Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kokang capital falls: “Not shoot first” policy under fire

Laogai (S.H.A.N), the capital of Kokang, just 5 months after celebrating the 20th anniversary of peace with the country’s military rulers, is under Burma Army control since Monday night, 24 August, according to sources.

“I haven’t seen any Kokang fighters all day,” said one of the few remaining residents told SHAN yesterday. “Everywhere it’s the Burmese the soldiers.”

Peng Jiasheng - Kokang supreme leader

Another source said he had gone past what was until yesterday the mansion of Peng Jiasheng, the Kokang supreme leader and saw only Burmese policemen both inside and outside the wall.

Peng and three others, which included his younger brother Jiafu and two sons, were said to have escaped to the north with his troops.

According to the latest information, Peng and troops loyal to him are still holding positions northeast of Laogai and at Qingsuihe (Chinshwehaw) aka Nampha on the southern border with Wa.

As the new base at Kunghsa is just 4km from Laogai, the Burma Army could have mounted an attack if it chose to. “But they have yet to do it, probably because it is too uncomfortably near the Chinese border,” said a source from the border. “The Burma Army has instead brought in other Kokang rivals of Peng to deal with him. Apart from Bai Souqian (his former deputy), there are now Kokang militias loyal to the Burma Army from Kunlong, Hopang and even his archenemy Yang Mouliang. If there is going to be any shooting, the Burma Army can now tell the Chinese it’s a fight among the Kokangs, the Burma Army has nothing to do with it.”

On the other side of the border, China has set up a temporary holding center for the refugees from Burma, according to the same source. “They are giving them a blanket and a mat each, besides food,” he said.

Meanwhile, the United Wa State Army (UWSA) is reportedly holding an emergency meeting with its Kokang ally this morning at Namteuk, south of Qingshihe.

Bao Ai Roong - UWSA’s 318th Division

The two towns are separated by the Namting and connected by a bridge over it. “The fall of Qingsuihe,” admitted a Wa source, “could greatly threaten the safety of Namteuk and restrict our movements.”

Namteuk is the headquarters of the UWSA’s 318th Division, commanded by Bao Ai Roong, the Wa supreme leader’s nephew.

The fall of Laogai without a shot being fired has brought into question the practicality of the “Not Shooting First” policy of the Peace and Democracy Front (PDF), whose members include Kokang, Wa and Mongla. “We should also have spelled out what movements by the Burma Army would be deemed as hostile acts,” said a Shan ceasefire officer. “Now, because we have said that we won’t shoot first, the Burma Army is being allowed to beef up its forces around us.”

The Kokang debacle could be repeated elsewhere, he warned, if the alliance continued to hold on the policy.

Kokang, since 1989, had been under the control of Peng Jiasheng. The Burmese authorities, now that an arrest warrant for him has been issued, is reportedly encouraging Peng’s rival groups to set up a new leadership.

READ MORE---> Kokang capital falls: “Not shoot first” policy under fire...

Floods from dam near Thai–Burmese border cause concern

by Usa Pichai

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) –The incident of flash floods near the Thai-Burmese border last week points to the ineffectiveness of the authorities in addition to its blatant blacking out of information, environmentalists have pointed out.

Witoon Permpongsacharoen, an environmentalist attached to the ‘Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance’, a Bangkok based organization working closely with environmental issues in the region told Mizzima that the recent flooding from the Srikakarin Dam in the Kanchanaburi Province bordering Burma, affected several villages in the area.

But information on this was not available from the authorities.

“While compensation is necessary it is important that the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) and the Petroleum Authority of Thailand (currently the PTT Public Co. Ltd.) should clarify the facts. Earlier there had been warnings that the dam was vulnerable to earthquakes. Besides there was lack of study on the environmental effect in the area from the construction of the dam,” he said.

“The media seems to have no interest in following up the issue though it affects so many villagers,” he said.

Witoon pointed out that the planned series of dams to be built on the Salween River in Burma will also be at risk from earthquakes “even though the authorities claim that engineering technology could solve this problem and resist damage from earthquakes, measuring up to seven on the Richter scale. But who can guarantee whether earthquakes will not be stronger?” he asked.

