Monday, October 31, 2011

KNU, DKBA in separate peace talks: no progress

Monday, 31 October 2011 22:06 Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Officials of both the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Association (DKBA) are in preliminary peace talks with Burmese government officials in Bangkok and in Mawlamyine in Mon State, respectively. However, little progress has been made.

According to KNU and DKBA officials, no agreements have been reached, but both sides agreed that they will not undertake activities outside their respective control areas.

A KNU officer told Mizzima that its team met with government representatives including Rail Transportation Minister Aung Min and retired Major General Chit Than in Bangkok.

Troops of the military wing of the Karen National Union. Photo: Mizzima

The government delegation told the KNU to contact the Karen State government, following earlier instructions issued by President Thein Sein, calling for preliminary negotiations to be held with state officials. The KNU – adhering to its previously stated policy – replied that it wanted to discuss the peace issue with Union government officials through the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance of ethnic groups.

“Yes, we met. We have said we prefer to discuss the issue through the UNFC. But the government wants to meet with us just one by one,” said the KNU officer.

Minister Aung Min is often described as a flexible government official. Retired General Chin Than is a Karen affairs expert.

Observers said Aung Min attended a performance on Saturday of some members of the Thee Lay Thee traditional dance troupe, who recently returned from exile. They also said that during his visit to Bangkok, he was with various businessmen, and it may have been related to the Dawei (Tavoy) Development Project in Dawei, Tanintharyi Region, which is carried out by the Italian-Thai Company. In mid-September, the KNU objected to the construction of the Dawei-Kanchanaburi Express Road in the Dawei Development Project, saying it harmed the environment.

In late September, a delegation led by Colonel Aung Lwin, the Karen State minister for security and border affairs, met with KNU officials on the Thai-Burmese border to offer to hold peace talks, but the KNU again replied that it wanted peace discussions with the central government.

Although Union-level government officials have not meet with the KNU, Union officials have met with DKBA officials. The Union delegation was led by the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) Secretary No. 1 Aung Thaung and the chairman of the National Race Affairs and Internal Peace-making Committee, Thein Zaw.

Both sides agreed not to undertake activities outside their respective areas, said DKBA Brigadier General Mo Shay.

He said: “For instance, government troops are active around Thay Baw Boe. Unless they go beyond their territory, there will be no problem. We take the other side. Similarly, if we do not go beyond our areas, there won’t be any problems.”

During the meeting, DKBA officials requested permits to open DKBA offices in Hpaan, the capital of Karen State, Kyainseikkyi, Three Pagoda Pass, Kyaikdon, Kawkareik and Myawaddy townships in Karen State. The request would be forwarded to President Thein Sein.

The Karen State government minister for security and border affairs Colonel Aung Lwin, the government Commander of the Southeast Command, Major General Win Aung Hlaing, and Karen State Chief Minister Zaw Min were involved in the meeting held in Mawlamyine. On the DKBA side were Mo Shay, Major Sein Win of the Adjutant General’s Office, and Intelligence officer Captain Pida.

The DKBA separated from the KNU in 1994. DKBA battalions led by Colonel Saw Chit Thu were transformed into Union Border Guard Force [BGF] Battalions 1012, 1013 and 1014 under the Ministry of Home Affairs on August 18, 2010.

Breakaway DKBA battalions led by Brigadier General Saw La Bwe have fought against government troops since November 8, 2010, the day after general-elections, and are now involved in talks with the government for the first time.

The government did not ask the DKBA to transform into a Border Guard Force.

“If the government forces us to transform into the BGF, the situation will be worse than it is now,” Mo Shay said.

In September 2010, the remaining breakaway DKBA battalions reorganized and Mo Shay was promoted to chief of staff.

The DKBA said it would continue to meet with government representatives.

On October 23, between Thay Baw Boe and Taungni villages, an area controlled by KNU Brigade No. 6 near the Thai-Burmese border, DKBA troops planted mines to guard against government troops, according to Brigadier General Mo Shay.

Save the Irrawaddy: set an oil lamp adrift

Monday, 31 October 2011 22:22 Ko Pauk

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Irrawaddy Freedom Network (IFN) will hold ceremonies to set afloat oil lamps across Burma on November 10 – Tazaungdine Full Moon Day – to raise public awareness to protect Burmese rivers and streams.

Thaung Aye, an IFN official, said that simultaneous ceremonies would start at 7 p.m.

“Some rivers and streams have became extinct,” he said. “So we need to protect them all from harm.  We want people to take care of rivers and creeks. We want people to keep watchful eyes on rivers and creeks.”

Ceremonies will take place in Mandalay, Nyaungoo, Hinthada, Pyay, Pantanaw, Maubin, all located along the Irrawaddy River, and Monywa, located on the bank of the Chindwin River. All towns along the Salween and Sittaung rivers have been asked to hold similar ceremonies.

“Our main aim is that we don’t want any dams be built along the Irrawaddy River. As fruitful as our efforts are, that is just our initial effort,” he said.

The Irrawaddy Freedom Network was organized after Burma's Electric Power 1 Minister Zaw Min’s controversial speech on the Myitsone Dam project, saying the government would not halt the project. A short while later, the government postponed the project.

Comedian Zarganar, who was released from prison on Thadingyut Full Moon Day on October 12, and others lighted oil lamps and set them adrift on the Irrawaddy River on October 24, in hope that all political prisoners would be released.

The IFN comprises 74-generation students, 88-generation students and young people.

UN secretary-general's envoy to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi

Monday, 31 October 2011 20:20 Myo Thant

(Mizzima) – Vijay Nambiar, the special envoy of UN Secretary -General Ban Ki-Moon, will visit Burma for five-days beginning on Monday to meet with both government and opposition political leaders.

vijay-nambiar-visits-burma3sNambiar will meet with Aung San Suu Kyi and members of the Committee Representing People's Parliament (CRPP), who were elected in the 1990 elections.

The meeting between the CRPP and Nambiar will take place at the lakeside home of Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon.

Aye Thar Aung, the secretary of CRPP, told Mizzima that the CRPP plans to discuss the ongoing fighting in ethnic areas.

A diplomatic source told Mizzima that Nambiar would meet with Burmese Vice President Tin Aung Myint Oo and Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin among other government officials during the trip.

Nambiar is visiting Burma for the third time; his last visit was in May.

Photo News - October 2011


Suu Kyi, large crowd attend opening of Bayda Institute Library
Aung San Suu Kyi attends the opening ceremony of the Bayda Institute Library in Thingangyun Township and is surrounded by supporters on Monday, October 31. The Bayda Institute, an education project of the National League for Democracy (NLD), provides various classes. It has been forced to move frequently because of pressure from the authorities. Photos: Mizzima

Suu Kyi speaks to the crowd at the opening ceremony of the Bayda Institute Library.

Suu Kyi and Tin Oo at the opening of the Bayda Institute Library.

A supporter hands a flower to Suu Kyi at the opening ceremony of the Bayda Institute Library.

NLD Vice Chairman Tin Oo, second from left, attends the opening ceremony of the Bayda Library in Thingangyun Township on Monday, October 31.

Aung San Suu Kyi and Union Minister Aung Kyi walk out of Sane Lae Kan Thar State guesthouse in Rangoon after their fourth meeting under the new government on Sunday, October 30. Issues discussed included ethnic fighting, prisoner amnesty and economic issues. Photo: Mizzima

Aung San Suu Kyi and Union Minister Aung Kyi at a press conference at Sane Lae Kan Thar State guesthouse in Rangoon on October 30, 2011. In reconciliation talks, prisoner amnesty, ethnic fighting and economic issues were center stage. Photo Mizzima

Inn people celebrate first assemblage on Inle Lake

The first assemblage of Inn people was held in Bo Hut in Inle Lake in Shan State on Thursday, October 27, 2011, sponsored by Minister Win Myint of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party and arranged by the Inn culture committee. Photo: Mizzima

Inn ethnic culture was celebrated in traditional dress, songs, and speeches In Inle Lake on Thursday, October 27, 2011. Photo: Mizzima

Inn ethnic culture was celebrated in traditional dress, songs, and speeches In Inle Lake on Thursday, October 27, 2011. Photo: Mizzima

Onlookers watch farmers’ demonstrate for the right of land ownership in front of the Department of Human Settlement and Housing Development in Rangoon on Thursday, October 27, 2011. Photo: Mizzima

After a short protest staged by farmers, security police converge on the area around the Department of Human Settlement and Housing Development in Rangoon on Thursday, October 27, 2011. Photo: Mizzima

Pakkokku flood’s devastating toll
The Shwechaung Bridge located east of Pakkokku township along the Pakkokku-Mandalay highway lies in ruins on 21 October due to the flood that claimed more than 58 lives. Photo: Mizzima

The Shwechaung Bridge on the Pakkokku-Mandalay Highway lies in ruins on 21 October due to heavy flooding. Photo: Mizzima

A resident in the east of Pakkokku town searching for valuables at the site of her house after the flood, said to have destroyed 200 houses in the area. Photo: Mizzima

A resident sits in front of her house that was destroyed by the flood. Photo: Mizzima

Residents look for valuable around the site of their houses, destroyed by floods. Photo: Mizzima

Earth movers and bulldozers make a temporary bridge for vehicles. Photo: Mizzima
Ladies light oil lamps and set them adrift in Shwe Kyin in Pegu Region according to Burmese customs on Thursday, October 13, 2011, the first moon waning day of Thadingyut (according to the Burmese traditional calendar), a religious holiday. Photo: Mizzima

