Thursday, July 23, 2009

US Offer Won’t Lead to Suu Kyi’s Freedom: Opposition Leaders

The Irrawaddy News

Opposition leaders on Thursday expressed doubt that a US offer of economic investment in Burma in return for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi from prison would lead to the pro-democracy leader’s freedom.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday in Phuket, Thailand, that the US would expand relations with Burma if the military government released opposition leader Suu Kyi, who is now on trial.

“If she [Suu Kyi] were released, that would open up opportunities, at least for my country, to expand our relationship with Burma, including investments in Burma. But it is up to the Burmese leadership,” Clinton said while attending a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

Burmese political opposition leaders urged the military regime to consider the offer as a way to encourage national reconciliation.

Khin Maung Swe, a spokesperson for Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), said that Clinton’s statement shows how much the international community supports the release of the detained opposition leader, who has been under house arrest for 13 of the past 19 years.

If the Burmese generals followed up on the US offer, it would be a win-win situation with both Burma and the US benefiting from better economic and diplomatic cooperation between the two countries, said Khin Maung Swe.

“The Burmese generals should consider this carefully,” he said.

He said regional leaders should not only talk but also take actions to bring the Burmese regime to the “table of negotiation.”

Win Tin, the most prominent Burmese opposition politician after Suu Kyi, told The Irrawaddy that the Clinton’s statement displayed the weakness of US policy on Burma.

“What about reconciliation dialogue, the election [in 2010] and ethnic issues?” Win Tin asked. “Don’t they know that they would detain her again?”

Win Tin himself spent 19 years in prison and was unexpectedly released late last year.

Chan Htun, a Rangoon-based, veteran politician and former ambassador to China, said Clinton’s statement was positive.

“I would like to urge the Burmese generals to seriously consider the future of the country and cooperate with the offer,” Chan Htun said. “But, that’s only my wish. The Burmese regime will do whatever it wants and will listen to nobody.”

He said he doesn’t believe Burma’s No 1 general, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, will consider the offer.

A prominent Mon politician, Nai Ngwe Thein, who is vice president (1) of the Mon National Democratic Front in Mon State in southern Burma, said, “It is a good offer. But, I don’t think they [the generals] will follow up on it.”

At a press conference on Wednesday, Clinton said the US is seriously concerned about the closer military cooperation between Burma and North Korea, and Burma’s possible pursuit of “offensive weapons including nuclear weapons.”

The US imposed economic sanctions on Burma in 1997, preventing new US investment in the military-ruled country. It tightened economic sanctions that banned importing goods from Burma again in 2003, following an attack on Suu Kyi's convoy by regime-backed thugs in northern Burma.

A veteran journalist who works at a foreign wire service in Rangoon said that he doesn’t believe the regime will consider the US offer.

“You can’t go and bribe the regime [in exchange for Suu Kyi’s release],” he said.

But the correspondent said that there has been growing optimism among the Burmese people that Suu Kyi’s prison sentence might be reduced because of the pressure from the international community.

“People are saying that the regime will put her back under house arrest with a three-year sentence,” he said. “They [the junta] still want to take her out of the election in 2010.” If convicted, she could receive up to a five-year prison sentence.

Asked to predict whether the regime might consider freeing Suu Kyi anytime soon, he said, “We are dealing with a very peculiar regime. They are unpredictable.”

READ MORE---> US Offer Won’t Lead to Suu Kyi’s Freedom: Opposition Leaders...

Asean expects Burma to respond to Int’l concerns

by Mungpi

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations and their dialogue partners on Thursday concluded the regional security forum, exhorting Burma to release opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose trial will hear the final argument on Friday.

Thailand’s Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, in his press statement as the Chairman of the Asean Ministerial Meeting, Post Ministerial Conferences and ASEAN Regional Forum reminded military-ruled Burma to be responsive to international concerns.

Kasit said the Asean as well as members of the ARF respect the sentiment of friendship and goodwill and would like to assist Burma in its efforts to promote democracy, human rights and the well-being of her people.

