Thursday, May 28, 2009

Is Yettaw a Triathlete?

The Irrawaddy News

John William Yettaw would have to be a triathlete to have swum two kilometers across Inya Lake carrying a backpack full of clothes, presents and books, according to a technical director with the world’s leading SCUBA diving authority.

“A triathlete can swim two kilometers (1.2 miles) in about 40 minutes,” said Mike Holme, the director of training at the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) in Sydney, Australia.

An undated handout combination photo shows US citizen John William Yettaw taking a picture of himself (top) and the makeshift flippers he claimed to have used to swim across Inya Lake to Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's compound in Rangoon. (Photo: Reuters)

“However, given the weight that this guy [Yettaw] was carrying and the conditions, it would be a big ‘ask.’ It’s not impossible, but he would have to be in very good shape.”

On Tuesday, police evidence was produced at the trial in Rangoon of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is accused of breaking the terms of her house arrest by allowing an American intruder to stay overnight at her lakeside home on May 3-5.

According to one of her lawyers, Nyan Win, who is also a spokesman for Suu Kyi’s opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), the 60 items of police evidence that were found in Suu Kyi’s home that allegedly belong to Yettaw include a black backpack, a video camera, two black Muslim robes, veils, stockings, pliers, money, a passport, sunglasses and several books, including the Book of Mormon. He was reportedly also carrying an empty five-liter plastic bottle.

It is alleged that 53-year-old Yettaw, who appears heavyset in photographs and is known to suffer from asthma and diabetes, attached homemade fins to his sandals and swam across Inya Lake on the night of May 3.

It is unknown where he set off from, only that state-run media reported that he was fished out of the water by police on the morning of May 5 on the west bank of the lake near the International Business Center and the American embassy.

If he had embarked from the same location, he would have had to swim two kilometers laden with the backpack and its contents to get to Suu Kyi’s compound.

A Thailand-based journalist familiar with Inya Lake speculated that—because most of the lakeside is off-limits to the public—the only other place where Yettaw could have set off from would be the Jade Gardens, which is a park located on a small peninsula just 100 to 200 meters in front of Suu Kyi’s house. The Jade Gardens are closed at night and security around the park is said to be “very tight.”

According to Holme, the five-liter bottle could have been used as a flotation device and, if the backpack were securely attached, it could have supported up to five kilograms in weight.

The weight of Yettaw’s backpack is not known. However, just the Book of Mormon alone would weigh about one kilogram if it were a hardback edition.

“First of all, those homemade fins wouldn’t have given him adequate propulsion,” said Holme. “And if the backpack and its contents got wet, it would be even harder to keep them afloat.”

Security around the detained opposition leader’s house is notoriously tight with an estimated 12 to 15 police officers on duty 24 hours a day. Police boats are a frequent sight on Inya Lake as they patrol the waters around Suu Kyi’s house.

To date, no statement has been issued by Burmese authorities that would suggest that Yettaw was spotted by security guards or police during his epic swim into Suu Kyi’s compound.

According to Rangoon residents, the perimeter of Inya Lake is covered in thick reeds, which make treading water very difficult and which have been responsible for many deaths in the past when people get tangled in the undergrowth. The water around Suu Kyi’s house is thought to be about five meters (15 feet) deep.

It is alleged by Burmese military authorities that when Yettaw arrived at the house, he was met by Suu Kyi’s two companions who fed him because he was exhausted. At 5 a.m. they informed Suu Kyi that an intruder had entered the house, said Nyan Win.

According to Suu Kyi’s lawyer, she asked him to leave but he was unable to go because of exhaustion and his health conditions. Suu Kyi is reported to have allowed the American to stay the next day before he left the following night at 11:45 p.m.

According to the New Light of Myanmar newspaper, Yettaw was fished out of Inya Lake by police at around 5 a.m. the following morning. How and where Yettaw spent the five hours before his reported arrest is unknown.

At her trial on Tuesday, Suu Kyi told the court: “I only know that he went to the lakeside. I do not know which way he went, because it was dark.”

Speaking to The Irrawaddy, spokesman Nyan Win said, “If the security had been proper, the American would not have got there.”

Speculation that Yettaw had in fact been allowed to enter Suu Kyi’s home by security personnel has been fueled by a statement from a Rangoon taxi driver that appeared on a Burmese Web site,

He said that in November he drove Yettaw to the gate of Suu Kyi’s house and witnessed him showing a “red card” to security guards before being allowed to enter the compound.

Suu Kyi is expected to testify again on Wednesday. She faces up to five years’ imprisonment if found guilty of Section 22 of the Law Safeguarding the State from Dangers of Subversive Elements.

Yettaw has been charged with immigration violations and for breeching sanitation codes by swimming in the lake. He faces a maximum sentence of six years.

READ MORE---> Is Yettaw a Triathlete?...

Burmese Army delegates in Kolkata

By Salai Pi Pi

New Delhi (Mizzima) – A Burmese Army delegation led by Brig Gen Tin Maung Ohn, Deputy Commander of the Northwest Military Command, arrived in Kolkata, West Bengal on Wednesday on a goodwill visit.

The delegates’ Kolkata leg of the visit came after it attended the 36th bi-annual Indo-Burma border meeting held on May 26, at the Assam Rifles headquarters in Imphal, capital of Manipur state in northeast India.

While details of the Kolkata visit are still unknown, a military source in the city said, the Burmese team has arrived on a good will visit and will meet several Indian Army officials.

Brig-Gen Tin Maung Ohn heading a 15-member delegation met the 17 member team led by Assam Rifle’s Maj Gen AK Choudhury during the 36th bi-annual Indo-Burmese liaison meeting in Imphal.

India and Burma in recent years have stepped up bilateral relations including military cooperation and have been regularly holding meetings between the defence establishments of the two countries.

An Indian journalist, who has long covered Indo-Burma relations, said both Indian and Burmese military delegates have discussed a final strategy to crackdown on northeast rebel groups, several of which are reportedly operating from Burmese soil.

“They have come to finalize the plans for a counter insurgency operation in Sagaing Division,” the journalist told Mizzima, referring to the North-western division in Burma, bordering India’s Nagaland and Manipur states.

A similar meeting was also held in Nagaland in April 2008. The meeting focused on issues related to cross-border insurgency, arms smuggling and border management.

During his last visit, Brig Gen. Tin Maung Ohn and his team also travelled to Kolkata, and met Lt. Gen. V.K Singh, the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Command and Lt. Gen. P.K. Goel, the Chief of Staff of the Eastern Command.

READ MORE---> Burmese Army delegates in Kolkata...

Confusing Testimony, Conflicting Reports Emerge from Yettaw Trial

The Irrawaddy News

Confusing testimony and conflicting reports have emerged from the trial of John William Yettaw, the 53-year-old American whose uninvited visit to Aung San Suu Kyi’s home triggered a criminal case against her.

Burma’s state-run The New Light of Myanmar today reported that Yettaw had testified on Wednesday that he did not swim across Inya Lake to Suu Kyi’s compound, but had instead “walked along the bund of Inya Lake through [sic] the drain.”

A handout photo by Myanmar News Agency, taken on May 13 and released on May 14, shows US citizen John William Yettaw (3rd L on the table) talking to the second secretary consul of the US embassy Colin P. Surst and surrounded by Burmese officials and special police officers at the Aung Thapyey police detention centre in Rangoon.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy after Yettaw’s testimony, Suu Kyi’s lawyer Kyi Win said that when making his statement, the American had motioned with his arms in a pumping action as if walking quickly, but not as if he were swimming.

During nearly three hours of questioning, the former US-Vietnam War veteran from Falcon, Missouri, repeatedly said he “walked though” the lake to reach Suu Kyi's house, according to lawyers who spoke to The Irrawaddy.

The lawyers could not ascertain, however, whether Yettaw was referring to his first visit to Suu Kyi’s compound in November or to both visits.

How exactly he was able to traverse the 5-meter (15-foot) deep lake by foot was not clarified.

When a prosecution lawyer asked Yettaw whether he was making this statement about “walking through” the lake for the first time, Yettaw replied that he had repeatedly told police this during his interrogation, but the police officers did not record the details.

John William Yettaw in a 2005 photo released by his family. (Photo: AP)

The banks of Inya Lake are blocked by security restrictions at many points and the lake is too deep to “walk through,” even at its perimeter. Local residents also say the lake is strewn with thick reeds and undergrowth.

The confusion over the testimony and the doubts it raises over whether his nocturnal swim across Inya Lake was, in fact, physically possible, is compounded by the disparity in reports from Burma’s official media.

It is still far from clear how Yettaw entered the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s lakeside residence on May 3.

