Saturday, August 15, 2009

Senator wins release of US prisoner in Myanmar

YANGON, Myanmar (AP)– U.S. Sen. Jim Webb won the release Saturday of an American prisoner convicted in Myanmar and sentenced to seven years in prison for swimming secretly to the residence of detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the senator's office said.

During Webb's visit to Myanmar — the first by a member of the U.S. Congress in more than a decade — the senator also secured a rare visit with Suu Kyi, who was convicted along with the American, John Yettaw, and sentenced to 18 more months under house arrest. She has been detained for 14 of the last 20 years.

Yettaw is to be officially deported Sunday, when he will fly with Webb on a military plane to Bangkok, according to a statement from Webb's office.

The 53-year-old from Falcoln, Missouri, has been held in Insein, Myanmar's largest prison, notorious for widespread torture and other abuse of both political prisoners and ordinary criminals.

Yettaw's lawyer has said his client was well-treated, though he fell ill while incarcerated. Before his conviction on Tuesday, he spent a week in a prison hospital for epileptic seizures. He is also said to suffer from asthma and diabetes.

"If it's true, of course I'm extremely happy and we're ecstatic," Betty Yettaw told The Associated Press, referring to reports that her husband would be freed. When reached by phone Saturday morning, she said had yet to receive any official notice.

The junta may have approved the meeting with Suu Kyi and agreed to release Yettaw to quell the torrent of international criticism against Myanmar following the trial and Tuesday's verdict. In July, authorities barred U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon from meeting with Suu Kyi during a two-day visit.

Webb, the statement said, requested that Suu Kyi be released during a meeting with junta leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe on Saturday. It was the first time the reclusive general had met with a senior U.S. official.

"It is my hope that we can take advantage of these gestures as a way to begin laying the foundations of goodwill and confidence building in the future," Webb was quoted as saying.

On Saturday, the 64-year-old Nobel Peace laureate was driven from her residence to a nearby government guest house for a 40-minute meeting with Webb, then reporters saw her taken home by car.

Webb, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's East Asia and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, described the meeting as "an opportunity ... to convey my deep respect to Aung San Suu Kyi for the sacrifices she has made on behalf of democracy around the world."

The senator, who arrived in Myanmar's capital of Naypyitaw on Friday, was scheduled to address reporters in Yangon on Sunday.

The visit — particularly the meetings with senior officials and Suu Kyi — was unusual because of the poor state of relations between Myanmar, also known as Burma, and the U.S. Many critics said it was bad timing for outreach — only days after the junta flouted international appeals that Suu Kyi be cleared of the latest charges. It also drew criticism from activists who say it confers legitimacy on a brutal regime.

While Washington has traditionally been Myanmar's strongest critic, applying political and economic sanctions against the junta, President Barack Obama's new ambassador for East Asia, Kurt Campbell, recently said the administration is interested in easing its policy of isolation. Webb has said that "affirmative engagement" could bring the most change to Myanmar, concerning those who think a hard line is the best approach.

Britain's ambassador to the United Nations suggested Webb's visit could help persuade the junta to free Suu Kyi.

"If the Americans can get the generals to see that their country's interest is reflected in taking interest in reconciliation, releasing Aung San Suu Kyi and holding free and fair elections, that would be very helpful." John Sawyers told BBC Radio 4 on Saturday.

But in a letter to Webb, dissident groups warned the junta would use the senator's trip for its own ends.

"We are concerned that the military regime will manipulate and exploit your visit and propagandize that you endorse their treatment on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and over 2,100 political prisoners, their human rights abuses on the people of Burma, and their systematic, widespread and ongoing attack against the ethnic minorities," the letter said. Daw is a term of respect for older women in Myanmar.

Possibly reflecting a similar wariness, a spokesman for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy said the party "has no interest in Jim Webb because he is not known to have any interest in Myanmar affairs." He did not elaborate.

Official media, however, appeared to herald Webb's arrival. The nightly broadcast led with the visit, reporting that the senator met with Prime Minister Gen. Thein Sein on Friday, and returned to the subject several times during the night.

Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962. The junta called elections in 1990 but refused to honor the results when Suu Kyi's party won overwhelmingly.


Associated Press writers Foster Klug in Washington, Greg Katz in London, and Chris Clark in Kansas City, Missouri contributed to this report.

READ MORE---> Senator wins release of US prisoner in Myanmar...

