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Burma Window No. 14

November 3rd, 2011

Political leaders in Rangoon said NLD may announce whether it will register with National Election Commission or not in a few days. CRPP (Committee for Representing Peoples Parliament) and NLD (National League for Democracy) will separately held meetings on November 4th to discuss the issue of registration and participation in bi-election. After the meeting, NLD and its alliances will issue statements announcing their position on the matter. NLD senior leader U Win Tin, after Burma parliaments in Naypyitaw modified political party registration law, said earlier that NLD would make a decision on the registration matter at the party senior members meeting within a week. The political party registration law was amended at the recent ongoing sessions of National parliament and People parliament in Naypyitaw. The new law has changed some terms and policies including changing the term safeguarding the 2008 constitution to respect the 2008 constitution. The new law also allows former prisoners to form political party as well as prisoners currently being serving in prison can be member of political party. Meanwhile, people have different opinions regarding NLD registration and participation in forthcoming bi-election. While some people want NLD to wait until 2015 general election to contest nationwide, some wish NLD to contest in bi-election, take some seats and work in parliaments. If NLD decides to register, it will have to contest at least three places in upcoming bi-election. The bi-election is to be held in order to elect approximately 50 vacant seats but the government or election commission has yet to announce the bi-election date. Meanwhile, some exiled activists said that as NLD represents the whole population of Burma and fighting for democracy, it should be cautious with its future decision. In October, KNU (Karen National Union) and DKBA (Democratic Karen Buddhist Army) leaders have said their organizations met with government representatives in Thailands Bangkok and Mawlamyaing in Mon State. The agreements including non-movement of troops from the stationed area and a proposal to be submitted to the president to allow the opening of DKBA offices in some townships in Karen

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state were made during a meeting between DKBA and government representatives in Mawlamyaing on October 26. However, no development came out from the meeting between KNU and government. On October 30th,opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the invitation of the government met government minister Aung Kyi for the 4th time under president Thein Seins government at governments Seinlae Kantha guest house in Rangoon. The meeting was held between 13:00-13:55 pm. During the meeting, the issues of countrys economic development, free trading, and free currency using were discussed. In addition, the governments effort and progress to achieve everlasting peace with ethnic armed groups and amnesty were talked. Both sides agreed to call meetings in the future. On October 28, Indonesia FM Marty M Natalegawa kicked off 3-day observing trip to Burma regarding Burmas Asean chairmanship in 2014. Indonesia is current chairman of the Asean. Observers believed Burmas chairmanship of the group will mainly depend on Natalegawas reports to the group. Burma FM Wana Mg Lwin said in August that the decision of Burma chairmanship in 2014 would be made at the 19th Asean to leaders meeting to be held between November 14 and 19. At the invitation of Burmas new president Thein Sein, some exiled dissidents went back to Burma in October. Those people included some member of Thee Lay Thee comedian group, one elected MP of 1990 election Peter Lin Pin, former Burmese magazine publisher Dr. Tin Mg Than, economist Dr. Zaw Oo, and Harn Nyaung Wai, director of Euro Burma Office. Some people went back to permanently reside in Burma while some went back for visit. During two decades after 1988 democracy uprising, most dissidents who fled Burma to the Thai-Burma and Indo-Burma borders have taken refuge in other countries and become citizens of those countries. Burma democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, during an interview with The Wall Street Journals reporter, said there are many changes required to be done by Burmese government before western countries including the U.S lift sanction on Burma. On October 25, Aung San Suu Kyi said now is not the right time to lift western sanction on Burma because of two reasons. The first one is the need of government to unconditionally release all political prisoners and the second one is to solve problems in ethnic areas. Thus, the current time is not the right time to remove sanction without solving these two issues. She also said she has to encourage some oppositions who are much doubtful to governments recent changes. She also told the Wall Street reporter that she feels the recent talks with Burmese government are different from previous ones and they seem to be real and likely no hidden agenda behind. When I talk with government officials, I feel they are talking what they have in their heart, she said.

