Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Farmers' Loans Reserved for Model Villagers

Maungdaw (Narinjara): The Burmese military junta has allocated 600 lakh kyat for farmers in Maungdaw District for agricultural loans, but the district authorities are preparing to lend the money to model villagers in 27 model villages instead, said a senior clerk from the district office on the condition of anonymity.

He said, "The military authority allocated 600 lakh kyat to our district but the farmers in our township are unable to get the loans because the local authority is arranging to lend the money to model villagers."

The military junta has allocated 2,000 lakh kyat for agricultural loans for all of Arakan State this agricultural season. Of that amount, 600 lakh has been allocated to Maungdaw District.

There are four districts in Arakan State - Sittwe, Kyaukpru, Thandwe, and Maungdaw - and the remaining 1,400 lakh has been set aside for the remaining three districts in the state.

"The authority has collected the list of farms owned by model villagers in the township. Later the list will be transferred to the agricultural bank in Maungdaw to withdraw the loans to them," he said.

Agricultural loans have recently been provided by the government's central bank to farmers through the agricultural bank, but local authorities in Maungdaw are neglecting to distribute the loans to Arakanese farmers in the district.

"I think the authority does not want to make loans to Muslim farmers because they are not citizens in Burma, so the authority decided to loan to the model villagers," the clerk said.

According to a local farmer source, the authority is only making loans to model villagers from Burma proper, and is not making loans to either Muslim or ethnic Rakhine, Dynet, and Khami farmers.

READ MORE---> Farmers' Loans Reserved for Model Villagers...

Flag Meeting Concludes with Many Promises

Cox’s bazar (Narinjara): A day-long sector-commander level flag meeting between Burma and Bangladesh was completed yesterday with many pledges made by Nasaka, the border security force in Burma, said a source close to Bangladesh authorities.

The source said that during the meeting, Nasaka officials pledged they would stop the migration of Muslims from Burma into Bangladesh. The pledge came about after Bangladesh Rifles officials expressed concern over the large number of Burmese Muslims crossing the Naff River.

Furthermore, Nasaka agreed to discussions to take back about 27,000 Muslim refugees from two Burmese refugee camps in southern Cox's Bazar District.

Regarding the border fence, Nasaka officials told their Bangladesh counterparts that the aim is to prevent smuggling and human trafficking, and would not create any problems for Bangladesh.

Burmese officials also said that the construction of embankments and erection of the fence along the Naff River was carried out under the direction of the high authorities in Naypyidaw, the capital of Burma.

The source said that Nasaka officials pledged during the meeting to take action on all the requests of BDR officials. The meeting was peacefully concluded without any arguments between the two delegations.

U Min Aung, a border-issues analyst, pointed out that Nasaka officials politely discuss matters at every meeting with their Bangladesh counterparts, but then take action in contravention of those agreements.

In the meeting, the 15-member Burmese delegation was led by Colonel Aung Gyi, while the 22-member Bangladesh delegation was led by Bangladesh Rifles Chittagong sector commander Colonel Didarul Alam Chowdhury.

READ MORE---> Flag Meeting Concludes with Many Promises...

Junta deploys fresh troops secretly in Kachin State

by KNG

The Burmese military junta is secretly deploying more combat troops in Kachin State at a time when negotiations are on with the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) over the transformation of its armed-wing into a battalion of a "Border Guard Force", said local sources.

As of the second week of June, able soldiers have been selected from different battalions and secretly infused into local Burmese Army battalions and military bases in the frontlines in different regions of Kachin State by the instruction of Lt-Gen Ye Myint of Chief of Military Affairs Security of the junta. They include two unidentified Light Infantry Divisions, said a source close to Burmese troops.

The new batch of troops are now secretly being stationed in the areas around Bhamo District in the eastern region of Irrawaddy River (also called Mali Hka in Kachin) and the areas between Myitkyina-Mandalay railways in the western region of the Irrawaddy River, the sources added.

Eyewitnesses in Bhamo said they often see Burmese military columns on the road between Bhamo-Namkham (Namhkam in Kachin), the illegal border trade route with China. They also see military columns of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the armed-wing of KIO on the same trade route.

The KIO suggested to the junta that the KIA be made a "State Security Force" instead of the junta-proposed "Border Guard Force" during the meeting between KIO delegates and the regime over transforming KIA, in Mali Hka Center in the junta's Northern Command headquarters in the Kachin State's capital Myitkyina on June 21, said KIO sources.

The KIO delegation was led by Vice-president No. 1 Lt-Gen Gauri Zau Seng while the junta's delegates were led by Northern Command Commander Brig-Gen Soe Win.

Meanwhile, KIO leaders are campaigning among the Kachin community in its controlled areas in Kachin State and in Northeast Shan State. It is explaining about the proposed KIA’s transformation. They are also asking for written suggestions to be sent to the KIO central committee, said Kachins in the two states. It is a month-long campaign to be concluded in June, said KIO officers.

Meanwhile, KIA troops have been alerted and are on standby in all battalions in Kachin State and Northeast Shan State to defend itself against the Burmese Army, said KIA officials.

All Kachin political organizations in the country and abroad and the Kachin public have advised to the KIO/A to reject the proposal of transforming the KIA and fight the junta, according to the Kachin media.

READ MORE---> Junta deploys fresh troops secretly in Kachin State...

Does Kang Nam carry arms to kill ceasefire forces?

By Hseng Khio Fah

(Shanland) -Reports of North Korean cargo ship Kang Nam on its way to Burma has raised speculations among ceasefire groups who are resisting Naypyitaw’s demand to transform themselves into troops under the Burma Army’s command that it could be linked to current tensions between the two sides.

During the visit of Lt-Gen Ye Myint, the junta’s chief negotiator, to Mongla, opposite China’s Daluo on 9 June, Sai Leun, 63, leader of the National Democratic Alliance Army-Eastern Shan State (NDAA-ESS), informed him of the rejection by the army and people under his leadership of the junta’s proposal to transform themselves into a border guard force. Upon hearing it, Ye Myint mentioned the amazing growth and development of the ceasefire areas during the past 20 years and said, “Don’t you feel sorry to lose them if you reject our proposal?”

“This is a strong hint that all that we have built will be destroyed by them,” a ceasefire officer told SHAN.

Another source from northern Shan State also reported that he was told by a senior police officer that new weapons with highly destructive power would be used against ceasefire groups unless they gave in to the junta’s demand.

Meanwhile, Col Yawd Serk, leader of the Shan State Army (SSA) South, remarked that Naypyitaw’s current military preparations are aimed at subduing the United Wa State Army’s forces along the Thai-Burma border. “Panghsang (on the Sino-Burma border) is not their immediate target,” he said. “They want to put pressure on the Wa’s southern forces to give up their resistance. They will deal with Panghsang afterwards.”

The main weapon employed by the junta will be “drugs”, he told SHAN. “The planned burning of drugs in Kengtung on 26 June is therefore significant,” he said.
Kengtung is the capital of eastern Shan State, where the UWSA is active.

READ MORE---> Does Kang Nam carry arms to kill ceasefire forces?...

New Mon splinter group demands 100,000 baht for disputed property sale

By Asah,IMNA

A new Mon splinter group has been demanding money in Tree Pagodas Township for, what they claim, is the illegitimate sale of property owned by their leader.

On June 22nd, a new Mon insurgent group calling itself ‘Rehmonnya’, led by Nai Khin Maung, demanded 100,000 Baht from Daw Kao Saorn, who owns a rubber plantation in Paline Japan village. Daw Kao Saorn lives in Sangkhlaburi.

