Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Powerless against The Lady

by May Ng
Mizzima News

Signs that the government in Burma is losing its power are everywhere. While the latest collapse of a pagoda recently re-anointed with help from the wives of Army generals may provide a sign of diminishing divine right for the military junta, other important clues come from the reason why a military government armed to the teeth is very afraid of the gentle lady who speaks softly from behind bars as well as barefoot monks who pray peacefully.

Some observers justify military rule in Burma with an assumption that without the Army there will be a power vacuum and chaos will ensue. Aside from the obvious question of whether temporary stability provided by a bloody tyrant is to be preferred over the long term struggle toward a meaningful political reconciliation, the urgent question in Burma is:

what if the military has already lost its power and legitimacy.

What if the Burmese government no longer has the power or capacity to rule without the constant use of violence?

Can an Army which clings to power through the barrel of the gun still be considered a legitimate source of power?

The source of legitimacy originates from the people. As the government in Burma has failed to justify its rule in meeting the wishes of the people, the ruling military desperately seeks external sources of legitimacy from sources like the United Nations and ASEAN. The seduction of wealth accrued from Burma too often influences the world to forget lessons learned from the past – for example American support for the Shah of Iran. A belief that through friendly encouragement powerful nations can help the military in Burma liberalize and democratize is not as innocent as it may sound.

Burma is an important reason why ASEAN and the United Nations appear to be weak and irrelevant today. ASEAN often protest that if it dares speak out against the Burmese generals it will push Burma further into the lap of China. At present, ASEAN and the United Nations have not been able to muster enough courage to stand up for principles, preferring to instead cling to the status quo while the Burmese people continue to wait.

Some observers believe that without a decisive military victory against the Burmese generals or intense pressure from international forces, the military will never give up its monopoly on power. But in recent history, few countries have gained democracy from military victories or powerful intervention from abroad despite the many nations that have managed to gain democracy in the last half century.

In addition, few military victors relinquished power after obtaining it in the name of freedom and democracy. And more importantly, historical evidence quashes the myth that only a government with a strong grip on power, even if it relies heavily on violence, is capable of providing stability and development. More recent evidence suggests, on the other hand, that a government formed following a military coup is likely to continually struggle for power and in such an atmosphere peace is only temporary. The use of violence alone to maintain power denotes weakness not strength. A brutal government is a weak government and is dangerous not only to the people in Burma but also to neighboring countries in its potential to cause regional instability.

It is possible that the Burmese military mistakenly believes that the appearance of democracy in the 2010 election is equal to the appearance of legitimacy. But democracy and legitimacy are not the same and should not be confused. True democracy may confer legitimacy but a lack of legitimacy cannot easily be glossed over with a make-believe election.

The use of force is a clear sign of the lack of persuasive power, resulting in ever more coercive measures employed against its own citizens. Ashin U Gambira, the intellectual leader of the Saffron Revolution, is imprisoned under charges of telling the people that the military dictatorship cannot survive without support from the people and outside world. Further, the military is now getting ready to put Aung San Suu Kyi – daughter of the founding father of modern Burma, in notorious Insein Prison following an outrageous accusation that she committed a crime because Army cadres near her home were unable to stop an American man from entering her compound.

Ashin U Gawsita, the frontline Saffron Revolution monk featured with his loudspeaker in the movie ‘Burma VJ’, said that when peaceful people are forced at gunpoint on the street of Rangoon by the government as seen during the 2007 Saffron Revolution, it becomes obvious that the Burmese regime is no longer a legitimate power but a group of terrorists or thugs. Additionally, U Pyinya Zawta, the executive leader of the All Burma Monks Alliance from the Saffron Revolution, said that for every violent force there is an equal force for peace in the universe. He teaches that if all those who believe in peaceful change in Burma -- from inside the country and from other nations -- can act in unison, there will be a strong enough force to end Burma's military oppression.

It is not a question of what China or Russia will do to prolong the military oppression in Burma. It is a question of what the Burmese people and the rest of the world are willing to do to help end the reign of terror in Burma, where the military generals are powerless against The Lady who knows no fear.

(May Ng is a member of Justice for Human Rights in Burma. To view her poems about Burma, please visit: http://www.othervoicespoetry.org/vol33/ng/index.html)

READ MORE---> Powerless against The Lady...

Burma Challenges Thailand with its Border Offensive

The Irrawaddy News

The news that nearly 4,000 Karen refugees have abandoned their temporary villages in eastern Burma to seek refuge in Thailand comes amid increasing international pressure on the Burmese regime to release opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Since last week, the Burma Army and its militia, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), have been shelling the main base of Brigade 7 of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the Ler Per Her camp for internally displaced people, which is located two miles from the nearest KNLA base.

The camp was evacuated and its residents crossed the border Moei river on Friday to look for refuge in Thailand. But, according to Karen sources, the Thai government is reluctant to allow them to enter established refugee camps, forcing them to seek shelter at Buddhist monasteries in Tha Song Yan province, about 62 miles (100 km) north of the Thai-Burmese border town of Mae Sot.

The unusual military operation—generally the Burma army mounts its offensives in the dry season—could be a response to pronouncements on Burma by the Thai government.

A public statement on Suu Kyi’s trial issued on May 19 by Thailand, as current Asean chair, evoked an anger response from the Burmese junta. The Burmese regime's rebuttal, carried by The New Light of Myanmar and other state-run newspapers, blasted Thailand, saying the statement was "tantamount to interfering in the internal affairs" of Burma.

Burmese high-ranking officials then launched a diplomatic offensive against mounting international pressure. 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."

However, knowing that the international and regional pressure was not letting up, the junta needed to give a warning sign to Thailand’s Democrat-led government by attacking Karen rebels.

Knowing that Thailand’s last Democrat-led coalition supported democracy in Burma, the ruling generals were not comfortable when Thailand's new coalition government, headed by the Democrat Party, unveiled a Burma policy. Kasit Piromya, the new foreign minister, last year declared: ''No personal business deals will shape our foreign policy. Our government will not mix business and politics.''

Napyidaw always wanted to enjoy the kind of relationship it had with Thai politicians like former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the billionaire premier who revealed his affinity for business opportunities in Burma at the expense of pushing for democratic reforms and strengthening human rights.

However, many other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) have backed the current Thai position on Burma. At a meeting of Asean Foreign Ministers in Phnom Penh last month, Singapore and a number of other members of the grouping, fully associated itself with the Thai statement on Suu Kyi.

Singapore, one of Burma's biggest foreign investors, has close relations with the Burmese junta, and several generals have sought medical treatment in the wealthy island republic.

That is why—instead of Asean's current secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan, who is a Thai democrat—Singaporean Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong is currently visiting Burma and is scheduled to meet Snr-Gen Than Shwe. They are expected to discuss Asean’s perspective on the Burmese political situation.

Not only the issue of releasing Suu Kyi and political prisoners, but also the recent flight of the Karen refugees—following the hundreds of Rohingya refugees and asylum seekers who died at sea trying to reach Thailand and Indonesia—should harden Asean’s stand on Burma.

