Saturday, May 1, 2010

PM, now a retired general, leads USDA party

Friday, 30 April 2010 21:41 Kyaw Kha

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Prime Minister Thein Sein and 26 other ministers, all recently retired military officers, submitted their application for registration of their Union Solidarity and Development Association party with the Election Commission yesterday, the electoral watchdog said.
The party (USDA) was originally established as a nationalist social group by the military regime. A USDA leader refused to disclose the names of the 27 people listed on the application when contacted by Mizzima but said they were former Central Executive Committee members in the group’s former incarnation.

He also said that the party would stand for election in all three legislative bodies.

A source close to Naypyidaw said Thein Sein himself was surprised to be reinstated as top leader of the USDA as he was widely known as wanting to resign from the post.

“They feel secure only in their uniforms but all of these developments were arranged [ordered] by [the] Senior General [Than Shwe] himself”, he added.

Twenty-two serving high-ranking officers including the prime minister, ministers and deputy ministers resigned from their military posts on April 26.

The source close to the issue told Mizzima that out of the list of 22 persons (see box), the prime minister and some other ministers were included in the list of applicants mentioned in their party registration form.

Opposition groups and critics said the junta was using the polls to ensure a favourable outcome in the polls and maintain a tight grip on power. According to the 2008 Constitution, 25 per cent of seats in each legislature: the People’s Parliament (lower house), the National Parliament (upper house) and the States and Regions Parliament (state assembly); are reserved for military personnel without needing to run for office.

If the officers who formally resign from their military posts and contest in elections as civilians are successful, they will not be counted among the 25 per cent of reserved seats, thus enabling military or junta-friendly candidates a better chance of controlling each house, the critics said.

It was likely that more ministers and military officers would resign from their military posts in the near future, they said.

According to party sources, USDA was trying to boost numbers until they can fulfil their target number of about 20 million members.

(Additional reporting by Sein Win)

According to the letter of April 26 issued by the Military Appointment General office, the following high-ranking officers resigned from their military posts:
Government position Rank
Prime Minister General Thein Sein
Foreign Minister Major General Nyan Win
Home Minister Major General Maung Oo
Deputy Home Minister Brigadier General Phone Swe
Hotel and Tourism Minister Major General Soe Naing
No. 1 Electrical Power Minister Colonel Zaw Min
No. 2 Electric Power Minister Brigadier General Khin Maung Myint
Communications Minister Brigadier General Thein Zaw
Economic and Commerce Minister Brigadier General Tin Naing Thein
Energy Minister Brigadier General Than Htay
Social Welfare Minister Brigadier General Maung Maung Swe
Finance and Revenue Minister Major General Hla Tun
Prime Minister’s Office Minister Colonel Thant Shin
Public Service Selection and Training Board Brigadier General Win Aung
No. 2 Industrial Minister Major General Kyaw Swa Khaing
Deputy Minister of Defence Major General Aye Myint
Border Region Development Colonel Kyaw Kyaw Win
Attorney General’s Office Lieutenant Colonel Win Ko Ko
Mandalay Mayor Brigadier General Phone Zaw Han
Other resigning officers without ministerial posts:
Brigadier General Nyi Tun
Major Kyaw Kyaw Aung
Brigadier General Soe Oo

MPs fight for right to exist in top court

Friday, 30 April 2010 18:57 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - National League for Democracy members of Parliament on Thursday filed a lawsuit with Burma’s Supreme Court seeking a writ against dissolution of the party and to declare that the members of Parliament can still legally maintain their positions, party leaders said.
The NLD move was designed to head off its dissolution under the junta’s new political party registration law, which required parties to re-register within 60 days of May 6 or be dissolved as legal entities, a party spokesman said.

The law also rendered invalid the positions of Members of Parliament elected in the 1990 election. That injustice had forced the NLD to seek a court order to declare the MPs’ right to exist and call the original 1990 elected Parliament, he said.

Lawyers Kyin Win, Khin Htay Kywe and Kyaw Ho, visited the court to file the suit at 11 a.m. on Thursday and Su Nge, the deputy director of the Supreme Court, accepted their documents at 1 p.m.

The leaders were responding to party general secretary Aung San Suu Kyi’s urging for members to continue pursuing legal actions against the junta. Twenty-six members of Parliament elected in the 1990 election, including party chairman Aung Shwe, were listed as plaintiffs in the filing, the spokesman said. Sanchaung Township MP Khin Maung Swe and Kyauktan Township MP, Dr. Than Nyein, who had pushed for the party to re-register with the Election Commission, joined them.

