Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Patrols recalled following clash

SHAN- All Burma Army units patrolling the countryside in Southern Shan State have been withdrawn leaving the Shan State Army (SSA) ‘South’ free to roam all areas outside heavily barricaded towns and villages, following a 7-hour fight between the two sides last week.

Col Yawdserk (photo)

Reasons for the surprise move by the Burma Army could only be speculated at present, according to SSA South commanders:

• Security in towns in anticipation of Martyrs Day (19 July) commemorating the event in 1949 when Aung San and 8 others, including the popular Shan prince Sao Sam Tun, were assassinated

• Security in towns in preparation for the 2010 elections

• Preparation for a new offensive

“We are definitely on the lookout,” said Col Yawdserk, the SSA leader. “I have instructed all units to be twice on alert.”

The fight on 15 July in Kehsi township had resulted in 11 killed, 1 captured and 5 assorted weapons seized on the Burma Army side. Only 14 reportedly got away, some wounded. “Since 21 May (Shan Resistance Day), we have killed more than 30 and seized more than 20 weapons,” an officer in the field told SHAN matter-of-factly.

The Burma Army in Shan State is said to be preparing for a military showdown with either the SSA South or the ceasefire armies including the United Wa State Army (UWSA) with which it has been on an increasingly sour relationship since last year.

Related report: 11 soldiers killed in rebel ambush, 17 July 2009

READ MORE---> Patrols recalled following clash...

Indonesia leads Asean Burma fears

(BBC-UK) -Indonesia's foreign minister has said Burma's elections cannot be free and fair unless detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is free.

Hasan Wirayuda was speaking as regional foreign ministers gathered in Thailand for an Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) Regional Forum.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is on her way to the security forum.

Asean has a policy of non-interference in members' affairs, but Burma has provoked widespread censure.

Indonesia has led Asean concerns about Burma, telling correspondents that the group has become frustrated at the lack of progress on democratic reforms.

Mr Wirayuda said the recent trial of Ms Suu Kyi had dashed hopes of a meaningful election scheduled for next year.

A new human rights body created by Asean, lambasted by regional activists as lacking any enforcement power, was almost scuttled over the weekend when an increasingly assertive Indonesia sought to strengthen its provisions.


"We have been saying to them [Burma] directly that the process must be inclusive for all groups in society ... including Aung San Suu Kyi," Mr Wirayuda told The Associated Press in a reference to Burma's planned poll.

"We should see whether from now until 2010 they develop a credible process leading to truly democratic elections acceptable to the international community," he said. (JEG's: what if Burma don't)

He said the "big test" will be whether the regime's promised elections next year are truly "multiparty, meaning inclusive in nature, but also whether the process is a democratic one."

He said Asean has been "able to develop a more open, frank discussion" with Burma, while admitting it was hard to see if all the talk made any difference inside the country.

He was speaking after United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made a fruitless trip to Burma, during which he was not allowed to visit Ms Suu Kyi.

Clinton in Thailand

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said six months ago that the US was reviewing its policy towards Burma as sanctions did not appear to be successful in forcing change.

However, on this, her first trip to an Asean meeting, analysts have noted that there has been no hint of a new policy.

Instead, the talks are expected to focus on finding ways to push North Korea back to the negotiating table.

Six-party talks aimed at ending the North's nuclear programmes stalled last year, and since then the North has set off nuclear and missile tests amid questions over the leadership as Kim Jong-il's health has worsened.

Asean leaders have expressed satisfaction that a figure as senior as Mrs Clinton is at last gracing the regional forum with her presence. In recent years, more junior officers have been sent, leaving the delegate from China, a growing influence in the region, to be the key figure at the talks.

Mrs Clinton will meet Thai Prime Minister Abhisist Vejjajiva and the Thai foreign minister in Bangkok before joining the forum in Phuket.

Another challenge at the regional talks will be for Thailand - it has had to cancel regional summits twice since December due to domestic political turmoil.

READ MORE---> Indonesia leads Asean Burma fears...

'I wed Iranian girls before execution' - Crimes in the name of Allah


In a shocking and unprecedented interview, directly exposing the inhumanity of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's religious regime in Iran, a serving member of the paramilitary Basiji militia has told this reporter of his role in suppressing opposition street protests in recent weeks.

He has also detailed aspects of his earlier service in the force, including his enforced participation in the rape of young Iranian girls prior to their execution.

The interview took place by telephone, and on condition of anonymity. It was arranged by a reliable source whose identity can also not be revealed.

Founded by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979 as a "people's militia," the volunteer Basiji force is subordinate to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and intensely loyal to Khomeini's successor, Khamenei.

The Basiji member, who is married with children, spoke soon after his release by the Iranian authorities from detention. He had been held for the "crime" of having set free two Iranian teenagers - a 13-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl - who had been arrested during the disturbances that have followed the disputed June presidential elections.

"There have been many other police and members of the security forces arrested because they have shown leniency toward the protesters out on the streets, or released them from custody without consulting our superiors," he said.

He pinned the blame for much of the most ruthless violence employed by the Iranian security apparatus against opposition protesters on what he called "imported security forces" - recruits, as young as 14 and 15, he said, who have been brought from small villages into the bigger cities where the protests have been centered.

"Fourteen and 15-year old boys are given so much power, which I am sorry to say they have abused," he said. "These kids do anything they please - forcing people to empty out their wallets, taking whatever they want from stores without paying, and touching young women inappropriately. The girls are so frightened that they remain quiet and let them do what they want."

These youngsters, and other "plainclothes vigilantes," were committing most of the crimes in the names of the regime, he said.

Asked about his own role in the brutal crackdowns on the protesters, whether he had been beaten demonstrators and whether he regretted his actions, he answered evasively.

"I did not attack any of the rioters - and even if I had, it is my duty to follow orders," he began. "I don't have any regrets," he went on, "except for when I worked as a prison guard during my adolescence."

Explaining how he had come to join the volunteer Basiji forces, he said his mother had taken him to them.

