Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Burma's Junta Shuts Down Last Communication Links

007-10-09 02:40:55 (33 minutes ago) Posted By: Intellpuke

Satellite phones seized in communications blackout; crackdown reflects worry over world opinion.

Burma's regime is targeting the last remaining communications links that brought images of the bloody crackdown on the recent pro-democracy protests to the outside world.

Exiled dissident groups in neighboring Thailand say up to 10 satellite telephones and countless computers earlier smuggled into Burma have been seized, the last lines of contact after the government shut down the internet and blocked mobile and fixed-line telephones.
Officials from Burma's Foreign Afairs Ministry and Home Department security officers also visited a United Nations office in the Traders Hotel in downtown Rangoon late last week and demanded to see the organization's permits for its satellite phones.

The officials also inspected the Japan International Co-operation Agency at the Sakura Tower and offices at the Sedona Hotel, which has a vantage point overlooking the Shwedagon Pagoda, one of the flashpoints for the demonstrations.

"I think they came to the Traders Hotel and Sakura Tower in an effort to identify the systems that allowed information about the demonstrations to get out," said a U.N. official.
The junta's determination to snuff out the last trickles of information signals its paranoia over the damage images of the military's suppression of the demonstrations had inflicted. The pictures, coupled with accounts from bloggers, fuelled the international community's anger over the beatings and arrests of monks, and the killing of at least 13 that heightened demands for tougher sanctions.

Among the most shocking were images of a monk floating face down in a pool and others of the Japanese video journalist, Kenji Nagai, being shot at close range, giving the lie to the regime's claim that he died accidentally from a stray bullet.

Monday Burmese exiles, family members and fellow journalists in Tokyo paid their last respects at the funeral of the 50-year-old, who died from massive blood loss after a bullet pierced his liver.

The ceremony came as the 15-member U.N. Security Council met in New York to debate a resolution condemning Burma's "violent repression of peaceful demonstrations" while calling for a halt to the regime's heavy-handed measures.

Burma's military leaders last night named deputy labor minister Aung Kyi as the "manager for relations" to build bridges with opposition groups. His chief concern will be the junta's dealings with the detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in line with a suggestion by U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari to Burma's leader, General Than Shwe.

Despite the apparently conciliatory gestures, the arrests of those suspected of taking part in the 100,000-person pro-democracy marches are reportedly still continuing in Rangoon. Among those taken were the owners of computers suspected of being used to transmit images and testimony to the outside world.

Monday the British and U.S. embassies in Rangoon, reachable by phone until late last week, were impossible to get through to from outside the country. British ambassador Mark Canning and U.S. charge d'affaires Shari Villarosa were outspoken critics of the regime's actions.
Intellpuke: You can read this article by Guardian Southeast Asia correspondent Ian MacKinnon, reporting from Bangkok, Thailand, in context here: