Monday, May 4, 2009

Five years in prison for ex-police officer - U Mrat Tun

Mauangdaw (Narinjara): A retired police officer was sentenced to five years in prison by the Maungdaw District Court on Friday, as he was in contact with a Bangladesh-based media group in exile, a colleague of his said.

U Mrat Tun, age 60 , who is a retired police officer from Pauktaw Township, was arrested by Military Intelligence at a check point on the Buthidaung-Maungdaw motor road earlier last month, while he was returning home from Maungdaw.

“He was charged by the police under the immigration law. He was accused of entering Bangladesh illegally, and networking with the media in exile. On Friday, the Maungdaw District Court sentenced him to five years in prison,” his colleague said.

According to lawyers, the judge sentenced him to a long term in prison, charging him under a Section of Act 13 (1) of the Burmese Immigration Law.

A lawyer from Maungdaw on condition of anonymity said, “We did not get a chance to advocate his case and the judge’s verdict was one-sided because there were no witnesses and lawyers to defend him. Senior Military Intelligence officials pressurized the judge to sentence him to five years in prison.”

A relative said, the family members of U Mrat Tun had no chance to attend the court proceedings to hear the case before the verdict of the court.

Burmese military authorities have ordered the local police force not to sue any person with political lawsuit dispatches, if he/she were arrested for being involved in politics. Due to that, the police force sued him under an immigration case, the lawyer said.

According to a local source, Ko Mrat Tun was the fourth person sentenced to a long term in prison in Arakan State, this year, for having contacts with the media in exile.

In the past, three people have been sentenced from one to five years respectively, under the immigration law, as they allegedly had contacts with the media in exile.

Among them, Ko Tha Tun from Buthidaung was sentenced to five years in prison and currently he is in Buthidaung Prison, Ko San Lwin from Taungup, was sentenced to five years in prison and he is now in Thandwe Prison, while Ko Nyint Maung from Maungdaw was sentenced to one year in prison and is lodged in Buthidaung Prison.

READ MORE---> Five years in prison for ex-police officer - U Mrat Tun...

Mass Burmese migrant arrest 'due to high crime rate'

(DVB)–The high crime rate amongst Burmese migrants in Thailand could be the reason behind the mass arrest of over 300 migrants last week, said the chairman of a organisation dealing with migrant issues.

Around 340 Burmese migrants were arrested on Thursday during a police crackdown in Bangkok and Thai-Burma border town, Mae Sot.

The chairman of the Joint Action Committee for Burma Affairs (JACBA), Moe Gyo, said that Thai police raided workers’ quarters and restaurants in Mae Sot and arrested about 300 people.

“They drove in cars around town and arrested everyone in sight, including garbage collectors and vendors,” he said.

A Burmese migrant worker in Mahachai, Bangkok, which has a high concentrarion of Burmese migrants, said the police used six lockup trucks during the raid in the industrial district.

The motive behind the increasing frequency of crackdowns on illegal workers could be due to higher rate of crime attributable to Burmese migrants.

“There has been an increasing rate of crime among the Burmese migrant community, including robbery, murder and rape, as well as child trafficking,” he said.

“I think the Thai authorities are sending a message to the Burmese living in the country of their intention to clear up such crimes as a part of national security.”

He added that the rising crime rate among Burmese migrants was due to the hardships they faced trying to survive in Thailand, rather than lack of education. Moe Swe, general secretary of the JACBA said that non-governmental organisations in Thailand working on migrant issues should emphasise education on workers’ rights, labour laws and criminal laws in Thailand.

Meanwhile, four Thailand-based groups, including migrant worker group Yaung Ni Oo, the Federation of Trade Unions and the Joint Action Committee for Burmese Affairs, gathered in Mae Sot on 1 May to mark International Labour Day.

Some of those present talked about workers opposing the Burmese government’s 2008 approved constitution, which included no regulation to protect labour rights in the country, and the upcoming 2010 elections.

