Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Junta to resettle 200,000 Burmans in Hukawng Valley

Written by KNG

The Burmese military junta plans to resettle 200,000 Burman people in ethnic Kachin's Hukawng Valley (also called Hugawng in Kachin) in the country's northern Kachin State before 2010, said regime insiders.

The new Burman settlers, who make up the majority of the country’s population, will be mainly settled in areas close to three Kachin villages known as Nawng Mi, Sahtu Zup and Wara Zup on the Ledo or Stilwell Road also called Burma Road during WW II, added insiders.

In the guise of Rangoon-based Yuzana Company's crop plantation in the Valley, only Burman people from different areas of lower Burma have been resettled in the Valley since late 2006, said native Kachins from the Valley.

A Thai-styled factory is being constructed by Thai technicians under Yuzana Company.

U Htay Myint a Chinese-Burman from Kutkai town in northeast Shan State chairs the company, which bought over 200,000 acres of land in Hukawng Valley from the junta. The purchase was politically motivated, said company sources.

The company is now continuously transporting Burman workers into its crop plantation area in the Valley. However, many workers are leaving the job and fleeing because of very low salaries, said sources among workers.

All runaway workers not only do not return homes from the Valley but the company also does not have a programme of bringing them back, added company sources.

The company has already constructed over 1500 houses for the workers in identical styles in two separate places. Two Thai-styled big factories are also being constructed in two different places near the labour quarters, said eyewitnesses.

The company is now mainly growing Cassava Plants and Sugar Cane in the newly ploughed fields, said eyewitnesses. The glue and curry-sweet powder are being produced for export from next year, according to company sources.

The Burmese military junta plans to resettle 200,000 Burman people in ethnic Kachin's Hukawng Valley (also called Hugawng in Kachin) in the country's northern Kachin State before 2010.

Until now, the junta has already resettled over 40,000 Burman people from lower Burma in the Valley. They were systematically transported by both Yuzana Company and local Burmese Army battalions, said native Kachin community leaders.

There are an estimated 20,000 native Kachin in villages in the Hukawng Valley along the Ledo Road starting from Namti to Shingbwi Yang. The entire Valley has been separately ruled by 12 Kachin Duwas (rulers) in Kachin history until the Britishers gave Burma Independence on January 4, 1948.

At the same time, Htoo Company owned by the Burman tycoon U Te Za (also spelled Tay Za), son-in-law of the junta supremo Senior General Than Shwe is taking out at least 50 trucks of hardwood per day from the Valley to Mogaung train station for export under the banner of Yuzana Company, said company sources.

Besides, U Te Za's Htoo Company is also practically supporting the Yuzana Company with essential finance and construction machinery, according to company insiders.

Recently, the junta's Northern Command (Ma Pa Kha) commander Brig-Gen Soe Win landed in a helicopter at the helipad in No. 1 Yuzana Village of Yuzana Company in the Valley. He proudly spoke to the local people that the crop plantation can be done by every one because peace has been restored in the Valley, said local people.

The Hukawng Valley was named as the world largest Tiger Reserve by the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in 2004. However, the Yunaza Company is destroying the reserve by heavy logging and converting forests into crop fields, said locals.

Locals and eyewitnesses told KNG, the Yuzana Company has already occupied and destroyed the No. 1 Tiger Conservation Camp near Nawng Mi village for crop plantation.

The Burman-dominated junta’s response to people or organizations who oppose the crop plantation of Yuzana Company by saying, "Man is more important than the Tiger", said company sources.

Kachin people in Burma feels that the junta is deeply is into ethnic cleansing and huge land confiscation in Hukawng Valley by using the Yuzana Company and local Burmese Army bases.

READ MORE---> Junta to resettle 200,000 Burmans in Hukawng Valley...

Free textbooks, but not for all in Mon and Karen States

By Asah,IMNA

The Burmese education ministry has promised to supply textbooks to the grade-one students in all of Burma for free, but in Mon State and Karen State many have to buy their own.

“During the 2009-2010 school year, the government education ministry will provide 600,000 textbooks to grade-one students. The government education ministry began this project in 2001 and it will last until 2031. The cost of the textbooks is 157,497,100 kyat,” reported the Burmese Voice Weekly.

The government education ministry has provided free textbooks, but only in certain townships in Mon State. Some villages within Mudon Township have to buy them like before, said a resident from Yaung Daung, who added that the textbooks themselves were sometimes donated by international aid agencies, and they also had to pay obscure fees.

“We had to pay 4,500 kyat per student. However, we bought all of the notebooks that [were received for free] from the Unicef. So we paid for the school textbooks, but in Hneepadaw and Kwanhla, villagers only had to give 500 kyat per student registered.”

A source from Hpa-an Township, Karen State, said that the situation was equally inconsistent: some local schools received free textbooks, whereas others did not. “We paid for the textbooks 600 kyat but then in the primary school they also sold 12 notebooks per student so we paid 3,000 kyat total.”

A Mudon Township, Mon State resident noted that, although they received free textbooks in the school, they had to pay more to register than last school year. The resident also mentioned that, “my son received the textbooks for free but when [he] finishes school he has to give them back to the school.”

The cost of primary and secondary education and its overall scarcity continues to be a salient issue inside Burma.

READ MORE---> Free textbooks, but not for all in Mon and Karen States...

Regional commander forcibly sells notebooks to schools in Shan State

By Hseng Khio Fah

(Shanland) -The Chairman of Shan State (North) Peace and Development Council and Commander of Northeastern Region Command Maj-Gen Aung Than Htut has been forcibly ordering all government schools in each township in northern Shan State to buy exercise books delivered by him saying that it is compulsory, according to sources from the Sino-Burma border.

Maj-Gen Aung Than Htut

The books were delivered to the schools since schools started at the beginning of June. He also set a deadline for the teachers to send the money by the end of June.

The money is now being collected by teachers in every school, said a source.

A dozen exercise book was sold at least for Kyat 3,600 (US$ 3.6) while the market price for good quality exercise books is just over Kyat 2,000 (US$ 2), a local source in Lashio said.

“The qualities of their books were bad and the pages were very thin,” he said.

A primary school in Si Aw village, Laogai (Laukkai) was ordered to buy 5 dozens and the price of the book was already cut in advance from teacher’s salaries. And teachers therefore have to recollect from the students, an INGO worker in Laokai told SHAN.

“The book doesn't have any logo. It is only written FUJI on the cover,” he said.

School days for the present academic year is different from previous years as there is only a day off in a week. “They [junta] are trying to complete all exams before the forthcoming 2010 general elections,” he added.

Junta authorities had just finished issuing national IDs cards for people in Laogai last month, according to him.

READ MORE---> Regional commander forcibly sells notebooks to schools in Shan State...

Human trafficking in Burma ‘a major problem’

(DVB)–Human trafficking within Burma remains “significant”, whilst trafficking of young women into forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation is a “major problem”, according to a US state department report.

The Trafficking in Persons report cited statistics released by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) that estimate that at least 12.3 million people worldwide are in forced labour, bonded labour or commercial sexual exploitation.

Many Burmese women and children are being trafficked to Thailand, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, South Korea, China and Malaysia, the latter two often for forced marriage.

Within Burma, however, the problem was “significant”. Trafficking of girls for the purpose of prostitution “persisted as a major problem, particularly in urban areas”, and was seen to drive Burma’s reputation as “a destination country for child sex tourism”.

The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the phenomenon as “modern slavery” that “weakens legitimate economies, fuels violence, threatens public health and safety, shatters families, and shreds the social fabric that is necessary for progress.”

The report also highlighted the ongoing phenomenon of forced recruitment of children into armed ethnic groups and the Burmese army, the latter largely as a result of increasing cases of desertion of adult soldiers.

The recruitment of child soldiers is often seen as a means of maintaining the Burmese army’s troop levels, with children often bearing the brunt of its frequent recruitment drives.

“The military junta’s gross economic mismanagement, human rights abuses, and its continued widespread use of forced labor are among the top causal factors for Burma’s significant trafficking problem,” the report said.

Complainants of forced labour are ostensibly protected under the ‘supplementary understanding’ agreement the ILO has with the Burmese government, although in 15 of the 152 cases reported to the ILO since 1997, the organization has received information alleging harassment or reprisals by government authorities.

Earlier this month the ILO called a revision of a clause in the Burmese constitution that justified use of forced labour “in duties assigned by the Union in accord with the law in the interest of the public”.

In 2002 Human Rights Watch named the Burmese government as the world’s leading recruiter of child soldiers.

The US report did note however that the regime had made “significant efforts” with regards to tackling commercial sexual exploitation, although overall the government “is not making significant efforts to comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking”.

Reporting by Francis Wade

READ MORE---> Human trafficking in Burma ‘a major problem’...

UN Experts Fault ‘Flagrant Violations’ in Suu Kyi Trial


As lawyers for detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi try to reinstate two key witnesses in her trial, United Nations legal specialists said the proceedings so far had been “marred by flagrant violations of substantive and procedural rights."

The group of five UN human rights experts urged the Burmese regime to ensure that the trial of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and two of her aides is "fair and open."

Members of the group are Manuela Carmena Castrilo, chairperson-rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Leandro Despouy, special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Tomas Ojea Quintana, special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Margaret Sekaggya, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and Frank La Rue, special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

In a statement by the group, released on Tuesday, Despouy said the trial had so far mostly been conducted behind closed doors and that the media had been prevented from speaking to the defense lawyers. "Transparency in the administration of justice is a pre-requisite of any State governed by the rule of law," he said.

While the prosecution was allowed to call 14 witnesses, most of them policemen, only one witness called by the defense team has so far been permitted to testify. Applications for another three defense witnesses to testify have been made. Last week, a second defense witness was granted permission to be heard in the case.

"The court must ensure that all witnesses who may have relevant evidence are able to testify," Despouy said, according to the statement published on the UN’s Web site.

Suu Kyi and two of her women aides are standing trial before a special court in Rangoon’s Insein Prison, accused of violating her detention order by allowing an American intruder to stay for two days after he swam to her lakeside home.

The trial has drawn outrage from the international and regional community. Suu Kyi's supporters have said that the regime is using the bizarre incident as an excuse to keep her in detention at least until next year’s general election has been held.

Meanwhile Burma activists have sent a petition to UN general secretary Ban Ki-moon, urging him to make the release of more than 2,000 political prisoners in Burma his top priority.

The petition—signed by more than 670,000 people from 220 countries and territories—calls on Ban and his special envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, to secure the release of Suu Kyi and other political prisoners. Ban is reported to be planning a visit to Burma next month.

READ MORE---> UN Experts Fault ‘Flagrant Violations’ in Suu Kyi Trial...

China wants stability in Burma: Xi

by Salai Pi Pi

New Delhi (Mizzima) – China’s Vice President Xi Jinping has conveyed to the visiting Burmese Vice-Senior General Maung Aye his country’s willingness to help military-ruled Burma achieve stability and prosperity, according to China’s official media.

Xi during his meeting with Burma’s number two military strongman Maung Aye on Tuesday, said China valued good-neighbourly relations with Burma, which has been maintained for the last six decades, a report by Xinhua said.

“He [Xi] stressed that the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence were the cornerstone of China's diplomacy, and as a good neighbour, China hoped Myanmar would overcome difficulties to achieve stability and prosperity,” the report said.

Meanwhile, Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Sino-Burma border based observer on Wednesday said, Xi’s expression of ‘stability and prosperity’ is unclear and does not indicate what China wants to see as a state of stability in the military-ruled country.

“The words ‘stability and prosperity’ could mean a lot. It could also mean stability under military rule or stability through national reconciliation into transition to a democratic government,” Aung Kyaw Zaw pointed out.

“If China really wants to see national reconciliation in Burma, words are not enough, actions need to follow,” he added.

Aung Kyaw Zaw further analysed that Maung Aye’s visit might also include other agendas such as seeking China’s help in tackling the Sino-Burma border based ethnic armed ceasefire groups.

A few ceasefire groups including the United Wa State Army (UWSA) have recently rejected the regime’s proposal to transform their army into a “border guard’ force.

Besides others things, the two leaders also reiterated their commitments to continue on-going economic and investment projects, which they had agreed on earlier.

According to the China Securities Journal on Monday, the China National Petroleum Corp. will begin constructing oil and natural gas pipelines which will connect Southern China with the seaport in western Burma, in September.

The proposed US$ 2 billion project will help transport petroleum from the Middle East and Africa to China and gas from the Southeast Asian country to China, the report said.

READ MORE---> China wants stability in Burma: Xi...

Recent Karen Exodus Raises Questions about UNHCR Role

The Irrawaddy News

The latest joint attacks in Karen State by Burmese and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) forces, which began on June 7, have forced an estimated 6,000 Karen people into Thai-Burmese border areas.

The targeted areas included Ler Per Her IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp, which was shelled by mortars, according to Burma Campaign UK.

A Karen refugee mother and her three children take shelter in a Buddhist temple on the Thai-Burmese border. (Photo: Alex Ellgee/The Irrawaddy)

The slow response from the international community, including the UN, has frustrated Burma’s human right activists. Also, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has yet to take significant steps to assist the refugees, leaving them leaving at the mercy of local aid groups.

Indeed, the way the most recent Karen refugees have been assisted by the international community raises questions about the effectiveness of the refugee system itself.

The global refugee regime is based on a structure and philosophy that stems from the International Refugee Organization, the predecessor institution that provided the template for the UNHCR. As such, the current refugee system essentially serves states’ interest rather than refugees’ interest.

In other words, the presence of refugees in general is considered a challenge to a state, and the UNHCR focuses on refugee containment and repatriation, rather than recognizing refugees’ rights to settle in a country of asylum or resettlement in a third country.

More broadly, the global refugee mission is to stabilize the world order composed of individual nation-states by containing refugee movements.

In this photo taken on June 9, released by Free Burma Rangers, Karen villagers flee in the rain from the fighting between Burmese soldiers and Karen guerrillas into Thailand's Tha Song Yag district of Tak province. (Photo: AP/Free Burma Rangers)

This philosophy is reflected in a 1993 statement by Sadako Ogata, the former UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Her point, which still holds true today was that, “The subject of refugees and displaced people is high on the list of international concerns today not only because of its humanitarian significance, but also because of its impact on peace, security and stability. The world cannot reach a new order without effectively addressing the problem of human displacement.”

The commissioner, significantly, describes refugees as a “problem” that destabilizes the world order. Solving the “problem” is for the ultimate purpose of the security of that order.

The painful irony is that it is this same world order with so-called sovereign nation-states that generates so many of the refugees in the world today.

Mostly minority and marginalized populations, such as the Karen, are driven out of their homes after being treated as “enemies” by a military regime that has autonomous control of the state apparatus.

While recent attacks are difficult to frame in terms of Burmese versus Karen, given the collusion of the DKBA with regime forces, it is clear that this is a struggle over economic resources as well as geographical control. Still, this is just one incident in the political hang-over of the sovereign state system that the UNHCR is mandated to protect.

In any case, Karen refugees are byproducts of a political struggle versus state oppression. Yet, the UNHCR is mandated to handle the plight of the Karen through charity work in its role as a purely humanitarian, yet “non-political,” institution. This allows the UNHCR to refrain from engagement over political issues that otherwise would implicate it in issues of sovereignty.

In addition to overriding philosophical issues, the UNHCR’s protection practices also raise problematic questions. For example, its provision of providing only minimum assistance to refugees while assuming that providing maximum assistance would attract more refugees.

In addition, there has been a recent shift towards a so-called “preventive protection” stance under a rubric of “the right to remain at home.” This is designed to prevent refugees from seeking refuge across a border by providing “safety zones” within conflict areas.

Ler Per Her IDP camp, which was shelled last week, is part of this strategy of “preventive protection,” which shows the fallibility of so-called “safety zones.”

The UNHCR humanitarian work cannot be isolated from a donor country’s domestic immigration policy.

That the first strategy of donor countries is to prevent refugees from resettling abroad is clearly reflected in the EU Presidency’s Declaration on Karen villagers, dated June 11, 2009, which said, “The EU reiterates its commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Burma/Myanmar. The EU calls instead for the conditions to be created that allow the return of all refugees.”

Here, insistence on “return” in theory can serve as a quick-fix but it can ignore the actual experiences and fate of refugees in much of the world, including the Karen refugees in Thailand. Seeing refugees as temporarily displaced people can serve to sentence millions of people to a life in refugee camps, supposing that they will eventually “return” to their country.

For example, Kitty McKinsey, a regional spokesperson for the UNHCR, told Spectrum magazine in an interview on the most recent wave of displaced Karen villagers, “They all say they want go back as soon as possible.'' A UN spokesperson in Geneva, William Spindler, expressed a similar view.

It is understood that refugees miss their home like everyone else, but UNHCR is wrong to insist on that as a core interpretation of policy. It knows from experience that refugees often end up living in refugee centers for decades.

It should go without saying that refugees, including new arrivals, should be entitled to earn a living outside refugee camps, rather than being locked up inside, only to be turned into a modern version of “white men’s (and women’s) burdens.”

Yet, highlighting such problems with UNHCR role, we can not its role in saving people’s lives in emergency situation and providing life-sustaining aid. Neither is this to discount its heroic staffers in the field who are fighting hard for refugee rights.

Field staffers, as well as executive officers, are in a position to critically reflect on UNHCR’s limitations. Rather than reproducing UNHCR’s “depoliticized humanitarianism,” progressive members and staffers should move beyond technical-centrism and emergency management mentality to address the disruptive aspects of the nation-state system as it now exists.

Similarly, critiques of donor countries do not underplay the thousands of former refugees who are now able to earn livelihoods in these countries. Yet, donor countries that are able to effectively supplement their domestic labor force with immigrant labor must do other than part in dealing fairly with refugees who fleeing from war with little hope of stability in their lives.

READ MORE---> Recent Karen Exodus Raises Questions about UNHCR Role...

Restriction brings down issuance of online arrival visas

by Maung Maung Naing

Mizzima - The Burmese military regime is allowing application for online arrival visas to attract more foreign tourists to the country but due to the restrictions of this system, only about 25 per cent of the total applicants were granted the visa during the past eight months, according to sources.

Diamond Place Travel and Tour Co. Ltd. is operating the issuance of the online arrival visa business. But given the restrictions imposed by the Burmese junta, only a few online visas could actually be granted during the eight-month trial period, company and Foreign Ministry sources said.

“We have been implementing this programme over the last two years. It took a lot of time for negotiations on credit card payment. The trial period has completed eight months now. About 1,500 travellers have come to Burma with this online visa so far. Due to the various restrictions imposed by the government, only about one fourth of the total applicants were granted this visa,” an official from the company told Mizzima.

“In fact, we are issuing the arrival visa to only those who have been to Burma before and were not blacklisted by the concerned departments. We are issuing this visa to group tours from Asian countries. There are hardly other online visas granted to any other applicants,” a staff from the Foreign Ministry said.

Brig. Gen. Aye Myint Kyu, Deputy Minister of Hotel and Tourism Ministry, said at the annual general meeting of Burma Tour Operators Association held on June 13 that they would grant online arrival visa at the earliest date if the required supporting documents are in order and complete. But the fact remains that the Foreign Ministry issued these visas only after going thorough verifications and various restrictions, he said.

“Though we are issuing arrival visas but we dare issue such visas only to group tours. For instance, we cannot issue it to the applicants coming from some countries where suicide bombings take place almost every day. We did not issue visa to those when there were discrepancies in particulars mentioned in the visa applications and particulars produced on arrival,” Brig. Gen. Aye Myint Kyu said while explaining how tour operations had slowed down due to the strict visa regulations of Burma.

“We didn’t issue it to some applicants when we found them coming with hair dyed with red colour on arrival but black hair was mentioned in their visa application. We should relax our visa regulation in such a situation. Then our tour industry will improve,” he pointed out.

The online visa applicants must apply at and websites.

The applicants must apply three days before their arrival date and those applicants whose applications are rejected will be informed within 24 hours.

After the 2007 September saffron revolution, the number of tourists coming to Burma has plummeted and the situation was worsened because of the global economic slowdown. For the promotion of tourism industry in Burma, the government introduced this new online arrival visa system, an official of Burma Tour and Travel Association said.

Tourists coming to Burma, who have already got the online visa need to inform their tour plan to the Myanmar Tourism Department at Bo Sunpet Street and get their approval before starting their journey.

READ MORE---> Restriction brings down issuance of online arrival visas...

KIO in preparation mode, refurbishing armed wing

by Solomon

New Delhi (Mizzima) - The ethnic Kachin resistance group – Kachin Independence Organisation is refurbishing its military in what appears to be preparation for an impending war with the Burmese Army.

Sources on the Sino-Burma border area said, the KIO off late has been re-grouping the members of its armed wing - the Kachin Independence Army and is recruiting new members.

Awng Wa, Chairman of the Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG) working in Kachin state told Mizzima that he has witnessed KIA cadres retreating into their forest camps and beefing up security around their areas of control.

He said, the KIA is also calling back its old members and recruiting new cadres and is vigorously providing trainings to younger batches.

The KIO’s reported preparation comes after the ruling junta in late April proposed to the KIO along with other several ceasefire groups to transform their armies into a ‘Border Guard’ force under the junta’s administration and control.

While a few ethnic rebel groups like the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and the Kokang group of Myanmar National Democratic Allied Army (MNDAA) have rejected the proposal, the KIO has not come up with an official response to the proposal.

Aung Wa, who is also closely watching the KIO and its relationship with the junta, said, “the KIO does not seem to like the proposal of transforming its army and they have already decided to refuse. So, they may be preparing for defence in case of possible future pressure.”

Quoting inner sources of the KIO, Aung Wa said, the KIO has decided to reject the junta’s proposal officially in the coming meeting.

“They [junta and KIO] are likely to meet before the end of this month for further discussions on the issue,” he added.

In late April, the junta proposed to several ceasefire groups to transform their armies into a border guard force, which will have 326 soldiers including 30 Burmese soldiers in each battalion and will be controlled by the junta.

The Sino-Burma border based KIO, which has a cease-fire agreement with the Burmese junta since 1994, has been pressurized by the military junta to transform its army.

A KIO member, who requested not to be named, said the group, since last year, has been preparing for military attacks by the Burmese Army, as they cannot agree to the junta’s proposal.

But a Sino-Burma border based political analyst Aung Kyaw Zaw said, it is unlikely that the junta will launch any kind of military offensive against the rebel groups before the 2010 general election.

“They [junta] don’t want anything to affect their planned general election. So, they will not attack before it is concluded,” Aung Kyaw Zaw said.

But he said, over the last two months, he has noticed the KIO’s preparation and recruitment of new soldiers but there are no signs to indicate there will be any conflict in the near future.

“It is possible that the junta will launch military operation after 2010 but it is unlikely before that,” he added.

“If there is war, the first thing is that civilians will suffer from the effects of the conflict, so, no one wants fighting,” Awng Wa said.

READ MORE---> KIO in preparation mode, refurbishing armed wing...

China Adds ‘Democracy,’ ‘Economic Growth’ to Burma Policy

The Irrrawaddy News

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has told the Burma’s No 2 leader, Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye, on Tuesday in Beijing that China hopes the military junta will promote democracy in Burma.

According to a Chinese language news website,, Wen said in order to achieve Burma’s national reconciliation, safeguard national stability and economic development, Beijing hoped the military government would promote democracy.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Burma’s No 2 leader, Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye, greet each other in Beijing on Tuesday.

Apart from the political situation in Burma, Wen also spoke of the nearly six decade long diplomatic ties between the neighboring countries as well as sustained bilateral relations.

The Chinese media reported that Maung Aye said during his meeting with Wen on Tuesday that “Paukphaw,” or deep friendship relation between Burma and China, have been deepen even more. He thanked the Chinese government for its aid for economic and social development in Burma.

Maung Aye also said Burma supported the one-China policy when he met with Premier Wen, the Chinese media reported.

Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Burmese analyst based on the Sino-Burmese border, said it was a positive step for Bejing to add democracy, national reconciliation and economic development to its old policy of “stability” in Burma.

“Wen Jiabao’s words of national reconciliation, stability and economic development to Gen Maung Aye reflected China’s current Burma policy,” he said.

However, other Burma observers are still skeptical about China’s policy on Burma, saying Beijing only focuses on its own economic and military interests in regard to Burma.

“I do not expect much out of this visit and certainly not Chinese pressure on Naypyidaw to adopt reforms,” Jeff Kingston, the director of Asian Studies at Temple University’s Japan campus, told The Irrawaddy.

“China wants stability on its border and even if it has some reservations about the SPDC's methods and capabilities, it shows no inclination to gamble on democracy or condemn human rights abuses.”

He noted that Burma’s powerful neighbors, China and India, are its largest trading partners and their dependence on natural resources and desire for a stable Burma trump their interests in a free and democratic Burma.

“The development of Burma is for their own interests,” he said.

During his China visit, Muang Aye was accompanied by ministers and seniors officials of Burma’s Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Energy as well as representatives from Burmese businesses.

According to Aung Kyaw Zaw, also recently republished an article by Swedish journalist Bertil Lintner on North Korea’s involvement in tunnel and underground facility construction in Burma.

Observers say Beijing is observing the relationship between Burma and North Korea, and does not want North Korea to help the Burmese generals achieve nuclear or missile capabilities, such as in Iran and Syria.

“Definitely, China will not want two more nuclear power countries on its northeast and southwest border,” Aung Kyaw Zaw said.

In last year, officials of Burma and North Korea exchanged a number of visits. Burmese foreign minister Nyan Win visited North Korea in October 2008. In November 2008, North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Young Il stopped in Burma before he flew to Iran. The junta’s No 3 leader, General Shwe Mann, reportedly visited Pyongyang in April 2008.

During Maung Aye visit to China, Kim Jong Un, 26, the favored youngest son of the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Il, also made a secret trip from Pyongyang to Beijing last week.

“It is interesting that Maung Aye's visit follows that by a delegation from North Korea, two pariah regimes that owe much to Beijing's support—economic, diplomatic and military,” said Kingston.

READ MORE---> China Adds ‘Democracy,’ ‘Economic Growth’ to Burma Policy...

Burmese Army soldiers abandon 210 wives in eight villages

(Narinjara) -Burmese Army soldiers have deserted over 210 women from eight villages located near the town of Rathidaung, 20 miles north of Sittwe, after marrying them, said a youth who compiled a list.

“I have collected the names of the women, who were deserted by Burmese soldiers from only eight villages in Rathidaung Township, but I could not collect the names of women from other villages and townships in Arakan state,” he said.

The list compiled by the youth comes after three army battalions were sent to Rathidaung to be stationed from 1992 to 2008. The three battalions are LIB 536, 537 and 538.

The eight villagers are – Kha Naung Gyi, Say Kan, Kan Byin, Taung Hla Maw, Wra Thit Kay, Nga Tauk Tuu Chay and two other wards in Rathidaung- northeast east and south.

Among the 210 women, some were widowed after the soldiers died on the frontline in eastern Burma. But most of the women were abandoned by the Burmese soldiers.

“I saw many children with the women but I did not get the chance of compiling a list of children due to security problems. I hope to collect the children’s list soon,” he said.

According to a local source, many Arakanese women married Burmese soldiers in Arakanese tradition where there is no need for documents and registers.

“It is a big problem because many parents of women are innocent and poor and they did not know they needed documents and marriage certificates when their daughters married Burmese soldiers. When they complained to army officials after the soldiers left their daughters, the officials refused to pay heed to complaints because there were no marriage documents,” the youth said.

Many local elders blamed the military junta for this because the regime stationed three army battalions in Rathidaung where there is no insurgency. Everybody strongly believes it is a preplanned move by the junta to resort to ethnic cleansing in Arakan state.

U Hla Kyaw, from the motor boat ward said, “Our township was very peaceful in the past as there was no insurgency. But the junta sent three battalions to our town. Afterwards, the prices of goods increased in our town. We also faced many anti-social activities and abuses by soldiers after the battalions came.

It is learnt that there is not a single village in Arakan State where Burmese soldiers do not have a wife after nearly 60 army battalions were stationed in the State since 1988.

READ MORE---> Burmese Army soldiers abandon 210 wives in eight villages...

Two Karen villagers raped and killed

The Irrawaddy News

A Karen relief team based on the Thai-Burma border reported on Wednesday, June 17, that two teenaged Karen women were raped and murdered by Burmese soldiers in Kwee Law Plo village, Lu Pleh Township, Pa-an district on June 12.

Joint troops of the Burmese Army and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) were passing through the village, which is 15 kilometers from Ler Per Her IDP (independent displaced persons) camp.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Wednesday, June 17, the Free Burma Ranger (FBR)’s communications and information coordinator said that the two women were raped and murdered in the village after their husbands had fled into the jungle to avoid being forced to work as porters for the Burmese Army.

The source said that the first victim, who was 18 years old, was eight-months pregnant, and the second victim, a 17-year-old, had a six-months-old baby.

The coordinator said the relief team members who are working underground in the area reported that Burmese soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 205 , which is taking part in the ongoing fighting, were involved in the crime.

The Irrawaddy has not been able to obtain independent confirmation of this incident.

The attack by a joint force of the Burmese Army and the DKBA on the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), which started in the first week of June, has forced about 4,000 refugees to flee to Thailand. Most of the refugees are from Ler Per Her IDP camp, which came under attack.

The FBR is actively involved in helping Karen displaced people inside Karen areas who ran away from the civil war.

On 27 December, 2008, a seven-year-old Karen girl was also raped and murdered by a Burmese soldier from LIB 350 in Nyaunglebin District, Pegu Division.

Different ethnic-rights groups based on the Thai-Burma have written reports about Burmese soldiers raping female victims of the civil war in Burma in previous years.

Karen organizations have previously accused the Burmese military of using systematic rape as a weapon to terrorize ethnic people living along the borders.

In 2004, the Karen Women Organization (KWO) published a report titled “Shattering Silences,” which claimed that Burmese troops systematically raped Karen women. The report documented 125 cases of sexual violence committed between 1988 and 2004.

The report said that half of the rapes were committed by military officers, 40 percent were gang-rapes, and in 28 percent of the cases the women were killed after being raped.

Women’s organizations in other ethnic areas have reported similar incidents. In June 2002, the Shan Women’s Action Network (SWAN) released a report titled “Licence to Rape,” which detailed testimonies from 173 ethnic Shan women who had been raped or encountered sexual violence at the hands of Burmese soldiers.

READ MORE---> Two Karen villagers raped and killed...

Burma Court to Hear Arguments for Aung San Suu Kyi Witnesses

By Daniel Schearf

(VOA-Bangkok) -Burma's Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on whether or not to allow more defense witnesses in the trial of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Lawyers for Aung San Suu Kyi say Burma's highest court agreed to hear their petition for more witnesses in her trial.

The ruling means lawyers for both sides will argue in front of the Supreme Court on whether or not to allow two more defense witnesses to testify.

The witnesses were previously banned from testifying by a prison court conducting the trial.

The court had originally allowed only one witness for the defense, but a higher court later gave permission for one more. The prosecution, however, was allowed 14 witnesses.

Nyan Win is one of Suu Kyi's lawyers. He told VOA the ruling would delay the trial.

"The trial will suspend one week or two weeks because the Supreme Court accept or admitted our petition," Nyan said.

Nyan Win says they should know on Friday when the Supreme Court will hear their arguments.

The two witnesses for the defense are senior members of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy Party. The NLD won Burma's last election in 1990, but the military government never allowed it to take power.

Aung San Suu Kyi was then placed under house arrest, where she has spent 13 of the last 19 years.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner is on trial charged with violating the terms of her house arrest for allowing an uninvited American man to stay at her house without official permission. Aung San Suu Kyi could be sent to prison for up to five years, along with two of her assistants and the American.

The trial is widely viewed as an excuse to keep the democracy icon locked up. U.N. human-rights investigators have condemned the trial for what they call "flagrant" rights violations.

READ MORE---> Burma Court to Hear Arguments for Aung San Suu Kyi Witnesses...

Instant karma in Myanmar

By Sudha Ramachandran and Swe Win

BANGALORE (Asia Times)- The sudden collapse of an ancient temple last month - like most significant events in Myanmar - has been opened to a wide range of arcane interpretation. The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper blamed the demise of the 2,300-year-old Danok pagoda on inferior reconstruction. But others saw something much darker in its destruction.

The crumbling of the sacred site came as the ongoing trial of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was still prominent in international media - earning the famously xenophobic government criticism from around the globe. More important to the superstitious-minded, it came just week's after Daw Kyaing Kyaing - wife of Myanmar's junta supremo, Senior-General Than Shwe - had presided over a reconsecration ceremony at the temple.

Gold-domed Danok pagoda sits just outside Yangon, the former capital. It was damaged during Cyclone Nargis last year and had been recently renovated. The pagoda has collapsed at least three times before, but its recent fall has generated much talk; fingers are pointing to the highest ranks of the ruling government and its first family.

Many in Myanmar interpret that the accident portends the fall of the repressive military regime that has ruled for nearly half a century.

On May 30, the pagoda's bell-shaped stupa collapsed onto its northern prayer
hall. Three weeks earlier, Kyaing Kyaing, accompanied by a family entourage and the families of senior military officials, visited the pagoda reopening and placed a jewel-encrusted hti (sacred umbrella), a seinbudaw (diamond orb) and a hngetmyatnadaw (pennant-shaped vane) atop the pagoda during the ceremony.

Highly revered by Myanmar's Buddhists, Danok pagoda is "believed by the local populace to reject donations offered by bad people and to shake in repudiation", Ingrid Jordt, an expert on Myanmar and anthropology professor at the University of Wisconsin, told Asia Times Online in an e-mail interview.

The pagoda didn't just shake this time, it totally caved in. The sacred umbrella fell and the diamond orb donated by Than Shwe's family was lost in the rubble. "The Danok pagoda rejected Than Shwe's offering," a Myanmar exile based in Delhi said.

Jordt says the event is significant. "It says that more inauspicious events are to come. It says that even the devas [good spirits] despise this regime and have removed their protective oversight of sacred places like Danok because of the regime's heavy sins. More importantly, it is a sign that Than Shwe's spiritual potency [based on previous meritorious acts] has been exhausted," wrote Jordt. "It is a sign that he has done so many evil things that he no longer has the ability to make merit any longer." It is seen, Jordt claims, as "a very bad sign for the regime".

A rattled junta responded swiftly. It ordered the media in Yangon not to report the Danok incident. A week later, it blamed the collapse on shoddy renovation work. But discussion, in Myanmar's streets or expatriate blogs, of what the pagoda collapse means is unlikely to be silenced easily.

Within a week of the devastation of Danok, an accident occurred at the Bawdi Ta Htaung monastery in Monywa, 136 kilometers north of Mandalay. Two senior monks who were inspecting a Buddha statue in the monastery - the 130-meter statue is Myanmar's tallest - were injured when the elevator they were in hurtled downwards, crashing into a stairway.

"Two bad incidents within a week of each other and that two in places of religious significance is a bad omen. It could mean trouble for the regime or even a natural catastrophe that will bring suffering to people," the exile said.

Astrological advice
Belief in superstition, numerology, astrology and the occult is deep and widespread in Myanmar. It is well known that the generals are influenced in their decisions by astrology and portents.

General Ne Win, who seized power in 1962, was guided in his decisions by a belief that the number nine was his lucky number. In September 1987, he introduced the 45 kyat and 90 kyat bank notes because they are divisible by nine and their digits add up to nine. An astrologer reportedly told him that he would live for 90 years if he did - he died aged 92. It is said that Ne Win used to walk backwards on bridges to ward off evil.

Than Shwe is also said to believe deeply in astrology and occult. His sudden decision in 2005 to shift Myanmar's capital from Yangon to the jungle redoubt Naypyidaw, meaning "royal palace", was apparently influenced by soothsayers.

Exiles claim he uses occult rituals to ward off bad luck before talks with pro-democracy leaders and foreign envoys. U Gawsita, one of the leading monks in the 2007 Saffron Revolution now living in the US, told Asia Times Online by phone that the regime has long been engaged in what he calls "astrology politics".

Reportedly on the advice of his astrologers, Than Shwe has resorted to a bewildering array of yadaya (rituals performed to avert impending misfortune) to counter any karmic misstep and to sustain his hold on power. He has installed a jade Buddha allegedly resembling his own appearance at the Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon. Buddha images donated by Than Shwe and his family have been installed across Myanmar in recent years.

Than Shwe's superstitions seem to have originated in his childhood. According to a relative of Kyaing Kyaing, Than Shwe has a birthmark which the astrologers in his native town interpreted it as the sign of a "future king".

According to the wife of a high-ranking Myanmar diplomat's wife, who declined to be identified, a 70-year-old nun named Dhammasi living in the northern part of Yangon is the principal adviser of Daw Kyaing Kyaing and Than Shwe on arcane matters.

"There was a scurry of visits to that nunnery by Than Shwe's family and former general Khin Nyunt's. The two families were vying with each other to get the most powerful occult advice from the nun," she told Asia Times Online. Khin Nyunt was the former intelligence chief and a highly influential figure in the regime’s top brass before he was deposed and put under house arrest in 2004.

The diplomat's wife said the aging nun is still visited by Than Shwe's wife: "Once we followed [Dhammasi] to upper Burma [Myanmar] in her search for lost Buddha images which she said she saw in her dreams and on the way our car was stuck in the mud. The nun took out her mobile phone which very few Burmese people could use at that time and she made a phone call to someone. Very soon, battalions of soldiers came out in trucks and pulled out our car."

She said soothsayers are often approached by the regime's top brass seeking promotions and to strengthen their positions. Astrologers and practitioners of the arcane often tend to be nuns, astrologers and even some corrupt Buddhist monks, according to a range of Myanmar citizens.

Still, many families in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar consult their favorite astrologers and spiritual advisers for an array of purposes: to successfully go abroad, to get promoted, to control an adulterous spouse, to pass an exam, or to have a successful interview.

Many perform yadayar to offset predictions of negative events. For example, throwing away a slipper means preventing the possibility of jail because the jail and the slipper represent the same planetary significance.

Also, every given name has a planet and some astrological significance. Sometimes, however, this becomes a simple play on words. To defuse tension in the aftermath of the 2007 protests, the government appointed a liaison officer to speak to Suu Kyi named Aung Kyi. "Aung" means success, and the thinking was he would win over "Kyi".

Numerology also plays a significant role in Myanmar. Using astrological calculations based on one's date of birth, numbers and calculations are inscribed on a sheet of metal. That metal is sometimes placed on an altar or a sacred part of a home to bring luck.

Aung San Suu Kyi seems to be a rare exception. According to a Myanmar woman who frequently met Suu Kyi before she was put under house arrest, the Noble Peace Laureate never showed an interest in astrology. Still, whenever people, including her party leaders, handed her papers of astrological advice, she never rejected them out of respect.

Others in Myanmar's opposition movement are hardly so skeptical. The famous jailed student leader Min Ko Naing changed to his current name - meaning "the one who triumphs the king" - from his original name Paw U Tun. U Gamira, a leader of the Saffron Revolution whose new name means "magic", was once called U Samdawbarsa. (The so-called "8888" student uprising of 1988, is also an allegedly auspicious digit.)

Dates in time
Myanmar's military rulers are not the only political leaders influenced by astrology or superstitions. In neighboring India, astrology rules the lives of ordinary people as well as powerful politicos. Tamil Nadu chief minister Muthuvel Karunanidhi, a self-professed "rationalist" and avowed follower of the iconoclastic Tamil leader "Periyar" E V Ramaswamy Naicker, has never been seen without a yellow shawl on his shoulder for the past 15 years. Many Indian politicians contest elections and file their nominations only after consulting their astrologers.

Former United States president Franklin D Roosevelt had an obsessions with unlucky numbers, specifically avoiding the number 13. Astrologers also reportedly influenced the scheduling of ex-president Ronald Reagan's appointments, including the time when important arms treaties with the Soviets were signed.

Myanmar's junta leaders, closed and paranoid at the best of times, are unlikely to have missed the fact that the pagoda collapsed on May 30, a date of great significance to the country's pro-democracy movement.

It was on that day in 2003 that the Depayin massacre took place. Thugs allegedly in the pay of the junta attacked the Suu Kyi's convoy and killed around 100 of her supporters. "For many in Myanmar, there is a link between Suu Kyi and Than Shwe's fall. The generals are unlikely to have missed the date of the pagoda collapse," said the Myanmar exile in India.

The significance of the pagoda collapse against the backdrop of recent events, specifically the high-profile trial and detention of Suu Kyi, may have made the junta extremely nervous.

According to Jordt, "The generals have in recent weeks enhanced surveillance of tea shops and restaurants in the major cities to ferret out any anti-regime talk. They have created stricter curfews for students in the various university towns. They have locked down the soldier's barracks so that their families cannot leave even to do business in the marketplace. The monks are not allowed to travel easily.

"In short, the regime is bracing for the worst."

Sudha Ramachandran is an independent journalist/researcher based in Bangalore.

Swe Win is a former political prisoner from Myanmar now working as a freelance reporter.

READ MORE---> Instant karma in Myanmar...

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