Rolling Boat Race

Image  —  Posted: May 18, 2014 in Photos related Arakan


Sittwe: The leading Arakanese political party, Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) has published a monograph that informs the general public about the Shwe Gas Project and their basic need for electricity to continue developments in Arakan State.

The publication is titled “Presentation to the Arakanese peoples for the rights to electricity from Shwe Gas Project” and has been circulated in all areas in Arakan State by the party.

“We have published the monograph in order to raise awareness among our Arakanese people about our natural gas reserves and our basic need for electricity for our own developments in our region”, said one of the monograph distributors from the party.
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Asia’s Free-Riders

Posted: November 10, 2011 in Articles, News

The U.S. turn to the East makes sense. But tacitly telling its allies in Asia that it’s going to foot the bill for their security is foolish and unsustainable.

BY JUSTIN LOGAN | NOVEMBER 9, 2011

It’s on the record. President Barack Obama’s administration wants to pivot U.S. foreign policy away from the Middle East and toward East Asia. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent Foreign Policy article exemplified this thinking. “The future of the United States is intimately intertwined with the future of the Asia-Pacific,” Clinton wrote, touting Washington’s “irreplaceable role in the Pacific.”
The desire to focus on the Asia-Pacific is sound, but the administration’s policies there are not. The impulse to reassure America’s Asian allies that the U.S. commitment to their security is rock solid perversely makes it likely that they will continue to free-ride on America’s exertions — in an era when Washington has less and less money to spend.

Both Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, during their tenures as U.S. defense secretaries, have traveled to Europe to hector allies there for not spending enough on their militaries. This is not a new phenomenon in Europe — even during the Cold War, America’s European partners were only supporting actors in the drama between Washington and Moscow. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the disparity has grown worse: Only four of the 27 non-U.S. NATO militaries spend the agreed-upon 2 percent of GDP on defense.

The reason these NATO allies have shirked on their defense commitments is because they are smart. They know that if they fail to provide for their own defense, Uncle Sam will do it for them. This has allowed the Europeans to spend their resources on a variety of goods other than defense, from expansive welfare states to impressive infrastructure programs. U.S. taxpayers — and now their creditors — are left footing the bill for Europe’s defense.

As far back as the 1960s, U.S. policymakers puzzled over the low levels of defense spending among the European members of NATO. In a 1966 article, economists Mancur Olson Jr. and Richard Zeckhauser showed that in the provision of collective goods (like security) in organizations (like alliances), the largest members will tend to bear a “disproportionately large share of the common burden.” When a group declares something a common interest, it is rational for the poorer members to shirk and allow the wealthier members to carry a disproportionate portion of the load.
……….
Sources: Foreign Policy


One year after Oleg Kashin was brutally attacked in Moscow, the noted journalist looks back on the clownishly futile investigations — and the climate of fear that threatens his profession.

BY JULIA IOFFE | NOVEMBER 9, 2011

MOSCOW – Not many people survive the kind of beating Oleg Kashin got a year ago. Around midnight, on Nov. 6, 2010, two men holding a bouquet of flowers met him outside his home in the center of Moscow. Fifty-six whacks with a crowbar savaged his left hand, broke his leg, cracked his skull at the temple, and shattered both his upper and lower jaw bones.
Almost exactly three years earlier, Yuri Chervochkin, an activist in the radical National Bolshevik Party, had been attacked in a small town not far from Moscow. His assailants got him with a baseball bat, and their first blow was enough: He choked on his own vomit and slipped into a coma. His mother spent the critical days after his beating trying to enlist reluctant doctors to help her son. They wouldn’t, and he died three weeks later, just shy of his 23rd birthday.

Kashin, who wrote about Chervochkin’s death at the time, was luckier. “I understand that the fact that I didn’t die is all luck and good genes, because I had about a dozen chances to die,” he told me, sitting in a cafe a few blocks from the courtyard where he nearly lost his life a year ago. “I could have easily lost consciousness and laid there for an hour, and that would’ve been it. Or if I got to the hospital just a little bit later.”

But it wasn’t just timing that saved him or even the extraordinary fact that Kashin stayed conscious long enough to call the janitor of his building, who sat Kashin on some plywood, shielded him from the rain with a tarp, and kept him awake until the ambulance arrived. It was also the fact that Kashin was not a marginal or radical figure. He was already a famous blogger and a well-known reporter for Russia’s biggest daily, Kommersant, which is owned by Alisher Usmanov, a metals magnate with close ties to President Dmitry Medvedev. Usmanov flew a Russian neurosurgeon back from vacation to operate on Kashin. When Kashin was stabilized and in a medically induced coma, he was operated on by four big-name surgeons, simultaneously and for free.

Kashin’s vast social network — he was always the most gregarious of the Moscow journalists — also worked in his favor. Within an hour of the beating, a friend living near Kashin blogged about what happened. Another friend (a journalist) read it and contacted her friend Natalia Timakova, a former Kommersant reporter and Medvedev’s press secretary. Timakova roused Medvedev in the middle of the night, and the shocked president tweeted his promise that the perpetrators would be caught. In daylight, he instructed the prosecutor general to personally oversee the case. Medvedev saw Kashin a few months later on a visit to Israel, where Kashin was getting physical therapy, and according to Kashin, Medvedev promised to “tear off the heads” of those who had attacked him.

Yet despite all that, a year after the attack, not only have no heads been torn off, but the bodies to which they’re attached have not been apprehended either. This was both predictable and utterly shocking. Given the volume of the outcry and the apparent sincerity and generosity of the official response, there was, one year ago, some faint reason to hope that this case might be solved. Kashin, after all, was a mainstream, well-connected figure. He was no Anna Politkovskaya, killed on Putin’s birthday in 2006, whose work was so obviously dangerous (Kashin compared her to a suicide bomber). Nor was he like the other journalists and human rights activists whose work in the Caucasus has brought Caucasus-style revenge on their heads.

