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March 19 - 25, 2012

Myanmar’s first international weekly

Volume 31, No. 619 1200 Kyats

Historic Yangon cityscape thrown a lifeline

By Thomas Kean

SUPPORTERS of a campaign to preserve the hundreds of priceless colonial-era buildings that make up Yangon’s unique cityscape have been given until

the middle of the year to come up with a viable private sector-led conservation plan. This window of opportunity – approved by President U Thein Sein – was negotiated by historian Dr Thant Myint-U during “extremely encouraging” discussions with Minister for Industry U Soe Thein, the chief minister of Yangon Region and Yangon Mayor earlier this year. To spearhead the effort, Dr Thant Myint-U, the grandson of U Thant and author of The River of Lost Footsteps,




government organisation, the Yangon Heritage Trust, with support from architects, members of the business community

and non-government organisations. The trust plans to begin surveying the downtown area later this month and to assist in preparing a conservation strategy to present to the government a conference bringing together both local and foreign experts is planned for late April or May. In the meantime, a moratorium has reportedly been put in place in downtown Yangon on the demolition of buildings aged over 50 years, although The Myanmar Times could not confirm this. Dr Thant Myint-U told The Myanmar Times last week that the challenge would be to maintain Yangon’s distinctive character and merge it with the infrastructure and amenities of a modern city. “The important thing is that any future strategy is based on as much consultation as possible with the people actually living in these neighbourhoods, as well as government, business, and others,” he said. “We need to marry a new set of government regulations that are in the public interest, with a business plan, with a conservation strategy.”

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on p10-11




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strategy.” Read more on p10-11 h a a More page 4 Workers erect bamboo scaffolding around

Workers erect bamboo scaffolding around the Department of Immigration and National Population building on Mahabandoola Street near city hall early last year. The site was once home to the Rowe & Co department store, which opened its doors more than a century ago. Pic: The Myanmar Times

Ministry files case against ‘The Voice’

By Sandar Lwin

THE Union Ministry of Mines last week filed a lawsuit against The Voice Weekly over alleged misreporting in a recent report that accused of misappropriating funds. “The Ministry has applied to the court to take action against The Voice Weekly today. The case filing number is 51,” said the ministry’s director general, asking not to be named. The ministry filed the application of the lawsuit to the township court in Dagon township where The Voice Weekly is based. The officer of the court

refused to release details of the filing, including whether it was a civil or criminal application or under what section of the law potential charges could be laid.

“I have no comment on that. The one side [the

ministry] just has applied to the court to take action against the other side. We will inform both sides according to our normal procedure,” the officer said. The case stems from a March 12 report in The Voice Weekly that quoted unnamed members of parliament as saying that misappropriation of funds and graft had been uncovered by the Office of the Auditor General at six ministries, including the Ministry of Mines. “Mention of misappropriation was not true. Mentions of fraud and graft were not true,” the

director general, who is also head of the ministry’s information committee, told The Myanmar Times on March 14. “We believe the report would lead to the misunderstanding between the ministry and the public. That’s why we arranged a response to it.”

U Kyaw Min Swe, chief editor of The Voice

Weekly, said his organisation would defend itself against any charges but he believed the ministry had misunderstood the nature of the report. “As the ministry has chosen legal action, then [our organisation] will have to defend itself by the law. However, we don’t want it to reach that stage,” he said. “The things that the ministry is saying are wrong were not mentioned in our report at all.” He said the second paragraph of the article in which the Ministry of Mines was mentioned “just listed the ministries and the general interpretation of the issues included in the report of Union Auditor General’s Office”. “Then, we identified which ministry was related to what issues based on what our sources had said. Our report did not specifically say the Ministry of Mines is committing misappropriations of funds and fraud,” he said According to the director general, it is still possible that the ministry will nullify the filing if The Voice Weekly provides a satisfactory explanation.

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possible that the ministry will nullify the filing if The Voice Weekly provides a satisfactory explanation.


March 19 - 25, 2012


the MyanMar tiMes

Outline of a four- step roadmap to equitable growth

t iMes Outline of a four- step roadmap to equitable growth By Adam McCarty IN 1955,

By Adam McCarty

IN 1955, development economist Simon Kuznets presented a theory of the relationship between income inequality in a country and the path to becoming a rich developed country. He argued that income inequality increased in the early decades, when countries were “taking off” at catch-up rates of GDP growth (6-10 percent a year). When countries became rich, income inequality decreased. This was subsequently known as the Kuznets Curve. This idea stuck, and thus income inequality came to be seen as “a price to pay” for rapid growth. The problem, however, was that it was wrong. Mr Kuznets had little data, which was really only collected from about 1962 for developing economies. Hans Rowlings has shown us that data since 1962 tells us to throw out many pre-conceived ideas (see www.ted.com), and one of them is the Kuznets Curve. Myanmar can and must have balanced and equitable growth, and it can do so while growing rapidly. Equitable growth is the foundation for sustained development with social stability, which is particularly important in ethnically diverse countries. Many East Asian countries have achieved these dual objectives in recent decades and Myanmar can look to them for basic policy lessons. Here I would highlight four.

Land reform Rapid growth begins with some decades of people moving from farms to factories. That stage has finished in China, is about to finish in Vietnam, and is about to start in Myanmar. On the farm, as there are fewer people, labour productivity increases (particularly if combined with family planning campaigns). Rural households save more, and so living standards increase – not as fast as urban households, but not too far behind either. This happy story only works if households own their land; otherwise they become contract or salaried farmers to landlords (or large foreign investors), who reap the profits as rural household incomes stagnate. Some Latin American countries (and the Philippines, and maybe soon Cambodia) have that problem.

Universal education Basic primary education for the whole population is the foundation upon which to build an equitable society. Fortunately, Myanmar, has a literacy rate of over 90pc, according to 2010 survey data,

which puts it up there with China and Vietnam rather than down with India (74pc), Cambodia (76pc), or Bangladesh (56pc).

Progressive fiscal transfers and rural development programs The government can play a direct role to promote equality by raising funds in rich areas and giving them to poor areas. China and Vietnam do that, firstly by budget transfers to poor provinces, and secondly by funding sub-national governments to implement specific poverty, education and health projects. Vietnam does this more than China, and it has been argued that this alone explains why Vietnam’s growth path has been more equitable than China’s. In 2006, Vietnam spent 5.6pc of GDP on equalising transfers to provinces (China 2.2pc), and a further 8.8pc of GDP on provincial development investments (China 2.2pc). Ho Chi Minh City, for example, raised revenues of US$640 per person, but spent only $194 per person – the balance paying for the large transfers.

Household-friendly and pro- competition industry policies Rapid growth is driven by urban area employment creation and the emergence of a high-saving middle class. Letting households and companies do business with clear regulations, transparent and fair taxation, legal protection, and working infrastructure are aspects of the package of policies and expenditures needed to make that happen. Policies that limit competition (including from imports) are harmful and are invitations to corruption. Broad-based business development is far more important than attracting a small number of large foreign investors. Income inequality harms societies and can lead to civil unrest even if the economy as a whole is growing rapidly. The above policies will help Myanmar achieve rapid growth with equity.

(Dr Adam McCarty is an Australian economist who has been living and working in Vietnam since 1991 as a university lecturer and consultant, conducting policy research and project evaluations for donor agencies. In 2001, he established Mekong Economics Ltd, where he is chief economist, and his work a across the Mekong region has covered microfinance, state enterprise reform, rural development impact evaluations, trade policy, aid effectiveness, and the education sector. Dr McCarty first came to Myanmar in 2008 and has worked on microfinance and trade policy.)

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Fax: (+951) 392-706 Email: your.myanmar.times@gmail.com Hong Kong chief executive candidate Henry Tang poses for a

Hong Kong chief executive candidate Henry Tang poses for a picture with a supporter on the streets of Hong Kong on March 14. Pic: AFP

In Hong Kong, scandals aplenty ahead of ‘election’

THERE are few places in this hemisphere, aside from Australia, where citizens scorn their leaders with such fervour as they do in Hong Kong. The fact that the territory’s 7.1 million people have one of the world’s most effective governments only makes their contempt all the more admirable. In normal times, they reserve their jaundiced views about local politicians for when they are taking a break from more important matters, like eating, drinking and making money. Not this year though. The heated public discourse about the three candidates in the March 25 election for a new Hong Kong chief executive is relentless and all-pervasive. It is hardly surprising, given that the sensational revelations about the contenders would be perfect fodder for a steamy Hong Kong movie full of influence peddling, illicit sex and other hanky panky. For starters, the territory’s aggressive media has recently revealed that illegal construction work has taken place at the family home of the leading candidate, former chief secretary Henry Tang. The work involved expanding Tang’s basement into a 200- square-metre recreation area that includes fitness and changing rooms, a cinema and a wine-tasting lounge. Nothing outranks property issues in jam-packed Hong Kong, and Tang’s extensive basement folly – twice the size of more than 90 percent of the territory’s homes – provoked outrage.

90 percent of the territory’s homes – provoked outrage. He later claimed it was his wife’s

He later claimed it was his wife’s idea and that while he

knew the work was illegal, he kept quiet in order to maintain a semblance of marital harmony. To put it mildly, that is an area Tang, 59, needs to work on. Already, he has admitted to a couple of extramarital affairs and has reportedly fathered an illegitimate child. As a result, there have been widespread calls for him to withdraw from the race. But as the candidate favoured


Hong Kong’s real masters


Beijing, and with the crucial

support of local billionaires like

Li Ka-shing and Lee Shau-kee,

Tang has insisted he is not pulling out. His poll numbers, however, have suffered badly. At one time,

he was running 30 percentage

points ahead of his strongest opponent, Leung Chun-ying, a surveyor and former government adviser. As a policeman’s son, Leung has been able to reach out to plain folks who are upset at Hong Kong’s yawning wealth gap, whereas the well-heeled Tang, a textile magnate’s son, has trouble connecting with the middle-class. And now, with his campaign mired in scandal, Tang has not only fallen behind Leung, but even Beijing has turned lukewarm on his candidature

and has extended its approval to Leung. It was not unexpected since mainland leaders have always said the territory’s next boss must be patriotic to both Beijing and Hong Kong, as well as able to govern and win public support. Tang has not given up, however, and recently he asserted that all his scandals were now out in the open and were personal matters that did not impede his work. In contrast, he said his rival lacked administrative experience and had committed more serious offences, such as a conflict of interest allegation when Leung helped choose a municipal arts centre 12 years ago. The charge is an old potato

unlikely to sprout any gains for

Tang, who now trails Leung by more than 33 percentage points and is barely ahead of the third contender, outsider Albert Ho. As the Democratic Party’s candidate, Ho advocates greater openness and the early introduction of a one-man, one- vote system. He has no chance under the current election process. Of course, it is a misnomer to call it an election, since the victor will be chosen by a 1200- member committee (about 0.01pc of Hong Kong’s population), comprising mostly businessmen and professionals. Beijing has, however, agreed to allow universal suffrage for the next election in 2017, and if that pledge is honoured, then Ho and co are likely to prevail over privileged elites like the tainted Tang.


the MyanMar tiMes


March 19 - 25, 2012

US voices concern over IDPs in Kachin

YANGON – The United States is concerned about the plight of thousands of people displaced by fighting between troops and ethnic rebels in northern Myanmar, a US special envoy said last week “We have seen progress in many ethnic minority areas over the last several months and weeks,” Mr Derek Mitchell told reporters in Yangon, referring to a series of peace deals between the government and other guerrilla groups. “But in the Kachin State the violence is sticking out as inconsistent with a trend toward dialogue and confidence building and national reconciliation that we’ve seen.” Fierce fighting in Kachin State between government troops and the Kachin I n d e p e n d e n c e A r m y since June last year has displaced tens of thousands of people. “The immediate concern that we have is on the issue of internally displaced persons, who by any definition are innocent, caught in the crossfire of conflict. And we’re entering, as you all know better than I, rainy season, and that can create even more complications for their lives and wellbeing and security,” Mr Mitchell said. He encouraged the government to do its utmost to guarantee international and local humanitarian groups access to refugee camps throughout the state. “ I u n d e r s t a n d t h e political and security complications involved but I’d very much encourage serious consideration by the government in dialogue with the international community to find a way to enable provision of much-needed aid to these citizens. He announced the US would provide US$1.5 million in additional funding to the UN refugee agency to assist those displaced. Civil war has gripped parts of Myanmar since independence in 1948. An end to the conflicts and alleged rights abuses involving government troops is a key demand of Western nations which have imposed sanctions on the regime. – AFP

People will decide if vote is credible: US

By Kyaw Hsu Mon

THE Myanmar people will decide whether the April 1 by-elections are free and fair, United States envoy Mr Derek Mitchell said last week. Mr Mitchell said the by-elections would be “a tangible moment on the road to reform” and while he described his meetings with the Union Election Commission as encouraging. he received no commitment on allowing international poll monitors into the country to observe the vote. “It’s actually up to the people of the country in elections to decide whether this [election] was acceptable in terms of the representation of the popular will, whether it was conducted freely and that they were able without intimidation to exercise their right to vote,” he said at a press conference in Yangon on March 15 during a five-day visit. The Union Solidarity and Development Party will contest all 48 seats in the April 1 by-elecitons, while the National League for Democracy will contest 47. Almost 20 parties are fielding a candidate in the vote, with parties registered since the November 2010 general election required to contest a minimum of three constituencies. But the US is not interested in who wins the vote so much as the manner in which it is conducted, Mr Mitchell said. “The outcome of the election is up to the people of this country, that’s not what our interest is. Our interest is the process; that it be free, that it be fair, that it be transparent, that it truly represent the will of the people of this country and we do see this as a critical moment and marker towards building trust and confidence on the road to democracy.” He played down the recent controversy over voter lists, saying that there were “concerns about voter rolls in many countries”. “But if there are concerns there should be a process as I believe there is. I talked with the Union Election Commission and I was encouraged that they are taking it seriously and providing an opportunity for parties to raise issues like voter rolls. “There may also be questions about advanced voting and whether there’s adequate oversight on that front. But it’s up to the parties and it’s up to the people of the country to provide the necessary oversight and final word on whether this does in fact represent their will and is acceptable.” He said there had been “no announcement to us” about whether international poll monitors would be allowed into the country for the April 1 vote but said the US had encouraged the government to give

1 vote but said the US had encouraged the government to give US special envoy Mr

US special envoy Mr Derek Mitchell talks to the media at a press conference at the US embassy in Yangon on March 15. Pic: AFP

them the green light, pointing out that it would assist with the holding of future elections. “There are organisations in Asia as well as elsewhere that are professionals that can assist in making recommendations after

elections for how things could be done better and I think it would certainly be a point of reassurance to the international community that this was open for people to see how it went and that there were professional observers on the scene,” he said. Regardless of whether observers are allowed in, Mr Mitchell said the US hoped that after the vote the Myanmar people “feel it was acceptable, it was a marker, we’ll do

it better next time perhaps but it is

acceptable and it will build trust”. When asked whether free and fair by-elections would result in the US

lifting some of its sanctions against Myanmar, Mr Mitchell said other issues, including the release of all prisoners of conscience and peace with ethnic groups, also had to be taken into consideration. “But we continue to see trends in the right direction, we can see momentum moving in the right direction, so we will respond after the elections in appropriate fashion

if we believe that they are held free,

fair and transparently.” However, he also hinted that lifting sanctions could take some time and the first to go would be

those that “potentially get in the way of that reform process”. “We spent a lot of time over the past 20 years putting sanctions on for various reasons but there wasn’t

a lot of thought as to how to unpeel them and work back. “If there’s reform occurring then we want to be working with the

people here in that direction.” Mr Mitchell said he had been impressed by President U Thein Sein’s March 1 speech, which he described as “tremendously visionary”.

“I think it echoes what the NLD has been saying but I think [President U Thein Sein] has put it in his own words and he seems committed towards that same path and that gives hope that that partnership not just with the NLD but the people throughout society and the government are moving in the same direction and that’s important. “That’s the work that we’re trying

to assist

but there’s so many dangers and

challenges ahead. We have no illusions about the complicated way forward but we hope that this country continues to be a real beacon of promise.” The March 12-16 visit was Mr Mitchell’s sixth to Myanmar in seven months, and included meetings with UEC chairman U Tin Aye, Pyithu Hluttaw Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann and Amyotha Hluttaw Speaker U Khin Aung Myint. Speaking to reporters after meeting Mr Mitchell in Yangon on March 14, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

and I have optimism

said the by-elections had dominated their discussions. “I have been going around the country quite a lot in the last several weeks and well, there is no doubt about it that our greatest asset is our people. There is so much spirit in them even though they are so poor and there is so much that needs to be done to help them to realise their

full potential. So I would put people first. We want people-first politics in Burma,” she said. – Additional reporting by Shwe Yinn Mar Oo

Quintana calls for sanctions rethink

GENEVA – A UN expert called last week for a review of sanctions by some Western states against Myanmar. “I am not saying that they must be lifted, but they must be analysed in detail,” UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Mr Tomas Ojea Quintana, said on March 13. This is “because they are a human rights issue”, Mr Quintana said during a press conference after presenting his report on the situation in Myanmar to the UN Human Rights Council. “I really believe that sanctions have to do with human rights, in different areas, particularly in economic, social and cultural rights. Because of that, we have the responsibility to address it publicly, openly, not just as a carrot” for reforms, he added. The European Union, United States and other Western nations this year started easing sanctions on Myanmar in recognition of recent positive moves toward political reform after decades of direct military rule. Washington’s partial lifting now allows it to support assessment missions and limited technical assistance in Myanmar by bodies such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and International Monetary Fund. However, it continues to ban all trade and investment with Myanmar and has imposed a range of other punitive measures. The 27-nation EU meanwhile lifted travel bans against the nation’s leaders as a first step in January, while pledging further action if there were continued change. At stake are embargos on arms deliveries, logging and mining, the resumption of aid, and unlocking assets of more than 900 firms and utilities. Mr Quintana, who visited Myanmar in February, noted that recent reforms have had a positive impact but that serious human rights concerns remain. The concerns “cannot be ignored in the rush to reform and to move forward”, said the UN rapporteur, pointing to the “lack of an independent, impartial and effective judiciary” to uphold the rule of law. Discrimination against ethnic minorities also persists, said Mr Quintana, stressing that guaranteeing respect for their rights was “essential for national reconciliation” and for long- term social and political stability. The credibility of April 1 by- elections “will not be determined solely on the day of the vote, but on the basis of the entire process leading up to and following election day”, Mr Quintana said. – AFP

the vote, but on the basis of the entire process leading up to and following election


March 19 - 25, 2012


the MyanMar tiMes

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Four political objectives

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« Strengthening of national solidarity

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Four economic objectives

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« Proper evolution of the market-oriented economic system

« Development of the economy inviting participation in terms of technical know-how and investment from sources inside the country and abroad

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Mandalay chief minister promises MCDC shakeup

MANDALAY Region’s chief minister has promised sweeping changes under new mayor U Aung Maung, including less corruption, more efficient services and better handling of public complaints. Chief Minister U Ye Myint said the people had expected better municipal management following the 2010 elections, which gave the regional government responsibility for overseeing Mandalay City Development Committee (MCDC). However, he said complaints had continued to flow under long-serving former mayor U Phone Zaw Han. It was not clear, however, whether this was the reason for U Phone Zaw Han’s “promotion” to regional minister for finance and revenue on February 27

as part of a reshuffle that brought U Aung Maung – the former finance minister – to the mayor’s office. U Ye Myint said city hall should not protect corrupt staff from public complaints, adding that he expected the committee to be “more honest and lively

“They thought that processes and procedures of city hall would improve because it was undertakenandmanageddirectly by the regional government,” he said. “However, complaints have kept flowing in.” When The Myanmar Times asked Mandalay residents

Staff need to

making money for their own benefit.

stop thinking about

in its work” under U Aung Maung. “The city hoped for positive changes at city hall and they had more expectations when the government changed [in 2011],” the chief minister said at a meeting with MCDC officials on March 5.

about the reshuffle last week, most said it was too early to speculate on the impact of the new mayor. They said U Phone Zaw Han had built many roads, which had boosted property prices, and also focused on cleanliness and pollution.

