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BURMA RELATED NEWS – MAY 26, 2011
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Daily Telegraph – Aung San Suu Kyi to test limits of freedom with Burma tour
Monsters and Critics – Myanmar’s opposition politician Win Tin hospitalised
AP – Myanmar president on visit to ally China
Reporters Without Borders  – DVB reporter spends 30th birthday in prison
US News Las Vegas – Myanmar to add boxing in school sports lesson subject
Business Wire – Forecasts & Analysis of Myanmar Oil & Gas Markets
Bernama – House Storing RM2 Million Contraband Cigarettes ‘Smoked Out’ By Police
Bernama – 10,901 Thai, Indonesian Detainees Repatriated This Year
The Economist – Banyan: A double bind
MorungExpress – Burma democracy group wants India’s action
Business Area – Myanmar Get ready for Foreign Investment
Xinhua – Myanmar heading for fifth five-year plan for economic development
San Francisco Chronicle – Chevron CEO John Watson addresses protesters
Times of India – China pushes India to the brink on Myanmar project
Associated Baptist Press – Baptists help victims of Myanmar earthquake
The Huffington Post – The Insein Strikers Need Solidarity
The Irrawaddy – Burma Withdraws Troops from KIA Region
The Irrawaddy – Influential Think Tank Urges Long-Term Commitment
Mizzima News – Burmese political prisoners in Insein Prison protest allowed visitors
Mizzima News – ILO conducts forced labour workshops with Burmese gov’t officials
DVB News – Seven killed after tunnel collapses
DVB News – Shan govt militias ‘aiding opium trade’
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Daily Telegraph – Aung San Suu Kyi to test limits of freedom with Burma tour
Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese democracy leader, is to test the will of the nation’s military-controlled government through a series of public speeches outside Rangoon.
By Julian Ryall 8:59AM BST 26 May 2011

Six months after the government ended her seven-year spell of house arrest, Ms Suu Kyi has made it clear that she intends to go ahead with rallies that will culminate in a visit to Burma’s former capital, Mandalay, The Times quoted a close political ally as saying.

“She told me recently that she has decided, and that she will go to the countryside in one or two months’ time,” Win Tin, a close friend of Ms Suu Kyi and one of the founders of the National League for Democracy, told the Times.

Mr Win, who spent 20 years as a political prisoner, said he had received indications from the government that there was no threat to Ms Suu Kyi’s personal safety, but that clashes between her supporters and the military were possible.

Ms Suu Kyi’s decision to tour the country will be welcomed by her supporters, who have been disappointed at the slow rate of political change in Burma and the NLD’s failure to be more forceful in politics since her release.

Exile groups have been calling for the Nobel Peace Prize winner to “test the waters of her supposed freedom” and to campaign outside the capital, although there are risks attached to this strategy.

The last time that Ms Suu Kyi campaigned outside Rangoon, in 2003, her vehicles were attacked by government-sponsored protestors. She narrowly avoided serious injust herself, but was arrested and ordered to be held under house arrest until last November. In all, she has spent 15 of the last 22 years in detention.

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Monsters and Critics – Myanmar’s opposition politician Win Tin hospitalised
May 26, 2011, 14:28 GMT

Yangon, – Myanmar opposition politician and veteran journalist Win Tin was hospitalised in Yangon due to a liver problem, an opposition source confirmed Thursday.

‘His condition is quite serious’ a member of National League for democracy party led by Aung San Suu said.

He was freed in September 2008 after serving 19 years in prison.

The 82-year old Win Tin had also been fitted with pacemaker for a long time due to poor heart condition.

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Myanmar president on visit to ally China
Myanmar President Thein Sein arrives in Beijing for first state visit since taking office
On Thursday May 26, 2011, 6:32 am EDT

BEIJING (AP) — Myanmar’s president is in Beijing for a state visit and talks with the leaders of one of his isolated government’s closest allies.

Thein Sein (TANE SANE) arrived Thursday afternoon on his first state visit since being appointed president in February. The trip underscores the importance of China to the military-dominated government. Beijing provides the country crucial economic support, military assistance and diplomatic protection at the United Nations.

During the three-day visit, he is due to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao and oversee the signing of economic agreements.

Chinese businesses play a major role in Myanmar’s economy and hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens live in the country.

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Reporters Without Borders  – DVB reporter spends 30th birthday in prison
Published on Thursday 26 May 2011.

Reporters Without Borders reiterates its support for Democratic Voice of Burma’s call for the release of the 17 DVB journalists who are currently jailed in Burma. One of these journalists, Ngwe Soe Lin, is spending his 30th birthday today continung to serve the 13-year sentence he was given for his investigative coverage of children orphaned by Cyclone Nargis.

“We offer our moral support to Ngwe Soe Lin and his relatives during their difficult ordeal and we urge President Thein Sein to go further with the general amnesty he announced on 16 April by extending it to political prisoners, including journalists convicted by the military government,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is the only way to ensure that this political gesture is not seen as a government public relations stunt with no real effect.”

Reporters Without Borders welcomes the recent release of five journalists:

Aung Htun Myint, a freelancer who was released from a prison in the western city of Sittwe on completing a sentence on 12 May. He was arrested for taking photos in Hmawbi, near Rangoon, of the 2008 referendum on the new constitution.

Zaw Tun of News Watch Journal, who was arrested in September 2008 at a police roadblock near opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s home.

Nyan Lin Aung of Beauty Magazine, who was arrested in 2009 for being in contact with two pro-democracy groups – the All Burma Federation of Student Unions and Generation Wave.

Lu Tin Win, a 44-year-old journalist, poet and writer who was released from a prison in the southern city of Myeik on 17 May. He was arrested on 27 September 2007 for supporting the 2007 Saffron Revolution, a peaceful pro-democracy protest movement launched by Buddhist monks. He was also caught in possession of “88-Generation Students,” a book about the 1988 pro-democracy protests.

Thaung Win Bo, a 65-year-old journalist with New Light of Myanmar who was released from a prison in the central town of Tharrawaddy on 17 May. He was jailed for sending articles to his daughter, a Voice of America reporter.

Media censorship meanwhile continues. According to Mizzima News, the authorities banned video recording at a regional government news conference on 17 May, one week after DVB provided video coverage of the preceding news conference.

Many journalists continue to be held in appalling conditions in jails throughout Burma. To draw attention to the problems of Burmese journalists and the importance of the photos and video footage they send to international and exile media as sources of information about the situation inside Burma, Reporters Without Borders, Info Burma and Amnesty International are organizing a screening of the documentary “Free Burma VJ” this evening in Paris.

Nominated for an Oscar, the film uses video footage secretly filmed by DVB reporters to place the spectator at the heart of the Saffron Revolution. The screening will be followed by a debate.

Press release:

The Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) is today celebrating the 30th birthday of Ngwe Soe Lin, a DVB video journalist who will mark the occasion in his cell in Insein prison, Rangoon.

Ngwe Soe Lin was arrested by military intelligence on 26 June 2009 along with a friend in an internet café in Rangoon. After spending several weeks at the Aungthabyay interrogation centre, he was sent to Insein prison. Seven months later, on 27 January 2010, a special military court attached to Insein prison sentenced him to 13 years in prison on charges related to the Electronics and Immigration Acts, which are often used to sentence independent journalists.