He was no Paul Klebnikov, gunned down in 2004, or Mikhail Beketov, assaulted and maimed in November 2008, who went against powerful financial interests. Kashin wrote about youth movements. Yet despite the seeming harmlessness of his beat, despite his luck that night, despite the big names and big money that immediately kicked into action, despite the wide shock and wide media coverage — even state news lead with his beating the next day — despite all these advantages that Politkovskaya and Beketov and Klebnikov and Chervochkin and dozens like them didn’t have, in the year since the first photographers arrived to take pictures of the blood-spattered ground in Kashin’s courtyard, Kashin’s case has gone cold, exactly like theirs.

Almost since the moment he emerged from his coma, Kashin has been doing everything he can to help the investigation, giving countless hours of testimony and helping compile composite portraits of the suspects. The first visit from a detective came when Kashin couldn’t talk yet — his shattered jaws were still sewn shut. When he was mobile, in February, he was sent to a scientific institute that was part of the Interior Ministry for a procedure called “memory activation.”

“It’s a mansion with no sign,” Kashin recalls. “And the people working there — green nails, crazy makeup — were real fortuneteller-types. The lady who was working with me is a lieutenant colonel and a Ph.D. in biology.” The procedure was simple: Close your eyes, imagine you’re in school, imagine you’re writing on the blackboard, and then imagine you’re erasing it with a rag, and while you’re erasing, you fall into a trance. “I was kind of ironic about it all. But when they told me the procedure lasted an hour and a half, I was surprised because I didn’t think it was more than 15 minutes,” Kashin says. While he was under, he described the face of one of the attackers (he didn’t have a chance to see the other one), which he had already done for the detective on the case. The two composite portraits weren’t very different, Kashin says. While his memory was activated, he also recalled that he had been smoking on the way home. “OK, so I was smoking,” he shrugs.

Thoroughness did not seem to be a problem, either. Kashin’s friends were all extensively questioned: the friends he’d seen that night, his estranged wife, his broader circle of friends and fellow bloggers. Some described being grilled on what, exactly, a “blog” was. One was dragged into the police department so many times that she eventually suffered a nervous breakdown.

The whole year, whenever anyone asked, Kashin said he was satisfied with the progress of the investigation. He was in close contact with the lead detective on the case, Sergey Golkin, a general who worked only on VIP cases. “Usually people complain that their testimony isn’t being recorded or that the investigators don’t care,” Kashin says. “Not at all the case here. Everything was recorded; everything was checked. I really had no complaints.”

Yet the choice of Golkin should have been an ominous sign for Kashin. Golkin may have been a crack detective, but he was also the lead on two other high-profile cases: the murders of Novaya Gazeta reporter Politkovskaya and Klebnikov, who was the editor of Forbes’s Russian edition. After sluggish progress, jury tampering, and the disappearances of key witnesses, Klebnikov’s case was suspended in 2007. Politkovskaya’s case, after a trial that looked a lot like a circus and resulted in an acquittal, has since been resuscitated and is dragging its way through the courts, five years after the murder. (During the Politkovskaya murder trial, one of her colleagues at the paper and a lawyer who had once represented Politkovskaya were gunned down in broad daylight, in the center of Moscow. A young neo-Nazi couple has been convicted of those murders, despite allegations of a confession made under duress.)

Golkin explained all this to Kashin. “He told me, ‘The judges are dilettantes, so my evidence isn’t enough for them,’” Kashin recalls. In court, Golkin claimed, he said, “‘This is the murderer,’ but it wasn’t enough for the judge.” That is, Golkin’s sleuthing, even at full tilt, was insufficient if the courts weren’t working. But of course, Golkin is still describing a system in which solving such crimes and pushing them toward a convincing conviction in court is not a pressing matter. And one doesn’t become a general within such a system without understanding exactly what the system’s priorities are and how much energy it’s worth expending on carrying them out.

Kashin’s case, to those following along with him, had some very plain and obvious clues. Kashin was beaten, it is absolutely clear, because of his journalistic work, which included his exceptionally acerbic blogging. The two young men who beat him were likely soccer hooligans, who, as Kashin himself was among the first to report, are often hired as hit men or used as enforcers by Kremlin youth groups. In the course of his investigation, Golkin apparently questioned high-ranking representatives from Molodaya Gvardiya, United Russia’s youth wing, and from Nashi, the pro-Kremlin youth group. Both admitted to either having had Kashin under surveillance in the week before the attack or trying to find out his home address. They claimed this was because they wanted “to invite Oleg Vladimirovich Kashin to the home of Pskov Gov. Andrei Anatolyevich Turchak,” the same governor whom Kashin had, in August, called “shitty Turchak” and who, in turn, publicly gave Kashin 24 hours to apologize. (Why “shitty”? “Meaning that he’s the youngest governor, that he became governor only because he’s the son of Putin’s friend, and because he is the most insignificant governor,” Kashin explains. “And because this is LiveJournal, you have a little more room when it comes to word choice.”)

Kashin never apologized, despite attempts of people like the governor of Kirov, Nikita Belykh, to reconcile them. “I told each of them, ‘Look, he’s not a bad guy. Why fight? You should meet and talk it out,’” Belykh recalls. “And they said, yeah, they were supposed to meet.” They never did. By September, Kashin claims, people were telling him Turchak was out for blood. “Anytime [Turchak] walked into an official meeting, people would snigger,” Kashin says of the rumors he was hearing, explaining that because he and other popular bloggers had teased Turchak, their followers did, too, eventually hacking the governor’s blog and changing his title to “The Shitty Governor of Pskov.”

