|News Headlines - July 21, 2012|
July 21, 2012
Post-Ceasefire, No Signs of Peace in Burma's Kachin
July 19, 2012
KACHIN STATE, Burma — A year has passed since a cease-fire collapsed between ethnic Kachin forces and Burma's government troops and there are still there are no signs of peace. Tens of thousands people have fled as the Kachin Independence Organization, or KIO, fights for greater autonomy and control over their resources.
People who fled their homes for this temporary camp in Burma's Kachin state are bracing for the monsoon season, worrying about food shortages.
Despite an increase in foreign aid flowing into Burma's capital, Kachin groups say little assistance is reaching the conflict zone.
May Li Aung heads Wun Pawng Ninghto, an umbrella group of eight local aid agencies. "All of the international community and funding agencies want to help inside of Burma," she explained. "But this is non-government-controlled area and they are also afraid to come here."
Although some supplies have been allowed into KIO-controlled areas, that is not the case in refugee camps on the Chinese side of the border.
A recent Human Rights Watch report criticized China for a lack of assistance to the refugees in Yunnan and called on authorities to give aid workers access.
Mui Hpu Kaw cares for seven grandchildren, while her four sons fight for the Kachin Independence Army on the Burmese side of the border. She says the uncertain future is almost unbearable. "I only wait to hear the words, 'Let's go home, the fighting's stopped now'. Every time I see someone come to visit the camp, I'm hoping they will say we can go home now," she said. "I pray that I won't die here.”
Many observers are skeptical of a resolution anytime soon.
Former activist Tun Kyaw Nyein, the son of former deputy Prime Minister U Kyaw Nyein, is now a member of the independent, pro-democracy Burma Strategy Group. He says even Aung San Suu Kyi is treading carefully on the conflict. “I understand fully why she is careful in the way she brings up the topics and addresses the issues because there is also the risk of appearing to favor one side or the other when things are so precarious," he stated. "It is going to take some time and its going to take all parties including Aung San Su Kyi and U Thein Sein and the Kachin leaders to overcome this long-standing mistrust.”
In the meantime, the displaced Kachin population waits in these growing camps for a resolution to the conflict that drags on -- despite the dramatic changes happening in other parts of the country.
Refugee crisis critical in western Burma
Mission Network News - 7/19/2012
Images courtesy (Christian Aid Mission)
Myanmar (CAM/MNN) ― Deadly communal violence that broke out six weeks ago is still taking its toll today in western Burma.
Christian Aid Mission spokesman Bill Bray says, "The pacification of the region has been to starve the region into submission. There are deaths every day, there's a great deal of sickness. There's no medical aid getting in, no food, no transportation, and a total breakdown of the market system."
Not only can they not get supplies, but there's been salting and poisoning of wells. Disease and starvation are contributing to daily deaths in Rakhine State.
The United Nations now calls the health situation in Rakhine State "desperate." Bray explains, "There are about 90,000 people homeless and 2500 homes destroyed in the fighting, but the Christians have been caught in the crossfire, and the army has shut down all the transportation in the area."
Fighting between Rakhine Buddhists and Rochingya Muslims has slowed along the Burmese border with Bangladesh, allowing some aid to get through to the Christian villagers and missionary families. Bray notes, "Roadblocks are lifting a bit, and the curfew has been lifted. So we need to get emergency help into these nine mission stations and 17 families that have been without help."
Native missionaries have asked Christian Aid for urgent help--not only for the stranded missionaries, but for the unreached people groups they are serving. "The leaders there started a campaign called 'God's Love in Action' to deliver aid to their starving neighbors," Bray says, adding, "There's a well-established native missionary network there. They are reaching their neighbors. Every one of these churches can be a lighthouse of hope and help to their neighbors."
A Christian Aid release explains the history of the conflict:
Over 800,000 Rochingya Muslims have entered Burma "illegally" according to the government and are considered stateless both by Bangladesh and Myanmar. Descendents of Arab, Mughal, Turkish, and Moorish invaders of South Asia, they have spread not only to Myanmar, but every country of Southeast Asia.
