Friday, July 17, 2009

Clinton’s Burma Agenda

The Irrawaddy News

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made no mention of Burma in her foreign policy speech in Washington this week, but she renewed the US offer to talk with the Iranian regime—but the offer and opportunity would not remain indefinitely, she warned.

Clinton is on her way to Asia—this is her second trip—to attend the 42th Asean Ministerial Meeting in Phuket. Whether she wants it or not, the Burma and North Korea issues will likely dominate the meeting. Clinton, who said she was deeply troubled by the decision by the Burmese regime to charge Suu Kyi with a baseless crime, is not unprepared to speak on the Burma issue, but a US policy review on Burma that began in February is still pending.

During her first trip to Jakarta, Clinton said, “Clearly, the path we have taken in imposing sanctions hasn’t influenced the Burmese junta.” Then she added that the policy adopted by neighboring countries of “reaching out and trying to engage them has not influenced them, either.”

The policy review on Burma is still pending, with the Obama administration wanting to take a different policy direction on Burma from the previous Bush administration. The new policy will probably be a mix of carrots and sticks, but recent events have complicated apparent indications favoring increased diplomacy and outreach from Washington towards Burma’s rulers.

“The recent events with Aung San Suu Kyi are just deeply, deeply concerning, and it makes it very difficult going forward,” said Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs told US lawmakers during his confirmation hearing last month.

“We're in the midst of a very sensitive review,” he said. “We are looking at the situation of the trial and what the junta is considering going forward. It will play into our review.”

If Suu Kyi’s bizarre trial has played a role in the policy review—other sensitive issues include the release of 2,100 political prisoners, the relationship with ethnic groups along the Burmese border with China and Thailand, and the upcoming election in 2010—then no doubt the issue of Burma’s shady relationship with North Korea will also play a part.

Though Washington’s policy review remains incomplete, the US is not without a policy and diplomatic tools. The Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Scot Marciel, assured that Clinton would bring up the issue of Burma during the meeting with Asean foreign ministers.

“I don't want to try to predict exactly what she's [Clinton] going to say. I'm confident that she will raise Burma and express our concerns quite clearly,” Marciel said.

“The fundamental policy remains the same, which is to do whatever we can to try to encourage progress in Burma,” he said.

“By progress, I mean the beginning of a dialogue between the government and the opposition and the ethnic minority groups, release of political prisoners and improved governance and, we would hope, more of an opening to the international community,” he said.

Since the trial began in May, the international pressure on Burma has been sustained. The military leaders, diplomats believed, were shocked at the swift and unified reaction from the international community, including Asean and China. As things stand at the moment, the bizarre trial that appeared to be progressing fast in its initial stages has slowed down—perhaps this is a sign that the junta is having second thoughts.

The Burmese leaders received two separate high level visits: one led by Singapore’s senior minister Goh Chok Tong and the other from UN chief Ban Ki-moon. They both delivered a firm message to the regime leaders to make significant progress in national reconciliation.

The regime showed its uncompromising stance when meeting visiting UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who was not allowed to meet Suu Kyi. However, Ban did speak out for the need for an inclusive road map towards democracy, the release of political prisoners and for free and fair elections. Though he left empty-handed, his public remarks gained him kudos in Burma.

In a nutshell, the US is likely to search for more effective ways to encourage dialogue between the military, the opposition and the ethnic nationalities, and to gain the release of political prisoners and make steps towards broad-based reform. It will not be surprising to see more engagement by US officials and diplomats with the regime if the doors are opened.

READ MORE---> Clinton’s Burma Agenda...

Victims of Landmines Suffer Long After Injuries

The Irrawaddy News

“I don’t want to live any longer since I lost my leg in a landmine injury,” said 35-year-old Nai Aree, a Mon ethnic.

Nai Aree, a former soldier in the New Mon State Party (NMSP), left the organization after the party agreed to a ceasefire with the Burmese military government in 1995. He joined the NMSP when he was 13 years old.

KNLA soldier Maw Klu stepped on a landmine years ago. (Photo: Roger Arnold)

Now working in Phuket, he earns 150 baht (US $5) a day at fish processing factory.

“I need to save money while I am young and able to work because I am disabled,” said Nai Aree.

