Tuesday, November 20, 2007

AVAAZ's call on ASEAN to ACT NOW

For those in Asia, please help put the pressure on ASEAN to act now!

from AVAAZ:
Asia: Act Now for Myanmar's People
On November 21, China, India, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia and Japan join the leaders of ASEAN at the East Asia Summit in Singapore. This meeting is crucial. With thousands of monks and democrats still imprisoned in Myanmar, these Asian leaders hold vital levers over the military dictatorship there.

Coordinated Asian pressure could decide whether dialogue between Aung San Suu Kyi and the military junta is genuine, or just another con-trick. That’s why we're sending a wave of messages from all around Asia, asking leaders to offer practical support to the UN effort, and to take real steps to press the Myanmar junta into freeing the prisoners and opening real dialogue.

Sign HERE.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Enough to Break the Balance?


Sunday, November 18, 2007

NEED-Burma and the Food Security Crisis in Burma


Last week, I began helping out part-time with the Network for Environment and Economic Development (NEED-Burma), an NGO that works on training Burmese on sustainable agriculture methods. Because of poor economic policies, rapid natural resource extraction, and the ongoing civil war, the food security and environmental situation in Burma is worsening. In 1960, Burma was the world's #1 rice exporter. Today, 40% of children are malnourished. This particular NGO seeks to train Burmese from all over Burma on how to grow organic and nutritious fruit and produce that does not pollute or degrade the environment.

Yesterday, NEED's Sustainable Agriculture Advisor said to me that most Burma-related empowerment groups concentrate solely on politics and democracy, but not many give environmental and agricultural training to those on the ground. NEED works to ensure that its farming methods can be replicated in any agricultural area in Burma.

Not to digress too much, but personally, as a trained environmentalist, one of the easiest and most effective ways to take care of the environment and to ensure a future for subsequent generations is to focus on how food is grown. Too much harmful pesticides is used and waste created in the food production methods that most of the world uses today.

In addition to starting a sizeable compost pile out of food waste and leaf litter, we began building an ecological sanitation toilet at NEED's model farm yesterday. It is based on the Indian Kerala system. It's a urine diversion dehydration (UDD) toilet. The urine will be siphoned off as fertilizer, the faeces will go into a drop hole for processing, and the washing water will go to an evapo-transpiration bed, probably for coconuts. To my knowledge, it will be the first of its kind in Thailand. And if this demonstration toilet is a success, and the knowledge can be transferred over to Burma, it can be the start of eco-san in Burma. That's an exciting and hopeful thought.

NEED's explanation on its choice of focusing on Sustainable Agriculture HERE.

Read the February 2007 brief on Burma's Ecological Crisis written by UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights to Myanmar Paulo Sergio Pinheiro HERE.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Myanmar says 14 killed in protests: UN investigator


The AFP brief of UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights to Myanmar Paulo Sergio Pinheiro's trip to Burma HERE. Pinheiro advocates for better medical treatment for political prisoners, prison access for the International Committee of the Red Cross, and stronger cooperation and coordination within the international arena to enact change in Burma. He will be presenting his findings to the UN Human Rights Council on December 11.

BANGKOK (AFP) — A UN rights investigator said Friday that Myanmar's military government told him 14 people had been killed in Yangon during the violent suppression of pro-democracy protests in September.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, who ended a five-day mission to Myanmar on Thursday, said the government recognised that 14 people had been killed in Yangon and cremated at a cemetery that he visited during his mission.

But he said he was still reviewing the evidence he gathered in Myanmar and could not yet give his own estimate on the casualties or detentions resulting from the crackdown.

"I'm not in a position to say that this is an accurate number," he told reporters in Bangkok, the capital of neighbouring Thailand.

The Myanmar government claimed that no Buddhist monks were among the dead, he added.

Protests that began in August in anger at an overnight hike in fuel prices snowballed in September when Buddhist monks began leading marches that turned into the biggest anti-government demonstrations in nearly 20 years.

Until now, the government had put the number of dead at 10, although diplomats have estimated the toll could be much higher.

Pinheiro declined to give his own estimate of how many people had been detained over the protests, but urged better medical care for the inmates.

"They need better medical treatment," he said.

The United Nations also urged Myanmar to end its nearly two-year ban on prison visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

"The special rapporteur reemphasised a strong call to the authorities to re-engage with the International Committee of the Red Cross," the UN said in a statement.

Pinheiro is due to present a report on his findings to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on December 11.

The United Nations said in its statement that Myanmar had given Pinheiro "a number of detailed records that respond partially to his requests" concerning the crackdown.

Pinherio also urged the international community to better coordinate their policies to prod the ruling junta toward reform.

"If you want to achieve some progress in Myanmar, we cannot have a cacophony of policies... We need to have coordination," he said.

After Pinheiro visited Yangon's notorious Insein prison on Thursday, Myanmar released 53 inmates -- but only six of them were political prisoners, all of whom had been arrested years before the protests.

Amnesty International has estimated that 700 people arrested over the protests were still in detention, although the government has said only 91 of the nearly 3,000 originally rounded up are still being held.

Pinheiro visited Insein prison twice during his visit to Myanmar this week, a trip aimed at investigating the deaths and detentions from the junta's crackdown.

On Thursday, Pinheiro said he was allowed to meet with some political prisoners, including prominent labour activist Su Su Nway.

But Pinheiro was not allowed to meet with democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the detained Nobel peace prize winner who has spent 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest in Yangon.

China Blocks UN Security Council Presidential Statement on Burma


Last Thursday, US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad has publicly stated that China has blocked the issuance of a UN Security Council Resolution on Burma. The story HERE.

The US on Thursday alleged that China blocked the issuing of a presidential statement on Burma at the UN Security Council.

Led by the US, a majority of the countries in the 15-member Security Council had favored issuing a presidential statement after closed door consultations on Tuesday and a briefing on the Burmese issue by Ibrahim Gambari, the UN Special Envoy on Burma.

A presidential statement—though not legally binding, unlike a resolution—can only be issued with a consensus, meaning that all members of the Security Council have to agree on it and its content. China opposed issuing a presidential statement on Burma, which would have been the second one in a little over a month.

“We were disappointed by their (China’s) unwillingness to support a PRST (presidential statement). They were only willing to support a statement. We worked hard to persuade them to go for a PRST, but they did not cooperate,” the US Ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad said.

At the same time, Khalilzad noted the cooperation of China in the past with regard to Burma in facilitating the work of Gambari.

This is for the first time that a top US official has come out openly to state that China was not cooperating with it and other like-minded members of the Security Council on the issue of Burma. This was very much evident on Tuesday during the debate on Burma at the Security Council. While China and Russia observed that sanctions against Burma were counterproductive and termed the mission of Gambari to Burma as successful, the delegates of the US, Britain and France observed that the steps taken by the Burmese junta following international pressure were timid and more needed to be done.

Ethnic Ceasefire Groups Told to Sign Statement against Suu Kyi


The Irrawaddy's Thursday article on the junta's forcing ethnic ceasefire groups to denounce Aung San Suu Kyi. This comes on the heels of a statement made by Suu Kyi released via UN Special Envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari on November 8. In it, Suu Kyi said that it was imperative to consider ethnic perspectives in any discourse relating to national reconciliation. On November 10, twelve ethnic groups welcomed Suu Kyi's statement and called for a tripartite dialogue amongst the junta, political opposition forces, and ethnic minorities. The junta's move is an attempt to counter renewed internal support for the imprisoned Nobel Peace Laureate.

The junta has again relied on its age old policy of divide and conquer by manipulating ceasefire groups for its own aims. Again, it is surprising to note that while the SPDC refuses to engage in talks with registered political parties, such as the NLD, it has no qualms negotiating with armed insurgent groups. This demonstrates that the junta is much more responsive to violent threats than legally recognized, registered political forces. Incidentally, a news story on 80,000 IDPs in Karenni State HERE.

The Burmese government has coerced several ethnic ceasefire groups and other ethnic parties to sign a written statement saying Aung Suu San Kyi has no leadership role among ethnic nationalities, according to reliable sources.

State-run newspapers have recently run statements from several ethnic groups' which are critical of Suu Kyi. Observers say the statements are an effort to drive a wedge between pro-democracy groups and ethnic groups.

The United Wa State Army (UWSA), the Kachin Defense Army (KDA), the Kokant Army and the Shan State Army (North) met with government officials in Lashio in northern Shan State. Military officials called the leaders to sign a statement that was already written by unknown parties, sources close to the ceasefire groups told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.

“Three days ago, the junta’s Minister of Culture, Brig-Gen Khin Aung Myint, arrived to Lashio. On November 12, officials of the North-East Regional Command told leaders of ceasefire groups to come to Lashio by November 13. Wa’s deputy chairman was among them. The leaders of four ceasefire groups met with minister Khin Aung Myint and the regional commander on November 14,” said the source.

“The military officials brought anti-Daw Aung San Suu Kyi statements, already written, to the meeting. Leaders of the groups were told to sign the statements,” the source said.