The continuing serious violations of human rights in Burma reflect in part the region's failure. Unless a concrete plan is drawn up to tackle the Burmese generals, Burma will continue to pose a "hot potato" issue, leading to disunity among Asean’s member states and threatening the core values of the Asean Charter.

READ MORE---> Burma Challenges Thailand with its Border Offensive...

Junta No 3 Reportedly in China

The Irrawaddy News

The Burmese junta is busy making diplomatic approaches to neighboring countries after the crisis in international relations over the charges against pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Burmese military junta’s third highest ranking general, Thura Shwe Mann, the joint chief of staff, is reportedly visiting China, while Singaporean former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong is in Burma for an official visit.

According to intelligence sources, Shwe Mann visited neighboring China accompanied by Lt-Gen Tin Aye, who is chief of ordnance production.

Neither Beijing and Naypyidaw have made an official announcement about Shwe Mann’s trip to Ch
ina. Shwe Mann, however, has made three unannounced visits to China, the junta’s closest ally, in the last two years. His last visit was in April 2009.

“He [Shwe Mann] can make unannounced trips to China anytime, as he has done in the past,” said Win Min, a Burmese researcher in civil-military relations, who is based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. “According to Burmese military sources, he reportedly went to China for more than 10 days in April. Then he flew to North Korea.”

Burma observers say that there could be three reasons behind of Shwe Mann’s trip to China. These concern ongoing political conditions in Burma, in particular Suu Kyi’s trial.

“The Burmese junta has to brief its ally China on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial,” said Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Burmese analyst who lives on the Sino-Burmese border. “Gen Shwe Mann also went to Beijing following mass demonstrations in September 2007.”

After the September mass protest in 2007, the junta sent Foreign Minister Nyan Win to brief Beijing about the situation. Nyan Win went there as the special envoy of the junta head, Snr-Gen Than Shwe.

The second reason for Shwe Mann’s trip could be to discuss the situation on the Sino-Burmese border. Since late 2008, tension between the junta and ethnic groups has been rising as the generals push to disarm ethnic groups ahead of the 2010 elections.

In April, the junta outlined its plan to disarm ethnic groups by transforming them into “border guard forces.” Under the outline, the Burmese military will also manage the day-to-day work of the armed ethnic groups. The deadline for the ethnic groups to respond is at the end of June.

Although some armed ethnic groups agreed to follow the junta’s outline, many groups including the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the biggest non-state armed group in Burma, disagreed with the disarmament plan.

This week, Lt-Gen Ye Myint, chief of the Military Affairs Security of the Burmese armed forces and secretary of the transformation committee for ceasefire armed groups, is now in northern Shan State.

In the previous few days, he visited the headquarters of the UWSA and the Kokang armed group called the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), but he failed to convince Wa and Kokang leaders to accept the junta’s disarmament plans.

Today, Ye Myint is reportedly in Mongla, Shan State, to talk with another ceasefire group, the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA).

Aung Kyaw Zaw said the third matter on Shwe Mann’s trip could be China’s concern about the closer relationship between Burma and North Korea in recent years.

In a notice on the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Chinese language Web site, the junta’s Deputy Chairman Maung Aye is scheduled to visit China in the near future.

Officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) have also been visiting China recently. According to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak visited China last week and met with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing on June 4.

Thailand’s Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya is also scheduled to go to China in the near future, said diplomat sources.

In recent years, the international community has been making increasing efforts to bring about positive changes in Burma by trying to get Burma’s neighboring countries such as China, India and Asean members to put pressure on the junta for change.

Meanwhile, Goh Chok Tong is scheduled to meet with the head of the junta, Than Shwe, in Naypyidaw today along with Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye. Goh will also meet with Thura Tun Tin, a former prime minister under Ne Win’s Burmese Socialist Program Party regime.

Analysts say Goh’s agenda in Burma includes talks on Asean’s concerns on Suu Kyi and the Burmese political situation.

READ MORE---> Junta No 3 Reportedly in China...

KNU Calls for Tripartite Talks

In this photo taken on June 6 by Free Burma Rangers, Karen civilians take shelter on the bank of the Moei river after fleeing the fighting between Burmese soldiers and Karen guerrillas in Tha Song Yang district of Tak province, Thailand. (Photo: AP/ Free Burma Rangers)

The Irrawaddy News

The Karen National Union (KNU) has called on international bodies to pressure the Burmese military government for tripartite talks on political and ethnic military conflicts in Burma.

The move comes as ongoing attacks have been launched by the joint forces of the Burmese army and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), a ceasefire group, against the KNU.

“We, the KNU, earnestly urge the United Nations, the international communities, the regional and neighboring countries to concertedly pressure the SPDC for immediate acceptance of [a] tripartite dialogue process, for resolving the political and military conflicts in the country,” said a KNU statement released on Monday.

Since early June, following attacks against Brigade 7 of the KNU military wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), about 4,000 Karen villagers have sought safety in Thailand, while experiencing insufficient food, shelter, clothing and medical care. Some relief workers estimated the number of Karen refugees has now reached 6,000 people.

On Monday, a Thai army commander, Lt-Gen Thanongsak Aphirakyothin, said that a total of 1,741 Karen have entered Thailand from eastern Burma since fighting started in early June, according to Reuters. The unit of Thanongsak operates along Thailand’s western border.

“They fled because of danger and fear of capture and forced labor by the Myanmar army, the commander told reporters in Mae Sot. “Most of the refugees are women and children.”

Karen sources claim that about 20 soldiers from the joint force have been killed during recent clashes. The number of KNU soldiers dead or injured was not given.

The statement said the attacks against Karen villagers were an attempt to eliminate the Karen people.

The Burmese regime’s recent order to the DKBA, an armed group that separated from the KNU, to transform its troops into a border guard force under the ministry of defense turns the DKBA into the regime’s “slaves,” the statement said.

Instead of serving the Burmese regime, the DKBA should listen to the voice of the Karen people and protect them, said the KNU.

“Accordingly, we earnestly urge all concerned to study the entire condition and actively work for [the] prevention of [the] elimination of the Karen, as a people, and uniting the entire Karen people under the flag of Karen revolution,” said the statement.

The KNU urged the DKBA to assume the position of ethnic ceasefire groups in northern Burma, such as the United Wa State Army and Kokang group, also known as Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, which are bonding with the local population to take an independent role in opposition to the regime.

“We would like to tell the DKBA that it is time for it to consider its aims and the actual conditions objectively, to listen to the voice of the Karen people and to stand for the Karen people’s interest,” said the statement.

By working with the Burmese military government, the DKBA is helping to legalize the military dictatorship through its general election in 2010 and its attempt to eliminate all ceasefire groups, said the KNU.

Aung Naing Oo, a Burmese analyst in Thailand, said the current offensive is also a part of a process to convince all armed ethnic groups to transfer their troops into a border guard force that would serve under the Burmese military.

READ MORE---> KNU Calls for Tripartite Talks...

Mon ceasefire group increases armed patrols in response to taxation by insurgents inside party territory

By Asah and Blai Mon

(Mon News) -A recently formed Mon insurgent group is attempting to levy taxes in territory controlled by Burma’s largest Mon political party. The party has stepped up armed security in the area, which also saw two retired village officials kidnapped by the insurgents last week.

