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BURMA RELATED NEWS – OCTOBER 02-04, 2010
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AFP – Europe woos Asia to boost global role
Asian Correspondent – Deputy Prime Minister of Britain encourages freedom fighters of Burma
Liberal Democrat Party – Clegg backs campaign to raise awareness of political prisoners in Burma
International Herald Tribune – Myanmar’s Sham Election
International Herald Tribune – The Case for a Burmese Vote
Australian Broadcasting Corporation – Gillard urged to speak out about Burma
ABC Radio Australia – Rights groups call on Europe to pressue Burma
The Malaysian Insider – Suu Kyi to sue Myanmar junta over dissolution
EU Business – Europe, Asia leaders to urge free, fair vote in Myanmar
AHN – U.S. Lawmaker Doubts Myanmar’s Suu Kyi Release Plan
EarthTimes – Laos, Myanmar to step up cooperation on immigration, drugs
Thailandnews.net – Thailand plans to repatriate Burmese asylum seekers after election
Xinhua – MAI to launch Bangkok-Singapore flight in October
Asahi Shimbun – POINT OF VIEW/ Johan Cels: The challenge of resettling refugees in Japan
The Hindu – Suu Kyi’s camp in the dark
Bernama – Nine men sentenced to 10 year’s jail, whipping for gang-robbery
Monsters and Critics – EU-Asia summit to call for free elections in Myanmar
Philippine Star – Myanmar’s stadiums for 27th SEA game to be completed next year
Global Unions – Trade Unions Call on ASEM to Act on Burma
GlobalPost – Opinion: Beijing wary of Myanmar elections
Bangkok Post – Opinion : Wait-and-see approach failing Burma
Bangkok Post – Abhisit plans visit ahead of poll
The Irrawaddy – Rangoon Mayor Says USDP Using State Funds
DVB News – Troops and police arrested over Bago shootings
DVB News – Politicians rue ‘no vote’ campaign
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Europe woos Asia to boost global role
by Claire Rosemberg – Mon Oct 4, 7:54 am ET

BRUSSELS (AFP) – Europe sought a heightened global role with Asia’s emerging giants Monday at talks ranging from trade to climate change between nations representing more than half the world’s population.

The two-day Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) of 46 nations, followed by separate EU summits with China and South Korea on Wednesday, opens amid renewed tension between Beijing and Tokyo over disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, indisputably star guest of the talks, could hold a face-to-face meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan to ease the dispute, diplomats said.

For the European Union, the get-together of dozens of heads of state and government in the gilded Goya-hung halls of the Belgian royal palace opens a window of opportunity to strengthen ties with the Asia region at a time of fast global change.

“I am convinced that a strong Europe is irreplaceable,” Wen told the Greek parliament on the eve of his arrival in Brussels. “China wants to promote and strengthen strategic links with the European Union.”

During his visit to debt-crippled EU member Greece, the Chinese leader held out proof of willingness to work with the the 27-nation union — pledging to support the euro and maintain European bonds that are part of Chinese foreign exchange reserves, the world’s biggest.

Economic issues are expected to dominate the meeting of ASEM nations, which represent 60 percent of the world’s population and global trade.

But the informal talks, accompanied by a slew of bilaterals, parallel visits to NATO headquarters and contacts between business leaders, will also touch on piracy at sea, terrorism, nuclear weapons, human rights and climate change.

ASEM leaders will urge Myanmar’s military rulers to release political prisoners and ensure November elections, denounced as a sham by rights groups, are free and fair, according to a draft final statement obtained by AFP.

British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who was attending the summit, urged ASEM leaders to “speak with one voice against the gross mistreatment of the Burmese people.”

“Burma’s military regime should know that, until it satisfies international demands, it will meet the same disapproval whether it looks East or West,” he wrote in the International Herald Tribune.

The summit is also expected to urge Israelis and Palestinians to keep peace talks alive despite the end of a moratorium on Israeli settlement construction.

ASEM, which meets every two years, groups the EU, the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), China, Japan, South Korea, India, Pakistan and Mongolia, and new members Australia, New Zealand and Russia.

On the economic front, reform of the IMF will feature high on the agenda after the EU last week signalled its willingness to cede some power at the international lender to emerging nations, which say Europe is over-represented.

Europe has been under pressure to offer a deal ahead of the November 11 start of the G-20 meeting of economic powers in Seoul and is ready to discuss giving up two of its nine seats while rotating others on the 24-member board.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said after talks with EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso that her country wanted “to see progress” on IMF reform at the G20.

The EU summit with China could reveal tensions following European and US charges that Beijing deliberately keeps its yuan currency undervalued to gain a trade advantage. The EU is also expected to raise concerns about human rights.

On climate change, ASEM leaders will share the goal “of reaching urgently a fair, effective and comprehensive legally binding outcome” and agree on the need for “deep cuts” in global emissions, according to the draft statement.

Hopes are low that any binding deals on cutting greenhouse gas emissions can be reached at November talks in Cancun amid lingering bitterness following a December summit which failed to secure emissions-reduction commitments.

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Asian Correspondent – Deputy Prime Minister of Britain encourages freedom fighters of Burma
Oct. 04 2010 – 10:54 pm

Zin Linn

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has called for Asian and European leaders to speak with one voice against the gross mistreatment of the Burmese people, via his article – Myanmar’s Sham Election – in the International Herald Tribune on 3 October.

Mr. Clegg wrote the article ahead of the Asia-Europe meeting (ASEM) in Brussels.

Mr. Clegg sharply pointed out that the 7-November elections in Burma will not free or fair. Challengers of the ruling party lack financial resources. They also are thoroughly under pressure by the existing regime. Thousands of political prisoners are still behind bar. Various ethnic parties have been refused the right to take part in the polls. The National League for Democracy, the biggest opponent of the junta, was disbanded unlawfully.

The NLD was abolished by the current Union Election Commission (UEC)’s Notification No. 97/2010 dated 14 September for failing to re-register for continuation as political parties within the set days. Yet, the UEC has no authority to do this as its existence as a political party was made official by the 1990 election commission, said the NLD spokesman Nyan Win.

The NLD launched a counter-argument against its dissolution, claiming the commission lacks authority to issue the ban. In March, the NLD leaders filed a lawsuit against military chief Senior General Than Shwe at the country’s supreme court stating the regime’s election laws are unjust and subjective.

But the court refused to hear the case, saying it had no power over the issue. It shows all courts in Burma have no power. They are under the military’s command.

Analysts say Burmese generals are threatening the public in various ways to gain political power as they plan for the first general election in two decades. International observers have criticized the voting as a charade as it does not include key opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Mr Clegg clearly spotlighted in his writing,” So the election result is a foregone conclusion. Under the constitution a quarter of seats are already reserved for the military. In half of the remaining seats parties loyal to the regime will run uncontested, their opponents unable to field a candidate. The regime is therefore guaranteed a substantial majority — before a single vote is even cast.”

On Liberal Democrats’ web page, he also said, “We are now a month away from the first elections in Burma since 27 May 1990. That should give us cause to celebrate. Sadly, that is wishful thinking. Burma’s 55 million people continue to suffer brutal oppression. Abject, needless poverty is, for most, a daily reality. These elections will be little more than a sham to perpetuate military rule.”

In his article, he strongly warns the junta: “So we must continue to exert pressure on the regime to engage all opposition and ethnic groups in a meaningful dialogue. The objective must be a fair settlement that gives ethnic groups a political voice and protects their minority rights. All prisoners of conscience — including the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi — must be released without delay. Reconciliation must be geared toward the social and economic development that has long evaded the Burmese state.”