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Commenting on recent talks with government she said they are like dialogue between government and opposition in South Africa in 1990s. President U Thein Sein seems to be honest and he likely to have desire to make changes in the country, she said. Though we have yet to reach the destination, its clear we are going toward it, she utters. On October 19, a team of IMF officials came to Burma in order to assist Burmese government in setting new foreign exchange rate. The recent exchange rate for one US Dollar is equal to less than 800 kyat, however, one US dollar was equal to more than a thousand kyat previously. The official exchange rate for one US dollar is equal to six kyat. Burmese government officials desire to set new exchange rate is between 900-1000 kyat to a US dollar. Presidents advisor on political affairs Ko Ko Hlaing said there are only about 600 prisoners who are being held for their belief. Meaning Burma has about 600 political prisoners. He made the comment while he met with Swedish radio. The saying that Burma has about 2000 political prisoners is false information and 300 political prisoners have been already released, he added. On October 12, 6359 prisoners were released in accordance with government amnesty. Among were 218 political prisoners. Five ethnic parties which participated in 2010 election issued a statement on October 15, urging NLD to form a political party and contest in the election. The five ethnic parties include Kachin, Chin, Mon, Rakhine, and Shan. Given speeches by retired Burmese professors, a weeklong workshop was held for elected members of parliaments provided by the government in Naypyitaw. Starting from October 18, the workshop was held in order to provide MPs with knowledge on financial and budget so that they can discuss 2012-2013 government budget in parliaments. During President Thein Seins state visit to India between October 12-15, India government agreed to borrow 500 million US dollar to Burma to spend on development issues. During the trip, the two countries also made an agreement to closely cooperate on security matters. On October 13, President Thein Seins advisor Dr. Nay Zin Latt said to exiled Burmese media that Burma may compensate China for cancelling Myitsone Dam projects. He said Burma wont pay money, instead it may let China to work some projects in Burma. He did not mention what kind of projects Burma will let China to work in Burma as compensation. He also said the halt of Myitsone dam project wont badly affect Burma-China relation since China has many more investments and projects such as giant gas pipeline project in Burma. Pipeline project will not be stopped, he said. During recent meeting between government and NDAA representatives, Burmese government did not repeat about BGF issue. NDAA top leaders and government representatives held a meeting on October 9 and signed an agreement. According to the agreement reported in state-run newspaper, NDAA was allowed to reopen liaison offices which were closed down two years ago. NDAA is said to have about 3,000 troops composing Shan, Palaung, and Akha ethnics. The

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government and NDAA leaders also discussed topics of not splitting from the union and not opposing the government, according to the newspaper. Like NDAA, the other group which has achieved a ceasefire agreement is UWSA following two meetings between government representatives and UWSA leaders. The second meeting was held in Lashio, Shan State, on October 1st and the third meeting will be held at Pangsang, UWSA HQs. However, the government troops continue to fight KIO. Though there are many things still required to be carried out, Burmese government members are reformers and they are optimistic, U.S foreign departments Victoria Nuland said on October 10. Its good thing that we can work with them and if they are similar to Syria, the situation will be different she said at the regular press conference. Reports have said over 2600 people have been killed in Syria as a result of violent attack on demonstrators by president Bashar al-Assad in recent months. Burmese state-run newspapers on October 6 reported that Burma and Thailand signed an agreement to build a highway road between Karen states Thinkannyinaung and Kawkayeik in Burma. The agreement was signed during a visit by Thailand Prime Minister Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra who kicked off a day long trip to Burma on October 5. The roads length will be 22 kilometer. The newspapers also reported Thailand PM and Burmese president agreed to strengthen investment and trading between the two countries during a trip of Thai PM. Burma built 18-kilometer long road connecting border town Myawaddy and Thinkannyinaung with the help of Thailand in 2007. This road will become Asia Highway with 1400 kilometer length connecting Myawaddy-Thinkannyinaung-Kawkayeik-Mawlamyaing townships. On October 6, NMSP (New Mon State Party) representatives met with Mon States Government officials at Mon States Yay Township. The meeting lasted about an hour and NMSP leaders requested Burmese government representatives to call nationwide ceasefire. This is the first meeting after ceasefire agreement has been broken down. On September 30, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and government minister U Aung Kyi met for third time under President U Thein Sein government at Seinlaekantha government guest house in Rangoon. The meeting lasted 77 minutes and discussed amnesty and governments peace talks with ethnic armed groups. In addition, both sides agreed to work together in reserving the Irrawaddy River, stability and law enforcement in the country. Further meetings will be held between the two sides, they declared after the meeting. As our government has been elected by people we have to respect peoples will. We have a duty to listen to the peoples voice and resolve peoples fear. So we will halt the construction of the Irrawaddy Myitson Dam project during our government term, the president U Thein Sein said in a letter to Burmese parliaments dated September 29, 2011.

