Tuesday, June 30, 2009

4,000 Burmese Migrants Arrested in June

The Irrawaddy News

Some 4,000 Burmese migrants were arrested by the Thai authorities in Thailand in June, according to a Thai Web site, www.manager.co.th.

The Thai news and entertainment Web site said that the Burmese migrants were arrested in different regions by the Thai authorities, but the majority were arrested in Phop Phra District in Tak Province.

It is believed that many of those arrested were sent back to Burma, while others are being detained or were released.

A Thai police officer in Phop Phra told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that many Burmese are coming to Thailand in the hope they can get new work permits, because a fresh registration of migrants in Thailand begins in early July.

The Thai government announced in June that the country needed some two million foreign workers for the multitude of jobs available, including those jobs known as the “3 Ds”—dirty, dangerous or degrading—which most Thai workers refuse.

There are up to five million Burmese migrants living and working in Thailand, says the Migrant Assistance Program (MAP) in Chiang Mai. However, only 500,000 registered at the Thai Ministry of Labor last year.

The Thai government is currently offering new one-year work permits to those who registered last year.

However, Jackie Pollock, a founding member of MAP, said that some migrants cannot afford to pay the 3,800 baht (US $112) fee for registration because they don’t have jobs due to the economic crisis in Thailand.

Moe Swe, the head of the Yaung Chi Oo Workers Association in Mae Sot in Tak Province, said that many of the Burmese migrants in Mae Sot couldn’t afford to pay the registration fees due to poor wages.

Burmese workers generally get paid about 1,500 baht ($44) per month working at a factory in Mae Sot, he said.

Thailand has recently tightened its border security to prevent an influx of Burmese migrants into the county. Meanwhile, in Chiang Mai, police have set up nighttime roadblocks as part of an ongoing campaign to crack down on Burmese migrants.

Meanwhile, the Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia and MAP Foundation in Thailand have called on the Malaysian and Thai governments to protect the rights of Burmese migrants and ensure that migrants can exercise their labor, social, cultural, economic and political rights.

In a joint statement released last week, the groups called for a halt to unjust, discriminatory and unconstitutional policies on migrants.

A report released by the US State Department in June claimed that Thailand had not complied with international labor laws and that Thai authorities frequently abused migrants’ rights.

READ MORE---> 4,000 Burmese Migrants Arrested in June...

Politicians need to keep quiet for sake of peace in South


(Bangkok Post - The government's proposed "politics guiding military" strategy in dealing with the southern insurgency is being called into question.

Critics say the strategy's meaning should be clearly defined to ensure a proper understanding by agencies before its implementation.

They said the slogan could be exploited by the government and politicians to win public backing for the strategy without practical action. If a huge budget is involved, the military would also stand to benefit in a big way.

The "politics guiding military" policy may have tasted success in fighting communism in the 1980s but the current "war" in the South is different.

Without addressing the southerners' basic human rights and, more importantly, recognising their aspirations, sustainable peace in the region should not be expected.

However, if the law is not strictly enforced in the three southernmost border provinces, the situation is not going to improve either.

So we need the military presence to remain strong in the region and the politicians to stay quiet as they have not made any positive contribution to the region for several years. Where the rule of law cannot prevail, security authorities must deal seriously with the insurgents to restore peace and stability.

But those in charge of security should not encourage a heavy-handed approach.

"As long as the southerners have trust in the judicial system, they will back the state. But if they are not certain that justice could be delivered, they will become allies of the insurgents," said a judge with experience in the southern provinces.

Army chief Anupong Paojinda has made it clear the "politics guiding military" policy was not being introduced to negotiate with the insurgents.

However, some scholars have advised agencies that they should explore other ideas that could help complete the jigsaw puzzle, including talks with groups sympathising with the militants.

Certainly, who to talk to is the key question for those advocating talking.

Officers with different hats now seem to agree on one basic fact: That unless the root cause of the problem is recognised, the government cannot easily address the anti-Siam attitudes and separatism.

But where to start? The local people don't seem to have much faith in the Democrat Party, but do believe in Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who once said the area should be made a special administration zone.

Last week, Malaysia's Task Force 2010 chief, Datuk Wan Abu Bakar Omar, suggested that the Organisation of Islamic Conference might be the best body if Thailand was looking for external help to quell the insurgency.

READ MORE---> Politicians need to keep quiet for sake of peace in South...

3 held for alleged attempt to export measuring instrument to Myanmar

YOKOHAMA, (Japan Today) — Police arrested three people Monday on suspicion of attempting to export a measuring instrument that could be converted to weapons production to Myanmar without a permit from the Japanese government, police officials said. The suspects, including the 41-year-old president of trading house Toko Boeki in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward and the president of a machinery maker, allegedly attempted to export in January a magnetic measuring instrument, which could be converted to produce missiles and other weapons of mass destruction, from Yokohama port in Kanagawa Prefecture to Myanmar via Malaysia, they said.

The attempted export was discovered before it took place, the Kanagawa police officials said. The Kanagawa police raided locations related to the case in February suspecting that North Korea, which maintains diplomatic relations with Myanmar, could be involved in the deal.

Japan thwarts suspect N Korea-Burma missile device deal

June 30, 2009 (DVB)–Japanese police have arrested three men on suspicion of attempting to illegally export into Burma heavy machinery that could be used in the development of missile systems.

The reports surfaced yesterday on the Japanese news website, Yomiuri Shimbun, who reported that the three men, all Japanese nationals, were charged under the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law.

Concerns over Burma’s military ambitions have been heightened in recent weeks with reports that a North Korean ship suspected to be carrying arms was heading in the direction of Burma.

Similarly, photographs obtained by DVB show a network of tunnels built with North Korean assistance beneath the Burmese capital, with leaked documents revealing plans to hold large rockets and satellite communication command centers inside.

The Yomiuri quoted police as saying that the three men, who were working for a Hong Kong-based North Korean trading firm, were caught with a magnetic measuring device “believed necessary for developing long-range ballistic missile systems on instructions from North Korea”.

The export was attempted in January this year, at a cost of around seven million yen (US$73,000). Police reportedly believe that the same firm has transported similar machinery to Burma in the past.

According to the Yomiuri report, the firm’s office in North Korean capital Pyongyang is believed by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) to be involved in the development of weapons of mass destruction.

Reporting by Francis Wade

READ MORE---> 3 held for alleged attempt to export measuring instrument to Myanmar...

Monday, June 29, 2009

North Korea Can Allay Fear at Regional Forum

The Irrawaddy News

North Korea should calm regional fears by explaining its relations with Burma at the 16th Asean Regional Forum (ARF) to be held in Phuket, Thailand, July16-23.

An editorial in the Bangkok Post, Monday, stated ARF would be the perfect forum for North Korea to explain its recent actions and lay out its future plans.

“An unauthorized nuclear project, even without weapons capability, would pose a serious threat to the ecology of Thailand and the region,” the editorial declared.

The editorial said, “The world including Thailand views North Korea as a dangerous country, addicted to frightening threats of nuclear attacks and weapons trafficking on any scale it chooses.”

North Korean has a record of selling arms and military technology to Burma. It is suspected that this may include secretive nuclear technology.

The North Korean cargo ship, Kang Nam, that recently left North Korea for Burma could be carrying weapons.

North Korea’s military support for Burma may be considered a serious issue at the forum, according to analysts.

“ARF is supposed to be a forum for regional security, so we hope that they will consider issues related to comprehensive security as part of an Asean plan of action,” Debbie Stothard, coordinator of the Bangkok-based Alternative Asean Network on Burma said to The Irrawaddy.

“North Korea is definitely a very serious issue,” she added. “ARF hasn’t been taking the situation in Burma seriously, and consequently they don’t have any plan of action.”

“In effect ARF is allowing Burma to become another North Korea, which is a danger to the region,” Stothard said.

By bringing Asian and Western powers together, ARF can provide an important forum for discussing the array of dangers arising from North Korea's illegal weapons trafficking to Burma, according to Burma political analysts.

ARF was founded in 1994 to promote open dialogue on political and security issues and to build trust among its members through dialogue and confidence-building measures.

Twenty seven nations currently participate in ARF. They automatically include Asean member states as well as Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, China, European Union, India, Japan, Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea, Republic of Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Russian Federation, Sri Lanka, Timor Leste and the United States.

READ MORE---> North Korea Can Allay Fear at Regional Forum...

Closer Burma-N Korea Ties a Serious Cause for Concern

The Irrawaddy News

Recent evidence of the closer relationship between Burma and North Korea exposes the complete failure of the Burmese regime’s diplomacy and foreign policy in the face of increasing pressure by international and regional governments.

With Burma losing face internationally and regionally since the ruling junta put Aung San Suu Kyi’s on trial, the Burmese generals are anxious for their traditional ally to stand by their side.

