Sunday, January 29, 2012
Friday, January 27, 2012
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Jan 26 2012
Burma Has Shown Progress in Move Towards Democracy
Washington, D.C.– U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following statement on the Senate Floor Thursday regarding his meeting in Burma with Nobel Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the steps the oppressed country has taken towards forming a democratic society:
“I want to briefly address my colleagues on a very important trip I took recently to a country that, for much of the past 50 years, has ranked among the world’s most isolated and oppressed by its own government. Many of us wondered if things would ever change in Burma. But after my recent visit, I’m pleased to say that change is clearly in the air.
“It appears that Burma has made more progress toward democracy in the past six months than it has in decades. As one who has taken a strong interest in Burma for over 20 years, and as the lead author in this chamber of an annual sanctions bill aimed at encouraging the Burmese government to reform, this is welcome news.
“On this trip I had the great honor and privilege to meet the woman who, for over two decades, has embodied the struggle for peace in her oppressed country.
“After Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party won 80 percent of the vote in a free and fair election in 1990, the Burmese military regime dismissed the results and kept her under house arrest for most of the last 22 years. Scores of other political reformers were jailed or tortured, and the regime waged a brutal campaign against ethnic minorities, driving many from their homes to refugee camps.
“But by her courage and patience that justice delayed would not be justice denied, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has kept the hope of freedom in her country alive.
“I’ve long admired Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from afar. She once took a great risk to smuggle out of Burma a letter thanking me for my support, a letter I proudly have to this day. But never, Mr. President, did I think I would get to meet the Nobel Laureate in person. It was quite a moment.
“Following an election in 2010 that was widely thought to be unfree and unfair, the new civilian government in Burma has made undeniably positive steps toward reform. In addition to releasing Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, scores of other political prisoners have been freed. In my visit, I spoke with two who had just been released days before my arrival.
“And one of the longest-standing armed conflicts in the world—the Burmese government’s campaign against the ethnic minority called the Karen—has apparently been brought to a close.
“Many Karen people who have fled Burma now call Kentucky home. I had the chance to meet with many of them, and other refugees from Burma now resettled in Kentucky, at Louisville’s Crescent Hill Baptist Church this Saturday. I enjoyed meeting them and was pleased to relay to them the same message I share with my colleagues today—that change is in the air for their country.
“Because of all these positive developments, I applaud Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent decision to exchange ambassadors with Burma for the first time in 20 years.
“Of course, the government of Burma still has a substantial way to go to achieve real, lasting reform. I would not support, and I don’t think the administration would support, lifting the sanctions that have been imposed unless there is much further progress.
“The next test will be elections to fill 48 seats of the national parliament on April 1. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi intends to run as the representative of a district with a significant Karen population.
“This election will give the new government an opportunity to hold the first free and fair elections in Burma since 1990, and also demonstrate the seriousness of its recent reform efforts.
“The government must also fully and peacefully reconcile with Burma’s ethnic minorities. This is vital.
“Reports indicate that the military continues to engage in hostilities with the Kachin. That is troubling. And questions about Burma’s relationship with North Korea must be answered.
“As the new government enacts reforms, we should respond with meaningful gestures of our own in hopes of encouraging further positive developments from Burma’s leaders. Reformers like new president Thein Sein, whom I also met on my trip, are strengthened when they can show results. Steps like exchanging ambassadors with the United States would enable them to do just that.
“My trip to Burma has filled me with hope for its people—hope that they will one day be free to elect their own leaders, and hope that every person, regardless of ethnic group, can enjoy equal rights and full protection under the rule of law.
“It also reaffirmed for me that the desire to be free is universal, and that the patient, yet persistent leadership of one woman can make a tremendous difference.
“These are exciting times for all who care about the future of the people of Burma, Mr. President. I know that includes a great many of my colleagues. Burma has quite a long way to go, but it is moving in the right direction.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Monday, January 23, 2012
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Thursday, January 19, 2012
YANGON, Myanmar January 19, 2012, 06:54 am ET
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar's government and ethnic Kachin rebels met Thursday for cease-fire talks to end several months of armed clashes near the northern border with China, but their preliminary meeting did not make any major breakthroughs.
