Asia Burma- Political Prisoners must be freed
Political Prisoner Jailed Since 1999 Must Be Freed!
04 Apr 2013
Burma Campaign UK today urged Hugo Swire MP, British Foreign Office Minister with responsibility for Burma, to
push the military-backed government in Burma to secure the unconditional release of Aung Naing and to repeal
the repressive laws which put political prisoners in jail.
As part of the No Political Prisoner Left Behind campaign, Burma Campaign UK is highlighting a case of a political
prisoner every month to draw attention to hundreds of political prisoners still in jail. The political prisoner for this
month is Aung Naing.
Aung Naing is an activist from Burma, and he is a son of U Kyaw Min, who is a former political prisoner. In 1999,
Aung Naing was arrested for his involvement in a student protest the previous year. He was falsely accused of
possessing drugs and charged under the Narcotics Act. He was sentenced to 26 years in prison with hard labour
in Insein Prison.
In 2005, his family members, including his father, were arrested and Aung Naing was put on trial again along with
his family. They all were charged with two counts including under Section 18 of the 1982 Citizenship Law with the
accusation of obtaining Burmese citizenship and concealing their Rohingya origins. The entire family is from the
Rohingya ethnic minority group.
The Citizenship Law introduced by General Ne Win in 1982 is not compatible with the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights or with Burma’s legal obligations under international treaties. It arbitrarily stripped many people in
Burma of the right to citizenship.
According to the verdict from the 2005 trial, 17 more years were added to Aung Naing’s existing 26- year prison
sentence. However, due to a Presidential amnesty, Aung Naing received a reduction on his prison sentence to 17
years. His family were released in 2012 but he still remains in jail. According to his family members, he has been
suffering from heart problems and he urgently needs an eye operation.
“Although high profile political prisoners have been released, all the repressive laws which put them in prison in
the first place still remain in place,” said Wai Hnin, Campaigns Officer at Burma Campaign UK. “Unless these
repressive laws are repealed, people in Burma will still be subject to arbitrary arrest, torture and harassment by the
Action can be taken online here: http://www.burmacampaign.org.uk/index.php/campaigns/actions/free-political-prisoners/no-political-prisoner-left-behind
Asia North Korea- Action Stations ?
North Korea 'cannot protect diplomats'
MOSCOW - North Korea on Friday warned foreign embassies in Pyongyang that it was unable to guarantee their safety after April 10 and they should consider evacuating their missions amid soaring nuclear tensions.
South Korean army reservists raise their hands as they swear to stay resolved against North Korea at a Foundation Day ceremony in Seoul on Friday. South Korean officials say war with the North is "unlikely" but has raised the defence alert level. (AP Photo)
European countries with embassies in Pyongyang, such as Britain and Russia, reported receiving a warning advisory, as an increasingly bellicose North Korea moved two mid-range missiles to its east coast.
"Their communication said that from April 10, the North Korean government would be unable to guarantee the safety of embassies and international organisations in the country in the event of conflict," a spokeswoman for Britain's Foreign Office said.
North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un holds up a pistol as he supervises pistol and automatic file firing drills at an army battalion, in this screen grab from a video supplied by North Korea's official news agency. (Via Reuters)
"Our understanding is that the North Koreans were asking whether embassies are intending to leave, rather than advising them to leave," she said.
Thailand has no permanent diplomats stationed in Pyongyang, where about a dozen Thais are employed. The Thai embassy in Beijing covers North Korea as well.
"The current question was not whether, but when a war would break out on the peninsula," because of the "increasing threat from the United States", China's state news agency, Xinhua, on Friday quoted the North's Foreign Ministry as saying.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow, which has relatively close ties with Pyongyang, was consulting with China over the warning, as well as the United States and other members of the stalled six-party talks on North Korea.
There were "many factors" that needed clarification, Lavrov said.
Bulgaria's foreign ministry said the chief of all EU missions in Pyongyang had agreed to meet Saturday to discuss a common position.
North Korea, incensed by UN sanctions and South Korea-US military drills, has issued a series of apocalyptic threats of nuclear war in recent weeks, and there has been growing international concern that the situation might spiral out of control.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon described the daily threats from Pyongyang as "really alarming and troubling" and Germany summoned the North Korean ambassador to convey Berlin's "serious concern".
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said he was flying to Seoul on Saturday and would "fully vet" contingency plans for ensuring the safety of 43,000 Filipino workers in South Korea.
