Thursday, July 9, 2009

Violence between Karen armies continues in Three Pagodas Pass

Two soldiers were killed in Three Pagodas Pass Township last night—both members of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA).

The fighting between the DKBA and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) took place around 8 p.m. in the temporary Tae Tone Lone camp, 12 kilometers outside Three Pagodas Pass, between Makate and Three Pagoda Pass.

Aye One and Majar Soe Mone commanded 30-men from the DKBA against 10 from the KNLA.

The KNLA, the armed wing of the Karen National Union (KNU) reported no deaths during the brief 10-minute clash, a source close to the KNU told IMNA: “none of the KNLA soldiers died in the fighting because they didn’t sleep in the battalion base. They moved to another place last night [fearful of an imminent attack].“

After the fighting ended, the DKBA arrested two villagers and turned them into forced porters for the Burmese army-backed military group, said a 52-year-old villager. Now local villagers cannot go into the forest to tend to their farms and plantations for fear of the DKBA and future corvee labor.

The practice of forced labor and portering remains a fundamental and widely-exercised human rights abuse, as part of the Burmese army’s Pya Ley Pya, or “Four Cuts” strategy.

IMNA received reports from inside Karen State that the KNLA is preparing to launch a counter-offensive with the combined forces of Brigade 6’s Battalions 16 and 17, from Thanbyuzayat and Three Pagodas Pass, respectively.

“Now we are ready to fight with the SPDC [the State Peace and Development Council] and the DKBA,” a KNU member said under the condition of anonymity. “Because of these two groups we lost our Brigade Number 7 Base [captured after recent conflicts in the Myawaddy-Mae Sot border region].”

The KNU has recently lost bases in Karen State, Myawaddy, Kawkare and Kyainnseikyi to the SPDC and DKBA forces, which are ratcheting up their offensives in many areas of Eastern Burma in anticipation of the upcoming 2010 elections.

The military junta hopes to legitimize their government through the elections and has aggressively worked to transform ethnic cease-fire groups into Border Guard Forces, which could ostensibly be used to expand military control at a timely moment.

The DKBA broke off from the KNU, the main Karen political party, in 1995.

READ MORE---> Violence between Karen armies continues in Three Pagodas Pass...

KNU capture KPF Lieutenant Colonel and base

A senior military leader of a Karen splinter group, was captured by forces from the largest Karen insurgent group that has continued fighting against the Burmese government.

On July 8, Karen Peace Force (KPF) battalion No. 3 commander, Lieutenant Colonel Saw Lay War, was capture, along with 3 KPF soldiers, by Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) forces yesterday at 2 pm near Zami river, Kyainnseikyi township, according to a source from the Karen National Union (KNU).

A source close to the KNU reported to IMNA that Lieutenant Colonel Saw Lay War and his soldiers were returning to Three Pagoda Pass via boat, after having met with SPDC officials in Nay Pyi Daw. He was captured while in a boat, with out any shots being fired.

He was captured by forces from the KNLA No. 2 company commanded by Saw Chat Dehtoo. The KNLA is the military wing of the KNU.

A source close to KNU officials said, “A KNLA company captured forces from the KPF yesterday, and have detained them at Regiment No.6 headquarters.” The KPF force had originally been requested by the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) Southeast Command to leave for Nay Pyi Daw before the 1st of July, 2009 for a discussion with SPDC officials. Lay War and his forces left on June 30th, at 11 am, beginning their trip by boat to the Burmese governments capital city. While the KNU were aware of his departure, it cannot be confirmed if his capture had been a previously planned ambush.

The KPF split from the KNU in 1997 and has since allied itself with the SPDC, agreeing to become a border guard force. The group is currently estimated to have a fighting force of close to 500.

After KNLA forces captured Lieutenant Colonel Saw Lay War, the KNLA company commander Saw Chat Dehtoo and its soldiers pushed on to seize the KPF military base at That Chal, yesterday. It is also unclear weather the KNLA forces had planned to take the base that day.

“Yesterday at 8:00 pm, a KPF military base was seized by the KNLA No. 2 company commanded by Saw Chat Dehtoo,” a source close to the KNU said. “5 KPF solders and a few arms were captured.” The 5 KPF soldiers captured are named, Man Shwe, Lin Aye Maung, Hein Toe, Nyar Pwo and Kyar Phie. According ot the source, the KNU captured 2 AK-47’s, an M-16, 2 pistols, and 1 RPG.

The KNU have recently been engaged in an extended defensive campaign against SPDC force. Fighting has continued since the first week of June, and as reported by the Irrawaddy news source, about 4,000 Karen refugees have fled to Thailand.