“At the same time, it is hoped that Myanmar would also be responsive to the international community's concerns,” Kasit said.

Delegates from Burma led by Foreign Minister Nyan Win, during the four day conference held in Thailand’s resort island of Phuket faced criticism and strong worded messages from several quarters over the trial of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

On Wednesday evening, US officials met the Burmese delegation and conveyed the importance of Burma implementing the terms of the United Nations Security Council resolution 1874 on North Korea, which imposed sanctions on North Korea over its recent missile and nuclear tests.

US Secretary of State Clinton did not join the talks with the Burmese delegation. (JEG's: wise male power)

During the talks, according to a statement by the US State Department, the US officials also pointed out their expectation from Burma to release Aung San Suu Kyi and to begin a process of freeing political prisoners, and making the election scheduled for 2010 open, transparent and credible.

Clinton, during a press briefing on Thursday said, this view was not only of the US, “It was very widely and, I must say, from the heart – it was really expressed from the heart by so many people.”

On Wednesday, Clinton said Asean should consider expelling Burma from the grouping if the ruling regime sentences the detained Nobel Peace Laureate.

But later on the same day, she also said, the US would expand relations with Burma if the military junta releases Aung San Suu Kyi.

“If she [Suu Kyi] were released, that would open up opportunities, at least for my country, to expand our relationship with Burma, including investments in Burma. But it is up to the Burmese leadership,” Clinton said.

But her remarks were refuted on Thursday by Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva saying there are “insufficient grounds" to expel Burma from the 10-member bloc.

Speaking in his capacity as the current chair of Asean, Abhisit said while the west and Asean share the same goals regarding democracy in Burma, the policies cannot be the same.

He also said, expelling the military-ruled country over the detention of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is not likely solve the problem but will only further isolate the country.

"There are not enough grounds to expel Myanmar [Burma] from ASEAN", reports quoted Abhisit as saying. "If we do that, it will further isolate Myanmar [Burma] and would not solve the problem."

But he reiterated that Asean wishes to see Burma achieve democracy and is monitoring the situation there including the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who led the 1990 election winning National League for Democracy party, is currently facing a trial on charges of violating her detention terms for allegedly harbouring an American man, John Yettaw, who swam to her lakeside home in early May.

If found guilty, she could be sentenced up to five years in prison.

READ MORE---> Asean expects Burma to respond to Int’l concerns...

Aung San Suu Kyi meets lawyers to oversee final argument

by Mungpi & Myint Maung

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday met her legal counsels and discussed the final argument to be submitted in court in Rangoon’s Insein prison on Friday.

Kyi Win, a member of the legal team, told Mizzima that he along with three other colleagues – Nyan Win, Hla Myo Myint and Khin Htay Kywe – on Thursday met Aung San Suu Kyi for about two hours. They made a few changes in the draft final argument.

“Tomorrow [Friday] we will submit the argument and Hla Myo Myint will speak in her defence,” Kyi Win said.

On Wednesday, the defence team was not allowed to meet the detained opposition leader, but since it needed to consult her on the draft final argument, Kyi Win said he had reapplied for permission, which was eventually granted.

“Officials came and informed us on Thursday that we have been granted permission. They took us to the prison at about 2 p.m. (local time). We concluded our meeting at about 4 p.m.” Kyi Win said.

He, however, refused to talk about the contents of the final argument. He only said that the defence will prove Aung San Suu Kyi’s innocence.

The special court in Insein, where the Noble Peace Laureate is on trial since May 18, has fixed Friday, July 24 for the hearing of the final argument by lawyers from both sides - the prosecution and the defence.

With only the hearing of the final argument and pronouncement of the verdict remaining, Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial is approaching the last lap.

Asked what he expected would be the outcome of the trial, Kyi Win, however, declined to comment saying “As it is a legal proceeding, I would not like to comment before the trial is over. Please bear with us, because it will not take much longer to complete the trial”.

