Monday, June 15, 2009

Four prison officials sacked for leaking information

Buthidaung (Narinjara): Four prison officials of Buthidaung prison including a prison warden and the jailer were relieved of their responsibilities following the leaking out of information and documents from inside the prison, said a close associate of prison authorities.

“U Tin Tun, warden of the prison, U Win Maung, jailer and prison doctor Htay Win and another official were dismissed from their jobs by the higher authorities on 30 May 2009,” he said.

A lot of information and photographs were leaked out from the Buthidaung prison, 80 miles north of Sittwe, recently. Higher authorities punished them by dismissing them from their posts.

“In the last few months, some photographs and information regarding the situation inside the prison were published by the media in exile. The authorities were angry when they saw them. Later they fired four officials from the prison,” he said.

In Buthidaung prison, notorious in western Burma, there are 25 political prisoners, including 88 generation student leader Ko Htay Kywe, a prominent monk U Ei Thariya, Ko Moe Nay Soe, Ko Maung Maung Chit, Ko Chit Ko Ko, Ko Than Htay and Ma Ni Ni May Myint.

“I heard some photographs and information were leaked outside through political prisoners after prison officials were bribed. Some foreign based Burmese radio services aired the situation inside the prison. After this some political prisoners were sent to solitary confinement for leaking of information outside,” he said.

The prison authorities then imposed many restrictions on the prison and most visitors have been prohibited to visit their relatives in prison since the incident.

A monk from Buthidaung said, “I went to the prison last week to give some parcels to my friend and monk in the prison but the prison authorities refused to give my parcels to my friend. They told me that monks did not have the right to give such parcels to prisoners.”

A relative of a political prisoner in Sittwe also faced a similar problem when he went to the prison to see the prisoner.

"I went to prison to see my friend and took some money and goods but the prison authorities refused to let me see him. I had to hand over the money and goods to a prison official for passing it on to my friend."

Buthidaung prison is located in a remote area of Burma and the ICRC and other human right organizations have no chance of visiting the prison to find out the state of political prisoners.

Many political prisoners are now facing myriad problems in the prison and most political prisoners are suffering from lack of medical treatment and adequate food.

READ MORE---> Four prison officials sacked for leaking information...

Most ceasefire armies say “No” to junta’s border force proposal

By Hseng Khio Fah

(Shan Herald) -8 out of the 17 official ceasefire armies across Burma have reported to have practically replied No on the junta’s proposal that all ceasefire groups must transform themselves into border guard forces, according to sources from exile news agencies.

Until 2005, there were 17 armed groups that had concluded ceasefire agreements with Rangoon: Nine in Shan State, two in Kachin State, four in Kayah (Karenni) State, one in Mon State and another one in Karen State. But four of them: Palaung State Liberation Army (PSLA) and Shan State National Army (SSNA) and Shan State Nationalities People Liberation Organization (SNPLO), while the ceasefire with Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) was terminated after 3 months, when the Burma Army pushed into the KNPP’s territory.

UWSA soldiers

Out of the remaining13 groups, 5 are likely to say “Yes” to the junta’s demand to transform themselves into 326 strong units, commanded by their own officers but supervised by 30 junta officers, when other 8 groups have officially said No or effectively No.

According to a Pa-O youth, Khun Hao Myat, that the Pa-O National Organization (PNO) is most likely to answer “Yes” due to the following reasons:

• Being isolated and surrounded by Burma Army units
• Having made huge investment in businesses
• Having close relationship with the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC)

Similar to the PNO, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) is highly likely to say “Yes”, said Nan Paw Gay, Editor of Karen Information Committee (KIC):

• Having supported the “Nargis constitution” last year
• Active cooperation with the Burma Army against the Karen National Union (KNU)

Another two groups Kayan National Guard (KNG) and Karenni Nationalities People Liberation Front (KNPLF) are also reported to have accepted, according to Kantarrawaddy Time (KT).

As for the Kayan New Land Party (KNLP), it was reported to have told the junta authorities, “We would like to remain a ceasefire group.”

Even so, groups leaning toward the SPDC would have to consider losing several members to the opposition groups, according to sources.

For more details, please read below:
Stand on Border Guard Force

READ MORE---> Most ceasefire armies say “No” to junta’s border force proposal...

Parents of students fleeced in Northern Burma

Written by KNG

Students in Burma's northern city of Myitkyina have been threatened that they will be thrown out of their schools if they do not pay for a specific fund, said students.

Within two weeks of schools reopening, students were set a deadline for eviction by the last two weeks of this month by their teachers if they did not pay 25,000 Kyat (US $25) or 30,000 Kyat (US $29) each, said high school students in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State.

Students in No. 5 State High School in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, northern Burma.
High school students in No. 1 State High School in Myitkyina said, teachers did not mention why they are collecting funds but all students have been asked to pay the amount demanded by the schools.

The Burmese junta's school fund without a head has affected students of all government schools in Myitkyina from the primary to the high school level. The money is now being forcibly collected by teachers in No. 1 and No. 5 High Schools as well as in Shatapru High School in the town, according to students of these schools.

The method of payment by students' parents has been issued to the wards by the school teachers, students said.

Both students and their parents are taken aback by the demand for the extra money because schools forcibly collect exact amounts from all students under the head of "Fund" without citing why the money is being collected, added students and their parents in Myitkyina.

While registering in the last week of May, regular students paid less than 100 Kyat as parents' fees. Students who got transfers from different schools paid 15,000 Kyat (US $15) to 30,000 Kyat, said students and school teachers in Myitkyina.