U Ye Myint said fraud by some office workers had

affected regional government revenue and he had instructed

U Aung Maung to end what he

called a culture of “dishonesty” at MCDC. “Staff need to have goodwill to work for the people and stop thinking about making money for their own benefit.” U Aung Maung said he was planning surprise visits to all departments to ensure they were carrying out their duties properly.

“Every staff member has to be honest, to do all their duties and

to do them in the quickest way

as much as possible,” he said.

“I could visit any department

at any time and I won’t be notifying staff about my visit.” – Phyo Wai Kyaw and Sithu Lwin, translated by Zar Zar Soe

From page 1

Ministry files case

“There is the possibility – I say

possibility – to nullify the filing

if the media [organisation]

said they published the news without checking it because of time limitation,” he said. The filing against The Voice Weekly is the third lawsuit submitted by a Union Government ministry against

a private media company in

the past three months, after the Ministry of Transportation filed a suit against Modern Weekly and the Ministry of Health against Eleven Media Group, publisher of Weekly Eleven. Veteran journalist Maung Wuntha said the legal issues between newsmakers and the news media highlighted the importance of the formation of an independent liaison body, such as a press council. “The legal issues concerning news reporting highlight the importance and necessity of a press council in Myanmar. Then we can avoid the unnecessary legal issues,” he said

Historic Yangon

The growing interest in Myanmar from foreign companies and tourists provides both an opportunity and a threat for conservation, he said. “We have a major opportunity. Yangon is on the verge of rapid development but at the same time still has a lot of its architectural heritage intact. “There’s every possibility that Yangon can become one of the most beautiful and most liveable cities in Asia. I strongly believe preserving its architectural heritage will be a

big part of making that happen … but we have to use this small window that we have. In a year or so it will be too late.”

T h e s t r a t e g y c o u l d recommend the creation of heritage zones, with the lower end of Pansodan Street, crowded with the former offices of some of the world’s top banks, an obvious location. However, Dr Thant Myint-U

said the campaign was not so much about preserving individual structures of historical or architectural

significance, such as the State Secretariat, as maintaining the city’s overall character and neighbourhoods. “While keeping those 20 or 30 [major] buildings intact is

a good thing, if we lose all the environment around them, we would have lost a great deal. We need to come up with

a vision of what downtown

Yangon should be, that will allow the thousands of families that have lived and worked there for generations to still live and work there. And we need to preserve its very special cosmopolitan heritage,” he said. “What we need to realise is that Yangon has a unique cityscape. It’s a priceless asset. My great fear is that we will mindlessly destroy this asset in just a few years time, and only then regret what we’ve lost, forever.” Further privatisation of state assets is likely to play a major role in any conservation strategy, as many of the buildings are state owned and

underused as a result of the shift to Nay Pyi Taw. The plan would mostly likely require little or no public funding, and the few buildings that

remain operational and in state hands, such as Yangon General Hospital and the Post Office, could receive international support for restoration, Dr Thant Myint-U said. “Privatising most of them is fine, but its has to be done in a way that regulated, to make sure that the buildings are then properly renovated and kept up,” he said. “The role of government will be to set the right regulations – to grade the buildings and to determine the ways in which they should be protected. Some might be fully protected. For others, there could be a system of incentives for owners to [maintain] them. “A different category entirely

are the older residential buildings, which are being torn down it seems by the week. Here there will need to

a be a hard look at what could or should be protected and what incentives or help could be given to current owners and keep them from being demolished.” Importantly, the government appears to be behind the proposal. U Soe Thein told the Financial Times recently he believed it was important to “make Yangon a more modern city, but we also need to embrace its heritage, including its old buildings”. “We want to avoid the mistakes other Asian cities have made,” he said. “We hope this will be good for tourism and also good for the people of Yangon.” Mr Madhab Mathema, a senior advisor on UN-Habitat’s urban program, said cultural preservation was one of “four or five” major issues the government would have to

consider as part of a broader urbanisation strategy for Yangon. “Preservation of historic monuments is very important because maybe in 20 or 30 years Yangon will be on par with any major city in Asia.

What are the incentives for the international private sector to come in and stay in Yangon? Every city provides almost the same type of services these days. What makes you different

is your culture, your artefacts,

monuments and so on. In that

sense, it’s important for Yangon

to take care of its heritage,”

he told The Myanmar Times recently. One focus of an urbanisation strategy that would encourage preservation of historical sites would be to relieve pressure on the downtown area by encouraging growth and economic development in outlying areas.

“But encouraging growth outside the [downtown area] really only works if there are good transport networks. Improving the circle train line is … relatively easy to do as a starting point. And I think that would encourage

a lot of investment along

the railway route,” said Mr Michael Slingsby, an urban development and poverty

specialist at UN-Habitat. Dr Thant Myint-U said

a conservation strategy

“ w o u l d n ’ t m a k e m u c h sense” unless it fitted into

a broader urban planning

process. “We can’t, for example, make recommendations on pedestrianising parts of

downtown Yangon unless it’s part of a more general plan for traffic and transportation in the city.”


the MyanMar tiMes


March 19 - 25, 2012

5 the M yanMar t iMes n ews March 19 - 25, 2012 Firemen battle a

Firemen battle a blaze in South Okkalapa township in March 16. Pic: SUPPLIED/Fire Services Department

South Okkalapa fire leaves 75 homeless

By Htoo Aung

The fire was extinguished

at about 7:20pm, with 351 firemen, 157 reserve



FIRE that broke out

firemen, 47 fire engines and five supported engines cooperating to bring it under control. He added that 75 have been made homeless by the fire, with the total cost estimated at more than K9.6 million. A relief centre has been opened at a nearby community hall to house and assist those affected by the blaze.


a private residence in

South Okkalapa township


March 16 destroyed 12

houses on March 16, a Fire Services Department official said. He said an electrical fault at 493/A 1 st Thu Ta Street, Ward 4, sparked the blaze just after 6pm, adding that the fire quickly spread to neighbouring houses.

UN court lays to rest Bangladesh- Myanmar sea row

BERLIN – A United Nations court on March 14 laid down a new sea border between Myanmar and Bangladesh, ruling on a complex dispute in a resource-rich area that has been a frequent flashpoint for the two nations. In a two-hour ruling at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in the northern German city of Hamburg, presiding judge Jose Luis Jesus set out a new maritime line widely seen as a compromise between the two rival cases. He ruled that both countries should retain sovereignty over their respective continental shelves and, while ruling in favour of Myanmar’s method of measuring the border, handed more sea area to Bangladesh. The 23 judges from all over the world arrived at the decision unanimously although some offered dissenting opinions on some parts of the judgement. “Both sides won something and lost something,” said the German judge on the panel, Mr Ruediger Wolfrum, according to German agency DPA. Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister Ms

Dipu Moni also acknowledged it was a “victory for both sides”, according to DPA, although she said Dhaka could now begin to exploit the area for gas and oil. The row, dating back decades, brought the two countries close to military conflict in 2008 when Bangladesh accused Myanmar of exploring for gas in disputed waters. Myanmar sent military vessels to support drilling for gas by South Korean company Daewoo some 50 kilometres (30 miles) south of Bangladesh’s Saint Martin Island. Bangladesh responded by sending four warships of their own. Troops massed on the border before the tensions calmed. Myanmar has discovered huge reserves of natural gas in the Bay of Bengal and has made clear it intended to explore further in an area also claimed by Bangladesh. Dhaka hopes to resolve a similar maritime border dispute with India in 2014. Both sides have agreed to abide by the ruling and there is no possibility of appeal. – AFP

Qatar Airways to relaunch Yangon flights

By Zaw Win Than

QATAR Airways will launch flights to Yangon later this year as part of an expansion of passenger routes, the airline’s chief executive officer said last week at a leading travel trade fair. Mr Akbar Al Baker said on March 7, the opening day of the ITB Berlin travel trade show in Germany, that Qatar Airways would add flights to Myanmar, Iraq, Tanzania and Serbia during a six-month expansion plan beginning in May. He said the airline plans to begin services to Yangon by October this year, with three flights a week using an Airbus A-319 aircraft. Myanmar Marketing Committee secretary U Phyoe Wai Yar Zar welcomed the announcement and said direct flights were likely to boost tourist arrivals, particularly from Europe. “It has always been our desire to have as many direct flights as possible to Yangon to increase the carrying capacity of tourists,” said U Phyoe Wai Yar Zar, who attended the ITB Berlin event. “Let us now change our desire to have more hotel rooms instead.” Qatar Airways launched Doha- Yangon-Doha flights in 2004 but suspended them in January 2008. The news of Qatar Airways’ likely return comes after budget carriers Silk Air, AirAsia and Jetstar also announced plans to expand operations in Myanmar.

return comes after budget carriers Silk Air, AirAsia and Jetstar also announced plans to expand operations


March 19 - 25, 2012


the MyanMar tiMes

Experts call for further health spending boost

By Shwe Yee Saw Myint

A RECENT policy conference

on health and education has reignited debate on the country’s struggling public health system. While the proposed nine- fold budget increase for the Ministry of Health in 2012-13 has been widely welcomed, experts say further increases are needed along with changes to the ministry’s operating procedures. Speaking at the Conference on Development Policy Options in Myanmar in Nay Pyi Taw on February 13, Myanmar Medical Association vice president Dr Khin Maung Aye said the cost-sharing policy for public healthcare placed too much financial burden on the public. He said the public’s out of pocket expenses should not exceed 30 or 40 percent of overall health spending, well

below the 2008 World Health Organisation estimate of


He said that while there

were no “detailed” statistics on public health expenditure,

it was clear the public was

paying the majority of health

expenses. Dr Nilar Tin, director of planning at the Department of Health, said government spending on health was

just 10pc of total spending

– the lowest in the WHO’s

Southeast Asia region. She said lack of funding

was one of many weaknesses

of the country’s public health

system, including lack of staff and infrastructure, poor monitoring and supervision of staff, lack of reporting and harmonisation of data, and geographical coverage gaps. A m y o t h a H l u t t a w representative Dr Myat Nyarna Soe said last week that the government’s proposal to increase its health budget from K40 billion to K367 billion, or from 1.1pc to 3pc of the total budget, in the 2012- 13 financial year was a good first step. However,

he said that it was not only the amount of money that needed to change but also

the way in which it was spent. “The Ministry of Health needs to change many systems, such as removing the rule that 50pc of earnings from the cost- sharing system go back into the overall government budget. The ministry also shouldn’t have limitations placed on hiring staff and needs to make sure that all this money is spent on public needs,” he said. Despite the cost-sharing

system, treatment at state- run health facilities is still cheaper than at private hospitals and clinics. However, patients are forced to wait much longer to be seen by staff. In some urgent cases the long waiting times mean patients have little choice but to turn to the private health sector. Ma Thida, a 26-year-old accountant from Pabedan township, said her mother’s heart condition would have cost K1.8 million to treat at Yangon General Hospital – after waiting six months.

“At a private hospital, she can get the operation in time but we will have to spend between K2.5 million and K10 million – and that’s only for the operation, we also have to pay a lot of extra money. Right now

I am trying to choose the

hospital,” Ma Thida said. Dr Myint Oo, a general practitioner at the privately run clinic Win in Ahlone township, said it was common for people to buy medicine from a pharmacy rather than seek professional medical advice because they couldn’t afford it. “Most patients are unlikely

to come to the clinic to receive

treatment for illnesses because they cannot afford

to pay the fees, which are at least K2000,” he said. “They also try to save money on medicine, so if we tell them to take a three-day course of antibiotics they demand

a treatment that can cure them in a single day.”

India govt donates agriculture equipment

By Staff Writers

THE Indian government will provide US$10 million in assistance for the agriculture sector, its embassy in Yangon said last week. Altogether 300 tractors, 150 combine

harvesters, 288 power tillers and 775 implements have been provided, the embassy said in a statement. “These

are being distributed to farmers

in various regions and states as per the priorities of the Myanmar government,” it said. The statement said agriculture was a “priority area” of the Indian government’s assistance program to Myanmar. “Apart from the supply of this machinery and implements, support is being extended by way of education and training in the agricultural as

well as livestock and fisheries sector.

Setting up of 10 disaster-proof rice silos in the cyclone-prone delta region was also undertaken [with] Indian assistance of $2 million in 2011,” it said. The equipment was handed over to the Myanmar government at a March 9 ceremony in Yangon attended by Indian Foreign Secretary Mr Ranjan Mathai, Minister for Industry U Soe Thein and other senior officials from both sides.

U Soe Thein and other senior officials from both sides. U Win Tin (left) hands money

U Win Tin (left) hands money to the relative of a prisoner of conscience on March 12. Pic: Boothee

Foundation to support prisoners formed

By Aye Sapay Phyu

A F O U N D A T I O N n a m e d

after journalist and politician

Hantharwaddy U Win Tin was launched last week to assist prisoners of conscience and their families, as

well as writers and journalists.

Patron Hantharwaddy U Win Tin, a senior National League

for Democracy member, said the

organisation had been established

with the encouragement and support

of friends and colleagues.

“I used to share part of my money

for prisoners of conscience and their families. My friends suggested that

I expand these activities for the

long term and this foundation was established with their support,” he said at a launch ceremony at Royal Rose Restaurant in Bahan township on March 12.

“We have collected more than K10 million in funds and while it is not a

large amount yet we hope that there

the health and education needs of


support the foundation as much

will be more well-wishers who want



to support our activities.” The K10 million has come from the publishing rights and copyright of U

“I was arrested three times: in 1989, 1997 and 2008. I saw many colleagues who share our beliefs and

Win Tin’s works as well as donations and fundraising activities. “There are many people who need help in various areas of society. A lot of assistance is still needed … I am glad that the Hantharwaddy U Win Tin Foundation can be established and become an organisation that gives the public a helping hand.” Treasurer U Ohn Tun said that the foundation will assist both current and former prisoners of conscience and their families. It will also support

writers and journalists and their

faced a hard life when they got out of prison. Their families were tired from facing many challenges,” she said at the launch ceremony. “I realised from this that, when we can’t stand up straight we need some support from behind us … now [U Win Tin] has organised to help prisoners of conscience and I am so glad. Based on our previous experiences, we understand that we need to unite to achieve our goal so I am ready to do my best if I am given a role in the foundation.” Those interested in supporting the foundation can contact Hantharwaddy

families and will consider other requests for support.


Win Tin Foundation executive

Daw Mar Mar Oo, 47, a former prisoner of conscience who was released from prison in January under an amnesty said she wanted

member U Ohn Tun (01)-578-027; Maung Wuntha (01) 373-210, 09-5040- 994; and U Kyaw Aung (Shwe Pyi Tan) (01) 200-276, 09-7312-4222.

Ohn Tun (01)-578-027; Maung Wuntha (01) 373-210, 09-5040- 994; and U Kyaw Aung (Shwe Pyi Tan)


March 19 - 25, 2012


the MyanMar tiMes

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s election rival fights on in Kawhmu

KAWHMU–Unlikehischarismatic opponent he does not get mobbed by adoring crowds, but the Union Solidarity and Development Party candidate running against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in the April 1 by-elections has no time for talk of defeat. Former military doctor U Soe Min is travelling from village to village offering free treatment to spread his message and try to drum up support. He plays down the challenge of standing against a national hero like “The Lady”, who has drawn crowds of tens of thousands on the campaign trail as she stands for a seat in parliament for the first time. “Aung San Suu Kyi, the people and us – we’re like one family. We are family. The people are our father and mother. Aung San Suu Kyi is my sister,” he said during a break from campaigning. “I do not want to beat Daw Suu but I want to fulfil my duty given to me by my country,” he added. “I’m not trying to beat her. I’m just competing for myself.” The bespectacled 49-year-old is a familiar sight at the local USDP charity clinic where he works, having left the military six years ago. Wearing the USDP uniform of a white shirt and green longyi, and with his stethoscope in hand, the doctor tours his dusty hometown delivering health talks and check- ups beneath the party’s lion logo. Sometimes he dons a traditional Kayin outfit to meet patients and

would-be voters from the ethnic minority group. In stark contrast to the huge crowds that have lined the streets for a glimpse of the opposition leader, U Soe Min has the roads almost to himself as he travels around the rural constituency of Kawhmu near Yangon. His message to voters: a vote for the USDP is a vote to “build a modern, democratic country”, preserve Myanmar’s sovereignty and to “maintain the unity” of the conflict-riven nation’s various ethnic groups. With its top ranks filled with former generals, the USDP was the overwhelming victor in the 2010 general election, which the NLD boycotted. While the vote was widely criticised, the quasi-civilian government that took power in March 2011 after the end of almost half a century of outright military rule has surprised critics with a series of reforms. Observers believe that the government wants Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to win a seat in the April 1 by-elections to give its reform drive legitimacy and spur the West into easing sanctions against the country. “Aung San Suu Kyi needs the government and the government needs Aung San Suu Kyi. It’s as simple as that,” said U Aung Naing Oo, a Thailand-based analyst for the Vahu Development Institute. “Cooperation with Aung San Suu Kyi is very important for the

with Aung San Suu Kyi is very important for the Former military doctor and Union Solidarity

Former military doctor and Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) candidate for the April 1 by-elections U Soe Min checks a patient during a campaign trip in Kawhmu, Yangon Region, where he is running against NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Pic: AFP

country to move forward, to take


is also a sign of the times that

they genuinely backed its policies

away the sanctions, to bring about reconciliation.” Currently one-quarter of the

some dare to pledge their support openly against the ruling party – under the watchful eye of its local

or were simply pretending due to entrenched fear of the authorities.

seats in parliament are reserved for the army while the USDP

members. “We will support our national

“Aung San Suu Kyi just came here but she doesn’t really know

holds about 80 percent of the remainder.

leader Daw Suu. We trust her. We believe in her,” said farmer

much about what goes on here,” said 58-year-old U Tin Tin, who

While the 48 seats at stake in


Aye Hlaing, standing in front

collects firewood to sell.

the by-elections are not enough


pictures in his home of the

In the meantime U Soe Min

to threaten the USDP’s hold on power, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s entry into parliament would be

democracy leader and her late father, independence hero General Aung San.

campaigns on, hoping grateful patients will become supportive voters.

hugely symbolic and give the


t h e r s a p p e a r e d m o r e

“I truly believe that, thanks to

opposition a role in the legislative process.

enthusiastic about the USDP, although it was unclear whether

my efforts, our party will win this campaign,” he said. – AFP

Myanmar drafts new foreign investment rules

By Aung Hla Tun

YANGON – Foreigners will no longer need a local partner to set up businesses in Myanmar and may be granted a five-year tax holiday from the start of commercial operations, according to the draft of a new investment law obtained by Reuters. The long-awaited new investment regulations, along with plans to float its currency, the kyat, from April mark the boldest economic reforms since resource-rich Myanmar emerged from decades of dictatorship last year, its economy decimated by chronic mismanagement and trade- crippling sanctions. Its nominally civilian government has begun to court Western investors, who have swarmed into the commercial capital Yangon in recent months ahead of a possible end to US and European sanctions in Myanmar. The draft law adds to other signs of a remarkable economic liberalisation in the long-isolated country. Foreigners, it said, can now either own companies 100 percent or set up a joint venture with Myanmar citizens or government departments. Such joint ventures must involve at least 35pc foreign capital. Foreign investors can also lease land from the state or from private citizens who have permission to

use land, the law says. The initial lease would be for up to 30 years, depending on the type and size of foreign investment, and could be extended twice, for up to 15 years on each occasion. Foreign firms will not be allowed to employ unskilled foreign workers, and citizens of Myanmar must make up at least 25pc of their skilled workforce after five years, with companies ensuring the necessary training to achieve that.

The draft law goes some way to reassuring investors worried about a reversal of the reforms.

The percentage rises to at least 50pc after 10 years and 75pc after 15 years. It also dropped a requirement from previous legislation that products manufactured by foreign firms in Myanmar must be entirely for export. The aim is to provide more for the domestic market to reduce Myanmar’s reliance on imports, which are often too expensive for domestic consumers.

