Burma Democratic Concern has the firm determination to carry on doing until the democracy restore in Burma.

Thursday, 9 February 2012


AFP - Clinton meets freed Myanmar activists
AFP - First EU official off to Myanmar ahead of polls
Reuters - Thai hotelier Central Plaza sees 2012 profit up 50 pct, eyes Myanmar
Europe Online Magazine - EU gives more aid to Myanmar, might scrap sanctions in April
Asia Times Online - The master plan for Myanmar
AsiaOne - Aung San Suu Kyi wants to see Myanmar surpass Asean members
Sydney Morning Herald - Don't rush to Burma, firms told
Brisbane Times - Suu Kyi cites graft in urging business caution
Channel NewsAsia - S'pore delegates to explore business opportunities in Myanmar
Business Wire - Research and Markets: 3Q11 Myanmar Mobile Operator Forecast, 2011 - 2015
Sin Chew Jit Poh - Myanmar changes not like Arab Spring: state media
Bangkok Post - Mekong river patrol: China, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar
The Star - Nazir: Myanmar is an integral part of Asean
GlobalPost - Is Burma seeking a role in US war games?
BusinessWeek - Singapore Seeks First Mover Status in Myanmar After Reforms
Bernama - Myanmar's Defence Chief Meets Visiting Malaysian Counterpart
Wall Street Journal (blog) - Too Bad, Burma: Big Bank Loans Unlikely Anytime Soon
eTurboNews - E-visas arrive to Myanmar and probably to Vietnam
msnbc.com (blog) - Up to 10,000 Myanmar refugees seek refuge in China
The Irrawaddy - ABSDF Holds Peace Talks with Govt
The Irrawaddy - KNU Divided Over Peace Treaty
The Irrawaddy - Dying Behind Bars
Mizzima News - Shwe Mann delivers reformist-style speech
Mizzima News - Banks increase interest rate by 2 per cent
Mizzima News - Healthy jump in Burma’s foreign trade
DVB News - Burma pledges full release of dissidents
DVB News - After a decade ban, Mon revel in Rangoon
DVB News - Trouble brews as Burma turns to world markets
Clinton meets freed Myanmar activists
AFP News – 13 hours ago

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed activists from Myanmar including a comedian recently freed from prison as part of Washington's efforts to encourage reform in the country.

Clinton stretched out both hands to greet Zarganar, a poet, filmmaker and performer who has been a prominent source of dissent in the country formerly known as Burma.

Zarganar, who was repeatedly incarcerated and sentenced to decades in prison after helping survivors of devastating Cyclone Nargis in 2008, was released in October as President Thein Sein seeks to ease decades of harsh rule.

Clinton also met at the State Department with Bauk Gyar, an ethnic minority activist from Kachin state who is running in closely watched April 1 by-elections, and women's campaigner Khin Than Myint.

The three activists are travelling together to Washington. They spoke last week at the National Endowment for Democracy, where they gave mixed opinions on whether reforms by the nominally civilian government were significant.

Clinton paid a landmark visit to Myanmar in December as part of an effort by President Barack Obama's administration to support change in the Southeast Asian country, long considered a pariah by the West.

Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said Wednesday that he was "hopeful" about Myanmar but that the United States would need to "temper our enthusiasm" to ensure that more is done.

"We will need to ensure that we have the support of others so that this historic opening can continue," Campbell told a conference on Singapore at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"The United States is supportive of this effort and we will want to take the appropriate diplomatic, political and assistance and economic steps in order to make clear to the leadership that we recognize and appreciate and support their steps towards reform," Campbell said.

The United States has started the process of restoring full diplomatic relations with Myanmar and on Monday announced a waiver to allow assessments in the country by international financial institutions.
First EU official off to Myanmar ahead of polls
By Yann Ollivier | AFP News – 13 hours ago

Myanmar's upcoming elections will be crucial for the credibility of reforms that remain "fragile," the EU's foreign aid chief told AFP ahead of a trip to offer 150 million euros to the country.

While calling for free and fair polls that "bring more unity," Andris Piebalgs, the European Union development commissioner, said the EU would not be sending observers to the April 1 by-elections.

"There is a lot of opening and a very promising dynamic in Myanmar, even if it is still fragile," Piebalgs said in an interview before traveling to Myanmar on Saturday in the first trip by a top EU official since reforms began there.

"We'll pass the message that we have noticed it and appreciate what is being done, and what still has to be done," he said, adding that more political prisoners could be released.

"The elections will be crucial for the credibility of the change," the commissioner added.

After nearly half a century of outright military rule in the country formerly known as Burma, the regime has surprised observers with a series of reforms culminating recently with democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi standing for a seat in parliament.

A nominally-civilian government came to power in Myanmar last year following controversial November 2010 elections and has since surprised observers with a number of positive moves including a major release of political prisoners.

The EU agreed in January to begin easing sanctions on Myanmar to encourage reform, lifting travel bans against the nation's leaders and pledging further action pending continued change.

