Friday, October 19, 2007

Makati Bomb in Glorietta 2

When this sort of thing happened in the Philippines back before September 2001 no one cared or noticed. Does the West care now?

8 dead in suspected Manila mall bomb

An explosion rocked a Manila shopping mall on Friday in a suspected bomb attack, killing at least eight people and injuring dozens more, police and Red Cross officials said.

Red Cross records showed that 89 more were injured in the explosion at the Glorietta shopping centre in metropolitan Manila's financial district of Makati.

Initial police reports said the blast could have been triggered by a liquified petroleum gas (LPG) tank in one of the restaurants inside the Glorietta shopping centre but investigators began to consider a bombing after surveying the damage.

Randy Naive, who suffered deep cuts on his arms and hands from broken glass, said he was just thankful that he was able to survive the blast.

Naive said he was on the way out of the mall after window shopping when the explosion occurred.

"A few steps after I got down from the escalator, there was a deafening explosion," he said. "Then it went very dark. There was smoke, very thick smoke and I was choking."

Naive said he was lucky he felt water running from where he sat and he washed off his face to avoid choking.

"After a few minutes of darkness, I saw a light. I moved toward it slowly. I heard cries behind me but I continued moving toward the light because I could feel my arm bleeding profusely," he added. "I called for help and I saw people moving toward me."

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo convened an emergency meeting of the National Security Council to evaluate the incident.

Arroyo appealed for unity in sobriety in the light of the recent incident, noting that there were indications that the explosion was caused by a bomb.

"The police and the armed forces are on highest alert and are fielding an additional 2,000 personnel to secure our public place and to prevent possible similar occurrence," she said in a statement.

"We urge all sectors to remain vigilant as the government steps up security measures to protect our people," she added.

Deputy Director General Geary Barias, chief of the police in the Philippine capital, admitted the damage from the explosion was too extensive for an LPG blast.

"Earlier I told the media that the cause of the explosion was supposed to be an LPG," he said. "This time we are not discounting the possibility of anything."

Barias said he ordered the setting up of checkpoints in key areas. He also directed the deployment of additional police forces in shopping malls and vital installations.

Police Director General Avelino Razon, who also visited the explosion area, said he was sure that the blast was not caused by LPG.

"From the destruction that I saw, this wasn't caused by an LPG," he said. "This was a bomb, but beyond that I cannot say anything because this is still being investigated."

Alfie Reyes, spokesman for the Ayala Land Corporation which operates the mall, said it was unlikely the explosion could have occurred in one of the restaurants in the area.

"At this time we are not in a position to tell you exactly what type of explosion occurred," he said. "It does not appear at the moment that (the explosion) could have emanated from any of the restaurants."

Makati City Councillor JonJon Binay who led the rescue operations said the explosion produced a crater about eight metres wide, while the sunroof of the mall was also blown off.

Part of the walkway leading to the mall was also destroyed and debris was strewn around in the vicinity of the blast area.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Myanmar Round Up

While the UN Envoy tours Asia the Junta in Myanmar continues its crackdown. The world meanwhile seems to have already lost interest. Just what the Junta wanted.

Seventy Myanmar forces raid house, seize activists

A total of six activists were rounded up by the Myanmar authorities in a raid on a safehouse over the weekend, Amnesty International said yesterday, as the junta continued to hunt for protest leaders.

The London-based human-rights watchdog had on Saturday reported that four political dissidents including two prominent leaders of recent anti-junta rallies had been arrested in Yangon.

New information confirmed that in fact six people were arrested in a raid early on Saturday by security forces on a house in Myanmar's commercial hub, an Amnesty spokesperson in Bangkok said.

"There is no information on where they are being detained," the group said in a statement. "Amnesty International is seriously concerned for the safety of all six people, who are at grave risk of torture and ill treatment."

The statement quoted eye-witnesses, who said that about 70 members of the security forces had raided a residence where the activists were hiding.

Htay Kywe and Mi Mi, who led some of the first protests against the military regime in mid-August, were held along with Aung Thu, a 43-year-old activist.

The other three people have not yet been identified, the spokesman said, but two were believed to be members of prominent activist group the 88 Generation Students, while the other person is thought to be the home owner.

Htay Kywe and Mi Mi helped lead August's protests, which were sparked by an overnight jump in fuel prices in Myanmar that left many unable to afford even to travel to work.

They went into hiding after 13 pro-democracy leaders were arrested on Aug. 21. They all belong to the 88 Generation Students, made up of veteran student leaders who spearheaded the 1988 democracy uprising.

Myanmar's military rulers cracked down on the recent protests late last month after Buddhist monks joined the movement, bringing popular support to the campaign and drawing up to 100,000 people into the streets.

At least 13 people were killed and some 2,000 people arrested in the government sweep, and about 1,000 of them are still in custody.

Concern has been growing for the political prisoners after a monitoring group based in Thailand reported last week that an activist died when tortured during interrogation.

Htay Kywe is reportedly in poor health, Amnesty said.

Meanwhile, Myanmar's military rulers have relaxed a curfew in the main city Yangon, reducing it to four hours a night as security remained light on the streets of the commercial hub, residents said yesterday.

Loudspeakers mounted on trucks drove through the city late on Saturday telling people that the curfew would now run from 11pm to 3am, down from the 10pm till 4am restrictions in place up until now.

The easing of the curfew, along with a lower security presence on the streets of Yangon, could imply that the junta feels it has finally quashed the largest protests against its rule in nearly 20 years.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Myanmar Junta-Jerk Dies

Too bad they all couldn't have died.

Myanmar holds state funeral for late PM

Myanmar held a state funeral in Yangon Sunday afternoon for late Prime Minister General Soe Win who passed away on Friday.

The state funeral, which took place at the Mingaladon War Cemetery, was attended by Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) Senior-General Than Shwe, SPDC Vice-Chairman Vice Senior-General Maung Aye, SPDC Member General Thura Shwe Mann and Acting Prime Minister and SPDC First Secretary Lieutenant-General Thein Sein.

The funeral was also attended by foreign diplomats in Myanmar.

