2:12pm UK, Tuesday August 26, 2008
democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has started refusing food
deliveries - but the country's ruling junta is denying rumours she
is on a hunger strike.
Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi
Exiled dissidents in India and Thailand have reported that the
Nobel Peace Prize winner last accepted fresh food
supplies on August 15.
But her National League for Democracy (NLD) said the
circumstances remained unclear.
Suu Kyi remains a powerful symbol of the struggle to end
military rule in
despite being largely silenced by the generals.
Her party won national elections in 1990 but the junta - which
has ruled the country with an iron grip since 1962 - never allowed
it to assume power.
A Burmese government official dismissed reports of a hunger
"It is just rumours, it is not true," he said, refusing to be
named. "We have not got any (political) demands from her."
The news comes after Suu Kyi repeatedly canceled meetings with UN
special envoy Ibrahim Gambari, who ended a six-day visit to Burma
without seeing her.
The 63-year-old has spent most of the past 19 years confined to
her lakeside home in
Her latest detention began more than five years ago. She has been
allowed little contact with the outside world.
Her doctor and lawyer were permitted to visit her on August 17,
when she was given a medical check-up - her first since February.
In an attempt to soothe international outrage after a violent
crackdown on anti-junta protests last September, the generals
appointed a liaison, labour minister Aung Kyi, to negotiate with Suu
But they have not met since January, when the opposition leader
complained about the slow pace of their talks.
Suu Kyi 'on hunger strike'
By Andrew Buncombe, Asia Correspondent
Tuesday, 26 August 2008
Suu Kyi 'may be on hunger strike'
Independent - London,England,UK
Frida Ghitis |
Bio | 26 Aug 2008
Supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi believe the imprisoned Burmese democracy
leader may have launched a hunger strike over the military regime's refusal
to hold talks about democratic reforms.
Members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) said the
63-year-old had last accepted a weekly delivery of food on 15 August
and told the young party members who delivered it not to bring any
more. An NLD spokesman in Burma said he could not confirm whether
she had stopped eating but that bags of food delivered to a
checkpoint outside her house in Rangoon had not been picked up.
“If Aung San Suu Kyi continues to refuse food from her comrades, her
health will be of serious concern,” the NLD's office in neighbouring
Thailand, said in a statement. “Two people living with [her] are also
refusing food. The international community's immediate action is necessary.”
The Nobel Laureate has spent 13 of the last 19 years either in prison or
under house arrest. Since May 2003 she has been detained at her lakeside
home where she lives with her assistant and another female party member. She
was last seen in public when she briefly appeared at the gate of her heavily
guarded house as a crowd of Buddhist monks gathered outside during last
September's democracy demonstrations.
Her party colleagues said Ms Suu Kyi recently told the regime she wished
to renew negotiations in order to help bring about national reconciliation.
She also said she wanted a satellite dish installed at her home and for her
assistant, Khin Win, to be able to leave whenever she wants.
At the same time, she last week cancelled a series of meetings with the
UN's special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, during his six day visit to Burma. The
Nigerian diplomat was criticised by Burma's political opposition and accused
of trying to appease the country's military regime rather than push it
towards making democratic reforms
The junta that has ruled Burma for two decades is determined to ensure Ms
Suu Kyi remains in detention. It knows that if she were set free she would
be the only person around which the public might rally in sufficient numbers
to challenge the military authorities.
To those ends, in May the regime extended her current detention term by
another year. They have also severely restricted the number of people
allowed to see her. While her doctor and lawyer were permitted to visit her
last week, that was her first medical check-up since February and the first
meeting with her legal representative since 2004.
The military junta yesterday claimed that the detained politician had not
started a hunger strike. “It is just rumours, it is not true,” a government
official told the Agence France-Presse. “We have not got any political
demands from her.”
But campaigners in the West said it was possible that Ms Suu Kyi had
decided to turn to such drastic measures. “There have been rumours like this
before which have turned out not to be true, but given the way Gambari seems
to favour the regime one could imagine that she is feeling very frustrated,”
said Mark Farmaner of the Burma Campaign UK. “Gambari does not have the
respect of the [military regime] and is seen as biased by the democracy
movement. It is hard to see how he can carry on as UN envoy.”
In 1990 Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD won an overwhelming victory in
national elections. But the military authorities ignored the result and
began rounding up political opponents. Human rights groups believe that up
to 200 people may have been killed by the authorities when they crushed last
year's demonstrations. Hundreds of political prisoners and Buddhist monks
remain in jail.
World Politics Review Exclusive
Once again, the news from Burma rings with echoes of despair. The latest mission
from the international community has ended in embarrassment -- not for the
despotic generals who rule Burma (renamed Myanmar by its illegitimate regime),
but for the United Nations and its ineffectual efforts. It seems no one who
matters wants to waste any more time meeting with the U.N. envoy. And now,
unconfirmed reports say the iconic leader of the pro-democracy opposition, the
Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, may have started a hunger strike. Once again,
Burma stands like a conscience-searing mirage on the Asian horizon, reminding us
of our failure to help the most desperate.
The Nigerian diplomat chosen by the U.N. to conduct negotiations, Ibrahim
Gambari, has left Burma without having met Gen. Than Shwe, the head of the
ruling junta, or Suu Kyi, the woman who led the country's National League for
Democracy (NLD) to victorious elections 18 years ago, and has spent most of the
time since then under house arrest.
Opposition leaders in exile and inside the country are fed up with Gambari, who
served as his country's U.N. ambassador during Nigeria's military dictatorship.
Burma activists say his work has proven "worthless," a "failure." The U.N.
defends him, calling for patience, saying he is engaged in a "process, not an
event," in the words of Marie Okabe, deputy spokeswoman for Secretary-General
But how much patience? Military rulers have governed Burma since 1962. In August
1988 -- on the supposedly lucky date of 8-8-88 -- street demonstrators demanded
democracy. Soldiers massacred protestors, and a new junta took over. Reform was
supposed to come after the 1990 elections, called by the junta in a
miscalculation. Suu Kyi's NLD won by a landslide. The winners landed in prison,
and the junta continued to grind its heel on the population. By then, Burma had
suffered not only from widespread human rights abuses, but had been transformed
from one of the more affluent countries in Asia to one of the poorest in the
world. The Burmese have good reason to resent appeals to patience.
Calls for democracy don't just rise out of ideological passion for the rule of
the people. No, Burma needs change because the generals have destroyed their
country and their peoples' lives. According to the European Union, Burma spends
less on health care than any country on earth. It spends lavishly on one of the
biggest military forces in the world, looting the country's vast natural
resources to enrich top officers. Meanwhile, combined spending on health,
education and on helping those who lost everything after this year's
catastrophic cyclone reaches a few dollars a year per person.
The Beijing-backed generals are not completely immune to international pressure.
After Cyclone Nargis killed 138,000 and left 800,000 homeless in May, the junta
blocked international aid. With thousands facing death, the generals wouldn't
budge. But then, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner uttered the magic
words: "responsibility to protect." The RTP doctrine says governments have the
duty to protect their people from crimes against humanity. When the government
becomes the perpetrator, the responsibility falls on the international
community. That hinted at foreign intervention. The generals relented only
enough to avert a major catastrophe. Witnesses say minimal aid has reached the
victims, but not enough to rebuild their lives.
NLD officials say Suu Kyi has turned back food deliveries since mid-August and
say they are extremely worried about the health of a woman revered by millions
throughout Burma. Suu Kyi may want to scare the generals, and shake the
international community back into action. She has already made unimaginable
sacrifices. We don't know how far she will go now.
History has shown that the junta responds only to extreme pressure, especially
when it comes from its Asian neighbors -- particularly China. Then it ignores
earlier promises when the world looks away.
Reports in the region say the day after the Beijing Olympics ended, China's
defense minister told his Burmese counterpart he wants to strengthen bilateral
ties. China and Burma, it seems, have short memories. After the cyclone and a
year earlier, after brutal repression of an uprising by Buddhist monks, they
seemed briefly ready to negotiate. Then the world looked away, soothing its
conscience with a useless envoy.
Helping the Burmese people's non-violent struggle requires outspoken, vigorous
and relentless diplomacy. Beijing must hear that its post-Olympic international
standing requires that it too, pressure the junta to negotiate a transition of
Enough despair. It's past time that we had some good news from Burma.
Frida Ghitis is an independent commentator on
world affairs and a World Politics Review contributing editor.
UN Burma envoy 'wasted his time'
Nyan Win delivered strongly-worded criticism of the UN
Burma's main opposition party has dismissed the latest visit
by UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari as a waste of time.
Nyan Win, of the National League for Democracy (NLD), said Mr Gambari had not
established any dialogue between the military rulers and the opposition.
He was also annoyed that the envoy appeared to have given tacit backing to
the junta's planned election in 2010.
Detained NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi refused to meet Mr Gambari, fuelling
speculation she is unhappy with the UN.
And Mr Gambari was not invited to the remote capital of Nay Pyi Taw to meet
the junta's top leader, Senior General Than Shwe.
The BBC's South East Asia correspondent, Jonathan Head, says Mr Gambari now
seems to have used up all the credibility he had.
After more than two years of failure his statements remain relentlessly
upbeat - yet he seems to put no pressure on the generals, our correspondent
Nyan Win expressed particular annoyance with Mr Gambari for negotiating with
the generals over their "roadmap" to democracy, which plans for elections in
"We have made very clear to the UN envoy that the mission should not discuss
the upcoming 2010 elections, as the NLD does not recognise the military-backed
constitution," he said.
Mr Gambari's latest visit to Burma has attracted little
"The UN envoy was wasting his time on matters that he was not supposed to
He added that Mr Gambari had also failed to make any progress on the other
major theme of his mission - to secure the release of political prisoners
including Ms Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest.
During his six-day visit, Mr Gambari did hold talks with the NLD and meet
Prime Minister Thein Sein - a figurehead who holds little real power.
But diplomats conceded that nothing concrete had come of his visit.
The NLD won a general election in 1990 but the junta refused to allow the
party to assume power.
In recent months, the generals have further consolidated their grip on power,
pushing through a constitution which reserves 25% of the seats in any future
parliament for the military.
They have also extended Ms Suu Kyi's house arrest for another year. She has
spent more than half of the past 20 years in detention.
Gambari 'wasting his time' in Burma
UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari was "wasting his time" in Burma because he did
nothing to end the political stalemate there, the opposition party of Aung San
Suu Kyi charged.
The unusually harsh criticism comes a day after Gambari ended his six-day
mission to Burma without meeting Suu Kyi nor the country's top general. He left
for Singapore yesterday.
Gambari told diplomats it was Suu Kyi who refused the meeting, adding to
speculation she may be dissatisfied with the United Nations' unsuccessful
efforts to bring about change in military-ruled Burma.
National League For Democracy spokesman Nyan Win criticized Gambari for failing
to meet General Than Shwe and being unable get any commitments from the regime
to start talks with the opposition toward a national reconciliation.
Gambari Burma Mission Not Accomplished, UNSC
should intervene more directly
Mon, 2008-08-25 03:34
By Zin Linn, Burmese Journalist in exile
Bangkok, 245 August, (Asiantribune.com):
UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari's latest shuttle diplomacy ended in
disappointment. He could not meet senior leaders of the ruling Junta.
And also the detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. When Gambari
flew in, expectations ran very high.
The visit came at a time optimism was waning about talks between the
Nobel Laureate and the Generals who had unveiled a new statute after
staging a referendum in May. The international community hoped that he
would succeed in persuading the military to open a genuine political
dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic groups to create a national
reconciliation process that could lead to a genuine democracy.
Gambari failed to have meetings with the senior general. The Nobel
laureate was to meet him on Aug20. But she did not 'show up'. The
meeting was organised by the Junta. Obviously, Suu Kyi did not want
Gambari to overstate that his mission was going well.
This was Gambari's fourth trip to Burma since the deadly crackdown on
anti-government demonstrators led by Buddhist-monks last September.
Burma came under military rule in 1962. The regime has earned the
dubious reputation of being one of the world's worst human rights
violators. It brutally suppressed pro-democracy movements in 1988, May
30, 2003, Depayin conspiracy and Saffron Revolution in Sept 2007. There
were many more sporadic crackdowns. The junta has arrested over two
thousands political dissidents including Suu Kyi, who has been confined
to her residence for most of the last 19 years.
The regime has held a unilateral referendum at gun point on May 10
and 24 this year and pronounced mandate for the statute which made the
military the final arbiter of the destiny of the Burmese people. The new
elections planned in 2010 will legalize military rule. Needless to say,
the processes will not be free and fair. Just like the referendum held
at gun-point. The socio-economic atmosphere is deteriorating. The junta
will not be able to manage the socio-economic situation, which is
deteriorating fast. It will soon come face-to-face with a "desolate"
future if it continues to reject the national reconciliation process
being urged by the opposition the National League for Democracy (NLD)
and the United Nationalities Alliance (UNA).
NLD and UNA point out that the 'ratification' of the constitution
staged by the Junta is invalid. Both assert that the ratification was
carried out against the will of the people and without observing
internationally known norms for referendums. The junta does not show
respect the statement issued by President of the UN Security Council
issued in October, 2007. The regime also has also negated successive
resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) calling for return
of democracy in Burma through a tripartite dialogue between the Junta
led by Senior General Than Shwe, democratic forces led by Aung San Suu
Kyi and representatives of ethnic nationalities. From turn of events it
is clear that Yangoon has no plan to heed the UN call and to release
political prisoners, which is a pre-condition to facilitate the
These realities and Junta's adherence to the Seven-step road map
towards 2010 elections make the Gambari mission almost nonsensical. Also
bring upfront the question: Is Ibrahim Gambari the right person for the
delicate job in Yangon.
Pro-changer's reply is a resounding no. "No he's disqualified."
Gambari cannot hope to achieve a breakthrough when he obeys regime's
to-do list and spends most of the time with pro-junta groups or their
puppets. He should demand to meet the representatives of the group of 92
MP-elect, who had sent letters to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and
Security Council. And he should, at least, urge the junta to release two
of the group- U Nyi Pu and Dr. Tin Min Htut, who were arrested on 12
August. At least three prominent members of these MPs who are denied
their rightful place in Parliament, U Pu Chin Sian Thang, U Thein Pe and
Dr. Myint Naing, are accessible in Yangoon but the UN Special Envoy did
not try to contact them.
Instead, Gambari met with the leaders of the ruling junta which has
identifies itself as the Union Solidarity and Development Association
(USDA). It is a gang similar to Hitler's 'Brown Shirts', which carried
out an assassination attempt on Nobel laureate Suu Kyi on May 30, 2003.
Scores of her supporters were slaughtered during that pre-meditated
What was more, when UN envoy met with the NLDs, he told them the 2010
elections would be free and fair. But when asked for his 'opinion' on
the 1990 elections, he ducked for cover. Furthermore, he even did not
recognize the purpose of his current mission was to facilitate
resumption of a political dialogue that was postponed in the wake of a
Hopefully, Ibrahim Gambari will re-evaluate the purpose and direction
of his mission as the Secretary-General's Special Envoy. He should not
consider advocating or supporting the military dictators' sham
constitution and sham 2010 elections. It will damage not only his
mission but also the dignity of the world body.
Is it too much for the democratic forces in Burma to expect that the
United Nations will quickly come to grips with the Yangon crisis in a
more direct manner?
Zin Linn: The author, a freelance Burmese journalist, lives in
exile. He is vice-president of Burma Media Association, which is
affiliated with the Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontiers.
-Asian Tribune -
NCGUB: Burma Situation Update -- August 2008
Published by the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma
A 'Major Disappointment'
Mr Ibrahim Gambari, UN special envoy of the
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, departed with a deep disappointment, both for the
United Nations that he represents and the ethnic nationality and democratic
parties inside Burma which had pinned hopes on him to overcome the political
stalemate in the country.
Leading members of the ethnic nationality and
democracy movements like Pu Cin Shing Thang of the United Nationalities Alliance
and U Nyan Win of the National League for Democracy (NLD) expressed their
disappointment when the UN envoy made a favorable reference to the 2010 election
that the military junta was preparing and said they want the UN envoy to adhere
to the mandate given him by the resolutions of the UN General Assembly via the
UN Secretary-General, which generally can be interpreted as reopening of talks
between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the military junta to bring national
reconciliation and democracy to the country.
The democratic opposition has made it very clear
from the onset that it was neither recognizing the constitution that the
military junta has drafted through its own convention nor the referendum which
was held to approve that constitution since it was, to say the least, fraught
with fraudulent practices on a national scale and conducted while people were
busy coping with natural disasters caused by Cyclone Nargis in May. In fact,
during his March visit this year, Mr Gambari offered to have the referendum
overseen by international monitors but it was rejected by the junta. The
generals also publicly rebuffed the UN envoy's call for political reform then.
Unlike previous visits, Mr Gambari's trip to Burma
this time did not invoke a lot of interest from the ethnic and Burmese
organizations in exile. This is probably because their expectations were not
very high given the fact that the United Nations does not have enough clout to
sway the Burmese generals or a stronger backing from the UN Security Council.
They were also skeptical about the sincerity of the military junta which has
until now been playing along with the United Nations to avoid stronger
That sentiment obviously was not shared by the
ethnic and democratic political parties inside the country which had to a
certain extent banked on the UN facilitated process to reach a resolution out of
the political stalemate. The strong reaction to Mr Gambari's expressing support
for the elections took away whatever confidence they had in the process. They
openly criticized the UN envoy this time while Daw Aung San Suu Kyi also refused
to meet him.
Another reason that political parties in Burma
reacted to the UN envoy's "unbecoming behavior" was because they felt that Mr
Gambari was spending too much time accommodating the wishes of the Burmese
generals. He was visiting cyclone-hit areas, meeting lower level junta
officials and leaders of junta-affiliated and junta-sponsored organizations,
partaking in other junta suggested activities while at the same time totally
neglecting the legitimate ethnic and other political leaders.
Mr Gambari, however, did meet with the elderly
executives of the National League for Democracy twice -- the first time for only
20 minutes and the second time, only because Daw Aung San Suu Kyi declined to
Time to Review UN's Role
Given the fact that the supreme military leader,
Than Shwe -- the only decision-maker in Burma -- did not meet him again and made
the UN envoy waste his time in Burma with trivial pursuits, it is time for the
United Nations to review its approach regardless of
being considered "an old hand in dealing with military dictators". The bottom
line now is that the United Nations is not making any headway and the Burmese
military junta is not budging from its position as reflected in the statement of
Information Minister and member of the junta's "Spokes Authoritative Team" Kyaw
Hsan who told the UN envoy that the junta "being
the Transitional Government, our Government will continue to implement the
seven-step Road Map in accord with the mandate of the people. We cannot accept
any attempt to jeopardize or harm our process. We will oppose and wipe out
those attempts to jeopardize or harm the Constitution."
Mr Gambari said he came to Burma with the
(1) To gain freedom for all political prisoners,
including U Tin Oo and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi; (2) To endeavor to start direct
talks between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the junta;
(3) To endeavor to resolve economic problems of
(4) To have a permanent liaison officer of the UN
Secretariat in Burma; and
(5) To inform that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
will be visiting Burma in December.
To these proposals, Mr Gambari received only
noncommittal responses. Regarding
the case of political prisoners, Kyaw Hsan said "the government always has a
tradition to do so". On the resumption of talks, he told the UN envoy, "In
recognition of your discussions, talks with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be held in
line with the previous procedures". In other words, the NLD leader will have a
chance to meet with Liaison Minister Aung Kyi and the talks will be dragged on
without any result.
Concerning Mr Gambari's remaining
three points, Kyaw Hsan said: "At present, the transition to democracy is being
implemented with the timeframe in Myanmar as wished by the UN and international
community. Hence, we assume that now is the prime time for the UN and
international community to lend a helpful hand with goodwill as regards
Myanmar's affairs ….. I would say the UN including you should extend a helping
hand for peaceful and successful transition to democracy in accordance with the
Hence, the least that Mr Gambari can do at this
stage is to objectively view the true situation in Burma even if that means he
will have to stop being a diplomat for a while. The democracy movement does not
recognize the present, flawed constitution that favors military rule and is
difficult to amend unless supported by the military but the junta is going ahead
with the election on the basis of that constitution at all costs.
If things are not working out in Burma, it is
imperative that Mr Gambari spells it out openly and let the international
community do the rest.
UN Victims of Military 'Voodoo'
Unbeknownst to the UN Special Envoy
Mr Gambari and UN Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki-moon, they have been the victims
of a voodoo jinx that the Burmese generals had initiated..
When the two UN officials visited Burma separately, they were taken on a guided
tour of Shwedagon Pagoda, particularly to a chosen site, where they were
introduced to a "Buddha" image. Burmese dailies carried pictures of both UN
officials paying their respects to this special image -- an image sculpted to
look like Senior General Than Shwe (see pictures).
The superstitious Burmese generals
believe that these two UN officials must be jinxed into feeling inferior to
Senior General Than Shwe before they meet him.
Another leader of the democracy
movement has fallen victim to the "Dirty Tricks" Department of the military
U Aye Thar Aung, secretary of the
Arakan League for Democracy, and member of the Committee Representing People's
Parliament, constituted by MPs-elect, to represent them before the Parliament
can be convened, was purposely tripped while he was trying to get off a bus. He
luckily escaped with bruises on his hand and knee when he tumbled.
The man who tripped him was
described by U Aye Thar Aung as his "constant companion" -- a person assigned by
the military to follow him wherever he goes -- who is about 20 years old and he
evidently did not like U Aye Thar Aung wandering about the city seemingly
without any work, which he complained to the neighbors of U Aye Thar Aung. The
young thug decided to put an end to the democracy leader's roaming days.
This is not the first time that a
blatant attack on MPs elect has taken place. U Than Lwin of Madaya, MP-elect of
the National League for Democracy, was punched in the eye with a
knuckle-duster. U Than Lwin who is now being detained is reported to be losing
sight in that eye because he has not received any medical treatment in prison.
Similar physical assaults on other
NLD members have taken place before also.