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BURMA RELATED NEWS – FEBRUARY 08-11, 2011
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RedOrbit – Possible Crimes Against Humanity By Burmese Military In Chin State, Burma
AP – Myanmar’s opposition says sanctions on junta work
AP – Myanmar’s parliament approves all Cabinet nominees
AFP – Ex-military dominate Myanmar’s new cabinet: official
AFP – Suu Kyi party urges talks with West on sanctions
AFP – US senator Webb will not seek new term
Inner City Press – On Myanmar, As EU Prepares Visit, Ban Delays Replacing Nambiar, GA Mandate To Be Cut?
BBC News – Burmese Rohingya refugees rescued in India’s Andamans
PTI – Myanmarese poachers captured in Andaman
PTI – Police recover abducted Myanmarese boy on Interpol notice
IRIN – MYANMAR: UNHCR concerned over treatment of Rohingya boat people
IRIN – THAILAND: Citizenship hope for thousands of stateless people
Guardian News – Aung San Suu Kyi to be guest director of Brighton festival
Asian Correspondent – Can Shan Vice-President create peace in Shan-land of Burma?
Asian Correspondent – Burma’s NLD in disarray
Asian Correspondent – Burma experiments with special economic zones
Asian Correspondent – Will Burma’s Parliament agree to Ethnic Equal Rights?
Los Angeles Times – In Myanmar, colonial-era buildings risk demolition
UCA News – Koreans line up to help Myanmar refugees
Bernama – MYANMAR MAN BELIEVED MURDERED BY HOUSEMATE
Bernama – MYANMAR FAMILY SUFFER BREATHING DIFFICULTIES AFTER INHALING POISONOUS GAS
Straits Times – Two killed in Myanmar blasts: Official
Strategy Page – Myanmar; Endless Fighting
Xinhua – Myanmar region or state parliament agrees to assignment of respective regional chief ministers
istockAnalyst.com (press release) – Myanmar’s economic zone law sets compulsory employment of local citizens
The Irrawaddy – Than Shwe to Head Extra-Constitutional ‘State Supreme Council’
The Irrawaddy – DKBA Changes Tactics, More Civilians at Risk
The Irrawaddy – Suu Kyi and Father Compared as Aung San Anniversary Approaches
Mizzima News – Myanmar Times publisher arrested in Rangoon
Mizzima News – Social networking group linked with Suu Kyi asked to move
DVB News – ‘Truckloads’ of prisoners leave Insein
DVB News – Election body delays lawsuit hearings
DVB News – Than Shwe ‘ordered shooting of monks’
DVB News – Ill political prisoner denied visits
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RedOrbit – Possible Crimes Against Humanity By Burmese Military In Chin State, Burma
Posted on: Wednesday, 9 February 2011, 12:46 CST

The health impacts of human rights violations in Chin State, home to the Chin ethnic minority in Burma, are substantial and the indirect health outcomes of human rights violations probably dwarf the mortality from direct killings. These findings from a study by Richard Sollom from Physicians for Human Rights, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, and colleagues will be published in this week’s PLoS Medicine and should encourage the international community to intensify its efforts to reduce human rights violations in Burma.

The military junta, which seized power in Burma in 1962, frequently confiscates land unlawfully, demands forced labor, and uses violence—actions which have left Burma with some of the poorest health indicators in the world.

The authors carried out a population-based assessment of health and human rights in Chin State, an ethnic minority area in western Burma where multiple reports of human rights abuses have been documented. The authors used a multi-stage household cluster sampling design to interview heads of household on demographics, access to health care, health status, food insecurity, forced displacement, forced labor, and other human rights violations during the previous 12 months.

The authors found that 91.9% of the 621 households interviewed reported at least one episode of a household member being forced to work in the preceding 12 months. Other human rights violations reported included beatings or torture (14.8 of households), religious or ethnic persecutions (14.1% of households) and detention or imprisonment of a family member (5.9% of households). 42.6% of the households experienced moderate to severe household hunger and human rights violations related to food insecurity were common.

For example, more than half the households were forced to give up food out of fear of violence and a statistical analysis indicated that the prevalence of household hunger was 3.56 times higher in households that had experienced food-related human rights violations than in households that had not experienced such violations.

The authors conclude: “Widespread reporting of rights abuses in Chin State against a civilian population by government forces may amount to crimes against humanity, though such a determination would have to be made by a U.N. commission of inquiry or the International Criminal Court.”

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Myanmar’s opposition says sanctions on junta work
Tue Feb 8, 7:17 am ET

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) – The pro-democracy party of Aung San Suu Kyi endorsed Western sanctions against Myanmar on Tuesday, saying they hurt the authoritarian regime not ordinary citizens and implying it’s too early to lift them.

For weeks, there have been indications that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate was questioning her longtime support of sanctions. But a four-page report issued by her party Tuesday was the first clarification of her position and could temper any momentum to lift sanctions.

Suu Kyi had suggested after her recent release from years of house arrest that she might be open to an easing of the measures. Her comments raised interest in the West, which has long taken its cues from her and her party on the subject.

The report is bound to anger Myanmar’s military rulers who have long sought to have the sanctions lifted on grounds that they hurt the people of Myanmar and have pushed the country deeper into poverty. They have trumpeted elections held in November as evidence of their commitment to democracy, but the polls were widely criticized as rigged to cement the junta’s power.

The release coincided with the resumption of parliament in the remote capital of Naypyitaw following Friday’s appointment of the country’s new president, Thein Sein, who served as prime minister under the junta. His selection by parliament last week was seen as the latest example of the junta’s tightening its grip on power.

“Recently, there have been calls for the removal of sanctions,” said the report, which was based on the National League for Democracy’s own research and consultation with economists. “It can be asserted that these measures do not hurt the public at large.”

“Targeted sanctions serve as a warning that acts contrary to basic norms of justice and human rights cannot be committed with impunity even by authoritarian governments,” said the report, which blamed the country’s hardships on “misguided government policies,” not sanctions.

The United States first imposed broad sanctions on Myanmar in 1988 after the junta’s crackdown on pro-democracy protests and subsequently tightened them, banning trade and American investment in Myanmar. Since then, the EU and other Western countries have added political and economic sanctions to punish the regime for its poor human rights record and failure to move toward democracy.

“The NLD calls for discussions with the United States, the European Union, Canada and Australia with a view to reaching agreement on when, how and under what circumstances sanctions might be modified in the interests of democracy, human rights and a healthy economic environment,” the report said.

Suu Kyi’s party boycotted November’s election, the first in 20 years, calling it unfair and rigged in favor of the military’s allies. The party won the previous elections in 1990 but was blocked at the time from taking power by the military.

Suu Kyi was detained for 15 of the last 21 years and released shortly after the election.

“We would urge the countries that are helping Myanmar’s democratic movement to maintain their targeted sanctions,” the party’s vice chairman Tin Oo told reporters. “There is no tangible progress toward Myanmar’s democratic reforms.”

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Myanmar’s parliament approves all Cabinet nominees
Fri Feb 11, 8:05 am ET

NAYPYITAW, Myanmar (AP) – Myanmar’s new military-dominated parliament on Friday unanimously approved all of the president-elect’s 30 Cabinet nominees.

Upper house lawmaker Phone Myint Aung said all of the names submitted by President-elect Thein Sein were approved, although the list did not indicate which position each would take in the Cabinet.

Thein Sein, who was elected president by parliament last week, was prime minister and a top member of the military junta that is handing over power to the new government. It is not clear when he and his Cabinet will be sworn in.

Most of the Cabinet appointees are former military officers who retired in order to run in last November’s elections — the country’s first in 20 years — and about a dozen were ministers in the junta’s Cabinet. Only four of the appointees are strictly civilian.

Critics say last year’s elections were orchestrated by the junta to perpetuate military rule. With one quarter of the seats in parliament filled by military appointees, and a large majority of the remaining seats won by a military-backed party, the army retains power.

The army has held power in Myanmar since 1962. Senior Gen. Than Shwe, the junta chief, is widely believed to remain in charge despite the change of government.

The party of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, which won the last elections in 1990 but was blocked from taking power by the military, boycotted November’s vote, calling it unfair. Much of the international community also dismissed the elections as rigged in favor of the junta.

Thein Sein, 65, now heads the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, which won most of the seats in the elections. He has an image as a “clean” soldier who is not engaged in corruption.

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Ex-military dominate Myanmar’s new cabinet: official
28 mins ago

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar (AFP) – Myanmar’s new junta-backed government is packed with retired military officers who were approved by parliament as cabinet ministers on Friday, officials said.

“Four out of the 30 new ministers have no military background,” a Myanmar official who did not want to be named told AFP.

Half of the new cabinet members were also ministers under the previous military government.

Khin Shwe, an upper house member of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), told AFP the 30 nominees for ministerial posts proposed by junta strongman Than Shwe were approved by parliament unanimously.

It has not yet been announced which positions they will take in the new government, but Myanmar’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Wunna Maung Lwin, is likely to take the post of foreign minister, according to official sources.

Lieutenant General Ko Ko is tipped for defence minister.

Last week Myanmar named a key retired general — Prime Minister Thein Sein — as the country’s new president, as the military hierarchy retains its tight grip on power under a new political system.

A key ally of Than Shwe, the 65-year-old is head of the junta-backed USDP, which claimed an overwhelming majority in a November poll.

Thein Sein was one of a clutch of generals who shed their army uniform to contest last year’s controversial elections, which critics said were a charade aimed at hiding military rule behind a civilian facade.

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.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) has no voice in the new parliament after it was disbanded for opting to boycott the election.

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Suu Kyi party urges talks with West on sanctions
by Hla Hla Htay – Tue Feb 8, 8:39 am ET

YANGON (AFP) – Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s party appealed Tuesday for talks with the West about possible changes to sanctions against Myanmar, but distanced itself from recent calls for their abolition.

The Nobel Peace laureate’s National League for Democracy (NLD) stressed that any end to the punitive measures should be linked to an improvement in the junta’s human rights record, notably the release of political prisoners.

“As the major causes of sanctions are violation of human rights and lack of democratic practices, it is by dealing effectively with these issues that the removal of sanctions can best be effected,” it said.

In an indication that it sees no pressing need to end the measures, the NLD said that available evidence “indicates economic conditions within the country have not been affected by sanctions to any notable degree.”

But it called for discussion with the United States, the European Union and other nations “with a view to reaching agreement on when, how and under what circumstances sanctions might be modified in the interests of democracy, human rights and a healthy economic environment”.

Suu Kyi’s release from house arrest in November after Myanmar’s first election in 20 years has reignited debate over the effectiveness of the measures, enforced notably by the United States and the EU in response to the junta’s human rights abuses.

Myanmar analyst Renaud Egreteau said Suu Kyi’s “cautious” stance on sanctions reflected the broad spectrum of views within her party on the issue.

“She is increasingly realising … that the complexities of Myanmar affairs following the election will require the adoption of very measured positions on her part, above all in socio-economic issues,” he added.

At the same time the NLD wants to maintain its main asset — a strong link with the international community, notably the West, said Egreteau, a researcher at The University of Hong Kong.

Critics of the policy say sanctions, which have largely kept Western companies out of a resource-rich corner of Asia, are hindering development in what is one of the world’s poorest nations.

Two pro-democracy parties which took part in the November polls — in which the military’s political proxies claimed a huge win — have called for an end to sanctions on the grounds that they do not benefit the wider population.

Supporters of sanctions say they are only way to pressure the military rulers of Myanmar, where there are about 2,200 political prisoners behind bars.

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

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

Despite the restrictions on Western businesses, Asian companies, especially from China, India, Thailand and South Korea, have overlooked the political situation and human rights abuses to invest in resource-rich Myanmar.

The NLD won a 1990 election in a landslide but the result was never recognised by the regime.

Suu Kyi was freed from house arrest in November after spending 15 of the past 21 years in detention.

Her party has no voice in a newly opened parliament dominated by the military and its proxies. It was disbanded for opting to boycott the November vote because the rules seemed designed to bar Suu Kyi from participating.

On Friday, Myanmar named a key retired general — Prime Minister Thein Sein — as the country’s new president as the military hierarchy retains its tight grip on power in the country’s new political system.

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US senator Webb will not seek new term
Wed Feb 9, 3:11 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Democratic US senator Jim Webb, a critic of China and leading champion of engaging Myanmar’s military rulers, announced Wednesday he would not seek a new term in 2012.

“After much thought and consideration I have decided to return to the private sector, where I have spent most of my professional life, and will not seek re-election in 2012,” he said in a statement.

Webb, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on East Asia and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, said he had “led the way toward stronger relations in East and Southeast Asia” and “been a strong voice in calling on China to act more responsibly in the world community.”

“We will continue to work on these and other issues throughout the rest of my term,” said the lawmaker, who was elected in 2006 to represent the US state of Virginia.

In August 2010, Webb became the first US official to meet the Myanmar junta’s reclusive leader Than Shwe and won the release of American John Yettaw, an eccentric Vietnam War veteran who was sentenced to seven years’ hard labor.

The senator was a decorated combat soldier in the Vietnam war and later served as US Navy Secretary in Republican President Ronald Reagan’s administration.

His decision not to seek a new term — the latest in a string of Democratic retirements since November 2 elections — was expected to complicate the part’s efforts to hold the US Senate.

Webb had been expected to face a stiff challenge from popular former Virginia governor George Allen, the Republican he beat in 2006 in a Democratic wave election fueled by then-president George W. Bush’s unpopularity.

A Democratic insider suggested the party could turn to another popular former Virginia governor, Democratic National Committee chief Tim Kaine, to run.

Webb’s announcement came after Democratic Senator Kent Conrad, Independent Senator Joe Lieberman — usually a reliable Democratic ally, and Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison said they would not seek new terms.

At the White House, spokesman Robert Gibbs said President Barack Obama had spoken to Webb on the telephone and “thanked him yet again for the service he has displayed on behalf of his country.”

Obama talked about Webb’s contributions on Veterans benefits, a post-September 11 “GI bill” that helps pay for veterans to get advanced degrees.

“I think Virginia is going to be a very competitive state, as it was last time in both presidential and Senate elections,” said Gibbs.

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Inner City Press – On Myanmar, As EU Prepares Visit, Ban Delays Replacing Nambiar, GA Mandate To Be Cut?
By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 8 — When the European Union’s Catherine Ashton came to the UN on Tuesday, Inner City Press asked for the EU’s position on Myanmar, and to contrast it with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s.

Ashton began, “With Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi is somebody we are in contact with, she and I have just been writing to each other, and I’m hoping that somebody from the EU will be visiting her shortly.”

By contrast after Ban’s chief of staff and part time Myanmar envoy Vijay Nambiar visited Aung San Suu Kyi, when he returned his internal assessment within the UN as conveyed to Inner City Press by well placed UN sources was that she is out of touch and too hard line.

Ashton continued that “on all of these issues, we need to talk with the opposition, of course with her, she’s central, but also with the others around her and engage with this… The EU will make its position clear when we’ve got that type of discussion out of the way and so we’re waiting to be given the chance to talk with her.”

Inner City Press asked Ashton if she agrees with Ban Ki-moon’s recent assessment, if the EU is on the same page.

Ashton replied that she doesn’t have a “detailed, finger tip knowledge of the last thing the UN said.”

Ban Ki-moon put out a statement about the new parliament, 25% of whose members are appointed by the military and in which proposals have to be shown to a screener 10 days before they are introduced, with the possiblity of prohibition without any chance of appeal.

After for weeks declining to answer Inner City Press’ questions about the banning of the National League for Democracy in Myanmar, the plight of the Rohingya and when Ban would finally move on the request by the UK, Mexico and others to replace Nambiar with a full time envoy, the UN sent this:

On replacing Nambiar, the UN has had nothing to say. Now, sources in the UN tell Inner City Press there is a reason. The goal is to get the entire UN mandate on Myanmar eliminated in the General Assembly, by pointing to the new parliament and recycled president. That, the sources say, explains Ban’s statements and delay. Watch this site.

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10 February 2011 Last updated at 02:59 ET
BBC News – Burmese Rohingya refugees rescued in India’s Andamans
By Subir Bhaumik BBC News, Calcutta

More than 90 Rohingya refugees have been found by police in India’s Andaman and Nicobar islands.

All of them were starving and seriously dehydrated, police said; 25 have been admitted to hospital.

The refugees told police they had been set adrift with little food and water in a boat without an engine by the Thai navy. Thailand has denied the charge.

Thousands of Rohingyas – a Muslim minority group in Burma – have fled to the country to escape persecution.

An estimated 200,000 Rohingyas live in refugee camps in Bangladesh. Many of them – especially those living in unofficial camps – attempt to escape poor conditions by attempting to get to south-east Asia by sea.

“We found them in villages in the Car Nicobar islands, where they were desperately searching for food and water,” police officer George Lalu told the BBC in a telephone interview from the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

The Rohingyas said they were trying to enter Malaysia illegally through Thailand with the help of “agents” before they were caught by the Thai navy, he said.

Doctors at the hospital told the BBC they had been at sea without food and water for more than a week.

In a statement recorded by the police in Car Nicobar, one of the refugees said they were kept in a dark room with minimum food for about a week.

After that, they said, they were set adrift in open sea in an engine-less boat with minimal rations and water.

“They say more of their people may be on the high seas, drifting around in boats without engines and with no food or water,” said Mr Lalu.

Thai authorities have denied that they have forced any of the Rohingyas onto the high sea in engine-less boats.

They said they had “intercepted” a group of 91 Rohingyas in Songkhla province in early January.

“But we deported them after proper formalities,” said a Thai official in Songkhla.

In December 2008, nearly 300 Rohingyas were rescued from the Andaman Sea after their boats were towed to the high seas by the Thai navy and their engines removed.

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Myanmarese poachers captured in Andaman
PTI – Wed, Feb 9 4:31 PM IST

Port Blair, Feb 9 (PTI) Altogether 15 Myanmarese poachers along with their boats were captured and a large quantity of sea cucumbers, a wild marine species prohibited for exports, were seized from high seas of Landfall island in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Deputy Inspector General A K Harbola told PTI that the Coast Guard personnel chased the vessels early yesterday when they tried to flee from the Indian waters to the international maritime boundary.

