Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Forced labour victim denied medical care

(DVB)–A woman who broke her collar bone whilst being forced by Burmese authorities to work on the construction of a road in Irrawaddy division has said she has received no medical attention for her injuries.

Reports of forced labour in infrastructural development projects in Burma are common.

A resident in Irrawaddy’s Ingapu township said that township authorities had ordered the expansion of a two mile-long road between Thegone and Thargaung villages on 21 May. Both men and women were forced to work on the project.

Three women from Thegone village were hurt when a bullock cart flipped over, with one sustaining a broken collar-bone and the other two receiving facial injuries.

“One of the women named Daw Ma Kyi broke her collar bone but the village authorities refused to take her to a hospital in nearby town of Kwin Kaut,” said the Ingapu resident.

“So she instead went to a shaman in Kyaynapyan village.”

One of the villagers told DVB that the locals, although aware that they could report the forced labour incident to the UN International Labour Organisation (ILO), were unable to do so because they were afraid they would get punished.

“We know we can report to the ILO about this but no one has guts to do so,” he said.

“We are afraid of our village authorities as they showed us examples in the past.”

Complainants of forced labour are often intimidated, with some even imprisoned after authorities learnt of the complaints.

The ILO office in Rangoon maintains that they have an agreement with the Burmese government that complainants will not be persecuted, although acknowledge that it is an ongoing problem.

Ingapu’s township Peace and Development Council office was unavailable for comments.

In a separate incident, villagers in Mongyang township in Shan state were last week reportedly forced by authorities repay the cost of a visit by Burmese prime minister, Thein Sein.

Authorities claimed the cost of the visit could not be fully subsidised by the township council, although villagers doubted this.

“The cost could not have been much,” a village headman told the Shan Herald Agency for News.

“The visitors just stayed for about an hour and they only had coffee and juice. It’s just another way to fill up his pocket.”

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

READ MORE---> Forced labour victim denied medical care...

Veteran politician laments Burmese independence

(DVB)–In a poignant reminder of the extent to which democratic development in Burma has been crippled by the current junta, a veteran politician said yesterday that the political climate under British rule was markedly freer.

Speaking yesterday at a ceremony to mark his 93th birthday, Thakin Thein Pe, a formerly active member of the Burmese struggle for independence from British colonisation, said that quality of life for Burmese citizens has spiralled since 1948.

“When we fought for our independence [from the English], the English gave us freedom for our [political] movements,” he said.

“But now under the Burmese government, we are in misery. Independence is not always good to gain.”

The speech was observed by politicians, including members of the opposition National League for Democracy party, whose leader Aung San Suu Kyi is currently on trial, and a number of ethnic leaders.

The political climate under the current ruling junta has been thrown into the spotlight in the last month as the iconic opposition leader faces a possible five year prison sentence under spurious charges of breaching house arrest conditions.

Burma currently holds upwards of 2,100 political prisoners, and ranks poorly on a number of political freedom barometers.

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders last year placed the country 170 out of 173 in its Press Freedom Index, while Transparency International gave it the penultimate spot, alongside Iraq, in its Corruption Perceptions Index.

Similarly, the World Health Organisation in 2000 ranked Burma’s healthcare system second worst in the world, and a number of political analysts, lawyers and former Burmese politicians have said that human rights violations carried out by the junta warrant intervention from the International Criminal Court.

Britain first gained control of Burma in 1824 and occupied until independence in 1948. It was not until 1962 however that a coup heralded the start of military rule and the end of a civilian government.

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

READ MORE---> Veteran politician laments Burmese independence...

Yettaw acted alone, says lawyer

(AFP)–A US man who swam to the home of Aung San Suu Kyi was not paid by or taking orders from any outside organisation, his lawyer said today ahead of final arguments in the trial of Burma's opposition leader.

Burma's military regime has expressed scepticism over John Yettaw's explanation for his visit to the Nobel laureate's lakeside home, with one official suggesting that the American was a "secret agent or her boyfriend."

But lawyer Khin Maung Oo said the devout Mormon was a "sincere and pious" person who believed God had told him to warn Aung San Suu Kyi and the government after he had a vision that she would be assassinated.

"There is no issue of him acting on someone's instruction to him or that some organisation provided money to him to do so," Khin Maung Oo said of his client, who like Aung San Suu Kyi faces up to five years in jail.

"As far as I know, he's a very sincere and pious person. He cooperated with the court. He answered the same during the interrogation and at the trial," he told AFP.

The lawyer added that photos taken by the American in Aung San Suu Kyi's house -- which the prosecution have focused on during the trial -- were "just to show his daughter, not for publicity or not to communicate to anyone."

Hearings in the mostly closed trial of Aung San Suu Kyi and Yettaw have been adjourned until Friday when lawyers will present their closing arguments. The trial has drawn international condemnation.

Yettaw, a former US military veteran, testified in court last week that he had a dream in which Aung San Suu Kyi was killed by "terrorists" and that he swam across the lake using a pair of homemade flippers to alert her.

Last month Burma's consul general in Hong Kong posted a letter on the internet saying that "we have no idea whether he is either secret agent or her boyfriend."

The country's deputy defence minister, Major General Aye Myint, said Sunday that Aung San Suu Kyi had deliberately covered up the visit.

Khin Maung Oo said Yettaw's story about his reasons for his bizarre night-time swim across Rangoon's Inya Lake on 4 May had been consistent both under interrogation and when his client testified last week.

"He did not deny entering [the house]. He said he came here on God's mission to warn Senior General Than Shwe and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi," he said.

"He said he came to warn that she could be assassinated by some terrorists. He said he had his vision in the state of trance.

"If he had failed to do so, Aung San Suu Kyi could be lost and the government will also lose dignity."

Khin also said his 53-year-old client was a Vietnam War veteran who has post-traumatic stress syndrome, diabetes and heart disease.

Aung San Suu Kyi has branded the trial as biased and said that she allowed Yettaw to have "temporary shelter" for a night.

She blamed Burmese authorities for the intrusion, saying they failed to provide proper security.

READ MORE---> Yettaw acted alone, says lawyer...

Police warn locals to stay silent about pagoda victims

(DVB)–Burmese government troops in Rangoon’s Dala township deployed to maintain security after a ancient pagoda collapsed on Saturday have warned locals not to talk about victims of the accident.

The 2,300-year-old Danok pagoda mysteriously collapsed whilst construction workers were carrying out renovation work, with various sourcing estimating up to 20 deaths. It stands at over 50 metres and is said to hold two Buddha relics.

A local in Dala, south-west of Rangoon, said police and military security was tight around the pagoda following its collapse.

“There are about 60 to 70 soldiers in the pagoda’s premises and they are telling people to say no one was killed or hurt when someone asks,” he said under condition of anonymity.

“About fifty people are still trapped underneath the debris.”

Most of the people trapped are navy soldiers who were volunteering in the renovation.

Locals said the army was using bulldozers to clear the debris yesterday while family members of the missing awaited news about their relatives.

Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet

READ MORE---> Police warn locals to stay silent about pagoda victims...

NLD claims junta only interested in own security

(DVB)–Burma’s warning to its neighbours to respect its sovereignty should only be interpreted as an attempt to guard the security of the Burmese junta and not its citizens, the National League for Democracy said yesterday.