The dams has been built on the Srisawat active fault near the Three Pagoda Pass, both on the Thai– Burma border and is at risk from earthquakes.

The incident follows an accident during gas transmission from the Bongkot in the Thai Gulf and Yadana fields in Burma last week. To avoid a power blackout in western Thailand due to the stoppage, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) decided to release water from the Srinakarin Dam in Kanchanaburi province close to the Burmese border to generate power, which resulted in flooding large areas and affecting hundreds of local villagers. There are rumours that the dam has been damaged by an earthquake.

The cabinet was given the report and has acknowledged the technical problems. It was informed that eight villages in Muang district had been affected by floods, along with three resorts, some raft operations and farmlands. A committee has been set up to investigate the sudden release of water from the Srinakarin Dam.

Deputy permanent secretary Norkun Sitthiphong will chair the committee, which has been given seven days to investigate and submit a report.

"The committee will find out why the water had to be released and whether the decision was appropriate. It must also come up with preventive measures," he said, denying reports that the floods were caused by an earthquake.

However, in 2007 the fault line in Burma caused small earthquakes in the Golden Triangle areas, connecting Laos, Burma and Thailand, when a 6.1 magnitude earthquake occurred about 700 kilometres from Bangkok.

Such tremors were however not dangerous, but has been causing worry about fault lines near the capital such as the Sakaing fault in the Andaman Sea, 400 kilometres from Bangkok or the Three Pagoda fault zone and the Srisawat fault in Kanchanaburi, 200 kilometres from Bangkok.

READ MORE---> Floods from dam near Thai–Burmese border cause concern...

Myanmar: Towards the Elections

Asia Report N°174
20 August 2009


The bizarre prosecution and conviction of opposition leader and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi for violating her house arrest has returned attention to repression in Myanmar, as preparations were underway for the first national elections in twenty years, now scheduled for 2010. This further undermined what little credibility the exercise may have had, especially when based on a constitution that institutionalises the military’s political role. The UN Secretary-General’s July visit, which produced no tangible results, added to the gloom. But while the elections will not be free and fair – a number of prominent regime opponents have been arrested and sentenced to prison terms over the last year – the constitution and elections together will fundamentally change the political landscape in a way the government may not be able to control. Senior Generals Than Shwe and Maung Aye may soon step down or move to ceremonial roles, making way for a younger military generation. All stakeholders should be alert to opportunities that may arise to push the new government toward reform and reconciliation.

At first glance, the obstacles to change seem over­whelming. The 2008 constitution entrenches military power by reserving substantial blocs of seats in the national and local legislatures for the army, creating a strong new national defence and security council and vesting extraordinary powers in the commander-in-chief. It prevents Aung San Suu Kyi from standing for president, even if she were not imprisoned. It is extremely difficult to amend. And while not all regulations relating to the administration of the elections have been an­nounced, they are unlikely to offer much room for manoevre to opposition parties.

But the elections are significant because the controversial constitution on which they are based involves a complete reconfiguration of the political structure – establishing a presidential system of government with a bicameral legislature as well as fourteen regional governments and assemblies – the most wide-ranging shake-up in a generation. The change will not inevitably be for the better, but it offers an opportunity to influence the future direction of the country. Ultimately, even assuming that the intention of the regime is to consolidate military rule rather than begin a transition away from it, such processes often lead in unexpected directions.

This report looks at the elections in the context of Myan­mar’s constitutional history. It examines key provisions of the 2008 constitution and shows how many of the controversial articles were simply taken from its 1947 or 1974 predecessors. Noteworthy new provisions include strict requirements on presidential candidates, the establishment of state/regional legislatures and governments, the reservation of legislative seats for the military, military control of key security ministries, the authority granted to the military to administer its own affairs (in particular military justice) and the creation of a constitutional tribunal.

