Protest in Pwint Phyu calling Constitutional Amendments

Protest in Pwint Phyu calling Constitutional Amendments

Farmers in Southen Shan Protest Against Land Confiscation

Farmers in Southen Shan Protest Against Land Confiscation

Foreign aid workers ‘huddled’ in Sittwe police station

In this file photo, some 3,000 Arakanese Buddhists take to the streets of Sittwe to demand that international agencies are expelled from the area. (PHOTO: Sittwe Community FB)
By DVB

Foreign aid workers in Arakan State capital Sittwe are currently “huddled” at a local police station after a mob began attacking homes and offices of several international NGOs in the town on Wednesday night and again on Thursday morning, Malteser International spokesperson Johannes Kaltenbach has confirmed to DVB.

Another international source said that the offices of UNICEF and UNOCHA had been attacked and that rioters had entered the buildings.

According to Rakhine Nationalities Development Party MP Pe Than, the mob violence flared after a foreign female NGO worker removed a Buddhist flag from the front of the office and placed it in her pocket, which was interpreted by some locals as disrespectful because of the flag’s proximity to her lower body.

The incident was quickly linked to a Malteser International employee. However, Kaltenbach said that the staffer in question did not disrespect the Buddhist flag.

“The disturbance started in relation to a protest against the census in which protestors were required to fly Buddhist flags,” he told DVB on Thursday afternoon. “Our housekeeper flew one of these flags at our office which the programme coordinator removed later, at about 6 or 6:30pm in accordance with our policy of no religious or political insignia. She did not disrespect the flag in any way.”

He said that around two hours later, a mob of about 50 people arrived at the Malteser office and began shouting. That crowd subsequently grew and became increasingly more threatening.

“All our windows were smashed with rocks, and equipment was destroyed,” said Kaltenbach. “Solidarity International also evacuated their office, which got the same treatment.”

Kaltenbach said that the situation was very worrying and difficult to make sense of because of a lack of available information.

“I would like to stress that this is a broader issue of antagonism towards INGOs, not an isolated response to the flag incident,” he said.

Meanwhile, DVB has been told by local MP Aung Myat Kyaw that a curfew has been imposed in Sittwe from 6pm to 6am starting on Thursday, and that a ban on assemblies of more than five persons has been imposed.

Myanmar mobs attack NGO offices

TENSION: Workers from an NGO arrive at an airport following mobs tore through streets in Yangon on Thursday. (AP)
REUTERS

YANGON: Protesters in Myanmar’s Rakhine State opposed to a census attacked offices and houses used by international aid groups after reports a European staff member from one group had removed a Buddhist flag used as a symbol to boycott the operation, witnesses said.

The violence broke out late on Wednesday and continued into Thursday. Witnesses said security personnel fired warning shots in Sittwe, the capital of the western state, to disperse the attackers, who were demanding that the aid worker be handed over to them.

“A female European staff member allegedly took off a religious flag put up near her office by local people as a gesture of boycotting the government-sponsored census,” Aung Mra Kyaw, an official from the Rakhine National Party, told Reuters.

“She wrapped it over her buttocks and threw it away when some eyewitnesses saw her yesterday evening.”

It was not clear which aid agency she worked for. The offices of some United Nations agencies were also attacked, Aung Mra Kyaw said.

A Myanmar citizen working for one aid group said all staff from international non-governmental organizations and UN agencies were preparing to evacuate to the commercial capital, Yangon.
The authorities have extended a nightly curfew already in place to between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. from midnight to 4 a.m.

Myanmar President Says Military Should Continue Key Role in Politics

Myanmar President Thein Sein speaks at parliament in Naypyidaw, March 26, 2014 AFP

Myanmar’s President Thein Sein said Wednesday that the military will remain a key component in politics even as the country embraces reforms.

The general-turned-reformer indicated that any reduced role for the military, which committed blatant human rights abuses during its rule over five decades until 2012, will depend on whether the government can forge permanent peace with armed rebel groups, and on public acceptance of democracy.

“Our Armed Forces will continue to play a role in our democratic transition,” said Thein Sein, whose nominally-civilian government took over in 2012 after landmark elections and launched unprecedented political and economic reforms that resulted in the withdrawal of international sanctions on the once-pariah country.

“There is also the need for our Armed Forces to continue to be included at the political negotiation tables in finding solutions to our political issues,” he said in a speech to parliament marking three years of his government this week.

“We will be able to steadily reduce the role of our Armed Forces as we mature in democracy and if there is progress in our peace-building efforts,” he said.

The government expects to sign a nationwide cease-fire agreement with the country’s ethnic armed groups next month, the state-owned New Light of Myanmar reported this week.

The two sides are continuing to work on a cease-fire agreement framework.

“Past history and current world affairs have shown us that it is of utmost importance for small countries like ours to safeguard our sovereignty and to rely on our own resources,” Thein Sein said.

“In this regard, it is vital that our Armed Forces is a modern and strong one in order to defend and secure our country.“

Sweeping powers

Myanmar's powerful military continues to enjoy sweeping powers under the constitution and has a mandatory 25 percent control of parliament.

Together, the military and Thein Sein’s military-backed ruling United Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) control more than 80 percent of parliament, eclipsing the 75 percent support required for a constitutional amendment in the legislature.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, commenting on Thein Sein’s speech, said the military’s role is to support a political system that the people prefer.

“I’d rather see the army as professionals who the people love. [And] the peace process can be solved with political means,” said the Nobel laureate who has been a fierce critic of the military’s extensive powers.

Thein Sein also referred to the parliamentary democratic system practiced in Myanmar before the military junta took control of the country in 1962, saying lessons should be learned from that period.

He particularly cited armed conflicts which erupted at that time between the government and ethnic groups seeking greater powers.

“In the past our country had practiced a parliamentary system of governance, and it will not be pertinent to reintroduce a similar system of governance today,” he said.

“We must learn lessons from our past history that conflicts based on sectarian views and ideology had led to long-term armed insurgency, which had hampered the development of the country."

'Distorting facts'

Nyan Win, spokesman for Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, said Thein Sein had distorted “historical facts.”

“Nothing happened during the parliamentary system of governance. Everything happened during the military junta era. He is saying the opposite of history,” Nyan Win said.

He slammed the Thein Sein administration for dragging its feet on calls to amend the military-written constitution, which currently bars Aung San Suu Kyi from making a bid for the presidency because her sons are foreign citizens.

Thein Sein cautioned in his speech that any move to revamp the constitution should be done in a “careful and delicate” manner.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s party has called for amendments to the constitution before the 2015 elections, which she wants to contest.

After soliciting proposals from the public last year, a 31-member constitutional amendment implementation committee within parliament has been charged with completing a review of possible charter changes at least six months before next year’s polls.

'Right choice'

Thein Sein agreed that the constitution should be amended “to be in full conformity with democratic norms and values.”

“In this regard, I would like to urge everyone involved in the constitutional amendment process to wisely use their vision, experience and genuine goodwill and take careful and delicate actions in amending the constitution,” he said.

“Only with their right choice and action will we be able to create favorable political climate and avoid crisis.”

