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Issue #2867



December 17-19, 2005



Deutsche Presse-Agentur: Myanmar's generals plan their next move

Xinhua: Myanmar needs to take steps to face media challenges: minister

Myanmar to step up combating wildlife trade, crimes

DVB: Shan leader Htun Oo allowed to meet wife, lawyer

Interview with NLD on ASEAN & UNSCís latest actions on Burma



Irrawaddy: Karen group campaigns against Hat Gyi Dam

Legal counseling clinic opened for migrant workers











AFP: Myanmar FM ready to welcome ASEAN envoy as 'guest': report



Indo-Asian News Service: Indian MPs to campaign for Suu Kyi's release

Bangkok Post: Call for wave alerts in Burmese


>
LA Times: Myanmar back on U.N. agenda

Financial Times: Burma heading for humanitarian crisis, says UN






Briefing: Black Friday &
The Crackdown on The NLD

[MS Word] [PDF document]




Democratic Voice of Burma

Irrawaddy

Yangon Globe

Mizzima

Shan

Burma Library

Burma Daily

Kao Wao News

Myanmar News

BBC Asia Pacific

BBC Burmese

Burma Internet Guide

IFEX Alert (Burma)


"This is only a first step, and the U.N. Security Council must show that it is serious about follow upÖThe U.N. Security Council action could represent a new dawn for change in Burma."
Vaclav Havel in a statement released December 16, 2005, as quoted in LA Times

INSIDE BURMA

December 19, Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Myanmar's generals plan their next move

Bangkok: Over the past year Myanmar's (Burma's) generals have shown little
inclination to hasten political reform and free detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi amid increased international pressure, even from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

"Political change in Burma is so slow it's like glue going up a hill," the Australian Prime Minister John Howard recently remarked.

But there are significant changes developing behind the junta's apparent inflexibility.

Myanmar's military junta has begun to prepare for a major transfer of power from the current top generals to the next generation of military leaders, while moving the seat of government into the hills some 400 kilometres north of Yangon (Rangoon).

The massive shake-up in the army and government is expected to include the
country's top military ruler General Than Shwe standing down.

The planned changes are intended to prepare the army for the next phase in the country's move towards political reform and the introduction of a civilian administration, after the National Convention, which reconvened early December, finishes drawing up the principles of the new constitution.

The country's top general is reportedly planning to give up at least one of the three key posts he holds - chairman of the junta, supreme commander of the army and defence minister.

"We expect Than Shwe to relinquish his position as defence minister in the forthcoming reshuffle," said a senior Southeast Asian diplomat who has regular contact with the Burmese regime.

There are increasing doubts about Than Shwe's health, which may have prompted the senior general to take a back seat for the time being.

"Even if Than Shwe officially retires he will not give up his power. Instead he'll remain the grey eminence behind the throne, along the lines of the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in the years before his death," said independent Burmese analyst Win Min, based in Chiang Mai.

General Thura Shwe Mann is tipped to replace General Maung Aye as the army's commander-in-chief, according to many diplomats in Yangon.

"This is the new generation of military leaders who are being readied to take over power," according to a senior Indian diplomat who deals with Yangon. But, he warns, this group of generals lack the manners and intelligence of their superiors.

"These men are uncouth, uneducated and only know how to bark orders," said
the Indian diplomat.

In the meantime, the regime insists it's following its roadmap to democracy, announced by the former prime minister Khin Nyunt in August 2003. The first phase piggybacks on the National Convention - which has been meeting intermittently for more than a decade, drawing up the guidelines for the new constitution.

"The National Convention will have drawn up a new constitution in the near future and it will be put to a referendum sometime in 2006," said a senior Chinese diplomat. New elections are likely before the end of the following year, sources say.

Most analysts and diplomats in Yangon believe the pro-democracy parties -
especially the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by the detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) which won almost all the seats in the 1990 elections - would not be allowed to contest the elections.

