Tuesday, January 15, 2008

One on One With Burma

Prashanth Parameswaran
January 14, 2008

Under secretary of State R. Nicholas Burns's proposals for action in Burma [op-ed, Jan. 8] are archaic and unconstructive. He said sanctions will continue, but experience suggests they undermine U.S. objectives.

Western sanctions against Rangoon in the 1990s crippled an already ravaged economy, forcing it further into the dangerous nexus of prostitution, drugs and organized crime. The economic vacuum was happily filled by China and others.

Mr. Burns was also far too idealistic on the "broad national dialogue" he wishes to achieve with China, India and ASEAN nations, which have shown no unity on Burma. Unless it is politically pressured or furious at the junta, China is unlikely to change.

The United States must start bilateral negotiations with Burma now.

Source: Washington Post

READ MORE---> One on One With Burma...

KNU and Regime Trade Charges Over Bomb Attacks

By Wai Moe
The Irrawaddy News
January 14, 2008

The Burmese regime and the Karen National Union (KNU) have traded accusations of responsibility for three bomb attacks over the past three days.

Two people died and several were injured in the attacks in Rangoon, Naypyidaw and Pyu in Pegu Division.

In separate reports on the attacks, the regime’s mouthpiece, The New Light of Myanmar, blamed “terrorist saboteurs” from abroad and a KNU “insurgent.” It said the accused “insurgent” had died while planting the Pyu bomb.

KNU spokesman David Taw denied the organization had anything to do with the attacks. Only military personnel with experience of explosives could plant such devices, he told The Irrawaddy.

“When something [like this] happens in Burma, they [the junta] accuse dissident groups, such as the KNU, the SSA [Shan State Army-South], the KNPP [Karenni National Progressive Party], based on the Thai-Burmese border,” Taw said.

The junta had been unable to track down those responsible for previous bomb attacks, he said—“then we are easily accused.”

The first bomb exploded last Friday at the main railway station of Naypyidaw, the Burmese capital. One woman died in the blast.

A second bomb exploded on Friday at a football ground in Pyu Township, near the site of a circus.

The third bomb exploded near the ticket office of Rangoon’s main railway station on Sunday. The New Light of Myanmar reported that a 73-year-old woman was injured by the blast, although an eyewitness said at least two people had been hurt.

The New Light Myanmar said: “Terrorist saboteurs have been sent into the nation across the border together with explosives to perpetrate destructive acts under the scheme of a group from abroad.” It did not name the accused group.

In its report on the Pyu bomb, The New Light of Myanmar said: “A KNU insurgent, [aged] about 25, was killed when the bomb he was planting to detonate exploded prematurely. People nearby seized a US-made 0.22 revolver in a holster [and] 20 rounds of ammunition.”

The New Light of Myanmar claimed the dead man was a member of the KNA’s Third Brigade.

The KNU has been fighting for half a century for autonomy for Karen State. It is the only major ethnic rebel group not to have agreed to a ceasefire with the junta.

In May, 2005, a series of bombs exploded in two supermarkets and a convention center in Rangoon, with an official toll of 19 dead and 162 injured. It’s thought that the real toll is higher.

Information Minister Brig-Gen Kyaw Hsan claimed at a Rangoon press conference: that it was “crystal clear” that the perpetrators and the bombs “originated from training conducted with foreign experts at a place in a neighboring country by a world-famous organization of a certain superpower nation.” The “certain superpower nation” was understood to be the US and the “world famous organization” consequently the CIA.

Analysts said the attacks could only have been carried out by well-trained operatives. Some believed that since the ouster of military intelligence chief Gen Khin Nyunt in October 2004, enemies of the junta had been planning to take advantage of internal conflicts and possible security lapses.Rescued Document/Original Link not longer active:

READ MORE---> KNU and Regime Trade Charges Over Bomb Attacks...

Burmese Boxers fight for survival in Thailand

Sourced from: Sit Mone - Watch Video
Original Source: Aljazeera News
January 14, 2008

Harsh conditions in Myanmar result in residents crossing the border into Thailand in search of a better life.

One of the ways for young men to make money is to put their bodies on the line in boxing contests.
Rescued Document/ Original Link no longer active:

READ MORE---> Burmese Boxers fight for survival in Thailand...

Junta Incapable of Managing The Power Supply


Original Source: Thet Naig - Democratic Voice of Burma
Translated: Nay Chi U - Who is Who in Burma
12 January 2008

Ordinary civilians who live in the towns of Magwe' Division such as Pakkoku and Ye' Sagyo are suffering because the power supplies have been cut from 6 hours a day to just one night every 3 days, it is reported.

Business owners, who can't afford to buy a generator, have had their businesses come to a halt. Consequently, labourers who depend on their daily income are in deep trouble and the local factories which produce daily goods are struggling to survive.

"Snack shops need their batter mixed daily so they just have to close the shop on the days that they can't get the electricity. Small factories producing scented candles, thanaka (Burmese natural make up, made from trees)etc., all suffer too as they rely on the regular reliable power supply."

Some manufacturers who can afford generators also found that business is not profitable as the fuel prices have gone up so steeply.

"With normal power supply, our products can be sold for K 500/- each but with generator power we have to charge K1000/- for the same goods at least. We have employed workers but they are just having non-working days most of the time. Since we have a hire contract, we still have to pay them their daily fees, and we are losing a lot," said one employer.

Every other area in Burma has similar problems as the power supply 'services' have been gradually going from bad to worse, and now virtually non-existent, since the military government took over the country in 1962. The leading generals changed - from Nay Win to Khin Nyunt to now Than Shwe. Names of the ruling bodies changed - from Socialist Government to SLORC to now SPDC. However none, after all these years, has ever been able to muster the competence, to manage to supply the country with the sufficient electric power.

Rescued Document/Original Link not longer active:

READ MORE---> Junta Incapable of Managing The Power Supply...

HIV patients living in South Dagon are developing depression


Original Source : Than Htike Oo - Mizzima Burmese News
Translated : Smile Su - Art of Patience FREE BURMA's Team
January 14, 2008

HIV patients from two houses (Township 18 and 20) opening in South Dagon are now developing depression after their respectful Ma Phyu Phyu Thin has gone into hiding five months ago.

"She is a warm and kind person to HIV patients," said one patient Ma Nu Nu Tun Wai Shein. She added, "She wants to see and speak to Ma Phyu Phyu Thin who is missing now."

All of the HIV patients from the houses are expecting Ma Phyu Phyu Thin's return and some of them died while waiting for her return.

Another HIV male patient said, "Ma Phyu Phyu Thin helped them all with their needs, took them to the hospitals, organise the drugs, cared for them all by herself. She dealt with accommodation and financial problems, now they are finding difficulties because of her absence.

Since last August 2007, she led the Yangon demonstration for commodity high prices. She has gone into hiding because Junta follow her. She took responsibility for two houses in South Dagon Township since 2002 and over (1800) patients from the whole country could obtain drugs until now. Last year, HIV patients (600) received health care directly from the houses and other (40) patients from rural were supported with ARV drugs.

Ma Phyu Phyu Thin's coworker, Ko Yarzar said, "Usually, most of them rely on her psychologically, three of them have already died". Before she went missing she received donations for drug expenses from her friends and private donors. Now the center finds itself under financial stress and other difficulties.

Ma Phyu Phyu Thin's sister, Ma Sabei Oo said, "the situation is not the same as before. The rest of the staff can do very little, supplying drugs, taking blood samples etc. they are not trained to help out with a wide range of daily tasks."

AZG clinic from RSF and Wabargi from North Okkala are famous for providing ARV drugs. Since the Junta closed the Meggin monastery HIV patients could not get health care.

According to UN AIDS records, there are over 360,000 HIV infected persons in Myanmar and Ministry of Health use only US$100,000 for HIV preventing projects. That amount is (250) times less than for each person to get medical care in comparison with Thailand.

READ MORE---> HIV patients living in South Dagon are developing depression...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Singapore Permanent Residence, A gateway to Singapore Regional Market

Unrelated to Burma but useful to Burmeses in Singapore

Becoming a Permanent Resident in Singapore would mean reaping real benefits. Larger savings in the form of CPF contributions, subsidies for education, and advantaged healthcare are to name a few. Read on to know how you can claim the Singapore promise of quality LIVE, WORK and PLAY.

Becoming a Permanent Resident in Singapore would mean reaping real benefits. Larger savings in the form of CPF contributions, subsidies for education, and advantaged healthcare are to name a few. Read on to know how you can claim the Singapore promise of quality LIVE, WORK and PLAY.

Singapore continues to welcome immigrants who can identify with way of life here and whose diverse talents can contribute to the vibrancy and viability of the country. An annual average of 36,000 people has been granted permanent residence status over the last ten years - that is from 1996 to 2006. Last year alone, about 57000 PR’s were conferred. Singapore welcomes deserving talents with open arms and consultancies of caliber as Rikvin offer seamless service to make the immigration process a cakewalk.

Singapore Permanent Residence

It is common for foreigners who have experienced Singapore life to seek the status of Permanent Residence here. The country hosts a kind of environment healthy for both work and play, making it a more attractive place to live in.

