Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Japanese Parliamentarians critical of Burma policy

by Mungpi

New Delhi (Mizzima) - The ongoing trial against opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has attracted the attention of Japanese Parliamentarians, raising questions regarding Japan’s stance on Burma.

At least 70 Japanese Parliamentarians on Wednesday urged the government to push for a six-party type of talks – a-la-North Korea – concerning Burma, inclusive of regional countries and China. The Parliamentarians say Japan must kick-start the process in order to ensure genuine change comes to the militarily-ruled Southeast Asian nation.

Dr. Min Nyo, a representative of the National Council of the Union of Burma, an exile opposition umbrella group, said Japanese Diet (Parliament) members have of late responded to events unfolding in Burma and would much regret if the junta sentences Aung San Suu Kyi to yet another spell of detention.

“There were a lot of questions from the Parliamentarians both from the ruling and opposition parties on the events in Burma and in relation to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial,” said Dr. Min Nyo, referring to an emergency meeting of the Japanese Diet members concerning the freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi conducted on Wednesday.

He said the meeting was led by the Union of Japanese Diet Members for the support of Democracy in Burma (GIREN) and drew the participation of leaders from the Japanese Labor Union as well as the Director of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the main body responsible for shaping Japan’s Burma policy.

Traditionally, Japan has maintained a quiet diplomacy with the Burmese military junta, often refusing to publicly condemn the junta while still citing concern over events transpiring in the conflict-stricken country.

“But today, Parliamentarians and other leaders of the Labor Union have asked the Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take note of their concern and to push the government for stronger action,” Dr. Min Nyo emphasized.

Japan is the largest donor country in terms of providing humanitarian aid in the form of emergency health projects, training and technological assistance to Burma.

Following the latest charges leveled against Aung San Suu Kyi, the Japanese Foreign Ministry issued three unilateral statements and a joint statement. In all the unilateral statements, Japan acknowledged that the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi is an internal affair but expressed its hope that the junta’s 2010 election will be well received by the international community.

Yuki Akinomoto, director of the Burma Information Network-Japan, said Japan’s policy vis-à-vis Burma is to endorse the junta’s roadmap to democracy and support the 2010 election, so that it can fully engage with Burma without restrictions on aid or investment.

“Therefore, probably the best case scenario for Japan is for the 2010 elections to be held reasonably ‘well’ so that no one will object to Japan increasing aid and generally resuming normal relations with Burma,” Akinomoto conjectured.

Akinomoto said Japan is also concerned about the growing Chinese influence in Burma and the Mekong region in general, which is why it is now planning to host a Japan-Mekong summit, including Burma and excluding China, later this year.

After the death of Japanese photojournalist Kenji Nagai in Rangoon during the September 2007 uprising, the Japanese government threatened to terminate its humanitarian aid to Burma.

“Following the death of Kenji Nagai Japan sent an envoy but the issue remained unaddressed,” Dr. Min Nyo added.

But he said the latest events regarding the plight of Aung San Suu Kyi have provoked the interest of many Parliamentarians.

“The Parliamentarians said if Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is sentenced, the Japanese government must act to push for substantive change in Burma by introducing a six-party talk that will include countries influential to Burma,” he expounded.

READ MORE---> Japanese Parliamentarians critical of Burma policy...

Junta meet with Mongla inconclusive

By Hseng Khio Fah

(Shanland) -The meeting between the National Democratic Alliance Army-Eastern Shan State (NDAA-ESS) and the junta negotiators yesterday on the transformation proposal ended inconclusively, according to a source close to the NDAA leadership on the Sino-Burma border.

Senior NDAA leaders led by Sai Leun aka Lin Mingxian, 63, met with the delegation led by Military Affairs Security (MAS) chief Lt-Gen Ye Myint yesterday at its main base in Mongla, opposite Daluo.

Ye Myint was accompanied by Brig Gen Kyaw Phyoe, Commander of Kengtung-based Triangle Region Command, Mongkhark area commander Nay Lin and another MAS officer from Kengtung, among others.

The meeting lasted for 3 hours from 09:00 to 12:00 (Burma Standard Time).

During the meeting, Ye Myint informed the NDAA about the rejection by the Kokang and the Wa of its proposal. “They likely did not ask the opinions of their own people,” he was reported as saying.

Sai Leun then told the general that the NDAA’s rejection resulted from the public meetings held recently.

“The best thing for both sides is to keep things as they are,” Sai Leun was quoted as telling Ye Myint.

Ye Myint, on hearing the response from the NDAA, said, “The rise of the ceasefire areas (from hovels into multi story buildings) has been astounding. Don’t you feel sorry to lose them?”

He continued, “Our head of state Than Shwe would like to see you as the role model for all [ceasefire groups].

He also promised that if the NDAA accept the offer, the junta leaders would see to it that the agreement is abided by the new government formed after the upcoming elections.
The junta delegation departed at about 15:00.

On 3 June, the Shan State Army (SSA) North was also reported to have met Ye Myint at the capital of Shan State North, Lashio. But the group declined to disclose any details.
However, a source close to its Hseng Keow base told SHAN the group had asked Ye Myint to defer the question until after a new government has emerged.

Meanwhile, the Burmese military junta’s third highest ranking general Thura Shwe Mann, the joint chief of staff, is reportedly visiting China, according to Irrawaddy and Radio Free Asia (RFA).

He is expected to discuss with Beijing on the current state of affairs in Burma particularly on the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi and the ongoing talks with the ceasefire groups.
Some junta officials had already accused China of supporting the Wa, during the Wa traditional festival at Cangyuan on the Chinese side of the border last month, according to a Wa source. “But the Chinese officials brushed off the accusation by saying, ‘We adhere to the policy of non-interference. But since the population of the Wa on the Chinese side is even higher than that on your side, how can we know who’s helping them if you don’t tell us?’”

READ MORE---> Junta meet with Mongla inconclusive...

Junta's offer of dialogue to ceasefire groups is ridiculous: Kachin politicians

Written by KNG

The Burmese military junta's offer of dialogues with ethnic ceasefire groups in the country who agree to the "policy of their armed-wing transition strategy" is politically ridiculous, opine Kachin politicians.

The reason is that dialogues are being promised to ethnic ceasefire groups by the junta after the junta-centric new constitution was unlawfully approved in a countrywide Referendum on May 10, 2008, said Kachin politicians in the country's northern Kachin State and abroad.

Duwa Bawmwang Laraw, Chairman of KNO and KNC in exile.

Duwa Bawmwang Laraw, chairman the Kachin National Organization (KNO) in exile and the Kachin National Council (KNC) in exile, and member of the presidium of Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC) based in Thailand said, "The political dialogue should be between the current government and ethnic ceasefire groups after their identity, rights and autonomy have been clearly guaranteed in the federal-based constitution."

As of now, the leaders of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), one of the largest ethnic ceasefire groups in the country has agreed to the policy of armed-wing ‘Transition Strategy’ proposed by the junta because it would like to avoid a fresh civil war and solve the political problems peacefully through political means, Dr. Manam Tu Ja, the KIO's Vice-president No. 2 told KNG.

Duwa Bawmwang Laraw responded to Dr. Tu Ja saying, "The dialogue between the KIO and junta may stop resumption of civil war for a short while but it is totally ridiculous and will not resolve political problems between them."

Duwa Bawm Lang, leader of the Kachin State National Congress for Democracy (KNCD) which won three seats in Kachin State in 1990 elections based in Kachin State's capital Myitkyina, completely rejected transforming the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the armed wing of KIO into a battalion of the Border Security Force, as has been proposed by the junta.

Duwa Bawm Lang said, "During the struggle for Federal Democracy in Burma and for the rights of the Kachin people, Kachin people and we, KNCD also rejected the junta's proposal of transforming KIA. If we are pure Kachin men, we must wield swords or arms. One is not called a Kachin man without holding a sword or arms in keeping with Kachin civilization."

At the same time in a statement released on June 6, Kachin university students representing Kachin students in the universities in Burma suggested to the KIO/A to fight the junta with arms instead of transforming the KIA to a "border security force".

In the five-point statement, it also mentioned that all Kachin university students in the country are ready and will heroically do their duty relating to the liberation of Kachin people. The students also rejected the junta-led National Convention concluded in 2007 and the country's new constitution which was forcibly approved in 2008.

Many Kachin people feel the KIO leaders by agreeing to transform the armed-wing proposed by the junta tricked the Kachin people because the leaders had said they would obey the people's suggestion.

The fact remains that most Kachins in the country and abroad have rejected the transformation of KIA into a border security force before resolving the political imbroglio.

Duwa Bawmwang Laraw suggested to KIO leaders that they should not trick Kachin people in playing politics with the junta. They would also have to discuss bravely regarding the political rights of Kachin people with the enemy— the Burma's ruling junta.

READ MORE---> Junta's offer of dialogue to ceasefire groups is ridiculous: Kachin politicians...

UN staff sent to assess Karen refugees

(DVB)–The United Nations has sent its staff to five sites along the Thai-Burma border where Karen villagers have stationed themselves after fleeing a Burmese army offensive against the Karen National Union.

Following a series of offensives over the past week by Burmese government troops against the KNU, up to 6,400 Karen villagers, many of whom are women and children, have now fled into Thailand.

Reports have emerged of Burmese troops shelling the populous Ler Per Har refugee camp in Burma’s eastern state, while the junta-allied Democratic Karen Buddhist Army have allegedly being forcibly recruiting Karen villagers to act as army porters.

According to the Karen Human Rights Group, some are being forced to walk in front of army patrols as minesweepers.

A spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner on Refugees, William Spindler, said yesterday that staff had been sent to a villages and a cave in northern Thailand where villagers were hiding.

In one case, he said, villagers were holed up in a cave “accessible only by river and by a 40-minute climb up a steep mountain which is very slippery right now because it is raining heavily”.

A number of those who had fled were from the Ler Per Har camp, home to refugees of Burma’s internal conflict.

“Most of the new arrivals say they want to stay as close to their villages as possible in order to go home quickly once the situation calms down because they left cattle behind and because it is time to begin planting rice,” Spindler said.

The conflict between the KNU and the Burmese government began in 1948 and is thought to be the world’s longest running.

Several attempts at building a ceasefire agreement have taken place but so far without success.

Reporting by Francis Wade

READ MORE---> UN staff sent to assess Karen refugees...

Kachins Reject Border Guard Role

Young Kachin soldiers in the military training. (Photo: Ryan Libre)

The Irrawaddy News

The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has rejected the Burmese military government’s proposal to transform its armed battalions into a border guard force under joint-command with the Burmese army, its party leaders said on Wednesday.

Lahkyen La Ja, the general-secretary of the KIO, told The Irrawaddy that its armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), will only take up the role of border guards when there is political change in Burma.

“The Burmese army alone can’t bring about the transformation,” he said. “Along with rights for the people and political parties, Kachin State wants a guarantee of genuine development [from the regime].”

According to sources close from the party, the KIO has been under pressure from low-ranking members within the KIA and grass-root organizations not to accept the junta’s proposal.

James Lun Dau, a central member of the KIO who is living in Chiang Mai in Thailand, said that the party leaders have decided to reject the proposal because “the time is not right” to transform their units into border guards. He said that first and foremost, it is time to form a new government through elections.

Lun Dau said that KIO leaders will reconsider the proposal after the new government is elected. Meanwhile, the party is conducting a survey among the people of Kachin State with regard to the junta’s proposal to transform the KIA into border guards.

“We know there should not be several different armies within one country,” said Lun Dau. “But there is no genuine peace in Burma yet. This is why the country has more than one army.”

The KIO has not yet formally responded to the junta’s proposed plan, but Lun Dau said the party leaders expressed hope that they will be able to meet with the junta’s representatives in the near future.

