Archive for July 2009
AFP/ 20 july 2009
Yala (Thailand) – Suspected (suppressed) separatist militants in Thailand’s restive south have shot dead three men in separate fresh attacks, police said on Monday.
They said a 31-year-old man was killed in drive-by shooting in Pattani province Monday morning.
A day earlier in neighbouring Yala province, a 48-year-old rubber plantation owner was shot dead in an ambush as he returned home by motorbike on Sunday evening.
In Narathiwat province a 65-year-old gold seller was shot five times by four militants who opened fire through his shop door. He died in hospital later.
The southern provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala and parts of Songkhla made up an autonomous Malay Muslim sultanate until it was annexed by Thailand in 1902, sparking decades of tension.
More than 3,700 people have died since an insurgency erupted five years ago.
Islamic rebels have targeted both Buddhists and Muslims, with victims ranging from security forces to civilians such as teachers and rubber plantation workers.
AFP/ 20 July 2009
Phuket – South-eastern Asian foreign ministers will on Monday express ‘grave concern’ over North Korea’s nuclear tests and vow to help Indonesia probe last week’s Jakarta bombings, officials said.
The statements will come in a communique after the ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) met in the Thai resort island of Phuket, ahead of the continent’s biggest security forum later this week.
‘On North Korea, the ministers on North Korea will express grave concern over the recent nuclear explosions and urge it to return to six-party talks,’ a senior Asean official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
North Korea’s foreign minister has declined to attend Thursday’s Asean Regional Forum in Phuket, instead sending a roving ambassador to the grouping of 27 nations including the United States and European Union.
Pyongyang quit the talks with the United States, South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan after the UN Security Council censured its April 5 long-range rocket launch. It staged its second nuclear test on May 25.
Meanwhile, the Asean ministers’ communique would also speak out on the bombings of the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta on Friday which left up to nine people dead and dozens more wounded, the Asean official said.
‘In the Indonesian blasts, they will condemn the bombings and Asean will also offer help to bring the perpetrators to justice,’ the official said.
Indonesian officials suspect the blasts were the work of regional Islamist network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), responsible for the 2002 Bali attacks and dozens of other bombings since the late 1990s.
The statement was also expected to include a mention of military-ruled Myanmar’s treatment of political prisoners but this had not yet been finalised, he said.
A draft copy of the communique was not immediately available.
Please see below:On arrival in Phuket this morning, the Secretary-General was briefed by the security apparatus from the Joint Security Command for the 42nd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting/Post-Ministerial Conference/16th ASEAN Regional Forum meetings taking place in the country’s coastal resort from 17 – 23 July 2OO9.
ASEAN Press Release
Satisfied with Security, says the SG in Phuket
Phuket, Thailand, 17 July 2009
“There will not be a repeat of Pattaya,” he stressed.
Dr. Surin was also conducted on a tour to observe the security measures in place such as metal detectors, sniffer dogs and all the relevant communications technology.
“It is world class and the security personnel are on maximum alert on all fronts – land, air and sea,” said the Secretary- General.
“The best part is that they have been very very discreet and we don’t feel an over-bearing presence,” he said.
The local population, said Dr. Surin, are fully committed to the security of their guests as for them it is a sense of pride and they look forward to having the ASEAN Summit meetings held in Phuket in October 2009.
AP/ 14 Juky 2009
Yangon (Myanmar) – An 87 year old member of Myanmar’s pro-democracy party has been sentenced by the military regime to a two-year prison term for alleged defamation, a party member said Tuesday.
Kyaw Khaing – a member of the National League for Democracy headed by Aung San Suu Kyi, who faces a five-year prison term herself if found guilty in an ongoing trial – was sentenced Monday by a court in Tauggok in northwestern Rakhine State, said Thein Hlaing, a senior party member there.
Kyaw Khaing was sued by an expelled party member after comments made over fundraising for the party.
‘The court decision was biased and unfair. This is a severe and unjustified punishment because Kyaw Khaing is an opposition party member and an elected party candidate,’ said Aung Thein, a lawyer whose license was revoked in May, a day before he applied to represent Suu Kyi at her trial.
Kyaw Khaing was elected to office when his party won a landslide victory in the 1990 general elections, the results of which have never been recognized by the government.
He was given a seven-year prison sentence in 2007 following an pro-democracy uprising led by Buddhist monks, but was released 12 days later.
Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been ruled by the military since 1962 and is widely accused of human rights violations.
Western human rights groups say the regime holds more than 2,000 political prisoners.
Suu Kyi is facing a separate trial in which she has been charged with violating the terms of her house arrest by harboring an uninvited American man who entered her residence.
AFP/ 14 July 2009
Bangkok – Thailand will deploy a 14,000-strong team to police a regional summit on the resort island of Phuket, a senior military official told AFP on Tuesday, after protests scuppered similar talks in April.
The military has been given increased powers to guard the foreign ministers attending the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) Regional Forum later this month, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
‘Altogether there will be a 14,000-strong force including members of the military, police, volunteers, rangers and interior ministry officials,’ the high-ranking official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
He said specially-trained military and police commandos would also be deployed to protect the ministers from more than two dozen countries attending the forum on the southern isle, which runs from July 19-23.
Thailand’s government has already announced a complete ban on protests on Phuket during the talks, and invoked the internal security act for the island and an area five kilometres (three miles) around it.
The law allows the military to assist the police at the meeting, which groups foreign ministers from the 10 Asean members plus 16 dialogue partners including the United States, China, Japan and South Korea.
The army are also authorised to impose a curfew, block roads, ban the carrying of weapons and censure the media, among other measures.
In April, Asian leaders were forced to flee the coastal city of Pattaya when anti-government protesters loyal to ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra faced off against about 500 soldiers as they stormed the summit venue.
Two days of deadly rioting ensued in Bangkok following the cancellation of the meeting, and a state of emergency was declared in the capital.
The leaders’ summit has now been postponed until October. It was originally due to be held last December but was repeatedly delayed and moved because of ongoing political turmoil in Thailand.
AFP/ 14 July 2009
Yangon – Myanmar’s opposition party Tuesday said it was sceptical the military junta would release political prisoners including its leader Aung San Suu Kyi, despite new assurances given to the UN.
The possible amnesty was announced by Myanmar’s UN ambassador Than Swe to diplomats in New York after UN chief Ban Ki Moon demanded the release of key political detainees ahead of national polls planned for next year.
But Myanmar’s state media is yet to confirm the prisoner release and in the most recent amnesty, in February, only a handful of political detainees were among the 6,300 prisoners let out.
Mr Than Swe said the release was being prepared to allow the prisoners to contest next year’s elections that critics have derided as a sham intended to entrench the generals’ power.
But the envoy also criticised ‘undue pressure from the outside’ while claiming that his government ‘intends to implement all appropriate recommendations’ from the UN.
Mr Ban had earlier briefed the 15-member UN Security Council on his visit to the military-ruled nation earlier this month in which he failed to secure any concessions or meet Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
The UN chief has repeatedly called for the release of political prisoners, including the NLD party leader, and cautiously welcomed Mr Than Swe’s statement.
Myanmar’s English-language newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar, Tuesday published an editorial defending the regime’s handling of Mr Ban’s visit and denounced the focus on Ms Aung San Suu Kyi by the NLD and ‘anti-government media’.
It said that Mr Ban’s two meetings with junta leader Senior General Than Shwe and a speech he was permitted to make in Yangon were evidence of the government’s cooperation with the United Nations.
The NLD’s Nyan Win, who is also representing Ms Aung San Suu Kyi in her ongoing trial, said he thought it unlikely the opposition leader would be released.
AFP/ 14 July 2009
United Nations- Myanmar’s UN envoy said on Monday his government ‘intends to implement all appropriate recommendations that the secretary general had proposed.’
Ambassador U Than Swe specifically said the military regime was preparing an amnesty for political prisoners on humanitarian grounds so they can contest next year’s general elections.
‘At the request of the (UN) Secretary General (Ban Ki Moon), the Myanmar government is processing to grant amnesty to prisoners on humanitarian grounds and with a view to enabling them to participate in the 2010 general elections,’ he told the Council.
‘The challenges faced by Myanmar are complex and multifaceted,’ the ambassador however noted. ‘Undue pressure from the outside without fully comprehending the challenges faced by Myanmar will not be conducive to the country’s home-grown political process.’
And in an apparent bid to blunt any push by Western nations for UN sanctions against his regime, he noted: ‘Myanmar is not a threat to international peace and security, so no Security Council is warranted.’
Warning that ‘the world is watching,’ UN chief Ban Ki Moon pressed Myanmar’s military rulers on Monday to deliver on their pledge to ensure ‘inclusive, free and fair’ elections next year.
‘The (Myanmar) government needs to deliver on the promise to make the 2010 elections inclusive, free and fair and to take the necessary steps on my specific proposals in the very near future,’ he said as he briefed the UN Security Council on his visit to Myanmar early this month.
‘The choice for Myanmar’s leaders in the coming days and weeks will be between meeting that responsibility in the interest of all concerned, or failing their own people and each one of you,’ the UN secretary general said.
‘The world is now watching closely whether they will choose to act in the best interest of their country or ignore our concerns and expectations and the needs of their people,’ he added.
Million-signature campaign to petition Thai King may affect ruling elite’s election prospects
By Nirmal Ghosh, Thailand Correspondent
ST/14 July 2009
Bangkok – A signature campaign seeking royal pardon for former premier Thaksin Shinawatra is threatening to up the stakes significantly in Thailand’s long-running political conflict.The ‘red shirt’ United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), with the help of lawmakers from the opposition Puea Thai party, plans to collect one million signatures to petition King Bhumibol Adulyadej to grant a royal pardon to Thaksin. The former premier is in self-exile to dodge a two-year jail sentence for corruption.
The signature campaign, which has sparked intense debate, comes as Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva begins making forays into the north-eastern provinces in a bid to erode Thaksin’s loyalist vote bank.
The Premier began with a trip to Buri Ram last weekend amid heavy security.
There was a significant amount of stage-managing in Buri Ram by supporters of former Thaksin loyalist Newin Chidchob who is now with the Democrat Party-led coalition.
Pro-government ‘blue shirts’, who had played a part in escalating the situation in Pattaya in April which forced the cancellation of the Asean summit, were also deployed to keep a few hundred UDD red shirts from disrupting Mr Abhisit’s visit.
Mr Abhisit is due to follow up with visits to two other north-eastern provinces this month – Ubon Ratchathani and Amnat Charoen.
The Democrat Party desperately needs a slice of the vote from the north and north-east if it is to retain power in the next election, widely believed to be due early next year.
And the petition to the King has emerged as a significant development which could potentially affect the party’s chances at the polls. ï¿½
Some in the UDD claim to have already collected one million signatures, but one source close to the movement’s leadership told The Straits Times the number so far was between 600,000 and 700,000.