Monday, May 11, 2009

Electricity brought with student protests in Moulmein flickers out

By Rai Maraoh, IMNA

The reliable electricity that came after student protests evaporated last week, as residents of Moulmein found themselves in the dark, while government offices and homes remained unaffected.

After a 2 week power outage prompted student protests on March 6 for uninterrupted electricity during their exams, Moulmein and it residents experienced a period of relatively dependable power. However that relative degree of normalcy ended last week, when electricity was again unavailable to Moulmein residents who did not have government connections.

“We have been with out electricity for over one week. People have no choice but to use generators for their houses. Before, we had regular electricity because the university students demonstrated against the power outages.” Said one Moulmein resident, “But now we are again without power. I can sometimes get electricity, but only a short time – maybe 10 minutes. We might as well say we have no power at all, because you cannot do anything with only 10 minutes of electricity.”

“When the electricity returns, I turn on my computer; I think, ‘I will have the power for long time.’, But then while the computer is still starting up, before I can even use it, the power is cut off again.” Explained a Moulmein university student. It remains to be seen weather the recent power outage will spark similar protests from students who were decisive in bring power back to parts of Moulmein.

The outages have caused numerous problems for residents who are reliant on electricity for work, such as computer shop owners or students, leaving no other alternative but to use a generator.

“I have to use a generator to be able to get any work done at my job, since without it, I would have no electricity for the whole day. I have no options since I must work.” said resident who runs his own computer shop. The electricity has gone primarily to government offices and homes, as well as residents with government connections, according to a resident.

The resent outages have not only affected Moulmein, but also residents of Mudon township, where there were also reports of wide spread electricity shortages. Never having fully benefited from the results of the student protests, Mudon residents have been without regular power for at least six months, according to a villager there.

This has been a problem for the region since late 2008, when Mudon and the surrounding villages were subject to continuous electricity shortages. At the time residents only had electricity 3 days a month for about 2 hours each day. Despite these extreme shortages in the region, the villagers have had to continue to pay 500 kyat per household for their electric meter bill said a Mudon resident.

READ MORE---> Electricity brought with student protests in Moulmein flickers out...

US journalists question motives for deportation

(DVB)–Two American journalists deported from Burma last week after delivering workshops on photography and feature writing say reasons for their arrest may lie in their meeting with a local Burmese business owner.

Following a series of workshops organised by the American Centre in Rangoon last Wednesday, Jerry Redfern and Karen Coates were arrested by immigration authorities and deported to Bangkok.

Reasons for their arrest were never given, although the ruling State Peace and Development Council is notoriously fearful of foreign media presence in Burma.

“We had been in Burma to teach and lecture about creative non-fiction feature writing and photography,” they said in a press release issued today.

“The programs were follow-ups to similar work we did in January, all of which had been approved and acknowledged by the Scrutiny Board and the Special Branch (police).”

Police had visited Redfern’s class on its first day, and they say all subsequent lessons proceeded without incident.

Rumours surrounding reasons for the arrests include fallout from John William Yettaw’s arrest the same day after he illegally entered imprisoned opposition leader Aung Sann Suu Kyi’s compound.

Others claim the two journalists were involved in politically sensitive work, which the government have a reputation for reacting harshly to.

“The only story we had in mind was a small piece on laphet thote, (pickled tea leaf salad) explaining the flavours, history and cultural significance of the dish,” the press release said.

“In Mandalay, a colleague introduced us to the owner of a longstanding laphet thote business… [who] invited us to visit a trade centre where people buy and sell beans and pulses, key ingredients for laphet thote.

“We accepted and planned to meet on Thursday morning, – but we never had that chance. This might be all, or part, of the reason we were deported.”

The two emphasised their efforts to avoid government scrutiny, or any “journalistic” appearance.

The Burmese junta are rarely issue foreign journalists with visas, and Burmese citizens found communicating with overseas media are often imprisoned.

Reporting by Francis Wade

READ MORE---> US journalists question motives for deportation...

‘False votes and intimidation’ ratified Burma’s constitution

(DVB)–Measures taken to ensure ratification of Burma’s 2008 constitution included voter intimidation and falsification of results, claims a report released to mark the one-year anniversary of the constitution.

Last May, the ruling State Peace and Development Council announced that 92 per cent of voters had endorsed the draft constitution, revised from the 1974 version.

Critics argue that the new constitution, which allocates 25 per cent of parliament seats to the military even before voters go to the polls, and bars opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from running for office, guarantees an entrenchment of military rule.

“The government claims perfect voter turnout in some of Burma’s most remote and sparsely populated areas,” said Borazi, director of the Institute for Political Analysis and Documentation (IPAD), a Rangoon-based independent research and training centre.

“We monitored many of these stations and know that turnout was marginal. Officials also cancelled thousands of ballots to skew the results.”

The report, entitled ‘No Real Choice: An Assessment of Burma's 2008 Referendum’, lists officials committing frauds such as handing out pre-filled voting ballots saying ‘yes’ and making people vote on behalf of absent family members or co-workers.

Research was carried out in Kachin State and northern Shan state, and included extensive interviews with voters and polling station officials, and accessing of voting statistics classified as top secret by the government.

Several voters had also claimed that officials threatened the voters in case they were planning to vote against the constitution.

Many of the polling station officials themselves admitted to being afraid of punishment if the voting results in their stations didn’t show full support for the constitution.

“The referendum was not intended to measure citizens’ consent to be governed under the constitution,” said Borazi. “It was an exercise to entrench military rule regardless of public sentiment.”

Reporting by Rosalie Smith

READ MORE---> ‘False votes and intimidation’ ratified Burma’s constitution...

Firearms stolen from military armoury used in robbery

(DVB)–An armed robbery on a gold shop in Mandalay division that left one dead and two injured was carried out using firearms stolen from a government armoury, according to Burmese military intelligence.

The robbery took place on 6 May on a shop in Mandalay’s Yamaethin town. According to the brother of the shop owner, who was shot in the shoulder, three masked men entered around 3.45pm.

“They waited until the street was clear before coming into the shop,” said Myo Thein.

“Then they fired three shots in the air and walked in but people in the shop thought they were just some kids playing around with firecrackers."

Myo Thein said that the men started shooting at the glass counter holding the jewellery.

“Our youngest sister, named Daw Cho Pyone, noticing that they were holding only one gun, jumped up and tried to wrestle the person holding it,” he said.

“He dropped the weapon but managed to grab it back and then shot her on her thigh.”

Cho Pyone, who suffered a broken thigh bone, remains in Mandalay hospital in Mandalay.

The government’s Military Affairs Security in Magwe division’s Yesagyo town confirmed that the weapon and ammunition used in the robbery were stolen from an army stockpile on 4 April.

A Yesagyo resident last week voiced suspicion that the army were involved in the break-in.

“It is impossible to do it without the participation of at least family members of the army,” he said.

“Outsiders dare not come to this kind of territory. They are afraid, as you could be shot if you are too close to the army [camp].

“It is possible that they want to smuggle weapons for sale.”

Senior police and intelligence officials in Magwe are investigating the incident.

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

READ MORE---> Firearms stolen from military armoury used in robbery...

'They Are Still Sending Them' - Part Two

(RFA) -In the second installment of an interview, a Burmese migrant describes abuses suffered by himself and other Burmese at the hands of a human trafficking gang.

Ko Wunna is a 28-year-old resident of Burma's former capital, Rangoon, who was trafficked to Malaysia by gangs importing illegal workers in a constantly revolving racket in which, former participants say, the Malaysian police are also complicit.

In the second part of an in-depth interview, Ko Wunna speaks to RFA Burmese service reporter Kyaw Min Htun about his experiences over three months working for a trafficking gang in the region in and around northern Malaysia's Kedah province, which borders Songkhla and Yala provinces in Thailand.

The Malaysian government has recently pledged to investigate claims made by many other Burmese such as Ko Wunna.

RFA: In the three months that you were with the human traffickers, how many times did the Malaysian immigration authorities bring the Burmese to the traffickers' camp, and how many Burmese did you actually see being brought in to the camp?

Ko Wunna: There were a lot of them. After they were released from immigration to be deported, they were brought over to the traffickers by the immigration authorities. There would be about 60 in each group, and they would bring about three groups in a month.

Some of them asked for money from their families. If they could not get money from their homes ... they were beaten and were given meals only once a day. They were allowed to phone their families only once a day to ask for money for their release. When they called, and if there was no possibility that they would get the money, the trafficker would grab the phone and hit them across the face, making sure the person at the other end of the phone could hear it. The trafficker would then ask the person at the other end whether they had heard.

RFA: Now that the border crossing into Thailand is closed, a lot of foreigners are detained and waiting in the Malaysian immigration detention centers. There must be many Burmese detained there. Ko Wunna, are the Malaysian immigration authorities still sending those who have been released to where you were working?

KW: Yes, they are still sending them.

RFA: How did you manage to get away from the traffickers?

KW: I had been working with them for more than three months. So I asked them whether I would have to go on in this manner. I told them that if I had been working somewhere else I would have worked enough to pay off my debt. So they said it was okay if I wanted to go but that, if I kept on working with them, I would be paid 50 ringgit a day, with all other expenses paid plus a clothing allowance as well. But I did not dare work for them. I was afraid of them. Beating people is not in my nature.

RFA: In the group where you worked, who was the leader and where did they come from?

KW: They are all Mons [Burmese ethnic group]. They are led by the Mons. But their big boss is Thai. When they had received enough cash, their big boss would come and collect it, say 40-50-60 thousand ringgit. A list had to be sent showing how many had been released, how many had paid, and how many were still left. They would call when there was enough money to be collected, and then the big boss would come. When he came, he would threaten those who had not paid. He would say that if they did not pay they would be sold to the Indonesian fishing boats.

RFA: Have you been in touch with your parents since you were released?

KW: No. When I was first arrested, I telephoned my home. I talked to my sister. I could not speak to my mother or my other siblings. They were all away from home working somewhere else. My sister asked what would happen if they could not give the money. I told her that I would be sold off to the fishing boats under a five-year plan where I would have to work on the boats without seeing land for five years. It would be hard labor.

If I could not do the work, or if I were sick or if I disobeyed them or argued with them, I would be shot and killed. Even if I was sick, they would not give me medical treatment but would shoot me because I would be a bother for them. So I really never had a choice. My sister told me that was not good and that she would appeal to the traffickers. I told her that would not be possible because the traffickers would vehemently reject any appeals and negotiations.

RFA: Now, as you were working in Malaysian territory, what do you think is the relationship between the Malaysian authorities and the human traffickers?

KW: They are in the Alor Setar area. They say that their boss is connected to the police stations in [Alor Setar, Changlum, and Jitra], and so they could do whatever they liked in the area. They said that when they were dealing with me, they could have killed me and that, after killing me, they would not have had to run or worry about being sent to jail. They said they would just have had to make a telephone call, and that my body would have been taken away and sent down the river and the spot would then be washed so that no trace was left.

They said they could just sit and not be bothered about it. I have seen their boss with a gun in his belt, especially when he is drunk and would reach for cigarettes from his pocket. Each day when the police patrol came, they would ask for money from the traffickers and would be given about 100-150 ringgit.

RFA: Ko Wunna, if you were able to tell your experiences, your feelings, and what you have seen to the United Nations, the international organizations, and international authorities, what would you like to say to them?

KW: In our country the economic situation is bad, and because we could not make a living there we had to go to other countries to find work. If our authorities were considerate, all they would have to do is tell other countries that Burma's economic situation is bad and [ask them] to allow Burmese to work in those countries. If they did that, the leaders of the organizations in other countries would not have allowed us to be treated badly, as they have been doing now. But now, instead of helping us, our government is saying that we were not living in our country and that we are thieves, and that they can do whatever they want with us. So they treat us badly.

