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BURMA RELATED NEWS – OCTOBER 25, 2010
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AFP – At least 27 dead after cyclone pounds Myanmar: state media
AFP – Fourteen dead in oil pipeline blaze in Myanmar
IRIN – MYANMAR: Cyclone Giri tests government-aid agency relations
Washington Post – China campaigning against international probe of possible war crimes in Burma
Bangkok Post – Burma shuts border until after polls
The Indianapolis Star – Burmese refugee center to close in Fort Wayne
Financial Express (Bangladesh) – Bangladesh-China relationship: a bridge connecting China with India
UPI – Boycotts expected in Myanmar vote
The Third Age – Aung San Suu Kyi Under House Arrest During Myanmar’s Elections
CRIENGLISH – Myanmar Fully Confident of Role Played by UN
Monsters and Critics – Investors adopt wait-and-see stance on post-election Myanmar (Feature)
The Jakarta Post – Editorial: And the winner is … the junta
IPS – Looking Beyond Burma’s 2010 Elections
The Irrawaddy – EDITORIAL: Arakan’s Woes
Mizzima News – Elections and the role of ‘private’ publishers
DVB News – Than Shwe ‘pinning hopes’ on UN
DVB News – Pro-junta parties to dominate Mandalay
DVB News – Death toll rises on cyclone-hit coast
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At least 27 dead after cyclone pounds Myanmar: state media
Mon Oct 25, 12:21 pm ET

YANGON (AFP) – At least 27 people were killed and 15 are missing after a powerful cyclone struck western Myanmar, leaving a trail of destruction in its path, official media reported late Monday.

Cyclone Giri destroyed 2,800 homes, dozens of government buildings and two bridges, according to state radio in the army-ruled country.

The storm slammed into the coastal state of Rakhine on Friday with winds of up to 193 kilometres (119 miles) per hour.

Official media had previously remained tight-lipped about the number of casualties.

Several government ministers inspected damage to buildings and houses in the town of Kyaukpyu in Rakhine state on Sunday, according to a report in the New Light of Myanmar newspaper, a mouthpiece for the military government

They also distributed clothes, food, bottled water, construction materials and cash to victims at a makeshift camp, the report said.

The coastal town was badly hit, with the power cut off and the sea wall damaged. On Friday the meteorology office predicted sea levels could swell by as much as 3.7 metres (12 feet).

A Red Cross worker in Yangon estimated Saturday that about 70 percent of Kyaukpyu town was destroyed, with about 60,000 people in the district needing assistance.

Trees were reportedly toppled and power was cut to some areas.

After hitting the coast, the storm headed northeast through the centre of the country, losing strength along the way.

Myanmar is frequently hit by tropical storms and in 2008 was battered by Cyclone Nargis, which left 138,000 people dead or missing, mostly in the southwest delta region.

Nargis unleashed winds of 240 kilometres an hour and storm surges up to four metres high, sweeping away thousands of homes, flooding rice fields with salt water and ravaging schools and hospitals.

Myanmar’s military government faced international criticism for its response to the disaster. It was accused of blocking emergency aid and initially refusing to grant access to humanitarian workers and supplies.

In a separate incident Sunday, at least 14 people were killed and about 100 more injured after a fire broke out at an oil pipeline in central Myanmar, a government official.

The blaze appeared to have been ignited accidentally by local villagers who were collecting oil leaking from the pipeline near Pakokku town in the Magway region.

Myanmar is due to hold its first election in 20 years on November 7 but Western nations have said the vote will not be credible unless detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other opposition figures are freed.

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Fourteen dead in oil pipeline blaze in Myanmar
Mon Oct 25, 4:57 am ET

YANGON (AFP) – At least 14 people were killed and about 100 more injured after a fire broke out at an oil pipeline in central Myanmar, a government official said Monday.

Authorities were battling to put out the blaze, which appeared to have been ignited accidentally by local villagers who were collecting oil leaking from the pipeline near Pakokku town in the Magway region.

“At least 14 people were killed,” said the official, who did not want to be named. “There could be more casualties.”

The blaze began after about 200 villagers started collecting oil from the leaking pipeline on Sunday and lit a flame to see in the dark, according to the official.

A local resident in Pakokku said “many people” were believed to have been taken to two local hospitals.

The official said the authorities had shut down the 20-mile (32-kilometre) long government-owned pipeline after the fire started.

Myanmar is rich in natural resources including oil and gas.

But nearly a third of the population lives below the poverty line, according to World Bank figures, as the junta and its associates exploit raw materials for their own benefit.

The resources are a major target for energy-hungry Asian economies such as China, India and Thailand.

Oil giants Total of France and Chevron of the United States are two of the biggest Western companies in Myanmar and have faced criticism from rights groups for their dealings with the regime.

Myanmar is due to hold its first election in 20 years on November 7 but Western nations have said the vote will not be credible unless detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other opposition figures are freed.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won the last polls in 1990 by a landslide but the military never allowed the party to take power.

Suu Kyi has spent much of the past 20 years in jail or under house arrest and is barred from standing in the next polls because she is a serving prisoner.

The NLD has been dissolved by the authorities because it chose to boycott next month’s vote, saying the rules were unfair.

Myanmar has said foreign election observers and international media will not be allowed into the country for the vote.

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MYANMAR: Cyclone Giri tests government-aid agency relations

BANGKOK, 25 October 2010 (IRIN) – Cooperation has been good between relief agencies and national authorities after Cyclone Giri struck western Myanmar on 22 October, but it is still too early to know what access international staff will have to the hardest-hit areas.

“Neutral humanitarian assistance is more accepted now than in [Cyclone] Nargis times, so we will see in the coming days,” said Bernd Schell, head of delegation for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Myanmar.

Cyclone Nargis, which hit in May 2008, became the largest natural disaster the country had experienced.

International relief agencies in Yangon, the capital of Myanmar, have begun sending national staff members to the coastal western state of Rakhine to join colleagues already in the field measuring damage inflicted by the category-4 storm (category 5 is the worst).

“We have sent out two teams this morning [from Yangon] and have one more going out this afternoon,” said Schell. IFRC’s international staff is on “stand-by” in the capital, ready to join national staff carrying out assessments in the field and awaiting permission to deploy, he added. “We have requested access and are ready go.”

Thus far, international NGOs have only sent national staff to cyclone-hit areas to join national NGOs already working in affected villages.

Schell said local capacity to respond to disasters had improved in recent years, alleviating some pressure on international staff to go into the field.

“A lot of support had been given to the areas that were hit this time, which helped to minimize damage,” he said. Teams of 30-50 Red Cross national volunteers have already begun damage assessments in eight townships in Rakhine State. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been trained in disaster preparedness.

There has been “major learning” since Nargis, UN Resident Coordinator Bishow Parajuli said. “This is evidenced by the advance deployments, evacuations [from high-risk areas]. Details are still emerging.”

Early estimates show two-digit deaths and injuries and up to 10,000 homes damaged, he added.

“International and national UN staff are on stand-by for deployment, depending on the level of devastation and expertise needed,” said Parajuli.

A preliminary Red Cross assessment in one of the townships hit, Kyaupyu, on 24 October, showed at least 4,500 affected people. Information from ongoing village visits has shown still-unquantified housing and agricultural damage, added IFRC’s Schell.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is compiling information from relief agencies for an updated report on the cyclone’s aftermath for publication on 26 October.

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Washington Post – China campaigning against international probe of possible war crimes in Burma
By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 25, 2010; 3:13 PM

The Chinese government has launched a high-octane diplomatic campaign during the past two months aimed at thwarting the Obama administration’s proposal to back an international probe into possible war crimes by Burma’s military rulers.

The Chinese effort – which includes high-level lobbying of top U.N. officials and European and Asian governments – has taken the steam out of the American initiative, which was designed to raise the political costs for Burma’s military junta for failing to open its upcoming Nov. 7 election to the country’s political opposition.

A senior U.S. official was pessimistic about the prospects for securing international support for a war crimes probe for the time being, and made it clear Washington had no immediate plans to introduce a proposal to establish one. “We have been and continue to consult with others,” said the official, who requested anonymity because the source was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. “It’s on the list of things that are good ideas that we want to discuss and explore.”

Liu Yutong, spokesman for the Chinese mission at the U.N., did not respond to a request for comment.

Burma, which is also known as Myanmar, is widely considered to have one of the most appalling human rights records in the world. The ruling junta has detained more than 2,100 political prisoners who endure torture, inadequate medical care and even death. The Burmese military has also imposed abuses on ethnic minorities, including the forced relocation of villages, forced labor and systematic human rights abuses, including rape.

“There is a pattern of gross and systematic violation of human rights which has been in place for many years and still continues,” the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, wrote in a March report, saying such crimes could amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity. “There is an indication that those human rights violations are the result of a state policy.”

The United States outlined its plans to support Quintana’s appeal for a war crimes inquiry against senior Burmese officials, including Burma’s top military ruler Than Shwe, in August interviews with Foreign Policy magazine and The Washington Post. The decision reflected frustration that U.S. officials’ effort to engage the regime had failed to produce democratic reforms or the release of political prisoners, including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who serves under house detention.

At the time, a senior U.S. official said the United States anticipated the effort could take years, comparing it to the decades-long struggle to hold Khmer Rouge leaders accountable for mass killings in Cambodia in the 1970s. The most likely method for pursuing the creation of a commission of inquiry is through the passage of resolutions at the U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee, which is currently in session, or the U.N. Human Rights Council, which will convene early next year.

Washington could also appeal to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to do it under his own authority – although Ban, who is seeking reelection, is unlikely to pursue the controversial proposal without broader support for it in the Security Council.

But the United States has pursued a highly cautious diplomatic strategy, merely sounding out top U.N. officials and potential allies about their willingness to support the prosecution of top Burmese officials, but not offering a clear plan on how to do it, these officials said. So far, Washington has garnered little public support for the initiative from Asian and European governments, or the U.N. leadership.

China, meanwhile, has forcefully urged European and Asian countries and the U.N. leadership to oppose the measure on the grounds that it could undermine the country’s fragile political transition, according to diplomats and human rights advocates. Just days after the U.S. signaled support for the war crimes commission, China’s U.N. ambassador, Li Baodong, paid a confidential visit to Ban’s chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, to make his opposition clear: The U.S. proposal, he said, was dangerous and counterproductive, and should not be allowed to proceed, three U.N.-based sources familiar with the exchange told The Washington Post.

“What we are seeing is the Chinese practicing American-style diplomacy and the Americans practicing Asian-style diplomacy,” said Tom Malinowski, the Washington-based director of advocacy for Human Rights Watch. “The Chinese are making it clear what they want, and they are using all the leverage at their disposal to get what they want. And the Americans are operating in this hyper-consensual, subtle, indirect way that we associate with Chinese diplomacy.”

Malinowski said the problem is less about Chinese or Russian opposition, which was to be expected, so much as a failure of U.S. leadership. “One should recognize why the Chinese are against this: They recognize it would be a consequential measure,” Malinowski said. “If you allow Chinese opposition to deter you, then what you are saying is that you are only going to take steps on Burma that are inconsequential.”

In the first major test of the U.S. strategy, the annual debate on human rights at the U.N. General Assembly, the Obama administration was the only country that explicitly called for consideration of a commission of inquiry – though Britain, the Czech Republic and Slovakia signaled support for holding human rights violators accountable for crimes.

“After carefully considering the issues, the U.S. believes that a properly structured international commission of inquiry that would examine allegations of serious violations of international law could provide an opportunity for achieving our shared objectives of advancing human rights there,” said Rick Barton, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Economic and Social Council, told members of the General Assembly’s Third Committee, which deals with human rights.

In contrast, China, Russia, Singapore and other members of the ASEAN nations voiced firm opposition to the proposal. A report by Ban to the General Assembly on Burma’s human rights record made no reference to the controversial proposal.

The senior U.S. official said that it was unlikely that the General Assembly human rights committee would address war crimes in an upcoming resolution, drafted by the European Union, that will be considered next month. “We don’t run the resolution in the General Assembly. So that’s not our call. My sense is there is not much momentum right now in the General Assembly to add this new element to the resolution. But the dynamics could change over time.”

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FOREIGN RELATIONS
Bangkok Post – Burma shuts border until after polls
Published: 26/10/2010 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News

MAE SOT : Foreign Ministry officials are expecting Burma to keep its border checkpoint opposite this Tak district closed until at least after its general elections on Nov 7.

The junta closed the border in July in protest against a project by the Public Works Department to build an embankment along the Thai side of the Moei River without informing Burma. Naypyidaw said the embankment could change the flow of the river and cause erosion to the bank on the Burma side.

Border trade has slowed dramatically following the closure, causing major problems for local business operators.

Senior officials, including Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, have tried to negotiate with Burma to reopen the border.

A Foreign Ministry source said yesterday Thai authorities questioned the junta’s reason for closing the border.

The source said the closure was motivated by a military desire to reorganise the command and control structure in the area so authorities fully benefited from the trade in the area, which is worth more than 20 billion baht a year.

The junta is reportedly furious that minority groups operating along the border enjoy a large share of the commerce. Authorities want to break up trade by minority groups before reopening the border, the source said.

Thai and Burmese officials have agreed to let 18 unofficial border checkpoints operate to ease the impact of the closure. Trading is allowed only after sunset and only five light trucks are allowed to transport goods to Burma each night.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said during a visit to Mae Sot on Friday that the two sides were negotiating the issue through a joint border committee

Mr Kasit said it was likely the checkpoint would reopen when Burma’s internal security situation improved, which Thai authorities expect would happen after the Nov 7 election.

The Foreign Ministry source said the junta itself was constructing something similar along a one-kilometre stretch of the river even though it had protested against Thailand’s construction of an embankment on the Moei River.

The Foreign Ministry plans to protest the Burmese project, which the source said would cause erosion on the Thai side. The Public Works Department resumed building its embankment a few days ago after the Burmese move.

Burmese officials filed a second protest against the project with Thai authorities last Monday.

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The Indianapolis Star – Burmese refugee center to close in Fort Wayne
6:04 AM, Oct 25, 2010  |

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — One of two refugee placement centers in Fort Wayne is closing as the government is sending fewer Burmese refugees to this northeastern Indiana city.

After the World Relief Fort Wayne office opened less than two years ago, The Journal Gazette reports the State Department limited placement to refugees who have parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren or siblings already living in the city.

Burmese refugees have been fleeing Myanmar, also called Burma, for decades to escape its ruling military government. Since the 1990s, many have been sent to Fort Wayne.
Human-services agencies say Fort Wayne is now thought to have the largest concentration of Burmese refugees in the U.S., estimated at more than 5,000.

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VOL 18 NO 28 REGD NO DA 1589 | Dhaka, Tuesday October 26 2010
Financial Express (Bangladesh) – Bangladesh-China relationship: a bridge connecting China with India
Shah Muhammad Sultan Uddin Iqbal

For its part Bangladesh has always considered China to be a friend which has consistently stood by this country in meeting its various needs. Chinese diplomatic help was considered to be particularly helpful during the maritime boundary stand off between Myanmar and Bangladesh. It is really important to mention here that, on the point of Bangladesh-Chinese relationship the main two political party leaders of Bangladesh, ruling Awami League and the main opposition, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in unique display of strategic farsightedness have unanimously given their consent to the two strategic decisions of linking Bangladesh and East Asia, following the overall Pan Asian concept, with land and sea i.e. the Sonadia deep sea port of Bangladesh and Kunming, Myanmar and Bangladesh link road. Their uniqueness of unanimity also lies in the fact that, they are unanimous in pursuing a ‘Look East’ policy with China’s help and cooperation.

Relation with Myanmar — A new dimension in Offing: Bangladesh shares a 193 kilometer border with Myanmar, thus having direct land connectivity with ASEAN. During the past 37 years of diplomatic relations both the countries could not generate enough economic activities. Few irritants are impediment to the good relationship between these two nations. Of late, the ice has started melting; Myanmar has shown its willingness to take back some 9,000 Rohinga refugees. Recently, after negotiation with Bangladesh, Myanmar has accepted Bangladesh’s principle on demarcating sea boundaries between the two nations. Meanwhile, some of the Myanmar companies conducted feasibility study of exporting Bangladesh 600 MW electricity. It’s definitely a welcome sign. Bangladesh is planning to produce additional 10,000 MW of electricity in the next five years. In another development Bangladesh has taken decision to build 128 km railway line linking Gundum, a Bangladeshi border town, linking with Trans Asian Railway (TAR-1) running through Myanmar. Bangladesh and Myanmar should at this hour snatch all opportunities and go for generating more economic activities and take more and more CBM measures. The ASEAN way of approach encompassing, amongst other things, non-confrontational, consensual, incremental and non interventionist ways to resolve regional conflicts can also be taken as guidelines.

The Kunming, Myanmar and Bangladesh road would provide connectivity for more economic activities. The deep sea port at Sonadia of Chittagong too, would also give Myanmar exploit the opportunity for rapid development of Arakan and Chin state, which are separated from main Myanmar area by Arakan-Yuma range. Moreover, Bangladesh and Myanmar can take other measures like going for joint agricultural production or building factories etc in that part of Myanmar. Bangladesh has the expertise and necessary manpower, Myanmar can provide land and other ancillary facilities for agricultural ventures. Should China come forward with economic assistance then, this would open up new horizon of cooperation.

Bangladesh and India: Forging a New Relationship

Geography dictates that destines of India and Bangladesh are inextricably intertwined. This makes Bangladesh a very special neighbour of India. Strategic importance of Bangladesh increased further after India embarked upon ‘Look East Policy’ to expand its economic and strategic linkages with the ASEAN region and beyond.

India and Bangladesh has the manpower, commonality of language history/culture, market demand, including many a thing common but so long did not have the will to act boldly and imaginatively. Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina’s visit in Jan 2010 to India revealed that, both countries recognise great benefit in working closely. The PM’s path breaking visit to India holds out promise of a paradigm shift. During her visit a number of decisions on improving rail and road connectivity between Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan; cross border crime and terrorism agreements; help in power sector, providing a loan of US$ I billion for infrastructural development, using of two Bangladeshi ports and making a new railway line to transship goods to NE part of India are few worthy of being mentioned. However, the loan disbursement terms and conditions have been met with criticisms from various corners. As such this needs to be carefully addressed.

India needs support from Bangladesh for progress of NE India. NE part of India is the ultimate gateway for implementing India’s ‘Look East’ policy and ‘Vision 2020’. India is expected to pump Rupees 20 trillion for generating a 9% growth of NE India. The North Eastern part of India being contagious through Bangladesh is a natural market for many Bangladeshi products and goods. It only needs a broader understanding on the Indian part, which we feel will make it easier for forging a close economic relationship between the two countries. The BIMSTEC forum can be a great boon for Bangladesh in drawing India closer. Bangladesh while integrating economically with the East Asia and the ASEAN can go step by step. The optimal success of India’s economic integration requires Bangladesh’s cooperation. Bangladesh can’t and should not be kept away from the, larger Asian integration process. Apart from this, business communities of both the countries are also trying to forge greater economic cooperation.

