Monday, July 27, 2009

Energy Meeting in Mandalay

By The Irrawaddy

Thailand’s Energy Minister Wannarat Charnnukul will emphasize his country’s strength as a regional hub of alternative energy at a meeting with energy ministers from Asian +3 and Asean +6 in Mandalay on July 29-30, according to a report in the Thailand-based news service The Nation on Monday.

Thailand will join the Asean energy action plan during 2010-2015, which highlights cooperation in seven areas including clean coal technology, the regional power transmission grid, gas pipelines, energy conservation, recycliable energy and nuclear power.

Minister Charnnukul also said that Thailand would also seek a bilateral talk with Burma on further cooperation in natural gas investment, according to the report.

According to a source close to the Thai ministry official, Thailand is concerned that Burma’s gas fields will be monopolized by Chinese state oil firms.

Thailand imports over 50 percent of Burma’s gas, which the French energy conglomerate Total extracts from the Yadana gas field in the Andaman Sea.

Total is one of the world’s six biggest so-called “supermajor” oil and energy companies and is the only large European business still operating in Burma.

In May, the French government said that if tougher trade curbs were introduced against Burma over the regime’s treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi, it would have damaging repercussions for one of France’s biggest companies and possibly for Southeast Asia.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner also warned that any pullout by Total would have a limited effect because Chinese state oil firms would be quick to move in.

The EU has urged Burma’s neighbors—notably China and India—to also threaten sanctions to persuade the regime to halt its political repression.

The 25 EU countries are barred from importing timber, minerals, gems and metals from Burma, and prohibited from exporting weapons and weapons-related equipment. Various restrictions on junta members are also in place.

However, both India and China continue to expand their business interests with the Burmese junta and supply it with weapons.

READ MORE---> Energy Meeting in Mandalay...

Clinton’s myopia on Burma

by Enzo Reale

(Mizzima- Opinion) - Did you think they had a "policy"? Think again.

Since her first trip to Asia, last February, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been busy advertising the "new approach" to the region promoted by the Obama administration. Especially, regarding Burma, she announced a "policy review" in the months to come: "Clearly, sanctions haven't worked", she said, adding that engagement by the neighbouring countries also failed to bring change to the isolated nation.

Officially the "policy review" is still on and, apart from some vague statements from Clinton's aides, nobody at the moment can spell out its contents and its real purpose. But last week, at a press conference on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Phuket, Secretary of State came up with quite a surprising proposal to Burmese rulers: "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. In other words: ‘if you give me Aung San Suu Kyi, I'll give you money’. Unfortunately this isn't a policy, it's a gamble.

The attempt to buy Aung San Suu Kyi's freedom by the promise of new investments shows an amount of improvisation and naivety that should worry activists for democracy inside and outside Burma and, in general, all those who have always looked at U.S. as a force for democratic change in authoritarian countries. Instead of working to free Burma and its citizens, Mrs. Clinton chooses to concentrate U.S. efforts in pursuing a symbolic, popular and limited goal, the liberation of the Nobel Prize laureate. "What about reconciliation dialogue, the election in 2010 and ethnic issues? Don’t they know that they would detain her again?" veteran journalist and opposition leader Win Tin observed, when asked about Mrs. Clinton's remarks. But we could add: what about the other 2000 political prisoners? What about internally displaced people? What about forced and child labour? What about recruitment of children in the Army? What about refugees? What about the climate of intimidation and fear? What about Burma?

The Secretary of State's words are misconceived for many reasons. They can be interpreted as if the reality of misery and oppression of 55 million people could be reduced to the fate of a single, though important, democratic icon. If she could speak, I am sure Aung Sang Suu Kyi would reject this bargaining: she considers her freedom instrumental to the liberation of the Burmese people and not vice versa.

Moreover, Mrs. Clinton clearly underestimates the significance that the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) attach to her detention. Senior General Than Shwe and his clique have always considered political prisoners a necessary tool for the survival of the regime in the present shape. They use them to threaten the population, to debilitate the opposition, to buy time with the international community, according to circumstances. They're not going to risk their political future by simply freeing Aung San Suu Kyi as a part of an undefined cooperation agreement.