Ngwe Soe Lin joined DVB in early 2008 and reported from around the country. He played a vital role in recording the lives of children left orphaned by cyclone Nargis in 2008. His video records were turned into a Channel 4 documentary, ‘Orphans of Burma’s Cyclone’, for which he received the prestigious Rory Peck Award 2009, honouring cameramen working in dangerous environments. He was awarded this whilst in detention.

To mark his birthday and to raise global awareness of the work of these brave video journalists, DVB has organised several screenings around the world of Orphans of Burma’s Cyclone

We firmly believe that his sentencing is wrong, and acknowledge the suffering that his friends, family and colleagues, as well of course as Ngwe Soe Lin himself, have endured. DVB demands that the Burmese government frees him immediately, as well as five other DVB video journalists who are serving lengthy prison sentences for their footage: Hla Hla Win, Win Maw, Sithu Zeya and Maung Maung Zeya. They are a small portion of the 17 DVB journalists behinds bars in Burma – for security reasons we cannot name all of them, but we need your help to free them.

Sign the petition here: www.freeburmavj.org/petition

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US News Las Vegas – Myanmar to add boxing in school sports lesson subject
Posted by admin2 on May 25th, 2011
By PNA / Xinhua and U.S. News Agency / Asian

Myanmar is planning to add boxing as a sports lesson subject in schools, with the help of the Boxing Federation (MBF) and Myanmar Sports and Physical Education Department, according to sports circle Wednesday.

Aimed at developing boxing sports standard in the country, courses for young boxers have been conducted since March.

Under the course, 10-year-old children are set to learn boxing and 15-year-old ones to take part in the international boxing championships.

Altogether 29 players including 9 female boxers are being trained by a Cuban coach, Osmar Marino Rodriguez.

Meanwhile, MBF will launch a new boxing sports stadium in Yangon’s Thuwunna in August in preparation for the hosting of international events in the country.

The sports stadium has been built since last year.

“Once the stadium is completed, all boxing competitions for local and international events can be held there and boxing courses for the new generation will be opened at one place,” the associate secretary of MBF told Xinhua.

The MBF is trying its best to score achievement in the 26th SEA Games to be held in Indonesia in November this year and to achieve success in the 27th SEA Games to be hosted by Myanmar in 2013.

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Research and Markets: The Future of Upstream Myanmar Oil and Gas Markets to 2015
Business Wire – Forecasts & Analysis of Myanmar Oil & Gas Markets
Press Release Source: Research and Markets On Thursday May 26, 2011, 8:17 am EDT

DUBLIN–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/34c7ee/the_future_of_upst) has announced the addition of the “The Future of Upstream Myanmar Oil and Gas Markets to 2015- Forecasts and Analysis of Myanmar Oil Fields, Blocks, Production, Reserves and Companies” company profile to their offering.

The Future of Upstream Myanmar Oil and Gas Markets to 2015- Forecasts and Analysis of Myanmar Oil Fields, Blocks, Production, Reserves and Companies is a complete source of information and analysis on Myanmar exploration and production industry. It provides insights and forecasts of fields, blocks, production and reserves. It also provides country level oil and gas production forecast to 2015.

Major oil and gas producing companies and their strategies are also provided. Planned fields, and key exploration activities are also detailed. The report also updates the major deals and events in the industry from early 2009.

Country Production Forecast to 2015

Field wise Oil and Gas Production

Company wise Oil and Gas Production

Country Upstream Market Structure

Field Details- Operator, Ownership and Commencement

Exploration Block Details

Latest Industry News

Reasons to Purchase:

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Identify the success strategies and financial status of key companies operating in the industry along with their strengths and weaknesses
Key Topics Covered:

1 Table of Contents 1.1 List of Tables 1.2 Lit of Figures

2 Myanmar Crude Oil Production Outlook to 2015 2.1 Myanmar Upstream Industry Snapshots 2.2 Myanmar Crude Oil Production Forecast, 2000-2015 2.3 Myanmar, Field wise Crude Oil Production, 2000-2009 2.4 Myanmar, Company wise Crude Oil Production, 2000-2009

3 Myanmar Natural Gas Production Outlook to 2015 3.1 Myanmar Upstream Industry Snapshots 3.2 Myanmar Natural Gas Production Forecast, 2000-2015 3.3 Myanmar, Field wise Natural Gas Production, 2000-2009 3.4 Myanmar, Company wise Natural Gas Production, 2000-2009

4 Myanmar Oil and Gas Field Details 4.1 Myanmar, Major oil fields- Operator, Equity and Production, 2009 4.2 Myanmar, Major Gas Fields- Operator, Equity and Production, 2009

5 Myanmar Upstream Oil and Gas Market Structure 5.1 Myanmar, Major Crude oil Producers and their Market Shares, 2009 5.2 Myanmar, Major Natural Gas Producers and their Market Shares, 2009

6 Myanmar, Crude Oil and Natural Gas Reserves, 2000-2009

7 Myanmar, Operational and Planned Exploration Details 7.1 Myanmar, Operational and Upcoming Exploration Blocks, 2010

8 Myanmar, Latest Upstream Oil and Gas News Analysis, 2009-2010

9 Appendix
For more information visit http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/34c7ee/the_future_of_upst

Contact:
Research and MarketsLaura Wood, Senior Manager,press@researchandmarkets.comU.S. Fax: 646-607-1907Fax (outside U.S.): +353-1-481-1716

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May 26, 2011 22:02 PM
House Storing RM2 Million Contraband Cigarettes ‘Smoked Out’ By Police

JOHOR BAHARU, May 26 (Bernama) — The Johor police have ‘smoked out’ a double-storey house in Taman Sutera here which was used over the past nine years as a warehouse for contraband cigarettes.

A police team seized an assortment of cigarettes worth about RM2 million when it raided the house in Jalan Sutera Kuning early Thursday.

At the time of the 2.30am raid, the cigarettes, initial investigations revealed, were awaiting international distribution.

The police arrested seven men, including five Myanmars, to facilitate investigations into the seizure.

The raid was a joint effort of personnel from the Taman Perling police station and Marine Operations Force.

Johor Baharu (north) police chief Assistant Commissioner Ruslan Hassan said the Myanmars and the locals, in their 20s and 30s, were caught napping at the time of the raid.

“At the time of our raid, the 3.5 million sticks of cigarettes were awaiting distribution overseas.

“We believe that a syndicate had used the house since 2002 as a warehouse for contraband cigarettes,” he said, adding that the Myanmars were illegal immigrants.

Ruslan said, apart from the cigarette seizure, the raiding party also seized 12 bottles of liquour, believed to be contraband, from the house.

He said the cigarettes and liquour would be handed over to the state customs department for further investigations.

The police chief said the Myanmars would be investigated under Section 6(2) of the Immigration Act 1963 whilst the locals would face charges under Section 56 of the same act for harbouring illegals.

