Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sino-Burma border situation stable: China

by Mungpi
Wednesday, 30 September 2009 23:08

New Delhi (Mizzima) – China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday denied media reports that local Burmese authorities had ordered Chinese citizens in North-eastern Shan State to leave, and said the situation along the border is “stable and in order.”

Replying to a question, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu said, “According to our knowledge, the reports are not true. The current situation on the China-Myanmar border is stable and in order.”

Earlier, media reports suggested, that the Burmese authorities in the Kokang region of North-eastern Shan state ordered at least 100 Chinese citizens to leave the area. The media reports appeared after last month’s clashes between government troops and ethnic Kokang rebels that led to the exodus of tens of thousands of refugees to China.

“The exchanges between the two peoples are also normal. China has requested Myanmar [Burma] to take effective measures according to the law to protect the lawful rights and interests of Chinese citizens in Myanmar [Burma],” Jiang Yu said.

China has long expressed that its main concern along the border is stability and urged the Burmese regime to maintain stability along the border.

Despite the Chinese concerns, the Burmese military junta in late August flushed out the Peng Jiasheng-led Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), also known as Kokang Army, breaking a 20-year ceasefire agreement.

According to the International Crisis Group’s report titled “China’s Myanmar Dilemma” released in mid-September, the Burmese junta did not forewarn China of its plan to attack the MNDAA.

In the wake of the sudden influx of refugees from Burma, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement urging the Burmese government to handle its internal affairs properly and urged it to protect the rights of Chinese citizens in Burma.

Observers said, with heavy reinforcements and increased troops deployed, the Burmese Army is likely to launch attacks on other ceasefire groups including the United Wa State Army (UWSA), which will then lead to a bloodbath and send waves of refugees into China.

US’s Burma policy; Is it flawless?

by Mungpi
Wednesday, 30 September 2009 22:24

New Delhi (Mizzima) - (Analysis) Accepting the failure of sanctions to usher in political change, the Burmese opposition and analysts said, the new US policy on the Southeast Asian nation could be the right approach but warned that the military junta could use it to its advantage, as it is not flawless.

The United States on Monday said, under its new Burma policy, it would seek direct engagement with the military rulers of Burma, but would continue with sanctions that can be phased out or tightened based on events inside Burma.

“In principle, this is a good policy. As sanctions or engagement alone have failed to bring change, we would like to hope that the combination of both might bring some change,” Win Min, an academic at the Chiang Mai University in Thailand and a long time Burma observer, said.

Similarly, a senior member of the National League for Democracy, Win Tin, said, while the US decides its policy, the new approach seems to be on the right track as it strikes a balance between engagement and punishment.

“We, the NLD, have been proposing engagement with the junta for the past 20 years, and so we welcome the US’s policy of engagement. We believe things could change through engagement,” Win Tin, a central executive committee member of the NLD, said.

Following US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s preview of the Burma policy at the United Nations, detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, through her party spokesperson, said she welcomed the policy of engagement but urged the US to engage both the junta and the opposition, including ethnic minorities.

Win Tin said while he agrees with party leader Aung San Suu Kyi, “I would like to add that the US should demand that the junta start a dialogue with us - the opposition.”

He said the US’s engagement with the junta is not enough because if political change is to come to Burma, dialogue between internal players must be the starting point and the US should see that the junta is on the right track for conducting such dialogues as the start of the process of national reconciliation.

While the new US policy garners some support as it incorporates the ‘Carrot and Stick’, method, Win Tin warned the US not to allow the junta to take advantage of the engagement and to court them in their playground but to stand firm on its principles.

“The junta, as we have seen in the past, is very smart in playing so the US must stand firm on its principles and not allow the junta to play with them,” he said.

He said, even if the sanctions are to be lifted, the list of targeted people such as the generals, their close relatives and business cronies should be kept as the last card to be cast on the table.

“Because sanctions do have an impact, as it is obvious, the junta really wants to come out of sanctions, and this is a good point for the US to push the generals to implement change,” he added.

Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein, in his speech at the UN General Assembly on Monday, said sanctions are ‘unjust’ and that certain countries are using sanctions as a political tool. He urged the international community to pressurize countries imposing sanctions on Burma to lift it.

Aware of the Generals’ fear, Aung San Suu Kyi on Saturday sent a letter to Snr. Gen Than Shwe, offering to work with him in order to help ease the sanctions imposed by the West.

In her letter, she requested a meeting with the Charge d’Affairs of the US embassy, Ambassadors of the European Union and Australia, to discuss the sanctions and to understand their stance on Burma.

However, Nyan Win, her party spokesperson, said, so far there has been no response from Naypyitaw on Aung San Suu Kyi’s proposal.

According to Win Min, the junta is currently looking ahead of the 2010 elections and its legitimacy, which can be gained if the international community endorses it. The US sanctions, therefore, remain a big obstacle for it and the regime is trying all it can to ease this pressure.

“We will have to wait and see how the junta responds to the new US policy. But there is always a possibility that the junta would want to use the US to support them in their plan,” Win Min said.

“Though nothing is clear, one thing is certain that the junta does not want to give up its rule and wants to legitimize its role through the road-map,” he added.

According to the junta’s seven-step roadmap to democracy, the general elections scheduled for 2010 is the fifth step and will give life to the 2008 constitution, which according to the junta was approved by over 90 per cent of voters.

The elections would be followed by convening of the Parliament and forming the cabinet, all of which will be based on the 2008 constitution, which critics said will legitimize the role of the military.

“The junta wants to see the 2010 elections going through smoothly, as it is an important step in legitimizing the role of the military,” said Win Tin. He added that winning the support of the US plays an important role for the success of the elections.

Besides, the junta’s interest in wanting the US to endorse its planned roadmap, it is also widely seen that the junta wants to use the US to balance China. Win Tin said, this could give the junta a much larger space to play in as it already has India to pit against China.

According to the International Crisis Group (ICG) report titled “China’s Myanmar Dilemma” released in mid-September, Burma’s failure to implement socio-political changes has become a burden for China, which as the closest ally had defended the Burmese military junta in the international fora.

The Burmese junta, according to analysts, is also aware of the Chinese attitude towards it and understands that it cannot forever remain under the protection of China. The junta needs alternative support base, including neighbouring countries such as India.

“In the larger context, the junta might want to pit China against the US. And diversify its support and not depend only on the Chinese,” Win Tin said.

“Now with India already backing it, the junta would want the US to have a good relationship with it,” he added.

KIO wants partial cooperation with junta

by Phanida
Wednesday, 30 September 2009 21:24

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), an ethnic armed group in Northern Burma, have proposed the junta to cooperate with some of its departments.

Representatives of the KIO put up their proposal during a meeting with Commander of the junta’s Northern Command Maj-Gen. Soe Win on Tuesday, where they also discussed on the junta’s proposal to transform the Kachin independence Army (KIA), armed wing of KIO, into the Border Guard Force (BGF).

“Soe Win just wanted us to accept their proposal. We told them we would transform some of our departments, which can work in tandem with the junta’s departments. It is in the discussion stage,” a KIO official, who attended the meeting, told Mizzima.

“Our agriculture, forest conservation, education and health departments will cooperate with them. We will build school buildings along with them. We have communicated this,” the official added.

Led by Vice-Chairman Gauri Zau Sai the KIO delegation to the meeting included at least 10 departmental heads such as the agriculture, health, education, forest conservation, regional developments.

The junta’s delegation was led by the Regional Commander Maj. Gen. Soe Win and Col. Thet Pone from Military Affairs Security (MAS) along with others.

During the meeting, the junta’s commander, however, made no response to the KIO’s proposal of allowing some of its departments to cooperate with the Burmese army. The meeting ended with both sides agreeing to meet again in a few days.

In late April, the Burmese junta proposed all ceasefire armed groups to transform their armed wings into the Border Guard Force. Following the proposal, KIO leaders and military commanders met at least eight times and discuss over the proposal.

Despite of the much pressures by the junta, the KIO convened a mass meeting on September 5, at a KIO controlled town of Laiza at the Sino-Burmese border.

The meeting, attended 324 delegates including religious leaders, Kachin culture groups, and Kachin social groups, adopted a resolution to transform to the KIO into a Kachin Regional Guard Force (KRGF) to be maintained and administered by the KIO instead of the BGF.

On September, the MAS Chief Lt. Gen. Ye Myint told the KIO in a meeting to take a final decision on the BGF issue by October.

Later, six top rank KIO leaders including Vice-Chairman Dr. Tu Ja resigned from their posts and formed the Kachin State Progressive Party (KSPP) to contest the 2010 general election.

Burmese delegates meet US Assistant Secretary

by Mungpi
Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:17

New Delhi (Mizzima) - In what appears to be the first step of engagement, US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell on Tuesday met Burmese delegates led by Minister of Science and Technology U Thaung.

Philip J. Crowley, deputy spokesperson of the state department, on Tuesday told reporters that Campbell is to meet U Thaung and his delegates in New York. The meeting was also attended by Burma’s permanent representative to the United Nations Than Swe.

The meeting comes in the wake of the US on Monday announcing its new policy on Burma, in which the Obama administration has decided to engage the military generals in Naypyitaw while keeping in place the existing sanctions.

The US has said, both sanctions by the West and engagement by neighbouring and regional countries have failed to bring about a desired behavioural change in the military leaders of Burma. It has failed to break the political impasse that is bogging down the Southeast Asian nation for the past two decades.

“In terms of engagement, we intend to begin a direct dialogue with Burmese authorities to pave the way towards better relations,” Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State, told reporters on Monday.

Campbell also said, “Lifting sanctions now would send the wrong signal. We will tell the Burmese that we will discuss easing sanctions only if they take actions on our core concerns.”

In response to the US policy on Burma, detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, through her party spokesperson, urged the US to continue engaging the opposition as the US seeks to engage the Burmese junta.

On Monday, Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein in the United Nations General Assembly condemned imposition of sanctions on his country saying it is being used by a few powerful countries as a political tool and that is ‘unjust’ and must be stopped.

Meanwhile, detained Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has made an offer to the junta supremo Snr Gen Than Shwe saying she is willing to work with him to help ease the sanctions imposed by the US, European Union and Australia.

In order to do so, she requested Than Shwe to allow her to meet representatives of the US, EU and Australia.

But Nyan Win, spokesperson for the National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, on Tuesday said there has been no reply as yet from Than Shwe.


Australian companies urged to withdraw from Burma

by Salai Pi Pi
Tuesday, 29 September 2009 21:16

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Campaigners have called on Australian companies to pull out of Burma, as the military rulers are benefitting from their investments, helping prolong the regime’s rule.

Zetty Brake, a spokesperson of Burma Campaign Australia (BCA), on Tuesday said they have called on Australian companies including Jetstar airline to drop business deals in Burma.

Investment by Australian companies’ is estimated to have funded around US $ 2.8 billion to the Burmese regime in revenue, according to the BCA.

“With the revenue from Australian companies, the regime can fund 727 soldiers each year,” Brake said.

The BCA on Monday urged Jetstar airline to withdraw from Burma as the revenue props up the Burmese regime. Jetstar, in partnership with the state-owned Myanmar Airways International (MAI) operates four flights per week from Singapore to Rangoon.

The BCA said Jetstar airline’s tax payment to the department of civil aviation under the Burmese Transport Ministry is estimated to be over US $ 170,000 per year.

Brake said, “This estimate does not include the percentage of profits Jetstar would have to provide military-owned Myanmar Airways International.”

But Jetstar’s chief executive, Bruce Buchanan, in an interview with the Australian newspaper, Sydney Morning Herald, said the airline was not paying ‘Blood Money’ to the Burmese generals.

“'Financially, it's neither here nor there if we continue to operate the service. We're quite happy to pull out if we thought that in any way we are doing a bad thing by the people of [Burma],” the paper quoted Buchanan as saying.

“But whenever we look at it and talk to the [aid] agencies that are in there, they say it's a good thing … We are giving people access to get out and get education, aid agencies to get in there, and people reconnecting with friends and family,” Buchanan added.

In a statement on Monday, the BCA said Australian companies such as Andaman Teak Supplies Pty Ltd, Chevron, Gecko’s Adventure, Jetstar, Lonely Planet, Millers, Sri Asia Tourism and Twinza Oil have business interests in Burma and are propping up the military junta.

“Twinza Oil Ltd’s project alone will fund a quarter of Burma’s military spending for the next decade,” the statement said.

“In the interests of Burma and its people we urge Jetstar and other Australian companies to pull out of Burma and put an end to the blood money that they are putting into the pockets of Burmese dictatorship,” said Brake.

Brake argued that doing business in Burma only prolongs military rule in the country by funding the regime with critical funds and resources it needs to be in power.

Brake said if Australian companies continue doing business in Burma, the BCA would put pressure on the Australian government to impose targeted investment and trade sanctions against Burma and to outlaw any business deals with the regime.

Jetstar and Twniza Oil Ltd on Tuesday could not be reached for comment.


Hostility between Thai police seniors over border crossing to casinos

by Usa Pichai
Tuesday, 29 September 2009 20:09

Bangkok (Mizzima) - A casino in the Golden Triangle near the Thailand-Burma border has become the centre of conflict among high level Thai police officers after the former Deputy Metro Police Chief was arrested by the local police in Chiang Rai province.

Pol. Lt. Col. Santhana Prayoonrat, former Deputy Metro Police, 2nd Department sued Pol. Col. Sutham Chartarsa, Chiang Saen district Police Chief in the Chiang Rai district court on Tuesday for maltreatment. Santhana, has claimed that he was on duty to investigate a case where the local police in Chiang Saen allowed gamblers to cross the border to the casino in the Golden Triangle 24 hours which is illegal, according to Thai law.

Pol. Lt.Col. Santhana was arrested together with eight people in Chiang Saen district, Chiang Rai province by the local police. They were accused of illegally carrying guns and bullets in public.

He said the local police in Chiang Saen threatened him, hit him on the chest and tried to choke him. The group was detained for a night and released on bail the next day. The court has accepted the case.

Santhana claimed that local police officials were suspicious when they were investigating the case. They had allowed gamblers to cross on all days. They were afraid the result of the investigation would be reported to senior officials in Bangkok.

“Besides, all my guns are licensed but the local police over reacted,” he said.

Local police arrested the group on September 13 and claimed that they threatened a staff of a casino in Burma.