"The Chinese have been advising the junta to adopt Pakistan's General Musharaff's political model," according to a senior Asian diplomat in Yangon. "This would mean the main political parties would be banned from the election because they would threaten the country's stability."

Myanmar's military leaders are apprehensive about any change for fear that it may loosen their grip on power.

As part of their grand strategy to centralize the government the junta decided to abandon Yangon, the capital since 1948, for Pyinmana. A 100-kilometre square complex is being built and even though it is far from complete, thousands of civil servants have been forced to move there since the beginning of November.

"The main reason to move the capital is to avoid the situation that took place in 1988," said a political activist in Yangon, U Win Naing, referring to the months of mass demonstrations that brought an end to the former regime of Ne Win and led to the military coup that brought this group of generals to power.

In the meantime, the opposition leader and Nobel peace prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, who recently had her house arrest extended for a further six months, seems certain to remain in detention for the foreseeable future.

"She is unlikely to be released before the referendum on the new constitution takes place, and is more likely to remain locked up until after any future elections," said a western diplomat in Yangon who is closely associated with the national reconciliation process.
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December 18, Xinhua General News Service
Myanmar needs to take steps to face media challenges: minister

Yangon: Myanmar Information Minister Brigadier-General Kyaw Hsan has stressed the need to take steps to face media challenges in the wake of penetration by some big nations using information and communications technology (ICT) and multi-media.

"Big nations with advancement in ICT are penetrating small nations. Myanmar is also witnessing the penetration. They are jeopardizing peace and stability in the nation with the use of ICT and multi-media," Kyaw Hsan charged at a meeting of the Myanmar Printers and Publishers Association on Saturday, state-operated newspaper the New Light of Myanmar reported Sunday.

He also emphasized systematic measures for the development of literary and
printing world, warning that there have been destructive acts in the sector and calling for stamping out these hideous acts.

"Safeguarding of cultural heritage and national character is of utmost importance and patriotism will lose in the absence of culture," he also warned.

He urged for indispensable cooperation between the press scrutiny and registration department and literary circle to serve the national interest and their own.

Myanmar has readjusted its press scrutiny and registration policy by lifting some restrictions previously imposed upon news writing by journals and magazines with the aim of enhancing the development of press society.

According to the ministry, which took over the duties of the press scrutiny and registration from the Ministry of Home Affairs in February this year, the publication and distribution of journals and magazines are being granted as long as they conform to the prescribed policy.

According to official figures, there were 144 journals and 234 monthly magazines in circulation in Myanmar as of last year, up from 6 and 35 in 1988 respectively when the present government assumed office. The authorities had granted publication of over 30 new journals and magazines as of August this year after the new press policy was introduced.

Meanwhile, according to other official statistics, there were a total of over 5,000 printing houses and 759 publishers in Myanmar as of last year.
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December 19, Xinhua General News Service
Myanmar to step up combating wildlife trade, crimes

Yangon: Myanmar wildlife police and forest rangers will step up combating wildlife trade and crimes in a vast tiger reserve in the country's northern Kachin State in the wake of tiger extinction threat, a local weekly reported Monday.

The Hukuang Tiger Reserve, established in 2004, is claimed as the world's largest covering about 22,000 square km where an estimated 25,000 people also live.

To help carry out the move, special training programs have been introduced jointly by the Myanmar forest department and the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, the Myanmar Times said.

The authorities have called for creating a balance between the needs of local communities and the wildlife, which constitutes one of the major challenges for them.

Tigers are facing extinction all over the world due mainly to the international trade in body parts destined for the Asian traditional medicine market, wildlife biologists said.

There remains an estimated 150 live Bengal tigers in the Myanmar tiger reserve, according to the forest department.

Meanwhile, the Myanmar authorities have warned traditional medicine practitioners in the country to avoid using tiger bones in producing their medicinal products to help conserve endangered animal species.

