Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Kawdut Headmistress' extortion

10th grade students have to give headmistress 20,000 kyat

WCRP (Rehmonnya): 10th grade students were required to pay 20,000 kyat to the headmistress in Kawdut village, Ye Township, Mon State, said a local source.

The families of the students who passed their exams were expected to each shoulder the fees; 31 of 60 students passed in March.

According to a teacher, the Kawdut headmistress said that, “this year we have to repair the school, so the students who passed the exam have to pay 20,000 kyat per each.”

Student parents became upset upon hearing about this request. One parent said, “The school is new and they built a stone school. We don’t see where the school needs repairs and why they said they have to pay for school repairs we don’t understand. In other villages, if the students pass the exam they are given a prize. We never see the other villages [pay as we do].”

The normal registration fee for the Kawdut village 10th grade students is 4,200 kyat; this cost does not include textbooks and other materials.

According to a teacher from a Mon school in Kawdut village, “when my brother attends grade 10th, we have to spend a lot of money for school costs. I may think, after 10th grade I don’t have to pay any [further] costs, but now I have to pay 20,000 kyat again. I cannot pay this money because I have no money to pay. This year is not the same as last year, because we have economic problems.”

As a result of continued economic strains, many villagers from Kawdut, a mainly agrarian community, have migrated to Thailand.

The excessive and oftentimes arbitrary school fees in Mon State have been widely reported by the Independent Mon News Agency. In a recent article they discovered that although the government education ministry claimed to provide free textbooks in Mon State, many still had to pay 3,000 kyat a piece.

READ MORE---> Kawdut Headmistress' extortion...

12 Elders Face Charges for Repairing Bridge

Rambree (Narinjara): 12 village elders in Rambree Township in Arakan State are facing criminal charges brought by the township authority for rebuilding a small bridge in the village without permission of the local authorities, reports a villager.

He said, "12 villagers are now facing trial in the court after township chairman Aung Kyaw Zaw filed charges in court against them for reconstruction of the bridge in their village."

The village elders from Paradan Village in Sikon Village Tract in Rambree rebuilt a small bridge with reinforced concrete after the bridge was damaged. The bridge had collapsed on 5 June, 2009, after a group of cattle crossed over it.

"The bridge was rebuilt by the village elders with donations from local people, but there was no permission from the township authority for the bridge construction. The people are innocent and they did not know they needed to inform the local township authority of the bridge construction. So the people just reconstructed the bridge," the villager said.

When Rambree Township chairman Aung Kyaw Zaw heard the news, he became angry with the village elders because they failed to inform him of their plans.

Afterward, the chairman summoned the village elders to his office in Rambree to admonish them and forced them to sign a paper stating they had abused the law. "After signing, the township chairman charged took action against the village elders and charged them in court," the villager said.

Now the elders have been facing trial in court every week and have been unable to attend to their own agricultural work this rainy season.

Many of the public paths and bridges in rural areas of Arakan State have been renovated and constructed by local people with their own funds because the government fails to maintain the infrastructure as needed. It is rare for such legal action to be taken against villagers doing such work in Arakan State.

READ MORE---> 12 Elders Face Charges for Repairing Bridge...

Deputy FM: Migrant workers are good people

By Hseng Khio Fah

(Shanland) -A representative of the Burmese military government, while meeting with Thai labor mister last Saturday said families of migrant workers applying for new passport documents under the national verification process will not be harassed, according to The Manager Online, 11 July.

On 11 July, visiting Burma’ Deputy Foreign Minister Maung Myint and Thailand Labor Minister Paitoon Kaewthong met in Phuket on regulations for the verification of Burmese nationals in Thailand and in Burma in order to allow them to reside and work as legal laborers in Thailand.

