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News Headlines - September 15, 2011 PDF Print E-mail

September 15, 2011

News Headlines

1. US urges Myanmar to make "genuine" reforms

2. Burma “Could Become China’s California”

3. Burma is not changing enough for recognition

4. Joeys Win At Last Against Myanmar

5. US to test 'winds of change' with Myanmar FM

6. U.S.: Myanmar Sanctions to Remain

7. Myanmar acts on Indian concerns, but doesn’t deliver

8. Burma and Reform: All Talk and no Walk?

9. From Bluegrass to Burma:

10. Remains of 19 Chinese WWII soldiers returned home from Myanmar

11. Pictures - Discarded Food Waste Slop Recycled Into Cheap Cooking Oil In China


US urges Myanmar to make "genuine" reforms

Rangoon, Burma
Press Conference in Rangoon, Burma

Derek Mitchell
Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma
Rangoon, Burma
September 14, 2011

AMBASSADOR MITCHELL: Mingalaba. Good Morning. Let me read a brief prepared statement. I have just completed my first visit to Burma as U.S. Special Representative and Policy Coordinator. I have spent the past five days in intensive consultations with a full spectrum of interlocutors in Nay Pyi Taw and in Rangoon to discuss the situation here and ways in which the United States can support and promote democracy, human rights, development and national reconciliation in the country in our common interests.

I want to acknowledge first the government’s excellent hospitality, Chargé d’Affaires Michael Thurston and his outstanding team at the U.S. Embassy for a quick turnaround in organizing a visit, and all my interlocutors for their time and candor during our meetings over the past several days.

Being my initial visit, my primary goal was to introduce myself, listen to local perspectives, and establish relationships that I will build on as I proceed to fulfill my mandate and responsibilities for managing U.S. Burma policy.

In Nay Pyi Taw, I met with Union Parliament Speaker Khin Aung Myint, People’s Parliament Speaker Thura Shwe Mann, Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, Labor and Social Welfare Minister Aung Kyi, Border Affairs Minister Lieutenant General Thein Htay, Information Minister Kyaw Hsan, and USDP Secretary General Htay Oo. I also met with a cross section of opposition MPs, including representatives from ethnic minority regions.

I was encouraged by and pleased with the quality and openness of the exchanges, and the constructive and respectful tone of each interaction I had. During these meetings, my government interlocutors repeatedly stated that this country had opened a new chapter to a civilian-led democratic governing structure and expressed that they were sincerely committed to reform in the interest of human rights, democracy, development, and national reconciliation.

I responded that the United States recognized and welcomed recent gestures from Nay Pyi Taw, such as President Thein Sein’s meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission, public emphasis on dialogue with ethnic minority groups in the interest of national reconciliation, and moderate easing of media censorship. Among both the international community and the Burmese people, it is clear from my visit that there are heightened expectations and hopes that change, real change, may be on the horizon.

At the same time, I was frank about the many questions the United States – and others – continue to have about implementation and follow-through on these stated goals. I noted that many within the international community remain skeptical about the government’s commitment to genuine reform and reconciliation, and I urged authorities to prove the skeptics wrong.

To that end, I raised concerns regarding the detention of approximately 2,000 political prisoners, continued hostilities in ethnic minority areas accompanied by reports of serious human rights violations, including against women and children, and the lack of transparency in the government’s military relationship with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

I offered respectfully that the government should take concrete actions in a timely fashion to demonstrate its sincerity and genuine commitment to reform and national reconciliation, including by releasing all political prisoners unconditionally, engaging in meaningful outreach to the political opposition, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and engaging in dialogue rather than armed conflict with ethnic minority groups. I affirmed the importance of establishing a legitimate and credible mechanism for investigating reported abuses in ethnic areas as a first step toward building trust and promoting national reconciliation through accountability. I also urged the government to adhere to all of its obligations under UN Security Council Resolutions related to proliferation.

I want to emphasize that our dialogue on these topics was respectful and open, which I greatly appreciated. I noted that progress on these issues will be essential to progress in the bilateral relationship, and that if the government takes genuine and concrete action, the United States will respond in kind.

Here in Rangoon, I continued the conversation on current conditions and trends in the country with a broad cross section of civil society. I consulted with the business and diplomatic communities, and local and international NGOs, including citizens doing heroic and courageous work providing free funeral services for the poor and treating those with HIV/AIDS.

And of course I met with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and leaders of the National League for Democracy to discuss their perspectives on recent developments in the country, the future of their party, and U.S. policy approaches. I was reminded consistently during my visit that Daw Suu remains deeply important to the citizens of this country, Burman and ethnic minority alike, and that any credible reform effort must include her participation. It was also clear that she remains fully committed to the cause of peaceful change through dialogue.

Unfortunately, I was only here for a few days and thus was unable to explore the full breadth and diversity of this beautiful country. However, the courage and commitment of those with whom I met give me great hope for the country’s future should genuine reform and reconciliation proceed. I will be following developments closely from afar, and look forward to many return visits here to continue the United State’s principled engagement policy.

