BBC News – Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi ‘has foot soldiers’ support’
AP – On the streets of Myanmar, little hope for change
AP – Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi presses party’s case
AFP – Suu Kyi release could boost Myanmar’s economy
Reuters – FACTBOX-U.S. cites repression of religious freedom
CP – Myanmar’s ruling generals insist democracy is coming, but its people have long given up hope
International Herald Tribune – Difficult Issues Clamor for Advocate’s Attention
Deutsche Welle – EU special envoy for Myanmar urges ‘democratic transition’
CSM – A new US-China dance over Burma after release of Aung San Suu Kyi
Forbes – Where Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s Nobel Prize Winner, Is Wrong
Asian Correspondent – Can Suu Kyi stand a chance of looking into Burma’s vote-rigging?
Daily Telegraph – Burma regime warns Aung San Suu Kyi against election challenge
AsiaNews.it – Junta to jail people who complain about election fraud, warns Aung San Suu Kyi
Rediff.com – Why India needs to tweak its Myanmar policy
The Malaysian Mirror – Is Burma’s genie out of the bottle?
EarthTimes – Norway offers open invitation to Myanmar opposition leader Suu Kyi
EarthTimes – Suu Kyi visits HIV-positive patients in Myanmar
Times & Transcript – Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi visits HIV/AIDS shelter, promising to get medicine
New Straits Times – Aung San Suu Kyi: Free others, too
ClickPress (press release) – DirectRooms.com: Key parallel and soft computing issues are reviewed in Myanmar on 10 December 2010
New Kerala – Myanmar: 100,000 cyclone survivors homeless
The Nation – Burma seeks humanitarian aid for fleeing people
The Nation – Five Acmecs nations to support new trade lane linking Thailand, Burma, Malaysia
The Nation – Authorities urged to take better care of refugees
Bangkok Post – Opinion: Economic dependence subjugates policy
Lakehouse Daily News, Sri Lanka – Maha Sangha commends Myanmar
The Japan Times – Myanmar engagement to continue
The Irrawaddy – Long Cut Off, Suu Kyi Embraces a Brave New World
The Irrawaddy – Mae Tao Clinic to Relocate
The Irrawaddy – UN Security Council to Discuss Burma Issue
Mizzima News – The Suu Kyi factor
DVB News – Party calls for USDP abolishment
DVB News – Suu Kyi reignites push for ethnic autonomy
*************************************************************
17 November 2010 Last updated at 11:13 ET
BBC News – Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi ‘has foot soldiers’ support’

The BBC Burmese service says it has the first indication of support within the lower ranks of the military for pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.Infantrymen from two Burmese army divisions confirmed reports that several hundred soldiers travelled to Rangoon to witness her release.

They said they hoped she could talk to their superiors about supply shortages.

Ms Suu Kyi’s release came a week after a military-backed political party won Burma’s first election in 20 years.

The ballot was widely condemned as a sham.

Ms Suu Kyi, 65, was freed after her latest period of house arrest expired and was not renewed by the military government.

‘High hopes’

The extent of support for her in the army is not clear.

A number of soldiers from battalions in Rangoon and Bago divisions and their families went to Aung San Suu Kyi’s house on the 13 November to greet her on her release.

“We went there to greet her because we believe the hardships the lower rank and file are facing can be solved if Ms Suu Kyi and the military commanders work together.

“We have high hopes for Ms Suu Kyi,” a soldier told the BBC Burmese service.

It follows reports in September that soldiers in many areas were refusing to carry out routine tasks in protest at short rations and lack of access to their pay.

In a series of BBC interviews, soldiers in garrison towns said their rations had been cut for weeks.

They said commanders had barred access to money they had saved, which is kept in a central fund.

The Burmese authorities have denied any disquiet in the military.

*************************************************************
On the streets of Myanmar, little hope for change
2 hrs 24 mins ago

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) – The shopkeeper, a thin, jittery man who has spent nearly half his life in prison, wishes change were coming to Myanmar.But the recent elections were a sham, he says, and the promises of democratic reform are empty words. He celebrated the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, but dismissed the idea it heralds a change in this secretive military-ruled nation.

“This is not a new era,” said Bo Bo Oo, 46, in sentiments echoed around the country, which is also known as Burma. “The generals will not change.”

Globalization reached the long-isolated nation while Bo Bo Oo was in prison, serving 20 years for helping organize pro-democracy protests in 1988. Amid Myanmar’s withering poverty, you can now buy knockoff iPhones at the Mobile World shop in Mandalay and browse for lingerie at the Sexy Girl store in Yangon. You can live in a high-rise condo and watch CNN on satellite TV.

But belief in political change is much harder to find. This is a country battered by its own government, its pessimism shaped by decades of experience. In conversations with dozens of people — farmers, business owners, monks, journalists, housewives and activists — little was heard but anguish.

“The government has the power, and it does not want to give it up,” an elderly Buddhist monk said in the quiet riverside town of Amarapura. He was sitting on a wooden bench in the carefully swept dirt yard of the monastery where he has lived for more than 70 years, not far from the central city of Mandalay.

He remembers the days of British colonialism, and the Japanese occupation during World War II. He can talk about fleeing into the forests when Allied bombs began falling around the town, and the first military coup, in 1958. In 2007, he watched as monks were arrested and even killed during anti-government protests dominated by the Buddhist clergy.

He sees modern Myanmar as the darkest time.

“It’s like a twisting road that just goes on and on,” he said, his robes wrapped tightly around him because of a winter chill, as chickens scrabbled in the dirt behind him. “I don’t know if it will ever stop twisting.”

Like most people in Myanmar, he spoke on condition he not be identified, fearing retribution from the ruling junta’s agents and the “Tatmadaw,” as the army is called.

A few analysts do see signs of change. At the very least, they say, the elections will create new clusters of power in Naypyidaw, the capital city.

In Mandalay, a young businessman also sees a sliver of possibility in the elections.

“I don’t believe in these generals. I cannot see them giving up any power,” he said, walking through the city on a recent evening. “But maybe some new people (in the government) will change something. I hope so.”

Bo Bo Oo, though, sees no hope.

“All this is just about publicity,” he said of the Nov. 7 elections and Suu Kyi’s release last weekend. He owns a little grocery store in Yangon, the former capital once known as Rangoon, and runs a small art gallery with his wife.

Like many, he notes that Suu Kyi’s release came just a week after the first elections in 20 years, giving the junta a desperately needed publicity boost. While the military claims the vote will usher in a democratic government, much of the international community decried it as political burlesque that will entrench the generals behind proxy politicians.

“They want the world to think that this is becoming a democracy. But the Burmese people know the truth,” he said.

Fourteen months after his release from prison, Bo Bo Oo still finds himself startled by freedom. He is nervous handling keys. His hands are often shaky. He jumps when doors suddenly open.

“I don’t like to lock doors,” he said, sitting on a bamboo chair in the art gallery. “I hate being out on the street.”

Myanmar holds nearly 2,200 political prisoners in an archipelago of crumbling prisons. Some of the country’s minority ethnic groups, who have faced brutal repression, back a string of militias that have fought the generals for decades.

The government’s political agenda is seldom clear. Little is known about Than Shwe, the general who heads the junta, beyond rumors and gossip. International officials can go years without meeting him, and new ambassadors, who get a few minutes with him when they present their credentials, are grilled for insights.

His most visible moment came in 2006, when smuggled video footage showed him and his daughter on her wedding day, with her draped in long strings of diamond-encrusted jewelry.

Despite such wealth among the leadership, the country was almost entirely cut off from the outside world until the late 1980s, leaving the economy in ruins. Companies were nationalized, outside investment discouraged and tourists limited to short visits. Today, the country has a per-capita income of about $1,100, and a third of the population lives below the poverty line.

In recent years, that has begun to change. Myanmar is now an increasingly important regional trading hub and has become an ally of both China and India, where energy-hungry companies are desperate for Myanmar’s natural gas and hydroelectric resources.

While poverty remains widespread, the two main cities now have a veneer of modernization.

At luxury hotels in Yangon and Mandalay, pianists play easy-listening versions of Simon and Garfunkel songs in marbled lobbies, entertaining Chinese businessmen and wealthy tourists. The colonial buildings of old Rangoon are disappearing, replaced by malls and housing complexes those businessmen are funding.

It has become a country where you can buy 50-cent bootleg DVDs of “Beach Sex Party” on the streets of Yangon, but go to prison for owning a copy of “Rambo IV,” which has Sylvester Stallone’s character battling the junta.

Such restrictions are part of the daily background of life.

Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail are blocked, along with exile websites, though anyone Internet-savvy knows ways to get around the barriers.

The main English-language newspaper of the junta, The New Light of Myanmar, is filled with Stalinist rhetoric. Almost every day, it promises that democracy is coming.

The New Light recently dismissed previous civilian governments as “like the water that flowed away in complete disorder,” while insisting “the Tatmadaw government’s military rule was aimed at guiding the nation to discipline-flourishing democracy.”

On the streets, though, they just don’t believe it.

“Nothing is immortal, even the generals,” said a young journalist in Mandalay, who asked that his name not be used. “But I think people have given up hope for change.”

*************************************************************
Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi presses party’s case
Tue Nov 16, 11:06 am ET YANGON, Myanmar (AP) – Myanmar’s military government warned Tuesday against filing complaints over the Nov. 7 election — a move that could spell trouble for pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi who has vowed to probe alleged voting irregularities.The warning puts Suu Kyi on a possible collision course with the ruling generals, just days after her release from more than seven years of house arrest. The 65-year-old Nobel Peace laureate must balance the expectations of the country’s pro-democracy movement with the reality that her freedom could be withdrawn any time by the hard-line regime.

Suu Kyi, meanwhile, went on a legal offensive Tuesday, filing an affadavit with the country’s High Court to have her political party reinstated. The junta disbanded it earlier this year for failing to reregister after choosing not to take part in the election, complaining conditions set by the junta were unfair and undemocratic.

In a reminder of how delicately she has to tread, the official Union Election Commission warned Tuesday that political parties making fraudulent complaints about the polls can face harsh legal punishment.

Full results from this month’s elections have yet to be released, but figures so far give the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party a solid majority in both houses of parliament. Critics complain the vote was rigged and designed to cement the power of the military, which has ruled Myanmar for five decades.

Anyone who files fraudulent charges of vote cheating can be jailed for three years, fined 300,000 kyats ($300), or both, the commission said.

Suu Kyi has already announced her intention to join party colleagues in an investigation of alleged electoral fraud. She told reporters, however, that while her party plans to issue a report, it has no plans to protest the results of the election as it didn’t take part.

The election was the first in Myanmar since a 1990 vote won by Suu Kyi’s party. Her National League for Democracy was barred from taking power and has faced near-constant repression.

A day after her release, Suu Kyi told thousands of wildly cheering supporters at her party headquarters Sunday she would continue to fight for human rights and the rule of law. In press interviews, she has spoken more of reconciliation than justice.

Suu Kyi has said she would like to talk to junta leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe, with whom she has not spoken since 2002.

“We have got to be able to talk to each other,” Suu Kyi told the Washington Post in an interview posted on the newspaper’s website Tuesday. “I think, firstly, we have to start talking affably — real genuine talks, not just have some more tea or this or that.”

Nyan Win, who is Suu Kyi’s lawyer as well as a party spokesman, said Myanmar’s High Court will hold a hearing Thursday to decide whether to accept the case from Suu Kyi arguing her party’s dissolution “is not in accordance with the law.”

He said the new Election Commission has no right to deregister parties that were registered under a different Election Commission in 1990.

As she walked into the courthouse Tuesday, about 20 supporters ran toward her to see her while others waited outside to get a glimpse. Security was light with a dozen plainclothes officers watching the crowd.

Suu Kyi has been detained for 15 of the past 21 years but has remained the dominant figure of the NLD. Although her party is now officially dissolved, it has continued operating. Without official recognition, it is in legal limbo, leaving it — and her — vulnerable to government crackdowns.

*************************************************************
Suu Kyi release could boost Myanmar’s economy
by Roberto Coloma – Tue Nov 16, 11:57 pm ET

SINGAPORE (AFP) – The release of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi could pay off economically for Myanmar’s junta even though Western nations are unlikely to ease trade and other sanctions soon, analysts said.For years, the military regime of resource-rich Myanmar has blunted the impact of US and European punitive measures by cultivating trade and investment links with neighbours led by Thailand, China, India, Singapore and Malaysia.

Suu Kyi’s freedom and this month’s rare election may reduce the stigma of doing business with Myanmar, even though her party boycotted the vote and the results were dismissed as a sham by much of the outside world.

“It is a welcome sign. We hope this is the start for a change and that it will encourage more investments in Myanmar,” said a senior official from the Malaysian trade ministry who declined to be named.

But opponents of the junta fear that any increased money flowing into the impoverished country will not improve the lives of ordinary people.

Myanmar is one of the world’s least developed countries, with nearly a third of the population living below the poverty line as the generals and their associates exploit raw materials for their own benefit.

Asian neighbours China, India, and Thailand already overlook human rights concerns in favour of engagement with Myanmar, which boasts oil, gas and other natural resources as well as tremendous tourism potential.

India gave Myanmar leader Than Shwe a red-carpet welcome in July and the two countries signed pacts on border security, road building and finance.

But for India, as the world’s largest democracy, Myanmar’s recent moves could ease domestic political pressure not to prop up the regime.

“The release of Aung Sang Suu Kyi gives India a greater diplomatic space to engage with Myanmar without the fear of being criticised while dealing with the military dictatorship regime,” said C. Uday Bhaskar, director of the New Delhi think-tank National Maritime Foundation.

Thailand is another top investor and trading partner, importing over 90 percent of all of Myanmar’s natural gas exports.

A major Thai construction firm recently signed an eight-billion-dollar infrastructure deal with the military-ruled country, including the construction of a giant deep sea port in the impoverished nation.

China, a single-party state often criticised for its own human-rights record, is also expected to forge closer economic ties regardless of the political situation as it scours the world for natural resources to feed its fast-growing economy.

Indeed, it recently became the largest foreign investor in Myanmar this year, state media in Beijing reported. Among projects already under way, China National Petroleum Corp. is building an oil and gas pipeline from Myanmar’s Kyuakryu port to southwestern China.

“Both the junta and Chinese Communist Party have an understanding that whatever the West and rest of the world thinks about human rights and the Nobel prize, it will not really have an impact on the development of ties and support for each other,” said Professor Ian Holliday at the University of Hong Kong.

Myanmar watchers said it was too early to say if the developments could lead to an easing of Western sanctions on the regime, which is still holding an estimated 2,200 political prisoners, and they underscored the crucial role to be played by Suu Kyi.

Alistair Cook, a fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said Western nations will await “feedback” from Suu Kyi, who plans to consult the people of Myanmar.

“Should they want an end to the economic sanctions, then I am sure Aung San Suu Kyi and other pro-democracy leaders will articulate this. It will be then up to those states imposing economic sanctions to respond accordingly.”

Suu Kyi led her party to a landslide win in Myanmar’s 1990 elections, but the military never recognised the result and kept the Nobel peace prize laureate in detention for 15 of the past 21 years.

Critics of the sanctions say they have done little to undermine military rule and instead aggravated the deprivation of ordinary people in Myanmar.

The United States bans trade with companies tied to the junta in Myanmar. It also freezes such firms’ assets and blocks international loans to the state.

The European Union also has sanctions freezing assets and businesses of junta figures, and blacklisting their travel, but it has continued some trade and investment such as in oil.

*************************************************************
FACTBOX-U.S. cites repression of religious freedom
Wed Nov 17, 2010 8:53pm GMT

Nov 17 (Reuters) – The United States on Wednesday unveiled its annual survey of religious freedom, citing countries ranging from North Korea to Eritrea as repressing religious liberties.Following are some of the conclusions from the State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report on eight countries previously named as areas of “special concern” over their limits on religious freedom.

MYANMAR (BURMA)

The report said Myanmar’s military rulers ignored constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and systematically restricted efforts by Buddhist clergy to promote human rights and political liberties.

The government actively promoted Theravada Buddhism, especially among minority groups, and pressured students and poor youth to convert, it said.

“Christian and Islamic groups continued to struggle to obtain permission to repair places of worship or build new ones,” the report said, adding that the Muslim Rohingya minority experienced severe legal and economic discrimination, resulting in many Rohingya refugees fleeing to neighboring countries.

CHINA

The report said China’s communist government increased repression in the Xinjiang during the year following a crack-down on unrest among the region’s Muslim Uighurs in July 2009. It also said that religious repression remained severe in Tibet, home of the exiled Dalai Lama, while controls on religious groups in other parts of the country were tightened during “sensitive periods” such as the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic.

It noted, however, some positive developments which suggest the growth of traditional Chinese religions, such as Chinese Buddhism, and that official media had published articles discussing religious freedom.

NORTH KOREA

North Korea, often cited as one of the world’s worst abusers of human rights, is also a harsh opponent of religious liberty, the report said.

“There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the government during the reporting period, and government policy continued to interfere with the individual’s ability to choose and to manifest his or her religious belief,” it said.

The report noted that government controls in the isolated country made it difficult to verify individual cases, but that defector reports indicated that the government had increased its investigation, repression and persecution of unauthorized religious groups in recent years.

It said an estimated 150,000-200,000 people were believed to be held in North Korean re-education camps, some of them for religious reasons.

IRAN

Respect for religious freedom in the Islamic republic deteriorated and government-controlled media intensified negative campaigns against religious minorities, particularly the Baha’is, the report said.

Baha’i religious groups reported arbitrary arrest and prolonged detention, expulsion from universities and confiscation of property.

It noted that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “continued a virulent anti-Semitic campaign, questioning the existence and scope of the Holocaust,” and said Sufi Muslims were also subject to increased repression.

“Laws based on religious affiliation continued to be used to stifle freedom of expression and association, including through imprisonment of public figures,” it said.

SAUDI ARABIA

U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, where Sunni Islam is the official religion, neither recognizes nor protects freedom of religion but guarantees the right for all — including non-Muslims — to worship in private.

While overall restrictions on religious activity remained, the report said there were incremental improvements during the reporting period which included “selective measures to combat extremist ideology” particularly in school textbooks.

SUDAN

Sudan’s constitution allows for freedom of religion throughout the country. But in practice Islam is favored in the Muslim-dominated north of the country while the semi-independent South Sudan has generally free practice of religion, the report said.

The report said that, unlike the previous reporting period, some Christian churches in the north were able to hold regular religious services and holiday celebrations.

UZBEKISTAN

The central Asian nation restricts many rights only to registered religious groups, imposing criminal penalties on activities such as proselytizing and disseminating religious literature, and overall respect for religious freedom declined, the report said.

“The government’s campaign against members of unregistered religious groups continued; alleged members were arrested and sentenced to lengthy jail terms,” it said.

ERITREA

The horn of Africa nation, with a population split among various Muslim and Christian groups, has not yet implemented a 1997 constitution providing for religious freedom and resisted efforts by U.S. diplomats to address the issue, the report said.

*************************************************************
The Canadian Press – Myanmar’s ruling generals insist democracy is coming, but its people have long given up hope
By The Associated Press (CP) – 3 hours ago

YANGON, Myanmar — The shopkeeper, a thin, jittery man who has spent nearly half his life in prison, wishes change were coming to Myanmar.But the recent elections were a sham, he says, and the promises of democratic reform are empty words. He celebrated the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, but dismissed the idea it heralds a change in this secretive military-ruled nation.

“This is not a new era,” said Bo Bo Oo, 46, in sentiments echoed around the country, which is also known as Burma. “The generals will not change.”

Globalization reached the long-isolated nation while Bo Bo Oo was in prison, serving 20 years for helping organize pro-democracy protests in 1988. Amid Myanmar’s withering poverty, you can now buy knockoff iPhones at the Mobile World shop in Mandalay and browse for lingerie at the Sexy Girl store in Yangon. You can live in a high-rise condo and watch CNN on satellite TV.

But belief in political change is much harder to find. This is a country battered by its own government, its pessimism shaped by decades of experience. In conversations with dozens of people — farmers, business owners, monks, journalists, housewives and activists — little was heard but anguish.

“The government has the power, and it does not want to give it up,” an elderly Buddhist monk said in the quiet riverside town of Amarapura. He was sitting on a wooden bench in the carefully swept dirt yard of the monastery where he has lived for more than 70 years, not far from the central city of Mandalay.

He remembers the days of British colonialism, and the Japanese occupation during World War II. He can talk about fleeing into the forests when Allied bombs began falling around the town, and the first military coup, in 1958. In 2007, he watched as monks were arrested and even killed during anti-government protests dominated by the Buddhist clergy.

He sees modern Myanmar as the darkest time.

“It’s like a twisting road that just goes on and on,” he said, his robes wrapped tightly around him because of a winter chill, as chickens scrabbled in the dirt behind him. “I don’t know if it will ever stop twisting.”

Like most people in Myanmar, he spoke on condition he not be identified, fearing retribution from the ruling junta’s agents and the “Tatmadaw,” as the army is called.

A few analysts do see signs of change. At the very least, they say, the elections will create new clusters of power in Naypyidaw, the capital city.

In Mandalay, a young businessman also sees a sliver of possibility in the elections.

“I don’t believe in these generals. I cannot see them giving up any power,” he said, walking through the city on a recent evening. “But maybe some new people (in the government) will change something. I hope so.”

Bo Bo Oo, though, sees no hope.

“All this is just about publicity,” he said of the Nov. 7 elections and Suu Kyi’s release last weekend. He owns a little grocery store in Yangon, the former capital once known as Rangoon, and runs a small art gallery with his wife.

Like many, he notes that Suu Kyi’s release came just a week after the first elections in 20 years, giving the junta a desperately needed publicity boost. While the military claims the vote will usher in a democratic government, much of the international community decried it as political burlesque that will entrench the generals behind proxy politicians.

“They want the world to think that this is becoming a democracy. But the Burmese people know the truth,” he said.

Fourteen months after his release from prison, Bo Bo Oo still finds himself startled by freedom. He is nervous handling keys. His hands are often shaky. He jumps when doors suddenly open.

“I don’t like to lock doors,” he said, sitting on a bamboo chair in the art gallery. “I hate being out on the street.”

Myanmar holds nearly 2,200 political prisoners in an archipelago of crumbling prisons. Some of the country’s minority ethnic groups, who have faced brutal repression, back a string of militias that have fought the generals for decades.

The government’s political agenda is seldom clear. Little is known about Than Shwe, the general who heads the junta, beyond rumours and gossip. International officials can go years without meeting him, and new ambassadors, who get a few minutes with him when they present their credentials, are grilled for insights.

His most visible moment came in 2006, when smuggled video footage showed him and his daughter on her wedding day, with her draped in long strings of diamond-encrusted jewelry.

Despite such wealth among the leadership, the country was almost entirely cut off from the outside world until the late 1980s, leaving the economy in ruins. Companies were nationalized, outside investment discouraged and tourists limited to short visits. Today, the country has a per-capita income of about $1,100, and a third of the population lives below the poverty line.

In recent years, that has begun to change. Myanmar is now an increasingly important regional trading hub and has become an ally of both China and India, where energy-hungry companies are desperate for Myanmar’s natural gas and hydroelectric resources.

While poverty remains widespread, the two main cities now have a veneer of modernization.

At luxury hotels in Yangon and Mandalay, pianists play easy-listening versions of Simon and Garfunkel songs in marbled lobbies, entertaining Chinese businessmen and wealthy tourists. The colonial buildings of old Rangoon are disappearing, replaced by malls and housing complexes those businessmen are funding.

It has become a country where you can buy 50-cent bootleg DVDs of “Beach Sex Party” on the streets of Yangon, but go to prison for owning a copy of “Rambo IV,” which has Sylvester Stallone’s character battling the junta.

Such restrictions are part of the daily background of life.

Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail are blocked, along with exile websites, though anyone Internet-savvy knows ways to get around the barriers.

The main English-language newspaper of the junta, The New Light of Myanmar, is filled with Stalinist rhetoric. Almost every day, it promises that democracy is coming.

The New Light recently dismissed previous civilian governments as “like the water that flowed away in complete disorder,” while insisting “the Tatmadaw government’s military rule was aimed at guiding the nation to discipline-flourishing democracy.”

On the streets, though, they just don’t believe it.

“Nothing is immortal, even the generals,” said a young journalist in Mandalay, who asked that his name not be used. “But I think people have given up hope for change.”

