FEATURED PHOTOS AND STORIES

Tuesday:  November 25, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in Aung San Suu Kyi (4)

Friday
Apr132012

Too soon to lift sanctions on Burma? (PERSPECTIVE)

By Tom Andrews

(Video BBC)

Just over a week ago, international election monitors and media outlets reported a remarkable event in Burma. Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi who spent years under house arrest, and sometimes in prison, fighting for democracy and justice - was elected to parliament, and calls have grown for all economic sanctions and international pressure on the regime to be lifted.

Heeding these calls would be a serious mistake.

I and a colleague spent election day in Kachin state, in the northernmost part of Burma. Bullets, not ballots, are the currency there. International observers and reporters are not welcome. After crossing the border from China under cloak of darkness, and making our way over bone-crushing roads, we saw why.

Tens of thousands of Kachins, a long-repressed ethnic minority in Burma, have been forced from their homes into crowded makeshift camps as more and more troops march into an area rich in natural resources. Despite President Thein Sein's promise in December to pull back the military, the opposite is happening in Kachin, where the escalation of troops, weapons and brutality continues unabated.

I met several dozen Kachin who had just escaped from their village, leaving behind their homes, crops and livestock. Some had walked for four days with only enough food for their children, carrying all that remained of their belongings on their backs.

They fled to makeshift camps that lack adequate food, sanitation and healthcare. We saw children with obvious respiratory illness and skin disease. The government's unwillingness to allow food or humanitarian aid into these areas recently gave way to international pressure. We saw five United Nations trucks delivering food. Still, relief workers told us it was only a small fraction of what was needed. A child coming down with what would otherwise be a highly treatable illness can die under these conditions. We attended the funeral of one such child, an 11-month-old who died after contracting diarrhea. The family asked that we stay as honored guests so that we, and the outside world, would know.

A farmer described being apprehended when he, his wife and father-in-law were harvesting corn. They were forced to carry the corn to a military encampment but attempted to escape. His wife was caught and he has not seen her since. A Baptist minister, father of seven, was apprehended after he tried to sneak back to his village. His wife, speaking with a toddler afoot and an infant on her back, sobbed as she said she had no idea what had become of him.

We made our way to an outpost of Kachin Independence Army soldiers, just beyond the range of the Burmese military's mortars. If we went further, we were told, our car would almost certainly become a target. As we spoke, a pick-up truck appeared carrying two elderly women.

They had abandoned their homes and village that morning. Their crops had been destroyed, they told us, and their cattle killed. They escaped carrying what they could on their backs.

(PHOTO: Aung San Suu Kyi/Telegraph) Without question, Suu Kyi's election to Burma's parliament is a remarkable achievement. But what I have seen reminds me that it is only part of the story. The other part, hidden in the mountains and valleys of Kachin state and in villages of other ethnic minorities, is vastly different. It is one that Burma's military-dominated government does not want you to see.

It is reasonable for the United States and the international community to recognize what progress has been made in Burma with measured, prudent (and reversible) rewards. But relaxing all sanctions and international pressure on this regime would be a serious mistake.

Progress did not occur in Burma because military leaders suddenly realized that they had erred. It came about precisely because of international pressure. To remove this pressure at a time when the government escalates its brutality against a long-suffering people would be unconscionable and should be unacceptable to the United States.

The Obama administration and US Congress should recognize the progress in Burma. But they should not do so by condemning tens of thousands of innocent people to the mercy of a military government entirely freed from the pressure of sanctions.

--- Tom Andrews is a former US congressman from Maine and president of United to End Genocide. This editorial originally appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Wednesday
Sep212011

Aung San Suu Kyi: "The World Needs to Know What is Going on in Burma" (NEWS BRIEF)

By Themrise Khan in New York

CGI 2011 Plenary Session Conversations on Courage(

Aung San Suu Kyi, General Secretary of the National League for Democracy, Addresses the Clinton Global Initiative in New York today, live via satellite from Yangon. CREDIT: CGI

(HN, September 21, 2011) - Two of the world's famous freedom fighters sat face-to-face this morning in New York City - or as was as close as possible under the circumstances.

Live on stage in New York,  in front of a packed plenary on the second day of the Clinton Global Summit, was Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.

A world away, via satellite and sitting comfortably in her home on the banks of Inya Lake in Yangon (formerly Rangoon) was the renowned opposition leader in Myanmar (formerly Burma), Aung San Suu Kyi.

The fact that technology could link these two Nobel Peace Prize winners is, in these times, unremarkable. What was astonishing was that the Burmese military regime allowed Suu Kyi's conversation to take place, uncensored.

It's not clear what type of diplomatic handywork or meaneuvering went on behind closed doors by former US President Clinton, the host of the meeting, to get the Burmese generals to agree to the broadcast. But for a man who has rescued stranded celebrity journalists from North Korea, and has accomplished other seemingly impossible feats, this may have been received as just another challenge.

The broadcast was billed as Suu Kyi's first live conversation since her release in 2009.

Little wonder the atmosphere in the hall was nothing less than euphoric. Tutu, who made no secret of his admiration for his colleague a world away, appeared smitten and almost child-like at her elegant and articulate responses.

It was a rare site.

As moderator Charlie Rose pointed out more than once, audience members were witness to “something going on here, mutual admiration society and more”.

But the humorous banter did not hide the seriousness of the issue at hand. At issues was the struggle for freedom of a nation, a topic which very few around the world seem to know very little about.

Despite her long and painful incarceration, Suu Kyi sounded very optimistic about Myanmar’s future, especially that of its youth. She was confident of the possibility of change, citing that when she was freed in 2009, there were many, many more youth out to greet her than at any of the previous times, she had seen. “That showed me that some change was going on within the people”, she said.

To Suu Kyi, awareness of the situation for the Myanmar people, and for the whole world, was one of the most important elements of bringing change. “If the world wants to help Burma, the world needs to know what is going on in Burma”, she said. “ We would like the world to keep an eye on what is happening here”.

Responding to a question on whether neighbours, India and China. can do more to help the political situation in Myanmar, Suu Kyi was adamant that people must first listen to the voices of ordinary Burmese, to what the people want. Then they can help Burma.

“We have always been good neighbors, but times have changed and to continue to be good neighbors certain policies will have to change”, she said.

Unfortunately, Myanmar is still far away from uprisings like the Arab Spring. In answering Rose’s question about the use of social media, Suu Kyi pointed out that Myanmar has no where near the media access that participants in the Arab Spring had. Young people in Myanmar need to be better prepared to face the modern world starting with education.

“I could never have been speaking to you like this seven years ago”, she said. Not letting fear sap her energy all these years, Suu Kyi has remained a controlled and passionate fighter for the cause. A fighter, that fellow fighter Tutu, looks forward to seeing inaugurated as head of the government, when he visits Myanmar in the future.

When you stand out in a crowd it is only because you are standing on the shoulders of others," said Tutu.

CGI 2011 Plenary Session Conversations on Courage

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Chairman of The Elders, could hardly hide his excitement sharing the stage today with Aung San Suu Kyi. CREDIT: CGI

Saturday
Nov132010

(REPORT) Myanmar (aka Burma) opposition leader freed 

Aung San Suu Kyi outside her home moments after release (PHOTO: Mizzima)(HN, November 13, 2010) -- This morning the ruling military junta in Myanmar (aka, Burma) released opposition leader, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Elder member, Aung San Suu Kyi fifteen years after she was placed under house arrest when her party the National League for Democracy won 58 percent of the voting in parliamentary elections in 1990. The results were annulled by the government in power and Suu Kyi has been imprisoned where she’s been since.

Her house arrest was due to end in May 2009, but was extended for eighteen months after she was convicted for violating the terms of her house arrest and until the NLD showed to be strong in last Sunday's elections in Myanmar. Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for more than 15 of the last 21 years.

The release comes less than a week after the ruling military government held parliamentary elections for the first time in two decades. The poll was seen as not free and fair by independent observers and harshly criticized by countries like the United States.

It is not clear what forced the government's hand to free Suu Kyi. It may be trying to project a more positive image to the outside world, or it may have been pressured into doing so by neighbouring China, Thailand or fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

ASEAN chief Surin Pitsuwan said on Saturday he was "very, very relieved" and that he hoped she will not be detained again.

"I'm very, very relieved and hope that this will contribute to true national reconciliation in Myanmar and that Aung San Suu Kyi will be able to play a role in bringing national reconciliation," Surin told news agencies. "Let's hope that there will not be any relapse and that other political prisoners will also benefit from this gesture of national reconciliation."

A UN spokesman said Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called Suu Kyi "an inspiration" to the world. 

"The secretary general expects that no further restrictions will be placed on her, and he urges the Myanmar authorities to build on today's action by releasing all remaining political prisoners," said the spokesman.

The Philippines, the most outspoken ASEAN member in calling for Suu Kyi's release, also welcomed her freedom but said more needed to be done.

"This is a positive step toward the right path for Myanmar. But the question remains -- will all of her political rights be restored, will they take more substantive steps toward democratisation?" said Ricky Carandang, spokesman for President Benigno Aquino.

"We hope that this meaningful action will be followed by more substantive action. We welcome it, but more needs to be done," Carandang was quoted as saying.

Desmond Tutu, chair of the group of retired senior statesmen known as The Elders, called Suu Kyi "a global symbol of moral courage" and her release "offers hope to the people of Burma." 

The Elders said the government must respect her political rights and not place any conditions on her release. They also called for the freeing of all Myanmar's political prisoners. 