Journalists and relatives of Burmese prisoners wait in front of Insein Prison in Rangoon on Wednesday, October 12, 2011, the first day of a presidential amnesty under President Thein Sein. Several hundred political prisoners are expected to be among the more than 6,300 prisoners released from across the country. Photo: Mizzima

A large crowd gathers in front of Insein Prison in Rangoon, waiting for the release of prisoners on Wednesday, October 12, 2011, the second amnesty granted under the new Burmese government led by President Thein Sein. The amnesty, which reportedly will include several hundred political prisoners, follows a previous amnesty in May. Photo: Mizzima

A man wears of free-political-prisoners T-shirt in a crowd waiting for the release of prisoners in front of Insein Prison in Rangoon on Wednesday, October 12, 2011. The prisoner amnesty is seen as a move toward national reconciliation by the military-dominated government of President Thein Sein. Photo: Mizzima

A man waits in front of Obo Prison in Mandalay for prisoners to be released under a presidential amnesty on Wednesday, October 12, 2011. Photo: Mizzima

A few family members gather in front of Obo Prison on Wednesday, October 12, 2011, in anticipation of family members being released under a presidential amnesty. Photo: Mizzima.

Police in front of Insein Prison in Rangoon on Tuesday. State-run television announced that a total of 6,359 prisoners now being held across Burma will be released under a presidential amnesty on Wednesday, October 12, 2011. Photo: Mizzima

Rangoon Region Commander Brigadier General San Oo, third from right, and his wife, standing next to him, at a ceremony held on Wednesday, October 5, at the Traders Hotel in Rangoon to mark the 66th Anniversary of the Armed Forces Day of Indonesia. Since San Oo replaced Brigadier General Tun Than as Rangoon Region Commander, it was the first time San Oo was seen in the public. Photo: Mizzima

Rangoon Region Commander Brigadier General San Oo, third from right, and his wife, standing next to him, at a ceremony held on Wednesday, October 5, at the Traders Hotel in Rangoon to mark the 66th Anniversary of the Armed Forces Day of Indonesia. Since San Oo replaced Brigadier General Tun Than as Rangoon Region Commander, it was the first time San Oo was seen in the public. Photo: Mizzima

Rangoon Region Commander Brigadier General San Oo, left, attends a ceremony held on Wednesday, October 5, at the Traders Hotel in Rangoon to mark the 66th Anniversary of the Armed Forces Day of Indonesia. Photo: Mizzima

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, left, toasts with Burmese President Thein Sein during a meeting held on her first visit to the military-dominated country since she took office in August. While Western nations have imposed sanctions on resource-rich Burma because of its poor human rights record, Asian neighbours such as Thailand, China and India have forged close economic ties, particularly in oil and gas. Photo: provided by Thai Government House

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, left, with Burma's President Thein Sein during a meeting on Wednesday. Photo: provided by Thai Government Hous

The entrance of Thain Phyu Money Changer Center on Thain Phyu Road in Rangoon on Monday, October 1, 2011. The Central Bank of Myanmar [Burma]  authorized six banks: the Innwa Bank, Myawaddy Bank, Kanbawza Bank, Co-operative Bank, Myanmar Industrial Development Bank and Myanmar Oriental Bank to open foreign currency exchange counters on Saturday. Photo: Mizzima

An employee inspects a US dollar at a foreign currency exchange counter in the Thain Phyu Money Changer Center in Rangoon on Saturday, October 1, 2011. On Saturday, the opening day, the number of foreign currency sellers was greater than the number of buyers because the buying price was higher than the rate on the unofficial market. Photo: Mizzima

A security guard stands near a digital signboard displaying the currency exchange rates at Thain Phyu Money Changer Center in Rangoon on Saturday, October 1, 2011. Anyone with an identity card can buy or sell up to US$ 2,000, but anyone who wants to buy or sell more than US$ 2,000 must fill out a form stating a reason why they want to buy or sell foreign currency. Photo: Mizzima

People who want to exchange foreign currency fill out forms at a foreign currency exchange counter in Thain Phyu Money Changer Center on Saturday, October 1, 2011. Anyone who has an identity card can buy or sell up to US$ 2,000, but people who want to buy or sell more than US$ 2,000 must complete a form stating a reason why they want to buy or sell foreign currency. Photo: Mizzima

Suu Kyi and Minister Aung Kyi meet for fourth time

Monday, 31 October 2011 14:13 Myo Thein

(Press Conference) – Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Union Minister Aung Kyi met on Sunday at a government guesthouse to discuss a prisoners’ amnesty, establishing peace in ethnic areas and economic and financial issues. After the meeting, Minister Aung Kyi read a joint statement and they answered questions from reporters. The following is a translation of the joint statement and the question-and-answer session.

