China expanding African arms sales

Hong Kong, China — Increasing quantities of China-made military equipment have been finding their way to Africa, traded for oil, mineral resources and even fishing rights. Zambia has used its copper resources to pay China in a number of military deals, for instance, and Kenya has been negotiating with China to trade fishing rights for arms.
Among the most popular Chinese military exports to Africa are the J-7, K-8 and Y-12 aircraft, which are relatively inexpensive and easy to operate. China sees those countries already armed with the K-8 and J-7 aircraft as potential customers for its new FC-1 fighters.

Sources from the Russian and South African military industries say they are now keeping an eye on China’s FC-1 fighter sales. The Russian military believes the FC-1 is inferior to its MiG-29 SMT and Su-30 MKA. But the Russians cannot match China’s deal-making ability, as the Chinese are accepting oil and minerals in lieu of cash to pay for their equipment.

A delegation from the Nigerian air force told the author at the Cape Town Air Show in South Africa last September that their country was negotiating with China to purchase K-8 trainer aircraft. The country imported Chinese J-7 fighters in 2006, and has expressed an interest in the FC-1.

Zimbabwe’s air force delegation told the author that they were negotiating the purchase of one squadron of FC-1 fighters from China. Zimbabwe is already equipped with K-8 trainers and J-7 fighters. In August last year one Zimbabwean K-8 trainer crashed due to pilot error, the air force representative admitted.

The current problem lies in how Zimbabwe will be able to pay for the purchase of FC-1 fighters. A source from the South African military industry says that China is interested in Zimbabwe’s zinc and aluminum mines. continue

This week’s edition of The Economist has not been distributed in Thailand because of local objections to an article about the royal family, the second disruption in two months, the magazine says.

Distributor bans Economist again
Published: 27/01/2009 at 01:24 AM
This week’s edition of The Economist has not been distributed in Thailand because of local objections to an article about the royal family, the second disruption in two months, the magazine says.

“This week our distributors in Thailand have decided not to deliver The Economist in light of our coverage relating to the Thai monarchy,” it said in an email to Bangkok-based subscribers.

The edition published on Friday focused on the case of Harry Nicolaides, an Australian author charged with lese majeste.

Nicolaides was sentenced to three years in jail last week for comments in a 2005 novel that were interpreted as a smear to the Crown Prince. Only seven copies of the novel were sold.

UN envoy Gambari to visit Myanmar for talks on democracy

New York – The United Nations envoy for Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, will soon visit Myanmar to continue discussions on the democratic process in the Southeast Asian nation, a UN spokeswoman said Monday. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asked Gambari to return to Myanmar and he has also received an invitation from the government in Yangon, according to spokeswoman Marie Okabe.
“The secretary general has expressed his expectations that progress is necessary on the issues that Mr Gambari raised with the government during his last visit,” Okabe said.
One demand made by the UN is for the military government to hold talks with Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the main opposition National League for Democracy, who has been under house arrest for more than a decade. Other issues include release of all political prisoners and the democratization of government institutions.
Gambari’s visit in August 2008 proved a diplomatic disappointment as he was denied meetings with both junta chief Senior General Than Shwe and Suu Kyi.
The UN has made little progress in pushing the junta towards freeing Suu Kyi and over 2,000 political prisoners and introducing democratic reforms.,un-envoy-gambari-to-visit-myanmar-for-talks-on-democracy.html

Customs clarifies rules on banned Burmese gems

The Burma Task Force, composed of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, the American Gem Trade Association and Jewelers of America, have issued a press release that provides guidance on the steps importers and exporters must follow to import non-Burmese rubies and jadeite.

New York–The U.S. Customs Department has issued a set of more specific regulations for ruby and jadeite importers, including requirements that the companies obtain exporter certification and evidence of tracking, to ensure they are complying with a law banning the importation of Burmese rubies and jadeite into the United States.

In September 2008, the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act of 2008 became law, specifying that all rubies and jadeite originally from Myanmar (formerly called Burma), including jewelry containing those gemstones, be banned from the United States, even if the gemstones had been “substantially transformed” in a third-party nation.

Feds Update Burma Jade Law

— JCK-Jewelers Circular Keystone, 1/26/2009 9:59:00 AM

U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued updated regulations Jan. 16 addressing “conditions for importation” of Burmese and Non-Burmese rubies and jadeite in order to implement the relevant portion of the legislation, as part of the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act of 2008, the Jewelers Vigilance Committee said.