The draft law goes some way to

reassuring investors worried about

a reversal of the reforms and the

possible seizure of assets. “The government gives a guarantee that permitted businesses will not be nationalised during the period allowed in the contract or extended in the contract other than by giving compensation based on current prices in the market, in the interest of the general public,” it says, according to a Reuters translation. The law is likely to be approved by parliament during the current

session, which is expected to end later

in March. The president then has 14

days to either approve it or send it back to parliament, according to the constitution. The latest reforms will heighten debate over Myanmar’s economic potential. As big as France and Britain combined, the resource-rich country sits strategically between India, China and Southeast Asia with ports on the Indian Ocean and Andaman Sea, all of which have made it a coveted energy-security asset for Beijing’s western provinces. Some expect sanctions to begin to be lifted if by-elections on April 1, in which Nobel peace laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will run for parliament, are free and fair. A November 2010 general election was widely criticised as a sham. – Reuters

Philippine mining giant eyes Myanmar investments

MANILA – The Philippines’ largest gold miner said on

March 14 it is keen to invest in Myanmar as the former military-ruled state makes tentative political reforms and tries to lure investors with tax breaks. Philex Mining Corp has sent representatives to Myanmar in recent weeks to look at opportunities and assess the investment climate, company senior vice-president Michael Toledo told AFP. “Myanmar is opening up

and a lot of businesses are really looking at that country. We do not want to be left behind,” he said. He said Philex was eyeing metallic minerals and even natural gas in Myanmar, but did not disclose which local companies they were dealing with. “We are looking at the regulatory framework, the political landscape, how business is run there, who are the people to talk to. This is the regular due diligence that companies do,” Toledo said. The company, which posted a record net income of 5.8 billion pesos (US$136 million) in 2011, is also eyeing investments in gold and

copper in Indonesia, Toledo said. He stressed the talks were exploratory and that no commitments had been made. Myanmar has embarked on

a course of political reform,

including the release of democracy icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners. It has also installed a quasi civilian government, and allowed Suu Kyi to run in parliamentary elections in April. As a reward and to encourage further opening up, the United States and Europe have began easing economic sanctions imposed on Myanmar for its rights abuses. The Philippines has called for the sanctions to be lifted entirely. Myanmar is rich in oil, gas, timber, minerals and gems, and investors are lining up to enter the country as it

prepares to further liberalise, officials said. In January, Myanmar said

it planned to offer eight-year

tax exemptions to foreign

investors to encourage them

to enter the country. – AFP

news Feature

March 19 - 25, 2012


the MyanMar tiMes

Experts back introduction of downtown heritage zones

By Htar Htar Khin

YANGON’S legion of long- neglected colonial-era buildings were this week offered a lifeline with the formation of a non- government organisation that aims to preserve many of the

sites for future generations. The Yangon Heritage Trust, established by historian Dr Thant Myint-U, has significant private, INGO/NGO and commercial backing. But there is still much work to do before a conservation strategy is drafted, let alone put into place, and several major issues to be resolved, including the scope of preservation activities, the extent and role of the private sector and the type

proper way, so that they don’t disappear completely.” However, there are still

questions over the role of the private sector in conservation and how the protected buildings could be put to commercial use. In October, a proposal to lease the Secretariat to a private company for use as

a hotel or other commercial

venture generated much controversy but Daw Chaw Kalyar said tourism-related businesses represented an obvious use for many old buildings. “Old colonial blocks are the treasures of Yangon city and can attract tourists from all over the world. They’re very characteristic of Yangon,” she said. “These are the unique structures and resources for


regulations that will need

our country that need to be


be put in place.

not only maintained but also

One of the Yangon Heritage Trust’s members, Daw Chaw Kalyar from the Association of Myanmar Architects (AMA),

used in the right way.” U Ko Ko Lay, a director of Three Friends Construction, agreed that historical

said the plan was likely to propose the establishment of heritage zones. “Yangon’s Pansodan Road area should be regarded as a heritage zone as the

landmarks should be saved to boost Yangon’s tourism potential, adding that preservation would be an investment in the city’s future.

area is packed with heritage sites. What I want to suggest

“Preservation in the long run can bring in much revenue

is that new developments

should not be allowed in

these special areas and that we preserve the aesthetic and architectural beauty of the antique buildings in those areas,” said Daw Chaw Kalyar, who runs the Statement Architecture and Design firm. She said a survey would be conducted soon to guide preservation efforts, which were expected to focus initially on Pabedan and Kyauktada townships. “Each colonial building is different in terms of architectural value and also its structure so conducting

a survey to ascertain the

variety of old buildings and conduct a proper assessment

of each of them is needed,”

she said. “Heritage buildings are a form of historical evidence and that’s why we should conserve them in a

each year. I think rather than selling the buildings off though it would be better to use a long-term lease system to put them in the hands of private entrepreneurs,” he said. However, he said he did not believe every building should be preserved and that surveys to ascertain the historical value of different neighbourhoods should be conducted, with those offering the most potential for tourism preserved. “We can find some buildings on Shwe Bon Thar Road in Pabedan township, for example, that are of a

similar era to the Secretariat. However, they have little historical value and for that

reason I believe that they have no future other than to be torn down,” he said. “What I want to suggest

is that most of the areas in

downtown, especially where there is a high proportion of colonial buildings, should be kept as an area for tourism. But I think it will take time and will depend on the country’s economic growth and foreign investment. Hopefully in five years we can lure more tourists based on these areas.”

More than 10 years ago Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) drew up

a heritage list comprising 189 historical buildings in Yangon based on a survey conducted

in 1996. Buildings on the list

can only be renovated with permission from YCDC and renovation work must not change their original design and appearance. The list is

limited, however, because it does not include any privately held sites. AMA patron U Than Tin Aung, 62, said historical buildings should be seen as more than crumbling edifices destined for the scrap heap. The distinctive feature of the historic buildings was not only in terms of their architectural merit but also the materials used to build them, he said. “Buildings like the Secretariat Office and Yangon Post Office are the oldest government-owned heritage blocks in the city,” he said. “They’re irreplaceable and we can never get back to the construction sense of that time. If possible, we should preserve them.” U Than Tin Aung is a member of the Technical Committee for Maintaining

H i s t o r i c

comprising Yangon City Development Committee, the Ministry of Construction, Myanmar Engineering Society, AMA and other groups, that has begun renovating five historical buildings in downtown Yangon, including the State Secretariat. He agreed that

heritage areas were a possible means of preserving the feel

of areas with many colonial-

era buildings, but he said other restrictions, such as height limits, could be put in

place more widely.

B u i l d i n g s ,

Yangon’s historic buildings. Pics: Boothee, Yadanar

Tourism sector urges protecti

By Aye Sapay Phyu

COLONIAL-ERA buildings

are a valuable resource for the tourism sector and a major attraction for visitors to the city, tourism experts said last week. Many in the industry are supportive of the push for preservation but also point out the need for regulations that ensure renovation work on historical sites is tasteful. Freelance tour guide U Zaw

Lynn said he believed that preserving neighbourhoods, rather than just individual buildings, was important and that any preservation

strategy would have to fit into a viable city-wide development plan to be effective. “Althoughcolonialbuildings have great architectural value, their appearance can be diminished by nearby buildings that do not reflect the historical value of the building,” he said. “Areas such as downtown, where there many historical building are existed, should be preserved as special tourist destination areas and left alone from modern development. It is the way, I think, to conserve our treasure effectively and develop a proper city plan. “When we ride the boat to

Dala on the opposite bank of Yangon and look back to the city, we can still see the magnificent view of Yangon that existed 100 years ago. It is a resource for the tourism sector, and we can get many benefits from preservation. That opportunity shouldn’t be wasted as a result of unwise development decisions,” he said. U Zaw Lynn said his clients often expressed sadness at the lack of maintenance of historic buildings and the frequency that these sites were being demolished. “We should conserve colonial-era buildings because they say much about our country’s history, not only

they say much about our country’s history, not only Trade Mark CauTion YANMAR CO., LTD., a

Trade Mark CauTion

YANMAR CO., LTD., a corporation duly organized and existing under the laws of Japan, of 1-9, Tsuruno- cho, Kita-ku, Osaka, Japan, is the Owner of the fol- lowing Trade Mark:-

Osaka, Japan, is the Owner of the fol- lowing Trade Mark:- Reg. No. 766/2007 in respect

Reg. No. 766/2007

in respect of “Class 7: Marine engines”.

Fraudulent imitation or unauthorised use of the said Trade Mark will be dealt with according to law.

Win Mu Tin, M.A., H.G.P., D.B.L for YANMAR CO., LTD. P. O. Box 60, Yangon E-mail: makhinkyi.law@mptmail.net.mm Dated: 19 th March, 2012


the MyanMar tiMes

news Feature

March 19 - 25, 2012

M yanMar t iMes n ews F eature March 19 - 25, 2012 on of colonial
M yanMar t iMes n ews F eature March 19 - 25, 2012 on of colonial
M yanMar t iMes n ews F eature March 19 - 25, 2012 on of colonial

on of colonial sites

about how we were colonised but also how we got back our independence. They tell us our history,” he said. U Aung Tun Lin, a tourist guide from Orchestra Travel in Yangon, said his clients often expressed concern about the management of the buildings and some of the maintenance the had been carried out. “They suggested that maintenance work on colonial buildings should not affect their historical value. Some buildings are renovated with bright paint and modern materials that are not in keeping with the original style. Some guests point out that good management is needed for these national treasures and to create opportunities to raise the country’s income,” he said. Nevertheless, the city’s heritage buildings are one of main points of interest in Yangonforhisclients.Popular sites include St Mary’s Cathedral on Bo Aung Kyaw Street, Yangon’s Children’s Hospital in Dagon township and the State Secretariat at the corner of Bo Aung Kyaw and Mahabandoola streets. “They usually like to walk and take photographs along Pansodan road and Sule Pagoda Road between Mahabandoola and Strand roads, where there are many colonial buildings. They like the High Court building, Inland Water Transport Offices on Strand Road, and buildings such as the Myawaddy Bank branch on the lower block of Sule Pagoda Road,” he said. “Some guests want to visit into the State Secretariat but it is not allowed. I think

it should be renovated to something like museum so that it can be looked after and at the same time become a tourist destination. The building also has significant historical value because it is where Bogyoke Aung San and other independence leaders were assassinated.” Key to a viable preservation strategy will be support from the private sector, and there are already a few examples where creative proprietors have been able to establish successful businesses in renovate colonial-era buildings, such as Strand Hotel, Gallery 65 and Monsoon restaurant. Monsoon owner Daw Phyu Phyu Tin said customers regularly commented favourably on her restaurant’s “grand” building, a renovated three-storey structure on Theinbyu Road. “Tourists, especially from European countries, appreciate the colonial buildings. That is an advantage for our business. We have customers who visit again and again because they love the atmosphere,” she said. She said that she wanted to see the “very beautiful” buildings along Strand Road protected for the benefit of future generations. “If we don’t maintain the colonial building with great architecture, especially in the area along Strand road, I think it will affect the essence of the city. In my opinion, about 25 percent of the attraction of Yangon is in its colonial buildings. There’s no other city in Southeast Asia that is as grand as Yangon,” she said.

Businessmen voice support for building preservation

By Stuart Deed

MYANMAR’S business community has got the resources and skills to make heritage building conservation a reality – but has it got the interest? If the comments of two leading businessmen are any indication, the business community is ready to put its resources behind the preservation strategy that experts expect to have drafted by the middle of the year. Speaking to The Myanmar Times recently, Mr Serge Pun said he “was very excited and very willing to contribute whatever I can” to the Yangon Heritage Trust, which was recently formed to develop a viable strategy for the preservation of the city’s historic neighbourhoods. “I think it would be a crime to destroy history. Whatever bit of history we can preserve would be good for generations to come,” the chairman of Serge Pun and Associates said. “There has been some tendency in Asia to deny or try to delete, or rub out, part of the history. I really think there’s no need to do that: Preserving colonial buildings does not in any shape or form or degree represent a lingering sentiment to colonialism, nor does it show weakness,” he said. The crucial element, he said, is devising a “practical” strategy that encourages private sector investment in historic buildings. “And when you see say practical, there’s a fine line between keeping historical buildings that are sustainable or not,” he said. “Many times the dreams of restoring and preserving are not sustainable or fall back into disrepair again because the usage is not the right usage and so forth. Singapore has actually given us some very good examples of how they have restored historical buildings and streets and made those vibrant pockets of activity. He said experts devising the preservation strategy had to be open- minded about allowing commercial activity, citing the example of the State Secretariat. “Now there’s talk of just doing a museum and I can tell you that that will never be sustainable – it will become a white elephant where … either taxpayer money or donations [will be needed] to keep it up. “But if you think carefully that could be a beautiful compound, growing in success if … it had a

combination of a five-star hotel, a nice shopping gallery, some recreational activities in the grounds, offices and

a museum in one corner. “You can have business bustling

while at the same time preserve what was there.”

One businessman who has already

gone through the process of renovating

a colonial-era building is U Zaw Zaw, chairman of Max Myanmar Group of Companies. His company recently

redeveloped a former hospital into its Yangon headquarters. “My new office was the Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital and then it became a military office. When the government put it up for auction,

I decided to renovate it as my new

office,” U Zaw Zaw said, adding that he was happy with the final result. “I don’t think that we should remove

From a business point of view, renovating the old buildings and putting them to good use can save time and money.

the old buildings because they have their own style and history, which we can’t buy or destroy. Others may think that old buildings should be replaced with new modern buildings but I want to keep them as much as

I can,” he said. “I am sure that we need very new

buildings but we also have to keep the old valuable buildings as well. From

a business point of view, renovating

the old buildings and putting them to good use can save time and money.”

U M a u n g M a u n g T h e t ,

administrative director for Max Myanmar, said that the extensive renovations took about one year. And it’s not just domestic firms that are likely to find colonial- era buildings make an attractive office, particularly given the acute shortage of office towers and other modern-style spaces. The expatriate manager of a Southeast Asia-focused

corporate advisory firm that recently established an office in Yangon said the colonial-era building the company chose made “an excellent impression” with foreign clients.

The office belongs to the family of his

local partner and is in a “beautifully renovated” building in the downtown area. “Everyone has been very much impressed, saying it makes us look like a boutique firm. We have even been told this is the nicest office space they had visited in Yangon,” he said last week. “I believe you need developers to take the lead, renovate and provide all amenities to foreign clients so they can just move in. Foreign companies at this stage are not ready to invest a lot in ‘creating’ their office space, they want somewhere where they can settle in fast and start working immediately,” he said. “My recommendation? A ‘colonial-style serviced office’.” Mr Serge Pun said it was important to look at other places where preservation plans had been implemented relatively successfully, such as Singapore and London. “London has certain preservation grades where some buildings you’re not allowed to change anything. But other buildings you’re allowed to just keep the façade … [where] it doesn’t make commercial sense to upgrade and renovate because the usage of space is so outdated that after preservation it has very little commercial value,” he said. “When you look from the street it’s as if it was 100 years ago but everything is modern, workable and functional. “I don’t think you can put a timeframe on something like this because it’s a combination of commitment, funding, as well as understanding and support by the government. It’s also the understanding and support by the population. “Ironically, a lot of people who live in beautiful old tenements are happy

to see them pulled down because if you lived in one yourself you’d know that nothing works on the inside. “The pipes are 100 years old and outdated, the floors are about to give way and the beams are going to fall down, so you’re actually living there under quite a serious risk to your life. “So we’re looking at many balanced ways of preservation, not just preservation of isolated buildings. And I think there needs to be some understanding on that from the authorities and the population at large.” – Additional reporting by Han

Oo Khin and Thomas Kean

on that from the authorities and the population at large.” – Additional reporting by Han Oo


March 19 - 25, 2012


the MyanMar tiMes

Engineering society preparing code for gasifier standards

By Juliet Shwe Gaung

MYANMAR Engineering Society is working to establish an industr;y standard for the building and operating of gasifier electricity plants,

a spokesperson said last week.

U Thoung Win, chairman

of the society’s energy and

renewable energy committee, said some gasifiers, which work by burning biomass

– typically rice husk, are creating environmental problems. “We can see some weak

points from the operation

of gasifiers,” he said. “These

include weaknesses in the designs and construction that typically leads to unclean exhaust gasses and water,

which are polluting the land, water and air. “Although we’ve heard of a number of specific problems

in Rakhine State, we believe

people in many areas face similar issues,” U Thoung

Win said. The committee discussed

the matter with a number

of industry experts in mid-

February and is drawing up a set of basic standards, he said. U Thoung Win added that the MES document would include waste management standards, as well as a template design for gasifiers. “We’ve heard that some people [living near gasifiers] have been diagnosed with cancer or are not living as long as they perhaps should as a result of the gasifiers,” he said. “And we’ve heard that some gasifiers have poisoned ponds, killed fish and rendered water undrinkable in some ponds that waste water has flowed into,” he said. However, U Thoung Win said it would not be difficult to set basic standards because other countries have faced the same problem and MES could examine what solutions have worked elsewhere. “The reason we use rice husk-powered gasifiers is because we grow so much paddy. But if the ash content [of the rice husk] is high, we

need to work hard to reduce

the tar content in the waste products,” he said.

He said he was trying to

set up a non-government organisation to focus on renewable, sustainable and green technology.


for Rakhine Affairs under the Yangon Region government, said most power supplied in that state was generated by localised electricity generation groups.

He said towns and villages

used rice husk gasifiers with

the help of experts from Yangon but added that environmental protection

standards were low. “The main reason is that because the local people are poor, they build gasifiers as cheaply as possible,” he said. “They don’t use higher technology systems that limit the amount of waste

products. All the waste water is discharged into streams and poisons them – sometimes even snakes are killed. “And water that is

discharged onto paddy fields seriously reduces yields,” U Zaw Aye Maung said. He added that gasifiers have been used widely in Rakhine State since 2004. “Some people living near gasifiers have reported lung problems and while people know that it’s important

to filter the waste products properly, this increases the cost,” he said.

U Phyo Minllian, a

technical advisor to a Malaysian company that makes gasifiers, said associated industries also needed to be standardised. He gave an example of the company’s experiences in Thailand, where it had provided sample gasifiers to the government but was unaware that there were standards it had to meet for the gasifiers’ heat exchanger as well. “There are also certain standards in Thailand that

must be met for accompanying products, such as heat exchangers,” he said.

He added that a standard

code of practice and would better protect the environment and people.

and would better protect the environment and people. Kotra officials announce the Myanmar-Korea Economic

Kotra officials announce the Myanmar-Korea Economic Cooperation Forum at a press conference in Traders Hotel in Yangon on March 13. Pic: Boothee

SKorea to hold economic cooperation forum in NPT

By Aye Thidar Kyaw

SOME of South Korea’s top companies are preparing to make a concerted entry into Myanmar, beginning with a forum jointly organised by the Myanmar Investment Commission, a trade official said. The Korea Trade- Investment Promotion Agency (Kotra) announced at a press conference at Traders Hotel in Yangon on March 13 that the Myanmar- Korea Economic Cooperation

Forum will be held in Nay Pyi Taw on April 6. Dr Park Chulho, a Kotra commercial attaché, said the forum would be led by South Korea’s Ministry of Knowledge Economy and the Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC), while at least 100 representatives from 85 private companies would also attend. The companies are active in sectors such as mining, agriculture, energy and electricity production, logistics, hotels and tourism, transport, media and communication, automotive manufacturing and spare parts, construction materials and clothing. Dr Park said the companies included small- and medium-

sized enterprises but also heavyweights such as Samsung Electronics, Korea Gas Cooperation, Korea Express Way Cooperation, SK Telecoms and Hyundai. “We have been trying to promote business c o o p e r a t i o n b e c a u s e Myanmar’s government is reforming economically and politically and [South] Korean businessmen are getting ready to come here,” he said. He added that Myanmar and South Korea had different strengths and could complement each other. He said that Myanmar has natural resources as gas, copper and nickel, while South Korea has technology, infrastructure

and telecommunications. If the two countries

worked together, they could compete with China, India and Thailand, he said. Dr Park said there was hope that the updated foreign investment law, which went before the lower house of parliament on March 16, would solve

a number of uncertainties

that were present in the previous law. “Businessmen have to

think about these problems first and South Korean businesspeople to take many risks under the old law. But we’ve heard that

a number of procedures

have been simplified and the exchange rate will soon be unified” he said.