The relationship with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) deteriorated when Thailand, as current Asean chair, issued a public statement in May on Suu Kyi's trial, saying the "honor and credibility" of its troublesome member, Burma, was "at stake."

Moreover, Singapore Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, whose country is one of Burma's biggest foreign investors and has close relations with the Burmese junta, said bluntly that the general election planned for 2010 must be inclusive and that the opposition National League for Democracy, led by Suu Kyi, must be part of the process of national reconciliation.

Goh, chairman of the city state’s central bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, also said that Singapore investors will likely wait until after the election before pouring any more money into the country.

Although it is too early to say that closer ties with North Korea could be a response to assertions on Burma by the Asean members, it is clear that recent developments have greatly added to worries that the two pariah states are becoming a double threat to regional security.

The mysterious voyage of the North Korean cargo ship, the Kang Nam 1, which is believed to be heading for Burma, and is currently being shadowed by the US Navy, and the leaking of documents and video footage showing caves and tunnels being constructed in Burma with the help of North Korean engineers, have raised suspicions in the region that the facilities are connected to Burmese plans for a nuclear reactor.

Some analysts said that fears about the acquisition of unconventional weapons by Burma are not totally unfounded. "Given North Korea's nuclear trade to Syria, its attempts to sell Scuds to Myanmar [Burma], and its ongoing sales of conventional arms, there's reason to be worried about a WMD relationship," Michael Green, a Burma expert and former adviser to then-President George W Bush told the Wall Street Journal recently.

For several years, the Burmese junta has been trying to foster relations with countries which are antagonistic towards the US—especially North Korea, which has constructed 8,200 underground facilities, including 180 munitions factories, to house key government offices and military command posts in case of war.

Observers say that the Burmese ruling generals take a hostile approach to the US because of its economic sanctions and have become paranoid about a possible US invasion of their country. These are the main reasons for speeding up a re-engagement with North Korea.

In 1983, North Korean spies operating in Burma planted a bomb at the Martyr’s Mausoleum in Rangoon, where the country's forefathers lie, killing 18 South Korean officials, including four ministers.

Burma broke all ties with North Korea as a result. However, in its anxiety to procure the arms and technology to develop its armed forces, the Burmese regime later resumed diplomatic ties without securing any apology from North Korea.

Although it is not yet clear whether the tunneling projects in and around Napyidaw are to afford the paranoid junta protection from its own people or from the outside world, it proved again that the top Burmese generals have dug themselves deeper into isolation over the past few years.

The generals' bunker-mentality has been in place since 1962 when they took power from Burma's last democratically-elected government. Burma always defends itself as a sovereign state, surrounded by friendly neighboring countries that seek Burma’s natural resources, but sanctioned by Western countries led by the US. In fact, the junta usually uses that as a shield behind which it can continue its human rights violations, confident that its neighbors will treat them as Burma’s "internal affair."

Now Burma shows its true colors by developing ties with North Korea, one of the world’s most treacherous countries, which threatens to unleash a nuclear war.
So it is not too early to say that the closer relationship developing between Burma and North Korea should alert the world to a state of affairs that can only deepen global and regional tensions.

READ MORE---> Closer Burma-N Korea Ties a Serious Cause for Concern...

Thailand raises surveillance near Moei River

by Usa Pichai

Chiang Mai (mizzima) - Security officials in Thailand have beefed up surveillance on Moei River, in the wake of clashes with ethnic Karen armed men, who were trying to cross over to Thailand.

A villager from Tak province, who lives near the border, told Mizzima that Thai military personnel have raised the surveillance level along the Moei River, which is also the border between Thailand and Burma. Thai security officials increased surveillance after a Thai soldier had a minor skirmish with an ethnic armed group, who were trying to cross over to Thailand.

The skirmish took place on Saturday, as Thai military personnel in Mae Sot District of Tak province met a group of Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) soldiers, who were crossing over into Maeku Luang Village. The clash, reportedly, went on for about 10 minutes.

Following the incident, Thai officials inspected the area and found that two DKBA soldiers – a man and a woman – had bullet injuries and were later sent to the Mae Sot Hospital, while two other soldiers fled from the scene into Thailand. Officials also found a number of weapons at the spot. The Thai military are on the lookout for the other two armed men.

The incident followed a severe attack on a DKBA boat, by unidentified armed men on the Moei River, which left 16 DKBA soldiers, including senior level officials dead.

According to a report on a Thai news website, Manager, on Sunday, Pol Lieutenant General, Surasri Suntornsarntoon, Commander of the Sixth Royal Police Office, visited the area in Mae Sot and followed up on the investigations into the attack on the DKBA boat, in which Colonel San Pyone, Commander of DKBA’s Battalion 7 of the Brigade 999, was also killed.

Colonel San Pyone, had earlier been accused of having links with the murder of Pado Mahn Sha, former Secretary General of the Karen National Union (KNU) in Mae Sot district last year. In the event of his death, the police would withdraw the arrest warrant, against San Pyone, which had been issued by a Thai Criminal Court, it had been stated.

However, the officials still beefed up surveillance because local villagers said that they found armed men crossing over into Thailand and fighting is still continuing in the area.

The situation near the Karen State border with Thailand this year has drawn a lot of attention from the local and international community, because several thousand local Karen villagers in Burma fled to Thailand and many of them are suffering from ill-health and malnutrition.

Currently, international non government organizations have donated more medicines for malaria patients, which is the main disease among the current batch of refugees, who took shelter in Thasongyang district of Tak province, together with respiratory diseases.

The Thailand government expected that the number of new Karen refugees was about 3,000, but local NGO workers believe that the real number is much higher and would increase due to the tension from the clashes near the Moei River.

READ MORE---> Thailand raises surveillance near Moei River...

Iron mine could destroy 7000 Shan homes

(DVB)–Russian and Italian engineering companies are reported to be involved in the development of a huge iron ore mine in Burma’s eastern Shan state that campaigners say could displace more than 7,000 homes.

The already volatile Shan state is home to Burma’s second largest iron ore deposit, on the site of Mount Pinpet.

Excavation of the site began in 2004, and work includes the conversion of around 11,000 acres of surrounding land for construction of a cement factory and iron processing plant.

The Pa-O Youth Organisation (PYO), in a report released today, said that more than 25 villages home to around 7000 mainly ethnic Pa-O people could be destroyed by the Pinpet Mining Project.

“Fifty people have already been forced to move and were not adequately compensated,” said the Robbing the Future report.

“The confiscation of vital farmlands has begun, leaving over 100 families without the primary source of their livelihood and sustenance.”

A spokesperson from PYO said that villagers had very little, if any, input on the plans for the project.

“[The government] don’t talk to the villagers, they don’t negotiate with the villagers regarding plans for the mining project - they don’t really discuss in advance what they are going to do,” said Khun Ko Wein.

The report points to Russian company Tyazhpromexport as being the major foreign investor in the Pinpet Iron Factory, with $US150 million so far channeled into the project.

Russia maintains strong ties with Burma despite the country’s ruling junta being under mounting international pressure over the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi and documented state-sanctioned human rights abuses.

An Italian company, Danieli, which claims to be one of the world’s leading suppliers of equipment to the metals industry, is also highlighted in the report.

The company, who in 2007 confirmed that they operate in Burma, was unavailable for comment.

Another concern of PYO’s is the link between the Pinpet mine and rumours that Burma is mining uranium, a key ingredient for nuclear weaponry.

According to the report, Burma’s Ministry of Energy has officially announced the presence of five uranium deposits in the country, although has not publicly stated that these will be mined.

Speculation that uranium exists near the Pinpet site has added fuel to the rumours, with some locals fearing that the mine could be being used as a cover to exploit and refine uranium.

Such rumours have been further compounded by growing evidence that Burma is strengthening its ties with North Korea, who last month successfully tested a nuclear bomb.

Reporting by Francis Wade

READ MORE---> Iron mine could destroy 7000 Shan homes...

UN envoy discusses Ban Ki-moon’s Burma trip

(DVB)–UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari yesterday ended his two-day trip to Burma with state media reporting that talks with senior government officials centered on the pending visit of UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

It remains unclear what the exact purpose of the trip was, although the UN’s concern over the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, along with the issue of the suspect North Korean ship heading towards Burma, will likely have been raised.

The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper yesterday reported that Gambari met with Foreign Minister Nyan Win on 26 and 27 June and “held discussions about the programme” for the UN chief’s visit.

Ban was invited by the country’s ruling generals to visit Burma in early July, although he is said to be concerned that his trip will be used for propaganda purposes by the regime.

Human rights groups have echoed Ban’s concerns, although the opposition National League for Democracy says that a visit should go ahead prior to the scheduled 2010 elections.

Dr Thaung Htun, National Coalition Government for the Union of Burma's representative to the UN, said that he accepts Ban's visit "in principle". "We think Ban Ki Moon’s visit could be to study the situation in Burma to see how far the progress [the UN] suggested [to the junta] has reached" regarding release of political prisoners and participatory elections, he said.