“He felt I was at fault for this, and he was, in many ways, justified in thinking that,” Kashin says now. But last September, he became convinced that the threats were real and that they would get him inside his apartment building. Going up in his slow elevator, Kashin would press himself into the back wall when the doors opened, expecting an attack. Turchak was also involved with Molodaya Gvardiya, which openly threatened Kashin on its website, calling him a “journalist-traitor” and stamping “WILL BE PUNISHED” over his picture.

There is also the Nashi part of the story. Kashin, seen in Moscow journalist circles as something of an expert on youth groups, reported extensively and harshly on Nashi, which is a notoriously closed and guarded group: “Worse than a cult,” Kashin says. The head of Nashi and of Russian youth politics more broadly, Vasily Yakemenko, is said to have dormant connections to Moscow street gangs and organized crime, specifically a group that once regularly beheaded its victims. “My sources were telling me that Yakemenko considers me an enemy — I mean, an enemy, enemy, enemy, enemy,” Kashin says. While Kashin lay in a coma, Yakemenko’s possible role in the attack was openly debated in the Russian press. But 10 days after the beating, Putin summoned Yakemenko to his office to talk about physical education. In Russia, a signal like this is obvious, and the system responds accordingly, dragging its feet and letting an investigation gather dust. Going after someone in Putin’s circle is just not worth it.

***

About a month ago, Golkin was suddenly taken off Kashin’s case and replaced by another detective. The stated reason was that there were simply too many other high-profile cases to deal with in the department. Then Golkin sent Kashin a text message, suggesting that Kashin resubmit his testimony on Molodaya Gvardiya and Nashi — “in case it gets misplaced.” He added a winking emoticon.

“Yes, I’m a paranoiac, but the fact that they changed the detective two weeks after the United Russia congress, maybe it’s connected,” Kashin says. The promise to see the perpetrators brought to justice came from Medvedev, who saw his tenuous chance at remaining in power after 2012 snuffed at that congress. With Medvedev now a lame duck, Kashin thinks, that promise holds no water.

His seeming protector in the Kremlin hobbled, Kashin has become anxious. His hope, his belief that the investigation was going well — that it was going at all — has been steadily collapsing. Like the muckraker he is, he tracked down the new detective on the case, Nikolai Uschapovsky, through the reporters at Kommersant who cover crime. He called Uschapovsky and introduced himself, suggesting they meet and discuss the case. “He said, ‘It doesn’t make any sense to do that now; I haven’t read your case yet, and it makes no sense to meet ’til I read it,’” Kashin paraphrases. “It’s been two weeks. Seems he’s going to be reading it for a long time — there are a lot of volumes — and so the case isn’t going anywhere, as I understand it.”

While Kashin lay in a coma, observers — myself included — expressed a sureness that, even if the hit men were found, the people who ordered the attack would never be punished, simply because they were too important and protected by Putin’s, or another powerful person’s, bulletproof loyalty. The number of journalists attacked or killed dwarfs the number of closed cases, and the figures, worn and oft cited to the point of cliché, are only swelling. Last week, Pavel Gusev, the editor of Moskovsky Komsomolets and the head of the communications division of the state’s Public Chamber, announced that, in the first 10 months of this year, over 150 journalists had been threatened or attacked.

Kashin has largely given up on finding his assailants, not to mention their employers. “I’m a realist; I understand the country we live in,” he says. “If they catch a Spartak [soccer team] fan who guarded Seliger [the Nashi summer camp] five years in a row, then you don’t have to arrest Yakemenko. That’s enough for me. I get it. And that’s what I hope for.” He adds, with some hope, “And after all, not every criminal case attracts the attention of Medvedev. No one made him say anything.”

Yet Kashin has something most other journalists or activists who have become victims of such attacks don’t: He is alive; he is mobile; he is working; he is not in pain. But beyond those basics, the beating was a life-changing event. His temple, his upper jaw, and part of his leg are now made of titanium. He’s missing half his left pinkie. He’s missing teeth that can’t be permanently implanted until his shattered jaw fully heals. (When he does get them, in a year, they will be paid for by Usmanov.) His bottom lip is partly paralyzed. “I can kiss,” he says, shyly, “but the sensations aren’t the same.”

He still feels uncomfortable walking into his yard, and he has never gone back into the cigarette shop where he stopped before heading home that night last year. But Kashin says he has tried hard to normalize his life because any change, any fear is a concession to his attackers. This is why, when he was in Israel for rehab, he took a cab to Tel Aviv and bought the same Paul & Shark coat he was wearing when he met the two men with the bouquet. “When I read the notes from the investigation, they said I was wearing a leather coat,” Kashin says. “But they were mistaken. It’s a cloth coat, just like this one.” He holds up a navy-blue canvas jacket. “It was just totally soaked with blood.”

Because no one has been arrested, Kashin says he does not feel totally safe, and the two bodyguards he traveled with all spring and summer are now gone. What worries him most, though, is the psychological ramifications of being the martyr who managed to live. “Of course this story bothers me, and of course for a long time it will be the most important event of my life,” he says, draining his coffee and lighting up a cigarette. “From the point of view of the media, it was a year ago; there have been lots of interesting events since. What I’m really afraid of is that another year will pass and the only person to remember and care about this event will be me, and to everyone else I will be the crazy guy who’s obsessed with one old story.”

So far, that hasn’t happened. This Sunday, Nov. 6, the anniversary of the beating, Kashin and his colleagues stood in the cold in front of the Central Directorate of Internal Affairs, holding a sign demanding the crime be solved, much as they did one year ago. Last year, no one dared touch them. This year, two 17-year-old girls were arrested. Afterward, everyone — except Kashin, who wanted to be alone — went to a bar. It was as much a social gathering as it was a show of professional solidarity, which, to a journalist in Russia, are equally important and insulating against the sense of utter exposure.