Myanmar migrants stuck in Malaysia detention camps


SEPANG, Malaysia (SF Gate-AP) --A growing number of immigrants from Myanmar are ending up stuck, often for months, in crowded detention centers in Malaysia designed to hold people for only a few weeks.

Almost 2,800 Myanmarese were detained at camps in July, more than double the 1,200 in January, partly because of a crackdown on human trafficking, a step-up in raids and a slow economy that leaves the migrants without jobs. People from Myanmar, a desperately poor country with a military junta, are now the biggest group among the 7,000 foreigners at detention centers in Malaysia.

At a center near the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, some 120 men sat in neat rows on the floor. Many had their legs drawn to their chests, and all were barefoot. There was not enough space and not enough bedding.

"There is no soap for taking a shower, nothing. They don't give us anything," said Kyaw Zin Lin, 23, who said he fled to avoid being drafted into the Myanmar army. "Every day we eat the food just to survive. ... They treat us like animals."

"It's very difficult to stay here," said Aung Kuh The, a pale 26-year-old. "We have got a lot of problems. Some people, you know, we want to see the doctor but we don't have the chance."

One reason for the rise in detainees is a crackdown on trafficking. A report published in April by the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations cited firsthand accounts of Myanmarese who said immigration officers turned them over to traffickers.

That practice has all but stopped, Myanmar community leaders in Malaysia say.

Now, though, the Myanmarese are trapped in detention. The Myanmar embassy often takes six months to register its citizens for deportation and charges them 620 ringgit ($180), much more than neighboring Indonesia. By contrast, detainees from other countries are typically deported within a week.

Calls to the Myanmar embassy were repeatedly put on hold and then unanswered.

About half the Myanmarese — those fleeing persecution — may qualify for U.N. refugee status, but that process takes up to four months. The others are economic migrants. Some 140,000 Myanmarese work in Malaysia, but foreign workers who are laid off lose the right to stay.

Some Myanmarese have spent more than six months in crowded, dirty detention centers. One man, whose brother was in detention for four months, said he would rather be sold to traffickers from whom he could buy his freedom.

"I prefer to be trafficked," said the man, who would only be identified by his nickname, Ryan, to protect his relatives in Myanmar. "I don't mind paying 2,000 ringgit ($570)."

Five of Malaysia's 13 detention centers are overcrowded; four of the five have large Myanmarese populations, according to the immigration department. Journalists from The Associated Press accompanied the human rights group Amnesty International on a rare visit recently to three detention centers just south of Kuala Lumpur, the country's biggest city.

At the Lenggeng Detention Depot, 1,400 people are crammed into dormitories meant for 1,200. Of them about 300 are from Myanmar.

Hundreds of men jostle each other for room in the bare dormitories. One sleeps on a stone ledge in a bathroom. Each dormitory is fenced by wire mesh and barbed wire, giving detainees just a few meters (feet) of space for walking.

"The detention centers we saw fell short of international standards in many respects, as the immigration authorities themselves acknowledge," said Michael Bochenek of Amnesty International. "It's a facility of such size that infectious diseases are communicated readily."

Saw Pho Tun, a refugee community leader, said some immigration officers have singled out Myanmarese detainees for rough treatment, beating them and not allowing them medical assistance. Immigration officials deny beating detainees and say everyone has access to medical care.

On July 1, detainees at another center flung their food trays and damaged some of the mesh fence. Immigration officials blamed the riot on frustration about having to stay so long, but detainees say they rioted because they were afraid of abuse.

Most of the blocks have now been shut for repairs, so more than 1,000 detainees — including 700 from Myanmar — were transferred ot other already crowded centers.

Abdul Rahman Othman, the director general of the Immigration Department, said he was taking steps to prevent his officers from being "entangled" in trafficking syndicates. He said officers would be rotated to different posts every three years and have a buddy system to supervise each other.

"Ninety-nine percent of us in immigration are good people," he said, denying the problem is widespread.

Police arrested five officers on trafficking allegations last month. They say their investigations revealed immigration officials took Myanmar immigrants to the Thai border and sold them for up to 600 ringgit ($170) to traffickers. The traffickers then told the migrants to pay 2,000 ringgit ($570) for their freedom, or they would be forced to work in the fishing industry, police said.

Myanmar community leaders said women who failed to pay were sold into prostitution.

Read more:

READ MORE---> Myanmar migrants stuck in Malaysia detention camps...

