Friday, July 24, 2009

Burma’s Opposition Must Wage Proxy Fight

The Irrawaddy News

In politics, direct and frontal attack is rarely wise. Occupying the flank by co-opting the opponent's game plan for one's own purposes is a powerful ploy.

Co-option strategy, however, is a double-edged sword. It presents the risk of being swallowed by the dominant establishment, or at least having one’s reputation damaged, but it also conceals great power and maneuverability.

It depends on how one manages to play it right in a relatively conducive political environment. If well managed, it will become strength. In any case, never rule out this option in exchange for, or fixing solely on, the honor fight when the time is not ripe. To the advantage of oppositions in Burma, a multi-pronged strategy is always called for.

Mainstream oppositions, including the National League for Democracy (NLD) and major ethnic ceasefire groups, have announced they will not take part in the 2010 elections unless the military allows a constitutional revision and inclusive political process. Instead of bringing about a much-needed state-building process in which all parties rally together and make their voices heard, Burma's constitution conceded 25 percent of legislative seats to the armed forces and denied protection of fundamental ethnic rights in a multi-ethnic nation.

More importantly, the constitution allows the military virtually to run the country with the National Defense and Security Council (NDSC), and even to stage a coup d’état "if there arises a state of emergency." The opposition's principled stance of refusing to endorse the military's constitution and contest the 2010 elections, therefore, deserves understanding and support.

However, it does not mean that there is no gap in the castle wall. The opposition should also look at the situation from a power perspective. By dissecting the junta’s constitution, the opposition will find the devil lies in the details over which Snr-Gen Than Shwe should lose sleep.

First of all, the new post-2010 election power arrangement will create two power centers—military and government. These two power centers will nonetheless be at loggerheads over the command structure and personal interests. Even within the single power center, the Burmese military has repeatedly mired itself in purges resulting from battalion forces versus the intelligence faction, and other rivalries.

Now, after the elimination of the intelligence faction, various reports confirm that there are serious animosity and tension between the military personnel and the thuggish Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) members regarding the latter's interference with the military's administrative mandate and other issues of self-interest.

The election, so long as it demonstrates a relatively competitive nature, can make elite rivalry become public issues. The government's operation with two centers of power—no matter who pull the strings—could lead to either a serious internal split or miserable inefficiency of the ruling body.

Secondly, the constitution carries destructive seed for the military to grow into a center-versus-periphery conflict. Though Than Shwe enshrined ultimate power for the commander-in-chief of the military in the constitution, he failed to provide similar authority to regional commanders in their localities, who are key pillars in the military regime's power structure.

The constitution requires the president to seek approval from the commander-in-chief in all major issues at least via NDSC procedure, but it does not guarantee any special power to regional commanders. Constitutionally, regional commanders are under the control of Chief Ministers of the Regions or States, who could well be civilians in most cases.

Even if the president appoints military Members of Parliament or retired army officials as Chief Minister of the Region or State, the regional commander who is so used to being a warlord in his domain will find it hard to accept constitutionally the prescribed power of the Chief Minister. This may in turn lead the regional commanders to oppose not only local power arrangements but also Naypyidaw's control.

The third loophole in the constitution is that if non-military parties sweep to victory or win a clear majority of the remaining seats (aside from the 25 percent reserved seats for the military), a non-military candidate can become president or at least non-military parties can control the legislative agendas. According to the constitution, parliament has the right to enact a long list of laws ranging from defense and foreign affairs to economic and social sectors. Thus, Than Shwe appears to be determined to fill the remaining parliamentary seats with members of a military-backed political party.

However, this leads to the fourth problem—another self-defeating clause of the constitution. Than Shwe may want to see his USDA members seizing most of the remaining seats. Transforming the USDA into a political party and contesting the 2010 election will give the junta a great advantage because this thuggish group can exploit the existing nationwide organizational structure and also presents a constant reminder that it’s a fearful power that can intimidate the public to vote for its members. But it is not likely to happen because the constitution clearly states that "Civil Services personnel shall be free from party politics." This clause will invalidate a majority of the 24 million USDA members, who are public servants, if the group turns itself into party.

The constitution also forbids political parties and candidates for parliament from receiving any support directly or indirectly from the state, including the use of state property and money. As the USDA currently enjoys such advantages, it runs afoul of the regime's own constitution. If the military wants to create a new political party or parties, they will not carry any resemblance of the USDA in terms of name recognition, resources or and intimidating power.

These are some causes of grave concern for Than Shwe. Perhaps that's why he has kept delaying the promulgation of electoral law, which was reportedly ready to be published early this year. Than Shwe wants more time to secure his bet for more power.

The opposition, for its part, is not likely to take part in the 2010 election unless the regime concedes constitutional reform. However, it is not clear if a political party that does not contest the election will be deregistered. The constitution vaguely states that a party must "accept and practice a genuine and discipline-flourishing multi-party democracy." But if the election law forbids a party such as the NLD to have legal existence for its refusal to participate in the election, the same law will have to impact on ethnic ceasefire parties such as the United Wa State Party, Kachin Independence Organization and New Mon State Party. Most ethnic ceasefire groups have two wings—a political party and the army. It will be a tough choice for Than Shwe to make.

Aside from this principle stance, the practical power implication suggests that the credibility and legitimacy of an election and new power arrangement will be greatly hurt so long as ethnic ceasefire groups refuse to disarm and Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD does not take part in the election. With the new constitution and elections, the military thus cannot expect to minimize the cost of conflict. The most visible costs will be the continuation of international isolation and further damage to the country's economy.

In fact, the opposition could create leverage not only by being outside the regime's election process, but also by opening a new proxy front within the regime's game plan. Constitutional reform is still the most important policy demand, but the opposition should not shut their eyes to the 2010 election.

While the opposition does not take part in the elections representing the NLD, UWSP and NMSP, they must set up proxy political parties to engage in the 2010 election. Through proxies, the opposition must attempt to seize the mainstream platform in order to maximize civilian control of the regime's game. At the same time, the opposition groups such as NLD, NMSP and etc must stand strong outside the reins of an "illegitimate" constitution and election, and continue their fight for genuine reconciliation. The opposition must be savvy in combining both inside-out and outside-in strategies to usher in political change.

Just because they loathe the undemocratic constitution, the opposition should not consider total disengagement from mainstream politics. If history were any guide, the total dissociation of the Communist Party of Burma and the Karen National Union from post-independence mainstream politics made the two strongest forces gradually recede from the center stage of politics, and the power of the both groups also dwindled over time. The opposition, including both democracy forces as well as ethnic groups, should not overlook the reality of basic maturity in politics—that you cannot always get your own way, especially when one group in the conflict maintains an asymmetric power advantage.

Thus far, the KIO, other Kachin ceasefire groups and some representatives of civil society set up the Kachin State Progressive Party (KSPP) in June 2008 to contest the 2010 elections and has reportedly already begun campaigning, while the KIO remains determined not to surrender arms. This is a wise and proactive move since it will allow Kachin to control the Kachin State parliament and be represented in the national parliament. NLD and other ethnic groups should follow suit.

In fact, the formation of proxy parties and participation in the 2010 elections will help preventing a split within the opposition groups. Otherwise, the policy disagreement between moderates and radical activists within the NLD as well as individual ethnic groups might lead to actual and open splits when the election law comes out and the junta plays more rounds of divide and rule. By setting up proxies, the opposition can create dynamic and diverse tasks and responsibilities within its own leadership and the rank and file.

It could also help bring so-called "neutral," "politically non-engaged professionals," “intellectuals, retired civil/military officials and others who believe in Track Two diplomacy" into the given "legally viable" political arena. No matter whether one agrees or disagrees with the prevailing so-called "Third Force" who mostly opposes Western economic sanctions and criticizes Suu Kyi and her party, the best way to compete with them is to create one's own proxy.

However, no one should harbor any illusion that the presence of opposition proxies in the 2010 election will spark a magic power shift to civilian control. It could happen only if the military-dominated status-quo is challenged by public pressure and a negotiated settlement is reached with the military.

The regime's constitution will not lead to a genuine political transition and democratization without broad-based public actions and reconciliation. The aforementioned loopholes in the constitution may not necessarily offer much maneuverability and leverage to the civilian MPs in the first term of the post-2010 power arrangement. Without any balance of power in the state institutions, the military can simply ignore or veto these loopholes.

Moreover, non-military MPs are not necessarily monolithic and unanimous in their approach to the military's domination. They may not necessarily be willing to view their control of majority seats in parliament as a means of determining winners and losers vis-à-vis the military. Parochial interest can also blind non-military MPs to appreciate a broader vision, and self-interest can even corrupt them to compromise their reform agenda. All in all, the election can also be marked by vote rigging, intimidation and bullying attacks orchestrated by the regime and its affiliates against opposing candidates.

However, the seeds of foundational contradiction are embedded in the constitution. The gaps in the castle are built-in. If a moderate military leadership emerges in a post-Than Shwe era, those proxy MPs and ministers who are in the mainstream can work with them for gradual reform. Or when mass action takes place on the streets, proxies in the given political process may play a role.

Than Shwe, reportedly a big fan of boxing, must know that strength does not lie in the punches the boxer throws but in the balance and support of the boxer. In other words, it is the legs that matter, the foundation that holds the boxer up can also make him fall. With this loophole-ridden constitution, Than Shwe knows that his opponents could weaken his legs and he could easily reel and stagger.

The opposition should be creative and devious in opening a new proxy front, as a part of their multi-pronged strategy, to exploit the crack in the fortress.

Min Zin is a Burmese journalist in exile and a teaching fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Journalism.

READ MORE---> Burma’s Opposition Must Wage Proxy Fight...

DKBA ramps up civilian abuses and set sights on Brigade 6

IMNA, Mon Son

Karen people are fleeing in droves to Thailand as the Democratic Karen Buddhist Association (DKBA) commits ongoing human rights abuses.

The Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC) recently reported on the tense situation to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Thailand-based Karen Refugee Committee (KRC).

According to the report, about 200 Karen people have reached the Tha Song Yang district, Tak province in the last 24 hours alone, mainly taking temporary shelter at the Mae U Su site.

The report also detailed DKBA abuses such as forced recruitment, portering and the extortion of money, food, and livestock. Such abuses have become push factors for Karen migration and the creation of many Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

This month the DKBA and the Burmese army have launched a joint offensive against the Karen National Union (KNU), the main political party of the Karen people. Brigade 7 area has already fallen and the combined forces are now targeting Brigade 6, which includes 18 villages between Three Pagodas Pass Township and Kyainnseikyi Township.

The general secretary of the KRC said, “The number of Karen people arriving in Thailand has increased to 500 people [in the Tha Song Yang district]. Since [fighting began] between the KNU and the DKBA, Karen people have fled to Thailand. Karen people are seeking shelter from the NGOs and the Thai government.”

According to a July 19th story by the Human Rights Foundation of Monland, the Burmese military’s Southeast Command (SEC) has begun using a variety of internal tactics in Karen State, including using DKBA name registries to require two baskets of rice per household, with a 10,000 kyat penalty for failing to provide this.

READ MORE---> DKBA ramps up civilian abuses and set sights on Brigade 6...

KNU Rejects Junta Report


One of Burma’s last remaining insurgent forces, the Karen National Union (KNU), has rejected a report by state-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar which said that 22 KNU soldiers recently surrendered to the Burmese army.

The New Light of Myanmar reported on July 23 that 22 soldiers of Battalion 18 under Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) Brigade 6, including high-ranking officers such as Capt Saw Lay Ke, had surrendered to the Burmese army in Thingannyinaung in southern Karen State with eight small arms and assorted ammunition.

Maj Hla Ngwe, joint secretary (1) of the KNU, the political wing of the KNLA, rejected the report, calling it “junta propaganda.”

