Burma Sanctions

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Burma Sanctions

ตั้งหัวข้อ  ฅนไท on Thu Jul 01, 2010 6:42 pm

US Senate Committee Votes to Renew Burma Sanctions

WASHINGTON — The US Senate Finance Committee voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to renew a ban on the import of products to the US from Burma for one more year, citing human rights abuses by the Burmese military junta.

“As long as the Burmese junta continues to abuse and suppress its people, the United States needs to continue to join our trading partners in standing up for the Burmese people and supporting human rights,” said Senator Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, soon after the committee voted 22-1 to renew import restrictions contained in the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003.

“These sanctions, together with the sanctions imposed by several of our trading partners, put necessary pressure on the Burmese junta to stop its gross mistreatment of the Burmese people and abide by international human rights standards,” Baucus said.

The committee statement said that since 1988, Burma has been ruled by an autocratic military regime known as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). The State Department reported that the SPDC maintains its power by suppressing opposition groups, severely limiting freedom of speech and other personal freedoms of the Burmese people, committing gross human rights violations and interfering with the judiciary.

The US Senate Finance Committee has voted to renew the import ban every year since 2003.

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Re: Burma Sanctions

ตั้งหัวข้อ  sunny on Thu Jul 01, 2010 11:25 pm

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Re: Burma Sanctions

ตั้งหัวข้อ  sunny on Fri Jul 09, 2010 1:00 pm

EU Sanctions on Tay Za's Son Upheld
http://www.irrawaddy.org/highlight.php?art_id=18909

BANGKOK—In a May 19 court judgment that went almost unnoticed, Pye Phyo Tay Za, the son of junta-linked businessman Tay Za, lost a legal bid to have EU sanctions against him overturned and was ordered to pay the court costs for the Council of the European Union.

Pye Phyo had argued that he is neither a member of Burma's military government nor associated with it, and does not benefit from “the administration of that government.” His lawyers, London-based law firm Carter-Ruck, claimed that “neither the applicant [Pye Phyo] nor his father received any benefits from the regime.”

But Tay Za is widely-regarded as having built a multifaceted, multi-billion dollar business empire based on close connections with Burma's ruling military, including junta-chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe.

And in a statement that may have undermined Pye Phyo's own case, his lawyers also argued that, “the fact that the applicant is the son of a person whom the Council considers to have benefited from the military regime of Myanmar [Burma] does not give him the requisite connection with that regime.”

Similarly, Pye Phyo claimed that his two-year shareholding in two of Tay Za's Singapore-listed companies, “does not show that he benefited from any advantages that his father’s companies may have received from the military regime in Myanmar.”

In rebutting the contention that neither Tay Za nor his son Pye Phyo benefit from the regime, the opposing lawyers said: “As regards family members of such leading business figures, it may be presumed that they benefit from the functions exercised by those businessmen, so that there is nothing to prevent the conclusion that such family members also benefit from the economic policies of the government.”

In light of fears that Pye Phyo's attempt to have EU sanctions against him lifted was a ruse to enable Tay Za to find a way around sanctions, the Council said that, “the applicant was aware of the reasons for which such restrictive measures specifically apply to him, since he states in paragraph 37 of the originating application that there may be a risk of his father circumventing the freeze on his own assets by transferring his funds to other family members."

Pye Phyo contended that he “does not frustrate the process of national reconciliation, respect for human rights or the democratization of Myanmar,” reminding the Council that he has not been involved in politics or government inside Burma.

But his younger brother, Htet Tay Za, reportedly bragged in a notorious 2007 email, sent in response to new US sanctions on the junta, that even though "the US bans us, we're still [expletive deleted] cool in Singapore. We're sitting on the whole Burma GDP. We've got timber, gems and gas to be sold to other countries like Singapore, China, India and Russia."

Tay Za often flies to Singapore on business, where both Pye Pho and Htet were schooled. Two large banks in the city-state—OCBC and DBS—have denied functioning as repositories for billions of dollars of gas revenues derived from the Yadana pipeline project.

According to Mark Farmaner of the Burma Campaign UK, the case and outcome “gives an indication that stronger, carefully targeted sanctions could have an impact,” but adds that carrots should be put on the table as well as an incentive toward reform.

EU sanctions on Burma were renewed under the rubric of the “Common Position” recently. The measures are criticized for being weak and insufficiently-well targeted in some quarters, while elsewhere it is argued that sanctions have not pushed the junta toward reform, and so a new “engagement” approach is needed.

Still others say that it is not sanctions per se that are the problem, but the role of government and business in China, India, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, all of which offer political and commercial alternatives to the junta and thereby undermine the sanctions.

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Re: Burma Sanctions

ตั้งหัวข้อ  sunny on Sat Jul 17, 2010 4:12 pm

Are 'Smart' Sanctions Making Burmese Dumber?
Friday, July 16, 2010

In the 15 years since sanctions against Burma's ruling regime began to come into force, the Western countries that impose them have made an effort to make them smarter—that is, better designed to target the interests of country's rulers, while minimizing their impact on ordinary citizens. Recently, however, two cases involving the children of powerful figures in the country's ruling elite have raised questions about just how smart these sanctions are.

Last month, Australia's federal court ruled that Zin Mon Aye, the 25-year-old daughter of Brig-Gen Zin Yaw, a senior Burmese military official, could not remain in the country because of sanctions against members of the junta and their families. And in May, Pye Phyo Tay Za, the son of junta-linked businessman Tay Za, lost a legal bid to have EU sanctions against him overturned—an effort mounted, it is is believed, because he wanted to continue his studies in the UK or another EU country after completing his undergraduate education in Singapore.

It is an open secret in Burma that despite their anti-Western rhetoric, members of the country's elite want their children to study in the West. This should really come as no surprise: After all, these are people who are accustomed to having nothing but the best. While Russia, China and Singapore are good enough places to acquire the technical and administrative skills needed to keep the military bureaucracy functioning, they do not offer the sort of top-notch education that would appeal to parents who like to think of their own offspring as naturally belonging among the best and the brightest.

