|Suu Kyi’s 65th
birthday under house arrest
(AFP) - Myanmar
democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi spent her 65th birthday
yesterday under house arrest, as activists held protests
around the globe and world leaders called for the junta to
The military regime has kept the Nobel Laureate in detention
for almost 15 years, and she has been barred from running in
upcoming elections that critics have denounced as a sham
aimed at entrenching the generals’ power.
Suu Kyi’s party won the last vote in 1990, but was never
allowed to take office. A UN working group this week
pronounced her detention a breach of international human
rights law, prompting new calls for her release.
In a birthday message, US President Barack Obama hailed Suu
Kyi’s “determination, courage and personal sacrifice in
working for human rights and democratic change”.
“I once again call on the Burmese government to release Aung
San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners immediately and
unconditionally, and to allow them to build a more stable,
prosperous Burma that respects the rights of all its
citizens,” he said, using the country’s former name.
The woman known in Myanmar simply as “The Lady”, remains the
most powerful symbol of freedom in a country where the army
rules with an iron fist.
The opposition leader is expected to spend a quiet day at
her lakeside mansion, where she lives with two female
assistants, cut off from the outside world, without
telephone or Internet access.
Her supporters plan to throw a small party at one of their
houses in northern Yangon, in her absence.
Members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) are
planting about 20,000 saplings around Myanmar, to mark her
birthday, and plan to send spicy food to her home to share
with workers doing renovations.
“We believe Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s political spirit will
keep growing as long as the trees grow,” said lawyer Aung
Thein, an active NLD figure. “Daw” is a term of respect in
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.
Events to mark her birthday are scheduled in cities around
the world, ranging from candlelight vigils in Tokyo and
Auckland to a solidarity rally in Washington.
|Colombia mine blast, 70 feared dead
(AFP) The search for more than 50 workers missing and
presumed dead after a fiery explosion at a Colombian coal
mine, resumed tentatively Friday (18) after 18 bodies were
recovered, amid fears of a new blast.
At least 70 miners in total were likely killed in the blast
which ripped through underground shafts late Wednesday (16)
near the city of Medellin, incinerating several of the
workers inside, authorities said. A single miner was found
alive. Sixteen of the badly burned bodies have been
identified with the help of experts, and their families
“Most of the bodies were unrecognisable, so it was necessary
for relatives to help us by providing some characteristics
such as tattoos, scars, photographs and dental records,”
said Amaga health department director Javier Araque.
Even as the search continued Friday, mourners held the first
funerals for the dead, with hundreds of people attending an
open-air mass in Amaga for the first four victims released
Dozens of relatives meanwhile continued their desperate
vigil near the site of the disaster, anxious for news of
missing loved ones, but rescue and recovery operations
proceeded haltingly, out of concern the mine was still
unsafe due to a build up of toxic gases.
“We resumed operations in the morning, but we are proceeding
slowly, intermittently, because we are acting according to
the safety conditions,” said Byron Restrepo, who heads the
rescue corps for Colombia’s mining institute Ingeominas.
Officials said an apparent build up of gas caused the
explosion in the San Fernando mine, and that the prospect of
finding survivors was poor.
“We have determined that there were 71 miners in the mine at
the time of the explosion, and we are investigating whether
there are any others,” the mayor of Amaga in northwestern
Colombia, Auxilio Zapata, told AFP.
“The high concentration of gasses in the mine could trigger
a new explosion at any moment,” Restrepo said, adding that
operations would ramp up quickly when gas levels drop
sufficiently. Although the mine is seen as one of the most
sophisticated of the region, Amaga deputy city council
chairman Eduardo Acevedo told AFP that it lacked adequate
|Moderate quake hits India’s Andaman
(AFP) - A moderate 5.9 magnitude
earthquake hit India’s Andaman Islands yesterday,
seismologists said, causing damage to infrastructure on the
The quake shook people from their sleep, causing alarm on a
string of islands that were hit by the massive 2004 Indian
Ocean tsunami, but there were no reports of casualties.
The USGS said the quake struck at a depth of 27 kilometres
(17 miles), with the epicentre 180 kilometres from Port
Blair on the Andaman Islands, in the Indian Ocean.
No tsunami warning was issued.
Government officials said there were no reports of loss of
life or injury, but many roads, offices and shops suffered
“There are visible cracks on the roads and eight government
buildings have reported damage,” said a senior official at
the disaster control room in Diglipur island in North
Andaman, 342 kilometres (212 miles) from Port Blair
A police control room official in Port Blair said efforts
were being made to contact some of the more remote islands.
The 572 Andaman and Nicobar Islands, home to more than
350,000 people, are some of India’s most easterly
territories, flanked by the Andaman Sea and the Bay of
The Andaman Sea area witnesses frequent earthquakes caused
by the meeting of the Indian tectonic plate with the Burmese
microplate, along an area known as the Andaman trench.
|China floods, over a million evacuated
|(AFP) - More than a million people living along rivers
in China’s south have been evacuated, with water rising to
dangerous levels, State media said yesterday, as torrential
rain continues to wreak havoc.
The government said more than 1.4 million residents of
riverbanks and low-lying areas had had to move, according to
the official China Daily.
Deputy Director- Office of State Flood Control & Drought
Relief Headquarters, Zhang, Zhitong said China’s second
largest waterway, the Pearl River, which crosses the south,
had breached warning marks on Thursday (17).
Torrential and virtually unrelenting rain has battered large
swathes of China’s south since Sunday (13), triggering
devastating floods and landslides that have killed 69
According to the nation’s civil affairs ministry, another 44
people are missing and the cost of the disaster has reached
6.5 billion yuan (US$ 950 million).
The National Meteorological Centre warned yesterday of more
rainstorms to come, a day after it issued an orange storm
alert -- just one level lower than the nation’s most serious
“There will be heavy rain over the next three days, and
flood-control work will face enormous challenges,” it said
in a statement, adding that some of the rainfall in the
south was up to three times larger than normal years.
|Sweden’s Republicans have soft spot
for royal family
(AFP) Too expensive,
overexposed and archaic: Despite the feel-good coverage of
Crown Princess Victoria’s upcoming nuptials, opposition to
the monarchy in Sweden is growing.
But even opponents admit to having a soft spot for the
“We like the people,” Mona Abou-Jeib Broshammar, who leads
Sweden’s Republican Association, said of the royal family.
“They don’t do any harm.” The problem, she stressed, is
“they inherit the power.”
Most of the media worked itself into a frenzy, ahead of
yesterday’s wedding between Victoria, 32, and 36-year-old
luxury gym owner Daniel Westling, with breathless coverage
At the same time however, opposition to the monarchy has
A recent poll showed the number of Swedes who wanted to
abolish the monarchy, had more than doubled over the past
decade, to 28%.
|Kyrgyz leader wades into ethnic
(Wall Street Journal) This Central
Asian nation’s interim leader toured the shattered city at
the epicentre of ethnic violence that threatens to rip her
country apart, and promised to rebuild. But her four-hour
visit Friday (18) did little to overcome the Uzbek
minority’s deep distrust in a government dominated by ethnic
Kyrgyz. Interim President Roza Otunbayeva, citing security
concerns, didn’t set foot in Uzbek neighbourhoods, which
bore the brunt of a four-day spree of killing, burning and
looting, and have isolated themselves behind makeshift
barricades. She fended off charges that the army joined with
marauding gangs of Kyrgyz civilians, and that her government
moved sluggishly to contain them, and a burgeoning
Ms. Otunbayeva suggested the death toll could be close to
2,000—or 10 times the 192 counted by the Health
Ministry—while the United Nations raised its estimate of the
number of displaced and others needing emergency aid to as
many as one million.
“Leave us some hope!” she told residents gathered in Osh’s
main square. “Stop saying that we are not working. Our
forces say they are coping.”
Yet the violence, which erupted June 10, leaves the interim
government struggling to assert authority in the south, and
challenges Ms. Otunbayeva’s shaky hold on power, as well as
US strategic interests.
News in brief
Taser use in airport death unjustified:
(AFP) - A special prosecutor will look into criminal charges
against four policemen who confronted a Polish traveller who
died after being stunned with a Taser gun, officials said
Robert Dziekanski, 40, died in late 2007, just minutes after
being stunned five times with a Taser gun, and then
restrained by four policemen at the airport in this Pacific
Airport workers called police after Dziekanski, a nervous
first-time traveller who spoke only Polish, threw a computer
and a chair.
He was emigrating to Canada, where his mother lived, and
after arriving, became mysteriously lost in the airport for
about 10 hours. He grew distraught, after finally emerging
to find his mother gone, after an official told her he was
Dalai Lama criticises anti-whaling
(AFP) Dalai Lama yesterday criticised wildlife activists for
staging what he said were violent protests over Japan’s
hunting of whales.
The rebuke came as the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader
visited Japan for an 11-day lecture tour.
At a news conference, he said he had told the US-based Sea
Shepherd Conservation Society to stop its violent harassment
of Japan’s whaling fleet.
“One time I wrote a letter...(saying) their activities
should be stopping,” he told reporters.
Dalai Lama said he supported Sea Shepherd’s goal of
preventing whalers from harming the giant sea mammals but
added that “their (activities) should be non-violent”.
Japan’s annual whale hunt -- carried out under a loophole to
an international moratorium that allows killing for what it
calls scientific research -- has long been criticised by
Colombia shuts borders for today’s vote
(AFP) - Colombia will close all its border crossings with
Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and Venezuela, when the
country votes in today’s presidential runoff, the interior
and justice ministries said Friday.
The borders will remain closed between 4:00 am and 4:00 pm
(0900-2100 GMT), the ministries said in a statement.
The closings are aimed at enhancing national security during
the voting, they said.
Another election-related security measure went into effect
Friday (18), with the banning of sales of all alcoholic
beverages until after the election.
Nearly 30 million voters head to the polls today to choose a
successor to President Alvaro Uribe. The runoff pits
frontrunner ex-defence minister Juan Manuel Santos and
former two-time Bogota mayor Antanas Mockus.
Brazilian govt. mourns Nobel-winning
(Xinhua) -- Brazilian Culture Minister Juca Ferreira on
Friday (18) lamented the death of Jose Saramago, the first
Portuguese winner of the Nobel Literature Prize.
Saramago died of multiple-organ failure Friday (18) morning
at the age of 87 in his private residence in Lanzarote in
the Canary Islands after a long illness.
Saramago maintained privileged relations with Brazil. He
participated in several literary events in the country,
where he became very popular before winning the Nobel Prize
for Literature in 1998, Ferreira said in an official
statement released Friday.
In his novel “The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis”, the
main character lives in exile for 15 years in the South