Thursday, May 31, 2012

Amid Disorganization, ASSK Visits Thailand

ASSK at Bangkok Airport.
BANGKOK — “We’ll have to play it by ear, I guess,” said Thani Thongphakdi, a spokesman for the Thai Foreign Ministry.

He was referring to the visit of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar’s democracy movement and a newly elected member of Parliament who arrived in Thailand on Tuesday. Ignoring a row of photographers awaiting her, she left the airport quickly without commenting.

A trip outside Myanmar is a personal milestone for Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi — her first journey abroad in 24 years. But planning it appears to have been an afterthought. For example, no one from her office contacted the Thai Foreign Ministry, which normally coordinates such high-profile visits. “As far as I know, we have not been approached by her team,” Mr. Thani said a few hours before she was to land.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Death of A Burmese in Singapore

            (Direct translation of Aye Nyein's Article in Burmese from Myanmar in Singapore.)

Jurong Shipyards.
One day in 2004 Myint Thein telephoned me. He was giving me the bad news about his close friend Min Thawda who was also working at their Jurong Shipyard and now having a serious health problem.

According to him Min Thawda had had a severe tummy-ache. So he went to the Shipyard Clinic and saw the doctor there. But the doctor didn’t think it was serious and only gave him some pills to relieve the stomach pain. His stomach-ache was getting worse and he went to the same doctor again.

Still the stupid doctor didn’t do much for him. So finally Min Thawda went to the Burmese Clinic at the Peninsular Plaza and the elderly Burmese nurse there urged him to go to a hospital immediately by taxi and wrote a referral for him. Once he was at the hospital the doctors there took a CAT scan of his stomach and then admitted him.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Indian and Myanmar: A Forgotten Relationship

Indian PM Dr. Mohan Singh.
Dr Manmohan Singh will be the first Indian Prime Minister in last 25 years to visit one of our most important neighbouring countries, Myanmar. The visit is scheduled to commence from 27th May. He leads a big delegation comprising of National Security, economic and foreign affairs experts.

As is the past practice, Indian foreign office is always late in following up the policies, which would benefit the country immensely. This time around too is no different because US Secretary of State, Chinese Premier, British PM, Japanese PM, South Korean President have all completed their visits.

But the visit is anyway being talked about as one of the most important ones undertaken by Mr Singh considering the geostrategic significance of Myanmar, a resource rich country, where China alone accounted for more than 70% of FDI in the hydrocarbon sector.

Monday, May 21, 2012

General Than Shwe: Old Soldier Fading Away?

(Direct translation of Aung Shin’s article from his Blog “A Journalist from Myanmar”.)

I thought most people would like to know where our SG (Senior General) Than Shwe is and what he is doing nowadays. That’s why I write this article and post it on my blog.

It was quite amazing the way I met him face to face that day about 4 - 5 years ago.

That day in Naypyidaw I was somewhere not that far from the army barracks there. Only thing I know was I was in some part known as Upper Office of the War Office complex in Naypyidaw. I didn’t know which part exactly though.

At far distance the grey peaks and troughs of Pegu-Yoma ranges were clearly visible. There were bamboo bushes and Ingyin groves all over the deep forest where I was. And the War Office’s buildings and staff barracks were scattered around in small groups. Between the buildings were only electricity and communication poles and the connecting cables.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sanctions Are Lifted & New Ambassador Is Coming!

(Following is the Statement by the US President on Burma from the White House's Office of the Press Secretary for immediate release on May 17, 2012.)

Today marks the beginning of a new chapter in the relationship between the United States and Burma. Since I announced a new U.S. opening to Burma in November, President Thein Sein, Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma have made significant progress along the path to democracy.  The United States has pledged to respond to positive developments in Burma and to clearly demonstrate America's commitment to the future of an extraordinary country, a courageous people, and universal values. That is what we are doing.

Monday, May 14, 2012

KIA Massacre at Sa-done

(Translation of articles and photos from Kachin Daily News –KDN’s WWW site.)

Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
Since they unilaterally terminated the 17 years-long ceasefire agreement last year and resumed the hostilities against the Burmese army KIA has been facing massive casualties and severe loss of materials and weaponry.

Thus as a recent strategy change KIA has now avoided the army mobile columns and fortified army bases, the hard targets, and started attacking the so-called soft targets such as small army outposts and undefended government offices in the Kachin State.

(Photos and video are graphic. Weak-hearted should not read the rest!)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Last Indian Emperor and our King Thibaw?

(This is the repost of Nirmal Ghosh’s article “Dreams of Distant Mandalay” from his Straits Times blog

King Thibaw, Suphayalatt & Suphayagyi (1878).
Part of my childhood was spent in New Delhi; in the evenings I would be taken to the sprawling manicured grounds of the huge tomb of the Mughal emperor Humayun, now a World Heritage monument and one of the loveliest walks in the city, alive with peacocks calling plaintively on still late summer evenings.

Today, when I return to Delhi I go for walks in the Lodi Gardens, a huge park which houses a series of mausoleums and a big ancient mosque. In the mausoleums are the graves of the Pashtun kings of the Lodi dynasty who ruled Delhi from 1451 to 1526, before the Mughals arrived from Central Asia.