Again, I would like to thank the government for hosting me so warmly for my inaugural visit in my new post, and to all my interlocutors for sharing their valuable insights. I consider this a highly productive visit. I will now take a few questions before I have to catch a plane.

QUESTION: Did you get any assurance of the release of political prisoners from the government?

AMBASSADOR MITCHELL: As I suggested, we had a very candid dialogue on this subject. There were no absolute commitments on anything. But we had a very productive exchange on the subject, so nothing further I can say on that.

QUESTION: And my second question is would it be possible for your government to lift the sanctions if the political prisoners were not released?

AMBASSADOR MITCHELL: The issue of sanctions, again, that was not a primary point of discussion. There are a lot of issues that we need to deal with in terms of the relationship, and sanctions are one component, as I said. Most of this is about our engagement, our principled engagement, with the regime. I know yesterday there was a report that came out unfortunately, sad to say, that I think mischaracterized my position on this, referring to a roadmap to lift sanctions. I think it took my words out of context. It mischaracterized what I said in response to a question. I never presented, nor have I developed such a roadmap. The conversation flow and tone were as I just described earlier about the full range of issues being addressed concerning exchange of views, concerning what we would need to see in order to truly develop a productive relationship and to change the parameters of the bilateral relationship.

QUESTION: What is the most important criterion for assessing the situation in this country?

AMBASSADOR MITCHELL: There's no particular single issue, obviously. I listed the things we needed to see that we thought were elements of demonstrating credible and genuine commitment to reform. So there's no single answer to that, but if we see some of the things that I outlined, I think it would demonstrate the kind of genuine commitment that people are looking for, not just probably -- obviously from the outside, but people within the country. And the issue of skepticism and uncertainty about how far this is going and where it's leading, I think the government recognizes that the skepticism is out there and we'll just see how this proceeds. And as I say, if we see actions that are credible, the United States will respond.

QUESTION: I would like to ask if you've seen any change of attitude from the current government during your visit?

AMBASSADOR MITCHELL: Well this is my first visit, so I can't compare it to any previous visit to say whether they've changed or not. I can answer that question during my second visit, which I hope will be soon. I have to say though, that I know there were concerns about my position, coming in. My position was, as many of you know, was mandated by Congress under the JADE Act. In the United States, the JADE Act is the sanctions act. So there were concerns that I was purely a function of sanctions, that I was simply here to talk sanctions, and not to talk more broadly about the relationship and to get a feel for the place and what's happening here. So my sense was, again, I was very pleased with the reception I got, very pleased with the nature of the conversations, very pleased with how welcoming they were. And I detected no nervousness about me or my position. And I look forward to continuing those relationships in a very frank and candid manor that befits a healthy relationship.

QUESTION: Yesterday the State Department released an annual religious freedom report, and Burma being designated as one of the eight nations, countries of most particular concern. Did you have a chance to meet the various religious organizations? If so, what is their concern? Do they still have these concerns? How likely is Burma to be out of this list soon?

AMBASSADOR MITCHELL: I did not meet with representatives of those organizations. So I can't speak for them in terms of how they view the situation in the country. There's a separate section of the State Department that looks at these things independently and I can't comment any further on the context or substance

QUESTION: I need a little clarification. Does it mean that the U.S. will continue to employ the two-track policy, retaining the sanctions and engaging with the government at the same time? So in view of the current developments that you just mentioned, are you going to, is the U.S. going to establish Ambassadorial-level engagement soon? And another one is, does the government give any indication that they're initiating any tri-partite dialogue that involves ethnic minorities?

AMBASSADOR MITCHELL: On the latter, we didn't discuss that, so I don't know what their intentions are, or the prospects of that. I know there's been discussion of that here. Before I came I read there was some kind of discussion of a potential peace commission through the legislature, but that's in process. But I heard nothing specifically on this during my visit, on a tri-partite process.

Yes, our policy has not changed. My trip is consistent with the policy. That sanctions remain in place is a component of our policy. But really this trip was about going beyond that to engage in a principled fashion, to discuss a broad range of issues, but particularly to talk about the relationship and what would be required to change the parameters of the relationship to date. And to get a feel for what's happening here on the ground. You can't learn about a country from afar. You have to come. You have to talk to people directly. You have to get a lot of different perspectives. You have to listen. My point in coming here was to listen as well as provide very candidly the U.S. perspective so that people here were not misunderstanding our policy. I'm sure there's not a clear understanding of what does principled engagement mean, what are your intentions, how far can this go, and the same here. So again, I didn't see enough of the country in some fashion. I didn't see everybody that maybe I could see while here. Believe me, I worked very hard. I was having meetings from the first thing in the morning until late at night, trying to meet as many people as I possibly could to get as broad a perspective on what's happening here. And as I said, my sense is people are hopeful about change. People do have high expectations and are hopeful that something real may happen. The question is how far that will go and what the concrete steps will be going forward. So it's a long answer to the question; our policy has not changed.

QUESTION: (Inaudible – repeat of question about reestablishing Ambassador-level engagement from Rangoon.)

AMBASSADOR MITCHELL: Oh, well the issue is… that's a hypothetical. We've made no decisions on that. Again, no changes to the way we've done things to date along those lines.

