Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Burma claims a strengthening economy

(DVB)–Whilst world leaders gathered in London last week to discuss ways to combat the global economic crisis, the Burmese prime minister surprised listeners at home with news of an apparent 10 per cent rise in the country’s GDP.

In a week in which the leaders of the world’s largest economies flew to London for G20 talks aimed at rescuing themselves from the recession, Prime Minister Thein Sein broke the news that the economy of one of the world’s least developed countries was in good health.

According to figures cited by the prime minister at an annual meeting of private business owners in the capital Naypyidaw on 31 March, gross domestic product had risen by 10.4 per cent between 2008 and 2009.

There had, in fact, been an increase in agricultural produce, he added, despite last year’s cyclone Nargis destroying some 600,000 hectares of farmland.

“The situation is worse here as the storm hit an essential area,” countered one farmer from Kyunthaya village in the Irrawaddy delta.

“I could till only 50 acres out of one hundred this year,” she added.

The prime ministers comments have, unsurprisingly, been met with suspicion.

Sein Htay, program coordinator and researcher at the Washington-based Burma Fund, who worked with the former government Burma Socialist Programme Party, said that tweaking figures was an old tactic used to boost the government’s image.

“The government aimed for a certain percentage growth in the country's economy…and Burma always wanted to say that they hit their target every year,” he said.

"Based on my personal experiences with the BSPP’s Project Planning department, the number would even go higher than their proposed target in some years.”

According to the prime minister, average monthly income for the last fiscal year was 40,000 kyat ($US40).

A high school teacher in Irrawaddy division said however that, despite teachers not being the lowest paid in the civil service, they still had to start on a salary of around 20,000 to 30,000 kyat ($US20-30) a month.

“There are many more people who are worse paid and unemployed in Burma and the claim of Thein Sein that Burmese people on average have an income of 40,000 kyat a month is far from the truth,” he said.

The reason the Burmese economy has not yet collapsed is due to money gained from selling off the vast gas reserves, said Sein Htay, adding however that the money was being mismanaged.

“They built [the new capital] Naypyidaw and pocketed the money and they build nuclear reactors and buy military equipment for the army,” he said.

“That's why there is no productivity, as there have been no reinvestments in industrial and economic sections.

“In Burma, army cronyism causes the public to be poor, and only army-owned companies and companies who work with them are rich,” he added.

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw

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88 Student Group Sends ‘Open Letter’ to Junta

The Irrawaddy News

Burma’s influential dissident group, the 88 Generation Students group, said on Monday that respect for human rights in Burma by the ruling junta could lead to an end to international economic sanctions.

The group said in an open letter to the ruling State Peace and Development Council that if the junta respected human rights and moved toward democratic changes in the interest of the country, the international economic sanctions against Burma would be lifted.

“The Western democracies have placed economic and social sanctions on Burma to protest against human rights violations by the Burmese junta, so the junta should show its respect for human rights and for the Burmese people,” said Tun Myint Aung, a spokesperson for the group.

The student group also endorsed the four goals of the political opposition group, the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, as a way to resolve the ongoing political stand-off in the country.

The four goals are the unconditional release of all political prisoners including Suu Kyi; the convening of parliament; genuine political dialogue; and a review of the 2008 constitution.

The letter said that the junta had failed to recognize the opposition’s proposals and has continued repressive measures such as restricting political movement and arresting pro-democracy and human rights activists.

The 88 Generation Students group played a key role in the protests against a hike in fuel prices by the military regime in mid-August 2007, which led to massive demonstrations in the country in September 2007.

Most of the group’s leaders, including Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi and Phyoe Cho, were arrested, convicted of crimes against the state and are serving long prison sentences.

A day after the 88 group’s open letter, a pro-junta group, the “Anti Sanctions Campaign at Home and Abroad 2009,” held a press conference at the City Star Hotel in Rangoon, in which it blamed Suu Kyi for the economic sanctions on Burma, according to a source at the press conference.

The group said in a statement that economic sanctions are a non-humanitarian policy and they only delay a democratic transition in Burma.

READ MORE---> 88 Student Group Sends ‘Open Letter’ to Junta...

Burmese oppositions aligned to form a ‘United Front’

by Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Several Burmese opposition groups during a meeting last week in Thai-Burmese border had decided to form an inclusive united front to strengthen unity and consolidate.

The meeting held from April 2 to 4 was attended by representatives of pro-democracy organizations, including women’s and ethnic united fronts and the coalition government in exile.

"We badly need unity and consolidation at this juncture. We need to pave the way for setting up of a sole, unified and consolidated united front, which will be more effective. We will oppose the 2010 election, but how. So we discussed these at the meeting," Pado David Taw, Joint-Secretary (1) of the Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC) said.

The meeting was attended by 58 delegates representing seven alliance organizations namely the 'National Council of Union of Burma' (NCUB), 'Ethnic Nationalities Council' (ENC) (Union of Burma), 'Women’s League of Burma' (WLB), 'Forum for Democracy in Burma' (FDB), 'Students and Youths Congress of Burma' (SYCB) and the 'Nationalities Youth Forum' (NYF).

The goal of the meeting was to explore and adopt a common programme for the Burmese democracy movement.

The meeting decided to form a 14-member working committee from among the delegates; to draw and adopt the basic principles for forming the alliance. But it did not set a deadline for completing these basic principles.

Pado David Taw said that one of the common programmes adopted in the meeting was the 'elimination programme' of the new 2008 constitution. This is fundamental for the implementation of democratic transition and conforms to the principle with the four-point agenda being called for by the NLD and political forces for 'reviewing the constitution'.

"In fact, the stand of our revolutionary forces is total elimination. But as for the NLD, its stand is reviewing the constitution. We concluded that it was difficult for the NLD to call for total elimination explicitly. So we added one more point in the agenda in keeping with their demand," he said.

The timing of trying to set up a single united front by merging all the seven separate alliance organizations coincides with the pressure being mounted on the oldest revolutionary group among them, the 'Karen National Union' (KNU), to enter into a dialogue with the Burmese junta by the Thai government.

But KNU Central Executive Committee member Pado David Taw said that KNU will only discuss political affairs with the regime, not territorial and economic issues so that it will not reflect on the stand and expansion of the alliance organizations.

Pado David Taw also said that the KNU delegation led by 'Karen National Liberation Army' (KNLA) Chief of Staff Gen. Mutu Saypho and comprising KNU Vice-Chairman Pado David Tarkapaw and General Secretary Naw Zippora Sein held discussions with Thai officials on Monday.

But who represented the Thai side and the subject of the meeting are not yet known.

READ MORE---> Burmese oppositions aligned to form a ‘United Front’...

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