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Posts Tagged ‘Sanctions

Analyses of Burma’s politics after US delegation’s visit

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America Dips Toe in Burmese Waters

5 Nov 2009

The US sends a high-level delegation to Burma in advance of President Barack Obama’s ASEAN summit next week, but little progress is expected any time soon, Simon Roughneen comments for ISN Security Watch.

By Simon Roughneen for ISN Security Watch


A high-level US delegation visited Burma on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, meeting with Prime Minister General Thein Sein and with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Significantly, US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell did not meet Burma’s ruling strongman Sen Gen Than Shwe, who really calls the shots.

The meetings are part of the new US engagement policy with the junta, softening the isolationist stance taken by the Bush and Clinton administrations, but retaining the targeted sanctions on the ruling generals and business cronies first implemented in 1997.

However, his trip was described as “exploratory,” and dissidents outside Burma remain skeptical, with reason. In the days before the meeting the junta rounded up journalists in Rangoon and arrested some aid workers involved in Cyclone Nargis relief.

The US is considering easing sanctions, but it not clear what steps the junta is willing to take. No benchmarks have been set, though the US has asked for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, the release of all political prisoners (there are over 2,000) and international monitoring of the 2010 elections.

Even if the elections are free, the framework provided by the 2008 constitution ensures continued military rule. Whether the US will push for a constitutional review is unclear, though Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), which won the last elections held in Burma, wants the document reviewed.

Skeptics say that the junta has played along with ‘engagement’ efforts in the past – notably with US Senator Bill Richardson in 1994, and with various UN envoys – including a public snub to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier this year, who was denied meetings with either Suu Kyi or Shwe. Moreover, as far back as when Richardson visited in 1994, Suu Kyi said that she was willing to negotiate with the junta. So 15 years on, it seems the wheel has come full circle, but still is spinning in the sand thrown down by the junta.

Than Shwe perhaps wants to reduce dependence on China for international diplomatic support, though Beijing has started construction of a major new pipeline across Burma, which will reduce dependence on maritime oil and gas imports. The dependence cuts both ways and China needs this pipeline. It also wants to retain its favored investor status with the junta, amid competition from India, Thailand and others.

The US seems keen to get more involved in Southeast Asia. President Barack Obama will meet ASEAN leaders – Burmese PM Thein Sein included – at the first ever US-ASEAN summit in Singapore next week.

Campbell’s visit lays the groundwork for summit discussions on Burma, which the Singapore hosts anticipate will take place at the summit. The most poignant concession would be to release Aung San Suu Kyi – though she is already barred from running in the 2010 elections.

Nothing less should warrant a review of the US sanctions, remembering that a previous UN envoy helped negotiate a release for Suu Kyi, only for the junta to return her to incarceration later.

Perhaps even more important would be public pressure from Obama on the junta to review the flawed constitution.

The Burmese junta has a long history of playing outside powers against each other and stringing along those who ‘engage’ with it. The US policy has not been explained well, giving the impression that it is going soft on human rights in Burma and Southeast Asia, and allowing some Asian countries to justify their history of cozy relations with the junta.

‘Engagement’ also threatens to give false legitimacy to the 2010 elections, which seem pre-loaded in favor of junta candidates and parties stuffed with ‘retired’ military.


Simon Roughneen is an ISN Security Watch senior correspondent, currently in Southeast Asia. His website is www.simonroughneen.com.


The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, not the International Relations and Security Network (ISN).

http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Current-Affairs/Security-Watch/Detail/?ots591=4888CAA0-B3DB-1461-98B9-E20E7B9C13D4&lng=en&id=109232

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Q+A: Why is the United States engaging with Myanmar?

By Martin Petty

Reuters
Thursday, November 5, 2009

BANGKOK (Reuters) – It would be very hard for elections next year in army-ruled Myanmar to be credible without detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s involvement, a top U.S. official said on Thursday.

Deputy Assistant Secretary Scot Marciel made the comment after a two-day visit to Myanmar, the first in 14 years by a top U.S. delegation and part of Washington’s new policy of rapprochement with the reclusive junta.

WHY IS WASHINGTON ENGAGING WITH MYANMAR?

The Obama administration has recognized sanctions have failed and dialogue is needed to spur democratic reforms. It believes there is a better chance of progress if it engages and encourages the junta instead of disparaging the regime and ignoring it.

Washington is also concerned about reports of possible nuclear ties between North Korea and Myanmar, although it accepts there is so far scant evidence to prove this.

