Libel Lawsuit to Go to Court Next Week
The first hearing in a libel lawsuit against The Voice journal will be held by a Rangoon court next Thursday, according to a report by Mizzima. The Ministry of Mines is suing the journal for carrying a report based on a leaked government audit that found evidence of corruption among ministry officials. The Voice's executive editor, Kyaw San Min, said he asked the Dagon Township Court to postpone the hearing until some of the journal's officials return from overseas.
Election Watchdog Slams Deportation
The head of an Asian election-monitoring watchdog group said she was “de facto” deported from Burma on Tuesday, and urged the country to give poll observers full access to the voting process to ensure that April 1 by-elections are free and fair. Somsri Hananuntasuk, the executive director of Asian Networks for Free Elections (Anfrel), said Burma's “political openness should be unconditional,” after she and two aides were forced to leave while seeking accreditation for independent observers. Burma has since agreed to allow a limited number of international monitors.
Kachin Conflict Heats Up Week Before Polls
Burma's government army has stepped up its offensive against ethnic insurgents in Kachin State as the international community has shifted its attention to upcoming by-elections, according to the Kachin News Group (KNG). Battles between Burmese forces and the Kachin Independence Army have become a daily occurrence in Kachin and northern Shan states since peace talks earlier this month broke down, KNG reported. It said fighting has been particularly fierce on the Myitkyina-Bhamo road between N’pawn and Gangdau Yang, where Burmese forces are attempting to resupply their front-line posts.
Thais in Burma to Talk Business
A delegation representing 16 Thai companies flew to Burma on Thursday to meet with local business leaders for discussions about investment opportunities. According to Thailand's English-language daily The Nation, at least six leading garment manufacturers plan to establish operations in Burma to cut labor costs. The companies are expected to hire up to 3,000 workers, officials said. Thailand is currently Burma's second-largest source of foreign investment, after China. The two countries are also major trading partners, with trade valued at around US $800 million per year.
Oil Above $105 Amid Mixed Global Growth Signs
Oil prices hovered above US $105 a barrel on Friday in Asia amid mixed signs about the strength of the global economy and crude demand. Benchmark oil for May delivery was up 23 cents to $105.58 at midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Disappointing industrial production figures out of China, Germany and France on Thursday suggested economic growth in Asia and Europe may slow more than previously expected. However, recent employment figures from the US suggested the world's biggest economy was improving.—AP