According to lawyers who were present in the courtroom, when Yettaw, a Mormon, took the stand for the first time he told the court that he was "sent by God" to warn both her and the Burmese junta of a "terrorist plot” to assassinate her.

The pro-junta media also reported on Wednesday's testimonies by Suu Kyi’s two companions—Khin Khin Win and Win Ma Ma—who are also on trial.

According to The New Light of Myanmar, both women stated that they had heard Yettaw “moaning” outside the house; Khin Khin Win testified that this happened at about 3:30 a.m. She said she found a man lying outside the house and informed Suu Kyi. Both women testified that Yettaw was not let into the house until it was light.

Yettaw reportedly collaborated this evidence, saying that he lay down near the back door due to cramp in both legs and tiredness. According to the official media, Yettaw then stated that he “entered the residence easily as the back door was not locked.”

According to a lawyer who spoke to The Irrawaddy, Yettaw also testified that when he left Suu Kyi's house on the occasion of his first visit on November 30, 2008, a policeman spotted him and pointed a gun at him. The policeman then shouted: “What are you doing?" According to the lawyer, Yettaw stated that the guard allowed him to continue to the lake after he responded by saying, “I'm coming back.” (JEG's: Yettaw then speaks Burmese language to be able to respond or was he trained to respond to possible questioning?, policeman? does this officer speak English then?)

However, official Burmese media did not report how Yettaw entered and left the compound on his second visit on May 3-5.

According to Suu Kyi’s lawyer Nyan Win, Yettaw testified that—on the night of May 3—as he was entering Suu Kyi’s compound, four or five policemen saw him and threw stones at him.

Yettaw reportedly told the court that police evidence, including the Book of Mormon, a video camera, black Muslim robes, stockings and dark glasses were left behind in the lakeside house.

According to Suu Kyi's lawyer, Yettaw testified that Suu Kyi told him to "respect the law" and "go back as soon as possible."

Nyan Win said that during questioning, lawyers and even the judge laughed openly and mocked Yettaw.

The lawyer said that Suu Kyi expressed pity for the American for the way the court had humiliated him.

"She said that even if we don't believe another person’s religion, we still have to respect their opinion," Nyan Win told The Irrawaddy.

The trial has been taking place behind closed doors inside the compound of Rangoon's notorious Insein prison. A handful of reporters and diplomats were permitted to attend Suu Kyi’s first appearance in court; however, only a representative of the US embassy has been allowed to attend Yettaw’s trial.

Initially, state media reported that police authorities had fished Yettaw out of Rangoon's Inya Lake early on Wednesday, May 6, while he was returning from a visit to Suu Kyi's home.

The report said the American man had confessed to swimming across the lake, sneaking into Suu Kyi's residence and then swimming back before being spotted by police and arrested. The state-run press reported that he swam with an empty 5-liter plastic water jug, presumably to use as a float, adding that police confiscated the man's belongings, which included a US passport, a black backpack, a pair of pliers, a camera and two US $100 bills.

However, observers have questioned how an asthmatic, diabetic 53-year-old man, apparently not close to peak fitness, could swim two kilometers (1.2 miles).

Yettaw also testified that while in Thailand he had 10 times visited the Mae Taw Clinic in Mae Sot, according to Thursday’s The New Light of Myanmar. He also stated that he had met with Bo Kyi of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma).

Bo Kyi confirmed to The Irrawaddy that he had met Yettaw in Chiang Mai and said that Yettaw had told him he was conducting research on Burmese political prisoners.

Meanwhile, local sources told The Irrawaddy that at 3 p.m. on Thursday, a police convoy left Insein Prison. An unconfirmed report said that police were taking Yettaw to the east bank of Inya Lake apparently to re-enact the scenario of his swim to Suu Kyi’s compound.

READ MORE---> Confusing Testimony, Conflicting Reports Emerge from Yettaw Trial...

Last Witness Speaks at Suu Kyi's Trial

The Irrawaddy News

RANGOON (AP)— The sole witness allowed for pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi defended her innocence Thursday, the last chance to speak before closing arguments Monday in a trial that could send the Nobel Peace laureate to prison for five years.

Kyi Win, a legal expert and member of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, argued there was no legal basis to the charge that Suu Kyi had violated the terms of her house arrest when an American secretly swam to her home.

Prosecutors seemed very unhappy at his testimony, Kyi Win told reporters outside the courtroom. Reporters had not been allowed inside.

Suu Kyi's defense team has conceded most of the basic facts of the case—that 53-year-old John W. Yettaw swam to and sneaked into her lakeside home, where he stayed for two days.

But Suu Kyi has pleaded not guilty, and her lawyers insist it was the duty of government guards outside her closely watched property to prevent any intrusions.

The court at Rangoon's Insein Prison rejected three other defense witnesses Wednesday. It had approved 23 prosecution witnesses, and 14 of them testified.

The court will recess for Friday and hear closing arguments from both sides on Monday, Kyi Win said.

Lawyers will meet with their clients Saturday.

Two female party members who live with Suu Kyi, and Yettaw, face the same charge as Suu Kyi and have also pleaded not guilty.

The brisk trial has drawn outrage from the international community and Suu Kyi's local supporters, who worry that the military junta has found an excuse to keep her detained through next year's elections.

Her years-long house arrest had been due to end Wednesday, but the American's bizarre visit this month brought her arrest instead.

A Foreign Ministry statement, carried Thursday in state-owned newspapers, said the trial "will not have any political impact."

"The government, therefore, will hold multiparty general elections, fifth step of the Road Map, in 2010," the statement said, referring to the junta's "road map to democracy," which critics say will merely extend the military's decades-long, largely unpopular rule under the guise of democracy.

Burma has been under military rule since 1962, even though Suu Kyi's party won the 1990 general election.

READ MORE---> Last Witness Speaks at Suu Kyi's Trial...

Chevron determined to retain investments in Burma

by Solomon

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Chevron Corps has made it abundantly clear that it will not pull out of Burma but would retain its investments for compelling business reasons, and even if they do withdraw they will be replaced by other competitors.

Chevron’s stance was in response to a query by Mizzima regarding the company shareholder’s proposal to disclose the criteria it uses to start and end investments in high-risk countries particularly Burma.

The proposal by, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, an advocacy group for workers, to Chevron to disclose its criteria to decide on starting investments in a country, was supported by more than 25 per cent of the company’s share holders on Wednesday.

Teamsters (IBT) said the shareholders support indicates that there is growing concern among investors on Chevron’s investments in Burma.

In 2005 Chevron began investing in Burma after taking over the shares from another US Oil company UNOCAL, joining Total of France and PTTEP of Thailand in its investments on exploration of oil and natural gas.

Human rights activists, however, have severely condemned Chevron and urged it to pull out of Burma saying its business involvement provides a financial lifeline to the Burmese military regime, which is well-known for its appalling human rights violations.

“We are pleased that other Chevron shareholders recognize the enormous legal, financial, political and risks to reputation associated with operating in Burma and are demanding increased disclosure on how these decisions are made,” Thomas Keegel, General Secretary-Treasurer of the Teamsters said in a statement released on Wednesday.

But Gareth Johnstone, Chevron Corps’ Media Advisor for Asia Pacific, told Mizzima in an email interview, “We do not disclose our investments on a country-by-country basis.”

He said, Chevron maintains health and social programmes that improve the quality of life of communities in Burma, where it operates.

“The benefits of Yadana projects community engagement programmes along the pipeline have been confirmed by multiple third-party audits,” Johnstone added.

Chevron intends to be “a force for positive change” and brings international experience and a sound approach to corporate responsibility in working with communities, he said.

“People living near the project are better off by virtue of Chevron and its partners being there,” he said.

Johnstone also said, even if Chevron pulls out of Burma “many competitors would take Chevron’s place – potentially impacting the commitment and level of CE/CR activities along with programmes and opportunities for the people of Myanmar [Burma].”

But Naing Htoo, a Burmese environmental activist, working with the Earth Rights International said, the Yadana project has brought in militarization along the pipeline and evidence speaks of severe human rights violations committed by the soldiers.

He said, as the Burmese Army is responsible for protecting the pipeline, an increasing number of army battalions have been moved along the pipeline in Karen and Mon states of southern Burma.

Rights abuses such as forced labour, land confiscation, forced relocation, rape, torture, and extra-judicial killings have increased in these states since 1992, he added.

Though the Burmese regime earns over US$ 900 million from the Yadana project from 2007, the money fills the coffers of the military and is never spent on development or social welfare programmes.

He said, while the benefits go to the military regime, the locals pay a heavy price for the pipeline and therefore urged the company to pull out of Burma.

Editing by Mungpi

READ MORE---> Chevron determined to retain investments in Burma...