*************************************************************
International Herald Tribune – Difficult Issues Clamor for Advocate’s Attention
By SETH MYDANS
Published: November 16, 2010

BANGKOK — The jubilant throngs that greeted Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy leader, this past weekend in Myanmar confirmed that her huge popularity remains intact.But as she steps gingerly back into the swirl of political combat, she confronts difficult realities that will limit her ability to translate that popularity into fundamental change.

Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi is taking a conciliatory tone, at least for now, saying she bears no grudge toward her former jailers and suggesting that she might support the relaxation of international sanctions against the military government in Myanmar, formerly Burma. “If people really want sanctions to be lifted, I will consider this,” she said in an interview on Sunday. “This is the time Burma needs help.”

After seven years of isolation in her lakeside villa, she is now overwhelmed with supplicants and supporters seeking her ear. “I know I said I wanted to hear what the public is thinking,” she said during her rally on Sunday, perhaps only half joking. “But now that there are so many voices and so much noise, I don’t know what is being said anymore.”

In the coming weeks, she faces difficult decisions on uniting the opposition, the demands of armed ethnic minority groups, the sort of movement she hopes to shape and the degree to which she chooses to challenge the government.

She must also assimilate new realities that include the rising influence of China, the dispersal of wealth among well-connected businesses, and the emergence of new institutions and new political players as a result of parliamentary elections held just six days before her release. And looming above all these concerns are the ruling generals who, whatever their gestures or promises, remain determined not to cede power or to allow any real democratic opening.

A new Constitution, passed last year, sets up a bicameral national Parliament, 14 regional parliaments, a president, a cabinet and new government institutions that will give military rule a much more complex form.

All but the very senior members of the military junta were required to resign to run for office as civilians and were replaced by a younger generation of officers in their 50s whose personal agendas could conflict with those of the senior officers.

“It’s not the same environment that existed when she was taken into detention seven years ago,” said Priscilla Clapp, the former chief of mission in the American Embassy in Myanmar and a principal adviser to the Asia Society task force on United States policy toward Burma/Myanmar.

“She has come out into a different world, and I think she is trying to feel her way into it,” Ms. Clapp said.

Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi’s mandate is precarious, built purely on the gauge of an applause meter, without an organized base or formal platform to ground her. Her party, the National League for Democracy, was forced to disband when it declined to contest the elections.

On Tuesday, she made her first trip into downtown Yangon, formerly Rangoon, to file papers with the country’s High Court asking to have her party reinstated, but analysts said the court was unlikely to rule in her favor.

While Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi has moved cautiously so far, some analysts said they did not expect this spirit of compromise to last. “She’s always been confrontational, every time she has gotten out,” said David I. Steinberg, a professor of Asian studies at the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, in an interview. “She has always tested the limits of how far she can go. I feel sure she’ll try to quietly test the limits of what she can do.”

She had been released twice before, in 1995 and in 2002, and both times she reached that limit. The outpouring of support for her was too much for the generals, and she was arrested and returned to detention.

Now 65, she has been under house arrest for 15 of the past 21 years.

Some people are asking not only what she might be able to accomplish now that she is free, but also how long she might remain free. She was returned to house arrest in 2003 after an attack by organized thugs on her motorcade that some people say was an assassination attempt.

“This is not an ordinary military dictatorship we are talking about,” said Bertil Lintner, the author of seven books on Myanmar. “This is a military that has become expert at staying in power.”

The liberation of Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi says nothing about the broader motives of the military junta, Mr. Lintner said. “It’s a public relations exercise for foreign opinion after a totally fraudulent election, rather than part of political reform, which it’s not.”

The generals may see this as a moment of national redefinition, within the boundaries they set.

Along with establishing the new Parliament, they have moved into a new capital and decreed a new flag, a new national anthem and a new name for their nation: the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (formerly the Union of Myanmar).

“I don’t think there’s a place for Aung San Suu Kyi in that new state that the military has created,” Mr. Lintner said.

Although the bottom line of military control remains unchanged, this is a nation in some flux as it sets up its first civilian government since a 1962 coup and as the military enters a period of generational change.

“She has to maneuver among all of these difficult transitional questions,” Ms. Clapp said. “The country is in the middle of a transition the likes of which it has not seen for a long time. There are many different outcomes, so I think she’s going to be very careful.”

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Democracy | 17.11.2010
Deutsche Welle – EU special envoy for Myanmar urges ‘democratic transition’Deutsche Welle: Myanmar’s military government released opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi after more than 15 years of detention. How does the European Union consider this move?

Piero Fassino: The most important thing, for her family and her people, is that Aung San Suu Kyi is finally free. What is also important is that she is enabled to come back to politics now, as Myanmar is in a crucial and delicate phase. Elections have been held and a new Parliament elected. The new Parliament will start working next February. This will lead to a new civilian government, which should take over power from the military junta. Therefore, it could be the beginning of a period of political and institutional change and it is essential that Suu Kyi can participate as a major player in this new political phase.

The recent elections were one step towards what the military rulers call “disciplined democracy.” Does the European Union consider these elections to be truly democratic?

Elections were held in a context that was strongly controlled and conditioned by the regime, according to dubious electoral laws and regulations, certainly not in line with European and international accepted standards.

However, it needs also to be noted that during the electoral campaign civil society and opposition forces proved significantly lively. It is also relevant that, notwithstanding all the
existing obstacles, opposition parties registered for the elections.

It will be very important to see the results. Depending on how many elected representatives from the opposition forces and ethnic groups win seats in the local and national parliaments, we will be able to give a more complete evaluation of these elections.

Burma is a very multiethnic society. What position does the EU have about the ethnic minorities’ struggle for more autonomy?

The European Union condemns any form of hostility and oppression against ethnic minorities. In the framework of the current political transition, ethnic communities need to be fully associated to, and become part of, the political process.

One of the essential issues to be dealt with in the context of the transition is precisely how to ensure the respect of the rights of the minorities, their autonomy and the possibility to participate in the life of the country without restraints.

Have the elections and the release of Aung San Suu Kyi opened up a chance for a transformation process?

The release of Aung San Suu Kyi is a first step. Now more steps into the right direction are needed: the release of all political detainees and the opening of a true, meaningful dialogue between the junta, the democratic opposition and the representatives of the ethnic minorities.

In her first public speech after her release, Aung San Suu Kyi explicitly urged the authorities to start a dialogue and expressed her availability to take up responsibilities in the management of the transition. Such a dialogue has to be free, honest and needs to aim at a definitive democratic transition allowing Myanmar to reach those standards of freedom and democracy which are the mark of all free nations.

How will the EU press the government of Myanmar towards a more pluralistic system?

We should not take anything for granted. We certainly hope that the release of Aung San Suu Kyi can open a door, and it is for this reason that we are asking, after her release, for more meaningful acts, clearly showing the will of the authorities for a democratic transition.

The international community must keep Myanmar as a priority on its political agenda and must accompany and assist the democratic transition. Therefore, we need a policy aimed at increasing our relations with Myanmar.

We must increase humanitarian assistance particularly in those areas devastated by the Nargis typhoon, where reconstruction and rehabilitation is needed. We must increase development aid in vital sectors for the Burmese people, such as water, education, health and assistance to children. We must also help civil society to structure itself and accompany Myanmar in building up the democratic institutions that it has never had so far.

Interview: Ana Lehman
Editor: Anne Thomas

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The Christian Science Monitor – A new US-China dance over Burma after release of Aung San Suu Kyi
Economic sanctions helped release Aung San Suu Kyi. That suggests the regime is ready for a deal. Does it want to take Burma (Myanmar) out of China’s tightening orbit?
By the Monitor’s Editorial Board / November 16, 2010

In his tour of Asia last week, President Obama made sure to visit only democratic countries. It was a subtle message to Beijing that the US is building up a regional partnership of freedom-loving nations to counter China’s bully tactics and model of authoritarian rule.Just as he finished his trip to India, Indonesia, South Korea, and Japan, Mr. Obama was faced with a fresh opportunity to bring one more nation to the long chain of democracies surrounding China. On Saturday, the military rulers in Burma (Myanmar) released Aung San Suu Kyi after seven years of house arrest.

By setting free the popular daughter of Burma’s founder to once again rally the people, the ruling junta may be sending a signal that it is ready for a new relationship with the United States and the West.

Specifically, Burma might want to break out of China’s tightening grip – big Chinese investments in Burma’s natural resources, the rising border trade, a critical oil pipeline, and a key naval port. If that’s the case, Obama has difficult choices ahead.

Should he seek to lift Western economic sanctions on Burma? Should he not support a UN investigation of Burmese leaders for crimes against humanity? Will he negotiate directly with Gen. Than Shwe, the regime’s military leader?

Ms. Suu Kyi herself hints at compromising with the regime. She may ask the West to ease or repeal its sanctions. “If the people really want sanctions to be lifted, I will consider this,” the Nobel Peace Prize winner told reporters after her release.

While Obama could easily follow her cue on sanctions, the stakes are higher for the US. Burma, a nation of 53 million people under the boot of the military since 1962, has suddenly become the latest strategic battleground in a contest between the US and China for dominance in Asia.

Burma’s new political dynamic also represents a test for Obama’s willingness to promote democracy around the world – a mission that goes back to Woodrow Wilson but fell out of favor with Democrats when George W. Bush took that American cause to Iraq.

Just last week, after Burma’s regime held rigged elections Nov. 7 to keep the military in control, the US again reiterated that it will maintain sanctions until an estimated 2,100 political prisoners are released. In fact, it’s likely the sanctions forced the regime to release Suu Kyi. If that’s the case, then she and the US have every reason to use the prospect of reduced sanctions as a bargaining chip.

But negotiating with a regime that is so secretive, isolated, and often paranoid is not easy. The military competes with Suu Kyi for popularity and in claiming the mantle of legitimacy from her father, Aung San, a general killed in 1947 while fighting for independence from Britain. In fact, Suu Kyi said she wants to probe the widespread allegations of fraud in the recent elections.

Obama may be ready to deal with Burma more forthrightly.

He briefly met its prime minister last year at a regional summit. And he chastised India during his visit there for not being more outspoken on abuses in Burma – abuses that include the killing of protesting Buddhist monks and serious government neglect of victims of cyclone Nargis in 2008. Up to now India has competed with China for influence in Burma, but hasn’t been much of a champion for democracy or supporter of the sanctions.

Enlisting Asia’s democracies to come up with a new offer to Burma’s dictators would be Obama’s best response to the release of Suu Kyi. If the regime really wants to stay out of China’s tightening orbit, it may be open to a no-sanctions-for-democracy deal.

Better to join the club of Asian democracies than be stuck in China’s grip.

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Forbes – Where Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s Nobel Prize Winner, Is Wrong
Shaun Rein, 11.16.10, 05:15 PM EST She’s right about the desperate need for change, but doesn’t understand how to achieve it.Unlike many recent Nobel Peace Prize winners, Aung San Suu Kyi actually deserved it. She sacrificed her freedom to seek liberty for her countrymen against Myanmar’s military junta. Who could be a better beacon for goodness? She is my hero. After being released from undeserved house arrest, she has preached reconciliation, but she is not backing down from her demands for democracy. I support her.

However, as much as I respect Suu Kyi (and I respect her a lot), I feel certain that she needs to go beyond reconciliation and rethink her strategy of pushing the Western world to implement stringent economic sanctions against Myanmar. She should be promoting active economic engagement instead.

Economic sanctions do not cause the downfall of unsavory regimes. They only further impoverish ordinary people who live in terror and hardship. In fact, sanctions bolster regimes, as they concentrate power more tightly among elite families, who become more insecure and heavy-handed in their attempts to annihilate opposition as they grow to fear for their lives. They starve common people while doling out benefits to a select few thugs.

Implementing economic sanctions is a naive strategy at best. It is a basic tenet of American diplomacy that Suu Kyi should shelve.

Case in point: North Korea. Several months ago I wrote that Hillary Clinton was misguided in moving to implement more sanctions against North Korea. I received lots of violent hate mail, and online message boards lit up. Most of the responses went something like, “You are an idiot. Hope you die a rotten death. Kim is bad.”

Yet no one answered the question I posed: Name one instance where economic sanctions have worked. Just one. I repeat that question. We haven’t overthrown Castro in Cuba or the leaders of Iran. They remain in power, driving Mercedes while poor people can’t get medical supplies. Leaders will always be able to skirt sanctions to enrich themselves.