Responding to a statement given by Burma’s deputy defence minister at the weekend that called for regional countries to steer clear of interfering in domestic matters for fear of affecting “the peace and security of the region”, NLD member Win Tin said it was a reaction to mounting international pressure.

“He [Aye Myint] is absolutely right, but the ‘security’ he was talking about is not the security for the people and the politicians in our country,” said Win Tin.

“He was talking about the security of the military regime itself, which is now facing a growing threat in the country as the international pressure increases.”

Deputy defence minister Aye Myint had been addressing a meeting of regional defence officials in Singapore.

The meeting came amidst mounting international pressure on the regime to release Aung San Suu Kyi, who is on trial for allegedly breaching conditions of her house arrest.

Thailand, who holds close ties to the regime and has in the past been reluctant to pass criticism, has become increasingly vocal as Suu Kyi’s trial has progressed.

Burma last week reacted angrily to Thailand’s “grave concern”, warning it not to interfere in Burma’s internal affairs for fear of setting a bad precedent within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc, which follows a line of non-interference in member countries domestic affairs.

Yet the Suu Kyi trial has brought to light a debate over whether Burma’s internal problems are now affecting the region, with Thailand’s ASEAN chief stoking the flames with comments to the effect that Burma was now tarnishing the bloc’s image.

Speaking on the sidelines of talks between ASEAN and European Union leaders in Hanoi last week, Surin Pitsuwan warned of damage to the bloc’s credibility, with Burma an ever more controversial member.

"The discussion in the room back there was that [Suu Kyi’s trial]... affects ASEAN's image and ASEAN's collective interests," he told reporters.

Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet

READ MORE---> NLD claims junta only interested in own security...

Stoking the Fears of Foreign Influence

The Irrawaddy News

A court of law is supposed to establish the truth, develop facts and deliver prompt justice. The trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, however, has only produced speculation—while also bringing the feared spectre of a foreign enemy into the courtroom.

Information being what it is in modern Burma, we are left with very few incontrovertible facts. One of these is the fact that Burma’s last democratically elected leader was less than three weeks away from a supposed release date.

Hope being as flimsy as information, however, Suu Kyi would most probably not have been released. Her destiny seems to have been choreographed with history in mind.

The reason why Suu Kyi is still battling, as exuberant and inspiring as ever, is because she challenges power in a dangerous, “alien” manner—through non-violence.

The presence in the same courtroom of the American intruder John William Yettaw adds to the “foreign” front facing the junta leader, Snr-Gen Than Shwe. For the top general, the ideas of the democracy movement are seemingly foreign—the funding, the language and much of the support. He sees it as a veritable network of foreign treachery.

The fact that the ideas are not all that foreign is lost to most. It can be argued that Suu Kyi follows in a long line of thinkers and activists whose thoughts could be seen to have been born in that distillery of philosophy and ideas to Burma’s immediate west, India. They follow in the footsteps of Gautama Buddha and, of course, Mahatma Ghandi.

Their ideas took root in Burma possibly over 1,000 years ago, and subsequently found acceptance in the West, where Suu Kyi’s image and struggle have also captivated many. This fact is now used against her with a convoluted narrative born somewhere between Cuba and Rambo’s last action epic.

Three incidents or stories that are seemingly of little importance to the case are in fact hugely significant.

The first was the junta claim that Yettaw was sent to Rangoon by exiles on the border. The junta apparently accused the Forum for Democracy in Burma (FDB) of being behind the venture.

The FDB, a group that embodies Suu Kyi’s ethos, is partly funded by foreign governments through proxy organizations, like many exiled groups.

A visit Yettaw reportedly made to the Thai-Burmese border area was not lost on the junta, which supposedly knew about it and suspected that he made contact with exiled groups.

The second incident that should be examined is the reported bomb blast late last month at Pyinmana railway station. The source of the news was the state-run daily The New Light of Myanmar, which blamed “terrorists”—specifically the All Burma Students Democratic Front, (ABSDF).

This group of former students has links with the FDB and shares its ideals and aims—chiefly the replacement of military rule by democratic government.

The facts suggest, although nothing can ever be verified in this environment, that the bomb incident, if it happened at all, was probably what is known as a “false flag.” This is a term describing a tactic used by US intelligence, most famously against Cuba with “Operation Northwoods.”

Declassified documents show how the US intended to commit terrorist acts as a pretext for invasion.

In Burma’s case, the unverifiable explosion of a bomb at Pyinmana railway station could have been used by the Burmese regime to accuse the democracy movement of causing chaos and disturbing the peace. The Pyinmana bomb doesn’t even need to have existed.

The US history of “false flag” operations and its involvement in Burma as a donor adds fuel to conspiracy theories.

The apolitical, broad interest in Burma in the West has also been a contributing factor. While many Western politicians have reservations about criticizing Israel or Saudi Arabia, Burma is a cause on which everybody will speak. Burma has proved to be the quintessential modern “soft” crusade.

A third element of the Burma saga, which barely featured in the media, perhaps because of its absurdity, was the statement by the junta’s “racist-in-chief,” the Burmese consul-general in Hong Kong, Myint Aung, suggesting that Yettaw might be Suu Kyi’s “boyfriend.”

Although absurd, the smear was a deliberate attempt to tarnish Suu Kyi’s image by making her appear a corrupt, decadent woman.

Spreading a false consciousness amongst the population is a classic tactic. Promoting fear is another, particularly fear of anything foreign.

It blinds and obscures in a calculated manner and plays on the natural xenophobia of a reactionary conservative elite. The emphasis on associations with the West is a paranoid yet expedient reading of events, designed to stifle hope during the long winter of authoritarianism.

Joseph A. Allchin is a free lance writer based in the Thai-Burmese border.

READ MORE---> Stoking the Fears of Foreign Influence...

Forget Tiananmen, Welcome Confucius

The Irrawaddy News

BEIJING — Tiananmen Square is history. Or at least that is the belief shared by many on the campus of China’s top university. Students at the distinguished Beijing University, or Beida—once a hotbed of political activism and now at the forefront of China’s attempts to project soft power around the world—no longer commemorate June 4, 1989, when the Communist Party ordered a military assault on thousands of unarmed students protesting for democracy at Tiananmen Square.

A Chinese paramilitary policeman keeps watch on
Tiananmen Square in Beijing. (Photo: AFP)

In the early 1990s, clandestine candle vigils were held on that date on the banks of Beida’s No Name Lake. Small groups of students would form circles holding candles and talking about the Beijing Spring of 1989 and its quest for democracy. Hidden in the dark, these gatherings would last for an hour or so before being dispersed by university security.

On summer nights in the lead-up to the anniversary, some students would play a dangerous game of hide-and-seek with the guards, throwing bottles out of their dormitory windows—a symbolic gesture of protest against the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s decision to call out tanks against unarmed civilians in Tiananmen Square. (Xiaoping is a homonym for ‘bottle’ in Chinese.)

After all, Beida is where the trouble for the Communist leadership started in 1989—with a few political posters and student meetings swelling to protest marches to Tiananmen Square, and continuing all through the spring with peaceful sit-ins in the square, and hunger strikes to bolster demands for political reform.

On a recent day in late May, this writer—a student herself at Beijing University in those years—retraced the sites of stealthy student gatherings and audacious small acts of defiance, but found neither. Beida’s youth still crowded the benches and grass around the serenely beautiful No Name Lake, but the conversations were not about commemorating what happened 20 years ago.

Buoyed by China’s sustained economic boom, which offers opportunities unthinkable to their parents and grandparents, Beida’s students tend to believe today that China is destined to blaze a path different than the one chartered by the 1989 student leaders.

"In 1989 they (students) all believed in Western democracy. That is why they even had the Statue of Liberty on Tiananmen Square," a philosophy student surnamed Zheng told IPS. "But I think China should follow its own path of development in politics as well as economy, and not be a copycat of the West. We have done that long enough."

Such confidence is partly fueled by China’s authoritarian government’s success in delivering material goods to its people. But there are other layers too: disillusionment with the Western model of liberal capitalism during this time of global financial crisis, and newfound pride in the country’s traditional culture that is feeding a revival of the Confucian political and moral ethos.

While few of the Beida students who talked to IPS openly vindicate the bloodshed that occurred in the early hours of June 4, 1989, nearly all of them said the crackdown was necessary to prevent China from veering dangerously off its chosen path.

"There would have been chaos, and our economic development would have suffered," said another student, Lan Pingli. "But we need many years of peace, stability and economic prosperity to be able to find our own Chinese way of political governance."

If Lan sounds uncannily like a Communist propaganda apparatchik, it is because she and many others among her peers believe Beijing’s form of authoritarian governance combined with a market economy is the right formula for the world’s most populous country. They subscribe to the idea that political change will come to China not by following the western model of parliamentarian democracy, but China’s own practices.

The Communist Party, which has long regarded Confucius as a feudal thinker, has made a flip-flop, tacitly approving a state comeback for Confucianism, and even promoting it as a key aspect of an alternative political model for China.

"Confucianism has quietly come back," says Joseph Cheng, a political scientist at the City University of Hong Kong, "and the Communist leadership has been exploiting it to help fill the ideological vacuum and improve morality. It is a low-key revival, but it suits their needs to find a new cohesive force at a time when Marxism is dead but democracy is absent."

China watchers say President Hu Jintao believes this country’s rampant consumerism has left an ethical vacuum that could be filled by a return to the Confucian values of honor and decency. In a recent lecture titled 'The Socialist Concept of Honour and Disgrace,' he extolled Confucius’s "eight virtues," such as plain living and public service, and warned of his "eight disgraces," like pursuit of profit.

Some experts say the revival of Confucianism has broadened China’s political spectrum and could in the long-run serve as a basis for a new model of governance.

"What is interesting is that now there are more options on the table than compared with the 1980s, when political evolution was viewed only as a change from an authoritarian to a democratic form of government," says political theorist Daniel Bell, author of a book on China’s new Confucianism. "In China at the moment, the spirit of experimentation is prevailing."

Yet many believe that China’s political options have actually narrowed since the late 1980s, when the Communist Party crushed the pro-democracy protests.

"I don’t see any serious initiative on the part of the Communist leadership to change the current political model," says Joseph Cheng. "In fact, since the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, party leaders have shown less and less readiness to compromise on their monopoly on power."

Others say dressing its power in Confucian robes cannot help the Communist Party avoid accountability for the killings of untold numbers of unarmed civilians.

"Confucianism is against killing," says writer and social critic Yu Jie. "You cannot justify a crackdown like Tiananmen on the grounds that you were trying to keep the country on its own track."

The Communist Party has dismissed international condemnation of the violent crackdown and rebuffed all efforts to seek a re-examination of the events of June 1989. Beijing continues to defend the use of lethal force against its own citizens as a measure necessary for the stability and development of the country.

Estimates of the death toll vary widely, from a few hundred to a few thousand.

READ MORE---> Forget Tiananmen, Welcome Confucius...

China Dissident Held ahead of Protest Anniversary - Wu Gaoxing

The Irrawaddy News

BEIJING — A former Chinese political prisoner has been detained just days before the 20th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, a human rights group said Tuesday.

Wu Gaoxing, a former educator in his late 60s, was detained Saturday at his home in the eastern city of Taizhou, shortly after the publication of a letter he had co-signed complaining about economic discrimination against dissidents, the New York-based Human Rights in China said in a news release.

The letter, addressed to President Hu Jintao and other top communist leaders, said former political prisoners are unable to find steady jobs and are deprived of medical benefits and pensions.

"If we get sick, we can only wait to die, and all this just because 20 years ago we were sentenced for political reasons," said the letter. The human rights group published the letter online at Wu's request, and an English translation was posted on the group's Web site.

Calls to Wu's mobile phone were met with a message saying it had been turned off, while phones at Taizhou State Security Bureau rang unanswered.

Authorities have tightened surveillance over China's dissident community ahead of Thursday's anniversary of the military's crushing of the Tiananmen Square protests, in which possibly thousands of students, activists and ordinary citizens were killed.

The government has never allowed an independent investigation nor offered a full accounting of its actions, and the crackdown itself remains a taboo subject in Chinese society.

Wu was among hundreds detained or imprisoned in the crackdown and was given a two-year sentence for having organized support for the protesters.

Overseas monitoring groups estimate that 30 men remain in prison on charges relating to the protests.

The prisoners—then mostly young workers at the time—were jailed for burning army trucks, stealing equipment or attacking soldiers as the military advanced toward student-led protesters on Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing.

READ MORE---> China Dissident Held ahead of Protest Anniversary - Wu Gaoxing...

Malaysia denies Burmese human trafficking

by Usa Pichai

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Malaysia has refuted US accusations that thousands of deported Burmese migrants were handed over to human traffickers in Thailand, while more migrants crossed over to Thailand, after the announcement of the new round of migrant worker’s registration.

Malaysian Home Ministry Secretary General Mahmood Adam said that the officials have found no evidence to support the claim. "The government had already initiated a few internal investigations, but it's baseless," the Associated Press quoted him as saying on Tuesday.

Human trafficking of Burmese migrants also sparked the debate between the Malaysian government and US lawmakers in April. The U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations said in a report made public in April that illegal Myanmar migrants deported from Malaysia were forced to work in brothels, fishing boats and restaurants across the border in Thailand if they had no money to buy their freedom.

The report was based on a year long review by committee staff who spoke to migrants from military-ruled Myanmar, also known as Burma, and human rights activists.

According to the Senate Committee report, "a few thousand" Burmese migrants in recent years might have become victims of extortion and trafficking once they were deported across Malaysia's northern border with Thailand.

The U.N. refugee agency has registered 47,600 refugees living in Malaysia as of the end of March of whom 42,300 are from Burma.

Meanwhile, many more migrants from Burma have crossed the border illegally in search of work in Thailand. But a local NGO worker in Ranong border town warned that it is dangerous for the workers for they could be cheated by the human traffickers and sent to work in dangerous jobs such as in the fishing sector without pay.

“The incident where 54 Burmese died in frozen container truck last year is a serious tragedy. Even though, authorities arrested six of the eight suspects, this kind of incident should not happen again, ” the source said.

“Recently, the Thai government announced that it will open migrant registration this year for work in businesses where there is labour shortage. This would help more people from Burma to find work opportunities in Thailand,” the source added.

Ranong is a border town close to Kawthong township in Burma, where around 100,000 people are from Burma. In addition, it is the gateway for migrants who want to work down south of Thailand.

Last week, Thai authorities in Mae Sot border with Myawaddy township of Burma tried to stop two trucks suspected to be transporting illegal workers. The trucks met with an accident and careened off the road. The policed found 28 undocumented Burmese migrants with minor injuries. They were later deported to Burma but the drivers of the trucks fled.

