AP – WikiLeaks: Singapore Lee says Myanmar ’stupid’
AP – EU human rights laureate calls for change in Cuba
AP – A dozen nations added to child, forced labor list
Reuters – Major push could end malaria deaths by 2015: WHO
Bangkok Post – Burmese villagers question China over impact of dam
EarthTimes – Indonesia backs Aung San Suu Kyi role in Myanmar political solution
OneWorld South Asia – “Burma is an enemy of the Internet”
Asian Correspondent – Burma’s junta plans for more killings
Deutsche Welle – Suu Kyi calls on Europe and Germany to be more supportive
Independent – Norway accused of funding abuse in Burma
Asia Times Online – US double talk on Myanmar nukes
People’s Daily Online – China Industry Expo opens in Myanmar’s Yangon
CNN News – China, India hope to build trust amid tensions
Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber – Vashon High School students talk with Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi
Asahi Shimbun – Myanmar junta ignores Suu Kyi signals for dialogue
The Irrawaddy – Former US Diplomats Seek Use of ‘Smart Power’ in Burma
The Irrawaddy – Ethnic Villagers Face Threats for Not Voting USDP
The Irrawaddy – Junta Ends Border Trade Blockade After China Protest
Mizzima News – Suu Kyi gives 10m kyat to Giri victims
Mizzima News – Suu Kyi to meet young activists
Mizzima News – UK urges Ban to sack Nambiar, appoint full-time Burma envoy
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WikiLeaks: Singapore Lee says Myanmar ’stupid’
By ALEX KENNEDY, Associated Press – Wed Dec 15, 2:47 am ET SINGAPORE (AP) – Singapore statesman Lee Kuan Yew called Myanmar’s junta leaders “stupid” and “dense” in conversations with U.S. diplomats, according to classified documents released this week by WikiLeaks.The Singapore leader said dealing with Myanmar’s military regime was like “talking to dead people,” according to a confidential U.S. briefing on a 2007 conversation between Lee and U.S. Ambassador Patricia L. Herbold and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Christensen released by WikiLeaks.

The 87-year-old Lee is known for his outspoken and blunt assessments of world affairs, but avoids publicly insulting the leadership of foreign countries. Lee was prime minister from 1959 to 1990 and remains a senior adviser to his son, current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

A cable released by Wikileaks a couple of weeks earlier quotes Lee calling North Korea’s leaders “psychopathic types with a ‘flabby old chap’ for a leader who prances around stadiums seeking adulation.” The reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is from a cable citing a May 2009 conversation between Lee and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg.

Lee has not commented on the releases, while Singapore’s government has dismissed them as “gossip” and cautioned against taking them out of context.

In the most recently released cable, Lee said China had the most influence over Myanmar’s leadership of any foreign country and that Beijing was worried the country would “blow up” and thus threaten Chinese investments there.

“Lee expressed his scorn for the regime’s leadership,” the leaked cable said. “He said he had given up on them a decade ago, called them ‘dense’ and ’stupid’ and said they had ‘mismanaged’ the country’s great natural resources.”

Lee said India was engaging Myanmar’s leadership in a bid to minimize China’s influence, but that “India lacked China’s finer grasp of how Burma worked,” according to the cable.

Lee said a group of less ‘obtuse’ younger military officers could take control and share power with democracy activists, “although probably not with Aung San Suu Kyi, who was anathema to the military.”

After more than seven years under house arrest, pro-democracy leader Suu Kyi was released Nov. 13, a week after Myanmar’s first election in 20 years, which were won overwhelmingly by a pro-military party. Critics have slammed the polling as a sham aimed at cementing military rule.

Singapore has questioned the veracity of some documents purportedly leaked by Wikileaks and published by some Australian newspapers. The reports quote Singapore diplomats as making unflattering remarks about Malaysia, India, Japan and Thailand during meetings with U.S. diplomats.

In a statement issued late Tuesday, Singapore’s Foreign Ministry said “what Singapore officials were alleged by WikiLeaks to have said did not tally with our own records.”

“One purported meeting (between Singapore and U.S. diplomats) did not even take place,” it said.

Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo told reporters earlier this week that, in any case, such cables were interpretations of conversations by U.S. diplomats, and therefore shouldn’t be “over-interpreted.”

“These are in the nature of cocktail talk,” Yeo said. “It’s always out of context. It’s gossip.”

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EU human rights laureate calls for change in Cuba
By RAF CASERT, Associated Press – 59 mins ago

BRUSSELS (AP) – A Cuban dissident used a video address at Wednesday’s award of the EU’s main human rights prize to call for the release of political prisoners in his homeland and for the government to end attacks on the opposition.Guillermo Farinas was not allowed by Cuba to travel to receive the Sakharov human rights prize in Strasbourg, France.

Farinas, a 48-year-old psychologist and freelance journalist, said the travel ban was “irrefutable testimony to the fact that unfortunately nothing has changed (in Cuba).”

An empty chair — set out for him — sat in the middle of the legislature with a Cuban flag draped over it. EU Parliament President Jerzy Buzek said it signified a “sad day” on the annual occasion when the bloc wants to laud a stirring example of bravery in the face of human rights oppression.

Farinas won the Sakharov prize in October after his 134-day hunger strike helped draw attention to the plight of activists, opposition leaders and social critics in Cuban jails.

He had been kept alive through periodic intravenous feedings at a hospital in his hometown Santa Clara, but began accepting food and water a day after an agreement between the government and Cuba’s Roman Catholic Church to release 52 political prisoners.

Farinas has spent more than 11 years in prison for a variety of offenses, though he was not behind bars during the hunger strike. He has said he decided to launch his protest after the death of a jailed political prisoner following a long hunger strike.

Cuba’s government considers him a common criminal paid for by Cuba’s enemies in Washington, and notes that some of his legal troubles include an assault on a co-worker and other violent behavior. Farinas says all the charges are linked to his activism.

Previous winners of the prize include Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela. It was awarded twice before to Cubans: in 2002 to pro-democracy activist Oswaldo Paya and in 2005 to a dissident group, Ladies in White.

On the eve of the ceremony Farinas said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press from his home in Cuba that authorities denied him permission to travel because the government never received a formal request from the European Union. Cubans hoping to leave the island must request a “tarjeta blanca” or “white card,” from the government.

In his video address, transmitted to solemn silence at the legislature, he compared it to a card the slaves had to carry in colonial times.

“I had everything ready, my passport, a visa for France and my tickets,” Farinas told the AP. “The only thing missing was the political will of the Cuban government.”

He welcomed the prize. “This prize for me represents first and foremost a reason to increase my commitment to keep up the fight so that we will one day have true democracy in Cuba,” he said.

He called for the release of political prisoners, respect for peaceful opposition, the abolition of laws contravening human rights, rights for a free media and trade unions and a call to allow the Cuban diaspora to become involved in political life.

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A dozen nations added to child, forced labor list
Wed Dec 15, 3:03 am ETWASHINGTON (AP) – The Labor Department is adding a dozen countries to the list of nations that use child labor or forced labor, as officials warn the global economic crisis could cause an upswing in the exploitation of children and other workers.

From coffee grown in El Salvador to sapphires mined in Madagascar, the agency’s latest reports, to be released Wednesday, identify 128 goods from 70 countries where child labor, forced labor or both are used in violation of international standards.

“Shining light on these problems is a first step toward motivating governments, the private sector and concerned citizens to take action to end these intolerable abuses that have no place in our modern world,” said Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.

New to the list are Angola, Central African Republic, Chad, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The annual reports are not intended to punish or shame the countries where an estimated 215 million child laborers toil in factories, on farms or as domestic helpers. In fact, the agency says many of the countries that appear on the list are taking steps to address child labor problems. Labor Department officials say making the public aware of the problem helps promote efforts to combat child labor.

While the total number of child laborers fell by about 3 percent from 2004 to 2008, the rate of decline has slowed in recent years.

“I think the very recent picture gives us significant cause for concern,” said Sandra Polaski, deputy undersecretary for the Bureau of International Labor Affairs. “That has a lot to do with the economic crisis.”

India remains home to the greatest number of child laborers, followed by China. But smaller nations in sub-Saharan Africa have a much higher proportion of children — up to one-third of children under 14 — who go to work instead of school each day.

For the first time, the reports include a set of proposed actions for each government to consider to help reduce the problems detailed.

The agency praises India and some other countries for working to address the problem through anti-poverty programs and compulsory education. Brazil, Thailand, Jordan, Ivory Coast and Ghana also win plaudits for their efforts to combat child labor.

At the same time, the report calls out some of the worst offenders. They include Uzbekistan, where local officials require children to pick cotton, and Myanmar, where forced labor of adults and children helps produce everything from sugar and teak to rubber and rubies.

“They know what the problem is and they know how to fix it, they just need to get serious about doing it,” Polaski said.

The problem is complicated in countries like India, Pakistan and Tonga that have no legislation setting a minimum age for work. That makes children more vulnerable to being pulled into hazardous or grueling trades.

Some of the most common products produced by child labor or forced labor include cotton, sugar cane, tobacco, coffee, bricks, gold, diamonds and coal.