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May 26, 2011 18:48 PM
10,901 Thai, Indonesian Detainees Repatriated This Year

BUKIT KAYU HITAM, May 26 (Bernama) — Immigration detainees numbering 10,901 from Thailand and Indonesia have been repatriated to their respective countries since January this year until Tuesday this week through an amnesty programme for those involved in minor crimes.

Home Ministry deputy secretary-general Datuk Raja Azahar Raja Abdul Manap said most of those repatriated were from Indonesia.

“There are still about 4,500 detainees at 13 detention depots in the country, with 600 of them from Myanmar,” he said after a repatriation exercise for Thai illegals, here, Thursday.

“We have problems with regard to Myanmar detainees as their government does not want to issue travel documents so that they can be sent back after being interviewed.”

Raja Azahar said there were detainees who had been at the depots for up to a year while the actual duration allowed was three months.

“Within three months we have to complete all matters, namely detention, prosecution (if there is), release and repatriation, but many of them have been under detention for more than three months.

“The longer they are at the detention depots, the bigger will be the financial loss for the government.”

He said the government also had problems repatriating Immigration detainees from countries far away like Nigeria as they should not be in transit. Hence, this effort requires full cooperation from the governments of these countries.

On Thursday, the Immigration Department repatriated 64 Thai illegals to their country under an amnesty programme in conjunction with the birthday of Queen Sirikit.

This is an annual programme by the department, with 710 Thai illegals repatriated in 2009 and 2010.

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The Economist – Banyan: A double bind
Western sanctions on Myanmar are failing. But the regime does not deserve their lifting
May 26th 2011

THE party’s scarlet fighting-peacock flag flies again over the dilapidated Yangon headquarters of the National League for Democracy (NLD), Myanmar’s main opposition. This week the building housed a fund-raising art exhibition, featuring photographs of monks, pagodas and landscapes, as well as of Aung San Suu Kyi, the movement’s leader, free since November from house arrest. When she arrived to open the exhibition, it was to a dazzle of flash photography and the crush of an adoring throng.

Elsewhere, in a cramped suburban house, under a huge picture of Miss Suu Kyi, two dozen young people listen attentively to a lecture on their civic responsibilities. This is a short-term boarding school for opposition activists, run by the Bayda Institute, an NGO. Far from hiding its work, Bayda’s organisers positively welcome the increased scrutiny that foreign attention might bring.

For those looking for chinks of light in the gloom of Burmese political repression, these are cheering scenes. Some even hope for an end to the logjam in relations with the West, in which Western sanctions have further isolated a regime that has rarely sought engagement anyway. But in April the European Union’s “restrictive measures” were renewed for a year. And on May 20th, as Joseph Yun, a senior State Department official, was ending a visit to Myanmar seeking “common ground” with the new government, Barack Obama also extended American sanctions that are much more sweeping.

The move was understandable. The glimpses of tolerance for an active, vibrant opposition are largely illusory. The NLD, which boycotted the rigged election held in November, is in theory illegal. The notionally civilian regime now in power seems indistinguishable from the one in uniform it supplanted. Its newspapers still carry the same turgid slogans about a “discipline-flourishing democracy”. Parliament, meeting in a megalomaniacal complex in the remote new capital, Naypyidaw, has finished its first session with no date set for the next. The first saw some difficult questions asked of the government. But they were neither answered nor much reported in the press.

An “amnesty” from the new government, eagerly awaited by political prisoners, some of whom are serving sentences longer than 60 years, turned out, when it was revealed on May 17th, to be a cruel hoax for most. Officially, the government denies it holds any political prisoners, and its generosity entailed a blanket one-year reduction of sentences for all jailed criminals. At least 2,200 Burmese are in prison for their political beliefs.

A new crackdown on the NLD and its leader could come at any time. That it has not already is in part a measure of Miss Suu Kyi’s non-confrontational restraint since she was freed. However, she says that in a month or so she will start travelling beyond Yangon. In previous brief periods of “freedom” during her 23-year campaign for democracy, such expeditions have been enough to have her locked up again.

So it is hard to justify lifting sanctions, even though many foreigners now dealing with Myanmar, and many opposition activists in Myanmar itself, argue they are at best ineffective and probably counterproductive. Their original aim—to persuade the junta to honour the result of an election in 1990 that the NLD won in a landslide—now seems ancient history.

Western squeamishness has not stopped the regime enriching itself with sales of gas to Thailand, or from opening the country to fast-growing Chinese trade and investment. Some
Burmese joke bitterly their country has become the “Chinese Republic of the Union of Myanmar”.

Europe and America, meanwhile, have seen their visibility and influence in Myanmar dwindle. Some activists in Yangon even argue that Western sanctions actually make it harder for the government to make concessions, such as freeing prisoners of conscience. It cannot be seen to be bending to foreign pressure.

So long as Western governments for their part cannot be seen to be rewarding “reforms” that are largely cosmetic, there is stalemate. Miss Suu Kyi could help break it. Her unambiguous support for the end of sanctions would remove most of the political obstacles. But she, too, is in a bind. Not only can she not appear to abandon the political prisoners. But also, with her party illegal and her freedom subject to the whims of the regime, her international sway on the issue of sanctions is one of the few bargaining chips she has left.
Legitimate questions

And so the NLD has confined itself to calling for a “review” of sanctions, arguing that most harm the regime, not the Burmese people. Indeed, the measures vary greatly. America bans all fresh investment in the country, has frozen the assets of some officials and votes against loans to Myanmar in international financial institutions—one reason Myanmar receives much less aid per head of population than do, for example, Laos and Cambodia. The EU imposes an arms embargo, a visa ban on some senior officials (whose assets in the EU are also frozen) and refuses non-humanitarian aid. But Europeans are barred from investing in or importing only gems, timber and minerals.

Some of these restrictions, such as the visa ban and the arms embargo, can hardly be accused of harming the Burmese people. And even without sanctions there would be huge obstacles to Western investment: consumer boycotts, reputational risk, an unconvertible currency and an arbitrary legal framework. So a calibrated approach to lifting sanctions seems sensible. But it has to begin somewhere and, to happen at all, has to come before the next bout of repression. This week Miss Suu Kyi said she thought the regime’s leaders would now be more reluctant to crack down than in the past because “they have a lot more to lose; they are trying to establish their legitimacy.” But sooner or later, they may realise that, in the eyes of much of the outside world, as well as of their own people, they are never going to achieve that.

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MorungExpress – Burma democracy group wants India’s action

Dimapur, May 25 (MExN): An organization working for Human Rights in Myanmar, Burma Centre Delhi, on May 24 submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh to advocate restoration of peace, justice and Human Rights in Myanmar (Burma) and in the region.

“The people of Burma need a world’s largest democracy like India to advocate for stability and peace, fraternity and justice in the region,” the memorandum stated. The PM is also asked to ‘engage’ the Burmese government and Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic groups. The failure to address the legitimate rights and aspirations of Burma’s ethnic groups is a root cause of instability and dictatorship in the country, the BCD stated. “As we stand for peace, justice and Human Rights for Burma, we anticipate your kind response and prompt action in the above mentioned petition,” the organization added.

The organization made statements on recent historic political events in the military-ruled country such as the 2008 Nargis Constitution, November 2010 Elections, release of Burmese democracy movement leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, convention of Nay Pyi Taw Parliament and demolition of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and installation of the New Regime “the military controlled civilian uniform type.”  “Though from various sources inside and outside Burma it has been reported that the country is changing, but in reality that exactly is not happening in the so-called democratic set-up,” the BCD said in a statement today.

The Government of India is also requested to allow UNHCR to establish an office in Mizoram or elsewhere in the India’s northeast region, proper impact assessment of all development projects; ensure all future Indian investments in Burma are free and fair; support the Burmese peoples’ struggle for democracy and applying the principle of “non- refoulment.”

A resolution was adopted during a consultation on ‘regime change in Burma: Post 2010 Elections and its Consequences.’ The event was held on May 6, 2010 in Mizoram between democracy and Human Rights advocates, activists, civil society organizations and journalists from Northeast India with its main efforts to come together to discuss for development and restoration of peace and democracy in the region.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011
Business Area – Myanmar Get ready for Foreign Investment

Within the next five years until 2016, Myanmar prepare to welcome foreign investment. According to Xinhua notes on Thursday (26/05/2011), Government of Myanmar’s economic growth target set at the rate 10.5 percent since the beginning of the fiscal year period beginning in April 2011. Until March 2011, Myanmar has poured funds 36.05 billion U.S. dollars to suck foreign investment. In 1988, Myanmar was adopted market-oriented economic policy.

Now there are 31 countries and regions that invest in Myanmar. China, including Hong Kong, led by an investment of 15.5 billion U.S. dollars. In second place is Thailand with a value of 9.56 billion U.S. dollars. Furthermore, South Korea (2.915 billion U.S. dollars), Britain (2.695 billion U.S. dollars), and Singapore (1.818 billion U.S. dollars).

The sectors are the target of foreign investment is the electrical energy to the position of 14.5 billion U.S. dollars of investment, oil and gas (13.8 billion U.S. dollars), mining (2.8 billion U.S. dollars), manufacturing (1.7 billion U.S. dollars), as well as hotel and tourism (1 billion U.S. dollars).

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Myanmar heading for fifth five-year plan for economic development
English.news.cn 2011-05-26 11:15:17
by Feng Yingqiu

YANGON, May 26 (Xinhua) — Myanmar is heading for its fifth five-year plan (2011-12 to 2015-16) for national economic development, setting an annual target of 10.5-percent economic growth for the fiscal year 2011-12 starting in April.

FOREIGN INVESTMENT

According to Myanmar official statistics, Myanmar had drawn a total of 36.05 billion U.S. dollars of foreign investment up to March this year since late 1988 when Myanmar started to adopt a market-oriented economic policy.

Of the total foreign investment coming from 31 countries and regions, China (including Hong Kong) was leading with 15.5 billion dollars, followed by Thailand with 9.56 billion dollars, South Korea 2.915 billion dollars, Britain 2.659 billion dollars and Singapore 1.818 billion dollars.

Sectorwise investment as of the date was shown as 14.5 billion dollars in electric power, 13.8 billion dollars in oil and gas, 2. 8 billion dollars in mining, 1.7 billion dollars in manufacturing and 1 billion dollars in hotels and tourism.

Markedly in the single year of 2010-11, Myanmar drew over 20 billion USD’s foreign investment, registering a huge figure of foreign investment which is more than that absorbed over the past two decades.

Of the investment during the year, Chinese mainland led with 7.75 billion dollars, followed by Thailand with 2.14 billion dollars, China’s Hong Kong with 5.79 billion dollars, South Korea with 2.67 billion dollars, Britain with 799 million dollars and Singapore with 226 million dollars.

Of the investment sectorwise, oil and gas received 10.17 billion dollars, electric power 8.218 billion dollars, mining 1. 396 billion dollars and manufacturing 66.32 million dollars.

FOREIGN TRADE

In the foreign trade sector, it went up to 15 billion U.S. dollars in 2010-11 from 11.8 billion dollars in 2009-10. The exports accounted for 8.864 billion dollars, up over 1 billion dollars from the previous year. The export earned most with the sectors of oil and gas, agricultural produces such as rice and beans, gems and marine products.

Countrywise speaking, Thailand stood the first in Myanmar’s exports destinations with 2.905 billion dollars, followed by China (1.204 billion dollars), India (871.93 million dollars), Singapore (457 million dollars) , Malaysia (437.82 million dollars), Japan ( 238.12 million dollars) and South Korea (149.28 million dollars).

As for border trade, Thailand also represented Myanmar’s biggest exports destination with 2.9 billion dollars, followed by China (1.2 billion dollars) and India (870 million dollars).
Countrywise speaking with the foreign trade sector, it is dominated by Thailand, followed by China, India and Bangladesh.

MORE COOPERATION WITH FOREIGN COMPANIES IN OIL AND GAS SECTOR

Myanmar has vowed to continue to carry out many special projects left behind by the previous government.

The government’s special project implementation committee, chaired by President U Thein Sein, is focusing on oil and gas sector, working out guidelines to cooperate more with foreign companies in oil and gas exploration and production in different regions of the country.

More contracts are being initiated with related companies from China, Singapore and South Korea for oil and gas exploration and production as well as mining.

According to official statistics, foreign investment in Myanmar ‘s oil and gas has hit 13.5 billion U.S. dollars as of the end of 2010 since the country opened to such investment in late 1988.

Leading in foreign investment line-up sectorally, the oil and gas sector is followed by electric power with 11.341 billion, mining 2.395 billion, manufacturing 1.663 billion, hotels and tourism 1.064 billion and agriculture 96.351 million.

The country’s gas export in 2009-10 amounted to 8.29 billion cubic meters, standing as the second largest gas exporter in Asia- Pacific region.

According to the geological condition, Myanmar has 14 geological valleys in the onshore regions, among which the state- run Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise has conducted surveys in the central region, Pyay and Delta regions.

It was revealed that there remains many more promising regions for exploitation of oil and gas in the country.

INDUSTRIAL ZONES AND SPECIAL ECONOMIC ZONES

Besides the over 600 state-owned factories, there is a total of 18 private-operated industrial zones across the country.

Myanmar’s industrial sector contributes about 20 percent to the gross domestic product and private sector’s contribution to the industrial sector stood 92.36 percent, statistics show.

In the latest development, Myanmar has laid down programs for the development of special economic zone (SEZ) as a follow-up of the promulgation of the SEZ law in January this year to attrcat increased foreign inevstment into the country for national economic development.

The SEZ is demarcated as high-tech industrial zones, information and telecommunication technology zones, export processing zones, port area zones, logistics and transportation zones, scientific and technological research and development zone.

Under the SEZ project, Myanmar and Thailand are cooperating in building the Dawei deep sea-port, industrial zone and road and rail link to Thailand in southern Tanintharyi region following the signing of a framework agreement on the deep seaport and its related infrastructure.

The project, which costs 13 billion U.S dollars, includes construction of the Dawei Deep Seaport, buildings for shipyard and maintenance work, establishment of zone, petrochemical industries, oil refinery, steel plant, power stations and Dawei-Bangkok motor road and railroad and laying of oil pipeline along the motorway and railroad, according to the framework agreement.

