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BURMA RELATED NEWS – OCTOBER 20-21, 2010
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AP – UN envoy asks Myanmar for ‘signal’ before election
AP – Myanmar court will hear appeal of democracy leader
AP – Myanmar unveils new national flag
AFP – World turning blind eye to Myanmar: Nobel laureate
AFP – UN envoy casts doubt on Myanmar vote amid new torture cases
Reuters – Myanmar gets new flag, official name, anthem
Reuters – ANALYSIS-China to win as Myanmar heads to the polls
UPI – London stands up for Myanmar prisoners
UPI – Myanmar generals in Kachin state standoff
Asian Correspondent – Asian Leaders must notice the misleading nature of Burma’s Junta
The Huffington Post – AI: Countdown to Burma’s Elections
Australian Broadcasting Corporation – Cyclone Nargis and Burma’s military regime
AccuWeather.com (blog) – Tropical Cyclone Giri (4B) Targeting Western Myanmar
People’s Daily Online – “Orange-level” storm to sweep Myanmar western coastal areas: forecast
Monsters and Critics – UN renews call for opposition to take part in Myanmar elections
Xinhua – Myanmar blood donor claims for Guinness world record prize
Times of India – India to play Myanmar in 2012 Olympic qualifiers 1st round
The Canadian Press – Report: Rwanda and Syria join NKorea, Myanmar, China and Iran in repressing journalists
The Irrawaddy – ‘Anyone but Them’
The Irrawaddy – Xi Jinping’s Burma Question
The Irrawaddy – China’s Ethnic-policy Balancing Act
Mizzima News – UN reduces support staff for Burma envoy: report
DVB News – Thai police raid Mae La camp
DVB News – Electioneering scandals plague USDP
DVB News – Fishing boats evacuated as storm nears
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Oct 21, 4:42 PM EDT
UN envoy asks Myanmar for ‘signal’ before election

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N.’s human rights envoy to Myanmar is appealing to its military rulers “to send a strong signal” to the world that it will hold a genuine election by releasing democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and almost 2,100 political prisoners.

U.N. envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana cast more doubt Thursday on the legitimacy of the Nov. 7 election, saying “it is clear the process remains deeply flawed.”

He praised the release of more than 130 political prisoners in September 2009 but said none have been let go since then, and he reiterated U.N. demands that all be freed and allowed to take part in the election.

The ruling junta has insisted the election will be a major step toward democracy. The nation’s democratic movement and other opposition figures been saying it will be a sham.

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Myanmar court will hear appeal of democracy leader
Thu Oct 21, 11:30 am ET

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) – Myanmar’s highest court has agreed to hear a final appeal to release opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, her lawyers said Thursday, pressing forward with the case despite her scheduled release in less than a month.

The lawyers will give their argument before the Special Appellate Bench in the new capital of Naypyitaw on Oct. 29, one of her lawyers, Khin Htay Kywe, told The Associated Press. She said the date was posted at the High Court Thursday after the chamber agreed Wednesday night to accept the appeal.

The Nobel Peace laureate has already lost two appeals. Her 18-month house arrest is set to expire on Nov. 13, a week after the country’s first election in two decades. There is widespread speculation the junta will release the 65-year-old as an olive branch to the international community after the polls, which it is expected to win.

“We believe that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be released on Nov. 13, but we are pursuing this legal battle to prove her innocence,” another of her lawyers, Nyan Win, told reporters. He said he was “optimistic” that the five-judge panel would overturn lower courts’ rulings against his client.

Khin Htay Kywe said the court usually renders its decisions within two to three weeks of hearing cases.

But a quick ruling granting Suu Kyi an early release would appear unlikely, since court decisions almost invariably favor the government. Granting her freedom would appear to threaten the junta’s carefully crafted plans for an orderly election by putting the spotlight on her and her now-disbanded party’s boycott of the polls, which the party claims are unfair and undemocratic.

This will be Suu Kyi’s last legal option in her bid to overturn her 2009 conviction for violating the terms of her house arrest for briefly sheltering an American who swam uninvited to her home. She has spent most of the past 15 years under house arrest.

Her trial drew global condemnation and her conviction was widely viewed as designed to keep her detained through the polls.

Suu Kyi’s lawyers have argued that her house arrest was unlawful since it was based on provisions of the 1974 constitution, which was abolished after a ruling military junta seized power in 1988, said Nyan Win.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been under military rule since 1962. The elections of 1990 were swept by Suu Kyi’s party but the military refused to relinquish power.

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Myanmar unveils new national flag
5 mins ago

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) – Military-ruled Myanmar unveiled a new national flag on Thursday, just two weeks before an election that the government calls a major step in a transition to democracy but critics say is a sham.

Government offices replaced the old standard with the new one at exactly 3 p.m. At a fire station in central Yangon, blue-uniformed officers lined up at attention during a replacement ceremony. In the capital Naypyitaw, Prime Minister Thein Sein led a flag-hoisting ceremony at the junta’s headquarters, state television showed.

The new flag has horizontal stripes of yellow, green and red with a big white star in the middle.

The announcement of the new flag was made on state television just prior to the ceremonies, which were supposed to take place simultaneously all over the country.

The 2008 constitution pushed through by the military called for fresh national symbols, including a new flag whose colors of yellow, green and red would stand for solidarity, peace and tranquility, and courage and decisiveness. Still, the abrupt release of the new flag came as surprise.

“We received the instruction to bring down the old flag and to fly the new flag at 3 p.m.,” said an education officer in Pathein township in Irrawaddy Division, who added that shortly before the ceremony his office still had not received its replacement. He declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak to journalists.

The peculiar timing suggested the influence of soothsayers and numerology, both immensely popular in Myanmar. The date was 21 — 2 plus 1 equals 3 — the time was 3:00 and the year was 2010, whose digits add up to three.

Added together they equal nine, an auspicious number is several Asian cultures, but especially Myanmar, which for a time in the late 1980s had bank notes in denominations of 45 and 90 kyats — numbers divisible by nine — reflecting the superstitious beliefs of the country’s then-strongman, Gen. Ne Win.

The Nov. 7 election is the first since 1990, when the National League for Democracy party of detained Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi won a landslide victory but was not allowed to take power. Critics of the junta charge that the new constitution and new election laws are written to ensure that the military continues to be the country’s dominant political force.

A yellow, green and red flag was used during the Japanese occupation in 1943-1945, though the emblem in the center then was a dancing peacock. A fighting peacock is a symbol used by the country’s democratic opposition, including Suu Kyi’s now-disbanded party.

The flag being replaced — introduced by the socialist government of Ne Win in 1974 — has a red field with a blue rectangle in the left corner bearing a cog wheel and a rice plant encircled by 14 stars representing the country’s seven regions and seven states.

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World turning blind eye to Myanmar: Nobel laureate
by Shaun Tandon – Wed Oct 20, 11:29 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen pleaded for greater global scrutiny on Myanmar’s upcoming elections, warning the vote could “hugely” set back democracy efforts.

The renowned academic, who spent part of his childhood in Myanmar, criticized what he saw as a lack of attention worldwide over the vote and reserved his sharpest words for the stance of his native India.

The military regime of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, plans its first election in 20 years on November 7. It has banned foreign observers and media, and has kept opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest.

“Nothing perhaps is more important right now as the day of the phony electoral event approaches than global public discussion of the real nature of the forthcoming electoral fraud,” the Harvard University professor said.

“The expressions of pious hope that things can change after the election are totally contrary to reasoned analysis about what’s going on in Burma,” Sen said in a lecture at Johns Hopkins University.

“A propaganda victory for the regime, by muddying the water for democracy in Burma now, can put things hugely back,” Sen said.

Sen called for the immediate launch of a UN investigation into alleged crimes against humanity by the junta, which is accused of destroying thousands of villages and using rape as a weapon of war against ethnic minority women.

“It is not adequate for the Asian leaders to announce cheerfully that they gave the Burmese leader ‘an earful.’ The military was just happy to have that earful so that their hands remain free,” Sen said.

US President Barack Obama’s administration has voiced general support for a UN probe but stood by a policy launched last year of engaging the regime, saying that longtime efforts to isolate the regime were fruitless.

Sen criticized Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for welcoming Myanmar’s military leader Than Shwe in July. Sen said the nation of Mahatma Gandhi, motivated by concerns over China’s outsized role in Myanmar, had wound up emulating the communist nation and losing its own values.

“It breaks my heart to see the prime minister of my democratic country — and one of the most humane and sympathetic political leaders in the world — engage in welcoming the butchers from Myanmar and to be photographed in a state of cordial proximity,” Sen said.

“When our power to influence the world was zero, we spent our time lecturing the world on morality. And when we get a bit of power, although not as much as China, then we completely abdicated that responsibility.”

India has sought economic cooperation with Myanmar, while the United States has dangled the possibility of lifting sanctions in return for progress on democracy.

David Steinberg, a professor at Georgetown University, said that the Obama administration was facing pressure within the United States to help initiate a UN probe into alleged crimes against humanity.

Steinberg, while stressing that he supports human rights, countered that a probe would be counter-productive at a time of transition in Myanmar.

“You’re going to have a new government coming in sometime in early 2011. Wait and see what happens. You’re going to have to have some sort of dialogue with them,” he said.

Steinberg said that the junta had diverse players and that the United States should appeal to their sense of patriotism.

“Pressure to me implies a kind of arrogance, that we think we have the right answers for these people,” he said.

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UN envoy casts doubt on Myanmar vote amid new torture cases
Wed Oct 20, 2:20 pm ET

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – A UN envoy cast new doubt Wednesday on Myanmar’s looming election and highlighted more cases of prison torture, indiscriminate killings and forced labor in the military-ruled nation.

But the the ruling junta strongly rejected the UN report and again denied there are any “prisoners of conscience.”

With opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to be kept under house arrest for the November 7 election, special envoy on rights in Myanmar Tomas Ojea Quintana said “conditions for genuine elections are limited under the current circumstances.”

He added that “numerous political parties have complained of official harassment and intimidation.”

The special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar estimated that about 2,100 “prisoners of conscience” now “languish in prisons across the country.” Quintana said at least 144 have died in prison since 1988 and 138 need medical care.

“According to reports and direct testimonies, there are systematic patterns of abuse — physical, psychological and sexual — and torture of detainees by Myanmar’s authorities.”

He highlighted the death of Ko Kyaw Soe, a 39-year-old member of the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters Network, a non-government group, in Myingyan prison on May 19 this year.

Ko Kyaw Soe had been sentenced to 10 years in prison in November 2008 on charges of breaching laws on unlawful associations, the immigration act and the penal code.

“He was tortured during interrogation, and was reportedly beaten, burnt with cigarettes and electrocuted,” said the report.

The envoy said tens of thousands of villagers in hiding in remote provinces where the military is battling ethnic rebels were at risk of indiscriminate shootings.

He said he had written to the government about one case in March when soldiers were accused of shooting dead two children who were walking with their mother in the Ko Lu region.

“The daughter?s body was later found in the bushes with the trail of her blood partially covered with dry leaves,” he said.

Ojea Quintana said there appeared to be action on forced labor following international complaints but that the military carries on “with no evidence of any change in behavior.

Apparently, civil perpetrators are penalized for their actions while the military continues to have effective impunity from prosecution in this area.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly said the November 7 election will not be credible unless Aung San Suu Kyi and other opponents are freed. Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has spent most of the past two decades under house arrest.

“The potential for these elections to bring meaningful change and improvement to the human rights situation remains uncertain,” Ojea Quintana said.

He said that after 40 years of military government in Myanmar “the situation of human rights and economic and social development in the country has seriously deteriorated. It is clear that Myanmar needs change.”

Ojea Quintana called on the junta to respect freedom of expression, “release all prisoners of conscience,” improve justice and accountability, increase access for humanitarian assistance and follow up previous UN reports.

The Myanmar government categorically rejected the report.

Its written response accused Quintana of “interfering in Myanmar’s domestic politics and also prejudging the upcoming election from a negative perspective.

“The baseless reports of human rights abuses mentioned in the report are based on fabricated information received from anti-government groups and armed insurgent groups.”

It said the envoy had not taken account of information provided by government officials or responses to his queries. “Myanmar therefore categorically rejects the entire report and dissociates itself from it.”

The government had set up its own human rights body under the home affairs ministry, but the report quoted Myanmar authorities as saying no complaints had been made.

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Myanmar gets new flag, official name, anthem
Thu Oct 21, 8:40 am ET

YANGON (Reuters) – Myanmar’s ruling military changed the country’s flag, national anthem and official name on Thursday, just over two weeks before the country’s first election in 20 years, state media said.

The changes were outlined in a new constitution published in 2008 but the government had not announced a date for their introduction.

The country’s new name is the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, instead of the Union of Myanmar.

The military, which has ruled since a 1962 coup, changed the country’s name in English from Burma to Myanmar in 1989, a year after widespread protests against military rule were crushed, and a year before the last election.

That election was won by the party of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi but the military ignored the result. Suu Kyi has spent 15 of the past 21 years in detention.

The new flag has a horizontal band of light green at the top, dark green in the center and red at the bottom, with a white star in the middle. There has been no official explanation as to what the colors or the star represent.

Nor has there been any explanation as to why the changes, which include a new state seal, were being made.

Officials in various government departments told Reuters they were ordered to change the flags.

“We were caught by surprise when we got the order at short notice. There was also an order that the old flags must be burned,” said one official who declined to be identified.

The order stipulated that the old flag had to be lowered by someone born on a Tuesday and the new flag had to be raised by someone born on a Wednesday, he said.

“It must have been instructed by astrologers,” he said.

Myanmar’s secretive military rulers, who will retain ultimate power no matter who wins the November 7 parliamentary election, are widely believed to consult astrologers.
Several dozen passers-by watched the formal ceremony to change the flags at Yangon City Hall.

One, who declined to be identified, said the change was akin to putting old wine in new bottles: “The label has changed but what is really needed is a change of the wine.”