Two ceasefire groups, the UWSA and Kokant, did not sign the statements during the meeting, and the SSA told authorities that it would reply to their request by November 15. UWSA is said to have an estimated 20,000 troops which is the biggest ceasefire group.

Meanwhile, the state-run-press has published the statements of other ethnic groups.

The statements in The New Light of Myanmar said they welcomed the meeting between Suu Kyi and the liaison officer, ex-Maj-Gen Aung Kyi. The statements said Suu Kyi does not represent ethnic groups, referring to her statement on November 8, which was conveyed by UN envoy Ishmael Gambari.

In the statement, Suu Kyi said, “In this time of vital need for democratic solidarity and national unity, it is my duty to give constant and serious considerations to the interests and opinions of as broad a range of political organizations and forces as possible, in particular those of our ethnic nationality races.”

Nyan Win, a spokesperson of the Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, denied the allegations in junta newspapers that Suu Kyi claimed to represent ethnic groups.

“This kind of allegation is delaying ongoing dialogue and the national reconciliation process,” said Nyan Win.

On November 10, twelve ethnic parties based inside Burma issued statements that welcomed Suu Kyi’s November 8 statement and called for tripartite dialogue.

“We welcome dialogue between the ruling, pro- democracy forces led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and representatives of ethnic nationalities,” said the statement.

The exiled ethnic umbrella group, Ethnic Nationalities Council, also welcomed Suu Kyi's November 9 statement.

AVAAZ's Boycott on Total Oil, Chevron, and Their Subsidiaries


***The petitions and pledges are now up to 19.***

AVAAZ also is launching a global boycott of Total Oil and Chevron and all their subsidiaries that operate in Burma. You can sign AVAAZ's pledge HERE. By hitting them straight in their bottom line, AVAAZ hopes to press these corporations to either push Burma to democratic reform, or to leave the country entirely.

I will say though, while many Western Burma-related NGOs and advocacy networks believe that a complete pullout of Western companies doing business in Burma is the quickest, surefire way to weaken the junta and bring about political change in the troubled nation, the situation is not as clearcut. While companies operating in Burma can use their leverage to enact political change, company pullout can create a power vacuum, creating the conditions for even more abusive (Chinese or other energy-hungry Asian) companies to fill in the void. Chinese, Malaysian, Korean companies would readily, easily, and quickly answer the call for investment.

I have heard that Burmese on the ground are actually against a pullout of Western companies. The are afraid that if Western companies leave, Asian companies with poorer human rights records will move in. In the historic Doe vs. Unocal Case involving the construction of the Yadana pipeline, the verdict held that Unocal WAS liable for human rights abuses committed by SPDC troops hired by the oil company. Some think a more effective way to uphold human rights in Burma, especially in areas where multinationals invest, is to put pressure on Western companies to operate in a responsible manner. The Corporate Social Responsibility discourse is much more predominant and established in the West than in the East, where many countries are still subject to the "race to the bottom" for development. Hence, advocating for Western companies to observe CSR is a more suitable option on which Western activists can rely. Moreover, I personally doubt that enough companies will pull out in a short timeframe to create serious cash flow problems for the junta.

Journalist and author Ross Gelbspan has put forth the following theory in his book about climate change The Heat is On. If a totalitarian state (like Burma) suffers from severe economic instability (such as one that would occur from a massive investor pullout), the conditions would be ripe for GREATER, not lesser human rights abuses. It's the same old Asian Values argument that says economic considerations and the right to development come before civil and political rights. By supervising companies who invest in Burma and getting them to responsibly operate, the hope is that multinationals can counteract human rights abuses.

Another petition: Sign Earthrights International's petition urging Chevron to use its influence to help stop the crackdown, and to stop investing in Burma HERE.

Friday, November 16, 2007

US Citizens, Help get the Block Burmese JADE and the Burmese Democracy Promotion Acts Passed


US Citizens, please help get the Block Burmese JADE (Junta Anti-Democratic Efforts)Act and the Burmese Democracy Promotion Act passed. Put the pressure on your Representatives and Senators for the toughest US Sanctions against Burma yet. These Acts would stop allowing the junta to launder funds, gems, timber, and other products in third countries before they are sold.

from the US Campaign for Burma:

Call Your Representative and Senators!
Make Sure the US is not bankrolling the Burmese Regime's Brutal Actions

In the House of Representatives, Rep. Lantos has introduced the "Block Burmese JADE (Junta Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act" and in the Senate, Senators Biden and McConnell have introduced the "Burmese Democracy Promotion Act". Both of these will tighten sanctions on Burma's military regime and really hit the generals where it hurts. Call in today to demand that your Representative and Senator co-sponsor. Find your Representative's info at www.house.gov and find your Senators' by going to www.senate.gov. Call today and call everyday until you get an answer! Find out more information on the resolutions and what you should do- Click Here to Take Action

The Burmese Democracy Promotion Act of 2007 (Senate) and the Block Burmese JADE (Junti Anti Democratic Efforts) has the power to force the regime to negotiate with Burma's democracy leaders and Ethnic nationalities. We must show the people of Burma that the U.S. is taking action to support their calls for freedom, democracy and human rights. Call your Senator today asking him/her to support the Burmese Democracy Promotion Act! Organize your community to call in as well. Contact details for your Senators are given below.

