Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Suu Kyi Court Continues Hearing Prosecution Witnesses

The Irrawaddy News

Prosecution witnesses continued to give evidence on the second day of Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial before a special court in Rangoon’s Insein Prison on Tuesday.

Sources within her National League for Democracy (NLD) said Suu Kyi and other defendants were not allowed to testify.

An artist’s impression of Aung San Suu Kyi’s appearance before a secret court in Rangoon’s Insein Prison, based on descriptions of the scene by courtroom sources. (Illustration: Harn Lay/ The Irrawaddy)

Evidence was heard on Tuesday from five government officials, including police Lt-Col Maung Muang Khin of the Criminal Investigation Department, and immigration officer Myat Twin, according to the NLD sources.

The sources said Suu Kyi was brought into the courtroom by women security officers.

Speaking on Tuesday to The Irrawaddy, one of Suu Kyi’s former lawyers, Aung Thein, who has been barred from defending her, challenged the official account of the circumstances leading to the NLD leader’s arrest and arraignment.

State-run newspapers reported on Tuesday that an American citizen, John William Yettaw, swam twice across Inya Lake to Suu Kyi’s home, in November 2008 and again this month.

On his second visit, Suu Kyi had allowed him to stay for two nights, giving him food and drink, the official reports said.

Aung Thein described the official version of events as “a story.” Suu Kyi’s house was well guarded by security men, who were also posted on the banks of the lake, he said.

Another lawyer, Kyi Win, said Suu Kyi had told Yettaw to leave her house, but he had refused. She did not report him to the authorities because she did not want anybody to get into trouble, Kyi Win said.

Suu Kyi’s doctor, Tin Myo Win, was also arrested last week and accused of knowing about Yettaw’s visit, but he was later released.

“Why didn’t they [the authorities] take action when Dr Tin Myo Win informed them that a US citizen had entered the house?” he asked.

READ MORE---> Suu Kyi Court Continues Hearing Prosecution Witnesses...

Who is John W. Yettaw?

The Irrawaddy News

John William Yettaw, 53, spent more than a month at a hotel in Mae Sot in November 2008, after he had traveled to Rangoon and visited Aung San Suu Kyi’s compound for the first time.

While in Mae Sot, people recall him saying that he planned to return to visit Suu Kyi again, which led to his second, fateful encounter with Suu Kyi in May, according to Burmese and Thai sources.

In this 2005 handout photo released by his family, John William Yettaw is shown. (Photo: AP)

Suu Kyi, Yettaw and two others are now standing trial in Insein Prison in Rangoon on charges that they violated her terms of house arrest. Suu Kyi has entered a plea of innocent, saying she had no control over Yettaw’s visit to her compound, where she has been under house arrest for 13 of the past 19 years.

Burmese security forces provide a 24-hour guard around her compound on Inya Lake.

Press reports suggested that when Yettaw went to Rangoon in November of last year he was forced to lay over in Burma due to the closure of Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, which was seized by Thai protesters led by the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

While in Mae Sot, Yettaw stayed at the Highland Hotel, where he spoke to several people about Burma and made brief comments about Suu Kyi. He openly told people about his first visit to her compound.

He said he was coming back to Mae Sot in April, said a Burmese source.

Sources said that while in Mae Sot, he was frequently accompanied by a Thai woman, and he visited refugee schools where he met children and took notes.

One Burmese source said that few people paid much attention to Yettaw, seeing him as a typical tourist.

Thai security officials are now gathering information on Yettaw, said a Burmese activist who requested anonymity.

According to his family members, Yettaw is still in debt for the expenses he incurred from his first trip to Burma in 2008. Before leaving his home in Falcon, Missouri, Yettaw told his wife, Betty Yettaw, that he planned to visit Asia for a book he is writing, according to an Associated Press story.

Betty Yettaw said she was surprise after hearing that her husband had swam nearly two kilometers across Inya Lake in Rangoon, because he suffers from asthma and diabetes.

Publications and blogs which are closely associated with Burmese authorities of information ministry, such as tharkinwe.com and myanmarnargis.org, posted photos of Yettaw, but there have been no photographs showing the spot where he was arrested by Burmese police.

One conspiracy theory on a Burmese opposition blog, www.niknayman-niknayman.co.cc, contends that Yettaw in fact walked into Suu Kyi’s compound after a taxi driver dropped him in front of Suu Kyi’s home.

The blog alleges that Yettaw walked into the compound after he showed a red card to the guards in front of the democracy leader’s house.

Yettaw, a Mormon, reportedly does not hold strong political views. He receives disability payments from the US Veteran’s Affairs office for Vietnam-related injuries and has pursued studies in psychology.

READ MORE---> Who is John W. Yettaw?...

White Crow Discovered in Sittwe

Sittwe (Narinjara): In Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State, an all white crow was discovered in a tree nest by a local resident recently.

A witness said, "The resident discovered the white crow in the nest after people saw the small white crow when it was asking for food from the mother crow."

The nest with the white crow was found in a nest in a casuarina tree located in front of Sittwe University.

A student from the area said, "I went there to see the white crow along with my friends because it is a very strange bird. It is a real white crow and I have never seen such a bird before."

Many people in Sittwe visited the house where the bird is being kept to see the unusual white crow.

An elder said, "We have heard there is a white colored crow on our soil that has never been seen before. I was really in awe when the crow was discovered because it is a very rare bird in the world. I was happy when I saw the bird in our town."

Another youth from Sittwe said, "Our state is a mysterious land in Burma because the military authority also discovered two valuable white elephants in our state in the last ten years. But the authority brought the two white elephants to Rangoon."

The Burmese junta authorities have taken many precious resources like the white elephants and ancient Buddha images and statues to Burma proper after the discovery in Arakan.

The local resident who discovered the crow is currently concealing it in an unknown location out of fear the army authority will attempt to seize it.

READ MORE---> White Crow Discovered in Sittwe...

Shortwave Radios Sell for Premium in Sittwe After Daw Suu's Arrest

Sittwe (Narinjara): The price of shortwave radios has been increasing recently in Sittwe markets after Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested on 14 May, 2009, said a town elder.

"I went to a store at Sittwe market two days ago to buy a Chinese-made shortwave radio but the prices had increased at least 20 percent as many radio buyers crowded the market," said the elder.

The price of a Chinese-made shortwave radio was previously only 2500 kyat, but it has recently increased to 4000 kyat.

"Despite the price increase, I bought a Kubo branch radio for 4000 kyat that day because I need to listen to news about Daw Suu broadcast by foreign-based radio stations. At present, every Burmese wants to know about Daw Suu after her arrest. I realized why the radio prices have increase at least 20 percent recently in Sittwe," he said.

People in Arakan State are very interested in the current situation of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi after the government arrested her. Many people have been buying shortwave radios to listen to news through foreign-based Burmese media stations.

Ko Hla Maung from Pauktaw Township said, "As we want to know about Daw Suu's situation after her arrest, we need a radio. In our village, everybody owns a shortwave radio. Without radio, a person is not caught up with modern times in our village."

A store owner from Sittwe said, "Most radio buyers are from rural areas of Arakan and they bought radios through some traders who regularly come to Sittwe for business purposes. It is the radio era of Burma."

According to a local source, many families in Arakan State have two or three radio sets in their home and each family member listens to their own set everyday without fail.

A town elder said, "State-run newspaper and radio in Burma have never published such news about Daw Suu or other important news related to opposition activities. So we depend on foreign-based radio to listen to accurate news on such topics."

There are four foreign-based radio programs that are popular in Burma - the BBC, Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, and Democratic Voice of Burma. Homes are noisy with the radios every morning and evening with residents listening to the latest news of Burma.

READ MORE---> Shortwave Radios Sell for Premium in Sittwe After Daw Suu's Arrest...

Surveillance stepped up outside Insein

(DVB)–Security outside Insein prison, where Aung San Suu Kyi is facing the second day of court hearings, has increased, with reports that officials are photographing supporters of Suu Kyi waiting outside the gates.

According to an anonymous source outside the prison, members of the government-affiliated Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) have joined police and militia groups to monitor crowds.

“Today, there are more security forces than yesterday including members of the special police branch in plain clothing,” said the source.

“They and some USDA members are taking photographs of every single person who came to gather near the prison gates, who are mainly National League for Democracy members and university students.

More and more people were arriving outside the prison, he said, adding that shops at Insein market, which had been closed yesterday on the first day of the trial, were now open.

Similarly, a roadblock on a bridge near to the prison was now allowing some container trucks leaving Rangoon to pass through.

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

READ MORE---> Surveillance stepped up outside Insein...

Thailand ‘concerned’ but will not pressure Burma junta

(DVB)–Thailand, the current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, has said it will go no further than rhetorical condemnation of Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial, having ruled out sanctions on the Burmese regime.

The leaders of ASEAN countries, of which Burma is a controversial member, released a statement yesterday reiterating calls for the release of Suu Kyi, who is currently on trial over breaches of her house arrest.

“Thailand, as the ASEAN Chair, expresses grave concern about recent developments relating to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, given her fragile health,” said the statement, adding that “the honour and the credibility of the Government of the Union of Myanmar are at stake”.

“Thailand, as the ASEAN Chair, reaffirms ASEAN’s readiness to contribute constructively to the national reconciliation process and the peaceful transition of democracy in Myanmar.”

Yet a reminder of ASEAN’s mantra of non-interference was given yesterday by a Thai foreign ministry official, who ruled out anything beyond vocal pressuring of the regime.

"Thailand will not use strong measures or economic sanctions against [Burma] because it is not an appropriate resolution for the current problem,” said Chavanond Intarakomalyasut.

Thailand remains an important trading partner with Burma, and has long resisted calls for international sanctions on the regime, instead emphasising diplomatic engagement as key to bringing the country out of isolation.

Reporting by Francis Wade

READ MORE---> Thailand ‘concerned’ but will not pressure Burma junta...

UN envoy delivers message to Burma junta

(DVB)–The United Nations envoy to Burma has said that the international community, including the UN, should step up pressure on the regime to ensure unwarranted charges against Aung San Suu Kyi are dropped.

Suu Kyi’s second day of court hearings began at around 10am this morning. She faces charges of breaching her house arrest after US citizen John Yettaw swam to her lakeside home earlier this month.

The UN human rights envoy to Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, said however that the charges are unsubstantiated.

“The message to the government is first that this new file has to be dismissed immediately, because there are no grounds at all,” he said.

“She cannot be accused of any crime at all.”

Quintana reiterated a comment he made last week that the breach of security achieved by Yettaw is a fault of the government, and not Suu Kyi or her caretakers, who are also on trial for the incident.

“The responsibility regarding the security and the conditions of the her house arrest lie in the government,” he said.

“She was under government custody, therefore the government is responsible for the security conditions.

“That’s very important because her case under these circumstances requires all the attention from all of the world.”

Similarly, the now exiled former Burmese ambassador to the United States implied that Yettaw’s breach could have been allowed by security in order to give the government an excuse to continue her detention, which was due to expire on 27 May.

“There are about 250 security personnel around Daw Suu’s house, including three outposts guarding the neighbourhood, the road at the front and Inya lake,” said Aung Linn Htut.

“It is no way possible for someone to infiltrate such heavy security.”

Quintana called upon international leaders to increase their demands for her release in light of the spiraling humanitarian situation there.

“It is very clear for me that these new circumstances against Suu Kyi are a message that the human rights situation is getting worse in the country,” he said.

“I am calling all the members of the United Nations Human Rights Council to raise their voices in favor of her release.”

Reporting by Nay Htoo

READ MORE---> UN envoy delivers message to Burma junta...

Prosecutor makes some concessions on Suu Kyi

(DVB)–The first witness called in the prosecution of Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday acknowledged that she had not violated a condition under which she is forbidden to make contact with an external political body.

Speaking to DVB, Suu Kyi’s lawyer, Kyi Win, said that the first day of the trial yesterday against the Burmese opposition leader had heard a statement from prosecutor, Lieutenant Colonel Zaw Min Aung.

“We read out the restriction order against Daw Suu, which pointed out that she is prohibited from meeting with foreign diplomats and people with links to political organizations, to [Zaw Min Aung] and asked him if that would be correct to say she didn’t violated this prohibition, and he said that was correct,” said Kyi Win.

Suu Kyi is on trial for allegedly breaching conditions of her house arrest following the intrusion of US citizen John Yettaw, who stayed at her compound earlier this month where she has been detained for 13 of the last 19 years.

If convicted she could be imprisoned for up to five years.

“Then we continued to ask him, based on accusations that Daw Suu had violated a restriction against her from making contacts with the outside world such as talking to people on the phone, if he knew her phone line has been cut off since 2003,” said Kyi Win.

“He didn’t give a clear answer on that.”

The trial is being held behind closed doors in a special court inside Rangoon’s Insein prison. Kyi Win said their request to the court to open the trial for the public was rejected.

Many Burmese in exile have vented their anger at Yettaw, who swam across Inya Lake on the night of 3 May and stayed at Suu Kyi’s compound. It has transpired that he made the same trip last year.

“When [Yettaw] showed up at Daw Suu’s house, she told him to leave at once.,” said Kyi Win.

After complaining of muscle cramps, Suu Kyi allowed him to sleep on the ground floor of her house.

“She also had to feed him, because [it is a tradition] even to feed a stray dog who shows up at your door, and this time we are talking about a human,” said Kyi Win.

The trial continues.

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

READ MORE---> Prosecutor makes some concessions on Suu Kyi...

Foreign Companies in Burma Must Review Their Involvement

The Irrawaddy News

As the Burmese regime brutally increases its isolation of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the US and countries of the European Union remain steadfast in applying their pressure on the junta. US President Barack Obama formally extended his administration’s sanctions, while the EU is considering whether to step up its own measures.

Burma's stubborn, thuggish military leaders can shrug off Western pressure, however, knowing they can rely on support from such friendly and powerful neighbors as China and India. While neither Beijing nor New Delhi has officially commented on the latest moves against Suu Kyi, many Southeast Asian countries, some of whom have significant trade and investment links with Burma, are also inclined to follow a live-and-let-live policy towards the regime.

However, both camps—supporters of sanctions and proponents of engagement— acknowledge failure in their efforts to influence Burma’s military leaders. That is why US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in February correctly said that sanctions applied by the US and the European Union, as well as the policy of constructive engagement by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and Burma’s neighbors, were not working.

So the question remains: who can influence the Burmese generals to listen to world opinion?

Many observers agree that a start could be made on at least ending ongoing human rights abuses if oil and gas companies operating in Burma use their influence with Burma's ruling junta, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).

Current investors in Burma’s oil and gas industry include companies from Australia, the British Virgin Islands, China, France, India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Russia and the US.

Those companies are funding the Burmese dictatorship. At the height of the monk-led demonstrations in September 2007, Marco Simons, US legal director at EarthRights International, an environmental and human rights group with offices in Thailand and Washington, declared: "The oil and gas companies have been one of the major industries keeping the regime in power."

The concept of "corporate social responsibility" is often advanced by companies operating in Burma, although that’s usually just a shield behind which they campaign against international environmental and human rights regulations.

For instance, there have been documented abuses connected to the Yadana project operated by the French company Total and the US-based Unocal, including land confiscation, forced labor, rape, torture and killings within the communities along the pipeline. Compensation was paid to some victims after human rights groups filed legal actions against the companies before a federal court in the US.

Foreign investment in Burma’s oil and natural gas sector is significant. But there is no transparency in Burma about how much the government receives in oil and gas payments, nor clarity about how the funds are spent.

The military receives the largest share of the official budget and the Burmese regime allocates little to public sectors such as health and education. Instead, hundreds of millions of dollars disappear annually into the pockets of the ruling generals, their cronies and their pet projects, such as the new administrative capital, Naypyidaw, the cyber city, Yadanabon, and even a nuclear research reactor.

The latest action against Suu Kyi, following the regime’s criminal mismanagement of Cyclone Nargis relief and its crackdown on the September 2007 demonstrations should lead companies to search their consciences when contemplating deals with the regime.

ERI Project Coordinator Matthew Smith believes there are also business reasons to think twice about accepting Burma contracts. "Financing the Burmese regime in this way can only reflect poorly on a company’s reputation and that will ultimately affect their bottom line and ability to capitalize on deals in the future,” he says. “It’s simply bad business.”

Of course, good business must come with ethics, morality and responsibility. This is the time for shareholders of global and regional oil and gas companies operating in Burma not only to think about maximizing profits but also to face up to their responsibilities by evaluating the human rights impact and the criteria for continuing to invest there.

READ MORE---> Foreign Companies in Burma Must Review Their Involvement...

Trial of Suu Kyi a Mockery: Nine Nobel Laureates

The Irrawaddy News

WASHINGTON — Nine Nobel Peace prize recipients on Monday called the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi a “mockery” and urged UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to discuss the issue with members of the Security Council as soon as possible.

“We are outraged by the deplorable actions of the military junta against Suu Kyi and strongly encourage challenging this obvious harassment of our fellow Nobel laureate,” the nine Nobel Peace Prize recipients wrote in a letter to the secretary-general.

The signatories to the letter are President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Wangari Mathaai, Mairead Corrigan Maguire and Betty Williams.

Referring to the trial, the nine Noble laureates said: “The trial is a mockery. There is no judicial system in Burma. It is clear that this is an excuse by the military junta to add trumped-up charges at a time when Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s unlawful detention was scheduled to end May 27, 2009.”

The Noble laureates said they are extremely concerned about the health of Suu Kyi. “Insein prison is infamous for its inhumane and treacherous conditions, where prisoners endure mental and physical torture,” the letter said.

Calling for immediate release of the popular Burmese leader, they said: “We urge you to discuss this matter with the United Nations Security Council, to do so as expeditiously as possible.” They also reiterated their call to the international community to implement arms embargoes against the regime.

There was no immediate response from the office of the secretary-general. Last week, the Club of Madrid – representing 72 former presidents and prime ministers – urged Ban to look into the possibility of traveling to Burma to talk with the junta leaders seeking her release.

Another statement signed by world celebrities urged all countries and the UN to speak in one voice and demand the Burmese military regime free Aung San Suu Kyi.

In October 2007, the UN Security Council in a presidential statement urged the Burmese military junta to release all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi.
The United States on Monday also urged the Burmese junta to free the popular Burmese leader immediately and unconditionally along with other political prisoners.

“We are deeply disturbed by the actions of the Burmese government and reiterate that the charges that the regime is bringing against Aung San Suu Kyi are unjustified,” State Department spokesman, Ian Kelly, told reporters at a daily press briefing.

“We call on the regime to end its incarceration of Aung San Suu Kyi and to release her immediately and unconditionally along with the more than 2,100 other political prisoners that the regime holds,” he said.

Expressing concern over the charges imposed against Suu Kyi, the State Department spokesman said: “These charges are being used as a pretext to either extend her house arrest, or even more disturbingly perhaps, justify a prison sentence.”

Acknowledging the regime is usually not willing to listen, Kelly said: “How do we get them to do the right thing? I think our approach is the best one, and that’s to approach it from a multilateral perspective to get as much leverage as we can. But yes, we’re frustrated, absolutely. “

Kelly said an American consular officer was present in the courtroom for the proceedings against Aung San Suu Kyi and American citizen, John Yettaw. “He was there to observe the hearing. Yettaw faces charges relating to immigration, trespassing into a restricted zone, and violating a law that protects the state from those desiring to cause subversive acts,” he said.

Meanwhile, speaking on the Senate floor, Sen Mitch McConnell applauded the decision of the US President Barack Obama to extend US sanctions on the military regime by one more year.

“The government of Burma should be aware that its actions are highly troubling to democracies the world over. This is reflected not only in the administration’s new executive order but also in the strong support the Burmese people enjoy in the US Senate,” the senator said.

In another statement, Canada’s main opposition Liberal Party condemned the charges brought against Suu Kyi as part of the junta's efforts to extend her unjust detention.

“We call for her immediate release and the release of all political prisoners in Burma. We further call on the Government of Canada to work with the international community to strengthen its sanctions of the Burmese junta and press for her release,” the Liberal Party said in a statement.

READ MORE---> Trial of Suu Kyi a Mockery: Nine Nobel Laureates...

‘We Don’t Accept the Trial’: Win Tin

The Irrawaddy News

Win Tin, a leader of the National League for Democracy, talked to The Irrawaddy regarding the trail of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Win Tin
Question: Do the authorities have a strong case against Aung San Suu Kyi?

Answer: I don’t think so. This is a conspiracy. The matter of her security is totally in their hands. If they [the authorities] don’t open up the compound, no person can enter it. Daw Suu is going to be released within a few days. At this time, they [the authorities] have rejected her appeal and even charged her with another case. I believe that it is a conspiracy. I believe they did it because they don’t want to release her. They want to ban her from being involved in politics in the future.

Q: What do you think will be the outcome of the trial?

A: Ideally, they want to put her into prison. But politically, they can’t do that. The international community is voicing its concern and even demanding she be released. We also don’t accept the charges and demand she be released.

If the case proceeds, we demand justice during the court process. The court must open up to the public so people can witness the court process. They must allow enough lawyers to defend her in court. It means that the number of lawyers must be enough not only for the defense at court but also for the legal preparation, to collect data and facts on the case.

A fair trial would allow the families of the defendants as well as the public to observe. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has sons in England. They should issue visas for them to come to Burma. Likewise, the family of Daw Khin Khin Win lives abroad. The authorities must allow them to come here, if they wish. Even if the family members are foreign citizens, they must issue visas.

Media must be allowed to report the case. The journalists should have the right to ask the defense lawyers and the prosecutor questions. They should have the right to ask the opinions of the people who come to the court to hear the trial.

Another issue is security. We can’t say that the security is good, and they won’t threaten her security even in the courtroom set-up in the prison compound. They must guarantee Daw Suu’s security. They must also guarantee the security of her lawyers.

Q: In the past 20 years, Aung San Suu Kyi has been attacked and detained for many years. She has been under house arrest for more than 13 years. What is her mental situation?

A: I didn’t see her, but U Kyi Win saw her. What I first want to say is the comments of U Kyi Win: Daw Suu is mentally strong and firm in her stand. Regarding the case [of John W. Yettaw], she clearly told her lawyer that she didn’t breach any laws. Based on these facts, Daw Suu’s position is strong and firm. Although I haven’t seen her for years, based on our past experiences and her political stand and sacrifice during these 20 years, I can say that she will never feel depressed and give up or change her political stand.

Q: Why do you think the government wants to continue to detain her?

A: The truth is that’s it’s because of Daw Suu’s personal fame and the world’s recognition of her position. She has become the main enemy of the military regime. But putting aside personal fame and looking at things from the view of current politics, the situation has largely changed. In the past, we asked for a parliament to draw up a constitution in accordance with the 1990 election results, which we have consistently supported. Now, we just called for a parliament to review their constitution and for a dialogue [with the military]. We changed [our position] to be flexible in order to bring about a dialogue.

Daw Suu has been in a very important position for solving political problems through the dialogue method since 1988. Gen Saw Maung pointed out the importance of arranging a dialogue when there are many parties involved. Many parties gave their mandate to Daw Suu to have a dialogue with the military. The NLD also gave their mandate to her. Even today, if we have a dialogue with the military regime, I think all ethnic nationalities will want her to speak on behalf of them.

Daw Suu is a key player if we are to solve the current political situation through a dialogue. Therefore, the present charges against Daw Suu mean that they are trying to eliminate her from the stage. I feel that they are trying to destroy the possibility of political dialogue and national reconciliation with political means.

Q: Dr. Tin Myo Win, Aung San Suu Kyi’s family doctor, was detained for nearly a week. How is he related to this case?

A: First, we heard that Dr. Tin Myo Win was also brought to the court, and there would be five persons in this case. But he was not on the list. Perhaps, he was under interrogation and encountered torture. He had such an experience in the past. I am worried that they are giving pressure to Dr. Tin Myo Win to say things that they want him to say. Or they will prosecute him with other big charges because this case can give him only three to five years imprisonment.

Another option is that they can put Dr. Tin Myo Win on the witness list. If so, we don’t worry about him because he is not a person who is easily persuaded to say what they wish. We know his political beliefs and stand, and his personal history. We also respect him. We are not worried about that.

If they brought him to the court as a witness, he will tell what he really did. What he did is not much; Daw Aung San Suu Kyi told him to report Yettaw’s first entry last year to the authorities, and he went to the Home Ministry to report it. He has no more than that to say. We don’t expect him to say he had a personal encounter with him [Yettaw].

READ MORE---> ‘We Don’t Accept the Trial’: Win Tin...

EU to ask China to Push Burma

The Irrawaddy News

BRUSSELS — The European Union is asking China and other Asian nations to press Myanmar to drop charges against pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and free her from house arrest.

EU officials said the issue will be raised Wednesday at the trade, economic and political talks in Prague with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, and in Hanoi next week with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which includes Burma.

Both events were scheduled before Suu Kyi went on trial Monday for allegedly harboring an American man who swam to her lakeside home where she has been under house arrest.

Last week's arrest of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who has been in detention without trial for more than 13 of the past 19 years, reignited criticism of Burma's ruling junta, and led to renewed calls by world leaders for her immediate release.

The EU foreign ministers denounced the trial, urging Burma's neighbors to push for a restoration of democracy in Burma.

This has never worked since many Asian nations tend to view appeals for action against human rights abuses as meddling in a country's internal affairs.

China has close diplomatic and economic ties with Burma's junta, but has always refused to criticize it.

Suu Kyi had been scheduled to be freed May 27 after six consecutive years of house arrest, but it was expected the military government would try to find reason to hold her, as has happened in the past.

Topping the agenda of the EU-China talks are climate change, the global recession and difficulties in two-way trade. The EU will be represented by Czech President Vaclav Klaus—whose country now holds the rotating EU presidency—European Commission President Jose Barroso and Javier Solana, the EU's foreign and security affairs chief.

The EU hopes trade and investment can reverse the economic slowdown. Negotiations for a world trade pact fell apart in 2008 because the US, India and China refused to compromise.

Global trade is now in a free fall as wealthy nations' demand for imports that boosted the economies of China, Brazil and others has evaporated.

While China may escape a recession this year, it will suffer from plunging exports to the US and the 27-nation EU. Europe is China's biggest export market and was worth €248 billion last year—dwarfing the EU's €78.4 billion in exports to China.

China worries that a recession could make Europe more protectionist and start shutting out cheaper Chinese goods that European manufacturers blame for poor sales.

Key irritants for the EU are trade barriers in China, which EU companies blame for €21 billion a year in lost sales. Sixty percent of counterfeit goods seized in the EU come from China, and 70 percent of EU businesses there complain about intellectual property rights violations.

READ MORE---> EU to ask China to Push Burma...

Suu Kyi Trial Continues

The Irrawaddy News

RANGOON (AP) — Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi faced a second day of a closed-door trial Tuesday as international criticism mounted against a military regime that repeatedly has found pretexts for keeping her in detention over most of the past two decades.

Suu Kyi, her two companions under house arrest, and an American, John W. Yettaw, are being tried together for violating the conditions of her restriction order, which bans visitors without official permission. The offense is punishable by up to five years' imprisonment.

Yettaw prompted the charges by swimming to her property and sneaking into her home for reasons which are still unclear.

Hundreds of police in full riot gear, some armed with rifles, were deployed along all roads leading to Insein prison as the trial continued Tuesday morning. The country's major activist groups have vowed to stage peaceful protests until Suu Kyi is freed.

Last week's arrest of the Nobel Peace laureate, who has been in detention without trial for more than 13 of the past 19 years, reignited criticism of Burma's military junta, and led to renewed calls by world leaders for her immediate release.

US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said the charges against Suu Kyi were "unjustified" and called for her unconditional release and that of more than 2,100 other political prisoners.

Suu Kyi's arrest could well derail a "softer" approach that the Obama administration had been searching for to replace Washington's sanctions and other get-tough policies which did nothing to divert the ruling junta's iron-fisted rule.

Even Burma's partners in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, who rarely criticize one another, expressed "grave concern," saying "the honor and the credibility of the Myanmar government are at stake."

The statement Monday night was issued by Thailand, which currently chairs the 10-nation bloc.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in Paris, one of several cities where activists rallied, called Suu Kyi's trial a "scandalous provocation."

Until now, 63-year-old Suu Kyi was detained under the State Protection Act, which allows the military regime to hold people without a trial if they are considered a threat, said Aung Din, executive director of the US Campaign for Burma. The new charges of violating the terms of her house arrest could lead to imprisonment under much harsher conditions.

Suu Kyi had been scheduled to be freed May 27 after six consecutive years of house arrest, but it was expected that the military government would try to find reason to hold her, as has happened in the past.

The new charges are widely seen as a pretext for the government to keep Suu Kyi out of elections it scheduled for next spring as the culmination of its "roadmap to democracy," which has been criticized as an attempt to legitimize continued military control. Many other prominent dissidents received long jail terms last year, which could hurt any opposition effort to contest the polls.

The ambassadors of Britain, France, Germany and Italy as well as an Australian diplomat were barred from entering the prison compound for the trial, but US consular chief Colin Furst was allowed in.

Yettaw is also being tried separately for violations of immigration law and a statute covering swimming in the city's Inya Lake.

Nyan Win, a spokesman for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party and one of four lawyers representing her at the trial, said the court, "for security reasons," rejected their request to open her trial to the public and media. The trial is expected to last about three months.

Her lawyers have so far not contested the government's version of events, but insist she is not guilty.

In the trial's opening day, police Lt-Col. Zaw Min Aung laid out the prosecution's basic case—that Suu Kyi, two female party members who are her companions, and Yettaw violated the terms of her restriction order, which bans any visitors without official permission, said Nyan Win. The police official was the first of 22 scheduled prosecution witnesses.

Yettaw, 53, of Falcon, Missouri, swam under cover of darkness early this month to sneak into Suu Kyi's compound, where he was allowed to stay for two days after pleading that he was too ill and tired to leave. He allegedly made a similar visit last year.

Suu Kyi's lawyers have said he was not invited to her residence, and that she told him to leave.

Yettaw's family have described him as a well-intentioned admirer of Suu Kyi, unaware of the problems his actions could trigger. Her supporters have expressed anger at him for getting her into trouble.

Parliamentary rule in Burma was overthrown by a coup in 1962, and the army has been in control since then. Suu Kyi's party won elections in 1990 but the junta refused to recognize the results.

READ MORE---> Suu Kyi Trial Continues...

Mizzima UPDATES Day 2 - 19 May 2009

Mizzima D2

European countries to pressurize Burma to withdraw Suu Kyi’s trial
Tuesday, 19 May 2009 05:53

European countries have said they will urge China and Asian countries to pressurize the Burmese military junta to withdraw the case against pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, according to reports.

The European countries, during the 11th EU-China meeting on Trade and Politics, which is set to begin on Wednesday, said they would urge China to put pressure on the Burmese military junta, to stop the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, AP reported. The meeting will be attended by Chinese premier Wen Jia Bao.

Moreover, the EU will also urge the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to pressurize Burma’s ruling junta to stop the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, during their meeting, next week at Hanoi.


Interview with Aye Thar Aung, General Secretary of the Committee Representing Peoples’ Parliament (CRPP)
Tuesday, 19 May 2009 05:03

“It is very clear with regard to the case of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. If we want to see the country develop and prosper, we need to start with national reconciliation. National reconciliation means there should be unity among the NLD, military junta, democratic forces and ethnic nationalities. We need to build that first. And while building trust, Aung San Suu Kyi, Khun Htun Oo, Min Ko Naing and other political prisoners must be released and should come together to talk. But now it is getting worse, as Aung San Suu Kyi has been charged and is being tried. It only shows that the junta wants to hold on to power no matter what.”

“By charging and putting Aung San Suu Kyi on trial, the future of our country is grim. And by doing this unity will be lost. And it will be more difficult to build trust among the ethnic nationalities. The country is heading for a future of uncertainty.”

“The election is another topic. When we are marching towards democracy, elections cannot be full of restrictions. And when marching towards democracy, we need to have a democratic constitution. Elections must be held based on such a constitution.”

“As the 2008 constitution was drafted one-sidedly by the junta utilizing the imposition of various restrictions on the opposition, the 2010 election cannot guarantee a better future for Burma.”

“The way the junta is acting is not in accordance with the law, and they are making white lies. Besides, they are not hesitant to crackdown on the people and the monks. I feel that the whole situation is so dark.”


Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial to continue on May 20th
Tuesday, 19 May 2009 04:37

The court in Insein Prison has adjourned for the day and fixed the date of the next hearing for Wednesday at 10 a.m. (local time).


Suu Kyi's trial adjourned for the day
Tuesday, 19 May 2009 03:56

Lawyers of Aung San Suu Kyi – Kyi Win, Nyan Win, Hla Myo Myint and Daw Khin Htay Kywe – have left Insein prison, as the court adjourn ed for the day.


Security tightened in Shwedagon Pagoda
Tuesday, 19 May 2009 03:54

Burmese military junta authorities have tightened security around the Shwedagon pagoda, as supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi have been organising regular prayer meetings in the pagoda. for her release

Armed police and security forces with seven vehicles took guard on the foot-hill of the pagoda since this morning.

Party members and supporters have regularly held prayers at the pagoda every Tuesday, the birthday of party leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

On Tuesday, even as Aung San Suu Kyi faced a court trial, party members continued praying for her release in the pagoda.


Junta talks to China
Tuesday, 19 May 2009 03:14

Sources in the military establishment said Burmese military officials held discussions with Chinese officials on Sunday. But Mizzima is still unable to verify the information independently.


An observer who reached Insein Bazaar
Tuesday, 19 May 2009 01:48

“A police vehicle arrived just now. The vehicle was parked near the barbed wires. Security officials drove away the people sitting near the barbed wires.Later the vehicle moved away at around noon. The police were armed. They got down from the vehicle and drove away the people. Today the security is tighter than yesterday. There are members of pro-junta groups - Swan Arrshin, Union Solidarity and Development Association and police in civilian dress present.”

Armed security forces and the crowd
Tuesday, 19 May 2009 01:31

Though the vehicle carrying armed security forces moved out from where Win Tin was sitting, the vehicle travelled back and forth, forcing the crowd to move time and again and give way.

The crowd of more than 400, mainly youths, were angry with the behaviour of the security forces, observers said.

The crowd, which had come for news of Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial, was larger than yesterday and was mainly made up of youths.

Armed security men approach Win Tin
Tuesday, 19 May 2009 12:46

Commotion broke out when a vehicle carrying armed security personnel arrived where Win Tin and his group were sitting.

Some people began to move away from the place where Win Tin and his group were sitting as about 30 armed security men approached them. On Monday, only about three to four security officials were seen at the place.

However, Win Tin continued to stay put without moving but some bystanders, scared of the armed security personnel, moved away, an observer said.

Veteran politician Win Tin arrives in Insein prison
Tuesday, 19 May 2009 12:43

Central Committee member of the NLD, Win Tin and a woman activist Naw Ohn Hla along with about 200 people were seen waiting on the Insein Road near the blockade.


ASEAN calls for immediate release of Suu Kyi

Tuesday, 19 May 2009 12:35

On the second day of her trial, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), of which Burma is a member, has urged the ruling junta to release pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

"The Government of the Union of Myanmar [Burma] is reminded that ASEAN leaders had called for the immediate release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi," said ASEAN in its chairman's statement released on Tuesday.

"Thailand, as the ASEAN Chair, reaffirms ASEAN's readiness to contribute constructively to the national reconciliation process and the peaceful transition to democracy in Myanmar [Burma]," said the statement.


Interview with NLD, youth member, Nyuang Shwe Branch, Shan State
Tuesday, 19 May 2009 12:26

“Our branch, the Innlay region Nyuang Shwe Township, condemns the trial of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi because it is a gross injustice and we oppose it.”

“We are totally against the trial and are now talking to people in our region and in the villages. All the people from the country are unhappy about it.”

“Everybody, starting from simple carts-men to villagers, and even tri-shaw drivers are angry with the trial. We do not even have to speak up. So far, we have visited five villages including Mine Thauk, Ywamah, Myea Nikone, and Tharlay villages. Its only youth members of the NLD, we areassembling and talking to people close to us.”

“We are determined to speak out about the peoples’ feelings. The villagers told us that ‘if you people lead us, we are ready to follow you’ and they want us to lead. Everybody is upset since the day Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was charged and put on trial.”


Situation near Insein prison
Tuesday, 19 May 2009 11:19

Prior to the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, the main road outside Insein prison was teeming with security guards like yesterday. But the shops that were asked to close yesterday were seen opening on Tuesday.

Security seems to have been beefed up with several armed soldiers being put in place in the nearby football field.

At 9 am defense counsels Kyi Win, Nyan Win, Hla Myo Myint and Daw Khin Htay Kywe were seen entering the Insein prison, where the special court is located.

The areas surrounding Insein prison has slowly been filling up with supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilians, who are eager to know the progress of the trial, an observer near the Insein prison told Mizzima.


Junta-owned paper reports on Suu Kyi’s trial
Tuesday, 19 May 2009 11:08

Burma’s state-owned newspaper, the New Light of Myanmar, on Tuesday carried a brief report on the trial of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been charged with breaching her detention law.

The paper said, the Nobel Peace Laureate was charged for accepting the American citizen, John William Yettaw at her home, who allegedly swam across the Innya Lake and entered her residence, where he was servd meals and allowed to stay.

In connection with the case, Police Lt-Col Zaw Min Aung acted as the plaintiff and filed law suits against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Khin Khin Win and Win Ma Ma, the two party members living with her, and John William Yettaw, the paper said.

While the news of the trial has been extensively covered by international news agencies as well as Burmese news agencies in exile, the junta’s tight leash over the press allowed the state-controlled newspaper to report the story only on Tuesday.

The report said, Yettaw had earlier swum across the Innya Lake and visited Aung San Suu Kyi’s residence in November 2008, where he met Khin Khin Win and Win Ma Ma and left a “Book of Mormon” for Aung San Suu Kyi to read.

And on May 3, he then swam across the Innya Lake again and visited Aung San Suu Kyi’s residence, where he was received by Suu Kyi and given meals and allowed to stay until May 5, the report said.

The trial of Aung San Suu Kyi and the three others began on Friday. And on Monday the special court in Insein prison held the first hearing of a witness. Suu Kyi was represented by party spokesperson and lawyer Nyan Win, Kyi Win, and Hla Myo Myint, while Yettaw was defended by first-class lawyer Khin Maung Oo.

READ MORE---> Mizzima UPDATES Day 2 - 19 May 2009...

A "Charter 09" for Burma

by Enzo Reale

(Mizzima) -Last December in China, a potentially revolutionary document began to spread through the web. The work of a group of activists, intellectuals and professionals, Charter 08 - inspired by a Czechoslovak dissident's manifesto during the Communist era (Charter 77) - is a genuine statement of principles aimed at overcoming the current authoritarian system in China and establishing a liberal democracy in the country.

Appealing to the universality of human rights, its authors basically ask for the end of the single-party regime, the celebration of free elections, the assertion of the rule of law, the protection of fundamental freedoms and a constitutionally guaranteed separation of powers. But even more important is the proclaimed purpose to build around these core principles a civic movement that could stimulate citizen participation towards political change.

Obviously the document has been savagely censored by the regime. But, thanks to the chances offered by the web, it succeeded anyway in reaching a wide audience inside and outside the country: while initially attracting just three hundred subscribers, today the number of followers is close to ten thousand, many of whom are subjected to interrogation by the authorities and remain under constant surveillance.

A few weeks ago the Chinese government, which officially doesn't recognize Charter 08's existence, published a "National Action Plan for Human Rights", a list of proposed improvements in the field of civil and social rights to be implemented over the next two years. It's clearly pure propaganda Beijing-style and it would be naïve to think that such a bureaucratic plan could instigate real changes. But it's still significant that it occurred just a few months after the publication of Charter 08, an implicit confirmation of its political importance.

Promoters of and subscribers to the declaration have effectively realized a double achievement: first, they showed that their statement has succeeded in breaking the wall of censorship and silence, becoming a point of reference even for its opponents; and second, and most importantly, they have forced the Communist Party to compete in the field of human rights.

In Rangoon, the National League for Democracy (NLD) recently held a national meeting with the elected representatives from the 1990 elections and a limited number of delegates from Burma’s states and administrative divisions. It was the fourth time that the main opposition party had met in a plenary session, with the last attempt, in 1998, frustrated by preventive arrests made by the military junta.

The NLD clearly shows the wounds of twenty years of persecution: its leaders and many of its activists are imprisoned or in exile, its offices closed, its territorial organization disjointed. Still, a few hours before the meeting, the delegates themselves weren’t aware of the subjects they would debate, except for a vague reference to "matters relevant to the country." Under these circumstances a generational change is needed to continue the struggle for democracy. For its part, the ruling junta could allow this kind of gathering without any substantial worries.

After two days of debate, the NLD decided to defer its participation in the 2010 elections, reiterating its call for the release of political prisoners and the revision of the constitution "approved" one year ago. But, perhaps, it would have been more useful if, following the Charter 08 example in China, NLD representatives had taken advantage of this rare opportunity to conceive a statement incorporating a wider scope of principles intended to cultivate a broader consensus. A text that, instead of repeating partial demands doomed to fall on deaf ears, raised the level of challenge against the regime with a political program based on the ideals and values of classical liberalism and historical declarations of rights. An anti-totalitarian Charter 09, inspired by Eastern Europe's Velvet Revolutions or other similar experiences and, at the same time, a model reply to the farcical constitution by which the generals will pretend to legitimate their grip on power.

What purpose would such a document serve? Of course it would not produce a regime change tomorrow morning, nor stimulate an answer by a government far more repressive and paranoid than the Chinese regime. But certainly it could have some important consequences from other points of view.

First of all it would demonstrate that the NLD and democratic activism in Burma are able to innovate themselves despite the persecutions of the regime and produce an ideal alternative beyond the mere concept of non-violence, an ideologically obsolete platform and now more similar to resignation than civil resistance.

It would also provide a reference point for the birth of a civic movement involving a growing number of people, an embryonic civil society whose absence is today one of the main obstacles towards Burma's liberation and, at the same time, the best guarantee of survival for the military caste.

Finally, a Charter 09 would compel the international community to recognize the new democratic Burmese movement as a living reality, worthy of material and moral support, clearly exposing the hypocrisy of those who are willing to be fooled by Naypyitaw's diplomatic traps.

Unfortunately, however, NLD delegates did not have time to discuss the Chinese Charter 08 in their discussions. It's a pity because the latest humiliation inflicted on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi by a ruthless regime shows once more the need for firm beliefs and clear vision in the opposition camp.

Enzo Reale is a freelance journalist. He writes about Southeast Asian issues for Italian online newspapers and magazines.

READ MORE---> A "Charter 09" for Burma...

ASEAN Chairman's Statement

Thailand, 19 May 2009

Thailand, as the ASEAN Chair, expresses grave concern about recent developments relating to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, given her fragile health. In this connection, the Government of the Union of Myanmar is reminded that the ASEAN Leaders had called for the immediate release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Furthermore, the Government of the Union of Myanmar, as a responsible member of ASEAN, has the
responsibility to protect and promote human rights. It is therefore called upon to provide timely and adequate medical care to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as well as to accord her humane treatment with dignity.

With the eyes of the international community on Myanmar at present, the honour and the credibility of the Government of the Union of Myanmar are at stake. Thailand, as the ASEAN Chair, reaffirms ASEAN’s readiness to contribute constructively to the national reconciliation process and the peaceful transition of democracy in Myanmar.

Original: PR-ASEAN Chairman Statement

READ MORE---> ASEAN Chairman's Statement...