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ANALYSIS-China to win as Myanmar heads to the polls
Wed Oct 20, 2010 7:23am GMT
* Elections won’t change Myanmar’s China policy
* Little chance Western sanctions will be lifted
* Beijing frets about U.S. rapprochement with Myanmar
By Ben Blanchard

BEIJING, Oct 20 (Reuters) – Myanmar’s secretive election is still a few weeks off, but one winner is already clear: China.

The controlled vote in the Southeast Asian nation is sure to produce a government intent on sticking close to its huge neighbour, even as China frets longer-term that its sway could be dented by Washington’s tentative detente with the former Burma.

Beijing has long cast wary looks at its restive southern neighbour, and suspicions based on a troubled history fester on both sides, despite broad Chinese support for Myanmar in the face of wide-ranging Western sanctions.

Myanmar’s ruling generals, led by the aged and reclusive Than Shwe, fought Chinese-backed Communist guerrillas during the Cold War. China remembers with bitterness anti-Chinese riots and the storming of its embassy in Rangoon in 1967.

Yet there is scant chance the United States or Europe will lift their sanctions on Myanmar, and the new nominally civilian but military-influenced government will stick to their friendship with their powerful patron to the north.

“The Burmese need Beijing for international protection, and the Chinese need the Burmese for raw materials, and perhaps more importantly for strategic access to the Indian Ocean,” said Maung Zarni, a Myanmar expert at the London School of Economics’ Centre for the Study of Global Governance.

“Whoever comes to power it won’t make any difference … It’s not like the Burmese generals are fond of the Chinese. They are not. It’s basically a marriage of convenience.”

In some regards, Myanmar is already gaining more power over China, thanks to the political clout bought by strategic pipelines being built that will bring oil and gas overland into southwestern China in the next few years.

Myanmar has been working hard to allay Chinese fears.

Than Shwe reassured Beijing during a rare visit last month that China was a vital ally and that the election and planned power transfer would not affect relations.

“The current military government will continue to control Myanmar’s politics,” Wang Zichang of Guangzhou’s Jinan University wrote in the latest issue of the Chinese journal Southeast Asian Studies.

“No matter what the outcome, the elections will not affect Myanmar’s foreign policy. The West’s sanctions will continue or be increased … China and India will maintain their policy of engagement,” Wang wrote. “Because of China’s position, the U.N. Security Council cannot really put sanctions on Myanmar.”

China has pumped billions of dollars into Myanmar, mostly in energy projects, with Chinese firms taking advantage of Myanmar’s desperation for hard currency and the unwillingness of Western firms to do business in a country condemned for rights abuses.

WHAT ELECTIONS?

Still, China does not have the sway over Myanmar that many in the west assume it does, and China’s stability-obsessed rulers have long worried about the flow of drugs and AIDS across a border controlled in parts by a plethora of rebel groups.

Last year, clashes between Myanmar’s army and rebels pushed some 37,000 refugees in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan, prompting a rare and angry public rebuke from Beijing.

Relations have improved of late though. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Myanmar in June, a few months after Xi Jinping, the vice president and presumed heir to President Hu Jintao.

However, Chinese media has given little coverage to the elections, nervous of giving China’s public any suggestion of democracy in a much-lauded ally.

“The government does not want people to ask the awkward question of why can these people in this small country on our border have some kind of election and we cannot,” one reporter at a state-run newspaper told Reuters, requesting anonymity.

JITTERS ABOUT WASHINGTON

China has a broader worry too — any sign of improvement in relations between Washington and the generals in their new jungle capital Naypyitaw.

China has been pondering how to deal with slowly thawing ties between Myanmar and the United States since President Barack Obama began tentative contacts last year, culminating in a rare meeting with Prime Minister Thein Sein in Singapore.

Beijing fears “containment” by the United States, whether by Washington’s increasingly close links with India or U.S. military bases in South Korea, Japan and Kyrgyzstan.

The thought of Washington and Myanmar’s generals making up may appear outlandish, and the Obama administration is most unlikely to welcome the results of elections it has already slammed as unfair. But the very idea pinches nerves in Beijing.

During last year’s refugee crisis, some Chinese academics wondered whether Myanmar purposely wanted to irritate Beijing and so ingratiate itself with Washington.

“If the United States and Myanmar normalise relations, then that will certainly threaten China’s security strategy,” Peking University Myanmar expert Zhang Xizhen told the state-run Guangzhou Daily earlier this year.

“China’s economic position and existing advantages will be seriously challenged in the event of better ties between Myanmar and the West,” Yu Changsen, a professor at Guangzhou’s Sun Yat-sen University, told the same newspaper.

This, added to the billions being invested in the pipelines running through an unstable country run by highly nationalistic military men with an instinctive distrust of China, does not set the minds of Chinese policy-makers at ease.

“These investments, along with the U.S. administration’s engagement policy … contribute to China’s perception that Naypyitaw may be gaining leverage in the relationship,” the International Crisis Group wrote in a report last month.

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London stands up for Myanmar prisoners
Published: Oct. 21, 2010 at 10:52 AM

LONDON, Oct. 21 (UPI) — London stands in solidarity with democracy advocates in Myanmar and calls for the release of all political prisoners, the British foreign secretary said.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was standing in solidarity with the estimated 2,100 political prisoners held by the military junta in Myanmar.

Hague said he was highlighting 44-year-old Ko Mya Aye, who was sentenced to 65 years in prison in 2004. The foreign secretary added that reports say the activist was tortured while in custody and suffers from poor health.

“The continued detention of Ko Mya Aye and of more than 2,100 other political prisoners in Myanmar is deplorable,” said Hague in a statement. “I urge the military regime to release all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally and respect the human rights of Myanmar’s people.”

Myanmar has elections next month that military leaders say opens the door to civilian leadership. Military officials are guaranteed a substantial number of seats in the next parliament, however.

Members of the international community continue to press Myanmar authorities to release opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.

The United Nations said her release, as well as the release of other political prisoners, would be a welcome confidence-building measure from the military junta.

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Myanmar generals in Kachin state standoff
Published: Oct. 20, 2010 at 6:45 AM

YANGON, Myanmar, Oct. 20 (UPI) — Tensions are rising in northeastern Myanmar ahead of the Nov. 7 general election as government troops surrounded several offices of “insurgent” Kachin officials.

The Kachin Independence Army confirmed that Myanmar troops surrounded three Kachin Independence Organization offices in Kachin state, which borders China.

“This has happened after the military regime recently labeled the Kachin Independence Army an insurgent group following a bomb blast,” a report by the independent New Delhi-based Kachin News Group said.

At least two civilians were killed last week when a group of villagers out hunting stepped on a land mine “planted by KIA insurgents,” an article in the government-run newspaper New Light of Myanmar said. Since January, 11 men and three women “have fallen victim to mine attacks by insurgents.”

Several days after the mine blast, the KIA released a statement saying it plants security mines around its territories for self protection. But it takes precautions aimed at protecting local people, the KIA said.

After discussions between government troops and KIA forces both groups eventually withdrew from their targets but not before the Myanmar army arrested two KIO officials.

The incidents are the latest skirmishes in restive Kachin, with its population of 1.2 million. It also is where the generals and KIA leaders have had a 16-year modus vivendi, although the KIO is constantly pushing for more autonomy from the military government in the south, in the Myanmar capital Naypyitaw.

