NLD Votes No To Burma ‘Election’

Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), on Monday decided against registering for the general election this year, a party spokesman told The Irrawaddy.

“Without any objections, all the party leaders reached a consensus not to register the party and join the election because the junta’s election laws are unjust,” said senior party official Khin Maung Swe who attended the meeting at the party’s Rangoon headquarters. “We also agreed to call for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners.”

Party officials said that the lawyer of detained leader Suu Kyi read out a message from Suu Kyi to the party leaders at the meeting and said that “Daw Suu could not accept the party registering under the unjust laws, but she said that neither she nor anyone else owns the party. Therefore, the party members have to make the decision by themselves democratically.”

The party’s 92-year-old party chairman, Aung Shwe, who recently voiced support for the party registering and taking part in the election, did not join in the meeting, but instead sent a letter stating that he would follow Suu Kyi’s decision, according to the party spokesman.


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Tutu Calls Burma Election A ‘Charade’

In a message of encouragement to Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, South African Archbishop Emeritus and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu said he looks forward to traveling to Rangoon “to join you in your celebrations when you, my sister, are inaugurated as the true, freely elected leader of Burma.” Tutu addressed his fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate in an interview with The Irrawaddy, in which he also dismissed the planned 2010 general election as a “charade.”

Read the interview here. Also-

In the latest sign that this year’s vote will be neither free nor fair, Burma’s ruling junta has ordered censors to ban reports on new election laws and other controversial election-related issues, according to Rangoon-based journalists. “Soon after the election laws were announced, we interviewed members of various political parties to get their views on this subject,” said the chief editor of one Rangoon-based journal. “But when we submitted our reports to the censor board, we were told we couldn’t publish them.”

According to sources in Rangoon, a special body has been formed to oversee the work of the Press Scrutiny Board during the election period. The censor board must now submit draft publications to a “special security force” consisting of high-ranking officials, including Lt-Gen Myint Swe, who is close to junta head Sen-Gen Than Shwe.

And, funny how you don’t hear about the need to attack Burma innit?-

Burma’s ruling junta has finished construction work on three nuclear reactors in the country’s north and will soon be ready to put them into operation, according to military sources at the elite Defense Services Academy (DSA) in Maymyo, Mandalay Division.

The technology for Burma’s nuclear research project was provided by Russia’s Federal Atomic Energy Agency (RFAEA), which agreed in May 2007 to help design and build a 10-megawatt light-water reactor using 20 percent enriched uranium-235 fuel.

However, the Russian agency has since distanced itself from the Burmese nuclear program. This has led to fears that the regime has turned to North Korea for assistance in achieving its nuclear ambitions.

UN Special Rapporteur On Burma Calls For War Crime Investigation

That smoothly orchestrated ‘election’ might not be the PR win Than Swhe was hoping for-

A senior UN official has called for Burma’s military rulers to be investigated over allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes perpetrated against Burmese civilians, in a move that will sharply increase pressure on the isolated regime ahead of controversial national elections due later this year.

In a draft report to the UN Human Rights Council [pdf] in Geneva, Tomás Ojea Quintana, special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, described “a pattern of gross and systematic violation of human rights” which he said has been in place for many years and still continued.

“There is an indication that those human rights violations are the result of a state policy that involves authorities in the executive, military and judiciary at all levels,” he said.

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Burmese Dictatorship Ban Suu Kyi From ‘Elections’

Laws drawn up by the Burmese junta will prohibit detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from taking part in a controversial election due to be held later this year. If her party wants to participate in the poll it may even have to formally expel her. The so-called Political Parties Registration Law, published today in state-run newspapers in Burma, prohibits anyone convicted by a court from joining a party and participating in the polls. Ms Suu Kyi, who has spent 14 of the last 20 years either in jail or else under house arrest, was last summer convicted of violating the terms of her detention after an uninvited American swam across a lake to her house. In what was widely seen as a staged trial and conviction, her detention was extended until November and many analysts believe the junta will hold the election in October.

May 7 is the deadline for Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), to finally decide whether it will continue to exist as a legal party after twenty years of unsuccessful struggle against the military dictatorship. “We have to expel our own leader from the party or face dissolution of the party after May 7,” said Nyan Win, who is both party spokesman and the lawyer representing detained party leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Thus the junta have barred the leader of the party that won the real and open election in 1990, try and act surprised, disgusting business as usual from Than Shwe.