Earlier, Pol. Col. Sutham revealed that the local police had reported that Santhana’s group was into ‘mafia-like’ behaviour in the area. They threatened and extorted money from gamblers who crossed the border to the casinos several times, according to a report in INNNews website. In addition, he resisted arrest and was found in possession of many weapons.

In Thailand, casinos are not allowed to operate legally, but there are a number of casinos near the border with neighbouring countries like Cambodia and Burma, which normally are linked to powerful people or politicians. In the northern border of Chiang Rai province and Burma alone there are at least five major casinos in Thachilek Township and the Golden Triangle area.

However, Thai law allows border crossing to the casinos only during official hours. But some people cross illegally or bribe local officials to allow them to cross.


Landmines halt refugee return in Karen State

by Brian McCartan
Tuesday, 29 September 2009 18:55

Mae Sot, Thailand (Mizzima) - Fighting largely came to an end in Karen State’s central Hlaing Bwe Township three months ago, but villagers who fled to Thailand in June to avoid the offensive are still afraid to go home. They say that unless landmines are removed, the area will still be too dangerous when Thai permission for their stay runs out at the end of the rainy season.

A forced recruitment campaign by the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), which began in May and a joint DKBA-Burmese Army offensive in June resulted in several thousand Karen villagers fleeing the area. Temporary refugee sites were set up at Noh Boh, Oo Thu Hta and Mae Salit villages in Thailand’s Tha Song Yang district.

The unusual rainy season offensive ended when Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) troops pulled out of their border camps on June 13 to wage a more mobile guerrilla campaign. Refugees continued to come out in small groups as people fled forced labour involving portering for DKBA and Burmese troops and a continued forced conscription campaign. By September the camp population had grown to 4,862 refugees.

Permission has only been granted by the Thai authorities until the end of the rainy season, which usually ends in late October or early November. At that point, refugees must choose between moving to Mae La refugee camp or going back to Burma. Remaining at the sites is not an option and anyone doing so will be considered an illegal immigrant and deported.

So far, the refugees have chosen to remain in the temporary camps rather than go to Mae La directly out of hope that when the rains finish they can return home. However, a DKBA move to systematically landmine abandoned villages and the western riverbank of the Moei River which separates Burma and Thailand makes those plans extremely dangerous.

According to a report released by the Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) last week, DKBA troops began laying mines in August throughout the area of the recent offensive. Citing the testimony of six DKBA deserters, the rights group claims the mines are being laid in villages, fields and trails that may be used by the KNLA – and also by villagers – and along the bank of the Moei River.

Although DKBA officers were asked to remove the mines by refugee leaders as a condition to returning, nothing was done. Instead, the laying of new mines suggests the groups have no intention of making the area safe for returning villagers.

The tactic is similar to one Karen military officers and officials, human rights monitors and villagers say the Burmese Army uses in insurgent areas in northern Karen State to deny whole areas to both KNLA troops and civilians seeking food and shelter. Hundreds of villagers are killed or injured each year, they claim, by mines laid in fields, under homes and along trails known to be used by villagers. Cows, buffaloes and pigs on which villagers are dependant for meat and to sell for cash to buy food are also killed by the mines. The DKBA has agreed to begin transforming itself into a Border Guard Force under the control of the Burmese Army beginning next month.

The DKBA uses a mix of homemade mines often constructed with gunpowder and other explosives and metal or plastic pipes with battery-driven detonators, as well as factory produced mines obtained either on the black market or directly from the Burmese Army. While the homemade mines are only dangerous as long as their batteries last, about three to six months, the factory produced mines can remain a threat for years.

Presumably, once the DKBA becomes a part of the army it will begin exclusively using the factory produced versions from army stocks. It was one of these factory made mines that human rights researchers believed severely injured a 13 year old boy two weeks ago. The boy and three of his friends had gone back to their village from the temporary site at Oo Thu Hta, in order to tend buffaloes. The buffaloes represent their families’ only real wealth and are raised by villagers for use in the fields as well as to be sold to generate extra money.

Following the explosion, the boy was carried to the Thai side of the border and sent on to Mae Sot hospital. Doctors were forced to amputate his right leg and his left is so badly injured it may have to be amputated as well. According to information obtained by KHRG, the landmine was likely a Burmese-produced M-14 anti-personnel mine given to the DKBA.

Another villager stepped on a mine during the first week of July at Wah Mee Klah village in the same area. He had returned to his now abandoned village after serving as a forced labourer and DKBA recruit to find out the whereabouts of his family.

In a 2006 report, the Backpack Health Worker Team, a group of relief workers based out of Mae Tao clinic near Mae Sot, estimated that up to 1,500 people are killed or injured every year by landmines in Burma. A 2004 survey by the groups revealed that 13.4 of every 10,000 people inside Burma’s border areas were injured by landmines that year, although research for that study was confined to conflict-ridden areas of eastern Burma.

According to the 2008 Landmine Monitor report, landmines continue to be used in Karen, Karenni, Shan and Mon States as well as Pegu and Tenasserim Divisions. While the greatest user remains the Burmese Army, their transfer and use by allied insurgent groups such as the DKBA poses an increased risk to civilian populations. Hlaing Bwe township where the recent fighting took place, along with neighbouring Myawaddy township to the south were previously considered the two most heavily landmined areas in Burma although casualties had fallen in recent years.

The DKBA’s landmine campaign in the area and its transformation into a government-controlled force with access to large stocks of factory made mines, together with its push to take control of areas of Karen State still outside its reach suggest that deaths and injuries from mines, especially of civilians is likely to increase in coming months.

It will also mean that large areas of Karen State will become uninhabitable for some time until the mines can be cleared.

KNLA demolishes DKBA’s bulldozer and excavator

by Don Talenywun
Tuesday, 29 September 2009 19:26

Mae Sot, Thailand (Mizzima) - A demolition operation by the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), an ethnic armed rebel group, has destroyed a D6 Caterpillar bulldozer and a 20-tonne excavator near the village of Ta-ah Tah in Karen State in Burma.

The special KNLA squad, formed with soldiers of the Sixth Brigade’s 201 and 103 battalions, took the machines out with two kilograms of TNT.

The depot is on the western side of the southern reaches of the Dawna Mountain Range, about five days’ walk from the Burmese border town of Myawaddy.

KNLA forward scouts strapped the explosives under the engines and detonated them at 1 am on September 21 with a remote.

Sources said the machines were used in mining and in building the new military road by the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, a group that broke away from the Karen National Union, the political wing of the KNLA.

DKBA soldiers reportedly gave chase after the explosions rocked their depot.

The KNLA soldiers evaded their pursuers, from the DKBA’s 907 Battalion, for more than two hours, and then led them into a claymore booby trap, killing two and seriously injuring two others.

The D6 Caterpillar was estimated to be worth about three million Thai Baht and the excavator two million Baht. They were the only two machines stationed at the depot.

DKBA Battalion 907 was instrumental in the offensive against KNLA’s Seventh Brigade during June and July this year that forced more than 5,000 Karen villagers across the Thai border.

Battalion 907 has since been deployed to the Sixth Brigade region.

The formation of a special demolition squad specifically to destroy the machines would seem to be an extension of the KNU Vice President David Thackrabaw’s declaration earlier this year that the KNLA had to start operating “deep behind enemy lines”.

The KNLA has endured serious territorial losses in the past 12 months.

RI hails US’s new Burma policy

by Mungpi
Tuesday, 29 September 2009 18:31

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Refugee International on Monday hailed the United States for including an increase in humanitarian assistance to the Burmese people in its new policy announced by the State Department and urged the Congress to provide adequate funding for assistance to the Southeast Asian nation.

In a statement released after the announcement of the Burma policy by the State Department on Monday, RI said, International humanitarian aid for the Burmese people has not kept pace with the needs but applauded the new policy saying it would correct a long-standing flaw in US policy on Burma.

Joel Charny, Acting President of Refugees International said, “Allowing desperately needed assistance to reach the Burmese people corrects a long-standing flaw in U.S. policy towards Burma.”

“For years, the policy has doubly punished the Burmese people: they have suffered under a regime that directly contributes to their daily hardships, while being denied life-saving assistance by the U.S. government. This new policy will increase desperately needed assistance to the Burmese people through independent channels,” added Charny.

The US State Department on Monday announced the new policy on Burma, which was under review for the past seven months, revealing the US’s willingness to engage the Burmese military regime directly while maintaining the existing sanctions.

Under successive administrations, the US has maintained strict financial and economic sanctions on Burmese military rulers including freezing of their assets and banning travel to the US.

However, since early 2009, the Obama administration announced a review of the policy, which was concluded after seven months.

Under the new policy, the US will engage the Burmese regime, increase humanitarian assistance to the Burmese people and will only phase out sanctions if the Burmese Generals show progress in political change in the country.

“Now that the Administration has announced its intention to support humanitarian aid inside Burma, Congress should ensure that it fully funds this programme in 2010,” said Charny.

“Refugee International supports the Senate appropriation of at least $39.8 million for Burma, and agrees that this money should be used wherever the greatest need exists, both inside the country and for refugees forced to flee to neighbouring states," added Charny.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Burma received US $ 4.08 per person in 2007 as overseas development assistance, which is less than any of the poorest 55 countries, where the average assistance is more than US$ 42 per person.

Burma, according to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), has the 13th lowest GDP per capita in the world. An average Burmese family spends 75 per cent of their income on securing food.

RI said, “The Burmese people perpetually live on the brink of a humanitarian crisis, and Cyclone Nargis proved that further disruption can be disastrous.”

In the aftermath of the deadly Cyclone Nargis, which left more than 140,000 dead or missing and devastated over 2.4 million people’s lives, the U.S. contributed US$ 75 million as emergency relief.

RI said the US’s efforts in the aftermath of the cyclone shows that it is possible to provide aid inside the country transparently and effectively.

“However, prior to the cyclone, U.S. contributions were a meagre $3 million per year for a country of 55 million people,” the RI said.


US to engage Burmese regime, sanctions to remain

by Mungpi
Tuesday, 29 September 2009 15:15

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The United States on Monday said it will directly engage with Burma’s military regime but will continue maintaining existing sanctions, and also consult regional countries including China and India in seeking change in Burma.

Kurt M. Campbell, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told reporters on Monday that the US intends to start direct dialogue with the Burmese authorities to pave the way towards better relations.

“We recognized that ultimately, we need to change our methods but not our goals. And I think at this early stage, it’s important to suggest that we are prepared to sit down, but also recognize that nothing has changed yet on the ground or in terms of some of the activities that Burma has been involved with,” Campbell said.

The dialogue, Campbell said, will include specific discussion of democracy and human rights inside Burma, cooperation on international security issues including nonproliferation and compliance with 1874 and 1718 of the UNSC resolution, and areas that could be of mutual benefit such as counter narcotics and recovery of World War II era remains.

The US will continue to push Burma for the immediate and unconditional release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners, an end to conflicts with ethnic minorities and gross human rights violations, and initiation of a credible political dialogue with the opposition and ethnic minority leaders on the process of reconciliation and reform, he added.

Campbell, who on Wednesday would testify before a Congressional Committee on Burma, said, “If Burma makes meaningful progress towards these goals, it will be possible to improve the relationship with the United States in a step-by-step process.”

But Campbell said, the US would continue to maintain existing sanctions until there is concrete progress towards reform.

“Lifting sanctions now would send the wrong signal. We will tell the Burmese that we will discuss easing sanctions only if they take actions on our core concerns. We will reserve the option to apply additional targeted sanctions, if warranted, by events inside Burma,” he added.

In terms of humanitarian assistance, Campbell said the US will continue its commitment to the Burmese people by expanding humanitarian assistance to the extent that it is believed to be reaching the people in need.

But on the Burmese junta’s planned election in 2010, Campbell said, the US will take a measured approach to the elections until the electoral conditions can be assessed and know whether opposition and ethnic groups will be able to participate.

“We are skeptical that the elections will be either free or fair, but we will stress to the Burmese the conditions that we consider necessary for a credible electoral process,” he added.

Campbell said, the US alone cannot meet all these goals and that it will increase efforts to engage its partners in intergovernmental forum and the region to promote change inside Burma.

Besides consulting the EU, Australia, Canada, Japan, and the UN and others in working towards the common goal of a democratic transition in Burma, Campbell said, “We will also intensify our engagement with ASEAN, China, and India to press the Burmese leadership to reform and to participate responsibly in the international community.”

Meanwhile, Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein, in his speech at the UN General Assembly, said sanctions are ‘unjust’ and hurt Burmese people and caused negative impacts on the economy of the country.

“Sanctions are being employed as a political tool against Myanmar [Burma] and we consider them unjust. Such acts must be stopped,” said Thein Sein.

Earlier in the day, Thein Sein met United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who reiterated his expectations that Burma would respond to the proposals he gave to Burmese senior leadership during his last visit in July.

Thein Sein, before his speech at the UNGA on Wednesday, also met Senator James Webb, who is a strong advocate of engagement with the Burmese regime, and discussed on US-Burma relations.

“The meeting was a continuation of a dialogue begun last month. The Administration’s new policy and the commitment of the Myanmar government to holding elections next year are both signals that we have the potential to change the dynamic of this important relationship,” Webb said in a statement posted on his website.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Burmese PM toes familiar line in UN speech

by Mizzima News
Tuesday, 29 September 2009 01:24

Mizzima News - In a much anticipated speech in front of the United Nations General Assembly, Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein delivered a short address largely rehashing the regime’s long held political vision for Burma and echoing standard junta ideology.

“The transition to democracy is proceeding,” Thein Sein informed delegates. “Our focus is not on the narrow interest of individuals, organizations or parties but on the larger interest of the entire people of the nation” – a line of thinking consistent with the regime’s conflation of the interests of the military with that of the nation, in constant vigilance against national disintegration.

Reaffirming the validity of the May 2008 constitutional referendum, in which a dubious 92.48 percent of voters are claimed to have supported the draft, the Burmese representative left no doubt that the military regime intends to continue apace with its self-styled “roadmap to democracy” – despite persistent criticism from the Burma’s democratic opposition, activists and members of the international community.

“Democracy cannot be imposed from the outside and a system suitable for Myanmar [Burma] can only be born out of Myanmar [Burmese] society,” iterated Thein Sein.

