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LG Dog Russ
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« on: June 05, 2003, 11:04:55 AM »

Yangon feels the tightening of the screws
By Nelson Rand

BANGKOK - The detention of Myanmese opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the crackdown against pro-democracy supporters in the country could be the beginning of the end for the ruling junta, the country's two largest ethnic rebel groups say.

"The end is coming," said the Karen National Union's foreign spokesman Saw Ner Dah Mya, referring to the latest developments in the country, which climaxed last Friday with the detainment of Suu Kyi after a violent clash between her supporters and a pro-government group.

The latest crackdown is a sign of internal fighting within the ruling junta - known as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) - said Ner Dah, who also commands a battalion of Karen guerrillas who have been fighting for an independent homeland in eastern Myanmar since 1948.

"People are confused, the SPDC is splitting," he said in a telephone interview.

Analysts say the military junta has been at odds in recent years over how to handle Suu Kyi, who won a landslide election in 1990 but has never been allowed to govern. She has spent much of the last 14 years under house arrest, but a United Nations-brokered deal in 2000 raised hopes of bringing change and national reconciliation for the country.

Since being released from her last stint of house arrest in May 2002, Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party had been enjoying a relative newfound freedom in their political activities. Drawing large crowds to her various speeches and political trips throughout the country over the past year, the junta naturally became alarmed and drew the line last Friday.

During a political tour in northern Myanmar, violence broke out between Suu Kyi's supporters and a pro-government group that may have killed dozens, although the government has put the death toll at four. Conflicting reports have emerged about the fate of Suu Kyi, with some sources saying that she was hurt in the clash. The government has denied this, saying she is in "protective custody" at an undisclosed location.

Whether she was hurt or not, last weekend's crackdown has in effect put an end to the stalled talks between the opposition and the government.

Sai Wansai, general secretary of the Shan Democratic Union (SDU), whose military faction has been waging war against the junta for the past four decades, said: "Most of our senior members view this as an end to the dialogue process."

Like Ner Dah of the Karen National Union, he too pointed to a possible split within the military. "The recent crackdown could be viewed as the junta's hardliners gaining an upper hand in the SPDC," he said.

Chaiyachoke Chulasiriwong, a politics professor at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, told the Associated Press this week that he believed the junta's second in command, Maung Aye, was responsible for the crackdown to counter the more liberal factions associated with the junta's No 3, General Khin Nyunt.

If so, then this latest crackdown on Suu Kyi could be more than a struggle for the military to hold on to power, but an internal conflict among the generals who have been ruling the country since 1962. With its economy in ruins, these developments come at a critical time for the junta.

"All and all," said the SDU's Sai Wansai, "the junta is scared to death that the people will revolt and [this] could spell the beginning of the end."

Meanwhile, the country is officially cracked down on, Myanmar style. Top aides of Suu Kyi are in detention, the NLD offices are shut, and the country's universities are sealed. State media, as usual, are silent on the latest events, with a front-page headline in Wednesday's New Light of Myanmar reading, "Central Committee for Iodine Deficiency meets".

World leaders have condemned the crackdown and have urged the junta to immediately release Suu Kyi. US President George W Bush said on Monday that he was "deeply concerned" and that "the military authorities should release Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters immediately, and permit her part headquarters to reopen". UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said Myanmar is at a "critical juncture" in its political transition, and that Suu Kyi should be released immediately and allowed to cooperate with the junta to bring national reconciliation.

But if the past 15 years are any indication of how far the international community will step in to produce change in Myanmar, it looks as if the country's ruling generals have only themselves to fear.

(Copyright 2003 Asia Times Online Co, Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact content@atimes.com for information on our sales and syndication policies.)

Nelson Rand is a journalist/ war photographer and my former roommate at the University of Hanoi, Vietnam (1995).

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« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2003, 09:54:12 PM »

STRATFOR'S GLOBAL INTELLIGENCE REPORT
http://www.stratfor.com
5 June 2003

=================================================================


Today's Featured Analysis

Suu Kyi Detention Points to Deeper Troubles for Myanmar

Summary

The recent detention of pro-democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi
following clashes between government supporters and members of
her National League of Democracy has raised questions of the
efficacy of the snail's-pace talks between the government and
opposition in Myanmar. But the attack that led to Suu Kyi's
detention might reveal a deeper problem for the central
government than simply an active pro-democracy movement.

Analysis

U.N. Special Envoy to Myanmar Razali Ismail has said he will go
ahead with a scheduled trip to Yangon on June 6, a week after the
military government placed pro-democracy advocate Aung San Suu
Kyi in "protective custody" after a clash between members of her
National League of Democracy (NLD) and pro-government members of
the Union Solidarity and Development Association.

The detention has raised questions about the government's
commitment to the ongoing dialogue with Suu Kyi, aimed at
ultimately ending the international isolations and sanctions on
cash-strapped Myanmar. But more fundamentally, the timing of the
clash, just before Razali's long-planned visit, suggests deeper
problems for the regime than simply dealing with the NLD. Rather,
it might signal dissent from local officials worried that
Yangon's talks with Suu Kyi will strip them of their power and
economic well-being.

