Monday, January 12, 2009

2 arrested for protest - Seelan Palay and Chong Kai Xiong

The two activistsstood outside the Ministry of Manpower's
building in the city's business district for about an hour
before they were handcuffed by police without showing any resistance.

POLICE on Monday arrested two Singaporean activists for staging a protest in support of Myanmar nationals allegedly being forced to leave the city-state for involvement in political activities.

Seelan Palay and Chong Kai Xiong stood outside the Ministry of Manpower's building in the city's business district for about an hour before they were handcuffed by police without showing any resistance.

They wore red T-shirts and held a banner that read 'Stop ill-treatment of Burmese activists'.

The protest was in support of two Myanmar nationals, Moe Kyaw Thu and Win Kyaw, whose work permits have not been renewed by Singapore, effectively forcing them to leave, Palay said.

He said the two men were among 40 Myanmar nationals who took part in a protest against their country's ruling junta during a summit of Southeast Asian leaders hosted by Singapore in November 2007.

'We can't just stand by as Singaporeans, as personal friends, and watch them being expelled one by one,' he said.

Moe Kyaw Thu told AFP that he was required to leave Singapore by January 27. Win Kyaw could not be contacted for comment on Monday.

The Ministry of Home Affairs did not immediately reply to emailed queries from AFP on the case of the Myanmar nationals. A few others who took part in the same protest in 2007 have also had their work permit renewals turned down.

Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng in September defended the government's decision not to renew the visas of some Myanmar nationals working or studying in the city-state, saying they were 'undesirable' people.

Singapore has eased rules governing protests in a designated public park but it remains illegal elsewhere to hold a public gathering of five or more people without a police permit.

Singapore is home to an estimated 30,000 Myanmar nationals, many of them drawn by jobs as labourers that pay far above what they could earn in their poverty-stricken homeland. -- AFP.

READ MORE---> 2 arrested for protest - Seelan Palay and Chong Kai Xiong...

Burma needs reform, unified and balanced structure

by Htet Win

Rangoon (Mizzima) Burma is in urgent need of mainstream political figures who are capable of shaping unified public opinion, which will allow the country to take up a really democratic direction in the future even after the proposed general election in 2010.

One such most prominent figure is no other than Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, inside Burma even though she is currently under house arrest and is not provided any legal or formal platform for the time being in domestic politic developments.

However in a country under military rule, the agent factor comes in again: Imagine the Lady on Rangoon's streets tomorrow, we will definitely see a changed scenario. No other elite can achieve that feat.

"No other elite can draw over tens of thousands of people coming out voluntarily, which means a lot," said an observer who is familiar with diplomatic circles in Rangoon.

That is the single agent that can shape public opinion and challenge the vicious structure. It is really amazing. We do not think yet that a future civilian-military government has solutions or ways to handle this agent.

"Principled" and "firm" politicians like the Lady and all those under 65-year, 88 Generation Students in prison persistently remain due to their sheer obstinacy, but the structure-agent question remains the same," the observer said.

He added that a "principled", "firm" and "obstinate" opposition is the need in 2010 backed by mainstream players, who are not supposed to be military-elite-friendly businessmen and some educated – now known as Third Force. (They do not claim themselves as the Third Force but as patriotic mainstream opposition)

If the Third Force is not playing a key role in real democratic progress and the mainstream players like the Lady and the '88 generation has got space to play, the country would be able to avoid another vicious circle.

The country has had such vicious circles relatively in a ten-year cycle. Examples include the 1962 military coup, the 1975 U Thant student-uprising, more student uprisings in 1988 and in 1996 and 2007 protest led by monks.

"Myanmar is highly expected to make an exit from those similar circles in history," the observer remarked, adding that new actors/agents or new circumstances were likely to emerge for a democratic transition in the country.

The military government must reserve space for those agents for domestic improvement, if it continues to claim that the country is moving towards democracy. It would be another big mistake for both the army and the country's future, if and when the military elites try to get rid of the opposition or make them surrender. It can never happen.

The Opposition is like any agent today, who is coming up with opportunities and challenges, both of which are already interlaced. The government and the governed including the Opposition – must face them, living up to their historical commitments. For instance - the military government's early 1990 declaration to transfer political power to a civilian government.

"The longer it takes to transfer power, the harder it will be for the military elites to find a political way out. That's because time makes the military elite offensive making them commit more and more mistakes under the present structure," the observer said.

Political opponents – including present ones, the Lady and the '88 Generation Students – continue to be a thorn on the side not only for the military but also for new power broker elites. Politics is business. Or it should be understood as such. In a change, some lose and some win.

It is a waste of time and resource that the military government is pushing ahead to start a new age, which is in its favour. It is important not to lose sight of the "big picture," building an economically prospered democratic nation.

Many who pursue a pragmatic view can accept theoretical basics such as - emergence of an illiberal democracy, role of moderates in democratic transition, and democracy as an elite compromise.

To achieve a widely-accepted public opinion in Burma, opposition groups must continue to play a crucial role, which the military elites have found themselves unable to gain in history. Getting rid of the Opposition is killing the country's future and space for the military as well.

Public opinion – including national reconciliation and development of progressive agents – could be primarily through the efforts of the Opposition. A military government is found to lack "philosophy" for the development of the nation as a whole.

That's one good option to avoid future internal armed conflicts and/or instability in Burma.

READ MORE---> Burma needs reform, unified and balanced structure...

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