In publicly articulating India’s long term vision for a integrated Asia, from the Himalayas to the Pacific, Indian PM Man Mohan Singh has made it clear that India is conscious of this imperative. The need now is for practical steps to demonstrate that India is both sensitive and generous towards its neighbours. The ‘Gujral Doctrine’ too if implemented in its true spirit perhaps would perhaps had generated more activities for bringing both the two neighbours closer.

Issues of Soft Power: The role of civil society and culture in promoting inter state and inter region relationship is taking a new shape in this region. The ‘Track -2’ record of ASEAN is worthy of being mentioned here. The advance in IT (information technology) has given an opportunity to the rapidly evolving civil society keep in touch with each other irrespective of their location. Bangladesh has a good presence of working force in many of the ASEAN countries. Interaction between Bangladeshi people and people to people orientation of the ASEAN countries is forging ahead with country to country relation. Bangladesh is a member of ARF, BIMSTEC and BCIM is taking initiative for the implementation of regional mechanism of APT. Moreover, maritime security is of vital importance to Bangladesh and other Asian countries. Bangladesh is trying to settle her maritime issues amicably. The worldwide cooperation in keeping a free sea lane is gaining momentum. In areas of nontraditional security such as terrorism too Bangladesh has made great stride. Bangladesh’s strong stand against all form of terrorism has been acclaimed by all peace loving people.

ASEAN and Bangladesh: Bangladesh has made a constructive step in exploring its Eastern horizon, namely it’s southeast and East Asian neighbours. As part of reorientation of economic and foreign policy, Bangladesh adopted ‘Look East Policy’, to engage with the countries of the East (ASEAN+3) to increase trade and investment relations with them.

Geographical proximity with ASEAN countries having land boundary with Myanmar gives Bangladesh a wider scope of carrying out economic activities and mutual cooperation with them. The thirteen nations (ASEAN plus three) have achieved a higher degree of economic development in the last three decades- and experts believe that these countries will continue to attain such economic performance in the next foreseeable future too. It is assumed that Bangladesh’s cooperation with these countries will boost Bangladesh’s economic performance by opening up market for various types of Bangladeshi goods. Presently, the trade imbalance is in ASEAN favour, Bangladesh has to work hard with the ASEAN countries and go for some type of arrangement to offset this trade imbalance. Bangladesh performance in BIMSTEC, India and China’s help (through forums like BICM) can be a great boon for the economic development of this part of the world.

In pursuance of Bangladesh’s ‘Look East Policy’ the Sino-Bangladesh relationship has for long time been the focus of foreign policy attention. Southeast Asia and its regional organisation, ASEAN provided a very useful and constructive platform for countries like Bangladesh. Bangladesh’s inclusion in the ARF amply justifies the same. However, we feel that, this doesn’t justify the concept of putting SAARC in the backbench of South Asian class. Bangladesh is a rising democracy having one of the largest Muslim populations in the world. Its position in many of the key world forums along with its active contribution in many global events has brought Bangladesh to position what we see today. This aspect of Bangladesh’s standpoint has been recognised by China and also other super powers and countries, which was reaffirmed during the visit of Chinese Vice President. The Bangladesh-China relationship is a new model of partnership in the sense that it is not been designed as a ‘counterpoise’, or a traditional balance of power arrangement in search of an equilibrium, or even a tilt against another power, as the ChinaPakistan relationship vis a vis India. Rather in this case, Bangladesh is happy to be a conduit, or a bridge connecting China to India.

Bangladesh government is also going for a paradigm shift in its relations with two of its neighbours specially India. The ‘Look East’ Policy of India will be implemented effectively once Bangladesh is taken into confidence with making of the deep sea port at Sonadia of Chittagong. This can handle the voluminous economic activity that the Indian NE states will generate in order to materialise Indian vision-2020. The Kunming initiative and the spirit of BCIM forum would definitely add impetus to this effort. Also if the idea of BCIM takes off, this ‘quadrilateralism’ could have enormous positive ramifications for lessening tensions and also serve as a model for other part of Asia on how to draw China into a collaborative relationship. This would be inline with what Singapore’s Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who suggested recently – a new kind of “Asian Regional Architecture”, more fluid then others elsewhere such as the European Union, and “Many Overlapping Layers and Mechanisms. A new impetus for forging good relationship with Myanmar is also in the offing. The various economic initiatives of strategic importance will definitely bring Myanmar to the friendship fold of Bangladesh. All of us aspire that the menace of poverty will be eradicated from us for ever.

The Bangladesh PM also did visit South Korea and Malaysia as a part of Bangladesh foreign policy implementation of, ‘Look East’. In today’s world nothing matters more then economic aspect. Pan-Asianisin can truly give us the real insight to this strategic aspect. Engagement in regional cooperation with East Asia would allow the Bangladesh government to exploit the functional preference of global capital for regional markets. Bangladesh’s policy makers should be aware of the potential of regionalism as a magnet for FDI once they realize that foreign investors are registering strong interest in and are actually investing in regionalist projects established elsewhere. This is the contagion explanation of regionalism highlighted by Ravenhill. Once implemented the theme of this summit will find pillar of its roof for ‘Pan-Asian Bridgehead Strategy’ towards ASEAN finding the needed strength.

Brig Gen Shah Muhammad Sultan Uddin Iqbal BP, ndu, psc (retd) is former chairman of SAARC Meteorological Centre (SMRC)

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Special Reports
Boycotts expected in Myanmar vote
Published: Oct. 25, 2010 at 12:04 PM

YANGON, Myanmar, Oct. 25 (UPI) — General elections scheduled for November in Myanmar are a “sham” and pro-reform groups should stay away, an opposition leader said.

Myanmar is gearing up for general elections next month that it says moves the country along a path toward civilian leadership. The military, however, is guaranteed a sizable portion of the seats in parliament, leading observers to question the claims from military leaders.

The military junta disbanded several parties ahead of the election, meaning several ethnic groups aren’t represented at the polls. Others, The Wall Street Journal reports, are calling for a general boycott of the election because they don’t believe the vote will be transparent.

Aye Kyaw, a chairman of a party affiliated with the opposition National League for Democracy, said there is no point taking part in the military’s latest experiment.

“It’s going to be a sham election, so we’re trying to get that message out,” he was quoted as saying. “People should stay away from the polling stations.”

Nyan Win, the country’s foreign minister, told the U.N. General Assembly, that there were 37 political parties from different ethnic groups competing in the election.

“Such a large participation made it crystal clear that the elections become virtually inclusive,” he said last month.