Reported by Kyaw Kwin Oo and Myo Thant Khine for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

Mobs Attack Offices of UN, Aid Groups in Myanmar’s Rakhine State

Protesters demonstrate against an international NGO in Sittwe on Feb. 22, 2014. AFP PHOTO

Buddhist mobs went on a rampage in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state in a new surge of violence Thursday, hurling stones and attacking the offices of international aid groups sent to care for thousands of area residents displaced by two years of violent ethnic conflict.

The rioting began late Wednesday when hundreds of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists smashed windows at the offices of German medical aid group Malteser International in the state capital Sittwe after a staff member of the group was reported to have removed a Buddhist flag from its building.

The United Nations, whose offices were also attacked, condemned the violence and so did the United States, whose three citizens were among aid workers given "emergency relocation." Washington questioned the inability of Myanmar’s security forces to stop the spread of the riots.

Buddhist flags have been flown across Sittwe in recent days as a symbol of opposition to Rakhine state’s widely despised Rohingya Muslim community, who rights groups say have borne the greatest share of suffering since communal clashes erupted in 2012.

The Rakhines and local authorities have since accused international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) now working in the state of giving preferential treatment to the Rohingyas , resulting in further tensions between the two groups.

“Some INGOs have frequently insulted our religion and harmed the rights of the Rakhine people,” local resident and former political prisoner Naing Soe told RFA’s Myanmar Service on Thursday.

“Local people have been angry, and those feelings came out in the open last night,” he said, adding, “I think we would have fewer problems if the government would do something to ease our anger.”

Staff blamed

A Rakhine state government spokesperson blamed Malteser International staff for provoking the unrest, saying, “I think the problem erupted because the INGO staff took down the Buddhist flag.”

“The owner of the building put up the flag himself, and he can do whatever he wants,” he said.

“We went there afterward with several security guards and brought two foreigners who took down the flag to a police guesthouse. We are going to question them about what happened, and will make a statement later.”

But a Malteser International staff member said her group had removed the flag in order not to show favor toward one group over the other in the ethnic conflict in Rakhine.

“Our INGO is a nonpolitical organization, and we could face problems with the Myanmar government if we display this flag,” the staffer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Though extremists on both sides should be restrained, most INGOs now operating in the area have been strongly biased in favor of the Rohingya minority, said Khin Maung Swe, opposition National Democratic Force (NDF) chairman and member of a government commission looking into the causes of ethnic riots in Rakhine.

“What I saw when I was in Rakhine state with other commission members was that most INGOs have mainly been helping the Muslim community,” Soe said. “Ethnic Rakhines have been getting only 10 percent of their help.”

“Moreover, these groups have admitted they are giving more help to the Muslims,” he said.

“U.N. organizations and INGOs should consider treating both communities fairly,” Soe said, adding that both ethnic groups and the authorities should “try to work together and find the best way to live together in peace.”

Curfew tightened

Authorities have tightened a curfew in Sittwe while police said they had escorted some 71 aid workers from nine organizations to safety -- 32 foreigners and 39 Myanmar nationals, Agence France-Presse reported.

Malteser Country Coordinator Johannes Kaltenbach told AFP that almost all humanitarian and UN offices and warehouses in Sittwe were damaged or looted by the mobs in what he said was violence "planned in advance" to stop international groups facilitating an upcoming  census.

Staff members of INGOs and U.N. agencies are now preparing to evacuate to Myanmar’s commercial capital Yangon, reports said.

The U.S. meanwhile voiced “deep concern” at the mob violence, noting that it had “resulted in [the] destruction of property and the emergency relocation of international aid workers, including at least three U.S. citizens, to safe havens.”

“Unhindered and regular humanitarian efforts to communities in need and the safety and security of humanitarian aid workers to ensure the delivery of those services is critical,” State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said.

“Despite some efforts by local authorities to ensure the security of humanitarian workers, we remain deeply concerned about the continued lack of adequate security forces and rule of law on the ground there [Sittwe] and in Rakhine State more broadly, and to prevent the outbreak and spread of violence and to protect aid workers, their offices, and other vulnerable populations in the area.”

Last month, medical aid group Doctors Without Borders (MSF) was expelled from Rakhine following a series of protests, putting the fate of tens of thousands of Rohingya in jeopardy.

Reported by Kyaw Kyaw Aung, Min Thein Aung and Kyaw Zaw Win for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Richard Finney.

SNLD Annual Meeting

SNLD Annual Meeting

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the House Speaker hold Press Conference

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the House Speaker hold Press Conference

The Making Of 'Gutter Oil' in China

The Making Of 'Gutter Oil' in China

Monks and Peoples in Yangon Protest Against Bangladesh Embassy

Monks and Peoples in Yangon Protest Against Bangladesh Embassy

Villagers Driven Out Their Own Villages By Local Battalion in Hlegu Township

Villagers Driven Out Their Own Villages By Local Battalion in Hlegu Township

Sintgaing Workers Boycotts for Wages Increase

Sintgaing Workers Boycotts for Wages Increase

Rally For Constitution Amendment in Pagan, Nyaung U

Rally For Constitution Amendment in Pagan, Nyaung U

Demonstration for Constitution Amendment in Magway

Demonstration for Constitution Amendment in Magway

Chinese passengers families protest Malaysian embassy

Chinese passengers families protest Malaysian embassy

Arakanese threaten to boycott census over Rohingya issue

Thousands of Arakanese Buddhists marched in several of townships on 16 March, demanding that the term "Rohingya" be omitted from census data collection. In this photo, demonstrators in the state capital, Sittwe, carry banners reading, "We won't give in to international pressure". (PHOTO: Democratic Party of Arakan)
Arakanese Buddhists from all of the state’s 17 townships have vowed to boycott Burma’s upcoming census after the government ignored an ultimatum to omit the term “Rohingya” from data collection.

Thousands of Arakanese, joined by Buddhist monk Wirathu, gathered on 16 March to demand that the term be expressly excluded by enumerators writing in ethnic affiliations, urging them to instead use the term “Bengali”. Demonstrators issued a joint letter to the Central Census Committee requesting a formal reply before 21 March.

“We will not allow census data collection in Arakan State,” said Than Htun, one of the campaign organisers, adding that all of Arakan’s 17 townships will participate in the boycott.

Myint Kyaing, director general of the Department of Population, insisted that the census will be conducted in accordance with international standards and is designed to serve the interests of the people.

“The issue of using the terms Bengali or Rohingya is still being negotiated by the state government and respective authorities. There is no exact answer yet about the usage,” he said.

The census, supported by the United Nations Population Fund, will begin on 30 March and continue through 10 April. It will be the first census conducted in the country in over 30 years, though results of all previous surveys are by and large dismissed as inaccurate.

The forthcoming census has caused controversy in many of Burma’s ethnic states and regions, especially the restive western state of Arakan, where an estimated 800,000 Rohingya Muslims are denied citizenship and referred to as illegal Bengali immigrants, though many claim to have lived in Burma for several generations and in some areas constitute a majority of the population.

Enumerators are trained to inquire about participants’ ethnic and religious identities, the former to either fall into one of Burma’s 135 officially recognised ethnic nationalities or be written in under an “other” category. Much of Burma’s predominantly Buddhist population denies the legitimacy of a Rohingya race, claiming that the term was fabricated by immigrants whose populations are widely assumed to be growing, though hard evidence to that effect does not yet exist.

Burma’s Rohingya population has for decades been subject to restrictions on movement and several aspects of family life, under state policies premised on population control. Rights groups have condemned the policies as tantamount to “persecution”, a punishable offence of international law.

By SHWE AUNG

DVB

‘Stepping on the Knife’ festival entrances Rangoon

The Hindu festival “Stepping on the Knife” was held in Rangoon on 23 March.

Devotees paraded through the streets of Mingalar Taung Nyunt Township carrying huge colourful constructions that pierced their bodies with metal spikes.

In a trance-like state, devotees impaled themselves with metal spikes to show that the gods have given them supernatural powers.

During the festival, people pray to the Hindu gods for health and wealth.

The highlight of the festival is when the temple leader climbs to the top of a ladder made of knives and makes an offering by tying branches to the highest point of the ladder.

It takes him three months to prepare for the climb and during this time he meditates and eats only vegetables.

Hindu people believe that if the temple head gives them a lime, they will become wealthy.

Photos by Yamin Oo

By DVB


Myanmar Activists in Long March to Push for an End to Myitsone Dam Project

A map showing the location of the Myitsone dam in Kachin state. RFA
About 100 activists in Myanmar have launched a two-month march from the commercial capital Yangon to the site of a controversial China-backed dam project in northern Kachin state to press the government to permanently cancel the venture.

They began the 750-mile (1,200-kilometer) walk on Sunday, hoping to pass through villages, towns, and cities to highlight what they believe to be compelling reasons to scrap the mammoth Myitsone Dam project on the Irrawaddy River, said the League of Ex-Political Prisoners, which organized the march.

President Thein Sein suspended the U.S. $3.6 billion project after he took over the helm of the country in 2011 following decades of military rule, but did not cancel it for good.

Amid a push by the dam's Chinese developers to restart work on the project—which environmentalists say would submerge dozens of villages, displace more than 10,000 people, and destroy the area’s ecology—non-governmental organizations believe the venture could resume under a new government after the 2015 elections.

Activists said they would speak to the people about the impact of the project on the environment during their stopover in places such as Bagan, Mandalay, Magway, Shwebo, Moenyin, and Myitkyina, the riverside capital of Kachin state.

The trip is to conclude at the dam site in Tan Phae village—the confluence of the Maykha and Malikha rivers.

"We will give speeches in Mandalay on April 12, a day before the water festival," Ye Htut Khaung, one of the organizers, told RFA's Myanmar Service.

"We will also give speeches regarding Myitsone Dam in Bagan and in Magway cities," he said. "When we arrive at the Myitsone Dam site, members from this group will brief the local people about the environmental issues [surrounding the project]."

Ye Htut Khaung also called for the expulsion from Myanmar of the project developer state-owned China Power Investment (CPI) company and wanted people relocated from the mine site to be allowed to return, the Mizzima news agency reported.

Public outcry

The dam project, which would provide most of its electricity to China, had before its suspension provoked massive public outcry over the widespread flooding and deforestation it would cause.

The trip by the activists, which will take three days by car, will last about 70 days, organizers said.

CPI has said it is interested in restarting the project, raising concerns among local residents.

Li Guanghua, a top official of the Myanmar subsidiary of CPI, had in December promised to work transparently with Myanmar if the project is resumed.

Maung Maung Oo, a member of the Mandalay-based environmental group Green Activities, told the Irrawaddy online journal last week that whether the dam is constructed or not, environmental damage to areas along the river had already begun.

He cited recent deforestation, erosion of the riverbed, and reduced fish stocks due to industrial development on the river.

“Even though the dam is still not there, the destruction of the river is terrible. If there’s a dam, the situation would be a lot worse than now, because the dam would reduce the flow of the water,” he said.

“The Myitsone project must be totally stopped," said U Ohn, vice president of the Yangon-based Forest Resource Environment Development and Conservation Association, according to Irrawaddy.

"If the project resumes, the environment in the Myitsone area and along the Irrawaddy River will be at risk.”

Thein Sein criticized

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in January slammed President Thein Sein for leaving the future of the Myitsone Dam unresolved, accusing him of passing the buck to the country’s next leaders by suspending the project until the end of his term.

“By … postponing the project by five years, this means the next government will have to take care of it,” she said in an interview with RFA’s Myanmar Service.

“It is as if they are saying, ‘It is not our duty. We are not responsible for this,’” said Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy is expected to be a key contender in the 2015 polls.

She said the country’s next government would be saddled with responsibility for deciding on the project because of the failure of Thein Sein’s government to settle its future for good.

If her party wins the 2015 polls, it will have “no other choice” but to deal with Chinese investors to resolve the issue “because the current government has left it hanging,” she said.

Reported by RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

Car Accident: Nay Pyi Taw - Yangon Highway on March 21

Car Accident: Nay Pyi Taw - Yangon Highway on March 21

Two Villages forced to move in Hlegu Tsp

Two Villages forced to move in Hlegu Tsp

Local Residents Physically Tortured by Soldiers

Local Residents Physically Tortured by Soldiers

By-Election to be held at the end of 2014

By-Election to be held at the end of 2014

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Meets Kawhmu Contituents, USDP members

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Meets Kawhmu Contituents, USDP members

MPs' Views on Bill to Raise Electricity Rates

MPs' Views on Bill to Raise Electricity Rates

President Proposes Electricities Meter Tariff

President Proposes Electricities Meter Tariff

Myanmar opium fight is ‘failing’

Daw Li weeps before the graves of her two oldest sons, both victims of heroin overdoses, at Nampatka village cemetery, northeastern Shan State, Myanmar. (AP file photo)
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

NAMPATKA: Every morning, more than 100 heroin and opium addicts descend on the graveyard in this northeastern Myanmar village to get high. When authorities show up, it’s for their own quick fix: Soldiers and police roll up the sleeves of their dark green uniforms, seemingly oblivious to passers-by.
Nearby, junkies lean on white tombstones, tossing dirty needles and syringes into the dry, golden grass. Others squat on the ground, sucking from crude pipes fashioned from plastic water bottles.
Together with other opium-growing regions of Myanmar, the village of Nampakta has seen an astonishing breakdown of law and order since generals from the formerly military-run country handed power to a nominally civilian government three years ago.
The drug trade — and addiction — is running wild along the jagged frontier. In this village, roughly half the population uses.
“It’s all in the open now,” Daw Li said at the cemetery, wiping tears from her cheeks. As she stood before the graves of her two oldest sons, both victims of heroin overdoses, she could see addicts using drugs.
“Everyone used to hide in their houses. They’d be secretive,” the 58-year-old widow said. “Now the dealers deal, the junkies shoot up. They couldn’t care less if someone is watching.
“Why isn’t anyone trying to stop this?”

Chinese Village Official's Detention Sparks Fears of Poll Rigging

Yang Semao discusses the difficulty of reclaiming villagers' stolen land in Wukan village, Guangdong province, Dec. 12, 2013. AFP
Authorities in the rebel southern Chinese village of Wukan released a former protest leader on bail Monday after detaining him for four days as villagers gear up for a renewed standoff with government officials over the openness of forthcoming local elections.

Prosecutors placed Yang Semao, current deputy head of Wukan village near Guangdong province's Lufeng city, under criminal detention last Thursday for "taking bribes," the Lufeng city government said on its official Twitter-like Weibo account.

The English-language tabloid Global Times, which has close ties to the ruling Chinese Communist Party, said Yang had freely admitted accepting 20,000 yuan (U.S.$3,252) in bribes from project contractors
last year.

But Yang told the paper he had donated half the money to local school anonymously and returned the other half, it said.

Yang was among leaders of a 2011 Wukan uprising against the Communist Party, which resulted in the ousting of local party officials accused of illegal land grabs,

Yang told RFA's Mandarin Service on his release Monday that he would still run for village chief in forthcoming village elections, however.

"The government supported my doing this, and so did the villagers," Yang said. "I am very grateful to the government for supporting my taking part in the election, but that is what they say."

"Whether they will really act on this, we will have to wait and see what happens," he said.

Fears of election rigging

Yang said a planned open meeting he should have chaired had been dispersed after a short time in his absence, sparking fears that the government was trying to rig the election in its favor.

One Wukan resident surnamed Zhang said Yang's detention was timed to coincide with the planned meeting.

"The authorities didn't want the villagers to hold a full village committee meeting, so they found an excuse to detain [Yang]," he said.

"After Yang was taken away and locked up, it all fell apart, and more than 200 villagers gathered outside the village committee buildings in protest," Zhang said.

"They said the authorities were interfering with the workings of democracy."

He said Yang's detention was the result of a "set-up" by allies of corrupt officials.

"They wanted to warn him not to stand for election," Zhang said.

Meeting ends prematurely

A second resident of Wukan, who gave only her surname Hong, said villagers were less concerned about the money Yang received than about the government's plans for the elections.

She said a meeting designed to allow candidates to address local residents had been ended prematurely at the weekend, in Yang's absence.

"They won't let us hold meetings, so we are afraid that they are trying to rig everything," Hong said. "For example, they are insisting that certain people be allowed a seat on the committee, which means that the idea of one person, one vote, is just for show."

"That's what we're afraid of."

She said villagers hoped the elections would be free and fair, like those held in the immediate aftermath of December 2011's violent protests, in March 2012.

"We are the people, and they are the officials," Hong said, in a pun on the Chinese word for democracy. "How can we be their masters?"

She said villagers were now calling for a full meeting in which the different candidates would debate together on stage in front of potential voters.

"Each candidate should get to go on stage and speak about how they are planning to deal with Wukan's problems...That is the fairest way of doing it, I think," Hong said.

2011 standoff

Hundreds of villagers defended their village against armed police in a standoff with security forces in December 2011, following weeks of peaceful protest at decades of unauthorized land selloffs by former party secretary Xue Chang, who has since been disciplined for corruption.

Six protest leaders were later elected to the village committee on March 3, 2012 after provincial leaders intervened on villagers' behalf, while Lin Zuluan was appointed party secretary by authorities in Donghai township, which administers Wukan.

Earlier this month, around 78 percent of eligible voters in the 20,000-strong village turned out to vote in a poll to choose the committee that will implement the elections.

Yang said at the time that the turnout was slightly better than predicted, although some older party officials had made a comeback on the list of 43 candidates contesting 11 places on the committee.

The requisitioning of rural land for lucrative property deals by cash-hungry local governments triggers thousands of "mass incidents" across China every year, but many result in violent suppression, the
detention of the main organizers, and intense pressure on the local population to comply with the government's wishes.

In the case of Wukan, however, the standoff with armed police who encircled the village sparked rare concessions following an investigation by the provincial government of Guangdong, which concluded that most of the villagers' demands and complaints were justified.

Reported by Fung Yat-yiu for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Yang Fan for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

Chinese NGO aims to tackle poverty in Burma through microloans

By PAING SOE (DVB)

A Chinese NGO is set to implement micro-finance programs across Burma in a bid to tackle rural poverty. The China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA) has announced that it will base ten assistance programs in Mandalay, issuing small loans alongside education and health support.

The news comes out of a Rangoon seminar last week, which addressed human development opportunities presented by the Sino-Burmese relationship.

Au Feng, of the CFPA, told the seminar that the foundation would register under the Ministry of Home Affairs, however he did not present any budgetary details. Offices are planned for Rangoon, Naypyidaw, Mandalay and Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State.

“The main focus would be in Mandalay to start poverty alleviation programs such as micro-credit, education, health programs and technical and education programs in the agricultural sector.” Au Feng said.

The CFPA will partner the Myanmar Development Resource Institute for programs that will engage a range of government ministries.

Au Feng told the group that for one particular project the CFPA would sign MoUs with the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, and Department of Poverty Alleviation.

Such pacts between lenders and government departments continue to be necessary for the circumvention of Burmese banking laws, which prohibit uncollateralised lending, a crucial element of the micro-finance platform.

Despite this remaining hurdle, micro-finance has emerged as a significant platform for poverty alleviation as development plans coincide with political and economic reforms in Burma.

In 2011, Burma passed legislation allowing micro-finance institutions to operate in the country and began issuing licenses under MoUs. The UNDP had previously run programs in Burma, having stated that the “lack of access to credit to purchase agricultural inputs” was the primary hindrance to the development of people in rural Burma living in poverty.

Private small-loan pioneers the Grameen Bank had also existed in Burma previously, however the scale at which programs were run pre-2011 was limited.

Shortly after the 2011 legislation was introduced, The International Finance Corporation made micro-finance the focus of their first investment into the former pariah state.

The CFPA initiative comes as Chinese companies are routinely accused of maximising profit in Burma at the expense of local people. Chinese financed mega-projects, such as the Myitsone dam and Latpadaung copper mine have come under intense criticism from local and international activists, the former suspended in a popular political move by President Thein Sein in 2011.

CFPA may now present a potential for improved impressions of China among Burmese people. The future establishment of a “China-Burma Civil Society Assistance Centre” was also raised at the seminar.

DVB

Unity news follow up

Unity news follow up

Myan Aung alcohol factory

Myan Aung alcohol factory

Myanmar's First Ever Sexiest Party Holds in Rangoon

Myanmar's First Ever Sexiest Party Holds in Rangoon

PaO National Day Celebrates in Taunggyi, 50K People Join

PaO National Day Celebrates in Taunggyi, 50K People Join

MH370 hijacked, Malaysian official confirms (VIDEO)

KUALA LUMPUR, March 15 — Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 was hijacked, a local official who is part of the investigation into its disappearance confirmed today.

But the unnamed official said it was still unknown why the Beijing-bound plane with 239 onboard was taken over after it departed Kuala Lumpur International Airport on March 8.

“It is conclusive,” the official told the Associated Press when asked about a possible hijacking.

Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post today reported that the hijacker might be one of the pilots or at least someone else with flying experience.

This comes as news agency AFP quoted a senior military official saying that Malaysian officials now believe that MH370 may have been deliberately turned towards the Indian Ocean by someone with up-to-date knowledge of flying and radar positions.



Wall Street Journal (WSJ) also suggested that the technical expertise required to silence the many communications systems on MH370 may have been an inside job.

Consulting aviation experts and referring to manuals on the Boeing 777, WSJ noted that it was unlikely that a layperson would be able to the determine the specific circuit breaker needed to disable the plane’s transponders.

Putrajaya said again yesterday it has not ruled out hijacking as a possible cause behind the disappearance of MH370 as new leads suggest the plane may have been intentionally made to shift its course.

Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein refused to confirm the speculation but said Malaysian authorities are not dismissing the possibility that the Boeing 777-20ER bound for Beijing and carrying 239 people on board may have been hijacked.

Local and US sources are now also convinced the aircraft recorded by military radar flying west across peninsular Malaysia and headed for the Indian Ocean was MH370.

The latest revelations has also led search and rescue efforts to expand further, and now included the Indian Ocean where the plane would have had enough fuel to reach.

http://www.themalaymailonline.com

Hong Kong textile manufacturers move production to Myanmar

Hong Kong textile manufacturers move production to Myanmar
Hong Kong textile manufacturers have signed a deal to set up their first industrial park in Yangon, which they expect will slash production costs by at least half.
Workers at the 200-hectare facility in the former capital of Myanmar will be paid about a fifth of those employed in mainland factories.

Liberal Party lawmaker Felix Chung Kwok-pan, representing the textiles and garment constituency, made the deal on behalf of 12 manufacturers to rent half of the 400-hectare Thilawa Special Economic Zone, co-built by Myanmar and Japan.

"We will start the construction work in mid-2015 and hope the factories can start operating by the end of next year," Chung told the South China Morning Post.

The manufacturers will retain their production plants on the mainland to keep things "flexible", he added.

The land is rented for US$52 million annually for 50 years.

Chung said the Hong Kong manufacturers planned to employ at least 30,000 Myanmese workers at the market salary of US$100 to US$120 a month.

"The salary level is only one-fifth of the mainland workers. All products exported from Myanmar enjoy duty-free access to all EU countries after [Western counties lifted] economic sanctions on the country," Chung said.

"We expect it would - at a very conservative estimate - trim at least half of the cost in contrast to the production in China."

Chung, honorary life chairman of the Hong Kong Apparel Society, was confident that the manufacturers - who will invest US$2 million to US$3 million in the industrial park - could break even in one to two years.

To avoid conflict of interest, Chung is not an investor but the industry plans to set up a worker training centre in Yangon with Myanmar's labour ministry. Experts from Hong Kong's Clothing Industry Training Authority could be sent as coaches.

Jimmy Ng Wing-ka, vice-president of the Chinese Manufacturers' Association, said he could not see a trend for manufacturers moving their factories from China to Myanmar, as low production costs were not their only concern.

"Logistics also matter. If you plan to export the products to United States not the European Union, there would be no reason for you to move to Myanmar due to the flight path," he said.

But Ng admitted that the appreciation of the yuan had nibbled away at their profits which drove some factories to move from south to northwest China.


Anger Mounts in China Over Missing Malaysian Plane 'Mystery'

Chinese students in Zhejiang province hold candles to pray for missing passengers of flight MH370, March 10, 2014. IMAGINECHINA
Frustration was mounting Monday among family members and friends of a large number of Chinese passengers on a missing Malaysia Airlines flight as an international search for the Beijing-bound aircraft widened.

Amid the public furor, China's state-run media lashed out at the Malaysian authorities and the national airline over their handling of the missing jetliner with 153 Chinese on board.

Colleagues of some of the Chinese among 239 passengers aboard flight MH370 say they have been unable to get through on the airline's external contact number since the plane disappeared from radar somewhere between Malaysia and Vietnam after leaving the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.

"I have been trying to call Malaysia Airlines ... all weekend but it's hard to get through," according to Zheng Wenshan, whose Chinese colleagues at a painting and calligraphy exhibit in Kuala Lumpur are among those missing. "Nobody picks up on the weekend."

"I haven't been able to get through this whole time," Zheng said, still hoping for good news about the other members of his group, whom he last saw at Kuala Lumpur's International Airport before he boarded separate flight home to Shanghai after the event.

"I still want them to come home, and I hope every day that they will trace [the plane]," he said. "But the current situation means I am no longer confident."

Zheng was part of a delegation of 29 traditional Chinese painters, calligraphers, staff members, and relatives who had traveled to Malaysia to attend the exhibit.

"We were all together for the whole of the last day," he said. "We got to the airport at around 11:00 p.m.... Then we split up into two groups."

"I and five other painters and calligraphers boarded a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Shanghai, avoiding disaster," he said, adding that the remainder of the group, including 18 painters and calligraphers, four staff members and seven relatives, had taken the ill-fated Malaysian Airlines flight to Beijing.

Search area expanded

The desperate search for the Boeing 777 jet expanded across a 50-nautical-mile (92-kilometer) radius area around where the plane was last contacted, but without finding any definitive traces.

Malaysian civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said the search area would be extended to 100 nautical miles around the same area, covering land on the Malaysian peninsula, the waters off its west coast and an area to the north of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

But the more than 30 search aircraft and 40 ships drafted into the search operation have found no sign of the flight, baffling experts around the world.

Pointing the finger

The Chinese authorities have pointed the finger at Kuala Lumpur over the lack of information.

"The Malaysian side cannot shirk its responsibilities," the tabloid Global Times newspaper, which has close ties to the ruling Chinese Communist Party, said in an editorial on Monday.

"The initial response from Malaysia was not swift enough," it said.

A team of Chinese officials from government ministries headed for Malaysia on Monday, to offer support to the search operation and to relatives of Chinese passengers.

Earlier, tests on oil slicks and suspected aircraft debris in the South China Sea, near where the plane disappeared from the radar, showed they were unconnected to the flight.

"The search operation is still under way, and there has been no evidence to indicate the location of the missing flight MH370," a Malaysian Airlines spokesman told RFA on Monday evening local time.

He said not all the relatives of those on board had been located by the airline.

"There are still some [who haven't been contacted]," the spokesman said. "For the latest updates, people can check our official website."

Mystery cause

As a massive air and sea search now in its third day failed to find any trace of the plane or those on board, questions are being asked over possible security lapses and whether the flight was a target of a bomb, hijacking, or terrorist attack after at least two of the passengers were found to have traveled on stolen passports.

Wong Dong, a Macau-based Chinese military analyst, said the fact that MH370 disappeared so rapidly suggested it could have blown up in mid-flight.

"The plane disappeared very suddenly from the radar, so much so that there was no time to send a distress call," Wong said. "The biggest likelihood is that it exploded and disintegrated in mid-air."

"[I] believe that the likelihood of a terrorist attack is very large."

Two of the passengers listed on the flight didn't show up, and their passports were found to have been reported stolen in Thailand in recent years.

However, it is still unclear how the two passengers using their documents managed to board the flight.

U.S. officials have said that an FBI team sent to help investigate the passengers has found no evidence so far of a terrorist attack, however.

Nothing ruled out

Police chief Azharuddin, asked whether it was possible the plane had been hijacked or disintegrated mid-air, said the authorities were ruling nothing out.

"We are looking at every aspect of what could have happened," he told reporters.

"This unprecedented missing aircraft mystery—it is mystifying and we are increasing our efforts to do what we have to do."

In Beijing, scores of tearful relatives lined up to apply for visas to travel to Malaysia to be closer to rescue operations, although others said they would not go while so much remained unknown.

"There is more we can do here in China," one woman told Agence France-Presse. "They haven't even found the plane yet."

A team of Chinese officials from government ministries headed for Malaysia on Monday, to offer support to the search operation and to relatives of Chinese passengers.

Malaysian officials have said there was a possibility that MH370 may have inexplicably turned back towards Kuala Lumpur.

The plane, captained by a veteran pilot, had relayed no indications of distress, and weather at the time was said to be good.

Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service and by Wei Ling for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

Ye Htut supports press freedom – on govt terms

Deputy information minister and presidential spokesperson Ye Htut addressed the East-West Centre International Media Conference on 10 March 2014. (PHOTO: DVB)
By ALEX BOOKBINDER (DVB)

The Hawaii-based East-West Centre, established to forge links between the United States and the Asia-Pacific, is hosting the fourth iteration of its biennial media conference in Rangoon this week. In many respects, it serves as a testament to how far press freedoms in Burma have progressed over the past two years.

But true freedom of the press in Burma remains a long way off, and the government has shown dangerous signs of backsliding in recent weeks. Signals from the president’s office indicate the press will continue to have a much wider berth than just a few years ago, but the government intends to keep it firmly under heel.

In his opening address at the conference, deputy information minister and presidential spokesman Ye Htut touted the benefits of a free press, but cautioned that it must be responsible. “The president believes that the media has a clear role in democracy,” he said. “They must be in the public space, in which the democratic discourse takes place. It is a vital process for the evolution of democratic culture in our society.”

Despite this effusive praise for the role of the press, recent attempts to undermine it tell a different story. Five journalists from the previously obscure Unity Weekly journal were arrested last month for alleging the existence of a chemical weapons factory in central Burma’s Pauk township, and are currently facing conviction under Burma’s Official Secrets Act.

Ye Htut dismissed the notion that the Unity case signified an attack on press freedom, framing it as an issue of national security.  “I think even the United States government would respond with the same action, concerning national security, like Snowden,” he told DVB on the sidelines of the conference. “But we will guarantee that they will get a fair trial and that they will enjoy all their legal rights during the procedure.”

The government has also taken steps to limit the ability of foreign journalists to stay in the country. In February, the government announced new, restrictive rules for foreign journalists entering the country. While journalists affiliated with established bureaus can officially be granted visas of up to six months, those coming independently or for short visits will now be granted single-entry visas lasting one month.  Robin McDowell, a reporter for The Associated Press (AP), had previously been told her agency’s visa issues were the result of its reporting on sectarian violence in northern Arakan State.

“Last year, between the World Economic Forum in June and the Southeast Asia games in December, we tried to introduce a new visa recommendation policy, a three-month multiple entry visa, which could be extended in Yangon [Rangoon],” Ye Htut explained. “But at the end of December, at the end of the SEA games, we reviewed that policy, and we found that nearly 100 foreign journalists are still working in our country, some of them for nearly one year.”

Despite the official policy laid out early last month, a number of journalists affiliated with established bureaus in Burma have been issued short-term visas or have had existing long-term visas reduced, despite bureau affiliations that should allow them to stay in the country long-term.

Ye Htut claimed the issues caused by the AP’s reporting were the result of its poor “ethical standards,” and not its coverage of sectarian violence itself, and criticised the measures taken by the agency to protect its sources against reprisal.  “The issue with the Associated Press is that they are only using anonymous sources, without verifying with the government,” he said. “Even if you look at the AP code of conduct, there are very strict criteria about using these kinds of unconfirmed sources.” The government routinely limits journalists’ access to sensitive parts of the country, often forcing reporters to rely on second-hand accounts.

Hannah Beech, TIME Magazine’s China bureau chief, was denied a visa to attend the conference, exemplifying the political pressures foreign journalists are subject to. Last June, Ye Htut’s office banned Beech’s article on inter-religious violence in Burma, which featured notorious monk Wirathu on the cover, proclaiming him to be the “Face of Buddhist Terror” and describing his “religious chauvinism.”

On Sunday, Ye Htut stated that Beech’s presence at the conference “could bring undesirable consequences on the event and to her,” and therefore she would not be issued a journalist visa. The Ministry of Information stated that Time journalists would be welcome to apply for journalist visas at “appropriate” times in the future.

While the government has become much more accessible to journalists over the past two years, Ye Htut claimed the ministries still have a long way to go. “They don’t clearly understand the concept of the right to information. There has to be trust between the government officials and journalists,” he said.

Hundreds of new media outlets have sprung up across Burma over the past few years, and Ye Htut urged them to improve their reporting standards. “I appreciate that while some of the media agencies are young and lack adequate resources… the quality of the news and ethical standards are questioned by many people,” he said. “Most entry-level journalists do not have training in basic journalism.”

Ye Htut emphasised the fluid nature of Burma’s media landscape, and underscored the fact that nothing is set in stone yet. “There are some people who doubt our media reforms and Myanmar’s reform agenda as a whole,” he said. “Yes, over the last few years, we made some mistakes. We are not perfect. We still have challenges to overcome. But we have a clear vision of a new Myanmar [Burma]. We have a reform strategy. And most importantly, we have the political will to implement it.”

Monasteries in Naypyidaw sued for illegal land use

File photo of Burmese monks in Rangoon, 2011. (PHOTO: Reuters)
By MYO ZAW LINN (DVB)

More than 20 monasteries have been sued by Naypyidaw Council Ministry of Religious Affairs for refusing to relocate after property was deemed forest land by authorities.

Min Thu, lower house MP, said charging monks and removing monasteries is unfair, and proposed that, “there should be a solution by negotiation, rather than putting monks in jails.”

Union Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann said that cartographic demarcations aren’t always realistic; many people in in Burma — both within the Sangha and the civilian population — simply do not have sufficient records of land ownership.

“The requirement of ‘strong documentation’ is very controversial. Farmers will not have strong documents because in the past there was no regulation to get them,” he said.

Sayadaw Aindra from Nyaung Hnitpin Monastery, which was removed, said they will continue to dispute the government’s charges that they are illegally occupying land.

“We have records of donations made to us. We built the monastery in line with the rules and regulations of the monk council. We didn’t intrude on forest land or farm land. We didn’t cross the lines of the monk council,” he said.

Of the 37 monasteries that had been built in the Naypyidaw Council’s jurisdiction, 13 were removed and more than 20 are now facing legal action for contesting the order vacate.

Navy confirms Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 crashed into the sea

The12mile long oil slick reported by Vietnam navy
Vietnam media: Navy confirms flight MH370 crashed into the sea

Tuoi Tre, a leading daily in Vietnam, reports that the Vietnamese Navy has confirmed the plane crashed into the ocean.  According to Navy Admiral Ngo Van Phat, Commander of the Region 5, military radar recorded that the plane crashed into the sea at a location 153 miles South of Phu Quoc island.

UPDATE [12:01]: Altogether, 239 passengers & crew, from 14 different nationalities, including two infants. Passengers were from:

1.    China – 152 plus 1 infant

2.    Malaysia – 38

3.    Indonesia – 12

4.    Australia – 7

5.    France – 3

6.    United States of America – 3 pax plus 1 infant

7.    New Zealand – 2

8.    Ukraine – 2

9.    Canada – 2

10.  Russia – 1

11.  Italy – 1

12.  Taiwan – 1

13.  Netherlands – 1

14.  Austria – 1

The flight was piloted by Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, a Malaysian aged 53. He has a total flying hours of 18,365 hours.

He joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981. First officer, Fariq Ab.Hamid, a Malaysian, is aged 27. He has a total flying hours of 2,763 hours. He joined Malaysia Airlines in 2007.

UPDATE [11:32am]: VN Express, Vietnam’s largest news site, reports that Vietnam Emergency Rescue Center just announced it has found signal of the missing plane at 9.50am 120 miles South West of Ca Mau cape, the Southern-most point of Vietnam.

The signal is believed to be the ELT (Emergency Locator Transmittor) , which can be activated manually by the flight crew or automatically upon impact.

Earlier this morning, MAS confirmed that flight MH370 had lost contact with the Subang Air Traffic Control at 2.40am today (March 8th, 2014)

Flight MH370, operated on the B777-200 aircraft, departed Kuala Lumpur at 12.41am and was expected to land in Beijing at 6.30am the same day. The flight was carrying a total number of 227 passengers (including 2 infants), 12 crew members.

Malaysia Airlines is currently working with the authorities who have activated their Search and Rescue team to locate the aircraft.

Speaking on CNN’s AC360, MAS Operations Control Vice President Fuad Sharuji said they ‘have no idea where the aircraft is right now’.

http://www.telugunow.com/news-headlines/navy-confirms-malaysia-airlines-flight-mh370-crashed-sea.html

Burma Earthquake Today 2014: 5.1 Quake Strikes Myaydo

LOS ANGELES (LALATE) – A Burma earthquake today 2014 today has just struck Myaydo. A 5.1 magnitude Burma earthquake today March 9, 2014 began in the evening hours. Damage reports are pending.

Officials tell news that a massive 5.1 Burma earthquake struck just after 10:33 pm local time tonight. The quake was moderately shallow. Reps tell news that the quake started roughly twenty-six miles below ground level. As a result its impact could be felt across the region.

USGS indicates to news that the Burma earthquake today stated thirty-five miles east of Myaydo. The quake was thirty-seven miles east of Thayetmyo. It was forty-two miles northeast of Prome and roughly forty-six miles southwest of Nay Pyi Taw. The quake was also forty-nine miles west of Taungoo.

Earlier today, a 4.4 magnitude quake struck northeast of Whakatane, New Zealand. It began just before 8:15 am local time, reps tell news. Also as well, a 4.8 magnitude quake struck Nemuro, Japan today. The quake erupted just after 8:13 am local time. And moments ago, a 5.1 magnitude quake hit Tonga and Samoa.

But reps tell news that the quake was deep. The Tonga quake began more than two hundred miles below sea level. It was also more than one hundred miles from Tonga and roughly three hundred miles from Samoa. USGS indicates to news that “Large earthquakes are common along the North New Hebrides trench and have mechanisms associated with subduction tectonics, though occasional strike slip earthquakes occur near the subduction of the D’Entrecasteaux ridge. Within the subduction zone 34 M7.5+ earthquakes have been recorded since 1900.”

LOS ANGELES (LALATE)

Search planes spot what may be a door from missing Malaysia jet

As the search continues for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, the head of Interpol rails against countries for not using its passport database.

Relatives and friends of the missing gather Saturday along with journalists at a Beijing hotel to await news of Flight MH370, which disappeared earlier that day with 239 aboard. (Andy Wong / Associated Press / March 8, 2014)
By Julie Makinen

BEIJING — Vietnamese aircraft searching for a missing Malaysia Airlines jet spotted what authorities said may be a door from the plane and boats were attempting to reach the debris early Monday.

As about 40 ships and more than 20 airplanes continued looking for Flight MH370 for a third day, Interpol confirmed that at least two stolen passports were used by passengers on the plane, and the police agency's head railed that few countries were regularly checking its international database on lost and stolen travel documents.

Interpol said the two stolen passports — one Italian, one Austrian — had been entered into the agency's database after they had been stolen in Thailand in 2012 and 2013 but no checks of those passport numbers were made by any country between the time they were entered into Interpol's database and the time that the Malaysia Airlines flight departed Kuala Lumpur early Saturday, bound for Beijing.

"Whilst it is too soon to speculate about any connection between these stolen passports and the missing plane, it is clearly of great concern that any passenger was able to board an international flight using a stolen passport listed in Interpol's databases," the agency's secretary-general, Ronald K. Noble, said in a statement.

"What is important at the moment is to find out what caused Malaysian [Airlines] Flight 370 to go missing, and in this regard Interpol is making all needed resources available to help relevant authorities in Malaysia and elsewhere find out what happened," he said, adding that the agency was in contact with officials in Malaysia and elsewhere to "determine the true identities of the passengers who used these stolen passports."

He also said the agency would review the documents used by other passengers to see whether others were traveling on lost or stolen papers.

Vietnam's state-run Thanh Nien newspaper said two ships from the country's maritime police were en route to the area where the object that looked like a door was spotted, about 60 miles south of Tho Chu island off the nation's south coast, Associated Press reported.

"From this object, hopefully [we] will find the missing plane," the deputy chief of staff of Vietnam's army, Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan, told the paper.

If the Boeing 777 disintegrated in the air, the debris could be spread over a massive area hundreds of miles across. Malaysian authorities said Sunday that a patrol ship from their country's Maritime Enforcement Agency discovered a large oil slick in the waters 100 nautical miles from Tok Bali that could be connected to the plane.

The agency's director-general, Mohamed Amdan Kurish, said the ship was ordered to collect samples of the oil to determine whether it came from the plane, which vanished Saturday en route to the Chinese capital with 239 people aboard.

If the plane did crash into the sea, "obviously we will find clothes, bags and debris that float," he added, Malaysia's state-run Bernama news agency reported. Fishermen working in the area were also going to be interviewed by the agency as part of the search operation.

Indonesia, Thailand, Australia, China, the U.S. and other countries were participating in the quest to find the jetliner off southern Vietnam where the Gulf of Thailand meets the South China Sea. Malaysia was deploying submarine rescue vessels, officials said.

With no wreckage yet to examine, investigators were probing the identities of the passengers who used the stolen passports. Malaysia's acting transportation minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, said at one point Sunday that authorities were looking at four passengers "said to have been traveling on fake passports." But he later backtracked and said investigators were looking at only two suspected cases of stolen identity, creating some confusion.

Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, Malaysia's director-general of civil aviation, said at a news conference in Malaysia that investigators had closed-circuit TV images of the two men traveling on the European passports. But when journalists pressed him to describe the men physically, he declined.

"Our main concern is to find the aircraft," he said.

China's ambassador to Malaysia, Huang Huikang, said the embassy was investigating whether the two men had proper documents to go to Beijing, state-run CCTV reported.

Hugh Dunleavy, head of Malaysia Airlines' commercial operations, told reporters in Beijing: "As far as we are aware, every one of these people onboard that aircraft had a visa to go to China. Which means those passports were in possession of the Chinese Embassy before those visas were issued."

However, Beijing has a policy whereby some passengers in transit to third countries can stay in the Chinese capital for 72 hours without a visa, so the two men may not have needed to apply for Chinese visas if they had tickets to another destination.

London's Telegraph newspaper said it had confirmation from two ticketing agents for China Southern Airlines — which had a code-share arrangement with Malaysia Airlines for the flight — that the two men were booked to fly on to Amsterdam on the KLM airline Saturday morning. The paper said the two tickets were numbered consecutively, suggesting that they were bought at the same time.

A travel agent in Beijing, who asked not to be identified, said airlines "have no legal means or responsibility to verify the accuracy of passport information," and that it's up to airport and immigration authorities to check documents.

Los Angeles Times

Suu Foundation

Suu Foundation

Malaysia Airlines loses contact with jet carrying 239 people

By Tom Watkins and Chelsea J. Carter, CNN

(CNN) -- A passenger flight carrying 239 people from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing is missing and would likely have run out of fuel, Malaysia Airlines said Saturday.

"At the moment we have no idea where this aircraft is right now," Malaysia Airlines Vice President of Operations Control Fuad Sharuji said on CNN's "AC360."

Subang Air Traffic Control lost contact with Flight MH370 at about 2:40 a.m. local time (1:40 p.m. ET Friday), Sharuji said.

"We tried to call this aircraft through various means," he said. The airline checked reports that the jet had landed in several places, but determined that none of the reports was true, he said.

The Boeing 777-200 departed Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 12:41 a.m. and was expected to land in Beijing at 6:30 a.m., a
2,300-mile (3,700 kilometer) trip. It was carrying 227 passengers, two of them infants, and 12 crew members, the airline said.

At the time of its disappearance, the plane was carrying about 7.5 hours of fuel, Sharuji said.

The passengers are of 13 nationalities, the airline said. They were from China and Taiwan (154), Malaysia (38), Indonesia (12), Australia (7), France (3), United States (4), New Zealand (2), Ukraine (2), Canada (2), Russia (1), Italy (1), Netherlands (1), Austria (1).

One infant from the United States and another from China were included in the tally.

By CNN's math, that adds up to 228 passengers, one more than the total cited by the airline. There was no immediate explanation offered.

"Malaysia Airlines is currently working with the authorities who have activated their Search and Rescue team to locate the aircraft," the statement said. The public can call +603 7884 1234 for further information.

Efforts to contact the plane were fruitless.

"We deeply regret that we have lost all contacts" with the jet, said CEO Ahmad Juahari Yahya in a statement.

The airline said in a statement that its representatives were contacting the relatives of those aboard. "Focus of the airline is to work with the emergency responders and authorities and mobilize its full support," it said.

China's state-run Xinhua News Agency said the flight lost contact and its radar signal as it was flying over the Ho Chi Minh air traffic control area in Vietnam.

Xinhua also reported that Chinese aviation authorities had confirmed that 160 Chinese nationals were aboard the plane, which was lost from radar in airspace controlled by Vietnam.

China's embassy in Malaysia has formed an emergency team headed by the Chinese ambassador to deal with the incident, it said.

"We're closely monitoring reports on Malaysia flight MH370," Boeing said in a tweet. "Our thoughts are with everyone on board."

"It doesn't sound very good," retired American Airlines Capt. Jim Tilmon told CNN's "AC360." He noted that the route is mostly overland, which means that there would be plenty of antennae, radar and radios to contact the plane.

"I've been trying to come up with every scenario that I could just to explain this away, but I haven't been very successful."

He said the plane is "about as sophisticated as any commercial airplane could possibly be," with an excellent safety record.

"The lack of communications suggests to me that something most unfortunate has happened," said Mary Schiavo, former inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation, in an interview with CNN International. "But that, of course, does not mean that there are not many persons that need to be rescued and secured. There's still a very urgent need to find that plane and to render aid."

There is one recent blemish for the Boeing jet: An Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 carrying 291 passengers struck a seawall at San Francisco International Airport in July 2013, killing three people and wounding dozens more.

Malaysia Airlines operates in Southeast Asia, East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and on the route between Europe and Australasia.

It has 15 of the Boeing 777-200 planes in its fleet, CNN's Richard Quest reported.

Part of the company is in the private sector, but the government owns most of it.

Malayan Airways Limited began flying in 1937 as an air service between Penang and Singapore. A decade later, it began flying commercially as the national airline.

In 1963, when Malaysia was formed, the airline was renamed Malaysian Airlines Limited.

Within 20 years, it had grown from a single aircraft operator into a company with 2,400 employees and a fleet operator.

Maid charged with murder of woman at condo

By Leong Wai Kit

A Myanmar national was charged on Wednesday with murdering an 85-year-old woman.

SINGAPORE: A Myanmar national was charged on Wednesday with murdering an 85-year-old woman.

Than Than Win, a 24-year-old maid, is accused of murdering her employer Yong Wan Lan, at a unit in Springdale Condominium on Hindhede Walk at Bukit Timah.

She is alleged to have committed the crime on March 4, between 4.05pm and 5.23pm.

Her case will be mentioned again on March 26.

If guilty, Than faces the death penalty.

Police said they received a call requesting for assistance at the condominium on Tuesday at about 5.23pm.

When they arrived, Madam Yong was found motionless in one of the condo units.

She had blood on her upper body and was pronounced dead by paramedics at the scene at about 6.27pm.

- CNA/nd

Bangladesh Prime Minister Meets With Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

Bangladesh Prime Minister Meets With Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

China mass stabbing: Deadly knife attack in Kunming

Chinese state television described the incident as a "violent terror attack" as Mariko Oi reports

An attack by knife-wielding men at a railway station in Kunming in south-west China has left at least 29 dead, the state news agency Xinhua says.
Another 130 people were wounded in what authorities described as an "organised, premeditated, violent terrorist attack".
Four suspects were shot dead and others are being sought, Xinhua said.
City officials said evidence implicated militants from the western region of Xinjiang, but this was not verified.
President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang have sent condolences to the victims and their families.
President Xi urged "all-out efforts" to investigate the attack.
"Severely punish in accordance with the law the violent terrorists and resolutely crack down on those who have been swollen with arrogance," Xinhua quoted the president as saying.
Pools of blood
Witnesses said that the men, who were mostly dressed in black, attacked people at random.
A survivor named Yang Haifei, who was wounded in the back and chest, told Xinhua he had been buying a train ticket when the attackers rushed into the station.
"I saw a person come straight at me with a long knife and I ran away with everyone," he said.
Woman cries at scene of stabbing. 1 March 2014 There were scenes of shock and anguish after the attack
Police seal off the station Authorities quickly sealed off the railway station in Kunming
Police inspect the scene of the attack. 1 March 2014 Police are combing the scene of the attack
He added that those too slow to flee were cut down.
Some who escaped were desperately looking for missing loved ones.
Yang Ziqing told Xinhua she and her husband had been waiting for a train to Shanghai "when a knife-wielding man suddenly came at them".
"I can't find my husband, and his phone went unanswered," she said.
Social media users in China posted pictures of the attack on the internet, but correspondents say they are being taken down.
Images seen by the BBC show men and women lying on the floor in pools of blood following the attack.
Kunming officials, quoted by Xinhua, later said that evidence at the scene showed it was "a terrorist attack carried out by Xinjiang separatist forces".
Xinjiang is home to the Muslim Uighur minority group which has a long history of discord with Chinese authorities.

State broadcaster CCTV said top security official Meng Jianzhu would travel to Kunming to oversee the handling of the investigation.

BBC


 

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