Meanwhile, the Kachin News Group on Tuesday reported that the KIO had, in fact, accepted the junta’s proposal. However, the Chiang Mai-based Kachin Web site said that the agreement “does not automatically mean that the KIO has agreed to transform its armed wing, the KIA, into a battalion of the ‘Border Security Force.’”

The reason for the apparent contradiction could not be confirmed.

In a statement released on May 12, five exiled Kachin organizations—the All Kachin Students and Youth Union, Kachin Today Group, Kachin National Organization, Kachin State National Congress for Democracy, and Progressive Kachin Christian Solidarity—also rejected the Burmese junta’s plan.

The Burmese military authorities had given several ethnic ceasefire groups a deadline of the end of May to accept their offer of undertaking the new border guard roles.

On Tuesday, according to a source at the Sino-Burmese border, a representative of the Burmese regime, Lt-Gen Ye Myint, held a meeting with the Monglar, an ethnic ceasefire group in eastern Shan State, which is headed by Sai Leun (aka Lin Mingxian) of the National Democratic Alliance Army.

Other China-Burma border-based ethnic armed groups—the United Wa State Army, the Kokang ethnic group and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army—were also recently reported to have rejected border guard roles.

Sources speculated that the Wa and Kokang groups probably rejected the government proposal because they did not want to be subservient to Burmese command.

According to the Burmese regime’s guidelines, each border guard battalion would consist of 326 troops, including 30 from the Burmese army, of whom three would be Burmese officers with administrative positions, according to sources.

The KIO controls about 4,000 troops and the party signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government in 1994.

A total of 17 insurgent groups have signed ceasefire agreements with the ruling generals since 1989, according to official Burmese reports.

READ MORE---> Kachins Reject Border Guard Role...

The Message from the Lion State

The Irrawaddy News

Singapore is home to many Burmese who admire the island state’s economic prosperity.

It’s a two-way relationship, where Singapore, a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), has in the past backed the regime in Burma and strongly defended Asean’s non-interference policy.

Historically, Singapore politicians forged a good relationship with Burma’s ruling elite, including Gen Ne Win.

It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that the current visit to Burma by Singapore senior minister Goh Chok Tong is being closely followed inside and outside Burma.

Goh’s four-day schedule includes talks with senior government leaders and a visit to hospital in the Irrawaddy delta, rebuilt with Singapore aid after the May 2008 cyclone.

The schedule also includes a visit to Shan State, where human rights abuses by the army are widespread. Large numbers of Shan people have been leaving the country because of repression, forced labor and poverty, and many now live illegally in Thailand.

Singaporean officials generally know that Burma is a sensitive issue, and reporters in Rangoon have been warned not to ask political questions when they meet Goh at the Irrawaddy delta hospital.

Details have emerged, however, of Goh’s meeting with top regime leaders, where he urged them not to allow the trial of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi to derail the national reconciliation process, and to ensure that next year’s general election is free and fair.

Goh acknowledged that the trial is Burma’s domestic affair, but he shrewdly pointed out that there is an international element to it that should not be ignored. The generals, it is believed, were taken aback by the strength and unity of international pressure since Suu Kyi was put on trial in Rangoon’s Insein Prison.

Goh also stressed that the elections must be inclusive and that the opposition National League for Democracy, led by Suu Kyi, must be part of the process of national reconciliation. The international community and United Nations have expressed the same policy.

Goh is the first foreign leader to meet Than Shwe since the bizarre trial started, and he used the occasion to deliver a political message to the top leaders in Naypyidaw.

Singapore’s ruling politicians in the past have urged Burma to open up the country’s economy, viewing that country as its hinterland.

When Ne Win was in power, Singapore’s elder statesman Lee Kwan Yew often met the “old man” and offered his advice on reforming the economy. Ne Win, who introduced the “Burmese Way to Socialism,” did not listen.

Lee advised then Prime Minister Maung Maung Kha to open up the country for tourism. To the surprise of Singaporean officials, the prime minister reportedly promised to refer the question to Ne Win.