PHOENIX entertainment journal suspended this week

by May Kyaw

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burma’s censor board suspended the publishing license of the ‘PHOENIX’, an entertainment journal for this week’s issue after it published some censored news.

The censor board under the Burmese Ministry of Information suspended the publishing of this week’s issue of this journal. It is published every Thursday.

The censor board also reminded the journal authorities to publish only entertainment news.

“They have no time to edit when the journal is being censored. The censor board can give them permission to publish only on Wednesday. But they already published the journal by that time,” a person belonging to the censor board circle said.

The journal fraternity said that they do not have enough time to make necessary changes if the censor board sends its censored and finalized draft copy on Wednesday for the Thursday issue.

This journal reported the news of objection by the ‘Eleven Media Group’ against the ‘Lucky Eleven’ advertisement by Yangon Media Group in its 27 May issue by carrying out interviews on legal ground.

Though the economic impact on the journal due to a week’s suspension is not too heavy, its marketing will be hit for the newly published journal.

READ MORE---> PHOENIX entertainment journal suspended this week...

Myanmar: Suu Kyi's lawyers optimistic about case

AP Photo/Khin Maung Win

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) -- Lawyers for Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi expressed optimism about her case after the only witness allowed to testify for the defense addressed the court in her trial on charges of violating house arrest.

Closing arguments in a case that could send the Nobel Peace laureate to prison for five years are set to be heard Monday. The defense has argued that there is no legal basis for the charge that Suu Kyi had violated the terms of her house arrest when an uninvited American swam secretly to her home.

Suu Kyi's supporters fear that she may be found guilty because the courts are under the influence of the ruling junta and usually mete out harsh punishment for political dissidents.

But one of Suu Kyi's lawyers, Nyan Win, said Thursday night he was "very confident of victory if the trial is carried out according to law."

The court was in recess Friday.

The trial has drawn outrage from the international community and Suu Kyi's local supporters, who worry that the military junta has found an excuse to keep her detained through next year's elections. Her party won the last elections in 1990 but was not allowed to take power by the military, which has run the country since 1962.

Suu Kyi's defense team acknowledges that 53-year-old John W. Yettaw swam to and entered her lakeside home, where he stayed for two days. They argue, however, that it was the duty of government guards outside her closely watched house to prevent any intruders.

Yettaw was taken to Suu Kyi's residence Thursday, accompanied by dozens of police, to re-enact before court officials how he entered and left her compound, said state-run newspapers Friday, which also published photos of the re-enactment.

Kyi Win, the defense witness who is a legal expert and a member of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, highlighted what appears to be the defense's main argument, that the charge against Suu Kyi is unlawful.

The charge against Suu Kyi cites a 1975 state security law, not the more narrowly defined confinement order for her house arrest.

The 1975 law sets out broader penalties and refers to the 1974 constitution, which was annulled when the military took power in 1988. The country adopted a new charter last year.

Prosecutors seemed very unhappy at his testimony, Kyi Win told reporters outside the courtroom after the trial's ninth day. Accounts of testimony have generally come only from the state press and defense lawyer Nyan Win, because reporters have been barred from all but two of the sessions.

Nyan Win, a lawyer for Suu Kyi, said the defense team would submit a letter Friday seeking permission for a private meeting with their clients on Saturday. Yettaw and two female party members who live with Suu Kyi face the same charge as Suu Kyi and have also pleaded not guilty.

Yettaw, of Falcon, Missouri, told the court Wednesday he had been sent by God to warn Suu Kyi of his premonition that she would be assassinated by terrorists, Nyan Win said. Suu Kyi acknowledges that she allowed him to stay for two days because he said he was too tired and ill to leave immediately.

Yettaw also secretly went to her house late last year but did not meet Suu Kyi. He testified that security personnel observed him during both of his visits but did not try to stop him, Nyan Win said.

Suu Kyi's case and North Korea's recent nuclear test were major topics at a meeting of foreign ministers from the European Union and the 10-nation Association of Southeast Nations in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

The meeting's closing statement Thursday made no direct demand for Suu Kyi's immediate release.

But Jan Kohout, deputy prime minister of the Czech Republic and the meeting's co-chairman, said that "we are still deeply concerned over Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi's detention and (urge) that she should be released immediately."

Myanmar Deputy Foreign Minister Maung Myint said it was inappropriate for the meeting to take up Suu Kyi's cases, because it breached the region's traditional policy of noninterference in each other's affairs.

READ MORE---> Myanmar: Suu Kyi's lawyers optimistic about case...

Solo protestor arrested outside Insein - Zaw Nyunt

(DVB)–An elderly solo protester demonstrating today outside of the prison courtroom where Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi is on trial was arrested by plain-clothed security officials and taken away.

Security has tightened outside of Rangoon’s Insein prison where Suu Kyi, her two caretakers and US citizen John Yettaw are on trial.

Observers say there is an increase in numbers of both uniformed and plain-clothed security officials, including members of the Swan Arr Shin militia group.

The man, said to be in his 50’s, was identified as retired army officer Zaw Nyunt, who is a member of activist group 88 Generation Workers. He held a banner saying ‘Release Mother Suu at once’.

“He had about less than a minute to protest and was quickly taken away by government officials nearby,” said an eye witness.

“He was seen being taken into Insein market located nearby the prison.”

An official on duty at Insein township police station said they heard about the protester but were unable to give out further detail as he didn’t arrive at the station.

“We don’t know where he was taken to or who took him,” said the official.

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

READ MORE---> Solo protestor arrested outside Insein - Zaw Nyunt...

What did Yettaw discuss with Bo Kyi?

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – In a testimony given in the special court hearing of the case in Insein prison yesterday, the American John William Yettaw who swam across the Innya Lake and sneaked into detained leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s residence testified that he once met Bo Kyi from Thai based ‘Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners – Burma (AAPPB).

Mizzima’s reporter Ko Wild interviewed Bo Kyi to find out about what matters they discussed during their meeting.

Q. We heard that Yettaw met you during his visit to the Thai-Burma border. Is it true?

A. Yes, certainly, he met me. We can say he visited AAPP. He came and discussed about political prisoners and he visited our exhibition too.

Q. When did you meet him?

A. Last year. I am not sure of the date or month anymore, I think it was was in November or December last year.

Q. By which name did he introduce himself to you. Was it the name Yettaw?

A. Yes, he told me a name but as you know, we cannot remember and memorize these foreign names.

Q. Did you recognize him when you see the photograph of Mr. Yettaw?

A. When I first saw him in the newspapers, I seemingly recognized him. And then when he talked about writing a book, then I remembered and recognized this man whom I saw here before.

Q. What are the things that you discussed with him?

A. I discussed with him mainly issues of political prisoners, the current situation, about my experience, the experiences of other persons among other things. He also said that he would write a book mainly on the issues of the people persecuted and tortured. He asked me if we would take revenge on these perpetrators. I told him that we would not take revenge on these people and we can forgive them. We are striving for restoration of democracy and human rights in our country. We are not doing it for taking revenge against them. I discussed with him things like that.

Q. Yettaw swam across and entered Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s house. Did he discuss about this plan with you during your meeting with him?

A. No, I don’t know about it. He didn’t say anything about this plan to me.

READ MORE---> What did Yettaw discuss with Bo Kyi?...

Explosions Shake Parts of Moulmein


Three bomb blasts shook parts of Moulmein, the capital of Mon State, on Wednesday. No casualties were reported, the state-run Myanmar Alin newspaper said on Thursday.

The blasts occurred three days after a small explosive device was found in the roof of a lavatory of a train in Naypyidaw-Pyinmana Station.

Reporting on the find, the state-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar claimed insurgent groups had assigned two terrorists to plant bombs in Naypyidaw, Rangoon, Mandalay and other major cities, with the aim of provoking public panic and causing casualties.

One of Burma’s most active armed groups, the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front—known as the “student army”—released a statement on Monday denying it had anything to do with the explosions.

The first two Moulmein explosions occurred within half an hour of each other on Wednesday morning in a drain at the roadside in the city’s Shwe Taung Ward and near the government office in Sit Kare Gone Ward, Myanmar Alin said.

The third blast occurred on Wednesday evening near the office of the International Organization for Migration in Mayan Gone Ward.

According to a Rangoon based reporter, security has been stepped up on roads on the outskirts of Burma’s former capital and check points have been set up. Private vehicles and taxis are being stopped and their drivers questioned.

READ MORE---> Explosions Shake Parts of Moulmein...

Is it Time for Burma and Asean to Part Ways?

The Irrawaddy News

Burma’s military regime wasn’t behaving recklessly when it protested a decision by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to express “grave concern” over the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi. Although Asean has long been a major diplomatic supporter of the junta, even coming to its defense before it became a member in 1997, Burma’s generals no longer seem to regard the grouping as a reliable diplomatic shield.