Late Soe Win, 58, who was also SPDC member, died at the Mingaladon Defense Services General Hospital in Yangon out of long illness after he was brought back for the last time to Yangon from Singapore where he had undergone medical treatment since March this year. Soe Win became prime minister on Oct. 19, 2004.

Soe Win, born in Taunggyi, Shan state, in May 1949, had been North-West Commander and Chairman of Sagaing Division Peace and Development Council in 1997. He was appointed as SPDC Second Secretary in February 2003 and promoted to SPDC First Secretary in August the same year.

Burn in hell, you bastard.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

UN Statement Does Nothing

‘UN’s Myanmar statement not tough enough’

Media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders said Saturday the UN Security Council should have issued a tougher statement against Myanmar, where it says 13 journalists are detained.

The group said in a statement issued with the Burma Media Association that it feared for the safety of the detained journalists and writers, including eight who were arrested during last month’s crackdown on pro-democracy protests. “The UN Security Council statement which deplored the crackdown is to be welcomed, but it did not go far enough,” the groups said.

“We regret that the Security Council did not call for the immediate and unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners,” they added. Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest, is the most famous of the more than 2,000 political prisoners that Myanmar is believed to be holding.

A prisons watchdog in Thailand said last week that a member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s party had died after being tortured during interrogation while in a prison outside the central city of Mandalay.

The media rights groups said the announcement of that death “makes us fear the worst” for the detained writers and journalists, who include video directors, reporters, columnists, photographers and a poet.

The UN Security Council on Thursday issued a statement deploring Myanmar’s crackdown that left 13 dead last month.

13?? Try THOUSANDS. AFP always gets the facts screwed up.

Aussies Not Amused

Australia should do more than complain.

Diplomatic fury over bombers

AUSTRALIA will complain to Indonesia after the nation's counter-terrorism chief hosted a party attended by one of the Bali bombers.

The anti-terror chief, Brigadier-General Surya Dharma, said the party was in line with a new "gentle" approach to fighting terrorism, which aims to build a web of informants and former militants to help persuade hard-liners to reject terrorism.

The news was greeted with fury and disgust by Australian bombing victims, with one labelling Indonesia a "laughing stock".

Prime Minister John Howard yesterday said he would ensure a formal complaint was lodged with Indonesia.

"I will certainly see that there is an objection communicated," Mr Howard said.

When asked for his reaction, Mr Howard said he was "absolutely disgusted".

Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd said the news was a "terrible blow" for victims.

Although the function was held last month, it was only made public on Wednesday.

"It's inappropriate and grossly insensitive and I think for those who are grieving today, it's doubly insensitive," Mr Rudd said.

In Sydney, Coogee Dolphins president Patrick Byrne, who lost six teammates in the bombings, said he continued to be disappointed "at the ongoing injustice" and hypocrisy in Indonesia.

He said Australia had donated a million dollars to tsunami relief "and then to see them purchase a billion dollars in military munitions from Russia during APEC, the continual reductions in sentencing and the constant threat of terrorism - hypocrisy running riot".

Gold Coast man Glenn Forster, who was injured in the blasts, said the Indonesian legal system had made the country look "ridiculous".

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bali Bombers Party?

Nothing speaks more clearly about how screwed up Indonesia is than this. Westerners take note.

Bali bomber's party outrages victims

BALI bombing survivors are outraged that the man who planned the attacks five years ago was temporarily released from prison to party with Indonesia's anti-terror chief.

Indonesia's Brig-Gen Surya Dharma hosted an unguarded party for 20 hard-liners and former terrorists at his house last month.

Among them was Mubarok who is serving a life sentence for his involvement in the planning and carrying out of the 2002 Bali bombings.

Brig-Gen Dharma put on a feast of kebabs for those who had displayed a commitment to help authorities and shown "regret" for their actions.

The feast was timed to break the fast Muslims impose upon themselves during the holy month of Ramadan.

The party is in line with the Indonesian Government's new "soft" approach of building up a web of paid informants and former militants working to persuade hard-liners to change sides and reject terrorism.

"We approach the terrorists with a pure heart," Brig-Gen Dharma said.

"We are all Muslims. We make them our brothers, not our enemy."

But Melbourne survivor Shelley Campbell, 30, who lost friends Belinda Allen and Amber O'Donnell in the Sari club blast said it was "insane". "I find it offensive," Ms Campbell said.

"I just don't understand how they can be let out to have a party with food and laughs when half the world will be mourning today for the 202 people who died. But that's OK to let these guys party. Are they insane?"

Ms Campbell said the outing was a disgrace and a feeble excuse for reformation.

"So they think if they treat the Bali bombers nicely they're going to turn into nice people do they?" she said.

"It's highly unlikely that those people are going to turn into nice people and work for the greater good.

"I find it ridiculous.

"They let them out without being guarded . . . you may as well let them go then. It's appalling."

Former AFL hardman Mick Martyn, who was injured in the Bali bombings, said discovering former terrorists were at a party was a slap in the face for survivors and victims' families.

"It's sending an example that it's fine to go and kill people," he said.

The dual Kangaroos premiership player said he was unhappy with the way Indonesia handled its criminals, but accepted things worked differently over there.

"The way the judicial system works over there and the way they're all being pardoned from the death sentence is typical of the Indonesian Government," he said.

Meanwhile, Indonesian authorities say their fresh approach is working, yielding intelligence from reformed militants and helping them convert others headed down the path towards extremism.

Ali Imron -- another former militant serving life for the Bali bombings who says he's turned his back on terrorism -- believes he is doing the right thing.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Bali Bombers Get Visit

I am still waiting for them to get set free at the last minute.

Bali bombers await last visit from their families

FAMILIES of the three death-row Bali bombers are awaiting approval to make a final visit to the southern Java jail where the men await death by firing squad.

However, despite repeated taunts from the trio of Amrozi bin Nurhasyim, Imam Samudra and Ali Ghufron, alias Mukhlas, that they are ready to die as "martyrs", the men's legal team is engaged in a lobbying campaign to delay the executions as long as possible.

