the whole story so often in all its violent and brutal detail ­ interspersed with jokes. Impossible to understand other than in terms of fear and power, and possibly history. Aung San Suu Kyi, the democratically elected leader of Burma threw some light on this back in 1991.
"It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it."

Since September people are suffering deeply from the brutal onslaught on the highly revered monks in a country where 90% are Buddhist, and where respect for monks is deeply imbued in their culture and way of life. Many monks we heard had been forcibly disrobed so they could be tortured. And it was not 2% of the monks as claimed by the generals who marched, but nearer 30% were involved in the protests. They were compassionately drawing attention to the recent dramatic increases in rice and fuel costs. They knew intimately of the people's plight ­ their begging bowls providing an indication. Despite their poverty people still however gave a little rice to the monks.

We heard from 'Stephen' that there were four categories of people in the protest There were those who were guilty by looking, those who clapped, those who offered water and those who marched. Only the first three categories were released after a month's interrogation, and then only if they signed that they would never again protest. The forth category are probably still in detention. 'Stephen' also shared with us that his college friend who was now a colonel, had revealed details of invasion of a monastery while drunk, and that he was under orders to beat up monks when questioning them. These are very concerning humanitarian aspects, and we need to keep asking where are the monks and the people detained? We further heard from 'Stephen' that soon after the protests ended, that the crematorium had been running at the unusual hour of 1-4am.

'Peter' a reliable source, indicated numbers killed were much higher than given by the regime, and would seem to be higher than in the report by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Paulo Pinheiro, 7 Dec. 2007. We heard that 30 monks were killed in Yangon and more than 70 people were killed in detention after the demonstrations had stopped. Piheiro reported that 31 monks had been killed and a further 74 listed as missing, and up to 1000 still detained - 106 of these were women, of whom six were Buddhist nuns. We heard on a visit to one monastery, that the nuns from nearby had left, and that they miss their chanting in the mornings. What has happened to other nuns in Burma?

An English teacher monk at a monastic school and orphanage for 500 children said there were now 15 monks, 35 novices, 12 teachers and 80 resident children. Prior to September, there were 200 monks and novices who have not been heard of since their participation in the 'revolution' and who had fled. They were to make contact but nothing has been heard. It is feared they are in detention or worse.

On the Thai-Burma border there are many local organisations, such as the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. There were photos of political prisoners around the walls and a prison model exhibition, depicting the forms of torture employed. And yet speaking with 'Myint,' a survivor of torture and 15 years of prison, including several years in solitary confinement, we were left in no doubt about the extraordinary courage and ardent commitment for democracy, freedom and dignity of many of the activists.

So how is the military crackdown impacting on Buddhism? On the one hand, many monks have gone from being revered to now being treated as criminals. On the other, meditation practice would seem to be strong. Some political prisoners we met, have survived long incarceration and torture and overcome deep depression through their meditation practice. Some monasteries such as Maggin in Rangoon have been closed and the HIV/Aids patients it cared for have been dispersed. There are 3,000 Buddhist monasteries throughout the country which provide accommodation, food, care and education for many children, and we could not get answers who is now taking responsibility for the children.

On the Thai Burma border we met with three different groups of monks who had managed to flee. Their number is surprisingly low given the 100, 000 monks who actively participated, leaving grave concerns for the safety of those still in Burma. We heard that some monks from Mandalay had fled in terror to the border, disrobed and are now working as migrant workers. Other monks who have fled are living in 3 safe-houses set up for 51 new arrivals from September. Despite being out of Burma, they have great difficulties. They have been forbidden refuge in Thai temples ­ 3 police cars were seen outside one temple keeping watch ­ they have no travel permits and if caught, may be very heavily fined or sent back to Burma. UNHCR is also no longer registering asylum seekers. On the other hand, resettlement of refugees in third countries such as Australia and the United states, is having a de-stabilising effect on border communities. Those people with some level of training, such as health workers and teachers are being given priority causing hardship for the local communities whose resources are already severely over-stretched.

Despite the fear, the poverty and with little hope of change, people we met demonstrate huge generosity, a great sense of humour and deep caring for their country, which was once the rice bowl of Asia, and with many highly educated people. Many have found ways to survive, of finding opportunities in the cracks between conflict and possibility, of taking one step at a time. There is a refusal to give up ­ people rising up again and again in full awareness of the consequences and risks to their lives and those of their families. Their message is very clear ­ and urgent ­ enough is enough, and it is time for freedom.

There is a growing movement with resonances of pre-independence India led by Gandhi. This mostly underground democracy movement inside Burma has strong links with a developing civil society and local organisations on the borders, linked with increased awareness and strength of an environmental movement. But it would seem that unless international community intervenes little will change for the people of Burma. Now is the time.

So, I feel a deep responsibility to speak out, to share as widely as possible, that life in Burma is 'not back to normal'. People have been disappeared. Far too many. Where are they, and what has happened to them? The intense and pervasive fear and gross human rights abuse contravene international conventions. Even those not in official detention are in effect in detention in a place called Burma. There were pleas from many we met not to allow our Asian neighbours to accept this 'normality', and a warning not to accept what the generals say will change. It is not evident that they care one scrap about the people they control. We in Australia should support the broad based democracy movement and the people inside Burma with a passion for freedom, on the need for dialogue and reconciliation. There are no easy solutions and the wounding has been long and deep but the question now that we have all seen the pictures and heard the cries for help, how can we continue to respond? I feel we must prioritise the freeing of political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi, and encourage dialogue and reconciliation. There is also a great need for healing and humanitarian support.

Jill Jameson is a member of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. This is an account of her visit to Burma in early December.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Wish you have a merry X' mas and happy holidays

Prayer for Burma

By Dan Mariano

This Christmas spare a thought for the people of Burma. They may not be Christians but the Buddhism that most of them practice values compassion above all—sometimes more so than many self-styled followers of Jesus. To the Burmese people’s misfortune, however, their military rulers sorely lack this and many other virtues.

It was only a few months ago when the military junta ruthlessly cracked down on the pro-democracy movement with a ferocity that rivaled the Chinese government’s assault at Tia­nanmen Square in 1989.

The Burmese army’s crackdown last August also brought back frightful memories of the “8888 Uprising.” On August 8, 1988, Burmese soldiers opened fire on protesters who took to the streets against economic mismanagement and political repression. The Burmese military subsequently imposed martial law.

Hoping to quell international outrage, the military junta called for elections of delegates to the People’s Assembly in 1990—the first political exercise of its kind in 30 years. However, when the polls showed the National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, capturing 60 percent of the vote and over 80 percent of parliamentary seats, the election results were annulled by the regime of Senior General Saw Maung.

In contrast, the military-backed National Unity Party garnered less than two percent of the People’s Assembly seats.

Free Suu Kyi

As a pro-democracy activist, Aung San Suu Kyi has gained international recognition; in 1991 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Notwithstanding mounting pressure from the United Nations and even from Burma’s usually convivial partners in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the Myanmar junta has kept her under house arrest. The regime has sought to placate the international community by occasionally releasing political prisoners, but it has rejected proposals—even from its Asean partners—to free Aung San Suu Kyi.

In Asean circles only the Philippines has consistently criticized the Myanmar regime for its horrendous human rights record. Addressing the UN General Assembly in New York last September, President Arroyo urged the junta “to return to the path of democracy and release Aung San Suu Kyi.”

In Manila, the Philippine Senate also urged the UN Security Council, the European Union and Asean to “intervene and restore democracy in Burma.”

On a rare occasion when our political leaders found themselves in agreement, the Philippines added its voice to the worldwide condemnation of the Myanmar junta’s bloody crackdown on Buddhist monk-led street protests, which were sparked by complaints over skyrocketing fuel prices.

Nobody knows for sure how many people were killed or injured as Myanmar troops bore down on protesters in Rangoon and other cities. However, enough information has filtered out to justify universal outrage.

