Friday, June 26, 2009

Rohingya participates in 45th standing committee meeting of UNHCR

(KPN) - Dr. Kamal Hussein, representative of Burmese Rohingya Community in Australia (BRCA), presented a statement (drafted) on behalf of NGOs across the world at the 45th Standing Committee meeting of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on June 23 in Geneva, Switzerland, U Kyaw Maung, the President of BRCA from Australia said.

Dr. Kamal Hussein delivery the statement in the meeting

The grand opening speech of June 23 meeting was chaired by the Ambassador of Costa Rica who visited Malaysia and Thailand to visit refugees quite recently and gave a speech on the Burmese refugee situation in Asia and then in other countries, according to Dr. Kamal from Geneva.

“It is a great honor for me, for BRCA, the Rohingya community and also for the Australian team as I have been given the chance to present a statement (drafted) on behalf of NGOs across the world," said Dr. Kamal.

After attending the meeting, Dr. Kamal told Kaladan News, “We need at least three steps of lobbying for Rohingyas or for any oppressed group in the world, such as meetings and explaining to the policy makers, politicians , NGOs and UN agencies, about what is happening in the community such as oppression, human rights violation etc; we need to go through media and researches to write about what is happening to the community and need to participate for taking action, practical decision and policy drafting: and pursue Governments and United Nations.

“We sent our representative Dr. Kamal Hussein to participate in UNHCR’s Geneva meetings to raise awareness about the plight of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees across Asia,” according to U Kyaw Maung, the President of BRCA in Australia.

“BRCA works tirelessly with the cooperation of Refugee Council of Australia and the Centre for Refugee Research UNSW and Amnesty international of Australia to provide stronger support from national and international levels for the Rohingya refugees,” U Kyaw Maung more said.

“I would like to thank Caritas Australia for helping us,” he added.

“We, at the BRCA worked hard with the concerned authorities from Australia for resettling Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh in 2008-2009 and are hoping more Rohingya refugees will be settled in future,” he more added.

“I hope the participation and presentation will help Rohingyas and Burma not only in the NGO forum but also in the government forum. Now here in the UN, the practical action of the Rohingyas’ plight is about to be decided for the next year and also for the next five years,” said Dr. Kamal.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is currently made up of 70 member States. The Executive Committee (ExCom) meets in Geneva annually to review and approve UNHCR's programs and the budget, offer advice on international protection, and discuss a wide range of other issues with UNHCR and its intergovernmental and non-governmental partners.

NGOs are present at these meetings and offer statements on each of the agenda items. RCUSA members are actively involved in the drafting of these statements. The International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), founded in 1962, is a global network that brings together human rights, humanitarian, and development NGOs as an advocacy alliance for humanitarian action. Focusing on humanitarian and refugee policy issues, ICVA draws upon the work of its members at the field level and brings their experiences to international decision-making forums.

READ MORE---> Rohingya participates in 45th standing committee meeting of UNHCR...

Villagers refuse government money for new schools

By Kon Hadae, IMNA

Villagers from Mudon Township in Mon State have refused government money for the building of schools.

90 million kyat was donated by former Mudon residents now living and working in Singapore, but it hasn’t ended up being enough for the construction.

In September, the family inquired about making repairs to a school in Set -thawe village. Officials at the Mudon Township Peace and Development Council (TPDC), however, asked the family to allow the Union Solidarity Development Association (USDA) to coordinate the repairs.

The USDA is a government-backed civilian organization founded with the support of Senior General Than Shwe in 1993.

The USDA announced plans to build schools in five villages: kolort-tort, Doe-mar, Set-thawe, Kwan hlar village. They finished building the schools in Set-thawe and Kyaik-ywe village, and began Doe-mar’s in March, which the USDA estimated would cost 15 million kyat.

The USDA leaders informed villagers that their organization would not be willing to cover 8 million themselves. Initially Mudon villagers agreed with the USDA offer, but then noted the low quality materials bought for the school.

Now villagers told IMNA they thought the USDA would also misuse the remaining 8 million kyat.

“They just bought bad quality materials for the school, and wanted to keep the extra money. So we villagers are concerned that they are going to misuse our money. For that reason we refused to let the USDA organize the building of the school in our village. We told them [the USDA] we would organize the building of this school with our own money.”

The school in Doe-mar village is now 50 percent complete. School construction has been halted since last month because the villagers had no money. In order to continue building the school, the village headman has asked for money from the Mon State ministry of education.

According to a Doe-mar villager, thus far no answer has been received from the Mon state ministry of education.

READ MORE---> Villagers refuse government money for new schools...

‘Lawyers of the government’ steering Suu Kyi trial

(DVB)–A witness disqualified from testifying in the defense of Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi said yesterday following his appeal that it was not “ordinary lawyers” making key decisions in the trial but government cronies.

Suu Kyi’s defense team yesterday appealed to Burma’s supreme court to admit two witnesses who were disqualified last month by judges from testifying.

One of Suu Kyi’s lawyers said that the decision was not in accordance with Burmese law. One of the witnesses, U Tin Oo, is currently under house arrest, while U Win Tin has been criticized by the junta for giving interviews about the trial to foreign media.

Both are senior members of the opposition National League for Democracy party, which Suu Kyi leads.

“I argued that there is no law there that says that [someone under house arrest]…can't testify,” said lawyer Nyan Win.

“I argued that there is nowhere in the law that says that someone who doesn't agree with the government can't testify, with regards to U Win Tin."

Three of Suu Kyi’s four witnesses were initially barred, although one was later readmitted. The prosecution team was permitted 14 witnesses, although only nine eventually testified.

Win Tin said yesterday that it was clear what the government’s attitude towards Suu Kyi’s team is.

“The people who put forward the [witness disqualification] argument are people from the central lawyers’ office…the lawyers of the government,” he said.

“I feel as if they are giving me a sign that they want to trap me legally, and sue me or intimidate me."

Rumours have been circulating in Rangoon that Win Tin could be charged by judges for refusing to return his prisoner uniform, which he has been wearing since he was released last year from a 19 year sentence.

On the subject of UN envoy Gambari’s visit to Burma, which began this morning, Win Tin said that dialogue must be sought.

"When Mr. Gambari comes, he must meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi - that must be his priority,” he said.

“If he can't do that…his trip has no meaning and has no value.”

Gambari’s trip could pave the way for a visit by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who was invited by the government to visit in July, although he has not confirmed whether the trip will go ahead.

“The main thing Mr Ban Ki-moon has to do is to try to arrange a meeting between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Senior General Than Shwe,” Win Tin said.

Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet

READ MORE---> ‘Lawyers of the government’ steering Suu Kyi trial...

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

The Irrawaddy News

The trial of Aung San Suu Kyi is an unofficial step in the ruling junta’s seven-step road map. It is an essential one for the generals as they look ahead to the fifth step—the upcoming election in 2010.

The generals must now see, however, that by putting Suu Kyi on trial they took one step forward and two steps back.

The regime had no alternative as it prepared for the upcoming election. For the generals, the election is not only a step towards politcal legitimacy, but also the apparatus with which they can legalize the role of the military within the country’s political system.

The road map has three more steps—the election, the convening of a parliamentary assembly and the construction of “a modern, developed and democratic nation.” That’s the generals’ political aim.

In order to complete the whole process, the junta faced one big problem: Suu Kyi, who should have been freed on May 27 after serving six years of house arrest. Her release would have come at least seven months, probably longer, before the planned election.

Free at last, Suu Kyi would have been regarded as a potential troublemaker by the generals, whose political exit strategy would have been closed.

By arresting her and putting her on trial, the junta forestalled that danger, at least for the time being. It was a risky ploy that has unleashed an international outcry that must have surprised the regime.

Once begun, the trial had to continue, with only one verdict in sight: guilty. Suu Kyi will be sentenced to up to five more years of incarceration—and the regime will have taken two big steps backwards.

Unlike its past persecution of Suu Kyi, however, the regime cannot expect to return to “business as usual” this time.

Judging by the volume of international condemnation unleashed by the trial, Suu Kyi’s imprisonment would undoubtedly bring criticism from governments and organizations that have largely ignored past abuses by the regime. Concern about events in Burma is voiced now not only in Washington and other Western capitals.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), which has traditionally protected the Burmese regime, recently took the unusual step of issuing a statement condemning the trial and calling for Suu Kyi’s release. The statement was formally issued by the Asean chair, Thailand, once a staunch supporter of strong ties to Burma.

During a visit to Burma in early June, Singapore’s Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong urged Burma’s junta leaders not to allow the trial of the pro-democracy leader to affect the national reconciliation process, and to ensure that next year’s general election is free and fair.

Goh emphasized that the elections must be inclusive and that the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Suu Kyi, must be part of the process of national reconciliation.

The Burmese junta was also told by Goh—probably much to its chagrin—that Singapore investors were likely to wait until after the 2010 election before pouring any more money into the country.

The Asean statement and Goh’s outspoken appeals indicate that the members of the regional grouping are running out of patience with their out-of-step associate.

As international pressure on the regime mounted, the junta’s No 2, Snr-Gen Maung Aye, rushed to China for talks with leaders of Burma’s closest ally. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao reportedly told him that China hoped the junta would promote democracy in Burma.

Although it was natural for the regime to consult at this critical time with a government whose support it so badly needs at the UN, the Burmese junta never allows any country, including China, to dictate its internal politics.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was expected to visit Burma in early July following UN calls for the release of Suu Kyi and more than 2,000 other political prisoners, as well as an assurance that the 2010 election will be all-inclusive. The junta has never heeded such calls from the UN or the international community, however.

There is little chance, anyway, that the election will be all-inclusive, since the NLD is expected to take its own step backwards and boycott the poll unless Suu Kyi is freed. Before the trial, there was a chance that the NLD would agree to participate.

A change of heart by the regime is highly unlikely, and the decision to keep Suu Kyi safely out of the political arena has surely already been taken. She will probably be sentenced to a further three years or so of loss of freedom and be returned to her home to serve it there.

But the regime’s headaches don’t end there. Suu Kyi’s trial is turning out to be the most intractable problem it has faced in the 20 years it has held power.

The above article will appear in the July 2009 issue of The Irrawaddy magazine.

READ MORE---> One Step Forward, Two Steps Back...

A Visit to North Korea’s Arms Factories


The Burmese junta’s No 3, Gen Thura Shwe Mann, made a secret, seven day visit to North Korea last November, apparently with a shopping list for arms and sophisticated weapons systems.

North Korea’s Chief of General Staff Gen Kim Gyok-sik (right) welcomes Gen Shwe Mann at the Defense Ministry in Pyongyang.

Shwe Mann, chief of staff of the army, navy and air force, and the coordinator of Special Operations, was shown by his North Korean hosts around arms industry factories and defense installations. He and his 17-member high-level delegation were also taken to Myohyang, where secret tunnels have been built into the mountains to store and shield jet aircraft, missiles, tanks and nuclear and chemical weapons.

Photographs of the visit have meanwhile reached The Irrawaddy and give rarely seen evidence of the range of North Korea’s armaments industry.

Related Story:
Asia’s ‘Axis of Evil’ Flexes Its Muscles

Also recorded at:

READ MORE---> A Visit to North Korea’s Arms Factories...

Students mark World Anti-Drugs Day with 200 posters in Myitkyina

by KNG

Students marked the World Anti-Drugs Day of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) under the United Nations today with 200 hand-written posters in Myitkyina, the capital of Burma's northern Kachin State. They demanded that the military junta make Kachin State a drug free state, student activists said.

Burma is the world's second largest opium producing country, according to the UNODC.

A-4 size papers pasted by the students carried two slogans --- "Drug free zone" and "No elections 2010", said Shadang Tu Awng, who organized this morning’s movement.

Shadang Tu Awng said, the posters were pasted on roadside electric poles, walls in seven main quarters in Myitkyina--- Yuzana, May Myint, Shatapru, Myothit, Ayeyar, Tatkone (Dapkawng in Kachin) and Du Kahtawng (or Du Mare) including State High Schools in these quarters.

The posters were also put up on the walls in front of the Government Education College and Office of the Township Director of Education, added Tu Awng.

The idea of pasting posters was to highlight the students demand to the ruling junta to make Kachin State a drug free state, another student activist Shadang Naw Naw said.

Several Myitkyina University students took part in this morning’s poster movement in the town. It was organized by the All Kachin Students' Union (AKSU), an underground student organization based in Kachin State, said student activist Tu Awng.

Today the Thailand-based Kachin News Group (KNG) also released a first mini drug report on Kachin State titled "Authorities feed on heroin epidemic in Hpakant" (Read report here).

The report pointed out that the junta allows the rampant use of all kinds of drugs in Hpakant jade mining area in Kachin State where fortune seekers from the whole of Burma come. Most jade miners and workers of jade mining companies are into drugs.

The report also pointed out that Myitkyina University once known as the "Center of learning is now a heroin haven" because students have drugs freely inside in the campus. The Myitkyina-based MDM (Medicin Du Monde – France) has placed a 'Waste Bin' in the university toilet for intravenous drug users among students for discarding used syringes.

The junta's Northern Command or Kachin State Commander Brig-Gen Soe Win has promised that he will completely eradicate drugs in the state during his tenure. However, locals said drug users and distributors are having much more of a free run than during the tenure of his predecessor Maj-Gen Ohn Myint.

Residents of Manhkring quarter in Myitkyina said, they do not go to the nearby bank of the Irrawaddy River (Mali Hka in Kachin) and crop fields near the river because they are scared of hurting their feet on the abundance of syringes littered in these places.

At the moment, in the big prison in Zion (also pronounced Zee Lon) quarter in Myitkyina, most prisoners related to drug cases are Kachins. Some of the prisoners are being sent to the frontline as porters in the current war with the Karen National Union (KNU) near Thailand-Burma border, said prison sources.

READ MORE---> Students mark World Anti-Drugs Day with 200 posters in Myitkyina...

Tenasserim hydropower project under survey

by Ko Shwe

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Thai surveyors and Burmese authorities are surveying the Tenasserim River, in Burma’s southernmost Tenasserim Division, for a potential dam site to generate electricity for export to Thailand and Singapore.

Sources in the area said Thai authorities have placed a representative in Tenasserim Division to observe river levels and to record water levels both during the rainy and summer seasons.

A source, recently arrived on the Thai-Burmese border from the area, said, "They [Thai authorities] have hired a person to monitor the water level of the river in different seasons and pay him about 50,000 baht per month.

“They also leave water-measuring equipment to keep a record of the water level. In the hot season it is measured once a day and in the rainy season it is measured every hour,” he added.

Sources said Thai surveyors and Burmese soldiers on December 25 and 26, 2008, visited the proposed dam sites and collected sample stones and sand from the areas for examination.

According to an official with the Karen National Union (KNU), based in the area, it is the second time that Thai and Burmese authorities are conducting such a survey with the aim of implementing a Tenasserim hydropower project.

The first survey, conducted in 2007, saw KNU officials confiscate the survey equipment, including a Global Positioning System (GPS), cameras and other materials.

Villagers in the area said the survey group has marked two potential dam sites on the river. One in Ler Pa Doh village, called the upper potential dam site, and another near Muro village, called the lower potential dam site. The upper and lower potential dam sites are about three hours distance apart by boat.

Burma has already signed an agreement with Thai and Singaporean companies to provide the two energy hungry nations with electricity from the hydropower project.

According to the New Light of Myanmar, a state-run daily newspaper, a signing ceremony for the Tenasserim hydropower project was held on October 9, 2008, between the Burmese Ministry of Electric Power No. 1, the Italian-Thai Development Public Co. Ltd. of Thailand and Singapore's Wind Fall Energy Services Ltd.

The paper said, the propose hydroproject will produce an estimate of 600 Mega Watt.

Sources said following the agreement two Burmese Army battalions have been stationed in the vicinity of the potential dam sites – in the villages of Ler Pah Doh and Thay Baw Nah, respectively.

Locals said there has never been any consultation on the proposed dam with residents from the more than 11 villages likely to be affected by any construction.

A KNU official, who requested not to be named, added, “We will keep an eye on the development of the dam project and related surveying in this area.”

READ MORE---> Tenasserim hydropower project under survey...

Ashin Gambira’s prison term reduced by five years

by Phanida

Chiang Mai (mizzima) – Monk Ashin Gambira, arrested and sentenced to 68 years in prison for his lead role in anti-junta protests in September 2007 has had his prison term reduced by five years by a district court in Insein prison on Thursday.

The western district court reduced the sentence of Gambira, leader of the All Burma Buddhist Monks Association by five years. He was charged under the Electronics Act. The reverend monk, who was charged on 16 counts, will now have to serve 63 years in prison.

The Electronics Act 33 (a) stipulates that using the internet without the permission of the authorities is an offence and is punishable. The law became a tool for the authorities to sentence the reverend monk, who took a lead role in the September 2007 monk-led protests.

Lawyers of the monk, who is 29, and is currently detained in a prison in Kalemyo in Sagaing division, have appealed to the district court. The court said the appeals were late and rejected appeals for seven counts.

The legal counsels have now, submitted appeals on the other nine counts, and the court has scheduled a session on June 29.

Ashin Gambira, however, denied appealing but the lawyers have been acting on the request of his parents.

Authorities have also arrested the monk’s elder brother Aung Kyaw Kyaw and sentenced him to 14 years in prison. He is currently detained in Tuaggyi prison in Shan state. Similarly, his younger brother Aung Ko Ko Lwin and brother-in-law Moe Htet Lian were also arrested and sentenced to five years each and are respectively in Kyuak Pyu prison in Arakan state and Moulmein prison in Mon state.

READ MORE---> Ashin Gambira’s prison term reduced by five years...

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