After two days of negotiations, a high-level government team and members of the Kachin Independence Organization agreed to continue talks later and in the meantime to inform the other side before deploying troops, according to an official at the talks who declined to be named.
The talks were the latest efforts by Myanmar's new, nominally civilian government to end the country's long-running ethnic conflicts, one of many reforms under way after years of military rule.
Stopping ethnic clashes is a key demand of Western governments that are weighing lifting sanctions imposed during the junta's rule. Last week, the government signed a cease-fire pact with Karen rebels in eastern Myanmar, in a major step toward ending one of the world's longest-running insurgencies. Other talks are reportedly taking place with the Shan, Karenni and Chin.
A prominent Kachin mediator, Rev. Saboi Jum, told The Associated Press that talks were held across the border in Ruili in China's Yunnan province.
"Too much damage has been done since fighting erupted in June last year. It is most important to build confidence and trust between each other, and a lot of tension will be reduced if government troops withdraw from the KIO areas," he said.
The next round of negotiations would be held in Myanmar, according to the official who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to disclose details of the talks.
The Kachin Independence Organization reached a peace deal with the country's former ruling junta in 1994, but the truce broke down in 2010 after the group rejected a call by the junta to transform its troops into border guards under the government's leadership.
The Kachin have been fighting the government since June, when the army tried to break up some of their militia strongholds. Thousands of ethnic Kachin have fled their homes to avoid the fighting.
Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has described an end to the fighting with ethnic guerrillas as a national priority, and last month said she would be willing to help with peace negotiations.
The Nobel laureate and former political prisoner sent a letter to the Kachin people expressing compassion, particularly for the women and children who have been uprooted by the fighting, said Saboi Jum.
She "expressed her hope that one day the effected population would be able to come home and live in peace," he said, saying that Suu Kyi's message "lifted our spirits and we are very happy."
Suu Kyi's enormous popularity with the poor and disenfranchised majority is expected to propel her to her first seat in parliament during April by-elections.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Monday, January 16, 2012
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Friday, January 13, 2012
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
January 13, 2012
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
State television channel Press TV reported later Wednesday that Roshan's driver, Reza Qashqaei, had died in a hospital from his injuries.
Roshan, 32, was a deputy director for commercial affairs at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in Isfahan province and a graduate of Iran's Oil Industry University, according to the semi-official news agency Fars.
Western diplomats at the U.N. on Wednesday criticized Iran over the recent revelation that Tehran is enriching uranium beyond the level needed for civilian use, saying that the actions flaunt Security Council resolutions. The Security Council discussed the issue in closed consultations.
"The location, the size and the clandestine nature of the facility at Qom raise serious doubts about what its ultimate purposes are," added Philip Parham, deputy British ambassador to the U.N.
The attack comes at a time when relations between Iran and the United States have rarely been as strained.
Mickey Segal, a former director of the Iranian department in the IDF Intelligence Branch, told Israel Army Radio that Wednesday's attack was part of broader pressure being brought to bear on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime.
"Many bad things have been happening to Iran in the recent period. Iran is in a situation where pressure on it is mounting, and the latest assassination joins the pressure that the Iranian regime is facing," Segal said.
The Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday that the Israeli military chief of staff Benny Gantz, speaking at a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting, warned that "2012 will be a critical year in the connection between Iran gaining nuclear power, changes in leadership, continuing pressure from the international community and events that happen unnaturally."
Ali Ansari, a professor at the Institute for Iranian Studies at Scotland's University of St. Andrews, said more information is needed about the victims to help determine who's perpetrating the attacks.
Some have speculated that the victims were members of the opposition movement and could have been targeted by internal forces, Ansari said.
Some have speculated that the victims were members of the opposition movement and could have been targeted by internal forces, Ansari said.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
This of course doesn’t factor in the likely fallout that’ll come as Ital-Thai, and indeed energy-hungry Thailand, formulate some sort of response to the cancellation, which will have also stretched Burma’s own Special Economic Zone (SEZ) laws to the fullest – for that we’ll just have to wait, but as the Burmese government showed after Myitsone, if it can quickly mend bridges with the aggressive powerhouse to the north, not to mention its adeptness at convincing the West that it is heading in the right direction, then its powers of appeasement are perhaps greater than it is given credit for.