According to sources in territory controlled by the New Mon State Party (NMSP), yesterday the insurgents ordered residents of Brigade No. 3 village to pay 100,000 baht (2,900 USD). The large sum has been requested in Thai baht because NMSP territory is situated along the Thai-Burma border, though territory officially controlled by the party since a 1995 ceasefire is nominally within Burma.

“They asked for 100,000 baht, but we requested to reduce the payment to 50,000,” a local resident told IMNA. “But, if we don’t pay them how much they asked for, they will do anything to get the money. We don’t want to pay them, but they ordered us.”

According to local sources, the armed group, which calls itself “Rehmonnya,” has given the village four days to raise the funds. The group initially gave the village until only today to make the payment, though it contacted village leaders a second time yesterday to push the deadline back to June 12.

Yesterday’s order comes just a week after two retired headmen from the same village were seized by 10 armed members of the group, who fired at least four shots during their time in the village. According to contacts in the NMSP as well as local sources – including one who said he talked with relatives of the headmen – the men were held for two days and released after their families paid 50,000 baht.

The headmen would not speak to IMNA about their kidnapping, however, and would neither confirm nor deny whether payments were made to secure their release. Rehmonnya denies that any ransom was required for the release of the men. Speaking with IMNA by phone today, Nai Khin Maung, who issued the taxation order and commanded the soldiers who detained the headmen, said that no money exchanged hands.

The NMSP response to Rehmonnya’s recent activities has been to increase security in the area; Brigade No. 3 village is just 1 mile away from the headquarters of Brigade No. 3 of the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA), the NMSP’s armed wing.

According to party sources, local officials in the NMSP and MNLA held meetings yesterday and today to discuss responses to the activities by Rehmonnya. Pre-existing NMSP policy prohibits unauthorized taxation within party territory, and sources at the meeting said the party would do what it can to protect the villagers.

Rotating sentries made up of 11 MNLA soldiers and 10 villagers were posted in the area following the taxation order, an MNLA commander present at the meeting said, while additional MNLA soldiers from elsewhere in NMSP territory have been sent for.

At least one party source is worried that the NMSP will be perceived as weak because of Rehmonnya’s brazen activities. “An armed group is collecting money from our villagers,” the MNLA commander who spoke with IMNA said. “This will affect the reputation of the NMSP.”

Rehmonnya’s incursion into NMSP territory comes as the party faces mounting pressure from a variety of sources, both inside and outside the party. Burma’s military government has been pushing the party to join elections scheduled for 2010 as well as bring the MNLA under government control, demands the party has thus far not met. Factions within the party disagree on how to respond, meanwhile, and there have been persistent rumors of defections and early retirements by high officials who wish to contest the election – or resume armed insurgency.

According to Nai Khin Maung, Rehmonnya is looking to resume armed insurgency; whether it has any support from within the party is unknown. Nai Khin Maung, for instance, left the NMSP immediately following its 1995 ceasefire. Very little is known about the group, and none of the party sources canvassed by IMNA could confirm its strength or when it was founded.

Nai Khin Maung told IMNA that the group was founded during last year’s winter season, and consists of 240 soldiers, who are mostly “underground” but are preparing to clash with Burma’s military government. He also confirmed a report by IMNA last week, and said that the group is not and has never been allied with Nai Pan Nyunt, former MNLA second-in-command and leader of the Monland Restoration Party, the largest active Mon insurgent group of the last decade.

Rehmonnya’s objectives are independence for Mon people and opposition to Burma’s military government, Nai Khin Maung told IMNA as he defended his group’s recent activities. “We arrested the two villagers because we wanted help from them – we didn’t take money from them,” he said. “But now we are asking for an annual payment of money like the NMSP asks every year. The next year we will be asking again at that time.”

“In our group, the number of soldiers is bigger than the number of guns,” he said, going on to argue that the payments demanded from Brigade No. 3 village are optional. “So, we ask for money as the willing help of villagers.”

When asked by IMNA about Rehmonnya’s response to increased security efforts by the NMSP, he did not shy away from the prospect of clashes with the NSMP, though he did not relish it. “If the NMSP does not make a problem for us, when we meet the NMSP outside we will not shoot. If they make problems for us, we will shoot,” he said, going on to say: “If they do not shoot us, we will not shoot them.”

How far the NMSP is willing to go to enforce its ban on taxation by outside groups remains to be seen. In April, however, NMSP officials and a small group of men from the government-allied Mon Peace and Defence Force (MPDF) got into an armed altercation over taxation in Kyaikmaway Township. No one was injured, though shots were fired. No NMSP retaliation has been reported, though the MPDF assassinated a respected NMSP member soon after.

In an interview regarding the MPDF activities, which have included a second – failed – assassination attempt, an NMSP officer inside Burma said that the party wished to avoid Mon-on-Mon violence. “Honestly, if I have to tell you, we are not afraid of the [MPDF]. If we want to fight, we can fight them all,” he told IMNA. “But if we fight Mon and Mon, who will lose? We will lose: we are the same nation. The [government of Burma] will not lose.”

READ MORE---> Mon ceasefire group increases armed patrols in response to taxation by insurgents inside party territory...

Largest Mon political party attends secret meeting with Burmese general

Mon Son, Rai Maraoh

(Mon News) -Officials from the largest Mon political group have recently concluded discussions with Burmese government military commanders. Details could not be confirmed, but recent visits by Burmese government officials to ethnic ceasefire groups have dealt with transforming ethnic armed groups in to border guard forces in advance of the 2010 election.

On June 7th, New Mon State Party (NMSP) chairman Nai Htaw Mon, Joint Secretary Nai Chan Toi, Central Executive Committee Nai Htar Wara, Major General Jeya, and Central Executive Committee (CEC) member Nai Tala Nyi met with South East Command General That Naing Win at about 9 am at the South East quarter in Moulamine in Mon State.

“It is a secret meeting with the South East Commander, and we can’t say what we talked about in the meeting. We don’t want to announce about that,” said Nai Tala Nyi, the CEC member from Moulemin.

In early March NMSP chairmen and vice chairmen met with Lt. Gen. Ye Myint at the Southeast Command headquarters in Moulmein.

Lt. Gen. Ye Myint is chief of Military Affairs Security, an agency that has succeeded the previous military intelligence program after its chief, Khin Nyunt, was purged in closing the program in 2004. Before his departure, Khin Nyunt brokered ceasefires with over a dozen ethnic armed groups, including the NMSP in 1995.

At this time IMNA cannot confirm any topics of discussion between NMSP administration and South East Command General That Naing Win at the June 7th meeting. However discussions are being held throughout the country between Burmese government and ethnic groups over how to respond Burmese government pressure to form a Border Guard Force (BGF). General That Naing Win, according to an article from the Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) on May 28th, assisted in the negotiations of forces from the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and the Karen Peace Force (KPF) in becoming part of the new BGF.

The BGFs are intended to be battalions whose support will come from the Burmese government as training and weapons. At the same time according to Burmese government instruction, the BGF battalions must also discontinue the use of ethnic nationality based names, and must incorporate into its structure, soldiers and officers from the regular Burmese army.

The status of Burma’s armed groups is a sensitive question for Burma’s central government. Before it can continue its 7-step “road map” to “disciplined democracy” and the 2010 election, the Burmese government must first resolve the status of ethnic armed groups who, after ceasefires were signed in the 1990’s, maintained a relative degree of autonomy.

A variety of ethnic groups remain unresolved about the issue of forming BGFs. The NMSP has not yet been asked to form a BGF, according to MNSP party spokesman Nai Oung Mange, in an IMNA article published in late May. However the Irrawaddy news source has already reported that the NMSP has rejected Burmese government pressure to form a BGF. The Kachin Independence Army (KIA), has not yet respond to the SPDC offer to become a border guard force. However a group of Kachin people posted an open letter to the KIA forces to turn down the Burmese government offer, according to the Kachin News Group website.

According to the Shan News agency and the Irrawady, both the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and the KoKang group, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), met with General Ye Myint on June 7th and June 5th respectively, and have rejected the overtures of the SPDC to become a border guard force in the north.

READ MORE---> Largest Mon political party attends secret meeting with Burmese general...

Army Seizes Villager’s Rice Paddy, Demands Money for Pipeline Security

by Kon Hadae

(Mon News) -Burmese Army soldiers seized a villager’s rice paddy field by force in Mudon Township, Mon State.

Three day ago, soldiers informed the Doe Mar villager that they would take 2.5 acres for themselves for rainy season rice cultivation. They offered no compensation, said a source close to the farmer.

When he arrived at his farm, the soldiers, who are guarding the nearby Myaing Kalay pipeline, informed him that they would be working in his field and that he should go home. The villager’s property is located close to the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) base.

A land seizure of this type continues what has been called an “expansive set of human rights violations,“ along the 180-mile pipeline since its construction began in November 2000. A May 2009 report by the Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) found 298 acres of farmland seized and nearly 12,000 acres in total.

A villager told IMNA that the soldiers said “[they] will work in his field for the rainy [paddy season]. So that paddy field owner had to go back home.”

Another Doe Mar villager added that, if the soldiers asked last year it may not have been such an imposition; the farmer did not grow rice then, due to the high price of rubber. This year, however, rubber prices have dropped and the farmer needs the rice paddy to support his family.

Residents told IMNA that soldiers have abused their power and demanded money from the villagers for a long time: “they try to take everything from the villagers. Not just the paddy field, money as well. We have been giving them [SPDC soldiers] money for a long time for gas pipeline security.”

Since April 2006, when the gas pipeline exploded, villages in Mudon Township have had to give 2,500 Kyat per family every single month to local battalions for gas pipeline security.

A resident from Hnee Padaw village , Mudon township, added that “in our village, not only do we have to pay money for pipeline security, but also for the salary of the [SPDC organized] militia in the village.”

The May 2009 HURFOM report found that the most common of the numerous human rights abuses by the SPDC surrounding the Myaing Kalay gas pipeline were Land Confiscation, Forced Labor, Taxation, Extortion and Commandeering.

READ MORE---> Army Seizes Villager’s Rice Paddy, Demands Money for Pipeline Security...

Road Development in Arakan Neglected for Fear of Muslims

Maungdaw (Narinjara): The Buthidaung-Maungdaw motor road, the primary road in western Burma for trade and transport with Bangladesh, collapsed yesterday in three locations after heavy rains, said a businessman from Maungdaw.

"It is the beginning of the rainy season but the road collapsed. All transportation was stopped between Buthidaung and Maungdaw yesterday after the motor road was damaged," he said.

The road is the primary transportation link between western Burma and Bangladesh, and is essential for trade and business between the two countries. Many people, including traders and travelers, have suffered delays since yesterday due to the road damage.

The road is only 16 miles in length, but it is constructed through the difficult terrain of a mountain range.

"The road was constructed by the British around 1910 when it ruled Arakan, but there has been no real renovation since the British left the country in 1948," the businessman added.

The road typically collapses every year, and last year it was severely damaged multiple times throughout the rainy season. However, the authorities have never undertaken work to improve the road.

A senior monk from Maungdaw who did not want to disclose his name said, "We asked the government authority once to repair the road because it is an important road in western Burma. But the authority replied to me that if the road is high quality, many Muslims from Bangladesh would enter into Arakan to settle. So they neglect the road's reconstruction."

The monk added that the authority's excuse was probably sincere, because the authorities know the road is essential in western Burma and the government also uses it for transportation on a daily basis, but still there is no effort made to improve it.

Throughout Arakan State, there are many roads besides the Buthidaung-Maungdaw motor road that are suffering from damage and disrepair.

READ MORE---> Road Development in Arakan Neglected for Fear of Muslims...

Bangladesh PM inquires about Rohingya infiltration

Dhaka (Narinjara): The Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in a cabinet meeting at the Secretariat on Monday made inquiries from the Home Ministry about the contentious issue of Rohingya infiltration into Bangladesh, said an official report.

The Bangladesh premier made inquiries while she was chairing the cabinet meeting yesterday.

Home Ministry officials told her at the meeting that the infiltration is creating law and order problems in some districts bordering Burma.

The report said that Hasina wanted details about infiltration by Rohingyas into Bangladesh.

The Bangladesh government has directed the BDR, law enforcement agencies and district administration to initiate tough action to stop infiltration, the report said quoting an authorized official from the Home Ministry.

The Home Ministry also said it has directed the administration to take steps to push back infiltrators.

Many Burmese Muslims, widely known as Rohingya, from Arakan state, have been intruding into Bangladesh in recent months and many were reportedly pushed back to Burma.

After the information spread through the media, the Bangladesh Prime Minister made inquiries about the issue from concerned authorities of the Home Ministry.

At the cabinet meeting, the PM also directed the concerned ministries to take immediate steps to link Bangladesh with the Asian Highway Network (AHN) via Burma.

READ MORE---> Bangladesh PM inquires about Rohingya infiltration...

Three Families Desert Home After Losing Farms

Ponna Kyunt (Narinjara): Three families left their villages in Ponna Kyunt Township north of Sittwe for southern Arakan State after they lost their freehold lands to confiscation by local authorities aided by the Burmese army, said a village elder.

He said, "The families left our village, Ah Mae Kin, for a village in Gwa Township before the rainy season after they lost their lands when the authority confiscated their farms."

At least 15 acres of farmland belonging to the three families of U Maung Aye Kyaw, U Kong Zauk, and Maung Pu Nyo were confiscated by Village Chairman U Aung Mra U with the help of local army officials.

After the confiscation, the three families found themselves without a job or livelihood and eventually left for another village in Gwa Township where land prices are cheaper than in Ponna Kyunt.

"They left for a village in Gwa Township but I do not know the village name. I heard land prices in the area are much cheaper and work is available there. So they left their freehold lands," the elder added.

20 acres of land in the village were first confiscated by army officials from Light Infantry Battalions 550 and 344 with the help of Village Chairman Aung Mra U for army purposes. Later, the village chairman confiscated another 43 acres of land with the local high authorities to sell to rich families in the village.