Seven Steps

Even Beijing, which has yet to express remorse for its own violent repression of pro-democracy demonstrators 18 years ago, has been forced to join the global call for reform in Burma. However, China has been careful not to press too hard. With a dismal human rights record of its own, China claims it is satisfied with the Myanmar junta’s “Seven Steps” to reform.

Most of Myanmar’s Asean partners, too, prefer not to rock the boat. Instead, they have adopted what they describe as “constructive engagement” with junta.

Last January, during the Asean Summit in Cebu, the regional grouping’s vacillation became obvious when it failed to find common ground on the lack of reform in Burma. Only the Philippines has remained steadfast in rebuking the Myanmar junta.

At another Asean summit in Singapore last November, Mrs. Arroyo scored the Myanmar junta, deploring the slow pace of democratic reforms. Speaking to reporters, she said: “Let me be very clear. We ... remain concerned about the pace of progress of Burma on the issue of human rights. We particularly deplore the treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi. She must be released, now.”

The Singapore summit adopted a charter that envisions an EU-style bloc in Southeast Asia, but the pact will amount to nothing if the 10 Asean members fail to ratify it unanimously. Our delegation has said it does not expect the Philippine Congress to approve the charter “unless Myanmar upholds the charter’s principles of democracy and human rights.”

Has the international pressure on the Myanmar junta helped the process of democratization in Burma at all?

At the Kapihan sa Sulo media forum Saturday, the Philippine ambassador to Burma Noel Cabrera reported that the Myanmar regime has begun working on a new constitution, which contains human rights guarantees.

“Going by their Seven Steps program, I would say that Myanmar has already moved to its third step,” the newsman-turned-diplomat said. “Still, we believe that reforms should be adopted as soon as possible.”

This Christmas spare a thought for the people of Burma—better yet, say a prayer for them.

Thailand: Police Retrieve 22 Bodies Of Myanmar Migrants In Andaman Sea

BANGKOK, THAILAND: Thai marine police have retrieved the bodies of 22 Myanmar migrant workers in the Andaman Sea, police said Sunday (23 Dec).

Acting on information from fishermen, the search party found the corpses floating in the sea off Thailand's Ranong province Saturday (22 Dec).

"We do not know why or when the boat or boats sank but we believe that they must have been overloaded and sank in that area about two days ago," said police Lt. Col. Yongyuth Preechachart of the Ranong police station.

The 22 bodies, including those of eight women, 10 men and four children were being kept at a Buddhist temple in Ranong for autopsies, he said.

Many from impoverished Myanmar cross the border illegally to seek work in Thailand.

Ranong, 460 kilometers (290 miles) south of Bangkok, is one of the major trading and commuting points between Myanmar's Victoria Point and Thailand. (AP)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Rice wants world community to use 'more vigor' on Burma

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged the international community Friday to act with "more vigor" in dealing with the junta in Burma, calling a UN envoy's treatment there "unacceptable."— AFP

Philippines' Arroyo praises troops on human rights

December 21, 2007
The Boston Globe

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo praised the military for being more responsive to human rights on Friday, less than a month after the United Nations criticized Manila for failing to stop troops executing activists.

more stories like this"During Human Rights Day, the report about political killings showed a very, very drastic reduction in 2007, compared to previous years," Arroyo said, without citing figures, during a speech to commemorate the founding at the country's main military base.

Local human rights groups say nearly 900 people have been killed since Arroyo came to power in 2001 and more than 180 have disappeared and are feared murdered.

Karapatan, a human rights organization that estimates that 68 people have been killed in the first 10 months of 2007, said the speech was an insult to victims.

"Mrs Arroyo distorts the truth and shows her callous disregard for the victims of human rights violations by her armed forces," Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan secretary general, said in a statement.

The UN has said that soldiers were killing left-wing activists as part of a counter-insurgency campaign against communist rebels.

The military has denied that the murder rate is so high and that the killings are tactical. It blames the deaths, often carried out by masked men on motorbikes, on an internal purge within the communist New People's Army (NPA).

Arroyo, who has been one of the harshest critics of human rights abuses by Myanmar, said the army had made progress in reducing the threat from the NPA, which has cadres dotted around the archipelago who engage in tit-for-tat battles with soldiers.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

US Senate passes S. 2257, The Burma Democracy Promotion Act of 2007

S. 2257 would impose sanctions on officials of the State Peace and Development Council in Burma, to amend the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003 to prohibit the importation of gemstones and hardwoods from Burma, to promote a coordinated international effort to restore civilian democratic rule to Burma.

Detailed Summary

Burma Democracy Promotion Act of 2007 - States that it is U.S. policy to: (1) condemn the repression carried out by the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC); (2) support a peaceful transition to constitutional democracy in Burma; and (3) hold accountable individuals responsible for the repression of peaceful political activity in Burma.

Directs the President to submit to the appropriate congressional committees a list of: (1) SPDC officials who play or have played a substantial role in political repression in Burma or in the commission of human rights abuses; and (2) other Burmese SPDC supporters.

Subjects persons so identified to U.S. entry prohibition and financial sanctions (blocked property, financial transaction prohibitions, and banking sanctions). Exempts medical and humanitarian assistance from such restrictions. Authorizes additional waivers for diplomatic and travel purposes.

Terminates such prohibitions upon a presidential certification to the committees that the SPDC has: (1) released all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the National League for Democracy; (2) entered into a dialogue with democratic forces led by the National League for Democracy and the ethnic minorities of Burma on transitioning to democratic government; and (3) allowed humanitarian access to populations affected by armed conflict in all regions of Burma.

Amends the the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003 to prohibit the importation into the United States of Burmese gems, teak, or other hardwood timber.

Directs the President to appoint a Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma.

Authorizes: (1) the Secretary of the Treasury to issue multi-year licenses for humanitarian or religious activities in Burma; and (2) the President to assist nonviolent democracy activists in their efforts to promote freedom, democracy, and human rights in Burma.

Directs the Secretary of State to report to the appropriate committees respecting countries that provide military aid to Burma.

Expresses the sense of Congress that the United States should lead U.N. Security Council efforts to impose an international arms embargo on Burma.

Aung San Suu Kyi awarded "Rome for Peace and Humanitarian Action" prize

European Commission gives aid to Burma

The European Commission on Thursday allocated another 18 million euros (26 million dollars) of its assistance program to the country.

The new aid allocation from the commission comes in the wake of a brutal crackdown on peaceful protests in Rangoon last September that has prompted the US to slap new economic sanctions on Burma's military leaders.

The EU maintains that its aid program does not assist the government but attempts to address the country's humanitarian crises.

"Recent events suggest that there is no immediate end in sight for the country's hard-pressed population," said Louis Michel, who heads the Commission's Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) in Burma.

"More than ever, humanitarian aid, delivered by organisations like the International Red Cross (ICRC) and NGOs is needed to save lives, reduce suffering and protect vulnerable people," said Michel.

The main beneficiaries of Commission-supported relief programmes in Burma will be more than a million highly vulnerable rural people living in remote frontier areas, who have no access to basic social services in places such as the Sakhine, Shan, Mon and Kayin states, Sagaing and Thanintaryi divisions.

The other main target group is around 138,000 Burmese refugees living in camps in Thailand.

The European Union has been providing humanitarian aid to Burma since 1994. It has allocated more than 100 million euros to the country since 2000. dpa

Gandhi is applicable in today's Burma.

By Dr. Sein Myint

December 19, 2007 - The question "Is Gandhi applicable in today's Burma ?" has been raised by a writer from the Shan Herald Agency for News. In the nonviolent struggle against the Imperial British colonists in South Africa and in British India, Gandhi told his followers not to take 'an eye for an eye' but to take 'blows from the adversaries, to make them feel guilty for their cruel actions.'

Shan Herald's author pointed out that Gandhi was not fighting against 'lawless power' as in present day Burma, for both South Africa's apartheid regime and the British were known as 'apostles to the Rule of Law.' And when Life's Margaret Bourke-White asked Gandhi if he believed that he could use nonviolence against someone like Hitler, Gandhi's response was, "When I despair, I remember that all through history, the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and, for a time, they can seem invincible. But in the end they always fall. Think of it always." The Shan Herald's writer seems to have agreed.