When he was 16, "my mother took me to a Basiji station and begged them to take me under their wing because I had no one and nothing foreseeable in my future. My father was martyred during the war in Iraq and she did not want me to get hooked on drugs and become a street thug. I had no choice," he said.

He said he had been a highly regarded member of the force, and had so "impressed my superiors" that, at 18, "I was given the 'honor' to temporarily marry young girls before they were sentenced to death."

In the Islamic Republic it is illegal to execute a young woman, regardless of her crime, if she is a virgin, he explained. Therefore a "wedding" ceremony is conducted the night before the execution: The young girl is forced to have sexual intercourse with a prison guard - essentially raped by her "husband."

"I regret that, even though the marriages were legal," he said.

Why the regret, if the marriages were "legal?"

"Because," he went on, "I could tell that the girls were more afraid of their 'wedding' night than of the execution that awaited them in the morning. And they would always fight back, so we would have to put sleeping pills in their food. By morning the girls would have an empty expression; it seemed like they were ready or wanted to die.

"I remember hearing them cry and scream after [the rape] was over," he said. "I will never forget how this one girl clawed at her own face and neck with her finger nails afterwards. She had deep scratches all over her."

Returning to the events of the last few weeks, and his decision to set free the two teenage detainees, he said he "honestly" did not know why he had released them, a decision that led to his own arrest, "but I think it was because they were so young. They looked like children and I knew what would happen to them if they weren't released."

He said that while a man is deemed "responsible for his own actions at 13, for a woman it is 9," and that it was freeing the 15-year-old girl that "really got me in trouble.

"I was not mistreated or really interrogated while being detained," he said. "I was put in a tiny room and left alone. It was hard being isolated, so I spent most of my time praying and thinking about my wife and kids."

Posted: 19 July 2009

READ MORE---> 'I wed Iranian girls before execution' - Crimes in the name of Allah...

FM:Burma key to fate of Asean

No plans to revise engagement policy


PHUKET (Bangkok Post): The Association of Southeast Asian Nations cannot move forward until changes occur in Burma, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya says.

The Burmese issue was the focus of talks among Southeast Asian foreign ministers here yesterday.

Other Asean ministers reiterated a call for the Burmese government to immediately release political prisoners, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, to pave the way for national reconciliation and their participation in "inclusive" general elections next year.

Despite the strong call for change, the 10-member grouping showed no intention to revise its constructive engagement with the military regime.

"Recognising the fact that the Myanmar [Burmese] government has been trying to address many complex challenges, we remained constructively engaged with Myanmar as part of the Asean Community building process," they said in a statement released yesterday.

Burma maintained its position that "pressure from the outside and economic sanctions were hampering" its plan to restore democracy and development efforts, the statement said. (JEG's: what economy and development has to do with human rights? - or perhaps he meant; no slavery no development?)

But Mr Kasit, who is chairing the foreign ministers' meeting, said his Burmese counterpart Nyan Win knew full well Asean could not move forward without changes in Burma. So it was a joint undertaking, he said.

Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan said Asean members should come forward with their own contribution to assistance in the Cyclone Nargis humanitarian efforts. Burma had received at least US$100 million (3.5 billion baht) in pledges for the latter half of the three-year recovery plan prepared by the Tripartite Core Group comprising representatives from the United Nations, Burma and Asean.

"The Asean contributions will create a momentum for international donors to give more support to the $300 million needed for the recovery," he said. (JEG's: once I see change towards human rights and freedom for ALL prisoners sentenced under false charges, my purse remains zipped...)

He called for a similar strategy in dealing with the Rohingya issue in Burma. "There should be a way for the tripartite group to work together to deliver humanitarian assistance to reduce the social and economic pressures that are pushing the people out of the country," Mr Surin said.

In his opening statement to the ministerial meeting, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva outlined the future of the group which needed quick and united action to tackle threats and challenges and better linkages to serve the region's single market idea.

"Effective action must replace extended deliberation. We must show to the world that Asean is ready to meet any challenge and is well-prepared to act decisively," Mr Abhisit said.

He said the future of the group depended on efforts to invest in education and other human resource development.

"Globalisation will be beneficial only if the people in the region are competitive, prepared and able to take advantage of it," he said.

Mr Abhisit repeated calls to oppose protectionism and urged Asean to live with others' expectations of it being a driving force.

"The world is closely watching Asean, pinning on us the hope that we will be a dynamic growth pole for the global economy in this time of crisis," he said.

The ministers also endorsed the terms of reference on the Asean Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights amid Indonesian discontent over the scope of the agency's functions.

Indonesia wanted the commission to be set up in October to do more than promoting rights issues among the 10 Asean members.

Mr Kasit said at the end of the meeting Asean had opted to work towards conciliation and consultation in an amicable manner when there were differences or non-compliance including on human rights matters.

READ MORE---> FM:Burma key to fate of Asean...

Visa Backlog Holds Up Irrawaddy Delta Relief Work

The Irrawaddy News

PHUKET, Thailand — The international post-cyclone relief effort in the Irrawaddy delta is under pressure because of a delay in granting visas for more than 200 aid workers, according to a senior official with the Tripartite Core Group (TCG).

William Sabandar, special envoy of the Asean Secretary-General for Post Nargis Recovery in Burma, told The Irrawaddy that although relief workers were still being allowed into the delta area their numbers had been cut because of a backlog in granting visas.

A boy looks past a tarpaulin cover, used by his family for shelter,
in Labutta Township at Burma's Irrawaddy delta region.
Cyclone Nargis, the worst natural disaster recorded in Burma's history,
slammed into the delta region on May 2, 2008, killing
more then 130,000 people and leaving 2.4 million destitute. (Photo: Reuters)

“There’s a backlog in the granting of more than 200 visas,” he said. “We are working on trying to resolve the situation.”

Sabandar—who has experience of post-tsunami work in Aceh, Indonesia, said the greatest difficult in working in Burma was building trust.

He said he raised the matter of the backlog with Burmese Foreign Minister Maj-Gen Nyan Win during a working dinner in Phuket on Sunday. “He understands the issue and he would like to help.”