What have Clinton’s actions in North Korea achieved? If anything, Kim Jong Il’s power base is stronger now than before. The Chinese have forged closer relations with his regime to ensure stability in a border country and to buffer against America’s increasing assertiveness in Asia. Since Clinton’s pronouncements, pictures of Kim and his anointed heir, his son Kim Jong Un, have been displayed often in China’s newspapers. Rival groups in North Korea have coalesced around Kim. The same will happen in Myanmar if the West pushes too hard.

What should Aung San Suu Kyi or her supporters do? She should press for greater economic engagement with the West and encourage reform within the system by working with the junta. That way improvements will come incrementally, but at least they will come. Partnering with your enemies, evil as they may be, can be hard, but it is what must be done.

Engagement with Myanmar has been Thailand’s strategy. Thailand’s foreign minister said recently that he supports democratization in Myanmar but that the process must go in stages, much as it did in Thailand over the last half century. His strategy is to give soft loans and education exchanges, and then push for private corporate investment.

That is the right course of action, and it has already been proven to work. Where? In China.

Since the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989, China has become the world’s second-largest recipient of foreign direct investment, after U.S. companies like Nike ( NKE – news – people ), General Electric ( GE – news – people ) and Apple ( AAPL – news – people ) have invested billions there, with a palpable effect on the quality of life of ordinary Chinese.

Unless you are a fool or a knee-jerk ideologue, you can’t argue that the quality of life of most Chinese isn’t far better now than just a decade ago. In 2000 it was difficult for Chinese to move freely within the country. This year 52 million Chinese traveled abroad. They are the biggest per-capita foreign spenders in France.

Chinese can marry who they choose, and they have greater access to outside news sources than ever before. Millions have studied abroad. When I was a graduate student at Harvard, there were more mainland Chinese there than students from any other foreign country.

When I first moved to China, in the mid-1990s, the only readily available foreign reading was the heavily censored China Daily and classic books like The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Now nearly all Western media outlets are available online, even ones often critical of China, like The New York Times.

Active engagement and economic ties helped bring about China’s reforms, and they continue to improve life for ordinary Chinese. Aung San Suu Kyi should learn from China’s experience with reform. Active engagement is a proven model for bettering people’s lives. Economic sanctions are a failed policy.Shaun Rein is the founder and managing director of the China Market Research Group, a strategic market intelligence firm. He writes for Forbes on leadership, marketing and China.

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Asian Correspondent – Can Suu Kyi stand a chance of looking into Burma’s vote-rigging?
Nov. 17 2010 – 04:59 pm
By – Zin Linn

Burma is heading towards the next stage, post-election time. It is a certain fixation that the regime’s alternative, the Union Solidarity and Development Party, won landslide over other key parties contesting the polls. With more representatives, funding and party apparatus, the USDP obtained 80% seats in parliament.Top members of Burma’s pro-military party have won seats in Parliament, according to official results of 7-November election, widely-criticized as vote rigging polls. State television reported 10 November night winners included Prime Minister Thein Sein, who heads the Union Solidarity and Development Party, which served as a proxy for Burma’s ruling junta.

Burma’s military regime warned Tuesday (16 Nov.) against filing complaints over the Nov. 7 election — a move that could spell trouble for pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi who has vowed to probe alleged voting irregularities, according to Associated Press.

The warning puts Suu Kyi on a possible collision course with the ruling generals, just days after her release from more than seven years of house arrest. The 65-year-old Nobel Peace laureate must balance the expectations of the country’s pro-democracy movement with the reality that her freedom could be withdrawn any time by the hard-line regime.

There was no doubt that the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party would come into sight with a huge share of the parliamentary seats from Sunday’s election, regardless of prevalent resistance of military ruling. USDP fielded 1,112 candidates for the 1,159 seats in the upper and lower house parliaments and 14 regional parliaments, while the largest anti-junta party, the National Democratic Force (NDF), contested just 164 seats.

It makes clear that the junta’s USDP is the popular winner prior to the beginning of the polls. Many Western critics consider the November 7 polls as a sham used by the military junta to legitimize its clutch on supremacy. The USDP has been accused of tampering with advance ballots, and bribing or menacing voters.

The Democratic Party (Burma) and National Democratic Force (NDF) accused the USDP of vote-scam by using advance ballots by bullying and intimidation. Spokespersons for the NDF, the Democratic Party (Myanmar) and the All Mon Region Democracy Party (AMRDP) have alleged that the vote-counting was seriously out of order. Several said their members had witnessed ballot boxes full of advance votes being brought into polling stations for counting after the polls had closed.

Suu Kyi has already announced her intention to join party colleagues in an investigation of alleged electoral fraud. She told reporters, however, that while her party plans to issue a report, it has no plans to protest the results of the election as it didn’t take part.

Suu Kyi’s well-liked NLD party boycotted Burma’s contentious 7 November election, resulting in a landslide victory by the cunning military-backed candidates for a bicameral parliament and 14 regional assemblies.

“From what I have heard, there are many, many questions about the fairness of the election, and there were many allegations of vote-rigging, and so on,” the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate told the BBC.

“The committee that the NLD formed on this matter will be looking into all these allegations, and they will be bringing out their report,” Democracy Icon Aung San Suu Kyi told the BBC,

Thu Wai, Chairman of the Democratic Party, said that his party was “deeply concerned” about stories of voter intimidation across the country and has filed an official complaint.

“We have learnt that the USDP together with ward authorities are trying to get advance votes by cheating, bribing or threatening people,” said a letter from the party to the Union Election Commission in the capital, Naypyidaw. Opposition candidates and political parties on Monday (8 Nov.) alleged widespread voter fraud in Burma’s extraordinary elections.

The complaints range from lack of transparency in vote-counting to no privacy in many of the nation’s nearly 40,000 polling booths. Parties also complained of threats from local authorities and forced early voting for the junta’s proxy party. Most of the leaders from opposition parties say unanimously that this election is totally far away from free, fair and openness.

Consequently, The Asian Network For Free Elections (ANFREL) releases a statement dated 9 November calling attention to an important point from November 7- 8 ballot counting activities that require the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and the Union Election Commission (UEC) to clarify immediately why the counting process was not made transparent to the public and the media beginning with the first advance voting period.

Meanwhile, the Union Election Commission said that any person who files fraudulent charges of vote cheating can be jailed for three years, fined 300,000 kyats ($300), or both. Critics criticize the vote was rigged and premeditated to fortify the power of the military, which has ruled Burma for five decades.

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Daily Telegraph – Burma regime warns Aung San Suu Kyi against election challenge
Burma’s military regime has warned opponents against any challenge to the country’s recent elections for the first time since Aung San Suu Kyi’s release.
By Ian MacKinnon in Bangkok 5:31PM GMT 17 Nov 2010 The move could set Ms Suu Kyi, 65, in direct conflict with the generals as she has already pledged to investigate widespread allegations of voting irregularities even though her National League for Democracy (NLD) boycotted the poll derided as “neither free nor fair”.Just days after her release from the detention she endured for 15 of the past 21 years, the warning by Burma’s official Union Election Commission raised fears that any confrontation could lead to her rearrest, a risk of which she said she was aware but not afraid.

In a measure of her fortitude she filed an affidavit in Burma’s High Court on Tuesday to get her NLD party reinstated after it was dissolved in September for urging a boycott of the election and failing to re-register itself.

Complete official results of the November 7 poll, the first since 1990 when the junta ignored an NLD landslide victory, have yet to be announced.

But the pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has already claimed a crushing victory margin in both national parliaments.

Critics, some of them from the National Democratic Force which split from the NLD to take part, allege intimidation to force voters to support the USDP, as well as rigged “advance voting”.

The election commission has threatened harsh legal penalties for those filing complaints about the election results deemed fraudulent. Individuals can be jailed for three years and fined up to £200.

Within hours of being released from house arrest after seven years Ms Suu Kyi announced that she would stand with NLD party officials in their investigation of electoral fraud and issue a report into the findings.

But while she said she would fight for human rights and the rule of law in Burma, she said the NLD was not considering protesting the result as it had shunned the election.

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11/17/2010 15:14
MYANMAR
AsiaNews.it – Junta to jail people who complain about election fraud, warns Aung San Suu Kyi
The Election Commission warns that fraudulent complaints about the recent polls could lead to three years in prison plus hefty fines. This is a clear message to Burma’s opposition leader who said she would look into allegations of vote rigging. In the meantime, she filed a petition with the High Court to see her party, the National League for Democracy, reinstated.

Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Myanmar’s military government has warned that complaints about fraud and vote rigging in the 7 November elections, the first in 20 years, will not be tolerated. This appears to be a move against Aung San Suu Kyi who was released last Saturday after seven years under house arrest. Upon walking free, Burma’s opposition leader vowed to probe alleged voting irregularities that favoured pro-regime parties.Aung San Suu Kyi, 65, has spent 15 of the past 21 years under arrest. For her, her future appears to be quite a challenge because she will have to balance the expectations of those who see her as an icon of democracy against the realities of the country and its ruling junta, which will jump at any opportunity to put her again under house arrest again.

Nevertheless, Suu Kyi went on a legal offensive on Tuesday, filing an affidavit with the country’s High Court to have her political party reinstated. The Election Commission disbanded it earlier this year for failing to reregister after choosing not to take part in the election.

The same Election Commission warned on Tuesday that anyone making fraudulent complaints about the polls could face harsh punishment. Anyone who files fraudulent charges of vote cheating could get three years in prison, a 300,000 kyats fine (US$ 46,000), or both.

Full results from this month’s elections have yet to be released, but figures so far give the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party a solid majority in both houses of parliament.

When she was released, Aung San Suu Kyi told thousands of supporters that she would pursue the struggle for democracy and human rights in Myanmar. At a press conference, she spoke about reconciliation and justice. She also said that she wanted to speak to Senior General Than Shwe, whom she has not met since 2002.

The struggle of the Nobel Prize laureate will not be limited to 7 November elections. It will include the issues of jailed political prisoners (about 2,100) and ethnic minorities.
Aung San Suu Kyi said that she plans to meet leaders from Burma’s minorities (Kachin, Karen, Shan and others) to revive the Panglong Agreement, signed in 1947 by her father
Aung San a few months before formal independence. The goal is to achieve a second Panglong Agreement that would define the autonomy of minorities within the framework of a Burmese state.

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Rediff.com – Why India needs to tweak its Myanmar policy
November 17, 2010 13:32 IST

In her speeches, statements and interviews since her release from house arrest by the military Junta, Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi [ Images ] has already given some indication of her plan of action in the days to come — rejuvenation of her party National League For Democracy, unification of the opposition forces, a campaign for the release of political prisoners, a campaign against the fraudulent practices during the recent elections organised by the Junta, a non-violent struggle for achieving democracy without humiliating the army and an initiative for national reconciliation.Talking to a group of diplomats at Yangon on November 15, she is reported to have paid tribute to the countries that had steadfastly supported her and added that “she hoped that India would be more pro-active in future.”

She and her supporters in Myanmar and abroad attach considerable importance to India’s support to their struggle for the establishment of democracy in Myanmar. India’s support will have considerable moral weight. It is their expectation that despite the availability of China’s support and assistance, the Junta will not like to deprive itself of India’s support since it would feel uncomfortable in the total embrace of China. It needs India’s support in order to avoid a close dependence on China.

Those familiar with the ruthless manner in which the Myanmar army crushed the insurgencies of the pro-Beijing Communist Party of Burma (White Flag) and pro-China ethnic minority groups such as the Kachin Independence Army will know that though the army has accepted considerable assistance from China, it will not like Myanmar to become a client-state of China. For this, it requires India’s support and assistance and India’s blessing for its rule. There is goodwill for India in sections of the army even though it will be difficult to quantify it.

Will this enable India to play a pro-active role in supporting the pro-democracy movement in that country? If so, how should India play this role?

Unfortunately, the Indian policy in Myanmar has swung from one extreme to another. Initially, India supported the pro-democracy forces led by Aung San Suu Kyi. Subsequently, alarmed by the Chinese inroads into Myanmar, India swung to the other extreme of total support to the military Junta. This meant maintaining a silence on the Junta’s suppression of pro-democracy forces, its arrest and detention of Suu Kyi and its machinations to ensure that she can never come to power.