Burma Refugees’ Conditions & The ‘Election’

Note: You can help the The Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot, details HERE.

Damir Sagolj:- MAE SOT, Thailand, Jan 7 (Reuters) – The rubbish dump outside the Thai town of Mae Sot steams with rancid rotting fish and other debris, a squalid haven for hundreds of refugees from Myanmar that aid groups say could swell in size this year. Aid groups are bracing for a rise in refugees from military-ruled Myanmar into neighbouring Thailand and China ahead of its first parliamentary elections in two decades this year, potentially straining ties with its neighbours and worsening crowded refugee camps in Thailand.

Some who fled to Thailand are living in dire conditions. In one settlement, about 300 migrants who crossed illegally into Thailand have taken refuge next to mounds of garbage outside Mae Sot, about 5 km (3 miles) from the border. Life amongst the rubbish beats what they had back home, they said. Some ethnic minorities have faced a military campaign marked by murder, forced labour, rape and the razing of villages.

“I want to stay here and save some money because I can keep what I earn and no one harasses me, even if the job is hard and dirty,” said Sen Sen, a 38-year-old ethnic Karen. People run out of makeshift shacks and line up neatly whenever garbage trucks arrive, waiting to dig through the rubbish as it is unloaded in search of goods for recycling. Barefoot boys and girls sort through piles of trash, occasionally distracted by the broken toys and mud-caked dolls they uncover. Sen Sen earns about 100 baht ($3) a day selling plastic, which she said was enough to live on. In Myanmar she had to give almost all the money she managed to earn to military officers as “protection money” and taxes.

The Myanmar junta has long been accused of persecution of the country’s ethnic minorities, sparking a continuing exodus. Some 140,000 refugees live in official camps along the Thai-Myanmar border, according to the U.N. refugee agency. An estimated 37,000 fled into China in August after government forces routed fighters loyal to a Chinese-speaking Kokang ethnic group, earning Myanmar’s generals a rare rebuke from China, a crucial ally and investor. Thousands fled into Thailand in June when the army clashed with the Karen National Union (KNU), a rebel group that has been seeking independence in the eastern hills bordering Thailand for the past 60 years.

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Good Words

But we are used to his talk by now, what of actions-

President Barack Obama on Sunday told Myanmar’s junta to free pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi during an unusual face-to-face interaction with a top leader of the ruling military. Obama delivered the strong message during his summit with leaders of 10 Southeast Asian nations, which included Myanmar Prime Minister Gen. Thein Sein. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that Obama called on Myanmar to free his fellow Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, and end oppression of minorities.

“Obama brought that up directly with that government,” Gibbs said, indicating that the president addressed Thein Sein. For decades, Western governments have avoided direct contacts with leaders of Myanmar because of the regime’s poor human rights record and suppression of democracy. A joint statement issued after the summit — the first ever between a U.S. president and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — devoted a paragraph on Myanmar, a major irritant in relations between the two sides. But the statement did not call for the release of political prisoners, including Suu Kyi, who has spent 14 of the last 20 years under detention by the military regime. It only urged Myanmar to ensure that the elections it intends to hold in 2010 are “conducted in a free, fair, inclusive and transparent manner.”

However, a direct appeal from Obama carries more weight as he is the most powerful leader to have conveyed the message directly to a top Myanmar official. Thein Sein did not address leaders’ concerns about Suu Kyi, said Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. “We expected a bit more but it was not forthcoming. We hope (democracy) … in Myanmar will become a reality sooner than later,” he told reporters. He said a reference to Suu Kyi was not included in the statement because there was no consensus. White House aides said ASEAN was unlikely to include an explicitly critical statement on one of its members, since it would amount to Myanmar criticizing itself. That’s why Obama raised the issue directly in his remarks to the group, said the aides.

