Friday, July 31, 2009

26 Dissidents Detained in Rangoon: AAPP

The Irrawaddy News

The Burmese military authorities arrested 26 pro-democracy activists on Thursday night in a move to pre-empt any public outrage concerning the postponement of a verdict against Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, said a Burmese human rights group.

Tate Naing, secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a Burmese human rights group based on the Thai-Burmese border, told The Irrawaddy on Friday that Burmese authorities had arrested 26 dissidents since Thursday evening.

“We have learned that 28 people were arrested and that two activists among them were later released,” he said. “But the other 26 remain under arrest. Most of them are former political prisoners.”

The following morning (Friday), the Burmese judiciary postponed the verdict on Suu Kyi to August 11.

Later that day, Suu Kyi’s lawyer, Nyan Win, said at a press conference at the headquarters of the National League for Democracy (NLD) that the Rangoon Northern District Court had said that it decided to postpone the verdict because it is “reviewing the law.”

Among the 28 who were allegedly arrested during the overnight operation are elected representatives from the 1990 elections, including Tha Aung from Myothit Township and Nyunt Hlaing from Aunglan Township, as well as a well-known woman activist, Naw Ohn Hla.

Tate Naing said Naw Ohn Hla and Nyunt Hlaing were later released. However, he added that the number of arrests could rise as tensions increase among Suu Kyi’s supporters and security forces around Insein Prison, where the opposition leader has been detained since May 14.

“These arbitrary arrests show that the junta is scared of public outrage over the unjust trial of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” Tate Naing said.

The detention of the 26 dissidents adds to the more than 2,100 political prisoners already being held in Burma’s prisons. According to AAPP and other human rights groups, the number of political prisoners in Burma has doubled in the last two years.

The arrests came following calls from the international community for the junta to release Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners in Burma.

READ MORE---> 26 Dissidents Detained in Rangoon: AAPP...

Verdict on Hold

The Irrawaddy News

Did astrologers advise Snr-Gen Than Shwe to postpone the verdict in the trial of opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi? Or was it a ploy by Than Shwe, a former psychological warfare officer, to buy more time? Or did Chinese leaders tell the Burmese to postpone the ruling?

Whatever the reason, the delay is part of the twists and turns of politics in military-ruled Burma and more drama is likely to follow.

The delay should not be taken as a sign of weakness on the part of the stubborn military regime, however. It is likely that the regime is just buying time to deflect both domestic and international pressure.

The postponement of the verdict shows that the regime leaders who are prepared to impose a prison sentence on Suu Kyi wish to avoid unpleasant consequences: the outrage from the international community and more pressure from the West and neighboring countries.

The regime has no control over the sustained international pressure—UN chief Ban Ki-moon and international leaders appealed for the release of Suu Kyi and more than 2,100 political prisoners. The US, EU and Asean nations are keeping to a unified stance: free Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners.

The domestic factor may also have played a part.

Security has been beefed up in Rangoon and the countryside where small protests may occur. More riot police are deployed and more military trucks and police have moved into Rangoon.

The generals don’t want to take risks at this time, and it is perhaps a smart move to postpone the court decision.

The fact is the case is political: the regime wants to exclude Suu Kyi from politics and especially from the coming 2010 election.

However, as her supporters say, Suu Kyi is no coward, and she is ready to face reality in the military-ruled country. Suu Kyi is prepared for the worst—her lawyers said that she was stockpiling books and medicines.

Though behind bars, Suu Kyi recently commented on the regime’s planned election. Knowing that Ban had made a high level visit to Burma to discuss political issues and her release, Suu Kyi’s lawyer said she had one important message for Ban.

The message is that the UN should be prepared to denounce the upcoming elections in Burma as illegitimate if the regime does not implement national reconciliation beforehand.

Her stance on the election alone sends a strong message to the UN and the international community. She wants the generals to embrace national reconciliation.

But the generals like to talk tough, as the state-run newspapers testify. The editorials reflecting the opinion of ruling general Than Shwe and his hardliners clearly demonstrate their uncompromising stance.

“Myanmar [Burma] is an independent, sovereign county with the rights to formulate and prescribe appropriate law, and to form a government with suitable administrative machinery,” The New Light of Myanmar thundered on Wednesday.

The same newspaper said that Burma has no political prisoners, and it asked the international community not to interfere in the court ruling, saying that Burma [junta] has its own judicial system.

The paper stated there are “external interferences” in the case, and that while the Suu Kyi trial is going on in “accord with the law,” no one should call for the release of political prisoners, including Suu Kyi.

The more they talk tough in The New Light of Myanmar the more it shows the generals’ level of paranoia.

“Threatening and unnecessarily attempting to influence the trial should be avoided. Anyone should not be involved [sic] in such acts as favoring the defendant, favoring the plaintiff and using influence,” it said.

But why did they postpone the verdict?

It shouldn’t come as a surprise if the regime continues to postpone the verdict in the coming months. The generals are good at buying time and manipulating domestic and international opinion.

READ MORE---> Verdict on Hold...

Burmese Regime Deliberately Depresses Economy

The Irrawaddy News

Burma is ranked as one of the world’s most undeveloped countries because of intentional mismanagement by its own leaders, says a leading regional activist, Debbie Stothard, the coordinator of the Alternative Asean Network on Burma (Altsean).

Many developing countries in Southeast Asia such as Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand lack the abundant natural resources of Burma, Stothard noted. However, Burma is poorer than each of these neighboring countries.

Many Burma observers say the country has become the poorest country in region because the military regime lacks any interest in a plan to develop the economy and to integrate with the international community. One result is that almost all of Burma’s natural resources are sold to neighboring countries, say observers.

Stothard and economic specialist Sean Turnell of McQuarie University in Australia said Burma’s generals have completely lost touch with economic reality, making the country a “very, very high-risk environment” for potential foreign investors.

In the past, Burma was at the top of Southeast Asian countries in terms of economic development and natural resources and had one of the region’s best education systems, Stothard noted.

“People wanted to go to Burma to study because of its universities,” she said. “Think about that. But, in a few decades the Burmese regime has turned the situation completely around.”

Stothard said Burmese people are among the poorest in the world due to the military government’s policy of preventing the development of a functioning economy and a professional education system.

“The regime intentionally twists the education system and squeezes the ordinary people,” she said.

Due to the broken education system, many of the brightest young Burmese leave the country and many never return.

Stothard noted that many regional businesspeople would not dare to set up a business in Burma.

“The only companies that dare go into Burma are the ones who are going to export the natural resources. They just go in, grab the natural resources and run,” said Stothard.

Turnell said that the regime’s economic policies have done far more damage to the country’s economic prospects than global economic sanctions, put in place because of the regime’s anti-democratic policies and human rights abuses.

“The biggest sanction on Burma is the Burmese regime itself,” said Turnell, who added that the regime’s “determined mismanagement” of the country’s economy, including its refusal to respect property rights, is the main obstacle to Burma’s economic development.

Stothard said, “Singaporean businessmen have told me, those generals don’t know anything.

They don’t want to know anything. It is not about the generals being stupid. It is about generals who refuse to listen to the advice of their own technocrats.”

Burma has been designated one of the world’s least developed countries by the United Nations for more than 20 years. On a UN Web site, Burma is described as “a resource-rich country that suffers from government controls and abject rural poverty.”

A former Burmese intelligence official in exile, Maj Aung Lynn Htut, wrote in a recent assessment of the country that the junta’s chief, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, is adept at using dirty tricks as a result of his background in psychological warfare.

Aung Lynn Htut wrote, “He [Than Shwe] understands very well that if the public is allowed to have a better life it will gain a progressive outlook and become interested in politics.”

In the Human Development Index 2008 Update, Burma’s per capita GDP (US$881 in 2006) was ranked 163rd out of 178 countries in the world.

READ MORE---> Burmese Regime Deliberately Depresses Economy...

Thailand to setup pilot project for refugees

by Usa Pichai

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Thailand’s Ministry of Labour has initiated a dialogue with businessmen on a pilot project that envisages Burmese refugees, living in camps along the border, an opportunity to work outside their camps in the day and return by nightfall.

Labour Minister Phaitoon Kaewthong, during a meeting with the United States Committee for Refugees and Immigration (USCRI) on Thursday said the ministry plans to setup a pilot project in Mae Sot, the Thai-Burma border town, to allow refugees in the camps to work on a daily basis.

Weerawit Tienchainan, Director of USCRI, Thailand office, on Thursday urged Phaitoon to review Thailand’s labour policy and to create opportunities for Burmese refugees to work outside the camp.

“Currently, an estimated 40,000 refugees are of workable age but the government prohibits them from seeking jobs outside the camps. We are taking this opportunity to discuss and urge the ministry to consider this proposal,” Weerawit said.

While the minister said that the overall refugee policy depends on the Ministry of Interior, responsible for refugees in Thailand, authorities are toying with the idea of setting up a pilot project in Mae Sot to allow refugees to work in the day and return to their camps by nightfall on a daily basis, Weerawit said.

“We also held discussions with the business sector such as Tak Province Chamber of Commerce and some entrepreneurs. They said they are willing to hire refugees. Besides, the situation in Burma is not conducive for them to return. We should work towards a solution so that they can fend for their families,” Weerawit added.

