Monday, June 29, 2009

North Korea Can Allay Fear at Regional Forum

The Irrawaddy News

North Korea should calm regional fears by explaining its relations with Burma at the 16th Asean Regional Forum (ARF) to be held in Phuket, Thailand, July16-23.

An editorial in the Bangkok Post, Monday, stated ARF would be the perfect forum for North Korea to explain its recent actions and lay out its future plans.

“An unauthorized nuclear project, even without weapons capability, would pose a serious threat to the ecology of Thailand and the region,” the editorial declared.

The editorial said, “The world including Thailand views North Korea as a dangerous country, addicted to frightening threats of nuclear attacks and weapons trafficking on any scale it chooses.”

North Korean has a record of selling arms and military technology to Burma. It is suspected that this may include secretive nuclear technology.

The North Korean cargo ship, Kang Nam, that recently left North Korea for Burma could be carrying weapons.

North Korea’s military support for Burma may be considered a serious issue at the forum, according to analysts.

“ARF is supposed to be a forum for regional security, so we hope that they will consider issues related to comprehensive security as part of an Asean plan of action,” Debbie Stothard, coordinator of the Bangkok-based Alternative Asean Network on Burma said to The Irrawaddy.

“North Korea is definitely a very serious issue,” she added. “ARF hasn’t been taking the situation in Burma seriously, and consequently they don’t have any plan of action.”

“In effect ARF is allowing Burma to become another North Korea, which is a danger to the region,” Stothard said.

By bringing Asian and Western powers together, ARF can provide an important forum for discussing the array of dangers arising from North Korea's illegal weapons trafficking to Burma, according to Burma political analysts.

ARF was founded in 1994 to promote open dialogue on political and security issues and to build trust among its members through dialogue and confidence-building measures.

Twenty seven nations currently participate in ARF. They automatically include Asean member states as well as Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, China, European Union, India, Japan, Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea, Republic of Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Russian Federation, Sri Lanka, Timor Leste and the United States.

READ MORE---> North Korea Can Allay Fear at Regional Forum...

Closer Burma-N Korea Ties a Serious Cause for Concern

The Irrawaddy News

Recent evidence of the closer relationship between Burma and North Korea exposes the complete failure of the Burmese regime’s diplomacy and foreign policy in the face of increasing pressure by international and regional governments.

With Burma losing face internationally and regionally since the ruling junta put Aung San Suu Kyi’s on trial, the Burmese generals are anxious for their traditional ally to stand by their side.

The relationship with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) deteriorated when Thailand, as current Asean chair, issued a public statement in May on Suu Kyi's trial, saying the "honor and credibility" of its troublesome member, Burma, was "at stake."

Moreover, Singapore Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, whose country is one of Burma's biggest foreign investors and has close relations with the Burmese junta, said bluntly that the general election planned for 2010 must be inclusive and that the opposition National League for Democracy, led by Suu Kyi, must be part of the process of national reconciliation.

Goh, chairman of the city state’s central bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, also said that Singapore investors will likely wait until after the election before pouring any more money into the country.

Although it is too early to say that closer ties with North Korea could be a response to assertions on Burma by the Asean members, it is clear that recent developments have greatly added to worries that the two pariah states are becoming a double threat to regional security.

The mysterious voyage of the North Korean cargo ship, the Kang Nam 1, which is believed to be heading for Burma, and is currently being shadowed by the US Navy, and the leaking of documents and video footage showing caves and tunnels being constructed in Burma with the help of North Korean engineers, have raised suspicions in the region that the facilities are connected to Burmese plans for a nuclear reactor.

Some analysts said that fears about the acquisition of unconventional weapons by Burma are not totally unfounded. "Given North Korea's nuclear trade to Syria, its attempts to sell Scuds to Myanmar [Burma], and its ongoing sales of conventional arms, there's reason to be worried about a WMD relationship," Michael Green, a Burma expert and former adviser to then-President George W Bush told the Wall Street Journal recently.

For several years, the Burmese junta has been trying to foster relations with countries which are antagonistic towards the US—especially North Korea, which has constructed 8,200 underground facilities, including 180 munitions factories, to house key government offices and military command posts in case of war.

Observers say that the Burmese ruling generals take a hostile approach to the US because of its economic sanctions and have become paranoid about a possible US invasion of their country. These are the main reasons for speeding up a re-engagement with North Korea.

In 1983, North Korean spies operating in Burma planted a bomb at the Martyr’s Mausoleum in Rangoon, where the country's forefathers lie, killing 18 South Korean officials, including four ministers.

Burma broke all ties with North Korea as a result. However, in its anxiety to procure the arms and technology to develop its armed forces, the Burmese regime later resumed diplomatic ties without securing any apology from North Korea.

Although it is not yet clear whether the tunneling projects in and around Napyidaw are to afford the paranoid junta protection from its own people or from the outside world, it proved again that the top Burmese generals have dug themselves deeper into isolation over the past few years.

The generals' bunker-mentality has been in place since 1962 when they took power from Burma's last democratically-elected government. Burma always defends itself as a sovereign state, surrounded by friendly neighboring countries that seek Burma’s natural resources, but sanctioned by Western countries led by the US. In fact, the junta usually uses that as a shield behind which it can continue its human rights violations, confident that its neighbors will treat them as Burma’s "internal affair."

Now Burma shows its true colors by developing ties with North Korea, one of the world’s most treacherous countries, which threatens to unleash a nuclear war.
So it is not too early to say that the closer relationship developing between Burma and North Korea should alert the world to a state of affairs that can only deepen global and regional tensions.

READ MORE---> Closer Burma-N Korea Ties a Serious Cause for Concern...

Thailand raises surveillance near Moei River

by Usa Pichai

Chiang Mai (mizzima) - Security officials in Thailand have beefed up surveillance on Moei River, in the wake of clashes with ethnic Karen armed men, who were trying to cross over to Thailand.

A villager from Tak province, who lives near the border, told Mizzima that Thai military personnel have raised the surveillance level along the Moei River, which is also the border between Thailand and Burma. Thai security officials increased surveillance after a Thai soldier had a minor skirmish with an ethnic armed group, who were trying to cross over to Thailand.

The skirmish took place on Saturday, as Thai military personnel in Mae Sot District of Tak province met a group of Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) soldiers, who were crossing over into Maeku Luang Village. The clash, reportedly, went on for about 10 minutes.

Following the incident, Thai officials inspected the area and found that two DKBA soldiers – a man and a woman – had bullet injuries and were later sent to the Mae Sot Hospital, while two other soldiers fled from the scene into Thailand. Officials also found a number of weapons at the spot. The Thai military are on the lookout for the other two armed men.

The incident followed a severe attack on a DKBA boat, by unidentified armed men on the Moei River, which left 16 DKBA soldiers, including senior level officials dead.

According to a report on a Thai news website, Manager, on Sunday, Pol Lieutenant General, Surasri Suntornsarntoon, Commander of the Sixth Royal Police Office, visited the area in Mae Sot and followed up on the investigations into the attack on the DKBA boat, in which Colonel San Pyone, Commander of DKBA’s Battalion 7 of the Brigade 999, was also killed.

Colonel San Pyone, had earlier been accused of having links with the murder of Pado Mahn Sha, former Secretary General of the Karen National Union (KNU) in Mae Sot district last year. In the event of his death, the police would withdraw the arrest warrant, against San Pyone, which had been issued by a Thai Criminal Court, it had been stated.

However, the officials still beefed up surveillance because local villagers said that they found armed men crossing over into Thailand and fighting is still continuing in the area.

The situation near the Karen State border with Thailand this year has drawn a lot of attention from the local and international community, because several thousand local Karen villagers in Burma fled to Thailand and many of them are suffering from ill-health and malnutrition.

Currently, international non government organizations have donated more medicines for malaria patients, which is the main disease among the current batch of refugees, who took shelter in Thasongyang district of Tak province, together with respiratory diseases.

The Thailand government expected that the number of new Karen refugees was about 3,000, but local NGO workers believe that the real number is much higher and would increase due to the tension from the clashes near the Moei River.

READ MORE---> Thailand raises surveillance near Moei River...

Iron mine could destroy 7000 Shan homes

(DVB)–Russian and Italian engineering companies are reported to be involved in the development of a huge iron ore mine in Burma’s eastern Shan state that campaigners say could displace more than 7,000 homes.

The already volatile Shan state is home to Burma’s second largest iron ore deposit, on the site of Mount Pinpet.

Excavation of the site began in 2004, and work includes the conversion of around 11,000 acres of surrounding land for construction of a cement factory and iron processing plant.

The Pa-O Youth Organisation (PYO), in a report released today, said that more than 25 villages home to around 7000 mainly ethnic Pa-O people could be destroyed by the Pinpet Mining Project.

“Fifty people have already been forced to move and were not adequately compensated,” said the Robbing the Future report.

“The confiscation of vital farmlands has begun, leaving over 100 families without the primary source of their livelihood and sustenance.”

A spokesperson from PYO said that villagers had very little, if any, input on the plans for the project.

“[The government] don’t talk to the villagers, they don’t negotiate with the villagers regarding plans for the mining project - they don’t really discuss in advance what they are going to do,” said Khun Ko Wein.

The report points to Russian company Tyazhpromexport as being the major foreign investor in the Pinpet Iron Factory, with $US150 million so far channeled into the project.

Russia maintains strong ties with Burma despite the country’s ruling junta being under mounting international pressure over the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi and documented state-sanctioned human rights abuses.

An Italian company, Danieli, which claims to be one of the world’s leading suppliers of equipment to the metals industry, is also highlighted in the report.

The company, who in 2007 confirmed that they operate in Burma, was unavailable for comment.

Another concern of PYO’s is the link between the Pinpet mine and rumours that Burma is mining uranium, a key ingredient for nuclear weaponry.

According to the report, Burma’s Ministry of Energy has officially announced the presence of five uranium deposits in the country, although has not publicly stated that these will be mined.

Speculation that uranium exists near the Pinpet site has added fuel to the rumours, with some locals fearing that the mine could be being used as a cover to exploit and refine uranium.

Such rumours have been further compounded by growing evidence that Burma is strengthening its ties with North Korea, who last month successfully tested a nuclear bomb.

Reporting by Francis Wade

READ MORE---> Iron mine could destroy 7000 Shan homes...

UN envoy discusses Ban Ki-moon’s Burma trip

(DVB)–UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari yesterday ended his two-day trip to Burma with state media reporting that talks with senior government officials centered on the pending visit of UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

It remains unclear what the exact purpose of the trip was, although the UN’s concern over the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, along with the issue of the suspect North Korean ship heading towards Burma, will likely have been raised.

The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper yesterday reported that Gambari met with Foreign Minister Nyan Win on 26 and 27 June and “held discussions about the programme” for the UN chief’s visit.

Ban was invited by the country’s ruling generals to visit Burma in early July, although he is said to be concerned that his trip will be used for propaganda purposes by the regime.

Human rights groups have echoed Ban’s concerns, although the opposition National League for Democracy says that a visit should go ahead prior to the scheduled 2010 elections.

Dr Thaung Htun, National Coalition Government for the Union of Burma's representative to the UN, said that he accepts Ban's visit "in principle". "We think Ban Ki Moon’s visit could be to study the situation in Burma to see how far the progress [the UN] suggested [to the junta] has reached" regarding release of political prisoners and participatory elections, he said.

Regarding the Karen refugees fleeing to Thailand, however, he said that Ban "should put in more diplomatic effort in dealing with Burma".

Observers believe that the North Korean ship, which is being closely monitored by the US navy, is carrying small arms.

If it does dock in Burma and, as suspected, offload its cargo, then Burma would become party to a breach of new UN sanctions imposed earlier this month on North Korea following its underground nuclear test.

The situation would undoubtedly skew the focus of Ban Ki-moon’s visit, which was likely set up to engage the regime over the trial of Suu Kyi, which the UN chief last month said he was “deeply concerned” about.

Reporting by Francis Wade

READ MORE---> UN envoy discusses Ban Ki-moon’s Burma trip...

Senior DKBA commander killed in ambush

(DVB)–A senior figure in the pro-Burmese junta militia Democratic Karen Buddhist Army has been killed in an ambush by the opposition Karen National Union as clashes continue near the Thai-Burma border.

Five fellow Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) soldiers were killed alongside Colonel San Pyone, commander of Battalion 7 of the Brigade 999, on 26 June, while around 10 more were injured.

A source close to the DKBA said that seven boats carrying more than 20 DKBA members from the overrun Karen National Union’s (KNU) Brigade 7 headquarters was ambushed at about 8am on 26 June.

"There must be about 20 casualties, but about six people died on the spot," he said, adding that the corpses of San Pyone and others were taken to the DKBA base in the Shwekokko area of Karen state.

The DKBA has said that the attack was carried out from Thai territory, but this was refuted by the KNU.

“The shooting did happen but not on the Thai side. It happened on the other side [in Burma],” said KNU spokesperson David Thakabaw.

“[KNU] troops retreated from the bases but there are small groups still operating around the bases."

The DKBA have been fighting alongside the Burmese army during an offensive against the KNU that began on 2 June.

Last week the KNU’s strategically important Brigade 7 base was overrun by Burmese troops, although the KNU told DVB that the loss would make the Burmese army more susceptible to ambushes.

Many Karen civilians have fled the conflict this month, with around 4000 arriving in Thailand.

Many have reported instances of forced recruitment into the army either as porters or to act as minesweepers.

The UN has sent staff to the refugee areas to assess the fallout of a conflict that has attracted international attention.

Reporting by Naw Noreen

READ MORE---> Senior DKBA commander killed in ambush...

Recent Posts from Burma Wants Freedom and Democracy

Recent posts from WHO is WHO in Burma


The Nuke Light of Myanmar Fan Box
The Nuke Light of Myanmar on Facebook
Promote your Page too