BBC Burmese News Wednesday Evening

More detainees than Burma said: Mr Pinheiro

Mr Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the human rights investigator for Burma, has said he believes there are more political prisoners detained in the country than the government says.

Burmese regime has said it has released most of the detainees, but Pinheiro said yesterday that the government’s claim that only 93 people remain in detention is most likely not true.

Mr Pinheiro told an audience at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies that he did not think the number corresponded to reality.

But he did not estimate how many people still remain in detention.

BBC covers: Interview with Mr Pinheiro

In the interview with BBC, Mr Pinheiro said that he noticed there were new detentions after his return from Burma and commented it was not a positive result. He also said he will follow up those cases and deal with them in his report.


Musharraf stands down as army chief

General Musharraf
Musharraf gives up army uniform

President Musharraf of Pakistan has stood down as head of the army as he prepares for a five-year term as civilian head of state.

In a ceremony in Rawalpindi, he transferred command of the military to General Ashfaq Kiyani. Mr Musharraf described the military as the saviours of Pakistan.

The former prime minister and opposition politician, Benazir Bhutto, welcomed the move. But she said she was in no hurry to recognise Mr Musharraf as president.

The United States said it was a good first step, but it urged Mr Musharraf to lift emergency rule.


Our coverage includes :
-Burmese authorities try to seal off the Maggin monastery which was a shelter for AIDS patients and was raided by security forces during September demonstrations

-The release and arrest of politicians in Burma

BBC Burmese News Monday Dawn

Sule Pagoda in central Rangoon is the starting point of protests by women
Sule Pagoda in central Rangoon is the starting point of protests by women

Activists stage small protest in Rangoon

Women activists in Burma have staged a small anti-government protest in the main city Rangoon – the first to take place there since the authorities crushed demonstrations in September.

Around thirty women gathered quietly at the Sule pagoda in central Rangoon, trying to avoid alerting the security forces.

They marched to Botataung, where they said prayers. The military government has maintained a heavy security presence in the city since it used violence to end widespread protests in September .

Today marks the second month of brutal crackdown of peaceful protesters by the military.

BBC Burmese Evening News (23.11.2007)

Friday Evening

Kachin State in Northern Burma
Kachin State in Northern Burma

Burmese Army arrests eight KIO members

Eight members of Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) were reported to have been arrested by the Burmese Army.

Sources from Kachin state said Light Infantry Battalion 142 of Northern Command raided a Kachin village in Dautphonyan township and arrested 8 people including a local chief officer and second chief officer yesterday. The army released six people in the evening but still detained the chief and the second chief officer.

The reason of the arrest is not yet clear. But the analyst said the government is trying to put pressure on KIO because it refused to issue a statement against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

BBC cover:

-Interview with U Aung Kyaw Zaw on the arrest of KIO members.


EU praised Arroyo for Burma

Philippines president Gloria Arroyo
Gloria Arroyo was praised by EU parliament members for her tough stance on Burma.

Philippines president Gloria Arroyo was praised by EU parliament members for her tough stance on Burma.

Hartmut Nassauer, chairman of the European parliament’s delegation for relations with ASEAN said even though Philippines has the problem of corruption and extra-judicial killings, it was a pillar of democracy compared to the other ASEAN member countries.

President Arroyo on Wednesday said Philippine lawmakers might refuse to ratify ASEAN’s first-ever charter until Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was freed.

BBC Burmese Evening News

This meeting was the third time between two parties
This meeting was the third time between two parties

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi taken to meeting

Burma’s detained opposition leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi met the liaison minister U Aung Kyi on Monday.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has been taken from house arrest to a meeting at a government guest house in Rangoon.

Details of the talks are not yet known, but she’s held two similar meetings in the past month with an official from the military government.

Burma’s leaders appointed a government minister to conduct a dialogue with the opposition, following international pressure over the suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations in September.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for twelve of the past eighteen years.


EU imposes new sanctions on Burma

EU Burma flag

The European Union has formally adopted new sanctions against Burma following the suppression of pro-democracy protests in September.

The sanctions were approved by EU foreign ministers in Brussels, who said they wanted to see constructive dialogue between the Burmese authorities and the opposition.

The measures include a wider visa ban against members of the military government and an embargo on imports of Burmese timber, metal and gemstones.


ASEAN ministers agree charter

Burma’s Foreign Minister U Nyan Win and Prime Minister General Thein Sein in Singapore

South East Asian foreign ministers have agreed new rules for the regional grouping, ASEAN, committing members to promoting human rights and strengthening democracy.

The charter is due to be signed at an ASEAN summit on Tuesday by leaders of the ten member countries, including Burma.

The Burmese Prime Minister, General Thein Sein, has arrived in Singapore for the summit, where he’s likely to come under pressure over the recent suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations.

The most senior United States trade official, Susan Schwab, has warned that ASEAN’s credibility is at stake over Burma.

Our correspondent U Min Htet gave us the latest updates from Singapore.

Saturday Evening BBC News

Saturday Evening

Senior General Than Shwe
Senior general Than Shwe reaffirms democracy roadmap plan

Senior general Than Shwe reaffirms democracy roadmap plan

The head of the military authorities running Burma, senior general Than Shwe, says his government’s seven-step road map to democracy is the only possible path to political reform.

The general defended his record and described the military administration in Burma as a necessary, transitive government.

His comments follow efforts by a United Nations envoy to promote dialogue between the military government and the party of the detained opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.


Speed up democratisation, China tells Burma

Wang Yi and Than Shwe
China urges Burma to speed up democratisation

China has urged the Burmese military government to speed up the democratic reforms.