Reports vary widely over what exactly happened May 30, but both
government and opposition sources agree that there was a violent
clash between NLD and union members in northern Myanmar after Suu
Kyi visited the area. The union was founded in 1993, and,
according to the government, was established "to strengthen the
Union of Myanmar, to promote love and understanding among
indigenous peoples, to strengthen state sovereignty, to safeguard
territorial integrity and to develop the country and to build a
peaceful and modern State."

Yangon claims a spontaneous melee broke out when union members
rallied against NLD supporters, leaving four dead and about 50
injured. The government then took Suu Kyi and 19 other NLD
leaders into protective custody to avoid further violent
outbreaks.

Opposition supporters claim the government sent police or
military troops, local thugs, prisoners and union members to
ambush Suu Kyi's caravan, attacking NLD members and assaulting
Suu Kyi herself, who by some accounts sustained head and shoulder
injuries from broken glass. These reports claim that about 70 or
80 people died, several hundred others were injured and numerous
NLD members were detained.

While the exact cause of the violence is disputed, the existence
of the clash is undeniable. NLD members had complained prior to
the May 30 clash that union and local officials were harassing
their meetings and travels, using the excuse that the NLD was
"disrupting" traffic when members came to town. This incident,
then, was not entirely out of the blue, but the timing is rather
unfortunate for the central government.

Despite some differences of opinion within the ruling State Peace
and Development Council (SPDC), there had been an agreement to
try to press ahead with talks with Suu Kyi and undertake a public
relations campaign to try to extricate Myanmar from its
international isolation -- largely triggered by the military
government's refusal to accept the results of the 1990 elections.
Thus Yangon freed Suu Kyi from house arrest, allowed her to
travel the country and agreed to talks. Government officials also
reassured the United Nations, through Razali, that it was
interested in reform.

But the arrest of Suu Kyi just before a scheduled visit by Razali
is a black mark against Yangon. And, given the timing, it
suggests that the clash in northern Myanmar might not have been
entirely sanctioned by the SPDC. Rather, it instead might reflect
an already existing split in the SPDC or, more troubling for
Yangon, it could be the result of a local official taking things
into his own hands.

The SPDC has been split on the idea of working with Suu Kyi, but
had come to a consensus to continue. But in February, the SPDC
promoted Maj. Gen. Soe Win to Secretary 2, the fourth-ranked
position on the council. Soe Win had been commander of the
Northwest Military Region until a sweeping change in Myanmar's
regional military commanders placed him in Yangon -- where the
top leadership could monitor him.

Several opposition sources inside and outside Myanmar have
accused Soe Win of masterminding the attack on Suu Kyi in an
attempt to undermine the reconciliation process and return to a
more hard-line approach toward the NLD. And while this might be
true, there is another, more likely underlying trigger for the
incident -- a growing distrust of the reconciliation process by
regional officials.

The central government understands the need to alter the
international opinion of Myanmar to break free from sanctions and
boost the country's economy. Thus, Yangon has assured neighboring
Thailand that Suu Kyi's detention is only temporary and that it
will re-open universities on June 16, less than three weeks after
their closure following the clash. But local military commanders
and government officials currently benefit from the existing
political order, one in which they effectively serve as local
warlords backed by Yangon. It is this reason that the SPDC called
back nearly all of the regional military commanders in 2001 -- to
reign in the growing power of these disparate officials who were
stripping power from Yangon in their own self-interest.

And for them, the idea of more democracy in Myanmar is a direct
challenge to their current power and authority. They oppose moves
to compromise with Suu Kyi -- even moves shy of reintroducing
full participatory democracy -- because it threatens their very
existence. Thus, it is not unlikely that the May 30 actions were
locally organized attempts to throw a wrench into the already
difficult mechanics of reconciliation.

And the government's decision to place Suu Kyi and other NLD
leaders in protective custody -- a common euphemism for detention
-- might actually be in part to prevent further outbreaks of
violence -- particularly given the apparently unrelated bombings
that have taken place in various areas of the country in the past
six months. Yangon now is in a difficult position. If it intends
to maintain some momentum toward international normalcy, it must
continue talks with Suu Kyi and refrain from overly obvious
actions designed to limit the NLD's movements and operations.

But if regional commanders -- or even some members of the central
leadership -- are opposed to the process, Yangon's top three
leaders must take action. And that very well might come in the
form of another military or regional government reshuffle.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #2 on: June 07, 2003, 12:35:20 AM »

U.S. To Expand Sanctions Against Myanmar
Jun 06, 2003

The U.S. State Department announced June 6 an expansion to sanctions against the military regime in Myanmar. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the list of Myanmar officials banned from entering the United States will be lengthened. The move follows increased criticism by Congress of Myanmar's military crackdown on the political opposition.
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« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2003, 09:54:32 PM »

Get Tough on Rangoon
It's time to turn the tables on Burma's thugs.

BY COLIN L. POWELL
Thursday, June 12, 2003 12:01 a.m. EDT

United Nations Special Envoy Razali Ismail has just visited Burma and was able to bring us news that Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and the leader of a peaceful democratic party known as the National League for Democracy, is well and unharmed. The thoughts and prayers of free people everywhere have been with her these past two weeks. Our fears for her current state of health are now somewhat lessened.