The 27-nation bloc will progressively re-examine its sanctions, which include an arms embargo, a ban on gems and an assets freeze on nearly 500 people and 900 entities.

"We haven't fully re-evaluated yet our relations with Myanmar," Piebalgs told AFP. "We have removed part of the restrictive measures, but the country is still in transition, the political situation is still delicate."

But the EU will provide 150 million euros (almost $200 million) in additional aid to Myanmar over the next two years, he said, adding that it "will make a huge difference."

The EU has provided 174 millions euros to the Southeast Asian nation since 1996 to help combat malaria and tuberculosis, improve conditions in rural areas and send more than six million children to school.

"The new situation allows us to beef up the support," Piebalgs said, noting that the aid is channeled through non-government organisations and the United Nations.

"The problem is how to use it, and the best way is to discuss with the government. We could look at the building of capacity in the administration to run the social services, for example," he said.

"Part of the money we provide could be used for microcredits, but the biggest engagements are in health and education."

The EU is not attaching conditions to the 150 million euros "because we would like to support the people of Myanmar," he said, adding: "I assume the process will not go backwards."
Thai hotelier Central Plaza sees 2012 profit up 50 pct, eyes Myanmar
By Ploy Ten Kate and Saranya Suksomkij
BANGKOK | Thu Feb 9, 2012 6:03am EST

(Reuters) - Central Plaza Hotel Pcl, Thailand's second-largest listed hotelier by market value, expects 2012 net profit growth of 50 percent as tourism recovers and the company is considering a joint-venture opportunity in Myanmar, its executive said.

The Thai tourism industry has suffered a series of blows over the past few years, from airport closures in 2008 and civil unrest in 2009 and 2010 to devastating floods last year. It
accounts for about 6 percent of gross domestic product GDP.L and is picking up strongly, with arrivals expecting to reach 20 million in 2012.

Ronnachit Mahattanapreut, senior vice-president of finance, told Reuters the company's 2012 revenue would grow 20 percent to 13.7 billion baht, with net profit growth rising by half from a year earlier thanks to rising contributions of recently opened hotels in Thailand and fees from hotel management overseas.

"We're having a very busy year," Ronnachit said in an interview.

"Pre-bookings at all our hotels have been strong, starting this year despite all the (economic) troubles in Europe. Travel demand, especially from Asia and ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) -- like Malaysia, Singapore -- has not been any less but it is growing even more."

Revenue per available room, an industry benchmark, is expected to increase 11 percent in 2012 compared with 7 percent last year. The average daily room rate is projected to rise 9 percent to 3,994 baht, Ronnachit said.

The company, operator of Central Grand at CentralWorld, is expected to report a 49 percent rise in 2012 earnings of 867.3 million baht with revenue of 13.6 billion baht, according to five analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Central Plaza CENT.BK is due to report 2011 results later this month and Ronnachit said despite a brief disruption from flooding in the last quarter, its net profit would post a record high, turning round from a 51 million baht loss in 2010 because of political unrest.

Central Plaza runs 31 hotels and resorts in Thailand and other countries, of which 16 are under management contracts.

Central Plaza, operator of Centara Grand at CentralWorld, competes with local firms including Minor International MINT.BK, which runs the Four Seasons Bangkok, and Erawan Group ERAW.BK, which owns Grand Hyatt Erawan.

The company, which would invest 1.2 billion baht this year, also operates fast food chains including KFC Kentucky Fried Chicken, Mister Donut and Auntie Anne's. Last year, it acquired the Thai operation of the Ootoya Japanese restaurant chain for 600 million baht.


Central Plaza's strategy to expand its hotel business by focusing on international hotel management contracts to reduce domestic risk, or invest in a joint venture hotel to limit capital expenditure, is paying off, Ronnachit said.

The company is considering a joint venture investment with a hotel in Myanmar, which is fast opening up to tourism, as it prepares for expansion abroad ahead of the implementation of the EU-style ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 that would allow for a free flow of goods, capital, services and labour.

"We have our business development team looking at this ... however, we should be able to conclude this by the end of the year," he said, adding Myanmar was facing a hotel room shortage.

Global hotel chains including Starwood Hotels & Resorts (HOT.N) -- which runs chains such as Westin, Sheraton and Le Meridien -- and Marriott International (MAR.N) have expressed interest in running hotels in Myanmar, a country tightly controlled by the military for five decades until last year.

Central Plaza shares, valued at $499 million, were flat at 11.40 baht after rising as much as 1.75 percent to 11.60 baht at one point. The broader market .SETI was 0.1 percent higher.
Europe Online Magazine - EU gives more aid to Myanmar, might scrap sanctions in April
Europe, 09.02.2012
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online

Brussels (dpa) - The European Union is set to increase aid to Myanmar by 150 million euros (200 million dollars) and might go as far as scrapping sanctions in April, officials from the bloc said Thursday.

The change in the EU‘s stance comes in reaction to progress towards democracy in the former military-ruled country. Since last year, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been released from house arrest, hundreds of political prisoners have been freed and ceasefires have been signed with ethnic militias.