Under the current Burmese regime, the Burma-Singapore relationship has strengthened still further.

According to Jane's Intelligence Review and defense analysts, Singapore has sent the junta guns, rockets, armored personnel carriers and grenade launchers, allowing the regime to prolong its rule and suppress its ethnic minorities.

Today, Singapore offers a haven for the regime leaders and their business cronies.

Some analysts also believe that family members of the regime avoid Western financial sanctions by keeping bank accounts in Singapore. After the US tightened sanctions still further with the 2008 JADE, the generals’ wives reportedly moved precious stones to Singapore.

Former US President George Bush signed the Burma Jade Act, restricting the import of Burmese gems and other precious stones and extended existing import sanctions.

Members of the generals’ families and business cronies often fly to the Lion State for shopping, recreation and medical treatment. Than Shwe and top army leaders go Singapore for medical care.

Signs of frustration with the regime began to show when it secretly moved its capital to Naypyidaw. Singapore foreign ministry officials expressed dismay publicly because the regime did not inform Asean members about the planned move.

Lee himself criticized the move, describing it as irrational. Calling the Burmese generals “rather dumb” in their management of the Burmese economy, Lee told the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, they were "people with very fixated minds—quite convinced that they will have the natural resources to weather any sanctions."

Lee was also outspoken in his criticism of the regime’s brutal suppression of the September 2007 uprising—a notable departure from his thinking some 10 years earlier, when he said: “I have visited [Burma] and I know that there is only one instrument of government, and that is the army.”

Lee angered Burmese opposition activists still further by saying: “If I were Aung San Suu Kyi, I think I'd rather be behind a fence and be a symbol than be found impotent to lead the country."

Burmese activists in exile burned an effigy of Lee and wrote to him demanding a public apology.

Singapore doesn’t need to be seen as an apologist of the regime, but its government should invest a political will that includes firm diplomatic engagement with the Burmese regime.

It is doubtful the regime leaders will heed Goh’s message, but it is important that Singapore delivered the message and that the generals listened.

READ MORE---> The Message from the Lion State...

SPDC Extends Ethnic Radio Program for Propaganda

Sittwe (Narinjara): The Burmese military junta has extended its ethnic radio programs to one hour long in order to propagate its strategies and activities among the ethnic nationalities of Burma.

One listener said, "The ethnic radio program for seven major nationalities in Burma was being aired through Myanmar Broadcasting Service in Naypyidaw and each nationality gets one hour on air per day in their respective languages."

The seven major nationalities that are represented in the radio program are Arakanese, Mon, Kachin, Shan, Karen, Kayah, and Chin.

"The Arakanese program is aired every day from 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm. Most of the time is used for Arakanese national songs. But the radio airs the policies of the military junta between the songs, one after one, using up nearly 30 minutes," the listener said.

The Burmese military authority did not allow the airing of Arakanese nationalist songs in the past, but is now attempting to draw Arakanese to listen to the radio program.

According to a local source, even though the Arakanese radio program airs Arakanese songs through the Myanmar Broadcasting Service, the program is less popular than the BBC, VOA, and RFA. The majority of people are still listening to the BBC, VOA, and RFA to get accurate and unbiased news stories about Burma.

When asked over the phone about Sittwe FM radio, a monk told Narinjara that Burma Information Minister Brig-Gen Kyaw Hsan once told a senior monk in Sittwe that the Burmese military junta has been defeated in the media war with opposition groups, despite the junta having the upper hand in other sectors.

The military junta recently set up a FM radio station in Sittwe to propagate its policies. Before the radio program, the junta had set up a printing house in Sittwe to publish its newspapers - Kaymon and New Light of Myanmar - for local distribution to Arakanese. However, these attempts to target people with media have apparently failed to gain the support of Arakanese.

Radio Free Asia (Burmese) and the Democratic Voice of Burma also air programs every day in the various ethnic languages, and all major ethnic nationalities in Burma receive nearly 30 minutes a day of programming in their language.

