Category: Myanmar

Europe urges end to Myanmar killings, pledges aid

Ref:   European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called on Saturday for an end to sectarian killings in Myanmar, following talks with the president of the nation which is emerging from decades of brutal military rule.

In western Myanmar, 89 people have been killed in clashes between Buddhist Rakhines and Muslim Rohingyas, according to the latest official toll covering the last 10 days of October. Many thousands more have been displaced by the violence.


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Aung San Suu Kyi `must end political activity`

Ref: Burma`s government has warned pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her party to halt all political activities, state media report.

The interior ministry told the Nobel peace prize laureate her party was breaking the law by keeping its offices open and holding meetings.

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Burma earthquake: At least 75 people killed

Ref: At least 75 people are reported to have been killed and many more injured when a powerful earthquake struck north-eastern Burma on Thursday.

The magnitude-6.8 quake struck near the Lao and Thai borders, and was felt as far away as the Thai capital Bangkok, and in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi.

The town of Tachileik and surrounding villages in Shan state appear to have borne the brunt of the earthquake.

There are fears the casualties could be much higher.

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Burma earthquake: At least 75 people killed

Ref: At least 75 people are reported to have been killed and many more injured when a powerful earthquake struck north-eastern Burma on Thursday.

The magnitude-6.8 quake struck near the Lao and Thai borders, and was felt as far away as the Thai capital Bangkok, and in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi.

The town of Tachileik and surrounding villages in Shan state appear to have borne the brunt of the earthquake.

There are fears the casualties could be much higher.

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China fed up with Myanmar `foot-dragging` on reform: cables

Ref:China is fed up with the “foot-dragging” of the military junta in Myanmar on reform and fears the ruling generals can no longer protect its interests in the country, leaked US diplomatic cables show.

China is a key supplier of arms to its southern neighbour and a buyer of its natural resources. It has also been the junta`s main ally on the international stage, but the secret cables released by WikiLeaks tell a different tale.

“The Chinese clearly are fed up with the foot-dragging by the Than Shwe regime,” the top US diplomat in Yangon, Shari Villarosa, wrote in a January 2008 memo summarising a meeting with the Chinese ambassador at the time.

“The Chinese can no longer rely on the generals to protect their interests here, and recognise the need to broker some solution that keeps the peace,” she wrote, following mass street rallies in 2007 that ended in bloody violence.

“The Chinese ambassador no longer tried to defend the regime, and acknowledged that the generals had made a bad situation worse,” she said.

The cable added that after Chinese efforts to push for reform had ended “without much observable result”, Beijing was willing to work with the United States to get the generals back to the negotiating table.

Another cable from January 2008 from the US embassy in Beijing quoted a Chinese foreign ministry official as saying China wanted to see the junta take “bold measures” to improve the livelihood of Myanmar`s people.

The cable quoted the same official as saying China wanted to see “national reconciliation through dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and democracy supporters”.

The 65-year-old opposition leader and Nobel peace laureate, who spent 15 of the last 21 years under house arrest, was released last month, days after a rare election that was widely panned by foreign observers as a sham.

The junta`s political proxy claimed an overwhelming victory in the elections — Myanmar`s first in two decades — amid opposition complaints of cheating and voter intimidation. Suu Kyi`s party boycotted the polls.

Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962 and has refused to recognise the results of elections in 1990 that Suu Kyi`s party won by a landslide.

Villarosa said the Chinese envoy to Yangon, Guan Mu, said the generals might be “more amenable to ceding power gradually” if they were “offered assurances that they would not lose their lives and could keep their economic interests”.

Myanmar democracy icon Suu Kyi released: official

Myanmar`s democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest Saturday, an official said, as crowds of excited supporters waited outside her home for a glimpse of their idol.

The crowd cheered and began to surge fowards as police began removing barricades around her crumbling mansion where she has been locked up by the military junta for most of the past two decades.

The authorities went inside to read the order to release her from house arrest, a government official said.

“She is released now,” said the official, who did not want to be named.

More than 1,000 people were gathered outside in hope of seeing the 65-year-old dissident, known to her supporters simply as “The Lady”.