"The momentum of change in Burma/Myanmar is impressive and the EU recognizes the need to do all it can to support the country at this time," EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said in a statement, using both names by which the country is known.

The announcement of new EU funding - coming on top of existing aid worth 104 million euros - comes ahead of Piebalgs‘ two-day visit to Myanmar, starting on Sunday. He is due to meet President Thein Sein, government ministers, Suu Kyi and non-governmental organizations.

In January, EU foreign ministers already decided to waive visa bans on the country‘s leadership, but sanctions remain on dozens of representatives of the former military regime.

The EU also bans investments in state-owned enterprises, has embargoes in place against arm exports to the country as well as on imports of hard wood, gems and precious metal.

On April 23, EU foreign ministers will "look at a possible new substantial reduction or even the ending of sanctions," a diplomatic source in Brussels said. EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton intends to visit the country after the move.

The bloc is also planning to open an office in Rangoon, where currently only the four biggest EU members - Germany, France, Britain and Italy - have embassies. dpa alv npr Author: Alvise Armellini
Feb 10, 2012
Asia Times Online - The master plan for Myanmar
By Bertil Lintner

BANGKOK - Myanmar is winning more foreign friends while international criticism of the current and previous government's abysmal human rights records has all but ceased. Old adversaries in the United States and European Union have scrapped - or are planning to scrap - economic sanctions against the regime, and big-time multinational companies are preparing to lunge into what many seems to believe is Asia's last investment frontier.

A nearly unanimous Western world has heaped praise on President Thein Sein's supposed moves towards "democratic reform" and "national reconciliation". But what has actually changed and what's behind the hype?

In near unison, the international community condemned the Myanmar regime for its brutal repression of Buddhist monk-led pro-democracy protests in 2007, its initial callous response to the

Cyclone Nargis disaster in 2008 - when a widely condemned sham referendum on a new constitution was held in the killer storm's wake - and a blatantly rigged general election swept by military-backed candidates in November 2010.

One theory goes that the administration is locked in a power struggle between military "hardliners" and "reformers", and that the latter, at least for now, have the upper hand. Several Western countries have apparently taken the policy decision that every effort should therefore be made to support the "reformers" and recent reform signals to ensure that Myanmar doesn't return to its old repressive ways.

The EU and US have expressed public views to that effect. On January 31, EU president Herman Van Rompuy said in a statement after a summit in Brussels: "I welcome the important changes taking place in Burma/Myanmar and encourage its government to maintain its determination to continue on the path of reform." The US State Department said the day before that it was "encouraged " by Myanmar's recent reforms, "including its decision to allow opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to run in upcoming elections".

Others, however, suspect that the signs emerging from Myanmar's leadership reflects a well-orchestrated "good cop, bad-cop" routine to neutralize domestic opposition and win new foreign allies, especially among former critics in the West. Either way, Thein Sein's regime has so far skillfully played its cards in a way that few, probably even among themselves, could have foreseen. "Those in power are military men, not representatives of a democratic government. This is how they work," says a Myanmar national who has followed political developments for decades.

Well laid plans
In order to understand Myanmar's policy shift - and why the West has been so supportive - it is instructive to look back to the early 2000s. Then condemned and pressured by the international community, the ruling military junta announced in August 2003 a seven-step "Roadmap to Discipline-Flourishing Democracy." That plan called for the drafting of a new constitution, general elections, and convention of a new parliament which would "elect state leaders" charged with building "a modern, developed and democratic nation".

The "roadmap" was made public, but at the same time a confidential "master plan" which outlined ways and means to deal with both the international community, especially the US, and domestic opposition was also drawn up. The authors of that plan are not known but an internal military document written by Lt Col Aung Kyaw Hla, who is identified as a researcher at the country's prestigious Defense Services Academy, was completed and circulated in 2004.

The Burmese-language document, received and reviewed by this writer, outlines the thinking and strategy behind the master plan. It is, however, unclear whether "Aung Kyaw Hla" is a particular person, or a codename used by a military think-tank. Anecdotal evidence suggests the latter.

Entitled "A Study of Myanmar-US Relations", the main thesis of the 346-page dossier is that Myanmar's recent reliance on China as a diplomatic ally and economic patron has created a "national emergency" which threatens the country's independence.

According to the dossier, Myanmar must normalize relations with the West after implementing the roadmap and electing a government so that the regime can deal with the outside world on more acceptable terms. Evidently the internal thinking was that normalization with the West would not be possible as long as Myanmar was ruled by military juntas.

Aung Kyaw Hla goes on to argue in the master plan that although human rights are a concern in the West, the US would be willing to modify its policy to suit "strategic interests". Although the author does not specify those interests, it is clear from the thesis that he is thinking of common ground with the US vis-a-vis China. The author cites Vietnam and Indonesia under former dictator Suharto as examples of US foreign policy flexibility in weighing strategic interests against democratization.