Relief workers in Burma say they have been experiencing difficulties since Deputy Foreign Minister Kyaw Thu, chairman of the TCG, was transferred to an inactive position, as chairman of the ministerial-level Civil Service Selection and Training Board.

After the junta faced international outrage over the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi’s began in May, the activities and visa processing of relief workers had been experiencing difficulties, said a European relief worker who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Two books on Cyclone Nargis were launched at the Asean session: A Bridge to Recovery: Asean’s Response to Cyclone Nargis and Myanmar: Life after Nargis.

According to Myanmar: Life after Nargis, the Burmese regime had missed a crucial opportunity to represent itself appropriately in the eyes of the Burmese people and the international community. The book is published by the Asean Secretariat and the Singapore-based Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

“The Myanmar Government missed another opportunity to shore up its legitimacy,” said the authors of the book, saying Nargis victims had expressed their frustration at the regime’s delay in accepting international assistance.

At a donor meeting in Bangkok in February, the TCG announced its three year recovery plan for Nargis victims. The plan has a proposed budget of US $ 691 million.

However, the Asean Secretariat says in the book, A Bridge to Recovery: Asean’s Response to Cyclone Nargis: “Donor support pledged to date needs turning into firm commitments”.

“The recovery experience after other disasters has shown that the receiving of international assistance depends strongly on the effectiveness of the coordination and implementation structure in place,” the Asean Secretariat says in the book.

International donors are reportedly disappointed at the level of corruption in dealing with funds, as well as the lack of direct engagement between donors and the junta’s senior officials.

READ MORE---> Visa Backlog Holds Up Irrawaddy Delta Relief Work...

Is Burma Going Nuclear?

The Irrawaddy News

BANGKOK — The recent aborted voyage of a North Korean ship, photographs of massive tunnels and a top secret meeting have raised alarm bells that one of the world's poorest nations may be aspiring to join the nuclear club—with help from its friends in Pyongyang. No one expects military-run Burma, also known as Myanmar, to obtain an atomic bomb anytime soon, but experts have the Southeast Asian nation on their radar screen.

"There's suspicion that something is going on, and increasingly that cooperation with North Korea may have a nuclear undercurrent. We are very much looking into it," says David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington DC think tank.

The issue is expected to be discussed, at least on the sidelines, at this week's Asean Regional Forum, a major security conference hosted by Thailand. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, along with representatives from North Korea and Burma, will attend.

Alert signals sounded recently when a North Korean freighter, the Kang Nam I, headed toward Burma with undisclosed cargo. Shadowed by the US Navy, it reversed course and returned home earlier this month.

It is still not clear what was aboard. US and South Korean officials suspected artillery and other non-nuclear arms, but one South Korean intelligence expert, citing satellite imagery, says the ship's mission appeared to be related to a Burma nuclear program and also carried Scud-type missiles.

The expert, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said North Korea is helping Burma set up uranium- and nuclear-related facilities, echoing similar reports that have long circulated in Burma's exile community and media.

Meanwhile, Japanese police arrested a North Korean and two Japanese nationals last month for allegedly trying to export a magnetic measuring device to Burma that could be used to develop missiles.

And a recent report from Burmese exile media said senior Burmese military officers made a top secret visit late last year to North Korea, where an agreement was concluded for greatly expanding cooperation to modernize Burma's military muscle, including the construction of underground installations. The military pact report has yet to be confirmed.

In June, photographs, video and reports showed as many as 800 tunnels, some of them vast, dug in Burma with North Korean assistance under an operation code-named "Tortoise Shells." The photos were reportedly taken between 2003 and 2006.

Thailand-based author Bertil Lintner is convinced of the authenticity of the photos, which he was the first to obtain. However, the purpose of the tunnel networks, many near the remote capital of Naypyidaw, remains a question mark.

"There is no doubt that the Burmese generals would like to have a bomb so that they could challenge the Americans and the rest of the world," says Lintner, who has written books on both Burma and North Korea. "But they must be decades away from acquiring anything that would even remotely resemble an atomic bomb."

David Mathieson of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, who monitors developments in Burma, says that while there's no firm evidence the generals are pursuing a nuclear weapons capability, "a swirl of circumstantial trends indicates something in the nuclear field is going on that definitely warrants closer scrutiny by the international community."

Albright says some of the suspicion stems from North Korea's nuclear cooperation with Syria, which now possesses a reactor. Syria had first approached the Russians, just as Burma did earlier, but both countries were rejected, so the Syrians turned to Pyongyang—a step Burma may also be taking.

Since the early 2000s, dissidents and defectors from Burma have talked of a "nuclear battalion," an atomic "Ayelar Project" working out of a disguised flour mill and two Pakistani scientists who fled to Burma following the September 11 World Trade Center attack providing assistance. They gave no detailed evidence.

Now a spokesman for the self-styled Burmese government-in-exile, the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, says that according to sources working with the dissident movement inside the Burma army, there are two heavily guarded buildings under construction "to hold nuclear reactors" in central Burma.

Villagers in the area have been displaced, said spokesman Zinn Lin.

Andrew Selth of Australia's Griffith University, who has monitored Burma's possible nuclear moves for a decade, says none of these reports has been substantiated and calls the issue an "information black hole."

He also says Western governments are cautious in their assessments, remembering the intelligence blunders regarding suspected weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

A US State Department official, speaking on customary rules of anonymity, said he would not comment on intelligence-related matters such as nuclear proliferation.

"I don't want that to be seen as confirmation one way or the other. Obviously, any time that a country does business with North Korea we're going to watch to see what that is," the official said.

Alarm bells about Burma's aspirations have rung before. In 2007, Russia signed an agreement to establish a nuclear studies center in Burma, build a 10-megawatt nuclear research reactor for peaceful purposes and train several hundred technicians in its operation.

However, Russia's atomic agency Rosatom told The Associated Press recently that "there has been no movement whatsoever on this agreement with Burma ever since."