According to students' parents and school teachers in Myitkyina, the schools have to collect essential funds from parents each academic year because they get no fund from the junta's Education Ministry.

Though the junta’s Education Ministry claims to impart free education in the country for several years now, all government schools from primary to the high school level in Kachin State have been instructed to collect funds from students' parents, said school sources.

Meanwhile, there is mounting corruption among teachers in the schools in Myitkyina because they cannot survive on their monthly salaries, said students.

New students, especially, have to pay some amount in bribe to teachers and school headmasters in schools in Myitkyina downtown in order to get admission, alleged students' parents.

Some new students were asked for fans or other stationary materials for classrooms by the schools when they registered for the first time, said students.

READ MORE---> Parents of students fleeced in Northern Burma...

Political prisoners put in solitary confinement

(DVB)–Five political prisoners in Burma’s Insein prison have been put in solitary confinement after prison authorities suspected them of planning to demonstrate against the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Three of the detainees are reportedly in bad health. Nine Nine, a 1990 elected people’s parliamentary representative who is serving 21 years, has been suffering from stomach problems for nearly 15 years, according to his wife.

“I was informed my husband and four other inmates were kept in solitary confinement after someone tipped the prison officials about them planning a protest in the prison,” said Tin Tin Hla.

“Apparently that information was wrong.” She added that prison authorities had banned her from visiting Nine Nine, thereby denying him the medicine she brought for his illness.

The four other detainees were identified as National League for Democracy (NLD) lawyer Soe Han, NLD member Aung Naing, All-Burmese Federation of Student Unions member Lwin Ko Latt and monk U Santimar.

Meanwhile, the leader of the All-Burma Monks Alliance (ABMA), U Gambira, has been transferred from Hkamti prison to Kale prison in Sagaing division, reportedly to receive medical care following an illness.

“In Hkamti Prison, he was having severe headaches at night so, he was moaning and screaming,” said a relative of U Gambira, Ma Khin Mu Htay.

“Because of that, they stuffed clothes into his mouth. I also heard that his legs were shackled and kept apart by a wooden bar and his hands were handcuffed behind his back.”

She added that when his mother visited him in Hkamti, he was so weak he struggled to speak.

The ABMA leader was active during the September 2007 protests, following which he was jailed for 69 years. He had been previously been transferred from Rangoon’s Insein Prison to Mandalay, then to Hkamti.

U Gambira's kin have also been jailed and transferred to Sittwe, Kyaukpyu, Mergui, Moulmein, Taunggyi, and Loikaw Prisons, far from their families.

Reporting by Nan Kham Kaew

READ MORE---> Political prisoners put in solitary confinement...

Burmese junta cracks down on Suu Kyi’s party

(DVB)–Three members of the National League for Democracy were arrested last week on unspecified charges while another elderly member had his property vandalised by men armed with slingshots.

Members of the NLD, whose leader Aung San Suu Kyi is currently on trial for alleged breach of house arrest conditions, suffer frequent harassment and intimidation from Burmese authorities.

The two cases, both of which occurred last Friday, coincided with a police raid on the house of Thi Han, an NLD youth member involved in a photo campaign to raise public awareness of the Suu Kyi trial.

“Some government officials showed up, claiming they need to check for [unregistered] guests at his house on evening of June 12,” said fellow NLD member Win Naing.

“They said they had some information about his house and searched thoroughly before leaving without finding anything.”

Meanwhile, a teashop owned by the financial director of the NLD in Mandalay division was damaged when unknown men fired slingshot pellets.

“They came in the deep of night on June 12…and broke some florescence light sticks in the teashop,” said 60-year-old Ko Ko Gyi, who was also involved in the photo campaign.

“We found out that the pellets they used were made hard by baking them in the fire – this shows that the attack was well-prepared.”

He added that he had filed a complaint with local authorities but would not be notifying police.

“I’m not going to bother opening a case with the police as we all know who is backing the attackers,” he said.

Two prominent NLD members called to testify in Suu Kyi’s defence were disqualified by the court last month for reasons unknown.

According to the Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP), around 450 NLD members are currently serving jail sentences in Burma.

Reports emerged last week that five political prisoners, including an NLD member, were transferred to solitary confinement after prison authorities got wind that they were planning a protest against Suu Kyi’s trial.

Reporting by Yee May Aung

READ MORE---> Burmese junta cracks down on Suu Kyi’s party...

Korea rejects Burma gas project complaint

(DVB)–Conflicts of interest within the Korean government have led to it rejecting allegations of human rights abuses connected to Korean-backed natural gas projects in Burma, according to a report released today.

Still in construction, the Shwe Gas project, which will pump Burma’s vast natural gas supplies to China, has been linked with cases of forced relocation of civilians and land confiscation.

Korean corporation Daewoo International part operates the project, and in 2001 formed an international consortium which includes the state-run Korean Gas Corporation (KOGAS) to develop the Bay of Bengal gas field.

Advocacy group EarthRights International (ERI) and campaign group Shwe Gas Movement (SGM), supported by Korea’s two largest labour unions, last year filed a complaint to the Korean government regarding the pipeline.

The complaint alleged that Daewoo and KOGAS “failed to practice due diligence to prevent negative human rights and environmental impacts of the Shwe Project”, and that the project failed to respect international humanitarian law.

Furthermore it alleged that the companies violated guidelines for multinational organisations set out by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which advises governments on business and economic development.

