Thursday, January 22, 2009

Chin Refugee Faces Possible Deportation from Malaysia - William Mung

By Van Biak Thang
Chinland Guardian

A Chin refugee, who has been detained at different detention camps in Malaysia since last November, will be transferred today to Machap Umboo Detention Camp where he will await deportation, Chinland Guardian has learned.

William Mung, an ethnic Chin from Southern Chin State of Burma, was arrested on 22 November 2008 by the Malaysian law enforcement while waiting for the bus at Melaka Bus Station. The 25-year-old faced immigration charges in court on 4 December 2008 and was sentenced to 3 months in jail.

"Mung seems to be in good health but is losing weight and getting thin," according to a foreign friend who asks not to be named, and who visited the detention camp yesterday. "I bought some food and other stuffs including toothpaste and toothbrush from the shop inside the camp as no outside food is allowed," she explains.

The UNHCR office in Malaysia sent legal counsels during his court appearance although William Mung, a Dai-Chin from Awmsoi Village of Matupi township in Burma, is not yet recognized by the office, sources said.

The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee is currently investigating possible involvement of Malaysian enforcement authorities in a human smuggling activity where undocumented migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers, are subjected to deportation in collusion with human traffickers operating across the border in Thailand.

Two other Chins are also said to be detained at the same detention camp. Hundreds of Chin refugees and asylum seekers are currently being detained in detention centres across Malaysia.

Shwekey Hoipang, a Dai-Chin pastor and activist based in the UK, said more than 1000 from Dai descent in Southern Chin State alone are in Malaysia with many more at refugee camps in Thailand. "It is sad that they have to face these hardships in Malaysia after having escaped from brutalities and human rights abuses in Burma," he said.

A church minister from Kluang district tried to visit William in jail on two occasions but was denied access both times after he was transferred to Kluang jail on 4 December 2008.

READ MORE---> Chin Refugee Faces Possible Deportation from Malaysia - William Mung...

AIDS Patients Forced to Leave Monastery


Authorities have forced 35 people living with HIV/AIDS to leave a monastery in Rangoon where they were receiving free treatment, according to sources close to the monastery.

A caregiver at the monastery told The Irrawaddy that on Tuesday, local authorities ordered the patients to move to the Wai Bar Gi Infectious Diseases Hospital in Rangoon’s North Okkalapa Township. However, only 26 of the patients went to the hospital, the source said.

The patients, including two young children, were from various parts of Burma and were too poor to go to a hospital, the source said. He added that some were receiving antiretroviral (ARV) drugs at the monastery, but were not in such serious condition that they needed to be hospitalized.

Another source said that authorities inspecting construction on an extension of the monastery told the abbot that the unauthorized “guests” were not permitted to stay. The abbot now fears that his monastery will be shut down, the source added.

In October 2007, following the monk-led protests known as the Saffron Revolution, the authorities raided Maggin Monastery in Rangoon’s Thingangyun Township and expelled its resident monks. The monastery, which also provided free healthcare to people with HIV/AIDS, was suspected of harboring social activists.

The abbot of the monastery, U Indaka, was sentenced to more than 20 years imprisonment for his involvement in the Saffron Revolution.

READ MORE---> AIDS Patients Forced to Leave Monastery...

Burmese Monk Suffering After UNHCR Rejection - U Thuriya

Dhaka (Narinjara): A Burmese monk, U Thuriya, who was involved in the Saffron Revolution protests in 2007, has been suffering mentally after the UNHCR Dhaka office rejected his application for refugee status, said an abbot who accepted him to stay at his monastery.

"I am really worried about his health because sometimes he refuses to take his food and medicine. He has been staying along in the monastery without talking after returning from Dhaka," the abbot said.

U Thuriya, who is 25 years old, was wanted to arrest by the Burmese military authority for his involvement in the many protests during 2007's Saffron Revolution in Sittwe. At the time, the monk was a student from Pathein monastery located in Kon Dan Ward in Sittwe.

"I am all Burmese people here know about U Thuriya and why he came from Burma. He escaped from Burma to Bangladesh out of fear of arrest by the Burmese military authority. But we are unable to understand the decision of the UNHCR on his case," the abbot said.

U Thuriya fled from Sittwe to Bangladesh through his native border town of Buthidaung in northern Arakan soon after the Burmese military authority began an armed crackdown on the monk movement in Burma in 2007.

U Thuriya once told Narinjara that he had crossed many dangerous places in the border area on his way to Bangladesh, but he luckily escaped Burma with the help of local tribes people in the border area.

After he arrived, he came to Dhaka to apply for refugee status with the UNHCR, but the UNHCR rejected his claim for asylum after only one interview. U Thuriya's register Number was 393-08C-00044, and he was given notice of rejection on 22 October, 2008.

The abbot said, "U Thuriya is now a helpless monk and he has no future. All monasteries in Bangladesh have refused him shelter because he is a Burmese citizen. It is impossible for them to accept such a foreigner for studying in a monastery in Bangladesh without permission of the authorities."

U Thuriya is now staying at a small monastery in a remote village in Bangladesh's Chittagong Hill Tract and is suffering from malaria, but is not getting medical treatment.

According to Burmese refugees, the UNHCR Dhaka office not only denied U Thuriya's claims for asylum, but also other monks such as U Rakha Wanta and Wiraw Zana, who played leading roles in the Saffron Revolution in Arakan State.

There is a joke among Burmese refugees in Bangladesh that if you want recognition as a refugee by the UNHCR in Dhaka, you must be a mountain cultivator. The joke emerged after some cultivators were recognized as refugees while many other monks and citizens who were victims of the junta had their claims rejected.

Many Burmese refugees believe that such decisions are mistakes that occur in the UNHCR Dhaka office because of weak interpreters who are unable to understand modern words or usages of spoken Burmese and Arakanese.

READ MORE---> Burmese Monk Suffering After UNHCR Rejection - U Thuriya...

UN Seeks Interviews with Rohingyas Held by Thailand

The Irrawaddy News

The Thai government has refused an initial request by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to talk directly with Burmese Muslim Rohingya boat people, saying the agency should first establish guidelines with Thai authorities.

"The agency should come and talk to us about how to work together. Our work together should be based on cooperation and appropriate rules," Thailand's prime minister told reporters, adding that he wanted to discuss the matter with the Burmese government also.

Leading human rights groups, such as International Refugees and Human Rights Watch, claim that the Thai navy mistreated Rohingya boat people from Burma, forcing many back out to sea with little food and water. The groups said as many as 300 Rohingya are missing.

On Tuesday, the UNHCR asked the Thai government to grant access to the boat people for interviews. The agency said it believes 126 Rohingya are in the custody of Thai authorities.

However, Kitty McKinsey, a spokesperson for the UNHCR in Bangkok, told The Irrawaddy that the UNHCR has welcomed the prime minister's comment, but, “We haven’t received any formal statement from the government yet.”

According to Thailand's English-language daily, Bangkok Post, 4,880 Rohingya have been arrested for illegally entering the Thailand, and 90 percent are still waiting for repatriation.

Since the early 1990s, a rising number of Rohingya refugees have taken to boats, many not sea worthy, and fled Burma and Bangladesh for political and economic reasons, trying to reach Thailand and Malaysia.

Experts say the number of boat people may increase this year due to the impact of the global economic downturn on one of the poorest regions of Asia.

"A more viable and long-term solution to the problem of cross-border illegal immigrants would be for countries in the region—Burma, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand—to sit together and address the problem in earnest, possibly with participation of the UNHCR," said a recent editorial in Bangkok Post.

Burmese refugees participate in a demonstration outside the office of the
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia,
Wednesday. (Photo: AP)

Meanwhile, at least 50 Burmese demonstrated on Wednesday outside the UNHCR office in Malaysia to protest against alleged discrimination by the agency.

Aung Kyaw Moe, 37, the protest group's spokesperson, told AFP news agency: "They divided us along ethnic group lines and won't allow some of us to enter the UNHCR office," he said, saying it was causing ethnic tension among the various refugee communities. The UNHCR has denied allegations that it discriminates between ethnic groups.

The majority of asylum-seekers in Malaysia are Rohingya Muslims while the rest are Christian Chins, Karen and Shan.

READ MORE---> UN Seeks Interviews with Rohingyas Held by Thailand...

Gambira transferred to Hkamti prison: Prison official

by Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Detained veteran Monk Gambira, who was allegedly staging a hunger strike in Mandalay prison, has been transferred to the remote Hkamti prison, his family members said citing prison officials.

A prison official told his mother Daw Ray, who tried to visit Gambira on Wednesday at Obo prison in Mandalay, that he had been transferred to Hkamti prison in Sagaing Division, about 300 miles north of Mandalay, on January 17.

According to the prison officials, he was transferred to another prison only after a medical check-up was conducted.

However, the prison officials refused to answer questions about the hunger strike believed to have been staged by Gambira, who is 29-years-old.

The child soldier-turned-political enthusiast monk was charged with 16 cases in the end of last year, including insulting religion and committing crime against public tranquility. He was sentenced to a total of 68 years in prison.

News about Gambira's hunger strike appeared, while he was on his way to Hkamti prison.

Gambira joined the monk-led September 2007 protests, while he was pursuing his 'Dhamasariya' religious studies. In the protest, thousands of people and monks took to the streets and demanded political solution through negotiation and dialogue by reciting Metta Sutra. He led this protest.

In the protest, popularly known as the Saffron Revolution later, at least 30 people were shot dead by the armed forces. After the protest was brutally suppressed, he had to flee from the scene and was on the run. But, he was finally arrested by the authority in Singai Township, Mandalay Division on November 4, 2007.

The military regime also sentenced his elder brother Aung Kyaw Kyaw to 14 years of imprisonment and his younger brother Aung Ko Ko Lwin and brother-in-law Moe Htet are still facing trial in Insein prison, charged with illegal border crossing cases.

READ MORE---> Gambira transferred to Hkamti prison: Prison official...

1,114 prisoners languish in Buthidaung jail

(Kaladan Press) -Buthidaung, Arakan State: Nearly 1,114 prisoners are languishing in Buthidaung jail for a long time. They were sentenced to prison on different allegations by the authorities, according to sources.

The prisoners were sentenced by the court on various accusations such as--- marrying without permission, drug and logs smuggling to Bangladesh from Burma--- while some are political prisoners.

At present, there are nearly 100 Rakhines and nearly 1,000 Rohingyas including 58 Rohingya women in Buthidaung jail. Most of the Rohingya women were arrested and sentenced to jail for marrying without permission.

Though the jail has a capacity of only 200, at present, 1,114 prisoners are lodged in the jail, according to a recently released prisoner from Buthidaung jail.

On November 28, Ko Htay Kyway, a student leader, three Sayadaw and one political leader were brought to Buthidaung jail from Rangoon. Ko Htay Kyway was sentenced to 65 years imprisonment.

Besides, Ashin U Ethiriya, a leader of the saffron revolution in Sittwe, Ko Than Htwee including seven youth leaders from Taunggup township who participated in the democracy movement last year were also transferred to Buthidaung's notorious jail from Sittwe jail. They are made to do hard work in jail.

Moreover, on December 30, last year 473 prisoners from Buthidaung, Sittwe (Akyab), Kyaukpru, Sandway townships were sent to hard labor camp in Youchaung under Minbya Township to work in construction of the Akyab-Rangoon high way. However, on January 10, some warm clothes and blankets have been sent to the labor camp, according to official sources.

READ MORE---> 1,114 prisoners languish in Buthidaung jail...

Five soldiers commit suicide in Arakan in 2008

Narinjara News

Five soldiers of the Burmese Army in northern Arakan committed suicide in 2008 but the reasons for killing themselves are not known, said an army clerk from Buthidaung on condition of anonymity.

"According to an army report, they committed suicide after the army authorities refused let them go from the army. They wanted resign from the army," he said

The soldiers who committed suicide are : Zaw Ko from Battalion 550 based in Ponna Kyaunt on 12 March 2008; Zaw Zaw Min from Battalion 536 based in Rathidaung on 15 April 2008; Win Myint from Battalion 538 based in Rathidaung; Zaw zaw Thein from battalion 378 baed in Mrauk U on 13 November and unidentified soldier from battalion 551 based Buthidaung on 15 December.

According army sources, they committed suicide with their arms while at the army headquarters.

Though many soldiers have deserted the army with or without arms suicides are a rarity in the Burmese Army. However, incidents of suicide have increased over the last few years.