As the tiger has been prescribed as "completely protected" under the Protection of Wildlife and Conservation of Natural Areas Law since 1994, the Forestry Department urged the practitioners to keep away from such practice or tigers would vanish in the country.
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December 16, Democratic Voice of Burma
Shan leader Htun Oo allowed to meet wife, lawyer

The chairman of Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) Khun Htun Oo, who is being detained in remote northern Burma’s Puta-O Prison, was permitted to meet his family members and his lawyer for 30 minutes.

On 10 December, Htun Oo, who was sentenced to 93 years in prison for ‘discrediting’ the country’s military government, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and 'criticizing' the junta’s constitution-drafting ‘National Convention’, was allowed to see his family members and lawyer Aung Thein, who said he had obtained a power of attorney to appeal the case.

Aung Thein said the permission did not come easily as they had to wait for about 7 days and apply to different levels of authorities before it was granted.

“We arrived in Putao by air on 4 December. The following day, we proceeded to Puta-O Prison to apply for a family visit and a meeting to obtain the power of attorney from Khun Htun Oo. We were able to send in a parcel (of food and medicines etc) on that day, however, we were told that they need to apply to the director-general of the Corrections Department in Rangoon for the family visit and the power of attorney,” Aung Thein told DVB. “We waited until 8 December but there was no news. As a lawyer, I could not stay that long, so I prepared two copies of affidavit as a lawyer, together with Khun Htun Oo's wife Daw Wai Wai Lwin, and took an oath before the court in Puta-O. The judge reported the matter to the district authorities on 9 December, and around noon or 1300 (local time) on the same day, we were informed that the application for a family visit and the
meeting to obtain the power of attorney had been approved.”

On 10 December, the lawyer and the wife were allowed to meet Htun Oo separately, and Aung Thein explains about how he obtained the power of attorney and the health situation of Htun Oo.

“With regard to his health situation, he said he suffered when he was first moved to Puta-O Prison. I understand he has high blood sugar levels and other diseases,” said Aung Thein. “But, he seemed to be fit when I met him. What is troubling, however, is the inclement weather in Puta-O. It's quite cold in the winter, very hot in the summer, and lots of rain during monsoon. Personally, I feel that he, as a 65-year-old man, will not be able to withstand these weather conditions for long.”

Aung Thein also explained that when Htun Oo was first arrested, he asked for a meeting with his family members and the right to hire a lawyer, but was told that the lawyer he asked for was away on a trip, or in a hospital, or could not be located. The authorities gave him different reasons for not allowing him to hire the lawyer of his choice. “But, since he was charged under high treason, the state appointed a lawyer for him and he had to go along with the state-appointed lawyer,” Aung Thein said.

Htun Oo also insisted that he was not guilty of the charges against him, as the authorities might dislike him and suspect him of something but there was no reason for him to be seditious or to be discrediting the government. “As a chairman of a political party, he said, he had worked well with the government for 14 to 15 years without any trouble. He said he was quite surprised that he had been accused of committing such crimes,” Aung Thein recounted his meeting with Htun Oo.

Htun Oo wanted his people to continue working in the party even though he was in prison because his political party, the SNLD, was a legally registered.

Altogether 10 Shan leaders, including Htun Oo, were arrested on 9 February and were imprisoned for over 100 years on 3 May. They were then transferred to remote prisons. Family members and their lawyers have frantically been trying to reach them in order to appeal their cases on time.

According to information in hand, Htun Oo is serving 93 years in Putao Prison and SNLD Secretary Sai Nyunt Lwin, 85 years in Kale Prison and Lawyer Aung Thein has been able to meet them.

Gen Hso Ten, patron of the Shan State Army – North (SSA-N) is serving 106 years in Khamtee Prison (in NW Burma near India) and he was allowed to meet another lawyer on 13 December. Sai Hla Aung who is serving 75 years in Kyaukpyu Prison (Burma’s western Arakan State near Bangladesh) has also
been permitted to meet a lawyer.