IS THERE A GEOPOLITICAL AGENDA?

Analysts and diplomats see another big factor behind the change in Washington’s stance: China. It is no secret the United States is concerned about China’s influence and wants to counter that by strengthening its presence and diplomacy in the region.

China may not be Myanmar’s greatest friend but it is its economic lifeline, pumping billions of dollars into the country and serving as a reliable political ally. Washington might not be be so comfortable with that.

China has begun building a crude oil port in Myanmar, part of a pipeline project aimed at cutting out the long detour oil cargoes take through the congested Malcca Strait. The nearly 1,000-km long pipeline is expected to provide Myanmar with at least $29 billion over the 30 years, according to rights groups.

“It’s is a big concern and geopolitically, it’s difficult to counter the effect of China,” said Sean Turnell, a Myanmar analyst at Australia’s Macquarie University.

“However, Burma sees China’s economic domination as a problem and it might want to show Beijing is not its only friend in town.”

WILL WASHINGTON LIFT SANCTIONS?

Not yet. While accepting sanctions have failed, the United States insists trade, banking and travel embargoes will remain in place, despite the softening of its stance toward Myanmar.

Marciel said sanctions could be reviewed, and the issue put before lawmakers, only if the generals showed significant progress toward reforms, which could be a long way off.

WHAT IS THE UNITED STATES ASKING OF THE JUNTA?

Its main objective is to encourage the generals to be more inclusive and to make sufficient concessions to allow all players to take part in the political process, which includes ethnic groups and opposition parties.

Washington has repeatedly asked for the estimated 2,000 political prisoners to be freed and allowed to take part in the polls, and wants Suu Kyi to be released, or at least allowed to meet with her party.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT?

Washington says it is taking a pragmatic, open-minded approach and has described this week’s visit by the fact-finding mission as “exploratory dialogue.”

Both sides have agreed to appoint a special envoy to continue the two-way dialogue, but it is perhaps too soon for higher-level meetings. This week’s snub by junta supremo, Senior General Than Shwe, was indicative of that.

Marciel said it was unlikely a meeting would take place between Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein and either U.S. President Barack Obama or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the inaugural Association of South-East Asian Nations/United States summit in Singapore later this month.

(Editing by Jason Szep)

http://www.reuters.com/article/vcCandidateFeed1/idUSTRE5A41C120091105?sp=true

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Myanmar’s Protracted Conflicts

By Nehginpao Kipgen

Just over a month after the announcement of the Barack Obama administration’s nine-month long policy review on Myanmar (Burma), the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell and his deputy Scott Marciel paid a two-day visit to the military-ruled country from Nov. 3 to 4.

Campbell and Marciel met with senior military junta officials and members of the opposition, including detained Aung San Suu Kyi as well as representatives of ethnic minority groups.

The administration announced on Sept. 23 that it will pursue a direct and high-level engagement with Myanmar, while retaining sanctions. Though the visit was a short one, it was a test of the engagement-sanction policy.

There are critics who argue that the U.S. high-level attention validates the brutality of the junta, which has waged war against its own people and imprisoned more than 2,200 political prisoners. Proponents of engagement, however, argue that the policy is a way forward to democratization for the country that has been under military rule since 1962.

The good news is that Suu Kyi, the opposition leader, welcomes engagement for the fact that it is designed to be inclusive of the State Peace and Development Council, the National League for Democracy, and the ethnic minorities.

The U.S. government and other international players need to understand the historical nature of conflicts in this ethnically diverse nation where there are “135 races” ― according to government statistics ― which are primarily based on dialectical variations.

Before the British colonization in 1886, the territories of ethnic minorities (frontier areas) were not part of Myanmar proper. For example, the Shans were ruled by their own sawbwas (princes), and the Chins and Kachins were ruled by their own chiefs.

The 1947 Panglong Agreement served as the basis for the formation of the “Union of Myanmar,” and the country’s independence from the British in 1948.

Many have often failed to understand the complexity of the conflicts in this Southeast Asian nation. Until recently, many thought the conflicts were entirely between the Myanmarese military junta and the opposition on the question of democracy.

The conflicts are largely the consequences of mistrust and misunderstanding between the majority ethnic Burmarn-led central government and other ethnic minorities because of the failure to implement the Panglong Agreement. One significant agreement was granting “full autonomy” to the frontier areas, which has not materialized as of yet.