Certainly, the writer from Shan Herald is not the first person; this question has been on the mind of many people from the Burmese democratic opposition for quite some time now. The question is very relevant to our cause in the struggle for freedom from the military tyranny in Burma.

Mahatma Gandhi's nonviolent struggle has always been an inspiration for all freedom fighters including Burma 's democracy icon, Daw Aung San Su Kyi, who is an ardent believer and practitioner of this doctrine. Her father, the late Bogyoke Aung San, however, relied on more conventional methods, using all or any available opportunities in his struggle for Burma's independence from the British and later from the Japanese.

In the movie, Thirteen Days, about the Cuban Missile crisis in October, 1962, the United States President JF Kennedy boldly applied a naval blockade on Cuba while confronting incoming USSR ships loaded with long range nuclear missiles. At the same time he pressured Soviet Premier Khrushchev to withdraw the existing short and medium range nuclear missiles from Cuba. The drama intensified as the Soviet ships approached the blockade and the prospect of the World War III increased.

The world narrowly escaped from the brink of nuclear holocaust when the Soviet ships decided to turn around and avoided the confrontation. Nikita Khrushchev was the first to blink in this nuclear showdown with President Kennedy, and subsequently paid the price and lost his job. Next year President Kennedy was allegedly assassinated by a lone assassin, a communist sympathizer Lee Harvey Oswald, in Dallas, Texas.

The question is what might have happened if Khrushchev had not backed down but decided to order his ships to continue sailing into the American naval quarantine zone and ordered Soviet nuclear submarines accompanying the cargo ships to retaliate, once the US navy destroyers fired upon the Soviet ships.

At the same time the Soviet medium and short range nuclear missiles were already aimed at the east coast of the United States, including Washington DC, the US was standing by at Defcon-2 level, with B-52 strategic bombers loaded with nuclear bombs up in the air, and the ICBM silos in the Midwest were opened-up ready for firing. It could have been the beginning of a nuclear war followed by a holocaust.

"Did President Kennedy make the right move by calling Khrushchev's bluff and ordering a naval blockade on Cuba ?" Everyone in the While House was extremely nervous and tense during the showdown and was quite relieved once they heard that the Soviet ships had turned back. Did meeting the 'force' with 'force' pay off?

It is a total reverse from offering the other cheek to your enemy. But to answer the question, first it is essential for us to examine and understand everything about our adversary; i.e. their strengths, weaknesses, culture, belief, attitude, mentality, up-bringing, and all other prevailing circumstances that are likely to change with time. And compare notes with all relevant historical background before we decide on the best possible action.

For example, the attitude and mentality of the late 19th century Imperialist British Raj and 21st century Burmese military dictator cannot have been the same, although there could be some similarities on the methods applied to quell and control demonstrations against them. And in the prevailing political circumstances supporting and influencing the decisions of both regimes are not the same.

Therefore the decisions by the Governor-General in British India against the nonviolent Indian Congress could not be the same as the decisions by the Burmese military junta against the nonviolent Buddhist monks and activists.

Hence, the short answer to the question of whether nonviolent methods will work against the hard-line military dictators in Burma is, 'yes' it will work in the end, but when is the end? This is an important question, for the end may come next year or in ten years. But, one thing for certain is that many people inside the country will have to endure much more suffering before they obtain the fruit of freedom. Anyhow, our Lord Buddha taught us that Life itself is 'suffering.'

Dr. Sein Myint is a member of Strategy Group for Burma and Technical Advisory Network (TAN), a team of Burmese intellectuals. He also serves as Director for Justice for Human Rights in Burma (JHB) and as a member of Board of Director for Burma Fund, the financial arm of NCGUB. Dr. Sein Myint received his engineering degree from Rangoon Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. from University of Manchester , United Kingdom . Currently he is working as Fire and Gas Consultant for a major oil company in Alaska, USA..

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Fighting Peacocks 8888
Washington DC Based Dissidents,

We were in the midst of an audience when a political discussion panel comprising of six members of the democratic alliances from the border areas of Burma and Thailand was held on December 10, 2007, while marking the 59th anniversary of International Human Rights Day, in Washington DC . USA .

Speeches and views given at the discussion were informative and encouraging with respect to Burma ’s democratization process and reflected the reality of life in Burma under the present ruling military junta.

We welcome the delegates - representing 42 different ethnic groups – who have come a long way and presented their views on the perception of foreigners, who have aired their concerns over the country’s probable disintegration in the absence of military role in politics. Specifically, we have great qualms over the likes of Gambari handling Burma ’s case today, possessing no insight into or real grasp of Burma ’s politics, other than lectured by Thant Myint Oo, a grandson of former UN Secretary General U Thant, presently colluding with the ruling military thugs in Burma today. Further, they stressed their desire of co-existing in a federal union and accordingly drafted a federal constitution.

However, we are very much skeptical of this very critical and crucial issue - a federal constitution as drafted by them - as we understand that the power or authority to draft or draw a viable and relevant ‘constitution’ rests in the hands of the elected personnel and scholars well-versed in that field..

A case in point and fact is the people of Burma have given their overwhelming mandate and authority to the elected representatives of the May 27, 1990, elections to shape their lives and destiny.

In this view and fact, neither the military constitution drawn by Than Shwe and concluded at the Nyaung-hna-pin sham show and today heading to their doom with their self-serving road map to legitimize their otherwise illegal rule nor the so-called federal constitution drawn by the ethnic groups on the Burma-Thailand borders also holds no water, as both constitutions are drawn by people lacking in legitimacy and authority, much less mandate of the people of the country to do so, in the first place.

According to the Washington Post, U Maung Maung, secretary of FTUB says, he contributed mobile phones, digital and video cameras to some people and they were on front line during the September uprising.

Many people have criticized Maung Maung for exploiting the situation. And specifically, a number of people including the Buddhist monks have refuted the call disputing that the Saffron Revolution was only a case of spontaneous developments led by the students primarily and later headed by the Buddhist monks.

“The Buddhists monks and students organizations led the nationwide demonstrations based on gasoline price hike and no exiled politicians were behind the scenes” said U Sanda of Burma Monks Alliance and 88 Generation Students leader Tun Myint Aung.

Given the view, we have nothing but to heap sympathy on Maung Maung who has been taking things for granted much too long and too far, this time at the expense of the Buddhist monks even, who are being hounded, arrested, tortured, displaced, imprisoned and ultimately murdered today, for showing their sympathy and empathy on the people, befitting their status as much revered ‘Sons of Buddha’ and obligation, confronting the infidel Than Shwe to uphold and protect our religion, Buddhism.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Independent Appeal: Burma's girls are victims of China's one-child policy

By Paul Vallely
Published: 19 December 2007

No one ever expected it to be the young girls of Burma who would become the unintended victims of the one-child birth control policy in China. But two decades on, children as young as 10 are being trafficked across the border from Burma into China as child brides. They are sold into a future of high uncertainty.

Faced with the prospect of having only one child many Chinese families have insisted on a son. A boy was more useful on the farm, they reckoned. A son was better able to provide for parents when they grew old; daughters in China tended to become part of their husband's family and were traditionally unable to inherit.

Cases of abandonment of girl babies and selective abortion followed. There are now 30 million more men than women in China. Those near the Burmese border have begun to buy girls as young as 10 to become the brides of men old enough to be their fathers or even grandfathers.

"There are millions of men with no chance of marrying," says Andrew Kirkwood, the Burma programme director for Save the Children – one of the three charities supported by the Independent Christmas Appeal. "Brothers sell sisters, fathers sell daughters, across the border. It's hard to determine how much they know about what the fate of the girls will be."

Anti-child trafficking work is a major plank in the agency's programme. Together with support for schools, clinics and work to control the spread of HIV/Aids, it constitutes one of the biggest programmes of work Save the Children undertakes anywhere in the world. It is also working with the Chinese government to address the issues raised in China by trafficking.

