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Old 10-03-2007, 04:25 PM   #41
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U.N. Worker Arrested in Myanmar

By THOMAS FULLER
The New York Times, Oct. 3


BANGKOK — A local staff member of the United Nations in Myanmar and three of her family members were taken from their home in Yangon before dawn today as part of an ongoing crackdown on demonstrators...The U.N. worker’s arrest is one of an unknown number of nighttime abductions conducted by the junta to identify and round up people who took part in the demonstrations, which were the largest protests against the junta in nearly two decades. Another U.N. official who was arrested last week and then released said he was taken to a university in Yangon where about 800 people were held in squalid conditions. “We’re concerned with what seems to be happening at night — there are arrests and people being detained,” Mr. Petrie said. “There is palpable fear even among our staff.”

Yangon residents say helicopters fly over the city throughout the night as military trucks patrol the streets with loudspeakers broadcasting intimidating messages. Shari Villarosa, the highest ranking U.S. diplomat in Myanmar, said the message, broadcast in Burmese, was roughly this: “We have your pictures. We’re going to come and get you.”

“I think they just are arresting anybody that they have the least bit of suspicion about,” Ms. Villarosa said. “This is a military that rules by fear and intimidation. Wouldn’t you be terrified if you were subject to being rousted out of bed at 2 o’clock at the morning, taken away and never knew why?”

The issue of nighttime raids was raised by Ibrahim Gambari, the special envoy of the United Nations, during a meeting Tuesday with Myanmar’s top general, Than Shwe. Three U.N. workers who had been detained last week were subsequently released. Mr. Gambari, who was scheduled to fly to New York late today to report on his trip to the U.N. secretary general, declined to speak with reporters during a stopover in Singapore. There are 3000 U.N. staff in Myanmar, mainly working in poverty alleviation projects. “Our sense is that the U.N. is not being targeted,” Mr. Petrie said. “The U.N. is being caught up in broader events.”

The number of people killed or detained during the crackdown remains unknown. Reuters news agency reported from Yangon that 80 monks and 149 women, possibly nuns, who had been rounded up last week were freed today. The agency quoted one of the monks saying he had been interrogated but not physically abused. The news agency also quoted a relative of three of the released women saying those being interrogated were divided into four categories: passers-by, those who watched, those who clapped and those who joined in.

The government says 10 people were killed in the crackdown including Kenji Nagai, a Japanese photojournalist, whose body was scheduled to be flown back to Japan on Thursday. Diplomats and Burmese dissident groups believe the total death toll was higher.
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Myanmar's Minorities Face Persecution

Associated Press, Oct. 3

BANGKOK -- While international attention has focused on the protests for democracy in Myanmar's cities, a hidden war has decimated generations of the country's powerless ethnic minorities, who have faced brutality for decades. The Karen, the Shan and other minority groups who live along the Myanmar-Thai border have been attacked, raped and killed by government soldiers. Their thatched-roofed, bamboo homes have been torched. Men have been seized into forced labor for the army, while women, children and the elderly either hide out in nearby jungles until the soldiers leave or flee over the mountains to crowded, makeshift refugee camps. ''Many, many thousands of Karen have died in those 60 years,'' Karen National Union secretary general Mahn Sha said this week of his people's struggle for autonomy since 1947.

The military junta has denied reports of atrocities and says the ethnic rebels are ''terrorists'' trying to overthrow the government.

The Southeast Asian nation, formerly known as Burma, has more than 100 subtribes. Myanmar's diverse minority groups make up nearly a third of the country's 54 million population. About two-thirds of the country belong to the Burman ethnic majority, which is also known as the Myanmar. The other ethnic groups include the Shan, the Karen, the Chin, the Mon, the Arakan or Rakhine, and the Kachin.

Thousand of refugees, mostly from a Muslim ethnic minority known as Rohingyas, have fled over Myanmar's western border with Bangladesh over the years because of persecution by the military junta and economic hardship. The Kachin in the far north, along the border with China, have clashed with the central government, as have the Chin in the central western region bordering India, and the Mon in the south along the Andaman Sea.

But the military is most aggressive in the eastern states along Myanmar's 1300-mile border with Thailand, a frontier longer than the Texas-Mexico border. Mary Callahan, a Myanmar expert at the University of Washington, said the junta has signed 27 cease-fire agreements with rebels, many of them allowing ethnic groups to keep their arms. The Karen National Union is the only major ethnic rebel group not to have concluded a cease-fire and its separatist struggle is one of the world's longest-running insurgencies.

The Karen struggle is concentrated in Karen and Kayah states in the middle of the Thai border region, but fighting also flares sometimes in Shan state to the north. Mon and Taninthayi states, which border Thailand in the south, have been quiet for more than a decade.

After the junta's brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 1988, many Burmese fled to the Thai border. The ethnic minorities did not trust them at first, but after years of interaction and intermarriage, some of the students-turned-soldiers settled along the border. Now minority groups wonder if there will be a new influx of Burmese because they led the recent pro-democracy protests in Yangon and other cities. The Karen held meetings to express solidarity with the anti-government demonstrators but did not organize street protests.

...Myanmar protesters will be welcomed by the ethnic groups, but the question remains how both can use the unrest to their advantage. ''We need to work together with the Mon, other groups, the students, to fight the (junta). We have a common enemy and common goals,'' Mahn Sha said.

''It is the beginning of the crack that could bring down the dictators. Even if these protests are crushed, it will still be a big block out of that tower. We all look at this with hope,'' Dah Say, a Karenni who is a member of the Free Burma Rangers, said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

The actor Sylvester Stallone, who just finished filming his ''Rambo'' sequel on the Salween River separating Thailand and Myanmar's Karen state, drew attention to the violence along the border. He said his movie crew was shocked by the border situation, calling it a ''full-scale genocide.'' ''I witnessed the aftermath -- survivors with legs cut off and all kinds of land mine injuries, maggot-infested wounds and ears cut off. We saw many elephants with blown off legs,'' he told The Associated Press on Monday.
While it's been largely overlooked in the coverage of this latest crackdown, which (thus far) has primarily affected ethnic Burmese in the major cities, it's the Burmese army's atrocities in the process of suppressing dissent amongst these minority groups that's given the present junta its reputation for brutality. Mass forced labor, torture, sex slavery, massacres and burning of villages all became widespread during the '90s as the army stepped up its longstanding campaign against ethnic minorities (ironically, through the late '80s, China was arming the rebels against the government, not the other way around).
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Old 10-03-2007, 08:30 PM   #42
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This situation really disturbs me, and I have no idea what can be done about it. I've been thinking a lot about it and following the stories and I'm pretty sure the leader is just stark raving madly egotistical and may not care about sanctions, even a Chinese crack down. It's quite scary. However, perhaps this current crackdown will be enough tocause such a backlash that the junta will fall? Perhaps? It's a dismal hope.
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Old 10-03-2007, 08:37 PM   #43
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Check out the two websites I posted....its not much but its a start. I started to read about this over the weekend as much as I could find. It really breaks my heart how these people are fighting not just for their freedom but for their lives.
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Old 10-03-2007, 09:18 PM   #44
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The student worker who is my assistant is from Burma. Today was the first day I have had a chance to talk to her since everything began (I've been travelling for work). Thankfully, her family and friends are ok, but communication is difficult. One thing she said really struck me and that was how she felt like she ought to be standing up and speaking out about things since she is the only Burmese student in our community. But she plans to go home after school and is afraid of what could happen to her if she is identified as having said the wrong things. And what can I say in answer to that? Anyways, because of my friendship with her, this whole thing has a more human face than it might have otherwise. Any way you look at it, something has to be done. I wish I knew what.
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Old 10-03-2007, 10:34 PM   #45
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I've been following this whole situation closely. It's horrible. I just read today on CNN.com that bodies of protesters have been left in front of a sign that says "World Peace," as if to warn other protesters of what could happen to them.

It's disgusting to think this still occurs today. Hopefully there's a breakthrough soon.
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Old 10-03-2007, 10:41 PM   #46
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Here's more from the AP:

Myanmar’s junta begins intimidation campaign
Troops reportedly drag suspected dissidents from homes during night

YANGON, Myanmar - After crushing the democracy uprising with guns, Myanmar’s junta switched to an intimidation campaign Wednesday, sending troops to drag people from their homes in the middle of the night and letting others know they were marked for arrest.

People living near the Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar’s most revered shrine and a flash point of unrest during the protests, reported that police swept through several dozen homes about 3 a.m., dragging away many men for questioning.

A U.N. Development Program employee, Myint Nwe Moe, and her husband, brother-in-law and driver were among those taken away by police, the U.N. agency said.
Dozens of Buddhist monks jammed Yangon’s main train station after being ordered to vacate their monasteries — centers of the anti-government demonstrations — and told to go back to their hometowns and villages.

It was not clear who ordered them out. Older abbots in charge of monasteries are seen as tied to the ruling military junta, while younger monks are more sympathetic to the democracy movement.

Following the night of widespread detentions, military vehicles patrolled the streets in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, with loudspeakers blaring a warning: “We have photographs. We are going to make arrests!”

“People are terrified,” said Shari Villarosa, the acting U.S. ambassador in Myanmar. “People have been unhappy for a long time. Since the events of last week, there’s now the unhappiness combined with anger, and fear.”

Beatings in the streets
Anti-junta demonstrations broke out in mid-August over a fuel price hike, then ballooned when monks took the lead last month. But the military crushed the protests a week ago with bullets, tear gas and clubs. The government said 10 people were killed, but dissident groups put the death toll at up to 200 and say 6,000 people were detained.

New video broadcast on CNN showed police and soldiers rounding up demonstrators and beating them before loading them on trucks. In one view, about six young men squat on the street, hands on their heads, cringing. One in a red shirt — the color adopted by the protest movement — is singled out for particular abuse.

The video also showed a man lying on the ground, his shirt bloodied, while another man looked around frantically as he tried to help him.

The footage appeared to have been made three or four days ago in downtown Yangon.

Villarosa said her staff had found up to 15 monasteries completely empty during visits in recent days. Others were barricaded by the military and declared off-limits to outsiders.

“There is a significantly reduced number of monks on the streets. Where are the monks? What has happened to them?” she said.

Demonstrators released
While troops rounded up people in Yangon, some arrested protesters were let go elsewhere. The Democratic Voice of Burma, a dissident radio station based in Norway, said authorities freed 90 of some 400 monks who were detained in Kachin state’s capital, Myitkyina, during a raid on monasteries Sept. 25.

The atmosphere remained tense, but Yangon inched back toward a normal routine Wednesday. Traffic returned and street vendors braved the rain to offer flowers and food to people praying at the main pagoda. Some shops reopened.

Sanctions expanded
In Brussels, European Union nations agreed to expand sanctions on Myanmar’s military regime. Diplomats said new sanctions included an expanded visa ban for junta members, a wider ban on investment in Myanmar, and a ban on trade in the country’s metals, timber and gemstones.

But the new measures did not include a specific ban on European oil and gas companies from doing business in Myanmar, diplomats said.

The Southeast Asian nation, also known as Burma, has vast oil and gas deposits that are hungrily eyed by its neighbors — India, China and Thailand — as well as by multinational companies around the world. Myanmar is also known for its minerals, gems and timber.

Myanmar has been ruled by various military regimes since 1962. The current junta displaced another military dictatorship after turning soldiers loose against a 1988 democracy movement, killing at least 3,000 protesters.

The generals called elections in 1990 but refused to give up power when the party led by opposition leader and Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi won. She has spent nearly 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest.

U.N. envoy meets with junta, dissidents
Suu Kyi, who remains in detention, met twice with a United Nations special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, during his four-day mission to Myanmar. Gambari left Tuesday after also meeting with junta leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe and his deputies to express international outrage over last week’s harsh crackdown.

The junta did not comment on Gambari’s visit, and the envoy was not expected to issue any statement before briefing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the situation Friday.

Earlier in the week, U.N. officials said Gambari would urge the junta to stop abusing its people.

“He’s calling on the authorities in Myanmar to cease the repression of peaceful protest, release detainees, and move more credibly and inclusively in the direction of democratic reform, human rights and national reconciliation,” U.N. associate spokesman Farhan Haq said.


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Old 10-04-2007, 06:39 AM   #47
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Not bloody likely they'll be stopped.

Read this:

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/...gimes_lifeline


the title says it all.

Interestingly enough I have yet to find a major media outlet mention the oil and gas angle. It makes me shudder to thinkwhat South Africa would be like today if it had been cursed with oil and gas in addition to gold and diamonds.

Sometimes I wish that that infernal liquid had never been discovered. It's almost enough to make me want to go back to coal--the crimes that have committed for this stuff...

Interesting that I found this on one of my favorite sites http://www.theoildrum.com
where a lot of oil industry folks hang out. Always a good read.
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Old 10-04-2007, 07:19 AM   #48
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Originally posted by A_Wanderer
That is conditional upon having a moral opponent, pacifism is weak against a party with no qualms about killing innocent people.
I agree.
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Old 10-04-2007, 07:59 AM   #49
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This is terrible!
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Old 10-04-2007, 08:50 AM   #50
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Originally posted by coemgen
I just read today on CNN.com that bodies of protesters have been left in front of a sign that says "World Peace," as if to warn other protesters of what could happen to them.
That is horrific. I saw the new smuggled video of protesters being beaten (on CNN) a couple of nights ago, there was something so chilling about the pile of shoes just left there. I just can't comprehend what is going on there.
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Old 10-04-2007, 08:56 AM   #51
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there's a march in DC this weekend. you're supposed to wear red in support, and the march will go from the Burmese embassy to the Chinese and Indian embassies.

i have the AIDSWalk, but this might be worth it as well.
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Old 10-04-2007, 09:19 AM   #52
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there's a march in DC this weekend. you're supposed to wear red in support, and the march will go from the Burmese embassy to the Chinese and Indian embassies.

i have the AIDSWalk, but this might be worth it as well.
That's cool.
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Old 10-04-2007, 09:39 AM   #53
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Originally posted by sulawesigirl4
The student worker who is my assistant is from Burma. Today was the first day I have had a chance to talk to her since everything began (I've been travelling for work). Thankfully, her family and friends are ok, but communication is difficult. One thing she said really struck me and that was how she felt like she ought to be standing up and speaking out about things since she is the only Burmese student in our community. But she plans to go home after school and is afraid of what could happen to her if she is identified as having said the wrong things. And what can I say in answer to that? Anyways, because of my friendship with her, this whole thing has a more human face than it might have otherwise. Any way you look at it, something has to be done. I wish I knew what.
That's so sad, such an awful situation for her to be in. She must be so conflicted. Is there any way she could give anonymous interviews? Ones that don't even tie this "Burmese student living in America" to the community in which you guys live?
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Old 10-04-2007, 10:50 PM   #54
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Myanmar Leader Willing to Meet Suu Kyi

Associated Press, October 4

YANGON -- Hoping to deflect outrage over images of soldiers gunning down protesters, Myanmar's hard-line leader announced Thursday he is willing to talk with detained democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi -- but only if she stops calling for international sanctions. Senior Gen. Than Shwe also insists Suu Kyi give up urging her countrymen to confront the military regime, state television and radio said in reporting on the conditions set by the junta leader during a meeting this week with a special U.N. envoy. The surprise move is aimed at staving off the possibility of economic sanctions and keeping Myanmar's bountiful natural resources on world markets, while also pleasing giant neighbor China, which worries the unrest could cause problems for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Meanwhile, state media gave new figures for the number of people arrested during last week's bloody assault by troops on the biggest anti-government protests in nearly two decades. The reports said nearly 2100 people had been detained, with almost 700 already released. The government has said 10 people were killed when security forces broke up the mass demonstrations, but dissident groups put the death toll at up to 200 and say 6000 people were detained, including thousands of Buddhist monks who were leading the protests.

The state media reports came as Shari Villarosa, the acting U.S. ambassador in Myanmar, was invited for rare talks Friday with Myanmar's hard-line regime, according to State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. During the visit, Villarosa was expected to repeat the U.S. view that the regime must meet with democratic opposition groups and ''stop the iron crackdown'' on peaceful demonstrators, McCormack told reporters in Washington.

Also Thursday, U.N. special envoy Ibrahim Gambari briefed U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at U.N. headquarters in New York on his four-day trip seeking to persuade Myanmar's military leaders to end the crackdown on democracy activists. U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas in New York could not confirm that was what Than Shwe told Gambari on Tuesday. Details of Gambari's near hour-long meeting with the U.N. chief were not immediately disclosed. The Security Council will meet with Gambari on the Myanmar issue Friday.

In reporting on Than Shwe's meeting with Gambari, state media quoted the general as saying that ''Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has called for confrontation, utter devastation, economic sanctions and all other sanctions.'' While Suu Kyi has previously voiced support for economic sanctions against the junta, she has not publicly called for the devastation of her homeland or the government. ''If she abandons these calls, Senior Gen. Than Shwe told Mr. Gambari that he will personally meet Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,'' the state media report said. The report's use of the title ''daw'' was a conciliatory gesture. ''Daw'' is a term of respect for older women in Myanmar and it was an unusually polite reference to Suu Kyi, a far cry from the usual way state media denigrates her as a foreign puppet or worse.

Reaction to the olive branch was mixed.

''I don't believe there's one iota of sincerity'' in the junta's offer, Josef Silverstein, a retired Rutgers professor and Myanmar expert, said Thursday in a telephone interview from Princeton, N.J. But, Silverstein added, he thinks Suu Kyi will take up the offer. ''She has been saying consistently since 1995 that she will talk to anybody about anything to bring about peace and development,'' he said.

Nyan Win, a spokesman for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, scoffed at the general's proposal. ''Applying such conditions shows the government is not really sincere about meeting her,'' he said. It's not clear how much the party knows about her thinking, however. Party members are not allowed any contact with Suu Kyi, who has spent nearly 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest.

Than Shwe's offer to meet with the opposition leader was remarkable because he is reported to have an intense dislike for Suu Kyi, who was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her democracy campaign. Her party won elections in 1990 but the junta refused to accept the results...The offer of a meeting with Suu Kyi was the first hint of an initiative from the government side since 2002, when she was freed from house arrest after U.N.-backed confidence-building talks began between her and the regime, including Than Shwe. Those talks collapsed in acrimony.

The report gave no indication that the junta is now prepared to lift restrictions on Suu Kyi or on members of her party, which has often called for a dialogue with the government but has been rebuffed.

China, Myanmar's closest ally, praised the meeting between Than Shwe and Gambari and appealed to all parties in Myanmar to remain calm and resume stability ''as soon as possible.'' At the United Nations in New York, China argued that the issue should stay out of the U.N. Security Council, a view echoed by Russia. ''There (is a) crisis, but this does not constitute (a) threat ... to the region and international peace and security. Therefore, we think that ... this issue does not belong to the Security Council,'' China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Gunagya said. ''No international imposed solution can help the situation.''

Soldiers remained out on the streets of Yangon, the country's main city, and there were reports of more overnight arrests. Moe Aye, of the exile dissent group Democratic Voice of Burma, said soldiers arrested more than 100 civilians at a monastery in Bahan Township and raided another monastery and arrested up to 50 monks in South Okkalapa. A U.N. Development Program employee, Myint Nwe Moe, and her husband, brother-in-law and driver were freed Thursday, a day after being arrested.

With Myanmar's bloggers unable to post their comments and reports because Internet access was still shut off, thousands of bloggers from at least 45 other nations joined a cyberspace protest Thursday against the military regime by posting ''Free Burma'' banners on their pages. Sixty-one Nobel laureates criticized the junta's abuse of human rights and expressed solidarity with Suu Kyi. Thirty well-known novelists, poets and artists of Asian heritage called on the junta to stop its repression and free political prisoners.

State media, meanwhile, filled newspaper pages with propaganda slogans such as ''We favor stability. We favor peace'' and ''We oppose unrest and violence.'' International critics and foreign media were dismissed as ''liars attempting to destroy the nation'' by the New Light of Myanmar newspaper.
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Old 10-05-2007, 04:58 AM   #55
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One word: Tibet.


No doubt the Burmese thugs have been on the phone with China's current leader, Hu Jintaou (sp?) whom many Westerners seem to have forgotten began his rise to power with his brutal crackdowns Tibetan democracy and human rights campaigners. No doubt,in the eyes of the Burmese thugs, the enforced exile of Burma's protesters and human rights campaigners, as well as Kyi's party, would be the best possible thing, with her own exile as the dream outcome.