These people allegedly came near the Islands to catch sea cucumbers and other rare marine species.

The Coast Guard ship spotted these boats during a routine patrol in the northern group of islands. The coast guard personnel fired warning shots and fleeing vessels were overpowered, Harbola said.

The deputy inspector general said that 66 Myanmarese poachers along with 6 boats were apprehended in the last six months.

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Police recover abducted Myanmarese boy on Interpol notice
PTI – Thu, Feb 10 6:47 PM IST

Jammu, Feb 10 (PTI) Jammu and Kashmir police today recovered a Myanmarese boy who was kidnapped and brought here.

After receiving the notice from the Interpol, sleuths of the Crime Branch swung into the action and recovered the boy identified as Sonam from Gosia Colony in Srinagar, Inspector General of Police (IGP), Crime Branch, Raja Aijaz Ali said.

The boy is being handed over to his parents through diplomatic channels, the IGP said.

He said the parents of the boy had recently represented before the Ministry of External Affairs that their son had been kidnapped and thereafter sold to one Iqbal Zahgir of Gosia Colony (Khanyar) in Srinagar.

Action is being taken against those involved in the abduction, the IGP added.

He said it has been found in various cases that youngesters are kidnapped by human traffickers and are pushed into J&K in return for money.

He cautioned the people against hiring foreign domestic helps without verifying their background.

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MYANMAR: UNHCR concerned over treatment of Rohingya boat people

MYANMAR/THAILAND, 11 February 2011 (IRIN) – Allegations of the ill-treatment of Rohingya boat people by the Thai authorities are worrying the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

“We are gravely concerned by the media reports about an alleged push-back and are investigating,” Kitty McKinsey, a spokeswoman for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), told IRIN on 11 February in Bangkok, noting, however, that it was too early to speculate any further.

Her comments follow media reports in India this week that a group of 91 Rohingya had been found in the Indian administered Nicobar islands – about 640km west of Myanmar’s Tenasserim coast – on 6 February.

The refugees reportedly told police they had been set adrift without adequate food and water, in a boat without an engine, by the Thai navy; a charge the Thai authorities have rejected.

The Rohingya, a persecuted Muslim minority unrecognized as citizens by the Burmese government, have been fleeing their native Myanmar for decades – many of them making their way to Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia or Indonesia.

At least three boatloads of Rohingya have found their way to Thailand in the past month, activists say.

The first boat carrying 91 men of varying ages arrived in Trang Province on 22 January; a second boat with 67 men arrived in Satun Province on 23 January; and a third boat arrived in Phuket Province on 1 February carrying 68 men.

UNHCR has recently been granted access to those who were on the second and third boats, including nine teenagers who were interviewed on 11 February by a UNHCR lawyer and community services officer. The remaining 126 men would probably be interviewed next week, McKinsey said.

UNHCR, however, still does not know where the men from the first boat are.

On 23 January, Thailand’s official news agency, MCOT, reported that the men from the first boat had been sent back to Myanmar by the Thai authorities.

In 2009 Thailand was strongly criticized over its handling of a group of Rohingya boat people who turned up on its shores. There were allegations that hundreds were towed out to sea and left to die without adequate supplies.

According to UNHCR, there are some 200,000 Rohingya in Bangladesh of whom only 28,000 are documented refugees. The documented refugees live in two government camps which receive UNHCR support.

The Thai authorities view Rohingya as illegal labour migrants and estimate there are already some 20,000 in the country.

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THAILAND: Citizenship hope for thousands of stateless people

BANGKOK, 9 February 2011 (IRIN) – About 20,000 stateless people living along the southern Thai-Burmese border look set to receive Thai nationality when amendments to the Thai nationality bill are reviewed by parliament on 15 February.

The reforms will benefit Thai people “who used to live in territory occupied by the British and which later became the territory of Myanmar, namely Tavoy, Myawaddy, and Tenasserin [regions],” Veerawit Tianchainan, executive director of the Thai Committee for Refugees (TCR), told IRIN from Bangkok.

“This group of displaced Thais had returned to Thailand for many years but they have been living as stateless persons,” he said, explaining that many lacked access to social services, including health and education. Without citizenship, they also do not have any property ownership rights.

Their struggle for citizenship has been going on since the early nineties, according to Tianchainan.

“The government has realized that it has to find a solution to the problem, and it has sought to address it through the bill,” said Anoop Sukumaran, coordinator at the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN).

However, the bill only covers displaced Thai people affected by the disputed Thai-Myanmar border, which was first drawn in 1862. Of the country’s estimated 3.5 million stateless, Thailand’s northern hill tribe people, which include members of the Akna, Lanu, Lisu, Yao, Shan, Hmong, and Karen ethnic communities, number around two million.

“It solves an ongoing problem for a small group of ethnically Thai people, but does not affect other stateless populations,” said David Feingold, coordinator at the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The 2011 nationality bill coincides with the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

“Thailand is not a signatory to the convention but the bill would be a step in the right direction,” said Sukumaran.

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Guardian News – Aung San Suu Kyi to be guest director of Brighton festival
Event will include host of arts commissions inspired by Burma opposition leader, who was released from house arrest last year
Mark Brown, arts correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 9 February 2011 19.32 GMT

Aung San Suu Kyi is to be honoured at this year’s Brighton festival with a series of arts commissions inspired by and intended to reflect her “extraordinary spirit”.

Burma’s opposition leader was named as this year’s guest director, following Brian Eno last year and Anish Kapoor in 2009. For obvious reasons – Aung San Suu Kyi was only released from house arrest last November and has to remain in Burma – she will not be director in the strictly conventional sense.

But her presence will be deeply felt at the festival, from 7-29 May. Organisers were in close contact with the Burma Campaign and members of her family, and her tastes and passions will be reflected during the festival. “It is a great honour to build a festival around Aung San Suu Kyi and to take our inspiration from her,” said Andrew Comben, chief executive of the festival. “I hope this programme reflects some of her extraordinary spirit.”

Aung San Suu Kyi sent the festival this statement: “It is especially pleasing for me to see, albeit remotely, Brighton festival taking shape this year, and to think that so many people will come together in May to celebrate great art and experience the inner peace it brings.

“It is wonderful too to know that there is such support for the effort to bring democracy and freedom to Burma, for which the Burmese people have been diligently working for so long.

I wish everyone involved in Brighton festival this year – the artists and the audience – the happiest of times. Please continue to use your liberty to promote ours.”

Events include Kutlug Ataman’s Mesopotamian Dramaturgies, a collection of artworks and films conceived in response to modernism, and Asian Dub Foundation in a performance inspired by the struggle in Burma.

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Asian Correspondent – Can Shan Vice-President create peace in Shan-land of Burma?
By Zin Linn Feb 11, 2011 10:18PM UTC

Burma Army is reinforcing more platoons and tanks to military front line areas in Shan State South’s Mongnawng township, opposite Shan State Army (SSA) ‘North’’s controlled territory, referring local sources Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.) reported.

Six tanks were sent from Taunggyi and arrived in Mongnawng, southeast of SSA’s First Brigade headquarters on 9 February. And over 20 tanks more are expected to arrive in the next few days, according to local sources. On the same day, 6 military trucks carrying about 200 men and supplies were reportedly heading to Mongnawng as well, an eye witness said. “All soldiers were armed and in full uniforms.”

However, the military authorities have been limiting all trucks running on the motor roads – between Kehsi and Monghsu townships – leading to SSA’s HQ Wanhai. Kehsi is situated in the west of Wanhai and Monghsu in the east of it.

Regarding the movement, it is said this is the first time that the military junta reinforces more troops to rebel armed groups after the calls of parliament. The reinforcement to rebel groups was temporarily stopped when the military called for the first session of the parliament

The SSA side says the military reinforcement and instruction of blocking the road to its area are like a signal of the military junta’s plan to launch military operation against the group.

The SSA has also ordered its fighters to be well-prepared, but all must shun taking confrontation again. However, there has been no sign of tension among the two sides yet, the officer said.

According to the SSA’s record, the group has already fought with the Burma Army 7 times since the group denied the Naypyitaw’s Border Guard Force (BGF) program.

Meanwhile, Dr. Sai Mauk Kham, a Shan physician, has been elected as a vice president in Burma’s Parliament.  The vice presidency to Sai Mauk Kham has become a debatable issue in the Shan community, with several welcoming the news, but others revealing displeasure that he comes to the job as a member of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

Khuensai Jaiyen, editor of Shan Herald Agency for News said that Sai Mauk Kham might not be participated in tackling issues as national security and the economy, but from optimistic point of view he may be likely to promote health, education and culture.

Coincidently, village heads in district under Northeastern Region Command in Shan State North have been instructed to conscript people in their areas and send those recruits to its headquarters based in Lashio within a week, according to local sources.

Each village tract is assigned to provide 60 men whether they are new men or serving men for military training. They all must arrive at the regional HQ by 7 February, according to a village headman. Elderly people in the villages shared their views on this new recruitment that the military regime is about to rush to end the movements of the Shan State Army (SSA) ‘North’s First Brigade. Many local people forecast that after the new USDP government formed, Burma’s armed forces are likely to commence major operations against rebels of anti-Border Guard Forces (BGF) program.

