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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Myanmar deports American citizen out of relations with U.S.: official

YANGON, The Myanmar government said on Sunday night that its decision to deport imprisoned American citizen John William Yettaw is out of attachment of importance to bilateral relations with the United States, according to the state-run Myanmar Radio and Television.

At the request of Democratic Senator of the U.S. Jim Webb, who is Chairman of the East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the U.S. Embassy in Myanmar, Yettaw's seven years' rigorous imprisonment, sentenced by a Myanmar district court on Aug. 11, was commuted half and the remainder half was suspended by deportation, the report quoted a government order as saying.

The 54-year-old epilepsy-suffering Yettaw was convicted by the court on charge of entering into Aung San Suu Kyi's restricted lake-side residence for three days in early May.

The government's decision was made also on grounds of sympathy with his health and his future, the report said, adding that Yettaw left the country along with Webb on conclusion of the latter's three-day visit to Myanmar Sunday afternoon.

Webb told the press before his departure from Yangon that he hopes that the U.S.-Myanmar relation would improve, thanking the Myanmar government for freeing Yettaw.

Webb also said the U.S. Administration is reassessing its policy towards Myanmar and he would make proposals for the move after he is back to the country.

Webb arrived in Myanmar on Friday on a three-day visit as part of his two-week tour to five Southeast Asian nations at the invitation of Myanmar Foreign Minister U Nyan Win.

During his visit in Nay Pyi Taw, Webb met with Myanmar top leader Senior-General Than Shwe, Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council, Prime Minister General Thein Sein and the State Constitution Drafting Commission, led by Chief Justice U Aung Toe, on the government side.

Webb also met with leadership of 10 legal political parties including the National League for Democracy (NLD) and National Unity Party (NUP) and that of some ethnic peace groups from Kachin, Shan and Kayah special regions as well as representatives of some social organizations.

He was allowed by the government to meet with NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under suspended 18 months' sentence of confinement to her residence in connection with Yattaw's case, becoming the first foreign official to meet with Suu Kyi after her sentence.

Webb's Myanmar visit also represents the first ever one to the country of a member of the U.S. Congress in over a decade.

Webb's five-nation trip had taken him to Laos and he is proceeding to Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia after Myanmar visit.
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Asean to get $25bn loan from China



Newspaper section: NewsChina yesterday agreed to provide a US$15 billion (510 billion baht) loan to help Southeast Asian countries with infrastructure development and another $10 billion in the form of an emergency investment fund to help the region cope with future economic crises.

Beijing made the pledges in a meeting between Asean commerce ministers and their Chinese counterpart Chen Deming.

The loan will be used to improve transport and telecommunications infrastructures in the region, said Commerce Minister Porntiva Nakasai, who chaired the meeting.

Railway connections between Kunming in southern China to Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore will benefit from the injection of cash, which will also be used to boost trade, investment and tourism between Asean and China.

The Asean Secretariat will prioritise the infrastructure projects that will benefit from this loan.

Details would be hammered out at the Asean summit in October.

As for the $10 billion emergency fund, China hoped that it will help Asean solve its future economic problems.

Asean and China also signed the Asean-China Investment Agreement yesterday, which the two sides have been negotiating since 2003.

The agreement will expand trade and investment and will come into effect on Jan 1.

Mr Chen called the agreement a "milestone" in fostering trade and investment ties between China and Southeast Asia.

Ms Porntiva said she hoped the accord will also benefit trade and investment between Thailand and China.

China is the eighth largest investor in Asean with a total investment of $60 billion. Last year, investment from China rose 125% from 2007.

In a related development, Asean ministers and their counterparts from China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India supported efforts to turn their countries into a free trade area.

According to a study by an expert group, the free trade area of 16 countries would boost GDP by 1.3%.

Thailand's economic growth would rise 4.8% and the Asean economy would grow 3.8% once the 16 countries have been turned into one free trade zone, the study said.

Also yesterday, Asean and South Korea agreed to set up a special fund to support cooperation schemes including projects aimed at reducing the economic gap in Southeast Asia. South Korea contributed $1.5 billion to the fund.
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China signs investment agreement with ASEAN

BANGKOK - China and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Saturday signed an investment pact that provides guarantees against nationalisation, riots and disputes and is expected to boost investment.

“The ASEAN-China Investment Agreement is expected to boost bilateral investments by 40 to 60 percent over the next two years,” Thai Commerce Minister Porntiva Nakasai said after inking the pact with Chinese Commerce Minister Chen De-ming.

China is currently ranked the eighth-largest investor in South East Asia with $5.6 billion in cumulative investments in the region as of 2008.

Investments in China from the 10 members of ASEAN amounted to $6.1 billion as of last year.

The investment agreement provides Chinese and ASEAN investors guarantees not necessarily proffered to other countries.

“For instance, the agreement will guarantee compensation for investors in the case of nationalisation or riots,” said Krisda Piampongsant, spokesman for the commerce ministry of Thailand, which now holds the rotating chairmanship of ASEAN.

The association agreed to set up a dispute-settlement body soon to resolve legal problems that might arise between investors and the respective states, Krisda said.

ASEAN has already signed a partial free trade agreement with China, which covers trade in goods. The investment pact, which took six years to finalise, was seen as the second step toward a full free trade pact with China with the third being an agreement in services.

“Services is a tougher nut to crack,” Krisda noted.

China was the fourth-largest export market for ASEAN between January to September 2008 when the region’s exports to China amounted to $85.6 billion. China’s exports to ASEAN during the same period was $107 billion.

The ASEAN-China investment agreement was signed at a meeting of ASEAN’s economic ministers in Bangkok. On Thursday, the regional bloc signed a partial trade agreement with India, which was expected to boost bilateral trade to $60 billion by 2016 from $47 billion last year.

ASEAN consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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