For most Burmese, of course, access to a real education is the stuff of dreams. According to a 2007 report by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, education accounted for just 0.5 percent of Burma's national budget, while health care received an even punier 0.4 percent. Compare this with the 40 to 60 percent that goes to the military and you get a pretty clear picture of the junta's priorities. While the regime occasionally likes to make a show of reprimanding public schools for the rampant practice of forcing parents to make private payments to keep their children enrolled in the state-supported education system, it is obviously the generals themselves who are robbing Burmese children of their right to learn.

This is why it is hard to feel too much sympathy for the privileged children of the generals and their cronies when they are denied a chance to study at world-class universities. Indeed, it seems particularly fitting that they should feel, in some small measure, some of the pain that has been inflicted upon the vast majority of their far less fortunate compatriots. Burma is full of promising young people whose futures have been blighted by a lack of educational opportunities. Why should the children at the top of this grossly unfair social order be any different?

But even if you believe that this is no more than a case of just deserts, you have to wonder how it benefits Burma to deny anyone access to a decent education. It is not as if studying overseas is the same as living a life of luxury paid for with ill-gotten gains—something that some of the spoiled progeny of the generals seem to regard as their birthright.

Education is, at its best, a transformative experience, capable of reshaping minds in ways that can make a real difference not only to students themselves, but also to the society they belong to. If the son or daughter of a general goes away to study in the West and returns with a deeper appreciation of democratic values, this can only be a good thing. And if they are able to pass these values on to their peers and their parents, that would be even better.

It is also worth asking whether it is fair to punish the young for the sins of their fathers. In her defense, Zin Moe Aye’s lawyer argued that his client was “being punished for something of which she is innocent.” He also claimed that she was “estranged from her parents because of her father's association with the brutal Burmese military dictatorship” and that she was not financially dependent on her parents.

If true, this does indeed make it harder to argue that she deserves to be treated as persona non grata in Australia. But before we conclude that she is an innocent victim of guilt by association, we should bear in mind that she was given an opportunity to make her case in court, and that ultimately, she did not do so very convincingly.

However, since Burma needs all the well-educated citizens it can get, we would strongly encourage other children from the upper echelons of Burmese society—even those with unsavory connections—to try their best to persuade the rest of the world that they deserve to enjoy the benefits of a democratic society.

In other words, like the less privileged who must compete against all odds for scholarships to study abroad, they must learn to fight for what they want instead of expecting to have it handed to them.

Even if they lose, there is still a valuable lesson to be learned: that the problem is not with the laws of their would-be hosts, but with the practices and policies of those ruling closer to home.

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Re: Burma Sanctions

ตั้งหัวข้อ  sunny on Sat Jul 17, 2010 4:28 pm

Vietnam’s Businesses Advised How to Beat West’s Burma Sanctions
Saturday, July 17, 2010

Vietnam is giving advice to its business enterprises on how to get around Western economic sanctions against Burma.

Details of the advice were disclosed at a business forum in Ho Chi Minh City this week at which Vietnam’s ambassador to Burma was present.

US and EU sanctions “pose difficulties in making or getting payments,” ambassador Chu Cong Phung told the meeting.

“To get around the problem, Vietnamese firms should strictly follow guidelines from the Vietnamese embassy in Myanmar [Burma] and the Ministry of Industry and Trade and do financial transactions only through designated banks,” Phung was quoted by the official news agency VNS as saying.

Many of the Western sanctions focus on limiting financial activities by isolating junta-controlled Burmese banks.

The Bank for Investment and Development of Viet Nam has opened a representative office in Burma, said Phung, aimed at “smoothing the way for financial transactions and [to] boost investment and trade between the two countries.”

The bank’s Burma branch is still awaiting junta clearance to operate.

Vietnam has in recent months been intensifying its business connections with Burma, although it is starting from a low base. Last year bilateral trade was valued at a mere US $74 million, according to Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade in a report this month.

But in the first half of this year, the trading values had reached almost $60 million, said VNS.

Within the last six months Vietnam has intensified its commercial links with Burma, sending trade delegations, investing in a 200,000 hectare rubber plantation project, and starting up a direct service with Vietnam Airlines.

Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung made a three-day visit to Burma in April to promote what he termed “cooperative relations.”

Thailand’s Abhisit Seeks to Underline Trade Ties with Burma

Thailand is set to follow in Vietnam’s footsteps by ignoring Western sanctions against Burma, which will be the first stop of a worldwide tour by Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajjiva to drum up new trade and investment in the wake of his country’s political turmoil.

Abhisit’s visit follows talks between Burmese and Thai businesses via the Thai-Myanmar Business Council.

Thailand remains Burma’s biggest trading partner, primarily through the purchase of large volumes of gas, but is also involved in a wide range of commercial interests from the agricultural sector to construction for tourism.

Abhisit has said he aims to discuss the Burma junta’s promised national elections and the fate of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, but analysts suggest that trade will be at the heart of the visit, expected in early August.

“There are two imperatives for the Thai prime minister: one, he wants to send messages out that Thailand is open for business after the street protest chaos in Bangkok that held world headlines for so long, and two, members of Asean [the Association of Southeast Asian Nations] are anxious to capitalize on the loosening of trade barriers within the bloc,” a trade diplomat with a Western embassy in the Thai capital told The Irrawaddy this week.

“We all know how committed Asean countries are to promoting democracy in Burma,” the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said with sarcasm.

Burma’s Rice Exports Slump this Year after 2009 Surge

Rice exports from Burma slumped in the first six months of this year to barely more than one-third of the volume shipped out in the first half of 2009.

The sharp drop comes after the Burmese regime announced plans to dramatically boost exports via a newly created Myanmar Rice Industry Association (MRIA).