Aung San Suu Kyi and Union Minister Aung Kyi leave Sane Lae Kan Thar State guesthouse in Rangoon after their fourth meeting under the new government. Photo: Mizzima

Minister Aung Kyi read the joint statement

In accordance with the invitation by the government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi met with Union Minister Aung Kyi at Sane Lae Kan Thar State guesthouse from 13:00 p.m. to 13:55 p.m. on October 30, 2011. During the meeting, we discussed the situation in national affairs, free trade, economic development and the importance of a free cash flow. We also discussed efforts by the state to establish permanent peace with ethnic armed groups, the development of peace talks and a prisoner amnesty. We agreed that the meetings would continue. That’s all.

Question. Aung Hla Tun (Reuters)

Answer: I would like to ask Ma Ma Suu [Suu Kyi]. We recently saw some small constructive developments in Burma’s current politics.  For instance, the granting of amnesty to some political prisoners and also allowing workers’ organizations to organize and stage demonstrations. The latest development is [a bill]amending the Political Parties Registration Law. Are those changes sufficient to re-register the NLD as a political party? 
The Art of Freedom ရုပ္ရွင္ပြဲေတာ္Suu Kyi: The fact whether our party, the NLD, will register depends on the law. It’s a matter that we can talk about only after the law is approved [in Parliament]. When the law is approved, we will meet according to the party’s policies and make a decision.
Q: Aung Hla Tun (Reuters): We already know the law’s three main points. I think the legal experts of the NLD also know about it.

A: Aung San Suu Kyi: Yes, But, we are exact. We can talk about it only after we see the law. Before we see the law, we cannot say.

Q: Tin Maung Aye (Asahi Shimbun): The minister and Aung San Suu Kyi have met four times. Mostly, we know that you will cooperate.  Could you tell me in what areas and how you will cooperate in detail, please? 

A: Aung Kyi : We issued a statement in August. It said we agreed that we would cooperate for not only the development of democracy and but also in politics, economics and social affairs. I think that is a fairly comprehensive solution.

Aung San Suu Kyi and Union Minister Aung Kyi at a press conference at Sane Lae Kan Thar State guesthouse in Rangoon on October 30, 2011. Photo: Mizzima

Q. Kyaw Swa Min (Yangon Times): In this meeting, did Aung Kyi and Aung San Suu Kyi discuss the matter regarding re-registration of the NLD, more amnesty and and holding a meeting between Aung San Suu Kyi and the president?

A: Aung San Suu Kyi: We discussed all of those matters. Every time we meet, we discuss those matters. Because, they are related with our reconciliation.

Q. Aye Aye Win (AP): Could you please tell me a little about your discussion on financial affairs? Is it related to the IMF or similar issues?

A: Aung Kyi : We have talked about it recently. If you read carefully, you’ll see. The importance of cash flows and spending covers many things.

Q. (A reporter): Does the government have a plan to release political prisoners soon?

A: Minister Aung Kyi: When we take an action, we usually do it step-by-step. As all of you know, we will not make a [big] jump. But, we will not stop. Thanks to all of you.

Activists protesting Land Nationalization Act released on bail

Monday, 31 October 2011 11:57 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Seven people arrested last week during a demonstration in front of the Department of Human Settlement and Housing Development in Rangoon were released on bail on Friday after being interrogated.

The group, including lawyer Pho Phyu, staged a short protest on Thursday urging the authorities to revoke the Land Nationalization Act.

Twelve farmers underwent interrogation and were detained in Botahtaung Township Police station for one night. They posted bail totaling five million kyat (about US$ 800).

Protestors who were arrested in this land-ownership demonstration on Thursday were released on bail on Friday. Onlookers watch farmers’ demonstrate against confiscation of land and for the right of ownership in front of the Department of Human Settlement and Housing Development in Rangoon on Thursday, October 27, 2011. Photo: Mizzima

Lawyer Pho Pyu; farmers Soe Naing, Khin Htwe, Aung Myit and Thein Tun of Kyizu village; farmer Nyo of Thayatpinchaung village in Dagon Seikkan Township; and Thi Aung were charged with unlawful assembly and civil disobedience. The Botahtaung Township Court scheduled a hearing for November 11.

“Although a bill for farmers was introduced in Parliament, it’s just a lie. The land [ownership] bill was approved. But there is no solution for illegally confiscated land so farmers have been caught in a severe poverty trap,” said attorney Pho Phyu.

Holding placards, the farmers staged the protest at the settlement and housing building on Bogyoke Road, calling for the revocation of the 1953 Land Nationalization Act and the return of confiscated land to the original owners.

A few minutes after the protest started, about 100 policemen arrived at the scene and the crowd dispersed. Information police took the organizers to the Rangoon Region government office and interrogated them for two hours.