Monday, January 9, 2012
The Christian Post: Mon, Jan. 09 2012 09:42 AM EDT
By Compass Direct News
Attacks on Christians in Burma continued into the Christmas season in Kachin state as Burmese Army troops killed a civilian and destroyed church property despite President Thein Sein’s order to stop the war against insurgents.
A Baptist church in Loije, Bhamo district, held a funeral on Dec. 27 for 47-year-old Maran Zau Ja, who was shot dead without provocation by Burmese Army ’s Light Infantry Battalion No. 321 on Christmas Day, a Kachin source told Compass by phone.
Zau Ja was a farmer who was returning from his sugarcane field with a friend when troops sprayed bullets at them. His friend survived the gunshots.
The two were not armed insurgents of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the armed wing of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) that has fought for autonomy in the Christian-majority state since the early 1960s, when then-Burmese Prime Minister U Nu made Buddhism the state religion.
About 90 percent of the roughly 56 million people in Burma, also known as Myanmar, are Buddhist, mostly from the Burman ethnic group. Burmese soldiers see “all Kachin civilians as the enemy,” the Kachin News Group recently quoted a Kachin village elder as saying.
On Dec. 16, troops of Light Infantry Battalion No. 142 burned a building housing the kitchen of a Baptist church in Dingga village, also in Bhamo district, the source added. KIA men and local villagers managed to save the church building, but the fire engulfed five homes.
Earlier, on Nov. 30, Burmese soldiers killed a woman and injured six villagers as they fired mortar shells targeting civilians in Tarlawgyi area in Waingmaw Township, while another battalion burned down 10 homes in Nam Wai village and five more in neighboring Hpa Ke village.
On Oct. 16, about 150 soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion 438 stormed Nam San Yang village in the Daw Phung Yang area of Bhamo district and opened fire at members of a Catholic church before the weekly mass. While no one was hurt, the priest and some parishioners were detained.
Thailand-based activist Shirley Seng of the Kachin Women’s Association told Compass that civilians have been living in fear since military action hit Kachin state last June, and that her research team found that women and children were most affected by the war. At least 37 women and girls were raped during the first two months of the conflict, she said – 13 of them killed. She added that other girls and women continue to be abducted. “They just disappear after being abducted,” Seng said. “Perhaps they are first sexually abused and then killed or sold to brothels.”
President’s Sham Order
The KIO controls most of Kachin state and runs schools and hospitals and the public distribution system. The Burmese government or Army has little control outside the state capital of Myitkyina. Since June 2011, however, when the Army ended a 17-year-long ceasefire with the KIO, government troops were heavily deployed in KIO-controlled areas leading to clashes.
More than 90 clashes have occurred between the Army and the armed insurgents since President Sein, a former junta general, reportedly instructed the military on Dec. 10 to start no fighting with the KIA.
The president’s order was apparently a mere show, the Kachin source said, adding that deployment of Army personnel and attacks on civilians were on the rise and helicopters were bringing in ammunition and reinforcements.
“The government made peace with [formerly detained opposition leader] Aung San Suu Kyi and has set a few political prisoners free to gain concessions from the international community on its brutal military offensive against ethnic minority states, primarily in Kachin,” the source said.
After the general election in 2011, believed to be rigged and the first in two decades of junta rule, the military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party came to power and has been trying to showcase reforms in an attempt to end economic sanctions and gain legitimacy. Little has changed, however, for Burma’s ethnic minorities.
Internally Displaced People
According to local estimates, the military conflict has displaced about 45,000 people.
“It’s a major threat to thousands of displaced civilians who are caught between the warring parties,” Lynn Yoshikawa, an advocate from the Washington, D.C.-based Refugees International, told Compass by email. “The Burma Army does not distinguish between combatants and civilians, leading to severe human rights abuses. There is not enough assistance, and with winter setting in, displaced people lack enough warm clothes and are more vulnerable to diseases.”
Yoshikawa urged the international community “to put pressure on the military to follow the president’s orders to halt attacks against the KIO and make sure that the UN’s access to areas outside government control is sustained and expanded to meet the growing needs.” International donors should fund the humanitarian response, she added, or else the United Nations World Food Program’s food stocks will run out in February.
In addition to Kachin, six other ethnic minority states – including Christian-majority Chin state and Karen state, which has a substantial presence of Christians – have had armed and unarmed groups fighting for autonomy from the successive military-led regimes for decades.
While Kachin is the current target of the Burma Army , it is feared that other states are also likely to face war in the near future. Ethnic minority areas along Burma’s borders with India, Thailand and China are resource-rich and have strategic importance for the Union government. Burma’s neighbors have invested, and intend to accelerate investment, in power generation and other projects in and around the ethnic minority region.
The ethnic minority states were administered separately during British rule. Some ethnic leaders agreed to incorporate their states into Burma after the Panglong Agreement was signed in 1947 providing for full autonomy, a share of the national wealth and the right to secession to ethnic states. But Gen. Aung San, democracy activist Suu Kyi’s father who was then heading the interim government and led the signing of the agreement, was assassinated months later. Subsequent regimes refused to honor the agreement and forcibly made ethnic states a part of the new country.
The federal government is carrying on with the military offensive on the one hand, and holding “peace talks” with armed ethnic minority resistance groups on the other, the Kachin source said. Minorities are still praying and hoping for peace in the near future, he added.
Sunday, January 8, 2012
Saturday, January 7, 2012
Friday, January 6, 2012
Officials from the Kachin Independence Organization’s armed wing have confirmed that on January 4 their fighters shot down a Burmese army transport helicopter in northern Kachin State, Kachin News Group said Friday.
The pilot of the Russian-built helicopter died in the smash, after crash landing in a paddy field near Sinlum Bum village in N’Mawk (Momauk) Township, said Zau Seng a Kachin Independence Army (KIA) officer stationed on the front line.
As said by Zau Seng, after KIA fighters fired their small arms at the helicopter, it was severely damaged and also failed attempt to drop off supplies at a government military-base near Mu Bum Mountain.
The transport helicopter started on generating smoke after repeatedly hit by machine gun fire from troops from the KIA’s 3rd Brigade, quoting eyewitnesses’ report Kachin News Group said. The helicopter crashed several miles away from the Mu Bum base during a visible retreat to its home base in Manmaw.
The remains of the helicopter were discovered the following day by local villagers.
Fighting between the KIA and government forces has continued unabated for nearly seven months, despite President Thein Sein has instructed the army to cease the Kachin offensive on December 10. Then, a question comes out that why does the commander-in-chief Gen. Min Aung Hlaing turn a deaf ear to the president. Is it a trick played by president and the army boss? Or, is the band of soldiers against the president’s reform plan?
In his message to the 64th Anniversary Independence Day, President Thein Sein says: “Unity and cooperation of the entire national people are instrumental to building the Republic of the Union of Myanmar into a modern, developed democratic nation. If national solidarity disintegrated, the goal of democracy could not be achieved.”
While President is saying to amity and unison among the ethnic groups on 4 January Independence Day, his armed forces have been fighting fiercely against the Kachin Independence Organization in the Kachin State up to date. It is inconsistent terminology of the president since the regime has been launching war against the Kachin rebels in full swing.
Although Burma’s military-backed government has kept quiet to release the number of Burmese soldiers killed in action during the Kachin offensive, KIA sources say the Burmese army has sustained its worst losses in more than two decades. Some experienced Burmese military observers have supported a claim that the Burma Army’s Generals take no notice of the safety of their own badly trained recruit soldiers.
The latest series of armed clashes in Kachin state have prompted observers to believe that the futile war in the border regions may not be preventable.
The Thein Sein government seems to be uninterested ending hostilities upon Kachin Independence organization. So, it is obvious the government is not heading toward democratic system. As an alternative, it attempts to get hold of the Kachin State wickedly.
In a recent interview with The Associated Press, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi made a comment Thursday: “I am concerned about how much support there is in the military for changes. In the end that’s the most important factor, how far the military are prepared to cooperate with reform principles.”
Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi said addressing the country’s long-lasting ethnic conflicts is predictable the more fundamental issue in due course, since there is not ethnic unification it will be very hard for all to build up a strong democracy.