Uncertain Future for NLD in Wake of Election Decision

NLD members shout slogans at the party's headquarters in Rangoon, where the party decided on Monday against registering for this year's planned election. (Photo: Reuters)

Senior leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD), Burma's main opposition party, will meet next Monday for their first meeting since deciding earlier this week not to register for this year's planned election—a move that could spell the end for the party that has led the country's democracy movement for the past 22 years. Since the decision was reached at a meeting of party delegates from around the country on Monday, Burmese and foreign observers alike have been wondering how the NLD plans to proceed. So far, however, it has given no indication of what its next move might be. “We can't say exactly what we will do next, but there are many different ideas. It's something we will have to decide,” said Han Thar Myint, a member of the NLD's Central Executive Committee, speaking to The Irrawaddy on Thursday. Asked about the possibility of a crackdown on the NLD now that its legal status is in question under new laws that require parties to register for the election or face dissolution, Han Thar Myint said that even if the party is abolished, its members should not be subject to arrest. He also dismissed suggestions that the NLD had deliberately raised the stakes by refusing to register the party for the election on the grounds that it would require it to expel members, including its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who are serving sentences for criminal convictions. “This has nothing to do with the Naung-Yo tactic,” he said, referring to a famous battle in which the 16th century general and future king Bayintnaung burned his troops' rafts to let them know there was no turning back, forcing them to fight to the death. He said the NLD leaders decided not to register because they had been left with no other choice. “In practical terms, and as a matter of principle, there was nothing else we could do,” he said. Since the meeting on March 29, several Western diplomats have visited the NLD's Rangoon headquarters to show their support and to sound out the party's leaders on their future plans, while many ordinary Burmese have also taken a strong interest in the decision, which has so far gone unmentioned in the state-run media. “People are really paying attention to this,” said a source in Rangoon, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It has

completely changed the mood on the street. Everyone wants to know what the NLD will do now.” He added that many people sympathetic to the NLD's decision to effectively boycott the election are now planning to apply for party membership to show their support. However, not everyone is happy about the decision. “I didn't like the decision, but I am loyal to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” said Khin Maung Swe, an NLD executive who previously advocated registering. He said that he and others who shared his views did not speak out against the decision at the meeting, but privately he expressed the opinion that it was “suicide” for the party. Similar views were also expressed in the international media. “A boycott was the only option if the party was to remain true to its democratic ideals. But it was, probably, a mistake,” The Economist wrote in an editorial on March 31, framing the party's choice as being “between political suicide and a crippled half-life as a legal party.” In The New Yorker, George Packer wrote: “[T]he regime is still doing best: by its own brutal rigidity, forcing the opposition into a rigid and, perhaps, a self-defeating response.” Some Burmese political observers also said that the NLD show have taken a more strategic approach. “They could have bought time until the deadline and applied for registration without expelling Suu Kyi,” said one Burmese exile. “Then the regime would have been forced to reject the party under its own laws.” “That would have exposed the oppression of regime and given international players time to intervene. And it would have changed the headlines from 'NLD rejects the election' to 'NLD rejected by regime.'” Source :http://irrawaddy.org/highlight.php?art_id=18191

Chairman of Burma’s Election Commission on EU blacklist
Friday, 02 April 2010 14:20 Mizzima News Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Deputy Supreme Court Judge Thein Soe, the newly appointed Chairman of Burma's Election Commission is on the EU’s blacklist of sanctions. The list, which targets key members of Burma’s military regime also includes Dr. Tin Aung Aye, a fellow Supreme Court Judge, and also a member of the EC. Judges Thein Soe, Dr. Tin Aung Aye and other members on the blacklist including notorious junta crony Tay Zaw, are banned from traveling to the European Union. They are also subject to a freeze on any financial assets they may have in Europe. As such they cannot undertake financial transactions with European based financial institutions. The two judges and other senior members of the Burmese regime’s judiciary were added to the EU's sanctions list following the outcome of Aung San Suu Kyi's August 2009 trial in which she was convicted of flouting the terms of her house arrest after an uninvited American man swam to her home. According to the EU Council, members of the Burmese judiciary were targeted because of the “gravity of the violation of the fundamental rights of Aung San Suu Kyi. The Council considers it appropriate to include the members of the judiciary responsible for the verdict in the list of persons and entities subject to a travel ban and to an asset freeze". Before becoming a judge Thein Soe was in Burma's armed forces as a Major General and was a military Judge Advocate General. In 2003 he was appointed to Burma's National Convention led by former Prime Minister Khin Nyunt. In October 2007 Dr. Tin Aung Aye was appointed to the commission for drafting the State Constitution. According to the regime’s state constitution committee announcement, Dr. Tin Aung Aye received both his master’s and doctorate of law in Germany.