A report released today by ERI and SGM cited “inherent conflicts of interest within the Korean government” that pushed it to reject the complaint.

“The ministry tasked with receiving OECD complaints is the same ministry tasked with promoting overseas energy development projects and the same ministry that provided Daewoo a sizeable loan to proceed with the controversial Shwe Project,” the report said.

“The Korean government sided completely and uncritically with Daewoo International and KOGAS on every aspect of the complaint.”

Matthew Smith, Burma Project coordinator at ERI, said that despite the conflict of interest, ERI were still surprised at the rejection of the complaint.

“There are certain elements of the Korean government that do have an interest evidently in promoting business over concern for human rights abuses and other elements of the OECD guidelines, [such as] sustainable development and environmental protection,” he said.

An official from the Korean government’s oil and gas ministry said that he was aware of Burma’s human rights problems, but that he personally thought Korea approached countries with only “a business mind” regarding foreign investment, adding that it “costs a lot of money” to investigate human rights abuses abroad.

ERI called for the Burmese government to include affected people living in the vicinity of the pipeline in the decision-making process, and called on the OECD to fill the gap created by the Korean government’s inaction.

Reporting by Francis Wade

READ MORE---> Korea rejects Burma gas project complaint...

Burma blasts ‘politically motivated’ EU statement on Karen

(DVB)–Burma’s ruling junta has criticized a European Union statement calling for its army to respect international law regarding its Karen offensive as “ignorant” and “politically motivated”.

Around 4,000 civilians from Burma’s eastern Karen state have fled into Thailand in recent weeks to escape a mounting offensive by the Burmese army against the Karen National Union (KNU).

Last week the EU called for an immediate truce between the two groups and expressed “serious concern” about the situation for the Karen now holed up in various sites along the Thai-Burma border.

A statement in the government mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar newspaper however called the statement “ignorant”, arguing that only KNU personnel were located near the conflict site and thus it was only they who had fled across the border.

The statement, it said, was “politically motivated” and “factually incorrect” and served the purpose of “exerting added political pressure on [Burma]”.

The KNU welcomed the statement and reiterated its call to the Burmese government to find a solution to the world’s longest running conflict through dialogue and not “use of arms”.

Meanwhile, the Karen Information Committee (KIC) said that among the 4000 or so Karen refugees in Thailand were newborn babies surviving on basic foods such as rice donated by NGOs. Thai village authorities were also providing medical assistance.

Last week three artillery shells fired by the Burmese army in its offensive reportedly landed on Thai soil, although no injuries occurred.

“The Thai government has not said anything regarding on the Burmese shells landing onto their soil,” said Nan Phaw Kay, editor of KIC.

“So far there have been about 10 shells landed since the start of this month.”

Reporting by Thurein Soe and Francis Wade

READ MORE---> Burma blasts ‘politically motivated’ EU statement on Karen...

Former Political Prisoners Join ‘Free Suu Kyi’ Campaign


More than 100 former political prisoners around the world have added their names to a statement calling for the release of Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and for the UN Security Council to establish a global arms embargo on the military-ruled country.

The former political prisoners come from over 20 countries across Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe. They have all signed a campaign called "64 words for Aung San Suu Kyi"—launched May 27 and which asks Suu Kyi's supporters to tweet, write text messages or send video and photos to its Web site,—to mark her 64th birthday on June 19.

Organizers of the campaign include Human Rights Watch, the US Campaign for Burma, Burma Info Japan, the Open Society Institute, France's Info Birmanie and Amnesty International.

The 64-word message from the former political prisoners says: "The continued denial of your freedom unacceptably attacks the human rights of all 2,156 political prisoners in Myanmar. As those also incarcerated for our political beliefs, we share the world's outrage. We call on the United Nations Security Council to press the Myanmar Government to immediately release all political prisoners, and to restrict the weapons that strengthen its hand through a global arms embargo."

Several of the signatories are themselves under house arrest in China, including Yuan Weijing and Zeng Jinyan.

Others who have added their names include:

Anwar Ibrahim, former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia;
Ingrid Betancourt, former senator and Nobel Peace Prize nominee kidnapped by the Colombian FARDC;
Kim Dae-jung, former president of South Korea and Nobel Peace Prize laureate;
Lech Walesa, former president of Poland and Nobel Peace Prize laureate;
the Nelson Mandela Foundation; Shirin Ebadi, lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize laureate;
Shao Jiang, a survivor of the Tiananmen Square massacre;
Terry Waite, the British humanitarian and author;
Vaclav Havel, writer and former President of the Czech Republic; and
Yuri Feodorovich Orlov, nuclear physicist and former Soviet dissident.

"Aung San Suu Kyi's continued detention shames Asia," wrote Kim Dae-jung, while Anwar Ibrahim urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to lift its policy of nonintervention in Burma.

READ MORE---> Former Political Prisoners Join ‘Free Suu Kyi’ Campaign...

Junta Dismisses EU Concerns over Karen Refugees

The Irrawaddy News

RANGOON (AP) — Burma dismissed European Union concerns about military operations against Karen rebels as political meddling Sunday, even after thousands of ethnic minorities fled the country to escape the fierce fighting.

A counterinsurgency offensive in eastern Burma has forced more than 4,000 ethnic Karen to abandon their villages and cross into Thailand this month, according to the Thailand Burma Border Consortium, the key aid provider to border refugees.