Nai Khin Maung claims that the rubber plantation rightfully belongs to his superior Nai Shoung. According to Nai Khin Maung, approximately two years ago the land that is now the rubber plantation was given to Nai Shoung by Nai Aung Naing. Nai Aung Naing is a retired major-general from the New Mon State Party (NMSP), the largest Mon group.

According to a source close to Daw Kao Saorn, Nai Khin Maung said that her land is Rehmonnya’s land and that he will get the land back. Nai Khink Maung told her Nai Shoung already owned the land.

“The Rehmonnya group wants to get Daw Kao Soarn’s land. If they get this land they will use it for building a base of operations,” recounted the source close to Daw Kao Soarn. “If someone works this land they will have to pay 100,000 baht, and the headman [Nai Pain] who witnessed the sale of the property to Daw Kao Saorn will have to pay 50,000 baht to the Nai Khin Maung group.”

“This is my leaders land. Two years ago, Nai Paing, the headman of Paline Janpan village, sold this land without permission,” Nai Khin Maung told IMNA. “If we got half of the money from this sale we would be ok. Now, since they haven’t given any of the money made from the sale of the land to my leader, this is why he makes these demands.”

Because of threats from the Rehmonnya group, Daw Kao Soarn has been afraid to return to her plantation, though she does not yet know what they will do if she refuses to pay. According to IMNA sources, the plantation is approximately 5 acres in size and is still relatively young. The plants are all between 1 and 2 years old and have yet to produce an actual rubber crop.

Rehmonnya’s demand for money from Daw Kao Soarn comes as the third in a series of demands for money this month, from villagers in Three Pagoda Township. After Rehmonnya’s increased activity, New Mon State Party (NMSP) forces have increased security in Palin Janpan village, Ku-Bao village, and Brigade No.3 village.

Nai Ba Tin, who is part of the Three Pagoda’s Pass administrative committee in NMSP territory, said the Rehmonnya group has been asking for money from the villager and headman because they have personal debts to settle.

Previously this month, the Rehmonya group made two sets of demands for money in Brigade No. 3 villagers. The first came after 10 armed men from the group entered the village and kidnapped two retired village headmen. According to villagers and NMSP sources, they were only returned after their families paid a ransom of 50,000 baht. During the 1st week of June, the group demanded 100,000 baht tax from the villagers by June 9th. Despite the presence of the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA) less then a mile away, many villagers felt compelled to pay the tax. The headman claimed that the village didn’t pay, though Nai Khin Maung claims they delivered 25,000 baht.

READ MORE---> New Mon splinter group demands 100,000 baht for disputed property sale...

Brick factory owners see red over army demands for deep discounts

By Kon Hadae, IMNA

The Burmese army is forcing the owners of brick factories to sell their goods to soldiers for a deeply discounted price.

Currently the price for one brick is over 50 kyat, but brick factory owners report that the soldiers will pay only 30 kyat per brick.

3 weeks ago, in Mudon Township, factory owners were approached by State Peace and Development (SPDC) troops and informed that they need 40 million bricks, to build more battalions. They demanded the special price.

Many balked at the offer, as their profits would diminish and, for some, their bricks had already been ordered by another buyer. Nevertheless, sources told IMNA heard reports that the Burmese soldiers were insistent, only willing to pay the discounted price and not even considering paying the factory owners’ normal price.

“They forced us to sell the bricks for lower prices. I do not want to sell my bricks for only that price, because I am going to lose my profits. But I dare not refuse them, I have to sell my bricks to them,” one factory owner told IMNA.

According to another source, the soldiers settled on only two unpleasant options: “the SPDC told the brick owners that if they would not sell all their bricks to them, they must sell half.”

This expectation of special economic treatment secured through force and intimidation extends well beyond this event, and its ill-effects exacerbate a deep financial crisis and ongoing price fluctuations in Mon State and other parts of Burma.

According to a Kamawet Village, Mudon Township factory owner, he had to sell 100,000 of his 200,000 bricks to the soldiers for the discounted price. Similarly, bricks owners from Thanphyuzayat, Mudon and Lamine also report being ordered to sell at least half of their bricks, ostensibly for the construction of new battalions.

READ MORE---> Brick factory owners see red over army demands for deep discounts...

Burma’s military regime: Digging the tunnels - Part I

June 24, 2009 (DVB)–New images have emerged that show North Korean and other foreign advisers in Burma consulting with officials on what now appears to be an extensive network of some 800 underground tunnels across much of the country.

While rife government corruption and uneven development in Burma yesterday awarded Burma a spot at the bottom of Foreign Policy magazine’s Failed States Index, billions of US dollars are now known to have been channeled by the Burmese government into building the tunnels.

DVB has been tracking the development of the tunnels and underground installations in Burma for a number of years. This is the first in a series of DVB stories revealing the secretive tunnel project.

Evidence has been obtained that shows between 600 and 800 tunnels in various stages of construction, with work on some sections dating as far back as 1996.

Photographs of a number of tunnel sites clearly show North Korean advisers present. In one photograph of a work site at Pyinmanar Taung Nyo, dated 29 May 2006, North Korean advisers are seen training Burmese soldiers and technicians in tunnel construction.

Several government budget files also show evidence of foreign aid and loans being used to fund construction work.

A number of senior Burmese officials have been dismissed in recent days following the first publication of DVB’s tunnel photographs in the Yale Global Online on 8 June.

The military government has launched an investigation into how details of such a sensitive project were leaked, with associates of former intelligence chief Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt being questioned by police.

Further intelligence documents obtained by DVB show that the tunnel system is being disguised by the government as a fibre optic cable installation project.

Leaked engineering designs show, however, that some sections of the tunnels are wide enough to allow trucks to enter and leave. There is also storage space for food and weaponry, and separate rooms that would hold around 600 personnel for several months.

The documents also reveal plans to hold large rockets and satellite communication command centers inside the tunnels.

Although the financially weak Burmese government is thought to allocate some 40 per cent of its budget for military purposes, the tunnel project over the course of 13 years has likely run into the billions.

Some observers have speculated that the abrupt hike in fuel prices that sparked the September 2007 protests may have been a prelude to securing extra capital for the project.

Likewise, Burma struck a deal with China in April this year to siphon its vast offshore natural gas reserves to China’s energy hungry population, a venture that will have given the tunnel project an important boost.

Speculation that Burma is trading in military hardware with North Korea was reinforced on Monday with reports that a North Korean freighter ship believed to be carrying arms was headed in the direction of Burma.

Despite only reestablishing diplomatic ties in 2007, following North Korea’s bombing of a South Korean delegation in Rangoon in 1983, the two countries share characteristics that make them obvious allies.

According to journalist and expert on North Korea-Burma relations, Bertil Lintner, both countries have “absolutely no interest” in supporting respective UN arms embargoes.

Indeed, North Korea is one of the few countries willing to continue military trade with the pariah state, with “even China…reluctant to sell certain types of equipment to Burma”, according to Lintner.

Perhaps most worryingly for countries outside of Burma’s friendship group, it has renewed an alliance with a country that is rapidly becoming the icon of a new generation of ‘rogue states’ threatening nuclear warfare.

With this in mind, speculation will likely start to circulate as to whether the tunnel network could be linked to rumours that Burma is mining uranium ore, a key ingredient for nuclear fission. No evidence has yet appeared to verify this, however.

In our next story we will reveal the purpose of these tunnels, foreign involvement in the project and what is inside the tunnels.

Read Part II...
Part III

DVB Video

READ MORE---> Burma’s military regime: Digging the tunnels - Part I...