The generals who rule Burma have probably never seen Asean as anything more than a fig leaf. As far as they are concerned, the regional bloc should stick to its policy of “non-interference” and be silent when the junta commits political crimes on its own soil.

But now that Asean has committed the unforgivable faux pas of criticizing a member state, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, the despotic general who steers the Burmese regime with an iron fist, is not worried, because he knows that his other allies, China and India, will give him the diplomatic cover he needs.

Unlike Asean, Burma’s biggest neighbors know when to mind their own business, a fact that Than Shwe has always appreciated.

“When Than Shwe compares Asean, India and China, he has no trouble making up his mind which one he can do without,” said a Burmese academic who is a close observer of Asean affairs. “I can imagine that the Asean statement [about Suu Kyi’s trial] really upset him,” he added.

Despite its recent meddling, however, Asean has often proven itself to be an indispensable tool for deflecting diplomatic pressure from the regime’s Western critics.

Two weeks after the junta orchestrated an attack on Suu Kyi and her supporters in the Depayin massacre of May 2003, for instance, Asean leaders shamelessly closed ranks around the regime to defend it against charges that it had attempted to assassinate the pro-democracy leader.

“The generals are fully aware that the Asean mechanism is perfect for their power maneuvers, because every member has its own political challenges,” making them all averse to any outside interference from fellow members, said a Burmese observer who used to work at the Asean Secretariat.

Now, however, Asean appears to be more aware that the Burmese generals’ behavior is taking a toll on the grouping’s image. It is also concerned that its bid to bring Burma into the international fold through a tripartite Cyclone Nargis relief and recovery effort, involving the junta, Asean and the United Nations, could fail spectacularly if the generals decide they are no longer interested in cooperating.

If Burma does drift further away from Asean, it would not be the first time it has decided to go it alone. In the 1970s, former dictator Ne Win pulled out of the Non-Aligned Movement, of which Burma was a founding member, after he concluded that it was becoming too radical. As the godfather of the current crop of generals, Ne Win repudiated the more outward-looking attitude of U Nu, Burma’s first and last democratically elected prime minister, in favor of an introverted, and increasingly paranoid, view of Burma’s place in the world. His most lasting foreign policy legacy has been the present rulers’ hostility to outside influences, expressed through occasional xenophobic outbursts against Western “neo-colonialists” and other foreign critics.

For Than Shwe, there can be no question of letting outsiders have a say in Burma’s domestic affairs. He has his heart set on leaving a legacy of his own: a “modern, developed nation” governed by military discipline, with only the slightest of nods to democratic rule. He fully expects Asean and the rest of the world to buy into his delusional vision of Burma’s future, and will not allow anything to stop him from implementing his “road map” to a “disciplined democracy.”

Last year, he dramatically demonstrated this single-minded determination by ignoring the country’s worst-ever natural disaster so that he could go ahead with a referendum on a constitution that would cement the military’s hold on power.

With more than 140,000 people dead or missing in the wake of Cyclone Nargis, you wouldn’t think that Burma had much to celebrate last May; but that didn’t prevent the junta crowing about the new constitution’s overwhelming approval, supposedly by more than 90 percent of the population.

Than Shwe has shown that he is utterly indifferent to the suffering of millions of ordinary Burmese, so why should anyone expect him to care about the rights and freedoms of Aung San Suu Kyi? More to the point, why should he care what Asean thinks about Suu Kyi’s fate? If Asean is tough enough to lay down the law and take real action against the regime, you can be sure that Than Shwe is prepared to take a page from his predecessor’s handbook and plunge the country once again into the total darkness of seclusion from the outside world. After all, he believes that the country has all the natural resources it needs to serve his purposes, and a military strong enough to deal with any domestic or external threat.

What Asean needs to consider is how Burma is affecting the region’s efforts to integrate, and particularly whether its most recalcitrant member is widening the divide between the more politically and economically advanced “old Asean” (Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore) and the bloc’s newer members (Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Burma), with their much smaller economies and more authoritarian systems of rule.

The key to bridging the gap between these two groups is to build an “Asean community that is … more rules-based and more people-oriented”—as Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan described the long-term goal of the new Asean Charter that came into force in December 2008. But if one member of the grouping routinely flouts the principles enshrined in the charter, which includes provisions guaranteeing respect for human rights, it will be dismissed as nothing more than a piece of paper, both by other members less inclined to comply and by Asean’s partners in the rest of the world.

Perhaps the moment has come for Asean to decide whether it is in its own best interests to let the Burmese junta call the shots again. This time, instead of allowing the generals to use Asean’s policy of non-interference as a shield against criticism, the grouping could remind them that there are also other principles at stake. If push came to shove, Than Shwe could very well conclude that membership in Asean is more trouble than it’s worth. But if Than Shwe really is ready to go down Ne Win’s road to ruin, Asean could be forgiven for not wanting to go down with him.

Nyo Ohn Myint is the chair of the Foreign Affairs Department of the National League for Democracy—Liberated Area (NLD-LA). Moe Zaw Oo is the secretary of the NLD-LA’s Foreign Affairs Department.

READ MORE---> Is it Time for Burma and Asean to Part Ways?...

Challenging the Regime’s ‘Big Lie’

The Irrawaddy News

The senior Burmese police officer Brig-Gen Myint Thein tried to get reporters and diplomats this week to believe that Aung San Suu Kyi was to have been released but the regime’s good intentions were stymied by the incident involving her uninvited American visitor, John William Yettaw.

"So within the existing laws, she was regretfully, inevitably charged," he declared.

No thinking person accepts Myint Thein’s sophistry, which recalls the German dictator Adolf Hitler’s famous line: "Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it."

On the day Myint Thein came out with his own big lie, Asian and European Union foreign ministers, including Burma's traditional allies China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, concluded a two-day meeting in Hanoi with a statement calling on Burma’s junta to release Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.

However, this Asian way of "face-saving" has acted as a shield behind which the Burmese regime has been able to lie time and again, since the 1990 election which resulted in an overwhelming triumph for Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy—a victory the generals refused to recognize. They know very well that they have no shortage of friends—governments and individuals alike—to save their shameless face.

For example, at the European Union and China summit in Prague last week, China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said: "The most important thing is to stick to the principles of mutual respect and not interfere in each others’ internal affairs." He also urged the EU to “ensure that our bilateral relationship will not be adversely affected by individual incidents."

Unsurprisingly, in order to safeguard its business dealings with Burma and its unhindered access to Burma's natural resources, China accords its "respect" to the junta and promises not to “interfere” in its “internal affairs,” even though the regime has killed more than 30 peaceful demonstrators and imprisoned more than 1,000.

Across its western borders, Burma receives the same respect from India, wary about disturbing its relations with the Naypyidaw regime because of its interest in Burma's huge oil and gas resources.

India has indeed come a long way since it backed Suu Kyi and her opposition movement, even awarding her its prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Award in 1993.

But indifference to the plight of Suu Kyi is also found outside the borders of China and India, and some Burma observers are even linking the trial to calls for an end to sanctions against the regime.

Reacting to pressure for stricter European sanctions against Burma, Thant Myint-U, a Burmese historian and former UN official, told Britain’s Daily Telegraph: "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."

Similarly, Derek Tonkin, former British Ambassador to Thailand and now chairman of Network Myanmar, commented in a press release: "The universal outrage and dismay which has greeted the trial of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her two companions, Daw Khin Khin Win and the latter's daughter Daw Win Ma Ma, should not blind us to the fact that sanctions against Myanmar applied over the last twenty years have had no effect at all in inducing political reform. Indeed, they have only made matters worse."

The trial of Suu Kyi should not blind people, however, to the indisputable fact that the Burmese government’s criminal disregard for the welfare of its people has led to their impoverishment. This is the same government that fiddled while the Irrawaddy delta drowned, which imprisoned Burmese citizens who dared to help, adding to the more than 2,000 political prisoners now languishing in the country’s jails.

While it’s to be hoped that sanctions will be lifted once the regime allows an all-inclusive participation in Burma’s political and economic development, the punitive measures are not the cause of the country’s poverty. The blame is born entirely by the regime, its mismanagement of the economy and its lack of vision, or even more short of benevolence.

It’s a disgrace that some governments and individuals are still defending the military rulers of Burma and swallowing their lies. For two decades, the Burmese people have suffered while the ruling generals, their cronies, opportunists and their business partners from the neighboring countries have exploited the country's natural resources. That’s the simple truth—any denial is just a big lie.

READ MORE---> Challenging the Regime’s ‘Big Lie’...