So we can no longer work properly. When we were living in our country, the authorities oppressed us and made our lives miserable. When we left our country and came over here, they would not help us, so our lives are difficult here as well. On top of that, we get arrested, and when we are sent to the borders to be deported, the human traffickers take advantage of us and bully us. We came here to earn some money. Instead we have to ask for money from home for our release. Trying to get hold of 2,000 ringgit is not an easy thing in Burma.

Original reporting in Burmese by Kyaw Min Htun. Burmese service director: Nancy Shwe. Translated by Soe Thinn. Edited for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie.

I worked for Human Traffickers

7 May 2009

READ MORE---> 'They Are Still Sending Them' - Part Two...

Burmese junta rebuilds only damaged Buddhist pagoda

by KNG

The Burmese military junta is rebuilding only a Buddhist temple and a pagoda which were damaged by gusts of wind on May 2 at midnight in Burma's northern Kachin State, said local sources.

The authorities checked the wind-hit Aung May Thit and Aung May Hnit villages in Waingmaw Township on the Myitkyina-Bhamo highway. It gave priority to the rebuilding of damaged a Buddhist temple and a pagoda, said local eyewitnesses.

Civilian victims do not receive proper relief from the Burmese authorities. They stand on the road hoping against hope, added eyewitnesses.

According to villagers of Aung May Hnit, about 50 houses were damaged in the village alone by strong winds. The zinc roofs of the houses were blown away and several houses were flattened or collapsed.

In Aung May Thit, most houses' with zinc roof were affected. The roofs were blown off by the strong gusts of winds while roadside trees were uprooted, said eyewitnesses.

An eyewitness told KNG, “Many houses were damaged in the two villages. In Aung May Hnit, the Buddhist temple and the pagoda were damaged. Trees were uprooted on the road in Aung May Hnit. However, the Kachin Baptist Church in the village was not damaged. ”

Last month, people in Bhamo town stayed without electricity for many days because gusts of strong wind and heavy rain uprooted electric poles made of logs, said residents of Bhamo.

Unusually, from early this year, gusts of strong winds have often hit Waingmaw and Bhamo districts in Kachin State. It damaged many houses, said residents in the two districts.

The Burmese junta has been into introducing Buddhism and Burmanization in Kachin State by using its military might.

Saturday, 09 May 2009 16:26

READ MORE---> Burmese junta rebuilds only damaged Buddhist pagoda...

Soldiers take civilian motorbikes for personal use

HURFOM (Rehmonnya): Villagers are now forced to share their motorbikes with soldiers, for their daily personal use, with out any compensation.

Since January 2008 villagers from Kyauktalin, Kyaukadin and Alaesakhan, Kalein Aung Sub-township, Tenasserim Division have had to share their motorbikes with Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) No. 282 and 273 for traveling between villages and around the township. Bike owners were instructed to give their keys their village headmen in a daily rotating shift, so that a soldier could use the bikes as needed. While no specific reason was given for the order, villagers are expected to keep the bikes full of gas, and to cover all expenses and damage while soldiers use the bike.

Kyauktalin, Kyaukadin and Alaesakhan, Kalein Aung Sub-township are in Yebyu Township which is a black area for military soldiers, because a Mon rebel group, known as Chan Dein, operates out of the area.

According to a Kyauktalin villager, all motorbike owners in the village have to share their bikes with soldiers. If a soldier breaks the bike and does not fix it then the villager will have to pay for repairs to the bike on his own.

A villager from Alaesakhan said, “Once when a soldier took my bike and drove to Ye town about 22 miles away and crashed it. They did not fix it for me. I had to fix it on my own, and it cost me more than 50,000 Kyat”.

According to a villager form Kyauktalin the commander in the area allowed young soldiers who do not know how to ride the bike, to practice on the civilian’s bikes. While training they crashed the bike, and did not have fix it. Instead the responsibility fell to the bike owners.

Shared use is set up on a rotating system, so that a villager gives up one bike every day. Soldiers from LIB No. 282 and 273 use the bikes for going to teashops, liquor stores, and to the market. In Alaesakhan, Kyauktalin and Kyaukadin, there are around 20 civilian owned bikes in all.

According to a villager from Kyaukadin, soldiers who drink and drive will drive very fast and the fall over, in these instance the bike has been abandoned and then villagers have to come and pick it up.

“I wanted to sell my bike because I hate the soldiers after they used it. Every time it makes me angry because they destroy it while driving.” Said one villager “I bought it for 140,000 Kyat and paid 400,000 kyat for the license – that is a lot of money.”

READ MORE---> Soldiers take civilian motorbikes for personal use...

Nasaka deceives people in Maungdaw

Maungdaw, Arakan State (KPN): Nasaka, Burma’s border security force promises to get things done by taking money but actually they cheat the people in Maungdaw town, said a local villager on condition of anonymity.

On May 7, some businessmen from Kyauk Pun Dhu (Sitar Pawrika) of Maungdaw Township with 17 heads of cattle were arrested by Nasaka of Inn Din Nasaka camp while they were crossing the Burma-Bangladesh border. The businessmen had necessary documents from Nasaka authorities after paying it money.

But, they were arrested by another Nasaka group which said they had not given permission. So they would have to pay them. The Nasaka took away five heads of cattle. The businessmen had paid Kyat 120,000 per cattle, and the Nasaka took Kyat 1,440,000 from them, said a close relative of a businessman

Similarly, on April 27, a woman Fatema Khatun, daughter of Azar Meah from Wabek village of Maungdaw Township held a religious gathering by inviting some persons after taking verbal permission from the immigration officer of Nasaka. She paid money for this. Nasaka comprises the police, the Burmese Army, Sarapa, immigration and customs personnel.

However, when the function began, a section of Nasaka accompanied by Sarapa (Military Intelligence) personnel went to the function and asked Fatema Khatun, to show the permit to them. She failed because the permission was verbal. She was taken to the nearby Naska camp and extorted Kyat 500,000 for her release, said a relative.

A trader from the locality said, “Nasaka is using double standards towards the Rohingya community to extort money from them.”

READ MORE---> Nasaka deceives people in Maungdaw...

Australia supports Rohingya refugees

(KPN)- Australia will provide A$ 700,000 to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazaar. The fund will be used to construct improved shelters for 492 Roingya families, as part of UNHCR’s on-going shelter replacement project.

Announcing the new funding pattern, the Australian High Commissioner Dr Justin Lee said, “Australia’s funding of the UNHCR will provide better living conditions including more space, privacy and protection to around 3,000 refugees, until a durable solution can be found.”

Australia also granted earlier this month A$ 3.2 million in humanitarian aid to Rohingya people living in Burma’s northern Arakan (Rakhine) State. This takes Australia’s total contribution to A$ 8 million in this financial year to assist Rohingya in both Bangladesh and Burma.

“This reflects Australia’s commitment to a permanent solution to the Rohingya issue, “Dr Lee said.

The UN refugee agency warmly welcomed the Australian donation. UNHCR representative in Bangladesh, Pia Prytz Phiri said, “Australia’s commitment to the refugee programme in Bangladesh, especially by funding new shelters has already resulted in improvement in the health and protection of the refugees.

According to insiders, the Burmese military junta will provide 30 percent and the UNHCR will provide 70 percent for the development of health, education and communication of Rohingya people in Arakan State. But, the Burmese military regime will take the 30 percent of the funds from Rohingya businessmen.

The Deputy Home Minister Brig General Phone Swe had already taken some millions of kyat from Rohingya businessmen for the development of health, education and communication in northern Arakan, said a businessman from Maungdaw Town

READ MORE---> Australia supports Rohingya refugees...

Random arrest and extortion by Nasaka in Maungdaw

Maungdaw, Arakan State (KPN): Nasaka Burma’s border security force’s random arrest and extortion from the Rohingya people on false and baseless cases has put the community into severe problems in Maungaw Township, according to an elder from Maungdaw.

According to a school teacher from Maungdaw, Commander Major Kyi Hlaing of Nasaka area No.6, under the Maungdaw Township arrested some Rohingya people on the allegation of being involved in human trafficking and possesing Bangladeshi mobile phones. He is infamous for his notorious activities against the Rohingya community. The people were very unhappy when the Commander was appointed in the Nasaka area, because he resorted to brutal torture after arrest and extorted money. Some of the arrestees are as follows:

On April 25, Jaffar (22), son of Sultan, from Kyauk Pyin Seik (Naribill) of Maungdaw township was arrested by Naska personnel of Nasaka area No.6, on the allegation that he was involved in human trafficking and was released after paying kyat 500,000.

Maulana Islam (24), son of Sayed Akber, from Kyauk Pyin Seik (Naribil) east village was arrested by the Nasaka on the same accusation on April 25. He was also released after paying kyat 500,000.

Maulana Mohamed Amin (40), son of Nazir Ahmed, from Hla Poe Khuang (Sarfoddin Bill) was arrested by Nasaka on April 15, on the same accusation, and was released after paying kyat 2.5 million.

Hafez Zamil (35), son of Maulana Fazal Karim from Kyauk Pyin Seik (Naribill) village on April 10, and was released after paying kyat 250,000.

Similarly, the Nasaka Captain Bolay of Nasaka area No.7 of Maungdaw Township arrested six villagers on May 4, on the allegation that they were holding mobile phones, and came back from Malaysia and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, according to aide of Nasaka. They are as follows:

Hashim Ullah (30), son of Mokter Ahmed,
Nur Alam (18), son of Amir Hussain,
Boshir Ullah (19), son of Amir Hussain,
Jamil (18), son of Mokter Ahmed,
Noor Mohamed (50), son of Habibur Rahaman and
Nor Hussain( 50), son of Omra Meah

were arrested on May 4 by Nasaka on allegation that they have mobiles phones and came from KSA and Malaysia. They all are from Than Da (Sanda Para) village of Maungdaw Township. However, they were
released after paying kyat 150,000 to 1,000,000 each in keeping with their financial status.

A village elder said, “Recently the Nasaka authorities have increased persecution against the Rohingya people and taking money from villagers on false allegations. This is the method using by Nasaka to cripple the Rohingya economically.”

READ MORE---> Random arrest and extortion by Nasaka in Maungdaw...

Arbitrary arrest of Kachin Baptist youth leader - Hkalen Zau Nan

Written by KNG

A Kachin Baptist youth leader, Hkalen Zau Nan has been detained in a prison cell in Waingmaw town in Burma's northern Kachin State even though he has not committed any crime, said local sources.

Zau Nan is a youth secretary of the Shatapru Baptist Church, one of largest churches in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State. He was arrested from his home in Shatapru on May 6 by policemen from Waingmaw, said Shatapru residents.

According to a local Baptist youth, Zau Nan was detained by Waingmaw police after the murder of a motorcycle-carry owner Maung Ming Maung or Win Bo, 28, who died of stab injuries on his back on the road towards Nawng Hkying village from Waingmaw town. He was suspected to have been stabbed by his passenger.

Sources close to Zau Nan said the police arrested Zau Nan from his home in Shatapru near Nawng Hkying divided by the Irrawaddy River because they found Zau Nan's high school student identity card four feet from Win Bo's body.

Zau Nan had lost his ID card over six years ago. Now Zau Nan is a graduate student studying his Bachelor of Art and Religious Studies (BARS) in the Myanmar Institute of Theology (MIT) in Insein Township in Rangoon, said Shatapru Baptist Church's sources.

Local Baptist youths believe that the arrest of Zau Nan was made intentionally on the orders of the Burmese military authorities as part of the spiritual warfare on Kachin youths, local Baptist youths told KNG today.

Zau Nan has no criminal record and he is kind, simple and a very religious young man, said his colleagues from the Church.

The Baptist youths in Shatapru Church are seething in anger and upset about the arrest of their innocent secretary Hkalen Zau Nan by the Waingmaw police, said a local Baptist youth.

The youths in Shatapru are watched by Burmese military intelligence because the quarter is dominated by Kachins. There have been conflicts often between them in the quarter, according to a local youth.

In prison cells in police stations and government jails in Myitkyina, there are mainly Kachin youths, said people who recently visited the prison cell in No. 1 Police Station and Zion Jail in town.

READ MORE---> Arbitrary arrest of Kachin Baptist youth leader - Hkalen Zau Nan...

Political Prisoners Suffering Ill Health: AAPP

The Irrawaddy News

Many Burmese political prisoners who were recently sentenced to long terms of imprisonment in remote prisons around the country are suffering from physical and mental health problems, according to Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP).

According to a report issued by the AAPP on Monday titled “Burma’s Prisons and Labour Camps: Silent Killing Fields,” at least 127 political prisoners are in poor health and 19 of them require urgent medical attention, including Aung San Suu Kyi, comedian Zarganar, female labor activist Su Su Nway and 88 Generation Students group leader Min Ko Naing.

The report blamed the military government for its “cruel and inhumane practices,” which include the use of systematic torture and the denial of healthcare to political prisoners, most of whom are pro-democracy activists.

“Not only are there more political prisoners than ever before, they are facing harsher sentences,” said Bo Kyi, the joint-secretary of the AAPP. “Leading activists have been transferred to the most remote prisons, where there are no prison doctors, and they are more likely to contract diseases like malaria and tuberculosis.”

The report said that more than 350 activists have been sentenced since October last year, and the majority of them have been transferred to remote jails away from their families. The prison transfers make it difficult for family members to visit and provide essential medicine.

“Many political prisoners have already died in prison,” said Bo Kyi. “This has to stop. The regime must end its cruel and inhumane practices, and release all political prisoners.”

Since November 2008, at least 228 political prisoners have been transferred to remote prisons far from their families. The long-term consequences for the health of political prisoners who have been transferred will be very serious, said the report.

There are 44 prisons in Burma and at least 50 labor camps. Some of them do not have a prison hospital and at least 12 of the prisons do not even have a prison doctor.

READ MORE---> Political Prisoners Suffering Ill Health: AAPP...

Burma’s rural economy on verge of collapse: economist

by Mungpi

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Unless Burma’s military rulers inject cash into the rural credit system, the country’s rural economy will likely collapse as farmers in rural areas face a “chronic shortage of credit”, an economist told Mizzima.

Sean Turnell, an Economics Professor at Macquarie University in Australia, said that because of a lack of a proper economic policy to uplift Burma’s rural economy, the rural credit system is “completely dried up” and in desperate need of cash assistance. [JEG's: there is an airport in nappytown wanting more attention at the moment...:-( ]

“I am getting report after report that there is a chronic shortage of credit in cash,” said Turnell, adding the rural economy is suffering despite the ruling junta having significant foreign reserves derived from the sale of natural gas.

Turnell said the estimate of the junta’s foreign reserves from the sale of natural gas during fiscal year of 2007-08 is about US $5 billion. However, these reserves are not spent on developing the rural economy, which is on the verge of collapsing with the credit system “completely drying up”.

Meanwhile, a report by the Financial Times, citing a new International Monetary Fund report on Burma, said natural gas exports have swollen the country’s foreign exchange reserves to a record high of US $3.6 billion – despite investment into social welfare remaining minimal.

The as of yet unpublished IMF report, which the Financial Times cited, said unless the Burmese government makes improvements in its business climate, the future of the country is “bleak”.

The IMF argued Burma's economy was hit hard by the global economic slowdown and the devastating cyclone of May 2008, which killed 140,000 people and caused the growth in gross domestic product to slow to about 4.5 percent last year, down from 5.5 percent a year earlier.

The country’s ruling military generals, however, do not include all of its gas revenue in the annual public account, instead reporting only a portion of the foreign revenues, which are calculated at the 30-year-old official exchange rate of six kyat to a dollar, according to the report. Currently, a US dollar on the black market fetches approximately 1,050 kyat.

Turnell, agreeing with the report’s calculation, said the Burmese junta’s practice of accounting for foreign exchange revenue at the old and obsolete exchange rate in effect captures less than one per cent of the total budget revenue from the sale of gas for fiscal year 2007-08, as opposed to the 57 percent it would account for if valued at the market rate.

He estimates that Burma’s generals will earn between US $3-3.5 billion from the sale of gas for fiscal year 2008-09.

But, at the same time, farmers are facing an acute shortage of investment funds, he said. Many farmers are forced to sell their products immediately after harvest and to buy the same food that they are selling for consumption.

Turnell, who has closely followed Burma’s economy for several years, said the global economic slowdown has indirectly impacted Burma’s agriculture sector, which largely depends on exports to neighboring countries.

With the declining price of rice, farmers, particularly in the Cyclone Nargis-hit Irrawaddy delta, will find it extremely difficult to plant paddy in the upcoming monsoon, as they are heavily indebted and will try to reduce cost, he maintained.

In the absence of a rural credit system being implemented by the government, farmers will again be dependent on local money lenders, who usually demand high interest rates, up to 20 percent, leaving farmers with an insurmountable debt obligation.

Turnell said that to come out of this crisis, in the short term the Burmese government could inject some of its gas revenue into a rural credit system through the Myanmar Agriculture Development Bank (MADB) or another existing institution.

Alternatively, he said the junta could simply remove restrictions that forbid commercial banks from lending to farmers.

“It’s so bizarre. I can never understand this particular law, which actually outlaws the commercial banks from lending to the farmers,” he added.

He also warned that unless the government comes in to help the farmers in the rural areas, “food shortages could be on the card in later the year.”

READ ALSO: Farmers forced to buy seed by the Military Junta Army
Farmers live under duress of Burmese Army

READ MORE---> Burma’s rural economy on verge of collapse: economist...

Seven year old girl raped in Maungdaw

by Nyein Chan

Dhaka (Mizzima) – A seven-year old girl belonging to Kyaukle village in Maungdaw Township in Burma's western Arakan state was raped on May 7, local residents said.

Local residents said that the minor girl from Kyaukle village, about six miles from north of Maungdaw, was raped at about 7 p.m. on the way back to her house after buying medicines for her ailing father.

"She went to a nearby drug store to buy medicines for her father. When she reached the dark corner of a school, she was gagged and dragged to the nearby forest by a soldier and raped," a local resident from Shwesar block of Maungdaw told Mizzima.

A relative of the victim, talking to Mizzima, said a search was conducted after the girl failed to return home on time. She was found in the nearby forest, about 300 yards from a school, at about 2 a.m. (local time).

"When she didn't come back home on time, the girl's family informed their relatives and then began searching. We started to search for her at about 10 p.m. She was found unconscious in the nearby forest," the local said.

The girl has been admitted to a hospital and is under treatment.

"She was admitted to the hospital only on Friday [a day after the incident] and was unconscious for about a day. Now she has regained consciousness and is out of danger," a staff from Maungdaw hospital said.

The girl, after gaining consciousness, said the perpetrator might have been a soldier from the nearby garrison engineer’s unit stationed at the school, a relative told Mizzima.

Maj. Kyi Aung from Maungdaw Township, Aungbala village based No. 6 Border Inspection and Command (Na Sa Ka) visited the scene of the crime and investigated. But the culprit has not yet been identified, a source close to border security forces also known as the Na Sa Ka said.

"He [the major] visited the school in Kyaukle village where the soldiers were stationed on May 10. But he has not been able to identify the culprit yet", he said.

The garrison engineer’s unit is from Sittwe based Garrison Engineer Battalion and they have been sent to erect border fencing.

Na Sa Ka’s regional commander told the girl's parents not to report the incident to senior officials and promised to pay some money for medical expenses and as compensation, the source close to Na Sa Ka said.

Bangladesh-based, Burmese news agency 'Narinjira' reported a similar case which said an army officer raped a girl from Thri Konbaung village in Maungdaw Township last month.

Reported: 11 May 2009

READ MORE---> Seven year old girl raped in Maungdaw...

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