The fighting has eased in the capital of Sittwe, but many residents continue to arm themselves with homemade weapons.
As the crisis continues, doors are opening, and mission leaders want to take advantage of the opportunity.
Funds will be used for emergency food, clean water, water bottles, clothes and shelter. As roads open, Christian volunteers and students are going out from the provincial capital of Sittwe to deliver the aid. About $10,000 is needed to fund the first rescue efforts to those in distress.
Help will go through the local pastors, missionaries, and Christian workers and then to the most needy victims of the violence. Writes one Burmese mission leader, "If we don't help them survive, even more will die each day without food and water -- and they will die not knowing the Savior Jesus Christ."
Christian Aid has established a special emergency fund to help. (Aid for relief should be designated to Gift Code 715RRF.)
Check our Featured Links Section for details.
Aung San Suu Kyi and Obama Burma Policy a Failure
Aung San Suu Kyi and Obama Burma Policy a Failure
The manufacturing of U.S. Olympic uniforms in China seems to have outraged every American except for Mitt Romney.
On Thursday, Republicans and Democrats slammed the outsourcing as an insult to a U.S. textile industry weakened by recession. It made no sense for Romney to say something less than vitriolic — he wants the U.S. to “get tough” on China and needs to call attention to the unrecovered economy to win the election. But he only said the uniforms are "extraneous.”
The China controversy has been something both Republicans and Democrats could spring on, but attention has now turned to Romney's own personal Olympics scandal. As president and CEO of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, Romney allowed torchbearer uniforms to be made in Burma, in issue again coming to light. While it was wrong for Romney to inadvertently support a military dictatorship, the GOP campaign could fight the negative press by emphasizing the positives of the Winter Olympics and criticizing the Obama’s recent decision to ease sanctions on Burma.
Burma is notorious for denying political freedom and violating human rights. In January 2011, a new government ended the military regime that took power in 1989, beginning much-needed political reforms. The leadership of mostly former generals released political prisoners, permitted trade unions and freedom of assembly, loosened media censorship, and allowed opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) to become an official party; Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD leader freed from 15 years of house arrest in 2010, won a seat in parliament. But the military continues to abuse citizens, subjecting them to forced labor, extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, and indiscriminate attacks. Although political freedom has improved, Burma still suffers from human rights violations.
So Romney not only outsourced outside of the U.S., but picked a country that violates our political ideals. Human rights advocates and trade groups protested the 10,000 uniforms labeled “Made in Burma (Myanmar),” eventually pressuring the International Olympic Committee to pledge never to support the Burmese regime. Romney’s oversight at the helm was an embarrassment that he hoped wouldn’t resurface during the election. (Fun fact: the organizers thought Burma and Myanmar were two separate countries. “The torch relay clothes were NOT made in Burma. They were manufactured in Myanmar," they responded).
The Romney campaign should make two moves to turn the tables. First, it should emphasize that the Salt Lake City Olympics was a win for Romney overall. Back in 2002, the Olympic Games were poorly organized and economically weak. Romney swooped in and reformed budgets, revamped organization, raised funds, and settled the worries of corporate sponsors. The Olympics allowed Romney to demonstrate his turnaround artistry, leadership, and organization capabilities at the federal, state, and local levels.
Second, Romney could argue that now the Obama administration is undercutting reforms in the unstable country. Last week, Obama relaxed sanctions by authorizing the U.S. exportation of financial services and investment in Burma ostensibly to encourage further political reform. While Obama also gave the Treasury more power to punish people who undermine the political reforms, the overall policy is dicey. Most controversially, the eased sanctions allow for investment in the state-run oil and gas company notorious for its lack of transparency. Human Rights Watch argues that the move undercuts Suu Kyi, who has urged against investment with the oil company, and others who are promoting government accountability. It’s likely that the decision is a geopolitical strategy — the U.S. wants Burma to become less reliant on China and less influenced by U.S. competitors such as Australia, Canada, and the European Union, which have much looser sanctions. So it’s unclear whether Obama genuinely wants to reform Burma with the influence of American anti-corruption laws or wants to play catch-up.
So the media’s focus on the Burmese outsourcing of Olympic uniforms may hurt Romney’s image slightly. But the Republican candidate can take advantage of the national spotlight on the Olympics and on Burma if his campaign reframes the debate.
Three children from Burma to receive medical treatment in ČR
20 July 2012
Prague, July 19 (CTK) - Three children from Burma, aged 18 months, eight and nine years, arrived in Prague Thursday to be treated in Czech hospitals within the Medevac humanitarian programme.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who returned from a visit to Burma tonight, brought the small patients with him aboard a government special plane.
The children, who are accompanied by their parents, suffer from serious heart disorders. They will be operated on in Prague's Motol hospital.
Such operations would not be possible in Burma that lacks both experts and the necessary medical equipment.
"Burmese hospitals are quite outdated," Schwarzenberg said.
"We were in a hospital in Rangun where several patients were offered to us. We selected three children who would not survive without the operation," Czech cardiologist Tibor Klein said after the arrival.
The Medevac programme is mainly aimed at seriously ill children from the countries struck by disasters or war conflicts who have no chance of medical treatment at home.
However, adults use the programme, too. At the beginning of July, five Libyans, who were wounded in the civil war, arrived in the Czech Republic for the treatment.
The Medevac programme was launched in 1993 to help people from Bosnia and Herzegovina and then from Kosovo.
The health, interior, foreign and defence ministries are cooperating within the project.
Over 150 patients from various countries have been treated in the Czech Republic so far within Medevac.
In June 2011, the Czech government approved that humanitarian aid be extended to North Africa as well.
Burma is one of the world's poorest countries. The military junta, which governed the country from 1962, formally transferred power to a civilian government last March that started implementing democratic reforms. However, critics say military circles are still controlling the government.
Copyright 2011 by the Czech News Agency (ČTK). All rights reserved.
Copying, dissemination or other publication of this article or parts thereof without the prior written consent of ČTK is expressly forbidden. The Prague Daily Monitor and Monitor CE are not responsible for its content.
US envoy says too early to end all Myanmar sanctions
AFP – 15 hrs ago
The new US ambassador to Myanmar, Derek Mitchell speaks during a press conference at the US embassy in Yangon. Mitchell said Friday that it was too soon to abolish all sanctions against the former pariah, as Congress considers extending a ban on imports from the impoverished country
The new US ambassador to Myanmar, …
The new US ambassador to Myanmar said Friday that it was too soon to abolish all sanctions against the former pariah, as Congress considers extending a ban on imports from the impoverished country.
"We have said in the past, and I have said, that we endorse continuing to keep in place many of the authorities -- the sanctions authorities -- in Congress," said Derek Mitchell, who took up his new post earlier this month.
Keeping some measures in place was "an insurance policy for the future in case things reverse," he told reporters, noting the fast pace of reforms since the end of decades of military rule last year.
"We're talking about a rapid process. It's only really been a little over a year and there are still some questions about the future," he said, adding that the import ban could be revisited later if the reform process continues.
A US Senate finance committee on Wednesday backed prolonging the ban on goods made in Myanmar for three years, while preserving the government's right to waive or scrap the measures. The extension still needs full Congressional approval.
It came a week after the United States gave the green light to US companies to invest in Myanmar including in oil and gas, in its broadest and most controversial easing yet of sanctions on the country formerly known as Burma.
US companies have been pressing the Obama administration to end restrictions on investment, fearing they will lose out to European and Asian competitors that already enjoy access to the potentially lucrative economy.
Mitchell said that investment, "done according to traditional US corporate principles and values," could serve the long-term interests of the Myanmar people.