Analysts told the Journal, however, that the diverse turnout expected by the military junta was optimistic.

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The Third Age – Aung San Suu Kyi Under House Arrest During Myanmar’s Elections
By ThirdAge News Staff
Posted October 25, 2010 12:02 PM

Aung San Suu Kyi will remain under house arrest and Myanmar’s military government said Monday it will not let foreign media cover next month’s election. Only diplomats and representatives of U.N. organizations based in the country can observe the Nov. 7 vote, election commission Chairman Thein Soe told Radio France Internationale.

“Our country has a lot of experience in elections,” he said. “We are holding the election for this country. It’s not for other countries.”

Thein Soe said that for voters to “cast their votes freely,” no photography or filming will be allowed in polling stations. He said ballots would be counted “in front of voters.”

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will remain under house arrest until after the election, and one quarter of the parliament seats are reserved for the military, the report said.

The Supreme Court heard Suu Kyi’s latest appeal against her detention Monday, but said it could not make a decision right away.

Even if she is released, observers say the regime probably will not let her campaign freely. Her lawyer said she wants to use Twitter if released, the report said.

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CRIENGLISH – Myanmar Fully Confident of Role Played by UN
2010-10-25 12:44:36     Xinhua

“Myanmar has full faith in the important role being played by the United Nations in promoting social justice, economic progress and better standard of living of the citizens of the world,” said Myanmar top leader Senior-General Than Shwe in his message on the occasion of the 65th anniversary UN Day carried on official media Monday.

Noting that the global economy is gradually recovering from a deep recession, Than Shwe, Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council, however, said many countries still face daunting challenges, stressing that the economy recovery has yet to effectively lift the low-income countries from the deep recession.

He pointed out that the developing countries have been hit hardest by the global economic and financial crisis, sadly making it more difficult for them to meet the time lines set for the realization of Millennium Development Goals.

He also pointed out that since the millennium declaration was adopted in 2000, the pace of progress in the implementation of the millennium development goals by developing countries is uneven, saying that imbalance in the global economic, financial and trade environment remain a major impediment for many developing countries.

He warned that the emerging global issues of climate change, food and energy crisis threaten to undermine their hard-won socio-economic progress, including the achievements in the implementation of the millennium development goals.

“We pin our hopes on the United Nations in bringing about a better, more prosperous and peaceful world,” he added in expectation.

Myanmar is among the 192 member nations of the UN.

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Monsters and Critics – Investors adopt wait-and-see stance on post-election Myanmar (Feature)
By Ko Ko and Peter Janssen Oct 25, 2010, 4:56 GMT

Yangon/Bangkok – At Yangon airport, Min Aung shook hands with a South Korean businessman in town to assess opportunities in the ‘Golden Land,’ Myanmar’s slightly misleading nickname.

‘He said he would come back after the election. He wants to wait and see,’ said Min Aung, who did not want to be identified by his real name.

Myanmar’s junta will hold an election for the first time in 20 years on November 7, but few are expecting significant changes to either the political or economic environment.

Western democracies and the United Nations have condemned the junta for excluding the main opposition National League for Democracy party via skewered election regulations.

Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD head, will be under house arrest until November 13, scheduled for release a week after the election.

The pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party is expected to win the polls and, since it is packed with ex-military men, the new government will amount to little more than a wardrobe change for the regime.

While Western democracies often accept the outcomes of sham elections in one-party communist states such as China, Laos and Vietnam, they may be disinclined to do so in Myanmar.

Western firms, at least multinational ones, a waiting for a go-ahead from their governments before rushing in.

‘A lot will depend on the reaction of Western governments,’ said Stefan Buerkle, director of the German-Thai Chamber of Commerce. ‘If Western governments say this was a ‘sort of election’ and we can work together in the future, then presumably also businesses would change their policies.’

At present, most multinational Western firms do not venture into Myanmar for fear of the stigma attached to doing business with the sanctioned pariah state, which could prove bad for sales in markets such as the US and Europe.

The Myanmar stigma, however, has not stopped Asian firms from going where Westerners fear to tread.

Foreign investment approvals surged in the first seven months of 2010 to 16.1 billion dollars, according to the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development.

During the previous 20 years, Myanmar’s total approved foreign direct investment amounted to only 16 billion dollars, although only a fraction of that was actualized.

As of mid-2010, Thailand maintained its position as top investor, with 10.3 billion dollars in projects, while China came second with 6.4 billion, followed by Hong Kong with 5.9 billion dollars.

Analysts expect China to overtake Thailand soon. South Korea is another rising star with 2.4 billion dollars worth of investments approved in 2010 alone.

Most investments so far have been in petroleum, mining and hydroelectricity projects.

‘Now investors also explore opportunities in other sectors like infrastructure and banking. Some came with the proposal of bullet trains projects,’ a Yangon-based diplomat said.
On paper, Myanmar’s macroeconomic performance is looking good.

The country has enjoyed a trade surplus for the past eight years, thanks to increasing exports of natural gas to neighbouring Thailand.

In the last fiscal year through March 31, Myanmar’s exports amounted to 6.9 billion dollars, 38.4 per cent of which were gas sales to Thailand.

Deputy Commerce Minister Aung Tun said the country’s gross domestic product grew 10.4 per cent last year. Inflation was only 2.4 per cent and the kyat currency has actually appreciated against the dollar to 920 kyat on the black market compared with 1,000 in 2009.

The government’s statistics are notoriously unbelievable. Also, the entire state system will require a complete revamp if the country is to become attractive to Western investors.

‘Instead of functioning amidst formal rights and laws, economic activity in Burma exists according to a set of parallel rules of the informal economy – rules determined by arbitrary procedures for dispute settlement, nepotistic patron-client relationships between the military, state and business, extralegal allocations of natural resource concessions and of licences to engage in external activity, and by a governing apparatus that is as unpredictable as it is predatory,’ Australian economist Sean Turnell wrote.

With the election expected to bring the same generals back to power, prospects for significant economic reforms are bleak.

‘Investors expect that there may be changes after the election,’ said one Yangon-based economist. ‘They will not invest until they see real change.’

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The Jakarta Post – Editorial: And the winner is … the junta
Mon, 10/25/2010 9:51 AM | Editorial

No prize for guessing the real winners of the Nov. 7 election in Myanmar. The junta’s decision to bar foreign observers and foreign journalists from covering the polls came as no surprise. It confirmed what we knew all along: There will be an election that is anything but free and fair — and whose outcome has been decided long beforehand.