The Burmese Prime Minister further lashed out the perceived unjustness and violence of employing sanctions, a hallmark of United States and European Union foreign policy vis-à-vis Burma.

“As sanctions are indiscriminate and of themselves a form of violence, they cannot legitimately be regarded as a tool to promote human rights and democracy,” thundered the Prime Minister, claiming sanctions are employed to influence political and economic development without consideration of historical and cultural background.

In substitute of sanctions, the Burmese delegate prospered that more developed countries should increase levels of Official Direct Assistance (ODA) to lesser-privileged states. Such an approach has been central to China’s foreign policy in recent years – a formula opponents’ claim often ignores human rights issues.

Joining ranks with a myriad of countries represented in the General Assembly but not in the Security Council, Thein Sein urged the prioritization of United Nations reform with an aim to fomenting a more democratic decision-making process.

However, the Burmese representative also tentatively reached out to U.S. President Barack Obama, congratulating the recently completed Summit Meeting of the Security Council, chaired by Obama, in which emphasis was given to the elimination of nuclear weapons.

“We consider that pending the total elimination of nuclear weapons we should pursue efforts towards the conclusion of a universal, unconditional and legally binding instrument on security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon States,” said Thein Sein, adding that all states should have the right to enjoy the peaceful benefits of nuclear energy.

Touching on the world’s present economic plight, the Prime Minister blamed the current global financial crisis for such domestic social maladies as rising food and energy prices – two issues which helped to ignite the most recent spate of mass protests in Burma, the Saffron Revolution of 2007.

Prior to ceding the podium, Thein Sein – praising the work of the Tripartite Core Group in the wake of last year’s devastating Cyclone Nargis – appealed to the international community to meet the projected costs of Nargis-related recovery and rehabilitation, stating that donors have thus far only pledged to cover half the projected 691 million dollar price tag of the Post Nargis Recovery and Preparedness Plan (PONREPP).


Activists fling shoes at Burmese FM in New York

by Mungpi
Tuesday, 29 September 2009 00:07

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Burmese activists in New York on Monday threw shoes at visiting Foreign Minister Nyan Win, an act of opposition against his representation of the Southeast Asian nation at the 64th United Nations General Assembly.

Moe Thee Zun, a former student leader and activist, said he, along with nearly 20 friends, laid in wait of the Burmese Foreign Minister near his guest house and flung shoes and other objects toward the car conveying Nyan Win to United Nations headquarters.

“I took off my shoes and flung them at Nyan Win, the sight of him makes me angry,” said Moe Thee Zun, who as a student leader in 1988 took to the streets in Rangoon, leading mass protests demanding democracy.

“These men should not be representing our people, whom they are brutally killing and suppressing,” he added, satisfied that he and several of his friends flung shoes and other materials at the Burmese FM.

One protester “threw his coffee and there were stains on the car, though it did not get on Nyan Win,” he added.

Both Nyan Win and Prime Minister Thein Sein, who are attending the General Assembly, are lodged in East Gates Hotel on 39th Street in New York, and are the first Burmese generals to attend the annual congregation in14 years.

On Monday, Thein Sein delivered a speech at the General Assembly, prior to which he met with Senator James Webb, a strong advocate of engagement with the military regime, to discuss US-Burma relations.

“We did not realize that Thein Sein was in a separate car. We thought he was along with Nyan Win in the same car, but later we saw him in another car,” said Moe Thee Zun.

He said, the Burmese generals should not be representing the people of Burma, as they are not the legitimate government elected by the people.

Moe Thee Zun said he and his friends are gearing up for another round of surprise attacks on the Burmese delegation when they return to their hotel in the evening.


Junta’s response to Suu Kyi will judge Burma’s future: Observers

by Salai Pi Pi
Monday, 28 September 2009 23:03

New Delhi (Mizzima) - There will be a positive change in Burma if the military junta responds properly to the offer of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to initiate discussions on having sanctions lifted, Burmese observers said.

Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s party the National League for Democracy (NLD) on Saturday sent a letter to the head of the Burmese military junta Senior General Than Shwe, in which Suu Kyi says she will cooperate with the regime in persuading lifting of sanctions imposed by western countries.

“The offer indicates that Suu Kyi has softened her stance towards the Burmese regime with the intention of addressing the country’s political problem,” Win Min, Thailand based Burmese academic specializing on the Burma issue told Mizzima.

“There are some prospects of positive change if the regime responds to the approach of Suu Ky and the United States,” he added.

Aung San Suu Kyi in her letter dated September 25, 2009 outlined three requirements for effectively lifting of sanctions against the regime. These are to have an in-depth knowledge of all sanctions imposed on Burma, to learn the extent of consequences suffered by Burma as a result of sanctions and to access the opinion and attitude of the countries which imposed sanctions against Burma.

In order to carry out the task, the letter said, Aung San Suu Kyi should be allowed to talk to the Charge d’Affairs of the US to Burma, the European Union (EU)’s ambassador to Burma and Australia ambassador to Burma.

“As she (Suu Kyi) has been under house arrest for so long, she needs to know the details of the sanction’s and its implication,” Nyan Win, NLD’s spokesperson told Mizzima.

In 2007, Aung San Suu Kyi had tried to cooperate with the Burmese junta for the lifting of sanctions.

Last week, Aung San Suu Kyi also welcomed the announcement of the US Foreign Secretary Hillary Clinton that the US will shift its policy towards Burma by engaging directly with the regime.

The US began imposing sanctions in 1997 against Burma for its poor human rights records and failure to initiate political reforms in the country. The sanctions were intensified in 2008 after the junta’s bloody crackdown on monk-led protests in September 2007.

Earlier, the Burmese regime had blamed Suu Kyi saying that she has steadfastly supported sanctions of US led western countries against the country.

Some experts said, sanctions had increased the poverty of the country and had resulted in the high rate of unemployment as there are few business investments in the country.

“Suu Kyi never supported sanctions,” Nyan Win said.

Nyo Ohn Myint, a Burmese observer told Mizzima that Than Shwe tried to cover the mismanagement, which led to the deterioration of the country’s economy, by blaming Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD saying that sanctions had increased poverty in Burma.

“For the sake of the people and for national reconciliation in the country, she possibly changed her stance and approached the regime,” Nyo Ohn Myint said.

Suu Kyi’s party the NLD on Sunday marked the 21st anniversary of the party’s formation in 1988, and urged the regime to release all political prisoners including Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and to allow the party to reopen party offices across the country to help begin its activities.

The NLD won a landslide victory in the 1990 elections but the junta refused to honour the results. Instead, the regime forcibly endorsed its constitution in 2008 and plans to hold elections in 2010.

Recently, Win Tin, told Mizzima that NLD has not decided yet to contest the elections but said, “We will be involved if the NLD thinks the election will benefit the people.”

There are some expectations on the progress in political changes in Burma after the US and Aung San Suu Kyi made their offer to the regime on the lifting of sanctions, Win Min said.

“If it continues to commit human rights abuses, does not allow the parties to conduct its activities freely and does not permit Aung San Suu Kyi to contest the elections and refuses to free all political prisoners including Suu Kyi, there is not much hope for the possibility of change in Burma”.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Affluent Burmese can opt for career as pilot

by Phoe Zaw
Monday, 28 September 2009 21:23

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Ambitious and well heeled Burmese people, who might be in search of a career in flying, can now apply at a flying school in the Philippines by paying 35,000 US dollars.

