Friday, 4 April 2008

US, Britain and France Seek UN Statement on Burma

The Irrawaddy

Undeterred by a veto threat from Russia, three permanent members of the UN Security Council-the US, Britain and France-will seek a UN Security Council presidential statement on Burma.

The three countries will draft a presidential statement on Burma, which the Deputy Permanent Representative of the US Mission to the UN, Ambassador Alejandro D Wolff, told reporters Wednesday would be circulated among the 15 members of the Security Council.

The draft, a copy of which was obtained by The Irrawaddy, calls on the Burmese military junta to allow full political participation of all factions, including the detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The proposal will spark intense debate between the two dominant groups inside the Security Council. While the pro-democracy group is led by the US, Britain and France, two permanent members, Russia and China, have resisted all moves to take stronger action against Burma's military government.

The draft statement reiterated the importance of the "early release" of all political prisoners and detainees.

"The Security Council again stresses the need for the Government of Burma to take, in a timely manner, concrete, meaningful steps that result in genuine dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and all concerned parties and ethnic groups in order to achieve an inclusive national reconciliation with the direct support of the United Nations," said the draft statement.

Referring to the junta's announcement of a referendum on the draft constitution in May followed by multi-party elections in 2010, the draft said: "In order for this process to be inclusive and credible, it calls on the Government of Burma to allow full participation of all political actors, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi."

The draft stresses that the importance of the guarantee of freedom of expression, association and assembly in the political process leading up to the referendum, as well as independent poll observers.

"A presidential statement is very important. Burma is going to be listed (on the Security Council program for the month of April) because we are obviously following the situation there very closely. We expect there to be a presidential statement," Wolff said, when he was asked about Russian opposition to such a statement. It was during the Security Council discussion on Burma last month that the US Ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, said the US would seek a presidential statement.

"The situation in Burma is something that this Council and certainly the US and other members are very concerned about and merits close scrutiny, including on the referendum on this constitution," Wolff said. "This is all part of a process that we believe should be to open up the society to give people a voice and allow a democratic process that's serious, and real, and transparent to enfold," he said.

The Security Council president for the month of April, Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo of South African expressed doubt about the need for a presidential statement on Burma's referendum. However, he confirmed that Burma would be on the council's agenda in April.

"No draft presidential statement has been circulated yet. But the United States delegation is putting together elements for a text, though it was not certain that it would focus on the elections there or if there would be a Council mandate for monitoring those elections," he said.

Burmese Authorities Stifle Opposition to Constitution

The Irrawaddy

Burmese authorities are stepping up their campaign to silence opposition to the proposed constitution, prompting the US on Wednesday to issue a statement condemning recent arrests.

US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement that on March 29 six “youth activists” had been arrested for taking part in “a peaceful rally against the regime’s draft constitution.”

McCormack said the US was renewing its call “for the Burmese regime to release all detainees and political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi, and begin a genuine dialogue between the regime leadership and Burma’s democratic and ethnic minorities leading to a transition to democracy.”

According to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners—Burma (AAPP), some 1,890 political prisoners are currently held in Burmese prisons, 52 of them detained in the past three months. An estimated 700 people arrested during and after the demonstrations in September 2007 were still behind bars, AAPP said. Activist sources say most of the political prisoners are in poor health.

The latest victim of the regime’s continuing crackdown, solo protester Ohn Than, was sentenced to life imprisonment by Rangoon’s west district court on Wednesday for protesting in August 2007 against sharp rises in fuel prices. Rangoon lawyer Aung Thein said Ohn Than was convicted under a provision of article 124 (A) of the criminal code relating to “acts that destabilize the government.”

Ohn Than, who graduated from Rangoon University in 1971, was sentenced to eight years imprisonment in 1988 for taking part in that year’s pro-democracy uprising.

National League for Democracy (NLD) sources in Taunggok township, Arakan State, said three activists had been detained there for their opposition to the proposed constitution.