Thailand Labor Minister Paitoon Kaewthong and Burma’ Deputy Foreign Minister Maung Myint (Photo: manager online)

Mr Paitoon said, about 20,000 applications have been sent to the Burmese government. But only some 7,000 were issued passports. Using non-Burmese language in filling up the forms and providing false information on the applicants’ home addresses were cited as problems for the rest. (JEG's: generals' kids and elite attached to junta can obtain passports with false data, perhaps the rejections were used to generate passports for the corrupted in need of a passport to travel abroad and enjoy the benefits of the west without being sanctioned)

About 500,000 migrant workers are registered with the labor ministry. Since early this month, the provincial employment authorities have been calling on new migrant workers for registration. They will be asked to fill up the new nationality identification forms starting 15 July.

The passport issuing offices will be opening along the Thai-Burma border at Myawaddy, Tachilek and Kawthawng (Victoria Point). About 200 workers will be accepted per day. The visa fee on the Thai side will be 2,000 Baht per person. They will be allowed to work for another 2 years with another 2 years of extension.

There are at least 2 million legal and illegal migrant workers in Thailand. But there is no law to protect those migrant workers.

“After July, crackdown operation on illegal migrants will be conducted,” the report quoted the minister as saying.

Maung Myint during the meeting, said many migrants are afraid to apply for the national verification process because of rumors that we [local authorities] will use their information to persecute their families.

“The government will never do so because it believes that people working in Thailand are good people and their jobs are also legal,” the report quoted him as saying.

He continued that the Burmese government has been trying to solve the problem of illegal Burmese migrant workers in Thailand for about 5 years. However, it had failed to achieve it until now because of many difficulties; among those were language problems and inaccurate addresses.

At the same time, there was a two day meeting of provincial authorities, doctors and provincial employment authorities with over two hundred employers from Chiangmai province to discuss the national verification process, according to Nang Hern Kham, Shan Radio Program and Education Media in Chiangmai.

“Most bosses seems to have less interest in the process as they think it is a waste of their time queuing up for their turns and others are worried for the security of their workers,” she said.

Phanthila Kaewboonrueng from provincial employment department office said that Thailand will not interrupt internal affairs of neighboring countries, in reply to the question by an employer, “Who is going to take responsibility if workers’ families are persecuted by the Burmese authorities.”

In 2006, Thailand and Burma agreed to set up nationality identification centers for Burmese migrant workers. But the two countries failed to successfully implement the agreement, when news of junta authorities terrorizing their families coercing them to pay bribes, after using their personal information received through the work permit process, to find their relatives, were reported.

READ MORE---> Deputy FM: Migrant workers are good people...

Residents scared, rumors abound in wake of impending conflict

IMNA, Rai Maraoh

As news has spread of the advancing Burmese army, fear and rumors run rife amongst area civilians and traders, as a major clash with the largest Karen resistance group looms.

The most recent round of fighting between the Burmese State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) forces and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), against the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) took place around 8 p.m. on July 8th on a temporary camp near Tae Tone Lone. The camp is 12 kilometers outside Three Pagoda Pass, between Makate and Three Pagoda Pass (TPP).

After the recent fall of the Karen National Union’s (KNU) KNLA base, brigade 7, according to KNU sources, the SPDC and DKBA forces are advancing towards brigade 6 stronghold. Many residents and traders have reacted with fear to the increasing tension and militarization in the region, which has caused the spread of rumors among area residents, such as a rumor that close to 1,000 SPDC troops are advancing into the area. Concerns about safety in the face of the increasing military presence has in particular paralyzed trade along the Zami river, as traders are hesitant to approach the numerous checkpoints that along the river held by assorted armed groups, and the repercussions of being caught in the midst of the ongoing conflict.

“After the DKBA and the KNU were fighting in Tae Tone Lone camp, the boat owners couldn’t bring themselves to run their boats, so we also can’t trade,” said a trader from Three Pagoda Pass. “We’re afraid of the conflict between the DKBA and KNU, that’s why we’ve now stopped trading.”

On July 8th the SPDC combined forces with the DKBA to fight the KNLA at a brigade 6 administered checkpoint in the area near Tae Tone Lone camp, while on July 11th there were reports of DKBA forces opening fire on KNLA troops.

“Now we hear about the Burmese troops marching to (TPP) area, but they haven’t arrive yet,” said a source close to the Burmese authorites. “They will arrest residents to use as forced porters.”