Currently, an estimated of 140,000 Burmese refugees are living in nine camps along the Thai-Burma border. Some of them have lived in Thailand for more than 30 years.

Phaitoon said that the Ministry of Labour is concerned about the unemployment situation of Thai people and the issue of allowing registration of migrant workers that may lead to the unemployment rate going up.

“However, we will wait for the result of the migrant workers registration. In case, there is labour shortage, we will reconsider this proposal,” the minister was quoted as saying by a local Thai newspaper, Krungthep Turakij.

The Thai government expects that there will be about 1,000,000 migrant workers from neighbouring countries including Burma, who will register with Thai authorities.

Statistics of the Ministry of Labour suggest that the number of migrants registered as workers for the July 1 to 26 period is 848,328.

Registration for sectors other than fisheries will be concluded on July 30. Because the number of workers, who have registered in the fishery sector is not too significant, the Thai cabinet on Tuesday agreed to extend the registration period for migrant workers in fisheries from the end of July to September 30.

Weerawit had said earlier that refugees are at risk and can become victims of human traffickers with some of them persuaded to work illegally in dangerous places, including on fishing boats or forced to work in the sex industry or even as beggars.

“These problems have led the US government to keep a watch over Thailand regarding human trafficking, that may affect international relations in the future,” Weerawit said.

READ MORE---> Thailand to setup pilot project for refugees...

Ministry orders checks on “black listed” tourists

by Nem Davies

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Tour agencies have been directed by Burma’s Ministry of Hotel and Tourism to check tourists applying for ‘Arrival Visa’ with the list of people banned from entering the country.

“The people banned are among those ‘black listed’ and the list is with the Immigration Department,” Ohn Myint, Deputy Director at Ministry of Hotel and Tourism in Naypyitaw, told Mizzima.

The notice states that persons included in the ‘black list’ will not be issued ‘Arrival Visa’. Tour agencies as such are required to submit one of three forms to the Immigration Department in Rangoon six days in advance, in order to provide time for checking the list.

A director of a popular tour agency in Rangoon said the screening of ‘Arrival Visa’ is being done mainly to check people involved in politics.

“We have to submit the bio-data of tourists, who apply for ‘Arrival Visa’ to the Immigration Department. They [immigration] mainly check tourist’s into politics. The “black list” is with them and it is confidential,” the director told Mizzima.

Though tourists can apply for normal visas at respective Burmese embassies abroad, it is mandatory for tourists, who face time limits in applying for normal visas, to connect with tour agencies in Burma to apply for the ‘Arrival Visa’.

“For people, who do not have time to obtain a normal visa, authorities issue ‘Arrival Visa’ but they need to get in touch with tour companies before they come. Every tour agent takes care of his guests,” a director at another tour agency in Rangoon told Mizzima.

The ministry’s order on Thursday states that tour agents can enquire whether the list of their guests has been cleared by the Immigration Department. They have no right to question the decision of the Immigration rejecting a guest.

The order also said that the ‘Arrival Visa’ system has been introduced in order to make travelling to Burma easier and to provide maximum service to tourists. It is also to check that tour companies do not charge tourists extra for their services and prevent the companies from evading tax payment to the government, which is seven per cent.

“Tour agencies must understand that a country has the right to reject or welcome particular tourists, without giving any reason,” the order adds.

READ MORE---> Ministry orders checks on “black listed” tourists...

Northern Commander meets KIO in Laiza

by Myo Gyi

Ruili (Mizzima) – The Commander of the Northern Military Command Maj-Gen Soe Win, along with leaders of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), the largest ceasefire ethnic armed group in Kachin state, on Friday arrived in the Sino-Burma border town of Laiza, the KIO headquarters, for a meeting.

Soe Win and the KIO leaders arrived in the border town after the commander held talks with Kachin Church leaders in Myitkyina on July 29.

Eyewitnesses said the commander and KIO leaders were in a meeting in Laiza Hotel from 7 a.m. (local time) to 2 p.m.

“At about 6:10 a.m. two vehicles arrived in town. Later at about 7:15 a.m. the commander came in his Prado car escorted by a 4-wheel vehicle. At about 10 a.m. seven 4-wheel vehicles came with boxes,” the eyewitness said.

The KIO has rejected the junta’s proposal of transforming its armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) into a Border Guard Force but told Soe Win that they are keen on converting the KIA into a Kachin Regional Guard Force (KRGF) during their meeting on July 8 to 11 in Myitkyina.

After the meeting with the KIO leaders today, Soe Win visited a hospital run by the KIO and left Laiza at about 3 p.m.

The KIO is the largest Kachin armed group fighting for self-determination. It entered into a ceasefire pact with the ruling junta in 1994.

READ MORE---> Northern Commander meets KIO in Laiza...

Six NLD members freed

by Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Six members of the opposition National League for Democracy, arrested on Thursday evening, were freed by authorities on Friday. (JEG's: Out of 30?)

Thet Thet Aung of Rangoon’s Dagon Myothit Township,
Htein Win and
Khin Win Kyi of South Dagon Township,
Nyunt Hlaing of San Chuang Township, who is an elected member of Parliament in the 1990 elections,
Naw Ohn Hla and
Khin Myat Thu
were released after being detained for several hours since Thursday evening, according to NLD spokesperson, Ohn Kyaing.

On Thursday the authorities rounded up at least 30 people, mostly young supporters and members of the NLD, across the country, in a move to pre-empt anti-government protests on Friday, the day the court had earlier fixed to pronounce the verdict on the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The court, however, postponed delivering the verdict on Aung San Suu Kyi to August 11, saying it is facing legal problems and needs time to decide.

Htein Win, youth in-charge of the NLD from South Dagon Township told Mizzima, “I arrived home at noon after being released. I was interrogated and asked what we will be doing on July 31. They asked whether we had plans to hold demonstrations and also wanted to know our plans for the 8.8.88 anniversary. They also asked what we will do if Aung San Suu Kyi is sentenced to a prison term.”

He said, the chairman of the ward, police from the special branch and several other officials came to his house at about midnight and asked him to come to the police station saying they needed to ask a few questions.

He was later taken to the office of the Ministry of Home and interrogated for two hours.

Htein Win said Khin Win Kyi was also brought to the same office for interrogation.

He was also reportedly made to sign a pledge not to say anything about the interrogations to the media.

READ MORE---> Six NLD members freed...

End of the old man

by Mizzima News

The kangaroo court pretends there’s no problem in tackling the case of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi but it had to postpone hearing dates without coming up with a sound reason. This reveals, though they have the upper hand, they are in a crisis as well.

The court fixed July 31 for pronouncing its judgment on the ‘National League for Democracy’ (NLD) party General Secretary Aung San Suu Kyi’s case in which she has been charged with violating her house arrest term by the police as the prosecutor. However, they had to postpone the hearing again on the orders of Naypyitaw, fixing the date for August 11.

The special court inside the Insein prison made similar postponements without prior notice four times since the trial started on May 18. The judges themselves might not know the reason behind these postponements.

The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had to intervene in this case, compelling him to visit Burma. Moreover, there has been a chorus of calls for the release of the Nobel Laureate globally. Though there is a debate on the effectiveness of international pressure these days, as for the isolated, self-conceited and aggressive junta leaders, such intervention is unbearable and intolerable.

It is not a coincidence that the junta requested Thailand’s Prime Minister to postpone his planned visit to Burma on July 31, on the pretext of dealing with internal politics, to two or three weeks later, through its ambassador in Bangkok.

The State Peace and Development Council is all too aware that supporters of Suu Kyi and hardcore activists will not stay passive with folded hands. They are not averse to arresting all of them, if necessary, over and above the 2100 political prisoners already languishing across jails in Burma, since it contrasts with the junta’s so-called seven-step roadmap to democracy.

In the meantime, the deterioration of the current situation for the paranoid and skeptical junta, ensconced behind the iron curtain, the classified report with the word ‘Secret’ on top of the paper, is being circulated wildly on the internet, which reveals there are loopholes in their inner security circle. These reports range from the visit of the third strongman of the junta’s military hierarchy Gen. Shwe Mann to communist North Korea, which is defying the international community with its nuclear arms race, to the meeting minutes between leaders of the junta and foreign countries.

In a quick response to these leaks, the junta retaliated with a combing operation in the Defence and Foreign Ministries besides resorting to cyber tracking and counter espionage.

On the other hand, the junta’s plan to transform ceasefire ethnic armed groups into the Border Guard Force (BGF) under the total control of their Armed Forces and disarming them is facing serious resistance and has been unsuccessful so far, as this plan lacks political guarantee and lack of mutual confidence.

The country’s economy is on the collapse mode in the face of the global economic crisis and the devastating Cyclone Nargis which left over 130,000 people dead. The economists estimate the country’s growth rate at zero percent.

Most of the generals in the top echelons of the junta whisper that dear leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe’s days are numbered and his fate is at its lowest ebb. To the superstitious and black magic believers among the generals, the collapse of ‘Danoke’ pagoda in Dala Township, which was repaired by first lady Kyaing Kyaing and her family, is a bad omen for this family.

The ‘Grand Strategy’ of transition to a puppet mixed administration of civilian and the military from the current military regime is uncertain and insecure.

It will be interesting to see how the psychological warfare savvy old man Than Shwe copes with the challenges faced on all fronts.

READ MORE---> End of the old man...

With all deliberate delay

by Francis Wade

(DVB)–A collective, but all-too familiar, sigh accompanied the announcement this morning that the verdict in Burma's trial of Aung San Suu Kyi has been postponed until mid-August.

It is a trial that has twisted and turned over the course of nearly three months, besieged by delays and digressions from the courtroom and flecked with the odd concession from the judges. It has successfully shouldered a visit by the UN Secretary General, brushed off fierce condemnation from world leaders and trampled over Burma’s own domestic laws.

Given the likelihood of the outcome, the trial could have been wrapped up in a matter of days. The verdict was likely drawn up the moment John Yettaw arrived back on the shores of Lake Inya in early May, but instead the old tactic of delay has reared its head again. Seasoned observers of the Burmese legal system are used to this sort of behaviour from the junta – some may see it as a tactical manouvre, while others point to a sadistic means of further punishing Suu Kyi, with the agony of the unknown still stretching out before her.

One hopes, however, that the lady who recently passed 5,000 days in detention is inured to such practices - indeed her lawyer Nyan Win said this morning that she was “not surprised” by the decision, and reports have said she is already choosing her reading list for the likely prison sentence.

But there is another reason for delaying the decision. The junta, in its desperate attempt to justify why Suu Kyi should be kept out of sight, has scoured the Burmese political and legal landscape for any pretext that would add weight to their case. They have spent the last three months looking for loopholes in their own laws that they can exploit to maintain the status quo, even if that means doctoring the constitution they carelessly rushed through last year. That the trial was a sham in the first place is not disputed; the junta knows that Yettaw’s visit was beyond Suu Kyi’s control. Indeed the sight of guards merely throwing stones at Yettaw as he approached the compound shows how far they were willing to go to deter someone heading towards incriminating Suu Kyi.

But the Burmese regime is fully aware that the eyes of the world are fixed firmly upon it, and this international attention is far from welcome. Outcry has reached fever pitch, and the junta now has to look towards dampening the impact of the final verdict. The US-based legal counsel for Suu Kyi, Jared Genser, believes that the delay could be “a smart move” by the government to cushion the blow, and extend the decision until the middle of August “when a lot of government and UN officials are going to be on vacation.” In this case, he said, it will remain to be seen whether, given that August is a slow news month, they’ll actually heighten expectations by the lack of other news, “or whether in fact they will succeed in driving this to some extent from the headlines”.

Another factor for the regime to contend with is the tricky question of what to do with Suu Kyi once the verdict is given. It is perhaps no coincidence that the house in which she has been kept in detention for 14 of the last 20 years, which she shared with her two caretakers and in which she was allowed room for meditation and a semblance of normality, is suddenly the subject of a legal battle over ownership. Suu Kyi’s adopted cousin, a retired military officer, claims ownership of a portion of the land, and has put it up for sale.

This follows an attempt by her estranged brother, who has been described by various Burmese opposition groups as a surrogate of the junta, to claim half-ownership of the home, with speculation that he would then sell this to the government. Thus it could be that the decision of Suu Kyi’s verdict is extended until the dispute is settled, leaving the court ostensibly no choice but to place her behind bars. In this outcome, the site that has become almost revered throughout Burma could fall to another vindictive court decision.

It’s all speculation, but that’s the best we can do at this moment. Who knows what the reclusive regime is hatching? Only last month there were rumours that she could be held in a military base outside of Rangoon, while other people have floated the prospect of a lengthy sentence behind bars. According to senior National League for Democracy member Win Tin, the junta’s posturing over the past three months means that the only conclusion will be a “prison outcome”.

Either way, Suu Kyi is said to be prepared for the worst, and so must we be. The junta are not concerned with alleviating her agony, which is excruciatingly protracted and intensified by the delay, but placating their demons, which leaves her at the mercy of whichever tactic comes next.

READ MORE---> With all deliberate delay...

Dhaka Delegation in Naypyidaw for Border Talks

The Irrawaddy News

A delegation of Bangladeshi experts on border issues met with Burma’s foreign minister in Naypyidaw on Friday to discuss an territorial dispute between the two countries, according to Burma’s state-run media.

The Burmese-language Myanma Alin newspaper reported that talks with the Dhaka delegation focused on efforts to reach an agreement on disputed maritime boundaries. The delegation, led by retired commodore Khurshed Alam, an expert on maritime affairs, arrived in Naypyidaw on July 29.

The meeting comes as rival claims to offshore deposits of natural gas have raised tensions between the neighboring countries. Earlier this month, Bangladesh raised the stakes of the conflict when it granted nine offshore gas blocks in the Bay of Bengal to two foreign oil firms, ConocoPhillips and Tullow Oil.

Tin Soe, an editor with the Bangladesh-based Kaladan News Network, said that the Burmese military regime told Dhaka that three of the offshore gas blocks belong to Burma.

“The delegation has to go Burma because they are worried about a disagreement with the Burmese government over the offshore exploration contracts,” he said.

Dhaka has said that it wants to discuss multiple issues with Burma, including the border dispute and the repatriation of Rohingya refugees. It has recently sent four delegations to Burma, but has made little progress on either issue.

In October 2008, the junta’s No 2, Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye, also visited Bangladesh to discuss maritime boundaries, trade and economic ties between the two nations.

After the trip, however, tensions between the two nations grew over the issue of maritime boundaries, prompting both countries to step up their military defenses in the Bay of Bengal.

In March of this year, Burma set up a 200-km fence along the border, claiming that it was to prevent human trafficking of Rohingya people.

There are nearly 30,000 Rohingya refugees from Burma’s Arakan State living in two makeshift camps in Cox’s Bazar District in Bangladesh, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Many more are believed to live outside the camps.

In early July, about 400 crude dwellings belonging to Rohingyas living near the Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar were destroyed or relocated, and an estimated 1,000 people were forcibly evicted by Bangladeshi police and camp management, said the UNHCR.

The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority who face severe discrimination in Burma. Many have fled the country to escape human rights abuses, including forced labor by the Burmese army. They also face abuses in Bangladesh. Right groups say that many Rohingya have died while traveling by boat to Thailand or Malaysia in search of work.

In June, the Burmese regime agreed to allow the Bangladesh government to repatriate Rohingya refugees. However, Dhaka said it fears the Rohingya will return if there is no improvement in the human rights situation in Burma.

READ MORE---> Dhaka Delegation in Naypyidaw for Border Talks...

Leaflets exhorting war against junta distributed

Rangoon (Mizzima) - Activists on Thursday evening distributed leaflets in Rangoon’s Tharmwe Township urging the people to wage war against the military junta if the verdict on Friday finds opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi guilty and sentences her to a prison term, eyewitnesses said.

The letters, signed by the ‘Committee leading peoples’ movement to destroy military rule and to restore democracy,’ says that “As Aung San Suu Kyi will be sentenced to a prison term on July 31, we urge everybody to take up the war in their respective capacities.”

Though it is still not clear who distributed the pamphlets, eyewitnesses said police later cleared about 20 that were distributed.

The distribution of the leaflets came despite authorities maintaining tight security in and around Rangoon to prevent any form of movement prior to the day the Insein prison court is to pronounce a verdict on Aung San Suu Kyi.

READ MORE---> Leaflets exhorting war against junta distributed...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Lawyers oppose sale of Suu Kyi’s plot

Contempt of Court...
the verdict will be announce tomrrow and
the plot has already been sold by the junta hahaha Jeg

by Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The sale of a plot of land in detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s house compound has been opposed by her lawyer through an official letter on Thursday.

“We have sent our opposition to the two lawyers, whose names were in the announcement. We said the plot of land cannot be sold as it is owned by our client. We have sent a letter opposing it,” Nyan Win, Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyer told Mizzima.

The July 24, issue of the state-run newspaper “Mirror” carried an announcement stating that a plot of land in the compound of House No 54 in Rangoon’s University Avenue has been sold and anybody, who objects to the sale, can oppose it within seven days.

The announcement said, a plot of land – 40 A, 41, 42, 42 A, 44 B, 44 C, and 64 C – 200 feet in length and 70 feet wide in Rangoon’s Bahan township has been sold-off by Khin Maung Aye and that any objection can be lodged within a week.

But following the announcement, Khin Maung Aye’s wife Daw Tin Tin Oo, living separately, made an announcement objecting to the sale of the plot of land and the constructions on the land.

Khin Muang Aye is the foster son of late Thakhin Than Tun and Daw Khin Gyi, who was the sister of detained Aung San Suu Kyi’s mother Daw Khin Kyi. He is a retired army officer and also a writer.

Though the announcement, signed by High Grade Pleaders Cho The May and Wai Wai Aung said opposition to the transfer can be made, it made no mention of the buyer.

“The plot of land mentioned in the notice is the area that has not been divided. But the notice does not name the buyer. They have hidden the name of the buyer. We are worried about the notice. We cannot divulge what we will do but we have our plans,” Nyan Win said.

The sale of the plot of land comes at a time when Aung San Suu Kyi, who lived in the compound, is awaiting a verdict at the Insein prison court.

Earlier, Aung San Suu Kyi’s brother Aung San Oo, claiming to be the rightful heir to the compound of House No. 54, filed a lawsuit.

READ MORE---> Lawyers oppose sale of Suu Kyi’s plot...

Going to police in Maungdaw leads to extortion

Maungdaw, Arakan State (KPN): Reporting to the police station in Maungdaw is a difficult proposition, said a local elder.

Recently, the police force in Maungdaw police station arrested people, who went to the police station to report cases, he said.

Buzuruk Meah from Maungnama village of Maungdaw was arrested by the police yesterday when he went to report that his three year old son, Syed Ahmed had fallen into a roadside pond and died, said a village authority member of Maungnama.

The accident occurred when some village children were playing on the road. Both sides of the road were filled with rain water. Syed suddenly fell into the water. His friends screamed for help and the villagers rushed to the spot but found Syed had died, he said.

When the father went to the police station with the village authority member and other village elders, the police arrested him and other villagers except the village authority member. The police interrogated the village authority member about the accident.

The police released all the villagers except Buzuruk. He was freed after the police extorted Kyat 120,000, said a villager who was arrested with Buzuruk.

In Maungdaw, Anwar a shopkeeper, who went to report about harassment by a local Rakhine goon, was arrested and kept for a day in custody. He was released after he paid Kyat 200,000 demanded by the police, said a shopkeeper in Maungdaw Market.

“If the law enforcement department is troubling the public, where will the people go for justice,” asked a student in Maungdaw.

When asked about the accident an elder from Maungdaw said, “We complained to the concerned authorities, but no action was taken”.

(Jeg's: And extortion is legal as per the Home Ministry, read here)

READ MORE---> Going to police in Maungdaw leads to extortion...

Opposition lawyer hounded by authorities

Loss of intellectual power for the junta -- jeg

by Myint Maung

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Nyi Nyi Htwe, a lawyer belonging to the opposition camp, recently released from jail and forced out of his profession, alleged he is finding it difficult to continue with his present calling of selling government lottery tickets because he is being hounded by authorities.

The 33 year-old lawyer from Pegu town has been selling government lottery tickets to eke out a livelihood, after his bar license was revoked. He alleged that authorities had warned lottery dealers not to franchise him nor hire out a push-cart to him for selling lottery tickets.

“Since my bar license has been revoked, there is nothing that I can do to survive. I have no other business, but my wife sells lottery tickets. Since we lack capital, we have to procure tickets from bigger agents on credit. We also cannot afford to hire a permanent push-cart. The authorities have been creating obstacles,” he told Mizzima.

His business associates have been warned against dealing with him. He is currently finding it extremely difficult to franchise government lottery tickets and hiring a push-cart, given the harassment by the authorities.

Nyi Nyi Htwe was sentenced to a six-month prison term on October 30, 2008 by the northern District Court in Rangoon’s notorious Insein prison on charges of ‘contempt of court’. He was, at the time, defending three National League for Democracy members including Yan Naing Tun, who were arrested and were facing trial for praying at the Pagoda for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.

During the trial, the judge told Nyi Nyin Htwe to tell his three clients to change their sitting postures, where they had turned their backs to the judge. But the young lawyer said “they have their rights to sit the way they want.”

The judge charged him with ‘contempt of court’ and under Article 288 and sentenced him to six-months in prison.

While he served the prison term, authorities revoked his bar license. He was released on April 28, after he completed his six-month term.

READ MORE---> Opposition lawyer hounded by authorities...

World awaits Suu Kyi verdict

* State media warns citizens against protests
* Verdict due tomorrow
* Suu Kyi faces five years in jail

( -MILITARY-RULED Burma's state media has warned citizens against inciting protests as the country awaits tomorrow's verdict in the trial of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The official New Light of Myanmar newspaper said in a comment piece aimed at anti-government factions that "we have to ward off subversive elements and disruptions".

"Look out if some arouse the people to take to the streets to come to power. In reality they are anti-democracy elements, not pro-democracy activists," the English-language article said.

Nobel laureate Suu Kyi faces up to five years in jail when a prison court passes judgment on charges that she breached the terms of her house arrest by sheltering US intruder, John Yettaw, who swam to her house.

Security has been tight for all the hearings, with memories still fresh in Burma of massive anti-junta protests led by Buddhist monks in 2007 which ended in a bloody crackdown.

A conviction is widely expected in the trial, which has sparked international outrage. Critics say it is a ploy by the regime to keep Suu Kyi locked up until after elections scheduled for 2010.

The editorial said "people who are serving their prison terms do not have the right to vote or to stand for election".

Man's misguided mission

Mr Yettaw, 53, donned home-made flippers to swim to Suu Kyi's home on what he said was a divine mission to save her.

The timing of his escapade in May, just days before her latest six years of house arrest were due to expire, prompted speculation that Mr Yettaw, a heavy-set Mormon father-of-seven and US military veteran, was an agent of the Government's regime.

Yet his testimony instead revealed a shambling and deeply religious man.

"He's a very sincere and pious person," his lawyer Khin Maung Oo said.

"There is no issue of him acting on someone's instruction to him or that some organisation provided money to him to do so."

Suu Kyi "obsession"

From his homeland, a picture emerged after his arrest of a troubled soul with a history of post-traumatic stress disorder exacerbated by the recent death of a son.

Mr Yettaw comes from the tiny hamlet of Falcon in rural Missouri, and was studying psychology.

One of his sons died two years ago in a motorcycling accident at the age of 17, and was buried on the family farm in Falcon, according to a website that tracks deaths of teenagers on Missouri's roads.

In an obituary notice, the website Operation Stop listed the family as adherents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and named seven other children of Yettaw from his current and previous marriages.

According to US media reports and his lawyer, the detained American served in Vietnam, although he would have been only 17 when almost all US forces withdrew from the country.

Bizarre situation

Apparently fired up to do good deeds after the death of his son, and burdened with an obsession with Suu Kyi, he first visited her house in November 2008, when he walked along a drain beside Inya Lake and left a copy of the Book of Mormon at her house. He then escaped.

After he was finally caught by security forces emerging from the lake on May 6 after a second intrusion, his picture was splashed across the servile state media along with details of his apparent confession.

Exiled Burmese activists living in Thailand aired conspiracy theories that he had been paid by Burma's Government to supply a reason for extending Suu Kyi's detention.

The junta, meanwhile, suggested initially that the US was a "secret agent or her boyfriend" and blamed the whole incident on "internal and external anti-government elements" bent on toppling the regime.

It emerged during the trial that he had in fact been in contact with several exile groups in the neighbouring country before crossing over to Burma.

But it soon turned out that Mr Yettaw believed he was taking orders from just the highest authority of all - he had had a divine vision that "terrorists" would assassinate Suu Kyi and wanted to warn her.

"Yettaw said he came here because God asked him to," Nyan Win, one of Suu Kyi's lawyers, quoted him as telling the trial in May.

"In his vision, the terrorists assassinated Aung San Suu Kyi and then they put the blame for the assassination on the government, so that's why he came here to warn both of them," he said.

The circumstances of his night-time swim were equally bizarre.

Mr Yettaw took photographs of himself before his ill-fated adventure sporting home-made flippers for his swim, wearing a short-sleeved shirt and looking intensely into the lens.

State newspapers said authorities confiscated his passport and an amateurish "spy kit" of a black haversack, torch, folding pliers, a camera, two $US100 bills and some Burmese currency notes.

Trying to help

Suu Kyi told her trial that she only gave him "temporary shelter" because Mr Yettaw - a diabetic - complained of leg cramps and that she did not see which way he went when he finally departed on the evening of May 5.

Her lawyers at first described him as a "fool" who was to blame for her facing charges of house arrest.

But as his rambling testimony and frequent mentions of God emerged at the trial, her lawyers said she warned them and her supporters not to mock his religious beliefs.

From correspondents in Indonesia

Agence France-Presse

READ MORE---> World awaits Suu Kyi verdict...

Snr-Gen Than Shwe rejects KIO's demands

by KNG

The Burmese military junta supremo Snr-Gen Than Shwe has responded curtly and rejected the latest demands of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), said sources close to Naypyitaw, the capital of the country.

The military ruler was responding to the KIO's demands to the junta early this month regarding direct power sharing in the new Kachin State government after next year’s elections, where members of KIO have to be included in the administration, legislation and the judiciary.

Snr-Gen Than Shwe has said that the KIO's demands cannot be met at this point of time because the country's new constitution cannot be amended. If the junta has to give into KIO's demands, the constitution needs to be rewritten, he reportedly said, the sources added.

Naypyitaw sources said, Snr-Gen Than Shwe also rejected the other KIO demand to transform its armed-wing the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) to a Kachin Regional Guard Force (KRGF), which will be formed with only ethnic Kachins and not be controlled by the junta. The regime had proposed transformation of the KIA to a battalion-level Border Guard Force (BGF).

Snr-Gen Than Shwe has made it clear that he cannot negotiate any military or political demand of the KIO except the co-operational agenda between the two, Naypyitaw sources added.

