Archive for the ‘junta’ Category

Prison Terms Cripple Myanmar Democracy Movement

November 16, 2008

In a devastating week for Myanmar’s democracy movement, dozens of its members have been sentenced to length prison terms, as the military-ruled government locks away writers and Buddhist monks — as well as musicians, a poet and at least one journalist.

By MICK ELMORE, Associated Press Writer

By the weekend, more than 80 had received sentences of up to 65 years — a move that seemed designed to keep them jailed long past the upcoming elections, activists and analysts said Sunday.

“They are clearing the decks of anyone who is likely to challenge their authority ahead of the election” in 2010, Larry Jagan, a Bangkok-based newspaper columnist and Myanmar analyst, said of the generals who rule the country.

Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Twenty-three ... 
Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Twenty-three pro-democracy activists arrested during anti-junta demonstrations in Myanmar last year were each sentenced to 65 years in jail.(AFP/MYANMAR NEWS AGENCY/AFP)

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Myanmar: Long sentences for democracy advocates

November 11, 2008

Courts in military-ruled Myanmar delivered a devastating blow Tuesday to the nation’s pro-democracy movement, sentencing two dozen activists to harsh prison terms that will keep them behind bars long past a 2010 election.

Associated Press

Fourteen members of the Generation 88 Students group were sentenced to prison terms of 65 years each, and a labor activist, Su Su Nway, was sentenced to 12 1/2 years. Ten people allied with Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy got jail terms of eight to 24 years.

Many of the activists were involved in protests last year that led to huge pro-democracy demonstrations that the army put down by force. According to U.N. estimates, at least 31 people were killed and thousands of demonstrators were detained. Many fled the country or went underground.

Most of the sentences were handed down in closed-court sessions. The lengths of the terms suggest the junta will pay little heed to calls from the U.N. and many Western nations to make its self-styled transition to democracy more fair and inclusive.

Amnesty International said the court actions were “a powerful reminder that Myanmar’s military government is ignoring calls by the international community to clean up its human rights record.”

“This sentencing sends a clear signal that it will not tolerate views contrary to its own,” the group said in a statement.

Amnesty and other international human rights groups say the junta holds more than 2,100 political prisoners, up sharply from nearly 1,200 in June 2007 — before the pro-democracy demonstrations.

The prisoners include Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest — as she has been on and off since 1989.

The European Union said Monday that the multiparty elections scheduled for 2010 will be seen as illegitimate unless the junta frees all political prisoners. Suu Kyi’s party won the most seats in a 1990 election, but the military refused to let it take power.

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Six Months after Myanmar Cyclone, Rebuilding Lags Due To Government Hastles

November 2, 2008

After the cyclone devestated Myanmar last May, the military junta governing the former Burma was so uncooperative and unhelpful that even international aid groups were delayed and hastled….

From the Associated Press

YANGON, Myanmar – Six months after Cyclone Nargis smashed into Myanmar‘s coastline, killing tens of thousands of people, aid groups say once-lagging relief efforts have picked up pace but the task of rebuilding and recovery is far from finished.

Foreign aid staffers were initially barred from cyclone-affected areas and the ruling military junta was criticized for its ineffective response to the May 2-3 disaster. During a visit by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in late May, it agreed to allow in some foreign aid workers and formed a “Tripartite Core Group” made up of the government, the U.N. and Southeast Asian countries to facilitate the flow of international assistance.

A Buddhist monk walks over the remains of his cyclone-destroyed ... 
A Buddhist monk walks over the remains of his cyclone-destroyed monastery in Kaunt Chaung. Six months since Cyclone Nargis lashed the secretive state of Myanmar – killing 138,000 people – the initial despair over the ruling junta’s inaction has been replaced by cautious optimism that more aid is reaching the country’s needy, the UN has said.(AFP/File/Lisandru)

Despite the slow initial response, “the relief effort for the first six months has been successful,” said Ramesh Shrestha, the representative in Myanmar for UNICEF, which has coordinated aid to women and children. “However, we cannot stop now.”

The U.N. said in a statement issued Sunday on behalf of the Tripartite Core Group that “there is a continued need for emergency relief, as well as support for early and long-term recovery efforts.”

Only 53.3 percent of the $484 million in relief money sought by a U.N.-coordinated appeal has been raised, it said.

The official death toll is 84,537, with 53,836 others listed as missing. Some 2.4 million people were severely affected by the storm, with the total damage estimated as high as $4 billion.

A major pressing issue is how survivors will be able to support themselves.

Recent visitors to the Irrawaddy Delta, the area worst hit by the storm, report that most cyclone victims have cooking utensils, mosquito nets and other basic necessities. But they express concern about opportunities to earn enough money to buy food.

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Pakistan: Musharraf and the Con Game

November 22, 2007

 By Robert Kagan
The Washington Post
Thursday, November 22, 2007; Page A37

There always seems to be a good reason to support a dictator. In the late 1970s, Jeane Kirkpatrick argued that it was better to support a “right-wing” dictator lest he be replaced by communists. Right-wing dictatorship — today some call it “liberal autocracy” — was in any case a necessary way station on the road to democracy. Communist totalitarians would never give up power and stifled any hope for freedom, but our friendly dictators would eventually give way to liberal politics.

The Reagan administration, and history, actually repudiated both sides of this doctrine. It turned out that right-wing dictators such as Ferdinand Marcos and the South Korean military junta, as other dictators before them, would only leave power if forced. Ironically, a communist leader in the Soviet Union was actually willing to take the steps that ultimately proved his system’s undoing.

During the Cold War, Kirkpatrick and many others, including most leading neoconservatives and many in the American foreign policy establishment, bought the dictator’s self-serving sales pitch. The dictator always argued that the choice was to support him or give the country to the communists. And he always made sure that this was the choice. Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua systematically eliminated the moderate, democratic alternatives to his rule because he knew that the Americans would support them against him. By the time the Carter administration worked up the gumption to force Somoza out, the Sandinista revolutionaries had helped Somoza squeeze out the middle and put themselves in a position to inherit the country.

Today, Pakistan‘s Gen. Pervez Musharraf is playing the old game, as is Egypt‘s Hosni Mubarak, and it appears to be working. Substitute radical Islamists for communists, and the pitch is the same: Apres moi, le deluge. If you force me out, the radical Islamists will win. And Musharraf is busily trying to ensure that this is the only option. He cracks down on moderates with good democratic credentials, and with far greater zeal than he has cracked down on al-Qaeda. If he can hold on long enough, he may so radicalize the opposition that no reasonably moderate alternative will be available.
Pakistan's purged Supreme Court demolished the final hurdle to President Pervez Musharraf's re-election, paving the way for him to become a civilian leader after eight years of army rule.(AFP/File/Tanveer Mughal)

This is one of the many flaws of “liberal autocracy.” Dictators are not good shepherds, leading their flock Moses-like to the promised land of democracy. When the choice is between the good of the country and continued rule, the autocrat almost always chooses himself. To prove that he is irreplaceable, he must destroy the opportunity to replace him, which means destroying or hobbling independent institutions, undermining the rule of law, pushing the population toward extremism — in short, doing the opposite of what the mythical “liberal autocrat” is supposed to do.

When Kirkpatrick outlined her case for supporting right-wing dictatorship, her prime example was the overthrow of the shah of Iran. Almost three decades later, this is still the example people point to. It is as if we learned nothing in the 1980s and 1990s, when the timely removal of right-wing dictatorships produced not radicalism but democratic moderation in the Philippines, El Salvador, South Korea and elsewhere.

Musharraf is not even like the shah of Iran. He is not the living embodiment of a regime, as the shah was. He is not irreplaceable. He is not the lone savior of a whole way of governance. He is but a general, and not an especially effective one at that.

There are other generals. With all the billions of dollars in aid the United States provides to Pakistan, it ought to be possible to discuss with the Pakistani military alternatives to the man who so poorly serves their interests. Musharraf may be willing to lose American aid in order to remain in power, but that is unlikely to seem attractive to the men who work for him. It ought to be possible to find a general who is willing to let Pakistan return to a democratic path and meanwhile do a better job of fighting Pakistan’s real enemies.

Much is riding on the Bush administration’s ability to steer its way through this transition in Pakistan. President Bush‘s claim that Musharaf can be trusted to lead Pakistan toward democracy is not credible. In its better moments, the United States has known when to tell such leaders that their time was up. If the administration cannot muster the courage or skill to replace this eminently replaceable man in the name of Pakistani democracy, all because it fears the alternative, then it had better cease the absurd rhetoric about democracy promotion. It had also better get used to a greater Middle East and Muslim world where there are only two types of regimes: radical Islamists and stubborn dictatorships. That, presumably, is not the legacy Bush wants to bequeath to his successor.

Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund, writes a monthly column for The Post.

Burma: After the Uprising; Junta Crackdown

October 24, 2007

 By Jill Drew
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, October 24, 2007; Page A01

RANGOON, Burma, Oct. 23 — She does not know if the police have her picture. But that uncertainty has not eased her fear.

Twice soldiers have entered this woman’s Rangoon neighborhood. They came at night, with photos taken during pro-democracy demonstrations. “They look at everyone and then they take you,” she said in a low voice, speaking on condition she not be identified. “I don’t sleep.”

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US diplomat calls on China, India to press Myanmar

October 23, 2007

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Senior US diplomat John Negroponte on Tuesday said China and India had a duty as Asian powers to suspend arms or energy sales to Myanmar‘s military regime over its political repression.

“Now  is the time for Beijing and New Delhi to forgo energy deals that put money in the pockets of the junta and suspend weapons sales to this regime,” Negroponte said in a speech in Washington.”This is the burden of maintaining the credibility of the United Nations and the international system,” said the deputy secretary of state at a conference on Asia at the American Enterprise Institute, a right-leaning US think tank.

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Myanmar still in fear as curfew lifted

October 22, 2007

YANGON (AFP) – Residents in Yangon on Sunday welcomed the end of a curfew imposed on the eve of Myanmar‘s bloody crackdown on peaceful protests, but voiced fears in private over the country’s iron-fisted junta.

The government ended the curfew Saturday in Yangon, Myanmar‘s main city, where authorities suppressed pro-democracy protests led by Buddhist monks in late September, killing at least 13 people and jailing about 3,000.

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Bush announces more Burma sanctions

October 20, 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) — For the second time in two months, President Bush announced sanctions against Burma to punish the military-run government and its backers for the recent violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

Bush ordered the Treasury Department Friday to freeze the financial assets of additional members of the repressive military junta. He also acted to tighten controls on U.S. exports to Burma, also known as Myanmar, and called on the governments of China and India to do more to pressure the government of the Southeast Asian nation.

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Burma junta rallies against democracy

October 14, 2007

Reuters News Agency
October 14, 2007  

RANGOON, Burma – Burma’s junta staged a massive pro-government rally in its main city yesterday and arrested a top dissident as its relentless and ruthless response to last month’s pro-democracy uprising showed no signs of easing.

Htay Kywe, a prominent student activist from an uprising in 1988, was detained overnight with three others in one of the many raids still being conducted by police more than two weeks after soldiers were sent in to crush demonstrations.
The 39-year-old, a leading light in the so-called “88 Generation Students Group,” had managed to remain at large since 13 of his comrades were arrested in a series of midnight swoops on Aug. 21.

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Junta holds rally and detains activists in Burma, Myanmar

October 13, 2007

YANGON, Myanmar: (AP) The junta in Myanmar junta held a massive government-orchestrated rally Saturday in Yangon, as security forces kept cracking down on pro-democracy protesters by rounding up some of the country’s most prominent political activists.

The rights group Amnesty International said four activists, who led pro-democracy marches several weeks ago and then went into hiding, were arrested early Saturday in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city.

Amnesty said it did not have details of the arrests, which could not be independently confirmed.

The rights group said it feared for their safety.

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