On July 11th a rumor spread that SPDC forces had arrested 15-30 residents of Toung Wine area, outside of TPP, and needed about 800 more porters to successfully carry out their coming assault of the brigade no 6 base.

After the dual bomb blast in Three Pagoda Pass and the ongoing conflict between DKBA and KNU, SPDC troops from IB No. 32 based in TPP, now enforce a 10 pm curfew on the crossing into Makate forest. After 10 pm soldiers from IB No. 32 will not allow people to go outside town, according to a resident from Three Pagoda Pass.

“During in this day [Monday the 13th] about 7 soldiers from IB No. 32 deserted to join the KNLA, including one captain,” said a source in TPP. “Some people said that this is an unusual situation, and that it’s a Burmese army strategy to trick and blind side the KNU.”

READ MORE---> Residents scared, rumors abound in wake of impending conflict...

Burma prisoner amnesty 'to avoid Security Council action'

(DVB)–Burma is setting in motion plans to release prisoners in lieu of the 2010 elections, said the Burmese ambassador to the UN yesterday at a Security Council briefing given by UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

The comments followed criticism from Ban Ki-moon of the Burmese government’s commitment to democratic reform after he was twice refused a meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi during his recent visit to Burma.

"At the request of the Secretary General, the Myanmar [Burma] government is processing to grant amnesty to prisoners on humanitarian grounds and with a view to enabling them to participate in the 2010 general elections," ambassador U Than Swe told the Security Council.

However, observers are concerned that the government is using the amnesty in order to avoid Security Council action.

“Whenever they receive strong international pressure the Burmese government always says they are preparing to release political prisoners,” said Bo Kyi, secretary of Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP).

“We cannot believe their promise - they are just scared of Security Council action so they try to divide the international community and buy time.

Than Swe did not however specifically state that those to be released are political prisoners. The Burmese government has repeatedly attempted to dodge criticism by denying that it holds ‘political prisoners’, instead that all of Burma’s prisoners are common criminals.

Similarly, Than Swe declined to comment on how many political prisoners would be released and whether the amnesty would extend to Aung San Suu Kyi, but said that the Burmese government will "implement all appropriate recommendations that [the] Secretary General had proposed."

As well as the release of political prisoners, Ban Ki-moon urged the start of dialogue between the government and opposition groups, and that elections next year be free and fair.

The Burmese government has previously granted an amnesty to prisoners following a visit by UN human rights rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana. Over 6,000 prisoners were released but only around 30 had been charged on political grounds.

According to AAPP, over 2,160 prisoners remain languishing in Burma’s notorious prisons, 472 of which are members of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party.

Reporting by Alex Ellgee

READ MORE---> Burma prisoner amnesty 'to avoid Security Council action'...

Junta fear UN chief’s influence on judiciary

(DVB)–UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was denied a meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi during his visit to Burma because of fears that he could influence the courtroom, said Burmese state-run media today. :-) :-) :-)

Ban Ki-moon was twice snubbed over a meeting with Suu Kyi when he visited the country earlier this month, with the ruling generals claiming that the Burmese judicial system didn’t permit a meeting with someone currently on trial.

An article in the government mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar newspaper today however expressed “fear that his strong influence would have an adverse effect on the judicial system”.

“If the court comes to have sympathy to the accused, and pronounce an order to release her out of the influence of [Ban Ki-moon], such an imprudent order will have negative impact on the nation’s judicial system,” said the author, Maung Hmat.

Legal experts say however that Burma’s judiciary is under direct control of the government, and therefore the trial of Suu Kyi, which many label a pretext to keep her in detention beyond the 2010 elections, is likely to end in a guilty verdict.

A prominent exiled activist lawyer, Nyi Nyi Hlaing, says however that judicial independence is enshrined in Burma’s constitution.

“Even the legislative and the executive powers can have no influence on the judiciary, so how could one guest visiting our country have such an influence?” he said.