If bilateral relations with the US were improved, the master plan suggests, Myanmar would also get access to badly needed funds from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other global financial institutions. The country would then emerge from "regionalism", where it currently depends on the goodwill and trade of its immediate neighbors, including China, and enter a new era of "globalization".

The master plan is acutely aware of the problems that must be addressed before Myanmar can lessen its reliance on China and become a trusted partner with the West. The main issue at the time of writing was the detention of pro-democracy icon Suu Kyi, who Aung Kyaw Hla wrote was a key "focal point": "Whenever she is under detention pressure increases, but when she is not, there is less pressure." While the report implies Suu Kyi's release would improve ties with the West, the plan's ultimate aim - which it spells out clearly - is to "crush" the opposition.

At the same time, the dossier identifies individuals, mostly Western academics, known for their opposition to the West's sanctions policy, and somewhat curiously suggests that "friendly" Indian diplomats could be helpful in providing background information about influential US congressmen.

The dossier concludes that the regime cannot compete with the media and non-governmental organizations run by Myanmar exiles, but if US politicians and lawmakers were invited to visit the country they could help to sway international opinion in the regime's favor. Over the years, many Americans have visited Myanmar and often left less critical of the regime than they were previously. In the end, it seems that Myanmar has successfully managed to engage the US rather than vice versa.

Institutional Sinophobia
Aung Kaw Hla's internal thesis is the first clear sign of dissatisfaction with the regime's close ties with China, which, in part, were forged because the West downgraded its relations with Myanmar after massacres of pro-democracy demonstrators in 1988 and other gross human-rights violations. More signs of a worsening relationship could be discerned in internal reports that began to circulate within the military in 2010.

China, until then praised as a dependable ally, was beginning to be viewed increasingly as the root of Myanmar's many ills, from the rape of the country's forests to rampant drug trafficking. China's close ties with the United Wa State Army, Myanmar's main drug-trafficking militia, has not go unnoticed by the authorities in Naypyidaw. Then, in September 2011, came Thein Sein's decision to suspend the China-backed US$3.6 billion joint-venture Myitsone dam project in the far north of the country.

Seen from a US perspective, encouraging Myanmar to move away from China became a priority when Naypyidaw showed that it was willing to engage with the US. Washington was also eager to undermine Myanmar's disturbing military ties with North Korea. Not surprisingly, North Korea was high on the agenda when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Myanmar last December.
The last of several recorded attempts to ship weaponry from North Korea to Myanmar took place in May and June 2011, several months after the supposedly "reformist" Thein Sein became president and after government officials had claimed that there was no military cooperation with North Korea.

On May 26, the USS McCampbell caught up with M/V Light, a Myanmar-bound North Korean cargo vessel suspected of carrying missile parts and possibly other military equipment. The US destroyer approached the ship and asked to board but the North Koreans refused. The first encounter took place in the sea south of Shanghai and a few days later closer to Singapore. The M/V Light eventually stopped and turned back to its home port in North Korea - all the way tracked by US surveillance planes and satellites.

After that incident - and incentives from the US such as easing restrictions on Naypyidaw's access to multilateral lending institutions - there has been no known attempt by North Korea to ship weapons to Myanmar. And the US is no doubt taking full advantage of Myanmar's drift away from China. "What the US is trying to do is to send every signal of support to the forces pushing for liberalization in Burma," said Robert Fitts, a former US diplomat in the region now attached to Thailand's Chulalongkorn university.

The US will soon send a new ambassador to Myanmar, representing an upgrade of diplomatic relations. On February 7, the New York Times quoted US officials as saying that the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), David Petraeus, may visit Myanmar later this year. The CIA is not exactly known for being a leading proponent and promoter of liberal values in the developing world; the agency has other priorities such as Myanmar's strategic importance to the US.

But therein lies a danger, which Aung Kyaw Hla outlined in his thesis of more than seven years ago. If Myanmar does manage to improve bilateral relations with the US, China could counteract in a way that threatens Myanmar's integrity and independence. A balanced approach is therefore needed, Aung Kyaw Hla argued, but it was not set out in the master plan how that balance may be achieved.

Well-worn routine
There are other reasons to doubt that Myanmar's new policies will work over the long term. While the international community appears to fall for the latest incarnation of the regime's well-worn good cop, bad cop routine, local and exiled mainstream opposition groups are less likely to be so gullible.

One of the supposed "good cops" in Myanmar's current nominally civilian leadership is former Maj Gen Aung Min, currently the railway minister, who has been tasked with shuttling back and forth between Myanmar and Thailand to meet with influential exiled dissidents. Some of those who have recently met him are deeply suspicious of his motives and the less conciliatory signals sent from the regime's "bad cops".

They note that Aung Min once served under Tin U, Myanmar's powerful intelligence chief until he was ousted in 1983, ostensibly for corrupt practices but more likely because he had built up a state within a state that threatened the leadership of former junta leader Gen Ne Win.

Writing in the Far Eastern Economic Review in 1983, British journalist Rodney Tasker characterized Tin U and his intelligence colleagues as "men of the world compared with other more short-sighted, dogmatic figures in the Burmese [Myanmar] leadership. They were allowed to travel abroad, talk freely to foreigners and generally look behind the rigid confines of the current regime."