The failure to implement this historic agreement has increased mistrust and misunderstanding between the successive ethnic Burmarn-led military governments and other ethnic nationalities. Autonomy has been the core demand of minorities for over 50 years since 1947, and continues to remain the fundamental issue.

Successful conflict resolution depends on the facilitation of open dialogue on the basis of equality between all the interested parties. Such open dialogue will yield results if the rights of all ethnic groups are respected, irrespective of political and religious affiliations. Equality of rights is one fundamental democratic principle that is missing in Myanmarese society today.

Myanmar’s ethnic minorities are neither secessionists nor separatists, but are striving for autonomy in their respective territories within the Union of Myanmar. The minorities believe that self-determination would give them an opportunity to preserve their culture, language, and tradition.

There needs to be an environment where everyone receives equal treatment in the eyes of the law, regardless of the size of population. Under the military dictatorship, ethnic minorities are alienated and less privileged. This does not, however, advocate that ethnic Burmarns do not suffer under the military regime.

In the run-up to the proposed 2010 general election, the junta has stepped up military campaigns against ethnic minorities. The dismantling of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, an ethnic Kokang armed group, in late September was an example.

With its sizeable army of over 400,000, and without foreign enemies, the junta has the power to cripple minorities militarily, but not necessarily the spirit of their core demand, which is autonomy.

To bring a long lasting solution to the decades-old conflicts, it needs the sincerity, honesty and participation of all ethnic groups. Different ethnic groups should be brought into confidence, and their legitimate demands should be looked into. The country needs reformation in various sectors ― both private and public. Political problems need to be resolved by political means.

Because of the protracted nature of the conflicts, there will be no quick fix or magical solution to the conflicts. It will require in-depth analysis, a systematic approach, and comprehensive remedial measures, including mediation and negotiation.

Because of its economic, political and military power, and the wide reception by the Myanmarese military junta and the opposition alike, the United States has the best leverage to help restore democracy in Myanmar. Any solution should somehow address the concerns of ethnic minorities, including a fundamental question on autonomy.

Nehginpao Kipgen is a researcher on the rise of political conflicts in modern Myanmar (1947-2004) and general secretary of the U.S.-based Kuki International Forum (www.kukiforum.com). He has written numerous analytical articles on the politics of Myanmar and Asia for many leading international newspapers in Asia, Africa, and the United States of America.

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2009/11/137_54929.html

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Burma in Crisis

By Andrea Sobolewski

Amnesty International

Campus Times

Published: Thursday, November 5, 2009

Updated: Thursday, November 5, 2009

While most public attention has been focused upon the gruesome civil war currently taking place in Sudan, we must not forget the several other countries struggling with human rights violations. The country of Burma (currently known as Myanmar) is a Buddhist nation located in Southeast Asia to the west of Thailand. Its diverse ethnic population has resulted in an extensive history of ethnic conflicts. In the past twenty years, Burma has been fighting a bloody battle between the current military regime and the civilian population.

Up until 1988, Burma had been under the control of a military-dominated regime led by the Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) for 26 years. Like other military governments, there was no freedom of speech or elections, and protests were settled through force. During the 1980s, the economy severely deteriorated, and on Aug. 8, 1988, hundreds of thousands of protestors marched nationwide to demand the BSPP’s replacement by an elected civilian government. However, soldiers tried to settle the protests by firing into crowds and killing thousands.

That September, the army finally responded to the calls for democracy and announced a coup by the State Peace and Development Council. The government’s next move was to open fire with machine guns on demonstrators, killing at least 5,000 people and arresting thousands more. Amnesty International estimates that approximately 1,500 people are still living in harsh prisons as a result of these incidences.

While the State Peace and Development Council claimed that it would hold peaceful elections, the leader of the most popular opposition party, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (National League for Democracy) was placed under house arrest and many other NLD officials were imprisoned. A free vote took place on Aug. 27, 1990, which resulted in the NLD winning over 80 percent of the parliamentary seats. The State Peace and Development Council responded to their harsh defeat by simply changing the rules of the election. Repression continued and several more NLD officials were arrested. During this time, the state media made reports almost daily of the “resignations” of hundreds of NLD members when, in reality, most of them were put under house arrest or detained.

