Thursday, February 5, 2009

UN discusses with Thailand to find solution for Rohingya boatpeople

By Solomon

New Delhi (Mizzima) - United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Thailand said it is discussing with the Thai government on a possible solution for 78 Rohingya boat people, who were arrested by the Thai authorities and charged for illegally entering the country.

Kitty Mckinsey, the UNHCR spokesperson in Bangkok said, the agency have been granted access to the detained boatpeople and are now trying to find a solution for them.

"We are working with the Thai government to try to figure out what the possible solutions are," Mckinsey said.

She said the agency is briefing the Thai government on their findings about the boatpeople, but decline to reveal on the situation of the boatpeople.

Thailand after weeks of request put forward by the UN Refugee Agency, have allowed access to the 78 Rohingya boatpeople, who are charged for illegally entry.

Despite of several Rohingya boatpeople rescued from drifting in the Andaman Sea, fresh batches of boatpeople have been reportedly rescued this week in Indonesian coast.

According to reports, survivors told Indonesian officials that they were arrested by Thai authorities, who then towed them away into the sea after sabotaging the engine of their boat, a similar claim that earlier batches of boatpeople have stated.

But Thailand has categorically denied abusing the boatpeople and removing the engine of their boats, though it admits that it cannot allow migrants to enter illegally.

Despite Thailand's denial, about 450 Rohingya survivors, those rescued by Indian Navy in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, reveal that they have been abused by Thai soldiers.

An official at the Andaman Island also told Mizzima at the time of rescue the Rohingya were found drifting without engines in their boats.

Since December last year, hundreds of Rohingya boat people were rescued at India's Andaman Island, Indonesia's Sabang Island and in the coasts of Thailand.

When asked of the possibilities of setting up a refugee camp for the Rohingya boatpeople, UNHCR's spokesperson Mckinsey said, "We have not had any plans to set up refugee camp," brushing off Thailand's fears of having to deal with yet a new refugee camp.

"We are just trying to get basic facts about them like who they are? and where they come from?," said Mckinsey adding that it is still uncertain for the UN refugee agency to provide international protection.

"We don't even know whether they will apply for asylum," said Mckinsey.

Thailand, earlier this week, have voice its opposition to allow a new refugee camp to be open in its territory and about 500 people demonstrated on Tuesday.

But Mckinsey said, it is against the principle of humanitarian norms to deport back those boatpeople to their origin, if they could prove of well-founded fear.

"Our position all over the world is no one from Northern Rakhaing [Arakan] State should be force to return home against their will," she said.

Amnesty international (AI), meanwhile, said Rohingya, Muslim minorities from Northern Arakan state, will continue to flee to neighboring countries as persecution by the Burmese military government are still ongoing. So, neighboring countries should help them by following the international human rights law.

"They need to provide humanitarian assistance, they need to feed and treat these people, and UNHCR needs to determine whether or not they are refugees," said Benjamin Zawacki , Amnesty International's Burma and Thailand researcher.

He said, the boatpeople's issue have become a regional issue of six countries and Burma, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, India and Bangladesh needs to come together to solve the problem. The root courses of the crisis clearly lie with the Burmese authority.

AI also called on the Thai government to investigate accuses against its army over abusing the rights of the Rohingya.

READ MORE---> UN discusses with Thailand to find solution for Rohingya boatpeople...

Kyaw Thu’s Transfer Questions Junta’s Intentions

The Irrawaddy News

Two days ago, Kyaw Thu was a deputy foreign minister who traveled to the Irrawaddy delta region with visiting UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari. In Thursday’s issue of The New Light of Myanmar he is described as chairman of the Civil Service Selection and Training Board, considered a minister level but inactive post.

The New Light of Myanmar report was accompanied by a photo of Kyaw Thu at Wednesday’s observances of the 61st anniversary of Sri Lanka’s Independence Day in Rangoon.

The apparent reshuffle confused international observers and rang alarm bells within UN agencies and INGOs operating inside Burma.

Why the consternation? Kyaw Thu is chairman of the Tripartite Core Group (TCG) formed after Cyclone Nargis to coordinate aid to the stricken regions and grouping Burma, the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

Three representatives from three Burmese ministries were originally appointed to the group—Kyaw Thu, the Acting Director-General of the Ministry of Social Welfare and Resettlement, Aung Tun Khaing, and the Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, Than Aye.

The purpose of the TCG is to act as an Asean-led mechanism to facilitate trust, confidence and cooperation between Burma and the international community in the urgent humanitarian relief and recovery work after Cyclone Nargis hit Burma.

Since the formation of the TCG, Kyaw Thu has been seen meeting foreign dignitaries and jetting around Asean nations. Despite being a former military commander and a loyal supporter of the regime, he earned popularity among international non-government organizations, UN agencies and Asean itself, where he was praised for being cooperative and helpful.

This is not the first time Kyaw Thu has unexpectedly been shifted from one post to another. He was made an ambassador after a dispute with one powerful military commander, taking charge of embassies in South Africa and India. Ambassador postings are considered a demotion in Burma.

It is still unclear, however, whether Kyaw Thu will be relinquishing his position at the head of the TCG.

Termsak Chalermpalanupap, an official in the Asean Secretary-General Office, told The Irrawaddy by e-mail that, as far as the office understands, Kyaw Thu will remain TCG Chairman, at least until the upcoming launch of the Post-Nargis Recovery Planning (PONREP) Report in Bangkok on February 9.

The TCG agreement between the Burmese regime, the UN and Asean expires in June. A Cyclone Nargis donor meeting is to be held next week in Bangkok.

Burmese analysts said that Kyaw Thu’s future with the TCG is uncertain because, in his new position, he no longer works as a minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Ministry is said to be plagued by rivalry and personal conflict. Foreign minister Nyan Win and Deputy Foreign Minister Maung Myint, neither of whom speak good English and who lack international experience, are at loggerheads with Kyaw Thu.

Ohn Maung, a veteran politician in Rangoon, said Kyaw Thu was kicked upstairs because he was too exposed, too smart and too popular with foreigners and within Asean.

The xenophobic regime usually suspects ministers and officials who are close to the international community and who are often purged or sent into retirement.

“The generals demand a loyal guy, not a smart one,” said Ohn Maung.

An expert with the TCG said anonymously: “If the regime still wants him at the TCG, he could continue the post. So wait and see.”

According to INGO workers operating in Burma, Kyaw Thu readily approved visas for foreign relief workers who wanted to assist Cyclone Nargis victims.

A Scandinavian aid worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that INGOs and international donors had worked effectively with Kyaw Thu.

If Kyaw Thu were now discarded “this is not good news for INGOs,” he said. “INGOs and the UN working in Burma hope that the door will open more and more. This is not a good sign.”

READ MORE---> Kyaw Thu’s Transfer Questions Junta’s Intentions...

Leader of pro-junta group resigns

By Than Htike Oo

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Thein Tin Aung, second-in-command of a Student and Youth Organization, which usually criticizes Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her NLD party and which is also contesting the 2010 general elections, has resigned from his post.

Thein Tin Aung, Vice-Chairman of the alleged pro-junta '88 Generation Student and Youth Organization (Union of Myanmar),' has put in his papers.

"I tendered my resignation letter to Ko Aye Lwin on grounds of my deteriorating health, and suggested allowing someone, who can replace me and work energetically in politics," Thein Tin Aung told Mizzima.

Despite citing medical reasons for quitting the post, a person close to him said that there were some differences among the top leadership in the organization.

"There are some tactical differences among them. It is the usual phenomenon in this organization, in certain tactical matters," he said.

He did not elaborate but said that the Vice-Chairman would not be with the party much longer.

However, Chairman Aye Lwin, when contacted by Mizzima, denied the information that Thein Tin Aung had ever submitted his resignation.

Aye Lwin said that his organization has 44 party members including 14 Central Executive Committee (CEC) members.

During the nationwide pro-democracy uprising in 1988, Aye Lwin actively participated as a university student alongside detained student leader Min Ko Naing and other colleagues. But, he later switch sides and began severely criticizing mainstream opposition forces and their leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi.

His party has started political campaigns and canvassing since September 2007, and is currently engaged in mobilizing support in Rangoon, Mandalay, Pegu, Magwe, Sagaing, Irrawaddy, Karen, Mon and Arakan in preparation for contesting the 2010 general elections. He also met and discussed issues with businessmen, journalists and local elders in these places.

READ MORE---> Leader of pro-junta group resigns...

Junta continues cabinet reshuffle

New Delhi (Mizzima) - In the continuing reshuffle of its cabinet, the Burmese military rulers have appointed two of its Ministers to head an extra ministry each in place of ministers that have resigned, sources said.

Sources close to the military establishment on Thursday told Mizzima that Maj-Gen Maung Oo, Minister for Home Affairs was appointed to co-head the Ministry of Immigration & Population, which was earlier headed by Maj-Gen Saw Lwin.

Similarly, Maj-Gen Khin Maung Myint, Minister for Electric Power No 2 will also head the Ministry of Construction, which was earlier headed by Maj-Gen Saw Tun.

Sources on Wednesday confirmed the resignation of both Maj-Gen Saw Lwin and Maj-Gen Saw Tun.

However, the junta so far has made no announcement of the resignations or the new appointments of Maj-Gen Maung Oo and Maj-Gen Khin Maung Myint.

Mizzima in December 2008 ran a story on a possible cabinet reshuffle

The source, who cannot be named for security reasons said, the junta is removing some of its ministers as it prefers managing a fewer number of ministers in the run up to 2010 election and in the completion of the process of its roadmap.

Earlier, this week Dr. Than Nyunt, Chairman of the Civil Service Selection and Training Board and Myo Nyunt, the Deputy Education Minister resigned from their respective positions.

The junta also promoted Kyaw Thu, the Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Chairman of the Civil Service Selection and Training Board, which is equivalent to a minister's rank.

Kyaw Thu is currently chairing the Tripartite Core Group, formed with representatives of the Burmese government, the UN and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to facilitate and monitor flow of international assistance into Cyclone Nargis cyclone hit areas in Burma.

READ MORE---> Junta continues cabinet reshuffle...

ABFSU leader Dee Nyein Linn sentenced to 5 more years in prison - Dee Nyein Linn

By Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The South Dagon Township Court sentenced 'All Burma Federation of Students Union' (ABFSU) leader Dee Nyein Linn to another five years in prison yesterday, for unlawful association. He has already been serving a prison term of over 10 years.

Earlier, South Dagon Townsh
ip Police Station House Officer Kyaw Sann Htay acted as prosecutor in the case of the 21 year-old student leader and then the prosecutor was changed. The new prosecutor sentenced him to 5 more years in prison, by charging him with Section 6 of the Unlawful Associations Act.

He was previously sentenced to a total of 10 and half years and now his total prison term would be 15 and half years.

"He was given 5 more years in prison by the South Dagon Township Court in connection with establishing unlawful association, charged under Section 6. Previously he had already been given 10 and half years. Aung Htu from Swan Ah Shin, acted as prosecutor in his case," his aunt told Mizzima.

"I feel very sorry for him. The total prison term given to him is more than half his age. On the other hand, I feel proud of him as he did it not for himself, but for the people. He also said to me, 'you don't need to be sorry, don't cry,' before he was sentenced by the court," his aunt added.

The leadership of ABFSU was reconstituted at the height of the monk-led anti-government demonstration, popularly known as the Saffron Revolution. Dee Nyein Linn was one of the newly reconstituted leaders.

Despite struggling against the military dictatorship, the successive military regimes banned the student organization, ABFSU, so that they had to carry on their movement underground.

Rangoon Western University, Geology major final year student, Dee Nyein Linn was arrested on 23rd October last year, at an apartment in Parami, Rangoon.

He was previously given 6 and a half years prison term with 4 cases including crime against public tranquility charged under section 505(b) of the Penal Code, and another 4 years for rioting cases.

His father Zaw Zaw Min is an 88 Gen Student leader and is serving a 65 years prison term and his grandfather was the elected MP of Htee Linn constituency, who died in Tharyawadi prison.

READ MORE---> ABFSU leader Dee Nyein Linn sentenced to 5 more years in prison - Dee Nyein Linn...

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