Archive for March, 2012

March 27, 2012

Burma Analysis: West waits on Myanmar vote to start sanctions scale-back

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:   http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/27/us-myanmar-election-idUSBRE82Q07B20120327

Myanmar's army chief General Min Aung Hlaing salutes during a ceremony to mark the 67th anniversary of Armed Forces Day in Myanmar's capital Naypyitaw March 27, 2012. The event commemorates the Burmese army's rising up against Japanese occupiers in 1945. REUTERS-Soe Zeya Tun

By Martin Petty

BANGKOK | Tue Mar 27, 2012 3:28am EDT

(Reuters) – Western countries desperately want Myanmar’s by-elections on Sunday to go smoothly – and give opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi a seat in parliament – so they can start to lift sanctions and let their companies invest in the once-isolated state.

Myanmar’s civilian rulers have astonished with a reform drive since taking office a year ago, freeing hundreds of political prisoners jailed by the former junta, holding peace talks with ethnic militias and opening up the economy.

Western companies are lining up to get into the country, sandwiched between China and India and offering huge potential in energy, financial services, telecoms and tourism.

Diplomats say some U.S. restrictions such as visa bans and asset freezes could be lifted quickly if the election is credible, and the European Union may end sanctions that ban investment in timber and the mining of gemstones and metals.

But the ballot needs the thumbs-up from the 66-year-old Suu Kyi, who is contesting one of 45 parliamentary seats after two decades in the political wilderness, much of it under house arrest.

“If Suu Kyi and the democratic opposition basically give their blessing that the April 1 elections are ‘good enough’, there will be some sort of positive, reciprocal action on the part of the U.S. government,” said Jennifer Quigley, advocacy director of the Washington-based U.S. Campaign for Burma.

The EU, Canada and Australia have hinted they will do the same. In a visit to Cambodia on Monday, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said its embargoes would be scaled back in stages, but he emphasized that “each removal of sanctions will be after consultation with the opposition”.

But Nobel laureate Suu Kyi has a dilemma of her own. If she disputes the election result, even for valid reasons, and sanctions remain in force, some analysts say it could dent her image among millions of Burmese longing for change.

“(Suu Kyi) views sanctions as leverage to get what she wants from the government. That is a very dangerous policy,” said David Steinberg, a veteran Myanmar analyst at Washington’s Georgetown University and a critic of the sanctions.

“Why? Because it puts her in the position of being perceived to be in favor of poverty. Not that she is, but … that could hurt her.”

There are bound to be complaints come election day. After 49 years of isolation and army rule, Myanmar has limited experience of holding ballots. And a 2010 general election was widely seen as rigged to favor the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), now by far the biggest in parliament.

Most diplomats believe Myanmar’s rulers are sincere: they want Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party on board to add legitimacy to parliament.

But the NLD has already laid the grounds for a possible dispute of the result, with allegations of vote-buying and the inclusion of dead people on voters’ lists, plus claims the president, who is supposed to be impartial, has tried to influence the vote.

The government has not done itself any favors by not allowing a proper monitoring mission. Last week it belatedly invited a team of five Southeast Asian observers and asked the United States, the EU and others to send in two people each.

COMPLEX SANCTIONS

Regardless of the outcome, it is unclear how quickly sanctions could be lifted. It is impossible to scrap them all at once, frustrating Western investors who face a race against time as Asian firms snap up deals and business delegations pour into the country to scope out opportunities.

The EU is well placed to relax its curbs on investment sooner than Washington as most of its “restrictive measures”, which also include asset freezes, are up for review on April 23.

According to several diplomats from EU member states, those sanctions might be removed with a simple vote by the EU Foreign Affairs Council, as long as the election is deemed credible and Suu Kyi gives her blessing.

What will remain is its arms embargo and its trade measures, which exclude Myanmar from the EU’s Generalized System of Preferences for poorer countries, including tariff-free imports under the “Everything But Arms” initiative. Reversing that is complex and could take at least a year, some diplomats say.

Canada might also start to scale back sanctions if the poll is fair, a government official told Reuters. It bans trade and investment in the country by Canadian firms and denies Myanmar access to low tariffs, development aid and financial services.

U.S. FIRMS SIDELINED

That could leave Washington playing catch-up. Its complex, overlapping web of sanctions would be extremely difficult to undo quickly, even though lawmakers say there is bipartisan support in Congress to move ahead on that.

U.S. sanctions are governed by five federal laws and four presidential executive orders issued between 1990 and 2008, each with different, or unspecified, expiry dates and conditions for lifting.