We may claim that though we were silent in public, we were taking up these issues in private with the Junta, but the pro-democracy forces do not believe us. Even if it is true that we were taking up these issues discreetly with the Junta, it did not have any impact on the Junta. It chose to ignore our private soundings just as it ignored the public reprimands and pressure of the West.

We did the right thing in not supporting the West’s demonisation of the Junta and in keeping away from its policy of sanctions. At the same time, we ought to have tried a more nuanced policy of linking our support to the Junta to its initiatives for  reconciliation with the pro-democracy forces. We did not even explore the possibility of India playing the role of an intermediary between the Junta and the pro-democracy forces.

While extending total economic support to the Junta, we should have politically tried to facilitate the process of reconciliation. India’s decision to extend total political and economic support to the Junta came in the way of our playing a meaningful role.

We came to be seen as no different from China in pursuing a policy of unconditional support to the Junta in total disregard of the sufferings and sensitivities of the people of Myanmar. Our policy of total support to the Junta proved to be as detrimental to the interests of Myanmar’s people as the West’s policy of unrelenting and disproportionate economic sanctions.

The time has come for India to adopt a more nuanced political approach while continuing the present policy of economic support to the regime. The objective of the nuanced political approach should be to nudge the Junta to respond positively to Suu Kyi’s moves for a national reconciliation and enter into a dialogue with the pro-democracy forces.

Another objective should be to persuade the pro-democracy forces to avoid a confrontational situation which could add to the fears of the Junta regarding internal security and stability. The Junta’s determination to maintain internal security and stability at any cost has to be understood by the pro-democracy forces. Any confrontational situation could lead to further suppression by the Junta and fresh restrictions on the pro-democracy leader and even her re-arrest. This will not be desirable.

There is a need for Aung San Suu Kyi to rid herself of the image that she is an icon of the West and not of the developing world. Her reliance on Western support to project her cause adds to the nervousness and fears of the Junta. It is important for her to distance herself from the Western elements, which flock to her cause, and to move closer to the developing world.

Without the support of the developing world, her pro-democracy movement will remain weak. She should interact more intensely with the developing world and persuade the West to tone down its unrelenting demonisation of the Junta and gradually relax the economic sanctions. She should appeal to the West for the immediate lifting of all sanctions which tend to affect the economy and the common people. She should also appeal for lifting the travel restrictions on members of the Junta. Such gestures by her could facilitate the reconciliation process desired by her.

Aung San Suu Kyi has told the BBC in an interview that she did not want the Junta to fall but to change and serve the country better.

“I don’t want to see the military falling. I want to see the military rising to dignified heights of professionalism and true patriotism. I think it’s quite obvious what the people want; the people just want better lives based on security and on freedom,” she said.

Suu Kyi also said she hoped for a non-violent end to military rule. That is the right approach. This should be combined with gestures such as those mentioned above to convince the Junta of her goodwill. The army has always been a part of the political life in Myanmar. It cannot be ended in the near and medium term future. It can be diluted and re-shaped. That should be her objective.

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The Malaysian Mirror – Is Burma’s genie out of the bottle?
Asia Sentinel
Wednesday, 17 November 2010 09:28

ANALYSIS  It is starting to appear that Burma’s junta may have inadvertently set off political dynamite by coupling their rigged Nov. 7 election with the decision to free democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi six days later.A sea of jubilant supporters swarmed to Suu Kyi’s colonial villa on the banks of Inya Lake in Rangoon immediately upon her release, to hear her tell them she intended to keep up the fight to turn Burma into a democracy.

The jubilation in Rangoon was reflected across most of the western world, with US President Barack Obama and other world leaders calling attention to her release.

The massive show of both domestic and international support for Suu Kyi’s freedom thus presents the junta with a quandary. It engineered the national elections in an attempt to gain legitimacy after international condemnation of the regime in the wake of an attack on Suu Ky’s convoy in 2003 in which as many as 70 of her supporters were murdered by pro-regime thugs.

The junta’s official announcement of the end of Suu Kyi’s period of confinement under house arrest appears to have been another attempt to gain international approbation of the regime.

“The regime’s calculated risk was to free Aung San Suu Kyi after broad daylight robbery on the 7th election,” said Aung Zaw, the editor of the Irrawaddy Daily, which is published across the Thai border in Chiang Mai.

“Many thought that after stealing the votes, the regime felt comfortable in releasing her. They are dead wrong again. Her popularity has remained intact and this time she has re-emerged not just the leader of the National League for Democracy but the national leader.”

The sheer euphoria of the crowds surrounding Suu Kyi after her release has to have been a shock to the generals, who have left Rangoon for their own isolated capital in Naypyidaw, 320 km north of the country’s biggest city.

If her public statements are any indication, she appears certain to up the ante for the dictatorship.

Although there is considerable worry, in Rangoon and internationally, whether the junta will allow her to remain free, she has set off on a whirlwind series of moves, including meeting with leaders of Burma’s struggling ethnic groups, several of which have carried on a long-running war of separation from the national government. She has announced that she hopes to see a peaceful revolution within the country and said she would be willing to work with the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, which overwhelmingly won the election amid widespread reports of vote-rigging and fake ballots.

“This is a very dangerous period,” Khin Ohmar, chairwoman of the Network for Democracy and Development in Burma, a umbrella organization of Burmese political activists in exile, told the Inter Press Service news agency. “The regime is not releasing her out of respect that she has an important role to play in Burma’s political process and national reconciliation.”

But the junta has to be as concerned as her supporters about what happens next. Having gone this far with both the election and freeing her in trying to legitimate itself in international eyes, arresting her again will once again plunge Burma back to the pariah status from which it is struggling to free itself. The election has probably called more attention to Burma’s political process than the isolated junta, led by senior general Than Shwe, ever thought it would.

The situation inside the country is beginning to resemble two other crisis periods in the country – one when she returned to the country in 1988, which coincided with a political uprising against the regime of the late strongman Ne Win in which an unknown number of protesters were killed. Some estimates go into the thousands.

Although she addressed a mass rally in Rangoon in 1988 that drew hundreds of thousands of supporters, the military miscalculated by calling a 1990 election that her newly-minted National League for Democracy appeared to have won by a massive number of votes estimated at more than 80 percent, severely embarrassing the regime and causing Ne Win’s downfall.

Instead of allowing the vote to stand, Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest, where she remained for the next six years. Once freed, she continued to advocate nonviolent democracy.

“It is asymmetrical politics that you started to see in Burma after Suu Kyi arrived on the scene,” a Rangoon-based political analyst told IPS. “You had the powerful, heavily armed military against a woman leading a movement that stood for peaceful political change through democracy. She deserves credit for making the democracy movement in Burma a non-violent one and helping to keep it that way.”

The junta miscalculated again in midsummer 2007, when it raised fuel prices drastically, triggering tens of thousands of protesters, led by the country’s Buddhist monks to take to the streets for weeks of protest. Ultimately the army was called in arresting and shooting demonstrators at two of the country’s holiest shrines and sealing the country off from the outside world as marchers attempted to walk from Shwedagon Pagoda to Sule Pagoda in Rangoon. It is unsure how many died. Hundreds of monks were believed to have been arrested.

The government almost certainly would have fallen except for the fact that it has been largely propped up by resource sales of natural gas, minerals and timber to India, China and Thailand, using the funds to equip its military with state-of-the art equipment.

China particularly has given the junta aid and cover, along with Singapore, which has served as a conduit for the generals’ money into the international banking system. It is questionable whether her release, coupled with elections, emboldens China particularly and other allies to deepen ties with the junta because it has some protective coloration. Indeed, officially China said it is”confident that Burma will continue its process of peace and ethnic reconciliation.”

It is thus now a test to see how long the government will be able to tolerate her freedom. She obviously dares assassination and probably the generals would have no compunction about doing it. But that could kick off a huge firestorm in the country.

“Her freedom will last at some stage,” said Aung Zaw. “It is releasing her into a bigger prison and can catch her again anytime or even harm her in serious way. I see more trouble before I see any kind of settlement as the regime has erased Aung San Suu Kyi from its mind to talk to since she entered into politics 22 years ago.” – Asia Sentinel

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EarthTimes – Norway offers open invitation to Myanmar opposition leader Suu Kyi
Posted : Wed, 17 Nov 2010 15:51:06 GMT

Oslo – Freed Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been invited to visit Norway “at her convenience,” Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store said Wednesday.Norway is home to the Nobel Peace Prize – the prestigious award that Suu Kyi won in 1991 and which helped draw international attention to the military-rule in Myanar.

Suu Kyi said Norway was the first country she hoped to visit when she is allowed to leave Myanmar, Store added.

Suu Kyi was in house arrest at the time of the announcement and also missed out on the award ceremony where she was represented by her sons and late husband.

The invitation was conveyed to Suu Kyi, 65, by Norwegian Ambassador Katja Nordgaard at a meeting in Yangon, the Norwegian foreign ministry said.

Suu Kyi was freed over the weekend from seven years under house arrest. She has spent 15 of the past 20 years in house arrest.

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EarthTimes – Suu Kyi visits HIV-positive patients in Myanmar
Posted : Wed, 17 Nov 2010 11:11:52 GMT

Yangon – Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi visited HIV-positive patients Wednesday and pleaded for public assistance, four days after her release from house arrest.“Please help them. Donate money to them,” she told a media entourage that accompanied her to meet about 120 patients in South Dagon township, about 10 miles north-east of Yangon.

Patients and onlookers numbering about 500 cheered, “Long Live Daw [Madam] Aung San Suu Kyi.”

HIV and AIDS gets short shrift from Myanmar’s military government, and many patients were happy for the attention from Suu Kyi. One said she was “crying with happiness.” Another said, “I am surprised. I never thought she would visit us.”

Both spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the stigma that comes with being HIV-positive in Myanmar.

The latest government figures available showed it spent 191.4 million kyat (29 million dollars) in 2007 to fight the disease.

The United Nations reported that AIDS cases in Myanmar dropped from 0.94 per cent of the population in 2000 to 0.67 per cent in 2007, the official New Light of Myanmar reported late last year.

The news media has followed Suu Kyi’s every step since her release from house arrest Saturday.

The 65-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who spent 15 of the past 20 years in detention, returned to work Monday at the office of her party, the National League for Democracy, and has been meeting people, including foreign diplomats.

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Times & Transcript – Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi visits HIV/AIDS shelter, promising to get medicine
Published Wednesday November 17th, 2010

YANGON, Myanmar – Myanmar’s democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, recently released from years of detention, has visited a shelter for HIV/AIDS patients, promising to try to get them medicine.The shelter, caring for about 80 patients, was opened by a member of her political party on the outskirts of the main city Yangon. The visit took place Wednesday.

Suu Kyi was freed Saturday from more than seven years of house arrest by the country’s military rulers.

The 65-year-old Nobel Peace laureate must balance the expectations of the country’s pro-democracy movement with the reality that her freedom could be withdrawn any time by the hard-line regime.

Suu Kyi has been detained for 15 of the past 21 years. Her party won a 1990 election but was barred from taking power.

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New Straits Times – Aung San Suu Kyi: Free others, too
2010/11/17 THE International Movement for a Just World (JUST) welcomes the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the world’s most famous political prisoner, from house arrest on Saturday.Imprisoned for 15 out of the last 21 years by a military junta which has suppressed the people’s struggle for human rights and democracy in Myanmar, Suu Kyi has emerged as an enduring, universal symbol of the eternal quest for freedom.

Her indomitable courage and her unwavering perseverance have won accolades from individuals and groups all over the world. What is remarkable about her commitment to her cause is her ability to retain her dignity and integrity in the face of formidable odds.

There is much speculation on why the junta set her free. Since a political party spawned by the junta, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) won a farcical election on Nov 7 by a huge margin, the regime may have felt that its position is secure enough to release Suu Kyi.

On the other hand, given widespread allegations of electoral fraud, her release may also be a way of refurbishing the regime’s tattered public image. It is also true that for some years now, Myanmar’s Asean partners and even its close ally, China, have been quietly cajoling the regime to end Suu Kyi’s incarceration.

