BurmaNet News, May 27, 2008
editor at burmanet.org
Tue May 27 15:02:09 EDT 2008
May 27, 2008 Issue #3477
Irrawaddy: NLD members arrested; Suu Kyis sentence extended
New York Times: Progress for aid workers in Myanmar
Mizzima News: Over 70 cars impounded after distribution of relief material
DVB: Junta claims 92 percent endorse constitution
DVB: Forced returns raise tensions in Irrawaddy
ON THE BORDER
Xinhua: Bangladesh, UNHCR agree to repatriate Rohingya refugees of Myanmar
BUSINESS / TRADE
Irrawaddy: Rice farmers told to prepare their fields again
HEALTH / AIDS
AP: Conditions ripe for disease in Irrawaddy Delta
Irrawaddy: Cyclone Nargis leaves HIV/AIDS patients more vulnerable
Bangkok Post: Surin warns junta
AP: Indonesian foreign minister urges Myanmar not to renew Suu Kyi's house
AFP: US 'dismayed' over Myanmar vote, presses regime on aid
IPS: UN gambles with junta, forgets history
OPINION / OTHER
Wall Street Journal: Sizing up Burma's junta
Bangkok Post: Both hurt by tragedy, China lights a path for Burma
Burma Campaign UK: World leaders silence betrays Aung San Suu Kyi
CSW: CSW condemns Aung San Suu Kyis continued detention and expresses
condolences over Karen leaders death
TBBC: Struggling with Burmas other humanitarian crisis
May 27, Irrawaddy
NLD members arrested; Suu Kyis sentence extended Wai Moe
At least 15 members of Burmas main opposition party, the National League
for Democracy (NLD), were arrested as they marched towards the home of NLD
leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday in a demonstration marking the 18th
anniversary of the 1990 general election.
The demonstrators, mostly young members of the party, shouted slogans
demanding the release of Suu Kyi from house arrest and calling on the
regime to allow international relief workers to help bring aid to cyclone
victims. They held up a picture of Suu Kyi.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday afternoon, the government announced that Suu Kyis
detention had been officially extended. It was not immediately clear if
the extension was for six months or one year. The extension became
official when she was informed of it.
Suu Kyi was due to complete five years of house arrest this week. The
conditions of her detention, under Article 10 (b) of the State Protection
Act, provide for a maximum of five years.
But analysts were doubtful that she would be freed in the near future and
suggested her detention could continue until 2010, when the junta plans to
hold a general election.
The extension of Suu Kyis house arrest was also linked to the sensitive
issue of the regimes handling of the relief effort in the aftermath of
Cyclone Nargis. After more than three weeks of blocking foreign aid
workers, the junta has tried to appear more receptive to a role for
outsiders as it seeks some US $11 billion in aid.
The junta wouldnt release her while it is facing a critical situation
after the cyclone, Win Naing, a member of the NLDs information committee
told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.
The NLD also said a high-ranking police officer went to Suu Kyis lakeside
residence on Thursday afternoon.
We got information that she was visited by Police Col Win Naing Tun this
afternoon, said Win Naing.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda called on Tuesday for her
release, saying it would be way of thanking the international community
for its generosity after the cyclone, according to a report by Associated
"I hope for the best but, to be frank, I'm not optimistic," he said.
Tuesdays demonstration calling for Suu Kyis release began near the NLD
headquarters. Plainclothes police and members of the junta-backed Swan
Ah-shin militia intercepted the demonstrators near the junction of
Gabaraye Pagoda Road and University Avenue, the lakeside road where Suu
The NLD held a formal ceremony on Tuesday to mark the anniversary of the
1990 election. Police tightened security around the party headquarters
during the ceremony.
Aye Thar Aung, secretary of the Arakan League for Democracy which won 11
seats in the election, said he never expected the vacuum left by the
regimes refusal to recognize the election result to last 18 years. The
situation gets ever worse for the people of Burma, he said.
Aye Thar Aung said the cyclone crisis indicated how important good
governance was in times of natural disaster. Until there is a good
government in Burma we will see people suffer.
The Burmese regime has been condemned by governments around the world for
its handling of the crisis.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has just returned to New York after
meeting members of the junta to discuss the crisis and appeal for greater
access by international aid workers.
The UN chief said he had not raised the issue of Suu Kyis detention
because the broader humanitarian concerns of bringing aid to the cyclone
victims were more pressing.
We must think about people just now, not politics, he said.
May 27, New York Times
Progress for aid workers in Myanmar Seth Mydans
Foreign aid workers have begun reaching remote areas of Myanmar hardest
hit by the May 3 cyclone, relief agencies said Tuesday, following a
promise the junta made to the United Nations last week to open the
countrys doors. But the numbers reaching the remote areas apparently
fewer than 20 are still small, the permissions uneven, and the
procedures still uncertain.
The admissions represents a significant opening by the countrys military
rulers, which for three weeks have delayed delivery of supplies to more
than a million people in the remote and hard-hit Irrawaddy Delta. As many
as 135,000 people are dead or missing, and the United Nations estimates
that 1.5 million survivors have not yet received any aid.
The concessions followed an agreement announced on Friday by Ban Ki-moon,
the United Nations secretary general, after a meeting in Myanmar with the
leader of the junta, Senior Gen. Than Shwe. On Sunday, at an aid
conference in Myanmar, international donors offered tens of millions of
dollars in relief, but most made the aid contingent on access for foreign
staff into remote areas.
The initial indications are that international staff are able to get out
and things are looking quite positive, said Richard Horsey, a spokesman
for the United Nations disaster relief office in Bangkok. But before
celebrating victory, we should keep an eye on it.
Among aid workers reaching the delta region were teams from United Nations
World Food Program, Unicef and Doctors Without Borders. The medical aid
group said its teams had reached remote delta areas where people had not
eaten for three days. Thousands of people have not seen any aid workers
and still have not received any assistance, the agency said.