Source :http://mizzima.com/news/world/3780-chairman-of-burmas-ec-on-eu-blacklist.html

NLD to plunge itself headlong into social work
Friday, 02 April 2010 21:43 Myint Maung New Delhi (Mizzima) – On the heels of its decision not to register with the Election Commission (EC) the National League for Democracy (NLD) is exploring ways to increase interaction with people and plunge itself headlong into more and more social work as part of the party’s future activities. “We will continue with our international relations and at the same time work for the people. We will work for the welfare of the people and serve them,” NLD Central Executive Committee (CEC) member Win Tin told Mizzima. For instance, NLD will work for HIV/AIDS patients and provide assistance to political prisoners, he said. The Committee for Representing People’s Parliament (CRPP) held its meeting today at the NLD party headquarters in Shwegondaing, Rangoon and discussed doing social work in cooperation with NLD, ethnic political parties and other allies. Protesting the junta’s harsh and vindictive electoral laws, NLD decided not to register with the EC. After the deadline on registration, in the electoral laws, the party will cease to be a legal party raising questions about its fate in the Burmese political mosaic. “We discussed the NLD’s political stand and how to cooperate with ethnic political parties in future,” CRPP Secretary Aye Thar Aung said. The CRPP meeting was attended by NLD Chairman Aung Shwe, Vice-Chairman Tin Oo, CEC members, ethnic leaders Aye Thar Aung, Pu Cing Tsian Thang, Thaug Ko Thang among other CRPP members. “All of us respect the NLD’s political stand. We are proud of the party. We discussed cooperation between NLD and CRPP,” Aye Thar Aung said. The delegates who attended today’s meeting discussed and exchanged views on the party’s stand of continuing to operate as a political party even though the junta seeks to abolish it. Source :http://mizzima.com/news/election-2010/3783-nld-to-plunge-itself-headlong-into-social-work.html

Elections ‘may hinder’ aid to Burma
Published: 2 April 2010

Concerns have arisen over the possibility that overseas aid flows into Burma may be increasingly restricted this year as the junta looks to limit the number of foreigners in the country in the run-up to elections. Although much of the international community has quietly voiced a desire to increase aid to Burma, currently one of the lowest recipients of aid in Southeast Asia as a result of sanctions, this may not be altogether welcomed by the junta. “We know that visas in the past couple of months have been difficult to obtain for aid workers and we expect more of this in the next couple of months,” Benjamin Zawacki, Burma researcher at Amnesty International, told DVB. Aid was initally blocked after cyclone Nargis in 2008 (Reuters)

He added that it may not be a “sinister” politicisation of aid by the junta but rather an unwillingness “to have

foreigners in the country at the time of the elections”. If the fears become reality, it would mirror the aftermath of cyclone Nargis in May 2008 when the government, afraid of the scale of the disaster reaching an international audience, initially barred the majority of journalists and aid workers from entering the stricken Irrawaddy delta, likely contributing to the eventual 140,000 death toll. And despite the country still reeling from its worst natural disaster in recorded history, the government in the weeks following Nargis rushed through a constitutional referendum which set the ball rolling for the elections this year. “That was a very stark example of what the government is capable of in terms of prioritising its own interests over the interests of the people,” said Zawacki. But, according to James East, regional communications advisor at World Vision aid group, which has some 700 staff working inside Burma, the elections could in fact open the country’s humanitarian corridor. “I think the international community is seeking for ways to engage, and yes there may be issues along the way, but the sense from the diplomatic community is that the electoral process may lead to an opportunity for increased engagement,” he said. Analysts have said that, despite the results of the elections likely being a foregone conclusion, they should be seen as an acknowledgement by government that it needs a semblance of legitimacy on the international stage, something it has previously disregarded. Moreover, the junta has already made tentative steps towards opening up to the international community, whether purely cosmetic or not, with several high-profile visits by US politicians in the past six months. But, according to East, there is an issue among Western governments of balancing the desire to get aid into the country and maintaining tight sanctions on the military rulers. “The sanctions movement has been very strong, and governments are worried about upsetting the pro-sanctions group,” he said, adding however that there has been an opinion shift regarding sanctions, largely due to a new understanding of the realities in Asia where “public confrontation is not as effective as relationship building”. Zawacki said however that Burma’s political crisis should have no bearing on the amount of aid given to the country. “These two issues should not be mixed; they have been mixed by the [Burmese] government itself but that’s not an issue that the international community should respond to in a tit-for-tat way.” He added that there is “no justification for holding the majority of the population hostage to political concerns when humanitarian imperatives dictate that aid must get through”. Source :http://www.dvb.no/elections/elections-%E2%80%98may-hinder%E2%80%99-aid-to-burma/8482