Whatever the reasons, JUST hopes that her freedom will not be short-lived. She was released in 1995, after six years in detention. Then in 2000 she was arrested and imprisoned again for two years. After a brief spell of freedom, she was imprisoned for a third time in 2003. She remained in prison or under house arrest for the next seven years. Asean governments and China should go all out to dissuade the military junta from detaining Suu Kyi again.

To prove that it is sincere about Suu Kyi’s release, the junta should set free the 2,200 political prisoners languishing in jails in different parts of the country.

It should also begin to relax its iron grip upon the media and allow social groups to exercise a degree of autonomy in their evaluation of the regime’s governance. Myanmar’s monks should also be given some latitude to act as the nation’s conscience.

Suu Kyi would certainly want to encourage the regime to move in this direction. In this regard, she should be more strategic than she has been in the past.

While holding on to her principles, she should act in such a manner that the regime will have no excuse to abrogate her freedom or to tighten even further its hold upon society.

Let Suu Kyi’s freedom this time pave the way for the eventual liberation of the people of Myanmar.

DR CHANDRA MUZAFFAR
International Movement for a Just World (JUST)
Petaling Jaya,
Selangor

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ClickPress (press release) – DirectRooms.com: Key parallel and soft computing issues are reviewed in Myanmar on 10 December 2010
Computer scientists and programmers will be convening in Yangon to discuss and share ideas on the most advanced technology and procedures used in parallel and soft computing DirectRooms.com can reveal

[ClickPress, Wed Nov 17 2010] On the 10th December 2010, the fifth edition of The Parallel and Soft Computing (PSC) Conference will be held within the Myanmar capital. Delegates from across Asia will be attending, including members of the Japanese Information and Communication Technology Training Institute (ICTTI), to hear about the latest findings from the industry.Leading experts will be presenting research and new information on subjects such as pattern recognition, clustering and classification, machine learning, intelligent information systems and multi-criteria decision making.

In parallel computing programmers look at ways in which a computer can perform multiple calculations simultaneously. This works on the basis that a large problem can be broken down into smaller problems which can then be calculated at the same time. This increases the speed at which a computer can operate and also reduces the power consumption of the unit.

Soft computing looks at alternative solutions when a problem doesn’t have an exact answer and includes the use of fuzzy systems and neural networks. Analysts will be going into detail on both topics at the forum which acts as a platform for attendees to gain greater understanding of the latest systems.

The event is to be held at the University of Computer Studies and the influx of attendees to the city will increase the demand for hotels in Yangon while the conference is on.

Lek Boonlert, marketing head at DirectRooms.com commented: “Parallel and soft computing is an ever changing discipline and many attendees will be heading to the conference to hear about the latest developments. Make an early booking for a hotel is recommended as the capital witnesses a rise in visitor numbers.”

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New Kerala – Myanmar: 100,000 cyclone survivors homeless

New York, Nov 17 : More than 100,000 people remain homeless in Myanmar following the cyclone that struck the country last month, and many more residents of the affected area lost crops and livelihoods, the United Nations humanitarian office reported today, adding that relief efforts are being hampered by logistical constraints.Cyclone Giri, which made landfall in Myanmar on 22 October, destroyed at least 20,380 homes, as the accompanying torrential rainfall caused floods that inundated some 17,500 acres of crops and washed away nearly 50,000 acres of fish and shrimp breeding ponds, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). At least 45 people lost their lives.

Assistance is being delivered by all humanitarian partners, including the Government and local authorities, UN agencies and non-governmental organisations. The first round of food distribution is expected to be completed by 20 November, with more than 1.3 tonnes of food distributed to nearly 200,000 of those affected.

In Myebon, the western township most affected by the cyclone, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has facilitated the transportation of donated medical supplies to rural health facilities.

Emergency shelter kits are required to assist those who remain homeless, but distribution has been challenging due to difficult topography, the remoteness of the affected area and poor or damaged infrastructure, OCHA said.

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The Nation – Burma seeks humanitarian aid for fleeing people
By Marisa Chimprabha, Phnom Penh
Published on November 18, 2010

Burma has asked Thailand to help people fleeing clashes between Burmese troops and ethnic rebels, because they believe the conflict will continue for some time yet.Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said he had told his Burmese counterpart, Thein Sein, that Thailand would do what it can to help the displaced persons.

Abhisit, Thein Sein and leaders of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam were in Phnom Penh for the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (Acmecs) summit.

At a press conference, Abhisit said he had raised the subject of the conflict with Thein Sein on the sidelines of the summit, because the clashes were affecting Thailand as people fled across the border to safety and the conflict spilled over into Thai soil.

“The Burmese premier told me the fighting would continue for quite a while. He also asked me to help provide humanitarian assistance to the Burmese refugees,” the premier said.

“I informed the Burmese PM we were willing to help the people. Most of the thousands who had earlier escaped to Thailand have already returned home.”

Abhisit also told Thein Sein it was clear the conflict spilling over into Thai soil was unintentional. When asked about his thoughts on the recent release of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Abhisit said the matter had been mentioned in the summit.

“Burma said Aung San Suu Kyi had been released as per the law once her detention period expired,” he said.

Suu Kyi was released on November 13, shortly after the junta held its first general election in two decades. Results of the election, which the West branded as a sham, saw most of the parliamentary seats being won by the military-controlled party.

Commenting on his earlier statement that Suu Kyi’s release would help ease tension with the West, Abhisit said western nations had not clarified their stance on the release. However, he admitted, the decision to free Suu Kyi could be considered a response to the call by international communities to release her.

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The Nation – Five Acmecs nations to support new trade lane linking Thailand, Burma, Malaysia
By SASITHORN ONGDEE
Published on November 18, 2010

Five countries at the Fourth Acmecs Summit in Phnom Penh yesterday agreed to support the development of the South-South Economic Corridor that will link the proposed deep-sea port in the south of Burma to the south of Thailand and onwards to Malaysia as a new trade lane in the region.“It was announced at the meeting as a dialogue that five members have supported the deep sea port in the south of Burma,” Tanit Sorat, vice chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, and head of its Logistics Industry Club, told The Nation yesterday.

He is one of the Thai delegates at the Acmecs Summit. Acmecs or the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy is a cooperation framework covering Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam.

TAVOY DEEP-SEA PORT

Tanit said there was no mention of the name of the deep-sea port but it was acknowledged as the Tavoy deep-sea port project.

The South-South Economic Corridor would also complement the Bt200-billion railroad project with proposed financing by China from Nong Khai in the northeast of Thailand, through Bangkok and the south of Thailand to Padang Besar in Malaysia. It would be an extension of the railroad to be built in Laos to connect the south of China.

This would be a new gateway following the East-West Economic Corridor, linking Burma to Vietnam via Thailand and Laos, and the North-South Economic Corridor, connecting Kunming in the south of China to the south of Thailand.

Italian-Thai Development, Thailand’s largest construction company, on November 2 signed the framework agreement with the Burmese Port Authority to develop the Tavoy Deep Sea Port, industrial estate and road link to Thailand. The total project value is US$8.6 billion, or about Bt260 billion.

The project will be located in Tavoy, about 160 kilometres west of Kanchanaburi or 300 kilometres west of Bangkok. The deep-sea port will be 10 times larger than Laem Chabang Port in Chon Buri, which can handle up to 7.5 million 20-feet containers a year.

The contractor aims for the project to become a logistics and trading hub for the region that links Southeast Asia and the South China Sea via the Andaman Sea, to the India Ocean.

A financial industry source said Bangkok Bank is now interested in providing loans to the Tavoy project. Some firms in Taiwan, Japan and China are also keen on participating in the development.

However, many industry watchers are sceptical about the project’s massive scale.

ITD’s stock yesterday rose by 4.6 per cent or 22 satang to close at Bt5 on turnover of Bt1.32 billion.

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The Nation – Authorities urged to take better care of refugees
Published on November 16, 2010

A number of Burmese NGOs and human rights advocacy groups yesterday called for protection and better welfare for Burmese people fleeing from fighting into Thailand.Speaking yesterday at the National Human Rights Commission, the groups told the NHRC and members of foreign and Thai media of the refugees’ plight. The groups said the fighting continued in many border areas, in spite of a statement by the Thai military that all conflict was over.

The Forum of Burma’s community based organisations (FCOB) predicted the fighting would continue and would result in more Burmese fleeing into Thailand.

NHRC commissioner Nirand Phithakwatchara said repatriation and measures should be integrated to ensure better protection and welfare of the refugees. The military was currently handling all situations alone, and a meeting of Thai civilians and the military would be conducted soon to help solve the problems, he said.

In Tak, 300 more Burmese fled into Phob Phra district on Sunday evening after gunfire between the Burmese military and a minority group. Refugee numbers had risen to 600 following reports heavy fighting would soon break out.

Local authorities said Phob Phra district was expecting to house more refugees, but the situation at border areas across from Mae Sot district had returned to normal after Burmese troops had recaptured those areas.

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THAI-BURMA RELATIONS
Bangkok Post – Opinion: Economic dependence subjugates policy
Published: 17/11/2010 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News

In one short week over two long decades, Burma has returned to a window of potential political transition not seen since its last elections in 1990 were hijacked by the military.This time, the orchestrated polls on Nov 7 have overwhelmingly sent military-backed representatives of the Union Solidarity and Development Party to parliament.

On election day, renewed fighting between the Burmese army and ethnic minority groups flared up along the Thai-Burmese border.

Less than a week later, the iconic leader of Burma’s opposition, Aung San Suu Kyi, was freed from house arrest where she had been confined for 15 of the last 21 years.

The implications from these momentous times in Burma are immense for Thailand, Southeast Asia and beyond.

The contrast between the responses to the election results from the West and Burma’s near-abroad was conspicuous. China and India’s comments were muted. Both Asian giants have vested interests in Burma’s economic development, having courted and competed for the ruling generals in Naypyidaw for strategic assets and natural resources.

As Southeast Asia’s main regional organisation, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’s receptive reaction was a foregone conclusion. The elections were the culmination of Asean’s longstanding policy of “constructive engagement” and its now-proven rationale for accepting the generals’ Burma back in 1997. Notwithstanding dissenting voices from Indonesia and the Philippines, Asean will now want to tick the electoral box on Burma’s democratic checklist and move on.

As the country most directly affected by events in Burma, Thailand also revealed its hand well before the elections. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s initial reaction to the polls was to stick to the stated time-frame of the military-sponsored constitution of a three-month period before power is transferred to the elected government.

Although his predecessor and mentor, former prime minister Chuan Leekpai, made a point of not setting foot on Burma’s soil in the late 1990s when the State Peace and Development Council was ensconced in power, Mr Abhisit not only visited Naypyidaw but came home with a multi-billion-dollar port development deal.

The Democrat Party-led government leader did not even visit Burma then, but his successor a decade later has now reversed course. Thailand’s relative emphasis on human rights and democracy as its foreign policy underpinnings have gone out the window. But if pragmatism and material interests are to dictate Thailand’s Burma policy, they should be rethought.

Thailand needs to come up with a longer-term energy outlook and a forward-looking immigration policy.

The port deal at Dawei (Tavoy) should be seen as part of a broader package of Thailand’s growing energy dependence on Burma. More than 70% of Thai electricity generation derives from natural gas, and nearly half of that portion is imported from Burma’s gas pipelines, with the rest made up of coal, hydro and petroleum sources. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are negligible. Nuclear power would be a viable alternative, as Vietnam’s imminent construction of two nuclear power plants attests.

But for Thailand, nuclear power will need broad-based public discussions and hearings to promote trust and confidence and allay civil society concerns. Nuclear power is thus many years in the distance _ if it ever materialises.

Thailand, in short, is beset by energy insecurity. On a per-capita basis, Thailand’s electricity consumption is in the range of the developed economies in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). And its foreseeable energy future is reliant on natural gas. Until it can tap into reserves in unexplored areas in the Gulf of Thailand, particularly the overlapping claims with Cambodia, Thailand’s gas dependence on Burma will grow.

In turn, such dependence will constrain Thai foreign policy vis-a-vis Burma.

The fluid and precarious post-election interplay in Burma should prompt Thai leaders to start thinking about longer-term energy security.

Another serious challenge will be the demographics of economic growth. More than two million migrant workers from Burma are reportedly resident in Thailand, without corresponding rights to education and health care. Many of these migrant workers, now in their second generation, are unlikely to return to Burma even if peace and stability are restored.