READ MORE---> Malaysia denies Burmese human trafficking...

Need for political change in Burma for regional stability: Thai FM

Dhaka (Narinjara): Political change in military-ruled Myanmar was "very much needed" for regional stability, said Kasit Piromya Foreign Minister of Thailand yesterday.

Piromya was holding a joint-press briefing with Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Dipu Moni at the Bangladesh Foreign Ministry office in Dhaka yesterday. The Thai FM was on a two-day official visit.

"Changes in Myanmar are very much needed. It is not only a necessity for the security of Myanmar but also for all the neighbouring countries including Bangladesh and Thailand," Piromya said.

The Thai minister said changes in Myanmar would resolve the issues of internally displaced Myanmarese along the Bangladesh-Myanmar and Myanmar-Thailand borders.

He, however, avoided comment to the Press on the affect the trial of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi by the Burmese junta would have on regional stability.

U Maung Aye Chan, a senior Arakanese politician in Cox’sbazar said the Thai FM is also likely to discuss the trial of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Insein prison because ASEAN and other neighbours of Burma are being criticized by western countries and international human rights organizations for its failure to pressurize the Burmese military regime for political reforms.

Thailand has also been severely criticized by the international community and human rights organizations for putting Rogingya boat people, who come by boat, adrift at sea in engineless boats.

On the Rohingya issue, Piromya said that Thailand is ready to work with Bangladesh on repatriation of Rohingya refugees.

“It is a common problem for the two countries next to Myanmar,” Piromya said.

Both the foreign ministers felt that the two countries should convince the Burmese military authorities that the Bangladesh-Myanmar Road is "a more viable" route for the proposed Asian Highways to connect Thailand to western countries.

The Thai Foreign Minister added that Bangladesh and Thailand could easily be connected by road via Burma. The road will help the two countries economically.

READ MORE---> Need for political change in Burma for regional stability: Thai FM...

Tension grows between southern Wa, junta

By Hseng Khio Fah

(Shanland) -The junta military has imposed a new order on the United Wa State Army (UWSA)’s southern region along the Thai-Burma border following the Wa’s rejection of the junta’s demands to become a border security force, say sources.

Earlier this year, the junta told the Wa to either become a border security force or return to the Sino-Burma border where they originally came from.

Now, in response to the Wa’s non-compliance, the new order, imposed from yesterday, June 1, states that whenever Wa soldiers from any brigade (southern area) travel anywhere, they must first explain why to the area commanders, giving great detail. The source also added that security around the Wa border had been also tightened.

“If they [Wa] go in cars, even the make and model of their cars need to be reported,” the source, from the Thai-Burma border, said.

Brig-Gen Kyaw Phyoe (Photo)

On 18 May, southern Wa officers were reminded again about the border guard force by Brig-Gen Kyaw Phyoe, Commander of the Kengtung-based Triangle Region Command, while he was visiting Monghsat and Mongton townships, opposite Chiangmai.

The deadline for compliance ended on May 31. So far the Wa have refused to comply with demands.

In addition, the junta military is also pressing ahead in its efforts to take the 171st military region’s three sensitive positions in the southern area. These are 6,654ft-high mountain Loi Ksarm Hsoong, strategic mountain pass Kiu Hulom, and Hwe Yao, opposite Chiangmai’s Wiang Haeng district.

On 29 May, following a day-long meeting at Hwe Aw, southern Wa officers from 171st brigade, 248th (Hoyawd) and 518th (Mongyawn), decided it would not agree to the junta’s demands to become a border security force, but would comply with the new order and report their travels, the source said. The southern Wa officers are also preparing military supplies and food, in case fighting breaks out.

“We [the Wa] won’t start fighting,” the source quoted a Wa officer saying.

All soldiers who returned to their villages have been called back to their commands. Their families and children have been sent away from the military region, said a local villager in Nakawngmu, Mongton township, adding: “They [Wa family] prepared the food. They dried sticky rice and pounded it with meat.”

Similarly, the Burmese Army’s Brigade #55 was reported to have arrived in the area. It has also been conducting security patrols in every village in Mongton township with local military units’ cooperation.

“On 9 May, Nakawngmu Area Commander warned the villagers to stay close to their homes as the security tightened between them and the Wa. Because of the warning, villagers were worried the situation would be getting worse,” a source said.

On the other hand, since the middle of May, when the Wa officers made an announcement not to travel unnecessarily but use the phone instead, the Wa from the Sino-Burma border and the Thai-Burma border have travelled less to each other.

The Southern Wa area, known as the 171st Military Region, stretches from Mongton township to Tachilek township opposite Maehongson, Chiangmai and Chiangrai, Thailand.

Related story: Southern Wa get fresh squeeze, 21 May 2009.

READ MORE---> Tension grows between southern Wa, junta...

KIO deadline for people's suggestion on armed wing

Written by KNG

One of Burma's main ethnic ceasefire groups the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has fixed June 30 as the deadline to garner suggestions from Kachins in Burma and abroad on the contentious issue of transforming its armed wing --- the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), said KIO sources. The Burmese military junta has proposed that the armed wing be changed into a battalion of a border security force under it.

The deadline to receive letters was announced on May 30 in the KIO and KIA leaders-led Kachin public meeting in Laiza HQ or border business centre on the Sino-Burma border in Burma's northern Kachin State, said residents.

At the meeting, people were given a run down about the ruling junta's proposal to transform the KIA as a "Border Security Force" battalion in two recent meetings between KIO leaders and the junta's military officials in the Kachin State's capital Myitkyina on April 28 and May 21, said participants.

The situation was explained by top KIO leaders --- Vice-president No. 1 Lt-Gen Gauri Zau Seng, Vice-president No. 2 Dr. Manam Tu Ja and General Secretary Dr. Lahkyen La Ja, according to participants.

Asking questions to KIO leaders at the meeting regarding transforming KIA was not allowed. However letters of suggestion and comments on the proposed transformation from individuals and organizations were sought by the end of June, added participants.

Maj-Gen Gunhtang Gam Shawng, Chief of Staff of KIA, who also attended the meeting, said "The armed struggle has come about because the political problems between the KIO and the junta could not be solved by political means."

He also rejected the transformation of the KIA, "The issue of changing KIA will be the last in the agenda after all the problems have been solved between the KIO and the junta. The army (KIA) issue is placed at the edge or the tip and the political problems must be resolved first."

The junta's proposal states KIA will have to transform to a battalion of the Border Security Force with around 300 soldiers including 30 personnel from the Burmese Army. KIA military personnel of ages ranging from 18 to 50 will be accepted in the new Border Security Force. And all those over 50 years old must retire. Compensation like government pension would be considered for them, said KIO officials.

According to KIO leaders, the junta has asked them to collect lists of KIA personnel of ages ranging from 18 to 50 and those over 50 in August and September. The lists would have to be submitted to the junta.

KIO leaders met the junta's military officials twice in Myitkyina. However they did not come up with any definite answer on whether they will accept the junta's proposal on KIA or not, said KIO leaders.

The junta is also pressurizing other ethnic ceasefire groups in the country to convert their armed units to border security forces.

READ MORE---> KIO deadline for people's suggestion on armed wing...

Burmese Legal Experts Criticize Suu Kyi Trial

The Irrawaddy News

The absolute control of Burma’s military regime on the country’s judicial system makes the ongoing trial of Aung San Suu Kyi unfree and unfair, according to Burmese legal experts.