---HUMNEWS staff.

Thursday
Nov042010

(REPORT) Myanmar (aka Burma): Election look ahead to Sunday 

(HN, November 4, 2010 ) -- After months of preparation and the promise of “free and fair” elections, the polls in Myanmar (also known as Burma) will be open for the first time in 20 years on November 7th.   The general election forms the fifth step of the seven-step "road map to democracy" proposed by the ruling junta in Myanmar, the `State Peace and Development Council’ (SPDC) in 2003. The sixth and seventh steps being the gathering of elected representatives and the building of a modern, democratic nation, consecutively.

Although the  international consensus is that there will be no such thing as a “free and fair” election this Sunday there is support of the generals from India, China, Thailand and others; and the world’s top diplomat, Ban Ki-moon is keeping optimistic.

The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) is expected to emerge as the new “civilian leaders” backed by millions of Burmese who have been enticed or coerced into joining the proxy party.

The USDP, led by current Prime Minister Thein Sein, began on a populist platform, offering low-interest loans to Burma’s poorest. The cash-for-vote ploy may prove to be too hard to refuse for the average Burmese citizen to refuse as approximately 33 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.  After decades of military rule, Burma has the lowest per capita GDP in South East Asia.

The wealth of the USDP has meant that it can promote a candidate in 1,112 of the 1,158 districts around the country, while most other parties struggle with high registration fees. In 52 of those districts, USDP faces no competition at all and in fact has actually been canceling balloting in at least 12 villages in six districts in Kayah state "as conditions are not conducive to holding a free and fair election," according to an official notice seen on November 2nd.  The announcement in the states official newspaper gave no further explanation for the action, but in September, the election commission canceled voting in about 300 villages in 33 townships where ethnic minorities are dominant.

Funding for the USDP comes from the disbanded Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), the so-called "social welfare" wing of the junta, which also boasts the country's most powerful political and business figures. Most of the 26 million USDA members are now with the USDP.

Since 1990, world attention has focused on Aung San Suu Kyi, National League for Democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient. Her National League for Democracy (NLD) party won 58 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections in 1990, only to see the results annulled and Suu Kyi put under house arrest, imprisoned where she’s been since. Her house arrest was due to end in May 2009, but was extended for eighteen months after she was convicted for violating the terms of her house arrest.

From her house arrest she has called for an election boycott and supporters of the (NLD) are holding "lightning" protests telling the public that a vote on Sunday will legitimize military rule.

Currently the strongest opposition party, the National Democratic Force, formed by former members of the NLD, is fielding 163 candidates against the USDP’s 1,100 and faces added competition from the boycott lobby. What opposition exists faces little hope of winning any clout in the new parliament as 25% of those seats are already reserved for the military.

"You cannot hope the election to be free and fair by world standards," said Dr Than Nyein, the chairman of the NDF. "But at least we can have a civilian government in place of a military one and I think this is a great step forward.”

(VIA: DVB.NO)

In addition to this on October 22nd the country’s West Coast state of Rakhine was hit by Cyclone Giri which devastated the area, leaving 71,000 people homeless and affecting over 200,000 according to government estimates who, according to the UN will require food aid over the next three months following the Cyclone's destruction of rice fields. Although petitions have been filed asking for a delay in elections to take place in the affected areas, the government has not replied and elections will take place on Sunday as scheduled. This is not the first time the government has proceeded with voting after a natural disaster. In the 2008 referendum, which set the ball rolling for these elections, the junta claimed a 98% voter turnout, with 92% approval, despite 15% of the country having been left crippled by cyclone Nargis.

Compounding matters are reports that there has been an increase in fighting in border areas where there has been a long-running war between ethnic groups and the Burmese military; and stories of villages being attacked due to assumed affiliation with border rebels are also increasing.

Added to all of this are the 2,200 political prisoners, more than half a million internally displaced persons, 400,000 monks and hundreds of thousands of refugees abroad – all of whom would likely vote opposition in a democratic election; but all of whom cannot vote in Sunday’s election.

How the election will be reported to the rest of the world is also an issue. The ban on foreign journalists and election monitors is intended to lock the country's physical and virtual borders; a campaign that has already seen aggressive aggressive cyber attacks on independent media, the slowing of the country's internet, and a ban on domestic journalists going near the polls.

The international NGO Human Rights Watch along with other world leaders have already issued their view on the upcoming election saying "The international community doesn't need to wait until November 7 to know these elections are rigged from top to bottom," said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. 

The group is urging the new government for real change in Burma and calling on the global community to take various steps, including calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners, while pressing the new government to respect human rights, commit to an inclusive political process that includes increased access for humanitarian agencies and the media, and increasing the role of civil society and development groups.

The SPDC announced the elections on August 13th and results are expected to take several days to weeks to return. 

- HUMNews Staff