So when Asian and European leaders meet today in Brussels, the UK will call for EU leaders to speak with one voice against the gross mistreatment of the Burmese people.
“Military men must know that swapping their uniforms for suits will not change the demands of the international community. We will not be pacified by a democratic facade. Our expectations will not drop,” Mr. Clegg concluded his writing. His strong caring article will encourage the people who are still struggling for Burma’s genuine freedom.

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Liberal Democrat Party – Clegg backs campaign to raise awareness of political prisoners in Burma
Mon, 04 Oct 2010

“The Burmese regime’s treatment of its people and denial of rights like freedom of expression is deplorable. This Government will not rest until Htay Kywe and other political prisoners like him are free.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg today received a photographic petition made up of more than five thousand photographs of Amnesty activists, politicians and famous faces.

Mr Clegg, Desmond Tutu, Christopher Eccleston and Jeremy Browne are among those photographed with raised palms inscribed with the names of Burmese political prisoners to raise awareness of their plight.

“Htay Kywe is currently serving a 65-year prison sentence in a cell measuring 8 feet by 10 feet simply because he organised peaceful protests in Burma in 2007.  That’s why I’m doing what I can to highlight his case,” Mr Clegg said.

“The Burmese regime’s treatment of its people and denial of rights like freedom of expression is deplorable.  This Government will not rest until Htay Kywe and other political prisoners like him are free.”

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International Herald Tribune – Op-Ed Contributor
Myanmar’s Sham Election
By NICK CLEGG (deputy prime minister of Britain)
Published: October 3, 2010

We are now a month away from the first elections in Burma in 23 years. That should give us cause to celebrate. Sadly, that is wishful thinking. Burma’s 55 million people continue to suffer brutal oppression. Abject, needless poverty is, for most, a daily reality. These elections will be little more than a sham to perpetuate military rule.

So when Asian and European leaders meet on Monday in Brussels, the U.K. will be calling for us to speak with one voice against the gross mistreatment of the Burmese people.

That means being unequivocal: These elections will be neither free nor fair. Opponents of the ruling party lack resources and are systematically targeted by the current regime.

Thousands of political prisoners remain incarcerated. Various ethnic parties have been refused the right to participate. Last month the military dissolved the National League for Democracy — its biggest perceived threat.

The situation is little better for those parties which are being allowed to participate. The regime they oppose has passed deeply unfair election laws and runs the election commission. In Burma all media is heavily censored by the state.

So the election result is a foregone conclusion. Under the constitution a quarter of seats are already reserved for the military. In half of the remaining seats parties loyal to the regime will run uncontested, their opponents unable to field a candidate. The regime is therefore guaranteed a substantial majority — before a single vote is even cast.

The consequence for Burma is the return to power of a ruling elite that has presided over widespread human rights abuses, including arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, rape and torture. That same regime has been guilty of profound economic mismanagement and corruption. While they routinely blame sanctions for weak development, the truth is that they have squandered Burma’s natural resources and export opportunities. The country’s infant mortality rate is now amongst the highest in Asia.

These failings are undeniable. Yet some are tempted to overlook the deep flaws in the approaching election. Clearly, it would be more convenient for the international community to quietly agree that any election is better than no election. Burma would recede in the mind, allowing us to “move on.” That is attractive for nations that insist we should not interfere in one anothers’ affairs. And the West could not be accused, as it sometimes is, of attempting to recreate the world in its own image.

These are not reasons to ignore the truth. The European Union has already made it clear that sanctions — targeted at the regime and its sources of revenue — will not be lifted until genuine progress is made on the ground. We must now work with our Asian partners, using our collective clout, to push for that progress. Members of the Asia-Europe Meeting group, or ASEM, account for nearly 60 percent of the global population — and the same proportion of global trade. Burma’s military regime should know that, until it satisfies international demands, it will meet the same disapproval whether it looks East or West.

Not only is that our shared moral duty, but it is in our strategic self-interest too. Without a process of national reconciliation in Burma, the risk of instability is real. Ethnic cease-fires look increasingly fragile. A return to conflict would have devastating humanitarian consequences, undermining regional security and leading to further refugee flows into neighboring countries and beyond.

So we must continue to exert pressure on the regime to engage all opposition and ethnic groups in a meaningful dialogue. The objective must be a fair settlement that gives ethnic groups a political voice and protects their minority rights. All prisoners of conscience — including the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi — must be released without delay. Reconciliation must be geared toward the social and economic development that has long evaded the Burmese state.

This week is an opportunity for Asian and European nations to reaffirm that message. Military men must know that swapping their uniforms for suits will not change the demands of the international community. We will not be pacified by a democratic facade. Our expectations will not drop.

Nick Clegg is deputy prime minister of Britain.

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Op-Ed Contributor
International Herald Tribune – The Case for a Burmese Vote
By PHILIP BOWRING
Published: October 4, 2010

HONG KONG — The elections set for Nov. 7 in Myanmar are a travesty of democracy — but they are welcome nonetheless.

Their main purpose is to dress the military regime in new civilian-looking clothes; a secondary purpose is to appease international criticism by putting on an electoral show. The possibility of real change in the power structure is the last thing the generals have in mind.

Yet the generals are sowing some seeds of change which might in time flower into something more plural and democratic, and provide regional as well as national forums for future debate. Meanwhile money from gas, minerals and privatization of state assets is seeping into a once austere military-socialist system, corrupting it and slowly undermining it.
In short, it is hard to argue that Myanmar will be any worse after the elections than it is now. It might start getting better.

The main opposition group, the National League for Democracy headed by Aung San Suu Kyi, whose victory in the 1990 election was overturned by the military, has good reason to boycott the polls. Its leader is under house arrest and unable to run. The apparatus of an oppressive regime and its captive media makes campaigning — and boycott calls — hazardous. Hundreds of political prisoners remain in jail, including monks held in the wake of the 2007 demonstrations in which many were killed. Government-backed parties, principally the Union Solidarity Development Party and its allies in ethnic minority regions, are destined to win. The military also has 25 percent of the seats allotted to it.
In the longer run the N.L.D. itself may be best served by its boycott. But Myanmar could also be served by the prospect that a few members from other opposition parties will be elected and create a thin democratic wedge.

A comparison can be made between Myanmar and the last decade of Suharto’s rule in Indonesia, when some parliamentary opposition became possible and, as the offspring of generals, sought wealth and business through access to government contracts and privatizations. Pluralism and competition began to sprout.

Of course there are many differences, not least that Suharto had a relatively open economy. But in Myanmar the generals are taking off their uniforms to become civilian ministers. Their families and associates are enjoying the fruits of privatization, and opening bank accounts in Singapore.

However badly managed Myanmar’s economy and its major domestic enterprises may be, plenty of money will come from new gas, pipeline and power projects to keep many a well-connected ex-officer in the style to which Southeast Asian businessmen have long been accustomed, and there will be many opportunities to acquire state and joint-venture assets. The power of money will be diversified.

Competition is growing for foreign deals after years in which China had a near-monopoly. In response to India’s bid for Myanmar gas and American attempts, so far unsuccessful, to engage with the military, China has been further bolstering its ties, most recently by inviting the Myanmar leader Than Shwe to Beijing. China is well aware that the United States is now more interested in limiting China’s influence than punishing the generals for repression.

While China officially welcomes the approaching elections, it may well be worried about the weakening of its own influence in the long run, or of a nationalist backlash against Chinese influence. Indians once ran much of Myanmar’s trade, only to be expelled, and have their assets seized, following the 1962 military coup.

