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BURMA RELATED NEWS – FEBRUARY 27-28, 2011
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AFP – Explosive device ‘wounds eight’ in Myanmar
Time Magazine – Why Did Burma’s Leader Appear on TV in Women’s Clothes?
Asian Correspondent – ILO must tackle Burma over forced labour
New Kerala – 12 Myanmarese nationals held
Hindustan Times – India to build roads along Myanmar
Khaleej Times Online – EDITORIAL: Engage Myanmar now
New Straits Times – Exotic food from 5 countries
The Australian – Burmese regime certain to have last word on trailblazing newspaperman
Focus Taiwan News Channel – Taiwan to help build transitional refuge for turtles in Myanmar
AsiaNews.it – Buddhists and Christians pray together for religious freedom in places where Buddha lived
Agra-Net – Myanmar hopes to meet stringent rules to sell fishmeal to China
The Irrawaddy – Burma Arrests Two Foreigners for Spying: Sources
The Irrawaddy – UNSC Resolution on Libya Sends a Message to Other Regimes
The Irrawaddy – 84,000 Karens Petition Ban Ki-moon
The Irrawaddy – Parliament Silent on Amnesty Proposals
Mizzima News – Regional stability and Burma’s human rights situation
Mizzima News – Fighting intensifies between the regime and Shan
Mizzima News – Upper, Lower houses prepare for regular business
DVB News – Four-year-old killed in Tachilek shootout
DVB News – Jailed activist ‘signs empty paper’
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Explosive device ‘wounds eight’ in Myanmar
Sun Feb 27, 11:29 am ET

YANGON (AFP) – Eight people were injured, one seriously, on Sunday by an explosive device believed to have been detonated accidentally in Myanmar’s commercial hub Yangon, an official said.

The evening blast happened in the north of the city when a 26-year-old man accidentally set off the device he was carrying in his bag at a street stall, he said.

“Altogether eight people including the bomber were injured. A three-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy were among those injured,” the official told AFP.

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Time Magazine – Why Did Burma’s Leader Appear on TV in Women’s Clothes?
By Robert Horn / Bangkok Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011

General Than Shwe of Burma, the dour and taciturn leader of one of the world’s most repressive military regimes, isn’t known for his feminine side. His contempt for pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is rooted in part, most Burma analysts say, to the fact that she is a woman.

And so many Burmese were baffled earlier this month when Than Shwe and other top generals, appearing at a nationally televised ceremony, shed their dress uniforms for the Burmese equivalent of women’s dresses. “I don’t understand why the generals were wearing women’s [sarongs] but they looked very weird,” said a Rangoon mechanic, Myint Oo.
Others put a more sinister spin on the generals’ sartorial selection. “It’s yadaya,” said a Rangoon-based astrologer who asked not to be named, referring to Burma’s particular brand of black magic. {See pictures of Aung San Suu Kyi.(http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,2032170,00.html)}

Burma has had three rulers during the past half-century and all have been devotees of yadaya. Gen. Ne Win, who ruled from 1962 to 1988 reportedly shot his own reflection in a mirror, on the advice of a fortune teller, to foil a foretold assassination attempt. His obsession with numerology led him to demonetize all bank notes in 1987 so new notes could be printed — all divisible by his lucky number nine. The move wiped out the savings of most Burmese and contributed to an uprising one year later. His successor, Gen. Saw Muang, was replaced after erratic behavior that included a rambling, semi-coherent nationally televised speech brimming with references to magic and astrology. The man who replaced him, Than Shwe, is reported to have seven personal astrologers, several of whom are tasked with focusing solely on Aung San Suu Kyi, according to his biographer Ben Rogers.

Astrology, superstition and black magic are common in Southeast Asia, and Burma’s rulers have rarely made any bones about their beliefs. But, in what appears to be an attempt to tamp down on all the talk over Than Shwe’s television appearance, state-controlled media outlets have now denied access to Internet pages showing him attending the Feb. 12 ceremony for the national holiday Union Day. “I suspect that the Union day web page is being blocked precisely because there is speculation over whether Than Shwe is performing yadaya,” says Ingrid Jordt, an anthropologist and specialist on Burma at the University of Wisconsin.

According to Wai Moe, a journalist with the Irrawaddy, an online magazine run by Burmese exiles, two interpretations of the the general sporting a ladies’ sarong have gained the most currency. The first is that astrologers have predicted a woman will rule Burma, and so by donning women’s clothes, Than Shwe and the other generals are attempting to fulfill the prophecy through some superstitious sleight of hand. The second, fuzzier interpretation, is that by dressing in women’s clothing, the generals are somehow trying to neutralize Suu Kyi’s power. After Than Shwe brutally suppressed an uprising led by Burmese monks in 2007, anti-regime activists launched a campaign asking people to send women’s underwear to the leader because they said the generals believe that contact with women’s underwear will sap their power. By wearing sarongs, they may believe they are cancelling out Suu Kyi’s ability to sap what they view as the virile male power that underpins their leadership. {See TIME’s top 10 elderly leaders.(http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2022256_2022240_2022237,00.html)}

If this train of thought doesn’t appear to follow logic, it is, after all, superstition. And these stories have circulated in Burma before, particularly about former intelligence chief Gen. Khin Nyunt, who was also said to have dressed as a woman to counter the power of Suu Kyi. Though these theories appear to be widely believed in Burma, the nation’s rulers almost never give interviews, so they remain unconfirmed.

What isn’t hard to confirm is that less than four months after releasing Suu Kyi from her latest term of house arrest, the regime’s attitude towards the Nobel Peace Prize winner is once again hardening. After Suu Kyi recently reconfirmed her support for economic sanctions against the regime, a state-run newspaper ominously warned last week that she and her followers would meet a “tragic end.” She and her supporters have little reason to think they’re bluffing: In 2003, a government-organized mob attacked Suu Kyi and her followers in northern Burma, killing dozens. {Read more about superstition and politics in Burma.(http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1917122,00.html)}

Burma held elections in November 2010 to try and put a democratic face on a country controlled by its military. But Than Shwe’s notions of leadership are known to be based more on divine rule than democracy, and Jordt says his choice of dress that day may instead have to do with the fact that the patterns of some women’s sarongs are based on patterns worn by Burma’s royalty more than a century ago. “Than Shwe is simply trying to dress in the style of bygone kings. Than Shwe’s evocation of royal politics asserts a very Burmese and Buddhist idea about what the terms of political legitimacy are,” Jordt says. She added that, for some time now, Than Shwe has required that royal courtly language be used in reference to him and his wife, Kyaing Kyaing. {Comment on this story.(http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2053563,00.html#comments)}

If the other generals who joined their boss that day have any reservations about wearing women’s sarongs, they aren’t saying, lest they end up a victim of one of Than Shwe’s periodic purges, as happened to former intelligence chief Gen. Khin Nyunt in 2004. Whether he’s a reincarnated Burmese king, or just another old drag queen, Than Shwe’s subordinates know it’s never wise to cross Burma’s cross-dressing senior general.

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Asian Correspondent – ILO must tackle Burma over forced labour
By Zin Linn Feb 27, 2011 11:22PM UTC

A Rangoon-based diplomat said Thursday that Guy Ryder, a deputy director general of The International Labour Organization (ILO), signed a 12-month extension of the agreement with the Labor Ministry allowing the ILO to maintain an office facilitating victims of forced labour to seek redress. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information, as said by The Associated Press.

The original agreement with the government was signed in 2007, when Burma faced international sanctions because the ILO found the government was using forced labour. The government says it is trying to eliminate the practice.

Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was also briefed by the ILO team in Rangoon on Friday. Suu Kyi gave her support in the course of a meeting held at her residence on University Avenue Road. ILO missions include protecting labour rights and interests and advocating for the freedom to form trade unions.

ILO team also met with around 80 human rights activists at Traders Hotel in Rangoon on February 24. At some point in the meeting, participants articulated concern about the recruitment of child soldiers in Burma, and ILO officials said they intended to keep on hearing complaints from Burmese people and work with the regime to pull child soldiers from the armed forces.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Government of the Union of Myanmar (Burma) have agreed to a Supplementary Understanding (SU) which gives Myanmar Resident Citizens the right to lodge complaints alleging the use of forced labour. This complaints mechanism is designed to allow genuine victims of forced labour, with the assistance of the ILO Liaison Officer, an opportunity to seek redress or remedies from the government authorities in full confidence that no retaliatory action will be taken against them.

However, the junta-backed Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. (MEHL) seized 2,000 acres of farmlands and forced farmers from Aung Lan township to grow sugarcane in 2008. Ten farmers complained the case to the ILO office, for which they were arrested and sent to Thayet prison.

They were released on 17 February 2010 after ILO Executive Director Mr. Kery Tapiola’s Burma trip in January 2010. A part of the land was returned to the farmers and they were permitted to cultivate in March 2010. But sugar mill officials under MEHL filed against them under section 447 of the Penal Code (trespassing), section 427 of Penal Code (mischief) when they began cultivation, according to Mizzima News. Respective township courts sentenced them to varying prison terms from 9 months to 4 and-a-half years on October 16 last year. The farmers filed appeal cases in Magwe Divisional court.

ILO Executive Director Mr. Kery Tapiola met families of the arrested farmers in Aung-Lan Township January 2010. The ILO official then met Labour Department Director General Col. Chit Shein and other officials in Naypyidaw.

Most of the farmers, who lodged the complaint at the ILO office, were released 17 February 2010, but Zaw Htay who assisted the farmers in filing the complaint at the ILO office got a 10 year prison term in Thayet prison after being charged under the Official Secrets Act.

Their lawyer Pho Phyu was also charged with the Associations Act and creating obstacles for the administration and sentenced to four years in prison.

Lawyer Pho Phyu, arrested for defending a labour rights activist in Burma’s Pegu division, was released on 5 March 2010 after the regime scaled down his four year sentence due to ILO negotiation. The lawyer Pho Phyu was arrested in January 2009, while defending labour rights activist Zaw Htay.

The case made by MEHL is a harsh reminder of the need of independent courts in Burma. In addition, the regime of Myanmar (Burma) has breached agreement of Supplementary Understanding (SU) with ILO which allows no retaliatory action will be taken against the citizen who made the complaint.

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New Kerala – 12 Myanmarese nationals held

Port Blair, Feb 27 : Altogether 12 Myanmarese nationals were arrested recently on the charge of poaching on the shallow waters off Paget Islands.

Andaman and Nicobar Coast Guard Public Relations Officer (PRO) Commandant B K Singh today said when the boat carrying them was intercepted by a Coast Guard ship on February 26, it tried to resort to a zigzag motion.

