Saturday, December 22, 2007

US Ambassador to Thailand, Ralph Boyce US policy on Myanmer

US Ambassador to Thailand, Ralph Boyce, his term in Thailand to end also defended Washington’s policy on Burma, saying: “What I think is that our policy is important for the people who are struggling inside Burma. We don’t follow policy necessarily to try to impact the generals; they are fairly impervious—impermeable even— to outside pressure, for good or bad, it seems.

“Even some of the countries that people call ‘enablers’ or their ‘closest protectors’ or whatever—it’s unclear, at the end of the day, just how much influence even they can have.”

There has been growing criticism of the US’s image and their policies. Incoming Asean Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan recently said that the US’s influence in the region was on the wane. And critics have pointed out that the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, twice canceled visits to attend Asean meetings where the US traditionally sends its highest State Department official.

Ambassador Boyce responded: “I think it would be a misinterpretation to suggest that Secretary Rice’s inability to attend the last two or three meetings was because of her lack of attentiveness. We have a lot on our policy agenda and there are geographic and time constraints that make it a huge investment for a US Secretary to come out for an Asean meeting. It’s not because we don’t take Asean seriously.”

The ambassador added that the current US administration has upgraded its attention on Asean as an institution, as a region, and to the bilateral relationships it enjoys with each of the Asean partners.

He admitted that the Chinese were more influential in the region; however, he welcomed the strides China had taken.

“I think that Chinese diplomacy is very active in the region, as it should be,” he said. “Some people call it the emergence of China; it’s really the re-emergence of China. It’s a more natural state of things.”

Ambassador Boyce noted that the US had spent the last 50 years as “the preeminent power in the region.” That was, he said, very unusual in world history and had evolved after the Second World War because all the other major powers were preoccupied internally or elsewhere.

“What it means to the US is that it’s more challenging for us to maintain our influence and, if other countries are going to be more active in the region, it means that we have to be more active too,” he added.

On Burma, the ambassador said that the UN envoys’ visits to Burma were “extremely important.”

However, when asked if the US wished to send a special envoy to the region to deal with the Burmese generals, he replied: “Too many envoys spoil the broth.”

“The regime claims they will deal only with the UN, and they reject a regional approach: they certainly reject any intervention from actors like the US or the UK or the EU,” said Boyce.

He also praised Thailand for its long-term policy on dealing with refugees.

“Everyone has been very attentive over the last decades to rumors that there were going to be major push-backs—whether it was with Cambodians, Vietnamese, Lao of various types, or Burmese of various types,” he said, concluding: “Thailand’s record is, in fact, pretty good on that score.”

Asked if the US would be willing to engage with Snr-Gen Than Shwe and the Burmese regime, Ambassador Boyce pointed out that an unpublicized meeting between senior US State Department officials and Burmese ministers had taken place some months before in Beijing.

Details of the talks were unknown, but Western diplomats said that they were cordial. However, the US did request the release of detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The ambassador said: “We engaged in Beijing—meetings that the Chinese brokered between the [Burmese] regime and ourselves; and as long as those discussions can produce something substantive as opposed to just ‘talk’—talking past each other—then I think we’re always ready to engage.”

Concluding the interview with a message of support to the people of Burma, the US ambassador said: “We are watching. Stay the course. We know the suffering. We will never change our policy about what is right in Burma. We are there.”
http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?cat_id=2

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

NLD says no sign of any dialogue

Congressional Gold Medal to Aung San Suu Kyi

Burmese opposition, the National League for Democracy, says that for one month there’s been no sign of any dialogue with the military government.

The spokesman for the League, Nyan Win, said he’d not been allowed to speak to the detained opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, since before her last meeting with a government minister on the nineteenth of November.

The United Nations said there had been progress towards a dialogue after.

Burmese Leader Aung San Suu Kyi gets highest honour - the congressional Gold Medal, the US House of Representatives has voted to award Burmese pro-democracy Leader.The bill passed 400-0, said the move was meant to send a message to Burma's military leaders. "We will continue to pressure the junta to release her and bring freedom... to the people of Burma," said Joseph Crowley, a Democrat.

Her work and dedication to the cause of freedom and individual liberty has earned her recognition throughout the world, including the Nobel Peace Prize.

"Today, the US House of Representatives showed her and the world that she has also won the hearts and minds of the US Congress."

This bill will now be referred to the US Senate, which must also back the measure.

Posted by Nksagar at 9:56 PM 0 comments

NLD says no dialogue -Congressional Gold Medal to Aung San Suu Kyi

Congressional Gold Medal to Aung San Suu Kyi

Burmese opposition, the National League for Democracy, says that for one month there’s been no sign of any dialogue with the military government.

The spokesman for the League, Nyan Win, said he’d not been allowed to speak to the detained opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, since before her last meeting with a government minister on the nineteenth of November.

The United Nations said there had been progress towards a dialogue after.

Burmese Leader Aung San Suu Kyi gets highest honour - the congressional Gold Medal, the US House of Representatives has voted to award Burmese pro-democracy Leader.The bill passed 400-0, said the move was meant to send a message to Burma's military leaders. "We will continue to pressure the junta to release her and bring freedom... to the people of Burma," said Joseph Crowley, a Democrat.

Her work and dedication to the cause of freedom and individual liberty has earned her recognition throughout the world, including the Nobel Peace Prize.

"Today, the US House of Representatives showed her and the world that she has also won the hearts and minds of the US Congress."

This bill will now be referred to the US Senate, which must also back the measure.

Posted by Nksagar at 9:56 PM 0 comments

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ashin Panyathami,U Indra Panya U MagindarMonks flee from Myanmar to evade arrest.

A Buddhist monk from Rangoon's Zathilaryama monastery, who took part in the September protests, fled from the manhunt launched by the Burmese military junta and arrived in Cox's Bazaar, Bangladesh.

Ashin Panyathami, a young monk from the Zathilaryama monastery in Rangoon, fled to Bangladesh along with more than 20 fellow monks, following the junta's relentless search to arrest and detain monks and protesters.

"As the authorities launched widespread search operations, more than 20 monks, had to hide near the Moe Yeik River for three days. After that we returned to our monastery but there the soldiers called more than 20 of us for interrogation," Ashin Panyathami, who arrived Cox Bazaar on December 5, told Mizzima during an interview.

"They took our photographs and asked us whether we had joined the protests. They told us not to join up again and threatened that we would be arrested if we did," added the young monk.

After arresting the abbot of their monastery, U Zarthila at the end of September, soldiers had continued their rampant crackdown by conducting raids in monasteries and had come to their monastery several times.

The young monk, who is an ethnic Arakan, said he left the monastery in Rangoon for his native home town in Arakan State for fear that authorities would continue raids and arrests.

Along with Ashin Panyathami, several monks went back to their native hometowns. However, authorities were reportedly looking for him to arrest as he possess photographs, which he had taken at the Maha Wizeyatheindaw monastery in Rangoon.

The young monk said, he finally left Burma for Bangladesh as authorities were conducting raids in several monasteries in Arakan searching for him. The monk said, he had to hide himself for five days and nights along Kin Chyaung River , and finally crossed the border to Bangladesh.

Similarly, on October 29, U Indra Panya and U Magindar from the Alodawpyih DamaSariya monastery, who had actively participated during the recent protests, fled to Bangladesh after authorities came in hot pursuit of the duo.

Bush Bans Gems wants San Suu Kyi to be released

President George Bush works out a strategy for the release of pro-democracy leader and Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners and for this the House of Representatives adopted sanctions against Burma's multi-million dollar gem and natural gas exports. Ms Suu Kyi's lawyer has called on Australia to take the regional lead in targeting sanctions against Burma's military.
United States sanctions on the economic interests of Burma's generals and companies conducting business in Burma are one step closer to being further strengthened, following the House of Representatives unanimous vote in favor of the JADE Act.

