Friday, June 12, 2009

The Neighborhood Bully

The Irrawaddy News

One of the favorite tactics of the Burmese junta is its “bully” policy. The latest attacks against the army of the Karen National Union (KNU) on the Thailand-Burma border are proof.

The troops of the military regime and its ceasefire group, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, have launched sustained clashes since early June. In two weeks, the conflict has forced at least 4,000 Karen refugees to flee their villages and many are arriving in refugee camps on the Thai-Burmese border.

The current rainy season is an unusual time for the regime to launch its military campaign, with about 9,000 soldiers in the area.

This military campaign is linked by three factors: Aung San Suu Kyi, Thailand and the KNU rebels.

A few days after Suu Kyi was charged with breaching the terms of her house arrest, Thailand, as the current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), took an unusual step by denouncing the junta’s trial of Suu Kyi and calling for her immediate release.

The generals were furious and responded by attacking the Thai government in state-run newspapers, which said the announcement by Thailand interfered in the internal affairs of an Asean member country and disregarded the principle of non-interference in the Asean charter.

Since then, the two governments have exchanged verbal volleys, and the junta continues to publish critical articles on Thailand’s stance.

One of the consequences of Burma’s offensive against the KNU is that many Karen villagers strike out for one of the Karen refugee camps on the border, where hundreds of thousand of Karen refugees now live in nine camps.

Thailand now faces a fresh flow of Karen refugees. On Monday, the Thai army commander, Lt-Gen Thanongsak Aphirakyothin, whose unit operates along Thailand’s western border, said that a total of 1,741 Karen have entered Thailand from eastern Burma since the fighting started. Many are believed still to be in hiding in the jungle in Burma.

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

David Takarpaw, vice chairman of the KNU, said on Friday, “The attack is continuous,” meaning Thailand can expect more refugees in the coming months.

Thailand, which has caused political problems for the regime, now has a problem of its own caused by Burma.

Isn’t it an act of bullying?

However, an article published on Thursday in the junta’s newspaper, New Light of Myanmar, sees it differently.

“Thailand is self-conscious about the issues on internally displaced persons (IDP) and refugees which have rooted [sic] in the Thai-Myanmar border for ages,” the newspaper said. “The root cause of issues on IDP and refugees in the Thai-Myanmar border is that they (Thailand) accept and let the problems keep on taking place.” (JEG's: which is true)

The article continued: “The remnant KNU troops have showed no sign of making peace with the government. (JEG's: this echos what the Int'l community wants from the junta but to not avail yet) Apparently, that is due to the fact that the remnant KNU members are aided and abetted, and KNU stations under the name of refugee camps are accepted.”

The article accused Thailand of offering its soil to insurgent groups and anti-government political groups.

The generals in Naypyidaw have faced mounting international, regional and internal problems since they took power in 1988. But after Suu Kyi’s trial last month, the problems intensified even more.

Whenever the generals face problems, they use their ‘bully’ policy, among others. They are now bullying Suu Kyi, Thailand and the KNU.

The more pressure the generals face in the future, the more you’ll see their bully policy at work.

READ MORE---> The Neighborhood Bully...

Suu Kyi Trial Adds to Ceasefire Groups’ Distrust of Junta

The Irrawaddy News

The trial of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi may be complicating the ruling junta’s efforts to persuade armed ceasefire groups to transform themselves in border security forces, according to sources close to the groups.

“We can’t trust this government because it has dared to charge even the world-respected democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi,” said Nai ong Ma-nge, a spokesperson for the New Mon State Party (NMSP), one of several ceasefire groups now under pressure from the Burmese regime to form a border security force.

The NMSP’s leaders met with the junta’s Southeast Regional Commander Maj-Gen Thet Naing Win in the Mon State capital of Moulmein on June 7 to discuss the issue of forming a border security force under Burmese military control. A source close to the party said the NMSP was told to make a decision on the proposal by July.

“Regarding the border guard proposal, we have to think deeply about it, because we can see [from the trial against Suu Kyi] that the junta could turn against us at any time,” said Nai ong Ma-nge.

Other ceasefire groups have also been paying close attention to developments in Rangoon, where Suu Kyi is on trial at the infamous Insein Prison on charges of violating the terms of her house arrest.

Sein Kyi, the assistant editor of the Shan Herald Agency for News, said that ceasefire groups in Shan State have also stiffened their opposition to the regime’s border security force proposal because of the way the junta is handling Suu Kyi’s case.

“They are saying that this confirms their suspicions about the regime,” he said.

Three ceasefire groups based in Shan State—the United Wa State Army, the ethnic-Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Mong La-based National Democratic Alliance Army—were reported to have rejected border guard roles.

The groups told Chief of Military Affairs Security Lt-Gen Ye Myint recently that they would transform their armies into border security forces only after the country holds elections in 2010 and a new government is formed.

Htay Aung, a Burmese political analyst based in Thailand, said that although some ceasefire group leaders had been at least somewhat inclined to accept the junta’s proposed transition, the Suu Kyi trial has eroded what little trust they had in the junta’s motives.

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

READ MORE---> Suu Kyi Trial Adds to Ceasefire Groups’ Distrust of Junta...

Singapore Investors Waiting for Democracy in Burma

The Irrawaddy News

SINGAPORE (AP) —Singapore investors will likely wait until after Burma’s elections next year before pouring any more money into the country, former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said on Friday, according to television station Channel News Asia.

Goh made the comments at the end of a four-day trip to meet with Burma’s military leaders, the television station said on its Web site.

"I don't believe any Singapore investors would come in a big way before the picture is clear, before this move to democracy is seen to produce results," said Goh, who is a senior adviser to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, according to the station.

Singapore is one of the biggest foreign investors in Burma, with annual bilateral trade of more than US $1 billion.

Goh, who met with top Burmese leaders, including Snr-Gen Than Shwe, urged the government to hold fair and transparent elections and allow all political parties to participate, the station said.

Meanwhile, the trial of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was adjourned on Friday for two weeks. Suu Kyi is charged with violating the terms of her house arrest when an uninvited American man swam secretly to her closely guarded lakeside home last month and stayed two days.

The hearing has drawn outrage from the international community and Suu Kyi's local supporters, who say the military government is using the bizarre incident as an excuse to keep the pro-democracy leader detained through the elections.

Goh told Burma’s leadership that Singapore was "dismayed by the arrest," the station said.

READ MORE---> Singapore Investors Waiting for Democracy in Burma...

Tunnelling to nowhere out of fear

by Celeste Chenard
Mizzima News

Aung San Suu Kyi has said “Fear is a habit” in Burma. And the fear the junta has incited among its own population has in turn come to increasingly provoke fear on the part of the junta itself. While the “people are conditioned to live in fear; they fear to lose their friends, their liberty, their means of support," continued Aung San Suu Kyi, suspicion and a lack of confidence have in turn been internalized within the mindset of the military to a state of paranoia, as they fear the loss of power.

The transfer of the capital to Naypyitaw, as one example, shows this increasing feeling of insecurity within the ranks of the junta. Analysts speculate the move of the capital was premised on one, or a combination of, the following three criteria: a return to the royal tradition and a further snub directed at British colonialism; as a further line of insulation against a popular uprising, as witnessed in 1988 and 2007; and in response to a sense of insecurity, a reaction borne out of even greater concern following the invasion of Iraq by the United States in 2003. It is indeed still highly probable the junta considers a foreign invasion possible, in particular one commanded by the CIA.

The habitual and reciprocal cycle of fear is only exacerbated with an angry population dissatisfied with military governance, tired of political repression and losing patience with the inability of the regime to effectively address the economic situation. Moreover, the international outcry against the junta is becoming more and more virulent in a time of enhanced political tension surrounding the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Fear and paranoia on the part of the leaders not only raises the potency of the regime directed at the population, but heightens the paranoia of the leaders of the Tatmadaw as well.

Since Ne Win, Burma's leaders have exhibited a pathological mistrust and fear of everything from abroad. This paranoia is not simply due to a whimsical desire of the military to cling to power. Overcome with a mentality of feeling surrounded by hostile forces, a spirit of isolationism on the part of the military is at the same time an attempt to feel secure.

The Generals have attained such a level of paranoia and fear of the "other", originating from either inside or outside the country, that, as is now proven, they have constructed tunnel networks to serve as emergency shelters.

Burma analyst and author Bertil Lintner, writing for Yale Global Online on Tuesday, revealed how North Korea has been secretly helping Burma to build a tunnel complex around Naypyitaw, among other strategic locations. Speculated to have begun in 2003, the tunnels, it is believed, are now ready for use.