In a move that will be viewed with extreme cynicism by family and friends of the 202 people who died in the Legian bombings five years ago this week, Islamic Defence Team head lawyer Achmad Michdan admits he is determined to draw the process out as far as he can.

"We will lodge another appeal and ask that a proper examination of it be conducted," said a defiant Mr Michdan, irritated that the retroactive application of anti-terrorism legislation used to convict his clients was upheld in the Supreme Court last month.

But even if he wins the right for a second appeal - an extremely unlikely outcome - under Indonesian law, the trio still cannot be executed until they waive their right to presidential clemency.

"There must be a request for clemency - and if there is not, there must be a written statement that they really don't want clemency. We don't have that yet," Attorney-General Hendarman Supandji said.

Interviewed by a local journalist in recent days, the trio declared they were looking forward to meeting their executioners - a crack firing squad of special brigade police, one with a live bullet in his rifle and the others loaded with blanks, all aimed at the guilty men's hearts.

"This is the most wonderful moment for us because soon we will become martyrs," Mukhlas said.

The men will be allowed to join communal prayers this week with other inmates in their high-security jail on the island of Nusakambangan, off the southern Java coast, to mark Islam's holiest day of Idul Fitri.

The day is most likely to fall on Saturday, although there remains a strong chance it could be on Friday - the anniversary of the mass murders - with Indonesians awaiting a formal announcement on timing from the Government tomorrow night.

Idul Fitri is usually an opportunity for Muslims to ask forgiveness of others for any wrongs they might have committed, though for the families of the three men, there is likely to be little hand-wringing over crimes committed.

In fact, this week, the older brother of Amrozi, east Java Islamic school teacher Mohammad Khozin, was soliciting money from journalists for interviews regarding the impending executions.

The legal team had asked that 30 family members be allowed into the jail to visit the three, an official from Indonesia's justice ministry confirmed yesterday.

Idul Fitri will also mark the granting of remissions to several accomplices in the Bali bomb plot, in a cruel coincidence of timing for those observing the anniversary of the atrocity.

Indonesia's justice system does not set minimum non-parole periods at sentencing, but rather requires the awarding of twice-yearly term remissions to prisoners. All prisoners serving terms lighter than life, and who have exhausted all other legal processes, are automatically considered for the remissions.

New Lese Majeste Laws for Thailand

Thailand plans tougher lese majeste law

Thailand, which strictly enforces laws protecting the monarchy, plans to extend protection to royal advisers and other members of the royal family and restrict media coverage of cases, lawmakers said on Monday.

Under the proposed amendments, to be debated by the army-appointed parliament on Wednesday, journalists could be jailed for three years and fined 60,000 baht ($1,750) for ignoring a court-ordered publication ban.

"We don't want any offence to the monarch to be repeated in the news or become an issue of any criticism" inside or outside Thailand, Supreme Court chief judge Pornpetch Wichitcholchai told Reuters.

Those protected by the expanded law would include sons and daughters of the monarch and royal advisers known as privy councillors, Pornpetch said.

"The current law doesn't cover privy councillors, some of whom have become political victims," he said.

Last month, the government threatened to block clips on video-sharing Web site YouTube that accused chief royal adviser Prem Tinsulanonda of masterminding last year's bloodless coup.

Such allegations against Prem have been made by supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra during demonstrations and denied repeatedly by the generals and government they appointed.

The government lifted a five-month ban on YouTube's site,, in August after its owner, Google Inc, installed filters to stop Thais from accessing clips deemed to insult King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest reigning monarch.

Iranian Students Protest

The only thing actually rare about this event is that Western news sources are actually reporting it. This has been going on for years and often ends in bloodshed.

Rare protest targets Iranian president

About 100 students staged a rare protest Monday against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, calling him a "dictator" as he gave a speech at Tehran University marking the beginning of the academic year.

While the demonstrators and hard-line students loyal to Ahmadinejad scuffled in the auditorium, the president ignored chants of "Death to the dictator" and gave his speech on the merits of science and the pitfalls of Western-style democracy, witnesses said.

The hard-line students chanted "Thank you, president" as police looked on from outside the university's gates without intervening. The protesters dispersed after Ahmadinejad left the campus.

Students were once the main power base of Iran's reform movement but have faced intense pressure in recent years from Ahmadinejad's hard-line government, making anti-government protests rare.

The president faced a similar outburst during a speech last December when students at Amir Kabir Technical University called him a dictator and burned his picture.

Organizers hoped to avoid a similar disturbance Monday with tightened security measures. They checked the identity papers of everyone entering the campus and allowed only selected students into the hall for the speech, but the protesters were somehow able to gain entrance.

Iran's reform movement peaked in the late 1990s after reformist Mohammad Khatami was elected president and his supporters swept parliament. But their efforts to ease social and political restrictions were stymied by hard-liners who control the judiciary, security forces and powerful unelected bodies in the government.

Reformists, who also favor better relations with the United States, were further demoralized and divided after Ahmadinejad won the presidency in 2005 elections.

In recent months, dissenters have witnessed an increasing crackdown, with hundreds detained on accusations of threatening the Iranian system. Numerous pro-reform newspapers have been shut down and those that remain have muted their criticism.

At universities, pro-government student groups have gained strength and reformist students have been marginalized, left to hold only low-level meetings and occasional demonstrations, usually to demand better school facilities or the release of detained colleagues.

Some dissenters blame the crackdown on the regime's fear of a U.S. effort to undermine it as tensions over Iran's nuclear program intensify. Others say the intent is simply to contain discontent fueled by a faltering economy.

Ahmadinejad's popularity at home has fallen since he was elected, with critics saying he has failed to fix the economy and has hurt Iran's image internationally.

Elected on a populist agenda, Ahmadinejad has not kept campaign promises to share oil revenues with every family, eradicate poverty and reduce unemployment. Instead, housing prices in Tehran have tripled, and prices for fruit, vegetables or other commodities have more than doubled over the past year. Inflation worsened after a 25 percent hike in fuel prices in May.