But not everyone has even this most basic shelter. To mark the two-year anniversary of her son’s death, Chervochkin’s mother staged a similar protest. She was the only one who showed up and was quickly arrested.
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Sources: Foreign Policy

America’s Pacific Century

Posted: November 10, 2011 in Articles

BY HILLARY CLINTON | NOVEMBER 2011

As the war in Iraq winds down and America begins to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, the United States stands at a pivot point. Over the last 10 years, we have allocated immense resources to those two theaters. In the next 10 years, we need to be smart and systematic about where we invest time and energy, so that we put ourselves in the best position to sustain our leadership, secure our interests, and advance our values. One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will therefore be to lock in a substantially increased investment — diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise — in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Looking East
America’s long relationship with Asia, in photographs

The Asia-Pacific has become a key driver of global politics. Stretching from the Indian subcontinent to the western shores of the Americas, the region spans two oceans — the Pacific and the Indian — that are increasingly linked by shipping and strategy. It boasts almost half the world’s population. It includes many of the key engines of the global economy, as well as the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. It is home to several of our key allies and important emerging powers like China, India, and Indonesia.

At a time when the region is building a more mature security and economic architecture to promote stability and prosperity, U.S. commitment there is essential. It will help build that architecture and pay dividends for continued American leadership well into this century, just as our post-World War II commitment to building a comprehensive and lasting transatlantic network of institutions and relationships has paid off many times over — and continues to do so. The time has come for the United States to make similar investments as a Pacific power, a strategic course set by President Barack Obama from the outset of his administration and one that is already yielding benefits.

With Iraq and Afghanistan still in transition and serious economic challenges in our own country, there are those on the American political scene who are calling for us not to reposition, but to come home. They seek a downsizing of our foreign engagement in favor of our pressing domestic priorities. These impulses are understandable, but they are misguided. Those who say that we can no longer afford to engage with the world have it exactly backward — we cannot afford not to. From opening new markets for American businesses to curbing nuclear proliferation to keeping the sea lanes free for commerce and navigation, our work abroad holds the key to our prosperity and security at home. For more than six decades, the United States has resisted the gravitational pull of these “come home” debates and the implicit zero-sum logic of these arguments. We must do so again.

Beyond our borders, people are also wondering about America’s intentions — our willingness to remain engaged and to lead. In Asia, they ask whether we are really there to stay, whether we are likely to be distracted again by events elsewhere, whether we can make — and keep — credible economic and strategic commitments, and whether we can back those commitments with action. The answer is: We can, and we will.

Harnessing Asia’s growth and dynamism is central to American economic and strategic interests and a key priority for President Obama. Open markets in Asia provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for investment, trade, and access to cutting-edge technology. Our economic recovery at home will depend on exports and the ability of American firms to tap into the vast and growing consumer base of Asia. Strategically, maintaining peace and security across the Asia-Pacific is increasingly crucial to global progress, whether through defending freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, countering the proliferation efforts of North Korea, or ensuring transparency in the military activities of the region’s key players.

Just as Asia is critical to America’s future, an engaged America is vital to Asia’s future. The region is eager for our leadership and our business — perhaps more so than at any time in modern history. We are the only power with a network of strong alliances in the region, no territorial ambitions, and a long record of providing for the common good. Along with our allies, we have underwritten regional security for decades — patrolling Asia’s sea lanes and preserving stability — and that in turn has helped create the conditions for growth. We have helped integrate billions of people across the region into the global economy by spurring economic productivity, social empowerment, and greater people-to-people links. We are a major trade and investment partner, a source of innovation that benefits workers and businesses on both sides of the Pacific, a host to 350,000 Asian students every year, a champion of open markets, and an advocate for universal human rights.

President Obama has led a multifaceted and persistent effort to embrace fully our irreplaceable role in the Pacific, spanning the entire U.S. government. It has often been a quiet effort. A lot of our work has not been on the front pages, both because of its nature — long-term investment is less exciting than immediate crises — and because of competing headlines in other parts of the world.

As secretary of state, I broke with tradition and embarked on my first official overseas trip to Asia. In my seven trips since, I have had the privilege to see firsthand the rapid transformations taking place in the region, underscoring how much the future of the United States is intimately intertwined with the future of the Asia-Pacific. A strategic turn to the region fits logically into our overall global effort to secure and sustain America’s global leadership. The success of this turn requires maintaining and advancing a bipartisan consensus on the importance of the Asia-Pacific to our national interests; we seek to build upon a strong tradition of engagement by presidents and secretaries of state of both parties across many decades. It also requires smart execution of a coherent regional strategy that accounts for the global implications of our choices.

WHAT DOES THAT regional strategy look like? For starters, it calls for a sustained commitment to what I have called “forward-deployed” diplomacy. That means continuing to dispatch the full range of our diplomatic assets — including our highest-ranking officials, our development experts, our interagency teams, and our permanent assets — to every country and corner of the Asia-Pacific region. Our strategy will have to keep accounting for and adapting to the rapid and dramatic shifts playing out across Asia. With this in mind, our work will proceed along six key lines of action: strengthening bilateral security alliances; deepening our working relationships with emerging powers, including with China; engaging with regional multilateral institutions; expanding trade and investment; forging a broad-based military presence; and advancing democracy and human rights.

By virtue of our unique geography, the United States is both an Atlantic and a Pacific power. We are proud of our European partnerships and all that they deliver. Our challenge now is to build a web of partnerships and institutions across the Pacific that is as durable and as consistent with American interests and values as the web we have built across the Atlantic. That is the touchstone of our efforts in all these areas.

Our treaty alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand are the fulcrum for our strategic turn to the Asia-Pacific. They have underwritten regional peace and security for more than half a century, shaping the environment for the region’s remarkable economic ascent. They leverage our regional presence and enhance our regional leadership at a time of evolving security challenges. 

As successful as these alliances have been, we can’t afford simply to sustain them — we need to update them for a changing world. In this effort, the Obama administration is guided by three core principles. First, we have to maintain political consensus on the core objectives of our alliances. Second, we have to ensure that our alliances are nimble and adaptive so that they can successfully address new challenges and seize new opportunities. Third, we have to guarantee that the defense capabilities and communications infrastructure of our alliances are operationally and materially capable of deterring provocation from the full spectrum of state and nonstate actors.

The alliance with Japan, the cornerstone of peace and stability in the region, demonstrates how the Obama administration is giving these principles life. We share a common vision of a stable regional order with clear rules of the road — from freedom of navigation to open markets and fair competition. We have agreed to a new arrangement, including a contribution from the Japanese government of more than $5 billion, to ensure the continued enduring presence of American forces in Japan, while expanding joint intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance activities to deter and react quickly to regional security challenges, as well as information sharing to address cyberthreats. We have concluded an Open Skies agreement that will enhance access for businesses and people-to-people ties, launched a strategic dialogue on the Asia-Pacific, and been working hand in hand as the two largest donor countries in Afghanistan.

Similarly, our alliance with South Korea has become stronger and more operationally integrated, and we continue to develop our combined capabilities to deter and respond to North Korean provocations. We have agreed on a plan to ensure successful transition of operational control during wartime and anticipate successful passage of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. And our alliance has gone global, through our work together in the G-20 and the Nuclear Security Summit and through our common efforts in Haiti and Afghanistan.
We are also expanding our alliance with Australia from a Pacific partnership to an Indo-Pacific one, and indeed a global partnership. From cybersecurity to Afghanistan to the Arab Awakening to strengthening regional architecture in the Asia-Pacific, Australia’s counsel and commitment have been indispensable. And in Southeast Asia, we are renewing and strengthening our alliances with the Philippines and Thailand, increasing, for example, the number of ship visits to the Philippines and working to ensure the successful training of Filipino counterterrorism forces through our Joint Special Operations Task Force in Mindanao. In Thailand — our oldest treaty partner in Asia — we are working to establish a hub of regional humanitarian and disaster relief efforts in the region.

AS WE UPDATE our alliances for new demands, we are also building new partnerships to help solve shared problems. Our outreach to China, India, Indonesia, Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia, Mongolia, Vietnam, Brunei, and the Pacific Island countries is all part of a broader effort to ensure a more comprehensive approach to American strategy and engagement in the region. We are asking these emerging partners to join us in shaping and participating in a rules-based regional and global order.

One of the most prominent of these emerging partners is, of course, China. Like so many other countries before it, China has prospered as part of the open and rules-based system that the United States helped to build and works to sustain. And today, China represents one of the most challenging and consequential bilateral relationships the United States has ever had to manage. This calls for careful, steady, dynamic stewardship, an approach to China on our part that is grounded in reality, focused on results, and true to our principles and interests.

We all know that fears and misperceptions linger on both sides of the Pacific. Some in our country see China’s progress as a threat to the United States; some in China worry that America seeks to constrain China’s growth. We reject both those views. The fact is that a thriving America is good for China and a thriving China is good for America. We both have much more to gain from cooperation than from conflict. But you cannot build a relationship on aspirations alone. It is up to both of us to more consistently translate positive words into effective cooperation — and, crucially, to meet our respective global responsibilities and obligations. These are the things that will determine whether our relationship delivers on its potential in the years to come. We also have to be honest about our differences. We will address them firmly and decisively as we pursue the urgent work we have to do together. And we have to avoid unrealistic expectations. 

Over the last two-and-a-half years, one of my top priorities has been to identify and expand areas of common interest, to work with China to build mutual trust, and to encourage China’s active efforts in global problem-solving. This is why Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and I launched the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, the most intensive and expansive talks ever between our governments, bringing together dozens of agencies from both sides to discuss our most pressing bilateral issues, from security to energy to human rights.

We are also working to increase transparency and reduce the risk of miscalculation or miscues between our militaries. The United States and the international community have watched China’s efforts to modernize and expand its military, and we have sought clarity as to its intentions. Both sides would benefit from sustained and substantive military-to-military engagement that increases transparency. So we look to Beijing to overcome its reluctance at times and join us in forging a durable military-to-military dialogue. And we need to work together to strengthen the Strategic Security Dialogue, which brings together military and civilian leaders to discuss sensitive issues like maritime security and cybersecurity.
As we build trust together, we are committed to working with China to address critical regional and global security issues. This is why I have met so frequently — often in informal settings — with my Chinese counterparts, State Councilor Dai Bingguo and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, for candid discussions about important challenges like North Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and developments in the South China Sea.
On the economic front, the United States and China need to work together to ensure strong, sustained, and balanced future global growth. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, the United States and China worked effectively through the G-20 to help pull the global economy back from the brink. We have to build on that cooperation. U.S. firms want fair opportunities to export to China’s growing markets, which can be important sources of jobs here in the United States, as well as assurances that the $50 billion of American capital invested in China will create a strong foundation for new market and investment opportunities that will support global competitiveness. At the same time, Chinese firms want to be able to buy more high-tech products from the United States, make more investments here, and be accorded the same terms of access that market economies enjoy. We can work together on these objectives, but China still needs to take important steps toward reform. In particular, we are working with China to end unfair discrimination against U.S. and other foreign companies or against their innovative technologies, remove preferences for domestic firms, and end measures that disadvantage or appropriate foreign intellectual property. And we look to China to take steps to allow its currency to appreciate more rapidly, both against the dollar and against the currencies of its other major trading partners. Such reforms, we believe, would not only benefit both our countries (indeed, they would support the goals of China’s own five-year plan, which calls for more domestic-led growth), but also contribute to global economic balance, predictability, and broader prosperity.

Of course, we have made very clear, publicly and privately, our serious concerns about human rights. And when we see reports of public-interest lawyers, writers, artists, and others who are detained or disappeared, the United States speaks up, both publicly and privately, with our concerns about human rights. We make the case to our Chinese colleagues that a deep respect for international law and a more open political system would provide China with a foundation for far greater stability and growth — and increase the confidence of China’s partners. Without them, China is placing unnecessary limitations on its own development.

At the end of the day, there is no handbook for the evolving U.S.-China relationship. But the stakes are much too high for us to fail. As we proceed, we will continue to embed our relationship with China in a broader regional framework of security alliances, economic networks, and social connections.

Among key emerging powers with which we will work closely are India and Indonesia, two of the most dynamic and significant democratic powers of Asia, and both countries with which the Obama administration has pursued broader, deeper, and more purposeful relationships. The stretch of sea from the Indian Ocean through the Strait of Malacca to the Pacific contains the world’s most vibrant trade and energy routes. Together, India and Indonesia already account for almost a quarter of the world’s population. They are key drivers of the global economy, important partners for the United States, and increasingly central contributors to peace and security in the region. And their importance is likely to grow in the years ahead.

President Obama told the Indian parliament last year that the relationship between India and America will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century, rooted in common values and interests. There are still obstacles to overcome and questions to answer on both sides, but the United States is making a strategic bet on India’s future — that India’s greater role on the world stage will enhance peace and security, that opening India’s markets to the world will pave the way to greater regional and global prosperity, that Indian advances in science and technology will improve lives and advance human knowledge everywhere, and that India’s vibrant, pluralistic democracy will produce measurable results and improvements for its citizens and inspire others to follow a similar path of openness and tolerance. So the Obama administration has expanded our bilateral partnership; actively supported India’s Look East efforts, including through a new trilateral dialogue with India and Japan; and outlined a new vision for a more economically integrated and politically stable South and Central Asia, with India as a linchpin.

We are also forging a new partnership with Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, and a member of the G-20. We have resumed joint training of Indonesian special forces units and signed a number of agreements on health, educational exchanges, science and technology, and defense. And this year, at the invitation of the Indonesian government, President Obama will inaugurate American participation in the East Asia Summit. But there is still some distance to travel — we have to work together to overcome bureaucratic impediments, lingering historical suspicions, and some gaps in understanding each other’s perspectives and interests.

EVEN AS WE strengthen these bilateral relationships, we have emphasized the importance of multilateral cooperation, for we believe that addressing complex transnational challenges of the sort now faced by Asia requires a set of institutions capable of mustering collective action. And a more robust and coherent regional architecture in Asia would reinforce the system of rules and responsibilities, from protecting intellectual property to ensuring freedom of navigation, that form the basis of an effective international order. In multilateral settings, responsible behavior is rewarded with legitimacy and respect, and we can work together to hold accountable those who undermine peace, stability, and prosperity.

So the United States has moved to fully engage the region’s multilateral institutions, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, mindful that our work with regional institutions supplements and does not supplant our bilateral ties. There is a demand from the region that America play an active role in the agenda-setting of these institutions — and it is in our interests as well that they be effective and responsive.

That is why President Obama will participate in the East Asia Summit for the first time in November. To pave the way, the United States has opened a new U.S. Mission to ASEAN in Jakarta and signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation with ASEAN. Our focus on developing a more results-oriented agenda has been instrumental in efforts to address disputes in the South China Sea. In 2010, at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Hanoi, the United States helped shape a regionwide effort to protect unfettered access to and passage through the South China Sea, and to uphold the key international rules for defining territorial claims in the South China Sea’s waters. Given that half the world’s merchant tonnage flows through this body of water, this was a consequential undertaking. And over the past year, we have made strides in protecting our vital interests in stability and freedom of navigation and have paved the way for sustained multilateral diplomacy among the many parties with claims in the South China Sea, seeking to ensure disputes are settled peacefully and in accordance with established principles of international law.

We have also worked to strengthen APEC as a serious leaders-level institution focused on advancing economic integration and trade linkages across the Pacific. After last year’s bold call by the group for a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific, President Obama will host the 2011 APEC Leaders’ Meeting in Hawaii this November. We are committed to cementing APEC as the Asia-Pacific’s premier regional economic institution, setting the economic agenda in a way that brings together advanced and emerging economies to promote open trade and investment, as well as to build capacity and enhance regulatory regimes. APEC and its work help expand U.S. exports and create and support high-quality jobs in the United States, while fostering growth throughout the region. APEC also provides a key vehicle to drive a broad agenda to unlock the economic growth potential that women represent. In this regard, the United States is committed to working with our partners on ambitious steps to accelerate the arrival of the Participation Age, where every individual, regardless of gender or other characteristics, is a contributing and valued member of the global marketplace.

In addition to our commitment to these broader multilateral institutions, we have worked hard to create and launch a number of “minilateral” meetings, small groupings of interested states to tackle specific challenges, such as the Lower Mekong Initiative we launched to support education, health, and environmental programs in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, and the Pacific Islands Forum, where we are working to support its members as they confront challenges from climate change to overfishing to freedom of navigation. We are also starting to pursue new trilateral opportunities with countries as diverse as Mongolia, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, and South Korea. And we are setting our sights as well on enhancing coordination and engagement among the three giants of the Asia-Pacific: China, India, and the United States.

In all these different ways, we are seeking to shape and participate in a responsive, flexible, and effective regional architecture — and ensure it connects to a broader global architecture that not only protects international stability and commerce but also advances our values.
OUR EMPHASIS ON the economic work of APEC is in keeping with our broader commitment to elevate economic statecraft as a pillar of American foreign policy.

Increasingly, economic progress depends on strong diplomatic ties, and diplomatic progress depends on strong economic ties. And naturally, a focus on promoting American prosperity means a greater focus on trade and economic openness in the Asia-Pacific. The region already generates more than half of global output and nearly half of global trade. As we strive to meet President Obama’s goal of doubling exports by 2015, we are looking for opportunities to do even more business in Asia. Last year, American exports to the Pacific Rim totaled $320 billion, supporting 850,000 American jobs. So there is much that favors us as we think through this repositioning.

When I talk to my Asian counterparts, one theme consistently stands out: They still want America to be an engaged and creative partner in the region’s flourishing trade and financial interactions. And as I talk with business leaders across our own nation, I hear how important it is for the United States to expand our exports and our investment opportunities in Asia’s dynamic markets.

Last March in APEC meetings in Washington, and again in Hong Kong in July, I laid out four attributes that I believe characterize healthy economic competition: open, free, transparent, and fair. Through our engagement in the Asia-Pacific, we are helping to give shape to these principles and showing the world their value.

We are pursuing new cutting-edge trade deals that raise the standards for fair competition even as they open new markets. For instance, the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement will eliminate tariffs on 95 percent of U.S. consumer and industrial exports within five years and support an estimated 70,000 American jobs. Its tariff reductions alone could increase exports of American goods by more than $10 billion and help South Korea’s economy grow by 6 percent. It will level the playing field for U.S. auto companies and workers. So, whether you are an American manufacturer of machinery or a South Korean chemicals exporter, this deal lowers the barriers that keep you from reaching new customers.

We are also making progress on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which will bring together economies from across the Pacific — developed and developing alike — into a single trading community. Our goal is to create not just more growth, but better growth. We believe trade agreements need to include strong protections for workers, the environment, intellectual property, and innovation. They should also promote the free flow of information technology and the spread of green technology, as well as the coherence of our regulatory system and the efficiency of supply chains. Ultimately, our progress will be measured by the quality of people’s lives — whether men and women can work in dignity, earn a decent wage, raise healthy families, educate their children, and take hold of the opportunities to improve their own and the next generation’s fortunes. Our hope is that a TPP agreement with high standards can serve as a benchmark for future agreements — and grow to serve as a platform for broader regional interaction and eventually a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific.

Achieving balance in our trade relationships requires a two-way commitment. That’s the nature of balance — it can’t be unilaterally imposed. So we are working through APEC, the G-20, and our bilateral relationships to advocate for more open markets, fewer restrictions on exports, more transparency, and an overall commitment to fairness. American businesses and workers need to have confidence that they are operating on a level playing field, with predictable rules on everything from intellectual property to indigenous innovation.

ASIA’S REMARKABLE ECONOMIC growth over the past decade and its potential for continued growth in the future depend on the security and stability that has long been guaranteed by the U.S. military, including more than 50,000 American servicemen and servicewomen serving in Japan and South Korea. The challenges of today’s rapidly changing region — from territorial and maritime disputes to new threats to freedom of navigation to the heightened impact of natural disasters — require that the United States pursue a more geographically distributed, operationally resilient, and politically sustainable force posture.

We are modernizing our basing arrangements with traditional allies in Northeast Asia — and our commitment on this is rock solid — while enhancing our presence in Southeast Asia and into the Indian Ocean. For example, the United States will be deploying littoral combat ships to Singapore, and we are examining other ways to increase opportunities for our two militaries to train and operate together. And the United States and Australia agreed this year to explore a greater American military presence in Australia to enhance opportunities for more joint training and exercises. We are also looking at how we can increase our operational access in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean region and deepen our contacts with allies and partners.

How we translate the growing connection between the Indian and Pacific oceans into an operational concept is a question that we need to answer if we are to adapt to new challenges in the region. Against this backdrop, a more broadly distributed military presence across the region will provide vital advantages. The United States will be better positioned to support humanitarian missions; equally important, working with more allies and partners will provide a more robust bulwark against threats or efforts to undermine regional peace and stability.

But even more than our military might or the size of our economy, our most potent asset as a nation is the power of our values — in particular, our steadfast support for democracy and human rights. This speaks to our deepest national character and is at the heart of our foreign policy, including our strategic turn to the Asia-Pacific region.

As we deepen our engagement with partners with whom we disagree on these issues, we will continue to urge them to embrace reforms that would improve governance, protect human rights, and advance political freedoms. We have made it clear, for example, to Vietnam that our ambition to develop a strategic partnership requires that it take steps to further protect human rights and advance political freedoms. Or consider Burma, where we are determined to seek accountability for human rights violations. We are closely following developments in Nay Pyi Taw and the increasing interactions between Aung San Suu Kyi and the government leadership. We have underscored to the government that it must release political prisoners, advance political freedoms and human rights, and break from the policies of the past. As for North Korea, the regime in Pyongyang has shown persistent disregard for the rights of its people, and we continue to speak out forcefully against the threats it poses to the region and beyond.

We cannot and do not aspire to impose our system on other countries, but we do believe that certain values are universal — that people in every nation in the world, including in Asia, cherish them — and that they are intrinsic to stable, peaceful, and prosperous countries. Ultimately, it is up to the people of Asia to pursue their own rights and aspirations, just as we have seen people do all over the world.

IN THE LAST decade, our foreign policy has transitioned from dealing with the post-Cold War peace dividend to demanding commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan. As those wars wind down, we will need to accelerate efforts to pivot to new global realities.

We know that these new realities require us to innovate, to compete, and to lead in new ways. Rather than pull back from the world, we need to press forward and renew our leadership. In a time of scarce resources, there’s no question that we need to invest them wisely where they will yield the biggest returns, which is why the Asia-Pacific represents such a real 21st-century opportunity for us.

Other regions remain vitally important, of course. Europe, home to most of our traditional allies, is still a partner of first resort, working alongside the United States on nearly every urgent global challenge, and we are investing in updating the structures of our alliance. The people of the Middle East and North Africa are charting a new path that is already having profound global consequences, and the United States is committed to active and sustained partnerships as the region transforms. Africa holds enormous untapped potential for economic and political development in the years ahead. And our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere are not just our biggest export partners; they are also playing a growing role in global political and economic affairs. Each of these regions demands American engagement and leadership.