Myanmar may have already met some of the conditions, such as engaging with the opposition and progress on media freedom.

But some laws require the release of all political prisoners, when no one really knows how many are still detained, or stipulate the U.S. president has to be satisfied Myanmar, the world’s second-largest opium grower, is no longer “a country of interest for narcotics trafficking”.

All this, economists say, does not bode well for the United States, which wants to offset China’s influence on Myanmar and has companies chomping at the bit to invest.

“Keeping ourselves completely out of the trade and investment arena while everyone else is jumping in wouldn’t necessarily be positioning the U.S. where we want to be,” said Bradley Babson, a retired World Bank official and expert on Myanmar’s economy.

“Now what they’ve got is a very complicated, multi-layered structure of legal things, and peeling that onion — even if there’s a shift in policy — just the mechanics of undoing it all mean it is going to take time.”

(Additional reporting by Paul Eckert in Washington, David Ljunggren in Ottawa, Justyna Pawlak in Brussels and Prak Chan Thul in Phnom Penh; Editing by Alan Raybould and Jonathan Thatcher)

March 23, 2012

EDF’s Wolf Calls For Three Sectors, Water-Energy-Food, To Be Governed By One Policy

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaynejung/2012/03/22/edfs-wolf-calls-for-three-sectors-water-energy-food-to-be-governed-by-one-policy/

Click here to find out more!

Jayne Jung

Jayne Jung, Contributor

I focus on energy and environmental and social issues

+ Follow on Forbes

Markets |3/22/2012 @ 9:35Pm

Today is UN’s World Water Day with water and food security as its theme. Leading up to it, panelists gathered at the 6th World Water Forum in Marseille, France last Friday to discuss creating a more systematic approach in understanding the linkages between water, food and one additional sector, energy, and the policies that increase the productivity of all three.

“In a lot of countries you can’t produce water without energy, in particular when you need to sanitize it. Then you can’t produce food without water and energy,” says Gérard Wolf, Paris-based senior vice president of international operations and group synergies at Électricité de France (EDF), speaking to Electric Eclectic.

“Clearly at the end of the day if you want to provide water, energy and food to a household, the nexus between them is evident. The real problem is to have a global policy approach to the question rather than a silo-based approach,” he continues. Along with EDF, Paris-based GDF Suez is another major energy company pushing for a more comprehensive approach at the national or regional level.

Irrigation uses 70 percent of available fresh water sources. And for hydropower in particular, although it doesn’t use water it can alter river cycles, which in turn can affect the livelihoods of farmers or fishers who rely on them.

Alain Vidal, director of the research consortium Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research’s (CGIAR) Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF), says that biggest hinderance to creating integrated policies is more political than economic. “The way to protect the environment and to make a dam productive not only for energy but also for food production exists. Most of the time it’s the lack of the political will power, political cooperation, and political coordination that doesn’t allow for it,” says Vidal, who co-convened the panel with EDF.

For corporations as well as the general public that roadblock could present a long-term risk. Navigating the water-energy-food-security nexus presents new challenges for business, wrote Lauren Koopman, a New York-based director of sustainable business solutions at PwC in a March report. PwC published another report last November showing that over 60 percent of the CEOs in Asia think that water security is critical to free trade. So, as water security concerns increase so too does the need for better  policy solutions.

A good example of such a policy at the project level is EDF’s hydropower plant Nam Theun 2 in Laos, according to CPWF’s Vidal. However, it came after years of discussions with local activists starting in the mid-1990s, after the project had already been designed and finalized. As is in most cases, the Government of Laos currently does not have integrated national policies governing the corporate social and environmental aspect of dam building.

With an installed capacity of 1,070 megawatts, Nam Theun 2 is the largest hydropower project in the country. It is located on the Mekong River’s fourth largest tributary, and has required about 450 square kilometers (174 square miles) to be flooded on the Nakai Plateau, displacing 7,000 villagers there and more than 100,000 downstream.

The $1.3 billion plant is owned by the Government of Lao PDR’s Laos Holding State Enterprise (20 percent), Electricity Generating Public Company of Thailand (35 Percent) and EDF International (40 percent). Together they operate Nam Theun 2 Power Company. Thailand receives about 90 percent of the energy generated by the dam, while Laos receives the remaining 10 percent.

The project took many years to get started. Commissioned in 2010, groundwork for the plant began as early as 1986 when the the World Bank conducted a pre-feasibility study. The initial design created in the early 1990s was based on the Asian Development Bank guidelines, which did not take into account social and environmental issues.

