Friday, May 29, 2009

Irrawaddy News Weekly Business Roundup - May 29, 2009

The Irrawaddy News

Trade Unions Pressure Chevron on Burma

Two American trade unions backed by a several human rights groups have attempted to force US oil giant Chevron to justify its continued involvement with the “pariah military regime” of Burma.

The teamsters’ and AFL-CIO unions sought to press a vote at Chevron’s annual shareholders’ meeting in California on Wednesday to disclose business dealings in Burma, where it has a stake in the Yadana gas field.

The disclosure bid, which garnered 25 percent of the vote but failed to pass, questioned the Chevron management’s political risk assessment criteria.

“We’re pleased that other Chevron shareholders recognize the enormous legal, financial, political and reputational risks associated with operating in Burma,” said teamsters’ general-secretary Thomas Keegel after the vote.

“The Burmese military junta is one of Chevron's partners in Yadana through its military-run oil company, Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise.

That makes Chevron business partners with a pariah military regime that has brutally dominated the people of Burma and that has put a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest.”

Chevron, which has a 28 percent share in the Yadana field, managed by France’s Total, says it will not quit Burma, despite pressure also from the US Congress.

The Californian company insists that its business presence in Burma benefits ordinary people.

China’s Green Policy Stops at Border where River Changes Name

A Chinese state-owned company is pressing ahead with a project to build a large dam on the Salween River in Burma—after the Beijing government ordered a halt to similar projects along the same river in China.

Praise has been lavished on China’s Pemier Wen Jiabao for suspending dam work on the upper reaches of the Nujiang River, reportedly over environmental concerns.

But those concerns appear to evaporate after the 3,240-kilometer river from the foothills of the Himalayas crosses into Burma.

The Chinese Sinohydro Corporation construction company is still moving ahead with a 1,200-megawatt hydroelectric dam scheme on the same river at Hatgyi in Karen State.

In Burma, the river is called the Salween and the military regime is unconcerned about the environment. Chinese and Thai government state agencies are involved in the Hatgyi project.

Environmentalists say the concerns now apparently preoccupying government officials across the border in China do not apply in Burma, where a number of controversial dams are proposed.

“All of the dams planned on the Salween River will greatly disrupt the riverine ecosystem and destroy the livelihoods of those peoples living along the river,” says the NGO Burma Rivers Network. “Large areas of land…will be flooded. Those living along the river will be forcibly relocated, likely without compensation.”

Most of the electricity from the Hatgyi project is earmarked for Thailand.

Burma, Bangladesh Discuss Improved Sea Links to Boost Trade

Burma and Bangladesh are attempting to improve trade and cooperation in the Arakan coastal region border area between the two countries.

Proposals for agricultural fertilizer factories, hydroelectric schemes and commercial coastal traffic between Chittagong and Sittwe were discussed at a ministerial level meeting, according to Bangladeshi media reports.

The two sides talked about ways of boosting the value of bilateral trade more than 300 percent—from US $140 million a year in 2008 to US $500 million in 2010.

The proposals, between a Bangladeshi delegation led by Foreign Minister Dipu Moni and several of Burma’s military leaders, including energy minister Gen Lun Thi, came despite friction in other relations between the two countries.

The issue of sea territory boundaries between the two countries in the Bay of Bengal remains unresolved, and Dhaka is expected to refer that issue to the United Nations for arbitration.

Both sides claim areas believed to harbor lucrative undersea natural gas deposits.

New Cyclone Hits Fishing, Rice Industries

Cyclone damage in Burma’s Arakan State has damaged coastal shrimp farms and agricultural crops while other farming communities are still trying to recover from last year’s Cyclone Nargis.

Cyclone Aila earlier this week ripped through coastal areas on both sides of the border between Burma and Bangladesh.

Hundreds of flimsy built houses have been destroyed and fishing and shrimp farming businesses badly dislocated, according to the Kaladan news agency.

The cost of damage has not yet been assessed. Reports from Arakan say the authorities had made little or no preparation for this year’s cyclone season.

Burma’s fishing and rice industries are still struggling to recover from the devastation wreaked by Nargis one year ago.

READ MORE---> Irrawaddy News Weekly Business Roundup - May 29, 2009...

A Guilty Verdict is Certain, but What Then?

The Irrawaddy News

Despite a note of guarded optimism struck by one of Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyers and notwithstanding mounting international pressure, there is no real indication that her trial in Rangoon will end in her acquittal and release.

“We don't accept pressure and interference from abroad,” said Burma’s Deputy Foreign Minister Maung Myint.

“The case against Aung San Suu Kyi is an internal legal issue,” he told a meeting of the European Union and Southeast Asian ministers in Cambodia.

Since the pro-democracy leader was first arraigned on a charge of violating the terms of her house arrest, international pressure has been increasing to unexpected levels, even from the organization where the regime traditionally finds protection, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

Strong statements came from world leaders such as US President Barack Obama, who said, “It is time for the Burmese government to drop all charges against Aung San Suu Kyi and unconditionally release her and her fellow political prisoners. Obama’s administration—which had been reviewing its hard-line policy towards Burma—also extended its economic sanctions against the junta right after her arrest on May 14.

Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown delivered a particularly strong and impassioned statement, talking of action to ensure the release of Suu Kyi.

The statement, issued to mark Suu Kyi’s 64th birthday on June 19, declared: “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 not changing. The clamour 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 UN Security Council was prompted to break its silence, expressing its concern over Suu Kyi’s arrest and trial and the current deadlocked political situation.

Asean, which is always cautious about criticizing its members, said the action now taken against Suu Kyi had damaged the image of the grouping. Asean’s Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said Burma’s treatment of the pro-democracy leader and other political prisoners has damaged Asean’s image. The Thai government, the current chair of Asean, also expressed its concern over Suu Kyi’s trial and her state of health.

All these expressions of concern, however, fall on deaf ears in Naypyidaw. The junta’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that the trial “will not have any political impact. The government, therefore, will hold multiparty general elections, fifth step of the roadmap in 2010.”

There it is. Now it’s clear. Suu Kyi will be sentenced to three or five years imprisonment at the end of this carefully orchestrated trial, which is likely to end next week, according to Suu Kyi’s legal team.

So, what then? What can be expected from world leaders such as Obama and Brown and organizations such as the UN Security Council and Asean?

For his part, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Burma from 200 to 2008, has called for the Security Council to establish a commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity committed by the junta, with the possibility of obtaining an indictment by the International Criminal Court.

In the case of Asean, it is being suggested that the grouping might want to suspend Burma because of the damage it is doing to its image.

World leaders like Obama and Brown can work with the international bodies, the UN, EU and Asean, and even with Burma’s closest allies, China, India and Russia, which are quietly guarding their business interests with the junta by turning a blind eye to the trial and other injustices.

All need only one thing—political will.

READ MORE---> A Guilty Verdict is Certain, but What Then?...

Media Watchdog Criticizes ‘One-Sided’ Coverage of Suu Kyi Trial

The Irrawaddy News

The international media watchdog organization Reporters Without Borders released a statement on Thursday condemning Burma’s ruling military junta for allowing only one-sided coverage of the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi.

In a press release dated May 28, the group urged the regime to lift all restrictions on coverage of the trial, in which the Nobel Peace Prize laureate faces charges of violating the terms of her house arrest for allowing an American intruder into her home.

Since the trial began last Monday, Burmese journalists from Rangoon-based publications have complained that they cannot report on it freely due to heavy restrictions on press freedom.

They added that they have been told by the authorities to base their reports on “official” accounts contained in state-run publications such as The New Light of Myanmar. They have also been instructed not to print photos of Suu Kyi.

“We are permitted to publish reports about this news in similar terms to those of the state-run newspapers,” said an editor working with a leading journal in Rangoon, speaking to The Irrawaddy on Friday.

“We cannot report or quote what we want,” he added. “We can only report [what we’ve been told].”

In an apparent response to complaints about the lack of transparency surrounding the trial, on May 26 the regime allowed 25 Burmese journalists into the courtroom inside Rangoon’s notorious Insein Prison. Ten of the journalists worked for Burmese media and 15 were local journalists working for international news agencies.

Ten journalists were previously allowed to attend the trial on May 20.

However, this slight concession to international pressure has done little to convince Suu Kyi’s supporters that she will receive a fair trial.

Nyan Win, a spokesperson for Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), told The Irrawaddy on Friday: “Burmese newspapers are controlled by the military government, and it was the government that charged Aung San Suu Kyi. So we cannot expect a free and fair trial.”

Reporters Without Borders was also unimpressed with the junta’s gesture, which came amid a growing outcry from Western governments and even some of Burma’s Asian neighbors, who have traditionally been reluctant to speak out about the country’s “internal matters.”

“The military government’s gestures of openness towards the media are inconsistent,” said Reporters Without Borders. “Burmese journalists are or are not allowed into the trial at the military’s whim, while foreign journalists are carefully kept away.”

“The Burmese public is not being properly informed as the military’s prior censorship prevents any independent coverage. The lack of transparency makes a fair verdict even more unlikely,” said the group in its press release.

The ban on unauthorized coverage also extends to so-called “citizen journalists,” who have been warned by police stationed outside the prison not to take photos of Suu Kyi or her supporters.

A Burmese journalist in Rangoon who is working with a foreign news agency told The Irrawaddy that he is constantly confronted with difficulties when confirming details deemed by the Burmese authorities to be “sensitive matters.”

READ MORE---> Media Watchdog Criticizes ‘One-Sided’ Coverage of Suu Kyi Trial...

Burma should listen to the world: FM

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation

The Burmese military junta should respond in positive to international pleas to release opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said yesterday.

Burma should take into consideration seriously as the international community unanimously called the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners for national reconciliation, he said.

It is very rare the international community from the United Nations Security Council, the United States, the European Union, the Asean and countries in East Asia took the same stance on the Burma, he said.

"Now the ball is in their court, I think Burma is thinking about the call seriously," Kasit told reporters.

Aung San Suu Kyi's is on the trial for the charge of breaching her house arrest term as an American John Yettaw swam across the Inya Lake to her resident in Rangoon.

The meetings of Asia-Europe in Hanoi and EU-Asean in Phnom Penh this week were dominated by Burma issue. Ministers to the meetings expressed their concern and called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Burma, however, stayed the court defending it was internal affairs and trial was conducted in accordance with its laws.

Kasit said Burma as a member of the Asean has an obligation to comply with Asean Charter which guilds the regional grouping to a people caring community.

"Of course, the charter's text has no sanction clause but there is a moral obligation which members have to comply," he said.

It is not interference in domestic affairs since all concerns were raised with good intention to see progressive of national reconciliation in Burma, he said.

"How the national reconciliation could take place if Aung San Suu Kyi was under detention. The process is not inclusive," he said.

Burma's political situation would loom large again next week when leaders of the Asean gathered in South Korea's Jeju Island to commemorate 20th year anniversary of Korea-Asean relation.

READ MORE---> Burma should listen to the world: FM...

Forced recruitment of tribal youths into Burmese Army

Dhaka (Narinjara): Officers have forcibly recruited Khami tribal youths, especially from Pelatwa and Buthidaung Township on the western Burma border to serve in the Burmese Army, said Aung Soe a Khami youth in the area.

Army officers from LIB 55 and 289 have recruited our youths in the border area with the help of some Khami leaders who are supporters of the Burmese Army. Some Khami youths have joined the army while some have fled from the areas to avoid recruitment,” Aung said.

Khami is an ethnic nationality of Burma and most Khami people live in Arakan state and southern Chin State.

“Most of our youths are unable to speak Burmese language fluently but yet the army officials recruited them. The Burmese Army needs more youths to serve in the armed forces, so they have recruited young men no matter who they are,” Aung said.

Army officials have to provide some assistance like rice and money to the family after recruiting youths from the families.

Aung Said, “Two bags of rice and 10,000 Kyats have been given by army officials to the families whose youth joined the Burmese Army.”

The Burmese Army has recently registered a decrease in the number of youths joining in two western provinces after many youths in Arakan and Chin went looking for jobs in Thailand and Malaysia illegally.

“Most of our youths were engaged in mountain cultivation with the family before but they are now leaving for neighbouring countries like Thailand, Malaysia and India as well as Bangladesh looking for jobs. There are good jobs for our young people,” Aung said.

The Burmese junta has disallowed mountain cultivation in the western parts of Burma to prevent deforestation. Because of this many Khami young people became jobless and later left for neighbouring countries. The remaining youths in the area have been forced to join the army.

The recruitment of Khami youths started this year and local army officials are carrying out the plan in accordance with the instructions of senior Burmese Army officials from the western command based in Ann.

READ MORE---> Forced recruitment of tribal youths into Burmese Army...

Surrender groups to be transformed as police force

By Hseng Khio Fah

(Shanland) All armed groups in Shan State that had surrendered have been told to become police units by June, just as the ceasefire groups will be transformed as border guard force before the upcoming general 2010 elections.

On 17 May, all the surrender groups were summoned to regional commands in Taunggyi and Lashio.
[Moeng Zeun, Shan State Army’s former 758th Brigade commander]

Moeng Zeun, Shan State Army’s former 758th Brigade commander

The Pa-O National Organization (PNO) led by Aung Kham Hti and Moeng Zeun, Shan State Army’s former 758th Brigade commander, will be reorganized as Special Commando Police forces.

The PNO, formed in 1976, concluded a ceasefire agreement with Rangoon in 1991. Its leader Aung Kham Hti is also a co-chairman of the junta-organized Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) Shan State South branch. Moeng Zeun’s Namhu militia surrendered on 17 July 2006.

However, Moeng Zeun was killed in the attack on 24 May between Namhu and Kholam, Namzang Township, 72 miles east of Taunggyi, by the Shan State Army (SSA-South) patrol.

His funeral services will be concluded today (Friday 29).

On 26 May, there was another clash again between Mongkeung and Laikha at 47th milestone. One Namhu militia member who was on his way to Moeng Zeun’s funeral with his commander Sai Ta was reportedly killed.

According to the SSA spokeman, Maj Lao Hseng, there have been four clashes within this month between the SSA and the Burma Army, during which the rebels had inflicted more than 20 casualties and seized more than 20 assorted weapons.

Since early 2009, the Burma Army has been forcing villages in several townships in Shan State to set up militia units.
It has also been giving military trainings for militias. In addition, villagers over 18 years old are being ordered to join fire brigades or Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA).

READ MORE---> Surrender groups to be transformed as police force...

Singapore says ASEAN expulsion will not change Burma

(DVB-AFP)–Expelling Burma from ASEAN isn't the way to bring about reform in the military-ruled nation even if it tarnishes the group's credibility, the Singapore government said yesterday.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations will have greater influence on Burma by maintaining dialogue instead of isolating it or imposing sanctions, said Zainul Abidin Rasheed, senior minister of state at Singapore’s foreign ministry.

Burma has been in the spotlight recently for its treatment of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is on trial for violating her house arrest after an American man swam to her lakeside home.

She faces up to five years in jail if convicted in a case that has triggered strong international condemnation.

Speaking in the Singapore parliament, Zainul acknowledged that "domestic developments in [Burma] have adversely affected the reputation and credibility of Asean."

But expelling the country from the regional bloc isn't the right way to induce reforms, he said.

"The question of expulsion or suspension which are often raised by external observers of ASEAN is not as straightforward as it seems," Zainul said, noting that Western sanctions have had little effect on the country.

"We have always believed in ASEAN that we have more influence over [Burma], however limited, through engagement rather than isolating it."

The comments echoed those of Thailand’s ASEAN chair, Surin Pitsuwan, who on Wednesday said expressed concern about Burma membership in the bloc.

Speaking on the sidelines of talks between ASEAN and European Union leaders in Hanoi, Thailand’s ASEAN chair, Surin Pitsuwan, warned of damage to the bloc’s credibility, with Burma an ever more controversial member.

"The discussion in the room back there was that [Suu Kyi’s trial]... affects ASEAN's image and ASEAN's collective interests," he told reporters.

READ MORE---> Singapore says ASEAN expulsion will not change Burma...

Thai senators call for Suu Kyi’s release

by Usa Pichai

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Thirty senators of Thailand on Thursday submitted a petition to the Burmese military junta urging that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi be released and the creation of a favourable ambience for political stability in the country.

Rosana Tositrakul, a Thai senator said she along with 29 other senators signed a petition urging justice for the Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. It was submitted to the Burmese Prime Minister through the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok.

“We want to express our concern from our standpoint of the good relations between Thailand and Burma,” Rosana said.

“We would like to urge you [Burmese PM] to consider releasing Aung San Suu Kyi soon to create human rights, which is reliable and usher in a democratic atmosphere in Burmese society. The decision would help create real political legitimacy and stability for your government,” Rosana said quoting from the letter.

Meanwhile, Thailand’s Parliament has urged the Thai cabinet to take a clear stand and act on the trial of the Burmese Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Torpong Chaiyasarn, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Thailand’s Parliament in a press conference on Wednesday said the committee has discussed the Burmese junta’s trial of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The committee felt that the trial lacks transparency and also threatens human rights in Burma saying, “The Thai government should come up with a clear response on the issue but they should take into consideration bilateral relationship between the countries.”

On Wednesday, the Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will bring up the issue of the trial against the Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in their discussion during the group’s meeting in South Korea next week.

The Burmese regime may continue detaining Aung San Suu Kyi, Abhisit, the current chairman of the 10-member ASEAN, said. The association's leaders will have an opportunity to discuss the issue during the ASEAN-South Korea Commemorative Summit to be held on Jeju Island on June 1 and 2.

The Burmese junta has accused its neighbour Thailand of meddling in its internal affairs following the May 18 statement, which said ASEAN members are concerned over the situation in Burma.

On Tuesday, the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) called on ASEAN to suspend Burma’s membership if its military regime continued to detain Aung San Suu Kyi. It also asked the grouping to consider imposing sanctions against the Burmese junta.

But Abhisit said it would be “inappropriate” and the best way is to restore relations as was indicated in the statement issued earlier.

Aung San Suu Kyi, whose six-year house arrest term in Rangoon ended on Wednesday, is facing a trial on charges of flouting her detention law after an American, John William Yettaw (53) swam to her lakeside home earlier this month. If convicted, she could face up to five years in prison.

READ MORE---> Thai senators call for Suu Kyi’s release...

Yettaw's testimony throws a wrench into junta's plans

by Nem Davies

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Yesterday’s state-run media, weary of potential implications, omitted some facts revealed during the court testimony on Wednesday of American John William Yettaw, who disclosed that he encountered security personnel while trying to sneak into Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s residence.

At Wednesday's hearing, Yettaw testified that he met with armed security personnel upon leaving her house after his first visit, in November of last year, with the security detachment aiming their guns at him and asking, "What are you doing here?" Apart from that, he reportedly faced no trouble and harassment by security deployed at Suu Kyi's compound and managed to leave the area, according to his testimony.

Then, in his second visit, he again testified he encountered five security personnel while trying to sneak into her house by swimming across Inya Lake. On this occasion security personnel threw some stones at him but did not do anything to block his entry.

However, yesterday's state-run media failed to report any of these proceedings.

In his testimony, Yettaw repeatedly justified entry into the house because "God sent him here to convey a message of imminent danger to the life of Daw Suu unleashed by a terrorist outfit."

The court’s reported earlier plan of handing down a verdict today, Friday, was jeopardized by Yettaw’s testimony, a leading police officer told Mizzima.

The court instead fixed the date for final arguments for Monday, June 1, said Kyi Win, who testified yesterday as the sole defense witness.

As with all but two days of the trial, Wednesday being the 8th day of the proceedings, the court was closed for Yettaw's testimony to journalists, the diplomatic community and other interested parties not directly involved in the case.

On a day when Aung San Suu Kyi's presence was not required at the court, Yettaw's testimony on Wednesday lasted approximately three hours with the judges also hearing for about half an hour from Suu Kyi's two live-in colleagues, Khin Khin Win and Win Ma Ma, who are also being charged.

Security remains tight around Insein Prison, where the court is convening, and Insein Market. Civilian organizations loyal to the junta can be seen monitoring those who come to the venue in vigil or out of keen interest in the proceedings.

READ MORE---> Yettaw's testimony throws a wrench into junta's plans...

Call to suspend Myanmar

By Goh Chin Lian

(ST) -THE Myanmar government's continued disregard of Asean's concerns over its treatment of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has prompted two MPs to call for its suspension from the regional grouping.

Mr Charles Chong (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) and Mr Inderjit Singh (Ang Mo Kio GRC) argued that having Myanmar as a member would dent the credibility of Asean in the eyes of the world.

Replying, Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Zainul Abidin Rasheed defended Asean's preference to engage Myanmar rather than isolate it.

He cautioned that expulsion or suspension is not as straightforward as it seems.

Western sanctions have had little effect on Myanmar as long as China and India keep their borders with Myanmar open.

Myanmar is also used to being isolated by the international community, and has shown over the years that it will not yield to sanctions and intimidation.

'We have always believed in Asean that we have more influence over Myanmar, however limited, through engagement rather than isolating it,' he said.

Mr Zainul Abidin acknowledged that domestic developments in the country have 'adversely affected' Asean's reputation and credibility.

Myanmar does have to meet certain obligations to human rights under the Asean Charter that it ratified. Asean has made clear its stand as well.

Asean has also called on the Myanmar government to release Ms Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest or in jail for 13 of the last 19 years.

Read the full story in The Straits Times today.

READ MORE---> Call to suspend Myanmar...

Slowdown Strains Myanmar Economy

Scarce Jobs, Dwindling Remittances and Limited Credit Strain Economy Further Amid Tension Over Dissident's Trial

YANGON, Myanmar (wsj)-- Myanmar's financial system and economy are largely cut off from the outside world -- but not the global economic crisis.

As the country's military junta wraps up its trial of dissident Aung San Suu Kyi, conditions in the capital and rural areas illustrate the effects of the slowdown on this isolated nation's already-tenuous economy. Key sectors such as agriculture and tourism are reeling, and business in the commercial center of Yangon has dwindled, residents and economists say.

Credit has dried up, remittance income is falling as thousands of workers returning from abroad are discovering that jobs are scarce.

"People don't have money these days, and if they do have it, they don't spend it," says Kyi Kyi Win, a saleswoman at a store in Yangon. Last year, the shop was selling $300 to $400 in merchandise a day, she says, but now it's selling less than $100 a day.

Myanmar's economic health is critical now, as discontent over Ms. Suu Kyi's fate spreads. The 63-year-old Nobel laureate is accused of violating the terms of her house arrest, imposed by the government six years ago, by allowing an American well-wisher to visit her residence without state approval.

Some residents say they hope the verdict -- which is widely expected to be "guilty," potentially resulting in up to five years in prison for Ms. Suu Kyi -- could ignite protests and destabilize a regime that has ruled the resource-rich nation since the 1960s.

The trial has drawn international outrage, which Myanmar's leaders addressed on Thursday. According to Reuters, Deputy Foreign Minister Maung Myint, at a meeting in Cambodia, accused critics of meddling in the country's affairs and denied that the prosecution was a political or human-rights issue.

Maung Myint, Myanmar's deputy foreign minister, accused critics of meddling in the country's affairs.

There is little indication of serious unrest now. But the relatively calm circumstances could change if the verdict is seen as harsh. Ms. Suu Kyi is widely viewed as Myanmar's most legitimate leader after her political organization, the National League for Democracy, won Myanmar's last elections in 1990; the government ignored the results.

Economic distress has played a role in past unrest. The last major protests in September 2007, which were crushed by the military, were ignited largely by a surge in fuel costs.

Myanmar's economy has long suffered from high unemployment, minimal foreign investment and crumbling infrastructure. With few successful domestic industries, the country relies heavily on sales of natural gas, timber and other commodities to the few countries that continue to do significant business with the regime, notably China, Thailand and India.

U.S. and European sanctions in place for years prevent all but a few Western companies from operating there. Commodities prices have collapsed over the past year, and with few links to external capital markets, Myanmar is unable to raise cash for new lending.

Conditions in Yangon are especially difficult. Fewer than 300,000 of its six million residents have mobile phones and power blackouts are becoming more common and many taxis are so worn that the road is visible through holes in the floorboards. Abandoned colonial buildings rot in the monsoon weather, with vines growing out of broken red-brick windows.

Myanmar doesn't provide timely economic information. Official data indicate the economy grew 10% or more a year since 2000, but the Asian Development Bank and private analysts say such data likely are exaggerated, with actual growth probably less than half the government's estimates and headed lower this year.

The situation isn't all bad. Lower commodities prices have helped ease inflation, which hit 30% in recent years, and weaker demand for imported goods has improved the country's trade balance. Some shops, such as computer dealers, that cater to Myanmar's wealthy elite, say business is holding up.

Government finances are in relatively good shape. With the help of natural-gas revenue, Myanmar has more than $3 billion in foreign-exchange reserves, and has improved tax collection, the Asian Development Bank says.

But natural-gas revenue has fallen by as much as 50% this year, says Sean Turnell, a Myanmar expert at Macquarie University in Sydney. In addition, the past year has been disastrous for agriculture, which accounts for about 45% of Myanmar's gross domestic product.

Cyclone Nargis, which killed 135,000 people a year ago, wiped out much of the equipment and livestock in Myanmar's southern rice bowl, and many indebted families have been unable to replace both. Tourism is suffering, too. Arrivals have declined since 2006, according to local media reports and travel agencies.

READ MORE---> Slowdown Strains Myanmar Economy...

Act hard and fast on junta

The Nation's POST BAG

The statements made by PM Abhisit and Asean about the atrocious way Aung San Suu Kyi is being treated, not only in her current trumped up trial but ever since she has been under house arrest, are laudable, if a little belated.

PM Abhisit reportedly said that in the eyes of the international community the honour and credibility of Burma's government were at stake. This is an overly generous statement, since in the eyes of most countries Burma's government has absolutely no honour or credibility.

A counter statement from Burma's Foreign Minister that Thailand, as Asean's chair, ''failed to preserve the dignity of Asean, the dignity of Burma and the dignity of Thailand'', further underscores the lack of dignity of the junta's leaders and makes a mockery of the way they operate.

Indeed, Thailand and Asean have gained in both stature and dignity in the eyes of the world by making the bold statements regarding the continued detention of Burma's true representative of democracy as well as all other political prisoners.

The only dignity Burma retains is that of Aung San Suu Kyi and the long suffering Burmese people. They deserve the praise, respect and support of the world community. The generals have neither dignity nor respect from the world community.

The junta neither cares nor listens to world opinion, so it is essential that drastic action be taken immediately to get their attention. Since Asean eventually appears to be showing a unified stance in opposing the actions of the junta, it is clear they should suspend Burma's membership until Aung San Suu Kyi and all jailed political prisoners are released. This decision must be fully supported by all Asean members - obviously excluding any input from Burma and regardless of membership protocol - and be conveyed to the junta by PM Abhisit as the chair.

A strict deadline must be imposed for the junta to comply. Should the junta react positively then its suspension from Asean could be reconsidered in due course.

Immediate, consolidated and drastic action is needed both from Asean and all world leaders if fair treatment for Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese people is ever to be achieved.


READ MORE---> Act hard and fast on junta...