Seeing how the Dalai Lama has been marginalized both in Tibet (by crackdowns of all sorts by the Chinese govt, as well as shadowy, under the radar social and demographic currents that on the surface appear to be harmless but in the end do the most damage----don't think that that railroad wasn't built with colonization in mind--the purpose of the regime is to preserve the buildings in Lhasa and hire a few token Tibetans to use in the Tibetan Tourist industry, a Tibetan Disneyland, with the Tibetans themselves largely starving and struggling to survive on the streets as prosperous young Chinese settlers take over the life of the place), and by his own followers---the Dalai Lama has recently "broken down" and stopped calling for independence, seeing how hopeless the plight of his people has become in the face of global indifference and economic support of the Chinese regime, and this has caused many of his young supporters in the Tibetan Diaspora to denounce him and form their own groups, dedicated to violence, and this very public split in the global Tibetan exile community has delighted the Communist regime, and encouraged its recent laws about "reincarnation", the new Panchen Lama, and so forth---

seeing all this, Burma's regime after this may no doubt encourage the expulsion or leaving peacefully of anti-govt leaders. "Maybe, if they're kind, they'll get around to building reservations for us, like the Americans built Indian reservations," the Dalai Lama has recently reported to have bitterly remarked, adding that in ten years this would indeed be the situation for his people.

Just remember, this whole situation was brought about by protests over rising fuel prices. No doubt fuel prices are rising b/c of exports to China and not enough to go around for the common people. China has stuck a giant straw into the planet and is sucking everything out, everywhere, by whatever means possible---*SLUUURRRPPP*. She may have military control, someday, over the continent of Asia, and maybe even Russia, but outside her own continent, it's only a matter of time before the rest of the world decides that no price is enough that it should allow its own people to be deprived. What happens when China needs to import water? Do we sell off the Great Lakes?

Resource wars---whether it's a naked power grab to militarily control and influence areas of abundant resources (Iraq) or brutal crackdowns by regimes against their own people, sold as attempts to keep stability but really a means to self-preservation and a naked battle for the stuff of life (food, water, oil and gas) in a world where there isn't enough to around for all---dog against master--Peak Oil, Global Warming, etc. you can pay someone to deny it, but there are just too damned many of us and we all want to live the American way, and those who have the power are not backing down, nor are they listening.

I fear there may be many "returns to the Year Zero" in the future. Hate to say it folks, but *SLLLUURRRPPPP* it has only just begun. There isn't enough for all.


As to Bono and pacifism.....he has said many times that he did not begin life as a pacifist. But Ali happened to him, and he doesn't shy away from that fact. He may march through life wearing rose-colored glasses, but I do not begrudge him for that. The guy just has eternal hope that there just might be a speck of genuine goodness in humankind, and has spent a lifetime pointing out the miracles. Lately, (as in the Liberty Medal speech) it seems as if he is trying to kick himself into still believing in them, because what is the alternative? The fact that he's spent a lifetime at private war with himself should not be discounted. That, I am sure, is strictly due to his being head over heels after all these years; I think people do not give her enough credit. Someone said that the best thing about him is her, and that most of what he spouts politically comes from her. The philosophy I mean. IMO, you can take that or leave it, but after all, she's the one with the Master's degree in political science.

I have often wondered, though, what would have been his reaction if he could have been transported back to the eastern Irish Coast in the 1840's and watched caravans of Irish foodstuffs and textiles being loaded onto ships bound for England, even as the country starved to death? As many know, Britian did not stop collecting its annual tribute from the island during the famine. Just the opposite. For every soup kitchen they set up, for every charitable organization, repressive policies by the colonial thugs and their Irish lapdogs, the gombeen men, went on worse than ever.

I often wonder what Bono's reaction would have been if he had lived during the famine. Given his nature, he'd probably have joined a rebel group...and gotten hanged for it.


It's a great what-if and I wonder if any of you who call his positions naive would ask him point-blank. Me, I'd be a bit scared to.
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Old 10-10-2007, 08:56 AM   #56
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. first lady Laura Bush -- in a rare foray into foreign policy -- called on Myanmar's military junta to "step aside," give up the "terror campaigns" against its people and allow for a democratic Myanmar in a commentary published in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal.

"Gen. Than Shwe and his deputies are a friendless regime," Bush said. "They should step aside to make way for a unified Burma [Myanmar] governed by legitimate leaders.

"The rest of the armed forces should not fear this transition -- there is room for a professional military in a democratic Burma," Bush said, in keeping with the U.S. policy of still using Myanmar's former name.

In Wednesday's commentary, Bush called on Myanmar's military leaders to release Suu Kyi and other opposition leaders so they can meet with and plan for a transition to democracy.

"Meanwhile, the world watches -- and waits," Bush warns.

