INTERVIEW – Myanmar polls likely in 2nd half of yr – Thai FM

DANANG, Vietnam (Reuters) – Myanmar will likely hold its long-awaited election in the second half of this year because the ruling junta is still crafting the legal framework for the vote, Thailand’s foreign minister said on Thursday.
Kasit Piromya made the comments after a meeting with Myanmar counterpart Nyan Win during which he was told that 60-70 percent of the election and political party laws were completed.
“You take another two or three months to make it 100 percent, so it will take you by that time from the mathematical, or the guessing point of view, to the middle of this year,” Kasit told Reuters in an interview.

“So, I think the elections would be most probably in the second half.”

Myanmar’s reclusive junta has been silent on the timing of the election, and Nyan Win’s comment to Kasit would be a rare indication of the level of progress towards holding the vote.

Nyan Win declined to answer reporters’ questions on multiple occasions during a meeting of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers in central Vietnam.

Nyan Win briefed the other foreign ministers on the preparations at a dinner on Wednesday night, but he gave no indication of the timing.

“It was assured that it will be this year and it will be free, fair and credible, and the ASEAN ministers have expressed their hope the issue of Myanmar will be resolved this year and that we can move on to the new era of ASEAN relations and cooperation with the international community,” Surin Pitsuwan, ASEAN secretary general, told reporters.

“No date has been set but everything is moving on course. That’s what we were told.”


Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, who also met Nyan Win on the sidelines of the Vietnam meeting, said there was no rush, as long as the vote takes place this year, and is carried out fairly and democratically, as the junta has promised.

“For us the main criterion, or the main preoccupation, would be that we have that necessary positive, democratic atmosphere for a credible election to take place,” he told reporters.

“It’s best to allow things for such conditions to be established rather than to rush into it and then we have a situation where the ideal condition is not there.”

Little is known about the junta’s legal preparations.

Critics of the army-drafted constitution say Myanmar’s legislature will be dominated by the military and their civilian stooges, with limited powers and representation for dozens of ethnic groups or established opposition parties.

Myanmar’s last election, in 1990, ended with a landslide win for Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, but the junta ignored the result and has since jailed more than 2,000 activists and political opponents, many for minor offences.

Suu Kyi herself has been under house arrest or other sort of detention for 14 of the last 20 years.

The election in the former British colony has already been widely dismissed as a means to entrench nearly five decades of unbroken military rule, with the junta hoping a public vote would legitimise its monopoly of national politics.

The notoriously secretive regime has yet to say who can take part in the polls. Several major ethnic groups are resisting calls to join the political process, saying they have nothing to gain.

Many analysts believe the delay in naming an election date is to give the government more time to bring the ethnic groups on board, either voluntarily or through military force.

Ethnic Leaders Reject Election

Several ethnic leaders elected in Burma’s 1990 election reaffirmed this week that they will not participate in the planned election this year without a review of the 2008 Constitutional and the release of all political prisoners—two major demands they have been pressing for since early last year.

“We will not found any political party if the 2008 Constitution cannot guarantee us equality and autonomy,” said 76-year-old Thar Ban, the acting chairman of the Arakan League for Democracy.

Pu Cin Sian Thang, a spokesman for the United Nationalities Alliance (UNA), a coalition of 12 ethnic parties which contested and won 67 seats in the 1990 election, said that the alliance’s attitude toward the planned election is not much different from the National League for Democracy’s (NLD) Shwegondaing Declaration. Continue reading “Ethnic Leaders Reject Election”

UN Doesn’t Count Haitian Staff – But Treats Them Equally, Ban Says

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 14 — A day after the UN’s death count of its personnel in Port au Prince at first included a single Haitian staff member, and then dropped the reference, on Thursday morning Secretary General Ban Ki-moon dropped all reference to nationalities in his count of the dead.

Inner City Press asked if the UN’s national Haitian staff have been included in the figures the UN has been giving out, not only of casualties but even of how many people work for the UN.

While Ban insisted that national staff are treated “equally,” the figure thrown around – that 11,000 people work for the UN’s MINUSTAH mission — does not include the UN’s national staff.

In response to the question, Ban referred to notes and said that the UN has 1200 national staff in Haiti. This compares to 490 international civilian staff.

After Ban left the stakeout, Inner City Press asked his spokesman Martin Nesirky to explain the UN’s reporting of casualties. Nesirky said that the focus has been on reporting to those with international interest. continue

Pro-Thaksin army specialist_ Seh Daeng- suspended from duty

BANGKOK, 13 January 2010 (NNT) – Major General Khattiya Sawasdiphol, a pro-Thaksin army specialist has been suspended from duty for breaching military regulations, according to Army Commander-in-Chief, General Anupong Paochinda.

General Anupong reconfirmed that the suspension of the senior army expert was in accordance with the rule of law and without bias. He stated that whether legal actions will be taken against the officer depends on the result of investigations and related evidence. He declined to elaborate on the necessity to take decisive action against Maj-Gen Khattiya.

Major General Khattiya, also known as Seh Daeng, is accused of insubordination, attacking Gen Anupong’s leadership and spearheading political campaigns against the ruling Democrat government.

Supporters of the anti-government United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) on Wednesday staged their protests at the Defence Ministry and the Army headquarters in response to the action taken against Maj-Gen Khattiya.

Mara armed group extorts money from Chin people

Khonumthung News
THURSDAY, 14 JANUARY 2010 14:24

14 January 2010: There is no let up in the sufferings of the Chin people. The Mara armed group is now collecting money from Chin people, who are suffering from the affects of a famine in some villages of Paletwa Township in southern Chin state, western Burma.

The armed group collected Kyat 8 lakhs each from the Wadaikung and Wyaiwa villages, which is five days journey from Paletwa town from 15 to 20 December 2009, a report said.

The armed group sent about 12 members but only two entered the village and collected the money through the respective village chairmen.

The Mara People’s Army (MPA) collects not only money but also locally made guns from the villages in southern Chin state where Mara people stay. The Mara Peace Commission – Mara social organizations and religious leaders have rejected the Mara People’s Army (MPA). They declared it an illegal outfit on 18 July in Mara district, Mizoram state, northeast India.

The Mara People’s Army was set up on 15 June 2009 by a retired military officer under the junta’s tutelage. Now there are about 20 armed members. In a statement, they said their main target is to have a local self government and a separate Maraland where all Mara people can stay together.

The Mara People’s Army (MPA) supports the junta. They had an hour’s meeting in Chappui village in Saiha district, Mizoram with Matupi township Sabawngte village based LIB 140, Second Battalion Commander Aung Myo Hlai on 12 August 2009. About 60,000 Mara people live in Paletwa, Matupi, Thantlang in southern Chin state, Burma and different parts of Mizoram state, India.

Second arrest, villager taken in connection to arrested of monk

Independent Mon News Agency
THURSDAY, 14 JANUARY 2010 14:26

A villager in Chaungzone township has been arrested for potential connections to a monk arrested and torture last week by forces from the Burmese military government.

On Monday January 11th, authorities arrested a villager, Ko Aung Min, from Mudoon village, Chaungzone Township, on suspicion of connection to the previously arrested monk, Ashin Uk Kong Sah. The monk was arrested on January 7th near Thanphyuzayart town, Mon State.

While Ko Aung Min is known to be a friend of Ashin, according to villagers, no one who knows how his arrest is linked with Ashin’s. According to a friend of Ko Aung Min, he was 27 years old, and had returned from Malaysia 2 to 3 months ago to go find work in South Korea. Because of this, the friend explains, Aung Min could not be related in anyway to the arrest of Ashin. Ko Aung Min is reported to have done assorted manual labor based jobs in Malaysia, such as paining buildings.

“Ko Aung Min is only interested in business and mostly just stays in his village,” the friend said. “The authorities told him when they arrested him that his arrest was related with Ashin. Ashin could be connected with politics, but it is not concern with him [Ko Aung Min].” Continue reading “Second arrest, villager taken in connection to arrested of monk”

Shootout in LID 66 denied

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – News of the shooting in Pyi district, western Pegu division, Burma on Sunday evening has been denied by a military source from Naypyitaw, however, acknowledged that the situation was tense between infantry battalions under the command of Light Infantry Division 66 (LID 66) and Military Affairs Security (MAS).
The Military Affairs Security (MAS) is a separate military entity and none of its personnel were sent and attached to the Light Infantry Battalion 5 (LIB 5), as reported earlier, the source said, adding that an exchange of fire was out of the question, as soldiers are not equipped with arms and ammunitions except bodyguards and the central sentry unit of each battalion.
In recent days, rumours have been doing the rounds suggesting that tension have arisen between an Inma village based LIB under the command of LID 66 and a MAS unit. Continue reading “Shootout in LID 66 denied”