Monday, February 2, 2009

Is there a holistic approach to Burma’s refugee problem?

With the Rohingya boat people washing up almost daily on Thai shores, it is appropriate and as well, a welcome initiative for the Thai government to call for a conference, involving and consulting all concerned countries, including Burma, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia and India to find durable solutions. In other words, applying a holistic or comprehensive approach, like an opinion piece on 26 January of The Nation rightly pointed out.

By Sai Wansai
Shan Herald Agency for News
29 January 2009

The heart of the Rohingya problem is the Burmese military regime’s denial of rights to exist officially as an accepted ethnic group, within the larger national context of Burma. The bulk of Rohingya’s population, mostly a Muslim ethnic group, resides in northern Arakan state of western Burma

It is believed that 800,000 Rohingya live in Burma, but have not been granted citizenship.

Around a half-million Rohingya fled military crackdowns in 1978 and 1991, the majority moved to Bangladesh and many remain exiled in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Thailand and Malaysia

While the Rohingya problem has aroused willingness for the concerned states to look for solution in a comprehensive and holistic way, it should also be noted that the woes of the refugees stemming from Shan, Karen, Karenni and Mon states bordering Thailand are identical, where oppression, ethnic cleansing and human rights abuses are concerned.

According to Thailand Burma Border Consortium’s (TBBC) conservative estimate count in eastern Burma - Shan, Karen, Karenni and Mon states -, the internally displaced persons population is said to be 500,000. Grand total refugees from Burma for all sites within Thailand is numbered 1 44,455.

Thus, it is quite clear that all these illegal migration spreading out in all directions across the regional is fast becoming a transnational issue and multilateral approach is the only way out.

But what is actually the root cause of such illegal migration?

The answer lies in the Burmese military regimes failed policies and its entrenched racist mind-set.

In other words, its failure to recognise that Burma is a multi-ethnic state and that the Union of Burma is a newly developed territorial entity, founded by a treaty, the Panglong Agreement, where independent territories merged together on equal basis.

The successive military dominated regimes, including the present ruling State Peace and Development Council, see Burma as an existing unified nation since the reign of Anawratha thousands of years ago. As such, all other non-Burmans – Shan, Kachin, Chin, Arakanese, Mon, Karen and Karenni - are seen as minorities, which must be controlled and suppressed, lest they break up the country.

To achieve its goal, the Burmese military goes about with its implementation of protecting “national sovereignty” and “national unity” at all cost. This, in turn, gives way to open conflict resulting in more suppression and gross human rights violations. The intolerance of the military to and its inspiration to “racial supremacy” and to political domination and control has no limit and this could be seen by its refusal to hand over power to the winners of 1990 nation-wide election, the National League for Democracy (NLD), Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) and other ethnic parties. The genuine federalism platform, which the NLD and ethnic nationalities embrace, is a threat to its racist mind-set and obsession of domination and control.

In short, the Burmese military regime must come to term that its zero-sum game plan of “total elimination” of the opposition parties, racial supremacy implementation and gross human rights violations are not working to its advantage. Instead, it should opt for real democratisation process, all-inclusiveness and equality to create a better future for the country and its people.

If there is anything that could underpin the condition for holistic approach regarding the Rohingya issue and illegal migration in general, it will be creating a peaceful and harmonious atmosphere within Burma. And the concerned stakeholders should coax or persuade the ruling generals to pave way for such positive change. Otherwise, the refugee problem, stemming from Burma, affecting neighbouring countries will continue to exist for a long time to come.

(Sai Wansai is the General Secretary of the exiled Shan Democratic Union - Editor)

READ MORE---> Is there a holistic approach to Burma’s refugee problem?...

UN chief should only visit if prisoners freed: Suu Kyi

YANGON (Khaleej Times-AFP) - Myanmar's democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Monday that United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon should only visit the military-run nation if she and all other political prisoners are released, her party said.

In a meeting with visiting UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari, the Nobel peace laureate also criticised the recent slew of harsh prison sentences handed down to more than 250 dissidents.

Gambari, who arrived here Saturday for a four-day trip aimed at pushing the junta toward democratic reform, met with Aung San Suu Kyi and five members of the Central Executive Committee of her National League for Democracy on Monday.

"Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD CEC members gave advice that Mr Ban Ki-moon should consider coming to Myanmar only if U Tin Oo, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners are released," said NLD spokesman Nyan Win.

Ban visited the former Burma after a cyclone devastated large parts of the country in May last year, killing tens of thousands of people. He did not meet Aung San Suu Kyi during the trip.

Aung San Suu Kyi has spent most of the last 19 years locked away at her lakeside Yangon home, while her deputy Tin Oo has spent nearly six years in prison or under house arrest.

Nyan Win said Aung San Suu Kyi also raised the plight of about 270 pro-democracy activists recently jailed for prison terms of up to 104 years, which she blamed on a lack of rule of law.

"She pointed out that the long prison sentences, such as 65 or 100 years, were handed down with no defence and no lawyers allowed -- even lawyers themselves were sentenced," Nyan Win said.

On Gambari's last visit to Myanmar in August 2008, Aung San Suu Kyi refused to meet the Nigerian diplomat in what was seem as a snub because of his failure to get any concrete pledges for reform from the ruling generals.

Nyan Win said Aung San Suu Kyi explained to Gambari during their meeting on Monday that "she is always ready to meet" with visiting UN officials, but was not willing to hold talks unless there were tangible results.

READ MORE---> UN chief should only visit if prisoners freed: Suu Kyi...

Arrest warrants issued for six defence lawyers

(DVB)–Authorities have issued arrest warrants for six lawyers who have been involved in cases defending political activists, according to a source close to the lawyers.

The six lawyers are Kyaw Ho, Myint Thaung, Maung Maung Latt, Aung Than Myint, Khin Htay Kywe, and Nyi Nyi Hlaing.

A Rangoon resident who is close to the lawyers said the authorities were trying to intimidate lawyers into not taking political cases.

“The lawyers are from the National League for Democracy so they offer their legal services in political cases,” the resident said.

“When they do so, they openly express their legal arguments as permitted under the law,” he said.

“[Lawyers] U Aung Thein, U Khin Maung Shein, and Ko Pho Phyu were arrested for that. The authorities want to scare lawyers away from people who are involved in politics.”

The resident said the issuing of arrest warrants against the defence lawyers was also likely to hurt political activists now in detention.

“Political activists who are currently being detained are bound to suffer from the authorities' action against lawyers,” the resident said.

“Political activists have been oppressed for many years now and they are serving long prison terms in distant prisons and their families are suffering,” he said.

“The issuing of arrest warrants against their lawyers is meant to weaken their resistance.”

Kyaw Ho said he had not heard anything about an arrest warrant being issued against him.

This is the latest case of the authorities’ harassment of lawyers dealing with political cases.

Lawyer Pho Phyu, who was taken into custody on 15 January, is still being detained in a police cell in Magwe.

Three other lawyers who have defended political activists – Nyi Nyi Htwe and Rangoon Supreme Court lawyers Aung Thein and Khin Maung Shein – are currently serving prison sentences.

Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet

READ MORE---> Arrest warrants issued for six defence lawyers...

School demolished by education authorities in Bago

(DVB)–Bago authorities have demolished two school buildings in Phoe Yoe Su village, Kawa township, to make way for a new construction project, forcing children to attend classes in gazebos in the local monastery compound, a villager said.

Educational ministry staff and the school’s headteacher demolished two school buildings, worth around 40 million kyat, without consulting parents and elders, the villager said.

Angry parents demanded an explanation for the demolition, but the headteacher was unable to give a valid reason, according to a member of the Union Solidarity and Development Association.

"The parents tried to stop it but they had no chance,” the USDA member said.

“It was done on the instructions of the education department, they said."

Around 200 pupils from kindergarten to sixth standard level were studying at the school.

Villagers are preparing to report the incident to the relevant authorities with the help of rights lawyer Aye Myint of the Guiding Star legal aid group in Bago.

Aye Myint said action should be taken against those who try to make profit from communal land.

Reporting by Arnt Phone Myat

READ MORE---> School demolished by education authorities in Bago...

HIV/AIDS patients sent home without treatment

(DVB)–Thirty HIV/AIDS patients from across Burma who had come to Rangoon to wait for medicine have been ordered to return home by local authorities without receiving treatment, members of the group said.