The spike in tensions came as Yonhap news agency, citing a top South Korean government official, said North Korea had loaded two mid-range Musudan missiles on mobile launchers and hidden them in underground facilities near its east coast.
"The North is apparently intent on firing the missiles without prior warning," the official said.
A Navy official told Yonhap that two South Korean Aegis destroyers with advance radar systems had been deployed -- one off the east coast and one off the west coast -- to track any missile launch.
The Musudan has never been tested, but is believed to have a range of around 3,000 kilometres (1,860 miles), which could theoretically be pushed to 4,000 with a light payload.
That would cover any target in South Korea and Japan, and possibly even reach US military bases located on the Pacific island of Guam.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday that the barrage of rhetoric flying out of Pyongyang fitted a "regrettable but familiar" pattern of North Korean behaviour.
"We're taking all the necessary precautions," Carney said.
The Pentagon has said it will send missile-interceptor batteries to protect its bases on Guam, a US territory some 3,380 kilometres (2,100 miles) southeast of North Korea and home to 6,000 American military personnel.
Most experts think the North is not yet capable of mounting a nuclear device on a ballistic missile which could strike US bases or territory.
On Thursday the North Korean army said it had received final approval for military action, possibly involving nuclear weapons, against the threat posed by US B-52 and B-2 stealth bombers participating in joint military drills with South Korea.
There has been speculation that Pyongyang might schedule a missile launch to coincide with the birthday of the North's late founder Kim Il-Sung in mid-April.
"A flight test would make sense," Daniel Pinkston, a North Korea expert at the International Crisis Group, told AFP.
"But I'd be surprised if they used an untested missile. At this stage in the game, they don't want to be firing off something that might disintegrate after 30 seconds."
Tensions have soared on the Korean peninsula since December, when the North test-launched a long-range rocket. In February, it conducted its third nuclear test and drew fresh UN sanctions.
The North also warned this week it would reopen its mothballed Yongbyon reactor -- its source of weapons-grade plutonium that was closed in 2007 under an aid-for-disarmament accord
Asia Japanese Rearmament - An Ally or a Threat
|Opinion: Rearming Japan
|Written by Jerome F. Keating
|Friday, 05 April 2013
Protecting the sea lanes
New Thoughts for a New Age: Japan as an Ally not Threat?
Today in the Asia Pacific region, countries that previously fought against Japan's WWII expansionism now find themselves more threatened by a different expanding power, their previous ally, China.
Not too long ago, in a Financial Times interview, Albert del Rosario, Foreign Secretary of the Philippines, saw fit to address his nation's changing concerns this way. He said in effect that the time has come for Japan to be an active player in regional security; it should upgrade its military and change article 9 of its "Peace Constitution."
World War II ended some 67-plus years ago. And while there remain searing memories and residual distrust in some of the countries Japan occupied, that is more than two generations past. As new countries, new alliances and new threats have risen, people have trouble remembering the Vietnam War, let alone WWII. In this situation of global interaction even the minute East Timor gained its freedom and a new Constitution. Yet Japan remains saddled with constitutional elements based on the fears, threats and situation of a world three generations past.
Japan is not the threat or the country that it once was. The new threat to sea-lanes and trade routes is not Japan but China. In its so-called "peaceful rising" China has already had confrontations with smaller countries as Vietnam (Paracel and Spratly Islands) and the Philippines (Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal). It has further given Hainan Province the right to seize and search any vessels "illegally within Chinese-claimed waters." It is China and not Japan that has further threatened war to "retake" a democratic Taiwan where its flag has never flown.
There can be no question that in this world of expanding global interdependence, one major terrain of future confrontations will most surely be on the seas, and there China continues to expand its power. With no major threats or enemies in either the East or South China Seas, China has added an aircraft carrier, for what purpose? China has also added two destroyers to 13 other new vessels for surveillance patrols in both seas and the Haixun 21, with a helipad, has added muscle to its presence in the South China Sea. Air reconnaissance challenges over the Diaoyutais/Senkakus have also been stepped up.
Shinzo Abe, Japan's new Prime Minister is alert to the growing concerns of all as well of course to the threat to Japan. He knows that peace and stability in the East China Sea are inseparable from that in the South China Sea. He has suggested that Japan join with Australia, India and the US state of Hawaii to develop a "security diamond" that would protect the interests of all sea-lanes. He has also invited Britain and France to make a presence, and would allow Japan to join the United Kingdom's defense agreements with Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. No enemy is an enemy forever.
