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BURMA RELATED NEWS – FEBRUARY 05-07, 2011
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Reuters – Suu Kyi party urges West to keep Myanmar sanctions
Reuters – Sanctions on Myanmar
AP –  Indian navy captures 28 pirates from Thai vessel
AFP – Myanmar state media asserts junta head’s role
Gulf Times – Myanmar strongman ‘lurks behind new politics’
UN News Centre – Burma: Ban hopes election leads to ‘inclusive’ civilian gov.
Bernama – Myanmar Starts Building Advanced Stadium In Nay Pyi Taw
AsiaOne – Myanmar beach boys face jail, fine over jet ski crash
Asia Sentinel – Burma and Cairns: Nargis and Yasi
The Malay Mail – Two Myanmar nationals found stabbed to death
The Malay Mail – 30 detained after double murder
Phuket News – Mutilated body found in Phuket palm plantation
The Nation (Pakistan) – Myanmar nabs 20 illegal employment agents for fake documents
The Nation – EDITORIAL: Thai policies on Burma are just window-dressing
Xinhua – Myanmar child claims Guinness world record for having more fingers and toes
Xinhua – Myanmar media call for optimistic view on Myanmar situation
REVE – Solar power coming to Myanmar
Philippine Star – More private companies to carry out massive production of minerals in Myanmar
Fox News – Digital Technology Plays Two-Sided Role in Political Uprisings
The Irrawaddy – Junta Chief Overshadows President-elect in State Media
The Irrawaddy – Burmese Officer Killed in Clash with KIA
The Irrawaddy – Return of ‘Insurgent’ Label Signals Growing Tension
Mizzima News – Union Government to be formed on Tuesday: Dr. Aye Maung
Mizzima News – Parties to hold joint ceremony to mark Union Day
DVB News – DVB video journalist gets 13 years
DVB News – The winds of change have bypassed Burma
DVB News – China, Vietnam congratulate new leader
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Suu Kyi party urges West to keep Myanmar sanctions
By Aung Hla Tun – Mon Feb 7, 2:48 am ET

YANGON (Reuters) – The party of Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Monday that Western sanctions on the country should remain in place, arguing the embargo affected the military regime and not the broader population.

The announcement by the National League for Democracy (NLD), Myanmar’s biggest opposition force, will be a blow to both the ruling junta and Western investors keen to tap the isolated country’s vast natural resources.

“We came to find that the sanctions affect only the leaders of the ruling regime and their close business associates, not the majority of the people,” Tin Oo, NLD vice-chairman, told Reuters.

Tin Oo declined to elaborate but said a report by the NLD, whose 1990 election victory was ignored by the junta, would be released later on Monday based on its own research and consultation with economists.

Suu Kyi, who was released from house arrest on November 13, has long backed sanctions as part of her fight against decades of authoritarian military rule in the former British colony also known as Burma. The sanctions were intended to force the regime to improve its poor human rights record and initiate democratic reforms.

But many experts say the policy damaged the economy and hurt the Burmese people, pushing the generals closer to neighbors China and Thailand, which are tapping the country’s vast energy reserves.

Soon after her release, Suu Kyi indicated she might recommend the lifting of the embargoes, which prompted a flurry of diplomatic activity and attracted wide attention in the West.

INVESTMENT CREDENTIALS

Around the same time, Myanmar launched a drive to attract Asian investors, touting its tourism potential and abundant supplies of gemstones, timber, oil and gas, much of which remained intact because of “unfavorable Western sanctions”.

Such sanctions have not affected the wealth and lavish lifestyles of the junta top brass, but they have hampered efforts to acquire new weapons technology for the military and have increased dependence on China.

Many experts see the sanctions as Suu Kyi’s best, and perhaps only, bargaining chip — one she might continue to hold to remain relevant in Myanmar’s changing political landscape.

While hugely popular and a symbol of hope for the Burmese people, Suu Kyi and the NLD have no official political role in Myanmar having boycotted the November 7 election because of strict election laws. It has since been officially disbanded for refusing to take part, despite repeated court appeals.

A civilian parliament dominated by retired and serving soldiers convened last week for the first time in five decades and chose a new president to lead the country but the old regime is expected to pull the strings, with little scope for reconciliation or reforms.

Experts suggest Suu Kyi could act as a mediator between the West and the reclusive generals toward easing the sanctions in return for concrete reforms in the country of 50 million people, about a third of whom live beneath the poverty line.

“The NLD is popular, but it’s facing real problems. They’ve been outmaneuvered by the generals, who have formed a parliament and government without them,” said Milton Osbourne, a Southeast Asia expert at Australia’s Lowy Institute think tank.

“The focus on sanction reflects the NLD and Suu Kyi’s desire to be relevant again after being sidelined for so long.”

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Sanctions on Myanmar
8 hours 41 mins ago

(Reuters) – The party of Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has recommended sanctions on the country remain in place, a move that will be a blow to the military regime and Western companies keen to invest in the country. Skip related content

The National League for Democracy (NLD), Myanmar’s biggest opposition force, said trade and travel embargoes had little impact on the broader population and recommended their continued use as a means to isolate the generals who are set to control a new civilian executive and legislature.

Here is an overview of existing sanctions on the former Burma and its rulers:

EU SANCTIONS:

— The European Union adopted a Common Position on Myanmar in 1996, including a ban on the sale or transfer from the EU of arms or weapons expertise to Myanmar, or of any equipment that might be used for internal repression.

— EU governments tightened sanctions after a crackdown on pro-democracy protests led by Buddhist monks in September 2007, targeting 1,207 firms with measures including visa bans and asset freezes.

In April 2009 the EU extended for another year a visa ban and asset freezes on members of the Myanmar military government and its backers. It has long called for the release of the estimated 2,100 political prisoners in Myanmar.

— France said on August 11 there should be a global embargo on arms sales to Myanmar and economic sanctions focussed on its key exports, timber and rubies. Britain called for the U.N. Security Council to impose a global arms embargo.

— The EU has added members of the judiciary responsible for Suu Kyi’s extension of house arrest in 2009 to its list of military officials subject to asset freezes and bans on travel to the European Union.

U.S. SANCTIONS:

— The United States first imposed broad sanctions in 1988 after the junta’s crackdown on student-led protests. It banned new investment in Myanmar by U.S. persons or entities in 1997.

— Washington has gradually tightened sanctions to try to force Myanmar’s generals into political rapprochement with Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, which won a landslide election victory in 1990 but was kept out of power by the junta.

— President Barack Obama renewed the U.S. sanctions in May last year. Washington has said sanctions will be reassessed if the new government being formed shows substantive efforts to improve the country’s poor human rights record.

— In July 2008, the Treasury moved to block the assets and transactions of Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd and the Myanmar Economic Corp and their subsidiaries.

— The moves banned American individuals and businesses from transactions with the firms and froze any assets they had under U.S. jurisdiction.

— The Burma Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003 banned all imports from Myanmar, restricted financial transactions, froze the assets of certain Myanmar financial institutions and extended visa restrictions on junta officials.

OTHER SANCTIONS:

AUSTRALIA — Has maintained visa restrictions on senior junta figures and a ban on defence exports since 1988. It announced financial sanctions in October 2007 against Myanmar’s ruling generals and their families — over 400 individuals in all.

CANADA — Imposed sanctions in November 2007 banning exports to Myanmar, except for humanitarian goods, and barring imports. It froze the Canadian assets of Myanmar citizens connected with the junta. Canada also prohibited the provision of financial services and the export of technical data to Myanmar, and banned new investment by Canadians.

NEW ZEALAND — Has a long-standing ban on visas for military leaders and their families.

JAPAN — Japan cut aid to Myanmar in October 2007.

ASIA — Most Asian governments have favoured a policy of engagement towards Myanmar and southeast Asian countries have called for Western sanctions to be lifted.

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Indian navy captures 28 pirates from Thai vessel
By ASHOK SHARMA, Associated Press – Sun Feb 6, 7:17 am ET

NEW DELHI (AP) – The Indian navy on Sunday captured 28 suspected Somali pirates from a Thai fishing vessel after a brief exchange of gunfire in the Indian Ocean, an official said.

The navy struck as the pirates prepared to attack a Greek-flagged merchant ship, said Capt. M. Nambiar, a navy spokesman.

The pirates fired at the two approaching Indian navy and coast guard ships, but later displayed white flags and surrendered about 100 miles (160 kilometers) west of the Lakshwadeep islands, Nambiar said.

The navy rescued 24 crew members from the Prantalay-11, which the pirates had seized and were using as a mother vessel at various locations in the Arabian Sea, he said.

The vessel was captured in Sunday’s operation and the pirates were being taken to Mumbai for questioning, he said.

It was the second anti-piracy operation by the Indian navy in the region in less than two weeks.

On Jan. 28, the Indian navy intercepted another Thai fishing boat, the Prantalay, which had been used by Somali pirates as a mother vessel since April last year.

The navy arrested 15 pirates after an exchange of gunfire. It rescued 20 fishermen from Thailand and Myanmar who were the original crew of the fishing vessel and were being held hostage.

The Press Trust of India news agency said the vessels seized in the past two weeks were part of the Prantalay family of ships, several of which have been hijacked by pirates in the past six months.

The Gulf of Aden, which connects the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean, is one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and is a prime target for Somali pirates.

Indian warships have been escorting merchant ships as part of anti-piracy surveillance in the area since 2008.

That year, India’s navy drew criticism for sinking a Thai fishing trawler that had been commandeered hours earlier by pirates. The navy defended its action, saying it had fired in self-defense.

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Myanmar state media asserts junta head’s role
Sat Feb 5, 6:50 am ET

BANGKOK (AFP) – Myanmar’s junta chief appeared on the front of the main state newspaper Saturday, above news that a retired general had been made president, in what one analyst said was an apparent assertion of strength.

Than Shwe, the junta number one who has ruled Myanmar with an iron fist since 1992, was pictured in full military uniform and described as senior general and commander-in-chief of defence services in a prominent announcement.

The item in the New Light of Myanmar, entitled “Various national races share joys and sorrows”, appeared to be reprinted from an earlier proclamation on the country’s unity.
It was positioned above a report on the appointment of prime minister Thein Sein, a key ally of the army chief, as Myanmar’s head of state.

“Maybe whoever is in charge of the newspaper, they just wanted to confirm that Than Shwe is still the boss,” said Myanmar expert Aung Naing Oo.

While Than Shwe has not taken up the top political role in the country’s new political system, many analysts have long expected him to try to keep some control behind the scenes.

Thein Sein’s appointment was seen as supporting fears that the regime has engineered the political process to hide military power behind a civilian facade.

The 65-year-old former junta number four became a civilian to contest the November election as head of the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which claimed an overwhelming majority in the poll.

Despite the selection of a president, a government has not yet been formed and key regime figures remain in their positions.

The formation of a national assembly in Naypyidaw, convened for the first time on Monday, takes the country towards the final stage of the junta’s so-called “roadmap” to a “disciplined democracy”.

A quarter of the parliamentary seats were kept aside for the military even before the country’s first poll in 20 years, which was marred by the absence of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and claims of cheating and intimidation.

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Gulf Times – Myanmar strongman ‘lurks behind new politics’
Monday7/2/2011February, 2011, 02:23 AM Doha Time

Myanmar may have announced a new president this week, but analysts say the country’s ageing junta chief will still pull the strings in the new political system.

Than Shwe, who began his authoritarian rule in 1992, will try to ensure his own safety by maintaining his influence behind the scenes after the rise of his key ally Thein Sein to president, according to experts.

The exact retirement plans of the ageing postman turned psychological warfare officer remain shrouded in mystery.

But if anyone was under the impression that he had quietly faded into the background with the selection of a new political leader, a prominent message on the front of the main state newspaper served to underline his strength.

The septuagenarian was pictured Saturday in full military uniform, chest bristling with medals but without the customary dark glasses, above the announcement of the country’s new president.

“Maybe whoever is in charge of the newspaper they just wanted to confirm that Than Shwe is still the boss,” said Thailand-based Myanmar expert Aung Naing Oo.

Described by critics as brutal, paranoid and heavily influenced by astrology, Than Shwe swept his enemies from key positions after taking power, including purging Prime Minister Khin Nyunt in October 2004.

Avoiding a similar fate and ensuring the security of those close to him will therefore be at the forefront of his plans, analysts said.

The “crucial question” is whether he will relinquish his hold on the armed forces, said Maung Zarni, of the London School of Economics.

“My answer is categorically no,” he said, adding that the junta chief “needs to live by his sword”.

Other analysts say Than Shwe will step back from the army, relying on trusted members of the military hierarchy now in positions of power.

“He has a weak and loyal president, Thein Sein, whom he can control easily from behind,” said US-based analyst Win Min.

Thein Sein, chosen as president on Friday, shed his army uniform to contest November’s election as head of the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which claimed an overwhelming majority in the poll.

Other key allies include former junta number three Thura Shwe Mann, who Win Min said is likely to “control the parliament” as lower house speaker.

Both Thein Sein and Shwe Mann are “lapdogs of Than Shwe”, according to Maung Zarni.

The formation of a national assembly in Naypyidaw, convened for the first time last week, takes the country towards the final stage of the junta’s so-called “roadmap” to a “disciplined democracy”.

A quarter of the parliamentary seats were kept aside for the military even before the country’s first poll in 20 years, which was marred by the absence of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and claims of cheating and intimidation.

Despite the dominance of retired generals in the new political system, some believe there is a chink of hope.

In addition to the national parliament, there are also 14 regional assemblies run by ministers whose roles could bring them into competition with local army chiefs — and perhaps chip away at military domination.

Trevor Wilson, an academic and former Australian ambassador to Myanmar, said the country had “definitely reached the first stage of a transitional regime”.

“I think he is preparing for his departure, it’s not going to be sudden, he will be around in the background,” he said.

Than Shwe could move from the army to a protected position within the USDP, Aung Naing Oo said.

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UN News Centre – Burma: Ban hopes election leads to ‘inclusive’ civilian gov.
Monday, 7 February 2011, 11:12 am
Press Release: United Nations

4 February 2011 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today took note of the announcement, by Myanmar’s newly-convened parliament, of the election of a new president and vice-presidents and voiced hope that the move marks the beginning of a change in the status-quo in the South-East Asian country.

“He hopes that it leads to the formation of a more inclusive civilian government that is broadly representative of all parties relevant to national reconciliation and more responsive to the aspirations of the people of Myanmar,” the Secretary-General’s spokesperson said in a statement.

The statement added that the United Nations stood ready to work with the new government and all other stakeholders in the country to facilitate greater democratization, development and stability.

According to media reports, Myanmar’s parliament elected a former prime minister, Thein Sein, as the country’s new president and chose Tin Aung Myint Oo and Sai Mouk Kham as the two vice-presidents.

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February 07, 2011 13:57 PM
Myanmar Starts Building Advanced Stadium In Nay Pyi Taw

YANGON, Feb 7 (Bernama) — Myanmar laid the cornerstone for an advanced stadium Zeyathiri at the weekend in the new capital of Nay Pyi Taw, China’s Xinhua news agency quoted a report in Monday’s state-run daily New Light of Myanmar.

The Zeyathirir stadium project is implemented by the giant private Max Myanmar Group of Companies.

The 47,275 square-meters stadium will comprise one 5,000-seat basketball and volleyball court, one 3,000-seat table tennis gymnasium and one 3,000-seat badminton court, the report said.

The stadium is expected to hold matches of the 27th Southeast Asian Games in 2013.

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

Meanwhile, Myanmar will also build an international-standard football stadium in National Sports Park Complex in Mandalay, the second largest city, aimed at improving Myanmar’s sports standard and hosting Asian Games as well as SEA Games in the future.

Mandalay currently has Ba Htoo and Aungmyay Mandalar stadiums, but both do not have enough seating capacity for local tournaments as reported.

The National Sports Park Complex (Mandalay) will be built on 74.9 hectares’ plot which comprises a football academy, the football stadium, a sports stadium, a swimming pool, a velodrome ground, a sepak takraw stadium, a weight lifting centre, a bowling alley, a shooting range and tennis courts.

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AsiaOne – Myanmar beach boys face jail, fine over jet ski crash
Mon, Feb 07, 2011
New Straits Times

GEORGE TOWN: The two Myanmar beach boys who rammed a jet ski into a tourist after she refused to hire the vehicle at Batu Ferringhi beach are being investigated for causing grievous hurt.

State police chief Datuk Ayub Yaakob said the two, aged 35 and 37, faced a maximum of two years’ jail or RM2,000 fine, or both.

He said the suspects, who have been detained for two weeks, did not have travel documents on them.

“They said they were in the country on a tourist visa but we have yet to see any document to substantiate this.”

He said this at Penang Hospital after visiting Chinese national Zhu Li, 47, who was admitted there for her injuries.

Ayub said police were also identifying the operator of the jet ski services.

“We are recording statements from eyewitnesses.

“We hope to wrap up investigations by next week and submit the papers to the deputy public prosecutor’s office.”

Jet ski operators capitalised on the huge weekend crowd yesterday, despite the state authorities issuing an order to them to stop their activities.

Canadian Howard Cummer, 68, said the sport was a part of Batu Ferringhi.

“I don’t think it can be banned. I am not sure if it is the right answer. Maybe it would be better if people were cautioned.

“Alternatively, tourists could go to places where there is no jet skiing or parasailing.”

Cummer said a ban on the activities would make the beach boring.

“A lot of people take part in water sports. They are part of the attraction.”

Zahid Hut, 50, a banker, said the authorities needed to regulate jet skiing, such as having an operator accompany an inexperienced rider on the vehicle.

He noted an incident in which a rider rode the jet ski too close to the shore on the first day of Chinese New Year.

“It is dangerous. You can sit here and watch inexperienced riders going on their own.

“There are even children who ride jet skis.”

He was, however, not in favour of a ban on jet skiing as it would affect tourism.

“The activity has to be regulated. The safety of tourists has to be prioritised.”

Zhu, who was walking on the beach on Saturday, was hit by a jet ski operated by the two Myanmar beach boys. She was seriously injured.

Swede Eivor Wiklund, 64, who was with her friend Monica Andersson, 68, said the authorities should designate an area for jet skiing.

The couple were relaxing at the beach when a parasailor landed near them, resulting in the parachute falling almost on top of them.

Andersson said: “We did not know they were coming. We were surprised, but were not in danger.”

Dane Kenneth Lalyredsen, 53, who was on holiday in Penang with his family, said jet skis were a problem in many places.

“In Cambodia, there are also issues with jet ski operators as they operate near crowded beaches.”

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Asia Sentinel – Burma and Cairns: Nargis and Yasi
Written by Our Correspondent
Sunday, 06 February 2011

How could one person be killed in one storm when 138,000 died in one much like it?

If the downtrodden people of Burma were to catch the contagion of events thousands of miles away, they probably needn’t be contaminated by what is taking place in Cairo or Tunis, where citizens, finally having had enough of odious governments rose up to seek to throw them out.

Instead, they should look to Cairns, Australia, 6,500 kilometers to the southeast, where Tropical Cyclone Yasi, a superstorm with winds of almost 300 km. per hour, came ashore on Feb. 2. The storm was still categorized as a cyclone 600 kilometers inland. Property damage was stunning. Town after town after town was shown on television as being completely flattened. In one town, a massive shipping container was hurled three blocks. Dozens of boats were piled on each other, some picked up and driven through houses.

At latest count, despite the damage, only one man is known dead and three people are missing. The village of Mission Beach, the epicenter of the storm, was hit by a wall of water four meters high. That is because authorities had issued warnings to the residents of the Queensland region to move inland as far as they could get to ride out the storm. By the next day, hundreds of emergency service workers were clearing debris from the streets of the beleaguered Queensland area and restoring power.

Contrast that to what happened when Tropical Cyclone Nargis hit Burma on May 2, 2008. Nargis was listed as a category three storm. It hit without warning because the Burmese authorities never put the word out. The only news on Burma’s national radio was propaganda concerning a bogus referendum to be held the Saturday after the cyclone hit. As a result, the population was completely unprepared for a three-meter wall of water that washed 24 km inland, destroying everything in its path

Nargis would become the deadliest storm ever to hit Burma, killing at least 138,000 people. The death toll is believed to be far higher because the Burmese authorities allegedly stopped counting, fearing political fallout.

Six weeks after the cyclone, the military regime began to close down relief camps and force the storm victims back to their devastated villages, according to the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, an opposition group. Foreign doctors from Thailand, the Philippines, India and Japan who were allowed into the country were told that Burma had enough doctors to deal with the situation and were sent home.

United Nations and other relief agencies, particularly from the United States, were initially banned from setting up operations. Roadblocks were established in the Irrawaddy Division to keep international aid workers from undertaking effective relief in the devastated area. Soldiers operating the roadblocks were told to look out for foreigners traveling into the area, according to opposition groups.

However, the National Coalition group reported, “Although Cyclone Nargis has been a disaster on a national scale for most people, it is a boon for the cronies of the junta.

Several days after the cyclone, the junta’s Prime Minister Thein Sein assigned several ministers to take charge of relief and rehabilitation in different regions and chose several companies and businessmen close to the junta to provide “relief and reconstruction” services.

The junta and their cronies allegedly made millions of dollars from the money that flowed in for reconstruction. Weeks after the cyclone, hundreds of thousands of people still were without aid. Eventually, however, dozens of international and local relief agencies were able to deliver life-saving and life-sustaining aid for millions of the survivors.

Than Shwe, the 78-year-old senior general who rules the Burmese junta, eventually visited the devastated sites three weeks after the disaster. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gilliard was on her way to the scene in Australia before the cyclone had finished its destruction. Some 4,000 Australian army soldiers were on the scene to seek to help the tens of thousands of survivors in the path of the storm.

As one critic pointed out, Australia is a real country. Burma isn’t. There were homes and evacuation centers in  cities, towns and villages on the Queensland coast that were strong enough to take the brunt of the storm, even though huge numbers were destroyed. Burma’s east coast wasn’t so lucky. For one thing, the mangrove swamps that protected the coast had been pulled out and replaced with fish farms, thus allowing the storm surge to roll far further inland than necessary. Poverty and depredation in the Irrawaddy River Delta were such that the majority of the dirt-poor denizens were living in accommodation that could be easily destroyed. It was.

But it has often been pointed out that Burma was one of the the richest countries in Asia at independence. Now it is the poorest. It was made that way by idiotic government policies. Despite the sham election that the country just went through, those government policies look like they will stay in place unless the citizens of Burma have a Cairo moment. That in itself is unlikely, given the brutal way the junta has cracked down in the past, and given the aid the junta gets from China, Thailand, India and other countries keen to raid Burma’s assets.

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The Malay Mail – Two Myanmar nationals found stabbed to death
Bernama Sunday, February 6th, 2011 21:27:00

SERI KEMBANGAN: Two Myanmar nationals were found stabbed to death, following what the police believe was a pre-dawn bloody fight in a third floor unit of a workers quarters in Taman Universiti Indah near here today.

Each of the unidentified victims, factory workers in their 20s, had sustained between 10 and 12 stab wounds in the chest and neck.

Upon discovering blood stains in the staircase from the third floor to the ground floor, some occupants contacted the police.

Initial police investigations are centred on a brutal fight involving four Myanmar occupants of the unit, armed with meat cleavers, between 3am and 6am.

Serdang police chief Superintendent Abdul Razak Majid said the police have not ruled out that a misunderstanding might have led to the fight involving the four occupants of the unit.

He said one of the victims, who had sustained 10 stab wounds in the chest, was found in the living room while the other, with 12 stab wounds in the chest and neck, was in a room.

He believed meat cleavers were used in the attack on the two victims, believed to have been employed at the Syarikat Kitar Semula factory which produces paper.

Abdul Razak believed that the assailants might have been injured during the fight as there was a blood trail from the third floor to the ground floor.