Although she has been sidelined and silenced by the junta — occasionally released briefly only to be put back in confinement — for many in the impoverished nation she still embodies hope of a better future.

“I think of her as my mother and also my sister and grandmother because she`s the daughter of our independence leader General Aung San,” said 45-year-old Naing Naing Win. “She has her father`s blood.”

Despite the risks of opposing the military regime in a country with more than 2,200 political prisoners, many supporters wore T-shirts bearing her image and the words: “We stand with Aung San Suu Kyi.”

Undercover police were photographing and filming the crowds.

Myanmar`s most famous dissident has been under house arrest since 2003 — just one of several stretches of detention at the hands of the ruling generals.

Her sentence was extended last year over a bizarre incident in which an American swam uninvited to her lakeside home, sparking international condemnation and keeping her off the scene for the first election in 20 years.

The democracy icon swept her party to victory in elections two decades ago, but it was never allowed to take power.

When last released in 2002 she drew huge crowds wherever she went — a reminder that years of detention had not dimmed her immense popularity.

Some fear that junta chief Than Shwe will continue to put restrictions on the freedom of his number one enemy.

But her lawyer Nyan Win has suggested she would refuse to accept any conditions on her release, as in the past when she tried in vain to leave Yangon in defiance of the regime`s orders.

Her struggle for her country has come at a high personal cost: her husband, British academic Michael Aris, died in 1999, and in the final stages of his battle with cancer the junta refused him a visa to see his wife.

She has not seen her two sons for about a decade and has never met her grandchildren.

Her youngest son Kim Aris, 33, arrived in Bangkok ahead of her release but it was unclear whether he would be allowed to visit his mother.

Suu Kyi`s freedom is seen by observers as an effort by the regime to tame international criticism of Sunday`s election, the first since the 1990 vote.

Western nations and pro-democracy activists have blasted the poll as anything but free and fair following widespread reports of intimidation and fraud.

Partial election results show that the military and its political proxies have secured a majority in parliament.

The NLD`s decision not to participate in the election deeply split Myanmar`s opposition and Suu Kyi`s party has been disbanded, leaving her future role uncertain.

Little is known about her plans although her lawyer says she has expressed a desire to join Twitter to reach out to the Internet generation.

Few expect her to give up her long struggle for freedom from repression and attention is now on whether she can reunite the splintered opposition and bring about the democratic change that has eluded Myanmar for so long.

Myanmar refugees return home

Ref: Refugees, who fled clashes along Myanmar’s border with Thailand following Sunday’s general elections, have been slowly returning home.

Fighting between Myanmar government troops and ethnic fighters had sent at least 20,000 people fleeing into neighbouring Thailand.
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Thousands flee Myanmar clashes

Ref: Fighting between Myanmar government troops and ethnic fighters has sent at least 10,000 people fleeing into Thailand a day after the military-led nation held a much-criticised election.

Thousands of Myanmar refugees have crossed into Thailand amid the clashes

Clashes were reported on Monday at key points on the border with Thailand, leaving at least three people dead and 10 others wounded on both sides of the frontier.

The clashes follow a demonstration by the fighters over Sunday’s general election, Myanmar’s first in 20 years, as well as attempts to force ethnic minority troops to join a border guard force – which would put them under state control.

A simmering civil war has wracked parts of Myanmar since independence in 1948 and observers say the state’s determination to crush ethnic anti-government fighters appeared to have increased in the lead up to the election.

In the heaviest fighting, Karen fighters reportedly seized a police station and post office on Sunday in the Myanmar border town of Myawaddy.

Sporadic gun and mortar fire continued into Monday afternoon.

Stray rocket

Al Jazeera’s Marga Ortigas, reporting from the Thai border town of Mae Sot, said that a stray rocket propelled grenade crossed into Thailand, injuring five people.

“The clashes appear to be between a faction linked to the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and government-backed troops,” Ortigas said.

“This faction has said it did not support the ceasefire the DKBA signed with the Myanmar government, and have reiterated that they want their own autonomy.”

Our correspondent also said refugees from Myanmar who crossed the border into Thailand feared government troops would shoot them for failing to vote on Sunday.