Regarding the Karen refugees fleeing to Thailand, however, he said that Ban "should put in more diplomatic effort in dealing with Burma".

Observers believe that the North Korean ship, which is being closely monitored by the US navy, is carrying small arms.

If it does dock in Burma and, as suspected, offload its cargo, then Burma would become party to a breach of new UN sanctions imposed earlier this month on North Korea following its underground nuclear test.

The situation would undoubtedly skew the focus of Ban Ki-moon’s visit, which was likely set up to engage the regime over the trial of Suu Kyi, which the UN chief last month said he was “deeply concerned” about.

Reporting by Francis Wade

READ MORE---> UN envoy discusses Ban Ki-moon’s Burma trip...

Senior DKBA commander killed in ambush

(DVB)–A senior figure in the pro-Burmese junta militia Democratic Karen Buddhist Army has been killed in an ambush by the opposition Karen National Union as clashes continue near the Thai-Burma border.

Five fellow Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) soldiers were killed alongside Colonel San Pyone, commander of Battalion 7 of the Brigade 999, on 26 June, while around 10 more were injured.

A source close to the DKBA said that seven boats carrying more than 20 DKBA members from the overrun Karen National Union’s (KNU) Brigade 7 headquarters was ambushed at about 8am on 26 June.

"There must be about 20 casualties, but about six people died on the spot," he said, adding that the corpses of San Pyone and others were taken to the DKBA base in the Shwekokko area of Karen state.

The DKBA has said that the attack was carried out from Thai territory, but this was refuted by the KNU.

“The shooting did happen but not on the Thai side. It happened on the other side [in Burma],” said KNU spokesperson David Thakabaw.

“[KNU] troops retreated from the bases but there are small groups still operating around the bases."

The DKBA have been fighting alongside the Burmese army during an offensive against the KNU that began on 2 June.

Last week the KNU’s strategically important Brigade 7 base was overrun by Burmese troops, although the KNU told DVB that the loss would make the Burmese army more susceptible to ambushes.

Many Karen civilians have fled the conflict this month, with around 4000 arriving in Thailand.

Many have reported instances of forced recruitment into the army either as porters or to act as minesweepers.

The UN has sent staff to the refugee areas to assess the fallout of a conflict that has attracted international attention.

Reporting by Naw Noreen

READ MORE---> Senior DKBA commander killed in ambush...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A road runs through it: Accounts of abuse during strand road construction in Thanbyuzayat

A Road Runs Through It Accounts of Abuse During Strand Road

READ MORE---> A road runs through it: Accounts of abuse during strand road construction in Thanbyuzayat...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Burma Wants the Bomb

The Irrawaddy News

Relations between Burma and North Korea have attracted intense attention in recent weeks, as suspicions grow that the two pariah states are joining forces in a bid to thwart international sanctions against them.

Two recent developments have greatly added to worries that these two countries are becoming a double threat to regional security.

The first was the departure of a North Korean cargo ship, the Kang Nam 1, from a port near Pyongyang on June 17. The ship is believed to be heading for Burma, and is currently being pursued by the US Navy, which may act on a recent UN resolution authorizing inspections of North Korean vessels suspected of carrying banned weapons or materials.

Thakhin Chan Tun

The second was the leaking of documents and video footage showing caves and tunnels being constructed in Burma with the help of North Korean engineers—possibly as part of a controversial nuclear program by the Burma junta.

To learn more about the possible significance of these events, The Irrawaddy recently interviewed Thakhin Chan Tun, a former diplomat who served as Burma’s ambassador to North Korea from 1974 to 1975.

Thakhin Chan Tun, who was also the ambassador to Canada from 1969 to 1974 and to the People’s Republic of China from 1974 to 1976, is a veteran politician who is still actively working for national reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Burma.

Question: Thakhin Chan Tun, you served as Burma’s ambassador to North Korea from 1974 to 1975. Can you briefly describe bilateral relations between the two countries from then until now?

Answer: It was very good at that time. They paid great attention to us, possibly because it was the beginning of our diplomatic relationship. But then, in 1983, Burma invited a South Korean government delegation to visit, and North Korea plotted to assassinate them at the Martyrs’ Mausoleum in Rangoon, killing 22 people. The South Korean president was fortunate to be late arriving at the place. They [the North Koreans] are the kind of people who can commit such crimes. They dare to do everything.

Now the US has imposed sanctions on Burma and the Burmese junta takes a hostile approach to the US. North Korea is also seen as an enemy of the US. So now [Burma and North Korea] are close again, as allies. What had happened in 1983 is no longer an issue between them. Since they both have a grudge against the US, the Burmese military has formed a new alliance with North Korea. I see the junta has also been trying to foster relations with Iran and Cuba, which are also antagonistic to the US.

Q: What differences do you observe in the relationship between the period of Gen Ne Win’s rule and now?

A: At that time, it was just a diplomatic relationship, based on the fact that North Korea was also a member of the Non-Aligned Movement. It was like the relationship that we had with other countries around the world. In the first year of formal diplomatic ties, Burma’s foreign minister [went to North Korea], and then U Ne Win and his daughter Sandar Win made a state visit. That’s it. We severed diplomatic communication after the bombing.

Now the diplomatic relationship has resumed without any apology from them. Of course, we should forgive them, if they apologize. But North Korea has never issued a formal apology to Burma. But it is should be considered absolutely necessary if the two countries want to resume normal diplomatic relations. However, I know that people from here were the first to approach the other side.

Now communications seem better. As far as I have observed, it is basically for military purposes and especially for weapons.

North Korea is smarter than Burma in terms of weapons technology. People from here want those weapons, and they want [North Korea’s] nuclear technology. I assume they resumed relations for that purpose.

A nuclear reactor is reportedly being built here, and if they want to make a nuclear bomb from it, they may need to receive the technology from North Korea.

Q: In the world of international diplomacy, how shocking is an attack like the bombing carried out by the North Koreans in 1983?

A: It is the most serious crime.

It was insulting to Burma. The bomb went off in a building just 30-40 feet from our Martyrs’ Mausoleum, where the fathers of our nation are buried. Some Burmese ministers were also killed in the blast, along with the South Koreans.

Q: So what do you think of the resumption of diplomatic ties with a country that would commit such a crime?

A: It seems like they can just get away with anything.

Q: How will dealing with a country like North Korea, which is extremely isolated in the world, affect Burma?

A: [The Burmese junta] doesn’t think that deeply. They are unfriendly with the US, so they deal with other countries that are antagonistic to the US. The relationship itself seems to show that they don’t care about US policy.

Q: Is the relationship for their benefit?

A: Burma wants nuclear technology. To put it plainly: Burma wants to get the technology to develop a nuclear bomb. They have been sending many students to Russia for years. They study there for three to five years. Now they seem to be getting quite far.

However, Russia is a major world power, so they won’t give [the Burmese] the technical know-how [to build a bomb] because they have to maintain some ethical standards. North Korean, on the other, would be willing to provide this technology if they were approached.

To promote the relationship between the two countries, Gen Shwe Man visited there, and I have heard that the deputy foreign minister is handling the relationship. North Korea is now allowed to open an embassy in Burma.

However, I have to say it is childish of the Burmese generals to dream about acquiring nuclear technology, since they can’t even provide regular electricity in Burma.

Q: Why is China alarmed about the relationship between North Korea and Burma?

A: China understands the Burmese regime’s attitude well. Even if the generals are in a good mood now, they can easily change and become enemies in a short time. Their decisions are based on emotions. I think the same is true of the North Korean leadership.

Now China is trying to reign in North Korea. China has protected North Korea in the past, but now it is reluctant to do so again. I noticed that China didn’t object much to the UN Security Council’s recent resolution on North Korea.

Now China is advising the Burmese leaders to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, although they are not referring to her by name. They have started talking about the need for national reconciliation in Burma.

If Burma moves closer to North Korea, China’s attitude to Burma could become more like its recent approach to North Korea. China has protected these countries to some extent in the past. But China could change its stand on Burma in the UN Security Council. Even if they don’t positively support a resolution condemning the regime, they could abstain from using their veto to block it. Burma may think that it can pursue whatever course it likes without worrying about Chinese support, but the idea that China will support the Burmese regime forever is wrong.

Q: What do you think about relations between China and Russia? Russia recently reiterated its opposition to political and economic pressure on Burma. Is it true that Russia still supports Burma?

A: Russia wants Burma to be its protégé and China thinks the same. They compete with each other for influence on Burma. Now China seems reluctant to support Burma, so Russia is jumping in to support the junta.

Moreover, there are many Burmese students studying in Russia and Russia considers them to be “their” men. I assume Russia wants Burma to be its man.

Q: Burma could use money it gets from selling natural gas to South Korea to buy arms from North Korea. How could tension on the Korean peninsula affect Burma-North Korea relations?

A: South Korea started buying Burmese gas before Burma normalized relations with North Korea. It is only in the past year or two that that there have been reports that Burma was buying arms from North Korea. Now the South Korean president has started criticizing Burma, and if some parliamentarians in South Korea start complaining about [Burma’s relationship with North Korea], it may change [Burmese-South Korean relations]. It depends on the South’s position.

Burma may want to deal with both sides.

Q: North Korea is famous for its tunnel construction. Do you think this is something that the Burmese generals are particularly interested in?

A: When I was ambassador to North Korea, [Kim Il-sung] the father of the current president was still alive. He was very powerful. He used to live in tunnels and we sometimes visited him there. We went there by helicopter and then by car. His home in Pyongyang was just for show. They were always expecting war and were constantly preparing themselves for that. But we could visit him if he was in good health.

Now it is said that the Burmese junta is constructing tunnels in Kyaukse, in Minbu Township in Magway Division, in Chin State and in the Arakan Yoma mountain range with North Korea assistance. This news is spreading, so there may be something to it.

READ MORE---> Burma Wants the Bomb...

SPDC’s will to oppose ‘National Reconciliation’

(Rehmonnya) -The international community has been paying serious attention to the trial against Burma pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, but the military regime’s State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has tried to change that attention by attacking the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Karen people.

This is an old strategy the SPDC has played for several years. When the international community, including ASEAN and Thailand, condemned the Burmese government for the arrest of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the SPDC wanted to show their resentment of the international community.

They then attacked the KNU and Karen people to distract from the arrest, and to factionalize the KNU community. Human rights violations are again being committed by SPDC troops and thousands of refugees flee to Thailand.

The arrest of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the attack against the Karen people in eastern Burma shows that the SPDC does not really want to proceed with ‘national reconciliation’. They totally rejected the international community and oppositions’ proposal for political dialogue, yet still move forward with their 7 point ‘road-map’ to a ‘more disciplined democracy’.

Even after 2010 elections, the political and armed conflict in Burma will continued and many human rights and refugees displacement problems will remain unsolved. Without political reconciliation in Burma, the countries problems will remain unsolved and will continue to require international support.

June 26, 2009

READ MORE---> SPDC’s will to oppose ‘National Reconciliation’...

Over 50 Rohingya pushed back to Burma

Teknaf, Bangladesh (KPN): More than 50 Rohingya were pushed back to Burma this week by Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), according to a BDR source from Teknaf.

On Friday, 40 Rohingya ethnic minorities from Burma travelling in two boats were arrested by BDR on Sharpurdip in the morning. They were detained till noon and the men were beaten up. On receiving information, local people from the village went to the spot and requested the BDR personnel to release the Rohingya and send them back to their home land, said Sanmeah from Sharpurdip.

On Sunday, 12 Rohingya were arrested at the Whykong check post while they were proceeding to Chittagong or Cox’s Bazaar for treatment and other purposes. They were unable to process legal papers in Burma given their financial situation and came following an understanding with the Burmese border security forces (Nasaka). The BDR personnel pushed back them in the evening to Burma.

On Thursday, five Rohingya were arrested by the police in Lama in the Bandarban Hill district when they crossed the border. But, there is no information about them being pushed back, said an elder from Lama.

In Burma, the Rohingya community is discriminated against by the ruling junta. The Rohingya try to escape harassment by the authorities. They give money to cross the border from the Nasaka outpost where they pay 7000 kyats per head. This is how they illegally enter Bangladesh. The BDR arrest Rohingya while crossing the border, riding buses on the highway enroute to Teknaf-Cox’s Bazaar, and at the check post. Then the BDR personnel push them back to Burma, said a student who comes to Bangladesh for treatment.

If any Rohingya wishes to cross the border legally, he or she must get a border pass which costs 35,000 kyats, pay 7000 kyats for boat fare and 200 Taka in Teknaf for stamping papers in the entry point. So, the Rohingya are unable to process the border pass, said a trader from Maungdaw who always comes to Bangladesh for business purposes.

READ MORE---> Over 50 Rohingya pushed back to Burma...

Rohingya community pray for rain

Maungdaw, Arakan State (KPN): The Rohingya community in Maungdaw is seeking the blessings of God (Almighty Allah) for rain as most farmers are facing problems in cultivating paddy. They prayed in their area on Friday Juma (weekly) prayer, said a local elder from Maungdaw.

“The monsoon is late this time and we can’t plough our farms as there is no rainfall in our area. So, we requested our religious leaders to pray for rain,” said Anwar, a farmer from Nyaung Chaung village, Maungdaw.

The monsoon season starts every year in the beginning of June, but, we can’t do any thing this time because the monsoon has not set in yet, he added.

“We need rainfall in our area to cultivate crops for our survival,” he added.

“Yesterday, in most of the villages of Maungdaw people prayed for rain in their Mosques after Friday Juma prayers and hoped the blessing will come to us to help cultivate paddy in the farms,” said an elder from Maungdaw.

“We need to pray for rain. In previous years we sat together in the open field and prayed for rain and it did rain,” said a student from Maungdaw.

READ MORE---> Rohingya community pray for rain...

KIA lance-corporal disappears on way home

Lance-corporal So Ba Du of the Special Gorkha Squandron of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) disappeared while returning home from the squandron base in Laiza headquarters to Myitkyina in Burma's northern Kachin State on June 7, said KIA sources.

by KNG

The incident comes at a time of mounting military tension between Burma's ruling junta and the KIA after the latter was pressurized to transform to a battalion of the Border Guard Force (BGF) by the regime.

Lance-corporal So Ba Du is a Gorkha (Nepali). He was returning home in Myitkyina to attend a relative’s wedding after he was given leave by the KIA, said Laiza KIA sources.

Lance-corporal So Ba Du was detained on the Balaminhtin Irrawaddy River Bridge and was checked because he was a Gorkha soldier of the KIA by Burmese soldiers at the bridge checkpoint, KIA Laiza sources said.

According to the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the political wing of the KIA, the Burmese junta does not like the close relationship and cooperation between the KIO and Gorkhas. The Gorkha soldiers in KIA are always monitored by the junta, added KIO sources.

In April, Gorkha families in Myitkyina were summoned and checked by agents of the junta's military intelligence, the Military Affairs Security Unit (Sa Ya Pha). Young girls were put in prison cells for over a week following their return from Laiza after attending the May Daw festival, said sources close to them.

KIA sources said, KIA soldiers are being harassed in different ways while traveling. It has no idea how many KIA soldiers have been secretly arrested by Burmese troops.

The KIO informed the ruling junta on June 21 that it would like to transform the KIA to a "State Security Force" instead of a "Border Guard Force" as proposed by the junta.

Local reliable sources said, the KIA and Burmese troops are both on high alert and are on standby in the event of a resumption of civil war.

At the moment, the three other smaller Kachin ceasefire groups which split from the KIO/A--- the New Democratic Army-Kachin (NDA-K) and Lasang Awng Wa Peace Group in Kachin State, and Kachin Defense Army (KDA) in northeast Shan State have agreed to transform their forces to the "Border Guard Forces", said sources.

READ MORE---> KIA lance-corporal disappears on way home...

US Will Not Use Force to Inspect NKorean Ship

The Irrawaddy News

SEOUL — The United States will not use force to inspect a North Korean ship suspected of carrying banned goods, an American official was quoted as saying Friday.

An American destroyer has been shadowing the North Korean freighter sailing off China's coast, possibly on its way to Burma.

North Koreans take part in a mass rally marking anti-US Day at the Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang on the 59th anniversary of the start of the Korean War (1950-53) on June 25. This picture was released by North Korea's official news agency KCNA. The banner reads, "Crush the nuclear war provocation and maneuvers by the US!" (Photo: Reuters/KCNA)

Defense Undersecretary Michele Flournoy met with South Korean officials in Seoul on Friday as the US sought international support for aggressively enforcing a UN sanctions resolution aimed at punishing Pyongyang for its second nuclear test last month. The North Korean-flagged ship, Kang Nam 1, is the first to be tracked under the UN resolution.

North Korea has in response escalated threats of war, with a slew of harsh rhetoric including warnings that it would unleash a "fire shower of nuclear retaliation" and "wipe out the (US) aggressors" in the event of a conflict.

On Thursday, the communist regime organized a massive anti-American rally in Pyongyang where some 100,000 participants vowed to "crush" the US one senior speaker told the crowd that the North will respond to any sanctions or US provocations with "an annihilating blow."

That was seen as a pointed threat in response to the American destroyer.

Flournoy said Friday that Washington has ruled the use military force to inspect the North Korean freighter.

"The UN resolution lays out a regime that has a very clear set of steps," Flournoy said, according to the Yonhap news agency. "I want to be very clear ... This is not a resolution that sponsors, that authorizes use of force for interdiction."

Flournoy said the US still has "incentives and disincentives that will get North Korea to change course."

"Everything remains on the table, but we're focused on implementing the resolution fully, responsibly and with our international partners," she said.

Flournoy's trip came as the US sought international support for aggressively enforcing the UN sanctions.

It is not clear what was on board the North Korean freighter, but officials have mentioned artillery and other conventional weaponry. One intelligence expert suspected missiles.

The US and its allies have made no decision on whether to request inspection of the ship, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said Wednesday in Washington, but North Korea has said it would consider any interception an act of war.

If permission for inspection is refused, the ship must dock at a port of its choosing, so local authorities can check its cargo. Vessels suspected of carrying banned goods must not be offered bunkering services at port, such as fuel, the resolution says.

A senior US defense official said the ship had cleared the Taiwan Strait. He said he didn't know whether or when the Kang Nam may need to stop in some port to refuel, but that the ship has in the past stopped in Hong Kong's port.

Another US defense official said he tended to doubt reports that the Kang Nam was carrying nuclear-related equipment, saying information seems to indicate the cargo is banned conventional munitions. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity in order to talk about intelligence.

North Korea is suspected to have transported banned goods to Burma before on the Kang Nam, said Bertil Lintner, a Bangkok-based North Korea expert who has written a book about leader Kim Jong Il.

South Korea, meanwhile, plans to use high-tech surveillance and weapons systems to counter North Korea's missile and nuclear programs, Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee said in a Friday briefing.

South Korea plans to employ unmanned reconnaissance planes and add "bunker-buster" bombs to its arsenal in case of signs that the North planned to launch an attack toward the South, Lee said.

Associated Press writers Jae-soon Chang in Seoul, and Pauline Jelinek in Washington, contributed to this report.

READ MORE---> US Will Not Use Force to Inspect NKorean Ship...

New rules for musicians performing abroad

by Solomon

New Delhi (Mizzima) – With instances of artistes seeking asylum in host countries going up, the Myanmar Music Association (MMA) has introduced a new regulation for singers and musicians, who go abroad to perform.

Maung Thit Min, Secretary (2) of the MMA, also known as “Gita Asiayone”, in Rangoon, said a new regulation has been introduced for singers and musicians, who wish to go abroad to perform. It is now mandatory for them to fill up a form and sign a pledge that they will perform decently and will return after their visa expires.

“We introduced the new regulation about three months ago, to warn singers and musicians to perform decently in keeping with Burmese culture and to return home after they conclude their performance,” Maung Thit Min said.

He said, singers and musicians “Who want to go abroad to perform will have to inform us of their exact schedules, details of their trip and performances and sign a commitment that they will return to the country,” he added.

But he said while the MMA has no authority to take action against singers even if they break the rules, the regulation is designed to remind them that they have signed a pledge.

“At present, a lot of singers are going around the world, so we need to make rules for them,” he said. However he added that, if the singers seek asylum in the host counties it is their “personal matter.”

In recent months, a Burmese pop singer Aung Yin was reported to have got asylum in England after visiting for a show for the Burmese community in London, he said.

Dr. Naing Win, a Burmese activist living in London confirmed that Aung Yin had come to England and had applied to the British government for asylum.

“He was granted asylum about three months ago,” Dr. Naing Win told Mizzima.

He said Aung Yin has been in London for several months but he is not aware of the purpose of his stay. But lately, he said, he was told that Aung Yin has been granted asylum by the British government.

While Aung Yin is the first Burmese singer to be granted asylum in United Kingdom, Dr. Win Naing, said there are about 3,000 Burmese asylum seekers in UK.

While it is not clear under what circumstances Aung Yin had applied for asylum, sources said his family remains in Rangoon.

The Burmese Pop singer came to limelight in the early 1990s, when he co-produced an album ‘Akyinna Einmet’ with the deceased popular singer cum composer Htoo Win Thinn.

While not wanting to comment on Aung Yin’s case, Maung Thit Min said, with the Burmese community spread out in several countries including UK, USA, Malaysia, Thailand and Australia, more and more singers and musicians are wanting to go abroad for performances.

READ MORE---> New rules for musicians performing abroad...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Rohingya participates in 45th standing committee meeting of UNHCR

(KPN) - Dr. Kamal Hussein, representative of Burmese Rohingya Community in Australia (BRCA), presented a statement (drafted) on behalf of NGOs across the world at the 45th Standing Committee meeting of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on June 23 in Geneva, Switzerland, U Kyaw Maung, the President of BRCA from Australia said.

Dr. Kamal Hussein delivery the statement in the meeting

The grand opening speech of June 23 meeting was chaired by the Ambassador of Costa Rica who visited Malaysia and Thailand to visit refugees quite recently and gave a speech on the Burmese refugee situation in Asia and then in other countries, according to Dr. Kamal from Geneva.

“It is a great honor for me, for BRCA, the Rohingya community and also for the Australian team as I have been given the chance to present a statement (drafted) on behalf of NGOs across the world," said Dr. Kamal.

After attending the meeting, Dr. Kamal told Kaladan News, “We need at least three steps of lobbying for Rohingyas or for any oppressed group in the world, such as meetings and explaining to the policy makers, politicians , NGOs and UN agencies, about what is happening in the community such as oppression, human rights violation etc; we need to go through media and researches to write about what is happening to the community and need to participate for taking action, practical decision and policy drafting: and pursue Governments and United Nations.

“We sent our representative Dr. Kamal Hussein to participate in UNHCR’s Geneva meetings to raise awareness about the plight of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees across Asia,” according to U Kyaw Maung, the President of BRCA in Australia.

“BRCA works tirelessly with the cooperation of Refugee Council of Australia and the Centre for Refugee Research UNSW and Amnesty international of Australia to provide stronger support from national and international levels for the Rohingya refugees,” U Kyaw Maung more said.

“I would like to thank Caritas Australia for helping us,” he added.

“We, at the BRCA worked hard with the concerned authorities from Australia for resettling Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh in 2008-2009 and are hoping more Rohingya refugees will be settled in future,” he more added.

“I hope the participation and presentation will help Rohingyas and Burma not only in the NGO forum but also in the government forum. Now here in the UN, the practical action of the Rohingyas’ plight is about to be decided for the next year and also for the next five years,” said Dr. Kamal.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is currently made up of 70 member States. The Executive Committee (ExCom) meets in Geneva annually to review and approve UNHCR's programs and the budget, offer advice on international protection, and discuss a wide range of other issues with UNHCR and its intergovernmental and non-governmental partners.

NGOs are present at these meetings and offer statements on each of the agenda items. RCUSA members are actively involved in the drafting of these statements. The International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), founded in 1962, is a global network that brings together human rights, humanitarian, and development NGOs as an advocacy alliance for humanitarian action. Focusing on humanitarian and refugee policy issues, ICVA draws upon the work of its members at the field level and brings their experiences to international decision-making forums.

READ MORE---> Rohingya participates in 45th standing committee meeting of UNHCR...

Villagers refuse government money for new schools

By Kon Hadae, IMNA

Villagers from Mudon Township in Mon State have refused government money for the building of schools.

90 million kyat was donated by former Mudon residents now living and working in Singapore, but it hasn’t ended up being enough for the construction.

In September, the family inquired about making repairs to a school in Set -thawe village. Officials at the Mudon Township Peace and Development Council (TPDC), however, asked the family to allow the Union Solidarity Development Association (USDA) to coordinate the repairs.

The USDA is a government-backed civilian organization founded with the support of Senior General Than Shwe in 1993.

The USDA announced plans to build schools in five villages: kolort-tort, Doe-mar, Set-thawe, Kwan hlar village. They finished building the schools in Set-thawe and Kyaik-ywe village, and began Doe-mar’s in March, which the USDA estimated would cost 15 million kyat.

The USDA leaders informed villagers that their organization would not be willing to cover 8 million themselves. Initially Mudon villagers agreed with the USDA offer, but then noted the low quality materials bought for the school.

Now villagers told IMNA they thought the USDA would also misuse the remaining 8 million kyat.

“They just bought bad quality materials for the school, and wanted to keep the extra money. So we villagers are concerned that they are going to misuse our money. For that reason we refused to let the USDA organize the building of the school in our village. We told them [the USDA] we would organize the building of this school with our own money.”

The school in Doe-mar village is now 50 percent complete. School construction has been halted since last month because the villagers had no money. In order to continue building the school, the village headman has asked for money from the Mon State ministry of education.

According to a Doe-mar villager, thus far no answer has been received from the Mon state ministry of education.

READ MORE---> Villagers refuse government money for new schools...

‘Lawyers of the government’ steering Suu Kyi trial

(DVB)–A witness disqualified from testifying in the defense of Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi said yesterday following his appeal that it was not “ordinary lawyers” making key decisions in the trial but government cronies.

Suu Kyi’s defense team yesterday appealed to Burma’s supreme court to admit two witnesses who were disqualified last month by judges from testifying.

One of Suu Kyi’s lawyers said that the decision was not in accordance with Burmese law. One of the witnesses, U Tin Oo, is currently under house arrest, while U Win Tin has been criticized by the junta for giving interviews about the trial to foreign media.

Both are senior members of the opposition National League for Democracy party, which Suu Kyi leads.

“I argued that there is no law there that says that [someone under house arrest]…can't testify,” said lawyer Nyan Win.

“I argued that there is nowhere in the law that says that someone who doesn't agree with the government can't testify, with regards to U Win Tin."

Three of Suu Kyi’s four witnesses were initially barred, although one was later readmitted. The prosecution team was permitted 14 witnesses, although only nine eventually testified.

Win Tin said yesterday that it was clear what the government’s attitude towards Suu Kyi’s team is.

“The people who put forward the [witness disqualification] argument are people from the central lawyers’ office…the lawyers of the government,” he said.

“I feel as if they are giving me a sign that they want to trap me legally, and sue me or intimidate me."

Rumours have been circulating in Rangoon that Win Tin could be charged by judges for refusing to return his prisoner uniform, which he has been wearing since he was released last year from a 19 year sentence.

On the subject of UN envoy Gambari’s visit to Burma, which began this morning, Win Tin said that dialogue must be sought.

"When Mr. Gambari comes, he must meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi - that must be his priority,” he said.

“If he can't do that…his trip has no meaning and has no value.”

Gambari’s trip could pave the way for a visit by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who was invited by the government to visit in July, although he has not confirmed whether the trip will go ahead.

“The main thing Mr Ban Ki-moon has to do is to try to arrange a meeting between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Senior General Than Shwe,” Win Tin said.

Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet

READ MORE---> ‘Lawyers of the government’ steering Suu Kyi trial...

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

The Irrawaddy News

The trial of Aung San Suu Kyi is an unofficial step in the ruling junta’s seven-step road map. It is an essential one for the generals as they look ahead to the fifth step—the upcoming election in 2010.

The generals must now see, however, that by putting Suu Kyi on trial they took one step forward and two steps back.

The regime had no alternative as it prepared for the upcoming election. For the generals, the election is not only a step towards politcal legitimacy, but also the apparatus with which they can legalize the role of the military within the country’s political system.

The road map has three more steps—the election, the convening of a parliamentary assembly and the construction of “a modern, developed and democratic nation.” That’s the generals’ political aim.

In order to complete the whole process, the junta faced one big problem: Suu Kyi, who should have been freed on May 27 after serving six years of house arrest. Her release would have come at least seven months, probably longer, before the planned election.

Free at last, Suu Kyi would have been regarded as a potential troublemaker by the generals, whose political exit strategy would have been closed.

By arresting her and putting her on trial, the junta forestalled that danger, at least for the time being. It was a risky ploy that has unleashed an international outcry that must have surprised the regime.

Once begun, the trial had to continue, with only one verdict in sight: guilty. Suu Kyi will be sentenced to up to five more years of incarceration—and the regime will have taken two big steps backwards.

Unlike its past persecution of Suu Kyi, however, the regime cannot expect to return to “business as usual” this time.

Judging by the volume of international condemnation unleashed by the trial, Suu Kyi’s imprisonment would undoubtedly bring criticism from governments and organizations that have largely ignored past abuses by the regime. Concern about events in Burma is voiced now not only in Washington and other Western capitals.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), which has traditionally protected the Burmese regime, recently took the unusual step of issuing a statement condemning the trial and calling for Suu Kyi’s release. The statement was formally issued by the Asean chair, Thailand, once a staunch supporter of strong ties to Burma.

During a visit to Burma in early June, Singapore’s Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong urged Burma’s junta leaders not to allow the trial of the pro-democracy leader to affect the national reconciliation process, and to ensure that next year’s general election is free and fair.

Goh emphasized that the elections must be inclusive and that the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Suu Kyi, must be part of the process of national reconciliation.

The Burmese junta was also told by Goh—probably much to its chagrin—that Singapore investors were likely to wait until after the 2010 election before pouring any more money into the country.

The Asean statement and Goh’s outspoken appeals indicate that the members of the regional grouping are running out of patience with their out-of-step associate.

As international pressure on the regime mounted, the junta’s No 2, Snr-Gen Maung Aye, rushed to China for talks with leaders of Burma’s closest ally. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao reportedly told him that China hoped the junta would promote democracy in Burma.

Although it was natural for the regime to consult at this critical time with a government whose support it so badly needs at the UN, the Burmese junta never allows any country, including China, to dictate its internal politics.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was expected to visit Burma in early July following UN calls for the release of Suu Kyi and more than 2,000 other political prisoners, as well as an assurance that the 2010 election will be all-inclusive. The junta has never heeded such calls from the UN or the international community, however.

There is little chance, anyway, that the election will be all-inclusive, since the NLD is expected to take its own step backwards and boycott the poll unless Suu Kyi is freed. Before the trial, there was a chance that the NLD would agree to participate.

A change of heart by the regime is highly unlikely, and the decision to keep Suu Kyi safely out of the political arena has surely already been taken. She will probably be sentenced to a further three years or so of loss of freedom and be returned to her home to serve it there.

But the regime’s headaches don’t end there. Suu Kyi’s trial is turning out to be the most intractable problem it has faced in the 20 years it has held power.

The above article will appear in the July 2009 issue of The Irrawaddy magazine.

READ MORE---> One Step Forward, Two Steps Back...

A Visit to North Korea’s Arms Factories


The Burmese junta’s No 3, Gen Thura Shwe Mann, made a secret, seven day visit to North Korea last November, apparently with a shopping list for arms and sophisticated weapons systems.

North Korea’s Chief of General Staff Gen Kim Gyok-sik (right) welcomes Gen Shwe Mann at the Defense Ministry in Pyongyang.

Shwe Mann, chief of staff of the army, navy and air force, and the coordinator of Special Operations, was shown by his North Korean hosts around arms industry factories and defense installations. He and his 17-member high-level delegation were also taken to Myohyang, where secret tunnels have been built into the mountains to store and shield jet aircraft, missiles, tanks and nuclear and chemical weapons.

Photographs of the visit have meanwhile reached The Irrawaddy and give rarely seen evidence of the range of North Korea’s armaments industry.

Related Story:
Asia’s ‘Axis of Evil’ Flexes Its Muscles

Also recorded at:

READ MORE---> A Visit to North Korea’s Arms Factories...

Students mark World Anti-Drugs Day with 200 posters in Myitkyina

by KNG

Students marked the World Anti-Drugs Day of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) under the United Nations today with 200 hand-written posters in Myitkyina, the capital of Burma's northern Kachin State. They demanded that the military junta make Kachin State a drug free state, student activists said.

Burma is the world's second largest opium producing country, according to the UNODC.

A-4 size papers pasted by the students carried two slogans --- "Drug free zone" and "No elections 2010", said Shadang Tu Awng, who organized this morning’s movement.

Shadang Tu Awng said, the posters were pasted on roadside electric poles, walls in seven main quarters in Myitkyina--- Yuzana, May Myint, Shatapru, Myothit, Ayeyar, Tatkone (Dapkawng in Kachin) and Du Kahtawng (or Du Mare) including State High Schools in these quarters.

The posters were also put up on the walls in front of the Government Education College and Office of the Township Director of Education, added Tu Awng.

The idea of pasting posters was to highlight the students demand to the ruling junta to make Kachin State a drug free state, another student activist Shadang Naw Naw said.

Several Myitkyina University students took part in this morning’s poster movement in the town. It was organized by the All Kachin Students' Union (AKSU), an underground student organization based in Kachin State, said student activist Tu Awng.

Today the Thailand-based Kachin News Group (KNG) also released a first mini drug report on Kachin State titled "Authorities feed on heroin epidemic in Hpakant" (Read report here).

The report pointed out that the junta allows the rampant use of all kinds of drugs in Hpakant jade mining area in Kachin State where fortune seekers from the whole of Burma come. Most jade miners and workers of jade mining companies are into drugs.

The report also pointed out that Myitkyina University once known as the "Center of learning is now a heroin haven" because students have drugs freely inside in the campus. The Myitkyina-based MDM (Medicin Du Monde – France) has placed a 'Waste Bin' in the university toilet for intravenous drug users among students for discarding used syringes.

The junta's Northern Command or Kachin State Commander Brig-Gen Soe Win has promised that he will completely eradicate drugs in the state during his tenure. However, locals said drug users and distributors are having much more of a free run than during the tenure of his predecessor Maj-Gen Ohn Myint.

Residents of Manhkring quarter in Myitkyina said, they do not go to the nearby bank of the Irrawaddy River (Mali Hka in Kachin) and crop fields near the river because they are scared of hurting their feet on the abundance of syringes littered in these places.

At the moment, in the big prison in Zion (also pronounced Zee Lon) quarter in Myitkyina, most prisoners related to drug cases are Kachins. Some of the prisoners are being sent to the frontline as porters in the current war with the Karen National Union (KNU) near Thailand-Burma border, said prison sources.

READ MORE---> Students mark World Anti-Drugs Day with 200 posters in Myitkyina...

Tenasserim hydropower project under survey

by Ko Shwe

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Thai surveyors and Burmese authorities are surveying the Tenasserim River, in Burma’s southernmost Tenasserim Division, for a potential dam site to generate electricity for export to Thailand and Singapore.

Sources in the area said Thai authorities have placed a representative in Tenasserim Division to observe river levels and to record water levels both during the rainy and summer seasons.

A source, recently arrived on the Thai-Burmese border from the area, said, "They [Thai authorities] have hired a person to monitor the water level of the river in different seasons and pay him about 50,000 baht per month.

“They also leave water-measuring equipment to keep a record of the water level. In the hot season it is measured once a day and in the rainy season it is measured every hour,” he added.

Sources said Thai surveyors and Burmese soldiers on December 25 and 26, 2008, visited the proposed dam sites and collected sample stones and sand from the areas for examination.

According to an official with the Karen National Union (KNU), based in the area, it is the second time that Thai and Burmese authorities are conducting such a survey with the aim of implementing a Tenasserim hydropower project.

The first survey, conducted in 2007, saw KNU officials confiscate the survey equipment, including a Global Positioning System (GPS), cameras and other materials.

Villagers in the area said the survey group has marked two potential dam sites on the river. One in Ler Pa Doh village, called the upper potential dam site, and another near Muro village, called the lower potential dam site. The upper and lower potential dam sites are about three hours distance apart by boat.

Burma has already signed an agreement with Thai and Singaporean companies to provide the two energy hungry nations with electricity from the hydropower project.

According to the New Light of Myanmar, a state-run daily newspaper, a signing ceremony for the Tenasserim hydropower project was held on October 9, 2008, between the Burmese Ministry of Electric Power No. 1, the Italian-Thai Development Public Co. Ltd. of Thailand and Singapore's Wind Fall Energy Services Ltd.

The paper said, the propose hydroproject will produce an estimate of 600 Mega Watt.

Sources said following the agreement two Burmese Army battalions have been stationed in the vicinity of the potential dam sites – in the villages of Ler Pah Doh and Thay Baw Nah, respectively.

Locals said there has never been any consultation on the proposed dam with residents from the more than 11 villages likely to be affected by any construction.

A KNU official, who requested not to be named, added, “We will keep an eye on the development of the dam project and related surveying in this area.”

READ MORE---> Tenasserim hydropower project under survey...

Ashin Gambira’s prison term reduced by five years

by Phanida

Chiang Mai (mizzima) – Monk Ashin Gambira, arrested and sentenced to 68 years in prison for his lead role in anti-junta protests in September 2007 has had his prison term reduced by five years by a district court in Insein prison on Thursday.

The western district court reduced the sentence of Gambira, leader of the All Burma Buddhist Monks Association by five years. He was charged under the Electronics Act. The reverend monk, who was charged on 16 counts, will now have to serve 63 years in prison.

The Electronics Act 33 (a) stipulates that using the internet without the permission of the authorities is an offence and is punishable. The law became a tool for the authorities to sentence the reverend monk, who took a lead role in the September 2007 monk-led protests.

Lawyers of the monk, who is 29, and is currently detained in a prison in Kalemyo in Sagaing division, have appealed to the district court. The court said the appeals were late and rejected appeals for seven counts.

The legal counsels have now, submitted appeals on the other nine counts, and the court has scheduled a session on June 29.

Ashin Gambira, however, denied appealing but the lawyers have been acting on the request of his parents.

Authorities have also arrested the monk’s elder brother Aung Kyaw Kyaw and sentenced him to 14 years in prison. He is currently detained in Tuaggyi prison in Shan state. Similarly, his younger brother Aung Ko Ko Lwin and brother-in-law Moe Htet Lian were also arrested and sentenced to five years each and are respectively in Kyuak Pyu prison in Arakan state and Moulmein prison in Mon state.

READ MORE---> Ashin Gambira’s prison term reduced by five years...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Police Chief Suspects Yettaw Mastermind


The Burmese police chief, Brig-Gen Khin Yi, alleged that a mastermind was orchestrating John William Yettaw, whose intrusion on Aung San Suu Kyi led to her arrest and trial.

There must be a mastermind behind Mr. Yettaw. We are investigating who exactly is behind this,” the police chief told journalists and diplomats at a press conference in Rangoon on Thursday. (JEG's: so what... if there is a mastermind what that knowledge has to do with Suu Kyi? she never asked the "mastermind to mind" into her privacy..)

Burmese Police Chief Brig-Gen Khin Yi, speaks at a news conference in Naypyidaw last year. (Photo: Getty Images)

Khin Yi said John William Yettaw was not wealthy enough to travel and stay in Thailand and Burma for several months, and his long stays must have been financed by a group masterminding his actions. (JEG's: I know who masterminded the intrussion... the junta..)

Khin Yi also alleged that Yettaw might have wanted security guards to arrest him, because he did not take the same route entering and leaving Suu Kyi's house. “By swimming through Inya Lake he attracted the attention of police guarding Suu Kyi,” Khin Yi said.

Khin Yi frequently repeated that Yettaw had met with exiled and unlawful groups before his last visit to Burma.

According to Burmese and Thai sources in Mae Sot, a Thai town on the border with Burma, Yettaw, 53, spent more than a month at a hotel in the town after his first visit to Rangoon in November 2008. During this visit he managed to get in to Suu Kyi’s compound, but her companions prevented him from meeting her.

While he was in Mae Sot, people recalled Yettaw saying that he planned to return to visit Suu Kyi again. His second visit led to the fateful encounter with Suu Kyi in May, sources said.

In Mae Sot, Yettaw stayed at the Highland Hotel, where he spoke to several people about Burma and made brief comments about Suu Kyi. He openly told people about his first visit to her compound.

Yettaw was still in debt for the expenses he incurred during his first trip to Burma, according to his family. Before leaving his home in Falcon, Missouri, Yettaw told his wife, Betty Yettaw, that he planned to visit Asia for a book he was writing, according to an Associated Press report.

Yettaw, a Mormon, reportedly does not hold strong political views. He receives disability payments from the US Veteran’s Affairs office for Vietnam-related injuries and has been pursuing studies in psychology.

READ MORE---> Police Chief Suspects Yettaw Mastermind...

KNU Headquarters Overrun: Now What?

The Irrawaddy News

After a long offensive, the Burmese army and its ceasefire militia, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), has overrun the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) Brigade 7 headquarters.

The question now is: What’s next?

Karen sources and analysts said the fighting will continue as the joint Burmese army and DKBA troops focus their attacks toward the KNLA Brigade 6 area.

Analysts said powerful business interests are supporting the offensive.

(Graphic: The Irrawaddy)

The Burmese regime’s goal is to control all of central Karen State, where the Karen National Union’s KNLA Brigade 7 and 6 are now located, in order to dominate the business and border trade activity with Thailand, said one DKBA businessman who asked for anonymity.

Once dominated, many industries, companies and infrastructure will be improved and supported by the Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said the businessman.

Important activities will include logging and mining natural resources, including zinc, he said.

He said the Burmese authorities and DKBA troops will construct roads to connect between army headquarters in Myaing Gyi Ngu and border areas.

Once the clashes end, the relationship between the DKBA and local Thai authorities and businessmen in Mae Sot will expand when compared to the past, businessmen said.

During the recent fighting, a KNU leader said two DKBA leaders were spotted in a car traveling with Thai police near the border where Karen refugees have sought shelter in Tha Song Yang District in Tak Province.

Analysts also said the situation will be more dangerous for the KNU and Burmese opposition groups in exile when the border area is controlled by DKBA troops.

Maj Hla Ngwe, the joint secretary (1) of the KNU, said the loss of KNLA Brigade 7 headquarters could affect the work of Burmese opposition organizations based in Mae Sot.

“The opposition movement will be limited. They might not launch campaigns as they did before,” said Hla Ngwe.

Border sources also say more assassinations could be expected in the border area, where many Burmese and ethnic opposition groups are based.

In February 2008, the KNU’s late general secretary, Mahn Sha, was gun down by two DKBA members at his home near the center of Mae Sot. Many sources claimed the assassination also involved Thai border police.

Border sources said that DKBA members will have easy access to Mae Sot once the relationship between the DKBA and Thai border authorities is established.