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US Ignores Torture Of Own Citizen As It Unfreezes Relations With Burma

Jotman has the goods on this, so go there. But briefly, Amnesty says

Trusted sources have reported to Amnesty international that male activist Kyaw Zaw Lwin was tortured and suffered other ill-treatment whilst in detention in Insein Prison, Yangon, Myanmar’s main city. He was arrested in Yangon on 3 September. He has been denied medical treatment for the injuries he sustained from the torture he endured during interrogation. There are grave concerns about his health.

Follow Amnesty link for action details.

This as the US meets the Burmese health minister and changes its policy on Burma. As I have said before the prospect of intelligent sanctions and negotiations could be good but… in reality is it really about countering China’s influence & non -US- aligned spread of nuclear technology in a geopolitical context as the US squares up to the new power in town (a power that owns a shit load of US debt, hmmm) and human rights & social justice will be forgotten. This is not the most auspicious start. I think we are getting used to the Obama administration’s style sheet, good presentation masking business as usual.

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I agree with the principle, sanctions and negotiations but in reality does that mean- we want to counter China’s influence, get some of our own and human rights can go hang. I shall judge on results.

New strategy will involve high-level engagement with Burmese leaders while keeping sanctions in place. The US government is to embark on a major policy shift towards Burma after concluding that its long-term policy of sanctions had failed to sway the junta.

The US state department confirmed today that the new strategy, while keeping sanctions in place, will involve high-level engagement with Burmese leaders, in line with Barack Obama’s general policy of talking with countries it regards as international pariahs.

Obama, in contrast with George Bush’s administration, has already offered to hold direct talks with Iran and North Korea.

The shift was signalled on the sidelines of the UN general assembly in New York last night when the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said the US will move “in the direction of both engagement and continued sanctions”.

Speaking to foreign ministers at a Friends of Burma meeting, she said: “Engagement versus sanctions is a false choice in our opinion. So, going forward we will be employing both of those tools, pursuing our same goals. To help achieve democratic reform, we will be engaging directly with Burmese authorities.”

Sanctions, which are imposed by the European Union as well as the US, would be eased if the junta was to move towards significant reform, she said.

The US is pushing for the introduction of democracy and the release of the opposition leader and Nobel Peace prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi. Opposition groups and supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi gave the US shift a cautious welcome.

Maran Turner, a lawyer and executive director of Freedom Now, a Washington-based group, that has been campaigning for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, said: “We are glad that the Obama administration is turning its attention to Burma. I agree it is time for a multi-faceted approach.” But she questioned the value of engagement if it only involved the US and the junta and not the opposition.

The strategy shift comes at the end of a policy review on Burma ordered by Clinton is February.

The move coincides with a visit by the Burmese leader Than Shwe to the UN general assembly, the first senior member of the junta to attend for 14 years. In an effort to try to ease criticism of the country’s human rights record ahead of his visit, the junta last week declared an amnesty for about 7,000 prisoners. The UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, said the amnesty fell “short of expectations”. Human rights groups estimate Burma has 2,200 political prisoners.

Ban, speaking after the meeting with Clinton, said next year will be critical for Burma when it is scheduled to hold an election. Opposition groups have already labelled the elections a sham.


Aung San Suu Kyi, the Myanmese opposition leader, has welcomed the announcement of a shift in US policy towards engagement with the south-east Asian nation.

Suu Kyi’s comments, released by her lawyer on Thursday, came a day after Washington mooted a potential easing of sanctions if engagement with Naypyidaw brings political reform.

“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said that direct engagement is good … but must be with both sides [government and opposition],” Nyan Win, her lawyer, told the AFP news agency after meeting her at her home in Yangon.

Why Jim Webb Was In Burma

Reagan appointee (and now conservative Dem and occasional screenwriter whose ‘Rules of Engagement’ was described as “probably the most racist film ever made against Arabs by Hollywood“) the former Marine has gotten Yettaw out, but really the US agenda is …democracyChina.

He is a critic of US sanctions on Burma, Webb in his opening remarks at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on Maritime & Sovereignty Disputes in Asia said-

At the pinnacle of this issue is China’s growing military, diplomatic and economic power, not only in the region but world-wide.  China’s evolution has changed the regional economic balance, and has enabled China to expand its political influence.  Across the East Asian mainland, from Burma to Vietnam, we have heard statements of concern about the impact of China’s reach.