Suu Kyi Protester Arrested - Zaw Nyut

The Irrawaddy News

A solo demonstrator was arrested at about 1:20 p.m. On Thursday for protesting outside the prison where pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is being tried for violating the terms of her house arrest, according to witnesses.

Win Tin, a central executive committee member of Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), confirmed reports that a man in his early fifties, identified as Zaw Nyut, was arrested outside Rangoon’s infamous Insein Prison.

“He came from Aung Thukha Street to Insein Road, and demonstrated on the road,” said Win Tin. “He was holding a poster with the words, ‘We must save Amay Suu right now,’ written on it,” he added.

Amay Suu (“Mother Suu”) is how many Burmese refer to Suu Kyi.

“He also shouted slogans demanding the release of Daw Suu,” said Win Tin. “He was arrested by security forces and members of the USDA after taking just four or five steps,” he added, referring to the Union Solidarity and Development Association, a junta-backed organization.

According to witnesses at the scene of the arrest, Zaw Nyut had been coming to the area every day since last Monday, when legal proceedings against Suu Kyi began at a special court inside the prison.

Hundreds of people, including members of the NLD, have gathered outside Insein Prison since the trial started.

READ MORE---> Suu Kyi Protester Arrested - Zaw Nyut...

Asean Parliamentarians Turn Heat on Burma

The Irrawaddy News

BANGKOK — In a move reflecting growing anger towards Burma, parliamentarians from across Southeast Asia want the military-ruled country suspended from a 10-member regional bloc for the unjust treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s pro-democracy leader.

The comments made in Singapore’s legislature during the current parliamentary session offers a window onto the growing pressure that Burma is up against from the countries that belong to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"There have been calls in Singapore’s parliament for Myanmar’s [Burma's] membership [in Asean] to be suspended," says Charles Chong, who has been a legislator for 21 years in the ruling People’s Action Party. "This reflects a growing frustration with Myanmar."

Chong personally feels that the 42-year-old regional bloc, which has just transformed itself into a rules-based entity, should even consider more punitive measures. "Asean should also consider doing more. We should not rule out targeted sanctions," he said during a press conference this week in the Thai capital.

A fellow legislator from neighbouring Malaysia echoes Chong’s sentiments. "Asean should seriously consider the issue of sanctions," says Lim Kit Siang, of Malaysia’s opposition Democratic Action Party.

Both lawmakers are members of a regional caucus of parliamentarians created in 2004 to lobby for political reform and democracy in military-ruled Burma. And the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) has not shied away from strong language as a means of applying pressure on the region’s governments to achieve concrete change within the pariah in their midst.

"AIPMC parliamentarians strongly call on Asean to stop protecting Myanmar’s regime and instead remove them from the grouping until and unless Aung San Suu Kyi is free and genuine efforts to begin national reconciliation are underway," the caucus declared this week in a statement.

"The AIPMC further urges Asean member states to consider imposing targeted sanctions on the military regime generals, and its administration, should they still fail to respect the Asean Charter and continue to oppress its people," it added.

AIPMC’s members come from parliaments in six Asean countries: Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. The other countries in the regional bloc are Brunei, under an absolute monarchy; Laos and Vietnam, ruled by communist regimes; and Burma.

The parliamentarians’ call to suspend Burma from Asean stems from the on-going trial that Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi has been subject to since May 18 in Rangoon’s notorious Insein prison.

The regime has accused the 63-year-old opposition leader of violating the terms of her house arrest - now in its 13th year. If found guilty in this largely secret trial, Suu Kyi could be sentenced to a further five-year jail term.

The junta’s charge followed revelations of a bizarre tale involving a U.S. citizen who had entered Suu Kyi’s house on the banks of a lake in Burma’s former capital and stayed there for a few days as an uninvited guest earlier this month. John William Yettaw, the 53-year-old former Vietnam War veteran, had crept in by swimming across the lake.

Yettaw, a Mormon who had gone on this mission reportedly out of religious zeal, is also facing charges in the on-going trial. So are two female housekeepers of Suu Kyi.

The junta’s latest effort to oppress Suu Kyi is viewed by Burma watchers as an attempt to keep the widely popular pro-democracy icon from playing a pivotal role in a planned general election in 2010.

The junta has billed next year’s poll as a part of its "roadmap to democracy," even though restrictive measures have already been put into place through a new constitution approved last year under questionable circumstances, including blatant reports of fraud.

It is of little wonder why such an attempt at political reform has failed to convince a growing number of concerned countries in the international community. Foreign ministers from Asia and Europe gathered Tuesday in Hanoi for the Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) issued a statement that gave the Burmese junta little room to maneuver.

A joint press statement by Asem members - which happen to include Burma - appealed to the junta to lift all restrictions placed on political parties, free Suu Kyi, and release the over 2,100 political prisoners languishing in the many jails that dot the country.

For its part, the US government announced that it would extend the harsh economic sanctions Washington has imposed on Burma for another year. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has also stepped into the fray, announcing plans to visit Burma, which has been under successive military regimes since a 1962 coup.

"The military regime is aware of the growing pressure and it is feeling the heat," says Soe Aung, spokesman for the Forum for Democracy in Burma, a group of Burmese political activists living in exile. "And it is pressure of the regime’s own making, nobody else."

"[This] has happened when the US government was talking of reviewing its sanctions policy towards Burma," Soe Aung added during an interview. "There is also a debate in the European Union about the sanctions… the European Union may strengthen its sanctions on Burma."

READ MORE---> Asean Parliamentarians Turn Heat on Burma...

Burma Damages Asean’s Image: Surin Pitsuwan

The Irrawaddy News

Burma’s treatment of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners has damaged the image of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), said Surin Pitsuwan, Asean secretary-general.

“The discussion in the room back there was that it [the issue of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners] ...affects Asean's image and Asean's collective interests,” Surin told reporters, following an informal meeting of Asian and EU foreign ministers in Phnom Penh on Thursday.

Pitsuwan said that members of Asean do not wish to interfere in the internal affairs of any member of the regional grouping, but they have to express their feelings when an issue affects the efficiency, the image and the credibility of the organization.

Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win on Thursday warned European and Asean leaders meeting in Cambodia to not comment on the internal affairs of Burma and the ongoing trial of Suu Kyi, who is charged with violating the terms of her house arrest and could receive up to five years imprisonment.

Nyan Win was quoted by Deutsche Presse-Agentur as saying, “We understand that the international community has taken a great amount of interest in this trial, but in doing so it has overlooked the important issue of non-interference.”

“This is an internal legal issue, and it is not a human rights issue,” said Nyan Win.

On Tuesday, Asean released a short statement saying that Thailand, in its capacity as the current Asean chair “shall continue to pursue constructive dialogue with the Government of the Union of Myanmar [Burma].”

As the current chair of Asean, Thailand earlier had released a “chair statement” on Burma and the trial of Suu Kyi.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said that the release of Suu Kyi and all political prisoners in Burma was needed as a step toward national reconciliation and a credible national election in 2010.

On Thursday, a respected Thai political scientist, Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a professor at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, wrote in the English-language newspaper Bangkok Post, saying the Burmese regime was in “flagrant and fundamental violation of the Asean Charter's Section 7 of Article 1 on democracy, good governance and the rule of law and the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

He said the more democratic Asean member countries should carry out “tangible punitive steps to redress Burma’s blatant violation of Charter provisions in order to restore the grouping's credibility.”

Burma ignores all condemnations and international criticism, Pongsudhirak said, and statements of “concern” alone are not enough.

He called for a temporary suspension of Burma's membership in Asean.

READ MORE---> Burma Damages Asean’s Image: Surin Pitsuwan...

Pinheiro Calls for UN Commission of Inquiry

The Irrawaddy News

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the United Nations special reporteur on human rights in Burma from 2000 to 2008, has called for the Security Council to establish a commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity by the Burmese junta with a potential indictment by the International Criminal Court.

In a column in The New York Times on Wednesday, Pinheiro said the action could deter future crimes against humanity and address the widespread culture of impunity in Burma.

The UN official said Aung San Suu Kyi should be released immediately along with all of the country's political prisoners as part of a process of national reconciliation.

During the past 15 years, the Burmese Army has destroyed more than 3,300 villages in a systematic and widespread campaign to subjugate ethnic groups, Pinheiro said. UN reports indicate that Burmese soldiers have recruited child soldiers, used civilians as minesweepers and forced thousands of villagers into slave labor.

He said in December 2008 a Burmese soldier went into an ethnic Karen village in eastern Burma and abducted, raped and killed a 7-year-old girl.

A UN report in 2000 said that an estimated 625 women were systematically raped in Burma's Shan State over a five-year period.