Dr Park said automotive companies such as SKG had already met Kotra to begin surveying Myanmar’s market, adding that he expected the company to begin looking for a joint venture soon. Bilateral trade amounted to US$970 million in the 2011 calendar year, with imports –

mainlyconstructionmaterials – worth $660 million and exports valued at about $320 million, he said. MIC figures show that South Korea’s investment in Myanmar is worth about $2.94 billion, with Daewoo International Cooperation,

the operator of the Shwe gas project, the biggest contributor at about $2 billion.

with Daewoo International Cooperation, the operator of the Shwe gas project, the biggest contributor at about
with Daewoo International Cooperation, the operator of the Shwe gas project, the biggest contributor at about


March 19 - 25, 2012


the MyanMar tiMes

Eel association warns on overfishing risk

By Soe Sandar Oo

THE country’s leading eel trading body is warning that several species are under threat from overfishing. U Ba Thaw, chairman of the Myanmar Eel Entrepreneurs Association, said at the weekly Myanmar Fisheries Federation meeting on March 13 that high prices and strong demand from

China this year had spurred reckless overfishing of wild eel. “Eel fishermen have taken advantage of rising prices and demand by catching as much as they can, which will threaten the stocks next year,” he said.

U Ba Thaw said prices had risen

by up to 100 percent year-on-year, increasing to US$5030 a tonne in March 2012 from $2500-3000 at the same time last year. He added that more trucks were being sent to border trading zones as a result. Exports in the 2010-11 fiscal year earned about $23 million but in the 2011-12 year to March 6 that had increased to $37 million, Department of Fisheries statistics showed. “I don’t think eel stocks will last for even five more years if we keep fishing in this manner. There is absolutely no discipline at any stage in fishing, trading or exporting – and we’re selling off even the smallest eel,” he said.

However, exporters said the high

prices on offer were only available for larger eel – those more than 3

feet long (1 metre) and weighing at least 160 grams – and they did not sell specimens smaller than a foot long (30 centimetres) and weighing less than 80 grams. The general secretary of Myanmar Fisheries Federation,

U Win Kyaing, said if fishermen

and exporters continued to sell eel

in such quantities, stocks could be

wiped out within three or four years. He said the industry needed to put a higher price on conservation and tightly restrict the trading of small eel. Most eels are caught in Ayeyarwady and Bago regions, he said.

eels are caught in Ayeyarwady and Bago regions, he said. Pic: Myanmar Times Archive/Aye Zaw Myo
eels are caught in Ayeyarwady and Bago regions, he said. Pic: Myanmar Times Archive/Aye Zaw Myo
Pic: Myanmar Times Archive/Aye Zaw Myo
Pic: Myanmar Times Archive/Aye Zaw Myo

Eel prices have doubled in the past year and the increased catch could be putting species at risk, officials warned last week.

Company formation: not for the faint hearted

By U Min Sein

MANY foreign investors, as well as Myanmar citizens, are planning to invest in Myanmar at this time when

it is developing and changes

are occurring quickly. For the country to receive maximum benefit from this

attention, it is absolutely necessary the government ensures smooth formation of

a company, catches up with

what other countries are offering and ensures the law

is abided by. Foreigners read

the laws before coming here

and if there is a question we need to answer according to the law. They will not be pleased if the answer is that the law says this and what they will have to do is that. They ask: “Don’t you follow the law? When was the law amended? Can you show me?” These questions are rather awkward. The first thing a person has to do in forming a company is to choose a name. Naming a company is clearly stated in section 11 of the Myanmar Company Act.

It shall not have the same

name as that of another company already registered. It shall not be a name that could be mistaken by people for that of another company. It shall not have words like

state, central bank, union or president. It shall not have words that are intended to mean that it is supported by the government or any governmental department or has links with any regional organisation. That is all the law says. But now if a foreign name is used it is required to be translated into Myanmar, whether appropriate or not. It is a tiring job. I have never heard of this being a requirement in neighbouring countries that are more developed than us. There is an expression, “CRD”, that is circulating widely among companies. CRD is an abbreviation of “Certificate of Registration of Documents”. I would be very much obliged if someone would teach me about the authority of that word in the company law.

If a director resigns or is

appointed, or a company

is liquidated or its name

is changed or its address

changes, resolutions to that effect are filed at the Company Registration Office and they say that

unless a CRD is issued by

the office, such acts are not valid. I could not find CRD anywhere in the law. According to the law, the Company Registration

Office is not a company administration office or

a department confirming

internal affairs of a company. While in quest of the solution, a person supposed to be conversant in the law referred me to section 248(4) of the company law. It states:

“The President of the Union may direct a seal or seals to be prepared for the authentication of documents required for or connected with the registration of companies.”

Then I came across

section 248(5) and I recalled

an incident that happened about two years ago.

A company from a

neighbouring country

asked us to make a Legal Due Diligence regarding

a Myanmar company so

a friend was sent to the

Company Registration Office. I had applied under section 248(5) of the law

in force for facts about the

company and offered to pay the fee. But my friend was

roundly scolded for two reasons. The first reason was that the letter was wrongly addressed to the registrar. They said it should be the director general. I maintain that the person who is responsible for the company registration should be addressed as registrar when we write a letter regarding the company registration. What is the correct way to address that person – as the

least understand section

248(5) of the company law. When a foreign company registered a joint venture

company, documents from that country that were legalised by the Myanmar embassy in that country

were submitted to the

Company Registration Office for registration.


asked, they said that the

documents were returned

to the Myanmar embassy. I

cannot understand why that

was done. The Myanmar partner was investigated by the Bureau of Special Investigations (BSI) and

o n t h s l a t e r , w h e n

the police. I won’t mention the other troubles he had

to face.

I – as well as those who

want to do business – cannot understand why this happens. The same process

is repeated for extension of

registration. The directors

are interrogated by the police, asked irrelevant

In Myanmar, the fee for company renewal – which is not in the law – is not only levied exorbitantly but there is no tax exemption. It is said that renewal has been extended from two years to three years and we should apparently be grateful for that.

No connection to “CRD” there. However, if a company has no CRD, it causes controversy over the validity of a company’s affairs. Some other directors say the director who has already resigned is still in service or they do not acknowledge the director who is appointed because no CRD is issued. I have never found this kind of issue either in the law or in our neighbouring developed countries. Section 149 of the Myanmar Company Act states: “A document may be served on the Registrar by sending it to him by post, or

delivering it to him, or by leaving for him at his office.” According to section 150: “A document or proceeding requiring authentication by

a company may be signed

by a director, secretary or other authorised officer of the company, and need not

be under its common seal.”

registrar or the director- general? We should take into account the practice of other countries and international standards. Thesecondreasonwasthat the information requested

by us was restricted to some

particular departments so for an outsider to ask was

considered an offence. When

I reported the situation

to the company from the neighbouring country, they asked how they could work with that company unless they were furnished with

the due diligence – which is instantly available in their country on the internet upon payment of the fee. I was at a loss as to how I should reply to them.

In future, companies

planning to invest in

Myanmar will want to have

a Due Diligence done. I

don’t think that problem can be solved with this system. The department concerned will have to at

questions and told to produce immaterial documents. There are tax havens in the world, such as British Virgin Islands and Bermuda. Tax havens are a state, country or territory that offers due process, good governance and low corruption and where taxes are levied at a low

rate or not at all. As a result, these tax havens receive much income from fees for company validity extension. In Myanmar, the fee for company renewal – which is not in the law – is not only levied exorbitantly but there

is no tax exemption. It is

said that renewal has been extended from two years to three years and we should apparently be grateful for that. Going through formalities

for renewal in Myanmar is somewhat different from tax havens where it can be done by just remitting the fee. In Myanmar, a certificate

that taxes have been paid, which does not concern the Company Registration Office, is required to accompany the renewal process. Everybody who has gone through this process knows how complicated and costly it is. They have to complete a lot of forms. A single trip to Nay Pyi Taw will not do it. The worst thing is that as it takes ages to extend the registration, the company registration

cannot be produced when needed. A friend told me that a company that has been importing and exporting for years could no longer apply for an import and export licence because they

did not have a CRD for

the company’s change of address. They had already filed the company’s change of address at the Company

Registration Office but had not been issued a CRD. So departments should also take cautious note of the influence of the CRD. I say in good faith that the application of matters not in the law should be reduced. It is time to consider helping foreign and local investors form companies effortlessly and swiftly. Public companies are going to be formed soon. Issues such as examination of prospectuses, minimum capital, statutory reports and statutory meetings will come up. It will be important to keep up with other countries in terms of regulations and matters like acquisitions, protection of minority rights, insider trading, rules on voting by proxy, speculation in shares and short selling to name but a few. To this end, it will be important that people who really understand and have the necessary knowledge to prepare the country to face these issues should be given the responsibility. – Translated by Thit Lwin

(U Min Sein is a Registered Accountant and Certified Public Accountant and has been practising law for more than 40 years. He was a commercial law lecturer for 20 years at the Auditor General’s Department training Grade II and III candidates.)


Production sharing contracts signed for two blocks

MYANMA Oil and Gas Enterprise last week signed production shar- ing contracts for two re- cently auctioned onshore oil and gas blocks, a source close to the Minis- try of Energy said. Hong Kong’s EPI Hold- ings and Aye Myint Khine Co, which will jointly ex- plore the RSF-10 block in Magwe Region’s Kamma- Natlaung area, signed a PSC with MOGE in Nay Pyi Taw on March 9. Two days later, Swiss firm GeoPetrol Interna- tional Holdings and do- mestic firm A1 Mining Co signed a similar agree- ment for block RSF-9 at Pyalo-Paukkaung, in Bago Region. The signing ceremonies were attended by Minister for Energy U Than Htay, MOGE and Myanmar In- vestment Commission of- ficials, an representatives of the companies. The source said two pro- duction sharing contracts would be signed for the RSF-2 and -3 blocks in Tuyintaung and Gwegyo- Ngashadaung, Magwe Re- gion, both of which were auctioned to Malaysia’s Petronas and UNOG, a domestic firm. – Juliet Shwe Gaung

Myanmar to open new border trade point with Thailand

YANGON – Myanmar will open another border trading point with Thai- land in an effort to boost trade with its neighbour, the weekly Global News journal reported last week. The Mawhtaung border trading point in south- ern Tanintharyi region will become the fifth with Thailand, the journal re- ported. Myanmar has a total of 12 border trading points, including four each with China and Thailand, two with India and two with Bangladesh. – Staff Writers


the MyanMar tiMes


March 19 - 25, 2012

Oil, gas and power summit approaches

Press release

MORE than 250 delegates from over 20 countries will attend the Myanmar Oil, Gas and Power Summit from March 27-29. Organised by the Centre for Management Technology and Myanmar’s Ministry of Energy, the MOGP Summit is the only conference

r o v i d i n g f i r s t - h a n d information and answers that will prepare industry majors and investors as well as service and support companies for ventures into Myanmar’s energy sector. Supported by M & S Co Ltd, the MOGP Summit will represent the movers and shakers within the oil and gas industry. Dramatic changes afoot in Myanmar have drawn foreign investors eyeing a slice of the frontier market’s rich and large economic potential. The summit, which is titled “Gearing Up for the Emerging Oil and Gas Opportunities”, will explore key issues involved in securing upstream oil and gas exploration ventures, as well as the key challenges, drivers and new business opportunities in Myanmar’s oil and gas industry. The main highlight at the conference is the official opening address by the Minister for Energy, U Than Htay but other significant talks will be delivered by independent energy


i n d u s t r y c o n s u l t a n t s ;


y a n m a O i l a n d G a s

Enterprise officials; Total


& P M y a n m a r ; D F D L

Mekong Group; World LP Gas Association; Myanmar


e t r o l e u m P r o d u c t s

Enterprise (MPPE); Myanmar Petrochemical Enterprise (MPE); Global Risk Analysis, Control Risks; and the Ministry of Electric Power. P a r t i c i p a n t s a t t h e MOGP Summit can look forward to interacting with key decision-makers from leading oil and gas and petrochemical companies, exploration firms, energy consultants, storage and logistics companies, EPC companies, legal counsellors, project financiers, trading firms, government officials and more. Besides the multi-speaker discussion sessions, there is also a separately bookable pre- conference workshop on “Developing Large- Scale Oil/Gas Projects in Myanmar - Structures and Issues” scheduled on March 27 that will be led by Mr Matthew Bubb and Mr John McClenahan of Ashurst. To access full agenda of MOGP Summit visit the event’s website http://www. cmtevents.com/aboutevent. aspx?ev=120316. For details on reser vations please contact Ms Huiyan at (+65) 6346 9113 or email huiyan@ cmtsp.com.sg

China trade expo to start March 30

By Aung Kyi

AN exhibition aimed at boosting trade between Myanmar and China’s

Guangxi region will be held

in Yangon from March 30 to

April 2, the local organiser said last week. The exhibition is being organised by the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) and the Myanmar Chinese Chambers

of Commerce and Industry.

A Myanmar Ministry of

Commerce official in Nay

Pyi Taw said the ministries of commerce from both

nations were also assisting

in organising the expo.

It will be held at the

Myanmar Convention Centre, a UMFCCI central

committee member said last week.

U Myo Thant, managing

director of NMT Ltd and a UMFCCI central executive

member, has been assigned

to organise the exhibition,

which will feature stands from more than 200 Chinese businesses. The Ministry of Commerce official said about 200 Chinese businesspeople are expected to arrive in Yangon on March

businesspeople are expected to arrive in Yangon on March Guangxi Liugong heavy machinery on display at

Guangxi Liugong heavy machinery on display at an Aung Gyi Group of Companies showroom at Shwe Lin Ban

Industrial Zone, in Hlaing Tharyar township, Yangon on March 15. Pic: Aung Kyi

20 ahead of the expo and further discussions will be made for the activities at the commodities fair, he said.

The exhibition will include automobiles, machinery, electrical equipment, food and beverages and clothing.

The trade exhibition will also be accompanied by the signing of some trade agreements between Guangxi and Myanmar entrepreneurs, he said. Chinese entrepreneurs are expected to arrive in

Yangon on March 20 and further discussions will be made for the activities at the commodities fair, he said. “Machinery and vehicles

– including passenger cars

– may also be sold at the fair if an agreement is reached between the two ministries but the buyers will have to pay for the taxes imposed by Myanmar,” he said. A spokesperson from a sole local agent for Chenglong Motor and Guangxi Liugong Machinery Co said, “We’ve

already got permission to import vehicles from China

and we are planning to sell them at the fair”. “We have been acting as

a sole authorised dealer for

Myanmar for two companies

– Chenglong Motor and

Guangxi Liugong Machinery Co – since 2006, so we can sell vehicles at the expo,” said U Myo Min Thant, information officer for Aung Gyi Group of Companies. The vehicles imported from Chenglong Motor and

Guangxi Liugong Machinery Co are for construction, road or dam building, timber production and mining industries, said U Myo Min

Thant. “But due to the limited

space at the fair, we will only be able to display some of our vehicles at the expo, although they will be available for viewing during or after the fair at our company’s showrooms in Yangon, Mandalay, Nay Pyi Taw and Muse,” he said.

for viewing during or after the fair at our company’s showrooms in Yangon, Mandalay, Nay Pyi


March 19 - 25, 2012


the MyanMar tiMes

Job watch

March 19 - 25, 2012 16 the M yanMar t iMes J ob watch VACANCY ANNOUNCEMENT


VACANCY ANNOUNCEMENT Mitsubishi Corporation, Yangon Branch Business Staff (International Trading / Project Development)

Mitsubishi Corporation, Yangon Branch Business Staff (International Trading / Project Development)

Mitsubishi Corporation, Yangon Branch is seeking applications from highly motivated and qualified personals.

- Male or Female, age 20 to 30

- Bachelor’s Degree or higher


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Interested people are requested to mail or fax your curriculum vitae with your recent photo to the following address not later than 10 th April 2012

the following address not later than 10 t h April 2012 Mitsubishi Corporation GPO Box 1529

Mitsubishi Corporation

GPO Box 1529

#1902. 19 th Floor, Sakura Tower, 339, Bogyoke Aung San Road. Kyauktada Township, Yangon, Myanmar Fax No. 01-95-255801

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E-mail: esearch@yangon.net.mm

Emerging economies slow, world economy shivers

By Francesco Fontemaggi

PARIS – World markets’ reaction to recent signs of a slowdown in emerging economies has highlighted the importance of these new engines of global growth to the financial system, say analysts. Markets were destabilised on March 12 by Chinese data showing that China, the world’s leading exporter, posted a huge trade deficit last month, largely because of slowdown in exports to advanced economies. “Slowing emerging market growth is very consequential for global growth in general,” UBS economist Bhanu Baweja noted. Some good news came from the OECD though, which said on March 12 that tentative signs of economic upturn had appeared in the eurozone even as business activity showed signs of flagging in China and Brazil. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said the United States and Japan had the most improved growth prospects. “Stronger, albeit tentative” signals were evident in major economies and in the eurozone. But figures for China and Brazil were now below trend. China, the second-biggest economy in the world, has cut its 2012 growth target to 7.5 percent from a previous estimate of 8pc, as it swung into a trade deficit of US$31.48 billion in February. Brazilian growth slumped to 2.7pc last year from 7.5pc in 2010, while India’s economy expanded by 6.1pc in the last

three months of 2011, the weakest pace in three years. They have been hit by several factors, including economic slumps in markets such as the United States and Europe, and the rising cost of energy. But even Russia, which relies on providing natural resources such as oil and gas for much of its economic growth, expects 3.7pc growth this year, down from 4.3pc in 2010. Moscow’s main market, the 17-nation eurozone, has been held back by a chronic debt crisis and is now in a “mild recession” according to European Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn. However, the latest trend indicators for Russia, and for India, point to a possible upward turning point for growth. The latest forecast by the European Central Bank says that the eurozone economy will contract by 0.1pc this year, and then grow by 1.1pc in 2013. Italy, the third-biggest eurozone economy which has approved austerity measures to battle heavy debt, entered recession late last year with a fourth- quarter contraction of 0.7pc, the state statistics office said on March 12. OPEC has trimmed its 2012 global oil demand growth forecast for the second time owing to the slowdown in major economies and higher crude oil prices. Indicators from developed economies have presented a fairly gloomy picture, with consumer confidence falling in Japan and France, and a eurozone purchasing managers index slipping back in February. Other data is a little more promising however, such as that for German and

Indian industrial output which rebounded in January, and news from the United States which also give reason for hope. The US economy created 227,000 new jobs in February, and US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke says growth this year will stay close to or slightly above the 2.25pc pace of late 2011. A study by the consulting group Grant Thornton noted a growing dependence of BRIC economies, those of Brazil, Russia, India and China, on the rest of the planet. Three-fourths of business leaders from those countries said they were concerned about a possible global slump in the coming year. Those most worried were in India at 96pc, but all forecast stiff headwinds for exports. Baweja at UBS nonetheless felt the worst might have passed. “The slowdown in emerging markets is not new, they have been slowing down since June” of last year, he said, in part because of restrictive policies aimed at keeping those economies from overheating. “Now the story may be the opposite, that emerging countries may be close to bottoming out,” though he forecast “a very, very modest” rebound. Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has also estimated that the point of the sharpest slowdown in growth has passed, as the Reserve Bank of India was set to cut its key interest rates on March 14. Brazil’s central bank is expected to do the same. – AFP

Goldman banker quits, hits out at culture of ‘ripping off’ clients

By Paul Handley

WASHINGTON – Investment banking titan Goldman Sachs has become a “toxic and destructive” firm focused on milking clients for everything it can, a resigning executive director said on March 14 in the New York Times. Greg Smith said the Wall Street giant, which paid huge penalties for double-dealing with investors in mortgage securities during the financial crisis, had dumped its old culture of honestly helping its customers make money. Today, instead, customers are called “muppets” by top executives and staff talk about “ripping their clients off”, Smith wrote in an opinion piece. “I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it. “To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money,” he said in the article, published on his last day at work for Goldman. He blamed chief executive Lloyd Blankfein and president Gary Cohn for having “lost hold of the firm’s culture on their watch”. “It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as ‘muppets’, sometimes over internal email.” Smith said that when he joined Goldman, Wall Street’s largest and most powerful deal-

Goldman, Wall Street’s largest and most powerful deal- A policeman keeps watch at an entrance to

A policeman keeps watch at an entrance to Goldman Sachs headquarters in New York city on March 14. Pic: AFP

maker, nearly 12 years ago, its culture was centred on integrity and “always doing right by our clients”. “The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years.” Now the company is all about raking in the bucks from clients in any way possible, he said. “Today, if you make enough money for the firm [and are not currently an axe murderer] you will be promoted into a position of influence.” Goldman rebutted Smith, insisting it is focused on the client. “We disagree with the views expressed, which we don’t think reflect the way we run our business. In our view, we will only be successful if our clients are successful. This fundamental truth lies at the heart of how we conduct ourselves.”