Export volume to the end of June this year was just 276,180 metric tons, according to figures published this week by the government and the Myanmar Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

In the same period of 2009, Burma reportedly shipped out 750,100 tons, and topped 1 million tons for the whole of 2009.

No official reason has been given for the drop, although MRIA chairman Chit Khine was quoted by Reuters as saying that a world glut pushing down prices had deterred exports.

Burma’s rising exports prompted alarm earlier this year at the Thai Rice Millers Association, which warned that rising volume sales could affect Thailand’s exports, which are the world’s biggest.

However, a study by Burma economy watcher Sean Turnell, a professor at Australia’s Macquarie University, says more than 80 percent of exported Burmese rice is low-quality, broken rice which can find customers only in poor African countries.

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Re: Burma Sanctions

ตั้งหัวข้อ  sunny on Tue Jul 20, 2010 4:22 am

US State Department Defends Military Aid to Cambodian Army

Robert Carmichael | Phnom Penh

A senior U.S. State Department official visiting Cambodia defended U.S. support for Cambodia's military on Sunday. His comments follow strident criticism by a leading opposition parliamentarian over U.S. support for Cambodia's military.

The Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, William J. Burns, was in Cambodia this weekend to return seven looted antiquities recovered by U.S. officials.

Burns's visit coincides with the 60th anniversary of the establishment of U.S.-Cambodian diplomatic ties.

It also comes during a two-week military exercise in Cambodia involving more than 1,000 troops from 23 Asia-Pacific nations and the United States. It is part of the Global Peace Operations Initiative, a U.S.-run effort to improve peacekeeping skills among other nations.

But some Cambodian military units, including the tank unit hosting the provincial exercise, stand accused of human rights abuses.

Earlier this month Human Rights Watch said it was "outrageous" that the United States was supplying millions of dollars of equipment to army units, and undermined U.S. protests against forced evictions and land-grabbing.

Some local politicians are also displeased. Opposition M.P. Mu Sochua condemned American support for the Cambodian military.

"This is a huge insult to the people of Cambodia," said Mu Sochua. "This is not about helping democracy in Cambodia - this is about serving the US interests in the region."

At a news conference on Sunday, Burns stressed that all of America's military relationships were consistent with U.S. law, and said his government carefully vetted all participants.

But Mu Sochua said Washington was evading its responsibility. She said the U.S. Department of Defense had lied when it told Congress that none of Cambodia's military units were guilty of human rights violations.

"I am extremely disappointed by President Obama for allowing this to happen in Cambodia," she added.

Mu Sochua said donors, who earlier this year pledged more than $1 billion to Phnom Penh, must tie aid to human rights and democracy.

She said failing to do so meant the international community was failing in its obligations to Cambodia.

Mu Sochua's comments came Thursday as she awaited possible arrest for refusing to pay a fine levied in a defamation case filed by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The court fined her $4,000 after ruling that she had defamed Hun Sen by announcing her plan to sue him for defamation over comments he had made.
Her case was thrown out of court, but Hun Sen went on to win his.

She said the case was highly political, and was further evidence that democracy was being undermined by the ruling party.

William Burns alluded to her case when he said the political arena was a better venue for resolving such disputes than the courts. Freedom of expression, said Burns, was "an essential value for any healthy political society".

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Re: Burma Sanctions

ตั้งหัวข้อ  sunny on Wed Jul 21, 2010 9:33 am

Cambodian debt to the United States: Ring of consecrated sand

July 21st, 2010
Author: Ernest Bower, CSIS

Phnom Penh was a small town in 1969, but one that writhed with intrigue worthy of the Ramayana, the ancient Sanskrit epic that would redden Shakespeare’s cheeks even as he sat with pen over scroll conceiving Act III of Richard III.




As the Vietnam War raged to the east, its tendrils crept down the alleys and creek beds each night as darkness fell. Phnom Penh joined other restive capitals in Southeast Asia as a setting for casting key characters in the Cold War drama. In many some ways, Cambodia has yet to shake that legacy. Unfortunately, in lieu of a US strategy for ASEAN that would provide guidance and rationale for assessing complicated situations around the region, short-sighted US debt policy and narrowly focused legislators on Capitol Hill are driving hopes for American engagement in Cambodia into the ground and dead-ending opportunities for creativity and diplomacy.

This is the story of a problem that can be fixed.

As dominoes teetered in neighbouring countries, the man who came out on top—at least temporarily—of that internecine and uniquely Khmer spasm of Cold War backstabbing was a general named Lon Nol. In return for his Machiavellian willingness to slit the throats of North Vietnamese Communists and their alleged acolytes among the left-leaning Cambodian nationalists, as well as betray his former mentor, Cambodia’s fickle and socialist-inclined King Norodom Sihanouk, the United States supported Lon Nol in various ways.

One of those thrusts, implemented at a time when the United States did have a clear and well-articulated vision of its goals for mainland Southeast Asia, was agricultural aid. To be more precise, US$276,211,806 worth of cotton, edible oils, feed grains, rice, tobacco and tobacco products, and wheat and wheat flour were given as aid to Lon Nol’s government at a rate of 3 per cent interest. Lon Nol and his supporters needed the supplies badly because, from 1970 to 1975, his regime folded in upon Phnom Penh and was literally encircled by a genocidal Khmer Rouge regime that had quickly taken control of the Cambodian countryside under their notorious leader, Pol Pot.

Lon Nol did not last long. In 1975, in desperation and influenced by Buddhist futurists and secular soothsayers, he ordered a thin line of consecrated sand ringed around Phnom Penh to protect it from the Khmer Rouge. By then, the CIA and other US entities, prioritizing staunching the flow of communism over other traditional US foreign policy objectives, were indirectly providing arms and support to the Khmer Rouge as the next best force with the potential to stop the Vietnamese communists. The line of sand was crossed, pushing Cambodia into the most hell-like chapter of its history as over a third of the country’s people were tortured and killed by Pol Pot and his followers.