The KNU suffered a major defeat when a joint force of Burmese army troops and soldiers of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) seized the KNLA Brigade 7 headquarters on Sunday, June 21.

READ MORE---> KNU capture KPF Lieutenant Colonel and base...

The Junta Hit Men

The Irrawaddy News

Col Chit Thu, the commander of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) Battalion 999 is now believed to be the most powerful man in the DKBA administration.

According to Karen sources on the border, he ordered the week-long offensive against the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) Brigade 7 that ended on 21 June, and he has ordered his forces to move against KNLA Brigades 6 and 5.

Though other commanders like Gen Kyaw Than, chief of the DKBA, and Thar Htoo Kyaw, chairman of the DKBA’s political wing, are more senior, Chit Thu is more popular because he gets things done, the sources said.

“Chit Thu is an active man,” said a DKBA source. “He is also popular for his community development work in education, health care, and Karen culture, and he is good at lobbying people.”

Chit Thu is now believed to the most powerful decision-maker in both the DKBA’s military wing and its political administration.

DKBA sources report that Col Chit Thu owns large businesses dealing with logging and auto trading, and is involved in drug trafficking. He regularly flies to countries such as Singapore and Hong Kong to facilitate his car importing business, the sources said.

The DKBA remains the only ceasefire group that has signed an agreement with the military regime in June to transform its troops into a border guard force.

Since April, Chit Thu has been overseeing the conscription, possibly forced, of new recruits for the new battalions of the border force. Each battalion must consist of 326 soldiers.

The DKBA has also been assigned the role of cleaning up the KNLA areas and reinforcing troop strength along the Thai-Burmese border.

During the recent attacks against KNLA Brigade 7, the DKBA soldiers were paid to take front line positions, and local Karen villagers were forced to work as porters in the front line with them.

Col Chit Thu, the commander of the DKBA Battalion 999. (Photo: Phil Thornton)

Some DKBA leaders realized that they were wrong to attack fellow Karen in the KNLA and Karen civilians, Karen sources said.

“The DKBA leaders knew that they were being used by the Burmese regime. But there is no possibility for DKBA leaders to rejoin the KNU [Karen National Union] because of their business interests,” said one Karen source on the border.

Many members of the DKBA get nothing while their leaders get richer and richer, however.

“This inequality will just get worse,” the border source commented.

According to a DKBA businessman, the DKBA plans to join the Burmese authorities in managing the border trade after they have destroyed the KNLA bases along the Thai-Burma border.

The DKBA leaders are hoping to increase their business activities and build a road connecting their headquarters at Myaing Gyi Ngu with the Thai border, he said.

DKBA ventures involve logging, mining minerals such as zinc and tin, and building factories and business enterprises.

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

“Once they have become a border guard force, the DKBA soldiers will be paid by the Burmese regime. So, I doubt they will be able to earn big profits. Most of the money will go to the Burmese regime,” he said.

Among the DKBA leaders, Col Chit Thu is thought to have the best relationship with the Burmese military, and he has been the most effective in following junta orders, said border sources.

Chit Thu was reportedly given large sums of money by the Burmese authorities for the attack on KNLA Brigade 7.

Meanwhile, disagreements are said to be growing among some of the DKBA leaders. The latest victim was San Pyote (aka Soe Myint), the influential commander of DKBA Battalion 7.

San Pyote was ambushed and killed by an unknown armed group while traveling by longtail boat on the Moei River on June 26.

Karen sources speculated that Col Chit Thu was involved, but others said that it might have been the result of a personal conflict.

“The attack looked intentional as they only shot at the boat carrying San Pyote,” said a DKBA source.

Border sources say that the DKBA is not interested in politics, but only in doing business, and will do anything for money.

After separating from the KNU and signing a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese in 1995, the DKBA 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 assassination of the late KNU general secretary, Mahn Sha, in February 2008, many border sources have reported that San Pyote was given hundreds of thousands of Thai baht by the Burmese authorities.

The DKBA appear to be playing the role of junta hit men on the Thai-Burmese border.

READ MORE---> The Junta Hit Men...

illegally tracking mobile phone calls... video

READ MORE---> illegally tracking mobile phone calls... video...

China claims proof Rio execs spied

ABC-The Chinese government says it has proof that four senior Rio Tinto executives detained in Shanghai stole state secrets.

Australian man Stern Hu, the head of Rio Tinto's China operations, has been detained in Shanghai along with three other Rio Tinto staff.

The Federal Government spoke to the Chinese Ambassador today and Chinese authorities have agreed to allow Australian officials to visit Mr Hu tomorrow.

China's Ministry of State Security says Mr Hu has been involved in espionage and stealing state secrets, but he has not been charged.