He added: “We have already checked all our battalions in Brigade 6, and none of our troops disarmed.”

However, a Karen source at the Thai-Burmese border confirmed that a group of former KNLA soldiers had joined the Burmese army a few days ago.

“They [the defecting soldiers] are former Karen soldiers. But as far as I know, they are not currently enlisted with the KNLA,” said the source.

Burma’s state press reported that the Burmese government is providing assistance to the defecting soldiers and their 15 family members, totaling 37 people. (how almighty..)

The 1949-founded KNU has been fighting for autonomy from the Burmese military regime for six decades and is one of the few remaining factions that has never signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government.

According to the Burmese regime’s official figures, 17 ethnic armed groups have signed ceasefire agreements with the Burmese government since 1989.

READ MORE---> KNU Rejects Junta Report...

Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyers present arguments in conclusion

by Mungpi

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Lawyers defending Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi presented their final argument on Friday saying if she is being charged under the1974 constitution, she must be released and allowed to enjoy the rights mentioned in the constitution.

Kyi Win, personal lawyer and member of the defence team of Aung San Suu Kyi, on Friday presented his argument at the special court in Insein prison but the court postponed the prosecution argument till Monday.

Nyan Win, a member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s legal team and spokesperson for her party, said “the session started at 2pm and U Kyi Win submitted his argument. His submission alone lasted about two hours.”

The court adjourned at 4:40 p.m. as it ran out of time to continue with the hearing of the prosecution’s argument. The court fixed July 27 for the hearing of the arguments of the prosecution.

Nyan Win said Aung San Suu Kyi was unhappy with the time being limited that barred the prosecution lawyers from presenting their argument on the same day.

“She [Aung San Suu Kyi] wanted to hear the prosecution’s argument the same day and she was unhappy with postponement of the argument to Monday,” Nyan Win said.

During the session, Kyi Win argued that the 1974 constitution has been technically dissolved and Aung San Suu Kyi cannot be charged under the statutes of a defunct constitution.

But if, according to the prosecution, the 1974 constitution is still valid, it cannot be partially implemented and Aung San Suu Kyi should get her freedom and enjoy her rights as stated in the constitution before being charged for anything.

The Burmese pro-democracy leader has been charged for violating her house arrest terms by ‘harbouring’ an American, John William Yettaw, who swam across a lake and entered her home uninvited in early May.

If convicted, she could face up to five years in prison.

The session on Friday, is part of the final stage of the trial, which has been conducted behind closed-doors since May 18. But surprisingly, the authorities on Friday allowed diplomats from Britain, Germany, France and Italy to be present.

While a few hope that Aung San Suu Kyi will be declared innocent, the widespread speculation is that the junta has used the incident of Yettaw as a pretext to charge her and sentence her to yet another prison term.

READ MORE---> Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyers present arguments in conclusion...

Demand for Suu Kyi’s release – ‘nonsense and unreasonable’: State-run newspaper

by Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The demand to release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and political prisoners is “nonsense and unreasonable,” said Burma’s state-run newspaper the ‘New Light of Myanmar’ in its issues published today and yesterday.

The regime’s stance published in the newspaper is in opposition to the views of the ‘National League for Democracy’ (NLD), the UN Secretary General, the Association of South East Asia Nations (ASEAN) and the US.

The government has said many times that there are no political prisoners in Myanmar, the writer ‘Lu Thit’ said in his article.

The UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon visited Burma on July 3 and 4 and called for releasing Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners during his visit.

The ASEAN on its part issued a statement calling for the release of political prisoners at the regional forum held in Phuket, Thailand.

Meanwhile the US Secretary of State Ms. Hillary Clinton has said that US-Burma relations will be severely affected unless Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is released.

But the state-run ‘New Light of Myanmar’ says, ‘They are, indeed, the ones who are serving their terms in accordance with the law for their harming stability and peace of the State, and committing other crimes, breaching the existing laws’.

The newspaper further alleges that the demand made by NLD for reviewing the 2008 constitution through dialogue is nothing but their efforts to disrupt and delay the seven-step roadmap being pursued by the junta at any cost.

The NLD General Secretary Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is facing trial under section 22 of the ‘Law Safeguarding the State from the danger of Subversive Elements’ and is charged for flouting the terms of her internment order after the US national John William Yettaw intruded into her lakeside residence.

The final argument from both sides - the prosecution and the defence was slated for today but the trial was adjourned.

The NLD registered a landslide victory in 1990 general elections but the junta refused to hand over power.

The NLD has repeatedly asked that the 1990 general election results be recognized to avoid bad precedence in Burmese politics.

But the newspaper said yesterday and today that the 1990 general elections result is out of date, null and void. The people will not look back at the results, as it is out of date and over 19 years old, it said.

Moreover, the NLD left the National Convention organized by the SPDC so the demand for a ‘dialogue’ is ‘totally nonsense’, it added.

In his article, the writer ‘Lu Thit’ said that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s case is a legal proceeding concerning the trial court. She must face punishment in accordance with the law if found guilty, and she will be acquitted if found not guilty by the court.

But the international community including the UN and Burmese opposition forces, lawyers and ethnic leaders claimed that the junta itself is violating international law and even the law of the land, by arresting and giving long prison sentences to dissidents and by sending them to remote prisons away from their homes.

The ‘Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners –Burma’ (AAPPB) said that there are over 2,100 political prisoners who are languishing in Burmese prisons for their political beliefs.

READ MORE---> Demand for Suu Kyi’s release – ‘nonsense and unreasonable’: State-run newspaper...

Forlorn cry of Kachin hill tribes in northern Burma

by KNG

There is no one to hear the forlorn cry of the Kachin hill tribes, who are losing their life long possession – arable farmlands in the Kachin Hills in Burma's northern Kachin State, said local sources.

Over 500 households belonging to the Lisu hill tribes have been living with mobile land-farm cultivation in N'wan Kawng hill under the pro-Burmese ruling junta Kachin armed group called the New Democratic Army-Kachin (NDA-K) in Sadon (Sadung in Kachin) area in Waingmaw Township. The NDA-K's is now confiscating both their old and new farms, said Lisu hill tribes' sources.