Legal experts made their remarks in response to high-ranking junta members who have publicly commented on the trial in recent days.

"If offenders are not [prosecuted], anarchy will prevail, and there will be breach of peace and security," Burmese Deputy Defense Minister Maj-Gen Aye Myint told a security conference over the weekend, referring to the pro-democracy leader who is now on trial in Insein Prison in Rangoon.

At the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual forum of defense ministers, academics, experts and analysts, the deputy minister lashed out at foreign critics of Suu Kyi’s trial last weekend, accusing them of meddling in Burmese affairs and denying the trial was a political or human rights issue.

Aye Myint said that Suu Kyi "committed a cover-up of the truth by her failure to report an illegal immigrant.”

"Thus there was no option but to proceed with legal proceedings," he said. "It is the universal legal principle that no one is above the law."

Aung Thein, a well-known Burmese lawyer and member of the National League for Democracy party, responded, “Accusing Suu Kyi of being an ‘offender’ even before the decision of a judge shows that Burmese military leaders can influence Burmese laws and courts. Moreover, it is clearly a violation of human rights. They showed that they have decided to put Suu Kyi in prison anyway.”

“To be a fair trial, it must be open and offer a chance to defend freely. Suu Kyi’s trial is grossly unfair because the sole defense witness is Kyi Win [no relation to Suu Kyi’s lawyer Kyi Win]. It shows clearly that Burmese military leaders influenced the judgment of the case. If the executive body were separated from the judicial body, it could not influence the judicial body,” he said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Maung Myint rebuked his counterparts from Southeast Asia and Europe at a meeting in Cambodia last week, saying the trial was an "internal legal" issue.

“It’s not political. It’s not a human rights issue, so we don’t accept the pressure and interference from abroad,” said Maung Myint.

Thein Oo, the chairman of the Burma Lawyers’ Council (BLC) in exile, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday, “Suu Kyi’s trial shows that there is no freedom of judgment in Burma, and the Burmese military dominates the courts. It is a characteristic of dictatorships. Aung San Suu Kyi did not get a fair defense, and the trial is closed.”

Kyi Win, the legal expert and member of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, argued there was no legal basis to the charge that Suu Kyi had violated the terms of her house arrest when an American citizen secretly swam to her home.

Suu Kyi has entered a not guilty plea. She said last week that the charges against her were “one-sided.” Her lawyers insist it was the duty of government security guards outside her closely watched compound to prevent any intrusions.

The brisk trial has drawn outrage from the international community and Suu Kyi supporters, who worry that the military junta has found a way to keep her detained through next year's elections and beyond.

Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace laureate, could be sentenced to prison for five years.

According to the Associated Press, lawyers for pro-democracy leader Suu Kyi said that they had earlier asked the court to allow three defense witnesses. The judge approved one defense witness.

A lawyer for Suu Kyi, Nyan Win, said the defense team would submit an appeal on Tuesday at a division court in Rangoon.

No more testimony is expected in the closed trial until Friday. A guilty verdict is widely expected as Burmese courts have a track record of passing tough sentences on dissidents, often in secret trials.

READ MORE---> Burmese Legal Experts Criticize Suu Kyi Trial...

The Regime’s Hollow Talk of Justice and the Law

The Irrawaddy News

"No one is above the law." The famous prosecution statement is used repeatedly and blissfully by the Burmese junta's senior officials these days.

Stung by global outrage and criticism, including from its closest neighbors in Southeast Asia, the Burmese junta has launched a diplomatic offensive against mounting international pressure to release democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and halt her unfair trial.

Foreign Minister Nyan Win, his deputy Maung Myint and Deputy Defense Minister Maj-Gen Aye Myint, attending separate meetings in the region, urged governments not to interfere in their "internal affair."

In the latest statement, on Sunday, Aye Myint said at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual forum of defense ministers, academics, experts and analysts, organized by Singapore’s International Institute for Strategic Studies, that Suu Kyi was charged because she allowed a foreigner to stay in her house, communicated with him and provided him food and shelter instead of informing the police.

"It is the universal legal principle that no one is above the law," he declared, adding that the police noted that Suu Kyi "committed a cover-up of the truth by her failure to report an illegal immigrant."

Consequently, he said, “there was no option but to proceed with legal proceedings."

It is absurd to contemplate that, without committing any violation of any law, Burma's detained Nobel Peace laureate will probably be found guilty of harboring an American who swam across a lake to her residence. She faces up to five years in prison.

Suu Kyi had been a prisoner in her own home, held there under tight security. If that security had been adequate, no intruder could have entered her property. Until now, however, no action has been taken against any security officials.

Instead, the regime is using Burmese "law," which specifically prohibits unannounced foreign guests, to claim that Suu Kyi and her two live-in party supporters and companions, Khin Khin Win, and her daughter, Win Ma Ma, violated the terms of her house arrest and to put them on trial.

The military authorities charged them under Section 22 of the State Protection Act, which states, "any person against whom action is taken, who opposes, resists, or disobeys any order passed under this Law shall be liable to imprisonment for a period of from three years up to five years, or to a fine of up to 5,000 Kyats, or to both."

According to Suu Kyi's lawyers, the law dates back to 1975 and was part of the 1974 constitution, which was invalidated when the military seized power in 1988. Furthermore, under the junta’s “seven-step road map,” the country approved a new constitution in May 2008 by national referendum, which would also invalidate the 1975 act.

Although ordinary courts now handle high-profile political cases following the abolition of military tribunals in 1992, the hearings are held under heavy military influence.

It is very common for the Supreme Court to appoint judges after approval by the Naypyidaw regime. There are courts at the township, district, state, and national levels.

The junta has used laws such as the Emergency Provisions Act and the Unlawful Associations Act to crack down on dissent. Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and the United Nations have accused the junta of holding unfair trials and arbitrary imprisonment, as well as use of torture and summary execution.

The law in Burma emanates from the barrel of a gun. Although they shamelessly speak about the "law," the regime's officials have no idea about how to follow its rules and regulations. Lawyers point out that Suu Kyi is described as "an offender" even though the court has yet to pass judgment.

It is outrageous to see our justice and judiciary system destroyed by a power-hungry regime and it’s sad to see how Burma’s citizens are denied their basic rights by force of arms.

READ MORE---> The Regime’s Hollow Talk of Justice and the Law...

‘We Won’t Have another Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’

The Irrawaddy News

Khin Ohmar is a secretary of Forum for Democracy in Burma and a spokesperson for a campaign calling for the release of all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi. The campaign started on March 13, Burma’s Human Rights Day. On May 26, the campaign announced that it collected more than 650,000 signatures from more than 150 countries around the world. Ohmar spoke to The Irrawaddy regarding the trial of Suu Kyi.

Khin Ohmar

Question: What is your opinion of the current international pressure on the junta?

Answer: In this situation, the obvious factor is that international response is very important at this moment. The junta didn’t perhaps expect this much pressure. It has been so obvious to see how much the international community admires and respects Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. They were seen to try to take actions rather than issuing statements as they did before. For example, there was huge support from the United Kingdom, as a government, which created a Web site with the intention of describing Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. At least, the United Nations Security Council issued a statement. China and Russia will neither think of discussing it [the matter of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi], nor easily accept it. But due to the immediate response of the UK, US and France, a statement came out. Also, Asean and Thailand issued strong statements [on the trial of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi].

Anyway, it is clear that most of the governments have plans to continue follow-up actions, not just issue their statements. It is different from what we saw before.

Q: What will the international community do if the junta puts Aung San Suu Kyi in prison?

A: At this time, the junta has to either release her or put her under house arrest, which is also unrealistic. So, I think the junta must give her a prison sentence. The international community is also aware of what the junta is going to do, and it won’t stop putting pressure on the junta.

The junta has been using ways to demean Suu Kyi. We have to see how much the international community and individual governments can cooperate with each other to seek a practical solution which is beneficial to our country.

It is not easy. That’s why [our struggle] has lasted such a long time, because China and Russia have blocked [the UNSC] from doing anything on Burma.
But I don’t see the international pressure decreasing. It will even increase, but what is needed from them are practical actions.

Q: What do you think about the role of exiled Burmese opposition groups?

A: We demanded Asean to send a special delegation team to meet with the Burmese junta and ask for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Another is for the US, EU and Asean to impose economic sanctions targeted individually on the junta. Currently, the international community is putting immediate diplomatic pressure on the junta. The UNSC should call an emergency meeting and pass a resolution on the Burma issue. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should actively show his personal involvement to draw up a plan in which all key countries are able to become involved and all parties can agree. When Mr. Ban Ki-moon goes to Burma to meet the junta, he shouldn’t accept anything without the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners.

Another issue is that the US appointed a special envoy to Burma former but the incumbent President Obama hasn’t finalized it yet. Asean hasn’t so far had a special envoy as well. Therefore, we demanded the US and Asean appoint special envoys and send them to Burma for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. We already told the EU special envoy to go to Burma. All of these are diplomatic means. If all these efforts fail to persuade the junta to stop the trial and release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, another step is for the UNSC to impose an arm embargo on Burma and to form a commission to inquiry into the crimes committed by the junta.

We are preparing to send these demands to the office of the UN secretary-general.

They reflect the concerted efforts of all leading exiled political organizations, women and youth groups.

Q: As a woman, how do you view the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi?

A: This event can be viewed through the gender issue because Snr-Gen Than Shwe, the junta’s No 1 leader, is a masculine general while Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, a feminine democratic leader, is seen as his rival, and to say the truth, a woman who will bring his power to an end. A thin lady who is younger than Than Shwe has won not only the heart of the Burmese people but also that of the people of the world.

To be sure, Than Shwe receives the love of his family and grandchildren, but not the loving-kindness of the people. To view the situation from Than Shwe’s perspective, he will surely want the love of the people, but know that he can’t win it. In this sense, he must have personal hatred, anger and jealousy towards her. What is more troubling is that the woman who is younger than him has a better capacity than he has even though he, as a general, has the power to rule the whole country. Therefore, hatred and jealousy of Than Shwe drove him to take revenge on her.

The junta knows well that wherever Suu Kyi goes, the people follow her from dawn to night. She doesn’t need a single weapon to organize the people. On the contrary, the junta doesn’t dare to step into the crowd of the people even though they possess huge armed forces. This is the biggest threat to them.

The only weapon that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has is the people behind her. She is never reluctant to face anything for the truth. She is a woman as well as a mother of two sons and grandchildren. She could have had a peaceful life together with her family. She has all the basic needs of a human being. Even though she could have lived such a life, she has been sacrificing all of her self-interest and family life. For truth and democracy, she tolerates the current situation and doesn’t even hate the generals, who can never compete with her nobility.

History will tell the truth if they continue to do their misdeeds with hatred while Daw Aung San Suu Kyi firmly stands up for [democracy] courage and honesty. The generals know she can not compete with their might, but her popularity is greater than theirs

As a woman, I have concerns about her. She is going to be 64 and will be living under poor conditions, either in prison or under house arrest. And then, I can imagine the extent to which she can receive healthcare when she has the health problems that a woman usually has. I can imagine the hatred she receives under the junta’s atrocious behaviour. I’m really worried about her security.

I was astonished when I saw her face on the TV. Whenever I feel depressed, I try to see her face in my mind and ask myself how she can stand up for all of us. When I recently saw her during her meeting with three diplomats and her entry into the court, her face was clear, peaceful and clam. As usual, she has neither worry nor fear.

Such a mindset doesn’t fear even an army of a million soldiers. She is really an incredible person. Her firm stand [on democracy], and her strong mental as well as physical health proves she herself is free from fear.

Q: What is your view on the feelings and mood of the Burmese people?

A: I would like to say that I am worried about the people not only for the time being, but also for the future. The people have been living under extreme fear. I am worried that they have lost their motivation, leading them to become inactive. I am not blaming them, and we can’t blame them under this extreme repression.

Back to the 1990 movement, if something happened to a student, other students followed; so did their parents at the same time. But now when the Buddhist monks are beaten and put into prisons, the extreme level of fear among the people makes them unable to come out onto the streets.

We won’t have another Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in the future. It is very important that we must rebuild our country together with the leadership of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

But the people fine it difficult to see the importance of this, because it is more for them to have two good meals a day. Another factor in fear is they don’t want to be arrested and put into prison. They fear these matters more than 24 hours of a day. As a result, the people see only a short distance ahead in their lives. I am worried about that.

While I live in exile, I don’t think it is fair for me to tell people what they should do. But I have the desire to make them active. All the people both inside and outside the country must cooperate and work together for change in our country.

I want to say to all people: Please don’t sit and accept the injustice done to our leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who faces an unfair trial. While living outside the country, I have been doing my best [to change Burma]. At the same time, I want to say to people inside the country, join together hand-in-hand to stand up for our struggle against injustice.

READ MORE---> ‘We Won’t Have another Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’...

Hints of Burma-Thailand Tension Appear in State-run Media

The Irrawaddy News

The Burmese state-run-media hinted on Tuesday of increased tension between the military junta and the current Thai chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) over comments he made about the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Burmese newspapers published a story about the Asean-EU meeting in Phnom Penh on May 27-28 which Burmese deputy foreign minister Maung Myint attended.

The story briefly outlined Thailand’s expression of concern over charges against Suu Kyi at an informal meeting on May 27.

In response, Maung Myint was quoted as saying, “The matter no longer needs to be put on the agenda of the Asean-EU meeting,” contending it had already been discussed during the Hanoi meeting.

Like other Burmese officials, Maung Myint called Suu Kyi’s trial “a matter of internal legal process.”

Burmese newspapers reported that Maung Myint said “some neighboring nations were unreasonably interested in the hearing of the case” at the Asean-EU meeting on May 28.

The deputy minister was quoted as saying at the meeting, “Actually, it is Thailand that needs to forge national reconciliation. Thailand saw year-long demonstrations in which different groups in red, yellow and blue made an attempt to oust the government and jeopardize the Asean Summit.”

Rejecting the reactions of the international community over Suu Kyi’s trial, Maung Myint said the case was not “a political or human rights issue.”

A separate Thailand-Burma story published in Myanma Alin under the headline: “Thailand should not be tension [sic] with Burma, warned Gen Sonthi.”

Quoting a story from Bankok’s Thai Rath newspaper on May 28, Myanma Alin reported on Tuesday that Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin, the 2006 coup maker who ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, warned that “if Thailand has a conflict with Burma, it will face defeat.”

Sonthi was quoted as saying that Burma has onshore and offshore natural resources and it has resources that can produce nuclear power, according to the report in Myanma Alin.