On May 30, her motorcade was attacked by thugs, and then the thugs who run the Burmese government placed her under "protective custody." We can take comfort in the fact that she is well. Unfortunately, the larger process that Ambassador Razali and Aung San Suu Kyi have been pursuing--to restore democracy in Burma--is failing despite their good will and sincere efforts. It is time to reassess our policy towards a military dictatorship that has repeatedly attacked democracy and jailed its heroes.

There is little doubt on the facts. Aung San Suu Kyi's party won an election in 1990 and since then has been denied its place in Burmese politics. Her party has continued to pursue a peaceful path, despite personal hardships and lengthy periods of house arrest or imprisonment for her and her followers. Hundreds of her supporters remain in prison, despite some initial releases and promises by the junta to release more. The party's offices have been closed and their supporters persecuted. Ambassador Razali has pursued every possible opening and worked earnestly to help Burma make a peaceful transition to democracy. Despite initial statements last year, the junta--which shamelessly calls itself the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC)--has now refused his efforts and betrayed its own promises.
At the end of last month, this rejection manifested itself in violence. After the May 30 attack on Aung San Suu Kyi's convoy, we sent U.S. Embassy officers to the scene to gather information. They reported back that the attack was planned in advance. A series of trucks followed her convoy to a remote location, blocked it and then unloaded thugs to swarm with fury over the cars of democracy supporters. The attackers were brutal and organized; the victims were peaceful and defenseless. The explanation by the Burmese military junta of what happened doesn't hold water. The SPDC has not made a credible report of how many people were killed and injured. It was clear to our embassy officers that the members of the junta were responsible for directing and producing this staged riot.

We have called for a full accounting of what happened that day. We have called for Aung San Suu Kyi to be released from confinement of any kind. We have called for the release of the other leaders of the National League for Democracy who were jailed by the SPDC before and after the attack. We have called for the offices of the National League for Democracy to be allowed to reopen. We are in touch with other governments who are concerned about the fate of democracy's leader and the fate of democracy in Burma to encourage them, too, to pressure the SPDC.

The Bush administration agrees with members of Congress, including Sen. Mitch McConnell, who has been a leading advocate of democracy in Burma, that the time has come to turn up the pressure on the SPDC.

Here's what we've done so far. The State Department has already extended our visa restrictions to include all officials of an organization related to the junta--the Union Solidarity and Development Association--and the managers of state-run enterprises so that they and their families can be banned as well.

The United States already uses our voice and our vote against loans to Burma from the World Bank and other international financial institutions. The State Department reports honestly and frankly on the crimes of the SPDC in our reports on Human Rights, Trafficking in Persons, Drugs, and International Religious Freedom. In all these areas, the junta gets a failing grade. We also speak out frequently and strongly in favor of the National League for Democracy, and against the SPDC. I will press the case in Cambodia next week when I meet with the leaders of Southeast Asia, despite their traditional reticence to confront a member and neighbor of their association, known as Asean.

Mr. McConnell has introduced the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act in the Senate; Reps. Henry Hyde and Tom Lantos have introduced a similar bill in the House. We support the goals and intent of the bills and are working with the sponsors on an appropriate set of new steps. Those who follow this issue will know that our support for legislation is in fact a change in the position of this administration and previous ones as well. Simply put, the attack on Ms. Suu Kyi's convoy and the utter failure of the junta to accept efforts at peaceful change cannot be the last word on the matter. The junta that oppresses democracy inside Burma must find that its actions will not be allowed to stand.

There are a number of measures that should now be taken, many of them in the proposed legislation. It's time to freeze the financial assets of the SPDC. It's time to ban remittances to Burma so that the SPDC cannot benefit from the foreign exchange. With legislation, we can, and should, place restrictions on travel-related transactions that benefit the SPDC and its supporters. We also should further limit commerce with Burma which enriches the junta's generals. Of course, we would need to ensure consistency with our World Trade Organization and other international obligations. Any legislation will need to be carefully crafted to take into account our WTO obligations and the president's need for waiver authority, but we should act now.

By attacking Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters, the Burmese junta has finally and definitively rejected the efforts of the outside world to bring Burma back into the international community. Indeed, their refusal of the work of Ambassador Razali and of the rights of Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters could not be clearer. Our response must be equally clear if the thugs who now rule Burma are to understand that their failure to restore democracy will only bring more and more pressure against them and their supporters.

Mr. Powell is the secretary of state.
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« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2003, 10:03:57 AM »

Myanmar: The case against sanctions
By Nelson Rand

BANGKOK - When US Senator Mitch McConnell stood before the Senate last week to propose new legislation that will ban all US imports from Myanmar, he stated bluntly, "It's time for tyrants to fear in Burma."

But will they?

"Total US imports from Burma are not extensive, about US$356 million in 2002," said Harry Clark, a US lawyer and expert on export-control laws. "Given the limited trade levels between the United States and Burma, [tougher] sanctions would not have a major impact on the Burmese economy.

