Thursday, 24 June 2010

Myanmar restricts political activity ahead of polls

(AFP News)YANGON — Members of political parties contesting Myanmar's first elections in two decades will be banned from marching, waving flags and chanting to garner support, under rules announced Wednesday.

The directive, which did not reveal a date for the polls, requires party members who want to gather and deliver speeches at places other than their offices to apply for a permit one week in advance, according to state media.

The rules prohibit "the act of marching to the designated gathering point and the venue holding flags, or marching and chanting slogans in procession" in a bid to enlist members, the New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.

Parties must have at least 1,000 members to contest the nationwide election.

Holding knives, weapons and ammunition are also banned, along with acts that harm security and the rule of law or tarnish the image of the military. Misuse of religion for political gains is also not allowed, state media said.

Critics have dismissed the election -- which is scheduled for some time later this year -- as a sham due to laws that have effectively barred opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from participating.

The United States said Tuesday that the polls will "not be free or fair and will lack international legitimacy".

Suu Kyi's party won the last polls in 1990 but was never allowed to take office. Her National League for Democracy (NLD) was forcibly dissolved last month under widely criticised laws governing the polls.

The NLD refused to meet a May 6 deadline to re-register as a party -- a move that would have forced it to expel Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest -- and is boycotting the vote.

Under election legislation unveiled in March, anyone serving a prison term is banned from being a member of a political party and parties that fail to obey the rule will be abolished.

The latest directive for drumming up support among voters has upset some parties who fear they will make it harder to connect with people.

"The political parties will be in a tight corner because of these rules," said Ye Tun, chairman of the 88th Generation Student Youths (Union of Myanmar), which despite its name is pro-government.

"We are in difficult position to work in some places. They restricted our movements such as holding flags."

But other parties welcomed the rules, saying they could have been even more restrictive.

"We can transform from party politics to people politics if we can get in touch with the people through party meetings," said Phyo Min Thein, chairman of the Union Democratic Party.

A faction from within the disbanded NLD has applied to form a new political party, to be called the National Democratic Force, in a bid to advance the movement's two-decade campaign to end military rule.

According to official figures, 36 out of 42 groups which have applied to form political parties have been registered.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

New Life

Happenings at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh: An Update on Khet Mar’s New Life

Khet Mar and her two sons in Rangoon, Burma
Photo: © Than Htay Maung

Arriving here in March 2009, Khet Mar, City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s current writer-in-residence, journeyed with her family on a 45-hour trip from her home in Rangoon, Burma all the way to Sampsonia Way. Living with her husband Than Htay Maung and two sons, Khet Mar has resided on Sampsonia Way now for just over a year.

Since she was young, Khet Mar has written short stories, essays, and poems and continues to do so today on Sampsonia Way. Currently writing a short story, she is preparing to write her very second novel. But, at this point she is still trying to organize her thoughts.

Coming up in July, Khet Mar plans to partake in two readings of her previous work. She normally takes part in readings at local high schools, universities, museums, and at literary discussions about the Burmese community.

One of Khet Mar’s most recent hobbies since moving to America has been her garden.

“I’m currently planting flowers and vegetables in my backyard. I love gardening and seeing flowers grow. I walk in my neighborhood’s streets almost everyday and see the flowers that others have planted. I enjoy doing this a lot. One of my favorite places is my garden, where I can talk with the flowers and the plants. Another favorite place of mine is the bedroom, where I can travel in my thoughts and where I can just read.”

Khet Mar and her family in front of downtown Pittsburgh
Photo: © Khet Mar

Khet Mar’s family is making sure they keep equally as busy with their new lives in Pittsburgh. While Khet Mar writes, her husband is painting a mural on the side of their home, and their children attending school and will soon go to summer camp. Both Khet Mar and her husband are studying at the GPLC (Greater Pittsburgh Literary Council) to help improve their written and spoken English.

