Suu Kyi trial dashes improved US-Myanmar ties
Bangkok (AP) - A widely expected guilty verdict in the trial
of Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is likely to halt tentative
Western moves to improve relations with the country’s junta and make it
harder to raise funds for humanitarian relief efforts, analysts said Sunday.
Suu Kyi, who has been in detention without trial for more than 13 of the
past 19 years, is being tried on charges of violating the terms of her house
arrest after an uninvited American, John W. Yettaw, swam across a lake to
her home earlier this month and stayed for two days. The offense is
punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.
Suu Kyi pleaded not guilty Friday, but expectations are high that she will
be found guilty after the court accepted the charges and moved to proceed
with the trial. Myanmar’s courts operate under the influence of the ruling
military, and almost always deal harshly with political dissidents.
The charges against her are widely seen as a pretext for the government to
keep her detained during polls it has scheduled for next year as the
culmination of its “roadmap to democracy,” which has been criticized as a
fig leaf for continued military rule.
The trial comes weeks after the European Union announced it was stepping up
humanitarian aid to the impoverished country, also known as Burma, and the
United States said it was reviewing its policy - including speculation that
it might soften sanctions the regime says have crippled its economy.
But now the European Union is talking of introducing tougher sanctions in
response to the trial and the administration of President Barack Obama has
announced it will continue its economic penalties. Obama extended a state of
emergency against the country after Suu Kyi’s arrest. Sanctions would have
expired had the emergency order not been extended.
Sean Turnell, a Myanmar expert at Australia’s Macquarie University, said the
timing of the trial shows the junta “never misses an opportunity to miss an
“I think there was, prior to these latest events, a strong likelihood that
the U.S. and Europe positions on Burma may have softened, and that some
sanctions may even have been on the table” for review, Turnell said in an
email interview. “The regime have now shot themselves in the foot so to
speak - and anything like this would seem to be decidedly off the table
David Steinberg, a Myanmar specialist at Georgetown University in
Washington, said there had been talk of “small steps toward easing
relations” within the Obama administration. But he said a guilty verdict
makes increased engagement with the ruling generals unlikely for now.
“I think they wanted to make some overtures, but this will make it far more
difficult,” Steinberg said of the Obama administration. “The junta needed to
respond significantly as well at each step, and this would set it back.”
Donors may also be less willing to fund a three-year, $700 million
rebuilding plan for the Irrawaddy delta, which was devastated by a cyclone
last year that killed more than 138,000 people.
Foreign governments and charities already were slow to fund initial relief
efforts over concerns about the junta’s human rights record.
“Any effort to limit the humanitarian funding needed to help Burma’s poorest
people as a response to Suu Kyi’s trial would be shameful and would lead
directly to the deaths of thousands of innocent people,” warned Thant
Myint-U, a Burmese historian and former U.N. official. “Neither economic
embargoes, aid cut offs, long distance condemnation or attempts at
occasional diplomacy have worked.”
No one expects a guilty verdict to spark an uprising in Myanmar against the
junta after its bloody suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations in 2007,
which killed at least 31 people. Hundreds more activists were sentenced to
lengthy prison sentences.
“Everyone is angry but people are concerned with earning their daily bread,”
said Win Tin, an 80-year-old leader of Suu Kyi’s National League for
Democracy party who was released from prison last year after serving a
19-year sentence. “They are afraid and there is no leadership.”
Security has been tight around the prison for the trial, which is expected
to last another two weeks. Authorities have allowed about 100 Suu Kyi
supporters, including Win Tin, to gather each day outside the prison, but
most citizens in the commercial capital Yangon are reluctant to take it much
“We have seen what happened in 2007 when even monks are beaten and shot at
by soldiers,” said Wunna, a 32-year-old computer repairmen who took part in
the protests. “I don’t want to be killed nor imprisoned for simply
expressing my feelings.”
Pattaya’s CCTV system not working
City officials have acknowledged that 85% of Pattaya’s CCTV system
is out of order and are preparing to assemble a 60-million baht budget for
additional installments covering risky areas.
Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh talks about Pattaya’s inept CCTV system.
On May 12 at city hall, Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh said the city has
received several million baht to solve traffic and crime problems.
But this security project is not being run at full capacity due to
incomplete management. This was after receiving 56 million baht to install
237 CCTV cameras on Pattaya Beach, main roads and at important tourism areas
Even though it is an efficient system, it lacks management and police
manpower to control and monitor and therefore has not been completely
successful. Five years have passed and most of the CCTV cameras are out of
order, he said.
“Pattaya City realizes this problem and has contacted Provincial Police in
Region 2 to provide officers to monitor traffic and crime. A 15-million baht
budget was set up to repair the CCTV system.