Myanmar state media gives first reports on Suu Kyi

YANGON (AFP) – Myanmar's tightly controlled state media has reported on the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi for the first time, giving a rare mention of the imprisoned pro-democracy leader.

State television and radio carried brief items after the first day of proceedings, while the government mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar newspaper had a report on Tuesday.

It was the biggest story on the back page of the English-language paper, but failed to knock a story about a state transport and agricultural scheme off the front page.

Aung San Suu Kyi went on trial on Monday on charges of breaching her house arrest after John Yettaw, a US national, swam to her lakeside home earlier this month.

Yettaw and the opposition leader's two aides are also on trial.

The newspaper said that Yettaw now faced a third charge, brought by the Yangon City Council Sanitation Department, of swimming in Inya Lake without permission. He is also charged with breaching security and immigration laws.

The court on Monday heard two witnesses, one in Aung San Suu Kyi's case and one in Yettaw's, it said.

The Burmese-language Myanmar Ahlin newspaper also had a report on its back page, which said that after Yettaw entered her compound on May 3, Aung San Suu Kyi "gave him food and let him stay at the house" for two nights.

Both reports gave details of the lawyers for the defendents, their lawyers and the judges.

Neither paper mentioned the fact that the trial was being held behind closed doors in the notorious Insein prison, where Aung San Suu Kyi is being held, only saying that it was taking place at Yangon's northern district court.

The television and radio reports late Monday had similar details but were brief. They came after several reports about official engagements by members of Myanmar's military regime and immediately before the daily weather forecast.

READ MORE---> Myanmar state media gives first reports on Suu Kyi...

Lawyer predicts struggle for justice in Suu Kyi trial

By Sen Lam
Radio Australia

An international lawyer acting for Aung San Suu Kyi says the detained Burmese democracy leader has a desperate challenge to achieve a fair hearing during her trial this week inside a Rangoon prison.

Washington-based international counsel Jared Genser says Ms Suu Kyi has a senior Burmese counsel and two assistants to defend her, but another lawyer in her team has been disbarred from practice by Burmese authorities.

The Nobel peace prize winner is in the second day of her trial, charged with breaching security laws.

An American ex-serviceman, John Yettaw, swam across a Rangoon lake to her home and spent two nights there, despite Ms Suu Kyi's requests that he leave.

Take case to UN

Speaking from Washington to Radio Australia's Connect Asia program, Mr Genser said: "In the context where there is not an independent impartial judiciary and where, frankly, the junta regularly sentences dissidents to lengthy prison terms, (it) is going to be a real challenge to get a fair trial."

Mr Genser said that international supporters planned to take her case, once the trial was concluded, to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

But five times over the last 19 years this body had found that her detention was in violation of international law - "and actually, the most recent opinion, just a number of months ago, found that her detention in that case was even in violation of Burmese law".

He said the time for foreign governments to speak out was coming to an end, as action was now needed on her situation.

"In practical terms, it's a very serious situation for her health," the lawyer said. "Insein prison is notorious for its horrendous conditions, Tuberculosis is rampant, it gets very hot on typical nights with no breeze, bed bugs, mosquitoes. It is really just a grim, grim place. And with her most recent health problems, any lengthy prison term in Insein prison could be a death sentence."

He called for the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other international bodies to become involved.

Emergency meeting

"I would say that the three things that are going to be done. First, I would like see the UN Secretary-General make an emergency visit to Burma, and demand to meet with General Than Shwe, to discuss the situation.

"Second, I would like to see an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council if she is in fact convicted to try to press for action in the council.

"And third, I would like to see ASEAN actually step up and say or do something. Frankly, they have not said a word since she was charged and I think that's a terrible statement on behalf of the entire grouping and the grouping is really suffering from having Burma as a member."

The lawyer said he could not say how Ms Suu Kyi, her housekeeper and that woman's daughter - also charged - were at fault when the military junta was responsible for security around her home.

"In fact this gentleman apparently showed up six months ago and in fact was reported to the regime," he said.

Regime at fault

"So the fact that the regime let him back into the country, let alone back into the compound, without having strengthened the security status knowing that it had been breached once before, suggests that they are exclusively at fault."

Mr Genser said he had suspected the country's rulers would come up with a ruse to keep heer detained.

On May 27, her sixth year of house arrest was going to expire - the junta had insisted she was on a six-year sentence although the UN interpretation of a five-year sentence expired a year ago.

"But under the terms that they (the junta) saw it, it was going to expire on May 27 and they do not obviously want her to be out and gathering up tens of thousands of supporters at a speech with the upcoming elections next spring."

During the initial hearing on Monday, the charges against Ms Suu Kyi and the other women were outlined by a senior policeman, one of 22 witnesses to be called during the trial.

He accused her of breaking the rules of her house detention.

Supporters gather

Several hundred protesters as well as government supporters gathered near the prison on the trial's first day in spite of road blocks and the presence of ruling junta's tough security forces.

If found guilty, she faces up to five years in jail.

She has already spent much of the past 20 years in detention.

READ MORE---> Lawyer predicts struggle for justice in Suu Kyi trial...

Suu Kyi's lawyer wants action from ASEAN

ABC News

A lawyer acting for Aung San Suu Kyi has called on the international community to help the Burmese democracy leader avoid jail.

Ms Suu Kyi has gone on trial at the notorious Insein prison in Rangoon.

She is accused of breaching security laws after an American ex-serviceman swam across a lake to her house, where she lives under house arrest.

The man spent two nights there, despite Ms Suu Kyi's requests that he leave.

Lawyer Jared Genser has warned that horrendous conditions in the prison where Ms Suu Kyi is being held could be a threat to her life.

He also wants the international community, particularly the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), to become involved.

"I'd like to see ASEAN actually step up and say or do something," he said.

"Frankly, they haven't said a word since she was charged and I think that's a terrible statement on behalf of the entire grouping."

Mr Genser says Ms Suu Kyi stands little chance of a fair hearing.

"I would like to see the UN secretary-general make an emergency visit to Burma and demand to meet with General Than Shwe (The head of Burma's military junta) to discuss the situation," he said.

"I'd like to see an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, if she is in fact convicted, to try to press for action in the council."

READ MORE---> Suu Kyi's lawyer wants action from ASEAN...

Trial of Suu Kyi may dash change in US policy


WASHINGTON (AP) – The Obama administration has been considering whether a softer approach on Myanmar could spur democratic change in the military-run country, but the trial starting this week of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi may dash the possibility of a new U.S. policy.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly was blunt when asked Monday whether the proceedings against Suu Kyi make it more difficult for the administration to ease tough sanctions against Myanmar: "It certainly doesn't help."

Kelly would not elaborate, saying only a "whole range of options" are being considered as senior officials from various U.S. agencies meet to review the policy meant to push Myanmar's junta "to do the right thing."

Even as the review continues, President Barack Obama extended for another year on Friday a state of emergency regarding Myanmar, also known as Burma. Sanctions would have expired had the emergency order not been extended.

Still, signals from Obama's administration had prompted speculation that the United States might be poised to reconsider its hard line against Myanmar.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in February, on a trip to Indonesia, "Clearly, the path we have taken in imposing sanctions hasn't influenced the Burmese junta." She added, however, that Myanmar's neighbors' policy of "reaching out and trying to engage them hasn't influenced them either."

Suu Kyi, who went on trial Monday, already has spent more than 13 of the past 19 years in detention. The Nobel Peace laureate has been charged with violating conditions of her house arrest by sheltering an American man who swam to her lakeside home to secretly visit her earlier this month. The offense is punishable by up to five years' imprisonment.

David Steinberg, a Myanmar specialist at Georgetown University, said the Obama administration might have been considering small changes, such as joint efforts to recover the remains of U.S. soldiers.

"The modest progress that could have taken place will be set back now," he said. The United States, Steinberg said, cannot begin easing sanctions until it sees real change from Myanmar's generals.

Suu Kyi had been scheduled to be freed May 27 after six consecutive years of house arrest. The latest charges are widely seen as a pretext for the government to keep her detained past elections scheduled for next year.

Ralph A. Cossa, president of the Pacific Forum CSIS think tank, questioned the U.S. policy of maintaining "total isolation and strict sanctions" until the junta recognizes the results of the 1990 elections it lost in a landslide to Suu Kyi's party but did not honor.

"That a new policy is needed is beyond dispute," he wrote last week. "What that policy should or will be is far from clear, however." Some, Cossa said, have pushed for an approach similar to the six-nation negotiations being used by the United States, South Korea, Japan, Russia and China to try to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear programs.

U.S. sanctions, he wrote, "need to be more targeted against the government and its leaders and not against the people themselves."

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who is a regular critic of Myanmar's generals, offered rare praise for Obama on Monday for his decision to extend the emergency order against Myanmar.

He warned Myanmar's leaders that both Democrats and Republicans "will continue to follow Suu Kyi's trial with great interest and deep concern."

READ MORE---> Trial of Suu Kyi may dash change in US policy...