NKorean Cargo Ship Could Test New UN Sanctions

The Irrawaddy News

SEOUL — An American destroyer was tailing a North Korean ship suspected of transporting weapons toward Burma, as anticipation mounted Wednesday that the North could soon conduct short-or medium-range missiles tests.

The Kang Nam left the North Korean port of Nampo a week ago, and the destroyer USS John S. McCain was following as it sailed off the Chinese coast. The sailing sets up the first test of a new UN Security Council resolution that authorizes member states to inspect North Korean vessels suspected of carrying banned weapons or materials.

South Korean soldiers check the border fence as they patrol the North Korean border in Chulwon, north of Seoul on June 23. South Korean troops have been on heightened alert along the world's last Cold War frontier, amid high tensions over the communist country's missile and nuclear tests, with general leading US forces in South Korea saying that the North was likely to use insurgent tactics against both civilians and troops in rear areas should war break out on the peninsula. (Photo: Getty Images)

The sanctions are punishment for an underground nuclear test the North carried out last month in defiance of past resolutions. It's not clear exactly what the Kang Nam has on board, but it has transported illicit goods in the past.

The North has said it would consider any interception "an act of war," with its state media Wednesday accusing the US of fostering "the worst-ever tension" between the Koreas.

"It's evident that a solid peace on the Korean peninsula cannot be established unless the US hostile policy and its plot to isolate our republic are put to an end," the North's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a commentary published by the Korean Central News Agency.

A US official said last week that the American destroyer has no orders to intercept the ship, but experts say the vessel will need to stop to refuel soon on a 4,100-mile (6,660-kilometer), two-week, voyage to Burma. The resolution prohibits member states from providing such services to ships accused of bearing banned goods.

Nearby Singapore—the world's largest refueling hub—says it will "act appropriately" if the ship docks at its port with suspicious goods on board.

At most, Singapore may refuse to let the ship refuel, said Hong Hyun-ik, an analyst at the Sejong Institute think tank in South Korea. He also speculated that the Kang Nam may not have banned cargo on board, knowing the ship could be subject to scrutiny.

The ship has no plan to dock at Hong Kong, according to the Internet log of Hong Kong's Marine Department which shows planned ship arrivals and departures. In 2006, the Kang Nam was once detained in Hong Kong for safety violations, a measure taken after the UN's earlier sanctions imposed following the country's first nuclear test in 2006.

In the event that the American destroyer does ask to inspect the Kang Nam and North Korea refuses, the UN resolution states the ship must be directed to a port of Pyongyang's choosing. It was not clear which port the ship would be taken to. On Tuesday, a Pentagon official said the ship was about 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of the Taiwan Strait—close to both the Chinese and Taiwanese coasts.

The North is believed to have sold guns, artillery and other small weapons to Burma in the past. The Southeast Asian military state is the target of US and EU arms embargoes. There are concerns it could use small arms in the counterinsurgency campaigns it conducts against ethnic minorities.

Meanwhile, North Korea has issued a notice banning ships from the waters off its east coast between June 25 and July 10 citing maritime firing drills, according to Japan's Coast Guard.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Wednesday the North may fire a Scud missile with a range of up to 310 miles (500 kilometers) or a short-range ground-to-ship missile with a range of 100 miles (160 kilometers) during the no-sail period.

Yonhap quoted an unidentified South Korean government official as saying the launch is expected from the eastern coastal city of Anbyon. South Korea's Defense Ministry, however, said Wednesday that there was no particular signs in the area.

It had earlier been reported that the North would test a long-range missile similar to one tested in April. Japanese media said that could happen around July 4—the US Independence Day—and the missile would be fired toward Hawaii.

But US defense and counterproliferation officials said Tuesday that it was expected the North would launch short- to medium-range missiles instead. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.

Also Wednesday, Seoul's Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that South Korea plans to expedite the introduction of high-tech unmanned aerial surveillance systems and 'bunker-buster' bombs in the wake of the North's May 25 nuclear test. The paper, quoting unidentified ruling party members, also said South Korea also plans to equip the presidential Blue House and other key government facilities with systems coping with electromagnetic waves caused by a nuclear blast.

South Korea's Defense Ministry said it could not confirm the report. But a ministry official—speaking on condition of anonymity citing department policy—said the ministry will announce plans later this week to boost its defense capability to deal with the North's increasing military threats.

Associated Press writers Jae-soon Chang in Seoul, Pauline Jelinek, Pamela Hess and Lolita Baldor in Washington, Grant Peck in Bangkok, Min Lee in Hong Kong, Alex Kennedy in Singapore, Jill Lawless in London and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

READ MORE---> NKorean Cargo Ship Could Test New UN Sanctions...

Iran's Joan of Arc: dying seconds that last for ever

An undated picture posted on the internet on June 23
shows Iranian Neda Agha Soltan,
who was reportedly killed when hit by a bullet
during a protest in Tehran.

(SMH) - An undated picture posted on the internet on June 23 which purports to show Iranian Neda Agha Soltan, who was reportedly killed when hit by a bullet during a protest in Tehran. Photo: AFP
Cassandra Jardine

The death of a young woman on the streets of Tehran is caught on camera and viewed by millions. But should we be watching?

You tick the box saying you are over 18. You notice the warning that the material you are about to see could be upsetting. But nothing can prepare you for the horrible immediacy of watching a young woman die, as Neda Soltan does on YouTube.

The instant the "Play" button is pressed you are pitched into the streets of Tehran, where a woman in jeans is lying on the ground while several men attempt to help her. As the camera moves around the scene, away from her legs, past the striped T-shirt of a helper, we see the face of the 27-year-old philosophy student. She is young and beautiful, but it is her eyes that are unforgettable. They stare at you with a look of animal panic, as the first blood begins to trickle out of her mouth.

The film lasts only 40 seconds, but it is enough to affect world opinion. Over the past few days millions of people have sent links to each other, wanting to share the horror that brings home so vividly the violence which the Iranian authorities are meting out on innocent citizens.

In years to come, the bloodied face of Neda - already called the Angel of Freedom - will be the image that lingers of the Iran uprising, just as the naked, napalmed girl running down the road has come to encapsulate the Vietnam war.

Neda never set out to be a martyr: her boyfriend Caspian Makan, has said that she was with her music teacher when she briefly stepped out of the car, only to become caught up in history. Yet she is already on her way to becoming Iran's Joan of Arc, its answer to Jan Palach.

The blackened face of Palach, the student who set fire to himself in 1969, has become the lasting image of the Czech fight against Soviet repression.

Palach knew what he was dying for, but any meaning attached to Neda's death has been projected on to her by those looking for a symbol, a poster girl for the opposition.

No one knows her views on freedom.

All we really know of her is that pale face covered in blood.

These images, as the great war photographer Don McCullin has said, are our modern version of religious icons, with the eyes of the victim invariably looking heavenwards for deliverance as martyrs did in old master paintings.

A painting does not purport to represent reality; photographs and films do, but they can almost as easily be manipulated.

Already comparisons have already been drawn between the wide circulation of the footage of her death and the attention drawn by the Palestinians to the "Zionist regime's brutality" by continually replaying footage of a 12-year-old boy supposedly shot dead next to his father in Gaza in 2000. A court case eventually showed this to be faked.

Faking is as old as photography itself. In the First World War, faked pictures - fauxtographs - were circulated of the Kaiser cutting the hands off babies.

Interest groups have always used anything that touches the emotions as propaganda. Arousing outrage is, after all, the point of it.