As a result, the Coast Guard had to resort to firing in a bid to make them surrender, sources said, adding the poachers intruded in the area to procure sea cucumbers.

They had been handed over to police at Diglipur for interrogation, the PRO added.

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India to build roads along Myanmar
Aloke Tikku , Hindustan Times
New Delhi, February 27, 2011
Last Updated: 01:54 IST(28/2/2011)

After moving on road links to the Chinese border, the Union ministry of home affairs has turned to its long unguarded neighbour Myanmar, which has  witnessed growing Chinese presence with an ambitious plan for a road along the border to strengthen surveillance. In theory, India’s border with M yanmar is guarded by the Assam Rifles but the counter-insurgency force is deployed up to 50-100 km away from the border, deployed in counter-insurgency grids rather than through border outposts.

Under the new plan that will be put before the Cabinet Committee on Security for its nod, the government would construct roads stretching to 1,417 km along the Indo-Myanmar border and establish more than 50 helipads to ensure accessibility and movement of forces through the treacherous terrain.

India had renewed its military doctrine on border roads along the Indo-China border a few years ago. The old doctrine dictated Delhi should not have roads close to the border to ensure poor road infrastructure slows down Chinese forces.

It was as part of the revised doctrine that phase-wise construction of 27 roads totalling 804 km was approved for operational purposes of the para-military forces along the Chinese border.

The security establishment, however, was not focussed on the border with Myanmar till P Chidambaram took over two years ago.

Since there were difficulties in nudging Assam Rifle to reorient, sources said the home ministry has also been pushing for giving the mandate of guarding the border with Myanmar to BSF.

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Khaleej Times Online – EDITORIAL: Engage Myanmar now
27 February 2011,

Myanmar is more of a case study these days. Nobel Laureate Aung Sang Suu Kyi’s obsession to walk the extra mile in salvaging her country is unprecedented. This is why her eagerness to work in cohesion with the military regime for greater reforms in order to address people’s grievances is appreciated.

In her endeavour she has already taken the stride in creating space for the generals in the new parliamentary dispensation and is  not against lifting of  some international sanctions, irrespective of the fact that power hasn’t really been transferred to genuine democratic forces of the country. This is genuine leadership and is in need of being reenacted in all crises laden countries 
of the world.

The move on the part of the United States to open a dialogue with Suu Kyi for studying the impact of sanctions is most welcome. US chargé d’affaires Larry Dinger, who went into talks with the pro-democracy icon, has apparently stipulated the details of US Aid programme, which will go a long way in rehabilitating the dispossessed Burmese, who have been a victim of iron-fist rule as well as pinching socio-economic curbs for more than two decades. Washington’s approach has, in fact, buoyed the fragile democratic set-up and must surely had come as a pressure on the reigning military bureaucracy and generals, who inadvertently have been slow in embracing the change of guard for reasons of expediency.

Myanmar, as it moves forward on the rocky path of transition, is in need of appropriate counselling. Thousands of political prisoners languishing in jails and detention camps should be released forthwith. A fact-finding mission to ascertain the miseries of the people and the gross human rights violations committed by the junta can be a befitting tribute to the resilience of the people. Similarly, the people need to be accommodated in the business of the state, and the best way to kick-start the process is to come up with entrepreneur activities directly managed by the government that would help alleviate the lot of the downtrodden.

Burmese long for a meaningful change in every walk of life and the new elected forum can help attain that objective. It is good that the international community, too, is realising the fact that sanctions have not served the purpose of deterring the junta. Lifting them for good and engaging the new government in trade and tourism can surely 
make a difference.

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New Straits Times – Exotic food from 5 countries
2011/02/27
By Chuah Bee Kim

AN exotic experience awaits your taste bud at the Grand Bluewave Hotel Johor Baru, which has come up with a two-month promotion offering a vast variety of cuisine from Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Burma beginning tomorrow.

Called the Indo-China Food promotion, the buffet consists of three set menus which change daily.

The Indo-China buffet lunch promotion, priced at RM32 nett per adult and RM20 nett per child, includes appetisers, mix dressings, main courses, soups and desserts.
Head chef Salleh Osman, 45, with his team which includes chef Zaidi Chuli, 32, and Ismadi Ismail, 35, were the ones who came up with the culinary creations.

Appetisers include fine Thai dry beef salad and green papaya salad, Laos green papaya salad and boiled chicken yam and Vietnamese spicy beef and spicy watercress and beef salad, all with Italian vinaigrette, French dressing and 1000 Island dressings. Vietnamese and Thai mix dressings (sambal) consisting of fish sauce dip, fermented anchovy dip, green chilly dip, spicy dry shrimp sauce and coconut, and Taucho dip are among the food spread.

There is a choice of three types of soup, mainly, the sour fish head soup from Vietnam, tofu and turnip saute from Burma and chicken in coconut milk soup flavoured with galangal from Thailand.

In the serving is an assortment of hot items from the five countries which include the enticing Laos Quail Stew and sweet and sour vegetable; Burmese chicken curry, squid and dandelions; Cambodian tamarind chicken wings, marinated beef with lime sauce; Thai stir-fried beef with chilli and garlic; Thai pineapple curry with prawns; Vietnamese tofu with eggplant and peppers, and fried rice with sausage, shrimp and crab.

Finally, conclude your gastronomic adventure with tantalising desserts such as the pumpkin custard pudding, baked tapioca cake, Laos mungo bean fruit delight, Laos yam and rice ball and coconut milk with sago, along with the tropical cut fruit, Puteri Mandi, Apam Manis, Kuih Lapis, bread butter pudding and a variety of pudding and jelly, sliced butter cakes and French pastries.