By 2000, a Water Saving Convention was signed requiring EDF to pay the farmers if they achieved water savings objectives. Farmers and fishers were also given access to the reservoir. Irrigation flow schedules were created. Reforestation programs established. And for the 7,000 upstream villagers affected, Nam Theun 2 Power Company constructed new housing facilities, schools, health clinics, and community centers. Downstream, the power company oversaw the diversification of farmers’ crops and the introduction of water resource education. The total cost of the dam was $1.3 billion with about 13 percent allocated to social and environmental issues. “13 percent is enormous in a sense, because you have to convince the lenders and the countries,” says EDF’s Wolf.

And the list of lenders is long. They include support from France’s Coface, Sweden’s EKN, Norway’s GIEK, the ADB, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, the World Bank, the French Development Agency, the Export-Import Bank of Thailand, Nordic Investment Bank, nine international banks and seven Thai banks.

But to some activists like Berkeley, California-based International Rivers and Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Defense Fund the money still may have not been enough or appropriately allocated depending on the process that Nam Theun 2 Power Company went about creating the programs. Also, the environmental groups have called for legally enforceable resettlement, mitigation and development rights for all the affected villagers and an independent organization to audit the programs’ progress.

Their concerns again point to the need for national and international policies that consider the nexus between water, energy and food. In the end, Wolf says that although the cost may be significant from a project perspective, the amount is necessary to achieve a sustainable solution. “The whole story is having a policy that can assure everybody that there’s a sustainable long-term solution for the local population,” he says. “We have to bring multi-purpose solutions.”

March 13, 2012

Laos’ first thriller tests censorship laws

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/radio/onairhighlights/laos-first-thriller-tests-censorship-laws

Updated 13 March 2012, 16:23 AEST

The Bangkok, the Foreign Correspondent’s Club held a screening of an exciting new feature film from Laos, the country’s very first thriller titled ‘At the Horizon’.

‘At the Horizon’ is being described as a psychological thriller which studies the inner workings of the victim and the victor through a harrowing battle of wits and violence.

It’s the debut feature of Anysay Keola, who graduated from Australia, and is currently doing his Master’s in Film at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand.

His short film ‘Another Love Story’ won a top prize at the Young Thai Artists Awards in 2011.

Presenter: Liam Cochrane

Speaker: Anysay Keola, film maker and director

March 13, 2012

Vietnam, Laos step up military co-operation

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://news.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne%2BNews/Asia/Story/A1Story20120313-333155.html

Viet Nam News
Tuesday, Mar 13, 2012

DA NANG, VIETNAM – The Viet Nam People’s Army and the Lao People’s Army will continue their exchange of visits, sharing experiences in ideological and political education and co-operation in personnel training.

They will also step up their coordination in searching for and gathering the remains of Vietnamese military experts and soldiers who died in Laos and repatriate them to their homeland.

These contents were agreed during talks between Vietnamese Defence Minister General Phung Quang Thanh and his Lao counterpart, Senior Lieut Gen Douangchay Phichit yesterday.

The two ministers briefed each other about each nation’s situation, reviewing the armies’ friendly co-operation in recent years and exchanging views on regional and international issues.

Thanh, who is a Politburo member, welcomed the visit of Douangchay Phichit, a Politburo member of the Lao Peoples Revolutionary Party and Deputy Prime Minister.

He said the visit would help promote the special, traditional friendship and comprehensive co-operation between the two countries’ armies and people.

On this occasion, the Lao Defence Ministry delegation visited Da Nang City and several military units.

They will wrap up their Viet Nam visit today.

————-

ORIGINAL:

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:   http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/politics-laws/222026/vn-laos-step-up-military-co-operation.html

VN, Laos step up military co-operation

DA NANG — The Viet Nam People’s Army and the Lao People’s Army will continue their exchange of visits, sharing experiences in ideological and political education and co-operation in personnel training.

They will also step up their coordination in searching for and gathering the remains of Vietnamese military experts and soldiers who died in Laos and repatriate them to their homeland.

These contents were agreed during talks between Vietnamese Defence Minister General Phung Quang Thanh and his Lao counterpart, Senior Lieut Gen Douangchay Phichit yesterday.

The two ministers briefed each other about each nation’s situation, reviewing the armies’ friendly co-operation in recent years and exchanging views on regional and international issues.

Thanh, who is a Politburo member, welcomed the visit of Douangchay Phichit, a Politburo member of the Lao Peoples Revolutionary Party and Deputy Prime Minister.

He said the visit would help promote the special, traditional friendship and comprehensive co-operation between the two countries’ armies and people.

