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Archive for March 15th, 2008

Thai-Burma pact

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Bangkok Post, 15 March 2008, TNA

Naypyidaw, Burma – Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej has committed Thailand to an investment accord with Burma under which Thailand will try to boost the economy and help the military regime.

Mr Samak and his Burmese counterpart Gen Thein Sein witnessed the signing of the investment pact during Mr Samak’s one-day visit to Burma on Friday.

The agreement was kept secret until Mr Samak arrived back in Thailand.

The accord reportedly protects Thai investors, although Mr Samak’s aides have not presented details on that part of the still confidential agreement.

Thailand will discuss taking part in Burmese plans to built a deep sea port at Tavoey opposite Thailand’s Andaman Sea coast, and commits the Thai government to press Thai business leaders to invest in the port project and other unspecified projects sponsored by the military regime.

It was a major step forward to helping the so-called State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) rulers. Previous Thai governments have not opposed investment in Burma, but have seldom committed the country to directly aiding Burmese government projects.

Thailand is already one of Myanmar‘s largest investors and trading partners, with Thai state-owned energy firms being the largest buyers of natural gas from that country.

Mr Samak and Gen Thein Sein witnessed the signing of the agreement after holding bilateral talks soon after his arrival in the new Burmese capital. Prior to the signing, Mr Samak met SPDC chairman Senior General Than Shwe at the Bayintnauang Yeiktha Building in Naypyidaw.

Mr Samak later presided at the opening of a new office building in the Thai embassy in Rangoon, the biggest Burmese city and former capital.

The pemier said during the opening ceremony that he had ordered Thai ambassadors worldwide to operate a “one-stop service” to facilitate foreigners wishing to invest or explore investment possibility in Thailand.

Before returning to Bangkok, Mr Samak presented his government’s policy to “Team Thailand” officials at the embassy, then met about 500 Thais, mainly from the business community, hotel staff and personal care workers and beauticians.

Mr Samak told a TNA reporter that he had received sufficient information from Snr Gen Than Shwe on military-ruled Burma‘s plans for its self-designated “roadmap to democracy”.

The Thai premier said he would inform the leaders of European countries when he visits them in future and that he would speak at the UN General Assembly in September.

Leaders of military-ruled Burma last month made a surprise announcement that it would hold a referendum in May on a draft constitution and would hold a general election in 2010. These alleged elections have won strong endorsement from the Thai government.

The elections will be the first since detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi led her National League for Democracy to a landslide victory in the 1990 elections, but the party’s victory was never recognised by the junta.

“The information is vital for countries interested (in Burma) and Snr Gen Than Shwe also expressed during the talks that he wanted to see peace in the country,” said Mr Samak.

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

March 15, 2008 at 3:20 pm

Singapore urges ‘immense patience’ with Burma

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Bangkok Post,  15 March 2008

Breaking news

Singapore (dpa) – Authorities in Burma missed an opportunity to engage UN special envoy Ibraham Gambari more substantially, but his visit last week was not a failure, a spokesman for Singapore‘s Foreign Ministry said Saturday.

Gambari’s mission “is a very difficult one,” the spokesman said in a statement. “The (Burma) issue is complex and demands immense patience and sustained effort.”

Singapore and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) will continue to strongly support him, the spokesman said. Asean groups Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Burma.

Singapore currently holds the Asean chairmanship.

The spokesman urged the international community to keep giving Gambari the support that he needs.

Gambari made his third trip to Burma since last year’s bloody crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy protests.

The military government rejected a UN offer of observers for May’s constitutional referendum and 2010 elections.

Noting that Gambari did speak to a wide range of people, the spokesman said, “These are positive developments.”

He mentioned several Burmese ministers; the Commission on Holding the Referendum; the Committee on Drafting the Constitution, and the National League for Democracy. Gambari also met opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi twice.

She led the National League for Democracy to victory in 1990 elections, a result that was never recognized by the regime.

“Much needs to be done to ensure an inclusive political process,” the spokesman said. “We urge the Myanmar authorities to reconsider their position.” Myanmar is the military regime’s name for Burma.

“Whatever the difficulties, Gambari remains the best prospect for moving the political process forward,” he noted. “His continued engagement with the Myanmar authorities is therefore necessary if there is to be progress in the process of national reconciliation in Myanmar.”

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

March 15, 2008 at 3:12 pm

Dozens Reported Killed In Tibetan Protests

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CBS news

Chinese Authorities Threaten “Stern” Punishment If Demonstrators Do Not Surrender

DHARMSALA, India, March 15, 2008

(CBS/AP) China locked down the Tibetan capital Saturday after the largest and most violent protests against its rule in the region in nearly two decades.

At least 10 people were killed when demonstrators rampaged through Lhasa, dashing Beijing’s plans for a smooth run-up to August’s Olympics.

Also Saturday, police broke up sympathy protests in China’s western province of Gansu, as well as in Australia, India and Nepal.

Streets in Lhasa were mostly empty Saturday as a curfew remained in place. Eyewitnesses described baton-wielding police patrolling streets as fires from Friday’s violence smoldered. Reports of deaths and arrests were varied and could not be independently confirmed.

China’s official Xinhua News Agency said 10 people – including two hotel employees and two shop owners – were burned to death, but no foreigners were hurt. The report did not give any other details.

Tibet’s main exile group claimed Saturday that it had confirmed reports that Chinese authorities killed 30 Tibetan demonstrators and injured many more, and unconfirmed reports of over 100 deaths.

The unrest comes two weeks before China’s highly anticipated Olympic celebrations kick into high gear with the start of the torch relay, which passes through Tibet.

Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Beijing Olympics organizing committee, said the unrest would not have a negative impact on the Games or the torch relay.

Preparations to carry the Olympic torch across Mount Everest and across Tibet “have been proceeding very smoothly and according to schedule,” Sun said.

“The hosting of the Beijing Games is the 100-year dream for Chinese people and I think the Chinese people, including our compatriots in Tibet, very much look forward to hosting the Games,” Sun said.

The United States and other governments have urged China to show restraint on the protesters, though International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge deferred, saying he didn’t have details.

“It is not our job,” Rogge, the IOC president, told reporters while visiting Puerto Rico. “We are not an activist organization.”

China’s governor in Tibet vowed to punish the rioters, while law enforcement authorities urged protesters to turn themselves in by Tuesday or face unspecified punishment.

“We will deal harshly with these criminals in accordance with the law,” Champa Phuntsok, chairman of the Tibetan government, told reporters in Beijing where he was attending a legislative meeting. “Beating, smashing, looting and burning – we absolutely condemn this sort of behavior. This plot is doomed to failure.”

He blamed the protests on followers of the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule and is still Tibet’s widely revered spiritual leader.

From Dharamsala, India, the Dalai Lama appealed to China not to use force, saying he was “deeply concerned,” and urged Tibetans “not to resort to violence.”

Over the centuries, Tibet was at times part of China’s dynastic empires. Communist forces invaded the region in 1950, to reclaim the Himalayan region and seize the commanding heights overlooking rival India.

The latest unrest began Monday, the anniversary of the 1959 uprising, when 300 monks from one monastery demanded the release of other monks detained last fall. But political demands soon came to the fore.

The violence erupted on the fifth day, after police tried to stop monks from protesting in central Lhasa, ordinary Tibetans vented pent-up anger on Chinese, hurling stones and torching shops and cars.

“The protesters yesterday went from attacking Chinese police to attacking innocent people very, very quickly,” said a blog entry by a group of Westerners staying in a hotel in central Lhasa near the riot. “Many Tibetans were also caught in the crossfire.”

On Saturday, Xinhua said Lhasa had “reverted to calm” and electricity and phone service, which had been cut for parts of Friday, was being restored.

A notice issued by Tibet’s high court, prosecutors office and police department offered leniency for demonstrators who surrender before Tuesday. Otherwise, they will be “severely punished,” according to a notice carried on official Web sites and confirmed by prosecutors.

Some shops in Lhasa were closed. Tourists were told to stay in their hotels and make plans to leave, but government staff were required to work.”There’s no conflict today. The streets look pretty quiet,” said a woman who answered the telephone at the Lhasa Hotel.Tourists reached by phone described soldiers standing in lines sealing off streets where the rioting occurred. Armored vehicles and trucks ferried soldiers.”There are military blockades blocking off whole portions of the city, and the entire city is basically closed down,” said a 23-year-old Western student who arrived in Lhasa on Saturday. “All the restaurants are closed, all the hotels are closed.”