"We employ 484 local people in programmes that help 750,000," says Mr Kirkwood. But little is ever heard of the work because it operates quietly behind the scenes of one of the world's most ruthless and authoritarian governments. "People assume our operating context is next to impossible because of the political situation. But there is a lot we are able to do."

Certainly the Burmese government is not doing it. The military regime spends just 10 pence per person on health care – that's just 0.4 per cent of the country's GDP. The World Health Organisation says that it takes between £20 and £30 per head to provide a minimally functioning health service. The picture on education is not much better.

"Health and education are chronically underfunded. By the government's own statistics they are in the bottom five countries in the world," Mr Kirkwood said. "A third of the population lives below the poverty level. Among the poorest rural people, where we work, 50 per cent are landless labourers. A family of five lives on less than £200 a year. As much as 90 per cent of their income is spent on food. It leaves very little for school fees or for medicine if a child falls ill. Most illnesses go untreated."

Which is why one in 10 children die before their fifth birthday. One in three suffers from malnutrition. Fewer than half complete their primary education.

The response of Save the Children is to spot and treat malnutrition and diarrhoea and combat diseases such as pneumonia and malaria. "Two pence worth of antibiotics and a teaspoon can buy a child enough time to get them to a clinic," Mr Kirkwood said.

The mood has changed in Burma since the pro-democracy protests by Buddhist monks three months ago, "though exactly how is hard to explain", Mr Kirkwood says. "But one thing is certain: children living on the edge do not have time to wait for a political solution... It is vital for us to be here."

Laura Bush slams Burma over detained activists


US First Lady Laura Bush charged Tuesday that Myanmar's junta had not enacted even "minimal" democratic reforms, as the White House said it was weighing possible new sanctions on the military regime.

Laura Bush's denunciation came one day after she met at the White House with the UN envoy for Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, who also sat down with US National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley to discuss the country Washington calls Burma.

"Burma's General Than Shwe and his associates are failing to meet even the minimal expectations set out by the unanimous membership of the UN Security Council on October 11, 2007," the US first lady said in a statement.

"These include the release of all political prisoners, commencement of a genuine dialogue with democratic activists led by Aung San Suu Kyi, and address of political and human rights issues," she said.

On December 11, US President George W. Bush had warned that failure to release democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and other detainees could trigger a US-led effort to tighten international sanctions on Myanmar's military regime.

"The president's statement of the 11th stands. The administration is looking at different ways to continue to put pressure on the junta. These could include additional financial sanctions or other measures," said US National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

Laura Bush's comments came days after the UN Human Rights Council put fresh pressure on Myanmar by asking special envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro to stage a second mission to investigate abuses during the junta's September crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

At least 31 people were killed and 74 missing in the suppression of protests that were led by Buddhist monks, according to a UN report.

"The junta has made no meaningful attempt to meet and talk with democratic activists. Instead it has continued to harass and detain them," Laura Bush said.

"The junta leaders continue to sell the country's natural resources to enrich themselves. While they reject international calls for a democratic transition, they have put Burma in shambles and placed its people in a perilous state," she said.

"Children are being trafficked and subject to forced recruitment into the military; citizens are fleeing the country to seek work and basic healthcare; meanwhile infectious diseases, including AIDS and malaria, continue to spread unchecked," said Laura Bush.

Burma : Aid in a tight space

IRIN News:

BANGKOK, 18 December 2007 (IRIN) - Myanmar (formerly Burma), with a population of some 52 million, is one of the poorest countries in Asia, yet international aid had been negligible until recently.

Aid flows are rising, despite the isolation of the regime, a tense political environment and limited humanitarian space, according to the former top UN official in the country.

In September 2007, peaceful anti-government protests led by Buddhist monks were followed by a government crackdown attracting major international attention and diplomatic condemnation.

The former UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Myanmar, Charles Petrie, was obliged to leave his post in early December at the request of the Myanmar government.

In a show of support for UN efforts in Myanmar, Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, met the Myanmar UN country team on 10 December during a visit to neighbouring Thailand. He warned that the international community was “running out of patience” with Myanmar’s government.

“The people of Myanmar have suffered from isolation for such a long time and it is high time now for the Myanmar authorities and people to be able to enjoy genuine democracy and genuine integration in the international community,” he said.


Since September, day-to-day operations of most aid projects have not become much more difficult than they already were, Petrie said. However, he said levels of mistrust had increased, and engaging with the regime remained difficult.

“We are in a period of trying to protect the gains we have made,” said Petrie. “We have a regime that is now starting to look at us - focusing on us - and we are trying to push back their attempts to confine us.”

Those gains include an increase in international aid to the country, despite qualms among donors and multilateral organisations about the government’s human rights and governance record. In mid-2003 international aid was less than US$70 million, or less than $1.50 per capita - far less per capita than the assistance pouring into nearby Cambodia, Laos or Vietnam, according to Petrie.

However, over the last three years, international aid has nearly tripled to around US$200 million, Petrie told IRIN.

Petrie was forced to leave Myanmar after his release of a 24 October statement publicly linking the September 2007 protests to widespread frustration at the hardships of day-to-day living and a “deteriorating humanitarian situation.”

Petrie insists the UN had a “moral obligation” to state what it saw as an inescapable truth about the country’s worsening socio-economic situation.

Myanmar is not yet in the throws of a classic humanitarian crisis, Petrie says. But malnutrition and poverty are pervasive and conditions are worsening, with growing displacement from land seizures and conflict. “The crisis of Myanmar is not a humanitarian emergency,” he says. “It’s a poverty emergency that is leading towards a humanitarian crisis.”

Aid through non-state structures

Reluctant to channel aid through state structures, aid agencies and donors have struggled to deliver assistance in ways that are consistent with humanitarian principles. They mainly work through non-state structures, such as religious groups, and national staff. The UN’s national staff number around 3,000 people.

Nearly $100 million has been pledged to a special fund to fight HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria in Burma; the World Food Programme (WFP) is scaling up; and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) is running micro-credit and community empowerment projects.

“The challenge of Myanmar is that it is a situation that is getting worse . . . defined by a regime that is basically embargoed,” said Petrie. “It’s a deteriorating situation from which the aid community is not allowed to work with the existing administrative structures to address the situation,” he added, saying: “The challenge on the assistance front is how to respond outside existing structures and how do you do it in an effective manner?”

Government guidelines

Efforts to regulate foreign aid workers have intensified since early 2006, when a range of new controls were declared by the government. “They decided we were too intrusive,” Petrie said. “There was a faction within the regime that saw aid as a political tool to support the opposition, support dissention, and empower groups against the regime.”

“They tried to co-opt our operations,” said Petrie, “but when they saw it wasn’t possible they just tried to marginalise us and constrain our activities.”
The crisis of Myanmar is not a humanitarian emergency. It’s a poverty emergency that is leading towards a humanitarian crisis.

The government requires foreign aid workers to notify the authorities at least two weeks in advance of any plans to travel outside Yangon (formerly Rangoon).

The 2006 guidelines, strongly opposed by the aid community, imposed requirements that the authorities vet all Burmese staff hired by international organisations, that foreign aid workers be escorted by government officials on any trips outside Yangon, and that aid agencies work with the government-affiliated Union Solidarity and Development Association on projects.

While the travel controls are generally enforced, said Petrie, the UN insisted on its independence in hiring staff, and also made it clear that it could not work in the manner indicated with the USDA. Subsequently, humanitarian sources say, international agencies faced greater administrative harassment, such as delays or denials of passport renewals for Burmese UN staff, and denials or revocation of permission to hold meetings.

The Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA)

Headed by a general who is a member of the ruling junta, the USDA is a mass organisation that many in Myanmar are required to join in order to obtain services or retain government jobs. It carries out some government projects including, for example, the building of schools. It also organises pro-regime rallies. The USDA is expected to be converted into a pro-junta political party that will contest future elections, after the regime adopts a new constitution.

ICRC restricted

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) too faces restrictions. The ICRC, which until late 2005 had been visiting prison inmates, was forced to suspend such visits, due to the government’s insistence that ICRC staff be accompanied by USDA members in prison interviews - a violation of the ICRC’s principles of confidentiality.