“My family likes Pittsburgh very much. I like it too. A class mate of mine, who came here from Poland, told me she feels like the people from Pittsburgh are not welcoming to her family. I do not know what the difference is between her family and my family because not only the people of Pittsburgh but, also the rivers, bridges, trees and flowers welcomed us warmly.”

“Sometimes, I am thinking that I am in a dream. As a young woman who grew up in a fishing village and learned how difficult it was to survive; I never expected that kind of life I now have at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh. Now I am living safely and peacefully in the most livable city in the US. Our luck is very difficult to believe.”

Monday, 21 June 2010

Burmese tycoon brokered arms deal with China

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burma’s richest business tycoon and close ally of despotic ruler Senior General Than Shwe, went to China early this month to broker a deal enabling the regime to buy 50 multi-role jet bombers for its air force, trusted sources said.

Tay Za was also spotted at the Kunming regional trade fare on June 7, in China’s southern province of Yunnan. The purpose of his visit was to help the Burmese regime acquire the K-8 Karakorum, a two-seat intermediate jet trainer and light attack aircraft developed in a joint venture between China and Pakistan.

Estimates for the price of the aircraft vary widely. Last October, Bolivia announced that it would spend US$57.8 million to buy six of the planes. According to Jane’s Defence Weekly the deal also included “two spare engines, a KTS2000BW test vehicle, an Interactive Multimedia Instructor system, initial spare [parts], training and maintenance equipment”.

Since then, Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez had announced on June 7 that his government would spend US$82 million on 18 of the planes. The air force of the country on the northern coast of South America already has at least 200 aircraft.

The Burmese Air Force had bought 12 K-8 Karakorum. Sources close to the air force told Mizzima that Burma’s rulers want more ground attack fighters than strategic fighters such as the Russian-made MiG-29 or its Chinese-built version, the F-5. Such ground attack fighters could be used to intimidate ethnic groups under ceasefire which have refused to bring their troops under the supervision of the junta’s Border Guard Force.

Aircraft part of a mystery deal announced by Hongdu Aviation in September?

Last year Jane’s Defence Industry (also part of the Jane’s Intelligence group) reported that K-8’s Chinese manufacturer Hongdu Aviation had released a cryptic statement in September saying it had just secured a contract with an “unnamed Asian country” to export 60 K-8 planes. According to Jane’s, the statement disclosed that a deal had been struck between Hongdu, the mystery Asian nation and China’s National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corporation on September 6 at Hongdu’s offices in Nanchang, Jiangxi province.

Jane’s speculated that the unnamed Asian partner could be Iran or Indonesia, both seeking to upgrade their air forces. While it is possible that the unnamed partner was in fact the Burmese regime, Mizzima was unable to determine if this was the case.

According to Jane’s the statement Hongdu issued in September disclosed that the deal would transpire in three stages. The first stage would involve the export of 12 aircraft. The second stage would involve the customer acquiring K-8 related technologies, equipment and tools. The third would involve the customer producing the final 48 aircraft under licence locally.

Mizzima has learned that Tay Za was looking to buy an ATR-72 twin-turboprop short-haul regional airliner from Chinese Southern Airlines for his own airline, Air Bagan. He had bought two A-310 Airbuses from China but was unable to use the aircraft because they were grounded in Rangoon for safety reasons.

China is one of the few places where Tay Za can now conduct business transactions with relative ease since he was put on the American, European, Canadian, Australian and Swiss financial sanctions blacklists for Burma. The US government, which commonly refers to Tay Za as “an arms dealer and financial henchman”, was the first Western nation to target the portly tycoon on their black list, citing his close financial ties to Than Shwe and the reclusive dictator’s children. Despite the sanctions against him Tay Za is estimated to have amassed a fortune of more than US$10 billon dollars.

News From Mizzima

Karen-junta troop clashes become online hit

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Footage of clashes between Karen rebels and the Burmese Army posted on You Tube has become a hit with the Burmese online community.

