Friday, June 19, 2009

Hail Aung San Suu Kyi poem by Dr. Maung Maung Nyo

I always feel pride and anger
Whenever I hear the name of her
She is great and full of stamina
But she is long lost in detention
What has she done to be so imprisoned?

She was born just two years before her father’s demise
Her mother brought her up with all her might
As a single mother or wilting widow’s plight
Her two elder brothers were always in fright
Younger brother drowned in broad day light
Her mother was in constant fright for their lives!

Su Kyi was educated in Rangoon in the beginning
But she accompanied her mother to India for college education
Her mother served as the Burmese Ambassador in the 1960s
Thence she continued to the Oxford University
I met her with Dr Hla Pe in London at Independence Celebrations
She seemed smart, serious and set for degree and determination.

I was a close friend of Aung San Oo in London
We used to walk and talked at random
But I was not impressed with his philosophy and dictums
He seemed morose and always looked moribund
His guardian Mrs Monk-Jones told me of his bizarre behavior
He was a disturbed child for the loss of his father etc.

Many people expected Aung San Oo to lead in 1988
People were fighting for democracy for people’s sake
He did not fulfill the people’s expectation
His sister came out with determination
To lead the people for democracy whatever the consequences
She has unified a broad spectrum of Burmese people thence.

She has led the people dutifully since then
She has sacrificed her comfort and life many times
She could not even nursed her hubby until he died
She herself has been suffering alone confined
All her amenities of life have been denied
They even plotted her twice to die!

So, what has she done to be imprisoned for so long?
She just talked about democracy and not to go wrong
To fight for it peacefully and plan it with people all along
She urged us to discard our wrong ways and heal our wounds
To strive for unity, equality, fraternity and real liberty
She wants and wishes Burma attain true progress and democracy!

She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her heroism
For her sacrifice for the people and democracy by peaceful means
Many high valued prizes followed one after another
Like Sakharov’s and Nehru’s and Freedom Medal of America
Are they crimes committed by her?
All the Burmese must take pride for her and not imprison sure!

O’ Aung San Su kyi, you are a beacon of light for the Burmese people!
They are ready to follow you and look upon you full
Until they get democracy, peace and liberty through
Hail Aung San Suu Kyi for courage, sacrifice, serenity and hues
I’m always amazed by her personality, philosophy and image as it grew
I’m also saddened by her being detained without a clue
Let’s pray “Aung San Suu Kyi live for a long life
Let she be healthy, happy and free to lead the people’s fight!”
I say this on her birthday today, June 19, 2009, right!

Dr Maung Maung Nyo
19.06.2009 (original)


Sunday, June 7, 2009

8-6-09 The Burmese factor in Thai-Sino relations

The Burmese factor in Thai-Sino relations
By Kavi Chongkittavorn
The Nation
Published on June 8, 2009

WHILE THE TRIAL of Aung San Suu Kyi was delayed, Burma has been acting with alacrity in the past few days with a two-pronged offensive - to disrupt the Thai-Burma border, and to drive a wedge in Thai-Chinese cooperation on Burma.

The attacks on the Karen National Union along the Thai-Burma border beginning last week fit in with the pattern established in the past two decades. These onslaughts will cause concern among the Thai security forces about the influx of refugees and disrupt border trade. Indeed, they were timed to create maximum chaos among Thai decision-makers. This armed offensive, part of the comprehensive Burmese national defence strategy against Thailand, has been used time and again with satisfying success due to the predictable responses of the Thai armed forces and bureaucracy.

Whenever assertive Thai diplomacy towards Burma is in the making - this time around the Abhisit government's attitude was the case in point - the porous Thai-Burmese border immediately turns into a conflict zone. Then, Rangoon's additional pressure would be placed on trade and energy sectors.

The border attacks on minority groups would follow after wide-publicity of comments made by Thai officials or politicians on the negative impact if Thai-Burmese relations were disrupted. After May 19, Rangoon did exactly that. The Burmese junta-controlled media have been criticising Thailand both as the Asean chair and as its Western neighbour for violating the non-interference principle. None of them have ever questioned their government's commitment and compliance to the Asean Charter or being part of the grouping's collective responsibility.

Comments by Noppadol Pattama and General Sonthi Boonyaratglin last week on the Abhisit government's policy towards Burma were used to highlight the dissident views within Thai society. Indeed, they made the comments as a favour to Burma. Sonthi's views were typical and the most damaging. He had the audacity to say that if Thailand has a conflict with Burma, it will face defeat. What boggles the mind is that Sonthi, the former coup leader, is now aspiring to become prime minister.

In February, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya urged energy-related agencies, especially the Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT), to review its energy policy and take a more holistic approach on Burma. The Thai energy need has increased due to continued industrialisation in the past decades, which has further deepened the country's dependence on Burma's energy and natural resources. Somehow, the reckless top echelon of the Thai energy sector is very recalcitrant due to the web of vested-interest groups to think outside the box. Rather, they prefer to be the subject of Burma's constant blackmail. Sad but true, the Stockholm syndrome is not only proliferating but firmly gripping the movers and shakers in the energy sector.

As Asean chair, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has proved to be an effective leader even when he was besieged by domestic turmoil at various regional and international outings on behalf of Asean. But on Thai-Burmese relations, he must be a thousand-fold firmer in pressing concerned agencies to cooperate with the armed forces and diplomats to come up with a long-term defence strategy on Burma. So far, Thailand does not have any centralised blueprint, most of them are piecemeal and ad hoc approaches.

The political situation in Burma will feature high on the agenda of Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya's visit to Beijing on Wednesday and a subsequent visit by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva from June 24-26. The two nations have been consulting each other on their pariah neighbour to ascertain whether their respective positions would not undermine each other.

Thailand and China are facing a similar dilemma dealing with Burma emanating from their dependency on natural gas and resources imports and long shared common borders. China and Burma have a 2,192km border while the Thai-Burma border stretches over 2,004 km.They have been exposed to a myriad of problems, including illegal migrant workers, drugs and human trafficking. In addition, various armed minority groups are also active along the border.

In the past Burma's internal situation was a taboo in Thai-China relations. Occasionally, they took up the issue and agreed to disagree. During 2001-2006, however, Thailand's position on Burma was akin to China's - do not rock the boat. Both nations defended Burma regionally and internationally urging the international community to allow Burma to settle its own problems. They no longer walk on the Burmese side.

Given the severity of international condemnation of Suu Kyi's trial and the ongoing oppression inside Burma, both countries realise they have to work closely together to engage Burma in a more coordinated way. Otherwise, they could be targets of manipulation by Rangoon. After the Asean Charter is in force, there is more room for Beijing to express solidarity with the grouping on a broad range of issues including the situation in Burma.

The recent joint statements from the UN Security Council as well as Asean-Asem (Asia-Europe Meeting) were an affidavit of Beijing's pragmatism. Continued strong support of the Asean chair's statement on Burma has augured well with the current sentiment within the top Chinese leadership who have for years been looking for a unified Asean position on Burma that they can back and use as a rallying point. As a matter of policy, China will support the Asean collective position on Burma.

From Beijing's viewpoint, instability in neighbouring countries directly impact on its own security situation. Currently, four out of 14 countries sharing borders with China are in perpetual crisis and chaos or luan in Chinese. China is concerned about the possible spill-over effects of fighting against the al-Qaeda and Taleban in Pakistan and Afghanistan. With the rising tension in the Korean Peninsula in recent weeks, China is sitting near a time bomb, if it fails to convince North Korea to stand down on its nuclear missile threats.

With Beijing's growing clout in world politics so its international responsibility becomes bigger. China cannot be seen as an indifferent player. Worse of all would be the perception that China is undermining the Asean charter and the Asean chair, which happens to be Thailand, a close friend. Deep down, China would like to see stable Thai-Burma as well as Burma-Asean ties. However, under the current circumstance, China would need to play the balancing act between its own national interest and rising expectations in Asean and international community.

Abhisit on behalf of Asean must strongly appeal to China for support and impress on Burma to accommodate the grouping's concern. A stronger Asean is good for China. A stable Burma is good for both China and Asean. Then, the grouping can concentrate on its internal integration and community building. China can give its full energy and resources to its ever increasing international engagement.

Furthermore China's much-needed support would create a reservoir of goodwill within Asean - the score card Beijing might find useful in the future. After Thailand, Vietnam will assume the next Asean chair. As is well-known, Vietnam has long-standing conflicting claims with China over the resource-rich group of islands known as the Spratly and Paracels in South China Sea.

Truth be told, the reason Burma was admitted to Asean on a fast-track in 1997 was mainly due to the Asean senior officials' decision in January 1995 to check China's advance southward to the mainland Southeast Asia. Embracing Burma quickly was one measure to halt Beijing's influence by enabling the regime to be part of the regional community.

For the first time, China has to face-off with the new regional situation - coping with two pivotal neighbours - one is strategically located giving Beijing access to two oceans and numerous logistic advantages and the other is a traditional friend and concurrently the Asean chair. Soon, China will show its true colour.


7-6-09 Tensions rise ahead of Suu Kyi verdict by Larry Jagan

BANGKOK// There are signs of growing unrest in Myanmar as the country readies itself for a verdict in the trial of the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Diplomats in Yangon believe the recent delays in the trial reflects a growing nervousness among the regime’s military leaders over what to do about Ms Suu Kyi and there are fears a conviction will unleash a wave of political protests similar to those in September 2007.