The SSA has also ordered its fighters to be well-prepared, but all must shun taking confrontation again. However, there has been no sign of tension among the two sides yet, the officer said. According to the SSA’s record, the group has already fought with the Burma Army 7 times since the group denied the Naypyitaw’s Border Guard Force (BGF) program.

Although Dr. Sai Mauk Kham, a Shan physician, elected as a vice president in Burma’s Parliament, he has no power to take part as a negotiator in the conflict between the Burmese Army and the Shan rebels. Many political analysts believe that the boss of the military has cleverly picked Sai Mauk Kham as a vice president to represent the ethnic population especially for the Shan. But, the reality is that he is more likely a pawn created by military than an ethnic Shan spokesperson.

On 12 February 1947, the Panglong agreement was signed between leaders of the Frontier Areas and Aung San to unite and jointly fight for independence, and to establish an independent union, in accordance with the principle of the ‘Right of Self-determination’. If General Aung San did not promise equal opportunity and self-determination, the country might never have been founded under the title of the Union of Burma.

The late Shan leader U Shwe Ohn, a participant at the Panglong Conference, wrote in his paper -“Toward the Third Union of Burma” (1993) – the country would have been divided into two parts: Burma and the Frontier Areas, if the Panglong Agreement was not signed.

So, military boss Than Shwe has tactfully picked Sai Mauk Kham as Shan defender in order to shield the harsh criticism based on the ethnic autonomy topic. It is clear, Sai Mauk Kham is merely a namesake vice president. He will not be allowed to exercise authentic presidential power to help peace with his Shan national relatives.

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Asian Correspondent – Burma’s NLD in disarray
By Asia Sentinel Feb 11, 2011 8:09PM UTC
Indecision apparent on whether to continue sanctions, reports Asia Sentinel

Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy, of which she is the spiritual leader, appear in disarray about whether to continue to urge western governments to maintain their sanctions against the regime in Burma.

The Nobel Prize-winning opposition icon amazed Burma watchers by calling on members of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos to provide investment in technology and infrastructure. In a recorded audio address to the captains of western capitalism she suggested that investment was needed and welcome provided that it took account of the rights of workers and of social and environmental issues.

Shortly before the Davos address, however, in a long interview with the Financial Times she appeared to be sitting on the sanctions fence, encouraging tourism but only so long as it did not benefit the generals – a curious position given that few tourist have any way of knowing who owns what hotel or gets a cut of the taxi business.

To many the Davos address seemed a major departure from Suu Kyi’s years of insistence on the merits of economic and personnel sanctions as a means of bringing about political change and of denying the military rulers and their cronies of some of the fruits of oppression and corruption. It prompted attacks on her in the columns of The Irrawaddy, the Thailand based voice of Burmese exiles.

Western governments have long had misgivings about the sanctions given that China, Thailand, India, Korea and other countries with significant economic interests there declined to take part. But such is the esteem in which Aung San Suu Kyi is held that western governments have been loath to abandon sanctions so long as she supported them.

But has she and the NLD actually changed their stance? Since the Davos meeting some NLD sources have been quoted by Irrawaddy as saying that she wants to maintain economic sanctions. But elsewhere it has been reported that the NLD wants talks with western governments to discuss the future of sanctions.

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Asian Correspondent – Burma experiments with special economic zones
By Asia Sentinel Feb 11, 2011 7:48PM UTC
Stymied at luring foreign investment, the junta tries something new, writes Asia Sentinel’s Htet Aung

After the two-decade failure of Burma’s so-called market economy, the ruling military junta has announced a new “Myanmar Special Economic Zone Law” to attract more foreign investment in the country with an unprecedented package of benefits.

The law, signed into effect by junta head Senior-Gen Than Shwe, is designed to establish Special Economic Zones to attract foreign direct investment with a wide range of economic concessions, allowing businesses to operate freely in specially designated areas.

Contracted foreign direct investment has remained stubbornly low despite efforts to increase it, especially in the face of a total ban on investment by the United States, the European Union and others because of the junta’s political repression of its own people. US dollar transactions are barred. That has left the door open to China, India, Thailand and South Korea, which have largely ignored the sanctions.

Burma’s Central Statistical Organization reported in July that FDI amounted to US$16 billion. But of that, someUS$9.81 billion was in the oil and gas sector with another US$997 million in mining and another US$5.03 billion in electricity production. Thus, of the total, virtually all of it was in extractive industries that contributed almost nothing to the real economy.

The new law defines three specific zone types: special economic zones, export processing zones and sub-trading zones. It also classifies the roles of developers as infrastructure builders and investors to do business activities in the SEZ. It includes a package of benefits to attract investors, both foreign and local, who intend to set up businesses within the export-processing zones.

Investors are to benefit from income tax exemptions for five years after starting an export business and to pay just 50 percent of taxes for the next five years. Investors who reinvest export profits in the zone can apply for a further five years of 50 percent tax relief.

Moreover, after the expiration of the previous tax exemptions, large-scale businesses that are able to export more than 50 percent of their products within a year can apply for tax exemptions for that year under Article 18 of the law. (Medium- and small-scale businesses must export 60 and 70 percent of their goods, respectively, to qualify for the same exemption.)

Export-oriented enterprises can also apply for exemptions from commercial taxes and value-added tax (VAT) for their export items, while imports of raw materials, machinery and equipment are eligible for exemptions from customs duties under Articles 23 and 24 of the law.

Companies importing machines and motor vehicles will be exempt from paying customs duties and other revenues for the first five years, and will receive a 50 percent reduction for the next five years.

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Asian Correspondent – Will Burma’s Parliament agree to Ethnic Equal Rights?
By Zin Linn Feb 10, 2011 1:53PM UTC

Burma’s new 2008 Constitution put forward many problems for political parties, ethnic cease-fire groups and exiled dissident factions in quest of some common ground to the disagreements between ethnic groups and the military despotism.

The newly designated government headed by President Thein Sein, who also is chairman of the military-backed party the USDP, still controls the system of government, including the courts and the armed forces. Actually, the new government is acting much like the old one – the decade-long old military totalitarianism – with freshly retired generals still making all the decisions.

If any solution is to be found for ethnic group problems, the military-back current administration must review the mistakes of past leaders of the union and respect the political aspirations of the ethnic communities. The root cause of the nation’s ethnic political catastrophe is the regime’s resistance to a genuine federal union. The late dictator Ne Win, who seized power in a military coup in 1962, opposed sharing equal power in a series of heated debates in the parliament under U Nu’s civilian government.

Ne Win supported a unitary state over a genuine federal union. The Military Council headed by Ne Win declared that the military coup had taken place because of the “federation problem,” which he said could lead to the disintegration of the nation. Equality of ethnic minorities with the Burmese majority was to him out of the question. When Ne Win seized power, he shattered the 1948 Constitution.  At the same time, the Pang Long Agreement signed on 12 February 1947, which promised autonomy of ethnic groups, was broken and abrogated.

Actually, it is a reasonable demand for self-determination among the respective ethnic minorities. The USDP-government should not use guns to govern ethnic minorities. If we look back to 1960-61, many leaders from ethnic states criticized the weakness of the constitution as well as the government’s failure to realize the political autonomy of the ethnic minorities.

They accused the central government of not allowing the representatives of ethnic states to manage their own affairs in areas of the economy, judiciary, education and customs and so on. The central government error was that it ruled the ethnic areas as vassal states.

Sen-Gen Than Shwe has followed that tradition of his predecessor Ne Win and Saw Maung, who both defended the single unitary state. “All the armed forces in the union shall be under the command of the Defense Services,” says section 337 of the 2008 constitution.” It means ethnic armed troops are under state control.

As a result, Kachin Independence Army (KIA)’s Battalion No. 27 opened fire when a truckload of Burmese armed troops from Infantry Battalion No. 15, based in Mohnyin, entered the KIA restricted area in Man Win in Bhamo (Manmaw) district, at 10:30 a.m. local time.

A Burmese battalion commander, Lt-Col Yin Htwe, was killed and seven Burmese soldiers- including a military doctor- were injured in the fighting, according to KIA sources.

Proposals for a political solution, made by the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the KIA political wing, have been rejected by Burma’s military government.

The KIO plays a major role in the recently formed Committee for Emergence of a Federal Union (CEFU), which is calling for the establishment of a genuine federal union in Burma.

The CEFU was formed by the KIO, Karen National Union (KNU), Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), Shan State Army-North (SSA-N), New Mon State Party (NMSP) and Chin National Front (CNF).

The junta-sponsored parliament allows 330 civilian seats in the 440-member House of Representatives. Under the 2008 Constitution, the remaining 110 seats are filled with appointed military officers. In the 224-seat House of Nationalities, 168 are elected and 56 are appointed by the boss of the armed forces. Remarkably, 77 percent of the parliamentary seats have been seized by the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in the recent polls which were distinguished for vote-rigging show.

According to new laws announced by head of the junta in November, members of parliaments will not be permitted the freedom of expression if their presentations jeopardize national security or the unity of the country. Any protest inside the parliament is carrying a punishment of up to two years imprisonment. Anyone apart from lawmakers that enters parliament while it is in session has to face a one-year prison term.