"From 1999 until the end of 2005, ICRC delegates carried out regular visits to detainees in prisons and labour camps but since 2006 the authorities have not permitted the organization to continue this activity according to its standard procedures applied worldwide," according to the ICRC website.

Aid controversy

Aid to Myanmar remains controversial and is scrutinised among others by vocal, exiled Burmese dissidents, who have tended to see foreign aid as a prop for the regime; they question whether help can be delivered effectively without benefiting the government. Charles Petrie insists that it can.

“What we are doing in-country is using humanitarian principles of independence, neutrality, and impartiality to provide the space necessary to bring assistance,” he said.

Regardless of the pressure from both the regime and its critics, the former UN resident/humanitarian coordinator in Myanmar said the international community must not be deterred by his expulsion from pushing for greater space and freedom to help Myanmar’s needy.

“We need to maintain traction and momentum,” he said, to ensure the growing humanitarian needs of the Myanmar people are met.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Cambodia: Buddhist Monks, Police Clash During Protest To Show Solidarity With Vietnam Monks

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA: Dozens of Buddhist monks kicked, punched and hurled bottles at baton-wielding police in Cambodia's capital Monday (17 Dec) at a demonstration to demand religious freedom for monks in neighboring Vietnam.

The clashes erupted as about 40 monks approached the Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh to submit a petition against authorities' alleged mistreatment of Buddhist monks in the communist country.

The protesters accused Vietnamese authorities of arresting and defrocking several ethnic Cambodian monks over the past few months.

Authorities let only a few state-sponsored religious organizations operate in Vietnam, a situation that has led to altercations there with some groups including Buddhists.

A large part of southern Vietnam, known in Cambodia as Kampuchea Krom, used to be part of Cambodia's Khmer empire centuries ago. Many ethnic Cambodians still live there.

In the Phnom Penh protest, about 100 riot police used batons to beat back the monks, blocking them from marching near the embassy.

The monks responded by punching the police and throwing water-filled plastic bottles at them. One monk was seen kicking a police officer in the groin.

Touch Naroth, the Phnom Penh police chief, said six policemen were slightly injured.

"They tried to storm the embassy, and police had the duty to protect the embassy," he said.

The police bruised seven monks on their heads or bodies, said Chan Saveth, an investigator with the nonprofit Cambodian human rights group Adhoc. He accused police of violence against the monks, who are widely revered in Cambodia. (AP)

UN to hear report from Burma envoy

FP Photo: US First Lady Laura Bush(L) meets with the UN envoy for Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari at...

New York (dpa) - The United Nations envoy for Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, is scheduled to discuss his diplomatic troubleshooting in the Asian nation with the UN General Assembly Tuesday evening (Thailand time).

It will be the first such session since the military junta in that country crushed pro- democracy demonstrations in September.

Gambari will present an "overall" report on his three trips to Southeast Asia, including two visits to Burma, to carry out his mission of encouraging democratic reform in the country ruled by a military government for decades.

Spokesman Janos Tisovszky said Monday that representatives are to question Gambari on his mission in the closed-door meeting at UN headquarters.

"It will be an informal and closed meeting in which governments will also address the situation," Tisovszky said.

Gambari was in Washington Monday to discuss his efforts with US government officials, Tisovszky said. He met with First Lady Laura Bush, who has campaigned for democracy in Burma, and Stephen Hadley, the White House national security chief.

The UN has tried to bring democracy to Myanmar, calling for national reconciliation, a democratic reform of the country's institutions and the release of political prisoners, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Fighter plane on test flight crashes in central Myanmar, killing pilot

2007-12-18 01:26:45
Bangkok Post

A fighter plane crashed Monday during a test flight in central Myanmar, killing the pilot, government officials said.

The plane crashed near an international airport in Myanmar's second largest city of Mandalay as it was trying to take off, a government official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

He initially said a co-pilot was also believed to have been killed, but subsequently reported the pilot was the sole victim.

The official was uncertain, but he believed the pilot was the only person on board the plane, a Chinese-made A-7 fighter jet, which experienced engine trouble.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Canada toughens sanctions on Burma

Canadian Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier

Canada toughens sanctions on Myanmar to punish its regime for not making reforms after the violent attack on pro democracy protestors.

"Despite repeated calls by the international community to return democracy to Burma, the Burmese regime has been completely unwilling to undertake genuine reform," said Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier, referring to Myanmar by its old name.

"We believe that sanctions are the means by which we can best exert pressure on the military junta," he added.

Based on sanctions there will be no more export from Canada to Myanmar except for humanitarian supplies.

There will be no more Canadian investment there and all assets related to the Myanmar government in Canada will be frozen.

The decision also bans any Burmese ships or planes from docking or landing in Canada.

"Canada urges others to undertake the strongest possible measures against Burma until the Burmese authorities implement genuine reform," Maxime stated.

In September, Myanmar's security forces savagely put out the peaceful protests by the country's Buddhist monks, leaving at least 13 dead and thousands in custody.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Geneva:U.N. human rights body backs new probe of Myanmar

By Laura MacInnis
GENEVA (Reuters) - The U.N. Human Rights Council told Myanmar on Friday to prosecute those who committed abuses during a crackdown on peaceful monk-led protests and free Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners.

In a resolution adopted by consensus, the United Nations forum called on the ruling junta "to lift all restraints on the peaceful political activity of all persons" and "to release without delay those arrested and detained as a result of the repression of recent peaceful protests."

It also urged Myanmar "to ensure full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and to investigate and bring to justice perpetrators of human rights violations, including for the recent violations of the rights of peaceful protesters."

The 47-member-state Council said its special envoy for Myanmar, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, should revisit the country and report back in March on the fall-out from the September suppression that captured international attention.

Myanmar criticized the resolution, backed by 41 countries including Britain, Germany, Canada and Korea, as "politicized."

"This clearly shows that Myanmar has been put under pressure by influential and powerful countries who have their own political agenda," Wunna Maung Lwin, Myanmar's ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, told the Friday session.

Human rights groups welcomed the censure by the Council.

"This is a very positive thing," Juliette de Rivero of Human Rights Watch told a news briefing in Geneva. She said it was important for Pinheiro to return to the country "to do a more in-depth investigation of violations he has already identified."

Amnesty International said a second and longer visit to Myanmar could help Pinheiro carry out a full investigation of the circumstances before and during the crackdown, as well as reported abuses against ethnic minorities there.


In a report presented to the Council this week, denounced by Myanmar as "intrusive" and "misleading," Pinheiro said excessive force was used to quell the demonstrations, triggered by a 500 percent oil price rise in the former Burma.

The Brazilian professor, who visited Myanmar in November, said at least 31 people died and up to 4,000 were arrested in the clashes in which troops and riot police used tear gas, live ammunition, rubber bullets, smoke grenades and slingshots.

Pinheiro also reported accounts of bodies -- including those apparently of monks -- burned in suspicious circumstances during the crackdown, possibly in order to hide the total death toll.

Lwin said the independent envoy's report was based on unreliable sources, and flatly denied Pinheiro's suggestion that 1,000 people arrested during and after the clashes were still being detained, some in extremely difficult circumstances.

"We have been able to restore peace and stability and the situation is back to normalcy all over the country," he said.

Myanmar has repeatedly ignored calls for the release of Suu Kyi, whose opposition party won an election in 1990 by a landslide but was denied power by the military, which has ruled Myanmar since a 1962 coup. She has been detained for 12 of the last 18 years and many of her supporters have also been jailed.

(Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, editing by Tim Pearce)

A Burmese Hanukkah

By Uzi Silber

Burma will for the foreseeable future remain tyrannized by billionaire generals for one reason: its bounty of natural resources. In order to keep this treasure to themselves, the generals must keep the country whole, which with respect to Burma is far from a simple proposition. The generals can rest secure in the support of the country's neighbors, which are both interested and worried: interested in uninterrupted access to Burma's commodities, and worried by its tinderbox of a population.