“We are in the midst of tracking down the other two occupants of the unit, to facilitate investigations into the murders,” he said, adding that more than one person was involved in the killings.

The police chief said about 30 immigrant workers, including women, who stayed at the quarters, were picked up to assist in investigations.

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The Malay Mail – 30 detained after double murder
Monday, February 7th, 2011 11:37:00
G. Prakash

SERI KEMBANGAN: Police detained 30 Myanmar nationals staying in the surrounding neighbourhood here following the murder of two countrymen yesterday in Taman Seri Indah.

Police rounded them up within five hours of the two victims being found with multiple stab wounds and their throats slit on the third floor of a shoplot.

Serdang police chief Supt Abdul Razak Elias said: “They are countrymen of the victims and we believe they can provide us with good leads.”

A commotion about 6.30am had led to restaurant operators in the area to call police.

“When we arrived at the scene, we found the two victims lying in a pool of blood, one in the living area the other inside the room,” said Abdul Razak.

One victim had 10 slash wounds while the other had 12. They were believed to have been attacked with a meat-cleaver retrieved from the crime scene.

Both victims were in their 20s and worked at a nearby printer ink recycling company. Their employer was on vacation in Hong Kong.

“We ruled out robbery as a motive as nothing was missing from the house,” said Abdul Razak.

He said the assailants could also have been injured as there were blood stains near the back door where they could have fled. Police are looking for two housemates of the victims who had gone missing.

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Monday, February 7, 2011
Phuket News – Mutilated body found in Phuket palm plantation
Wichai Witthaya Phuket,Thailand
14:16 local time (GMT +7)

PHUKET: The body of a Burmese man was found on a Phuket palm plantation yesterday morning with a half-severed head and intestines spilling out.

Thalang police were informed of the gruesome discovery at about 8am. The body lay in Palm Anchalee, just south of the Heroines’ Monument and adjacent to the offices of the Phuket Gazette, off Thepkrassatri Road.

The victim, identified by a document on the body as “Yoe”, age 37, was found face down with 11 stab wounds, police said.

According to the document, he lived in Rassada sub-district.

Near the body, police found the victim’s socks, a tobacco pouch and a hat.

Thalang Police Duty Officer Lt Patiwat Yodkhuan speculated that Mr Yoe may have known the killer, who tricked him into going into the secluded plantation behind Wat Tha Ruea and killed him.

Another scenario could have been that Mr Yoe was killed while trying to fend off robbers, Lt Patiwat said.

Kusoldharm volunteers took the body to Thalang Hospital for examination.

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Monday, February 07, 2011
The Nation (Pakistan) – Myanmar nabs 20 illegal employment agents for fake documents
Submitted 10 hrs 40 mins ago

The Myanmar authorities have nabbed 20 illegal overseas employment agents for sending Myanmar workers to work abroad with fake documents, the local Flower News reported Monday.

The action was taken after some Myanmar workers leaving the Yangon International Airport were recently found with fake Malaysian visa and employment documents.

Meanwhile, the Myanmar labor department started in October last year undertaking the task of sending the country’s workers to South Korea for employment through government-to-government system, disallowing local overseas employment agencies to do so, according to earlier local report.

The Employment Permit System (EPS) for South Korea, previously granted to overseas employment agencies, was stopped in Nov. 2009.

According to official figures, in 2010, the Myanmar Ministry of Labour granted licenses to 101 overseas employment agencies for them to send employees abroad except S. Korea.

Over the past few decades, Myanmar has been encouraging its people to work overseas as part of its bid to ease domestic employment problem, and thousands of Myanmar job seekers worked in Asian countries with the majority in Malaysia, followed by in South Korea, Singapore and Japan.

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The Nation – EDITORIAL: Thai policies on Burma are just window-dressing
Little effort to deal with cause of woes; Asean praise for sham ballot was sad
Published on February 7, 2011

The recent footage of how Thai authorities responding to the latest Rohingya “boat people” was very different from what was seen a year ago when they were forced at gunpoint to give information just moments after they landed on a Thai shore. This time around the authorities made sure that the footage was that of medical personnel assisting the refugees.
Not very subtle, one might say. But then again, what can one expect from a nation with strong tradition of window dressing instead of dealing with the heart of problems, which, in this case, is the treatment of the people of Burma by its military regime.

Thailand, for one, is facing growing calls from the international community to permit the UN refugee agency access to the Rohingya boat people, who continue to land on the country’s coastal provinces. The government preferred to handle this itself despite knowing that this particular ethnic group, the Rohingya, faces severe prosecution by the Burmese government. The sad thing is that the Burmese government doesn’t even recognise them as their citizens – they claim they are a bunch of Muslims who occupied their country. And by not recognising them, the Burmese believe they have no obligation, legal or moral, to these people once they drift away from Burma territory.

This past week Burma faced its first-ever Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations’ Human Rights Council in Geneva. It is a process all member state must undergo every four years to ascertain the progress on human rights in each country.

It came just days before the new parliament, elected last year, convened on January 31 in the nation’s capital, Naypyidaw, to select a president and form a new government already dominated by the country’s military. The UPR process is an opportunity to put under the spotlight one of the most criticised regimes in the world.

As expected, numerous concerns were raised, including the issue of political prisoners, treatment of ethnic minorities, and impunity for government officials, plus systematic and gross human rights violations that many say are crimes against humanity, along with the use of rape as a mean of demoralising minority women living in conflict zones.

In its response, the Burmese delegation said, “Accusations of rape against ethnic women are baseless, and are aimed at discrediting the armed forces.” They claimed the armed forces have a zero tolerance policy towards serious human rights violations, including sexual violence. Somebody needs to tell the government of Burma that the world has moved beyond the tit-for-tat discourse between Burma and the rest of the world over who did what and when.

The evidence speaks for itself. Nearly 2,200 people languishing in Burma’s prisons for expressing their views. It has been documented that nearly 150 of these political prisoners have died in detention since 1988. And let’s not forget the tens of thousands of refugees living in camps that dotted the Thai-Burma border.

Thailand and the Asean countries, on the other hand, have this policy of non-interference. They stubbornly cling on to this policy in spite knowing that the atrocities in Burma seriously affect neighbouring countries. In this respect, it was deeply disappointing to see Asean members commend Burma for the sham November 7 election and hail it as a positive development.

Asean members’ support for Burma’s ‘7-Step Road-map’ is also of concern, as the blueprint fails to include all stakeholders in the country. And yet, they are scratching their heads as to why thousands of refugees and millions of Burmese citizens flee their country and put neighbouring countries in unwanted positions as their policy and treatment of refugees is exposed to the world.

In its National Report, the regime claimed it was “bringing about balanced development… to enable the national races to enjoy the benefit of development”. But as numerous reports have pointed out, these so-called development initiatives, regardless of its size, rarely benefit affected communities and are likely to lead to further impoverishment.

Thailand and the Asean countries, on the other hand, have this policy of non-interference. They stubbornly cling on to this policy in spite knowing that the atrocities in Burma seriously affect neighbouring countries. In this respect, it was deeply disappointing to see Asean members commend Burma for the sham November 7 election and hail it as a positive development.

Asean members’ support for Burma’s ‘7-Step Road-map’ is also of concern, as the blueprint fails to include all stakeholders in the country. And yet, they are scratching their heads as to why thousands of refugees and millions of Burmese citizens flee their country and put neighbouring countries in unwanted positions as their policy and treatment of refugees is exposed to the world.

In its National Report, the regime claimed it was “bringing about balanced development… to enable the national races to enjoy the benefit of development”. But as numerous reports have pointed out, these so-called development initiatives, regardless of its size, rarely benefit affected communities and are likely to lead to further impoverishment.

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Myanmar child claims Guinness world record for having more fingers and toes
English.news.cn 2011-02-07 19:59:00

YANGON, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) — A Myanmar child has claimed the Guinness world record for having more fingers and toes, the local weekly Messenger News reported Monday.

Lei Yadi Min, over 1 year-old baby girl, possesses 12 fingers — six each hand, and 14 toes — 7 each foot.

Living in South Okkalarpa township in Yangon, the Myanmar baby girl is expected to win the record in the coming 2012 Guinness world record book.