The NDA-K led by Zahkung Ting Ying accepted the junta’s proposal to convert to a Border Guard Force (BGF) in June just before the United Nations' Secretary General Ban-ki Moon visited Burma on July 3 and 4. The group is locally viewed as a business group rather than a political unit, said local sources close to NDA-K.

According to Lisu hill people in N'wan Kawng hill, their mobile land farm areas or forests have been gradually seized by NDA-K's high ranking officials on the pretext of development projects since 2007.

The NDA-K officers are repressing and forcibly confiscating farms from the local hill tribes. The lands seized, are being sold to Chinese businessmen for large amounts of money, sources among the Lisu hill tribe people added.

The Chinese businessmen mainly grow rubber and teak saplings on thousands of acres of confiscated land, said local residents.

At the same time, cattle belonging to villagers are also slaughtered by the owners of rubber and teak plantations --- NDA-K and Chinese businessmen -- whenever the cattle strays into their area, said villagers.

The NDA-K has put up a signboard saying "N'wan Kawng Hill Development Area" in the N'wang Kawng hill. They claim to be into development activities, whereas the survival of the local people in the areas is at stake, said locals. The development project is designed for NDA-K officers and Chinese businessmen, they added.

Till now, the NDA-K has not arranged for any alternative land or vocational jobs for the survival of the Lisu hill people, who cannot complain to the local NDA-K authorities and the ruling junta, locals said.

Earlier, they formally or informally complained to the NDA-K and the ruling junta about losing their land but they have not paid any heed, said villagers.

Currently, more and more Lisu hill tribes in N'wan Kawng are in a hopeless situation in terms of survival and villagers are looking at moving to the hills where they can cultivate paddy freely, villagers said.

The Lisu hill tribes in the NDA-K's N'wan Kawng hill development area can do nothing except cry over lost arable land, sources said.

READ MORE---> Forlorn cry of Kachin hill tribes in northern Burma...

BDR pushes back illegal Burmese nationals

Teknaf, Bangladesh (KPN): More than 71 Burmese nationals were pushed back to Burma by the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) from different transit points of the Burma-Bangladesh border area since last week, a source from BDR of Teknaf said.

On July 22, over 28 Rohingya people, (19 children, 8 women and two men), who were living with the local people at Kosubana village under Naikongchari Upazila, were arrested in an operation by the police at night, according to a local from Naikongchari.

The police handed over the Rohingya people to the 17 BDR Battalion so that they could be sent back to Burma. The BDR pushed them back through the transit point of Gumdum from Bangladesh, the local said.

According to BDR sources, since last week they have pushed back a total of 71 Rohingya ethnic people to Burma including women and children.

The BDR pushed back 8 Rohingya people of Burma from Sabrang by the 42 Rifles Battalion, 28 persons from Gundum by 17 BDR Battalion and 35 persons from Chakdala border point of Naikongchari of Bandarban hill district by the 15 BDR Battalion.

The Rohingya ethnic, who had entered illegally into Bangladesh, were harassed by the Burmese military junta and were trying to escape from persecution. However, the Bangladeshi authorities also ordered the border security force to arrest Burmese nationals and push them back to Burma. “Where will they go to save their lives?” a local elder from Naikongchari Upazila asked.

READ MORE---> BDR pushes back illegal Burmese nationals...

Myanmar rejects criticism at end of Suu Kyi trial

(SMH) -Myanmar's state media denounced criticism of its planned elections and ongoing detention of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi Friday as she faced her final trial hearing in prison.

The Nobel peace laureate is due to appear at an afternoon court session at Insein prison where final arguments will be presented at her trial on charges of breaching the conditions of her house arrest.

Foreign ministers attending Asia's biggest security conference in Thailand this week urged Myanmar's military junta to release Aung San Suu Kyi, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dangling the carrot of future business ties.

But state mouthpiece the New Light of Myanmar rejected the comments as "interference".

"Demanding release of Daw Suu Kyi means showing reckless disregard for the law," said the editorial in the English-language newspaper.

"The court will hand down a reasonable term to her if she is found guilty, and it will release her if she is found not guilty," it insisted.

The National League for Democracy (NLD) leader faces up to five years in jail on charges of breaching the conditions of her house arrest after a bizarre incident in which US national John Yettaw swam to her lakeside home uninvited in May.

Security was extremely tight near the Yangon jail on Friday, witnesses said, with more than 10 police trucks and armed officers manning a barricade by the prison gates where about 40 NLD supporters were gathered.

Aung San Suu Kyi's lawyers have told AFP they are fully prepared to present their final arguments on Friday, when a date will also be set for a verdict.

Diplomats from the embassies of Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Norway have been permitted to attend the hearing although most of the trial has been held behind closed doors.

The New Light piece also defended elections planned for next year after criticism that they would not be credible if political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, were not released and permitted to stand.

The Nobel laureate has spent 13 of the past 19 years in detention since the regime refused to recognise the NLD's landslide victory in the country's last democratic polls in 1990.

READ MORE---> Myanmar rejects criticism at end of Suu Kyi trial...

Burmese military demands food supplies under DKBA name

Burmese military demands food supplies using DKBA name

HURFOM (Rehmonnya): In a internal document issued on July 19th 2009, the Burmese military Southeast Command (SEC) instructed Tactical Command No.1 based in the Anankwin, Three Pagoda township to force household to give two baskets of rice and other vegetables (1basket equal to 32 Kg) to military forces. If a household does not have the rice to meet the demands, the military will take 10,000 kyat.

While it was not ordered in the document, as an additional threat military forces have been telling villagers if they cannot afford to pay they will be forced to work as porters instead. SPDC forces have been collecting food supplies from Anankwin, Taung Son, Ko Du Kwe, Khone Khen, Tanpayar, Laypoe and Lone Si villages. For many the loss of these supplies had produced many economic difficulties.

“I already gave them 2 baskets of rice. Now, I have nothing left in my house. If you can’t afford two baskets of rice you need to pay 10,000 Kyat,” according to a 45 year-old Anankwin villager. “But, if you can (not) afford to pay with rice or money, they will force you to serve as a porter. Now, I need to work hard and replenish my rice for this rainy season.”

He added, “On that day, the SPDC soldiers collected rice and other food supplies from about 90 households in Taung Son village.”

28 years old Ko Du Kwe villager Saw Mann Lay (not real name) said, “In our village Meh Pra (locally known as Ko Du Kwe), over 50 households have had to pay rice and food supplies. But we don’t know yet what will happen with the villagers who can’t afford to pay either money or rice. If they can’t, our village has to support them. We don’t have any other way; either some villagers help them to give supplies to the military, or they will be serving in the porter service.”

HURFOM received a copy of the military telegram order that came from the SEC to Tactical Command No.1 in Anankwin. The orders specifically advise that SPDC forces who are gathering food should tell villagers the supplies will be used to support the DKBA soldiers led by the Saw Lel Bwe, who are advancing towards KNLA brigade No.6 territory.

HURFOM also interviewed the DKBA liaison officer in Three Pagoda Town, “We have not commanded troops to collect food supplies from the villager. Also, we never allowed our troops to collect food supplies from the villager.

READ MORE---> Burmese military demands food supplies under DKBA name...

Commanders meet to discuss operation against rebels

By Hseng Khio Fah

(Shanland) -Battalion commanders under the Mongnawng based Military Operations Command (MOC) #2 in Shan State South were reported to have met recently to launch a military offensive against the Shan State Army (SSA) ‘South’ after dozens of its soldiers and weapons were lost to the SSA on 15 July, local sources said.

On 20 July, battalions commanders based in Kehsi, Mongkeung and Laikha townships met in Mongnawng. The meeting, presided over by the MOC commander Col Kyaw Zan Myint, discussed preparations for a military offensive against the SSA, said an informed resource.

6 battalions would be employed in the planned operation after many of its soldiers from LIB#515 were killed, he said.

However, there has been no further information of supporting units in the operation and the main target.

There are 12 battalions under the MOC#2 command, Loilem based IB#9, and #12, Laikha based IB#64 and LIB#515, Namzang based IB#66 , #247 and LIB#516, Mongnai based IB#248 and LIB#518, Panglong based LIB#513, Mongkeung based LIB#514 and Mongpawn based LIB#517. At least 156 soldiers from each battalion are expected to join the operation.

During the clash on 15 July in Kehsi Township, the Burma Army lost 11, one was captured and 5 assorted weapons were seized by the attackers while 14 others escaped with serious injuries. However, of those who got away 8 more reportedly died on the way back.

A border analyst says that “local militias are almost certain to be used in the operation.” In the mean time, hundreds of youths from rural areas in Lashio Township, northern Shan State, are also being recruited by junta-backed local militia forces for the Army since early June and some 200 were already sent to Pyinmana near the new capital Naypyitaw, according to SHAN report on 22 July.

On 21 July, another clash between the two sides reportedly took place between Wan pang and Nawngka villages, Laikha township. The SSA said it has yet to receive detailed information but the clash was confirmed, according to a senior officer from the Loi Taileng base.

Since 21 May (Shan Resistance Day), the SSA had killed more than 30 soldiers and seized more than 20 weapons of the Burma Army, according to the SSA.

On the other hand, the Burma Army in Shan State is also 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.

READ MORE---> Commanders meet to discuss operation against rebels...

Suu Kyi to make final court appearance

(DVB)–Lawyers of Aung San Suu Kyi were yesterday granted permission to meet with her and discuss their statement prior to today’s final appearance in court.

A request to see Suu Kyi on Wednesday had been denied by the courtroom, and yesterday’s meeting only came about following an appeal letter sent by her lawyers to the judges.

Permission was granted at late notice and only three of the four lawyers managed to visit their client inside her prison unit yesterday, said lawyer Nyan Win.

“We mainly discussed the case, more than 20 pages long in all,” he said. “We went through it from the beginning to the end, amending it as necessary."

Suu Kyi is being charged for breaching conditions of her house arrest following the intrusion into her compound in May of US citizen John Yettaw.

The courtroom claims that she sheltered Yettaw for two days after he swam across Rangoon’s Inya lake to her home, which would violate restrictions placed on her.

Burma’s opposition leader is also being tried alongside her two caretakers, Khin Win and Win Ma Ma, and Yettaw, who is being tried on immigration charges.

Nyan Win said that the charges are not legally valid. Critics of the trial, which is being held in a courtroom inside Insein prison, have said that is it a pretext to keep her in detention beyond the 2010 elections.

One of charges she faces is that she broke a law refraining her from correspondence via letter.

“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has had correspondence with no one,” said Nyan Win. “Mr Yettaw brought with him a letter from his young daughter [and] in this letter there is no political talk.”

He said that the law only accounts for correspondence leaving the country, and not coming from the outside in, adding that the lawyers will be arguing this “by using the Burmese dictionary”.

The trial of Suu Kyi has brought international condemnation, and was the focus of a trip to Burma earlier this month by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is currently in Thailand to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional forum, said yesterday that the US may engage with and invest in Burma if Suu Kyi is released.

Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet

READ MORE---> Suu Kyi to make final court appearance...

Virginia M Moncrieff upsets Burma exiles

US journalist upsets Burma exiles

(DVB)–An article published in the US and reprinted in a Burmese state-run newspaper that appeared to criticise Aung San Suu Kyi’s political tactics has been met with alarm by exiled Burmese politicians and activists.

The Huffington Post, a liberal online magazine based in New York, last week carried an opinion piece entitled ‘The Future of Burma Cannot Be Tied to Aung San Suu Kyi’.

The author, Virginia M Moncrieff, said that Suu Kyi’s imprisonment has only added to her “near-secular saint status”, a tactic that is “self-defeating”.