But Dr. Win Naing, one of the spokesperson for the National League for Democracy (NLD) said since the junta has set-up the whole thing to charge Aung San Suu Kyi, “I think it [junta] will find a way to sentence her.”

The Burmese democracy icon has been charged for flouting the terms of her detention and ‘harbouring’ an American, John Yettaw, who sneaked into her lakeside home in early May. If found guilty, she could be sentenced up to five years in prison.

READ MORE---> Aung San Suu Kyi meets lawyers to oversee final argument...

Two soldiers of DKBA arrested, one left standing

IMNA- Two Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) soldiers were seized by the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) yesterday between Three Pagoda Pass (TPP) and Maketa forest. During the arrest sources claim one of the DKBA soldiers was killed.

According to sources from Three Pagoda Pass (TPP), forces from KNLA Bridge No.6, battalion No. 16, at the Kyun-chaung checkpoint, arrested two DKBA soldiers who were traveling from Chaung Wa, where they lived, to TPP, by boat. The soldiers, who were regular infantry of a low rank, were traveling together with no other support, and it is unclear how they were recognized as DKBA, and subsequently arrested.

“DKBA Captin Saw Aye One called his soldiers to go to TPP, and while traveling they were arrested and one of them was killed by the KNLA. The other DKBA soldier is still being detained by the KNLA,” said a source from the Karen Peace Force. “The KNU have not retaliated after a recent combined attack from the DKBA and Burmese army against the KNU on July 8th.”

On July 8th, the DKBA fought against troops from KNLA Bridge No.6 in Maketa from which the DKBA suffered 2 casualties. After the conflict between the DKBA and the KNU, a rumor spread out that the Burmese army and the DKBA combine force would continue to fight against KNU Bridge No.6.

According to a KNU officer from Dooplaya District, their forces didn’t kill or arrest either DKBA soldier, and that their battalion No. 16 didn’t engage in any action yesterday.

The actual circumstances around the event remain unclear. According to a source from TPP close to the KNU, “[The] KNU arrested DKBA soldiers yesterday; 1 solider was killed but I am not sure where the KNU is keeping the other soldier.“

The event has prompted Burmese authorities to tighten security inside and outside TPP town, residents claim, explaining the security increase most likely came as reaction to the arrests as well as an increase fear about the spread of H1N1.

READ MORE---> Two soldiers of DKBA arrested, one left standing...

US and Burma Meet in Phuket

The Irrawaddy News

PHUKET, Thailand— A senior US official told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that US officials from Hillary Clinton’s delegation held a bilateral meeting with Burmese officials on Wednesday evening in Thailand’s resort island of Phuket.

“They met yesterday—a small group from the State Department and a small group from Burma,” said a senior official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) shakes hand with Burma's Foreign Minister Nyan Win (C) while Malaysia Foreign Minister Dato' Anifah bin Haji Aman (L) looks on during the signing of Treaty of Amity and Cooperation between the US and the Asian bloc on the Thai island of Phuket. US officials held a rare meeting with a delegation from Burma on the sidelines of the ARF. (Photo: AFP)

He said the US officials at the meeting expressed the importance of Burma hearing the terms of the UN Security Council Resolution 1874 on North Korea.

The resolution included calls on all UN member states to carry out inspections of North Korean ships that may be carrying equipment related to weapons of mass destruction and to increase vigilance over financial dealings with Pyongyang.

The official said that the outcome of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention would have a “direct effect” on the next step of engagement regarding their bilateral relationship, adding this meant that if the Burmese authorities released Suu Kyi, the US would be prepared to look at “positive measures.”

Scot Marciel, who is currently deputy assistant secretary East Asia and Pacific Bureau and ambassador for Asean affairs, led the US delegation, which lasted for 90 minutes, according to the official.

Burma’s Foreign Minister Nyan Win reportedly led the Burmese delegation, but the US official said the former army officer had nothing to say except that they would take the messages back to senior leaders in Naypyidaw. The official added that “the Burmese basically listened.” (JEG's: you might as well phone connect directly with the general and deal with him directly that way... "no-harm" done)

Responding to questions on the US policy review for Burma, the official said their policy was “very consistent” in calling for the Burmese authorities to “release Suu Kyi and the other 2,100 political prisoners,” and for the junta to open the country up to a participatory political process with free elections.

The Burmese foreign minister and the Burmese delegation declined to comment on the issue when The Irrawaddy approached them.

“I have no more to say as I am very tired from talking [at the meeting]… so no more comment,” Nyan Win said in Burmese. (JEG's: but he was listening, not talking read above...)

Burmese officials usually avoid speaking to reporters when abroad over sensitive issues for fear of punishment or dismissal by senior leaders.

This is the second meeting between the two countries that has taken place outside Burma. In 2007, Burmese officials and American State Department officials held an unpublicized meeting in Beijing.

The Beijing meeting, which came at the request of the Burmese military junta, was thought to herald a shift in the Bush administration’s US policy. The frank exchange of opinions on both sides was thought to include the continued detention of Suu Kyi, US sanctions and the political situation in Burma.

READ MORE---> US and Burma Meet in Phuket...

Displaced in Burma lacking medical aid

(DVB)–Internally displaced persons hiding in jungles in eastern Burma are suffering from outbreaks of malaria and dengue fever with almost no medicine or medical facilities, according a Karen aid group.

Around 9000 people in Bago division’s Taung-ngu district are internally displaced (IDPs) and are having difficulty accessing food, water and medicine, said the Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People (CIDKP).

The prevalence of mosquito-borne diseases soars during the rainy season, and is a particular threat to people living in bush areas.

“Their traditional method of making smoke to keep mosquitoes away is dangerous because the Burmese army might see [the smoke] and find them,” said Saw Eh Wah from the CIDKP.

At least two or three people in each household are infected with either malaria or dengue fever, many of whom are pregnant women and children under age of 10, he said.

No deaths have yet been reported and IDPs are said to be using traditional medicines to combat the diseases.

“There are no hospitals or clinics; sometimes they get one or two medical workers from the Karen National Union and the Free Burma Rangers [medical group],” he said, adding that the IDPs are using “herbs and tree roots” as medicine.

Burma is also home to over 500,000 internally displaced persons, the majority of which are in eastern Karen state.

Many of these have been forced out of their homes by fighting between the Burmese army and the Karen National Union.

A report released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in June said that around 723,571 people are considered to be stateless in Burma, the world’s third highest population of stateless persons.

Reporting by Naw Noreen

READ MORE---> Displaced in Burma lacking medical aid...

NLD at a 'critical stage': Win Tin

by Myint Maung

New Delhi (mizzima) – A leader of Burma’s opposition party – National League for Democracy (NLD) – said the party’s leadership has reached a 'critical stage' as most members of the party’s executive committee are aging and faced with worsening health.

Win Tin, a veteran journalist and member of the Central Executive Committee (CEC) of the NLD, said with most CEC party members over the age of 80 and confronting severe health problems, the party is at a crossroads.

“The leaders are already at the age of retirement from party work, but with so many things yet to be done it is difficult for them to retire. They are also facing severe health problems, so the party is at a crossroads,” Win Tin said.

He said with Aung San Suu Kyi and Vice-Chairman Tin Oo still under detention, the party cannot renew its registration and inject young blood into the party’s leadership, as it would essentially remove Aung San Suu Kyi and Tin Oo from the committee.

“With Daw Aung San Suu Kyi still under detention we cannot renew our party registration. And we cannot include more people in the committee, as we would like to do, because the election commissioner will check and we can only renew the registration with the people they approved,” Win Tin explained.

NLD CEC Chairman Aung Shwe, Vice-Chairman U Lwin and members Lun Tin, Nyunt Wei, Hla Pe, Than Tun, Win Tin and Thakin Soe Myint are all in their 80s and 90s and reportedly experiencing increasing health concerns.