USDA official confiscates public land for self

Kyauk Pru (Narinjara): The Secretary of Kyauk Pru Township Union Solidarity Development Associations, (USDA) organizing department has allegedly confiscated many acres of forest land with the help of local army officials for his own interest, said a teacher in the area.

U Myo Ko Han, Secretary of the USDA township organizing department, confiscated many acres of forest lands located at the foot of Kyauk Si Daung mountain in Kyauk Pru township. The forest is used by the people in the area.”

U Myo Ko Han is not only a highly placed official of the township USDA but also a senior clerk of the government survey department in Kyauk Pru Township.

“He can take possession of the lands and make it his own easily as he in power. At the same time he is a senior clerk of the survey department. So he knows how to occupy public land for his own use. Many public lands in the area are his own and people do not have a chance to work there,” the teacher said.

Even though the local Burma Army authorities know about U Myo Ko Han confiscating the public land no action has been taken against him because he has managed army officers by bribing them with money and gifts, so that they do not disturb him for land confiscation.

Many villagers from villages including Thi Chy, Htin Thway, Kyauk Si, Pri Daw, Ma Ahu Pri and Dwe Cha are facing problems after he confiscated forest lands.

“The villagers living near the mountain are now in trouble because U Myo Ko Han has prohibited them from procuring bamboos and timber from the forest. Earlier, local people procured timber and bamboo from the forest to build their homes. There is no rule or law which allows government officials in rural areas of Arakan to do what they like as Myo Ko Han has done,” he said.

It is an abuse of the law by Myo Ko Han but there is no one to complain about the confiscation of public lands for private use as Myo Ko Han has done.

“Every body will be in trouble if he or she complains to higher authorities. So the local people are silent despite knowing it is an injustice. It is tantamount to oppression by a powerful official on innocent people,” the teacher added.

READ MORE---> USDA official confiscates public land for self...

High academic costs worry parents despite free education claims

Written by KNG

Parents of students are anxious about high school fees in the face of the Burmese junta’s claim of providing free education, even as all government schools from the primary to the high school-level in the country opening on June 1 (Monday), said local sources.

This week, May 25 to 29 was the period of school enrollment and hundreds of thousands of students are enrolling themselves in schools throughout the country, said students.

A student’s father and a member of the Parents-Teachers Committee in a middle school in Myitkyina, the capital of Burma's northern Kachin State told KNG today, "At the time of enrollment, all schools in the town are yet to collect any fee from the students' parents. But they will collect fees or funds on one pretext or the other soon."

He said that schools in the town find it impossible to carry on through the entire academic year without collecting essential fees or funds from the students' parents every year. He blamed the junta's Ministry of Education for issuing instructions to impart free education without providing financial support to the government schools in Myitkyina.

According to members of the Parents-Teachers Committee of the State Middle School No.(2) in Myitkyina, the school caters to over 1,000 students every academic year and the committee has to collect over 2 million Kyat equivalent to US$1,961 from students' parents. In effect, the school is totally run with fees collected from students' parents, said committee sources.

On the other hand, well-known high schools in the town like the Basic State High School No. 1 and No. 3 collect between 5 million Kyat (equivalent to US$4,902) and 10 million Kyat (equivalent to US$9,804) for running the school from students' parents each year, said sources who know how the school functions.

The fees collected from students' parents are spent in new school constructions, awarding teachers and outstanding students, meeting costs, expenditure for welcoming dignitaries and other direct expenses like buying chalk, stationery and stationery materials and other miscellaneous requirements, said local sources.

Besides, schools also collect money from students' parents whenever there are celebrations or other functions in the schools, said parents.

Usually, the students in government schools are not taught their lessons properly in the schools. They all have to take special tuitions outside schools by paying lots of money, said students.

According to students' parents, taking tuitions from their class teachers or well known non-school teachers becomes essential to pass the grade X - the government examination.

READ MORE---> High academic costs worry parents despite free education claims...

Cease-fire groups transitioning into “Border Guard Forces” join government patrols following Moulmein bombings

By Kon Hadae and Blai Mon

(Mon News) -Two ethnic Karen cease-fire groups are participating in security patrols at Three Pagodas Pass following bomb blasts in Moulmein earlier this week. The joint patrols are unprecedented and precede the groups’ planned transformations into controversial government “Border Guard Forces” (BGF).

Following three bomb blasts in Moulmein on May 27th, authorities in Three Pagodas Pass, on the Thai-Burma border, began conducting nightly security patrols. Beginning at 7pm on the night of the blasts, trucks of soldiers and police began driving around the border town.

According to local residents, Burma’s State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) army and police typically conduct such patrols in Three Pagodas Town. The recent patrols, however, have featured trucks filled with a mix of soldiers drawn from the SPDC army, police and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and the Karen Peace Force (KPF).

The DKBA and KPF both operate checkpoints inside Three Pagodas, and joint DKBA-SPDC patrols are common in Karen State, but a combined operation with all three groups, inside the border town, is unusual.

“The day that the bombs exploded in Moulmein, the authorities made night patrols in the town that evening. Not only SPDC soldiers took part in the patrol, but also soldiers from the DKBA and KPF joined with SPDC soldiers,” an eyewitness from Three Pagodas told IMNA. “This is the first time these three groups combined to make a patrol. Before, they had never done this.”

The joint patrols are a likely product of the groups’ planned transformations into BGF battalions. The SPDC is currently pressuring ethnic cease-fire groups across Burma to disarm or transform themselves into BGF battalions, which will feature mandatory training by the SPDC army and command structure joined by SPDC officers.

The push for transformations into BGF battalions is a controversial one, which the majority of Burma’s ethnic cease-fire groups have avoided via protracted negotiation, stalling or – in the case of the United Wa State Party, Burma’s largest armed ceasefire group – outright refusal.

The ethnic Karen groups, which both split from the large Karen National Union (KNU) in the late 1990s, have been less reticent to make the change. The KPF has been officially reported to be transforming into a BGF, with planned training to take place near Waekalee and Yethagon villages in Thanbyuzayat Township, Mon State.

Though the DKBA has not officially announced it will be forming BGF battalions, it is widely known to be doing so. In January, the Irrawaddy reported that DKBA Commander Chit Thu of Battalion No. 999 had been saying as much in Independence Day celebrations. And yesterday, the Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) released a report documenting a new recruiting push by Commander Chit Thu, which a KNU official quoted by HURFOM attributed to DKBA desire to form multiple BGF battalions.

Details on how BGF battalions formed by different groups will interact have not been released, and it is unclear what territory or duties they will command. The Irrawaddy story from January, for instance, predicted that the DKBA would be acting as border guards in the Myawaddy area, north of Three Pagodas Pass.

Increased security following the Moulmein explosions has also been reported by sources in Myawaddy, though IMNA could not confirm participation by the DKBA or KPF. “Soldiers are standing security outside the USDA [Union Solidarity and Development Association, a government-supported civilian organization] office, because they [the soldiers] heard the bomb was detonated near the USDA office in Moulmein,” an eyewitness from Myawaddy told IMNA. “They are guarding it at night time. They have rotating duty for guarding USDA office. For each hour, four soldiers have to guard the office – in rotations for the whole night.”

READ MORE---> Cease-fire groups transitioning into “Border Guard Forces” join government patrols following Moulmein bombings...

Gas pipeline mysteriously explodes in Karen State

By Asah, IMNA

A Gas pipeline exploded, sending villagers scattering to near by towns. Burmese troops have been deployed to the site to stand guard.

In K0 Kyaik (Yaw Thit) village, the Kanbauk Myaing Kalay gas pipeline exploded on May 27th at 10 a.m., and continued burning till 4 pm. The village is located in Hpa-an township, between Hpa-An and Zartapyin.

Residents of Ko Kyaik village fled after the explosion to a near by Karin village, after fire from the blast spread to Ko Kyaik. On Thursday soldiers arrived and constructed a makeshift camp near the pipeline, cutting villagers off from the explosion.

“After the gas exploded, the fire spread to the village, and we ran away because we were afraid,” said a Yaw Thit villager. “Many people ran, and scattered in different directions.”

“I heard the explosion while standing on road that leads direct to Hpa-An,” said a villager from Zartapyin. “I was not sure where the sound came from, but it was definitely an explosion.” Zaratayin is five minutes from Ko Kyaikk by motorbike.

A villager from Piekatar village said, “I did not hear the explosion of the pipeline, but I heard about the explosions in Moulien.”

5 soldiers were assigned to stand guard over the blast location, keeping out observers. As a result there are yet no reports on how extensive damage was to the pipeline, and the government has yet to give a reason for the explosion.

READ MORE---> Gas pipeline mysteriously explodes in Karen State...

Unknown Fever kills 3 children in Karen State, many others sick

By Kon Hadae, IMNA

Villagers in Hpa-an Township, Karen State are getting fevers, reported a resident of Jong Hpie Village.

“At least 3 children [in most houses] didn’t get up in Jong Hpie village [because of their sickness]. This year many children have fevers,” said the resident.

Another Jong Hpie villager estimated that, “half of our villagers have had fevers.” He added that, though no one had died in his village, the situation may be worse in Kayar Village. “I heard in their village 2 or 3 babies have died and many other villagers are sick.”

Though the fever has also attacked the elderly villagers in Khayar, it has been especially bad for the children. “[In] the last two days, children have died,” said a villager from Kayar, who was unsure of the number.

A similar fever (one which children are especially susceptible to) seems to have spread to Zar Ta Pyin, also of Karen State, according to a Zar Ta Pyin villager.

Though it is not certain the exact type of fever experienced in Karen State, the Democratic Voice of Burma reported on May 26th that children in Pago Division have contracted Dengue Fever.

READ MORE---> Unknown Fever kills 3 children in Karen State, many others sick...

Aung San Suu Kyi’s court date postponed to June 5

by Mungpi

New Delhi (Mizzima)- The special court in Insein Prison on Friday extended the date for lawyers to submit arguments on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial until June 5, according to her lawyers.

Kyi Win, a member of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s legal team, said authorities sent them letters today informing them of the extension of the date for submission of arguments on the case.

“The information is that the arguments can be submitted latest by June 5,” Kyi Win told Mizzima.

Previously, the court had set June 1 as the deadline for the submission of arguments by lawyers.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who is currently standing trial in Insein, is charged with breaching the regulations of her house arrest after she was visited by an uninvited American citizen at her lakeside residence.

The court has completed the hearing of all witnesses – both prosecution and defense – and is set to hold the hearing of final arguments by lawyers from both sides on June 5.

“After the hearing of the arguments the court will give the verdict,” Kyi Win confirmed.

Supporters and critics have accused the junta of masterminding the whole plot in order to continue detaining Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in order to move her out of the way of the junta’s planned 2010 election.

“I really don’t want to comment on the case and the court’s proceedings. But as a lawyer, I am hoping for the best,” Kyi Win said.

On Thursday, John William Yettaw, the American man, testified at the court in admission of his two visits to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s house, first on November 30, 2008 and the then on May 3 of this year. But he said in both cases he bumped into security guards, who despite knowing of his visits did not trouble him and let him go.

Yettaw’s testimony gives fresh provocation to the accusations by opposition activists and critics that the junta did have fair knowledge of his visits to the Burmese pro-democracy leader’s house on University Avenue.

Lawyers of the Burmese Nobel Peace Laureate said that even under the regulations of her house arrest she is not guilty of committing any crime as the law only prohibits her from contacting people outside.

“In this case, she has not contacted anyone from outside, Yettaw made his visits on his own,” Nyan Win, the NLD spokesperson and a member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s legal team, said.

Yettaw, in his testimony, told the court that he had visited the Burmese democracy icon because he had a vision that she will be assassinated by terrorists and that God had asked him to go and inform her and the government of Burma.

Nyan Win said legally no witnesses have been able to provide evidence to prove her guilty, “So, we are hopeful that she will win, but since the case is handled by the government we don’t know what will happen.”

READ MORE---> Aung San Suu Kyi’s court date postponed to June 5...

Health care, urgent need in Malaysian detention camps

by Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Detention camps in Malaysia urgently need regular health care service and preventive measures, a joint action group working for migrant workers in Malaysia said today.

Because of poor health care in the Juru Immigration detention camp, two Burmese nationals died on May 12 and 17 respectively. The ‘Network of Action for Migrant in Malaysia’ (NAMM) issued a statement based on the deaths.

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia must probe the deaths and release the findings. They must also include their recommendations in the report for the betterment of health care and sanitation in all the detention camps,” Pranom Somwong, liaison and relation officer of NAMM told Mizzima.

At least 500 Burmese are being held in this camp. They are suffering from diseases transmitted by Leptospirosis found in animal waste. Thang Hoih Ping (21) and Sa La Hin (26) died of these diseases.

The ‘Global Joint Statement’ was released yesterday on this issue by 124 international organizations, most of them Burmese lobby groups.

In the joint statement, they demanded that the Malaysian government and those responsible for the deaths pay compensation to the families of the dead.

The statement also demanded that the government expose and take action against persons responsible for the deaths in accordance with criminal law and hand out due punishment to them.

Ms. Pranam Somwong, also spokesperson of the NAMM, said that they also sent official letters to the Public Health Department, Immigration Department and Home Department besides the Malaysian government to carry out improved work on sanitation and health care services in all the detention camps across the country.

Moreover, the militia-style armed group RELA has more powers than the police force in these immigration detention camps thanks to the government’s policy and resolutions. They have sweeping powers for arresting and searching any suspect at anyplace and at anytime. But they are not trained personnel, she said.

They have demanded a probe to find out whether RELA is involved in these deaths or not, she added.

The joint statement of 124 international organizations released yesterday also demanded regular inspection and supervision of the quality of food and drinking water being provided in these camps.

There were 1,300 custodial deaths of illegal aliens in Malaysian detention camps in the last six years. Most of the cases occurred in Immigration detention camps, the 18 December 2008 issue of the Star daily paper reported quoting Datuk Nl. Siva Subramaniam, Chief of Human Rights Commission of Malaysia.

READ MORE---> Health care, urgent need in Malaysian detention camps...

Human rights in jeopardy around the world: AI

by Usa Pichai

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Amnesty International (AI) is reporting that the world is sitting on a social, political and economic time bomb fuelled by an unfolding human rights crisis, according to their latest annual report released on Thursday.

In AI's 2009 State of the World’s Human Rights, Secretary General Irene Khan cautioned in a statement, “Underlying the economic crisis is an explosive human rights crisis. The economic downturn has aggravated abuses, distracted attention from them and created new problems. In the name of security, human rights were trampled on. Now, in the name of economic recovery, they are being relegated to the back seat.”

The statement noted that higher food prices has led to more hunger and disease, notably in Burma, North Korea and Zimbabwe, where governments are accused of using food as a political weapon.

Burmese authorities are further accused of ongoing human rights abuses related to restrictions on the freedom of expression and continued offensives against ethnic groups.

Since November 2005, when a current government offensive began in the east of Burma, more than 140,000 Karen civilians are said to have been killed, tortured, forcibly displaced, sexually violated, recruited for forced labor and otherwise subjected to widespread and systematic violations of their human rights. According to AI, such actions are tantamount to crimes against humanity.

In the report's focus on Asia and the Pacific, AI highlighted the May 2008 landfall of Cyclone Nargis in Burma, which killed some 130,000 and displaced hundreds of thousands more. The rights watchdog accuses Burma's authorities of pursuing policies detrimental to the relief and rehabilitation of those affected by the killer storm.

“The cyclone should have also wiped away any lingering doubts over whether repressive government policies can impoverish a population. The world watched in horror as Myanmar’s [Burma's] government, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), refused to acknowledge the scope of the disaster and provided little assistance to the estimated 2.4 million survivors of the cyclone.”

AI’s report indicated that the SPDC rejected international assistance and blocked access to the effected area when survivors most needed food, shelter and medicine.

“Instead, a week after the cyclone, as victims were still struggling to survive, the SPDC diverted crucial resources towards a rubber stamp referendum to approve a new and deeply flawed Constitution," argues AI. "By deliberately blocking vital aid while failing to provide adequate assistance itself, the SPDC violated the rights of hundreds of thousands to life, food, and health.”

The report noted that even Burma's erstwhile defenders in the international community, including ASEAN countries and China, objected to the junta's actions following Nargis, calling on the Generals to provide access to aid and mediating between Naypyitaw and the wider international community.

The group added that setting aside its historic reluctance to speak in the language of human rights, ASEAN’s valuable efforts in the wake of Cyclone Nargis helped those devastated receive critical assistance.

AI further leant its support to the establishment of a Human Rights component to the ASEAN Charter.

Amidst trying times for human rights around the world, “The Charter asserts members’ commitment to human rights and provides ASEAN with an unprecedented opportunity to create a strong human rights body,” postulates the London-based organization.

READ MORE---> Human rights in jeopardy around the world: AI...

Movement to Suspend Burma from Asean Grows


The Irrawaddy has conducted a random, unscientific opinion poll on its magazine Web site, asking readers if they would vote “Yes” or “No” to the question: Should Burma be suspended from Asean?

More than 90 percent of the respondents answered “Yes,” based on the results at 6:30 pm on Friday. Ten percent voted “No.” The vote is on-going and the results are immediately displayed.

Meanwhile, a number of Southeast Asian politicians have urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to suspend Burma's membership in the regional grouping if the military government does not release pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

Asean diplomatic sources told The Irrawaddy on Friday that leading members of the regional bloc such as Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines are considering suspending Burma’s membership if the junta extends Suu Kyi’s detention or sentences her to prison on trumped-up charges.

The Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC), a watchdog group based in Malaysia, this week called for tough action against Burma, including suspending its membership in the regional organization. Only three Asean member countries—Brunei, Vietnam and Laos—have yet to join the caucus.

Charles Chong, a Singaporean lawmaker, said, "More and more parliamentarians within Asean are beginning to lose their patience with Burma. And, we are calling upon our governments to do more than just expressions of dismay, regret, grave concern and so on, and seriously look at suspending Burma's membership in Asean."

Kavi Chongkittavorn, an editorial columnist on The Nation in Bangkok, said some Cambodian lawmakers have joined AIPMC, increasing the pressure on Burma to open up. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has been a strong supporter of the Burmese junta, told AIPMC delegates that Burma needs to implement political reforms.

Kavi Chongkittavorn wrote that Asean's experience with Burma allows pro-reform members to argue strongly in favor of greater flexibility in exercising its non-interference principle.

Debbie Stothard, coordinator of the Alternative Asean Network (Altsean), said, “It is pretty clear that SPDC has been consistently undermining Asean.”

“Asean should consider some type of action against the regime. AIPMC demands that Asean should suspend Burma. It is quite reasonable,” she said.

READ MORE---> Movement to Suspend Burma from Asean Grows...

"We are Facing a Crisis of Constitution,” Suu Kyi Tells Lawyer

The Irrawaddy News

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Thursday, defense lawyer Nyan Win said that Burmese pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi privately told him that the charges against her are invalid as she was charged under the 1975 State Security law, which was annulled by the 2008 constitution.

“We are facing a crisis of constitution, not a constitutional crisis,” she reportedly told him on Thursday.

The lawyer said that Suu Kyi was referring to a 1975 law enacted under the 1974 constitution, which became invalidated when the military seized power in 1988. In addition, under the junta’s “seven-step road map,” the country approved a new constitution in May 2008 by national referendum, which would also invalidate the 1975 act.

Defense witness Kyi Win (no relation to Suu Kyi’s lawyer Kyi Win) echoed Suu Kyi’s sentiments in the courtroom on Thursday, testifying that if the 1974 constitution was still in effect, then the existing constitution was “null and void,” according to a report in the state-run The New Light of Myanmar on Friday.

Kyi Win testified on the ninth day of Suu Kyi’s trial on Thursday. He was the sole witness that the defense team was allowed to call; however, three other defense witnesses were denied the opportunity to testify, although the court gave no reason for their disqualification.

Kyi Win also questioned the junta’s claims that Suu Kyi was responsible for the intruder in her compound on May 3-5, according to The New Light of Myanmar.

Although misleading, it is believed the state-run newspaper was attempting to translate Kyi Win’s testimony to read that if the State employed guards around Suu Kyi’s property, then the security of the house was its responsibility, not Suu Kyi’s.

Although the official version of Kyi Win’s statement reads otherwise, it is believed he said that the Law to Safeguard the State against the Dangers of Those Desiring to Cause Subversive Acts has already been invalidated.