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Burmese regime certain to have last word on trailblazing newspaperman
ELIZABETH HUGHES
From: The Australian
March 01, 2011 12:00AM

AUSTRALIAN editor and publisher Ross Dunkley was taken from his grim prison cell to face a local court in Rangoon last Thursday, but the newsroom of the paper he edited for so many years was ticking over almost as usual.

The founder and, until recently, editor-in-chief of The Myanmar Times, Dunkley has already dropped his name from the masthead.

Many of his one-time employees believe he has been savagely set up.

“It’s pretty obvious,” says one editorial staffer, adding that most people on the paper remained loyal to their former boss, who is seen as a trailblazer in a nation where the ruling generals tolerate no dissent and the censors’ scissors are ruthlessly wielded.

Last week’s English-language edition carried an article noting that Myanmar Consolidated Media, the paper’s umbrella company, had appointed Dr Tin Tun Oo as chief executive officer and editor-in-chief of the Burmese-language edition of the paper.

Dr Oo, whose animosity towards Dunkley is widely known, is in the photo accompanying the article. Smiling broadly, he is shaking hands with Australian mining magnate, Bill Clough, one of the paper’s financial backers. Clough, the article noted, was now the editor-in-chief of the Myanmar Times’s English edition. Clough, who has other business interests in Burma, is also grinning. It seems that whatever happens, Dunkley is out of the newspaper game in Burma.

A newspaperman of the old school, and known as a brash operator in one of the most oppressed nations in Asia, Dunkley was arrested and jailed on February 10 because a Burmese prostitute complained he assaulted and drugged her. “A Burmese prostitute would never complain to the police about being assaulted,” the staffer says sceptically. “The police would just lock her up.”

The prostitute, apparently looking petrified, appeared in court on Thursday and tried to withdraw the charges, reportedly saying she was pregnant and could not travel to the hearings. The court decided she could not unilaterally withdraw the charges, and Dunkley was remanded in custody in Rangoon’s notorious Insein prison until the case resumes on Thursday. He was refused bail.

In Rangoon’s foreign circles, the Dunkley drama is the talk of the town. Few believe the case is as simple as it sounds — many speculate on hidden depths of treachery, jealousy, greed and xenophobia. Foreign journalists are not loved by Burma’s brutal military regime, which regularly vilifies the BBC and Voice of America, and routinely refuses journalists visas.

Dunkley’s one-time partner, Dr Oo is known to want full control of Myanmar Consolidated Media, a profitable enterprise that publishes the weekly Myanmar Times in Burmese and English, as well as a couple of other titles — Now! and Crime Journal, and owns what have been described as the best printing presses in town.

It is thought Dunkley’s campaign for a daily newspaper licence has won him few friends, and the irritation of officials was exacerbated when he granted an interview to this newspaper’s magazine and broad access to an Australian documentary crew (who were deported last year after spending a lot of time in the Myanmar Times newsroom).

Visas for foreigners working at the Myanmar Times (including Dunkley) have been held up since last year. Now the paper is down from a peak of seven to only three English-language editors in Rangoon, and one working from Phnom Penh, where a sister newspaper, the Phnom Penh Post, is published.

Dr Oo has assured staff he will work to get the visa problems resolved, but few remain confident about their futures.

The English-language edition has a print run of about 5000 and sells for 1200 kyat (about $1.20), but the Burmese-language edition is likely to be more profitable. This week’s 36-page edition will include six pages of news, four business pages, a property page and a technology page, as well as other sections.

Foreign journalists are not permitted to speak to Burmese officials, but Dunkley regularly pushed the 35 to 40 journalists in the Myanmar Times newsroom to go further with articles.

The paper’s editorial staffer said more than 100 journalists had been trained at the paper, and many had since gone to other publications or to work for the UN or non-government organisations. “It’s a fairly steady turnover,” he said.

Dr Oo had the last word. In a half-page advertisement in last week’s edition, he said articles in foreign and domestic media written about Dunkley amounted to “defamation and slander the good name of Myanmar Consolidated Media”. He went on to give “public notice that the company objects to the publication of such news articles”.

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Focus Taiwan News Channel – Taiwan to help build transitional refuge for turtles in Myanmar
2011/02/28 21:44:44

Taipei, Feb. 28 (CNA) Taiwan has donated US$10,000 to help set up a halfway house for Burmese star tortoises in Myanmar that will promote the conservation of the endangered species, the Taipei Zoo said Monday.

The halfway house, which is scheduled to be built in Bagan in western Myanmar, will be used to help Burmese star tortoises smuggled into or bred in Taiwan make the transition back to their home country, according to the zoo.

The Taipei Zoo and the Council of Agriculture’s Forestry Bureau presented the money to the Turtle Survival Alliance, a global organization dedicated to turtle protection and conservation, at a donation ceremony organized by the zoo Monday.

According to the zoo, the habitats of the tortoises in the wild in Myanmar have been destroyed due to agricultural development.

Because of their star pattern shells, the tortoises have also become popular pets and victims of rampant poaching in the Southeast Asian country, it said.

Zoo officials said they are currently raising 14 healthy adult Burmese star tortoises, some of which were smuggled into the country, found and sent to the zoo to be cared for seven years ago.

The zoo also became the first in the world in 2003 to artificially breed a Burmese star tortoise.