"We proposed what we want to the junta, just as it proposed what it wants from the KIO," Dr. Manam Tu Ja, the Vice-president No. 2 of KIO and former leader of KIO delegates to the junta-run National Convention told KNG last week.

In the midst of growing tension between the KIO and the junta, both militarily and politically, the junta's Northern regional (Kachin State) commander Maj-Gen Soe Win met Kachin church leaders for the second time on the KIO's latest demands in Kachin State's capital Myitkyina yesterday. The meeting followed a suggestion by Rev. Dr. Lahtaw Saboi Jum, former general secretary of Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) and a current peace mediator.

Political circles in Myitkyina said, the junta is mobilizing Kachin church leaders with small cash and food donations, granting cell phones, GSM mobile phones and landline phones so that church leaders can influence and pressurize the KIO/A on the BGF issue.

According to Kachin political analysts in Myitkyina, till now, the KIO has been enjoying a level of political and military rewards from the junta for supporting the National Convention for drafting the country's constitution and the referendum on the new constitution.

Now, the KIO is suffering because of the rewards that it took, where it is increasingly being pressurized to accept the BGF by the junta, said the local political analysts.

Meanwhile, Kachin people inside Burma and overseas have suggested that the KIO/A wage war if necessary against the ruling junta until Kachins and people of the country achieve democratic rights.

READ MORE---> Snr-Gen Than Shwe rejects KIO's demands...

Burmese Migrant worker sentenced to life in Thai prison

IMNA - On July 27th, a judge from the Lan Suan court sentenced a Burmese migrant worker to life in prison. The trail began in 2007 after the migrant worker was accused, with two other suspects, of murdering a father and his two daughters.

On February 17th, 2007, a Burmese family was assaulted and murdered in Lamae village in Lan Suan district. The father, a Burmese migrant worker, Nai Toi, was shot in front of his home, and his two daughters, 8 and 12 years old, were stabbed to death. Nai Toi’s wife, Daw Khine, was badly injured and sent to the Lamae village hospital. Nai Toi and his family had been working at the Lamae rubber plantation for 5 years.

The migrant worker sentenced to life, Nai Chai, 26 years-old, and two other workers, Nai Maug Thu, 23 years-old and Kyaw Thu Soe, 20 years-old, were working near the rubber plantation that employed Nai Toi and his family. The three were arrested on February 18th by the Chonphon police. They were accused of having committed the murders, and have been held at the Lamae police station since 2007. They are from Thanphyuzayar township in Mon state and had been working in Thailand without ID’s.

“The three Burmese migrant workers (Nai Chai, Mung Thu and Kyaw Thu Soe) families contacted us to help them petition the Lan Suan court,” said Tin Tun Aung, the secretary of migrant rights at the Federation of Trade Unions (FTUB). “There, we [FTUB] and the Law Council of Thailand [LCT], requested that the judges of the Lan Suan court review the case. If the legal team had not gotten involved in this case, the three Burmese migrant workers would possibly receive the death penalty.”

According to FTUB sources, all thee migrant workers were innocent of the crimes they are being accusa of. The FTUB sources claim a local gang robbed and killed the three victims, and that the three men were badly beaten and toured by the police, so that they’d admit that they had killed the victims. However, Nai Toi wife, Daw Khine, stated in court that Nai Chai was involved in the case and killed her family. The Lamae police sent back Daw Khine back to Burma after her testimony before the court hearings were over.

“We requested that the court give compensation to Nai Maung Tun and Kyaw Thu Soe for their having lived in prison for 2 years, as Thai law states,” said Tin Tun Aung. “We also will try to request that the Lan Suan court review Nai Chai’s sentence of life in prison.”

According Nai Chai’s wife who is working in Thailand, her husband didn’t kill Nai Toi or his family. Her family and Nai Toi’s family had a very good relationship. She explained that her husband was drinking with his friend on the night Nai Toi was murdered. She also insisted there was no cause for the murder, “We were working at the Lamae village rubber plantation for 4 years, and we didn’t have conflict with anyone else.”

READ MORE---> Burmese Migrant worker sentenced to life in Thai prison...

A(H1N1) cases in Burma reach 10

(DVB)–The Burmese government today confirmed the tenth case of the A(H1N1) swine flu virus, that of a 57-year-old man who had recently returned from Singapore.

The latest victim was transferred to Rangoon General Hospital on Tuesday after he displayed flu-like symptoms, and was confirmed as carrying the virus.

The case mirrors that of Burma’s first A(H1N1) victim who was hospitalized after returning from a trip to Singapore last month. The 13-year-old girl has since been released.

The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper today said that 13 people related to the latest victim have been quarantined, while health authorities are keeping a close eye on the 74 passengers who were on the flight returning from Singapore.

Only six of the ten cases remain in hospital, and no deaths from the virus have yet been reported in Burma.

“So far, the National Health Laboratory has examined 107 suspected patients and only ten were found A (H1N1) positive,” said the newspaper.

In its most recent update, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday that 816 deaths from the virus had been reported worldwide, a 50 percent increase from the three weeks prior.

The total number of cases worldwide has reached 134,503, with the United States reporting the most.

Reporting by Francis Wade

READ MORE---> A(H1N1) cases in Burma reach 10...

Burmese Muslims attack government office

(DVB)–Around 40 Muslims in western Burma were detained for allegedly ransacking a local immigration office after officials there assaulted a local Muslim man for not paying a fine.

A resident in Arakan state’s Kyauk Ni Maw village said the dispute started after a local Muslim man who returned from travelling refused to pay a fine for exceeding stay outside of the village as shown in his travel permit.

Muslims in Arakan state are required to get a document known as the Form-4 from government immigration if they want to travel outside of their region.

“He said he couldn’t pay the money they asked for as he had already paid a lot acquiring the [permission] document and the officials [at the immigration office] beat him up,” said the village resident, adding that he was left with a broken arm and vomiting blood.”

News on the attack quickly spread to Kyauk Ni Maw village where 75 percent of the population are Muslim. Some local villagers, including the man’s relatives, were enraged.

“They went to the immigration office and beat up the people who beat up the man. They also tore down the office building and broke some flag poles,” he said.

Following the incident, authorities arrested around 40 people, including some who were not involved, the villager said, and detained them in nearby Yanbyal township jail.

The detainees are due to appear in court on 10 August where they will face charges for breaching peace.

“They just arrested random people, but all Muslim, in the village without identifying who was involved in the attack,” said the villager. “Some people had already fled in fear of getting arrested in connection with the case.”

Muslims living in Burma have long been marginalized by the military government.

Three prominent ‘anti-Muslim’ riots have erupted in Burma in the past 12 years following heightened tension between Muslims and Buddhists.

Their situation was thrown into the spotlight earlier this year when around 1000 Rohingya refugees washed up in boats on Thailand’s shores, only to be towed back out to sea and set adrift by Thai authorities.

The Rohingya, who are a minority Muslim population, are not recognized by the Burmese government and suffer frequent discrimination due to their lack of legal status.

Reporting by Thurein Soe

READ MORE---> Burmese Muslims attack government office...

Religious leaders to pressure Burma ethnic groups

(DVB)–The Burmese government is using influential religious leaders and businessmen to convince ethnic ceasefire groups to transform themselves into border guards, as well as issuing direct threats to the groups.

A resident of Kachin state’s capital Myitkyina, where the ceasefire group Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) are active, said that a senior army official met yesterday with influential state figures to discuss transformation of the KIO into border troops.

“The regional commander met with pastors and business owners at the church in Aung Nan ward this morning and told them to help them pressure the KIO,” said the resident.

The ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has embarked on a campaign to transform ceasefire groups into border patrol guards, a move which would bring them into what the government call the “legal fold”.

Ceasefire groups have said however that agreeing to the proposals would weaken the groups and effectively make them subordinated wings of the Burmese army.

The Myitkyina resident said that threats would be issued to the Kachin group if they failed to comply with the proposals.

“A religious leader who attended the meeting told me that the regional commander had hinted that [the military] would commence war against the group if they refuse the plan,” he said.

Meanwhile, sources in Shan state said the government is also putting similar pressure on ceasefire group, Shan State Special Region 4 (SSR-4), in eastern Shan state’s Mongla.

A former official of the ceasefire group, led by Sai Leun, said the SPDC had been spreading news that the army will enter Mongla on 8 August and attack the group if they don’t accept the border guard plan.

“[The army] said we would be in no position to fight them back as we have only 4000 or 5000 troops when they have 400,000,” said the official, adding that “we have already prepared ourselves for war.

Reporting by ATK and Nan Kham Kaew

READ MORE---> Religious leaders to pressure Burma ethnic groups...

Don’t Point the Finger at Burmese Culture—Point it at Yourself

The Irrawaddy News

I'm surprised, more like appalled, that The Irrawaddy would publish Adam Selene's article, "Cultural Traits are Blocking Progress in Burma" July 29, 2009.

But then I'm equally surprised Mr Selene could visit so much of the country, as he claims, but understand the people so poorly.

He identifies himself as a European and then, fully confident in his European ways and with that good old fashioned colonialist attitude that served its empires so well, proceeds to blame the culture for Burma being under the thumb of a brutal military regime.