Finally, the proposal underlines the weakness (or the nonexistence) of an American strategy about Burma. After Mrs. Clinton’s remarks the generals know better than ever that the U.S. government has no idea on how to deal with them. There's no plan, just a game of courtship and rejection, of carrot and stick they’re probably enjoying. Actually, it looks like the only tangible U.S. policy under Obama is the cohabitation with authoritarian regimes, in Asia and elsewhere: “normalization” is the keyword. For a further example, take the essence of Mrs. Clinton’s speech about North Korea: in exchange for giving up its nuclear ambitions, she promised Pyongyang “full normalisation of relations, a permanent peace regime and significant energy and economic assistance in the context of full and verifiable denuclearisation”.

In the past year the Burmese government has been able to shift the focus from its chronic mismanagement of the country’s resources to economic sanctions imposed by Western countries. A fundamental help in this rough manipulation has come from anti-sanctions and pro-engagement groups, mainly outside Burma. Burmese historian Thant Myint-U, well settled in his usual equidistance between dictatorship and the democratic camp, is a champion of this “development first” narrative. In its last edition, also The Economist seems to embrace the theory that blames the critical situation in Burma on the obstinacy of Western powers and on the same Aung San Suu Kyi for pursuing a policy of criticism and sanctions aimed at promoting democratic change, instead of engaging the regime with development aid and investments: “Worse, everyone from the UN down views Myanmar through the lens of democracy above all else—even development.

For a desperate country with shocking rates of disease and mortality such a priority is dubious, at best, shameful at worst”, an editorial observes. According to this school of thought, Burma’s destiny would depend in the first place on foreign countries will to abandon their isolation policy, as if the paranoid military government that has ruled the country with an iron fist for 47 years had little or nothing to do with its decay.

Of course, development and aid are essential tools in such a dramatic context. But it’s a big mistake to consider development and democracy as alternative options.

Before 1997 no Western sanctions against Burma were in place, at least not in the present form and extent. What kind of development did Burmese citizens enjoy? The sad answer is… more wealth in the strongboxes of Burma's tyrants. Today Naypyidaw is busily trading with its neighbours, mainly China, India, Thailand and Singapore: why aren’t they developing the country and improving people’s lives?

A slippery ground, isn’t it? While the debate about this subject is welcome, we should not forget that the main sanction against Burma is the military regime itself. For that reason, democracy and development are intimately connected and it’s impossible to promote any sort of real development if the national robbery managed by a ruthless and illegitimate government is going to continue. The only treatment for Burma’s illness is the end of dictatorship, not more money (Western money, again?) in the pockets of the generals.

So, Mrs. Clinton, free Burma and you will also free Aung San Suu Kyi.

Enzo Reale is a freelance journalist. He writes about South-East Asia issues for Italian online newspapers and magazines. He edits two blogs ( and

READ MORE---> Clinton’s myopia on Burma...

Burma’s information ministry in new email campaign

Jeg has not received her email yet... she feels ignored :(
I'm happy to promote the generals anyway I could... :)

(DVB)–The Ministry of Information in Burma has begun emailing government-generated newsletters to exiled Burmese activists and journalists in an attempt to counter news-sharing by exiled opposition groups.

The website responsible for the emails is the Kyaymon online newspaper, run by the government’s Ministry of Information, which carries headlines such as ‘Shame on you Clinton’ and ‘America’s ugly failure in the ASEAN summit’.

When approached by DVB, the assistant editor of Kyaymon, Aung Kyaw Thwin, said that the action was entirely orchestrated by the government.

“We have been sending you newsletters under direction from our information minister and there is no personal motive behind this,” he said.

Burma’s information minister, Brigadier General Kyaw Hasn, has reportedly sent out instructions to all media workers in Burma that include statements such as “strive for realization of the seven-step Road Map through media” and “train better qualified press workers who favour the profit of the nation”.

A UK-based Burmese journalist, Bo Bo Lan Sin, said that the newsletters were actually a refreshing alternative to other more generic government news.

“[Kyaymon] newsletters are not that boring; the more news variety than the government blogs,” he said, adding that he had only recently found out who was sending the emails.

His comments were echoed by the secretary of the Burma Media Association, San Moe Wei.

“The whole thing is clear; they are sending out the newsletters because no one bothers to go on to their websites and read their news,” he said.

State-run media, such as the Myanma Ahlin newspaper, is loaded with news on ribbon-cutting ceremonies and editorials penned by pro-government journalists.

Burma’s media environment is amongst the most repressive in the world, with media watchdog Reporters Without Borders last year ranking it 170 out of 173 in its annual Press Freedom Index.

Media laws are very tough, and journalists inside Burma face severe punishment if seen to be criticising the government.

Media workers are often under strict surveillance, with internet café owners forced to take screen-shots of each computers every five mintues which are then sent to the Ministry of Information.

“It’s easy for them to get a hold of our email addresses; they surf through blogs and find out which internet user is ‘politically concerned’”, said Burmese blogger, Mr Thinker.

“The media in exile has been using this newsletter method to spread their information and now [the government] has begun to do the same thing.”

It is unclear how many people the government is targeting in this campaign, although the email received by DVB had been sent to around 400 other addresses.

Reporting by Ahunt Phone Myat

READ MORE---> Burma’s information ministry in new email campaign...

A chink may yet be appearing in Burma's obstinacy


(Bangkok Post) -The Burma and North Korea issues have been in the spotlight at Asean meetings for more than a decade. The "issues" vary from meeting to meeting, depending on what is happening with these countries at the time.

Mostly, Burma would be brought up at the meetings because of its strong opposition to human rights within the country.

There seems to be no sustainable solution to the problems although the regime always tries to appease its Asean neighbours by releasing a number of political prisoners prior to the conferences.

The perennial barb, however, is the continued detention of the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is now facing trial for an alleged violation of her house arrest rules after an American man swam across the river to her home.

Burma has given some hope to the international community by announcing a national reconciliation process and its peaceful transition to democracy, as envisaged in the seven-step road map to democracy, in particular the adoption of the State Constitution of 2008 by referendum which will lead to a general election next year. It will be the first national election after the regime refused the overwhelming victory of Ms Suu Kyi in 1990.

But without Ms Suu Kyi joining in the 2010 election, it will be worthless.

Asean's goal of becoming one community by 2015 is approaching and if the 2010 election in Burma fails, the hopes and dreams for all 10 Asean members to become a homogeneous community might remain just that - a dream.

A diplomat who attended the Asean meeting last week said the grouping's members conveyed to Burma that the atmosphere was not good and Burma had to do something to break its silence.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said that in this meeting, Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win learnt that "his country is a major factor in moving Asean forward".

"It is the duty of Asean and Burma to push the grouping together to become a community," Mr Kasit said.

For the first time, Asean asked Nyan Win to convey the sentiment to the Burmese leadership.

The action came after Asean foreign ministers felt concerned that their joint call for changes in Burma might not reach the ears of the Burmese leader Snr Gen Than Shwe.

Nobody can tell how receptive the Burmese leaders will be to what the outside world has been demanding. Many demands were made in the past but no actions were taken by the regime.

The many joint communiques of Asean and the chairman's statement from the Asean Plus Three - Japan, China and South Korea - as well as ARF throughout the years reaffirm that the Burmese government must hold a free, fair and inclusive election in 2010 in order to lay down a good foundation for future social and economic development.

They reiterated their calls for the Burmese government to immediately release all political prisoners, including Ms Suu Kyi to pave the way for genuine reconciliation and meaningful dialogue involving all parties.

"Asean ministers were afraid that the Burmese leader might choose to acknowledge only the positive reaction from Asean such as its welcoming of the recent visit of UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon or the thanks for Burma's cooperation in allowing outsiders to help its people after Cyclone Nargis," said a source who attended the meeting.