An official of the Myanmar Golden Bridge Co. Ltd, in Rangoon’s Yakin Suburban Township said they have linked up with “The Cyclone Flying School” in Lyzon City in Philippines, offering admission to young Burmese people, who have passed Matriculation, and are looking at a career as a pilot.

“The applicants are required to have healthy lungs as they will be flying at high altitudes and should not be colour-blind. We provide services linking the school and provide pick-up to and from airports, and paying the school fees,” said the company official.

The training, which will be for seven to ten months, will be conducted by former Philippine pilots and will include theory and 200 hours of flying time as practical training.

The official said, the total fee of US$ 35,000 must be paid in three installments but students are required to pay extra for their food during the training, which is estimated to be around US$ 5,000.

On completion of the training, students will be ready to fly small planes and cargo aircraft but would still require 1,500 hours of flying time before they can fly big aircraft.

But so far, the Myanmar Golden Bridge Co. Ltd., which began operations in 2008, has been able to send only three students to the pilot training course in the Philippines.

Webb to meet Burmese Prime Minister

by Mungpi
Monday, 28 September 2009 20:48

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein, currently in New York to attend the 64th General Assembly of the United Nations, will meet US Senator James Webb, a strong advocate of engagement with the regime, on Monday.

Webb’s office said, the Virginia Senator has accepted an invitation by the UN Under-Secretary-General Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed to meet the Burmese Prime Minister on Monday in New York.

“I appreciate Ambassador Reed’s initiative in arranging this meeting, and I look forward to continuing the dialogue with Prime Minister Tein Shein that was begun last month,” Webb said in a statement issued by his office.

Webb last week also met Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win, who is visiting Washington from New York, where he is attending the UNGA, and discussed U.S.-Burma relations.

Thein Sein, who will be delivering a speech at the General Assembly on Monday, is the senior most Burmese official to attend the UNGA in 14 years. The last time it was the Burmese Vice-Senior General Maung Aye, who attended the UNGA in 1995.

Webb, who is chairman of the East Asia and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, has led an effort in Congress to comprehensively evaluate the effectiveness of U.S. policy towards Burma, including the U.S.-imposed economic sanctions that have not been matched by other countries.

The Democrat Senator, during his visit to Burma as part of the five-country visit to Southeast Asia, met the Burmese junta supremo Senior General Than Shwe and detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Webb on Wednesday will hold a comprehensive hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to examine Burma’s current economic and political situation and to seek testimony regarding that country’s long history of internal turmoil and ethnic conflicts.

“The hearing will further evaluate U.S. policy towards Burma, including U.S. sanctions; will discuss what role the United States can and should play in promoting democratic reform in Burma; and hear testimony on how to frame a new direction for U.S.-Burma relations,” the statement said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said, the new US policy on Burma would include direct engagement with the Burmese military regime, while maintaining the previous policy’s economic sanctions, which observers call using both “carrot and stick”.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s offer to Than Shwe on sanctions

by Mungpi
Monday, 28 September 2009 20:18

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Burma’s detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has said she needs to talk to representatives of the United States, the European Union and Australia as a first step to persuade them to lift economic sanctions on the Southeast Asian nation.

In a letter to Snr Gen Than Shwe, on September 25, the detained Nobel Peace Laureate said, she is willing to work with the junta for the lifting of sanctions on Burma and asked to be allowed to hold talks with representatives of the countries that have imposed the sanctions.

Aung San Suu Kyi, general secretary of the National League for Democracy, also said, in order to work for the removal of sanctions, the extent and consequences of the sanctions must be understood. It will also require understanding of the stand of the countries that imposed the sanctions.

In order to understand the stance of the countries, which had imposed sanctions, the Burmese democracy leader said she needs to be allowed to talk to the Charge d’Affairs of United States, Ambassadors of the European Union and Australia to discuss lifting of sanctions.

The letter, according to her party’s spokesperson Nyan Win, was sent to Nay Pyi Taw on Saturday, after consultations with her on the text and contents.

“I drafted the letter and got it approved from Daw Suu and sent it to Naypyitaw,” Nyan Win said.

Aung San Suu Kyi, in the letter also asked the junta to allow her to talk to her party in order to discuss the sanctions.

The democracy icon’s proposal comes at a time when the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a preview of the US policy towards Burma, which is under review and will soon be completed.

Clinton, in her preview of the Burma policy on the sidelines of the 64th UN General Assembly, said the US would directly engage with the Burmese military regime while maintaining economic sanctions.

Clinton said the US has not opted for engagement for sanctions, but is willing to increase engagement with Naypyitaw as sanctions alone in the past have failed to bring the desired behavioural change in the military leaders of Burma.

Nyan Win said Aung San Suu Kyi has welcomed Clinton’s preview of US’s Burma policy, but said the US should engage both the military regime and opposition groups including her party.

Since the Obama regime came to power, there has been much talk about US’s policy on Burma. Clinton in February said US sanctions has failed but also said engagement by neighbouring countries also failed to bring change in Burma.

Pro-engagement groups, including Senator James Webbs, who visited Burma in August, argue that sanctions hurt the ordinary Burmese people and only push the generals further into isolation and reduce the US’s influence on them.

But pro-sanction groups see the mass poverty of the Burmese people as the mismanagement of the economy by the regime and sanctions has not added but only punished the generals. It sends them messages that the international community does not tolerate their actions.

Nyo Ohn Myint, in-charge of Foreign Affairs Committee of the NLD in exile said, even if the US does not lift sanctions, if they begin engaging with the regime, it could still send a wrong message to it. The regime might interpret that it is being legally accepted.

“Once the US begins engaging with the regime, it would be a kind of acceptance of their rule,” Nyo Ohn Myitn told Mizzima in a recent interview.


Tensions on the rise inside refugee camps

by Don Talenywun
Monday, 28 September 2009 13:09

Umphang, Thailand (Mizzima) – Trouble is brewing among the refugees of Burma’s civil war. Stranded in northern Thailand, fed on rations donated by the international community, unable to travel freely and not allowed to work, tensions among refugees in camps strung out along Burma’s border are ready to blow.

Umpheim Mai refugee camp is on tenterhooks, with violence threatening to break out among residents at any time. A football game on Saturday afternoon descended into crowd violence at
game’s end, with gangs of young men attacking each other. Some camp residents described it as a mini riot. The current trouble started earlier this month, with the murder of a Burmese resident after he allegedly failed to pay for a cow.

When it became obvious the buyer could not pay, the owner is said to have sought his money back, only to find that the beast had already been slaughtered. The dispute escalated rapidly from a verbal altercation between two groups of men into physical violence.

Whatever ensued, the alleged buyer is now dead. The camp, situated in Thailand’s Tak Province to the south of Mae Sot and officially home to about 15,000 people, spent months earlier this year on high security alert in anticipation of an attack by the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, a militia allied with the Burma Army – and these latest events have done nothing to ease tensions.

Rumors ran wild that the remote camp would be destroyed by hostile forces, forcing much of the population to pack-up and be ready to flee at moment’s notice. It only takes a rumor for a large group of isolated, traumatized people to react unpredictably to minor events.