The signs of unrest are already evident. Every night in Yangon, “Free Aung San Suu Kyi” is scrawled across government buildings in white paint.

“The security forces are busy all night and morning scrubbing off the slogans as quickly as they find them” said a Yangon resident, who declined to be identified.

The spray paint attacks are being replicated in many cities and towns throughout the country, according to opposition sources. Even in ethnic minority areas in the Kachin and Shan states, young activists are spraying slogans on government buildings and handing out pamphlets.

“Ethnic youth are demanding Aung San Suu Kyi’s immediate release,” said Zin Linn, a spokesman for the Myanmar opposition based in Thailand. “This is very important.”

Aung San Suu Kyi is facing five years in prison if she is convicted of the charges that she broke the conditions of her house arrest by allowing an uninvited visitor, John William Yettaw, to stay at her residence. She says she is innocent.

The trial is due to resume this week inside Insein prison following several delays and the verdict is expected next week.

In another sign of growing tensions, Myanmar authorities summoned members of Ms Suu Kyi’s pro-democracy party to rebuke them for provoking “unrest” over a statement critical of her trial, state media reported yesterday.

Four senior members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) met officials for 30 minutes on Friday after comments by the party’s youth wing were leaked to the website of a prominent blogger, the New Light of Myanmar said.

“Though NLD has rights for freedom of speech, the announcement ... has harmed peace and stability and prevalence of law and order in the country and disturbed the trial proceedings of a court,” the paper reported in English.

“That can mislead the people into misunderstanding the government, incite activities that may harm the public respect for the government, and cause unrest.”

The junta in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is coming under increased international pressure to release Ms Suu Kyi, with the leaders of Britain, France and the United States all making demands.

Young members of the NLD are preparing a silent protest in the event she is convicted. Students and other young people with no political affiliations have also joined the underground campaign to free Ms Suu Kyi.

The campaign is handing out leaflets and pictures of Ms Suu Kyi throughout the country. In several towns where the NLD have strong bases, including Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city, more than a thousand photos of her are distributed daily, as the campaigners dodge the police and security who are trying to stop them.

“Young monks are also angry and preparing to vent their feelings if Suu Kyi is not freed soon,” a senior Buddhist monk in Yangon said on condition of anonymity.

The monks are still seething after the government’s brutal crackdown on their protest movement, the Saffron Revolt, in Sept 2007.

Some young people have now formed the Myay All Zav group and intend to challenge the government in every possible way if Ms Suu Kyi is sentenced to jail at the end of this trial. “We’ll sacrifice our lives if we need to,” said one of the group’s leaders.

Critics say Ms Suu Kyi’s trial was part of a plan by Gen Than Shwe to make sure she did not sabotage plans to introduce a civilian government dominated by the military after next year’s scheduled elections. However, instead of a quiet trial and sentencing, the situation is escalating.

“With one fell swoop, Than Shwe has undermined his own strategy of trying to sideline Aung San Suu Kyi,” a senior western diplomat who knows the opposition leader well said. “Than Shwe’s actions have proved once again that she remains in everyone’s minds – inside and outside the country – as Burma’s real leader.”

“The regime is really worried now: they never expected the international community to be so vociferous and united in pressuring them,” said Zin Linn.

He said this brought about the temporary suspension of the trial – when it was surprisingly adjourned last week. This was probably to allow the junta leaders to formulate their strategy to deal with the mounting pressure and the growing unrest.

“There’s been an unusual string of surprises since the secret trial started,” a western diplomat in Yangon said on condition of anonymity.

“First they let diplomats and some journalists into the court on certain occasions, then they adjourned the hearing for more than a week on a pretext, and now they are allowing the court to hear a challenge against the trial judges’ decision not to allow all the defence witnesses, and delaying the final sessions for at least another week.”

On Friday, Ms Suu Kyi’s defence team, instead of summing up their case as planned, were allowed to present their arguments to a higher court that they should be allowed more than one witness. The prosecution brought 14 witnesses to the stand – all but one were police officers – while the judges limited the defence’s proposed four witnesses to one.

“If you look at the numbers it is one-sided, and that is why we have made this application,” said Kyi Win, Ms Suu Kyi’s chief lawyer. “It is not in accord with the law to reject defence witnesses like this. And we pointed it out to the court [during Friday’s hearing],” defence counsel Nyan Win said.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Burma's Last Chance

by Aung Din
Far Eastern Economic Review
Posted May 26, 2009

As an exile supporting the democracy movement, led by Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, in my homeland, Burma, I have placed faith and confidence in the international community to help end the tyranny of the military regime. Many countries in the world, including the United States, the European Union, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), China, India, Japan, Canada, Australia and Korea have been involved in addressing the situation in Burma with different levels of interest, influence and responsibility. We appreciate those efforts, but the time has come to re-evaluate how best to collectively engage the international community to push for freedom in Burma.

The common belief is that nothing will change in Burma without serious action from China and India, Burma's two most powerful neighbors, and Asean. However, we must realize that Burma is a virtual captive state of China. Beijing sells weapons to Burma’s generals and provides loans and grants that keep the regime afloat. In return, China receives concessions on gas and oil drilling and energy corridors for strategic pipelines. India, the world’s largest democracy, abandoned Burma’s democracy movement a decade ago in the hopes of cozying up to the regime’s generals to check Chinese expansionism and for help in dealing with border issues. We assume that Asean, of which Burma is a member, will act responsibly to persuade the regime to stop its brutality against its own people. However, as several members of it, namely Cambodia, Vietnam, Brunei and Laos are being ruled by the authoritarian governments, similar to the regime in Burma, no meaningful action from Asean can be expected. They all cannot be depended on to facilitate negotiations between the regime and its people.

To date, no consensus has been reached between the nations involved in dealing with Burma. Meetings on Burma at the United Nations Security Council always typically ended with divisions among the 15 members. Some states, led by the U.S., France and Britain would like to see focused, direct involvement by the Security Council. Others, led by China and Russia, want to push the Burma issue out of the Security Council, arguing that internal political strife does not rise to the level necessary for Security Council involvement. By using the “threat of a veto,” China effectively limits the role of the Council in Burma to statements of concern that lack accountability because they are not backed up by a credible threat of international action. The same divisions exist among the 14 member nations, known as “Friends of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Burma.”

The situation has become frustrating. People die, intimidation and oppression continue, and nothing gets done. Meanwhile, Aung San Suu Kyi is facing charges of violating her house arrest and will likely be sentenced to still more years under an armed guard isolated from her people. Talk alone is not meaningful action. Continuing within this framework will only help the regime to strengthen its grip on power. Redesigning a new and effective international mechanism is urgently required to help the people of Burma. The time has come to think outside the diplomatic box for the creation of a new international alliance to deal with Burma’s intransigent regime.

The governments of Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, which can be called the “Asean Five,” have expressed their willingness to see a peaceful solution in Burma. They all have a desire to mediate between the Western democracies and the regime, as they are eager to improve the image of Asean, which has been tainted badly by the generals in Burma. Establishing a small multinational partnership on Burma, with participation of the U.S., the EU and the Asean Five, can be the driving force behind a new mechanism to bring attention, pressure, carrots and sticks to a multinational negotiating process with the regime and Burma’s democracy movement.

The “Seven Friends of Burma” (SFB) would call seniors diplomats from the group to meet as soon as possible and develop a mutually acceptable mechanism with common goals and clear benchmarks for change in Burma, and then share responsibility to act together to end Burma’s manmade disaster. The U.S. and EU should be prepared to offer incentives to the regime, and the Asean Five could take responsibility for being the “front-men” in securing positive changes from the regime in order for such incentives to be realized.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono would be the perfect candidate for the group to negotiate with Senior Gen. Than Shwe, the paramount leader of the regime, to accept this mechanism and explain a process that brings permanent peace to Burma while addressing concerns of both the regime and democracy movement. Incentives alone may not work; therefore, threatening to bring Burmese generals before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity they have committed could be powerful leverage to assist the SFB in their work. This smaller group will be able to act more nimbly and have more flexibility than the larger groups that have dominated discussion on Burma without meaningful action.

There are pitfalls to this process. The Asean Five may be reluctant to engage in such a manner, and China may make the situation difficult by putting pressure on the group members to back off its client state. This new alliance will not be successful without strong leadership of U.S. President Barack Obama, along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The position of the U.S. Policy Coordinator on Burma, created by the Tom Lantos Block Burma Jade Act of 2008, should be filled as soon as possible as a signal of continuing U.S. commitment and seriousness towards Burma. The U.S. policy review on Burma that started three months ago should be finalized by maintaining sanctions and pressure, increasing diplomacy and taking a leadership role in the SFB.

In the end, true change must come from inside Burma. Yet real international action—whether in regards to Chile, Argentina, Guatemala, South Africa, the Philippines, Northern Ireland, or countless other countries—has proven a winning component of change. Situations that previously appeared intractable have a way of changing when the right strategy and high-level, constant attention are in place. We, democracy activists, look to leadership from the United States and hope for action from President Obama.

Aung Din served over four years in prison in Burma, as a political prisoner between 1989 and 1993. He is now the executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Campaign for Burma, which advocates the U.S. Congress and administration regarding U.S. policy on Burma.


Altsean Burma Bulletin May 2009

May 2009 Burma Bulletin.pdf