The junta has done everything to make sure it retains control of the government. Myanmar’s military will automatically receive 20 percent of the seats in the parliament. The junta also barred political figures and parties that might upset their desired outcome. Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi remained in detention and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party, which was robbed of its victory in the country’s last election in 1990, was dissolved.

The generals must have taken a page from the history of Indonesia’s elections under Soeharto in the 1980s and 1990s. The junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) will be the civilian face of what is essentially a military-controlled party, in the same way that Golkar was used by Soeharto and his generals. Myanmar’s junta learned from the best, and then improvised by barring foreign monitoring.

Since Soeharto is now dead and the nation has moved on to become a democracy (or some would say, a semi-democracy), it is unlikely that the Indonesian government will be blamed for inspiring Myanmar’s generals. But Jakarta will still have to take a stand on the electoral process of a fellow ASEAN member state. With Indonesia set to chair ASEAN next year, the region and the world are waiting to see how Jakarta responds.

The way the election has been managed is a gross violation of the values enshrined in the ASEAN Charter. While ASEAN continues to uphold the principle of non-interference, Myanmar’s junta is making a complete mockery of the charter’s provisions on freedom, human rights and democracy.

Since we already know how the election will run, and what its outcome will be, the Indonesian government may as well form its opinion now instead of waiting until Nov. 7, and start sounding out support for the prospect of expelling Myanmar from ASEAN. Anything less will only serve to undermine Indonesia’s chairmanship next year.

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Inter Press Service News Agency
Looking Beyond Burma’s 2010 Elections
By Kanya D’Almeida

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 24, 2010 (IPS) – While scores of international observers wait on tenterhooks for the first election in Burma in two decades – and one of only three multiparty elections in 60 years – a report by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights there suggests that the world need not wait for Nov. 7 to judge the outcome.

“The election process has been deeply flawed and disappointing,” Tomas Quintana said this week.

Early in September, Burma’s military Elections Commissioner announced that voting will not be held in some 3,300 villages in the Shan state, effectively disenfranchising 1.5 million voters.

Over 2,000 prisoners of conscience, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, continue to languish in prison despite repeated calls from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and others for their release.

The leading opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), was not even allowed to contest elections and already more than 20 extrajudicial killings have taken place.

In response to Quintana’s report to the Third Committee of the General Assembly earlier this week, the delegate from Britain stated that the “election result is a foregone conclusion”, adding that the international community must now look beyond the elections and towards options such as the Commission of Inquiry (CoI), a suggestion put forth on multiple occasions by the Special Rapporteur.

“A number of member states have expressed support for a CoI,” Quintana said. “Others have said that such an accountability measure will be counterproductive and that continued engagement would be preferred. This is a false dichotomy. An investigation of this kind would not preclude international engagement with the new government.”

Despite Quintana’s balanced report, public debate among U.N. member states continues to be dictated not by legal precedent but rather by regional ties, economic motivations and political alliances.

According to the most recent figures released by Burma’s Central Statistical Office, Thailand currently receives 52 percent of Burma’s exports, India receives 17 percent and China receives nine percent. China is also Burma’s largest import source, supplying as much as 32 percent of total imports.

Thus it came as no surprise that the most outspoken critics of Quintana’s report were the delegates of Thailand, China, India and Burma itself, all of whom denounced the report as one-sided and “biased” and warned that a CoI would only be “destructive” to the post-election climate.

With economic incentives driving superpowers’ decisions, the chances of a CoI mandated by the General Assembly or the Security Council are slim, despite the backing of the European Union, Norway and Canada.

Some human rights advocates have been adamant that such self-serving motivations are highly short-sighted. According to Debbie Stothard, the executive director of ALTSEAN, the Alternative Asean Network on Burma, “The reality is that any country that wishes to have sustainable trade relations with Burma has to realise that the international crimes there are generating instability which is not conducive to trade.”

While the U.N. balks at the CoI, several experts, including Professor Tyler Giannini, director of Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC), are keen to deter what they see as an imminent catastrophe unfurling in Burma.

Addressing a press gathering in early October, Giannini laid out, in strictly legal terms, the case for a CoI into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma.

“We decided to look specifically at only U.N. documents,” Giannini said, referring to the IHRC’s publication ‘Crimes in Burma’. “The conclusion was that U.N. institutions have consistently acknowledged abuses and used legal terms associated with international crimes, including that violations have been ‘widespread’, ‘systematic’ or ‘part of a state policy’.”

“Based on previous precedent,” Giannini concluded, “the U.N.’s next step should be to set up a CoI and that follows directly from comparisons to Darfur and to Rwanda and to former Yugoslavia.”

Giannini’s allusions to genocide are in line with the opinions of countless other human rights experts. “What we’ve seen unfolding in Burma over the past few decades has been a slow burning genocide for several communities,” Stothard told IPS.

“We’ve seen what happened in Cambodia,” she added. “Southeast Asia has already hosted one terrible tragedy. The longer the regional and international community refuses to deal with Burma the longer they condemn our region to yet another similar situation.”

The Special Rapporteur expressed similar fears about Burma’s future, post-elections.

“It will take a long time for Myanmar to have meaningful democratic institutions,” Quintana told IPS. “This country has been under military government for 40 years. It is militarised at every level.”

But while conversations continue in press rooms and conference halls, the situation on the ground in Burma becomes more and more intolerable for those living there.

Wa Ku Shee, a representative of the Women’s League of Burma, could not hold back her tears during her presentation to the United Nations Burma Fund in early October.

Haltingly, she described the plight of a mother with two infants fleeing her village from soldiers. When her daughter was shot, she was forced to leave her dying in the forest in the hopes of carrying her son to safety. Before she reached the hospital, her son was shot in the thigh, and eventually bled to death in her arms.

“The situation of the civilians in the middle of this armed conflict is extreme,” Quintana told IPS. “It is not enough to say we need free and fair elections. We need to include justice for past violations in order to deter future violations and this is a serious challenge.”

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The Irrawaddy – EDITORIAL: Arakan’s Woes
Monday, October 25, 2010

Last week, the regime staged a lavish ceremony to welcome a white elephant to Naypyidaw. Snr-Gen Than Shwe himself was on hand to feed the elephant. The people in cyclone-hit Arakan State should be so luck.

Burma now has five white elephants, almost all captured in Arakan State. The latest white elephant will bring prosperity, peace and good luck to the nation, said the generals.

However, the people in Arakan State are not so lucky, and they are now suffering. On Friday when Cyclone Giri struck, 26 people died and thousands were left homeless, according to preliminary estimates.