The veteran policymaker is the first US ambassador to Myanmar since Washington withdrew its envoy after a crackdown on a pro-democracy uprising in 1988 and elections won by the opposition in 1990 that were never recognised by the junta.
Can we fine-tune the sanctions against Burma?
Posted By Min Zin Friday, July 20, 2012 - 5:12 PM Share
Last week, the Obama Administration suspended some of the most important financial sanctions against Burma. U.S. companies are now allowed to invest in Burmese industries (including oil and gas) and to sell services.
Yet on Wednesday of this week, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee took a decision that pointed in exactly the opposite direction. It voted to renew trade sanctions passed nine years ago in response to the military junta's attempted assassination of Aung San Suu Kyi. (She survived, but the attack resulted in scores of other deaths.) The renewal of the legislation -- if it passes a vote of the full Senate and the House, which still have to confirm the decision -- will technically ban all imports from Burma for another three years. Since the ban was first imposed in 2003, imports from Burma to the U.S. have fallen to almost zero, a sweeping prohibition that has done a lot of damage to Burma's nascent manufacturing industry. For that reason, Aung San Suu Kyi actually asked U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell to remove the remaining sanctions early last week. But her plea didn't seem to help.
Burma's nominally civilian government has been working hard lately to persuade the U.S. to remove further western sanctions against the country. President Thein Sein (shown above with Hillary Clinton) last week called for all sanctions to be lifted in order "to make possible the sort of trade and investments that this country desperately needs at this time."
Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann, an ex-general, told a visiting U.S. official that the suspension of U.S. investment sanctions was one-sided and mainly benefited U.S. firms. He asked the U.S. to review the trade sanctions and to take the interest of Burmese citizens into account. He asked his interlocutor, Under Secretary of State Robert Hormats, to convince Congress not to renew the sanctions.
(Shwe Mann's remarks showed that he doesn't entirely get it. He doesn't seem to understand is that lifting the investment ban will allow a considerable inflow of capital into Burma and bring immediate benefit to the country. Foreign investors, by contrast, will have to wait some time to enjoy the fruits of their investments -- assuming that they make a profit, of course.)
In any case, it's hard to make sense of U.S. policymakers' decision to maintain the ban on imports, which hinders the possible emergence of diversified business players in labor-intensive sectors such as the textile industry. The ban on imports has never hurt the military and its cronies, which have always managed to find profitable alternatives (usually involving the exploitation of Burma's rich natural resources). In fact, U.S. policymakers have failed to aim sanctions at those who propped up Burma's dictatorship (and their business cronies).
"By reauthorizing the import sanctions for three years, we maintain pressure on the Burmese government to undertake reforms," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said. To be sure, maintaining leverage is a good strategy. But why does it have to take the form of misguided import sanctions that do more harm than good?
The renewal of the import ban will actually force the Burmese government to continue relying on capital-intensive resource extraction, and the benefits will keep accruing to the state-owned oil and gas conglomerate and the military's proxies, who own most of the capital in this sector. (U.S. law still doesn't allow American companies to do business with the Burmese military.) Foreign investment in capital-intensive industries tends to alienate unskilled laborers and exacerbates unemployment. Failing to create jobs for the broader Burmese population will only worsen the already dire state of inequality in the country.
A growing gap between rich and poor (and its larger political implications) will likely threaten the vested interests of the ruling elites and cronies, and serve as a disincentive to pursue broader reforms. (Political liberalization can encourage impoverished population to claim their socio-economic rights -- a process that can range from demands for income redistribution to physical onslaughts on elite individuals, property, or privileges.) One possible scenario is that the rulers will seek to protect themselves with a "reactionary alliance" of multinational corporations, the ruling elites, their cronies, and even some ethnic insurgent leaders, since almost all of the natural resources are located in ethnic minority regions, potentially leading to development-driven abuses committed against local populations.
In fact, what Burma needs is not just the removal of trade sanctions, but also favorable trade conditions from the U.S. and the West that will help the country to attract more investments in labor-intensive sectors, ultimately enabling its products to gain a competitive edge in the international market.
In short, the strategy should be to favor measures that can empower the autonomy of positive forces (like labor) while reinforcing the sanctions that target oligarchic criminals.
Let's hope that the renewal of sanctions doesn't get final approval. If it does, we can gain some consolation, perhaps, from the fact that the law will preserve the White House's authority to waive the sanctions (and "reward" Burma) if need be.
Myanmar TV airs Aung San event after long absence
By AYE AYE WIN
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi pays respect at the tomb of her late father Gen. Aung San during a ceremony to mark the 65th anniversary of his 1947 assassination, at the Martyrs' Mausoleum in Yangon, Myanmar on Thursday, July 19, 2012. For the first time in decades, Myanmar state television broadcast the memorial ceremony for the country's independence hero, the latest sign of change in the former pariah nation.
YANGON, Myanmar -- Myanmar state television broadcast a memorial ceremony for opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's revered independence hero father for the first time in decades Thursday, the latest sign of change in the former pariah nation.
The day marks the 65th anniversary of the 1947 assassination of opposition leader Suu Kyi's father, Gen. Aung San.
Myanmar's former military junta played down the event for more than 20 years as part of efforts to stem the popularity of Suu Kyi, who has led a pro-democracy movement since 1988 and was kept under house arrest for 15 years. The junta ceded power last year to a civilian government dominated by retired army officers, which has since embarked on a program of major political and financial reforms that have been lauded by the international community.
On Thursday, Martyr's Day ceremonies were broadcast live on state television, and the government dispatched one of the nation's two vice presidents to attend. Last year, the government's top representative was the mayor of the largest city, Yangon.
With flags flying at half staff, Vice President Sai Mauk Hkam joined Suu Kyi as she laid three baskets of flowers in front of her father's tomb in Yangon, near the foot of towering golden Shwedagon pagoda. Sai Mauk Hkam laid a wreath of white orchids and saluted the slain leader as a solemn two-minute silence was observed.
Aung San was 32 years old when he was gunned down on July 19, 1947, along with six Cabinet ministers and two other officials. He is considered the architect of Myanmar's independence from Britain, which it achieved several months after his death.
Sao Kai Hpa, the son of Shan leader Mongpon Sawbwa Sao San Tun - who was gunned down in the same attack - welcomed the fact the government had decided to send a high-level official to pay its respects.
"It is a change in the right direction and it is a way of showing gratitude to those who gave up their lives for the country's independence," he said.
Burma’s Suu Kyi Plans Trip to U.S. in September
By Associated Press | July 17, 2012 | 1
(NAYPYITAW, Burma) — Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she will accept an award in the United States in September, setting up a new round of international accolades for the Nobel Peace laureate and former political prisoner who was unable to leave her home country for more than two decades.
Suu Kyi was greeted enthusiastically by world leaders and human rights activists during her recent trips to Thailand and Europe, and the U.S. trip announced Tuesday likely will garner the same level of attention as she re-emerges on the world stage.
Also Tuesday, Suu Kyi received a poignant reminder of a meeting that can never be: a dried yellow rose presented on behalf of Czech President Vaclav Havel, who died last year. The tenacious fighter for democracy had communicated with Suu Kyi, inspired her and longed to meet her.
(PHOTOS: Aung San Suu Kyi Travels Abroad for the First Time in 24 Years)
The Atlantic Council think tank said Suu Kyi will be presented its Global Citizen Award recognizing “visionary global leaders” on Sept. 21 in New York.
Suu Kyi confirmed her trip to The Associated Press but gave no other details on her itinerary. The U.S. State Department said Suu Kyi would be invited for meetings with the U.S. government during her visit, but it had no details.
“We look forward to an appropriate date welcoming Aung San Suu Kyi here to the State Department and her having bilateral meetings here in the U.S.,” department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters.
Suu Kyi, elected in April to Burma’s parliament, is sure to be feted in the United States for her long struggle against military rule in her homeland and for championing democracy. She is revered by Republicans and Democrats, has been a guiding force in U.S. policy toward Burma over the past two decades, and has been supportive of the Obama administration’s engagement of the reformist Burma President Thein Sein.
The U.S. last week suspended investment sanctions that had been in force against Burma for 15 years. Suu Kyi cautiously supported that move, but it did expose a rare difference between her views and those of the U.S. government, which decided to allow U.S. companies to invest with Burma’s opaque state oil and gas enterprise. Last month, Suu Kyi opposed foreign companies working with that enterprise because of its lack of openness.
Suu Kyi spoke by phone on Monday to Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, a prominent voice in Congress on Burma issues. McConnell’s office said they discussed U.S. sanctions legislation.
The date of the award presentation is near the Sept. 18 opening of the U.N. General Assembly session in New York, an event often well-attended by prominent international leaders and activists. Before her marriage in the early 1970s, Suu Kyi lived in New York for a couple of years and worked at the United Nations.
(PHOTOS: Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi Makes Her Parliamentary Debut)
The longtime leader of Burma’s pro-democracy movement spent most of the last 20 years under house arrest. Even when she was free, she never left her home country because she feared military rulers would not let her return. She was freed from her final house arrest in late 2010, made her first trip out of Burma to Thailand in late May of this year and a few weeks later traveled to Europe, where she was finally able to accept the Nobel Peace Prize she won in 1991.
On Tuesday night in Naypyitaw, Burma’s capital, Suu Kyi dined with the Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who presented her with Havel’s rose, embedded in a glass case.
Havel, a Nobel Peace laureate who nominated Suu Kyi for the prize, died in December. Burma democracy activists laid the rose on his coffin, and a Czech artist preserved it.
Jiri Sitler, a friend of Havel and former Czech ambassador to Burma in Schwarzenberg’s delegation, explained to The Associated Press the idea behind the unusual gift.
He said that in 2005, Havel sent Suu Kyi — then under house arrest — birthday greetings in a note in which he said he wanted to meet her and how happy he would be if he could personally give her a rose.
They never met in person, communicating only by phone and mail. She once wrote in her Japan’s Mainichi newspaper column that, “It was (Havel’s) vigorous and warm personality and his total commitment to the support of movements for democracy and human rights the world over that made his friendship so real and vibrant and made me feel we were linked to one another by close ties of understanding.”
Suu Kyi, wearing a red traditional jacket and with white roses in her hair, shook hands with Schwarzenberg and his delegation as she accepted the gift. She spoke about the special relationship between Havel’s country and hers, and especially of the support Havel had given Burma’s democracy movement.
“I am very sad that I never had the opportunity to meet him but I feel very close because his thoughts and his writings guided me during the years of struggle,” Suu Kyi said.
Associated Press writer Matthew Pennington contributed from Washington
Read more: http://world.time.com/2012/07/17/burmas-suu-kyi-to-travel-to-u-s-to-receive-award/#ixzz21EtPkkde
Iranian cineastes and poets condemn Myanmar’s massacre of Muslims
On Line: 20 July 2012 14:46
TEHRAN – Several Iranian cineastes and a group of poets have condemned the recent massacre of thousands of Myanmar Muslims by the country’s Buddhists.
Millions of Muslims who are considered a minority in Myanmar have faced many problems over the past two years as the government of Myanmar refuses to recognize them.
Reza Mirkarimi, Parviz Sheikhtadi, Habibollah Bahmani, Ensieh Shah-Hosseini and Jamal Shurjeh are the filmmakers who have expressed their dismay over the recent crimes in their brief talks with Persian news agencies.
The news and photos of the crimes committed against Myanmar’s Muslims break the heart of every human being, while the international media refuses to depict their suffering, Mirkarimi said on Thursday.
He asked every individual to relate the sounds of their pains and suffering to others and pray for them during the holy month of Ramadan.
Bahmani proposed to make movies on this issue, while Shah-Hosseini asked the artists to show their reactions against the crime.
Shurjeh also said that the silence of the West against such a crime indicates that the massacre is to their benefit.
Moreover, a group of poets has signed a petition in support of the Muslims in Myanmar and called on international bodies to put an end to this massacre.
According to unofficial reports, more than 20,000 Muslims have been killed, tortured, and displaced by the extremist Buddhists in Burma’s Rakhine province, the worst sectarian killing in this part of the world over the years, the Pakistan Observer has reported on July 13.
Myanmar's Suu Kyi gets rose from late Czech leader
Associated PressAssociated Press – Tue, Jul 17, 2012
NAYPYITAW, Myanmar (AP) — Aung San Suu Kyi is no stranger to tributes for her courageous political opposition in Myanmar, but the latest was perhaps the most bittersweet — delivered from beyond the grave from an ardent admirer who was another tenacious fighter for democracy.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg at a dinner Tuesday night presented her with a dried, yellow rose on behalf of his country's late president, Vaclav Havel, who died in December.
The rose, embedded in a glass case, had been laid on Havel's coffin last year by Myanmar democracy activists, and was retrieved by a Czech artist who preserved it. Jiri Sitler, a friend of Havel and former Czech ambassador to Myanmar in Schwarzenberg's delegation, explained to The Associated Press the idea behind the unusual gift.
He said that in 2005, Havel sent Suu Kyi — then under house arrest — birthday greetings in a note in which he said he wanted to meet her and how happy he would be if he could personally give her a rose.
It was Havel who nominated Suu Kyi for the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize that she was finally free to accept in person last month in Oslo. She had been detained 15 of the years since 1989, and in the periods when she was free, did not risk going abroad for fear she would not be allowed to return to her struggle in Myanmar.
But reforms undertaken since last year by elected President Thein Sein convinced her it was safe to make the long-delayed journey, and she returned in time to begin serving as a member of parliament.
Havel never got to meet Suu Kyi in person, communicating only by phone and mail. However, in a column she used to contribute to Japan's Mainichi daily, Suu Kyi once wrote of her Czech comrade that "It was his vigorous and warm personality and his total commitment to the support of movements for democracy and human rights the world over that made his friendship so real and vibrant and made me feel we were linked to one another by close ties of understanding."
The 67-year-old Suu Kyi, wearing a red traditional jacket and with white roses in her hair, shook hands with Schwarzenberg and his delegation as she accepted the gift, along with a bouquet. She spoke about the special relationship between Havel's country and hers, and especially of the support Havel had given Myanmar's democracy movement.
"I am very sad that I never had the opportunity to meet him but I feel very close because his thoughts and his writings guided me during the years of struggle," Suu Kyi said.
Schwarzenberg will meet Thein Sein and other government officials in the Myanmar capital on Wednesday. Earlier in the country's biggest city, Yangon, he met former political prisoners, student activists, ethnic civil society representatives, and representatives of non-governmental organizations and ethnic political parties.
Also Tuesday, Suu Kyi said she'll travel to the United States in September to accept an award from an American think tank.
The Atlantic Council issued a statement Monday saying it will present Suu Kyi with its Global Citizen Award on Sept. 21. The Washington-based think tank says the award is meant to recognize "visionary global leaders."
Suu Kyi told AP she would travel to accept the award but gave no other details of her trip.
Russia, Da, Myanmar, Mahout
Posted by: Linda Carbonell on July 18, 2012.
Senate Finance Committe Chairman Max Baucus, with Sen. Orrin Hatch
The Senate Finance Committee determines whether or not a vote should be held by the full Senate on trade treaties and sanctions, through some logic only known within the Senate, though it would have seemed appropriate for such things to be determined by the Foreign Relations committee or some such entity.
Today, the Finance Committee ruled on two sets of trade issues, establishing normal trade relations with Russia (yes) and lifting sanctions on trade with Myanmar (no).
The Russia issue involves the admission of Russia into the World Trade Organization. Certain long-standing American policies concerning trade with Russia are in violation of WTO rules. The 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment linked favorable tariffs on Russian goods with human rights inside the Soviet Union. Since the late 1990s, both Democratic and Republican administrations have ruled that Russia was in compliance with human rights agendas.
Russia is due to join the WTO in August, and if the Jackson-Vanik amendment is not overturned before then, Russia could deny us favorable treatment as it opens its markets. That would put us at a disadvantage against the other 154 members of the WTO. The Finance Committee has recommended that the whole Senate vote to void the Jackson-Vanik amendment. There are only 12 working days left for the two houses of Congress to pass this before the August recess.
But, some lawmakers want a new law to replace Jackson-Vanik. The so-called “Magnitsky bill” would set up a requirement for the State Department to publish the names of people believed to be responsible for the detention, abuse or death of anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in 2009 after a year in Russian jails. The list would deny those people visas to enter the United States and the Treasury Department could freeze their assets. It would also punish other human rights abusers in Russia or anywhere in the world, allowing members of Congress to add names at will. Senator Ben Cardin, a Democrat supporter of the bill, said “What this bill does is hold gross violators of internationally recognized human rights accountable.” Russia has called the bill an intrusion into its internal affairs. The Putin regime has a questionable record on the use of the law to punish Putin’s political opponents, and has been accused to rigging the most recent elections.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp wants a clean bill from the Senate, free from any human rights amendments, as does the White House. It is virtually impossible to decide from afar who is responsible for the arrest of any person or the guilt or innocence of any person arrested by a foreign government. There are certain governments whose actions are so egregious that there is no question they routinely violate human rights, but single cases, individuals, are much harder to objectively judge. Russia is in a fairly fragile place right now. Opposition to Vladimir Putin is widespread, but not strong enough to oust him. Putin has been traveling the world to reintroduce himself to world leaders, and pulling off some things that reek of trying to restore the old Soviet power. He arranged to have foreign NGOs declared illegal and refused to negotiate a fair deal with Ukraine over the sale of natural gas. Putin is demanding the Ukrainians hand over control of their gas lines to Russian control. Most of the world is fairly ticked off at Putin over his stonewalling on the issue of Syria.
A clean trade bill would be to our benefit. As hard as it is for our politicians to swallow, we cannot dictate internal policy to other countries unless we and a group of nations are agreed that human life is at stake on a large scale, as in Syria.
After approving the Russia deal, the same committee decided to retain sanctions on Myanmar, banning all imports of Myanmar goods for another three years. The legislation was first passed in 2003, was expanded in 2008 to include jewelry made in other countries from gemstones mined in Myanmar and expires the end of this month. But in the past two years, the situation in Myanmar has almost completely reversed. The military junta gave up its power, and there were free elections held for a new parliament. Most symbolic, the Myanmar freedom activist Aung San Suu Kyi was elected to that parliament. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has promised the Myanmar government that as they progress toward equal rights and a new constitution, the United States would lift the sanctions.
The Finance Committee extended the sanctions, but also extended the ability of the administration to waive or end the sanctions as Myanmar makes progression. The extension was part of a bill to renew expiring trade benefits for sub-Saharan African countries.
In 2002, the United States imported $356.4 million worth of clothing and other goods from Myanmar. In 2003, imports fell to $275.7 million and have been non-existent since. Myanmar is not an industrialized, modern nation, but is rich in natural resources that could be used to create a new economy. Last week, the Obama administration lifted some sanctions to permit American companies to invest in Myanmar. The Finance Committee’s recommendation, if passed by the whole Congress, will permit additional sanctions to be lifted on a reasoned, measured basis.
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Release All Political Prisoners and Stop War in Burma
Lifting Sanctions on Burma's Regime would be a Mistake
Mr. Sa Long
New Delhi, India