Describing the interrogation, lawyer Pho Phyu said: “In their interrogation technique, we had to wear hoods, black bags. Then they asked questions. I felt suffocated. I think the water we had to drink during the interrogation contained drugs. I felt dizzy.”
Friday, October 28, 2011

Ministers’ Office building will not be transformed into a hotel

Friday, 28 October 2011 21:59 Min Thet

Rangoon (Mizzima) – Burmese Industry Minister Soe Thein says the government will transform the historic Ministers’ Office building where National Hero General Aung San and other Burmese martyrs were assassinated into a museum; the building will not be leased to be used as a hotel.

“We will not rent it to anybody,” he said. “We will convert it into a museum, and we will open souvenir shops and food shops. So when foreigners visit there, our country can get foreign income,” Minister Soe Thein told local media in Naypyitaw on Tuesday.

View of the Secretariat Building in Rangoon (1900s) Photo: Wikipedia commons

A few days ago, Myanmar Tourism Board (MTB) chairman Khin Shwe said MTB would help anyone who wants to rent the building to be transformed into a a hotel.

The building on Bo Aung Kyaw Road in Kyauktada Township in Rangoon was built by the British in 1890 as an administrative office of the secretary-general of the government’s ministerial department.

The building was the location where Burmese National hero General Aung San and his cabinet members were assassinated shortly before independence by a rival political group led by Burmese politician U Saw and the location in which the first Burmese flag was hoisted to mark Burma’s independence from the British.

“There are some ancient buildings that could be suitable to be used as hotels. We will rent them to be used as hotels. Like big castles in Germany. The castles are being used as hotels. A palace in Russia is transformed into a museum too,” Minister Soe Thein said.

After word got around that the 120-year-old Ministers’ Office building would be rented out, various political parties and artists objected to the idea through the foreign media.

The Attorney-General Office building on Pansodan Road will also be conserved, Soe Thein said.

There are 189 old buildings in the Rangoon area, according to local officials.

In early 2010, the former junta privatized more than 110 state-owned businesses including clothing businesses, food businesses, household appliance factories, electrical equipment factories, cinemas and other state-owned buildings. In 2009, a total of 260 state-owned businesses, buildings and land were privatized, according to the Myanmar Privatization Commission.

The Minster’s Office holds a special place in the hearts of the Burmese public. In December 1938, student leader Aung Kyaw was beaten to death in front of the Ministers’ Office building by British government police in a student anti-colonial demonstration, in addition to the location of the assassination of General Aung San and his cabinet members.

“We need to talk about these historic buildings to new generations. The Ministry of Culture should shoulder the responsibility to preserve the historic buildings,” said Han Shwe, the spokesman of the National Unity Party.

Indonesian Foreign Minister arrives in Burma on fact-finding visit

Friday, 28 October 2011 20:33 Nyi Thit

(Mizzima) – Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa arrived in Burma on Friday to scout out Burma to decide whether it should be granted the Asean chair for 2014.

During his visit, which ends Saturday, he will go to Naypyitaw, the capital of Burma, and meet with Burmese government officials.

Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa of Indonesia speaks at the United Nations in this file photo. Photo: UN

He will meet with his Burmese counterpart Wunna Maung Lwin and Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement and Labour Minister Aung Kyi, according to diplomatic sources.

Observers said he might also meet with NGOs and social organizations and other groups.

The visit to Burma was arranged during the 18th Asean Summit in May. Originally, he was scheduled to start his visit on October 26, but it was delayed two days.

Presently, Indonesia holds the rotating Asean chair and his findings could heavily influence the decision on whether Burma should be granted the chair in 2014 or not, observers say.

Asean has been put under pressure not to grant the Asean chair to Burma because there are still political prisoners and human rights violations in the country.

Burma’s turn to chair Asean came up in 2006, but it passed over the opportunity after widespread criticism over its human rights record. Originally, its turn would have been up in 2016, but Laos agreed to swap places with Burma for the 2014 Asean chairmanship. Burma has been constructing new facilities in Naypyitaw, partly as a bid to attract the Asean delegates.

In August, Burmese Foreign Affairs Minister Wunna Maung Lwin said that the decision whether Burma would be granted the chair would be made at the 19th Asean Summit to be held from November 14 and 19 in Bali, Indonesia.

In May, the Thailand-based Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB) said Burma should not receive the Asean chair.

Aung Myo Min, the HREIB director, told Mizzima: “Far from it. There are still many political prisoners in Burma. The government is reluctant to hold a political dialogue. We want to urge Asean to put the Burmese government under pressure and to support a commission of inquiry into the allegations of crimes against humanity by the Burmese junta.”

In September, the Global Justice Center called on Asean heads of state not to recognize Burma and block the country from taking the chair in 2014.

In a letter, Janet Benshoof, president of the New York-based center, urged Asean states to uphold the law of nations and treat Burma’s new Constitution, which removes from the president and all branches of “civilian” government any sovereign power over the military, as “null and void.”

Benshoof said, “Asean states are under a legal imperative not to recognize Myanmar/Burma’s Constitution or elections as they violate the UN and Asean Charters and to take immediate action to stop the military’s ongoing war crimes including genocide and military rape of ethnic women used as a weapon of war.”