The ultimate impact of elections on Myanmar’s rebellious ethnic minorities is also an issue for China — as it is for the integrity of a Myanmar in which only 70 percent of the population is ethnic Burmese. A semblance of democracy and devolution could start to bring an end to decades of intermittent conflict — or it could be the precursor of more warfare, particularly in the Shan and Kachin states, which abut China’s Yunnan Province.

China wants peace in these regions, but preferably through the government’s accommodation with rebel groups and not central government control. It wants to avoid crises such as the one in 2009, when 30,000 refugees fled to China to escape an army offensive. Meanwhile the Yunnan provincial government and Chinese businessmen mostly just want uninterrupted trade — which includes drugs and illegal mining and logging.

For Myanmar as a whole, the generals are trying to modernize their control system. But whether in the longer term they can keep control of change is questionable. Therein lies hope.

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Australian Broadcasting Corporation – Gillard urged to speak out about Burma
Posted Mon Oct 4, 2010 12:33pm AEDT

Human rights monitors are urging the Prime Minister to use a meeting of Asian and European leaders to put greater pressure on the military regime in Burma.

Julia Gillard is in Brussels for the opening of the Asia-Europe Meeting which brings together leaders of 43 nations.

Burma’s November elections and the military junta’s horrific human rights record are expected to be on the agenda.

Amnesty International is calling on Ms Gillard to make a strong case for human rights protection in Burma at the gathering.

Sunai Phasuk, a Human Rights Watch researcher based in Bangkok, has echoed the call.

“With or without elections, the situation in Burma will be the same,” he told Radio Australia’s Connect Asia program.

“So why [doesn’t ] the EU give a firm commitment as common policy right now?”

“I hope that the prime minister of Australia will do her job very well when she has the chance to raise this issue in Brussels.”

Mr Phasuk says a policy of engagement by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has failed, and he hopes the stronger stance by some European countries will help build the pressure on Burma.

“Elections have to be demystified – they won’t lead to any improvement,” he said.

“Opposition parties will continue to be oppressed – the military will change their uniform and will dominate not only the executive but also the legislature.

“The ethnic minorities along the border with Thailand … Bangladesh and India will continue to face military offensive in order to pressure them to surrender to the government.”

The Burmese junta announced last week that it intends to release opposition democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi six days after the country’s first election since 1990.

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ABC Radio Australia – Rights groups call on Europe to pressue Burma
Updated October 4, 2010 12:44:03

Julia Gillard is in Brussels today for the opening of ASEM, the Asia-Europe meeting which brings together leaders of 43 Asian and European nations.

A plethora of topics will be discussed including global economic governance, climate change, sustainable development and nuclear non-proliferation. While the spat between Japan and China threatens to steal the show, the vexing issue of Burma and its poor human rights record is likely to cast a shadow. With Burma aheading to the polls next month, Amnesty International is calling on the Australian prime minister to take the lead in Brussels and make a strong case for human rights protection in Burma.
LOPRESTI: ASEM is a three day summit, there are a lot of issues to discuss. How much discussion will be dedicated to Burma?

PHASUK: Given that there are growing tensions to both the election and the prospect after the election leaders from Europe and Asia will have to discuss Burma. There are several issues to discuss. Firstly, about the credibility of the election, what will be the best approach in engaging or disengaging with the generals in Burma and then on top of that what will be the situation regarding the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, what will be the situation regarding human rights after the election, all these are pending issues that we expect to be discussed hopefully more seriously after the meeting, that because we have now the European counterpart not just ASEAN who would like to deal with Burma quietly, so with the kind of open approach of European countries, we might see more spotlight being shone into Burma during the discussion in Brussels.

LOPRESTI: Indeed, Europe has come out strongly against Burma’s rights records and says that sanctions will not be lifted until genuine progress is made on the ground. So we’re probably like to hear strong words from EU leaders, but as you say, Thailand and ASEAN want the discussions on Burma to be raised at a bilateral level. Do you agree with that?

PHASUK: Well, the engagement and constructive engagement policy of ASEAN has proven to be a failure. It has led to nowhere, it has failed to improve conditions inside Burma, despite ongoing appeasement given by ASEAN, given by Thailand and the rest of South East Asian nations, so there needs to be a balance between pressure and incentives given from the international community. So at this point, elections need to be demystified. The upcoming election in November is not going to lead to any significant improvement in Burma. Opposition political parties will continue to be oppressed. The military simply changes its uniform and will dominate, not only the activities, but also the legislative branches from now on and pressure on the ethnic minority along the border with Thailand, along the border with Bangladesh and India will continue to face military offensive in order to pressure them to surrender to the government. So all in all, there is no assurance that this election will bring about significant changes in Burma, so that would be a reality that needs to be recognised by leaders in Brussels.

LOPRESTI: And that is one of the reasons why there is a call for a Commission for Inquiry into crimes against humanity and possibly war crimes in Burma. Now Australia has supported that call. Are you hopeful that the Australian prime minister will put Burma on the summit agenda?

PHASUK: I would hope that the Australian prime minister will raise her voice very strongly, very directly about more in terms of commitment to a Commission of Inquiry in Burma. The European countries have expressed their support, but have thus far remain reluctant from having a resolution, a common resolution for the overall EU policy on that, trying to say let’s give Burma a chance to get through an election. To me it doesn’t matter. With our election situation in Burma it will be the same, so why doesn’t the EU give a firm commitment to the inquiry right now, so I hope that the prime minister of Australia will do her job very well when she has a chance to raise this issue in Brussels.

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The Malaysian Insider – Suu Kyi to sue Myanmar junta over dissolution
October 04, 2010

YANGON, Oct 4 – Myanmar’s detained Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi will try to sue the country’s military rulers for dissolving her political party after it decided to boycott next month’s election, her lawyer said today.

Suu Kyi, who is currently under house arrest for breach of an internal security law, told lawyers of her now defunct National League for Democracy (NLD) party to file a lawsuit with the Supreme Court.

“On her behalf we will demand that the court declares that the NLD is still in existence,” lawyer Nyan Win said.

Legal experts said it was highly unlikely the case would be accepted by the court, which usually rules in favour of the military regime that has kept Suu Kyi in detention for 15 of the last 21 years.

Some even suggested the move could anger the junta so much that it might seek to detain her longer to prevent her from trying to derail the formation of a post election government that is likely to be dominated by army generals.

Suu Kyi’s current term of house arrest is due to expire on November 13, six days after the country’s first election in two decades and at a time when parliament will convene to choose a president.

“I don’t think it’s worth challenging the regime at this point,” said a retired judge in Yangon. “It’s sure to backfire and give the regime a pretext to to extend her house arrest.”

The NLD, which won the 1990 polls in a landslide but was denied the chance to rule, voted in March to boycott the polls because of “unfair and unjust” election laws and the continued detention of hundreds of its members.

The NLD was disbanded last month because it missed a May 7 deadline to re-register as a political party and was therefore declared an “unlawful association” by the election commission.

Without the NLD’s participation, two parties backed by the military are expected to sweep the polls, meaning parliament will be dominated by serving generals or the army’s political proxies.

The National Democratic Force, formed by a renegade NLD faction, is the biggest of the pro-democracy parties but is contesting only 14 per cent of constituencies nationwide.

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EU Business – Europe, Asia leaders to urge free, fair vote in Myanmar
04 October 2010, 13:16 CET

(BRUSSELS) – European and Asian leaders will urge Myanmar’s junta to release political prisoners and ensure November elections are free and fair, according to a draft summit statement obtained by AFP on Monday.

The leaders of 46 nations from the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) will encourage the military regime to “take the necessary measures to ensure that these elections would be free, fair and inclusive,” according to the text to be adopted on Tuesday.

Free elections “would mark a step towards a legitimate, constitutional, civilian system of government,” the provisional document states.

“The timely release of those under detention would contribute to these elections to be more inclusive, participatory and transparent,” it says.

Myanmar is preparing for November 7 polls that critics have dismissed as a sham due to the exclusion of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest, and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

The junta announced last week that Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, would be released after the the first elections in two decades.

British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg urged ASEM leaders meeting for the two-day summit in Brussels to “speak with one voice against the gross mistreatment of the Burmese people.”

“That means being unequivocal: These elections will be neither free nor fair,” Clegg wrote in a column in the International Herald Tribune, adding that the election result was a “foregone conclusion.”

“Burma’s military regime should know that, until it satisfies international demands, it will meet the same disapproval whether it looks East or West,” he wrote, using Myanmar’s former name.

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AHN | All Headline News
U.S. Lawmaker Doubts Myanmar’s Suu Kyi Release Plan
October 1, 2010 8:50 a.m. EST
AHN News Staff

Yangon, Myanmar (AHN) – An American lawmaker is blasting the military government of Myanmar for its plan to released pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi just days after the country’s Nov. 7 elections, which are widely regarded as a sham by the international community.

New York’s Democrat Rep. Joseph Crowley called the announcement of Suu Kyi’s pending release a ploy by the Myanmar leadership to legitimize the election. He said that the world had seen the junta’s “catch and release” game several times in the past in which they promise to release Suu Kyi, who had been under house arrest since 1990, but ultimately extend her house arrest.

Crowley said that if the military junta was keen on bringing changes seriously and wants to have a fair and democratic election, they must release Suu Kyi with other political prisoners now.

“Unfortunately, the claim that they may release her is a ploy to legitimize these unfair elections, and further proof that the junta will do or say just about anything to maintain power,” he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama also has also expressed doubt about the elections’ credibility although his administration started talks last year with the military regime to help bring it out of isolation.

Meanwhile, India’s national security adviser Shivshankar Menon on Thursday expressed optimism about the elections and said it could be a “significant step” toward democracy. Suu Kyi’s current term of house arrest is due to expire on Nov. 13.

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EarthTimes – Laos, Myanmar to step up cooperation on immigration, drugs – Summary
Posted : Mon, 04 Oct 2010 10:16:04 GMT

Vientiane – Laos and Myanmar agreed to increase cooperation along their common border to fight drug trafficking and illegal immigration, Lao and Myanmar government media reported Monday.

The agreement came during a three-day visit to Laos by Senior General Than Shwe, chairman of the State Peace and Development Council of the Union of Myanmar, which began on Friday.

Than Shwe, regarded as the highest figure in Myanmar’s secretive and diplomatically isolated ruling junta, met with Lao President Choummaly Sayasone and agreed to deepen the two countries’ already close ties.

“We came here on a goodwill visit with the belief that it would further strengthen the mutual friendship and cooperation between the two nations,” Than Shwe was quoted as saying by the Myanmar News Agency.

“I have been here three times, and I am very glad to learn that Laos has developed more year by year.”

Choummaly congratulated Myanmar’s military strongman on plans to hold the first national elections in two decades.

“We also believe that Myanmar will be able to hold the elections successfully on November 7 to build a modern and developed democratic nation,” the president said. “We will fully support the elections.”

Further bilateral talks would address problems of illicit drug trafficking and illegal immigration along the countries’ shared border, a Lao Foreign Ministry statement said.

The state-run Vientiane Times said the two leaders attended a ceremony to witness the signing of a pact to establish a joint border committee at the provincial level.

During the weekend visit the two leaders also agreed to work together to build a Laos-Myanmar Friendship Bridge and a road link from Myanmar to Vietnam.

Both countries are members of the 10-member Association of South-East Asian Nations but remain relatively isolated and have fallen far behind other members economically.

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Thailandnews.net – Thailand plans to repatriate Burmese asylum seekers after election
Thai foreign minister says returning Burmese to homeland after Burma’s first election for 20 years is a priority
Jack Davies in Bangkok
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 3 October 2010 15.47 BST

The Thai government is planning to repatriate Burmese asylum seekers after Burma holds its first elections in 20 years next month, raising fears that refugees could be sent back to war zones.

Speaking in New York, the Thai foreign minister, Kasit Piromya, said returning Burmese to their homeland was a priority for the Thai government.

“I am going back to Bangkok, and one of the first things I will be doing is to launch a more comprehensive programme for the Myanmar people in the camps, the displaced persons, the intellectuals that run around the streets of Bangkok and Chiang Mai province, to prepare them to return to Myanmar after the elections,” he said.

Thailand is home to an estimated 2 million Burmese, most of whom have no documents and many of whom have fled ethnic and political persecution.

Others are economic migrants, forming an underclass on which the Thai economy depends because they work in menial, often dangerous and low-paid jobs. About 150,000 Burmese live in camps on the Thai-Burma border.

The Thai government believes next month’s poll in Burma – the first since 1990 – will mark a significant step towards democracy, and Kasit said: “Let’s encourage and let’s given them as much help as possible.

“We are going to prepare the Myanmar people in Thailand for an eventual return to a new Myanmar, maybe half-democratic, but I think it is a beginning.”

But aid workers and refugee advocates in Thailand believe little will change after the elections and say Burma will not be safe enough for refugees to return.

The Burmese military’s Union Solidarity and Development party is set to dominate the elections for the 498-seat parliament through having more candidates across the country, raising millions of dollars by selling off state assets and by intimidating of opponents.

A new constitution guarantees a quarter of all seats, as well as key ministries, for the army.

Andy Hall, a director with the Human Rights and Development Foundation, said asylum seekers should not be returned to areas in which they could face further persecution.

“Essentially, this is an election which is going to entrench military rule,” he added. “So how, in any way, that could create a situation whereby the ethnic groups could go back after the elections when there is still a lot of conflict within their territories, we don’t understand.”

Jackie Pollock, the director of the Map Foundation, which works with Burmese migrant workers in the north of Thailand, said Burma would not become suddenly safe for the junta’s political opponents after the poll.

“I think, for the refugees and the political exiles, the elections will not make any difference – nothing will change in Burma for them,” she added.

“The same people will be in charge – so these people, were they to be returned, are liable to face persecution.”

Others working on the Thai-Burma border spoke anonymously to the Guardian, saying that a mass repatriation from Thailand would not work.

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MAI to launch Bangkok-Singapore flight in October
English.news.cn 2010-10-02 13:56:32

YANGON, Oct. 2 (Xinhua) — Myanmar Airways International (MAI) run by the private sector will launch daily flights between Bangkok and Singapore from the end of this month, sources with the airline said on Saturday.

It will be another air route between Bangkok and Singapore, operated by the airline, using an Airbus-type aircraft, from Oct. 31 to March 26, the sources said adding that the tickets will be sold through authorized agents.

MAI flights already linked Yangon with Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Gaya in India and the airline plans to start services to China’s Guangzhou at the end of November.

Meanwhile, the Vietnam Airlines will launch direct flight service between Ho Chi Minh and Yangon on Nov. 15 in addition to Hanoi-Yangon flight to enhance trade between the two countries.

The Myanmar Airways (MA), which is a domestic airline, is planning to buy three airbuses from China to substitute with the existing F-32 type aircrafts in use, sources with the aviation authority said.

There are 13 foreign airlines flying Yangon which comprise Air China, China Southern Airline, Thai Airways International, Indian Airlines, Qatar Airways, Silk Air, Malaysian Airlines, Bangkok Airways, Mandarin, Jetstar Asia, Phuket Airline, Thai Air Asia and Vietnam Airlines.