But, the situation remains unclear for Myint Than from the Shan New Generation group who is serving 75 years in Sandoway Prison, and for Ba Thin, Sai Nyi Moe, Sai Myo Win Tun, and Sa Tha Oo, all of whom are serving time at Buthidaung (Arakan State), Pakokku (central Burma), and other prisons, as well as Veteran Shan leader U Shwe Ohn who is under house arrest in Shan State capital Taunggyi.
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December 16, Democratic Voice of Burma
Interview with NLD on ASEAN & UNSC’s latest actions on Burma

Interview with Burma’s main opposition party, National League for Democracy (NLD) spokesman Nyan Win in connection with the planned visit to Burma by the Malaysian foreign minister and the Burma briefing at the UN Security Council.

DVB: What if the Malaysian foreign minister only met SPDC military government officials and was not given the opportunity to meet Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the National League for Democracy, and the ethnic political parties during his visit to Burma, how would you view the visit?

Nyan Win: If that were the situation then we would view it as a visit that failed.

DVB: How does the NLD feel about the visit of the Malaysian foreign minister and his delegation and about ASEAN's serious involvement in Burma?

Nyan Win: Our belief... our thinking is that there are a host of reasons for ASEAN to be deeply involved in Burma's affairs. This is because affairs concerning Burma have a direct or indirect impact on neighbouring countries, and therefore, these countries want to see stability and democracy in Burma. That is why we are convinced that ASEAN is serious about its involvement in Burma.

DVB: Have the staff members of the Malaysian embassy changed their posture
or have they come to meet the NLD and ethnic political parties since after
the recent ASEAN meeting?

Nyan Win: We have not seen that happening yet.

DVB: I see. Some are saying that the planned visit to Burma by the Malaysian foreign minister and the Burma briefing at the UN Security Council are happening at the same time and that it was the result of ASEAN trying to lessen the impact of the UN Security Council action. How do you respond to that?

Nyan Win: No, we do not see it that way. What is happening in the UN Security Council - like the briefing today - is the result of what has been going on for months. At the same time, we have also been seeing a change in the comments and behaviour towards Burma by Malaysia and other ASEAN countries. We do not believe that they are trying to undermine what is going on at the UN Security Council.

DVB: If that is true, would you say ASEAN is synchronizing the intensification of pressure with the ongoing process at the UN Security Council?

Nyan Win: I do not see them as intensifying the pressure but only as strengthening the efforts being undertaken through the UN Security Council process.

DVB: Some are also criticizing or commenting that the forces inside the country, including the NLD and the ethnic political parties, should come up with a political strategy while the United Nations and ASEAN are exerting pressure or while the pressure by the international community is on the rise. How would the NLD respond to those comments or criticisms?

Nyan Win: We agree with that assessment. But, if you ask me what we are doing now, I will have to say that under the prevailing circumstances here, we cannot reveal what we have been doing. Our NLD is doing what needs to be done and we will reveal it when the time is right.

DVB: I see. But, what if some say the NLD always says the same thing about
revealing matters when the time is right without revealing anything. How would you respond to those people?

Nyan Win: From our experience, about 90 per cent of those people who make such criticisms are people from the opposite side.
____________________________________
ON THE BORDER

December 19, Irrawaddy
Karen Group Campaigns against Hat Gyi Dam - Shah Paung

An Ethnic Karen community group today began a campaign to educate local
villagers about the impact of the proposed Hat Gyi dam in Karen State, said a representative of the group.

“We are campaigning to let Karen villagers living in the dam area, and in neighboring regions, know what to expect and how they should protect themselves,” said Paw Gay, a member of Karen River Watch.

The two-day campaign will include activities such as human rights and environmental workshops, and a dramatic performance that illustrates some of the challenges facing local residents if the dam project should proceed.

KRW—established in June 2003—comprises six Karen community organizations
specializing on issues related to women, children and community development. The group assesses the potential social, political and economic impact of a series of proposed dam projects to be built on rivers throughout Karen State.

The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand signed a memorandum of understanding with the Burmese military government on December 9 to construct a series of hydropower dams in Burma.

The Hat Gyi dam will be the first in the series, and it will be located in eastern Karen State on the Salween River. Four additional dams have been proposed, though no formal agreement to start construction on any other dams has yet been reached.

According to Paw Gay, part of the KRW campaign involves simply explaining
the details of the proposed dam to local villagers, most of whom are not even aware of the government’s plan.

The Hat Gyi dam proposal has evoked strong protests from several non-governmental organizations concerned—as KRW is—with the potential
social and environmental impact of the dam.

“We have the right to protect ourselves, and we have to stand [up] for our people and our land,” said Paw Gay. “We want our people to know their rights and to protect themselves.”
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December 19, Irrawaddy
Legal counseling clinic opened for migrant workers - Sai Silp

A “counseling clinic” to assist migrant Burmese workers officially opened yesterday in the Thai-Burmese border town Mae Sot in Thailand’s Tak
province.

The clinic has been operating since August this year, handling about 50 cases a month, most of them concerning unfair wages, bad working conditions and harassment.

“Our main job is coordinating between workers, employers, lawyers and related organizations because the workers are scared to talk with their employers and authorities when they are in conflict with them,” said coordinator Saranut Soithong. She told The Irrawaddy that the clinic worked closely with the Lawyer Council of Thailand, referring many cases to the organization’s lawyers.

More than 60,000 Burmese migrants work in and around Mae Sot, mostly in garment factories.

Somchai Homla-or, secretary of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development Foundation, told The Irrawaddy the Foundation planned to introduce Thai language courses for Burmese migrant workers and Burmese language classes for its own staff, to improve the exchange of information. The Foundation also planned to establish a Burmese-language community radio service which would explain Thai labor law to its migrant listeners.

Yesterday’s ceremony opening the clinic was presided over by the Foundation’s president, Khotom Areeya.
____________________________________
ASEAN

December 18, Agence France Presse
Myanmar FM ready to welcome ASEAN envoy as 'guest': report

Yangon: Military-ruled Myanmar is ready to welcome an envoy from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as a "guest" as early as January and explain its democratisation process, Foreign Minister Nyan Win said in a report.

"We are ready to accept an envoy and we'll willingly describe to him our actual situation," Nyan Win told the semi-official Myanmar Times in the weekly edition to be published on Monday.

"Some foreign countries cannot understand our direction despite the explanations we have given them," he said, adding the envoy would be invited to watch talks aimed at drafting a new constitution.

"I will receive any of my ASEAN counterparts as my personal guest," Nyan Win was quoted by the newspaper as saying on December 14 at the end of an ASEAN summit in Malaysia.

The newspaper said the visit would "most likely to take place next month" but Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar, who will carry out the mission on behalf of the 10-nation bloc, said on Friday no date had been set.

ASEAN nations announced on December 12 they would send an envoy to Myanmar to look for signs the junta was taking steps towards democracy and the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Syed Hamid said Myanmar had to cooperate for his trip, announced amid intense international pressure for the grouping to tackle the slow pace of democratic reform in fellow member Myanmar, to ensure it was "credible".

While specific details of the visit have not been finalised, Nyan Win said Syed Hamid would be allowed to watch the latest round of constitutional talks the military has said would move the country toward "disciplined democracy."

Members of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy have boycotted
the talks involving some 1,000 handpicked delegates at an isolated military compound north of Yangon.

The NLD's absence -- in protest over the continued detention of its leadership -- has prompted the United States, the United Nations and the European Union to dismiss the proceedings as a sham.
____________________________________
REGIONAL

December 19, Indo-Asian News Service
Indian MPs to campaign for Suu Kyi's release

New Delhi: A forum of Indian MPs has decided to campaign for the restoration of democracy in Myanmar and to press for the release of leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.

"We have created this forum for people to address the principal issues of the early release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners and the restoration of democracy and human rights in Burma (the former name of Myanmar)," said Nirmala Deshpandey, an MP and veteran Gandhian leader.

She was speaking at the launch of the first Indian Parliamentarians Forum for Democracy in Burma here Sunday. Deshpandey is chief patron of the forum, which has 12 members from various political parties.

Deshpandey also said the MPs might go to Myanmar to meet Suu Kyi and other
top jailed leaders and press for their early release.

Robert Kharshiing, a member of Rajya Sabha, is convener of the forum that has members from the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party, Samajawadi Party and Communist Party of India-Marxist.

"We are no longer a weak country and we can convince politicians in other countries to take up this noble cause," said Kharshiing. "I think we can manage something because in world affairs today, nothing is impossible."

India's recent policy towards Myanamar has been marked by a policy of pragmatic engagement with the country's ruling military junta to keep a vigil on anti-Indian insurgents operating in border areas of Myanmar.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had talks with his Myanamarese counterpart
Soe Win on the sidelines of the East Asia summit in Kuala Lumpur last week
during which he stressed the need for starting a national reconciliation movement towards restoring democracy in Myanmar.

Manmohan Singh also conveyed New Delhi's desire that Suu Kyi should be reed.
.....................................................................................................................

December 17, Bangkok Post
Call for wave alerts in Burmese - Penchan Chaloensuthipan

An international labour organization has called on the Thai authorities to also broadcast tsunami warnings in the Burmese language as hundreds of Burmese immigrants are employed in the areas hit by last year's giant tidal waves. Nisachol Buppa, a coordinator of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Phangnga, said her earlier call for the inclusion of Burmese-language broadcasts during the July tsunami evacuation drill had fallen on deaf ears. Evacuation warnings were broadcast in only five languages - English, Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Thai.

She said the authorities should not treat Burmese immigrants as if they were not human and stop ignoring the safety of those working in the tsunami-hit areas. The immigrant workers have played, and will continue to play, an important role in the region's economy, she said.

When local residents and foreign tourists ran for higher ground on Thursday after tsunami sirens were activated by mistake, only Burmese workers stayed put as they did not know why other people were fleeing, said Mrs Nisachol.

"They just sat still. They were not aware of anything and did not know what was going on. Only a small number of Burmese workers ran after being told by their Thai neighbours and friends that the sirens were warning everyone that a tsunami was on its way. If a tsunami had really occurred, the Burmese workers would not have survived the waves," said the IOM coordinator.

Labour advocacy groups working in a Nam Khem village in Phangnga's Takua Pa district have organized an International Migrants' Day on 18 December at Wat Bang Muang temple. Activities will include events to provide mental rehabilitation for alien workers and a deeper knowledge of Thai culture, said Mrs Nisachol.

On the bodies of alien workers killed by the tsunami, she said many relatives of dead workers have so far been unable to claim them for funeral rites as they were unable to meet the legal requirements set by the Thai authorities.
____________________________________
INTERNATIONAL

December 17, Los Angeles Times
Myanmar back on U.N. agenda - Maggie Farley

The Security Council discusses problems in the military-run Southeast Asian country after being prodded by the U.S. and Britain.

United Nations: The Security Council held a discussion of human rights and drug trafficking problems in Myanmar on Friday after months of pushing by the United States and Britain.

Some members of the council, especially China, had opposed talking about the reclusive Southeast Asian country, saying its problems did not pose a threat to international peace and security.

But diplomats said the United States and Britain argued in the closed-door meeting that conditions within the country destabilized the region, as refugees, drugs and slave labor flowed across its borders.

British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said that despite disagreement about whether those problems constitute an international threat, the meeting was
an important first step.

"What everybody acknowledges is that there are a massive number of problems in today's Myanmar, and the international community should do more to help address those problems," he said.

Myanmar, formerly Burma, has become increasingly repressive and isolated under the current military regime. In 1990, the junta allowed democratic elections. But when the opposition National League for Democracy won more
than 80% of the vote, the military refused to honor the result.