Pinheiro said that since 1990, UN representatives have visited Burma 37 times in an attempt to facilitate dialogue with the political opposition and promote human rights.

The UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council have passed more than 35 resolutions on Burma, he said, but the UN Security Council has yet to pass a single critical resolution. Permanent members of the Security Council have the right of veto, easily preventing the Security Council from taking critical actions against the Burmese government. China, Russia and India are frequent supporters of Burma.

Meanwhile, a global internet campaign was launched on Tuesday with support from world celebrities for detained pro-democracy leader Suu Kyi (www.64forSuu .org). Video, text, images and twitter messages are available.

Also, human rights campaigners are encouraging well-wishers to enter 64-word messages of support for Suu Kyi before her June 19 birthday on the "64 words for Aung San Suu Kyi" Web site (

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown sent birthday wishes to Suu Kyi on Wednesday, joining the online campaign.

Brown wrote: "I add my voice to the growing chorus of those demanding your release. For too long the world has failed to act in the face of this intolerable injustice. That is now changing. The clamor for your release is growing across Europe, Asia and the entire world. We must do all we can to make this birthday the last you spend without your freedom.”

The online campaign, launched on Wednesday, has already received more than 1,400 messages of support for the pro-democracy leader, Web designer Rachel Collinson told Reuters.

Critics have denounced Suu Kyi's trial as a legal charade designed to keep her in detention during the 2010 national election.

Eleven Nobel Prize Peace laureates appealed to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in an open letter on May 18, urging him to take immediate action against the imprisonment of fellow laureate Suu Kyi.

READ MORE---> Pinheiro Calls for UN Commission of Inquiry...

Mizzima UPDATES Day 9 - 28 May 2009

Mizzima News

Interview with Ohn Kyaing (NLD Information department)
Thursday, 28 May 2009 19:07

“U Kyi Win testified for about two hours. It took quite a long time because there were a lot of cross questioning. According to U Nyan Win, who was briefing reporters, there are two points in U Kyi Win’s testimony.”

“The first point is, the prosecution insisted that the restriction imposed on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi refers to the restrictions of the fundamental rights, as defined in the 1974 constitution. They tried to prove their point. And the defence witness Kyi Win said, if it is true that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had restrictions imposed based on the 1974 constitution, then the case is wrong because the constitution is legally not effective anymore.”

“The 1974 constitution is no longer effective because Senior General Than Shwe is his Military-day speech in 1991, clearly said that the 1974 constitution is no more effective. So, the 1974 constitution is no more legal.”

“The second point is that according to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s restriction law, she is not allowed to contact anyone outside. The law specifically used the term ‘Outside’. In this case Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has not made any contacts with the outside, world but it is Yettaw who came by his own will. He crossed the security and came in his own way. So, to speak in legal terms, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has not committed or violated the restriction law and she is innocent. The responsibility lies only with the person who has come in. In the law it states ‘Aung San Suu Kyi, who had restrictions imposed on her cannot contact anyone outside’, if we are to define word by word it would divert the essence. But the prosecution lawyers argued on his point. But Kyi Win made his point clear and strong.”

“The court has announced June 1, as the final date for the submission of appeals by the lawyers.”

“We are sure that we will win the case legally. But we don’t know because since the very beginning, the law has not been able to stop them. Aung San Suu Kyi in her statement yesterday had also said that she is innocent. It is the security guards that are responsible.”


Follow up on solo protest
Thursday, 28 May 2009 18:18

The normally heavily guarded segment of University Avenue where Aung San Suu Kyi’s house is located is currently nearly void of security personnel. Only a single policeman could be seen. The solo protester, who walked up and down the street for a brief period of time, has now vacated the scene.


Demonstration in front of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s house
Thursday, 28 May 2009 17:41

A man wearing a white shirt reading ‘Free Aung San Suu Kyi’ is currently conducting a solo protest in front of the residence of Aung San Suu Kyi on Rangoon’s University Avenue.

A Mizzima undercover correspondent, on the scene, said the man is standing in front of Aung San Suu Kyi’s house in protest with his sign but is not shouting any slogans.

The protest is the second on Thursday. Earlier a retired military man, Zaw Myint, held a solo protest in front of Insein Prison before being arrested by authorities.

A video grab shows authorities in civilian clothes arresting a man for staging a solo protest in front of Insein prison demanding the release of Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon May 28, 2009. Since the trial began on May 18, Suu Kyi's supporters have quietly gathered each day near the prison ringed by armed police and barbed wire barricades. There have been no significant protests so far, but police arrested a lone protester at a market near the prison on Thursday. REUTERS/Democratic Voice of Burma/Handout (MYANMAR POLITICS CRIME LAW) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS

In this photo released by the Democratic Voice of Burma taken Thursday, May 28, 2009, Myanmar officials in civilian clothes arrest a man, third right, for staging a solo protest in front of Insein Prison demanding the release of detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon, Myanmar. The man was later identified as Zaw Nyunt, a former political prisoner. Suu Kyi is charged with violated the terms of her house arrest when an uninvited American swam secretly to her home. She could be punished for five years imprisonment.
(AP Photo/Democratic Voice of Burma, HO)


Police ask Yettaw to reenact his transgression
Thursday, 28 May 2009 17:25

Police on Thursday afternoon took John William Yettaw to University Avenue and asked him to demonstrate how he swam across Inya Lake.

As a result, University Avenue was blocked from 2:30 p.m. (local time) to 4 p.m. During the demonstration Yettaw told police that he accessed Inya Lake via a small drain on University Avenue at the entrance to Than Lwin Street.

In this photo released by Myanmar News Agency on Friday, May 29, 2009, U.S. citizen John William Yettaw, second left, demonstrates how he entered the residence of Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from the backyard on Inya Lake side during the re-enactment Thursday, May 28, 2009 in Yangon, Myanmar. Lawyers for Aung San Suu Kyi expressed optimism about her case after the only witness allowed to testify for the defense addressed the court in her trial on charges of violating house arrest. Closing arguments in a case that could send the Nobel Peace laureate to prison for five years are set to be heard Monday, June 1, 2009. (AP Photo/Myanmar News Agency, HO)


Protester is a retired army man
Thursday, 28 May 2009 16:22

The solo protester, who held aloft banners of 'Free Daw Aung San Suu Ky', in front of the Insein prison at 1:20 p.m. (local time) has been identified as, a 56-year old retired Air Force officer Captain Zaw Nyunt.


Final appeal to be furnished latest by June 1
Thursday, 28 May 2009 16:21

Sources said, june 1, has been fixed for the final submission of appeal by the lawyers of both parties in the trial against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.


Interview with Win Tin (Central Executive Committee member of the NLD)
Thursday, 28 May 2009 16:19

“Today might be the last day of the trial. Even if it is not the last day, there is only one defence witness, Kyi Win that the court has to examine. So I don’t think it would be anything strange.”

“Like other days, people are waiting in groups here and there just talking to each other. There are also five or six police vehicles. And the road blockades and barricades remain in place. Nothing is new and the weather is also not too bad. There is no rain, but it is a little cloudy. The people are just waiting.”

“If the court wants to end the case and pronounce a verdict, and if there are no appeals, then everything could be over by 1 p.m (local time) because there is only one person left. If the court asked both sides to submit their appeals, they will submit. Nyan Win has already prepared an appeal if it is necessary.”

“Kyi Win will be examined today as the last person. Even if the court asked both lawyers (defence and prosecution) to submit their appeals, it could be given immediately and it will be over. And even if the court wants to give the verdict tomorrow, it will only take about half an hour or an hour.”

“And the rest is normal. It is all the same. Residents nearby gave us food, water and some edibles as usual. I don’t know the situation in other areas. Because we do not have communication as the roads are blocked. The roads are blocked from about a mile away from the Insein prison. So, once we have reached this side it is quite difficult to get back. People came from other townships like Hmawbe, Einme, Pathein etc. Many youths also came, it is just like other days.”


Solo protester outside Insein prison demands Suu Kyi’s release
Thursday, 28 May 2009 15:49

Authorities arrested a man on Thursday for staging a solo protest in front of Rangoon’s notorious Insein prison and demanding the release of Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Zaw Nyunt (50), a former political prisoner, held aloft a banner saying ‘Free Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’ and stood in protest in front of the prison gate for a brief five minutes. He was immediately taken away by security officials.

An eyewitness told Mizzima that the protester held a banner with slogans like “Release Our Mother Daw Suu” and other writings.

The eyewitness account…

At about 1 p.m. (local time), a man staged a solo protest in front of the Insein prison. He held a white banner on which he had written his demands.

His demands were written with a soft-pen. The protest was only for a brief five minutes. He held his hands high. But I could not read the letters on the banner properly. He was taken away by the security officials to the upper storey of the Insein Bazaar.

