burmaNet News, March 13 - 15, 2010
editor at burmanet.org
Mon Mar 15 20:52:41 EDT 2010
March 13 15, 2010, Issue #3916
QUOTE OF THE DAY
I am appalled and saddened that Aung San Suu Kyis appeal against the
sentence imposed by the regime has been denied. That failed appeal is
sadly no surprise. From start to end, the sole purpose of this show trial
has been to prevent Daw Suu Kyi from taking part in elections.... while
she is kept out of political life and while over 2100 other prisoners of
conscience remain incarcerated, the regimes elections will not gain
recognition nor international legitimacy. Gordon Brown, Prime Minister
of the United Kingdom
AFP: NLD to decide on re-registry
Wall Street Journal: New movement eyes Myanmar race
BUSINESS / TRADE
AFP: Spate of Myanmar privatisations raises questions
Mizzima News: News of Burmese rice export pushes up price
New Light of Myanmar: Health Minister receives Chairman of Three Diseases
Fund board mission
AFP: Rohingya chased out of waters
AFP: Philippines to press Burma on election laws
Reuters: Myanmar elections "not credible" - U.N. envoy
BBC News: Burma and N Korea slam UN reports
Financial Times (UK): Efforts to engage Burma fail to bear fruit
The Journal Gazette (US): Burmese demand action on prejudice
OPINION / OTHER
Asian Tribune: It's time for the NLD to flex its muscles Zin Linn
Irrawaddy: Election law ensures no credibility Htet Aung
European Karen Network: Human Rights Council Burma debate Monday must
approve commission of inquiry
Burma Rivers Network: Salween rally calls on Burmas neighbors to halt dam
March 15, Agence France Presse
NLD to decide on re-registry
Bangkok The Myanmar opposition party of Aung San Suu Kyi will decide in
two weeks whether to re-register under new election laws that force their
detained leader out of the party, a spokesman said on Monday.
Under the laws enacted by the ruling junta last week, sparking global
anger, Suu Kyi faces exclusion from her National League for Democracy
(NLD) because registered parties will be dissolved if any member is a
NLD spokesman Khin Maung Swe told AFP that opinions among senior party
members were 'not black or white' after meeting on Monday to discuss the
legislation, which gives them 60 days from last Monday to register ahead
of elections this year.
'The central executive committee members are going to decide on March 29
whether to register or not,' Khin Maung Swe said. Suu Kyi, who has been
locked up in the military-ruled nation for 14 of the past 20 years, would
be included in the committee vote and 'will accept their decision", he
'The authorities know that we have to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi after
they released the laws, so there is a hope to be able to meet her to reach
a clear decision.'
The new laws also officially annul the result of Myanmar's last elections
in 1990, which the NLD won by a landslide but was never allowed by the
junta to take power. Elections promised by the regime this year will be
the first since then and if the NLD does register, it will have to accept
a controversial constitution approved in a 2008 referendum, which it has
previously refused to recognise.
March 15, Wall Street Journal
New movement eyes Myanmar race
YangonA number of dissidents opposed to Myanmar's harsh military regime
plan to challenge the government in elections expected this year, even as
new rules force many of the country's best-known activists to sit on the
These dissidents, informally called the Third Force, are seeking to bridge
the gap between Myanmar's two main political factions: the military, which
has turned Myanmar into a police state since taking over in 1962, and the
National League for Democracy, the severely weakened opposition movement
led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest.
Residents of Yangon, Myanmar, stopping last week to read newspapers giving
details of new polling laws, although the military regime hasn't yet set a
date for the election, the nation's first since 1990.
The movement is made up of younger activists who believe it is possible to
reform Myanmar from within its existing political system, and some veteran
dissidents, including some whose families held government posts before the
The opposition NLD won Myanmar's last elections in 1990, but the junta
ignored the result and imprisoned many senior leaders, including Ms. Suu
Kyi. NLD officials now are debating whether to boycott the next
electionwhose date hasn't been announcedbecause they doubt the vote will
Many residents are hoping more viable candidates will jump into the race.
It is too early to know how many candidates are set to participate. The
regime only just last week approved eligibility rules so parties could
begin registering. But at least a half-dozen non-NLD dissidents, who might
be considered Third Force candidates, have signaled intentions to run so
far, according to the candidates and exile news outlets in India and
Thailand, including Irrawaddy magazine and Mizzima news agency.
They include the daughter of a former prime minister and several other
longtime Yangon activists, including Cho Cho Kyaw Nyein, a 62-year-old
dissident who ran unsuccessfully in the 1990 elections. Although Ms. Kyaw
Nyein's organization is known as the Democratic Party, she says she and
her supporters are one of the groups given the Third Force label.
"Some people call us that," says Ms. Kyaw Nyein, whose father was once
deputy prime minister, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. "We
are not with the NLD, we are not with the government. We are in the
Speaking publicly about politics is unusual in Myanmar, where activists
are often subject to prison sentences and torture, according to
international human-rights groups. Ms. Kyaw Nyein says that while she has
"scars" from years of harassment, including a three-year prison term in
the 1990s, she is speaking out now because she believes the country can
make some headway if people embrace the election.
"A lot of people have come to understand that there is no point fighting
with the present regime," she said. "If there is an election and we
declare we don't want to take part, [the military] will continue with
their plans" and rule uncontested.
Diplomatic staff from the U.K. and other European countries met recently
with several of the new candidates, and say they could represent "an
important part of the transition to democracy" in Myanmar, one Western
Still, the impact of the Third Force is yet to be determined, and it is
unclear how popular those candidates ultimately will prove to be.
"It isn't obvious to me that these Third Force politicians have
constituencies," another diplomat added.
The "Third Force" label is used by locals to describe a variety of
activists and organizations, including some with potentially competing
ideologies and civil society groups. It is difficult to pin down precise
political agendas. What's more, many Third Force activists are unwilling
to speak publicly out of fear of persecution. Gatherings of more than five
people in Myanmar are technically illegal.
But backers of the movement appear to share one common belief. Unlike Ms.
Suu Kyi, who is widely perceived as taking a hard line against
compromising with Myanmar's military, they generally believe there is
significant room to negotiate with the regime in pursuit of gradual
change, according to interviews with activists and others familiar with
the country's political landscape.
Among the ideas some are pursuing: Liberalization of the rice trade in
Myanmar, once the world's largest rice exporters before hit with years of
stagnation due to weak investment and government restrictions. Some of the
activists think they can convince Myanmar's next government to allow a
bigger role for private traders and investors, which could energize the
sector and boost rural incomes.
Third Force adherents also point to other Asian countries, such as South
Korea and Indonesia, that endured military or one-party dominance for
years, but evolved into multiparty democracies. They note that as many as
75% of the seats in Myanmar's new parliament will be filled by civilians,
and that it is worth trying to grab some of them.
Ms. Kyaw Nyein has been allowed to discuss her candidacy openlyit remains
unclear as to whybut says she has had to confine political meetings to
small groups, or informal gatherings. Many dissidents hope the government
will allow larger meetings once the election gears up.
As for the vote itself, she says, "I can only hope it will be fair."
The government is planning the election as part of a "road map to
democracy" to bolster its standing internally and internationally. But
critics, including many NLD members, say the regime has no intention of
loosening its grip. These dissidents see the entire election process as
invalid, and fear that participation is playing into the hands of the
regime. To them, the very emergence of these new candidates is deeply
upsetting. A boycott, they say, would force the regimeregarded as one of
the most oppressive in the worldto come to the negotiating table if it
wants its election to be recognized by the outside world.
Efforts to reach the government of Myanmar, also known as Burma, were
It may be hard, if not impossible, for any opposition group to be
effective amid Myanmar's restrictions on speech and other liberties.
Still, the movement has captured the attention of many Myanmar experts
around the world, including some who believe the only way forward is for a
new oppositionwith less baggage from years of fighting with the regimeto
The election "is a fraud, but at the same time I think it is likely to
lead to something," says Donald Seekins, a Myanmar scholar at Meio
University in Okinawa, Japan. "It's not the intention of the generals
necessarily to make it more pluralistic, but I think that is going to be
Skepticism, however, deepened last week when the regime released new
election rules that bar the participation of political prisoners,
including Ms. Suu Kyi and other NLD members. The rules also require
parties to register within 60 days and be approved by an election
commissionsomething NLD has yet to do.
"Yes, there are some non-NLD people who are preparing to register their
parties, but I hope they change their mind," says Aung Din, executive
director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma, a Washington group. "They will
have no chance to survive in this sham election. This election should be
Ms. Kyaw Nyein would disagree. She says she and several family members,
including her parents, her husband and two brothers, have served time in
"I have been bullied and harassed" for years, she says in her interview.
"Why do we continue this fight? We've got to negotiate with the army for
the sake of the people and the country."
BUSINESS / TRADE
March 15, Agence France Presse
Spate of Myanmar privatisations raises questions Danny Kemp
Bangkok Myanmar's junta has embarked on a flurry of privatisations of
state firms, raising questions about whether it is reforming the economy
or trying to take profits before 2010 elections.
The military government, which faces strict Western sanctions because of
its human rights record, is trying to sell off petrol stations, ports and
state-owned buildings including cinemas and warehouses.
The move has added to unease in the country, with this year's polls set to
shift power within the entrenched military structure, and a history of
social unrest linked to economic change in Myanmar.
The government is planning to sell a network of about 250 state-owned gas
stations around the country, including 53 in the commercial hub Yangon,
Myanmar's privatisation commission office said in February.
State newspapers called for potential buyers to submit proposals to run
the stations for "smooth sales" of petrol "in the private sector in accord
with the open market economy."
The regime also invited private enterprises to tender for the running of
four ports in the country as well as business operations on the Yangon
Sean Turnell, a specialist on Myanmar's economy, said he thought the
privatisations were sparked by some desire to reform, and were also an
attempt by current members of the junta to cash out while they retain
"I am taking a bit of comfort from the fact that, although it is bad...
because resources that belong to the people are being taken, it also seems
to be a signal of uncertainty amongst the groups which are in power,"
Turnell, of Macquarie University in Australia, told AFP.
Myanmar remains one of the world's poorest nations after its economy was
run down by a previous socialist but also military-run regime.
The economy has previously been the catalyst for pro-democracy uprisings
against the current junta, which took power in 1988 and has struggled to
reform the economy.
A massive and unannounced hike in fuel prices in August 2007 unleashed
protests led by Buddhist monks that snowballed into the biggest threat to
the ruling junta in nearly 20 years.
And mass student-led pro-democracy rallies in 1988 were triggered when the
regime invalidated currency notes the previous year in a bid to clamp down
on the black market.
Turnell said that the junta's overall motive to privatise was to boost its
position ahead of this year's elections, which rights groups and the
international community fear will be neither free nor fair.
New election laws unveiled this month bar opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi
from standing in the polls and also force her National League for
Democracy party to expel her or face dissolution.
Turnell said the junta, accused by critics of enriching itself by selling
off Myanmar's natural resources to Asian countries including China, India
and Thailand, was also simply raising much-needed cash.
Wielding economic power to win over various electoral groups is likely
part of the junta's reason to privatise. "But also connected there does
seem to be a big cash shortage in the place," he said.
"They have a lot of money from gas revenues but very little comes into
Burma itself given that it is mostly under control of generals one and
two," he said, referring to junta leader Senior General Than Shwe and
second in command Maung Aye. Burma is the former name for Myanmar.
But behind the doubts could lie some hope for change.
Than Shwe must relinquish power to a new national assembly after the
elections, and although he may take on a new presidential position created
by a 2008 constitution, he may be worried about rivals to his power,
"Perhaps these guys have some doubts and that is something we have not
seen there for a long time," he said.
Aung Naing Oo, a Myanmar political analyst in the northern Thai city of
Chiang Mai, agreed that the privatisations could be a sign of shifting
sands in Myanmar.
"Given the steps the military government has taken in the past six months,
including privatisation, to me it indicates that things are changing," he
March 15, Mizzima News
News of Burmese rice export pushes up price Nyein Chan
Dhaka The price of rice is spiraling in some places in Arakan state in
southern Burma from March 10, after local people learnt that over 25,000
tons of Burmese rice will be exported to Bangladesh this year.
The price of Emahta rice (a 20 per cent broken variety) has increased from
19.000 Kyat (USD 18) to 25000 Kyat (USD 24) for one bag (30 Kilograms) in
the townships of Maungdaw, Rathe-taung, Buthidaung, Minbya, Ponnagyun and
The price has gone up so much because rice traders have started
purchasing rice at increased prices after they heard that Bangladesh will
import rice from Burma, a rice trader from Rathe-taung township told
"The price went up within two days because rice was not transported from
other townships and whatever we have in our township is also being
exported to Bangladesh, a rice mill owner in Maungdaw said.
There are further restrictions in place in transporting rice from one
place to another in Arakan State, she added.
"Earlier, we could carry around five sacks of rice from one town to
another. But now we are allowed to carry only one sack. So rice prices
soared immediately in areas like Buthidaung and Maungdaw, where rice
production is not sufficient for local consumption," she said.
Local people in Maungdaw transport rice to Bangladesh illegally, after
bribing Burmese border security personnel since it is located on the
border of Burma and Bangladesh with Naff River as its boundary.
Bangladesh will purchase over 25,000 tons of rice from Burma for domestic
use. The decision was taken at a cabinet committee meeting on public
purchase in Dhaka early this month. The Singapore-based Indo-Sino Trade
Limited was contracted to supply bulk rice from Burma at US$395 per tonne.
March 14, New Light of Myanmar
Health Minister receives Chairman of Three Diseases Fund board mission
Nay Pyi Taw Minister for Health Dr Kyaw Myint received Chairman Mr
Phillippe Allen of Three Diseases Fund Board Mission and party at the
Ministry here today.
They discussed matters relating to filed trips findings on control tasks
of three diseases (AIDS, TB and Malaria) in cooperation with Three
Diseases Fund in Yangon, Kalay, Tamu and Tiddim from 8 to 10 March and
implementation of Three Diseases Fund with the assistance of Global Fund.
Also present at the meeting were Deputy Ministers Dr Mya Oo and Dr Paing
Soe, directors-general and officials from departments under the Ministry.
March 15, Agence France Presse
Rohingya chased out of waters
Kuala Lumpur Malaysian authorities said on Monday they are probing
claims that 93 Rohingya from Myanmar were chased out of Thai waters and
drifted aboard a boat for 45 days before being rescued.
Malaysian maritime officials found the boat last Wednesday off Langkawi
island on Malaysia's northwest coast after a tip-off from fishing crews.
The Rohingya were sent to an immigration camp in northern Kedah state.
Authorities are investigating the status of the group, from Myanmar's
Muslim minority, and their claims they were chased out of Thai waters
after being given food by the Thai navy, state immigration chief Zulfikar
'The Rohingya said they met the Thai navy at sea, they gave them food and
later pushed them out before they were rescued by our maritime officials,'
he told AFP.
He said the immigration authorities needed two weeks to complete their
investigation and have not yet obtained any response from the Thai
authorities on the claims. A navy spokesman in Thailand said there has
been no report on the incident.
Mr Zulfikar said the 93 Rohingya, all men from Arakan state in Myanmar,
were in good condition but reported that another man died during the
arduous journey. He said the group would now be handed on to the UN
refugee agency. 'We are not going to charge them in court.'
March 15, Agence France Presse
Philippines to press Burma on election laws
The Philippines said Monday it would use an international forum in Manila
this week to pressure Burma over new laws blocking Nobel Peace Prize
laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from elections this year.
Foreign Minister Alberto Romulo said he would raise his concerns with
Burma counterpart Nyan Win during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of
a two-day Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) conference beginning Wednesday.
Definitely, its a reverse. Its contrary to the road map to democracy
that they pledged to ASEAN and to the world, Romulo said of the Burma
election laws when asked by reporters what he would discuss with Nyan Win.
I am expressing a feeling that I think articulates the belief of those
who believe in democracy
its Myanmar [Burma] itself that promised to us
the road map to democracy. That was their pledge and promise.
Under the Burma juntas laws unveiled last week, Suu Kyi faces exclusion
from her National League for Democracy (NLD) and is prevented from
contesting elections expected late this year on grounds that she is a
The new laws also officially annul the result of Burmas last elections in
1990, which the NLD won by a landslide. The junta never allowed the party
to take power.
Nyan Win is among 120 senior officials and foreign ministers expected to
join the NAM meeting this week that is focused on inter-faith dialogue.
The forum is expected to culminate in the adoption of a Manila declaration
aimed at strengthening government and civil society cooperation, including
faith-based organisations, officials said.
Romulo said that, while Burmas democracy issues would likely not be
tackled as a specific agenda item during the NAM forum, reconciliation was
in the spirit of any inter-faith dialogue.
Romulo also said he would separately urge other members of the 10-member
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to call for a reversal of
Burmas decree during the groups annual summit in Vietnam next month.
Definitely, I will, he said when asked whether he would push for ASEAN
to censure its fellow member.
ASEAN has traditionally had a policy of non-interference in each others
affairs. But that has slowly begun to erode in recent years, with the
Philippines taking a leading role in criticising the Burmese junta.
March 15, Reuters
Myanmar elections "not credible" - U.N. envoy Jonathan Lynn
Geneva Elections planned for this year by Myanmar's military junta will
lack credibility as regulations for the polls breach basic human rights, a
United Nations envoy said on Monday.
Tomas Ojea Quintana, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar,
said regulations just published banned prisoners of conscience from
participating in elections, or even being members of political parties.
Ojea Quintana said there was no indication the junta was planning to
release prisoners of conscience -- who he estimated at over 2,100 -- or
allow basic freedoms of expression or assembly.
"Under these current conditions, elections in Myanmar cannot be considered
credible," he told a news conference after presenting a report to the U.N.
Human Rights Council.
The regulations would prevent detained Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi
from taking part in the poll.
Her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won the last election
in 1990 but the junta ignored the result and officially annulled it last
The NLD, which has been allowed to open regional branch offices closed for
seven years, is considering whether to take part in the poll, which has
been widely dismissed outside Myanmar as a sham intended to make the
former Burma appear more democratic while leaving the military in control.
Ojea Quintana, who visited the resource-rich southeast Asian country in
February, said officials had assured him that the elections would go ahead
this year, even though a date has not been set.
Besides acting fast to make the elections fair, the junta must address the
question of accountability for the gross systematic violations of human
rights over past decades, the Argentine lawyer said.
Otherwise, the international community needed to step in, he said, for
instance by launching a U.N. commission of inquiry, spelling out a
recommendation in his report to the council.
Myanmar's ambassador to the U.N., U Wunna Maung Lwin, dismissed Ojea
Quintana's report as a politicised attempt to interfere in the election.
"My government has clearly stated that there are no prisoners of
conscience and that those who are serving prison terms are (those) who
offended the existing laws and regulations," he told the council.
Ojea Quintana also criticised the government for its treatment of the
Muslim minority in northern Rakhine state.
He said they were suffering discrimination because they are treated as
illegal immigrants rather than citizens, and are punished for illegal
marriage while new-born children are not registered, depriving them of
access to health and education.
(Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)
March 15, BBC News
Burma and N Korea slam UN reports
Burma and North Korea have rejected UN condemnation of human rights abuses
at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Recommendations by the UN special envoy to Burma "violated the right of a
sovereign state", Burma's UN envoy told the UN Human Rights Council.
North Korea's UN envoy "categorically" rejected a recent UN report
describing the country as "one big prison".
Meanwhile, the UN report on Burma used "unverifiable sources", the UN
special envoy Tomas Quintana said.
Mr Quintana, who visited Burma last month has recommended a UN inquiry
into whether war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed
Mr Quintana told the UN Human Rights Council that elections due this year
could not be credible, because the military rulers had failed to remedy
human rights abuses.
These included the recruitment of child soldiers and the jailing of more
than 2,000 prisoners of conscience.
Burma vociferously rejected the report, saying it referred to issues that
fell outside Mr Quintana's mandate and contained "unfounded allegations",
Burma's UN envoy Wunna Maung Lwin was quoted as saying by AFP.
Meanwhile, the UN special envoy to North Korea Vitit Muntarbhorn has told
the BBC that North Korea's human rights' record is in a category of its
"The type of surveillance system imposed on people, food deprivation, all
these give rise to an array of violations and violence which puts it in
its own category," he told the BBC's PM programme.
The UN report was inspired by a Western conspiracy to "eliminate the state
and social system" in North Korea, the country's UN envoy Choe Myong Nam
was quoted as saying by AFP.
March 15, Financial Times (UK)
Efforts to engage Burma fail to bear fruit Tim Johnston
Bangkok Washington has conceded that international efforts to engage the
generals who run Burma in a process that might lead to greater democracy
have borne little fruit, but officials say they will not abandon their
Laws announced last week that effectively bar Aung San Suu Kyi, the
opposition leader and Nobel laureate, from taking any political role in
the countrys future have sparked a flurry of downbeat assessments from
senior US officials.
The US approach was to try to encourage domestic dialogue between the key
stakeholders, and the recent promulgation of the election criteria doesn't
leave much room for such a dialogue, Kurt Campbell, the assistant
secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific, said on Friday.
Thant Myint-U, a former UN official and author of the Burmese history book
River of Lost Footsteps, said the US needs to keep working for a
These talks are taking place after 20 years of sanctions which have
reduced western influence to almost zero.
Philip Crowley, state department spokesman, said the banning of Ms Suu Kyi
would render this years election devoid of credibility leaving
advocates of re-engagement with a dilemma: after the elections, should
they continue to talk to an administration they believe is illegitimate?
But Mr Thant says the US needs to remain flexible.
Given the past history, it is going to be very difficult for the
administration to embrace this political process, but I think it would be
wrong tactically to back themselves into a corner where they have no room
for manoeuvre after the elections, he said.
The US comments come on top of a report from Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UNs
special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, which recommended that the
regime be investigated for potential war crimes and crimes against
One of Hillary Clintons first policy shifts on becoming secretary of
state was to order a review of Burma policy, declaring that the Bush
administrations strategy of attempting to use sanctions to isolate the
military junta which has run the country since 1962 had failed.
But re-engagement appears to have had little effect. Since the
re-engagement started last year, Ms Suu Kyi has been given an extra 18
months in prison, the military attacks on ethnic militias in the countrys
border areas have been stepped up and journalists and other dissidents
have continued to be imprisoned, some of them for decades.
March 15, The Journal Gazette (US)
Burmese demand action on prejudice Laura J. Gardner
Dozens of shivering Burmese gathered in front of the Courthouse on Sunday
to urge government officials to publicly denounce discrimination against
Organizers said the rally was a response to the governments lack of
reaction to a controversial sign posted at Rickers City Laundry on South
Calhoun Street several weeks ago. The sign, which has since been removed,
read, For Sanitary Purposes, There Are No Burmese People Allowed. Jay
Ricker, head of the company, has since apologized for the sign, but
Burmese at the rally said it was not enough to ease their fears of
The government has been silent, said Maung Maung Soe, one of the events
organizers. If the government does not take action, we will take legal
Details surrounding the sign remain unclear. But by all accounts, it seems
that a lone employee posted it, perhaps in response to the Burmese
tradition of chewing betel nuts and spitting out the juice. Ricker posted
an apology on Facebook and read an apology in a video posted on YouTube.
At the rally, members of the Burmese community held signs reading We Want
Equal Rights and We Are Burmese Americans. Organizers said they planned
to stage a larger rally in a few days, but had to keep the gathering small
because they hadnt received a permit.
Fort Wayne is home to about 5,500 people from Myanmar, formerly known as
Burma. Many are legal refugees who fled the country to escape the
countrys 60-year civil war.
We arent foreigners coming to visit; we are citizens, said Nyan Aung,
an event organizer who has lived in the United States since 1993. We need
to be treated more like other people. (People) need to respect our human
Thandar Thet, a 15-year-old sophomore at North Side High School, came to
the rally with her father and 5-year-old brother. She said the sign
posting made her feel uneasy about her future in Fort Wayne.
Ive never been discriminated against, but I dont believe this is
right, Thet said. My parents came to America for freedom. They talked
about discrimination in Burma, but that is what we came here to escape.
OPINION / OTHER
March 15, Asian Tribune
It's time for the NLD to flex its muscles Zin Linn
Is Senior General Than Shwe gone mad? This question comes forward after
the junta headed by Than Shwe announces election laws. Many would agree in
the affirmative, yes. Than Shwe has gone out his mind. What is wrong
with him is the power. Power crazy. He seems exceedingly frightened to
loose power, some analysts say.
The juntas election law and political party registration law released on
March 8 are nothing but aimed particularly at Opposition leader Aung San
Suu Kyi. It is squeezing her party, the National League for Democracy
(NLD), to eject her as she is serving a sentence under house arrest.
Burma's new election rules forbid anyone convicted by a court from
participating in the elections. And it is required of all political
parties to depose all imprisoned members to be legalized parties. Since
Suu Kyi is the most prominent Opposition figure, without her
participation, the vote cannot have much credibility.
Although Than Shwe seeks kicking her out of politics, she remains a symbol
of oppositions. Neither can elections be seen as all-inclusive if the
2,200 political prisoners are incapable to participate in this secret
ballot. Without her and them in the election, constituency members choice
will be strictly incomplete.
With the date of the elections yet to be announced, Suu Kyi's party has
not decided as yet to take part. The latest law to be published officially
calls off the result of the country's last 1990 elections in which the NLD
won a landslide victory but the junta never let the party to come to
The law also gives the existing parties including the NLD 60 days from
March 8 to register, which is again nothing but pressuring the NLD to
decide promptly whether it will expel Suu Kyi and contest the elections or
pull out of the process. The registration rules also require loyalty to
the controversial 2008 constitution, which withholds a quarter of all
parliamentary seats for the military a mockery of the democratic process.
A mockery of the democratic process
The UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon renewed his call for
Burma/Myanmar to "ensure an inclusive political process leading to fair,
transparent and credible elections in which all citizens of the country,
including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, can freely take part," his office said in
a statement while the US condemned the Myanmars new legislation as a
"The political party registration law makes a mockery of the democratic
process and ensures the upcoming election will be devoid of credibility,"
US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said on March 10.
Human Rights Watch said in a statement that the law showed the junta's
"contempt for the democratic process."
Aung San Suu Kyi said she never expected such repressive laws would come
out but said she's not disappointed, her party spokesman Nyan Win told
reporters after meeting the 64-year-old democracy leader at her home on
She said such challenges call for unyielding responses and calls on the
people and democratic forces to take common action against such unfair
laws, he said. Nevertheless, the detained pro-democracy symbol Aung San
Suu Kyi advised members of the NLD to discuss the party's Shwegondaing
declaration and why the 2008 Constitution is intolerable via her lawyer
Despite UN, US, EU and Japan persistently call on to free Suu Kyi, the
juntas Senior General showed that he still regarded her as his arch
enemy. He blew out proportion a weird incident that happened in May when
an American trespasser swam to her lakeside villa. Keeping her under
arrest this long years proves the junta still feels demoralized by her
presence in political horizon. She is the idol who provides encouragement
to the people of Burma.
However, Than Shwe has his confidence in getting the support of ASEAN,
China and India for his political hoodwink of the 2010 elections. At the
same time, he makes use of bullying tactics upon the National League for
Democracy, which is the only challenger to its supremacy at home. That is
why Than Shwe decided to wipe out Suu Kyi from the elections scheduled for
2010. He has made that clear now.
As a dictator, Than Shwe used to blame the failures of his regime on
others. He blames Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD for countrys
underdevelopment instead of militarys mismanagements. He trusts no one
and is a cold-blooded political plotter who will commit any felony to
achieve his goal. The Dapeyin Massacre or assassination plot of the Lady
on 30 May 2003 is a visible example. Some of his peers in military
remarked that he is a double-dealing and cunning Machiavellian, always
masking his true nature behind a mask of superiority and courtesy.
In his study of dictators, political psychologist Jerrold M. Post takes up
the concept of malignant narcissism to describe the psychological chaos
raging in dictators minds. Post argues that malignant narcissism in
dictators is a manifestation of the absence of conscience [moral vacuum],
insatiable psychological need for power, unconstrained aggression,
paranoid outlook and [inflated] sense of self-importance and grandiosity.
Without conciliation process, no election can solve
Now, Than Shwe is attempting to legalize his military autocracy with a
sham Constitution and multiparty elections. Most people see the junta's
2008 Constitution and the 2010 elections as a challenge against the will
of the people of Burma. The recent political party registration law makes
obvious that the juntas 2010 elections do not guarantee even an article
of basic human rights.
Burmese people are disappointed with Mr. Surin Pitsuwan, the head of the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), who hails the
military-monopolized elections taking shape to elongate the military's
grip on power. His stance seems encouraging toward high-handed manners of
the generals in Burma.
The Burmese population feels it is time for Mr. Ban to raise this
half-century-long political conflict in the U.N. Security Council. They
look forward to a global arms embargo against Burma's military junta, and
an investigation into crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by
the military regime. By using such effectual pressure, the U.N. Security
Council ought to pressure the Burmese Generals up to the dialogue table in
pursuit of national reconciliation. Without having a conciliation process,
no election can solve the question of Burma.
Apart from the sympathy of the international community, the question now
is how the opposition parties, especially the National League for
Democracy (NLD), will go ahead in the course of the barbed wire blockage
or the insincere registration law.
To some NLD youths in Burma, the party depends on the people's support.
Although the junta gets in the way, it should flex its muscles in defiance
of the military autocracy. It's time to show its political power by
defying the undemocratic political weather conditions.
Zin Linn: The author, a freelance Burmese journalist, lives in exile. He
is vice-president of Burma Media Association, which is affiliated with the
Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontiers.
March 15, Irrawaddy
Election Law Ensures No Credibility Htet Aung
Set aside the issue of the Constitution and persuading the Burmese junta
to hold a free and fair election and the opposition to participate in the
However limited, change will take place in the governmental process to a
certain degree with the installation of parliament and other governmental
bodies at the regional and state levels.
This is the political calculation of some Burmese politicians and
intellectuals inside and outside the country who believe that the
pragmatic reality is that the generals must be engaged through the
procedures of governmental policy, if the country is to move forward.
They seem to expect that after creating the Constitution, the ruling
generals would allow an open, fair electoral process, if the opposition
would participate in the election.
However, now it's clear that the junta hasn't produced a level playing
field and the electoral laws were established without any input outside
the military government.
Chapter 1 of the Political Parties Registration Law titled Name and
Definition, in Article 2/d reads: A political party that believes in a
genuine disciplined multi-party democratic system and which the Election
Commission allows to be founded in accord with this law may conduct their
activities based on a political ideology.
According to the definition, no matter what kind of political ideology a
political party has, it must be subject to disciplined democracy, which
translates to the will of the military.
Though the pro-engagement camp expects change to come within the new
institutional framework, the juntas political maneuver sunder the
electoral law will allow it to build a multi-party system under one
political ideologydisciplined democracy, which means an ideology that
meets the undefined criteria of the military regime.
What is the difference between the junta's previous socialism system and
its disciplined democracy? Under socialism, Burma practiced a one-party
system with one political ideology. Now, the country will practice a
multi-party system with one political ideology as interpreted by the
Like it or not, the Burmese people are going to face an election this
year. The duty of the Election Commission should be to plan, supervise and
implement free and fair elections independently and impartially in order
to support a peaceful transfer of power from the military government to
However, Burmas Political Parties Registration Law sets restrictive,
undemocratic criteria for the leadership and membership of a political
party and gives the EC the power to disband any political party that fails
to meet its criteria, a blunt interference in the internal affairs of
Article 4/e reads: People who are serving a prison term cannot form a
political party. Article 10/e reads: People who are serving a prison
term cannot be a member of a political party.
Those two rules exclude more than 2,000 political prisoners including Aung
San Suu Kyi, a key player in the democratic opposition, from politics.
In addition, Article 6 reads: The application to found a political party
in accord with Article 5 of this law must agree to the following facts,
which include sub-clause 6/c: to abide by the  Constitution.
Analysts say that in the application submitted to the Election Commission
to form a political party, the party must agree to follow the
Constitution, which is interpreted to mean that all candidates must
refrain from discussing any proposed amendments to the Constitution during
the election campaign. If parties or candidates discuss amending the
Constitution during the campaign, they could be dissolved, say analysts.
However, analysts say that following the election, elected members of
parliament would be able to propose Constitutional amendments by following
the rules proscribed in the Constitution.
Although the junta issued the election law in accord with Article 443 of
the Constitution, it ignored Article 441 and called for the parties to
agree to follow a Constitution which has yet to be created.
Article 441 reads: A nation-wide referendum held for adoption of this
Constitution where more than half of the eligible voters voted, of which
the majority of the voters adopted this Constitution, shall come into
operation throughout the Union from the day the first session of the
Pyidaungsu Hluttaw [Parliament] is convened.
The international community has expressed its concern that Burma's
election laws fail to meet basic human rights standards.
Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) reads:
Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country,
directly or through freely chosen representatives.
Article 25 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states:
Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity to vote and in
genuine periodical elections which shall be by universal and equal
suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guarantying the free
expression of the will of the electors.
Aung San Suu Kyia Nobel Peace Prize laureate and a symbol of democracyis
tirelessly advocating for the promotion of democracy through universal and
equal suffrage for all citizens and the right to be elected through
But she has been barred from voting and participating in the election
because she is a political prisoner of the junta.
Credibility and inclusivenesstwo key benchmarks set by the international
communityhave both failed even before the election begins.
March 15, European Karen Network
Human Rights Council Burma debate Monday must approve commission of inquiry
European Karen Network (EKN) calls on members of the Human Rights Council
to support a recommendation by Mr. Tomás Ojea Quintana, the United Nations
Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma, that the UN
consider setting up an inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity
being committed by the Burmese dictatorship.
On Monday the Human Rights Council will meet to discuss the findings and
recommendations of Mr Quinatanas report.
For six decades Karen people have been one of the ethnic groups who have
been directly targeted by the Burmese Army, committing war crimes and
crimes against humanity against us, said Nant Bwa Bwa Phan, board member
of European Karen Network. The Human Rights Council must now follow the
recommendations of their own Special Rapporteur and establish a Commission
On 9th March Karen communities in ten countries worldwide held a day of
action calling on governments to establish a Commission of inquiry into
war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed by the
The regime has recently stepped up attacks against Karen civilians. They
are trying to crush all opposition to their rule ahead of fake elections
later this year. Villagers have been shot on site, more than 80 homes
burned down, and a child killed when the Burmese Army fired a mortar bomb
at a school.
For many years Burmas generals have broken international law, and been
allowed to get away with it without the UN even properly investigating
what is going on said Nant Bwa Bwa Phan. On Monday members of the Human
Rights Council have a responsibility to act, and finally set up a
commission of inquiry.
For more information contact Nant Bwa Bwa Phan, board member of European
Karen Network, on +447739872481 (European time).
March 15, Burma Rivers Network
Salween rally calls on Burmas neighbors to halt dam plans
Hundreds of villagers from both Burma and Thailand joined affected peoples
from around the world in marking International Day of Action for Rivers
yesterday as plans by China, Thailand and India steam ahead to dam all of
Burmas major rivers.
Five hundred farmers and fisher-folk gathered on the Salween River and
shared their concerns about the impending construction of five massive
dams planned on the river with performances and prayers to protect the
Salween. Various networks of people affected by dams in Thailand from the
Mekong, Mae Ping and Prae joined the event to support Salween villagers.
The activities come amidst recent debates around the transnational impacts
of dams on the Mekong River which is experiencing its lowest water levels
in over 15 years.
In Burma, over twenty mega dams are planned on not only the Salween but
also the Irrawaddy, Chindwin, and Sittaung rivers, as well as their
tributaries. All of the dams are currently being planned, constructed, and
financed by neighboring countries and most will provide electricity to
Thailand and China each have environmental and social standards which
inform the dam building process yet they are not being applied to their
dam projects in Burma. In December 2009, the Prime of Thailand announced
that further studies were needed to assess the environmental impact of the
Hutgyi Dam on Thailand. In May 2009, Premier Wen Jiabao halted the
construction of the Liuku Dam on the Salween in China pending further
study of social impacts.
Our neighbors governments are following standards and calling for more
impact studies to reduce the risks of dams in their countries. They should
follow their own standards in Burma as well said Sai Sai, the coordinator
of the Burma Rivers Network.
Several of the dam projects are located in armed conflict zones where
civilians are facing forced labor, forced relocation and extra-judicial
killing. The recent release of Burmas new election law demonstrates the
restrictive environment of public debate in the country. In this context
there is no consultation with affected peoples and no participation in
decision-making around dam building.
The problems of the Mekong River are gaining recent international
attention. We hope it highlights the need for consultation with affected
peoples and for neighbors to work together toward a more sustainable
development of rivers said Kyar Pat, director of the Lahu National
Development Organization monitoring developments on the Mekong in Burma.
Burma Rivers Network calls on neighbors, dam builders, and international
financial institutions to recognize the experience of affected peoples and
suspend dam projects in Burma until people are able to fully participate
in project decisions, energy planning and projects are conducted
transparently and assessments of energy projects that take into account
alternatives to dams can be conducted.
To coincide with International Day of Action for Rivers, the Salween Watch
Coalition is releasing an update of news from the planned dam sites on the
Salween. It can be viewed at www.salweenwatch.org,
Contact: Sai Sai, +(66) 897557354
More information about the BurmaNet