Singapore offers several options for those who aspire to be Singapore Permanent Residents (PRs) or Singapore Citizens (SCs). The Singapore government adjusted the requirements accordingly to ensure that new PRs and SCs fit the relevant profile.

An applicant can seek PR status under the following grounds:

  • Scheme for Professional/Technical Personnel/Skilled Workers Permanent Residents (PR) status under the Professionals,
  • Technical Personnel & Skilled Workers Scheme (PTS) is conferred to those who have secured employment in Singapore prior to PR application.
  • They should also hold an Employment Pass (P or Q Pass).
  • Applicants must be below 50 years of age.
  • The spouse and unmarried children (below 21 years of age) of a PR may also apply for PR status.
  • Applicants under this scheme will be assessed by a Points System,
    • which takes into account the type of employment pass,
    • duration of stay in Singapore,
    • academic qualifications,
    • basic monthly salary,
    • age,
    • kinship ties in Singapore.
Scheme for InvestorsForeigners interested in starting up a business or wishing to invest in Singapore, may apply for Permanent Residence (PR) status for themselves and their immediate family (spouse and unmarried children 21 years of age and below) under the Investor Scheme, by choosing one of the following options: ▫
  • Invest at least S$1 million in a new business startup or

  • expansion of an existing business operation
  • Invest at least $1.5 million in a new business startup, expansion of an existing operation, approved Singapore-incorporated venture capital fund or Singapore-incorporated foundation or trust that focuses on economic development
  • Invest at least $2 million in a new business startup, expansion of an existing operation, approved Singapore-incorporated venture capital fund or Singapore-incorporated foundation or trust that focuses on economic development. Residential property can be purchased with not more than 50% of the investment amount
Under this scheme, the entrepreneurial track record, the business or investment plan and skills will be considered in granting PR.

Landed Permanent Residence

Those who have acceptable professional or tertiary qualifications, are working in professional, managerial or specialist jobs and are interested in relocating to Singapore but are currently not working in Singapore can apply for Landed Permanent Residence.

A LPR is valid for up to 2 years within which the holder must find a suitable employment or relocate their families to Singapore. PR will be granted once employment is secured or the family has relocated to Singapore.

Singapore Permanent Resident Status under Foreign Artistic Talent Scheme Foreign artistic talents in art, photography, dance, music, theatre, literature and film may apply for Singapore Permanent Resident Status under Foreign Artistic Talent Scheme. This Scheme is jointly administered by the Singapore Immigration and the National Arts Council (NAC).

Eligible foreign talents should have received formal training and /or have relevant working experience and have already established a reputation both at home and abroad. Applicants have to send a application along with resume and relevant testimonials to NAC which on perusal will send a PR application form deserving candidates. On receiving the completed form NAC will recommend the applicant to the Singapore Immigration for its decision. Approved-in-Principle (AIP) PR Scheme This scheme provides a 5-year approval-in-principle PR to successful Hong Kong applicants. Holders can obtain Permanent Residence status if they secure employment or relocate their family to Singapore within the 5 years validity period. Hong Kong residents who satisfy certain guidelines can apply for permanent residence. The following categories of foreigners are also eligible to apply:
  • Spouse and unmarried children (below 21 years old) of a Singapore Citizen (SC)/Permanent Resident (SPR);
  • Aged parents of a Singapore Citizen;
For foreign investors who are interested in the application of Singapore Permanent Residence (“PR”), Rikvin can assist with application of Permanent Residence. Rikvin has an Advisory Team to answer your queries on the areas of eligibility criteria or application procedures and assist you with the needed requirements. You can call Rikvin at (65) 6438 8887 to discuss specific requirements obligation-free. Alternatively, email enquires can be forwarded to info@rikvin.com.

Rikvin consultancy started in 1995 is an incorporation specialist specializing in company incorporation, registration and administration processing for all business types and sizes in Singapore and throughout the world. Its highly professional company incorporation services are both in attractive standard packages as well as customized parcels. It facilitates foreign entrepreneurs’ immigration into Singapore by assisting in obtaining Entre-pass for themselves and their families and employment pass for their employees. Rikvin also provides a full range of accounting services for companies who require a complete and properly constructed set of financial statements for their business purposes. Visit http://www.rikvin.com for further information.

Source: India PR Wire
Dec 17, 2007

Rescued Document/ Original Link no longer active:

READ MORE---> Singapore Permanent Residence, A gateway to Singapore Regional Market...


Sourced: Ko Moe Thee Golden Colour Revolution
January 13 , 2008

We heard SPDC is secretly negotiating with Chinese and Thai phone companies to trace the signals of phones inside Burma. They are giving them lucrative contracts in return for providing SPDC the location of the signals.

Anybody using the phones originated by Thai or Chinese phone companies should be careful.

Use only when necessary and use the phone only 1-2 minutes ( I do not know the exact time SPDC needs to trace a call).

They are also trying to hack gmail accounts. So, change your password frequently.


Soldier, What will you do after you join the Myanmar Army

Junta give social award to those who hit the people

Original Source: Ko Htike (photo) - undisclosed
Translated: Smile Su - Art of Patience FREE BURMA Team
January 14, 2008

Swan Arr Shin Naing Tun, living in Lanmadaw township, was being awarded third prize because he led well to hit the monks and people in September attack.

He shares the money and protects the beauty salon named "Than Sin", which is at No. 69, 2nd floor, 14th Street, Lanmadaw Township. The beauty salon houses call girls (ladies of bad reputation).

READ MORE---> Soldier, What will you do after you join the Myanmar Army...

'88 Burmese Resisters Aid Countrymen From Abroad

Nora Boustany
December 8, 2007

Student leaders who fled Burma after the 1988 pro-democracy uprising are raising money to help boost a resistance movement that is demanding political rights and lower prices on commodities in the country, according to a board member of Refugees International, a Washington-based organization.

Eileen Shields-West, who recently spent several days in the Thai town of Mae Sot, just three miles from the Burmese border, said relief workers shared stories about the Buddhist monks who escaped the military crackdown this fall.

Many of the monks reached safety by floating down the Moei River at night on inner tubes.

To evade government troops, one monk bleached his new crop of hair blond, shed his saffron robes and started wearing a crucifix after pictures of him were distributed and his mother was kidnapped, Shields-West said.

The monk is now seeking political asylum, said Dawn Calabia, a senior adviser to Refugees International who accompanied Shields-West to the Burmese border area last month.

But the number of dissidents streaming out of the country has been much smaller than it was in 1988, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, based in Thailand.

The reason, Shields-West said, "is that people are waiting, staying in Burma and eager to try again. The protests lasted longer this time; they were more powerful and closer to turning the tide."

"People will never forgive or forget what happened this time, because they saw monks being mistreated," Shields-West said.

"In the eyes of civilians, none of this will be forgotten, so they believe there will be another uprising," she added.

Life is so harsh in Burma that citizens and even military personnel travel to settlement camps in border areas and Thailand for medical treatment, Shields-West said.

Burma's military killed far more than the 10 victims it says died in its September crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators, a Human Rights Watch report said Friday; a U.N. investigator documented at least 31 dead.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the U.N. investigator, said that "credible sources" reported that a large number of bodies were burned in the last days of September.

Based on hundreds of interviews with witnesses in Burma and Thailand, Human Rights Watch determined that security forces had "shot into the crowds using live ammunition and rubber bullets, beat marchers and monks before dragging them onto trucks and arbitrarily detained thousands of people."

"The crackdown in Burma is far from over," said Brad Adams, the group's Asia director.

Source: Washington Post

READ MORE---> '88 Burmese Resisters Aid Countrymen From Abroad...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Burma villagers sift for junta's glitzy scraps - Military scoops up nation's lucrative gem, gold deposits

By Paul Watson, Los Angeles Times

Kharbar, Burma -- Squatting along the rocky banks of the Nmai Hka River, villagers labor from dawn till dusk over large wooden pans, scrounging for crumbs from the junta's table.

Children barely big enough to swirl the heavy slurry toil alongside men and women, doing backbreaking work that exposes them to toxic mercury.

Every few minutes, they pause and tilt their dripping pans to catch the sunlight, hoping for the glint from a few golden flecks that haven't been scooped up with the rest of Burma's vast mineral wealth by the ruling generals and their cronies.

On a recent day by the river, Ja Bu, 46, strained to lift shovel loads of slurry as a 10-year-old boy, ankle-deep in the cold, muddy water, worked a pan big enough for him to bathe in.

Sixty miles west, Ja Bu's younger brother was searching for jade in the drainage ditch of a mine exhausted years ago by the junta. The few dollars that Ja Bu and her brother manage to scratch together each day from what the generals didn't take buys food, clothes and shelter for 10 people.

During 45 years of military rule, the generals have steadily consolidated control over the country's most lucrative mining areas. They have amassed enormous wealth from gems, minerals, timber and other vast natural resources, and left most of Burma's people poor.

The junta tightly controls access to its large gem and jade mines, but remote places such as Kharbar offer a glimpse of a struggling people's helpless, yet strengthening, rage against the government.

The junta's violent crackdown against pro-democracy street demonstrations in September, the largest in two decades, sparked new calls for an international boycott of the government's biggest moneymakers, including rubies, sapphires, oil and natural gas.