Among the confiscated lands were some that belonged to the entire village for use as a grazing pasture, and most of the lands had been owned by villagers for many decades.

"We heard that that the Burmese army needed 20 acres of land from our village to construct army buildings, but the army officials confiscated 63 acres of land from our village without paying any compensation," said the villager.

Later the officers and village chairman sold the extra land to wealthy local villagers for 50,000 kyats per acre, the elder said.

The army officers sold 43 acres to U Kyaw Hla Sein, U Sein Tha, Maung Kyaw Bu, Alon Khin, Maung Tun Aye, and Own Kyaw, all of whom are from Ah Mae Kin Village.

After the land was sold by the officers to the wealthy residents, the village found itself divided into two factions - the rich and the poor. The three families subsequently left the village to look for a better place to find work.

According to the source, seven families from the village are likely to leave at the end of this rainy season due to the many obstacles facing them in their livelihoods since the village chairman and army officials confiscated local lands.

Many villages in Arakan State are facing similar problems as Ah Mae Kin, since the Burmese army has been confiscating land belonging to the common people and selling it to the wealthy.

READ MORE---> Three Families Desert Home After Losing Farms...

Transfer of Wa commander raises questions

(SHAN)- The recent recall by the Wa supreme headquarters in Panghsang on the Sino-Burma border of Ta Roong, Commander of the Thai-Burma border based 248th Division, has raised some eyebrows among Wa watchers in Thailand, particularly as it has taken place at a time when tensions between the Wa and the Burma Army are on the rise.

Ta Roong aka Ai Roong (Photo: UWSA's 20th anniversary publication)

Ta Roong aka Ai Roong had been appointed to command the unit (formerly designated the 214th, then 414th and since last year the 248th), based at Hopang-Hoyawd in Mongton township, opposite Chiangmai in the south and Monghsat in the east, for more than 10 years. He also is one of the “New Faces” identified by SHAN in its 2006 report Hand in Glove: The Burma Army and the Drug Trade in Shan State.

Ta Hsang aka Ai Hsang (Photo: UWSA's 20th anniversary publication)

Ta Roong was replaced by his second in command Bao Ai-sang aka Ta Hsang, according to a SHAN source close to the leadership in Panghsang. “There’s nothing to be fussed about,” he said. “He is an experienced military man and the leaders need him in Panghsang to oversee things.”

But some watchers see the hidden hand of Wei Xuegang, Commander of the 171st Military Region, wanted in both Thailand and the US on drug charges, in his removal. “His replacement is said to be a protégé of Wei,” said a veteran security officer on the border. “Those who challenge his authority sooner or later find they have holes for him to pick.”

Wei Hsaitang, Commander of Mongyawn-based 2518th Independent Regiment (now renamed 518th Division), for instance, who had for years opposed Wei, was removed and imprisoned in Panghsang in 2002 after he was accused of manufacturing counterfeit banknotes and collaboration with the anti-junta Shan State Army (SSA) South, he said.

The source in Panghsang however does not see it that way. “Wei no longer wields absolute power as he used to in the past,” he said. “Since 2007, a committee of which Wei is a member has been set up to coordinate the units on the Thai-Burma border and make decisions on every important subject.”

The United Wa State Army (UWSA) has 5 “divisions” along the Thai-Burma border:

• 778th Division commanded by Ta Marn
• 772nd Division commanded by Ta Hsong
• 775th Division commanded by Yang Guojong
• 248th Division commanded by Ta Hsang
• 518th Division commanded by Li Hsarm-nab

On the Sino-Burma border there are 3: 318th, 418th and 468th.

READ MORE---> Transfer of Wa commander raises questions...

Mongla conducts survey on transforming armed wing

By Hseng Khio Fah

(Shanland) -The National Democratic Alliance Army-Eastern Shan State (NDAA-ESS), commonly known as the Mongla group by the name of its main base, had conducted a 5 day long public survey whether it should transform itself into border guard forces last week, according to sources from the Sino-Burma border.

The survey was conducted from 2-6 June in areas operated by the 369th Brigade, 911th Brigade as well as at its main base regarding the junta’s proposal that all ceasefire groups transform themselves into 326 strong units, commanded by their own officers but supervised by 30 junta officers, said an insider source.

At each public meeting, people were asked three questions:

• Should the NDAA accept the junta’s proposal to transform itself into a border guard force?
• Do the people want war?
• Will the people support the NDAA if there is fighting?

The questions were given not only to the public but also to its military units. The situation of the country since the Panglong Agreement of 1947 up to the present time was also recounted by survey team officers, according to the source.

According to survey team, most respondents had answered “No” to Question# 1 and 2. As for the third question, the 369th Brigade area where the majority are ethnic Shan voted to support the NDAA if there is fighting. The second strongest voice came from the people in the 911th Brigade area and the third from people from its main base.

In Mongla, about 50% of residents had given answers identical to 369th Brigade and 911th areas, while the rest remained silent as most were businesspeople and ethnic Chinese.

Following the results, the NDAA asked people to inform about anything that could endanger its people and military.“We would like to ask for your help. Because it is most important to keep our eyes and ears on the situation.” a villager quoted a survey team officer as saying.

The junta’s negotiator, Military Affair Security (MAS) chief Lt-Gen Ye Myint is expected to be meeting with the NDAA leaders today.

Sources said the significant thing about the meeting is that Sai Leun aka Lin Mingxian himself will be present. He has so far been absent from meetings with junta officials on the transformation question.

Most border watchers say the group’s answer would likely be the same as its allies.

The NDAA-ESS had already sent a letter rejecting the proposal to Brig Gen Kyaw Phyoe, Commander of Kengtung-based Triangle Region Command, on 27 May.

READ MORE---> Mongla conducts survey on transforming armed wing...

Youth sold to Burmese army for $US20

(DVB)–Teenagers are being kidnapped and sold to the Burmese army for as little as $US20, while those caught trying to escape are often shot or poisoned, say young army deserters recently interviewed.

Burma’s ruling State Peace and Development Council has come under fire recently as documented cases of forced recruitment of child soldiers continue to emerge, with various international jurists, British MPs and exiled Burmese lawyers labeling the practice a war crime.

Last week, Human Rights Watch criticised as “window dressing” a ceremony in which child soldiers were handed back to their families, and said the problem continues.

A report released by the Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) last week featured interviews with three teenagers, one 16-years-old, who recently escaped from the army.

“When I returned from my grandmother's shop [in Rangoon], I went to Sule Pagoda and a soldier who was there from Taw Boke army camp grabbed me,” said an 18-year-old deserter.

“He told me that he would give me pocket money. Then that soldier sold me for 20,000 kyat [approx US$18.80] to a military officer who was sitting in a tea shop.”

He added that out of a monthly salary of approximately US$20, army seniors stole $US18, leaving them with about US$2 for a whole month.

Another former soldier forcibly recruited into the army said that children as young as 13 were taking part in military training, while treatment of those caught fleeing was often brutal.

“They killed them. For example, they injected them with poison or shot them with a gun,” he said.