AP quoted Foreign Minister Natalegawa in September, saying, "I shall be keen to listen and to hear the voice of civil society, not least the voice of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi... whether this can have a multiplier effect, a pull effect in speeding up the pace of change.”

Burma’s vice president discusses hydropower and gas project issues in China

Friday, 28 October 2011 20:52 Myo Thant

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Tin Aung Myint Oo, Burma’s vice president, met with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao this week to discuss issues of bilateral cooperation including various projects relating to oil and natural gas, hydropower projects, mining, transportation and communication, the state-run New Light of Myanmar reported on Friday.

The newspaper, in reports of the meeting between the two leaders, said “the alliance on bilateral and strategic cooperation” included increasing bilateral relations and cooperation for stability of the  border areas.

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. Photo:

The vice president also visited the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and met with Guo Shengkun, the secretary of the Communist Party of Guangxi Committee, on October 20.

Tin Aung Myint Oo was also in China to participate in the 8th China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) and the 8th China-ASEAN Business and Summit (CABIS) in Nanning, China. The 8th CAEXPO and CABIS are part of the commemorative programmes marking the 20th Anniversary of Asean relations.

He was accompanied by Sat Aung, an economic adviser to President Thein Sein; Tin Naing Thein, the minister for National Planning and Economic Development; Aye Myint, the Science and Technology Minister; Win Myint, the minister for Commerce and Trade; and Win Tun, the Environmental Preservation and Forest Minister.

The minister for Environmental Preservation and Forest Win Tun also attended the China-ASEAN Urban Forest Forum in Nanning City, Guangxi ZAR.

The New Light of Myanmar reported on Friday that the discussions included Burma's forestry policies, environmental preservation measures and economic development, in addition to cooperation between China and Asean-region countries.

Young activists visiting Canada say it will not change its Burma policy

Friday, 28 October 2011 19:37 Ko Pauk

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Two Burmese activists who met with Cannadian government officials recently said they “promised” not to change its economic sanctions policy until three key conditions were met by the new government.

Mi Aie Son of the Mon Youth Progressive Organization told Mizzima that Canada has no plans to review its current economic sanctions against Burma. She was accompanied by Aung Naing Soe of the Nationalities Youth Forum.

“The sanctions will still exist as before. [It] will review its sanctions against Burma when [the Burmese government] releases political prisoners, stop fighting in ethnic areas and holds a dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic representatives. Otherwise, sanctions would not be lifted – they promised,” said Mi Aie Son.

Meeting with the Honorable Jim Karygiannis, interim chair of Canadian Parliamentary Friends of Burma (PFOB), on Parliament Hill in Ottawa are, left to right: Tin Maung Htoo(CFOB), Keltie Cameron (CUPE), Mi Aie Son (MYPO), Karygiannis and Aung Naing Soe (NY-Forum). Photo: Tin Maung Htoo Facebook

During their visit, they met the director, deputy director and political officials in the Southeast Asia relations department. As special guests of the Parliament’s deputy speaker, they observed the Canadian parliament proceedings. The trip started on October 22.

“We told the Canadian government and the Canadian people that the current [Burmese] government is not on the road to democracy, and there are serious violations of human rights in ethnic areas,” said Mi Aie Son.

“Granting amnesty for political prisoners is essential for national reconciliation, and we believe that international pressure is important.”

The visit was sponsored by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). They will also attend a national level CUPE conference as the Burmese representatives.

Tin Maung Htoo, an official with the Canadian Friends of Burma (CFOB), said two thousand people are expected to attend the conference, where they will talk about Burma’s current politics.

On Tuesday, the two representatives took part in a public meeting at the Ottawa Central Library, Tin Maung Htoo said.

Talking about Canada’s strong policy towards Burma, Mi Aie Son said, “Canada’s foreign policy on Burma is very good to promote the development of democracy in Burma. We told them to maintain it. We told them to urge the Burmese government to release political prisoners and to stop launching military offensives in ethnic areas. And we told the person in charge of the financial department that the Kachin war refugees badly need emergency aid. They didn’t know about Kachin and Shan affairs.”

They said they also told officials that women and children had suffered greatly in the war, and they also planned to meet with NGOs and social organizations.

Large-scale gold mining on rivers to be shut down; panning ok

Friday, 28 October 2011 14:02 Min Thet

Rangoon (Mizzima) – Small-scale panning for gold will be allowed on Burma’s rivers and streams, but permits for large-scale mining will not be renewed when they expire in one year, according to the Directorate of Water Resources and Improvement of River System (DWRIRS).

“The lifetime of gold mining permits is just one year. In the past, they could renew a permit. Now, gold mining permits cannot be renewed. So, it is not allowing gold mining [in the future’],” an official from Mining Enterprise No. 2 said.