Sonthi’s remark came just a day after Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya’s was quoted as making a critical comment on Burma in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.

“The changes in Myanmar are very much needed,” he was quoted as saying on Monday. “It not only is a necessity for the security of Myanmar but also for all the neighboring countries including Bangladesh and Thailand.”

According to Dhaka’s newspapers, Kasit said the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Bangladesh went through military regimes “to some extent.”

”All of us have got rid of military authoritative regimes and emerged to have democratic societies,” he said. He suggested that Indonesia was a good model for Burma’s democratization.

"So the question to be posed on Myanmar is why can't they also emerge from that to an open society? It would be good for the whole region. It would be good for all of us,” he said.

Normally, Thailand’s relationship with Burma has been relatively stable since the 1988 military coup in Burma, largely because of Thailand’s “business first policy.” Thailand was the first country to invest in Burma after the brutal Burmese military crackdown on demonstrators. Currently, it is the Burmese regime’s biggest trade partner.

However, there was some tension between the neighboring countries when Thailand was governed by the Democratic Party in the late 1990s. Thailand’s foreign minister attempted to replace Asean’s “constructive engagement” policy on Burma with a more pro-active “flexible engagement” policy.

Currently, the Democratic party again governs in Thailand and is openly making more critical comments about Burma and the trial of Suu Kyi.

Several other Asean members including Asean founders Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia, have made similar critical statements over the trial of Suu Kyi. Cambodia also has expressed a statement of concern.

Most Asean members have supported Thailand’s critical statement on the trial of Suu Kyi and the release of all political prisoners, because they see the issue as a challenge to the new Asean Charter, which has a human rights body.

READ MORE---> Hints of Burma-Thailand Tension Appear in State-run Media...

Civil Servants Briefed on Suu Kyi ‘Scandal’

The Irrawaddy News

RANGOON — The Burmese military government has ordered its civil servants in Naypyidaw not to criticize the junta and not to get involved in anti-government demonstrations, according to sources close to government officials in Naypyidaw.

In May, at governmental monthly meetings in Burma’s remote capital, Naypyidaw, all ministry officials instructed department heads to tell their subordinates to obey the order. Otherwise, they were told they would be punished or forced to resign.

A deputy director who works at a government ministry in Naypyidaw and who didn’t want to be named said that department heads were instructed to read out an order to their staff and to inform them about the Aung San Suu Kyi “scandal.”

Naypyidaw sources said that the content of the statement that was read out to government employees went along the lines of: “... Suu Kyi had an affair with an Indian gardener while she lived in India. After moving to England, she lived with a Burmese man before she got married to Michael Aris. The British government paid the travel costs for her return trip to Burma.”

The statement also alleged that some members of her party, the National League for Democracy, didn’t like her.

With regard to the current trial of Suu Kyi, ministry heads were reportedly ordered to tell their staff that the government had warned her many times about creating political instability in the country. However, she hadn’t heeded the warnings and was, therefore, being held in detention.

The statement went on to say that the military junta planned to release her on May 27; however, she accepted an American citizen into her house and so she was charged in accordance with the law.

The internal statement also reportedly included a denial by the junta that it had anything to do with the Depayin Massacre in 2003 when dozens of NLD supporters were beaten to death.

Department heads were told to conclude the statement by telling staff that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate is a puppet of Western nations and that the West will put more pressure on Burma’s civil service if she is sentenced to jail. That is why, government employees were told, they should not become involved in the matter.

The ministry deputy director who wished to remain anonymous said that department heads were instructed to remind staff to concentrate on their own work and not get involved in the Suu Kyi trial. Otherwise, he said, they were told they would be fired.

The military government has also alerted the ministries for education, health, and science and technology to pass word down to the authorities at institutes, universities, colleges and state high schools that no demonstrations should be allowed to happen within their areas of responsibility, according to an associate professor at a Rangoon-based university.

The government also ordered educational authorities to prepare for more security guards within their grounds.

“The ministry officials told us if we found political campaign materials or discovered political activists at our universities, we had to inform the school authorities,” said the associate professor.

According to a source in Naypyidaw, some of the military officials in the capital are unsatisfied with the recent government charges against Suu Kyi. He said that even though the government was trying to restrict information being passed around the civil service, many government workers continue to talk about it.

Burmese pro-democracy icon Suu Kyi was last week brought before judges at Insein Special Court charged with violating the rules of her house arrest by allowing American intruder John William Yettaw to stay overnight at her Inya Lake home on May 3-5.

The trial is due to reconvene on Friday.

READ MORE---> Civil Servants Briefed on Suu Kyi ‘Scandal’...

DKBA Starts Border Guard Recruitment

The Irrawaddy News

The Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), a ceasefire group, has begun forcibly recruiting people to serve as border guards in compliance with orders from Burma’s ruling junta, according to Karen sources.

A Karen source close to the DKBA said that the ceasefire group recently started a three-month recruitment drive in villages in its territory. New recruits will then receive training from the Burmese army, said the source.

DKBA troops march in a parade. (Photo: Shah Paung/ The Irrawaddy)

Saw Steve, a head of the Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People, a Karen relief group, said the DKBA started rounding up villagers to serve as border guards in areas under its control, including Thaton and Pa-an districts, last month.

Some villagers were threatened with arrest by DKBA soldiers if they refused to join the new border security force, he said.

In January, the DKBA was told by the Burmese regime in Naypyidaw to provide border guards under the terms of Burma’s new constitution.

According to Karen sources in the Thai border town of Mae Sot, opposite Myawaddy in Burma’s Karen State, some people in villages under DKBA control have begun fleeing to Thailand to escape forced recruitment.

“Some villagers don’t want to serve as soldiers, so they are running to Thailand,” said the source close to the DKBA.

The DKBA, which signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese military regime after splitting from the Karen National Union in 1995, is one of many groups that are facing increasing pressure from the Burmese army to transform themselves into border security forces.

Under the new scheme, the border guards would be commanded by officers of the Burmese army. The move is seen as a way to effectively disarm the ceasefire groups.

So far, however, few of the key ceasefire groups have shown any interest in falling in line with the junta’s plan.

Last month, two major ceasefire groups—the New Mon State Party and the United Wa State Army—rejected instructions from the junta to transform their soldiers into border guards under the joint-command of the Burmese army.

Another strong ethnic ceasefire group, the Kachin Independence Organization, has not yet made a decision regarding the Burmese regime’s plan. The organization said that it would carefully consider the junta’s proposal.

READ MORE---> DKBA Starts Border Guard Recruitment...

Bomb alert in Arakan State

by Nyein Chan

Dakha (Mizzima) – Authorities in Arakan State in western Burma have alerted government offices of possible bomb attacks by foreign-based armed groups.

Authorities have alerted Border Security Forces in the Maungdaw and Budithaung District and Township Council offices, Immigration offices, Post & Telegraph offices and local banks of a possible bomb attack, ordering government employees to guard the targeted locations, local residents said.

“The order was given by the command of the Border Security Force. They said they have received information that government offices in Maungdaw and Budithaung will be targeted for bomb attacks,” a clerk at the Maungdaw Township Peace and Development Council office told Mizzima.

Reportedly, government employees have been ordered to group into fours and asked to guard the offices from six p.m. to six a.m., with Police and Immigration heads also requested to join the vigil in addition to police and soldiers patrolling roads in the towns.

