Sunday, May 24, 2009

Timber seizure sparks protest, troop action


KANCHANABURI (Bangkok Post): The seizure of 15 trucks loaded with logs brought in from Burma on Friday in Sangkhla Buri district has sparked a protest by timber traders. A team of about 30 police officers from the Central Investigation Bureau stopped the trucks for an inspection as they were entering Thailand through the Phra Chedi Sam Ong border checkpoint in tambon Nong Lu.

The officers ordered the drivers to abandon their vehicles, saying the cargo origin needed to be verified by the Royal Forest Department. A few days ago, 18 other timber trucks were stopped at the same place and then driven to the Customs Department's warehouse in Ban Phra Chedi Sam Ong pending verification of their timber's origin.

The latest seizure prompted nearly a hundred wood traders to protest police operations. The seized trucks were surrounded with motorcycles to prevent the officers from moving them and to pressure for their immediate release.

Central Investigation Bureau deputy chief Sriwara Rangsipramanakul, who led the team, later agreed to send the logs to the Customs Department's warehouse and the trucks to the Sangkhla Buri district police station. The protesting traders welcomed the move and agreed to disperse on Friday.

The incident also led to a Burmese troop build-up along the border.

Conflicts over cross-border transportation of timber is not uncommon in the province as many log poachers cut down trees in Thai forests and disguise them as imported Burmese timber.

The Commerce Ministry and Burma agreed four years ago to consider log imports on a case-by-case basis.

READ MORE---> Timber seizure sparks protest, troop action...

Suu Kyi lawyers prepare defence in Myanmar trial

YANGON (AFP) – Lawyers for Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi said Sunday they were preparing to open the defence case this week after she pleaded innocent at her trial by the ruling junta.

The prison tribunal enters its second week on Monday, hearing charges that the Nobel Peace Prize winner breached the terms of her house arrest after an American man swam to her lakeside home and spent two days there.

Nyan Win, a spokesman for her National League for Democracy (NLD) party and also part of her legal team, said the prosecution was expected to call final witnesses early next week.

"We expect to begin our defence case this coming week," Nyan Win told AFP. "Now we are preparing a witness list and are preparing what we need for tomorrow (Monday)."

He said he expected it would take another two weeks for a verdict to be reached at the trial, which is being held at the notorious Insein prison near Yangon where Aung San Suu Kyi is being held.

"We will win according to the law. Whether she is released or not is another matter," Nyan Win said.

The latest, six-year period of Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest is due to expire on Wednesday and the military regime has not yet said whether it will extend it.

The ailing 63-year-old was taken from her home to prison earlier this month.

She has already spent most of the last 19 years in detention and critics say the charges against her, under which she faces a jail term of up to five years, are an excuse for the junta to keep her locked up ahead of elections next year.

"I don't see that the authorities will extend her detention (at her house) again. They cannot extend it by law," he said, adding that under Myanmar's security laws people can only be held for five years under house arrest.

On Friday Nyan Win quoted her as saying: "I have no guilt as I didn't commit any crime."

The prosecution case centres on her allegedly allowing US national John Yettaw to stay at her home for two days after the bizarre incident earlier this month in which he swam to her home.

Yettaw has said in the trial that he wanted to warn Aung San Suu Kyi that she would be assassinated. He brought a number of unusual objects to her house including two black shawls for Muslim women.

READ MORE---> Suu Kyi lawyers prepare defence in Myanmar trial...

Opposition Leader Suu Kyi's Trial Dashes Hopes for Improved U.S.-Burma Relations

BANGKOK (Foxnews-AP)— A widely expected guilty verdict in the trial of Burma pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is likely to halt tentative Western moves to improve relations with the country's junta and make it harder to raise funds for humanitarian relief efforts, analysts said Sunday.

Suu Kyi, who has been in detention without trial for more than 13 of the past 19 years, is being tried on charges of violating the terms of her house arrest after an uninvited American, John W. Yettaw, swam across a lake to her home earlier this month and stayed for two days. The offense is punishable by up to five years' imprisonment.