He was taken away a few minutes ago by about 20 officials including the police, Special Branch (police), members of USDA. He was taken away from the place where we are sitting to the upper storey. It looks like the police were standing by.

They seemed to have got orders from above. Police with arms could be seen everywhere. There are about a hundred of them and they seem to be troubling the people who are waiting.

Another eyewitness…

The people are fine and everything is good. The security personnel seem to be finding fault with them.

Currently, there are three police vehicles and two prison vans standing by. They are not positioned only at the barricades but are scattered. There are also about 70 people in front of the fire brigade. They all seem to be in a standby mode. Today there are a lot of intelligence personnel too.

Now they have taken the protester outside the Insein bazaar.


Yettaw’s testimony disturbs judges
Thursday, 28 May 2009 15:33

Though the court had initially thought of giving a verdict on the trial against opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Friday, May 29, the testimony of Yettaw on Wednesday, where he said he had met security officials guarding the residence of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi during his visit, made it difficult for the judges in deciding on the case, sources in the police told Mizzima.

Yettaw, in his testimony said he was not troubled by the security guards. Due to his testimony, the judges found it difficult in giving a verdict on Friday and were reportedly forced to prolong the trial until next week, a senior police officer told Mizzima.

Yettaw, in his testimony, said during his first visit to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi he met armed security personnel on his way out but they did not trouble him except asking a few questions. And during his second visit, he met five armed security personnel but they only threw stones at him and did not troubled him further.

He added that he had gone to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s house because he had a vision that a group of terrorist is about to assassinate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and God had send him to inform her and the Burmese government.


Interview with Aye Thar Aung (Secretary of Committee Representing Peoples’ Parliament)
Thursday, 28 May 2009 15:30

“In 1988 people had demonstrated their desire to transform the country into a democracy. People fought and sacrificed. But until today, the junta has not changed. Initially they pretended to be following the peoples’ desire by allowing formation of political parties and to contest the election. But when they did not win in the election, they did not honour the 1990 election results. Instead the junta continued to repress political activists and put pressure on them by arresting and sentencing them to long prison terms. So, looking at these actions, we have seen the military government’s lies and that they have lied again and again in order to sustain their rule.”

“Now in the case of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, she was supposed to be freed yesterday [May 27], but the junta planned to send her to prison. This is clearly the junta’s way of sustaining power.”


Junta rejects UN Security Council’s demand
Thursday, 28 May 2009 13:40

Despite the United Nations Security Council urging implementation of an all inclusive political dialogue including Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and other stake-holders and initiate reconciliation, Burma’s military government has said it will continue with its planned 2010 election as part of its roadmap to democracy.

Following the trial against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the UNSC issued a statement on May 22 expressing its concern over developments in Burma. In response to the UNSC’s statement, the junta, in the state-run newspaper on Thursday, said Burma now has a new constitution and under its guidelines will hold a multi-party general election in 2010.

The UNSC, in its press statement, called on the junta to create necessary conditions for a genuine dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all concerned parties and ethnic groups in order to achieve an inclusive national reconciliation with the support of the United Nations.

The UNSC also called for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners.

But the junta, in the newspaper said, charging and conducting a trial against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is a part of ensuring the rule of law in the country and will not have any political impact.

The junta said, Burma has approved a new constitution, which is drafted by over 1,000 representatives of the people. And as the fifth step of the roadmap, Burma will hold a general election.

READ MORE---> Mizzima UPDATES Day 9 - 28 May 2009...

Junta retraining militia

By Khun Aung Kham

(Shanland) -The Burma army’s Kengtung based Triangle Region Command has ordered veteran militias to attend new training courses, according to sources from the border.

Around 250 militia members from Tachilek and Mongphyak townships were ordered to attend the training in Kengtung, 160 km north of Thai-Burma border. Each village headman was also ordered to collect money from villagers to pay for the cost of the trainees.

The fee for transportation and food may cost 10,000 Kyat ($ 10) for each trainee.

“ The salary of trained militias will be provided by the government. The amount may be similar to the Burma army. But the militias have to obey orders from the military like regular soldiers,” said the G-1 officer during the closing ceremony on 9 May.

A militiaman from Talerh told SHAN, “The training was not only about combat but also about intelligence: keeping watch on the villagers, checking guests and supporting the regular army.”

The Burma army is giving militia trainings in many townships in Shan State,but the cost has to be paid by the local populace, according to him.

READ MORE---> Junta retraining militia...

Mongla follows Wa to reject border force proposal

Peng Jiafu, Bao Youxiang and Sai Leun aka Lin Mingxian

S.H.A.N. - A week after Panghsang, the capital of free Wa territory, turned down the ruling military council’s proposition to transform itself to a junta-run border security force, one of its main allies Mongla has followed suit, according to a reliable source from the Sino-Burma border.

A letter written to Brig Gen Kyaw Phyoe, Commander of Kengtung-based Triangle Region Command, yesterday says the National Democratic Alliance Army-Eastern Shan State (NDAA-ESS), the group’s official name, is not ready to become a border security force.

Naypyitaw’s front man Lt-Gen Ye Myint last month made the proposal that all ceasefire groups transform themselves into 326 strong units, commanded by their own officers but supervised by 30 junta officers.

The reply followed a summit meeting among Kokang, Wa and Mongla groups last week, when the decision was reportedly made to place all the three armies under a joint command, in the event of hostilities. Kokang was represented by Vice chairman Peng Jiafu, Wa by Bao Youxiang and Mongla by Sai Leun aka Lin Mingxian.

Another source meanwhile said the Wa have newly acquired 10 armored vehicles at Y 8 million ($ 1 million) each. However, the report is yet to be confirmed by Wa sources in Panghsang.

The Burma Army on the other hand, will be putting to use weapons imported from North Korea, according to a local businessman. “It will also kill a lot of civilians in the vicinity,” an army officer was quoted as saying recently.

According to Bangkok-based Altsean-Burma and US-based Human Rights Watch, Pyongyang has sold a number of military items to Burma, which include 130 mm M 46 field guns and truck-borne multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) with a range about 65 km.

Relations between the armed ceasefire groups and the Burma Army have turned from bad to worse as the 2010 nationwide elections draw near. While the former are insisting on a federal system of government, the country’s military leaders continue to advocate a military-led “democracy.”

READ MORE---> Mongla follows Wa to reject border force proposal...

Internet users watched in northern Burma

Written by KNG

The Burmese military junta’s surveillance of internet cafés has given cold feet to internet users in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State in Northern Burma, a source said.

A local internet user said the secret police in plainclothes drop into internet cafés and look around. They stand or sit beside internet users to monitor which website they are surfing.

“I saw a police woman using the internet sitting beside me and she was checking what I was surfing all the time. Initially, I didn’t know that she was a policewoman but later I understood when I saw her police identity card beside her chair,” an internet user told KNG.

She added that in internet cafés, not many users surf banned websites but they view other sites also. If the police keep checking every time, it disturbs them.

There are less than 10 internet cafes in Myitkyina downtown and the charges for surfing are 1,000 kyats equivalent to about US $1 for an hour. Not many internet cafés are safe to use in town, she added.

This year in February, the police detained two Kachin local internet users from Yuzana quarter for surfing websites banned by the ruling military junta, said a resident.

READ MORE---> Internet users watched in northern Burma...

MNDF-LA releases statement in advance of 2010 election

By Asah, IMNA
27 May 2009

Today the Mon National Democratic Front, located in the Liberated Area, released a statement titled “statement commemorating the 1990 general election,” concerning the 1990 election results, Aung San Su Kyi, and their stance on the upcoming 2010 election.

The statement cites the successful election of Aung San Su Kyi in 1990, who was ultimately denied power by the Burmese government, as a central reason to side against the government in the coming election. In 1990 the National League for Democracy (NLD) candidate, Aung San Su Kyi, won in a landslide election to the surprise of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), which had hoped to use the election to legitimize its rule.

Aung San Su Kyi, according to the statement, is the only political actor to be able to solve the nation’s problems as well as many of the unresolved issues for ethnic groups. The statement goes on to urge the Burmese government to release Aung San Su Kyi so that she can continue to work towards solving the nation’s problems.

When asked by an IMNA reporter, MNDF-LA general secretary Nai OauSar stated, “The statement requests the release of Daw Aung San Su Kyi because in the 1990 election, the military government requested that the 100 parties work towards solutions for both national issues as well as solutions for ethnic nationality. But all the groups supported Daw Aung San Su Kyi’s solutions to the national issues.”