What the Acts Do:

The regime makes hundreds of millions of dollars each year off the sale of gems and timber. More than 90 percent of the world's rubies and fine-quality jade comes from Burma. The new sanctions will crack down on the regime's practice of avoiding U.S. sanctions by laundering gemstones and other products, especially timber, through third countries before they are sold.

This Act also freezes the assets of Burmese political and military leaders, prevents Burma from using U.S. financial institutions via third countries to launder the funds of those leaders or their immediate families, and prohibits Burmese officials involved in the violent suppression of protesters from receiving visas to the United States.

Burma also uses third countries to access the U.S. banking system. These overseas banks process accounts in and through the United States for Burma's rulers, providing the regime with much-needed hard currency. The regime uses these funds to purchase weapons and luxury goods, while the bulk of Burma's population lives in poverty.

Biden and McConnell's legislation tightens existing sanctions to prevent Burma's military rulers from profiting from sales to the United States, and blocks access to the U.S. financial system not just for Burmese human rights violators but also to those who provide the regime with banking services.

The bill also creates a new position of Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma. The Special Representative will work with Burma's neighbors and other interested countries, including the members of the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, to develop a comprehensive approach to the problem, including sanctions, dialogue, and support for non-governmental organizations providing humanitarian relief to the Burmese people.

These Acts, if passed, would be the strongest action yet that the U.S. takes to pressure Burma's military regime to negotiate with Burma's democracy leaders and ethnic nationalities.

To read the legislation:

House : Block Burmese JADE (Junta Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act

Senate: Burmese Democracy Promotion Act

Contact information:

Call your Senators/ Representative's offices and ask to speak with their foreign policy staffer. If s/he is not there leave a message and ask her/him to call you back. Call today and every day until you get an answer!

Find Your Representative: www.house.gov

Find Your Senator: www.senate.gov

Senate: To add their name as a cosponsor: Let them know that to co-sponsor (Burmese Democracy Promotion Act of 2007 - S.2257)Democrats should contact Frank Jannuzi at the Committee on Foreign Relations at 202-224-4651

Republicans should contact Reb Brownell in Senator McConnell's office at 202-224-2541

House: To add their name as a co-sponsor:
Let them know that to co-sponsor they should contact Eric Richardson at the Committee on Foreign Affairs office at eric.richardson@mail.house.gov or 225-5021.

Talking Points for Staffer:
- Tell the staffer you want your Senator to co-sponsor the Burmese Democracy Promotion Act of 2007

- Give her/him proof that this policy works. It cuts off hundreds of millions of dollars to the regime and will specifically target the top generals' finances.

- Mention that the military junta still deserves sanctions. On top of brutally crushing thousands of peaceful demonstrators, including monks, the military regime has destroyed more than 3,000 villages. It has forcibly displaced more than half a million people inside Burma as well as causing a million refugees to flee across the border to neighboring countries and has made no efforts to move toward democracy.

- Let her/him know it is important to send a strong signal to the regime that the US government will continue to keep American money out the hands of the junta.

- This is not the only action being taken against Burma. On top of many diplomatic efforts, the EU has imposed new sanctions, as well as Australia, and even Japan has decreased aid to Burma.

- Finally ask the staffer to call you back when your Senator has co-sponsored the Burmese Democracy Promotion Act. Important: Leave your phone number!
Let him/her know that his/her constituents care about Burma!

Check up to see if they cosponsor:
It's easy to check and see if they follow through and agree to cosponsor. THOMAS, the Library of Congress' congressional records database updates a list of all information on legislation. Click HERE to find out who has signed as cosponsors in the House, and Click HERE to see who has signed as cosponsors in the Senate.

Please let me know when you have contacted your Senator and how it went - thelma@uscampaignforburma.org. These new sanctions will hit the regime where it hurts.

Canada Announces Tougher Sanctions Against Burma


Canada has just joined the ranks of the US and the EU in imposing tougher sanctions against Burma, barring exports to and imports from the dictatorship, as well as banning investments. The article on Canada's Special Economic Measures Act HERE.