An NLD source in Mandalay said three detained party members—Shwe Maung, Wunnar Aung and Zaw Win Lay—and two monks had been moved from the city’s prison to Rangoon’s notorious Insein prison on March 30.

Shwe Maung was imprisoned for making a symbolic gold-coated copper hat, known as kha mauk (usually worn by Burmese farmers) in 2002. The hat is a recognized NLD symbol and was intended as a gift for NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Burma's pointless plants a needless burden

Column: Rule of Lords
UPI Asia Online

HONG KONG, China, Around the suburbs of Rangoon small scraggly bushes now occupy plots of land that once were used for growing vegetables or beans. They look miserable. Unattended among weeds and debris, they show no signs of growth and bear few leaves. Some are used for hanging laundry. Others catch plastic bags in the breeze.

They are also a flagship state project. The order to grow these physic nut plants, which belong to the same family as castor oil, is said to have come directly from Burma's military supremo, Senior General Than Shwe. His supposed idea is to alleviate the country's fuel shortages through biodiesel, although some speculate that the order may have had as much to do with astrology as the economy.

People all around the country have been given seeds and pressed into planting them along roads, football fields, schoolyards and government compounds. Some bear the signboards of government departments, police stations and military units. Television broadcasts reassure viewers that the bushes will soon bear a great bounty, and demonstrate how simple it is to extract their oil and use it for fuel.

Reality suggests otherwise. The saplings are almost universally neglected. Without regular care, plants grown years ago still bear no fruit; no fruit, no biodiesel.

In some places villagers have also been obliged to work on commercial physic nut ventures. In late 2006, for instance, U Tin Kyi was called to work on the acreage adjacent to his farm that had been planted by a company under ownership of an army general's son. He pointed out that all the plants had died and that he should be able to go back and work his own crops. The local officials did not take kindly to his stating the obvious and had him jailed for four months.

Ill-conceived and mismanaged schemes can be found the world over. But while in an open society they can be challenged and halted, under autocratic rulers of the sort that exist in Burma they are both far more prevalent and dangerous.

Social scientist James C. Scott identifies why. He suggests that some of the biggest man-made disasters of the last century have four key elements: one, the administrative reordering of society and nature; two, overconfidence in modernity as a measure of progress; three, coercive government, and four, weakened civil society. In these circumstances, when mistakes are made lessons are covered up, not learned; people are pushed too far, and tragedy follows.

This is what happened in China when in the 1950s the rural populace was forced into collectives. Agricultural output plummeted. Regional officials fell to giving increasingly ludicrous figures on grain produced and stored, while locals were in some instances compelled to uproot healthy paddy and plant seedlings alongside roads that Mao and his entourage would travel so that the "great helmsman" might see emerald-green vistas. Millions died in the famine that followed.

Similar patterns have been seen in Burma during recent years, although they have not so far pushed the country over the precipice. Farmers in some areas have been forced to uproot beans and peanuts in order to grow second or third crops of rice on land with inadequate water. Others have had to purchase seeds for summer crops, which once planted have grown at different speeds and to different heights. Many have struggled without fertilizer or outside assistance.

The physic nut plants are unlikely of their own accord to precipitate the sort of hunger in Than Shwe's Burma that occurred in Mao's China, but while officials at every level continue to conceal the truth in order to please their superiors, as they must, these bushes continue to place a needless burden on people who are already struggling for one square meal a day. They may not spell ruin but they are a waste of precious time, land and water.

The pointlessness of dotting the landscape with plants in which no one has any special interest may be missed by the people at the top who give the orders, but it is understood by everyone else. To the extent that Burma prevails it is not because of bureaucratic meddling but despite it. While the physic nuts are on display along the roads and thoroughfares where more senior officers are expected to travel, on the backstreets, in small gardens and on the banks of waterways, vegetables continue to be sown.