Dr Muang Zarni: Here's how this court ordeal can be turned to her advantage

(Independent UK) - Aung San Suu Kyi is already presumed guilty in the eyes of her captors. Her Kafkaesque trial offers her one opportunity however: a rare media platform to present her side of the story.

Instead of focusing on the legal defence, her lawyers should help her to transform this farcical trial into a semi-public venue wherein she articulates her democratic vision for the Burmese people; to reconnect with her political base and convey a strategic message to the international community.

Burma today is not under the rule of law, but rather under the maniacal dictatorship of Senior General Than Shwe. He alone makes all crucial executive and judicial decisions in a manner that befits an 18th-century monarch informed only by astrology, sycophantic advisers and Machiavellian calculations.

Than Shwe is also known for his extreme hatred of Aung San Suu Kyi, the most formidable of all Burmese dissidents, who remains unbroken in spirit, despite her poor health. Even before the news of "the American intruder", no one really entertained any illusion about her release from house arrest. With her unfading prestige, popularity and international appeal, Aung San Suu Kyi poses the single most symbolic – if not material – threat to Than Shwe's personal delusion of grandeur.

The junta is apparently treating the American intruder incident as a "godsend" for propaganda purposes, proof that the leadership is acting in accordance with the law. However, the regime's decision to try the Burmese icon on the most fictitious charges is outright stupid, irresponsible, and counterproductive.

It conveniently overlooks the fact that it was the military government itself which failed to provide its most famous captive full security in her home, a virtual prison for 13 of the past 19 years.

The Obama administration meanwhile, was reportedly looking for a way to re-engage with the military and perhaps even recognise the generals as legitimate stakeholders in Burmese national politics. Instead, news of the junta trying Aung San Suu Kyi on trumped-up charges has recaptured the world's imagination, highlighted the heinous character of the Burmese regime, and re-united the fractured Burmese opposition. Her military captors have unwittingly helped build her political capital as a powerful moral and political icon.

Aung San Suu Kyi and her colleagues must seize this trial as a rare opportunity to revive a popular message of hope, addressing not just democracy and human rights, but also the survival concerns of ordinary Burmese. They should suggest ways for the international community to engage with Burmese people and civil society, if not the Neanderthal regime.

The author is a research fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science and the founder of the Free Burma Coalition

READ MORE---> Dr Muang Zarni: Here's how this court ordeal can be turned to her advantage...

BURMA: Nature Conspires Against Cyclone Victims, Denying Them Clean Water

By Marwaan Macan-Markar

BANGKOK, May 19 (IPS) - A year after powerful Cyclone Nargis tore through Burma’s Irrawaddy Delta and southern Rangoon, killing tens of thousands of people, nature continues to play a cruel trick on survivors.

It has led to thousands of villagers still left without access to clean water, a situation that is rare in natural disasters of similar magnitude. In Indonesia’s northern province of Aceh, which was flattened by the 2004 tsunami, clean water was restored to the survivors within the first year.

The problem in Burma stems from the challenge to clean the large ponds that serve as a major source of water for the villages spread across the nearly 18,500 square kilometres that was affected by the cyclone in the early hours of May 3, 2008.

Out of the 4,540 ponds that were damaged, nearly 1,000 have still to be rehabilitated, according to aid agencies. The latter are struggling against the forces of nature - where salt water seeps into the ponds that have been cleaned, preventing the cyclone-affected victims from turning to such ponds as they did before the disaster.

"This is an unusual situation," Andrew Kirkwood, head of the humanitarian agency Save the Children’s operations in Burma, told IPS. "In these areas, the drinking ponds and wells have been contaminated by salt water and the streams and rivers are much too salty to drink at this time of the year."

Consequently, some 240,000 people in the southwestern swathe of the delta "don’t have access to fresh drinking water in their own communities," he revealed. "We are distributing three litres of water per day per person. That is the absolute minimum."

It is a situation that is "not sustainable," he added, due to the pressure on the 10 water treatment plants that Save the Children set up in remote parts of the delta to remove salt from the water. "Because the machines cost a lot to operate. The boats to distribute the water are expensive to run. And, the machines will eventually breakdown."

Aid agencies are hoping that the onset of the monsoon rains this month will help. "We hope the problem will ease during the rainy season," says Bernd Schell, head of the Burma office of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). "It takes time to rehabilitate this particular type of water source."

The efforts to clean the ponds were not limited to flushing out the water with high salinity. "There were many dead bodies inside; there were many dead animals," Schell told IPS.

IFRC’s initial supply of water to the victims soon after Nargis struck conveys the challenges faced by relief agencies. It supplied some 800,000 litres per day as its contribution to the relief efforts.

Cyclone Nargis, which killed nearly 140,000 people and displaced 2.4 million, created a major humanitarian challenge for the government of military-ruled Burma, or Myanmar. Restoring the supply of clean water was among them.

A report by a tripartite group, including the Burmese government and the United Nations, revealed that 63 percent of victims surveyed admitted that their "current access to clean water was inadequate."

"Approximately 1.8 million severely affected people (are) in need of improved water supply," added the report, released two months after the disaster.

The Burmese junta’s reputation as an oppressive and corrupt regime did not help in the relief efforts. Much needed foreign funds to help in the immediate relief efforts and longer-term rehabilitation programmes have fallen well short of the set targets.

A U.N. flash appeal to attract 477 million dollars to help in the urgent relief efforts has succeeded in raising only a 66 percent financial commitment, or 315 million dollars, according to the world body.

And early this year, a fresh appeal by the U.N. for 691 million dollars to fund the Post-Nargis Recovery and Preparedness Plan - covering a period from 2009-2011 - has only raised 100 million dollars.

This funding shortfall is reflected in water and sanitation programmes for the Nargis victims. Only 29.7 million dollars have been subscribed, which is some 60 percent of the 49.7 million dollars requested in the initial flash appeal after the disaster.

The money that has come in has helped to ensure that 150,000 school children in 800 schools have access to water and sanitation facilities, in addition to constructing 2,000 hand-dug wells, states a U.N. background note on the on-going humanitarian relief and recovery efforts in Burma.

Such work, in addition to cleaning some 3,500 ponds, also went a long way to prevent the outbreak of major water-borne diseases, which many feared would sweep through the delta after the cyclone.

"We believe that the interventions have helped in averting major disease outbreaks," says Waldemar Pickardt, chief of water and environmental sanitation for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), one of the many U.N. and aid agencies that teamed up to supply clean water to the victims. "There have not been any reported cases of mortality or morbidity related to shortage of water or consumption of unsafe water."

To ensure that picture prevails, relief agencies agreed to increase the amount of water supplied to cyclone victims who still lack access to natural sources of water. "The initial minimum limit was set at a minimum of three litres per person per day. In March 2009, this was increased to a minimum of five litres per person per day," added Pickardt in an e-mail interview from Rangoon, the former Burmese capital.

READ MORE---> BURMA: Nature Conspires Against Cyclone Victims, Denying Them Clean Water...

Ministry of Health bans unregistered indigenous medicines

by Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The Burmese Ministry of Health on Tuesday announced a list of some unregistered indigenous medicines, which were unfit for consumption, in all the daily newspapers.

The Ministry of Health in Burma has banned 16 items of indigenous medicine, which is the follow-up list of some brands of pickled tea leaves, indigenous medicines for children and fish paste, banned earlier.

The announcement of the Health Ministry claims that these banned products are unregistered with them and they cannot guarantee their authenticity and effectiveness. These products are unfit for use by the consumers, the announcement said.

These banned products are Kachin Thway Say with Gyophyu brand, Sein Thaw, Tu Tazin and Kyaw brands for asthma, pain killers, gynecology drugs, gastric and hypertension drugs. Most of these products are produced and marketed in Kachin State and Rangoon Division.

Similarly, the Ministry earlier banned Daw Htwe Gaw Mutta and Daw Kyin brands of medicines for children, for excessive use of arsenic and lead on May 4, 2009.

Over a 100 brands of pickled tea leaves, were similarly banned last month after it was found that they contained industrial chemical dye 'Auramine O'.

It has been learnt that this chemical dye is normally used in dyeing of fabrics, wool, silk, paper and hides, which can cause liver and kidney diseases and can affect the growth of the body in case of long term consumption.

Moreover, the Ministry banned about 80 brands of fish paste for using the chemical dye 'Rhodamine B', which can cause cancer to consumers.

This red chemical dye is used for dyeing and polishing of fabrics, wool, silk, paper and hides and is also used as a chemical reagent in pathology labs.

READ MORE---> Ministry of Health bans unregistered indigenous medicines...

Open letter to Aung San Suu Kyi by PM Gordon Brown

Open Letter to Aung San Suu Kyi
The Prime Minister has released an open letter to Burmese pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Prime Minister has released an open letter to Burmese pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi.

Read the letter:

Dear Daw Suu

The Burmese regime continues to resist the righteous clamour from your people and from the international community for your release. As you and the Burmese people are denied your democratic rights and freedoms the only way for me to communicate with you is through this open letter.