This is where the new thinking needs to be applied by Taiwan and others in Asia. As an island nation with a long maritime tradition, Japan can be a staunch ally to many, even to island Taiwan. But if it is going to be a team player in new alliances, it does need to be able to hold up its side and with its partners expecting no less. They should not leave it with one hand tied behind its back.
This not only means increasing its defense budget, which it already is, but it also means having the ability to actively aid any ally that is under attack. Taiwan should take advantage of this fact.
To be sure, in defense, some fudging on this already exists with ships like the Hyuga-class destroyers but in this ever-changing world of alliances, a certain absurdity still remains. We have a world where all other nations despite their own checkered histories of aggression are nevertheless allowed to declare war as a sovereign right, yet Japan is denied that because of Article 9 in its Constitution and the high bar of two-thirds approval of both Houses of Parliament as well as a majority in a national referendum for constitutional change.
In this increasingly complex milieu, even the United States unfortunately sends mixed messages. On the one hand, it has kept its bases in Okinawa, and wishes a presence in Asean but at the same time some pundits therein regularly suggest that a second island chain defense is sufficient, thus leaving Japan, Taiwan and other Asian nations exposed.
Yes, in Asia, there is a new threat; a new hegemon is arising. This threat is not so peaceful and it is not Japan. As competition for resources grows, and trade and commerce need to be protected, new awareness, new thinking and new alliances must be had. Who will lead the way in examining what nation is the real threat to peace and stability, let alone democracy in Asia?
(Jerome F. Keating Ph.D., has lived in Asia for 25 years, primarily as manager of technology transfer on the Taipei and Kaohsiung MRT projects. He retired as professor at National Taipei University.)
Asia- Malaysia's Multi Ethnic Coalition Near Collapse
|Malaysia's Multi-Ethnic Coalition Near Collapse
|Written by John Berthelsen
|Friday, 05 April 2013
UMNO may have to go it alone as Chinese, Indian parties crumble
Regardless of who wins Malaysia's 12th general election, expected to be held on April 27, the historic multi-ethnic coalition that has ruled the country since independence will have likely collapsed.
"Whatever the results, the Barisan coalition will cease to exist as we know it because the Malaysian Chinese Association, Gerakan and the Malaysian Indian Congress will be wiped out," a Kuala Lumpur-based businessman told Asia Sentinel. "Assuming UMNO forms the government with Sabah and Sarawak parties, there will be no Chinese and Indian representatives in the government. And that is not a good scenario to have."
The Barisan and the opposition, made up of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat headed by Anwar Ibrahim, the ethnic Chinese Democratic Action Party and the fundamentalist Parti Islam se-Malaysia are embroiled in what is being called the closest election in the country's history, with both sides predicting victory. One opposition strategist said the race would probably come down to a margin of 10 seats either way in the 222-seat Dewan Rakyat, or parliament.
For most of the time from its 1957 inception as an independent nation, the country has been governed by a carefully engineered amalgam of ethnic parties led by the United Malays National Organization, the Malaysian Chinese Association, the Malaysian Indian Congress and, to a lesser extent, Gerakan, which has faded in recent years.
However, in the debacle of the 2008 election, the MCA was left with just 15 seats in parliament. Gerakan, the second mostly Chinese ethnic party, ended up with just two seats. The MIC was left with three. UMNO won 78.
In the upcoming polls, political analysts say the MCA could see its total seats fall to just one or two, roiled as the party is by years of major scandals and political infighting that once impelled one of the contending factions to secretly film party leader Chua Soi Lek having a sex romp in a hotel room in a vain effort to drive him from politics. The resurgent opposition Democratic Action Party expects to claim the vast majority of Chinese voters. Gerakan, whose base is in Penang, which is controlled by the DAP, could be wiped out completely, the analysts say. The MIC is equally riven by scandal and infighting, with its members and leadership gravitating away towards the Hindu Rights Action Force, or Hindraf.
This is not a scenario conjured up by the opposition. It has been discussed within UMNO councils for months as the party has watched the other components of the Barisan drift into disaster. It is at least partly responsible for the rise in race-baiting in recent months as UMNO and its attack-dog ancillaries such as the Malay supremacy NGO Perkasa raise the spectre that ethnic Chinese, and particularly Chinese Christians in a Muslim country, will take over the reins of power.
Ethnic Malays make up 50.4 percent of the population, Chinese 24 percent and Indians 7.1 percent, according to the CIA World Factbook. UMNO sees its chance to keep its leadership of the country intact by winning every available ethnic Malay vote and hopefully luring ethnic Indians back into the fold.
