Monday, June 22, 2009

US Defense Official to Hold Talks in Beijing

The Irrawaddy News

BEIJING (AP)— A US Defense Department official is headed to Beijing for talks amid ongoing tensions in the region over North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons programs.

Defense Undersecretary Michele Flournoy will lead the US delegation for the US-China Defense Consultative Talks on Tuesday and Wednesday, the US Embassy said, without providing information on the agenda.

Flournoy was due to travel onward to South Korea for talks with officials in Seoul on Friday.

China is North Korea's most important ally and supplier of economic assistance. It played host to six-nation talks aimed at pressing the North to halt its nuclear programs in return for financial aid and diplomatic inducements.

North Korea has since snubbed those talks, conducted an atomic test in May and threatened war in response to UN sanctions. It also test-fired a ballistic missile and is reportedly preparing for another long-range missile launch and a third nuclear test.

China has publicly opposed the North's provocations and supported UN sanctions against the regime. However, Beijing opposes harsher measures that could send its isolated hard-line communist neighbor tottering and spark a refugee crisis on its border.

Flournoy was due to meet with Chinese officials including People's Liberation Army deputy chief of staff, Lt-Gen Ma Xiaotian, who last month told an international security forum that Beijing "has expressed a firm opposition and grave concern about the nuclear test."

South Korea has proposed that it and the other four nations in the talks meet to decide future steps, possibly on the sidelines of a regional security forum scheduled in Phuket, Thailand, in July. The US and Japan have agreed to participate, while China and Russia have yet to respond, according to a South Korean Foreign Ministry official.

Despite closer consultations about North Korea, US-China military contacts have proceeded only intermittently amid continuing suspicions about each others intentions. Beijing last year called off some meetings to express its dissatisfaction over US arms sales to self-governing Taiwan, the island Beijing claims as its own territory.

READ MORE---> US Defense Official to Hold Talks in Beijing...

Army enlists youths as porters in Mandalay

by May Kyaw

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - At least 50 youths hailing from central Burma’s Mandalay division were forcibly enlisted on June 1 by the Burmese Army to work as porters to carry military material such as rations and equipment, local villagers said.

Youths, from at least seven villages in Mandalay division’s Thabeikkyin region, known for its gold mines, were forcibly enlisted to work as porters to carry army paraphernalia on the evening of June 1.

“The youths were whisked away in five army trucks. The young men here use to relax at night in teashops. The troops arrived suddenly and took them away,” a local told Mizzima over telephone.

Another local resident revealed, “We have never seen anything like this here in Thabeikkyin town. This is the first time such a thing has happened. But people said those taken away came back by shelling out 100,000 kyat (USD 100) each. About five have reportedly come back.”

While it is still not clear which battalion of the army had taken them away to wok as porters, locals believe that it could the Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 148, based near Kyuak Hlebe village in Thabeikkyin Township.

Thabiekkyin Township is well known for gold mining activity and it attracts businessmen as well as people from other townships including Wutlet, Ayardaw and Thantse. Many come and work in the mines.

READ MORE---> Army enlists youths as porters in Mandalay...

North Korean vessel exposes Pyongyang-Naypyitaw axis

by Mungpi

New Delhi (Mizzima) - As the United States continues to track a North Korean frigate off the coast of China, analysts are calling for closer inspection of the vessel in order to confirm suspected military to military ties between the two estranged Asian nations.

A Burmese military analyst said today the United States should request permission to search on board the North Korean ship, the Kang Nam, tracked by the US Navy since shortly after leaving port in its home country on Wednesday.

Htay Aung, a researcher at the Thailand-based Network for Democracy and Development (NDD), remarked, “If the vessel is confirmed to be the Kang Nam, then it should be searched as it is highly likely to carry weapons meant for Burma.”

Htay Aung, who has closely followed earlier incidences of the Kang Nam harboring at Rangoon’s Thilawa Port, said North Korea and Burma maintain a secret arms trade at least partly facilitated by the travels of the Kang Nam.

The U.S. Navy destroyer U.S.S. McCain is tracking the North Korean freighter, suspected of carrying missiles and related material, and has reportedly requested permission from headquarters to conduct a search of the ship.

North Korea, which recently conducted a missile test as well as a May 25th nuclear test, is under revamped United Nations sanctions which includes a complete ban on the import and export of weapons and allows ships suspected of carrying arms to be stopped and requested for permission to be searched.

On Sunday, a South Korean News Agency, YTN, citing unidentified intelligence sources, reported that the Kang Nam vessel is heading towards Burma, which is also subject to a U.S. and European Union’s arms embargo.

Htay Aung said the Kang Nam, one of five similar ships North Korea uses in its weapons trade, has been previously spotted at Burmese ports.

In May 2007, Burma’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement which they circulated among diplomats and embassies in Burma saying a North Korean vessel, the Kang Nam I, had been allowed to harbor at Rangoon’s Thilawa Port on humanitarian grounds.

The statement said the vessel was allowed to harbor on humanitarian grounds as the vessel developed engine trouble while in Burmese coastal waters.

Inspection by Burmese authorities later reportedly found nothing suspicious, the statement added.

Similarly, Burmese authorities permitted another North Korean cargo ship, the MV Bong Hoafan, to anchor at a port in November 2006 under similar circumstances. Burmese authorities also announced then that they had conducted an inspection and "found no suspicious material or military equipment" o­n board.

“If the Kang Nam reaches the Burmese shore, the junta will make a similar statement as earlier made. But we know that North Korea and Burma have secret relations,” Htay Aung said.

Citing sources within the military establishment and civilians close to the military, Htay Aung said he has been aware that the Burmese junta is secretly working for the development of a nuclear arsenal.

Though it might be still a long way off for the Burmese regime to reach the stage of weaponry in their nuclear development, Htay Aung said with countries like North Korea assisting the regime, it might not be impossible.

“North Korea is already mostly isolated and they are looking at Burma as a regime of their own kind. So, it might not be too difficult for the regime to get the necessary expertise from North Korea," he said, adding that the continued thawing of Naypyitaw-Pyongyang relations is quite alarming.

In April 2007, North Korea and Burma restored diplomatic ties after a break of 24 years following an assassination attempt in Rangoon by North Korean Agents targeting visiting South Korean President Chun Doo-Hwan.

But analysts said both countries have been working to restore relations for some time now, with former Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung, purged along with Military Intelligence Chief and then Prime Minister Khin Nyunt in November 2004, both secretly paying visits to North Korea.

According to an email message from Roland Watson, who closely monitors Burma’s defense developments for the U.S.-based Dictator Watch, the United States has fair knowledge about the Burmese regime’s nuclear ambitions and their activities but has withheld information.

“By identifying the Kang Nam and its cargo of missile components, the United States has demonstrated that it is well informed about these relationships,” he said.

He called on the U.S. government to reveal the information they have on the Burmese regime’s nuclear ambitions and their secret activities in trying to develop a nuclear weapon.

Under Section 10 of the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE (Junta's Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act of 2008, the State Department is required to prepare a report on military and intelligence aid to Burma. Subsection 3 of the Act covers weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

This report, under the terms of the Act, should have been made publicly available by the end of January, but the State Department has to date failed to come up with the report, Watson explained.

Meanwhile, Htay Aung said unless the frigate is thoroughly checked before it arrives off the Burmese coast, its cargo may never be known for certain.

Sanctions enacted against North Korea, though, specify force may not be used to board a vessel on the high seas in order to inspect its cargo. Consequently, if the Kang Nam is able to reach Burmese territorial waters without stopping en route then it may prove impossible for the United States to conduct an inspection without violating international law.

However, if, as some analysts suspect, the Kang Nam is due to call on port in Singapore prior to visiting Burma then the United States can request Singaporean authorities to conduct a search of the boat prior to permitting the vessel's onward travel.

READ MORE---> North Korean vessel exposes Pyongyang-Naypyitaw axis...

Micro Credit in USDA’s Election Plan

The Irrawaddy News

The Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), a mass organization backed by the Burmese military junta, has expanded its micro credit projects across the country ahead of the 2010 elections.

Sources close to the USDA said that the organization has increased funding for micro loans for farmer in rural areas of Rangoon Division and other parts of the country.

“In the Eastern District of Rangoon Division, the USDA have loaned Kyat 50,000 (about US $ 50) per acre to farmers. The project started at the beginning of this monsoon season,” a source said. He added the loan project is a part of the plan by the military backed political party to win people’s hearts and minds in the coming elections.

Although micro credit has been given to farmers in some areas for the first time this season, the USDA has been making loans in other parts of Burma for at least two years.

“In Taikkyi Township, Rangoon Division, small loans have been given to farmers for two years. The farmers got Kyat 50,000 for per acre of rice field in the first year, but got more the second year,” said a USDA member in the township.

The micro credit project has given more public relations space to the junta-backed USDA. The pro-junta organization has had a bad name since their participation in the 2003 Depayin Massacre, which brutally ambushed pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s motorcade, and the September 2007 crackdown on demonstrators.

The military junta is allowing the USDA to become involved in rural social development projects ahead of the elections scheduled for 2010. Such projects include road building roads, plant propagation, provision of educational and medical facilities upcountry, performing relief work in the Irrawaddy delta after Cyclone Nargis, as well as providing micro credit.

Though the USDA is not the official ruling party in Burma, USDA leaders often meet with foreign delegations on a party to party basis.

In early June, Htay Oo, general secretary of the USDA, attended a North Korean film event in Rangoon, which marked the 45th anniversary of the North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s seat on the central committee of the ruling Worker’s Party of Korea.

Though the junta has yet to announce the election date officially, the leaders of the USDA have been campaigning across the country.

The junta’s mouthpiece, The New Light of Myanmar reported on Monday that an executive leader of the USDA, Burmese Information Minister Brig-Gen Kyaw Hsan, met more than 23,000 people in Saw Township, Magway Division in central Burma last week—observers believe this kind of trip is a part of the election campaign.

READ MORE---> Micro Credit in USDA’s Election Plan...

Thai authorities tell Karen refugees to go home

(DVB)–Karen refugees in Thailand are reportedly being told by Thai authorities to return to their homes in Burma, despite concerns that many villages near the border are littered with landmines.

Around 4000 Karen have fled Burma in recent weeks as a Burmese army offensive against the opposition Karen National Union (KNU) has intensified.

The European Union has called for the Burmese government to comply with international humanitarian law regarding the offensive, amid reports that Karen villagers still in the conflict zone were being forcibly recruited into the Burmese army.

Thailand has so far remained quiet on the issue, despite the Burmese government mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar newspaper accusing the Thai government of providing “fertile soils to [Burmese] insurgent groups”.

The Karen Women’s Organisation (KWO) today released a statement saying they are “very concerned” about the possibility of forced repatriation because of what awaits the villagers upon their return.

“The local [Thai] authorities just come to the people and asked them to go back” said KWO secretary, Dah Eh Kler.

According to the KWO, Karen villagers face the prospect of being forced to walk in front of troop patrols as minesweeper, while rape of women is a real threat: last week two Karen women, both teenagers, were raped and murdered by the Burmese army.

“Wherever the Burma army goes there is widespread human rights abuses and rape is just another weapon used by them against the people to dominate and control them,” said Richard Chilvers from the Free Burma Rangers (FBR) relief organisation.

There has been speculation that the reason for such a response by the Thai authorities is due to pressure from the Burmese government and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), who are fighting alongside Burmese troops in the offensive.

“It would be more likely for it to be the DKBA behind all this,” said Chilvers.

“They basically want those people back in their area of control so they can dominate everyone and force them to be human minesweepers [and be used for] forced labour.”

There are also suggestions that the DKBA will force villagers to help them with their new role as border guards.

“Now SPDC asked DKBA to become border guard, they need to recruit [and] if our people go back, they will be forced to become army” said Dah Eh Kler.

Reports last week stated that the DKBA and Burmese army had ceased firing mortars, some of which had landed on Thai soil.

Some are skeptical however as to how long the ceasefire will last, with “absolutely no guarantee that the DKBA won’t again restart attacking their own people,” according to Chilvers.

KWO meanwhile have described conditions that refugees are currently living as “very hard”.

There have been mixed reports about whether there is sufficient food, although KWO confirmed that diarrhea is prevalent, while “most people are suffering from malaria”.

Reporting by Daniella Nayu

READ MORE---> Thai authorities tell Karen refugees to go home...

U.N. envoy en route to Rangoon ahead of boss's visit

by Larry Jagan

Bangkok (mizzima news)- United Nations Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari is scheduled to arrive in Burma later this week to pave the way for the proposed visit of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in early July.

The U.N. diplomat’s trip is expected to start on Friday, according to a Burmese government official. “It will be a short visit to discuss the national reconciliation process and make arrangements for Mr. Ban’s visit,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

U.N. officials, when contacted, were not prepared to discuss the visit, only saying that nothing can be confirmed at this stage. Other sources, though, said Gambari’s trip was already being planned and was very likely to go ahead as scheduled. Several diplomats in Rangoon told Mizzima that while nothing is yet confirmed, they expect to see the U.N. Envoy arrive towards the end of the week.

“If Ban Ki-moon is coming to Burma in July then Gambari – as his Special Envoy – would have to lay the groundwork for the visit,” a Western diplomat in Rangoon told Mizzima, declining to be identified.

Asian diplomatic sources believe that Ban will travel to Burma from June 30th to July 2nd immediately after his scheduled visit to Tokyo to meet government leaders and leading business people. His itinerary after that is undecided but a visit to Burma is a "possibility," U.N. spokeswoman Michelle Montas told journalists in New York on Friday.

Publicly, U.N. officials will only confirm the Secretary General has yet to make up his mind. Privately, however, many diplomats who have good contact with Ban have told Mizzima over the last two weeks that he is very keen to go. The UN chief has been invited to visit Burma in July, according to Burmese government officials who say they have yet to receive a reply to the invitation.

It is expected the U.N. Envoy is going to be carrying the formal response with him – in the form of a letter from Ban Ki-moon to General Than Shwe, the junta’s top general. As yet it is unclear whether Gambari will meet the senior general this time – as on many previous visits the junta leader has refused to see him.

The U.N. boss is unlikely to go to Burma without some kind of offer from the top general. Most diplomats in Rangoon believe the Secretary General’s expectations will be laid out during Gambari’s trip. Two weeks ago Ban Ki-moon told journalists at U.N. headquarters in New York: "When the time is appropriate and conditions are ripe, as I said many times, I'm ready to visit Myanmar [Burma]. I'm working on that now."

Ban Ki-moon last visited Burma in late May 2008 in the wake of the devastation caused by Cyclone Nargis and chaired the donors’ meeting in Rangoon which provided crucial aid for Burma’s cyclone victims and the country’s subsequent reconstruction plans.

During that visit the U.N. Secretary General had a one-hour meeting with Than Shwe in which there was reportedly a frank and friendly discussion, according to Burmese military sources. Officially, Ban Ki-moon has insisted that only humanitarian issues were discussed during that trip as that was the precondition for the visit.

However during their talk Than Shwe asked the UN chief what he thought about the country’s “roadmap to democracy.” And the Secretary General seized on the opportunity to urge the junta leader to make the national reconciliation process transparent and inclusive – iterating that the National League for Democracy must be allowed to contest the elections in 2010 for them to be credible. He also told General Than Shwe that all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, should be released as soon as possible, according to U.N. officials close to Ban Ki-moon.

As the discussion came to an end, according to someone at the meeting, Than Shwe slapped his thigh and said this was the best and most frank conversation he has ever had with a foreigner. Ban Ki-moon is hoping that he will be able personally to build on the rapport that was established between the two men during their exchange last May.

Apart from personally taking his boss’s response to the generals, Gambari also now has the monumental task of preparing what he often in the past has called the “modalities of the visit.” Ban Ki-moon of course has already made the key issues clear: "Promoting democratization, including the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, has been one of my top priorities and it will continue to be my top priority," Ban recently told journalists.

Of course both Gambari and Ban are likely to be visiting Burma during the ongoing trial of detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, also scheduled to resume on Friday. She has been charged with breaking the terms of her house arrest last month by allowing an American to swim across the lake behind her house and permitting him to come inside and providing him with food and drink. If convicted she faces five years in jail.

Her fate may decide whether Ban does continue on to Burma after Japan. Gambari is expected to discuss this with the junta’s leaders on this visit. He is also likely to be looking at the upcoming general election, the first since 1990, scheduled for next year. Another regime concession may be publication of the crucial electoral law. “We expect Gambari to be the first to be shown the document that has been drawn up months, if not a year, ago,” said a Western diplomat based in Rangoon.

Gambari will fly on to Tokyo early next week after his short visit to Burma to convey the junta’s response to the U.N. chief, according to U.N. insiders. While this may be Gambari’s eighth and final visit to Burma as the U.N. Special Envoy to the troubled Southeast Asian country, it may yet prove to be his most crucial.

READ MORE---> U.N. envoy en route to Rangoon ahead of boss's visit...

Asia's Sorry Human Rights Record

(Asia Sentinel) -Asian values apparently don't protecting individuals from exploitation

Asian governments variously proclaim commitment to Asian values, Confucian, Islamic or Marxist principles or the rule of statute law. Or all of them. But when it comes to human rights, to enforcing laws intended to protect individuals and families alike from exploitation, greed, slavery and discrimination somehow the values are forgotten in favor of money or convenience.

The latest report by the US State Department on Human Trafficking makes dismal reading, particularly for those countries which have the financial and governmental resources to do something about it which must include Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Macau.

Of course the governments can argue that a nation which brought the world the Iraq war and Guantanamo has no business lecturing others on human rights. But whatever they think of the US, citizens of Asian countries have every right to know about the abuses committed in their name by governments turning a blind eye to gross ill-treatment of fellow humans, many of which are already illegal and others should be.

The report is particularly harsh on Malaysia which has been relegated to Tier 3, the lowest category in a system which ranks countries according to the scale of the trafficking problems and the efforts of the government to address it. In Malaysia it seems that even follow Malaysians are the victims, not just unfortunates from poorer countries. Thus it notes reports of "women and girls of indigenous groups" being trafficked for sex. "Indigenous" clearly refers to non-Malay Bumiputeras and Orang Asli. So it is okay traffic so long as the victims are foreigners or non-Muslim?

It further notes the "credible reports" of Malaysian immigration officials being involved in trafficking in Burmese refugees from immigration detention centers. Although such claims have been made by NGOs and documented in TV programs, and in a US Senate report, they have been persistently denied by the Malaysian government. No immigration officials have been arrested or prosecuted, let alone convicted by a politicized court system, for involvement in trafficking.

The report further notes the continued abuse of foreign workers who were subject to bondage and coercion as a result of failure to pay their wages, surrender of passports and other measures which reduced them to a condition of forced labor. Although ministers spoke out against trafficking and labor abuses, in reality little was done.

While government inertia may be part of the problem in Malaysia as elsewhere, local observers note that a political class which is itself so corrupt has limited ability to address the corruption of officials whether immigration officers actively exploiting detained migrants or being paid to turn a blind eye to illegal labor practices.

Macau, a territory of the Peoples Republic of China, is not much better suggests the report. It notes the scant effort by authorities to deal with the Chinese, Thai and Russian criminal gangs who run the prostitution rackets. It does not specifically make a link between Macao's reliance on gambling and the symbiotic relationship between the casinos and the sex trade. But it notes that trafficked girls are "closely monitored, have their travel documents confiscated and are forced to work long hours and threatened with violence. The control of some victims by organized crime syndicates makes it particularly dangerous for them to seek help."

Although the report notes that Macau has made a few efforts to combat trafficking and there were no reports of direct involvement of officials, efforts against rampant organized crime were inadequate.

In neighboring Hong Kong the bigger problem is failure to provide foreign domestic workers, particularly Indonesians, with the protection accorded by the law. It notes that debt bondage of workers from the mainland and Southeast Asia is enforced by seizure of passports, employment contracts and ATM cards. Although the government makes some effort to inform workers of their rights, its efforts at prosecuting offenders have been slight and it provides little support for victims to report crimes. Underpayment of the legal minimum wage is also rife and almost never prosecuted.

But at least there are wage, working hours and holiday laws in Hong Kong. Protection is much less in Singapore though the report notes some improvement in its Condition of Work Permits for foreign domestic workers and collected unpaid wages in 276 cases and prosecuted a number of employers for physical or sexual abuse. Nonetheless foreign workers routinely had their passports taken away by employer or employment agency and otherwise made subject to coercion.

Although the police investigated 54 cases of sex trafficking, only two convictions resulted. Embassies, especially that of the Philippines, reported many more cases of credible reports trafficking of their citizens. There was no indication whether many of the 5,047 foreign women deported in 2008 for prostitution had been trafficked. The sex industry in Singapore is rife, most conspicuously in the Orchard Road tourist hotel district and off Geylang road, where it is mostly patronized by locals. The girls are almost invariably foreign.

All in all, though there have been some improvements in Singapore, the tight social controls that its government applies in other areas is singularly lacking when it comes to protecting foreign workers from traffickers and bondage.

The Perils of a Day Off

It is no wonder that governments make so little effort to protect migrant workers, and maids in particular, from abuse when not only ruling elites but newly-prosperous middle classes like to think of themselves as owners of their workers. Is Malaysia such a sick society, pretending modernity but living according to feudal rules?

Stung by international criticism, the Malaysian government is actually trying to do something positive: a plan to give the estimated 370,000 foreign maids the right to one day off a week. This is generated a furious reaction from employers, recruitment agencies and even from a member of the National Human Rights Commission.

It is variously claimed that giving them a day off will lead to them running away, catching diseases, getting pregnant and making their "owners" – at least those unable to afford multiple maids -- do their own housework for one day a week. Apparently for many like Norizan Sharif: "If they take leave the home comes to a standstill". So Asian and Islamic family values rest on the assumption of slave labor?

It is hard to beat the arrogant and patronizing reported comment of Khoo Kay Kim, a member of the Human Rights Commission: "Maids would get naughty and there would be adverse consequences". Or accountant Audrey Tan quoted as saying "They might run away with boyfriends…"

This is the same slave-owner mentality displayed by writers to press in Singapore when it was proposed that domestic helpers be allowed the same one day a week holiday to which all others, foreign workers included, are entitled.

The outrage of the maid-owning classes may well have a racial element in Malaysia as well as Singapore given that almost all of the maids are brown-skinned people from Indonesia and the Philippines and the Indian subcontinent.

The fear that maids might run away demonstrates one of the ways in which they are oppressed. However badly treated they are, however ill-paid, however housed in accommodation designed for pets, they are unable to run away because their passports and other documents have been confiscated.

19 June'09

READ MORE---> Asia's Sorry Human Rights Record...

Myanmar Oil Markets Investment Opportunities, Market Analysis and Forecasts to 2020

(TMCNET) -Summary This profile is the essential source for top-level energy industry data and information. The report provides an overview of the oil industry in Myanmar. It details the market structure, regulatory environment, infrastructure and provides historical and forecasted statistics relating to the supply/demand balance for the industry. It also provides information relating to the oil assets (oil fields, refineries, pipelines and storage terminals) in Myanmar. The report also analyses the fiscal regime relevant to the oil assets in Myanmar and compares the investment environment in Myanmar with other countries in the region. The profiles of the major companies operating in the oil sector in Myanmar together with the latest news and deals are also included in the report.

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- Detailed information on key fiscal terms (such as rents, bonuses, royalty, cost recovery, profit oil, petroleum and corporate taxes) pertaining the geography is also provided. A sample calculation detailing how fiscal terms apply to a typical asset in the regime is included.

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Reasons to buy - Gain a strong understanding of the country�s energy market.

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For more information, please visit : Or email us at or call +91927....

As a community-building service, TMCnet allows user submitted content which is not always proofed by TMCnet editors. If you feel this entry is of inferior quality or wish to report it for some reason, please forward the URL to "webedit [AT] tmcnet [DOT] com" with your comments.

READ MORE---> Myanmar Oil Markets Investment Opportunities, Market Analysis and Forecasts to 2020...

Solidarity with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma


NEVER HAS IT BEEN more important to demonstrate firm and effective solidarity with Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma whom she represents. Her trial is presented by the Burmese regime as a legal proceeding. But let us be clear - it is nothing of the sort. It is simply the latest in a long line of political actions intended to cover an illegitimate dictatorship with a thin veneer of democratic and legal formality. And it will fail because the regime's word games and political machinations are no match for the Lady's "plain honesty in politics", as she calls it.

From the isolation of her house arrest Aung San Suu Kyi radiates a moral authority that exposes the illegitimacy of the Burmese regime and all of its pretensions to appear different from what it really is. The Orwellian lie contained it its name - the State Peace and Development Council - is laid bare by her integrity and simple truthfulness.

The sham nature of its new constitution is revealed by the provisions within it that are specifically designed to disqualify her from becoming president. Her trial on the ludicrous charge of breach of house arrest sheds light on the lawlessness of the regime. And since it has no purpose other than to keep her under arrest during the election that is scheduled to be held next year, it also exposes that election as the illegitimate farce that it will surely be.

And the trial does something else as well. It sends a message to the American government, which is undertaking a review of its Burma policy, and to the international community that is awaiting the results of that review, that the SPDC has no interest whatsoever in a new relationship, either with the United States or with its own people. In his inaugural address President Obama offered to extend a hand to any authoritarian government that unclenched its fist. The Burmese government has responded to this gesture by tightening its fist, not just by this infamous trial and the imprisonment of more than 2,100 peaceful dissenters, but by intensifying its assault on the Karen and other ethnic minorities, which have been decimated over the last 15 years by the criminal destruction of more than 3,300 villages.

There is also evidence that the regime has strengthened its collaboration with North Korea, which has helped build an extensive network ofunderground installations in the area of Burma's capital.

It is obviously exceedingly difficult, to modify the behaviour of a government like the SPDC in Burma that is so blatantly cynical and oppressive and shows no regard whatsoever for the well-being of its own people or for the good opinion of the international community.

But if it is true, as President Obama said in his inaugural address, that a government that clings "to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent" is "on the wrong side of history", and this surely applies to Burma, then certain conclusions inevitably follow.

Change will come in Burma not through the reform of the system - especially if that takes the form of a phoney constitution, show trials and a sham election - but through the steady and relentless application of pressure over time seeking the fundamental transformation of the system, a sharpening of its internal contradictions, and the gradual emergence from within the population of an alternative force that cannot be denied.

There are many steps that can be taken toward this end, including a strengthening of sanctions in the form of a broader and more effective embargo on the sale of arms to the Burmese regime.

Burma is unusual in that there is no country in the world where the contrast is more sharply drawn between a dark and repressive regime and a people that so clearly aspires to peace and reconciliation.

This was clear during the Saffron Revolution when monks and common citizens marched peacefully through the streets in massive numbers chanting slogans having to do with reconciliation, dialogue, freedom from fear and distress, and the belief that all beings of the universe have dignity and should enjoy freedom, only to be shot down by the agents of a lawless and heartless government.

And it is true today when Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, with fearlessness and courage, an unbreakable spirit, and steadfast devotion to the principles of democracy and non-violence, refuses to succumb to those who would oppress her.

It is our obligation, as she has said, to use our freedom to support hers - and the freedom of her people. And eventually she'll win because unlike her jailers, she's on the right side of history.

READ MORE---> Solidarity with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma...

Karen women beg Thai government not to repatriate them

By The Nation

A border relief organisation on Monday accused the Burmese soldiers and their allies of raping women fleeing battles inside the country and called on the Thai government to halt forced repatriation of ethnic Karen women and children, citing humanitarian and security reasons.

In a statement issued Monday, the Karen Women Organisation said it was "very concerned about the current situation of repeated forced repatriation of the families recently arrived to Thailand in Tha Song Yang by Local Thai authority since June 16, 2009"

" We are particularly concerned for the security and safety of women and children who just ran away from fighting in their areas. KWO fear that women are vulnerable to rape if they are forced to return and the children are already tired of running," the statement said.

KWO said at least two Karen teenage girls raped and killed recently.

"Thai authorities should at least wait and see the situation. Forcing back these people during the rainy season and to the place where they still have every reason to fear for their lives is inhumane and a violation of their rights." said Dah Eh Kler, the Secretary of KWO.

"These people just fled to the border a few weeks ago with fear and fresh memories of their attacks," she said.

In the Monday statement, KWO called on the international communities to "do whatever they can to stop the possible forced repatriation by the Thai local Thai army."

The organisation called on the Thai government and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to "urgently develop a procedure of obtaining proper informed consent from villagers, for decisions about returning to their villages or asking for refuge in Thailand."

Nearly 3,500 people, mostly women and children, from 20 villages along the ThaiBurmese border have fled into the Thai side of the border to escape heavy fighting since June 2, 2009.

READ MORE---> Karen women beg Thai government not to repatriate them...

21 Protesters Arrested in Dhaka

(Narinjara) -21 Arakanese protesters were arrested by Bangladesh police today in Dhaka while they were staging a demonstration for the 34 Arakanese and Karen freedom fighters who have been detained by the Indian government since 1998.

Ko Kan Myint, who led the protest, said, "We are now at Gulshan police station in Dhaka and the police authorities are asking us about the protest. Some of our leaders are explaining to the police officer about the protest. I don't know what will be happening in the near future."

Today is a global action day for the 34 Arakanese and Karen freedom fighters, and many Burmese in exile are staging protests in at least 20 countries, including Thailand, India, Bangladesh, Japan, and Britain, to demand their release.

The 21 protesters, including monks and women, staged a protest against the Indian government outside of the Indian embassy in Dhaka at 9:30 am, by gathering and shouting slogans.

Within a short time a police team came to the area and picked them up in vehicles, later bringing them to the Gulshan police station.

"Our 34 freedom fighters were arrested in 1998 but their trial has not finished yet. We all Burmese people are unable to tolerate such manner of the Indian government. So we staged a demonstration against the Indian government at its embassy in Dhaka. We also demanded the Indian government release them as soon as possible," the protest leader added.

In February 1998, members of the Arakan Army and Karen liberation army led by Major Khaing Raza went to an Indian Island in the Andaman Archipelago to set up a new navy base in accordance with an agreement with the Indian army to watch Chinese military activities in the Andaman Sea.

When they arrived at the island, Indian soldiers killed Bo Raza and five other senior leaders in the group in cold blood.

The 34 freedom fighters were arrested and have been in custody since then. They are currently being detained in a prison in Kolkata.

READ MORE---> 21 Protesters Arrested in Dhaka...

Arakanese Urban Refugees Protest UNHCR in Bangladesh

By Takaloo, Cox’s bazar (Narinjara): Arakanese urban refugees taking shelter in Bangladesh staged a protest on Sunday outside the UNHCR office in southern Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar, for alleged discrimination and neglect against the refugees.

"We are now in great trouble because the UNHCR has stopped not only our subsistence allowances but also assistance for medical treatment and children's education," said Phoe Hla, an urban refugee.

He added that the urban refugees were being discriminated against particularly in relation to resettlement in third countries, but were also facing neglect of aid by the UNHCR.

More than 200 Arakanese democracy activists who fled persecution by the Burmese military regime are recognized as refugees by the UNHCR in Bangladesh, according to the community. The UNHCR office in Dhaka was unavailable for comment on the issue.

"I am not able to send my only child to school because the UNHCR has halved the monthly educational assistance of 1200 taka for her," said Ma Fru Chay, a widow refugee with one daughter. 1200 taka equals approximately 17.65 US dollars.

She added that she has had great difficulty maintaining food and shelter due to the reduction in UNHCR assistance.

Most refugee parents have been unable to send their children to school since the UNHCR stopped their monthly subsistence allowances. The allowances were cut after they implemented a self-reliance business project that involved an average lump sum payment of 15,000 taka, or 220 USD, for each head of the family, say the refugees.

They said that the self-reliance projects failed shortly after implementation due to local competition and discrimination against Burmese.

"The UNHCR never listens to what the refugees have to say. It operates according to its plans and targets without practical assessment of the refugees' situations," said Khaing Pray Thein, another refugee.

He added that, "There is a great communication gap between the UNHCR and refugees. The UNHCR never tries to protect the vulnerability of refugees who are struggling for their livelihoods in remote rural areas. It usually delays its response or action on cases regarding health and protection, even though they receive adequate notice from the refugees."

According to the refugees, one UNHCR recognized urban refugee named Min Wa died in custody in Chittagong jail last year, after the UNHCR failed to step in and protect him according to their role.

Most of the refugees would prefer to be resettled in a third country so they can rebuild their lives, because they can not return to their homes and find it increasingly difficult to lead their daily lives in Bangladesh.

"The UNHCR should open resettlement for us. It should consider how we have to risk for our livelihoods here. We are badly suffering in every aspect of our lives. We have nothing except the hope of resettling in a country, where our rights are regarded and secured, for rebuilding our future," said one refugee.

They added that some western countries have shown their sympathy in offering resettlement for the urban refugees, but the UNHCR has rejected their offers on the grounds of preventing the exodus of more Arakanese refugees from Burma.

"More than 50 Arakanese had fled persecution after the Burmese junta cracked down on the Saffron Revolution protests in September 2007, and they have sought asylum here, but most have been rejected by the UNHCR on the claim that they do not meet the refugee status determination criteria," said U Khaemida, a Buddhist monk who has recently been registered as an urban refugee.

He said that newly recognized refugees and asylum-seekers are suffering difficulty due to the lack of UNHCR assistance.

"Short-cut solutions of the UNHCR have worsened the plight of urban refugees," he said.

READ MORE---> Arakanese Urban Refugees Protest UNHCR in Bangladesh...

North Korean ship headed to Burma

(DVB)–A North Korean ship being tracked by the US navy over suspicions that it is carrying arms in breach of new UN sanctions on the country is likely to be heading towards Burma, according to South Korean news sources.

The United States has been tracking the Kang Nam freighter ship since it left a North Korean port on Wednesday.

Under revamped UN sanctions on North Korea, which include a complete ban on arms imports and exports, ships suspected of carrying arms can be stopped and a request for a search made.

Yesterday a South Korean news agency, YTN, quoted unidentified intelligence sources as saying the ship was headed towards Burma, which is also subject to a US-enforced ban on arms imports.

According to journalist Bertil Lintner, if the YTN reports are true, this would be the second time the Kang Nam has been to Burma, following its docking at Rangoon’s Thilawar port in May 2007, allegedly to seek shelter from storm.

“It offloaded some heavy equipment, it’s not clear what it was, but the Kang Nam specifically is known to be carrying what the Americans usually describe as ‘material of proliferation concern’”, said Lintner.

The latest news follows the emergence of photographs earlier this month that allegedly show North Korean foreign advisors in Burma consulting with government officials on the construction of a tunnel network, likely as emergency shelters in the event of an attack.

Lintner, who revealed the North Korean tunnel project in the Yale Global, says that this is a sign that ties between the two countries are strengthening.

“Even China is reluctant to sell certain types of equipment to Burma but North Korea will be willing to sell anything they want,” he said, adding that “Burma has absolutely no interest in supporting an arms embargo”.

Given the arms embargo on Burma, it is unlikely the government there would comply with a UN resolution to allow the US to search ships docking at their ports.

North Korea, whose defense has been bolstered by the successful nuclear test, has said that interceptions of any of its ships would be considered an “act of war” and would react accordingly.

Reporting by Francis Wade

READ MORE---> North Korean ship headed to Burma...

NLD Members Convicted of Insulting Religion

The Irrawaddy News

Two members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) were sentenced to 18 months in prison in a Twantay Township court on Tuesday on charges of insulting religion. Three other NLD members have been detained in Rangoon under the explosives act.

Chit Pe, a vice-president of the NLD office in Twantay Township, and Aung Soe Wai were each sentenced to 18 months on charges of insulting religion, according to Nyan Win, an NLD spokesman.

Both men were arrested in April after participating in a Buddhist religious ceremony with about 50 other NLD members for the release of detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners. The ceremony was held at a pagoda in Twantay Township.

“Three NLD youth members were also arrested in Rangoon in June and have been detained and remanded under the Explosives Act," Nyan Win told The Irrawaddy. “Our NLD party will help them with legal aid.”

The three NLD members detained under the explosives act were not identified. No other details of their arrest were available.

“The Burmese junta has oppressed NLD members severely since 1990. I don’t want to guess politically what will happen in the future, but the NLD will practice non-violent ways and continue to oppose the regime.”

Aung San Suu Kyi , the leader of the pro-democracy NLD party, is currently in Rangoon’s Insein Prison on trial for alleged violations of the terms of her house arrest. Her trial is currently in recess and scheduled to resume on Friday. If convicted, she faces up to five years in prison.

In the 1990 election, the NLD party won a landslide victory in the national election, but the junta refused to honor the results.

READ MORE---> NLD Members Convicted of Insulting Religion...

KIO campaigns over 'known-result'

by KNG

The 'Known-Result' --- where the people of Kachin State have rejected the Burmese junta’s proposal of transforming the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the armed-ring of KIO into a battalion of 'Border Guard Force' is being widely spread in a campaign by the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), one of largest ethnic ceasefire groups in the country.

Lajawng Hkawng Lum, head of Department of General Administration (DGA) of KIO.