Kyaw Thein, 39, a landmine victim who lost his left leg, said, “Whenever I think about my life before I was injured, I feel angry. I can’t go out easily now with friends. Whenever they go out, I watch them, and I feel very sad.”

Now working in Bangkok, Kyaw Thein earns 270 baht ($9) a day at a building construction site.

Kyaw Thein and Nai Aree are among hundreds of landmine victims in Burma whose lives are forever limited now because of the unique nature of landmine injuries.

The Geneva-based International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) estimates about 1,500 Burmese people are injured or killed by landmines yearly.

The ICBL ranks Burma second only to Afghanistan in land mine causalities in Asia, where most landmine victims don’t receive adequate rehabilitation treatment or follow-up assistance.

The ICBL notes that both the Burmese regime and ethnic armed groups use landmines in opposing each other.

Karenni, Arakan, Shan, Tenasserrim and Pegu divisions are areas where there is heavy use of landmines in clashes between ethnic armed groups and Burmese troops.

Burma had at least 438 landmine casualties in 2007, up from 246 in 2006. Many more casualties went unreported, said the ICBL.

Despite criticism from international rights groups, both the Burmese government and ethnic rebels still use landmines and the use is increasing, according to the ICBL.

Burma has not signed the 1997 Landmine Ban Treaty, which has been signed by 156 nations. Among nations that have not signed the treaty are the United States, China, Russia, India, Israel, Singapore, South and North Korea.

The landmines used by the Burmese army are from Russia, China, and India. Some landmines are also reportedly bought from Singapore, said Burmese military sources.

A landmine campaigner, Suthikiet Sopanik who is secretary of the Thailand Campaign to Ban landmines, said victims of landmines suffer a unique injury whenever they lose a limb or sight, because it affects them for the rest of their life.

Landmines also have a devastating effect on civilians and animal life as well.

“During a war, the enemy will kill each by using everything. But, after the battle, the people who suffer most are the civilians and innocent children. They are also landmine victims,” said Sopanik, who urged the Burmese army and ethnic armed groups to find a diplomatic way to solve political conflicts.

“This is the time for Myanmar [Burma ] to get together and use wisdom to solve disagreements,” he said.

The former Mon soldier, Nai Aree, agreed: “I feel my party doesn’t need soldiers any more. They only need educated people after the ceasefire.”

Armed ethnic rebels also are responsible for using landmines. Among them, the KNU’s military wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), used more landmines than any other ethnic armed groups in 2005-2006, according to a Landmine Monitor report released by the ICBL in 2008.

A 23-year-old landmine victim, Saw Naing Naing, a KNLA soldier, said, “Injury from a landmine is different from gunfire. We may not die from a landmine injury. But, we become disable people. We die mentally.”

Saw Naing Naing lost his right hand and right eye in a landmine injury in June during a battle between KNLA Brigade 7 and the Burmese army and its ceasefire militia, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army.

“The use of landmines is bad,” he said. “I hate landmines because they ruined my life.”

READ MORE---> Victims of Landmines Suffer Long After Injuries...

(Myanmar) Burma "VJ" film exposes 2007 protests

By Mirja Spernal and Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - A film documenting a group of clandestine reporters secretly filming the 2007 street protests in Myanmar and crackdown by the military junta hit cinemas in Britain this week to warm applause from the critics.

"Burma VJ," directed by Denmark's Anders Ostergaard, takes the viewer to the heart of events two years ago which, without the courage of video journalists on the ground taking huge risks, would have gained far less international attention.

Led by "Joshua," the VJs covertly filmed the drama unfolding on the streets.

The demonstrations started in August 2007 as a protest over living standards before attracting the revered Buddhist monkhood and snowballing into the biggest challenge to military rule since a 1988 uprising. At least 31 people were killed.

Often shaky footage of monks parading along roads, and thousands of people leaning from balconies and lining the streets to cheer them, is interspersed with soldiers opening fire on the protesters who flee in terror.

Journalists capture the tension as panicked crowds rush up the stairs of a darkened building to escape the authorities, while Joshua keeps in contact with his team of cameramen on the telephone and frets about their wellbeing.

The journalists smuggled footage to Thailand, from where Joshua, who kept his real name a secret, sent it to Norway, where the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) ( is based.

DVB is a media outlet based in Norway that aims to provide independent news to people inside Myanmar. It also became an important source of information for international broadcasters in 2007, because foreign media access was so limited.

"I know the risks, but we understand that there has to be somebody to take the risk to break other people's fear," Joshua told Reuters at the British premiere of Burma VJ this week.

"There will be somebody who starts and I decided that I have to be the one to start."


Joshua described some of the sacrifices he had made.

"Since I began this job I disconnected with (my family), that's the first thing I had to sacrifice," Joshua said.

"I don't want them to become hostages of the authorities and I don't want to compromise my job with my family. That's why I disconnected with them because maybe they can pressurize my family or harm them to pressurize me to leave my job.

"Sometimes I miss my family. I want to meet them, I miss my old neighbourhood, you know everybody in my neighbourhood loves me, but I cannot go back to them."

According to media reports, other video journalists in the team are behind bars facing long sentences.

Critics have lauded the courage of Joshua and his "VJs."

"That footage ... is raw and compelling," said the Daily Telegraph. "The story of how it was sneaked out is worthy of the best thrillers. Burma VJ is crucial testament to the will of a suffering people to ensure the world does not forget them."

The New York Times, in a review posted in May, agreed.

"Burma VJ is a rich, thought-provoking film not only because of the story it tells, which is by turns inspiring and devastatingly sad, but also because of the perspective it offers on the role that new communications technologies can play in political change," the newspaper said.

"The narrative of Burma VJ takes on a sombre, elegiac cast, as the potential for freedom flares up and is, in short order, snuffed out."

(Writing by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)
© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved.

READ MORE---> (Myanmar) Burma "VJ" film exposes 2007 protests...

McCain Blasts Burma, Neighbors Ahead of Clinton Visit to Asia

The Irrawaddy News

WASHINGTON — on the eve of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s departure for India and Thailand, Senator John McCain urged her to push Burma’s neighbors to do more to support the cause of democracy in Burma.

McCain, who was the Republican candidate in last year’s US presidential election, also decried the Burmese junta’s decision to try opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on trumped-up charges.

“The junta’s latest actions are, once again, a desperate attempt by a decaying regime to stall freedom’s inevitable progress, in Burma and across Asia. They will fail as surely as Aung San Suu Kyi’s campaign for a free Burma will one day succeed,” McCain said on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday.

Noting that the US has a critical role to play as a powerful advocate of human rights, McCain added: “Nothing can relieve us of the responsibility to stand up for those whose human rights are in peril, nor of the knowledge that we stand for something in this world greater than self-interest.”

McCain was critical of Burma’s neighbors, including members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), for their failure to send a strong enough signal of solidarity with the Burmese people.

“The countries of Southeast Asia should be at the forefront of this call. Asean now has a human rights charter, in which member countries have committed to protect and promote human rights,” said McCain.

“Now is the time to live up to that commitment, and Asean could start by dispatching envoys to Rangoon in order to demand the immediate, unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi,” he added.

However, few people in Burma’s political opposition expect Asean to take a stronger stance against the regime.

“Asean acts like it is hitting a snake but doesn’t want to break its stick or kill the snake,” said Aye Thar Aung, a secretary of the Committee Representing the People’s Parliament, using a Burmese proverb to describe Asean’s efforts to put pressure on the Burmese regime.

“If [Asean] really applied its charter, they could change Burma,” said Khin Maung Swe, a spokesperson for the opposition National League for Democracy. “We hope they will do it this time.”

Referring to a statement by Burma’s ambassador to the UN, Than Swe, that the regime is planning to grant an amnesty to a number of prisoners so they can participate in elections slated for next year, McCain said Asean should demand that this pledge include all political prisoners, including Suu Kyi.

“Secretary of State Clinton will travel to Thailand later this month to participate in the Asean Regional Forum, and I urge her to take this up with her Southeast Asian colleagues,” McCain said.

Regarding the UN secretary-general’s recent visit to Burma, he said the ruling generals reacted in their typical fashion. “They stage managed Ban Ki-moon’s visit, even refusing his request to speak before a gathering of diplomats and humanitarian groups. Instead, before leaving, he was forced to speak at the regime’s drug elimination museum,” he said.

McCain also spoke out strongly in support of sanctions against the Burmese junta.

“It is incumbent on all those in the international community who care about human rights to respond to the junta’s outrages. This means renewing the sanctions that will expire this year, and it means vigorous enforcement by our Treasury Department of the targeted financial sanctions in place against regime leaders.