“It [execution] was especially for the soldiers who escaped with a gun.”

Last week the International Labour Organisation (ILO) voiced concern about a clause in the Burmese constitution that makes use of forced labour legal when the government deems it necessary.

As well as recruitment of minors into the army, cases of forced labour documented by the ILO include recruitment of civilians to walk in front of army patrols as ‘minesweepers’.

Reporting by Francis Wade

READ MORE---> Youth sold to Burmese army for $US20...

Burma opens fire on Bangladeshi fishermen

(DVB)–Bangladesh’s border security force has sent an angry letter of protest to the Burmese government after Burmese border patrol troops last week opened fire on Bangladeshi fishermen, injuring six, one critically.

A Burmese national living in Bangladesh, Khaing Pray Thein, told DVB that government border troops in a patrol boat opened fire on three Bangladeshi boats off the coast near the Naff River opening on 4 June.

Eleven fishermen were on the boats; six of them were injured while one was left in a serious condition. Burmese troops confiscated two of their boats and released the fishermen on the third.

He said Bangladesh’s border security paramilitary group, the Bangladeshi Rifles, have sent a letter to the Burmese authorities protesting the attack.

“So far we haven’t heard of any response made from the Burmese government,” said Khaing Pray Thein.

“[The Burmese] are not returning the boats either. Apparently the Bangladeshi were fishing in Burmese territory.”

A similar incident occurred in mid-April this year which left one Bangladeshi fisherman dead.

And last November a maritime dispute erupted between the two countries over a disputed stretch of the Bay of Bengal, with both countries gathering within striking distance of one another in a face-off that was eventually settled.

Meanwhile, the tension is being compounded with both sides increasing troop numbers on the border.

In April the Burmese government suspended construction of a controversial border fence, with Bangladesh claiming it would run too close to the border.

Locals living on the Burmese side of the border have said the fence will impact on those reliant on Bangladeshi services, such as medicine and food.

Reporting by DVB

READ MORE---> Burma opens fire on Bangladeshi fishermen...

Burma's unravelling web of deceipt

By Francis Wade

(DVB)–The trial of Aung San Suu Kyi has made transparent the ease with which the ruling junta has sculpted Burmese law into a framework in which war crimes are legal and dissent is the most heinous of offenses.

If any positive can come of current events, it is that the hermit state has been pitched onto the world stage, the full extent of its corrupt system plain to see and, we hope, ever vulnerable to mounting pressure. Even prior to the trial the country ranked at the tail-end of virtually every political freedom barometer in circulation, its media environment suffocated by some of the world’s strictest censorship laws and its citizens placed under the crippling watch of a Soviet-style surveillance system. Perhaps most frighteningly, its courts of law, the very institution in which citizen and state crimes are supposedly scrutinized and punished, are under the direct control of the country’s paranoid generals.

Despite regular statements from the government suggesting otherwise, the Burmese courtroom is little more than the junta’s legal wing, with judges usually handpicked by the generals. Those who aren’t are regularly subject to intimidation by higher authorities: in March the brother-in-law of the All Burma Monks Alliance (ABMA) leader, U Gambira, was sentenced to five years imprisonment with hard labour under immigration laws after marking the anniversary of the founding of ABMA. The judge had told his sister there wasn’t enough evidence to sentence him, but was forced by Burma’s chief judge to hand down the guilty verdict.

Trials, particularly those of would-be political prisoners, are often held inside closed prison courts, with no access granted to media. Lawyers who present an articulate case in defence of pro-democracy individuals have been threatened with allegations of contempt of court - indeed, 16 of the country’s 2,100 political prisoners are lawyers. In March a renowned activist lawyer, Pho Phyu, was sentenced to four years after helping farmers file complaints of land confiscation by the army to the International Labour Organisation (ILO). He was charged under the Unlawful Associations Act, despite belonging to no organization.

Such spurious charges are common under Burmese law. Earlier this year six students were sentenced under charges of sedition for collecting and burying the rotting corpses of victims of last year’s cyclone Nargis. Numerous aid workers and journalists who reported on the disaster were imprisoned in a wave of sentencing following the cyclone.

It is in this context that we once again find ourselves penning the verdict of Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial even before the courts announce their decision, so foregone is the conclusion. That in the same breath they will sentence John Yettaw for trespassing and Suu Kyi for sheltering a foreigner, two ‘crimes’ that, despite their obvious ridiculousness, surely anyway contradict one another, shows the extent to which Burmese law is itself unlawful.

Even before Suu Kyi was brought to the courtroom, the government had broken both international law and its own stated law by keeping her in detention beyond five years. There is little else they can do with the lady, her stubborn non-violent ideology stumping a regime whose method of governance only works when dialogue is reduced to the level of thuggery. In the face of Suu Kyi the generals have proved themselves almost impotent, forced to rewrite their own words in a desperate snatch at retaining power.

Yet they do this all too easily. The constitution, the bedrock of the country’s legal system, was ratified last May barely two weeks after the cyclone, one of Asia’s worst recorded natural disasters. With 140,000 people dead, and the southern region of the country in tatters, the government rejected a call from the UN to postpone the referendum. Somehow, despite being scathed by international leaders for its antipathy towards victims of the cyclone, the government claimed 92.4 per cent approval of the constitution, with a 99 per cent voter turnout.

But it is in this forest of legal jargon that the discrepancies between what is supposedly right and wrong in Burma come flooding out. The authors make no bones about the fact that what is essentially deemed a legal activity is one that props up authoritarianism, while a ‘crime’ attempts to counter, or even merely question, it.

Thus, what is ‘illegal’ is for the daughter of Burma’s founding father, whose party won a landslide victory in the 1990 elections, to run for government office because she was married to a foreigner. Paradoxically, the ILO last week voiced concern about a clause in the constitution that makes use of forced labour legal when the government deems it necessary. Cases of forced labour documented by the ILO include recruitment of child soldiers and recruitment of civilians to walk in front of army patrols as ‘minesweepers’, ensuring that it is not government troops who take the full force of a mine exploding at their feet. International jurists, British MPs and exiled Burmese lawyers have all said in recent months that such cases amount to war crimes.

Corruption, absence of judicial independence, and state-sanctioned human rights abuses are perhaps all-too predictable byproducts of military rule left to fester behind closed doors. One silver-lining Suu Kyi’s trial has generated is that Burma has been brought out of reclusivity, dragging behind it the entrails of its pitiful legal system for all the world to see. While the generals will no doubt breeze into the next decade on the back of a fraudulent election victory, their behaviour is being recognized as quite shocking, even by its hardened Asian neighbours, and they are showing increasing signs of unease.

The head of the regime, Than Shwe, is well-known to be fearful of being indicted by the International Criminal Court, and his minor concessions, such as allowing journalists sporadic entry to the Suu Kyi trial, are seen by some observers as a tactic to placate his demons. There are few methods of intimidation that have made headway in Burma - sanctions have achieved little, while engagement has proved futile - but it is with this tool, with this threat that he will be brought to a court whose rule of law is unfamiliar to him, that the international community could start to influence change in Burma.

READ MORE---> Burma's unravelling web of deceipt...

Charges against Suu Kyi ‘Baseless’: Clinton

The Irrawaddy News

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday said that the charges against Aung San Suu Kyi are “baseless.” The visiting Indonesian Foreign Minister, Noer Hassan Wirajuda, joined her in demanding the Burmese junta immediately release the popular Burmese pro-democracy leader.

The meeting between Clinton and Wirajuda at the headquarters of the State Department was used as an opportunity for the two leaders to discuss the current situation in Burma, in particular the ongoing trial of Suu Kyi, on flimsy grounds that she violated the terms of her house arrest.

“Let me again reiterate that the charges against her [Suu Kyi] are baseless, and we call for her immediate release,” Clinton told State Department reporters after her meeting with her Indonesian counterpart.

“Indonesia, like other Asean countries, have also spoken out about her plight and urged her immediate release, and we greatly appreciate that,” she said.

Terming the decision of the military junta to bring Suu Kyi to trial, the Indonesian Foreign Minister said they were actually expecting a review of her case last month and her release as the term of her house arrest expired in May.

“So that’s why we issued a very strong statement on the current case of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and we remind Myanmar [Burma] of its obligation under the new Asean charter, and likewise through the previous calls made by our leaders to immediately release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” Wirajuda said.

Traditionally Asean, a regional block of 10 countries, has been reluctant to weigh in on any issue relating to the “internal affairs” of one of its members. But Asean has issued a statement, expressing "grave concern" about recent developments relating to Suu Kyi given her fragile health.

Wirajuda also said that Burma's elections next year must be credible and include Suu Kyi's political party, the National League for Democracy.

However, Indonesia believes Burma's neighbors should engage with the junta even more closely and the US approach of harsh sanctions causes hardship among Burmese, he said.

Wirajuda said that sanctions "make the local people suffer even more." He called on the world to help alleviate the hardships for daily survival for Burmese. "This would encourage Myanmar to be more open," he said.

Meanwhile Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong will visit Burma from June 8-11 and is scheduled to meet the country's leader, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, and second top vice Snr-Gen, Maung Aye, on Tuesday in Naypyidaw, the capital.

During his trip to Burma, Goh is expected to talk about Asean’s perspective on the Burmese political situation.

READ MORE---> Charges against Suu Kyi ‘Baseless’: Clinton...

Court Set to Rule on Witnesses for Suu Kyi

The Irrawaddy News

RANGOON (AP)— Lawyers for Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi expressed hope Tuesday that a court would accept their request to reinstate three defense witnesses at a trial that has sparked global outrage.

Defense lawyer Nyan Win said the Rangoon Divisional Court planned to announce at 3:00 p.m. (0830 GMT) whether it would reverse the decision of District Court judges presiding over Suu Kyi's trial. The lower court disqualified all but one defense witness.

Burmese riot police officers chat while taking position near police trucks, parked in front of the City Hall in downtown Rangoon on June 5. (Photo: AP)

The 63-year-old Nobel laureate is widely expected to be found guilty of violating the terms of her lengthy house arrest because an uninvited American man swam secretly to her closely guarded lakeside home and stayed two days. Suu Kyi has been detained without trial for more than 13 of the past 19 years, including the past six.

The trial has drawn outrage from the international community and Suu Kyi's local supporters, who say the military junta is using the bizarre case of the American swimmer as an excuse to keep Suu Kyi detained through next year's elections. Her party won the last elections in 1990 but was not allowed to take power by the military, which has run the country since 1962.

The mostly closed-door trial, which started May 18, is taking place inside the compound of Burma's notorious Insein Prison, home to many of the junta's political prisoners. Closing arguments were postponed until the court rules on the defense witnesses.

"We are confident that the Divisional Court will accept our request," which is based on Suu Kyi's legal right to have witnesses, particularly in such an important case, said Nyan Win, who is also a spokesman for Suu Kyi's opposition party. He said the decision to bar all but one witness was "not in accord with the law."

Those rejected by the lower court were all members of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party: prominent journalist and former political prisoner Win Tin, the party's vice chairman Tin Oo, currently under house arrest, and lawyer Khin Moe Moe.

The court had approved 23 prosecution witnesses, of whom 14 took the stand, according to Suu Kyi's lawyers.

The defense has not contested the basic facts of the case but argues that the relevant law has been misapplied by the authorities. They also assert that any intrusion was the responsibility of the security forces guarding the house.

Two women members of Suu Kyi's party who are her sole companions in house arrest and the American, John Yettaw, are being tried with her on the same charge.

If the Divisional Court rejects their appeal to have the witnesses heard, the defense team would appeal to the High Court, said lead attorney, Kyi Win. The High Court is Burma's top court.

A radio station that serves as a propaganda organ for the junta, Padauk Myay, said Sunday that efforts by Suu Kyi's attorneys to reinstate the defense witnesses were just a pretext to allow Win Tin and Tin Oo to discuss party affairs with Suu Kyi.

READ MORE---> Court Set to Rule on Witnesses for Suu Kyi...

U.S., Indonesia call for Suu Kyi's release

by Mungpi

New Delhi (Mizzima) - United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday reiterated a call for the release of Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, describing the current trial against her as “baseless”.

Speaking to reporters in Washington after her meeting with visiting Indonesian Foreign Minister Noer Hassan Wirajuda, Secretary Clinton said, “Let me again reiterate that the charges against her [Aung San Suu Kyi] are baseless, and we call for her immediate release.”

She added, “Indonesia, like other ASEAN countries, has also spoken out about her plight and urged her immediate release, and we greatly appreciate that,” referring to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) of which Burma and Indonesia are both members.

Calling the trial against Aung San Suu Kyi an “unfortunate development”, Indonesian Foreign Minsiter Wirajuda also told reporters that Indonesia has issued a strong statement calling for her immediate release.

“Of course this is an unfortunate development, as we were actually expecting that the case of the detention of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to be reviewed last month with the possibility of her being released,” Wirajuda explained.

He also said, “We remind Myanmar [Burma] of its obligation under the new ASEAN Charter, and likewise through the previous calls made by our leaders, to immediately release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.”

Members of ASEAN traditionally maintain a non-interference policy regarding the internal affairs of member states. But the ongoing trial against the Burmese democracy icon has led ASEAN to issue statements expressing "grave concern" over developments relating to Aung San Suu Kyi.

Though Wirajuda did not speak about the sanctions policy of the U.S. against Burma during the joint press conference, he earlier commented during a speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that tough sanctions have caused further hardship for the general population of Burma.

He called on the world to help alleviate the suffering of the Burmese people by lifting sanctions and cultivating closer relationships with Burma's military government.

In February, Secretary Clinton, during a visit to Indonesia, acknowledged that the U.S. sanctions policy against the Burmese junta has failed to produce the desired results, but added that a policy of engagement has been equally unsuccessful. The U.S., under the administration of President Obama, is currently said to be conducting an internal review of the country's approach to Burma.

READ MORE---> U.S., Indonesia call for Suu Kyi's release...