First lady Laura Bush has urged jewelers not to buy gems from Burma, also known as Myanmar. Some of the world's biggest names in precious stones, such as Cartier, Bulgari and Tiffany, say they won't sell Burma's blood-tainted treasures anymore.

The U.S. Senate passed legislation last month to tighten sanctions against the junta by banning imports of that country's rubies and high-quality jade. The House already passed its version of the bill but must act again on the Senate-passed version to approve minor differences.

But as Western shoppers shun Burma's jewels, buyers from neighboring China are rushing in to scoop up the country's gold and jade, highly prized by the growing middle class and by the fabulously wealthy, eager to find more ways to flaunt their new wealth.

It's one of the main reasons why the junta is still strong after years of sanctions: When Western countries try to tighten the economic noose, neighbors led by China, India and Thailand loosen the knot by increasing trade and investment in Burma.

Government officials say jade replaced rubies as the main attraction at a state-run auction held recently in Rangoon, the capital, also known as Yangon. The fourth auction this year, it raised about $125 million for the junta in badly needed foreign currency.

But the junta doesn't let much trickle down to places like Kharbar, a remote northern stretch near the Himalayan foothills, close to the Chinese border.

It's a spectacularly beautiful, unforgiving place where villagers live in thatched huts with walls woven from bamboo. Thin as cardboard, they are flimsy shelter against frigid winter winds. And as the cost of food and fuel rises, so does the villagers' resentment, which roils like the rapids of the Nmai Hka that taunts them with tiny gifts of gold.

Dong Shi, a wiry man in a green sweater splitting at the seams, has been working the brown slough and bamboo sluices here for three years.

On a good day, he finds $8 worth of gold flakes, the biggest about the size of a pinhead. Like other prospectors, he must pay $250, or more than half an average person's annual income here, to the owner of the land for permission to pan just 10 square feet of riverbank.

After Dong Shi pays his stake's owner, his share of the diesel to run a generator and sluice pumps, school fees for his four kids and other mounting expenses, he has little left.

"We eat all that I earn," he said. "I have nothing left in my pocket. Tomorrow, I go back to work on the river, just to have some more food."

It is grueling, risky work. To separate gold particles from the slurry, miners squeeze drops of mercury from strips of cloth soaked in quicksilver, exposing them and the river fish they eat to dangerous levels of the heavy metal, which can damage kidneys and the nervous system.

For all the prospectors' pain and risk, most pans come up bust. So they dig deeper, push the limits harder.

Desperate to hit pay dirt, dreaming of finding a rare nugget instead of just flecks, some villagers rig up hand pumps onshore to homemade breathing hoses, and wade into the middle of the river. They work for up to three hours at time under water.

As the economic chasm widens between Burma's people and their corrupt military rulers, places that were once synonymous with the sparkle of precious stones are now earning a darker reputation as hotbeds of political dissent.

One is Mogok, for centuries the entrance to the Valley of Rubies, which lies slightly more than 200 miles south of Kharbar but might as well be a thousand, because the government rarely allows foreign visitors to see for themselves what is happening there.

Some of the earliest protests against rising fuel prices were held in Mogok last summer before they spread to the capital and grabbed world attention. In November, more than 50 Buddhist monks defied the junta's crackdown and marched peacefully through Mogok.

Anger has been boiling beneath the surface there for years as the junta pushed out more small-scale miners, who are left to search the dregs of abandoned mines, said Soe Myint, a leader in exile of detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.

"Most of the gems are mined by government firms, or those affiliated with the junta, the generals' relatives and cronies," said Myint, who was elected to Burma's parliament in 1990 and then jailed for 14 years when the military rejected Suu Kyi's victory at the polls.

"Whether it's jade, rubies or sapphires, locals cannot mine them anymore. They only get a very small portion. That's why Mogok is at the forefront of the demonstrations. The local people have nothing else to do because all the land has been confiscated by the government and government companies."

The trade in gemstones, the country's third-largest source of revenue, is dominated by the Union of Burma Economic Holdings Limited, a consortium co-owned by the Defense Ministry and military officers who hold the bulk of the company's shares.

The government tightly controls access to the country's gem and jade mines, but it's possible to get a hint of the suffering that has stirred so much anger against the junta by traveling north to the rough roads and fast-moving rivers around Kharbar. Here, two rivers fed by Himalayan glaciers converge to give birth to the Irrawaddy River, the broad backbone of Burma.

Long canoes with ear-splitting motors are the only way into the region's most promising gold panning sites, one of the last places where small-scale miners can legally eke out a living. The area also is home to some of the world's best jade deposits.

But the junta shut the biggest operations down two years ago, and the flood of cash from Chinese businesspeople suddenly dropped off. The local economy suffered more as most of the jade trade moved south to Mandalay, where more than 100 factories cut and polish the stones, mainly to supply growing demand in China.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

READ MORE---> Burma villagers sift for junta's glitzy scraps - Military scoops up nation's lucrative gem, gold deposits...

Grants to help refugees from Myanmar obtain health care

FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- Northeastern Indiana charities bracing for another wave of refugees fleeing Myanmar's repressive regime say $133,000 in grants from Catholic Charities will help provide health care to the often sickly new arrivals.

Catholic Charities, the local State Department-approved refugee-sponsoring agency, expects about 30 refugees to arrive in Fort Wayne in early February from Myanmar, also known as Burma.

Those arrivals will be the first of an estimated 800 to 1,000 new refugees from Myanmar who will settle in the city this year, said Debbie Schmidt, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Fort Wayne/South Bend.

"We have a massive amount of refugees coming in," said Schmidt, who was in Washington, D.C., last week to lobby for additional aid for Catholic Charities and other local agencies serving the refugees.

Fort Wayne is home to an estimated 3,000 to 3,500 people from Myanmar who have fled the Southeast Asian nation, where a military junta has cracked down on supporters of democracy.

In an average year, 100 to 200 refugees from Myanmar settle in Allen County. But secondary migration from other communities accounts for an even greater portion of the refugee population.

About 40 percent of the adult refugees from Myanmar are likely to be infected with latent tuberculosis and hepatitis, officials have said. Many of the children will likely suffer from low body weight and will need standard childhood vaccinations, the foundation said.

About $98,000 of the new grant money will create a Refugee Health Program and pay for a coordinator and an administrative aide. Another $35,000 will help coordinate medical interpreters, said the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation, which announced the grants Friday.

The new health program will coordinate medical follow-ups for refugees by setting appointments, providing help with Medicaid, arranging for transportation and interpreters.

The grant money will also help to enhance electronic medical records shared among local free or low-cost medical providers and the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health.

Fort Wayne's city-county health department anticipates asking the Allen County Council for additional money to help pay for disease screening and follow-up services for refugees. Health officials are also seeking a waiver to charge Medicaid for services provided to covered patients.

Source: Indy Star

READ MORE---> Grants to help refugees from Myanmar obtain health care...

Bomb kills ethnic Karen rebel, injures 4 civilians in Myanmar, state media reports

YANGON, Myanmar: A bomb exploded during a circus show in northern Myanmar, injuring four civilians and killing the Karen rebel who allegedly planted the explosive, state media reported Sunday.

The bomb was detonated Friday evening in rural Pyu township, killing a 25-year-old member of the Karen National Union who allegedly set it off, the New Light of Myanmar reported.

The explosive device wounded four others, including a 4-year-old boy, the paper said.

The report said a revolver, 20 rounds of ammunition and two other explosive were found on the dead man's body.

A suspect, who was arrested as he tried to leave the scene, said the victim was a member of the KNU, the paper said.

The KNU has been fighting for half a century for greater autonomy from Myanmar's military government. It is the only major ethnic rebel group not to have agreed to a cease-fire with Myanmar's junta

Early Friday, another bomb exploded at a railway station in the new administrative capital of Naypyitaw, killing a 40-year-old ethnic Karen woman.

Investigators said the woman set off the bomb, the paper reported. The report said traces of gunpowder were found on the clothes in her luggage.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for either bombing.

The state-run paper said a major organization "provided terrorists with cash and equipment to create public panic and to carry out bombings in the country with the intention to destabilize the country."

It did not name any group or organization.

Authorities have recently warned the public to be vigilant against terrorists and to cooperate with officials by informing them of suspicious activities and turning in the suspects.

Terrorism is rare but not unknown in Myanmar, which has been under military rule almost continuously since 1962.

The country underwent extreme political turmoil in September, when the government crushed nonviolent, pro-democracy demonstrations, detained thousands and killed at least 31 people, according to a U.N. investigator, whose tally was twice the toll acknowledged by the junta.

The government often blames political opponents and ethnic rebels for bombings, though no firm evidence has been produced. Government opponents deny carrying out attacks on civilians.

Pyu is about 192 kilometers (120 miles) north of Yangon.

Source: AP - IHT

READ MORE---> Bomb kills ethnic Karen rebel, injures 4 civilians in Myanmar, state media reports...

Myanmar sees three consecutive explosions

Ha Noi (VNA) - At about 8:00 GMT on January 13, a blast at a railway station in Myanmar's main city of Yangon injured a woman, foreign media reported.

One day earlier, a bomb blasted in Bago Division, central Myanmar, claiming a life and injuring four others.