Moreover, China’s CITIC Group and Myanmar also signed a supplementary contract to a memorandum of understanding on the Kyaukphyu economic and technical development zone and related port and railroad development projects.

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San Francisco Chronicle – Chevron CEO John Watson addresses protesters
David R. Baker, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, May 26, 2011

With protesters chanting outside, Chevron Corp. Chief Executive Officer John Watson on Wednesday told the oil company’s critics at its annual shareholders’ meeting that he shared many of their ideals.

But their view of the company, he insisted, was dead wrong.

In a two-hour meeting that touched on controversies from California to the Philippines, Watson faced activists who repeatedly accused the company of polluting the environment and collaborating with repressive regimes.

Chevron’s shareholder meetings often feature critics who fly in from around the globe to confront the oil company over its practices. Five people were arrested at last year’s meeting in Houston.

This year’s meeting, held under tight security at Chevron’s San Ramon headquarters, brought no arrests and, for the most part, remained civil. Throughout, Watson told many critics that he agreed with them – to a point.

He told a woman from Nigeria that Chevron was working in her country to reduce gas flaring – which pollutes the air – although progress had been slower than the company wanted.

He told a minister from Richmond that flares at Chevron’s refinery there had been cut “to virtually zero” in recent years.

When a member of a native tribe in Alberta, Canada, said the oil sands projects there are killing the boreal forest and his people’s way of life, Watson said the projects would follow every environmental standard set by Canada’s government, and those standards would protect the environment. The speaker disagreed, calling Chevron’s actions “cultural genocide.”

Conflict on Ecuador

While Watson’s tone was often conciliatory, he gave no ground on the most contentious issues surrounding Chevron.

Several speakers, for example, urged the company to settle a closely watched lawsuit over oil-field contamination in Ecuador. An Ecuadoran judge in February fined Chevron $9.5 billion in the suit, an amount that could jump to $18 billion if the company doesn’t apologize for the pollution.

Chevron has appealed and is trying to prove that the verdict was the result of judicial misconduct and government interference.

“I want to remind you that our fight in Ecuador is for life and justice,” Humberto Piaguaje, a resident of Ecuador’s oil patch, told Watson and the shareholders. “You must own up to your responsibility to the people in the Amazon.”

Watson blamed the pollution there on the state-owned oil company, Petroecuador. Texaco worked as Petroecuador’s partner in the region from 1964 to 1992, and agreed to clean up a portion of the oil fields at the end of their partnership. Chevron bought Texaco in 2001.

“Through the lawsuit, the government, Petroecuador and the lawyers are trying to shift Petroecuador’s responsibility onto Chevron,” Watson said.

Later in the meeting, he told another speaker, whose organization is involved in the lawsuit, “You know very well, personally, that we’re being victimized by the plaintiffs’ lawyers.”

Project in Burma

In one of the more interesting exchanges, Watson defended the company’s investment in Burma, formally known as Myanmar.

Chevron owns a minority stake in the country’s Yadana natural gas field and pipeline, and critics have long complained that the project serves as a financial lifeline for the country’s military, internationally shunned over its human rights record. The company has often countered that Chevron helps the Burmese people by funding local health and education programs and providing jobs.

“Our business is a very long-term business,” Watson said, noting that some of their projects and facilities last 50 years or more. “Over that period of time, you’re going to see governments ebb and flow.”

Chevron, he said, would be “a force for good, even if a government where we operate doesn’t live up to everyone’s high standards.”

On shareholder proposals, owners of Chevron stock voted with the company’s recommendations, rejecting proposals to elect a board member with a strong environmental background, link executive pay to environmental sustainability and report on the financial risks of climate change.

A proposal to report on the environmental risks of “fracking” – a controversial process for extracting natural gas from rock – also failed, but garnered nearly 41 percent of shareholder votes, according to preliminary results.

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Times of India – China pushes India to the brink on Myanmar project
Sanjay Dutta, TNN | May 26, 2011, 02.49am IST

NEW DELHI: Fed up with Myanmar government’s inflexibility under Chinese influence and ‘sarkari’ attitude of state-run hydel utility NHPC, India’s ambassador has suggested that exiting a strategic initiative to deepen New Delhi’s influence in the region — the 1,200 mw Tamanthi hydel project — may be the best option to save India’s image.

The plan for the Tamanthi and 600 mw Shwazaye projects was drawn up in 2006 under a 2004 cooperation agreement between the two countries. Both the projects were to be built on Chinwin river for supplying power to Myanmar and bordering states in India’s north-east to kickstart economic development in the region.

In a letter to foreign secretary Nirupama Rao, ambassador V S Seshadri has suggested a rethink on continuing with the Tamanthi project. His reason is that things are not working in India’s favour even after election of a new government, which is “seeking longer periods for clearances”.

On top of it, lack of any initiative, flexibility in tying up a local partner or planning from NHPC is making any progress more difficult by the day. It has an uneasy relationship with Myanmar’s Department of Hydropower Planning, is slow in replying to letters, goofs up on procedure for applying for clearances and has no high-level contacts with local officials.

The net result is that India’s image is taking a beating. Delays in the project’s progress are reinforcing local perception of Indian companies being incapable of completing projects in a time-bound fashion. Though the project is sure to go a Chinese firm if India opts out, Seshadri hints an exit may be the best way to cut India’s losses.

The best way forward is to ask how important is the project for India’s strategic interest or to economic development of northeast. “If the answer is we will not be seriously affected, then we should, without further loss of time, exit the project in as smooth a manner as possible rather than expending further diplomatic capital on seeking clearances etc… the delay is affecting our image and is seen as confirming local (mis)perceptions about Indian companies,” Seshadri said.

But if the government feels the project is important for India’s strategic interests, then NHPC will have to give up its “business as usual approach” and get into “mission mode”, Seshadri said. “They will need to work to change perceptions here that it can run time-bound project in the Myanmar environment.

There is, however, a third option: Completing additional investigations quickly and then considering whether to continue with it or not. But even for this, NHPC will have to pull up its socks, Seshadri said.

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Associated Baptist Press – Baptists help victims of Myanmar earthquake
By Bob Allen
Wednesday, May 25, 2011

0diggFALLS CHURCH, Va. (ABP) – Several Baptist groups are pooling resources for aid after receiving news that a Baptist church in Myanmar collapsed during a March earthquake, killing 24 and injuring 57.

According to the Myanmar Times, about 200 people were inside the Baptist church in the remote Kyankuni village in the northeastern Shan State when it fell in during a 6.8 quake March 25. The congregation was reportedly holding a consecration service for young people trained for ministry.

“There are many teenage children among the dead,” a village official told the newspaper. “The earthquake hit when they were praying.”

The Baptist World Alliance sent $10,000 through its relief-and-development arm Baptist World Aid, while the Asia Pacific Baptist Federation, one of six regional BWA fellowships, sent $5,000.

The Myanmar Baptist Convention collected about $11,000 from local churches for emergency relief. The convention’s goal is to help more than 1,200 families or approximately 6,000 persons in 26 affected communities.

Formed in 1865, the Myanmar Baptist Convention is the largest Christian organization in Myanmar. It works with 16 regional language conventions around the country.

