Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Myanmar: new President sworn in, junta disbands

Yangon: Myanmar's new president was sworn in on Wednesday, officially launching a new administration to replace the military junta that has ruled the country for the past two decades.
Thein Sein was sworn in as Myanmar's new president in a ceremony held in Naypyitaw, the country's capital since 2005. He replaces Senior General Than Shwe, Myanmar junta chief since 1992, as the new head of state.
Vice Presidents Tin Aung Myint Oo and Sai Mauk Kham were also sworn in to their posts.
Myanmar: new President sworn in, junta disbands
"The State Peace and Development Council will be immediately dissolved after the swearing-in ceremony," Than Shwe said in a noon announcement on state-controlled television.
The new cabinet lineup was announced, including a host of ex-military men, many of whom were cabinet members under the junta, starting with General Thein Sein, who was former prime minister.
Major General Hla Min was named the new defence minister, Lieutenant General Ko Ko as home minister, and Major General Thein Htay became minister of border affairs.
The new foreign minister was Wunna Maung Lwin, information minister was Kyaw Hsan and finance minister was Tin Naing Thein, all former military men.
Myanmar has been under the junta's rule since 1988 when the army crushed a pro-democracy movement, killing up to 3,000 people.
The junta held a general election on November 7 that voted in a new government, led by the pro-military Union Solidarity and Development Party.
The polls were widely criticised by western democracies for excluding opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest at the time of the election, and her National League for Democracy party that won the previous election of 1990 by a landslide.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

India offers help to quake-hit Myanmar

Ahmedabad, Mar. 27 : Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday offered "every possible help" to a quake-struck Myanmar where over 75 people have died and over 100 have been injured.

The 6.8 magnitude earthquake, which struck on Thursday, caused extensive damage to hospitals and buildings in the country.

In his condolence message to the chairman of State Peace and Development Council of Myanmar, Singh said, "On behalf of the people and government of India, I convey my heartfelt condolences to the people and Government of Myanmar on this tragic natural disaster."

"As your Government rallies to provide relief and other assistance to people in the earthquake affected region, I would like to assure you that India stands ready to render any assistance that your government may require of us,” he added.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Mysterious disease kills 5 in Mizoram

Guwahati, Mar 26 : A mystery disease has killed five persons in a remote tribal village in southern Mizoram. A forum for the tribe has rapped local authorities for delayed response to the epidemic-like crisis. Officials in southern Mizoram's Lunglei district confirmed the death of five persons at village Thanzamasora during the past fortnight. They suspect the cause of the disease to be acute respiratory infections including pneumonia, but are not very sure.

Thanzamasora is a Chakma tribal dominated village.

Underlining the seriousness of the issue, the Mizoram Chakma Development Forum (MCDF) on Friday sought Lunglei deputy commissioner M Zohmingthangi's intervention. It also asked the medical officers concerned to provide immediate medical facilities to prevent the epidemic from spreading.

"Apart from the five who died many others are sick but there is total lack of healthcare services. A medical team distributed some medicines but this is not enough. Worst, the superstitious villagers believe that deaths are due to black magic cast upon them. At least 13 families have already fled the village and more families are likely to flee if the situation is not brought under control immediately," said MCDF president Hemanta Larma.

He added, "Although the situation is taking a serious proportion, there is delayed response from the authorities. There seems to be some problem as Thanzamasora village is under the administrative control of Lunglei district but healthcare services falls under the chief medical officer of adjoining Lawngtlai district."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

At least 25 dead in Myanmar quake 25,  2011

At least 25 people were killed and twenty injured in the strong earthquake that struck Myanmar near the Thai border last evening. Dozens of buildings were also destroyed in the Quake.

Tremors were felt as far away as Bangkok, almost 800 kilometres from the epicentre, Hanoi and parts of China. The US Geological Survey measured the quake at magnitude 6.8 on the richter scale.

A Myanmar official said many more casualties are feared in the town of Tarlay, close to the epicentre.

Five monasteries and 35 buildings collapsed in the town. The official confirmed that 10 men, a boy and 13 women had been killed in Myanmar when the quake struck.

Twenty people were injured in Tarlay in the district of Tachileik, the main road into the area was closed after being damaged in the quake. Across the border from Tachileik, Thai authorities said a 52-year-old woman was killed in Mae Sai district after a wall of her house collapsed.

Terrified residents across the region fled their homes, tall buildings swayed and hospitals and schools were evacuated during the tremors.

The quake had struck 90 kilometres north of Chiang Rai and 235 kilometres north-northeast of Chiang Mai, Thailand's second city and a popular tourist destination.
Its was epicenter close to the borders with Thailand and Laos. Thailand's also experienced six large aftershocks following the initial quake.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Navy captures Myanmarese poachers

Indian naval ship Batti Malv intercepted three boats with Myanmarese poachers off the Interview Island on the Andaman Islands last Tuesday and marine police apprehended 23 poachers, a Defence press release announced on Monday.

A preliminary investigation has revealed that the poachers had planned to extract sea cucumber and sea shells, for which their boats were equipped with deep-sea diving and harvesting gear.

The large quantity of diesel, drinking water and food items seized indicated their “intentions of prolonged poaching activity in Indian waters.”

Sea cucumbers weighing about 25 kg were found during a search of the boat.

“The warship sighted the suspicious boats and approached them at high speed. On sighting the ship, the poachers attempted to flee using the cover of darkness. However, the ship pursued the boats for over two hours on the high seas and finally apprehended the poachers. ,” the note said.

Opium worth Rs 36 lakh seized from Burmese trader in Mizoram

Opium weighing 818 grams with a value of Rs 36 lakhs was seized from a Burmese trader by Mizoram authorities in northeast India on Wednesday.

Special branch police in the state capital of Aizawl were tipped off that the carrier was transporting drugs on the No. 2 Indo-Burma Trade Road to Aizawl. They seized the drugs in the Thuampui Block of Aizawl in the evening, reported Mizoram’s Aizawl Post.

The dealer has been identified as Lallianmawi, the son of Luankham, from Saihmun Village in Falam Township of Chin State. A case against Lallianmawi for trading in drugs was filed at the Bawngkawn Block Police Station of Aizawl.

The Mizoram Narcotics Department said the opium seized was a large haul.

Other Burmese traders have recently been detained for involvement in drug peddling and smuggling, including a Burmese man arrested with opium worth Rs 10 lahks by Mizoram authorities on February 15.

With the news of Burmese drug traders being caught in Mizoram, the people of the state have a growing resentment of the presence of Burmese settled in Mizoram as illegal refugees, said a Burmese youth in Mizoram.

"We (Burmese) people are always arrested in cases, so they (Mizo people) dislike us. It is worrying that our people are involved in incidents of drug trading, murder, theft, and alcohol production in the state.”

The Young Mizo Association, a large non-government organization, recorded last year that nearly 100,000 Burmese people are staying as refugees in the state without legal refugee status.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

China to launch construction of rail line to Myanmar This Year

BEIJING: China is set to begin construction of a railway line to Myanmar this year. The move is expected to help Beijing in its competition with India in acquiring infrastructure development and other business contracts in Myanmar.

China has also entered into an agreement with the Russian government to resume freight train services on a railway line, which was closed down six years back due to differences among its stake holders. The 100-km railway line connecting Hunchun in China with Makhalino in Russia is scheduled to reopen next May.

Construction of the rail line to Myanmar has been delayed due to elections and some political problems in that country.

"We originally wanted to start as soon as possible but because the (new) Myanmar government has just been formed and because of their internal problems, we have had to wait," Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming said Tuesday "We want to start construction this year," he said.

One of the challenges facing the new line would be mismatched gauges in the two countries. The two governments have signed an agreement to sort out this problem. China is offering several sweeteners like help in establishing power grids, telecommunication networks, oil and gas pipelines and ports.

Myanmar faces wide ranging sanctions from Western governments and is keen on getting assistance from Beijing. The country saw its first election in 20 years in November but it has been condemned by critics as government controlled voting exercise.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

China Is Your Special Friend

March 3, 2011: The new democracy in Myanmar is very much the same old military dictatorship. The recent elections were rigged and the parliament is full of supporters of the generals. Thus the military has gotten 23 percent of the government budget for the next year. The generals expect to get more for their money, mainly because North Korea just lost a lot of its weapons customers with the overthrow of several Arab dictatorships. As a result, Myanmar can demand more for less from a desperate North Korea. The trade has been going on since 2007, when diplomatic relations were resumed with North Korea, and a barter trade (rice from Myanmar for weapons and other goods from North Korea) established. This avoided problems with international embargos on North Korean arms exports. Cargo ships coming from North Korea had cargos described as "cement" and "general cargo." These ships were unloaded in heavily guarded, military controlled, port areas.

The extra cash for the military is going to pay for new weapons from China and Russia. Later this month, Russia is expected to begin delivering 20 MiG-29 fighters that were ordered two years ago. Indian firms will provide maintenance and technical support. India has long used MiG-29s and has built an infrastructure to support this aircraft. While most Indians do not approve of the generals running Myanmar, they do appreciate the cooperation of the generals in defeating tribal separatists and communist rebels in India's northeast. India is also building a road to connect with Myanmar in the northeast, to encourage trade and help build the economy in the thinly populated area that borders China and Myanmar.

China has replaced Thailand as the largest foreign investor in Myanmar. The Myanmar generals see China as their economic savior, and China is eager to have an ally so close to India. Increased maritime trade with Myanmar is but the beginning of a process that will lead to Chinese warships eventually operating out of Myanmar ports. This is a nightmare for India, which is trying to make nice with the Myanmar generals, in an attempt to halt the growth of Chinese influence, and presence, in the area.

February 27, 2011: A bomb exploded in the capital, wounding four people. No one took credit for it.

February 19, 2011: Tribal rebels in the east killed four civilians, during an encounter with troops.