“And it means being perfectly clear that we stand on the side of freedom for the Burmese people, and against those who seek to abridge it,” McCain said.

Lawi Weng contributed to this article.

READ MORE---> McCain Blasts Burma, Neighbors Ahead of Clinton Visit to Asia...

Burmese trying to enroll in Bangladeshi voters list arrested

Dhaka (Narinjara): Eighteen Burmese Muslims were arrested on Wednesday by the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) on the border when they were trying to enter Bangladesh to enroll in the country’s voters list, said an official report.

Bangladeshi election authorities are now updating the country’s electoral rolls. So some Burmese nationals are trying to sneak into Bangladesh to enroll their names in the voters list. Should they succeed in registering their names in the voters list, they will become Bangladeshi citizens, the report said.

The Burmese nationals were arrested from different areas of Nakhongshari Township, opposite MaungdawTownship in Burma during a joint operation by the Bangladeshi security forces, official sources said.

Acting on secret information, they entered Bangladesh territory to enroll themselves in the updated voters list. We caught them on the border,” said an official.

The BDR also arrested 11 Burmese nationals from different villages in Nakhongsari Township on Sunday and Monday while they were intruding into Bangladesh.

Despite Bangladeshi border authorities arresting many Burmese Muslims and pushing them back to Burma the exodus of Muslims from the neighbouring country continues unabated.

Most from the Muslim community in Arakan are entering Bangladesh to flee the economic crisis in the State. The people as a whole in Arakan are mired in financial crisis making it difficult for them to eke out a living, reports from Arakan say.

READ MORE---> Burmese trying to enroll in Bangladeshi voters list arrested...

11 soldiers killed in rebel ambush

By Hseng Khio Fah

(Shanland) -11 Burma Army soldiers were killed in an ambush staged by the anti-Naypyitaw Shan State Army (SSA) ‘South’ on 15 July in southern Shan State, according to SHAN sources.

Patrolling Burmese soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) #515 based in Laikha was attacked by the SSA fighters between Hsa Lay and Namphart villages, Mongyai village tract, Mongnawng sub-township, Kehsi Township, in the morning on that day.

The SSA confirmed that the attack was launched by a unit of its fighters Awng Pay Hseuk Force, under the command of Lt-Col Pawng Kherh because it could no longer tolerate the Army’s excesses.

The said Burmese soldiers had been patrolling in the area in cooperation with Major Sai Ta from Namhu militia whose leader Moeng Zeun was killed on 24 May. The group has been harassing local villagers such as taking villagers’ livestock, money and luxury items and some villagers were physically abused, said Sai Hseng Merng, the deputy SSA spokesperson.

The Burma Army lost 11 while another one was captured and their weapons were seized by the attackers. Among the casualties were 7 non-commissioned officers and 4 privates. Their names were not identified.

There were no casualties on the SSA side. The attack was 7 hours long from 11:00 to 18:00.

The assorted weapons: 1 60 mm mortar (1 shell), 1 79 MA (9 shells), 3 MA 1/ 2 (657cartridges), 15 MA magazines, 3 hand grenades, 100 machine gun shells, 9 back packs, 5 handbags, 9 hats and 9 uniforms and others materials including medicines.

Both sides have already fought against each other twice this month. One was on 8 July in Panglong with a 18 strong men led by Major Kyaw Zwar Oo from Laikha based Infantry Battalion# 64, which lasted for 30 minutes from 6 to 6:30 pm. 2 on the Burma Army side Lieutenant Kyaw Thu and Sergeant Kyi Min were killed and 3 others were injured including Major Kyaw Zwar Oo, according to the anti-SSA webpage on 9 July.

“If they [Burmese soldiers] are still hurting the villagers and committing violations, we [SSA] may attack them wherever they are. Because the SSA is holding guns not only to fight but also to protect its people and it is not a ceasefire group,” Sai Hseng Merng added.

There were 35 clashes between the Burma Army and the SSA since November 2008 until June 2009 when 31 on the Burma Army soldiers killed and many weapons were seized, while two of SSA side killed and1 weapon lost, according to the SSA’s report submitted at the bi-annual meeting held in June.

READ MORE---> 11 soldiers killed in rebel ambush...