READ MORE---> SPDC Extends Ethnic Radio Program for Propaganda...

Serious Violations against Children in Burma: Ban

The Irrawaddy News

WASHINGTON — UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday reported grave violations against children in Burma including credible reports of recruitment and use of children by some government military units and several ethnic armed groups.

Expressing serious concern over the plight of Burmese children, the secretary-general in a report to the UN Security Council urged the Burmese military government to put into place a tighter mechanism to prevent the military recruitment of children.

Ban also urged the junta to demobilize unconditionally all children who participated in any capacity in its armed forces, in coordination with the UN country task force on monitoring and reporting.

“The secretary-general stresses the need for the governments concerned to facilitate dialogue between the United Nations and the Karen National Union and Karenni National Progressive Party for the purposes of signing an action plan in accordance with [relevant] Security Council resolutions,” Marie Okabe, deputy spokesperson for the secretary–general, told reporters at UN headquarters in New York.

In the report, Ban urged Burmese authorities “as a matter of priority” to “redress the prevailing culture of impunity, to launch investigations into all incidents of recruitment and use of children, and to prosecute people responsible for such acts under the Penal Code.”

“Building on the limited progress thus far, the government should, with immediate effect, cease the arrest, harassment and imprisonment of children under the age of 18 for desertion and/or attempting to leave the army and continue to work with the country task force to monitor such cases and to ensure the swift and unconditional surrender of children,” Ban said.

Besides government military units, the secretary-general identified several ethnic armed groups involved in recruitment of children: the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, Kachin Independence Army, Karen National Liberation Army Peace Council, Karen National Liberation Army, Karenni Army, Karenni National People’s Liberation Front, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, Shan State Army-South and Shan National Population Liberation Organization and United Wa State Army.

Ban noted in the report that there was a continued lack of humanitarian access to Burma, particularly in conflict zones and ceasefire areas, was an impediment to providing much needed humanitarian assistance. He urged the junta to ensure full, unhindered and safe access for children and to allow free passage for the delivery of UN humanitarian assistance in all parts of the country.

READ MORE---> Serious Violations against Children in Burma: Ban...

Singapore’s Goh Raises Suu Kyi’s Trial in Naypyidaw Talks


Singapore's Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong urged Burma’s junta leaders at a meeting in Naypyidaw on Tuesday not to allow the trial of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to affect the national reconciliation process, and to ensure that next year’s general election is free and fair.

A report on the meeting in the Singapore newspaper Straits Times, quoting Goh’s press secretary, said the Singapore minister pointed out during a two-hour meeting with junta chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe, Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein and other Naypyidaw leaders that while Suu Kyi’s trial is Burma’s domestic affair it also has an international element that should not be ignored.

Goh Chok Tong had a frank discussion with Snr-Gen Than Shwe at their meeting in the capital Naypyidaw. (Source: Straits Times)

The trial has evoked international concern and condemnation. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has issued a strongly-worded statement through its current chair, Thailand, saying the trial puts Burma's honor and credibility at stake.

Another issue dominating Tuesday’s meeting was Burma's democratization process leading up to preparations for the 2010 election.

Goh stressed that the elections must be inclusive and that the opposition National League for Democracy, led by Suu Kyi, must be part of the process of national reconciliation.

According to reports in the Singapore press, both Than Shwe and Thein Sein assured Goh that the 2010 election will be free and fair. Thein Sein also said that Burma was aware it had to address the concerns of three groups—the Burmese people, Asean and the international community, including the UN.

Singapore, one of Burma's biggest foreign investors, has close relations with the Burmese junta.

Over the past two decades, according to Jane's Intelligence Review, Singapore has sent the junta guns, rockets, armored personnel carriers and grenade launchers. Singaporean companies have also provided computers and networking equipment for Burma's defense ministry and army.

Some analysts believe that despite US financial sanctions, Burma's military leaders and their cronies still hold accounts in Singaporean banks, while the Money Authority of Singapore is unlikely to advise its banks to cut ties with Burmese firms.