Fast-forward to today. Cambodia is seeking debt relief from the United States for the agricultural loan taken on board by Lon Nol in the early 1970s. The United States has declined this request. The State Department is referring the case to Treasury, and not even to the Southeast Asia/Cambodia team at Treasury, but instead to the Debt Office. Its mandate is clear and not troubled by strategic or foreign policy context. Unsurprisingly, the Debt Office argues that Cambodia must begin paying the debt, which it calculates now amounts to approximately US$444 million (with interest).

Cambodia argues that the wartime debt was incurred by a completely different government. In fact, US Congressman Eni Faleomavaega, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs says that ‘Cambodia’s debt it not a new debt accumulated by its current administration … it is an old debt accumulated between 1970–1975 and, most likely, expended by the Khmer Rouge from 1975–1979’ during a House hearing on the Cambodia debt issue on February 14, 2008. In its efforts to resolve the issue, Cambodia has demonstrated creativity and flexibility, suggesting lower interest rates or a debt swap similar to the one Congress developed for Vietnam in 2000 where funds were used, in part, to create the Vietnam Education Fund (VEF) to meet a desperate need for education and training for talented Vietnamese students.

To date, the US response has been not been creative or flexible. The official position is that Cambodia does not merit debt forgiveness or reduction because it does not meet the criteria of a heavily indebted country, nor is it experiencing a balance of payments (BOP) crisis.

In addition, avenues for addressing the issue and using diplomacy to strengthen US-Cambodian relations in general have been squeezed by the new Cambodia Trade Act of 2010 (HR 5349). The act was tabled by two narrowly focused US legislators seeking to punish Cambodia for recent actions it has taken to apparently secure significant aid from China, a country with very clear strategic goals to bring Cambodia and other Southeast Asia countries into its sphere of influence, including the return from Cambodia of 20 Chinese Uighers (a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority in China) seeking refugee-status there. The act’s proponents are Congressmen Dana Rohrbacher and Bill Delahunt, whose legislation states, ‘The United States may not reduce or forgive any debt owed by Cambodia to the United States.’

Two days after Cambodia returned the Uighers to China, on December 19, 2009, China signed 14 deals with Cambodia worth over US$1 billion. Perhaps appropriately, on April 1, 2010, the United States suspended military aid (provision of 200 trucks and related material) to Cambodia. (China later provided almost exactly the same equipment to the Cambodians in June.)

Cambodia joined ASEAN in 1999 in hope that becoming part of the region’s dynamic economy, security dialogue, and community of nations would help it step away from its horror-filled Cold War legacy. The Cambodian government has made significant efforts to address issues like child labour, workers rights, and human and narcotics trafficking amid the need to address serious corruption and strengthen the rule of law and institutions. By its own account, Cambodia has a long way to go.

As the country addresses those challenges, the United States would do well to consider the case of Lon Nol’s war debt and think strategically about the future of Cambodia. By enforcing Paris Club agreements and forcing Cambodia to pay the debt, the United States may find itself encircling its interests in the Cambodia with a thin line of consecrated sand—a line that is already being trampled by other partners who see the country in a strategic context.

Ernest Z. Bower is Senior Adviser and Director of the Southeast Asia Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington.

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Re: Burma Sanctions

ตั้งหัวข้อ  sunny on Wed Jul 21, 2010 9:56 am

The Trouble with the EU and EC

Last month, a European Union delegation canceled its planned trip to Burma after the Burmese regime refused to allow it to meet detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

However, several informed EU sources suggested that some of the community's member states are still interested in visiting Naypyidaw for talks with Burmese officials even if the request to meet Suu Kyi is not granted.

The Irrawaddy has also learned that several EU officials who belong to the “engagement camp” are also pushing the policy of greater engagement with the regime.

Piero Fassino, the EU’s special envoy on Burma, is clearly in favor of visiting the country again. Recent requests by Fassino to visit Burma have been rejected by the junta, however, while missions he was able to undertake in the past failed miserably.

Fassino is known to have little knowledge of Burma and its political situation. So why would he want to revisit the country?

Engaging the regime in Burma is fine as long as the regime has the political will and engagement produces a tangible outcome. But the EU's engagement policy has produced nothing positive so far.

Burma campaign groups previously expressed concern that the EU envoy on Burma has on occasion appeared to publicly and privately undermine the “very common position” which he is mandated to advocate with Asian countries.

Indeed, the EU common policy is to maintain or increase sanctions against the regime and support political dialogue and national reconciliation between the opposition and the regime. It can also increase pressure if necessary, including imposing an arms embargo on Burma.

Yet the EU has still failed to employ its full economic and political pressure to produce a positive outcome in military-ruled Burma.

The complexity of the EU cannot be denied—but, alarmingly, some member states don’t stick to the community's common policy, resulting in tension and confusion within the grouping.

The trouble is that the EU’s Burma policy sends mixed signals to Burmese democratic forces inside and outside Burma.

The Irrawaddy has learned that detained democracy leader Suu Kyi herself and senior members of the now-banned NLD have recently expressed concern over the EU’s policy.

It is believed that the UK, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Denmark and the Netherlands want to maintain the EU’s common policy but some other member countries, especially Germany and Spain, are pushing more of a pro-engagement line if not openly supporting the regime’s sham election and some controversial and shady figures belonging to a “third force” inside Burma.

Unlike European Parliament members, bureaucrats at the European Commission (EC) have supported a dialogue with the junta and increased its cooperation with some shady allies of the junta and the “third force” while cutting funding for refugees on the Thai-Burmese border.

Cooperation with a “third force” and some shady figures supporting the regime’s sham election and undermining the main opposition parties and activists and civil society groups inside and outside Burma is questionable.

What is interesting is that some EC officials have covertly supported the “third force” inside the country in the creation of a civil society. Do EC bureaucrats really believe that these half-baked “third force” people, who are merely spokesmen of the regime, can create a civil society in Burma?

No wonder Burmese inside and outside the country see EC bureaucrats as part of the problem in Burma’s complicated political landscape. They appear to support a controversial “third force” inside Burma and the regime’s sham election instead of increasing targeted sanctions against the regime and its cronies or supporting the UN human rights envoy’s commission of inquiry on crimes against humanity.

In March, the UN Special Rapporteur on Burma stated that human rights abuses in Burma are very serious and that the UN should consider establishing a commission of inquiry into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity. So far, the EU is silent on this issue, as if the regime has committed no crimes at all.

Sadly, on the Thai-Burmese border, the EC’s decision to cut funding for relief work on the Thai-Burmese border sent a shock wave through the area as the EU is one of the major donors there.

Refugee agencies on the Thai-Burmese border said they are concerned that a cut in funds could hurt medical programs for Burmese refugees.

According to London-based Burma campaign UK: “The European Commission has consistently refused to fund such aid, and has failed to provide an adequate explanation as to why, instead making vague statements about accountability and monitoring.
This argument is not credible, as the British government and other EU members with strict monitoring requirements are satisfied with monitoring of cross-border aid.”

Burma Campaign UK also said: “There are around 100,000 Internally Displaced People in Eastern Burma who are in need of cross-border aid, and around 2.5 million people in Eastern Burma for whom cross-border assistance is the only or easiest way to deliver aid. Cross-border aid is also needed in other states in Burma.”

On May 20, the European Parliament called on the EC “to reverse cuts in funding for refugees on the Thailand-Burma border and immediately start funding cross-border aid, especially medical assistance.”

However, after Thailand's foreign minister said in June that the Bangkok government hoped to send Burmese refugees home after the elections a EU official told The Irrawaddy: “The EU does not expect that the elections in Myanmar [Burma] in 2010 will create conditions conducive to an immediate return of the predominantly Karen to eastern Burma, particularly since a ceasefire between SPDC [the Burmese government] and the Karen leadership seems unlikely to materialize and armed conflict persists to this day.”

So just what do the EU and EC currently stand for?

EU observers believe that internal confusion and rifts within the community have also compounded its Burma position and its very reputation.

The Irrawaddy has recently learned that some EC officials and bureaucrats take personal positions that go against not only EU common policy but also democratic principles.

They are said to be highly critical of Suu Kyi and her party's decision not to contest the coming election. Moreover, these EC officials and bureaucrats also see civil society groups, campaigners on the border and ethnic campaign movements as troublemakers.

If this is true, the integrity and dignity of the EU and its democratic principles have to be questioned. We assume these officials and bureaucrats were born in a democratic society. The irony is that they have expressed a dislike of civil society and campaign groups working for a better Burma.

The regime keeps over 2,000 political prisoners in gulags, soldiers continue to commit human rights abuses in the ethnic regions and refugees and displaced persons are stranded along the border. A climate of fear pervades the country.

However, the EU is sending conflicting signals to Burma and the pro-democracy movement—a shameful state of affairs, which has contributed to deep unhappiness among Burmese inside and outside Burma when discussing EU policy.

In a recent letter to EU foreign ministers, European-based Burma lobby groups said they were “deeply concerned that European Commission staff openly and publicly advocate against the agreed Common Position of EU member states and against the positions taken by the European Parliament in its resolutions. We believe that it is unacceptable that Commission officials who have no democratic mandate undermine the official position of democratically accountable member states and the European Parliament."

The EU and EC should now officially clarify the issues outlined above—and
Burmese democratic forces, campaign groups and exiled news groups should investigate more thoroughly EU and EC Burma policies, in order to make those organizations more accountable in this critical time for Burma.



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Re: Burma Sanctions

ตั้งหัวข้อ  sunny on Wed Jul 21, 2010 5:54 pm

Clinton announces new sanctions against NKorea


U.S. Army Col. Kurt Taylor, right, briefs U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, center, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, 2nd right, at the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas since the Korean War, north of Seoul, South Korea Wednesday, July 21, 2010, in Seoul, South Korea.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced Wednesday that Washington will impose new sanctions on North Korea in a bid to stem the country's illicit atomic ambitions.

Clinton, speaking at a joint news conference in Seoul after holding unprecedented security talks with U.S. and South Korean defense and military officials, said the sanctions were part of measures designed to rein in the country's nuclear activities by stamping out illegal moneymaking ventures used to fund the program.

"These measures are not directed at the people of North Korea, who have suffered too long due to the misguided priorities of their government," Clinton said. "They are directed at the destabilizing, illicit, and provocative policies pursued by that government."

The U.N. Security Council has imposed stiff sanctions on North Korea in recent years to punish the country for defying the world body by testing nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, and illegally selling arms and weapons.

Clinton, making a high-profile trip to South Korea with Defense Secretary Robert Gates just four months after the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship, urged North Korea to turn away from its path toward continued isolation.

"From the beginning of the Obama Administration, we have made clear that there is a path open to the DPRK to achieve the security and international respect it seeks," she said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"North Korea can cease its provocative behavior, halt its threats and belligerence towards its neighbors, take irreversible steps to fulfill its denuclearization commitments and comply with international law," Clinton said.

AP

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Re: Burma Sanctions

ตั้งหัวข้อ  sunny on Thu Jul 22, 2010 10:08 pm

North Korean foreign minister to visit military-ruled Myanmar

YANGON, Myanmar - North Korea's foreign minister will make a four-day trip to Myanmar as part of his current four-nation tour.

A member of the diplomatic community in Myanmar said Thursday that Pak Ui Chun will make his visit on July 29 to Aug. 1, on the third leg of a tour that also includes Vietnam, Laos and Indonesia. The diplomat asked for anonymity because the news has not yet been officially announced.

Myanmar and North Korea are two of Asia's most authoritarian regimes, and both face sanctions by the West. They have had increasingly close ties in recent years, especially in military affairs, and there are fears that Pyongyang is supplying the army-led Southeast Asian regime with nuclear technology.

The diplomat said Pak is scheduled to meet his counterpart Nyan Win during his stay.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned Myanmar's military rulers Thursday against any co-operation with North Korea at regional security talks in Vietnam with senior officials from around Southeast Asia.

Clinton said the U.S. was concerned about reports that North Korea has delivered military equipment to Myanmar, also known as Burma.

"We continue to be concerned by the reports that Burma may be seeking assistance from North Korea with regard to a nuclear program," she added. "We will be discussing further ways in which we can co-operate to alter the actions of the government in Burma and encourage the leaders there to commit to reform and change and the betterment of their own people."

Pak's visit will be the first by a North Korean foreign minister since the two countries resumed diplomatic ties in April 2007.

Myanmar severed diplomatic relations with North Korea in 1983, following a fatal bombing attack during a visit by South Korea's then-President Chun Doo-hwan that killed 21 people, including four South Korean Cabinet ministers.

Three North Korean commandos involved in the bombing were detained — one blew himself up during his arrest, a second was hanged and a third died in prison in 2008.

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Re: Burma Sanctions

ตั้งหัวข้อ  sunny on Thu Jul 22, 2010 10:16 pm

NKorea warns US should halt sanctions, military exercises or risk placing region in danger
By: Jim Gomez

HANOI, Vietnam - North Korea warned the United States and South Korea on Thursday to call off military exercises scheduled for this weekend and to back off any new sanctions against the communist country or risk placing the entire region in danger.

The warning issued on the sidelines of a meeting of Southeast Asian nations in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, came as tensions on the peninsula simmer over the sinking of a South Korean warship that killed 46 sailors. The North was blamed for the attack, but has denied any responsibility.

"Amid growing concerns by the international community, South Korea and the United States have announced they would hold joint naval exercises," said Ri Tong Il, a North Korean spokesman, according to Yonhap news agency. "Such a move presents a grave threat to the peace and security not only to the Korean peninsula, but to the region."

On Wednesday, Washington announced it would impose new sanctions aimed at stifling the North's nuclear activities. Ri said any new sanctions would be in violation of a U.N. Security Council statement approved earlier this month that condemned the sinking but stopped short of directly assigning blame.

"If the U.S. is really interested in the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, it should halt the military exercises and sanctions that destroy the mood for dialogue," Ri told reporters.

Sanctions mean "escalation of the (US) hostile policy toward North Korea," he added.

He later said the North is willing to meet the U.S. and Japan on the sidelines of Friday's security meeting if they request it, but no such proposals have come, Yonhap reported.

Seoul has said there will be no one-on-one meetings with the North until an apology is issued for the sinking of the navy ship Cheonan, and though U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and representatives of the other countries involved in stalled nuclear talks will be in Vietnam, diplomats have said a meeting among the sides are unlikely.

In a sign of how tense relations are — and how difficult such meetings would be — U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates struck back Thursday at North Korea's criticism of the military drills. "My response to that is that I condemn their sinking of the Cheonan," Gates said to reporters in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said he wasn't surprised the North was upset about the drills, but that South Korea and the U.S. have the right to conduct the military exercises.

"They can be angry on many things," he told reporters, speaking in English. "If you Google North Korea every day, you find all kinds of angry words, and I'll be in trouble if I follow my policy based on their state of emotion."

An international investigation blamed the North for the March ship sinking, which has raised tensions on the peninsula. The two Koreas remain in a state of war because a peace treaty was never signed to end their three-year war in the 1950s. Pyongyang cites the presence of 28,500 U.S. troops on South Korean soil as a main reason for building up its atomic program.

North Korea vehemently denies any involvement in the sinking, and has asked the U.N. Command governing the armistice to let the regime conduct its own investigation. Military officers from the command and North Korea were to meet along the heavily fortified border that divides the peninsula, known as the Demilitarized Zone, on Friday.

The 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are now caught in the middle of a diplomatic tug-of-war, with the two Koreas battling over the exact wording of one paragraph in a regional security statement about the sinking. The statement will be issued Friday by ASEAN, along with 17 other nations that include the United States, Japan and both Koreas.

The North and its main ally China are pushing to avoid any terse wording, while South Korea and its staunch backer the United States want tough language condemning the attack and nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula.

There was similar haggling earlier in the week during the ASEAN's foreign ministers meeting, which concluded with a watered-down version of what South Korea wanted. The ministers' statement "deplored" the ship sinking, but characterized it as an "incident" instead of an "attack."
___

Associated Press writers Margie Mason in Hanoi, Kwang-tae Kim in Seoul, South Korea, and Joe Cochrane in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.

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Re: Burma Sanctions

ตั้งหัวข้อ  sunny on Thu Jul 22, 2010 10:19 pm

Clinton warns Myanmar on nuclear co-operation with North Korea, calls for fair elections
By: Matthew Lee

HANOI, Vietnam - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned Myanmar's military rulers on Thursday against any co-operation with North Korea on a nuclear program and called on the junta to hold free and fair elections this year.

In Vietnam for regional security talks with senior officials from around Southeast Asia, Clinton said the U.S. was concerned about reports that North Korea has delivered military equipment to Myanmar, also known as Burma.

"We continue to be concerned by the reports that Burma may be seeking assistance from North Korea with regard to a nuclear program," she added. "We will be discussing further ways in which we can co-operate to alter the actions of the government in Burma and encourage the leaders there to commit to reform and change and the betterment of their own people."

Clinton also said she shared concerns about upcoming elections in Myanmar, which U.S. officials say hold no hope of being free and fair. Myanmar has said it will hold elections this year but has not given a date, and it appears unlikely that opposition figures will be able to participate.

Myanmar's problems, Clinton said, have an impact "not only on the people of that country but on their neighbours, as the outflow of refugees continues," contributing to regional instability.