A long-term comprehensive immigration policy, as opposed to the current ad hoc registration, could provide them with residency rights with access to proper education and health care. They now form the backbone of the back-breaking work in service industries, particularly construction, processed food and fisheries. If they continue to be excluded from the system and preyed on by Thai authorities for extortionist gains, they may become a source of social problems and crime in the years to come, owing to a lack of access to education and career mobility. The Thai economy can no longer thrive without these essential workers.

The more immediate demographic challenge will take place along the Thai-Burmese border.

Mr Abhisit’s crass and myopic three-month reference for Burma’s power transfer does not conduce to the logistical and humanitarian preparations that should be put in place.

The armed conflicts between the Burmese army and the ethnic minorities may well go on indefinitely. Largely unrepresented in parliament both at the national and regional levels following the polls, the major ethnic groups, such as the Karen and the Shan, are unwilling to lay down arms and be absorbed into the border guard forces controlled by the Burmese armies.

The growing spectre of civil war should lead Thai policy-makers and military commanders to start thinking about longer-term refugee sanctuaries along the border. It is not sustainable to receive the displaced ethnic refugees one day and repatriate them the next.

International relief agencies should be allowed and encouraged to share the burden. A longer-term refugee policy and accommodation, which has been a trademark in Thailand’s foreign dealings in the past, should be formulated immediately.
The drugs production and trafficking associated with minority groups’ war-financing will also need to be checked and deterred.

Burma after elections stands at a precipice. It could turn out well over a long transition, or very badly in relatively short order. The risks of continued military rule fronted by a bogus electoral regime on the one hand clashing with a pent-up and long-suffering opposition bent on going for “too much, too soon” will grow.

Thailand needs to be better prepared by providing safe havens along the border, relying less on Burma’s natural gas and accommodating Burmese and Burmese minority workers who are contributing to the Thai economy for the long haul.

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Lakehouse Daily News, Sri Lanka – Maha Sangha commends Myanmar
Thursday, 18 November 2010

Sri Lanka Amparapura Sangha Council President Most Venerable Aggamaha Panditha Kotugoda Dhammawasa Anu Nayaka Thera on behalf of Bhashanthara Visharada Most Venerable Dawuldena Sri Gnaneswara Maha Nayaka Thera, Supreme Head of the Amarapura Sect, other Chief Prelates and Bhikkus of the sect has issued the following statement to Myanmar’s Head of State General Than Shwe and his government welcoming the release of Myanmar’s Opposition Leader Aung San Suu Kyi from detention on November 13.The strong ties between Sri Lanka and Myanmar (Burma) resulting from Emperor Dharmasoka’s worldwide Buddhist missionary work go back to the time of King Devanampiyatissa. The Kings of Myanmar and her Sangha gave their full cooperation to revive the Sri Lanka’s Buddha Sasana every time it faced decline due to the impact of colonial rules. It was Myanmar’s King Anuruddha and Maha Sangha who helped to strengthen the Sangha establishment in our country in 1070 AD during the rule of Vijayabahu the Great (King Vijayabahu I).

Myanmar’s Amarapura and Ramanna Kingdoms were the birth places of the Sri Lanka Amarapura and the Sri Lanka Ramanna sects. All of Myanmar’s literary works make many detailed references to Sri Lanka.

Even today the relationship between the two countries has made the people of Myanmar to regard Sri Lankan Buddhists with great affection. Since the decade between 1920 and 1930 Myanmar’s Buddhists made an immense contribution to the renovation of the Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy. Everyone may recall the assistance Myanmar gave Sri Lanka by providng large stocks of rice when we faced a rice shortage, a couple of years ago.

In the context of this strong relationship it is the fervent wish of Sri Lanka’s Buddhist laity and clergy that Myanmar reaches great heights as a democratic socialist state in the modern world. Furthermore,

The Most Venerabale Kotugoda Dhammawasa Thera mentioned that “we express our heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to Myanmar’s Buddhist Head of State, General Than Shwe and his government for releasing Opposition Leader Aung San Suu Kyi to pave the way for a strong democracy in Myanmar.

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Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010
The Japan Times – Myanmar engagement to continue
Kyodo News The government will stick with its engagement policy toward Myanmar as a way to promote democracy in the military-ruled country, Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said Tuesday.After announcing $500,000 in aid to address cyclone damage in Myanmar, Maehara told a news conference that Tokyo believes the Nov. 7 general election was not conducted in a fair manner, but even so it will “not say no” to everything.

The nationwide parliamentary elections, held for the first time in 20 years, have been portrayed by Myanmar’s ruling junta as part of a “road map to democracy.” In the West, however, they have been widely criticized as a ploy to cement the junta’s grip on power.

About 25 percent of legislative seats were allocated to military appointees and the polls excluded prodemocracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, who was released Saturday after seven years of house arrest.

“Even though it is not seen as perfect based on our standards, Myanmar has made a step forward,” Maehara said. “Japan should take an approach of staying in touch with the country and prodding it to take one or two more steps forward.”

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The Irrawaddy – Long Cut Off, Suu Kyi Embraces a Brave New World
By YENI Thursday, November 18, 2010

When Aung San Suu Kyi was freed after more than seven years of house arrest last Saturday, she immediately got an introduction to an aspect of life that has changed dramatically in the time she has spent in detention.As she looked out at the sea of her supporters who had gathered to witness the moment of her release, hundreds of digital cameras and cell phones began snapping images of her.

She was so struck by this display of the proliferation of modern technology that she couldn’t help but comment on it when she made her first full speech at the National League for Democracy (NLD) headquarters the next day.

“I see camera-phones all over the place. This shows the development of communication,” she said, quickly adding: “This development must be used for the good of the majority. Communication brings understanding. Please use communication to foster mutual understanding and unity.”

Even speaking into one of these “camera-phones” was a learning experience for Suu Kyi, who used one to have an “emotional” conversation with her 33-year-old son, Kim Aris, soon after her release.

“I used a phone like this for the first time yesterday,” she said to her audience, after asking everyone to hold up their phones. “Six years ago these did not exist here. I did not even know where to talk into.”

Now Suu Kyi, whose power to attract huge crowds shows no signs of waning—a testament to both her enduring appeal and the profound unpopularity of the ruling regime—has discovered a new way to reach an audience eager to catch her every word.

And it’s not just the people who want to hear what she has to say. According to NLD officials, at least 300 media organizations from around the world are queuing for interviews with “the Lady.”

So far, Suu Kyi has not been prevented from speaking to her supporters or reporters; but the junta is notoriously wary of allowing information to flow too freely. Especially since the Buddhist monk-led Saffron Revolution of September 2007, the regime has kept the Internet under tight control.

More recently, Internet users in Burma reported a sudden drop in connection speeds as the country prepared to go to the polls on Nov. 7. This, along with a complete ban on foreign reporters covering the election, was seen by international media watchdogs as further evidence of the regime’s determination to control the message coming out of the country.

Now that the election is over and the regime-backed party is assured of winning, the junta appears to have relaxed its stranglehold over the flow of information. Internet speeds are back to normal and a handful of international journalists have managed to get into the country. Local media have also been able to report Suu Kyi’s release.

But what passes for normal in Burma would still be regarded as extremely restrictive in almost any other country. According to the Rangoon-based journalists, the Burmese censorship board, the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD), has ordered domestic media to carry limited news about Suu Kyi.

Media groups inside Burma were keen on reporting Suu Kyi’s public speech on Sunday, but were largely unable to do so due to restrictions by the PSRD. Other restriction were also strictly enforced.

“We couldn’t run any large photos of Suu Kyi or put her photo on the front page,” said an editor in Rangoon, adding that only “positive” comments from Suu Kyi’s speech were permitted for publication.

But freedom-long Burmese journalists were not about to be deterred from giving the biggest story of the year its due. One publication, the leading sports journal First Eleven, used a clever combination of headlines about English Premier League match results to splash news of  Suu Kyi’s release on its front page.

By playing with the placement and lettering colors of some innocent-looking headlines—“Sunderland Freeze Chelsea,” “United Stunned by Villa” and “Arsenal Advance to Grab Their Hope”—the journal was able to spell out a very different message: “Su Free Unite & Advance to Grab The Hope.”

Despite the regime’s efforts to restrict news about Suu Kyi, most news journals couldn’t resist the chance to boost their sales by pushing the envelope in their coverage of her release.

“True and Flower journals, which came out on Sunday, and Monday’s Weekly Eleven sold very well because they carried Suu Kyi’s photo and news.

People asked for news about her before they bought it. Some bought journals because they said they wanted to keep them,” said a bookshop owner in Rangoon.

Meanwhile, Burmese in the major cities, such as Rangoon and Mandalay, turned to the Internet and cable television, which carries some international news networks and the exiled Democratic Voice of Burma, to pick up more information about Suu Kyi.

Surprisingly, the online version of The Voice, a journal published by Dr Nay Win Maung—the son of a military officer who recently called on Suu Kyi to endorse the junta’s new Constitution to ensure that the NLD was not “disenfranchised”—seemed to have the freest hand in reporting Suu Kyi’s public speeches and press conference.

But it is clear that Suu Kyi is hoping modern technology will help her to reach out to her fellow citizens more effectively than she ever could through Burma’s traditional media. Even before she was released, she said through her lawyer, Nyan Win, that she wanted to sign up for a Twitter account so she can “tweet” and keep in touch with the younger generation.

Thawng Kho Thang, a member of a group of senior ethnic leaders who met with Suu Kyi on Tuesday, said she even suggested that future efforts to discuss the status of Burma’s ethnic minorities could be organized around the Internet.

After more than seven years of depending on the radio to keep herself up to date on domestic and world affairs, Suu Kyi is clearly ready  for more interactive forms of communication.

Moreover, when she looked out into the crowd on Saturday, she saw not only the latest digital gadgets, but also a lot of young faces.

“I saw our new blood, our new generation, actively participating in the political process actively,” she said in an interview with Radio Free Asia. And she knows that if she wants to keep this audience engaged, she will have to learn how to speak their language.

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The Irrawaddy – Mae Tao Clinic to Relocate
By SAI ZOM HSENG Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot, Thailand, will move to a new location because of financial challenges, according to Dr. Cynthia Maung, the founder of the clinic.Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Wednesday, Cynthia Maung said, “I’m sure that the new place is not going be perfect at the beginning. We have to take it step by step.”

She said the cost of rent at the current clinic location is 200,000 baht (US $6,680) per month.

She said some international donors have cut the amount of their contribution, adding to the clinic’s financial woes. A source close to the clinic said that some donors have reduced
their contributions by 20 to 30 percent.

The clinic is supported by about 10 organizations including USAID, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Canada and Italy.

The strategic focus of many international donors began to change about two years ago when they shifted their first priority to organizations working inside Burma, said observers.

The Mae Tao clinic provides free treatment to Burmese migrants and refugees in Thailand, in addition to many Burmese residents of Karen State who cross the border to receive treatment.

According to Dr. Thiha Maung, a former vice chairman of the clinic, “Many patients are from Karen and Mon State, but there were some patients from upper Burma who need eye treatment. About 400 patients came to the clinic for treatment every day.”

Mae Tao clinic began in 1989. In 2008, after Cyclone Nargis, the clinic sent a medical team to treat cyclone victims in the Irrawaddy delta.

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The Irrawaddy – UN Security Council to Discuss Burma Issue
By LALIT K. JHA Wednesday, November 17, 2010

WASHINGTON—For the first time in several months, the United Nations Security Council will hold consultations on Burma on Thursday.The 15-member body is expected to discuss the current situation in Burma in the aftermath of the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy leader, and the completion of  parliamentary elections, which the world has termed illegitimate.

Britain is the president of the UN Security Council for the month of November.

Meanwhile, the former first lady, Laura Bush, has said that she hoped that the release of Suu Kyi is unconditional, and that she would not be put under house arrest again.

“For most of the past two decades, the leader of Burma’s democracy movement and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was a prisoner in her own home. The free world rejoiced this week at her release, but it came only after she was banned from participating in Burma’s recent elections,” said Laura Bush, who during the Bush administration was instrumental in shaping the US policy towards Burma.

“She’s been released before, only to be placed back under house arrest by the military regime. This time, we hope that Aung San Suu Kyi’s freed without condition, and that she’s allowed to continue her peaceful work until the day when all of Burma’s citizens live in freedom,” Laura Bush said.