Many villages were washed away in the storm, and the damage to property and infrastructure will be large. The full extent of damage will not be known until later this week.

But will we ever really know, given that the media is heavily censored whenever natural disasters hit the nation?

Of course, political news is always censored too. The category III cyclone slammed into Burma’s lower coast 16 days ahead of the country’s general election.

Like in the past, monks, students and private donors will come to the aid of local residents, while regime officials ponder how to respond.

There have been no reports of senior regime officials organizing or taking part in a relief effort.

On Sunday, two days after the cyclone struck, a ceremony to mark the 65th Anniversary of United Nations Day was held at Myanmar [Burma] International Convention Centre In Naypyidaw.

Prime Minister U Thein Sein, who is also head of the regime Union Solidarity Development Party, mentioned Cyclone Nargis that struck lower Burma in 2008.

“After Cyclone Nargis, we have managed to overcome the emergency situation with assistance from the UN, Asean and the international community. We have successfully managed to rehabilitate the cyclone affected areas,” he said.

He made no mention of Cyclone Giri, the dead, the scope of the disaster or whatever, if any, relief effort the state would launch.

Also on Sunday, according to Rangoon sources, Prime Minister Thein Sein made no response when the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Rangoon, Bishow Parajuli, told him that the international community was ready and willing to help the cyclone victims.

Sources said the UN’s international staff and international NGO staff are being prevented from entering the cyclone-affected areas and are restricted to Sittwe, the state’s capital.
“Only the local staff are allowed to go to all the affected areas. International staff need special traveling permits,” sources said.

Like Cyclone Nargis, the warning given to local residents before the storm was irresponsibly slow. Throughout the past week, the official Burmese meteorology department repeatedly denied the reports of an approaching storm, trying to assuage public fears.

The generals who ordered the capture of the white elephants in Arakan State have little understanding of the calamity and suffering of the people there, a region that has long distrusted the regime.

The generals’ lack of concern for the people’s welfare, the slowness of emergency aid and the shortcomings of the public warning system will surely lead the victims to take some revenge and punish the regime’s USDP party in the upcoming election.

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Elections and the role of ‘private’ publishers
Monday, 25 October 2010 20:55
Mizzima News

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Local and international media have Burma under a microscope as the 2010 general elections draw near, with constant news, analyses, articles and interviews. But amid the country’s notoriously heavy censorship, the local independent media have been able to exercise relative fairness in reporting ahead of the November 7 election, the first nationwide polls for 20 years, according to some private news journal editors.

Even so, the state censorship has restricted news faulting the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and news and articles recounting anything about the 1990 general elections, won in a landslide by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party. She remains under house arrest after spending at least 15 of the years since her win in detention, the current term against which she is appealing in Burma’s top court.

Mizzima spoke to the editor of a journal that mainly publishes news and asked about the conditions under which journals are being printed in the run-up to the elections.

“We can write … encouraging the public to vote in the election. But news and columns attacking parties, especially the USDP, are rejected [by state censors],” the editor said. “We have to take that kind of news very seriously.”

“It is also unacceptable to retell some of the events of 1990. We can’t report how free it was or how it was conducted, but on many other matters we can report and print stories,” he said.

Some Rangoon-based popular journals, such as The Myanmar Times, The Yangon Times, The Weekly, The Voice Weekly and The Monitor, have reported on the elections in separate sections.

An editor from another journal said that there was a new openness towards political coverage.

“If we look at the past 20 years, this is the freest time to write about news on political parties and to report on politics in general. In the past, some elected representatives from political parties were imprisoned for their political activities and detained for various reasons. We couldn’t report about these politicians. Now that the election is going to be held soon, especially since the polls were announced, we have been quite free to report about political parties.

“It is more open than before,” the second journal editor said.

However, a Rangoon resident said people read journals because they wanted to know about the political parties and candidates standing in the election, but financial constraints meant the number of people who have access to these journals was still low.

“The sector of the population that can afford to buy these journals is quite small. It is impossible to gain a proper picture about the parties and their candidates … We find journals to read about political parties, their candidates, what they promise to do for the people, how the situation is different between the past election and this one, and how they can promote human rights and freedom. Then we can obtain a balanced view of their positions.”

However, a female resident of Mandalay said many voters were uninterested in the election.

“I see many journals report this and that political news but I don’t read them because I can’t understand the issues and I’m not interested in the subject. I can’t spend much time thinking about it as I’m far too busy,” the woman said.

Dr. Than Win, an organiser of the National Democratic Force (NDF) party, which broke away from Suu Kyi’s NLD party to take part in the polls, spoke to Mizzima about how private media was one way around obstacles the junta had put up preventing parties’ access to state-run media.

The political parties were allowed to use state media only once for canvassing, but the independent candidates were prevented from enjoying the same right to broadcast their policies on state television and were rendered ineligible to state them in daily newspapers. For that reason, the local private media outlets have been essential for politicians to reach the public, he said.

“The [private] media is very important to our political activities because they and our policies are not reported in the state media. We were only allowed to broadcast once on state television. But people can access quite freely what political parties are doing in the private journals, which are published weekly. As we can’t access state media, we have to rely on private media. As media are reporting our activities, people will know what political parties are doing and it could raise their interest. I believe that in this way, they will help us to victory in the election.”

U Zozam, chairman of the Chin National Party said that when parties were reporting their policies and positions in the state media, the junta had heavily censored them.

“On state TV, I talked about how the Union Solidarity and Development Association was transformed into the USDP but my comments were not aired. We can access [the electorate] through TV in the countryside but many journals aren’t distributed here. I stated my party’s policies for about 15 minutes on state TV and almost five minutes were cut. As we are living in the Chin mountains, it is very difficult to explain policies to people in a 10-minute speech.”

While the political parties have praised the role of the private media, state media reported last week that Thein Soe, chairman of the junta’s electoral watchdog, the Union Election Commission, had banned international media and independent monitors from entering Burma in the run-up to the polls.

Burma’s press freedom flourished prior to the 1962 military coup, making it one of the freest among Asian countries for independent media, with more than 30 daily newspapers published. Now, Burma publishes only two state-controlled daily newspapers and Paris-based Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index ranks it 174 out of 178 countries.

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DVB News – Than Shwe ‘pinning hopes’ on UN
By DAN WITHERS
Published: 25 October 2010

Burmese junta chief Than Shwe has hailed the UN’s work in promoting global living standards in a move that critics claim smacks of irony.