But they were also known to be ruthless and extremely skilled at manipulating their enemies and adversaries. Tin U himself was trained by the CIA on the US-held Pacific island of Saipan in 1957. Aung Min somehow survived the 1983 purge and moved to join Myanmar's Intelligence Battalion 21 in 1992. He was with the 66th Light Infantry Division in 2000, was elevated to Southern Commander of the Myanmar Army in 2001, and became railway minister in 2003 under the previous military junta led by Gen Than Shwe.

In today's context, solving the long-burning ethnic issue will be key to realizing the master plan's ultimate vision of keeping the military in power. One of the supposed "bad cops" in the current power configuration is Aung Thaung, another peace negotiator, who met ethnic Kachin rebel leaders in Ruili in southwestern China earlier this year. A former heavy industry minister, he is believed by many to have been one of the architects behind a 2003 mob attack on Suu Kyi and her colleagues in Depayin that left scores of her supporters dead and wounded. "The good cop" Aung Min did not attend the talks in Ruili but some analysts suggest may later step in to "rescue" the talks with a softer approach.

Whether Myanmar's many rebellious ethnic minorities will accept these well-known personalities and well-worn negotiating tactics remains to be seen. The fact that the government has consistently refused to even consider a federal structure does not bode well for reaching lasting agreements with armed groups. The 2008 constitution lays down the fundamentals for a centralized state structure where the military is a main, if not dominant, player.

Thus the recent euphoria over recent "reforms" in Myanmar may therefore be short-lived. Unless the present constitution is scrapped or widely amended, which is extremely unlikely due to the military's de facto veto power in parliament, Myanmar's ethnic issue will likely remain unsolved. And if the country becomes an arena of competition between the US and China, there will certainly be more trouble ahead - as Aung Kyaw Hla warned in his master plan now being put into practice.

Bertil Lintner is a former correspondent with the Far Eastern Economic Review and author of several books on Burma/Myanmar, including Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma's Struggle for Democracy (Published in 2011). He is currently a writer with Asia-Pacific Media Services.
AsiaOne - Aung San Suu Kyi wants to see Myanmar surpass Asean members
The Nation/Asia News Network
Thursday, Feb 09, 2012

Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's icon of democracy, has what she calls a "simple ambition": she wants to see her country surpass its fellow Asean members in the next decade.

To achieve this, she said political reforms are as important as economic reforms that are slowly taking place. At the same time, she advised foreign businessmen to adopt a "wait-and-see" attitude "for their own good as well as that of the country" before investing.

Suu Kyi met with a 12-member delegation of the Asean Business Council (ABC) that visited Rangoon and Naypyidaw on an exploratory business trip on February 6 and 7. The delegation met with representatives from the local Chamber of Commerce as well as government officials to discuss Burma's business climate.

"I won't say 'satisfied' is the word. We're pleased with the reforms so far, but I think they need to be strengthened and they need to be put on the right path," Suu Kyi told a group of journalists who had travelled from Kuala Lumpur to Rangoon and Naypyidaw with the ABC delegation.

While she welcomed the keen interest of foreign businesses in Burma, which is slowly opening up its economy, Suu Kyi is worried that the country may not be ready to cope with changes.

"We [she and the ABC delegation] have been talking about the importance of sound investment laws and the importance of rule of law," Suu Kyi noted. "I think [businessmen] should wait and see a little, for their own good as well as that of the country."

She noted that she had discussed these concerns with the ABC delegation in an hour-long closed-door meeting at her home, and had expressed a keen interest in agriculture-related businesses among the many investment areas.

"I think it's not just a matter of potential investments, but also a matter of the potential of the country to cope with the investments," she explained. "This is an area of worry. We wonder how much potential there is to cope with the reforms we want. Of course, we can cope with them in the long run. But in the short run, how do we sequence these reforms so they can develop the right way as quickly as possible? We do need to think about speed because we're behind the others. There is a need to catch up. We can't say we will take our own sweet time. It doesn't work that way," she said.

Suu Kyi emphasised the need for economic and political reforms to take place at the same time, and said the rule of law should help address the country's ills such as corruption.

"These have to go in tandem. I don't think you can have genuine economic reforms without judicial reforms. It's no use having good investment laws if you don't have a good judicial system to make sure the laws are applied," she said.

In a separate meeting with the ABC delegation, Deputy Railway Minister U Thaung Lwin promised that Central Bank functions would be separated from the Finance Ministry in the next six months. He also said the government was prioritising employment creation by opening up to large industries, specifically those from the high-tech sector.

"We are now revising the investment law," U Thaung Lwin said.

Meanwhile, Nazir Razak, CEO of the CIMB Group and chief of the ABC delegation, noted that Burma needs laws that are clear enough to provide a conducive business environment.