He added that the true motives behind Ban Ki-moon's rebuttal were questionable, given that Suu Kyi was allowed to meet with three diplomats from Russia, Singapore and Thailand during the early stages of the trial.

Briefing the UN Security Council yesterday on his Burma visit, Ban Ki-moon said that his refusal of a meeting with Suu Kyi was “not only a deep disappointment, but also a major lost opportunity for the country”.

The last contact Suu Kyi had with the UN was while she was under house arrest in February, when she met with UN special envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari.

She reportedly told him that Ban Ki-moon should not visit the country, given that she "could not accept having meetings without achieving any outcome".

The UN has, since Ban Ki-moon’s visit, been criticized for its lack of authority in the country, with veteran Burmese journalist Ludu Thein Win calling it a “toothless tiger”.

However, Ban Ki-moon said his failure to meet Suu Kyi should not be the sole measure of how successful the visit was.

Reporting by Francis Wade

READ MORE---> Junta fear UN chief’s influence on judiciary...

Ban Ki-moon talks of ‘a major lost opportunity’ for Burma

(DVB)–The UN chief yesterday briefed the Security Council on what had been “a major lost opportunity” for the Burmese junta to commit to terms set out by him on a recent visit that would kick-start democratic reform.

Ban Ki-moon delivered the verdict to Security Council members in New York following his two-day trip to Burma earlier this month, in which he came away with few concessions from an unwavering military government.

Reporting back on the visit, he said his three principal expectations, which included the release of all political prisoners and calls for free and fair elections next year, were “conveyed in the clearest terms”.

“The choice for Myanmar’s [Burma] leaders in the coming days and weeks will be between meeting that responsibility in the interest of all concerned, or failing their own people and each one of you,” he said.

Although the speech was littered with suggestions on what steps the Burmese government should take in order to meet the UN’s demands, it remains unclear what action will now be taken by the UN the apply pressure on the regime.

Spokesperson for the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party, Nyan Win, said that current diplomatic efforts by the UN were “bearing no fruit”.

“We expect the UN Security Council, those who have the authority, to come out with a decision in unison and be able to adopt a binding resolution [on Burma],” he said.

During the briefing, Burma’s ambassador to the UN, Than Swe, said that “the utmost had been done” to accommodate Ban Ki-moon’s requests.

He also said that the Burmese government “is processing to grant amnesty to prisoners on humanitarian grounds and with a view to enabling them to participate in the 2010 general elections."

It was not, however, explicitly stated however that the prisoner amnesty would include political prisoners.

The exiled National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma’s (NCGUB) ambassador to the UN said the Burma should not rely wholeheartedly on pressure form the UN.

“The UN will do what they need to do but its role in bringing change [to Burma] is only a part of the whole process – more relies on activity from inside the country,” said Dr Thaung Htun.

“We have to fight for our own rights. We have to keep this in our minds and work on what we need to do individually or as a group.”

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw and Francis Wade

READ MORE---> Ban Ki-moon talks of ‘a major lost opportunity’ for Burma...

87-year-old opposition member imprisoned - Kyaw Khaing

(DVB)–An elderly member of Burma’s opposition National League for Democracy party who is said to be in declining health was yesterday sentenced to two years in prison under defamation charges.

According to his colleague, the 87-year-old chairman of the National League for Democracy’s (NLD) Taungok township branch in Arakan state, Kyaw Khaing, was denied medical care throughout the trial, during which he was “slipping in and out of consciousness”.

"He has been suffering from dysentery for the last three to four days and he had to be supported [on the way] to the court,” said Tin Thein Aung.

Deputy police chief Tin Maung San would not allow him to be hospitalized,” he said, adding that the doctor refused to come to the courtroom but instead handed medicine to his son. (JEG's: Police harrassing the Doc?)

Kyaw Khaing was sued for defamation in June by his predecessor in the job, Than Pe, although Tin Thein Aung argued that the sentencing came about “because he is an NLD [member] and involved in politics”.

There are currently around 470 NLD members imprisoned in Burma, out of a total of 2,160 political prisoners.