I wanted to publish it to let you know that you are not alone - that people are standing with you not just here in Britain, but everywhere that democracy and freedom are upheld.

We are heartened by your tremendous courage, your inspirational leadership, and by the knowledge that no oppression is so great that the forces of liberty cannot prevail The history books are full of stories of injustice. But they are also full of stories of hope, resistance and the victories that satisfy the deep human yearning to be free. I am confident that your story will stand prominently among those that show that from
the deepest wells of despair can come the greatest triumphs of human endeavour.

Inspired by and in solidarity with you, the British Government will continue to work with our international partners to support Burma’s path to stability, peace and economic recovery. The UN Security Council has set out the steps necessary for a return to democracy in Burma. I have worked with our partners in the EU to maintain sanctions that are tough and targeted against those individuals who wish to deny the Burmese people their rights. And I will continue to press your neighbours in Asia to work even harder for your release and that of all political prisoners in Burma.

My message to the Burmese regime is clear the people of Burma have suffered nearly half a century of conflict and isolation, it is time to embrace a new beginning. So I say to the Generals who imprison you: the time for a transition to democracy is now. By excluding you from that future, by silencing and imprisoning you, they condemn your country to further decades of poverty and exclusion.

Your continued imprisonment reminds all of us that we should not take for granted the institution of democracy for which you campaign That we should not rest until you are able to play your rightful role in a free and secure Burma. And that our place is alongside all those who face imprisonment, repression and despair in their battle to build democracy, confront poverty and protect human rights. Daw Suu I want you to know: you are not alone.

Yours sincerely

Gordon Brown
18 May 2009

No 10. Gov UK

READ MORE---> Open letter to Aung San Suu Kyi by PM Gordon Brown...

Two Burmese Die in Malaysian Detention Center

The Irrawaddy News

KUALA LUMPUR — Two Burmese migrant workers who were detained at an immigration detention center in Malaysia have died of leptospirosi, an ailment caused by unhealthy drinking water, sources said.

According to the Burma Worker Rights Protection Committee, two migrant workers died in Bukit Mertajam at Bukit Mertajam Hospital following their detention in Juru Immigration Detention Center in Pulau Pinang Province.

“We heard that a second Burmese from the immigration camp died on Monday. On May 12, another Burmese died of the same cause,” said Ye Min Tun, the secretary of the group. The names of the dead were not available.

“There is no proper drinking water system for detained foreigners,” said Ye Min Tun.
“There is no health care for detainees.”

Malaysian health officials told local newspapers that about 25 people from the immigration camp have contracted leptospirosi and are being treated now. One man is in critical condition.

Leptospirosis is commonly transmitted by allowing water that has been contaminated by animal urine to come into contact with unhealed cuts or abrasions on the skin, eyes or mucous membranes. It is a relatively rare bacterial infection in humans, health experts said.

“Out of the 23 cases under treatment as of yesterday, one has died. Three were discharged, leaving 19 cases still under treatment now,” said Director-General of Health Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican, in a statement.

Former inmates said that water storage facilities in the detention camp are near toilet areas. There are three buildings in the camp. An estimated 700 foreigners, held by immigration authorities for various offenses, are detained there.

Earlier this year, two Burmese migrant workers died at a detention center. Two men, indentified as Ko Paul and Kyaw Swa, died in January 2008, sources said. No cause of death was given.

“After they tighten the rules in the centers, immigration officials and RELA [a government-backed group that focuses on illegal immigration] harassed detainees at the center,” said a former detainee who spoke on condition of anonymity.

He said that during searches detainees are sometimes beaten. RELA is a mass group that is used to suppress illegal migrant workers in Malaysia. Human rights groups say RELA members are not trained properly as professionals. In 2005, authorities granted RELA the right to help oversee immigration detention centers and arrest illegal migrants.
In an effort to escape economic hardship at home, millions of Burmese migrant workers are in neighboring countries in Southeast Asia, particularly Malaysia and Thailand.

Malaysia is home to an estimated 500,000 Burmese migrant workers, illegally or legally, while Thailand hosts at least 2.5 million migrant workers from Burma.

“Malaysia is not a good place for foreigner migrants, particularly migrant workers,” said Latheefa Koya, a well-know Malaysian human rights lawyer. Human rights standards for migrant workers are low, she said, and there is also a high level of xenophobia, which compounds the problem.

Malaysia needs to reform its migrant worker laws, which now allow systematic abuse of migrant workers, she said.

This story was written under a 2009 Southeast Asian Press Alliance Fellowship

READ MORE---> Two Burmese Die in Malaysian Detention Center...

Burmese people would welcome UN intervention


(Nation) -I made two trips to Burma two years ago. The first trip was from Mai Sai through the Shan State to the Chinese border.

The second was from Chiang Mai to Mandalay, then down to Bagan by boat and onto Rangoon. I had fascinating conversations with Burmese people, who we always found to be very intelligent and aware of the situation in their country. Everyone we spoke to hated the Tatmadaw (the military) and were passionate supporters of the National League for Democracy (the winner of the last election in 1990). Even the chap we met who was convinced that Hillary Clinton had stolen his design for a revolutionary new car engine managed to become focused when Aung Sang Su Kii was mentioned. For a few minutes he forgot about his engine design and gave a lucid opinion about how the UN should mount an armed intervention in Burma.

In an Indian restaurant in Rangoon, the owner stood up and waved his fist and shouted at the barracks opposite. I was convinced he would be arrested, but he wasn't whilst I was there, and hopefully he wasn't after I left. The point of my letter is this: The Burmese people are fed up with their government, very possibly the most horrible government in the world. They have tried to unseat the government and thousands have been killed (including many monks).

And the reaction from the rest of the world? We hear that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is "deeply troubled"; UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expresses "deep concern"; UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown is "deeply concerned"; Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Veejjajiva "expressed concern". Why are these people so mealy mouthed when faced with such a murderous regime?

Could it be because they are scared of upsetting Burma's staunchest ally? Could it be that the so-called free world is in such an economically weak position that it will not say anything to upset Burma's bosses to the north? The West, Asean and the UN need to stop messing about and take action urgently before there is a bloodbath in Burma. If the rest of the world does not take effective action now, we will and should be held responsible for the tragic outcome that is looming right now in Burma.

READ MORE---> Burmese people would welcome UN intervention...

No end in sight after 4 years of obligatory security detail by villagers

By Kon Hadae, IMNA
Kapya-wa villagers continue to provide forced security detail for LIB No. 31 troops.

The Burmese SPDC troops from Light Infantry Battalion No. 31, are still forcing people from Kapya-wa village, Southern Ye township Mon state, to provide security for them day and night, to ward off Mon rebel group attacks. The rebel group, Mon Rebuilding Party (MRP) primarily operates out of the region.

The villagers have had to work on a rotational duty for guarding the soldiers. For a period of a month at a time, each family must provide one person to the pool of guards for the SPDC forces. If some one is unable to meet the requirement they must give LIB No.31 5,000 kyat to hire someone who can fill their place, explained a villager from the area.

“They (LIB No. 31) do not care whether villagers have money or not. If we cannot fill our guarding duty, we have to give them 5,000 kyat”, a villager said. Though many villagers agree the policy of forced patrols for soldiers without compensation is unfair, even the village headman must remain silent as dissent is punished with beatings.

“First hand, I’ve seen a young man beaten by a solider because, talking to himself, he said that this guarding duty was crazy for villagers and unfair. But the soldier overheard what he said and called the young man over and beat him a lot”, a source told IMNA, who spoke with a villager that had witnessed the beating.

Troops from LIB No. 31force the villagers to perform guard duty so that the villagers essentially become a human shield protecting against MRP assault, according to a resident.

“If something happens at the army camp, such as weapons goes missing, or a soldier is killed by the Mon rebel etc., the villagers on duty will be executed.” said a villager who fled the village out of fear of the SPDC forces.

“In some ways we can say we are lucky at this point. Women are not included in guarding duty - only men have to guard the soldiers,” said a woman who had fled the village to Thailand. “Three years ago women had to go to the army camp to prepare food and make the beds for the army officers. At that time, some women were raped by the army officers. So many families who were afraid of army fled the village. Some went to Thailand and some moved to another village for safety.”

According to a WCRP (Woman and Child Rights Project) report, which was published in 2005 July, in 2003, No. 3 Tactical Command led by Brigadier Myo Win, ordered women from 15 villages in Southern Ye township to come army camp to put on a fashion show.

SPDC soldiers have been forcing the villagers from southern townships to provide security since 2005, according to Nai Aue Mon, coordinator of HRDDP (Human Rights Documentation and Dissemination Project).

Villagers have faced a variety of oppressive tactics regionally, yet want to return to their own villages to continue working their plantations and rice paddies. However they dare not out of fear of the SPDC policies.

READ MORE---> No end in sight after 4 years of obligatory security detail by villagers...

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