San San, a 1990-elected people’s parliament representative, who previously worked for the government’s Labour Administration office as a deputy-director, said:

“There used to be a law in Burma which gave labours a right to sit in a tripartite discussion with their employers and representatives from government labour organisations to raise their issues but that law was abolished by the military government in 1988,” she said.

“The workers should be given an opportunity to campaign before the 2010 elections so that they will be able to structure a peaceful and independent workers community.”

Reporting by Khin Min Zaw and Ahunt Phone Myat

READ MORE---> Mass Burmese migrant arrest 'due to high crime rate'...

A media behind bars: press freedom after the cyclone

By Francis Wade

(DVB)–Yesterday, international media watchdogs and analysts were united in their criticism of the deteriorating state of the world’s media.

To mark World Press Freedom Day, US-based Freedom House announced that the state of the world’s media had declined for a seventh straight year, while Reporters Without Borders (RSF) spoke of press freedom being “taken hostage”. And, unsurprisingly, Burma spent the day languishing in the bottom four of nearly every press freedom index and report published, it’s sadistic knee-jerk sentencing of dissenters making it, as RSF put it, one of the world’s “largest prison[s] for journalists and bloggers.”

As if the occasion demanded an accompanying case study, yesterday was also the one-year anniversary of Burma’s cyclone Nargis, likely one of the most underreported natural disasters of modern times. That the two occur on the same day is both poignant and ironic. As news of the cyclone began to seep out of the Irrawaddy delta last May, Burmese authorities locked all borders, denying journalists access to affected areas whilst spewing out propaganda about the “over-exaggerated” situation being under control. A week after the cyclone, Burma’s leading state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper led with a story on the “despicable” reporting of the cyclone by foreign media, under the title ‘The enemy who is more destructive than Nargis’.

So bent was the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) on maintaining it’s isolationist tendencies that the plight of 2.4 million affected Burmese was almost silenced, save for the few foreign reporters who managed to stow into the region, and the Burmese ‘citizen journalists’ who risk life imprisonment to keep international eyes focused on the regime.

Yet the retributions for doing so are astonishing: well-known comedian and activist Maung Thura, known by his stage name Zarganar, was sentenced last November to 59 years (later reduced to 35) after giving interviews critical of the regime’s response to Nargis to foreign media, including the BBC. He is serving his sentence in the remote Myitkyina prison near the Burma-China border. Six students were also sentenced last month to between two and four years each under charges of sedition for collecting and burying rotting corpses in the aftermath of the cyclone.

“The attitude of the government [following the cyclone] is in some way directly linked to what happened in the September 2007 protests,” said Vincent Brossel, head of the Asia desk at Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based media wachdog.

“They were very afraid of strong images and testimonies about their incapacity to deal with the situation and that’s why they banned foreign press from getting visas for the delta.”

Reporters Without Borders last year ranked Burma 170 out of 173 countries in their Press Freedom Index, saved only from the “infernal trio” category by the authoritarian regimes of North Korea, Turkmenistan and Eritrea. The report was published amid a wave of sentencing of Burmese journalists and activists following the 2007 monk-led protests and cyclone Nargis.

“The Burmese government never feels comfortable about telling the public the truth,” said San Moe Wei, secretary of Thailand-based Burma Media Association.

“As they grow more panicky with the media providing an increased flow of information to the public, they start to put pressure on people who work in the field.”

Twenty-eight year old Nay Phone Latt, who recorded footage and tracked the 2007 protests on his blog, is one such victim, charged last November along with Zarganar under the Video Act and Electronics Act and sentenced to 22 years in Rangoon’s notorious Insein Prison. One former political prisoner there reported the comparatively harsh treatment dished out to political prisoners, including three months spent in solitary confinement, permanently forced to stand with hands tied above the head.

Courts sentenced over 100 journalists and activists that same month following trials that were often held inside closed prison courts, with defence lawyers regularly reporting intimidation. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP), 16 lawyers are now serving prison sentences themselves, among the 2,137 political prisoners being held in Burma.

