French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner denounced the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday, as activists rallied in Paris in support of Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader

«All of this is exasperating,» said Kouchner, calling the trial a «scandalous provocation» and a «pretext» by the ruling military junta to neutralize a major political opponent before upcoming elections.
Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide victory in Myanmar’s democratic elections in 1990, but the ruling military government refused to honor the result. The Nobel laureate has spent more than 13 of the last 19 years in government-ordered detention. continue

End the Burma Exception and Refer the Military Junta to the International Criminal Court

Today the world watches aghast as the SPDC, the military junta controlling Burma, puts Aung San Suu Kyi, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, into the notorious Insein prison for the offense of an uninvited intruder coming to her home. Just a year ago, there was shock and horror as the SPDC blocked efforts to distribute aid after Burma was devastated by Cyclone Nargis. These actions come as no surprise from this military regime. Yet in the discussions and debates on Burma, be it about sanctions, engagement, arms embargo, political prisoners or any of the myriad responses to the atrocities taking place there, until recently one word has been noticeably absent. Where are the calls for justice?

Where in the Burma discussion are the voices that are calling for an investigation of Israel’s actions in Gaza or for the arrest of U.S. officials for torture? Where are the calls for justice that led to a referral of the situation in Darfur, Sudan to the International Criminal Court? The international community has a responsibility to respond to the denial of basic rights and the crimes against the people of Burma; justice must be a part of the equation. Continue reading “End the Burma Exception and Refer the Military Junta to the International Criminal Court”

Suu Kyi and Burma’s gorillas

Like the gorillas ruling the Planet of the Apes, Burma’s generals yesterday (Monday May 18) put Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on trial for what our government has called trumped-up charges. (Daw is a Burmese honorific that may be translated “Lady”)

The daughter of Burma’s foremost modern-day hero, the international democracy icon Suu Kyi, is accused by her Planet of the Apes clone oppressors of harboring an American who swam to her home where she is under house arrest. If this incident had not happened, her latest period of detention—a six-year term—would have ended on May 27.

The Burmese generals simply could not take the risk of letting her go free to lead her National League for Democracy party in elections next year.

The military has ruled Burma since 1962. Gen. Ne Win first held power as an outright military strongman and then as a constitutional president. The present junta came to power in 1988 after Ne Win’s resignation. The generals are preparing for 2010 elections which would be Burma’s first since 1990. These elections are supposed to be the second step in the generals’ so-called 12-step road to democracy. The generals invented this process in response to international criticism of their oppressive and anti-democratic system.

In addition to the UN and the Western nations, critics of the Burmese generals’ human-rights abuses and cruelty include the Philippine government and Asean (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations of which Burma under the military junta is an unworthy member). Continue reading “Suu Kyi and Burma’s gorillas”

Through its stake in the Yadana project, Chevron has exposed the company to extraordinary legal and financial risks arising from litigation for human rights abuses, the risk of expropriation or impairment of assets by the Burmese military regime,

Top Proxy Voting Advisors Recommend Teamsters’ Country Selection Criteria Proposal at Chevron

RiskMetrics Group, PROXY Governance Support Transparency on Chevron’s Country Risks Assessments

WASHINGTON, May 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — In recent reports, two leading independent proxy advisory firms — RiskMetrics Group and PROXY Governance, Inc. — recommended shareholders vote for the Teamsters’ shareholder proposal calling on Chevron Corp. (NYSE:CVX) to disclose the criteria under which it starts and ends investments in high-risk countries such as Burma. The proposal, listed as item No. 8 on the proxy card, goes to a vote at Chevron’s May 27, 2009 annual meeting of shareholders.

“We’re very pleased that both RiskMetrics Group and PROXY Governance, Inc. are supporting our call for Chevron to be transparent about the standards it uses to assess high-risk countries for potential or continued investment,” said Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer C. Thomas Keegel. “Chevron’s decisions related to Burma — whose ruling military regime is notorious for brutal human rights violations — expose the company to staggering risks and raise questions about the adequacy of Chevron’s current country selection criteria.”