The two blasts followed a bomb exploded at the railway station in Pyinmana township in the new capital city of Naypyidaw on January 11. The January 11 bombing, the first in the new capital city, killed a 40-year old woman.

After the bombings, the Myanmar authorities called on the people to keep constant vigilance.

Three state-run major papers ran news items on the bombings, saying that “terrorists” were planning to conduct bombings in the country and calling on the people to raise vigilance and inform the authorities of any suspicious actions as well.

Source: News Agency

READ MORE---> Myanmar sees three consecutive explosions...

Young Martyr Ko Ko Win

Original Source: Nwe Aye - Nicknayman blog - photo
Translated: Nay Chi U - Who is Who in Burma

Since 1962, there have been countless Democracy Freedom Fighters, who have been brutally killed by the ruthless military junta. One of those Martyrs, who selflessly and willingly gave their lives for the freedom and development of their beloved country was Ko Ko Win.

The eldest son of U Htay Oo and Daw Win Win Myint, who lived in 376 Marga Road, 12th Quarter, South Okkala, Ko Ko Win protested in September's Golden Colour Revolution. On 27 September, at the foot of Shwe Dagon Pagoda, he was beaten by soldiers and riot police. His head, back and chest were hit with steel batons. He was being treated at first, in local clinics but was sent to Thingun Gyun Hospital on 24 October, as his condition was worsening. He died on 3nd November, as a result of the head injury he sustained during the attack.

Burma, an independent country, in name only, will be staging many more fightings until the Democracy Freedom is achieved and inevitably, there will be many more fallings of its most precious stars.

READ MORE---> Young Martyr Ko Ko Win...

UK health, child aid to Burma doubles

By Supalak G Khundee

The United Kingdom will double humanitarian aid to Burma this year despite the difficulties in providing such assistance in the military-ruled country, a senior British official said.

The assistance will be increased from ฃ9 million (Bt520 million) last year to ฃ18 million this year, UK Secretary of State for International Development Douglas Alexander, who was in Thailand to visit Burmese refugees along the border, said yesterday.

Alexander visited the largest refugee camp of Mae La on the Thai-Burmese border in Tak province, which shelters more than 40,000 refugees.

"As the leading donor, I want to understand the scale of the challenge and capacity of aid agencies on the ground in the region who provide support to Burmese who have fled from the military regime," he said after a visit to the camp on Thursday.

The additional assistance from the UK will help more children to have basic education and treat more people who are facing the threat of malaria, tuberculosis and Aids, he said.

The assistance will go through international agencies such as the United Nations Development Programme, Unicef and some NGOs like Save The Children, rather than through the military regime, he said.

International pressure and the political situation in Burma make humanitarian assistance inside the junta-ruled country very difficult, he added but said agencies such as the UN had experience working in challenging environments.

Alexander said he had met several refugees, both ones who had lived in the camp since 1984 and ones who had arrived a few months ago.

Some of them told him their tragic stories of rape, forced labour, violence and severe political pressure that had caused them to flee.

However, the British official said he was impressed with the management of the refugee camp by NGOs such as the Thai-Burma Border Consortium as well as healthcare facilities run by Dr Cynthia Maung.

Source: The Nation

READ MORE---> UK health, child aid to Burma doubles...

Ban on timber imports from Burma could be lifted

Cheewin Sattha Piyarach Chongcharoen

Critics say embargo makes no sense

The northern province of Mae Hong Son is considering lifting a ban on Burmese timber imports, citing disadvantages from indirectly buying Burmese timber from neighbouring countries. Mae Hong Son governor Thongchai Wongrianthong said the province is thinking of resuming the timber trade with ethnic Burmese minorities which get approval from the ruling Burmese junta.

''Mae Hong Son borders Burma, but we let business opportunities slip away while Malaysia, China and Singapore have imported timber from Burma. Thailand ends up buying Burmese timber from Malaysia,'' he said.

Meanwhile, Mae Hong Son authorities seized 926 items of processed golden teak wood and timber processing machines in a raid at a factory in Muang district on Friday.

On the previous day, authorities confiscated a number of processed pieces of timber from the factory belonging to Direk Puyati.

Muang district police chief Pathom Prachankhet said Mr Direk claimed he purchased the wood from the Forest Industry Organisation in Tak's Phop Phra district.

However, Pol Col Pathom said the timber was fresh and was possibly felled illegally less than three weeks earlier.

A source said a smuggling ring had supplied timber from Thailand and Burma to a police general, who is reportedly building a golden teak house in Samut Prakan which he plans to sell to wealthy businessmen or politicians.

In Kanchanaburi, governor Amnart Pakarat wants better protection for the Khao Chang Phuak forest in tambon Huay Khayeng of Thong Pha Phum district.

The governor made the statement after the recent discovery that 1,000 rai of the forest had been cleared for rubber plantations.

He said officials also found 13 stumps of hundred-year-old deciduous dipterocarp trees, measuring more than two metres in diameter, and processed timber in Ban Huaykob in tambon Nonglu, in Kanchanaburi's Sangkhla district.

He urged authorities to beef up forest protection measures and take action against encroachers.

The governor conceded that a lack of manpower hampered forest conservation work.

The 10th Forest Protection Unit in Kanchanaburi, which has less than 10 officials, has to take care of a vast area of forest, which stretches over seven million rai, he said.

He is to report the problem to the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry so that appropriate action would be taken.

Source: Bangkok Post

READ MORE---> Ban on timber imports from Burma could be lifted...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

200-tons of Burmese rice arrive in Teknaf land port

Teknaf, Bangladesh: About 200 metric tons of rice from Burma arrived at Bangladesh’s Teknaf land port on January 10, on board cargo ships after the two neighboring countries agreed to export rice from Burma to Bangladesh, sources said.

On January 10, the rice arrived at Teknaf land port on a vessel, and many more tons of rice is coming from Burma to our country by many vessels, according to official sources.

On January 9, another vessel with 250 metric tons was unloaded at Teknaf land port, which was imported by Bismilla trading company.

Another vessel with 1,500 metric tons will be arriving soon from Singapore to Bangladesh through Mahi and Brothers Company, according to official sources.

In November 2007, 398 metric tons, in December 1997.730 tons, in January, 2008, 450 tons were exported to Bangladesh through Teknaf land port.

An official source from Bangladesh said that the Burmese authorities have stockpiled up to 2,500 tons of rice at the Sittwe port for export to Bangladesh, with the rice expected to reach Bangladesh next week.

Businessmen from Bangladesh asked the Bangladesh government to import rice from Burma after many rounds of discussions with concerned authorities of Burma as the price of the rice is less than other countries.

Md Hashim, the owner of Mahi and Brothers from Teknaf said, "If we continue the import rice from Burma, the price of rice will fall in Bangladesh.”

One businessman, from Shwe Tin Ton Company in Maungdaw won a tender from the authorities of Burma to export 5,000 tons of rice to Bangladesh.

As the rice prices have increased dramatically in Bangladesh, the prices in Maungdaw Township have also increased. A 50 kilogram bag of normal quality rice increased from 24,000 kyat to 27,000 kyat. Many ordinary people are now suffering from the high rice prices in Maungdaw Township, said a local family.

At present, Bangladesh is facing a shortage of rice due to the damage to farms across the country by storms and flooding. The country is now importing large amounts of rice from neighboring countries, including Burma, India, Thailand, Pakistan, and Vietnam, to meet the shortage of rice and to check the price rise.

The World Food Program also agreed to provide support in preventing a crisis by bringing in 500,000 metric tons of rice to Bangladesh.

Source: Kaladan Press

READ MORE---> 200-tons of Burmese rice arrive in Teknaf land port...

Myanmar's ruling junta warns public to be vigilant after bomb blast kills woman

YANGON, Myanmar: Myanmar's ruling junta warned the public to be vigilant and report suspicious activities following a bombing that killed one woman in the capital, state-run media said Saturday.

A bomb exploded at a railway station in Naypyitaw early Friday, killing a 40-year-old ethnic Karen woman, the Myanmar Ahlin daily reported.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility. The government has not blamed any group, but the news report said terrorists were smuggling explosives into the country to carry out bombings.

Authorities warned the public to be vigilant against terrorists and to cooperate with officials by informing them of suspicious activities and turning in the suspects, the report said.

Terrorism is rare but not unknown in Myanmar, which has been under military rule almost continuously since 1962.

The country underwent extreme political turmoil in September, when the government crushed nonviolent, pro-democracy demonstrations, detained thousands and killed at least 31 people, according to a U.N. investigator, whose tally was twice the toll acknowledged by the junta.

Naypyitaw is in a remote area 400 kilometers (250 miles) north of Yangon, the country's old capital and biggest city. It became the country's new administrative capital and main military stronghold in November 2005 and is heavily guarded.

The most deadly terrorist incident in recent years in Myanmar took place in May 2005, when three bombs went off almost simultaneously at two upscale supermarkets and a convention center in Yangon. About two dozen people were killed and another 162 injured.

Several small bombings occurred in the country last year, causing minor damage and injuries.

The government often blames political opponents and ethnic rebels for the bombings, though no firm evidence has been produced. Government opponents deny carrying out attacks on civilians.

Myanmar's military government recently warned that such groups were planning more bombings in major cities.