The special campaign has been launched by the KIO to explain the pressure by the junta on the KIA to transform at both the organizational level and among the Kachin public in Kachin State and Northeast Shan State since early this month, said KIO leaders.

The people in the political-wing of the KIO are taking the responsibility of presenting the campaigns which is month-long and will be concluded this month.

The campaign is also being organized not only in the areas controlled by KIO/A--- Eastern, Northern and Western regions of Kachin State and Southern region in Northeast Shan State but also in the areas under the administration of the junta in Kachin and Shan States, said KIO officials in Laiza headquarters on the Sino-Burma border in Kachin State.

On June 15, during the campaign in Tang Hpre village, 27 miles north of Myitkyina under the administration of the junta, the people were not allowed a question-answer session with KIO presenters. They were asked to send their written suggestions to the KIO central committee, said local participants.

The KIO-sought suggestion is only about facts which may help the KIO during the dialogue between the junta and KIO delegates over the question of transforming KIA as a battalion of a 'Border Guard Force', added participants.

The campaign was joined by over 60 people including local elders, pastors, preachers, and ordinary residents in Tang Hpre and villages between Nawng Nang, 10 miles north of Myitkyina and Tang Hpre, said local villagers.

In the Tang Hpre campaign, the three KIO presenters are being led by Salang Kaba Lajawng Hkawng Lum, head of Department of General Administration (DGA) of KIO.

Dr. Manam Tu Ja, Vice-President No. 2 of KIO said suggestions will be garnered from the people in the organizations (KIO/KIA) and from the Kachin public in the country and abroad. The KIO central committee will decide whether the KIA will be converted to a guard force or not based on the suggestions.

Dr. Tu Ja said that the KIO/A has always sought the Kachin public's suggestion as much as possible throughout the political history of KIO/A.

He said the KIO/A sought suggestions first from the Kachin people before they started an armed struggle for secession on February 5, 1961; before changing its stance to the demand for a self-determined state without seceding from the Union in 1976; before signing the ceasefire agreement with the junta in February 24, 1994 and before the KIO attended the junta-convened National Convention on drafting the country's new constitution in 2004.

Now, the KIO/A is asking for suggestions from all Kachins before the central committee arrives at a decision on the transformation of the KIA proposed by the junta, Dr. Tu Ja added.

Old Kachin politicians and elders in Kachin State said, the KIO leaders generally ignore the people's suggestion after seeking suggestions from them.

The KIO leaders were condemned by the Kachin people because they whole heartedly supported the junta-led National Convention on drafting the country's new constitution which concluded in 2007. It also approved the new constitution in a referendum in May, 2008 against the Kachin people's wishes.

The Kachin people think that the junta's pressure on the KIA to transform is the result of the KIO supporting the National Convention and the Referendum.

READ MORE---> KIO campaigns over 'known-result'...

Russia Rejects Pressuring Burma

The Irrawaddy News

The Russia Foreign Ministry Department in Moscow has rejected using political and economic pressure to influence the Burmese government, said Moscow’s Itar-Tass Russian News Agency on Sunday.

According to the news website,, the Russia Foreign Ministry Department said that Russia opposed attempts to internationalize the internal situation in Burma as it did not endanger peace and security in the region or in the world at large.

“In our opinion, the political and economic pressure on that country is counterproductive, as it enhances isolationist feelings of the Myanmar military and exacerbates the [poor] socioeconomic position of citizens,” the department said.

A Russian diplomat in Thailand, who participated at the forum on Burma held at Chulalongkorn University on the anniversary of Aung San Suu Kyi’s 64th birthday on Friday, June 19, said, “We don’t see Burma as a threat and danger to world security.”

He also rejected Burmese activists’ calls on the UN to isolate the Burmese military government from the world.

The Russian Foreign Ministry Department said that they hoped the trial of Burma’s opposition leader Suu Kyi would be unbiased and strictly comply with national laws and humanitarian standards, and that it would take into account international opinion.

Suu Kyi is being charged by the Burmese government and held in Rangoon’s Insein prison on charges of violating her house arrest after an American man swam to her lakeside home. If she is found guilty, she could be sentenced to five years in prison. She has already served more than 13 years in detention under house arrest.

Meanwhile, Burmese activists and the international community have called on the UN to put more pressure on the Burmese government to release Suu Kyi. The activists have also called for Asean to suspend Burma as a member of the organization.

Russia has kept a strong relationship with the Burmese military, and several thousand Burmese military officials and technicians have studied in Russia.

In 2007, Russia’s federal nuclear agency, Rosatom, announced they were collaborating in the construction of a 10 megawatt nuclear reactor in Burma. According to the Russians and the Burmese, the small reactor could only be used for the production of isotopes for use in the medical, agricultural and industrial sectors.

Russia and China, who are permanent members of the UN Security Council, have opposed putting the Burma issue on the agenda at the UN Security Council.

The two countries have kept strong relationships with the Burmese government and have rarely criticized the Burmese government.

However, China recently told Burmese junta No.2 Gen Maung Aye to promote democracy in the country when he visited China last week.

READ MORE---> Russia Rejects Pressuring Burma...

Brief situation report of Rohingya refugees in Malaysia

(Kaladan Press) -The Arakan Rohingya Refugee Committee (ARRC) released a brief report on situation of Rohingya refugee in Malaysia, on the occasion of world refugee day 2009.

Brief Report on Rohingya in Malaysia 2009

READ MORE---> Brief situation report of Rohingya refugees in Malaysia...

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