Chevron, in partnership with Total of France, the Petroleum Authority of Thailand, and Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise, holds equity in the largest investment project in Burma: the Yadana gas-field and pipeline, which is reportedly the single largest source of income for the Burmese military regime.

Through its stake in the Yadana project, Chevron has exposed the company to extraordinary legal and financial risks arising from litigation for human rights abuses, the risk of expropriation or impairment of assets by the Burmese military regime, and substantial reputation and political risks that could affect Chevron’s bottom line. Chevron also does business in other high-risk countries, including Angola, Kazakhstan, and Nigeria.

Chevron’s current country selection criteria are opaque, and investors lack the information they need to evaluate Chevron’s in-country risk oversight procedures and make informed choices regarding Chevron’s governance.

Co-filers joining the Teamsters’ demand for disclosure include the AFL-CIO, Ms. Adelaide Gomer, The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, Mercy Investment Program, Newground Social Investment, the Unitarian Universalist Association, and the Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk.

Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

DATASOURCE: International Brotherhood of Teamsters

CONTACT: Galen Munroe of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters,

As chair of Asean, Thailand could also use the Asean Charter against Burma, since the regime is directly breaching the principles of democracy, rule of law and human rights as stated in the Asean Charter.

Time to act on Burma

Although the remarks by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva that he is concerned about the continuing detention of Aung San Suu Kyi is positive, what Thailand is doing about Burma is just rhetoric and far too little.

As a chair of Asean, it is a shame that Thailand is still spouting the same rhetorical phrases instead of taking concrete action. It should demand that Burma implement the resolutions passed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2007 and bring perpetrators of the September 2007 crackdown to justice. Thailand should also support the call of pro-democracy forces that the SPDC-drafted constitution be scrapped since the process was not a participatory one.

Compared with other Southeast Asian nations, Thailand is not doing enough. We should send a clear message to Burma by doing what Indonesia did in August 2008, when it invited the Burmese members of parliament who were elected in the 1990 general election, to a session of its parliament. The Indonesian parliament also called for the postponement of exchanging ambassadors with Burma for Rangoon’s lack of progress in human rights.

At their bilateral meeting last month, President Gloria Arroyo of the Philippines asked Thein Sein, the self-appointed prime minister of the junta, to release Aung San Suu Kyi.

As chair of Asean, Thailand could also use the Asean Charter against Burma, since the regime is directly breaching the principles of democracy, rule of law and human rights as stated in the Asean Charter.

If brave enough, Thailand could put the issue of continued oppression in Burma for discussion at the Asean summit this October.

However, the key question to all these moves is whether PM Abhisit would be brave enough to actually take such concrete and progressive actions, or would he prefer to continue with same old phrases (that he is ”concerned about the situation”), something that Thai PMs before him have done over and over again.


Burmese companies are moving production bases from Rangoon to Kanchanaburi’s Sangkhla Buri district to avoid US and British trade sanctions.

Burmese firms set up shop in Thailand
Published: 18/05/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News
Burmese companies are moving production bases from Rangoon to Kanchanaburi’s Sangkhla Buri district to avoid US and British trade sanctions.

The firms fear products labelled “Made in Burma” will be rejected abroad, particularly in the US and Britain, where there are trade sanctions against the country, said a business owner.

The Hush Puppies shoe-making factory, which employs more than 1,500 workers, is among companies which have relocated from the former Burmese capital to Kanchanaburi’s western border district.

Many others are shifting production to Tak’s Mae Sot district, where several firms from Bangkok, Samut Prakan and Nakhon Pathom have relocated recently to take advantage of the district’s cheaper labour. Most border factories are dependent on Burmese migrant labour who rent houses on the Burmese side of the border and cross over to work, the source said.

“The Burmese work in factories on the Thai side and return home after work. Most have a good education and are skilled,” the source said.

They are not illegal workers and have no intention of moving to Bangkok because they have stable work.

Though they are paid less than the minimum daily wage, their work does not involve the risks faced by illegal aliens working in big cities. Aye Chan, a Karen employed in a leather tanning factory in Sangkhla Buri, said she completed 12th grade in the Karen town of Thanbyuzayat.

She and her younger sister have been crossing the border to work in the factory for two years and receive 70 baht each a day.

“Our wages here are higher than in Burma,” she said. “We are happy working here and never dream of better paid jobs in Bangkok as we are afraid of being lured into the flesh trade.”

Mya, 23, a Burmese from Moulmein township, said her family was very poor and could not make ends meet selling wood to Thai traders, so she decided to work at the tannery to help her family.

A security source said Kanchanaburi not only faces an influx of illegal alien workers but also has problems involving child sex as gangs prey on under-age migrant workers, mostly Karen and Mon.

There are at least four brothels operating in the town centre in Sangkhla Buri and near a bus terminal.

Pinyo Weerasuksawat, a labour activist, said Thailand now has about 1.2 million migrant workers.

The Burmese and Karen mostly work in the fishing industry and related businesses in Samut Sakhon and Samut Prakan provinces.

Employers protect their illegal workforce by bribing local police to turn a blind eye, the source said.

17.30: The lawyer of US citizen John William Yettaw has been named as Khin Maung Oo.

Aung San Suu Kyi trial update: 14.50pm

17.30: The lawyer of US citizen John William Yettaw has been named as Khin Maung Oo.
Yettaw began the first day of his hearing at around 2pm Burmese time today.
14.55: Suu Kyi’s court hearing finished for today. The court heard a presentation from the prosecutor, Deputy Police Chief Ye Myint Aung of the special police information branch. The next hearing begins tomorrow at 10am.
John Yettaw’s first hearing will start now in the courtroom that Suu Kyi just left.
14.40: Suu Kyi’s lawyers have been seen leaving Insein prison from the main gate.
They were diverted from the usual route away from Insein prison by authorities due to the large number of crowds that have gathered over the course of today.
12.55pm: Diplomats from Britain, Australia, France, Germany and Italy have been denied entry to Insein prison.
Spectators gathered on bridge near to Insein prison.
NLD members attempting to enter Insein prison, and were rejected. Numbers of reporters also denied entry to the prison.
Two people arrested near Insein prison around 8.30am today. Unconfirmed reports say they have been released.
12pm: A United States consul was sent to Insein prison this morning to observe the court hearing of US citizen John William Yettaw, who is being tried on trespassing charges for intruding on Aung San Suu Kyi’s compound.
“He was able to enter the compound for ob servation,” said Drake Weisert, deputy Public Affairs spokesperson at the American Embassy in Rangoon.
“We haven’t got a word back yet of what he observed inside there.”
11.20am: Journalists outside of Burma have reported difficulties in contacted mobile phones on the ground inside Burma, while reporters in Rangoon say that many phone lines have been cut since Sunday.
10.50am: All the roads surrounding Insein prison have been blocked with barbed wire and there is a heavy armed police presence.
Militia group Swan Arr Shin and the Union Solidarity and Development Association are also in the area, according to eye witnesses.
Witnesses say that nearby Insein township market was also ordered to close down at 11am this morning by the police and municipal authorities.
Stores and tea shops near the prison have been closed since yesterday.
Armed police members have been deployed inside compounds of nearby monasteries and pagodas while about 20 riot police trucks were seen in the area surrounding the prison.
National League for Democracy (NLD) members who are in the area closely watching the situation said a United States’ embassy vehicle was seen entering the prison compounds, and has now left. Suu Kyi’s lawyers have also entered the prison.
Family members of inmates inside the prison say no family visits are allowed today.
NLD members said there were around 300 spectators near the prison.