Of the 6,313 prisoners released in the amnesty in February, only 23 were of this ilk. Accusations circulate that the ‘goodwill’ move by the government was in fact merely a practical maneuver, freeing up precious prison space for those planning on contesting (or protesting) the elections, tentatively set for next March.

“My concern is that, now with the junta preparing the 2010 elections, they are increasingly using more sophisticated propaganda, with new licenses for new media,” said Vincent Brossel.

“At the same time they are keeping very a close eye on independent journalists and people who are related to the opposition who are in the media field. So that’s quite scary for what can happen in 2009 and 2010.”

Thus, those marking World Press Freedom day next year will once again have to grapple with the shadow cast by the Burmese government. Last November’s wave of sentencing proves that work is underway to ensure no destabilising events, whether man-made or natural, take place – indeed, are seen to have taken place - that threaten an extension to the SPDC’s rule. Furthermore, with pro-government campaigners now freely airing election propaganda through state television and newspapers, the media has become a powerful weapon to ensure the military retains its grip on power.

‘Worst country to be a blogger’

Ironically, prior to the 1962 military coup that heralded the start of a nationalized media industry, Burma had championed free press in Southeast Asia. As many as 35 newspapers existed between 1948 and 1962, and the government kept regular contact with domestic and foreign journalists.

As the junta’s rule progressed, however, the clamp was tightened. Now only three print newspapers exist, and all published material has to be verified by the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD) of the Ministry of Information, who censor out anything deemed critical of the government. Material has to be sent to them a week before publishing date, rendering news archival by the time it is released. Furthermore, the added cost for publishers to print and reprint pages for checking by the PSRD means that many publications tend to self-censor rather than spend money where it can be avoided. As a result, newspapers and journals are thought to lose up to a third of their content prior to publication.

Yet by annexing all media to the government’s control, a vacuum for non-state media has been filled by underground bloggers and exile-based media organisations. Life for a blogger in Burma is precarious, however: authorities demand internet café owners take screen shots of their computers every five minutes, which are then copied to CD and sent to government regulators, while intelligence officials closely monitor all email and telephone lines. Just last week, the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists published a report labeling Burma the ‘worst country to be a blogger’, citing the Orwellian system of surveillance the government uses to track and sentence underground journalists.

The other key pillar of non-state media is the exiled news organizations, which both transmit radio and television broadcasts via European satellites into Burma, and allow foreign audiences a window into developments inside the country. Freelance journalist and Burma expert, Larry Jagan, says the government is only too aware of their potential influence.

“What they worry about is that at least 80 per cent of the population is watching or listening or reading stories in Burmese produced by the exiled media,” he said.

“They certainly want to know what the Burmese people are being told by them.”

And with a population now tuning in to increasingly sophisticated news mediums, the government’s concerns will grow.

“No matter how much the government is putting pressure on the people, they will still find a loophole, via television, radio and the internet, to gain access to the information they want,” said San Moe Wei.

“I think the role of the outside media and citizen journalists in Burma is reaching its most important level.”

The importance of their work will once again be thrown into the spotlight next year, with the 2010 elections providing perhaps the ultimate litmus test to prove how effectively press censorship can cripple democratic reform.

"The press is democracy's first defense,” said Freedom House’s executive director Jennifer Windsor, “and its vulnerability has enormous implications for democracy if journalists are not able to carry out their traditional watchdog role.”

Thus, if the government remains indifferent to international condemnation of its media environment, and continues to imprison journalists and wield absolute authority over every publication and broadcast, then it is likely the elections will go exactly the way the government intends.

“The international community is making a mistake in trying to make positive the fact that there are elections,” said Vincent Brossel.

“Without press freedom, without freedom of expression, without freedom of assembly there is no fair elections. That’s obvious.”

READ MORE---> A media behind bars: press freedom after the cyclone...

Intelligence chief meets with ceasefire groups

(DVB)–Senior Burmese intelligence officials last week met with six ceasefire groups to discuss their participation in next year’s elections and the possibility that the groups will disarm, say observers.

Although no concrete information has been given about the talks, a member of the Kachin Independence Organisation, Major Gun Maw, who met with a commander from the government’s Northern Military Command on 28 April, said discussions centered on the elections, and paved the way for further dialogue with the government.

"The main thing is that in 2010 there will be elections, and a new government will emerge,” he said.

“As for the military government, it will have to hand over power…and have the responsibility to explain to the upcoming civilian government about the [ceasefire] groups.”

Six groups in total, the Kachin Independence Organisation, New Democratic Army (Kachin), United Wa State Army, Shan State Army (North), Kokang group, and Mong La groups, met individually with the State Peace and Development Council’s intelligence chief, Major General Ye Myint.

Gun Maw said that further talks will take place in the last week of May, although he refused to comment both on whether the KIO will be participating in the elections and whether they have plans to disarm.

“We will…discuss what we will do with our armed forces,” he said.

“I hope that we will start to talk about this when the two sides meet at the end of May.”

The KIO, who were established in 1961, declared a ceasefire with the government in 1994, although their relationship remains tense.

The government has stated that all ceasefire groups must disarm and form political parties if they are to contest the elections.

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw

READ MORE---> Intelligence chief meets with ceasefire groups...

A Mature Response

The Irrawaddy News

At its special two-day national party meeting last week, Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), indicated that it would take part in elections next year if the ruling junta responds positively to a set of three basic requirements:

1) the unconditional release of all political prisoners;

2) amendment of any provisions in the 2008 constitution “not in accord with the democratic principles”; and

3) an all-inclusive, free and fair poll under international supervision.

In a policy statement dubbed the “Shwegondaing Declaration,” the NLD made it clear that it would not stand on principle and insist that the regime allow the party to form a government based upon the results of the last election in 1990. It would, however, expect the junta to acknowledge that the outcome of the election favored the NLD, even though it has never been allowed to take power.

Although the NLD has not made any unconditional commitment to participating in the election, its newly declared willingness to consider such a move marks a significant shift. In fact, it could be considered a sign that the party still has what it takes to continue playing a major role in the country’s political process.

Critics of the NLD have long accused the party of having an unhealthy obsession with its stolen victory. In the Shwegondaing Declaration, however, the party states that elections should not be regarded as obstacles, but rather as “landmarks to be passed in the journey to democracy.”

Why, at this juncture, has the NLD decided to lend some of its legitimacy to the regime by agreeing, in principle, to participate in an election designed by the generals in Naypyidaw to entrench military rule behind a facade of civilian government?

One reason, of course, is that it has little choice but to make a move that can at least keep open the possibility of a future political dialogue. But more than that, it is responding with a renewed sense of urgency to the senseless suffering that two decades of political stalemate and economic stagnation have imposed on the country.

Khin Maung Swe, a leading member of the NLD, emphasized this point when he told The Irrawaddy: “We appeal to the military leaders for the sake of the families of the political prisoners and for the rest of the people, who have suffered socially and economically for decades in the political conflicts.”

Burma desperately needs to rebuild its ruined economy and social infrastructure, which lag far behind those in other developing countries in the region. Around 30 percent of Burma’s estimated 50 million people survive on less than $1 a day. Public investment in education and healthcare is amongst the lowest in the world. One child in ten dies before the age of five.

In an Armed Forces Day speech to the nation on March 27, the regime’s supreme leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe said that political parties that carry out “mature party organizing work will receive the blessing of the government” in next year’s election.

With its latest statement, the NLD has demonstrated that it is mature enough to set aside its own claims to legitimacy for the sake of the country’s future. The only question that remains is whether Than Shwe, the enfant terrible of Burmese politics, can do the same.

READ MORE---> A Mature Response...

EU-Japan Calls for Progressive Changes in Burma


Leaders of the European Union (EU) and Japan called for an inclusive political process in Burma and the release of political prisoners ahead of the 2010 election, during the EU-Japan Summit in Prague on Monday.

According to a joint press statement from the summit, leaders of the EU and Japan pointed out that the elections in 2010 “could be welcomed by the international community if they were based on an inclusive dialogue among all stakeholders in Myanmar [Burma].”

The EU and Japan called on the Burmese junta to release political prisoners and detainees, including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as to lift all restrictions imposed on political parties immediately.

President of the Czech Republic, Václav Klaus, chaired the summit. European Commission President José Barroso and Secretary General of the Council of the European Union Javier Solana attended the summit on behalf of the EU. Japan’s Prime Minister Taro Aso led the Japanese delegation.

“Summit leaders expressed their hope that the Government of Myanmar tackles the country’s severe political, structural and economic problems and fosters a peaceful transition to a legitimate, democratic and civilian government without delay,” leaders noted in the press release.

The EU- Japan also expressed their readiness to respond positively to substantive political progress and steps toward respect for human rights undertaken by the Burmese regime.

The leaders at the summit said they were determined to “help the government and the people of Burma achieve stability and prosperity in democratic freedom.”

They also repeated their support for the UN secretary-general’s Mission of Good Offices and the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Burma and called on the regime to cooperate fully with them.

READ MORE---> EU-Japan Calls for Progressive Changes in Burma...

Junta Censors Nargis Anniversary Reports

The Irrawaddy News


Burma’s Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD) has severely restricted Rangoon weekly journals publishing reports marking the anniversary of Cyclone Nargis, which devastated the southwest of the country on May 2-3 last year, leaving about 140,000 people dead in its wake.

According to several editors and reporters, the notoriously draconian censorship board did not allow reports to carry any criticism of the Nargis recovery effort by the military government, United Nations’ organizations, International NGOs and local NGOs.

“More than a third of Nargis stories were prohibited from being published,” said a Rangoon-based journalist. “Burmese reporters have no right to investigate a story freely.”

He claimed that, currently, the PSRD will only allow journals to publish articles that portray positive aspects of the Burmese military authorities, even if the stories are untrue.

In the weeks after the deadly cyclone struck Burma last year, 21 volunteer aid workers, including journalists, were arrested for assisting victims of the cyclone.

More recently, two journalists—Myat Tun and Ko Khin Maung—of the exiled media group Narinjara Independent Arakan News Agency, were arrested in Arakan State, according to Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP). At least 50 Burmese journalists currently languish in Burmese prisons, according to AAPP.

The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in a press release on April 30 that Burma is the worst place in the world to be a blogger because the military authorities severely restricts Internet access and imposes harsh prison sentences on persons who post material critical of the government.

Meanwhile, in Washington on Sunday, US President Barack Obama said that, each year, hundreds of journalists around the world face intimidation, censorship and arbitrary arrest, although they “are guilty of nothing more than a passion for truth and a tenacious belief that a free society depends on an informed citizenry.

“In every corner of the globe, there are journalists in jail or being actively harassed: from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe, Burma to Uzbekistan, Cuba to Eritrea,” he said.

READ MORE---> Junta Censors Nargis Anniversary Reports...

Armed Ceasefire Groups to be ‘Border Guard Force’

The Irrawaddy News

The Burmese military plans to incorporate armed ethnic ceasefire troops into the Tatmadaw (armed forces) to provide security along the border after the 2010 general election.

The plan would give greater control of the armed ceasefire groups to the Burmese military, according to observers.

Armed ethnic ceasefire groups first heard details of the plan during meetings with Burmese military officers on April 28.

Under the plan, one border guard battalion would have 326 troops including 18 officers. There would be three commanders with the rank of major. Each battalion would have two majors drawn from ceasefire groups and one major drawn from the Tatmadaw in charge of administration.

Each battalion would have a general staff officer and quartermaster officer with the rank of captain drawn from the Tatmadaw. Company commanders in each battalion would be drawn from ceasefire groups.

Twenty-seven soldiers in other ranks, such as company sergeant majors, sergeant clerks, nurses, etc., would be drawn from Tatmadaw forces.

Representatives of the Burmese junta told ceasefire group officials at various meetings that discussions on troop mobilization will be held at a later date. Salary and benefits for troops in the border forces would be the same as soldiers in the Tatmadaw.

In the plan’s outline, it was noted that border guard troops could only be mobilized in areas within their own territory.

The Tatmadaw will command border guard forces during the “beginning period,” according to the plan.

Ceasefire groups, including the United Wa State Army with an estimated 200,000 troops, have made no official statements in regard to the plan of incorporation.

Sources said that the military plans to form three committees to coordinate the transition of the ceasefire groups.

The Transition Policy Committee will be chaired by the commander-in-chief and the deputy commander-in-chief will be vice-chairman, and committee members will include the coordinator of special operations for the army, navy and air force, the prime minister, secretary 1, members of the junta, the State Peace and Development Council; the secretary of the committee will be the chief of Military Affairs Security and the joint-secretary will be the director of the Office of Public Relations and Border Troops.

The Transitional Working Committee will be chaired by the chief of Military Affairs Security; and made up of commanders of the Tatmadaw’s regional commands along with the deputy chief of Military Training, the vice-adjutant general and the vice-quartermaster general, the director of the People’s Militias and Psychological Warfare, the director-general of Central Military Accounts, and general staff officer 1 of the Burmese army. The director of the Public Relations and Border Troops will be the secretary of the working committee, and the general staff officer 1 from the Military Affairs Security will be joint-secretary.

Various Regional Level Transition Working Committees will be chaired by Tatmadaw regional commanders.

The current policy is related to the 2008 Constitution, which was created by the junta.

The constitution provides that in ceasefire group controlled areas, referred to as self-administered divisions or self-administered zones, the local administrative bodies can legislate for civil issues such as urban and rural projects; construction and maintenance of roads and bridges; public health; developmental affairs; prevention of fire hazards; maintenance of pastures; conservation and preservation of forests; preservation of the natural environment; water and electricity issues; and market matters relating to towns and villages.

Under the constitution, the military, dominated by the commander-in-chief, can assign duties relating to security and border affairs in self-administered zones (ceasefire areas).

One-quarter of the administrators of self-administered zones (ceasefire areas) will be made up of military officers appointed by the commander-in-chief of the Tatmadaw. (JEG's: "self-administed" under orders of the SPDC aha?)

READ MORE---> Armed Ceasefire Groups to be ‘Border Guard Force’...

Asia Urged to Rethink Growth Policies amid Crisis

The Irrawaddy News

BALI, Indonesia — Asia's governments must spend more on social safety nets and reduce their reliance on export-driven growth as they grapple with an economic meltdown that will keep tens of millions trapped in poverty, finance officials said.

Japan, meanwhile, said it will make 6 trillion yen ($60.5 billion) available for currency swaps, giving nations with weaker currencies access to yen in a funding crisis. And finance ministers from Southeast Asia along with Japan, China and South Korea agreed to set up a $120 billion pool of emergency funds.

Faced with the worst global slump since World War II, many of Asia's economies are in free fall as demand for their exports—long the engine of the region's growth—evaporates in big Western markets.

The Asian Development Bank, holding its annual meeting in Bali, Indonesia, has warned that 61 million people will remain trapped in extreme poverty this year because of the global slump. That figure could increase to nearly 160 million if slow growth continues next year, it said.

The bank's president, Haruhiko Kuroda, said the collapse in global trade has "gathered momentum" as export markets suffer a massive contraction.

"This grave situation needs more vigorous and concerted efforts by all concerned to bring growth in the region back," he said.

Some governments in Asia—Japan and China among them—are already blasting their economies with hundreds of billions of dollars in stimulus spending. But it is too early to say whether this pump-priming is working, while many other governments in the region are too poor to fund such largesse.

"Asian countries must restructure their economies and focus more on domestic demand," Japanese Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano told the annual meeting.

"The Asian region needs to prop up domestic demand to avoid economic meltdown," said Yosano, also a governor of the ADB, to which Japan is a major donor.

Boosting Asia's spending on social protection—currently the lowest of any region as a percentage of gross domestic product—is a crucial step to take for boosting confidence and reducing the human cost of an economic downturn, he said.

In addition to 6 trillion yen for currency swaps, Yosano said Japan will help developing nations to borrow money by guaranteeing $5 billion of yen-denominated bonds issued by such countries.

For the $120 billion emergency funding pool, 80 percent will be contributed by China, South Korea and Japan. Governments would be able to borrow from the fund to cope with a short-term funding crunch.

The venue for the May 2-5 meeting, an international convention center nestled amid plush five-star resorts, provides a stark contrast to one of its main talking points: tackling Asia's endemic poverty.

Some hotels hosting conference delegates have nightly rates that are more than a poor family in Asia earns in one year. More than 900 million in Asia live on $1.25 or less a day.

"The accommodation is indicative of the bank's efforts in meeting the financial crisis," said Red Constantino, executive director of NGO Forum on ADB—an umbrella group pushing the bank to become more accountable. "There's a wide gap between their rhetoric and what they do in reality."

Activists also faulted the bank for pressing ahead with plans to hold next year's annual meeting in Uzbekistan, an authoritarian central Asian nation.

Human rights advocates and journalists critical of Uzbek President Islam Karimov's government have been subjected to arbitrary arrest, politically motivated prosecution, forced psychiatric treatment and physical attack, according to a 2008 US Department of State report.

ADB Managing Director-General Rajat Nag said he was "delighted" that Uzbekistan had offered to host the 2010 meeting. The bank wants activist groups to participate but the host nation has the final say, he said.

The ADB announced Saturday that it will boost lending to the region's poorest nations by more than $10 billion over two years, though it is widely acknowledged this is not enough to make up for the shortfall created by the freezing up of private investment.

The announcement came just days after the bank's 67 member countries approved a tripling of the ADB's capital to $165 billion, expanding its ability to finance infrastructure and other projects aimed at reducing poverty in partnership with the private sector.

"We expect the bank to rapidly and significantly step up lending in key areas," said Indian economic affairs secretary Ashok Chawla.

But activist organizations have not welcomed the bank's bigger firepower, saying ADB-funded projects often harm the very people they aim to help.

Activists highlighted an ADB-backed dam and hydroelectric power scheme in the West Seti region of Nepal, saying it could displace 20,000 people and lead to conflict in resettlement areas that are already heavily populated.

The ADB estimates about 12,000 people would be resettled.

READ MORE---> Asia Urged to Rethink Growth Policies amid Crisis...

Nyan Win Calls in Cuba for End to Sanctions

The Irrawaddy News

Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win has called in Cuba for an end to sanctions on developing countries. Some industrialized countries were taking advantage of the global financial crisis to exert political pressure on third world nations by imposing sanctions on them, he charged at a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in Havana.

Burma’s state-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar reported on Nyan Win’s speech on Monday, saying he spoke last week to a ministerial meeting of the Coordinating Bureau of the 119-member Non-Aligned Movement.

Nyan Win said unilateral sanctions offended international law and were counter-productive to the promotion of democracy and human rights in targeted countries. He defined democracy as “a universal value based on the will of the people to determine their own future.”

And he declared: “There is no single model of democracy.”

Sanctions have been imposed against Burma by the US and several developed countries, including Canada and member nations of the European Union. The sanctions are intended to pressure the Burmese regime to end its human rights abuses and move towards democracy.

Nyan Win made a similar appeal for an end to sanctions in a speech last year before the UN General Assembly. He also charged then that sanctions were against international law, as well as being unfair and immoral.

The Havana meeting was attended by more than 700 representatives from the 119 member countries. Forty observer states, 29 invited countries and six international organizations were also invited.

During his stay in Havana, Nyan Win met Cuba’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marcos Rodriguez Costa, and the two exchanged views on strengthening bilateral relations and mutual cooperation, the New Light of Myanmar reported.

READ MORE---> Nyan Win Calls in Cuba for End to Sanctions...

Nasaka metamorphosing into gangsters in Northern Arakan

Maungdaw, Arakan (KPN): A Rohingya man was beaten and critically injured by the Burmese border security force, Nasaka, yesterday afternoon, a school teacher from Bawli Bazaar (Kyein Chaung) said.

Sergeant Kyaw Win, from Kyein Chaung camp arrested and beat up Rohingya villager, Mohamed Safi Alam (49), without any reason, until he fell unconscious, a local villager, who was an eyewitness, said.

The local villagers rushed to the spot and tried to save Safi Alam and took him to the local village clinic for treatment, the eyewitness said.

Some villagers and relatives of Safi went to the Nasaka camp and complained and reported to the officer about the incident. The officer said the camp will take care of his treatment and will take action against Sergeant Kyaw Win, said a close aide from the camp.

However, no help had been forthcoming till now.

On April 29, Htint Sein, a Nasaka officer from Nasaka camp of 14, without uniform and Zaw Shwe, of the Rakhine community, who is a collaborator of the Nasaka, asked for a permission paper, while Bashar (Baydu) son of Kaseim (62), who hails from Khayoung Chang Village, under the Shweza Village Tract, was building a roof for his house on the lower part. They had an argument and the situation rapidly became tense, while the Nasaka officer attacked him with a sword and seriously injured him, according to sources.

Seeing the injuries of their father, his two sons attacked the officers and collaborator, while the officer was wounded on his shoulder and attacked with the sword. The Nasaka arrested more than twenty Rohingya villagers, in connection with the incident, but the villagers were innocent, the sources said.

Nasaka, from Aung Mangala Nasaka out post, has been looting goods from Amina Bazaar (market) of Maungdaw Township, on every market day (on Tuesdays and Saturdays) from the Rohingya community. No action has been taken, when the villagers complained to the concerned authorities. So, the Nasaka continues to loot goods from the market regularly on market days.

The Nasaka also injured 32 Bangladeshi fishermen, and looted goods worth Taka 2 million from them on April 12, while they were fishing in the Bay of Bengal in Bangladesh’s territorial waters, near Saint Martin island of Bangladesh, Abdul Zalil, one of the boat owners said.

The Nasaka also troubled the fishermen in the Naff River, some time ago, when they fired on the fishing boats of Bangladeshi fishermen when they were fishing in Bangladeshi territorial waters. One fisherman was killed and two others were injured on April 8, by Nasaka firing, said Nazir Ahmed, who was injured by Nasaka.

Some time earlier, Nasaka also abducted Bangladeshi fishing boatpeople for money. In the last week of March 2009, a fishing boat owned by Kasim, Mohamed and Nur Hussain of Shapuri Dip was abducted by Nasaka from Bangladeshi territorial waters, while fishing in the Naff River. However, it was released after taking money from the owners.

They (Nasaka) are not security personnel from Burma, but they are robbers and gangsters from Burma, said the cattle trader Committee Chairman, Rashid Ahmed.

The authorities such as the police, Nasaka and Sarapa (Military Intelligence) extort money from the Rohingya community on charges that they are involved in drugs smuggling, cross the Burma-Bangladesh border without permission, have relatives abroad, are linked with human trafficking, and are in possession of mobile phones, are involved in money exchange, receive money from their relatives abroad, among other accusations, according to a local trader.

The Nasaka, which was established in 1992, to control the border area, has become the most powerful group in the area. They do not care for any one and they rule their duties area ruthlessly. Especially in Northern Arakan (Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung),where mostly people from the Rohingya community live and the Nasaka continue to behave like dreaded gangsters in the area, according to a political group.

READ MORE---> Nasaka metamorphosing into gangsters in Northern Arakan...

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