“A budget of 60 million baht was added for 200 additional CCTV cameras to
cover Jomtien Beach, the main roads, the road running parallel to the
railway and other vulnerable locations such as gold shops and banks, to be
completed by 2011,” he said.
Ronakit said that apart from the CCTV system, currently Mayor Itthipol
Khunplome’s policy also emphasizes additional street illumination and more
security personnel, especially the Volunteer Thappraya 2310 Group.
New governor discusses
New Chonburi Governor Senee Jittakasem on May 20 met the
commander-in-chief of the navy, Vice-Admiral Srivisut Ratarun to discuss
water pollution and other matters.
Brand-new and energetic, the governor discussed with Vice-Admiral Srivisut
about polluted water in Nhong Ta Kian, funding budget for Suan
Chaloemphrakiat’s improvement and the mysterious containers with human
remains found on the sea floor.
new governor, Senee Jittakasem (right) talks with commander-in-chief of the
navy, Vice-Admiral Srivisut Ratarun about ways they can help each other
solve local challenges.
Governor Senee sought to tighten relationship between Ministry of Defense
and Royal Thai Navy and his new position as Chonburi’s governor. They also
discussed natural disasters, economic stimulation, tourism, trade and
Senee said young vandals had destroyed property in Suan Chaloemphrakiat or
Nhong Ta Kian public park, and a caretaker could not as yet be found.
“It costs a fortune to repair the damage but we must reconstruct as soon as
possible because the garden is a green area for everyone where many people
visit each day to exercise and do other activities. We would say it is one
of the most beautiful gardens in the eastern region,” he said.
The polluted water at the park also needs a solution, as fish in the park’s
pools are dying because the water lacks oxygen. A long-term solution is a
must because pollution might come from houses around the park letting
wastewater into the park area. Sattahip Municipality has been fixing this
problem but it seems difficult and fish die, he said.
The governor said the government needs to find out quickly what is contained
in the eight mysterious containers found under the sea using the most
effective and inexpensive ways with the least disturbance to the
Pawnshops prepare for school
Pawnshops are getting ready to assist parents as schools begin.
Suchart Chutipongsapisit, manager of a pawnshop in Pattaya, said that city
pawn shops would be busy during to the current economic slump, which is
making some parents suffer, leading them to bring gold and other properties
to exchange for cash for their child’s tuition.
pawnshops are making sure they enough cash reserved to handle parents
pawning their belongings to pay for their children’s school tuition.
“Usually there are usually about 120 customers per day, but during this
month the number had increased to 180-200 customers per day so a daily
budget of two million baht must be prepared. Mostly what customers bring to
exchange are gold ornaments,” he said.
On other years, pawnshops in Pattaya will reserve about 20-30 million baht
annually but for this year 40-45 million baht is needed to meet the demand.
Interest rates have been lowered since July 2008: for cash less than 4,000
baht, 0.75% interest is charged, between 4,001-30,000 baht 1% interest, and
for 30,001-100,000 baht 1.25% interest.
If interest is paid every month, the owner still owns the property pawned.
If interest is not paid for four months, 30 days will be given for them to
pay the interest otherwise the property will be seized by the pawn shop.
Many parents bring gold to exchange for cash to be used for their child’s
tuition as the price of gold is currently on the rise.
However, Jakkrakrit Tongsuk, a gold shop owner in Central Pattaya, said that
there has been about 10-15% decrease in pawning gold and as the price of
gold increases, fewer people are buying it as well.
Jellyfish swarm Samaesarn Bay
Heavy rains have attracted an ocean of jellyfish into Samaesarn
Bay in Sattahip and tourists who swim there are being warned about the
dangers of jellyfish stings.
These stings will normally cause minor itching or burning, but some
people have allergic reactions to them experiencing severe numbness,
muscular and colic pain, stiffness, and vomiting.
numbers of jellyfish have invaded Samaesarn Bay.
But the sea also furnishes an effective traditional remedy for these
stings, the sea morning glory that can be crushed and rubbed on the skin
to remove the jellyfish venom.
Tourists in the bay, on the islands and beaches in Sattahip are not able
to swim as freely as usual due to the big swarms of jellyfish,
especially the Light Jellyfish, and their poisonous stings.
On May 16, Samaesarn Bay at Khao Ma Chor Pier and the Museum of Natural
Science (Thai islands) was filled with small jellyfish, brown and white,
swimming near the surface.
A physician from the Queen Sirikit Hospital warned that venomous
jellyfish can cause a variety of severe symptoms depending on the type
of jellyfish and the location and amount of toxin contained in the sting
to the face or body.
Large amounts of toxic poison will have very severe muscle pain, colic
pain, shrunken muscles, breathing difficulty and even paralysis or
Thai people have used a sea morning glory for jellyfish stings for a
long time. They crush the leaves and rub them into the skin to remove
Research has shown that aromatic volatile oil found in the morning glory
neutralizes Eastern Star and jellyfish venoms. The bark from some
mangrove species mixed with water is also used in traditional remedy.
Railway stationmaster urges care at crossings
Manas Lekkuna, Pattaya train stationmaster, is warning drivers
and pedestrians that it is imperative to obey rail crossing signals. He
said an average of 2-3 crossing accidents are occurring each month
causing damage, injury and sometimes death.
A brand new paved road from Krathing Lai intersection to Pattaya City to
relieve traffic jams in the area is now in use. The new road is parallel
to the railroad on both sides of the tracks.
Manas Lekkuna, Pattaya railway
asks for motorists to use care when crossing railroad tracks.
Manas said the new road is convenient, but accidents now
occur at several rail crossings, mostly from reckless driving and
Signal lights stop traffic when trains reach rail crossings and automatic
gates descend to block car traffic. But some crossings only have signal
lights and no gates, so some people ignore the light and cross the rail, at
their own peril.
At the rail crossing at Soi Nong Yai in particular accidents happen every
“We ask drivers for their cooperation to respect traffic rules and drive
carefully at these crossings, as accidents could be fatal,” he said
Manas said many crossroads in Pattaya are under the control of Pattaya
Railway. The crossings at Soi Nong Ya, Soi Siam Country Club, and Soi Khao
Noi have automatic gates. Crossings at Soi Nong Ket Yai, Soi Nongpure, Soi
Tan Man and Soi Chaiyapruk are staffed by officers, while the rest use
automatic gates. CCTV monitors some crossings.
sea container inspection
The Integrated East-Coast and Coastal Management (ICM) and the
Eastern Fishery Association are pressing the government to verify the
mysterious containers sunk in the sea. The latest fear is that they may
contain toxic substances, although recent tests done on sponge samples
Pornthip inspects one of the skulls fishermen have been dredging up in their
They said that this could erode the marine environment and affect tourism
Last week, Somchai Chianman, president of the Chong Samaesarn Fishery
Association in Sattahip District, said the mysterious containers are located
in a marine channel where there are bountiful amounts of fish.
Local and neighboring fishing boats trawl for fish in this area and the
containers have been obstacles to them for many years.
Rumors and theories that they contain toxic substances or human remains must
be verified and it is the government’s duty to do this and deal with any
crime committed according to the law, he said.
The important matter is that it will certainly affect fishery and coastal
tourism businesses if they are found to contain toxic substances, he said.
Chatchai Timpkrachang, secretary of ICM and the Dependants of the Coast in
Chonburi for the UN (or UNDP), agreed that inspection should be done as
quickly as possible to allay current fears.
Meanwhile, forensic expert Khunying Dr Pornthip Rojanasunan has been called
in by the prime minister to work with the navy to inspect possible human
remains should the mysterious containers be found to contain them.
Dr. Pornthip and officials from the Department of Special Investigation
recently visited Sawang Rojanathamasatahn Foundation in Sattahip to examine
a skull recovered by a local fisherman. Initial tests proved inconclusive.
Fortune teller predicts
A Cambodian woman fortune teller could have predicted robbery was in
the future for three Pattaya bar girls, that they were going to be drugged,
hit on the head and have all their belongings stolen, including about 30,000
baht in cash. She could have predicted it with confidence, as she was the
workers attempt to wake the three women before taking them to Banglamung
At 9 p.m. on May 12, Pol. Lt-Col. Sutham Chaosrithong from Crime Suppression
at the Pattaya Police Station was called to a room on the third floor of the
Wanpen Apartment on Soi Kopai 3 in Nongprue.
At the scene police found three unconscious victims, two on a bed and
another in the bathroom. Two of them had been hit on the forehead with a
Chansri Rakmit, 23, from Surin and owner of the room, Om, and Porn (alias
name) all worked at the America Paradise Beer Bar on Soi 7 in Central
Police found paraphernalia connected with a religious ritual consisting of a
tray with incense, candles, flowers and a small amount of money placed on
the bed. Beside the Buddha shelf were two flower vases, a gold baby spirit
figurine and three cups of coffee that had been consumed, and the room was
A rescue team administered first-aid to the women until Chansri regained
She told the police that at approximately 4 a.m. she and her two friends
finished work at the beer bar and were on their way home when they met a
woman, approximately 45-50 years of age, who claimed to be a Cambodian
The woman began to tell the bar girls their fortune which made them start to
The woman said that if the women decided to go through a magic ritual, they
would be able to find foreign husbands like many other women that she had
previously helped. If they wanted to have good luck then they would have to
carry out the ritual with her in their room.
As part of the ritual, the Cambodian woman asked them to light incense
sticks and gave them each a cup of dark coffee. Then she blew on their
foreheads three times and the women fell into a deep sleep.
When they finally were brought awake, they discovered that they had been
drugged and robbed by the fortune teller, who had made off with their
property consisting of three mobile phones and three wallets containing over
Police took the victims to Banglamung Hospital for treatment and viewed the
CCTV footage of the exterior of the apartment. It showed that the thief had
spent more than an hour carrying out the crime and took two large bags out
of the victims’ room, jumped on a motorbike taxi and sped away.
Police believe that this thief has carried out this type of crime before due
to the preparation she took, such as covering her face.
Student killed in car crash
A male student from Aksorn Technology in Pattaya died and another
was seriously injured when their car collided with an electrical control box
after they tried to avoid a motorcycle cutting in front of them.
At 12.45 a.m. on May 12, Pol. Lt-Col. Wanlop Kangtharathip, on duty at the
Pattaya Police Station, received a report about a collision at a U-turn on
Sukhumvit Road on the way to Sattahip.
At the scene a damaged black Honda Civic was found overturned on the traffic
island. The seriously injured driver, Damrongsak Taohom, 21, was still
belted in his seat. After he was extricated, he was transferred to Bangkok
Beside the car was the body of his friend Panuwat Jarunjareanrap, 21, a
fourth-year student at the school. He was not wearing a seat belt and was
thrown from the car in the collision.
An electrical control box, measuring a meter high and valued at a million
baht, was wrecked, causing large traffic jams as street lights were blacked
out from North to Central Pattaya.
Damrongsak, also a fourth-year student at the school, later told police that
he was driving the car from Banglamung District and was accelerating from
the traffic lights at the North Pattaya intersection.
About 200 meters from the green traffic light, a motorbike suddenly appeared
riding against the flow of traffic and cut in front of the car. Damrongsak
hit the brakes but lost control of his car, collided with the electrical
control box on the traffic island and the car flipped over.
Panuwat was thrown from the car, hit the pylon in the middle of the road and
died at the scene.
Armed youths threaten sailor
A police patrol passed by just at the right time to disperse a
confrontation between a motorcycle gang of teenagers, armed with sticks,
knives and guns, and a naval combat sergeant on his brand new motorcycle.
At 8.20 p.m. on May 17 at the bus stop in front of Thammasiri Suksa Sattahip
School, armed teenagers were threatening Sergeant A-nan Thongkaopuak, 33,
while another group of youngsters looked on.
arrived just in time to thwart a gang of armed teens from stealing Sergeant
A-nan’s (right) brand new motorcycle.
Fortunately police patrol 20, led by Police Sergeant-Major Supit Phopan,
appeared just in time to quickly scatter the threatening gang who then rode
their bikes into Soi Yang-Ngam beside the school where police were not able
to catch them.
Sgt. A-nan said he was riding his 20-day-old white Yamaha that he had
purchased from the Ban Taothan Market back to his home in the Royal Thai
When he arrived in front of the school, 14 teenagers on their motorbikes
surrounded him. He said the group threatened him with guns, knives and
sticks, ordering him to stop his motorbike.
A-nan stopped and took off the contact key from his bike, struggling with
the teenagers who were trying to grab the key to steal the bike. But he said
the 14 to 15 year-old youths were afraid of injuring themselves as well and
rode away when the police patrol arrived.
Police break up motorcycle theft gang
Police arrested a gang of motorbike thieves, some in their early
teens, along with the agent who bought the stolen motorcycles.
In custody are Itthipol Nakchamnong, 28, Kongkit Pumkasem, 22, Itsarachon
Chuthanom, 20, and two 16-year-olds, a 15-ear-old and a 14-year-old. Police
confiscated for evidence 21 motorbikes and stolen equipment.
Villagers have filed complaints about thieves being scattered throughout the
area who steal at least three motorbikes each day.
In response, Sattahip Police have been on the trail of one thief who had
stolen 50 motorcycles in their jurisdiction and in neighboring areas and
have arrested the main buyer who sells stolen motorbikes on the black
On May 16, Pol. Col. Chamnong Ratanakul, deputy commander of the Provincial
Police in Chonburi, led a team of police to make the arrests.
Pol. Col. Somchai Suntanawanik, superintendent at the Sattahip Police
Station, said that one of the arrested suspects, Itthipol, was allegedly the
main buyer of the stolen bikes.
Police said three motorbikes had been stolen from Sattahip, 10 from Pattaya
City and eight from Rayong. Police were able to retrieve them from the
accused buyer but some were still missing.
Anyone who had a motorbike stolen can contact the Sattahip Police Station on