_________________
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Re: Burma Sanctions

ตั้งหัวข้อ  sunny on Sun Aug 01, 2010 2:02 pm

'Diplomacy by Stealth' Needed in West's Approach to Burma
By ADAM SELENE

The renewed dialogue between the US and the Burmese regime has attracted quite a bit of publicity. But these talks have yet to produce any tangible results.

This shouldn’t surprise anybody. Off the record, even American diplomats admit that the talks with the ruling SPDC are about little more than the dialogue itself. There are no offers on the table. The US is sticking to its policy of demanding democratic change.

In the meantime, US President Barack Obama has renewed the US sanctions against Burma. So, in reality, there is no real news on the “Western Front.”

What the West should realize is that the Burmese regime is not going to bow down publicly. The army in Burma stays in power mainly because it projects a strong image of unity and ruthlessness.

Internally, this serves the regime well, because it keeps the Burmese people afraid and off the streets. In the psychological framework of the generals there is no chance they will ever voluntarily show signs of weakness. Junta chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe would lose face and his strongman image would crumble if he granted the US the concessions it wants.

There is another factor undermining the Burma policies of the West. The generals are not only politicians, they are businessmen, too. The SPDC doesn’t operate on a basis of trust. It wants rock-solid proof. In its dealings with China and India, the SPDC is used to operate on a tit for tat basis. Both parties are clear about what they want and what they will supply.

This deal-making aspect is lacking in the dialogue with the US. The Americans want something but they are vague about the reward, if any. This irritates the regime instead of softening it up.

The European Union is lost in a counter-productive Burma policy, too. Like the US, the European countries have installed diplomatic and economic sanctions. But to what avail? Hardly anybody believes nowadays that the sanctions have produced anything positive.

A couple of weeks ago, even the Dutch Foreign Secretary Maxime Verhagen – known to be a hardliner on Burma issues– admitted in a speech that the sanctions haven’t delivered. But he added quickly that he thought it was not an option to remove the sanctions, probably because it would rob the EU of the only card it has in its poker game with the regime.

It looks as if the EU has painted itself into a corner, too.

The counterproductive policies of the EU and the US are all the more sad since important processes are well underway in Burma. Exiled opposition forces may dismiss the elections as a sham, but the fact remains that the new constitution and the elections offer some freedoms and a level of participation that was sorely missing in recent decades.

Instead of marginalizing itself, the West should do everything within its powers to improve the democratic nature of the elections. The old approach hasn’t worked out, so a new one is needed. And quickly.

Two things are important. Firstly, there should be a willingness to deal with the regime. Yes, the SPDC is a rogue government. But currently it is the only government in town. If anybody is sincere in the need to achieve anything in Burma, deals are inevitable. The sanctions can still be used as bargaining chips. Better still is to make the first move. Offer something and be clear
about the nature of the “reward”—and build on that.

Of course, this is shaky ground because for the West, with all its democratic checks and balances and a past of morally inspired Burma policies, it is hard to start whistling a completely new tune all of a sudden. But time is running out. The elections are casting their shadow ahead. So better hurry.

The second important thing is not to publicly make a number out of it. Let the regime have its deal and receive the credit for the softer line it takes. It's the result that counts. The minute the West makes it seem as if the generals have bowed down, trust will be shattered and it will be back to square one.

What the West needs now is deal-making and diplomacy by stealth. If that means taking flak and biting the bullet so be it.

_________________
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Re: Burma Sanctions

ตั้งหัวข้อ  sunny on Tue Aug 03, 2010 5:08 pm

US envoy in Seoul to discuss new North Korea sanctions

The United States hopes new sanctions on North Korea will be strong enough to discourage "provocative activities" and encourage it to scrap its nuclear weapons programme, a senior US envoy said Monday.

Robert Einhorn said Washington wants measures "that provide strong incentives for North Korea's leaders to abide by their international obligations not to pursue any provocative activities, and fulfil completely their commitments for denuclearisation".

Einhorn, the State Department's special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control, was speaking at the start of a visit to South Korea and Japan aimed at tightening sanctions on both the North and Iran.

Seoul and Washington accuse Pyongyang of torpedoing a South Korean warship earlier this year with the loss of 46 lives, a charge it vehemently denies.

During a visit to Seoul last month, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced new US sanctions on the North along with efforts to tighten existing United Nations measures.

The two allies last week held a major naval and air exercise designed to deter against cross-border aggression.

The North has threatened unspecified "strong physical measures" against the new US measures.

Einhorn is accompanied by Daniel Glaser, a senior Treasury official overseeing efforts to combat terrorist financing and financial crimes.

Speaking after a meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Yong-Joon, Einhorn said the allies should work closely together to deal with threats to international security posed by both North Korea and Iran.

"One means of addressing these challenges is to create the pressures felt by these two governments, so that they recognise it is in the best interests of their countries to meet their international obligations and forsake nuclear weapons," he told reporters.

But he said different measures may be needed for each government to persuade it "to be more reasonable", adding that Washington is still finalising new measures.

Six-party talks on the North's denuclearisation have been stalled since December 2008. In April last year the North quit the forum before staging its second nuclear weapons test a month later.

Einhorn also met Foreign Minister Yu Myung-Hwan and chief nuclear envoy Wi Sung-Lac. He was to hold a press conference later in the day.

Widespread local media reports have said that, as part of the punitive measures, the United States plans to freeze some 100 overseas bank accounts believed linked to illicit North Korean transactions.

During her visit to Seoul Clinton announced new sanctions "directed at the destabilising, illicit, and provocative policies" of the North's regime.

She also announced greater efforts under existing regulations, to freeze the North's suspect assets.

China, the North's sole major ally and economic lifeline, has not backed the findings of international investigators, who said there was overwhelming evidence that Pyongyang sank the warship.

A US State Department spokesman last week urged China to live up to its international obligations on sanctions, and use its leverage to change the North's behaviour.