Paul Risley, a spokesman for the United Nations World Food Program in
Bangkok, said four international staff members had traveled in the delta
beginning on Saturday. By Tuesday, he said, seven additional visas had
been issued, and the delivery of aid had accelerated, with chartered boats
and barges and a fleet of trucks loaded with rice, high-energy biscuits
and ready-to-eat food.
In addition, he said, the government has given the food program permission
to deploy 10 helicopters, of which one had arrived in Yangon, Myanmars
biggest city, and the others were being brought in transport planes from
South Africa, Uganda and Ukraine.
News of the admissions came as the military government extended the
year-to-year house arrest of the charismatic pro-democracy leader, Daw
Aung San Suu Kyi. Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, 62, has been confined for 12 of
the last 18 years and the extensions of her term have become routine.
While opening its door to international donors, the military government
has refused permission to United States, French and British warships
loaded with supplies just outside its territorial waters. In denying
entry, the government has said it fears that any such aid from Western
powers would have strings attached. However, it has allowed more than 60
United States Air Force flights to bring supplies to the Yangon airport.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, which persuaded
Myanmars junta to allow it to coordinate the relief effort with the
United Nations, was cautious about the speed of progress. We are not
naive enough to believe that a policy guideline given at the top will be
translated into practice at all levels going into the delta, said Surin
Pitsuwan, Aseans general secretary, at a news conference. We are prying
open. Step by step.
Michael Bociurkiw , a spokesman for Unicef, said that his agency had
received permission for six of its foreign staff members to travel into
the countryside and that they departed on Monday. We see this as an
opening window and wed like to get more names into the pipeline to go out
there, he said. The first step is to do a rapid assessment of the needs
in areas that have not yet been reached, he said. The priorities now for
his agency are water, sanitation and child protection, particularly for
separated and unaccompanied children, he said.
With an estimated 30 percent of children in the delta area already
malnourished, aid workers fear that they are particularly susceptible to
diseases like cholera that are spread by contaminated water. Monsoon
season is approaching, Mr. Bociurkiw said, and aid workers fear a second
wave of deaths from epidemics and untreated ailments.
Its really a race against time, he said.
Seth Mydans reported from Bangkok and Alan Cowell from Paris.
May 27, Mizzima News
Over 70 cars impounded after distribution of relief material Phanida
About 70 vehicles were impounded on Sunday when they returned from the
Irrawaddy Delta after donating relief material to cyclone victims.
The police force led by Police Maj. U Luu Win seized the cars at the
entrance of Panhlaing Bridge on their way back to Rangoon. The exercise
was on the whole of Sunday evening.
"There were about 50 cars lined up on the bridge. The cars were seized at
about 8 p.m. yesterday. There were about 22 cars in the Government
Technical College (GTC) campus. The car owners were summoned to the police
department but their cars have not yet been returned," the in-charge of
NLD Youth Information Department said.
The police said that the cars were seized for flouting the law. All these
cars need to take permission from local authorities of the Township Peace
and Development Council (PDC) of Dallah, Twante, Kunchankong, Kawhmu and
Dadeye for making trips for donation to the cyclone victims. The police
said that they had already announced on May 8 for donors not to throw
relief supplies to cyclone victims lining the highway. This would weaken
the victims and not allow them to be back on their feet.
"The authorities said that donating to victims is not a problem, but
throwing the relief material on the road created a lot of problems. It
would have a negative impact and jeopardize the government's relief
efforts, they said. The victims are now objecting to the government's plan
to house them in government relief centres, the authorities complained,"
Ko Zarganar (Tweezers), the renowned comedian into relief operations said.
The impounded cars are being kept in the GTC campus and car owners have
been told to come back today. The policemen who are seizing the cars are
from Kyaikkasan Interrogation Centre, U Kyaw Thu, actor and a leader of
free funeral service, said.
"Many said that the cars were impounded by both the police and the army
from Kyaikkasan Interrogation Centre. Last night about 100 cars were
detained. Private donors with two Toyota Hilux pickups were arrested last
night. But the donors were released late at night and but the cars are in
police custody," U Kyaw Thu said.
"Impounding vehicles of Burmese people who are helping their fellow
Burmese is not done Today they warned us and made a fuss about traffic
rules and checked our cars to see if the lamps and indicators are
working," he said.
The authorities have continued restrictions and arrests by stopping many
cars going to the Delta in Dadeye and Maubin checkposts. Private donors
had to leave their cars with a person to guard it and the goods. They had
to come back from these check posts, Daw Myint Myint Mu, a member of
'Human Rights Defender and Promoters Network (HRDP) said.
The riot police was deployed today at the entrance of Panhlaing Bridge.
May 27, Democratic Voice of Burma
Junta claims 92 percent endorse constitution
Following the postponed referendum in Rangoon and Irrawaddy divisions, the
Burmese junta has announced that 92 percent of voters have endorsed its
The vote was held on 10 May in most of the country but was delayed until
24 May in 47 townships in Rangoon and Irrawaddy that were severely
affected by the recent cyclone.
The result was a foregone conclusion as the military regime had already
announced a 92 percent Yes vote in the 278 townships that had already
gone to the polls.
In the 47 townships that voted on Saturday, 92.93 percent of the 4,580,393
voters cast Yes votes, according to the Referendum Commission.
Combined with the results of the 10 May vote, this makes a 92.48 percent
vote in favour of the constitution.
The junta was criticised for going ahead with the referendum instead of
focusing its efforts on providing disaster relief to the victims of
In its referendum announcement, the government said 77, 738 people were
killed due to the cyclone and another 55,917 were missing, including
81,130 who were eligible to vote.
There were widespread reports of corruption in the lead-up to the
referendum and during the vote, including intimidation, threats and
Some voters said they been tricked or forced into voting Yes by
misleading instructions from polling station officials and withholding of
aid, and others said they did not get the chance to vote as their ballots
had already been ticked by officials on their behalf.
