Thursday, July 2, 2009

Burmese Injured in Malaysian Camp Riots

The Irrawaddy News

Eight Burmese detainees were wounded after a small riot broke out at the Semenyih Immigration camp near Kajang Township, in Malaysia on Wednesday.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Thursday, Aung Lwin Oo, one of the detainees involved in the riot at the camp, said the trouble started at 8pm after camp authorities beat 30 detainees who were refusing to board a truck that was to take them to another camp.

The detainees began breaking up the walls of their rooms and throwing plates at security officers, demanding prison authorities release the 30 people who had been loaded onto the truck.

The police used tear gas to break up the riot.

“We are very angry after we heard they had beaten and forced fellow prisoners to get on a truck and be moved another camp. When they came for them they said it was only to meet officials from the UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees],” he said.

Aung Lwin Oo was in hiding as he talked to The Irrawaddy by phone from the camp. Camp authorities ban the use of mobile phones.

“On Tuesday, two Burmese detainees were also seriously beaten when they went to the clinic to ask for medicine. One detainee was beaten around the eyes,” Lwin Oo reported.

“We don’t know if he will regain his vision because his eyes are filled with blood. At the moment he can’t see,” he said. “The other detainee suffered cigarette burns on his body and is in serious condition now.”

Yante Ismail, a spokesperson for the UNHCR based in Kuala Lumpur told The Irrawaddy, Thursday, that a group from UNHCR left for the camp that morning to investigate the riot.

She said that she was unable to provide any further details on what happened at the camp.

The Malaysian National News Agency announced on their Bernama website that no one was injured during the riot and that the situation was under control.

According to Burmese rights groups in Malaysia, there are about 700 Burmese detainees at the Semenyih Immigration camp. They are accusing camp authorities of keeping people who have already served sentences in detention.

Roi Mon, a member of the Mon Refugees Organization based in Malaysia, said that inmates do not have enough food and water, and the camp is crowded because the authorities have refused to release detainees.

Meanwhile, in its annual Trafficking in Persons Report 2009 released in June, the US State Department put Malaysia back on the Tier 3 blacklist for its record of abuse and exploitation of migrant workers. Malaysia joins 16 other countries including Burma, North Korea, Sudan and Zimbabwe on the blacklist.

The report accused Malaysia authorities of deporting Burmese detainees to the Thai-Malaysia border and selling them to human traffickers, who then demanded ransoms for their release.

If payments were not made, the victims would be forced to work as slave labor on fishing boats in Thailand and Indonesia, and women could be forced to work as prostitutes in brothels.

Malaysian authorities have disputed the report’s conclusions.

According to the Kuala Lumpur-based Burma Workers’ Rights Protection Committee, about 500,000 Burmese migrants work in Malaysia, legally and illegally.

READ MORE---> Burmese Injured in Malaysian Camp Riots...

BDR Deploys Additional Troops After Flag Meeting

Cox’sbazar (narinjara): Additional Bangladesh Rifles troops have been deployed by Bangladesh authorities in southernBangladesh near the Burmese border to deal with undocumented Muslim migrants crossing the borderfrom Burma, according to a report from a Bangladesh official.

The plan was carried out by BDR after a commander-level flag meeting with Burma that was held in Cox's Bazar on 22 June, 2009.

In the meeting, the delegations from both countries agreed to stop the Muslim influx from Burma into Bangladesh.

However, Burmese border security forces, Nasaka, have yet to take any action honoring their agreement to stop Muslims fleeing Burma.

BDR has also deployed 100 BDR personnel brought from BDR sector headquarters in Chittagong, the second largest city in Bangladesh.

The BDR official said that the additional deployment was to help deal with Muslims crossing over fromBurma, reported sources within BDR.

The BDR source said, "The Bangladesh Rifles has strengthened its patrol along the frontier under Naikhongchhari Township in Bandarban District in southern Chittagong Hill Tracts to check the increasing trend of Muslim migration and cross-border smuggling [from Burma]."

BDR Regiment No. 15 has set up two more camps at Baishari and Baidherkhil of Ghundhum Union Council under the sub-district on Wednesday to ensure strict vigilance to stop the continued trespass of Burmese Muslim into Bangladesh and cross-border smuggling, he added.