The source admitted the atmosphere in the meeting rooms was better than the past year as there was not any pressure on Burma.

"The atmosphere was full of cogency and pertinent to the real reason [of the need for change in Burma]. There were more frank discussions than in the past," the source said.

This was reflected in the offer of Asean and members of ARF to work with Burma to promote democracy, human rights and the well-being of her people. At the same time, it was hoped that Burma would also be responsive to the international community's concerns, according to Mr Kasit.

Nyan Win, however, told his Asean counterparts on Monday that pressure from the outside world and economic sanctions were hampering Burma's democratisation and development efforts.

According to the same source, Asean was in the process of persuading Burma to change its situation.

"Having Asean to help Burma in its democratisation is better than fighting it," the source said. This message was released during the ARF meeting in which the US also participated.

Mr Kasit emphasised that Asean members wanted to help one another and resolve internal problems within the bloc's family without recourse to the international community.

Asean's new approach towards Burma at this meeting is its ministers have agreed to take turns to engage the Burmese leadership soon and if the Burmese government would allow outsiders to observe its elections next year, Asean should be the first grouping to do so, the source said.

Asean is expected to receive a positive response from Burma before the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York in September where all Asean foreign ministers will gather, the source added.

If Asean is a pull factor for Burma, the US is working as a push one.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Burma to release Ms Suu Kyi in exchange for direct investment from the United States.

"If she were released, that would open up opportunities at least for my country to expand our relationship with Burma, including investments in Burma," she said.

Pornpimon Trichote, a Burmese expert, said she was not surprised at the US shift as new US President Barack Obama used to hint that the US policy towards Burma might change.

"The US might change some approaches towards Burma but its principles would remain the same. However, I believe Burma might not be in a hurry to reciprocate on what the US has to offer as the relationship of both countries has been estranged for a long time," she said, adding that Burma never cared for the US as it is friends with other powers like China, Russia and North Korea.

If things go according to plan, these push and pull factors could eventually help create more space to deal with Burma after the election next year, she said. "The US might face an impasse as the sanctions have produced nothing for many years. If it has not changed its position, it has nowhere to go," she said, adding it was likely condemnation of Burma will be softer after this.

READ MORE---> A chink may yet be appearing in Burma's obstinacy...

Three Burmese Defectors Missing After Arrest in Bangladesh

Dhaka (Narinjara): Three Burmese soldiers that defected from the army have been missing since they were arrested by Bangladesh Rifles in the border area of southern Chittagong Hill Tract on 20 February, 2009, said a relative of one.

The three were identified as Maung Maung Than, Soe Thwe, and Than Htay Haing, from Light Infantry Battalion 538 based in Rathidaung, 20 miles north of Sittwe.

The relative said that he came to Bangladesh last week to inquire about them but received information that they were sent back to Burma in April 2009 by Bangladesh authorities along with other Burmese prisoners.

The soldiers were arrested by Bangladesh Rifles at Headman Maung Shwe Sein's village in southern Bandarban in February while they were looking for shelter in the area.

According to a local source, the three defected from the Burmese army after some of their ammunition magazines went missing during a trip with their column to inspect the border pillars.

The Burmese army severely punishes soldiers that lose ammunition or military equipment, so the three soldiers fled from their column to Bangladesh out of fear of punishment.

After their arrest, the Bangladesh authorities reportedly brought them to Dhaka for interrogation.

A Burmese refugee staying in Cox's Bazar said the three soldiers were reportedly handed over to Burma by Bangladesh authorities at the Maungdaw border point along with other Burmese prisoners during an arranged repatriation in April 2009.

He added that the Burmese military authority has never disclosed information in such cases. The military may have sentenced them to long prison terms or executed them without providing any information to their relatives.

The three soldiers are Arakanese nationals from Shwe Lon Din Village in Rathidaung Township.

The relative said, "We heard they were fleeing to Bangladesh from the Burmese army. Because of that I came to the border town of Teknaf to inquire about their situation but now they are not in Bangladesh."

