Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Rohingya Teenagers Die in Thai Detention Camp

The Irrawaddy News

Two young Rohingya migrants have died in the past three months in a detention camp in southern Thailand, the Bangkok English-language daily newspaper, The Nation, reported on Tuesday.

13 other inmates are in poor health, The Nation reported.

The Ranong camp, near Thailand’s southern border with Burma, is holding 55 Rohingya illegal migrants who were arrested on the Thai coast in January after they fled in open boats from Burma. Thai authorities allowed the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to visit the camp in January and February but have not granted access since then.

Rohingya refugee camp in Cox's Bazaar in Bangladesh. (Photo: Reuters)

The two dead migrants were aged 19 and 15. An immigration officer, Pol Lt Col Nattarit Pinpak, told The Nation that they had refused food or drink for several days. They were depressed and homesick, the police officer said.

UNHCR regional spokeswoman Kitty McKinsey, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that requests for access to the camp had not been granted.

“We have asked the Thai government many times for access there. We told the Thai government that we are ready to help them [the detained migrants]. We want to know what their protection needs are. But we are not getting access.”

Twenty nine Rohingyas who were also arrested in January were deported to Bangladesh after their documents showed they were Bangladesh citizens.

Despite extensive discussions with Thai immigration officials, Burma has refused to take back the remaining Rohingyas, saying they are not Burmese citizens.

Hundreds of Rohingyas, Muslim victims of discrimination and human rights abuses in Burma’s Arakan State, have been fleeing in open boats, hoping to reach Malaysia. Unknown numbers have drowned on the open sea, and international rights groups have accused the Thai navy of turning back boats that tried to land in Thailand. The Thai government has denied the charges.

READ MORE---> Rohingya Teenagers Die in Thai Detention Camp...

Viable way out for Burma

By Nehginpao Kipgen
Asian News Net - The Brunei Times

To allay the international community's outrage over the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi for another 18 months, Burma's military junta was looking to show a good gesture. This opportunity came when Jim Webb, a US senator from Virginia, visited the reclusive country on August 14.

The junta took two significant steps to water down international criticisms, particularly the US government. First, the junta agreed to deport John William Yettaw; second, the junta granted Jim Webb a meeting with both Suu Kyi and Than Shwe.

Yettaw, who the junta used for Suu Kyi's conviction, was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment on August 11. By releasing him, the junta wants to convey the message of humanity and peace. Moreover, it is Suu Kyi who the military leaders fear and not Yettaw. Yettaw's case was manipulated to find a reason to indict Suu Kyi so that she can be barred from participating in the 2010 election.

The Burmese junta understands Jim Webb's Southeast Asia policy. The senator has been a vocal advocate for engaging the military junta, a policy which Obama administration envisages. Though the congressman was not an official envoy of the White House, his position as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's East Asia and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee speaks a lot to the Burma's military generals. The US government has been very critical of the military regime since 1988. The military junta fears Washington partly because of its military power and its global political status as the lone super power.

To many surprise, the junta chief congratulated then-presidential candidate Barack Obama when the latter won primary elections last year. Than Shwe again congratulated Obama when he sworn in as the 44th president of the United States of America. He was optimistic with the first black president's campaigns to pursue diplomatic channels in his foreign policies. In the meantime, Than Shwe understands the ineffectiveness of the UN Security Council as long as he can convince China and Russia to stand on his side.

Though Washington had not considered a unilateral military action against Naypyidaw, the military leaders had a lingering fear, especially in the aftermath of Iraq invasion. During last month's UN secretary general's visit to Burma, Than Shwe denied Ban Ki-moon's request to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi. The military chief gave the reason that Suu Kyi was facing trial in the court.

Despite the secretary general's ongoing personal involvement in trying to help resolve the political crisis in Burma, no concrete solution is expected before the 2010 election. This is partly due to the intransigent nature of the military junta and also due to lack of strong backing from the Security Council. Several unsuccessful attempts have been made through the secretary general special envoy's visits and through friends of Myanmar.

No tangible solution is also expected from the engagement policy of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, in which Burma is a member.

If it seriously considers helping establish a democratic society in Burma, the US government can be the most effective nation. This does not, however, advocates the unconditional lifting of sanctions. Both carrot and stick should be used in dealing with the recalcitrant military junta.