Thais to press Burma on ‘discriminatory’ polls
Published: 2 April 2010

Thailand’s foreign minister Kasit Piromya has said that the Thai delegation to a regional summit of leaders in Hanoi next week will press the Burmese junta on the issue of the elections, expressing their desire for an inclusive poll. “I’m concerned about the national reconciliation and the inclusiveness of the whole new political process [in Burma],” Piromya told AP, offering a forewarning of his likely stance at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit. Burma’s prime minister Thein Sein is also due to attend the summit, while the Thai delegation will be led by prime minister Abhisit Vejajjiva. Piromya will also host regional foreign ministers at a Greater Mekong Subregion meeting in Thailand, scheduled to start on Sunday, where his Burmese counterpart, Nyan Win, is also due.

Piromya meets Burma FM Nyan Win (Reuters)

The Thai foreign minister spoke in unison with other world leaders when he expressed sympathy with the Burmese opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party’s decision on Monday to not contest the upcoming poll, telling AP that “I honour and I respect that decision”. The NLD has decided to boycott the elections, citing “unjust” laws that bar party leader Aung San Suu Kyi from running and require her expulsion if the party is to participate. Despite the fact that Burma’s controversial elections will feature highly at the Hanoi summit next week, the ASEAN bloc is expected to stick to its ‘non-interference policy’ that has frustrated democracy activists. Roshan Jason, executive director of the ASEAN Inter Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) lobby group, earlier told DVB that: “I think [ASEAN] will just advise the government” instead of taking more drastic action, such as removing the country from the regional bloc. Thailand for its part has remained a vocal yet inactive neighbour when it comes to democracy in Burma, with expanding bilateral trade showing no signs of abating. Piromya had in February offered Thai support to the election process, proposing monitors to travel to the country and to train election officials. Needless to say the generals have rejected all foreign advances of election help. Both Piromya and his Thai government colleague, Kraisak Choonhavan, also of the AIPMC, had stated that a free election was in the interests of neighbouring Thailand, with fears that continued political turmoil in Burma would lead to greater numbers of refugees fleeing into Thailand. Piromya further said that the election laws “look discriminatory…You are providing amnesty only to the military leadership and not to the rest of the political opposition side of it”, according to AP. Source :http://www.dvb.no/elections/thailand-to-press-burma-on-discriminatory-polls/8466

'We Believe We Will Win This Election'
The National Unity Party (NUP) has applied to the Election Commission for registration as a political party. The Burmese Socialist Programme Party (BSPP)—which was established by late dictator Ne Win in 1962 and controlled the country under one-party for 26 years—changed its name to the NUP in 1988, following a nationwide uprising led by students. The NUP won 19 constituencies in the 1990 general election. The Irrawaddy correspondent Saw Yan Naing interviewed Han Shwe, central executive member of the NUP, on the current political situation. Question: When did your party register with the Election Commission?

In this Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010 photo provided by the UN Information Center, UN envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana, third right, poses with senior leaders of the National Unity Party for photos in Rangoon. (Photo: AP)

Answer: We sent in our application on March 29th. According to the existing laws, when the Election Commission allows our party to stand as political party, we will be recognized as a legal political party. That is second step. We have shown that we are willing to work as political party within the given time period of 60 days [in which to register]. Q: How many constituencies will your party contest? A: There are three different ways of contesting. In the Lower House, there are 330 seats and 168 seats in the Upper House.

For division and state levels, there are two constituencies per township. In Burma, we have more than 300 townships. So there will be more than 600 seats at the division and state level. Totally, more than 1,000 representatives will be elected. We would like to contest in all constituencies, but we may not be able to contest for all seats. We will contest in those townships where the situation is favorable to us. I can tell that we will be able to contest in many townships. At the moment, we are collecting data on various townships. I reckon that we will be able to contest in more than 200 constituencies. For each of the assemblies, we will contest in half of the constituencies. Q: How will you campaign in these constituencies? A: We have finalized our party’s manifesto. For election campaign activities, we will officially release our plan when the time comes. Q: Do you have sufficient funds for your party? How do you seek funding? A: According to the law, every candidate has to deposit 500,000 kyat (US $500). It’s a lot of money. We want clean money for our party’s funds. So we are legally seeking funds as much as possible. Our party members pay membership fees every month. We are also publishing some printed material for fund raising. Financially, we are likely to rely on those funding sources. By using a combination of donations from concerned persons and the party’s current existing funds, we hope that we are able to tackle those financial matters. Q: What do you mean concerned persons? Are they party members? Or business people? A: Any person who trusts our party can donate money for our funds. It depends largely on our members. Many business people are our party members too. For the time being, we haven’t announced which are our constituencies. We have to wait for legal instruction and the rules and regulations. After that I can tell more precisely. Q: Have you written your party platform yet? A: We have had our own party platform since 1988. It is still valid. Q: What's the party’s political platform? A: We are decedents of the Burma Socialist Program Party. In 1988, when we formed the NUP, we had to change our political platform according to the multi-party democratic system. In those old days, we had only a one-party system. Generally, our political platform is structured for the benefit of the majority of the population. Our practical approach is based on a middle way.

In 1992-1993, we published and distributed books which reflected our political platform both in Burmese and English. Q: What does the party flag look like? A: The color of the flag is red with three white stars resting on the left-top corner. Q: Who are the leaders of your party, and how many members do you have? A: Our party leader is U Htun Yee. The general-secretary is U Than Tin. The joint general-secretary is U Khin Maung Gyi. We have 23 central executive members. During the time of the BSPP, we had 3 million members countrywide. In the 1990 election, we had about 500,000 members. Q: Do you have confidence that you will do well in this election? A: Yes, we believe we will win in this election. That’s why we registered. Source :http://irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=18186

Myanmar launches online banking services
YANGON, Apr 02, 2010 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The state-owned Myanmar Economic Bank (MEB) started launching a quick-cash online banking services Friday to facilitate customers in exchanging cash with the use of smart card, sources with the bank said. Working with the state-run Myanma Posts and Telecommunications, branches of the MEB in Yangon and Mandalay will provide full time service using ADSL, IPStar systems and fiber optics cables to go online, the sources said. MEB said it has experienced online banking system since May 2007 in collecting insurance premium from those

leaving for foreign countries at Internal Revenue Department in Yangon and in collecting deposit for submitting passport at Passport Office in Yangon, and in providing one stop service at one of the Yangon branch. Test-run of such online banking services has proved workable with smart card, the sources added. Meanwhile, Myanmar has also introduced a banking network system in some six banks in the country to interlink state and private banks to facilitate traders for banking transactions, according to the Bankers Association. The system, being practiced with Yoma bank, Myanmar Citizens Bank, Tun Foundation Bank, Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank, Myawaddy Bank and Myanmar Industrial Development Bank, is carried out by local information technology companies of MIT and Global Net. There are four state banks and 15 private banks in Myanmar all governed by the government's Central Bank. Source :http://www.tmcnet.com/usubmit/2010/04/02/4707220.htm

Police detain 30 illegal immigrants
2010/04/02 GUA MUSANG: Kelantan police detained 30 illegal immigrants who were hiding in a secondary jungle near a vegetable farm in Lojing, during Operasi Rantau, here today. Gua Musang district Police Chief Supt Saiful Bahri Abdullah said the 30 illegal immigrants, comprising Nepalese, Myanmar, Bangladeshi, Indonesian and Indians were arrested after failing to produce valid travel documents. He said the operation, which involved 60 police personnel of various ranks and 105 Rela members, was carried out to track down suspects linked to the murder of a 33-year-old, Myanmar national, at a vegetable farm in Lojing last Sunday. "We raided a kongsi house where the suspects lived, but since it was empty we had to check a bushy area nearby and found them hiding there. "As of this evening, the main suspect is believed to be hiding in the vegetable farm area," he told reporters here today. Last Sunday, Orang Asli residents who were fixing water pipes, found the body of a vegetable farm worker, believed to have been murdered and his body dumped in the bushes of a vegetable farm. -- BERNAMA Source :http://www.nst.com.my/Current_News/NST/articles/20100402210817/Article/index_html

U.S. official: Engagement of Burmese junta failing to bring results
The State Department has been relatively quiet in public about Cambodia's decision last December to send 20 Uighur asylum seekers back to China to face who-knows-what, but behind the scenes, senior State Department leaders are taking the issue very seriously. A State Department official tells The Cable that just before the Cambodian government sent the ethnic Uighurs back to China, where they face imprisonment or worse, there were a flurry of diplomatic efforts to try to convince the Cambodians to hold off. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even phoned Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong to urge him to rethink the decision, the official said, but to no avail.

Scott Marciel, the deputy assistant secretary of state and ambassador for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) spoke about the seriousness of Cambodia's deportation of the Uighurs at a conference Thursday put on by the East-West Center. "The Cambodian government's decision to deport them before they had been evaluated was very troubling," he said, confirming that U.S. officials "weighed in very heavily at very senior levels." The failure of the Cambodians to even try to evaluate the refugee status of the Uighurs sets a dangerous precedent, said Marciel, who added that U.S. efforts to work with Cambodia on a host of other issues continue. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley announced Thursday that the United States did suspend the sale of some 200 trucks and trailers to Cambodia as a protest against the move, but that's about all the punishment the U.S. plans to dole out. "Half of the people are mad that you did too much and half are mad that you didn't do enough," said Marciel. "That comes with the territory." Cambodia has shrugged off that punishment. Maybe it wasn't as important to them as the $1.2 billion in aid a Chinese official delivered to Phnom Phen only days after the deportation. Reuters reported that the Uighurs were smuggled into Cambodia sometime in weeks prior to their deportation and applied for asylum at the United Nations refugee agency office in Phnom Penh. The Cambodian government deported them for breaking immigration laws. The U.N. Refugee Agency immediately condemned the decision, saying that "The forced return of asylum-seekers without a full examination of their asylum claims is a serious breach of international refugee law." Marciel also acknowledged that the State Department's new policy on mixing pressure with engagement in Burma has yet to show concrete results in persuading the brutal Burmese junta to govern more responsibly. "Burma's new election laws are a step backwards," he said. "They are effectively preventing the main opposition party from participating. This is the opposite of the path towards national reconciliation." Regarding the new U.S. engagement of the junta, he said, "We predicted it would be a long and difficult process, and unfortunately we were right." Overall, ASEAN has seen a flurry of U.S. attention since President Obama took office, reversing a pattern from the Bush administration years in which the countries there viewed U.S. interest in Southeast Asia as focused on terrorism, terrorism, and terrorism. Clinton has traveled to the region three times; President Obama met with all 10 ASEAN heads of state in Singapore for the first time ever; and he will travel to Indonesia, hopefully in June. "2009 was a banner year for U.S. relations with Southeast Asia and ASEAN," Marciel said. "The fact is we hadn't been engaged in this region for a very long time." Source :http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/04/02/us_engagement_of_burmese_junta_failing_to_bring_res ults

US must reach more of the population in Myanmar: Study
Web posted at: 4/3/2010 1:12:13 Source ::: AFP Washington: The United States should broaden engagement with Myanmar to reach more of the population, taking a long-term view despite growing concern over upcoming elections, a study has said.

The New York-based Asia Society set up a task force with leading figures of both major US parties to chart a way forward after President Barack Obama’s administration last year launched a dialogue with the military regime. The study broadly endorsed Obama’s approach but had no illusions about the difficulties ahead, warning that the junta may try to use talks with the United States to confer legitimacy on elections it is holding later this year. The task force said the United States could tighten or remove sanctions on the regime based on progress but should ramp up assistance to ordinary people including non-governmental organisations, farmers and small businesses.

“This is what we can do — we can work with the population,” retired general Wesley Clark, a former Democratic presidential candidate and co-chair of the task force, told a news conference introducing the report. “What we wanted to do was lay out a positive direction where the leadership in Burma could take a step forward and see the benefits that could occur if they would do that,” Clark said, using Myanmar’s former name. The other co-chair was Henrietta Fore, who was director of foreign aid under Republican president George W Bush. Task force members included billionaire philanthropist George Soros and Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen. The upcoming elections will be the first in Myanmar since 1990. That vote was swept by the National League for Democracy (NLD) but it was never allowed to take power and its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has spent most of the time since under house arrest. The NLD on Monday decided to boycott this year’s election after the junta imposed laws, criticised around the world, that would have forced the party to oust Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi as its leader. Source :http://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/Display_news.asp?section=World_News&subsection=Philippines+ %26+South+Asia&month=April2010&file=World_News2010040311213.xml

My father's Burmese newspaper, the Rangoon Nation
Her father was a pioneering editor in Burma, but it wasn't until Wendy Law-Yone discovered his life's work in a nondescript north London building that she truly understood his legacy
• • •

Wendy Law-Yone The Guardian, Saturday 3 April 2010 Article history

From left to right: Wendy’s mother, Eleanor, her sister, Marjolaine, her dad carrying Wendy, and her brothers, Byron, Alban and Hubert, in 1952. Of the countless special places I've said goodbye to over the years – places scattered across half the globe – the one that speaks to me most powerfully of my past is a 1930s red-brick building in Colindale, north London. The neighbourhood is without charm, the building without distinction and the address, in truth, was never really mine. But 130 Colindale Avenue is home to a particular relic, an important piece of my family history that I had thought was lost for all time. In the late 1990s, when I first discovered its existence, I made numerous trips to London, flying into Heathrow from Washington, where I was living at the time. Tingling with anticipation but overcome by jetlag, I would keep myself from nodding off on the long tube ride by studying the ads and underground poems until everything

assumed a runic significance. When at last I stepped out of Colindale station into the damp, dusky air of industrial London, I had only to turn right and cross the street – and there it was, my favourite newspaper repository in the world, the archives of the British Library. Somewhere in that trove of 300 years' worth of newspapers, magazines, comics and other periodicals; somewhere in the miles of microfilm containing a portion of the 56,000 separate print titles originating in Britain and its former colonies, there were 33 reels on which were preserved just about every single issue of my father's longdefunct newspaper, the Rangoon Nation. My father, EM Law-Yone, founded the Nation in 1948, the year of Burma's independence after more than a century of British rule. The second world war, in which Ed (as my father was known to his friends) had fought, had left much of the capital city in ruins. The new Union of Burma was in the throes of violent political and ethnic strife. In this chaotic period of nation-building, Ed decided to create his own Nation. The first edition was produced by the light of a hurricane lamp, on a portable typewriter with a missing "e". Rent was cheap because the office building was still strewn with rubble from allied bombings. My mother's jewellery – her entire life's savings – were sold (not pawned) to a Ceylonese pawnbroker, to finance in part an essential mimeograph machine. The Nation's maiden print run – on a borrowed press – was 2,000, of which 20 copies were sold. Even at its peak, when it was Burma's leading English language daily, the Nation's circulation never exceeded 16,000. But the paper's influence and reputation throughout the region were disproportionate to its size. Because I was born just a year ahead of its launch, I never knew a time when there wasn't a Nation. And perhaps because I grew up taking Dad's paper for granted – as a birthright almost – I seldom bothered, even as a young adult, to read it regularly or carefully. Thus it was with a strange combination of discovery and chagrin that I would sit in one of the library's microfilm reading rooms for days on end, staring at a square of illuminated glass, behind which passed issue after issue of the Nation. The images took me back to a lost world: the world of my childhood in a Burma that had long since ceased to be. It was all there – in the blocks of old hot-lead type projected askew, in the 28-point headlines of the day: "Insurgents mine rail track, pilot train plunges into stream"; "Burma has only 20 dentists but every tom dick & harry is pulling teeth, rotarian says"; "Petain's death denied the British budget: an analysis". There were columns by Christmas Humphreys on Buddhism; by Bertrand Russell on Why Communism Will Fail; by JS Furnivall on whether Burma was "civilised". I had all but forgotten those grainy ads for Wincarnis Tonic, Eno's Fruit Salts, World Famous Zam-Buk ("For disfiguring skin & scalp diseases"), Santoids Worm Syrup ("Beware of Imitations"). And I must have seen those movies: The Flame and the Arrow, My Foolish Heart. Why couldn't I recall them now? I'm 10 years old again, in my microfilm reverie, and we're turning down 40th Street. The car is inching past oblivious pedestrians who take their sweet time to let us by, and finally we're in front of No 290, the three-storey Nation building. I step out of the car – and the stench of sewers and rotting garbage hits me with a force that almost makes me ill; but once I cross the threshold of the front door, the smells that greet me are rich and reassuring: ink and lead, and newsprint. Right away, someone – a reporter or an editor – takes me by the hand, for a tour of the building. The tour always starts on the ground floor, in the printing room, and ends on the top storey, where the typesetters live. I know the whole building by heart, but I also know that saying so would be disrespectful to my adult guide. Not much goes on in the printing room during the day. The presses are not running and the room is so quiet that when one of a group of card players shouts out in excitement or frustration, the cry leaves an echo. But at night! I've been here at night and seen what it's like: bells going off, huge cylinders rolling and churning, great trays shuttling back and forth, and white newsprint shooting out every which way. The floor vibrates, a steady shock courses through my body, all the way from my feet to my finger tips, the machines chug like unstoppable trains … and the men are all speaking in sign language because no one can hear a word of what anyone else is saying. Upstairs, in the compositors' room, it is never as noisy. Workers sit over their trays of type as if absorbed in a board game. But sometimes one of them, usually a woman, will walk by and hand me a souvenir: a block of lead with a W on it. On special nights – arbitrary, as so many of Dad's benedictions seem to be – I am allowed to stay on at the office

till well past bedtime, till after he "puts the paper to bed" in that oddly tender phrase. My own bed for the night is a green leather couch across from Dad's desk. A tall bookcase is wedged in between one end of it and the wall. Encyclopedias and dictionaries – big books with small letters and no pictures, books that hold no interest for me – take up the top shelves. The bottom shelves are stuffed with magazines, pamphlets and newspapers in unreadable foreign languages. When I've had my fill of roaming through the building, floor by floor, I return to the cocoon of the green couch. Despite his promise to my mother, Dad never insists on my going to bed early. In fact, he seems to forget I'm there. Fighting sleep all the way, I resist lying down for fear of dropping off just when something exciting is about to happen. I know this feeling from the few times I've been allowed to attend a pwè, the raucous Burmese theatre that takes place in the open air, playing through the night and into the early hours of dawn. Like the plots in a pwè, much of what unfolds in Dad's office seems random and chaotic, full of event yet difficult to follow, boring for long stretches, then suddenly, for no apparent reason, hectic. All the while the procession of visitors never stops: characters in bizarre costumes, from countries as alien to me as outer space, Buddhist monks, Catholic nuns and priests, an archbishop whose ring I dutifully kiss. The names of the dignitaries, revolutionaries and celebrities who come calling – Somerset Maugham, Raul Castro, Roy Thompson, Kingsley Martin, Ed Murrow – I learn only later, much later. In fact, Dad's work involves such endless entertaining and socialising that it's a wonder he finds time to sleep, let alone write so many editorials, columns and feature articles himself – or think up so many promotional ideas and schemes. The Nation sponsors essay competitions, beauty competitions, trishaw races – and all sorts of fundraising drives. One day an infant with a rare disease, a "blue baby", is brought to Dad's office by his distraught grandparents. The Nation's campaign to send the "blue baby" for medical treatment – accompanied by his grandparents – to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, New York, is so oversubscribed that the surplus generates another fund – this one for a new hospital for women on the outskirts of Rangoon. The paper is put to bed at about 3am. I am fast asleep by then, but sometimes I'm startled awake by what sounds like firecrackers going off, or a machine gun in a war movie. Then I realise it's only Dad hammering away on his black typewriter with its frequent bell. My uncle, the Nation's accountant, has told me that Dad writes his editorials in 20 minutes – and it's always word perfect. No one touches the boss's copy, he says: it goes straight into print. But why shouldn't Dad be able to finish his editorials in 20 minutes, I think? After all, he is always practising writing, or thinking about writing, or actually writing with his finger – scribbling on tabletops, on his lap, on my arm or on my back when I sit on his lap. Still, there is something dangerous about the way he attacks the keys on the typewriter. Interrupting him would be like coming between a lion and its kill. I go back to sleep. The next thing I know he's lifting me off the couch and carrying me downstairs, into the car. When I wake up in the morning I don't even remember the ride home, or being carried into the house and put to bed. At the end of each day in the library in Colindale, dizzy and queasy from eye-strain, I would slowly emerge from what seemed like a seance. For hours I had been conversing with my father – hearing his voice, anyway: the combative, cocksure voice that lashed out or poked fun at corrupt politicians, inept bureaucrats, totalitarian regimes, the lazy, the ignorant, or the merely annoying. It was a voice without any of the fear that paralyses most Burmese (if not half the world) – the fear of embarrassment. No editor and publisher who put himself frequently on the front page of his own newspaper could be seen as easily abashed ("Law-Yone talks on British parliament"... "Old Peterites at festive reunion dinner. U Law-Yone … appointed himself chairman and executive committee of the Old Peterites Association … His resolution was passed unanimously and boisterously"). It was all part of a style, a devil-may-care attitude reflected in the Nation's motto. On the masthead was a quote paraphrasing Mark Twain: "Let me make the newspapers of a nation, and I do not care who makes its laws." Eventually my father did have to care, for the men who made its laws after 1962 were the same men who threw him in jail and shut down the Nation for all time. The same men, in effect, who run the country today. But he'd had a good run, as good runs go in Burmese history – in a brief golden age of press freedom and proliferation, when around 70 newspapers were in circulation. And I think it's as safe to say now, as it was said in his Times obituary in 1980, the year of his death: "He was the first independent newspaper editor of free, postwar Burma, and also, to date, the last." With one career ended, Dad promptly embarked on another. Almost immediately upon his release from five years in prison (two in solitary confinement) he set about trying to overthrow the military dictatorship that had