The arrest of Mr Hu has been the result of an independent judicial process, according to official Chinese government spokesman Qin Gang.

But his comments seem to suggest it will be hard for the chief of Rio Tinto's Shanghai operations to beat the allegations in a Chinese court.

Qin Gang says authorities have sufficient evidence to prove that Mr Hu and three other Rio employees have stolen state secrets and this has caused a huge loss to China's economic security.

He also warned against the politicisation of this issue, saying it would only hurt Australia.

But Australian politicians have weighed in on the matter since the news broke yesterday.

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull says Prime Minister Kevin Rudd should personally intervene to secure Mr Hu's release.

"The Prime Minister must act immediately to ensure that our fellow Australian is treated fairly," Mr Turnbull said.

But Mr Rudd says the Government is doing all it can to secure Mr Hu's release, and he has accused Mr Turnbull of grandstanding.

"Let's not get engaged in this business of political grandstanding on the home front, let's get on with the practical business of supporting Australia in difficult circumstances and that is what the Foreign Minister and Australian officials are doing," Mr Rudd said.

"It's the right course of action."

Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett says while he does not know the details of the arrest, he has contacted the Chinese consul general in Perth to express his concern.

Mr Barnett says the arrest of Mr Hu will add tension to the relationship between Australia and China which has already been strained by a number of business decisions in WA.

"Chinalco's seeming rejection by Rio Tinto - there is concern about BHP and Rio merging, there are issues relating to the Oakajee port and mid-west development," he said.

"I will be going to China at the end of next week and I'll be addressing each of those issues with Chinese business and Chinese government officials and hopefully can play a role in smoothing the waters."

The Government says it is staying in close contact with Mr Hu's wife and Rio Tinto.

READ MORE---> China claims proof Rio execs spied...

Australian Rio Tinto executive held in China
July 09, 2009 04:00pm

* A man with "ties" to Rio arrested
* Comes after Stern Hu detained
* "Espionage and stealing state secrets"
* No explanation - Stephen Smith
* Rio Tinto: Latest share price, profile

THE iron ore chief of Shougang Corp has been arrested as part of a crackdown on raw materials trading in China, Bloomberg News reported, quoting the 21st Century Business Herald.

The man arrested was identified as Tan Yixin, Shougang’s general manager of mineral imports and exports, Bloomberg News reports. Other executives from the company were also detained.

A Shougang spokesman told the Herald he had no information on the detention and the Herald did not cite the specific source or sources used for its report.

News of the arrests comes after a senior Australian mining executive was arrested in Shanghai by secret police on charges of espionage and theft of state secrets.

The arrest of Stern Hu, the general manager for China operations at Rio Tinto's iron ore division, prompted speculation that it was linked to fraught negotiations over Australian iron ore exports to China, The Australian reports.

The Herald report said that Mr Hu had "ties" to Mr Tan but it isn't know if the new arrests are directly related to the arrest of Mr Hu and the three other Rio Tinto executives.

As the Opposition called on Kevin Rudd to use his special relationship with China to secure Mr Hu's release, analysts and Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce pointed to the protracted negotiations between Rio and Chinese steel mills over iron ore prices and the thwarted bid by state-owned Chinalco to take a strategic stake in Rio earlier this year.

Despite Mr Hu's arrest on Sunday, along with three Chinese colleagues, and diplomatic approaches to Chinese authorities in Beijing, Canberra and Shanghai, by last night Australian consular officials had yet to gain access to the executive.

Speaking in Perth last night, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith confirmed Mr Hu and the three other Rio officials were being held on suspicion of espionage and stealing state secrets.

"We're continuing to seek explanations for the reasons for the detention," he said.

"I've also seen speculation that Mr Hu's detention may be linked to commercial matters between Rio Tinto and China; I've seen no evidence and I have no basis for any such speculation but I do underline that when our officials were advised of the reason for the detention, that came as a surprise to us as it came as a surprise to Rio."

He said Australian officials in Shanghai had "immediately made contact with Chinese authorities" and Mr Hu's wife on Sunday.

The arrests come after the failed $US19.5 billion ($24.8bn) bid by Chinalco to increase its shareholding in Rio and take minority stakes in key projects, such as the Pilbara iron ore operations.

Although Chinalco expressed only "disappointment" when Rio ditched the deal in May in favour of an alliance with rival BHP Billiton, the move sparked fury in the state-owned Chinese press, which accused the Anglo-Australian miner of betrayal.

Rio has also been leading the tense negotiations between Australian miners and Chinese steel mills on the price China will pay for iron ore in the current financial year.