The EU last week expressed "serious concern" over the mounting offensive in the military-ruled nation and the exodus of refugees, and called for an immediate truce.

A Foreign Ministry statement carried in state-run newspapers Sunday said the EU's criticism was "unwarranted," ''politically motivated" and based on "inaccurate information originating from the insurgent groups and biased media reports."

The ministry characterized the ongoing fighting as "scuffles" that it blamed on Thailand-based Karen rebels trying to prevent one Karen faction from laying down its arms and joining the government side.

The Karen National Union has been fighting for more than 60 years for greater autonomy from Burma's central government. It is the country's largest ethnic rebel group and the only major one that has yet to sign a cease-fire with the junta.

The Karen refugees have taken shelter at several points about 62 miles (100 kilometers) north of Mae Sot, a Thai border town that lies about 240 miles (380 kilometers) northwest of the capital, Bangkok.

Aid agencies have been providing the refugees with emergency food, shelter and other basics.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees office said Friday that many of the refugees were Karen villagers who fled in fear of conscription or forced labor as porters for the Burma army.

Some 100,000 mostly ethnic Karen refugees already shelter in camps in Thailand after fleeing counterinsurgency operations, while aid agencies say nearly half a million others are internally displaced inside eastern Burma.

READ MORE---> Junta Dismisses EU Concerns over Karen Refugees...

Junta seeks regional support: Win Tin

by Mungpi

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Veteran journalist Win Tin said on Monday Burma’s military rulers are going the whole hog to garner diplomatic support from regional countries in the face of growing international condemnation over the trial of Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Win Tin, who is also a central executive committee member of the Aung San Suu Kyi led National League for Democracy said, the visit of Sri Lankan President Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa and Singapore’s Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong are all part of the junta’s effort to cosy up to regional countries.

“Clearly, the junta is in a tight spot as the international community has reacted more sharply than it had anticipated. And since it might be difficult for the regime to try and influence the West, they at least want the support of regional countries,” Win Tin added.

On Sunday, the junta’s mouthpiece newspaper reported the visit of Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa to Burma. Rajapaksa was received in Naypyitaw by the Burmese Army Chief Snr. Gen Than Shwe -- a rare gesture by the junta supremo.

Similarly, Singapore’s former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong on a four-day visit to Burma last week had meetings with Than Shwe and other junta brass.

Win Tin said, such visits are indications that the junta is seeking support from regional countries. He said the junta had not anticipated that there would be such a loud outcry from the international community by putting on trial Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

“It [junta] seems to have miscalculated on the strong support for Aung San Suu Kyi by the international community,” Win Tin said.

The junta wants to gauge China’s reaction over the mounting pressure and is likely to go ahead and sentence the Burmese Nobel Peace Laureate, if China gives the green signal, he said.

According to Win Tin, the junta is determined to sentence Aung San Suu Kyi to a prison term and put her away before their proposed 2010 general elections. But it had not anticipated such an outburst from the international community.

Sources said Thura Shwe Mann, the third leader in the Burmese military hierarchy, last week visited China without making any official announcement. On Monday, the Chinese News Agency Xinhua reported that Vice-Senior General Maung Aye, number two in the military hierarchy, is visiting China. (JEG's: Good sign... tight cuddles here..)

Observers believe these visits are aimed at explaining and trying to convince China about the junta’s stand regarding the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi and the regime’s plans ahead.

Win Tin said, “Whatever the circumstances, the junta is likely go ahead with its plan if China approves.”

READ MORE---> Junta seeks regional support: Win Tin...

China Must Get Tough on Burma Too

The Irrawaddy News

The Burmese junta's No 2, Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye, recently began an official six-day visit to China. This comes as international and regional pressure mounts on Burma to reconsider its ongoing trial against pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

It also comes just after several ethnic ceasefire groups based near the Chinese border reportedly rejected a regime proposal to be reassigned as border guards.

For Maung Aye, the deputy commander-in-chief of the Burmese defense services and commander-in-chief of the Burmese army, this is his third visit to China in six years. The official Chinese news agency, Xinhua, noted that Maung Aye’s meeting with Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping is one of an "exchange of visits."

Whenever it is facing a crisis, the Burmese junta likes schedule one of these official visits to approach its big brother for advice.

The Burmese army is in turmoil—despite last year entrenching itself in Burmese politics after pushing through a constitution that gives it a guaranteed 25 percent of seats in parliament.

Suddenly, the Burmese army’s authority is being challenged by the ethnic ceasefire groups it has long taken pains to subdue, especially the powerful United Wa State Army, the Kokang group known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Kachin Independence Organization, all of which have reportedly rejected the junta’s bid to transform them into border guard forces under Burmese army command.

Behind the pleasantries of his meeting in China, what Maung Aye will be trying to weed out is whether China will take a back seat if the junta launches a military operation against the ceasefire groups.

There is no doubt that China would like to see the Burmese regime and the ceasefire groups negotiate the sensitive issue peacefully and maintain regional "stability," so that China can continue to capitalize on Burma’s natural resources and a border trade which reached US $2.6 billion in 2008.

Apart from the pressing border issue, knowing that Naypyidaw is losing its diplomatic joust with the international community over Suu Kyi’s ridiculous conviction, the Burmese generals are anxious that their traditional ally stands by their side.

Maung Aye is expected to plead for the continued use of the Chinese veto to block any future resolution unfavorable to the Naypyidaw regime.

Concerning the issue of Suu Kyi, China has so far only said that the trial is an internal affair.

At the European Union and China summit in Prague in May, China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao initially asked the EU to "ensure that our bilateral relationship will not be adversely affected by individual incidents."

However, soon after, Chinese foreign ministry officials voiced rare criticism of the Burmese junta’s treatment of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate at an Asia-Europe Meeting in Hanoi with Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win.

There is no doubt the Chinese government has been quietly expanding its international influence in the 21st century. It already commands a superpower’s status throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America in the energy and extractive industries.

China has added to its leadership role in the region by initiating a $10 billion investment cooperation fund and an offer of $15 billion in credit to its Southeast Asian neighbors.

China knows that in the political world, international recognition comes at a price. It must exercise its power carefully and, in countries such as North Korea and Burma where Western countries have little leverage, it must show responsibility.

Of course, Burma is China's closest ally in Southeast Asia and has been a major recipient of Chinese military hardware and a potential springboard for projecting Chinese military power in the region since 1988.

Like the recent public pressure on North Korea for its foolhardy demonstration of nuclear missiles, China must also show a firm hand when dealing with the Burmese regime.

China must send a strong message to Naypyidaw to release political prisoners immediately, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and to start a meaningful dialogue with the opposition, including ethnic groups.

Above all, the junta must be told that the time has come for it to allow its people an opportunity to participate in the development of genuine "national reconciliation."

To this end, China holds the key.

READ MORE---> China Must Get Tough on Burma Too...

Burma-Sri Lanka Connection: Religion and Terrorism

The Irrawaddy News

Sri Lankan President Mahindra Rajapakse paid an official visit to Burma on Sunday to cement ties between the two countries.

Burma was the first country to be visited by President Mahindra Rajapakse after his government defeated the Tamil Tigers guerrilla forces in May.

Inside sources in Burma said that Burmese military leaders who recently launched a military offensive against Karen rebels in eastern Burma were impressed by Mahindra Rajapakse’s military strategy used against the Tamil tigers.

Deputy Minister for Defense Maj-Gen Aye Myint said at the 8th Shangri-La Dialogue Meeting in Singapore in May: “The world has recently witnessed the successful end of a long-standing insurgency in Sri Lanka. But, people have forgotten about insurgency in Myanmar [Burma]. Why? Because there is no more major fighting erupted in Myanmar in recent days. But it does not mean Myanmar has completely brought to an end of its internal insurgency. We have realized that hard power alone is not fully effective in winning the counter-insurgency campaigns. Therefore, we are painstakingly, patiently and time-consumingly [sic] solving the problems of insurgency.”

The Burmese regime donated US $50,000 to the Sri Lanka government to assist internally displaced persons in the Northern area of Sri Lanka.

Snr-Gen Than Shwe warmly welcomed President Mahinda Rajapaksa and expressed appreciation for his visit to Burma as Prime Minister of Sri Lanka in 2004 to participate at the World Buddhist Conference in Rangoon.

The visit also commemorated the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations established between the two countries.

The state-run newspapers in Burma stressed the Theravada Buddhism that the two countries share.

But aside from religion, the two governments agreed to enhance their military cooperation.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Rohitha Bogollagama who accompanied the president said that the decision of President Rajapaksa to choose Burma as the country for his first overseas tour after successfully defeating terrorism is of significant event for both nations.

Minister Bogollagama noted that Snr-Gen Than Shwe had commended that the “bold steps” taken by the government to fight terrorists organizations. The regime in Burma often labels ethnic rebel groups in Burma as terrorists.

According to the official government news portal of Sri Lanka, President Rajapaksa also agreed to offer placements for two officials of the Burmese armed forces to be trained at the Kothalawala Defense Academy as a follow-up to a MoU signed on Intelligence Exchange Cooperation in 2007 to strengthen cooperation in combating terrorism and intelligence sharing.

Dr Tint Swe, a self-appointed minister for information of the exiled Burmese government, the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, told The Irrawaddy that the regime in Burma is deceitful to use the religion card in light of its brutal crackdown on monks in September 2007.

Ashin Issariya, a leader of the All Burma Monks Alliance (ABMA) in exile, said: “Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country and exercised Theravada principles. The government (in Sri Lanka) allowed Burmese monks to demonstrate in the country in 2007 (to protest against brutal crackdown in Burma). But they did not condemn the Burmese military junta.”

Minister Bogollagama said that Burma and Sri Lanka maintained a close and cordial relationship as both nations are influenced by Theravada Buddhism.

“Both countries are linked through political, religious and cultural heritages that have an extended history of over 20 centuries,” he said.

Minister Bogollagama said that President Rajapaksa expressed a willingness to offer scholarships to Buddhist monks from Burma to pursue higher studies in Sri Lankan Universities.

But to political analysts in Burma, see the visit by the Sri Lanka president as not about religion, but rather that the generals are increasingly finding it difficult to contain insurgent groups in the country’s northern frontier and are willing to learn some fresh lesson from President Mahindra Rajapakse on how to defeat the enemy.

READ MORE---> Burma-Sri Lanka Connection: Religion and Terrorism...

South Korea Named in Complaint over Burma Gas Project

The Irrawaddy News

South Korea is being reported to the Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development (OCED) for failing to properly investigate human rights allegations against Daewoo International and Korea Gas over the massive Burmese Shwe gas field development.

The two companies will be named in a report being presented to the OECD in Paris on Tuesday by two organizations that monitor human rights in Burma.

The South Korean government has failed to follow OECD guidelines for dealing with complaints, alleged EarthRights International and the Shwe Gas Movement.

They accuse the government of failing to properly investigate complaints under OECD procedure made by the two NGOs last year.

That complaint filed in the South Korean capital, Seoul, said, “human rights abuses have been perpetrated against local people opposing Daewoo’s Shwe Gas Project.”

It added that Daewoo’s links with a plan to construct a trans-Burma gas pipeline to China “poses an unreasonably high risk of more serious and widespread human rights and environmental impacts.”

Daewoo and Korean state-owned Korea Gas are among several foreign partners in a joint venture to develop the Shwe gas field off the coast of Arakan, which has proven recoverable reserves of at least 6 trillion cubic feet of gas.

Most of the gas has been sold China in a controversial deal that angered a number of other potential purchasers, from India to Japan.

In their complaint to the South Korean government last October, the two NGOs alleged that Daewoo and Korea Gas were in breach of six OECD guidelines by: “failing to respect human rights, contributing to forced labor, failing to promote sustainable development, failing to disclose information about the project, failing to consult with local populations and by failing to conduct an environmental impact assessment according to international standards.”

The South Korean government rejected the complaints, saying there was no case to answer.

However, in their new report published today and to be given directly to the OECD—of which South Korea is a member—the two NGOs said, “the ministry [Korean Ministry of Knowledge Economy] tasked with receiving OECD complaints is the same ministry tasked with promoting overseas energy development projects and the same ministry that provided Daewoo a sizable loan to proceed with the Shwe project.”

The new report is being presented to the annual meeting of an OECD committee that monitors members’ compliance with corporate governance standards and national-level methods of checking complaints.

EarthRights International spokesman Matthew Smith said Monday, “the on-going abuses, and risk of future abuses, associated with this project are of the type that should lead to a serious investigation.”

The two NGOs say the Shwe gas field’s onshore developments have also resulted in forced relocations of people.

“The Shwe Project should stop until the people of Arakan State and Burma can genuinely participate in development decisions and realize their human rights,” said Wong Aung, a native of Arakan State and coordinator of the Shwe Gas Movement. “The Korean government conveniently dismissed our complaint and now the OECD must fill the gap.”

Initial work on the 1,000-kilometre pipeline from the Arakan coast to China’s Yunnan province capital of Kunming is likely to begin this year.

Another field development partner, India’s state owned Oil & Natural Gas Corporation, announced last week that the gas would start flowing in 2012.

READ MORE---> South Korea Named in Complaint over Burma Gas Project...

Maung Aye Starts China Visit

The Irrawaddy News

The Burmese junta’s No 2 ranking general made his third trip to China on Monday while Naypyidaw faces sustained international pressure over the trial of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

But what is China’s real position on Burma?

Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye left for Beijing from the airport in the remote capital of Naypyidaw for a six-day official visit to neighboring China, according to the Chinese media.

“Aimed at promoting neighborly, friendly and cooperative ties with China, Maung Aye who is vice-chairman of the Myanmar State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), is paying his third visit to China in six years,” China’s state-run Xinhua reported on Monday.

Maung Aye visits China at the invitation of Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping.

As Napyidaw’s closest ally in military, economic and diplomatic ties, Burmese ruling generals often go to China to import more military equipments, for trade as well as to talk about the Burmese political situation.

Burma observers say Chinese officials will discuss their concerns on Burma’s ongoing political situation. The currently hot issue, Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention and trial is expected to be included.

On Suu Kyi’s trial, Beijing has repeated its position that the issue is an internal affair.

“Burma's issue [here] should be decided by the Burmese people,” said a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman at a regular news briefing in May.

However, the spokesman added that China hopes “the relevant parties in Burma could realize reconciliation, stability and development through dialogue.”

For years, stability in Burma was the center of Beijing’s Burma policy. But after the mass demonstrations, led by monks, in September 2007, Burma’s stability under military rule has been an issue for policy makers in Beijing.

Although China did not condemned Burma over the junta’s crackdown on the mass protests, it spoke of its concern.

“We hope all parties can exercise restraint and properly handle the situation there to ensure the situation does not escalate,” said a foreign ministry spokeswoman in late September 2007.

After crackdowns on the September demonstrators, the junta’s head, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, sent foreign minister Nyan Win to Beijing as his special envoy to brief the Chinese on the situation.

Though China voted the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)’s binding resolution against the Burmese regime in 2007, it agreed to a non-binding presidential statement of the UNSC that deplored the crackdown and called for dialogue for the national conciliation in Burma.

Recently, the Chinese government’s policy on Burma stresses not only stability but also national conciliation and development in the country.

“The stability and development of Myanmar is not only in the interest of the region, [but it is] also the interest of the whole international community,” said Yan Jiarong, a Chinese representative at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in March.

Recent international strategy for efforts to bring change to Burma centers on the influence countries such as China, India and Southeast Asian countries can exert.

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said on Friday in Jakarta that China and India should push the junta for reforms.

“Those countries play a key role to find a settlement in Myanmar's issue... and we very much would like to see them urge Myanmar to embrace the value of human rights,” he said.

READ MORE---> Maung Aye Starts China Visit...

KNU Rejects Regime Version of Fighting

The Irrawaddy News

The Karen National Union (KNU) has rejected a Burmese government statement saying the thousands of Karen refugees fleeing fighting in eastern Burma are not civilians, but members of the KNU’s armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), and their families.

The KNU also challenged claims by the Burmese Foreign Ministry that no Burmese army troops were involved in the fighting, which the regime maintained is solely between the KNLA and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA).

The regime claims came in a Foreign Ministry statement, issued on Saturday in response to one from the European Union presidency, expressing concern about the exodus to Thailand of up to 6,000 Karen refugees since early June. The Foreign Ministry charged that the EU was reacting to inaccurate information from insurgent groups and biased media reports.

Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win described the EU statement as politically motivated. David Takapaw, vice chairman of the KNU, dismissed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs response as regime propaganda.

Karen villagers have been fleeing fighting in areas of southern Karen State controlled by the KNLA Brigade 7.

A base manned by KNLA Battalion 21 was seized and burnt down by the joint force on Sunday, 14 June, according to Karen sources. The DKBA have also taken the camps of KNLA Battalions 22 and 101, the sources said.

Camp 22 fell on the morning of Monday, 15 June, said Don Ka Ohn, a relief worker with the Free Burma Rangers (FBR). The DKBA soldiers are now deployed around the area, he said.

In its statement on the fighting and the flood of refugees, the Burmese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “It is obvious that those who fled across the border are none other than members of the KNLA and their families. Thus, there is no cross-border fleeing of civilians as alleged by the EU’s declaration.”

David Takapaw responded: “The Burmese regime is cheating and spreading its propaganda because the fleeing refugees are real Karen civilians who are mostly farmers.”

His assessment was endorsed by Sally Thompson, deputy director of the Thailand Burma Border Consortium, who said refugees from the fighting who were arriving in Thailand were villagers, mostly women and children. They were fleeing not only the fighting but also the danger of being recruited as soldiers or army porters.

Don Ka Ohn of the FBR also stated that two pregnant Karen women named Naw Wah Rah and Daw Tay were reportedly raped and killed by Burmese soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion 205 led by Than Htet and Kyi Myo Thant.

The two Karen women, who lived in Kwee Law Ploe village in Hlinebwe Township in Pa-an district, were killed by the Burmese soldiers on June 12, while their husbands were hiding in the jungle to avoid serving as army porters, according to the report.

The Foreign Ministry statement’s denial that any Burmese army troops were involved in the fighting said: “The fighting took place between the two armed groups DKBA and KNU/ KNLA. Members of the government armed forces had no role whatsoever in the recent scuffles.”

David Takapaw accused the regime of engaging in “psychological warfare to make our Karen people misunderstand each other.”

Takapaw said the Burmese army was directing frontline attacks while giving mortar cover. In this way, the regime could say the fighting was between two armed Karen groups, he said.

Five battalions of the Burmese army’s Light Infantry Division 22—numbering about 500 troops—were involved in the ongoing fighting in KNLA Brigade 7 areas, according to Takapaw.

The Burmese government says it has reached ceasefire agreement with 17 ethnic armed groups since 1989, with the exception only of the KNU.

Karen people around the world have, meanwhile, collectively called on the UN Security Council to pass a binding resolution calling for an immediate end to military attacks, and imposing a global arms embargo on the Burmese government on the grounds that it is a threat to regional and international peace and security.

READ MORE---> KNU Rejects Regime Version of Fighting...

Junta Bars Monks from Traveling Abroad

The Irrawaddy News

Burma’s Ministry of Religious Affairs is effectively prohibiting Buddhist monks from traveling abroad by refusing to issue letters of recommendation, according to senior monks in Rangoon.

Without a letter of recommendation from the ministry a monk cannot apply for a visa to travel to a foreign country.

A monk from a monastery near Rangoon’s revered Shwedagon Pagoda said that Rangoon’s religious department stopped issuing the letters last week.

“There are currently several monks in Rangoon who are waiting for visas but who have been refused letters,” he said, adding that young Burmese monks often travel abroad for Buddhist study, especially to India and Sri Lanka.

Another source said that two Buddhist monks were recently barred from flying by authorities at Rangoon’s Mingaladon International Airport because, although they had foreign visas, they did not have letters of recommendation from the government.

A monk who asked to remain anonymous told The Irrawaddy on Monday that the officials at the religious affairs department had denied his application for a letter, even though he was seeking to go abroad for health purposes.

“The officials said the restrictions were orders passed down by a senior military general,” the monk said.

When The Irrawaddy asked an official from the Ministry of Religious Affairs about the matter, he refused to comment.

The military government tightened restriction on Buddhist monks traveling within Burma during the monk-led uprising of August-September 2007.

On September 27, 2007, the military government crackdown turned bloody and dozens of monks were forced to flee their monasteries to escape arrest. It is thought many fled the country at that time.

According to official data, there are more than 400,000 monks in Burma, and its community, the Sangha, is considered one of the strongest and most revered institutions in the country.

READ MORE---> Junta Bars Monks from Traveling Abroad...

‘We can’t leave out Depayin:’ Suu Kyi's Lawyer


Aung San Suu Kyi’s lead lawyer, Kyi Wynn, remains optimistic that Burma’s High Court will next week grant his appeal to reinstate two key defense witnesses in the bizarre trial being held in the notorious Insein Prison special court in Rangoon.

The District Court trying Suu Kyi had allowed only one of four defense witnesses to take the stand.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy, Kyi Wynn said that he had wanted Win Tin and Tin Oo to be called as defense witnesses, but they were rejected by the lower court.

The high court is expected to rule on the appeal on Wednesday, allowing for the trial to resume.

Win Tin is a senior party member of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party. Tin Oo is a former commander-in-chief of the armed forces and is currently under house arrest.

Suu Kyi has called the charges against her “politically motivated.”

Kyi Wynn said that defense lawyers could not leave out the notorious Depayin Massacre in which Suu Kyi’s motorcade and supporters were ambushed in May 2003. Since that date, Suu Kyi has been detained.

She was charged under Section 7 of the State Protection Law which says, “The [military] Cabinet is authorized to pass an order, as may be necessary, restricting any fundamental rights of any person suspected of having committed or believed to be about to commit, any act which endangers the sovereignty and security of the state or public peace and tranquility.” Her attorneys plan to challenge the legality of that charge against her.

After Depayin, Suu Kyi asked for lawyers to represent her, but the request was denied.

Shortly after the attack, Suu Kyi opened the case at the local police station in central Burma where the attack took place. But no action was taken against thugs backed by the regime. Instead Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest.

Lawyers now indicate that Suu Kyi’s detention in May 2003 could be considered illegal, and they sought to call Tin Oo, who accompanied Suu Kyi during her trip in May 2003, as a defense witness.

Suu Kyi had visited several towns where she encountered large crowds, but they were peaceful and welcomed her entourage in orderly fashion, said her lawyer.

Tin Oo, who witnessed the attack, wanted to testify in court, said a dissident political source in Rangoon.

The former defense minister in the 1970s is a staunch supporter of political change in Burma and currently vice chairman of the election-winning NLD party. A political source said that he has closely followed the trial on the radio.

Lawyers said that his testimony would last one day. “He would talk turkey [at the court],” said Kyi Wynn.

“I don’t think she [Suu Kyi] was trying to endanger the sovereignty and security of the state or public peace and tranquility,” Kyi Wynn said, referring to the motorcade.

It is widely believed that the regime’s leader, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, and hard-line ministers were behind the deadly ambush attack on the motorcade.

There was no independent investigation set up after the ambush, which led to the death of numbers of Suu Kyi’s supporters.

Kyi Wynn said that Suu Kyi and her lawyers had no intention to prolong the trial. He said that the court proceedings should end in July.

While Suu Kyi has said that the case against her is politically motivated, she has also repeatedly said that there is no rule of law in Burma. Analysts contend that her lawyers want to demonstrate the country’s lack of rule of law.

Suu Kyi was charged with violating the terms of her house arrest after an uninvited American man swam secretly to her closely guarded lakeside home last month and stayed two days.

If convicted, she faces up to five years in prison.

It is widely expected that Suu Kyi will be found guilty because courts in Burma are known for handing out harsh sentences to political dissidents.

Suu Kyi, 63, has been detained under house arrest for more than 13 of the last 19 years. She was transferred to Insein Prison on May 14. Her lawyers also argue that since the regime lifted the restriction of her house arrest in May, she is now a free person and there is no reason to detain her. Her current detention in Insein Prison should be considered illegal, said her lawyers.

READ MORE---> ‘We can’t leave out Depayin:’ Suu Kyi's Lawyer...

New South Wales Government imposes ban on Chinese products

About time... we must look after our own first... Burma supporters must take a hint...

By Simon Benson

( -ALMOST $4 billion worth of government goods and services will have to be sourced from Australian companies first in a New South Wales ban on "made in China" products which is to be imposed in its State Budget tomorrow.

The Daily Telegraph reports that all NSW Government departments and agencies will be forced to protect Australian jobs by giving preference to locally made products.

This would include stationery, uniforms, cars and even trains and building contracts.

And to make local bids more competitive, a 20 per cent discount will be applied to Australian products when comparing the cost with overseas bidders.

The decision is bound to have international ramifications and put NSW Labor at odds with the Rudd Government, which has made no secret of its plan to strengthen ties with China.

With NSW now recording the highest unemployment rate in the country at 6.4 per cent, the protectionist measure will apply to all goods and services not included under existing Free Trade agreements and will be worth almost $4 billion in goods and services supplied to the NSW Government.

But in what may prove an even more controversial move, the Government will also lift the exemptions on goods bound by Free Trade Agreements, by extending current exemptions to companies with 200 or fewer employees to those with 500 employees.

The policy will be the centrepiece of a jobs package being pinned on a $62 billion capital works program over four years which the Government claimed will support 160,000 jobs.

Following The Daily Telegraph's revelations this year that police and ambulance uniforms were being imported from or made in China, Treasurer Eric Roozendaal will announce a new Government purchasing policy which will give priority to more than 500,000 NSW small and medium-sized businesses.

It will also apply to all future tenders or purchases for Government contracts which will give preference to Australian companies.

"All NSW Government and state-owned corporations (SOCs) are to give preferential treatment to Australian-made goods under the new Local Jobs First plan," Mr Roozendaal said.

"The NSW Government is putting NSW jobs first. Every year, NSW Government agencies spend billions of dollars buying the things they need to deliver services to the people of NSW.

"This plan tips the balance in favour of local businesses, providing them with greater opportunities to expand and sell to government."

The Local Jobs First program has been endorsed by Unions NSW.

It will apply to all Government agencies and SOCs which will now be required to give preferential treatment to local manufacturers under a price preference mechanism.

The Local Jobs First plan will also require tenders of $4 million or more to include an industry participation plan for local jobs and training programs for apprentices.

All department heads will have to comply with the policy in performance contracts.

READ MORE---> New South Wales Government imposes ban on Chinese products...

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