Friday, March 13, 2009

Monk’s Family Members Sentenced in Reprisal

The Irrawaddy News

Six family members of Ashin Gambira, a well-know organizer in the 2007 monk-led pro-democracy uprising, were each sentenced to five years imprisonment on Thursday (12 Mar'09) in the North Dagon Myothit court, according to family members.

Khin Thu Htay, a sister of Ashin Gambira, told The Irrawaddy on Friday that Aung Ko Ko Lwin, 27, a brother of Ashin Gambira, and five family members were charged under Immigration Act 13/1.

Aung Ko Ko Lwin; Moe Htet Hlym, Gambira’s brother-in-law; and four cousins, Kyaw Myo Seck, Hlaing Myo, Soe Lwin and Ye Nyunt, all received prison terms.

“They didn’t do any anti-military or anti-government activities, and they don’t know politics,” said Khin Thu Htay, whose husband was among the group.

Her husband, Moe Htet Hlym, was arrested on September 9, 2008, after he launched balloons in Rangoon to mark the one-year anniversary of the September uprising.

Khin Thu Htay said the military government made the charges in reprisal for Ashin Gambira’s activities.

Ashin Gambira organized monks across the country to boycott alms offered by security forces that brutally suppressed peaceful demonstrations on September 5, 2007, in Pakokkuk Township.

Ashin Gambira was arrested along with his father by military intelligence officers while hiding in Sintgyaing Township and subsequently disrobed by authorities without consultation with the Sangha institution.

He was sentenced to 68 years imprisonment in November 2008 by the Insein Prison special court under charges generally having to do with threatening the stability of the state. Ashin Gambira is now in Hkamti Prison in Sagaing Division.

READ MORE---> Monk’s Family Members Sentenced in Reprisal...

We Will Boycott Election: CRPP

The Irrawaddy News

The Committee Representing the People’s Parliament (CRPP) will not participate in next year’s general election in Burma unless political prisoners are released and the junta agrees to a review of the constitution, according to Aye Thar Aung, a spokesman for the committee, who spoke to The Irrawaddy on Friday.

“The release of political prisoners is the first step toward democracy,” he said. “The second is to allow for a review of the new constitution. If not, we will not be involved in the election.”

The announcement came after a meeting was held in Rangoon on Thursday between representatives of the five political parties that comprise the CRPP coalition: the National League for Democracy (NLD), the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, the Mon National League for Democracy, the Arakan League for Democracy, and Zomi National Congress.

Between them, the five parties took 89 percent of the electoral votes at the 1990 general election—some 433 of the parliament’s 485 seats—with the NLD winning a landslide victory.

However, the elected representatives were never allowed to take power and many of their members were subsequently arrested and imprisoned by the military junta.

Despite the announcement, Nyan Win, a spokesperson for the NLD, refused to comment to The Irrawaddy on Friday about the CRPP decision or the 2010 election.

The NLD has previously called on the Burmese military regime to review the new constitution and release all political prisoners, including its general secretary, Aung San Suu Kyi.

At the 14th Asean Summit in Thailand last month, Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein reportedly promised that Burma would allow United Nations to monitor the 2010 election, a date for which still has not been announced.

But Aye Thar Aung said that allowing the international community to monitor next year’s general election is not as important a factor as the need to review the new constitution.

“It is simply unacceptable that the military will reserve 25 percent of seats in the parliament for itself according to the new constitution,” he said.

He added that the CRPP seeks meaning dialogue between the military junta and the opposition groups for the future of democracy in Burma.

Some leaders of political parties within the CRPP are still in detention, including Suu Kyi and Tin Oo of the NLD, and ethnic Shan leader Hkun Htun Oo.

READ MORE---> We Will Boycott Election: CRPP...

Villages Reluctant to Take in Roadside Refugees

The Irrawaddy News

More than a thousand people whose homes were destroyed by Cyclone Nargis are still taking refuge in villages along the Laputta-Myaungmya road, nearly a year after the cyclone struck, and months after being forced to leave roadside camps.

“The people from the Three Mile, Five Mile and Yadanar Dipa camps have been allowed to stay in villages near Laputta Township,” said one woman in her 30s living in the village of Painmwe Taung.

A row of makeshift shelters seen from the Laputta-Myaungmya road (Photo: Aung Thet Wine/The Irrawaddy)

“But the authorities don’t want us to stay near the road because they are afraid people driving by will see us,” she added.

Although the World Food Program (WFP) continues to provide assistance to victims of the disaster, many say that they are still struggling to survive without jobs or permanent places to live.

WFP provides about 6 pyi (around 1.5 liters) of rice once a month, along with some beans and a little oil and salt, but the government has already stopped supporting us,” said one man who lost 10 members of his family in the cyclone.

“It has been almost a year, but we still have no work and nowhere to live, and we are afraid the authorities will keep forcing us to move from place to place,” he added.

Most of the former camp residents have been living in simple structures covered with tarpaulin sheets. However, as Burma enters its hottest season, many are finding life in these makeshift shelters almost unbearable.

As the hottest season of the year begins, life inside these shelters is becoming even more stifling. (Photo: Aung Thet Wine/The Irrawaddy)

“It gets very hot under the tarpaulins, so we can’t stay inside during the day,” said one cyclone survivor. “If a child or an adult stays inside, they will get a heat rash.”

But the heat is not the only source of discomfort.

Many Nargis victims say that local authorities in villages near Laputta Township are ignoring their needs and neglecting their children’s education.

They also say that local villagers treat them as unwelcome intruders.

“The local heads of villages and villagers discriminate against us. When we approach their villages, they watch us carefully, as if we were thieves,” said a Nargis victim from Yway Village, Laputta Township.

Tarpaulin sheets cover the “homes” of those left homeless by Cyclone Nargis. (Photo: Aung Thet Wine/The Irrawaddy)

Despite the hardships of their homeless existence, many of the displaced Nargis victims say they can’t imagine returning to the villages they left behind.

“Several members of my family were killed by the storm, so I don’t want to return to the place where they died,” said one man in his 40s.

“Nobody knows when we will experience another disaster like this again,” he added, revealing a deep-seated fear common among many of those uprooted by Cyclone Nargis—that they will remain permanently at the mercy of the elements.

Women who lost their husbands to the storm are particularly vulnerable. According to several people living in these shifting communities on the edge of ordinary village life, a number of women have already turned to prostitution to support their families.

READ MORE---> Villages Reluctant to Take in Roadside Refugees...

Political Prisoners Doubled in Two Years, Say Activists

The Irrawaddy News

The number of political prisoners in Burma has almost doubled since July 2007, according to activists who launched a campaign on Friday to press for their release.

Before the start of demonstrations in August 2007, it was estimated that Burmese jails held 1,100 political prisoners. Today the number stands at 2,100, said Khin Ohmar, a leading Burmese activist at the launch of the campaign “Free Burma’s Political Prisoners Now!” ( in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand.

“Unless political prisoners are released, there is no peace and stability in the country,” she said.

The “Free Burma’s Political Prisoners Now!” campaign is organized by the Thailand-based Burmese Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP) and the Forum for Democracy in Burma (FDB), an umbrella dissident group of seven organizations in exile.

Khin Ohmar, of the FDB, was banned from attending the Asean summit in Thailand last month, along with a Cambodian activist.

The current campaign aims to collect a symbolic 888,888 signatures on a petition for the release of Burma’s political prisoners. The petition will be circulated in Thailand, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.

In Thailand, the launch was held at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Bangkok and Chiang Mai University’s International Center.

Friday was chosen for the launch because March 13 was proclaimed Burma’s Human Rights Day by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other leading dissidents to mark the anniversary of the deaths of activists Phone Maw and Soe Naing in clashes with police in 1988.

The petition calling for the release of political prisoners will be circulated until May 24, the day that Suu Kyi should be released from her current term of house arrest under Burmese law. It will be sent to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon,

The UN General Assembly has been urging the release of Burma’s political prisoners for more than a decade.

AAPP Secretary Tate Naing said at Friday’s launch that the 2010 election would be meaningless if political prisoners were still behind bars on polling day.

“The release of political prisoners is number 1 priority for national reconciliation and democratization in the country,” he said.

READ MORE---> Political Prisoners Doubled in Two Years, Say Activists...

The Military Mind-set

The Irrawaddy News

I would like to try to explain what I believe to be the genuine attitude of the Burmese military government.

What is the aim of the Burmese Tamadaw [the military]? How do they think?

Until 1988, late dictator Gen Ne Win, who was the god father of the current ruling generals, didn’t favour the communism and parliamentary democracy. He ordered prominent political theorists to draw up a middle-way political ideology. Finally, due to the economic decline, he began to follow the reforms conducted by China’s paramount leader Deng Xiaoping.

However, Ne Win gave up his political control by the nation-wide democracy uprising, which produced the1988 student movements.

His protégé, former spy chief Gen Khin Nyunt, also stated that the enemy of the military was the Communists and Western neo-colonialists [a phrase usually used by Communists] who were accused of controlling the opposition movement from behind the scenes. Until now, the generals continue to teach army officers along similar lines.

Not like Ne Win, the current ruling generals lacked the experience of independent struggles or Cold War politics. They are not able to stand on a nationalistic platform and non-alliance ideology. They are not skilful in playing political theory games.

But they have learned some effective ways to hold on to their power.

My Brother’s Lesson

“What is military training?” asked my brother, who was a military officer, when I was young. I replied that the training taught me to be disciplined.

“No, it teaches you to immediately follow an order without thinking,” he said. “When you hear ‘Attention,’ you follow the order at once, don’t you? When you hear, ‘At ease,’ you follow it without thinking, don’t you?’”
The training and lectures eventually gives all soldiers a military mindset, which is comprised of the following characteristics:

-We work harder than others for the sake of the country.
-We sacrifice our lives to work for the sake of the country.
-Our comrades are injured or killed by our enemies.
-The enemies who injure or killed us are supported by a part of the population.
-We must follow orders, live under the discipline of the army at all the time.
-We are soldiers serving the country 24-hours a day.

In a soldier’s view, thus, ordinary people and civil servants live more easy-going lives. They are undisciplined and have many leisure hours. They do business to become rich.

The result is that soldiers believe they have the sole right to hold state power due to their hard work and sacrifices. These basic opinions are what hinder the relationship between the people and the military, the military and opposition groups and also warp the military view of the international community, which is constantly telling them to give up their hold on power.

Military officers were surprised when I, a scholar, travelled with them through the forests and mountains. They didn’t think anyone except a soldier could do such hard work.

When the army cracks down on peaceful demonstrators, they viewed them as lazy opportunists who are asking for rights without working hard.

The army, in a way, blames the people for failing to develop the country. Although the army as a whole works hard, the people and civil servants don’t work hard. Foreigners work and think smarter than lazy Burmese people, and these are the reasons developed countries are ahead of Burma.

However, when ordinary people go abroad to seek job opportunity, they see foreigners as human beings like them. They work industriously because they receive advantages from their work. They are disciplined because reap advantages from performing well. They know exactly the things that Burma could not move forward because of the army’s heavy handed control.

The Influence of Communist Thought Patterns

After removal of Ne Win from politics, the military generals didn’t have anyone to give them effective policy guidance that could have gone about reshaping the country.

Khin Nyunt, who was more broad-minded than others, formed the American-style Institute of Strategic and International Studies, and selected young military officers for the intelligence units and trained them in international politics.

Using various underground political strategies, Khin Nyunt approached the United States, the European Union and Japan. He drew up the junta’s political road map, the Naypyidaw plan, and the policies propagated in the National Defence College.

Although the generals never believed in communism and socialism, they studied the tactics and methods of these ideologies, which are premised on hostility to politicians and negativism toward multi-party and federal systems.

Clearly, the generals followed the dictum of Mao Tse Tung: “Crack down on the extreme minority, leave the educated to live in illusion, and label the majority of ordinary people as supporters.”

Today the generals are trying to divide Asean and educated Burmese people from the opposition groups. Speaking in Communist terms, they see Asean and the educated class as walking in illusion.

The army believes students and the educated class get into politics because of their misconceptions. At first, they aimed at strictly controlling the student movement itself, but later in 2007, they labelled most students as part of the extreme group.

Because of their highly indoctrinated, military mind-set, military leaders are cut-off and isolated from the people. They truly have no understanding of the people’s plight.

Military officers do not associate with the general population even if they are appointed to civilian positions, because they are trained not to be too close to the people. Military officers who understand the life of the people are dismissed from their positions.

Military leaders who are retired from the army are isolated. Many incumbent military leaders are desperately afraid of being retired, because they know no other way of life—or thought.

The author is a Rangoon-based observer of politics and military affairs in Burma.


Eric Johnston Wrote: 14/03/2009

Non-violence is more important for the weaker.

When the weaker becomes the stronger, there are two possibilities:
(1) the regime steps down non-violently; or
(2) it is thrown down.

Study ways to become stronger.

One way is to take strength from the enemy.
Another is to strike unseen, repeatedly, wherever he is weak.
Make him run in all directions, without success, and exhaust himself.
Uncover and neutralise his spies, or 'turn' them.
Plant spies among his followers, to discover and counter his manoeuvres.

Think of some more !

sandar Wrote: 14/03/2009

Maung Wayban laid down the very good points and summarized the opposition’s ideology as a whole.
In 2006, I had some occasions to talk to some top activists.

When I gave my opinions about their group as well as about NLD, they replied to me with similar points:

Why are you always criticizing the opposition? You should only criticize the junta, it is they who are bad men, not us.
We are sacrificing our life for our people and country, we spent many years in prisons. Our enemy is the junta. We have our differences among us but we must not show them in public.
We must always show our unity publicly.
The media are defending us because we are the good side. The media must always defend us because we are sacrificing our lives for the country.

The media must always point out only the bad things of the junta in order to keep people at our side.
You don’t know how many people have gone insane inside the prisons?
You do not know how many of our friends died in prisons?
You do not know that the junta is destroying the business of our families?
We are at the right side. We are fighting for truth. Nothing is free so we are ready to give our life for our country’s freedom.
We must fight against the junta for our freedom. And you must support us.

The same characteristics the author mentioned in his article as military mindset.
And everybody knows that the pro-opposition media always listed the people as "betrayers of the democracy movement" when these people do not have or lost the characteristics mentioned above.

Where is the difference between the junta and the opposition ideologically, morally? They share exactly the same values in moral, ideology and religious values.

In order to get the positive changes in our country, both sides must change their mindset.

MyoChitThuNYC Wrote: 13/03/2009

The opposition (NLD, 88 gen. students, Monks, others) need to give up their "non-violent" struggle against the SPDC. Tatmadaw is an uncivilized and uneducated bunch of thugs who constantly disregarded the will of the people and the international community. All they know is violence and that's what they will do to Burma. Sporadic bombings are a good start. But bombing Junta police stations, USDA offices, or next to riot police trucks, etc will send chills down the spine of the Generals.

Ye Lin Wrote: 13/03/2009

Very insightful article that illuminates many paradoxes in Tatmadaw thinking and belief. One thing I still do not understand: if so many anti-civilian military practices and rote ideas derive from the Maoist legacy, why should the junta that otherwise flouts "corrupting" foreign influences even pretend to aspire to democracy? Why bother with a concept of legitimacy based on civil governance? Why do they even care to borrow such a Western concept?

Eric Johnston Wrote: 13/03/2009

This document is important. The key to change in Burma is change of Tatmadaw attitudes. This prompts the question: How can the matter be approached? There are at least some dissatisfied Tatmadaw officers. The few that come west tend to speak of human rights abuses, but they may also have more personal motives. But it is with the likes of them that the ball must start rolling. The subject requires wholehearted attention.

Maung Wayban Wrote: 13/03/2009

Astute observations indeed. Exiled dissident Aung Naing Oo notes that the opposition has become a 'mirror image' of the regime. Then the following points apply to the opposition too (I have taken the liberty to modify the last three points):

-We work harder than others for the sake of the country.
-We sacrifice our lives to work for the sake of the country.
-Our comrades are injured or killed by our enemies.
-Our enemies are NOT supported by the population.
-We must follow our righteous democracy movement. No criticism against the movement should be allowed.
-We are freedom fighters serving the country 24 hours a day.

It's sad how both the regime and the opposition have become entrapped in the conflict, unable to move forward. A radical 'conflict transformation' is needed if we are to progress from this conundrum. The initiative can come either from the regime or from the mainstream opposition.

The Irrawaddy News

READ MORE---> The Military Mind-set...

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