In the weeks leading up to the poll, government supporters cracked down on
Vote No campaigners while running their own aggressive campaign in
support of the constitution.
May 27, Democratic Voice of Burma
Forced returns raise tensions in Irrawaddy Aye Nai
Tensions have been raised between cyclone refugees and government
authorities in Irrawaddy divisions, as officials have continued to force
storm victims back to their villages.
In Bogalay, where women from the central National League for Democracy
went on Sunday to give help, only one tenth of the cyclone victims who
came seeking refuge remain, the rest having been forcibly relocated to
Ko Aye Lwin, a villager from Poppa village in Kunchangone township, was
reportedly beaten by police with iron bars when he and a friend went to
According to refugees in the area, officials called Aye Lwin lazy and
chastised him for begging and not working before beating him and leaving
him bleeding and with head injuries.
In Bassein, there was a clash between cyclone refugees and police at 9am
yesterday outside the general hospital when the authorities tried to
return the storm victims to their villages, according to a local resident.
When the people refused to go home and stayed standing outside the
hospital, the police said they would shoot," the resident said.
"The refugees responded that it was all the same to them if they lived or
died, and said that they were being fed by the public and the
international community," he said.
"When the chief police came, they said to him the same thing: You are not
feeding us. The public and the world are feeding us."
John Holmes, the United Nations emergency relief coordinator, said in a
recent press conference on the situation in Burma that any forced returns
of refugees are "unacceptable".
ON THE BORDER
May 27, Xinhua
Bangladesh, UNHCR agree to repatriate Rohingya refugees of Myanmar
Bangladesh and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)
Tuesday agreed to reestablish trilateral mechanism with Myanmar to
repatriate remaining 27,000 Rohingya refugees here back to Myanmar.
"Our intention is to reestablish the trilateral mechanism between
Bangladesh, UNHCR and Myanmar to create condition for voluntary
repatriation of the Rohingya refugees to Myanmar," visiting UNHCR chief
Antonio Guterres told reporters after meeting with Bangladesh Foreign
Advisor Dr Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury.
According to the UNHCR, over 250,000 Bengali-speaking Myanmar Muslim
ethnic minorities, popularly known as Rohingyas, took shelter in
Bangladesh in 1991 following alleged atrocities by the Myanmar junta.
Bangladesh, UNHCR and Myanmar signed a trilateral agreement in Dhaka in
1992 to send back the refugees.
Presently some 27,000 refugees are still staying in makeshift camps in
Bangladesh's southeastern coastal district of Cox's Bazarand hill district
of Bandarban bordering Myanmar.
But the trilateral agreement is not working now.
Replying questions, Guterres said the UNHCR has resettlement program for
the remaining refugees to third countries, and presently Canada is the
highest recipient of the Rohingya refugees.
"Our preferred solution is to create the possibilities for the people to
be able to go back to their home in safety, in dignity on a voluntary
basis and to be able to be part of construction of their own country," he
BUSINESS / TRADE
May 27, Irrawaddy
Rice farmers told to prepare their fields again Min Lwin
Rice farmers who survived Cyclone Nargis are being told by local
authorities to return to their inundated fields and prepare them for the
monsoon harvest, even though the land has been spoilt by seawater.
A relief worker back from the cyclone-devastated areas said it would take
years for the land to recover from being inundated by the cyclones tidal
An agricultural expert from Pegu Township said that the mouths of five
rivers in the Irrawaddy delta had been inundated by seawater, spoiling the
paddy fields on their banks.
The flooding had destroyed many villages, rice stocks, livestock and farm
equipment and supplies, he said.
Farmers in the Irrawaddy delta and other devastated areas report losing
livestock and the bullocks and buffaloes they need to work their fields.
Burmas Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation says more than 156,000 head
of cattle died when the cyclone hit the Irrawaddy and Rangoon Divisions
21 percent of the regions herds.
The Rangoon-based The Voice weekly journal reported that 2.43 million
acres (984,150 hectares) of farmland were destroyed by the cyclone1.59
acres in Irrawaddy Division and 840,000 acres in Rangoon Division.
The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that Burmas rice
production will fall by 8 percent in 2008 from its normal annual output of
between 10.6 million tons and 10.7 million tons.
HEALTH / AIDS
May 27, Associated Press
Conditions ripe for disease in Irrawaddy Delta
Myint Hlaing's family bathes and cooks with water from an irrigation ditch
fouled by human waste and a rotting cow carcass.
His 10-year-old daughter drinks bottled water donated by aid groups, but
she still suffers from diarrhea. Meanwhile, his family and other cyclone
survivors endure daily rains in tattered thatch huts as the monsoon season
Burma's junta insists health conditions are normal in the country's
devastated Irawaddy delta. But in many areas of the delta, they are a
recipe for disease.
"Shelter is the most important thing we need," Myint Hlaing said Monday.
"There are more and more mosquitoes here. We are afraid of getting dengue
Relief group Church World Service has reported finding elderly and child
survivors of the cyclone dying from dysentery in some areas because many
have no choice but to drink dirty water. Other groups have detected a
number of ailments including pneumonia, malaria, cholera and diarrhea.
Save the Children UK has warned that some 30,000 children in the delta
were severely malnourished before Cyclone Nargis struck, with thousands
facing starvation in the next two or three weeks. The monsoon season,
which begins next month, adds yet another challenge.
"The rain is a real problem," Eric Stover, lead author of a critical
report published last year about Burma's broken health system, told The
Associated Press after visiting the delta. "The water is rising up, and
the latrines are just outside (flowing) into the water, and there's
livestock around. That's the perfect breeding ground for diarrhea and
Stover, a professor of law and public health at the School of Public
Health at the University of California, Berkeley, managed to slip past
military checkpoints twice to get a glimpse of the devastation. He was
unable to assess the health situation in villages, but said conditions are
ripe for outbreaks.