The verdict arrived on the same day that Burma’s ambassador to the United Nations, Than Swe, announced that the government “is processing to grant amnesty to prisoners on humanitarian grounds and with a view to enabling them to participate in the 2010 general elections." (JEG's: which prisoners, common crims or political prisoners)

The pledge followed a visit to Burma earlier this month by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who urged the release of political prisoners prior to the elections next year.

Ban Ki-moon reported back to the UN Security Council yesterday, and said that his denial of a meeting with imprisoned NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi was “a major lost opportunity" for the country.

'The choice for Myanmar's [Burma] leaders in the coming days and weeks will be between meeting that responsibility in the interest of all concerned, or failing their own people and each one of you,' he said.

It was not explicitly stated however that the prisoner amnesty would include political prisoners; in February this year over 6000 prisoners were released in a ‘goodwill’ amnesty by the government, although only 23 were political prisoners.

Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet

READ MORE---> 87-year-old opposition member imprisoned - Kyaw Khaing...

US, Britain and France Doubt Credible Election; China Calls for Lifting Sanctions

The Irrawaddy News

WASHINGTON — Three permanent members of United Nations Security Council—the United States, Britain and France—expressed skepticism that the Burmese junta will hold free, fair and credible general elections in 2010, while urging the military rulers to match their words with deeds.

China, on the other hand, which has been a strong supporter of the totalitarian Burmese rulers both inside and outside the Security Council, urged Western countries including the US, Britain and France to lift their economic sanctions on Burma.

“Now is the time for Burma to match its words with deeds,” said Rosemary A DiCarlo, the US alternate representative for special political affairs, following a Security Council briefing on Burma by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the UN headquarters in New York.

DiCarlo expressed US disappointment that the Burmese authorities refused Ban’s request to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi.

“By turning down this simple, straightforward request, the Burmese government missed a critical opportunity to, in your words, ‘show its commitment to a new era of political openness,’” she said.

Calling on the Burmese regime to free Aung San Suu Kyi immediately and unconditionally, she said the junta is clearly not respecting the popular will by putting the leader of the country’s democratic opposition on trial for spurious charges of violating her house arrest, which itself was illegitimate. “We are deeply concerned about these proceedings,” she said.

British Deputy Permanent Representative Philip Parham said Ban’s visit was an opportunity for the junta to transform its relationship with the international community which stands ready to respond positively to real progress.

“The regime’s failure to take this opportunity has only served to isolate it further. We can only hope that we may yet see progress in the coming days; it is not too late. But if it does not come, and if we see an unjust outcome in Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial, the international community will need to follow the secretary-general’s lead and respond robustly,” Parham said. “The onus is on the government to act.”

He said the generals heard the strong message the secretary-general delivered in Rangoon when he addressed ministers and the diplomatic and NGO communities.

“They can be in no doubt about his disappointment and the disappointment of the international community as a whole,” Parham said.

France called for stronger actions by the Security Council.

“The current impasse is no reason for the international community to do nothing. The council must respond firmly if she [Suu Kyi] is found guilty, but inaction must not be the price of its unity,” said Jean-Maurice Ripert of France.

Far from initiating a dialogue with political parties and ethnic groups, Ripert said the junta has unilaterally implemented a “road map” to democracy which had led to increased polarization.

In defense of the junta, Chinese Deputy Ambassador Liu Zhenmin said Ban’s failure to meet with Suu Kyi should not be the criterion to judge the success of the visit.

“Gen Than Shwe had not made arrangements for the secretary-general to meet with her, and the United Nations must respect that decision by a member state. During his visit, the secretary-general had held in-depth dialogues with top leaders and that would play an important role in encouraging the democratic process,” he said.

Liu said that Ban’s visit had been significant and its positive outcome deserved to be assessed fairly by the international community.

He said Burma’s problems could not be addressed in a Western manner, the junta should steadily reform and the international community should fairly assess the country’s challenges. ( JEG's: so the international community must be fair with the crims...)

He called for lifting the international sanctions against Burma, a necessary step for economic development. ( JEG's: magic words "economic development" the only concern of China, and for who's benefit will the lifting of sanctions be?, China and the Generals' pockets of course)

“Events occurring inside Myanmar [Burma] are internal affairs that should be handled by the government, as they posed no threat to international peace and security. China is against isolating and sanctioning Myanmar and its position in that regard remained unchanged,” Liu said. (JEG's: and when the Dalai Lama wants to visit us, then it becomes China's affairs who we invite for tea...)

READ MORE---> US, Britain and France Doubt Credible Election; China Calls for Lifting Sanctions...

A cursed treasure – ‘Jade Land’ Hpakant

by Mungpi & Solomon

New Delhi (mizzima) - While the world’s highest quality green stone, jade, continues to be a money maker for the military rulers of Burma, the precious gem has literally turned into a poisoned chalice for local miners in Hpakant in the absence of proper procedural safeguards.

According to initial reports at least 30 people, including miners, were buried alive in early July when a landslide occurred near Hpakant in Kachin State of northern Burma.

Local residents said the landslide was caused by heavy rainfall, which flooded the Uru River that flows through the mines. But others said the Uru River was disturbed by loose soil blocking the flow of the river, subsequently causing the flood. (JEG's: heavy drilling underground? close to the river? - could it be dams or tunnelling?)

Locals further said the death toll could be as high as 70 or more, with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) saying the casualty tally has yet to be verified.

OCHA said at least 700 to 800 people were affected by the landslide, mandating the establishment of five camps for those displaced.

As water continues to inundate areas in Hpakant Township, locals added that flooding is also affecting several nearby towns including Seng Tawng and Long Khin, taking with it loose soil dumped from the mines.

Hpakant, which produces some of the world’s highest quality jade, is among the least developed towns in Burma, with no proper electricity, sanitation or drainage system and no clear policy regarding the disposal of loose soil.

Located in the tropical rainforest in northern Burma, the areas surrounding Hpakant were once thickly populated with green plants and trees. But the jade producing town today has become largely barren with few trees and little greenery to be seen, according to locals.

Local residents maintain that the mines do not provide adequate security for miners, failing to have in place any protective measures against potentially fatal disasters, including landslides and floods.

While the landslide in early July came as a shock, locals said they were not shocked by the sight of so many dead bodies, most of whom had innocently come to the area in the hope of becoming rich.

Life for common miners in the largely underdeveloped town is rough and fortune can be fickle. But, nonetheless, people from all over the country continue to arrive in search of a financial windfall that could permanently, or at the least temporarily, change their lives.

Yet sadly, most people fall drastically short of their hoped for dreams.

While some at Hpakant are simply killed by natural disaster, others end up drug addicts or infected with disease, including AIDS.

The least that can commonly be expected from working in Hpakant is a bout of malaria, which is often treated by inhaling raw opium in the form of a smoke – resulting in many miners becoming addicted to the drug.

“A lot of people come here and die because of drug abuse instead of fulfilling their hopes,” a businessman living in Hpakant since 1992 told Mizzima.

He said prostitution and drug abuse are normal sights in the town and in areas where mines are located.

“A lot of people do not know the limits to this and continue to stay, searching and waiting for their opportunity, but instead end up dying,” he said.

The ceasefire agreement between the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the Burmese junta, finalized in 1994, significantly altered the means to business in Hpakant.

Earlier, despite its many hardships, Hpakant was dominated by individual businessmen and fortune seekers, a few of whom actually did realize their dream in the jungles of northern Burma.

But following the truce, Hpakant saw a reordering of its business as the junta, who gained access to jade producing areas as part of the agreement, began opening up the area for corporate businesses to come in with their significant equipment and deep pockets.

The result was an influx of several new companies and players, mostly Chinese and doing the bidding of the junta. Additionally, the government began to introduce mining licenses, with people without a license suddenly finding themselves on the wrong side of the law.

Further, the price for a mining license is often quite high and it is almost impossible for a common miner to obtain, in accordance with the junta's preference to award contracts to large companies. As a result, many who previously relied on the mines for their livelihood found themselves with no means of income.