Most soldiers in the Burmese Army want to leave the army due to poor salary and other facilities but the higher authorities do not allow soldiers to retire, said the army clerk.

READ MORE---> Five soldiers commit suicide in Arakan in 2008...

China Censors Obama's Speech

The Irrawaddy News

BEIJING — The official Chinese translation of President Barack Obama's inauguration speech was missing his references to communism and dissent, while a live broadcast on state television Wednesday quickly cut away to the anchor when the topic was mentioned.

The comments by the newly installed US president veered into politically sensitive territory for China's ruling Communist Party, which maintains a tight grip over the Internet and the entirely state-run media. Beijing tolerates little dissent and frequently decries foreign interference in its internal affairs.

At one point, Obama said earlier generations "faced down communism and fascism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions." He later addressed "those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent—know that you are on the wrong side of history."

The Chinese translation of the speech, credited to the Web site of the official China Daily newspaper, was missing the word "communism" in the first sentence. The paragraph with the sentence on dissent had been removed entirely.

The censored version was carried by the state-run Xinhua News Agency and posted on popular online portals Sina and Sohu. Another portal, Netease, used a version without the paragraph mentioning communism, but retaining the part about dissent.

The news channel of state broadcaster China Central Television broadcast the speech live early Wednesday local time, but appeared caught off-guard by the statement about facing down communism.

The translator had no sooner said "fascism and communism" when the audio faded out from Obama's speech and cameras cut back to the studio anchor, who seemed flustered for a second before turning to ask an expert what challenges the president faces in turning around the US economy.

Wang Jianhong, deputy director of the CCTV general editing department, said he did not stay up to watch the inauguration broadcast but suggested the transition was a normal part of the program.

"There are breakaways even when broadcasting China's own meetings," he said. "Americans might care a lot about the presidential inauguration, but Chinese may not be very interested."

No one in the editing department of the China Daily Web site was immediately available to answer questions.

The full translation of Obama's speech could be viewed on the Web site of Hong Kong-based broadcaster Phoenix Satellite Television, which has a reputation as a more independent news source. The China Daily Web site posted Obama's full remarks in English only.

READ MORE---> China Censors Obama's Speech...

PM Abhisit: No access to boat refugees

(Bangkok Post)-Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva refused to grant UN experts access to 126 boat people from Myanmar, following allegations that the Thai army had left them to die on the open seas.

He dodged reporters' questions on a request from the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) to visit the group, and urged it instead to work with Thai authorities.

"The agency should come and talk to us about how to work together. Our work together should be based on cooperation and appropriate rules," Abhisit told reporters.

"They (the UN) should understand that every country has this problem (of refugees)," he said, adding that he wanted to discuss the matter with Myanmar.

Late Tuesday, the UNHCR announced it had asked the Thai government for access to the refugees to assess their needs.

Spokesman Ron Redmond said 80 of the migrants were being held on Sai Daeng island off the Thai coast in the Andaman Sea.

Another 46 have been handed over to the Thai military authorities with no further information on their current location, he said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it spoke with UNHCR frequently and may arrange a meeting with agency officials to discuss the matter further.

Survivors and a human rights group have accused the army and navy of detaining and beating up to 1,000 members of the Rohingya minority from Myanmar late last year, before towing them out to sea with little food and water.

Nearly 650 of the Muslim Rohingya have been rescued in waters off India and Indonesia.

Some of them told officials that they had been beaten in Thailand before being set adrift in barges with no engines or navigational equipment.

The spokesman for the country's state security body, Colonel Thanatip Sawangsaeng, said Tuesday the case was being investigated.

He added that the army chief had said that the military "followed international standards and adhered to humanitarian principles."

Mr Abhisit said he had requested further photo evidence and information from the navy on Thailand's routine treatment of illegal immigrants.

Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs Virasakdi Futrakul said neighbouring countries would be invited to a joint discussion on the Rohingya, describing them as a "regional problem".

"The ministry will invite ambassadors from Myanmar, India, Bangladesh and other countries who also have a problem with the Rohingya to discuss the problem and what kind of measures they use," Virasakdi told AFP.

"The Rohingya people are not only one country's problem but a problem for the whole region."

READ MORE---> PM Abhisit: No access to boat refugees...

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