Meanwhile, on Thursday afternoon after court proceedings, Rangoon Northern District Court authorities escorted defendant John William Yettaw to Suu Kyi’s lakeside residence to describe how he had entered and left the compound on May 3-5, Burma’s state-run media reported on Friday.

On the ninth day of the trial, Yettaw reportedly testified to the court that he entered Suu Kyi’s compound in the morning on May 4 and he left just before midnight on May 5, and that he had undertaken to go to the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s house of his own accord.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Friday, Nyan Win said Suu Kyi’s defense team had not been informed that court authorities intended to take the American intruder to the lakeside compound.

“The government has just done whatever they wanted,” he said. “In fact, if they want to do something regarding the trial, they must inform us.”

Yettaw reportedly confessed to the court that he accepted that he had broken Burmese immigration law and the law of Rangoon City Development Committee by secretly entering Suu Kyi’s residence at night without asking permission, even though he knew that the house was guarded by security members, the New Light of Myanmar reported.

READ MORE---> "We are Facing a Crisis of Constitution,” Suu Kyi Tells Lawyer...

More Asean MPs Call for Suu Kyi’s Release

The Irrawaddy News

KUALA LUMPUR—Support for Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has stepped up with about 100 more parliamentarians from Southeast Asian countries adding their voices to the growing international calls for her release.

Two Members of Parliament (MPs) from Singapore, Charles Chong and Inderjit Singh, on Friday called for the suspension of Burma from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) due to the Burmese junta’s disregard for Asean’s concerns over Suu Kyi.

Asean diplomat sources confirmed to The Irrawaddy that leading members of the regional bloc such as Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines are seriously considering suspending Burma’s membership if the junta extends Suu Kyi’s detention or sentences her to prison on trumped-up charges.

In Malaysia, 30 MPs on Tuesday joined half a million other signatories on a petition organized by an umbrella group called “Free Burma’s Political Prisoners Now!” Among the politicians was Malaysian opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

“Before May 26, only three MPs had signed the petition calling for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and more than 2,100 political prisoners in Burma,” said Ye Min Htun, a Burmese activist based in Kuala Lumpur. “But now, 30 MPs have joined the campaign. I am very surprised.”

However, observers have pointed out that most signatories were from opposition parties and not from the ruling National Front coalition led by new Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

Aegile Fernandez, the program coordinator of Tenaganita, a well-known Malaysian human rights group, said that Malaysians are concerned about Suu Kyi’s incarceration.
She added that more politicians from the ruling party in Malaysia should show solidarity with Suu Kyi.

In the Philippines, 32 MPs called for a Filipino government resolution on May 21 denouncing her trial in Rangoon and demanding the Burmese military government release Suu Kyi.

Among the new members of Asean, 29 Cambodian MPs voiced their concern by sending a letter of protest this week to the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), which was held in the Cambodian capital on May 27-28.

According to the BBC, during the Asem in Phnom Penh this week, Burma’s Deputy Foreign Minister Maung Myint remarked to British Junior Foreign Minister Bill Rammell that “we [the Burmese junta] are not the enemy.” In reply, the British minister reportedly said that although the European Union and Burma are not enemies, they wanted to see freedom for Suu Kyi and positive changes in the country.

Analysts said the Burmese regime’s latest attempt to detain Suu Kyi presents a critical challenge to Asean, which has only recently implemented its first constitution, called the “Asean Charter.”

As the current chairman of Asean, Thailand called on May 19 for the immediate release of Suu Kyi. In a statement on behalf of Asean, the Thai government said it was ready to help with national reconciliation and democracy efforts in Burma.

The Burmese regime responded through its state-run newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar, saying, “Alternate Asean Chairman Thailand’s statement [sic] which is not in conformity with Asean practice, [is] incorrect in facts, [and is] interfering in [Burmese] internal affairs.”

However, a source close to Thailand’s foreign ministry said that although non-interference in internal affairs is one of Asean’s basic principles, members have the “collected responsibility” for issues in the region under the Asean charter and Thailand’s statement reflected the “collected responsibility.”

In Phnom Penh, Asean members voiced their support for the Asean chairman’s statement on Burma.

Kavi Chongkittavorn, an editor at Bangkok’s The Nation newspaper, said that Burmese issues are now becoming problematic to the Asean Charter. If Asean cannot handle the issues the charter will be meaningless, he said.

Vietnam will take over the Asean chairmanship next year. Analysts say Asean could be expected to tone down its criticism of Burma under a Vietnamese chairmanship.

READ MORE---> More Asean MPs Call for Suu Kyi’s Release...

Six Years after Depayin, Survivors Recall the Horror

The Irrawaddy News

Six years after the Depayin massacre, 31-year-old Kyaw Soe Lin, one of its victims, says he will never forget the horror.

Kyaw Soe Lin was driving the car carrying Aung San Suu Kyi in a convoy that came under attack by pro-regime thugs on May 30, 2003. His quick action in driving away from the mob saved her life.

Fifty of Suu Kyi’s supporters are estimated to have died in the unprovoked attack, carried out by armed members of the pro-regime Union Solidarity and Development Association and the paramilitary Swan Ah Ashin militia.

The mob ambushed Suu Kyi’s convoy in Kyee village, on the outskirts of Depayin Township in Sagaing Division, central Burma. Barbed wire was strung across the road, which was bathed in flood lights hung in trees.

When the mob attacked his car, Kyaw Soe Lin’s first reaction was to hit back. “They started to hit people who were guarding our car. Then, they hit our car. I was very angry and I thought at first to hit them back. But then I drove the car away and escaped.”

His action undoubtedly saved Suu Kyi from serious injury or even death.

On Friday to mark the sixth anniversary of Depayin, several members of Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), gathered at its headquarters in Rangoon.

Toe Lwin, who was guarding Suu Kyi’s vehicle and now lives in exile, told The Irrawaddy in an interview. “The attackers moved toward Daw Suu’s car, and soon about 30 of them surrounded us. I told them it was Daw Suu’s car and asked them not to attack. I told them to stop beating people and asked them to go back.

“But they blocked our vehicles. They tore clothing off women and then beat them. They hit elderly people. I saw them collapse in front of me. I will never forget it.”

“Suddenly, they started to hit Daw Suu’s car. First I tried to protect it. Then they started to beat me. They hit my head three times and I collapsed. Daw Suu’s driver finally sped away and escaped.”

Police arrived on the scene when the attack was over. They detained the survivors and witnesses claimed some of the women were raped.

Suu Kyi was also detained and placed under house arrest, under Article 10 (b) of the 1975 State Protection Act Law. The law allows a person to be detained without charge for a maximum of five years. Suu Kyi has now been under house arrest for six years.

The Thailand-based Burma Lawyers’ Council released a statement on Friday saying the Depayin massacre constituted a crime against humanity and the perpetrators—who had not yet been apprehended—should be brought before the International Criminal Court.

The statement said that only then could the rule of law “be restored; a genuine national reconciliation will be achieved; and people will enjoy peace, stability and development.”

READ MORE---> Six Years after Depayin, Survivors Recall the Horror...

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