A day after China and Russia told the United Nations Security Council that sanctions against Burma would be counterproductive, Canada, one of the strongest supporters of the pro-democracy movement in Burma, on Wednesday announced a series of tough sanctions against the Burmese junta.

Following the new sanctions, the Canadian government has imposed a ban on: all goods exported from Canada to Burma, with the exception of humanitarian goods; all goods imported from Burma into Canada; and any new investment in Burma by Canadian persons and companies.

The sanctions imposed under the Special Economic Measures Act, prohibits: the provision of Canadian financial services to and from Burma; the export of any technical data to Burma; Canadian-registered ships or aircraft from docking or landing in Burma; and Burmese-registered ships or aircraft from docking or landing in Canada or passing through Canada.

The Canadian government also announced a freeze on assets in Canada of any designated Burmese nationals connected with the Burmese government.

Announcing the sanctions, the Canadian Foreign Minister, Maxime Bernier, said, “Tougher sanctions against Burma are the right thing to do. They are right on moral grounds. The regime in Burma is abhorrent to Canadian values.”

Only a day earlier, participating in a debate on the current situation in Burma at the UN, the Burmese ambassador had urged member nations not to impose sanctions while the Russian and Chinese ambassadors had said that the imposition of sanctions against the military regime could be counterproductive. However, countries such as Canada, Britain and the United States are taking a harder line with the Burmese regime. The US Ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, had said at the UN on Tuesday that sanctions do play an important role in pressure building.

“The strongest message has to be sent. Sanctions are the means by which we, not just Canada, but the international community, can best exert pressure against the junta," Bernier said in a speech at the Economic Club of Toronto after announcing the sanctions.

Earlier in the day, Bernier met about 20 Burmese dissident leaders, including monks, at the Toronto Burmese Buddhist Temple. This was the first interaction of its kind between the Canadian foreign minister and senior Burmese dissidents.

“We are very delighted with today’s visit by Hon Maxime Bernier, Minister of Foreign Affairs,” said Zaw Wai Kyaw, president of Burma Buddhist Association of ontario. He also expressed appreciation of the government’s efforts and support to achieve national reconciliation, religious freedom, democracy and human rights for the people of Burma.

“We are pleased to arrange this meeting between the minister Bernier and Burmese representatives,” said Tin Maung Htoo, Executive Director of Canadian Friends of Burma. “This is indeed an historic moment, not only the minister meeting with them, but also making an important policy statement.”

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights to Myanmar Visits Insein Prison


Yesterday, UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights to Myanmar Paulo Sergio Pinheiro visited the notorious Insein Prison and Ngwe Kyar Yan Monastery, one of the scenes of the fallout from September's protests. The human rights envoy's purpose was to ascertain the number of deaths from the crackdown, to gauge the level of human rights abuses in Burma, and to survey prison conditions and the health of detained political prisoners. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), the prison was prepped for Pinheiro's visit (Irrawaddy).

The Reuter's article HERE:

U.N. human rights envoy to Myanmar Paulo Sergio Pinheiro visited Yangon’s notorious Insein prison and other detention centers on Monday where protesters were held after soldiers crushed anti-junta marches in September.

A statement by the U.N. office in Yangon gave no details of the visits, but a diplomat said earlier Pinheiro would try to meet Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi, two leaders of August’s fuel price protests believed to be held at Insein.

“He is expecting to interview detainees before the end of his mission and receive further details on their records,” the statement said. He is due to leave on Thursday.

The Brazilian law professor, on his first trip to the former Burma in four years, also visited Yangon’s former Government Technical College and a police headquarters where some detainees from the biggest anti-junta protests in 20 years were held.

He also met senior abbots of the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, the state governing body of the Buddhist clergy), and visited two monasteries “involved in the recent demonstrations.”

Hundreds of maroon-robed monks were among the 2,927 people official media say were rounded up in the crackdown.

State papers have denied any monks were among the 10 official dead, even though monks reported that at least five of their brethren were killed when soldiers and pro-government thugs raided monasteries thought to be leading the protests.

Several photos have emerged on the Internet of what appear to be mutilated bodies of dead monks, although it is impossible to known when or where they were taken.

Official media say all but 91 of those arrested were released after questioning — a figure that, like the junta’s death toll, Pinheiro is likely to probe in great detail. Western governments say the real toll is probably far higher.

Relatives of political detainees, many of whom played a part in another mass uprising against decades of military rule in 1988, said conditions in Insein had improved in the run-up to Pinheiro’s visit.

“We were allowed to send things to them. We got a chance to learn their health condition. It’s the first time since they were arrested in August,” one family member told Reuters.

In the past, Pinheiro has been allowed access to all political prisoners he wished to see, but stormed out of an interview with a detainee at Insein four years ago when he discovered a tape recorder stuck beneath the table.

Before September’s crackdown, Amnesty International estimated the junta was holding around 1,100 political prisoners, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years.

Pinheiro’s visit, which will see him fly to the regime’s jungle capital, Naypyidaw, on Tuesday, followed the departure of Ibrahim Gambari, the U.N.’s point-man on Myanmar, last week.

Gambari’s second visit since the crackdown sparked hopes the military might be willing to talk about political reform with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Nobel laureate’s political party, which won a 1990 election landslide only to be denied power by the army, quoted her as being “optimistic” during a meeting with party chiefs.

Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years, said the generals were “serious and really willing to work for national reconciliation,” party spokesman Nyan Win said.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Small-scale protest in Rangoon


From the Democratic Voice of Burma:

Nov 9, 2007 (DVB)–Students in Botahtaung township, Rangoon, staged a short-lived protest yesterday before being dispersed by government security forces, according to an eyewitness.

Around 50 students assembled on Bo Aung Kyaw street for the demonstration.

The protestors were holding pictures of junta leader senior general Than Shwe with women’s underwear superimposed on his head, and they shouted slogans condemning the government for its crackdown on monks.

Bystanders clapped their hands in support of the protestors.

The demonstration only lasted a few minutes before government security forces appeared and the protestors dispersed.

The witness was unsure if any arrests were made because all the demonstrators and bystanders fled the scene as soon as the government forces arrived.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Text of Aung San Suu Kyi's statement released by U.N. envoy


While UN special envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari was able to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday, he was unable to secure an audience with Senior General Than Shwe. Here's a statement released by Aung San Suu Kyi via Gambari. The AP article HERE

SINGAPORE: Following is the text of the statement by Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, released Thursday by U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari.

"I wish to thank all those who have stood by my side all this time, both inside and outside my country. I am also grateful to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, for his unwavering support for the cause of national reconciliation, democracy and human rights in my country.

"I welcome the appointment on 8 October of Minister Aung Kyi as Minister for Relations. Our first meeting on 25 October was constructive and I look forward to further regular discussions. I expect that this phase of preliminary consultations will conclude soon so that a meaningful and timebound dialogue with the SPDC leadership can start as early as possible.

"In the interest of the nation, I stand ready to cooperate with the Government in order to make this process of dialogue a success and welcome the necessary good offices role of the United Nations to help facilitate our efforts in this regard.

"In full awareness of the essential role of political parties in democratic societies, in deep appreciation of the sacrifices of the members of my party and in my position as General Secretary, I will be guided by the policies and wishes of the National League for Democracy. However, in this time of vital need for democratic solidarity and national unity, it is my duty to give constant and serious considerations to the interests and opinions of as broad a range of political organizations and forces as possible, in particular those of our ethnic nationality races.

"To that end, I am committed to pursue the path of dialogue constructively and invite the Government and all relevant parties to join me in this spirit.

"I believe that stability, prosperity and democracy for my country, living at peace with itself and with full respect for human rights, offers the best prospect for my country to fully contribute to the development and stability of the region in close partnership with its neighbors and fellow ASEAN members, and to play a positive role as a respected member of the international community."

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Burma the Most Corrupt and Worst Government in the World


Transparency International, the global coalition against corruption, puts out an "annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), first released in 1995, is the best known of TI’s tools. It has been widely credited with putting TI and the issue of corruption on the international policy agenda. The CPI ranks 180 countries by their perceived levels of corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys." Burma is tied for last place with Somalia. You can see the listings HERE
From Irrawaddy:

In addition to being the most corrupt government, Burma has been ranked ‘zero,’ the worst government in the world according to the amount of freedom citizens have to voice opinions and select a government, according to the latest Worldwide Governance Indicators report.

Countries with the best overall rankings included Denmark, 100; Canada, 94; and Australia, 93.
Countries with the worst overall rankings included Burma 0, China 4 and Vietnam 8.
The Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) research project, covering 212 countries and territories, measured six areas of governance between 1996 and 2006 to make its rankings: Voice and Accountability, Political Stability and Absence of Violence, Government Effectiveness, Regulatory Quality, Rule of Law and Control of Corruption.
In the Voice and Accountability category, Burma has ranked near ‘zero’ since 1996.

Among Burma's neighbors: India ranked 58; Thailand, 32 and China, 4. Laos was ranked 6; Cambodia, 21; Malaysia, 38; Indonesia, 41; Philippines, 44; and Singapore 46.

