Archive for the ‘Myanmar’ Category

Global Opium Production Rising As Economies Fall

November 17, 2008

Authorities are worried about an increase in poppy cultivation in the Golden Triangle, fearing that opium production in the region would be boosted due to the global economic slowdown.
Deputy secretary-general of the Narcotics Control Board (NCB) Pitaya Jinawat said yesterday that opium cultivation in Thailand, Laos and Burma has increased over the past three years.
By Subin Kheunkaew and Theerawat Khamthita
Bangkok Post 

He said poppy-growing areas in the country’s northern region, a prime cultivating area, increased from 700 to 1,800 rai last year and was expected to grow to 2,000 rai this year.

A significant increase in opium production in Laos and Burma has also been reported, he said.

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Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the Vienna-based ...
Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the Vienna-based U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, points to a map showing poppy cultivation in Afghanistan during a press conference in Rome, Friday, Nov. 14, 2008. High food prices are encouraging many Afghan farmers to switch to food crops and drop poppy cultivation, Costa said Friday. An oversupply of opium has pushed prices down 20 percent a year over the last four years, causing opium farmers’ income to decline. Poppy production remains high in the south of the country (red on map), where the Taliban-led insurgency is strongest, Costa said, but that 18 provinces went poppy-free this year (dark blue on map).(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)


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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Myanmar Activists Sorry to Lose Laura Bush

November 2, 2008

First Lady has been a bright light for human rights; especially in Myanmar…

From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON —  Activists opposing the military-run junta will lose a powerful ally in January when first lady Laura Bush moves out of the White House.

Voter dissatisfaction with President George W. Bush’s Republican Party could also cost them Myanmar’s fiercest congressional critic in Mitch McConnell. The Senate’s top Republican is battling to retain his seat in the face of Democrats intent on bolstering their control of Congress with a strong showing in Tuesday’s elections.


US First Lady Laura Bush, seen here October 13, 2008 at the ...
Laura Bush (L) with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
(AFP/File/Mandel Ngan)


Laura Bush and McConnell — who heads the panel responsible for financing international programs — have used their high profiles to draw attention to human rights abuses in Myanmar and the 13-year detention of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. They also have won tough sanctions aimed at isolating Myanmar, also known as Burma.

Activists in the country say her support has been invaluable.

“The world takes an interest in Myanmar’s ethnic issues because of her,” said Han Tha Myint, a spokesman for Myanmar’s opposition National League for Democracy. “It is moral support for us even though we are not clear how much of the support can translate into change.”

Three Buddhist monks pray at a pagoda in Twantay, near the former ...
Three Buddhist monks pray at a pagoda in Twantay, near the former capital of Myanmar, Yangon, on October 19. 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/Khin Maung Win)

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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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Owners Give Ransom; Pirates Release 22 At Sea

October 18, 2008

SEOUL (AFP) – Somali pirates released 22 sailors they kidnapped last month after the South Korean ship owner paid a ransom, an official said Friday.

Somali pirates prey on ships that pass through one of the most ... 

The eight South Koreans and 14 Myanmarese were freed Thursday. They had been held since their 15,000-tonne cargo ship was seized off the coast of the east African nation on September 10.

Koo Ja-Woo, an executive director of J and J Trust, which owns the ship, said his company paid an unspecified sum to the pirates through a foreign middleman with experience in dealing with the seizure of ships.

“As a result, we could secure the early release of the sailors. But I cannot disclose the amount,” he told Yonhap news agency.

J and J officials and South Korea’s foreign ministry were not immediately available for comment.

Somali pirates seized the Ukrainian cargo ship MV Faina -- which ...
Somali pirates seized the Ukrainian cargo ship MV Faina — which is laden with tanks and weapons — in September 2008. As Somalia sinks ever deeper into hunger and despair, attacking foreign ships bottle-necking into the Gulf of Aden is proving to be one of the few profitable activities in the country.(AFP/Jason R. Zalasky)

The ministry said earlier the South Koreans were expected to return home on October 26.

Somali waters are the world’s most dangerous for piracy. The International Maritime Bureau reported more than 24 attacks in the area between April and June alone.

Maritime experts say many attacks go unreported along Somalia’s 3,700 kilometres (2,300 miles) of largely unpatrolled coast. Pirates operate high-powered speedboats and carry heavy machine guns and rocket launchers.

A South Korean tuna ship with 25 crew was hijacked by Somali pirates in April 2006. The ship and its crew were released after four months when a ransom was paid.

Last year Somali pirates seized two South Korean vessels and 24 crew including four South Koreans.

The crew were released in November after six months in captivity. Local media reports said the pirates had demanded a ransom of five million dollars before reducing the sum to an undisclosed figure.

Puntland coastal guards stand on the deck during a sea-patrol ...
Puntland coastal guards stand on the deck during a sea-patrol near the northern port town of Bosasso October 17, 2008. Somali security forces freed a Panamanian ship from pirates two days after they killed one of the hijackers in a gun battle.REUTERS/Abdiqani Hassan (SOMALIA)

Puntland coastal guards gather after a sea-patrol near the northern ...

China issues blanket recall on dairy; Hong Kong toddler sick

October 14, 2008

(AP) China’s store shelves are being cleared of all milk and milk powder more than a month old, a huge recall that marks the latest government effort to restore consumer confidence after four babies died from drinking milk tainted with an industrial chemical.

A Chinese lab technician collects milk products suspected of ... 
A Chinese lab technician collects milk products suspected of being tainted for testing at a laboratory in Wuhan, central China in late September. China’s largest soft drinks maker, Wahaha, has said it is interested in buying the dairy company.(AFP/File)

In Hong Kong, authorities announced that another child has developed kidney stones after consuming contaminated products, bringing to eight the number of children in the territory sickened by Chinese dairy products.

All of mainland China’s milk powder and liquid milk produced before Sept. 14 was ordered pulled off the shelves to be tested by manufacturers, the official Xinhua news agency said.

“Regardless of the brand or the batch, they must be taken off shelves, their sale must be stopped,” Xinhua said, citing a notice issued by six government ministries and administrations.

It was the first time the government has issued a blanket recall of products since the tainted milk scandal began.

Yi Yongsheng holds his daughter Yi Xuan, right, as he speaks ...
Yi Yongsheng holds his daughter Yi Xuan, right, as he speaks about the death of his infant son, at their Xinxing home in China’s northern Gansu province, Sunday, Oct. 12, 2008. The death of Yi’s son from kidney failure was one of four China’s government has reported so far in a tainted milk scandal. Thousands of children were sickened after eating milk powder laced with the industrial chemical melamine.(AP Photo/Greg Baker)

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China Re-Issues Milk Product Recall In Effort To Say All Poison Food is Gone

October 14, 2008

BEIJING — The Chinese government ordered a recall on Tuesday of all milk products produced before Sept. 14 still on the shelves so the products can be tested for the toxic

chemical melamine.
File photo shows a woman feeding a baby on the outskirts of ... 
A woman feeds a baby on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar. Authorities said Tuesday they had removed seven imported dairy products from store shelves — one of them from China — after they were found to contain traces of melamine.(AFP/File/Khin Maung Win)
Melamine, a substance illicitly added to watered-down milk to artificially boost its protein count, has led to the deaths of at least three babies; at least 53,000 other children have fallen ill. Those statistics are weeks old, though, and the government has yet to release updated numbers, which are believed to be much higher.
The government announced limits for allowable traces of melamine last week. If the recalled products meet the new standards, they will be put back on the market, the government said. Dairy products thought to have a real risk of melamine contamination were already recalled weeks ago, right after the milk crisis first emerged. The recall announced Tuesday was an effort by the government to show the public that it was enforcing its new trace melamine limits.

Meanwhile, a lawyer based in Shanghai has filed a lawsuit in Gansu Province on behalf of a family whose 6-month-old son, Yi Kaixuan, died in May after drinking tainted baby formula. A handful of lawsuits have been filed on behalf of parents whose children have died or fallen ill from drinking tainted dairy products, but so far no court has accepted a case.

Separately, the Ministry of Health and the State Food and Drug Administration also announced Thursday that the brand of herbal drug suspected of killing three people recently was “tainted with bacteria,” Xinhua, the state news agency, reported. The drug, Siberian ginseng or ciwujia, was made by Wandashan Pharmaceutical, based in northeastern China.



Amnesty lays into China on rights before Olympics

April 2, 2008
By John Ruwitch Wed Apr 2, 3:06 AM ET

BEIJING (Reuters) – The Olympics have so far failed to catalyze reform in China and pledges to improve human rights before the Games look disingenuous after a string of violations in Beijing and a crackdown in Tibet, Amnesty International said.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC), foreign leaders and overseas companies engaging with China could appear complicit if they failed to speak out about the rights violations, the London-based watchdog said on Wednesday as the volume of criticism of China grows around the world.

Beijing signed up for the Games hoping they would showcase the country’s progress and national unity, but the Olympics year so far has seen pressure mount, chiefly over China’s policy towards Sudan and Myanmar and its human rights record, most recently in Tibet.

In and around Beijing, Chinese authorities have silenced and imprisoned human rights activists in a pre-Olympics “clean up,” Amnesty said.

Amnesty, which introduced a bandana-wearing monkey mascot to head its “Uncensor China” campaign, also said the crackdown on a rash of demonstrations in and around Tibet in recent weeks had led to “serious human rights violations.”

“These actions cast doubt on whether the Chinese authorities are really serious about their commitment to improve human rights in the run up to the Olympics,” Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International, said in a statement.

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Thailand’s new PM defends Myanmar

March 16, 2008

BANGKOK, Thailand – Thailand‘s new prime minister said Sunday Westerners were overly critical of Myanmar and that he had a newfound respect for the nation’s military leaders after learning they meditate like good Buddhists.

In this photo released by the Thai Spokesman Office, Thailand's ...
In this photo released by the Thai Spokesman Office, Thailand’s Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, left, and his Myanmar counterpart Gen. Thein Sein toast during a reception in Naypyitaw, Myanmar Friday, March 14, 2008. Samak was in Myanmar for a one-day visit in a bid to shore up economic ties between the two countries as Thailand is one of the biggest foreign investors and trading partners of military-ruled Myanmar.
(AP Photo/Thai Spokesman Office, HO) 

“Westerners have a saying, ‘Look at both sides of the coin,’ but Westerners only look at one side,” Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said in his weekly television talk show, two days after an official visit to Myanmar.

“Myanmar is a Buddhist country. Myanmar’s leaders meditate. They say the country lives in peace,” Samak said, noting that he has studied Myanmar for decades but just learned that members of the junta meditate. Both countries are predominantly Buddhist.

Myanmar’s junta has come under global criticism for its deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protesters last year and its detention of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, but Samak said he preferred to talk about bilateral trade not democracy during talks with junta chief, Senior Gen. Than Shwe.

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