The village where the church collapsed is located in Myanmar’s easternmost and largest province, which borders Thailand, Laos and China. Most of the villagers are Lahu, one of three people groups in the area that are mainly Baptists.

Baptist work in Myanmar, formerly called Burma, dates to the beginnings of modern missionary work. Adoniram Judson, an American Baptist missionary, entered the country in 1813. Today, many Baptist churches work with Burmese refugees in the United States, who have left their homeland to escape persecution by the country’s military dictatorship that seized power in 1962.

Reports vary about the death toll from the March earthquake. Myanmar’s government generally discourages releasing such information to outsiders. In 2008 the junta delayed reporting on and asking for help from Hurricane Nargis, which killed 130,000 people, bringing criticism that the government acted too slowly.

Rural Myanmar is one of Asia’s poorest and most underdeveloped countries. The Kyankuni village is accessible only by bicycle and is one hour from the nearest town on a good day. The area’s greatest claim to fame is the Golden Triangle, which once produced the bulk of the world’s opium and heroin, but even that dubious distinction has declined.

Despite needs in their own country, Baptists in Myanmar recently announced a $10,000 donation for tsunami and earthquake relief in Japan. Stan Murray, area director for Southeast Asia and Japan for International Ministries of American Baptist Churches USA, called it “a great witness to the mercy and grace of God.”

“Facing significant earthquake recovery in their own country, and given the state of the economy in Myanmar, our Baptist brothers and sisters have pulled together to make this generous offering to the Baptists in Japan,” Murray wrote.

On top of mounting need from a series of tornadoes and catastrophic flooding, the U.S., Baptists also are meeting human needs in Spain, where an earthquake May 11 caused severe damage to buildings of First Baptist Church of Lorca and left a number of Baptists homeless.

American Baptists sent $10,000 in One Great Hour of Sharing funds to the Unión Evangélica Bautista de España in Valencia, International Ministries’ partner organization in Spain.

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The Huffington Post – The Insein Strikers Need Solidarity
Matthew Smith
Senior Consultant, EarthRights International
Posted: 05/25/11 02:09 PM ET

More than 20 political prisoners in Burma recently started a last-resort tactic of nonviolent resistance: a hunger strike. On Saturday, 17 male inmates in Burma’s Insein Prison joined at least five women who had been on a hunger strike since May 17. Addressing the inhumane conditions of prison life, the group issued six practical demands to the authorities, including adequate food, adequate clothing, basic cleanliness of living quarters, stationery and reading provisions, separate quarters from criminal inmates and basic family visitation rights.

This bold and risky move comes on the heels of a “general amnesty” for 14,600 prisoners who were freed last week by the military strongman and current president Thein Sein. The announcement, widely regarded as a human rights smokescreen, reduced prisoners’ sentences by only one year, freeing inmates who were already at the end of their terms. Importantly, it only applied to 50 of over 2,000 political prisoners, many of whom are still serving sentences of up to 65 years.

Elaine Pearson at Human Rights Watch called the amnesty a “sick joke,” Benjamin Zawacki at Amnesty International said it was “astonishingly insufficient” and the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) denounced it as “a ploy to appease the international community.” At a press conference in Bangkok on Monday, Tomas Ojea Quintana, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the country, said the announcement was “not an amnesty” and that it led him to question the authorities’ commitment to national reconciliation, which would require the participation of prisoners of conscience. They all hit the nail on the head.

On the very day the authorities announced the so-called amnesty, I happened to be in a remote area along the Thai-Burma border, coincidentally speaking to a former political prisoner. In a modest open-air office of several ethnic Pa-O activists, I listened as Khun Myint Tun explained his experiences in several of Burma’s roughest prisons, where he was trapped for seven long years, until 2003, when his sentence concluded. With dignity and strength he recounted unthinkable suffering: cruel torture, ill treatment and squalid sub-standard conditions where disease and death were daily realities.

When asked why the authorities originally arrested him, Khun Myint Tun explained dispassionately that he was arrested “for having a book.”

“Gene Sharp,” he said. “I had a Burmese language copy of a book by Gene Sharp. That’s why they arrested me, that’s why I was in prison.”

In some circles, Gene Sharp needs no introduction. He is an 83-year old American intellectual credited with inspiring non-violent democratic movements globally. His most famous book, From Dictatorship to Democracy, is a simple, eloquent and sparing 93-page conceptual guide to toppling dictatorships non-violently. Originally inspired by the political situation in military-ruled Burma, the book is available for free download in 24 languages. The New York Times describes Sharp’s ideas as “fatal to the world’s despots,” and some say his work played a role in supporting the recent tide of democratic uprisings in the Middle East.

In his seminal work, Sharp describes hunger strikes as “aggressive actions” that, under a dictatorship, “would most likely be met with harsh repression.”

In this case, he would be correct. The prison authorities in Burma have already commenced a crackdown on the Insein strikers, moving some into solitary punishment cells and transferring others to remote prisons, making it even more difficult for their families to visit them. In the past, strikers in Burma’s prisons have faced lethal torture and other ill treatment, which are still a threat today.

The international community should pay close attention to the strike. Relevant U.N. bodies, ASEAN and western governments, and key oil companies operating in the country should use their offices and whatever leverage they have to carefully intervene on behalf of the strikers, pressuring Burma’s new electoral authoritarian rulers to grant the strikers’ demands, while also pushing for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners.

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The Irrawaddy – Burma Withdraws Troops from KIA Region
Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Burmese government has withdrawn its troops from areas controlled by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), an ethnic armed group, said KIA sources.

The government withdrew its troops after the KIA wrote to the government on May 19 asking for the withdrawal from its region, said La Na, the joint secretary of the KIA’s political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).

“Government troops that patrol the frontline in our area moved back. Tension between us seems to be reducing,” La Na told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.

On May 18, the government launched a number of mortar shells at an outpost of the KIA in Mohnyin Township, some 150 km southwest of the Kachin State capital, Myitkyina.

The KIO signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government in 1994. But tensions have spilled over in recent months after the KIO refused the Burmese junta’s order in September to transform the KIA into a Border Guard Force.

On Sept. 23, KIA troops fired warning shots at a government helicopter flying near Laiza, close to the KIO headquarters.

Then in February, a skirmish flared between KIA troops and government forces. Several Burmese soldiers were killed, according to the KIA, including a lieutenant-colonel and a commanding officer.

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The Irrawaddy – Influential Think Tank Urges Long-Term Commitment
By JIM LOBE / IPS WRITER Thursday, May 26, 2011

WASHINGTON – With  public and Congressional debate heating up over post-bin Laden US policy in South Asia, a think tank with close ties to the administration of President Barack Obama is calling for a strategy that will keep Washington deeply engaged in the region for a long time to come.

In a 40-page report released here Wednesday, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) said Washington should negotiate a long-term strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan that would keep 25,000 to 35,000 US troops in that country well beyond the 2014 date which the US and its allies have set for withdrawal.

