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Myanmar says to amnesty prisoners before elections


Myanmar says to amnesty prisoners before elections

UNITED NATIONS – july 14 – Myanmar is planning to amnesty prisoners to enable them to take part in national elections next year, at the request of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the country’s U.N. envoy said on Monday.

But, addressing the U.N. Security Council, Ambassador Than Swe did not say how many political prisoners would be released, or when, or whether they would include key figures like opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

During a July 3-4 visit to Myanmar, Ban pressed the ruling military junta to free all political prisoners, including Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi, who is on trial on charges of breaking the conditions of her house arrest.

“At the request of the secretary-general, the Myanmar government is processing to grant amnesty to prisoners on humanitarian ground and with a view to enabling them to participate in the 2010 general elections,” Than Swe said, speaking in English.

He said the Myanmar government “intends to implement all appropriate recommendations that (the) secretary-general had proposed.” But during Ban’s visit the junta refused to allow him to meet Suu Kyi, saying this could influence her trial.

Rights groups say there are more than 2,000 political prisoners in Myanmar. If the government releases a significant number of them, the move could be seen as justifying Ban’s trip, which many analysts have so far portrayed as a failure.

Ban himself reacted cautiously to Than Swe’s comments. The U.N. chief, who earlier briefed the Security Council on his visit, told reporters: “This is encouraging, but I will have to continue to follow up how they will implement all the issues raised during my visit in Myanmar.”

“I am not quite sure … who will be included in this amnesty,” he added.


The Myanmar government has amnestied prisoners before. It freed 19 political detainees in February as part of a release of 6,000 prisoners after a visit by a U.N. human rights envoy.

Critics say next year’s elections, the final part of a seven-step “road map” to democracy, will be a sham designed to give legitimacy to the current authorities and entrench nearly half a century of army rule in the former Burma.

In his report to the Security Council, Ban said the Myanmar government needed to deliver on promises to make next year’s elections free and fair, to release prisoners and to start a dialogue with the opposition “in the very near future.”

“The choice for Myanmar’s leaders in the coming days and weeks will be between meeting that responsibility … or failing their own people and each one of you,” he told the 15 council members.

Most council envoys supported Ban and deplored the Myanmar junta’s refusal to let him see Suu Kyi, who is accused of breaching her house arrest terms by letting an American intruder stay at her lakeside home in Yangon in May.

British envoy Philip Parham said the move demonstrated “the regime’s fear of a free and fair political process.” If there was an “unjust outcome” in Suu Kyi’s trial, “the international community will need to … respond robustly,” he said.

U.S. envoy Rosemary DiCarlo said Suu Kyi faced “spurious charges of violating a house arrest that was illegitimate to begin with.” French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said that without the prior release of Suu Kyi “any electoral process would be just a parody of democracy.”

But in a strongly pro-Myanmar speech, Chinese envoy Liu Zhenmin said the junta’s refusal to let Ban see Suu Kyi was “totally understandable.” The international community should treat Myanmar with “less arrogance and prejudice,” he said.

Liu said China remained opposed to any sanctions, making clear that Beijing will pursue its policy of blocking any substantive council action on Myanmar through its veto.

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Indonesia’s Yudhoyono set for one-round election win


President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s campaign team flash the victory sign in Cikeas, West Java in Jakarta July 8, 2009.

Indonesia’s Yudhoyono set for one-round election win


Indonesian presidential candidate Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (C), his wife Kristiani Yudhoyono (R) and his son Edi Baskoro (L) show their ballot papers at a polling station in the Cikeas district in Bogor July 8, 2009.


A man casts his ballot for the Indonesian presidential election in Jakarta July 8, 2009.


A voter dips his finger with ink at a polling station in Cikeas district in Bogor July 8, 2009.

BOGOR, Indonesia (Reuters) – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono looked set to win a second term on Wednesday as provisional election results showed there would be no need for a run-off vote, opening the way for a period of quickening reform.

“I think it’s clear now that Yudhoyono has won in one round,” said Kevin O’Rourke, a Jakarta-based political risk analyst.

Political allies flocked to Yudhoyono’s home in Bogor, on Java island, to congratulate the former army general as “quick counts” of votes cast across the archipelago of 226 million people rolled in.

“Continue!” they chanted, using Yudhoyono’s campaign slogan.

With about 94 percent of the LSI polling agency’s sample of votes counted, Yudhoyono’s tally stood at a commanding 60.8 percent. He will need to secure half of the votes to avoid a run-off with the nearest of his two challengers.

The official verdict on the election will come later this month, but “quick count” results have proved extremely reliable in the past.

The election, only the second direct vote for a president in Indonesia, will determine the pace of reform over the next five years and cement the country’s transition to democracy.

Analysts expect that in a second term Yudhoyono would quicken the pace and widen the scope of reforms in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy to attract badly needed foreign investment, create jobs and shore up flagging economic growth.

Indonesian stocks, bonds and the rupiah have rallied this year on the prospect of a Yudhoyono win, and analysts now see them rising further on the results. Jakarta markets were closed for the election.

A decade ago, Indonesia was the sick man of Asia. After 32 years of rule by Suharto, who oversaw a system of entrenched corruption and nepotism, it stood on the brink of political, social and financial collapse.

Yudhoyono’s government has since brought political stability, peace and the best economic performance in a decade. Today, some see the country on another brink — of economic take-off and joining the emerging “BRIC” economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Nevertheless, the world’s most-populous Muslim nation is hardly problem-free: corruption is widespread, infrastructure is in dire need of an overhaul and millions live in poverty.


Analysts say Yudhoyono is likely to pick more technocrats, and fewer politicians from among his coalition partners, to fill his next cabinet so that the government can promote reform.

“He will try to do more to attract investment but at the same time he will be more serious about eradicating corruption. He will prioritize good governance and economic growth,” said political scientist Aleksius Jemadu at Pelita Harapan University.

“He will reform the bureaucracy to make it easier for investors to come here. He will make sure some of the red tape and the bureaucratic obstacles will be removed.”

The LSI vote count showed that Yudhoyono’s challengers, former president Megawati Sukarnoputri and Vice President Jusuf Kalla, were trailing at around 27 and 13 percent, respectively.

Megawati and Kalla adopted a more nationalist tone than Yudhoyono in their campaigns, promising to squeeze more from the country’s rich resources to pay for pro-poor policies.

A controversy over voter lists marred the run-up to the election, with the teams of Yudhoyono’s two rivals complaining about millions of duplicate names and even the names of dead people and children on the electoral rolls.

There remains a small risk that the pair could use the doubt sown about the credibility of the vote to challenge the result.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who lived in Indonesia as a child, is expected to visit the country later this year — a trip that would warm ties that both countries say they plan to raise to the level of “comprehensive partnership.

However, U.S. trade officials and businesses complain about a range of protectionist policies, including judicial and bureaucratic bias favoring Indonesian firms, as well as rampant corruption that distorts the economic playing field.

(Additional reporting by Ed Davies, Sunanda Creagh, Olivia Rondonuwu and Telly Nathalia in Jakarta; Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Sara Webb)

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SCENARIOS – Malaysia’s opposition leader on trial


Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks during an interview at his office in Parliament building in Kuala Lumpur June 17, 2009.

SCENARIOS – Malaysia’s opposition leader on trial

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – The conduct and outcome of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s trial will have political repercussions for this Southeast Asian country of 27 million people.

The country’s former deputy prime minister who now leads the three-party People’s Alliance is charged with sodomising a male aide in a trial scheduled to open on Wednesday.

Anwar was first charged with committing sodomy in 1998 after he was sacked by then premier Mahathir Mohamad amid a leadership dispute at the height of the Asian economic crisis. But the Federal Court overturned his conviction in 2004.

The following scenarios may unfold from what is being dubbed in the Malaysian media “Sodomy 2”.


Least likely outcome. Anwar’s lawyers plan to appeal on Wednesday for the charges to be dropped, arguing that medical reports of the victim indicate no physical signs of sodomy.

But this is considered a remote possibility given the determined work that investigators have done to build the case against him.


Likely. A lengthy sentence means that Anwar, now 61, would miss his final chance to wrest power and lead the country. Protests will erupt.

The opposition will also restart attacks on Prime Minister Najib Razak over corruption allegations andlinks to a murdered Mongolian model, both of which he has denied and which no evidence has been presented.

But this will sidetrack efforts to shore up the economy and could also spook foreign investors.


Anwar’s lawyers say this scenario is possible. An appeal would take years, allowing Anwar to fight on. But there is a flipside.

Allowing Anwar to remain free pending the outcome of an appeal allows the government to do two things simultaneously — argue that it was not victimising while at the same time increase the political attacks on Anwar to try and taint him as a man

guilty of the crime.


Seen as unlikely, given the prosecution’s determination in pursuing the case.

Anwar’s aim of leading the opposition to power in the next poll will remain on track, but it may not be a total loss for the ruling National Front coalition. The government would argue that the verdict proves judicial impartiality, allowing some space for the country’s heated political temperature to normalise.

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