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Asahi Shimbun – POINT OF VIEW/ Johan Cels: The challenge of resettling refugees in Japan
SPECIAL TO THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
2010/09/28

“Moving to Mars” is the title of a superb documentary about two young Karen refugee families who are being resettled from Mae La, a camp on the border between Thailand and Myanmar (Burma), to Sheffield in Britain.

The film chronicles their experiences in the refugee camp, their hopes for a brighter future and their resettlement to Britain. Humorous on occasion, the film is deeply touching as it shares the hopes, dreams and bewilderment, as well as the shock of the two families, while establishing a new life.

The film’s message could not be more timely. The first group of some 30 Burmese refugees, including young children, arrived in Japan today. They fled Myanmar years ago and have resided at Mae La ever since.

As they are not able to return to Myanmar or settle in Thailand, resettlement elsewhere is their only hope. Living in refugee camps is harsh and offers no future. Education and employment opportunities are scarce. Many of the children born there know little else.

In December 2008, the Japanese government decided to start a resettlement pilot project. Over a three-year period, 90 Burmese refugees will be resettled in Japan.

Japan is the first Asian country to adopt such a project in line with human-security principles, protecting and empowering people, guiding its policies. It also reflects Japan’s strengthening of refugee and asylum policies. In recent years, more refugees have been granted protection in Japan. In 2009, a total of 531 refugees were allowed to stay. This is the highest number since Indochinese refugees began arriving in Japan more than 30 years ago.

For the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the resettlement pilot project is very important.

At present, the UNHCR faces a huge gap between existing needs and available resettlement destinations. Worldwide, some 750,000 people out of 10.4 million refugees under the UNHCR’s mandate are estimated to be in need of resettlement over the next five years. However in 2009, only 84,000 refugees, or 11 percent of those in need of resettlement, were able to depart for a new country.

To overcome this gap, the UNHCR has been urging more nations, beyond the traditional immigration and resettlement countries like the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, to welcome refugees. Japan has responded positively to the call and we must ensure the success of the program.

One of the key measures of success will be the sustainable integration of the Burmese refugees into their new communities and Japanese society. The experience of the 11,000 Indochinese refugees who came to Japan shows that they can successfully integrate into Japanese society and make important contributions to local communities.

There are, however, important challenges and we need to draw upon the experiences gained so far.

Before arriving in Japan, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) will provide initial language training as well as cultural orientation about life in Japan. Upon arrival in Japan, a six-month assistance program will be implemented through the Refugee Assistance Headquarters. This includes, among others, providing accommodations, medical care, language training, cultural orientation, skills development and assistance in finding employment.

Following the initial period, the refugees are free to choose where to live in Japan while continuing to receive counseling and assistance for employment and skills training, often through the local communities and authorities. Hopefully, as soon as possible, the resettled refugees will be able to stand on their own feet.

But there will be many unforeseen challenges. What may appear logical, practical and obvious to us, may solicit bewilderment and angst among the refugees.

To minimize these challenges, we must adopt a comprehensive and longer-term integration strategy. The provision of assistance during the first six months may not suffice and a longer-term integration, thus a follow-up strategy must be developed. Basic proficiency of the Japanese language is necessary to find employment. The experience of the Indochinese refugees showed that language training requires longer concerted efforts, especially for adults. In the right context, children are quick to learn a new language at school and through friends.

The experiences of the Icho Elementary School in Yokohama, which schools many refugee and migrant children, shows that special training and support is also required for the teachers and the community so that education programs and teaching skills can be adjusted to meet the needs of the children and the parents.

From the outset, it is essential to build a strong social support network around the refugees. Navigating daily life in a sprawling urban context like Tokyo requires sustained support and skills that cannot be easily shared through cultural orientation courses.

Therefore, it is important to extensively draw from the outset upon the support of the existing Karen refugees as well as of the NGO communities, including in the design and implementation of the integration programs.

There is a small but vibrant Karen community in Japan which can assist the new refugees in their daily orientation. The NGO community can equally help build a bridge between the refugees and the local communities. Likewise, the local authorities will provide important services, such as social security, housing and medical services. They require guidance on the potential issues that they may need to address.

At the broader level, close coordination among all relevant government ministries, local authorities, NGOs, refugee communities as well as IOM and UNHCR are essential.
Much of the assistance does not necessarily have to be provided through government services, but it can be done by the public. To do so, however, requires guidance, support and the necessary resources.

A successful reintegration program for resettled refugees will also have broader implications for developing a comprehensive integration policy for refugees in Japan, which is lacking.

At present, varying levels of assistance exist depending on whether a person has been granted Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees or humanitarian status, or is a resettled refugee. For example, language training is only available for a limited period to refugees with convention status as well as those who have resettled.

While taking into account specific needs and requirements, harmonizing the level of integration assistance that is being provided to the various protected groups will be an important step.

Extensive experience and expertise exists in Japan through, for example, the integration packages developed for foreign workers of Japanese origin and Indochinese refugees. It is important to review and identify the best practices. Gathering the experiences of other countries in integrating various groups of refugees and humanitarian status holders will also provide useful insights for Japan.

At the end of the pilot project, the UNHCR hopes that more refugees will be given the opportunity to start a new life in Japan. What matters now is the quality of the program, rather than the number of refugees resettled during this pilot project phase.

It’s also important to ensure that the program develops successfully in the coming years and that a comprehensive and sustainable integration strategy is implemented, benefiting both resettled as well as other refugees recognized in Japan.
* * *
Johan Cels is a UNHCR representative in Japan.

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The Hindu – Suu Kyi’s camp in the dark
P. S. Suryanarayana
SINGAPORE, October 4, 2010

The political camp of Myanmar’s celebrated democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi is in the dark about the military government’s supposed moves to allow her to vote in the November 7 election and free her from house arrest about a week later.

Her close political associate and spokesman Nyan Win told The Hindu from Yangon on Friday he was not aware of any such developments. Mr. Nyan Win represents Ms. Suu Kyi’s now-derecognised National League for Democracy, and the junta has often allowed him to meet her at her lakeside residence in Yangon over the years.

His last meeting with her took place about a month ago, and he has not so far been informed by the military government about its response to his request to meet her again.

The reports about the junta’s move to free Ms. Suu Kyi are viewed with scepticism in South East Asia.

Myanmar is in the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

A few years ago, Myanmar’s Foreign Minister told his ASEAN colleagues, at their official meeting in Singapore, Ms. Suu Kyi would be set free upon the completion of her previous term of house arrest. Far from honouring that word, the Myanmar junta subjected her to a judicial trial for the first time in her prolonged periods of detention.

She then spent a spell in prison before beginning her present term of house arrest. And, the junta is now reported to have said she would be freed at the end of her current house arrest. And, this has rung the scepticism bells, given the junta’s track record.

A question being asked is whether the junta will free her so that she can then hit the international trail to denounce the November 7 election as a sham exercise.

Regional observers have also not missed the irony of the junta’s reported move to carry a ballot box to Ms. Suu Kyi’s residence so that she could vote in the “democracy-restoring” election.

She has already called upon her political camp to boycott the election. And, this boycott call applies to her as well.

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Nine men sentenced to 10 year’s jail, whipping for gang-robbery
2010-10-04 17:53

SHAH ALAM, Monday 4 October 2010 (Bernama) — Nine men, including a Myanmar national, were sentenced to 10 years’ jail and five strokes of the rotan by the Klang Sessions Court here today for committing gang-robbery at a godown in Port Klang, Klang, five years ago.

Judge Asmadi Hussin handed down the sentence after finding that the defence had failed to raise any reasonable doubts against the charge.

In his judgment, he said the court found that the defence by all the accused were fictitious.

“There’s no need for me to give any advice. They (accused) are grown-ups and know the repercussions of their action,” he added.

He ordered K.Murugan, 29, V.Anbalagan, 40, V.Prakas, 31, G.Ravichandran, 32, S.Mogan, 39, S.Paramasivam, 36, M.Anpalagan, 35, P.Suresh, 31 and the Myanmar national, Tin Myo Minn, 31, to serve the sentence from today.

However, the court allowed a stay of the sentence pending appeal by the nine men to the High Court, but increased their bail to RM30,000 in one surety each, from RM15,000 previously.

Asmadi also ordered them to report to the nearest police station on the first Sunday of every month.

The nine men, with four others still at large, were charged with robbing the godown of liquor, worth RM1.2 million, while armed with knives and axes.

They were charged with committing the offence at Gudang Jasa Kita SVC Sdn Bhd, Lot 5 Kawasan 20, Solok Sultan Sulaiman, Port Klang, between 1.30am and 4.30am on Oct 24, 2005.

All of them were charged under Section 395/397 of the Penal Code, read together with Section 34 of the same law, which carries a jail term of up to 20 years and whipping, upon conviction.

All of them, except Mogan, who defended himself, were represented by lawyers Avtar Singh Dhaliwal, S.K.Pari and Gerard Lazarus.

Deputy public prosecutor Muhamed Yasser Mohd Nasri appeared for the prosecution.

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Monsters and Critics – EU-Asia summit to call for free elections in Myanmar
Oct 4, 2010, 17:59 GMT

Brussels – European Union and Asian leaders are set to urge the government of Myanmar to hold free and fair elections and release political prisoners, according to a draft statement prepared for a summit in Brussels ending on Tuesday.

The EU has long called on Myanmar to open up to democratic change, but some Asian states, especially China, have been more circumspect. China is a leading participant in the two-day summit, making any declaration that is adopted potentially significant.

Myanmar is due to hold elections on November 7.

Leaders ‘encouraged the government of Myanmar to take the necessary measures to ensure that these elections would be free, fair and inclusive, and would mark a step towards a legitimate, constitutional, civilian system of government,’ the draft reads.

Public attention in Europe has particularly been caught by the fate of Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy leader kept under house arrest by the military leaders of Myanmar.
Leaders at the summit ‘touched upon’ that issue, the draft said.

‘The timely release of those under detention would contribute to these elections to be more inclusive, participatory and transparent,’ it added.

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Philippine Star – Myanmar’s stadiums for 27th SEA game to be completed next year
Updated October 04, 2010 11:01 PM

YANGON (Xinhua) – Two international-level stadiums for the 27th South East Asian game in Myanmar are nearly to be finished in Nay Pyi Taw, the capital of Myanmar, by July 2011, said the local weekly report Monday.

Aimed for the 27th SEA game 2013, the two stadiums, Zayyar Thiri and Zabu Thiri stadium, which can hold up to 30,000 spectators, have been established for 45 percent, the local Myanmar Post News said.

The stadium would cover 10 hectares in a 60-hectare compound, with a further six hectares set aside for parking lot.

The design of the two stadiums were implemented by Pingding Shan Unbar Planninh Design Research Institute from China and Myanmar KMT Design and Consultant Group and other follow-up procedures were carried out by Myanmar companies.

Moreover, the stadiums will be built successively by the Myanmar engineers and Chinese architects within nearly two years, it added.

The event will lead to the much support for the forthcoming 27th SEA game in Myanmar.

Myanmar last hosted the SEA Games at Yangon’s Aung San Stadium.

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Global Unions – Trade Unions Call on ASEM to Act on Burma

4 October 2010: Trade unions from across Asia and Europe, gathered in Brussels for the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Leaders’ Summit, are calling on ASEM Leaders to take action on Burma, including demanding the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners and the ending of attacks on the civilian population, particularly ethnic communities and democracy supporters.

The ITUC is concerned that some in the international community is viewing national elections in Burma next month as a reason to relax pressure on the regime. The elections are deeply flawed: pro-democracy voices have been excluded, other parties have been prevented from campaigning effectively, and regardless of the outcome of the vote, the military is guaranteed effective control of government under a flawed constitution. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon stated on 27 September that elections will not be credible without the release of political prisoners, including democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The international community needs to significantly step up pressure on the regime until there is tangible progress towards an inclusive and democratic constitution and full respect for human rights. ASEM governments and social partners can play their part by cutting the trade and investment ties that are keeping the regime in power, in line with the 2000 ILO resolution on Burma.

With the regime stepping up its war against its own people, ASEM Leaders should call on the UN Security council to approve a total arms embargo on Burma and support a UN Commission of Inquiry into crimes against humanity. To put pressure on the regime to remove its ban on trade unions and give Burmese workers a voice, ASEM governments should support the launch of an ILO Commission of Inquiry into Freedom of Association in Burma in the ILO Governing Body.

Pressure on the regime to end all forms of forced labour must be stepped up. Those who are guilty of using forced labour must be punished and the recruitment of children into the military must stop. A significant starting point would be to ensure that the ILO is able to work freely across the country, including to investigate cases of forced labour.

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GlobalPost – Opinion: Beijing wary of Myanmar elections
Blocking ethnic minorities from elections increases likelihood for violence down the line.
By Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt — Special to GlobalPost
Published: October 3, 2010 10:00 ET in Worldview

BEIJING, China — While the West would like Myanmar’s November elections to lead toward democracy, China is seeking something far more straightforward: stability.

When the leader of Myanmar’s military government, Than Shwe, visited Beijing earlier this month, he sought to reassure Chinese leaders that elections would not produce any negative fallout along their 2,192-kilometer shared border.

Conflict along the border has been an enduring characteristic of post-independence Myanmar, where a handful of ethnic groups maintain their own territory, militias and political representation.

But Beijing has just cause for concern after the Myanmar military’s August 2009 offensive into the Kokang region shattered a 20-year cease-fire and sent more than 30,000 refugees into China’s Yunnan province.

The military campaign caught China’s capital by surprise, even though its provincial leaders may have seen it coming. Tensions on the border remain high as the election commission has blocked one major ethnic group (the Kachin) from registering parties and barred even their independent candidates.

One Kachin leader warned that failure to find a political solution to their legitimate concerns makes war more likely. Such hardball politics by the regime in Naypyidaw worry the Politburo even more than the White House.

Unlike Washington’s cautious engagement, Beijing has taken matters into its own hands. After the Kokang offensive, the center lost trust in provincial Yunnan’s ability to report timely, accurate information to the capital and dispatched officials to gather intelligence.

Beijing directly engaged with the border ethnic groups, a domain mostly reserved for Yunnan. It has brokered private mediation between the Myanmar government and the border groups in an effort to keep both sides talking and prevent conflict.

Earlier this year, China forced the leader of the Wa, the ethnic group with the largest militia and most contentious relationship with the government, to attend negotiations with Naypyidaw officials despite his repeated refusals.

Elections, which are expected to be neither free nor fair, are only raising the stakes. Beijing had hoped to see broad participation by the ethnic groups to boost the poll’s credibility and to decrease the risk of confrontation. But the Wa have refused to allow elections in their territory, and the Kachin have been disenfranchised.

In the long-term, this may well make the already precarious situation between the ethnic groups and Naypyidaw even more fragile. And as Naypyidaw pressures the groups to transform their militias into government-controlled border guard forces, the resulting stand-off increases the possibility of another military offensive.

Beijing wants to avoid this scenario at all costs. But managing its relationships with Naypidaw and the ethnic groups is a fraught exercise. Both sides are suspicious of China. The government worries about China’s long-standing support to the ethnic groups on its border.

And while some of these groups appreciate China advising Naypyidaw against military action, others feel that Beijing, by forcing them to the negotiation table, has abandoned them to protect its own security and commercial interests.

The groups also increasingly resent large-scale Chinese investments — including in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine states. Many projects are increasing popular resentment towards China due to unequal distribution of benefits, environmental damage and harmful impacts on local communities and traditional ways of life.

Many believe such ill-will motivated the April 2010 bombing of China’s Myitsone hydropower project. Activists see some large-scale investment projects in cease-fire areas as China playing into Naypyidaw’s strategy to gain control over ethnic group territories, especially in resource-rich Kachin state.

For risk-averse Beijing, it all makes for a volatile mix in an election year. At a time when China is pushing border stability in Myanmar, elections lacking participation from major border ethnic groups — the Wa, Kachin and others — may set the stage for potential conflict.

Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt is North East Asia project director at the International Crisis Group.

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Bangkok Post – Opinion : Wait-and-see approach failing Burma
The international community is hoping for more engagement after the November elections, but the same old partners in crime will be running the show
Published: 3/10/2010 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News

The lack of a collective approach from the international community toward the Burmese military regime has resulted in stalled efforts at the UN on the establishment of a commission of inquiry to investigate possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma.

Western nations are taking a common wait-and-see attitude until after the Nov 7 election, in the hopes they may be able to engage with the new government. The resulting silence has been highly discouraging to Burmese dissidents.

A 32-year-old Kachin State activist who secretly attended a recent Bangkok workshop organised by Thai and foreign NGOs told of his despair at the lack of a followup to the call by UN Special Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana to consider establishing a commission of inquiry to investigate military crimes against ethnic people. He also questioned if the world realises just how ”fake and cosmetic” the preparations for the election have been.

”There is no genuine change for the better. Not only is a 25% military presence guaranteed in the parliament by the 2008 constitution, but the military shadow is also dominant and enshrined in provincial-level elections,” said the man, who asked that his name not be published.

His views echo those of the great majority of dissidents inside Burma, as well as the exile media based in Thailand and India. These sources are reporting lots of foul play by the election commission and local authorities to prevent ethnic groups and opposing politicians from contesting in the first election in 20 years, and to discourage spirited individuals from standing up for their rights. Certain villages in Shan, Kachin, Karen and Kayah states will not even be taking part in the elections because the junta fears their participation could sabotage its grand plans.

The recent meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York generated no hope for the dissidents and it’s not likely that the Asia-Europe Meeting in Brussels in the coming week will either.

The US, while supporting the special rapporteur’s motion to set up an inquiry panel, has a parallel plan to use carrots and sticks to prevent Burma from following in the steps of North Korea and acquiring nuclear weapons, and perhaps also to tap into the country’s abundant natural resources.

The new capital of Naypyidaw has weathered various big and small storms in the past several years. The generals there are preparing to set up a new form of administration in the country after next month’s ballot and can’t be bothered with international concerns about human rights.

A request from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, to visit Naypyidaw either be fore or after the poll was flatly denied. Mr Ban also failed to convince the Burmese leaders during the UN General Assembly that closer engagement and dialogue with his office would be to their advantage. The junta’s flip-flopping on how to deal with democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi (release her before or after the election) should not be interpreted as effectiveness of international pressure but the junta’s tired old tactic of testing the response.

Senior General Than Shwe, meanwhile, has been treated with respect on the international stage with his visits to India in July and China in September.

No surprise then that Asean countries have gone along with these regional powerhouses. They are making no waves and keeping their fingers crossed that there will be no disruptions to the elections and that the junta’s plans will go smooth as silk. Then they can pay lip service to the dawn of Burma’s democracy and vigorously pursue economic relations.

Benjamin Zawacki, an Amnesty International (AI) researcher for Southeast Asia, expressed disappointment over Asean’s inaction, and said ”it remains shameful that international organisations and nations outside of Southeast Asia are taking the lead on human rights and political issues in Myanmar”.

That said, many international NGOs, including AI, are no less flabbergasted than Burmese dissidents over the stance of the world community in general toward the election.
Eleven countries, including the US, the UK, France and Australia have voiced their support for a UN commission of inquiry, but most major powers have either placed their Burma policies on hold until the elections or continued to engage the regime in the same way. Mr Zawacki said the US example illustrates that pressure and engagement are not mutually exclusive.

”The danger in the ‘engagement as usual’ approach is that it sends Burma the wrong signal that the elections are shaping up in an acceptable way, while the fact is that freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association _ all utterly indispensable to credible elections _ are under attack in Burma,” said the AI researcher.

He also expressed dismay that the EU has chosen not to join the international efforts to end impunity in Burma for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

”It is far from clear what steps the EU has taken toward implementing and putting into effect its 2008 Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders in Myanmar. They are needed there as much as anywhere in the world,” he said.

David Mathieson, senior researcher on Burma for Human Rights Watch, encouraged the EU to start pushing harder on more substantive matters such as expanding humanitarian space inside the country and pushing the ruling State Peace and Development Council to grant more operational freedoms, visas, and financial transparency.

Sadly, the EU and many other donors are too passive, conceded Mr Mathieson.

”There is a strange perception that humanitarian space and elections are somehow linked after the elections, that greater humanitarian operating freedoms will also mean greater political freedoms. It’s hard to justify this optimism,” he said.

He also criticised the illusions and confusion that have led certain EU member states to withhold support for a UN-led inquiry.

”A real investigation into all parties to the conflict could act as a catalyst for a long-overdue process of multidhlateral peace-building and national reconciliation,” said Mr Mathieson.

He commented on the reasons for the EU’s ”exclusionary” policy formulation: ”EU bureaucrats prefer going to Rangoon to consult with urbane, emerging political elites, and then marginalise and ignore ethnic communities along the borders because its too uncomfortable, complex, and ‘old hat’.”

He expressed sympathy for the deep pessimism over the election that is prevalent among the Burmese population. ”Optimism is an elite condition, because it is only elites in Rangoon that stand to make any gains from the election. While there are some genuine democratic-leaning people standing for elections, they will have only a thin chance to effectively campaign because of restrictions on basic freedoms, and they are opposed by behemoths such as the junta-sponsored Union Solidarity and Development Party and other pro-military parties.”

Mr Mathieson did not see much light at the end of the tunnel, but still called for a range of political figures inside Burma and in exile to start converging and working more productively together to end Burma’s isolation and find a more productive agenda, ”otherwise the divisions will only suit the military and its new civil-military axis of power”.

Last week it was announced that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajivas will visit Naypyidaw on Oct 11. A government spokesman said an assortment of bilateral issues such as trade, investment, border-security, narcotics and Burma’s elections are on the table. What was not acknowledged is that the visit will help to grant the junta regional legitimacy, something it badly wants, especially before Nov 7.

Mr Mathieson said it was unlikely that the November election will bring substantial change in the bilateral relationship. ”The election will certainly not solve border issues such as drugs, refugees, and instability _ in fact it could even make them worse.”

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Bangkok Post – Abhisit plans visit ahead of poll
Published: 1/10/2010 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News

NEW YORK / Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s scheduled one-day visit to Burma on Oct 11 will confirm cooperation between the two countries, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya says.

Mr Abhisit expects to be briefed on the Burmese government’s plans for the country after the Nov 7 election and to discuss the status of jailed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, other prisoners and the problems of ethnic minority groups.