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On September 28, Kurt Campbell, U.S assistant secretary of state for Asia and Pacific affairs said: I think we can visibly see changes in Burma though situations are not that clear. However people who went into Burma have witnessed changes there. Mr. Campbell will meet with Burmese foreign minister Wana Mg Lwin in Newyork soon. He also went to Burma as a U.S government representative to discuss with Burmese officials in November 2009 and May 2010. On September 29, NLD spokesperson U Nyan Win said: NLD has a thinking to register with election commission if a government makes changes. We are waiting for changes from the government, he said. There have been reports that NLD leadership has discussed party registration matter since 2010 election has been concluded. NLD considers that the recent Burmese government has made changes but it has yet to carry out vital ones. U Nyan Win said: In politics, time and situation are important to look at in making a realistic decision. We have yet to decide but we will make a decision with practical observation. There can be disagreement among party supporters regarding this stance, however, for the sake of the people NLD will move forward with its philosophy. As the first time, 14 Burmese MPs attended Asean APIA conference held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Led by National Parliaments Chairman Khin Aung Myint, half of MPs are from ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party and the rest are from some other small parties. Starting from September 18, the conference is long a week. At a joint press conference after a ministerial meeting with Australia, U.S Foreign Secretary Hillary Clinton at San Francisco on September 15 said: Actions of Burmese government in recent weeks should be welcomed and they are important for those including the U.S who have been closely watching Burma. But, frankly there are still many issues we are concerned and there are still many questions we have to make, however, Mrs. Clinton said, pointing out the governments treatment toward ethnic groups, over 2000 political prisoners still behind bars and relationship with North Korea. However, I welcome the government and Suu Kyis meeting as well as recent actions of the Burmese government, Clinton said. Speaking at the International Democracy Day on September 15, Thura Shwe Mann, ex-third ranking general under SPDC regime, and recent chairman of peoples parliament mentioned himself as envoy of democracy. Thura Shwe Mann, served in the Burmese army for over 40 years, spoke to elected member of parliaments in Naypyitaw calling them representatives of democracy. Meanwhile, democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi made a speech at her party HQs in Rangoon for international democracy day saying that she believes Burma may be leading toward a pathway to change. I dont say Burma is already on the road of change, however, I would say our country is now probably moving toward change, she said.

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Both government and opposition held ceremonies for the International Democracy Day as the first time in the country. Commander in chief of Thai Army Gen. Prayut Chan O Cha on September 14 visited to Burma capital Naypyitaw and met his Burmese counterpart Gen. Min Aung Hlaing and other top Burmese generals, according to state-run newspapers published on September 15. Strengthening friendship between armies of two nations, peace and stability along the border and cooperation between armies are discussed, the newspapers reported. After President Thein Seins government sworn in, meetings between officials of two nations occur more often. Responding to Derek Mitchell, Washingtons new special envoy to Burma, People Parliaments Chairman Thura U Shwe Mann pleaded to remove U.S sanction on Burma. Mr. Mitchell asked Shwe Mann what Burma needs regarding U.S policy during a meeting on September 9. U.S special envoy made a 5-day trip to Burma, and he concluded the trip on September 14. Zaw Min, minister of electricity (1), said the government wont stop the controversial Myitsone Dam project instead it will move forward in accordance with its earlier plan which scheduled to conclude the whole project within 8 years. We will resume the construction as soon as summer comes, he made the comment during a meeting with journalists at the office of Train minister in Naypyitaw on September 11. Opening ceremony of the Myitsone Dam project was held in December 2009. On September 8, Burma democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi responsed: I dont view I am being used by the government, instead Im responsively working with the government, while answering a question for Aung San Suu Kyi-Public program of Radio Free Asia. She also said she doesnt worry of being used by the government. I will move forward with my own ideology and even if I am being used I will accept it for the sake of the country, she said. According to Wikileaks, the then SPDC (State Peace and Development Council) judged nearly 300,000 people died in Nargis cyclone which struck Burmas Irrawaddy delta on May 2 and 3, 2008. The government publicly announced that 84,537 people died and 53,836 were missing in late June 2008. Later, the government never corrects or figures out the actual number of victims. The United Nations, after the deadly cyclone, said about 140,000 people were killed. Government newspapers published on September 9 reported that the Shan State Government and UWSA and NDAA have signed on pre agreement on September 6 and 7 at the meetings between government and ethnic armed groups representatives. UWSA and NDAA officials said the government representatives did not say about the transforming of BGF while they held a meeting separately on September 6 and 7. Thus, the government has no longer forced UWSA and NDAA to transform into BGF (Border Guard Force).

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On September 5, Burma National Human Rights Commission was established with 15 senior retired government staffs. Burma state-run newspapers reported the commission was established with the aim of promoting and defending fundamental Human Rights of citizens. The committee members include Burmas former ambassadors to United Nations Kyaw Tint Swe, and Hla Myint, other ex-ambassadors, ex-professors U Htun Aung Chain, Daw Saw Khin Gyi, ex-deputy director of foreign ministry and retired Col. Nyunt Swe. On September 5, some villages which have bad name in Naypyitaw district were changed into other names at the Union Parliament, according to MPs who are attending the current sessions of parliaments. In addition, the Union Parliament also made some changes including increasing and decreasing some villages in some Divisions and States. Moreover, the Union Parliament changed the name of Forestry Ministry into Environmental and Forestry Ministry. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++