A closer look at what Burma is, what it has, and its potential fates, could make any would-be Burmese Maccabi yearn for the good old days of British rule. A vast, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual mosaic, Burma is dominated by Burmans, but is home to many other groups: Karens, Mon, Rachines, Tavoyans, Wa, Chins, and Shans. Most of these minorities inhabit sections of the country especially rich in resources.

The generals aren't going anywhere. According to the US Geological Survey, Burma has proven reserves of 3.2 billion barrels of crude and 2.46 trillion cubic meters of natural gas. At $90 per barrel of oil and $200 per thousand cubic meters of natural gas, Burma owns $288 billion worth of oil, and $460 billion in natural gas, or around $744 billion dollars in energy resources untapped. And the generals are expected to just walk away from all this?

Western governments made appropriate noises about supporting Burmese democracy. But many countries with business interests in Burma are wary of the potential fallout from a revolution there, especially in light of events in post-Tito Yugoslavia and Iraq après-Saddam.

Full Text: Click Title

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Battle at Border Post 9631 in 2001: A Humiliating defeat and an Expensive Lesson for SPDC

Two RTAF F-5Es seen displayed with an asortiment of US-made bombs, including GBU-16s and LITENING-pods - during a graduation ceremony in 2001. The same aircraft and weapons were used against the Myanmari troops. (Albert Grandolini collection)

How much is the situation in Myanmar dependable on actions of country’s neighbours, but also how complex the situation in that country meanwhile is (in regards to relations between the regime, drugs, and different rebel organizations) was perfectly illustrated by a series of sharp clashes between Burma and Thailand, in February 2001.

In order to support the UWSA in its fight against the SSA, and help it establish the full control of the areas along the border to Thailand, the Myanmar Army launched an operation that was to result in the fighting with Thai military as well. While the Myanmar regime would not comment about these operations, meanwhile it is known that the fiercest series of battles was fought for the Thai Border Post 9631, mounted on a hilltop one kilometre inside Thailand, at Ban Pang Noon, in the Mae Fae Luang district, on approach to the Mae Sai, a city some 440 miles away from Bangkok, in the northernmost tip of Thailand. The exact reasons for the attack on this border post remain unclear: some Thai sources indicated that the Myanmaris attacked the Border Post 9631 – garrisoned by 20 Tahan Pran Militia troops – either “by accident”, while pursuing Shon guerrilla, or in order to get a good fire-base for their artillery attacks against the nearby Shon positions. It is interesting to note, however, that this attack came on the evening of Friday, 9 February 2001, when most of the Thai military was on a leave. In fact, the unofficial sources within the Thai Army indicated that the attack was undertaken by no less but 900 Myanmar troops and 600 UWSA militiamen, and that its objective was to remove the Thais from a position from which the Myanmaris could smuggle drugs into Thailand. In the past, namely, the local commander of the Tahan Pran was several times offered money to let their convoys with drugs pass, but he refused all such offers (in fact, he should have told the Myanmaris to, “go feed fish” with their opium).

Regardless the backgrounds, the Tahan Pran detected the approaching Myanmaris in time and put up stiff resistance, holding out for four hours, killing 14 out of some 200 Myanmari attackers, and injuring another 30, while losing two dead and eleven wounded. After almost running out of ammunition, however, they had to pull out and the Post 9631 fell into Myanmari hands. Having taken all their injured with them, the Tahan Pran were relatively easy to pursue by the enemy, and a short running engagement developed until the 3rd Cavalry Regiment of the Thai 1st Armoured Division started a rescue effort. Having the Post 9631 in their hands, the Myanmaris actually needed no more fighting, but their intention was to use the post and the surviving Tahan Prans as a bait for a trap they attempted to set up for any intervening Thai unit. As the Tahan Pran held out longer than anticipated, however, their plan was spoiled, as instead of deploying their troops on the flanks on the main threat route, the Myanmaris were forced to involve their reservers in the fighting.

On 10 February, the Thai 3rd Cavalry Regiment assembled a battalion-sized task force from a part of a mechanized infantry battalion armed with M-113A-3 APCs, an infantry company and a company of M-60A-3 MBTs. The unit was put under command of Capt. Songkarn Nilphan, and instantly sent on its way. Approaching Mae Sai on the same evening, the Nilphan’s force counterattacked the Myanmaris that were still busy fighting the Tahan Prans. The Cavalry charged forward, hitting the enemy hit very hard, forcing them to retreat back towards the border, leaving 17 dead and 60 injured behind. The Thais had only seven wounded.

On the morning of 11 February, the Myanmar Army responded in strength, deploying three regiments supported by Chinese-supplied T-69 tanks and artillery into an attack against Mae Sae, the local military Headquarters, and the adjacent satellite communications site. The Thais first concentrated on repulsing the main column, engaging T-69s with their M-60A3s, and subsequently by RTAF F-5s, which flew several strikes armed with LGBs, after starting from the Chiang Mai AB. Later on Sunday, Thai forces were reinforced by some self-propelled artillery (M-109s) and several batteries of even more powerful guns, including some GCN-55s, and the remaining two Myanmar columns were stopped as well, after suffering some heavy losses in dead, injured and captured soldiers. While the whole 3rd Thai Army was mobilizing and deploying reinforcements towards Mae Sai, the RTAF continued mounting intensive strikes, hitting Myanmar positions and supply columns. Late on Sunday afternoon, the final counter-attack by Thai troops drove Myanmaris out of Thailand, re-capturing the Border Post 9631. There an injured Tahan Pran officer - previously assumed dead - was found alive.

Meanwhile, the fighting between Thai and Myanmari forces was reported also from a hill some two miles west of the city of Thachilek, which is separated by a canal from Mae Sai. Also, a RTAF UH-1H helicopter underway on a supply mission over Mae Aye was damaged by gunfire from the ground and forced to land. The crew was not injured.

At 19:30h local time, a cease-fire was agreed. This was generally accepted, but sporadic fighting continued as the Myanmaris were bringing in 2.000 fresh troops from Kengtung to Tachilek, together with some heavy weapons. Especially the artillery was involved in the sense of duels over the border and some additional strikes by RTAF aircraft. The RTAF Chian Mai AB was the main base for all Thai air operations during this battle, and the Royal Thai Air Force units deployed there proved highly successful in operations against Myanmar. RTAF fighters have flown up to 70 combat sorties between 10 and 12 February, including a LGB-strike against a Myanmar artillery battery placed on the Golf course at Thachilek. This mission was flown by one F-5F and three F-5Es. The F-5F was equipped with the Israeli Litening nav/attack and designation pod: the WSO in the F-5F designated the target, while his pilot tried to fly steady – while remaining out of range of air defences. The three F-5Es closed from different sides at a high speed and tossed two six 2.000pds Paveway LGBs each into the acquisition basket before disappearing the other way. The Myanmar anti-aircraft fire was reported as "light", and none of Thai aircraft was hit or damaged. According to Thai sources, except for at least a dozen of Myanmar troops, at least five civilians were killed and ten injured during this attack as well.

TL A-5M seen taking off from an unknown base. Burmese purchased at least 42 these fighters, but the attrition was heavy and only slightly more than 20 airframes remain intact, less than 50% of these in flyable condition. (via Ole Niklajsen)

Change of guard or political reform? Only time will tell

Dr. Sein Myint
Mizzima News (

December 13, 2007 - A rumor of the ill health of State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) Supremo, Senior General Than Shwe, has recently been reported in the exile Burmese news media. The question that is on peoples' minds, especially to Burma experts and observers living outside the country is, whether this is true, and if it is, then how will this effect Burma's current political landscape and its "Seven Point Road Map", the political process that the SPDC has embarked upon?

Burmese people are quite used to such rumors since the Ne Win era, where numerous rumors of the death of the late dictator regularly circulated, some purposely by the dictator himself, possibly on the advice of astrologers, making Yadayar to ward off any bad omen cast upon him. This could be another Yadayar by the Senior General, as he has already instructed the planting of "Sunflower or Nay Kyar," meaning 'long stay' in Burmese, possibly with an eye to extending his rule over the "Fourth Burmese Empire".