Mr Kasit said the prime minister would explain Thailand’s preparation for border negotiations covering the building of roads and bridges partly funded by the Thai government.
The government also wants to learn more about Burma’s continuing privatisation of state enterprises and its open market policy.

”We are interested to learn which sectors will be of interest to Thai investors and confirm our readiness to cooperate on the economic front,” the foreign minister said.

Mr Kasit said a free, fair and inclusive election in Burma would help build credibility for the new government, and Asean, in the eyes of the international community.

Thailand is calling on the international community to lend Burma moral support to help build a democratic society.

The Nov 7 election is the first in Burma for more than 20 years. Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy scored a landslide victory in the last election in 1990.

Mr Kasit, who attended a meeting of the 14-nation Group of Friends on Burma on Monday held by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, said a free, fair and inclusive election would help reconciliation in Burma and promote the credibility of its new government. Although Ms Suu Kyi has not been released from house detention, Burmese officials quoted by news agencies in recent days have said she would be allowed to vote in the election.

However, other officials said her name does not appear on the voting list because serving prisoners have no right to vote under Burma’s 2008 constitution.

”Western countries are concerned that the upcoming election will not be inclusive,” Mr Kasit said.

Burma’s credibility would bring more respect for Asean from the international community.

”[Even] If Burma cannot get 10% of democracy [from the election], it is at least a first step towards returning to the process of being a democratic society,” he said.

Mr Kasit said countries should lend their moral support to Burma.

”Each country can help Burma on the issues of humanitarian, education and economic development. Helping it to develop will improve the Burmese people’s quality of life and reduce social problems along the Thai-Burmese border.”

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The Irrawaddy – Rangoon Mayor Says USDP Using State Funds
Monday, October 4, 2010

RANGOON — In conducting its campaign activities, the junta’s proxy party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), is paving roads and digging wells using state funds and property—according to a recent briefing to local media by the Rangoon mayor.

With the help of the Rangoon municipality, the USDP is paving roads and bridges in suburbs of Rangoon, according to Rangoon Mayor Aung Thein Lin, who is also a USDP central executive member, speaking to local media in late September.

“The USDP is paving roads and digging wells,” he said. “It opens free clinics and builds so many schools. It also provides low-interest loans to poor people.”

“It daily requires 6,000 to 7,000 bags of cement to pave a road,” he said.

He said that the cement is made in factories owned by the Rangoon municipality.

Aimed at garnering votes for the USDP in the November elections, such campaign activities are believed to be financed by the state itself despite the Political Parties Registration Law which prohibits political parities from the direct or indirect use of state money and property.

“Political parties must complain about the USDP violations of election laws to the Election Commission,” said a veteran journalist in Rangoon on condition of anonymity.

While Mayor Aung Thein Lin claimed during the briefing that the USDP’s “welfare” activities are free of charge, there were also reports by locals that they were asked to contribute financially to these activities.

“Our ward had to pay 360,000 Kyat (US $360) for the USDP paving a road,” said a local official in Rangoon’s Kamaryut Township. “USDP members also had to chip in.”

The USDP was directly transformed as a political party from a regime-sponsored civic organization, the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA). After the USDA was “abolished” in July, it transferred all its assets to to the USDP, which is led by Prime Minister Thein Sein.

Meanwhile, many political parties are unable to conduct effective canvassing due to a lack of funds and strict, cumbersome rules imposed by the regime-appointed Election Commission.

However, it appears that senior USDP officials who hold government positions are doing rigorous election campaigning under the guise of performing their government responsibilities.

The state-controlled media recently gave special coverage of Prime Minister Thein Sein attending the opening ceremony of a hospital and a youth training school in the cyclone-hit area of Laputta Township.

In the absence of the main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), which has been disbanded for failing to register in the coming election, the USDP is widely expected to win a landslide victory.

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DVB News – Troops and police arrested over Bago shootings
By MAUNG TOO
Published: 4 October 2010

Seven Burmese army soldiers have been arrested in connection with the shooting and killing of two youths in Bago last month.

They are reportedly being detained in Bago police station and interrogated over the deaths of Soe Paing Zaw, 19, and Aung Thu Hein, 23, which was picked up by international media. Four policemen were also arrested after allegations surfaced that they had rounded up and beat civilians prior to the incident.

Burmese lawyer and legal expert, Aye Myint, who heads the Guiding Star legal advocacy group, said that the Police Court had already completed the investigation.

He added that under police disciplinary rules the defendants can be punished with up to three years in jail, “but I suspect the punishment will be more than that because the case is being forwarded to the minister in Naypyidaw and I heard the court wants to make an example of the defendants”.

“So, no judgment has been passed yet on the four police personnel who are still being held in the lockup,” Aye Myint continued. “The inquiry is completed and they are waiting for a directive about passing stiffer sentences or just the regular three years.”

Among those detained are two army officers and a police captain in charge of No 1 Police Station in Bago town. They are alleged to have been involved in the shootings, which occurred in the early hours of 5 September after a quarrel over damage to a motorbike broke out.

The soldiers had reportedly been drinking beer nearby, and after a fight broke out, one officer ran away and came back with four security troops from Bago railway station. It was one of these, Maung Tun, who fired the fatal shots, Aye Myint said.

State media in Burma looked to hush up the incident, which they branded “just a drunken brawl”, by hurriedly cremating the bodies several days after amid tight security.

It also attempted to quell threats of protest by claiming in the New Light of Myanmar newspaper that it was an isolated incident and “not a fight between the Tatmadaw [Burmese army] and the public”.

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DVB News – Politicians rue ‘no vote’ campaign
By HTET AUNG KYAW
Published: 4 October 2010

Two politicians running for elections next month have said that the ‘no vote’ campaign promoted by opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s party will scupper any chances of democratic reform in Burma.

One of the hopefuls, Thu Wei, from the Democratic Party (DP), told DVB that it is “very likely” that the opposition will lose the 7 November polls if Burmese decide not to head to the ballot stations. The DP is one of a small handful of opposition parties contesting the polls, Burma’s first in two decades.

“There is the question of what kind of people will boycott the elections, and the answer is only those who dislike the military government. This will make it very convenient for the government and the USDP,” he said.

But the opposition appears to have a mountain to climb if it is to gain any leverage in a post-election Burma: the DP will only field 60 candidates, while the USDP, or Union Solidarity and Development Party, which is headed by Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein and is expected to win, has close to 1000.

Moreover, it is widely believed that the USDP has the tacit backing of Burma’s top brass, whom critics say are looking to maintain power under the guise of a civilian government.

The boycott debate has split the pro-democracy movement both inside the country and internationally: instead of the elections being a question of who to vote for, the discourse now focuses on whether any vote would weaken or strengthen the military regime.

“If people are not voting, it would only make us and other democratic parties lose votes and lead the government parties to win,” Thu Wei added.

Following the disbandment of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), a number of senior members formed the National Democratic Force (NDF), which is now fielding around 160 candidates for the vote. The formation of the party however angered the old guard of the NLD, which has been pushing for a nationwide boycott of the elections.

But Thu Wei’s views were echoed by Sai Ai Pao, chairman of the Shan National Democratic Party (SNDP), who said that a boycott would further weaken what are already slim chances of any opposition clout in the new parliament.

Numbers of constituencies are reported to have only one candidate standing, likely belonging to the USDP which is fielding candidates in all of Burma’s constituencies. As well as political power, the USDP is also believed to have massive financial backing – a key factor given that each party has to pay 500,000 kyat ($US500) per candidate. The average annual salary in Burma is little more than US$200 per person.

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Collected by Tin Kyi
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Editor - The Myanmar Gazette || First Amendment – Religion and Expression - Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.