In the past, the government allowed three types of gold mining along the Irrawaddy and Chindwin rivers: small-scale, medium-scale and large-scale.

In September, Mining Enterprise No. 2 announced that it would not allow large-scale gold mining in the rivers, streams and creeks of Burma. But, traditional small-scale panning for gold would still be allowed.

“We cannot forbid people who have to rely on traditional panning for gold from doing it. As usual, there will still be people who pan for gold by using pans and sieves, but they cannot harm the river,” an official from DWRIRS told Mizzima on condition of anonymity. The government banned gold mining to prevent rivers from being damaged, according to officials.

Most of the companies along the Irrawaddy and Chindwin rivers operate gold mines using machinery, and their practices can cause water pollution and harm the environment.

Small-scale gold miners pay 260,000 (about US$ 360) kyat per year; medium-scale gold miner pay 35 per cent of the gold discovered; and large-scale gold miners pay 50 per cent of the gold discovered as taxes to government, an official from the Ministry of Mines said on condition of anonymity.
Thursday, October 27, 2011

Amended party registration law opens way for NLD to re-register

Thursday, 27 October 2011 22:32 Myo Thant

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burma's Lower House of Parliament in Naypyitaw on Thursday approved a draft law that amends three clauses of the Political Parties Registration Law including cancellation of the clause that restricted serving prisoners from being a member of a political party.

The existing party registration law says that a political party needs to contest in at least three parliamentary seats in an election. The amended law says that clause is not related to any new party that registers after the general election.

Moreover, there was a change in the wording that all political parties must "protect" the country's Constitution. It was amended to "respect" the Constitution.

The amended party registration law clears the way for Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy to contest candidates in the election. Photo: Mizzima

"There is a difference between ‘protect’ the Constitution and ‘respect’ the Constitution. We have to respect all rules of law and the Constitution," said the NLD spokesperson Nyan Win.

The amended act was approved in the Upper House on October 5 and sent it to the Lower House for approval.

Observers said the amendments are designed to pave the way for the main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, to re-register as a political party. The NLD decided not to re-register to run in the 2010 election, saying there were elements in the new Constitution that were undemocratic.

The amended act now awaits the president's signature to become a law.

Recently, Aung San Suu Kyi, the general-secretary of the National League for Democracy, said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that her party would consider re-registration after studying the amended registration law.

Both Aung San Suu Kyi and party Vice Chairman Tin Oo were under house when the former military regime announced the election and party registration law. Political parties had 60 days to comply.

There were intense debates within the National League for Democracy, which would have had to oust many of its members who were imprisoned, if it wanted to re-register as a party. The decision not to re-register led to some top party leaders breaking away from the NLD to form a new political party, the National Democratic Force (NDF). The NDF won 16 parliamentary seats in the 2010 November election.

Harn Yawnghwe visiting Burma to help make peace

Thursday, 27 October 2011 22:22 Tun Tun

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Harn Yawnghwe, the youngest son of Burma’s first president, Sao Shwe Thaik, met with five pro-democracy parties on Thursday, in a visit to promote peace.

The meeting was held in the National Democratic Force (NDF) office in Rangoon. The NDF, Democratic Party (Myanmar), Democracy and Peace Party (DPP), Wunthanu NLD and Union Democratic Party (UDP) attended the meeting.

Harn Yawngshwe, the youngest son of Burma's first president Photo: Mizzima

“The main intention of his visit is to seek peace. He said he would try to help in making peace in ethnic areas,” said Nay Yi Ba Swe, the secretary of the Democratic Party.

She told Mizzima: “First, we need to help achieve a cease-fire. After a cease-fire, the two sides can find the most suitable solution through negotiations; if so, peace can be achieved gradually, but we need to take time.”

Harn Yawnghwe left Burma in 1963 and resettled in Belgium. He is the director of the foreign-based Euro-Burma Office (EBO), formed in 1997, and an adviser of the Ehtnic Nationalities Council. He is also the interim executive director of Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma.

The Belgium-based EBO is funded by the European Union, and by Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung in Germany; Sweden, Norway and Canada to promote the development of democracy in Burma.

During the meeting, the discussion included the issues of peace and parliamentary politics as a way to end dictatorship.

“We all agreed on the basic fact that parliamentary politics needs to continue,” said Khin Maung Swe of the NDF.

In the meeting, the NDF said that DVB should report the views of political parties in Burma and their democratic efforts. Harn Yawnghwe said that he accepted that law and order are not prevalent in Burma, and there are inequalities and violations of human rights. He said there was a need to end company monopolies in businesses.

Harn Yawnghwe planned to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday evening, and he will also meet with ethnic parties, according to Khin Maung Swe. During his visit to Burma, he will visit his native town of Nyaung Shwe in Shan State and other locations.