"They would presumably have a substantial impact on a relatively few US companies that rely heavily on Burmese imports," he said.

According to the US Census Bureau, US imports from Myanmar last year totaled $356.4 million. In comparison, Myanmar's natural-gas exports last year were more than double that figure, bringing in $846 million to the cashed-starve junta, according to a recent report in the Chinese People's Daily.

Border trade in timber, gems and seafood with Myanmar's neighbors - mainly China, Thailand and Malaysia - is largely unofficial and is hard to get reliable figures on. The Thai Farmers Bank estimates that Thai imports from Myanmar on border trade alone was worth $389.4 million in the first six months of 2002.

The isolationist regime in Myanmar has never relied heavily on the international community for commerce and trade.

So as Washington and the European Union step up pressure on the generals in Yangon to release opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and implement democratic reforms in the country, the question remains: Just how effective will tougher sanctions be against the junta to bring political change to the country?

Proposed new US sanctions, which US President George W Bush is expected to sign into law, would include banning all imports made in Myanmar and companies owned by Myanmar's rulers, freezing assets of Myanmar's rulers in US banks, directing US representatives to international financial institutions to oppose lending to Myanmar, and expanding the visa blacklist on Myanmar's rulers to the United States. This is in addition to the current investment ban and arms embargo implemented by the administration of president Bill Clinton in 1997.

Most analysts and economists agree that unless China, Singapore and Thailand - Myanmar's three largest trading partners - follow Washington's lead and restrict trade, sanctions just won't deliver the knockout punch to the regime. There is no indication that China, Singapore and Thailand will.

Retired World Bank economist Bradley Babson told the Far Eastern Economic Review for its June 19 edition that Myanmar's generals will not change their behavior because of tougher sanctions. He said the burden would fall mainly on the estimated 350,000 textile workers in the country.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer also believes that tougher sanctions will be of little effect to bring change in Myanmar. "America has taken the sanctions route in the past," he told reporters on Wednesday at the Association for Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum (ARF) in Phnom Penh. "Those sanctions haven't worked, haven't changed anything in Burma."

In the past 10 years, Washington has imposed sanctions on at least 35 countries, which in most cases have done little except to make the situation worse for the people in those countries. Critics say sanctions are incapable of achieving significant results within the timeframe of foreign-policy goals. Just look at Iraq. Thirteen years of sanctions wasn't enough to topple Saddam Hussein. Only a decisive military invasion accomplished that.

"US unilateral sanctions have a poor record with regard to advancing US foreign-policy goals," said legal expert Clark. "Current sanctions [on Myanmar] plainly are not 'working' in the sense that they have not induced [Myanmar's] military dictatorship to adopt policies and practices that satisfy minimum international human-rights standards."

So what will tougher US sanctions on Myanmar accomplish? Probably not much of anything, says William A Reinsch, president of the US National Foreign Trade Council, a corporate-backed organization.

He said it's a "lose lose lose" situation for the junta, US companies and the Myanmese people. For US importers, it's more of an inconvenience than anything, he said.

"Burma is not unique. Lots of countries produce their products. If [US companies] can't buy shoes from Burma, they will say 'Fine, we'll try Pakistan or Bangladesh or Thailand.'

"It's the Burmese people I feel sorry for," he said.

Supporters of sanctions argue that since the junta controls the nation's economy, any restriction on trade hurts the government. Isolation - not engagement - is also the preferred course of action that Suu Kyi urges the international community to take on Myanmar.

Many US giants have pulled out of Myanmar in recent years, including Wal-Mart, Adidas, and Tommy Hilfiger, bowing to pressure from human-rights groups.

"We are hopeful that sanctions will increase pressure on the regime and that other [countries] will also participate in this," said Steve Lamar, senior vice president of the American Apparel and Footwear Association - a staunch supporter of boycotting Myanmar. "Engagement is preferable, but it is clear that this is a regime that does not respond to the norms of engagement."

Clark maintains that although the economic impact on tougher sanctions against Myanmar would be minimal, the political impact on such sanctions may be more significant.

"The proposed sanctions represent more of a political gesture than an economic tool," he said. "At the same time, my sense is that Burma's junta has, at various points, moderated its policies and practices somewhat in response to international pressure."

For now, as Myanmar's ruling generals remain defiant in the face of international pressure to release Suu Kyi and restore national reconciliation talks, it seems the big losers are still the poverty-stricken people of Myanmar.

(Copyright 2003 Asia Times Online Co, Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact content@atimes.com for information on our sales and syndication policies.)
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« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2003, 12:00:05 AM »

Thailand's Thaksin Maneuvering for Top ASEAN Position?

Summary

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has formulated a plan not
only to secure the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi,
but also eventually to democratize Myanmar, Thai Foreign Minister
Surakiart Sathirathai said at a foreign ministers' summit on July
24. Thaksin's campaign to rehabilitate Myanmar is motivated by a
desire not only to remove a thorn in the side of ASEAN -- and
facilitate his ascension to its leadership -- but also to secure
the benefits a peaceful and prosperous Myanmar would bring to
Thailand.

Analysis

Thailand has forged a proposal to secure the release of
opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and possibly even democratize
Myanmar, Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said July 24
at a summit in Indonesia.

Bangkok has a multidimensional interest in resolving Myanmar's
issues: Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is motivated not only
by a desire to remove a thorn from the side of the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations -- hoping to position himself to take
over the ASEAN leadership -- but also to secure the benefits a
peaceful and prosperous Myanmar would bring to his country.

Myanmar's ruling military junta took Suu Kyi into "protective
custody" on May 30. The opposition leader's detainment has
spawned condemnations from Europe, the United States and fellow
Asian nations. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad even
floated the idea of expelling Myanmar from ASEAN if it did not
respond to the mounting international concerns -- a sharp
divergence from the association's policy of noninterference in
its members' internal affairs. At the time Thaksin rebutted
Mahathir's suggestion, urging the international community to give
Myanmar time to resolve its own national issues.

Bangkok changed its tune, however, at the Asia Europe Meeting
(ASEM) in Bali on July 24. Sathirathai said that Thailand's peace
plan for Myanmar seeks the cooperation of six "like-minded"
countries and all interested internal parties. However,
Sathirathai neither addressed when the plan would be implemented
nor specified the names of the "like-minded" countries.

Foreign ministers who attended the ASEM said they would not
support a policy that would remove Myanmar from ASEAN.

Thaksin and Mahathir reportedly will discuss the Myanmar crisis
during upcoming talks on Langkawi Island in Malaysia on July 26
and 27. Thaksin also reportedly plans to meet with U.N. Envoy to
Myanmar Tan Sri Razali Ismail, who is the only outsider reported
to have met with Suu Kyi during her incarceration.

On the heals of Thaksin's high-level meeting in Malaysia is
Myanmar Foreign Minister Win Aung's scheduled visit to Bangkok
for economic talks on July 31. At this point, it still is
ambiguous whether his visit is part of the Thai peace plan, which
Sathirathai called a "road map."

Judging by the Thai foreign minister's ambitious announcement,
and the forthcoming diplomatic traffic, it appears that Thaksin
has cut a deal with Yangon -- or at least is trying his utmost to
do so. If the Thai prime minister can actually deliver what he is
offering -- Suu Kyi's release and a democratized Myanmar -- it
would be a major political victory for Thaksin, both at home and
abroad.

Thaksin fancies the retiring Mahathir's position as the chief
ideologue and voice of ASEAN. Rehabilitating Myanmar, the
multinational body's sole rogue member, would guarantee a large
amount of political capital and help Thaksin's ascension to the
coveted position.

It still remains to be seen how Mahathir -- who plans to retire
in October -- feels about Thaksin's designs. Deputy Prime
Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is slated to take over Malaysia's
leadership, and Mahathir might be trying to position him as
regional leader as well. However, compared to Thaksin -- a self-
made billionaire and popular leader responsible for turning
around Thailand's economy in the wake of the Asian financial
crisis -- Badawi seems a less fitting candidate. Mahathir knows
this, and might decide to endorse Thaksin and help unify ASEAN --
a body he helped create -- behind a strong leader.

The Thai prime minister's campaign in Myanmar also would have
long-term domestic benefits. Thailand's western neighbor is host
to a number of rebel insurgencies and has been a source of
instability for Thailand for decades. The shared border is one of
Thailand's chief security concerns. Thaksin would like to do what
he can to pacify Myanmar and encourage economic growth both in
his neighbor and in northwestern Thailand, which suffers from its
proximity to the state. Since his election in 2001, Thaksin has
promised repeatedly to improve bilateral relations, which
remained stagnant during previous administrations. Thaksin also
might have enticed Yangon with economic aid, a gift that could be
mutually beneficial. If Myanmar's meager economy were to take a
positive upswing, there likely would be opportunities for Thai
businesses to help improve the country's paltry infrastructure.

It is conceivable that Thaksin quietly has offered some sort of
economic incentive to Yangon in exchange for Suu Kyi's release
and a minimal amount of political reform. As Myanmar's largest
consumer of its natural gas resources -- its major legitimate
source of foreign currency -- Bangkok certainly has some economic
leverage on its neighbor.
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« Reply #6 on: August 08, 2003, 10:04:13 AM »

Southeast Asia  

Myanmar's forgotten prisoners
By Nelson Rand

MAE SOT, Thailand - In the back of his house is a replica of a prison cell in Myanmar where he spent more than five years languishing as a political prisoner. The cell-like room is a museum with everything from biographical information on certain political prisoners to drawings of torture techniques used by the guards to punish their captives. Maps on the wall show the location of all prisons in Myanmar - 39 to be exact - and graphic pictures show what can happen to people who oppose the regime. Chess pieces carved out of soap tell how these people pass their time in Myanmar prisons, and bags made out of plastic show the ingenuity of what bored prisoners can make with scraps.

The desolate museum is a stark reminder that more than 1,500 political prisoners remain behind bars in Myanmar, even though the focus of the international community is for the military junta to release just one - opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

"Only Suu Kyi is under international eyes," says Bo Kyi, the man who runs the museum in his house in the Thai town of Mae Sot where he has been living in exile since 1999. "Everybody asks for her release ... We should not forget the other political prisoners."

