Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Myanmar junta 'dense' but who cares? Their children are rich.

SINGAPORE - A CLASSIFIED US document released by WikiLeaks cites Singapore statesman Lee Kuan Yew as calling Myanmar's junta leaders 'stupid' and 'dense.'

A confidential briefing on a 2007 conversation between former Prime Minister Lee and US officials was released by WikiLeaks this week.

It quoted Mr Lee as saying that dealing with Myanmar's military regime was like 'talking to dead people.'

Ambassador Patricia L. Herbold wrote that Mr Lee said China had the most influence over Myanmar's leadership of any foreign country.

Mr Lee also says China is worried the country could 'blow up,' which would threaten Chinese investments.
IN THE same 2007 exchanges with US officials, MM Lee thought one possible solution to the crisis in Myanmar would be for a group of younger military officers who were less 'obtuse' to step forward and recognise that the current situation was untenable.

They could share power with the democracy activists, although probably not with Aung San Suu Kyi, who was anathema to the military. It would be a long process.

He said that Myanmar's ambassador in Singapore had told MFA that Myanmar could 'survive any sanctions' due to its natural resources.

Mr Lee said dealing with the regime was like 'talking to dead people'.

Moore on Wikileaks

'All I ask is that you not be naive about how the government works when it decides to go after its prey. Please - never, ever believe the 'official story',' he said, adding that guilty or innocent, Assange has the right to defend himself.

Moore also offered 'the assistance of my website, my servers, my domain names and anything else I can do to keep WikiLeaks alive and thriving as it continues its work to expose the crimes that were concocted in secret and carried out in our name and with our tax dollars.'

'Openness, transparency - these are among the few weapons the citizenry has to protect itself from the powerful and the corrupt... and that is the best thing that WikiLeaks has done,' Moore said. Supporting WikiLeaks, he concluded, is 'a true act of patriotism. Period'.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chernobyl open to tourists in 2011

KIEV (Ukraine) - WANT a better understanding of the world's worst nuclear disaster? Come tour the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

Beginning next year, Ukraine plans to open up the sealed zone around the Chernobyl reactor to visitors who wish to learn more about the tragedy that occurred nearly a quarter of a century ago, the Emergency Situations Ministry said Monday.

Chernobyl's reactor No. 4 exploded on April 26, 1986, spewing radiation over a large swath of northern Europe. Hundreds of thousands of people were resettled from areas contaminated with radiation fallout in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. Related health problems still persist.

The so-called exclusion zone, a highly contaminated area within a 30-mile (48-kilometre) radius of the exploded reactor, was evacuated and sealed off in the aftermath of the explosion. All visits were prohibited.

Today, about 2,500 employees maintain the remains of the now-closed nuclear plant, working in shifts to minimise their exposure to radiation. Several hundred evacuees have returned to their villages in the area despite a government ban. A few firms now offer tours to the restricted area, but the government says those tours are illegal and their safety is not guaranteed.

Emergency Situations Ministry spokesman Yulia Yershova said experts are developing travel routes that will be both medically safe and informative for Ukrainians as well as foreign visitors. She did not give an exact date when the tours were expected to begin.

*'There are things to see there if one follows the official route and doesn't stray away from the group,' Ms Yershova told The Associated Press. 'Though it is a very sad story.'

*The ministry also said on Monday it hopes to finish building a new safer shell for the exploded reactor by 2015. The new shelter will cover the original iron-and-concrete structure hastily built over the reactor that has been leaking radiation, cracking and threatening to collapse.

*The new shell is 345 feet tall, 853 feet wide and 490 feet long. It weighs 20,000 tons and will be slid over the old shelter using rail tracks. The new structure will be big enough to house the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris or the Statue of Liberty in New York.

*The overall cost of project, financed by international donors, has risen from US$505 million (S$659.5 million) to US$1.15 billion because of stricter safety requirements, according to Ukrainian officials.

*The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which manages the project, said a final estimate of the project's cost will be released after the French-led consortium Novarka finalises a construction plan in the next few months.
-- AP

-- AP

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Look who's 'above the law' in China

Brutal cases involving kids of rich and powerful officials raise concerns of social unrest
By Peh Shing Huei, China Bureau Chief

BEIJING: A young man bumped his red Mazda 6 into an elderly woman, got out to scold her and then decided to inflict more pain by beating her up as well. 'I can even kill you. I have money. I would rather kill you and compensate you for it,' he shouted at the hapless woman.

Thousands of onlookers in north-eastern Changchun city quickly surrounded Mr Jiang Xiaozhu, according to local media, and ransacked his car before he was rescued by the police on Sunday.

An online background search for Mr Jiang, nicknamed 'police uniform man' because of what he was wearing, was quickly launched by netizens, whom the Chinese refer to as 'human flesh search engine'.

It revealed the 27-year-old to be a son of a local government official. His father is believed to be a county official and his father-in-law belongs to the same county's security forces.

Mr Jiang, an employee in a state tobacco firm, is what the Chinese refer derogatorily to as guan er dai, or the offspring of officials.

This unofficial clan of young Chinese are rich, arrogant and seemingly above the law because their parents are powerful and wealthy local officials.

And in recent weeks, public anger towards this privileged group has hit a high, largely because of several brutal incidents.

The most infamous involved the son of a senior police official in northern Hebei province who, when caught fleeing a fatal car accident in October, shouted: 'My dad is Li Gang!'

His words went viral on the Internet and have become the country's newest catchphrase, used in jokes, poems and even art installations.

But the phenomenon is not funny. These privileged young people have come to embody the qualities that ordinary Chinese hate about the authorities - corrupt, violent and lawless.

Experts believe that if the trend is left unchecked, it may lead to large-scale social unrest.

'With more and more of these guan er dai abusing their power, the people would have less faith in the ruling party, seeing it as a feudal organisation,' said anti-graft analyst Lin Zhe from the Central Party School.

'It would be a threat to social stability... Such things build up bit by bit, before exploding. Once the people revolt, it will be too late.'

Unhappiness with abuse of power by these guan er dai has boiled over in the past. Corruption by so-called 'princelings', children of top Chinese Communist Party leaders, was a key factor which led to the Tiananmen protests in 1989.

'The officials today are even greedier than the old cadres of the 1980s,' said Professor Lin. 'They want money, sex, government positions, academic titles, you name it. And not only do they plunder for themselves, they do it for their sons and daughters too.'

Indeed, guan er dai are also believed to get plum government jobs because of their parents' connections.

In Pingnan county, southern Fujian province, for example, the employment requirements for a finance department position were so specific and detailed that only one applicant fulfilled them last month. She was the county party secretary's daughter.

And in north-west Ningxia region, the son of two officials edged out 487 applicants for a civil service job despite allegedly not having completed his examination papers during the entrance exam.

Law professor Zhang Min from Renmin University said that if most people believe officialdom is beyond their reach and is reserved for only the children of officials, the people's hatred of officials would intensify.

'Such hatred would coalesce into a frightening force,' he wrote on the People's Daily website.

'And history tells us that once such a force has been formed, there is little chance of peace in the world.'

Additional reporting by Lina Miao


'With more and more of these guan er dai abusing their power, the people would have less faith in the ruling party, seeing it as a feudal organisation.'

Anti-graft analyst Lin Zhe from the Central Party School. 'Guan er dai' refers to the offspring of officials.