Plooij Frans, a Dutch tourist who left the capital Saturday morning by plane and arrived in the Nepali capital of Katmandu, said he saw about 140 trucks of soldiers drive into the city within 24 hours.

“They came down on Tibetan people really hard,” said Frans, who said his group could not return to their hotel Friday and had to stay near the airport. “Every corner there were tanks. It would have been impossible to hold any protest today.”

Government workers said they have been prevented from leaving their buildings.

“We’ve been here since yesterday. No one has been allowed to leave or come in,” said a woman who works for Lhasa’s Work Safety Bureau, which is located near the Potala Palace, the former residence of the Dalai Lama.

“Armored vehicles have been driving past,” she said. “Men wearing camouflage uniforms and holding batons are patrolling the streets.

It is extremely difficult to get independent verification of events in Tibet since China maintains rigid control over the area. Foreigners need special travel permits, and journalists are rarely granted access except under highly controlled circumstances.

The violence poses difficulties for a communist leadership that has looked to the Aug. 8-24 Olympics as a way to recast China as a friendly, modern power. Too rough a crackdown could put that at risk, while balking could embolden protesters, costing Beijing authority in often restive Tibet.

Phuntsok, the Tibetan government head, said no shots were fired.

In the western Chinese town of Xiahe, police fired tear gas to disperse Buddhist monks and others staging a second day of protests Saturday.

Several hundred monks marched out of historic Labrang monastery and into Xiahe in the morning, gathering other Tibetans with them as they went, residents said.

The crowd attacked government buildings, smashing windows in the county police headquarters, before police fired tear gas to put an end to the protest. A London-based Tibetan activist group, Free Tibet Campaign, said 20 people were arrested, citing unidentified sources in Xiahe.

“Many windows in shops and houses were smashed,” said an employee at a hotel, who did not want either his or the hotel’s name used for fear of retaliation. He said he did not see any Tibetans arrested or injured but said some police were hurt.

Pockets of dissent were also springing up outside China.

In Australia, media reported that police used batons and pepper spray to quell a demonstration outside the Chinese consulate in Sydney. The Australian Associated Press reported that dozens of demonstrators were at the scene and that five were arrested.

Dozens of protesters in India launched a new march just days after more than 100 Tibetan exiles were arrested by authorities during a similar rally.

And in Nepal’s capital of Katmandu, police broke up a protest by 200 Tibetans in the Nepalese capital, beating them with bamboo batons and arresting at least 20 of them.

The Tibetans holding banners reading “Free Tibet. Stop the killings in Tibet” were demonstrating Saturday in front of the United Nations’ office in Katmandu.

A police official said they had orders to clear the streets in front of the United Nations.

A 49-year-old protester Tshering Ladum said she was only praying and demonstrating peacefully to seek support for the people in Tibet, and was attacked by the police without any reason.

© MMVIII, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


China Accuses Tibetan Protesters of Killing Innocent People

An ambulance drives by Chinese soldiers on a street in the Tibetan capital Lhasa a day after violent protests broke out, 15 Mar 2008

Voice of America –
By VOA News Chinese authorities have accused Tibetan protesters of killing innocent people and offered leniency if the demonstrators surrender before Tuesday.
Video: Protests Turn Violent in Tibetan Capital AssociatedPress

International Herald Tribune

Chicago Tribune

BBC News
all 3,379 news articles »

National Post

Chinese Forces Say They’ve Secured Tibet’s Capital
New York Times –
By JIM YARDLEY BEIJING – Thousands of Buddhist monks and other Tibetans clashed with the riot police in a second Chinese city on Saturday, while the authorities said they had regained control of the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, a day after a rampaging mob
Video: Protests Turn Violent in Tibetan Capital AssociatedPress

Uprising Spurns Dalai Lama’s Way TIME
The Associated Press – MarketWatch – eFluxMedia –
all 3,782 news articles »

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

March 15, 2008 at 2:49 pm

Posted in Burma's Geopolitics

Tagged with , , ,

World Focus on Burma (15 March 08)

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FM Noppadon leaves to visit UK, US
Thai News Agency MCOT, 
Thailand –
US and meet his American counterpart, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, to discuss various subjects, including the political situation in Myanmar.


Posted By John Radojkovic
Owen Sound Sun Times, Canada –
Burma, which shares Thailand’s long western border, is also known as Myanmar, although the name is not recognized by most western countries.