In such a parliament, dominated by the military and former military, ethnic representatives will have little or no chance to press the self-sufficiency and equal status issues in parliament. Authentic ethnic representatives, who are willing to push ethnic issues forward, may not occupy enough seats in the new parliament to form an effective coalition.

National reconciliation and ethnic self-determination are two sides of the same coin, and they must be addressed in the new parliament and in regional and state parliaments.

Without addressing and honoring the ethnic people’s political aspirations, the new parliament-based fake civilian government will be unable to stop political and civil strife throughout ethnic areas.

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Los Angeles Times – In Myanmar, colonial-era buildings risk demolition
The British colonial-era buildings in Yangon are in dire need of repair after years of neglect. Activists seek to preserve the structures, which they fear will be leveled by Chinese property developers.
By a Times Staff Writer, Reporting from Yangon, Myanmar —
February 11, 2011

They stand like ghosts from a bygone era, struggling to maintain a shabby dignity in the face of creeping foliage and years of neglect, all the while fueling a debate: Should they be protected as rare treasures or leveled as worthless junk?

Preservationists fear that Yangon’s several hundred colonial-era buildings, a legacy of the British Empire at its height, will succumb to voracious Chinese property developers with a history of building tacky shopping malls for a quick buck.

Several low- and mid-market malls have sprouted up in recent years, most a few miles from the run-down, old downtown area where the vintage buildings are concentrated, raising concern that Yangon will become just another noisy, ugly Asian city of mini-malls and sprawl.

“As more money comes in, particularly Chinese money, we’ll see wholesale demolition,” said Ian Morley, a research assistant professor of urban history at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “Yangon presents itself as a city that time forgot. But I’d say it’s a city that captured time.”

Most of Yangon’s colonial-era Baroque and Beaux Arts-style buildings — the largest collection in Southeast Asia — were erected between 1900 and 1920. After the 1948 independence of Burma, as Myanmar was formerly called, they housed government agencies — until 2005, when Myanmar’s secretive military government relocated the capital 200 miles north to Naypyidaw, hastening the buildings’ decay.

Some of the buildings are now caged behind chain-link fences, windows sagging and roofs collapsed, the smell of crumbled brick and rotting wood wafting onto the broken sidewalks. Others still stand proud, like the Immigration Building, once among Asia’s largest department stores, and the stately red High Court building with its six-story clock tower, yellow detailing and domed roof.

Although many Asian cities would welcome such a legacy to distinguish themselves, vision remains in short supply in a country struggling to build basic housing. Nor are all the 200-plus buildings worth saving, most agree, given the longtime deterioration, uneven quality and outdated layouts often unsuited to modern lifestyles.

“People must recognize that life moves on and not try to turn this into Disneyland,” said Amelie Chai, American co-principal of Yangon-based Spine Architects who, with her Burmese husband, oversaw the renovation of the Myanmar Times newspaper building.

The military government placed 189 religious and colonial-era buildings on a preservation list in 2001, but saving old buildings isn’t its top priority, given ethnic unrest, criticism over November’s rigged election and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s recent release after years in detention.

“Anyone can make a list,” said Chris Davy, a Myanmar Times photographer.

The regime mostly focuses on its new center, Naypyidaw, a shiny propaganda showcase that is largely bereft of history or character.

Yet local government and civic groups have some interest in preservation to bolster tourism. “There’s huge potential,” said Aung Myat Kyaw, marketing head of the Yangon-based Myanmar Tourism Promotion Board. “But it’s difficult.”

Those supporting preservation lack money, expertise or approval from the ironfisted regime. “The problem is that orders come from other places,” said Si Thu Mying Swe, a principal with Yangon’s ST&T Architects. “You have to be careful not to rock the chairs.”

Cities in neighboring countries, such as Malaysia’s Malacca, have seen their restoration efforts energized after obtaining UNESCO World Heritage Site status. But that’s unlikely here because of Myanmar’s grim human rights record and pariah status abroad.

Rumors, often the only available information because of the regime’s media restrictions, suggest that Chinese investors have purchased several downtown colonial sites to level and redevelop once Myanmar’s consumer economy picks up.

Few expect the Chinese, who are Myanmar’s closest ally and biggest investor, would be interested in preserving a colonial legacy bequeathed by a country with which China fought the Opium Wars.

Over at the 5th Street Bar in the dilapidated old downtown area, plaster has been stripped away to reveal original brickwork and expansive ceilings as part of one of the few completed renovations.

Other reconstruction projects include the elegant white Strand Hotel with its columns and elaborate covered walkway near the waterfront, reported to have cost $38 million, and $150,000 in renovations to the interior of the white Myanmar Times building, once a government printing office, opposite St. Mary’s Cathedral.

“Chinese trading companies would rather destroy these and make a bright shiny office building,” said Anthony Alderson, the 5th Street Bar’s owner.

Renovations are expensive, and the government’s stingy lease and visa policies with regard to foreigners discourage smaller investors from opening boutique hotels and up-market restaurants, Alderson and others said.

Local opinion on the buildings, difficult to gauge precisely in a nation without free media or any form of polling, seems ambivalent. “They’re all right, but many are a bit old-fashioned and unsafe,” said a teacher in front of the fenced-off red-brick Railway Administration Building.

Nor has Myanmar placed much value on preserving even its own traditional structures, some said, with new rulers frequently razing and rebuilding capital cities.

That’s led some to question the “we know what’s best for you” tone of preservation supporters.

“As foreigners, we really have to think about our own motives,” said Davy, who hopes to photograph the structures before it’s too late. “Admiring a run-down building is a lot different than living in a run-down building.”

Aung Soe Min, owner of Yangon’s Pansodan Gallery, unrolls several British and Japanese imperial maps in his collection, pointing out changes over the years to street names and the cityscape.

Far from appreciating a downtown once described as the “garden city of the East,” he said, landlords here often underplay a building’s age — the facade of his building reads 1995 rather than the 1936 reality — fearful of government condemnation. In March 2010, a 15-year-old girl was killed after a decrepit building on Shwe Bontha Street collapsed.

The downtown grid on which Yangon’s colonial “golden mile” rests was laid down after 1860 by British planners who demolished local huts and filled in swamps. Over the next 60 years, courts, post offices, police stations and customs and port authority buildings were erected.

Although a few Burmese architects, such as Si Thu U Tim, managed to incorporate some Burmese design elements, notably the multi-tier roofs and spires on City Hall and the Central Railway Station, most of the structures were designed by far-off British architects who never visited Yangon, then called Rangoon.

The British Empire had consolidated its position, with key social institutions “civilizing the natives,” historians said. But the buildings also carried a subliminal message to locals: Be awed by Britain’s power and superiority.

Vertical designs that carry the eye upward, together with oversized foundations evoking strength and permanence placed in a symmetrical grid demanding order and control, helped achieve this effect, architects and historians said.

“If you were Burmese in 1910, it would be quite awe-inspiring,” Morley said.

Foreigners who fear Myanmar will repeat the West’s urban planning mistakes, including ugly highways and slapped-together structures, say neighborhood groups, tourism companies, developers and the government should cooperate to save this valuable legacy. But optimism, along with the requisite budgets and political will, is difficult to come by.

“In reality, no one’s really offering up an effective plan,” Davy said. “I don’t know anyone who holds out great hope.”

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UCA News – Koreans line up to help Myanmar refugees
Published Date: February 10, 2011
By John Choi, Seoul

A Church-run Korean human rights group is sending volunteers to help refugees from Myanmar in Thailand.

The Gwangju Human Rights Peace Foundation will organise a volunteer service of medical care and education for the refugees in Mae Sot, Tak province, near the border between the two countries.

The volunteers – two doctors, 16 university students and five other staff – will take care of some 600 Myanmar refugees who fled from the country’s dictatorship and are living in desperate conditions in northern Thailand.

The health service center of Chonnam national university is supplying the medical staff, medicine and medical supplies. The students will teach elementary-school level refugee children art, music, English and sport.

Refugees who were part of the 1988 democratization movement are entitled to legal status but recent refugees from Myanmar are undocumented.

Kim Ji-yeon, an official of the foundation, said: “The aim of our foundation is to repay what we received from others during the Gwangju democratization movement (a popular uprising in the South Korean city of the same name) in 1980. The volunteer trip is realizing the aim of finding another Gwangju and helping them.”

Father Raphael Kim Jae-hak, executive director of the foundation said: “I hope young people of Gwangju experience the sorrow of other people, form solidarity with them during the trip and become people with a wider view, caring for others.”

The foundation was established last August to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Gwangju democratization movement.

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MYANMAR MAN BELIEVED MURDERED BY HOUSEMATE
Bernama – 2 hours 8 minutes ago

GEORGE TOWN, Feb 11 (Bernama) — A Myanmar man was found dead with four stab wounds in his chest at his hostel in Lebuh Victoria here last night.

North East CID chief DSP Shahurihain Jais said Mg Oo (30s) was believed to have been stabbed to death at about 11pm.

“His body was found by a co-worker who went to the hostel at 11am today after the victim failed to report for work.