Source: International Herald Tribune

READ MORE---> Myanmar's ruling junta warns public to be vigilant after bomb blast kills woman...

Bomb blast kills woman in Myanmar's military capital

Yangon - A bomb blast in a public toilet killed a woman in Myanmar's military capital of Naypyitaw, state media reports confirmed Saturday.

Naw Gay Lar, 40, died en route to hospital from injuries she suffered from the explosion at 4:30 am Friday in a public toilet near the Naypyitaw railway station, said The New Light of Myanmar.

Government sources claimed the bomb was the handiwork of 'insurgents who have sent terrorists and explosives to the country, across the border, to carry out sabotage,' said the paper, a government mouthpiece.

Myanmar's ruling junta shifted the capital in late 2004 from Yangon to Naypyitaw, primarily for security reasons.

The new capital, about 350 kilometres north of Yangon, has proven unpopular among the many civil servants forced to relocate to the remote area.

According to some sources, Myanmar's Foreign Affairs and Interior ministries may shift back to Yangon in the near future. (JEG's: ooooh they boys are coming back to town...)

Source: Monsters and Critics (M&C)

READ MORE---> Bomb blast kills woman in Myanmar's military capital...

Burma dissident attacks UN-backed talks

By Graeme Jenkins in Rangoon

Burma's most senior dissident leader to escape arrest in the crackdown following the pro-democracy protests in September has condemned United Nations-backed talks between the opposition and the military regime as a sham.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, held at a secret location in Rangoon, the former capital, the man known only by his codename "Phoenix" provided a rare insight into the obscure world of the country's underground pro-democracy movement, which while weakened and on the run still believes that people power can overthrow the junta.

Speaking before Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate and leader of the National League for Democracy, was taken yesterday from house arrest to meet a government negotiator, Phoenix said that he feared the talks were a "trap" designed to fend off international pressure. The talks were brokered by Ibrahim Gambari, the UN special envoy, after the junta crushed the protests, killing at least 31 people.

Yesterday's meeting was their fourth, but the first in almost two months.

Phoenix said: "It seems like a trap set by the government to buy some time from the international community. Mr Gambari is trying to come again but I don't expect much of what he can do." (JEG's: actually Phoenix is right, everytime Gambari is coming the junta decides to show their "willing side")

He welcomed international pressure on the regime, but added: "International support is not where the answer lies. The answer lies within us, within the country. The problem is not that the government are strong but the opposition, we are not strong enough." (JEG's: UNITY is the answer here... united will be able to work their way through into power)

Phoenix is the acting leader of the "88 Generation" - activists who led demonstrations in 1988, when an estimated 3,000 demonstrators where killed by the army.

He was instrumental in orchestrating the protests in September, when thousands of monks took to the streets to demand political change.

After earlier protests had been disrupted by government thugs, he explained: "We thought of getting more power and that power we can get from the monks. We started talking to the monks to show their support for our movement and to back us up."

Rangoon is a city gripped by fear. Following the crackdown, during which hundreds of people were arrested in night-times raids, locals try to avoid a foreigner's eye. No one wants to talk.

There are informers everywhere. Each neighbourhood has a government office with photographs of every resident, where guests must be registered.

"Even inside their families people cannot talk loud," said Phoenix. The question for Phoenix and his allies is whether his movement can survive.

The first protest by monks took place in the north-western town of Sittwe at the end of August. Near there, in a candle-lit, windowless room, The Daily Telegraph recently met the leader of the Sittwe monks.

Many of his followers have been dispersed in the clampdown and he shifts location almost daily to avoid arrest.

"I am planning to try again to organise a demo," he said. "Whether it is possible or impossible to beat this government I don't know, but we must try."

Source: Telegraph

READ MORE---> Burma dissident attacks UN-backed talks...

Burma: Boycott Gems Funding Military Repression

New York

Consumers and merchants should not buy jade, rubies, and other gems from Burma until the military government ends its repression, which is partly funded by gem sales, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch called for a boycott in advance of a gem auction scheduled from January 15 to 19 in Rangoon.

The upcoming gem auction is organized by the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Company Ltd., a military conglomerate. Shares in the holding company are held by the Ministry of Defense and members of the armed forces. Its board of directors is comprised of senior military officers.

"Sales of rubies and jade help bankroll Burma's repressive military," said Arvind Ganesan, director of the Business and Human Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. "Consumers should insist that their jewelry is not made with Burmese gems."

The Burmese military government, notorious for decades of abuse, made international headlines in August and September when it used deadly force in response to peaceful protests by monks, pro-democracy activists, and ordinary civilians. Hundreds of people remain arbitrarily detained.

"Burma's generals are counting on gem sales to help pay for their abusive rule," said Ganesan. "They deserve to be disappointed."

Human Rights Watch advised consumers to ask retailers about the origin of the jewelry they sell, and to decline to purchase from retailers who are not able to offer informed answers or who are unwilling to identify the country of origin of the jewels in writing, such as on the sales receipt.

Retailers should require their suppliers to identify the country of origin on any invoices and to guarantee that gemstones were not mined in Burma, Human Rights Watch said. Retailers should also seek to verify the accuracy of their suppliers' claims.

Sourced: Human Rights Watch
Original Sourced: Reuters

READ MORE---> Burma: Boycott Gems Funding Military Repression...

Burma's long-neck women struggle to break out of Thailand's 'human zoo'

ZEMBER was a poster child for long-neck tourism. At 12, her neck coiled with brass rings, she sat on display at a Bangkok tourism fair, helping to create the buzz which would draw gawkers from around the globe.

Now 23, her neck is bare, the rings stripped off in anger after provincial authorities in Mae Hong Son, in northern Thailand, refused to let her emigrate to New Zealand, concerned about the negative impact on tourism of an exodus of long-neck women.

"When I was young, I wanted to wear the rings and keep my own tradition. In one way, I feel sad (that I've taken them off) but now I go to the city, no one cares, no one stares," she said. "The people who control us say if the people see us in the town, they won't pay to see us (in the village)." Riding motorbikes, a common, inexpensive form of transport, is also frowned upon because the Thais who control the long-neck villages say: "It's not part of your culture".

Zember, also called Mu Lon, has not rejected her culture, but she now sees her rings as a weapon of exploitation by powerful local Thai authorities. Long-neck tourism is big business in Mae Hong Son, but little of the money returns to the Kayans — the operations have always been run by Thais.

"It is the No. 1 attraction in this area. It's why tourists come here," said Wanchai Thiansiri, a Chiang Mai-based tour guide. "They may go to see caves as well, but the long-necks are the attraction."

About 100 Kayans (also known by the Burmese name Padaung), fled across the Burma border to Thailand from Kayah state in the late 1980s when civil war between Karenni separatists and the Burmese army became too intense.

"When we first came, we didn't know anything. In Burma, we had to work really hard and when we moved here (we worked hard) too. We don't know they are getting money from the tourists, we (couldn't) speak English or Thai," said Zember, who was five when her family fled.

She sits on the balcony of their flimsy wooden hut in Nai Soi village, one of three villages where tourists pay 250 baht ($A9.50) to take photos, talk to the women or just stare. Women who wear the rings are paid 1500 baht a month to run souvenir stalls and men receive a rice allowance of 260 baht a month. They make a little more from the traditional scarves they weave and sell. In one village, Hway Su Thao, the women have had their wages docked for riding motorbikes, talking to foreigners outside the village or attending educational courses that keep them away from the village during the day.

The older generation were grateful to have a means of surviving, said Zember in basic English, and they did not understand tourist comments that they were a "human zoo". "Ours is the first generation who can read and write."

In nearly 20 years, the community has grown to 520, still living in poverty, with few rights in Thailand or hope of return to Burma. Unlike other refugees, because of their commercial value, the Kayans have not lived in the largely sealed-off refugee camps, a fact the Thai authorities are now using to suggest they are economic rather than political refugees.

Provincial officials have also told The Age that the Kayans are in fact registered as a Thai hill tribe and so do not have the right to seek asylum.

For many years, the Kayans had no recourse, but the status quo changed in Mae Hong Son in 2005, when the UN High Commissioner for Refugees opened registration for third-country resettlement to the 50,000-odd refugees in the area.

Almost every Kayan family applied: three families that included women who wear rings were successful.

In Nai Soi, two families, including Zember's, were approved for New Zealand and one family for Finland. She takes the precious, crumpled confirmation letter from UNHCR and their International Organisation of Migration medical cards out of their plastic sleeve.

"When we heard, we were really happy, we think we can go there, we are really excited, Our friends from the (refugee) camp who have already gone to New Zealand told us they have seen the house we will live in. Kayan people without rings in the camp have gone."

Before she, her sister, her brother-in-law and their four children could leave, they needed then governor Direk Kornkleep's approval for an exit permit from Thailand. He would not sign, reportedly drawing the analogy of "an endangered species on the verge of extinction which needed protection" in discussions with non-government organisations.

At the governor's office in Mae Hong Song, Deputy District Officer Waricha this week insisted that the long-neck Karenni have never been approved to leave Thailand on refugee status because, according to Interior Ministry data, "they have been registered as Thai hill tribes".

Wanchai Suthivorachai, the vice-governor for security, clarified they were registered with the Interior Ministry as people of "asylum" but there was a problem, because this status only applies to someone living in the refugee camp and who was a war refugee.