Officials said they plan to select suitable tortoises and send them back to Myanmar in the future.

The Burmese star tortoise was listed as one of the five most endangered freshwater and land turtles and the second most endangered land turtle in the world in 2007, the zoo said.

Taipei Zoo Director Jason Yeh said the zoo took a close look at the conservation work being done in the area last year and decided to build the halfway house in the Lawkananda Wildlife Sanctuary in Bagan.

The tortoises, mostly herbivorous, enjoy living in warm and dry areas and can grow up to 12 inches.

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02/28/2011 17:53
NEPAL
AsiaNews.it – Buddhists and Christians pray together for religious freedom in places where Buddha lived
A two-day prayer gathering was held on 24-25 February. The event is set to go on the road to an additional 50 nations, including Myanmar, where slogans will be changed for security reasons.
by Kalpit Parajuli

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Hundreds of Buddhist religious leaders from around the world met in Nepal last Thursday and Friday. They were joined by Christian and Hindu religious leaders. The purpose of the event was to pray together for peace and greater religious freedom for minorities.

The two-day meeting began at the Buddhist temple in Bauddhanath (Kathmandu) and ended in Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautama Buddha. Organised by the Buddhist World Peace Association, the initiative will go on the road to Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, South Korea and other predominantly Buddhist nations. It will also travel to an additional 50 nations.

According to Kenseng Lama, one of the organiser of the Nepali event, the prayer meeting is meant to counter rising conflicts and the repression of religious minorities.

The initiative will be taken to countries where religious freedom is violated, like Myanmar. Slogans will change in such locations to avoid friction with the authorities.

“We Nepalis prayed to see the right to freedom of religion enshrined in a new constitution,” Lama said.

A number of Christian religious leaders, both Catholic and Protestant, joined Buddhist religious leaders in prayer vigils.

“We support the event,” said Binod Thapa, a Protestant leader, “because like Buddhists we want more religious freedom.”

“Under the new government, minority rights and the separation between state and religion are among the new founding principles of the new constitution,” he noted. Yet, Christians in
Kathmandu and other Nepali cities still do not have a place to bury their dead, and are still threatened by Hindu extremists.

Nepal became a secular state in 2006 after centuries of rule by an absolute Hindu monarchy. Religious minorities, especially Christians and Muslims, have only recently gained the right to build their own places of worship and conduct religious functions in public.

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Agra-Net – Myanmar hopes to meet stringent rules to sell fishmeal to China
Monday February 28 2011

IN a bid to get permission to export fishmeal to China, Myanmar’s Department of Fisheries is planning to provide quality control training to producers.

“Starting from January 1, China demands Administration of Quality Supervision Inspecting and Quarantine approval for Myanmar’s fishmeal exporters. The department is planning to give quality control training to producers to prepare for the approval process,” said U Khin Ko Lay, director general of the DOF.

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The Irrawaddy – Burma Arrests Two Foreigners for Spying: Sources
By WAI MOE Monday, February 28, 2011

Two foreigners working as volunteers at a private school in Rangoon run by a prominent local businessman have reportedly been arrested on suspicion of being CIA agents, according to official sources in Burma’s former capital.

Sources from Military Affairs Security (MAS), the Burmese regime’s military intelligence agency, said that the two foreigners were arrested in the third week of February. No further details about their identities or nationalities were available.

The MAS sources said that the pair worked as volunteer teachers at a school run by Dr Sai San Tun, the owner of the Alpine Drinking Water Company and the Yadanarbon Soccer Club.

When contacted by The Irrawaddy on Monday, Alpine Drinking Water’s head office in Rangoon declined to comment on the case. The US embassy in Rangoon was also not available for immediate response.

Foreigners working in Burma, including diplomatic staff and aid workers, are viewed with suspicion by the Burmese authorities, who maintain strict surveillance of their activities in the country.

Since a crackdown on protesting Buddhist monks in 2007, the regime has stepped up its efforts to keep an eye on foreigners. Foreign NGO workers traveling outside of the cities for field research report that they are routinely followed by government agents.

In December 2009, a female teacher with the American Center in Rangoon was deported from Burma after she gave a talk on environmental issues to members of the opposition National League for Democracy in Mandalay, the second largest city in Burma.

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The Irrawaddy – UNSC Resolution on Libya Sends a Message to Other Regimes
By LALIT K JHA Monday, February 28, 2011

WASHINGTON—The unprecedented unity shown by the powerful 15-member United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in passing a strong resolution against Libyan leader Muammar Al-Gaddafi, including a travel ban and asset freeze, also sends a tough warning to other hardline regimes, including Burma’s military junta.

The resolution, passed unanimously late Saturday night after hours of debate, sends a strong message that the international community will no longer tolerate regimes across the globe that kill their own citizens or commit gross human rights violations to hold onto power.

“It is obvious that this referral is going well beyond Libya,” France’s ambassador to the UN, Gerard Araud, told reporters Saturday night following a decision by the UNSC to refer Gaddafi and his cronies to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged crimes against humanity.

Despite their initial reservations on this issue, China and India both finally agreed to go along with the rest of the Security Council in passing the resolution. This is particularly notable in the case of China, which in the past has used its veto power to block moves by Western countries led by France to invoke the “responsibility to protect” principle in the case of Burma.

This will make it more difficult in the future for China to block strong international action against the Burmese regime, as it did following the bloody crackdown on monk-led protests in September 2007 and in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in May 2008, when the junta was accused of dragging its heels in response to the disaster, resulting in thousands of deaths.