A special envoy who knows and understands the region will be a wise option, but the new ambassador for East Asia, Kurt Campbell, can also be assigned. Isolation has been applied unsuccessfully for many years, and it is now time to give engagement a chance.

Jim Webb, who met with Than Shwe and Suu Kyi, should have been briefed the political views from both the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and the National League for Democracy (NLD) on how to move forward with a reconciliation programme. Though no unanimity can be reached at the UN Security Council for any punitive action against the military junta, China and Russia will likely throw their support if Washington chooses engagement.

Engaging Burma does not simply mean rewarding the military junta; it should rather be viewed as a possible way out of the continued political crisis. Engaging Myanmar should be inclusive of all ethnic nationalities, the NLD and SPDC.

Nehginpao Kipgen is a researcher on the rise of political conflicts in modern Burma (1947-2004) and general secretary of the US-based Kuki International Forum (www.kukiforum.com).

READ MORE---> Viable way out for Burma...

Nonagenarian protester sentenced to week in prison

Taungup (Narinjara): A nonagenarian protester was sentenced to seven days in prison by the Taungup Township court on August 14 because he staged a solo protest against the court verdict pronounced on U Kyaw Kahing, said a townsperson.

“He was sentenced to a week in prison. The authorities charged him under a section of Act 47, which is related to drinking with disarray,” he said.

The protester, U Chit Htwe, is a former tuition teacher, and a close associate of U Kyaw Khaing the NLD Township chairman.

U Chit Htwe went to Taungup Township court on July 13 to hear the verdict of the court on U Kyaw Khaing, a defamation case against whom was filed by U Than Pee, former NLD Taungup Township member.

When U Chit Htwe heard that the court had sentenced U Kyaw Khaing to two years in prison, he staged a protest before the judge.

An eyewitness said U Chit Htwe criticized the judge’s verdict loudly and said the verdict was unfair and unjust.

Following the criticism of the judge he was charged under a section of Act 47. On 14 August, the court sentenced him to seven days in prison.

READ MORE---> Nonagenarian protester sentenced to week in prison...

Shan opposition drafts alliance charter

By Hseng Khio Fah

The Executive Committee members of the Provisional Shan State Congress (SSC) has completed the first draft of the constitution yesterday at their third annual meeting, held at undisclosed venue on the Thai-Burma border, according to one of the members Peunkham Payakwong from Tai Coordination Committee (TCC).

“The draft is expected to be approved at the next meeting,” he said.
The EC members are:
The meeting was attended by all the EC members, except for Maj Hsiao Harn.

The details of the charter is yet to be disclosed. “Suffice it to say it will do its best to cater to the needs of all the indigenous peoples of Shan State,” said Peunkham.

The meeting also discussed further plans for the holding of a second conference towards the end of the year. The EC has so far met 3 times.

The provisional Shan State Congress was formed on 23 December 2008 by the LDU, RCSS, PNLO, WNO and TCC at the Shan State Army (SSA) ‘South’ base Loi Taileng, with the declared aim to unite all the movements fighting against the ruling military regime.

READ MORE---> Shan opposition drafts alliance charter...

Ethnic Kachins banned from having cultural symbols in their state in Burma

by KNG

In a fresh repressive measure the Burmese military junta has banned Kachins, an ethnic nationality, from constructing its cultural symbols – the "Manau Pole and Manau House" in their State, said Kachin cultural leaders.

In Bhamo, the second largest city in Kachin State, the ban comes in the way of construction of the cultural Manau Pole and House on the 13-acre wide Bhamo (also called Manmaw in Kachin) Kachin Literature and Culture compound (BKLC) in Aung Ta village in Two Miles. It was bought from the Bhamo Zonal Kachin Baptist Church in 1996, BKLC committee members said.

Maj-Gen Soe Win, commander of Northern Regional Command (Ma Pa Kha) and the junta's most powerful man in Kachin State thrice rejected the official request for permission to construct the Manau Pole and House this year by the BKLC committee, a committee member told KNG today.

Last July, some committee members met commander Maj-Gen Soe Win in the Kachin State's capital Myitkyina in its latest effort. However the commander rejected their request saying "Looking at genuine peace in Kachin State, the construction of Bhamo Kachin Manau Pole and House was banned," said committee members.

Earlier, the military authorities of Kachin State had twice rejected BKLC's letters to the junta's Bhamo District Administrative Office, called Bhamo District Peace and Development Council (or Kha-Ya-Ka) on March 31 and Kachin State Administrative Office, called Kachin State Peace and Development Council (or Pa-Ya-Ka) on May 19, according to the BKLC committee.

Committee members said, both rejection letters came up with the same reasons ---- first, the Kachins already have the cultural venue with Manau Pole and House in Myitkyina indicating "Kachin Traditional Manau Park" in Shatapru quarter in the town, which was constructed in early 2002. Secondly, there are different ethnic nationalities in Bhamo and constructing Kachin traditional symbols may harm unity among them because the Kachin Manau Pole and House represent ethnic Kachins, alone.

BKLC committee members disagreed with Commander Soe Win's rejection notes. They believe that the construction of the Kachin cultural Manau Pole and House will not harm the ethnic unity in Bhamo and Kachins have to build their cultural symbols in every Kachin village, said committee members and Kachin cultural leaders.

On June 22, five BKLC committee members of a total of 40 members were made to forcibly sign in the Bhamo District Administrative Office (Kha-Ya-Ka) to abandon construction of Kachin cultural buildings by the Kha-Ya-Ka chairman Col. Khin Maung Myint, said committee members.

According to Article 22 and 27 of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to show, develop and protect their culture and literature.

There are Kachins (also spelled Jinghpaw in Kachin language or Jingpho-su in China and Singpho in India) in three of Burma's neighboring countries like China, India and Thailand and they are authorized to build their cultural symbols - Manau Pole and House.

READ MORE---> Ethnic Kachins banned from having cultural symbols in their state in Burma...

Monks searched as they travel through Mon state

IMNA, Panorkkyar

Beginning this month, Burmese government authorities in Mon State have been increasing security measures and investigating Buddhist monks who are traveling – searching through their saffron robes and requiring them to open their bags.

According to one monk who was searched on his way from Moulmein to Mudon at the checkpoint in Ro Go, "At 5:00 PM I reached Ro Go checkpoint by bus. A soldier in uniform asked me to opened up my bag. As he found nothing he made me lifted up my robe and again found nothing. Then he allowed me to proceed on my way."

The security increase has come as tension has mounted after the recent re-incarceration of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who was found guilty of violating her house arrest and was sentenced to serve an additional 18 months. After her return to her home, every town gate and roadblock between Moulmein to Ye has been checked thoroughly, though some say these checks have been the standard military security practice even before the verdict.

The practice of so strictly checking Monks has only more recently developed, as, according to a monk from Moulmein, roomers have spread that monks in Rangoon are going to hold uprising soon.

The anniversary for the 2007 protests led by Monks is next month. Popularly known as the “Saffron Revolution” due to the color of the monks robes, the protest grew over frustration with the government as gas prices increased after price subsidies were removed. In a remarkable display, Monks joined the protests calling for a lowering of prices, and peaceful demonstration. The protests were ultimately put down by the Burmese military on September 26th, resulting in estimated 138 deaths though some sources cite higher numbers.

Though rumors have spread, the exact reason for the searches cannot be confirmed. According to a monk, “We don’t know why they’re carrying out these searches. They always do like this when some sort of news brakes out. Previously they just checked residents, but now they’re also thoroughly checking monks.”

According to residents in Moulmein, a few days ago a rumor spread that people are preparing for an uprising. This has been seen as one cause why authorities have tightened security in every corner of the city.

A resident stated, “I heard the news that people are going to demonstrate, but I don’t know who will act as a leader to hold the uprising.”

“In Moulmein the police are just taking role of travelers at different checkpoints,” A civilian in Thanbyuzayat told IMNA. “But, in Thanbyuzayat, the police, members of the USDA [Union Solidarity and Development Association] and the fire-fighter brigade, were also taking part in searching people at checkpoints.”

A Khitpyaing News article published on yesterday described a rumor that there will be a saffron revolution soon in Rangoon. As a result, people in Rangoon have been stocking food supplies, and have been worried about the increase in the price of goods.