Thus indigenous tribes, most of them in East Malaysia, with 11 percent of the population, probably hold the key to the 2013 election, most political analysts feel. The states of Sabah and Sarawak and the federal territory of Labuan control 57 of the 222 seats. The 165 peninsular seats are almost equally divided between the Barisan and Pakatan Rakyat.
As the MCA in particular descended into chaos, an UMNO operative told Asia Sentinel months ago that UMNO basically decided it would have to go it alone in the 13th general election. While the other ethnic parties will field candidates in the election, UMNO will try to take as many constituencies dominated by ethnic Malays as possible and hope the component parties can have some impact.
*Correction. Originally read US$200 billion
If not, the 57 East Malaysia seats -- depending on how the parties controlled by the current chief ministers fare in the election -- will control peninsular Malaysia's destiny. In both Sarawak and Sabah, the bonds of loyalty that keep elected lawmakers tied to particular parties are slippery indeed. In one case in the 1980s, when the opposition unexpectedly took control of the statehouse in Kota Kinabalu, the victorious coalition locked their winning members behind a chain link fence to keep them from being bribed away by the losers.
Should the collapse scenario actually take place, it will produce a "mono-ethnic and unelectable opposition that will be constrained to the Malay belt" in the Peninsula, where 20 million of the 28 million Malaysians make their home -- without the help of the East Malaysian states. Both chief ministers have been implicated, although not indicted, in scandals involving untold amounts of money in bribery for timber sales. They would be pleased to talk to the opposition in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
If UMNO is to rebuild the coalition, win or lose it means its gamble to conduct the election by appealing to the fears or prejudices of its Malay constituency has failed the country at large, and that it must regain the trust of the complex ethnic mosaic that makes up the rest of the country.
"What's left is UMNO seats, high Malay-majority seats," said an opposition political operative. "They might be propped up with some Malay seats in Sarawak, and some Sabah UMNO seats. If they lose, they would have to reconstitute. They have to start moderating their line and to try to get back the support of the minorities. Assuming they hold power, I would assume over the next five years they would have to reconstitute."
It is unsure what the implications are for Malaysian society as a whole. Tension has simmered for decades, since 1969 riots took the lives of hundreds on both sides of the ethnic divide, exacerbated by the New Economic Policy created in 1971 to give economically disadvantaged rural Malays a leg up. Malays get the majority of government jobs and places in universities. The country has been on a 30-year campaign to ensure rising ethnic Malay ownership of the commanding heights of the business community.
So-called Ali Baba companies dot the landscape, with the "Ali" being an ethnic Malay usually sitting behind a polished and empty desk, while "Babas," a nickname for Straits-born Chinese, run the business from the backroom. Billions have been wasted on government-linked companies given to UMNO cronies to run into the ground. An explosive report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released today said as much as RM200 billion* was funneled out of Malaysia last year to Singapore, an astonishing burst of capital flight.
"Malaysia's system of holding back the dynamic Indian and Chinese minorities has turned it into a bastion of mediocrity in a fast-growing region," Wall Street Journal columnist Hugo Restall wrote in an editorial today. "The country's best and brightest leave because the cronyism and racial quotas in education and employment hold them back."
Asia - Women Tourists say No to India
|Women Tourists Say No to India
|Written by Neeta Lal
|Friday, 05 April 2013
Incredible India can't lure women in the wake of horrific rape cases
Apparently driven away by horrific report of a gang rape in New Delhi in December and other widely reported assault cases, women tourists have been abandoning India in droves, with their number plunging by a whopping 35 percent in the first three months of this year.
The survey, by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, also says holidaymakers are opting instead to visit other Asian countries such as Malaysia and Thailand, which they perceive to be safer. The study surveyed 1,200 tour operators from across the country who said that "concerns about the safety of female travelers" have impacted how foreign travelers viewed India.
Though the "Incredible India" marketing campaign has helped boost visitor arrivals over the past decade to about 6.6 million in 2012 – earning the country $ 17.74 billion in foreign exchange – the number lags far behind destinations such as China and Malaysia.
The rape of the 23-year-old Indian student by six men on a bus in the heart of the capital city sparked national outrage at the country's abysmal treatment of women. The incident had even shocked a country immune to brutal violence, and brought masses out onto the streets to demand more safety for women and harsher laws to deter the perpetrators of such crimes.