The decision to condemn Gaddafi—and the newfound willingness of China and others to recognize the need to take strong action against oppressive regimes—was immediately applauded in Washington.

“The Security Council resolution, which was passed in record time and included countries that are often reluctant to empower the international community to take such actions, sends a strong, unmistakable signal,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters traveling with her on her way to Geneva to attend the meeting of the UN Human Rights Council.

Araud, the French ambassador, went even further in describing the move as a significant break from the past, calling the ICC referral “a warning to all the leaders who could be tempted to use repression against this wind of change, this wind of liberty. We feel it, we felt it in the Security Council chamber, we feel it in the corridors of this organization.”

“There is an earthquake going on, and it has reached New York. I don’t know if there will be a tomorrow. I do hope there will be a tomorrow. I do hope that responsibility to protect, international justice and sanctions against dictators will have a follow-up and that dictators will listen to what is happening even in the usually prudent Security Council,” the French ambassador said.

It is noteworthy that France had moved to invoke the UN’s responsibility to protect option on Burma in response to both the 2007 Saffron Revolution and Cyclone Nargis, but was both times rebuffed by the Chinese. At the time, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner suggested that the UN invoke this collective responsibility to protect the people of Burma.

China was not the only country that balked at the idea of invoking the responsibility to protect, or “R2P,” principle in response to the Burmese junta’s handling of the Nargis relief effort. Although some experts called on the US and UK to join France in taking drastic action to deal with the disaster in Burma, neither country supported the move at the time.

“The United States and Britain should join with the French government and introduce a resolution in the UN Security Council demanding that the Burmese government accept the offers of international relief supplies and personnel, let them enter the country immediately and without interference, and allow the UN to take charge of the humanitarian mission,” wrote Ivo Daalder, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Paul Stares, the director of the Center for Preventive Action at the Council on Foreign Relations, in The New York Times on May 13, 2008.

The Burmese expatriate community had also urged the UN to invoke the R2P principle to save the lives of people stranded in the Irrawaddy delta after Cyclone Nargis devastated the area.

“Now is the time to act. You have helicopters, ships and supplies ready and waiting. Stop waiting for China or the Burmese regime’s approval and send aid now,” wrote Aung Din, the director of the US Campaign for Burma, in a letter addressed to heads of state in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis.

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The Irrawaddy – 84,000 Karens Petition Ban Ki-moon
Monday, February 28, 2011

Some 84,000 Karen people from across the world have signed a petition that is to be handed over to world leaders, including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, calling on them to immediately stop the Burmese regime attacking Karen civilians and commiting human rights abuses against them.

Endorsed by 30 Karen organizations from 15 countries, the first ever worldwide Karen petition will be sent to many world leaders and organizations, including Ban’s office, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. The petition will also be delivered to the governments of Japan, Norway, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Canada among others.

“This is an unprecedented appeal to the United Nations from ordinary villagers in Burma who are facing appalling human rights abuses,” said Zipporah Sein, the general-secretary of the Karen National Union (KNU), an armed Karen resistance group that has been fighting for autonomy for more than six decades.

“The Burmese army has been committing war crimes and crimes against humanity for so long,” she said. “We call on the UN secretary-general to use his power to put pressure on the Burmese regime to stop their military operations and human rights violations in Karen State and other Karen areas.

“We urge Ban Ki-moon to work with concerned governments around the world to secure a nationwide ceasefire, leading to meaningful and inclusive dialogue to achieve genuine national reconciliation and the establishment of a federal Burma that guarantee ethnic equality and human rights,” comcluded the KNU general-secretary.

All signatories of the petition have been affected by Burmese government forces. Many were subjected to abuses including forced labor, looting, extortion, destruction of homes, villages, crops and fields, forced relocation, extrajudicial killings, beatings, torture and the systematic rape of women and children by the Burmese army for decades, according to a statement released by the KNU on Monday.

More than 3,600 villages have been destroyed in eastern Burma in the past 15 years, an average of four every week, according to KNU records.

The KNU statement said that in 2010, in the months leading up to the general election in Burma, 18 civilians in KNU-controlled areas were killed, 38 civilians were tortured and beaten, 52 civilians were arrested without reason, 2,336 civilians were used as forced labor, 198 homes, schools and churches were destroyed, 146 fields and orchards were destroyed and more than 3,000 civilians were forced to flee and hide in the jungle

It also said that November’s general election did not represent any kind of progress toward democratization, national reconciliation or peace and stability in Burma, and will not solve the fundamental problems, which are a lack of ethnic equality and human rights.

The statement went on to say that the constitution that the elections brought in was only designed to enshrine military rule without granting any ethnic rights or protection, and that it “is a serious threat to ethnic minorities in Burma.”

One day after the election, a serious clash between the Burmese army and a splinter group of Karen rebels, Democratic Karen Buddhist Army Brigade 5, broke out at the Thai-Burmese border that caused more than 20,000 Burmese refugee to flee to Thai soil. The conflict is continuing and there are still some 10,000 Karen refugees stranded on the border.

Last week, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Tomás Ojea Quintana, criticized the Burmese junta over its human rights violations. He said that Burma “is burdening other countries in the region, with an influx of refugees fleeing a host of abuses from forced labor and land confiscation to arbitrary detention and sexual violence.”