As the United States continues its attempt to isolate Burma due to the human rights policies of its military regime, China’s influence has grown exponentially, including the recent announcement of a multi-billion dollar oil pipeline project that would enable the Chinese to offload oil obtained in the Persian Gulf and pump it to Yunnan Province, without having to transit the choke point of the Strait of Malacca.

As a maritime nation, the United States should maintain the quality and strength of its seapower—if not improve it.  The recent trajectory of American seapower is not encouraging.  When I first joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1968, there were 931 combatants in the U.S. Navy.  When I served as Secretary of the Navy in 1988, this battle force numbered 569 ships.  At present, the U.S. Navy has 284 deployable battle force ships, with 42 percent of them underway today.   Although the quality of China’s 241 ships cannot match that of the United States’, that quality gap is closing.

If the United States is to remain an Asian nation, and a maritime nation, our nation’s leaders have a choice to make.  Our diplomatic corps and our military—and especially our Navy—must have the resources necessary to protect U.S. interests and the interests of our allies.  Smart power must be reinforced by military might.

The US is an Asian nation? Imperial entitlement much? I would like to hear Aung San Suu Kyi’s side of the meeting with Webb, but y’know she’s a prisoner of a military dictatorship so that’s not so easy. That’s kind of the point, Jimbo.

Regime Sentences Suu Kyi Out Of Their Staged ‘Election’

Prior to the sentence there was some speculation there were disagreements amongst the military on whether to sentence her punitively or to follow their own laws, either way the purpose would be achieved, to remove her from running in the ‘elections’ the regime hope will change their image abroad. Even in the sentencing they played  out a ludicrous charade to try and paint Than Shwe in a favourable light-

Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to a further 18 months house arrest by Rangoon Northern District Court on Tuesday, according to representatives of her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD).

NLD spokesman Khin Maung Swe told The Irrawaddy that the verdict was delivered at 11:50 a.m. Suu Kyi was initially sentenced to three years imprisonment, but later the court changed her sentence to 18 months to be served under house arrest.

Journalists were unexpectedly allowed to be present in the court when the verdict was announced.

According to journalists, Burmese Home Minister Maung Oo entered the courtroom after the three-year sentence was announced and read aloud a special order from junta chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe stating that as Suu Kyi is the daughter of national hero Gen Aung San, her sentence should be reduced to 18 months and that the sentence should be suspended.

The same terms of suspended sentence were applied to the verdict on Suu Kyi’s two companions, Win Ma Ma and Khin Khin Win.

Clearly the junta are reflecting on how they are perceived both domestically and overseas, but not enough to actually stop being thugs. How the world reacts to this sentence could, more than before, have an influence on the regime. The Burma Campaign points out there is no global UN arms embargo on Burma, now would be a good time to push for one, after all the junta claim to be in favour of democracy, why do they need so many machine guns?

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Aung San Suu Kyi, Verdict Delayed

Now would be a good time to contact the Myanmar Mission in your country and let them know of your concerns, here is the list. (note the London email link creates a faulty address, try- melondon at

(IPS) – A political trial in Burma that could prolong its pro-democracy icon’s isolation by five more years has opened a rare window for the international community to judge the quality of justice in the military-ruled country.

Many foreign envoys based in Rangoon, the former capital, have eagerly grabbed this chance. They have shown up in numbers when given access to the largely secret trial of Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, being held in a decrepit courtroom inside the notorious Insein Prison in northern Rangoon.

Last Friday marked the latest in this diplomatic show of force, when foreign envoys packed the rear of the court to mirror the unprecedented international attention this bizarre trial has drawn since it began in early May.

“There were about 20 to 25 diplomats in the court. They were Europe, the U.S., China, South Korea and other Asian countries,” a European diplomat who attended the trial on Jul. 31 said in a telephone interview from Rangoon. “They were mostly of the ambassadorial rank.”

It was a number as large as that present on the third day of the trial in late May. At the time, some 30 diplomats were given the nod by the junta, otherwise known to be secretive and paranoid, to get a rare glimpse of Suu Kyi’s battle with Burma’s justice system.

And this time, too, the 64-year-old Suu Kyi used the occasion to openly engage with the diplomatic corps, a practice that has been denied to her during the 14 years she has been kept under house arrest in her lakeside home in Rangoon.