Even earlier, before the military seized power, Burma sought to develop nuclear energy, sending physicists to the United States and Britain for studies in the 1950s. The military government established a Department of Atomic Energy in 2001 under U Thaung, a known proponent of nuclear technology who currently heads the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Burma is a party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and under a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, it is obligated to let the UN watchdog know at least six months in advance of operating a nuclear facility, agency spokesman Ayhan Evrensel said. :)

Evrensel said the Vienna-based IAEA has asked Burma to sign a so-called "additional protocol" that would allow agency experts to carry out unannounced inspections and lead to a broader flow of information about Burma's nuclear activities. (JEG's: did Burma signed?)

The regime has remained silent on whatever its plans may be. A Burmese regime spokesman did not respond to an e-mail asking about Russian and North Korean involvement in nuclear development.

In a rare comment from inside Burma, Chan Tun, former ambassador to North Korea turned democracy activist, told the Thailand-based The Irrawaddy magazine, "To put it plainly: Burma wants to get the technology to develop a nuclear bomb.

"However, I have to say that it is childish of the Burmese generals to dream about acquiring nuclear technology since they can't even provide regular electricity in Burma," the Burmese exile publication quoted him last month as saying. (JEG's: electricity in Naypyidaw goes
24/7/365. Electricity for a reactor? piece of cake for the generals)

Some experts think the generals may be bluffing.

"I would think that it's quite possible Yangon [Rangoon] would like to scare other countries or may feel that talking about developing nuclear technologies will give them more bargaining clout," said Cristina-Astrid Hansell at the California-based James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. "This is not unreasonable, given the payoffs North Korea has gotten for its nuclear program." (JEG's: Christina is in CA, we are much closer and our trust is focused)

Associated Press writers Kwang-tae Kim in Seoul, Pauline Jellinek and Matt Lee in Washington, Caroline Stauffer in Bangkok, George Jahn and William Kole in Vienna and Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed to this report.

READ MORE---> Is Burma Going Nuclear?...

Asean Calls for Inclusive Election; Release of All Political Prisoners

The Irrawaddy News

PHUKET, Thailand — Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) called for the immediate release of Burma’s political prisoners including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi as well as free, fair and inclusive elections in 2010, at the conclusion of the two-day Asean Ministerial Meeting on Monday in Phuket, Thailand.

“We encouraged the Myanmar [Burma] Government to hold free, fair and inclusive elections in 2010, thereby laying down a good foundation for future social and economic development,” said the joint communiqué of the 42nd AMM.

Although Asean’s statement is the same essentially as that of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Burma, it focuses on different principles from that of two significant stakeholders in Burmese politics such as Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) and various ethnic ceasefire armed groups.

The NLD and the main ceasefire groups, such the United Wa State Army and the Kachin Independence Army, have emphasized the need for a review of Burma’s new constitution to resolve the political crisis and promote genuine national reconciliation.

In the Asean foreign ministers’ joint-statement, titled “Acting Together to Cope with Global Challenges,” said the release of political prisoners was a way to pave the way for meaningful dialogue with all stakeholders in Burmese politics.

Asean ministers also seemed to support what they call a “constructive engagement policy” on Burma by reiterating that the Burmese delegation said “international pressure and economic

sanctions on Burma for changing course were ‘hampering’ democratization and development of the country.”

Critics of Asean’s “constructive engagement policy” towards Burma say that for more than a decade, the policy has failed to bring positive changes to Burma.

The statement mentioned the regional problem of human trafficking and the need to enhance cooperation between the countries of origin, transit and destination as a way to address the issue. No mention was made of the North Korea issue or of the Rohingya immigration issue.

READ MORE---> Asean Calls for Inclusive Election; Release of All Political Prisoners...

Malaysian Officers Held over Burmese Migrant Sale

The Irrawaddy News

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian authorities have arrested five immigration officers suspected of selling illegal immigrants from Burma to human traffickers, police said Tuesday.

It is the first time Malaysia has found evidence that government officials were involved in the forced labor exploitation of Burmese migrants at its border with Thailand—an accusation that prompted the US State Department to put Malaysia on a list of top trafficking offenders last month.

Police federal crimes investigation head Mohamad Bakri Zinin said authorities have arrested five Immigration Department officers and four bus drivers over the past five days.

Investigations showed the officers brought Burmese migrants—who lived in Malaysia without valid travel documents—to Malaysia's northern border with Thailand and handed them to human traffickers in exchange for up to 600 ringgit ($170) for each.

The traffickers took the migrants into Thailand and told them to pay 2,000 ringgit ($570) each for their freedom or they would be forced to work in the fishing industry, Mohamad Bakri said.

"These things really happen," Mohamad Bakri said.

All nine arrested could be charged for profiting from the exploitation of trafficked persons, he said. The bus drivers allegedly helped transport the migrants to the border.

If convicted, they face up to 15 years in prison.

The officers arrested were reportedly senior state-level personnel. Immigration officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

In April, a report by the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations said illegal Burmese migrants deported from Malaysia have been forced to work in brothels, fishing boats and restaurants across the border in Thailand if they had no money to buy their freedom.

The US State Department recommended that Malaysia fully implement and enforce its anti-trafficking laws—which have been in place for several years—and increase prosecutions, convictions and sentences for trafficking.

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

READ MORE---> Malaysian Officers Held over Burmese Migrant Sale...

ASEAN Foreign Ministers expect Burma to act responsively

by Usa Pichai

Phuket, Thailand (Mizzima) – As the 42nd ASEAN Foreign Minister’s Meeting officially kicked off in Thailand's island province of Phuket, delegates to the conference expressed concern regarding the political situation in Burma.

Presiding over the opening ceremony of the meeting, Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva spoke of the future goals for the bloc: “ASEAN must be able to act decisively and in a timely manner to address both internal and external threats and challenges to the security and welfare of its member states and peoples.”

In a 12-page Joint Communiqué released on Monday, entitled 'Acting Together to Cope with Global Challenges,' attending ministers said they “encourage the Myanmar [Burmese] Government to hold free, fair and inclusive elections in 2010, thereby laying down a good foundation for future social and economic development.”