BDR has taken steps after observing the continued cross-border smuggling, infiltration of Muslims from Burma, and the building of a barbed-wire border fence by Nasaka in contravention of international frontier norms, said a Bangladesh official from the border.

However, he also added that the border situation between Burma and Bangladesh is now considered normal.

READ MORE---> BDR Deploys Additional Troops After Flag Meeting...

Health of Political Prisoners Deteriorating in Buthidaung

Buthidaung (Narinjara): The health of two political prisoners being held in Buthidaung prison in Arakan State has been deteriorating by the day due to lack of proper medical treatment, said one former prisoner who did not want to disclose his name.

"The health of Ko Moe Nay Soe and Ma Ni Ni May Myint were not very well before I was released from prison. Ko Moe Nay Soe is suffering from paralysis while Ma Ni Ni May Myint is suffering from weakness," he said.

However, they are not receiving proper medical treatment in the prison, he said.

Ko Moe Nay Soe was severely tortured by prison authorities soon after he arrived at the prison from his hometown because he refused to follow some restrictions imposed by the prison authority.

"Ko Moe Nay Soe, Ma Ni Ni May Myint and their colleagues were sent to the dog cells after the incident. They had to sleep on the concrete floor in the dog cells everyday. Ko Moe Nay Soe has since begun suffering from the paralysis," he added.

According to a family source, the health of Ma Ni Ni May Myint has been deteriorating the last few weeks due to bad weather, but family members have not been able to send medicine to her.

Many political prisoners in Buthidaung prison depend primarily on their family for medicine, but have been unable to receive such packages since the authority imposed restrictions.

Ko Thein Aung, who is a human rights activist in Arakan said, "Family members of political prisoners in Buthidaung prison are unable to send medicine and food inside the prison after four senior prison officials were sacked from their jobs."

The authority banned visits from family after the four senior officials were sacked, due to information being leaked to the outside. The prison officials that were fired were prison in-charge Tin Tun, prison doctor Htay Win, jailer Win Maung, and one other unidentified person.

Ko Moe Nay Soe and Ma Ni Ni May Myint were arrested along with three other political activists in Taungup in southern Arakan State for observing the anniversary of the 1988 protests on August 8, 2008.

The Taungup court sentenced them to two and a half years in prison and sent them to serve their terms at Buthidaung prison.

At least 25 political prisoners, including Reverend Monk Ei Tharya, former student leaders Ko Ko Gyi, KoMaung Maung Thet, and Ko Chit Maung Maung are being held in the notorious Buthidaung prison along with Ko Moe Nay Soe and Ma Ni Ni Myint.

READ MORE---> Health of Political Prisoners Deteriorating in Buthidaung...

Informers make life difficult for Rohingya community

Maungdaw, Arakan State (Kaladan): Informers from various departments of Maungdaw are making life very difficult for the local people, according to an elderly person from Maungdaw Town.

The informers are providing wrong information to their concerned departments, to earn various favours as well as money. Therefore it becomes very difficult for the poor local people to survive along with their families, he said.

Dil Mohammed, son of Kalu and Rashid, son of Bawdu from Shewza Village are informers working for the Nasaka’s outpost number 14. They have close connections with Captain Khin Maung Myint (now Captain Aung Htoo). They have been providing wrong information to the Nasaka, like possession of Bangladeshi mobiles, border crossing, trafficking and money laundering. Due to these wrong allegations, many people are facing arrest and have had to pay bribes to avoid being arrested, a school teacher from the village said.

Besides, these informers are also involved in drug trafficking, due to an understanding with the concerned officer in their village and township and also with the help of ,
Way Tha Maung the brother-in-law of U Shew, who is the Secretary of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) of Maungdaw. He was released from jail last year, he added.

The two informers are working with the help of USDA. They are also involved in smuggling activities from Shewza village, where they have paid money to the officer in charge of Nasaka outpost 14. If someone tries to take action about this, they use the power of the USDA and take the help of other influential people from the administration to dissolve the matter and counter attack them, he added.

A village officer, who tried to support the villagers regarding this matter, had to face many false cases filed against him, by the concerned authorities, a victim of these allegations said.

Due to the wrong information provided by the informers, some Rohingya people lost their houses and lands, as three houses were seized by the authorities last month.

The Rohingya people, who lost their houses, were Goolitta, Zakhair and Dil Mohamed. They hailed from Shawza village of Maungdaw, currently, facing a lot of trouble to survive during the monsoon season, he added.

On the other hand, the informers of the police are causing trouble for the shopkeepers in Maungdaw, accusing them of selling drugs in their shops and asking them for money to avoid arrest, a shopkeeper from Maungdaw said.

This is a master plan of the police and the informers jointly, to keep Yaba tablets in their shops through informers after which the police would raid the shops. Then the police would demand money for the release of the shopkeepers, said the shopkeeper.

“If there were no informers, maybe we could stay peacefully in our town and no one would get into trouble with the authorities,” a student from Maungdaw said.

READ MORE---> Informers make life difficult for Rohingya community...

Looking in a Broken Mirror

“Born to Fight”
“Give the land back to the Karen people Democracy now!”

The Irrawaddy News

MAE SOT— Moo Say lay lethargically on the bed, his face hollow and pale. His arms and body were woefully skinny and he was missing one leg, amputated below the knee.

“I’ll never give up,” he croaked.

KNLA soldier Moo Say (right) enjoys a joke while two injured DKBA soldiers (in white pajamas) eat rice soup at Mae Sot General Hospital in June. (Photo: Saw Yan Naing/The Irrawaddy)

Moo Say is—or was until recently—a Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) soldier who was injured while clearing landmines on a road where Karen villagers were fleeing to escape military assaults by the Burmese army and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) ceasefire group.

He was carried for three weeks in a hammock from the KNLA Brigade 7 area to the Thai border, put in a truck and finally driven to Mae Sot General Hospital.

Twenty-year-old Moo Say is one of about 4,000 Karens who have crossed into Thailand since the DKBA and Burmese army launched a successful assault on KNLA Brigade 7 early last month.

Caught in the crossfire or forced to flee their villages in fear of marauding soldiers, the displaced villagers headed across the Thai-Burmese border to Tha Song Yang District in Thailand’s Tak Province.

Most were from the Brigade 7 area, but many had traveled from areas as far as Pa’an District, some four days’ walk.

“I must return to the fight as soon as I get out of hospital,” said Moo Say. “I have to avenge my sacrifice.”

Despite his pledges of revenge, he appears quite calm and smiles at anyone who passes by. He is tattooed on his thighs and his hands in both English and Karen, sporting mantras such as “Born to Fight” and “Give the land back to the Karen people now!”

Moo Say said he has lost 14 kg in weight since he arrived at the hospital. Minus a leg and painfully thin, he is down to just 43 kg.

Moo Say estimated that he had received six bottles of blood since he arrived at Mae Sot General Hospital.

While in hospital, Moo Say he has had a unique opportunity to speak to injured soldiers of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), which has been fighting the KNLA since 1995.

He spoke to a 17-year-old DKBA soldier who was also injured by a landmine and lost a leg. He told Moo Say he was injured when he returned home after cutting bamboo in the forest.

Moo Say said the DKBA soldier told him that he was fed up of being a soldier and would not serve the DKBA when he leaves the hospital. He said he was involved in the recent attack on Brigade 7 because he was forced to and was paid by the DKBA leaders.

Karen sources say DKBA soldiers were given 100 baht per day to join the attack on KNLA Brigade 7.

Moo Say left Mae Sot hospital on June 28, but eight DKBA soldiers and five KNLA soldiers are still being kept there. One DKBA soldier died in hospital. Most of them were injured by landmines, not by gunfire.

In the hospital, relatives of the DKBA soldiers also go around and chat with the KNLA soldiers. Likewise, friends and family of the KNLA soldiers chat and share food with hospitalized DKBA soldiers.

Karen sources in Mae Sot have claimed the DKBA soldiers were given more favor by Mae Sot General Hospital. There is one injured Burmese soldier in the hospital and he is guarded by two Thai policemen.

Karen sources around the border also said that DKBA spies are all over Mae Sot these days and that they may even be in the hospital.

The same sources estimate that while the DKBA remains the dominant influence on the border, the relationship between Thai businessmen, the Thai police and the DKBA members will be much more cooperative than in the past.

Leaders of the DKBA also own thriving businesses in the Mae Sot area and are known to have smooth relations with the Thai authorities.

Sources said that a few days after the fall of the KNLA Brigade 7 headquarters, members of the DKBA crossed into the Thai village of Mae Salit in Tha Song Yang District where Karen refugees were being housed and made a loud and public statement of eating and drinking in the local restaurants.

Some of the DKBA soldiers also lobbied the newly arrived Karen refugees to return home. They told the refugees that the situation in the fighting zone is now stable, said Karen relief sources.

However, Karen sources said there are disagreements between DKBA soldiers and their commanders. There is a common perception that the leaders have only sided with the Burmese regime in order to expand and protect their business interests.

The commander of the DKBA Battalion 999, Col Chit Thu, is now believed to be the most influential man in both the DKBA administration and its military wing. The recent attacks on KNLA Brigade 7 were planned by Col Chit Thu with the aim of operating an economic zone after the battle was won, said the Karen sources.

DKBA sources reported that Col Chit Thu owns several large businesses, including logging, drug trafficking and a trade in motor vehicles from overseas. He regularly flies to countries such as Singapore and Hong Kong to facilitate his car importing business, the sources said.

One DKBA business source said that the DKBA leaders were aiming to increase their business activities in the region, with a view to constructing a road connecting DKBA headquarters Myaing Gyi Ngu and the Thai border, as well as expanding ventures in logging, mining natural resources such as zinc and tin, and building an infrastructure of factories and business enterprises.

Trade will be controlled directly by Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said the businessman.

However, he noted that not all was plain sailing with the DKBA leadership.

“The DKBA leaders have been fed by the Burmese regime, so now they have to serve the regime,” he said. “They have become servants of the junta.”

KNU General-Secretary Zipporah Sein said the DKBA is being used as a tool of the Burmese regime to oppress Karen people, and she urged the DKBA to reconsider its military activities against Karen civilians.

“The DKBA soldiers are clearly being used by the Burmese army. During fighting, the DKBA soldiers must stay in the front line and serve as minesweepers while the Burmese soldiers stay back and fire mortars,” said Zipporah Sein.

If the influence of the DKBA continues to grow in the border areas, the riskier it will be for the KNU, Burmese opposition groups in Mae Sot and refugees, said Burmese observers and Karen sources.

After the DKBA split from the KNU in 1995, the splinter group staged daring attacks on several Karen refugee camps along the Thai-Burmese border with the help of Burmese troops.

In 1997-98, Huay Kaloke refugee camp, about 10 km (6 miles) from Mae Sot, was attacked and burned down by DKBA soldiers.

After the breakaway of the DKBA and another splinter group, the KNU/KNLA Peace Council led by Maj Gen Htain Maung, assassinations between the splinter groups and KNU occurred frequently.

The most significant assassination was that of former general-secretary of the KNU, Mahn Sha, who was gunned down in his home in Mae Sot on February 14, 2008.

In an interview last year, the commander of KNLA Brigade 7, Brig-Gen Johnny, told The Irrawaddy: “All this fighting between Karens is enough to make the Burmese government very happy. We Karen people should be united.

“If we are divided, we will never achieve self-determination and the rights we demand,” said Johnny.

In Tha Song Yang, the 4,000 newcomers to the world of refuge sit around listlessly, looking confused and anxious.

Hsa Moo, a young Karen volunteer who is helping process the new refugees, said, “I don’t want Karen people to fight each other any more. All we want is peace. We are hungry for peace.”

READ MORE---> Looking in a Broken Mirror...

US Ban Related to N Korea-Burma Arms Deal

The Irrawaddy News

The United States took steps on Tuesday to curtail what it sees as North Korea's ability to trade in missiles and nuclear materials, with the Treasury and State Department announcing actions against two North Korean companies, one of which is allegedly connected to the Burmese arms industry.