China has been holding out for a 40 per cent-plus cut in iron ore prices, although last night there were unconfirmed reports that the steel mills had buckled and accepted a 33 per cent drop in iron ore contract prices, matching prices agreed to by Japanese, South Korean and Taiwanese steel mills.

Mr Hu has been a prominent figure in the Chinese iron and steel sector. In late 2007, as annual benchmark iron ore price talks approached, Mr Hu spoke at the annual China International Steel and Raw Materials conference, saying Australian iron ore landed at Chinese ports was much cheaper than Brazil's and that big Chinese companies were making good profits. The remarks later drew the ire of Chinese steel manufacturers.

In confirming the arrests, Rio said it would co-operate with the Chinese authorities.

"We intend to co-operate fully with any investigation the Chinese authorities may wish to undertake and have sought clarification on what has occurred," the company said yesterday.

It is understood Australia's ambassador to China, Geoff Raby, intervened with Chinese authorities yesterday to seek details about the reasons for the arrests, which threaten to undermine bilateral relations.

- with The Australian

Read more on this story at The Australian.

READ MORE---> Australian Rio Tinto executive held in China...

Spy Charges a crisis for Canberra

China's tantrums, she has to be right like an spoiled brat
this is something the junta has to watch out
it could happen to the Burmese generals anytime...
ANALYSIS: Rowan Callick

STERN Hu, or Hu Shitai, to use his Chinese name, is a rare case of a foreigner charged with stealing state secrets.

Overseas businesspeople have tended to be treated with some care in China, whose economic rise has been substantially driven by foreign investors.

But people who are ethnically Chinese tend to be treated as if they were citizens of the People's Republic, whatever their chosen new nationality.

Mr Hu is not a hapless, indiscreet entrepreneur who might have strayed over a nebulous line by mistake. He is a corporate figure, Rio Tinto's second-most senior executive in China and the head of its Shanghai office, responsible for negotiating iron ore prices and marketing iron ore into Rio's biggest market.

His best hope for fair treatment is for his case to be widely publicised. It thus appears odd that his employer and the Australian government appear to have downplayed his predicament for two or more days.

Rumours are flying inside China as to what Mr Stern is supposed to have done wrong, but it may not become clear for some time what the security services' case may be.

This is a crisis not only for Mr Stern and his family in Shanghai, but also for Canberra, because it appears to put in question Australia's main export to China - $18billion of iron ore sales last year, out of a total $32.5 billion.

Businesspeople from Taiwan have often been charged with stealing state secrets, as have journalists. A Chinese journalist spent 12 years in jail for projecting a likely move in central bank interest rates.

China Digital Times comments: "Chinese authorities often use 'state secrets' charges to arrest government critics and others who write or talk about sensitive political subjects. Yet the government has not made public a clear definition of what constitutes a state secret, making it difficult for journalists and others to protect themselves from violating an often nebulous law."

The Xinhua news agency said last week that the legislature was now reviewing the law because, said Xia Yong, head of the National Administration for the Protection of State Secrets, parts of it had become obsolete.

He said: "New situations and problems have emerged in guarding state secrets ... especially with the introduction and development of information technology and the application of e-government."

READ MORE---> Spy Charges a crisis for Canberra...

US ‘concerned’ about North Korea-Burma nuclear trade

(DVB)–The United States has expressed concern over the possibility of an emerging nexus between North Korea and Burma that would see the two countries trade in material for nuclear proliferation.

The issue of Burma’s nuclear ambitions, and North Korea’s role in achieving these, has been thrown into the spotlight over the past month following an incident in which a North Korean ship carrying suspect cargo was thought to be heading toward Burma, before making a U-turn last week.

A network of underground tunnels constructed throughout Burma with the help of North Korean advisers was also recently exposed by DVB, with intercepted intelligence documents revealing the possibility of them accommodating heavy weaponry.

A senior US State Department official during a press briefing yesterday was questioned about whether strengthening ties between North Korea and Burma were related to respective nuclear ambitions.

“I think we're concerned about trade and cooperation between countries that have undertaken nuclear programs, but I don't want to go much further than that,” he said.

On the subject of the North Korean ship, the Kang Nam 1, the official said that its decision not to arrive in Burma was perhaps a result of “a combination of sharing information with many of the countries in the region” about obligations to inspect and warn on suspect ships.

The US navy had been closely monitoring the Kang Nam 1, which arrived back in North Korea yesterday, following new UN sanctions on Pyongyang that banned the export of any weapons material.

Burma is also under far-reaching sanctions from both the US and European Union.

Journalist and North Korea expert Bertil Lintner said last month that the two incidences are a sign that ties between the countries are strengthening.

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

Reporting by Francis Wade

READ MORE---> US ‘concerned’ about North Korea-Burma nuclear trade...

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