She followed by saying that her policy of sanctions “is fundamentally flawed” and that isolating the regime “only helps the junta reverse further into mad "behind-the-wall" strategies”.

The result, according to Moncrieff, was that “she is penalizing the very people she aims to assist”.

Sections of the article were republished yesterday in the government mouthpiece Myanma Ahlin newspaper, although Moncrieff’s attempts to balance the piece with criticism and praise became the victim of underhand editing.

Sentences such as “what has happened to this extraordinary woman is of course criminal”, were changed to “this woman has broken the law”, while the ending, which called for Suu Kyi’s release, was absent.

Yet the article still provoked a reaction from some members of the Burmese exile community, who are closely following the Suu Kyi trial, which ends today.

“There are groups and individuals working to bring democracy to the country and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is a leading role model for all these people,” said Aye Thar Aung, secretary of the Committee Representing the People’s Parliament (CRPP).

Khin Omar, head of the Network for Democracy and Development who read both versions of the article, said that she “completely disagreed” with the criticisms of Suu Kyi, particularly those that claim she doesn’t favour negotiation with the regime.

“In reality, she was the one holding a non-violence policy and has been fighting to find an answer to the problems through dialogue with all [political and ethnic] groups participating,” she said.

It is widely expected that Suu Kyi’s trial will end in a guilty verdict, and the charges brought against her carry a maximum five year sentence.

The past six years of Suu Kyi’s house arrest have seen restrictions on movement and communication increasingly tightened, and this will likely continue in the lead-up to the 2010 elections.

Reacting to whether her imprisonment will cripple the future of Burma’s democracy movement, the coordinator of advocacy network ALTSEAN-Burma, Debbie Stothard, said that Suu Kyi’s role “goes beyond being a prisoner”.

“She’s a prisoner because she’s been an effective campaigner and leader of this movement,” she said.

“If she was no longer effective, the regime would no longer see her as a threat and she would not be imprisoned.”

Reporting by Thurein Soe

READ MORE---> Virginia M Moncrieff upsets Burma exiles...

Diplomats allowed to attend Suu Kyi’s closing arguments

Scores of supporters gather in front of Insein prison

Friday, 24 July 2009 13:50

Mizzima News

Authorities have beefed up security in front of Rangoon’s notorious Insein prison, as scores of supporters and members of the National League for Democracy have gathered to wait on the closing arguments of Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial.

Eyewitnesses said at least 10 trucks full of uniformed police are stationed near the prison, while on the corner of the street at least 2 prison vans are parked.

Police have blocked the road to Insein prison with barbed wire barricades.


Friday, 24 July 2009 13:17

New Delhi (mizzima)– Burma's military government on Friday allowed foreign diplomats from Britain, Germany, France and Italy to attend the closing arguments in the trial against opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The trial against the Burmese pro-democracy leader, at a special court inside Rangoon’s Insein prison, has for the most part been a closed-door affair, with authorities only twice previously allowing selected diplomats and journalists to witness proceedings.

“This time they have not invited or even informed us, but they [the government] have granted permission to diplomats who have sought to attend the final hearing,” a journalist in Rangoon told Mizzima on Friday.

An official from the Embassy of the United States has also so far been permitted to attend proceedings against American John William Yettaw, who is standing trial at the court for secretly swimming across a lake and entering, uninvited, into Aung San Suu Kyi’s home.

A source in Rangoon told Mizzima, “As far as I have confirmed, diplomats from Britain, Germany, France and Italy have been allowed to attend the court session.”

On Friday, the court will hear closing arguments from both prosecution and defense lawyers. The defense team told Mizzima on Thursday that they have prepared a 23-page argument to be submitted to the court.

Observers, however, believe the court will fix yet another date to hand down a verdict.

A journalist in Rangoon said Friday’s court session has attracted the interest of several political observers and scores of supporters and members of Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, who have gathered in front of Insein prison.

READ MORE---> Diplomats allowed to attend Suu Kyi’s closing arguments...

N.Korean allies join test protest


China, Russia share Asean's nuke concerns

PHUKET : Russia and China have joined the US in pressuring North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions, following Pyongyang's recent ballistic missile tests.

See no evil: Mrs Clinton and North Korean delegate Pak Kun-gwang ignore each other at the Phuket meeting.

Normally counting themselves as Pyongyang's allies, Russia and China expressed concern about the nuclear missile tests at the Asean Regional Forum yesterday.

The North Korean nuclear issue dominated security issues at talks held to wrap up the week-long meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The ARF urged North Korea to return to the six-party talks to end the regional nuclear threat, but North Korea immediately rejected the call.

The meeting also urged members of the United Nations to implement the UN Security Council's resolution to impose sanctions on North Korea.

The ARF would look at what it could do to promote peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said after the meeting.

Asean diplomatic sources said even Russia and China shared international concern about the issue.

But in a compromising note, China said it hoped sanctions against Pyongyang would not affect North Korean people, and that the six-nation talks could resume, the sources said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said North Korea faced strong international opposition over its missile testing programme.

"There is no place to go for North Korea as they have no friends left," Mrs Clinton said.

"There is a convergence of views that we are prepared to work with North Korea, but that North Korea has to change its behaviour," she said.

But Ri Hung-sik, who led the North Korean delegation at the meeting, said Pyongyang would not return to the negotiating table until the US changed its anti-North Korea attitude.

The six-party talks comprise China, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Russia and the US.

Earlier, North Korea downgraded its representative attending the ARF from ambassador-at-large Pak Kun-gwang to Mr Ri, who is director-general of the International Organisations Department. It was the third time Pyongyang had sent a low-level representative to the ARF since 2000.

North Korea's insistence its position should be reflected in the ARF statement forced participants to delay issuing it for two hours.

The ARF members also called for joint efforts to fight terrorists and said the July 17 hotel bombings in Jakarta were a reminder terrorism was still a threat to the region.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said in addressing the terrorism problem, people should avoid singling out any country, race, religion or ethnicity.

"If terrorism is associated with religion, it will create animosity," Mr Anifah said.

The meeting also pledged to promote democracy and human rights in Burma, Mr Kasit said.

Burma is under pressure to release National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners to pave the way for national reconciliation before the country holds general elections next year.

READ MORE---> N.Korean allies join test protest...

Asean offers to help Burma

By Kittipong Thavevong
The Nation

Could 'promote democracy, rights, well-being'

Members of the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) offered yesterday to help Burma promote democracy, human rights and well-being among its people - and avoided mentioning the controversy over pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

"Asean as well as members of the ARF would like to work with Myanmar [Burma] and are ready to assist Myanmar in its efforts to promote democracy, human rights and well-being among her people," said Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya.

"We have asked Myanmar's foreign minister to convey this sentiment to the Myanmar leadership. It is hoped that Myanmar will be responsive to the international community's concerns," said Kasit, in his capacity as chairman of the 16th Asean Regional Forum, which concluded yesterday.

The international community has called on Burma to release all political prisoners, including Suu Kyi, and to include all stakeholders in the democratisation process.

Earlier yesterday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who represented the United States during the ARF, insisted that Suu Kyi must be released unconditionally.

Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for many years, was charged in May with violating the terms of her confinement by "harbouring" an American who swam to her lakeside house.

Clinton, who used the term "Burma" rather than "Myanmar", also called for a fair and open election in the country next year.

In a related development, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday downplayed a suggestion from Clinton that Burma should be kicked out of Asean because of its poor human rights record.

Abhisit said an isolated Burma would not help the reconciliation and democratisation process in the military-run state. He said Asean would continue to engage Burma and assist with its reconciliation process.

Asked if Asean should expel Burma if it did not free Aung San Suu Kyi, Clinton replied: "It would be an appropriate policy change to consider."

Kasit told a press conference yesterday that the ARF also urged North Korea return to the Six-Party Talks about the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

"The goal is to bring about peace and stability to the Korean Peninsula and de-nuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. We urge [North Korea] to return to the Six-Party Talks, to look beyond the past and join others in finding a way forward," Kasit said.

He also told reporters the ARF strongly condemned the bombings last Friday in the Indonesian capital Jakarta. He said the attacks on two US-owned hotels were "a reminder to us that terrorism remains a very real threat to peace and stability - nationally, regionally and internationally".

Security yesterday was tighter than normal on the last day of meetings between Asean foreign ministers and dialogue partners.

Soldiers carrying assault rifles lined up along the road that leads to the media centre at the Laguna Beach Resort, where the closing ceremony took place.

Representatives from the participating countries and Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan were present during the event.

Foreign ministers from the 10 Asean member states met their counterparts from 26 countries and the European Union to discuss political and security matters.

Established in 1994, the ARF consists of 26 countries and the European Union. They are the 10 Asean states, 10 dialogue partners (Australia, Canada, China, the EU, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, and the US), and seven Asia-Pacific nations (Bangladesh, Mongolia, North Korea, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and East Timor).

READ MORE---> Asean offers to help Burma...

Youth arrested by Nasaka for marrying

Maungdaw, Arakan State (KPN): A youth was picked up by Burma’s border security force, Nasaka on July 19, in Maungdaw Township for marrying without informing, said a close relative of the victim requesting anonymity.

The victim was identified as Abul Hussain (25), son of Abdu Salam hailing from Maung Nama Village of Maungdaw Township.

On July 19 night, a section of Nasaka personnel from Pawet Chaung outpost camp in Maungdaw Township went to the victim’s house and arrested him on the allegation that he had married without informing the authorities. He was hustled to the Naska camp.

He tied the knot with a girl two years ago. He had submitted an application to the Nasaka, but he did not get permission because he failed to pay money to the local officer. He went ahead and married a girl in 2007 without informing the Nasaka, said a local trader on condition of anonymity.

The Nasaka camp received the information, albeit late, so Abul Hussain was arrested for extortion. They (Nasaka) only want money from the Rohingya community, locals alleged.

However, the victim was released on July 22, after paying Kyat 600,000 to the Nasaka officer, according to an elder related to the victim.

There are many unmarried girls in northern Arakan given the scarcity of youths. This is because many youths have fled Burma following persecution by Burmese authorities. The youths are unable to marry because of financial crisis and not being able to pay a huge bribe to the Nasaka, said a religious leader who declined to be named.

Since 1999,

Burma's border security force
has imposed marriage restrictions on
the Rohingya community
. The marriageable age was fixed at 24 years for bridegrooms and 18 years for brides. The couples are not allowed to have more than two children and the bridegroom cannot take more than one wife. The grooms also have to be clean-shaven to be eligible for marriage permits. A few people have got marriage permits after offering huge bribes to the Nasaka.

23 July 2009

READ MORE---> Youth arrested by Nasaka for marrying...

Bangladesh Minister pressurizes Burmese envoy on Rohingya issue

Dhaka, Bangladesh (KPN): Bangladesh’s Food and Disaster Management Minister, Dr. Mohammed Abdur Razzak has raised the Rohingya refugee issue with Burmese Ambassador, Phae Thann Oo, seeking an immediate solution through regular diplomatic meetings, a senior government official said yesterday.

Rohingya boatpeople died in Andaman Sea on a drifting boat (photo)

Dr. Mohammed Abdur Razzak pointed out the urgency during a discussion with Burmese Ambassador, Phae Thann Oo, at his office, the official said.

“Regular meetings at diplomatic levels between both the friendly countries should be held to solve the problems related to these issues, which will strengthen the existing friendly relations,” the Minister told the envoy.

“Bangladesh gave shelter to the Rohingyas on humanitarian grounds and created scope for them to earn their living as per the ability of the country, though many of them got mixed up with the locals,” the minister added.

The Burmese Ambassador agreed on the Rohingya refugee issue with Dr Razzak and said they would soon send in a delegation to the Cox’s Bazaar camp housing the refugees.