The video was recorded during running battles between government troops from the 60th Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) and the Karen National Liberation Army’s (KNLA) 3rd Brigade, which took place in last year in Kyaukgyi Township in Pegu Division. It has been posted on You Tube since June 12 and has had 5,200 hits.

A person titled “Maungwto” who is living in Japan posted the video after receiving it from Saw Myo Khaing Shin, a top Karen representative in the country.

“This is my first ever posting of a KNLA battle on You Tube. Previously I posted a battle scene between SPDC and Shan State Army troops in March 2009,” Maungwto told Mizzima.

In the latest posting, seven junta troops and a KNLA soldier were killed, while two were seriously injured, Saw Myo Khaing Yan Shin said.

While You Tube was banned in Burma and internet speeds were still at dial-up-level quality, some people have still managed to download the footage using proxy servers, an internet-savvy youth in Rangoon said.

“I could watch this video clip sent by my friend with e-mail and feel sorry to see … what’s happening in our country,” he said.

IT professionals in Burma said that seeing such video clips on the Net was only possible thanks to new media, which was they said a new development for the country.

Despite tight controls on news media and the internet by the military regime, people are increasingly able to access banned information through new media such as social networking sites including Weblogs, Facebook and mail groups.

“We could receive some news, photos and information almost instantly through blogs, e-mail and Facebook,” a young IT professional from Burma told Mizzima.

Thai-Burmese border town Mae Sot based blogger Dr. Lun Swe examined the impact that Web 2.0 and other new media was having on the Burmese opposition community and those living in exile.

“The role of new media is a playing crucial role in our pro-democracy movement,” he said. “The quickest way to post Burma-related news on the internet is on blogs at home and abroad.”

Use of the new media has increased since the 2007 “saffron revolution”, when monks led nationwide demonstrations, as the Web was one of the only sources of unregulated news and information.

As the military regime tightly controls the flow of information over the internet, people in Burma use proxy servers to bypass censorship and news blackouts.

“These blogs are the earliest source of information and the government is facing difficulty in controlling them, but the quality and reliability of this type of news may be substandard,” Dr. Lun Swe said, without elaborating.

News From Mizzima

World unites to honour Suu Kyi

Eminent international leaders including Kofi Annan, Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama have joined thousands of activists and democracy figureheads the world over to honour Aung San Suu Kyi’s birthday today.

The Nobel laureate and Burmese opposition leader will celebrate her 65th birthday inside the dilapidated lakeside mansion, where she has been held a prisoner of the Burmese regime for nearly 15 years.

US president Barack Obama said: “I wish to convey my best wishes to Aung San Suu Kyi, the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Laureate, on the occasion of her 65th birthday on June 19. Her determination, courage, and personal sacrifice in working for human rights and democratic change in Burma inspire all of us who stand for freedom and justice.”

The Elders, a group of prominent global figures founded by Mandela, yesterday left an empty chair for Suu Kyi as a gesture of her honourary membership of the group. Elder member Desmond Tutu lamented the “deep fractures in society” caused by nearly half a century of military rule in Burma, and urged reconciliation to “achieve the peace and prosperity [the Burmese people] deserve.”

Jimmy Carter, former US president and 2002 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, said that Suu Kyi remains “a global symbol of moral courage in the face of repression”.

“As she spends yet another year in captivity, we urge the world, and especially Burma/Myanmar’s partners in ASEAN, to recognise that it is an oppressive and misguided regime that excludes her and thousands of other political activists from playing a part in their country’s future.”

ASEAN refers to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations bloc, whose policy of non-interference in the domestic affairs of member states, including Burma, has been heavily criticised.

But perhaps the most striking message was delivered by one of Suu Kyi’s closest confidantes in a letter smuggled out of Burma and given to the Independent. The letter, penned by fellow Burmese pro-democracy icon, Win Tin, began: “I want to repeat and echo her own words”.