"I was a bit concerned because I didn't get a sense that there is a holistic, comprehensive plan at this point of time," Nazir said. "Aung San Suu Kyi did mention that what she thought was important was to start with a proper diagnostics of this situation and then put together the holistic plan. If one is not careful with these things, you can put the cart before the horse and have a lot of mix-ups, disappointments and setbacks."

He acknowledged that the changes would not be easy and might take time. "You're talking about undoing culture and practices that have been there for many, many years. [Burma's] eagerness [to reform] must be applauded but somewhat tempered for reality."

John Pang, chief executive officer of the CIMB Asean Research Institute, said Burma offers huge business potential for the entire region, not just Southeast Asia.

"It links the rest of Southeast Asia to the Indian Ocean and the Middle East. It opens up the land side of logistics like railways and road networks to the Middle East and to India," Pang said, adding that this will shift the centre of gravity in Southeast Asia's geo-politics.

"Asean is very maritime. Burma is literally the link between landlocked countries and its opening up will also help develop not just Burma but the entire region, like India's northeast provinces.

"Everyone has worries whether reforms can be carried out. It is not a question of whether Burma is open for business. It is open for business, but it's how we go from here, taking the next step. Burma is coming on stream at a fascinating time in world economic history, it is full of potential."

Based on the ABC delegation's meetings with local businesses and government officials, Pang said there was a strong desire to move forward. "That's the sense we all got, people want to catch up. But they do not need just piece-meal liberalisation but a proper plan. Is there a blueprint? How do you plan for your economy to be ready?"

Despite these concerns, AirAsia founder Tony Fernandes - who flew the delegation over to Burma on one of his aircraft - noted that "business should drive change".

He said he had already received two proposals during the trip for a joint venture with Burmese firms and was keen to take the talks further. AirAsia has two flights daily to Rangoon from Bangkok, and one from Kuala Lumpur.

"Obviously, the Chinese, Japanese and Koreans have been slightly ahead in Burma but I get the feeling that the country welcomes any form of help to get things moving," he said.

Suu Kyi, meanwhile, said she believes in the future of Burma, adding that being behind its fellow Asean members gave the country a chance to learn from the mistakes of others.
Sydney Morning Herald - Don't rush to Burma, firms told
Lindsay Murdoch, South-east Asia Correspondent
February 10, 2012

BURMA'S hardliners and reformers are locked in an intensifying power struggle as pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi warns foreign businesses against rushing to invest in the impoverished country.

''I think [business people] should wait and see a little, for their own good as well as the country,'' Ms Suu Kyi said in Rangoon, where hotels are full, mostly with visiting business delegations.

''I think it's not just a matter of potential investments but also a matter of the potential of the country to cope with the investments,'' she said.

Referring to Burma's corrupt judicial system, she told heads of large Asian corporations that ''it's no good having good investment laws if you don't have a good judicial system to make sure the laws are applied.''

Earlier this week US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed a waiver that will make it easier for the World Bank and other multilateral institutions to advise Burma on reforms.

After 50 years of international isolation and disastrous military rule, Burma offers the least legal protection for foreign companies and investors of any country, a report by the risk analysis firm Maplecroft says.

Ms Suu Kyi repeated comments that the reforms implemented since August last year are not ''past the point where you can say it's irreversible''. ''We are going to have to make it irreversible … that's why we are contesting in the byelections.''

Ms Suu Kyi, daughter of Burma's independence hero Aung San, is campaigning for a seat in elections scheduled for April 1. Analysts say her message of political freedom and democracy could snowball into a groundswell of support for more aggressive reforms.

But Burma's Railways Minister, Aung Min, who has played a key role in negotiating peace deals with armed ethnic groups, has confirmed reports of the power struggle in the capital, Naypyidaw, telling Thailand-based exiles that reforms implemented by President Thein Sein had met with stiff opposition from within the government, the Irrawaddy newspaper run by Burmese exiles reported.

Reports have emerged from within the military-dominated government recently that hardliners led by Vice-President Tin Aung Myint Oo want to derail reforms.

Some of the hardliners who were close to ageing military strongman Than Shwe before he retired are said to be upset at the recent release of about 2000 political prisoners.

There has been heated debate about the release in the powerful 11-member National Defence and Security Council, which is co-chaired by Thein Sein, according to informed reports. Hardliners wanted the prisoner releases to occur after the April by-elections for more than 40 parliamentary seats.

They are said to be poised to attack the reformers if social unrest or political demonstrations breaks out, reports say.

But at least 60 per cent of government ministers are sitting on the fence, waiting to see who wins the power struggle, several reliable analysts say.
Brisbane Times - Suu Kyi cites graft in urging business caution
Lindsay Murdoch
February 10, 2012

BURMA'S hardliners and reformers are locked in an intensifying power struggle as the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi warns foreign business people against rushing to invest in the impoverished country.

''I think [business people] should wait and see a little, for their own good as well as the country,'' Ms Suu Kyi told a delegation of the ASEAN Business Council in Rangoon. ''I think it's not just a matter of potential investments but also a matter of the potential of the country to cope with the investments.''