White Campaign launched for Suu Kyi

(DVB)–A five-day public movement known as the White Campaign has been launched in Burma following the imprisonment of Aung San Suu Kyi and will be carried out across four of Burma’s principle divisions.

The campaign was organiseed by a group who have continually held prayer ceremonies every Tuesday since Suu Kyi’s first incarceration, and includes members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

Myint Myint Aye, NLD secretary in Mandalay division’s Meikhtila township, who is one of the organisers of the campaign, urged the public to join.

“From 15 to 19 August, we will be wearing white and holdng prayers at pagodas,” he said. “This is to peacefully express our will to bring our leader to freedom. We urge our NLD members [across Burma] to join in with the campaign.”

Anyone can join in with the campaign by wearing white, offering white flowers at pagoda and by painting houses and fences with the colour white, she said.

The campaign will be carried out in around 20 different townships in Bago, Mandalay, Magwe and Rangoon divisions.

Bago NLD women’s wing leader Khin Nyunt Mu said the campaign “is not a demonstration, this is not an act against the government – we are to only show our will from inside the law.”

“We urge the people to use everything white during the campaign – wear white, ride white and also offer white flowers at the pagoda as well as painting your house white or hang white plastic bags by your doors.”

On Monday Suu Kyi was sentenced to a further 18 months under house arrest, following a visit by US citizen John Yettaw to her compound in May.

The verdict, although short of the anticipated five years in detention, has brought worldwide condemnation. Thailand said today that it was looking for a consensus among regional leaders to call for a pardon for Suu Kyi.

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

READ MORE---> White Campaign launched for Suu Kyi...

Are Monks Preparing to Return to the Streets?

The Irrawaddy News

Buddhist monks, angered by the Burmese junta’s decision to place democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi under a further 18 months of house arrest, may be preparing to take to the streets again in protest, according to sources in Rangoon.

Burma’s monasteries, some with as many as a thousand monks, have been largely silent since a crackdown on monk-led protests nearly two years ago. But some monks say that simmering resentment could come to a head again over the August 11 court ruling, which found Suu Kyi guilty of violating the terms of her house arrest.

“We can’t accept the court’s shameful verdict,” said a monk from a monastery near Rangoon’s famous Shwedagon Pagoda. “The military government has angered us again.”

Local residents said they have seen a handful of monks gathering near Shwedagon and Sule pagodas, two of the focal points of massive pro-democracy demonstrations in September 2007. Both locations have been under close surveillance in recent weeks as the Rangoon Northern District Court prepared to pass sentence on Suu Kyi.

Security has also been tight in other parts of the former capital.

“Local authorities are closely watching young monks and their monasteries,” said a resident of North Okkalapa Township, on the outskirts of Rangoon. “There are plainclothes security forces keeping an eye on them. I’m not sure if the monks will take to the streets again or not.”

There are more than 400,000 monks in Burma—roughly equal to the number of personnel in the armed forces of the military-ruled country. They have always played an important role in Burma’s social and political affairs, often in opposition to oppressive regimes.

Since the 2007 uprising, dubbed the Saffron Revolution, the Burmese authorities have applied pressure on senior monks to control younger monks.

“Local authorities and the township Sangha Mahanayaka Committee [the state- sponsored Buddhist monks’ organization] have asked monasteries to submit the personal details and three photos of every monk,” said a monk from Zabu Aye Monastery in North Okkalapa Township.

“The authorities have also warned senior monks that if any monk from their monastery becomes involved in anti-government demonstrations, the senior monks will be either disrobed or sentenced to three years in prison,” said the monk.

The monk also said that the authorities have strictly restricted travel by monks, who are no longer allowed to go anywhere without a letter of recommendation from their monastery.

READ MORE---> Are Monks Preparing to Return to the Streets?...

Suu Kyi Remains Upbeat Says Her Lawyer

The Irrawaddy News

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was positive and cheerful after returning to her Inya Lake residence, one of her lawyers, Kyi Wynn, told The Irrawaddy on Friday.

“She was not dejected and I was surprised to see that, on the contrary, she appeared cheerful and was laughing,” the lawyer said.

Suu Kyi met with her lawyers on Wednesday around the dining table in her lakeside house, he said, adding that Suu Kyi appeared upbeat as she spoke of the trial.

Suu Kyi knew the verdict would be “guilty,” but was not upset and showed no signs of bitterness, Kyi Wynn said.

However, the Burmese pro-democracy leader had expressed surprise that the regime had revived a “dead constitution” in order to implicate her, he said, in reference to the 1974 constitution which is officially invalid since a new constitution was approved last year.