However if the rumors turn out to be true, then there could be many possible political outcomes and effects upon the current political landscape and on the livelihood of millions of Burma's citizens. Whether in absolute monarchy systems of the past centuries or in modern dictatorships, the death of the ruler or the dictator had little impact on ordinary citizens if power was passed on to a chosen successor. From time to time, however, disputes over the chosen successor led to bloody contests among elites and their lay followers.

Will there be a dispute about succession to the SPDC helm if Senior General Than Shwe dies? It depends upon when, and the time factor will decide who will succeed him. As for now, the lineage seems to be simply in line with military hierarchy. Obviously, Deputy Senior General Maung Aye should be the natural successor, as he is also the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Services, Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Deputy Chairman of the SPDC. However, in reality, many analysts and experts are not certain of Maung Aye's prospects to become the next Chairman of the SPDC.

Many have predicted that the current No. 3 of the SPDC, the reserved Than Shwe loyalist, General Thura Shwe Mann, could become the next Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services. He's the current Joint Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces. Others have placed their bets on a dark horse, the current Military Intelligence Chief, Lieutenant General Myint Shwe, another Than Shwe hand picked loyalist.

Since the current Head of State is the Chairman of the SPDC and Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services, whoever becomes the Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services will be the Chairman of the SPDC. He will also be the Head of State, under the current military and political power structure, as Senior General Than Shwe undisputedly holds all three positions.

However, it is difficult to say whether the status quo will hold for the next incoming Chairman of the SPDC. Again, the power structure could be different if General Than Shwe outlived the completion of the Seven Point Road Map. Then according to the current SPDC draft constitution, the Head of State would not necessarily be the Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services, but must have extensive military experience. If they decide to replace the SPDC with another military supreme council ---with members consisting of the top military brass with the Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services at its head--- the Head of State would not necessarily be the head of the military council.

Thus, the division of power between the military and political structures could become more separated. They could be vested in two portfolios instead of the one as it is now. Once the Road Map is completed, resulting in a military-controlled elected parliament or assembly, and all key positions are filled with top military personnel from the current SPDC, it is highly likely that Senior General Than Shwe, if he is still alive, would relinquish the title of Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services, and only take up the Head of State post.

Then the question of who will become the next Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services is a matter of succession by military hierarchy. As of now, the No. 3, General Shwe Mann, would be the next in line after Deputy-Senior General Maung Aye. It has been proven in military history that there is no guarantee who will become No. 1. Once No. 1 decides to remove No. 2 and bring up No. 4 or 5, inevitably pushing No. 2 or No. 3 to break rank with the existing military hierarchy, then all bets are off the table. Once there is a dispute in the military succession process, with multiple camps trying to grasp power, then the political structure cannot sustain control over power without military support in the assembly where, as stated in the proposed constitution, 25 percent of representatives are to be from the military.

Moreover, if No. 1 dies before the completion of the Road Map, the succession issue will become more acute and critical. The consolidation of both military and political power in one person would certainly raise the stakes within the SPDC, just like the complications stated above would with respect to military succession. But it would be more complex for a combined political and military succession. Similar parables can be applied here for hierarchical succession processes. Since the stakes are higher to attain, equal to absolute power, a bloody and violent confrontation could ensue if any group or groups decide to break rank with the military hierarchy and go for the top prize.

So far, the SPDC Supremo has managed to hold the military court in order under his command by sharing out power and privileges. Certainly, whoever in the current SPDC line-up assumes the top post, keeping other members in line waiting their turn could prove problematic. The next critical question is: will the next Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services meet with the democratic opposition leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and embark upon a genuine national reconciliation process? Only time will tell.

Dr. Sein Myint serves as Director for Policy Development with Justice for Human Rights in Burma (JHB).

Breaking News: Detained political activist missing

Mizzima News (

December 13, 2007 - A Burmese political activist on hunger strike in Insein prison has disappeared. The activist, who stopped eating demanding the release of monks and students arrested for taking part in the September protests, has gone missing after he was transferred to Pabedan police station in Rangoon, a colleague said.

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Activists Leaders Say Maung Maung Not 'Mastermind' of Uprising

By Wai Moe
December 13, 2007
Irrawaddy News:

Leading Burmese activists this week disputed claims by exiled politician and labor activist Maung Maung that he trained people to participate in the September uprising.

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Israeli military aid to Burma's regime: Jane’s

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21

By David Bloom

The Burmese junta currently shooting unarmed protestors received a cynical plea for restraint from the Israel government on Sept. 29. According to the Israeli paper Ha'aretz, the Israeli foreign ministry announced "Israel is concerned by the situation in Myanmar, and urges the government to demonstrate restraint and refrain from harming demonstrators." The article ended by pointing out that "Israel denies selling weapons to Burma or Myanmar." (Ha'aretz, Sept. 29)

Not true, according to a March 1, 2000 report in the authoritative British publication Jane's Intelligence Review by William Ashton. The article, titled "Myanmar and Israel develop military pact," details how Israeli companies and the Israeli government have been supplying and developing weapons for the Burmese regime, and sharing intelligence:

In August 1997 it was revealed that the Israeli defence manufacturing company Elbit had won a contract to upgrade Myanmar's (then) three squadrons of Chinese-built F-7 fighters and FT-7 trainers. The F-7 is a derivative of the Mikoyan MiG-21 'Fishbed' jet fighter. The FT-7 is the export version of the GAIC JJ-7, itself a copy of the MiG-21 'Mongol-B' trainer. Since they began to be delivered by China in 1991, the Myanmar Air Force has progressively acquired about 54 (or four squadrons) of these aircraft, the latest arriving at Hmawbi air base only last year. In related sales, the air force has also acquired about 350 PL-2A air-to-air missiles (AAM) from China and at least one shipment of the more sophisticated PL-5 AAMs.

Chinese-built Shenyang F-7 fighter shown with optional bombs, missiles and cannon.
Since their delivery to Myanmar, these new aircraft have caused the air force considerable problems. Several aircraft (and pilots) have already been lost through accidents, raising questions about the reliability of the Chinese technology. There have also been reliable reports that the F-7s were delivered without the computer software to permit the AAMs to be fired in flight. Also, the air force has complained that the F-7s are difficult to maintain, in part reflecting major differences between the structure and underlying philosophy of the Myanmar and Chinese logistics systems. Spare parts have been in very short supply. In addition, the air force seems to have experienced difficulties in using the F-7 (designed primarily for air defence) in a ground attack role. These, and other problems, seem to have prompted the air force to turn to Israel for assistance.

According to sources in the international arms market, 36 of Myanmar's F-7 fighters are to be retro-fitted with the Elta EL/M- 2032 air-to-air radar, Rafael Python 3 infrared, short range AAMs, and Litening laser designator pods. The same equipment will also be installed on the two-seater FT-7 fighter trainers. In a related deal, Israel will also sell Myanmar at least one consignment of laser-guided bombs. Since the Elbit contract was won in 1997, the air force has acquired at least one more squadron of F-7 and FT-7 aircraft from China, but it is not known whether the Israeli-backed upgrade programme will now be extended to include the additional aircraft. Myanmar's critical shortage of foreign exchange will be a major factor in the SPDC's decision.

The army has also benefited from Myanmar's new closeness to Israel.

As part of the regime's massive military modernisation and expansion programme, considerable effort has been put into upgrading the army's artillery capabilities. In keeping with its practice of never abandoning any equipment of value, the army clearly still aims, as far as possible, to keep older weapons operational. (Pakistan, for example, has recently provided Myanmar with ammunition for its vintage 25 pounder field guns). The older UK, US and Yugoslav guns in the Tatmadaw's [Myanmar Armed Forces] inventory have been supplemented over the past 10 years with a range of new towed and self-propelled artillery pieces. Purchased mainly from China, they include 122mm howitzers, anti-tank guns, 57mm Type 80 anti-aircraft guns, 37mm Type 74 anti-aircraft guns and 107mm Type 63 multiple rocket launchers. In a barter deal brokered by China last year, the SPDC has also managed to acquire about 16 130mm artillery pieces from North Korea. Despite all this new firepower, however, the army has still looked to Israel to help equip its new artillery battalions.

