RFA in the News (March 2011)

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March 31 “NAB flies deeper into the cloud”

One of the emerging technical trends to be discussed at the 2011 Broadcast Engineering Conference at the NAB Show is cloud computing.

… But getting aboard the cloud need not be a high-stakes game. Radio Free Asia is developing a private cloud to link their global operations using Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud. This is a Linux-based, open-source solution that is compatible with Amazon’s EC2 public cloud applications.


March 31 “North Korean diplomat seeks ex-U.S. officials in Germany”

A senior North Korean diplomat recently attended a private security forum in Germany, where former U.S. officials were also present, with both sides having likely gauged each other in regard to the North's nuclear stalemate and other regional issues.

… U.S.-based broadcaster Radio Free Asia also reported on the same day, citing Mallory, that the two sides discussed on a possible normalization of diplomatic ties, the North's denuclearization, reduction of conventional arms and Pyongyang's economic cooperation with South Korea and the international community.


March 30 “Mainstream journalists also targeted in China crackdown”

The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned by the dismissal of two Guangzhou-based journalists who advocate for political reform amid tightening restrictions on free expression.

… In a separate case, outspoken Southern Weekend commentator Chen Ming, who publishes under the name Xiao Shu, also announced Monday via his local Sina microblog that he was taking a two-year sabbatical. The term “sabbatical” was likely a euphemism for permanent notice since journalists have to resign after six months on leave, U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia reported. The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post confirmed the news with an unnamed former colleague of Chen's.

RFA said the weekly, which is published by the Southern Media Group, had withdrawn Chen's column in 2010


March 29 “NK scientists seek US visit in May”

Radio Free Asia reports that a delegation of North Korean scientists is seeking a visit to the U.S. in May.

The broadcaster cited a source well-versed in U.S.-North Korea academic exchanges as saying that a North Korean scientific delegation which visited Atlanta in February has strongly requested its second visit to the U.S. in May. The source said Syracuse University is working to arrange the visit.


March 27 “North Korea’s top lawmaker Choe leaves Pyongyang for U.K. visit, KCNA says”

North Korea’s top legislator departed the capital, Pyongyang, for a visit to the U.K., state- owned Korean Central News Agency reported.

… The British-North Korea All-Party Parliamentary Group invited Choe after a U.K. delegation led by Lord David Alton visited Pyongyang last year, Radio Free Asia reported earlier this month.


March 27 “US passport holders freed in Vietnam after protests”

Three Vietnamese-American members of a banned pro-democracy group detained for participating in protests backing disgruntled farmers in Ho Chi Minh City have been released.
… According to Radio Free Asia, the three U.S. passport holders, who are Viet Tan members, went to Vietnam to promote freedom of assembly there. They are Ms. Jennifer Truong and Mr. Nguyen Ly Trong, both of California, and Mr. Nguyen Quang Khanh of Colorado.


March 24 “North Korea embraces more foreign English teachers”

South Korea has hired tens of thousands of foreign English teachers to meet the increasing demand for English education. Little is known, however, about North Korea’s interest in the subject.

… Another agency in New Zealand has posted a notice on its website recently, saying they are raising funds to send a voluntary teacher to teach for three months in 2011 in Pyongyang, according to the Radio Free Asia report Tuesday.


March 24 “North Korea raises earthquake awareness amid Japan tragedy”

North Korea has recently stepped up its preparedness against earthquakes, the country's media reported, apparently taking precautions amid Japan pulling through recent quake devastation.

… Meanwhile, U.S.-based broadcaster Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on the same day that experts from the United Nations' World Meteorological Organization (WMO) were visiting North Korea to inspect the country's weather monitoring facilities.


March 23 “N. Korea’s trade with China rises sharply”

North Korea's bilateral trade with China grew 32% on-year to $3.5 billion last year as the North shipped more coals to get oil from China to power its fuel-strapped economy.

It marks the first time that the annual bilateral trade between the two surpassed $3 billion since 2004.

The two-way trade reached $3.46 billion in 2010, up 32% from $2.62 billion in 2009, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on March 23, citing data from the Chinese government.


March 21 “Burmese army ‘demoralized’ and under ‘great strain’”

Burma’s pro-military parliament has passed a new law paving the way for compulsory service in the Burmese Army for up to five years in the case of a state of emergency.

… Burma-based human rights activist and lawyer Aye Myint told Radio Free Asia in 2010 that 121 incidents of forced recruitment had been reported in 2009 (Radio Free Asia, 2010).


March 20 “UN delays responding to Suu Kyi's call for new full-time envoy to Burma”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is still considering the appointment of a full-time replacement for the UN's special envoy to Burma, his spokesperson said in New York on Thursday.

… The Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was quoted earlier this month saying that she wanted an envoy to be appointed as soon as possible.