“U Aung Shwe is over 90 now. He has not been able to come to the party office for months. I don’t think he can come in the next two to three months either. U Lun Tin’s eyesight and hearing are poor too. He has to be escorted to the office. He is paralyzed and is now confined to his bed. U Hla Pe’s health is also not so good, while U Than Tun suffers from frequent headaches,” elaborated Win Tin.

He added that he himself has been suffering from a heart problem as well as a low pulse rate and low blood pressure, in addition to diabetes and arthritis. He may also have to undergo an operation to combat deteriorating eyesight.

“My heartbeat is only 48 beats per minute. The normal is about 80 beats per minute. I cannot move easily. I get exhausted after taking four or five steps. My physician instructed me not to take liver, innards, tomato and bean sprouts, and to instead take only fish and meat with other healthy foods,” said Win Tin, who has his next medical check-up scheduled for August 3rd.

Yet, despite his poor health, he said he will not forego traveling to Insein prison on Friday, where a special court is to hear final arguments relating to the ongoing trial of NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

READ MORE---> NLD at a 'critical stage': Win Tin...

ASEAN rejects Clinton's call to expel Myanmar

BANGKOK (Channel New Asia)- The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will not consider expelling Myanmar over the detention of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, rejecting US calls, Thailand's prime minister said Thursday.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Thai television Wednesday that the regional bloc should consider kicking out the military-ruled member state if it does not free the Nobel laureate, who is on trial in prison.

But Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, speaking as current chair of the 10-state grouping, said that while ASEAN and the West "have the same goal, we cannot implement the same policy."

"There are not enough grounds to do that (expel Myanmar). We have already done what we can under the ASEAN mechanism," said Abhisit, referring to the group's public statements expressing concern over Aung San Suu Kyi's detention.

"If Myanmar is expelled it will further isolate (the regime) and would that solve the problem?"

Myanmar -- ASEAN's problem child since it joined the bloc in 1997 -- recently sparked outrage by putting Aung San Suu Kyi on trial over an incident in which an American man, John Yettaw, swam to her lakeside house uninvited.

The ruling junta snubbed United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in early July by refusing to let him visit Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon's notorious Insein prison, deepening concerns in the international community.

US President Barack Obama has described the court proceedings as a "show trial".

The democracy icon has spent 13 of the last 19 years in detention since the junta refused to recognise her National League for Democracy's landslide victory in elections in 1990.

But Abhisit has previously rejected the imposing of sanctions on Myanmar, such as those enforced by the United States and European Union.

"We are still insisting on our policy of constructive engagement and hope that the US will understand," Abhisit added.

Abhisit's comments came on his return from the southern Thai resort island of Phuket where senior officials and ministers have held talks on Myanmar and the denuclearisation of North Korea on the sidelines of Asia's biggest security forum.

- AFP/ir

READ MORE---> ASEAN rejects Clinton's call to expel Myanmar...

Suu Kyi must be freed : Clinton

By Kittipong Thavevong

The Nation - North Korea urged to drop nuclear plans and return to six-party talks

Phuket - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday called on Burma to release pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi as a precondition for the normalisation of ties with the United States.

"It is important" for the world community, particularly Asean member countries, to "encourage the Burmese leadership to open up", she said.

The US hopes for a positive change in Burma but in the end it would be up to Asean to bring that about, she said.

Suu Kyi is now standing trial for allegedly sheltering a foreigner. She had been on house arrest for many years.

Clinton praised Asean collectively for its progress on human rights, saying the development of human rights within the regional grouping was "very welcomed" by the US government.

"Asean is moving in a very positive direction," she said.

But more attempts should be made to pressure Burma to "change their direction", she said.

The secretary of state also announced a return of the superpower to the region, which has a population of almost 600 million.

"The United States is back in Southeast Asia. President Obama and I believe that this region is vital to the global progress, peace and prosperity," she told the media at the Sheraton Grande Laguna hotel.

Clinton spent much of the press conference attempting to persuade North Korea to return to the discussion table on the Korean Peninsula's nuclear crisis.