(Awzar Thi is the pen name of a member of the Asian Human Rights Commission with over 15 years of experience as an advocate of human rights and the rule of law in Thailand and Burma. His Rule of Lords blog can be read at

Burmese Continues Pre-Referendum Arrests,says US

Daya Gamage

Washington,DC. 04 April ( The United States April 2 vehemently denounced the Burmese ruling military junta for continuing to arrest political dissidents who are peacefully opposing the draft constitution.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack issued the following statement at the daily briefing:

"We condemn the Burmese regime’s continued arrests and attacks on peaceful political activists. On March 29, Burmese authorities arrested six youth activists who had participated in a peaceful rally against the regime’s draft constitution. The following day, five Muslim community leaders in Rakhine state were arrested, reportedly for peaceful political activities. On two separate occasions over the past two weeks, democracy and human rights activists in Rangoon were assaulted and beaten with sticks. These blatant human rights abuses contribute to the climate of fear and repression in Burma as the regime prepares to conduct a referendum on its draft constitution.

"The democratic representatives of the Burmese people have made clear their opposition to the unjust process through which the regime seeks to impose its draft constitution, which it has yet to publish. Nonetheless, the regime is proceeding with its planned referendum. The regime’s arrests of individuals campaigning against the constitution, its failure to publish the constitution and welcome independent referendum monitors, and its continued refusal to release political prisoners undercut any claim that this referendum will be free and fair.

"We renew our call for the Burmese regime to release all detainees and political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and begin a genuine dialogue between the regime leadership and Burma’s democratic and ethnic minorities leading to a transition to democracy, as called for by the people of Burma and the UN Security Council in its October 2007 Presidential Statement."

CII, Myanmar Chambers hail Kaladan project, sign MoU to promote trade ties


April 4 2008 - NEW DELHI: The Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI ) and the Confederation of Indian Industry ( CII), the two apex industry organizations of Myanmar and India, welcomed the agreement to open the crucial Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Facility, as they signed a Memorandum of Understanding in New Delhi to promote cooperation in specific areas between the private sector between the two countries.

U Win Myint , President, Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce & Industry (UMFCCI ) and Lt gen (Retd) S S Mehta, Director General CII, signed the MoU that aims at enhancing bilateral trade between the two neighbours. The two Chambers also agree to organize one major event in the year 2008 -09 by way of a Made in India Trade fair in Myanmar.

As a follow up of the earlier and existing MoUs between the two chambers, “UMFCCI & CII now wish to focus on enhancing cooperation and interaction in the areas of IT, Pharmaceuticals, Fertilizers, SME industry, Oil and Gas Explorations, Agri and Food Processing and Transport,” the MoU said.

Appreciating India’s economic growth, U Win Myint looked forward to working with Indian industry in various fields and said that the strategic position of Myanmar can serve as a trade hub between its South Asian neighbours and the ASEAN region. He invited Indian businessmen and the CII to visit Myanmar and explore opportunities for cooperation.

India has had long abiding relations with Myanmar and the CII looks forward to strengthening these ties especially in the area of trade and commerce, said Lt Gen (Retd) S S Mehta. India and Myanmar had great potential to enhance trade and cooperation, he said and added that the Kaladan initiative will provide very good linkage with Myanmar.

During discussions while signing the MoU, the two sides agreed to exchange industry delegations and task forces in the near future to augment cooperation between India and Myanmar private sector.

The UMFCCI and the CII had signed a MoU in May 2001 in New Delhi to examine cooperation between the two countries. In their meeting in February 2004 in Yangon, the two chambers had agreed on setting up a Joint Task Force to promote trade between the two countries and identify key thrust areas of cooperation to further the cooperation between the two countries and the two organizations.

An India – Myanmar Joint Task Force Report was brought out with suggestions and recommendations for enhancing bilateral trade and investment, cooperation in services, technology transfers and other areas of cooperation, the MoU said.

Hill to discuss N. Korea, Myanmar

Abdul Khalik

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta - United States Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill will meet with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and several ministers Friday to discuss the growing tension in the Korean peninsula and Myanmar.