‘Fear renders us dumb and passive’: Sue Kyi in U.S. speech

Thursday, 27 October 2011 18:47 Mizzima News

(Mizzima) – Denouncing violence and encouraging understanding and respect, Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi told a U.S. university audience, “There can be no peace without democracy, and no democracy without peace.”

suu-kyi-interview-mizzimaSpeaking via a recording to an estimated crowd of 500 on the campus of the University of Michigan on Wednesday, Suu Kyi accepted the Raoul Wallenberg Award in recognition of her individual courage and dedication to nonviolent means in fighting for humanitarian ideals.

Raoul Wallenberg is celebrated for his role in saving the lives of tens of thousands of Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary while serving as Sweden’s special envoy to Budapest. Prior to World War II, he studied architecture at the University of Michigan.

Paying homage to Wallenberg’s legacy, Suu Kyi said, “Where there are no laws and institutions to protect basic human rights, individuals have to fall back on their own will to practice and promote the freedoms in which they believe.”

In addressing the prospects for ending Burma’s decades-long civil wars, the Nobel Peace laureate acknowledged the just grievances of ethnic communities. She said Burmans, as the majority group in the country, inherit a duty to demonstrate broadmindedness and understanding when considering the position of ethnic minorities.

She also spoke of the need for self-empowerment. During remarks about the lack of trust in Burmese society, Suu Kyi called on individuals to look inside themselves and begin to trust in themselves as a means of laying the groundwork for trust in others.
One student said she found the question and answer session, made possible via Skype, to be particularly insightful.

Responding to a question, Suu Kyi related how she overcame her fear of the dark as a child by walking around and around in the dark. After two weeks of her ritual night walking she successfully pushed passed this barrier.

Fear, as has often been the case, was a common theme during Suu Kyi’s 30-minute talk. “Fear renders us dumb and passive,” she told her audience. “Fear paralyzes.” The Burmese opposition leader added, “Fear anywhere, in any language, belittles, negates and degrades.”

With the killing of former Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi still fresh in people’s minds, Suu Kyi said, in denouncing execution as a political tool, that she prefers people with heads to those without.

Suu Kyi was the 21st recipient of the Wallenberg Award, following Archbishop Desmond Tutu (2008), Paul Rusesabagina (2005), the Dalai Lama (2004) and Elie Wiesel (1990).

Farmers’ protest calls for revoking Land Nationalization Act

Thursday, 27 October 2011 12:30 Myo Thant

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – A farmers’ group staged a short protest in front of the Department of Human Settlement and Housing Development on Bogyoke Road in Botahtaung Township, Rangoon, on Thursday, urging authorities to revoke the Land Nationalization Act.

Onlookers watch farmers’ demonstrate for the right of land ownership in front of the Department of Human Settlement and Housing Development in Rangoon on Thursday, October 27, 2011. Photo: Mizzima

About 40 farmers from Thanlyin, Kawhmu, Twante, Dagon Myothit (South) and Dagon Seikkan townships, holding placards that read “We need land, not money” urged authorities to revoke the Land Nationalization Act and return confiscated land to the original owners.

Six police vehicles carrying up to 100 policemen arrived at the scene and told the farmers to disperse.

The Land Nationalization Act was enacted in 1953.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fighting halted in northern Shan State

Wednesday, 26 October 2011 20:54 Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Fighting has been halted in the control area of Shan State Army (North) / Shan State Progressive Party (SSA/SSPP) for more than one month, Major Sai Hla, a Shan army spokesman, said.

Government troops and SSA-N troops have fought for six months. He said fighting has been halted in areas around Mong Hsu, Mong Yai, Kyethi, Tang Yang, Hsipaw, Kyaukme, Lashio, Namsan and Namkham townships.

The last battle occurred on September 22 when about 50 soldiers from the government’s Light Infantry Unit No. 506 and SSA-N troops fought for about 15 minutes between Kyethi and Hsipaw townships.

Troops of the Shan State Army-North Photo: SSA

Earlier, SSA-N troops had to abandon 10 military bases including the Nanlaung base in Tang Yang Township and the Naungcho base in Mong Yai Township, keeping only the Wanhai headquarters as their stronghold.

“Now, they are pressing in Kachin State and that may be the reason why they are not active in this area presently. But there are still some government battalions near our headquarters,” Major Sai Hla said.

He said that government troops might launch military offensives again in northern Shan State if they can control the Kachin Independence Army Brigade No. 4 area, where the natural gas pipeline linking from Kyaukphyu in Arakan State to Yunnan Province in China will pass through.

On other issues, General Sai Htin, 75, a patron of SSA-N, who was sentenced to 106 years in prison for rebellion against the state, was released on October 12 under the recent amnesty ordered by the new government.

He told the media that he was not ready to answer questions. He now lives in Lashio in Shan State with his family. He suffers from coronary heart disease, hypertension and diabetes, his daughter Nan Kham Phaung told Mizzima.