The Burmese army has no procedure for relatives to inquire about soldiers if they defect from the Burmese army.

READ MORE---> Three Burmese Defectors Missing After Arrest in Bangladesh...

Ceasefire army on watch list

(SHAN) -The Military Affairs Security (MAS) branch in Lashio, capital of Northern Shan State, has been instructed to keep the Shan State Army (SSA) “North”, officially Shan State Special Region #3, under close watch, according to an informed source on the Sino-Burma border.

Maj Gen Hso Ten (photo)

Its top leader Maj Gen Hso Ten has been serving 106 year jail sentence in Khamti, after his participation in the Shan State Day reception on 7 February 2005 in Taunggyi. “Other leaders from now on must watch their own steps,” he warned. “The junta needs only a misstep from them to dump them on trumped up charges.”

The SSA “North” is led by major generals Loi Mao, Gaifa and Pangfa. It has 3 brigades: the First with approximately 3,000 men, the Third with 500 and Seventh with 1,000. The United Wa State Army (UWSA) has called it “the closest ally outside the Peace and Democracy Front (PDF)”.

The PDF is made up of 4 members: UWSA, Kokang or Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Mongla or National Democratic Alliance Army-Eastern Shan State (NDAA) and New Democratic Army-Kachin (NDA-K).

The SSA North’s units are positioned on the west bank of the Salween and any attack on the UWSA by the Burma Army coming from the west will have to negotiate stiff resistance by the SSA first.

It is also under suspicion of being hand in glove with the anti-Naypyitaw SSA “South” led by Col Yawdserk.

According to Network for Democracy and Development (NDD), 25 July 2009, 8 of the existing 13 ceasefire groups are against Naypyitaw’s plan to transform them into Border Guard Force (BGF) outwardly to be commanded by ceasefire officers but, to all intents and purposes, to be run by junta officers.

READ MORE---> Ceasefire army on watch list...

Forced labour persists at Karen refugee camp

(DVB)–Instances of forced labour, forced army recruitment and extortion are still being reported at the refugee camp in Burma’s eastern Karen state that was overrun by a pro-junta militia last month.

The Ler Per Har camp was a focal point of fighting last month between government troops, supported by the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), and opposition Karen National Union (KNU).

Around 4000 Karen civilians have fled across the border into Thailand, many of whom reported cases of being forced to act as porters for the army, and to walk in front of army patrols as minesweepers.

The Bangkok-based Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC) last week said that while fighting had eased, reports of the forced labour, portering and exortion of money, food and livestock from villagers by the DKBA continued.

“These abuses continue to result in more people fleeing their villages and crossing to Thailand,” the TBBC statement said, adding that a further 200 people had crossed the border into Thailand in the 24 hours prior to the statement’s release.

The populous Ler Per Har camp accommodates internally displaced refugees inside Burma, although the Burmese government have said that KNU troops also reside there.

A source from the TBBC said that the DKBA were making the lives of villagers around the conflict zones “unbearable”.

“The DKBA come to villages and tell families that they want their sons in the army,” the source said.

“They come and ask for money; when the villagers cannot pay this, they ask for livestock.”

Pressuring the DKBA and Burmese troops to end forced labour and extortion is very difficult, said the TBBC.

There has been talk however of a long-term plan by the Thai government to negotiate with the DKBA and the Burmese junta for the safe return of the refugees currently holed up in various sites on the Thai side of the border.

According to the TBBC statement, around 2000 people have moved from temporary sites in and around Nu Poh village near to the Thai-Burma border to a new camp nearby.

The fighting between Burmese troops and the armed wing of the KNU, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), began on 2 June.

Since then, Burmese troops have taken two strategically important KNLA bases. It is unclear how many people have died in the fighting.

Fighting between the Burmese army and the KNU began in 1949, and is thought to be the world’s longest running internal conflict.

Reporting by Francis Wade

READ MORE---> Forced labour persists at Karen refugee camp...