Hill, also the chief U.S. negotiator for North Korean nuclear disarmament, was in Bali on Thursday to attend an international conference before flying to Jakarta on Friday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Kristiarto Suryo Legowo said the U.S. senior diplomat was scheduled for separate meetings with Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda and Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono before visiting the President at the Presidential Palace later in the afternoon.

"The discussion will be about issues that concern both countries. For instance, we will listen to his briefing about the latest developments in the Korean peninsula," Kristiarto told The Jakarta Post.

Yonhap news agency reported Wednesday that Hill was slated to meet North Korea's chief negotiator Kim Kye-wan in Bali on Thursday or in Jakarta on Friday.

Kristiarto said he was unaware if such a meeting would take place.

Some officials have suggested the President and his ministers would use the meeting with Hill, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, as an opportunity to raise Indonesia's ideas on other high-profile international issues, such as Myanmar and Tibet.

Indonesia has expressed its interest in playing a bigger role in resolving South Korea-North Korea conflicts.

Tension in the peninsula has heightened since new South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took office in February with pledges to get tough on the North and hold it accountable to its commitments to roll back its nuclear program.

Official from both countries have exchanged threatening statements, with North Korea warning of nuclear catastrophe and making a series of angry gestures, including conducting missile tests recently.

Indonesia is one of the few countries that have a good relationship with North Korea. The relationship stretches back to the Sukarno era. Subsequent presidents have maintained the good relationship, with President Megawati Soekarnoputri visiting Pyongyang in 2003 to meet Kim Jong-il.

On Myanmar, Yudhoyono has repeatedly shown his support for the military junta's steps toward democracy, although Western countries, including the U.S., have dismissed the process and establishment of the new constitution as a way for the military to legitimize the grip on power it has held since its 1962 coup.

International relations expert at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Bantarto Bandoro, urged Yudhoyono to push the U.S. to be more proactive in solving the North Korea nuclear crisis.

"But Indonesia can tell Hill the U.S. should not push Myanmar too hard as it will be counterproductive for the country's democratic process," he said.

Burma voices: Six months later

Six months after protests in Burma ended in a military crackdown, people describe the atmosphere in the country and their fears for the future.


Life has been hard as ever. No change or hope has come yet to us.

People no longer talk about politics for fear of arrest, accusations, safety and other frightening things.

But everybody desires to know something more and to talk freely about these issues. Some day we hope to have our freedom or right to speak. Ha ha. What a joke!

Everything has been over for nearly six months now. But some of us still recall it.

Here, a referendum on a new constitution is drawing near. People are talking about it and no-one really knows what it is going to look like.

But almost everybody accepts that the government will win it whether the constitution is ratified or not by the people in May.

Even now almost everybody has little understanding of what the referendum is and what has to happen.

I have been in the capital Nay Pyi Taw for a few months now. More construction sites are still being built as more NGOs and private companies have to move here somehow.

They say Nay Pyi Taw is the capital and its future lies with the new democratic government body. There is no sign yet of how the military will stand after the results are out.

I tell people not to even think about voting 'No' or 'Yes' [in the forthcoming referendum on a new constitution]. It means that you consider and accept it.

Actually, the junta does not have the right to do anything for the country. It is an illegal government.

Night is dark without electricity, water is scarce

Even if the work done is good, and the result or outcome is exceptional progress as in China, it is unacceptable because it is a military dictatorship and the junta is unconstitutional - having no law, rules and regulations.

Now the country suffers complete loss and ruin.

Its people are totally destroyed both physically and mentally - the majority are living in a mess, eating junk food, leading a hand-to-mouth lifestyle.

There is no guarantee for healthcare. If a man does not have enough money, in case one needs to go to hospital or a private clinic for serious cases, he should prepare to die. The cost is sky high.

People now become mad and irrational as a result of poverty and a lack of education.

Night is dark without electricity. Water is scarce. How is it like a modern and developed country to which, they say, they are marching?