Suu Kyi pleaded not guilty Friday, but expectations are high that she will be found guilty after the court accepted the charges and moved to proceed with the trial. Burma's courts operate under the influence of the ruling military, and almost always deal harshly with political dissidents.

The charges against her are widely seen as a pretext for the government to keep her detained during polls it has scheduled for next year as the culmination of its "roadmap to democracy," which has been criticized as a fig leaf for continued military rule.

The trial comes weeks after the European Union announced it was stepping up humanitarian aid to the impoverished country, also known as Burma, and the United States said it was reviewing its policy — including speculation that it might soften sanctions the regime says have crippled its economy.

But now the European Union is talking of introducing tougher sanctions in response to the trial and the administration of President Obama has announced it will continue its economic penalties. Obama extended a state of emergency against the country after Suu Kyi's arrest. Sanctions would have expired had the emergency order not been extended.

Sean Turnell, a Burma expert at Australia's Macquarie University, said the timing of the trial shows the junta "never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity."

"I think there was, prior to these latest events, a strong likelihood that the U.S. and Europe positions on Burma may have softened, and that some sanctions may even have been on the table" for review, Turnell said in an e-mail interview. "The regime have now shot themselves in the foot so to speak — and anything like this would seem to be decidedly off the table now."

David Steinberg, a Burma specialist at Georgetown University in Washington, said there had been talk of "small steps toward easing relations" within the Obama administration. But he said a guilty verdict makes increased engagement with the ruling generals unlikely for now.

"I think they wanted to make some overtures, but this will make it far more difficult," Steinberg said of the Obama administration. "The junta needed to respond significantly as well at each step, and this would set it back."

Donors may also be less willing to fund a three-year, $700 million rebuilding plan for the Irrawaddy delta, which was devastated by a cyclone last year that killed more than 138,000 people.

Foreign governments and charities already were slow to fund initial relief efforts over concerns about the junta's human rights record.

"Any effort to limit the humanitarian funding needed to help Burma's poorest people as a response to Suu Kyi's trial would be shameful and would lead directly to the deaths of thousands of innocent people," warned Thant Myint-U, a Burmese historian and former U.N. official. "Neither economic embargoes, aid cut offs, long distance condemnation or attempts at occasional diplomacy have worked."

No one expects a guilty verdict to spark an uprising in Burma against the junta after its bloody suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations in 2007, which killed at least 31 people. Hundreds more activists were sentenced to lengthy prison sentences.

"Everyone is angry but people are concerned with earning their daily bread," said Win Tin, an 80-year-old leader of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party who was released from prison last year after serving a 19-year sentence. "They are afraid and there is no leadership."

Security has been tight around the prison for the trial that resumes Monday and is expected to last another two weeks. Authorities have allowed about 100 Suu Kyi supporters, including Win Tin, to gather each day outside the prison, but most citizens in the commercial capital Yangon are reluctant to take it much further.

"We have seen what happened in 2007 when even monks are beaten and shot at by soldiers," said Wunna, a 32-year-old computer repairmen who took part in the protests. "I don't want to be killed nor imprisoned for simply expressing my feelings."

READ MORE---> Opposition Leader Suu Kyi's Trial Dashes Hopes for Improved U.S.-Burma Relations...

'Rambo' missed his staging area

By Unknown Burmese in Tokyo

(Japan Times)-Regarding the two May 16 wire service articles "West slams Myanmar on Suu Kyi" and "U.S. 'fool' at center of furor": The recent actions of the military junta of Myanmar are disgusting and despicable, and the statement by the Japanese foreign minister is too perfunctory.

A quixotic American (John William Yettaw) who swam across the lake to enter the house of Aung San Suu Kyi caused the current trouble. Had this "Rambo" descended instead on the new capital of Myanmar, where the brutal generals reside, the overwhelming majority of the 60 million people in Myanmar would have been happier. I am a Burmese residing in Japan.

READ MORE---> 'Rambo' missed his staging area...

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