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Parliament Silent on Amnesty Proposals
By SAI ZOM HSENG Monday, February 28, 2011

There is not yet any sign that Burma’s new Parliament will act on proposals submitted by minority political parties for the release of the country’s more than 2,100 political prisoners and the grant of amnesty to those living in exile, according to Khin Maung Swe, a leader of the National Democratic Force (NDF) who was formerly a member of the Central Executive Committee of the National League for Democracy (NLD).

“We submitted a proposal within the framework of the 2008 Constitution and we can’t say whether the new Parliament will reject our proposal or not,” Khin Maung Swe told The Irrawaddy on Monday.

The NDF proposal was submitted when Parliament first began meeting in early February, he said.

Another proposal was submitted in early February to the speaker of the Upper House (Amyotha Hluttaw) by independent MP Thein Nyunt. The proposal has two parts: part one would grant general amnesty to the Burmese in exile who left the country for any reason; part two would release all political prisoners and detainees.

There is a rumor spreading among the MPs in Naypyidaw that the parliament will reject the proposal, but U Thu Wai, the chairman of Democratic Party (Myanmar), said that it is traditional for a new government to release political prisoners.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Monday, U Thu Wai said, “If the new government will provide an amnesty as we called for, they will get more honor among the international community.”

After the military coup in 1962, Gen Ne Win’s government provided amnesty for the opposition parties and the people living in exile. In addition, an amnesty law was approved in 1980 that included political prisoners, U Thu Wai said.

“We called for an amnesty for people who are also citizens of other countries,” U Thu Wai said. “I had been in exile and was included in the amnesty of Ne Win’s government.”

About four million Burmese people are currently living in exile, according to U Thu Wai.

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Regional stability and Burma’s human rights situation
Monday, 28 February 2011 17:11
Thea Forbes

(Mizzima) – The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, said last week that Burma’s lack of human rights is placing a heavy burden on regional neighbours who must deal with refugees.

Speaking from Malaysia, Quintana told that despite the Burmese government’s  promises to improve its record on human rights abuses, the situation in the country is still grave.

Southeast Asian countries that play host to Burmese refugees have an interest in encouraging the military government to improve its human rights situation, he said.

In March, Quintana submitted a report to the UN Human Rights Council stating that Burma’s government exercised a  pattern of “gross and systematic” human rights abuses that indicate they have become state policy. The report led to calls to create a UN commission of Inquiry (CoI) to investigate alleged war crimes and human rights violations in Burma.

So far, several international governments have come out in support of a CoI, including the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. So far, no country in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has spoken in favour of a CoI.

Aung Myo Min, the director of the Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB) based in Thailand, told Mizzima, ‘The situation of refugees is no longer solely a matter of internal affairs, but an international one that concerns the entire region.’

He said Asean countries should support a CoI because it is in their interests ‘to have a peaceful and healthy Asean region’, and a CoI is ‘a way to solve the root cause of the refugee influx.’

Thailand had suffered the greatest burden of Burmese refugees, but  there is also a growing number of Burmese who are seeking refuge in Malaysia and Indonesia, he said.

Aung Myo Min said Asean’s recent initiative in the Thailand-Cambodia border dispute, sets a good example.

‘They [Asean] should take a more active role in approaching the problem of refugees which reflects the situation of human rights abuses in Burma,’ he said.

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Fighting intensifies between the regime and Shan
Monday, 28 February 2011 12:34
Jai Wan Mai

(Mizzima) – Two armed clashes took place between the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) and Burmese troops along the Burmese-Thai border last week in the area of Mong Tone Township, part of a strategy to drive a wedge between the SSA-S and the United Wa State Army (UWSA), observers say.

During the last four months, the SSA-S and Burmese troops have engaged in 11 clashes, according to sources. The regime lost 14 soldiers and 13 were wounded, sources said.

The SSA-S lost one soldier and two were wounded, sources said. Casualties in the most recent clashes were unknown.

On February 23, SSA-S troops ambushed a unit of the Burmese army near Mong Tone Township. On February 25, the SSA carried out an ambush on Burmese soldiers near Ho Nam Taw village in Mong Hta, a sub-township of Mong Tone Township.

According to an SSA-S official who asked not to named, the fight lasted about 35 minutes and 30 Burmese soldiers were trapped on a mountain besieged by the Shan troops.

Sources said the Burmese regime dispatched around 200 troops from Mong Taw and Na Kong Mu to the area in order to rescue the soldiers.

A military analyst said the reason for the increased fighting in the area, is that, ‘Strategically, the regime aims to cut off the communication line between the southern and northern United Wa State Army as well as the SSA-S by building a town, because the regime is aware that the UWSA could shift sides with the SSA-S, if the regime makes any offensive on the group.’

Reportedly, around 300 UWSA fighters are believed to be stationed at Hai Long (a base to the UWSA that borders with Loi Tai Leng, the headquarters of the SSA-S).

According to a local resident in Pong Pa Kem in Mong Tone Township, ‘The reason behind the fighting is because the Burmese want to transform Mong Hta sub-township into a township.’

A source in Mong Tone said, ‘The SSA is against the plan for creating the new town. However, the Burmese regime has put in place about 200 Burmese civilians together with 19 police officers to settle the area. The SSA has been carrying out many hit and run ambushes.’

He said the Burmese regime promised the Burman civilians that they could do any business they wanted and the regime would support their business for five years without tax.

Residents say they fear the area could become a hub for drug traffickers who do business through Thailand.

According to a local source, around 30 government staff in the Health and Education Department have fled from Mong Hta following several shootings in the town, because they don’t want to be targeted by armed groups or be accused ‘of being regime spies.’

The SSA-S is led by Lt. Gen Yawd Serk. Currently, it is the only Shan armed opposition group openly fighting against the Burmese regime, and it is the strongest army among the non-ceasefire groups.

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Upper, Lower houses prepare for regular business
Monday, 28 February 2011
12:59 Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burmese lawmakers will begin the business of organizing the new Parliament’s separate houses on Tuesday, establishing committees, preparing to introduce bills and submitting proposals, according to lawmakers.

For the past two weeks, members of Parliament have been engaged in the formation of new government ministries and approving ministers and constitutional bodies. Parliament will be in recess on Monday.

Each house will create committees on bills, the budget, on rights of assembly, and oversight committees on guarantees, agreements and treaties, in accord with Parliament’s laws and bylaws.

The speakers of the two houses will decide the number of  committee members and nominate chairmen, secretaries and members to their respective bodies.

Parliamentary rules say that an MP can not be a member of more than two parliamentary committees, and the respective houses shall specify the duties, powers and rights of the committees.

In order to raise questions, to submit proposals or to submit bills, MPs must first go through the responsible committees, according to an MP.

An MP in the Upper House said that on Friday Speaker Aung Khin Myint instructed MPs to use formal language in the official proceedings.

If an MP wishes to bring a matter before a house, they must inform the deputy director general of the respective Parliament office at least 10 days prior to raising the question; 15 days before submitting a proposal; and 30 days before submitting a bill.

The requirement is designed to give MPs who wish to raise objections enough time to collect the required facts, said an MP.

In order for a lawmaker to submit a parliamentary proposal or a bill, he or she must attain a co-sponsor.

In the Lower House, there are 434 MPs. Of those, 258 MPs are from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP); 110 are military-appointed MPs; and are 66 from other parties.

In the Upper House, there are 224 MPs. Of those, 129 are from the USDP; 56 are military-appointed MPs; and 39 from other parties.

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DVB News – Four-year-old killed in Tachilek shootout
By THUREIN SOE
Published: 28 February 2011

A four-year-old boy was among the victims of a gun battle that broke out between a local militia chief and police in the Shan border town of Tachilek on Friday last week.

Residents of the town’s Lwankyine ward say the incident was likely drug-related, although police have refused to comment. The man believed to be behind the shootings, Sai Noon, was the leader of a local militia who had visited the child’s house and taken him hostage.

“Around 5.15pm [on Friday], U Sai Noon, apparently a leader of the Wan Kyauk militia, went into a Shan house and snatched a four-year-old kid,” said a Lwankyine resident, speaking to DVB on condition of anonymity.

“He wanted to kill the child’s father, and took off [with the boy]. He was encountered by policemen at a [guard post] at the ward’s exit, and they exchanged fire.”

Sai Noon, 53, was also killed, along with a bystander, Khin Maung Win, who was hit in the stomach as he took his trishaw for repair nearby.

“[Khin Maung Win] died on the spot when he was hit twice in the stomach. [Sai Noon] died in his car with a bullet in his head.”

The child’s body was also found in the car, but it is not clear whether he was killed as police opened fire on the vehicle or whether at the hands of Sai Noon. The police recovered two M-16 assault rifles and two pistols from the car.

Tachilek locals claim that Sai Noon was a regular visitor to the child’s house and that the incident was likely linked to the border town’s lucrative drugs trade.

A significant proportion of Burma’s drug output produced in Shan state is transported through Tachilek and into Thailand. In September 2009, around five million methamphetamine pills, or yaba, were discovered in a cave close to the town, while separate raids earlier that year netted $US7.5 million worth of drugs, mainly heroin and methamphetamine.

The shootings follow an incident on Thursday last week in Thailand’s Mae Sai, which lies across the border from Tachilek, in which two Burmese men suspected of smuggling motorbikes were killed by police.

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DVB News – Jailed activist ‘signs empty paper’
By MIN LWIN
Published: 28 February 2011

An activist serving a 58-year sentence in Rangoon’s Insein prison has been allegedly forced into making a confession that resulted in an additional decade being tacked onto his jail term.

Kyaw Zwa Linn, 25, a member of the banned All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF), has been held in prison since September 2008 after being convicted on a raft of charges, including possession of explosives. His family only learnt of the additional sentencing after word was passed from a source visiting a fellow political inmate in Insein prison last week.

“Kyaw Zwa Linn was forced to give his fingerprint on an empty paper,” the man said. “This is worrying for political prisoners’ security – they don’t know what [the authorities] will do next with those [fingerprints].”

It is not clear however what confession he is alleged to have made, although the charge and 10-year sentence also comes under the Explosives Act and relates to the same incident.

It was two separate explosives charges that originally landed Kyaw Zwa Linn with 18-year and 20-year sentences in 2008, although two years later, and on two more charges, that was brought to a total of 58 years. The recent sentencing means he will not be released until 2076.

Lawyer Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min, who in the past has represented a number of political activists, said that it against Burmese law to give multiple sentences under one accusation, adding also that a signed confession should not carry any significant weight in a Burmese court.

“The law doesn’t give police approval to use a confession with the signature or fingerprint of the defendant against him or her in a trial. Neither are they allowed to use testimony by police officers,” he said, added that the case should be dismissed.

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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.