Saboi Jum brothers to deliver KIO's message to Naypyitaw

by KNG

Kachin State civilian-peace mediator Rev. Dr. Lahtaw Saboi Jum and his younger brother Lahtaw Hkun Myat will deliver a clear message from the Kachin Independence Organization’s (KIO) to the Burmese ruling junta in Naypyitaw, the new jungle capital of the country, said KIO sources.

The two brothers had also helped to achieve a ceasefire agreement between the KIO and the ruling junta in February 24, 1994.

The KIO’s message, without mincing words, states that the "ambition of self-determination of the state" is not on the agenda of the junta-proposed transformation of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the armed-wing of the KIO, to a Border Guard Force (BGF), a KIO official in Laiza headquarters on the Sino-Burma border in Kachin State said.

It is unusual for the KIO to try and make direct contact with the military junta brass in Naypyitaw, by passing the Northern Regional Commander Maj-Gen Soe Win. The Commander has been assigned to talk to KIO delegates on the issue by the junta military hierarchy, said KIO officials in Laiza headquarters on the Sino-Burma border in Kachin State.

The KIO said the peace mediators will meet the junta’s Lt-Gen Ye Myint, Chief of Military Affairs Security (MAS) and other military leaders in the capital. They will pass on the message of the KIO's ambition of self-determination of the state, said sources close to the two mediators.

The reasons behind despatching peace mediators to Naypyitaw are that KIO wants to put across its stance and political ambitions to the junta and send the message that both parties and civilians will suffer if there is unexpected military conflict between the KIO and the junta, said a KIO officer in Laiza headquarters.

Earlier, the KIO proposed to the ruling junta through the Northern Regional Commander Maj-Gen Soe Win that the KIA could transform to a Kachin State Security Force (KSF) or a Kachin Regional Guard Force (KRGF). But neither the ruling junta nor Commander Soe Win responded to the KIO's proposal, said KIO sources.

The KIO is increasingly under pressure by the Kachin people in the country and abroad to reject the proposal of transforming KIA into a Border Guard Force (BGF).

READ MORE---> Saboi Jum brothers to deliver KIO's message to Naypyitaw...

Soaring investment in Burma 'could hurt' population

(DVB)–Foreign investment in Burma has soared in the past year, with China’s ramped up economic interest in the country accounting for the majority of the rise, said a Burmese government report yesterday.

According to the report, released by the Ministry of Planning and Development, investment leaped from $US172.7 million in the 2007/08 fiscal year to $US984.9m.

The ministry announced that 87 percent of the total investment had come from China, with the majority of its investment focused on the extractive sector.

Reports show that small Chinese companies are focusing on Burma’s hydropower, mining and oil industries.

Economic analysts are concerned however that the extra investment will have no valued impact on the economy as Chinese companies attempt to yield quick results.

Burma expert and economist Sean Turnell, from Macquarie University in Australia, said that the Burmese economy is too risky for investment in infrastructure sectors, with the level of poverty in Burma so extensive that there is no attraction to consumer sectors.

“Burma attracts wild cat companies who come in and out to make dirty money,” said Turnell.

“Burma is at the grip of a resource curse; the extra investment will help the generals stay in power but will not benefit the local people.”

Environmental groups are also concerned that the increased investment will further worsen human rights violations occurring as a result of the resource extraction project.

It is believed that a large chunk of the investment will be going to build the Shwe Gas fields over the coming years.

Spokespeson for anti-pipeline campaign group Shwe Gas Movement, Win Aung, believes that the extra investment from China is only adding to the difficult situation that many people in Arakan state, where the pipeline will begin, already face.

A significant proportion of the Arakan population rely on fishing, and in times of gas or oil exploration, the government often cuts off fishing areas.

“Fishermen are restrained from fishing so they are unable to feed their families,” said Win Aung.

“Military battalions are sent into protect the construction and they create many problems as they confiscate land.

“The government should be directing foreign investment into education and health so the people of Burma will benefit in the future”.

Reporting by Alex Ellgee

READ MORE---> Soaring investment in Burma 'could hurt' population...

Used Car Business Accelerates in Burma

The Irrawaddy News

Hundreds of used cars, mostly made in Japan, are stockpiled in the Burmese border town of Myawaddy, awaiting the arrival of Rangoon-based car dealers, said a border businessman.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Friday, a car agent in Myawaddy, said “At some gate points we have 50, 150 or even 500 cars.”

Sometimes 10 cars are sold in single day, including Toyota Land Cruisers, Nissan and Toyoto Hilux and Parado. Prices range from 300,000 baht (US $9,000) to 70,000 baht ($2,100).

Many Rangoon businessmen, including representatives of Tay Za and Zaw Zaw, who are both close associates of Burma's ruling generals, have come to purchase cars, in addition to family members of high-ranking generals, he said.

He said Tay Za and Zaw Zaw’s marketing envoys came twice in one week and bought several cars at a time.

Burma has launched cars auctions at several locations in recent months, according to businessmen, who said the auctions generate income for many people who then buy new cars.

Many of the used Japanese cars in Myawaddy are a decade old, but in many cases they are replacing cars in Rangoon that are several decades older and badly damage. Usually, the used cars arrive through Thai agents.

In June, the Sakura Auto Auction Centre of Sakura Technical Services Co Ltd opened in Cherry Garden Housing in South Okkalapa Township in Rangoon, marking the first time a commercial business has been allowed to sell new cars.

On opening day, the auction sold four new Toyota Land cruisers with a floor price of 300 to 370 million kyat (US $277,778 to $342,592); 50 new model Toyota with a floor price of 100-220 million kyat (US $92,592 to $203,708); and 20 used Toyota with a floor price of 4-100 million kyat (US $3,704 to $92,592), according to Rangoon-based car dealers. Car prices are ridiculously inflated in Burma compared to Western prices.

Businessmen in Rangoon believed that Sakura company is close to influential generals.
Normally, Burma's regime allows only a few thousand new cars to be imported each year.

According to rumors, businessmen say permission to import new cars is done through only two persons in the country—Snr-Gen Than Shwe and vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye.

Some wealthy persons in Rangoon are seen driving Hummers and Italian sports cars.
According to a salesperson with Sakura Auto Auction Centre, the company will import new cars monthly.

READ MORE---> Used Car Business Accelerates in Burma...

Tunnel Troops’ Families Look to Occult for Help


Astrologers and soothsayers in Burma are reportedly being consulted by an increasing number of people who haven’t heard for months from family members of the Burmese army’s Electrical and Mechanical Engineering section working on the regime’s tunnel construction projects.

Some are practicing yadaya, or magic rites, in the hope that family members involved in the projects return home soon and unscathed.

Superstitious Burmese commonly practice yadaya to ward off misfortune or to bring good luck.

Concern about the fate of officers and soldiers assigned to the tunnel projects has grown following publication of reports about the secret work.

Several photographs of a tunnel construction site were posted on news Web sites in recent weeks, including the Democratic Voice of Burma, Yale Global online and The Irrawaddy, and have subsequently been circulating widely in Burma. The photographs and video material came from a number of sources, including the Burmese military and Burmese activists.

Family members are reportedly worried that after the completion of the secret tunnel-construction project, the regime may not want the officers and soldiers involved to communicate with the public.

A well-connected Burmese editor based in Rangoon told The Irrawaddy that some of the projects are almost complete and at an “important stage.” He believed that the regime
won’t allow soldiers and officers who belong to the engineering force to return home this time.

An astrologer who provided yadaya advice to some family members told The Irrawaddy that a group of female karaoke singers is often brought to Naypyidaw to entertain the officers and soldiers.

The astrologer said that his clients included some family members who had visited Naypyidaw to try and meet soldiers and officers from the engineering department.

“They have seen some tunnels near Naypyidaw and they also heard the sound of testing missiles that misfired,” he said. “They come and see me to get an advice of how to get out of the tunnel project.”

According to a MoU signed between Burma and North Korea in November 2008, Burma plans to build with North Korean technical assistance a military headquarters facility with a maze of underground tunnels around Naypyidaw, the country’s remote capital.

The government is also believed to be building underground silos to house anti-aircraft missiles, radar equipment and other military installations.

READ MORE---> Tunnel Troops’ Families Look to Occult for Help...

ASEAN summit to tackle Burma stalemate

(DVB)–The intransigence of the Burmese government and the ongoing political crisis in the country will likely feature high on the agenda of the 42nd ASEAN summit beginning today in Thailand.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has arrived on the island of Phuket, which will play host to the week-long annual summit.