"It's as bad as we all think it is, there's no question about that," he
said. "I think for public health people and for UN personnel the
frustrating thing is that they can't see it."
UNICEF has been canvassing the area and has reported a growing number of
diarrhea casesup to 30 percent of young children in one township. Burma's
Ministry of Health has started vaccinating some children in camps against
measles, another big threat.
The World Health Organization says it still doesn't have a clear medical
picture because tight government restrictions have kept the delta
off-limits to its foreign experts. Remote villages accessed only by boat
remain the biggest question mark because many still have not been reached
more than three weeks after the storm.
"We have no hard numbers," said Maureen Birmingham, a WHO epidemiologist
in Thailand. "We continue to remain concerned because it's a high-risk
situation for diarrhea disease, malaria and dengue."
Burma's xenophobic government has worked hard to keep foreign aid agencies
from visiting the delta since the May 2-3 storm belted the region, killing
some 78,000 people and leaving 56,000 others missing. It has not reported
any disease outbreaks.
The regime has said it is able to handle relief efforts on its own, but
its ruling general assured visiting UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last
week that all international aid agencies would be allowed in to help. It
remained unclear Monday how many foreigners would be permitted to travel
beyond Rangoon, the country's largest city.
Access to regular supplies of safe drinking water and proper sanitation is
essential for preventing waterborne diseases like cholera, which spreads
rapidly through water contaminated with feces. Malaria and dengue fever
outbreaks also will be a major concern in the coming weeks after
mosquitoes have time to breed in the stagnant water that flooded the
Burma was plagued by malaria, tuberculosis, AIDS and other big killers
before the disaster, in a country where one in three children is estimated
to be malnourished. About 3 percent of the annual budget is spent on
health, compared to 40 percent on the military, according to Stover's
In 2000, the WHO ranked Myanmar's health system as the world's
second-worst, ahead only of war-ravaged Sierra Leone.
May 27, Irrawaddy
Cyclone Nargis leaves HIV/AIDS patients more vulnerable Violet Cho
Cyclone Nargis affected everyone in the Irrawaddy delta, but it has placed
HIV/AIDS patients under even greater physical and mental stress, according
to social welfare groups in Rangoon.
A youth member of Burmas main opposition party, the National League for
Democracy, said many HIV/AIDS patients lost everything they had in the
Our patients are desperately suffering with so many things at the same
Yazar, a youth member who is also an AIDS activist. They are poor, and
they didnt have anything more than daily food to keep them alive. Now
theyve lost everything, they do not have food or a place to stay.
We are really worried about one of our patients in Dedaye, one of the
hardest hit areas in the Irrawddy Delta, he said. She lost her husband
in the storm. Her house was destroyed by the wind and now she is living
with her child who also has HIV/AIDS.
He said some patients who lived on Hainggyi Island are believed to be
dead, because they have not been heard from since May 2.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Tuesday, Phyu Phyu Thin, a well-known
HIV/AIDS activist who has been in hiding since last years pro-democracy
protests, said HIV/AIDS aids groups have been contacted by more patients
seeking help after the storm hit the country.
More cyclone refugees are making their way to Rangoon Division and the
larger towns in the Irrawaddy delta seeking assistance, she said.
According to Yazar, the NLD group has provided food and medicine to more
than 60 HIV/AIDS patients in recent days. He said the budget is not able
to handle an influx of more patients.
Problems are coming at us from many directions, he said. We have
limited resources, and as more and more people seek help, were worried
about meeting their needs in the future.
As a social welfare group with a broad awareness of the suffering of the
people, Yazar said much help will be needed to rebuild the country and aid
the homeless population.
We especially need more knowledge and skills relating to psychological
problems, he said, because many people need help to recover from
depression and mental problems after the storm.
The NLD-affiliated social welfare group helps care for more than 2, 000
people living with HIV/AIDS across Burma. About 50 patients live in two
houses in Rangoon.
May 27, Bangkok Post
Surin warns junta
The Burmese military regime must begin to allow foreign aid workers
unhindered access to the areas hardest-hit by Cyclone Nargis soon if it
hopes to keep the trust of the international aid community, Asean chief
Surin Pitsuwan said Tuesday.
"What has to be delivered is real activities," said Surin, who is
secretary general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Asean, along with the United Nations co-hosted a pledging conference for
the victims of Cyclone Nargis in Rangoon over the weekend and their
reputations are on the line to help to deliver the junta's pledges.
While the conference, attended by about 500 delegates from 51 countries
and UN agencies, failed to attract an outpouring of promises for Burma's
post-cyclone reconstruction efforts, it was deemed an important first step
in building trust between the international aid community and the
country's notoriously paranoid military rulers.
The regime has been under intense criticism for hampering an international
relief effort for the estimated 2.4 million people affected by Nargis,
which swept the country's central coast on May 2-3, leaving at least
133,000 dead or missing.
More than three weeks after the storm hit, international aid has reached
40 per cent of the affected population, a poor performance generally
blamed on the government's refusal to facilitate logistics and allow more
international relief experts in the Irrawaddy Delta region, the area
hardest-hit by the cyclone.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday won assurance from junta chief,
Snr Gen Than Shwe, that his country would allow "all" aid workers
unhindered access to the storm-affected areas, a message that was
seemingly supported at Sunday's aid pledging conference.
Although there have been signs of speeding up visa approvals and allowing
greater access to the delta for UN relief experts, there are still
complaints of unnecessary delays to the big aid push.
"There are many low-hanging fruits that can be harvested, and those
include accessibility, delivering of supplies already on the ground,
monitoring, and the ability to admit and allow foreign aid workers into
the field with less obstacles and less delay," Surin said of what was
immediately expected of the junta.
He called on the international community to allow the regime a few more
days before deciding whether it was reneging on its commitment to allow
more foreigners in.
"I think we need to give it a week to say the curve is rising or the curve
is being maintained at the same level or the curve of access is actually
going down," Surin said a press conference.
Asean is to play a crucial facilitating role in the aid flow, especially
for the reconstruction phase, by sending in teams to assess the amount of
damage done by the cyclone and joining a tripartite "core team" with nine
experts from Asean, the United Nations and Burma to overcome hurdles to
the aid operations.
The United Nations wants a clear assessment of the cyclone's destruction
and emergency aid needed by June 12, after which it was to launch another
flash appeal for donations from the world community.
About 50 per cent of the $201 million flash appeal initially launched by
the United Nations has been met by contributions and pledges.
"The tone struck by the major donors on Sunday was that they are ready to
give significant assistance to a clear programme that is monitored and
which can be implemented," said Richard Horsey, spokesman for the UN
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Confidence in implementation would depend, once again, upon the degree of
access by foreign experts who are allowed into the cyclone zone.
Several UN agencies, including the World Food Programme, have said they
have been granted more visas and greater access to the delta since Friday
although still with the need for permission on a case-by-case basis.
"Yesterday was a red-letter day with seven visas applied for and seven
visas issued," said Paul Risley, a World Food Programme spokesman.
Over the weekend and for the first time, at least one foreign expert with
the UN aid agency was allowed to tour the delta to assess food needs, and
on Tuesday, it is to be permitted to fly its own helicopter to three
remote destinations in the delta that were previously off-limits, Risley
But the Burmese bureaucracy continues to bog down the process.
"Every step of the way has been very difficult," said Risley. "Every step
has required an agreement with the government, clearance from the
government and approval from the government of virtually all of our
May 27, Associated Press
Indonesian foreign minister urges Myanmar not to renew Suu Kyi's house arrest
Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda urged Myanmar's junta Tuesday
to release detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi amid the good
will the world has shown in helping the cyclone-devastated nation.
Wirayuda said, however, he was not optimistic that the Nobel Peace Prize
laureate would regain her freedom soon, given the junta's past rejection
of such calls from the international community.
Suu Kyi's five-year house arrest expires Wednesday, Nyan Win, spokesman
for her National League of Democracy, said in Myanmar's largest city,
Yangon. The junta was expected to decide on her fate Tuesday.
"I hope for the best but to be frank I'm not optimistic," Wirayuda told
The Associated Press during a two-day visit to Manila.
Freeing Suu Kyi would be a "positive gesture to the good will of the
international community," which has helped the junta and Myanmar's people
deal with the massive devastation and loss of life wrought by the recent
Cyclone Nargis, he said.
Suu Kyi's detention has been at the center of friction between the
secretive junta and many countries around the world, including Myanmar's
fellow member countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
ASEAN, a 10-country political and trade bloc, has constantly nudged
Myanmar to rapidly move toward democracy and to free political prisoners
including Suu Kyi a futile call that has often dominated the group's
Despite a bedrock policy of noninterference in each other's domestic
affairs, some ASEAN members including Indonesia, Malaysia and the
Philippines have increasingly voiced frustration over Myanmar's
Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo slammed Myanmar at a summit
of ASEAN leaders in Singapore last November, warning that Filipino
legislators could find it difficult to ratify the bloc's landmark charter
if the junta will not restore democracy and release Suu Kyi.
Arroyo and other ASEAN leaders adopted the charter, which aims to
transform the group into an EU-style bloc, at that summit. The pact will
collapse if one country fails to ratify it.
ASEAN's members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar,
the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. It admitted Myanmar in
1997 despite strong opposition from Western nations.
May 27, Agence France Presse
US 'dismayed' over Myanmar vote, presses regime on aid
The United States said Sunday it was "dismayed" that Myanmar's military
rulers had held a second round of voting on their draft constitution in
regions still devastated by the cyclone.
"The United States is dismayed by the fact that, in the midst of a major
humanitarian disaster, in which a majority of those affected have not
received assistance yet, the Burmese regime conducted on May 24 a second
round of voting on its draft constitutional referendum in the five regions
affected by the cyclone," State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said
in a statement.
The referendum was held in areas unaffected by the cyclone on May 10, but
delayed in the worst-hit regions until Saturday -- despite the regime
saying the constitution had won overwhelming support in the first round.
At an international aid conference in Yangon earlier, UN chief Ban Ki-moon
led calls for Myanmar to make good on a pledge to let outsiders in to help
the 2.4 million cyclone victims, many of whom risk dying from hunger or
Casey said Washington had "reiterated its offer of disaster assistance
experts and logistical resources to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches
the millions still in need," noting it had made available more than 20.5
million dollars in humanitarian aid so far.
"The United States joined other donors in stressing the urgency and
importance of the Burmese (Myanmar) regime's implementation of its recent
commitment to allow international relief teams full access to the
cyclone-affected areas," he said.
"We will work with ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Nations) and the
United Nations to determine the needs of the victims and expand the
humanitarian relief effort in Burma."
OPINION / OTHER
May 27, Inter Press Service
UN gambles with junta, forgets history Marwaan Macan-Markar
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is optimistic that his
four-day mission to military-ruled Burma has produced a breakthrough. But
the troubled history of relations between the world body and the
South-east Asian nation offers a warning against high expectations.
Ban's views were shaped by signs that Burma's strongman, the reclusive
Senior Gen. Than Shwe, had conceded some ground to a U.N. appeal to let in
more foreign assistance and experts to help the country's cyclone victims.
Significant for Ban was the 75-year-old ruler of Burma (or Myanmar)
agreeing to meet him. Than Shwe had refused to take calls from the U.N.
chief in the days after May 3, when Cyclone Nargis struck the Irrawaddy
"I have been much encouraged by my discussions with Myanmar's authorities
in recent days," Ban said at a late night press conference shortly after
he touched down at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, on Sunday. "Senior Gen.
Than Shwe agreed to allow all international aid workers to operate freely
and without hindrance."
"We agreed to establish several forward logistics hubs and to open new
air, sea and road links to the most affected areas," added Ban, who had
earlier participated in a day-long international conference in Rangoon,
Burma's former capital, where officials from over 50 countries had
gathered to pledge aid. "The Myanmar government appears to be moving
toward the right direction to implement these accords."
Ban's breakthrough with the notoriously secretive junta is being welcomed
by international humanitarian agencies like Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF-
Doctors Without Borders), which has a presence in Burma but, like other
relief agencies, has been denied access to most of the cyclone-hit delta.
"We welcome the news. Since the cyclone struck three weeks ago, MSF has
been trying to get more international aid workers into the delta,
particularly those with expertise in emergency situations," says Jean
Sebastian Matte, MSF's emergency coordinator. "Now, hopefully, MSF will be
able to bring more international emergency experts into Myanmar -- most
urgently to the delta region, the worst-affected area."
The restrictions placed by the junta on aid workers travelling to the
devastated terrain south-west of the country is only the latest
demonstration of the oppressive grip the powerful clique of military
leaders has on the country. Consequently, not only has urgently needed
relief like clean water, food, medicine and shelter been denied to the
survivors, but the actual human cost has also been kept out of the public
Currently, estimates of the human toll range from 130,000 deaths to as
high as 300,000 deaths in Burma's worst natural disaster. The people
affected by the cyclone in the delta range from 2.5 million to four
million. The flat terrain over which Nargis swept, with wind speeds of 190
km per hour and carrying a wall of sea water that rose 3.5 m high, had the
highest population density in the country.
But the junta's signs of concession to the U.N. and a regional body that
has reached out to help -- the 10-member Association of South-east Asian
Nations (ASEAN) -- follow a familiar path. They came after the regime was
condemned in many Western capitals for its reluctance to aid the victims,
including denying foreign experts familiar with post-disaster relief
operations entry into the country.
"They have made concessions bit by bit in the past when in trouble," Aung
Naing Oo, a Burmese political analyst living in exile in Thailand, told
IPS. "It is a way of reducing international criticism. That is what we are
witnessing again. But we have to see if the promises by Than Shwe
translate into reality in the next few days."
Late last year the junta played a similar card. That followed
international condemnation of the junta for brutally crushing a peaceful
pro-democracy public protest led by thousands of saffron-robed monks in
September. In a sign of concession, Than Shwe agreed to meet with U.N.
envoy Ibrahim Gambari.
But hope for change to a more inclusive democracy was short-lived. Once
the heat was off its back, the regime dismissed Gambari's relevance,
breaking all the promises for political reform it had made to the Nigerian
diplomat. And during his third visit since the crackdown, the junta's
contempt for Gambari was clear. Brig. Gen Kyaw Hsan, information minister
and a close ally of Than Shwe, pitched into the U.N. envoy verbally.
Burma's dictator has treated the six envoys from the U.N. with different
mandates for change since the early 1990s in a similar manner. It begins
with initial signs supportive of engagement and then takes a hostile turn,
reinforcing the notion that the military has to have absolute control of
the country, with no exceptions.
This has also been true when there is no U.N. involvement, too. In August
2003, Gen. Khin Nyunt was appointed prime minister and soon revealed plans
for the junta's seven-point roadmap to democracy. It followed
international outrage from the West and even in South-east Asia for the
attack on and subsequent detention of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu
But Suu Kyi remains under house arrest, marking over 12 years that the
Nobel Peace laureate has been kept in isolation. And the promised new
constitution, as part of the roadmap, is flawed. Its final draft has
sought to perpetuate the junta's power.
Even the referendum held this month to approve the charter barely provided
any space for dissenting views and the threat of a jail sentence hung in
the air for those who wanted to campaign against it. Reports of alleged
rigging and the junta's domination of the electoral process also enabled
the regime to proclaim that 92.4 percent of the voters had supported it.
"This regime always goes for what they think they can get away with when
there is pressure," Debbie Stothard of ALTSEAN, a regional human rights
lobby, told IPS. "The U.N. should not be allowed to fall into the trap of
lowering the bar of expectations. This is what the regime wants."
May 27, Wall Street Journal
Sizing up Burma's junta
The United Nations was keen to sell Sunday's donor conference for Burma's
cyclone relief as a success. "I hope and believe that any hesitation the
government of Myanmar [Burma] may have had about allowing international
humanitarian groups to operate freely in the affected areas is now a thing
of the past," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared.
Not so fast. The real news out of Sunday's conference is that donor
nations are wising up to how the junta really works.
After Cyclone Nargis struck on May 3, the devastation was so huge that
many countries simply focused on getting aid into the country however they
could. The United States delivered several unsupervised aid shipments
directly to the military junta.
Two weeks on, with the junta still refusing to allow aid workers into the
affected areas, the mood has changed considerably. At Sunday's conference
in Rangoon, most officials from 51 nations insisted on access to the
worst-hit areas before they'd cough up more money or supplies. The junta
had requested $10.7 billion. Total new pledges were minor, which may
explain why, at the time we went to press Monday, a U.N. representative
was unable to give us a donor list.
The only group that seems eager to throw money at the government is the
10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. On Sunday, the group --
which still counts Burma as a member -- presented its "coordinating
mechanism" for channelling international aid into the country. The
mechanism will be run by a nine-member "core group" including three
members of the Burmese junta.
This core group won't be very helpful if it doesn't take a strong stand
for transparent oversight of the donations. Given the generals'
involvement, that may be unlikely. And the stakes are rising. At last
count more than 134,000 people are feared dead, and more than two million
have had their lives disrupted. Disease is a real fear, and if the rice
fields in the fertile Irrawaddy Delta aren't replanted within the next
month, there won't be a rice harvest this year.
