Saturday, September 29, 2007
ASEAN's rebuke of Burma welcomed but more action needed
I welcome ASEAN's Foreign Ministers' condemnation of Burma.
Although ministers "expressing their revulsion" may seem like just words and a lot of hot air to many, it is unprecedented as ASEAN has a reputation for being an old boys club where politicians meet regularly in exotic resorts and pat each other on the shoulders with self-congratulatory compliments and a cup of tea.
I hope that this collective expression of regret is but a start of a proactive political bloc where member countries (including Singapore) which deviate from universal norms of human rights and decency are taken to task.
I know this is more an illusion than truth, but it is credible start. It is nevertheless only the start.
Let us watch carefully to see how ASEAN behaves if UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari comes back empty-handed ( or if he is allowed in at all) and when the despots of Rangoon continue to brutalise their own civilians.
Nothing short of full freedom and democracy and the military returning to the barracks would be acceptable to ASEAN as that is the bare minimum required by Burma's people. They deserve no less.
Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan
Japanese journalist shot dead at close range: video (see above pictures)
TOKYO - MYANMAR troops shoved down a Japanese journalist and shot him dead at close range, television footage broadcast on Friday appeared to show.
Japan's Fuji Television showed footage of soldiers charging after demonstrators on Thursday as they clamped down on protests in Myanmar's commercial hub Yangon.
A helmeted soldier appeared to push to the ground a man identified as video-journalist Kenji Nagai, who was wearing knee-length shorts and sandals.
As the man lies sprawled on his back, clutching his video camera in his right hand, a loud bang is heard, with a soldier pointing a rifle right in front of him.
The soldier then races on, chasing after demonstrators.
Fuji Television said the footage showed that Nagai was killed intentionally, not by a stray bullet.
'This soldier probably pushed Mr Nagai first. This soldier then seemed to shoot him, judging from the angle of his gun,' Koichi Ito, a former member of the Japanese police's special rapid attack squad, told the private network, which did not say how it obtained the footage.
Nagai, 50, a video-journalist for Tokyo-based APF News, who had years of experience covering dangerous hotspots, was the first foreigner killed in Myanmar's crackdown.
Japan, which has cordial relations with Myanmar, has said it will protest the killing and investigate if he was killed intentionally. But it said it will not cut off aid to the military-run nation.
Chief government spokesman Nobutaka Machimura said on Friday that a Japanese embassy doctor confirmed a bullet entered Nagai's body from the lower right side of his chest, pierced his heart and exited from his back. -- AFP
ASEAN calls on Myanmar to stop using violence on protestersPosted: 28 September 2007 0100 hrs
UNITED NATIONS : Southeast Asian nations rounded on fellow member Myanmar on Thursday, demanding the ruling military stop using violence against pro-democracy protesters after nine people were killed.
As security forces swept through Myanmar's main city on Thursday arresting hundreds in a brutal crackdown on the ninth straight day of protests, world outrage mounted with the US slapping sanctions on 14 Myanmar leaders.
UN leaders were told by Myanmar officials that UN chief Ban Ki-moon's special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, would be granted a visa to visit the country.
"The secretary general has been informed that his special envoy will be welcome in Myanmar," spokeswoman Marie Okabe said. "He is pleased."
But ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which has long had a policy of non-interference in the affairs of Myanmar, had unusually sharp words for its fellow member at a meeting at the United Nations.
"They were appalled to receive reports of automatic weapons being used and demanded that the Myanmar government immediately desist from the use of violence against demonstrators," Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo said.
The ministers "expressed their revulsion" over reports that the demonstrations in Myanmar "are being suppressed by violent force and that there has been a number of fatalities," he said, after chairing the meeting.
They "strongly" urged Myanmar to exercise utmost restraint and seek a political solution and wanted the ruling junta to resume national reconciliation with all parties and work towards a "peaceful" transition to democracy.
The unfolding drama on the streets of Yangon has dominated the agenda of the UN General Assembly here, and prompted calls from around the world for Myanmar to lay down their arms.
At least 50,000 people, many of them youths and students, swarmed into Yangon on Thursday undeterred by the deaths the day before of at least four protesters, including three Buddhist monks, and repeatedly defied orders to disperse.
In six hours of chaotic protests, Myanmar state media said nine people were killed, including a Japanese journalist, and another 11 protesters injured including one woman.
US President George W. Bush on Thursday said the world must press Myanmar's military rulers to end the violent crackdown and urged the junta to cooperate fully with UN envoy Gambari.
"I call on all nations that have influence with the regime to join us in supporting the aspirations of the Burmese people and to tell the Burmese junta to cease using force on its own people, who are peacefully expressing their desire for change," he said in a statement.
The US administration also ordered a freeze on the assets of Myanmar's military leader and 13 other senior officials.
"We are today imposing sanctions against senior officials of the government of Burma," said Adam Szubin, director of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.
Beleaguered Myanmar Foreign Minister U Nyan Win had skipped the ASEAN meeting at the last minute, instead sending his representative Thaung Tun, a senior government official, an ASEAN diplomat told AFP.
Thaung Tun mostly looked down as Yeo addressed reporters afterwards in his capacity as chairman of the ASEAN standing committee.
Yeo also said Nyan Win had informed them Myanmar would issue a visa to Gambari, and said ASEAN ministers urged Myanmar to grant him "full access" to all parties, including Nobel peace laureate and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for most of the past 17 years.
ASEAN also warned Myanmar that the bloody crisis was having "a serious impact on the reputation and credibility of ASEAN."
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said meanwhile the ASEAN stand was a victory for the thousands of demonstrators.
"This is a success for democracy and this is a success for the demonstrators in Myanmar," he told reporters in New York.
Japan, a top donor to Myanmar, had summoned the Myanmar's ambassador in Tokyo on Thursday to protest against the crackdown while South Korea urged Myanmar to refrain from suppressing the protesters.
The ASEAN ministers were scheduled to hold talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in New York later in the day. - AFP/de