Burma has an estimated military of 500,000 personnel. Given that the country only contains 50 million people, it is one of the largest militaries in Asia for a country with no external enemies. Campaigns across the world have forced a large amount of countries to withdraw from Burma, and the U. S. places a ban on most Burmese imports. Torture in Burma has “become an institution,” according to Amnesty International. There is an increasing list of human rights violations including rape, murder, torture, detention without reason and forced labor. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the country to Thailand or elsewhere, but the majority remain internally displaced. Despite the fact that Burma has signed several human rights treaties in the past, basic fundamental freedoms are suppressed. The government monopolizes broadcast and other media, religious repression is common and labor unions are not allowed.

Currently, the State Peace and Development Council stated that it is developing a new constitution for democracy. The constitution draft protects against military dominance of any future government and has already been rejected by the Democratic opposition. No plan or schedule has not been provided that indicates democratic reforms, but the constitution principles that have been displayed so far seem to advocate for an authoritarian government with heavy military entrenchment. In 1995, after six years of house arrest during which she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was released. Since then, she has been in and out of house arrest, asking us to “use our liberty to help save theirs.”

There are many things that we can do to increase awareness and stop the violence in Burma. The U.S. Campaign for Burma is one of the foremost advocates for Burma human rights awareness. They are urging the public to join or start a local chapter and educate. The U.S. Campaign for Burma Web site has several suggestions specifically for students to complete on and off campus. In the mean time, keep your eyes and ears open to Burma events that may be taking place near you.

Written on behalf of Amnesty International.

Sobolewski is a member of the class of 2011.

http://www.campustimes.org/burma-in-crisis-1.2051994

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

November 5, 2009 at 11:04 am

A new tactic?

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A new tactic?

P.S. SURYANARAYANA
in Singapore

A three-way engagement between Myanmar’s junta, Suu Kyi and the U.S. could decide the pro-democracy leader’s future status.

AFP/NEW LIGHT OF MYANMAR

Aung San Suu Kyi shaking hands with Senior General Than Shwe at an undisclosed location, in this undated file photograph. The junta’s talks with her in early October have acquired the proportions of a new political game plan.

MYANMAR’S celebrated democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi is the only Nobel Peace laureate to languish in detention now. While this is a widely discussed fact, not equally known is the reality that she often turns to Mahatma Gandhi for inspiration. It is not as if her peaceful struggle is not known. It is just that the international community does not readily see Gandhiji as her primary hero in politics. It was, all the same, ironic that Suu Kyi’s appeal to end her house arrest was turned down by a Yangon court on Gandhi Jayanti day, October 2. As this is written, the planned revision petition against this verdict of a divisional court has not been formally moved.

The current phase of her house arrest was ordered on August 11 by an executive fiat that superseded a Yangon trial court’s verdict against her on the same day. And thereby hangs an intricate tale of unexplored possibilities. In a sense, these possibilities have little to do with her overall detention for over 14 years so far – mainly house arrest and also a brief spell in prison. Nor do the new possibilities have much to do with the so-called facts of the current case against her. The American national who she was accused of sheltering for a few days in violation of the terms of the previous phase of her house arrest has already been deported after being convicted for a parallel “offence” of seeking her out undetected by the security forces.

Another material fact in the maze of details about her current status is that Myanmar’s military rulers have “eased” her “penalty” but not revoked the trial court’s “guilty verdict” against her. While that court sentenced her to a three-year rigorous imprisonment, the junta altered the punishment to a new round of house arrest for a reduced period at her Yangon lakeside residence.

LEGAL PROCESS

At the legal level, Suu Kyi’s close political associates in her National League for Democracy (NLD), who also serve as her counsel, are determined to get the “guilty verdict” overturned through the remaining avenues of appeal. However, the legal process in Myanmar, overshadowed overwhelmingly by martial law, is not as clear-cut as in a democracy. This is especially so at this time on two counts.

One, it is for the first time that the junta has accessed the judicial process in a bid to keep Suu Kyi out of the political domain. Before the present case, the first against her, the junta had promoted the same objective through a naked exercise of political prerogatives.

More importantly, the second factor, now in focus behind the scenes, is the possibility of a three-way engagement between Myanmar’s junta, Suu Kyi, and the United States. In a larger sense, the junta’s leader, Senior General Than Shwe, so used to arbitrary rule as in the cases of martial law in other countries, may decide the future status of Suu Kyi on the basis of such a three-way engagement.

Significantly, in this context, Aung Kyi, a Minister designated by the junta to “liaise” with Suu Kyi even as it crushed a recent uprising by Buddhist monks, met her twice in quick succession after her judicial appeal for freedom was turned down on October 2. With the junta releasing no details of these conversations, her close associates, who were not privy to this sudden dialogue, could only speculate about the nature and scope of the new engagement. Although her associates were denied access to her in this context, they were aware of the possibility of a qualitatively different kind of dialogue between her and the junta.

Nyan Win, Suu Kyi’s long-time lieutenant and NLD spokesman, told this correspondent from Yangon in the first week of October that the junta was possibly trying to figure out how she might help secure an end to the existing international sanctions on Myanmar. The reasoning was that these talks took place soon after she categorically offered to “cooperate” with the junta in getting the economic embargo lifted for the benefit of Myanmar’s people.

PARALLEL MOVES

Another subject of actual or potential interest to the junta in engaging Suu Kyi was its own possible dialogue with the U.S. The Barack Obama administration has surprised many observers in East Asia by offering to hold direct talks with not only North Korea but also Myanmar’s military rulers. One of the reasons cited by the U.S. for these parallel moves is the suspicion of emerging links on arms-related issues between Kim Jong-il’s North Korea and Than Shwe’s Myanmar. The suspicion in the West extends to the possibility of Kim helping Than Shwe develop nuclear weapons.

On a different but related front, the latest U.S. move for separate bilateral talks with North Korea and Myanmar does not bristle with open overtones of seeking a regime change in any of these countries. On the contrary, the U.S. has packaged the move as some kind of realpolitik of dealing with these two leaders in their own right because of their critical relevance to the local situations.

For Suu Kyi’s NLD associates, the relevant issue is not really centred on the tactical or strategic logic that drove Washington to initiate its new move. In their view, any dialogue between the U.S. and Myanmar’s junta would be pointless without a parallel or overlapping conversation between the NLD and the Obama administration. In fact, shortly after the new U.S. gesture to the junta became known, Suu Kyi let a word out, through her now-free NLD lieutenants, that she would like the U.S. to engage not just Myanmar’s junta but also the country’s opposition camp, especially her own party.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, Than Shwe’s decision to depute a Minister for urgent talks with Suu Kyi, even as the ink on a judicial order against her appeal for freedom had not yet become dry, acquired the proportions of a new political game plan. From the NLD standpoint, the junta’s talks with her in early October offered the prospects of some form of a three-way engagement that could involve the U.S. as well. With Washington yet to firm up its own ideas on how to engage the junta, the NLD’s position, as of October 9, was that the three sides could talk not only about ending the Myanmar-specific sanctions but also about the country’s long-term political question itself.

KHIN MAUNG WIN/AP

NYAN WIN (LEFT) and Kyi Win, both lawyers of Suu Kyi, escorted by members of the National League for Democracy as they leave a court in Yangon on October 2. The court turned down the Nobel Peace laureate’s appeal to end her house arrest.

The notion of the three sides sitting together for talks was, of course, just that – a notion. However, it was not an idle pastime to imagine that some criss-crossing or even parallel contacts between the three sides could occur. For that to happen, the junta should, of course, be willing either to free Suu Kyi or at least to let her talk to the U.S. or the West.

For long, the junta had accused Suu Kyi of being a “devilish advocate” of the international sanctions that only hurt the interests of ordinary Myanmarese. While this was not true, she also had not, until early October, offered proactive cooperation with the junta to get these sanctions lifted, NLD sources said.

The junta, no doubt, remains wary of going the extra mile to engage Suu Kyi and the U.S., lest that should inexorably lead to the beginning of the end of military rule in Myanmar. An idea of striking a bargain for some form of controlled democracy is, therefore, seen to be driving the junta in denying her freedom even while engaging her.

TRACK RECORD

Will the NLD lawyers be able to bring about a game-changer now by pursuing further judicial appeals for Suu Kyi’s freedom? The junta’s track record should rule out this possibility. But the lawyers are in no mood to give up, especially after winning a crucial legal point in the Yangon divisional court on October 2.

When this is written, she is yet to review the situation following the divisional court’s verdict against her first-stage appeal.

Dismissing that appeal, the court ruled that the 1974 Constitution, which the prosecution had cited as the overarching framework for her trial, “is not valid” in law. However, the divisional judge upheld the validity of the 1975 State Protection Law, which was invoked to set the terms for her previous house arrest, which she was accused of violating.

The NLD lawyers saw this as a “very controversial” ruling that could be challenged judicially. Their reasoning was that the invalidation of the 1974 Constitution, which they demanded during the hearings, would imply a constitutional vacuum.