Burma's junta has shown no sign of bending to world pressure. At the
stroke of midnight last Saturday, democratic opposition leader and Nobel
Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi marked her fifth straight year under house
arrest. Also Saturday, the junta held a rigged constitutional referendum
in the areas most affected by Cyclone Nargis. This is hardly a regime that
wants to change its ways.
Given that reality, it's good that donor nations are starting to unite to
pressure the junta into action. They'd be even more effective if Asean
would throw its full weight behind more transparency. Donations will only
help if they reach the people for whom they're intended.
May 27, Bangkok Post
Both hurt by tragedy, China lights a path for Burma Philip J Cunningham
Tragic events can galvanise a nation in a way that brings out the best in
people. When the event is on the scale of the Sichuan earthquake, and
the nation is China, individual acts of heroism and generosity multiplied
by hundreds of millions creates an atmosphere that is transformative and
Tragic events can also bring out the worst in a nation, as can be seen in
the parallel tragedy of the cyclone in Burma, where government ineptitude,
greed and paranoiac self-preservation have stifled domestic relief efforts
at home while refusing or bottlenecking humanitarian aid from abroad.
China and Burma share the stigma of being Asian countries with political
systems seen as antithetical to Western values. Even savvy critics
mistakenly assume that China has the kind of commanding influence over
Burma that the United States has over, let's say, Iraq.
China, to its credit and detriment, avoids the sort of active intervention
that US flag-wavers favour. But China's ideological consistency on
non-intervention, whatever its merits, grows less convincing as China
Growing economic clout embeds and engages China in a global economic order
while heating up the hunt for scarce natural resources. Complete
neutrality is not an option.
The sheer scale and volume of China's manufacture and trade impacts life
across the four seas in myriad ways, raising the spectre of economic
invasion and financial intervention, not to mention the detrimental
effects of trade in weapons and other things bad for human health.
Long before it became the factory floor for the world, long before it
became a prime lender to a cash-starved America, long before it had the
reach to score oil deals in Sudan and Iran, China was castigated for not
being open enough, global enough and capitalist enough.
China was subject to stinging derision for its appalling poverty within
recent memory. Though larger in scale, it once bore a resemblance to the
Burma of today: isolated and ingrown, destitute and inept.
In contrast, half a century ago Burma, with its booming rice exports,
inspirational Buddhism, bilingual education and British infrastructure,
was in a far better situation than abysmally poor China, which was still
in recovery from the convulsive destruction of war, revolution and other
But China has leapt forward, greatly beyond even Mao's wildest dreams, and
the world is still adjusting to this unexpected pre-eminence.
China, too, is adjusting. The ruling Communist Party often seems
anachronistic, unsure of itself and untrusting of its own people - witness
the continual crackdowns on domestic media and information flow.
The ham-fisted handling of the Tibet riots did nothing to improve China's
image at home or abroad, even if its crackdown on Tibetans was not as
violent as emotional journalists and bloggers, stirred by the moral
prestige of the Dalai Lama and miffed by the lack of access, would have
The anti-CNN, anti-Carrefour mood that swept across China on the coattails
of the Tibet crisis had a unifying effect on Chinese popular sentiment,
but was not without traces of reactionary xenophobia and Han chauvinism.
While accusations of Western media bias and careless reporting were fairly
well documented, the intolerant conspiracy theories that flowed from
flawed media reports were not conducive to further conversation.
Sadly, it took a natural disaster for China to snap out of its giddy,
uneasy chauvinism and the shock of looking into the abyss for the Western
press to snap out of its condescending sniping. The shock and horror of
the tectonic shift knocked scales from the eyes, bringing out humility and
humanity on all sides. China has shown its stoic, heroic side shorn of
hubris; jaded China-watchers have shown an outpouring of sympathetic
reporting shorn of pique and ulterior motive.
More ironically yet, it took a natural disaster in China for Burma to
begin to get its own act together in dealing with devastation caused by
The latest TV news shows Burmese flags at half-mast, Burmese leaders
making site inspections in the storm-wrecked Irrawaddy delta and a sudden
improved access for foreign humanitarian aid that had been blocked too
long for no good reason.
Did this all come about because the likes of First Lady Laura Bush
ridiculed Burma, singing praise of US-funded Radio Free Asia even before
the floodwaters receded? Did this week's improved access of aid to Burmese
cyclone victims in dire need come about because hot-headed French, British
and US politicos hinted at regime change and invasion?
Highly unlikely. Rather, it was China, struggling with its own
mega-tragedy, who showed Burma how to do it right. Not by invoking Katrina
or threatening bombs and waterborne invasion, but by making a positive
example of itself.
China set a no-nonsense tone of humility conducive to getting things done;
it was open to foreign assistance, open to foreign journalists, foreign
medical teams and, most importantly, open to the sincere concerted efforts
of ordinary Chinese to help their fellow countrymen.
It is the latter, not the nervous government officials, who are the real
heroes of the relief effort; ordinary Chinese made it clear as they
streamed out on the information highway and onto the muddy, broken roads
of Sichuan, that they would settle for nothing less than an open and
Beijing, to its credit, picked up on the tone set by its vanguard
citizens, appropriating the symbolic power of unconditional relief,
magnifying the mourning of a provincial tragedy into a unifying national
Impatience with the callous intransigence of the Burmese government is
understandable, but condescending nagging from politicians looking to
score points was counter-productive.
China helped Burma to open up a bit, not by angry words or preaching or
threats, but just by doing the best it could under dire circumstances.
When disaster response is as dysfunctional as it was in Burma, the
inspirational nudge of a neighbour may not be enough, but China's quiet
example has lit a path in the darkness, showing a possible way out.
