Burma Rejects Australian Election Monitors
Burma has refused to accept two Australian politicians who had been nominated to observe by-elections on Sunday, according to a report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The two, federal Labor MP Janelle Saffin and Liberal Senator Mathias Cormann, had been selected to be part of the delegation of five. Saffin said the refusal casts doubt over the whole election process. “Things like this just add to it not being seen as free and fair," she said, adding that it was “not free and fair anyway in terms of the legal framework.”
Central Bank Confirms Kyat Float
Burma's central bank said on Wednesday that it will go ahead with plans to float the national currency, the kyat, from April 1, in its first public statement on moves to reform the country's exchange rate regime. The announcement was made at the bottom of page eight of the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper. The bank said it would publish a reference exchange rate each day. A senior government energy official said Burma was moving to a unified exchange rate in place of the official and black market rates that co-exist now.
Burma Meets Less than Half of its Natural Gas Demand
With most of its natural gas going to Thailand, Burma is able to supply less than half the amount the country needs domestically, according to a government official. The country produces around 1.47 billion cubic feet of gas per day and exports 1.2 billion to Thailand. The 270 million cubic feet kept at home met only 48 percent of domestic demand, said Zaw Aung, director of planning for the state-run Myanma Oil & Gas Enterprise, at an oil conference. In January, Oil Minister Than Htay promised to keep gas production at home after fulfilling commitments to China and Thailand.
Tibetan Exile Who Set Self on Fire in India Dies
A Tibetan exile who set himself on fire in India to protest a visit by China’s president died on Wednesday, while hundreds of other activists were being detained. Jamphel Yeshi, 27, set himself on fire at a demonstration in New Delhi on Monday. He ran screaming past other protesters and the media before falling to the ground. He was burned over nearly all of his body and was unable to recover. The Tibetan Youth Congress said a grand funeral “deserving of a martyr” is planned for Yeshi in the Tibetan exiled community’s headquarters of Dharamsala, in northern India.—AP
200 French Troops Leave Afghanistan
Two hundred French troops said goodbye to the war in Afghanistan on Wednesday as part of France's accelerated pullout from the country. In January, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced a faster-track exit for France, breaking from previous plans to go along with to the US-led coalition's plan to withdraw combat forces by the end of 2014. Sarkozy said France would speed up its withdrawal timetable, pulling out 1,000—400 more than its previous target—of its current 3,600 soldiers by year-end and withdraw all combat forces by the end of 2013.—AP