The wind blows through the big stone buildings. When you step into them the domed ceilings act like sound chambers; a pigeon cooing unseen high in the darkened roof fills it with sound.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Two Burmese Doctors: What Khin Nyunt Did to them?

During the failed 8-8-88 Uprising in Burma there was a photo of two young doctors carrying a fatally-wounded schoolgirl taken right in front of the Rangoon general Hospital.

The whole of that day the heavily-armed soldiers of brutal Burmese army had been indiscriminately shooting the unarmed civilian protesters all over Rangoon and the young schoolgirl was just one of many thousands casualties on the streets of Rangoon.

Almost everybody in Burma and probably the whole wide world had seen that iconic photo but no one really knows who they were. And now I would like to tell the story of that picture taken on 18 September 1988 the infamous day the army violently took over Burma from the previous military-controlled Socialist government.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-1826) – Part 9

(Chapter IX of Narrative of The Burmese War by Major John Snodgrass, British Army, the Military Secretary to the Commander of the British expeditionary force and the Assistant Political Agent in Ava.)

Indian Sepoys of British Native Infantry.
By the end of October the rains had ceased; and the return of the cold season, at all times so ardently hailed with pleasure in warm climates, could not fail to receive a double welcome from men who had for five months experienced so much misery and inconvenience, - exposed to severe and arduous duty before an enemy, at a season of the year when the troops of all other nations than those of Ava would have permitted us to enjoy uninterrupted rest – the soldiers naturally ascribing their sufferings, and much of the sickness that had prevailed among them, to the baneful experience and long continuance of the monsoon.

It however proved, as it generally does, in countries subject to periodical rains, that the most unhealthy period is that which immediately follows their termination; when the unwholesome exhalations from the ground, and noxious vapours from sheets of stagnant water, are pregnant with diseases and death.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Burma Fears Loss of Colonial Heritage!

Old Secretariat Building in Rangoon.
EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER: With the easing of sanctions on Burma comes concern that the unique built heritage of the country, in effect preserved by years of isolation, will be lost if something's not done to protect it.

In particular, historians, architects and planners are working together to develop a plan to preserve the unique streetscape of the city of Rangoon, once said to be the wealthiest city in Asia.

For the moment, many of the grand buildings of the era of the British are still standing, but they're at risk of being bulldozed by developers.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Lift All Economic Sanctions against Burma: Jim Webb

(Senator Jim Webb in his press release on May 4, 2012: U.S. should act in a “clear, proactive manner” to facilitate reforms in Burma “We lifted sanctions against China 41 years ago.”)  

US Senator Jim Webb.
Washington, DC—Senator Jim Webb, whose historic trip to Burma in 2009 set the stage for a new direction in U.S. policy toward that country, today called for the Administration “to facilitate reforms in Burma (Myanmar) through the lifting of economic sanctions.” Senator Webb, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, was joined in his letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by subcommittee ranking member James Inhofe.

“This letter is the result of years of thought and effort, and I am confident that lifting economic sanctions is the best course of action,” commented Senator Webb. “The President has the power to do that. It’s time for him to act.”

In 2009, Senator Webb was the first American leader to visit Burma in more than 10 years, and remains the only American official ever to meet with General Than Shwe, the former leader of the country’s former military regime. During that visit, Senator Webb also met with Thein Sein, who now serves as President, and Aung San Suu Kyi, who at that time remained under house arrest. Senator Webb made his third visit to Burma in April, shortly after that country’s national parliamentary by-elections. He then chaired a subcommittee hearing on April 26, 2012, with senior officials from the Departments of Treasury and State and USAID, as well as outside experts, to provide a clearer understanding of the range of sanctions in place and the obstacles to removing them.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Min Aung Hlaing Taking Laiza Soon?

(Will a large scale assault on the KIA HQ at Laiza on the Chinese border begin soon?)

On March 6 this year Burmese military staged a large-scale operational exercise involving a light infantry division and tanks and heavy artillery in Meikhtila. And the Commander-In-Chief General Min Aung Hlaing had attended and watched the war-game.

The replicated field and the sand model used as the enemy target was clearly the close replica of KIO headquarters at Laiza on the Chinese border. The most significant thing about the exercise was that the whole thing was broadcasted on the army-controlled Myawaddy TV while the KIA/KIO and Burmese government had been actively negotiating about a peace treaty.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Daw Suu Enters the Union Parliament

(This news report is from AFP and FT on 2 May 2012.)

NAYPYIDAW — Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was sworn in as a member of parliament Wednesday, opening a new chapter in the Nobel laureate's near quarter-century struggle against authoritarian rule.

The 66-year-old, in the capital Naypyidaw for the ceremony, stood to read the brief oath in unison with 33 other members of her National League for Democracy party elected to the lower house in April, an AFP reporter said.

The oath hands Suu Kyi public office for the first time and marks a transformation in the fortunes of the opposition leader, who was held under house arrest for much of the last 20 years but is now central to the nation's tentative transition to democracy.