The Labor Department is also working to combat instances of child labor in the United States. Last year, for example, investigators from the agency’s Wage and Hour Division found children as young as 6 working on blueberry farms in Michigan. Eight farms were fined about $36,000 for violating federal migrant-housing and child-labor laws.

Solis said inspections this year during the harvest in Michigan, New Jersey and North Carolina have yet to find child labor violations.

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Major push could end malaria deaths by 2015: WHO
By Stephanie Nebehay – Tue Dec 14, 1:26 pm ET GENEVA (Reuters) – The world could stop malaria deaths by 2015 if massive investment is made to ramp up control measures, including wider use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.Progress has been made over the decade, with deaths estimated to have dropped to 781,000 last year from nearly one million in 2000, the WHO said in its World Malaria Report 2010.

The largest absolute decrease in mortality was recorded in sub-Saharan Africa, which still accounts for nine out of 10 deaths, mainly children under age 5, according to the U.N. agency. More countries are reporting they have halved cases and deaths since 2000, 11 of them in Africa and 32 in other regions.

“By maintaining these essential gains, we can end malaria deaths by 2015,” said Ray Chambers, the U.N. secretary-general’s special envoy for malaria. “It is indeed within our reach.”

Robert Newman, director of the WHO’s global malaria programme, said the target was ambitious. “It is a long way to go, so serious work has to be done. But this disease is entirely preventable and treatable,” he told Reuters.

Experts are debating the next steps in the fight against malaria, with a new vaccine on the horizon from GlaxoSmithKline. But the goal of wiping out malaria altogether poses some tough economic questions.

“Hope is probably at an all-time high with regards to a vaccine,” Newman told reporters, referring to the GSK vaccine.

CURRENT STRATEGIES WORK

There are 225 million cases a year of malaria, still endemic in 106 countries. It can damage the nervous system, kidneys and liver. Severe cases can lead quickly to death.

The WHO report said control measures are protecting more Africans against the disease, although three countries — Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe and Zambia — reported resurgences in the number of cases, illustrating the fragility of gains.

In the past three years, enough insecticide-treated mosquito nets have been provided to protect 578 million of the estimated 700 million people at risk of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa. A further 75 million are protected by indoor spraying.

But funding, estimated at $1.8 billion a year, falls far short of the $6 billion needed to fully control malaria.

“Current strategies work,” said WHO director-general Margaret Chan, calling for continued investment and vigilance.

Some 42 percent of African households own at least one insecticide-treated mosquito net. But the rate remains low in Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo, which have Africa’s highest death rates from malaria, the report said.

India, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia are among the Asian countries with the highest numbers of cases and deaths.

The WHO recommends that all suspected cases of malaria be confirmed by a quick and cheap diagnostic test before antimalarial drugs are taken — rather than assuming any person with a fever has the mosquito-borne parasitic infection.

This cuts down the over-prescribing of artemisinin-based combination drugs, known as ACTs, and slows the spread of resistance to them — which it fears could emerge in Africa.

The WHO said last month that a form of malaria resistant to the most powerful drugs available may have emerged along the Thai-Myanmar border and Vietnam. Artemisinin-resistant malaria first broke out along the Thai-Cambodia border.

“If we lose the ACTs, we are back to square one. There are no replacement drugs on the immediate horizon,” warned Chan.

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ENVIRONMENT
Bangkok Post – Burmese villagers question China over impact of dam
Published: 15/12/2010 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News

Minority groups in Burma are calling on the Chinese government to look into the negative impacts a dam on the Nam Mao River is having on people living downstream.The groups yesterday released a 20-page report titled “High And Dry: The cross-boundary impacts of China’s Longjiang Dam”, which claims the dam is the main reason for
unusually low water levels in the Nam Mao River in northern Shan state.

The Nam Mao originates in China, where it is known as the Longjiang River, and Longjiang Dam is located in Dehong prefecture of Yunnan province, 25km from the China-Burma border.

The report, compiled in August and September, contains accounts from people living in 10 villages.

Charm Tong, a member of the Shan Women’s Action Network, said at least 16,000 people living along the Nam Mao in Burma had encountered difficulties because of the low water levels.

“Unpredictable increases and decreases in the water level have caused water transport businesses to lose two-thirds of their income,” she said. “They are now suffering very much.”

The report states the first severe impacts emerged early this year, when the Chinese authorities started to store water behind the dam walls.

The river fell to unprecedented levels – about knee-deep in some places – and its width shrank by up to 65%, leaving wide expanses of sand on both banks.

Villagers have called on Beijing to conduct and make public environmental and social impact assessments of the dam along the entire length of the river.

“We will submit our report to the Chinese government and the dam construction firm so they can realise the problems we are facing,” Charm Tong said. “We hope they will listen.”
Longjiang Dam officially began operating in July with the capacity to produce 240 megawatts of electricity.

Shan Sapawa Environmental Organisation spokesman Sai Sai said he was concerned about dam construction in both China and Burma, saying the projects had negative impacts on the flow of rivers and on people’s livelihoods.

“Environmental and social impacts must be studied before the construction of dams on local rivers and transboundary rivers,” he said.Sai Sai said China plans to build another 13 dams on the Salween River, and the Burmese government is planning more than 25 dams nationwide.

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EarthTimes – Indonesia backs Aung San Suu Kyi role in Myanmar political solution
Posted : Wed, 15 Dec 2010 10:39:28 GMT

Bangkok – Indonesia said Wednesday that recently freed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi needs to play a part in the solution of Myanmar’s ongoing political problems.Suu Kyi was released from seven years of house detention on November 13, a week after military-ruled Myanmar staged its first general election in two decades.

Observers slammed the election as a sham designed to cement the army’s rule over the country, which has been under military dictatorships since 1962.

The polls, held on November 7, seemed timed to exclude Suu Kyi from the process and undermine her potential role in the post-election period.

But Indonesia, which will assume the chairmanship of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) next year, made it clear that it still sees Suu Kyi as playing a pivotal part.

“Our vision from the start was that it would take the election and national dialogue, inclusive of Aung San Suu Kyi, for further development in Myanmar post-election,” said Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa.

“In short, what we are going to suggest in the most constructive way, is that we need to see Daw (Madam) Aung San Suu Kyi and the authorities in Myanmar as being part of the solution to the situation in Myanmar,” Marty told a seminar on ASEAN policy at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.

Indonesia will chair two ASEAN summits and the East Asia Summit, which includes ASEAN, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the US.
Myanmar’s political problems promise to be a major subject of debate at these forums, as they have been for the past two decades.

Western democracies slapped economic sanctions on Myanmar, in 1988 when the army cracked down on pro-democracy demonstrators, leaving an estimated 3,000 people dead.
ASEAN has traditionally followed a policy of “constructive engagement” with the pariah state, even allowing it to enter its fold in 1997 despite objections from the region’s main allies – the US and European Union.

Indonesia, in its coming role as ASEAN chair, is advocating greater cooperation between the two camps in pressuring Myanmar to become more democratic, with the West easing some sanctions when appropriate and the East being more critical of the military’s lack of progress.

“We hope that in 2011 many of the external sides of the Myanmar issue will find some closure,” Marty said.

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OneWorld South Asia – “Burma is an enemy of the Internet”
15 December 2010

Though the news of the prominent political dissident Aung San Suu Kyi’s release was carried by news networks across the world, journalist Simon Roughneen argues that heavy censorship and intimidation make reporting from Burma extremely thorny.Burma has in recent weeks been one of the top world news stories. The country’s November 7 general election was followed less than a week later by the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, one of the world’s best-known political dissidents, whose appearance at her front gate on Saturday, November 13, was carried on news networks around the world.

However, getting news out of Burma is no easy task. As detailed by MediaShift contributor Clothilde Le Coz, foreign journalists were banned from entering the country to cover the elections. Though an estimated 30 to 40 managed to sneak in on tourist visas, seven were deported after being detained by the police. Fourteen media workers are currently behind bars, some serving sentences of up to 35 years. There are a total of around 2,200 political prisoners who remain locked up, despite the release of Suu Kyi.

Still, high-profile reporters such as BBC’s John Simpson managed to interview Suu Kyi after her release, with no apparent retaliation or punitive measures by the ruling junta. One reporter in Rangoon, who asked to remain anonymous due to the restrictions on foreign journalists operating in Burma, told me the apparent indifference to the journalists-posing-as-tourists was more due to ineptitude on the part of the police, rather than newfound tolerance.

Telecom Backwater

Chinese correspondents are the only foreign press permitted to work in Burma on a full-time basis; news agencies and wire services such as Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse are only allowed to deploy Burmese stringers.

The information challenge was heightened in the week before the November 7 election, when a moratorium on new SIM cards was imposed by the junta, pushing the price of black market SIMs to well over $1,000. Economics are another form of censorship in Burma, as the average wage is a little over $200 per year. Even if the release of Suu Kyi somehow galvanized the public into another confrontation with the junta, there is little prospect of seeing the SMS-organized mass protests that emerged a decade ago elsewhere in southeast Asia, such as when tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Manila to demand the ouster of President Joseph Estrada.