“In this regard, recalling the ASEAN Leaders' Statement on 19 November 2007, we reiterated our calls on the Government of Myanmar [Burma] to immediately release all those under detention, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, thereby paving the way for genuine reconciliation and meaningful dialogue involving all parties concerned and with a view to enabling them to participate in the 2010 General Elections,” the group stated.

“Myanmar [Burma] expressed its view that pressure from the outside and economic sanctions were hampering Myanmar's [Burma’s] democratization and development efforts. Recognizing the fact that the Myanmar [Burmese] Government has been trying to address many complex challenges, we remained constructively engaged with Myanmar [Burma] as part of the ASEAN community building process,” the statement added.

Foreign Ministers from the 10-member grouping further vowed to continue supporting the ongoing initiative of the good office of the United Nations Secretary-General and welcomed Burma’s assurances to cooperate fully with the United Nations.

Thailand’s Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, during a press conference as the group’s chair, added, “My Myanmar [Burmese] friends, particularly the Foreign Minister, know very well what are the wishes of the rest of the ASEAN friends, what are the obligations on the part of Myanmar [Burma] to help to move ASEAN forward. Without changes in Myanmar [Burma], ASEAN cannot move forward…Give us the time to do it.”

Also on Monday, the foreign ministers endorsed the terms of reference for an 'ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights,' the newly coined name for the regional human rights body, which has already come under criticism for lacking independence, credibility and effectiveness.

However, the group maintains that the terms of reference for the rights body is a living document providing an evolutionary framework for furthering ASEAN’s efforts in the promotion and protection of human rights. It is scheduled to be reviewed five years after coming into force, which is expected to be later this year.

READ MORE---> ASEAN Foreign Ministers expect Burma to act responsively...

Counter people with people: Home Minister

by May Kyaw

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The Home Minister of the Burmese military junta had at a point of time exhorted the staff members of the General Administration Department at a meeting to ‘counter people with people and counter politics with politics’.

In the Home Ministry’s directive, a copy of which has been leaked and is with Mizzima, the Home Minister Maj. Gen. Maung Oo had given such a blatant instruction to officials of the General Administration (GA) Department at a meeting in Naypyitaw Home Ministry’s Meeting Hall on 20 January 2007.

“Counter people with people, counter politics with politics. There is no need to get involved personally. Do it carefully and do it daringly,” he had directed.

In the six-page directive, he had instructed organizing of NGOs so as to be pro-government, to mobilze people, not to confront the army, to go in for fund raising for the welfare of the Home Ministry staff members and to monitor the activities of the ‘National League for Democracy’ (NLD).

Moreover Maj. Gen. Maung Oo had also said that the staff of the Home Ministry should use their power for their livelihood instead of begging.

“Regarding smuggling, arrest them. Report to the authorities, anything you seize from them, either a car or a motorcycle. Surrender them to the customs department. You will get 50 per cent reward money from these goods. So you don’t need to beg, but arrest them for your living,” the directive says.

He had also talked of the junta’s plan of holding mass rallies against the opposition forces in late 2007 to senior officials in the GA Department across the country.

Following the saffron revolution in September 2007, protest rallies were organized by the junta backed civilian organisation - ‘Union Solidarity and Development Association’ - in some States and Divisions across the country.

The meeting presided by the Maung Oo was also attended by the Burmese Deputy Home Minister and Director General of the General Administration.

During the meeting, Deputy Minister Brig. Gen. Phone Swe advised GA officials to build trust and win the respect of ethnic people in their respective regions and to prepare for joining a political party.

Director General Myat Ko also informed the ‘District Peace and Development Council’ (DPDC) Chairmen and ‘Township Peace and Development Council’ Chairmen to thoroughly scrutinize before giving recommendations to establishment of social organizations and to make office expenses frugally.

The DPDC and TPDC are under the jurisdiction of the Home Ministry’s GA Department. While most Chairmen of DPDC has military backgrounds, a few are selected from the civilians and there are a total of 62 districts in the Burmese administration.

Divisional and State level PDC are controlled and are under the charge of the commander of the military regional command in their respective regions.

READ MORE---> Counter people with people: Home Minister...

U.S.-Indian arms deal posits questions for Burma's generals

by Joseph Ball

Mizzima News - The signing of an extensive arms deal between India and the United States raises issues concerning Burma – not the least of which is a question for the junta itself, "Would the Tatmadaw's stated interests be best achieved by gaining access to the largesse of America's defense industry?"

On Monday, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton committed the United States to the sale of some 30 billion dollars worth of military hardware to the Indian state through the course of 2012 – in addition to the construction of two nuclear reactors. The arms deal comprises a significant portion of what analysts expect to be over 50 billion dollars to be spent by the south Asian giant over the course of the next five years on upgrading a rapidly ageing defense sector.

In short, India is prioritizing the modernization of its armed forces, precisely the centerpiece to the Burmese military's restructured military doctrine.

In 1998 the Tatmadaw formally modified its previous doctrine of "people's war" to "people's war under modern condition." In alignment with this emphasis, the past fifteen to twenty years have witnessed an accelerated drive on the part of the Burmese military for force modernization.

And lest the generals fear the country's endemic poverty would hamper the realization of massive military contracts, clearly the United States is not averse to grossly distorting the military budget of countries struggling to meet the basic needs of its citizens – indeed, domestically, it makes financial sense for Washington in countering a towering budget deficit.

According to a 2008 United Nations Development Program study, the human development index for India and Burma stands at 132nd and 135th, respectively, in the global rankings – making the two countries the only top 30 military budgets to reside outside the top 100 in the human development index.

For fiscal year 2009, the Pentagon estimates India and Burma as the 11th and 23rd largest spenders on military equipment – with India's sum total being over three times that of Burma's, a gap that is poised to drastically widen.

But what would Burma's generals have to do if they reasoned the established goals of the Tatmadaw could best be served by being able to benefit from a more diversified arms market?

While the United States let it be known some six months ago that the inherited Bush policy toward Burma was under review, the unforeseen trial of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is apparently holding any such plan hostage.

With a verdict in the trial still in doubt – at least officially – Secretary of State Clinton is left with very little room to maneuver regarding Burma policy during her brief appearance this week in Thailand to attend the ASEAN Regional Forum. While words too soft would seem inappropriate, a dialogue too harsh could jeopardize any benefits to a future policy review. The outcome, in all likelihood, will be statements mimicking what has already been heard from ASEAN foreign ministers on the question of Burma and the proposed 2010 general election.

Yet, it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which Aung San Suu Kyi is found anything other than guilty and such a ruling leading to anything other than a reversion to American policy directed at Burma as under the previous administration.

However, the emphasis being placed on continuing to nurture a close relationship with New Delhi, originally launched under the administration of the Secretary of State's husband some ten years previously, along with efforts at deepening ties and commitments to the ASEAN community, hints at a United States policy that will look to India, ASEAN and – not least significantly – China to take the lead in wrenching the best possible deal for 2010 from Burma's recalcitrant generals. Though, publicly, the United States would surely persist with its now well rehearsed rhetoric on the subject of Burma.

And while this might at first glance appear a victory for Naypyitaw, it is not at all clear that such a scenario would best meet the adopted and articulated interests and responsibilities of the Tatmadaw.

It is up to Burma's military leaders to decide whether the defined institutional goals and obligations of the country's armed forces – including the realization of the full benefits accruable from embracing the Revolution in Military Affairs – would best be addressed through actions maintaining the military's existing and limited access to material and technology, or through an alternative strategy as of yet unexplored.

READ MORE---> U.S.-Indian arms deal posits questions for Burma's generals...

Fears it might be a 'toothless tiger'

By Kittipong Thavevong
The Nation

Phuket - Advocates voice concerns that the commission will not be able to control abuse in member countries like Burma

Phuket - Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday that in the initial stages, the Asean human-rights commission will focus on promotion rather than protection of rights.

"Progress will first be made on the front of promotion, but the protection side will not be ignored. It is better to make a start than to leave it hanging with no progress at all," Abhisit explained. (JEG's: what do we tell the landmine victims, the ones displaced by the junta, the ones forced recruited to become porters, the ones under slavery etc etc... what do we tell them? "we are promoting human rights, it should be ready after you are dead...")

Protection would be achieved through a roadmap and an evolutionary process among the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, he said.

In response to concerns about it "lacking teeth" to protect Asean citizens against human-rights violations in their countries, Abhisit said: "We want to establish a body that promotes the issue. Once that is put into place, there will be more teeth for the body in terms of protection."

Human-rights advocates have expressed concerns that the new body will fall short of international standards and lack the power to deal with problematic Asean countries like military-ruled Burma. In addition, civil society groups campaigning in Phuket during the regional meetings say they don't want an Asean human-rights body that is a "toothless paper tiger".

"The body has two purposes - promotion and protection - and three principles: credibility, realistic and evolutionary," Abhisit said, referring to possible obstacles posed by undemocratic governments of certain member countries, particularly Burma.

The prime minister was speaking at the Sheraton Grande Laguna hotel in the resort island of Phuket following the opening ceremony of the 42nd Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting yesterday morning.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, as chair of the Asean meetings, said on Sunday night that more effort would be made to promote and protect human rights in the region.

Asean foreign ministers met with the High-Level Panel, which presented them with draft terms of reference on the body's establishment.

The body, expected to be officially called the Asean Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights, as suggested by the panel, is required under the Asean Charter, which came into effect last December.

When the terms of reference are finalised by the foreign ministers in Phuket, the rights body will be set up at the summit of Asean leaders in October, again in Phuket. Thailand is actively pushing for the body to be created during its rotating chairmanship, which expires at the end of this year.

READ MORE---> Fears it might be a 'toothless tiger'...

NLD’s Win Tin Unwell

The Irrawaddy News

Win Tin, a Burmese prominent veteran journalist and leader of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), is not well. He is resting under medication.

Win Tin, who is 79, has not been at his office after suffering from an abnormal heartbeat since Thursday last week. He received a medical check-up this weekend, which included an x-ray check.

He told The Irrawaddy on Monday, “I have not been able to go to the office since Thursday because I felt very tired if I worked. My heartbeat was around 46-48 times per minute compared to a normal heartbeat of around 70 or 80 times.”

Win Tin spent 19 years in prison without proper meals and medical treatment. He was released from the infamous Insein Prison in September 2008

He has suffered from poor health several times since he was released from prison. His illnesses have included asthma, low blood pressure and heart disease.

During his time in prison, he also suffered from heart and prostate problems. Prison authorities regularly refused to provide him with proper medical care.

Moe Zaw Oo, the secretary of the NLD-LA’s Foreign Affairs Department, who also spent time with Win Tin in prison said, “He [Win Tin] was often sick in prison. The food was poor and not nutritious, and medicine was insufficient. We worried that we would never see him released.”

Win Tin is respected by Burmese people inside and outside Burma. He is an active opposition leader who dares speak out publicly about the current political crisis in Burma. He is an outspoken and media friendly opposition leader.

After release from prison, he suffered from asthma in November 2008 and rested for several days, and he was hospitalized suffering low blood pressure in December 2008.

Win Tin, who was a senior adviser to detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, was arrested in 1989 on a series of charges ranging from publishing anti-government propaganda to instigation of civil disobedience.

READ MORE---> NLD’s Win Tin Unwell...

Asean seeks to 'unchain' the mind of Burmese junta


(Bangkok Post) -Featuring high in the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) agenda this year is the issue of political deadlock in Burma.

After all these years, and since it became a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 1997, Burma has shown, time and again, that it has managed its domestic affairs without restraint.

The recent trial of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), is the junta's latest defiance against heightening international pressure.

Back in early May 2008, Burma was hit hard by Cyclone Nargis which slammed into the Ayeyawaddy Delta, causing almost 140,000 deaths and leaving 2 million homeless. Initially, Burmese leaders were reluctant to open up their country for foreign assistance, fearing that the West would use this opportunity to interfere in its domestic politics, or even to deploy their troops on Burma's soil. It was the case of being overly paranoid and extremely xenophobic.

Asean, led by Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan, eagerly embarked on a mission to convince the Burmese junta to accept international aid. He, on behalf of Asean, offered to play a "broker," connecting Burma and the outside world in the reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts. Leaders in Naypyidaw finally agreed with Mr Surin's initiative.

My Burmese friend and I were commissioned by Mr Surin to document Asean's role in the post-Nargis relief efforts. We shuttled between Bangkok, Singapore and Rangoon to conduct countless interviews and to visit the areas devastated by the cyclone. The picture of floating corpses is still fresh in my memory.

Asean has done an excellent job in reaching out to the Burmese junta and explaining to them the important notion of humanitarian assistance and good governance. For once, we believed that we had done something meaningful for Burma, especially in unblocking obstacles that stood in the way of our relief efforts. We were successful in opening up Burma to the world.

But the growing discontent inside Burma and the trial of Mrs Suu Kyi fiercely contested our belief of a new Burma that seemed to open itself up and allow itself to be acclimatised by the global reality. The junta has still refused to set Mrs Suu Kyi free, even despite the plea of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. As of now, the junta wants to go ahead with next year's election without the participation of the NLD.

The conclusion here is that Asean might have been successful, drawing from its Nargis experience, in opening up Burma. But the opening up process was merely physical. Asean has so far been unable to open the junta's mind. The Burmese border might be open. But the leaders' mental doors are still tightly closed.


First, the Burmese junta has been living in insecurity. Its only tool of survival is repression and intimidation. In strengthening its power position, the junta has painted the image of the outside world as black, including that of the Burmese dissidents. Leaders in Naypyidaw have rejected the idea of democracy, even when they pretended to go along with their own roadmap. Democracy is an evil word. To them, it does not even match Burma's political culture and the Burmese lifestyle.

Of course, all these imaginings are part of the junta's self-construction as the ultimate moral authority within the domestic realm. Asean and the global community have failed to unlock the junta's mentality, mainly because political power is not easily negotiable and particularly if unlocking the mentality only means surrendering of its power.

Bangkok's elite should realise how hard it is to let go of power, as they faced the challenge of Thaksin Shinawatra. They, too, have a blocked mind.

Second, simply summarising that Burma cared about the well-being of the Nargis survivors and truly understood the meaning of humanitarian assistance just because it opened the door to foreign donors, could totally mislead us all. As the Burmese leaders compromised their position in the aftermath of Nargis, Asean hoped that it would be granted more access to the heart of the junta.

Yet, aiding suffering Nargis survivors and releasing potential political contenders from incarceration are two different things. Mrs Suu Kyi has always been perceived as a threat to the regime. She is a democratic icon and a symbol of legitimacy. Since 1997, Burma has sent out the message that free political thought is intolerable. Such a message remained unaltered even in the midst of the Nargis attack.

Third, the closed mind of the Naypyidaw elite is putting the Asean Charter to the greatest test. The Burmese junta fully knows that there is no provision in the Charter that indicates any punishment for a badly behaved member. True, the codification of norms governing relations between state and its citizens is included in the Asean Charter. The Asean human rights body has also been in operation.

The imminent question is how Asean can make use of these new mechanisms to make a breakthrough in the Burmese political crisis, especially in unchaining the mind of the leaders.

The launch of the book on Asean's role in the Nargis relief efforts during the AMM in Phuket, may connote a time to celebrate the grouping's success in such a meaningful mission. The launch would serve well the ARF agenda on the current situation in Burma, as Asean optimists are convinced that the same method could work in resolving the Burmese political problem: Asean being an honest broker in linking Burma with the world. There is nothing wrong with being optimistic. Having long observed Burma's politics over the past two decades however, I think that being realistic is a more rational approach, as I try to examine the complicated situation in that country.

In realistic terms, the prolonged crisis in Burma seems to suggest that perhaps the junta has intentionally hidden the key that could be used to unlock its own mindset. The political conflict in neighbouring Thailand makes the Burmese leaders even more wary of opening up and welcoming democracy.

Asean's push for change in Burma is highly commendable. Secretary-General Surin has done a remarkable job in opening up a channel of communication, no matter how narrow it is, between Burma and the world. But Cyclone Nargis is an episode of catastrophe. The real disaster for Burma and the Burmese people, which will be more devastating than Nargis, is indeed the persistent existence of the Burmese military regime.

Dr Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a visiting research fellow at Singapore's Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, is co-author, with Moe Thuzar, of "Myanmar: Life After Nargis."

READ MORE---> Asean seeks to 'unchain' the mind of Burmese junta...

Has India let down Myanmar's people?

By Raghu Krishnan, ET Bureau

It’s 20 years since the Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi was first put under house arrest. It’s 19 years since her National League for Democracy swept the last national elections, winning over 80% of the seats it had contested, or 392 out of 447 seats. Other minority parties sympathetic to the NLD won 65 seats, taking the final tally to 457 out of a total of 492 constituencies. An estimated 10,000 people were killed in six months of military repression before the elections.

Instead of governing the country whose people had given her party an overwhelming mandate, Aung San Suu Kyi has been under virtual detention for the last two decades. She has become a symbol of grace in duress, someone whose freedom was taken away by the military junta misruling her country but not her steadfast courage.

The world has been transformed since Suu Kyi was first put under house arrest. The Berlin Wall has fallen. The Iron Curtain, which, according to Churchill, had cut off Europe from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, has disappeared. India, where Suu Kyi had studied before going to Oxford to study politics, philosophy and economics, has become one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. China is all set to become the economic superpower of the 21st century.

The world has moved on. Yet Burma, or Myanmar as it is now known, has remained in a time-warp.

The military junta has become even more inflexible, going to the extent of building a new capital which is so isolated that it will be difficult for anyone to attempt to restore democracy even though all the rallies held so far have been of a non-violent kind! It was at New Delhi’s Lady Shri Ram College, where she studied political science for two years, that Suu Kyi was introduced to Mahatma Gandhi’s message that an authoritarian government could be fought through ahimsa (non-violence), civil disobedience and satyagraha (the force of truth).