A germane issue addressed in the MNDF-LA statement is that the SPDC’s 2008 constitutional referendum to the constitution granted no rights to ethnic groups. Additionally the 2008 referendum stripped national groups of their political rights, who had been hoping for the opportunity to gain political influence in their own states. The statement goes on to say that the 2008 referendum prepared the government for the coming 2010 election, and that if any group participates they will be cutting off the possibility of future elections. Anyone who cooperation in the election is “betraying their nationality,” said the MNDF-LA in their statement.

Nai Oau Sar added, “The aim of the statement is to remind members of the Mon nationality to not join with the military and to stand against the government in the coming 2010 election.”

READ MORE---> MNDF-LA releases statement in advance of 2010 election...

Unidentified group from Burma enters Bangladesh, opens fire

Dhaka (Narinjara): An unidentified armed group from Burma fired several rounds in a remote village in Bangladesh near the Burma border after entering Bangladesh territory, said a villager.

“About 15 armed men fired many gunshots in the air making villagers flee when they entered our village,” he said.

The incident occurred in a remote village located in Nakhongsari Township in Bandarban hill district, near Burma border on May 20.

“Our village is small and located at the upper end of a river in Bangladesh which local people call “Pan Wa creek”. All the villagers fled from the village when they saw the armed men who fired in the air,” the villager said.

All the armed men were wearing green coloured uniforms like those of the Burmese Army but the villagers could not identify whether they were Burmese Army troops or Arakanese guerrillas.

The incident was reported by villagers to the border forces in Nakhongsari. However, there is no information whether Bangladeshi border security forces pushed them back to Burma, a local source said.

A monk from the area said, the armed group collected ransom from bamboo and wood cutters, working in the area, before they left.

Most villagers in the area are apprehensive of their security after the incident, said the monk.

READ MORE---> Unidentified group from Burma enters Bangladesh, opens fire...

Suu Kyi Trial Nears End

The Irrawaddy News

RANGOON (AP)— Burma's military government said Thursday that its trial of Aung San Suu Kyi would have no political impact, though many have criticized the proceedings as a ploy to sideline the pro-democracy leader during elections scheduled for 2010.

The highly popular Suu Kyi, whom the regime has sought to remove from the political arena through years of detention, is on trial for violating the terms of her house arrest after an American man swam to and sneaked into our lakeside home.

A Foreign Ministry statement, carried in state-owned newspapers, said the trial was strictly related to the rule of law and "will not have any political impact."

"The government, therefore, will hold multiparty general elections, fifth step of the Road Map, in 2010," the statement said, referring to the junta's "road map to democracy," which critics say will merely extend the military's decades-long rule under the guise of democracy.

The only witness the defense is allowed to call was scheduled to appear at Thursday's court session as the proceedings seemed to be nearing their end.

One of Suu Kyi's lawyers, Nyan Win, said that all but one of her witnesses had been disqualified, making it likely that the verdict will come this week.

If convicted, the 63-year-old Suu Kyi could be sentenced to five years in prison. Burma's courts operate under the influence of the military and usually deal harshly with political dissidents.

John W. Yettaw, the American whose uninvited visit to Suu Kyi's home triggered the case against her, testified Wednesday that he was "sent by God" to make his nighttime swim to her compound earlier this month, according to Nyan Win.

The regime's critics charge that the case against the Nobel Peace laureate—who has been in detention without trial for more than 13 of the past 19 years—was concocted to keep her detained during elections the government has planned for next year. She pleaded not guilty Friday.

Nyan Win said Wednesday that legal expert Kyi Win would testify that her harboring Yettaw did not constitute a violation of her house arrest and that it was the duty of government guards outside her property to prevent any intrusions.

Kyi Win, a member of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, was briefly arrested after the bloody 1988 pro-democracy uprising and two years later won a parliamentary seat in elections the regime has never recognized.

The rejected witnesses were another lawyer and two senior members of Suu Kyi's party.

The court said legal procedure allows it to reject witnesses who are proposed "for the purpose of vexation or delay or for defeating the ends of justice."

Nyan Win told reporters it was unfair and inappropriate to reject witnesses in such an important case. He said the court had approved 23 prosecution witnesses, of whom 14 took the stand.

He said the court would hear Kyi Win's testimony on Thursday and judgment "is likely" to be made on Friday.

Two female party members who live with Suu Kyi, and the 53-year-old Yettaw, face the same charge as Suu Kyi and have also pleaded not guilty.

During three hours of prosecution questioning on Wednesday, Yettaw, of Falcon, Missouri, spoke repeatedly of his plan to warn Suu Kyi of his premonition that she would be killed, said Nyan Win, who added that he said he had been sent by God.

Yettaw, who also secretly visited the house late last year without meeting Suu Kyi, said he visited because "in his vision, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi would be assassinated by terrorists and the terrorists would put the blame on the government. So he came to warn both the government and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi," according to Nyan Win. "Daw" is a term of respect used for older women.

Many of Suu Kyi's supporters have criticized Yettaw as a fool or dupe for getting her into trouble.

Nyan Win said the defense had nothing to ask the man.

Suu Kyi acknowledges that she allowed him to stay for two days after he swam across a lake to enter her house and then said he was too tired and ill to leave immediately.

In a statement submitted to the court Tuesday, Suu Kyi said she intended to report the visit through her doctor, Tin Myo Win, one of the few outside people allowed to see her. But after the intrusion, Tin Myo Win was not allowed into her house and was later held by authorities for more than a week. He has not appeared at the trial.

Yettaw testified that security personnel observed him during both his visits to Suu Kyi's house, said Nyan Win. But in neither case did they try to stop him.

The trial has sparked intense criticism worldwide of Burma's military regime, even among the country's Asian neighbors that normally refrain from commenting on its internal affairs.

Burma has been under military rule since 1962, even though Suu Kyi's party won the 1990 general election.

READ MORE---> Suu Kyi Trial Nears End...

Three of a family commits suicide

Sittwe (Narinjara): Three members of a family in Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State, committed suicide today by consuming poison, said a relative.

“It is very sad and tragic. All the family members died on the spot after having poison,” he said.

The victims were identified as U Aung Hla Sein (33), his son Soe Win (11) and his daughter Aye San dar Khin (10). All of them are from Bauk Thi Su quarter in Sittwe.

“We found them on the floor in their house at 10: 30 a.m. No one was alive,” he said.

The suicide could be related to their deteriorating family business. The children’s mother left the family a few years ago in search of a job in Thailand, local sources said.

“The children’s mother went to Thailand a few years ago and has not returned home. The family was also suffering because of this,” local sources said.

The bodies of the family members were sent to Sittwe general hospital today noon for post mortem. Many sympathizers from the town visited the hospital.

READ MORE---> Three of a family commits suicide...

Pro-junta people do not want KIA transformed

Written by KNG

Local members of the Burmese military junta backed Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) do not favour the idea of transforming the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) into a battalion of the "Border Security Force" of the regime, said local sources.

The regime's Telecommunication Minister Brig-Gen Thein Zaw was greeted by USDA members in Kachin State in 2008.

The regime's Telecommunication Minister Brig-Gen Thein Zaw was greeted by USDA members in Kachin State in 2008.
While local Kachin people, who are members of USDA and the junta's administrators of quarters and villages in Myitkyina Township did not publicly release any statement or made an announcement but the fact is that they abhor the idea of transforming the KIA, the biggest Kachin ceasefire group in the country, said local USDA sources.

The first reason is that the junta and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the political wing of the KIA did not have any political dialogue since the KIO/A signed a ceasefire agreement with the regime on February 24, 1994.

The second reason being that they want rulers of Kachin State to be Kachins and the state should be self-determined which is impossible with the junta-centric country's new constitution.

On the other hand, Kachin church leaders have also rejected the regime's proposal to change KIA to a Border Security Force battalion before the political problems are resolved, according to local church sources in Myitkyina.

Meanwhile, the KIO’s central committee is receiving more and more letters from the Kachin people in the country and abroad suggesting that it reject the junta’s proposal, said KIO central committee's sources.

On the issue of KIA’s transformation, leaders of the KIO and the regime met twice at the regime's Northern Command HQ based in Myitkyina on April 28 and May 21. However the KIO leaders did not give a clear answer in black or white to the junta on the proposal. They want a negotiation on it, said KIO leaders.

Meanwhile, the regime withdrew the house arrest of Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on May 26 but continues to detain her in Insein Prison in Rangoon. She has been charged in connection with an American John William Yettaw’s arrest two weeks ago for allegedly swimming across Innya Lake and entering Suu Kyi's home and staying there for two days.

According to KIO leaders, the regime will reject any outside pressure on it regarding the current arrest and trial of Suu Kyi before they conclude the 2010 election in the country. This is a strong commitment of the regime.

READ MORE---> Pro-junta people do not want KIA transformed...

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