China to Send Military Engineers to Darfur

China will send about three hundred military engineers for a U.N. peacekeeping force to Sudan’s Darfur region. The arrangement would further the “Annan” peace plan, an effort to place U.N. forces alongside the African Union forces already in Darfur who have failed to stop the violence. The continued bloodshed in the ethnically-mixed region was initiated when rebel groups accused the government of neglect and took up arms in 2003. The violence has since killed approximately 200,000 people and displaced another 2.5 million.

China, a primary buyer of Sudan’s oil and a member of the U.N. Security Council, has faced criticism and pressure for its Sudan policies. Although China has resisted plans to send U.N. peacekeepers without
Sudan’s consent, in an effort to balance pressures over the region China has also used its influence to urge Sudan to accept peacekeepers. In April, an envoy was sent to inspect refugee camps there.

Some critics of China’s policies have urged a boycott of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

For more information please see:

Yahoo News – China confirms will send engineers to Darfur – 08 May 2007

Update: Troops Surround Monasteries in Myanmar

YANGON, Myanmar- In attempts to prevent further pro-democracy protesting against its reign, the Myanmar junta government has sent truckloads of troops to guard a number of monasteries.  Security personnel have been placed in a park near the Sule Pagoda, the site of some of the biggest recent protests.  The government is now waiting to see if the monks and other protesters will continue their demonstrations in defiance of government directives.

During the night two well-known dissidents, U Win Naing, a veteran independent politician and Zanagar, a popular Myanmar film comedian, were arrested by the junta for supporting the marches.  Over the weekend they had prepared a meal for the monks in a show of support.

The first dusk-to-dawn curfew ended this morning, and the ban on five or more people assembling remains.  Officials state that these measures will remain in place for at least 60 days.

BBC correspondent Jonathan Head says the current scene in Yangon is similar to 1988, when the junta repressed pro-democracy protests and opened fire on unarmed demonstrators.

The young monks heading the protests have vowed to keep up the demonstrations; according to BBC News, that vow is certain to put them on a collision course with the army.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Burma troops surround monasteries – 26 September 2007

Reuters – Myanmar troops guard activist Yangon monasteries – 26 September 2007

Myanmar Pro-Democracy Protests

By Elizabeth O’Loughlin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

YANGON, Myanmar- Small protests continued today in Yangon.  The demonstrations were quickly addressed as security forces took protesters away in trucks, and there are some reports of protesters being beaten.  The number of protesters has decreased dramatically since the government began its crackdown earlier this week.

The United Nations’ Special Envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, arrived in Myanmar today.  He will be meeting with junta officials in Naypidaw, however it is not clear if he will be meeting with leader General Than Shwe or pro-democracy leaders.

There is local and world pessimism over whether Gambari’s visit will cause change.  Western nations have insisted that the UN act more forcefully to quell the junta’s actions.  The United States has been trying to persuade nations to cut off investment and trade into Myanmar.  China however has been blocking these efforts to destabilize Myanmar.

The authorities have continued to shut down communications, including cell phones and internet access.  Since its rise to power in 1962 the junta has attempted to keep information from leaving the country, but Myanmar news has reached the world community via internet and blogs.  The internet has been especially important in sharing the news of the protests and government crackdown over the past month.

This AP photo, released by the Free Burma Rangers, shows protests on Tuesday in a remote village on the border of Thailand.

For more information, please see:

Yahoo! News (AP) – Myanmar protests falter after crackdown – 29 September 2007

AHN – Pro-Democracy Protests Resume in Myanmar Despite Crackdown – 29 September 2007

The New York Times – U.S. Steps Up Confrontation With Myanmar’s Rulers – 29 September 2007

ABC News – Blogging for Political Change: Myanmar’s Dissidents – 29 September 2007

Impunity Watch – Authorities in Myanmar Cut Communications Amongst More Protests – 28 September 2007

Impunity Watch – UN Holding Emergency Talks on Myanmar – 26 September 2007