She told Radio Free Asia on March 4: "I think that if a responsible person is appointed full time to properly monitor Burma in depth, then the secretary-general will be apprised of the exact situation in Burma. That is why I am hoping that such a full-time person will be appointed as soon as possible."


March 17 “N. Korea willing to discuss uranium enrichment program at six-party talks”

In what appears to be another dialogue offer, North Korea has said it is willing to discuss its uranium enrichment program within the framework of the six-party nuclear talks once they resume, the North's state-run media said on March 15.

… Washington also recently classified North Korea as the main exporter of weapons of mass destruction to Middle Eastern nations such as Iran and Syria, Radio Free Asia reported. The declaration was made by the director of national intelligence in its report to Congress last month, the U.S.-funded station said.


March 17 “Protests after Tibetan monk self-immolates”

Hundreds of people protesting in western China were "violently suppressed" Thursday after a Tibetan monk burned himself to death, a Tibetan rights group said.

… Chinese authorities beat demonstrators and detained protesting monks after the 21-year old monk, who went by the one name of Phuntsog, died -- 10 hours after immolating himself to protest Chinese rule, Washington's International Campaign for Tibet said. After setting himself ablaze, he walked to a market square, shouting slogans, Radio Free Asia reported.


March 13 “Dalai Lama pleads for right to ‘retire’”
The Dalai Lama pleaded with exiled Tibetan MPs on Monday to accept his resignation as their political leader, warning that a delayed handover could pose "an overwhelming challenge."In a debate hosted Sunday by US-based broadcaster Radio Free Asia, all three candidates voiced clear reservations about assuming the Dalai Lama's political title and urged him to reconsider stepping down.


March 12 “RFA: WFP may curtail food aid to N.Korea”

Radio Free Asia (RFA) has reported that the World Food Programme (WFP) could stop providing food aid to North Korea from April due to lack of finances and surge in international grain prices.

The U.S. broadcaster cited the WFP’s spokeswoman for North Korea Nana Skau as saying that although its food supplies secured last year for aid will be depleted soon, future food aid plans cannot be devised. She reportedly said unless the international community provides funding, the WFP will be forced to reduce the amount of food it provides to North Korea.


March 11 “ExileTibetan candidates to debate”
A US-based broadcaster said Friday it would hold a live debate of candidates seeking to head the next Tibetan government-in-exile, as the Dalai Lama retires from his political position. Radio Free Asia said it would hold the live debate on radio, satellite television and the Internet on Sunday and hoped that Tibetans around the world -- including those living under Chinese rule -- would participate.

“Through this debate, Radio Free Asia provides a means for the Tibetan exile community worldwide to participate in a unique, democratic process that will affect the future of Tibetan affairs,” said Libby Liu, president of the US-funded broadcaster.


March 8 “More tanks in the streets of Pyongyang”

The North Korean regime has deployed more tanks in Pyongyang, apparently for fear that the “Jasmine Revolutions” in the Middle East could spread to the Stalinist country. A government source said on Sunday that the National Intelligence Service reported to the National Assembly's Intelligence Committee on Friday that more tanks were deployed in downtown Pyongyang.

Radio Free Asia on Feb. 15 said the North Korean Guard Command, a military unit tasked with protecting leader Kim Jong-il, has a battalion of about 50 tanks in the Taedong River area in eastern Pyongyang, and a defector from Pyongyang said there used to be a battalion of tanks in the underground area of the presidential palace while regime founder Kim Il-sung was alive.


March 7 “Vietnam releases dissident lawyer”

Vietnamese human rights lawyer has been freed from prison after serving a four-year sentence for advocating a multiparty system in Internet posts, an official said Monday. Nguyen Van Dai, 42, was released Sunday from Nam Ha prison in northern Ha Nam province, said prison chief Duong Duc Thang. Dai still has to serve four years of house arrest.

… In an interview with U.S.-based Radio Free Asia on Sunday, Dai said he did not commit any crime and that what he did was for his "personal desire" and the "aspiration for freedom and democracy" of Vietnamese people.


March 3 “South Korea winning its FMD battle; North falls behind”

The worst seems to be over for South Korean livestock producers as the latest foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak appears to have peaked in the wake of a second round of vaccines. The epidemic forced South Korean officials to slaughter nearly a third of the country’s hog and cattle herds. Damages caused by the outbreak are expected to hover around $2.6 billion.

Radio Free Asia (RFA) says the North Korean regime has blocked vehicle traffic into Pyongyang and stopped issuing travel permits from its provinces to the capital city, which was the first location where the disease broke out. As pig farms in Pyongyang run by the ruling party and the Army's Guard Command were among those affected, the regime was reluctant to admit the outbreak, RFA says.

KCNA (North Korean news wire)

March 1 “US psychological campaign denounced”

The United States has steadily conducted psychological campaign to bring down progressive countries.

… Radio Free Asia is what it uses as an important means for psychological campaign against the DPRK and other Asian countries at present.

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