READ MORE---> Monks searched as they travel through Mon state...

A Visit to Refugees on the Salween River

A KNU soldier at a checkpoint on the Salween River. (Photo: Saw Yan Naing/The Irrawaddy)

The Irrawaddy News

Ban Mae Sam Leap, Mae Hong Son Province — When you enter Mae Sam Leap, a Thai border village on the Salween River, you see a lively market area where goods are exchanged.

Located on the opposite side of the river is a Burmese government military post.

In this border area, the Salween River serves as a border line in northern Karen State in eastern Burma and Mae Hong Song Province in Thailand.

The river landing area is crowded with boats used to transport trade products. The village is crowded with Thai soldiers, traders, travelers and even Burmese soldiers who cross to the Thai side to visit and buy food and other supplies.

Mae Sam Leap is one of the border points where Thai-Burmese traders exchange goods. Before the Karen breakaway group, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), split from its mother organization, the Karen National Union (KNU) in 1995, the exchange of trade goods was robust.

Border trade along the Salween River and Mae Sam Leap area dropped drastically because of repeated DKBA attacks against Karen villagers and KNU troops in the area.

In recent years, the trade activity has picked up again, in spite of continued military clashes.

It took about four hours riding in a long boat to reach the U Wei Hta refugee camp, also known Ei Tu Hta Zone 6.

During the ride, we passed deep jungle, huge trees and beautiful, secluded valleys, and we saw military posts of both government troops and KNLA soldiers.

The talk on the boat among local villagers was of a coming military offensive in September by junta and DKBA troops against the KNU

Arriving at Ei Tu Hta Zone 6, Saw T’kwel, the zone leader, briefed me on the camp and introduced me to a few villagers. One Karen schoolgirl stood out.

Thirteen-year-old Naw Taw Oo Paw said her father was killed by junta soldiers in her village of Kaw Tu Tun in Taungoon District in early 2006. She described her family’s 25-day trek to the border.

She and mother, and her three sisters, survived on boiled rice. She had one change of clothes. She slept on the ground at night with a piece of bamboo as a pillow, trees as her shelter and one blanket to fight off the cold.

They cooked only at night, she said, to avoid sending up plumes of smoke, alerting the junta’s soldiers to their whereabouts. They dried their wet clothes by the fire.

Her father was killed by government soldiers after they entered her village, she said.

“They did not bury his corpse,” she said, softly. “It was like killing an animal. I feel very sad when I think about it. I hurt because I don’t have a father like others.”

Starting to cry, she said, “Now my mother has to work to support us.”

Taw Oo Paw said her dream is to be a teacher so that she can help the many internally displaced Karen children whose lives have been interrupted by the junta’s troops.

She is among 4,000 Karen refugees who now live in the Ei Tu Hta camp, all driven from their village by government offensives.

Saw T’kwel said, “The refugees who come to the border because of these attacks have seen murders, lootings, extortion and force labor committed by the junta’s soldiers.”

The Ei Tu Hta refugee camp was established in April 2006 after major government offensives in Taungoon and Nyaunglebin districts.

If the anticipated September government offensive occurs, young girls like Taw Oo Paw will be joined by more of their fellow Karen children.

READ MORE---> A Visit to Refugees on the Salween River...

The Junta’s New Balancing Act

The Irrawaddy News

John William Yettaw has been released from Burma’s notorious Insein Prison, where hundreds of the country’s political prisoners are currently detained while dozens sacrificed their lives in the past two decades.

The Aung San Suu Kyi intruder is now able to return home, crossing thousands of miles of ocean, not by swimming, but in the comfort of a jet, leaving the innocent victim, Suu Kyi, to serve out her fourth house arrest for another18 months.

The dismal end to the drama couldn’t be more frustrating to the Burmese people who desperately want to see their beloved democracy leader free. She is their hope for freedom under the ruthless military dictatorship.

US Sen Jim Webb may be satisfied with his mission: he accomplished two of his three requests: the release of Yettaw and a meeting with Suu Kyi.

But Sen-Gen Than Shwe is smiling too, because he can now safely carry out the 2010 elections with Suu Kyi safely locked away under house arrest.