On this occasion, the Lao Defence Ministry delegation visited Da Nang City and several military units.

They will wrap up their Viet Nam visit today. — VNS

—-

link.

www.youtube.com

Uploaded by on Jan 15, 2012

QUÂN ĐỘI NHÂN DÂN VIỆT NAM LÀ LỰC LƯỢNG NÒNG CỐT BẢO VỆ TOÀN BỘ CHỦ QUYỀN BIÊN GIỚI LÃNH THỔ , LÃNH HẢI. CÁC KHU ĐỊA CHÍNH TRỊ VÀ CÁC KHU KINH TẾ QUAN TRỌNG CỦA ĐẤT NƯỚC .
TRANG BỊ TRONG BIÊN CHẾ QUÂN ĐỘ VIỆT NAM : 450000 LÍNH CHUYÊN NGHIỆP , PHÂN LÀM 3 QUÂN CHỦNG QUÂN CHỦNG LỤC QUÂN (412000 BỘ ĐỘI) , QUÂN CHỦNG HẢI QUÂN (30000 QUÂN) , QUÂN CHỦNG PHÒNG KHÔNG KHÔNG QUÂN (15000 QUÂN) VÀ HƠN 4000000 QUÂN DỰ BỊ
– TRANG BỊ CHO LỤC QUÂN 2012 CÓ : TÊN LỮA HÀNH TRÌNH SCUD B TẦM BẮM 450-500 KM VỚI NHIỀU LOẠI ĐẦU ĐẠN, 2250 TANK CÁC LOẠI , HƠN 1000 XE BỌC THÉP VÀ 2000 PHÁO CÁC LOẠI
– TRANG BỊ CHO HẢI QUÂN 2012 GỒM CÓ: 2 TÀU FIREGATE GEPARD 3.9 , 12 TARANTUL 4 VÀ 10 TARANTUL 1 VÀ 1 SỐ BPS500 VÀ T400TP TỰ ĐÓNG VÀ 2 HỆ THỐNG BASTION K300P VỚI YAKHONT LÀM CHỦ ĐẠO , 2 TÀU NGẦM LỚP SANG O MUA CỦA BẮC TRIỀU TIÊN CHUYÊN DUNG HUẤN LUYỆN VÀ KHẢO SÁT ĐÁY BIỂN
– TRANG BỊ CHO PHÒNG KHÔNG KHÔNG QUÂN VIỆT NAM 2012 GỒM CÓ :11 SU 27 (MẤT 1 DO TAI NẠN) 4 SU 30 MKVII , 90 MIG 21 , 40-50 SU 22M VÀ 2 TỔ HỢP TÊN LỬA S300PMU1 , CÁC HỆ THỐNG TÊN LỬA SA 2 , SA 3 MỚI NHẬN THÊM 4 SU 30 MKVII CUỐI NĂM 2011

Bộ trưởng Quốc phòng Cộng hòa Dân chủ nhân dân Lào thăm, làm việc tại Việt Nam

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://dangcongsan.vn/CPV/Modules/News/NewsDetail.aspx?co_id=30106&cn_id=511803

16:31 | 12/03/2012

Nhận lời mời của Đại tướng Phùng Quang Thanh, Ủy viên Bộ Chính trị, Bộ trưởng Bộ Quốc phòng nước ta, Thượng tướng Đuông-chay Phi-chít, Ủy viên Bộ chính trị Ban chấp hành Trung ương Đảng nhân dân Cách mạng Lào, Phó Thủ tướng Chính phủ, Bộ trưởng Bộ Quốc phòng nước Cộng hòa Dân chủ nhân dân Lào dẫn đầu Đoàn đại biểu Bộ Quốc phòng Lào sang thăm và làm việc tại nước ta.

Đại tướng Phùng Quang Thanh và Thượng tướng Đuông-chay Phi-chít
ký Kế hoạch hợp tác năm 2012 giữa Bộ Quốc phòng hai nước  (Ảnh: Báo QĐND)

Sáng 12/3, Đại tướng Phùng Quang Thanh và các cán bộ cấp cao Quân đội nhân dân Việt Nam đã đón tiếp thân mật Thượng tướng Đuông-chay Phi-chít và các thành viên trong đoàn. Đại tướng Phùng Quang Thanh nhiệt liệt chào mừng Thượng tướng Đuông-chay Phi-chít và các thành viên trong đoàn sang thăm và làm việc tại Việt Nam, qua đó tăng cường phát triển mối quan hệ hợp tác hữu nghị đặc biệt, truyền thống, hợp tác toàn diện giữa quân đội và nhân dân hai nước Việt Nam-Lào.