Singapore is also a favored destination for regime officials seeking medical treatment.

Goh’s visit comes at the invitation of Thein Sein, who visited Singapore in March. He previously visited Burma in 1998.

Singaporean Minister for Manpower Gan Kim Yong, Government Parliamentary Committee Chairman (Foreign Affairs & Defense) Michael Palmer and other senior officials are accompanying Goh on his Burma visit.

READ MORE---> Singapore’s Goh Raises Suu Kyi’s Trial in Naypyidaw Talks...

Release of political prisoners ‘a UN priority’

(DVB)–Campaigners in Britain have called on United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon to make the release of political prisoners in Burma, many of whom are being denied healthcare, an urgent priority “before they die”.

Burma currently holds around 2,100 political prisoners in jails across the country. Many are deliberately imprisoned far from their families who, in the absence of sufficient in-prison healthcare, are relied upon to supply medicines.

Conditions in jails are often squalid, and torture by prison officials on political prisoners widespread.

A statement released yesterday by Burma Campaign UK (BCUK) detailed conditions for four high-profile political prisoners, including Min Ko Naing, who was last year sentenced to 65 years for his role in the September 2007 protests, and is said to be suffering from heart disease.

A leader of 88 Generation Students, Htay Kywe, who is held in the remote Buthidaung prison, is suffering from gastric problems and high blood pressure.

The prison has no electricity and he is reportedly not allowed to receive visitors or food parcels from his family.

“There is a deliberate policy of mistreating political prisoners and denying them healthcare and adequate food to stay healthy,” said Wai Hin from BCUK.

“This is a crisis, and should be treated as one. It is not the time for the usual soft and slow diplomacy from the UN, which has totally failed for the past 20 years.”

The statement coincides with news that a member of the National League for Democracy, Salai Hla Moe, who was held in central Burma’s Myingyan prison, died last month from a blood disease, although his family were only told recently.

“He has been in prison nearly seven years and suffering from [the disease] for more than two years,” said a relative, Salaung, who discovered his death a fortnight ago on a visit to the prison.

“Drinking and washing water in the prison is not clean. He has to use water that looks like water in the gutter.”

“He was only treated in the prison clinic and when his condition worsened they didn't allow him to receive treatment at an outside hospital.”

The strain on the families of political prisoners is considerable. Relatives of those held in remote prisons are forced to travel for days to visit the prisoners, and then often only allowed to meet for a matter of minutes.

"At the moment, [Hla Moe’s wife] is suffering from mental illness and she is not living at home, but wandering on the streets - she has gone mad,” said Salaung.

“There is no future hope for their family as there is no one to look after their children."

Reporting by Khin Maung Soe Min and Francis Wade

READ MORE---> Release of political prisoners ‘a UN priority’...

Court readmits one Suu Kyi witness

(DVB)–Judges in the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi have agreed to allow one of the three witnesses disqualified by the court to testify in her defence, following an appeal from Suu Kyi’s lawyers last week.

A lawyer for Suu Kyi, Nyan Win, said that Rangoon divisional court yesterday ruled to allow Khin Moe Moe, a central court lawyer in Shan state, to testify for her at the Insein prison trial.

A notice in the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper today said that she had been readmitted "in order to hear the case more thoroughly".

The three witnesses, including U Win Tin and U Tin Oo, were disqualified on 28 May on reasons unspecified by the court.

“The court decided to reaccept Daw Khin Moe Moe but didn’t give any detail on why the other two witnesses were remained disqualified,” said Nyan Win.

“This is not reasonable under legal terms for us. We are not satisfied with the divisional court’s decision and are preparing to take our complaint to a higher level court.”

He said that the court hadn’t yet set a date to hear Khin Moe Moe’s witness account, and that final arguments from lawyers had been postponed until her testimony had been heard.

“I’ve been close to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for about 20 years and I know so well her level of respect for the law,” said Khin Moe Moe.

“I personally know Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has never broken any law.”

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

READ MORE---> Court readmits one Suu Kyi witness...

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