Last December, Ahmadinejad's allies were humiliated in municipal elections, with some reformists gaining seats. He was dealt another blow when a rival, former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, was chosen as chairman of the Assembly of Experts, a powerful clerical body, over a close Ahmadinejad ally.

Conservatives who once supported the president have increasingly joined in the criticism, saying that he needs to pay more attention to domestic issues and that his inflammatory rhetoric has needlessly stoked tensions with the West.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Indonesia Crack Down

What a happy place.

Islamic sect crackdown criticized

Activists in West Sumatra have protested against a raid on the Al-Qiyadah Al-Islamiyah Islamic sect by police acting on the orders of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI).

The sect has found itself under attack in several parts of the country, including West Sumatra and West Java, since the council declared it blasphemous on Thursday and demanded the government ban it.

The Pusaka Inter-Community Study Center, a non-governmental organization promoting pluralism in West Sumatra, has called for the public to respect individual's rights to perform their religions and beliefs according to human rights.

"Labeling a group's teachings as blasphemous and then attacking them is against the Constitution.

"The police and the Indonesian Ulema Council should refrain (from doing so) and solve the matter wisely," Pusaka director Sudarto told The Jakarta Post.

Members of several large organizations, including the Indonesian Mujahidin Council, visited last week the shop-house in Padang where the sect, led by 44-year-old Dedi Priadi, operates.

They ordered the worshipers to stop their activities before raiding and sealing the building.

Police detained 11 Al-Qiyadah members, including Dedi, in order to prevent "clashes". The sect members were eventually releases, although Dedi has been ordered to report to the police every day and the building has been secured with a police line.

In Bogor regency, West Java, police sealed off two villas belonging to Al-Qiyadah's founder Ahmad Moshaddeq or Haji Salam on Friday to prevent any attacks on the property.

Chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council Ma'ruf Amin said people needed to be wary of Ahmad Moshaddeq's teachings because he said he was the next prophet after Muhammad.

Ma'ruf said that the sect did not regard daily prayers, fasting or the pilgrimage to Mecca as compulsory.

The MUI has said that any followers of the sect would be considered apostates.

Sudarto, who is also a member of the West Sumatra chapter of the National Commission on Human Rights, said the government should stay neutral.

He said sealing off the sect's building and requiring its leader in West Sumatra to report to the police over a personal issue was against human rights.

"The state has again used the Criminal Code against the sect for tarnishing a mainstream religion.

"The Criminal Code should not be placed above the Constitution, which guarantees people the freedom to perform their own religions and beliefs ... ," he said.

He said the accusations against the sect should be solved through dialog.

In West Sumatra, Dedi Priadi claimed to have 4,000 followers, mostly students.

In his teachings, he says praying once a day at night, instead of five times, is enough, but denies the sect is blasphemous.

Gusrizal Gazahar of the West Sumatra chapter of the Indonesian Ulema Council said they have monitored the sect for some time and had even sent two people inside the organization.

"The sect is misleading and not Islam. But it claims to be Islam so we ask the government to ban it and call the people involved to get back on the right track," Gusrizal said.

The West Sumatra Provincial Prosecutor's Office released a decision banning Al-Qiyadah Al-Islamiyah on Friday.

Restive Duffy and Arrests

Restive! Restive! Annexed! Restive!

Thai troops kill 5, arrest 19 in Muslim south

Thai security forces killed five suspected Muslim militants and arrested 19 men and women after a brief clash in Thailand's rebellious far south on Monday, an army spokesman said. Police and soldiers also found three rifles and a pistol in a Muslim village in Songkhla province, one of four provinces where more than 2,500 people have been killed in the three-year insurgency, Colonel Acra Tiproch said. "They came to threaten people in the village not to cooperate with the authorities and we clashed with them," he said.

Security personnel, along with Buddhist monks and government schoolteachers, are prime targets of a separatist insurgency which re-emerged in January 2004 in the region, a former Muslim sultanate annexed by Thailand about a century ago.

Wrong. Conquered BACK by the Siamese in about 1743 during their war of independence from Burma. Go back to school please.

Since July, security forces have launched almost daily raids on suspected insurgent hideouts in villages and towns and have detained dozens of people without charge.

Human rights groups are critical, saying detainees are exposed to potential abuses by the army, which is operating under martial law that grants soldiers immunity from prosecution.

Oh well. Let them lose then so they can kill more monks, teachers, and rubber sappers.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

UN Delivers "Strongly Worded Message"

Sticks and stone might break their bones but strongly worded messages will do little to dislodge the likes of the Myanmar Junta. In fact I think the John Lennonesque notion of how to deal with their ilk should be replaced with a more Churchillian approach. But that's just my opinion.

UN chief says 'strong message' delivered to Myanmar rulers

UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday said his special envoy Ibrahim Gambari delivered a 'strong message' to Myanmar military rulers about their crackdown on pro-democracy protests and would brief him shortly on his mission.

'Mr. Gambari has delivered a strong message from me personally (to Myanmar's ruling junta),' Ban told reporters. 'We are now awaiting his return, and I am going to be briefed by him tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon' before deciding on the next course of action.

'The concerns of the international community have been clearly and loudly conveyed to the Myanmar authorities,' the UN secretary general said.

Ban said Gambari was assured during his four-day mission -- he met with Myanmar's ruling generals and detained democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi -- that he would be able to make a return visit in November.

The UN chief said he would consult with members of the 15-member Security Council Friday to weigh the international community's next step. Gambari was also to brief the council on his four-day mission Friday, UN officials said.

Ban was also asked to react to the arrest of a local UN worker in Yangon and three of her family members.

'I am going to do whatever I can to, first of all, address this issue (and) the overall human rights situation in Myanmar,' he replied.

Back in Myanmar, the military junta kept up the pressure on its people Wednesday after last week's bloody crackdown on protesters.

Troops who last week killed at least 13 and arrested over 1,000 people to suppress the largest pro-democracy protests in nearly 20 years have continued overnight arrests and mounted patrols to strike terror into the population.