Several ethnic armed rebellion groups, including the Chin National Front and Arakan Liberation Party in addition to Rohingya armed groups, are fighting for self-determination in the region and have been known to operate along the Burma-Bangladesh border.

But Major Khine Myo Min, General Secretary of the Arakan Liberation Party, said, “The ALP has never set off any explosions. Especially we have never bombed or targeted civilians. If we ever have plans to do it [carry out bombings], we will target military buildings, military barracks and places concerned with defense affairs. We will avoid any actions that could hurt people and would avoid civilian casualties as much as possible.”

READ MORE---> Bomb alert in Arakan State...

Call for the release of NLD Vice-Chairman Tin Oo

by Salai Pi Pi

New Delhi (Mizzima) – While the world remains fixated on the trial of National League for Democracy (NLD) Chairman Aung San Suu Kyi, a veteran politician has called on the international community to press equally hard for the release of the party's Vice-Chairman, Tin Oo, who is being held under house arrest.

Win Tin, veteran journalist and Central Executive Committee member of the National League for Democracy (NLD), on Tuesday said while monitoring the trial against party leader Aung San Suu Kyi and pressing for her release is important, the international community should also push the military rulers to release Tin Oo.

“I would like to urge the authorities to release him because his five years [detention] is already completed,” Win Tin told Mizzima.

Tin Oo, a retired military General, was arrested along with Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on May 31, 2003, after a brutal attack on their motorcade by a junta-backed mob during a political tour in the town of Depayin in upper Burma.

Win Tin, a former political prisoner himself, said Tin Oo, like Aung San Suu Kyi, has passed more than five years of detention and is thus due to be released.

“There is nothing that we can do except raise our voices for his release,” he added.

Tin Oo, following the brutal attack in Depayin, was initially taken to a prison in Kale Township in Sagaing Division. But in February 2004 he was brought back to Rangoon, where he has remained under house arrest ever since.

Tin Oo, as was the case with Aung San Suu Kyi, is being kept detained under section 10 (b) of the Law Safeguarding the State from Danger and Subversive Elements, which allows the state to detain individuals up to a maximum of five years.

Win Tin said even if the junta counts Tin Oo’s detention date commencing from February 2004, the duration of the sentence is now still more than five years and counting, and hence in violation of Burmese law.

However, the junta, in February 2009, announced the extension of his house arrest for yet another year.

Bo Kyi, co-founder and Joint-Secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), based in Thailand, on Tuesday said that the continued detention of Tin Oo and Aung San Suu Kyi clearly shows the lack of respect for the rule of law in Burma.

“Actually, they [Tin Oo and Suu Kyi] should be the ones to prosecute the authorities for their brutality in Depayin, but it has turned into the opposite. This shows that there is no rule of law in Burma,” Bo Kyi stipulated.

On Sunday, the junta’s Deputy Defense Minister told a regional security meeting in Singapore that the trial against pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is being conducted according Burmese law, a domestic affair in which no other states or external parties should interfere.

He said the trial was in keeping with the universal legal principle that no one is above the law; further arguing, “If offenders of the law are not faced with action, anarchy will prevail and there will be a breach of peace and security.”

Tin Oo, an ex-military man, is well respected among soldiers. He was also among the founding members of the National League for Democracy, which won a landslide victory in the 1990 election, the result of which has never been honored by the military.

READ MORE---> Call for the release of NLD Vice-Chairman Tin Oo...

DG of Meteorology and Hydrology Department resigns

by May Kyaaw

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Dr. Tun Lwin, the Director General of Burma’s Meteorology and Hydrology Department has tendered his resignation, departmental sources said.

Though the reason for his resignation is still not clear, it is learnt that the 61-year old Dr. Tun Lwin has begun to hand over charge to his successor.

“Saya (boss) is not working here now. He resigned from his post on health grounds,” a staff member of the Meteorology Department told Mizzima.

Dr. Tun Lwin had also been working as announcer of the weather forecast in the state-media since 1980 in his capacity as DG.

Till Cyclone Nargis, he was known as a credible and reliable person relating to weather forecast. He was also known in media circles as a media-friendly person.

After the contentious Cyclone Nargis warning in May 2008 where the department failed to provide warning in time through the media, he became the epitome of failure. He was in short, in the eye of the storm.

According to unconfirmed reports from sources close to government circles, in the wake of Cyclone Nargis the regime planned to sack him and make him a scapegoat. But surprisingly he was conferred with a doctorate degree instead and he became Dr. Tun Lwin of the Meteorology and Hydrology Department.

According to civil service rules and regulations in Burma, the superannuation age is 65. He surprisingly retired from his post at 61.

Dr. Tun Lwin was born in Kala village, Ngazun Township, Sagaing Division in 1948.

He graduated with Physics as his major in Burma and then studied Meteorology and Hydrology in Florida, US.

He won the Distinguished Service 2nd Class medal in Industry in 2003 and the regime conferred on him a honourary doctorate degree in 2008.

He served as a permanent member of the International Meteorology and Hydrology Association in 2006 and Asia Region Natural Disaster Prevention and Preparation Council, Burma Chapter Chairman in 2007.

(Additional reporting by Sein Win)

READ MORE---> DG of Meteorology and Hydrology Department resigns...

Free Suu Kyi campaign with her portrait distribution

by Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – A ‘free Aung San Suu Kyi campaign’ has started with the distribution of the democracy icon’s portraits in Yenanchaung, Magwe Division and Myingyan in Mandalay Division, local people and the National League for Democracy party members said.

Youth activists and Yenanchaung NLD Township Organizing Committee members jointly conducted the ‘free Daw Aung San Suu Kyi campaign’ by distributing 500 prints of her portraits in their area starting yesterday. The people from religious backgrounds and all other walks of life took the portraits with great enthusiasm, they said.

“The Township Organizing Committee members distributed the prints at teashops in their area. People from cheroot factories and many local people, especially in the market area came and asked for the prints. We gave them only to the people who enthusiastically asked for it. There were villagers coming to the market by cars and motorboats. Some people came from the west side (of Irrawaddy River). Some monks and novices took the portraits to their villages. The campaign was successful,” Yenanchaugn Township NLD Vice-Chairman Daw Khin Saw Htay told Mizzima.

In developed countries, they are forging ahead successfully on the five pillars of the executive, the judiciary, the legislature, the media and education. But in Burma civil war is still raging and the country is still backward and underdeveloped and wallowing in abject poverty. The regime should join hands with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on whom ethnic people repose trust to stop this civil war, she added.

While the campaign was on there was no harassment by the local authorities in Yenanchaung but the police closely monitored the situation in Myingyan. They questioned some of the campaigners.

A youth campaigner in Myingyan, who took part in the movement said: “We distributed photographs in the blocks and wards yesterday. Today we distributed about 3,000 copies in Myingyan municipal market and Ayemyathida market. Soon after that, the police heard about it and they came and watched the situation. They asked shopkeepers in the market, who were the people who had come and distributed the prints. The police deployed its forces around the market and at the busy and crowded intersections in the town. The people, however, welcomed the campaign. The most favourite portrait of Daw Suu is the one with her standing by her father Bogyoke’s (General) side,” he said.

Similar movements were launched in Meiktila yesterday. The portraits went out of stock as people from Yawngshwe and Mandalay asked for more and more copies.

The campaigners said that they would ceaselessly continue the movement.

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