It went on to make a passionate plea to the outside world to “use your liberty to promote ours”, a quote first ushered by Suu Kyi in 1997. Win Tin added that Burma, one of the world’s poorest nations, was “starving” for freedom.

A collection of previously unseen photographs of Suu Kyi was published by the Guardian newspaper yesterday to mark her birthday. Gifted to the newspaper by Suu Kyi’s family, it gives a rare glimpse into the life of ‘The Lady’ before her return to Burma in 1988 and subsequent years under house arrest.

Activists from Australia to the Philippines to Britain today and yesterday rallied in tribute to Suu Kyi, urging the Burmese junta to release the 65 year old. But her current spell under house arrest is not due to expire until early 2011, months after Burma’s elections likely further cement the status quo in the country and leave Suu Kyi’s fate in the hands of the military generals.

News From DVB

Friday, 18 June 2010

ၿငိမ္းခ်မ္းေရးရဲ ့ျပယုဂ္ (သို ့မဟုတ္) အေမ ေဒၚေအာင္ဆန္းစုၾကည္

Myanmar floods, landslides kill 100 in Myanmar, Bangladesh

Myanmar floods and landslides triggered by incessant monsoon rains in Myanmar and Bangladesh have killed more than 100 people.

Myanmar floods and landslides triggered by incessant monsoon rains in Myanmar and Bangladesh have killed more than 100 people. In this photo taken Wednesday, June 16, a resident wades through floodwaters in Maungdaw, Rakhine State in the western part of Myanmar.


YANGON, Myanmar

Floods and landslides triggered by incessant monsoon rains in Myanmar and Bangladesh have killed more than 100 people, officials and reports said Thursday.

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At least 46 people died Tuesday in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state, according to the state-run Myanma Ahlin newspaper. Rescue workers are pulling residents out of the worst-affected areas and trying to open a key road damaged in the torrents. Bridges in the region have also been washed out.

State television reported Wednesday that 28 of the people were killed when houses built on mountains collapsed in landslides in Buthidaung, 360 miles (575 kilometers) northwest of Yangon, and 18 others died in Maundaw, south of Buthidaung.

Meanwhile, across the border, Bangladesh recovered three more bodies overnight in the southeastern Cox's Bazar district, raising the death toll from powerful landslides to 56, said local magistrate Mohammad Jasim Uddin. Rains in the area have now stopped, he said.

Flooding is common in both countries during the monsoon season that typically starts in late May. Cyclone Nargis struck both countries in May 2008, devastating large swaths of Myanmar where it left more than 140,000 people dead or missing.

Myanmar: UN rights expert urges release of Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi

17 June 2010 – A United Nations independent human rights expert today urged authorities in Myanmar to immediately release the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and other prisoners of conscience, saying this will help create the conditions for inclusive elections in the Asian nation.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, said in a statement that the country should “heed the call” of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which recently reiterated earlier calls for Ms. Suu Kyi’s release.

“The Working Group has found that the continuous deprivation of Aung San Suu Kyi’s liberty is arbitrary,” he said in the statement, issued in Geneva.

Ms. Suu Kyi, who will turn 65 on Saturday, is the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD). She has been under house arrest for much of the past two decades.

The Working Group has requested that the Government conforms to the norms and principles set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which forbids arbitrary arrest, closed-court hearings and the suppression of free speech and assembly.

In today’s statement, Mr. Quintana – who serves in an unpaid, independent capacity and reports to the UN Human Rights Council – called on the Government to release all other prisoners of conscience “to create the conditions for an inclusive election process and to demonstrate that it intends to take a more serious and sincere approach to its international obligations to uphold human rights.”

Myanmar is expected to hold polls in October, the first to be held in the country in two decades, as part of a Government-designed timetable towards greater democratization.

Earlier this year, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for the elections to be “fair, transparent and credible” in which all citizens – including Ms. Suu Kyi – can take part freely.

The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Myanmar, his Chef de Cabinet Vijay Nambiar, met last week with officials from India, Singapore and China to discuss the issue.

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