BURMA: Diplomats in Burma say opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years, left her home today to meet with a Burmese government official. Officials say she is likely to meet with Burma's labor minister, Aung Kyi, who was appointed earlier this month to serve as her liaison with the military government. The visit comes as international pressure on the Burmese government is mounting after its bloody crackdown and continued repression of pro-democracy protesters. It also comes as U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari wraps up two-days of meetings in Beijing with Chinese officials.
SDBR BURMA - UN: The United Nations human rights expert on Burma says he has received troubling reports that the Burmese military government's crackdown continues, despite international condemnation. At a news conference Wednesday in New York, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said what annoys him the most is that the repression has not stopped. Pinheiro said when he travels to Burma next month, he will investigate reports of killings that occurred during the crackdown and allegations that are still coming in of deaths in custody, torture, disappearances and ill-treatment. He said that he will ask for free access when he gets to Burma and that if he does not get full cooperation he will leave.
THAILAND - UNREST: International advocacy groups have criticized Thailand's military government for its response to Muslim separatists operating in the south of the country. Human Rights Watch issued a report Wednesday accusing the government of failing to prosecute security forces responsible for the killings of 85 Muslim protesters. Wednesday was the third anniversary of the incident in the Tak Bai district of the southern province of Narathiwat. The New York-based rights group says seven protesters died of gunshot wounds during the protests, and 78 others perished during transport to a detention facility.
ASIA - DRUGS - HIV: Experts at a conference in Bangkok say police abuse of drug users is undermining HIV prevention and treatment efforts in Asia and Eastern Europe. A statement released Wednesday by the conference's sponsor, the Open Society Institute, said Thailand is opening an investigation into the former president's so-called "war on drugs." The conference participants claimed that ousted President Thaksin Shinawatra's policies resulted in more than two-thousand extrajudicial killings. An HIV clinic worker was quoted saying that thousands were killed as drug users were driven underground.
CHINA - POLLUTION: A newly released United Nations report on the environment in China's capital warns that air pollution remains a concern for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The report, released today in Beijing by the U.N. Environmental Program, notes China's "significant strides" to improve air quality and create a "Green Olympic Games." But it also said pollution remains a legitimate concern for Olympic organizers, competitors and observers. The report highlights some missed opportunities, while noting China's innovation in addressing environmental concerns.
US - WILDFIRES: Firefighters in southern California are making progress in battling more than 12 wildfires raging across the region, thanks to improving weather conditions. Authorities say the hot, gusty desert winds that fueled the fires calmed down on Wednesday, allowing fire crews to go on the offensive against the blazes for the first time. Helicopters and air tankers spent the day dropping water and flame retardant on the worst areas. The wildfires have consumed more than 15-hundred square kilometers, and destroyed more than 12-hundred homes since they first broke out Sunday.
TURKEY - KURDS - IRAQ: Turkish President Abdullah Gul says Ankara is determined to take the steps necessary to end the threat of Kurdish rebels based in northern Iraq. Mr. Gul said Turkey is running out of patience and will not tolerate the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, launching attacks from across the border. He was speaking at a regional meeting (the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization foreign ministers' meeting) in the Turkish capital today. A high-level Iraqi delegation is expected to meet with Turkish officials in Ankara today, in an effort to diplomatically defuse a mounting crisis along the nations' border.
AIRBUS MAIDEN: The world's largest commercial passenger jet, Singapore Airlines' Airbus A380 super jumbo, has landed in Sydney after a historic flight from Singapore. Singapore Airlines auctioned off seats for the inaugural seven-hour flight on the Internet site E-bay, raising money for charity. A 38-year-old British citizen (Julian Hayward) made the top bid - more than 100-thousand dollars for seat 1A. European planemaker Airbus delivered its first A380 super jumbo jet to Singapore Airlines last week - almost two years behind schedule.
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