She told the representatives that ''it's no good having good investment laws if you don't have a good judicial system to make sure the laws are applied''.

This week the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, signed a waiver that will make it easier for the World Bank and other multilateral institutions to advise Burma on reforms.

After 50 years of international isolation and disastrous military rule, Burma offers the least legal protection for foreign companies and investors of any country, according to a report released this week by the risk analysis firm Maplecroft.

Ms Suu Kyi repeated earlier comments that reforms implemented since August were not ''past the point where you can say it's irreversible''.

''We are going to have to make it irreversible … that's why we are contesting in the byelections,'' she said.

Thousands of people are greeting Ms Suu Kyi, the daughter of Burma's independence hero Aung San, as she campaigns for a seat in parliamentary elections scheduled for April 1.
Analysts say her message of political freedom and democracy could snowball into a groundswell of support for more aggressive reforms.

But Burma's Railways Minister, Aung Min, who has played a key role in negotiating peace deals with armed ethnic groups, has confirmed reports of the power struggle in the capital Naypyidaw, telling Thailand-based exiles that reforms implemented by the President, Thein Sein, had met with stiff opposition from within the government, according to the Irrawaddy newspaper run by Burmese exiles.

Reports have recently emerged from within the military-dominated government that hardliners led by the Vice-President, Tin Aung Myint Oo, want to derail reforms already implemented.

Some of the hardliners, who were close to ageing military strongman Than Shwe before he retired, are said to be upset at the recent release of about 2000 political prisoners.

Hardliners reportedly wanted the prisoner releases to occur after the April byelections for more than 40 parliamentary seats.

They are said to be poised to attack the reformers if social unrest or political demonstrations break out, reports say.

The position of Mr Thein Sein, a former general who has won international praise for the reforms, has been buoyed by Shwe Mann, the third top man in the former military regime, who told parliament on Tuesday projects that did not ''benefit the people and the country'' should be suspended.

This was taken as an indirect reference to Mr Thein Sein's suspension last year of a Chinese-built hydro-electric project.

Mr Shwe Mann also supported reforms of state bureaucracies, urging ''clean government and good governance''.

In Washington the chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, John Kerry, said the US would consider easing sanctions if the April elections went well.

''The country's welcome signs of spring are fragile,'' he said.
Channel NewsAsia - S'pore delegates to explore business opportunities in Myanmar
By Millet Enriquez | Posted: 09 February 2012 2218 hrs

SINGAPORE: A group of Singaporean businesses will descend on Myanmar next week to explore opportunities thrown up by recent economic and political reforms.

The state-sponsored, week-long visit by 115 delegates from 74 companies will cover Yangon and the political capital of Nya Pi Taw.

The visiting companies come from various industries including construction, education, finance, infrastructure and logistics.

They will embark on networking and business matching sessions with local firms, and a courtesy call with Myanmar president Thein Sein.

A Singapore-Myanmar Investment Seminar is also slated for February 15 at the Myanmar International Convention Centre in Nya Pi Taw.

International Enterprise (IE) Singapore and the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) which are leading the visit said in a statement the trip is expected to help Singaporean firms identify areas for investment including consultancy and master planning; education and vocational training; environmental services and infrastructure.

"Recent reforms undertaken in Myanmar and positive reactions from major economies augur well for the country," Teo Eng Cheong, IE Singapore's chief executive, said in the statement.

"Singapore's connections with overseas markets place our companies in a strong position to be first movers in an emerging new market like Myanmar," Mr Teo said.

Trade between Singapore and Myanmar totalled S$1.63 billion in 2011 and S$1.69 billion in 2010, said IE Singapore.

Apart from being the fourth largest trading partner, Singapore also provided some US$1.8 billion of foreign direct investments to Myanmar as at October last year.
Business Wire - Research and Markets: 3Q11 Myanmar Mobile Operator Forecast, 2011 - 2015
Press Release: Research and Markets – 5 hours ago

DUBLIN--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/8d8bd7/3q11_myanmar_mobil) has announced the addition of IE Market Research Corp.'s new report "3Q11 Myanmar Mobile Operator Forecast, 2011 - 2015: Monopoly operator MPT to have 1.3 million mobile subscribers in 2015" to their offering.

Mobile Operator Forecast on the Union of Myanmar (Burma) provides subscriber metrics for Myanmar's wireless market and is one of the best forecasts in the industry. We provide five-year forecasts at the operator level going out to 2015. We also provide quarterly historical and forecast data starting in 1Q2003 and ending in 2Q2013. The operator covered for Myanmar is MPT (Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications) which is a monopoly mobile network operator in the country.

Global Mobile Operator Forecast covers 50+ metrics on 800+ mobile operators in 200+ countries. Those forecasts are based on proprietary, country-specific forecasting models. These models deploy multiple regression analysis and cross-impact matrices that estimate relationships between subscriber data, technology use and deployment data, overall economic and demographic changes expected in a particular country; and relate these to company operational and financial metrics.

Key Topics Covered:

Annual Results & Forecasts are covered in this report for: CY 2001-CY 2015. Quarterly Results & Forecasts are covered for: March 2003 - June 2013.

Prepaid And Postpaid Subscribers Subscriber Growth (Yoy) Subscribers By Operator Subscriber Growth By Operator (Yoy) Net Subscriber Adds By Operator Net Subscriber Adds Growth By Operator Post-Paid Subscribers By Operator Post-Paid Subscriber Growth By Operator (Yoy) Prepaid/Wholesale Subscribers By Operator Prepaid/Wholesale Subscriber Growth By Operator Post-Paid % Of Total Subscribers By Operator Prepaid/Wholesale % Of Total Subscribers By Operator Post-Paid Net Adds By Operator Post-Paid Adds Growth By Operator (Yoy) Prepaid/Wholesale Net Adds By Operator Prepaid/Wholesale Adds Growth By Operator Share Of Total Subscribers By Operator Hhi Index By Subscriber Share Share Of Net Adds By Operator Share Of Post-Paid Net Adds By Operator Share Of Prepaid/Wholesale Net Adds By Operator

For more information visit http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/8d8bd7/3q11_myanmar_mobil

Contact: Research and Markets
Laura Wood, Senior Manager,
U.S. Fax: 646-607-1907
Fax (outside U.S.): +353-1-481-1716
Sin Chew Jit Poh - Myanmar changes not like Arab Spring: state media
Foreign, 2012-02-09 17:02

YANGON, February 9, 2012 (AFP) - Myanmar state media contrasted the country's reforms with the Arab Spring on Thursday, saying the nominally civilian government would avoid bloodshed in its transition to democracy.

The comment piece in the New Light of Myanmar also said the examples of Iraq and Afghanistan showed how "errors of strategy" condemn people to a "cycle of tears".

"Despite the poetic title, (the) Arab Spring is the spring painted in blood and is supposed to end with troubles and poverty. What resulted from it are only splits between ethnic groups," the English-language official paper said.

Myanmar will avoid this thanks to its "harmonious" changes and the "genuine goodwill" of the former and current governments that "helped the country walk on the road to democracy in (a) stable and peaceful manner".

The country has become a democracy "without suffering grief as in the above-mentioned countries thanks to this generosity," the paper said, highlighting recent talks and ceasefire deals with ethnic rebel groups.

After half a century of military rule, Myanmar's junta dissolved itself in March last year and transferred its powers to a supposedly civilian government that is dominated by ex-army generals.

The move was part of a seven-step "roadmap" to bring about "disciplined democracy" that was first presented by the junta in 2003.

To the surprise of the international community, the new regime has undertaken a series of sweeping reforms, most notably allowing opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to re-enter politics and participate in by-elections set for April.

Popular protests and uprisings are rare in the authoritarian country formerly known as Burma, where pro-democracy rallies in 1988 and 2007 were brutally crushed by the junta.
Bangkok Post - Mekong river patrol: China, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar
Published: 9/02/2012 at 01:57 PM
Online news: Learning From News
Boat hijacking by Shan drug gang may be behind killing of 13 Chinese crew last year. Tighter security & joint patrol is the response.

Security MEKONG
Navy to step up patrols after Chinese slayings
Wassana Nanuam

CHIANG RAI : The navy will reinforce its patrols along the Mekong River to help the four-nation effort in policing this transnational river, following the slaying of 13 Chinese sailors last year.

"I'm considering increasing boat and troop numbers because we have many tasks to do," navy chief Surasak Roonroengrom said.

His plan to strengthen the navy's Me Khong Riverine Operation Unit is necessary because its task in Chiang Rai is hindered by a limited number of military personnel and supplies.

The operation unit employs only 11 boats in total - three patrol vessels and eight assault vessels - to serve only about 200 soldiers

"But there have been more seizures of illegal items, crashes and losses" during operations in the Mekong River, he said.

The latest loss, which has alerted Thailand, China, Laos and Myanmar to violent crimes on the river, is the mysterious killing of 13 crew members on two Chinese-flagged cargo boats, the Yi Xing 8 Hao and Hua Ping, on Oct 5 last year in Chiang Rai's Chiang Saen district.

Nine Thai soldiers of the Pa Muang Task Force, who reportedly seized 920,000 speed pills from the two barges, have been implicated in the murders. Inquiries are continuing.

They blamed a Shan drug trafficking gang, led by Nor Kham, for hijacking the boats and using them for smuggling the drugs into Thailand.

The group is believed to have 20 to 100 armed members and has been active along a 150km stretch of the river, Sorracha Sornprathum, chief of the Me Khong Riverine Operation Unit said.

Following the murders, the four countries joined forces to set up a patrol unit, made up of three Chinese boats and one boat each from Laos, Myanmar and the Thai Marine Police Division, to tighten security along the Mekong.

The multi-nation unit is responsible for areas from Sipsongpanna in China's southern Yunnan province, to the Golden Triangle where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet.

The navy's Me Khong Riverine Operation Unit will back up the j

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