It also calls for a “more nuanced” policy towards Pakistan designed to strengthen those state actors that co-operate with US security interests there and punish those that do not, notably military and intelligence officials or sectors suspected of supporting or otherwise co-operating with terrorist groups, notably Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT, and the Pakistani Taliban, Tehrik-i-Taliban.

“As part of a differentiated approach toward Pakistan, the United States should explore using targeted financial pressure against individuals and organizations in Pakistan with links to trans- national terrorism and insurgency in the region,” the report said.

The report, “Beyond Afghanistan: A Regional Security Strategy for South and Central Asia,” also called for Washington to quietly broker confidence-building measures between India and Pakistan, deep its partnership with New Delhi, promote economic growth by backing open trade and transit throughout the region, and develop a “strategic public engagement plan” aimed at reversing the “growing tide of anti- American sentiment,” especially in Pakistan.

The report, which was one year in preparation, comes at a critical moment in the debate over future US policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan in the aftermath of the killing earlier this month by US Special Forces of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden at a compound where he had reportedly been living for some six years in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Obama had promised 18 months ago to begin drawing down the 100,000 US troops currently deployed to Afghanistan this July, and bin Laden’s demise has reignited a debate within his administration over the pace and size of that withdrawal.

That debate pits officials, reportedly led by Vice President Joe Biden, who favour a substantial and relatively speedy withdrawal and the transformation of the US role in Afghanistan to a “counterterrorist (CT) strategy”, against those, led by Gen. David Petraeus, who will soon take over the Central Intelligence Agency, who remain committed to a “counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy” that requires Washington to maintain a much-heavier military footprint.

Bin Laden’s death appears to have strengthened the CT forces within the administration, whose case has also been bolstered by growing concern in Congress – on both sides of the aisle – over the financial costs of the COIN strategy when lawmakers are struggling to cut unprecedented budget deficits. The war in Afghanistan is currently costing the Treasury more than 100 billion dollars a year.

The fact that bin Laden had been living quietly so long in central Pakistan – and only about one kilometre from that country’s premier military academy and some 60 kilometres from the capital – has also sparked considerable debate, especially in Congress, about the future of US policy toward Islamabad.

Despite Islamabad’s denials, many lawmakers, again on both sides of the aisle, have charged that some elements of the Pakistani military and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) division must have known of his location there and thus, at the very least, decided to protect him.

Some have called for Washington to cut off all military and intelligence assistance – estimated at as much as two billion dollars a year – to Pakistan in retaliation.

“The United States is at a strategic inflection point in South and Central Asia,” according to the report, which noted that bin Laden’s death, combined with the scheduled beginning of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, “presents a new opportunity for the United States to protect its enduring interests in the region.”

Those interests, according to the report, which was co-written by the former NATO commander in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. David Barno (ret.) and a prominent COIN specialist, Andrew Exum, include, above all, “preventing the region’s use as a base for terror groups to attack the United States;” ensuring nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction do not fall into the hands of terrorists; and preventing a major inter-state war on the subcontinent – particularly one that could escalate to a nuclear conflict.”

The report makes a series of “assumptions” that guide its analysis.

In its view, Washington will continue to have an “uneasy relationship” with Pakistan that could at times become “severely stressed, but …unlikely to rupture;” that whatever the pace at which US troops are withdrawn from Afghanistan, the US will retain a “residual force” of between 25,000 and 35,000 troops beyond 2014 unless and until he Taliban insurgency is resolved or Al-Qaeda and its affiliates are fully defeated.

Other assumptions include the persistence of an adversarial relationship between India and Pakistan; a “new great game” for the region’s raw materials, minerals, and lines of transportation between China and India; and steadily growing domestic political pressure here both to curb foreign-aid and military budgets and reduce Washington’s involvement in South Asia.

Based on these assumptions, the report recommends that Washington negotiate a “strategic partnership agreement” with the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai that will permit the retention of the US “residual force” both to advise and assist Afghan security forces against the Taliban and to conduct CT operations against Al- Qaeda and its allies. It notes that such a reduced force would cost far less than the current deployments and would offer ancillary benefits, as well.

“A long-term presence of limited US military forces demonstrates the depth of the US commitment to the region – a stabilizing presence anxiously sought by neutral countries and friends of the United States alike,” the report asserts.

As to policy toward Islamabad, the report argues that “stability in the region requires stability in Pakistan” and suggests that cutting off assistance or treating the country as an adversary would constitute a strategic mistake.

Nonetheless, Washington should make it clear that “continued covert Pakistani support for terrorist groups” will cross a “red line, triggering suspension of military and intelligence funding.” At a minimum, according to the report, Washington should expect more access to intelligence on Al-Qaeda, LeT, and related groups, continued support for US drone strikes against suspected terrorist targets; and protection of the logistical pipeline that supplies US forces in Afghanistan.

At the same time, Washington should use its non-military aid programme in Pakistan – which currently provides 1.5 billion dollars a year – “bolster Pakistan’s civilian government vis-à-vis the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment.”

Washington must also devote more resources to countering anti- American sentiment in Pakistan by sponsoring more exchange programmes; using traditional and “new” media to counter the “extremist narrative”; and develop long-term programmes to address anti-Americanism. “Any US strategic partnership with the Pakistani state will simply founder if the Pakistani people continue to view the United States with deep-seated mistrust and suspicion,” it said.

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Burmese political prisoners in Insein Prison protest allowed visitors
Thursday, 26 May 2011 20:40
Aung Myat Soe

Bangkok (Mizzima) – Fourteen political prisoners who were sent to ‘military-dog cells’, small rooms about 8 x 10 feet, for staging a hunger-strike were sent back to their former prison wards on Thursday and have been allowed to receive visitors.

On Wednesday evening, the Prison Department General Director Zaw Win met with 10 protesters. Fourteen political prisoners were sent back to their prison wards on Thursday morning.

Two political prisoners were also allowed to receive their families at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Aung Zaw Tun, a member of Helping Network for Families of Political Prisoners, told Mizzima. The network was formed by 60 family members of 18 political prisoners in April.

The political prisoners made a six-point demand for improvements in prison conditions including providing clean and nutritious food, providing adequate medical care and allowing prisoners to read books and the right to study languages. During the protest, the prison authorities did not allow the protesters to meet with visitors or to receive food parcels.

Although it is still unclear whether the protest has ended or not , observers said that the political prisoners and prison authorities might be able to reach an agreement.

Phil Robertson, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, said he was waiting to see if the Burmese government would take action against the protesters in the prison.

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ILO conducts forced labour workshops with Burmese gov’t officials
Thursday, 26 May 2011 16:38
Mizzima News

(Interview) – Steve Marshall, the International Labour Organization liaison in Rangoon, recently visited Harka Township in Chin State. Reporter Ko Pauk talked with him about the ILO work in Burma and its campaign to educate government officials and the general public about international labour standards.

Question: How did you come to be in Chin State?

Answer: Essentially there were two reasons. The first reason is that the government of Myanmar [Burma] and the ILO have agreed that we should undertake joint awareness-raising seminars over all of the country, and Chin was one of the states where we had not undertaken that activity yet. The second was that we have over a period of time received a number of complaints about the use of forced labour from Chin state.

Q: How many complaint letters have you received from Chin State?

A: We’ve received about five formal complaints and a large number of informal complaints. But what we discussed with the government was that we should undertake this training and awareness activity, with a view to seeing whether in fact we were able to start effecting some change in the behavioural patterns in that region. It is no different in fact from any other region in the country. We receive complaints from all over the country, and the awareness raising activity has proven very positive in terms of getting peoples’ understanding and towards some behavioural change.

Q: The ILO will distribute brochures about forced labour in Chin state. How will you distribute this information?

A: We have a brochure which has been developed in agreement with the government, and you should be aware that it has already been distributed to all of the persons that were present at our seminar, and that the senior official at that seminar in fact requested more, so that he would be in a position to distribute them through to other government personnel who were not present at the seminar, which is extremely positive. However, of course it is also important for citizens to understand their rights under the law, which are also covered in the brochure, and so that is normally distributed through a range of different community based organizations and NGOs, people with an interest in their environment and who can brief others in terms of their rights and responsibilities.

Q: Apart from the brochures, are there other activities for the awareness campaign in Chin state?

A: Not specifically in Chin State, but frankly we use every opportunity we can to raise awareness.  For example, my talking with you is important, because media is one of the important networks for getting people aware of the situation and more aware of their rights under the law and their responsibilities under the law. So I use the media as much as is possible. We also undertake a whole range of workshop activities for individuals who are concerned, or the staff of community-based organizations, to give them an understanding and a basis on which they can then pass the word to others in the locations where they live and work, and we have undertaken a lot of this kind of workshop activity over the last year.

Q: How many Chin State authorities did you get a chance to meet?

A: Well, it was a state-wide activity, so the state authorities invited in representatives from townships. There were 160-plus persons, they represented almost every government department, from township, district and state levels. It encompassed the military as well, representatives of the army, representatives of the police, the judicial authorities, legal officers and all of the government departments and ministries with operations in Chin state.

Q: Did you meet with any members of Parliament or local people?

A: At that particular meeting there were no members of Parliament, but we have in fact had separate discussions with a number of members of Parliament. They obviously are interested in terms of the issues, and want to see the law applied and development activities result from that application of the law.

Similarly in terms of ordinary citizens, we undertake our educational activity with them through workshops and through community-based operations. This was a specific seminar targeted for local authority personnel, both military and civilian from all levels of the state.

Q: So overall you are satisfied with the visit?

A: Frankly, I am always satisfied with the opportunity of actually meeting people and exchanging information and knowledge. The critical factor now is that we maintain a monitoring activity to measure whether in fact there is any change in approach, in terms of the use of forced labour in Chin state, and that will only be measured over a period of time. I am very hopeful that the outcome will be positive both for the country  and for the people of Chin state.

Q: What is your comment on the Physicians for Human Rights report critical of forced labour in the state?

A: That was an important report. We obviously took serious note of the content of that report and elements of that report were discussed with the government towards getting understanding and agreement that we should hold this training activity. However, that report took place previously. It is important, however, what we are now loooking to determine whether a future report would say anything different in terms of changed behaviour and change approaches; it is my hope that it would.

Q: When will you return to Chin State?

A: To be honest, I have no idea; the ILO office in Myanmar is very small, we are not in the position to do regular follow-up missions, and so what we do is we operate through a network of individuals throughout the whole country, voluntary individuals, who keep us informed, who observe, record and report on developments, both positive developments and negative developments. So I am hopeful that through that mechanism we will be able to keep a good eye on how things are developing.

Q: Compared with other states in terms of human rights violations or forced labour, what can you say about Chin State?

A: You are aware that forced labour has been a problem in Myanmar for many years, and it is not an issue which is limited or restricted to particular states; it has been a general problem. There have been a number of areas in the country, because of their geographic location, or their economic situation or their political situation, which have had more serious histories in respect of forced labour. Chin, I would say, is an area that because of its geographic location, and possibly because of some of the political environment, has had serious issues in the past.

I do not see it as necessarily being worse than any other similar part of the country, but again I have to say that we are working towards the future, and we are not concentrating purely on what has happened in the past.

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DVB News – Seven killed after tunnel collapses
By NAW NOREEN
Published: 26 May 2011

A Chinese worker is among seven people confirmed dead after a tunnel collapsed at a dam in Burma’s eastern Karenni state.

Six of the men were killed on the spot while another died in hospital, according to a resident of the Karenni state capital of Loikaw. The tunnel, which acts as a water exit passage from the Hydropower Project-3 development, run by the Asia World conglomerate, caved in as the workers poured concrete inside.

“The workers knew the tunnel was about to collapse so they told their boss to evacuate but he didn’t agree,” said the man. “Finally the tunnel collapsed and the Chinese boss was among the dead. The workers paid for his wrong decision.”

The bodies were reportedly buried in the grounds of Loikaw hospital, which declined to give details about the surviving worker.

Chinese engineers had visited the hydropower site in April 2009 for upgrades – the project was developed with financial support from Beijing, which has hungrily tapped Burma’s vast hydropower potential.

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DVB News – Shan govt militias ‘aiding opium trade’
Published: 26 May 2011

Burmese army troops and local militias in southern Shan state are reportedly taking bribes from local farmers in return for allowing the continued cultivation of opium, despite government assertions that it is stamping out the trade.

A man in Nansang, one of seven townships in Shan state alleged to be heavily involved in the industry, said that bribes ranged from 50,000 kyat ($US55) to 80,000 kyat ($US90) per acre of opium grown. Farmers in areas run by government-backed militias from the ethnic Pa-O group were being forced to hand over a certain quantity of the drug.

“Now all the local populations are growing opium – this is their only source of income since there are no regular jobs available,” said the Nansang resident.

“Now every household in villages [near to the seven townships] are growing opium,” he said. “They have to bribe the army and Pa-O militias, of which there are two – Red and White Pa-O.” He added that Chinese were increasingly buying up areas of land in the state’s southern regions, also to cultivate poppies.

A resident of nearby Pinlon said that it takes around one million kyat ($US1,150) to grow an acre of poppies for opium – those who cannot afford the cost are often found helping out on farms during harvest seasons, earning around 10,000 kyat ($US12) a day.

With average annual wages hovering around $US400, the financial incentives to work in Burma’s lucrative opium industry are therefore substantial. The Pinlon local said that university students and even children of soldiers are often seen helping out with cultivation of poppies.

Shan state has long been Southeast Asia’s biggest source of illicit drugs, and once held the distinction of being the world’s top producer of heroin until it was usurped by Afghanistan in the late 1990s.

A damning report by the US State Department in March said that Burma had “failed demonstrably” in its proclaimed efforts to eradicate the country’s narcotics industry. The UN Office on Drugs and Crimes estimates that between 2006 and 2009, opium cultivation in Burma increased from 21,500 hectares to 31,700 hectares, despite repeated assertions in state media of success in its elimination programmes.

Another report released last year by the Thailand-based Shan Drug Watch claimed that junta-backed militias had taken over ethnic armies as Burma’s main drugs’ producers.

Rising hostilities between ethnic armies and the Burmese had, according the report’s lead author, Khunsai Jaiyen, prompted a clampdown on their drug production and mobility.

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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.