The army recognizes the KIO as de facto governors of the sensitive area in return for accepting a light Myanmar military presence. The KIO runs the state power authority and maintains roads and schools through local taxes, much of which comes from a good trading relationship with China to the east.

The agreement, which amounts to a cease-fire, means that the KIA and the ruling junta haven’t had to embark on a costly war that would tax the resources of each side. But it also means the junta hasn’t spread its complete authority across Myanmar, formally called Burma.

There has been unsuccessful pressure by the army to co-opt the KIA into the mainstream of Myanmar society by having them become state border guards. But the KIA, which claims to have 10,000 regular and 10,000 irregular troops, fear such a move would mean it loses its independence.

The upcoming general election, the first in around 20 years for Myanmar, likely will highlight the divide separating Kachin state from the rest of the country in which the junta rules with an iron fist.

Many countries, including the United States, have denounced the election plan because of its exclusive nature.

KIO leaders have urged its people to boycott the election. Many pro-democracy advocates haven’t been allowed to run because of a quickly enacted law forbidding people with criminal sentences from registering, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Her party won a landslide victory in the last election but she remains under house arrest.

The majority of Kachin’s population is ethnic Kachin, also known as Jinghpaw or Rawang, and the state also is home to other ethnic groups including Bamar and Shan. Official government statistics state that nearly 60 percent of the population is Buddhist and just more than one-third is Christian.

There is also a small, unrecorded number of Tibetans living in Kachin, an important factor in the ethnic balance of the region. China, which controls Tibet, is a big trading partner with the Kachin.

China also is believed to have a moderating influence on the KIA and KIO so their activities don’t provoke open conflict with the junta, something that could spill across borders.

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Asian Correspondent – Asian Leaders must notice the misleading nature of Burma’s Junta
Oct. 21 2010 – 09:00 pm
Zin Linn

Asian leaders’ summit in Hanoi next week will call attention to free, fair and inclusive elections in Burma, a draft communiqué obtained on Thursday (21 Oct.) says, according to the Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Presidents and prime ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and six neighbouring countries are to meet in the Vietnamese capital on 30 October, about one week before Burma’s election.

‘We underscored the importance of national reconciliation in Myanmar (Burma) and the holding of the elections in a free, fair, and inclusive manner, thus contributing to Myanmar’s stability and development,’ says the draft chairman’s statement of the East Asia Summit (EAS).

One day ahead on 20 October, at a conference titled “A Return to Civilian Rule? The Prospects for Democracy and Rights in Burma After the Election,” which was organized jointly by the Johns Hopkins Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and Human Rights Watch, Indian Noble Prize laureate economist Amartya Sen criticized the three neighbors of Burma – China, India and Thailand – for their correlation with the military junta, calling their foreign policies “exceptionally crude and valuationally gross.”

Western governments as well as Ban Ki Moon have repeatedly said the vote will not be credible unless Ms Suu Kyi and other opponents are freed. U.N. Secretary-General said.
On last September 27, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon met the Group of Friends on Myanmar (Burma). During the meeting, the members called for the release of political prisoners including detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

After a closed-door meeting in New York, Ban said that the ministers expressed again and again the need for the election process “to be more inclusive, participatory and transparent”.

The November elections will be Burma’s first in 20 years, part of the junta’s protracted ‘seven step road map’ to disciplined-democracy, which critics scorn as a deception planned to strengthen military ruling.

The so-called Friends on Myanmar group that met on September 27  includes regarding 15 countries, including Burma’s neighbors, interested Asian and European nations, and the five permanent U.N. Security Council members: the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France.

According to Ban, the ministers stressed that it is “essential for the election to be seen as credible and to contribute to Myanmar’s stability and development.”

“The group further reiterated its commitment to work together to help Burma address its political, humanitarian and development challenges in parallel with equal attention,” the U.N. chief said. In addition, the ministers were integrated “in calling on Myanmar to make further efforts towards national reconciliation and democracy.”

In accordance with some critics, the NLD headed by Aung San Suu Kyi supports the 1947 Panglong Agreement that grants self-determination for every ethnic nationality while the military regime strongly opposed it.

Hence, various ethnic leaders highlighted that they don’t have confidence in the new 2008 constitution as well as 2010 polls which will not generate a genuine democratic federal union by any means. Currently, people say that upcoming polls without Aung San Suu Kyi will become an illogical election.

Burma’s military junta says the elections, the first since 1990, are essential to its direction to democracy and civilian ruling. However Burma-watchers and critics, including the United States, believe the November 7 elections are premeditated to ensure the military remains in power in the country.

Asian leaders who will be at summit in Hanoi next week should remember that the regime has made promises of reconciliation in the past repeatedly but never true to its own words. Analysts say the 2008 Constitution and the junta’s unyielding adherence to its seven-step roadmap in the direction of the 7-November elections will create a highly unstable political environment.

Without honoring national reconciliation, the upcoming elections will only lead to further political mayhem.

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Amnesty International
Defending Human Rights Worldwide
Posted: October 21, 2010 11:54 AM
The Huffington Post – AI: Countdown to Burma’s Elections

In three short weeks, Myanmar (formerly Burma) will hold its first national elections in two decades. Regretfully, the polls will be overshadowed by a backdrop of political repression and fear.

Many of Myanmar’s 50 million people live in poverty and suffer from ongoing human rights violations. Those who express dissenting views face harassment, arbitrary arrest, torture, imprisonment and sometimes even executions. And political prisoners now number over 2,200.

When elections were last held in 1990, the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won a resounding victory, but the military government ignored the election results and arrested scores of opposition activists. This has haunted the government both domestically and internationally ever since.

With new elections, Myanmar had an opportunity to place the 1990 elections firmly behind them. However the new election has already been tainted as in June political parties were banned from undertaking campaigning activities that could “harm security, the rule of law and community peace”. This provision is so broad that it allows for the criminalization of peaceful political activity.

For decades, the government has used vaguely worded security laws to suppress peaceful political dissent and there is a real fear that activists, especially those from ethnic minorities and the NLD, which is boycotting the elections, will come under increased repression as the election approaches.

Myanmar’s government must halt its repression of activists. The people of Myanmar must be allowed to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association throughout the election period and beyond.

Join us in using this opportunity to call for the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience in Myanmar.(http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/index.aspx?c=jhKPIXPCIoE&b=2590179&template=x.ascx&action=14811)

Follow Amnesty International on Twitter: www.twitter.com/amnesty

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Australian Broadcasting Corporation – Cyclone Nargis and Burma’s military regime

listen now (http://www.abc.net.au/cgibin/common/player_launch.pls=rn/bookshow_item&d=rn/bookshow/audio/items&r=bsw_21102010_1022.ram&w=bsw_21102010_1022.asx&t=Cyclone%20Nargis%20and%20Burma%27s%20military%20regime%20-%2021%20October%202010)

download audio
(http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/2010/10/bsw_20101021_1022.mp3)

As Burma prepares to go to the polls for the first time in 20 years, Emma Larkin looks at the legacy of the ruling military regime in her latest book Everything is Broken: The Untold Story of Disaster under Burma’s Military Regime.

In 2008 Cyclone Nargis ripped through the Burmese delta and reached the former capital Rangoon. The natural disaster soon became a human disaster as the Burmese military government rejected most offers of aid from the international community, thus condemning survivors to further suffering.

Journalist Emma Larkin has been travelling to Burma since the 1990s and was in the country 10 days after Cyclone Nargis hit. Her book Everything is Broken is an account of the disaster and its aftermath.

The Book Show’s Sarah L’Estrange spoke to Emma Larkin about Everything is Broken and her previous book Secret Histories: Finding George Orwell in a Burmese Tea Shop which tracked George Orwell’s five years in Burma as an imperial police officer in the 1920s.

Emma Larkin draws parallels between contemporary Burma and Orwell’s novel 1984.

Guests
Emma Larkin
Bangkok based journalist who writes on Burmese politics. She writes under a pseudonym to continue to gain access to Burma.

Publications
Title: Everything is Broken: The Untold Story of Disaster under Burma’s Military Regime
Author: Emma Larkin
Publisher: Granta

Title: Secret Histories: Finding George Orwell in a Burmese Tea Shop
Author: Emma Larkin
Publisher: John Murray

Presenter
Sarah L’Estrange

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AccuWeather.com (blog) – Tropical Cyclone Giri (4B) Targeting Western Myanmar
By Jim Andrews, Senior Meteorologist
Oct 21, 2010; 10:02 AM ET

Flooding rain and destructive winds will threaten western Myanmar as it takes a hit from Tropical Cyclone Giri (TC 4B).

Thursday morning, EDT, the center of Giri was located about 130 miles southwest of Kyaukpyu, Ramree Island. The cyclone was drifting towards the northeast at less than 5 mph with highest sustained winds of 55 to 60 mph.

Landfall of Giri on the coast of Myanmar, also known as Burma, is forecast to happen early on Friday, EDT, at or near Ramree Island. The site of likely landfall lies between Chittagong, Bangladesh and the Myanmar capital, Yangon (or Rangoon).

Some information suggests that T.C. Giri will strengthen markedly during the relatively short span of time before landfall and could land with hurricane intensity.

At the same time, indications are that Giri will have a tight wind field with high winds confined a rather narrow swath along the direct path.

One way or another, this storm poses a serious threat to life and property in the region. Fishers in small boats will be at great risk. There will also be a threat of wind-borne destruction and a tidal surge near the storm’s landfall.

A wider area, mostly between the coast and the Arakan Mountains, will be prone to excessive rain and flooding.

Storm impact for the flood-prone Irrawaddy RIver Delta and the city of Yangon should be minor barring a big southward shift in storm track.

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People’s Daily Online – “Orange-level” storm to sweep Myanmar western coastal areas: forecast
16:08, October 21, 2010

A moderate storm at “orange level” will sweep across Myanmar’s western Rakhine coastal areas of Sittway and Kyaukphyu within the next 36 hours, a weather forecast report of the State Meteorology and Hydrology Department (MHD) warned on Thursday noon.

The weather forecast, aired by the state radio and TV, said low pressure occurring in the mid-east of the Bay of Bengal, is centering at sea, 288 kilometers southwest of the Rakhine state’s Kyaukphyu and it is likely to intensify into a moderate storm.

Under the influence of the low pressure area, rain or thunderstorm are likely to be widespread in the Rakhine coast and Ayeyawaddy delta., it said.

The MHD has warned fishing boats operating in the coastal waters to try to escape from being hit by the strong wind at a speed of 64 kilometers per hour.

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Monsters and Critics – UN renews call for opposition to take part in Myanmar elections
Oct 20, 2010, 19:42 GMT

New York – The Myanmar government should back its support for democracy with the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi so she can take part in the November 7 general elections, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday.

Ban renewed the demand for Suu Kyi’s participation in the elections because the military government in Myanmar has committed to hold ‘free and fair’ elections, the first in 20 years, and has provided ‘political space’ for some groups in the democratic process.

‘It is all the more necessary for the authorities to ensure that the elections are conducted in an inclusive, credible, participatory and transparent manner,’ Ban said in a report on the human rights situation in Myanmar to the UN General Assembly.

‘In this regard, I reiterate my call for the release of all political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as the clearest signal of such commitments,’ Ban said.

Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy, had decided to boycott the elections. The military junta has put her under house arrest for most of the past 20 years after she won the presidential elections in 1990. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

Ban said failure by Myanmar, formerly Burma, to demonstrate a credible vote in November would undermine credibility to advance national reconciliation and reforms in the political, social and economic fields.

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Myanmar blood donor claims for Guinness world record prize
English.news.cn 2010-10-20 20:45:00

YANGON, Oct. 20 (Xinhua) — A Myanmar citizen has claimed for the prize of Guinness World Record for his highest frequency of donating blood, the local weekly Yangon Times reported Wednesday.

U Khun Sai Maung Maung Gyi started to donate his blood in February 1956 and has completed 204 times by August 2010, the report said, adding that he has already applied for registering with the Guinness World Record.

Competing for the Guinness record is also an Indian rival, who donated blood for 156 times.

Although donation of blood in Myanmar is restricted for those over 65 years old, the 68-year-old Khun Sai Maung Maung Gyi is allowed to continue blood donation as an exceptional case as he enjoys good health for having vegetables.

He is a retired colonel but an organizer of blood donation in the Myanmar Red Cross Society.

After the 205th time of donation in December, he will stop the charity move due to his age, the report said.

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Times of India – India to play Myanmar in 2012 Olympic qualifiers 1st round
PTI, Oct 20, 2010, 04.21pm IST

NEW DELHI: India will play Myanmar in the first round of 2012 London Olympics men’s football competition on February 23 and March 9 next year in the home and away format.

Thirty-five teams have entered the fray to grab the three-and-a-half slots reserved for the continent for the Olympics.

The 22 lowest ranked teams, based on the qualifiers and final round of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, were drawn to play in a home-and-away format on February 23 and March 9, 2011, with the winners making it to round two.

The 11 winners from the first round will join the 13 highest ranked teams in the second round where they will again play in a home-and-away format on June 19 and 23, 2011.

The 12 winners will then be divided into three groups of four teams each in the third round. Again, a home-and-away format from September 21, 2011 to March 14, 2012, will determine the winners who will represent the continent in the Olympics.

Three second-placed teams from the third round will play in a playoff at a centralised venue from March 25 to 29, 2012, and the winners of this group will meet the representatives of CAF for a berth in the Olympics.

India had played against Myanmar in their 2008 Beijing Olympic qualifiers. India had advanced to the second round after beating Myanmar 4-1 in Kolkata on February 4, 2007 before drawing 1-1 in Yangon three days later.

Meanwhile, India have been placed in Group B of the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup qualifying round along with Turkmenistan, Pakistan and the winner of play-off three.

India had won the 2008 edition of the competition at home and qualified for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar for the first time after 1984.

Defending champions DPR Korea were placed in Group D with Nepal, Sri Lanka and the winner of play-off one.

The eight lowest-ranked teams out of 20, which entered the fray, will play off on a home-and-away basis and the four winners will qualify for the 16-team group phase.

Bhutan will meet Afghanistan, the Philippines will take on Mongolia, Chinese Taipei will face Laos, and Cambodia will lock horns against Macau in the play-offs to be played on February 9 and 16, 2011.

The group stage will be played between March 20 to 31, 2011 and the hosts will be announced later.

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The Canadian Press – Report: Rwanda and Syria join NKorea, Myanmar, China and Iran in repressing journalists
By Edith M. Lederer (CP) – Oct 19, 2010

Rwanda and Syria joined a list of the 10 most repressive countries toward journalists alongside North Korea, Myanmar, China and Iran, according to a global media watchdog which warned Tuesday that the crackdown on reporters in authoritarian countries is worsening.

Reporters Without Borders said press freedom in the 10 countries — including Yemen, Sudan, Turkmenistan and Eritrea — continues to deteriorate.

“It is getting harder to say which is worse than the other,” the group said, with all 10 persecuting the media and blocking news and information to their citizens.

The Paris-based organization said Cuba was not in the bottom 10 for the first time since the index was created in 2002, due mainly to the release of 14 journalists and 22 activists over the summer. But it said the political dissidents and journalists still have to deal with censorship and repression by the Communist government on a daily basis.

Reporters Without Borders’ annual ranking of press freedom in 178 countries praised six northern European countries — Finland, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland — for topping the index since it was created in 2002 and setting an example for respecting journalists and protecting the media from judicial abuse.

But it warned that the European Union risks losing its position as world leader in respecting freedom of the press, noting that while 13 of the EU’s 27 members are in the top 20 some of the other 14 are very low in the rankings including Italy at 49, Romania at 52 and Greece and Romania tied at 70.

“The defence of media freedom continues to be a battle — a battle of vigilance in the democracies of old Europe and a battle against oppression and injustice in the totalitarian regimes still scattered across the globe,” Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Jean-Francois Julliard said in the report.

He said the fate of human rights activists, journalists and bloggers “who bravely defend the right to speak out … is our constant concern.”

He reiterated the organization’s call for China to release the new Nobel Peace Prize winner, Liu Xiaobao, “the symbol of the pressure for free speech building up in China, which censorship for the time being is still managing to contain.”

“And we warn the Chinese authorities against taking a road from which there is no way out,” Julliard said.

According to the report, Asia’s four Communist regimes are among the 15 lowest-ranked countries with North Korea at 177th place, China at 171, Vietnam at 165 and Laos at 168.

“China, despute its dynamic media and Internet, remains in a low position because of non-stop censorship and repression, notably in Tibet and Xinjiang,” it said, while in “hellish totalitarian North Korea” where Kim Jong-il has set up his son’s succession “crackdowns have become even harsher.”

The 2010 index highlights major differences in press freedom in the four major emerging economies — China, India, Brazil and Russia.

Thanks to favourable legislative changes, Brazil rose 12 places to 58 while India dropped 17 places to 122, mainly due to extreme violence in Kashmir, the report said. In Russia, at 140, “the system remains as tightly controlled as ever, and impunity reigns unchallenged in cases of violence against journalists,” it said.

Reporters Without Borders said political violence produced “very troubling tumbles in the rankings.”

Thailand lost 23 places and is now at 153 after two journalists were killed and 15 wounded covering the army crackdown on the anti-government “Red Shirt” movement in Bangkok.

The Philippines fell 34 places to 156 following last November’s massacre of 30 media workers travelling in an election convoy in southern Maguindanao, allegedly at the hands of the governor’s supporters. It was the deadliest single attack on reporters in the world.

Rwanda fell 12 places to 169 following “the closure of leading independent publications, the climate of terror surrounding the presidential election, and Umuvugizi deputy editor Jean-Leonard Rugambage’s murder in Kigali,” the report said. He was shot dead outside his home hours after the paper published an online article linking Rwandan intelligence to the shooting of a former army chief in South Africa.

“Journalists are fleeing the country because of the repression, in an exodus almost on the scale of Somalia’s,” Reporters Without Borders said.

In Syria, which dropped eight places to 173, and Yemen, down three places to 170, the report said “press freedom is fast shrinking away” and “arbitrary detentions are still routine, as is the use of torture.”

For the fourth straight year Eritrea was at the bottom of the list, at 178.

The report said 30 journalists and four media contributors are being held incommunicado “in the most appalling conditions without any right to trial.”

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The Irrawaddy – ‘Anyone but Them’
By HSAT LINN – Thursday, October 21, 2010

RANGOON — The military regime-sponsored 2010 election in Burma is less than three weeks away. However, millions of voters are yet to hear or see any information related to voting, political parties or democracy. Many people in Burma could not tell you which candidates or parties were running in their township. And even those people familiar with the parties say they don’t know who to vote for.

“Anyone but them,” is a phrase that has been whispered around the streets and neighborhoods of Rangoon in recent days.

By “them,” people are, of course, referring to the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which was founded by former military generals, and whose ubiquitous presence is the most evident—if not the only—sign that an election is looming in Burma.

The party’s logo of a lion is plastered on walls and lampposts across the country, reminding older voters of the 1990 election when Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy logos— the khamauk [Bamboo Hat] and the khut daung [Fighting Peacock]—all but enveloped the country.

“We only support the khamauk,”said Myint Sein, a rickshaw driver in Rangoon’s Thaketa Township. “We absolutely reject the USDP.”

Myint Sein admits that he hasn’t heard of any other party contesting the election other than the USDP, although, he said, one of his fellow rickshaw drivers showed him a leaflet with a bamboo hat on it, though he does not which party that represents.

Myint Sein said he earns about 2,000 kyat (US $2) a day riding rickshaws and cannot afford news journals, and has no time to listen to the radio.

“The USDP has never been good to us. I don’t think anyone could be as bad as them,” he said, adding that he thinks that if people put their minds together and vote for one party, the military would have to step down and a new government could be formed.

“People feel uncomfortable when they hear the name USDP,” said lawyer Aye Lwin. “It has bullied and mistreated people for so many years. It’s too late for them to change their image.

“For instance, Yuzana Company Chairman Htay Myint has exploited a lot of people,” he added. “He is unpopular on his construction sites and has exploited workers on his palm plantations. Now, he is campaigning around town, making donations and smiling, hoping that people will vote for him. I don’t think he will win their support. In the end, he will rely on his favorite tactics—malpractice and intimidation.”

An editor who used to work for the owner of The Myanmar Times, Tin Htun Oo, who will contest the election in Rangoon’s Pazun Taung Township, told The Irrawaddy a similar story.
“He [Tin Htun Oo] always gave us a much lower salary than other journals,” he said. “Now he is donating money in Pazun Taung as an attempt to show that he is working for the township. But people already know what kind of person he is.”

Aye Lwin said one of the main reasons why people hate the USDP is the active involvement of the group in the brutal crackdown on Buddhist monks during the September 2007 protests.

“Burma is a Buddhist country. The whole country knows that the USDA members have not only intimidated citizens, but they also beat up monks. Their behavior was unacceptable,” he said.

Several sources said that the average voter’s hatred of the USDP is driving him or her toward other parties in the election.

A reporter in Rangoon told The Irrawaddy that the sight of crumpled and torn USDP leaflets scattered around the streets of Rangoon is evidence of how much the USDP has won over the general public.

“Ripped up USDP pamphlets can be seen on every street corner in downtown Rangoon,” she said. “On the other hand, when people request leaflets from other parties, they generally keep them.”

Members of several political parties who consider themselves aligned to the pro-democracy movement said they have been warmly welcomed by people during the election campaign principally because they are competing against the USDP.

A resident of Kungyangone Township in Rangoon Division said the provocative way the USDP forced each household to make one family member join the USDP was the last straw. “People in Rangoon now hate them more than ever,” he said.

One taxi driver who spoke to The Irrawaddy said he was incensed at this particular strong-arm tactic and was determined to resist the USDP’s bullying.

“Let them come to my house if they are brave enough,” he said. “I will kick them back onto the street. By law, they can’t do this. I would complain directly to the Union Election Commission. They can only mistreat people who don’t know or understand what is happening.”

Thein Nyunt, an organizing committee member of the Democratic Party (Myanmar) in Rangoon, said that locals had welcomed them with open arms.

“People offer us water and soft drinks, even while the military intelligence and local authorities are watching. We went door-to-door and people invited us in and asked lots of questions.”

Mini Thin Kyaw, another organizer for the Democratic Party (Myanmar), said that although the USDP takes advantage of financial assistance from local authorities, in general people only accept and welcome pro-democracy parties.

“When our chairman, Thu Wai, was campaigning in his constituency, Mingalar Taung Nyunt Township, USDP members tried to step in our way. But, when they started distributing leaflets, some people refused to take them. Others took them and immediately threw them away.” he said.

Under the circumstances, several representatives of pro-democracy parties said they believe they can win the election if there is no vote-rigging at the polls.

“People willingly support us,” said Aung Than, the chairman of the Democracy and Peace Party. “They support every party but the USDP. If the Burmese public follow their hearts, I am sure our democratic forces will win the election.”

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The Irrawaddy – Xi Jinping’s Burma Question
By WAI MOE – Thursday, October 21, 2010

With his appointment to vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission at the end of the fifth plenary session of the 17th Central Commmittee of the Communist Party in Beijing on Monday making him the most likely successor to President Hu Jintao in 2011, Vice President Xi Jinping will play a crucial role in relations between China and Burma.

The relationship between Xi Jinping and the junta did not have an auspicious start when Xi visited Burma in December 2009, four months after junta forces overran the the territory of the Kokang ceasefire group called the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and caused about 37,000 Kokang-Chinese refugees to flee across the border into China.

After Xi met Burmese junta supremo Snr-Gen Than Shwe and other top generals in Naypyidaw, China’s Xinhua News Agency reported that Xi told his Burmese counterpart that Beijing hoped to see “political stability, economic development and national reconciliation” in Burma.

Xi also highlighted Beijing’s concern over ethnic conflict in Burma, telling Than Shwe that “China believes the Myanmar [Burmese] side would settle the relevant problems through peaceful ways such as dialogues and consultations so as to guarantee the stability in its border area with China.”

Military sources in Naypyidaw said that Than Shwe and deputy Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye were angry following the meeting with Xi, though this was not reported in the media.

Than Shwe’s displeasure with Xi was one of the reasons for his being more circumspect in relations with China, choosing China’s main regional rival, India, as the first destination in his 2010 pre-election tours, Naypyidaw sources said.

The change in Beijing’s tone toward the Burmese junta started before the Kokang incident, however. Although the Chinese government believes only military rule can guarantee stability and their interests in Burma, doubts began to form following the mass demonstrations in September 2007, observers said.

“The Chinese have changed their tone,” said a senior official in Naypyidaw speaking on condition of anonymity. “They no longer blindy support us and have become more critical following their own interests in our country.”

Naypyidaw officials rule out major changes in China’s Burma policy under the new leadership, however, saying that China’s long-term policy is based on national interest rather than personal relationships. But the relationship has not always been smooth.

Though expressed privately rather than in public, Burmese criticism of Chinese officials in late 2007 and 2008 during bilateral meetings in Beijing and Naypyidaw was continuous and culminated in the junta’s postponement of the Sino-Burmese gas and oil pipelines project from early 2009 to late 2009, said official sources in Naypyidaw.

The pipeline delay was the second junta rebuff to China despite prior agreement over bilateral projects. The first took place in 2001 during a visit to Burma by Jiang Zemin when Than Shwe withdrew from a waterway project along the Irrawaddy River to be built with Chinese aid.

China-Burma relations have become more acute as war clouds gather over the Sino-Burmese border due to the cease-fire ethnic armed groups rejection of the junta’s plan to place their independent militias under Burmese army control as border guard forces.

With the junta using terms like “insurgents” to describe the Kachin Independence Organization and with hostile incidents and actions between the junta forces and armed ethnic groups becoming more frequent, the Sino-Burmese border looks increasingly less stable.

When Xi becomes the Chinese president in 2011, the ethnic issue is one of the questions he will have to tackle in his dealings with Naypyidaw. The issue will be especially hard since the Chinese leadership may find it difficult to betray former comrades trained by the People’ Liberation Army who formed the ethnic armed militias on the Sino-Burmese border.

Burma’s strategic position between China and the Indian Ocean is forcing China to look beyond bilateral considerations to geopolitical competition between China, the US, India and the nations of Southeast Asia, however.

With Burma’s position paramount to China’s energy security, China is concerned with what seems like a returning US interest in Southeast Asia under the Obama administration after years of relative neglect during the previous Bush administrations.

With the Obama administration talking about “strategic dialogue” with Burma, the junta expects the US may increase its engagement with a post-election Burma whether there is real political change or not, according to government officials in Naypyidaw.

“We expect Washington will be more engaged. That doesn’t mean they are crazy about us, of course. But we can’t ignore the neighbors,” said a foreign ministry official in Naypyidaw.

Hanging over both Chinese and US attitudes towards Burma, however, is the specter of Naypyidaw’s increasing ties in recent years with Pongyang as Burmese generals have warmed to North Korea’s Songun (military first) leadership rather than China’s collective one.

On Wednesday, Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency reported that Rangoon’s Mayor Aung Thein Lin marked the ruling Worker’s Party of Korea’s 65th anniversary by saying the party had become most sacred under the outstanding Songun leadership of Kim Jong Il, leading the Songun revolution to one victory after another.

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The Irrawaddy – China’s Ethnic-policy Balancing Act
By NYO OHN MYINT – Thursday, October 21, 2010

Junta dictator Snr-Gen Than Shwe is carefully and slowly moving away from 20 years of iron-fisted rule. Chinese influence, especially in the area of ethnic issues, could prove to be critically important.

Chinese president Hu Jintao publically supported Than Shwe during his state visit to Beijing in September, by essentially endorsing Than Shwe’s roadmap to a civilian dictatorship.

As one of the richest countries in the world with US $2.6 trillion in reserves, China recently provided Burma with $4.2 billion in loans with no interest.  China is seeking  to counter potential US influence in the region. As a result of increased competition between the US and China in Asia, regional countries expect the Americans to seek greater consultation and coordination on key issues.

China and Burma both have in common governments that keep a tight rein on political freedom, free speech and a free press.

However, the Burmese generals face problems that China, so far, has been able to avoid. Burma has real problems among the ethnic cease-fire groups, who are working to create more political space and autonomy along the Sino-Burma border.

China has been working to defuse a potential civil war, while balancing its interests among the ethnic groups and the military generals. Whether or not, China will be seen as an influence which can prevent anticipated renewed fighting in the months after the Nov. 7 election remains to be seen.

Some observers see the autonomous regions of China’s ethnic groups as a potential model that could be emulated in Burma, but so far such an approach has gained little interest within the junta.

China has its own ethnic Kachin, Wa, Kokeng and Shan living in Yunnan Province who enjoy greater freedoms that their fellow ethnics living in Burma, who are still treated like  third-class citizens .

Also, as a potential model for Burma, China has experimented with political and social reforms to stimulate economic development, while Burma’s generals are still living in the 19th century with a dormant economy.

Presumably, China’s policy towards Burma will remain constant following the November election and the formation of the parliament. No doubt China  hopes the election will create a new political structure and more power sharing between the parliament and the junta, which can defuse the serious problems in ethnic regions and avoid all-out war. How that hope will play out in light of Than Shwe’s history of running a one-man show is the question of the moment.

The Chinese strategy of balancing its need for Burma’s resources while pressuring the junta to negotiate with cease-fire groups to avoid war is the issue that will dominate relations between the two countries following the election.

Nyo Ohn Myint is an exiled Burmese dissident based in Thailand.

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UN reduces support staff for Burma envoy: report
Thursday, 21 October 2010 15:47
Thomas Maung Shwe

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The UN Department of Political Affairs has transferred several staff members formally assigned to work under the UN’s “good offices mandate on Myanmar”, a New York news service that focuses on the UN reported on Monday.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Burma envoy, officially now called the special adviser on Burma oversees the good offices mandate created as a result of repeated United Nations General Assembly resolutions concerning the political and human rights crisis in Burma.

His chief of staff, Vijay Nambair, took over as special adviser on a temporary basis following the departure of the Nigerian diplomat, Dr. Ibrahim Gambari. Inner City Press reported on its website on Monday, citing “well-placed sources”, that staff supposed to be working on Burma-related issues were now working for Eritrean Tamrat Samuel of the Department of Political Affairs (DPA).

Inner City Press also pointed out that the DPA was unauthorised to remove staff from the Burma office because control over its budget and resources were specifically approved by the General Assembly and therefore outside DPA jurisdiction.

The DPA’s move to reduce the number of the staff in the Burma office would also countermand the most recent General Assembly resolution on Burma, which specifically called on the secretary general “To continue to provide his good offices” for the Burma mandate and to “give all necessary assistance to enable the Special Adviser and the Special Rapporteur [on the situation of human rights in Burma] to discharge their mandates fully and effectively and in a co-ordinated manner.”

It remains to be seen how the secretary general expects to follow the will of the General Assembly regarding Burma by reducing the number of staff at the Burma office in New York just days before the country’s controversial national elections.

When Ban spokesman Farhan Haq was asked by accredited UN correspondent and analyst Matthew Russell Lee about the transfer of staff, Haq avoided answering the question directly, instead simply responding that the Burma office’s work was continuing. Mizzima was unable to reach Ban’s press office at time of publication.

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DVB News – Thai police raid Mae La camp
By NAW NOREEN
Published: 21 October 2010

More than 100 Thai police carried out a surprise raid at the Mae La refugee camp yesterday following a tip-off that drugs and firearms were being stashed there.

The early-morning raid on the most populous camp along the Thai-Burma border netted only three shotguns and a small amount of marijuana. Around 20 people were arrested, said the camp’s director, Saw Htun Htun.

The majority of those detained have now been released, while the owner of the house where the marijuana was found remains in custody at a police station in Thailand’s western Tha Song Yang district.

The Mae La camp is home to around 45,000 Burmese refugees, the majority of whom have fled conflict in neighbouring Karen state. Nearly 150,000 Burmese live in nine official camps along the border.

Saw Htun Htun speculated that the raid may have been carried out in preparation for a visit to the camp by a senior Thai government official on Friday.

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DVB News – Electioneering scandals plague USDP
By AKT
Published: 21 October 2010

Farmers in Burma’s northern Kachin state claim the party led by Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein is collecting votes in advance for the looming 7 November elections.

It comes as opposition politicians complain about controversial electioneering tactics by the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which is widely tipped to win the polls. The party has already been accused of illegal vote collecting in southern Burma.

“The USDP took people’s ID card [details] when drawing lists of party members,” said Than Than Nu, secretary of the Union Democracy Party (UDP), who is currently campaigning in Mandalay division’s Amarapura township. The UDP is fielding only three candidates, while the USDP has more than 1,100.

“Some people actually thought [they had already voted USDP] when they joined the party and that they could now no longer vote for other parties so we had to explain that voting will be done in a ballot system,” she added.

The accusations resonate among villagers in rural Kachin state, who say that entire areas are being issued with USDP membership cards.

“Now the whole village is being issued the member cards,” said a farmer on a banana plantation in Momauk township. “It’s hard to find jobs here so people have no choice but to work on a banana farm run by the Chinese company.

He said that the USDP’s candidate in Momauk, Yon Mu, told farmers they must have USDP cards to work on the plantation. While Yon Mu, an ethnic Chinese, is known to have become rich through his ownership of a jade mine, it is not clear whether he has links to the banana company.

A USDP campaign in Magwe division has been cancelled after local authorities complained that the party was using a community hall for a meeting, which is illegal under Burmese law. A protest by locals in Yaynanchaung town led to its cancellation.

Advanced voting collecting is already underway in Thailand and Japan, which have significant Burmese migrant populations. The casting of votes by exiled Burmese before the 7 November is legally allowed.

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DVB News – Fishing boats evacuated as storm nears
Published: 21 October 2010

The Burmese government has put out a warning to evacuate boats on its western Bay of Bengal coast as an “orange level” storm heads for Burma.

The storm, classed as moderate, will hit the eastern coast within the next 36 hours, the government’s Meteorology and Hydrology Department (MHD) warned today.

According to Xinhua news, a low-pressure spot is building around 288 kilometers southwest of Arakan state’s Kyaukphyu and is set to intensify.

A Tropical Storm Risk (TSR) alert said that the chances of it becoming CAT 1, which means Severe Cyclonic Storm strength with winds of at least 119 km/h, is 10 percent in the next 36 hours, while there is a 50 percent chance it’ll become a tropical storm with winds above 63km/h.

A broadcast by on Burmese state radio that rain and thunderstorms are likely to be widespread in Arakan state, which has already been hit by heavy rains this month.

A number of towns in Burma are still picking up the pieces from severe flooding in recent weeks. Mandalay experienced record rainfall that submerged urban areas and left 2000 people hospitalised, while swathes of farmland in southern Irrawaddy division were inundated with rainfall.

It has become one of the worst sequences of flooding in Burma in recent history and follows heavy flooding in August in Bago division.

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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.