I did not get to see as much of Burma as I liked, but I did actually teach journalism in Rangoon for three months in 2005. Yes, my students had suffered an educational system where teachers droned at them and they could not ask questions, but they were immediately ready to embrace a new method of instruction: challenging ideas, debating issues and making up their own minds. Several of them now hold senior editorial positions or study on scholarships abroad, where they have adapted well.

"Everybody knows that people grow more conservative and often more scared when they age," writes Selene. "They are less willing to consider change, and they are less flexible and less dynamic." Everybody? What kind of statement is this, offered without proof? I don't consider myself less dynamic, having passed 40, I've published nine books, had a play professionally produced and have an independent film coming out. My output before this age wasn't half that rate. My views are just as liberal, but now informed by both historical examples I've witnessed and by my life experience.

But back to the Burmese whom he's slandering. He blames Buddhism. I've heard this nonsense before. Oh, the Burmese are so passive, complain Westerners, and as I've written elsewhere, you'd get passive, too, facing a machine gun.

If non-violence is of "so little use," I suggest Adam Selene be the first in the front ranks to lead the armed revolutionary assault. How easy it is to pick on this culture when you have the luxury of your principles without putting your life at risk!

Westerners who interfere politically might get roughed up, might wind up in a cell for a short while; but more often than not get deported. Not so for the Burmese who struggle for democracy—they can get Insein. And by the way, it was those non-violent monks who led the Saffron Revolution in 2007. I suppose Selene also blames non-violent Iranians and Islam in general for the effort to gain more democracy over there?

The Burmese were no less Buddhist when Aung San organized armed resistance against the British imperial forces. Given the sophistication of weapons and intelligence today, revolutions for democracy cannot use people like cannon fodder anymore. So the tactic of non-violence evolved, but it relies on shame. The British felt it when facing Gandhi; Americans felt it when King led his marches. The flaw when it comes to Burma is that the generals feel no shame, and they rely on economic support from China, India and North Korea, who will do business with them, as well as European companies who carry on business as usual through sanction loopholes while Australia talks big in diplomatic circles but also plays along.

It is not the fault of the Burmese that they have employed the one tactic at their disposal when they have few other weapons.

I believe the time has come again when peoples fighting for democracy do not have to apologize for taking by force what has been denied by force—as long as there are leaders with integrity who can quickly step forward after bloodshed and chaos, and as long as revolution does not return us to an age of massacre as we had with Lenin and Robespierre (such good European cultural examples).

I would far prefer non-violent means (wouldn't we all?), but today we are dealing with regimes that survive thanks to international collusion. So again, without apology, we must build intelligence networks of our own to economically and politically undermine those who keep their boots on people's throats, so that a regime topples with fewer human victims crushed under the stones.

Adam Selene blames culture and then shrugs that there's nothing we can do about it. The alternative tactic is to pick up a gun. He stops short of openly advocating it, but implies it nonetheless. You want to pull a modern version of the "White Man Knows Better," please come collect your weapon, Mr Selene. I will join you in the front ranks when you're willing to step up.

READ MORE---> Don’t Point the Finger at Burmese Culture—Point it at Yourself...

World Wants Suu Kyi Free: Ban

The Irrawaddy News

WASHINGTON—UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday said the world wants Aung San Suu Kyi free and that by sentencing her to another five-year prison term, the Burmese junta would miss another opportunity to engage the international community.

“They will have missed a very important opportunity, first of all, to engage with the international community, and they will be betraying the expectations and wishes of all the international community who really want to see Myanmar fully integrated as a member of the international community,” Ban said at a news conference held at the UN headquarters in New York.

The international community, Ban said, wants to see Suu Kyi freed to enjoy freedom and liberty like anybody else in the world.

Responding to questions, Ban said he has been closely following the developments in Burma since his recent return from the country.

“I hope they will keep their pledges which were conveyed to the [UN] Security Council a few days ago, officially—that at the request of the secretary-general of the United Nations—they would be taking necessary procedures to grant amnesty to political prisoners,” Ban said.

“Detailed information has not been given, and I am concerned that they are continuing this judicial process on Aung San Suu Kyi,” he said.

“When I was there, I made it quite clear repeatedly that all the charges should be dropped and she should be freed. We will continue to press on this issue,” Ban said.

Meanwhile, a US State Department official said he hoped that US mission officials in Rangoon would be able to attend the final court hearing related to Suu Kyi. “You know there’s an American citizen who is also on trial. We expect the final verdict Friday,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said.

READ MORE---> World Wants Suu Kyi Free: Ban...

Is China Playing Safe with its Burma Pipeline Plan?

The Irrawaddy News

BANGKOK—China appears to be making alternative plans in case its Middle East oil transshipment port and pipeline project in Burma fails because of regime change.

The Chinese state-owned oil and gas conglomerate China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) is spending at least US $1.5 billion to use Burma as a conduit for oil shipments from the Middle East and Africa. But as a backup in case this scheme has to be abandoned it is now also investing in a multibillion dollar oil project in northern Malaysia.

The CNPC is to play a central role in a regional oil processing and transshipment hub link between the Middle East and China on the northwest coast of Malaysia facing the Indian Ocean just like the port development at Kyaukpyu on Ramree Island on the central Burma coast.

Crude oil from Saudi Arabia and probably also Iran will be shipped to a $10 billion refinery on reclaimed land at Yan in Malaysia’s Kedah state close to the border with southern Thailand.

The refinery will have a capacity of 350,000 barrels a day and CNPC will take at least 200,000 bpd.

The chief Malaysian developer, Merapoh Resources Corporation, says the Chinese are likely to become major shareholders. Industry reports suggest that one of the chief financiers of the Yan project, Hong Kong-based equity procurers Beijing Star, is in fact acting as a proxy for CNPC.

This new plan involving Chinese investment revives a Malaysian idea that rose briefly two years ago and then sank without trace, Bangkok-based oil industry consultant-analyst Sar Watana told The Irrawaddy.

In 2007, Malaysia was looking for financial backing for a west coast transshipment port and cross-country pipeline. The main beneficiary would have been China, but the Chinese seemed to lose interest as the Burma pipeline possibility grew.

The re-emergence of this project with China closely involved implies that the Chinese are not going to rely solely on the Burma transshipment scheme.

Both projects short-cut the long sea journey tankers heading for China’s south and east coasts from north Africa and the Middle East currently have to make via the Malacca Strait and Singapore at the bottom of the Malaysian peninsula. More than 60 percent of China’s oil imports pass through the strait.

China has not disclosed how much crude oil it plans to transship through Burma, but the deep-draught port on Ramree Island will be able to handle the biggest bulk tankers. Oil will be pumped 1,200 kilometers in unprocessed form to a refinery in Kunming, capital of neighboring Yunnan province.

There has been speculation that further pipelines inside China will move some of the oil deeper into China to other provinces.

Work on the Burma oil pipeline is supposed to begin before the end of this year, according to Chinese media reports, and be operational by 2012.

The Malaysian refinery at Yan is scheduled to be completed in 2014.

Another Chinese state company, China National Overseas Oil Corporation, had reportedly been involved in Malaysia’s 2007 oil transshipment plans.

According to Malaysia’s Merapoh Resources Corporation, 40 percent of the Yan project will be owned by Beijing Star of Hong Kong.

Beijing Star chairman Li Feng Yi was quoted by The Star newspaper in Malaysia as saying his firm will sell its share in the finished Yan refinery to CNPC.

From a commercial point of view it doesn’t seem to make sense for China to be involved in two major oil trans shipment schemes in fairly close proximity of Southeast Asia, says Collin Reynolds, another industry analyst in Bangkok.

But these Chinese state oil-gas giants have very, very deep pockets, and their primary purpose is supply, not cost, Reynolds told The Irrawaddy.

It begins to look as though China is hedging its bets. Burma is very much a client state right now, with Beijing able to manipulate the military junta for its own ends.

READ MORE---> Is China Playing Safe with its Burma Pipeline Plan?...

'We All Want Democracy'

A rare glimpse of the issues affecting the lower ranks of Burma’s military, seen through the eyes of an active-duty sergeant.

WASHINGTON (RFA) -—In a rare interview, an active-duty sergeant in Burma’s military has expressed his frustration at the junta’s handling of the country’s affairs and said that this view is shared by many like him in the lower ranks of the army.

Experts agree that morale amongst rank-and-file soldiers in Burma’s army is low and may pose a threat to the military regime’s hold on power.

Elaine Pearson, Deputy Director of the Asia Division at Human Rights Watch in New York, said access to Burma’s military is extremely difficult and that it is unusual for soldiers to speak out in such a way.

“I guess this sergeant feels the need to speak out because things are really at an all time low in Burma,” Pearson said.

She noted that in the past two years, arrests and intimidation of political activists have intensified as the number of political prisoners has doubled.

Offices of opposition parties have been forcibly closed, while freedom of expression, assembly, and association have all been sharply curtailed, she said.

“This sham trial of Aung San Suu Kyi is just the last straw, when we didn’t think things could get any worse,” Pearson said.

“Even members of the military recognize this trial to be the complete farce that it is, and ... are not taken in by the regime’s propaganda,” she said.