QUESTION: (Interpreted from Burmese). Yesterday you met with the Human Rights Commission here. If the commission is formed by former government officials, so do you think they will genuinely investigate the abuses here? What is your comment?

AMBASSADOR MITCHELL: It was a very good meeting. They gave us an overview of their plans, their thinking. But they're at the very, very early stages of thinking about it themselves. I have some sympathy for them. They're trying to get up and running quickly and think things through. I have no preconceptions about what they will or will not be able to do. I certainly have an open mind about that and they're struggling themselves, I think, about it. They said they will have to work with Nay Pyi Taw and send things, report up to Nay Pyi Taw. So I'm hopeful. I think it is a positive gesture. It's one of those things that I said to counterparts and put in my statement that is certainly a positive move to establish a human rights commission. But like everything else, the proof of its legitimacy will be how they proceed to implement that mandate after establishment. So I was grateful for the opportunity to have the conversation. We'll obviously be watching them.

The other thing is we offered that given there is not a lot of expertise in this, and there is some skepticism about whether it will be a real commission looking at abuses, reported abuses, alleged abuses here that it might be useful to have some partnership with international organizations, individuals with experience. And I said that also to the folks in Nay Pyi Taw that we remain open to assisting with helping them do a job like investigating or doing accountability in ethnic minority areas in the interests of national reconciliation. So again our minds are open but are arms are outstretched too to assist as we can in making them a fully credible and productive institution in the interests of national reconciliation, human rights and democracy.

QUESTION: When you go back to the States you'll be reporting to the Congress, right? So if somebody from the Congress asks you what is the most significant outcome of your trip, what would you answer?

AMBASSADOR MITCHELL: Significant outcome… I think it's the remarkable sense of hope that we see here among people. That they see something happening. There is, something is happening, something may be changing. It may be small gestures now. But again that sense of expectation is very, very important. And as I say, I really hope that I think everybody who follows this country knows that there have been stops and starts, that expectations have been dashed. That things only go so far, and then they stop or they reverse themselves. And I really urged the leadership to prove the skeptics wrong. But it was very encouraging to me that my reception was as warm and welcome as it was. And that the leadership in Nay Pyi Taw were open to having discussions, having exchanges. Again, no commitments made. No outcomes that are tangible. But we were open to have a dialogue with respect, and I was able to say that I and the international community need to see the concrete action and genuine action for us to feel that something is not only hope but real change here over time. So I'll have a very frank exchange with my friends in Congress and they I think, they're just like the rest. They want the best - everyone in America. I hope it's clear to folks that people in the United States wish this country no ill will at all. We want to do what's best to help this country develop itself. Those four goals that were outlined by the government – democracy, human rights, development, and national reconciliation – we share. If the government is serious and committed to those goals in a credible fashion they will have a partner in the United States and I think Congress and others will be watching very closely to see what this government decides to do in order to move credibly forward toward those goals.

One last question.

QUESTION: You said that this is your very first trip. So when will you be coming again? And also I would like to know your opinions on the rising China influence here.

AMBASSADOR MITCHELL: It was not a topic of conversation, really, with the leadership. I do get a sense, talking to some citizens and others here that there is a palpable sense of Chinese influence, Chinese presence. But we really didn't have much of a discussion of that topic. The leadership here and the citizens here will have to decide how they deal with their neighbor. Obviously whenever you have neighbors, there are challenges, there are opportunities. But there's really nothing more I would say about Chinese influence in that regard.

Thank you all very much. I do have to catch the plane. I appreciate this and I will see you next time I'm sure.

Burma “Could Become China’s California”

Thant Myint-U writes on Burma’s place at a “new crossroads of Asia” between China and India. Tantalisingly for Beijing, it also separates China from the Indian Ocean, to which new roads, railways and pipelines will soon offer ready access. From Foreign Policy:

Burma could become China’s California. Chinese authorities have long been vexed by the soaring gap in income between its prosperous eastern cities and provinces and the many poor and backward areas to the west. What China is lacking is another coast to provide its remote interior with an outlet to the sea and to its growing markets around the world. Chinese academics have written about a “Two Oceans” policy. The first is the Pacific. The second would be the Indian Ocean. In this vision, Burma becomes a new bridge to the Bay of Bengal and the seas beyond.

China’s leadership has also written about its “Malacca dilemma.” China is heavily dependent on foreign oil, and approximately 80 percent of these oil imports currently pass through the Strait of Malacca, near Singapore, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and just 1.7 miles across at its narrowest point. For Chinese strategists, the strait is a natural choke point where future enemies could cut off foreign energy supplies. An alternative route needed to be found. Again, access across Burma would be advantageous, lessening dependence on the strait and at the same time dramatically reducing the distance from China’s factories to markets in Europe and around the Indian Ocean. That Burma itself is rich in the raw materials needed to power industrial development in China’s southwest is an added plus.


Burma is not changing enough for recognition

Editorial Desk
The Nation (Thailand)
Publication Date : 15-09-2011

The speech by Burmese Foreign Minister U Wunna Muang Lwin to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva earlier this week was very impressive. He discussed at length the progress Burma has been making since the new government under President Thein Sein was formed in March. He said Burma has made progress in many areas including the sensitive issues related to human rights. The International Committee of the Red Cross has been given access to prisoners like never before, he claimed.

He also cited the outcome of the visit by the UN's special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, saying that the trip was productive and that the international community should encourage positive changes inside Burma. Yet somehow he did not mention the condition of over 2,300 political prisoners in Burma, for whom the international community has appealed repeatedly to the Naypyidaw authorities to release without delay.

Toward the end of his speech, the foreign minister was very sanguine in reiterating that Burma has entered a new era and that the country is changing in order to make real progress. Therefore, the international community must help Burma to fulfil its hopes and ambitions.

Of course, in an ideal world, Burma's request would be immediately fulfilled in no time. But the rest of the world knows well the cruelty of the Burmese junta leaders, who have ruled the country with an iron fist for decades since independence after the Second World War. Naypyidaw still has a long list of dirty laundry. It has to do much more work to gain any real respect in the international community. Indeed, political openness and related developments need to move forward, especially those issues related to national reconciliation and dialogue with the opposition and the minority ethnic groups.

It is obvious that Naypyidaw is racing against time to prove - or try to convince - that there has been substantive progress in all areas in order to warrant both ASEAN and international support. Burma hopes that at the upcoming ASEAN informal meeting in New York later this month, it will be awarded the chair of the regional grouping for 2014, as requested earlier this year. But Indonesia, the current chair, has not yet been scheduled to visit Burma to check whether the conditions are right to hand over this prestigious appointment to the recalcitrant state.

Furthermore, the foreign minister reiterated that the ongoing economic sanctions against Burma should be lifted because this would help the government there to assist the disadvantaged and end the international isolation imposed by the US and EU.

Of late there have been more and more positive noises from all parties concerned with Burma, especially from some of the EU members. But despite some progress in economic reforms, there is still a lack of guarantee that these positive developments will not be reversed. In the past, on many occasions, Burma has backtracked on its promises whenever there are negative affects for the junta's grip on powers. For instance, it is entirely feasible that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi could be re-arrested again.

The world community knows that the positive developments so far come mainly from the powers that be, and that there is an urgent need to bring further changes that involve non-governmental players from the opposition and civil society. At the moment, these elements are still restricted and held firmly under the control of the authorities. Burma can only see genuine changes if people from all walks of life are involved in bringing them about. The generals need to be reminded that the country does not belong to them and a few of their "elected" cronies.


Joeys Win At Last Against Myanmar

THE Qantas Joeys picked up their first win in five games when they beat Myanmar 4-0 in their latest AFC U16 Championship qualifier in Bangkok last night.

Captain Ben Warland opened the scoring in the first half with Daniel De Silva getting a double in the second half and Taylor Tombides scoring his second goal of the tournament.

After a disappointing first up loss to Thailand in their opening match, Joeys coach Jan Versleijen made three changes to his starting line-up with goalkeeper Andre Jannese replacing Jordan Thurtell and Zackary Nicolis & Billy Hatzinikolis coming in for Mark Ochieng & Josh MacDonald.

The Joeys started slowly and finally broke the deadlock in the 20th minute when a Stephen O'Neill cross was met by Ben Warland who out jumped the Myanmar defence to head home from inside the 6 yard box.

It took until the 76th minute for the Joeys to extend their lead after Ben Warland played a long ball from the half way line in behind the Myanmar defence for Daniel De Silva. De Silva controlled with his thigh and then hit a well-placed volley home to bottom right corner of the goal giving the Myanmar goalkeeper Soe Arkar no chance of saving.

The third goal came three minutes later following some good build up play by the Qantas Joeys. Hyuga Tanner turned toward the Myanmar defence and played a through ball for Taylor Tombides who then beat the advancing Arkar to the ball and tapped home for his second of the tournament.

The scoring was completed three minutes before time in similar circumstances to the third goal. Tanner again played through a diagonal ball behind the defence for Daniel De Silva on this occasion. De Silva drove home a first time shot to the right hand corner of the goal to notch his second of the match.

Versleijen was much happier with his team’s performance this time out, but still believes that his team can get better.

"In the first half we struggled a little bit to find our rhythm, but were able to score a goal from a set piece," he said.

“In the second half they gave us more time and space on the ball which resulted in some good second half goals.

“We still have a lot of room for improvement and we will look to do this in the match v Hong Kong.”

In the other Group G matches Thailand defeated Guam 11-0 and Indonesia defeated Hong Kong 2-0.

The Qantas Joeys will next face Hong Kong on Saturday, kick-off 3:00pm local, 6.00pm AEST.

During the AFC U-16 Championship Qualifiers, each group will play one round league and the top two teams from each group will progress to the AFC U-16 Championship 2012.

Additionally, the third best teams from each West and East zones will complete the 16-team line up of the 2012 finals.

The AFC U16 Championship will serve as the qualifying event for the 2013 FIFA U17 World Cup which will be held in the United Arab Emirates in October/November.

Match Details

Qantas Joeys   4 (Ben Warland 20’, Daniel De Silva 76’/87’, Taylor Tombides 79’)
Myanmar          0
Rajamangala Stadium, Bangkok, Thailand

Referee: Lee Dong JUN (KOREA, REPUBLIC)
Assistant Referees: Aminul Islam RIPON (BANGLADESH) & IGOR (TURKMENISTAN)
Fourth Official: Iida JUMPEI (JAPAN)
Crowd: 400

Qantas Joeys line up: 12.Andre JANNESE (gk), 3.Aaron  CALVER, 4.Benjamin WARLAND (c), 5.Darcy MADDEN, 7.Daniel De SILVA, 8.Kevin LY (21.Conor O'NEILL 46’), 10.Hyuga TANNER, 11.Taylor TOMBIDES, 20.Stephen O’NEILL (17.Joshua MACDONALD 79’), 22.Zackary NICOLIS, 42.Billy HATZINIKOLIS (13.Reece PAPADIMITRIOS 46’)

Substitutes not used: 1.Jordan THURTELL (gk), 2.Mark OCHIENG, 6.Jordan BROWN, 14.Brendan GONANO, 18.Thomas MANOS, 19. Lukas STERGIOU, 24.James BALDACCHINO, 25.Ross MILLARD, 29. Todd NORRIS

Yellow Cards: Reece PAPADIMITRIOS 67’
Red Cards:  Nil

Myanmar line up: 12.Soe ARKAR (gk), 2.Min THU, 4.Zin KO TUN (c), 6.Kyaw MIN OO, 11.Aung THU, 17.Soe MIN TUN (7.Myo THURA OO 61’), 18. Khant KO KO SOE, 21.Aung ZAY YA, 23.Aung MYINT MYAT, 24.Thiha HTET AUNG (28.Aung THU PHYO 80’), 32.WANNA (22.Nyein CHAN AUNG 33’)                                                                                                                                  

Substitutes not used: 14.Wai LIN KO, 19.Aung KYAW KHANT, 20.Pyae SONE AUNG, 25.Yee MIN MYAT (GK), 30.Min THU (GK), 33.Aung HEIN SOE OO, 35.Htin MIN LATT, 36.Myatnoe AUNG

Yellow Cards: Khant KO KO SOE 90’, Aung THU 90+3’
Red Cards: Nil
Copyright © FourFourTwo Australia . All rights reserved.,joeys-win-at-last-against-myanmar.aspx


US to test 'winds of change' with Myanmar FM

AFP September 15, 2011, 6:52 am

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) - The United States will meet next week with Myanmar's foreign minister in the second such talks this month to explore "winds of change" it sees in the nation, a senior official said Wednesday.

Derek Mitchell, the newly appointed US coordinator on Myanmar, closed his first visit Wednesday to the country formerly known as Burma and urged "genuine and concrete" reforms by the military-backed regime.

A senior US official accompanying Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on a trip to San Francisco said the United States planned "intense deliberations" next week when Myanmar's Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin visits New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

"There are clear winds of change blowing through Burma. We are trying to get a sense of how strong those winds are and whether it's possible to substantially improve our relationship," the official said on condition of anonymity.

The official, however, reiterated that the United States still had "real concerns" in Myanmar, including the military's "horrible brutalities" against ethnic minority guerrillas and troops' treatment of women.

Myanmar last year held rare elections after which the military nominally handed power to civilians, although the opposition and the United States have criticized both steps as shams.

The new leadership has also opened talks with opposition icon and Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who was freed after spending most of the past two decades under house arrest.

Clinton was visiting San Francisco for a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and annual talks between the US and Australian foreign affairs and defense chiefs.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd visited Myanmar in July and has since had "discreet conversations" with Clinton on how to move forward, the US official traveling with Clinton said.

Rudd, speaking to the United States about the situation in Myanmar, said it was "too soon to call it overly hopeful" but highlighted "most probably the most significant developments on the ground in decades," the US official said.

President Barack Obama's administration opened dialogue with Myanmar after taking office in 2009, concluding that the previous policy of trying to isolate the regime has failed.
Obama has maintained sanctions on Myanmar, including over its lucrative gem trade, but has said that it is willing to ease restrictions in return for progress on democratization.


U.S.: Myanmar Sanctions to Remain

A new U.S. envoy to Myanmar said U.S. sanctions against the military-dominated country will remain in place for now, but that the U.S. is ready to respond if it sees "credible" steps toward reform.

Derek Mitchell, U.S. envoy on Myanmar, visits a Yangon care center on Sunday.

The remarks, at the end of a multiday trip by U.S. Special Representative Derek Mitchell, come at a time of rising hope that Myanmar's government is pressing ahead with reforms that could result in greater political and economic freedom in the troubled Southeast Asian nation. But they also reflect the increasingly difficult position for the U.S., which is facing increased pressure from investors and other opponents of sanctions who believe the time has come for a more conciliatory approach from the U.S. government—including a faster timetable for easing sanctions.

On Wednesday at a news conference in Yangon, Mr. Mitchell said, "It is clear from my visit that there are heightened expectations and hopes that change, real change, may be on the horizon" and he called on Myanmar's leaders to "prove the skeptics wrong."

"If we see actions that are credible, the United States will respond." he said. But he also said many people remain skeptical true reform is under way.

Mr. Mitchell's trip was the latest in a series of recent visits by U.S. officials including Sen. John McCain as the U.S. tries to reach a breakthrough in relations between the two nations, which have been toxic for years amid reports of widespread human-rights abuses and signs of a possible military buildup there.

People familiar with the meetings say U.S. officials have repeatedly promised concessions to the country's new civilian government, which was elected in a vote widely decried as a sham by Western observers late last year, if it agrees to release some 2,000 political prisoners or take other significant steps. The overtures mirror the position of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has indicated a willingness to support eased sanctions if such major steps are taken. But Myanmar officials have refused or deferred action, these people say.

Myanmar leaders have made a number of less-dramatic moves recently, though, which are raising hopes it could be on a path toward gradual change. That has led to increasing calls from investors and some political leaders in the U.S. and Southeast Asia for a more conciliatory U.S. approach, including a possible relaxation of trade and economic sanctions put in place since the late 1990s that include prohibitions on new U.S. investment in Myanmar and bans on imports from the country.

Ye Htut, director-general of the Ministry of Information's information and public-relations department, said the Myanmar government was "encouraged" by Mr. Mitchell's comments and expressed hope "the international community will recognize and support the government's reforms."

Myanmar's latest steps include allowing Ms. Suu Kyi, who was released from seven years of house arrest in November 2010, to hold modest rallies and meet with President Thein Sein and other officials in recent weeks. The government recently asked the International Monetary Fund to help it rationalize its byzantine foreign-exchange system, which involves multiple exchange rates, and it is working on a labor law that would expand workers' rights to assemble.

The government says it has also formed a human-rights commission in recent days and local journalists say it has eased censorship of the news media. Activists working in the country say they have been pleasantly surprised by the new government's willingness to debate economic problems in the country and accept foreign advice on topics such as labor law and other possible reforms.

"I don't think we've seen this level of political momentum for 22 years," said David Mathieson, a researcher at Human Rights Watch in Thailand. "I think a lot of it is genuine."

U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat from Virginia and chairman of the East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, on Monday called for U.S. officials to "be prepared to adjust our policy" toward Myanmar in light of "clear indications of a new openness from the government." Western investors, who have long wanted to get back into Myanmar, are also calling for a change.

"There still are human-right abuses, don't get me wrong. But there's a chicken-or-egg issue," said Andrew Yates, head of sales for international equities at Asia Plus Securities in Bangkok. Myanmar officials "have made a step in the right direction, or at least are looking to make steps in the right direction," he said. "At some point you've got to actually give them something."

Mr. Mathieson, the Human Rights Watch researcher, said it may be time for a "more sophisticated debate" about sanctions that could lead to easing rules –like ones that block trade–that aren't working, while maintaining or tightening financial sanctions that target known wrong-doers in the country, among other steps.

But the harshest critics of Myanmar's government, including some exiled dissidents, say Myanmar's latest moves may be little more than window dressing to fool Western leaders, and could be reversed later. They say they have also documented new human-rights abuses linked to the government's intensifying conflicts with ethnic minority groups along Myanmar's borders with China and Thailand.

These dissidents are counseling U.S. officials to stand firm unless the Myanmar government capitulates in key areas, including the release of all political prisoners, an end to the armed conflicts, and substantially more dialogue between the armed forces and opposition forces led by Ms. Suu Kyi.

"We are seeing some movement in the country," but even so, "we can't find any reason to give them rewards" yet, said Aung Din, executive director for the U.S. Campaign for Burma, a dissident group in Washington that uses Myanmar's former name.

"Some people say Myanmar is not serious about changing its political and economic system. But we sincerely believe that the future will prove the skeptics wrong," the Information Ministry's Mr. Ye said in an email Wednesday.

U.S. officials are wary of giving in too early, since the sanctions remain powerful bargaining chips. In remarks during a trip to Southeast Asia in July, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasized the need for more substantive steps, including steps by Myanmar to respect United Nations resolutions barring trade in sensitive military hardware with North Korea.

Other possible steps U.S. officials could consider include agreeing to stop referring to the country by its colonial-era name, Burma, which is a source of great embarrassment to Myanmar leaders. It could also agree to support a controversial Myanmar bid to take over the rotating chair of the regional Association of Southeast Asian Nations as it hopes to do in 2014.

Mr. Mitchell, the new envoy, could play an influential role going forward. A former senior defense department official, he was appointed to the post—which holds the rank of ambassador—after it sat empty following its creation under 2008 legislation that tightened sanctions against Myanmar.

He has made clear he supports sanctions, but as also indicated an interest in other approaches. In 2007, he coauthored a paper published in Foreign Affairs that said U.S. policy towards the country was "stuck," and called for more engagement with Myanmar's neighbors to encourage change. Simply reinforcing the U.S. strategy "of isolation and the existing sanctions regime will not achieve the desired results," the article noted.

Mr. Mitchell's trip to Myanmar in recent days included meetings with government ministers in the Myanmar capital of Naypyitaw, as well as opposition leaders.

"My government interlocutors repeatedly stated that this country had opened a new chapter," he said. While the U.S. "recognized and welcomed" recent gestures including the government's willingness to meet with Ms. Suu Kyi, "many within the international community remain skeptical about the government's commitment to genuine reform and reconciliation," he said.


Burma and Reform: All Talk and no Walk?

Posted: 9/13/11 09:07 PM ET

BANGKOK - It isn't easy working as a journalist under Burma's military rulers. The army has run the country since 1962, and although there were elections in November 2010 - the first in two decades - the army's party won easily and the new Government is headed by Thein Sein, a former General and Prime Minister under the ancien regime.

On the face of it, the new man in charge is trying to 'do reform'. He recently met with Aung San Suu Kyi - the extra-parliamentary opposition leader and now subject of a Luc Besson-directed film 'The Lady' - who in turn praised Thein Sein. To some, the new President is cautious 'reformist', apparently battling against 'hardliners' elsewhere in the Burmese Government. Still others, however, see this apparent contest as theatre, more control freakery by the military strongman behind the scenes, Than Shwe. A Senior-General in the army, he took power in 1992, and ccording to US diplomatic cables from the Rangoon embassy, 'all roads lead to Than Shwe' when it comes to figuring out Burma's opaque power structures.

Reform talk aside, Burma still holds almost 2000 political prisoners, which the Government describes as mere criminals. Among their number are hundreds of Buddhist monks, and over 20 journalists. Just before Thein Sein's April speech lauding the '4th estate', a correspondent for Democratic Voice of Burma was sentenced to 13 years in jail, the seventeenth DVB reporter to be locked up.

Burma has a growing private-owned media sector, but it must run content by Government (read army) censors, who can cut and reject content as they see fit. In another token-looking gesture, the Burmese authorities loosened the censor rules a bit, removing non-news, non-political content from their workload.

According to Shawn Crispin, southeast Asia representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the 'relaxations' are meaningless. "If the new regime was serious about press freedom, it would dissolve its censorship department altogether and allow the private media to play the watchdog role it does in real democracies."

In a hint at who is really running the show in the 'new' Burma, Crispin concluded that "I doubt Thein Sein's military minders have the stomach for that."

CPJ will publish an assessment of Burma's media landscape in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, see


Myanmar acts on Indian concerns, but doesn’t deliver

Aloke Tikku and Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, September 14, 2011

Myanmar’s military action against insurgent camps in Sagaing province last week may have been aimed at sending a message to New Delhi that India’s security concerns were being addressed, rather than wipe out camps of insurgent groups such as the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA).

Last week, Myanmar sent two heavily-armed army battalions into the dense forests of Sagaing province 800 km north of the capital, Yangon, and attacked two insurgent camps, including the one where Ulfa commander-in-chief Paresh Barua was holed up.

The Ulfa faction led by Paresh Barua and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) are among the eight insurgent groups that have bases in Myanmar. Barua escaped unhurt, possibly helped by a tip-off about the impending attack, a government official said.

According to communication intercepted by intelligence agencies, Ulfa had about 200 cadres in and around the camp and sent another 200-250 cadres to cross the border into Myanmar.

A security official said the military operation had been on for the last few days but wondered why they were not picking any information about casualties of any side. Or why Myanmar did not inform them about the operation and “request for steps to move Indian forces closer to the border to block gaps,” he asked.

The military action was in response to rising concerns in New Delhi about the ease with which insurgent groups were able to operate out of Myanmar. This has particularly been a sore point with Delhi, particularly since other eastern neighbours – Bhutan in 2003 and later Bangladesh in 2010 – had shut their doors on insurgent outfits.

Most of the insurgent groups had moved into Myanmar, from where some of them not only access arms from China but also are believed to have come in contact with Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI.

Myanmar shares 1,643 km land boundary with India’s four northeastern states.

India would like Myanmar to address its security concerns as China partakes in the economic development of that nation in a bigger way.

Officials concede one reason why the army in Myanmar doesn’t go all the way on India’s security concerns was that India has not invested in developing security ties.

New Delhi intends to address this gap by proposing interactions between the army and police forces at different levels during President Thein Sein’s State visit to India in October.


From Bluegrass to Burma:

Published on September 14, 2011

Topics :
Annapolis Region Community Arts Council , Annapolis District Drama Group , Nova Scotia Department of , Burma , Mexico , Thailand

The 2011/2012 season for ARTs Tuesdays opens on September 20, with an international flavor. An evening of music, art, and drama will take you to Kentucky, Mexico, Thailand, and Burma.

Presented by the Annapolis Region Community Arts Council (ARCAC), ARTs Tuesdays provide an opportunity to experience a variety of music, art, and drama in short segments.

“Our 2010/2011 season was a real hit,” said ARCAC chair Grace Butland, “and we’re delighted to be able to continue the series. We’ve made a few changes – sessions will be the third Tuesday of each month this year, and we’ll start at 7 p.m. rather than 6:30 – but we’ll follow the same format as last year: half-hour segments of live music, arts, and drama. Breaks between each segment will allow for mingling, enjoying refreshments, viewing gallery exhibits, and chatting with performers.”

The music for the September 20 kick-off program will be a bluegrass jam with old-time instruments. It’s a fun, informal group with likely instruments to include banjo, guitar, acoustic bass, fiddle, mandolin, and accordion.

My Story

With the sounds of Kentucky still in your ears, you will travel to Mexico, Thailand and Burma with Sue and Nat Tileston as they talk about the My Story Photo Project they started in a refugee camp on the Thai/Burma border in 2006. Through this project, the Tilestons provide digital cameras and training in basic photo techniques to refugees and street kids. To date, they have trained 164 students and mounted 17 exhibitions in Thailand, Canada, Mexico, and the United States. After training, students use their cameras to document their work and lives.

Short Play

Wrapping up the evening, members of the Annapolis District Drama Group will entertain the audience with a short play.

ARTs Tuesday is funded by a Cultural Activities Program grant from the Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage. The program takes place at ARTsPLACE, 396 St. George Street, in Annapolis Royal. Music begins at 7 p.m. and the program usually runs less than two hours. Admission is by donation.

See this article on The Spectator newspaper


Remains of 19 Chinese WWII soldiers returned home from Myanmar

09:29, September 15, 2011

KUNMING, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- The remains of 19 Chinese soldiers who died fighting Japanese aggressors in Myanmar during World War II have been returned home after 60 years.

A burial ceremony was held Wednesday morning at the Guoshang Cemetery in Tengchong County in southwestern Yunnan Province, a province which borders Myanmar.

The Guoshang Cemetery, which literally means "Elegy of the Nation Cemetery," was established in 1945 to honor the deceased soldiers of Chinese expeditionary forces that fought in Myanmar and India during WWII.

Thousands of people, including veterans, descendants of the expeditionary force soldiers, overseas compatriots and local residents, attended the ceremony.

"It is regretful that many of my comrades lost their lives in the foreign battlefield. Now, I am thankful that they are finally home," veteran Lu Wencai said.

Wednesday marks the 67th anniversary of a battle in which Chinese expeditionary forces reclaimed Tengchong from the hands of the Japanese invaders.

The remains of the 19 soldiers were found in Mytikyina and Hsipaw of Myanmar, and were escorted to Tengchong Tuesday.



Slop oil is “refined” from slop or swill, which is the leftover “food” that people and restaurants throw away. Another name is “地沟油”,  “gutter oil” or “drainage oil”, because the oil is recovered from the sewer drains coming out of restaurants. Usually, slop or swill is fed to pigs but some unscrupulous people will gather the slop and “recycle” the oil in the slop to sell as cooking oil. Of course, this cooking oil is known as “slop oil” and it is cheaper than fresh cooking oil. Many street vendors who cook snacks (especially fried foods) may use this “slop oil” to save money and keep their costs low.

From NetEase:

Why has harmful slop oil once again flooded Wuhan?

(The bold black-hearted boss even guarantees: “Slop oil is safe to eat”). In March of this year, the internet exposed the Wuhan slop oil public health safety incident (refer to relevant report: “My god! Malicious Wuhan oil factories selling slop oil guarantee safe to eat“). The problem attracted heated discussion and criticism from netizens around the country. The problem also very quickly attracted the Wuhan city government’s attention and the relevant department committed additional people and man hours, conducting a city-wide special rectification operation that lasted over a month and investigated a large amount of slop oil (refer to relevant report: “Wuhan emergency seige of slop oil scenes (follow-up report)“). Yet, right when the people feel they can relax, who would have thought that illegal refining of slop oil would stage a comeback, and flood Wuhan.

At the end of September to beginning of October, 《王浩峰聚焦》["Wang Hao Feng Focus"] once again conducted an undercover investigation, witnessing large numbers of hideouts for the illegal refining of slop oil, with the hideouts on one street in the HongShan district being so numerous as to be innumerable; when it comes to refining slop oil, there are no procedures, and whoever offers the highest price is whoever it will be sold to.

This quickly, the problem has resurged. There are city residents who say this is not strange, is common, and is expected. With the supervision of some supervisory departments these days being “a gust of wind”, a problem is exposed, the leadership [government officials] will make some comments, there will be some on-site investigations, but they will see how the wind blows as they investigate and if no one continues asking and no one is after their positions/jobs, the investigations will stop there. Then, they will continue their own (tenured) lives of officialdom. [They will] let the same old problems wait until the next time they are exposed before saying anything. If they are not exposed, [they] won’t say anything.
















Comments from NetEase:


Fuck TMD, making money with a deadly thing.


These people should all die. The officials should also all die. Who will truly come supervise/manage this important problem of the people?


What place doesn’t have this kind of business, there are few hotels of medium-price and below that completely purchase cooking oil through proper channels!!!


May the relevant [government] departments use all their might to crack down on this black-hearted [unscrupulous] businessmen. When people have not yet died from eating this, don’t just punish them a little, because only treating it seriously when after people have died from eating this will be too late. (Recommendation: Make these black-hearted businessmen drink all of this oil themselves.)