Kyi Wynn previously said that Suu Kyi had privately told him that the charges against her were invalid as she was charged under the 1975 State Security law, which was annulled by the 2008 constitution.

During the trial, Suu Kyi told her lawyers that she and her defense team were facing a “crisis of constitution.” Suu Kyi was referring to a 1975 law enacted under the 1974 constitution, which became invalidated when the military seized power in 1988.

In addition, under the junta’s “seven-step road map,” the country approved a new constitution in May 2008 by national referendum, which would also invalidate the 1975 act.

Kyi Wynn said that the regime had revived the 1974 constitution in order to charge Suu Kyi, and claimed that the old constitution was null and void.

The lawyer also said that the defense team was surprised to learn that Snr-Gen Than Shwe’s letter to the court was dated and issued on the August 10th and not on August 11th, the day the judge read out the final verdict.

Suu Kyi initially received a three-year prison sentence, but that was immediately commuted to 18 months under house arrest when Home Affairs Minister Maung Oo read out Than Shwe’s letter to the courtroom announcing his decision to cut her three-year sentence in half.

The suspended sentence was also applied to the verdict against Suu Kyi’s two companions, Win Ma Ma and Khin Khin Win.

Suu Kyi is now a prisoner again in her own house, but her lawyer said that she is preparing to appeal.

“Suu Kyi wants to appeal and she is correct,” he said. “But the chances of success are very slim—she was convicted even before she was arrested.”

Kyi Wynn likened the house arrest restrictions imposed on Suu Kyi to keeping a child in a boarding school.

The restrictions against the opposition leader and her two companions are:

-*- they must only live in Suu Kyi’s residence located on University Avenue;
-*- they are only allowed to go out into the house’s yard;
-*- they can get access to doctors and nurses for health reasons;
-*- Suu Kyi can meet guests in accordance with permission from the authorities concerned;
-*- she can watch local TV channels such as Myawaddy and MRTV (Myanmar Radio and Television),
-*- as well as local newspapers and journals;
-*- and she can request paper if she needs to write something.

“Suu Kyi doesn’t usually watch television, but is an avid reader and spends most of her time reading books during her house arrest,” the lawyer said.

When asked whether they could bring her foreign newspapers and magazines, her lawyers were told that all materials must be submitted to the authorities for screening.

Her lawyers have also noticed that local security forces and the police have elevated the watchtower which overlooks Suu Kyi’s compound. Another noticeable change at her home since she was detained in May is that all the bushes have been cleared.

Suu Kyi is aware of the outpouring of support and the international reaction to the verdict against her, said the lawyer.

“But she is always looking forward to a dialogue,” Kyi Wynn added.

When asked about China’s stance toward Burma and Suu Kyi, the lawyer warned that China is playing with fire.

Political observers have said that because of the highly publicized trial and the international attention that she received during the trial, Suu Kyi’s status is strengthened both inside and outside Burma and that she has gained a stronger position in Burmese politics than before.

“She was almost forgotten [before the trial],” a diplomat in Rangoon said, adding that the irony is the regime has promoted her status and international standing.

Suu Kyi has already spent nearly 14 of the past 20 years under house arrest, although Tuesday’s conviction was the first time she has been found guilty of any offense.

READ MORE---> Suu Kyi Remains Upbeat Says Her Lawyer...

US Senator Meets Than Shwe, Suu Kyi

In this photo released by the office of U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., Webb, right, meets with Myanmar's detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon, Myanmar, Saturday, Aug. 15, 2009. Sen. Webb's office says he has won the release of an American prisoner in Myanmar. A statement Saturday said John Yettaw will be officially deported on Sunday afternoon when he will travel with Webb to Bangkok. Yettaw was convicted Tuesday of helping Suu Kyi violate the terms of her house arrest. (AP Photo/Office of Senator Jim Webb)

The Irrawaddy News

The head of the Burmese military junta, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, met with pro-engagement American Senator Jim Webb in Naypyidaw today and allowed the senator to meet with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Reports said that Than Shwe met with the Democratic senator in the Burmese capital on Saturday morning. No further details were released by either Burmese or US officials. Webb is scheduled to hold a press conference at Rangoon’s international airport on Sunday, according to his official Web site.

On Saturday afternoon, Webb flew from Naypyidaw to Rangoon to meet with Suu Kyi. Sources in Rangoon said Suu Kyi was taken from her lakeside residence to a government guesthouse to meet with Webb.

Khin Maung Swe, a spokesperson for Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, told The Irrawaddy that the party had been informed of the meeting between Suu Kyi and Webb, but declined to provide any further information.

He added that the party did not expect Webb’s visit to bring any big changes. “It’s too early to say if Mr. Webb’s visit will have a major impact on Burma or Washington’s Burma policy,” he said.

A journalist in Rangoon who spoke on condition of anonymity said that security has been tight on Rangoon’s University Avenue, where Suu Kyi lives, since this morning.

During his meeting with Than Shwe, Webb likely discussed next year’s planned elections, the fate of detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, and US sanctions on Burma. Observers and diplomats said China’s growing influence in Burma was probably another topic of discussion.

At a senate hearing in July, Webb hinted that the new US administration of President Barack Obama was considering a different approach to Burma from that of his predecessor, but emphasized that Washington’s policy would continue to be based on developments in Burma.

“[W]e are in a situation right now where I think what they have recently done with Aung San Suu Kyi has dramatically hurt their ability to reach out and perhaps see a different type of treatment from the United States,” Webb said.

Burma’s state-run-newspapers reported a meeting between Webb and Burmese Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein on Friday as the front-page story on Saturday. The meeting was also attended by Foreign Minister Nyan Win, Information Minister Brig-Gen Kyaw Hsan, Minister for Culture Maj-Gen Khin Aung Myint, Science and Technology Minister U Thaung—who formerly served as Burma’s ambassador to the US—and Aung Toe, the chairman of the Commission of Drafting the State Constitution.

Webb also held a separate meeting on the military-backed 2008 constitution with Aung Toe and three other members of the constitution-drafting committee on Friday. Prior to his visit, he expressed an interest in the constitution, which was approved last year in a referendum widely dismissed as a sham.

“Assuming that Burma would honor the items that are in its proposed constitution, which move, however imperfectly, toward a multi-party systems and elections—open elections—I assume that would be supported,” Webb said in the US senate in July.

Webb probably also expressed concern about China’s growing clout in Burma when he met with Than Shwe, according to diplomatic sources.

A critic of US sanctions on Burma, Webb has previously noted that “As the United States continues its attempt to isolate Burma due to the human rights policies of its military regime, China’s influence has grown exponentially.”

Note: Photo comes from article: Yettaw's Family `ecstatic' after word Mo. man will be freed

READ MORE---> US Senator Meets Than Shwe, Suu Kyi...

Webb meets Aung San Suu Kyi

by Mungpi

New Delhi (Mizzima) - In a significant development, which came as a surprise, US Senator Jim Webb, visiting Burma as part of a whistle stop tour of five Asian countries, on Saturday met detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was given an 18-month suspended sentence last week, her party spokesperson said.

Nyan Win, spokesperson of the National League for Democracy, said “Jim Webb met Aung San Suu Kyi this afternoon after coming back from Naypyitaw.”

The Virginian Senator, earlier on Saturday met representatives of 10 political parties including three leaders of the NLD, who were summoned for a meeting to Naypyitaw. The Senator also met the Burmese junta supremo Snr Gen Than Shwe before flying to the former capital Rangoon.

Eyewitnesses said, Aung San Suu Kyi was seen escorted from her house on Saturday afternoon and taken to the government guest house, where she met the visiting US Senator.

In Naypyitaw, Nyan Win said, leaders of his party met Webb but declined to give details of their discussions.

Webb is the senior most US official to meet Burma’s head of the junta Snr General Than Shwe in more than a decade. With the US reviewing its Burma policy, analysts believe that Webb’s visit could be useful for the Obama administration to get a clearer picture of the situation in the reclusive Southeast Asian nation.

But Nyan Win said, “We don’t have any official stand on Webb’s visit as of now. And we understand that he is not representing the United States."

READ MORE---> Webb meets Aung San Suu Kyi...

US citizen Yettaw to be deported

by Mizzima News

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Burmese military junta agreed to deport US national John William Yettaw, who was sentenced to seven years in prison on Tuesday, for illegally breaking into Aung San Suu Kyi’s house, on humanitarian grounds, sources in the military establishment said.

Sources said, the authorities issued an order stating Yettaw be deported to the United States instead of serving seven years in prison in Burma, on grounds of his health.

“The American John Yettaw is hereby ordered to be deported to his home country on humanitarian grounds in consideration of his health,” the source, citing a government order, said.

According to a statement by Webb’s office, Yettaw will be flown to neighboring Thailand along with visiting Senator on Sunday.

The Burmese authorities had already decided to deport Yettaw even before Webb’s visit, the source said. But the issue was also raised during Webb’s meeting with Burmese officials.

Yettaw was sentenced to seven years in prison with hard labour on charges of illegally breaking into Aung San Suu Kyi’s house, violating the immigration law, and swimming in a restricted area.

His co-defendant, Aung San Suu Kyi and her two live-in party mates, who were charged with violating her detention terms for allowing Yettaw into her house, were also handed down three years in prison with hard labour.

But a special order issued by the country’s military supremo Snr Gen Than Shwe commuted their sentence to half and allowed the other half to be served at Aung San Suu Kyi’s home.

READ MORE---> US citizen Yettaw to be deported...

Kachin schoolgirl gang raped and killed by Chinese settlers

Mary Hkingjawng Htoi San (17)
was gang raped and cut into pieces on August 6
by five Chinese settlers in Myitkyina
in Kachin State, northern Burma.

by KNG

In a gruesome incident a 17-year-old Kachin high school girl was gang raped and cut into pieces on August 6 at about 5 p.m. local time by five Chinese settlers in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, northern Burma, said local sources.

Mary Hkinjawng Htoi San, resident of Myitkyina of House No. 1/85, Northeast Tatkone (or Dapkawng in Kachin) quarter was gang raped and killed in a room in the Muslim settler businessman-owned Golden City Guest House (GC), near the Town Railway Station, said family members.

Mary Hkinjawng Htoi San was a Xth standard student in the government's No. 5 State High School. She sang part time at the Shwe Taung Garden restaurant between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. for extra income, said sources close to her.

After the gang rape, her body was cut into several pieces and put in a wooden box in the room in Golden City Guest House. Later, the body was hidden in a bush behind the No. 5 State High School, said eyewitnesses.

The body was discovered by local people after a foul stench from the decomposing body started emanating the next day at 6:30 p.m. local time, said local eyewitnesses.

The Myitkyina-based No. 1 Police Station has arrested three settler Chinese males from Myitkyina but two are absconding, sources close to the police station said.

Sources close to the Golden City Guest House said the guest house owners knew the schoolgirl was killed and her body cut into pieces and put in the box to be hidden somewhere. However, they did not inform the police.

The local Kachin youth are up in arms and want to retaliate and pay back the Chinese settlers in the town because they feel that native Kachins are being tyrannized by the Chinese, said an angry Kachin youth in Myitkyina.

Before the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the Burmese ruling junta signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994, Chinese settlers in Kachin State respected native Kachins. They never committed big crimes against native Kachins, said residents of Myitkyina.

After the ceasefire agreement, the influence and power of the KIO in Kachin State took a nose dive and it has been kowtowing politically, socially and economically to foreign settlers like the Chinese and Indians in Kachin State, said local Kachin politicians.

READ MORE---> Kachin schoolgirl gang raped and killed by Chinese settlers...

Asean policy and trade with Burma

Bangkok POST BAG

Having just seen PM Abhisit Vejjajiva's interview on BBC World news, I am left with the wholly depressing conclusion that salvation for the Burmese people is not going to come from Asia - and certainly not from Asean.

No amount of words from the erudite and well-spoken prime minister can hide the fact that Asean is, even now, sanguine about doing business with a completely criminal regime that has a record of theft and murder.

Asean is unperturbed by its business relationship with the junta, even as it wrings its hands over the incarceration of Aung San Suu Kyi and the dreadful situation in Burma.

In the interview, PM Abhisit signally fails to clarify why it would be counter-productive for Asean to ''pressure'' the regime with even the threat of Asean sanctions. On this point I think it is beholden on the media in Thailand and internationally to be much more forceful on this issue: Asean definitely has the leverage, as any economist who knows about Burma's trade, will tell you.

Burma's trade is the regime's oxygen; it is vital to keep this monster alive. The natural resources that the regime trades (mainly with Asean) funds the army and fills the generals' bank accounts. It signally does very little to support the Burmese people at all. For instance, I wonder if the tripartite core group can give a realistic figure of the amount of money the regime has actually spent on relief and redevelopment in the cyclone-devastated areas?

When the history of this appalling affair is written, Asean will be seen in a very bad light indeed _ unless it decides to change its policies in favour of the Burmese people instead of a bunch of murderous and thieving thugs. Even now it is not too late.


READ MORE---> Asean policy and trade with Burma...

ASEAN: Free Suu Kyi call vetoed

Vietnam, Laos oppose Asean 'interference'


(Bangkok Post) -Thailand, as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, has proposed that other Asean members ask the Burmese government to give a pardon to its opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

But two Asean members - Vietnam and Laos - oppose Thailand's move, saying Asean should not interfere in the affairs of Burma.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said Thailand has written to other Asean members seeking a consensus to demand that the Burmese government considers giving a pardon to Mrs Suu Kyi.

Thailand has also sent a copy to Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win, said Mr Kasit, who was in Malaysia for the Thai-Malaysian Joint Commission in Sabah state.

"We are waiting for a reply from other Asean members," said Mr Kasit.

The Burmese court on Tuesday sentenced Mrs Suu Kyi to another 18 months of house arrest for violating house arrest rules, after an American man swam across a lake to stay uninvited at her villa for two days in May.

Mr Kasit said no special meeting among Asean foreign ministers would be held on the issue, because at least four countries were not ready. He did not say which countries.

But Vietnam disagrees with Thailand's call.

Vietnam state media reported yesterday that Vietnam did not support calls by other Asean member states for Burma to free Mrs Suu Kyi.

The state-run Viet Nam News said Vietnam had no criticism of Burma's decision on Tuesday to place Mrs Suu Kyi under house arrest for the next 18 months, effectively barring her from elections next year.

"It is our view that the Aung San Suu Kyi trial is an internal affair of Burma," Vietnamese government spokesman Le Dung said on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

On Wednesday, the Thai government called on Burma to release Mrs Suu Kyi immediately and allow her to participate in next year's elections, echoing its own statements and those of other Asean members at the group's regional forum last month.

Mr Dung said Vietnam had always supported Burma and hoped it would continue to implement the "roadmap to democracy" that has been outlined by its government.

Laos said it shared the same view as Vietnam. Vientiane said the trial of Mrs Suu Kyi took place in accordance with the country's law.

It was opposed to interfering in neighbouring nations' affairs.

"As a member of Asean, we uphold the basic principles of Asean as stipulated in the Asean Charter, particularly the principle of non-interference in [each other's] internal affairs," said Lao foreign affairs spokesman Khenthong Nuanthasing.

"We believe the recent trial of Aung San Suu Kyi was conducted in accordance with the judicial process of Burma," he added. "We are confident Burma will be able to implement the seven-step roadmap that will lead to democratisation, successfully and within the specified time."

Burma has notched up one of the world's worst human rights records, and its refusal to free Mrs Suu Kyi has inspired near universal outrage and condemnation.

READ MORE---> ASEAN: Free Suu Kyi call vetoed...

Will ‘Webb diplomacy’ bring a thaw in US-Burma relation

by Mungpi

New Delhi (Mizzima) - US Senator Jim Webb, who is also the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Asia Pacific Subcommittee, during his visit to Burma this weekend, has triggered several surprising events, including a meeting with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

On Saturday afternoon, Webb after returning from a meeting with Burma’s military supremo Snr Gen Than Shwe in the new jungle capital city of Naypyitaw, met opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a government guest house.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who was given 18 months of suspended sentence last week, was seen escorted from her lakeside home to the guest house.

In yet another surprising development, Webb’s office states that the American Yettaw will be deported. He will be sent back along with the visiting senator Webb on Sunday evening.

The US State department and the White House on Friday declared that Webb is not representing the Obama administration but expressed its support to the region to explore US interest.

Webb said he is in the region as part of a five nation tour and will explore the possibilities of engaging the region.

But whatever the agenda behind the trip, the meeting with Than Shwe and Aung San Suu Kyi and securing the release of Yettaw, have all come as a series of surprises, as even the United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari had not been able to make such things possible during his visits.

In his last trip, Gambari was unable to meet Than Shwe and the UN chief Ban Ki-moon, in his visit to Burma in June, was denied a meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi.

While the details of the discussions between Webb and Than Shwe, and Aung San Suu Kyi, is still not clear, the meeting itself was viewed as a significant step in the possibility of re-establishing US-Burma relationship.

Aung Naing Oo, a Burmese analyst based in Thailand, believes that though Webb is not officially representing the Obama administration, the visit could be part of the administration’s policy review on Burma.

The US said it is currently undertaking a review of its policy on Burma after stating that the previous policy of isolating and imposing sanctions have not worked. But the US has so far not indicated what could be the direction of the new policy.

“Meeting Than Shwe is significant and this could indicate that there is a new opening between US-Burma relationship,” Aung Naing Oo said.

On the other hand, Aung Naing Oo said, Than Shwe’s agreeing to meet Webb could also be interpreted as a significant sign indicating the junta’s willingness to engage with the US.

The US has been the strongest critic of the Burmese regime; condemning its human rights violations and imposing economic sanctions for failure to implement political reforms. Reciprocally, the Burmese regime had never shown a favourable attitude towards the US and constantly blamed the US of trying to instigate unrest in the country by supporting opposition groups.

Every month, the junta, in its state-run newspapers, mentions the number of times that the US and UK embassy officials visit the office of the National League for Democracy stating that the officials have handed large and small envelopes, apparently imolying that the officials are providing monetary support to the NLD leaders.

But this meeting between Webb and Than Shwe, Aung Naing Oo said, could be a new era of opening in the US-Burma relationship and could be a turning point for the US in its policy towards Burma.

“It shows that the Burmese regime is also interested in holding a dialogue with the US. It looks to me like a point of entry for dialogue,” he added.

However, a few opposition groups have voiced concern over Webb’s visit to the country. Three Burmese organizations, in an open letter to Webb, expressed concern that the Burmese junta might propagandize the visit to say Webb endorses the regime’s treatment on Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.

The three groups – All Burma Monks’ Alliance, The 88 Generation Students, All Burma Federation of Student Unions – urged Webb to maintain a tough stand on the Burmese regime and to continue supporting the Burmese opposition’s position on the junta’s planned elections in 2010.

“We are surprised to learn that you have an intention to support the regime’s 2010 election; even its constitution is imperfect,” said the statement.

The groups also said that they have written this open letter to Webb, “As we are in hiding to avoid arrest, torture and imprisonment by the regime, we would not have a chance to meet you when you are in our country.”

But Aung Naing Oo said engagement with the US is important for Burma and that isolating and imposing sanctions alone gives the US a lesser chance of influencing the Burmese regime.

“We have seen that the US maintains a relationship with several other dictatorial countries and it has proved beneficial for both. I think it is important that the US engage the regime and maintain its presence in Burma,” he commented.

Chinese Worries

While it would be too early to speculate on the US-Burma relationship, a few observers believe that if the US-Burmese relationship goes smoothly, China, a long-time ally of Burma, would find it worrisome.

Nyo Ohn Myint, in-charge of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the NLD in exile, said “China would not be too happy if the US and Burma get too close, though at this point there is nothing to suggest that the US is getting close to the regime.”

He speculated that the Burmese regime had always wanted to lobby the US and would like to see a change of US policy towards them.

Professor Ian Holliday, Dean of Social Sciences at the University of Hong Kong, told Mizzima that Webb’s visit is significant given the long gap of almost no diplomatic relation between Burma and the US.

“After such a long time with so little contact that's an important step,” said Holliday but “At present, I don't think China needs to worry - there really isn't any US-Burmese relationship to speak of, and there's a long way to go before that happens.”

But he said, “I think China wants a stable and predictable Burma - first and foremost it's this, strategic and economic interests are also important, but stability is the key.”

Though the final results of Web's visit to Nay Pyi Daw are yet to be seen over the next few days and weeks, the American Senator seems to have achieved his expected aim so far, including the release of the American Yettaw. It is also more than clear now that the regime and its strong man Than Shwe is willing to play along with the world's super power which has been so far the most voluble critic against the Burmese junta and has shown that it is willing to enter into a dialogue for better US-Burma relationship.

Critics may point out that the junta will now try to woo the Obama administration for a lenient attitude towards its Seven-Step Road Map and forthcoming 2010 elections. The Burmese regime which is facing another serious crisis with ceasefire groups such as Kachin, Kokant and Wa in the northern part of the country will want to make efforts to calm down the political boil over the issue of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's trial, at least for some time. Whatever the regime's motives may be and though it is more likely to use Webb’s visit to Burma as another propaganda inside the country, the fact that the regime's whole leadership has met with the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Asia Pacific Subcommittee and had allowed him a meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and released Yettaw should be welcome as positive signs for any future political settings before 2010 elections. The Burmese people and the international community, especially Burma's neighbouring countries would be watching these developments eagerly with the hope for possible political dialogue between Than Shwe and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

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