"It is surprising at this stage to hear that any Thai authority is questioning their status as refugees," said Kitty McKinsey, spokeswoman for the UNHCR in Bangkok.

A large group of Padaung were submitted to New Zealand for resettlement but there had been no progress on these cases as no Padaung had been allowed to leave in more than two years, Ms McKinsey said.

New Zealand was told there were registration issues with the individuals concerned, said a spokeswoman for the New Zealand Labour Department, which oversees refugee resettlement.

While the then governor blocked their departure, he also announced a plan to consolidate all three long-neck villages, to preserve their culture and make one tourist centre.

As an incentive, the new village project at Hway Pu Keng offers the Kayans their own houses, free from a Thai controller, with the possibility of Thai citizenship in the future.

No other refugees have been offered this preferential deal. Eighty-nine Kayans have moved to the new village but many, including Zember's family, stayed in Nai Soi.

Zember took off her coils in anger, but even bare-necked, she attracts attention. Tour guides now point her out as one who rejects tradition.

"I take off my ring so they will let me go (to New Zealand). When I stay here in the village, they make money from tourists and I don't like that way," she said.

"I want to get my own education, work by myself and own by myself."

Source: The Age

READ MORE---> Burma's long-neck women struggle to break out of Thailand's 'human zoo'...

Dr Lee Boon Yang to attend ASEAN meeting in Myanmar

SINGAPORE : Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Dr Lee Boon Yang will attend the Third Meeting of the ASEAN and ASEAN + 3 Ministers Responsible for Culture and Arts at Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar from Saturday till Monday.

A MICA statement said the ministers will discuss initiatives to enhance cultural cooperation among ASEAN countries.

During the visit, Dr Lee will also attend the opening ceremony of the Third ASEAN Festival of Arts.

Singapore will be represented by The Finger Players whose unique brand of puppet theatre has won awards in Singapore and recognition around the world.

Source: Yahoo News - Channel Asia

READ MORE---> Dr Lee Boon Yang to attend ASEAN meeting in Myanmar...

Myanmar leaders meet Chinese NPC Standing Committee Vice-Chairperson

First Secretary of the Myanmar State Peace and Development Council Lieutenant-General Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo met with visiting Vice-Chairperson of the Standing Committee of the Chinese National People's Congress He Luli in the new capital of Nay Pyi Taw Friday.

The two sides exchanged views on bilateral ties and issues of common concerns.

He Luli, who is also Chairperson of the Chinese People's Association for Peace and Disarmament, arrived here Thursday on a five-day goodwill visit to Myanmar at the invitation of U Htay Oo, Secretary-General of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA).

Shortly after she touched down in Yangon on the same day, He Luli met with U Htay Oo.

Myanmar is He Luli's first leg of her tours to two Southeast Asian nations and she will proceed to the Philippines after Myanmar visit.

Source: China Economic

READ MORE---> Myanmar leaders meet Chinese NPC Standing Committee Vice-Chairperson...

Mission Impossible

By Min Zin
To the Burmese generals, accepting international mediation has become just another means of conducting the conflict as opposed to an option for settling it. In other words, it is a tactical maneuver.

In the wake of the protests in September last year, the regime accepted the mediation efforts of the United Nations simply because rejecting them would cause greater harm in the international arena. More importantly, the junta might not have wanted to upset relations with its staunch regional supporters.

It is hardly surprising that the Burmese government is defying the UN's attempts at mediation—it feels confident that it is successfully bringing the country back under control. Despite UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon repeatedly warning that a return to the status quo that existed before the September crisis is not sustainable, the present situation is heading all the way back to square one.

Ban is trying to revive his Good Offices’ mediation efforts and to dispatch Ibrahim Gambari to China and India before the end of January "to continue further consultations with Burma's neighbors," according to UN officials. At the moment however, the Burmese authorities have not even approved Gambari’s itinerary for Burma.

"As for Myanmar (Burma) itself, we don't have an exact date for Mr Gambari to go back there, although he does have an open invitation to visit the country," said Farhan Haq, a UN spokesman. "The question is about developing the right arrangements. We are keeping in touch with the authorities in Myanmar (Burma) to discuss when Mr Gambari may be able to return."

Burmese opposition party National League for Democracy sent a letter to the UN Secretary-General recently, expressing a readiness to accept Gambari's mediation efforts toward political dialogue and national reconciliation. "Though we cannot ascertain if Mr Gambari will be able to visit Burma during his trip to Asia, we urge the [Burmese] government to accept his visit and the resumption of the stalled political dialogue," said Nyan Win, a spokesman for the party.

However, some diplomatic sources within the UN spoke recently to The Irrawaddy and expressed doubts about the possibility of Gambari visiting Burma on this particular trip.

"He is more likely to come back to New York after visiting China and India," said a foreign diplomat at the UN who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Mr Gambari may not be able to give another Burma briefing at the UN Security Council after this trip, even though some council members will be expecting such a briefing in order to keep the Burma issue on board."

In fact, the UN envoy and other key international players realize that the momentum of the international mediation efforts toward Burma is now fading. They must try to reactivate the momentum and to prioritize a return visit by Gambari to Burma as soon as possible.

"The success of Mr Gambari's efforts largely depend on the readiness of China and India to use their leverage over the Burmese junta," said Dr Thaung Tun, UN representative of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma—effectively the Burmese government in exile. "China retreated when they really needed to apply pressure on Burma, even though they said they supported Gambari's mission."

After the September uprising and the subsequent military crackdowns, Gambari managed to garner regional consensus on Burma. Those who had kept saying that the Burmese issue was an internal matter—China, India and Asean—came to the consensus that the country really did have a problem, and that the ruling junta should cooperate with UN for the benefit of national reconciliation and democratization.
"Mr Gambari has been dealing with a number of neighboring countries to see what contribution they can make in the process toward normalcy and democratization in Myanmar (Burma)," Haq told The Irrawaddy. "In his upcoming Asia trip, he will simply try to continue that process".

Of course, Gambari must hold China and India to their promise that they would ensure the Burmese regime’s full cooperation with the UN Envoy, especially given the situation that his access to the country is so uncertain. Otherwise, Gambari may face a similar fate to his predecessor, Razali Ismail, who ended his mission denied entry to Burma indefinitely.

The international community needs to be "more insistent with the junta that a special representative of the UN Secretary-General cannot be treated the way that the junta has treated Mr. Gambari,'' United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said late last month. "It's simply unacceptable," Rice added, referring to the way the Burmese authorities had undermined his entry to and movements around Burma last time round.

The outgoing US administration must surely realize its diplomatic constraints in pushing Burma at the Security Council in the face of harsh resistance from China. Contrary to a common misconception, Gambari's current mission is a non-binding mediation effort and he does not have any enforcement capacity. From the very beginning, the leverage he has wielded has largely lain at the mercy of military junta and, to a lesser extent, its key ally, China.

There is no other country in the region or within the Security Council that can initiate a credible alternative Burma policy to the current mechanism of the Good Offices’ role. Sadly, Chinese checkers is the only game in town.

The US Secretary of State recently said that Gambari's mission "needs more profile; it needs to have more vigor." However, she did not articulate how this could be done effectively. Unless the international community compels the Burmese junta to feel that the cost of rejecting the mission, the UN envoy will remain toothless.

Source: Irrawaddy News

READ MORE---> Mission Impossible...

Beyond 1988—Reflections -The Catapult Threat

September 26, 1988, Thabyay Kan village

One week has passed since the military coup—and what a week it has been! Hiding, evading the newly deployed soldiers and police, arrival in my hometown, then the day-long walk to the estuary of the Sitting River, where the Gulf of Mataban begins.

For the moment, our group—14 from my hometown and two from a nearby village—felt safe in the village. It was a backward area, without paved roads or telephones. There were no soldiers here—yet—and although the area had a large police station, we were not too concerned. Villagers and police alike relied for transport on the labyrinth of rivers connecting the gulf. Cars and buses could only be driven on dry riverbeds in the summer, from January to May.

I awoke from a good night’s sleep, hoping at last for a day to rest and reflect on the rapid chain of events that had set us on our unexpected journey. Ahead of us lay the gulf, with the “jungle”—or “liberated areas” of Karen and Mon resistance fighters—awaiting us on the other side. All we had to do was find a boat. Yet we felt a hint of apprehension at venturing into the unknown.

Soon after rising, we visited the local monastery. The abbot gave us his blessing, and together we prayed for the dead on the streets of Rangoon and for the swift arrival of democracy to our homeland.

That day, we had our most lavish meal since the tumultuous political revolt began three months earlier. Our host, a lady in her late fifties, was a relative of Zaw Gyi, my childhood friend. Although happy to see him, she did not ask us many questions. Like other villagers we had seen on our journey, she had probably heard rumors of students leaving for the “jungle.”

The BBC had broadcast news of events in Rangoon, and the exodus of students, with armed ethnic leaders also giving interviews about the sudden arrival of students in their areas. Just three days earlier, I heard Saw Moreh, a Karenni rebel leader, telling the BBC that the resistance had M16s, AK 47s, and other weapons ready to arm students willing to fight the Burmese military. There were already rumors about planes dropping weapons. Such statements greatly encouraged would-be student rebels.