Law and order in the camps has long been a taboo subject with Thai authorities, charged with policing communities that would not exist but for the grinding war of attrition in Burma’s ethnic minority-dominated periphery.

Thai authorities maintain stringent guidelines for allowing Burmese citizens to become part of the camps, requiring them to be fleeing fighting. Economic migrants or those fleeing human rights abuses do not qualify as refugees, inadvertently creating a vast pool of people who have quietly slipped over Burma’s borders to form an illegal workforce.

This workforce, satisfied to work for as little as half the wage of a Thai worker, is estimated by some organizations to number as many as two million. But for those who do qualify as people who have literally run for their lives, containment in a refugee camp and an inability to achieve anything for themselves results in a frustrated existence.

In Umpheim Mai refugee camp on Saturday that frustration bubbled over into mob violence.

“Football is banned now,” said one refugee. “And rumor from on high is that the Palat [Thai camp commander] may close the gates [put the camp into total lockdown]. I’ve never seen it like this before. Thai patrols through the camp are clipped up and ready to go [carrying live ammunition in the event they have to quash a riot],” he added.
Sunday, September 27, 2009

US policy shift: The generals are dancing well

by Nyo Ohn Myint
Saturday, 26 September 2009 13:17

Mizzima News - (Commentary) Many observers, political activists and interested parties are wondering why the United States has finally decided to engage with Burma’s military regime. Obviously, Burma policy is part of United States foreign policy under President Obama’s new era of global engagement. However, whether Burma becomes a special case for the State Department, only time will tell.

“Burma’s political development is very complicated and the US government has taken this position with a hope of promoting stability,” recently speculated a Yunnan University researcher who does not wish to be named.

“Strengthening bilateral relations between the US and Myanmar [Burma] government more or less impacts ceasefire groups that live along the Sino-Burma border,” he continued. To date, ceasefire groups have enjoyed various favors and commercial prosperity in balancing relations between China and the Burmese military regime for two decades.

With the Burmese military’s recent offensives against ceasefire groups along the Chinese border, Senior General Than Shwe urgently needs US government backing. He needs to realize the fruition of the seven-step roadmap to democracy for his own personal security – consolidating the military rank and file and washing his hands of an alleged pro-China sentiment. For better or worse, he has to get out from under the shadow of China to deal with major ceasefire groups. He was not able to aggressively deal with ceasefire groups as long as he was getting diplomatic, economic and political support from China. He needs the US government on his side.

What does the Burmese military regime expect from the US government? With the current administration dispensing with the idealism of the Bush era, the junta hopes for an easing of sanctions, the reconvening of normal relations with few strings attached and tacit endorsement of its roadmap.

For its part, President Obama’s administration feels tired of a policy consisting merely of pressure, preferring to instead deal with perceived political reality. Unconvinced of the Burmese opposition’s strategy to instill change, the US government is perhaps seeking to preempt growing Chinese influence in the region over the course of the next decade.

The US seems to believe that better communication with the regime will profit all parties, including the NLD. The US administration needs to find a political space for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi under any new policy. The President and Secretary of State do realize that her moral authority cannot be marginalized while creating a new US policy – a fact that greatly complicates the equation.

The US shift did not occur without first considering the views of ASEAN and Burmese internal dynamics. Maybe ten years from now the opposition will take part in a full process of democratization, but for now the US seems to buy what the Senior General is offering – and something is deemed better than nothing.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

More Korean textile units keen to invest in Burma

by Salai Pi Pi
Friday, 25 September 2009 23:14

New Delhi (Mizzima) – More Korean textile industries are keen to invest in Burma with the general elections due in 2010 in the military ruled country.

Speaking to Mizzima, Mr. Lee Seung Woo, a staff member of the Trade and Marketing Team of The Korea Federation of Textile Industries (KOFOTI) said that Burma, where labour is cheap, will be one of its options for further investments in the textile industry in the future after it shifted its interest from China to Southeast Asian countries.

“The labour wages in Myanmar [Burma] are cheaper than in Vietnam and other ASEAN countries. That’s why we are interested in Myanmar,” Mr. Lee said.

Korea has about 30 factories producing garments in military ruled Burma where the labour cost is no more than US dollar 35 a month.

However, Lee said, more investments will be possible if there is democratization in the country after the 2010 election.

“We are watching the political situation in Burma. The more the democratization, more investment will be made in Burma,” he said.

In order to promote bilateral trade and investment, KOFOTI has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA) in Rangoon, the former capital of Burma on September 10.

“We just concluded a MOU to promote bilateral trade and investment,” Lee said, “We would like to have more friendly relations with Burma.”

While more companies are interested in increasing their investments in Burma, Lee said, Korean garment factory owners complained about the difficulties in importing machines for producing textiles and the export tax imposed by the regime.

“They have a hard time doing business. Especially in importing machines for producing textiles and the export tax imposed,” said Lee and added that the Burmese regime collected 10 per cent as export tax.

However, Myint Soe, Chairman of the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA) said, he did not acknowledge that Korean companies were having a problem in importing machines for manufacturing textile products.

Korean textile companies including Dae Woo are currently exporting products to Japan and some EU countries as it cannot access the U.S. which is the largest textile market in the world, said Lee.

Burma’s garment industry was hardly hit by sanctions imposed by the U.S for the country’s poor record of human rights and its failure to implement political reforms.

“If there is democratization in Myanmar after the 2010 elections, the US is likely to lift its sanctions,” Lee said.

NUP to contest election with fresh blood

by Ni Moe Myint
Friday, 25 September 2009 19:47

Rangoon (Mizzima) – The National Unity Party (NUP) will contest the 2010 election with new blood rather than elders, party Joint Secretary Khin Maung Gyi said at a press conference this morning.

“It’s time to induct fresh blood into our party. We will contest the election with youths,” Khin Maung Gyi said at the 21st party founding anniversary held at its headquarters on University Avenue.

NUP has shortlisted 500 youths across the country who will contest in about 300 constituencies.

But Khin Maung Gyi did not disclose what role the elder leaders will play.

“The Divisional Party Committees concerned will decide which constituencies and townships they would contest. But we can say we will mainly contest in townships in proper Burma (plain areas) rather than in areas inhabited by ethnic nationalities,” a CEC member and political movement committee secretary Thein Tun said.

Among the 10 registered political parties, like the main opposition NLD, NUP has branch offices across the country, but it has been silenced for the last two decades.

After the 1988 popular uprising, late dictator Ne Win’s ‘Burma Socialist Programme Party’ was transformed to NUP.

Thein Tun claimed that they had three million party sympathisers who would vote in the election for their party which believed in the Burmese way to Socialism.

“The official party membership was 550,000 when political parties were banned from doing party organizational work in 1992 by the government. Now these new forces are being organized as our core force. We can issue party membership cards to these people only when the election law is announced,” Thein Tun said.

When asked to comment on the 2008 constitution, which is largely controversial among the international community, former Trade Minister Khin Maung Gyi replied, “We have no comment on the constitution as it has been approved by over 90 per cent of ‘YES’ votes. The constitution has an essential and important role in all countries”.

He also said that they would forge an alliance with any party, which wanted it if they had the same policy and attitude as that of the NUP.