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Ban Fail– According to reports from Burma, Ban met with Than Shwe again on Saturday, only to have his request for a chance to speak with Suu Kyi shot down a second time. “I pressed as hard as I could,” Ban told reporters after the meeting. “I had hoped that he would agree to my request, but it is regrettable that he did not,” he said, adding that he was “deeply disappointed” with the situation. Nyan Win, a spokesman for Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), told The Irrawaddy on Saturday that the regime’s refusal to allow a meeting between Ban and Suu Kyi sent the signal that Than Shwe has no interest in genuine political reform or national reconciliation.

Before his trip, Ban said that he hoped to persuade the junta to meet three key demands: the release of Suu Kyi and other political prisoners; the resumption of dialogue between the junta and opposition as a necessary part of a national reconciliation process; and the creation of conditions conducive to credible elections in 2010. A spokeswoman for Ban said that the UN chief had asked to meet with all of the major stakeholders in Burmese politics, including Suu Kyi. His failure to meet with Suu Kyi, who has been an international icon of democracy for more than two decades, underscored the futility of years of diplomatic efforts aimed at breaking the generals’ repressive grip on power.

“Mr Ban Ki-moon is leaving Burma empty-handed, without even meeting Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, much less achieving his goal of securing the release all political prisoners and getting the regime to engage in a dialogue with the opposition,” said Aye Thar Aung, secretary of the Committee Representing the People’s Parliament. The outcome of this visit, he said, only spelled out the hopelessness of the situation. “We do not believe in hopeful diplomacy, and we are not hopeful of political change in our country,” he said.

For the regime, the visit was just another opportunity to showcase its “road map” to a form of democracy more to its liking—one that guarantees the military a key political role and the right to resume full control if it sees fit. Burma’s state media reported on Saturday that the junta had acceded to Ban’s request to meet with other political stakeholders by arranging a meeting with representatives of 10 registered political parties, including the NLD, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy and the pro-junta National Unity Party, in Naypyidaw on Friday afternoon.

However, NLD sources said that the selection of representatives was made by the regime, not by the parties themselves or by UN officials. They also said that the NLD was treated as one of the less important parties, despite being the overwhelming victors of Burma’s last elections in 1990. Others also noted that Ban was not allowed to meet with the NLD representatives separately.

“When UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari visited Burma in January, he was allowed to hold a separate meeting with NLD leaders, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” said a senior NLD member, speaking on condition of anonymity. “But this time, the junta did not even allow Ban to meet the NLD members except as part of a group with the other parties.”

Despite all the setbacks, not everyone agreed that the visit was a complete failure. “This is not the end of diplomatic efforts to bring about changes in Burma,” said Chan Tun, a former Burmese ambassador to China and North Korea. “The next step is talks with China and Russia about the Burma issue.”

Ban’s next move will be to report to the UN Security Council about his visit, giving him an opportunity to push for more active international engagement to address Burma’s political impasse. “The junta’s reaction to Ban’s trip will send a strong message to the UN Security Council,” said Chan Tun. “They have to go the next step.”

Meanwhile, Ban’s visit also highlighted a less publicized—and potentially more volatile—issue: the status of Burma’s armed ceasefire groups. On Friday, Ban met with representatives from some ethnic ceasefire groups, according reports in the state-run media. But notably absent were representatives of the United Wa State Army, the Kachin Independence Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, or Kokang Army. These three groups have so far refused to meet the junta’s demands to disband and form themselves into border security forces under Burmese military command. Observers say that any effort to force them to fall in line with the regime’s plans could reignite hostilities and lead to a resumption of armed conflict.

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Only in Burma could someone be tried because someone broke into their property, and refused to leave. 

Burma Campaign


“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said: ‘I have no guilt as I didn’t commit any crime,'” he said. The lawyer said the trial, which is being held behind closed doors at Rangoon’s Insein jail, will resume on Monday with her legal defence.

Journalists and diplomats allowed to attend Aung San Suu Kyi trial

Report @ The Guardian.

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Amnesty Letter For Aung San Suu Kyi

Go here and sign, email or print and post (posting a physical letter has far more impact).