And we are prepared to lead. Now, I’m well aware that there are those who question our staying power around the world. We’ve heard this talk before. At the end of the Vietnam War, there was a thriving industry of global commentators promoting the idea that America was in retreat, and it is a theme that repeats itself every few decades. But whenever the United States has experienced setbacks, we’ve overcome them through reinvention and innovation. Our capacity to come back stronger is unmatched in modern history. It flows from our model of free democracy and free enterprise, a model that remains the most powerful source of prosperity and progress known to humankind. I hear everywhere I go that the world still looks to the United States for leadership. Our military is by far the strongest, and our economy is by far the largest in the world. Our workers are the most productive. Our universities are renowned the world over. So there should be no doubt that America has the capacity to secure and sustain our global leadership in this century as we did in the last.

As we move forward to set the stage for engagement in the Asia-Pacific over the next 60 years, we are mindful of the bipartisan legacy that has shaped our engagement for the past 60. And we are focused on the steps we have to take at home — increasing our savings, reforming our financial systems, relying less on borrowing, overcoming partisan division — to secure and sustain our leadership abroad.

This kind of pivot is not easy, but we have paved the way for it over the past two-and-a-half years, and we are committed to seeing it through as among the most important diplomatic efforts of our time.
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Sources: Foreign Policy


Thailand Festival

Loy Krathong
Loy Krathong is a festival celebrated annually throughout Thailand. It is held on the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. In the western calendar this usually falls in November.
Loy” means “to float”. “Krathong” is a raft about a handspan in diameter traditionally made from a section of banana tree trunk (although modern-day versions use specially made bread ‘flowers’ and may use styrofoam), decorated with elaborately-folded banana leaves, flowers, candles, incense sticks etc.
In the evening, many people will go to their local klong (canal) or river to float their krathongs. They believe this will bring them good luck. By the end of the evening, there are hundreds of flickering lights bobbing up and down on the water. Quite often there are also firework displays as well as shows and beauty contests for everyone. Overall it is really a memorable evening.
Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai has the added feature of a parallel festival called Yi Peng. Yi Peng is celebrated by launching hot air balloons made of rice paper into the night sky. The night sky is literally filled with thousands of these bright lights shining like a moving river of stars. It’s a truly magical sight that can’t really be captured in a picture.
Loi Kratong in Chiang Mai has become so popular that the hotels around the city are fully booked a month or more in advance. If you want to celebrate the festival in Chiang Mai, plan ahead and book your hotel well in advance. Note that Loi Kratong is celebrated on a full moon night, so the date will change from year to year.
Tak similarly celebrates the festival of “Loy Krathong Sai” that is reflected through a long line of Krathong made of coconut shells lit with candles as well as threaded together as a string of floating lights on the Ping River. When lit Krathong are floated onto the right current typically one after another they would wander along and make a breathtaking and twinkling curving line or “Sai” in Thai amidst the darkness of the night.  This represents the accord and oneness of local people when they assemble on the river banks where they sing and dance with utmost bliss. Tourists will also have a mesmerizing occasion to relish the atmosphere of Krathong Sai contest and water curtain presentation relating to “The Legent of Krathong Sai”
In “the City of Angels”, the banks of the glorious Chao Phraya River are the prime location to celebrate the festival.  So as to revive an old custom of the ancient capital, Loy Krathong is arranged to preserve the royal ritual of the early Rattanakosin period in which several types of traditional Krathong were set afloat onto the Chao Phraya River and its waterways.  Many riverside hotels and restautants also hold special celebrations for their guests. For a more stunning night of Loy Krathong in Bangkok, meticulous tourists are earnestly invited to partake in this yearly festival and join the crowds along the Chao Phraya River, the Rattanakosin Island, the Santichaiprakarn Park, the Rama VIII Bridge, the Taksin Bridge and the Krungthon Bridge.
Thai people from all walks of life are gathering on the nearest river with their hands holding a fine-looking banana leaf cup.  The rivers and waterways are illuminated with glittering lights whilst the historical remains and commercial buildings along the banks of the majestic Chao Phraya River are adorned with electric decorations. The joyful festivities like firework displays, traditional performances as well as sound presentations are just around the corner. These are the common scenes awaiting you on the coloful night of Loy Krathong.

Narinjara

China has recently started building giant tanks for storing crude oil shipped from Africa and Middle East within the compound of the deep seaport on the Madae Island in Kyaukpru in western Burma’s Arakan State.

Madae-island-construction

A Burmese engineer who is working with the project said the construction of the oil tanks will be completed in mid 2012 and importing the oil from the tanks through the pipeline to China will begin in 2013.

“We are now building the foundations of the tanks. The tanks are on target to be completed in mid 2012, so to transporting the oil from the port through the pipeline to China will begin from 2013”, said the engineer.

China is now building the deep seaport project on the Madae Island, construction includes a port for storing 3 lakh tons of crude oil, a 2.9 km-long navigable channel, a 480 meter-long jetty for the oil tankers and a water reservoir of 600,000 cubic meters.

About 22 million tons of crude oil in a year will be transported from the port to China through the 2,380 km long pipeline of which about 800km will run through Burma.

12 billion cubic meters of natural gas that is produced from the A(1) and A(3) blocks of the offshore gas fields of Arakan State will be also exported to China through the pipeline.

The engineer said China is now speeding up the construction of the port by working both day and night. Most of the machinery and labourers are being brought in from its own country.

“Most of the engineers and workers constructing the port are from China and the machinery and other important material, such as cement, is also brought in from their country. The Burmese government is also allowing them to import whatever they need for the construction of their projects freely”, he said.

According to local residents, many farmers on Madae Island have become unemployed after their farmlands were confiscated. They were given very little compensation – much less than what the Chinese paid for the land needed for the port.