REGIONAL PERSPECTIVE-It’s incumbent upon Thailand to lead Asean on Burma

AFTER THE ASEAN CHARTER came into force on December 15 2008, members were obliged to follow objectives, principles and norms set forth in the document. These include the promotion and protection of human and other fundamental rights. What the Burmese regime has done against the opposition of Aung San Suu Kyi and its other citizens is not part of Asean’s standards or practices.

Before the charter’s drafting, it was customary for Asean members to defend their colleagues to ensure continued unity. As a regional organisation, Asean also protected members from outsider pressures and scrutiny. Under such conditions, the principle of non-interference was the mantra to glue Asean together and silence criticisms from within. Even before Burma joined Asean in 1997, the grouping was providing the most effective shield to the regime – first as an Asean observer (1995) and a signatory to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (1996) – over Burma’s preponderance for using force against its own people. The East-West divide also augmented Asean’s determination to admit Burma, despite repeated warnings of the consequences.
During the deadly Depayin incident in May 2003, when Suu Kyi was almost killed by junta-sponsored thugs, Asean leaders were uncharacteristically silent. At the summit in Phnom Penh six months later, the Asean leaders gave a vote of confidence to the newly appointed Burmese prime minister Lt General Khin Nyunt, hoping he could lead changes from the inside. Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra also backed the new leader saying Burma deserved a second chance. In October 2004, Khin Nyunt was purged from power and placed under house-arrest.

Now Asean has shown some backbone in handling Burma’s situation and the plight of Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as with its Western dialogue partners, after Asean gained the charter. The Asean chair’s statement calling for her release was the strongest ever from a country with which it shares one of the longest common borders in Southeast Asia.
Continue reading “REGIONAL PERSPECTIVE-It’s incumbent upon Thailand to lead Asean on Burma”

“Aung San Suu Kyi is the key partner for dialogue, the key person for reconciliation”

Burma’s Government in Exile Plans New Political Strategy for Democracy
By Ron Corben
31 May 2009

Burma’s government in exile says it is changing its strategy to reach democracy, following the military government’s decision to prosecute Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Tensions in Rangoon are reported to be rising as the trial progresses.
The government in exile, the National Coalition Government for the Union of Burma, says it will announce its new strategy for a transitional process to democracy in late June. It says the trial of opposition-leader Aung San Suu Kyi has undermined the credibility of the military’s planned 2010 elections.

A representative for the government in exile, Thaung Htun, says the new plan will ask all stakeholders to to join a credible political process.”

“Aung San Suu Kyi is the key partner for dialogue, the key person for reconciliation,” said Thaung Htun. “The regional players in the international community should say in one voice that 2010 election planned by the regime – if it is not inclusive – if it excludes Aung San Suu Kyi and other key ethnic leaders and the key stakeholders – that stand has to be made clear. After that in cooperation with the U.N. Secretary General, the regional players should have to push for a real inclusive democratic transition in Burma.” Continue reading ““Aung San Suu Kyi is the key partner for dialogue, the key person for reconciliation””

Gist of PM Abhisit Vejjajiva’s Address at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong (FCCHK), 15 May 2009 and Q&A Session

May 25, 2009 Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Q: (IHT – Mark McDonald) As the holder of the ASEAN Chair, is it not time for you personally, as a Prime Minister of Thailand, and ASEAN overall to speak out against the rather alarming treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi in [Myanmar]? And barring any comment, is it acquiescence by silence on the part of ASEAN? PM: Yesterday, I already expressed my concerns about what has been happening in Myanmar because at the last ASEAN leaders’ meeting, Myanmar briefed us on her plans to achieve the roadmap and we had clearly issued the statement, chairman’s statement – and also in our discussions – on the desire to see an inclusive political process that would be accepted by the international community and we have encouraged Myanmar to work with the United Nations because we have expected the United Nations, maybe the Secretary General, to pay a visit and try to resolve the issues. Obviously, what has been happening over the last couple of days or a little longer is of real concern. The Foreign Ministry, since Thailand is the Chair, is now seeking the views of all the other ASEAN members.
Q: (Reuters) You mentioned that the situation of Aung Sang Suu Kyi is of real concern to yourself and ASEAN. Could you elaborate on that – your concern about manner of her detention, her health being denied of a doctor in the past. What time frame do you think you will be able to get a collective answer from the members on this? PM: Clearly her health situation is of concern, and that should be a concern to everybody. The second thing is the bigger picture of what this means as far as the implementation of the roadmap. And I have already said ASEAN has expressed our desire to see what we called an inclusive process that would be key to the acceptability of the political process. So clearly the events raised these concerns, health concerns and concerns as to what this means for the future of the implementation of the roadmap. The Foreign Ministry is asking for views of other ASEAN countries, and it went out yesterday, and because I’m here today I cannot tell you how quick the response we can expect, but I will certainly follow up on that with my Foreign Minister when I get back.

Gas pipeline mysteriously explodes in Karen State

Fri 29 May 2009, Asah, IMNA
A Gas pipeline exploded, sending villagers scattering to near by towns. Burmese troops have been deployed to the site to stand guard.

In K0 Kyaik (Yaw Thit) village, the Kanbauk Myaing Kalay gas pipeline exploded on May 27th at 10 a.m., and continued burning till 4 pm. The village is located in Hpa-an township, between Hpa-An and Zartapyin.

Residents of Ko Kyaik village fled after the explosion to a near by Karin village, after fire from the blast spread to Ko Kyaik. On Thursday soldiers arrived and constructed a makeshift camp near the pipeline, cutting villagers off from the explosion.

“After the gas exploded, the fire spread to the village, and we ran away because we were afraid,” said a Yaw Thit villager. “Many people ran, and scattered in different directions.”