Junta to put Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest again

New Delhi (Mizzima) - The Burmese military junta is preparing to put pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, currently facing trial in Rangoon’s Insein court, under house arrest again, this time in a military base on the outskirts of Rangoon, sources close to the military said.

The source said, the junta is preparing to put the Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in a house in Ye Mon town, which is also the base of the Light Infantry Division (11), on the outskirts of Rangoon.

Though the trial against the Burmese democracy icon continues to be held in the northern district court in Insein prison, the junta has already decided to put Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest yet again, the source added.

READ MORE---> Junta to put Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest again...

KIO accepts junta's idea of transformation of armed-wing

by KNG

The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the largest ethnic Kachin ceasefire group in Burma has accepted the idea of transformation of its armed-wing proposed by the Burma's ruling junta, said KIO leaders.

The agreement, however, does not automatically mean that the KIO has agreed to transform its armed-wing the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) into a battalion of the "Border Security Force" proposed by the regime, according to KIO officials in its Laiza headquarters on the Sino-Burma border in Kachin State.

On the other hand, the KIO would like to maintain the ceasefire agreement with the regime in the meantime because the ceasefire agreement will automatically end and war will result between them if it rejects the regime's idea of transformation of the armed-wing, said Dr. Manam Tu Ja, KIO's Vice-president No.2, who lives in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State.

Recently during two meetings between the KIO leaders and junta officials at the regime's Northern Command headquarters in Myitkyina on April 28 and May 21, the KIO was offered two political options by the junta, said Dr. Manam Tu Ja.

The first option is that if the KIO accepts what the regime calls the "Overall strategy of armed-wing transition," dialogues will follow between them in what the regime calls the "Plan of Tactics". Otherwise there will be no dialogue between them and the ceasefire agreement will automatically expire, which is the second option.

The junta is yet to explain clearly to the KIO on the follow-up dialogues but it seems to be more focused on transition of KIA other ethnic armed-wings in the country into border security forces, not politics, according to KIO leaders.

KIO repeatedly has claimed that the KIA may transform to a "Defence Force of Kachin Sate" not a "border guard force" someday in the future when it gains autonomy for Kachin State in the Union of Burma.

At the same time, the KIO has just formed a special committee with seven members led by the KIO's Vice-president No.1 Lt-Gen Gauri Zau Seng and the committee will accept all suggestions from the Kachin public and its own organizations. The results will be discussed with the regime, said the KIO.

On the other hand, the KIO has again requested Rev. Dr. Lahtaw Saboi Jum, former civilian peace mediator and General Secretary of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) to form a new civilian peace mediators' group for mediating between the KIO and the regime, said officials in the Laiza headquarters.

Meanwhile, Maj-Gen Gunhtang Gam Shawng, the Chief of Staff of KIA rejected both the plan to disarm and transform KIA into a “border security force" by the regime before the political problems are resolved between the KIO and the junta.

At the moment, the KIA military headquarters in Laiza has ordered its army battalions in Kachin State and Northeast Shan State to reorganize all deserters. It also announced that all men and women of the KIO and KIA have to join a possible war with the regime. There are over 20,000 men and women in KIO and KIA, according to KIO/A officials.

READ MORE---> KIO accepts junta's idea of transformation of armed-wing...

Child Street Singers

The Irrawaddy News

RANGOON — The three kids are sitting in a circle under a street lamp near Yankin Market in Rangoon. Their clothes are worn-out, filthy and wet with sweat. It is almost 8 pm and the street corners are dark.

A 14-year-old boy wearing a dirty white cap beats out a rhythm with two sections of bamboo, while his 12-year-old sister sings "I've Learnt to Love with You," a popular song by rock singer Zaw Pai. Singing in a high-pitched voice, she holds a baby girl in her arms. A dirty milk bottle lies flat on the pavement beside her. The third girl, an 8-year-old, is counting the money they have earned that day in a side bag.

These children sing for much more than their supper. (Photo: Aung Thet Wine/ The Irrawaddy)
The girl’s voice is filled with weariness. Her sorrow and hunger can be heard despite the romantic words of the song.

"Uncles, Aunties, please help us. Please give us some food, your leftovers. Please give us some money for food. Please," she begs after her song. A 500 kyat note and a couple of hundreds float down from the high-rise apartments. The three rush out to pick them up.

They are just three from a multitude of destitute orphaned children surviving on their wits or perishing in a near absence of social welfare under the Burmese military regime.

The boy introduces himself as Nay Lin and his sister as Zin Mar. The baby girl in her arms is Nu Nu Htwe, their cousin. The young girl who collects the money is called Htet Htet.

"We haven’t even got 3,000 kyat yet, so we can’t go home. Perhaps we’ll get home before 10 p.m." Nay Lin explains. Instead of staying at home with the prospect of going to school the next day, they have to wander the streets looking for food.

The children have lived with their 80-year-old grandmother in a poor quarter of Southern Dagon satellite town ever since they lost their parents. They managed to learn to read and write, but now they have no money for school anymore.

"She is just five months old. Her mother, my elder sister, died a month ago. My grandma can't keep her at home, so we have to bring her with us when we go out to beg," Zin Mar said.

The infant is feeble and skinny, and she is sucking her thumb hungrily. She looks sick. Her eyes are inflamed and yellowish.

Zin Mar picks up the milk bottle and puts it into the infant's mouth. Nu Nu Htwe starts impatiently sucking some brownish liquid from the bottle.

"I feed her with tea, ovaltine and Red Cow brand baby milk formula, if I can, but I can't feed her unless we get enough money for food," Zin Mar said.

"I've been singing on the street since I was young. I was just a lone singer, then," Nay Lin said, explaining how started on the streets. He said he left home on the outskirts of town before 10 in the morning, and he usually returned around 9 p.m. I would sing and beg from city dwellers and passers-by the whole day.

"We have nothing for breakfast when we leave home. When we have earned 500 kyat from begging, then we can have breakfast. I frequently eat Mon Hin-Gar (a kind of Burmese vermicelli). It only costs 100 kyat from street vendors. Some families give us a pack of food for lunch or dinner. If we don't get food, we have to buy it ourselves. Sometime we have nothing and go without," Nay Lin said.

Their grandmother is senile and ill, and she is suffering from hypertension and arthritis, the children said.

"We go home if we get 4-5,000 kyat for a day. This is enough for food and a little medicine for grandma. But we are really worried about the baby. She can't eat solid food like us, so we have to earn some money to buy her tea or milk powder," Nay Lin said.

They leave on foot to beg for their keep come rain or shine. Walking on Rangoon’s streets, they sing the most popular songs by famous rock singers, such as R. Zarni, L. Saizi, and Zaw Pai.

"I learn these songs at tea shops, and when I get back home I practice singing them. I often sing L. Saizi songs. The ladies are crazy about him," Zin Mar said.

There is no rest day, and in the rainy season begging becomes more difficult as many areas become near impassable. On such days the children collect vegetables growing naturally in ponds and fields and sell them in the market. However, selling vegetables barely earns enough for them to eat.

Although he begs on the street, Nay Lin remains determined in his ambition. "I want to be a singer, but not on streets. I want to be a singer and have my own concerts," he said.

READ MORE---> Child Street Singers...

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