Furious arguments raged in the blogosphere in 2006 over pictures of a dead child being carried from the rubble of an Israeli attack in southern Lebanon: sharp-eyed critics noticed the same man repeatedly carrying a child's body towards the cameras and replaying his moments of anguish for maximum impact.

The temptation to create iconic material is immense.

The key image of the Spanish Civil War is Robert Capa's photograph of The Fallen Soldier, his body arched from the impact of a shot. A witness has now claimed it was almost certainly faked.

Only two years ago, a Reuters photographer was sacked for adding smoke to increase the drama of his pictures of the bombing of Lebanon.

"There have been all kinds of problems with the doctoring of photographs," says Stuart Franklin, president of Magnum, a co-operative that represents many war photographers, and of which Capa was a founding member.

"We have to be very cautious and look for several sources of evidence - and witnesses. You can't assume something will be false, but you have to verify."

The footage of Neda Soltan's death certainly has the ring of truth about it: the panicky voices, the blood that spread with shocking speed over her face (as it would since she had been shot in the heart) and the testimonials of relatives.

This looks like an image that we can trust. But should we be looking at it at all?

Generally, the British media steer clear of such shocking images because they contravene one of our last taboos: that the moment of death is private and should be witnessed only by those who care for that person.

In the YouTube age, that principle is being eroded. Anyone in the office can now glance the "most viewed" list on YouTube, and observe a quick death between a rerun of Susan Boyle's early triumph and Sunday's episode of Top Gear.

There was an outcry last year when Craig Ewart, a 59-year-old suffering from motor neurone disease, allowed his Dignitas-assisted death in Switzerland to be filmed. Watching him sipping through a straw the drink that would send him into his final coma was as shocking as watching Ms Soltan's life leaking away on a Tehran pavement, but at least he chose to be filmed in this way.

And yet, Franklin believes, "there is a difference between Neda's death and voyeurism. It's about drawing attention to an issue."

The frontier between the two is a personal matter. Most people would feel repugnance at the idea of paying to view (as you can) the beheading of the kidnapped US journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan in 2002. That footage passes the reality test, but perhaps fails the distaste test because it was a deliberate murder, not news captured spontaneously.

Yet during the bombing of Gaza this winter, many people chose to watch Al-Jazeera rather than the UK television channels because the footage was more graphic.

What will be the image by which the Iraq war is remembered in years to come? Probably the humiliation and torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, inexpertly filmed by a soldier. Had good taste prevailed we would not have had the evidence.

Photographer Marcus Bleasdale, who has covered conflicts in Congo, Sudan and Somalia, has his own moral code.

"Since Capa's day in the 1930s, the professional rule is that you can crop a photograph, but you cannot remove or insert. As for whether you should show the moment of death, if I am the only witness to a scene I would put down my camera and try to save that person's life. If there are others better able to help, it is my job to record reality."

Images force change, Stuart Franklin believes.

"I was in Tiananmen in 1989, when gory photographs of students were being glued to lamp posts. It was the only way people could see what was going on. The photographs taken at the Heysel stadium [where 39 football supporters died in 1985] focused attention on inadequate design and police practice." As did the unforgettable pictures of people crushed to death against the wire at Hillsborough in 1989, when 96 people died.

At the time there were protests about their publication. Upsetting as the results may be, the alternative is worse.

Many appalling atrocities of recent years have passed relatively unnoticed because there are no images to which the public can attach their outrage.

Repression in Burma and Tibet has been helped by the lack of reporting and filming. And who remembers the deaths of rioting Mexican students before the 1968 Olympics? Few, because no images exist.

Neda Soltan's death draws attention to the disproportionate use of force used to quell rioters.

One day she may, like Jan Palach, have a memorial raised to her and a square named after her.

What her fate does not do is shed any light on the nuances of the conflict. For that, words and thought are more reliable than pictures and emotion.

London Telegraph

READ MORE---> Iran's Joan of Arc: dying seconds that last for ever...

Burma acts the bully on Thailand

By Larry Jagan

(DVB)–Relations between Thailand and Burma are set to deteriorate dramatically following Bangkok’s warning that the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi could all but destroy Burma’s already fragile credibility.

Thailand’s current position on Burma is stronger than usual, bolstered by concerns that Burma’s behaviour, by implication, would also impact on the credibility of the regional Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc. The junta of course dismisses these concerns, citing the ASEAN mantra of non-interference in its defense. But this time Burma’s political games are certain to be met with more pressure from its Asian allies and neighbours, especially Thailand.

The vexed issue of Burma is high on the agenda of Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s current visit to Beijing. He will certainly discuss the issue with his counterpart, Wen Jiabao, and the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, according to Thai government officials. The junta’s antics are all the more pressing now with detailed information emerging on the regime’s connection to Pyongyang; and now the North Korean ship en route to Rangoon has increased the temperature.

Apart from North Korean missiles and possible nuclear technology, there is much for Bangkok and Beijing to discuss during this trip. A key issue will also be the preparations for the ASEAN Foreign Ministers retreat in Phuket, and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) where the problems in Burma will also overshadow other important issues at time when the region is reeling from the effects of the international financial crisis and credit crunch.

A statement prepared for the meeting by the Indonesians is likely to be endorsed by China. China understands that at present its best strategic position is to strongly support Thailand as the ASEAN chair, as later this year Vietnam takes over and Hanoi will be less inclined to engage the Chinese.

Under the Thai chairmanship, ASEAN has begun to take a more aggressive position on Burma, and issued a strongly worded statement after Aung San Suu Kyi was put on trial last month. “With the eyes of the international community on Myanmar at present, the honour and the credibility of the Government of the Union of Myanmar are at stake,” the statement said.

But the Thais went a step further and specifically raised the issue of the pro-democracy leader’s detention. “The Government of the Union of Myanmar is reminded that the ASEAN Leaders had called for the immediate release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” said the statement. This was a reference to the Chairman’s statement at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ ministerial meeting in Phnom Penh in July 2003, after she was attacked by pro-government thugs and detained in May that year. It was later endorsed by the ASEAN leaders at their summit on the Indonesian island of Bali in October.

The Burmese government, as expected, reacted angrily. “Thailand’s statement is not in conformity with ASEAN practices, incorrect in facts, and interfering with the internal affairs of Myanmar,” was the official response.

But behind the scenes, relations between the countries are in free-fall, according to diplomats based in Bangkok and Rangoon. “There is no doubt that the offensive against the Karen [along the border with Thailand] is in part intended to be a warning to Thailand not to interfere,” the Burmese academic based at Chiang Mai University, Win Min told DVB.

While it may not be in direct response to the Thai statement, it is clearly aimed at sending a cautionary message to the Thai government that any interference in Burmese affairs will bring about a strong Burmese reaction. Gone is the conciliatory approach in discussions between the country’s two foreign ministers in April, when the Thai foreign minister, Kasit Piromya, went to Naypyidaw and was asked to help broker peace talks with the Karen National Union.

Now Thailand is increasingly alarmed at Burma’s plans to acquire nuclear technology, including for military purposes. Recent revelations of the myriad of tunnels being built by North Korean engineers and workers in Naypyidaw and along the Thai border in Shan state, has given the Thai authorities a significant jolt. But even more disturbing is the news that North Korea may be about to provide Burma with medium-range missiles, sophisticated anti-aircraft and radar systems, including surface-to-surface (SCUD) missiles with a 700 kilometer range, that can only be aimed at Thai territory. It is highly likely that the cargo of the North Korean Kang Nam ship includes missiles, according to South Korean intelligence sources.

