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YANGON, Myanmar (AP) -- Myanmar's ruling junta lashed out at Western powers and foreign media Thursday, accusing them of fomenting last month's large protests that were ended by a brutal crackdown.
The state-owned New Light of Myanmar newspaper described protesters, who continue to be hunted by the military across the country, as "stooges of foreign countries putting on a play written by their foreign masters."
In what has become a daily staple of the government press, the newspaper said some 30,000 pro-junta demonstrators gathered in the remote Chin state on Wednesday to support the regime's national convention and forthcoming constitution, which critics say is a sham.
It also singled out "big powers" and radio stations -- the British Broadcasting Corp., Voice of America and Radio Free Asia -- as being behind the demonstrations.
Troops crushed the protests on September 26-27 with gunfire, beatings and mass arrests. The regime said 10 people were killed, but dissident groups put the toll at up to 200 and say thousands of students, Buddhist monks and others were arrested. The crackdown ignited international outrage.
In eight weeks the quiet narrow road that hugs Nongdao's sugarcane fields on the way to the ancient jungles of Myanmar will be overrun with Chinese trucks loaded down with illegal timber.
The large wheezing diesels will dump their logs in this southwestern border sawmill town where it will be processed, then shipped to Chinese furniture makers on the seaboard before being exported for Western consumption.
"Come December and January this road will be so packed with trucks heavy with Myanmar timber that you can't pass for hours," said Xiao Zhengong, a 32-year-old resident of the area.
The ecosystem and environment along the Gyaing River is in peril because of large scale excavation of sand for export to Singapore. The Burmese military junta, which permitted the export, has kept local villagers in the dark about the Myat Wadi Trading Limited project, inhabitants of a river-side village said.
The Myat Wadi Trading Limited collected sand from along the Gyaing River and exported it to Singapore 10 times in a month, claims a source from the 'Weekly Eleven Journal' last month.
"Although villagers saw the boats, they thought they were being used for construction in town. We only found out what they were really being used for when I asked them. Authorities did not inform anyone about the project, not even the village headmen along the river," a Kaowao reporter was told by a villager.
Star Height Asia Pacific Pty. Ltd. received permission in April 2007 to export sand from the Gyaing River, under an agreement between governments from both countries.
Earth Rights International Burma Project Coordinator, Ko Naing Htoo discussed some of the problems of this project with Kaowao.
"First of all the activity will disturb the ecosystem and environment in the area. Stored within the sand layers are chemicals that build up over time with pollution or sometimes through nature. Digging the sand banks out means these chemicals will be stirred up and released, whereas previously they were stored neatly in a water column. Also, this type of activity will have serious impact on downstream communities, including their access to clean, safe water."
Originally posted by BetterMyanmar
Read more on Sand exports from Gyaing River to Singapore to destroy ecosystem.
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) -- Guards at Myanmar's detention centers beat, kicked and slashed protesters rounded up during the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations, sometimes leaving their victims to die of their injuries, a dissident group said Thursday.
At the United Nations, meanwhile, the Security Council said it "strongly deplores" the violent crackdown by Myanmar's military rulers and called for a "genuine dialogue" between the government and the pro-democracy opposition.
At least a dozen freed prisoners described brutal treatment at detention centers, including one who said "dozens" of detainees were killed, according to the Democratic Voice of Burma, a Norway-based short-wave radio station and Web site run by dissident journalists.
Myanmar's repressive military junta has said 10 people were killed and nearly 2,100 arrested in last month's demonstrations, with 700 later released. Diplomats and dissidents say the death toll is likely much higher and up to 6,000 people were seized.
The government has long rejected allegations of torture of political prisoners. The accounts released Thursday included fresh accusations that the military rulers brutalize prisoners as a way of crushing dissent.
"They beat everyone, including women and girls," the dissident group quoted an unidentified female detainee as saying. "I was beaten myself. Monks were targeted and they were not only beaten but also verbally abused by security officers."
"I heard people shouting and crying from the interrogation room and then I saw an army medical surgeon carrying people away," said the woman. The group said she was held at the Government Technical Institute detention center in Yangon for five days.
While Japanese TV showed shocking video footage of the mortally
wounded Nagai and the international press published grainy photos of his body on the rain-damp street, China's media all but shunned the images.
Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis News was one of the few mainland papers that printed photos of a dying Nagai. But even the paper, one of China's boldest publications, did not dare show the whole photo. The image carried on their website was carefully cropped to cut out the armed soldier. The fleeing protesters had been reduced to a couple of sarong-clad legs. Strange editing indeed - as it removes all context from the image; the fact Nagai died covering a bloody crackdown of a civilian protest by armed police and troops.
And while a small number of papers did print the uncropped photo – the Beijing Times, for example, published both versions - the Nanfang Daily's treatment reflects the country's overall timid media response to the momentous events that unfolded on its doorstep last week.
Before the violence escalated on September 27, Chinese media coverage of Myanmar's unrest had been low key. Most reports were buried inside newspapers, despite the fact these protests attracted tens of thousands of people and were the biggest demonstrations in the neighboring country for 20 years. The bulk of coverage was and still is by Xinhua, one of the few news agencies with a Yangon bureau. On September 25 it reported the protests saying demonstrators carried banners calling for "an improvement to people's livelihoods, the release of prisoners and national reconciliation", but made no mention of their demands for democratic reform.
Most reports carried the bare bones of what was going on, ignored the protesters, instead quoting Myanmar government sources or official media. Initially they contradicted reports of a harsh crackdown. "Officials have consistently exercised restraint in handling these demonstrations and have not employed force to disperse the demonstrators," the Beijing Youth Daily said on September 27. TV news more or less ignored the protests.
UNITED NATIONS — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is sending the U.N. envoy to Myanmar back to the region next week for consultations with key governments on efforts to promote talks between the junta and the opposition, the U.N. said Thursday.
Ibrahim Gambari will begin his consultations in Thailand on Monday and then travel to Malaysia, Indonesia, India, China and Japan, "with a view to returning to Myanmar shortly thereafter," U.N. deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said.
Ban sent Gambari to Myanmar after troops crushed pro-democracy demonstrations last month. Gambari returned last week and told the U.N. Security Council he was concerned at reports of a continuing crackdown on protesters.
He urged Myanmar's leadership "to make the bold choices" to demonstrate its commitment to democracy and national reconciliation and said he said he was "cautiously encouraged" that the country's military ruler, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, would meet detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi "although with certain conditions."
Gambari stressed that he and Ban have called for talks without any preconditions to overcome "the high level of mistrust" between Than Shwe and Suu Kyi. They include giving up her calls for confronting the government and for imposing sanctions against it, Myanmar state media said.
Gambari, who met twice with Suu Kyi and once with Than Shwe during his visit, said the government had invited him to return to Myanmar in November, but indicated he might try to go sooner.
YANGON (AFP) - Myanmar's military junta said Friday that it "regrets" a UN Security Council statement rebuking the regime over its violent crackdown on peaceful protests, but vowed to cooperate with the world body.
In its first reaction to the UN statement, whose signatories included close ally China, the government also said it would press ahead with its own "road map" to democratic reform.
But it made no acknowledgement of the UN call for the release of political prisoners nor for the regime to engage in dialogue with detained pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.
"Myanmar regrets that the statement by the chairman of the UN Security Council was announced on October 11, although the situation in the Union of Myanmar did not harm regional or international peace and security," state television reported.
BANGKOK - Thailand’s army-installed prime minister said Saturday he doubted whether the United Nations alone would succeed in pushing Myanmar’s hardline junta to ease its crackdown on pro-democracy dissidents.
The UN Security Council on Thursday issued a statement deploring Myanmar’s violent suppression of the biggest anti-government protests in two decades, and called for the release of thousands of political prisoners.
But Surayud questioned whether UN action alone could prod Myanmar’s reclusive leadership to reform, saying Asian nations also must work with the world body to press the junta to change.
‘The recent calls from the UN Security Council have yet to lead to changes in Myanmar. Everybody still questions whether the UN is capable of influencing developments there,’ Surayud said during his weekly television interview.
‘Given the existing personnel and budget (devoted by the UN to Myanmar’s issues), I do not see any chance for such changes,’ he said.
The Thai premier, however, vowed to continue working with fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to push for a peaceful resolution in Myanmar.
‘A majority of the world community expects that ASEAN should be able to something on Myanmar,’ Surayud said.
‘Both Thailand and Myanmar are members of ASEAN. Three parties—ASEAN, the UN and powerful countries like China and India—must work together to bring about developments in Myanmar,’ he added.