Now the junta chief can fully concentrate on a major issue that has the potential to unravel the smooth path to national elections—the unruly ethnic armed ceasefire groups.
Than Shwe has two goals: to transform the ethnic ceasefire groups into a Border Guard Force and to persuade the groups to form political parties in their respective areas and to field candidates in the upcoming election.

So far, Than Shwe has convinced only one group, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, to transform into a Border Guard Force, under the command of government officers.

The task must be done in line with the new constitution and its Section 338, which states: “All the armed forces in the Union shall be under the command of the Defense Services.”

However, the most powerful ethnic ceasefire groups have not signed on to the plan, especially the largest groups along Burma’s frontier bordering with China. The United Wa State Army and the Kachin Independence Army, the strongest of the armed ethnic groups, have rejected the government’s order.

They don’t trust the junta. Their common position is they want to deal with this issue after a parliamentary government is formed following the 2010 election.

Although the junta enjoys China’s political support in keeping international pressure at bay, it hasn’t received its neighbor’s support on the border guard issue. Instead, China has pressured the junta to tackle the issue carefully and not to destabilize the border area.

Having successfully drawn India, at one time a strong supporter of Burma’s democracy movement, into its camp by playing a balancing act with China, the junta can now play the same diplomatic game between China and the United States.

If the US decides to practice a more flexible engagement policy, the threat of UN Security Council might be reduced, meaning that it may not need to rely so much on China’s veto in opposing anti-Burmese junta resolutions. That could give the junta more bargaining power in tackling the issue of the armed ethnic groups along the border with China.

If the Obama administration sees Webb’s achievement as a positive step and an opportunity for engagement with the junta, it means the junta has more leverage in playing the two superpowers off one another.

Furthermore, it means a significant diplomatic triumph for the junta to win the official recognition of the US, the generals’ major foe that is often accused of neo-colonialist meddling in the country’s internal affairs.

If not, the junta has nothing to lose. The more it delays the release of Suu Kyi, the more the US might feel responsible for Suu Kyi’s fourth detention, which was triggered by the actions of an American.

But for the time being, the Democratic senator can bask in his accomplishment of snatching Yettaw from the hands of a ruthless junta.

The author is an independent researcher and a graduate in International Development Studies at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.

READ MORE---> The Junta’s New Balancing Act...

Sanctions - a stumbling block for Burma?

“Senator Webb might have misinterpreted Aung San Suu Kyi, because she explicitly denies making any comments that could indicate that she will not oppose lifting sanctions,”

by Mungpi

New Delhi (Mizzima) – On the now contentious issue of sanctions, Burma’s detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said she had not indicated to the visiting US Senator Jim Webb that she will not oppose lifting of some of the sanctions imposed by western countries on Burma.

Ohn Kyaing, a spokesperson for the National League for Democracy on Tuesday said, Aung San Suu Kyi has explicitly denied having commented to the visiting US Senator that she will not oppose the lifting of some of the economic sanctions.

The clarification came on Tuesday after the visiting Senator Webb on Monday told reporters at a press conference in Bangkok that during his talks with Aung San Suu Kyi, she had indicated that she will not oppose lifting of some of the economic sanctions.

“Senator Webb might have misinterpreted Aung San Suu Kyi, because she explicitly denies making any comments that could indicate that she will not oppose lifting sanctions,” Ohn Kyaing said.

Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday evening told her party spokesperson Nyan Win, who visited her as her lawyer, to discuss her case, that she had been misinterpreted by Webb.

The detained Burmese Nobel Peace Laureate has never changed her position on the economic sanctions imposed on Burma but reiterated her call to the junta supremo Snr Gen Than Shwe to work together for the development of Burma including easing off of economic sanctions, Ohn Kyaing said.

“U Nyan Win had told us that Aung San Suu Kyi is not happy with the comments and feels that she had been misinterpreted wrongly. Sanctions were not called for by her and she has no power to remove it, but she is willing to work together with the ruling junta,” Ohn Kyaing said.

Time and again, Burma’s ruling generals have accused Aung San Suu Kyi and her NLD party of advocating economic sanctions and opting for total devastation and confrontation with the junta and had asked Aung San Suu Kyi to call for lifting the sanctions.

But the NLD, Ohn Kyaing said, has never called for economic sanctions and has no power to withdraw it.

“We believe that the first step in trying to lift sanctions is to begin with a discussion between the opposition and the junta and to work together to develop the country,” Ohn Kyaing said.

It is meaningless to accuse the NLD of choosing utter devastation of the country, when the Generals are unwilling to talk to anybody and unwilling to cooperate with others to work for the development of the country, he added.

Despite the clarifications by Aung San Suu Kyi through her spokesperson, several groups advocating anti-sanctions in Burma have welcomed the comment and the tourism industry viewed it as a green signal to explore travel business in the country.

Derek Tonkin, a former British ambassador to Thailand and now member of the Network Myanmar, and a long time campaigner advocating engagement with Burma said it is the first step of moving in the right direction and urged people around the world to visit Burma.

“Tourism does not serve the military generals but helps local Burmese people to get employed,” Tonkin told Mizzima welcoming the comment of Webb on Aung San Suu Kyi’s indication.

Tourism, according to Tonkin, is one safe sector where the Burmese people can directly benefit as the industry largely is in the hands of private businesses, who are not members or even related to the regime.

“Tourists can easily avoid going to hotels or places run by the military authorities and make their choice of living in private hotels, which will help the Burmese people,” Tonkin said.

But Aung San Suu Kyi in an interview with the BBC in 2002, said the situation in Burma has not improved and is not in a good condition to encourage people to pay a visit.

But her comments did not carry any message of advocating the imposition of sanctions and isolating the country, her party members said.

“It is purely up to the countries that impose sanctions to lift or continue. But Aung San Suu Kyi has been calling on the junta to begin working together starting with a talk between the two,” Ohn Kyaing said.

Nyo Ohn Myint, in-charge of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the NLD in exile, said Webb must have, out of “excitement”, misinterpreted Aung San Suu Kyi of not opposing the lifting of some of the sanctions imposed on the country.

“As far as I understand, Webb would not like to twist the information but it is more of a misinterpretation,” said Nyo Ohn Myint.

Given Webb’s background of being opposed to economic sanctions, Nyo Ohn Myint said, he might have a misconception of the ideas behind Aung San Suu Kyi’s comments.

“Aung San Suu Kyi might have told him that she is willing to work with the junta in order to develop the country as a whole and not just lifting of sanctions,” Nyo Ohn Myint said.

Stumbling block

While Webb’s comment on Aung San Suu Kyi might have come as a misinterpretation, it clearly shows that many Burma observers are beginning to doubt the effectiveness of sanctions and are seeing engagement as another possible way to bring a change in Burma.

Sanctions, in the strictest terms, have only been imposed by a few western countries on Burma. But it has largely been negatively viewed as a big obstacle for any economic progress in military-ruled Burma.

Regional countries, including those of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as well as China and India had consistently been engaging the regime and are directly supplying the much needed revenue through purchase of natural resources including oil and gas.

While these countries continue maintaining a so-called “constructive engagement”, they have proved failed in persuading the regime to implement reforms.

While the military regime has time and again blamed sanctions for Burma’s economic deterioration, Sean Turnell, a Professor of Economics at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia said that the regime’s mismanagement is the root cause of Burma’s deteriorating economy.

Turnell said, Burma’s economy is largely dependent on the prevailing political situation. And with the ruling junta lacking the expertise and reluctant to allow experts to handle the economy, the country’s fate is inevitable.

Sanctions do not play a role in bringing down the economy but are useful as a political tool that send messages of opposition to the regime’s rule, he added.

According to Nyo Ohn Myint, lifting off sanctions without any considerable change in the behaviour of the regime would not help Burma move forward but will only be an incentive to the regime.

He said sanctions as a political tool that they are, should be used as a ‘stick’ while lifting them, as the generals make progress in political reforms, should be the ‘carrot’.

“Economically, sanctions are not a stumbling block, but they are a stumbling block politically for the regime,” he added.



Army directorate restricts travel to Chinese

Insurance on online arrival visas

READ MORE---> Sanctions - a stumbling block for Burma?...

Traditional Musician Missing After Arrest

Sittwe (Narinjara): A traditional drummer in Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State, has gone missing after being arrested by police on 11 August, 2009, said a relative.