Thailand of course is still searching for a means to maintain the pressure on Burma, while trying to find ways to lessen the tension between the two countries. Thailand’s position on Aung San Suu Kyi, and the national reconciliation process, will not weaken, even under the Burmese blackmail threats.

In a recent interview, the Thai prime minister made the government’s position clear: “Clearly our stance has been and will always be that the political process in Myanmar will have to be inclusive to gain the acceptability and respectability of the international community. Otherwise, obviously, Myanmar’s credibility and ASEAN’s credibility will be affected.”

When the former Thai foreign minister, Surakiart Sathirathai, tried to support the Burmese regime’s plans for political reform – Khin Nyunt’s roadmap to democracy -- through his creation of the Bangkok process in 2003, he was roundly condemned by the junta’s top leaders.

“We reject Thailand’s ‘mega-phone’ diplomacy”, the deputy leader of Burmese military intelligence, Major General Kyaw Win told me. This was a reference to the Thai foreign minister’s frequent briefing of Thai and foreign journalists on the progress of negotiations and talks – sometimes elaborating his views which were not always directly communicated to his counterpart beforehand.

But of course the regime has no qualms about resorting to a megaphone approach when it suits them. Its latest tirade against the Thai government was an article by Kyaw Ye Min accusing the Thai authorities of aiding and abetting the insurgent movements – especially the Karen – by allowing refugee camps in Thailand.

The junta was irritated by the Thai foreign minister’s suggestion that jailing Aung San Suu Kyi was in effect a threat to the region. “At present relations between the two countries are under [a] strain which is unprecedented in history,” said the writer in the state-mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar newspaper. He suggested the only way for harmonious relations to be reestablished was for Bangkok to “cooperate with us in genuine goodwill”. In other words, stop publicly criticising and pressuring Burma – something the Democrat-led government is unlikely to do.

READ MORE---> Burma acts the bully on Thailand...

Burmese Gems for Sale

The Irrawaddy News

A special Burmese gems emporium organized by the state-run Myanmar Gems Enterprise (MGE) is taking place at the Myanmar Convention Center (MCC). The sale started on 22 June and ends on July 4.

Over 8000 jade lots as well as quality gems, pearls and jewelry are to be sold through competitive bidding by tender.

Rangoon-based gems traders said regular jade buyers from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Beijing would come in lower numbers than in former years because of global calls for a boycott on Burmese gems and tightening Western sanctions.

Former US President George Bush signed the Burma Jade Act into law on July 29, 2008, restricting the import of precious Burmese gems and stones and extending existing import sanctions on Burma.

Charles Perigh, a western gemstone dealer with many friends in Burma, told The Irrawaddy: “Most of the best pits in Mogok, which is also called Rubyland, are run by relatives of high ranking family members of the Burmese military. There is no stability in the gems business and nothing is definite these days.”

“Although the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings company (UMEH) sells gemstones in Rangoon by auction twice per year, low and medium quality roughs are cut and sold directly in Mogok through brokers,” Perigh said.

“Moreover, the cut stones, whether loose or mounted in jewelry, go to Thailand from Rangoon in different ways.”

“Some unique and first-class gems, such as clean pigeon-blood rubies weighing several carats, have a different destiny. These rubies often go directly into the pockets of family members of the regime in Mogok, who secretly send them to Singapore for sale through brokers to get a better price,” said Perigh.

According to officials at the US Department of Treasury, the sanctions target two conglomerates: the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEH) and the Myanmar Economic Corporation. Both have extensive businesses in a variety of sectors critical to the Burmese government, including the gem, banking and construction industries.

Perigh said: “I do not think the embargo is effective. In fact the jade business is Chinese. Roughs including huge boulders weighing several quintals are mainly exported to Hong Kong. This trade can bring great profit to the Burmese generals.”

Awng Wa, a member of the board of advisers for the All Kachin Students and Youth Union (AKSYU), who regularly monitors the jade trade at the border, said to The Irrawaddy: “Trade is only possible for persons close to the Burmese generals. Only they can easily go and sell in China, Singapore and other Asean countries. Moreover, they can buy very precious high quality rubies, sapphires and other gems at bargain prices now.”

“Nowadays, Jade sales are very low. Demand from Chinese traders has dropped, and dealing at the jade market in Hpacan has fallen. Most joint-venture jade companies in Hpacan have suspended mining operations, though some joint-venture jade companies which are related to Burmese military leaders remain in operation,” Awng Wa said.

According to the Central Statistical Organization, Burma produced 30,896.44 tons of jade and 20.5 million carats of gems in 2008. The gems included ruby, sapphire, spinel and peridot, as well as 767 kilograms of pearl.

Burma usually holds gem auctions twice a year, but in recent years they have been held with increasing frequency in a bid to raise foreign currency amid tightening sanctions against the junta. Four such auctions were held in 2006.

READ MORE---> Burmese Gems for Sale...

Groups Fear Malaysia to Deport Burmese Protesters

The Irrawaddy News

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian authorities might deport up to 14 Burmese nationals who were arrested at a demonstration to mark jailed pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's birthday, human rights activists said Wednesday.

Police detained 16 Burmese nationals at a rally outside a Kuala Lumpur shopping mall Friday, but two of them were released after they were found to have valid immigration documents, said Latheefa Koya, a lawyer whose opposition party helped organize the demonstration.

At least five face the threat of being sent back to Burma, Latheefa said. The other nine are registered by the United Nations' refugee agency as asylum seekers who fled their military-ruled country, so they might be allowed to remain in Malaysia, she added.

Khalid Abu Bakar, police chief of central Selangor state, said officials were investigating whether the detainees were illegal immigrants. Some of them would be handed to immigration officials within two weeks, he said, but it was not clear when they might be deported.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch urged Malaysia to free all the detainees, who joined the demonstration to protest Suu Kyi's detention in Burma, which is also known as Myanmar.

"By detaining Burmese asylum seekers who were calling for democracy in their homeland, Malaysia was broadcasting support for Burma's despotic generals," the group's deputy Asia director, Elaine Pearson, said in a statement late Tuesday.

The UN refugee agency has registered more than 48,000 refugees in Malaysia, most from Burma. But community leaders estimate the number of people from Burma living in Malaysia is about twice that.

Those caught staying illegally face arrest and can be whipped as punishment before being deported. The government said recently that those who flee persecution in Burma and are registered as refugees are generally not deported.

Concerts, candlelight vigils and other gatherings for Suu Kyi's 64th birthday were held in cities worldwide last week. She has spent more than 13 of the past 19 years in detention without trial, mostly under house arrest.

Suu Kyi is being held in Rangoon's Insein Prison while being tried for violating the terms of her house arrest when an uninvited American man swam secretly to her closely guarded lakeside home last month and stayed two days. If convicted, she faces up to five years in prison.

READ MORE---> Groups Fear Malaysia to Deport Burmese Protesters...

Than Shwe Maneuvers to Retain Power

The Irrawaddy News

If Burma’s State Peace Development Council (SPDC) holds a successful election in 2010, the Burmese people will lose all hope of freedom and the generals who now rule the country will retain their power.

There are three nominations for presidency in the 2008 constitution—one from the military, one from the Senate or ethnic leaders’ hluttaw and one from Congress members. The Senate and the House then vote to choose the president of Burma.

According to the latest information from Naypyidaw, the military will nominate Gen Thura Shwe Mann and he will be Burma’s president. The Senate will nominate a prominent ethnic leader and the House will nominate a member of the Union Solidarity Development Association (USDA), Kyant Phut.

After the 2010 election, Shwe Mann will issue a state order that Snr-Gen Than Shwe, Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye and remaining SPDC members become patrons or advisers of the National Security Council of a new Burmese government. It means Than Shwe and his party will retain their grip on state power.

The military gets 25 percent of the seats at state, regional, district, township and village levels of the Burmese administration, according to the 2008 constitution. The military has a plan to assign deputy regional commanders as “second men” of regional administrations, deputy regiment commanders as “second men” of district administrations, majors or captains for township administrations and other ranks for village administrations.

After Than Shwe assumed state power in April, 1992, he arranged to hold a National Convention. He instructed Secretary (1) Gen Khin Nyunt and Secretary (2) Tin Oo to ensure that the military’s leading role should be one of the principal aims of the National Convention.

Khin Nyunt and Tin Oo objected, saying civilian politics would then disappear in Burma. Than Shwe ignored them, saying he had a long-term plan for a military role in future Burmese politics.

Although he appoints current ministers and the members of USDA who will organize the 2010 election, he still worries about its success. Because of his fear of losing control, he tries to get as many of his people in every sphere of government and pressures others to accept them as well. He is worried about the support he commands and whether his orders will be followed.

To achieve his aims, Than Shwe is using government money instead of his own. He promises that the 2010 election will be fair and honest, so he cannot use his power to influence its outcome without arousing international anger.

There is much discussion among the generals about where Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) stand. They are aware that if the NLD participates, the party stands a high chance of winning, just as it did in 1990.

There’s a fear among the generals that even among the 25 percent representation reserved for the military, as much as 15 percent might support the NLD. With that prospect in mind, some generals are seeking to exclude NLD officials from running for office.

Ultimately, the generals still have to wait for Than Shwe’s orders. Until recently, he tried very hard to ignore the NLD and to force his ideas on Burma.

The trial of Suu Kyi and the worldwide wave of condemnation it provoked have forced Than Shwe to reconsider his position.

Last month, he sent Shwe Mann to China to seek assurance of support for the junta.
The Chinese leaders requested a meeting with the junta’s No 2, Maung Aye, who visited Beijing on June 15. Foreign Minister Nyan Win is shortly to visit the United Nations in New York.

The ethnic ceasefire groups pose another problem for Than Shwe. The ethnic groups dislike the 2008 constitution and the election plan, and they don’t want to surrender to the Burmese military. They accuse Than Shwe of diminishing Burma’s federal policy and of destroying the Union of Myanmar.

Than Shwe promised ethnic leaders that if the armed groups agreed to non-disintegration of the Union, national solidarity and the perpetuation of sovereignty, he would be ready to talk to them. He promised government support for development in ceasefire areas.

He also promised to allow ethnic politics to be discussed at the National Convention, but then went back on that pledge.

After approving the 2008 constitution, he instructed the ethnic ceasefire groups to surrender and lay down their arms and proposed that their troops should serve as border security guards. The proposal was rejected by the largest ceasefire groups.

Than Shwe will take time to decide on a verdict for Suu Kyi’s trial, hoping international pressure will ease. There are two sayings to describe his frame of mind: “He doesn’t care what anyone thinks. People will forget in seven days” and “If there is tension, he will reduce it. If there isn’t tension, he will create it.”

In the 2010 election, Than Shwe will use his military power and influence to affect the outcome as much as possible. He realizes the importance of this election on his future.

If he wins, Burma will be under his tyranny for a long time to come. If he loses, he knows he faces possible arraignment before an international court.

Because of the importance of this election and the future of the people and country, we must try to educate and influence civilians as well as military officials. Other nations are monitoring Burma very closely, so General Than Shwe feels the pressure and cannot make dishonest decisions.

The author is a former officer in the counterintelligence department of the Office of the Chief of Military Intelligence (OCMI) and former deputy chief of the Burmese embassy in Washington. He lives in Washington is seeking political asylum in the United States.

READ MORE---> Than Shwe Maneuvers to Retain Power...

Burmese Army Still Recruiting Under-age Soldiers

The Irrawaddy News

The Burmese army is still recruiting under-age soldiers in contravention of a United Nations call to stop the practice, according to child labor activists in Burma.

In the latest incident, a 16-year-old youth was taken late at night by an army truck from Light Infantry Division 77, based in Pegu.

Aye Myint, a leading labor activist in Pegu Division, said the youth was taken from a local restaurant where he worked. His parents were told by an officer at the Pegu army base that the youth had been sent to a recruitment center in Rangoon’s Mingalardon Township.

Aye Myint said the youth’s family has lodged a letter of complaint with the International Labour Organization (ILO) office in Rangoon on June 17. The Irrawaddy tried
unsuccessfully to contact the office on Wednesday.

Kyin Toe, chairman of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Twante Township, said another family had complained to his office that their under-age son had been recruited by the army.

Burma’s state-run media maintains that the government is screening recruits and releasing any found to be under age. It reported that 68 children were detected recently in various military training schools and were released to their parents or guardians.

The ILO says it has been instrumental, together with the International Committee of the Red Cross, in the release of 12 under-age recruits. A further 14 cases are still being processed.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch has said that 70,000 under-age soldiers are serving in the Burmese armed forces.

The UN also says in its latest report on the situation that the Burmese military junta is still recruiting child soldiers. The report on “Children and Armed Conflict” was released this month.

Human rights groups say children are recruited at train stations, bus depots, tea shops, outside video halls and movie cinemas or even while walking home at night.

The groups say the young recruits are threatened and beaten if they refuse to agree to undergo military training. After their training, many are sent to areas where the army is in conflict with ethnic groups.

READ MORE---> Burmese Army Still Recruiting Under-age Soldiers...

Burma Bans North Korea Ship News

The Irrawaddy News

Burma’s military-controlled censorship board has banned all journals and magazines from publishing news about a North Korean ship which will soon dock near Rangoon and is believed to be carrying arms for Burma.

Weekly newspapers such as Weekly Eleven, 7 days, Yangon Times and The Voice have tried to translate and publish articles based on foreign media sources about the voyage of the cargo ship, which is being tracked by a United States destroyer.

A Rangoon editor told The Irrawaddy, “Most journals tried to print something about the voyage of the North Korea ship, but the Burmese Censorship Board rejected all the stories.”

In Burma, all news outlets inside the country fall under the strict surveillance of the state censorship board under the Ministry of Information—officially known as the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division—and are also held in check by various publication laws.

Prior censorship is imposed on all local media and is strictly applied against any news that might cast the government in a bad light.

The North Korean ship, Kang Nam 1, is believed to be carrying arms for the military government. It departed from the North Korean port of Nampo one week ago, and the USS John S. McCain destroyer has tracked it as it passed along the Chinese coast.

Burmese citizens are relying on foreign-based radio stations for news of the cargo ship, sources said.

A 40-year-old Rangoon resident said, “The BBC, VOA and other international broadcasting agencies air news about the ship. Most Burmese people are very interested in it because a US military vessel is involved.”

According to a port official in Rangoon, the North Korean ship will dock at Thilawa port, some 20 miles (30 kilometers) south of Rangoon, in the next few days.

The Kang Nam 1 docked at the port in 2004, at that time raising suspicions about the nature of its cargo. Speculation centered on convention arms, missiles or some type of nuclear weaponry.

In 2007, two Burmese journalists working for the Japanese television news agency Nippon News Network (NNN) were arrested and detained for two nights and three days for covering the arrival of the Kang Nam 1, which docked secretly at the Thilawa port, saying it was seeking refuge from a storm and in need of supplies.

READ MORE---> Burma Bans North Korea Ship News...

Palpable tension between junta and ethnic armed groups

by Solomon

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Burmese Army has significantly increased its military presence in northern and eastern Burma, where ethnic ceasefire armed groups are based, following their widespread rejection of the junta’s proposal to transform to a border guard force.

An official of the United Wa State Army (UWSA) told Mizzima on Wednesday that they have witnessed the Burmese Army relocating more troops along with arms including mortars in bases near their controlled areas in eastern Shan State.

“We have seen the Burmese Army moving in more troops, in what seems like a preparation for a war,” the official said.

He told Mizzima that the junta is likely to mount more pressure on them after they rejected the proposal to transform their army into a ‘Border Guard’ force.

“Changing our army’s name is not a problem but if we accept their proposal, we will lose our forces, so it’s not possible for us,” he said.

In late April, the junta proposed to ceasefire armed groups to change their armies into a ‘Border Guard’, which will be supervised by the junta. According to the junta’s plan, each battalion of the border guard will consist of 326 soldiers out of which 30 soldiers from the Burmese Army will be included.

However, most of the ceasefire groups including the UWSA have reportedly rejected the junta’s proposal, triggering renewed tension between the Burmese Army and the rebels.

But the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), an ethnic Karen rebel group which split from the mainstream Karen resistance army – the Karen National Union, have not rejected the junta’s proposal.

“We do not anticipate war, nobody wants to fight, we are still open to talks with them [junta] but we need to defend ourselves, so now, we have alerted all our troops to be ready,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added.

UWSA controls two special regions in northern Shan State, bordering China and eastern Shan state, bordering Thailand.

Meanwhile, sources said, the Burmese junta has also increased its military presence in northern Burma’s Kachin State in areas controlled by the Kachin Independence Organization/Army (KIO/A).

Awng Wa, an activist working inside Kachin state said, troops have been reinforced in the Burmese Army, based near the KIO’s main headquarter in the Sino-Burma border town of Laiza.

“More soldiers have arrived in battalion 2 at Daw Hpum Myang [which is close to Laiza],” said Awng Wa.

He said the junta has reinforced the army battalions with more troops since they began proposing the transformation of the KIA into a border guard force.

“It looks to me that a conflict might break out between the KIO and the Burmese Army anytime soon,” he added.

An unconfirmed report received by Mizzima said, leaders of the KIO including Vice-President (1) of the KIO Lt-Gen Gauri Zau Seng, during a meeting with a Burmese junta official in Myitkyina of Kachin state last week, rejected the proposal.

But when contacted by Mizzima, Gauri Zau Seng declined to clarify the matter and referred to the KIO’s spokesperson Colonel Gun Maw. But Col Gun Maw, however, could not be reached for comment.

Sources said, the KIO has been holding meetings within the organisation to discuss the junta’s proposal and had formed a seven-member committee to deal with the issue and to negotiate with the junta. Lt-Gen Gauri Zau Seng is the leader of the team.

As part of its preparation, KIO in turn has stepped up recruiting new cadres and has called back old comrades. They are also returning into the forests, sources said.

Similarly, the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S), which has not signed a ceasefire agreement with the junta, said the Burmese Army has also been expanding its presence in eastern and northern Shan states.

Major Long Sai of the SSA-S told Mizzima, that it is the fallout of rejecting the junta’s proposal by ethnic ceasefire groups and the military junta is likely to launch stronger military operations.

“They [junta] are despatching more artillery battalions,” said Long Sai. “They always regarded us as their enemy but we are only fighting for our rights and freedom,” he added.

“I want to call on all ceasefire groups to continue trying what we want and we all have the same goal,” said Long Sai.

Since the beginning of June, the Burmese Army along with their allies - the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) – launched a military offensive against the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), the armed wing of the KNU.

In the operation, which forced thousands of Karen villagers to flee to Thailand, the joint forces of the Burmese Army and the DKBA overran the bases of KNLA’s 7th Brigade.

But a Sino-Burma border based analyst Aung Kyaw Zaw told Mizzima that so far there is no sign to indicate that the junta will conduct a fresh military offensive against the ceasefire armed groups. Not until the junta completes its planned elections in 2010, he said.

READ MORE---> Palpable tension between junta and ethnic armed groups...

Police patrol Rangoon, security tightened near Insein prison

by Myint Maung

New Delhi (Mizzima) – There is heightened security in Rangoon with at least 30 army trucks with uniformed riot police personnel, patrolling the city on Wednesday.

The army trucks are each carrying at least 20 policemen and are patrolling various townships of Rangoon, eyewitnesses said.

“We can see about 30 to 40 army trucks carrying uniformed policemen patrolling the city. It looks like they are on high alert. They also have machine guns mounted on the trucks. They came to our township at about 3 p.m. (local time),” an eyewitness from Insein Township told Mizzima.

“Earlier, when they patrolled like they are doing now, the police would carry shields but today they had a policeman standing on the truck with a machine gun mounted on the hood,” he added.

Another local resident said he had seen about three army trucks, full of riot police, patrolling downtown Rangoon near the City Hall, which is one of the busiest places in town.

“They had the trucks covered with shields and had batons and guns in their hands,” he said.

A source near the Insein prison told Mizzima that the riot police No. (8) have been relocated and repositioned near the Insein prison.

Some of the townships, where eyewitnesses saw army trucks patrolling include San Chuang and Dagon South.

The reason for the sudden tightening of security, however, remains unknown but some believe it could be because of the United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari, who reportedly is planning to visit the country later this week.

READ MORE---> Police patrol Rangoon, security tightened near Insein prison...

High Court hears Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyers' arguments

by Mungpi

New Delhi (mizzima) - Burma’s High Court on Wednesday heard defense arguments for allowing two more witnesses in the controversial trial against pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, but did not make any ruling on the matter.

Nyan Win, a member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s legal team, said the defense team argued it is in accordance with the law to allow the remaining two witnesses – Tin Oo, Vice-Chairman of the National League for Democracy (NLD), and Win Tin, a veteran journalist and Central Executive Committee member of the NLD.

“The High Court doesn’t make immediate decisions and will take some time before announcing their decision. And we don’t know when that announcement will be,” Nyan Win said.

However, Nyan Win added that the High Court judges told them it might be impossible to accept Tin Oo as a witness as he is currently under house arrest.

The judges further explained, according to Nyan Win, that as Win Tin has given several interviews to the exile-based Democratic Voice of Burma, BBC and Radio Free Asia, in which he demonstrated a distinct difference of opinion to that of the authorities, he may not qualify either.

But Kyi Win, Aung San Suu Kyi's primary lawyer, said the law prescribes that in finding the truth even criminals serving a death sentence can be brought as witnesses.

“My instinct told me that this will be the kind of excuse they would use to reject Tin Oo. But the law permits the accused to call anybody as a witness, as long as the witness has relevance,” Kyi Win said.

He added that during his experience as a lawyer he has seen judges order a commission be sent to prisons to hear the testimony of prisoners claimed as witnesses for the accused.

With regard to the judges' complaint concerning Win Tin, Kyi Win elaborated that everybody has the right to have their own opinion and having a different opinion to the government is not a crime.

“What we are fighting is for equal representation in front of the court and since the lower court [at Insein prison] has not mentioned any reasons for rejecting the defense witnesses, it is against the law [to exclude the candidates],” he added.

The Insein prison court where Aung San Suu Kyi is facing trial originally scheduled the hearing of the second defense witness– Khin Moh Moh – for Friday. But Kyi Win said there would be no hearing until the High Court makes the decision on whether to allow more witnesses.

The Burmese Nobel Peace Laureate, who has been under some form of detention for more than 13 of the past 19 years, is currently facing trial under charges of breaching her previous term of detention by ‘harboring’ an American man for two days at her lakeside home in early May.

Observers and opposition elements believe the trial, which could see Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to up to five years of further imprisonment if found guilty, is a pretext to continue detaining her in order to further clear the way for the junta’s planned 2010 general election – the country's first since the military annulled a 1990 ballot, which saw the NLD emerge the clear winner.

READ MORE---> High Court hears Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyers' arguments...

Thai government urged not to repatriate Karen refugees

by Usa Pichai

Chiang Mai (mizzima) – The government of Thailand has been urged by Asian lawmakers and activists not to repatriate Karen refugees, who recently fled to Thailand in the wake of fighting along the border.

Kraisak Chunhavan, chairman of the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) expressed concern over the situation on the Thai-Burma border where the fighting between the Burmese Army and an ethnic armed group is on, resulting in several thousand Karen villagers fleeing for shelter on the Thai side.

Kraisak insisted that the Thai government should provide humanitarian aid to these villagers and AIPMC will propose to the Thai government, as the current chairman of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), to work with member countries to promote democracy and sustainable peace in Burma.

“We are worried because the situation is still vulnerable. Many more refugees are coming to Thailand and we believe that the Thai government will not send these people back while the fighting continues because it is the principle of the Asean Charter to protect the rights of the people,” Kraisak said.

On Monday, the Karen Women’s Organization (KWO) released a statement expressing concern over the current situation of repatriation of families who recently arrived in Thailand in Tha Song Yang of Tak Province.

KWO said these women, if repatriated, will be vulnerable to abuses including sexual harassment and the children are already exhausted from running. Evidence of two Karen teenaged girls raped and killed is proof of a well founded fear of women being abused if they return. The group called on the international community to do whatever they can to stop possible repatriation by the Thai Army.

The group said, the Thai government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should urgently chalk out a procedure to obtain proper consent from the villagers, over the possibility of returning to their villages or to ask if they want to take refuge in Thailand. They should not be forced back in keeping with respect for international law.

"The Thai authorities should at least wait and observe 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 inhuman 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 from fear and fresh memories of attacks."

Similarly, Action Network for Migrants, a network of migrant workers activists and organization also in a statement urged the Thai government and related organizations to reconsider the policy that will not register new refugees to live in refugee camps along the borders. The authorities should allow non government organizations to provide education for the new comers children, which is a basic human right.

READ MORE---> Thai government urged not to repatriate Karen refugees...

The People's Iran

by Hon. David Kilgour

Mizzima News -Among the many e-messages coming from Iran in recent days, I found one from a woman especially moving:

"...this is the most authentic,
grassroots and beautiful movement from the people,
by the people and for the people."
Iranians have spoken with defiant demonstrations in the hundreds of thousands and in rallies elsewhere, including one last weekend near Paris, drawing 90,000 in protest against alleged widespread election fraud and the unleashing of terror by state security forces.

June 12 election

The ayatollahs' election monitors this week admitted that the number of ballots cast in fifty cities on June 12th exceeded the number of eligible voters, although they insisted, unconvincingly, that this affected only three million votes. Adding to the mounting skepticism is an analysis by the respected Chatham House and Institute of Iranian Studies at St. Andrew's University, which challenges the official results based on a comparison of the 2009 votes with those of 2005.

The study reveals that in a third of all provinces the official results, if accurate, would have required Ahmadinejad to win over not only all 'conservative' voters, all former centrist ones and all new voters, but up to 44 percent of formerly 'reformist' voters despite a decade of conflict between the two groups.

Among numerous other indications of ballot stuffing are reports that before the election a number of officials in the Interior Ministry (where the votes were counted) were fired because their loyalty to Ahmadinejad was questioned. In sum, the incumbent's declared victory by eleven million votes now looks likely fabricated.

Ballots vs. Bullets

The ongoing confrontation of ballots and bullets across Iran underlines an important major issue of the 21st century: how the direction in the Koran -- ''commanding right and forbidding wrong''-- is to be resolved in 48 nations with Muslim majority populations.

Recent voting trends are revealing. Indonesia, the largest Muslim democracy, held parliamentary elections in April 2009. Support for fundamentalist parties declined. Most voters seemed concerned about good governance and economic development. Overall, support for fundamentalist parties fell from 39% to 29.5%. The largest, the Prosperous Justice Party, won only 8.4% of the votes.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democratic Party captured 20.5% of the popular vote and he is expected to win re-election in the upcoming presidential ballot. His strategy of co-opting the good governance agenda and launching a wide-ranging anti-corruption campaign was well received.

Pakistan and Malaysia

Similar conclusions can be derived from elections during 2008 in Pakistan and Malaysia. In both, most of the electorate voted for parties that promised good governance. Parties that had purely religious agendas did not do well. In Pakistan, votes went overwhelmingly to secular parties.

In Malaysia (which has a 65% Muslim majority), voters resoundingly rejected the ruling party in four major states despite its attempts to appeal to religious sentiments. For the first time since independence in 1957, the government fared very poorly; it was seen as corrupt and inefficient.

The elections in all three countries – Indonesia, Pakistan and Malaysia – as well as the more recent one in Lebanon, have important implications for other governments the world over: the best thing they can do is to encourage good governance that will deliver on education, economic growth and stability.


Iran is a vitally important country to the world for many economic, geographic and security reasons. Its culture is thousands of years old and it has a large and youthful population – almost two-thirds of Iranians are under the age of thirty.

What has transpired in Iran in recent days is home-grown and the brave people of Iran should be applauded for trying to establish a government for all. They might not succeed this time, but the momentum for change and greater freedom is rising and cannot be easily stopped.

The world was transfixed by Neda Soltan lying in a pool of blood, presumably because she got out of a car caught in traffic within sight of a sniper. The international community must consider with care its role in the future of Iran. Western governments should look for ways to be supportive without attempting to co-opt this movement into their own agendas. We hurt more than help if we are seen using the Iranians' movement to accomplish our ends. Democracy will come to Iran, but it will come not because of international agendas, but because the people of Iran want it and are prepared to sacrifice for it.

To its credit, Canada's Harper government has taken a firm stand against the terror of Khamenei-Ahmadinejad. Yet, to side unequivocally with the people of Iran, more should be done, including:

* Supporting the demand of the Iranian opposition for a nuclear-weapons-free Iran, with equal rights for women, minority communities and all religions; separation of church and state; the rule of law and an independent judiciary; representative democracy; and good relations with neighbors and the world. A first step here would be to follow the lead of the 27 EU countries and delist the PMOI opposition as a terrorist organization.

* Support the work of Iranian Canadians and others in their efforts toward good governance and the rule of law. For example, Canada should play a more active role in the work of Stop Child Executions, led by Iranian-born Canadian Nazanin Afshin-Jam.

* Propose additional UN sanctions against Iran's government until an election can be held with sufficient independent monitoring to provide a fair process.

In her email quoted above, the young Iranian woman also spoke of
"a spirit of fraternity, determination, resistance, courage, solidarity and
generosity that no word can describe."
It is this spirit the international community should share because the blood shed by Iranians are sacrifices made for the basic rights of us all.

(David Kilgour is co-chair of Canadian Friends of a Democratic Iran, a member of the Muslim-Christian Dialogue of Ottawa and a former MP)

READ MORE---> The People's Iran...

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