Saturday, December 27, 2008

UN secretary-general must visit Burma to begin the end-game

Bangkok Post

The United Nations' Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon seems to be waiting for a miracle before he will visit Burma. Like a scientist afraid of his own experiment, he aims to plot the result before he begins the process. For months now he has been ducking and weaving around increasingly vocal calls for him to visit this failed state with its military despots in charge, and to bring the full weight of the global community to bear on the many and on-going human rights violations occurring there. He seeks, he says, an assurance there will be an outcome. This is an untenable position, overly cautious by far for such a critical situation as Burma.

The UN is willing to allow the Burmese military junta to ride roughshod over international standards of human rights, political practice, economic sustainability and foreign relations.

The global body is allowing the regime to push on towards a sham election in 2010, which will inevitably bolster their power and defer the development of democracy in Burma.

While the shortcomings of the UN indicate a global system that is failing Burma, the UN is not alone.

Regionally, a virtual free-for-all has erupted as investors from China, Russia, Korea, Thailand and elsewhere rush into Burma. A resources and energy assets boom has given the military regime an opportunity to open the flood-gates. Sanctions in place in the US and the EU have ensured Burma's neighbours have few serious competitors, or watchdogs.

The National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, as the legitimate and mandated de jure government in Burma has outlined a step-by-step plan for more focussed and successful engagement with Burma.

The first vital and unavoidable step would be for Mr Ban to visit the country as soon as possible. This would be an opportunity to present and embody the international community's concern over widespread human rights violations and the volatile actions of the country's rulers.

Second, the UN Special Envoy, Ibrahim Gambari must go to Burma again to meet officials and establish infrastructure to:

a) ensure the release of all political prisoners;

b) facilitate open negotiations between Aung San Suu Kyi and the SPDC;

c) to set up a permanent liaison office in Burma to pursue the direct intentions of the Secretary-General; and

d) to bring solutions to Burma's economic crisis.

Third, a process on on-going engagement needs to be rolled out. The generals need to be obliged to meet and engage appropriately with the UN Special Envoy and must grant all relevant UN officers unlimited access throughout the country.

Fourth, the UN should kick-off a process of national reconciliation, capitalising on the work already done by the NCGUB in this direction. This process must be inclusive of all opposition parties, the military and all ethnic groups. This must take place before the proposed elections in 2010 to head-off the usual ruses of the generals to exploit international goodwill, to marginalise authentic opposition voices in Burma and to ensure the irrevocably flawed 2010 election can never take place.

Fifth, all such processes need to have the full-backing of the UN and have their agenda set by the UN. This needs the backing of the UN member states, who must stand up and act on Burma more than they are, and should be a priority as the run-in to the 2010 election looms closer.

Sixth, this process has to be fully open, the dialogue made public and the results known to all, so as to ensure full accountability and the good governance of the initiative.

These are concrete steps, not idle thoughts. Such a programme will have the means of bringing progress to Burma. The international community understands these mechanisms and can work within them. Yet, there is inaction; a sense the rhetoric is there to knit a veil for international leaders.

Recently, Mr Ban said the actions of the junta are "abhorrent and unacceptable" and called for "bold action" on the generals' part to move towards democracy. But, the words will sink quickly without being forcefully backed by Mr Ban himself.

This is not the time to be overly fastidious in the interests of protocol or Realpolitik, or to protect the perceived dignity of the secretary-general's office. Our people are in grave danger. They and the world will forgive Mr Ban should he try hard and fall short. History will look more harshly on not trying at all.

As Mr Ban considers the moment, Burma drifts further and further away.

Thaung Htun is the United Nations representative for the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma.

READ MORE---> UN secretary-general must visit Burma to begin the end-game...

Myanmar stabbed to death

BUKIT MERTAJAM : A foreigner, believed to be a Myanmar, was killed when he put up a fight with an armed robber in Taman Sembilang, Seberang Jaya, on Wednesday.

In the 11pm incident, the unidentified man, in his 30s, was riding a motorcycle which he had borrowed from a friend when he was approached by two men on another motorcycle.

It was learnt that the robbers tried to force him to pull over but he sped off instead. They then blocked the man's path in Solok Sembilang and attacked him.

In the ensuing scuffle, the Myanmar was stabbed on the chest and died on the spot. (JEG: Amazing, at 11pm, no witnesses as they are asking for information, how one earth this story went public, did the deceased spoke from the other side? how did they managed to know 'the robbers forced the deceased to pull over, there was sort of scuffle and stabbed on the chest and "died" on the spot, there is a rego number but no name, amazing accuracy to tell facts when there is no witnesses yet)

One of the robbers took off with the victim's motorcycle, bearing the registration number PGM 1025.

The man's body was sent to Seberang Jaya Hospital and the Myanmar consulate office has been notified.

Those with any information on the case are urged to contact the nearest police station at once.


READ MORE---> Myanmar stabbed to death...

Canada-based Party Linked to Controversial Businessman

The Irrawaddy News

Burmese exiles were surprised to learn through an Internet newsgroup recently that the former chairman of the All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF) has joined a new political party linked to a Canada-based businessman accused in the past of laundering drug profits for the United Wa State Army (UWSA).

According to widely read email messages circulating among Burmese exiles, former ABSDF chairman Htun Aung Gyaw recently joined the United Democratic Party of Myanmar (UDP), founded in Vancouver, Canada.

In response to the rumors, which include allegations that Htun Aung Gyaw, who is currently living in the United States, received US $50,000 to join the UDP, the party issued a statement saying that discussions between party leaders and the former ABSDF chairman were still at the “confidence-building” stage.

But the reports have raised further questions about the UDP itself. Burmese exiles living in Canada and the US say they don’t know what the party’s objectives are, and many wonder about the motives of the man seen as the driving force behind the party.

According to Burmese opposition sources in Canada, the UDP has no chanirman, but is led by well-known Burmese businessman Kyaw Myint, a.k.a. Michael Hu Hwa.

Kyaw Myint’s company, NAH Development Group Inc, is involved in “energy, mineral, agriculture, building materials, finance and real estate industries,” according to its Web site, The site also provides a contact address in Vancouver.

A former colonel in the UWSA—a group named by the US State Department as “the world’s largest armed narcotics-trafficking organization”—Kyaw Myint is a familiar name in Burmese business circles.

After the UWSA reached a ceasefire agreement with Burma’s ruling military junta in 1991, Kyaw Myint became the head of Myanmar Kyone Yeom Group, a Rangoon-based company with extensive interests in construction, mining, real estate and forestry.

In an article published by the now-defunct Asiaweek magazine in January 1998, Myanmar Kyone Yeom was accused of acting as a “money-washing machine” for the UWSA.

According to an article published in Jane’s Intelligence Review in November 1998, the company was blacklisted by the Burmese regime because “Michael Hu Hwa (a.k.a. Colonel Kyaw Myint), who claimed to be a deputy minister of finance for the UWSA, openly and brazenly flouted Burmese business laws and regulations.”

Soon after, the company was shut down and Kyaw Myint was imprisoned. He did not stay in prison for long, however, as he received help from some influential intelligence officers.

Kyaw Myint left Burma and appeared in Bangkok in 1999. From there, he relocated to the United States and then Canada—a move reportedly arranged by the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

He later set up United Democratic Party of Myanmar and began to recruit young activists, who received stipends and allowances, according to exiled Burmese sources in Vancouver. Kyaw Myint also reportedly financed some Burma-related conferences in Canada.

READ MORE---> Canada-based Party Linked to Controversial Businessman...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Thailand’s Burma Policy Set to Change under New Premier

The Irrawaddy News

In a recent series of interviews with the international media, the new prime minister of Thailand, Abhisit Vejjajiva, has indicated that the Kingdom’s Burma policy is likely to involve a more proactive stance on human rights issues in the military-ruled country.

In an interview with the Qatar-based Al Jazeera news network, Abhisit said that he would try to convince fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) of the importance of human rights to the international community.

Unless Asean’s efforts to enshrine human rights are credible in the eyes of the international community, “the grouping will not be able to achieve its objectives,” he added.

On Burma, Abhisit stressed the need for Asean and the West to find common ground.
“The West and Asean have a common objective. We want to bring good change in Myanmar [Burma],” he said.

Thailand’s new foreign minister, Kasit Piromya, has also indicated that the new administration would depart from the business-oriented polices that often determined the direction of the Kingdom’s Burma policy under recent governments.

Speaking at an academic conference on December 19, Kasit said that Thailand would now run “an ethical foreign policy,” in contrast to that of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his hand-picked successors.

“From now on, there will be no personal business dealings on the side. This government will not mix business and politics,” he said. “We shall have no [personal] business deals with the [Burmese] junta; we shall observe human rights and environmental concerns; we shall treat Burmese as we do Thais.”

Before Abhisit became prime minister, he was also outspoken about Burma on several occasions. In September 2006, he told The Leaders, an online publication, that Asean recognizes that no problem can be considered a purely domestic problem, because any problem that occurs in a member state affects the whole association.

“Thailand and other Asean members should really push for an agenda that shows that we respect human rights and key principles upheld by the international community,” he said.

In another sign of Abhisit’s interest in the views of those calling for a stronger stand on human rights issues, on December 13, two days before he was named prime minister, he met with a number of exiled Burmese politicians at a conference in Bangkok.