A report by the official Chinese news agency (Xinjua) on the visit of deputy foreign minister, Wang Yi, said he’d reaffirmed Beijing’s support for efforts to promote reconciliation in Burma and improve the livelihoods of its people.

The agency quoted the Burmese side as pledging to take positive and pragmatic steps to accelerate the seven-step process of democratisation begun by the military government, which is now at its third stage.


Also in the news:

-Pro-democracy march by Oxford students from Oxford to London

-Interview with NLD information officer U Nyan Win

-Interview with U Aung Naing Oo on dialogue between Burmese government and the opposition

Friday Evening BBC Burmese News

Friday Evening

Mr Pinheiro
Mr Pinheiro visited Rangoon’s notorious Insein prison.

UN’s Pinheiro ‘determines Burma casualties’ report

The United Nations Human Rights Envoy, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, is in Thailand after a five-day mission to Burma.

He’s reported to have said that he’s been able to determine how many people were killed and detained in Burma during the suppression of September’s pro-democracy protests.

Mr Pinheiro is expected to publish the figures in two weeks, after he’s presented his findings to the UN. Burma’s military government says that ten people were killed when troops opened fire on protesters, but diplomats and dissidents says many more people died.

Mr Pinheiro met a number of imprisoned dissidents during his visit, but was not allowed to see the pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.


BBC cover:
-Interview with U Aung Thein, an opposite lawyer, on Mr Pinheiro’s trip and the conditions of recently released political prisoners.

-Interview with Ko Thet Naung Soe who recently released from Insein prison on his health condition.

Wednesday Afternoon

Pinheiro at Bago Kyakhatwaing monastery on Sunday
Pinheiro at Bago Kyakhatwaing monastery on Sunday

Pinheiro disturbed by Burma arrest

The United Nations says its human rights envoy to Burma, Sergio Paulo Pinheiro was disturbed by the arrest of a prominent labour activist, Su Su Nway.

The activist was arrested in Rangoon on Tuesday as she put up anti-government posters near the hotel where Mr Pinheiro was staying. A senior UN official said he expected the UN envoy to raise the issue with the Burmese authorities.

Mr Pinheiro is expected to be allowed to meet some of the detainees before he leaves Burma on Thursday.

-NLD spokesperson U Nyan Win told the BBC that more arrests should be stopped


US doubts change in Burma

Mr Gambari met Burmese PM at the Naypyidaw
Mr Gambari met Burmese PM at the Naypyidaw

America’s ambassador to the United Nations says he does not believe the Burmese military government has altered its attitude to democracy.

Zalmay Khalilzad was responding to a report from the UN special envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, who said the generals were making concrete changes and a political dialogue had begun with the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The BBC correspondent in the region says Mr Gambari’s assessment reflects his position as a servant of a deeply divided UN security council, and few believe the Burmese government is prepared to make meaningful change.

-Mr Gambari says to the BBC World today that is very clear a process has been inaugurated which will lead to substantive dialogue that is time-bound and should really produce tangible results but we are not there yet.

US envoy hits out at Burma junta

Burma’s military rulers are no closer to accepting democratic reform, the US envoy to the United Nations has said.

Zalmay Khalilzad, file image
Mr Khalilzad has urged the generals to embrace reforms

Zalmay Khalilzad was responding to a report from the UN special envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, who said the generals were making concrete changes.

Burma’s envoy to the UN, Kyaw Tint Swe, said it was “disappointing” that people “continue to express scepticism”.

The row came before a major gem sale in Rangoon – a key source of revenue for the junta.

Human rights groups have called for a boycott of the two-week sale.

‘Delicate’ situation

Mr Gambari had told the Security Council there had been “positive outcomes” from his latest trip to Burma – his second since troops violently suppressed anti-government protests in September.

The UN envoy – who was not allowed to meet top leader General Than Shwe – described the situation as “qualitatively different from what it was a few weeks ago”.


Aung San Suu Kyi with Ibrahim Gambari on 8 November 2007
Ibrahim Gambari met opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi last week

“On balance, the positive outcomes of this latest mission show that the government of Myanmar [Burma]… can be responsive to the concerns of the international community,” he said.

After his visit, detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was allowed to issue a statement for the first time in over four years and to meet members of her party.

But Ms Suu Kyi remains under house arrest and Western diplomats, including Mr Khalilzad, have voiced scepticism over the commitment of Burma’s leaders to a genuine process of dialogue.

“We do not believe that a fundamental shift has occurred in the regime’s attitude to embrace substantive reconciliation and transition to democracy,” the US envoy said.

In response Mr Kyaw, who represents the junta at the UN, said Burma’s problems were “complex and delicate”.

“It is disappointing that, notwithstanding the positive developments, some continue to express scepticism with regard to the commitment of the leadership and the pace of the ongoing process.”

The BBC’s Laura Trevelyan, at the UN, says Security Council diplomats are divided over whether the generals are genuinely committed to change, or just playing for time by pretending to engage with the UN and Aung San Suu Kyi.

‘Quick cash’

Meanwhile in Rangoon, a major auction of precious stones is expected to attract hundreds of international dealers.


A worker washes jade ahead of the auction in Rangoon
Hundreds of gem buyers are expected at the sale

Burma is one of the world’s biggest producers of jade and gems such as rubies.

But human rights groups say they are mined using forced labour, and their export helps fund the junta.

“The sale of these gems gives Burma’s military rulers quick cash to stay in power,” Arvind Ganesan, of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

The group called for sanctions on Burma’s gem trade – but most of the buyers expected to attend are from Asian nations such as Thailand and China which oppose sanctions against Burma.

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