At present, two Indian children, one over 5 years old and the other over 15 years old with 12 fingers and 13 toes, are registered as the Guinness world record.

Competing with Lei Yadi Min for the Guinness record is also an Indian rival, who owns eight toes each foot.

Lei Yadi Min is now living with her mother and sister in Yangon.

Meanwhile, a Myanmar citizen, U Khun Sai Maung Maung Gyi, 68, has claimed for the prize of Guinness World Record for his highest frequency of donating blood.

He started to donate his blood in February 1956 and completed 204 times in August 2010.

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Myanmar media call for optimistic view on Myanmar situation
English.news.cn 2011-02-06 11:11:40

YANGON, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) — The official daily New Light of Myanmar Sunday called for an optimistic view on Myanmar’s real situation, saying that “Myanmar is carrying out human rights programs in line with the provisions included in the constitution and international norms and standards”.

Citing the 10th session of Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights Council, which took place in Geneva, Switzerland from Jan. 24 to Feb. 4, the editorial of the daily said at the session, the majority of the countries recognized Myanmar’s positive development, hoping that the international community will understand Myanmar’s objective conditions.

The universal periodic review , which is part of work program of the human rights council, is held every four years to review human rights movements being implemented by all the 192 countries.

The editorial clarified that Myanmar’s constitution carries a separate chapter about fundamental rights of citizens whose standards and norms are on a par with that of international constitutions, pointing out that the power to issue five writs is vested in courts so that the citizens can enjoy their rights.

The editorial went on to say that sessions of the elected union parliament and region or state parliaments are taking place from which executive, judiciary and legislature will emerge which are initial steps for democratization.

The editorial assured that “it will be able to carry out democratization process step by step depending on its objective conditions and exercise discipline-flourishing democracy system effectively”.

The session of the union parliament of Myanmar will continue on next Tuesday following the end of a presidential election Friday, in which in-post prime minister U Thein Sein was elected as the president, first secretary of the State Peace and Development Council U Tin Aung Myint Oo and Dr. Sai Mauk Kham as vice presidents.

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REVE – Solar power coming to Myanmar
February 07, 2011

This solar power plan is mainly for microwave communication towers, river water pumping stations and street lamps.

OK Myanmar Co. Ltd. will commence employing power energy in the near future. The plan is mainly intended to provide service to microwave communication towers and remote areas in Burma with no electricity. “This solar power plan is mainly for microwave communication towers, river water pumping stations and street lamps,” added a company engineer.

The service is to utilize Japanese manufactured Sanyo photovoltaic equipment and employ Japanese technical experts. The solar energy project is intended to generate from 10 to 20 megawatts of electricity annually and comes with a 20 year guarantee. However, the cost of the service has yet to be fixed, stipulated a company employee.

OK Myanmar Co. was established in 1992 and conducts an export-import business supplying electrical equipment to government projects. They operate Daewoo and Sanyo showrooms in Rangoon, Nyapyitaw and Mandalay.

The company will showcase Sanyo solar energy products at the second annual ‘547 Trade Fair’ to be held in Rangoon from the 10th to 14th of next month.

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Philippine Star – More private companies to carry out massive production of minerals in Myanmar
(philstar.com) Updated February 06, 2011 01:00 PM

YANGON (Xinhua) – Two more private companies have reached contracts respectively with Myanmar’s state mining enterprise-3 to carry out production of limestone, coal and ionized bauxite, the state newspaper New Light of Myanmar reported Sunday.

On profit sharing basis, the Youth Investment Group Industrial Production Co Ltd will undertake the production of the minerals in Mawlaik, Sagaing region and Thazi, Mandalay region, Naungtakhaw and Longwe regions respectively, while the other company, Htoo International Industries Co Ltd will yield massively coal from Kalewa, Sagaing region.

According to earlier report, a private company, the Four-Person Group Mining Co. Ltd, will also carry out heavy production of coal jointly with the government enterprise in Mawlaik, Sagaing region and Ywangan, Shan state (South) under similar contract.

There is a total of 82 coal mining blocks in the whole of Myanmar.

According to statistics, Myanmar produced 233,983 tons of coal in the fiscal year 2009-10.

Meanwhile, by using coal for the first time mined in the Shan state, Myanmar has planned to build its first coal-burning electric power station.

Coal, a non-metallic mineral, is among minerals being explored and mined by foreign companies investing in Myanmar also.

Official statistics show that foreign contracted investment in Myanmar’s mining sector amounted to $2.395 billion in 62 projects as of October 2010 since the country opened to such investment in late 1988, accounting for nearly 8 percent of the total foreign investment and standing as the fourth largest sectorally after electric power, oil and gas and manufacturing.

Foreign firms engaged in mineral exploration in Myanmar include those from Australia, China, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the United States and Russia.

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Fox News – Digital Technology Plays Two-Sided Role in Political Uprisings
By Diane Macedo
Published February 04, 2011
FoxNews.com

In times of political unrest, governments frequently try to block international communications, but as technology evolves protesters continue to find more and more ways to get around government censorship.

Just last week, activists in Egypt managed to use dial-up modems and satellite phones to get reports, images and video out of massive civil unrest in the country, despite the government’s unprecedented move to block virtually all Internet and cell phone service.

But a month prior, activists in Tunisia had digital technology turned on them when the government allegedly captured its citizens’ usernames and passwords on various e-mail and social media sites in order to spy on them and squelch dissenting speech.

So what kind of role has digital technology played in recent political uprisings and what kind of an impact has it had?

SERBIA

One of the first instances of digital technology in political uprisings was seen in the 2000 student-led Serbian uprising, which led to the overthrow of dictator Slobodan Milosevic.

“There were two means of communication: the Internet and the mobile phone. We used the Internet between offices (laptops were still expensive) and mobile phones because of their abundant availability,” Ivan Marovic, one of the founders of the movement, Otpor, said in a 2008 thesis interview.

The group, Marovic said, had “four laptops and four digital cameras to record police brutality. Imagine if we had had phones with cameras, like last year in Burma.”

But even the basic cell phones allowed Marovic and his colleagues to coordinate a mass movement and the logistics behind it.

“We used SMS a lot. For instance, to invite people to a meeting we had a program that would send SMS to the listed number,” Marovic said. “The most important was the march from Novi Sad to Belgrade on April 14th, 2000. That’s some 80km, 24 hours on foot. We had to coordinate things while walking. For example, the food waiting for us in different towns. Also, buses for those who couldn’t walk anymore. Then the welcoming rally in Belgrade, and finally, to inform the press. I used up three [cell phone] batteries that night.”

UKRAINE

Four years later, the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine took a cue from Otpor, using digital technology to mobilize hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to hit the streets – some sleeping outside in tent cities through 11 freezing November nights — in protest of an allegedly fraudulent presidential election.

“The opposition leaders wanted to maintain 100,000 simultaneous protesters 24-7 in the main square and they quickly built a notification system using text messaging so if somebody had to leave in order to go pick up their kids at school or go to their job or for whatever reason that they would be able to text someone to come take their place,” Andrew Rasiej, founder of the Personal Democracy Forum, told FoxNews.com.

But experts say the movement would not have happened without the Internet, especially in light of the government’s censorship of mainstream media.

“The Internet became the nearly exclusive portal for samizdat journalism, the Soviet era tradition of covertly publishing works that would otherwise be censored or endanger the author,” The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University said in a 2007 study. “These websites made an indelible impact by creating an alternative media voice that led an increasing number of people to challenge the official line presented by the mainstream media and Kuchma regime.”

A third, reportedly more fair, election was eventually held and Victor Yushenko, the more democratic candidate favored by the protesters, was declared the winner.

BURMA

Just three years later, protesters demanding an end to 45 years of military dictatorship in Burma, also known as Union of Myanmar, had an ever easier time documenting the uprising – they had cameras right on their phones.

The 2007 protests, triggered by overnight fuel price hike in August, escalated dramatically in September when Buddhist monks joined the movement.

The Myanmar government responded brutally but cut Internet access in hopes of hiding the violence from the rest of the world. Thanks to cell phones cameras, YouTube videos, blogs and photo sites like Flickr, activists found ways around the black out.

“Citizen Witnesses are using cellphones and the Internet to beam out images of bloodied monks and street fires, subverting the Myanmar government’s effort to control media coverage and present a sanitized version of the uprising,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

These protests never reached any concrete conclusion, but the citizen journalism during the uprising allowed the world to witness the government’s brutality first-hand in the stiffest challenge to Myanmar’s ruling junta in nearly two decades.

KENYA

A disputed election at the end of that year in Kenya brought Internet and text messages together in a way they never had never been joined before.

“As word spread throughout Kenya that incumbent presidential candidate Mwai Kibaki had rigged the recent presidential election, text messages urging violence spread across the country and tribal and politically motivated attacks were perpetrated throughout Kenya,” the Berkman Center said in a 2008 study.

“There were protests demonstrations, the government’s security forces started to crack down creating violent dissidence around parts of Kenya, and a young woman by the name of Ory Okolloh reached out to techies that built a mapping system called Ushahidi, which means witness in Swahili,” Rasiej said. “They made it possible for people to text incidences of violence, and it would instantly post on a map like on a Google map, providing a visual display of all the incidents happening across the country.”

That display was then used to share those incidences with the international community and media “which then started covering the violence and putting pressure on the regime to stop attacking protesters,” Rasiej said.

“It’s now being used in everything from mapping the disaster in Haiti, which it continues to do, to parking spaces in D.C. and N.Y. during snowstorm, to the Chilean earthquake, to the Gulf Coast oil spill,” he added.

MOLDOVA

But two years later it was social media sites like Facebook and Twitter that were all the rage.

Activists in Moldova relied heavily on both sites in April 2009 to raise awareness and plan protests after the communist party there won a majority of seats in what protesters called a fraudulent election.

“It just happened through Twitter, the blogosphere, the Internet, SMS, websites and all this stuff. We just met, we brainstormed for 15 minutes, and decided to make a flash mob [internet-organised spontaneous public gathering]…In several hours, 15,000 people came out into the street,” Natalia Morar, the journalist accused of masterminding Moldova’s “Twitter revolution’ told the BBC.

The protesters, some who turned violent, first picketed Election Commission headquarters, the president’s residence and other government buildings before storming the building of the Moldovan Parliament, Foreign Policy contributing editor Evgeny Morozov wrote in the magazine’s “Net Effect” blog.

Once there, protesters got around blocked cell phone coverage in the central square by sending information via Twitter using their phones’ GPRS technology, Morozov wrote.

A recount held roughly two weeks later reinforced the original election results. The opposition argued that because the ballots themselves were fraudulent, recounting the same ballots once again yielded fraudulent results.

IRAN

But though the Moldova uprising earned the name the “Twitter Revolution,” Rasiej says it was the Iranian “Green Revolution” — also called the “Twitter Revolution” by some — that most notably defined online political organizing, Rasiej says.

After the June 2009 Iranian Presidential Election brought the return of incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, protests began around the country and in other areas of the world alleging the results were a coup.

In response, the government shut down text messaging, blocked Facebook and YouTube and cut off the BBC Persian-language service — but they forgot about Twitter.

Iranian Twitterers, used camera phones to take pictures and videos of huge demonstrations and bloodied protesters throughout the weekend, detailing crackdowns on students at Tehran University and giving out proxy Web addresses that let users bypass the Islamic Republic’s censors.

They then used the proxy servers to get photos and videos of brutal attacks on demonstrators up on YouTube and Flickr for the web for the world to see.

Protestors also called for cyberattacks on Ahmadinejad’s government websites, which went down for a short period of time, and Twitter users across the globe set their home city and network to Tehran, in hopes of shielding protestors there from being as easily caught by the government.

Still the Guardian council certified the election and on August 5, Ahmadinejad was sworn in for his second term.

It’s important to consider how technology “empowers the government via surveillance, how it disempowers citizens via entertainment, how it transforms the nature of dissent by shifting it into a more virtual realm, how it enables governments to produce better and more effective propaganda, and so forth,” Authory Evgeny Morozov explains in his book The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom.

Morozov says while the Internet “could make the next revolution more effective, it could also make it less likely.”

Rasiej agreed, saying in Iran, authorities “started flooding the Internet with false images and false tweets in order to confuse and cover for the ones that were particularly onerous.”
He says accuracy of information from protesters is also an issue.

“People don’t realize that if somebody’s taking a picture of somebody shooting a gun and the next image is a picture of someone lying on the ground bleeding, that doesn’t necessarily mean that person shooting the gun shot that person,” he said. “There was a whole bunch of videos that came out during the Iran revolution where the storyline was trying to be continuous but then people started noticing that the shadows of the trees were different from one scene to the next.”

But as technology continues to evolve, Rasiej says, so will people’s understanding of and reaction to it.

“It’s extrememly chaotic, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s extremely powerful and impactful in its use,” he said.

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The Irrawaddy – Junta Chief Overshadows President-elect in State Media
By BA KAUNG Monday, February 7, 2011

Despite the election of Burma’s first ostensibly civilian president in nearly half a century last Friday, the country’s state-run media remains fixated on the man who has ruled with an iron fist for most of the past two decades: Snr-Gen Than Shwe.

Large photos of Than Shwe, dressed in military attire and covered with numerous medals, have appeared in state-run newspapers every day since Burma’s newly formed Parliament elected ex-Gen Thein Sein president, ending months of speculation that Than Shwe would take the top job for himself.

Captions for the photos, which show a typically grim-looking 78-year-old Than Shwe, continue to describe him as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and the chairman of the ruling State Peace and Development Council—a body that will officially cease to exist when the new president takes office.

By contrast, in the Saturday coverage of Thein Sein’s election as president, the newspapers did not even carry a single photo of the man who has served as the junta’s figurehead prime minister since 2007, and who will soon become its first “civilian” president since 1962.

Observers inside Burma said that this sends a clear message that Than Shwe remains No. 1 and is more powerful than the elected president.

Monday’s newspapers also highlighted Than Shwe’s picture and quoted his speeches, which criticized the political opposition and Western governments that continue to pressure the regime to make meaningful democratic reforms.

“It is crucial for all the ethnics to be vigilant of the colonialists’ efforts to disintegrate the Union by using their stooges,” he was quoted as saying, in reference to Western governments and opposition groups led by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy was disbanded last year for refusing to take part in elections in November.

Although Burma’s 2008 Constitution gives the impression that the president is the most influential decision-maker in the country, the commander-in-chief’s role as the supreme head of the armed forces gives him even greater powers than those of the top-ranking civilian official.

The commander-in-chief has the right to independently “administer and adjudicate” all military affairs and also sits on the 11-member National Defense Security Council, a powerful entity in the new government which is empowered to make key decisions without the Parliament’s approval, including the decision to declare a state of emergency.

The military will hold five seats in the council, while the remaining six will be occupied by the president, two vice-presidents, the speakers of the two houses of Parliament and the minister for foreign affairs.

Except for one of the vice-presidents, all six civilians on the council are former generals. All, including Vice-President Sai Mauk Kham, an ethnic Shan businessman, are members of the junta proxy, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

The post of foreign affairs minister is expected to go to ex-general Maung Myint, who is currently the junta’s deputy foreign minister.

On Tuesday, Burma’s Parliament will resume and the new president will start forming a new government, which is expected to consist mostly of retired high-ranking military officials
from the ranks of USDP MPs.

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The Irrawaddy – Burmese Officer Killed in Clash with KIA
By WAI MOE Monday, February 7, 2011

A Burmese Army battalion commander was reportedly killed during an armed clash between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) on Monday morning as the long-term tension between Naypyidaw and ethnic armed groups continued.

Sources from the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the political wing of the KIA, told The Irrawaddy that a gunfire exchange occurred between government troops and the KIA in an area controlled by KIA Brigade 3 that is south-east of Bhamo, Kachin State and within 20 km of the Sino-Burmese border.

“The KIA has warned government troops not to enter its territory since the tension over the BGF began [in 2009],” said a KIO source. “This morning a landmine exploded as government troops attempted to come into the KIA area.”

“Then fighting broke out and lasted one hour. As far as we have learned, Lt-Col Yin Htwe, the commander of Infantry Battalion 15 from Mohnyin, was killed,” the KIO source said.

Following the deadly encounter on Monday morning, both sides put their troops on alert and called for reinforcements.

The armed clash between government troops and the KIA followed on the heels of the KIA/KIO celebration on Saturday of the 50th anniversary of the Kachin revolution, at which time the two complementary groups were formed in an attempt to gain ethnic rights and autonomy for the Kachin people of northern Burma.

The Kachin News Group, based in Chiang Mai, Thailand, reported on Thursday that Burmese authorities attempted to prevent Kachin people from joining the event held from Feb 3-5 in Mai Ja Yang, a KIO base in Bhamo District.

The last significant tension between the KIA and junta troops occurred on October 18, when a liaison office of the KIO was searched by government troops who arrested two KIO officials. A few days later, the regime’s state-run-media called the KIA “insurgents” for the first time in years.

In September, Kachin troops shot at a helicopter owned by the Group of Htoo Companies while it flew over the KIO’s headquarters in Laiza, KIO sources said.

The Burmese junta has called on ethnic ceasefire groups to transform into members of its border guard force (BGF) under the command of the Burmse armed forces. However, most armed groups, including the KIA, the United Wa State Army and the Shan State Army (North), are still resisting joining the BGF because they don’t want to disarm and give up their ethnic struggle for autonomy. The groups call for genuine political dialogue in place of the BGF plan.

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The Irrawaddy – Return of ‘Insurgent’ Label Signals Growing Tension
By LAWI WENG Monday, February 7, 2011

Burma’s state-run media described the New Mon State Party (NMSP), an ethnic cease-fire group, as “insurgents” on Friday, signaling a harder stance toward the group over its refusal to join a Burmese army-controlled border guard force (BGF).

The reference to the NMSP as insurgents appeared in a report that blamed recent fighting in Mon State’s Kyaikmayaw Township on the group’s armed wing, the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA).

The Jan. 31 clashes, which claimed the life of one civilian, were between the MNLA and the Mon Defense Army, a breakaway group with fewer than a dozen troops that was formed by former NMSP member Nai Than Lwin in 2009.

Responding of the use of the word “insurgents” to describe the NMSP, the group’s secretary, Nai Hang Thar, said, “We are not surprised at all. We’ve been expecting this ever since we refused to join the BGF.”

He said that the Burmese regime has avoided expressing its displeasure this long in order to save face. “But now, they are are finally showing their anger,” he said.

The junta stopped calling the NMSP an insurgent group in 1995, when the two sides signed a cease-fire agreement. Until recently, the regime has only used the term to refer to non-cease-fire groups such as the Karen National Union (KNU).

Late last year, however, state media used the term to describe another cease-fire group, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), after it also rejected calls to transform itself into a BGF.

Although the NMSP’s cease-fire agreement with the regime has been in question since last September, sources close to the group say that so far, the situation in the area remains more or less normal, despite last week’s fighting, which left two MNLA soldiers wounded.

The other casualty, 83-year-old U Ka Hlaing, was killed by a gunshot during the fighting, which lasted about half an hour.

NMSP sources said that members of the group are still able to enter junta-controlled areas of Mon State, provided they dress as civilians and don’t carry weapons. They said that Burmese troops also inform them when they are approaching their territory. NMSP leaders said that they will maintain peace, but have ordered their troops to be prepared to shoot if junta troops enter areas under MNLA control.

Late last year, the NMSP formed an alliance with four other ethnic armed groups—the KNU, the KIO, the Karenni National Progressive Party and the Chin National Front. As a political wing, the four groups have also formed the Committee for the Emergence of a Federal Union.

Meanwhile, the NMSP has alerted its troops to closely watch Burmese army activities near their controlled areas following the regime’s deployment of more troops in Three Pagodas Pass.

The regime has deployed Light Infantry Divisions 22 and 77 in the area, as well as Military Operations Commands 5, 8, and 12, which have more than 1,000 Burmese army troops based in the area of Three Pagodas Pass.

Many Mon observers say the buildup of government forces appears to be in preparation for an offensive in the area, although it is still not clear who its intended target is.

“Maybe they will launch an offensive against the KNU. If not, maybe they are planning to target the NMSP,” said Nai Kao Rot, the MNLA’s former deputy army chief.

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Union Government to be formed on Tuesday: Dr. Aye Maung
Monday, 07 February 2011 14:32
Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Dr. Aye Maung, a lawmaker with the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, says that the Union government will be formed on Tuesday, February 8.

‘The government will be formed on Tuesday, and the leaders of the government departments will be announced’, Aye Maung told Mizzima.

So far, the state-run media has issued no specific announcements about the formation of the new government.

In accordance with the Constitution, the Union government will comprise the president, vice president, various department ministers and the attorney general.

Aye Maung said: “The list of government organisations, the name of the attorney general, the name of the chief justice will be declared and civil services organisations relating to the Union, the constitutional courts and the new Union Election Commission will be formed’.

Section 232 (b) of the Constitution says: ‘The President will appoint the Union Ministers who possess the necessary qualifications’, but Section 232 (b) (ii) states that if the president desires to appoint the ministries of defence, home affairs and border affairs, he must obtain a list of suitable defence services personnel nominated from the commander in chief.

The total number of ministries that will be formed is still unknown. Members of the Union Solidarity and Development Party, the junta-backed party, will determine the candidates to be appointed to the various ministries.

In accordance with Section 63 and 64 of the Constitution, if the president or the vice presidents are parliamentary representatives or civil services personnel, they must resign from their seats in the parliament or their offices from the day of the presidential election. Moreover, if they are members of political parties, they cannot take part in party activities during their term of office.

Similarly, if the ministers are parliamentary representatives or civil services personnel, they must resign from their seats in the parliament or their offices. But in accordance with Section 232 (j) (ii) of the Constitution, military personnel who are appointed as ministers for the ministries of defence, home affairs and border affairs are not required to retire or resign from the military.

Min Myo Tint Lwin, a lawmaker in the All Mon Region Democracy Party from Kawkareik Township, Karen State, said that although he didn’t know when the government would be formed, he heard that some ministries would be formed.

‘I heard that four ministries will be formed soon. But, there are a total of 20 buildings for the ministries, as far as I know’, Min Myo Tin Lwin said.

In accordance with Section 201 of the Constitution, the National Defence and Security Council, led by the president, will be comprised of the president, the vice presidents, speakers of the People’s Parliament and Nationalities Parliament, the commander in chief of the Defence Services and the deputy commander in chief of the Defence Services.

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Parties to hold joint ceremony to mark Union Day
Monday, 07 February 2011 21:09
Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Ten political parties, including ethnic parties which contested in the recent elections, will hold a joint ceremony to mark the 64th anniversary of Union Day in Rangoon, which falls on February 12 this year.

The ten parties are the National Democratic Force (NDF), Shan Nationalities Democratic Party, Rakhine Nationalities Democratic Party, Chin National Party, Union Democratic Party, Democracy and Peace Party, United Democracy Party, Phalon-Sawaw Democratic Party, Democratic Party (Myanmar), and Union of Myanmar Federation of National Politics.

An organizing committee met on Tuesday in the headquarters of the Democratic Party (Myanmar) in Botahtaung Township in Rangoon.

The parties have not yet decided on the date to hold the ceremony.

Similarly, the National League for Democracy will hold a ceremony to mark Union Day at the NLD headquarters on Shwegondine Road in Bahan Township in Rangoon.

The military government  will hold a ceremony in Naypyidaw.

NDF leader Khin Maung Swe told Mizzima that his party will also hold a formal ceremony to mark the 64th anniversary at the party headquarters in Tarmway Township in Rangoon, and at the party office in Mandalay.

Union Day in Burma is held in recognition of February 12, 1947, nearly a year before Burma achieved independence from the British, when the Burmese government under Aung San, who was Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, and representatives of the  Shan, Kachin and Chin peoples signed the Panglong Agreement.

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DVB News – DVB video journalist gets 13 years
By KHIN HNIN HTET
Published: 7 February 2011

A senior reporter for the Democratic Voice of Burma has been sentenced to 13 years’ in prison on a raft of charges, including violation of Burma’s notorious Electronics Act.

Until his arrest in April last year, Maung Maung Zeya had led a team of video journalists (or VJs) that smuggled footage out of the country to the Oslo-based DVB. His sentencing follows less than two months after that of his son, Sithu Zeya, also a DVB reporter who had been with his father when they were arrested last year.

A Rangoon district court yesterday found Maung Maung Zeya guilty on four charges: the 55-year-old was sentenced to five years’ on two separate violations of the Unlawful Association Act, one year under the Immigration Act for illegal border crossing, and seven years under the Electronics Act.

“There was no solid evidence to convict him under those charges and all the witnesses in the trial were police [prosecutors],” said a relative, Dewa. “I think it was very unfair but this is how it is in our country. They can cite any article in the law to arrest, put on trial and jail someone, and it’s like a tradition.”

Sithu Zeya was given an eight-year sentence in December last year on similar charges. Both were arrested following the deadly April bombings in Rangoon, when they had been caught photographing the aftermath of the attacks.

Shortly after his detention, the 21-year-old was placed in an isolation cell and reportedly tortured. A group of 17 inmates inside Rangoon’s Insein prison went on hunger strike to protest his maltreatment, which has apparently triggered a heart problem.

Dewa said however that Sithu’s father, who becomes the sixteenth DVB reporter to be jailed, appeared healthy when he visited him during the trial, despite having already spent eight months in detention.

“He was calm as he already expected [the sentencing] after he was arrested and he had already prepared for his stay in the prison. He made a list of books, mostly about technology, that he wanted to take into the prison. He plans to run computer courses in prison.”

Family members of the father and son say they will appeal the sentences, although the prospects of success are unlikely given the rarity with which Burmese courts reverse decisions, particularly against what they deem to be the opposition.

A 22-year-old blogger last week had a decade tacked onto a two-year sentence handed down shortly after the Rangoon bomb attack. Although his alleged role in the incident was later dismissed, police discovered that Kaung Myat Hlaing, who blogged under the name of Nat Soe (‘dark angel’) after the September 2007 uprising, had also been involved in various anti-regime poster campaigns.

Burma was recently ranked as the world’s fourth biggest jail for journalists by the New York-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ). It also came 171 out of 175 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index last year.

More than 20 of the nearly 2,200 political prisoners in Burma’s jails are journalists.

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DVB News – The winds of change have bypassed Burma
By MOE AYE
Published: 7 February 2011

When Mohamed Bouazizi, a university graduate in Tunisia, set himself alight two months ago in protest at the police’s confiscation of his unlicensed fruit and vegetable cart, the news spread like wildfire around the internet. The masses in the Arab world latched on the incident and anti-government protests erupted, eventually forcing Tunisian leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to flee the country.

When the thousands of Tunisians took to the streets, social media websites and international broadcasters beamed the images back into Tunisia, where for a decade and a half Ben Ali had resided over of the strictest press environments in the world. Facebook and YouTube carried footage of police beating and tear gassing youths in the streets, fanning the flames of unrest that eventually left dozens dead, some of whom were gunned down by armed security. But the protests continued, organized largely through social networking sites, while warnings of army deployments were spread via email and SMS. The culmination of weeks of defiance against the former military man who came to office in a coup saw Ben Ali forced to leave the country and flee to Saudi Arabia.

And after Tunisia, there was Egypt. In its thirteenth day today, hundreds of thousands of citizens remain on the streets, despite attacks from pro-regime security and superficial concessions by the Mubarak government. And like Tunisia, social media and television played a key role in mobilising demonstrators for what could be the biggest upset to the Arab dictator world in decades.

On this side of the world, however, we’ve learned to approach such fanfare with caution. Burma’s experiences in September 2007 were also a cause célèbre for the advent of social media and the rise of the ‘citizen journalist’, but they failed to remove the junta. Here, protestors and undercover reporters used mobile phones to capture footage of the marches and the subsequent crackdown, which were then sent to television stations such as Al Jazeera, CNN, BBC and DVB. And like Tunisia, this was then broadcast both internationally and back into Burma on satellite television, ostensibly reaching millions of Burmese who similarly languish in one of the world’s most repressive media environments.

Realisation of the power of new developments in technology to affect change is beginning to spread. Just before the opening of Burma’s new parliament in Naypyidaw last week, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her party launched their first official website. How Than Shwe will respond to this is unclear, but he is rumoured to have been uneasy about the images being beamed out from the two northern African states, and may be digging himself in, proverbially speaking, to avoid a repeat of Ben Ali.

But the chances of that happening are slim, for Burma is closed in a way that few countries are. Although after 2005 Tunisia became the kleptocracy that Burma has long been, its exposure to the West may have held it back from the brink. Ben Ali has keep tight controls over media and has imprisoned journalists, but he has also hosted a UN conference on the global information society. Contrast this with Than Shwe, who has never given an interview to foreign media.

Moreover, it was Ben Ali who initiated and invested in one of the most advanced fiber optic grids in North Africa. More than one third of the Tunisian population, or 3.6 million people, now uses the internet compared to the 200,000-odd in Burma, less than one percent of the population. This network of internet users were a driving force behind the protests which eventually forced Ben Ali from office, perhaps meaning that he was party to his own downfall.

The Burmese junta’s reaction to Egypt and Tunisia may indeed be to further tighten media controls. Following the September 2007 uprising, the cost of owning a satellite television license soared from $US5 to $US800, well beyond the reach of most Burmese. Critics said it was likely aimed at limiting access to foreign media. One of the key challenges for Burma’s new government thus may be to curtail use of proxy websites which allow social networking to continue unmonitored, as well as restricting mobile phone use (although the $US1000 cost for a SIM card has already made headway on this).

So while the winds of changes are blowing in some parts of Middle East, there is barely a breeze to be felt in Burma. The government’s recent upgrade of the internet, which it claims will mark a huge step forward in the country’s technological development, has been dismissed by critics as a means to strengthen its powers of surveillance. With myriad obstacles in place that thwart social mobilisation, the Burmese junta is ensuring the country doesn’t become another Tunisia.

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DVB News – China, Vietnam congratulate new leader
By JOSEPH ALLCHIN
Published: 7 February 2011

Regional autocracies Vietnam and China have been the first to congratulate Burma’s new president, Thein Sein, following his ascension last week to the country’s top post.

The incumbent prime minister was nominated by the Presidential Electoral College on 4 February and will reside over what the military junta has termed “discipline-flourishing democracy”.

Chinese President Hu Jintao lost no time in dispatching a letter to his Burmese counterpart on Friday last week. Many commentators noted shortly after Thein Sein’s appointment that the retired army general’s rise was inevitable, given his close relationship with junta chief Than Shwe.

Vietnam’s president, Nguyen Minh Triet, and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung followed on Saturday with a congratulatory note. Thein Sein could “attain greater achievements in the national construction and development, actively contributing to peace, stability, cooperation and development in the region and the world”, AFP quoted the letter as saying.

Supporting Thein Sein will be two vice presidents, Tin Aung Myint Oo and Sai Mouk Kham. Although highly feted, corruption accusations have dogged the former, while Sai Mouk Kham, from Shan state, is seen as the token ethnic representative in Burma’s upper echelons. Vietnamese Vice President, Nguyen Thi Doan  sent felicitations to Tin Aung Myint Oo, as did Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping,also including Sai Mouk Kham in the message.

The Chinese are seen as the Burmese military’s key ally and trading partner and will want to see a stable Burma, particularly following unrest along their shared border.

Bilateral relations are also strong with Vietnam: the two last August concluded bilateral talks with the opening of a Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam office in Burma, as well as signing a raft of economic deals and a visa waiver scheme.

But it will be seen as telling that the two most forthcoming congratulations of the latest step in Burma’s so-called “roadmap to democracy” have come from two of Southeast Asia’s non-democratic states.

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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.