This should strengthen the case against any state protection law, however enacted or promulgated. The hope of the NLD lawyers was that a successful appeal in the form of a revision petition before the apex court would not only exonerate her of any wrongdoing but also undermine the basis of the executive order on her current detention.

Such legal niceties under a martial-law regime and the emerging political possibilities call for some problem-solving creativity, which those outside Myanmar have rarely, if at all, credited the junta with.

http://www.flonnet.com/stories/20091106262205700.htm

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

October 23, 2009 at 4:48 pm

World focus on Burma (27-9-2009)

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UN urges Asian nations to get tougher on Myanmar

Seattle Post Intelligencer – ‎

Ban said it is in the best interest of the rest of the 10-member organization to lean on Myanmar to free political prisoners like democracy leader Aung San …

Suu Kyi’s release key to US policy change

National – Larry Jagan

… there is certainly a renewed opportunity for talks,” said a European diplomat based in Bangkok who closely monitors Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. …

Suu Kyi’s initiative to end sanctions

Hindu –

SINGAPORE: Myanmar’s celebrated democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi “is willing to cooperate with the junta to lift the sanctions” on the country. …

Will New US Policy on Burma be helpful?

Asian Tribune – Zin Linn – ‎

During the second meeting of the Group of Friends on Myanmar/Burma at the level of Foreign Ministers, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also called on …

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

September 26, 2009 at 11:55 pm

World focus on Burma (26-9-2009)

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Chinese rights warning

Shanghai Daily – ‎

CHINA has urged Myanmar to take effective measures to safeguard the lawful rights of Chinese citizens in the country, according to a statement by the …

Who are they fooling?

The Daily Star – Larry Jagan

… made on behalf of the international community, during his visit to Myanmar earlier this year,” the Burma researcher for the UK-based human rights group, …

China Urges Burma To Protect Rights Of Chinese Nationals

Journal of Turkish Weekly –

China has urged Burma to take effective measures to safeguard the rights of Chinese citizens in Burma. TheChinese foreign ministry said on its Web site …

China Urges Burma to Protect Rights of Chinese Nationals

Voice of America –

By VOA News China has urged Burma to take effective measures to safeguard the rights of Chinese citizens in Burma. The Chinese foreign ministry said on its …

Mixed reactions to US policy shift towards Burma

Deutsche Welle – Michael Knigge

None of the neighboring states have any sanctions on Myanmar (the official name given to Burma by its military rulers). So, Myanmar’s economy has been hurt …

China tells Myanmar to protect Chinese residents

eTaiwan News –

Myanmar, also known as Burma, is largely estranged from the West, but China has maintained close economic and diplomatic ties with the junta that have …

Suu Kyi Offers to Help Lift Sanctions

The Irrawaddy News Magazine – Ko Htwe

Detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has written a letter to the head of Burma’s ruling junta with suggestions about how to get Western …

‘Protect Chinese nationals’

Straits Times – ‎

BEIJING – CHINA has called on Myanmar to take ‘concrete’ action to protect Chinese nationals caught up in fighting between the army and rebels in the …

Myanmar’s Suu Kyi eases sanctions stance


AFP – ‎

… effectively ruled the 64-year-old out of elections due in 2010 that the ruling generals have promised in Myanmar, which was previously known as Burma. …

Myanmar urged to safeguard lawful rights of Chinese citizens

China.org.cn – ‎‎

China has urged Myanmar to take effective measures to safeguard the lawful rights of Chinese citizens in Myanmar, according to a statement of the Chinese …

Epiphanies on the Burma Road

Globe and Mail – Karen Connelly – ‎

As a result of the protracted and brutal civil war in Burma (officially called Myanmar since 1989 by the ruling military junta; many countries, …

Court rules funeral protests are protected speech

Free Speech Radio News – ‎

The Obama administration is in the final stages of reviewing its policy on Burma, also called Myanmar by the military junta in power. …

US policy shift: The generals are dancing well

Mizzima.com – Ohn Myint – ‎

“Strengthening bilateral relations between the US and Myanmar [Burma] government more or less impacts ceasefire groups that live along the Sino-Burma border …

In search of the truth about Burmese tourism

eTurboNews – Michael Kerr – ‎

Burma, or Myanmar (a local, formal name, the use of which the military regime has tried to make exclusive and compulsory), is a dictatorship. …

Weekly Business Roundup (September 26, 2009)

The Irrawaddy News Magazine – William Boot – ‎

“We fully support new and fresh ideas for how the US government and others can support the people of Burma,” eri’s Matthew Smith told The Irrawaddy. …