The Act specifies that all rubies and jadeite originally from Burma (also known as Myanmar) or jewelry containing these gemstones cannot enter this country even if they had been substantially transformed elsewhere. Exceptions apply only to Burmese rubies and jadeite that were present in the U.S. prior to Sept. 27, 2008, and items imported for personal use.

The Burma Task Force, JVC, the American Gem Trade Association, and Jewelers of America, has released guidance on the steps importers and exporters must follow to import non-Burmese rubies and jadeite. It includes:

* Importer Obligations – Under the new regulations, importers continue to be required to certify that their rubies and jadeite were not mined or extracted from Burma. The importer certification is created through the use of new Harmonized Tariff Codes. continue

A political journal will be published for the first time on Thursday in Burma notorious for its censorship

by Phanida
Monday, 26 January 2009 21:59

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – A political journal will be published for the first time on Thursday in Burma notorious for its censorship.

This ‘Northern Star’ journal will focus on political views, political issues at a time when the 2010 general elections are due. The editor-in-chief of this new journal will be army veteran and former government mouthpiece daily paper ‘New Light of Myanmar’ Vice Editor-in-Chief U Thiha Aung.

“Burma is heading towards democracy. We will publish this journal in the belief that it’s time to write on political issues in this period of transition to democracy. We will publish some articles written by journalists and writers which will be beneficial for the people along with reviews. Political parties will be formed soon and the organizational work of these parties will commence too. We will review the past and show the right way as we believe to the people”, U Thiha Aung said.

“It’s been 20 years from 1988 to 2008. In our country, people know something and don’t know something too. Some known facts are forgotten also. There are milestones in our history which must be recollected and remembered. We will integrate these historical facts with the up-to-date situation for public study. Our articles will be something on these lines,” he added.

In the first issue, ‘Transition to democracy’, ‘The role of journalists’ articles among others written by Maung Wun Tha, Maung Suu Sa and Kyaw Win will be included, it is learnt.

“The main aim of our publication is contribution to current journals being published in Burma. It will complement the vacuum in the current media world in Burma which lacks a political issues-centered journal. The journalists are doing what they believe. In this crucial time of 2009-2010, current general issue journals cannot fill this vacuum. We need a special political journal filled with theory and knowledge on politics, views and experiences on politics etc. We will give these articles and views to the people with an unbiased editorial policy. We have only one objective, it is for the sake of the country”, U Thiha Aung said.

But he frankly admitted that they could barely publish news and articles on detained political leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her ‘National League for Democracy’ (NLD) party and also on 88 Gen Students. Most of the student leaders from this group are now serving long prison terms. Burma is under tight censorship popularly known as ‘Press Kempetai’ named after the secret military police during the Japanese occupation.

U Thiha Aung served in the Army in the rank of a Major from 1972 to 1991. Then he was transferred to the Ministry of Information and later became Vice editor-in-chief of ‘New Light of Myanmar’ and then was promoted to Director and General Manager. He retired in 2007.

“It’s good. Whoever publishes whatever, it should be edited in accordance with media ethics and based on true facts,” a veteran journalist-turned-politician from NLD who was released recently from prison after serving nearly 20 years told Mizzima.

The Ministry of Information issued publishing licenses for six journals and six magazines in October 2008. At least 130 weekly journals are being published in Burma with such licenses.

An editor from Burma does not have high hopes about the new journal given the situation of tight censorship. Political articles and news with foreign issues are being permitted more often than domestic issues which have undergo tighter restrictions. So he does not have much hope about the new journal, he said.

It is learnt that the new journal ‘Northern Star’ will have 20 pages and will be published on Thursday with at least 3,000 copies being circulated at a price tag of Kyat 300 per copy.

Congratulations to the ONE & the ONLY exile government of Burma – BURMADIGEST TEAM

We, the team of BURMA DIGEST, representing our readers, here send our falicitations and congratulations to the newly elected extended exile government NCGUB (National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma), and its elected Priminister Minister & Ministers.

And we also praise and cheer and appreciate the wisdom and moral courage of the exile parliament MPU in safeguarding its unity, maintaining the people’s mandate it enjoys, and forming an exile government headed by a man of honesty and pristine decent.

We believe that, with its elected mandate from 1990 elections, with its being personal/special envoy of Burmese people’s unparalleled leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, with its esteemed non-violent national reconciliation strategies, and with the international credibility it enjoys, the NCGUB is the sole, legitimate, mandated and internationally recognized government of Burma in exile. continue