While fleeing the military dragnet, we and many other political activists came to believe that the only way to bring democracy to Burma was to fight the military. In the words infamously uttered by Gen Ne Win before demolishing Rangoon University’s historic student union building in his war against unarmed students in 1962, we were ready to go “sword to sword, spear to spear.” It was romantic idealism, sure, but the mayhem in Rangoon and elsewhere left us with no choice—there was no return.

After lunch, we returned to the house where we had stayed the night. Drowsy from the heavy meal, I decided to take a nap, while Zaw Gyi and a few others who knew the village went to enquire about boats to cross the gulf.

My dream of a perfect day was shattered about 2 p.m., when I awoke to a sudden commotion and shouts. Dazed, I got up and looked around, and realized the house was empty. Outside, I saw my friends restraining a shouting man, and thought there was a fight.

But when someone in our group cried, “U Min Han is here,” I awoke completely. I knew why he was here; two of his sons—middle school students—were with us. I had asked them not to come with us, but they were adamant. So we had given in. But I never anticipated what would happen less than 24 hours after we arrived in the village.

Stepping outside, I saw U Min Han lunging forward to attack one of his sons. There was nothing I could do. U Min Han, like my father, worked in the government’s agricultural trading corporation. He was a very close family friend. But I feared him more than my father because he was always ready to berate me when I misbehaved or sometimes just over the shoddy way I wore my longyi.

Finally, my friends persuaded him to go inside and talk. I was asked to join the discussion. We sat in a circle, with U Min Han on one side and his two sons on the other, separated by us. As we began, U Min Han simply asked his sons to go home with him. They refused. Then he asked them again to go back with him.

He said: “Aung Naing (referring to me) has a degree and is old enough to take care of himself.” “Look at you”, he said to his elder son. “You have not even passed the middle school exam.” He was right; the boy had failed his middle school government exams repeatedly.

Yet his two sons were adamant. “I am going to fight for democracy,” the elder insisted. “I am going to the jungle.” U Min Han was visibly angry, though he tried hard to remain calm. Yet I knew his sons were trying his patience. Then, when the sons said “no” for the third time, he suddenly grabbed his lwel ate, or shoulder bag, and pulled out a catapult and a handful of dry mud pellets.

He immediately aimed the slingshot at his sons. All of us were totally taken aback. His sons jumped backward covering their faces. Catapults and mud pellets do not kill, but they can blind if the eyes are hit. Stunned and alarmed, we begged him to put down the weapon. He refused, threatening to use it against his disobedient sons.

I sympathized with him, though every time he pulled the leather strap back, as if to shoot his sons, I wanted to laugh. I did not, though, and in the end his threat worked and the two sons agreed to go home.

That afternoon we packed our bags, and left for what we thought was a more secure location—a monastery on a small island two miles away. The island was called “Aung Naing,” which I thought was a good omen, and I expected it would be a quiet refuge until we got our ride. Yet more eventful days lay ahead.

Source: Irrawaddy News

READ MORE---> Beyond 1988—Reflections -The Catapult Threat...

SA mag joins panty plan to oust Myanmar junta

By Melanie Peters

A popular South African women's magazine has joined the global call for people to join the "panty protest" against Myanmar's regime by sending women's underwear to the junta's embassy in Pretoria.

Marie Claire's current issue calls on its readers to send their knickers to the embassy as a form of protest against human rights abuses.

Thein Win, chairperson of the Free Burma Campaign South Africa, said: "It is an excellent idea. Send more panties to sap more power so that they know people do not support them."

The worldwide protest started late last year after Lanna Action for Burma, a pro-democracy group based in Thailand, urged supporters around the world to join its "Panty Power" campaign.

Its website urged supporters to "post, deliver or fling" underwear to, or at their nearest embassy to insult the country's leadership.

Activists seeking to pressure the regime are targeting the "superstitions" of its senior generals.

It is reported that the 73-year-old head of the military, Than Shwe, and members of the military junta believe that contact with women's panties - clean or dirty - will sap them of their strength. Embassies have received underwear from Thailand, Australia, Singapore and the UK.

Source: IOL

READ MORE---> SA mag joins panty plan to oust Myanmar junta...

Shetlanders force climbdown on Burmese woman's deportation

By Mark Hughes
The Independent

Squads of Vikings, wielding axes and flaming torches, will take to the streets of Shetland this month. They will march, singing and chanting, through the islands' towns, cheered on by crowds of thousands before setting fire to a huge Norse ship.

This is how the people of the Shetland Islands generally see out the cold winter nights – with a flurry of pagan festivity that makes the locals seem somewhat frightening to visitors.

Yet the Up Helly Aa fire festivals that celebrate Shetlanders' warrior past paint a misleading picture of Britain's northernmost people. For this week they once again showed that they are among the most welcoming of communities – willing to do battle on behalf of those who choose to settle there.

Their latest victory came when a Burmese woman, Hazel Minn, and her two sons were told that they would not, after all, be deported. Ms Minn fled Burma's military regime in 2002 but was told in 2004 that her application for political asylum had been turned down.

However the Government was forced into a U-turn after nearly four years of protest from islanders which saw more than 7,000 of the island's 21,000 population sign a petition demanding the family be allowed to stay. Ms Minn is not the only one to have benefited from the islands' unflinching community spirit in the face of the Home Office.

In 2004 Tanya Koolmatrie, an Australian national, was told she would have to leave the UK because she did not have a British passport; this was despite the fact she had a home and a child with a Shetland man. Again the Home Office backed down when the islanders rallied round.

And in 2006, in perhaps the islands' biggest show of people-power to date, Thai man Sakchai Makao was allowed to stay in Shetland after a deportation threat was thrown out by an immigration tribunal.

Mr Makao was told he would have to return to Thailand, a country he had not been to for 13 years, after a government directive stated that all foreign nationals who had served prison sentences in the UK would have to leave.

Mr Makao had spent eight months in jail in 2002 when he set fire to a car and a mobile cabin in a "moment of madness" after the death of his Scottish stepfather.

His case became another cause célèbre for the islanders, forcing another Home Office climbdown.

Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat MP for the islands, was involved in the campaigns to stop the deportations of Ms Minn, Ms Koolmatrie and Mr Makao, and one of 100 MPs who signed a petition supporting the latter.

He said: "The remarkable thing is that immigration is, in many ways, a unifying phenomenon in Shetland whereas in the rest of the country it is divisive. I think that is because we are an island community and every person is valued as an individual.

"There is a deep sense of fairness in Shetland and if people are seen to be treated unfairly it angers us.

"And I think in each case it has been very important that the community was behind them. The fact they were all able to demonstrate so evidently that they were a real part of their communities helped their cases enormously."

Davie Gardner, 52, started the campaign to allow Mr Makao to stay. He set up a petition which was signed by 10,000 people, including 100 MPs and the singer Elvis Costello.

Mr Gardner said: "In Sakchai [Makao]'s case, yes he had committed a crime, but he had served his time and was integrating back into the community.

"He was a well-known figure, he worked at the local leisure centre and everyone knew who he was. Sakchai may have been from Thailand, but to us he was a Shetlander."

The organiser of the campaign to help Mrs Minn was Bert Armstrong, the 71-year-old grandfather of her two sons, Simon, 15, and Vincent, 14.

He said: "People on the outside might see us as insular islanders, but these campaigns prove that's not the case. No matter where you are from you are welcome on Shetland."

READ MORE---> Shetlanders force climbdown on Burmese woman's deportation...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Special inquiry committee for government departments in Arakan

Maungdaw, Arakan State: -The entry and exit of the border-trade route in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships and other government departments in Arakan State are being examined since January first week by a special inquiry committee from Rangoon, according to an aide of the Nasaka (Burma's border security force).

On January 7, at about 10 pm, U Thein Soe, the Second-in-Charge of Immigration and Win Oo Aye, member of Immigration of the Maungdaw exit/ entry gate were arrested by the committee as they allowed banned goods accompanied by passengers to Bangladesh after taking huge bribes from smugglers. Now, they are being interrogated in Tactical Operation Command (TOC) office of Buthidaung town, he added.

Major Sein Win, the commander of Nasaka area No.(4) of Maungdaw Township was arrested on December 28, 2007, for taking bribe from parents of a student and possibly, the Commander will be interrogated by the special inquiry committee, said an aide of police from Maungdaw town.

The business venture of U Thein Soe has also been seized by the committee.

On January 9, the special inquiry committee examined the 4-mile gate in Maungdaw town. It will examine other gates across Arakan State. Initially, in January first week, the special committee checked government departments of Kyaukpru Township and then checked the government departments of Akyab (Sittwe) the capital of Arakan State. The committee checked all the government departments for corruption including education, army cantonments, Nasaka camps, custom and others, said sources close to Nasaka.

The special inquiry committee arrived in Arakan State on January 1, on the orders of the Central command of SPDC (State Peace and Development Council), and led by a Major. Its aim is to eliminate corruption in government departments.

Source: Kaladan Press

READ MORE---> Special inquiry committee for government departments in Arakan...