"We know that Gen. Than Shwe and his deputies have the advantage of violent force. But Ms. Suu Kyi and other opposition leaders have moral legitimacy, the support of the Burmese people and the support of the world.

"The regime's position grows weaker by the day. The generals' choice is clear: The time for a free Burma is now."

The humanitarian rights situation in Myanmar has been a cause for the first lady in the past few months as the crisis there worsened.

Myanmar state media has reported that 2,000 people were detained during the demonstrations and the crackdown against them -- under an emergency law imposed on September 25 banning assembly of more than five people -- and that 700 of those people have been released.

The official death toll from Myanmar's leadership is at 10, but there are reports that hundreds were killed and thousands arrested in the wake of the demonstrations that peaked late September, which were led by Myanmar's Buddhist monks.

On Tuesday morning, Bush received a phone call from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to update her on the efforts of his special envoy to Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari. A representative of the secretary general said the call was a follow-up to a conversation they had weeks ago.

Gambari met last week with the military junta leadership as well as with Nobel Peace Prize winner Aun Sung Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest in Yangon.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, told reporters that Laura Bush and her husband's administration believe that there is a "need to start preparing for transition" for Myanmar.

"We believe it is very important that progress be made and prisoners be released and conditions for Aun Sung Suu Kyi be improved [so] that she can prepare for participation for negotiations for a transition," he said.
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Old 10-25-2007, 07:19 AM   #57
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This is a positive development . . .



Suu Kyi freed for possible talks
Story Highlights
Suu Kyi leaves home in Yangon where she has been under house arrest

Diplomat: She may be headed for meeting with newly-appointed liaison officer

U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari met with her earlier this month

Suu Kyi has been under house for 12 of the last 18 years
(CNN) -- Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi -- who has been under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years -- left her home Thursday in Yangon.

A U.S. diplomat in Yangon, citing local sources, told CNN Suu Kyi was possibly headed for a meeting with the country's newly appointed liaison officer.

The diplomat said she witnessed a convoy carrying Suu Kyi leave home at around 2 p.m. (3:30 a.m. ET), and had been told by local sources that she was to meet with U Aung Kyi at a Yangon guest house where she has previously met with government officials.

Suu Kyi has been under house arrest at the property in Yangon for the last three years.

Amid international pressure following September's bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations, Myanmar's ruling junta named deputy minister of labor Aung Kyi as its liaison officer with the detained Nobel laureate.

Aung Kyi is viewed as a moderate and is the first officially designated liaison appointed by the junta to meet with the opposition leader. (Watch CNN's Dan Rivers report on the latest developments in Myanmar ».)

Military sources had previously told CNN that Suu Kyi left her home Wednesday night and flew via military helicopter to the capital, Naypyidaw.

Suu Kyi's movement comes weeks ahead of a second visit to Myanmar by U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari to help resolve the disputes arising from last month's bloody clashes between pro-democracy demonstrators and government security forces.

Gambari is expected to arrive in Myanmar the first week of November after the leadership of Myanmar, or Burma, agreed to move up the date of his arrival, according to a U.N. press release.

He is currently in Beijing as part of a tour of regional capitals "to garner support" for his visit, the United Nations said.

Last month, Gambari met with Myanmar's military junta leadership, as well as Suu Kyi who has been detained off-and-on since 1989 after her National League for Democracy won the country's first free multiparty elections but the military junta refused to hand over power.

Suu Kyi has been under house arrest from 1989 to 1995, from 2000 to 2002, and from May 2003 to now.

Myanmar's military junta admitted last week to detaining more than 2,900 people during last month's crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators, with hundreds of them still in custody.

Video smuggled out of the secretive country shows unarmed protesters being beaten by the military regime's security forces, and one man -- believed to be a Japanese journalist -- was shot and killed at close range.

U.N. envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro has also been cleared to visit Myanmar for a fact-finding mission into reports of human rights violations during the September crackdown.

"I have been able to verify, through different independent and reliable sources, allegations of the use of excessive force by the security forces, including live ammunitions, rubber bullets, tear gas, bamboo and wood sticks, rubber batons and catapults (slingshots)," he said.

"This largely explains the killings and the severe injuries reported."

Pinheiro said as many as 110 were believed to have been killed during the demonstrations -- including 40 Buddhist monks -- and 200 others beaten.

He plans to arrive in Myanmar sometime before November 17, the summit meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
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