All told, only four percent of the population is wired up to telephone networks, one of the world’s lowest telephone usage rates. There are rumors that various multinational telecommunications companies are seeking ways into the market, and trying to get around U.S., E.U. and Australian sanctions by setting up shell companies in Singapore and Hong Kong. However, the privatization of various state assets’s-economy-and-investment-175390 over the past year appears to have only benefited a narrow cabal of Burmese businessmen affiliated to the ruling junta. There are 1.3 million mobile phones and 866,084 landlines in Burma, according to statistics released by Myanmar Post and Telecommunications. The country has a population of roughly 50 million people. In contrast, over half the population of neighboring Thailand has mobile phones.

The country has been deemed “an enemy of the Internet” by Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF), and Vincent Brossell, RSF’s Asia representative, told me that “it is so risky to try to work with people inside Burma.”

When it comes to the Internet, foreign news and social networking sites are blocked, though tech-savvy Internet users and Internet cafe owners in Rangoon and Mandalay can find ways around the wall using various proxies. However, just one in 455 Burmese were Internet users in 2009, according to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Internet cafes in Rangoon and Mandalay charge around $0.40 an hour for access, which is far too expensive for ordinary Burmese.

Enhanced Online Surveillance

A new ISP regime is being implemented by the ruling State Peace and Development Council, the official title for the junta. The planned “national web portal” will split the military, government and general ISPs into separate services, meaning that the publicly available Internet can be closed down or slowed without impinging on the government or army’s web access. Critics say the new plan will enhance surveillance and online snooping, and make the country’s few bloggers more vulnerable than ever to arrest.

During the monk-led mass protests in September 2007, citizens used the web to send reports and video to the outside world, circumventing the ban on foreign media. Blogger Nay Phone Latt was a central figure in that effort, but he was given a 12 year jail term for his efforts — a harsh reminder of what happens to those who use the Internet to speak out against the ruling junta.

Any hope that the release of Suu Kyi signals even a tentative loosening-up appear to be misplaced. The military censors have stuck to the old ways, as evidenced by the fact that only ten of the country’s 100-plus privately owned publications were sanctioned to offer coverage of the release of Suu Kyi. All publications in Burma must have their content approved in advance by the Press Scrutiny Board. Speaking at a seminar on post-election Burma in Bangkok on November 23, Aung Zaw, the editor of Irrawaddy, a news magazine based in Thailand but run by Burmese journalists, told me that “media in Burma are trying to push the envelope with the censor, since the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.”

Shawn Crispin, Southeast Asia representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists, told me there is a “yawning news gap” caused by heavy censorship and intimidation inside Burma. Burmese exiles try to fill the void, operating mainly from India and Thailand. Clandestine reporters inside the country take great risks to funnel information to editors in Chiang Mai, New Delhi and beyond.

Late in 2009, Hla Hla Win, a reporter for the Norway-headquartered Democratic Voice of Burma, was sentenced to a total of 27 years in jail for violating the Electronics Act, another draconian lever used by the junta to stop information from getting around the country or to the outside.

First Eleven’s Cover

However, since the release of Suu Kyi, even the state-watched media in Burma have shown daring creativity to get their message out, risking the wrath of the regime in the process.

Sports journal First Eleven led with a front-page story on the Tuesday after Suu Kyi’s release that was a combination of headlines ostensibly about English Premier League soccer matches, but that also used colored lettering to discuss Suu Kyi’s release. Three innocuous-looking headlines — “Sunderland Freeze Chelsea,” “United Stunned by Villa” and “Arsenal Advance to Grab Their Hope” — read as “Su Free Unite & Advance to Grab The Hope.”

First Eleven got the ruse past the censors by submitting the advance copy of the page in black and white, but were subsequently hit with a two week publishing ban after the military realized that they had been fooled.

Source : Public Broadcasting Service

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Asian Correspondent – Burma’s junta plans for more killings
Dec. 15 2010 – 11:15 pm
By  –  Zin Linn Brig-Gen Aung Kyaw Zaw, Commander of the Lashio-based Northeastern Region Command, recently passed an order to a number of villages in Lashio Township, Shan State North.  The order was released on 5 December to residents of the villages to give in their muskets within 10 days to local Police, according to Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.).

If there is anyone trying to keep any weapon and found, he or she will be severely punished, a local source said. The commander gave no reason for the order, a musket owner said.  According to the regional commander’s order, all muskets must be surrendered to the police stations by 15 December.

Some villagers are wondering whether the order was connected to the recent poll. Some villagers thought the junta was tightening its security because several residents did not cast votes for junta party (Union Solidarity and Development Party) during the November polls.

In Karenni State’s Shadaw Township, similar instruction has also been passed to villagers. But villagers were instructed to apply for license to be permitted to keep their muskets, according to Karenni news agency Kantarawaddy Times. Persons who wished to keep their muskets must pay Kyat 500 per piece to the local authorities, the news said. The directive further said every musket owners need to carry the license along wherever he goes, otherwise he will be fined.

The groundwork of the Burma’s army looks like dismantling all armaments owned by the ordinary citizens so as to weaken resistance wars against the junta.

On the contrary, the same ruling military junta is going to supply weapons and guns for every member of militia units under its control. It was informed by Director of People’s militias and Border Forces Directorate, Major-General Maung Maung Ohn, whereas he has met 16 local militia units from Shan State North’s Tangyan Township on Monday, 13 December. It seems with the aim of providing support for the junta’s future military activities, according to informed sources from Shan State North.

Major-General Maung Maung Ohn mainly talked about the militia units’ responsibility and how members should be ready for service, said a source close to Manpang Militia Force, which is the strongest and biggest group in the township. The meeting lasted one and half hours in the evening and attended by about 200 militia men. He also said that there are only 3 organizations to hold weapons, the Tatmadaw (The Army), police and militia units, the source said.

According to him, the total strength of the militias across the country is over 80,000. However, only 30,000 of them were armed. He guaranteed each militia unit will soon be fully armed, some with heavy weapons. Militia units in Tangyan have been formed into 6 companies, a local resident said.

Currently, the militia men are using old weapons of Khun Sa’s Mong Tai Army and Kokang group which the junta seized during last year’s offensive, local sources said.

“The militia is the strength of the country. It is responsible for keeping an eye on the groups that do not transform into border guard forces”, Maj-Gen Maung Maung Ohn said.

Failing to persuade ceasefire groups to fully transform themselves as border guard forces (BGF), the military regime is now reported to have turned to step up recruiting and forming militia units into battalions, according to sources from the Thai-Burma border. The move also looks like using the militias in place of BGF so as to crack down the ethnic rebels, ceasefire and non-ceasefire groups.

The Militia units will be provided uniforms, rations and pay by the Burma Army beginning the end of the year. Each private will be receiving Kyat 20,000 ($20) per month, same as the Burma Army’s standard.

Senior Gen Than Shwe had issued a directive that there must be “One village tract, One battalion” across the country, according to Network for Democracy and Development (NDD), an exiled group specializing in research on the Burmese military on 15 July 2007.

It is clear and unquestionable that Than Shwe has a strategy heading toward more massacre or crimes against humanity. Actually, the members of the militia units are also people of the same land who have to obey Than Shwe’s orders to kill their own blood-relatives.

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Politics | 15.12.2010
Deutsche Welle – Suu Kyi calls on Europe and Germany to be more supportive
In an exclusive interview with DW, Burmese civil rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi talks about the changes in Myanmar (Burma) she has experienced after her release and her future plans.
Interviewer: Thomas Baerthlein
Editor: Shamil Shams

Aung San Suu Kyi was released on November 13th after more than seven years of house arrest. In 1991, the pro-democracy activist received the Nobel Peace Prize. The 65-year old has spent 15 of the last 21 years in detention.Deutsche Welle: What is your daily routine these days?

Aung San Suu Kyi: My daily routine is very, very hectic. If I look back at today, I had about two, three appointments this morning and two in the afternoon, and I still haven’t finished my work yet. So, it is extremely hectic.

What kind of appointments are these?

I am meeting diplomats, I am meeting political parties, I am meeting individuals, we have our National League for Democracy (NLD) office meetings. Then I am speaking to people on the phone. And there are individual journalists and correspondents, who have managed to come to Burma, and I have to meet them as well.

What was the biggest change you noticed in your city after your house arrest was lifted?

I think the number of hand phones! The moment I was released, I saw all those people with their hand phones which they were using to take photographs. I think what it means is that there is an improvement in communications.

And what about the Burmese society? Did you find any other changes?

Prices have gone up sky-high, and people are very concerned about it. Everybody talks about the rise in prices. Also, the attitude of the young people has improved considerably. They want to be involved in the political process, and they are much more outgoing and proactive than they were seven years ago.

When you were released, it was striking that many young people turned up to greet you. What are your expectations from the youth of Burma?

It is for them to understand that it is up to them to bring change to our country, and that they should not depend on me or the NLD or anybody else. We will do our best, but in the end I want them to have this self-confidence to believe that they can do it for themselves.

How do you see the future of your party, the National League for Democracy?

We are going to stand as a political force because we have the full support of the people. Of course, the authorities are trying to deregister our party, and I am contesting that at court, but that is a legal matter. The real political truth of the situation is that we have the confidence, the trust and the support of the people, and that will keep us going as the most important opposition force in Burma today.

Have you tried to get in touch with the government after your release?

No, not yet. I have, of course, been sending indirect messages through almost every speech I have made, every interview I have had, that I would like to have dialogue. I think we should discuss our differences and come to an agreement that we should be prepared to compromise on both sides.

But why haven’t you taken any concrete step to initiate this kind of a dialogue?

We are waiting for the right time, which I hope is not too far off.

Burma is a country with many ethnic minorities, whose relationship with the majority has been rather tense over the recent decades. What do you plan to do to reach out to these groups?

We have been reaching out to these groups for a number of years, and I can claim that we have had a certain amount of success. Not only do we have very strong allies among the parties which contested the 1990 elections, we also have the support of other ethnic groups, including the ceasefire groups along the frontiers, who have expressed an interest in what we are trying to do – to revive the spirit of true union.

Last week, the Nobel Peace Prize for the Chinese democracy activist Liu Xiaobo turned into a major international controversy. What is your reaction, being a Nobel laureate yourself?

I have a great respect for the Norwegian Nobel Committee, and I believe they must have sound reasons for choosing to give him the award this year. I personally don’t know much about Liu Xiabo because I have been under house arrest for about seven years, and all I know about him is that what I heard on the radio. But I do believe that the Nobel Committee must have sound reasons for selecting him.

In Europe, people are wondering what they can do to support Burma. What is your advice?

First of all, it would be very helpful if all the countries of Europe could speak with one voice. Even within the European Union there are different attitudes and different voices, and I
think that weakens the [Burmese] opposition. It would help us a great deal if all European countries called for certain steps to be taken in Burma – the release of political prisoners, inclusiveness of the political process, specifically with the NLD, and negotiations.

Do you have any specific European countries in mind, which you want to see more active in this?

As I am talking to you in Germany – I would like Germany to be more active.

You said in previous interviews that you will need time to form an opinion about international sanctions against the Burmese regime. What is your impression so far on this matter?

So far, I have not got the impression that economic sanctions have really hurt the public, but of course there are other voices that are perhaps still waiting to be heard, so we have yet to find out. I have been released just for over a month, and I haven’t had time to go into this issue; I am waiting to read the latest report of the IMF, and perhaps the ADB and other economic institutions.

How influential is the West in Burma? Compared with that, how do you see India’s and China’s role?

I think the role of the West in Burma and the role of India and China are quite different. I would not like to think of them as competing for influence, or competing for ascendancy over Burma. It is not as though we were not able to shape our own destiny. But certainly, because India and China are very close neighbors, they have a certain advantage over those countries that are situated very far away.

Does this mean that what the West does with regard to Burma is not so important?

No, it has its importance, depending on how and what actions the West is taking, which is why I said earlier that it would be good if all the Western nations could coordinate their efforts. Not just the Western nations, it would be good if the whole international community, including the United Nations, coordinated its efforts. That would help us very greatly indeed, and if it called for the same basic steps, that would mean progress.

What are your expectations from India and China?

We would like them to engage with us. To begin with, we’d very much like India and China to give us the opportunity to explain our point of view to them. We have very little contact with China and India. We have more contact with the Indian government than with the Chinese government, in fact I don’t think we have any contact with the Chinese government at all. We would like to have contact with them, we would like them to listen to our side of the story, and make them understand that we look upon them as neighbors, and that we would like to be friends with them. We are not hostile to them even if we are working for democracy in Burma.

What are your plans for the coming weeks?

The man that I fear most in the world is the man who keeps my appointment book. I haven’t gone through next week’s appointments with him…

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Independent – Norway accused of funding abuse in Burma
State pension fund invested billions in energy projects, report says
By Andrew Buncombe, Asia Correspondent
Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Norwegian government has been accused of complicity in illegal land seizures, forced labour and killings, by investing national funds in international companies that operate inside Burma on projects where widespread abuses are alleged to have taken place.A state-controlled pension fund that is a repository for some of Norway’s own oil wealth has invested up to $4.7bn in 15 oil and gas companies operating inside the South-east Asian country.

The companies are accused of participating in projects where various human rights violations have taken place. Activists claim the pension fund is in breach of its own guidelines for responsible investment. The allegations come just days after Norway hosted the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.

Land confiscation, forced labour and other abuses are happening in connection with several gas and oil pipeline projects in Burma, according to Naing Htoo of EarthRights International, which is today publishing a report detailing the alleged abuses being committed by the Burmese government. “There’s every indication abuses connected to these projects will continue, and, in some cases, worsen,” he said.

A number of those companies in which the Norwegian fund has investments have previously been accused in relation to controversial projects in Burma which has been controlled by a military junta since 1962. Among them are Total Oil of France, in which the Norwegian fund has an investment of $2.6bn, and the US-based Chevron Corp, in which the fund has $900m invested.

EarthRights International insists that widespread violations continue to be committed by the Burmese army in support of many oil and gas projects that earn the regime millions of dollars. The group says that troops providing security for the Yadana and Yetagun pipelines have carried out extra-judicial killings.

“The Burmese regime has long demonstrated itself as an unsuitable business partner,” said Steve Gumaer, of the Norway-based aid group Partners Relief and Development.

“Business ventures conducted through official channels in Burma directly support the regime’s abuse of the ethnic populations and pro-democracy citizens in Burma today.”

He added: “It is said that villages in north-eastern Burma have benefited by this sort of ‘economic engagement’. I have seen the devastating results; instead of schools, health and hygiene programmes, are the ashes of villages that have been burnt down. I have talked to women who were raped, men who were forced to serve as porters.”

The Norwegian fund has a total of $3.6bn invested in companies involved in these projects that transport offshore gas from the Andaman Sea. Total, Chevron and other companies have denied claims that their operations inside Burma encourage abuses such as forced labour and land seizure.

The report also claims the Norwegian fund has investments in companies that are involved in projects in the Shwe gas fields, which have also been linked to abuses such as forced labour.

The Norwegian fund, established in 1990, is the second largest sovereign wealth fund in the world, with assets estimated at $512bn and investments in 8,000 companies. It is forecast to double in size by 2020. Because of previous allegations over unethical investments, the fund, controlled by the Norwegian central bank on behalf of the ministry of finance, is overseen by an ethical advisory council.

In 2007, the Norwegian authorities said they were withdrawing the fund’s investments from Vedanta Resources, the British company that was seeking to mine bauxite on a mountain in eastern India many considered sacred .

In 2005, the council was asked to consider the fund’s investment in Total and whether it breached guidelines. The council said it believed it likely that Total was aware of human rights violations on projects in Burma between 1995 and 1998, but this “did not provide a basis for exclusion from the fund, as it is only the risk for present or future violations of the guidelines which can prompt exclusion”.

When allegations of forced labour were earlier levelled at Total in summer 2009, the company issued a statement saying, “local inhabitants around the Yadana pipeline say they are happy to have us there; they are, above all, grateful that there is no forced labour around our pipeline”.

Last night, Norway’s foreign ministry said it had not been made aware of EarthRights International’s report. “The Norwegian government is worried about the situation for human rights in Burma,” a spokesman said. The fund,he added, was “a financial investor with investments in more than 8,000 companies. It is therefore difficult for the Ministry to make comments related to a specific company in the fund’s portfolio.”

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Dec 16, 2010
Asia Times Online – US double talk on Myanmar nukes
By Bertil Lintner BANGKOK – Is Myanmar truly trying to acquire a nuclear weapons capability and produce ballistic missiles with North Korean assistance, as alleged in a controversial June documentary made by the Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) and aired by al-Jazeera, or is it all poppycock, as claimed in a November 12 report by United States-based ProPublica, an award-winning US investigative journalism outfit?

The DVB report was based on testimonies from Myanmar army defectors who had been scrutinized by Robert Kelley, a highly regarded former US weapons scientist and former United Nations weapons inspector. ProPublica, on the other hand, quoted an anonymous senior “American official” as saying that the US Central Intelligence Agency had reviewed Kelley’s report “line by line and had rejected its findings”.

Classified cables recently released by WikiLeaks from the US Embassy in Yangon, however, reveal a wide discrepancy between what US officials have said in public and the concerns they raise internally about Myanmar’s nuclear ambitions. Judging by these leaked documents, it appears that ProPublica has fallen victim to manipulations by US officials who want to hide the true extent of the intelligence that US agencies have collected in order to enhance the political agenda of those who favor engagement over further isolation of Myanmar’s military regime.

The US currently imposes economic and financial sanctions against the rights-abusing regime. Long before the Barack Obama administration launched its new Myanmar policy and began sending emissaries to talk with the generals, other US officials had tested a similar conciliatory tack. By any measure, those diplomatic efforts completely failed. In February 1994, US congressman Bill Richardson, who later served as the US’s ambassador to the United Nations, paid a highly publicized visit to the country.

Accompanied by a New York Times correspondent, he met with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi – then under house arrest – as well as then intelligence chief General Khin Nyunt. At the time, Richardson’s visit was hailed in the press as a major “breakthrough” – although he himself was very cautious in his remarks. After a second visit to Myanmar in May 1995, Richardson stated at a press conference in Bangkok that his trip had been “unsuccessful, frustrating and disappointing”.

Similarly, a string of UN special envoys have for over two decades attempted and failed to engage the generals towards political change and national reconciliation. Myanmar’s partners in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have also long advocated a policy of “constructive engagement” with the military regime, though so far with few tangible results apart from increased trade and investment with the impoverished nation.
The WikiLeaks cables and other internal US documentation show that Washington is indeed concerned by reports of North Korea’s shadowy involvement in Myanmar as well as the military regime’s nuclear ambitions. Comparing the content of the recently leaked cables with what US officials and other sources apparently told ProPublica shows that expressing such concerns publicly would make it more difficult to entice Myanmar’s ruling generals to give up their newly established, cozy relationship with North Korea’s weapons-proliferating regime.

Myanmar’s close relations with North Korea’s main ally, China, is also a concern, according to US senator James Webb, a staunch advocate of the US’s new and to date ineffectual engagement policy with Myanmar’s military government. At a breakfast meeting with Washington defense reporters in October, Webb called on the Obama administration to be more active in Myanmar and engage the country’s military junta to prevent China from making Myanmar a full-blown client state.

Downplaying perennial human-rights concerns and dismissing the well-documented reports of Myanmar’s nuclear ambitions are part and parcel of this new policy departure. From the afore-mentioned breakfast meeting, Foreign Policy magazine reported on its web site on October 27 that Webb “criticized what he sees as a double standard in the administration’s approach toward human rights – and pointed to Beijing”. “When was the last time China had an election? How many political prisoners are there in China? Does anybody know? What’s the consistency here?” Foreign Policy reported. Tellingly, the November 12 ProPublica report quoted Webb as saying that the DVB report on North Korea and Myanmar’s nuclear ambitions “made such an [engagement] approach impossible”.

Difficult truths

The US Embassy in Yangon stated in a report dated August 27, 2004 – which has recently been made public by WikiLeaks – that one of their sources had said that North Korean workers were assembling surface-to-air missiles at a “military site in Magway Division” where a “concrete-reinforced underground facility” was also being constructed. An unidentified expatriate businessman had told the US Embassy that “he had seen a large barge carrying reinforced steel bar of a diameter that suggested a project larger than a factory”.

While stating that these reports could not be “definitive proof of sizable North Korean involvement with the Burmese [Myanmar] regime… many details provided by [a confidential source] match those provided by other, seemingly unrelated sources”. According to those reports, the embassy stated in its report, Myanmar and North Korea “are up to something of a covert military or military-industrial nature”.

The report added that, “exactly what, and on what scale, remains to be determined” and that the embassy would continue to “monitor these developments and report as warranted”. Asia Times Online reported as early as July 2006 (see Myanmar and North Korea share a tunnel vision, July 19, ‘06) on North Korea’s involvement in the construction of an extensive underground complex in and around Myanmar’s new capital Naypyidaw.

In another internal US document made public by WikiLeaks, a local Myanmar businessman reportedly offered uranium to the US Embassy in Yangon. The offer was not linked to any North Korean activity, but nevertheless added to the mystery and speculation surrounding nuclear issues in Myanmar. The embassy reportedly bought it and wrote in its cable to Washington: “The individual provided a small bottle half-filled with metallic powder and a photocopied certificate of testing from a Chinese university dated 1992 as verification of the radioactive nature of the powder.”

The unnamed businessman also said that “if the US was not interested in purchasing the uranium, he and his associates would try to sell it to other countries, beginning with Thailand”. It was unclear where the alleged uranium came from, but Myanmar is known to have several deposits of the radioactive metal used in nuclear reactors and weapons. According to a Myanmar government web site, there are uranium ore deposits at five locations in the country, namely: Magway, Taungdwingyi (south of Bagan), Kyaukphygon and Paongpyin near the ruby mines at Mogok, Kyauksin, and near Myeik (or Mergui) in the country’s southeast.

Perhaps even more revealingly, according to an August 2009 report from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the US Embassy in Berlin marked “confidential” (but not included in the documents released by WikiLeaks), ambassador Susan Burk, special representative of the US president for nuclear non-proliferation, discussed “concerns about Myanmar’s nuclear intentions” in a meeting with German officials.

The DVB documentary mentioned the involvement of German companies in Myanmar’s alleged weapons of mass destruction programs. But, in ProPublica’s version of events, the only noteworthy event related to Germany was that “officials” had said “they were aware that Burma had bought the equipment shown in the [Myanmar army] defector’s pictures [some of it was exported by German companies], but have concluded that it is not being used to launch an atomic weapons program.”

Furthermore, a UN report released in November alleged North Korea is supplying banned nuclear and ballistic missile equipment to Myanmar, among other countries. “China had blocked publication of the report which has been ready for six months,” the French news agency Agence France-Presse reported on November 13. According to the report, drafted by experts who answer to the UN Security Council’s sanctions committee, North Korea is involved with “the surreptitious transfer of nuclear-related and ballistic missile-related equipment, know-how and technology to countries including Iran, Syria and Myanmar”.

The UN report went on to state that suspicious nuclear activities in Myanmar were linked to Namchongang Trading, a state-owned North Korean company known to have been involved in nuclear activities in Iran and Syria and the arrests of three people in Japan who tried to export illegally a magnetometer to Myanmar through Malaysia. In reference to the disclosures by the UN experts, the Washington Times reported on November 10: “Magnetometers can be used to produce ring magnets, a key element in centrifuges that are the basis of nuclear arms programs in Iran and Pakistan. That transfer was linked to a North Korean company involved in ‘illicit procurement’ for nuclear and military programs.”

In 2009, Namchongang and its director, Yun Ho-jin, were formally sanctioned by the UN for proliferation activities. According to a German Customs Bureau report, the company uses its offices in Beijing and Shenyang in China to place orders for the equipment, which is critical to building the centrifuges required to enrich uranium. The arrival of Namchongang Trading in Myanmar set off alarm bells in many Western capitals and convinced several previous skeptics of Myanmar’s nuclear ambitions to take the recent reports more seriously.

At the same time, US officials continue to deny that such concerns exist, as was reflected in ProPublica’s November report that cited a supposed Central Intelligence Agency assessment of the threat. ProPublica did not reply to e-mailed questions from Asia Times Online about its November 12 piece. But, if their source’s intention was to appease the Myanmar regime, it clearly succeeded. On December 5, the state-owned daily newspaper Kyaymon (The Mirror) ran a full translation of the ProPublica report that trashed the DVB documentary and nuclear expert Kelley’s assessment.

That response would seem to demonstrate that Myanmar’s secretive military regime is still in denial about its true intentions: it has repeatedly stated that it has no nuclear ambitions and that there are no North Korean technicians situated in the country. Meanwhile, Myanmar’s government has yet to publicly react to the recently leaked internal US documents disseminated by WikiLeaks.

However, it is now clear that there is one version of US perceptions about Myanmar’s nuclear ambitions crafted for public consumption and diplomatic effect, and quite another making the rounds among Washington’s security establishment. The recent disclosures of the latter cast the US’s recent engagement efforts towards Myanmar in a new strategic light and raise hard questions about the policy’s wisdom and sustainability.

Bertil Lintner is a former correspondent with the Far Eastern Economic Review and the author of Great Leader, Dear Leader: Demystifying North Korea under the Kim Clan. He is currently a writer with Asia Pacific Media Services.

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People’s Daily Online – China Industry Expo opens in Myanmar’s Yangon
16:44, December 15, 2010

A Chinese expo — China Industry Expo (Myanmar) — was inaugurated at the Tatmadaw Hall in Myanmar’ s former capital of Yangon Wednesday to promote Chinese brands in the Myanmar market and bilateral economic and trade cooperation.Major-General Tin Ngwe from the Ministry of Defense of Myanmar, Yangon Commander and Chairman of the Yangon Region Peace and Development Council Brigadier-General Tun Than and Yangon Mayor U Aung Thein Lin as well as Charge d’affaires of the Chinese Embassy Wang Zongyin attended the opening ceremony.

The four-day expo, which will last until Saturday, is organized by the Trade Development Bureau of China’s Ministry of Commerce, Department of Commerce of Yunnan Province and China Economic and Trade Consultants Corporation.

The launching of the expo is supported by the Chinese Embassy in Myanmar, the Myanmar Ministry of Commerce and the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

With 50 companies from a dozen of provinces in China, the expo, which covers an area of nearly 2,700 square-meters, mainly exhibits Chinese transport equipment, machinery and equipment, electrical equipment, construction material, home appliances, hardware products and household products.

Chinese Embassy Economic and Commercial Counselor Jin Honggen told Xinhua that due to favorable geographical condition and strong mutual supplementation economically, there exists vast prospects in launching mutually beneficial cooperation, adding that the expo contributes to economic and trade development and push investment.

The Chinese organizers also hope that the expo will serve as a trade platform for companies from Myanmar to have a better understanding of Chinese companies and products and promote purchasing and communications as well as a way for Chinese exhibitors to get to know the market demand and potential of Myanmar.

Chinese commodities, which possess high quality and are available at reasonable price, accounted for 80 percent of Myanmar ’s import goods, merchants said.

According to official statistics, bilateral trade between China and Myanmar hit 3.427 billion U.S. dollars in the first ten months of 2010, increasing by 54 percent compared with the same period of 2009.

Myanmar’s latest official statistics of the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development also show that as of the end of July 2010, China (including Hong Kong SAR) stood top for the first time in Myanmar’s foreign investment with 12.3 billion U.S. dollars out of a total of 31.9 billion dollars from 31 countries in 12 sectors’ 440 projects.

The Chinese investment accounted for 38.64 percent in eight sectors’ 69 projects with 5.31 billion dollars in electric power, 4.95 billion dollars in oil and gas and 1.87 billion dollars in mining.

There are 170 Chinese companies investing in Myanmar according to the figures.

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CNN News – China, India hope to build trust amid tensions
By Sumnima Udas, CNN
December 15, 2010 9:12 a.m. EST New Delhi, India (CNN) — Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao began his three-day state visit to India on a positive note on Wednesday.“China and India are partners for cooperation and not rivals in competition,” he said at a business leaders forum in the capital New Delhi.

“There is enough space in the world for the development of both China and India and there are enough areas for us to cooperate.”

Wen’s visit comes at a time when relations between India and China are tense.

“Wen Jiabao is coming to India when new tensions and strains have emerged in Sino-Indian relations,” says Center for Policy Research Professor Brahma Chellaney. “This relationship is the most important bilateral equation in the world because these two countries make up nearly two-fifths of the global population.”

The two Asian giants are also the world’s fastest growing major economies with a combined military force of 4 million troops. Pricewaterhouse Coopers estimates that the Indian economy could jump ahead of Japan by 2014, making the nuclear-armed neighbors the world’s second- and third-largest economies by purchasing power parity.

“When China and India join hands, they can make a positive impact, not just in their respective countries, but on the world at large,” China’s Ambassador to India, Zhang Yan, said at a press conference in New Delhi on Monday.

Bilateral trade is expected to hit $60 billion this year, making China India’s largest trading partner.

Beijing and New Delhi are keen to highlight these shared interests and economic interdependence. Another issue on the table is clarification of China’s position on India’s bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Yet recent tensions reveal the Sino-Indian relationship remains fragile and ambivalent.

“There is a very high level of strategic mutual mistrust amongst the highest levels of leadership in both countries,” says Srikanth Kondapalli, professor of Chinese Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Despite 14 rounds of talks in the past 29 years, territorial disputes remain a perennial source of tension. Much of the 3,225-kilometer (2,000-mile) border between the nations in the Himalayan region remains undefined. In the Kashmir region in north central India, New Delhi says Beijing occupies 33,000 square kilometers of Indian territory.

China claims the Indian-occupied area of Arunachal Pradesh south of Tibet. Last year, China expressed “strong dissatisfaction” when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Arunachal Pradesh and recently denied visas to an official from the “disputed territory,” saying a visa was not required as the state is in fact part of China.

India’s humiliating defeat by China in a war over border issues nearly 50 years ago continues to instill mistrust in the Indian psyche, analysts say.

“India and China have been engaged in border negotiations since 1981 — the longest such process between any two countries in modern history. Yet there is little progress to show. In fact, by assertively laying claim to India’s Arunachal Pradesh state in recent years, China has reopened the wounds of its 1962 aggression,” Chellaney says.

India is also monitoring China’s growing relations with India’s smaller Asian neighbors, such as Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

“Many in India believe that China is pursuing a strategy to encircle India … the fact that China is building ports along vital sea lanes of communication and seeking special access arrangements along such lanes validate the ’string of pearls’ theory,” says Chellaney, referring to a 2006 U.S. Department of Defense report describing the strategic rise of Chinese influence on waterways, ports and airfields stretching from the South China Sea to the Persian Gulf.

China’s recent deals with Pakistan to build nuclear reactors and manufacture jet fighters have not gone unnoticed in New Delhi. China, meanwhile, is concerned about India’s closer ties with the United States, including a recent multi-billion dollar civilian nuclear deal.

But behind these lingering political issues is a trade opportunity that both countries are keen to draw on, analysts say. This growing economic interdependence will most likely be the focus of Wen’s trip.

“Trade is the only area where cooperation is booming,” Chellaney says, though the trade relationship is “not flattering for India.”

The Chinese premier will arrive with some 400 Chinese business leaders in fields ranging from banking to real estate.

Trade has increased 30-fold since 2000, but the balance of trade is heavily in China’s favor. India has a roughly $17-18 billion of trade deficit with China. Over 70% of India’s exports to China are raw materials, mainly iron ore, while high value finished products and machinery make up the majority of Chinese exports.

“China’s macroeconomic policies, exchange rate policy and other specific non-tariff measures make exports to China uneconomic and cumbersome,” Jyotiraditya Scindia, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, recently told the upper house of Parliament.

India has lodged a record number of antidumping cases against China in the World Trade Organization.

Despite the border issues, Yan, China’s Ambassador to India, called on Monday for the nations to move towards a regional free trade agreement, along with measures to remove trade and investment barriers.

“What we need is for China to view India’s rise positively and see our relationship as a win-win because that is precisely what it is,” said Rajeev Kumar, director general of the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

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Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber – Vashon High School students talk with Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi
Wednesday, 12/15/2010, 9:25 AM ·Vashon High School’s Amnesty International Club held a telephone conference with freed Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi Friday morning.

The roughly 30-minute conference was remarkable, those in attendance said. “She opens her mouth and pearls come out,” said Harris Levinson, a VHS teacher and the club’s adviser.

A complete recording of the interview is available at Voice of Vashon’s website, www.voiceofvashon.org.

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Asahi Shimbun – Myanmar junta ignores Suu Kyi signals for dialogue
BY DAISUKE FURUTA CORRESPONDENT
2010/12/15 BANGKOK–Despite her many appeals for dialogue, Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is getting only silent treatment from the country’s ruling generals.Diplomatic sources in Myanmar (Burma) say the junta simply sees no reason to make concessions to Aung San Suu Kyi after it pulled off an overwhelming victory in last month’s general election.

Since being released from seven and a half years of house arrest on Nov. 13, Aung San Suu Kyi has repeatedly indicated her willingness to engage in dialogue with the junta.

She suggested that she won’t go on a speaking tour of rural areas out of consideration for the junta.

Speaking of economic sanctions imposed by the United States and European countries, Aung San Suu Kyi showed flexibility toward the junta by saying those measures should be reviewed if they end up causing suffering to ordinary Burmese.

The junta is set to convene the parliament in February based on the results of the vote.

In the Nov. 7 election, the first held in 20 years, the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party emerged with about 80 percent of the seats in both houses of parliament. Including seats already allocated to military members, about 85 percent of the full legislature is in the hands of the junta and its political proxies.

Western countries have questioned the validity of the polls amid widespread reports that the election was rigged. However, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have acknowledged the election results.

Since her release, Aung San Suu Kyi has gone nearly every day to the headquarters of her National League for Democracy party in Yangon (Rangoon) for discussions with party senior officials. She has also met with foreign diplomats and given interviews to media outlets.

However, Aung San Suu Kyi’s only public oration since being freed was an address on Nov. 14. She is trying to connect with the public by making weekly appearances on Radio Free Asia, a U.S.-sponsored broadcast service, and answering questions from listeners.

The pro-democracy leader does not directly criticize the military leadership, but she has expressed her discontent with the junta’s road map to democracy.

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The Irrawaddy – Former US Diplomats Seek Use of ‘Smart Power’ in Burma
By LALIT K JHA Wednesday, December 15, 2010WASHINGTON — Observing that the policy of sanctions and open criticism has yielded nothing in the last two decades, two former US diplomats who served at its mission in Rangoon urged the Obama Administration on Wednesday to use “smart power” to bring change to Burma.

“Perhaps it is time now, as Burma transitions to at least the trappings of civilian rule, to seriously try a different approach where the United States attempts to further its goals in Burma through ’smart power’,” said Franklin Huddle and Donald Jameson.

Huddle was US Chargé d’Affaires to Burma from 1990 to 1994, and Jameson was Acting Deputy Chief of Mission to Burma from 1990 to 1993. The two American diplomats expressed their views after US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Joe Yun visited Burma and had meetings with Aung San Suu Kyi and Burmese officials last week.

Huddle and Jameson said the use of “smart power” by the US would include engaging in an effort to open up the country to increased outside influence that may enable nascent civil society groups now germinating to take root with the assistance and example of Western governments and NGOs.

“One thing many closed-off regimes fear most is hordes of Western assistance providers and tourists bringing in new ideas and values. This approach has been taken in dealing with other authoritarian regimes such as China and might be equally effective in Burma. Unless a serious try is made we will never know,” they argued.

State Department spokesman P J Crowley recently said the United States is willing to lift sanctions against the military regime but the ball is in the court of the junta, which needs to create conducive conditions.

“We are prepared to have a different relationship with Burma, provided Burma takes significant steps forward. There are very clear requirements for Burma, and it’s not about the United States dictating to Burma. It’s about what is in Burma’s best interest,” Crowley told reporters on Friday.

“Obviously, we welcome the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, but that doesn’t solve the broader problem of the 2,000 political prisoners who still remain in custody in Burma. It doesn’t solve the challenge of the fact that the central government is still at war with many ethnic groups within its borders,” he said.

“It doesn’t solve the challenge of having a political system that allows broader participation so that you don’t have a faux election here that just, in essence, takes generals and makes them civilians and pretends that’s a different kind of government.  It is the same kind of government,” Crowley said.

Huddle and Jameson said the US policy toward Burma over the past two decades can only be described as ineffective. “Whatever the steps toward liberalization taken by Burma’s ruling generals in recent years—such as the recent elections and the release of Aung San Suu Kyi—these mincing steps have taken place on their own terms and at their own pace, not as a response to admonitions by the United States and other Western countries,” they wrote.

“Meanwhile, the Burmese people have been pawns in a political game that has little relevance to their everyday struggle for survival,” they said.

The former US diplomats said the American policy toward Burma has remained largely the same for 20 years, consisting basically of strongly worded demands that the junta make major moves toward democratization and respect for human rights, including the release of more than 2,000 political prisoners now languishing in prison under harsh conditions.

“Our vehicles for bringing the generals to heel have consisted mainly of public castigation and an increasingly tight array of economic sanctions designed to isolate the ruling military junta and force their compliance,” Huddle and Jameson said.

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The Irrawaddy – Ethnic Villagers Face Threats for Not Voting USDP
By KO HTWE Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Villagers in ethnic areas are being subjected to harassment and exploitation by local authorities for failing to support the military government-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in the Nov. 7 election.Villagers in Balu village in Mohanyin Township in Kachin State have been forced to grow summer paddy by the village chairman who also serves as the USDP candidate for the township.

Balu village voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Shan National Democratic Party in the general election, however alleged vote rigging resulted in the USDP taking all five seats in the township.

“The local authorities scolded the headman of the village because the USDP received so few votes in Balu,” said local resident Sai Aung. “Then the villagers were told they would have to grow summer paddy.”

Growing a rice crop in the summer, or dry season, is labor-intensive and difficult. Subsequently, the majority of farmers avoid growing a summer crop. Their apathy is accentuated by the fact that the local authorities invariably sequester a percentage of the rice or force the farmers to sell the paddy to them at a reduced price.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Tuesday, Bauk Ja, a candidate representing the National Democratic Force in Hpankant Township in Kachin State, said the authorities also intimidated the parents of her polling station observers after the election.

“The authorities questioned the parents of my polling station observers and asked them why they were supporting my party,” she said.

USDP candidate Sai Myint Aye, who won a seat in the People’s Parliament representing Lashio Township in northern Shan State, called a meeting of all local village heads and scolded them for not impressing a pro-USDP policy upon constituents, a Shan election monitoring group said.

“Although Sai Myint Aye won in the election, he is not satisfied,” the group said. “He scolded the headmen and told them to keep control over their villagers.”

A similar scenario was reported in Mong Shu Township in Shan State.

Across Burma, allegations have been rife of voter intimidation and vote rigging in favor of the pro-military USDP, which was officially declared the winner of the election with 882 out of 1,154 seats in the People’s Parliament, the Nationalities’ Parliament and state and regional parliaments.

Residents in Pauktaw and Yanbyae Townships in Arakan State also reported cases of intimidation and threats from local authorities in the wake of the election.

“The USDP members are picking fights with villagers who they suspect of voting for the Rakhine National Democratic Party,” said one Yanbyae resident.

Supplies of relief aid to victims of Cyclone Giri in some parts of  Arakan State have reportedly been cut by local authorities because the villagers failed collectively to vote for the regime’s proxy party.

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The Irrawaddy – Junta Ends Border Trade Blockade After China Protest
By WAI MOE Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Burmese regime has allowed trade to resume at a Sino-Burmese border crossing point in Kachin State after the Chinese embassy in Rangoon complained recently about the closure, according to diplomatic sources in the former capital.The trade blockade, which had been in force since late November, affected the movement of goods between the Kachin State capital of Myitkyina and Laiza, on the state’s border with China.

“Officials from the Chinese embassy met with Burmese Commerce Minister U Tin Naing Thein a few days ago to protest the border closure in Kachin State,” the source said.

In addition to complaints from the Chinese embassy, Chinese officials with the Sino-Burmese border committee also raised the issue with their Burmese counterparts, according to border-based sources.

As a result of the protests, the Burmese authorities have allowed goods, including seasonal produce such as bananas, to enter China since Monday.

Observers said the Burmese regime’s disruption of trade along this route appeared to be aimed at the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), a cease-fire group that has rejected the junta’s border guard force (BGF) plan, which seeks to put ethnic militias under Burmese military command.

However, a KIO source said that the border tension could also be related to a trip to Putao, in the far north of Kachin State, by a number of senior Burmese military leaders in late November for the opening of a bridge there.

Lt-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, the joint chief of staff of the army, navy and air force, traveled to the area along with three Bureaus of Special Operations chiefs—Maj-Gen Myint Soe, Maj-Gen Aung Than Htut and Maj-Gen Soe Win—as well as Judge Advocate-General Maj-Gen Yar Pyae and the commander of the Northern Regional Military Command, Brig-Gen Zeyar Aung.

Other VIPs on the trip included Construction Minister Khin Maung Myint and Minister for Communications, Posts and Telegraphs Thein Zaw, who are both senior leaders of the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party.

Tensions along the Sino-Burmese border have grown steadily since the regime proposed the BGF plan in April 2009, with some observers expecting a complete breakdown in the coming months of a series of cease-fire agreements that have been in place for the past two decades.

In August 2009, the Burmese junta launched an offensive against the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, an ethnic Kokang-Chinese armed group that refused to join the BGF. The resumption of hostilities in the area forced about 37,000 Kokang-Chinese refugees to flee to China and earned the Burmese junta a rare rebuke from its allies in Beijing.

According to a leaked cable from the US embassy in Beijing that has appeared on the WikiLeaks website, a senior official of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yang Yanyi, told US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell in October 2009 that the Burmese regime’s action against the ethnic Kokang had ramifications for China, but Beijing hoped the junta was working out the situation through dialogue.

Yang also said China opposed the use of force to resolve issues along the Sino-Burmese border and “would not allow Burma to fall into chaos,” adding that Chinese officials told their Burmese counterparts that China had “legitimate interests” in dealing with the border situation.

The cable noted that Yang told Campbell that the Burmese regime had been unable to realize true national reconciliation and economic development. She also said the Burmese people were unsatisfied with the country’s state of affairs.

The regime itself appears to have a very different assessment of its accomplishments over the past two decades. In a speech given at the elite Defense Services Academy in Maymyo on Friday, the head of the Burmese junta, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, said that the regime had successfully held a national convention to achieve what he called “national reconsolidation.”

He also highlighted the country’s economic progress under military rule, saying that every sector of the economy has seen significant development in the 22 years since the regime seized power.

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Suu Kyi gives 10m kyat to Giri victims
Wednesday, 15 December 2010 18:33 Myint Maung

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday donated 10 million kyat (about US$10,000) to Cyclone Giri victims, her National League for Democracy said.“She did not spend the money she has received in donations for her own needs. She has given the funds to the NLD, which has spent them on people in need. So, the donation to Cyclone Giri victims is not only her donation but also NLD’s,” NLD spokesman Ohn Kyaing said yesterday.

Independent candidates, who stood for seats in national elections on November 7, and the Committee Representing the People’s Parliament (CRPP) members, also made donations to victims of the storm that hit the Arakanese coast on October 22, flattening villages in the worst-hit townships of Myebon, Pauktaw, Kyaukphyu and Manaung with winds gusting up to 160 mph (257 km/h). The total amount of donations is about 15 million kyat (about US$15,000).

More than 45 people were killed and 100,000 were displaced, according to figures from UN organisations. CRPP secretary Aye Tha Aung and his colleagues arrived in Kyaukphyu, Arakan State yesterday, bringing aid to the cyclone victims.

“We have bought 13 sheets of tarpaulin. We’ve also purchased robes for Buddhist monks. And we have brought foods and clothes, too,” Aye Tha Aung told Mizzima over the phone.

The donors are also arranging to dig wells for the people Kyaukphyu, Myebon, and Pauktaw townships.

“There are some tiny villages in the area. Relief organisations have not helped them so villagers have nothing to eat. Most of our relief will be sent there,” Aye Tha Aung said.

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Suu Kyi to meet young activists
Wednesday, 15 December 2010 21:53 Mizzima News

Chaing Mai (Mizzima) – Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is to meet young activists from youth organisations on Friday, a party leader said today.She will meet the under-35 activists at National League for Democracy headquarters on Shwegondine Road in Bahan Township, Rangoon.

“After 2007, some young activists did not join the NLD. They formed many community organisations. Many [of them] … requested a meeting with Aunty [Suu Kyi],” NLD central committee member Phyu Phyu Thin told Mizzima.

“Youth groups know each other well and created links. I don’t know how many people will attend the meeting as we are only in contact the leaders of the youth organisations,” Phyu Phyu Thin added.

According to Ministry of Immigration and Population figures released in the middle of this year, Burma has a total population of 59 million, more than 30 million of whom are over 18.

Although the authorities had been keeping a close watch on NLD headquarters, there should be no problems, Phyu Phyu Thin said.

“I think we will not be in any danger. Aung San Suu Kyi and we [NLD] are co-operating with the international community in social activities for the youth. So, I think meeting the youth inside Burma won’t cause any problems,” she said.

Since Suu Kyi was released from house arrest, she has met diplomats, representatives of political parties and allied political organisations, independent candidates and junior NLD leaders.

Currently, the NLD was preparing to file a further appeal over the dissolution of the party, NLD spokesman and lawyer Nyan Win said, even though the Supreme Court in Naypyidaw had rejected NLD’s appeal over its dissolution on November 22.

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UK urges Ban to sack Nambiar, appoint full-time Burma envoy
Wednesday, 15 December 2010 21:21 Thomas Maung Shwe Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Britain has suggested to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that a full-time envoy be appointed to replace Vijay Nambiar, Ban’s interim Burma envoy, the country’s UN ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters in New York last week.

Nambiar, who also serves as Ban’s chief of staff, took on the position of Burma envoy part-time following the departure of Nigerian diplomat Dr. Ibrahim Gambari last December.

Grant made the comment following a UN Security Council meeting on Burma in which Nambiar reported back on his recent two-day trip to Rangoon, during which he met pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The British calls for a full-time replacement for Nambiar were echoed by Mexico’s ambassador to the UN, Claude Heller.

Ban’s deputy spokesman, Farhan Haq, informed Mizzima that Ban had told the ambassadors “that he is considering the idea”, adding that Ban’s office would make an announcement if there was any change of personnel.

Nambiar ignores Burma’s ethnic minorities, critics say

Mark Farmaner of the London-based advocacy group Burma Campaign UK, responded to news that the British government had proposed replacing Nambiar, stating that while his organisation had advocated that Ban and his office take a greater role on the Burma file they were unimpressed with the performance of his chief of staff as Burma envoy.

He said his organisation was “increasingly concerned by the approach of Nambiar, who seems to be following the failed approach of Gambari, thinking that befriending the generals will somehow buy influence. It seems that the dictatorship has got lucky yet again”.

Burma Campaign was extremely disappointed with Nambiar’s handling of Burma’s ethnic question, Farmaner said, adding that: “We are also disappointed that yet again a UN envoy has gone to Burma, met with Aung San Suu Kyi and the generals, and not with key ethnic representatives. The mandate from the General Assembly which Nambiar is acting on is to secure tripartite dialogue, not just dialogue between the generals and Aung San Suu Kyi.”

NLD veteran Win Tin, in a phone interview conducted the night before taking part in Suu Kyi’s meeting with Nambiar, told Mizzima that he would use occasion to urge the UN diplomat to meet leaders of Burma’s main ethnic groups so as to better understand their situation. Despite the request, Nambiar failed to do so during his short trip.

Nambiar said to have let Chinese strongly influence Burma report

The Washington Post reported last month that in August Nambiar had met Chinese UN ambassador Li Baodong days after the US announced its support for the creation of a commission of inquiry to investigate possible war crimes committed by the Burmese regime. The report said that during the “confidential” meeting, Li relayed Beijing’s strong opposition to any such inquiry.

The Post’s Colum Lynch wrote that three separate UN sources privy to the details of the meeting said Li had told Nambiar the proposed Burma inquiry was “dangerous and counterproductive, and should not be allowed to proceed”.

Nambiar by omission appeared to share Chinese opposition to the commission of inquiry. A report in September this year on the Situation of Human rights in Burma, prepared with the assistance of Nambiar in his position as Burma envoy and officially submitted by Ban to the General Assembly, made no mention of the proposed inquiry.

The omission came despite the fact that UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma Tomás Ojea Quintana had issued a report in March to the UN Human Rights Council that called for such an inquiry. The September report, while briefly mentioning Quintana’s report also left out any discussion of his conclusion that in Burma there existed a pattern of “gross and systematic” rights abuses which suggested that the abuses were a state policy that involved authorities at all levels of the executive, military and judiciary.

The September report, which is supposed to cover the period from August last year to August this year also left out any mention of the significant Burmese military offences in ethnic areas that occurred during this time, leaving many in the Burma movement deeply concerned.

In a previous interview with Mizzima, senior NLD leader Win Tin said that it was totally unacceptable that the September report neglected to mention the continuing attacks against villagers in eastern Burma. He also said he was deeply disturbed that the report ignored the Burmese Army’s military offensive in the Kokang region of Shan State in August-September last year which the UN itself had estimated forced 37,000 refugees to flee into China.

In response to questions about the glaring omission of rights abuses in ethnic areas, Ban’s spokesman Haq said at a press conference in New York on November 26: “I have no comment on the SG’s [Secretary General] human rights report, which speaks for itself.”

Nambiar allegedly called Suu Kyi out of touch, too hard-line

The calls to replace Nambiar came just days after a widely circulated report by Inner City Press reporter Matthew Russell Lee that sources in the UN had said that after returning from Burma “Nambiar’s internal reporting to UN officials was critical of Aung San Suu Kyi, characterising her as out of touch and somehow too hard-line”.

Haq told Mizzima that Russell Lee’s report “is not accurate”, and that according to Haq, “Mr Nambiar has considerable respect for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi”.

Responding to Haq’s denial, Russell Lee told Mizzima he stood by his story. He said in an e-mail message: “Having spoken with people privy to Mr Nambiar’s report – back within the UN Secretariat – which again was different on the point from what Nambiar said in the Security Council and Group of Friends meeting, Inner City Press stands by its story 100 per cent. Now with the UK, Mexico and others having asked that Nambiar be replaced by another full-time envoy, this double game or doublespeak diplomacy may be less relevant. Mr Haq’s denial gives rise to the question: did Haq even ask to see the internal report before denying it?”

Envoy upbeat on Burma’s election

While Nambiar certainly had not condemned Suu Kyi or the NLD in public, he had made positive statements about Burma’s recent and much criticised elections. In an interview with the BBC Burmese langue service conducted after the election, Nambiar claimed that in Burma “Government formation is taking place. I think there will be new spaces, new slots in the parliament which will open up for by-elections”.

Nambiar also told the BBC that by-elections, held for a single seat or a small number of seats usually held when a politician retires or dies in office would give “small opportunities for increasing the political space for a broader, inclusive involvement”. As Burma’s national election was just held last month it is hardly likely will be any by-elections in the near future.

Role in Sri Lanka during height of civil war still controversial and unresolved

Nambiar remains surrounded in controversy over questions regarding his actions in May last year during the final days of Sri Lanka’s war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), aka Tamil Tigers, while he was in the country on behalf of Ban as part of an apparent effort by the UN to stop the bloodshed. Ban sent the former Indian diplomat to Sri Lanka despite that his own brother, retired Indian army general Satish Nambiar, had served as an adviser to the Sri Lankan military for several years.

Marie Colvin, a reporter with The Times of London, wrote that on Monday, May 18, 2009, at 5:30 a.m. she personally called Nambiar in Colombo to relay a message she had received from members of the LTTE leadership, who were surrounded in a bunker with 300 loyalists including women and children, that they were ready to give themselves up to Sri Lankan government troops. According to Colvin the leaders wanted “Nambiar to be present to guarantee the Tigers’ safety”.

Nambiar told Colvin that he had been assured by Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa that those who gave up would be safe if they were to “hoist a white flag high”.

When Colvin suggested that Nambiar go personally to witness the surrender he told her it would not “be necessary” and that “the president’s assurances were enough”.

Hours later the lifeless bodies of dozens of members of the LTTE leadership including the two men who told Colvin they were ready to give up, were put on display by a triumphant Sri Lankan government. General Sarath Fonseka, head of the Sri Lankan military at the time, told an opposition newspaper last December that Gothabaya Rajapaksa, the Sri Lankan defence minister and brother of the president had been “given orders not to accommodate any LTTE leaders attempting surrender and that ‘they must all be killed’”.

Foneska, now jailed and facing charges of sedition for making the allegations, said the president, the defence minister and their brother Basil Rajapaksa, a senior presidential adviser were all guilty of war crimes for ordering the summary executions of rebel forces during the final days of battle.

The Times also reported that after arriving in Colombo to survey the situation, Nambiar was briefed by UN staff that they estimated at least 20,000 people had died “mostly by army shelling” during the final stages of the war against the Tigers. The report said Nambiar “knew about but chose not to make public” the UN estimates. When the British Foreign Office revealed the UN estimate, human rights groups demanded an inquiry into the conduct of the Sri Lankan armed forces.

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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.