Mark Palmer, Vice-Chairman of the board at Freedom House in Washington, said the soldier was likely motivated to speak because of his dissatisfaction with the difficulty of life in Burma, rampant corruption amongst officers, and his belief that most Burmese want a shift to democracy.

Palmer noted that in dozens of transitions from dictatorship to democracy the turning point comes when soldiers and police are no longer willing to open fire on nonviolent demonstrators for democracy.

“The views of this sergeant are therefore immensely important and promising,” Palmer said.

Palmer called for a “massive communications effort” to ensure that like-minded soldiers “know that they are not alone.”

He said it was necessary to show these members of the military “that the people are 'them' and not their enemies."

Palmer referred to a 2007 protest movement that ended in a bloody military crackdown, saying it is imperative to teach Burmese soldiers that "the next time civil resistance arises, they can and must refuse orders to kill innocent monks and ordinary citizens.”

The following interview was conducted with an active-duty sergeant in the Burmese military, who has asked to remain anonymous for reasons of personal safety.

RFA: What is the situation at the grassroots level of the army?

Sergeant: At the grassroots level we are facing difficulty with everything in our lives including affording food, shelter, and other things. We are experiencing financial hardship because our pay is insufficient. Our family members are being forced to work outside of the barracks in order to make ends meet.

RFA: How is the life of the military leadership?

Sergeant: The regional commanders in Rangoon often have three or four cars and three or four houses, but the rank-and-file members of the military can’t even afford a plot of land after retiring from fifty years of military service. The officers can take care of themselves without having to worry.

RFA: How are you able to survive?

Sergeant: After high school our children must take vocational classes and must go to work. Other family members do whatever they can and are often forced to sell produce in local markets to make extra money.

RFA: Does the military make use of child soldiers?

Sergeant: This does not happen in the township areas, but it occurs from time to time in the outlying regions. When an officer commands you to fill a certain quota of recruits, you are forced to obey.

RFA: What is the feeling of the rank-and-file soldiers about the government response to the Saffron Rebellion and the killing of the Sangha monks?

Sergeant: In the army there are many officers who are trying to advance their careers and commit these kinds of acts to do so, but the majority of the rank-and-file officers were saddened by this act. Many of us feel this way. We sympathize with the monks and feel that the officers who ordered this violence will someday have to pay for their actions.

RFA: There are some who hope that the army will stand with the Burmese people in the event of any political change. What is your opinion?

Sergeant: I would like to stand with the people, but the higher-ranking officers are unlikely to do so—only the rank-and-file soldiers.

RFA: What does the lower echelon of the military think about Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial?

Sergeant: Most are unhappy about it and feel that the government is making up lies about her in order to put her on trial.

RFA: What do the rank-and-file soldiers think about the legacy of General Aung San?

Sergeant: We all revere General Aung San and feel that Burma owes its independence to him. We don’t think that the daughter should have to suffer after the father’s work for the country.

RFA: Are new members of the military taught about the work that General Aung San did for the country?

Sergeant: It has been a long time since the military taught new recruits about General Aung San. These days his picture is not even allowed to be hung on the wall in military institutions.

RFA: Do the rank-and-file soldiers think democracy would help Burma?

Sergeant: Yes, we all feel it would make the country better off. We all want democracy—both the people and the soldiers.

Original reporting by Zaw Moe Kyaw for RFA’s Burmese service. Burmese service director: Nyein Shwe. Translated by Nyein Shwe. Written in English with additional reporting by Joshua Lipes. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

READ MORE---> 'We All Want Democracy'...

Suffering and hope in a Burmese refugee camp

by Hnin Pan Ein

(This article describes the lives and hopes of Burmese refugees in a Thai-Burma border camp)

Mizzima News - Rays of sun pierce the clouds, bathing the entire mountain range and forest. At other times during monsoon season, drizzle and mist veil the mountains, including Noe Boe Mountain, hiding them from the outside world. In the far distance, from the village of Noe Boe, torrential streams of water can be seen cascading from surrounding mountains following the rain, the scent of seasonal wild flowers and the earth lingering in the air.

When night falls Noe Boe becomes silent, the sound of water flowing in the rain swollen streams mixed with night birds all that can be heard, ushering in mixed and sometimes haunting feelings for the forlorn and desolate refugees living in the camp.

These refugees came to this camp fleeing the severe oppression inflicted upon them politically, militarily, socially and religiously. Some have been here for over 12 years. Throughout their time in this camp they encounter only a miserable and hard life. For their survival they search for wild berries and vegetables in the dense forest along with frogs and fish from the streams. Occasionally, they make a salad by boiling banana buds and mixing them with raw onion, pea flour and seasoning powder. Those Karen refugees who arrived first serve as survival teachers for those who follow.

There are two types of refugees in the camp, those who receive a refugee ration and those who do not. Those with a ration need not worry about basic foodstuffs, while those without must rely on what they can scrounge from the forest and buy in the camp. For drinking water, rainwater is collected during the monsoon season from the leaf-woven roofs of huts, before it reaches the ground and turns reddish. To facilitate the collection, some build rainwater harvesting units comprising four bamboo poles and a plastic sheet. Bamboo, due to its versatility, is essential for the camp’s survival.

The monsoon season also brings with it melancholy feelings and stress, as refuges struggle to cope with daily livelihood and harsh weather conditions. Moreover, it is very sad for them to wonder when families may be reunited, when friends and colleagues can one day be visited and when they can again set foot again on the soil of their motherland. Yet, at other times the memories and thoughts of family, friends and home provides a feeling of closeness, togetherness, love and joy.

There is no proper work to be found in the camp, only the bartering of goods and services with fellow refugees. As a last resort, they have to rely on family members and friends who have been resettled in third countries to send back remittances.

The phone and Internet allows refugees, the latter at a more affordable rate, to keep in contact with family and friends abroad and update them as to their situation. Phone booths and Internet cafés are always busy and crowded, with refugees pouring out their despair, anxieties and hopes to those on the receiving end. It can be an experience of joy, pleasure, anger, sorrow and resentment – maybe even all at the same the time.

If friends living in outside countries do not want to talk with them or the money that is to be sent is not yet ready, they sometimes will not pick up the phone, leaving refugees to hear only the answering machine notifying them in a foreign language to repeatedly ‘Leave your message if any’. Phone booth owners warn them not to pick up the phone receiver before hearing the live voice on the other end to avoid unnecessary charges – a premature pick-up costing the dialer 10 baht to ‘converse’ with the answering machine, an expense few can afford on their shoestring budgets.

At other times family and friends will insist on calling back to save the refugees money. But sometimes refugees have to wait a long time at the phone booth for the return call, rushing forth whenever the phone rings, their necks extended like the ‘Padaung’ long-necks after waiting a long time in vain.

For those who can use the Internet, it is always hoped to find an Inbox full of mail. Even a single line from beloved friends can make them happy and bring encouragement. If they see friends online with a green light next to their name on Google Talk they are very happy and start to call them. And if those who are online try and ‘disappear’ once contacted in fear of being asked for money, refugees send an email to the concerned individual asking them not to try and avoid them, as they only wish to talk.

‘Peaceful coexistence’ for those in the camp encapsulates the feeling that the refugees live with body and soul existing separate. As most are simply waiting to leave, when the expected duration of wait becomes longer than expected their lives become more bitter and unpleasant, which sometimes brings with it cases of domestic violence and family conflict. It is natural to see counseling and psychotherapy services available in Noe Boe, while the owner of the liquor shop just outside the camp reaps a huge profit.

Asking each other about their situation and what news they have heard is habitual. And even if the news conveyed is false, anger is not shown, as the sharing of news is essential for the survival of everyone – daily news from prospective host countries, world news, news from around the camp and news of resettlement plans. We are happy when we hear encouraging news and despair when we hear bad news.

In the hope of expediting their departure and easing their transition into a new country, English lessons, especially with an English accent, are constantly sought after. It is a case of English, English everywhere, echoing forth from thatch roof huts and every nook and cranny of the camp.

New plants and trees are grown from seeds inadvertently thrown away during meal preparations. Around Noe Boe you can see chilly, pumpkin and papaya plants at almost every house with a courtyard. However, almost all papaya plants disappeared after a monk said, “If there is a papaya tree in front of your house, your departure date will be long” – though some housewives must lie to husbands not as superstitious, telling them that the plant was uprooted in strong winds. News spreads quickly around the camp of departure plans and the presence of any papaya plants in front of the concerned house.

Those who are lucky enough to leave and never again touch the red soil of the camp are seen off at the gate by those who are to remain behind, the sound of the engine starting on the blue bus which will carry those leaving for Mae Sot making those left behind further ponder just how long they will have to wait their turn. Tears of joy and sorrow mix in the eyes of farewells.

Those boarding the blue bus say to their friends after shaking hands, “Don’t worry, I’ll send pocket money to you when I get there”. And though they strolled together, fetched water together, gathered firewood together, searched for seasonal vegetables together, collected rations together, visited the market together, shared fortune and woe together around Noe Boe camp and the nearby forest – now these beloved friends are departing, not to return.

As for those left behind…it is back to the Internet cafes and phone booths in the hope of talking with a friend, securing a little pocket money and – just maybe – news on when they might in turn be boarding the blue bus to Mae Sot.

