Friday, August 28, 2009

Popular Vietnamese Blogger Fired by Newspaper

The Irrawaddy News

HANOI — one of Vietnam's most popular and boldest bloggers has been fired by his newspaper after the ruling Communist Party complained to editors about his writings.

Huy Duc, who writes his blog under the pen name "Osin," was dismissed this week because his postings did not reflect the editorial positions of Saigon Tiep Thi, said Tran Cong Khanh, an editor at the newspaper.

Huy Duc sits reading a newspaper in downtown Hanoi. (Photo: Getty Images)

Khanh cited a recent Osin posting that praised the fall of the Berlin Wall and criticized the former Soviet Union's Communist leaders, saying their rule had led to years of misery for the people of Eastern Europe. Duc referred to the wall as "the wall of shame."

"The attitude of his entry did not reflect that of our newspaper, and we can't use him anymore," Khanh said.

Khanh said the newspaper made the decision to dismiss Duc on its own, without direct pressure from the government, which strictly monitors Vietnam's state-controlled media.

But he acknowledged that the Propaganda and Education Commission, the Communist Party's media watchdog, had complained about roughly 100 of Duc's blog postings and newspaper stories.

Duc's Osin blog has tested the limits of free expression in Vietnam, frequently featuring articles critical of government leaders and their policies.

He has chided leaders for chartering Vietnam Airlines planes to fly abroad, and criticized a controversial bauxite mining project in Vietnam's Central Highlands which critics say could devastate the environment of the region, home to many of the country's 54 ethnic minorities.

Vietnam has about 700 news outlets, all of which are state-controlled. While some newspapers have grown more aggressive in their coverage of issues such as corruption, they rarely challenge the government. Saigon Tiep Thi is published three times a week by Ho Chi Minh City's Trade and Investment Promotion Center. Duc had worked there for several years.

The Vietnam Journalists' Association, whose members work for the state-controlled media, declined to comment on Duc's dismissal.

Duc also declined to comment Thursday.

But on his blog, he wrote that he has lost many newspaper jobs during his 21-year journalism career. He said he plans to work on a book and hopes to eventually find a job at another paper.

"The media, although under state control, belongs to society," Duc wrote. "It must be a place for truthful articles, analysis and criticism."

Last year, authorities arrested reporters from two major newspapers, Thanh Nien and Tuoi Tre, after they reported aggressively on a major corruption case.

This year, the government tightened its rules for bloggers, who have proliferated in Vietnam. The new rules say bloggers must restrict themselves to writing about personal, not political, matters.

A blogger known as Dieu Cay was charged with tax evasion and sentenced to 30 months in jail after encouraging people to protest at the Olympic torch ceremonies in Ho Chi Minh City shortly before last summer's Beijing Olympics.

He criticized China's policies in Tibet and the Spratly islands, an archipelago in the South China Sea that is claimed by China, Vietnam and several other countries.

READ MORE---> Popular Vietnamese Blogger Fired by Newspaper...

New US policy is important for Burma's future

By Khin Maung Win - Oslo

(The Nation) -The visit by US Senator Jim Webb to Burma, in which he won the release of John William Yettaw, who was sentenced to 7 years' imprisonment with hard labour for swimming across Inya lake to the home of Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, draws scepticism from some stakeholders in Burmese politics.

Since the administration of President Obama stated that its Burma policy is under review, those in the camp who supported the previous US sanctions policy are concerned about the direction of the prospective new policy.

The major concern is that the policy shift would change the equation between the regime and its opponents by favouring Burma's ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), and would legitimise the regime and its controversial 2010 election. As of now the election is a critical battlefield on which the fight between the SPDC and the opposition groups will be played out.

It is a fact that both engagement policies advocated by Asean, Burma's neighbours and other Asian nations, and the sanctions and isolation policy held by the US and EU have equally failed to bring any positive change in Burma. Looking for an alternative becomes a natural reality.

Previous attempts by the US to use its power via the UN Security Council have never been realised due to vetoes from China and Russia. These two countries also intervened when the US, along with the UK and France, tried to practise "Responsibility to Protect" to save the victims of Cyclone Nargis that hit Burma in May 2008, leaving 135,000 dead and over two million homeless while the Burmese regime denied immediate humanitarian aid from outside. The US must find an alternative policy so that it can exercise its power to help 55 million Burmese people.

The US is the power the SPDC despises most, but at the same time, will listen to most if it has to. Some suggest that Senator Webb's success in meeting with Senior General Than Shwe and Aung San Suu Kyi is a result of mounting international pressure, which the regime wants to defuse following Aung San Suu Kyi's sentencing on August 11.

While the US needs to send a former president, Bill Clinton, to North Korea to secure the freedom of two Americans and to meet reclusive leader Kim Jong-il, it was politically cheaper for it to send only a senator to secure the freedom of Yettaw and meet Burma's reclusive leader. It indicates that the Burmese regime will listen to the US when it has to, even though unwillingly.

But the US cannot unilaterally exercise its power. Bringing more nations on board, along with a new policy, whilst remaining in the driving seat, would make a difference.

Some suggest the Obama administration is sending a mixed message to the regime, with the US president's recent renewal of Burma sanctions contradicting calls from some senior US officials for "affirmative engagement". Should we not see the renewal as a signal from the US that sanctions remain a possible punishment, whereas the doorway has been opened for engagement? Should it be understood as a "carrot and stick" policy which offers engagement in the first place and punishment later? This is not a new approach in dealing with Burma. Australia, for example, in the early 1990s advocated a similar concept using the name of "Benchmark Policy".