The court would release its decision on whether it will hear the case on April 30 at 1 p.m. If the court accepts the lawsuit, the two cases will be handled individually, the spokesman said.

Although NLD won 392 of 485 seats in the election 20 years ago, the junta has refused to transfer power to the party.

Observers said the action would almost certainly be ineffective as Burmese court decisions were always in step with the junta’s wishes.

Nyan Win said, “All I want to say is that we will take every legal action against injustice.”

NLD had decided against re-registering with the Election Commission because of the junta’s exclusionary electoral laws. Just four of 10 parties that remain remaining from the 1990 election have applied to re-register with the regime’s electoral watchdog.

According to the party registration law for the 2010 election, existing parties and new parties must register before May 6. If they fail to do so, they will be dissolved.

Burma still among worst states for press freedom: report

Friday, 30 April 2010 22:20 Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Burma is still included on the list of the 10 worst countries for violating media freedom and the military regime tightened such restrictions last year, a report from US democracy and rights watchdog Freedom House said.
Washington-based Freedom House said in its report, “Freedom of the Press 2010”, that the Burmese junta was continuing to monitor internet cafes and that at least 17 journalists were arrested and imprisoned by the end of last year.

The report was based on surveys on the condition of worldwide press freedoms during last year and maintains Burma in its 10 worst-rated countries along with Belarus, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. In these states, the press acts as a mouthpiece for the regime, citizens’ access to unbiased information is severely limited and dissent is crushed through imprisonment, torture and other forms of repression, it says.

The report categorised countries as “Free”, “Partly Free” and “Not Free”. Burma, China, Tibet, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam are listed as “Not Free” and Thailand is rated “Partly Free”.

In Burma, daily papers and broadcasters are wholly owned or controlled by the military regime. Private periodicals are allowed to be published but the censorship board is governed by military officers.

The works of cartoonist “Aw Pi Kye”, who depicts the topsy-turvy situation of Burmese society, are banned by the military regime. Blogger Nay Phone Latt, who spread the majority of updated news during the 2007 September “saffron revolution” to the outside world, is serving a 12-year prison sentence.

Cartoonist Han Lay, a winner of this year’s Hellman/Hammett prize awarded by New York-based Human Rights Watch, said there was “no freedom at all” on all fronts in Burma. The prize is given to writers who have been victims of persecution. Prominent writers and journalists from all over the world have been recipients since it was created in 1989.

“After 1988, the situation is worse than before. All the people are trapped with no outlet. They don’t know what freedom is. All of their potential and calibre has been eliminated”, Han Lay told Mizzima.

The cartoonist attended Rangoon Painting Sculpture and Arts School from 1982 to 1984. After the 1988 uprising he fled to the border. He is now serving the Thailand-based Irrawaddy magazine and his works are held in high regard.

Freedom House reported that the world’s press freedom had declined for the eighth consecutive year. It says only one in six people live in countries with a “Free” press and that only the Asia-Pacific region had shown overall improvement. Regional declines were registered in the former Soviet Union and Latin America.

Status changes were reported this year in Bangladesh and Bhutan from Not Free to Partly Free and improvements were seen in India and Indonesia, the report says.

Rangoon civic body allows Suu Kyi to renovate home

Friday, 30 April 2010 22:17 Myint Maung

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Renovation of Aung San Suu Kyi’s house, on hold for about four months because her elder brother Aung San Oo filed a case to halt repairs, has been given the go ahead by the Rangoon civic body.

The Rangoon (Yangon) City Development Committee issued a written order to Htin Kyaw, her representative, allowing renovation of her home - No. 54, University Avenue, Rangoon yesterday.

“Bamboo fencing has been erected on the side of Inya Lake. We informed the security officials that work has started again. The roof is old and has cracked and needs to be replaced,” Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyer, Nyan Win said.

Htin Kyaw and the construction engineers submitted an application to the special information police force to meet Aung San Suu Kyi, party sources said.

Roof tiles of Aung San Suu Kyi’s house were damaged when Cyclone Nargis lashed Burma in May 2008 so Rangoon municipal authorities allowed her to renovate between November 2009 to April 2010.

But, Aung San Oo, who claims inheritance of the house, objected to the renovation, which he says was without his permission to the Rangoon City Development Committee. As a result the renovation was halted on December 23, 2009. However, on April 6, 2010, the Rangoon Division Court rejected his lawsuit to stop house repairs.

When Aung San Suu Kyi’s mother, Khin Kyi, was ambassador to India in 1960, the Burmese Prime Minister U Nu gave her (Khin Kyi) the house, built during the British era. Aung San Suu Kyi has stayed in the house since 1988, when she returned from London.