Smith said that while at Goldman he had advised clients handling more than US$1 trillion. His last position was London-based executive director and head of Goldman’s equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In an internal letter to staff released to the media, Blankfein and Cohn characterised Smith as simply one of nearly 12,000 employees holding the title “vice president”. They said there would always be “people who could feel disgruntled” in a company of 30,000 employees. But the opinion piece echoed the rising criticism of the firm as symbolic of investment bankers who allegedly rake in billions of dollars as they wreak havoc on US business and the economy. In 2010, Goldman paid a then-record $550 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle charges

that it sold dodgy mortgage- backed securities to investors while simultaneously betting that they would fall in value. And last month a judge took Goldman to task for standing to profit handsomely on both sides of the deal as it advised gas pipeline operator El Paso Corp to accept a $21 billion takeover offer from rival Kinder Morgan. The judge pointed out, as did El Paso shareholders who said the offer was too low, that Goldman had two board seats and a 19 percent stake at Kinder, and its chief El Paso adviser owned $340,000 of Kinder shares. Smith was both lauded and assailed throughout the financial community and media for his stance. Some called him brave and honest, while others said he was hypocritical and even naive about how business is done in the investment banking world. But former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker,

speaking in Washington, said the article reflected a change of market mentality over the past 15-20 years. The shift came from a combination of investment banks shifting toward trading their own books, and of Goldman’s conversion from a partnership

to a public company.

G o l d m a n “ l i k e o t h e r investment banks became a trading operation rather than

a largely customer-oriented

underwriting M&A [mergers and acquisitions] kind of operation”. “And that changed the mentality, and I’m afraid it’s a business that leads to a lot of conflicts of interest.” – AFP


the MyanMar tiMes


March 19 - 25, 2012

Obama slams China in WTO over rare earths

By Paul Handley

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama last week hit out at China for limiting exports of rare earth elements used in high-tech goods, as the United States, European Union and Japan jointly accused Beijing of breaking trade rules. The three economic powers lodged a complaint with the World Trade Organisation saying China – which produces 97 percent of the world’s supply of rare earths such as lutetium and scandium – was unfairly benefiting its own industries by monopolising global supply. “If China would simply let the market work on

its own we would have no objections, but their policies currently are preventing that from happening and they go against the very rules that China agreed to follow,” Obama said. The complaint argues Beijing places restrictions on the export of 17 rare elements as well as tungsten and molybdenum. Used to make a range of high tech products, including powerful magnets, batteries, and LED lights, they find their way into electric cars, iPods, lasers, wind turbines and missiles. “China’s restrictions on rare earths and other products violate international trade rules and must be removed,” EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said, adding

Beijing had failed to make any changes after an early complaint. “This leaves us no choice but to challenge China’s export regime again to ensure fair access for our businesses to these materials,” he added. The complaint formally requests “dispute settlement consultations”, the first step in any bid to settle WTO disputes. Beijing said it would abide by the WTO’s procedures. But it argued its controls, which include export duties and quotas, are necessary to help conserve highly sought- after natural resources, limit environmental damage from excessive mining and meet domestic demand. “Based on environmental protection and in order

to achieve sustainable development, China carries

out management policies over the export of rare earths,” foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said. “We believe such measures comply with WTO rules.”

A commentary from the

state-run Xinhua news agency branded the filing “rash and unfair” and said it

was “likely to hurt bilateral trade ties and trigger a backlash from China instead of settling the rift”.

It is the newest complaint

by industrial powers at the WTO over Chinese trade in raw materials. Earlier this year the Geneva-based body found China to have illegally restricted exports of raw materials like bauxite, zinc and magnesium.

“China continues to make its export restraints more restrictive, resulting in massive distortions and harmful disruptions in supply chains for these materials throughout the global marketplace,” said

US Trade Representative Ron Kirk. “Because China is a top global producer for these key inputs, its harmful policies artificially increase prices for the inputs outside of China while lowering prices

in China.” “We want our companies building those products right here in America, but to do that, American manufacturers need to have access to rare earth materials, which China supplies,” Obama said on March 13.

The White House last month set up a high-level interagency team under the USTR office to expedite trade complaints, with China the primary target. But the announcement came just as China’s Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai was visiting Washington. S t a t e D e p a r t m e n t spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said she did not know

if US officials briefed Cui on the WTO action but said that Washington’s concerns on rare earths should come as no surprise. “Our hope is that this can be resolved and can be resolved appropriately using WTO mechanisms,” she said.

“We have

obviously a lot

of other business to do at the same time.” – AFP

Trade Mark CauTion

YanMar Co., LTd., a Corporation duly organized and existing under the laws of Japan, of 1-9, Tsurunocho, Kita-ku, Osaka, Japan, is the Owner of the following Trade Mark:-

Osaka, Japan, is the Owner of the following Trade Mark:- reg. no. 11942/2011 in respect of

reg. no. 11942/2011

in respect of “Class 04 : Mineral oils and greases for industrial purposes [not for fuel]; non-mineral oils and greases for industrial purposes [not for fuel]; fuels; waxes [raw material]; solid lubricants; crude oil or refined oil, industrial oil, motor oil, lubricant, diesel fuel oil, light oil, oil for internal combustion engine, flammabilityoil. Class07:Generatorsofelectricitywith waste heat utilization systems; agricultural implements other than hand-operated, agricultural machines, combine harvester, rice transplanter, binder, mobile thresher, rice huller, power tiller, bush cutter, vegetable transplanter; lawnmowers; motors and engines other than for land vehicles, parts and accessories for motors and engines of all kinds (other than for land vehicles), diesel engines, gasoline engines, engines for marine vehicles, Marine Compressors, piston pin bushing, piston, piston pin, piston ring, fuel filter; pump, pump machines, gas heat pump; generators of electricity, diesel generators, gasoline generators, gas engine generators; construction machines and apparatus; loading-unloading machines and apparatus; parts and fittings; construction machines, excavator, wheel loader, Power shovel, bulldozer, motorised all-terrain carriers, carrier; snow ploughs; submergible cleaner for fish farming nets. Class 11: Air-conditioning apparatus, GHP (Gas Heat Pump) air-conditioning systems, boilers, refrigerating appliances and installations, refrigerating containers, forage drying apparatus, heat exchangers, lighting tower. Class 12:

Motors and engines for land vehicles, vessels and their parts and fittings, pleasure boat, fishing boat, tractor, tractor for agriculture. Class 16: Boxes of cardboard or paper, packing paper, bags (envelopes, pouches) of paper or plastics, for packaging”.

Fraudulent imitation or unauthorised use of the said Trade Mark will be dealt with according to law.

Win Mu Tin, M.A., H.G.P., D.B.L for YanMar Co., LTd. P. O. Box 60, Yangon. E-mail: makhinkyi.law@mptmail.net.mm Dated: 19 th March, 2012

D.B.L for YanMar Co., LTd. P. O. Box 60, Yangon. E-mail: makhinkyi.law@mptmail.net.mm Dated: 19 t h


March 19 - 25, 2012


the MyanMar tiMes

Outer Dagon township prices fall back to earth


By Noe Noe Aung

prices,” U Soe Myint said. He added that prices had fallen by between 70 and 80 percent by March from earlier highs. “Prices stopped increasing in November and began falling in December, and they’re back at their original level now. I can’t see that prices will fall any further,” he added. U Min Zaw Oo, the owner of Su Lyan Phyo real estate agency in Kyauktada township, said it was a buyer’s market in the Dagon townships. “Althoughownersaretrying to sell land plots urgently, no one is interested in buying anymore,” he said. But a freelance agent from East Dagon township said land price falls in East Dagon and Dagon Seikkan had been spurred by the government’s decision to requisition land from civil servants, many of whom had bought plots in the area 20 years ago. “People are scared and they want to sell their land urgently,” he said, adding that compensation paid on the acquisitions was as little as K12,000 – the same price paid to buy the land originally. “Only a few people are buying, even though prices have fallen considerably.”

PROPERTY prices in far- flung Dagon townships have returned back to normal after spiking just before the New Year, real estate agents said last week. “There’s no demand for land in East Dagon and Dagon Seikkan anymore,” said U Soe Myint, the owner of a real estate agency in North Dagon township. “I think land in those areas used to be undervalued but the increase a few months ago was incredible. What we’re seeing now is prices going back to normal,” he said. Prices of land plots in the area shot up to K60 million before Christmas, from K2 or K3 million earlier, as a result of rumours that the government was considering building a new industrial zone nearby. “There were so many rumours spreading that the government would build an industrial zone or foreign investors would start a private project,” said U Soe Myint. “ M a n y C h i n e s e businesspeople bought land, which pushed up the prices but now those buyers have vanished and nobody is willing to pay such high

By Elodie Cuzin

MADRID – Fighting eviction for failing to pay the mortgage on his home in Spain’s capital, Nelson Castillo is now grappling not only with his own debts but also those of a family he does not know. The 39-year-old and his wife acted as guarantors of another Ecuadoran family’s loan under a program run by an agency that negotiated loans for immigrants. In return, that family acted as the guarantor for Castillo’s loan. Now, both families are in arrears. And each of them is legally responsible for its own loan and for the loan it guaranteed. “We were two families and we did not know each other. Ecuadorans are like that. We had to sign the papers and that’s it. Goodbye, and each side went its own way,” said Castillo. Dozens of anti-eviction activists had gathered outside his Madrid apartment building on March 13 to

outside his Madrid apartment building on March 13 to Families face eviction for backing loans to

Families face eviction for backing loans to strangers

Ecuadoran homeowner Kelly Herrera (left) closes her eyes as a psychologist speaks with police coming
Ecuadoran homeowner Kelly
Herrera (left) closes her eyes
as a psychologist speaks with
police coming to evict Ms
Herrera from her house in Madrid
on March 13. Pic: AFP

prevent court clerks and bank officials from ejecting Castillo a nd his family from their home. Inside the apartment a volunteer psychologist tried to comfort Castillo’s wife, 40-year-old Kelly Herrera, who sat in distress on the couch while the couple talked to police. The couple were given until March 30 to pay their debt of 222,000 euros (US$291,000) claimed by the bank. And they are still liable for the loan given to the other family. “Today they are demanding my loan. But later on they will demand the second,” said Castillo. The couple’s lawyer Rafael Mayoral had requested that the eviction be blocked for “humanitarian reasons” because their two children are minors and a knee injury prevents Herrera from working at the moment. But above all the lawyer argued that the couple are “victims of a swindle”. The couple and nine other families are suing an agency, Central Hipotecaria del Inmigrante, which ran a system of “cross guarantors”

for loans among people that did not always know each other. “It was a pyramid scheme of financial risk management,” said Mayoral. Despite the investigation underway into the agency, the courts have refused to issue a moratorium on evictions. A fortnight ago the government approved a voluntary “code of conduct” for banks that aims to help poor homeowners settle their debts and reduce a wave of evictions brought on by Spain’s economic crisis. Forfamilieswhosemembers are all out of work and have no other source of income, the code obliges signatory banks to restructure their mortgage debt by for example lengthening the term of the loan or reducing its interest rate. The goal is to reduce the number of evictions in Spain, which amount to about 300,000 since the collapse of a property bubble in 2008. But the new code will not help Castillo and his family. “The bank did not give me any option, I wanted to

give them the apartment in exchange for clearing my debt but they were not interested,” he said. Castillo, a waiter, said with pride that he “only spent a few months out of work” since he moved to Spain in 1996. In 2006 he and his wife decided to buy an apartment while Spain was still in the midst of a property boom. The couple took out a mortgage with a variable rate that started out with

a monthly payment of 900 euros ($1206).

But as Euribor interest rates rose, their monthly mortgage payment shot up

to 1420 euros ($1903).

“It became impossible to pay. I earned 1000 euros [$1340] a month and my wife also did not earn much. Things became complicated. I tried to reach an agreement with the bank but it was not possible. I stopped paying,” said Castillo. Castillo said he did not know if the family which signed as the guarantor of his loan has suffered any consequences because he stopped making his mortgage payments. – AFP

By-election, expected FDI boost property sales: agents

BUYERS have returned to the property

market since mid-February, real estate agents said last week.

U Than Oo, the managing director of

Mundine real estate agency in Kyauktada township, said buyer interest was being spurred by the expectation of an increase in foreign investment. “We are seeing strong sales interest in

most high-end areas in Yangon. I think buyers are trying to get attractive properties now before foreign companies enter the marketplace,” he said. “Properties priced at between K300 million and more than K1 billion in Bahan, Kamaryut, Mayangone, Yankin, Thuwanna, Thingangyun and Hlaing townships are selling well,” he said.

“It seems evident that many of the deals

are for properties to be used as company offices or businesses,” he said.

U Sai Khung Noung, the managing

director of Sai Khung Noung real estate agency in Tarmwe township, said the increased interest in real estate was being driven by the April 1 by-elections. “We have seen demand rising sharply since mid-February for properties priced between K100 and K500 million. I think

people are buying back into the real estate market again in the hope that prices will appreciate quickly in the near future,” he said. “I would say demand has risen by about

20 percent since early February, mainly due to the approaching by-election,” said U Sai Khung Noung. He added that condominiums priced between K100 million and K300 million in Dagon, Bahan, Sanchaung and Mingalar Taung Nyunt townships are all receiving strong interest. “I think some buyers are expecting foreign investment to arrive in the near future and are betting that more foreigners will want to stay in condominiums,” he said.

U Khin Maung Aye, owner of Shwe

Kan Myay real estate agency in Tarmwe

township, believes that the by-election is having a positive effect on the market.

“I feel that the upcoming by-election

is having an influence on the market by building confidence in the government’s reforms. And that is pushing demand for property in commercially attractive areas in Yangon.” he said, adding that his agency has seen demand rise by 25pc since early February. – Htar Htar Khin


the MyanMar tiMes


March 19 - 25, 2012

Britain launches scheme to boost flagging housing market

LONDON – Britain launched a scheme on March 12 to help homebuyers borrow up to 95 percent of the value of a new property, to boost the flagging housing market and construction industry. The “NewBuy Guarantee” scheme, intended to help first-time buyers and existing homeowners, is supported by the banks Barclays, Nationwide and Royal Bank of Scotland unit Natwest. The government hopes the initiative will help up to 100,000 people to buy a newly built home with a deposit of 5pc or 10pc of the value of the property, rather than the 20pc which is usually required by banks. Under the plan, property developers will contribute 3.5pc of the purchase price and the government will put up 5.5pc. The scheme is available on apartments and houses up to a maximum value of £500,000 (US$781,666) in England only. In the event of repossession, lenders will be able to recover any losses from the borrower’s deposit and the developer’s contribution, and will then be able to call on the state guarantee. “We want to help everyone achieve their aspirations, and feel the pride of home ownership,” housing minister Grant Shapps said in an official statement. “So I’m delighted that from today the ‘NewBuy Guarantee’ will give thousands

of prospective buyers the chance to buy

a home with a fraction of the deposit

normally required.” The Conservative-Liberal government on March 12 also announced plans to

relax restrictions on its “Right to Buy” scheme, under which social housing tenants can purchase their property at

a discount. NewBuy meanwhile has been designed by private-sector organisations the Home Builders Federation and the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML). However, some analysts expressed doubts about whether the scheme would help reboot the market. “The property market will come back

when it is ready to come back and schemes like this are mere tinkering around the edges,” said Jonathan Samuels, chief executive of Dragonfly Property Finance. “If the government thinks this scheme will kickstart the property market then

it is in cloud cuckoo land.”

Many lenders suffered huge losses during the 2008 financial crisis, after offering mortgages that were actually worth more than the value of properties. – AFP

Philippines’ squatters wage daily battle against eviction, relocation

By Cecil Morella

MANILA – The women and children of

a shantytown in the Philippine capital

huddled along an alleyway while the men battled riot police nearby in a last-ditch stand to save their homes. Many of the 600 residents had lived in the shantytown in the centre of Metro Manila all of their lives but, without any formal

legal title to their homes, were being evicted

to make way for a new town hall. “They treated us like criminals,” spat

out Vicky Balabor, a 47-year-old mother

of three, after the hour-long confrontation

that saw riot police fire water cannons and tear gas at the men of the neighbourhood. The men resisted with petrol bombs, rocks and bottles, but numbering only a few dozen, were no match for the roughly 500 riot police who paved the way for demolition crews armed with crowbars to tear down the shantytown. Twenty-two people were slightly injured, including residents, police and demolition crew members, while 13 men defending their homes were arrested in January’s skirmish, according to local city council spokeswoman Grace Cortes. The clearing of Pinaglabanan, an 8-hectare (19.8-acre) park, was just one

of many battles that regularly erupt and pit Manila’s giant “informal settler” community against authorities or property developers who want the land. More than two million people in Metro Manila – or roughly one fifth of the

sprawling city’s population – live in shanty towns as so-called informal settlers. The urban blight is worsening as the Philippines’ population continues to expand

at one of the fastest rates in the world, and

people from rural areas head to Manila and other cities in search of work. The phenomenon sees squatters take over parcels of vacant land and build shanties. With grinding poverty stripping away choices for the desperate squatters, almost any type of vacant land is considered an opportunity with some shantytowns built atop public cemeteries and many in flood- prone areas. But while the squatters do not have formal rights to the land, Philippine law

makes it hard for the owners – whether they be the government or private interests – to get it back. A 1992 law says demolitions and evictions will not be allowed unless the settlers occupy dangerous areas, when the site is needed for public infrastructure projects,

or when there is a court order. Some politicians also encourage the settlers to stay so they can be used as

Informal settlers throwing stones at members of the demolition team, during a demolition operation to
Informal settlers throwing stones at members
of the demolition team, during a demolition
operation to give way to the construction
of a new city hall building in San Juan City,
suburban Manila in mid-January. Pic: AFP

reliable supporters in elections, while high- profile protests or battles such as the one seen in Pinaglabanan can buy extra time for squatters. In the Pinaglabanan case, the eviction occurred only after lengthy legal proceedings, with the local council winning court approval to demolish the slum 12 months earlier to make way for the town hall. In one incident showing the strength of informal settler communities, President Benigno Aquino suspended a 22-billion- peso (US$515 million) project to turn some government land in Manila into a business and shopping district in 2010 after squatters fought police to prevent the eviction of 6000 families. The government was also forced to fight all the way to the Supreme Court in 2007 for permission to evict 20,000 squatter families from the former army headquarters in Manila. After winning the legal challenge, the area was turned into an upscale business, residential and retail district called The Fort that has become one of the capital’s most prestigious districts. About 3.5 million low-cost homes need to be built across the country to address the squatter problem, according to Antonio Bernardo, chief executive of the national government’s Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board. He said the national and local governments were implementing programmes to try and move squatters out of dangerous areas and into formal communities, giving them

financial incentives to do so such as low- interest loans. Bernardo also pointed to a law that said one out of every five homes built by Philippine developers must cost under 400,000 pesos ($9000). But Arturo Corpuz, vice president and urban planning chief for Ayala Land, the country’s largest property firm, said these low-cost homes were beyond the reach of many informal settlers. And many of the areas where informal settlers are asked to move are further away from parts of Manila where work can be found. Balabor and others in the group cleared from Pinaglabanan in January were going to be trucked off to live in low-cost homes at a mountainous site in Rodriguez, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) away. Under the local government’s relocation scheme, they can live in the small concrete homes in Rodriquez for free for one year, but will then have to start paying the monthly mortgage of about $175. But Balabor, 47, earns just $220 a month working as a cleaner at a Manila call centre, while her carpenter husband is out of work. Even the bus ride from her planned new home to her workplace would cost a third of her salary every month. Balabor said her family had no choice but to move to Rodriquez for the moment, but she had no idea how they could meet the mortgage payments in a year’s time. “We just don’t know what we’re going to do,” she said. – AFP

meet the mortgage payments in a year’s time. “We just don’t know what we’re going to
meet the mortgage payments in a year’s time. “We just don’t know what we’re going to


March 19 - 25, 2012


the MyanMar tiMes

Climate change hits ‘SimCity’


change is coming to SimCity, the video game where players can build whole cities.

A new version of the city-

building computer game that factors in real-world consequences of energy choices has won endorsements from Twitter co-founder Biz Stone and the director of the Academy Award-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth. “We are updating SimCity with technology of today and introducing it to a new generation of gamers,” Maxis studio senior vice president Lucy Bradshaw said at this year’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. “It gets under your skin; exposes you to the idea of cause and effect and that choices you make have repercussions,” she said. Millions of people have played SimCity since the computer game designed by Will Wright was first released in 1989. The original title won a broad, devoted following and led to a successful franchise of “Sims” strategy games in which players manipulate worlds and animated characters in simulations of real life. Sims 3 Showtime software,

released on March 7 as an addition to the latest version of the game, lets players act out fantasies of becoming famous

singers, acrobats, magicians or DJs. The US$40 expansion pack adds a host of features, including one allowing players to send their characters into other people’s games via the internet with a capability called “SimPort”. While the franchise has thrived, it has been nearly

to affect neighbouring cities. “In SimCity resources are

finite, you struggle with

decisions people are struggling with today in the real world and your decisions can have

a global impact,” Bradshaw

said. “Be a polluter and you are

ultimately going to affect your

Will you have

the wealthiest, fittest, greenest city ever or the sludgiest, most yikes-worthy SimCity ever?” Maxis collaborated on the

friends’ cities

In SimCity resources are finite, you struggle with decisions people are struggling with today in the real world and your decisions can have a global impact.

a decade since the release of

the last version of SimCity for

desktop or laptop computers. A Maxis team will have a fresh SimCity title ready in 2013, according to Bradshaw. A l o n g w i t h r i c h 3 D graphics, the game will have

a new simulation engine that

enhances its realism and extends ramifications of urban design decisions past borders

title with Games For Change,

a group devoted to the creation

of games that combine fun with

learning about social issues. “I love the game,” said Inconvenient Truth director Davis Guggenheim, who played an early version with his son.

“Climate change is the biggest crisis of our time, but there is a disconnect because it is not in front of us,” he added.

“When you play SimCity it is in your face; if you build

a coal power plant you feel

the consequences – smog in

the city, water table getting dirty, and your people getting

angry.” Twitter co-founder Stone

is also among the early fans

of the new SimCity, which he said was in tune with his new initiative to support

systems that help make “better humans, a smarter world and

a healthier planet”. Stone left his day-to-day role at Twitter last year to devote time to Obvious Corporation, which he established with fellow Twitter co-founder Evan Williams and Jason Goldman. “While I’m not a gamer

I understand the learning power of play,” Stone said. “Learning the cause and effect and the impact you could have as an individual

or a corporation is huge


SimCity overview puts us in that frame of mind.” Bradshaw noted that SimCity has always blended realism and fantasy, “so you never know when a giant lizard might trundle around a corner and blow your buildings down”. – AFP

DARPA chief leaving for

Google job

SAN FRANCISCO – Google on March 12 confirmed that Defense Advanced Research

Projects Agency chief Regina Dugan is taking

a yet-to-be-revealed role at the internet

firm. “Regina is a technical pioneer who brought the future of technology to the military during her time at DARPA,” Google said in

a released statement.

“She will be a real asset to Google and we are thrilled she is joining the team.” Dugan was known for promoting entrepreneurial thinking in her three years running DARPA. At the prestigious TED conference in California two weeks ago Dugan touted DARPA inventions such as remote-controlled humming bird drones and hypersonic flight

while urging innovators to shun fear of failure. “There was a time in your life when you believed in impossible things and were fearless,” she said, referring to idyllic childhood years. “You were completely and utterly in touch with your inner superhero,” she said. “Scientists can change the world.” Google is among the major sponsors of TED’s annual gathering in California. Dugan, who turns 49 this week, became DARPA’s first woman director when she was promoted to the position in July of 2009. – AFP

Chinese propaganda hero struggles in internet age

By Bill Savadove

SHANGHAI – A Chinese government publicity campaign to promote selflessness using the model of soldier Lei Feng, who died 50 years ago, is encountering resistance from an increasingly media- savvy population. Ever since China’s supreme leader Mao Zedong recognised Lei Feng for his humble heroism, said to include washing his comrades’ uniforms and giving his pay to the needy, authorities have encouraged citizens to do good every March. To mark five decades since his death, authorities have launched a huge public campaign through the

official media, which have been awash with invocations for Chinese citizens to follow his example. But with the rise of the internet – China now has the world’s largest online population with more than 500 million users – the soldier has come under attack as people question his good deeds and relevance for modern times.

t h e

government’s way of delivering the message is heavy-handed, and that the lessons Lei Feng has to offer have little to do with modern China and its increasingly wealthy people. “If you are living in this day and age, becoming a billionaire is a must. Worshipping a pure individual really is not a must,” posted one blogger on Chinese web giant Sina’s popular weibo, or microblog. The campaign has been given added urgency by the

C r i t i c s

s a y

has been given added urgency by the C r i t i c s s a

nationwide soul-searching provoked by an incident in October when at least 18 people passed by a child who had been run down in the street as she lay fatally injured. In an editorial, the official China Daily newspaper said the death of the two-year-old girl, Yue Yue, showed Lei Feng was still relevant. “Good Samaritans are always needed and the Lei Feng spirit is important for

the cohesion of any society,” it said. But Hu Xingdou, professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology, said Lei Feng was out of date and the government should instead promote charity work and donations, on the basis of respect for others and equality in society. “The starting point of learning from Lei Feng is good, since it aims to rescue society from moral decline.

But the method is out of date, using the old ways of spreading propaganda,” the outspoken academic told AFP. The folk hero remains popular in some quarters, and pictures of him wearing his trademark army hat with ear flaps have become a pop icon emblazoned on everything from bags to cups. On March 12, a thousand students in 1960s dress

sang songs about generosity as they handed out leaflets at Shanghai metro stations extolling the “spirit of Lei Feng”, the Shanghai Daily reported. Trading houses gave out free advice to small investors, invoking Lei Feng’s altruistic spirit. There is even a museum dedicated to him in northeastern China, where he once served with the army. Lei Feng died in

August, 1962, at age 22 after a truck driven by a

fellow soldier hit a utility pole, which fell on him. Retired factory worker Fang Guanlong, 63, worships Lei Feng and has filled his Shanghai home with more than 3000 objects

– ranging from badges to

stamps – bearing the iconic image of the young soldier. “I hope the ‘Lei Feng spirit’ will be handed down from generation to generation, carried forward to purify social morals,” Fang told AFP. But many bloggers have questioned the Lei Feng story, challenging the authenticity of photographs

of him reading by flashlight

and showing an elderly lady


Lei Feng joined the People’s Liberation Army in 1960, when it still basked in the glory of winning the Chinese civil war just over

a decade earlier. The government has responded to the challenge by giving Lei Feng a make- over designed to appeal to Chinese youth, saying he dressed stylishly, liked to dance and even entertained girlfriends. In a more direct way, the ruling Communist Party called for “intensified” media coverage of Lei Feng this year through online news portals and microblogs, state media said, as it sought to make use of new media. “ Q u e s t i o n i n g a n d besmirching heroes from previous decades is a phenomenon of the internet era,” lawmaker Zhang Haidi told state media. “There are people who specialise in finding flaws in heroes and launch massive attacks on them.” – AFP


March 19 - 25, 2012


the MyanMar tiMes

Chinese premier issues appeal for ‘urgent’ reform

BEIJING – China could see a repeat of the Cultural Revolution’s deadly chaos without “urgent” political reform, Wen Jiabao warned on March 14 at his final news conference as premier. Wen is widely considered the most progressive of China’s leaders, but analysts said the comments, at the closing of the annual parliamentary session, were his strongest call yet for political reform in the one-party state. “We must press ahead with both economic structural reform and political structural reform, in particular reform in the leadership system of our party and country,”

he told reporters, adding it was an “urgent task”. “Without a successful political structural reform, it is impossible for us to fully institute economic structural reform and the gains we have made in this area may be lost,” he said. “Such historical tragedy as the Cultural Revolution may happen again.” The 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution was a decade of brutal chaos launched by revolutionary leader Mao Zedong to bring down what he perceived as “capitalist” forces. Untold numbers died in the

turmoil as students turned on teachers and officials were purged and that period still haunts the older Chinese generation. It is the last time Wen will speak at the parliament’s closing news conference – his successor will be appointed at the 2013 NPC – and the premier was visibly emotional. “The reference to the risk of a new Cultural Revolution is the strongest statement ever made by Wen Jiabao on the urgency of carrying out political reforms,” said Nicholas Bequelin, senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “By political reforms he doesn’t mean democratisation but rather

a series of reforms that go beyond

technocratic tinkering – establishing

a real rule of law, enfranchising

workers.” Wen is the only leader to have repeatedly spoken of the need for political reform in China, although critics have accused him of paying lip service to the issue. Wen also hinted at the need to give people more of a say in the one-party state, saying villagers had the right to direct elections at the local-level. But China’s ruling Communist Party – which controls the army and the government –maintains an iron grip on political power,

and other leaders have in the past ruled out any shift to multi-party

democracy. Analysts said Wen’s comments on the importance of reforming China’s leadership may also be a thinly-veiled criticism of the party’s huge power in the country. “The subtext is that the party has too much power, the party is interfering in the work of the government,” said Willy Lam, a leading China expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “He wants to reiterate the importance of separation of power and government.” – AFP • Related reports, P. 31.

Afghan leader orders US to leave villages

KABUL – The Taliban broke off contacts over peace talks with Washington on March 15 and the Afghan president demanded US troops leave village outposts, days after an American soldier massacred 16 villagers. Hamid Karzai also called for a transition of the nation’s security from NATO control to the Afghan government in 2013 rather than the previous deadline of 2014, after meeting visiting US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta. The plan had been floated by Panetta ahead of a NATO meeting in Brussels last month, but the US-led coalition insists that it will only withdraw its combat troops by the end of 2014. The announcements from the Taliban and by Karzai, Washington’s key ally in Kabul, followed the March 11 shooting spree by a US soldier, who has been detained and flown out of the country. The fallout overshadowed Panetta’s two-day visit to Afghanistan, which was planned ahead of the shooting and aimed at calming relations already

hurt by last month’s burning of Korans at a US base. The Taliban made no mention of the killings as it announced the suspension of contacts with US officials in Qatar over a prisoner swap – talks that had built up hopes of a political solution before US troops leave. The Taliban said on its website that it was

We’d prefer that the process be completed in 2013, not 2014.

suspending the talks because of the “alternating and ever-changing position” of the Americans. But the White House denied it had changed the terms of the reconciliation dialogue. “The terms have been as I’ve stated them on many occasions,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney, citing a need for the Taliban to lay down its

arms, renounce al-Qaeda

and to abide by the Afghan constitution.

E a r l i e r , K a r z a i ’ s

spokesman Aimal Faizi quoted the president as telling Panetta: “We’re ready to take over all security responsibilities now,” adding: “We’d prefer that the process be completed in 2013, not


Karzai then told Panetta that US-led international forces should “be withdrawn

from villages and relocated in their bases”, his office

said in a statement, without specifying a timeline. US defence officials sought to play down Karzai’s calls on the outposts and said Kabul had not requested any change in an agreed timetable for a gradual troop drawdown.

A US official accompanying

Panetta, who arrived in Abu Dhabi after his visit to Afghanistan, told reporters on condition of anonymity that Kabul had agreed with NATO on a schedule for a security transition during 2014 and that had not changed. – AFP • Related reports, P. 27,


had not changed. – AFP • Related reports, P. 27, 28. Syrians fleeing the violence in

Syrians fleeing the violence in their homeland arrive at the Turkish border on March 15. The number of refugees entering Turkey from Syria could reach 500,000 if the violence continues, the Turkish Red Crescent has warned. Pic: AFP

Rallies back Assad as toll tops 9000

DAMASCUS – Syrians staged huge rallies in support of President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus and four other cities on March 15 as the deadly revolt against his autocratic rule entered a second year. International peace envoy Kofi Annan, meanwhile, demanded answers from Assad’s regime before the UN Security Council considers another attempt to halting the violence, which monitors now

say has cost more than 9100 lives. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the 9113 killed in the past year comprised 6645 civilians, 1997 members of Assad’s security forces and 471 rebels. After a mission to Damascus on March 10 and 11, UN-Arab League mediator Annan has urged Assad to speed up efforts to end the bloodletting in Syria. The former UN chief had received the president’s response to “concrete proposals”

he submitted to the Syrian leader but had

more “questions and is seeking answers.” Annan “is still in contact with the Syrian

authorities – the dialogue continues,” his spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said on March


In neighbouring Turkey, the foreign ministry said the same day that about 1000 Syrian refugees, including a defecting general, had crossed into the country in the past 24 hours. In another development, all six Arab Gulf states will close their embassies in Syria in protest at the year-long crackdown there, Gulf Cooperation Council head Abdullatif al-Zayani said early on March 16. Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait took the step, he said, because the regime’s “massacring its people, choosing the military option and rejecting all initiatives aimed at finding a solution to the crisis.” – AFP • Related report, P. 25.

option and rejecting all initiatives aimed at finding a solution to the crisis.” – AFP •
option and rejecting all initiatives aimed at finding a solution to the crisis.” – AFP •


the MyanMar tiMes


March 19 - 25, 2012


Belgians mourns bus crash victims

BRUSSELS – The first eight survivors of a bus crash that shocked Belgium returned from Switzerland to a national day of mourn- ing on March 16. Grieving Belgians held an emotional vigil the previous evening as classmates and neighbours prayed for the dead in Lommel, a town of 33,000 from where many of the victims came. Forty-six children and four teachers from two Bel- gian schools were returning home from a Swiss skiing holiday on March 13 when their coach slammed into a wall in a motorway tunnel.

Norwegian police offer an apology

OSLO – Norwegian police apologised on March 15 for failing to stop Anders Breivik sooner on his shoot- ing rampage last July that left 77 people dead, admit- ting that lives were lost as a result. The apology was offered by national police commis- sioner Oeystein Maeland in a statement accompany- ing an report on the police response to the July 22 twin attacks. The massacre lasted 75 minutes before Breivik was arrested.

Tensions continue over Falklands

LONDON – Britain on March 15 accused Argen- tina of illegally intimi- dating Falkland Islands residents after its foreign minister Hector Timmer- man told a news conference in Buenos Aires that legal action would taken against oil companies operating around the disputed terri- tory. Tensions have been build- ing over the South Atlan- tic islands ahead of next month’s 30th anniversary of a war the two countries fought over the Falklands. Argentine troops seized the islands on April 2, 1982, only to be routed by British forces 74 days later.

Ousted US governor begins prison term

CHICAGO – Ousted Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich reported to prison on March 15 to serve a 14-year sentence for trying to auc- tion off President Barack Obama’s vacated US Sen- ate seat and other corrup- tion charges. The Democratic governor was arrested in the midst of what prosecutors called “a political corruption crime spree” weeks after Obama’s November 2008 election. Blagojevich, 55, was convicted of 17 corruption counts in June after his first trial resulted in a hung jury on all but one of the charg- es. – AFP

US issues warning to Tehran

WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama last week warned

Iran that the window for diplomacy

to solve a nuclear showdown was

“shrinking,” stiffening his rhetoric ahead of new talks on the issue. Obama sent a public message to Iran as preparations went ahead for a new round of talks between global powers and the Islamic Republic, amid rising fears of a military confrontation, possibly triggered

by Israel.

“In the past, there has been

a tendency for Iran in these

negotiations to delay, to stall, to

do a lot of talking but not actually move the ball forward,” Obama said

at the White House on March 14.

“I think they should understand that the window for solving this issue diplomatically is shrinking.” “We will do everything we can to resolve this diplomatically but ultimately we’ve got to have somebody on the other side of the table who is taking this seriously and I hope that the Iranian regime understands that,” he said. Obama also predicted at a joint news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron that a punishing new set of sanctions on Iran would “begin to bite even harder this summer” and would further hurt Tehran’s economy. He also reiterated that his intention was not to contain Iran but to actively prevent it from

getting nuclear weapons, signalling he would use military action if diplomacy failed. Obama reasons that an Iranian bomb is an unacceptable national security risk because it could trigger an arms race in the Middle East, raise the risk of proliferation and embolden “terrorists” under Iranian protection. Both Obama and Britain have signaled that they do not believe

that the time is right for military action against Iran’s nuclear

program, amid fierce speculation about the possibility of an Israeli strike in the coming months. In a letter to EU foreign affairs chief

Catherine Ashton earlier on March 14, Iran formally requested a date and venue for talks with the P5+1 group of world powers, comprising the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany. It said it was interested in talks “without preconditions and

said it was interested in talks “without preconditions and Cameron backs Obama’s condemnation of “loose talk”

Cameron backs Obama’s condemnation of “loose talk” over war with Iran, which has boiled over speculation on Israel’s intentions and been fanned by Republican

I think they should understand

that the window

for solving this issue diplomatically is shrinking.

with the goal of having long-term cooperation.” In the past, Iran has refused to discuss its nuclear program at the talks. Iran denies the program is designed to make weapons.

presidential candidates. He praised Obama’s “tough, reasonable approach” which he said had united the world to call for Iran to live up to international nuclear obligations and to prove it was not

bent on manufacturing nuclear weapons. Obama’s warning appeared to lend credibility to a report in Russia’s Kommersant daily on on March 14 which suggested that Washington had warned Iran the talks, expected next month, were a last chance to avoid military strikes. The daily said that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had asked Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to make the situation clear to the Iranian authorities when she met him in New York. Iran’s nuclear program was at the centre of a visit to Washington earlier this month by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told Obama that Israel must remain the “master of its fate” and reserved the right to use force. The Obama administration has indicated that it does not yet believe Iran has taken a choice to develop a nuclear weapon. Israel, which sees an Iranian nuclear weapon as a threat to its existence, however believes that Iran may be on the cusp of “break out” capacity – the moment when it could quickly produce weapons- grade uranium. Washington says it has up to a year to decide on how to respond should Iran decide to begin enriching uranium to weapons- grade quality. Israel does not share that timetable. – AFP

should Iran decide to begin enriching uranium to weapons- grade quality. Israel does not share that


March 19 - 25, 2012


the MyanMar tiMes

Water forum issues appeal for action at Rio Summit

MARSEILLE – A hundred and thirty countries last week urged the forthcoming Rio Summit to speed action on providing the poor with access to clean water and sanitation and fix worsening problems of water scarcity and pollution. But their declaration was opposed by leftwing Bolivia as failing to enshrine the principles of social justice, the right to water and care for the environment, and activists derided the arena where it was issued as a trade fair. “We commit to accelerate the full implementation of the human rights obligations relating to access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation by all appropriate

means as a part of our efforts

to overcome the water crisis at

all levels,” said a communique

issued on March 13, a day after the event was opened by French Prime Minister Francois Fillon. The five-page statement, endorsed by 130 national representatives including

84 ministers, was issued at the World Water Forum,

a six-day event gathering

policymakers, businesses and water experts which is held every three years. It also sketched aims for

tackling water stress through better management and investment and for improving environmental custodianship

of the precious resource.

It called for these aims to “be widely disseminated in relevant fora, including the United Nations Conference on

in relevant fora, including the United Nations Conference on French Prime Minister Francois Fillon at the

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon at the opening of the World Water Forum in Marseille on March 12. Pic: AFP

Sustainable Development,” the formal name for the June 20-22 follow-up to the 1992 Rio Summit. The declaration was backed by a petition with 130,000 signatures organised by Solidarites Internationales,

a French group, which

demanded access to water for the poor.

But the communique was contested by Bolivian Environment and Water Minister Felipe Quispe Quenta. Journalists who attended the ministerial plenary said his microphone was cut off,

purportedly for time reasons,

after he said the text did not include clear references to social justice and the right

to water. “We expressed our

disagreement when the statement was being drafted and we were not heard. Bolivia does not go along with this ministerial declaration,” the minister said to reporters after the session. WenonahHauter,executive

director of a small US NGO, Food and Water Watch, said the forum was viewed with suspicion by many grass- roots organisations on water, sustainable development and the environment. “I think there is no interest (here) in having a debate or dialogue,” she told AFP. “We have a trade fair that is being promoted as a ministerial, but what we really need is the UN to take hold of the process.

We cannot have the water industry dictate the issues.”

A UN report issued every three years to coincide with the forum said water problems in many parts of the world were chronic. Without a crackdown on

waste shortages will worsen

as demand for food rises and

climate change intensifies,

it said. “Pressures on freshwater

are rising, from the expanding needs of agriculture, food production and energy consumption to pollution and the weaknesses of water management,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in the report, released on March 11. “Climate change is a real and growing threat. Without good planning and adaptation, hundreds of millions of people are at risk of hunger, disease, energy shortages and poverty.” Demand for food will increase by some 70 percent by 2050, which will lead to

a nearly 20pc increase in

global agricultural water consumption, said the UN report. The report demanded an overhaul in the use of water, especially by curbing waste. Smarter irrigation, less thirsty crops and the

use of “grey,” or used water,

to flush toilets are among the

options. Already, more than 2.5 billion people are in need of decent sanitation and nearly one in 10 has yet to gain access to “improved” drinking water, as defined under the UN’s 2015 development goals. – AFP

as defined under the UN’s 2015 development goals. – AFP British police arrest hacking suspect for

British police arrest hacking suspect for intimidating witness

LONDON – British police

investigating phone hacking

at Rupert Murdoch’s News

of the World arrested the former chief reporter of the tabloid on March 14 for allegedly intimidating a witness.

Neville Thurlbeck was

on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.

Murdoch shut down the News of the World in July after evidence emerged of widespread phone hacking

at the tabloid, but his British

newspapers continue to be

dogged by allegations they covered up the practice.

Thurlbeck is at the centre

of the scandal because of an

email addressed to him that allegedly shows that phone- hacking at the News of the World was more widespread than previously claimed by newspaper executives. James Murdoch, Rupert

Murdoch’s younger son who stepped down on February

29 as executive chairman of

News International, insisted

on March 14 that he had not

misled parliament when he

testified on the scandal. “I did not know about, nor did I try to hide, wrongdoing,” he wrote in

a letter to parliament’s

media committee, which is preparing a report on the hacking scandal. “Whilst I accept my share of responsibility for not uncovering wrongdoing

initially arrested on suspicion

of the illegal interception of

mobile phone voicemails in

April last year and has been

on police bail ever since.

Scotland Yard said a 51- year-old man was arrested by appointment on March 14 at a central London

police station “on suspicion

of intimidation of a witness

and encouraging or assisting

an offence”.

Thurlbeck was later

released on bail until April pending further enquiries, police said. It confirmed he had originally been arrested on April 5, 2011 and identified him as Suspect

A in Operation Weeting,

the force’s phone-hacking investigation. Thurlbeck

was identified at the time as Suspect A. Thurlbeck earlier this

monthwroteablogpublishing sooner, I did not mislead

the street address of Will Lewis, a senior executive

at News International, the

British newspaper arm of

Murdoch’s US-based News Corporation empire. He later removed the address, saying he accepted

that it was “distressing to his family” and that he “would like to apologise to Mrs Lewis for any distress”. The former reporter issued

a statement late on March 14 in which he “vigorously denied the allegations of any wrongdoing”. Thurlbeck’s arrest came

a day after police arrested former News International chief executive and former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks and her husband Charlie Brooks,

a close friend of Prime

Minister David Cameron,

parliament and the evidence does not support any other

conclusion.” “Clearly with the benefit

of hindsight, I acknowledge

that wrongdoing should have been uncovered earlier,” he wrote. He also referred to the notorious “For Neville” email, saying that he had not been shown a copy of the mail in 2008 when it

surfaced in the hands of a victim of phone-hacking, and

therefore was not guilty of a cover-up. Until last year, the News

of the World had maintained that hacking was limited to a single rogue reporter

– former royal editor Clive Goodman – and private detective Glenn Mulcaire,

who were both jailed in 2007. – AFP

Trade Mark CauTion

Guangzhou Light industry & Trade Group Ltd. of 147, Yanjiangxi Road, Guangzhou, P.R China, is the assignee; Owner and Sole Proprietor of following Trade Mark:

assignee; Owner and Sole Proprietor of following Trade Mark: Reg.No. IV/8756/2008 Reg.No.IV/10098/2011

Reg.No. IV/8756/2008

Reg.No.IV/10098/2011 Reg.No.IV/10099/2011



in respect of “Flashlight”. Any fraudulent imitation or unauthorized use of the said Trade Mark or other infringements whatsoever will be dealt with according to law.

khine khine u, advocate LL.B, d.B.L, LL.M (uk) For Guangzhou Light industry & Trade Group Ltd. #731, 7 th Fl., Traders Hotel, Yangon. Dated. March 19, 2012


the MyanMar tiMes


March 19 - 25, 2012

Why the double standard on Syria?

Analysis by Philippe Rater

PARIS – Unlike in Libya, the international community has been divided and rudderless

in the face of Syria’s unrest,

unable to halt an increasingly bloody crisis after a year of half-hearted efforts. A n d t h o u g h t h e appointment of UN-Arab League peace envoy Kofi Annan has offered a glimmer

of hope, analysts say there

are few signs that the tepid global response to the Syrian crisis is heating up. “Faced with mounting casualties and a political deadlock, outside actors at best have been ineffectual, at

worst have poured oil on fire” in Syria, the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank said in a report this month. “Many have chosen to view the crisis primarily through the prism of its regional

and have

strategic stakes

done nothing to advance prospects for a negotiated transition,” it said.

Efforts to tackle the unrest

at the United Nations have

failed, with Russia and China blocking Security Council resolutions against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Without a consensus at

the UN, efforts to resolve the crisis are “at a dead end,”

a high-ranking diplomat

admitted. Western nations have acted before without an international consensus, such as in Kosovo in 1999 or Iraq in 2003, but in this case they have tied their hands by

ruling out any action without a green light from the UN. Unilateral sanctions imposed by Washington, the European Union and others are having an effect,

experts said, but will not alone resolve the crisis. In Libya last year, Western and Arab nations were able to move forward with military action after two Security Council resolutions passed without opposition from Russia and China. The rebels fighting former strongman Moamer Kadhafi also benefited from the strong backing of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron, who rallied the international community to action. So why the double standard on Syria? Analysts said the key difference is the complex web of regional interests at play and the ethnic and religious divisions in Syria that were not present in Libya. A s s a d r e t a i n s t h e support of his key regional backers, Iran and Lebanon’s

Hezbollah, which would raise the stakes in any foreign intervention. Turkey and many Arab nations, in particular Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are backing regime opponents but some in Syria are wary that their support is aimed

at boosting the country’s majority Sunni Muslims over other groups. Syria’s complicated make- up – which includes large Shiite Muslim, Kurdish, Christian, Druze and Alawite minorities – has

Kurdish, Christian, Druze and Alawite minorities – has also complicated efforts to unify the opposition around

also complicated efforts to unify the opposition around a single unit similar to Libya’s National Transitional Council. “Western countries clamour for the regime to

fall but are hesitant and uncertain about how to make that happen and worried about what it might entail,” the ICG wrote. “By and large, they have taken refuge in a blend of

outrage and ever-tightening sanctions.” Unlike with Kadhafi, the global community has also not turned to the International Criminal Court as a means to put

pressure on Assad, with some arguing that indicting Assad would leave him no choice but to cling to power. As the bloodshed rises – more than 8500 have died since the revolt erupted a year ago, monitors say – pressure is growing for an international response. The opposition Syrian National Council called on March 12 for an urgent foreign intervention after reports that 47 women and children were killed in a “massacre” in the flashpoint city of Homs. “We request urgent Arab and international military intervention,” top SNC official Georges Sabra told a news conference in Istanbul,

also calling for the creation of

a “no-fly zone” over Syria and

“strikes” against the Syrian armed forces. Annan, the former UN secretary general, left Damascus after talks on March 11 without managing to secure an accord to end the bloodletting.

Experts said the best hope was to bring Moscow on board to back some form of international deal that puts real pressure on Assad. “The net effect of this international cacophony has been to persuade Syria’s leadership that it need not change a thing,” the ICG said. “If (Annan) can persuade Russia to back a transitional plan, the regime would be confronted with the choice of either agreeing to negotiate

in good faith or facing near- total isolation through loss of

a key ally.” – AFP

Boy dies as Gaza truce holds

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories – A Gazan child died on March 14 from wounds sustained in four- days of Israeli-Palestinian violence, but a truce deal appeared to be holding, despite more rocket fire and two Israeli raids. Gaza emergency services spokesman Adham Abu Selmiya said Baraka al- Mughrabi, 7, died from severe injuries sustained during an Israeli bombing raid on Gaza City on March 10. The boy’s death, which raised to 26 the number of Palestinians killed in four days of bloodshed, came 24 hours after Israel and militant groups in Gaza agreed to observe a ceasefire deal in a bid to end the confrontation, which saw more than 200 rockets fired at Israel. The truce came into effect early on March 13, and although there were no major incidents, it appeared less than watertight, with several instances of firing and two Israeli raids overnight. Throughout March 13, militant groups fired eight rockets and mortars across the border, one of which hit a residential area and lightly injured an Israeli, the army said. Several hours later, Israeli warplanes struck targets in northern Gaza. Palestinian security

struck targets in northern Gaza. Palestinian security A Palestinian boy (left) collects belongings from his house

A Palestinian boy (left) collects belongings from his house in Gaza City on March 14 after it caught fire during an Israeli air strike. An Israeli woman suffering from shock (right) is comforted on March 12 after a rocket fired by militants in the Gaza Strip landed in the nearby city of Ashdod, damaging buildings and injuring an elderly woman. Pix: AFP

sources confirmed only one raid, saying it struck a woodyard in northern Gaza City, setting the structure alight but without causing injuries. But a statement by the Israeli army said it had targeted “two terror activity sites in the northern Gaza Strip” in response to rocket fire. “The targeting of these sites is in response to the rockets fired at Israel over the past day,” it said. Under the terms of the truce agreement, both Israel and militants from Islamic Jihad, who were responsible for most of the rocket attacks, had agreed

to hold their fire. But there was no indication that either side saw the rocket fire, or the subsequent raids, as putting an end to the Egyptian-brokered agreement. The fighting erupted on March 9 when Israel assassinated a militant leader, prompting armed groups to launch a barrage of rockets across the border, injuring five people. In response, Israel staged multiple air strikes across Gaza, targeting weapons storage and manufacturing facilities, as well as small groups of militants poised to fire rockets over the border. – AFP

Ahmadinejad defends record in speech before hostile MPs

TEHRAN – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave a defiant and at times mocking defence of

his economic and political management on March 14 in an unprecedented interrogation by a largely hostile parliament. “So far no major violation has been proved against my


us at less than 100 percent, it would be unfair and cowardice,” Ahmadinejad

told lawmakers at the end of

a reply last nearly an hour

that was broadcast on state radio. It was the first time an Iranian president was summoned before parliament

to answer questions about his

rule since the founding of the Islamic republic in 1979. Ahmadinejad rejected attempts to embarrass him with questions focusing on Iran’s economy, his perceived weakened loyalty

to supreme leader Ayatollah

Ali Khamenei, and his arguments to ease Islamic rules on dress for women and on gender relations. The fact the interrogation took place, however, highlighted Ahmadinejad’s slipping fortunes as he sees out the end of his second and

If you rate

Pic: AFP
Pic: AFP

Iranian President Mahmoud

Ahmadinejad addresses parliament last week.

final mandate, which expires next year. Khamenei has over the past

year curbed Ahmadinejad in his ambitions to expand power and influence, overruling him when he tried to sack his intelligence minister in 2011 and keeping him on a tight leash on policy decisions. T h e 2 9 0 - m e m b e r

parliament, which already has a majority intent on curtailing the president’s authority, is to have an even smaller pro-Ahmadinejad minority when it is reconstituted at the end of May, after elections early this month. In the questioning,

Ahmadinejad often took a light-hearted tone. When the MP pronouncing the list of questions overran his allotted 15 minutes, the president said he, too, would extend his reply beyond his permitted time. Ahmadinejad at one point mocked a new rule requiring newly elected MPs to have a masters degree or equivalent, saying he thought the questions were drafted by “those who got a masters degree by pushing

a button.” The questions “were not so difficult,” he scoffed, adding that he could have come up with better ones. The president rejected implications he mismanaged Iran’s economy, which suffers inflation of more than 30 percent, a currency weakened by Western sanctions, and stalled spending on big infrastructure projects such as Tehran’s subway network. Economic growth was strong, he asserted, and higher prices “had nothing to do” with his 2010 decision to scrap subsidies for staples and fuel and replace them with a monthly US$35 cash handout to Iranians, he said. – AFP


March 19 - 25, 2012


the MyanMar tiMes

The EU and national sovereignty

By Javier Solana

MADRID – Despite the huge sums expended to write down Greece’s foreign debt, there has been an outcry of censure against “interference” with the country’s national sovereignty. True, in exchange for considerable European aid, Greece’s ability to manoeuvre independently will be limited. But are complaints that Greek sovereignty has been severely impaired justified? The idea of a nation-state’s sovereignty is rooted in the seventeenth-century Treaty of Westphalia, which embraced non- interference by external agents in states’ domestic affairs as the guiding principle of international relations. But, taken to its logical extreme, national sovereignty would require the complete physical and social isolation of states from one another. Indeed, an excessive emphasis on national sovereignty leads to serious problems: after all, any international agreement, whether political or economic, entails a certain transfer of sovereignty. Europe’s aid to Greece is an example of a cooperative agreement whereby the various parties negotiate with the others’ interests in mind. Greece asked its fellow European Union members for help, and they have obliged with an enormous amount of aid. In addition to 130 billion (about US$170 billion) in loans (more than 40 percent of Greek GDP, on top of the 110 billion loaned to Greece in 2010), a 50pc “haircut” has been imposed on Greece’s private creditors, and

the European Central Bank has waived expected returns on its holdings of Greek bonds. Regardless of whether this is technically and economically the best solution to Greece’s problem, it is logical that the EU participated in designing it. Participating in the collective life of the international community of states implies bearing others in mind and, when necessary, giving up certain prerogatives of sovereignty. For example, when Spain decided to join the World Trade Organisation, it ceded sovereignty by accepting the WTO’s rules and

freedom, national sovereignty depends on how its components are defined. In his classic On Liberty, John Stuart Mill used the “harm principle” to express the view that a person’s individual liberty could be limited only in order to protect others and avoid harm. The debate consists in how we define “harm” to others. I n t h e s a m e w a y , t h e debate about the meaning of national sovereignty consists in what we consider “domestic” matters. Depending on where we place the emphasis and how wide our focus is, we prioritise either a “global” (or at least “federal”)

year, owing to sluggishness in the United States and the EU. Likewise, more countries (and more varied in their character and historical trajectory) are emerging strongly on the global scene:

Brazil’s GDP recently surpassed that of the United Kingdom. Their emergence holds important implications for global governance at a time when the imbalance between existing problems/threats and the means available to states to guarantee their citizens’ safety increases. On a global scale, this complex and interdependent world needs an organisation of states and

Indeed, the dynamics of interdependence have become well established – so much so that they cannot be reversed.

regulations. It had to abandon commercially preferential treatment to some countries and treat all WTO members alike. Spain accepted this in exchange for being able to trade on equal terms with the rest of the world. British sociologist Anthony Giddens rightly describes such examples as cases of integration or union in exchange for global influence. States cooperate because it is advantageous for them to do so, but at the same time they lose control over certain internal matters. They shift from unilateral to cooperative decision- making. Whether this is a violation of sovereignty depends on our conception of sovereignty. As with the concept of individual

dimension to sovereignty, or a “national” dimension. The EU seems to represent a halfway point between these two conceptions of sovereignty. But it is becoming increasingly difficult to determine the difference between purely domestic matters and those that require international collective action. Globalisation has made frontiers more porous. We see how one country’s policies, whether pertaining to work, the environment, public health, taxation, or myriad other issues, can have a direct impact on others. And we see such interdependence even more clearly in their economic performance: China’s annual GDP growth rate, for example, will slow by two percentage points this

structures of governance oriented towards responsible dialogue, the aim being to mitigate abuses of power and defend global public assets. Without such structures, the world risks a competitive and disorderly race to the bottom among states – as often occurs with taxation – together with a protectionist backlash. History has shown that such developments often lead to disastrous conflicts. On the European level, legitimacy is essential and – let’s be realistic – won’t be achieved unless and until Europeans overcome certain antiquated ideas about sovereignty. Paradoxically, when the crisis struck, the EU was criticised for its lack of integration. Now that it seeks to advance in that direction, the

Union is accused of crimping national sovereignty. Citizens must have the feeling that the institutions that govern them account for their interests and make them part of the decision-making process, which implies a union based on rules rather than power. The fact that the EU does not instantly have all of the answers to a problem does not mean that it has no future. The EU is a new and marvellous experiment, which, as with all experiments, entails a degree of uncertainty. But that should not make us ignore the opportunity cost of a more “national” conception of sovereignty. Indeed, the dynamics of interdependence have become well established – so much so that they cannot be reversed. To adhere to a narrow Westphalian concept of sovereignty in this world is an unwise anachronism at best, and a dangerous gamble at worst. The poet Jose Angel Valente might call this a desire “…to wait for history to wind the clocks and return us to the time in which we would wish everything could start.” But, in the prosaic world of the here and now, the concept of sovereignty has already moved on. – Project Syndicate

(Javier Solana, a former Secretary-General of NATO and EU high representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution and President of the ESADE Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics).

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Germany, is the Owner of the following Trade Marks:- reg. no. 1907/2012 reg. no. 1908/2012 in

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Win Mu Tin, M.A., H.G.P., D.B.L for Merck kGaa P. O. Box 60, Yangon. Email: makhinkyi.law@mptmail.net.mm Dated: 19 th March, 2012

ICC convicts African militia leader

THE HAGUE – The International

Criminal Court on March 14 convicted

a Congolese militia leader of using

child soldiers in a brutal conflict, its first verdict since starting work almost

a decade ago. Thomas Lubanga, 51, was found guilty, six years after his arrest, of abducting children as young as 11

and forcing them to fight and commit atrocities in a bloody war in a gold-rich region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The judgment of the court, set up

to try war crimes and crimes against

humanity, was hailed by the UN and

world powers.

“It is an historic moment and an important step in providing justice and accountability to the Congolese people,” United States State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters. Rights groups also praised the decision, saying it sent a strong message to those who force young children to kill. UN leader Ban Ki-moon called the ICC verdict “an important step forward” in making sure that “perpetrators of crimes against children in situations of armed conflict are brought to justice.” In Geneva, UN rights chief Navi Pillay called it a “major milestone in the fight against impunity”. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the ruling “resonates far beyond the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as the trial of Mr Lubanga has raised awareness about the plight of child soldiers and the fact that recruiting and using children under 15

in combat is a war crime”. The warlord, who has denied the

charges against him, will be sentenced

at a date yet to be fixed.

He faces 30 years in jail or, if judges decide the crimes are exceptionally

in jail or, if judges decide the crimes are exceptionally Thomas Lubanga listens to the verdict,

Thomas Lubanga listens to the verdict, the first to be handed down by the ICC. Pic: AFP

grave, even life in prison. The DRC urged the court to impose an “exemplary” sentence to deter “all of those who have chosen war and murder, so that all these people know that genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity will always be tried”. Presiding Judge Adrian Fulford read the verdict finding Lubanga guilty of “conscription and enlisting children under the age of 15 and used them to participate in hostilities” in fighting that lasted from 1998 to 2003. Prosecutors have told the court that militia under Lubanga’s control had abducted children from their homes, schools and football fields to serve as soldiers and that young girls were used as sex slaves. In closing arguments last year, ICC deputy prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said child soldiers were “used to rape and pillage”, adding: “Those who have

no visible scars on their body keep the scars that will remain within.” Lubanga – thought to be the founder of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), and chief commander of its military wing – was sent to The Hague in 2006 and put on trial in early 2009. “Today’s verdict will give pause to those around the world who commit the horrific crime of using and abusing children, both on and off the battlefield,” said Amnesty International’s Michael Bochenek. Alpha Sesay, international legal officer at the Open Society’s Justice Initiative, said the ruling would send a strong message to others who used child soldiers, including fugitive Ugandan rebel leader, Joseph Kony. Kony, leader of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army, has been the subject of an intense online campaign this month to bring him to justice for war crimes and crimes against humanity. During the trial, Lubanga’s lawyers accused the prosecution of fabricating evidence and claimed that witnesses were paid to give false testimony. Judge Fulford criticised the prosecution team, saying it had failed in some instances to verify testimony. During 204 days of hearings, prosecutors called 36 witnesses, the defence 24, and three people testified for Lubanga’s victims. The ICC has issued four arrest warrants for crimes in the DRC and is investigating seven cases, all in Africa. Two militia leaders, Germain Katanga, 33, and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, 41, who fought against Lubanga, are facing trial before the ICC on similar charges. Former UPC chief Bosco Ntaganda, a Lubanga ally, has yet to be arrested to face the court on war crimes charges. – AFP


the MyanMar tiMes


March 19 - 25, 2012

Obama stands by Afghan timetable

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama said on March

14 there would be no “sudden” changes to the pace of troop draw downs in Afghanistan, and told a weary US public the war was making “real progress.” Obama, after talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron, said for the first time that NATO would go through with an agreed transition to a support role in Afghanistan next year before a full withdrawal by the end of


A string of recent incidents,

including a massacre of Afghan civilians by a US soldier on March

11, and deep public fatigue with the war, have prompted speculation that the pace of troop withdrawals could be speeded up. But he said that his existing plan – to bring home an extra 23,000 troops this summer – still stood, and that future decisions would await the end of this year’s operations against the Taliban.

“I don’t anticipate at this stage

that we’re going to be making any sudden additional changes to the plan that we currently have,” Obama said at a news

conference in the White House Rose Garden. Obama promised a “robust” coalition presence in Afghanistan during this year’s fighting season to stop the Taliban regaining momentum. The pace of the drawdown, and plans to transfer more responsibilities to Afghan authorities next year – and what that will mean for future troop numbers – will dominate a NATO summit in Chicago in May.

Obama took issue with

commentary that the US Afghan war plan was unravelling and along with it hopes of leaving a functioning Afghanistan able to take care of its own security. “If we maintain a steady, responsible transition process, which is what we’ve designed, then I am confident that we can put Afghans in a position where they can deal with their own security,” said Obama. “We have made progress.”

Cameron said while Afghanistan was “very difficult” – the country was in a better state than it was a few years ago. “I think what we’re trying to do

it was a few years ago. “I think what we’re trying to do US President Barack

US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron at their news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House on March 14. Pic: AFP

by the end of 2014 is achievable and doable,” he said. “We will not give up on this mission, because Afghanistan must never again be a safe haven

for al-Qaeda to launch attacks against us.” Obama added: “We’re going to complete this mission and we’re going to do it responsibly,” but with

an eye on political conditions as he seeks reelection in November, he said he understood public weariness over the war. But he argued that people on both sides of the Atlantic understood that the war was launched over a decade ago to wipe out al-Qaeda, which masterminded the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States and was now weakened. On March 13, Obama sought

to publicly calm outrage over the

massacre, mostly of women and children, assuring Afghans he had

demanded a full investigation and that the culprit would face the full force of the law. Obama promised that the culprit who killed 16 civilians, mostly women and children in

a methodical house-to-house

killing spree, would face the “full force” of US law – wherever the investigation led. Obama said he had assured Afghan President Hamid Karzai that “the United States takes this as seriously as if it was our own citizens and our own children who were murdered.” – AFP • Analysis, P. 28.

Era ends as Britannica halts print publication

CHICAGO – T h e Encyclopaedia Britannica will end print publication after 244 years and go “completely digital,” the Chicago-based company said on March 13. “The end of the print set is something we’ve foreseen for some time,” Jorge Cauz, president of Encyclopaedia Britannica, said in a statement. “It’s the latest step in our evolution from the print publisher we were, to the creator of digital learning products we are today.” The “coolly authoritative” reference books were coveted as a “goalpost for an aspirational middle class” who often paid for the multivolume sets in installments in the 1950s and 1960s, the New York Times wrote in glowing tribute to the end of era.

Sales peaked in 1990

h e n 1 2 0 , 0 0 0 s e t s were sold in the United States and dropped off precipitously as the internet became the reference of choice for most Americans. Only 8000 of the 12,000 collections printed for the



edition were sold.

Britannica offered its

first digital edition in


for LexisNexis users,

published the first multi- media CD in 1989 and the first encyclopedia on the internet in 1994. The online version – which offers some services for free and charges an annual fee for enhanced content – attracts an audience of 100 million


e o p l e w o r l d w i d e ,

Britannica said. – AFP

Santorum savours stunning victories in the Deep South

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum scored a startling double win in the Deep South on March 13, boosting his claim to be the true conservative alternative to frontrunner Mitt Romney. Santorum’s dramatic come-from-behind victories in Alabama and Mississippi gave his bid for the nomination to stand against President Barack Obama in November elections a huge boost and were a stinging rebuke for Romney. The results were also bad defeats for former House speaker and southern

native Newt Gingrich, as the two states were seen as must-wins for his flagging campaign. Santorum’s sweep of Alabama and Mississippi highlighted how Romney, months into the race and despite more money and better organisation, has failed to convince US voters he is the strongest

candidate to face Democrat Obama.

voters he is the strongest candidate to face Democrat Obama. Rick Santorum…“We did it again!” Pic:

Rick Santorum…“We did it again!” Pic: AFP

best chance to win this election is to nominate

a conservative to go up

against Barack Obama.” “ W e w i l l c o m p e t e

everywhere,” he said, as he ridiculed Romney’s inability to win over voters in several states despite massively outspending his rivals on campaign advertising, much of it spent in negative attack- ads on his opponents.





consolation wins in the island state of Hawaii – Obama’s birthplace – and in American Samoa, said media reports. Romney had earlier issued

a statement congratulating

Santorum on his double victory, but insisted he remained best placed to win the nomination.

“I am pleased that we will

be increasing our delegate count in a very substantial way after tonight,” said Romney, who has about 40pc of the 1144 needed to become the party’s

presidential nominee. “With the delegates won tonight, we are even closer

to the nomination,” he added.

B u t e x p e r t s s a i d

Santorum’s win showed

that he might yet prevail

in the race to be the White

House nominee. “Rick Santorum’s twin wins in Alabama and Mississippi make him the clear alternative to Mitt Romney,” Charles Franklin,

co-founder of pollster.com and a professor

at Marquette University Law School, told AFP. The March 13

results also leave Gingrich with big problems. He has only two wins out of the dozens of contests held so far. “Gingrich’s failure to win either Southern state weakens his rationale for remaining in the race,” Franklin said. Gingrich, who faces calls to quit and allow conservatives to coalesce

a r o u n d S a n t o r u m , congratulated his rival on

a “great” double win but

said he would fight all the way to the Republican convention in Tampa, Florida in August. – AFP

S a n t o r u m


c o n s e r v a t i v e


We will compete everywhere.

p r e c i n c t s r e p o r t i n g , Santorum, a former US senator, was ahead in Alabama with 35pc of the vote, with Gingrich and Romney tied for second place on 29pc, showed CNN figures. In neighboring Mississippi the race came down to the wire, with Santorum on 33pc, Gingrich at 31 and Romney at 30, with 99pc of votes counted. Libertarian congressman Ron Paul of Texas finished

a distant fourth in both

states. Hours after the double defeat Romney secured

credentials after the victories, in a pointed jibe at Romney, who has not won in the south and whom critics in the Republican Party label a moderate, liberal former governor of Massachusetts. “We did it again!” Santorum, a devout Roman Catholic and opponent of abortion and gay marriage, told ecstatic supporters in Lafayette, Louisiana, where he had travelled after campaigning heavily in Alabama and Mississippi. “The time is now to make

sure, to make sure that we have the best chance to win this election and the

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(reg: nos. iV/1179/1979 & iV/8556/2011)

in respect of:- “ Electrical and electronic apparatus and equipment, machines and supplies, and accessories, including radio receiving sets and parts thereof, vacuum or

electron tubes, radio loud speakers and amplifiers; television equipment and apparatus, television receiving sets and parts thereof; antennas for television and radio receiving sets, transmission lines for connecting antennas to television and radio receivers, cathode ray tubes for television receivers, antenna kits for television receivers; electrically driven record changers and parts thereof; electrically operated record players; phonographs, phonograph needles, automatic phonograph record players, automatic phonograph record changers, phonograph recorders and reproducers, radio and phonograph combinations; radio, phonograph and television combinations; dry cells and dry cell batteries for portable radio and television receivers; radar apparatus and equipment, and parts thereof; machinery and apparatus in general and parts thereof, refrigerators, air conditioning machines and equipment, dehumidifiers and humidifiers, and room air conditioners, laundry washing machines and driers, sewing machines and parts of each; stoves, including gas stoves and electric stoves; electrically driven barbecue units for electric stove; oil burners for heating and parts thereof; portable tools; musical instruments apparatus and accessories thereof; portable tools; musical instruments apparatus and accessories therefor; horological instruments; furniture, cabinet work, cabinets for radios, cabinets for combination radios and phonographs, cabinets for television sets, cabinets for combination radio, phonograph and television sets, cabinets for record players, and cabinet for phonograph records; and publications, pamphlets and magazines”

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March 19 - 25, 2012


the MyanMar tiMes

The killings and the US campaign

ON March 3, three days before the Republican presidential primary in Ohio, Mitt Romney was campaigning in Dayton when a woman stood up to ask a question that pointed to one of the most important missing debates of Campaign 2012, and to a widening division in the GOP over a critical foreign policy issue. Vicki Chura said her daughter was on her second tour in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne Division. She said her daughter was increasingly frustrated by the lack of clarity of the US mission there and desperately wanted to come home. What would Romney do as president to expedite the withdrawal of US forces? The economy is and probably will continue to be the dominant issue in the campaign, but the shooting rampage on March 11 by American soldier that killed 16 Afghan civilians could push the Afghan war into the political debate. The killings may or may not be a shock to the political system. At a minimum, they are likely to raise uncomfortable questions, particularly for President Barack Obama, the architect of the current policy, but also for the Republican candidates. Even for those out of power, Afghanistan provides no easy answers. Romney’s response to Chura’s question underscored why. He began by criticising the president. He said that Obama has not clearly defined the US mission to the American people and that a president should report regularly on the goals and progress of any such mission. Romney described the US objective as one of building an Afghan security force capable of protecting the country’s sovereignty – which is not that different from


by Dan Balz

Obama’s stance. Hoping to show empathy with his questioner, he said he wants US troops to come home “as soon as humanly possible.” But he offered a big, broad caveat: They can withdraw, he said, “as soon as that mission is complete.” C h u r a ’ s q u e s t i o n underscored the growing public weariness at home about the war. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released on March 11 showed that more than half the country wants US forces withdrawn even before they can train the Afghan army to handle security on its own. The conflict has not become another Iraq war in terms of public division and emotion, but beneath the surface is a clearly growing pessimism. Republicans face a debate within the party over what

to do about a conflict whose

objectives are so difficult to

define and whose costs have been enormous. Republican dissent over staying the course in Afghanistan is not pervasive, but there is hardly unanimity. On March 11, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich the mission “may not be doable”

Speaker Newt Gingrich the mission “may not be doable” An Afghan mourns over the bodies of

An Afghan mourns over the bodies of some of the civilians shot by a rogue US soldier at Alkozai village in southern Kandahar province on March 11. Pic: AFP

speedy end to the conflict and said the resources being spent on it should be used to rebuild the US economy. Former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour raised doubts about the war when he was considering standing as a candidate for the presidency. “What is our mission?” he asked last

fight against terrorism. During his first year in office, he approved a major increase in troop strength. With that troop surge, he took possession of a conflict started by President George W. Bush after the attacks of September 11, 2001. ButObamawasalsoalways mindful of the opposition

clear to the military and, he hoped, to the public, that the United States would not stay indefinitely. Afghanistan will not be among the achievements Obama highlights during his re-election campaign. His supporters will cite the killing of Osama bin Laden as a bold decision that shows

Obama was also always mindful of the opposition to escalation within his own party, as well as concerns from some advisers that Afghanistan could become a quagmire like Vietnam

and suggested that military force may not be able to accomplish the goals set by two administrations. Among other candidates, Ron Paul, an opponent of the US intervention, has long called for winding down the war. Before quitting the race, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman called for a

March. He said the United States should not try to turn Afghanistan into “an Ireland or an Italy” or some other Western democracy. These are questions first for the president, because the Afghan war is his now. As a candidate in 2008, he described Afghanistan as the central front in the

to escalation within his own party, as well as to concerns from some of his advisers that Afghanistan could become another quagmire like Vietnam. So he sought to set limits on the mission in terms of time and resources, establishing deadlines for starting to bring troops home. He made

his toughness as commander in chief. He will point to the end of the Iraq war as a promise kept from his 2008 campaign. Given the situation in Afghanistan, the war there could be one issue that leaves him vulnerable. But will Republicans have a consistent and coherent line of criticism

of the president’s Afghan policy? The coming weeks may answer that question. F o r m e r S e n . R i c k Santorum highlighted one view on March 11 while campaigning in Mississippi

by saying that the president is making it “very, very difficult” to win the war because he had indicated when US forces would leave. Santorum said US policy is unravelling because Obama has given the enemy hope that American troops will be out sooner rather than later. He said the United States should reassess and either make a full commitment to the war –something he said Obama has not done

– or speed up the NATO-

established timetable that calls for the handover to

Afghans to be completed in


Romney has tried to calm those who want US forces out quickly, saying he does, too. But he has

criticised Obama’s timetable for withdrawing the surge troops that were sent in startof the year and has vowed that he would listen

to his military commanders,

saying the president has not done that. He has said that Obama has not clearly

articulated the goals of the mission, but Romney has not done so with any particular clarity himself. Until now, the Republican candidates have been free to criticise the president when given the opportunity, but they otherwise keep

A f g h a n i s t a n i n t h e

background. The March 11 killings, which come at a time of deteriorating relations between the United States and Afghanistan, could force Obama and those who want to replace him to give the public a fuller explanation of what constitutes success and the costs of achieving it. – The Washington Post

Negotiations offer the only way out, say experts

By Mathieu Rabechault

WASHINGTON – The Taliban are set on vengeance after a US soldier killed 16 Afghan civilians, but the only viable exit from America’s longest war is through negotiation, experts said on March 12. The attack ignited fresh public anger at the US presence, plunging US- Afghan relations to their lowest point since the 2001 invasion after Americans burnt Korans last month and an earlier video showing US Marines urinating on the corpses of Taliban militants. Washington has insisted the mounting difficulties are simply “isolated incidents.” The White House and Pentagon, while deploring the latest “tragic” event, are vowing to adhere to the roadmap defined by the NATO transatlantic military alliance. “You can’t necessarily take

an isolated incident or two or three and draw a trend line on progress in Afghanistan and whether or not there’s

a shift in our goals,” said

Pentagon spokesman George Little. But the Taliban wasted no time in trying to capitalise on the atrocity, which saw a US Army sergeant open fire

on sleeping villagers outside

a US base in the southern

province of Kandahar. Most

of his victims were women

and children. The militants, whose government was toppled by US forces over a decade ago, threatened to take revenge against “sick-minded American savages.” NATO’s strategy aims to have Afghan security forces take control of security by the end of 2014 so that coalition troops can pull out their 130,000 soldiers. Until then, the United States

hopes progress against the Taliban will convince the militants to come to the

US soldiers keep watch at the entrance to the military base in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province
US soldiers keep watch at the
entrance to the military base in
Afghanistan’s Kandahar province
on March 11 after the shootings
in nearby Alkozai village. Pic: AFP

negotiating table. Yet growing Afghan outrage at the repeated missteps could spell trouble for the coalition’s strategy, warned Moeed Yusuf of the US Institute of Peace. “If this continues, I don’t see how one can hold on to the strategy, which is in large part dependent on having the goodwill of the average Afghan,” he told AFP.

“The military strategy has dominated this where the political strategy should have dominated. The political hand has always been weak and that’s the problem.” The March 11 massacre poses a difficult test for the US-Afghan alliance, as the two countries pursue complex negotiations on a strategic pact to govern their long- term security relationship

once foreign combat troops leave Afghanistan in 2014. Any deal would address the legal status of any US soldiers who stay behind to help prevent the country falling back into the hands of the Taliban, who were toppled in 2001 for sheltering al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Yusuf stressed that Afghan reconciliation and continued negotiations with the Americans – as appear to be taking place in Qatar, where the Taliban have opened an office – are the only way out. Despite the stalemate on the ground, he called reconciliation “the only available option right now.” The Taliban may be vowing vengeance but they have an interest in the talks as well by gaining political legitimacy, Yusuf said. “The shooting doesn’t change the war’s strategic calculus,” agreed Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations.

He said ensuring a proper security transition by late 2014 “is no longer viable” because the Taliban is still mounting significant attacks. “What we will be handing off will be a stalemate at best,” said Biddle, a US national security and defence policy expert. “At best, the Afghan National Security Forces will be able to hold what we’ve taken.” As for reconciliation, it is not at the heart of the strategy, said Biddle. He said the Taliban, targeted by continued military operations and eager to see foreign troops leave Afghanistan, are “still willing to discuss,” meaning there may yet be an exit out of Afghanistan. But that can only happen once “real negotiation” takes place, “where both sides make concessions and they will wait it out,” Biddle added. – AFP


March 19 - 25, 2012


the MyanMar tiMes

Singaporeans campaign to save a lush, green retreat

By Simon Wang

SINGAPORE – The air is crisp and sunlight filters softly through foliage punctuated by pink and yellow flowers as birds and crickets supply the soundtrack for joggers, cyclists and nature lovers. It’s hard to believe you’re in one of the world’s most densely populated countries when you’re standing in the middle of former railroad land

in the heart of Singapore.

A winding stretch of lush

greenery runs from the shadows of skyscrapers in the financial district to the border with Malaysia, all

that’s left of an old railway taken over by Singapore from its neighbour in mid-2011. Popularly known as the “Green Corridor”, the 25- kilometre (16-mile) zone is the focus of a citizens’ campaign to create a sanctuary for nature – and

a retreat for development- weary Singaporeans.

B u t w h e t h e r t h e

government can resist the urge to develop parts of the swathe of land is another matter. Liew Kai Khiun, an academic involved in heritage work, said the future of the railway land has become an important issue for many Singaporeans. “Other than merely nostalgia, these concerns actually reflect the undercurrent desires by more Singaporeans for more stability, ownership and continuity in a country that they would like to call home instead of an exploitable asset,” he said.

to call home instead of an exploitable asset,” he said. Singaporeans enjoy a stroll along a

Singaporeans enjoy a stroll along a section of the Green Corridor, the focus of a “bottom-up” preservation movement launched by citizens. Pic: AFP

The railway land passes old shrines, graffiti-decorated bridges, community gardens and neighbourhoods where about a fifth of Singapore’s five million people live, said Leong Kwok Peng, 55, vice president of the Nature

Society of Singapore. Malaysia and Singapore

separated in 1965 but the railroad, built earlier in the century during British colonial rule, remained in Malaysian hands for 46 years as the two countries sorted out a number of issues. This shielded the railroad zone from development until it came under Singapore’s control last year. The former main terminal in downtown Singapore, an