The division among the international players has allowed the regime's survival over the last two decades. Once the US develops a new policy, it must be able to bring more nations on board from both camps - those advocating engagement and those advocating sanctions and isolation.

The carrot and stick approach, offering engagement and sanctions, with proper use of both in a balanced manner, could be a bridge to bring both camps closer. It means that the new US policy must be multilateral, not unilateral.

Some Asian countries, including Asean members, India and China, may have prioritised their own interests when engaging with the regime. They are also major trading partners of the regime, and some supply weapons. A few may even wish that Burma never becomes a democracy. Some democracies, namely India and Japan, compromise universally-accepted values that are in practise in their countries, just for national interest - by giving in too much to the SPDC. This shows that countries in the engagement camp have less interest in changing Burma's status quo. Unlike these nations, the US is freer from any conflict of interest when it comes to Burma policy, whether using sanctions or engagement. It mainly sticks to the idea of sympathy for 55 million Burmese suffering under repressive military rulers for half a century.

Its democratic structure at home is unlikely to allow the US to compromise its values of human rights, freedom, justice, multi-party democracy and market economy when it comes to Burma policy. Planting such universally-accepted values in Burma can only be good.

Sympathy for the Burmese people, within the White House, State Department and both houses of Congress, as well as strong Burma advocacy groups in the country, could reduce the risk of a new US policy becoming another failed engagement.

The regime is not afraid to insult any international organisation, including Asean, the EU and UN. A recent example of how the regime blatantly fouled the international community was during UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's trip to Burma in early July. Most people assumed that pre-arrangements for his visit included securing the freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi, or at least meeting with her. The regime easily snubbed the secretary-general by denying him a meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi.

But the regime knows that it is difficult for it to insult the US the same way. Of course, it is up to the US to determine whether it will allow itself to be insulted.

Khin Maung Win is deputy executive director of the Democratic Voice of Burma, a Burmese radio and TV station based in Oslo. The views expressed in the article are his own.

READ MORE---> New US policy is important for Burma's future...

30,000 flee as China rebukes Burma

(DVB)–Around 30,000 refugees have crossed into China according to UN estimates as fighting between Burmese troops and ceasefire groups sparked a rare admonishment from China’s foreign ministry.

A spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today that between 10,000 and 30,000 civilians have fled Burma’s northern Shan state into China in recent days.

Fighting broke out between Burmese army troops and the Kokang ceasefire group yesterday after weeks of heightening tension.

Kokang troops yesterday attacked a police outpost near to Laogai town close to the China-Burma border, killing one Burmese police officer and injuring two.

The Kokang group has been joined by the United Wa State Army, Burma’s largest ceasefire group who had held a 20-year truce with the government.

Today China’s foreign ministry issued a statement urging Burma to "properly deal with its domestic issue to safeguard the regional stability in the China-Myanmar [Burma] border area".

"We also urge Myanmar to protect the safety and legal rights of Chinese citizens in Myanmar," said spokesperson Jiang Yu in the statement.

China is a key ally of Burma’s ruling junta, and seldom criticizes the internal affairs of its southern neighbour.

The mass of refugees pouring into China however, in addition to reports that a Burmese army shell fired across the border today killed a Chinese troop, has created a rare fissure between the two countries.

China has reportedly increased its troop patrols along the border area, and is said to be assisting the refugees.

“We have been informed that local authorities in Yunnan Province have already provided emergency shelter, food and medical care to the refugees,” said the UNHRC spokesperson Andrej Mahecic.

Local sources report that a number of civilians have also escaped into inner Shan state.

Reporting by Francis Wade

READ MORE---> 30,000 flee as China rebukes Burma...

Scorched earth victims ordered to rebuild houses

(DVB)–Villagers in Burma’s central Shan state whose houses were razed in the junta’s latest scorched earth campaign this month have been ordered by the army to rebuild their property.

Some 500 hundred houses were burnt down by the Burmese army near Laihka town in Shan state between 27 July and 1 August, uprooting around 10,000 civilians.

Sein Kyi, deputy editor of the Shan Herald Agency for News, said that army officials in the area recently ordered those who fled to return to their villages and rebuild their homes.

“They also shot video and picture footage of the villages being rebuilt to make it look like the army was actually helping the villagers.”

He said the villages were burnt down by army soldiers together with troops from a splinter group of the opposition Shan State Army, known as the Brigade 758.

“Now the army officials are telling villagers it was the Brigade 758 who burnt down their houses, despite warning [the brigade] not to,” he said.

“But actually, it was the [government] troops who burnt down the villages and the Brigade 758 was only accompanying them.”

The order to rebuild the villages follows a press conference held two weeks ago in Bangkok by Shan right groups, who reported that around 40 villages have been targeted in the campaign.

According to the groups, it is the single largest forced relocation in Shan state since a campaign from 1996 to 1998 saw the uprooting of 300,000 villagers, many of whom fled to Thailand.

Some aid materials, brought to the displaced by sympathisers in nearby towns and villages, were reportedly intercepted by the army on August 7.

Sein Kyi said that the materials were recently distributed to the villagers under the army battalion’s name.

Much of the scorched earth campaign has focused on Laikha township, where over 100 villagers, including women, have been arrested and tortured, and three have died. Many of these were displaced by the previous campaign.

Reporting by Aye Nai

READ MORE---> Scorched earth victims ordered to rebuild houses...

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