The protests first erupted in mid-August after a massive hike in the price of fuel, but escalated two weeks ago when Buddhist monks emerged to lead the movement, drawing up to 100,000 people onto the streets.

A Major Defector

It's a shame he couldn't have put together a mutiny...

Myanmar military officer defects to Thailand

A Myanmar military officer has fled to neighboring Thailand saying he refused orders to attack Buddhist monks in last week's anti-junta protests and denouncing the regime.

"As a Buddhist myself, when I heard that monks had been shot dead on the streets and that other people had been shot dead, I felt very upset," he said in a video interview, a copy of which was made available to Agence France-Presse.

"As a Buddhist, I did not want to see such killing."

The army major's defection is the first known case of a military official fleeing the country formerly called Burma since the junta last week ordered a crackdown that left at least 13 people dead and more than 1,000 detained.

Thai military intelligence officials have identified the officer, but he later requested that his name not be reported. The Thai officials said he was planning to request political asylum in Norway.

Speaking through an interpreter Wednesday, the officer said that the Buddhist monks who led the country's largest anti-government protests in almost 20 years were "very peaceful."

"Later, when I heard they were shot and killed and the armed forces used teargas, I was really, really upset and thought the army should stand for their own people," he said.

The soldier said he did not know which commanders had ordered troops to shoot or who had fired at the monks and demonstrators.

"I don't know if they will be punished by someone or not, but as a Buddhist, we believe that if you do those things, then bad karma will come back to them. That is our belief."

The man said he wanted Myanmar to be a "free and prosperous country."

"I don't mean a rich country, like in Europe, but a country where people can earn a proper income," he said in the video interview. "I want to see Burma peaceful and for people to live in freedom."

However, for now, he added that "it's impossible. Under the rule of the military regime, Burma will not be prosperous and peaceful."

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

UN Wants Death Toll

A strongly worded letter is being composed now.

Myanmar Junta Must Reveal Protest Death Toll, UN Says (Update3)

Myanmar's junta must reveal the death toll from last week's anti-government protests and give details about those jailed and missing, a United Nations official said after envoy Ibrahim Gambari met with the regime's leader.

``We are all extremely concerned with the aftermath of the unrest,'' Charles Petrie, the UN's humanitarian coordinator in Myanmar, said by telephone today from the former capital, Yangon. ``That was raised at the highest level in the strongest terms.''

Gambari met yesterday with General Than Shwe and other leaders of the regime to discuss its crackdown on the biggest pro-democracy protests in almost 20 years. Gambari is scheduled to brief UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the talks tomorrow before meeting with the Security Council.

At least 30 people were killed by security forces during last week's demonstrations and 1,400 others were arrested, the Australian government said yesterday. The junta in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, put the death toll at nine.

``We need to have a better understanding of what happened,'' said Petrie, who accompanied Gambari to the capital, Naypyidaw. The UN asked Myanmar's leaders to provide details about the number of people killed, wounded and detained and help trace missing people, said Petrie, the UN's most senior official in the Southeast Asian nation.

Gambari, who is scheduled to fly to New York today, declined to speak with reporters after meeting with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Singapore currently presides over the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a 10-member group that includes Myanmar.

Asean is ``fully behind'' the UN's push for ``national reconciliation and a peaceful transition to democracy'' in Myanmar, Lee told Gambari, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

International condemnation of the regime has increased since soldiers clubbed and shot at demonstrators, raided monasteries and arrested Buddhist monks who led the protests.

The UN Human Rights Council unanimously adopted a resolution yesterday that ``strongly deplores'' the crackdown.

China and Russia, which blocked a U.S.-drafted Security Council resolution on Myanmar in January, were among the 47 member states that backed the measure criticizing the ``continued violent repression of peaceful demonstrations.''

The resolution, adopted in Geneva, is one of the toughest issued by the year-old body. It also urged the regime to release political prisoners, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and take steps toward installing a democratic government.

Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, has spent almost 12 years in detention since the junta rejected the results of parliamentary elections in 1990 won by her National League for Democracy. Gambari was allowed to meet with Suu Kyi twice at her home in Yangon, where she is detained.

``The Myanmar authorities should no longer expect that their self-imposed isolation will shield them from accountability,'' Louise Arbour, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said yesterday. ``The government must give a full account of its actions during and after the protests.''

The military has ruled the nation of 47 million people since 1962. The regime has a record of human rights violations, including summary executions, torture and the recruitment of child soldiers, which, according to the UN, are widespread and systematic.

Anti-junta protests began more than a month ago when the government doubled some fuel prices and intensified when Buddhist monks took to the streets.

Islamic Super Heroes?

Islamic superheroes invade Indonesia

An apparent explosion has levelled high-rise buildings in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah, triggering a security alert. It's the work of an Islamic superhero, a giant, confused teenager who sneezed.

Jabbar the Powerful, the alter-ego of teenager Nawaf Al-Bilali, is the first of 99 superhero characters in an Islamic culture-based comic book series called "The 99" just launched in Indonesia.

The comic seeks to act as a metaphor for what's happening in the Islamic world, its creator, Kuwaiti-born Naif Al-Mutawa, told AFP during a recent visit to Jakarta to launch the colourful, action-packed comic.

"Islam or the Koran can be used for good or for bad," Al-Mutawa said, adding that when either are misused, people blame the Koran, "when in fact they should be blaming the person interpreting the Koran".

Each of the superheroes personifies one of the 99 attributes of God in Islam, with their individual powers derived from mystical gemstones originating from 13th-century Baghdad, and infused with lost ancient knowledge.

Jabbar, for instance, has extraordinary strength that gives him "near-invulnerability and durability". Indonesia's own character, Fatah the Opener, can create a portal dimension used to travel anywhere on Earth.

The main struggle in the story happens between two characters representing the classic good-evil dichotomy, with each competing for the allegiance of "The 99". Even the superheroes themselves are sometimes deceived into crossing to the side of evil, Al-Mutawa explained.

But while the comic is based on Islamic archetypes and culture, there's nothing overtly Islamic in them, he said.

"They are as religious as Spiderman," Al-Mutawa quipped. "There's no mention of prayers or prophets, none of that."

The characters, who work in threes, do not carry weapons and are evenly split between males and females.

In a bid to represent Islam's spread around the world, characters frequently hail from two nations, which also helps to "make sense of the Islamic diaspora".

"For example, Bari is from Sudan but grew up in France, Hadya is from Pakistan but grew up in the UK," he said.

Al-Mutawa worked as a clinical psychologist for more than a decade before he started his own media company. He had treated former prisoners of war in Kuwait and worked with survivors of political torture in New York.

"The Iraqis that I treated were tortured by Saddam or his people. These are people who grew up with Saddam as their hero and yet they were tortured by (his people)," he said.

"What kind of message are we sending our children? Is this what heroes do?"

This disillusionment drove him to write several successful children's books and then to create and co-write "The 99," with former Marvel and DC comic artists helping out, hoping to fill a gap in the global market.

The comic, co-written with Fabian Nicieza, who has worked on hit Marvel titles such as X-Men, is now published across the Middle East in Arabic.

"'The 99' is selling as well in Kuwait and the Emirates as Spiderman is. I know because I sell Spiderman," he said.

The comic will debut in the United States in October, followed by Malaysia next year, while Al-Mutawa is in talks with publishers in Turkey and France.

Yudha Kartohadiprodjo, general manager of "The 99's" Indonesian license holder Femina Group, said he believed the comics would find a receptive audience in the world's most populous Muslim nation.

"In the market today there are no contemporary comics based on Islamic values," he said. "The creator understands Islamic history, and that's important for this Islamic-based story."

Indonesian Muslims can be sensitive when it comes to religious-based stories, with any criticism from Islamic groups potentially risking a nationwide boycott.

A poem recently published in a newspaper in West Java, for instance, sparked outrage from a local religious group for its "un-Islamic" depiction of angels, forcing the writer and the newspaper to print a public apology.

Kartohadiprodjo said he was confident in Al-Mutawa's Islamic credentials.

The 68-page, full-colour first issue of "The 99" had a print run of 25,000 copies and is selling at bookstores for 18,000 rupiah (two dollars). A few national newspapers are considering printing extracts, Kartohadiprodjo said.

And of course, merchandising is to follow soon, with the Islamic superheroes preparing to infiltrate homes via notebooks, T-shirts and mobile phone paraphernalia.

Good luck with that. Isn't it against some silly Islamic law to depict the human form? I can't keep track. I can only guess that they'll be battling against their arch-rival "Dr. Jew" or "Infidel Man" or some such nonsense.

Personally I'll take our 300 over their 99.

Four Killed, Press Needs History Classes

Four shot dead in Thai south

Four men, including a school principal, have been shot dead by suspected Islamic militants in Thailand's insurgency-torn south, police said on Tuesday.

Three of the victims, including the principal, were killed in drive-by shootings in Pattani province, while the fourth was shot dead in nearby Yala, police said.

The shootings were the latest in a series of near-daily attacks in the Muslim-majority south, where more than 2,600 people have been killed since a separatist insurgency broke out in January 2004.

The Muslim region was annexed by mainly Buddhist Thailand a century ago and separatist tensions have simmered since.

Aaarrrgh!!! The Siamese conquered the region BACK in the 1700's during their war of indepence from Burma whom the Sultandom had Allied itself.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Jihad's Sickest Home Videos

Restive my ass. WHO coined that annoying phrase and why aren't they forced to shave their heads and collect alms with the Buddhist Monks in the region. Or teach school. Or work as a tree sapper. Then they might see how "restive" it is.

Mobile phones seized in restive southern Thailand depict gruesome videos

Police in insurgency-wracked southern Thailand said Tuesday that mobile phones seized from an attack site contain video clips showing suspected insurgents beheading their victims and in one case, cutting off a soldier's sex organ.

Investigators found two mobile phones in a bag left behind in an area of Yala province where suspected insurgents killed a police officer over the weekend, said police Col.Sompien Eksomya from Yala's Bannang Star district, where the attack occurred.

"We sent the SIM cards to be checked out and found gruesome video clips", he said by telephone.

One video clip taken Jan. 2, 2006 showed a suspected insurgent beheading a soldier, then severing his penis and laughing with the person taking the video, Sompien said.
The second clip was made on May 14 of this year, showing the beheading of a Buddhist man after he and his wife were shot. A third video clip filmed June 15 shows the bullet-ridden bodies of seven soldiers.

Sompien said that police were searching for the men seen in the videos.
More than 2,400 people have been killed in the Muslim-majority southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat since a long-simmering Islamic separatist insurgency flared up in January 2004. At least 29 Buddhists have been beheaded in the past three years.

And what the hell is a SUSPECTED INSURGENT? Either it was done by insurgents or not. A person might be SUSPECTED to be an insurgent but the other phrase makes no sense. Then the ommission of the actual nature of these "insurgents" makes no sense either.

Bali Bombers Get Even Shorter Sentences

Again I'm shocked they aren't already free. Didn't they just have their sentences reduced for Independence Day? The only "short sentence" they truly deserve to receive is "Meet these Australians"

Bali bombers handed shorter sentences

The 10 men convicted of involvement in the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings will have their sentences reduced at the end of Ramadan.

The news comes only a day after the second anniversary of the bombings in which 20 people were killed, including four Australians.

Four of the men convicted in connection with those attacks learnt that they are likely to have their sentences cut by 30 days when Indonesia celebrates the end of Ramadan.

The sentence reduction recommendation came from the Governor of Bali's Kerobokan prison, where Australian drug smugglers Schapelle Corby and the 'Bali nine' are being held.

It was also recommended that six men convicted of robberies to raise money for the 2002 Bali bombings and for sheltering those involved have their sentences reduced by six weeks.

Is there a reason why the death toll from the 2002 bombing is omitted in this report?

Malaysia Threatens to Pull Out Monitors

Someone please tell the increasingly pompus and self-righteous Islamic busy-body known as Malaysia to take a hike. Why the Pinoys even waste their time "talking" to the MILF after all this time is a mystery. Just defeat them and be done with it.

Malaysia may pull peace monitors from Philippines

Malaysia has threatened to withdraw monitors overseeing a four-year ceasefire between the Philippine army and the country's biggest Muslim separatist guerrilla group because of delays in peace talks, sources said on Tuesday.

Tension has risen lately between the army and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), with both sides accusing the other of breaking the truce during a skirmish on the island of Basilan last week.

On Tuesday, at least four Navy commandos and six rebels died in another firefight on Basilan, as Philippine troops pursued the Abu Sayyaf group, which has close links with the MILF.

A resumption in peace talks, scheduled to take place in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur next month, is in doubt again after four postponements. The talks broke down a year ago amid disagreements over the size and wealth of a proposed ancestral homeland for Muslims on the southern island of Mindanao.

Government and rebel sources told Reuters the Malaysian government was getting impatient, and threatened during an informal meeting in Kuala Lumpur last week to recall its 60 monitors to pressure the sides to resume talks.

Mohaqher Iqbal, the rebels' chief negotiator, told Reuters in a phone interview from his hideout on Mindanao that any withdrawal of Malaysian soldiers would endanger the truce and harm implementation of development projects.

"If that happens, it would have a big impact on the peace process," Iqbal said.

Unarmed Malaysian soldiers have been in Mindanao since 2004 as part of an effort to end nearly 40 years of conflict that has killed more than 120,000 people and displaced 2 million. Libya and Brunei also have small contingents in the monitoring team.

Iqbar said last week's meeting in Kuala Lumpur had been "productive" but had failed to fix a date for formal talks.

"Our differences were not really poles apart, we've narrowed the gaps from where we started two years ago," Iqbar said.

"But our counterparts could not commit to anything without the approval of the political leadership in Manila," he said.

"The government must have political will to conclude the peace process."

Last week, the military accused MILF members of helping a band of Abu Sayyaf rebels during a firefight on Basilan island and threatened to file a protest to a ceasefire panel.

The MILF countered by saying Philippine troops had entered rebel territory without coordinating with the panel, and had attacked one of its camps.

There was no word on any MILF involvement in Tuesday's fighting, sparked by a pre-dawn raid on a suspected Abu Sayyaf hideout.

Mindanao has been a focus of international attention because Western governments believe it has been a training base for islamic militants with links to Al Qaeda and regional group Jemaah Islamiah.

Japan has been funding about $1 million worth of social and economic projects, including repairs of school buildings and installation of potable water systems.

The World Bank has a separate $3 million project helping set up cooperatives to start and manage small businesses, such as copra and rice production.

Canada, Sweden and the United States have also expressed keen interest in funding post-conflict livelihood projects and helping facilitate the negotiations brokered by Malaysia since 2001.

"I hope the government realises what it stands to lose if the peace process fails," Iqbal said.

Oh well then, we all should just surrender to Allah's Army of Halfwits and be done with it.

John Rambo - Still Fighting Commies

In 1962 Burma became another one of the unfortunate nations to have "Peoples Socialist Republic" tacked onto its name. In the same way that the Khmer Rouge later changed Cambodia into Kampuchea the once prosperous Burma became Myanmar. Thus began what was called "The Burmese road to socialism", which of course ends like so many other socialist roads did; at a mass grave filled with the defenseless. The Junta in Myanmar may have long given up the pretense of being "socialist" but the world should remember their roots and how exactly they got in power in the first place.

As easy as it is to laugh at Stallone in any given situation I'd like to know where all the usual self-righteous Hollywood blow-hards are right now. Why aren't the likes of Kevin Spacey and Sean Penn who can find so much time to hang out with their South American pal Hugo not rallying the members of their save-the-world-super-friends-club to say something about this situation. The next time some Hollywood know it all start rattling off about some half thought out cause perhaps "Tell it to the Burmese Monks" should be our response.

Sylvester Stallone gets death threats in Myanmar border

IT was just like a scene from one of his many action-packed movies. Hollywood superstar Sylvester Stallone was filming some scenes for his next film John Rambo on the border of Thailand and Myanmar when he and his crew allegedly received death threats on the set. “We were on the Salween River and we were told to get out because we were going to be shot,” Stallone said.

The actor, in an interview with Entertainment Tonight’s Mark Steines, adds that making the movie around the border exposed him to the “full-scale genocide that has been going on.”

“People are escaping from Myanmar coming over with gaping, maggot-infested wounds, their ears cut off. You saw a lot of suffering, a lot of malnutrition.”

He adds, “It’s the most brutal regime in the world and the most secretive. It has an oppressive regime that [keeps all riches] for themselves. Everyone is forced into drugs or prostitution or slavery.” Stallone says that he and the film crew received “a lot of threats” and they even witnessed some of the brutality firsthand.

The storyline of the new Rambo film follows a group of Christian aid workers who recruit Rambo to guide them up the Salween River to deliver medical supplies to an oppressed tribe. When the missionaries fail to return from Burma, the aging Vietnam vet leads a team of mercenaries back into the war-torn border region to find and rescue them.

“It’s the best of all of the ‘Rambo’s since the first one, for sure,” assures Stallone. “I wanted to do one more, but I also wanted to touch on something that has been going on for 60 years. It’s the longest civil war in the world. The most important thing is you provide entertainment, but you also put a light on this savage existence that the people in Burma have to live.”

UN Envoy Meets With Myanmar Head Honcho

I'd also like to meet with the Myanmar leader. Alone. With a taser and handcuffs and a baton. Then deliver him to a jail where he and is gang of drug dealing, gun running, human trafficking, monk murdering cohorts belong.

U.N. Envoy Meets With Myanmar Leader

A U.N. envoy met with Myanmar's military leader Tuesday in a bid to end the country's political crisis, as the junta's foreign minister defended a deadly crackdown on democracy advocates that has provoked global revulsion.

Ibrahim Gambari, the U.N.'s special envoy to Myanmar, met with Senior Gen. Than Shwe in the junta's remote new capital, Naypyitaw, said a foreign diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, citing protocol. No details of the meeting were available.