Min Ko Naing is one of them. Naing was arrested in March 1989, three months before Suu Kyi began her first stint of house arrest, and is currently serving his 15th year of a 10-year sentence. "I have never heard of such kind of judicial system in the world," says Bo Kyi, referring to Naing's punishment.

Naing is the chairman of the All Burma Federation for Students Union and was arrested with Bo Kyi for their involvement in peaceful political activities. Naing was sentenced under the State Protection Act 10 (A), which declares that the military believes the person to be a threat to the state. Naing's defiance in prison is legendary, says Bo Kyi, as he refuses to exchange his freedom for a signed agreement that he refrain from political activity upon release.

"Every student respects Min Ko Naing because of his defiance in prison," says Bo Kyi. He is currently held in Sittwe prison in Arakan state and is reportedly suffering from mental distress. But his spirit remains unwavering, and a message quoted from him is printed on his picture in Bo Kyi's museum. It reads: "I always stand on the side of the people. I will never die. Physically I might be dead. But many Min Ko Naings will take my place."

Another prisoner is journalist U Win Tin, a founding member of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party. He has been in jail since 1989 and has been sentenced three times. He was arrested in June 1989 and interrogated for three months about his activities in the democracy movement. He was then handed down a three-year sentence. When he was set for release in June 1992, he was sentenced to another 10 years. In 1996, an extra seven years was added on top of that after he smuggled a report out of prison documenting human-rights violations. He is due to be released in 2009 if there are no further extensions on his term and assuming he doesn't get caught trying to smuggle another report out of prison. But at the age of 73, currently in a prison hospital, and having a medical history of heart attacks, the chances of him surviving until then are slim.

Bo Kyi says there are also more than a hundred female political prisoners in Myanmar. Daw Khin Khin Leh was arrested in July 1999 after her husband Kyaw Wanna was involved in planning a peaceful protest march. By the time military intelligence officers came for her husband a few days after the demonstration, he had already fled to the Thai-Myanmar border. Instead the officers interrogated her about her husband's activities. In December that year, she was sentenced to life imprisonment under the State Protection Act 10 (A). For the first five days of her incarceration, her daughter Thaint Wanna Khin was also jailed - becoming the world's youngest political prisoner. She was three.

In Bo Kyi's museum, an honorary award from Trinity College in the United States gives tribute to Leh and elementary-school teacher Daw Thida Htway, who was sentenced at the same time as Leh for involvement in the demonstration. Htway has since been released but Leh remains behind bars in Insein prison outside of Yangon.

On December 10, 1991, 135 peaceful protesters were arrested for demanding the release of Suu Kyi, who had just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize but was still under house arrest. Among the protesters arrested was the vice chairman of the All Burma Federation of Students Union, Ko Ko Gyi. Gyi had been arrested once before in 1989 for his activities in the student movement but was released after two months in prison. For protesting the detention of Suu Kyi, he was sentenced to 20 years with hard labor. Since then, Suu Kyi has been released twice, but Gyi is still in jail.

Bo Kyi says 109 Myanmar people have been arrested since the May 30 crackdown by the military regime that landed Suu Kyi in "protective custody" after a bloody clash between her supporters and a pro-government group. The United States has slapped Myanmar with heavier sanctions and even Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries - which historically have never interfered in the internal affairs of its members - are criticizing the junta for its treatment of Suu Kyi. But nobody seems so be talking about Min Ko Naing, U Win Tin, Khin Khin Leh, Ko Ko Gyi, and the 1,500 other political prisoners in Myanmar.

"Suu Kyi receives all the international attention," says Bo Kyi. "Everybody asks for her release, but all political prisoners must be released. This is the first step for change."

(Copyright 2003 Asia Times Online Co, Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact content@atimes.com for information on our sales and syndication policies.)  
 
 Aug 8, 2003  
 
 
 
 
 
 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Thai-Myanmar: Twists in the roadmap
(Aug 5, '03)

Myanmar: ASEAN's thorn in the flesh
(Jul 25, '03)

Myanmar problem needs Asian solution
(Jun 3, '03)
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« Reply #7 on: August 14, 2003, 09:49:57 AM »

Wednesday, August 13, 2003 (SF Chronicle)
Famed prisoner not only victim of Burma's regime/1,000 jailed for their
politics, ex-captive says
Nelson Rand, Chronicle Foreign Service


   Mae Sot, Thailand -- In the back room of Bo Kyi's house is a life-size
model of the jail cell in Burma where he spent more than seven years
languishing as a political prisoner.
   He has converted the room into a museum, complete with biographical
information on Burmese political prisoners and drawings of torture
techniques used by guards. Maps on the wall show the location of what he
identifies as the 39 prisons in Burma, all controlled by the military
government. Graphic pictures depicting bodies of student demonstrators
shot by army troops show what can happen to people who oppose the regime.
   The grim display is a stark reminder that while the international
community is focused on persuading the military junta to release just one
prisoner -- Nobel Peace Prize winner and Burmese opposition leader Aung
San Suu Kyi -- more than 1,000 political prisoners remain behind bars, Bo
Kyi says.
   "Everybody asks for her release," says Bo Kyi, who runs the museum in his
house in the Thai town of Mae Sot, where he has been living in exile since
1999. "We should not forget the other political prisoners."
   According to Amnesty International, there are approximately 1,300
political prisoners in Burma. Bo Kyi puts the figure at more than 1,500.
The Burmese government says there are none.
   Bo Kyi runs the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma,
an organization that gathers information on political prisoners in the
country and advocates for their release.
   Since the government's May 30 crackdown on pro-democracy forces, he has
been very busy. The junta's action came after a bloody clash between Suu
Kyi's supporters and a pro-government group. It landed Suu Kyi, who won a
landslide victory in 1990 national elections but has never been allowed to
govern, in "protective custody."
   Suu Kyi's arrest -- her third since 1989 -- has drawn international
condemnation and urgent calls for her release. President Bush signed a law
last month banning all imports from Burma. Even the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations, which seldom interferes in the internal affairs
of member states, has taken the unprecedented step of publicly criticizing
the military government.
   While the international community focuses on the release of the "Iron
Lady, " hundreds of others are also waiting to be freed from the Burmese
prison system, Bo Kyi says. He gave details of the histories of some of
those still behind bars:
   -- Min Ko Naing, chairman of the All Burma Federation for Students'
Unions, was arrested in March 1989, three months before Suu Kyi began her
first stint of house arrest, and is in his 15th year of what was initially
a three-year sentence, Bo Kyi says.
   He was sentenced under Article 10(a) of the 1975 State Protection Act as a
person believed to be a threat to the state and is incarcerated in Sittwe
prison in Arakan State, Bo Kyi says. Naing has refused to exchange his
freedom for a signed agreement that he refrain from political activity
upon release.
   -- Daw Khin Khin Leh was arrested in July 1999 after her husband, Kyaw
Wanna, was involved in planning a peaceful protest march, Bo Kyi says. By
the time military intelligence officials came for her husband a few days
after the demonstration, he had fled to the Thailand-Burma border.
   After they interrogated her about her husband's activities, Bo Kyi says,
she was sentenced in December 1999 to life imprisonment under the 1950
Emergency Provisions Act and the 1908 Unlawful Associations Act. For the
first five days of her incarceration, her daughter Thaint Wanna Khin was
also jailed,
   according to Bo Kyi, becoming the world's youngest political prisoner. She
was 3.
   Leh remains behind bars in Insein prison outside Rangoon, the capital. She
is 38 and suffering from lung problems, according to Bo Kyi's files.
   -- U Win Tin, a journalist and a founding member of Suu Kyi's National
League for Democracy party, has been in jail since 1989 and has been
sentenced three times, Bo Kyi says. He was arrested in June 1989 and
interrogated for three months about his activities in the democracy
movement, then given a three-year sentence.
   When he was set for release in June 1992, he was sentenced to another 10
years. In 1996, an extra seven years was added after he smuggled a report
out of prison documenting human rights violations. He is due to be
released in 2009 if there are no further extensions to his term. But at
73, with a history of heart attacks and currently in a prison hospital,
the chances of his surviving until then are slim.
   Reporters Without Borders, a media watchdog group, says at least 16
journalists were in prison at the end of 2002. Among them is Aung Pwint,
who was arrested in September 1999 and sentenced to eight years for
possession of an unregistered fax machine, according to the journalism
group. The military regime strictly controls access to information and
requires that all fax machines be registered with the state.
   An Amnesty International report on Burma released last month expressed
concern that "sentences for political prisoners are almost always set at
the maximum length possible."
   "In cases where an individual is convicted for several offences, the
sentences are applied cumulatively, rather than concurrently," it said.
"Therefore, some political prisoners are frequently served for such long
periods that it is inevitable that they will die before they are due for
release."
   The government says the only prisoners in the country are those involved
in criminal activities or insurgency groups.
   Bo Kyi disagrees. He was one himself -- on two different occasions. He was
first arrested with Min Ko Naing in March 1989, but he managed to flee
before being handcuffed. A year later, he was arrested again and served
three years for organizing a peaceful demonstration.
   Shortly after his release in 1993, he says, he was apprehended again for
refusing to cooperate with military intelligence and was locked up until
1998. After fleeing to Thailand in September 1999, he has dedicated his
life to helping those still behind bars.
   His organization has detailed information on more than 200 current
political prisoners in Burma, and this is just a fraction of the total
number, he notes.
   "Suu Kyi receives all the international attention," he says. "Everybody
asks for her release, but all political prisoners must be released. This
is the first step for change."
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright 2003 SF Chronicle
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« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2003, 11:17:49 PM »

Myanmar: The Coming of a New Guard?
Aug 27, 2003

Summary

A significant shuffle has taken place within Myanmar's Cabinet: Secretary 1 Khin Nyunt has been named prime minister, several older generals have retired and two new executive posts have been created. The changes, which reflect deep divisions within Myanmar's government, may eventually bring younger officers on board and lead to a Cabinet that appears at least on the surface to follow a more civilian structure.

Analysis

The Myanmar government is undergoing major restructuring that has moved Secretary 1 Khin Nyunt into the prime minister's position. State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) Chairman Than Shwe, who previously held the post, is reportedly taking what likely will be a more ceremonial role in the newly created position of president. SPDC Vice Chairman Maung Aye, one of Khin Nyunt's key rivals, is slated for the new vice president position. It is unclear whether Khin Nyunt will continue to serve as director of defense services intelligence and Maung Aye as commander-in-chief of the army.

The leadership changes follow increasing pressure from the United States, England and the west, as well as members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Though ASEAN traditionally refrains from criticism, the group issued some commentary following the May 30 arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a clash between National League for Democracy (NLD) and SPDC supporters in northern Myanmar.

The arrest -- which occurred during a time when there appeared to be a government consensus on the need to negotiate with the opposition -- revealed a renewed rift among top leaders. That rift has now come to a head, and the current restructuring may reflect a coordinated drive to limit the ageing Than Shwe's power and experiment with a MORE civilian-style government.






Suu Kyi's detention triggered a crisis within the SPDC, leading Khin Nyunt and Maung Aye to set aside their diffences for the moment. Past disagreements between the two over Myanmar's internal policies and relations with outside powers reflect cultural differences that pervade the government: Khin Nyunt, the intelligence chief, graduated from the Officers Training School and is not entirely trusted by Maung Aye -- a graduate of the Defense Services Academy -- and his fellow army officers. Khin Nyunt, the more pragmatic of the two, has long recognized Myanmar's need to moderate its image and negotiate with Suu Kyi, while Maung Aye has preferred a more forceful approach. Khin Nyunt wants closer ties to China; Maung Aye leans toward India.

Both seemed to agree, however, that Myanmar's government should make the appearance of dialogue with Suu Kyi, and her arrest -- a decision that many attribute to Than Shwe -- apparently came as a shock. Despite the dearth of unbiased and reliable information from Myanmar, the recent restructuring seems to back this up: Than Shwe is being relegated to a more ceremonial role as president, Maung Aye will take a more active internal role as vice president, and Khin Nyunt will lead foreign policy as prime minister.

The replacement of several older generals with younger colleagues punctuates Myanmar's shifting power base and the division of labor between its two erstwhile rivals. The moves create the impression of a government in transition: Fresh (or at least fresher) blood is being brought in and more traditional civilian offices are being created to downplay the military aspect of Myanmar's government. The stratocracy will remain, but Than Shwe's autocracy will be tempered by power sharing between Maung Aye, Khin Nyunt and their supporters.

Myanmar's new approach to government is entirely untested, and the first few months are likely to be characterized by rapid and radical shifts in rhetoric and policy as the leadership fleshes out the new roles and relationships among the officials. The attempts of powerful figures to undermine each other as they climb to power could very well undermine the entire experiment. On the other hand, a successful transition from the Than Shwe era to a more communal power-sharing arrangement could lead to a more moderate foreign policy. It could also lead to Suu Kyi's release and renewed efforts to co-opt her -- or at least encourage her to scale back opposition -- as leaders seek to redefine Myanmar and its foreign relations.
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« Reply #9 on: September 24, 2003, 04:01:14 PM »

From Nelson Rand (August 2003)

'The past few days I have been hanging out with a former political prisoner in Burma who spent 7 years and three months behind bars for organizing peaceful demonstrations. His story is a tribute to the human spirit.
 
In 1988, Bo Kyi was a student at univeristy in Rangoon and became involved in the growing student movement to bring change to Burma.  He was often ashamed because he could not speak English and he felt that as a leader he should. In 1990, he was sentenced to three years imprisonment because of his political activities.  It was in this desolate place where Bo Kyi learned English.  Beside him in the next cell was a professor and Bo Kyi asked him if he would teach him English.  Every day for three years, the professor would tell him one sentence in English.  At the risk of being beaten and sent to solitary confinement, every day Bo Kyi wrote down his sentence with a piece of brick onto his prison floor. He was allowed family visits twice a month and he told his sister that every time she came to visit him she must give him 5 new sentences.  Common criminals in the prison were treated much better then them and they had access to dictionaries.  Although he could never smuggle a dictionary into his cell, he asked the other criminals if they could give him 5 words from the dictionary whenever they had a chance. When he was cuaght writing on the floor and sent to solitary, he would tell the guards when interrogated, "Your job is catching me, my job is learning."
 
He would also take the filters out of Burmese cigarrettes which were small pieces of old newspapers.  He would collect these filters and read what little information was on them.  
 
Day by day, word by word, sentence by sentence, Bo Kyi learned English.  At the end of his three years he knew enough to be an intermediate English teacher.  Today he is fluent.
 
He has some great advice: "You have to start your own revolution."
 
Men like this should rule the world.'
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« Reply #10 on: September 27, 2012, 05:06:55 PM »

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/09/20/commandos_for_jesus?page=full
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« Reply #11 on: November 19, 2012, 01:14:06 PM »



http://www.theblaze.com/blog/2012/11/19/awkward-photos-of-the-day-overly-affectionate-obama-terrorizes-burma/
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