US trying to ‘put ASEAN in its pocket’

(DVB)–State-run media in Burma has accused US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of interfering in the affairs of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations after suggesting the bloc should expel Burma.

At the 27-state ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) last week, Clinton suggested that Burma should be expelled from the grouping if it failed to release imprisoned opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Yesterday the government mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar newspaper criticised Clinton’s comments, which allegedly amounted to the United States “trying to sound the ASEAN out and put it in its pocket”.

The US has long been the fiercest critic of Burma, and on Friday renewed its package of sanctions on the regime which include a ban on the import of Burmese goods to the US.

Clinton said however that there was potential for the US to engage with and invest in Burma if the junta released Suu Kyi and allowed her to compete in the 2010 elections.

The US has also expressed concern about the potential for North Korea and Burma to trade in information and material for nuclear proliferation, stemming largely from an incident in June in which a suspicious North Korean ship being tracked by the US navy appeared to be heading towards Burma, before turning around.

Speaking on the sidelines of the ARF, Burmese foreign minister Nyan Win reportedly told Clinton that it would abide by a UN resolution that requires member states to search suspicious North Korean cargo.

However, nothing more has been said on the issue, and the New Light of Myanmar article alleged that “it was not very strange for the US to try to influence ASEAN” given the history of US meddling in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“[The US] is also trying to cause disunity in the region and trouble among the regional nations,” it said, adding that US military bases in Asia posed “a threat to the region”.

It also warned that if ASEAN abides by US suggestions for change in Burma, “it will come under control of the US”.

Clinton last week also called for the release of Suu Kyi, who is in court today on the final day of her three-month trial.

Her comments were echoed in a joint communiqué released following the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting last week which said that Suu Kyi’s release was a necessary prerequisite for “free, fair and inclusive” elections next year.

Reporting by Francis Wade

READ MORE---> US trying to ‘put ASEAN in its pocket’...

Suu Kyi warns junta on 2010 elections

(DVB)–Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has again warned the ruling junta in Burma that without national reconciliation prior to next year, the 2010 elections would be futile.

The government has penciled in March next year for the first general elections since Suu Kyi’s opposition National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory in 1990 that was never honoured.

The opposition leader was speaking to her lawyer Nyan Win on Friday during what should have been the final day of her trial.

“Daw Suu said the upcoming elections in 2010 would not be credited as legitimate unless national reconciliation has been carried out before that,” said Nyan Win, adding that she had urged the United Nations to warn the junta about the necessity of reconciliation.

Today is expected to be the final day of Suu Kyi’s trial, which was delayed on Friday by the prosecution team failing to testify.

Critics claim the trial is a ploy to keep her in detention beyond the 2010 elections, although Burma’s revised constitution which was ratified two weeks after cyclone Nargis last May bars her from running for office.

Earlier this month the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Burma in an attempt to kick start dialogue between the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and opposition groups, as well as push for the release of Suu Kyi.

Nyan Win said that Suu Kyi’s comments reflected the general feeling within the party, and this had been stressed to Ban Ki-moon during his visit.

Prosecution lawyers are today expected to give their final statements in the trial in which Suu Kyi has been charged with breaching conditions of her house arrest.

It is unclear when a verdict is likely to be given. If, as is widely expected, Suu Kyi is found guilty, she could face a sentence of up to five years.

A number of delegates attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum last week independently called for her release, while a joint communiqué issued following the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting said her release was a necessary prerequisite for free and fair elections next year.

Reporting by Thurein Soe

READ MORE---> Suu Kyi warns junta on 2010 elections...

UN must stipulate national reconciliation before 2010 elections

UN must stipulate National Reconciliation before Burma's 2010 elections

Immediate Release:

United Nations must demand junta to do national reconciliation first

26 July 2009

Burma’s elected legitimate leader, Aung San Suu Kyi said on 24 July 2009 that “United Nations should demand the military regime that “2010 election will be lack of credible and un-fair before facilitating to take place the national reconciliation”.


READ MORE---> UN must stipulate national reconciliation before 2010 elections...

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