Security forces lightened their presence in Yangon, the country's main city, which remained quiet after troops and police brutally quelled mass protests last week. Dissident groups say up to 200 protesters were slain, compared to the regime's report of 10 deaths, and 6,000 detained.

Gambari has been in the country since Saturday with the express purpose of seeing Than Shwe about the violence. The leader had avoided him until Tuesday.

Than Shwe doesn't normally bother with the usual diplomatic protocol and is not an easy man to meet with. In previous sparring with the United Nations and other international bodies over human rights abuses, the regime has repeatedly snubbed envoys and ignored diplomatic overtures.

Instead of the meeting Gambari sought Monday, he was sent to a remote northern town for an academic conference on relations between the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, diplomats reported, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The town of Lashio, where the conference was held, is 240 miles north of Naypyitaw, the secure, isolated city carved out of the jungle where Than Shwe moved the capital in 2005.

U.N. associate spokesman Farhan Haq earlier said Gambari would urge the junta "to cease the repression of peaceful protest, release detainees, and move more credibly and inclusively in the direction of democratic reform, human rights and national reconciliation."

State Department spokesman Tom Casey said the U.S. wanted to see Gambari convey a clear message on behalf of the international community "about the need for Burma's leaders to engage in a real and serious political dialogue with all relative parties."

Myanmar Ambassador Rejected By Austrialians

Good for the Austrialians. The pressure needs to be kept on the Myanmar Junta so they can't just on about business as usual. In a sane world the Diggers and other troops from free nations would be going in and sorting the Monk murdering Junta out once and for all.

Australia Rejects Myanmar Military Commander as New Ambassador

Australia refused a request by Myanmar for a military commander to be accredited as the new ambassador in Canberra.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer rejected the appointment of Brigadier General Thura U Thet Oo Maung in June because of the behavior of Myanmar's military government, the minister's spokesman Malcolm Cole said today.

``His appointment to the position would have been a political reward and he is very senior in the military,'' Cole said in an interview in Canberra. ``This is not the kind of person Australia would appoint as ambassador here.''

Myanmar's ruling junta last week sent soldiers onto the streets of Yangon, the former capital, to end the biggest anti- government protests in almost 20 years.

United Nations envoy Ibrahim Gambari met with Myanmar's detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and will hold talks with the country's top general Than Shwe today to try to persuade the government to end its crackdown.

The military has ruled the country formerly known as Burma since 1962.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Restive String of Bombs

Who might have done this?

Coordinated bombings rock the South

A string of 13 bomb explosions Monday morning in the troubled deep South injured at least nine people, including one Buddhist monk, a military source said.

The first batch of five bombs went off about 7 am local time in the morning market of Rangae town, Narathiwat province, 790 kilometres south of Bangkok, injuring a monk on his alms-gathering rounds and two soldiers guarding him, said regional army spokesman Colonel Akara Thiprote.

Five villagers were also injured in the first attack.

Another four bombs were detonated in Rangae at 8:10 am, injuring one person.

Rangue is classified as a "red zone" by Thai authorities, because of the close collaboration between separatists and the town's inhabitants.

Meanwhile, two more bombs went off in Waeng, and one each in Sisakorn and Sungai Padi, all in Narathiwat, leaving two people injured.

They were the latest of more than 6,000 violent incidents reported over the past three and a half years in Thailand's troubled deep South, the majority-Muslim region comprising Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala provinces and parts of Songkhla.

According to army data, some 2,500 people have died from the violence since January 1, 2004.

UN Envoy in Myanmar

Maybe the Junta will give his some free samples from one of their many drug operations.

UN envoy back in Myanmar capital for junta talks: Official

UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari who met Myanmar's detained democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi over the weekend has returned to the nation's remote capital for expected talks with the junta leader, a UN official said on Monday.

Gambari met with Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi for more than an hour on Sunday, and later that night flew to the administrative capital Naypyidaw in central Myanmar, the official said.

"He flew back to Naypyidaw yesterday evening," the UN official said. Gambari hopes to meet with the regime's reclusive leader Than Shwe, after holding talks with other senior officials on Saturday.

Gambari was dispatched by UN chief Ban Ki-moon to intervene after the regime unleashed a military campaign to stop anti-government demonstrations several days ago, leaving at least 13 dead and hundreds arrested.

The four days of repression, which has seen live rounds, baton charges and tear gas used against monks, protesters and civilians alike, succeeded in largely shutting down the demonstrations over the weekend.

Gambari arrived in Myanmar Saturday and travelled to the remote official capital of Naypyidaw for talks with senior leaders where he was expected to convey worldwide outrage over the violence.

Bangkok Bomb

Bomb explodes in Bangkok

A bomb blew up while being disarmed next to the Army Survey Department just off Rajdamnoen Avenue Sunday night, injuring the two ordnance disposal officers at the scene.

No one claimed responsibility for the bomb which exploded the night before Gen Anupong Paochinda was set to replace army chief and coup leader Sonthi Boonyaratkalin as commander of the army.

The explosive was in a black cardboard box placed at a phone booth in front of a small soi between the Army headquarters and the Army's Survey Department.

The box was spotted by bystanders at the Rajdamneon Boxing Stadium across from the Army headquarters. After the explosion, another box was found 50 metres away from the first one.

After being informed, the bomb disposal unit rushed to the scene at around 9pm. But while inspecting the box, the bomb went off.

The explosion seriously damaged the right wrist of a bomb disposal officer and injured another in the chest but not seriously. Both were sent to Hua Chiew hospital.

The site had not yet been sealed off, with just barricades erected around it.

Sniffer dogs were then moved in to try to detect any other explosives at and near the scene.

Police and the army both were silent, and refused to comment about details of the attack or the possible motive of those involved.

At least three series of explosions of small bombs have hit Bangkok since a larger, murderous string of bombs last New Year's Eve across the city. There have been no arrests and no claims of responsibility in any of the bombings.

Nine bombs exploded in the Thai capital on New Year's Eve, killing three people and wounding more than 40.