"A police team raided U Kyaw Zan Maung's house on the night of 11 August and arrested U Tun Shwe. Since then, U Tun Shwe has been missing," he said.

A police team raided U Kyaw Zan Maung's house on the pretense that his drumming team went to Bangladesh illegally to teach drumming among the Arakanese community there.

After the raid, the police brought U Tun Shwe, who is a pupil of U Kyaw Zan Maung, to an unknown place for interrogation.

The high authority has since placed four police officers in front of U Kyaw Zan Maung's home to watch him and his drumming team's activities closely.

U Kyaw Zan Maung is a prominent drummer in Arakan State and his team is known as Saidra Tee Wai. They typically perform at Arakanese traditional festivals.

According to a local source, their are nearly 300 members on the Saidra Tee Wai drum team who are active in Sittwe against the military government.

A politician, who asked to remain anonymous, said that the authority claimed the unauthorized travel to Bangladesh was the reason for the raid on U Kyaw Zan Maung's house, but the truth is that the government is afraid the drum team might lead a demonstration in Sittwe.

Because of that fear, the police raided the drum leader’s home and arrested his student U Tun Shwe in order to crack down on them.

U Kyaw Zan Maung also served five years in prison before 2000 because his drum team had played and performed funeral music during a welcome ceremony for former Prime Minister General Khin Nyunt at Sittwe airport in 1994. At the time of the incident, Khin Nyunt was Secretary One of the SPDC.

Soon after the ceremony, U Kyaw Zan Maung was caught by the military authority and sentenced to five years in prison for the performance.

READ MORE---> Traditional Musician Missing After Arrest...

Refugee teachers tortured by CIC of Kutupalong Camp

Ukhiya, Cox’s Bazaar (Kaladan) -: Four refugee teachers were severely tortured by the Camp-in-Charge (CIC) of Kutupalong Camp on August 13, while they were going to the Bangla-German Samprity (BGS) Center of Court Bazaar of Cox’s Bazaar district by bus, for Burmese language training, Salim, one of the refugee teachers, said.

Refugee teacher beat by Camp in Charge of Kutupalong refugee camp

On that day, at about 4:00 pm, 21 refugee teachers from Nayapara camp went to the Kutupalong camp by bus to pick up another four refugee teachers, from Kutupalong camp for Burmese language training at Court Bazaar. After arrival at the nearby Kutupalong camp, some of the refugee teachers got down from the bus and went to the toilet, while some other refugee teachers waited for four other refugee teachers’ (colleagues), who would join them from Kutupalong camp, he added.

One of the peons, named Nurul Hoque, Camp-in-Charge (CIC) of Kutupalong camp came to the bus and ordered all the teachers to get into the bus quickly. But, some teachers took time to get into the bus as they had gone to nearby shops to buy betel, cigarettes and other things. So, the peon got angry with them and forcibly pushed some of the teachers into a car, said Mahbu Rahman, another refugee teacher, who was tortured by the CIC.

The refugee teachers asked the peon, “Why did you push us forcibly into the car? And we are human beings; you do not need to push us into the bus, like animals.”

Hearing this, the peon became very angry with them and he called the camp officer to the spot and the officer asked 4 refugee teachers to follow him. So, Kafayet Ullah of School No.2, Amir Hakim from School No.2, Salim from School No.5 and Mahbu Rahman from School No.7, went to the camp along with the officer. All the four refugee teachers were from Nayapara camp, Mahbu Rahman added.

After reaching the camp, Camp-in-Charge ASM Fazala Rabbi, confined them to a room and tortured them brutally. The officer even kicked them severely on their heads and abdomen. Later they were sent to the clinic of the refugee camp for medical treatment.

After medical treatment, three of them were sent to the training center of Court Bazaar, accompanied by four other refugee teachers from Kutupalong, leaving Kafayet Ullah in the camp.

The three refugee teachers were released because they had admitted that they were guilty and had also signed on a white paper, because of fear of further torture. However, Kafayet Ullah refused to sign on a white paper, said Amir Hakim, who was also tortured by the CIC.

Kafayet Ullah was severely tortured and the camp officer has been trying to take a signature from him on a white paper, that he was guilty. But, he consistently refused to sign on a white paper. So, the officer has been threatening him that the officer would send him to jail, if he does not sign on the paper. The victim is in the clinic of the refugee camp under the control of camp police. The victim was severely injured due to the torture meted out by the CIC, said a refugee from Kutupalong camp, who declined to be named.

However, last night, the victim was forced to sign on the white paper that he was guilty regarding the incident. At about 10:00 am, today, he was released and headed back to Nayapara refugee camp, said a relative of the victim.

On August 13, at about 7:00 pm, an UNHCR representative went to the Kutupalong refugee camp, to seek information regarding the event as the refugee teachers had asked them to help regarding the incident, said another refugee from Kutupalong camp.

The BGS Center is under the Research Training and Management International (RTMI), which has been providing help for education in refugee camps. The refugee teachers were going to BGS of Court Bazaar for three days, for Burmese language training.

The refugee teachers will not participate in the training until some action is taken against the perpetrator. At present, the entire group of refugee teachers (24 people) are at the Court Bazaar BGS Center, except Kafayet Ullah, said Salim, a refugee teacher.

The refugees believe that the CIC was very angry with the refugees, since August 8, when the refugees participated in a strike to be held at Cox’s Bazaar against the repatriation of Rohingya people and to mark the anniversary of 88 uprising in Burma. As a result, the authorities imposed tight security in refugee camps, since August 13, and no one is allowed to go out of the camp, said a refugee leader, who declined to be named.

Written by Webmaster: 15 August 2009

READ MORE---> Refugee teachers tortured by CIC of Kutupalong Camp...

Aid policy harms border Burmese: activists

Lobbying ... Charm Tong and Cynthia Maung will meet the parliamentary secretary for international development tomorrow. Photo: Andrew Meares

By Connie Levett Foreign Editor

(SMH) -THE Australian Government's policy of not allowing aid funding for cross-border health care may be costing hundreds of Burmese lives, say two Burmese health and human rights activists.

About 500,000 Burmese villagers live near the Thai-Burma border, with no access to Burmese health care, after fleeing a decade-long military campaign to drive them from their homes.

Two activists, Charm Tong, 27, and Cynthia Maung, 50, who were nominated for the Nobel Peace prize in 2005, will meet Bob McMullen, the parliamentary secretary for international development assistance, tomorrow to press the Government to change its policy and allow AusAid to fund their cross-border work.

The British Government changed its policy last year to allow the cross-border funding, bringing it into line with the US, Canadian, Norwegian and Danish agencies.

The women said the military attacks had continued to create new waves of displaced villagers. ''Unless AusAid changes its policy to one of supporting health workers treating people in eastern Burma, hundreds will needlessly die,'' Dr Maung said.

The sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi last week to a further 18 months of house arrest was a small example of the regime's brutality towards its own people, the women said.

The American John Yettaw, whose visit to Ms Suu Kyi's home led to the latest house arrest, was in Bangkok yesterday after a US senator, Jim Webb, secured his release. Speaking in Bangkok, Senator Webb said that Ms Suu Kyi is ''not opposed'' to the lifting of some sanctions on the junta in Burma.

Ms Charm Tong said ''the international community see what happens to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi but who is watching what is happening on the ground when there is no media coverage? This reflects the brutality of what the regime does and why the international community should not tolerate it.''

Ms Charm Tong, who fled Burma's Shan State as a six-year-old, is a long-time campaigner for her people. At 16, she addressed the United Nations Human Rights Commission on the military's use of systematic rape as a weapon of war. In 2005 she was invited to the White House by then president George Bush to discuss human rights abuses in Burma.

Dr Maung, who started her clinic in Mae Sot, on the Thai-Burma border in 1989, provides community health care for 300,000 refugees and internally displaced people. The clinic has trained 80 medical teams of three to five Burmese health workers who cross the border, carrying backpacks full of medicine, to provide the only health care available to the displaced villagers.

AusAid's budget for Burma last year was $16 million, of which $1.2 million went to refugees in Thailand, said Ms Charm Tong. ''The clinic's 2009 budget for the backpack health worker teams is 31 million baht ($1 million).''

''These IDPs [internally displaced persons] are in an area where the UN cannot access them, not allowed to,'' she said.

with agencies

READ MORE---> Aid policy harms border Burmese: activists...

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