“I heard the explosion while standing on road that leads direct to Hpa-An,” said a villager from Zartapyin. “I was not sure where the sound came from, but it was definitely an explosion.” Zaratayin is five minutes from Ko Kyaikk by motorbike.

A villager from Piekatar village said, “I did not hear the explosion of the pipeline, but I heard about the explosions in Moulien.”

5 soldiers were assigned to stand guard over the blast location, keeping out observers. As a result there are yet no reports on how extensive damage was to the pipeline, and the government has yet to give a reason for the explosion.

Cease-fire groups transitioning into “Border Guard Forces” join government patrols following Moulmein bombings

Fri 29 May 2009, Kon Hadae and Blai Mon
Two ethnic Karen cease-fire groups are participating in security patrols at Three Pagodas Pass following bomb blasts in Moulmein earlier this week. The joint patrols are unprecedented and precede the groups’ planned transformations into controversial government “Border Guard Forces” (BGF).

Following three bomb blasts in Moulmein on May 27th, authorities in Three Pagodas Pass, on the Thai-Burma border, began conducting nightly security patrols. Beginning at 7pm on the night of the blasts, trucks of soldiers and police began driving around the border town.

According to local residents, Burma’s State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) army and police typically conduct such patrols in Three Pagodas Town. The recent patrols, however, have featured trucks filled with a mix of soldiers drawn from the SPDC army, police and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and the Karen Peace Force (KPF).

The DKBA and KPF both operate checkpoints inside Three Pagodas, and joint DKBA-SPDC patrols are common in Karen State, but a combined operation with all three groups, inside the border town, is unusual. Continue reading “Cease-fire groups transitioning into “Border Guard Forces” join government patrols following Moulmein bombings”

Unknown Fever kills 3 children in Karen State, many others sick

Villagers in Hpa-an Township, Karen State are getting fevers, reported a resident of Jong Hpie Village.

“At least 3 children [in most houses] didn’t get up in Jong Hpie village [because of their sickness]. This year many children have fevers,” said the resident.

Another Jong Hpie villager estimated that, “half of our villagers have had fevers.” He added that, though no one had died in his village, the situation may be worse in Kayar Village. “I heard in their village 2 or 3 babies have died and many other villagers are sick.”

Though the fever has also attacked the elderly villagers in Khayar, it has been especially bad for the children. “[In] the last two days, children have died,” said a villager from Kayar, who was unsure of the number.

A similar fever (one which children are especially susceptible to) seems to have spread to Zar Ta Pyin, also of Karen State, according to a Zar Ta Pyin villager.

Though it is not certain the exact type of fever experienced in Karen State, the Democratic Voice of Burma reported on May 26th that children in Pago Division have contracted Dengue Fever.

Is there no one who can help Suu Kyi and democracy?

For years, Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been in near isolation in Asia, ruled by generals who’ve used terror and murder and jailing of dissidents to keep its opponents at bay, and have kept the leader of the democratic movement, Aung San Suu Kyi, jailed in her house to keep her from fomenting a movement against them. Now, as she undergoes a trial on charges of violating the terms of her house arrest by allowing an unrequested American visitor to stay with her for two nights, the world has found itself powerless to help her too.
Entreaties from the European Union and Myanmar’s Asian neighbors have been rejected, as was the voice of US President Barack Obama, who urged Myanmar’s military regime to “immediately and unconditionally” release Aung San Suu Kyi from detention. Obama called the current court case against her a “show trial based on spurious charges.” The trial casts “serious doubt on the Burmese regime’s willingness to be a responsible member of the international community. This is an important opportunity for the government in Burma to demonstrate that it respects its own laws and its own people, is ready to work with the National League for Democracy and other ethnic and opposition groups, and is prepared to move toward reconciliation,” Obama said, but he, like everyone else, was ignored.
Protests in many countries failed to move Myanmar’s generals either and a special court conducting the trial rejected three out of four witnesses presented by defence. “There were 14 witnesses for prosecutors and just one witness for defenders. Think that it is fair,?” one of her defenders said.Nyan Win said after Wednesday’s court session. May 27 marked the sixth anniversary of Suu Kyi’s arrest on May 27, 2003, when she was charged with undermining national security for campaigning in central Myanmar. Continue reading “Is there no one who can help Suu Kyi and democracy?”

A TOP MYANMAR general on Sunday rejected repeated calls for the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, insisting that her ongoing trial was in line with its laws.

Major-General Aye Myint, Myanmar’s Deputy Minister of Defence said that the trial was a domestic issue and other countries should not interfere.He told delegates on the third and final day of the Shangri-La Dialogue, that ‘there was no option but to open legal proceedings in accordance with the law’.
‘If any country interferes in the internal affairs of another country, that particular act may possibly affect the mutual understanding and friendly relationship between countries,’ said Maj-Gen Myint.

Nobel laureate Suu Kyi is on trial on charges of violating her house arrest by allowing an American intruder to stay for two days after secretly swimming to her home in early May.

Maj-Gen Myint said: ‘She permitted him to stay…She communicated, provided him food and shelter.

‘There is no doubt that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has committed a cover-up of the truth by her failure to report an illegal immigrant to the authorities concerned.’

Ms Suu Kyi may be jailed for three to five years if found guilty of breaking the terms of her house arrest.

Calls for her release intensified during the three-day annual security conference. Yesterday, Britain’s Minister for International Defence and Security Ann Taylor pressed for political freedom in Myanmar.

‘The people of Burma have suffered for nearly half a century of conflict and isolation, but Aung San Suu Kyi is not alone,’ said Baroness Taylor, using the older name for Myanmar.