Ten Imprisoned, Three Held for Interrogation

Burmese military authorities sentenced ten people in Arakan State, including three monks, to long terms of imprisonment, while another three monks continue to be detained in interrogation cells after the Saffron Revolution in Burma, reports the NLD in Arakan State.

The NLD report listed the following monks as those recently sentenced by military authorities in Arakan:

U Ithiriya, aged 28, from Sithuka monastery in Sittwe who was arrested on 29 September, 2007, and sentenced to seven and a half years in prison. He is currently being held at Buthiduang prison.

U Kow Mala, aged 67, from Adidan monastery in Sittwe, who was arrested on 8 October 2007 and sentenced to two and a half years. He is currently detained at Sittwe prison.

U Wana Tha Ra, aged 23, from Radana Gon Bonmay monastery, who was arrested on 29 September, 2007, and sentenced to three years in prison. He is also being held at Sittwe prison.

Another three monks, U Panya Thiri, U Than Yama, and U Wayama, are still being held for interrogation at Sittwe prison, and have not yet been sentenced despite having been held by authorities for over three months.

The military government has also sentenced seven civilians for their alleged involvement in the recent monk-led protests, those are:

Ko Aung Naing Soe, aged 22 from Pauktaw Township, who was arrested in October and sentenced to three years and nine months in prison. He is currently at Thandwe prison in southern Arakan State.

Ko Aung Naing, 32 years old, from Sittwe, was arrested on 12 October, 2007, and was sentenced to two years and three months in prison. He is currently at Sittwe prison.

Ko Win Maung, who was a member of a village council in Manaung Township, was arrested on 27 November and sentenced to two and a half years. He has been sent to Kyaukpru prison from Manaung.

Ko Min Min Oo from Gwa Township has been detained at the notorious Insein prison, and has been charged by authorities on seven counts.

There are three NLD Arakan State members who were also sentenced to long prison terms: Ko Min Aung, 35 years old, is the secretary of the financial department of the NLD Arakan State who was arrested on 13 October 2007, and was sentenced to nine and a half years in prison. He is currently in Thandwe prison. His sentence was reduced by the authority to seven and a half years after an appeal to the high court.

U Khin Hla, aged 60, is the secretary of the organization department for the NLD Arakan State and was arrested on 28 November, 2007. He was sentenced to four years in prison and is currently at Thandwe prison.

Ko Ray Thein, alias Bu Maung, is a member of the NLD from Buthidaung who was arrested on 19 November, 2007. He is currently missing and the location of his detention is unknown.

The NLD Arakan stated in the report that they have only collected the names of the aforementioned individuals in Arakan State after the Saffron Revolution, but many more people have been reported arrested and are missing around the state after the junta cracked down on those they believed played a part in the protests.

Source: Narinjara News

READ MORE---> Ten Imprisoned, Three Held for Interrogation...

Explosion reported in Myanmar capital

YANGON, Myanmar - An explosion in the capital of military-ruled Myanmar killed one woman Friday morning, a government official said.

The official, who insisted on anonymity because he is not authorized to release information, said the explosion took place in a bathroom at the railway station in Naypyitaw at around 4:20 a.m.

He had no further details, and it was unclear whether the explosion was caused by a bomb. There were no immediate claims of responsibility and the government has not yet blamed any group.

Terrorism is rare but not unknown in Myanmar, which has been under military rule virtually continuously since 1962. The country experienced extreme political turmoil last September, when the government crushed non-violent, pro-democracy demonstration, detaining thousands and killing at least 31 people, according to a U.N. investigator, whose tally was twice the toll acknowledged by the junta.

Naypyitaw is in a remote area of the country, 250 miles to the north of Yangon, the country's former capital and biggest city. It became the country's new administrative capital — and main military stronghold — in November 2005, and is well-guarded.

The most deadly terrorist incident in recent years in Myanmar took place on May 7, 2005, when three bombs went off almost simultaneously at two upscale supermarkets and a convention center in Yangon. About two dozen people were killed and another 162 injured.

In that case as well as several other smaller bombings, the government blamed political opponents and ethnic rebels, though no firm evidence was ever produced. Government opponents deny carrying out attacks on civilians.

Source: AP - Yahoo News

READ MORE---> Explosion reported in Myanmar capital...

Bomb kills woman in Myanmar’s new capital

YANGON - A bomb exploded in the toilet of the railway station serving Myanmar’s new capital on Friday, killing a woman in the first such incident since the ruling junta moved there in November 2005, an official said.

‘A woman died in the explosion at about 4:30 a.m. inside the bathroom of Pyinmana Railway Station,’ a station official told Reuters. He gave no further information.

Small bomb blasts at public places such as Buddhist temples, markets and fairs are relatively common in the former Burma, which has been under military rule since 1962 and riven by multiple ethnic guerrilla conflicts.

The regime normally points the finger at dissident groups, ranging from pro-democracy activists in exile to ethnic militias who have been fighting for greater autonomy or even independence for more than five decades.

The ruling generals moved abruptly from the colonial era capital, Yangon, to Naypyidaw, an unfinished administrative centre in jungle-clad hills 240 miles (380 km) to the north, in November 2005.

The junta argued the move closer to the heart of the country would increase government efficiency.

Dissidents have posited alternative theories ranging from fear of a sea-borne US invasion to establishment of a new dynastic capital in the tradition of Burma’s ancient kings.

Source: Khaleej Times

READ MORE---> Bomb kills woman in Myanmar’s new capital...

Myanmar warns against using illegally-imported medicines

The Myanmar health authorities have warned local people not to use illegally-imported medicines, saying the quality of such medicines can not be guaranteed, the official newspaper New Light of Myanmar reported on Friday.

An announcement of the Ministry of Health carried on the newspaper said that some medicines, which were seized recently, were illegally imported across border and not registered in Myanmar.

The report cited such medicines as Magnesia tablet, Dezawin tablet and Lin Chee Tan Rheumatism pill manufactured by some four Thai companies and one unknown manufacturer.

The Myanmar health authorities are strengthening the supervision of security of food and drug on sale in the markets and examination is occasionally carried out to ensure that drugs imported are only genuine, potent and quality ones, and those produced locally shall meet the set standard for public safe consumption.

Myanmar enacted the National Food Law in March 1997, forming a special food and drug authority in a bid to enable the public to consume food of genuine quality, free from danger and hygienic problem, and to control and regulate the production, import, export, storage, packaging, distribution and sale of them systematically.

According to statistics of the Ministry of Commerce, Myanmar imported pharmaceutical products valued at 100 million U.S. dollars in 2006-07, an increase by 25 percent from 2005-06 when it was 80 million dollars.

These pharmaceuticals were mainly imported from some Asian nations such as India, Bangladesh, China, Thailand and Indonesia.

Of the imports, only 10 percent came from European countries.

Source: Peoplecom

READ MORE---> Myanmar warns against using illegally-imported medicines...

Myanmar's detained Suu Kyi taken to state guesthouse

Reporting by Aung Hla Tun
Editing by Darren Schuettler and Alex Richardson

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was taken to a government guesthouse on Friday where she is believed to have met a senior junta official, witnesses said.

"I saw the car enter the guesthouse and leave an hour later," one witness told Reuters.

There was no immediate word from the military government or Suu Kyi's party, but she probably met Aung Kyi, a senior member of the ruling military junta.

If confirmed, it would be their fourth meeting since Aung Kyi was appointed go-between after last September's crackdown on pro-democracy protests triggered global outrage.

They last met on November 19 when diplomats speculated their talks might have focused on the junta's preconditions for negotiations between Suu Kyi and regime leader Senior General Than Shwe.

He has offered direct talks if Suu Kyi abandons confrontation and her support for sanctions against the military, which has ruled the former Burma for 45 years.

Source: Reuters - Yahoo News

READ MORE---> Myanmar's detained Suu Kyi taken to state guesthouse...

NLD chairperson in San Chaung arrested

By Htet Aung Kyaw

The chairman of the National League for Democracy in San Chaung township, Rangoon, was arrested by authorities while attending a court hearing on Wednesday.

An eyewitness said the San Chaung NLD chairman and former political prisoner U Thet Wei, 50, was arrested by police at Kyauktada township court at a hearing for solo demonstrator U Ohn Than.

"It was around 1pm in the afternoon when I saw him having an argument with a police officer at the court," said the eyewitness.

"The deputy police chief arrived and he and another police officer took U Thet Wei into an empty room where they questioned him for about 30 minutes. Then the security vehicle arrived and took him to Kyauktada police station."

U Thet Wei's family said their enquiries about him at the police station met with no response yesterday.

An NLD spokesperson, U Nyan Win, said that the party was frustrated by the continued arrests and harassment of NLD members.

"There are currently 102 people detained; some awaiting trial and some are serving prison sentences,” he said.

“It is unclear on what grounds they have been given these punishments; we are getting very frustrated with this."

As of 9 January, six NLD party members and five other people had been arrested so far this year.

The NLD members were Ko Kyaw Kyaw, Ko Kyaw Zin Win and two others from Daw Pon township, and Ma Htet Htet Aung from [New] South Dagon township.

Ko Ko Maung and Ko Min Han from Mingalardon township were among the other people detained, along with an unknown monk and two students.

Source: Democratic Voice of Burma

READ MORE---> NLD chairperson in San Chaung arrested...

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