“The victim worked at a photography shop and stayed at the hostel on the third floor of the same building,” Shahurihain told reporters here today.

He believed that the victim was killed by his room mate who had disappeared with a woman who was also staying with them at the hostel.

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MYANMAR FAMILY SUFFER BREATHING DIFFICULTIES AFTER INHALING POISONOUS GAS
Bernama – Wednesday, February 9

SEREMBAN, Feb 8 (Bernama) — A Myanmar couple and their two-year-old daughter suffered breathing difficulties after inhaling poisonous gas that leaked from a cannibalised gas cylinder at their house in Taman Jujur, Sikamat here today.

A Seremban Fire and Rescue Department spokesman said in the 9.30am incident, the 35-year-old Myanmar man had attempted to cut open the gas cylinder to be sold as scrap metal.

“We do not know how he got hold of the gas cylinder as it is believed to be used only by industrial factories and we have yet to ascertain the nature of the gas because the cylinder was not labelled,” he told Bernama when contacted here.

Also affected by the incident were four of their neighbours.

All of them were taken to Seremban Hospital for treatment.

The gas cylinder was sent to Negeri Sembilan Chemical Substance Disposal Agency for inspection.

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Feb 9, 2011
Straits Times – Two killed in Myanmar blasts: Official

YANGON – TWO people were killed and five injured in two blasts on Wednesday in eastern Myanmar, an area wracked by a decades-old ethnic insurgency, an official said.

Two explosive devices went off in the early evening in the border town of Myawaddy in Karen State, killing one man and one woman, said the official, who did not want to be named.

‘The local authorities are still investigating the blasts,’ the official said.

It was not immediately clear what type of devices were involved, but a local resident contacted by telephone said the explosions were believed to have been caused by grenades accidentally detonated by border guard forces.

The incident came as lawmakers gathered at Myanmar’s new parliament in the capital Naypyidaw following a widely criticised November election in which an army-backed party claimed a huge victory.

A simmering civil war has wracked parts of the country since independence in 1948.

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Strategy Page – Myanmar; Endless Fighting

February 9, 2011: The newly elected government still controls the government bureaucracy, including the courts and military. In fact, the new government is behaving much like the old one (the decades old military dictatorship), with recently retired generals still making all the decisions. Opposition parties, who are still restricted inside Burma, are calling for foreign governments to maintain sanctions, but to modify them to minimize harmful effects on most of the population. The opposition parties are also calling for war crimes investigations of the generals, for their atrocious conduct in the tribal areas. The recent elections have not changed much, and are seen as an attempt by the dictatorship to get free of the international sanctions, without giving up much, if any, power.

Along the Thai border, troops continue shooting at Karen villages or, when the villages are destroyed, the villagers. The idea appears to be, as it has been for decades, to force the Karen into Thailand, and let the Thai’s deal with them. This has never been popular in Thailand, but no amount to diplomatic protests or negotiations have been able to change the situation. There are about 150,000 Burmese refugees in Thailand, about a third of them illegally.

The Burmese army is also seeking to find and destroy armed rebel groups. The rebels depend on the Karen villagers for support, which is why the army so often attacks the villages (whether the villagers are aiding the rebels or not.) That kind of indiscriminate violence provides the various Karen rebel groups with a steady supply of new recruits. The Karen rebels support themselves via smuggling (including drugs) and extortions (“revolutionary taxes”). There are Christian and Buddhist factions, but all Karen will unite to fight army incursions. The army has never been able to drive the Karen from the thinly populated and mountainous border area, and the villages keep getting rebuilt. It long ago turned into an endless war.

February 3, 2011: In the north, there has been fighting between two Mon tribal factions for the past few days. There have been several casualties, including at least one dead. Government troops are seeking both factions, who are united only in their hostility towards the government.

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Myanmar region or state parliament agrees to assignment of respective regional chief ministers
English.news.cn 2011-02-11 21:50:30

YANGON, Feb. 11 (Xinhua) — Myanmar region or state parliament Friday agreed to the assignment of 14 chief ministers for 14 respective regions and states, the state radio and television reported.

A total of nine ministers, including the chief minister, were designated to run nine ministries or combined ministries regionwise or statewise.

The 14 chief ministers mainly include U Khin Maung Oo, Brigadier-General Zaw Min, U Tha Aye, U Nyan Win, U Khin Zaw, U Phone Maw Shwe, U Ohn Myint, U Ye Myint and U Thein Aung.

Of them, U Tha Aye is the current chief of Bureau of Special Operation-4, U Nyan Win is the minister of foreign affairs, U Khin Zaw is Chief of Bureau of Special Operation-6 (Nay Pyi Taw), U Phone Maw Shwe is Chairman of Magway Region Peade and Development Council, U Ohn Myint is Minister of Mines, U Ye Myint is Chief of Military Affairs Security and U Thein Aung is Minister of Forestry.

The naming of the chief ministers of regions or states were proposed to the region or state parliament by president-elect U Thein Sein.

The region or state parliament is yet to approve the nine ministers for each region and state as submitted by the president- elect.

These nine ministries or combined ministries respectively cover security, border affairs, commerce, agriculture and irrigation, forestry, municipality, transport, energy, social affairs, education, health, culture, religious affairs, mining, industry, livestock, cooperatives , construction, information, administration, fishery, communication.

Some number of judges of region or state high court were also submitted to the region or state parliament for designation.

On Friday, the parliament house of representatives, house of nationalities and the president-elect each submitted three nominees for forming the constitutional tribunal.

All the parliament sessions will continue on next Monday, the report added.

The union parliament is constituted with two levels of parliaments — house of representatives and house of nationalities which involves elected ones in the November 2010 general election and 25-percent military-nominated ones.

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istockAnalyst.com (press release) – Myanmar’s economic zone law sets compulsory employment of local citizens
Wednesday, February 09, 2011 4:58 AM

YANGON, Feb. 9 (Xinhua)– Myanmar’s special economic zone law, which was enacted late last month, sets compulsory employment of experts, technicians and skilled workers of local citizenship to provide job opportunity for them, the Yangon Times weekly quoted a provision of the law, the details of which have not been made public, as reporting Wednesday.

These categories of Myanmar employees shall be recruited with 25 percent starting in the first five years of engagement in special economic zone project, 50 percent in the first 10 years and 75 percent in the first 15 years, the provision said.

Unskilled workers shall be employed with only those who are Myanmar citizens, it was quoted as saying.

Besides, foreign investors engaged in Myanmar’s deep sea-port development and other special economic zone projects shall be responsible for keeping away from affecting natural environment, the provision states.

The ruling Myanmar State Peace and Development Council promulgated on Jan. 27 this year the Special Economic Zone Law to attract more foreign investment to develop the country’s economy.

The law comprises 12 chapters covering formation of central body, special privileges of investor, land use, bank and finance management and insurance business as well as quarantine inspection and confinement and matters related to labor.

However, the details of the law has not been fully made public in media (OOTC:IMDC) report.

The enactment of the new special economic zone law came 23 years after Myanmar promulgated its first foreign investment law in November 1988.

The country’s foreign investment has hit 31.957 billion U.S. dollars as of October 2010 since the country opened to such investment in that year.

The investment was up sharply during the period from May to October in 2010-11 when billions of dollars were injected sectorwise.

Of the investment, oil and gas was leading with 13.447 billion USD, electric power 11.341 billion USD, mining 2.395 billion USD, manufacturing 1.663 billion USD, hotels and tourism 1.064 billion USD and agriculture 96.351 million USD.

The foreign investment coming from 430 enterprises of 31 countries and region were respectively injected into 12 economic sectors which are oil and gas, electric power, manufacturing, real estate, hotels and tourism, mining, transport and communications, livestock breeding and fisheries, industry, construction, agriculture and services sector.

Meanwhile, Myanmar also designated 24 development zones in the country, carrying out major projects.

The enactment of the special economic zone law also came four days before Myanmar started its first three-chamber parliament sessions simultaneously on Jan. 31.

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The Irrawaddy – Than Shwe to Head Extra-Constitutional ‘State Supreme Council’
By THE IRRAWADDY Thursday, February 10, 2011

RANGOON—Although the Burmese military regime said that it will hand over state power to president-elect Thein Sein and the new government on March 15, junta chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe has now revealed that he will personally lead a newly created council called the “State Supreme Council,” which as its name implies will be the most powerful body in the country, according to sources in Naypyidaw.

Two bodies have now emerged in the new government’s administrative structure that observers say will have powers that reach—either directly or indirectly—above and beyond the powers of the new civilian executive and legislative branches. The first is the eight-member State Supreme Council, which is nowhere mentioned in the 2008 Constitution and will be led by Than Shwe. The second is the eleven-member National Defense and Security Council (NDSC), which is called for in the 2008 Constitution and will be led by Thein Sein.

“The State Supreme Council will become the highest body of the state. While it will assume an advisory role to guide the future governments, the body will be very influential,” said a source close to the military.

The members of the State Supreme Council will be: Snr-Gen Than Shwe, Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye, Pyithu Hluttaw [Lower House] Speaker Thura Shwe Mann, President-elect Thein Sein, Vice President-elect Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo, former Lt. Gen Tin Aye and other two senior military generals.

As required by the 2008 Constitution, the NDSC will be comprised of the president, two vice presidents, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, vice commander-in-chief, and the ministers of defense, home, foreign affairs and border affairs.

Meanwhile, according to sources in Naypyidaw, Burma’s ruling State Peace and Development Council will hand over power to the new government on March 15. The sources said that army commanders, heads of the military’s Bureaus of Special Operations and retired generals are currently meeting to discuss the transfer of power to the new civilian regime in Naypyidaw, which will consist mostly of former generals.

According to sources close to the military in Naypyidaw, there is discontent among the military because the latest appointments of certain high-ranking military officials to major positions in the new government structure was apparently based on loyalty to Than Shwe rather than military hierarchy.

In particluar, Lt-Gen Thura Myint Aung was not chosen by Than Shwe as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and after complaining of being assigned the position of defense minister he was removed and placed under house arrest.

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The Irrawaddy – DKBA Changes Tactics, More Civilians at Risk
By SAW YAN NAING Friday, February 11, 2011

It has been three months since an election-day border clash broke out in Myawaddy between government troops and renegade Brigade 5 of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) that sent 20,000 refugees temporarily fleeing across the border to Thailand, and the area is still far from quiet.

Gunfire and explosions continue to be heard on the border, the latest being a bomb blast in Myawaddy town on Wednesday that killed 2 people and injured six others, with at least some of the victims being civilians.

According to sources on the border, the DKBA has changed its military tactics to target urban areas where government offices and buildings are located rather than fighting in the jungle. Maj San Aung of DKBA Brigade 5 said the brigade changed tactics because it has fewer fighters than the regime, so urban guerrilla warfare is a more effective way to hurt the junta.

As a result, however, more civilians may be caught up in the fighting and some Myawaddy locals are not happy with the change in tactics.

“If they [DKBA] want to fight, they should fight directly with the junta troops. They should not fight in urban areas. It impacts the civilians,” a resident of Myawaddy told The Irrawaddy.

“Many people in Myawaddy town are now in fear. Some parents don’t let their children go to study at school,” he added.

Other areas of Karen State have been similarly affected by the fighting. Residents of Kawkareik in southern Karen State are reportedly afraid to travel outside the town after a clash broke out on Wednesday evening between regime and Karen National Union (KNU) troops, according to Kawkareik residents.

A merchant in Kawkareik said that after the fighting began daily passenger buses stopped running on the route connecting Kawkareik and Myawaddy.

Brig-Gen Saw Lah Pwe, the commander of DKBA Brigade 5 who is also known as Na Kham Mwe, said the regime is still reinforcing its troops around his controlled areas in southern Karen State and does not seem to be seeking ceasefire talks with him.

The previous ceasefire between the junta and DKBA Brigade 5 broke down on Nov 8 after the ethnic Karen armed group refused to join the junta’s border guard force (BGF) under Burmese army control.

Observers said the regime likely will use a divide-and-rule strategy in an attempt to defeat the strongest ethic armed groups that have rejected the BGF, such as the United Wa State Army, which has about 30,000 troops, and the Kachin Independence Army, with some 10,000 troops.

But with respect to ethnic Karen armed groups such as DKBA Brigade 5 and the Karen National Union (KNU), the observers said the regime will only use military means in its attempt to totally defeat the militias. KNU sources said that the junta is sending troops, ammunition and food supplies to the KNU’s stronghold area in Papun District in northern Karen State—raising concern among civilians that war is imminent.

Saw Lah Pwe said he doesn’t know when the border clashes will end. “We stay at our home, but they come and attack us. So we have to fight them back,” he said.

Dah Eh Kler, the secretary of the Karen Women’s Organization, said that women and children are the most vulnerable in the ongoing conflict. On Jan 30, a woman and two young boys from Karen State who sought refuge in Thailand were seriously injured by shrapnel from mortars that landed on the Thai side of the border, according to a statement released by the Women’s League of Burma on Feb 1.

The women’s rights groups said that as the armed conflict drags on, there is no rest for anyone on the border, including the elderly, the ill, pregnant women and children— farmers can’t tend to their farms and children can’t attend school, their statement said.

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The Irrawaddy – Suu Kyi and Father Compared as Aung San Anniversary Approaches
By KO HTWE Friday, February 11, 2011

As the 96th anniversary of Burmese independence leader Aung San’s birth approaches, historians and those who knew him say that his daughter, pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, shares many of his characteristics, but also differed from him in significant ways.

The most striking thing that father and daughter have in common is that both have been denied a chance to realize their full potential as leaders—in Aung San’s case because he was assassinated at the age of 32, and in Suu Kyi’s because she was kept under house arrest for 15 of the past 20 years under house arrest.

“The assassination of Aung San in 1947 was a great loss for the country, because it deprived us of a great leader. We have also lost out because Suu Kyi has been denied a chance to lead,” said Kyaw Aung, a writer who is currently working on a biography of Aung San.

Aung San, who was born on Feb. 13, 1915, emerged early on as a leading figure in Burma’s struggle against British colonial rule. His political activities began as a student at Rangoon University, and at the age of 23 he abandoned his study of the law to enter politics full time.

At the same stage in her life, Suu Kyi lived under very different circumstances. She spent much of her early life, from the age of 15 until her return to Burma in 1988, outside of the country of her birth. But when she first appeared on the national stage during the pro-democracy uprising of August 1988, she immediately became an icon of a movement that was seen by many as Burma’s second struggle for independence.

Speaking to half a million people at Rangoon’s Shwedagon Pagoda at the height of the protests against military rule, Suu Kyi struck many observers as an honest, fearless voice of the people’s aspirations—much as her father had been during an earlier era.

But there are major differences between father and daughter.

“They have the same courage, but the nature of their struggle is not the same,” said Chan Tun, a veteran politician who knew Aung San. “Aung San fought against a foreign colonial power, while Suu Kyi is up against an army of her own people.”

Burma’s army was founded by Aung San during the Second World War with the help of the Japanese Imperial Army. Although he later turned the army against the Japanese and entered negotiations with Britain to end colonial rule after the war, he always confronted his opponents head on.

In contrast, Suu Kyi has taken a non-confrontational approach, calling on Burma’s military rulers to enter a dialogue with the democratic opposition. In part this is because of the nature of her struggle. She has no army at her disposal, just the support of Burma’s oppressed people.

“Aung San was backed by the army, but the opposition today depends entirely on public support. Suu Kyi can’t just order the people to fight back,” said Chan Tun.

Indeed, the price of openly supporting Suu Kyi and her party, the National league for Democracy (NLD), is immense. Many of the party’s members have been harassed, imprisoned and murdered for their political activities.

“It is hard to be a follower of Suu Kyi because of the relentless pressure on the opposition,” said Win Tin, a senior NLD leader who spent 19 years in prison. “Suu Kyi herself was confined for many years.”

While Aung San remains a hero to almost all Burmese, Suu Kyi has won the admiration of millions around the world. In 1991 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for being, in the words of the Nobel award committee chairman, “an outstanding example of the power of the powerless.”

Like her father, Suu Kyi doesn’t regard politics as an activity best left to an elite, but rather as a duty of all citizens.

“Aung San knew that politics is not something you can stay away from. It’s the lifeblood of society,” said Tin Mya, a writer and veteran politician.

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Myanmar Times publisher arrested in Rangoon
Friday, 11 February 2011 21:01 Mizzima News

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The Australian founder and co-owner of the Myanmar Times, Ross Dunkley, was arrested at his home in Rangoon on Friday.

Observers in Rangoon told Mizzima that recently Burmese military authorities have taken a strong dislike to Dunkley. The Irrawaddy magazine reported last month that Dunkley is presently embroiled in a power struggle with the Burmese co-owners of the newspaper.

Dunkley launched the Myanmar Times, an English-language weekly, in 2000 with the blessings of Military Intelligence Chief Khin Nyunt.

His co-founder, Sonny Shwe, is the son of a Khin Nyunt ally. Less than a year after Khin Nyunt’s purging from the military junta, Sonny Shwe was arrested and new Burmese co-owners took over his stake in the paper.

No other details were available on Friday evening.

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Social networking group linked with Suu Kyi asked to move
Friday, 11 February 2011 21:32
Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The BAYDA Institute in Tamwe Township in Rangoon Division, an education group associated with the social networking program supported by Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San San Kyi, has been asked to leave its location, according to the principal of the institute.

The landlord informed the principle of the institute on February 8 that she had been threatened by the authorities, and he would have to vacant the premises located at Seitta Thukha Street, No. 23.

‘The landlord gave us an eviction notice and said we were doing  ‘political movement’ work here. She cried and requested us to vacate otherwise she said her room would be sealed by the authorities. She said the authorities threatened her’, principle Myo Yannaung Thein told Mizzima.

‘Her husband is a sailor and her father-in-law and mother-in-law are retired school teachers. She requested us not to ruin their lives’, he said. He said the landlord did not disclose who had threatened her, but he speculated that it was  likely the Tamwe Township authorities.

After Suu Kyi announced a National League for Democracy plan to form social networking organisations across the country, called the ‘Nation Youth Network’, led by 88-Generation leader Myo Yannaung Thein, many people and groups have expressed interest.

The BAYDA Institute is one of 104 groups in the social network group, which was formed on January 6, sources said.

The Institute offers two-week training courses in Social Science, Global Conflicts, South East Asia Studies and Basic English.

Recently, at a ceremony on February 4, which concluded a course, NLD Vice Chairman Tin Oo attended and presented a message from Suu Kyi.

The Institute has provided short training courses since November 2010. The first training course was an introduction to international relations. About 100 people have enrolled in the courses.

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DVB News – ‘Truckloads’ of prisoners leave Insein
By KHIN HNIN HTET
Published: 11 February 2011

Five large trucks have transported hundreds of inmates out of Insein prison in Rangoon, with one eye-witness saying they may be headed for conflict zones in the country’s border regions.

The 10-wheeled trucks were seen leaving the notorious Insein prison on Tuesday morning loaded with prisoners.

“The trucks were full of inmates and were accompanied by four riot police trucks…[which] were full of [policemen],” said one man.

He added that he was “pretty sure” the inmates were being taken to Karen state in the east of Burma, where Burmese troops have been using prisoners as porters in their fight against opposition Karen armies. Others may have gone to Kachin state in the north. This has not been independently verified.

“There were also inmates from other prisons elsewhere. Last week a truck from Bassein [Irrawaddy division] arrived and another one from unknown location.” He added that numbers of prisoners had been taken out of Insein last month but were yet to return.

DVB learnt last month that some 800 prisoners had been taken from their cells in central and eastern Burma and used as porters to carry equipment for frontline troops in Karen state.

Three porters who managed to escape to Thailand told DVB that they were chained and made to carry supplies through the mountainous terrain in eastern Burma.

The Burmese army is known to have used civilians as minesweepers, forcing them to walk in front of patrols to ensure troops don’t take the full blast of a landmine.

“They ordered us porters to take the middle of the road while soldiers walk along the side of the road,” Pho Aye, who managed to escape after being sent to Karen state from Bassein prison, told DVB in late January. “A porter named Pho Thar Aung died when he stepped on a landmine and two soldiers were slightly injured from shrapnel.”

The latest conflict began in Karen state on 8 November last year after the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), led by renegade commander Na Kham Mwe, took key government positions in Myawaddy, across the border from Mae Sot. Clashes have since continued to occur on a regular basis.

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DVB News – Election body delays lawsuit hearings
By AHUNT PHONE MYAT
Published: 11 February 2011

Hearings for nearly 30 lawsuits filed by aggrieved candidates in last November’s elections have been delayed due to the conflicting schedules of individuals involved.

Burma’s supreme election authority, the Union Election Commission (UEC), was due to hear the cases on 10 and 11 February but now says that parliamentary commitments mean they’ll be forced to postpone them.

“All hearings have been suspended,” said lawyer Myint Thwin, who is representing several complainants. “The UEC said they will contact us again around the 16th or 17th this month and also told us to make contact with them.”

So far 29 cases have been filed at the UEC alleging foul play in the controversial 7 November elections last year. All but two of these were lodged by members of the pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which won around 80 percent of seats.

Myint Thwin said however that there have been rumours the USDP was planning to withdraw some of their complaints.

The USDP, which was led by President Thein Sein and received the backing of the Burmese military, had been accused on a number of occasions of fraud and intimidation during the campaigning stage, as well as infractions on voting day itself.

Many of the allegations were directed at the party’s collecting of advance votes, although there were also numbers of reports claiming that USDP campaigners had coerced people into joining up. Villagers in Shan state also alleged that the names of dead people had appeared on voting lists.

Although the UEC, which was handpicked by the ruling junta, had been expected to weigh heavily in favour of the USDP, it has already dropped one case filed by a party member citing lack of evidence.

There are also thought to be around 100 complaints filed at local police stations around Burma that have not been picked up by the UEC.

A candidate for the opposition Democratic Party Myanmar told DVB shortly before the elections that three complaints it had lodged against the USDP’s campaigning tactics had been ignored by the UEC.

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DVB News – Than Shwe ‘ordered shooting of monks’
By FRANCIS WADE
Published: 11 February 2011

Burmese junta chief Than Shwe had ordered troops to shoot protesting monks during the September 2007 mass uprising, leaked US diplomatic cables allege.

The claim is buried in the middle of a November 2007 cable sent from the US embassy in Rangoon to Washington by former US political and economic chief to Burma, Leslie Hayden.

Published in Norwegian daily, Aftenposten, the cable sees Hayden paraphrasing a redacted source who claims his “military contacts” knew of Than Shwe’s intent during the protests.

“According to [TEXT REMOVED BY AFTENPOSTEN]´s military contacts, both Than Shwe and Maung Aye gave the orders to crackdown on the monks, including shooting them if necessary,” it says, referring to the junta chief’s second-in-command.

“Number three General Thura Shwe Man personally opposed the order, but carried it out, quietly advising regional commanders to do so with minimal bloodshed.”

How many monks died in what became known as the Saffron Revolution is unknown, as is the total number of demonstrators killed by Burmese troops. Burmese state media put the official toll at 13, while UN Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur Paulo, Sérgio Pinheiro, quoted independent sources who claimed that 30 to 40 monks were among the more than 100 killed.

Sparked by a sudden 66 percent rise in fuel prices, the protests became the biggest show of defiance against the ruling junta since the student uprising of 1988.

Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win responded to early criticism of the way the army handled the protests by saying that the hundreds of thousands of men and women on the streets had been encouraged by foreign or exiled forces.

“Recent events make clear that there are elements within and outside the country who wish to derail the ongoing process (toward democracy) so that they can take advantage of the chaos that would follow,” he said, making no reference to the deaths.

He also praised the initial “restraint” shown by troops in the early days of the protests, which gained momentum on 18 September, but said the subsequent crackdown was necessary “to restore the situation”. Up to 6000 people are believed to have been detained.

Despite the reverence with which Burma holds its monastic community, monks currently account for 254 of Burma’s 2,189 political prisoners. One monk, U Nanda Vathu, is serving a 71-year sentence, while nearly two dozen of those detained are serving sentences of 20 years or more.

The cable, dated 28 November 2007 and titled “BURMA: THE DIALOGUE IS DEAD”, is one of thousands released by whistleblowing website, Wikileaks. They also reveal French concerns about business operations in Burma, as well as heightened US concerns about Burma’s cosying relationship with North Korea.

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DVB News – Ill political prisoner denied visits
Published: 9 February 2011

The family of a female political prisoner in northern Burma say they have been denied access to see her, despite reports that she is suffering from a number of health problems.

Htet Htet Oo Wei is in her third of a five-year sentence in the remote Putao prison in far-north Kachin state, which can take up to five days overland travel from Rangoon, where her family live.

“My mother is not in very good health,” said her daughter, Aye Chan Pyae, who recently made the journey to visit her but was turned away at the door.

Under Burmese law, prisoners have the right to receive visits once every two weeks. Htet Htet Oo Wei hasn’t seen a visitor for three months.

“I didn’t get to see [her]; she is banned from receiving visits as she’s in solidarity confinement for allegedly breaking some prison rules for making noises. She isn’t allowed to accept parcels either,” Aye Chan Pyae said. She has been in solitary confinement since 19 January.

Prior to Aye Chan Pyae’s visit she had received a letter from her mother listing items she needed. “She said she was suffering from tinnitus and that her left leg was numb. She is ill.”

Medicine is hard to obtain in Burma’s 43 prisons and 100-plus labour camps. An official from the government’s Prison Administration Department admitted last year that there were, in total, 109 medical staff assigned to all the prisons, equating to one for every 8000 inmates. Only 32 of these were fully trained.

Prisoners are often forced to bribe medical staff in order to receive treatment; the majority who cannot thus have to rely on medicine supplied by visiting family members. The Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP) says there is no doctor in Putao prison.

Htet Htet Oo Wei had been arrested in late 2008 whilst taking part in a march in Rangoon by the opposition National League for Democracy’s youth wing. They had been calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, who was then under house arrest.

Following her arrest, she was accused in government-run newspapers of paying the youths to stage the protest. She was later sentenced to five years under the Emergency Provision Act for disturbing the tranquillity of the state.

Aye Chan Pyae said her mother also took part in a protest in Rangoon’s Hledan junction in August 2007 along with other prominent female political activists Nilar Thein, Mee Mee, Su Su Nway and Naw Ohn Hla. This came a day after student leader Min Ko Naing and other key 88 Generation Student figures were arrested.

Htet Htet Oo Wei is one of around 20 political prisoners in Putao prison, including Shan ethnic political leader Khun Htun Oo, who in 2005 was handed a 93-year sentence on charges of plotting political transition in Burma.

AAPP said it was “deeply concerned” about the ban on Htet Htet Oo Wei receiving visitors. According to the group, there are currently 2189 political prisoners in Burma, nearly 400 of whom are NLD members. The remaining are a mixture of lawyers, activists, monks, journalists, politicians and relief workers. More than 150 are thought to be in poor health.

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Credit to : http://burmadigest.info/2011/02/11/burma-related-news-february-08-11-2011/
* The views expressed by authors in the articles are their own, but not necessarily reflect the policy standpoint of BURMA DIGEST editorial team.
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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.