“North Korean technicians have helped them construct underground facilities where they can survive any threats from their own people as well as the outside world,” according to Lintner, adding, “It is not known if the tunnels are linked to Burma’s reported efforts to develop nuclear technology."

Lintner explains that the export of such know-how to Burma was first documented in June 2006, when intelligence agencies intercepted a message from Naypyitaw confirming the arrival of a group of North Korean tunnelling experts at the site.

As exhibited in other instances, North Korean tunnelling technology is typically of high quality, with tunnels running as deep as 40 meters below the surface and offering amenities such as electricity, ventilation and running water.

It remains unknown how Burma's Generals paid for the North Korean expertise, with Lintner suggesting that payment could even have consisted of food or gold from the country's riverbeds.

But can tunnels keep the Generals safe? Can burrowing underground assuage the internal uncertainty and looming questions inhabiting the minds of Burma's military authorities?

Trapped, victims of a cycle of habitual fear and paranoia incubated from their very own machinations, the existence of the tunnel complexes highlights just how insecure the Tatmadaw's leadership feels. And in time, there will be no place left for the Generals to turn in times of paranoia, to hide from the fears they themselves first created.

READ MORE---> Tunnelling to nowhere out of fear...

Appeal cases of Zargana and Zaw Thet Htwe admitted

by Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The appeal cases of famous comedian and film director Zargana a.k.a. Thura and Sports Journal editor Zaw Thet Htwe has been admitted by the High Court.

Zargana and Zaw Thet Htwe are serving 35 and 11 years in prison respectively. Their lawyers filed the appeal case for the second time and the High Court admitted it on June 3.

“We can submit our argument for admitting our appeal case. The court has accepted it for all the four co-accused. The lawyers filed the appeal and we have hope. Our families will do everything,” Ma Khaing Cho, wife of Zaw Thet Htwe, said.

The co-accused of Zargana and Zaw Thet Htwe are Thant Zin Aung and Gadone a.k.a. Tin Maung Aye.

They were charged under eight cases including section 33(a) of the Electronic Law, section 505(b) of the Penal Code (disaffection towards State and Government) and section 295(a) of the Penal Code. Zaw Thet Htwe was sentenced to 19 years and Zargana was sentenced to 59 years in prison respectively.

However, the Divisional Court commuted the sentences of Zaw Thet Htwe by eight years and Zargana by 24 years. So they have to serve the remaining prison terms of 11 and 35 years.

Zaw Thet Htwe is serving his sentence in Taungyi prison in Shan State. His wife met him on June 7 in a prison interview and said that his health is fine.

But the High Court dismissed a similar appeal case of blogger Nay Phone Latt after allowing the lawyers to argue on June 22.

Nay Phone Latt was sentenced to a total of 20 years in prison after being charged under the Electronic Law. Then the Rangoon Divisional Court commuted his sentence by eight and-a-half years in February. He is serving his prison sentence in Pa-an prison in Karen State.

READ MORE---> Appeal cases of Zargana and Zaw Thet Htwe admitted...

FDB urges UN to address Karen refugee issue

by Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The ‘Forum for Democracy in Burma’ (FDB) in exile has urged the UN Security Council to tackle the Karen refugee issue by taking action on the grounds of crime against humanity.

The FDB made the demand yesterday after the combined forces of the Burmese Army and the DKBA launched a fresh offensive against the ‘Karen National Union’ (KNU) this month and about 4,000 refugees fled to Thailand.

“With innocent civilians feeling the war zone, we call upon the UN to address this problem at the earliest within the framework of ‘crimes against humanity’,” FDB General Secretary Dr. Naing Aung told Mizzima.

The FDB alleged that due to the failure of the junta to perform its duty, hundreds of thousands of refugees are fleeing from their homes. Besides there are the issues of the child soldiers, crime against humanity, including rampant assault and rape of women in Burma.

“The junta commits these crimes by virtue of having arms in their hands. The arms embargo should be imposed on them by the international community. The UN has to take effective measures to curb these crimes committed by the junta,” Dr. Naing Aung said.

In their demand made to the UN, besides the Karen refugee issue, the FDB pointed to other crimes such as rape of ethnic women as a result of irresponsibility by the junta. The statement also said that there were over 100,000 refugees in nine camps along Thai-Burma border and most of them are ethnic Karen.

The FDB Joint-Secretary Soe Aung also said that there were about 2,100 political prisoners languishing in prisons after the junta systematically imprisoned pro-democracy forces. The military junta will perpetuate and establish its stranglehold if national reconciliation is not achieved, he said. KNU is an armed ethnic organization which has waged war for the right to self-determination against successive Burmese governments for about half a century.

FDB comprises of seven pro-democracy organizations of students, youths and women’s organizations. It is a Thai-based organization into pro-democracy movements.

READ MORE---> FDB urges UN to address Karen refugee issue...

Thai-Burma relations under ‘unprecedented strain’

(DVB)–Thailand’s condemnation of the Suu Kyi trial and the arrival of thousands of Burmese refugees has put relations between the two countries under “unprecedented strain”, according to a Burmese state-run newspaper.

Burma has come under mounting international criticism over the trial of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose next hearing has been adjourned until 26 June.

Thailand, who holds the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc, has recently expressed “grave concern” both at the lack of democratic progress in the country and the potential for the trial to tarnish the bloc’s image.

The normally amiable relationship is likely to have been further strained by the continued influx of thousands of Karen refugees in northern Thailand who have fled a Burmese army offensive against the Karen National Union.

Last month Burma reacted angrily to Thailand’s condemnation of the Suu Kyi trial, accusing it of interfering in the country’s internal affairs.

An article yesterday in the government mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar newspaper further fanned the flames by alleging that Thailand both supports and aids insurgent groups in Burma.

“It is global knowledge that [Thailand] provide fertile soils to Myanmar [Burma] absconders, insurgent groups and anti-government political groups,” it said, adding that cessation of conflict in Burma “rests on the cooperation of the neighbouring other country”.

Burmese political analyst Aung Naing Oo stressed that it is the new Thai government’s emphasis on human rights in Burma that underlies the tension.

“[Regarding] the Burmese military, when you talk about principles you’re talking about human rights and human dignity,” he said.

“All these issues…don’t go down well with the Burmese military.”

The article also said that the normally good relations between the two countries were “under strain which has been unprecedented in…history”.

The Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said in March, prior to the Suu Kyi trial, that the Burmese regime “remains a hideous blight” on the Asian map, and last month questioned the credibility of Burma’s self-styled ‘roadmap to democracy’.

Seldom has a Thai head of state used such strong language against the Burmese government although, according to Aung Naing Oo, a war of words between the two countries has always raged.

Reporting by Rosalie Smith and Francis Wade

READ MORE---> Thai-Burma relations under ‘unprecedented strain’...

Buddhist Monk Killed in Southern Thailand

The Irrawaddy News

BANGKOK (AP)— Police have arrested two suspected Muslim insurgents on suspicion of shooting to death a 60-year-old Buddhist monk and wounding another as they collected food from the faithful on Friday in southern Thailand.

The assailants allegedly opened fire with AK-47 assault rifles as the monks made their daily alms rounds through a Buddhist community in Yala, one of three southernmost provinces where more than 3,400 people have been killed in a five-year-old separatist insurgency.

Police Lt Col Niyom Ruenraeng said the attackers likely hoped to incite conflict between Buddhists and Muslims following the killing of 10 people at a mosque in neighboring Narathiwat province on Monday.

In a related incident in Narathiwat, the army detained two young men found in possession of leaflets accusing the government of masterminding the June 8 mosque massacre.

The two were seized on Thursday night as they distributed the leaflets, said Army 2nd Lt Yothi Youngdam.

Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala provinces—the only Muslim-majority provinces in predominantly Buddhist Thailand and the focus of the separatist insurgency—are governed by martial law. The military can hold suspects for up to 30 days without charge under martial law provisions.

Since the mosque attack, rumors have circulated among some villagers that government authorities were behind the shootings and a number of incidents have followed in recent days, including a bomb explosion and arson.

The government has denied involvement in one of the deadliest incidents of the insurgency and has stepped up security across the region.

Five or six men shot automatic rifles into the mosque in Joh-I-Rong district, according to police. Among the dead was the mosque's imam, or prayer leader.

Security forces sometimes blame the insurgents for attacks on Muslim individuals and institutions, claiming they mean to stir up hatred to boost their cause and trigger sectarian strife.

But it is widely believed that some local Buddhists, with the help of rogue security forces, have their own vigilante groups to fight against suspected insurgents.

READ MORE---> Buddhist Monk Killed in Southern Thailand...

The Spirit of Manerplaw

The Irrawaddy News

Fast on the heels of the arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi comes the SPDC's offensive against the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Karen people. Unfortunately, these are calculated acts by the regime against the forces for democracy and ethnic liberation. Quite simply, the regime hates Suu Kyi and the regime hates the KNU. For the Burmese junta, these are the enemies: these forces of reconciliation, these forces for reconciliation.

The KNU is one of the key partners in the future national reconciliation process for Burma because of its long history of determination to heal ethnic divisions, be inclusive and its consistency in pursuing freedom, rights and equality. Sidelining the KNU in the process toward a new Burma will not benefit any community in Burma.

If the regime were truly committed to free and fair elections and to positive change in Burma, it would be consulting with the KNU and would have brought them on board from the very beginning. Instead the regime systematically attacks the Karen villages.

These recent political moves by the Burmese generals—specifically the trial of NLD leader Suu Kyi and the brutal offensive against the KNU and innocent Karen people—reflect their will to exclude anyone who could bring reconciliation and peace to Burma. The generals do not want dialogue partners; they only want to normalize their rule through the military-devised “seven step plan” or “road map.”

The suffering of the Karen people in recent years cannot be easily forgotten; but the Karen leaders have been wise, they have fought the military, not the Burman race.

The chronic nature of the situation in ethnic areas—where people have lost their lives in armed conflict, lost their homes and livelihoods, been used for forced labor and where military men have systematically raped ethnic women—has fueled racial hatred among the general population of ethnic nationalities over the past decades.

The KNU, through numerous political initiatives, has worked toward the elimination of racial hatred and xenophobia. Fifteen years ago, the KNU headquarters at Manerplaw was home to various ethnic nationalities, including the majority Burmans. It was home to urban students of the All Burma Students Democratic Front. It was home to the elected MPs. It was home to Burma's political parties. Manerplaw and Gen Bo Mya were the epicenter of the most recent national reconciliation initiatives of the democratic and ethnic movements.

In my opinion, currently popular ideas about federalism were hatched at the KNU jungle headquarters by Karen elders during this period. The KNU still stands firmly behind the principles of national reconciliation which they set up together with other ethnic and democratic leaders.

The fall of Manerplaw was a great blow, not only to the KNU but to all the ethnic nationalities of Burma. People of all ethnicities expressed their outrage and sadness at the time, but continued to support the ideals that the KNU continues to represent to this day—a united, federal Burma with a place for all ethnic nationalities.

By imprisoning Suu Kyi and other NLD leaders, the regime is trying to decapitate the democratic movement. With its ongoing offensives against the Karen people and the KNU, the regime wishes to paralyze the democratic movement.

The KNU has been and remains the backbone of the democratic movement. When it is attacked it is the responsibility of us all to do everything in our power to protect our Karen brothers and sisters.

As the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown recently noted: “For too long the world has failed to act in the fact of these intolerable injustices.”

We must not wait any longer to act on behalf of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, on behalf of the Karen people and the KNU, and ultimately on behalf of democracy and freedom in Burma.

Aung Moe Zaw is chairman of the Democratic Party for a New Society, a Burmese opposition group based in exile.

READ MORE---> The Spirit of Manerplaw...

Free Suu Kyi Campaign Gains Momentum in the US

The Irrawaddy News

WASHINGTON — As the Burmese regime’s “illegitimate” trial of Aung San Suu Kyi continues, supporters in the US have launched a multi-pronged campaign to build international pressure to free the pro-democracy icon.

On Thursday, Freedom House, a Washington-based nongovernmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights, said India needs to “break its silence over the sham trial in Burma” and urged New Delhi to use its influence over the Burmese military junta to seek Suu Kyi’s release.

“Freedom House is deeply disappointed that the Indian government is turning a blind eye to Burma’s shameful behavior,” Jennifer Windsor, the executive director of Freedom House, said in a statement.

“As the world’s largest democracy and a regional leader, India has an obligation to defend Suu Kyi and at least attempt to influence the actions of Burma’s ruling junta,” she added.

Next week, former political prisoners and human rights activists are coming to New York to submit a global petition for the release of all political prisoners, including Suu Kyi, to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The global signature campaign, “Free Burma’s Political Prisoners Now,” was launched last March and has been signed by more than 670,000 people from 220 countries and territories. The letter calls on the UN secretary general to make it his personal priority to secure the release of all political prisoners in Burma as the essential first step towards democracy in the country.

Meanwhile, New York-based Burma Point this week announced plans to launch a “fax campaign” to demand Suu Kyi’s release. Under this campaign, people from across the globe would be sending thousands of faxes to Burmese diplomatic missions all over the world and to offices of the Burmese military junta inside the country demanding that Suu Kyi and other political prisoners be freed.

In a video message released today, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, also called on Burma’s rulers to free the detained democracy leader and other political prisoner. “Aung San Suu Kyi has been a symbol of freedom for the Burmese people and a guiding light for the human rights struggle worldwide,” Roth said.

Two influential US senators, Mitch McConnell and Dianne Feinstein, have also added their voices to the growing US campaign to push for the release of Suu Kyi, calling on their colleagues in the Senate to quickly approve their legislation, “The Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act,” which renews sanctions against the Burmese junta.

The bill calls for an import ban on Burmese goods entering the US and visa restrictions on officials from the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), Burma’s ruling regime.

“Now is the time for Congress to send another strong message to the SPDC: the United States continues to stand squarely with the long-suffering people of Burma in their quest for democracy and reconciliation,” said McConnell.

Feinstein said that the junta “understands all too well that the vast majority of its citizens embrace Aung Sang Suu Kyi’s call for freedom and democracy and rejects the junta’s record of human rights abuses and oppression. That is why they are trying once again to silence Suu Kyi’s voice with the latest round of trumped up charges against her.”

READ MORE---> Free Suu Kyi Campaign Gains Momentum in the US...

Five Political Prisoners Placed in ‘Dog Cells’

The Irrawaddy News

Five political prisoners have been held in specials punishment cells, known as “dog cells,” and banned from receiving family visits since May 11 in Insein Prison in Rangoon, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) (AAPP), based in Thailand.

The AAPP said the reason for the severe punishment is not known.

Naing Naing, a member of parliament-elect; Soe Han and Aung Naing of the National League for Democracy party; Lwin Ko Latt, a member of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions; and Sandimar, a senior abbot were named as recipients of the harsh punishment.

The AAPP said that Naing Naing suffers from a hernia and hypertension, and Soe Han, a lawyer, has eye problems. Their families have been banned from visiting and have been unable to provide them with essential medicines. The families are very worried for the health of their loved ones.

Naing Naing, 67, also known as Saw Naing Naing, from Pazuntong Township was arrested on September 14, 2000 and charged with threatening national security and violating publishing restrictions. He was sentenced to 21 years imprisonment.

Soe Han, arrested on September 14, 2000 and charged with the same offences was sentenced to 21 years imprisonment.

Due to inadequate healthcare provisions in prisons across the country, political prisoners depend on family members to bring medicines and other essential items.

The ruling military government has not allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross to conduct prison visits since November 2005.

READ MORE---> Five Political Prisoners Placed in ‘Dog Cells’...

Junta holds biggest auction of confiscated cars in Myitkyina

Written by KNG

The Burmese military junta is holding the biggest ever auction of confiscated luxury cars in Myitkyina, the capital of Burma's northern Kachin State since June 10, said local sources.

Over 400 Japanese luxury cars are being exhibited in two places--- the State Football Stadium and inside the precincts of the Burmese Army's Infantry Battalion (IB or Kha La Ya) No. 37 in Myitkyina, said local visitors.

A visitor told KNG, he saw Mitsubishi Pajero, Toyota Surf, Toyota Van, Toyota Four wheel, Toyota Hilux Pickups and Landcruiser cars in the two exhibition sites. The auction-prices are at least 30 million Kyat (US $29,411) to 80 million Kyat (US $78,431).

The auction is the largest ever in Kachin State and hundreds of businessmen and wealthy people, mainly from Mandalay and Rangoon are attending the auction, according to locals.

Residents of Myitkyina said, the auction is designed mainly for the wealthy and the business class around the country. All visitors have to buy entry tickets worth 5,000 Kyat (US $5).

According to residents of Myitkyina, the original owners of the cars at the two auction sites were residents of Myitkyina and officers of the two Kachin ceasefire groups--- Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and New Democratic Army-Kachin (NDA-K).

The cars were confiscated as military property for operating without license by Burmese Army authorities of Myitkyina. The confiscated cars have been kept in the compound of IB No. 37 since 2000, said residents in Myitkyina.

Sources close to IB No. 37 said the military base sends some confiscated cars annually from Myitkyina to military officers in Naypyitaw, the capital of the country.

In Kachin State and countrywide, many civilians use unlicensed cars because the cost of the license is more than the car prices and the junta has restricted issuing licenses to the vehicles, said local car owners.

According to traders and businessmen in Myitkyina, the military authorities are selling confiscated cars through auctions for much needed funds for Naypyitaw, the capital of the ruling junta.

READ MORE---> Junta holds biggest auction of confiscated cars in Myitkyina...

Kachin students spray paint demand for Suu Kyi’s release

Written by KNG

Kachin university students have reiterated their demand that the Burmese junta frees democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi unconditionally. In another daring move they spray-painted their demand in Kachin State's capital Myitkyina, said student leaders.

The sprayed message in red and in big letters were painted in two places--- on the brick-walls in front of Myitkyina University and on the State High School in Manhkring quarter, said a student leader Francis who organized the movement.

The students sprayed their demand on the walls in Burmese. It read "Free Daw Aung San Suu Kyi immediately!" The letters were sprayed in red paint so that it could be seen easily by people and would be hard to erase, Francis told KNG this afternoon over telephone.

The movement is for the release of Mrs. Suu Kyi and it is being organized by the All Kachin Students' Union (AKSU), an underground student organization based in Kachin State, said Francis.

The AKSU held a special Christian traditional prayer service with 25 participants including students, pastors and local people in a room in Myitkyina on Wednesday (June 10) between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. Burma Standard Time, said Ms. Seng Mai, a student organizer.

The prayer service took an hour. They prayed for the release of Mrs. Suu Kyi from illegal detention, receiving a fair decision on her trial as well as freedom and peace on her 64th birthday on June 19, she added.

From Wednesday, special prayer services for the release of Ms. Suu Kyi were also held in other major towns in Kachin State--- Sumprabum, Waingmaw, Masi (Manje in Kachin) and Bhamo (Manmaw in Kachin), said Ms. Seng Mai.

She told KNG, more prayer services will be organized in different towns in Kachin Sate for the release of the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Ms. Seng Mai urged the junta to release Mrs. Suu Kyi because her detention is illegal and an injustice. She also urged all Kachin people to pray for the release of Mrs. Suu Kyi.

The AKSU had earlier demanded her immediate release by pasting 50 posters on A-4 size papers in the major quarters in Myitkyina on May 20.

Meanwhile, the Burmese junta is pressurizing the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the rest of the ethnic ceasefire groups in the country to transform their armed-wing to "Border Guard Forces".

READ MORE---> Kachin students spray paint demand for Suu Kyi’s release...

EU “concern” over mounting military offensive in eastern Burma

by Mungpi
Thursday, 11 June 2009 11:59

New Delhi (Mizzima) - European Union on Thursday expressed “serious concern” over the mounting military offensive by the Burmese army and its allies against the Karen National Liberation Army, which results in large number of civilians in eastern Burma fleeing to neighboring Thailand.

The Presidency Declaration, issued on behalf of the EU on Thursday, calls on the Burmese army to ceasefire and request military operators to ensure the safety of civilians and to comply with international humanitarian and human rights law.

“The EU is strongly concerned about the humanitarian situation of the thousands of newly displaced persons in Thailand,” said the declaration, affirming that the EU is ready to “provide more assistance where possible.”

The declaration came following reports that a fresh offensive have been launched by the Burmese Army and its allies, Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), a Karen splinter group, against the Karen National Liberation Army, an armed wing of the Karen National Union, Burma’s longest running armed resistant group.

Sources at the Thai-Burmese border said, at least 3,500 Karen villagers have fled their homes in eastern Burma to Thailand, due the fresh military offensive launched against the KNLA by the Burmese Army since last week.

The KNU said, the fresh offensive were part of the Burmese junta’s effort to eliminate the KNU, which is one of the largest armed groups that has no ceasefire agreement with the junta.

David Takarpaw, vice-chairman of the KNU, earlier told Mizzima that the Junta is using their brother Karen in the DKBA, an armed group that broke away from the KNU, to fight against them.

While acknowledging the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Burma, the EU declaration said, “Generally, the authorities should refrain from seeking military solutions against the ethnic minorities; this only fosters instability, long-term divisions and hatred.”

The EU instead, calls on the Junta to create necessary conditions that will allow the return of all refugees and to kick-start an “inclusive and time-bound process of political dialogue leading to national reconciliation.”

READ MORE---> EU “concern” over mounting military offensive in eastern Burma...

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