Philip J Cunningham is a free-lance writer and political commentator
May 27, Burma Campaign UK
World leaders silence betrays Aung San Suu Kyi
The Burma Campaign UK today condemned world leaders for failing to speak
out about the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi in the run-up to her detention
expiring today. It was reported today that her detention had been extended
again, with some reports saying the detention is for another six months.
It is shameful that Ban Ki-Moon went to Burma and failed even to utter
her name, said Mark Farmaner, Director of the Burma Campaign UK. He is
playing into the regimes hands. The UN is crawling on its knees before
the regime, afraid to speak the truth in case it affects aid access deals,
which the regime is already breaking in any case.
The Burma Campaign UK also dismissed suggestions that there is any
significance to the regime extending her detention for six months instead
of one year. At the start of her current period of house arrest in 2003
her detention was for six months at a time.
The regime is once again breaking its own laws by extending her detention
for a total of more than five years. The State Protection Law 1975 under
which she is held only allows the regime to detain her for a maximum of
The argument that politics should not be mentioned at the current time as
the humanitarian crisis is the priority simply doesnt make sense, said
Mark Farmaner. The humanitarian crisis is being caused by a political
problem, a dictatorship that refuses to allow aid to reach the people.
Aung San Suu Kyi is key to solving that political problem.
For more information, contact Mark Farmaner on 020 7324 4713
May 27, Christian Solidarity Worldwide
CSW condemns Aung San Suu Kyis continued detention and expresses
condolences over Karen leaders death
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) today condemned the decision by
Burmas military regime to extend once again the house arrest of democracy
leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Her detention was due to expire today, having
spent over 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi led the National League for
Democracy (NLD) to victory in elections held 18 years ago today, on 27
May, 1990. The NLD won 82% of the parliamentary seats, but those elected
have never been allowed to take up their rightful positions. Most of those
elected in 1990 remain in exile or prison.
The decision to extend her current period of house arrest is illegal under
Burmas own laws. Aung San Suu Kyis current detention began in 2003,
under the State Protection Law 1975 which does not provide for more than a
CSW also expressed condolences to the Karen people following the death
last week of Padoh Ba Thin Sein, President of the Karen National Union
(KNU). His death follows the assassination of KNU General Secretary Padoh
Mahn Sha La Phan in February.
CSW also urged the international community not to fall for the regimes
attempts to appease opinion by making token gestures. CSWs Advocacy
Officer Benedict Rogers said: The regime is remarkably adept at giving
the international community token gestures to ease pressure, without
making any meaningful changes on the ground. The apparent offer to allow
international aid workers into the cyclone-affected areas, three weeks
after the cyclone, should be treated with caution. Already, the regime
already shows signs of backtracking and maintaining restrictions.
CSW also expressed disappointment that United National Secretary General,
Ban Ki-Moon, failed to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi during his recent visit
to Burma, and appears not to have raised her case or even made reference
Stuart Windsor, CSWs National Director, said: At this time of crisis in
Burma, we call for the immediate and unconditional release of Aung San Suu
Kyi and all political prisoners. They have a crucial role to play in the
reconstruction of the country. We also call for increased, sustained and
substantial efforts to ensure the regime allows unrestricted access for
international aid workers to all parts of the country, and we urge the
international community to impose specific deadlines for the regime to
respond. Every hour of inaction or restriction that passes, the more
people die. The international community should be prepared to take
whatever steps are necessary to help the people of Burma.
For more information, please contact Rebecca Nind, Campaigns and Media
Assistant at Christian Solidarity Worldwide 020 8329 0026, email
rebeccanind at csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.
CSW is a human rights organisation which specialises in religious freedom,
works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and
promotes religious liberty for all.
May 27, Thai-Burma Border Consortium
Struggling with Burmas other humanitarian crisis
High-level diplomacy has led to cautious optimism that Burmas military
regime may ease restrictions on critically needed emergency relief for
survivors of Cyclone Nargis. Out of the media spotlight, however,
assistance programmes for refugees from Burmas other humanitarian crisis
are in danger of collapsing unless additional donor support can be found.
Protracted armed conflict in eastern Burma has displaced over a million
people during the past decade with over 140,000 people currently residing
in refugee camps in Thailand. The international community has generously
responded with basic food, shelter, health care and education needs for
over 20 years.
However, soaring global rice and oil prices during the past few months
have left the primary provider of food aid US$6.8 million (EUR 4.3
million) under-funded for 2008. Unless additional funds are urgently
secured, rations will have to be reduced to half the international minimum
standard of 2,100 kcals/ person/ day from August.
This would have a very destabilising affect on the camps and within a
couple of months we could expect to see significant increases in
malnutrition, explained Jack Dunford from the Thailand Burma Border
Consortium (TBBC). The protective community structures afforded by the
camps would be undermined and refugees forced to supplement their food by
leaving the camps at considerable risk of abuse and exploitation, he
TBBC has issued emergency funding appeals, and has already received some
additional government support from the Netherlands, Ireland and Poland.
Responses from the USA, UK, Canadian and Spanish governments are still
pending, but time is running out. The TBBC Board will meet on June 5 to
review projected expenditures and funding for the remainder of the year,
and currently has no choice but to drastically reduce food rations.
The months ahead are fraught with uncertainty for Burma after Cyclone
Nargis. Millions of Burmese have been affected. Huge numbers of people
have been displaced and there must be considerable doubts about how
quickly the economy can be restored. It is likely that the whole
humanitarian response for Burma will have to be re-thought including
support to refugees, internally displaced and migrants, commented Mr
During these uncertain times, it is important to maintain stability in
the border areas. Allowing assistance programmes to collapse at this point
would only add to the human suffering. Unlike the situation in Burma,
mechanisms for delivering effective assistance to the refugees are well
established. Resolving the rice price crisis now will ensure stability in
the short term enabling a more strategic response to be developed in the
post-cyclone context, he appealed.
Media contact :
TBBC Deputy Executive Director
sally at tbbc.org
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