Pinheiro: No Visit to Myanmar
The Associated Press –

GENEVA (AP) — The UN human rights investigator on Myanmar said Saturday he will not visit the Asian country before the end of his mandate.


Weekly Business Roundup (March 15, 2008)
Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand –
Analysts say this is a curious response given the fact that
Thailand is Burma’s biggest gas customer. “The junta’s Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise sells


Don’t Bet on the Burmese Regime
Irrawaddy News MagazineThailand –
Most Burma observers were surprised when the country’s state-run media announced the junta’s plans to hold a referendum. They immediately wondered why the


FM Noppadon says Thailand not spokesman for Myanmar
Thai News Agency MCOT, 
Thailand –

composition several times but democracy has not been allowed back. In 1988 the junta changed the name of the country from Burma to Myanmar. (TNA)-E111.


Burmese situation is close to home
Winston-Salem Journal, NC –
The situation in
Burma, now officially known as Myanmar, is so complex and compelling that I wonder if there is a solution at all.


Thai-Burma pact
Bangkok Post, Thailand –
Thailand is already one of Myanmar’s largest investors and trading partners, with Thai state-owned energy firms being the largest buyers of natural gas from

Should you go?
Ottawa Citizen, Canada
This question was asked of us by a venerable Buddhist monk from the Jumping Cat Monastery at
Inle Lake, Burma (also known now as Myanmar). …


Burma gets choice between Coke, Pepsi
Bangkok Post, Thailand
Burma‘s military leaders are masters of psychological warfare. And you can tell they’re pretty proud of their accomplishments in this area. …


UN scorn for Burma’s ‘democratic’ reforms
Scotsman, United Kingdom –
“If you believe in gnomes, trolls and elves, you can believe in this democratic process in Myanmar (Burma],” Mr Pinheiro told a news briefing at the UN’s …


Singapore says “immense patience” needed in dealing with Myanmar
Trend News Agency, Azerbaijan –
dpa )- Authorities in Myanmar missed an opportunity to engage UN special envoy Ibraham Gambari more substantially, but his visit last week was not a failure …


Don’t blame the underdog UN envoy Gambari!
Asian Tribune, Thailand –
By Nehginpao Kipgen A seasoned Nigerian diplomat, who is tasked a mission to the Union of Burma as the UN special envoy, wrapped up his latest visit on …


Human Rights Council considers reports of Special Rapporteurs on …
ReliefWeb (press release), Switzerland –
Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said that the first “annual” report in his address was built on …


UN rights expert says no Myanmar visa after all
GENEVA (AFP) — The UN human rights expert on Myanmar said Friday that he had not been issued a promised visa to visit the country on a fact-finding mission. …


Myanmar opposition group urges citizens to vote down draft …
Myanmar opposition group 88 Generation Students [Asia Times backgrounder] urged Burmese voters Friday to reject the country’s new draft …


UN Human Rights Expert Mocks Burma’s Commitment to Democracy
The United Nations human rights expert on
Burma says the Burmese government’s repressive actions do not reflect its pledge to make democratic reforms. …


Tales of exile and heartbreak
The Daily Star, Bangladesh

The end of the book is rushed, dealing with Burma‘s recent history. The comments on the tragic current situation in Myanmar/Burma do not quite connect to …


UN rights envoy sees ‘elfin’ democracy in Myanmar
Reuters –
Pinheiro told that briefing he had been granted a visa for the former
Burma after two months delay, calling the development auspicious. …


Myanmar denies visa to rights expert
The UN human rights expert on
Myanmar says that he had not been issued a promised visa to visit the country on a fact-finding mission. …


Junta slams UN special rapporteur’s report
Democratic Voice of Burma, Norway –
Pinheiro, the UN’s special expert on human rights in Burma, presented his report to the Human Rights Council yesterday and claimed that the human rights and …


UN Human Rights Expert Granted Access to Burma
Voice of America –
By VOA News The United Nations human rights expert on
Burma says the Burmese military government has unexpectedly granted him access to the country. …


Myanmar rejects UN criticism, Qatar

Myanmar ‘s military government has rejected a United Nations report highlighting the continued arrest and detention of political activists, journalists and …


Written by Lwin Aung Soe

March 15, 2008 at 8:13 am