Friday, November 09, 2007

Women rulers disliked in Asia?

Detained Myanmar opposition head Aung San Suu Kyi is under house arrest for years and is told to be "very optimistic" about prospects of the U.N.-promoted process for reconciliation between the military government and pro-democracy forces, top members of her party said Friday.

But not far from Burma, in Pakistan, security officials barricaded former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto inside her home behind barbed wire, concrete blocks and armored cars on Friday morning, and turned out in force in downtown Rawalpindi to quash a planned rally, dispersing protesters as they tried to assemble.

With conflict between Bhutto and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf at a new height, police early Friday began surrounding Bhutto's home, under orders to prevent her from leaving to lead the Rawalpindi demonstration. A security official said the steps were for her protection.

The Rawalpindi protest, called to oppose the national state of emergency declared by Musharraf over the weekend, failed to materialize under a heavy police presence in the city and security barricades established on the roads leading into it. There were scattered clashes through the day between police and would-be protesters.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A coffee with Akie Abe

I was queuing at the coffee break of an interesting seminar on Burma Asean and Japan organized by a famous Japanese foundation when suddenly my eyes got caught by a lady queuing too, just on my left arm, elegant, well dressed in a dark suit, tall and laughing. Mrs. Akie Abe the wife of the former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

We came into introducing each other and chatted as I reminded her that we had previously met a few times in the past and we talked about the first time I saw the lady to become the Japanese First Lady, in Tokyo, a couple of years ago introduced by a good friend of mine.

Immediately Akie sama spoke very freely and with kind word and gentleness about her husband, Shinzo. "He is fine" she told me "and he recovers well".

I encouraged his recovery and of course asked her if we could invite her to my press club (Press club) with her husband one coming day. "We ll see" what happens. "We wait for you" I answered. "Come to see us."

One other point I noticed about is her committed character, probably the reason why some Japanese and foreign media behaved ruthlessly in talking about her in some articles, probably without even approaching her. My impression about officials, trained with a few decades in reporting, convinced me that Akie sama is a very nice and warm hearted person. The first laughter she had was when I mentioned her studying foreign languages with one of my friend, a Japanese ex reporter of a national newspaper, a few years ago. Her comment was genuinely fresh and honest, "Well, I do not know if my English improved".

I then wondered how come it is possible that politics destroys people or hurts then so much in this country. Going on in the queue to our coffee cup, I saw how people seemed seduced by her free talks and elegant walk. How come this French man talks to the former First Lady so easily, some might have thought. After we poured coffee in the cups and exchanged a few words, I let her quiet and saw many ladies coming to greet her. Let's part and let her do her former First Lady work I told to myself.

Later on, Akie sama asked me how my Japanese was and I modestly confessed that it was still so-so and that I keep on studying, "Your Japanese must be better than my English" she told me with a clear smile before to wonder why my name also bears the name Koizumi... "Family matters", I answered with a twinkle in the eyes.

The seminar focused on the situation in Burma. I learned a lot there and one figure increased my worries for Burma's future: More than 1 million people already escaped from the country to get refugee status in neighboring Thailand. Akie sama stayed until the end of the seminar. The coffee was excellent too!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Pro Burmese junta tycoons targeted

After the testimony of Burma's refugees I wrote on this blog after my report in South East Asia "Esclave, pour fuir la Birmanie." I received many emails and talks of people interested in hearing other testimonies of witnesses enslaved in Burma or in the Burma neighboring nations, I shall write again about the enslaved Burmese citizens forced laboring in timber and construction firms based on what I heard and saw during my journey.

But prior to this, I read that Burmese tycoons seem to be scared after the US sanctions threats: One in particular has wet hands:

Picture of the sanctioned Burmese tycoon

Burma Air Bagan, Tay Za, left, speaks with Yangon Commander Maj. Gen. Hla Htay Win ,right, and Transport Minister Maj. Gen. Thein Swe, center, as they stand next to the airline's Airbus A310-200, during a launching ceremony of the first Air Bagan international flight Tuesday, May 15, 2007, at Yangon International Airport. Air Bagan airline formally launched its international service with a flight to Bangkok in neighboring Thailand. The airline was planning to extend its flights to future destinations including China, Singapore, India and Cambodia. (Agencies)

Close friends? Not for long, depending on international pressure on Burma. I also think the Singapore reaction to US financial sanction (the freeze of Burmese pro junta tycoons banks acconts) is quite amazing. Banks in Asia now are scared by the sanctions the US government wish to impose on Burmese junta. More on this with this article of Bertil Lintner that you can access clicking the title of this article.

I quote:
"... Tay Za is the 42-year-old manager of the Myanmar-based Htoo Trading Company, which among other subsidiaries controls the Singapore-registered Htoo Wood Products, Pavo Trading, and Air Bagan. Through the new sanctions, all of those companies are now blacklisted by the US government. The businessman is known to be very close to junta leader General Than Shwe and when he first launched into business he made a point of employing the children of powerful generals - which presumably paved the way for him to land lucrative government contracts. Among those currently or formerly on his payroll are Aung Thet Mann, the son of General Shwe Mann, the junta's third ranking official after Than Shwe and army chief General Maung Aye. According to a 2005 report in The Irrawaddy, Tay Za is also close to Than Shwe's son, Kyaing San Shwe, whom Tay Za presented with a US-made Hummer, for undisclosed reasons..."

Among the words, I noticed with irony the use of Pavo Trading (Pavo is a constellation, but if you add the letter "T", it gives "Pavot", which is the flower that produces the opium: Papaver somniferum. How cynical some say.) This Lintner article in Asia Times is quite different from this lenient information published by the Yomiuri in Japan based on a telex from Afp / Jiji press agencies. " Myanmar tycoon denounces US sanctions ".

"...Flamboyant Myanmar tycoon Tay Za Monday denounced US sanctions against his airline and other firms which he said would only hurt the people of the impoverished Southeast Asian nation. US President George W. Bush last month ordered sanctions against seven companies with ties to Myanmar's ruling junta. Tay Za's Air Bagan was among seven firms blacklisted to pile more pressure on the regime after its bloody suppression of pro-democracy protests in September which left 13 dead and thousands locked up. "I hereby condemn the sanctions which were recklessly imposed and only hurt the people of Myanmar," Tay Za told officials, staff and businessmen in a speech for celebrations to mark Air Bagan's third anniversary..."

It looks like the report of Bertil Lintner indeed clarifies the litigious impressions (Click the title)