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Re: Burma Sanctions

ตั้งหัวข้อ  sunny on Thu Aug 05, 2010 2:50 am

US Must Show Strong Leadership in Burma Policy

In a recent letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a bipartisan group of 32 senators urged the White House to increase the effectiveness of its Burma policy. The letter called on the US government to “support the establishment of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry to investigate whether crimes against humanity and war crimes took place” in military-controlled Burma.


The new Burma policy adopted by the Obama administration, a combination of increasing engagement and maintaining economic sanctions, was launched with the hope of yielding positive results. But the US can acquire no leverage on the Napyidaw government while the generals know they have the support of China and Russia in the UN Security Council.

In the absence of greater pressure from the world community, the junta is working hard to ensure its continued control over the country and the oppressed Burmese people by means of the upcoming "elections," which by every indication will be neither free nor fair.

The United States has long term national interests and a strategic focus with many countries in Asia, such as Afghanistan, North Korea and Iran, while its new Burma policy moves unhurriedly and hardly noticed. Under Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and his deputy, Scot Marciel—the highest-ranking American diplomats in the Obama administration effort to engage Naypyidaw—visited Burma and met detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. But their efforts seem to have lost effectiveness and focus because of the limited time remaining before the election.

For instance, the Obama administration has not yet selected a candidate for the post of special envoy to Burma, despite a public announcement of the planned new appointment by Philip J. Crowley, assistant secretary at the Bureau of Public Affairs, in early June. In fact, the appointment of a US special envoy is part of the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act 2008, signed into law by President Bush and approved in a bipartisan vote which also had the support of Barack Obama, then a senator.

Meanwhile, many have expressed their frustration over the shortcomings of US leadership on the Burma issue. Among them is Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Burma from 2000 to 2008. He wrote in a July 23 commentary in the Washington Post that the US must make its Burma policy a high-level priority. “Without the kind of pressure the United States can bring to bear multilaterally, the junta will have no incentive to come to the table, let alone change its behavior,” he wrote.

The White House must show its commitment to bringing democracy to Burma by appointing a special envoy as soon as possible to work together with the other two envoys from the EU and UN. The US envoy could start work by embracing the call by UN special envoy Tomás Ojea Quintana, to create a commission of inquiry through the United Nations to investigate crimes against humanity and war crimes allegedly committed by the junta.

Apart from the support shown by the 32 US senators, nearly 60 members of the US House of Representatives also wrote in June 2009 to President Obama urging him to raise the issue of crimes against humanity in Burma before the UN Security Council.

Using its transparency legislation as part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the US also can pressure oil, gas and mining companies that are operating in Burma and registered with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to publicly disclose their payments to the Burmese regime. The revenue barely registers in the government's accounts, suggesting the cash is diverted into projects such as the nuclear program supported by North Korea. Thus, the US should fully enforce existing US sanctions to target Singaporean and Dubai banks that do business with the regime.

The US should also work to impose a global arms embargo on Burma.

The US administration must again display strong leadership in its Burma policy. Then global and regional friends of Burma, and the Burmese people, will believe that Washington is serious about its commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

_________________
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Re: Burma Sanctions

ตั้งหัวข้อ  sunny on Mon Aug 23, 2010 5:27 pm

A Good Move by Washington

The US decision to begin consultations with key international and regional partners to support the establishment of a UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the Burmese junta's alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes is a good move but it must be more than just symbolic.

Benjamin Chang, deputy spokesman of the US National Security Council, confirmed to The Irrawaddy that the US has began talks with a broad array of stakeholders, including the regional countries, about how to reach this goal.

This new move by the Obama administration is a timely action, which should have been taken long ago. The chief target is junta leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe, one of the world's most notorious dictators, who has totally and repeatedly ignored the international community's concerns about the systematic and massive human right violations committed by the junta over the past 22 years.

The move came after a bipartisan group of 32 influential senators led by California Sen Dianne Feinstein sent a letter to the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on July 30 urging the administration to support a UN commission of inquiry.

Burmese democratic forces within Burma and in exile, including the exiled media, have consistently reported on the junta's human rights violations and the total immunity it has enjoyed since 1988.

The regime has enlisted child soldiers and destroyed thousands of villages in ethnic states, sending whole communities to seek safety in the jungle or in neighboring Thailand. Regime soldiers use rape as a weapon, commit extrajudicial and political killings and employ forced labor for military projects, using civilians as “minesweepers” in operations against armed ethnic groups.

Pro-regime paramilitary thugs have joined in actions to suppress dissent, particularly in the 2003 Depayin attack on Aung San Suu Kyi's motorcade and in the 2007 monk-led demonstrations.

At a regular session of the UN Human Rights Council in March, the UN Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights Situation in Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, formally urged the UN to consider the possibility of establishing a commission of inquiry into alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by the regime.

In his report, Quintana said: “Given the gross and systematic nature of human rights violations in Myanmar [Burma] over a period of many years, and the lack of accountability, there is an indication that those human rights violations are the result of a state policy that involves authorities in the executive, military, and judiciary at all levels.”

Several UN reports since the early 1990s have documented a consistent pattern of human rights abuses by the junta in Burma. But, due to the lack of unity within the international community (the UN, US, EU and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in particular) in seeking a common policy position, the plight of the Burmese people hasn't improved in more than two decades.

Taking into account past international failures in the application of sanctions and in engagement efforts, the Obama Administration reviewed and softened its Burma policy, seeking engagement while maintaining sanctions.

But the amended policy achieved nothing, leading now to a tougher stand, which the Obama Administration had always kept as an option.

Currently, Britain, Australia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia support the establishment of a commission of inquiry. The US now needs the support of countries like Canada and all EU members—plus, which seems unlikely, Burma's Asean partners.

The junta's crimes are not an internal affair. They are also the concern of the world's civilized community, which should take care of an oppressed Burmese public unable to make its own international appeal for justice.

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