The US ambassador to ASEAN, Scot Marciel, told reporters on Wednesday that he “expects” Burma to feature in talks this week.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc has found itself in a predicament in recent months as two of its member nations, North Korea and Burma, have each drawn international condemnation over their respective internal problems.

The two countries featured side by side in news headlines last month as cooperation over weapons technology appeared to heighten, despite North Korea being subject to tough UN arms embargo.

Such behaviour could galvanise an ASEAN community normally reluctant to interfere in domestic problems of member countries.

According to Debbie Stothard, coordinator of advocacy network ALTSEAN-Burma, the development of advanced weaponry, including long-range missiles, makes Burma “more of a traditional threat to the region”.

Similarly, the thousands of refugees fleeing fighting in Burma into neighbouring countries have given Burma’s long-running internal conflict international ramifications.

Joining Clinton at the summit will be senior officials from China, Burma’s northern neighbour and strongest ally which has largely resisted any condemnation of the military government.

There is concern that China’s presence at the summit could outweigh any influence that the US can bring to discussions over tangible action to take on Burma.

But there have been suggestions lately that China’s confidence in its neighbour is waning following increasing unrest in the country which, if not tackled, says Stothard, could “hurt China very seriously”.

“Beijing is starting to understand that it is not in China’s national interests to allow the situation to deteriorate further in Burma,” she said.

“China needs stability in Burma and we can see that the Burmese government is creating more and more instability”.

Reporting by Francis Wade

READ MORE---> ASEAN summit to tackle Burma stalemate...

Than Shwe’s grandson learns flying - Nay Shwe Thway Aung

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The Burmese military junta supremo Snr Gen Than Shwe’s grandson Pho La Pyea is said to be taking flying lessons, according to eyewitnesses.

The pampered grandson, Pho La Pyea (alias) Nay Shwe Thway Aung, reportedly flew his grandfather’s private Russian-made helicopter from the Meikhtila airbase and landed n Bagan town, sources said.

The white helicopter was gifted to Snr Gen Than Shwe by his close friend and business crony Tayza, sources in the military said.

READ MORE---> Than Shwe’s grandson learns flying - Nay Shwe Thway Aung...

Protest against cross-border road project

By Hseng Khio Fah

(Shanland) -Local populace along the Thai-Burma border last week staged a protest against a joint road project between a Thai firm and the Burma Army, according to local sources reports.

On 10 July, villagers in Ban Hintaek (Ban Therd Thai), the former stronghold of the late Mong Tai Army (MTA) leader Khun Sa, in Chiangrai’s Mae Fa Luang district, held a demonstration against the road project of Saraburi Coal Mining, a subsidiary of Ital-Thai, that had been granted concession by Burmese authorities to extract coal from Shan State East’s Mongkok sub-township, Monghsat township, 70km north of Chiangrai border towards the end of 2008.

The protestors argued that the road project could affect local village life, endanger the environment, promote drug trafficking and place local people’s lives at risk as the proposed area is operated by the anti-Naypyitaw Shan State Army (SSA) ‘South’ and the United Wa State Army (UWSA).

Tensions between the Burma Army and the UWSA have been on the rise since April, when the latter was called upon to become border security forces under the former’s command.

“Without their permission, we won’t dare agree,” a participant in the protest who requests anonymity said.

At the same time, the SSA South’s Lt-Col Gawnzeun, Commander of the Kengtung Front based at Loi Gawwan, 10 miles east of the proposed border pass also told SHAN, “I don’t believe they (the Thai company) will go ahead with the road construction without informing us in advance.”

The deposit in Mongkok is anticipated to boast at least 150 million tons of raw coal, one third found to be Grade A. It would take 40 years long to deplete the fields even with 200 ten wheelers working each day to transport the diggings, according to an official from the company.

In exchange for the coal concession the Burma Army had insisted that the company construct the Mongkok-Maejok route to the diggings despite the existence of a shorter 100 km route inside Burma’s Tachilek to Thailand’s Maesai.

The road is proposed to be built across Maejok on the Burmese side of the border to Thailand’s Hmong Kaolang. It will be roughly 60 km inside Burma and at least 90 km inside Thailand until it connects with the national highway at Pasang, between Maesai and Chiangrai.

The proposed road would be able to transport 5,000 tons of coal per day, according to a security source.