Myanmar: Dissident Offers to Work With Junta

New York Times – ‎

By AP The detained opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said she was willing to work with Myanmar’s military government to get Western sanctions lifted, …

American claims mistreatment in Myanmar prison

The Associated Press – ‎

The report said Kyaw Zaw Lwin is a member of the dissident group the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front. Kyaw Zaw Lwin’s mother is serving a five-year …

Myanmar’s Suu Kyi gives backing to US engagement

Reuters India – Aung Hla Tun

YANGON (Reuters) – Myanmar’s detained Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, will support US plans to engage with the isolated nation but only if …

US protests to Myanmar over detained American

Daily Times – ‎‎

“Subsequently the embassy submitted an official message to the government of Burma protesting this alleged mistreatment of an American citizen,” he said, …

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

September 26, 2009 at 5:58 pm

Birkin seeks Myanmar sanctions

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Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2009

Birkin seeks Myanmar sanctions

Staff writer

British singer and actress Jane Birkin held a news conference Tuesday in Tokyo to urge the inc

Birkin, 62, who wrote a song called “Aung San Suu Kyi” and has participated in demonstrations against the junta, is in Tokyo for a concert this week.

She said sanctions should be placed on Myanmar, which has been under military rule for nearly 50 years, but they must be effective because they could also harm ordinary people.

“You’re lucky because you’ve got a new government” and it is a good opportunity for Japanese people to make new demands for supporting Myanmar citizens, Birkin added.

She said ordinary people can help Myanmar by writing a letter to their government or boycotting companies doing business with the junta.

Yuki Akiyama of the Burma Information Network based in Tokyo stressed the importance of supporting local citizens. Japan should focus on helping the people of Myanmar, such as by offering humanitarian support for refugees or assisting in the prevention of infectious diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV, she said.

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20090916a8.html

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

September 16, 2009 at 12:53 am

Analysis: US reignites debate over Myanmar sanctions

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Analysis: US reignites debate over Myanmar sanctions

YANGON, 3 September 2009 (IRIN) – An expected review of US policy towards poverty-stricken Myanmar has reignited the debate over the effectiveness of sanctions against the country.

The persecution of Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi – who has spent about 14 of the last 20 years in detention – and the harassment of her pro-democracy party, was the underlying rationale for sanctions imposed by the European Union (EU) in 1996 and the US a year later.

Photo: Greg Constantine/WFP

But in an acknowledgment that sanctions were failing, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a review of Washington’s stance towards Myanmar in February. The review is expected to be completed soon.

“Clearly, the path we have taken in imposing sanctions hasn’t influenced the Burmese junta,” she said.

The news was followed by an unprecedented meeting on 15 August between the head of Myanmar’s military government, Senior General Than Shwe, and US Senator Jim Webb, the highest-ranking US official to hold talks with the leader.

The meeting came days after Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to a further 18 months of house arrest, sparking further EU sanctions.

For those who favour engagement over sanctions, the meeting between the US senator and the senior general in Naypyidaw raised hopes of a breakthrough.

But for those who believe sanctions the government offer the best way to free the opposition leader, and promote democracy and human rights in Myanmar, the encounter was an act of appeasement.

''The counterproductive nature of sanctions outweighs any benefits perceived, such as ‘sending a strong message’ and ‘punishing the regime''

Lack of funding

Myanmar is one of the least-funded countries worldwide, and its citizens are among the poorest in Southeast Asia.

A 2005 UN Development Programme (UNDP) household survey found that one-third of the population lives below the poverty line. But Aung San Suu Kyi’s continued detention remains a key obstacle for donors.

In 2007, the nation received just US$4 per person in overseas development assistance, less than any of the poorest 50 countries, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Cambodia and Laos – countries with similar poverty levels – received $47 and $68 respectively for the same period.

And while Myanmar saw a rare infusion of donor money after Cyclone Nargis in May 2008, a disaster that left close to 140,000 people dead, more than a year later, recovery efforts remain critically under-funded.

Of the $691 million needed for the Post-Nargis Recovery and Preparedness Plan, only $100 million has been raised to address health, shelter, water and sanitation, and agriculture needs.

Sanctions have a role

However, Burmese activists still favour sanctions as a form of political pressure, and argue that lifting them would legitimize the military government. They also maintain that the measures only affect people and businesses linked to the junta.

The EU has a policy of “targeted measures”, including a ban on arms sales and visas, and asset freezes.

A senior British Foreign Office official with the Southeast Asia department in London said these sanctions “send a strong political message about our determination to see real democracy established, and human rights respected”.

Rather than sanctions affecting living standards, it is “poor governance and economic mismanagement that has resulted in the problems Myanmar faces today”, said the official, who requested anonymity in line with government policy.

He stressed that EU sanctions against the country’s gem, mining and timber sectors were “specifically targeted at the business interests of the military regime and those associated with them, rather than ordinary people”.

Sean Turnell, an expert on Myanmar’s economy from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, said there was no doubt that the junta “got the message” from targeted sanctions.

“Especially effective in this context are the [US and EU] visa bans, combined with the financial sanctions imposed by the US,” said Turnell.

“Together they provide a substantial – though not entirely insurmountable – barrier to connected figures sending their kids to US colleges. This hurts,” he said.

But while Turnell agreed that sanctions had an impact by sending “signals” to the junta, he conceded that they had failed to achieve any significant changes in its behaviour.

“I don’t believe anything can,” he added.

Engagement preferred

Senator Webb followed his visit by writing that sanctions had been “overwhelmingly counterproductive”, and argued for greater engagement with the Myanmar government.

“The ruling regime has become more entrenched and at the same time more isolated. The Burmese people have lost access to the outside world,” Webb wrote on 25 August in The New York Times.

Sanctions have failed to persuade the junta to institute political reform and have made the situation “demonstrably worse”, according to Derek Tonkin, a retired British diplomat to the region and veteran Myanmar observer.

“The counterproductive nature of sanctions outweighs any benefits perceived, such as ‘sending a strong message’ and ‘punishing the regime’,” Tonkin told IRIN.

The west “has lost political influence with Myanmar and has surrendered its economic and commercial interests to countries in the region” as a result of sanctions, he said.

Tonkin, a long-time critic of sanctions – except on the sale of arms – said a better approach would be for the US and the EU to review their sanctions policies.

“They should then remove those sanctions which demonstrably affect the Burmese people, and allow the ADB [Asian Development Bank], World Bank and IMF to complete a substantive reappraisal of what needs to be done to restore economic and financial stability,” he said.

“Isolation and ostracism can never promote democratic reforms in the country,” said Tonkin.

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Theme(s): (IRIN) Aid Policy, (IRIN) Economy, (IRIN) Governance

[ENDS]’

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=85981

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

September 3, 2009 at 4:01 pm

Posted in Varieties in English

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Need to re-engage Myanmar in diplomacy: US Senator

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Need to re-engage Myanmar in diplomacy: US Senator

Washington: Advocating that economic sanctions against Myanmar be lifted, a US Senator who recently visited the country has said the need to immediately re-engage Myanmar in diplomacy.

“Right now we have an opportunity to try to construct a new formula, and it is vital for the interests of the United States in Southeast Asia that we re-engage across the Southeast Asian mainland. We are in real danger of losing our position, with the expansion of China, with this whole series of countries that I visited,” Senator Jim Webb, told the PBS news in an interview.

Senator Webb is the first US lawmaker to visit Myanmar in about a decade and meet Senior General Than Shwe and also noble laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi.

On his return, in an op-ed in ‘The New York Times’, he called for lifting of sanctions on Myanmar and said the ultimate objective is to encourage Myanmar become a responsible member of the world community.

“I am not saying lift sanctions immediately. I am saying we need to proceed immediately towards a formula where we can do that. By cutting off the United States and the European Union from Myanmar, as China is so heavily investing in the country, and we are seeing Myanmar now tilt away from our national interest. There’s got to be a different way to do this,” he argued.

Responding to a question on this critic of his Myanmar policy, Webb said, “The dissident groups that say you should have democracy first, really, I understand their frustrations, but they need to look at it a different way. Take what you can get and move toward democracy. That’s the way you can bring change in Asia.”

According to Webb, there are other dimensions to lifting sanctions, and that is allowing people from Western cultures to interact on a daily basis with the people of Myanmar and, through those sorts of interactions, raising a level of consciousness so that you can have the right sort of interest, in terms of changing a system.

“With respect to the meetings with General Than Shwe, is that I communicated to them as clearly as I could that the rest of the world views their government through the way that they treat Aung San Suu Kyi and it was important for them to show more even-handedness there,” Webb said.

Bureau Report

http://www.zeenews.com/news559281.html

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

August 29, 2009 at 5:59 pm