“Only the big fish survived,” a Myitkyina businessman told Mizzima.

While corporate mining has succeeded in greatly increasing the revenue of the ruling junta, it has also destroyed the environment.

Awng Wa, chairman of the Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG) based in Kachin State, told Mizzima that the environment, particularly the forests, in Hpakant have changed – with most big trees already cut down and farms completely destroyed by big mining machines.

“The companies are using machines to dig into the ground in search of the green stone, doing it fast and leaving the lands unusable,” explained Awng Wa.

“It is almost impossible to find a tree in the area as the machines have uprooted villages, farms and mountain hills,” he added.

He warned that if things continue at this rate and no preventive measures are taken, there could be more floods, landslides and other natural disasters resulting in the unnecessary loss of additional life.

“The ruling junta is responsible. They are reckless, allowing companies to use machines and permitting them to destroy places without proper measures to protect the environment or even the lives of villagers,” Awng Wa said.

He added that while the junta reaps the benefits along with their close friends, the local people, who have been mostly expelled from jade mining in accordance with the new system, are left with piles of loose soil that are often washed away by rising river water.

Locals believe the number of deaths caused by the recent landslide may never be determined, as a lot of people live on such piles of loose soil and there is no proper registration of the people.

“This is not the first time, flooding occurs here every now and then. But this is one of the worst,” one local residing near the site of the disaster told Mizzima.

He said companies which have heavily invested in the search for jade and dig into the ground are dumping loose soil on the course of the Uru River, blocking the flow of water and enhancing the risk of heavy flooding.

Another reason for the threat of devastating landslides and floods, according to locals, is companies have altered the flow of the Uru River as they have discovered that there is a potential jade mine beneath the river.

“Since the river’s course is altered, it often causes floods when the water level grows higher, resulting in more loose soil being swept away and landslides,” said Awng Wa.

“Still today, the water is inundating the Maw Wan, Hpakant Gyi and Seng Tawng areas,” a local said.

Awng Wa said before the ceasefire the risk of environmental degradation in Hpakant was much less, as local miners used their bare hands to dig into the ground in search of jade and other precious minerals.

Ever Winner, Myanmar Dagon and Share Family are the most powerful companies operating in the area, each with strong ties to the ruling junta. The companies are headed by Chinese and own several mines each, with the government having a 40 percent share while the companies hold 60 percent.

“Chinese owned companies are the strongest and most powerful here,” a local resident, who worked for one of the companies, told Mizzima.

Besides prostitution, as a quick means to earn money, Hpakant is also a safe haven for drug dealers. However, both prostitution and drug dealing, or even running a casino, do not go unnoticed by the local authorities, who demand bribes to keep silent.

A local resident said before the 1994 ceasefire, people coming to Hpakant, whatever job they might take, typically did not leave empty-handed.

“But now, people are thrown out of the mining business and many have become prostitutes or drug dealers,” he explained.

However, with financial life getting harder to manage in other parts of the country, Hpakant is still a popular destination for many people. And it often is difficult to determine the number of people working in the mines at any one time, as there are is no process for worker registration.

“It might never be possible to know the true number of casualties from the landslide in July because there is no registration of the number of people, and death in this part of the world is too common,” a local lamented.

He said the government has done little to help the people in solving problems, leaving individuals to fend for themselves.

UNOCHA in Rangoon has appealed for humanitarian assistance for victims of the landslide and called on humanitarian groups to provide food, water and shelter.

But the government of Burma, so far, has made no public announcement of the disaster, which is believed to have killed at least 70 and affected over 700 more.

A local remarked, “There are so many incidents of mine workers dying due to disasters, but no one knows how many people die, who they are or how they died. And the government has never rendered any help.”

He said, in Hpakant, people only know the government for their collection of money, never even contemplating that the government should, and could, help in alleviating their daily struggles.

READ MORE---> A cursed treasure – ‘Jade Land’ Hpakant...

Burma preparing to free political prisoners

by Mungpi

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Military-ruled Burma has said it is preparing to release some political prisoners in order to allow them to participate in the 2010 general election, a part of the junta’s roadmap to democracy for the Southeast Asian nation.

