Thursday, April 9, 2009

Who comprises the red-shirt army?

Saved for the purpose of analysis and information

1. The first, a 10,000-strong group of protesters from the Northeast, North and the Central region, are further divided into three smaller groups that take turns in joining Bangkok rallies every three days. At least 60 per cent of them, or 6,000 members, can be found at any one of the protest sites in the capital.

In the North, red-shirt alliances consist of the Rak Chiang Mai 51 Group, Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship (DAAD)'s Chiang Rai Group, Payao Army Assembly, DAAD's Mae Sod Group and the Lower North Group.

The core protesters in the northern capital are the Rak Chiang Mai 51 Group, led by Petchawat Wattanapongsirikul, the owner of the Grand Varoros Palace Hotel.

In the Northeast, red-shirt partnerships consist of the Khon Rak Udon Thani Group, DAAD's Khon Kaen Group, North Isaan Group and the South Isaan Group.

The core group in the Northeast is the Khon Rak Udon Thani group that is led by community radio host Kwanchai Praipana. He aims to get some 3,000 protesters from Udon Thani, plus a few thousand from Khon Kaen, Nakhon Ratchasima, and upper Northeast to head for Bangkok protest sites.

At provinces that are Newin Chidchob's political base, such as Buri Ram, Surin and Si Sa Ket, only a few hundred have shown interest in the red-shirt rallies.

In the Central region, several thousands of protesters, mainly from Ayutthaya and Pathum Thani, are headed for the City of Angels, while a few hundred red-shirt supporters are coming from the eastern provinces of Chantaburi and Chon Buri. Nakhon Si Thammarat is the only province in the South where a few hundred protesters, led by the Surachai Sae Dan, joined the protest.

2. The second group is made up of people who are against the Democrat-led government. These people drive their personal cars and join the rally in front of Government House every evening and go home at night. Most of them live in Bangkok, Samut Prakan, Nakhon Pathom, Nonthaburi and Pathum Thani.

3. The third group is made up of admirers of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and of banned executives of the now-defunct Thai Rak Thai and People Power parties. Members of this group live in Bangkok and adjacent provinces. Like the second group, they don't stay overnight at the rally site.


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Five Burmese Labor Activists Arrested


Five labor activists were arrested recently in Rangoon after attending a labor conference held on the Thai-Burma border, an exiled labor group, the Federation Trade Unions Burma (FTUB), said on Wednesday.

The FTUB said in a press release that five members, who are peaceful advocates and campaigners for labor rights, were arrested on April 1.

The detainees are Zaw Myint Aung, a 49-year-old teacher; three textile factory workers, Soe Oo, 37, Tun Nyein, 22, and Khine Lin Myat, 22 ; and Shwe Yi Nyunt, a 25-year-old nurses aid and law student.

“The five members are likely being held in interrogation centers in the Rangoon area where it is believed they are being tortured,” the press release said.

The exile labor group also claimed that family members of the five activists were arrested or threatened to compel cooperation from those detained.

Burma has more than 2,100 political prisoners, including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. In two years, the number of political prisoners has doubled.

For two decades, the international community, including the United Nations and Burmese opposition groups, has repeatedly called for the release of all political prisoners.

READ MORE---> Five Burmese Labor Activists Arrested...

New Year Oracle Holds Bad Omens

The Irrawaddy News

Happy Water Festival to godfather Than Shwe
Bad omens for Burma are being read into the traditional Thingyansar predictions published to coincide with the Burmese New Year.

The predictions say that Thargyarmin, king of the celestials, won’t be paying his customary visit to the earth this year—a bad omen for Burma and its people.

Burmese Buddhists believe that Thargyarmin pays an annual visit to earth to take note of good deeds and punish those who commit sin.

This year’s Thingyansar also directs attention to people born on Tuesday, saying they would be respected for their good deeds but that hasty decisions would be misunderstood.

Burmese opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi was born on a Tuesday.

This year’s Thingyansar also predicts the end of feudalism in the world—and that is being interpreted as bad news for the regime, whose end is foreseen.

The Thingyansar is being produced this year by Burma’s Ministry of Culture, although unofficial, underground versions are also being circulated.

Official or unofficial, the Thingyansar sells like the proverbial hot cakes and plays an essential role in New Year festivities and the accompanying water festival.

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Learning from Poland’s Example

The Irrawaddy News

Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa hasn’t been to Burma but he shares his full solidarity with its people.

Walesa, the feisty and articulate electrician from Gdansk, led the Solidarnosc (Solidarity) movement that finally liberated the Poles from communism. Poland was the icebreaker for the rest of Central Europe in the "velvet revolutions" of 1989. Walesa's contribution to the end of communism in Europe was highly acknowledged and he remains respected in Poland.

Sitting in his office and talking about Burma, the former president admitted that Burma was mentally and physically far away from Poland but he firmly expressed his solidarity with its people and political prisoners.

He was one of 112 former presidents and prime ministers—including former US presidents George H W Bush and Jimmy Carter, former British prime ministers Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher and John Major, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi—who recently urged UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to return to Burma and pressure the military junta to free all political prisoners.

He then joked through a Polish interpreter:

“Don’t wait for me to come to fight (in Burma)—you have to start now!”
The former electrician, who once climbed over the guarded gates of the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk to lead the Solidarnosc trade union movement in its pro-democracy struggle, wanted to know how Burma’s own pro-democracy movement is faring.

He was happy to share his experiences but he had no intention of delivering a lecture on how to topple the regime. His message was clear, however: be strategic and creative when fighting the repressive regime.

Walesa was convinced that there must be a way out to resist the regime in Burma, if not in the streets. He also said that people should have the courage to say: “No.”

Poland in the 1990s was surrounded by powerful communist neighbors—the Soviet Union, the German Democratic Republic and other members of the Warsaw Pact—and Walesa and his colleagues sometimes thought it was impossible to bring down the communist regime in Warsaw. So his message was that although outside support was important, the movement would have to start from within. More importantly, he thought it was vital to keep open a line of communication with comrades-in-arms in the movement.

His message was: if you cannot lead the people onto the streets, a different strategy to counter the regime has to be found. And his message for the Burmese people was: don’t be downhearted, but be creative in challenging the regime.

He told the Burmese people to be prepared. All authoritarian regimes fall unexpectedly, he said.

It wasn’t a message that those Burmese military leaders who purchased 12 PZL Swindik W-3 Sokol multi-purpose helicopters and 18 Mil Mi-2 helicopters from Poland in the 1990s would like to hear.

Walesa, who became president in 1990 and led Poland through the early post-communist transition period until 1995, recalled that sometimes he felt no one was giving his freedom movement a chance and that victory might not come. When it did come, he was surprised by its unexpectedness.

An early political rival agreed for once with Walesa. Aleksander Kwasniewski, who succeeded Walesa as president in the 1995 election and served until 2005, wished Burma a peaceful transition to democracy.

Kwasniewski, a former communist government minister who led the left-wing Social Democracy of the Republic of Poland and then helped found the Democratic Left Alliance, said the people of Burma, including the opposition, should take any window of opportunity to seek peaceful change.

He warned that any window of opportunity would be rather short lived, so quick action had to be taken. The momentum had to be captured and not lost, he said.

“We didn’t expect that change would come so fast in Poland,” he admitted.

Reminded of the role of Buddhist monks and monasteries in Burma, Kwasniewski acknowledged the importance of the Catholic Church in events in Poland.

Transition, he warned, always involved risk, strife and violence, but the big question remained: what comes after? Changing the regime was easy compared to the difficulty posed by the aftermath, he said.

Poland’s experience in dismantling a rigidly authoritarian regime may indeed hold lessons for the Burmese people’s own struggle for freedom.

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