It appears that Abhisit is set to follow the example of Thailand’s last Democrat prime minister, Chuan Leekpai, who did not visit military-ruled Burma during his administration from late 1997 to early 2001. Thai prime ministers usually visit Burma as a part of tour of Asean’s 10 member countries soon after taking office.

In 1999, during the Chuan administration, Burmese dissidents in Thailand staged a bold siege of the Burmese embassy in Bangkok, and early the next year seized control of a public hospital in the border province of Ratchaburi.

On the Burmese embassy capture, then Thai Interior Minister Sanan Kachonprasart said that he didn’t regard the attackers as terrorists, but rather as students who were seeking democracy in their homeland.

“They are not terrorists. They are students who fight for democracy,” said Sanan, who is returning to power as a deputy prime minister in Abhisit’s Democrat-led coalition government.

Thailand’s response to the embassy takeover—it defused the crisis by transporting the hostage takers to the border in a government helicopter—angered the Burmese generals, who closed all border checkpoints to Thailand and lifted Thai fishing concessions in Burmese waters without any prior notice.

Chuan’s administration also moved away from Asean’s policy of “constructive engagement” with the Burmese regime, when then Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan proposed in July 1999 that the bloc adopt a more proactive “flexible engagement” policy.

“Flexible engagement was about open and frank discussion about such issues [as human rights], leading to cooperative solutions—a pooling of sovereignty rather than its dilution, so as to make Southeast Asia a secure and prosperous region,” noted Amitav Acharya, an expert on international relations, in July 2007.

The Democrats’ approach to Burmese issues contrasts starkly with that of former Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, of the pro-Thaksin People’s Power Party. Samak visited Burma at least twice during his brief administration, which ended in September when a court decision forced him to step down.

Following a state visit in March, Samak returned to Thailand full of praise for the Burmese generals, describing them as devout Buddhists who practiced mediation and prayed every morning.

In an interview with Thailand’s Chanel 11, he even excused the regime’s brutal treatment of protesters: “Killings and suppression are normal there, but we have to know the facts,” he said.

READ MORE---> Thailand’s Burma Policy Set to Change under New Premier...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Than Shwe, Voodoo and the Number 11

The Irrawaddy News

Whenever I speak to diplomats or foreign friends who want to learn more about Burma, I encourage them to draw parallels between the political decisions in the country and astrology, or moreover, yadaya, the Burmese form of voodoo.

It is an open secret that Burma’s military leaders believe deeply in various superstitions—astrology, occultism, numerology, black magic, yadaya.

Throughout our recent history, auspicious dates, times, units of currency and countless other properties have been reset according to the advice of the junta leaders’ astrologers.

During the era of Gen Ne Win, the number 9 became the satanic mark of the regime. Even the national currency was altered to denominations of nine, with 45-kyat and 90-kyat notes suddenly, and without warning, circulated in place of the existing currency.

As 2009 draws near, many observers inside and outside the country have been amused to find out that the new symbol of power for the paranoid generals of Naypyidaw has been unveiled as the number 11.

Though speculation is rife, no one knows for sure how or why 11 suddenly became the military government’s talisman.

In September, the regime released 9,002 prisoners. Of course, 9002 inverted becomes 2009, so I was intrigued as to whether this seemingly random number had been manipulated.

I approached an exiled former astrologer of the junta’s top brass and asked him if there was some superstitious meaning behind it.

He told me that the number of released prisoners quoted in the Burmese press was never the true figure; it could be a few dozen prisoners, it could be hundreds. But the number quoted was always consistent with the advice of an astrologer.

We mused on the fact that the total sum of the digits in 9002 is 11 (9+2).

Shortly after, the Burmese authorities began sentencing prominent pro-democracy activists. The numerology was consistent—several dissidents, including Min Ko Naing, for years one of the greatest thorns in the junta’s side, were in November (the 11th month) handed down sentences of 65 years (6+5=11). To hammer the point home, the sentences were pronounced at 11am. (Jeg's: but what they do not know is that the convertion is incomplete as 1+1=2 , they are calling their own butchery misfortune 2 )

Was an astrologer consulted before these judicial decisions were made? “Absolutely!” the exiled astrologer told me.

“So enlighten me!” I beseeched him. “Why 11?”

He reminded me that in Burmese Buddhist tradition, there are “eleven fires”— greed, hatred, delusion, birth, aging, death, grief, lamentation, pain, sorrow and despair—which, in a spiritual context, are fueled by sentient attachment.

So, I was left to wonder, are the generals trying to prevent the “eleven fires” from befalling them? Surely, the generals are aware that under their rule, the people of Burma need not be reminded about the fires of suffering?

We know that both former and current military leaders have practiced yadaya to ward off misfortune and that many have had private astrologers on their staff.

When Ne Win was in power, one of his aides, Sein Lwin, who was president of Burma for two weeks during the turbulent summer of 1988, regularly consulted astrologers to foresee the future.

In some cases Sein Lwin—known forevermore as “The Butcher of Rangoon” after he ordered a bloody crackdown on unarmed protesters—would even meet his official astrologers to seek assurance of who would fill the top cabinet positions whenever Ne Win purged one of his top brass.

Apart from official astrologers, Burma’s military leaders usually keep close to their sides any Buddhist monks who are well-known for reading palms and predicting the future.

In 2002, Ne Win’s grandsons were arrested for planning an overthrow of the government. Aung Pwint Khaung, the dictator’s family astrologer, was also detained. The raid evidently uncovered a cache of voodoo-like dolls said to closely resemble the regime’s top three generals—Snr-Gen Than Shwe, Gen Maung Aye and Gen Khin Nyunt.

A similar situation unfolded in 2004 when astrologer Bodaw Than Hla was arrested along with his patron, Khin Nyunt. Both were thrown in prison. Although Khin Nyunt remains under house arrest, to this day rumors circulate that the former spy chief still seeks advice from astrologers via a messenger. Word has it that Khin Nyunt is obsessed with learning if and when he and his family will be released.

I heard a rumor earlier this year that Khin Nyunt had requested permission for nine Buddhist monks to make merit at his house. Apparently, the request was partially granted—the regime allowed three monks. Why? Perhaps there was a concern that Khin Nyunt was going to perform an act of yadaya. It wouldn’t have escaped the current generals’ interest that “9” was the lucky number for the previous regime.

Burmese farmers know only too well of the regime’s obsessive policies. First it was physic nuts. Then it was sunflowers (translated into Burmese as nay kyar, meaning “long stay”). In 2007, farmers in Pegu Division were forced to grow whatever Than Shwe was advised would ensure his “long stay” in power, even if it meant turning this agrarian society into a Banana Republic.

Notoriously superstitious, Than Shwe is no stranger to yadaya and astrology. Indeed his latest act of voodoo had all the hallmarks of a man possessed.

When UN chief Ban Ki-moon and envoy Ibrahim Gambari came to Burma earlier this year, there was a mysterious detour to their scheduled itineraries.

When visiting Rangoon’s famous Shwedagon Pagoda, they were guided to a newly installed Buddhist statue, which appeared to be made of jade and had never been seen in public before.

On separate occasions, the UN dignitaries were given photo-op moments to make an offering and pray in front of the sculpture.

It may have missed the gaze of Ban and Gambari, but no one else failed to notice that the face of the statue was not so serene and Buddha-like. It was, in fact, an effigy of Than Shwe.

Embarrassed inner-circle officials later admitted that they had to carry out this crazy ritual at the behest of the narcissistic octogenarian.

My informed astrologer in Naypyidaw had one more amusing story to share with me.

Whenever a UN envoy visits Burma, hotel staff are told to install a strip of a pregnant woman’s sarong or underwear within the ceiling of the VIP’s suite. Traditional Burmese men are often superstitious that coming into contact with women’s undergarments will diminish their hpoun, or manly power.

At least in the case of Ban and Gambari, that curse appears to be working.

READ MORE---> Than Shwe, Voodoo and the Number 11...

UN Passes Strong Resolution on Burma Human Rights Abuses

The Irrawaddy News

The UN General Assembly has adopted by a vote of nearly four to one a resolution calling on Burma to free all political prisoners, including detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and criticizing the human rights record of the Burmese regime.

The resolution, which addressed the issue of human rights in Burma, was carried on Wednesday by 80 votes to 25, with 45 abstentions.

It urged the Burmese government to halt arrests of political activists and expressed concern about incidents of torture and sexual abuse and the crackdown on peaceful protesters in September 2007.

The resolution also voiced concern over the process of the junta’s so-called “seven-step roadmap” toward democracy, including the planned general election, noting the failure of the regime to include other political parties, members of Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, and representatives of ethnic political organizations.

An unnamed Burmese UN representative later rejected the resolution and accused the UN Assembly of "blatant interference" in his country’s internal political affairs. He said that although Burma would not feel bound by the resolution it would nevertheless continue to cooperate with the UN and the Secretary-General’s good offices.

The Burmese representative maintained that his country had made major political strides and was now in the process of democratization by carrying out the so-called seven-step roadmap.

Four of Burma’s Asean partners—Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand—abstained in Wednesday’s vote, while Cambodia was not present. Brunei Darussalam, Laos, Malaysia and Vietnam joined China, India and Russia, together with countries ranging from Algeria to Zimbabwe, in voting against the resolution.

Burma’s top diplomat at the UN, Kyaw Tint Swe, said in a recent confidential report to his country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs that international pressure on Burma would increase within the UN Security Council, particularly from Western members. The envoy said Western influence within the Security Council would increase when Japan and Uganda replace Indonesia and South Africa in January.

Japan voted in favor of the resolution on Wednesday, while Uganda was not present for the vote.

In late November, Burmese junta chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe said in the state-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar that the seven-step roadmap is the only way to smooth the transition toward democratic reform in Burma.

The fifth stage of the seven-step roadmap will be the general election, scheduled for 2010.

According to human rights groups, Burma has more than 2,100 political prisoners. About 215 political activists were sentenced last month to prison terms of up to 68 years.

READ MORE---> UN Passes Strong Resolution on Burma Human Rights Abuses...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

88 Generation Students' member tortured by prison authority - Htay Kywe

24 Dec, 2008 (DVB) - One of the detained leaders of the 88 Generation Students, Htay Kywe has been tortured physically and mentally by authorities, according to sources close to Buthidaung prison in northwest Burma.

Htay Kywe was ordered not to be fed regularly and to reduce the amount of food given to him, a prison staff said. He has also been detained in solitary confinement and denied physical exercises on the order of Home Affairs minister Major-General Maung Oo.

The order seems to be placed with the knowledge that Htay Kywe has serious gastric problems and went through a major operation during his first imprisonment, his friends said. There is no proper medical care in Buthidaung and the nearest proper hospital is situated in Arakan state capital Sittwe, they added.

Htay Kywe was arrested on 13 October 2007 for his part in instigating the protests over commodity prices beginning in August that year. He was denied permission to attend his mother Mi Mi Lay’s funeral on 3 December 2007 in Rangoon.

Htay Kywe and other 88 Generation Students including Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi were sentenced to 65 years’ imprisonment in early November and transferred to remote facilities across Burma.

They were jailed for 65 years each – 60 years under the Electronics Law and five for a violation of the corrections department regulations.

Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi were sent to Keng Tung prison in Eastern Shan state, Pyone Cho to Kaw Thaung prison in Tenasserim division, Mya Aye to Loi Kaw in Karenni state, Aung Thu to Putao prison in Kachin state along with activist Bo Bo Win Hlaing and seven others.

Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet

READ MORE---> 88 Generation Students' member tortured by prison authority - Htay Kywe...

Political Prisoner Commits Suicide - Maung San

The Irrawaddy News

A Burmese political prisoner, Maung San, committed suicide in Pegu Prison in central Burma on Dec. 19, according to sources in Pegu Division.

Maung San, who was about 35 years old, was serving a two-year prison term.

He committed suicide in a prison restroom, following the refusal of prison authorities to provide proper medical treatment outside the prison. He suffered from intestinal problems and liver disease, sources said.

A source said Maung San’s decision to take his own life stemmed from frustration over medical treatment, and his inability to talk freely with his family.

“He suffered from a serious illness, and he thought it would be better if he died instead of suffered,” said the source.

His family last visited with Maung San on Dec. 13 in Pegu Prison.

“When his family visited him in prison, his health condition was bad,” said the source. “He had asked prison authorities for proper medical treatment, but the authorities refused his request.”

Bo Kyi, joint-secretary of the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), said “The health condition of political prisoners is worse day by day. We are very concerned that they don’t receive proper medical treatment.”

“By ignoring serious illnesses, the Burmese authorities are conducting murder,” Bo Kyi said.

Sources said that Pegu Prison authorities impose many restrictions in dealing with political prisoners and their families.

In other prison news, in early December, Aung Kyaw Oo, a youth member of the opposition National League for Democracy who is serving a 19-year sentence in Pegu Prison, was savagely beaten and denied medical treatment, according to reports.

When Aung Kyaw Oo’s wife visited the prison on Dec. 3, she was denied permission to see him. She was allowed to visit him on Dec. 13.

On December 22, political prisoner Khin Maung Cho received an additional 5-year prison sentence. He is imprisoned in Yankin Township in Rangoon. He was sentenced under Immigration Act 13/1. On December 8, he was given 19 years imprisonment on a separate charge.

There are more than 2,100 political prisoners in Burma, according to human rights groups.

READ MORE---> Political Prisoner Commits Suicide - Maung San...

Korea Rejects Charge of Rights Abuse in Burma

The Irrawaddy News

BANGKOK — The South Korean government has rejected a complaint that two Korean companies have condoned human rights abuses and failed to meet international standards in Burma in pursuit of gas exploration.

The complaint alleged that industrial conglomerate Daewoo International and government-owned Korea Gas Corporation had failed to comply with guidelines on corporate responsibility and investment laid down by the Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development (OECD).

The Block A-1 gas field off the northwestern coast of Burma. Daewoo International and the Korea Gas Corporation have a 70 percent stake in three Burmese offshore gas wells including A-1. (Source: The Chosun Ilbo)
South Korea is a member of the OECD, which is made up of the world’s leading industrialized countries.

The allegation was lodged by the U.S.-based group EarthRights International (ERI) and backed by several other organizations including South Korea’s two biggest labor union federations.

Daewoo and Korea Gas are partners in a consortium developing the huge Shwe gas field off the west coast of Burma close to Bangladesh.

ERI contends that “human rights abuses have been perpetrated against local people opposing Daewoo’s Shwe Gas Project.”

It also says Daewoo’s plan to construct a trans-Burma gas pipeline to China from the Shwe field “poses an unreasonably high risk of more serious and widespread human rights and environmental impacts.”

South Korea’s Ministry of Knowledge Economy has rejected the complaint “on all counts,” ERI said on Wednesday.

“Moreover, the [ministry] opined that the general situation in Burma and specifically around the Shwe Project does not merit an investigation or arbitration between the companies and the complainants,” ERI said in a statement. “[It] flies in the face of evidence from groups and communities from within the proposed pipeline area in Burma.”

ERI alleged in its October complaint to the South Korean government that Daewoo and Korea Gas—also known as KOGAS—are in breach of at least six OECD guidelines “by failing to respect human rights, contributing to forced labor, failing to promote sustainable development, failing to disclose information about the project, failing to consult with local populations and by failing to conduct an environmental impact assessment according to international standards.”

ERI says it was only informed of the complaint rejection indirectly and unofficially via a co-complainant in South Korea.

“If Daewoo and KOGAS were to genuinely conform to the (OECD) guidelines, the Shwe Project would have to be postponed, which evidently is against the priorities of both the companies and the ministry,” said Matthew Smith, Burma Project Coordinator at ERI.

“These companies and the Korean government are now on notice that negative social and environmental impacts from this project have begun, and are likely to continue and accelerate if this project moves forward. These companies bear responsibility for these abuses, and the Korean government is failing in its obligations under the OECD guidelines to prevent these harms. The blood of the people of Burma will be on their hands.”

ERI and its supporters complained that Daewoo and Korea Gas are in breach of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

Daewoo is the main developer in the Shwe consortium with a 51 percent stake. Korea Gas holds 8.5 percent.

The field has recoverable reserves of at least 6 trillion cubic feet of gas, all of which is being purchased by China.

ERI says its research indicates that the 1,100-mile gas pipeline through Burma will pass through at least 24 townships and close by several large population centers in Arakan State and four other regions including Shan State.

READ MORE---> Korea Rejects Charge of Rights Abuse in Burma...

Political Prisoner Commits Suicide - Maung San

The Irrawaddy News

A Burmese political prisoner, Maung San, committed suicide in Pegu Prison in central Burma on Dec. 19, according to sources in Pegu Division.

Maung San, who was about 35 years old, was serving a two-year prison term.

He committed suicide in a prison restroom, following the refusal of prison authorities to provide proper medical treatment outside the prison. He suffered from intestinal problems and liver disease, sources said.

A source said Maung San’s decision to take his own life stemmed from frustration over medical treatment, and his inability to talk freely with his family.

“He suffered from a serious illness, and he thought it would be better if he died instead of suffered,” said the source.

His family last visited with Maung San on Dec. 13 in Pegu Prison.

“When his family visited him in prison, his health condition was bad,” said the source. “He had asked prison authorities for proper medical treatment, but the authorities refused his request.”

Bo Kyi, joint-secretary of the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), said “The health condition of political prisoners is worse day by day. We are very concerned that they don’t receive proper medical treatment.”

“By ignoring serious illnesses, the Burmese authorities are conducting murder,” Bo Kyi said.

Sources said that Pegu Prison authorities impose many restrictions in dealing with political prisoners and their families.

In other prison news, in early December, Aung Kyaw Oo, a youth member of the opposition National League for Democracy who is serving a 19-year sentence in Pegu Prison, was savagely beaten and denied medical treatment, according to reports.

When Aung Kyaw Oo’s wife visited the prison on Dec. 3, she was denied permission to see him. She was allowed to visit him on Dec. 13.

On December 22, political prisoner Khin Maung Cho received an additional 5-year prison sentence. He is imprisoned in Yankin Township in Rangoon. He was sentenced under Immigration Act 13/1. On December 8, he was given 19 years imprisonment on a separate charge.

There are more than 2,100 political prisoners in Burma, according to human rights groups.

READ MORE---> Political Prisoner Commits Suicide - Maung San...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Russia Urges Burma to Cooperate with UN

The Irrawaddy News

Russia’s ambassador to Burma has told Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win that Moscow will be in a better position to support the Naypyidaw regime if it cooperates with UN special envoy Ibraham Gambari, according to a leaked written account of their meeting.

The secret document, leaked to The Irrawaddy by a Burmese Foreign Ministry source, said the Russian ambassador, Mikhail Mgeladze, reassured Nyan Win of Moscow’s continuing support, while urging cooperation with the UN. The two met on December 6 at Nyan Win’s office in Rangoon.

Gambari has a standing invitation from Burma’s ruling junta to visit the country, but he has shown reluctance to return in view of the regime’s recent crackdown on the pro-democracy leadership, ignoring appeals from the international community.

Last week, the UN said there was no immediate plan for Gambari to visit Burma in the near future.

“He has no plans immediately to go to Myanmar [Burma],” Michele Montas, spokeswoman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York.

Ban himself was earlier scheduled to visit Burma in December, but cancelled his trip after the Burmese military junta went back on its words and intensified its crackdown on pro-democracy activists.

“He [Ban] is not going to go there just for the sake of going. He has to have some indications that his visit will mean something,” Montas said.

The Russian ambassador’s meeting with Nyan Win was seen as quiet diplomatic pressure on the regime to cooperate with the UN.

Mgeladze restated Moscow’s position, however, that the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, the opening of a dialogue between Snr Gen Than Shwe and Suu Kyi and the presence of independent monitors at the 2010 election are only internal matters, the leaked document disclosed.

The Russian ambassador also said that he would not support six-party talks on Burma along the lines of this year’s North Korea initiative. A similar Burma initiative has been proposed by some dissidents.

Nyan Win told Mgeladze that the Burmese government would not accept such a proposal. Burma and North Korea were different matters, he said.

Nyan Win told the ambassador that Burma’s two major allies, China and India, also opposed the six-party talks proposal.

The meeting between Nyan Win and Mgeladze also dealt with trade relations between Burma and the West. The two officials shared a view that France and Germany are interested in economic cooperation with the regime, although America and the UK take a tougher policy toward Burma.

The Russian ambassador assured Nyan Win that his government intended to strengthen its economic and diplomatic cooperation with the regime.

Burma and Russia celebrated this year the 60th anniversary of their mutual diplomatic relations, which were established with an exchange of notes in February 1948 at the embassy of the Soviet Union in London.

Burma’s late dictator Gen Ne Win developed a close relationship with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in the 1960s, sending socialist cadres to the Soviet Union to study socialism. Khrushchev visited Burma in 1960.

About 1500 students, mostly military officers, are currently studying in 11 institutions in Russia. Some 500 Burmese students have so far obtained degrees, including doctorates, in Russia, according to the Russian embassy in Burma.

Burma’s army chief and regime No 2, Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye, visited Russia in April 2006.

Burma has brought a 10 mega watt nuclear reactor and MiG 29 jet fighters from Russia.

READ MORE---> Russia Urges Burma to Cooperate with UN...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Than Shwe’s Dynastic Family Dream on Parade at State Function

The Irrawaddy News
December 18, 2008

A highly publicized appearance by the family of Burmese junta leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe at an important military function is being interpreted in some circles as further evidence that the elderly general is creating a ruling dynasty of his own.

Than Shwe’s wife Kyaing Kyaing, two of their daughters, a granddaughter and a favorite grandson were pictured by the state media in prominent positions at last week’s graduation ceremony at the Defense Service Academy in Pyinoolwin (formerly known as May Myo), Mandalay Division.

A report in the regime mouthpiece, The New Light of Myanmar, on December 13 described them as “distinguished guests” and gave them more prominence in its picture coverage than such leading members of the military government as the junta’s No 3, Gen Thura Shwe Mann and Secretary-1, Lt-Gen Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo. The report did not say whether the junta’s No 2, Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye, was present at the ceremony.

Pictures of Than Shwe’s family showed “first lady” Kyaing Kyaing sitting on a sofa next to grandson Nay Shwe Thway Aung. Daughters Dewar Shwe and Khin Pyone Shwe and granddaughter Aye Thida Shwe sat on separate sofas. It wasn’t clear from the newspaper’s report whether Than Shwe’s daughter Thandar Shwe, whose opulent wedding two years ago aroused scorn and outrage, in Burma and internationally, was present.

In The New Light of Myanmar’s coverage of the graduation ceremony, a picture of Shwe Mann, Burma’s Chief of Staff and Coordinator of Special Operations, Army, Navy and Air Force, was relegated to an inside page. A picture of Tin Aung Myint Oo was assigned an even less prominent position in the newspaper’s coverage.

Shwe Mann is tipped by the Economist Intelligence Unit to succeed Than Shwe, but Tin Aung Myint Oo, who has more seniority, is emerging as a serious rival. Their positioning in The New Light of Myanmar’s report on the graduation ceremony and the prominence given to Than Shwe’s family are being interpreted by Burma observers as a sign of uncertainty about rankings within the military leadership.

Burmese who remember the rule of late dictator Ne Win point out that members of his family stayed away from important state functions, even though he had his favorites—such as daughter Sandar Win.

“Than Shwe is disclosing his intention of creating a new Burmese dynasty by parading his family members at state functions,” said Thakin Chan Tun, a former Burmese diplomat.

READ MORE---> Than Shwe’s Dynastic Family Dream on Parade at State Function...

Tumbling Kelly!

By Ko Soe
Rangoon - Mizzima News
18 December 2008

At the time of global financial crisis, our backward and underdeveloped country Burma could not find appropriate ways and means to face this crisis. It is like sailing on the rough sea with the boat having a hole at the bottom. I can't help laughing when I see 'Billiken State, Billiken nationals, no need to worry about' article by columnist 'Kyaw Ye Min' appearing in 'The Mirror' paper.

The recession is Burma's economy is following in tandem with global economy while it is in the worst phase. This is witnessed by every Burmese in the country. But the junta doesn't lower the fuel prices, forgetting the overpriced palm oil, exporting more gas by having blackouts in former capital Rangoon, relying heavily on the UN and aid agencies for cyclone relief and rehabilitation operation and stopping their own efforts. Moreover they (junta) pretend to relax their export restriction on rice and timber only when their cronies could not do business as the prices are falling. All these activities have one and only intention. Lowering deficit in its budget!

However hard they tried, as everyone knows, the Burmese economy has crash landed from vacillating in an economic rough sea. But even at that time, it's hard to believe 'Naypyidaw' (capital city) is saying 'no rise in vegetable price, falling price cannot harm us'. Everybody knows this is unwise and unrealistic saying of an idiot.

Aren't they concerned over the farmers who have to abandon their farmland because of falling prices which resulted in huge losses to them? What will happen to our country when the farmers are starving in an agricultural economy? Now we are seeing a million dollar scam in pulses and beans trading in our country. The price of these pulses and beans fell by 60 per cent to an unprecedented level. Similarly onions and garlic prices are experiencing the same fate. Astonishingly it fell to the level between Kyat 120-240. So these farmers cannot grow these crops again.

All construction works have been stopped. The USD exchange rate has also fallen to just over Kyat 1,100 as the global economic downturn and slowdown has started to bite the Burmese economy. The car dealers can hardly sell a single car a day in the entire market. The tourism industry has almost ground to a halt with an almost 70 per cent fall. The jewellery market is at a standstill. The electronic and home appliances markets have almost stopped too with nearly 50 per cent fall in prices.

In this situation, saying electric supply is normal and the economy is good only in newspapers cannot help our economy. They should discuss with other ASEAN countries, closely monitor how the powerful economies are doing, teach the people how to overcome the current recession, how to cope with their hardships and warn them to take care.

READ MORE---> Tumbling Kelly!...

2010 game plan: Clinging to power

Mizzima News
18 December 2008

More bad news has emerged from Burma again this month. The junta is planning to showcase its so-called civilian government with their handpicked people by changing their uniforms to mufti after the junta's planned 2010 general election. In our country, there is news blackout all the time and only Senior Gen. Than Shwe has the final say in everything. The junta kept the news regarding the planning of this general election a secret. It is the 5th step of their 7-step roadmap to democracy.

Their plans do not adhere to national reconciliation, neither for establishing a peaceful and developed country, but only for clinging to power. In their secret scheme, they winked at their staunch supporters and sympathizers to conduct organizational works. The election law is not yet made public and is being enacted in order to give little time to the opposition forces in their preparation for the polls by this dilatory tactics.

There can be three probable paths to follow in the post-2010 scenario. The first one is filling all 440 seats in parliament with generals, army personnel-turned politicians and their 'Yes' men by all possible means of letting them exclusively contest in this election and vote rigging. The second way is seat sharing between armed forces and the opposition through negotiation. The third way is holding free and fair election like in 1990.

After reviewing all their activities until today, the first path will be the most likely way that will be chosen by the ruling generals led by Snr. Gen. Than Shwe. They will do their best to marginalize the 'National League for Democracy' (NLD) including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other pro-democracy forces in this general election.

In this programme, the high army posts and the National Security Council is likely to be filled with generals and senior ministers. The current serving ministers can become new ministers by contesting in this election. About 110 seats in parliament are reserved exclusively for army personnel and the remaining 330 will be filled at the choice of the ruling generals. They are designing this election to restrict the number of seats going to persons who are not of their choice. They would be the ones who are unstoppable and will not comprise more than 10 per cent.

The serving ministers and mayors who have to change their uniforms after election have started canvassing in their constituencies. Similarly some regional commanders are rehearsing to be elected as the 'Chief Minister of the Region or State' in their controlled areas.

Freedom and justice can be hardly expected from this planned election. Those who hope for reform through the new parliament can only hope.

It will be silly and naïve if the ruling generals expect to win legitimacy through this election and get recognition by the international community. Similarly they have no chance to isolate themselves as done by their predecessor Gen. Ne Win in the age of globalization and Information Technology, which have no borders. They will certainly bring big challenges and a collapse with a sad ending.

But all of these things cannot take place spontaneously and dynamically. Those who wish to transform our society to respecting human rights and open society under these changing and developing situations should make preparations well in advance.

READ MORE---> 2010 game plan: Clinging to power...

Mandalay Division NLD Secretary suffers apoplexy in prison - Kan Tun

by Than Htike Oo
18 December 2008

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – A Mandalay Division 'National League for Democracy' (NLD) member suffered from apoplexy in prison, party sources said.

His family members realized about his health condition when they met him yesterday during a prison visit. Kan Tun (67) is serving a 12 -year prison term in Obo prison, Mandalay.

"He is apoplectic on his entire right side. He is bound to a wheelchair and cannot speak when his family members met him. He cannot move his leg and hand on his right side, they said, a person who has close contacts with Mandalay Division party members told Mizzima.

The NLD HQ spokesman Nyan Win in Rangoon also confirmed the news.

"According to news provided by our party sources in Mandalay he suffered apoplexy on in his right side. The prison is treating the ailment and providing necessary assistance. He cannot walk, cannot feed himself and cannot move his right leg and arm. That is what we heard,"he said.

Kan Tun apart, five other NLD members who are serving prison terms in Obo prison are in good health.

All of them were arrested after the saffron revolution in 2007 and sentenced to various prison terms ranging from 8 to 13 years on October 24 this year.

READ MORE---> Mandalay Division NLD Secretary suffers apoplexy in prison - Kan Tun...

Junta-backed USDA unlikely to contest 2010 election

by Mungpi
18 December 2008

New Delhi (Mizzima) – In contrast to what many observers expected, Burma's military junta plans to abolish its proxy organization - Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) - opting not to transform it into a political party for the purpose of participating in the upcoming 2010 election, sources close to the military said.

Owing to a poor public perception of the organization, particularly after its role in cracking down on peaceful demonstrators during the monk-led protests last year, the head of the military junta and the main patron of the organization, Senior General Than Shwe, has decided to scratch his original plan of making use of the USDA as a political party - a source said.

"The USDA will not exist in 2009," said a source in Naypyitaw, adding that members of the junta's proxy will instead be incorporated into political parties with different names.

"The USDA has such a bad image…and a criminal record internationally…they will not use that name… they decided at this meeting," he added, referring to the last quarterly meeting held in November.

Echoing a similar view, Burma affairs specialist Larry Jagan, a freelance journalist based in Bangkok, said the USDA is unlikely to be transformed into any political party to contest the upcoming 2010 elections.

"According to my sources, the USDA itself will not become a political party," said Jagan. But he added that at least three parties are likely to be formed under an umbrella of the discredited USDA and will make use of the former organization's funding.

However, Jagan added, "But there is a lot of speculation and none of us know for sure."

The original social organization, with several million members as claimed by the military government, has been a principle tool in attacking protesters and dissidents over recent years.

Further, the organization has established relationships with China and Vietnam through exchanging official visits.

The USDA was initiated on November 15, 1993, by the military regime. According to an official announcement in 2007, the USDA had 24 million members, mostly government servants. However, many of its members admit they enrolled in the organization in fear of any repercussions associated with denying orders from superiors.

An observer in Burma's former capital, who closely monitors the situation, said, "There is no news about the USDA in state owned newspapers and no USDA uniforms are seen in Yangon [Rangoon]."

The source in Naypyitaw explained that the regime is keen on forming regional political parties rather than a single, nationwide political party.

"All they [junta] want is the National League for Democracy and The Lady [Aung San Suu Kyi] out," the source emphasized.

According to Jagan, despite the junta's claim that it will conduct the 2010 general election freely and fairly, it is unlikely that the junta will allow detained Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to contest the poll, as they see her as a major threat to their determination to win the election. However, it is possible that her party, the NLD, without her, might be allowed to take part.

"But it does not necessarily mean that it [the election] would be free and fair, and that they [NLD] would be able to run unhindered," Jagan further elaborated.

The NLD, meanwhile, said they have not decided on whether to participate in the 2010 election and are still in the process of discussing the situation and brainstorming ideas, after which they intend to deliver a clear statement on whether they will join the proceedings or remain on the sidelines.

Meanwhile, some respected intellectual civilians, some of whom have been accused of being apologists for the junta by the mainstream opposition, are preparing to take part in the election. And the regime itself is looking for locally respected dignitaries, such as retired teachers, to partake in the election, sources said.

Similarly, a source in the military establishment said at least nine ministers and two mayors, including Rangoon Mayor Brigadier General Aung Thein Lin, will soon resign from their current positions in preparation to contest in the general election, the military junta's fifth step of its roadmap to democracy.

Meanwhile, a report on Wednesday by Khitpyaing, a Burmese news agency based in Bangkok, reported that three army commanders have been promoted to the level of minister, but were not assigned to any ministry.

The report argues that the promotion of the Mandalay-based commander of central command, Major General Tin Ngwe, the Bassein-based commander of southwestern command, Major General Kyaw Swe, and the Monywa-based commander of northwestern command, Major General Myint Soe, could be a move to sideline them from assuming active roles in the military before the election.

While the promotion is unprecedented, it could also be a trial by the junta to use military commanders in an administrative capacity, the report suggests.

Meanwhile, a senior official in Naypyitaw told Mizzima that the electoral law, which the military is carefully designing so as to avoid it being used as a stepping stone by the opposition, is expected to be made public by the end of December or in early January 2009.

"We have to wait and see the electoral law but what I can tell you is that they will not repeat the 1990 scenario," said a senior officer in Naypyitaw.

According to Jagan, the election law would impose restrictions on the NLD and other political parties from freely campaigning.

In 1990, the National Unity Party, a transformed party of former military strongman Ne Win's Burma Socialist Party, lost decisively to the NLD, which analysts see as an unacceptable result for Burma's new generation generals.

READ MORE---> Junta-backed USDA unlikely to contest 2010 election...

Burma’s nuclear temptation —Bertil Lintner

All that is certain is that Burma has a nuclear programme. It may be years, if not decades, away from developing nuclear-weapons capability. But the fact that the country’s military leadership is experimenting with nuclear power is cause for concern

Over the past year, Southeast Asia’s diplomatic community has tried to sort fact from fiction in a stream of unconfirmed reports from Burma, the region’s most isolated and secretive country. Burma’s fledgling nuclear programme with Russian assistance and its mysterious connections with North Korea raise concern in the region about its purpose.

According to Burmese exiles in Thailand, the Russians and North Koreans assist the Burmese in developing nuclear capability. But wary of similar reports by Iraqi exiles a few years ago, which turned out to be false, the international community remains sceptical. In a research paper for Griffith University, for example, Australian scholar Andrew Selth dismisses the reports.

Nevertheless, certain facts are not in doubt. Burma first initiated a nuclear research programme as early as 1956, when its then-democratic government set up the Union of Burma Atomic Energy Centre, UBAEC, in then-capital Rangoon. Unrelated to the country’s defence industries, it came to a halt when the military seized power in 1962. New power-holders, led by General Ne Win did not trust UBAEC head Hla Nyunt.

In February 2001, Burma’s present junta, the State Peace and Development Council decided to revitalise the country’s nuclear programme, and Russia’s Atomic Energy Ministry announced plans to build a 10-megawatt nuclear research reactor in central Burma. In July 2001, Burma established a Department of Atomic Energy, believed to be the brainchild of the Minister of Science and Technology, U Thaung, a graduate of Burma’s Defence Services Academy and former ambassador to the United States. US-trained nuclear scientist Thein Po Saw was identified as a leading advocate for nuclear technology in Burma.

At a press conference in Rangoon on January 21, 2002, Vice-Chief of Military Intelligence Major-General Kyaw Win issued a statement: “Myanmar’s consideration of building a nuclear research reactor is based on the peaceful purposes getting modern technologies needed for the country, availability of radioisotopes being used peacefully, training technicians and performing feasibility study for generation of electricity from nuclear power.”

While Burma suffers from chronic power shortages, the need for a research reactor, used mainly for medical purposes, is unclear. Radioisotopes allow imaging of the brain, bones, organs, lungs and blood flow, advanced technology for Burma’s basic health services.

However, observers pointed out the Russian-made nuclear-research reactor that the Burmese authorities sought to acquire is similar to the 5-megawatt research reactor that the then–Soviet Union installed at Yongbyon in North Korea in 1965, from which North Korea later extracted plutonium for a nuclear device. Burma’s military leaders couldn’t help but notice how North Korea stood up to the US, a harsh critic of the Burmese regime, mainly due to its nuclear programme.

Reports have been murky since. In April 2007, days after the restoration of diplomatic ties between Burma and North Korea — broken since North Koreans detonated a bomb in Rangoon in 1983 — a North Korean freighter, the Kang Nam I, docked at Thilawa port. Burmese officials claimed that the ship sought shelter from a storm. But two Burmese reporters working for a Japanese news agency were briefly detained when they went to the port to investigate, indicating possible other, more secret reasons for the visit.

According to the July 2007 issue of the Irrawaddy, a Thailand-based publication by Burmese exiles: “by a strange coincidence, the 2,900-ton North Korean cargo vessel MV Bong Hoafan...sought shelter from a storm and anchored at a Burmese port last November. The Burmese government reported that an on-board inspection had ‘found no suspicious material or military equipment’. But journalists and embassies in Rangoon remained sceptical.”

At about the same time, the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported “a North Korean ship under US surveillance was believed to have unloaded self-propelled artillery at a Myanmar port.”

The deal with Russia was stalled for several years, but in May 2007, Russia’s atomic energy agency, Rosatom, announced construction of the nuclear-research reactor. According to Rosatom, the reactor would use low-enriched uranium, not plutonium. Up to 350 Burmese nationals, most military personnel, trained in Russia under the initial 2001 agreement, and since then several hundred more trained at Russian institutions.

Signatories of the agreement reached in Moscow on May 15, 2007 were U Thaung and Rosatom head Sergey Kiriyenko. According to Rosatom’s press release: “The sides have agreed to cooperate on the establishment of a centre for nuclear studies in the territory of Myanmar (the general contractor will be Atomstroyexport). The centre will comprise a 10-megawatt light water reactor working on 20 per cent-enriched uranium-235, an activation analysis laboratory, a medical isotope production laboratory, silicon doping system, nuclear waste treatment and burial facilities. The centre will be controlled by IAEA.”

Despite that claim, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported on May 17, 2007, that Burma had not reported plans to build a nuclear reactor. As a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Burma is required to allow inspections of any nuclear facilities. The agreement does not mention North Korea, but in November 2003, the Norway-based broadcasting station Democratic Voice of Burma, run by Burmese exiles, reported that 80 Burmese military personnel had departed for North Korea to study “nuclear and atomic energy technology”.

The report remains unconfirmed, its source unclear. If Burmese military personnel travelled to North Korea, it’s more likely for training in maintenance of missiles, which Burma then wanted to buy from North Korea but could not yet afford.

Alarm bells rang in August 2008, after India withdrew permission for a North Korean plane to fly over its airspace en route to Iran, just before taking off from Mandalay in Burma where it had made a stopover. The Il-62 carried unidentified cargo, and its destination after the stopover was unclear.

Reports of some cooperation between Burma, Russia, North Korea and Iran have also come from two Burmese nationals, an army officer and a scientist, who recently left the country. According to them, a Russian-supplied 10-megawatt research reactor is being built, at Myaing, north of Pakokku, said to be for peaceful research. But according to the defectors, another facility exists south of the old hill station of Myin Oo Lwin, formerly known as Maymyo. Three Russians supposedly work there while a group of North Koreans are said to engage in tunnelling and constructing a water-cooling system. The defectors also assert that in 2007 an Iranian intelligence officer, identified only as “Mushavi”, visited Burma. Apart from sharing nuclear knowledge, he reportedly provided advice on missile systems using computer components from Milan.

Burma has uranium deposits, and the Ministry of Energy has identified five sources of ore in the country, all low-grade uranium unsuitable for military purposes. But defectors claim that two more uranium mines in Burma are not included in official reports: one near Mohnyin in Kachin State and another in the vicinity of Mogok in Mandalay Division. The ore is supposedly transported to a Thabeikkyin refinery, conveniently located between the two alleged mines.

Until such reports can be verified, or refuted, speculations remain. But a nuclear-powered Burma would be a nightmare for all neighbours and would upset the balance of power in the region. All that is certain is that Burma has a nuclear programme. It may be years, if not decades, away from developing nuclear-weapons capability. But the fact that the country’s military leadership is experimenting with nuclear power is cause for concern. —YaleGlobal

Bertil Lintner is a Swedish journalist based in Thailand and the author of several works on Asia, including Blood Brothers: The Criminal Underworld of Asia and Great Leader, Dear Leader: Demystifying North Korea under the Kim Clan - Daily Times

READ MORE---> Burma’s nuclear temptation —Bertil Lintner...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Afro-Asian organization demands release of Burmese political prisoners

by Nam Davies
16 December 2008

New Delhi (Mizzima) – A social consortium of Asian and African non-governmental organizations (NGOs) today collectively called for the release of all political prisoners in Burma, including democratic opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Afro-Asian People's Solidarity Organization (AAPSO), comprising over 30 NGOs and social organizations from 28 countries, demanded the release of the Burmese prisoners of conscience on Tuesday, at the conclusion of their three day congress in India.

"The resolution was passed unanimously with no objection. Though China didn't give their nod to this resolution, they didn't object to it either," Kyaw Than of the All Burma Students League (ABSL) said. ABSL is party to the AAPSO under the moniker of the Burma Democracy and Peace Council.

According to the Burma resolution, the delegates condemned the junta's brutal suppression of protesters in September 2007's Saffron Revolution and protested against the handing down of harsh prison terms to detained, innocent peaceful demonstrators. They also agreed to strive for the realization of a comprehensive and substantial dialogue through the United Nations based on the result of the 1990 general election.

"We shall present the Burma resolution to the United Nations Security Council, probably in early January next year," Kyaw Than said.

The congress was held in Hyderabad in India at the Hotel Taj Decan for three days. The delegates focused discussion on oppression in Asian and African countries, including Burma, agreeing on the need for increased cooperation among members.

AAPSO, with national committees in over 90 countries from Asia and Africa, was founded on the basis of peace, equality, human rights, development, the fight against apartheid and the anti-colonial struggle.

The first congress of AAPSO was held at its head office in Cairo, Egypt, in 1957.

READ MORE---> Afro-Asian organization demands release of Burmese political prisoners...

Junta bans popular Buddhist monk's sermon

by Myint Maung
Tuesday, 16 December 2008 19:25

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Burmese military junta authorities in Rangoon Division have banned a sermon by abbot U Thumingla, organizers and friends said.

The ban order becomes effective when the sermon is to be held on December 18. Abbot U Thumingla became popular among religiously conscious Buddhists recently. The abbot is from Migadarwon monastery, Mandalay.

The abbot is 40 years old and has been into 20 years of monk hood. The organizers of the sermon preaching ceremonies and the monk community in Rangoon said that the authorities banned his sermons which were to be held soon in Minglataungnyunt, Mayangon and North Okkalapa Townships in Rangoon Division.

The sermons of U Thumingla entitled 'Sasana will diminish when the sermon preaching ceremonies diminish', 'be swallowed by earth fissures shortly,' 'Khat Tine Khan' and 'Need to know how to choose a good leader' are popular among the people.

U Thumingla is currently away from Mandalay and is now into sojourns in Hmawbi, Rangoon Division. His sermons are also banned in Mandalay, an abbot said when Mizzima contacted the Masoyane monastery in Mandalay over telephone.

In his 'Need to know how to choose a good leader' preached in Hlaingtharyar Township in August 2008, he told the audience that they should choose a good and reliable leader like Lord Buddha.

During this sermon the abbot said that now there were many Saturn like in ancient times. In the 'Khat Tine Khan' sermon, he said that some people wished the deadly cyclone hit them (the rulers) instead of the people. The abbot told his audience it was only because of their doing meritorious deeds which has protected them from suffering. When these good deeds are exhausted they will certainly face this sort of fate.

A local resident from Sanchaung Township also said that in 'Be swallowed by the earth fissure shortly', the abbot said that not only the higher authorities, even the lower level authorities like judges will be swallowed by earth fissures if they committed evil deeds by insulting the religion and monks. Insulting a single monk means insulting the entire order of the Sangha (monk). So I'd like to urge the 'State Sanghanaryaka Committee not to be passive in silence, the abbot preached in his sermon, the local resident said.

An official from the State Sanghamahanayaka Committee declined to say anything regarding the ban on the sermon preaching ceremonies of U Thumingla when Mizzima contacted his office over telephone.

The organizers of the religious ceremonies have to submit their applications to different levels of religious authorities from Ward, Township, and District level Sanghamahanayaka Committees in advance for their permission. They also have to sign a pledge not to include political matters in the religious sermons.

READ MORE---> Junta bans popular Buddhist monk's sermon...

Lawyer’s Testimony Highlights Distorted Justice


1) Burma: Lawyer’s Testimony Highlights Distorted Justice
ASEAN Should Monitor Jailed Activists

(New York, December 16, 2008) (HRW)- Burma's military government has used the country's legal mechanisms to intimidate political prisoners and to deny them access to justice, Human Rights Watch said today, citing new testimony from a defense lawyer who has just fled the country. In a crackdown that started in October 2008, Burma's courts have sentenced over 200 political and labor activists, internet bloggers, journalists, and Buddhist monks and nuns to lengthy jail terms.

With the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Charter having entered into force on December 15, Human Rights Watch urged ASEAN to dispatch an eminent independent legal team to monitor the trials and conditions of activists held in isolated prisons.

"The government locks up peaceful activists, sends them to remote prisons, and then intimidates or imprisons the lawyers who try to represent them," said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "This abuse of the legal system shows the sorry state of the rule of law in Burma."

Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min, a 28-year-old lawyer from Rangoon, fled to Thailand several days ago after weeks in hiding. In late October 2008, a Rangoon court sentenced him to six months in prison under Section 228 of the Burmese Penal Code for contempt of court. He failed to intervene, on the judge's order, after his clients turned their backs on the judge to protest the way they were being questioned.

Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min had been defending 11 clients, all members of the National League for Democracy (NLD). Three other lawyers - Nyi Nyi Htwe, U Aung Thein, and U Khin Maung Shein - were arrested and sentenced to terms of four to six months in prison on the same charges. Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min learned of the charges in advance and went underground.

He described to Human Rights Watch the secretive workings of the Burmese legal system and the way in which political prisoners are denied access to fair trials. He said political activists awaiting sentencing in prison can meet with their defense lawyers only at police custody centers with police and intelligence officers present. Trials are often shrouded in secrecy, with lawyers not informed when their clients are to appear in court. Lawyers representing political prisoners face arbitrary delays when requesting assistance from authorities or documents such as case files, he said.

Human Rights Watch has already documented problems with the current unfair trials, including lack of legal representation for political prisoners. Among the hundreds sentenced in recent months, in late November a Rangoon court sentenced prominent comedian and social activist Zargana to 59 years in jail for disbursing relief aid and talking to the international media about his frustrations in assisting victims of Burma's devastating Cyclone Nargis.

Many political prisoners have recently been transferred to isolated regional prisons where medical assistance is poor or nonexistent and food is scarce. During the past few weeks, authorities sent Zargana to Mytkyina Prison, in the far-north Kachin State; the '88 Generation Students leader, Min Ko Naing, was transferred to the northeast Kentung jail of Shan State; and internet blogger Nay Phone Latt, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for posting anti-government material on his website, was sent to the far-south prison at Kawthaung, across from Ranong in Thailand.

The newly-in-force ASEAN Charter sets out principles such as adhering to the rule of law and protecting and promoting human rights to which all members states, including Burma, should adhere. But compliance provisions are weak. ASEAN faces a considerable challenge in addressing Burma's lack of respect for human rights in the lead-up to multiparty elections in 2010.

Human Rights Watch urges Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan of ASEAN to dispatch an independent legal assessment team to monitor the treatment of political prisoners in Burma's courts and prisons. Human Rights Watch said ASEAN should also address Burma's lack of respect for the rule of law when it holds its rescheduled ASEAN summit meeting in early 2009.

"This is a test for ASEAN," said Pearson. "If ASEAN lets Burma get away with this farce of justice, the ASEAN Charter really is worthless."

Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min's account to Human Rights Watch

Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min was admitted to the Burmese Bar earlier in 2008. Since 2007, he has played a lead role in trying to represent activists charged under a raft of spurious laws, and he has been arrested several times for his political activities.

On October 23, he and another lawyer were defending 11 clients, members of the NLD, in Hlaingtharya Court, Rangoon on a range of charges related to peaceful political activities in 2007. Some of the defendants turned their back on the judge, U Thaung Nyunt of the Rangoon Northern District Court, to protest the unfair way defendants were being questioned by the prosecution. The judge instructed the lawyers to stop the defendants' behavior. According to Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min: "We both said to the judge, ‘We don't want to forbid our clients from doing anything, because we are defense lawyers and we act according to our clients' instructions.' The judge stopped the proceedings and set another court hearing date."

The next day, court officials informed Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min that his contempt-of-court hearing was set for October 30. Days later, at the courthouse, he saw and overheard a police officer and an assistant judge conspiring to arrest him. He fled and went into hiding.

2) Fugitive lawyer defending political prisoners flees to Thai border

by Than Htike Oo
Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Young lawyer Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min who represented political prisoners fled to the Thai-Burma border in the wake of an arrest warrant against him.

He was on the run after the Rangoon Northern District Court sentenced him on October 30 to six months in prison in absentia for allegedly obstructing judicial proceedings.

"If I surrender to be arrested and imprisoned under this judicial system, it would be the end of me. I came here in the belief that something can be done," Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min (29) told Mizzima.

He was handed out a prison term for contempt of court while he was representing his clients Hlaingtharyar Township 'National League for Democracy' (NLD) member Ko Thant Zin Myo and 10 others who staged protest demonstrations against rising essential commodity prices.

The bench asked him to tell his clients not to show their back to the court. But he told the court that his clients could sit as they wished. He was given a prison term for that.

"I just said I had no authority to say anything to my clients for their behaviour. But the Hlaingtharyar Township judge from Rangoon northern district court prosecuted me for it," Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min said.

His co-lawyer in this case, Ko Nyi Nyi Htwe, was arrested and imprisoned on the same grounds. Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min didn't appear before the court which would have handed out a prison term to him on that very day.

His clients were sentenced to at least seven and-a-half years in prison.

He represented about 20 clients in political cases when he was in Burma.

Other lawyers who faced a similar fate are U Aung Thein and U Khin Maung Shein who were sentenced to four months in jail on the same contempt of court charge. They are now serving their prison terms in prisons far away from Rangoon.

READ MORE---> Lawyer’s Testimony Highlights Distorted Justice...

Burma: Rohingya Stranded in Malaysia

By Sean Garcia
Refugees International

In late November, just before Thanksgiving, we visited a group of 30 Rohingya men in Penang, Malaysia. We were anxious to visit areas outside of Kuala Lumpur, where civil society is slowly improving services for Burmese refugees. We wanted to see whether refugees nationwide were receiving more attention.

Most of the men in the group we met have been living in Malaysia for over a decade. We were the first visitors that they had ever received from the international community. The group explained to us that they moved to Penang because there is more employment there than in other parts of Malaysia. However, unlike in Kuala Lumpur, where there are limited but growing services for Rohingya refugees, there are no schools or mobile health clinics that will attend to their needs. When asked if there are any civil society organizations in Penang that could help them, no one in the room could identify a single source of help.

Like most Burmese refugees in Malaysia, the greatest concern for everyone in the group was being arrested and deported to the Thai-Malaysia border. The group recounted the story of a recent immigration raid in the community that we visited, which took place three days earlier. In this raid, between 40 to 50 agents from “Rela”, a volunteer corps charged with arresting illegal migrants, combed through their neighborhood from 5pm to 6pm. They asked anyone they found on the street for identification, and six refugees ended up being detained. These raids are a regular part of life for Burmese refugees. The group said that raids happen a few times a year, with a previous one having taken place just six or seven weeks earlier.

Only a few people in the room had papers from the UN Refugee Agency, and the Rohingya we spoke with quickly agreed that they did not feel part of the larger Malaysian community that they lived in. Many of them expressed concerns that their Malaysian neighbors might contact “Rela” if they were disruptive in any way. All agreed that the ideal resolution to their problems would be a return to a safe and free Northern Rakhine State in Burma, but no one thought that was realistic in the near future. Similarly, they would all welcome the opportunity to stay legally in Malaysia, since they have already been living in the country for a long time. In the end, most of the men agreed that they would be happy to live anywhere that would allow them to live there legally, with the hope that they could someday live without fear.

READ MORE---> Burma: Rohingya Stranded in Malaysia...

Monday, December 8, 2008

Comedian says Zarganar will boost prison morale

Dec 8, 2008 (DVB)–Comedian Pa Pa Lay has said the 59-year jail term given to fellow performer Zarganar will not demoralise him and will raise morale in the prison where he is being held.

Activist and comedian Zarganar was sentenced to 59 years in prison last month and sent to the remote Myitkyina prison in Kachin state.

Pa Pa Lay, a member of the Moustache Brothers performance troupe, spent seven years in Myitkyina prison and said Zarganar’s presence was likely to boost the spirits of inmates and staff alike.

"We are concerned that he is being detained, of course, but Zarganar and I have the same mentality. We are healthy as long as we can sing, dance and joke,” he said.

"If we can crack jokes as soon as roll call is made, everyone feels better for the rest of the day,” he went on.

“We can even make the people who are giving the orders smile and that is a tonic – they even ask us to crack more jokes."

Pa Pa Lay said conditions were very difficult during his time in prison.

"I was moved to a new cell every month or two. The food was poor and there was not enough water. The roof leaked and I had to sleep on the concrete floor," the comedian said.

"The weather was bitterly cold and it was worse in the labour camps with no protection from the elements,” he said.

“As a result, we contracted skin conditions and chronic gastric diseases with bloody stools. We received no treatment from outside.”

Pa Pa Lay said the recent long-term prison sentences and transfers to remote prisons were intended to demoralise the detained activists and their families.

"I want to offer them words of encouragement, to tell them that they will be free one day,” he said.

“Those who work for the people will pray for them and for their immediate release."

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

READ MORE---> Comedian says Zarganar will boost prison morale...