In recent times, we have not been able to use the internet because the government decreased the internet bandwidth during the visit of UN envoy Mr Gambari.

Nothing has changed after six months in Burma. The military junta has arrested our leaders and many activists. Now they've spread many soldiers across Rangoon to break down any movements.

They will have a constitutional referendum in May. They don't care for the UN and the international community.

What would the UN do to get the true result from referendum?


The internet connection was at its worst during the September revolution. There has been little improvement.

Now the junta is showing its strength by patrolling around the town with trucks fully loaded with policemen

Sending information to foreign media can be indicted by the junta and we will be jailed. But we the people of Burma take this risk by sending mails to foreign media because we have to let the people of the world know our situation in our country.

The junta is putting heavy guards around Rangoon and monitoring the mails and the internet because they are going to hold a fake referendum in May.

They haven't [at the time of writing] published the constitution we are to vote on. They dare not let the people of Burma study the constitution thoroughly and freely.

Now the junta is showing its strength by patrolling around the town with trucks fully loaded with policemen and soldiers carrying guns. It is a warning to the people who go against the junta that they will be shot.

Now the junta is arresting and putting into jail without giving reasonable explanation for the people who go against the junta.

Source: BBC

Mobile phones in Myanmar increase to over 200,000 in 2007

Song Shutao

YANGON, April 3 (Xinhua) -- The number of GSM mobile phones in Myanmar increased to 211,812 in 2007, up from 141,564 in 2006, a newly-published local bi-weekly reported Thursday.

Other phones such as CDMA stood at 30,390 in number as of the year, while D-AMPS phones 23,710, DECT radio phones 2,571 and auto-phones 87,636 the "Biweekly Eleven" said, quoting the state-run Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT).

With telephone exchange stations rising up to 891, the number of telephone lines were extended to 747,565 in 2007, up from 685,160 in 2006, it said, adding that rural telephone exchange stations remained as 241, up from 218 correspondingly.

Meanwhile, the telephone density of Myanmar also went up annually reaching 13.1 per 1,000 population in 2007, up from 10.47in 2006 and 7.27 in 2005.

GSM phones have been extensively used in Myanmar since it was introduced in 2002 after cellular ones in 1993 and the DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunication) and CDMA in 1997.

According to the MPT, GSM (global system for mobile) phones in Myanmar can auto-roam over two dozen townships far up to the border areas and mainly cover all other major cities in addition to Yangon and Mandalay.

Meanwhile, Myanmar will introduce world's up-date audio-visual mobile phone for use in the country for the first time to upgrade its telecommunication links, according to an earlier local report.

A total of 30,000 3-G WCDMA mobile phones will be initially installed for users in Yangon soon as the first batch and 15 radio stations are being promptly built for signal links, the report said.

The upgraded system will be based on the existing GSM network, it said, adding that the introduction of 3-G WCDMA system represents Myanmar's entry into a new phase of its mobile phone system.

S'pore to probe alleged N. Korea rocket exports to Myanmar

April 3, 2008 - SINGAPORE will investigate allegations that a local trading company was linked to North Korean exports of rockets to military-ruled Myanmar, the foreign affairs ministry said on Thursday.

Japan's public broadcaster NHK reported on Wednesday, citing unnamed diplomatic sources, that Pyongyang has started exporting multiple-launch rockets to Myanmar after the two nations agreed to normalise ties last year.

It said 'full-scale' exports of the weapons had been handled by an unnamed Singapore trading company but gave no further details.

'We take such allegations very seriously and will certainly investigate,' a spokesman with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

'We are committed to fulfilling our international obligations to prevent the proliferation and illicit trafficking of arms and weapons of mass destruction.'

NHK said the weapons exports are in violation of economic sanctions imposed on North Korea after the communist state conducted a nuclear test in October 2006.

Multiple-launch rockets are 24cm in diameter and about one metre long, each with a range of about 65km, according to the report. --

Source: Straits Times