“Around the world, all of us who live in freedom have the obligation to condemn barbaric acts against women, because an electorate that shuts out women is not a democracy, and a population that denies the rights of women is not a free society,” said the former First Lady said.

Suzanne DiMaggio, the director of Asia Society’s Task Force on US Policy Towards Burma, said that Burmese military leaders are “spinning” Suu Kyi’s release.

“It is more likely an attempt to deflect attention away from widespread reports of voter fraud and rigging in an election where the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party claims to have won 80 percent of the vote,” she said.

DiMaggio sees Suu Kyi’s release as an opportunity for the Obama administration, but the process of change through engagement threatens to be protracted. “China and India should lend their weight to this, but will they?” she asked.

“In his address to India’s Parliament last week, when he voiced support for India’s seat on the U.N. Security Council, President Obama called on Delhi to play a more positive role in Burma. The gap with China on this issue seems as large as ever as Beijing hailed the elections as a critical step in Burma’s ‘transition to an elected government’ ignoring the widespread irregularities and intimidation that took place prior to the election,” DiMaggio said.

“The key to understanding this weekend’s release of Aung San Suu Kyi,” said Sheridan Prasso, an Asia Society associate fellow who interviewed Aung San Suu Kyi in 1998, “is that she has been released twice before, has agitated many times before for further political change—as she is doing once again—and then was re-detained for pushing the limits too far. We can surely expect a repeat of this tension-filled history: she won’t be silent while more than 2,000 members of her party remain in prison under authoritarian rule; and the generals who recently cemented their power with a farcical election have no interest in sharing power or in letting Daw Suu loosen their grip.”

Suu Kyi has been called Asia’s Nelson Mandela, but in a recent op-ed for the International Herald Tribune, Bertil Lintner, an Asia Society associate fellow and author of seven books on Burma, wrote “many foreign observers are wondering whether her release will bring Myanmar’s ‘Mandela moment’—the beginning of the end of repression and the first, tangible step toward national reconciliation. But this is a skewed analogy. There are fundamental differences between the transition to majority rule in South Africa and Myanmar’s struggle for democracy.”

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The Suu Kyi factor
Wednesday, 17 November 2010 23:46 Shwe Shwe

Rangoon (Mizzima) – The most common answer on the streets of Rangoon to the question of how soon the impact of a free Aung San Suu Kyi will be felt is “immediately”. Unfortunately, it is a response likely grounded in a moment of hope and rather irrespective of the current situation inside Burma.With the euphoria surrounding the release on Saturday of Burma’s opposition leader, followed by a gathering well into the thousands to hear her speak the following day, speculation among Rangoon observers was that the regime had possibly miscalculated in releasing the Nobel laureate.

However, the initial stages of the release having passed, the reality of the situation on the ground has readily asserted itself. While an extensive media presence, domestic and international, captured the events of November 13 and 14 – as the regime expected to happen, relaying the message of their “goodwill” to the world – ensuing days have seen security tightened, the media spotlight having moved on and those still lingering in the form of Suu Kyi paparazzi placed under increasing scrutiny.

Moreover, the headquarters of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party – officially a non-existent entity – following the press conference of November 14 has exuded more the air of a provincial Nepalese medical post, with visitors of various origins freely coming and going, milling around and hoping for at least a brief visage of “Aunty” and some kind of remedy to appear from the barren cupboards.

As with the gross disparity in electoral resources witnessed by the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), those of the state dominate resources at the disposal of the NLD; a single phone line, not always operational, services the party’s office needs. Accordingly, though Suu Kyi speaks of the advent of “true” democracy as depending “very much on how much support the people give us”, the elephant in the room clearly remains the Burmese security sector.

Views from the streets

In Rangoon, hardly anyone spoken to approves of the current condition of the country. A pervading apathy regarding politics, and elections specifically, is the order of the day beyond the highly politicised branches of the NLD, its splinter group, the National Democratic Force (NDF), and those basing political allegiance squarely on the dubious shoulders of identity politics.

Hushed voices, and sometimes the not so hushed, everywhere greet the visitor as to the deplorable situation Burma’s citizenry has been exposed to by the diktats of the country’s generals. The overtures can sometimes border on the absurd, such as a comment on the innate beauty of the United States flag compared with the ugly new flag of Burma which one restaurateur claims “nobody in country like”.

The people, comments one politically active professional, are not just excited about Suu Kyi, they are looking to support anything that offers a deviation from the country’s present trajectory. The feeling, he suspects, is a mixture of pro-Suu Kyi and anti-junta.

A non-voter, out of apathy, and non-attendee of Suu Kyi’s public address offers a complemental assessment. According to this businessman, it is not just about getting democracy for Burma.

The problem, he says, is that Burma’s government only looks to itself, whereas other governments, while still looking after their own interests, also look to the needs of the people. “We have no health care, no education, no insurance,” he laments.

“Any government is okay, as long as they do their best. But right now they do not,” he added. Asked if he would support the new parliament as comprised if it showed it looked to “do its best”, the answer came quickly: “Yes, of course.”

It is difficult to judge just how deep such a sentiment lies in the Burmese political body, but for many in Rangoon it remains impossible to see past the monumental personage of Suu Kyi.

An unemployed Muslim who lives near Rangoon University with his wife and four children and who was an eager onlooker during the events of Sunday in which Suu Kyi greeted her faithful, reflects a view of the opposition leader bordering on a sort of civilian messiah.

Why do you like her so much? “Because she is the daughter of our first king,” replied the wiry man with betel-stained teeth, obviously assigning the title of first king to Suu Kyi’s father, independence hero General Aung San.

While Suu Kyi would no doubt cringe at the thought of her father being considered the first monarch of a new Burmese empire, it is not a unique sentiment and an image, speaking of the lineage and not the misappropriated royal title, actively cultivated by “The Lady” and her party.

In a taxi en route to NLD headquarters, the driver inquired if I was aware that her father was a king of Burma. Meanwhile, a giant billboard depicting a portrait of Suu Kyi with her late father in military garb slightly in the background gazed upon all those in attendance on Sunday. And the inner sanctum of the NLD office is adorned with various murals depicting both father and daughter.

An infatuation with revisiting past events, specifically in this case the inauspicious assassination of Aung San and colleagues just prior to independence, continues to weave its way throughout the posturing of Suu Kyi’s party.

Despite unquestioned charisma and oratorical skills, the policies of Suu Kyi have in the past been criticised for being uncompromising to the point of frustrating gradual change. The politically active professional shares the concern, but is yet hopeful that it will not be allowed to obstruct future gains.

“I worry about that too. But, she also says she does not want a Suu Kyi dictatorship,” he affirmed, stressing that any movement forward depends both on Suu Kyi and the military-backed government.

From the streets, people in the wake of Suu Kyi’s release are yet looking … hoping, and generally form a far more politically diversified bloc than might be expected – any broad unification today would have to be said to be grounded in apathy.

By far the most challenging question posed to those consulted regarded the amount of patience people would have for Suu Kyi to demonstrate a tangible gain. That, it was said by virtually all approached, would “depend”.

Looking forward

A major factor in the potential impact of Suu Kyi on the greater Burmese political body will be her ability to travel freely throughout the country. Rangoon, despite heavily censored media, is largely aware of proceedings, but speculation is that most of the country remains largely ignorant. And, if the impact of recent happenings in Rangoon on Burma’s outlying communities is any indication, it is likely an opinion borne of realism.

Those canvassed were unanimous in their expectation that Suu Kyi’s travel beyond Rangoon would be tightly controlled. Even in Rangoon, comments one student, she is not free to do whatever she likes or speak wherever she likes. Freedom, and one look no further than the motley collection of characters at her party’s headquarters, is still a much-qualified term.

Having been largely shut out from her supporters – domestic and foreign, at home and abroad – for the last seven years, it will also be vital for Suu Kyi to recover her own voice and assert control and direction over her party and supporters. A clear and enforced policy platform regarding contentious issues would also aid in determining if dialogue with the country’s generals is possible. The multitude of voices that have insinuated to speak on her behalf must be subsumed within her true aspirations and interpretations.

As for her personal popularity and following, a sizable core of supporters, and not without good reason, can be expected to remain loyal and follow The Lady wherever she may lead. Upon leaving the festivities on Sunday, a boy in a miniature replica of the pale orange jackets worn by NLD central executive committee members walked alongside his father and, camera focused, launched his fist into the air; a clear indication that Suu Kyi, her party and politically faithful are not leaving the Burmese political scene any time soon.

However, true gains respective of Burma’s political landscape will likely only be realised with the advent of visible gains on the ground and in the lives of the Burmese people, who are ready to jump back on the “Suu Kyi bandwagon” but have grown weary of a domestic landscape void of results as epitomised by this month’s much-maligned general election.

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DVB News – Party calls for USDP abolishment
By AHUNT PHONE MYAT
Published: 17 November 2010 Accusations of foul play continue to plague the junta-backed winners of Burma’s elections, with one party calling for the abolishment of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).Official results so far announced in state media show the USDP to be leading by a stretch, with more than 900 seats already won. The current runner-up is the Shan Nationalities and Development Party (SNDP), which has won only around 55, although results continue to trickle out.

But allegations of vote-rigging by the military-appointed Election Commission to favour the USDP, which includes up to 30 recently retired junta officials, have dominated coverage of the polls.

Amongst the more vocal complainants is the National Unity Party (NUP), which was seen as a proxy of the regime in the 1990 elections but was usurped by the USDP this time around. NUP candidate Tin Oo said that illegal behaviour was seen at a number of polling stations in his hometown of Pegu.

“When we arrived at the ballot station in Mazin Awon street [in Pegu], we saw people wearing Election Commission badges guarding the doors to voting rooms for each parliament, and they were urging voters to vote for ‘the lion’ [USDP],” he said.

“And there were elderly persons who didn’t know how to vote and [the guards] insisted they help them out. [The guards] marked the boxes next to the USDP logo.”

One party which that failed to win any seats is the Peace and Democracy Party (PDP), which has gone as far as to urge the abolishment of the USDP.

A Central Executive Committee member of the party, Myo Nyunt, said that the USDP, which is led by Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein, was not qualified to register for the elections in the first place.

Under Article 7 of the Political Parties Registration Law, no party competing in the elections can utilise money or property owned by the state. But critics claim that the USDP, which evolved from the junta’s ‘social welfare’ wing, the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), has breached this regulation, having inherited much of the USDA’s funds.

Myo Nyunt also said that his party would call for the nullification of the election results given the extent of corruption surrounding the country’s first polls in two decades. But with the EC being the only body able to make such decisions, it’s unlikely any action will be taken.

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DVB News – Suu Kyi reignites push for ethnic autonomy
By KHIN HNIN HTET
Published: 17 November 2010

Ethnic leaders have met with released opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi in a bid to reignite a major push for autonomy for Burma’s myriad ethnic groups.The convening of a second Panglong Conference more than 60 years after the historic 1947 meeting has been made a priority by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party, which until its dissolution earlier this year had been the strongest opposition to the majority Burman junta.

Suu Kyi was accompanied on Monday by senior members of the NLD, including deputy Tin Oo and elder Win Tin, at the party’s Rangoon headquarters, where she met with key figures from various ethnic groups in Burma.

“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi discussed the particulars of convening a 21st Century Panglong Conference, and how to…bring more unity and confidence among all ethnicities,” said Tin Oo.

Also present were members of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), the Zomi National Congress leader Pu Cint Sian Than, Htaung Co Thang of Committee Representing the People’s Parliament (CRPP), as well as Nai Ngwe Thein, chairman of the All Mon Regions Democracy Party, and Thar Bann from the Arakan League for Democracy.

It was Suu Kyi’s father, General Aung San, who as the head of Burma’s interim government in 1947 brought together Shan, Chin and Kachin leaders to discuss autonomy, but then as part of a wider push for independence from British rule.

Aung San however was killed later that year and no further progress on ethnic rights was made. Around 135 minority groups live in Burma, predominantly in the country’s volatile border regions which have hosted decades-long conflicts against the ruling junta.

Tin Oo said that Suu Kyi’s tabling of “Panglong 2”, as it’s come to be known, was welcomed by the participants at the meeting, who would reconvene at the weekend for a wider discussion.

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* The views expressed by authors in the articles are their own.

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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.