Surayud’s comments were made as UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari headed to Bangkok as the first stop on an Asian tour to rally support for an international campaign for democracy in Myanmar.
Gambari is scheduled to meet with Surayud in Bangkok on Monday.
Thailand has formally protested to Myanmar over its crackdown against Buddhist monks and political dissidents, which left at least 13 dead after security forces violently put down rallies of up to 100,000 people into the streets of Yangon.
BRUSSELS - THE European Union is set to beef up its sanctions against Myanmar next week by introducing an embargo on timber, gems and metals, according to a draft text agreed on Friday.
EU foreign ministers could approve the import bans - which would notably affect Myanmar's teak and jade trade - when they meet in Luxembourg on Monday.
'In view of the seriousness of the current situation and in solidarity with the people of Burma/Myanmar, the EU deems it necessary to increase direct pressure on the regime through stronger measures,' according to the draft agreement, seen by AFP.
To that end the EU ban will cover the import of Myanmar timber, metals, minerals and precious and semi-precious stones, it said, adding that the measures are designed to 'do no harm to the general population.'
The European Union would at the same time confirm the continuation of 'substantial humanitarian aid programmes aimed at the most vulnerable populations.'
The EU already has broad sanctions in place against Myanmar's leadership and their families - with 375 people on a visa-ban, asset-freeze list - and officials have stressed the importance of putting pressure on neighbouring countries and in particular China and India.
The statement drawn up for the foreign ministers also 'strongly condemns the brutal crackdown on demonstrators' led by Buddhist monks in Myanmar recently and urges the regime to exercise restraint.
The EU measures will spare the energy sector and therefore the activities of the French group Total in the country.
The EU ministers will also express their support for the UN special envoy to Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, and back 'further UN engagement, including by the Security Council.' The document must be approved by the 27-nation bloc's ambassadors early on Monday before ministers can endorse it.
While flagging their intentions to boost sanctions in recent weeks, EU officials have stressed that they have a limited effect on a regime already greatly isolated by the West.
More than 90 per cent of Myanmar's business is done with Asian nations, especially China and India. -- AFP
WASHINGTON - UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari may not return to Myanmar until November to press the embattled nation into a move towards democratic reform, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said on Friday.
The timing means the UN envoy's second visit to Myanmar could come later than hoped for by Western diplomats, despite efforts to expedite negotiations on democratization.
Mr Gambari, who returned from his first visit to Myanmar last week, will set off this weekend on an Asian tour for talks with China, India, Japan, Malaysia and Indonesia, which all wield considerable influence with Myanmar's military junta.
The envoy's second visit was originally planned for mid-November. It was then brought forward, raising expectations that he could return to Myanmar before the end of this month.
But Mr Ban, in Washington to speak at a Peace Corps event, said in a Reuters Television interview that the second visit could occur in early November.
'I have instructed him to first visit the region to discuss with the leaders to create the necessary political atmosphere so that he will be able visit Myanmar sooner than mid-November,' he said.
'We are expediting the process and continuously will be engaged in bringing democratization of the Myanmar situation.' Myanmar's military rulers last month began a violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators led by Buddhist monks.
Local authorities said 10 people were killed but Western governments say the toll is likely much higher.
The UN secretary-general's comments came a day after China joined Western powers in a UN Security Council statement deploring Myanmar's crushing of pro-democracy demonstrations and calling for political change there. -- REUTERS
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) -- Prime Minister Gen. Soe Win, reviled for his role in a bloody attack on Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her followers in 2003, died Friday after a long illness, relatives and state media said. He was 59 and was said to have been suffering from leukemia.
The fourth-ranking member of the military junta, Soe Win was largely considered a figurehead, and his death was unlikely to cause a change in the regime's grip on power.
His death was reported as the junta continued its crackdown on democracy advocates that followed weeks of protests in the tightly controlled country.
He was nicknamed "the Butcher of Depayin" for his role in the 2003 attack on Suu Kyi and her followers in that northern town.
Details of the attack remain murky, but several dozen of Suu Kyi's supporters were believed killed when a mob of government supporters ambushed her motorcade. Soe Win was seen as masterminding the attack, according to diplomats, rights groups and government critics.