Five health workers visited the patients at a monastery near Webagi hospital where they had been taking refuge and asked them detailed questions on their background and condition.

During the visit, a police car was parked outside the monastery, patients said.

The following day, 20 of the patients were taken to the hospital but ten days later they were ordered to return home immediately and were still not told when they would receive their medicine.

The hospital refused to give a reason why the patients had been sent home.

Five children and their parents and eight adults were waiting for anti-retroviral treatment, and some of the patients need weekly hospital treatment.

Two of the families who were staying at the monastery now have nowhere to go as their homes were destroyed by Cyclone Nargis.

The monastery has been a lifeline for HIV/AIDS patients, who are forced to come to Rangoon twice a month at their own expense for ARV treatment because the government does not issue the medicines outside the former capital.

The monastery is now facing pressure from the authorities not to accept any HIV/AIDS patients, forcing some of them to go into hiding in Rangoon.

"The government is not helping the patients and is harassing those who are helping them – it is like helping the disease to spread," said a volunteer who did not want to be named.

In November 2007, authorities also sealed off Maggin monastery, which used to help HIV/AIDS patients, in connection with the monk-led uprisings in September of that year.

Reporting by Aye Nai

READ MORE---> HIV/AIDS patients sent home without treatment...

Burma’s Drugs Trade Unaffected by Global Slowdown

The Irrawaddy News

A series of recent raids in Rangoon has again thrown the spotlight on the narcotics trade and the roles played by high profile businessmen and members of the Burmese military regime.

In one raid, two weeks ago, at least 28 kilograms of heroin were found in a container on the Singaporean-flagged ship Kota Tegap, which was docked at Rangoon's Asia World Port Terminal.

The terminal is owned by Tun Myint Naing, the son of former drug kingpin and militia leader Lo Hsing Han, whose name is on the US Treasury Department sanctions list. The container, which was bound for Singapore, is reportedly owned by the Myanmar Timber Enterprise, a government-owned business that is also on the US sanctions list.

Sources in Rangoon told The Irrawaddy that in a subsequent sting operation, the anti-narcotics police force also discovered another large cache of heroin in FMI City, an upscale residential area in the city’s Hlaing Tharyar Township, and arrested Kyaw Kyaw Min, a crab exporter in Bogalay Township, Irrawaddy Division, for attempting to smuggle 32 kilograms of heroin out of the country aboard a container ship.

The police special intelligence department, known as the Special Branch, is now questioning the port employees, high-ranking government officials and prominent businessmen in connection with the case.

Unconfirmed reports said that the owner of Rangoon's popular club BME, a Kachin-Chinese businessman, known as Hsaio Haw, who has close links with leaders of the infamous United Wa State Army, is implicated, together with some family members of the Burmese ruling generals.

The case follows the leveling of charges against Maung Weik, one of the richest men in Burma and a powerful friend of the country’s ruling military elite, and his associate, Aung Zaw Ye Myint, son of the chief of the Bureau of Special Operations No. 1, Lt- Gen Ye Myint, for drug abuse and involvement in trafficking.

Burma uses the occasion of the annual International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking to announce drug seizure statistics and to expose offenders. But high-profile cases are never publicized.

At the governmental level, Burma emphasizes its engagement with such neighbors as China, India and Thailand in efforts to control drug trafficking, and its implementation of a 15-year plan (1999-2014) to totally eradicate poppy growing in three phases, each running for five years. (JEG's: but it is going unnoticed into Singapore's hub... so much for SP's honesty)

The drugs, however, continue to flow across Burma’s borders in all directions. Tough suppression campaigns by neighboring countries such as Thailand and China have led to drug traffickers turning increasingly to maritime routes to smuggle drugs out of Burma.

According to a report by Washington-based Radio Free Asia, Interpol in Singapore asked the Burmese police to seize the Singapore-flagged ship at the Asia World Port Terminal. Without the intervention of Interpol, it’s unlikely that the authorities would deal effectively with the problem.

At a news conference last year, the US Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement, David Johnson, charged that the military government has done little to deal with what has become Asia’s largest illegal drug industry.

“Their efforts to reduce demand, interdict drug shipments and combat corruption and money laundering continue to be lackluster,” he said.

In their book "Merchants of Madness," Bertil Lintner, one of the most-respected analysts of Burma's drugs trade, and Michael Black, a security writer with Jane's Intelligence Review, have also noted that Burma's production of illicit drugs such as methamphetamines and heroin could not proceed without at least the involvement, if not active participation, of the Burmese military rulers.

It’s a bitter irony—while Burma’s exports such as rice, teak, beans, rubber and palm oil have obviously suffered from the falloff in trade due to the global economic slowdown, the demand for Burmese-produced drugs, an export that doesn’t figure in the national income accounting, is still buoyant.

READ MORE---> Burma’s Drugs Trade Unaffected by Global Slowdown...

Flow of migrant workers to Thailand undaunted as Kingdom's economy flounders

(IMNA)-Dire economic circumstances continue to drive Burmese workers to seek employment in Thailand, in spite of the country's worsening economic situation and unusual numbers of unemployed workers leaving the Kingdom.

According to checkpoint officials and brokers responsible for smuggling migrant workers into Thailand, the number of workers seeking employment in the Kingdom has not changed, though the number of available jobs is decreasing.

"The number of workers [leaving for Thailand] this year and last year is the same," said a New Mon State Party official from the Tadein checkpoint along the Three Pagodas Pass to Thanbyuzayat (Thanpyuzayart) road. The road is the primary dry-season link between the Three Pagodas Pass border crossing and interior Mon and Karen states.

"I think the number of workers entering Thailand is the same this year as last year. I don't know exactly how many people, but my business is the same as before," said a broker in Three Pagodas Pass. Two other brokers also working in the Three Pagodas Pass area independently agreed.

Job prospects in Thailand, meanwhile, are at all time lows. The country's overall economy is sliding backwards, with UBS, one the country's most respected brokerage firms, recently estimating that growth rates will drop to negative 2% in 2009. The slowdown is being felt amongst migrant workers, and news agencies like the Irrawaddy began reporting in November the layoffs of thousands of Burmese workers.

The number of workers returning to Burma appears to be on the increase. A broker based in Mae Sot, Thailand, told IMNA that, in the past, he regularly returned three groups of workers to Burma each week. Now, he said, he is returning a group of workers every day.

Weak job prospects and the flow of unemployed peers heading home does not seem to be daunting outward-bound workers, however. "People know in Thailand there are fewer jobs than before. But there are jobs still because there are things the Thai citizens do not want to do, so Burmese people can find a job," a broker in Three Pagodas Pass explained.

Workers from Mon State describe an economy shell-shocked by plummeting rubber and paddy prices. Rubber and paddy and Mon State's two primary products, and with rubber worth just a 25% of its 2008 value and paddy 75%, the economy is in shambles.

"The economy is not good for our family. In our village, we just have the paddy fields and the paddy price is down. So we have many problems. My mother who is already working in Thailand called me to come work with her, so I have to go," a 15-year-old boy from Mon State on his way to work in Thailand told IMNA.

"We have to rely on our plantations. Now rubber and betel nut prices have gone down, but food still costs the same," said a woman from Mon State, 30, interviewed near Three Pagodas Pass as she and her husband made their way to Thailand. "We cannot earn enough to eat. So even though we hear that there are fewer jobs in Thailand, we still think it will be better than here. We may not want to go, but we have to go."

READ MORE---> Flow of migrant workers to Thailand undaunted as Kingdom's economy flounders...

Rohingya a regional issue - Editorial

(Bangkok Post) -The government and security forces lingered too long before they finally took a positive and helpful measure last week in the controversy over Rohingya illegal migrants. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva correctly allowed access to a detained group of 78 Rohingya by the United Nations. It was, in retrospect, a major step in regaining the confidence of a very sceptical international community. The usual Thai methods, in this age of instant communication, of stonewalling the media and international organisations are simply impossible to maintain. The internet requires that in an era of fast-flowing information, it is vital the country protect its reputation by full disclosure.

Because of the incredulous and prevaricating statements that emanated when this shocking scandal caught the world's attention, the government has been forced to play ''catch up'' in order to regain some sort of credibility. Press reports from other countries and witnesses agree the Thai security forces failed in their basic duty of treating illegal migrants with the due measure of respect and compassion. It put the prime minister and his government on the defensive. Mr Abhisit's pronouncement that the country will expel illegal migrants seems hardly adequate _ the international community demands more answers.

Thailand is under no obligation to accept organised groups of illegal migrants. There are internationally-accepted rules and would-be immigrants must follow them. The Rohingya, reputedly, pose a security problem, especially in the South, where relations between the government and the Muslim community, in which the Rogingya can assimilate fairly easily, remain unresolved.

But without doubt, the security forces and the government cannot abrogate their responsibility to treat the illegal migrants with basic respect for their human rights. There is no justification for physical abuse. Despite the premier's claim to the contrary, there is no ''humane'' way to force large groups of people back to sea in boats with little food and water and no means by which they can propel themselves to other shores.

The core issue, though, is not the way Thailand treats illegal immigrants. Amnesty International acknowledges the nub of the problem _ Burma persecutes the Rohingya and virtually forces the men to migrate to seek better conditions. It is unfortunate that governments and most media ignore this part of the tragic equation. If Burma were to stop its abysmal treatment of the people of Arakan, it could help to resolve the problem of Rohingya boat people.

It is important the Rohingya who have landed in Thailand are not considered refugees. They are in search of honest employment to care for their families. They are not seeking resettlement, nor do they wish to bring their women and children with them. It is shameful that conditions in Burma are so terrible that thousands must risk so much merely to feed their families. But the Rohingya trying to pass through Thailand are not like the Hmong, the Karen and other minorities seeking new homes because of a well-founded fear of death if they are returned to their home countries.

Officials of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees should have a better picture of the problem by now. It is not just a human rights question that is merely Thailand's alone.

Mr Abhisit, then, has the right idea in forming a council of concerned countries and organisations on this issue. Thailand must be firm in rejecting the migrants, but others share responsibility for putting the Rohingya at such terrible risk.

READ MORE---> Rohingya a regional issue - Editorial...

Burma stonewalls Suu Kyi visit

Rangoon (Bangkok Post)- The UN's top envoy to Burma on Sunday met the minister tasked with liaising with detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi - but not the democracy leader herself.

Ibrahim Gambari's last trip to the military-ruled nation in August 2008 ended in deadlock, with Aung San Suu Kyi refusing to meet the Nigerian diplomat and her party dismissing the visit as "a waste of time."

On this four-day trip which began Saturday, the United Nations has said Gambari wants "meaningful discussions with all concerned on all the points raised during his last visit."

But Gambari is not expected to be granted a meeting with the reclusive head of state Senior General Than Shwe, and it is not yet clear whether Aung San Suu Kyi will consent to meet with the UN negotiator.

On Sunday morning, Gambari met officials including Information Minister Kyaw Hsan and Foreign Minister Nyan Win in the commercial hub Rangoon.

"He also met with relations minister Aung Kyi," said a government official who did not want to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media. He refused to reveal what was discussed.
AFPAung Kyi is the minister tasked with liaising with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung Kyi's appointment to coordinate junta contacts with Aung San Suu Kyi in October 2007 was seen as a major sop to the West after the violent suppression of anti-junta demonstrations in September that year.

But their last meeting was in January 2008, and Aung San Suu Kyi said soon after she was "not satisfied" with the way the dialogue was progressing.

Instead, the junta has forged ahead with its own "Roadmap to Democracy" which its says will lead to multi-party elections in 2010 but which dissidents deride as a sham as it does not include Aung San Suu Kyi.

Gambari later Sunday met with representatives of a commission which organised a referendum on Burma's new constitution in May last year.

The regime says the constitution passed with nearly 93 percent approval in a vote held days after the deadly Cyclone Nargis, although critics say the poll was not free and fair and the new charter simply enshrines junta rule.

Gambari also met with the International Committee of the Red Cross and foreign diplomats, Burmese officials said.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained by the junta for most of the last 19 years, and surprised observers in August by refusing to meet Gambari, a move interpreted as a snub after he had failed to secure any political reform.

Burmese officials have said Gambari will likely meet with the Nobel peace prize winner on Monday, echoing the expectations of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party. (AFP)

READ MORE---> Burma stonewalls Suu Kyi visit...

29 children suffer from physic nut poisoning

Rangoon (Mizzima) – Twenty-nine children from State Middle and Primary Schools from Thaketa Township in Rangoon Division, suffered from food poisoning after eating physic nut seeds, according to the Township Education Officer's Office.

Twenty nine students from the State Primary Schools No. 41, 22 and State Middle Schools No. 1 and 7 ate dried physic nut seeds after school in the evening on Jan 28. They picked these dried seeds from physic nut plants grown in their school premises.

"There are 29 students and the rest are from outside. Most of the children are students of State Primary Schools No. 41, 22 and State Middle School No. 7. Most of the students are from SPS No. 41. They ate these dried nuts after school. They suffered from uneasiness and vomiting. That's all," an official from Thaketa Township Education Officer's Office said.

A student's mother told Mizzima that she saw the children suffering from diarrhea, and when asked, they replied that they had eaten dried physic nuts. Several children in the neighborhood ate those nuts on that day.

"We realized that the children from almost every household in our ward were suffering from food poisoning, when many children visited the nearby clinics. Their blood pressure was too low at 50/30 mm Hg when they reached the clinic. The doctors put them on a drip in Thaketa and another 3 bottles of medicine were given to them in Rangoon Children's Hospital. Now they are much better," she said.

The dried physic nuts are rich in taste and the children think they are edible. They picked the dried seeds from the plants and ate together, a 4th Grader student said.

"We were given these seeds by our friends living in 1st Lane. We tasted it and found it had rich taste. Then I picked a (polythene) bagful of the nuts and shared them among our friends. Then we suffered from uneasiness and vomiting," he said.

The children were admitted at local clinics and Thaketa Hospital. Some critical patients were admitted at the Rangoon Children's Hospital on the same night. Most of the children were admitted at the local Thaketa Hospital and were discharged the next day.

"All the children were discharged from the hospital and are back home. They are feeling much better. Those, who were admitted at Rangoon Hospital, were also discharged. Our Director General himself visited them on Sunday. Their condition has improved," an official from the Basic Education Department said.

There are two types of toxins in physic nuts. The symptoms of physic nut food poisoning are nausea, uneasiness, stomach pain, low blood pressure and exhaustion with continuous diarrhea. The condition of such a patient will normalize if proper treatment is given within 48 hours, a leading doctor from Rangoon said.

Similarly, 2 students from SPS No. 38 suffered from physic nut food poisoning in the end of last year. They had to take medical treatment for two days.

There were 27 physic nut food poisoning cases in 2007 and 69% of them were school children.

Under the fuel self-sufficiency scheme, the government has launched nationwide physic nut plantation projects since December 2005.

Reporting by Mizzima correspondent in Rangoon and written by Phanida

READ MORE---> 29 children suffer from physic nut poisoning...

Truth about delaying 2010 elections

By Moe Thu and Htet Win

(Mizzima) -A general election proposed by the military government to be held in 2010 is likely to put off, not because of some reasons it has come up with, but because of its motive to prolong staying in power, according to sources close to regime.

"A government minister hinted about the junta's continuation in power for 10 more years in the late 1990s, and it turned out to be true," said a long-time Burma watcher. "Besides, army officers can't whimsically say those things about delayed elections, as they must have been instructed along this line from above," he added.

There was last Thursday a media report carried by Thailand based Shan Herald, quoting informed sources as saying that a high ranking military officer said the proposed 2010 elections could be put off for several reasons including the fact -- disruptive activities by dissidents both inside and outside the country .

Lieutenant-Colonel Tin Maung Shwe, the military commander in southern Shan State did not elaborate. Referring to the government's consecutive inability to unearth culprits in several recent bombings in the commercial city Rangoon, a local business writer said the military government was mostly believed to create such disruptive activities, while continuously blaming political opponents inside and outside the country.

"The government usually blames them, but never comes up with any evidence," the Yangon-based writer said, adding that the junta was itself creating an unstable situation in Burma for the sake of military power.

Another informed source based in Naypyitaw said the military government conducted a training programme to produce several dozens of instigators.

"Probably, it is under a unit with the Ministry of Home Affairs," the source said.

"Using such instigators, the military government has planned to spark communal riots between Bamar and local Indian community (known as Kular) in a couple of months, a means the Burmese military government uses to divert the general public's political/development attention," the source said.

Whatever means [it] would be used in order to postpone any elections as long as the process favours the army, the sources said.

The military government's motive is to stay in power.

"Military-dominant governments so far -- Burma Socialist Programme Party and State Peace and Development Council -- would have reformed the country's leadership, if they really loved the country," said a young Burmese academic.

"They continue to create just a show-off area of development, but the people will continue to suffer. The haves will have more. The have-nots will lose more," he said.

He said the poor would not only be materially impoverished but also intellectually. The poor may only get a few trickle-down benefits. Aides and investments may finally flow in, but Burma will remain a sweat shop with little respect for human rights, labour rights, and political dissent, "

That is the way any military government has tried to tone down the general public's urge for a democratic leadership, a change in high demand in Burma.

Another thing that bars the change from taking place is that the government's ambivalence to include what kinds of representatives in a future parliament.

Major General Htay Oo, the Secretary General of the Union Solidarity and Development Association, whose patron is the Sr. Gen Than Shwe, the head of the junta, is said to be upset with the lack of reliable civilian partners in the future parliament.

And the Third Force that is referred to individuals inside Burma, who are seeking their own ways to a democracy, argues that the army needs civilian collaborators to make changes. They argue that those military-turned-civilians will need civilian partners who are willing to cooperate. Corporation of the moderate people from both sides will solve out the dilemma in evolution but to accept the junta road map. However, they admit that there is still risk and the every decision is now only from Than Shwe.

Meanwhile, the army does not trust veteran politicians that pursue conventional ways forward. Some of the veteran politicians are those in the scene in the late 1940s.

Regarding one of the four reasons that could delay the coming elections -- tension with Bangladesh over gas exploration, the Rangoon-based writer said it was just an excuse.

"It is a routine between or among countries, which most countries work out through a pragmatic approach, taking time," he said, adding that the two countries' maritime dispute need not be an issue to postpone the elections.

Another person, familiar with the relation between the two countries, said Burma was on the right side for most border and immigrant issues.

"However, Burma has political and/or image problems in the international arena, and its neighbour Bangladesh is intent on exploiting the situation," he said.

He said Rohingya were no less a problem for Bangladesh than Burma, and Bangladeshis had also mistreated them. And both countries are yet to identify how many and which Rohingya are from either. Some are Bengali economic refugees.

The other two reasons the military government has made up are: Incomplete census and problems in the drug eradication programme.

For those, the military government refuses time and again more assistance from the international community, who is willing to offer so.

Another reason, cease-fire ethnic groups, particularly Wa and Kachin are refusing to surrender arms and only later announced their agreement on the 2010 election plan.

United State Wa Army or UWSA is the armed wing of United State Party with an estimated 20,000 soldiers. Wa started mentioning "Wa State Government Special Region" in their official papers amidst the Burmese government wanting them to continue as " Shan State Special Region 2".

Kachin Independence Organization itself will not take part in elections but there will be a political party of the Kachin state at least to contest in the elections.

Pa Os have not made an official statement in 2010.

However, Aung Kham Hti of Pa O gets on well with the regime. He is even one of the patrons of USDA Southern Shan State. His group is called PaO National Army (PNA).

Meanwhile, some more major nationalities including Chin, Mon and Shan are yet to be organised to come along with the junta's political road map.

Regarding the Shan front, the junta in 1990s begun exercising a divide-and-rule approach on Shan state.

"The military government has favoured Pa Os population at the detriment of the Shans in areas like Taunggyi, the capital of the Shan stae," the long-time watcher said.

He said there was Pa O-Shan rivalry in southern Shan state, adding that Pa Os, except red Pa O that borders the Karenni State, never got on well with the Shans.

It is head of state Than Shwe's hypocritical announcement that Burma is building a modernised nation based on national unity.

The process of the elections laws should have been made by now, in order to allow political parties to be prepared.

There was talk in circles close to the military government around last August that election laws would have been prescribed by the end of last year. So far it is yet to be done.

Whatever reasons the junta is coming up with, it is found failing to take up a workable option, which must include all stake-holders such as the political opposition groups, cease-fire groups and civilians. That way, many more problems are in front awaiting the military elite and the 55-million-population of the country.

READ MORE---> Truth about delaying 2010 elections...

Monk dies in prison - Ahnanda

By Myint Maung

New Delhi (Mizzima) – A revered Buddhist Monk, Ahnanda, 62, who was arrested and imprisoned for participating in the 2007 monk-led protest by reciting Metta Sutra, died in the prison last month, sources said.

Ahnanda a monk from Thitsa Tharaphu monastery in Rangoon's North Okklapa Townhsip, died while he was serving his four years and three months prison term in Insein prison. He had been into monk hood for 40 years.

"The prison authorities informed North Okkalapa police station about his death, which in turn conveyed the message to the Township Sangha (monk) organization. The Sangha informed the Thitsa Tharaphu monastery where he lived," a source close to the relatives of the Monk said.

A Thailand-based documentation section of the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners in Burma (AAPP-B) also confirmed his death saying the monk might have suffered severe tortures.

"As far as we know, he died on 22 December 2008, while he was serving his prison sentence in Insein prison," Min Min of the AAPP-B said, adding that he suffered a fatal stroke.

While taking part in the 2007 protest by reciting Metta Sutra on the streets of Rangoon, a total of 14 monks and nuns from the Thitsa Tharaphu monastery including Ahnanda were arrested on January 18 last year.

They were charged in three counts, including insulting the religion and distributing pornographic books by the North Okkalapa Township Court on 24 October 2008.

They were denied access to legal counsel at the trial court and sentenced to four years and three months in prison each by North Okkalapa Township Court.

READ MORE---> Monk dies in prison - Ahnanda...

Too early to say 'positive', NLD on meeting with UN envoy

By Mungpi

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Burma's detained opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her party – the National League for Democracy – on Monday said their meeting on Monday with visiting United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari cannot be considered a 'positive step' as they need to assess the overall result of his visit.

Nyan Win, the NLD spokesperson, told Mizzima that Aung San Suu Kyi and five NLD CEC members on Monday met Gambari for about an hour at Seinle Kantha Guest House in Rangoon.

"We cannot consider the meeting a positive step, because we need to assess the overall result of the visit," Nyan Win told Mizzima.

Nyan Win said Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD CEC members, during their meeting, reiterated the need to apply more pressure on the government to release all political prisoners, to review the constitution, to recognize the 1990 election result and to convene the parliament based on it.

"The NLD has maintained the four points that we demand but Daw Suu and the five CEC members told him that the release of all political prisoners would be the minimum condition," Nyan Win said.

The NLD leaders, however, said the release of all political prisoners would be the minimum condition that could be called a tangible progress to a question raised by Gambari on what would be the minimum condition for Ban Ki-moon to consider visiting Burma, Nyan Win added.

The world body chief late last year announced that while he would like to consider visiting military-ruled Burma, it will not be possible unless there are signs indicating that there are positive changes, beginning with the release of political prisoners.

On Gambari's question on the 2010 election, the NLD leaders said they do not consider it legitimate and thus do not feel it necessary to discuss it.

"There is no reason for the NLD to talk or discuss the 2010 election," Nyan Win said.

Nyan Win, however, said the NLD considers their separate meeting with detained leader as a positive step, as they could discuss party policies and activities ahead.

"The NLD leaders were able to discuss alone before the meeting with the envoy and that is really good for us because they were able to discuss party matters. But we cannot talk about anything yet," he added.

The meeting on Monday, however, did not include veteran politician and senior party leaders Win Tin and Khin Maung Swe, who were released from prison in September 2008.

According to a source, the Burmese Ministry of Home Affairs categorically asked the NLD not to include Win Tin and Khin Maung Swe among the five CEC that were allowed to meet.

Gambari on Tuesday will be leaving for Naypyitaw, but it is still uncertain whether he can meet junta supremo Snr. Gen Than Shwe, who also did not meet Gambari during his last visit in August.

READ MORE---> Too early to say 'positive', NLD on meeting with UN envoy...

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