The 77-year-old yesterday issued a statement in the state-run New Light of Myanmar that said: “We pin our hopes on the United Nations in bringing about a better, more prosperous and peaceful world,” and praised its work  “promoting social justice [and] economic progress”. The statement was made to mark United Nations Day.

But critics said the comments were highly ironic given his government’s record in promoting the same goals for its own citizens. “Based on where the junta is spending the money, there’s no sign that this regime is sensitive to the notion of social justice. It’s all words, with no substance at all,” said Burma analyst Maung Zarni.

The country’s record in providing electricity supply was just one area in which the government was letting its citizens down, he told DVB. Regional countries such as Cambodia and Laos were aiming for 90 to 95 percent electrification in rural areas.

By contrast, less than 20 percent of Burmese households have electricity supply, Zarni said. The country was nevertheless exporting huge amounts of energy to neighbouring countries such as Thailand and China.

Zarni also pointed to the expulsion of UN country chief Charles Petrie from Burma in 2007 after he made comments deploring the country’s humanitarian situation. Petrie’s visa was not renewed one week after a press conference at which he made comments that clearly displeased the Burmese regime.

“They for all intents and purposes expelled a world-respected UN coordinator three years ago simply because he mentioned the social, economic and humanitarian conditions in a somewhat unfavourable light,” Zarni said.

Amnesty International’s Burma researcher, Benjamin Zawacki, echoed the criticisms, claming that social justice and economic progress were “clearly not a priority” for Than Shwe. Indeed, keeping the population of Burma poor, especially in ethnic areas, had been used by the junta as a political tool.

“It’s not even that these things have been neglected in Myanmar [Burma],” he said. “Humanitarian assistance and economic development – these things are actually politicised in this country and used as yet another tool of the government for suppressing its people. So the irony there is palpable.”

The government was failing to achieve most of its UN Millennium Development Goals, he added. Of the eight goals, which Burma is committed to achieving by 2015, the country is on track only to achieve the provision of universal primary education and promoting gender equality and empowering women.

“Most of them are way behind in terms of their targets, and even those that are on target have largely been because of international assistance or other forces that are independent of the government’s own efforts,” he said. “The government has really failed to take any affirmative steps towards the realisation of economic and social progress in the country.”

A number of United Nations agencies have a presence in Burma, including the United Nations Development Programme, UNICEF, the UNHCR and UNAIDS.

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DVB News – Pro-junta parties to dominate Mandalay
By FRANCIS WADE
Published: 25 October 2010

The two leading pro-junta parties in Burma’s looming elections will stand alone in half the constituencies in Mandalay division, where the secretive capital Naypyidaw is located.

The National Unity Party (NUP) and Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), the two strongest by a length in terms of numbers of candidates, stand as the only competition to one another in 57 of Mandalay’s 104 constituencies, the Weekly Eleven Journal has reported.

Mandalay is the second-most populous of Burma’s 14 states and divisions, with around 6.3 million people.

The news follows an announcement last week by the Election Commission (EC) that only one candidate will run in 54 of the 1158 constituencies in Burma. The head of the junta-appointed EC, Thein Soe, said that it is therefore not necessary to hold balloting in those areas.

More than 1,100 candidates have been fielded by the USDP, which is headed by Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein and looks set to win the 7 November polls. The NUP has close to 1000, while the strongest opposition party, the National Democratic Force (NDF), will field only 163.

The huge financial clout of the USDP, which evolved from the junta’s so-called civic wing, the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), has meant that it can afford the 500,000 kyat (US$500) required for each candidate, while smaller parties have fallen by the wayside. It is also bolstered by the presence of nearly 30 retired junta officials.

Relations between the USDP and NUP, which came second in the 1990 elections, are said to be strained – NUP spokesman Han Shwe appeared to dispel conjecture that the two were natural allies when he told DVB last month that the USDP “was competition”.

The NUP is also attempting to sue the USDP over allegations of foul play during campaigning for Burma’s first elections in 20 years. Critics say that the might of the USDP means the result is a foregone conclusion, while pledges by the junta that Burma will switch to civilian rule have been countered with the fact that 25 percent of parliamentary seats are already reserved for the military.

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DVB News – Death toll rises on cyclone-hit coast
By SHWE AUNG
Published: 25 October 2010

Winds have finally begun to subside along Burma’s cyclone-hit western coast but some 30 people are now thought to be dead or missing.

In the worst-hit areas of Kyaukphyu and Myebon towns in Arakan state, hundreds of houses were flattened as cyclone Giri hit the shoreline on Friday last week, with landfall wind strength thought to be higher than 2008’s cyclone Nargis.

“We heard that people were killed in Pyinwun village in Myebon township – there are about 30 people missing or dead,” a Kyaukphyu resident told DVB. “We guess that their buildings were swept along with the tidal waves.”

Many of the Kyaukphyu’s residents were however able to evacuate before the full force of the cyclone arrived, meaning casualties there were minimal. The resident said the town still bore a lot of damage.

“[It] began to get fierce around 3pm [on Friday] and people had already fled the town by 6pm. They left behind their houses and food stocks which were all destroyed by the cyclone.”

Estimates of the death toll have varied – one anonymous report circulated bycommunity groups in Arakan state puts the number confirmed at 17, with a further 50 hospitalised. It added that more than 70 percent of buildings in Kyaukphyu have been destroyed.

State media in Burma was slow to respond to the disaster, but an article in today’s New Light of Myanmar said that government ministers had visited the worst-hit towns.

“Today, they inspected clearing of debris in wards, and encouraged the victims at makeshift camp. There, they presented clothes, foodstuff, bottles of water, CI [corrugated iron] sheets, construction materials and cash assistance.”

The Arakan report said that swathes of agricultural land, as well as fishing boats and equipment, had also been badly damaged. Around 2,800 people left homeless by the storm were still waiting for aid. The report also criticised the slow response to the cyclone.

“There has still been very little assistance from international aid agencies, the government or Arakanese communities in the region for the homeless. Most of cyclone victims remain in desperate need of help for their basic needs of food and shelter,” it said.

Distribution of aid in Burma is notoriously poor, with the junta regularly restricting the movement of aid workers. Following cyclone Nargis in May 2008, which killed some 140,000 people, numbers of unofficial relief workers were imprisoned.

Burmese meteorologist Dr Tun Lwin said that another storm is likely to follow in the next month or so.

“I forecasted [last month] that about three to five [storms] would come in October and November,” he said. “So far there has already been four so there is about a 60 percent chance that at least one more storm will follow in November.”

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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.