Criticism of the constitution from groups within Myan­mar has focused on military control, ethnic autonomy, qualifications for political office, and the very difficult amendment procedures. The main reaction of the populace to it and the forthcoming elections is indifference, rooted in a belief that nothing much will change. Some of the so-called ceasefire groups – ethnic minorities that have ended their conflicts with the government – are endorsing ethnic political parties that will take part in the polls. These groups take a negative view of the constitution but feel that there may be some limited opening of political space, particularly at the regional level, and that they should position themselves to take advantage of this. There are increased tensions, however, as the regime is pushing these groups to transform into border guard forces partially under the command of the national army.

The National League for Democracy (NLD), winner of the 1990 elections, has said it will only take part if the constitution is changed, and it is given the freedom to organise. Assuming this will not happen, it is not yet clear if it will call for a complete boycott in an attempt to deny the elections legitimacy or urge its supporters to vote for other candidates. A boycott could play into the hands of the military government, since it would not prevent the election from going ahead and would mainly deprive non-government candidates of votes, potentially narrowing the range of voices in future legislatures.

The Myanmar authorities must make the electoral process more credible. Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners must be released now and allowed to participate fully in the electoral process; politically-motivated arrests must cease. It also critical that key electoral legislation be promulgated as soon as possible, in a way that allows parties to register without undue restriction, gives space for canvassing activities and ensures transparent counting of votes.

The international community, including Myanmar’s ASEAN neighbours, must continue to press for these measures while looking for opportunities that the elections may bring. This will require a pragmatic and nuanced strategy towards the new government at the very time, following a deeply flawed electoral process, when pressure will be greatest for a tough stance. The new Myanmar government, whatever its policies, will not be capable of reversing overnight a culture of impunity and decades of abuses and political restrictions. But following the elections, the international community must be ready to respond to any incremental positive steps in a calibrated and timely fashion. To have any hope of inducing a reform course, it is critical to find ways to communicate unambiguously that a renormalisation of external relations is possible.


To Members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN):

1. Make clear to Myanmar authorities that ASEAN member states support the release of political prisoners; enactment of timely and reasonable administrative regulations for registration of political parties; permission for domestic and foreign election monitors to be present throughout the country no less than a month before the scheduled polling date; and a green light for freedom of movement for print and broadcast journalists from ASEAN countries.

2. Consider offering, as and when appropriate, parliamentary exchanges with the newly elected government, assistance in setting up parliamentary committees and other steps that might push the door open a little wider.

3. Outline for Myanmar authorities the steps they would have to take for the elections to be perceived as credible.

4. Build on the positive example set by ASEAN following Cyclone Nargis by acting as a “diplomatic bridge” between Myanmar and the international community – explaining the latter’s concerns to Myan­mar and viceversa.

To Western Governments:

5. Articulate clear expectations for the electoral process and highlight where it fails to meet international standards.

6. State clearly what the West expects of Myanmar in order for relations to improve; send clear messages before the post-election government is in place that a process of normalising relations is possible; and indicate that positive steps will be met with timely, calibrated responses.

7. Suspend restrictions on high-level bilateral contacts with the new government, along with restrictions on its members’ travel, to enable the diplomatic exchanges that will be required in order to communicate the necessary messages.

8. Maintain the targeted financial sanctions against individual leaders, while keeping them under review so that they can be adjusted in light of developments.

To the UN Secretary-General and the relevant agencies of the UN System:

9. Keep an active good offices process, including the personal engagement of the Secretary-General as well as the efforts of his Special Adviser, so as to be in a position to take advantage of any unexpected opportunities that may arise. A multi-level political presence on the ground can be valuable in this respect.

10. Consider providing relevant and appropriate electoral assistance, while abiding by UN standards, including technical discussions with the Myanmar authorities at an early stage on international expectations and experiences from other countries.

11. Begin, through relevant bodies (such as the United Nations Development Programme) and in cooperation with other international institutions (such as the World Bank), activities aimed at strengthening the capacity of civilian institutions of governance. This should be implemented in an incremental manner, based on careful assessments of the space for conducting such activities.

To the Myanmar Government:

12. Release Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners.

13. Desist from pre-election arrests and prosecution of perceived political opponents or dissidents.

14. Promulgate fair administrative laws and regulations relating to the conduct of the election as soon as possible.

15. Minimise restrictions on the registration of political parties and on canvassing activities and put in place procedures to ensure the transparent counting of votes.

16. Give greater importance to the ethnic dimension of the political situation, including by:

a) implementing a nationwide ceasefire and ensuring and facilitating humanitarian access to former conflict areas;

b) taking steps to reduce tensions with ethnic political and ceasefire organisations and giving them assurances about their political and military status in the lead-up to the elections; and

c) committing to select chief ministers from among the elected representatives of state legislatures.

To Other Stakeholders in Myanmar, including the Political Opposition:

17. Encourage the broadest possible participation in the election process, even if individual parties or organisations choose not to participate.

18. Encourage full participation of the electorate in campaigning and voting.

To Donors, Non-Governmental Organisations and Institutes:

19. Support the provision of in-country civic education to the Myanmar electorate if possible, as well as through exiled media organisations and international Burmese-language radio stations.

20. Support the exposure of new legislators to the workings of other legislatures, particularly those in the region and in other countries that are emerging or have recently emerged from authoritarian rule, in order to build capacity and work towards normalising relations.

21. Be prepared to respond quickly to opportunities to rebuild and/or reform key political and economic institutions, as well as social infrastructure, if or when opportunities arise.

22. Provide humanitarian and development support to ethnic regions, particularly special autonomous areas.

Yangon/Brussels, 20 August 2009

Full Report can be d/l from:

* ICG on a PDF A4 format
MS Word format
on my Scribd

READ MORE---> Myanmar: Towards the Elections...

Without constitution amendment elections cannot herald change: NLD

by Mungpi

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Unless Burma’s military regime releases political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and amends the 2008 constitution, the 2010 general elections will be meaningless and will not usher in any kind of change, the National League for Democracy has said.

The 2010 general election, proposed by the ruling junta, is based on the 2008 constitution, which enshrines the role of the military. It cannot provide an opportunity for change unless the regime considers reviewing the constitution, Dr. Win Naing, a spokesperson for the NLD said.

“The 2010 elections cannot be an opportunity for change in Burma unless the junta reviews and amends the constitution,” he said.

It has been 20 years now, and the junta is aware that it cannot continue ruling the country in an illegitimate manner. Since the junta is not prepared to make any kind of drastic reforms, it drafted the constitution to legitimize its role, he added.

Dr. Win Naing’s remarks came in response to the recent report released by the International Crisis Group, which urged all stake holders in Burmese politics to prepare to seize an opportunity of change that is likely to be a fall out of the 2010 elections.

The ICG in its report released on Thursday said the 2010 election is an opportunity for change and urged the international community, the Burmese opposition including the NLD, the military government and other stake holders not to squander the opportunity.

“All stakeholders should be alert to opportunities that may arise to push the new government towards reform and reconciliation,” the report, titled “Myanmar: Towards the Elections”, said.

The report also argues that boycotting or opposing the election would only push things into the hands of the military as it would not prevent the elections from taking place.

But Dr. Win Naing said if the elections take place without any consideration for the opposition’s demands, it would only produce a result that is predictable – continued military rule – and the only difference this time would be “a legitimized military rule”.

“We don’t see it as an opportunity. The conditions before the elections are important and if nothing changes and if the junta goes ahead with its plans, it is predictable,” he added.

But he did not criticize the ICG report stating, “It is their view and we appreciate it for expressing such ideas. It does not matter whether we agree with it or not.”

But functioning within a rigidly controlled environment, Dr. Win Naing said, people living in Burma understand the military’s mentality and need to assess the situation before taking any decision.

“As we have mentioned in our ‘Shwegondine Declaration’ (see below a copy of the declaration) if the ruling government does not implement our proposals, we would be forced to re-think how we should go about the 2010 election,” he added.

On August 11, the NLD’s general secretary Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to a further 18 months in detention, which is widely believed by observers as a move to keep her away from the 2010 election scenario.

Similarly, members of the NLD in Rangoon have been harassed and tortured for their political activities.

25 August 2009

READ Report here

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NLD Shwegondine Declaration
20090429_NLD Shwegondine Declaration

READ MORE---> Without constitution amendment elections cannot herald change: NLD...

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