Saturday, March 14, 2009

Aung San Suu Kyi as “Beacon of Hope" Clinton

US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, on Thursday called Burma’s imprisoned Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, a “Beacon of Hope”, for people around the world.

Clinton in her speech, at the State Department on eve of Women’s History Month on Thursday, Clinton encouraged women globally to draw inspiration from courageous women, including Burmese pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.“Aung San Suu Kyi, whom I mentioned yesterday and I mention as often as I can, because having been in prison now for most of the past two decades, she still remains a beacon of hope, strength and liberty for people around the world,” Clinton said.

On Wednesday, during International Women’s Day celebrations, Clinton expressed solidarity with Aung San Suu Kyi and other Burmese women, who are prisoners of conscience.

Clinton said that she expressed her solidarity with “…especially Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been kept under house arrest in Burma, for most of the past two decades, but continues to be a beacon of hope and strength to people around the world.”

“Her example has been especially important to other women in Burma, who have been imprisoned for their political beliefs, driven into exile, or subjected to sexual violence by the military,” Clinton added.

Clinton, with successive US governments, has time and again called on Burma’s military junta to release political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and kick-start an all inclusive and meaningful political dialogue.

The United States has also called on the junta to improve human rights conditions in the country, and as punishment for the junta’s failure has imposed strict economic sanctions on Burma.

Political critics pointing out the ineffectiveness of sanctions to induce desired behavioural change in the Burmese Junta, Clinton, during her first trip to Asia,after she took office in January, hinted that the US was reviewing its policy.

Burma’s ruling junta, who are poised with plans for a general election slated for 2010, said it was steadily implementing a seven-step roadmap to democracy.

Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory in the 1990 general elections, has so far made no comment on their participation in the upcoming general elections, which is the fifth step of the junta roadmap.

French Minister Rama Yade visit Thailand

French government minister responsible for human rights issues,Rama Yade, on Thursday, an outspoken critic of the Burmese regime, began a three-day visit to Thailand on Thursday, during which she will discuss the Burma question with Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya. she will discuss the Burma question with Thai Foreign Minister Kasit PiromyaYade, Rama Yadea minister of state in the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, will also visit a refugee camp housing about 20,000 Burmese, most of them Karenni.

A French Foreign Ministry statement said that apart from bilateral issues Yade would discuss with Kasit the Burma situation.

The statement said the objective of her visit to Ban Mai Nai Soi refugee camp in northern Thailand’s Mae Hong Song Province was to strengthen cooperation between the Thai government and major donors of aid to refugees, including the European Union.

Rama Yade is a 32-year-old career politician who was born in Senegal, West Africa. She has made clear her concern for events in Burma at a number of international gatherings, and at an Asean summit in Singapore in November 2007, two months after the September uprising, she said it was time the grouping tackled the challenges posed by Burma.

“After the tragic hours of repression of the pro-democracy movement, fragile hope has appeared for the people of Burma,” Rama Yade said at the summit. “It is naturally for them to maintain and develop it by envisioning the prospects for the future.”

She said she was convinced the EU and Asean can work together for change in Burma. “I’m certain, at any rate, that we must do so, in the interest of the people of Burma,” she said.

In an article carried by the English-language daily Bangkok Post on Thursday, Yade said France and the EU, “far from preaching,” want to “stand alongside Asean, which at the Cha-am/Hua Hin summit recently reaffirmed its wishes for Burma: democracy, freedom and co-operation with the international community.”

France and the EU also wanted to “give the efforts of the United Nations Secretary General every chance,” she said.

“Expectations will, of course, remain high with respect to Burma, where we share the hope of a return to democracy and freedom, for Aung San Suu Kyi, for all political prisoners and for the population as a whole, and with freedom, the hope of a return to economic development,” she said in the article.

“We are willing to assist and support a genuine process of democratisation that respects the choices of the Burmese after an inclusive dialogue between the authorities and the opposition that everyone hopes for.

“We hold out our hand to people of goodwill in Burma to accompany it in the best possible way on its own path towards freedom.”

The regime’s refusal of cooperation angered the French government, and a joint statement by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the Ministry of Defense said: “France reiterates that in her eyes nothing can possibly justify disaster victims seeing themselves denied the basic right to benefit from the necessary aid and stresses her commitment to the implementation of the ‘responsibility to protect’ principle under all circumstances.”

Friday, March 6, 2009

Thailand exempts tourist visa fee for 42 countries

Thailand, which has been reeling under internal political turmoil since last year, decided to exempt the fee for tourist visa applications for 42 countries, including military-ruled Burma, as part of its promotion of tourism.

“It is about promoting tourism in Thailand, while it is facing the global economic crisis,” the immigration official told Mizzima on Wednesday.

An official at the Thai Immigration Bureau Head Office said, the exemption was part of Thailand’s plan to boost its tourism industry, which was severely affected by political unrest, particularly by the seizure of its international airport by demonstrators in November last year.

Currently, Thailand gives Visa on Arrival for citizens of 20 countries for a stay not exceeding 15 days and citizens of another 42 countries are given a visa-free stay in Thailand, for 30 days.

However, those who wish to stay longer than those periods are required to apply for visas, which give a standard 60 days, at the Thai embassies or diplomatic missions abroad before their arrival in Thailand, the official said.

The Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry, in its press release on Wednesday, said the decision to exempt fees for tourist visas was passed by the Cabinet in January. And the exemption would be effective from March 5 to June 4.

Meanwhile, a Burmese tourist appreciated Thailand’s new plans but said it would not attract Burmese travellers, as the military-ruled country was also reeling under the global financial crisis.

"We appreciate it [exemption on tourist visa] but we have to wait and see how it goes,” the tourist said.

He added that only a few Burmese people visit Thailand officially with a Visa, while the larger majority cross over the borders and smuggle themselves into Thailand to seek better employment.Inputs Mizzima

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Bombs explode in Rangoon

Two bombs exploded in the space of an hour in Padomma Park, Sanchaung, Rangoon and at the Hledan bus stop.The first bomb exploded in Padomma Park, Sanchaung on March 3 at 9:45 p.m. It was so loud that it could be heard from even half mile away but there was no casualty.

When the Mizzima reporter reached the blast scene, the area was being combed by security teams comprising MI personnel, traffic police and local policemen. Howeever security was not beeefed up so people from nearby places came and watched the combing operation.

But at about 11 p.m. after being alerted, the security team hurriedly left the place and rushed to Hledan junction.It is reported that another bomb exploded at Hledan bus stop on the Rangoon-Insein bus route.The Rangoon-Insein road was sealed as soon as the security team arrived at Hledan from Myenigon.An eyewitness said the bomb exploded at 10:50 p.m. and it could be heard from San Yeik Nyein bus stop, half a mile away from the blast.

The Insein Road was cut off near 'Win' restaurant between San Yeik Nyein bus stop and Hledan bus stop.It is learnt that this bomb exploded in front of a copier shop near the Traffic Police office at Hledan bus stop (Rangoon-Insein lane side, eastern side of the road). When the bomb exploded, a bus of route No. 97 coming from Rangoon downtown had just stopped at the bus stop with only eight passengers onboard. There was no casualty but the blast ripped off the roof of the bus stop which was flung a few feet, an eyewitness from a shop opposite the road said.

People from nearby places came to the blast site but they were pushed back by the police. Arguments and brawls were witnessed at the bomb blast site when the police started pushing them forcibly out of the scene.

'Whole Burma United Revolutionary Front' (WBURF), has claimed responsibility for yesterday's bomb blasts in Rangoon, according to a statement issued today.Their statement No. 2/2009 sent to Mizzima through email reveals these serial bomb blasts are the first stage of the 'battle cry' for toppling the military dictators and they were ready to escalate such attacks in future.Since the 'Burmese people' are devout citizens, they do not want terrorism. However, in the past, the ruling junta has ruthlessly killed peaceful demonstrators, who were struggling for freedom from their plight, the statement says.WBURF said that peaceful demonstrations, issuing statements, asking for concrete action from the UN and foreign governments, would not work towards the emergence of a civilian government and elimination of current general crises faced by the people in Burma. Therefore, they have launched this ‘retaliatory bomb blast’ measure, the statement says.They could not accept the proposed 2010 general elections, which would only help prolong military rule.They also did not accept the release of only a handful of political prisoners in the recent amnesty for over 6,000 prisoners. If the UN, foreign governments and NGOs blindly supported this move, they would be the most pitiful blind people groups in the world, the statement ironically said.

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