The Block Burmese JADE (Junta's Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act, while focusing its attention on the trade of gemstones originating from Burma, looks to close significant holes existing in current sanctions policy.

"Millions of dollars in gemstones that are exported from Burma ultimately enter the United States but the Burmese regime attempts to conceal the origin of the gemstones in an effort to evade the sanctions in the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003," according to the legislation.

"Burma's generals fund this repression of their own people by selling off the country's natural resources, especially oil and gems, leaving the Burmese people in poverty," said Democratic Representative Tom Lantos, sponsor of the bill and Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Relations.

If passed, the bill will ban the import of all gems originating from Burma.

In justification of the need for this bill, the House Committee on Foreign Relations states that while Burma is known to supply 90 percent of the world's rubies; only three percent of rubies entering the United States are listed as coming from Burma.

Further, 99 percent of a stone's value is said to come from the stone itself, with labor accounting for a mere one percent of the value. Therefore supporters of the legislation argue that the bill effectively targets economic interests of the Burmese state without significantly impacting the daily livelihood of Burma's citizens.

The Jewelers of America, representing over 11,000 stores nationwide, and several major retailers, have lent their support to the Act.

Another significant aspect of the bill is its targeting of the economic interests of Chevron Corporation, an American company actively engaged in the exploitation of Burma's energy resources.

The JADE Act will terminate tax deductions for Chevron's Burma investments. A move that it is hoped will prompt a domino effect among Chevron and its partners in Burma to desist in operations inside Burma due to rising costs and economic restrictions.

The regime's ability to make use of money laundering activities will also be negatively impacted by passage of the Act, in addition to a further freeze on assets associated with Burma's generals.

"The peaceful protesters of Burma are human rights heroes, and the reprehensible military dictators ruling them deserve to be nothing less than international pariahs for their dismal human rights record," reads a statement from Lantos' office. "I am deeply grateful that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle stood together today, shoulder-to-shoulder with the Burmese people as they struggle for freedom."

Upon final passage of the Act, Congressional annual review and renewal of the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003 will no longer be necessary.

It is widely expected that both the Senate and President will offer their full support to the JADE Act, at which time the legislation will go into effect.
Jared Genser, legal counsel for Burma's Nobel laureate and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi,says Well ultimately sanctions are only going to be as effective as the number of countries that are willing to put them on the military dictatorship. Historically the United States has had the strongest sanctions, although we are seeing stronger sanctions put in place by the European Union that were recently enacted and even tighter sanctions in this case in particular focusing on imports from Burma that go through third countries on their way here, such as gem stones which are polished in third countries. Australia has taken some important steps in recent weeks and I believe there's more that Australia can do, but what it has done already is put on a list of potential sanctions recipients, senior members of the military dictatorship, business owners who are tied into the military dictatorship as well to put in place financial sanctions against them to block assets they have in Australia and to prevent them from doing financial transactions through Australian banks. And that's a good first step.Australia has a critical role to play, obviously as a major power in the region and in its interacations with ASEAN and China.

China is Australia's top trading partner, the new Prime Minister Mr Rudd speaks fluent Mandarin, has extensive experience with the Chinese and therefore is very well placed to express his perspective to the Chinese government, and really the Howard government for some progress it might have made in other areas made virtually no progress on the question of Burma. The Australian government policy under Mr Howard had been a softly softly approach whereby engagement was the order of the day. But engagement didn't yield any substantive results and in his campaign for office Mr Rudd spoke publicly about the need to support US efforts to put further sanctions on Burma as well as put greater pressure on ASEAN and China to see real progress made in Burma. And so I think he needs to follow through on his campaign promises and lots of us around the world are watching closely to see how his new government takes shape.

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