Đoàn đại biểu cấp cao Bộ Quốc phòng Việt Nam do Đại tướng Phùng Quang Thanh làm trưởng đoàn đã hội đàm với Đoàn đại biểu Quân sự cấp cao Bộ Quốc phòng Lào do Thượng tướng Đuông-chay Phi-chít làm trưởng đoàn. Hai bên đã trao đổi về tình hình mỗi nước, khu vực và quốc tế; đánh giá kết quả hợp tác hữu nghị giữa Quân đội nhân dân Việt Nam và Quân đội nhân dân Lào thời gian qua; thống nhất thời gian tới, quân đội hai nước tiếp tục tăng cường hợp tác trên các lĩnh vực, như: trao đổi đoàn các cấp, trao đổi kinh nghiệm công tác giáo dục chính trị tư tưởng, về đào tạo cán bộ, phối hợp đẩy mạnh công tác tìm kiếm, quy tập, hồi hương hài cốt liệt sĩ và chuyên gia quân sự Việt Nam hy sinh tại Lào qua các thời kỳ chiến tranh và những vấn đề cùng quan tâm, vì hòa bình, hữu nghị, phát triển trong khu vực và trên thế giới.

Trong thời gian ở thăm Việt Nam, Thượng tướng Đuông-chay Phi-chít và các thành viên trong Đoàn đại biểu Quân sự cấp cao Bộ Quốc phòng nước Cộng hòa Dân chủ nhân dân Lào đã thăm và làm việc tại thành phố Đà Nẵng, thăm Trung đoàn 143 thuộc Sư đoàn 315 của Quân khu 5, Vùng 3 Hải quân… Ngày 13/3, Thượng tướng Đuông-chay Phi-chít và các thành viên trong đoàn rời thành phố Đà Nẵng, kết thúc tốt đẹp chuyến thăm và làm việc tại Việt Nam./

March 12, 2012

Report: Laos Christian Facing Ultimatum To Recant Faith

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.worthynews.com/11321-report-laos-christian-facing-ultimatum-to-recant-faith

Monday, March 12, 2012 (3:36 am)

VIENTIANE, LAOS (Worthy News)– The only known Christian in a rural district of northern Laos was under pressure to abandon his faith in Christ or face expulsion from his village, his supporters told Worthy News.

Khamla of Dongvieng village in Viengphuka district was told by local authorities to “give up believing in the Christian religion” by March 7 “or be cast out from the village,” said Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF), which supports local Christians in Laos.

The Christian, who uses only one name, was allegedly summoned to appear at the local government headquarters where he faced some 20 officials, including a representative of the Communist party, the village leadership and security personnel.

“Authorities are believed to be attempting to abolish the Christian religion from taking root in Viengphuka district,” said HRWLRF in a statement.

Khamla reportedly embraced the Christian faith only after claiming to have been healed from a long-term disease during following “fervent prayers by other believers” outside the district. Viengphuka district’s estimated 20,000 people are mainly farmers and live in small rural villages.

Khamla is the latest known Christian to face expulsion over his faith, rights activists said.

CHRISTIAN FAMILIES

Elsewhere in northern Laos, rights activists said 10 Christian families in Hueygong Village, located in the Pakoo District of Luangprabang province, were given till March 18 to recant their faith or be forced to leave the area, Worthy News reported earlier.

In the same province news emerged Wednesday, March 7, that 14 Christian families, comprising some 80 persons, have been told to leave Hueysell village, in Ngoi District, if they don’t stop believing in Jesus Christ.

“Thus far, village authorities have not carried through their threat of expulsion” which was issued in January by local authorities, said HRWLRF, adding that the Christians “have remained firm in their faith.”

The group has urged the government respect the country’s constitution and international treaties regarding religious freedom.

There are some 200,000 devoted Christians in Communist-run Laos, where most of the 6.4 million people are Buddhists, according to Christian estimates.

Lao officials have denied human rights abuses against minorities.

Related News Stories:

  1. Christians in Laos forced to recant their Faith
  2. Christians in Laos forced to recant their Faith
  3. Christians in Laos Threatened with Death or Eviction unless they give up their Faith
  4. Laos Forcing Christians To Renounce Faith
  5. Twelve Christians in Laos Pressured to Abandon Their Faith While in Prison
  6. Vietnam Christian Dies After Torture For Refusing To Recant Faith, reports
  7. Laos Security Forces Kill 13 Christians In Major Crackdown, report

Copyright 1999-2011 Worthy News. All rights reserved.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 584 other followers

%d bloggers like this: