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world news Suu Kyi party using donations to incite riots
YANGON — Myanmar’s junta-run newspaper yesterday accused opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party of trying to incite riots in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis. An editorial in the New Light of Myanmar paper accused the NLD of falsely offering donations to victims of the storm. “NLD is attempting to incite the outrage of the victims and problems, and to make the public outrage go into riots. I would say that evidence showed the selfishness and coarse manners of NLD,” it said. The junta’s criticism of its opponents comes after it extended Ms Suu Kyi’s house arr rest by one year on Tuesday — though that news was not reported in state media. The paper said NLD staff had given money to cyclone survivors at a temporary relief camp, but had got into a fight with local officials before their distribution was complete, angering storm survivors. “Some of the victims who had not got a onethousand kyat note left the camp to show their dissatisfaction,” it said. “Indeed, it is NLD that incited the outrage of the victims under the pretext of donation,” it said, urging donors to be “vigilant against the real purposes of so-called donors trying to attain political gains.” Ms Suu Kyi led the NLD to an election landd slide in 1990, but the junta never allowed the party to take office, and instead kept her locked away under house arrest. Ms Suu Kyi has spent 12 of the last 18 years in detention, and the extension of her house arrest provoked an international outcry. — AFP

TODAY • Friday • May 30, 2008

T DAY • Friday • May 30, 2008 O

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An insider’s look at Gen Than Shwe’s meeting with UN chief
JOHN HEILPRIN

KINGS AND PAUPERS
expertise and US$11 billion ($15.05 billion) to rebuild. But it waited nearly a month to allow some foreign aid workers access to the disaster zone. During a visit to Naypyidaw, Gen Than Shwe and other top generals received UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last Friday and granted a small group of foreign journalists a rare glimpse inside his palatial compound. The journey began with a one-hour flight aboard a chartered government plane from Yangon, the former capital. The 156-kilometre drive north to the generals’ remote capital can take a half-day along a potholed two-lane road. From the airport, it was a 40-minute drive on a Los Angeles-style eight-lane highh way — the widest and smoothest road in the country — to Gen Than Shwe’s opulent meeting room. Virtually no cars or people were seen, aside from workers hand-sweeping the roadside. The capital has 24-hour electricity, a rarity in Myanmar, but forget mobile phone service or international flights. Soldiers greeted the VIP motorcade with salutes as it moved along the main road, passing sprawling new golf courses and resorts with signs such as “The Thingaha — über cool.” Few people were spotted anywhere. Inside one resort, well-groomed waiters served cool green melon drinks. At another stop, the group was offered a buffet of seafood, noodles and other local fare on elegant wooden tables. The five-star luxury hotels featured gleaming fountains, shady foyers and sunny pools. The capital, segregated into military and civilian districts, is surrounded by hills believed to hold a hive of bunkers. Bronze statues of three former Burmese kings pay tribute to a history of military might. Naypyidaw means “abode of kings” in Burmese. Inside the military area were a shopping mall, a high school built like a forr tress and a stadium described by one local official as “a training ground for parading.” International reporters are rarely allowed into the country, except to cover the annual military parade. A sightseeing tour of half-built govv ernment buildings led through a massive construction site of unfinished Sovietstyle facades. Workers lined up to wave at the passing UN diplomats and foreign press. At Gen Than Shwe’s pillared compound, armed guards greeted the group, leading them to where Gen Than Shwe and the UN chief sat side by side on throne-like chairs w ith floral upholstery, separated by a bouquet of pink and white flowers and a silver tea set. Chandeliers

How are the astronauts going to do it?
WASHINGTON — It’s bad enough when the toilet gets clogged at home; it could be a lot more serious in space, especially with visitors on the way. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) said on Wednesday that the liquid waste handling function of the lone toilet at the International Space Station (ISS) had malfunctioned the day before, and that the three astronauts aboard had to use the toilet at the Soyuz capsule moored at the station. Eventually, the two Russians and one Amerii can at the orbiting station were able to fix up a “urine bypass” on the ISS toilet, located on the Zvezda module, Nasa said. While one of the crew was using the Russianmade toilet last week, the toilet motor fan stopped working, according to Nasa. Since then, the liquid waste gathering part of the toilet has been working on and off. Fortunately, the solid waste collecting part is functioning normally. Nasa spokeswoman Nicole Cloutier told AFP that the space shuttle Discovery, scheduled to arrive at the ISS on Monday with seven astronauts aboard, would be carrying toilet parts to help repair the station’s prickly plumbing. “It’s not really an emergency, they have many options available if they need,” Ms Cloutier said from the Johnson Space Centre in Texas. “There is another toilet ready to fly in the fall, in order to have two toilets on board for when they’ll have the expanded crew of six” at the ISS, she said. “There also other devices if they really need to ... differr ent kinds of bags,” she added. — AGENCIES

NAYPYIDAW (Myanmar) — Getting to see one of the world’s most reclusive military strongmen requires a VIP flight, armed escorts and soldiers pointing the way — not to mention a disaster of epic proportions. Even a calamity the size of Cyclone Nargis hasn’t stopped construction in the newly-built capital of Naypyidaw, Senior General Than Shwe’s extravagant vanity project. The junta leader and his team of generals have overseen its making since 2005. Gen Than Shwe’s rising ShangriLa of officialdom contrasts starkly with the misery in the rest of Myanmar, also known as Burma, one of the poorest and most repressed countries in the world. A sign outside one government off fice read, “Can I Help You?” But a few hundred kilometres south, that was an offer in short supply where thousands of homeless survivors begged for food on the roadsides. The cyclone’s floodwaters have left more than 2 million people hungry, homeless and at risk of disease. The xenophobic government has admitted it needs foreign

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and ceiling-high depictions of golden pagodas adorned the room. “He told me that he has never had any such candid meeting with anybody else in the world,” Mr Ban said, hoping that the face-to-face session would hasten the regime’s willingness to accept outside help for cyclone victims. Naypyidaw is far removed from the hard reality in the rest of the impoverished country, where one in three children is mall nourished and many people scrape by on US$1 a day. The Senior Genera l, who failed to complete high school, had repeatedly ignored Mr Ban’s phone calls and letters

immediately after the cyclone. Gen Than Shwe thanked Mr Ban for his letters, and apologised for not replyy ing, UN officials said. The junta leader said he had no time to personally reply in the aftermath of what he called the worst disaster in the country’s history. He and two top officials who greeted Mr Ban wore matching khaki-green military uniforms laden with medals. In person, Gen Than Shwe is more diminutive than his larger-than-life public persona. Short and bespectacled, the stocky 76-year-old who is known as “the bulldog” was silent when asked by a Westt ern reporter if he had any comment for

the outside world. Behind the giant wooden doors, Gen Than Shwe did all the talking for the first 50 minutes of the two-hour-and-10minute meeting, according to UN officials. At the end, Mr Ban walked away with a promise of more access for foreign aid workk ers to the hard-hit Irrawaddy delta region. “This is just the beginning of my dialogue and communication with the Myanmar authorities,” Ban said. “Let us see how this will develop.” — AP UN correspondent John Heilprin was allowed a rare visit to the restricted Myanmar capital of Naypyidaw.