Mizzima News (www.mizzima.com)
October 12, 2007 - The Myanmar Airways International suspended its flights after the London based insurance company put a stop to its insurance coverage till the end of October.
The London Market Aviation Insurer of MAI's lesser Lion Air gave a notice to Burma's state-run airlines. It was "due to the recent crisis in Myanmar" which forced suspension of MAI's Bangkok and Malaysia flights, said the statement issued today by the airline.
"We are in the process of getting new aircraft as replacement," the statement added.
However, the flight to Singapore is still operating with MAI's code share partner 3K (Jetstar).
The airline previously told Mizzima that passengers decreased due to visa restrictions on tourists, anti-regime protests and the brutal crackdown in the country.
The airlines cancelled the flights to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur as of yesterday, the state run media said.
October 12, 2007 - The Rangoon Division Peace and Development Council is planning to hold a pro-regime rally in in Rangoon which will denounce recent protests and lend support to the outcome of the National Convention.
The Burma Army and police forces are deployed near Thuwanna Stadium where the rally is likely to be held tomorrow and also many checkpoints have been readied.
The regime is planning to force government employees, high school students and USDA members to attend the public meeting and all of them must go through many checkpoints.
"They order to attend the rally said 50 persons from each private factory would have to attend or else the license (to run factory) will be terminated," a manager from a factory in Shwepyithar township said.
Senior regime officials have been discussing withdrawal of the curfew which prohibits gathering of more than five people in the former capital.
"I think our township is arranging itself for our convenience. The Ward PDC members will go themselves and so will the USDA. I think only USDA and Swanah Shin will go together," a resident from North Okkalapa said.
The authorities have threatened municipal staff to attend this rally without fail otherwise they would be evicted from their staff quarters, a staff said.
The leaders of 'Union Solidarity and Development Association' (USDA) hinted that similar rallies will be held in Kyaikkasan ground. But observers in Rangoon said that it would be impossible as there are detention and interrogation centres on this ground.
The draft constitution, the first process in the junta's 7-point Road Map which maintains the role of the military, Tatmadaw in Burmese, to give the army legitimacy in future administration.
In such a pro-junta rally held in Myitkyinar recently, the people shouted "Our cause, our cause" instead of their prescribed pro-junta slogan at the closing session. This rare incident stunned the local authority.
To avoid such an incident again, they will screen all the attendees afterwards.
There is news circulating that some high school students are planning to protest against the pro-junta rallies to expose the bogus rallies after the brutal crack down on genuine people's protests against the junta.
October 12, 2007 - The Ministry of Defence and Communications will take over the Myanmar Post and Telecommunication near future, according to sources.
Tech savvy people splashed photographs of protests by monks and of the brutal crackdown around the world. Digital pictures and videos were uploaded in blogs embarrassing the Burmese military junta no end. This led the regime's plan to substitute army men in civilian posts at the MPT, sources said.
While the peaceful demonstrators were being beaten up and shot on streets of the biggest city Rangoon, on September 28, the junta shut down the internet to check the information flow.
However, believing that the mass protests are over and have been effectively controlled since Oct 4, the junta restored internet connection but it continues to be unstable.
The junta is scanning the internet and is on the lookout for anyone trying to send out information to the outside world.
Some cafes are warning users against surfing political sites because the MPT and Myanmar Teleport (formerly known as Bagan) are monitoring the net, an internet user said.
The news of protests had attracted employees of private business houses and some companies restricted the time of use of the internet for their work, according to an IT programmer .
October 12, 2007 - Forty five demonstrators, arrested during the nationwide protests in Burma, were sent to Thayet prison on Wednesday, eyewitnesses said.
The first batch of 29 prisoners comprising monks and women escorted by 20 police personnel were sent to Thayetin in motorboats from Aunglan-Thayet ferry jetty on Wednesday morning. Another batch of 16 were sent to the same prison at night.
"We saw men with clean shaven heads believed to be monks and the women. They were not sent by Z-craft but in military motorboats. The bus they used had 'Minbu-Ann' route written on it. Thy were escorted by uniformed policemen," an eyewitness recounted.
Those who were sent at night included demonstrators arrested in Magwe, Taungdwingyi, Natmauk, and Kyaukpadaung.
The Thayet prison opens at 5 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m. But by the order of the district PDC Chairman, the prison was instructed to receive under-trials and convicts any time, it is learnt.