VOA Burmese Blog

October 14, 2010

Burma’s Military Backed Party Pledges to Practice Democracy

Filed under: Feature Story,News — voaburmese @ 10:35 pm
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– VOA News


Burma’s military-backed political party is pledging to practice multi-party democracy and market-oriented economics.


The chief of the military-supported Union Solidarity and Development Party, Htay Oo, appeared in a 15-minute broadcast on state-run radio and television late Friday in advance of the November 7 elections. He said his party would guarantee Burmese citizens freedom of religion and would engage in “independent and active foreign policies.”


The elections are Burma’s first since 1990. The now-banned National League for Democracy won a landslide victory then but was prohibited by the country’s military rulers from taking power.


Critics say the elections next month are a charade to put a civilian face on continued military rule.


Oo did not mention Aung San Suu Kyi, the head of the pro-democracy party whom the military has detained for 15 of the last 21 years. He said the Union Solidarity party deems “officially registered political parties and individuals as colleagues.”


Oo’s statement also was printed Saturday in the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper. The statement said his party will guarantee people’s “rights and liabilities …in line with the constitution.”


The pro-democracy party has urged its supporters to boycott the election. The government disbanded the party in May after it failed to register for the November election.


Altogether, 37 political parties, including the Union Solidarity party, are participating in the election for 1,157 seats, including 494 in Burma’s Union Parliament and the remainder in regional parliaments. A quarter of the seats in the national parliament have been reserved for the military.


Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is under house arrest, with her latest term set to expire six days after the election. Burma’s Supreme Court has agreed to hear a new appeal of her detention on October 18.

October 8, 2010

Burmese Supreme Court to Hear Appeal of Democracy Leader

– VOA News


Burma’s Supreme Court has agreed to hear a new appeal from democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi against her latest house arrest.

Aung San Suu Kyi was convicted in August 2009 of violating the terms of her last house arrest when she allowed an American man to stay at her lakeside Rangoon house after he swam there uninvited.

A court sentenced the Nobel Peace Prize winner to three years in hard labor, but it was commuted to another 18 months under house arrest by regime leader General Than Shwe.

The court says it will hear the case on October 18th.

Aung San Suu Kyi is due to be released on November 13th, six days after the country’s first elections since 1990.

Her National League for Democracy won the elections, but the military junta refused to accept the results.

October 7, 2010

Dozens Dead After Ferry Sinks in Burmese Delta

Filed under: Burma/ Myanmar,News — voaburmese @ 2:28 pm
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– VOA News


At least two dozen people are dead after a passenger ferry sank in Burma’s southern Irrawaddy Delta Wednesday.

Authorities say at least 70 people were on board the ferry when it sank near Labutta township. Many of the passengers were schoolchildren and teachers traveling to attend a football match.

Various news reports put the death toll between 19 and 30 people.

The Irrawaddy Delta was devastated by Cyclone Nargis in 2008, which left around 138,000 people dead and thousands more homeless.

UN Chief Urges Release of Burma’s Political Prisoners

– VOA News

AP Photo: Aung San Suu Kyi with her supporters

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging Burma’s military government to release political prisoners ahead of next month’s national elections.

Mr. Ban said Wednesday he is continuing to appeal to Burma’s government to ensure the elections are transparent, inclusive and credible.

The secretary general says he has been delivering this message to Asian leaders and will repeat it during an upcoming UN-ASEAN summit meeting.

Burma is scheduled to hold its first elections in 20 years on November 7. The new legislature is likely to include critical voices for the first time in decades, but harsh restrictions on opposition parties have virtually ensured victory for a military-backed party.

The election is the nation’s first since opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy won in a landslide in 1990. The military did not recognize the results of that election.

Aung San Suu Kyi has spent 15 of the last 21 years in some form of detention.

EU is Urged to Back Burmese Rights Probe

– VOA News


Two former United Nations special rapporteurs are urging the European Union to support a commission of inquiry to investigate possible crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burma.

The United States and other countries have already backed the establishment of an inquiry, which was proposed in March by Tomas Ojea Quintana, the current special rapporteur for human rights in Burma. Such a probe could lead to prosecution by the International Criminal Court.

Quintana’s predecessors are Paulo Sergio Pinheiro and Yozo Yokota. In a letter dated Tuesday to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, they said the pattern of human rights violations by the Burmese military rulers is “severe, widespread and systematic.”

They added that there is well-documented evidence in Burma of forced labor, rape as a weapon of war, forcible conscription of child soldiers, religious persecution, torture and killings.

Copies of the letter were addressed to the government of Belgium — which holds the rotating presidency of the EU — and to senior EU diplomats.

It was distributed to news organizations on Wednesday by the U.S. Campaign for Burma, an activist group that says it aims to end the military dictatorship in Burma.

Quintana’s proposal was contained in a March 2010 report to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

He wrote that “consistent reports” raise the possibility that some rights violations in Burma “may entail categories of crimes against humanity or war crimes under the terms of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.”

He added that U.N. institutions “may consider the possibility to establish a commission of inquiry with a specific fact-finding mandate to address the question of international crimes.”

The pressure for an investigation comes as Burma is moving toward its first parliamentary election in 20 years.

Strict election rules have made it impossible for opposition parties to compete effectively, prompting charges that the election is designed merely to legitimize the ruling military junta’s hold on power.

October 5, 2010

Asian, European Countries Call For Burma Prisoner Release

– VOA News

AP Photo: People are standing in front of Burma's Insein Prison

Leaders of Asian and European countries are urging Burma’s military rulers to release political prisoners in advance of next month’s elections.

The statement was issued Tuesday at the end of the Asia-Europe summit in Brussels. It said the release of the detainees would make the November 7 elections “more inclusive, participatory and transparent.”

Recent news accounts say there are about 2,200 political prisoners being held in Burma.

The leaders called for their release as part of a “chair’s statement,” which meant it did not require the approval of Burma, a summit participant.

The Asian and European leaders did not specifically mention Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the pro-democracy forces in Burma who has been held by the government for 15 of the last 21 years.

The government declared her National League for Democracy illegal after it failed to register for the election in May.

Tuesday’s statement urged the Burmese government to talk to all parties in the country. It said having a free and fair election would help create “a legitimate, constitutional, civilian system of government.”

Burma’s election, its first since 1990, has been widely criticized by Western governments as an attempt to put a civilian face on continued military rule.

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