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Written By Unknown on Saturday, January 19, 2013 | 11:07 AM

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Red Cross, Thein Sein agree on prison visit deal

Written By Unknown on Wednesday, January 16, 2013 | 1:32 AM

President of the International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer and President Thein Sein shake hands in Naypyidaw on 14 January 2013. (Photo courtesy of the president’s website).
Red Cross, Thein Sein agree on prison visit deal
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will be been allowed to resume prison visits in Burma beginning next week following a deal hammered out between President Thein Sein and the organisation’s chair Peter Maurer.
“We agreed to start pilot detention visits as early as next week,” said an ICRC spokesperson in Rangoon Takanori Hosokawa.
“We discussed about broader access to conflict area zones in some parts of the country and also we discussed our current and future activity our operation in Rakhine (Arakan) state.”
Conditions inside Burma’s 43 detention facilities are notoriously poor, with malaria rife and abuse of prisoners by officials is commonplace.
Nyo Htun from the Rangoon-based Former Political Prisoners League welcomed the government’s decision.
“We delightfully welcome the move,” said Nyo Htun. “In Burma, there are very few rights for all prisoners including the political detainees and this is such a positive sign that ICRC is being allowed back in.”
ICRC conducted prison visits in Burma from 1999 to 2005, but the organisation was banned after refusing to let the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Association (now the Union Solidarity and Development Party) accompany them on visits.
In July 2011, a small number of ICRC staff were informally allowed to visit prisons in Hpa-an, Moulmein and Myaungmya townships but were unable to meet with inmates and inspect prison conditions.
“It will be a very good thing for the prisoners to have the ICRC making visits,” said Tate Naing of Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPPB). “We see that their rights, living conditions, health care and facilities will be improved.”
On 5 January, AAPPB published an updated list that claims that more than 200 political prisoners still remain behind bars in Burma.

School to foster Myanmar lawyers


School to foster Myanmar lawyers

NAGOYA — Nagoya University is preparing to set up a legal research center at Myanmar's Yangon University to foster law specialists, and aims to open the facility in June, according to university officials.
"We want to contribute to the development of human resources involved in administering law," an official said of the plan to establish the center in Myanmar, which has gradually been introducing democratic reforms since President Thein Sein came to power in 2011.
The officials said the planned center will re-educate faculty, graduate students and specialists against the backdrop that university education in Myanmar was not up to par when it was under military rule between 1962 and 2011.

Myanmar repeals dissident law

YANGON — State media in Myanmar reported President Thein Sein has repealed a harsh law that had been used to hand down lengthy prison sentences for dissidents under the reign of the military government.
The Myanma Ahlin daily said the law was enacted in 1996 at a time when the military government was drawing guidelines for the country's constitution.
It carried a maximum 20-year prison term for those who wrote or delivered speeches that could undermine the nation's peace and stability.
Prominent activist lawyer Aung Thein said Wednesday that harsh laws had been used by authorities to support their judicial power.
Myanmar still has other severe laws against dissent, including one that put opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest. Some also carry death or life imprisonment.

Japan minister pledges Myanmar debt relief, loans

Written By Unknown on Thursday, January 3, 2013 | 6:43 AM

 Japan's new government will stand by pledges to waive Myanmar debt and extend new loans, its finance minister said Thursday on a visit to boost economic ties with the former army-ruled nation.
Taro Aso also agreed to consider Japan's involvement in the planned multi-billion dollar Dawei deep-sea port in a meeting with reformist President Thein Sein, according to a Japanese official with knowledge of the talks.
The visit by the former premier -- who was brought back to the frontline of Japanese politics by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after his election victory last month -- reflects the economic importance Japan places on Myanmar.
It comes despite growing international concern about a civil war raging in Myanmar's northern state of Kachin, where the United States and the UN on Wednesday urged Myanmar to halt air strikes against ethnic minority rebels.
Japan's previous government first announced last April that it would forgive 300 billion yen ($3.4 billion) of the 500 billion yen owed by Myanmar, following a string of dramatic political reforms in the one-time pariah state.
Aso confirmed Thursday that Tokyo will extend 50 billion yen of new loans to the long-isolated Southeast Asian nation to help upgrade power systems, boost rural development and fund a planned industrial park, the official said.
They would be the first new yen loans to Myanmar by Japan in nearly three decades.
Former junta-ruled Myanmar craves investment to spur growth and boost its dilapidated infrastructure, while export-reliant Japan is hunting new opportunities in the resource-rich nation to offset sluggish domestic growth.
The two countries last month agreed to start work this year on a huge industrial zone near Yangon.
The 2,400 hectare (6,000 acre) Thilawa project will include a port and industrial park and be up and running in 2015, according to Japan's Ministry for Economic, Trade and Industries. Aso is due to visit the site on Friday.
The huge Thilawa project is expected to be led by a consortium of Japanese companies including Mitsubishi Corp., Sumitomo Corp. and Marubeni Corp.
Myanmar is also keen for Japan to invest in the cash-strapped Dawei project but Tokyo has said its priority is the Thilawa development.
Unlike its Western allies, Japan maintained trade ties and dialogue with Myanmar during years of junta rule which ended in 2011, warning that a hard line could push it closer to key ally China.

Burma President’s New Year message keeps away from Kachin peace talks

Written By Unknown on Tuesday, January 1, 2013 | 7:28 PM

By Zin Linn

President of Burma delivered his first New Year radio message to the whole people all over the nation Tuesday. The New Light of Myanmar newspaper also brought out the Presidents message on 1 January 2013.

The president said in his message that the most important factor for triumph of the nation’s democratic evolution is the mutual trust between the government and the people.

President Thein Sein said that he spoke directly to the people narrowing the gap between the government and the citizens in favor of creating a new direct necessary communication link for the society. His government has been striving for developing transparent communication channel and his cabinet ministers have been providing the people with information, he said. So, he decided to speak on radio which is still an effective channel of communication, he added.

The 67-year-old ex-general, who acted as prime minister in the previous junta, has been acknowledged by the Western Governments for recent reforms, including giving a political space to key opposition figure and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, easing restrictions on the press, releasing important political prisoners and allowing activities of non-governmental organizations in social movement.

In reality, countless citizens say they just know on papers about their country’s changes but witness no difference to their destitute standard of living. However, the President reviewed the situation via optimistic point of view. Thein Sein assessed the state of affairs in his message that popular expectations have increased as reforms in the previous year gave birth to political developments.

Calling attention to the society which was once closed and isolated, Thein Sein underlined the obligation to implement the reform in many aspects. He also advised the people to make an effort in the reform period by means of aspiring to the best.

In the nature of things, he said, people aspire to the best and they have a right to express their desires for hopes. But the most important thing for the entire society is to shape the promising future through ongoing reform processes, he stated in the New Year message.

The people as well as the government need to have knowledge of the gap between demand of the people and capacity of the government, he pointed out. The responsibility is on the shoulder of all citizens to go all-out for thriving of constructive situation, he said. He also urged to make use of negotiated political culture without taking an extreme view in facing possible challenges ahead.

Additionally, he expressed his perspective that if each and every citizen works together with united efforts similar to the time of independence struggles, surely the country will overcome the challenges of change ahead.

The message says at one clause: The world nations were amazed at Myanmar’s impressive political progress in 2012. It can be said that we laid together a foundation of political system needed for ensuring better socioeconomic status on daily basis of our society. Plans are underway in accord with Economic and Social Reform Framework to enable each and every citizen to enjoy the fruitful results of general reforms upcoming years. We will constantly inform the people of our government’s stance and actions.

Looking back into recent past, President held his first press conference for local press on 21 October. It was a landmark event after former military regimes restriction on free press for decaeds.

Thein Sein answered nearly three-dozen questions from domestic news journals and foreign correspondents on various subjects ranging from current war in Kachin state to the possibility of amending the 2008 constitution drawn by the previous junta.

The President said that armed conflicts starting from the post-independence period were still going on in the country. Due to those rebellions, he said, the country has faced difficulties to promote the nation as a developed one.

In fact, government armed forces operate quite a lot of aggressive assaults in recent weeks in Kachin frontline including air-strikes. Fighting goes on deadly all through Kachin and Northern Shan State in the face of government peacemaking pledge to the United States and the EU. All the battles have occurred in KIOs territories including some areas where government troops occupied Kachin areas after a 1994 ceasefire agreement.

On the other hand, the government authorities often say that fighting still comes about in Kachin areas due to mixed-up positions of both troops in front-line areas. Actually, the government troops have violated the 1994 ceasefire agreement and invaded Kachin controlled areas.

Even though the Kachin war is a great barrier in the way of President's professed reform, he did not mention the facts about the heavy fighting against the KIO in his New Year message.

According to KIO's spokesperson Salang Kaba Lah Nan, the government army has been gearing up for a major military offensive against the KIO using massive military strength of around hundred battalions.

Consequently, with continuation of hostilities, the mutual trust between the government and the Kachin people may not be reached easily. And the Presidents ongoing reform processes may not be materialized by any means. People will also think his New Year message as an empty memo.

- Asian Tribune -

Aung San Suu Kyi to be Honored with 2012 Ion Ratiu Democracy Award

Written By Unknown on Tuesday, December 18, 2012 | 12:50 AM

WASHINGTON —Aung San Suu Kyi will receive the 2012 Ion Ratiu Democracy Award, Jane Harman, president and director of the Wilson Center, announced today. Suu Kyi, will be honored with the prestigious award at a symposium in Yangon, co-hosted by the Wilson Center’s Global Women’s Leadership Initiative on January 15-16, 2013.
“Aung San SuuKyi’s lifelong dedication to the cause of democracy and the Burmese people makes her the perfect recipient of this year’s Ion Ratiu Democracy Award,” said Harman. “Daw Suu is a world icon who has shown that grace and non-violence are the most powerful weapons against oppression.”
Following 15 years of house arrest as a political prisoner of the junta at the forefront of the democracy movement in Burma, Suu Kyi now heads Myanmar’s main opposition party, the National League of Democracy. She is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the recipient of the United States Congressional Gold Medal. Suu Kyi will receive the Ion Ratiu Award during a two-day symposium in Yangon, Myanmar titled“Women Leading Democracy Building in Myanmar: Shaping Global and Local Strategies.” This will be the first time a Ratiu Award nominee will be honored in her home country at a program that advances her cause among the people whose rights she defended and fought for. 
The Ion Ratiu Democracy Award brings visibility and international recog­nition to the ideas and accomplishments of individuals around the world who are working on behalf of democracy. The award expresses the deep commitment to democracy of the late Ion Ratiu through his contributions as a Romanian politician as well as his interest in democratic change worldwide. Ion Ratiu (1917-2000) was the most outspoken and consistent voice of opposition to Nicolae Ceausescu, whose regime he opposed for years from London as the democratically elected leader of The World Union of Free Romanians. The Ion Ratiu Democracy Award is funded by The Ratiu Family Charitable Foundation and The Ratiu Center for Democracy.
The Global Women’s Leadership Initiative’s (GWLI) global network is the platform for both the Council of Women World Leaders, located at The Wilson Center since November 2011, and the Women in Public Service Project, launched by Secretary Hillary Clinton in partnership with the historic Seven Sisters women’s colleges, which moved to the Wilson Center in June 2012. The GWLI is a unique platform for change – connecting current and emerging women leaders, promoting the goal of 50 percent women in public service jobs worldwide, advancing inclusive policies, and bringing new research to the forefront.

Jason Mraz headlines anti-human trafficking concert in Myanmar

Written By Unknown on Monday, December 17, 2012 | 8:41 AM

Singer JASON MRAZ helped to raise awareness about human trafficking on Sunday (16Dec12) by performing at a special MTV charity concert in Myanmar.

The I'm Yours star joined forces with MTV bosses, government aid agencies in the U.S. and Australia and officials at anti-slavery organization Walk Free to stage a special gig at the base of the Shwedagon Pagoda hilltop in the city of Yangon to draw attention to the international slave trade.

An estimated 50,000 fans flocked to see the show, who was the first international musician to play in the former Burma in decades, following the end of military rule in the Southeast Asian country last year (11).

He was joined on the bill by a slew of local artists, and the singer was humbled to be performing on such a huge stage.

Taking to his blog before touching down in Myanmar, he wrote, "En route to #LiveInMyanmar, honored to be an ambassador of awareness; exposing modern day slavery, transforming & saving lives".

The event occurred just four days after Mraz was saluted for his humanitarian efforts by the ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) Foundation.

He was presented with the Champion Award at the organization's 17th Annual Awards Ceremony in New York on Wednesday (12Dec12), but didn't stick around to celebrate his prize and instead headed off to Myanmar.

He follows in the footsteps of previous recipients Billy Joel, John Mellencamp and Tony Bennett.
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