Zipporah Sein, the general secretary of the Karen National Union (KNU), said fighting broke out between up to 300 DKBA soldiers and government forces.

“We don’t know definitely but I think last night the army sent over more troops, they negotiated and the DKBA retreated but this morning they were blocked by army trucks and then it started,” she said.

‘Foul play’

Myanmar, also known as Burma, drew international criticism over Sunday’s vote with Barack Obama, the US president, saying the election was stolen.
“It is unacceptable to steal elections, as the regime in Burma has done again for all the world to see,” Obama, currently on a tour of four Asian nations, said in a speech to India’s parliament in New Delhi.

Europe and Japan also condemned the conduct of the poll as state TV reported that voters “freely and happily” cast their ballots.

State media, featuring photos of Than Shwe, the country’s ruling general and other senior leaders voting, announced the “winners” in 57 constituencies, 55 of which were contested by just one candidate, more than two thirds of those with the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

In many constituencies, the poll was a two-way battle between the USDP and the National Unity Party (NUP), which is the successor to former leader Ne Win’s party and also closely aligned with the military.

A senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said voter turnout was estimated at more than 60 per cent but that the results from the whole country could take one week.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said voting conditions had been “insufficiently inclusive, participatory and transparent”.

Than Nyein, chairman of the National Democratic Force, created by former members of the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, said the election was marred by irregularities.

“It’s very different from our expectation because of foul play,” he told the AFP news agency.

“We have our evidence. Some candidates complained … because there was vote cheating.”
‘Missed opportunity’

Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Thai prime minister, has said that ethnic minority clashes with the military in eastern Myanmar could continue for months.
He also said that the country was ready to provide humanitarian assistance as refugee numbers continue to rise.

“It is possible that it will carry on during the next three months, particularly during the transition from the current government to an elected government,” Abhisit told reporters in the Bangkok, the Thai capital.

With no specific time given for the release of election results, Western powers were labelling the vote as a “missed opportunity”.

But some saw the poll as a small step towards democracy after almost five decades of military rule, with opposition parties confident of success in areas they did contest.

However, with 25 per cent of the seats in parliament reserved for military appointees regardless of the outcome, the two main pro-military parties needed to win just 26 per cent of the remaining seats to secure a majority.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Myanmar added that despite opposition groups running in the polls, electoral advantages had been skewed towards the USDP.

Advance ballots

Two opposition parties accused the USDP of illegally collecting advance ballots.
The NDF said some people had complained that they were told by the USDP there was no need to vote as their ballots had already been collected.

More than 29 million people were eligible to vote but it remains uncertain as to how many actually cast ballots.

International condemnation of the polls continued to grow, with Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, saying Washington would maintain “rigorous sanctions” against the Myanmar government.

The electoral process was “severely flawed, precluded an inclusive, level playing field, and repressed fundamental freedoms,” Clinton said.

After the election, attention is now turning to whether the government will release Aung San Suu Kyi on Saturday, when her current term of house arrest ends.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner led the NLD to power in 1990 but the result was never recognised by the ruling generals.

She has been detained for most of the last 20 years and supported a boycott of Sunday’s election.

Clashes erupt in eastern Myanmar

Ref: At least three people have been killed in clashes between ethnic Karen fighters and government soldiers in eastern Myanmar, a day after the country held its first elections in 20 years.

Eleven more people were injured when gun and mortar fire hit the town of Myawaddy in Karen State on Monday, government officials told AFP news agency.

Al Jazeera’s Marga Ortigas, reporting from the Thai border town of Mae Sot said that a stray rocket propelled grenade crossed into Thailand, injuring five people. Read more →

Myanmar counts votes amid criticism

Ref: Ballot counting is under way following Myanmar’s first multi-party elections in 20 years, but the poll has drawn strong criticism as being neither free nor fair and there have already been allegations of fraud.

Myanmar observers said Sunday's election was a sham, and criticised it as being neither free nor fair

It was conducted amid complaints of intimidation, and claims that the poll was a sham to create a facade of democracy after decades of military rule.
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