The US imposed sanctions and froze the US assets of Namchongang Trading Corp and Iran-based Hong Kong Electronics in an apparent attempt to choke off the firms’ funds.

The two companies are charged with being at the center of Pyongyang's attempts to export its nuclear and long-range missile technologies, according to US officials.

The US sanctions bar any US firms from conducting business with Namchongang and Hong Kong Electronics.

Accordingly to the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, US officials said Namchongang Trading Corp has aided the Burmese arms industry and was importing centrifuge equipment that North Korea is using to develop a uranium enrichment capability. Uranium, when enriched to a weapons grade, can be used to build atomic weapons.

Namchongang is headed by Yun Ho Jin, a former senior North Korean diplomat who served at Pyongyang's mission to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's atomic watchdog. He is also believed to be closely aligned with senior members of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's government.

US officials alleged Hong Kong Electronics was playing a key role in facilitating the weapons trade between North Korea and Iran.

The Wall Street Journal on Thursday reported US Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey as saying, “North Korea uses front companies like Hong Kong Electronics and a range of other deceptive practices to obscure the true nature of its financial dealings.”

Meanwhile, the Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun reported on Thursday that the Toko Boeki trading company was linked by Japanese police with attempts to export high-tech equipment with arms applications to Burma, and is suspected of shipping several other devices with potential for making weapons of mass destruction to the junta as well..

Kanagawa prefectural police said North Korean Lee Kyoung Ho, the president of the Toko Boeki firm, was arrested on Monday on suspicion of attempting to ship a magnetic measuring instrument from Yokohama port to Burma via Malaysia on January 23, a device that could potentially be used to produce weapons of mass destruction, said the Yomiuri Shimbun.

The Japanese newspaper said Tokyo-based Toko Boeki has allegedly been exporting instruments that can be used to produce missiles to Burma without government permission since 2006, one year before the two countries resumed diplomatic relations.

READ MORE---> US Ban Related to N Korea-Burma Arms Deal...

North Korea exporting weapons overland to Burma

(DVB)–North Korea is suspected to have illegally exported weapons to Burma via overland routes through China to avoid naval detection or interception, a South Korean newspaper said yesterday.

The news follows reports that the North Korean ship, the Kang Nam 1, being tracked by the US navy on suspicion that it is carrying weapons in breach of new UN sanctions on Pyongyang has turned around.

North Korea, like many countries, has traditionally used sea routes to carry exports to other parts of the world.

Following a series of sanctions on the regime that, since 2006, have increasingly targeted weapons exports, the government is alleged to have used overland routes that are harder to detect, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper said.

Using this method, Pyongyang has exported weaponry to Iran, Syria, Laos and Burma totaling $US800 million since 2000, the Chosun Ilbo quoting US intelligence agencies.

“It also exported weapons by building assembly factories in importing countries,” the report said.

“To circumvent an entry ban on its ships in ports, North Korean chartered ships under the names of foreigners, falsified the country of origin, or did business through a third country. That is mostly how it was able to export to Iran, Syria, Burma and Laos.”

According to North Korea expert Dr Leonid Petrov, this method has been used in the past to export sensitive material.

“Not every [North Korean] ship is government owned or government managed - North Korean crews sometimes operate under foreign companies,” he said.

“There are plenty of cooperative companies, not really private and not really government-run, that operate on a market basis and commercial basis, so they can go wherever they want and pick up any cargo.”

Burma reportedly refused to accept the Kang Nam ship, although it is unclear what its reason was.

Earlier this week US officials said the ship was still being tracked by US navy about 250 miles south of Hong Kong, heading north, although did not comment on possible destinations.

The new UN resolution on North Korea allows countries to request searches of North Korean suspected of carrying weapons or suspicious material, although the US is yet to board the Kang Nam.

“It’s simply impossible to monitor the majority of routes, either inland or air, and probably only maritime cargo can be stopped and possibly searched but there is a high chance of provoking a skirmish or battle, so I don’t think [the UN resolution] is going to work anyway,” said Petrov.

Reporting by Francis Wade

READ MORE---> North Korea exporting weapons overland to Burma...

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