She said only "irreversible denuclearisation" by North Korea would pave the way for a normalisation of ties with the US and prevent the country from facing global sanctions.

The goal was the betterment of North Korean citizens, she said.

All the five other countries in the six-party talks - the US, Russia, China, South Korea and Japan - were adamant that North Korea would have to halt its nuclear programme.

"We are willing to discuss the future of North Korea only if they agree to talk about denuclearisation," she said.

Clinton came to this resort island to attend the security-related Asean Regional Forum today. She also represented the US at the signing of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation with Asean.

Security was tight before and during the press briefing, with all journalists and cameramen covering the event required to pass through a metal detector.

READ MORE---> Suu Kyi must be freed : Clinton...

Extortion Increases in Arakan's Rambree

Rambree (Narinjara): Extortion in Rambree Township in Arakan State has been on the increase, particular extortion committed by the township chairman, said a retired school headmaster from Rambree.

He said that Township Chairman U Aung Kyaw Zaw has extorted taxes from many businessmen in Rambree Township with threats of not providing them permits for future business operations.

U Aung Chit Than, who owns and operates the Rangoon-Rambree bus route, gave 100,000 kyat to the township chairman recently after being threatened with having his operation permit withdrawn.

U Tun Wai, who is also a bus owner from Sapar Ton Village under Lay Daung Village Tract in Rambree, gave 100,000 to the chairman in June after being similarly threatened.

U Nyo Win, a tractor owner from Ward One in Rambree, had to pay 100,000 kyats to U Aung Kyaw Zaw after he failed to meet the chairman when he was summoned.

U Than Kyaw, chairman of Ward Five in Rambree, and Ko Than Min Naing, a rickshaw puller, each had to give 5,000 kyats to the chairman. They were forced to pay after their tractor and rickshaw respectively crossed in front of the township chairman's motorbike when he was traveling in Rambree.

According to a source, the extorted money was transferred to him through the bank account that was opened at the government bank in the name of the township chairman fund.

Many high government officials in Arakan, including army and navy officials, have extorted money from the public recently because they believe they will lose this privilege after the 2010 election.

After the 2010 election, it is believe that the new government that comes to power will change the government administration system. Because of that, the government officials currently in power are taking advantage of the current situation to extort as much money as possible from the public, the retired teacher said.

READ MORE---> Extortion Increases in Arakan's Rambree...

US urges Burma to boycott North Korea

(DVB)–The United States has said that Burma should implement a UN resolution imposing an arms embargo on North Korea as one precursor of increased US engagement with Burma.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is currently in Thailand at the 27-state ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), which is also attended by North Korea and China.

An anonymous US State Department official told Reuters today that the US had urged Burma to become party to a United Nations resolution that bans all North Korean arms exports.

The resolution was adopted following North Korea’s nuclear test in May, and includes an authorization allowing member states to inspect all transportation carrying North Korean exports.

The comments follow concerns voiced by Clinton yesterday that strengthening ties between Burma and North Korea could include trade in nuclear material and information.

Fears over Burma’s nuclear ambitions stem largely from an incident last month in which a North Korean ship being tracked by the US navy on suspicion that it was carrying weaponry appeared to be heading towards Burma, before turning around.

Both Burma and North Korea are likely to feature highly on the agenda of the ARF, which is now in its second day on the Thailand island of Phuket.

Clinton yesterday met with students and social assistance groups in Bangkok prior to traveling to Phuket.

Dr Cynthia Maung, who operates the Mae Tao charity clinic in the Thai-Burma border town of Mae Sot, was among the activists attending the meeting.

According to Cynthia Maung, Clinton said that there should be greater awareness of the links between North Korea and Burma, and their potential dealings in nuclear weaponry.

“[Clinton] said that China, which is close to North Korea, should help bring this under control,” she said.

“She also pointed out that the Southeast Asian nations have a responsibility on tackling human right abuses in Burma, and that the US will be cooperating with [regional countries]."

Reporting by Francis Wade and Khin Hnin Htet

READ MORE---> US urges Burma to boycott North Korea...

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