The announcement was made by the junta’s United Nations Ambassador, Than Swe, during a session of the UN Security Council and following a briefing by the world body's chief, Ban Ki-moon, on his latest visit to the country.

“At the request of the Secretary-General while in Myanmar [Burma], the Myanmar [Burma] Government is processing to grant amnesty to prisoners on humanitarian grounds and with a view to enabling them to participate in the 2010 general elections,” Than Swe told members of the Security Council.

But Than Swe did not mention how many political prisoners will be released and whether the country's most prominent political prisoner, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, will be included.

Ban Ki-moon on Monday briefed the Security Council on his two-day visit, July 3-4, to Burma, during which the country’s military leader, Than Shwe, refused him a meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi.

Ban said he was not only "deeply disappointed" over the General’s refusal to allow him a meeting with the detained pro-democracy leader, but also labeled his visit “a major lost opportunity for Myanmar [Burma].”

Ban said that during his visit he specifically proposed that the junta release all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, resume a meaningful dialogue between with the opposition and create conditions conducive for credible and legitimate elections.

If the above issues are left unaddressed, Ban said, it could undermine any confidence in Burma’s political process.

Speaking to reporters in New York after his briefing to the Security Council, Ban said he told Burma’s Senior General that without releasing Aung San Suu Kyi the junta’s planned election in 2010 cannot be credible.

“I urged Senior General Than Shwe that this election should be fair and free, but also legitimate, inclusive and credible. To be credible and legitimate, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners should be released,” Ban said.

“I emphasized that without the participation of Aung San Suu Kyi, without her being able to campaign freely, and without her NLD party [being able] to establish party offices all throughout the provinces, this election may not be regarded as credible and legitimate,” he added.

Ban said he conveyed his message of the international community’s expectations for Burma in the clearest terms possible, relating that it is now up to the junta “to respond positively in their country's own interest.”

He added the Burmese people will bear the cost of any lack of engagement and cooperation by their Government with the UN and the international community.

“That is why Myanmar's [Burma's] leaders have a responsibility, not only towards their own people, but also towards you as members of the international community, to respond to the proposals I made on your behalf,” Ban told the Council.

“The world is now watching closely whether they [the junta] will choose to act in the best interest of their country or ignore our concerns and expectations and the needs of their people,” he remarked.

Following Ban’s briefing, the United Kingdom, United States and France said Burma should match their words with deeds and called for stronger action by the Council.

France’s representative, Jean-Maurice Ripert, said, “The current impasse is no reason for the international community to do nothing. The council must respond firmly if she [Aung San Suu Kyi] is found guilty, but inaction must not be the price of its unity.”

But China, a long-time ally of the Burmese junta, opposed putting Burma on the UN Security Council agenda and is against further isolating and sanctioning the country, saying events happening in Burma are strictly internal affairs.

Liu Zhenmin, China's deputy permanent representative to the UN, expounded at an open Security Council meeting on Burma, "We believe that the events happening inside Myanmar [Burma] are the internal affairs of Myanmar [Burma] itself, which should be handled by its own government and people in consultation."

Liu added that the situation in Burma does not pose any threat to international or regional peace and security.

"China has explicitly opposed the inclusion of the Myanmar [Burma] question on the Security Council agenda. And we are against the policy of isolating and sanctioning against Myanmar [Burma]," Liu said.

But Liu maintained China remains steadfast in its support of the efforts of Ban Ki-moon and his special representative to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, in their continued engagement with the country's military authorities.

He said China will continue in helping the government of Burma in its efforts to address the country's problems in a responsible and constructive manner. Liu also called on members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other regional countries to join hands in assisting Burma out of its current difficulties.

READ MORE---> Burma preparing to free political prisoners...

Recent Posts from Burma Wants Freedom and Democracy

Recent posts from WHO is WHO in Burma


The Nuke Light of Myanmar Fan Box
The Nuke Light of Myanmar on Facebook
Promote your Page too