A sign of the evolving transition in the power center, said the businessman, is that DKBA soldiers are now receiving medical care in Mae Sot. What’s happening is “very obvious,” he said.

The DKBA plans to expand its troops from 6,000 to 9,000 in preparation for its transformation to become a border guard force under the Burmese army. The DKBA split from it mother organization, the KNU, and signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese regime in 1995.

READ MORE---> KNU Headquarters Overrun: Now What?...

Likely Destination of N Korean Ship Often Used for Weapons Deliveries

The Irrawaddy News

The Myanmar International Terminals Thilawa (MITT), believed to be the destination of the Kang Nam 1, a North Korean cargo ship being tracked by the US Navy, has often been used for deliveries of weapons, according to sources at the facility.

The Kang Nam 1, which left a North Korean port on June 17, is believed to be carrying weapons, missile parts or possibly even nuclear materials.

Cargo ships are docked at Myanmar International Terminals Thilawa (MITT) deep sea port near Rangoon. (Photo: AP)

“There are two reasons to use Thilawa,” said an MITT operator. “First, it is not too close to Rangoon, and second, it is easy to increase security here so people don’t know what is being unloaded.”

The international multi-purpose container port, Burma’s largest deep sea port, is located about 30 km south of Rangoon.

According to other MITT employees, the facility has often been used for deliveries of weapons since it was built in the mid-1990s.

“Cargo ships carrying many kinds of weapons from Russia, China, North Korea and the Ukraine have docked at Thilawa,” said an MITT worker.

Normally, the source explained, the ships are offloaded around midnight to avoid attracting attention. Then, around 2 a.m., convoys of trucks deliver the weapons to a military depot at Intaing, about 25 km north of Rangoon.

“When cargo ships carrying military equipment dock at the port, naval personnel based near Thilawa take over port security and coordinate the unloading of the ships,” he said. “No unauthorized personnel are allowed near the port when cargo ships carrying weapons dock here.”

On Wednesday, officials from the Myanmar Port Authority, which operates under the Ministry of Transport, met with the Thilawa port authorities. It is believed that the meeting was related to the imminent arrival of the Kang Nam 1.

“We don’t know when the ship will dock and we haven’t received any instructions concerning its berthing schedule,” said an MITT employee, adding that this was normal procedure for handling ships carrying weapons.

The source also said that employees of MITT had been instructed not to speak to exiled media about the Kang Nam 1.

On Thursday, the Burmese state-run newspaper, The News Light of Myanmar, reported that the government had denied that the Kang Nam 1 was heading for Burma.

The report said that the Burmese junta had not received any information about the Kang Nam 1, but was expecting another North Korean ship, the MV Dumangang, to arrive in Burma on June 27 to pick up 8,000 tons of rice. (JEG's: POD= Pay on Delivery)

The USS John S McCain started following the Kang Nam 1 soon after it left port last week. The USS McCampbell is now shadowing the ship, which is being monitored under UN sanctions imposed earlier this month following North Korea’s underground nuclear test in May.

READ MORE---> Likely Destination of N Korean Ship Often Used for Weapons Deliveries...

Cross-border DKBA attack leaves two Karen dead

(DVB)–Two Karen refugees in Thailand who fled ongoing fighting in eastern Burma have been shot dead in what appears to be a cross-border attack by Burmese pro-junta militia, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army.

Members of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), who are fighting alongside the Burmese army in its offensive against opposition Karen National Union (KNU), have reportedly been pressuring Karen in Thailand who had fled the offensive.

Three DKBA soldiers entered Thebayhta village in Thailand’s Tha Song Yan province on the evening of 23 June and reportedly questioned two Karen men about KNU activities.

A villager in Thebayhta said that when the two replied that they knew nothing, the soldiers shot them.

One of the men, Mah Kloh, 36, died on the spot while the other, Er Khlay, 28, died yesterday morning.

Meanwhile, refugees have been told that homes and villages in Burma’s eastern Karen state will be confiscated if they do not return.

According to a Karen youth group helping the refugees, nine families comprising 54 members in Thailand’s Mae Thrit village were told that they had to go home, despite many voicing fears that they will be caught in the clashes.

The Karen Women’s Organisation (KWO) said on Monday that Thai authorities had similarly been telling Karen to leave the country, although some observers speculated that Thailand was reacting to pressure from the DKBA and Burmese government.

Around 4000 Karen are thought to have fled Burma since the offensive began on 2 June. Thai authorities have reportedly given a verbal promise to help 4000 displaced villagers although no definite plan has been set out, said the KWO secretary.

According to the KWO, Karen villagers face the prospect of being forced to walk in front of troop patrols as minesweeper, while rape of women is a real threat: last week two Karen women, both teenagers, were raped and murdered by the Burmese army.

Reporting by Naw Noreen

READ MORE---> Cross-border DKBA attack leaves two Karen dead...

US calls for release of prominent China dissident - Liu Xiaobo

(SMH) - The United States said it was "deeply disturbed" by the reported arrest of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo and called for his release amid a mounting chorus of condemnation.

Chinese state media said Wednesday that police had formally arrested Liu, a leading force behind a petition calling for democratic reforms.

"The US government is deeply disturbed by reports that Liu Xiaobo has been formally arrested and charged with serious crimes," Richard Buangan, a spokesman for the US embassy in Beijing, told AFP.

"We call on the government of China to release Mr. Liu and respect the rights of all Chinese citizens who peacefully express their desire for internationally recognised freedoms."

The 53-year-old writer was arrested Tuesday for "alleged agitation activities aimed at subversion of the government and overthrowing the socialist system," Xinhua news agency said, citing Beijing police.

Liu, who was jailed previously for his involvement in the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement that was crushed by the army, has long campaigned through his writings for human rights, democracy and the rule of law in China.

He was taken into custody in December after signing Charter 08, a manifesto signed by hundreds of intellectuals, scholars and dissidents calling for political and legal reforms and respect for human rights.

The reaction from the United States followed criticism of the reported arrest by US House speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday.

"The decision by the Chinese government to formally arrest Liu Xiaobo deserves the full condemnation from the international community," said Pelosi, who is second in line for the presidency after US Vice President Joe Biden.

"Liu?s arrest for peacefully criticising his government and advocating for human rights violates provisions in China?s constitution as well as international human rights standards," Pelosi added in a statement.

Ding Zilin, a 72-year-old retired professor whose son was killed in the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, said the government had arrested a "moderate and rational" writer, in a statement released by New York-based Human Rights in China.

"If the often avowed... 'rapidly emerging', 'great nation' and 'superpower'... cannot tolerate a mere scholar like Liu Xiaobo, this is a clear enough indication that the regime of (President) Hu Jintao and (Premier) Wen Jiabao has already shut tight the door to so-called 'political reform,' she said.

"(It has) completely blocked China's path toward democracy and constitutional rule, let alone freedom of speech," she added in the statement co-written by her husband Jiang Peikun.

Brad Adams, Asia director of New York-based Human Rights Watch, said the arrest of Liu sent Chinese citizens "a clear signal of political hardening."

"But it also misses an opportunity to show the outside world that the government is confident enough to tolerate thoughtful and peaceful domestic criticism," he said in an emailed statement.

Buangan said the United States had raised its concerns about Liu's status and whereabouts repeatedly both in Beijing and Washington, and would "continue to do so."

READ MORE---> US calls for release of prominent China dissident - Liu Xiaobo...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Farmers' Loans Reserved for Model Villagers

Maungdaw (Narinjara): The Burmese military junta has allocated 600 lakh kyat for farmers in Maungdaw District for agricultural loans, but the district authorities are preparing to lend the money to model villagers in 27 model villages instead, said a senior clerk from the district office on the condition of anonymity.

He said, "The military authority allocated 600 lakh kyat to our district but the farmers in our township are unable to get the loans because the local authority is arranging to lend the money to model villagers."

The military junta has allocated 2,000 lakh kyat for agricultural loans for all of Arakan State this agricultural season. Of that amount, 600 lakh has been allocated to Maungdaw District.

There are four districts in Arakan State - Sittwe, Kyaukpru, Thandwe, and Maungdaw - and the remaining 1,400 lakh has been set aside for the remaining three districts in the state.

"The authority has collected the list of farms owned by model villagers in the township. Later the list will be transferred to the agricultural bank in Maungdaw to withdraw the loans to them," he said.

Agricultural loans have recently been provided by the government's central bank to farmers through the agricultural bank, but local authorities in Maungdaw are neglecting to distribute the loans to Arakanese farmers in the district.

"I think the authority does not want to make loans to Muslim farmers because they are not citizens in Burma, so the authority decided to loan to the model villagers," the clerk said.

According to a local farmer source, the authority is only making loans to model villagers from Burma proper, and is not making loans to either Muslim or ethnic Rakhine, Dynet, and Khami farmers.

READ MORE---> Farmers' Loans Reserved for Model Villagers...

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