imprisoned him, along with most of the country's intelligentsia. In early 1970, Dad found a pretext for leaving Burma with his family. There, together with U Nu, the last democratically elected head of state, he formed a government-in-exile. Their timing could not have been worse. The Vietnam war had barely ended, and world support for yet another Asian revolution was not forthcoming. Beset by a host of problems – financial, organisational, logistical – the government-in-exile fizzled out in less than two years, leaving my father penniless, though not without resources. In America, where he spent the last eight years of his life, Dad lectured, taught college courses in history and politics, and went on writing – articles, editorials, a history of the kings of Burma, a memoir. Never once did I hear him speak mournfully of his many losses and setbacks. The past was a running joke that made him laugh out loud. And never was he happier than when frying up the fish he caught in the lakes and streams of Maryland and Virginia, to force-feed anyone who happened by – family, friends, neighbours, the mailman. I suppose one could say that he died a happy man, since it was after a long day of fishing in the country that he collapsed, at the age of 68, of a heart attack. Having once boasted that he was the only Burmese whom the British had taught to shoot and fish properly, the irony would have amused him. Years after my father's death, when I was going through the cardboard boxes containing a manuscript he'd asked me to edit, I came across something I hadn't noticed before, stuck on the back of a page. On a label he must have picked up from the dry-cleaners after they had resoled his shoes – a thin cardboard label with a hole in the corner and a string through it – he had typed, all in caps: WENDY, WHATEVER YOU DO, DON'T LOSE MANUSCRIPT. DAD. Don't worry, Dad, I haven't. What's more, I've found something of yours – in a building in north London, of all places. The Road to Wanting by Wendy Law-Yone is published by Chatto & Windus, £12.99. To order a copy for £11.99 including free UK mainland p&p, go to guardian.co.uk/bookshop or call 0330 333 68467 Source :http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/apr/03/wendy-law-yone-burma-rangoon-nation

Burma urged to hold free elections
Posted Fri Apr 2, 2010 5:43pm AEDT Thailand says it will press Burma's military leaders to open this year's election to all political opponents and ethnic minorities. Burma's main opposition party has already vowed to boycott the first vote in two decades because of unjust electoral laws. The country's military junta introduced laws which ban political prisoners, including the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from participating. Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya says free elections are important because they could promote national reconciliation. "The new elections and so on must be inclusive, free and fair," he said. "So the fact that are certain laws that look quite discriminatory, that might have created some difficulty for the national reconciliation." Source :http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/04/02/2863366.htm