READ MORE---> Suffering and hope in a Burmese refugee camp...

China complains to Australia about Uighur's visit

(SMH) -China has repeatedly complained to the Australian government about the planned visit to a Melbourne film festival of the Uighur activist Beijing accuses of inciting ethnic riots in its far west, an official says.

Rebiya Kadeer - who lives in exile in the United States - is scheduled to attend the Melbourne International Film Festival on August 8 for the premier of a film about her life, 10 Conditions of Love.

She is also scheduled to address the National Press Club in Canberra on August 11 in a nationally televised speech, her host and film producer John Lewis says.

China has accused her of being behind this month's violence between Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese in the Xinjiang region that has left nearly 200 dead.

She denies the claim and in turn has claimed that nearly 10,000 people "disappeared in one night" during ethnic unrest in the Chinese city of Urumqi early this month.

"Close to 10,000 people in Urumqi disappeared in one night. Where did those people go?" she said in Japan, speaking in her native language through a translator.

"If they died, where did they go?"

China's complaints are the latest in a string of objections to the screening and Kadeer's appearance: Festival director Richard Moore said an official from the Chinese consulate in Melbourne asked him to withdraw the film about three weeks ago. Two Chinese directors have pulled their films in protest.

The festival's website has also been hacked into - an attack Moore blames on his refusal to scrap the Kadeer film or her visit.

"I can confirm that the Chinese Embassy has made representations here in Canberra," a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman told The Associated Press under condition of anonymity, citing policy.

"The matter has been discussed several times, both in Canberra and Beijing," she said.

"We do not ordinarily comment on the details of bilateral discussions."

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Chinese Embassy said: "Facts have proven that the violent crime" that occurred in Xinjiang "was instigated, masterminded and directed by World Uighur Congress headed by Rebiya".

"We urge the international community not to provide any form of support or even encouragement for her separatist activities," the statement said. (JEG's: He means, HR team should group up and start claiming HRs for Uighurs, Nepals and others affected)

"Rebiya Kadeer is a criminal convicted by the Chinese judiciary authorities for committing crimes that jeopardise national security and major economic crimes," it said. (JEG's: oh the convenient criminal garbo of dictators..)

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement on Monday that China "expresses strong dissatisfaction" with the Japanese government for allowing the 62-year-old businesswoman to visit this week.

Kadeer is in Japan to urge global support for her "massacred" people following deadly unrest in western China, as Beijing pressed the United States to rein her in.

Kadeer, 62, the US-based head of the World Uighur Congress, has charged that "the Chinese government is trying to destroy the Uighur people. I want to tell the international community about our situation".

Beijing accuses the mother-of-11 of being a "criminal" who instigated the unrest pitting Uighurs against Han Chinese in China's Xinjiang region, which the government says left 197 people dead.

Kadeer charged that "the responsibility lies with the authorities who changed what was a peaceful demonstration into a violent riot".

"For Uighurs, taking part in demonstrations is like committing suicide," she added, speaking at a Tokyo press conference.


READ MORE---> China complains to Australia about Uighur's visit...

Facing 40 lashes for wearing trousers

Trial postponed ... Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein. Photo: AFP

(SMH) -A Sudanese court has adjourned the case of a woman journalist facing 40 lashes for wearing "indecent" trousers, with 10 women already whipped for similar offences against Islamic law.

The judge deferred the case to next Tuesday after Lubna Ahmed al-Hussein, who works for the left-wing Al-Sahafa newspaper and for the media department of the United Nations Mission in Sudan, waived the immunity given to UN workers.

"The court gave Lubna the choice either to accept immunity from the UN or to waive that and go on with the trial," her lawyer Nabil Adeeb said.

"I wish to resign from the UN, I wish this court case to continue," Hussein told a packed courtroom before the judge adjourned the case to August 4.

Hussein, who wears a hijab or Islamic headscarf, faces 40 lashes and a fine of 250 Sudanese pounds ($US100) if found guilty.

She wore the same clothes to court as when she was arrested - moss-green slacks with a loose floral top and green headscarf.

She waved defiantly to crowds as she left the court.

Hussein said she was at a restaurant on July 3 when police came in and ordered 13 women wearing trousers to follow them to the police station.

Ten of the women were summoned to a police station two days later and were lashed 10 times each, according to Hussein.

The women whipped earlier this month included some from animist and Christian south Sudan where the Muslim north's Islamic or sharia law does not apply.

Scores of people crammed into the courthouse to hear the ruling, many of them female supporters - some of them also wearing trousers out of solidarity.

Some held up placards on the street outside. "A woman is not for flogging," read one in Arabic.

"We are here to support Lubna, because this treatment of women is arbitrary and not correct," said Zuhal Mohammed Elamin, a law professor in Khartoum. "Women should not be humiliated in this manner."

Police have also cracked down on another woman journalist, Amal Habbani, after she wrote an article condemning Hussein's treatment.

Habbani wrote an article for Ajrass Al-Horreya newspaper following the arrests entitled Lubna, a case of subduing a woman's body.

"I am waiting for a decision," Habbani said after she was charged with defaming police, a charge which can carry a fine of up to several hundred thousand dollars.

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information said the charge against Habbani stemmed from her claim that Hussein's arrest was "not about fashion but a political tactic to intimidate and terrorise opponents".

Unlike many other Arab countries, particularly in the Gulf, women have a prominent place in Sudanese public life. Nevertheless, human rights organisations say some of Sudan's laws discriminate against women.

In December 2007, British teacher Gillian Gibbons faced 40 lashes after being convicted of insulting religion by allowing her pupils to name a teddy bear Mohammed.

Gibbons, 54 at the time, was eventually sentenced to 15 days in prison but was pardoned by Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir following the mediation of two Muslim members of Britain's upper house of parliament.


READ MORE---> Facing 40 lashes for wearing trousers...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Predicting Suu Kyi’s trial is “contempt of court”: Junta’s mouthpiece

by Mungpi

New Delhi (Mizzima) – With speculation rife that the court will pronounce pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi “guilty”, Burma’s state-run newspaper on Wednesday warned against predicting the outcome saying it amounts to ‘contempt of court’.

A commentary in the New Light of Myanmar, the junta’s mouthpiece, on Wednesday justified the trial against pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, her two live-in party mates and John William Yettaw, the American man, who swam across a lake and sneaked into Aung San Suu Kyi’s home, saying they have violated the law.

The newspaper while justifying the charges and trial said, “Everyone who breaches the law shall face a lawsuit and obey the court decision.”

On Tuesday, the court heard final arguments by the defence attorneys, formally ending the over two-month long trial. Now the court’s verdict is awaited on Friday.

Nyan Win, one of the defence lawyers, told Mizzima on Tuesday that legally the trial has proved Aung San Suu Kyi’s innocence and there is not sufficient ground to find her guilty. But he refused to comment on the possible outcome of the trial.

But many observers including senior leaders of the National League for Democracy, Win Tin, said the court will find her “guilty” and sentence her to a prison term.

However, the newspaper on Wednesday warned against such comments saying, “biased writings about the trial in progress, writings about which side will win or lose in that trial, predicted writings about the possibility of the defendant’s conviction and writings about tendency to give instructions to the judgment of the judge” amounts to contempt of court.

But Win Tin said the trial itself is unfair and there are no grounds to charge the pro-democracy leader as it is not her fault in a stranger forcing his way into her house, as she had not invited him.

He said the court is not acting independently in filing a lawsuit against the Burmese Nobel Peace Laureate and even in the trial, stating instances of the court dismissing two out of the four defence witnesses while allowing several prosecution witnesses.

He said even in the last stage of the trial – submission of final arguments by lawyers of both sides – the court has shown partiality towards the prosecution by setting a two-day gap after the defence had submitted their arguments.

“Daw Suu had told her lawyer that she was not happy with the two-day gap between the defence and prosecution’s submission of their final arguments,” Win Tin said.

The trial, which began on May 18, has attracted the attention of human rights activists, politicians, world leaders and celebrities calling for her immediate release along with other political prisoners in Burma.

The commentary on Wednesday also attacked such calls saying calling for Aung San Suu Kyi’s release while she is facing a court trial amounts to contempt of court.

Despite the newspaper’s claim that Aung San Suu Kyi would be released if she is found not guilty, Win Tin said it is obvious that the junta is all set to continue detaining her.

“It seems to me that the junta is all set to detain her in anyway. But it may possibly buy-time in doing so if the pressures mount,” Win Tin said.

He added that with the kind of international as well as internal pressure mounting over the trial, the Insein prison court might not pass a strong verdict on Aung San Suu Kyi.

“But it is likely that the prosecution will go to a higher court and appeal and then they will sentence her,” he added.

According to him, it is unlikely that the Insein prison court will sentence her heavily at the moment to ease the mounting pressure, but that does not mean Aung San Suu Kyi will be acquitted.

“In anyway, they will detain her,” he added.

He also said, Wednesday’s commentary in the New Light of Myanmar might be a warning that the junta intends to crackdown on opposition figures, who are commenting on the trial and speculating on the junta’s possible plans.

READ MORE---> Predicting Suu Kyi’s trial is “contempt of court”: Junta’s mouthpiece...

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