Which makes it that much more ironical that one reason why Myanmar’s military junta is so firmly entrenched despite international opprobrium is because of the support from China and India. As Justin Wintle points out in his biography Perfect Hostage: Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma and the Generals, there was the prospect of a breakthrough a few years ago: “Progress appeared to have been made in December 2005 when, in the wake of a fiercely critical report prepared by the US law firm Piper Rudnick Gray Cary and commissioned by Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu and former Czech President Vaclav Havel, the UN Security Council agreed that it should be briefed on Burmese affairs — thus putting Burma on its agenda. But nothing came of this.

On January 12, 2007, a resolution proposed by the US and Britain, calling for immediate reform in Burma, was vetoed by fellow UNSC permanent members China and Russia. Bolstered by increasingly close, lucrative trading ties with India, Bangladesh, Asean, Japan and South Korea as well as (overwhelmingly) with China (the main supplier of weapons and technology to Burma), the regime could finally flick two fingers at the west.”

Today, the regime seems invulnerable. The protest by monks against an arbitrary 60% hike in petrol prices in September 2007 was crushed. Suu Kyi is being tried on a fresh charge after an American barged into the house where she was being detained. The regime had earlier charged her with not repatriating the money she had received after being awarded in absentia the Nobel Peace Prize for 1991.

Her fight for human rights against a regime which has machine-gunned peaceful protesters was one reason why she was awarded the Nobel Prize. The regime is now talking about holding fresh elections under a new Constitution which will prohibit women with foreign spouses (Suu Kyi’s late husband Michael Aris was an Oxford don) from participating! Her two sons have not been allowed to meet her since 1991.

The walls of her Rangoon residence at 54, University Avenue, are covered with quotations from Nehru, Gandhi and her father Aung San who led Burma’s freedom struggle. Nehru gave asylum to the Dalai Lama some 50 years ago when he escaped from the Chinese army in Tibet. That was in an era of cordial Sino-Indian relations. China and India are today perceived as nations with whom Myanmar’s military junta shares a rapport. China’s human rights record is nothing to write about, with the 20th anniversary of the crackdown on student demonstrators in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square being remembered on June 4.

Some would argue it is in India’s national interest to maintain close ties with Myanmar’s military regime so that China doesn’t have it all its own way — there are reports that the Chinese navy has been allowed to set up a listening post on a Burmese island in the Indian Ocean. But can the world’s most populous democracy, which subscribes to the values practised by Suu Kyi, close its eyes indefinitely to the military junta’s repression of the people of Myanmar?

“It is not power that corrupts but fear. It is the fear of losing power that corrupts those who wield it, and it is the fear of the scourge of power that corrupts those who are subject to it”, said the prisoner of conscience who celebrated her 64th birthday on June 19.

READ MORE---> Has India let down Myanmar's people?...

Burma urged to release all detainees

By Nirmal Ghosh
Asia News

Asean foreign ministers on Monday urged Burma's ruling regime to release all detainees, including pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, to pave the way for genuine reconciliation and meaningful dialogue involving all parties concerned and with a view to enabling them to participate in the 2010 general election.

"We encouraged the Burmese government to hold free, fair and inclusive elections...thereby laying down a good foundation for future social and economic development," the joint communique said.

Burma is estimated to be holding well over 2,000 political prisoners in squalid jails. It has invited the disapproval of the international community recently by putting Ms Suu Kyi under trial over an alleged breach of the terms of her house arrest.

But the statement also added that Burma had expressed its view that pressure from the outside world and economic sanctions were hampering democratisation and development efforts.

It recognised that the Burmese government was trying to address many complex challenges and reiterated Asean's policy of constructive engagement and support for the efforts of the United Nations to engage with the regime.

Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan acknowledged that without the resolution of the issue of Burma, "Asean will continue to have a burden...to explain to the rest of the world".

He said Asean had offered to deliver humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya population of Burma's Rakhine state, in order to allay some of the hardship that has been driving them to seek refuge in Bangladesh and other neighbouring countries. Burma had agreed to consider the proposal.

Dr Surin added: "Asean takes a positive approach. While (the ministers) expressed their wish to see Burma moving in the direction of national reconciliation and sustainable political balance, they also wish to engage to help and support in many different areas."

The Straits Times

READ MORE---> Burma urged to release all detainees...

Trafficking syndicate: Malaysia busts officials

Bangladeshi labourers board a bus at a construction site in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysian police have arrested five immigration officials for involvement in an international trafficking syndicate dealing in refugees from Myanmar, a top officer has said. (AFP/ File / Saeed Khan)

KUALA LUMPUR, July 21, 2009 (AFP) – Malaysian police have arrested five immigration officials for involvement in an international trafficking syndicate dealing in refugees from Myanmar, a top officer said Tuesday.

The five were among nine people detained for receiving payments from a syndicate that "sold" refugees mostly from Myanmar's Rohingya minority as forced labour, Criminal Investigation Department head Mohammad Bakri Zinin told state media.

His comments were confirmed to AFP by police.

"According to a victim, the suspects were directly involved in human trafficking, starting from the Malaysia-Thai border" to other "exit points to international countries," he told state news agency Bernama.

"Upon reaching the exit point, the victims were handed over to a syndicate before being taken to a neighbouring country," he added without identifying the exit points.

Bakri said the refugees were charged between 300 to 600 ringgit (85 to 169 dollars) each and those who could not afford to pay would be sold to owners of fishing industries in Thailand until they worked off their debts, the New Straits Times reported.

He said the five immigration officers had been operating their network since last year with the other four people arrested responsible for transporting the illegals across the county, the paper reported.

Police were made aware of the group's existence in March this year.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said recently his country was being used as a transit point for illegal immigrants.

One of Asia's largest importers of labour, Malaysia relies on its 2.2 million migrants to clean homes, care for children and work in plantations and factories.

The Bengali-speaking Rohingya Muslims are from mainly Buddhist Myanmar, which denies the minority group citizenship and property rights, leading to their abuse, exploitation and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee their country.

READ MORE---> Trafficking syndicate: Malaysia busts officials...

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