The Worldwide Governance Indicators are produced by researchers from the World Bank Institute and the World Bank Development Economics Research Group.

The aggregate indicators combine the views of a large number of enterprises, citizens and experts in industrial and developing countries. The individual data sources underlying the aggregate indicators are drawn from a variety of survey institutes, think tanks, non-governmental organizations and international organizations.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

More Monks March


About 100 monks marched in Mogok, in north central Burma, source of most of the world's finest rubies and shappires, on Nov. 3rd, 3 days after 200 monks marched in Pakkoku on Oct. 31.

From the Democratic Voice of Burma. Article only in Burmese. Translated by a co-worker:

Mandalay State, Mogoke, the locals have reported that about 100 monks have peacefully marched chanting metta sutta from around 1pm. The march was met with locals coming out to support and encourage. A lot of them followed the monks on motorcycles and some marched along the sides of the monk to show support and as a form to protection. Around 3pm, local police and the military arrived to block the roads and requested the crowd to break up at PeikSwae suburb. Over a month after the protests were brutally crushed, the first protest since took place at Pakokku and today, it marks the second march by the monks from Mogoke. The peaceful march today was met with enthusiasm and support from the locals.

Burma's Link between Environmental Degradation and Human Rights Abuses


*The petitions are now up to 18. Here's the newest one--The Burma Rivers Network's PETITION calls on the Chinese government to closely monitor Chinese companies that invest in hydropower and other extractive industries in Burma (and other countries). Nontransparent operation, poor oversight, and not keeping affect communities informed has led to environmental degradation and human rights abuses in Burma.

In my opinion, most commentators and analysts have overwhelmingly overlooked to what extent foreign and government investment in large scale development projects has lead to environmental degradation and human rights abuses. Many hydropower plants, mines, timber concessions, and other infrastructure projects are located in armed conflict areas. Villagers are often forced to work on these projects with no pay or food, often to the point of starvation, exhaustion, and sickness. Many are killed for not being able to continue carrying excessive loads.

Even worse, Burma Army soldiers are employed to ensure the security of these projects. As projects are commonly located in ethnic conflict areas, it gives the opportunity for Burmese troops to continue their use of torture, killings, sexual violence, and village destruction to further subjugate ethnic groups and to weaken the resistance movement--these projects are part in parcel of the junta's campaign to extend influence and to consolidate control.

For more on this ecological perspective, other sources to look at:

Salween Watch
Earthrights International
International Rivers Network
Foundation for Ecological Recovery
South East Asia Rivers Network
Shan Herald Agency for News

What Burma's Junta Must Fear


An article by U Gambira, leader of the All-Burma Monks Alliance, which spearheaded nationwide protests in September. Wanted by Burma's military junta, he is living in hiding as he continues the monks' campaign.

In August, the Burmese people began to write a new chapter in their determination to find peace and freedom. Burmese monks peacefully protested to bring change to our long-suffering country. As we marched, hundreds of thousands of Burmese and our ethnic cousins joined us to reinforce our collective demand: that military rule finally give way to the people's desire for democracy.

Video and the Internet have allowed the world to witness the brutal response directed by Gen. Than Shwe, Burma's de facto ruler and military leader. Than Shwe unleashed his soldiers and the regime's thugs, who attacked us. Once again the streets in Rangoon and Mandalay ran red with the blood of innocent civilians seeking to save our country from the moral, social, political and economic crises that consume us.

Hundreds of our monks and nuns have been beaten and arrested. Many have been murdered. Alarmingly, thousands of clergy have disappeared. Our sacred monasteries have been looted and destroyed. As darkness falls each night, intelligence units try to round up political and religious leaders.

Military rule has brought Burma to collapse. Our economy is in ruins. Once the breadbasket of Asia, Burma cannot feed itself. Once we were a light for education and literacy; now, the regime has closed schools and universities. Once we breathed the air of freedom; now, we choke on the foul air of tyranny. We are an enslaved people.

My colleagues and I welcomed the strong actions of the United States to impose financial and travel restrictions on the regime and its enablers. Australia is following this model, and the European Union should as well.

Than Shwe and his fellow military leaders have sought to portray this uprising as a singular event, now over. A veneer of quiet has replaced the sounds of gunfire on city streets. Unfortunately, many in the international community buy in and actively support this propaganda.

At the United Nations, China and Russia continue to block the Security Council from facilitating a dialogue between democratic forces and the regime. Within our region, senior officials of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have condemned the regime's actions but have done little else. Perhaps most disappointing, the world's largest democracy, India, continues to provide military assistance and trade deals that help finance the regime's war on its people.

What will it take for the world to realize that Burma's generals are a menace and that because of their misrule, drugs, diseases and refugees from Burma spill across borders and wash through other societies, ruining lives?

The recent steps by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his special adviser, Ibrahim Gambari, to open a dialogue with Burma's generals are welcome and necessary. The United Nations can help bring peace to Burma. However, the Security Council is the proper forum. All efforts must focus on making council members take the steps necessary to coerce the generals to come to terms with the people. This involves setting a timetable for the regime to release all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi; allow free assembly; and give a full accounting of the thousands who have disappeared. The council should also seek a ban on all arms sales to the regime.

People ask whether I am disheartened and whether this latest spasm of democratic activism is over. The answer to both questions is no. Although I am wanted by the military and forced to hide in my own country, I am awed by the bravery of so many, including sympathetic security agents of the junta who opened their homes to democracy leaders and me.

Since August, I have seen my country galvanized as never before. I have watched our 88 Generation leaders bravely confront the military. I have watched a new generation of activists join to issue an unequivocal call for freedom. And I have watched as many in the police and military, sickened at what they were forced to do to their countrymen, give so many of us quiet help. The primary tools wielded by Burma's senior generals, a climate of fear and the use of violence, are no longer working -- and with nothing to lose, we are no longer afraid.

On Wednesday, more than 200 monks staged a protest in Pakokku. They stared military officers in the face. Their spirit and determination are a warning to the regime and those that prop it up.

Burma's Saffron Revolution is just beginning. The regime's use of mass arrests, murder, torture and imprisonment has failed to extinguish our desire for the freedom that was stolen from us so many years ago. We have taken their best punch.

Now it is the generals who must fear the consequences of their actions. We adhere to nonviolence, but our spine is made of steel. There is no turning back. It matters little if my life or the lives of colleagues should be sacrificed on this journey. Others will fill our sandals, and more will join and follow.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Junta expels U.N. diplomat


Internet has been cut again after the Oct. 31's protest. The generals are afraid that Pakokku will once again be the spark that ignites nation wide protests. Many monks have been warned not to take part in new demonstrations....

The junta continues to send mixed messages to the international community: As it prepares to receive UN special envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari, it has expelled UN resident coordinator Charles Petri. CNN's article HERE. MSN's HERE.

Myanmar's Foreign Ministry has ordered a top U.N. diplomat in the secretive Asian country to leave, the U.S. Charge d'Affaires in Myanmar told CNN on Friday.

According to Shari Villarosa, U.N. resident coordinator Charles Petri was told by the ruling military junta that "he was no longer welcome in the country."

There was no immediate response from the United Nations.

News of the order for Petri to leave came as Ibrahim Gambari, the special U.N. envoy to Myanmar, was due to return to the troubled nation on Saturday.

"They say that they are interested in cooperating with the U.N.," Villarosa said, "so this seems very unusual to say the least." It was uncertain whether Petri had been given a deadline for leaving the country.

It will be the second visit to Myanmar in recent weeks for Gambari, who has a five-day visa.

The United Nations does not know who Gambari will be meeting with, but it is thought that the envoy will facilitate talks between ruling generals and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, an opposition leader and human rights activist who has been under house arrest on and off for nearly 20 years.

In his October meeting, Gambari met with the military junta leadership as well as with Suu Kyi.

"What everybody has been seeking is the initiation of a genuine dialogue that leads toward broad national reconciliation," Villarosa said.
Don't Miss

The visit will come only a few days after dissident sources in Mae Sot told CNN that more than 70 Buddhist monks marched in central Myanmar on Wednesday.

The march, which the sources said took place in the town of Pakokku, is the first reported since a government crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations in September, in which as many as 110 people are believed to have been killed -- including 40 Buddhist monks.

The protests were initially sparked by a huge fuel price increase imposed by the military government, but quickly escalated.

Myanmar's military junta admitted in mid-October to detaining more than 2,900 people during the crackdown, and many of them are still believed to be in custody.

Video smuggled out of the secretive country has shown unarmed protesters being beaten by government security forces, and one man -- believed to be a Japanese journalist -- shot and killed at close range.

Myanmar's humanitarian crisis has sparked international outrage, concern and attention

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Burma: Grace Under Pressure


An interactive slide show by Geoffrey Hiller on his trip to Burma with added social commentary on the plethora of issues there. The slide show HERE.

Also, the Burma Forum of Los Angeles has put together a PDF book Please Use Your Liberty to Promote Our; Personal Accounts of Survival, Resistance and Military Rule in Burma.