Around 1998 Myanmar negotiated the purchase of 16 155mm Soltam towed howitzers, possibly through a third party like Singapore. These guns are believed to be second-hand pieces no longer required by the Israel Defence Force. Last year, ammunition for these guns (including high explosive and white phosphorous rounds) was ordered from Pakistan's government ordnance factories. Before the purchase of these new Chinese and North Korean weapons, Myanmar's largest artillery pieces were 105mm medium guns, provided by the USA almost 40 years ago. Acquiring the Israeli weapons thus marks a major capability leap for Myanmar's army gunners. It is possible that either Israel or Pakistan has provided instructors to help the army learn to use and maintain these new weapons.

Nor has the Myanmar Navy missed out on Israeli assistance. There have been several reports that Israel is playing a crucial role in the construction and fitting out of three new warships, currently being built in Yangon.

Myanmar's military leaders have long wanted to acquire two or three frigates to replace the country's obsolete PCE-827 and Admirable- class corvettes, decommissioned in 1994, and its two 1960s-vintage Nawarat-class corvettes, which have been gradually phased out since 1989. As military ties with China rapidly grew during the 1990s, the SLORC hoped to buy two or three Jiangnan- or even Jianghu-class frigates, but it could not afford even the special 'friendship' prices being asked by Beijing. As a compromise, the SPDC has now purchased three Chinese hulls, and is currently fitting them out as corvettes in Yangon's Sinmalaik shipyard.

According to reliable reports, the three vessels will each be about 75m long and displace about 1,200 tons. Despite a European Community embargo against arms sales to Myanmar, the ships' main guns are being imported (apparently through a third party) from Italy. Based on the information currently available, they are likely to be 76mm OTO Melara Compact guns, weapons which (perhaps coincidentally) have been extensively combat-tested by the Israeli Navy on its Reshef- class fast attack missile patrol boats. The corvettes will probably also be fitted with anti-submarine weapons, but it is not known what, if any, surface-to-surface and SAMs the ships will carry.

Israel's main role in fitting out the three corvettes is apparently to provide their electronics suites. Details of the full contract are not known, but it is expected that each package will include at least a surface-search radar, a fire-control radar, a navigation radar and a hull-mounted sonar.

The first of these warships will probably be commissioned and commence sea trials later this year.

Only sales or a strategic imperative?

While Myanmar remains a pariah state, subject to comprehensive sanctions by the USA and European Community, it is unlikely that Israel will ever admit publicly to having military links with the Tatmadaw. Until it does, the reasons for Israel's secret partnership with the Yangon regime will remain unclear. A number of factors, however, have probably played a part in influencing policy decisions in Tel Aviv.

There is clearly a strong commercial imperative behind some of these ventures. From a regional base in Singapore, with which it shares a very close relationship, Israel has already managed to penetrate the lucrative Chinese arms market. It is now aggressively seeking new targets for sales of weapons and military equipment in the Asia- Pacific. These sales are sometimes supported by offers of technology transfers and specialised advice. This approach has led to fears among some countries that Israel will introduce new military capabilities into the region which could encourage a mini arms race, as others attempt to catch up. The weapon systems being provided to the Myanmar armed forces are not that new, and the Asian economic crisis has dramatically reduced the purchasing power of many regional countries, but Israel's current activities in Myanmar will add to those concerns.

Given the nature of some of these sales, and other probable forms of military assistance to Myanmar, these initiatives would appear to enjoy the strong support of the Israeli government. In addition to the ever-present trade imperative, one reason for this support could be a calculation by senior Israeli officials that closer ties to Myanmar could reap diplomatic and intelligence dividends. For example, Myanmar is now a full member of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) which, despite the economic crisis, is still a major force in a part of the world which has received much closer attention from strategic analysts since the end of the Cold War. Israel's regional base will remain Singapore, but it is possible that Tel Aviv believes Myanmar can provide another avenue for influence in ASEAN, and a useful vantage point from which to monitor critical strategic developments in places like China and India.

In particular, Israel is interested in the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and the transfer of technologies related to the development of ballistic and other missiles. Myanmar has close military relations with China and Pakistan, both of which have been accused of transferring sensitive weapons technologies to rogue Islamic states, such as Iran. Myanmar is also a neighbour of India, another nuclear power that has resisted international pressure to curb its proliferation activities. Yangon could thus be seen by Israel as a useful listening post from which to monitor and report on these countries.

Also, despite accusations over the years that Myanmar has developed chemical and biological weapons, and more convincing arguments that Israel has a sizeable nuclear arsenal of its own, both countries share an interest in preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Myanmar's support for anti-proliferation initiatives, in multilateral forums like the UN General Assembly and the Committee on Disarmament, would seem to be worth a modest investment by the Israeli government in bilateral relations with the SPDC. In addition to training Myanmar agriculturalists in Israel, assisting the Tatmadaw to upgrade its military capabilities seems a sure way of getting close to the Yangon regime.

Israel's repeated denial of any military links with Myanmar are not unexpected. Israel has never liked advertising such ties, particularly with countries like Myanmar, South Africa and China, which have been condemned by the international community for gross abuses of human rights. Even Israel's very close military ties with Singapore are routinely denied by both sides. Yet there seems little room for doubt that, after the 1988 takeover, Israel did start to develop close links with the SLORC, which are continuing to grow under the SPDC. In these circumstances, it would be surprising if Israel was not still looking for opportunities to restore the kind of mutually beneficial bilateral relationship that was first established when both countries became independent modern states in 1948.

It is noteworthy that Elbit Systems is one of the Israeli companies involved in Myanmar. Elbit supplies electronics used in the separation wall that Israel is building illegally in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, enclosing up to 10% of Palestinian land on the "Israeli" side. It is ironic that Israel expresses concern about protestors being killed by the Burmese military it supplies, when Israel itself has killed ten Palestinians protesting the annexation of large sections of their farmland, and injured hundreds of others, including Israeli and international demonstators, who have been beaten, arrested and expelled by the Israeli military. (JPost, Sept. 5) Just today in the village of Bil'in in the West Bank, the Israeli military injured nine non-violent protestors, according to the International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC, Sept. 29)

That the Burmese military has fired into crowds recalls that a month into the second Palestinian intifada, before any armed attacks or shooting came from the Palestinian side, Israeli forces had fired 1.3 million bullets at Palestinians, according to Yitzhak Laor, an Israeli columnist who often writes for Ha'aretz:

A month after the Intifada began, four years ago, Major General Amos Malka, by then No. 3 in the military hierarchy, and until 2001 the head of Israeli military Intelligence (MI), asked one of his officers (Major Kuperwasser) how many 5.56 bullets the Central Command had fired during that month (that is, only in the West Bank). Three years later Malka talked about these horrific figures. This is what he said to Ha'aretz's diplomatic commentator, Akiva Eldar about the first month of the Intifada, 30 days of unrest, no terrorist attacks yet, no Palestinian shooting:

Kuperwasser got back to me with the number, 850,000 bullets. My figure was 1.3 million bullets in the West Bank and Gaza. This is a strategic figure that says that our soldiers are shooting and shooting and shooting. I asked: "Is this what you intended in your preparations?" and he replied in the negative. I said: "Then the significance is that we are determining the height of the flames." (Ha'aretz, 11.6.2004).

It was a bullet for every Palestinian child, said one of the officers in that meeting, or at least this is what the Israeli daily Maariv revealed two years ago, when the horrible figures were first leaked. It didn't much change "public opinion", neither here nor in the West, neither two years ago nor 4 months ago when Malka finally opened his mouth. It read as if it had happened somewhere else, or a long time ago, or as if it was just one version, a voice in a polyphony, hiding behind the principle theme: we, the Israelis are right, and they are wrong. (Counterpunch, Oct. 20, 2004)

Chinese-built Shenyang F-7 fighter shown with optional bombs, missiles and cannon. By David Bloom