On 21 May, the company held a public meeting with 200 villagers of Ban Hintaek to seek their approval.

“About 300 villagers will get jobs as drivers if the project is approved,” a local villager quoted an official from the lobby team as saying.

Since 1996, the Burma Army has made abortive attempts to dislodge the SSA from its border base, the last time in 2005.

Read Also:
Junta wants Thai company to build strategic road...

READ MORE---> Protest against cross-border road project...

Prices climb as scarcity mounts

IMNA, Panorkkyar

The price of goods exported from Thailand increased, as fewer goods from Thailand have been arriving in Moulmein, according to traders in Moulmein.

Two days ago the main stream of business in Myawaddy mountain road was blocked as heavy rains falling in the mountain made the road impassible, and the Gaying bridge remained damage, forcing most trucks to have to reduce their weight while heading in the direction of Myawaddy at Hpa-an .

“Commodities are not arriving in Myawaddy so we just have to sell what we have left from before,” said a bulk seller from Zaykyo. “Because of this we are having to raise our sales prices.”

The price of most goods has increased beyond what would have sold when they were readily available. Before, one bucket cooking oil increasing in price from 24,000 kyat to 28,000 kyat said one resident. Among other items increasing in price are shoes, slippers and spices.

“Before the road was damaged we made profits of 300,000 kyat for trading with Myawaddy to Moulmein, but now we can’t ship our goods. We are waiting for road to reopen and have to spend money eating here and are losing the time for our job” said a trader from Myawaddy.

As previously reported by IMNA, authorities have limited the weight trucks are able to carry across the Gyaing suspension .The Gyaing suspension bridge is part of the main road to Rangoon,_Hpa-an,_Moulemin and_Myawaddy explained the rice trader from Myawaddy.

The trader added, “The Gyaing bridge was saging and the stream of the business imports from Thailand is slower because most of the trucks have had to transfer their cargo to smaller cars to transport it past the suspension bridge – they can only pass if they reduce the weight of their load.”

READ MORE---> Prices climb as scarcity mounts...

Burma buys electricity from China

by May Kyaw

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – In an ironic twist, Burma is said to have bought 300 megawatts of electricity from the Sino-Burma border town of Ruili in China, to meet the energy requirements of its second largest city of Mandalay.

“Mandalay Division Electric Power Department Divisional Head, Daw Aye Aye Min said that they have sought electricity from China but they don’t know when it will be available,” an official at the Industrial Zone in Mandalay told Mizzima.

The electricity supplied from China will be distributed in both Mandalay Industrial Zone and the Mandalay urban area, which are currently receiving inadequate power supply.

The authorities said, once the electricity is supplied, Mandalay Industrial Zone, currently receiving five hours of power supply per day, will receive it for 10 hours.

The Mandalay Industrial Zone, where cars and vehicles are produced, has a demand for a minimum of 40 megawatt of electricity. But, it is suffering from a deficit of 20 megawatts.

To meet its electricity needs, the Mandalay Industrial Zone is said to be preparing to set up its own electric generation and distribution network at a cost of Kyat 300 million [approximately USD 300,000].

‘Sein Pan’, the industrial area, which was later turned into an industrial zone, over the past 10 years, received regular supply of electricity for the first three years. But later it came down to five hours a day.

“The power supply to our area is from 7 a.m. to noon for the first half of the day and from noon to 5 p.m. in the second half,” Myint Swe, the Chairman of the Industrial Zone said.

While the current electricity tariff is 50 Kyat per unit, it is still not clear how much will be charged for a unit of electricity, once power is bought from China.

Even as Burma buys electricity from China, it has signed agreements with Chinese companies to invest in 10 hydropower projects.

Despite the government’s claim that it will provide 24 hours electricity in 2009, all the cities including former capital Rangoon still face power cuts except newly built Naypyitaw, the jungle capital of Burma.

Even during the monsoons when electricity supply is normally high, residents of Burma’s former capital Rangoon, face shortage of power and receive it for only six hours daily. The city, under blackout, has to put up with sound and carbon pollution from private electric generators.

Chinese Hydroelectric power projects in Burma:

(1) Ye Ywa hydroelectric power project

(2) Paung Laung hydroelectric power project

(3) Salween hydroelectric power project

(4) Seven hydroelectric power projects on Irrawaddy River

READ MORE---> Burma buys electricity from China...

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