“The problem regarding Rohingya refugees is no longer a problem only for Bangladesh, it is a regional issue. And it would be a bigger problem for the region in future,” said Prof Imtiaz Ahmed, at another discussion meeting on 'The Rohingyas: From stateless to refugee', which was organized by the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) at its office in the city, with its Director General Maj Gen. Sheikh Md Monirul Islam as chairperson yesterday.

There are still at least 0.2 million undocumented Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, besides those living in the camps, though they were supposed to have returned to Myanmar in 1978 and 1992, under an agreement between the two countries, said Prof Dr Imtiaz Ahmed, of the Department of International Relations of Dhaka University, while presenting keynote speech at a panel discussion.

He said, “It has been a problem for the country year after year and remains the same and there has been no change in the situation. Thailand, India and Indonesia have already got involved in the issue and we had hoped there would be some change this time. There has to be international pressure to resolve the problem.”

Prof Anwar Hossain said, “Multi-dimensional effort is necessary to address the problem regarding Rohingya refugees. Firstly, the problem is humanitarian, then demographical and it is also concerned with the security of the country. The only way out is to address the problem multilaterally with the involvement of regional countries.

Former Defence Attaché of Bangladesh to Myanmar Brig Gen (retd) Salim Akhtar said, “Bangladesh provides support to the Rohingya refugees in terms of their skill development and education and the government should also track down the undocumented refugees, because they may get involved in international gunrunning and militancy and the country also suggests bringing the Rohingya leaders to the negotiating table to understand the realities of the situation and finding out a key solution.”

Ambassadors of Indonesia, India and Thailand were also present at the discussion and felt the necessity of a combined regional effort to solve the problem.

“Camps are expensive to run. Camps are also discriminatory for the Bangladeshi people living around the area where the Rohingya camps are located,” Arjun Jain, acting representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Dhaka said.

"The issue has become a forgotten matter in the global context and the international community should pay more attention to it," said Arjun Jain.

“We had come here to escape the persecution of the ruling Burmese junta, a long time ago and now we have more than 1.5 million people all over the world. We don’t want to stay in any other country if we get all the facilities as the other ethnic groups of Burma. We need the support of the international community to get this opportunity,” said Aman, a Rohingya politician from Bangladesh.

Rohingya boatpeople reached Indonesia shore with drifting boat (photo)

“There is no security in Arakan, Burma, so we came to Bangladesh. We were not safe here too, so we tried to find a safe place by the sea route, where our community lost thousands of lives in the Andaman Sea last winter,” he added.

23 July 2009

READ MORE---> Bangladesh Minister pressurizes Burmese envoy on Rohingya issue...

Business Search for: News News Smith raised Hu case with Chinese

( -FOREIGN Minister Stephen Smith has raised the case of a detained Australian mining executive with his Chinese counterpart.

Stern Hu, who was in charge of Rio Tinto's iron ore operations in China, was arrested in early July on suspicion of spying and stealing state secrets.

The Shanghai-based executive is yet to be charged, 18 days after he was first detained.

Mr Smith said he raised the matter with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional forum, in Thailand.

"We spoke about a number of matters but I'm happy to indicate to you that, in the part of the conversation which related to Mr Hu, I repeated the representations that I and our officials had made previously, which was that we wanted the matter to be dealt with expeditiously," Mr Smith told reporters in Phuket.

Mr Smith said Mr Yang stressed China's relationship with Australia would not be compromised by the detention of Mr Hu, a Chinese-born Australian citizen.

"Both of us have been at pains to make the point that we don't see this going to the wider relationship, which we regard as very good on the economic front," he said.

Mr Smith declined to say if charges were closer to being laid, but he rejected calls from the opposition for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to directly contact Chinese President Hu Jintao.

"This is an issue which is sensitive and difficult and complex. This is not an issue which is going to be resolved by one phone call or by one meeting between ministers and ministers," he said.

READ MORE---> Business Search for: News News Smith raised Hu case with Chinese...

Hu 'likely 'persona non grata'

( -STERN Hu, the Australian businessman detained in China on suspicion of spying and stealing state secrets, is likely to be declared persona non grata and thrown out of the country, a US think tank says.

Private sector intelligence group Stratfor says China is now seeking to dampen what has turned into a diplomatic row between China and Australia and attracted worldwide attention.

Much of the worldwide business community has cited China's detention of Mr Hu as a cause for concern.

Mr Hu, an Australian citizen who was in charge of Rio Tinto's iron ore operations, was arrested on July 5 on suspicion of spying and stealing state secrets. (JEG's: if they were secret how could they be stolen?)

The Shanghai-based executive is yet to be charged, 18 days after he was first detained.

Earlier this week, it emerged that China's Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei had told Foreign Minister Stephen Smith on July 17 that Chinese officials were now emphasising only the bribery charges and not espionage charges relating to national security. (JEG's: because the charges are false, that is why they are only "emphasising"...)

Stratfor said that was a significant shift, even though Mr He made sure to say that commercial matters could still fall under the Chinese definition of state secrets. "It is likely that the charges against Hu will be considerably less than if he were tried for espionage, which can result in a death sentence," it said. "The most likely scenario is that Hu will be given persona-non-grata status and shipped back to Australia, unable to return to China."

Stratfor said this was a relatively common punishment for foreigners accused of espionage, as seen in the 2001 cases of Chinese-Americans Wu Jianming and Li Shaomin, who were deported after being convicted of spying for Taiwan.

Stratfor said China would not let this matter go without some form of punishment for Mr Hu and three other Rio employees who were also detained. To do so would cause China to lose face amid criticism from around the world that China's actions were solely self-serving attempts to intimidate a foreign company (*) in order to give domestic companies an edge, Stratfor said.

"However, if the Australians can find a compromise - possibly getting Rio to soften its stance in the iron ore price negotiations, or ensure some investment opportunities in Australia - then it looks like China may be willing to play nice,
(*)" it said.

READ MORE---> Hu 'likely 'persona non grata'...

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