Women Rights groups in India say there is a fundamental lack of respect towards women. One reason is the iniquitous male-female ratio which is a result of female feticide practiced on a large scale. For every 1,000 males, India has about 800 females. In some backward regions, the ratio is as abysmal as 700 to 1,000.
India is also going through a socio-cultural transition. Unlike earlier, young Indian women are no longer willing to accept that their security is not guaranteed in the cities, nor are they willing to accept ossified mindsets which are patriarchal, treat males as superior or require them to stay at home.
However, reality is starkly different. In New Delhi alone, 700 cases of rape were reported last year. Between January and March 2013 alone, 300 cases were reported, some of girls as young as two years. But in most cases, no charges are pressed due to the social stigma attached to the rape victim. The situation is the same even in big cities. Reality really hasn't kept pace with the Indian women's increasingly progressive outlook and professional ambitions.
Despite the public outcry, reports of egregious attacks on Indian and foreign women alike are still ubiquitous, raising the question of when, if ever, tough new laws aimed at deterring sex crimes are going to become effective.
Last month, a Swiss tourist was gang raped in central Madhya Pradesh as she and her husband camped in a remote forest. In a second incident, a young British woman said she was forced to jump out the window of her hotel room to avoid a sexual attack in Agra, the city that is home to the Taj Mahal.
“India attempts to enhance its image in the eyes of foreign tourists," D.S. Rawat, secretary general of ASSOCHAM said in a statement. “Instead, the reported attacks have “raised concerns about the safety of female travelers to the country."
Female tourists have been the subjects of high-profile attacks in India before, most notably in 2008 when a 15-year-old British girl was raped and left for dead on a beach in the resort area of Goa.
But the scenario seems to have worsened since then. “Plummeting standards of safety and security," says Suraj Bhan, a Delhi-based tour operator, “are the main reasons for the sharp drop in women tourists. The Delhi gang-rape incident has not just bruised the image of the national capital, but the entire country."
Bhan adds that 80 percent of tour operators have had a number of cancellations in the last three months - a busy tourist season - especially by female visitors from countries such as Canada, the United States, and Australia.
Tourism, says the travel industry, has tumbled in most cities all over the country, not just those where assaults were reported. Fewer tourists flocked to the massive Maha Kumbh Mela festival this year, for instance, reckoned to be the world's largest spiritual gathering in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
Adding to the travel industry's woes are advisories issued by various countries underscoring the need for their citizens to take care while traveling in India. Tips are circulating on travel forums, urging female tourists not to travel alone, wear revealing clothing, drink or smoke in public, or be overly friendly.
The U.S. State Department travel advisory to India now includes a long warning to women that urges them to “observe stringent security precautions, including avoiding use of public transport after dark without the company of known and trustworthy companions, restricting evening entertainment to well-known venues, and avoiding isolated areas when alone at any time of day."
Security in the capital has been visibly ramped up since these incidents. Barricades are now set up on busy streets at night, manned by cops who keep an eye on passing cars. But many women are still wary of stepping out, especially at night. “Even though I get invited to a lot of parties, and feel social events are great career lubricants, I avoid late night events as I'm petrified of being attacked," admits Shivani Bhatnagar, 19, a student at Delhi University.
However, government officials are frustrated that India is being singled out for a few sporadic incidents that happen in other places too. Incidents of reported rape, they point out, are higher in the US than in India although that may be due to much more willingness on the part of American women to report rape. Perception, as they say, is everything. And it is this image that's bottlenecking India's tourism ministry's efforts to push tourism as a lead industry and increase tourist arrivals by 12 percent a year up to 2016 to double foreign exchange earnings.
The travel sector, say analysts, has immense potential as a force multiplier for higher revenue generation and a foreign exchange earner in view of the country's ballooning current account deficit. One in four people in India are employed in the travel-trade industry.
However, there is a contrarian point of view as well. Many foreign nationals visiting or living in India feel the country is as unsafe as any other as sexual abuse is a global phenomenon.
"I don't feel unsafe here even after the gang-rape incidents. If that was the case, I would have never chosen India as home," Flora Saints Sans, a German national living in Delhi, told a news agency.
Claire, a French national, who is on a visit to India to visit India's Golden Triangle -- Delhi-Agra-Jaipur – opines women are as vulnerable in India as any other society. She gave the recent example of a 21-year-old American woman who was raped by several men in a moving van in Rio De Janeiro last week.
"There have been times when some people have tried to touch me or get too close," she says. "But if you're vigilant and assertive, then you're safe as these offenders are easily intimidated by the height and build of western women!"