Land seized from farmers for steel factory

Dec 8, 2008 (DVB)–Over 1200 acres of land have been taken from farmers in villages between Myin Chan and Taung Tha townships in Mandalay to be used in the development of a military-owned steel factory, according to locals.

A local farmer said Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings, known locally as U Paing, had started seizing the land a few years ago.

"The government's U Paing company started seizing hundreds of acres of land from local farmers in Hnanphat, Phattaw and Sakha villages between Myin Chan and Taung Tha for a steel factory development in the area," the farmer said.

"Farmlands surrounding the factory were destroyed and the land was used for roads and electric cable towers," he said.

"They just took the land from us just like that by showing off their guns without even waiting until we’d finished harvesting our crops."

The farmers were told they would receive compensation for the loss of their land, but they have so far received nothing.

"The company promised to give us compensation for our land and we had to buy application forms for 3-4000 kyat, but in the end we didn’t receive anything from them," the farmer said.

Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings is part-owned by the Burmese ministry of defence, while the rest of the company is owned mainly by senior military officials and their families.

It is among the companies designated by the US Treasury, which means that any assets it holds within US jurisdiction will be frozen and US citizens are prohibited from conducting business with the company.

Reporting by Aye Nai

READ MORE---> Land seized from farmers for steel factory...

Asian Lawmakers Push UN Chief on Burma

The Irrawaddy News
Monday, December 8, 2008

More than 240 Asian lawmakers have called for the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to press Burma’s junta for the release of all political prisoners in the country.

The Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC), which organized this campaign, said in a press release on Monday that a total of 241 parliamentarians from Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand have sent a public letter to Ban urging him to ensure the release of all Burma’s political prisoners by December 31.

It is believed to be the first time in history that a large group of Asian lawmakers have sent a public letter to the UN.

Roshan Jason, the executive director of the AIPMC, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that the group of Asian representatives has chosen Burma’s political prisoner issue because it is an essential step in the process of national reconciliation in the country.

“The most important human rights issue is the release of political prisoners [in Burma] now,” he said.

In the letter to the UN secretary-general, the Asian lawmakers said that the Burmese junta has used prisoners of conscience as political pawns, releasing a handful during and after visits by UN envoys while avoiding a complete release that would allow pave the way for true national reconciliation.

“The suffering of the people must not be allowed to continue and the world can no longer sit idly by and only assist them when there is a devastating natural disaster,” said Kraisak Choonhavan, president of the AIPMC and a member of parliament for Thailand’s Democrat Party.

The Asian parliamentarians’ call followed a similar petition on December 3 by 112 former world leaders—including Corazon Aquino, Tony Blair, George H W Bush, Jimmy Carter, Mikhail Gorbachev, John Howard, Chandrika Kumaratunga, John Major, Margaret Thatcher and Lech Walesa—to the head of the UN, calling for the release of all political prisoners in Burma.

However, Ban told reporters on Friday that he will not visit Burma in the near future unless political progress is evident in the country.

“At this time, I do not think that the atmosphere is ripe for me to undertake my own visit there,” he said. "But I am committed, and I am ready to visit any time when I can have reasonable expectations my visit will be productive and meaningful.”

Commenting on Ban Ki-moon’s response, Roshan Jason said that he should reconsider his decision of canceling the trip.

“He should realize that he would perhaps create a greater impact and [bring discussions over the political prisoners to the forefront of negotiations] with leaders of the regime,” the executive director of AIPMC said. “It is better to see them (the Burmese generals) in person—there will be more opportunity to talk about this particular issue and he can show his commitment to making sure prisoners are released.”

Meanwhile, analysts are skeptical of the impact of the international campaigns to free political prisoners in Burma.

“The international community highlighting the Burma crisis, such as issuing statements and petitions, is good,” said Aung Naing Oo, a Burmese commentator based in Thailand. “But the junta will think of this kind of action as just shooting them with flowers.”

Since early November, courts in Burmese prisons have sentenced more than 200 people—from pro-democracy activists to bloggers—with jail terms of up to 65 years imprisonment.

Aung Naing Oo said the junta often uses long-term imprisonment as a tool of “pre-emptive repression” to deter dissident movements.

READ MORE---> Asian Lawmakers Push UN Chief on Burma...

Asian parliamentarians urge Ban to persuade Burmese junta

by Salai Pi Pi
Monday, 08 December 2008

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Over 240 parliamentarians from Asian countries on Monday renewed calls to the United Nations chief to make a fresh trip to Burma and goad the military junta to release all political prisoners including Nobel Peace Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

The 241 parliamentarians of Asian countries including those from Korea and Japan on Monday endorsed a letter by the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) which urged UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to visit Burma and press for the release of political prisoners and kick start political reforms, a call that Ban had earlier refused to make citing the junta's unwillingness to implement reforms.

Son Chhay, a legislator from Cambodia, a member state of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), told Mizzima that the UN chief should not delay in dealing with Burma's military regime but find an alternative approach to mount pressure on it.

"He [Ban Ki-moon] has a mandate of the UN to a find way out for a political process in Burma," said Son Chhay, Chairperson of Committee on Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Media of the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

"He cannot be into dalliance with the regime. Otherwise, it will provide an opportunity to the junta to continue to abuse the people," he said.

The UN chief last week said he will not be making a fresh trip to Burma unless there are concrete signs of 'progress' in the military-ruled country. He felt that such a trip would yield no fruit.

Ban made the statement on Thursday, after more than 120 former presidents and prime ministers around the world sent him similar petitions urging him to visit Burma and press for the release of political prisoners including those that have been recently sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Inspite of international condemnation, Burma's military rulers in recent months have sentenced several political activists to inordinately long prison terms of up to 68 years.

Son Chhay said despite international calls "We found that there is no moving forward in the political process in Burma. On the contrary, there is a reversal."

"More and more people were arrested and sentenced to long years in prison which has only added to people's suffering," he added.

Son Chhay suggested that the UN must look out for alternative solutions to Burma's political crisis and should not allow the junta to continue to abuse and disrespect the will of the Burmese people. It must take a decision to punish the regime.

"At the same time, Ban should put pressure on Russia and China to push the regime to enter into a dialogue with opposition groups in the run up to [2010] the elections," he added.

But a Burmese observer based in Thailand said there are doubts over the UN general secretary's role in attempting to address political and human rights crisis in Burma.

"Ban Ki-moon knows that his trip to Burma won't make any difference. It will only mean disgrace for him. That's why he is refusing to go," Aung Thu Nyein, a Burmese analyst said.

Aung Thu Nyein also said only UN Security Council member countries will be able to persuade the regime to bring about change in Burma.

But the AIPMC in its letter said the UN chief needs new initiatives on Burma as calls by the United Nations Security Council, General Assembly, and Human Rights Council have all failed to yield any political break through.

READ MORE---> Asian parliamentarians urge Ban to persuade Burmese junta...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas Wishes for ALL

READ MORE---> Christmas Wishes for ALL...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

UN Role 'Not Enough': Ban

The Irrawaddy News
December 6, 2008

UNITED NATIONS — UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday his direct involvement was "not enough" to resolve the current political stalemate in Burma and all its neighbors must play a more assertive role.

"My good offices should not be seen as an end in itself, or as a justification for inaction,” he told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York. “In order to be able to pursue this role in an effective manner, it is necessary for all concerned parties across the spectrum to step up efforts to help my good offices move forward."

After attending a meeting of the Secretary General's Group of Friends on Burma, Ban told reporters: "While I will continue my good offices role as mandated by the General Assembly, all the countries of the membership, particularly the Group of Friends countries, should use their influence, they should use whatever available leverage and tools to impress upon the Government of Myanmar [Burma] to implement their commitment."

Ban created the Group of Friends on Burma last year to aid and advise him on the various issues related to Burma, in particular how to proceed on a path of democratization and national reconciliation.

Members are Australia, China, the European Union, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Norway, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Britain, the US and Vietnam.

The meeting was convened in the aftermath of a letter written to Ban by more than 100 former presidents and prime ministers urging him to work for the release of all political prisoners in Burma by the end of the year.

Ban said since the last meeting: "I sense not only a higher expectation but also a growing frustration that our efforts have yet to yield the results we all hope for. I share this sense of expectation and frustration."

Referring to a statement from the Burmese government that cooperation with the UN is a cornerstone of their foreign policy, he said: "We welcome it, and we look forward to continue, and we expect a concrete action by them to implement their commitment."

Giving a sense of the discussions during the meeting, Ban said: "I have taken note of the group's concern that recent actions by the Government of Myanmar risk undermining the prospects of inclusive national reconciliation, democratic transition, and respect for human rights, and more generally at the lack of sufficient response to the concerns of the United Nations and the international community."

The secretary-general urged the Burmese junta to "respond positively without further delay" to specific UN suggestions, as endorsed by the Group of Friends, in particular the release of all political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and the initiation of a genuine dialogue with the opposition.

Ban reiterated that he would visit Burma only if there is a real expectation of tangible progress.

"I am ready to visit Myanmar again, to continue our consultations on various issues—humanitarian issues, and also political issues,” he said. “At this time, I do not think that the atmosphere is ripe for me to undertake my own visit there.

"But I am committed, and I am ready to visit any time when I can have reasonable expectations my visit will be productive and meaningful,” he said.

READ MORE---> UN Role 'Not Enough': Ban...

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