The charismatic party leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been in detention on and off for 10 of the last 16 years, and won the Nobel Peace Prize for her resistance. The government just extended her house arrest for another six months.

Additional pressure to address Myanmar came from a September report commissioned by Desmond Tutu, another Nobel peace laureate, and former
Czech President Vaclav Havel.

The report alleges human rights violations including the rape of ethnic minority women and the spread of HIV by soldiers; widespread forced labor; destruction of more than 2,700 villages; massive forced relocations; and the torture and killing of political prisoners.

As many as 70,000 children have been forced to become soldiers, and more than 700,000 refugees have fled across the border into Thailand and other countries, it said. Myanmar also is a leading producer of opium and amphetamine, and its heroin trade has made it a primary contributor to the spread of AIDS in Southeast Asia, the report charges.

More than 75% of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the report.

"This is only a first step, and the U.N. Security Council must show that it is serious about follow up," Havel said in a statement Friday. "The U.N. Security Council action could represent a new dawn for change in Burma."

Ibrahim Gambari, the U.N.'s chief of political affairs, told the Security Council that the U.N.'s special envoy for the country had been refused entry for more than a year and a half.

President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pressed Asian leaders for action during a recent trip to an economic summit in South Korea.

This week, the Assn. of Southeast Asian Nations authorized Malaysia's foreign minister to visit Myanmar to push for "tangible results" in the country's democratic reforms.

Myanmar has produced a seven-stage road map toward free elections and held
a constitutional convention earlier this month, but without Suu Kyi's opposition party.

One of the conditions imposed by China and like-minded countries was that
the Security Council discussion of Myanmar be a one-time event. Discussions regarding politically sensitive situations in Sudan and Zimbabwe faced similar resistance by China and Russia, which generally object to interference in a country's internal affairs, as well as African countries.

But Britain and the U.S. slipped them onto the agenda, and now problems in both African countries are being addressed by the council.
.....................................................................................................................

December 19, Financial Times
Burma heading for humanitarian crisis, says UN - Amy Kazmin

Bangkok: Military-ruled Burma is heading towards a humanitarian crisis, while its authoritarian rulers jail political dissidents and deny its citizens basic human rights, a top United Nations official told the Security Council in its first briefing on conditions in the south-east Asian country.

Ibrahim Gambari, the UN political chief, told Security Council members on Friday that Burma, which the junta calls Myanmar, had made no significant progress towards political reforms over the last decade. "The peopleof Myanmar continue to have many of their essential rights and calls for democratic reform denied," he said.

"In the longer term,deep-rooted chronic and accelerating poverty, growing insecurity and increasing political tension appear to be moving Myanmar towards a humanitarian crisis," he warned.

The informal closed-door discussion - held by consensus of the 15 Security Council members at Washington's urging - reflects growing international concern about Burma, where the National League for Democracy, led by the Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, won a sweeping election victory in 1990 but was never allowed to take power. Ms Suu Kyi is currently under house arrest, as she has been for 10 of the last 16 years.

"We felt that the continued deterioration of conditions in Burma warranted action in the Security Council, which is why we proceeded as we did," John Bolton, the US ambassador to the UN, told journalists.

Mr Gambari said the political situation appears to have deteriorated after the October 2004 purge of the prime minister Khin Nyunt, the former military intelligence chief, who was seen as a pragmatist within the regime.

Since his ousting, the junta, led by Senior General Than Shwe, has severed political contacts with the UN and has barred the UN special envoy and UN
human rights investigator from visiting, the security council was told.

But Burmese political analysts inside and outside the country say they do not expect any imminent or binding action by the UN Security Council, which still remains divided on the extent to which Burma's military regime represents a threat to international peace and security.

While many pro-democracy activists hope the unprecedented discussion on Burma will mark the start of a process that may eventually result in Council action, other analysts warn that the Council's failure to take decisive action, even after discussing conditions in Burma, could simply reinforce the junta's confidence.
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