The parties formed in the pre-2010 election period are the Democratic Party led by U Thu Wei, Independent Candidates Network, Union Democratic Alliance led by veteran ethnic Shan politician U Shwe Ohn, some Third Force organizations, Kachin State Progressive Party, and ceasefire New Mon Land Party.

The military regime has announced the election would be held in 2010 and under the controversial constitution there would be 498 constituencies in Burma.

But the NLD, which won a landslide victory in the 1990 elections, but were not allowed to form the government and is still banned from undertaking party activities, demanded the regime make amendments in the constitution.


ICRC should revisit Burmese jails: AHRC

by Salai Pi Pi
Friday, 25 September 2009 20:32

New Delhi (Mizzima) - The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has urged the international community to mount pressure on Burma’s ruling junta to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to resume visits to detention centres, where widespread torture and abuses have been reported.

The Hong Kong-based, Rights group, in a statement on Thursday said maximum efforts are needed to renew the mandate of the ICRC in getting access to detention centres across Burma without delay, as some detainees have been tortured during interrogation.

“The physical and mental injuries caused in this period were either not adequately treated or not treated at all during the detainees' incarceration, causing some of them lifelong damage,” AHRC said.

AHRC’s call came following the release of about 120 political prisoners, as part of the Burmese military regime’s amnesty granted to 7,114 prisoners, on humanitarian grounds. The AHRC’s statement was supported by several political prisoners, who are among those released.

Myo Yan Naung Thein, a student activist, who was arrested in September 2007 and released as part of the amnesty told Mizzima he was severely beaten while questioning and was insulted.

“I was blind folded and was taken somewhere. As soon as I reached the interrogation centre, they all started kicking me,” he said.

A former Rangoon Technological Institute (RIT) student, Myo Yan Naung Thein, was released from Sittwe Prison, and is currently unable to walk properly as a result of lack of adequate treatment in prison.

“I was kept in a closed dark room. Sometimes, the prison authorities slapped and tortured me without asking any questions. But sometimes they questioned me the whole night without giving me any food,” he recalle.

He said, he was often tied behind and was given electric shocks.

Similarly, Katty Aung, a pregnant woman arrested for her husband Tun Tun’s involvement in September 2007 protests and sentenced to 25 years in prison, said she suffered a miscarriage after being detained and suffered heart attacks, but did not receive adequate treatment.

“When I was arrested, I was pregnant. But because of low blood pressure and insufficient food, I had a miscarriage,” she said.

AHRC said cases of ill-treatment and torture in the prisons across Burma are rampant but the situation has deteriorated after a halt to ICRC’s prison visits in 2005.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP-B), there are at least 2200 political prisoners including Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma.

AHRC said the renewal of ICRC’s prison visits, would be “a practical and quickly-implementable step to reduce the incidence of abuse and ameliorate some of its worst consequences.”

“If then this much cannot be done, what good can be said of the release of a few thousand shattered bodies, while tens of thousands more continue to have the same type of abuses heaped upon them daily?,” asked the group.

The ICRC carried out regular visits to detainees in prisons and labour camps from 1999 to the end of 2005 but suspended it when members of the junta-backed civil organisation –the Union Solidarity and Development Association - insisted on accompanying them in their prison visits, which is against the ICRC’s internationally-recognized conditions.

At present, the ICRC continues to support family visits to detainees and works to enhance the effectiveness of the Myanmar Red Cross Society.

Issuing Kyat 5,000 notes, signs of monetary erosion: expert

by Mungpi
Friday, 25 September 2009 19:20

New Delhi (Mizzima) - The surprise announcement to issue new 5,000 Kyat notes on Thursday by the military rulers, signals a serious erosion of the Kyat through inflation, and could cause a sharp fall in the value of the Burmese Kyat, an economic expert said.

Sean Turnell, Professor of Economics at the Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia said the announcement “signals above all the serious erosion of the Kyat through inflation. The issue of the new larger denomination note is official recognition of this.”

Burma’s state-run television on Thursday evening announced that a new 5,000 Kyat note would be in circulation from October 1, and all legal tender currency notes and coins will also continue to be in circulation.

The announcement, which came as a surprise to the people, also sparked apprehension of rising prices of commodities in anticipation of the soaring inflation rates. On Friday, traders in Rangoon said, the price of gold rose sharply to 600,000 Kyat (US $ 600) per Kyattha (1.63 gram), a rise of 24,000 Kyat from the earlier price.

“I predict a sharp fall in the value of the Kyat in the unofficial exchange market, as people moved into $US and other currencies whilst they see how the new currency pans out,” said Turnell, who has long monitored Burma’s economy.

He said people are likely to be apprehensive because of Burma's problematic monetary history, and the very destructive 'demonetisation' episodes that caused people to distrust the issue of new denominations.

“In the past, these [issuing new notes] have usually been accompanied by declarations that other denominations are declared to be no longer legal tender. So, people have a right to be nervous whenever something like this happens,” Turnell added.

Meanwhile, sources on the Sino-Burma border said, following the announcement on Thursday, traders were seen buying Chinese Yuan to be stocked causing a further fall of Burmese Kyat to 170 per 1 Yaun from the previous 160.

But in Thailand and Indian borders, traders said trade remained normal with the money exchange rates remaining more or less stable. Currently, the exchange rate between India and Burma is 21.5 Kyat per 1 Rupee. The exchange rate between Thai Baht and Kyat is 31 Kyat per 1 Baht.

While the announcement reaffirms the devaluation of the Kyat, Turnell said, the big notes would help people, who are used to large scale day to day transactions.

Turnell said, while it would be interesting to think what people will use the notes for, “One thing is certain - not as a 'store of value', since I think there is still widespread distrust in all Kyat money forms in Burma.”


Kachin rebels deny helping ULFA shift to Burma

by Salai Pi Pi
Friday, 25 September 2009 17:55

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Kachin Independence Army (KIA), an ethnic armed rebel group in Burma, has rubbished media-reports that it is helping a Northeast Indian rebel outfit in shifting its camps to KIA controlled areas, but did not rule out the possibility of the presence of the Indian rebels in other parts of Kachin state in Northern Burma.

A report in the Indian newspaper ‘The Telegraph’ quoting Indian army intelligence on Thursday said, India’s northeast rebels, particularly the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), has shifted its camp from Bangladesh to eastern Burma with the help of the KIA.

The report also said other groups such as Manipur’s People’s Liberation Army and the United National Liberation Front also have their bases in Kachin state.

But Col. Gum Maw, Deputy Chief-of-Staff of the KIA, said they severed connections with the ULFA or any other northeast Indian rebel groups after they signed a ceasefire agreement with Burma’s ruling junta in 1994.

“There is no such arrangement with KIA. It is not true that we had helped them to shift their camp from Bangladesh to Kachin state,” a KIO official said. However, he did not rule out the possibility of the presence of northeast rebels in Kachin state.

“After we signed a cease-fire agreement with the junta, we don’t have contact with them [Indian rebels] anymore,” he added.

However, the Telegraph report said, “There are nearly 3,000 ULFA cadres and their family members in Myanmar [Burma] camps. Of these, 1,200 to 1,500 are trained cadres. Sources said these camps are located deep inside Myanmarese [Burmese] territory.”

The report also quoted Indian army intelligence as saying, “Another major camp run by ULFA and Manipur insurgent groups is located at Bokkun in Myanmar (on the other side of the international border adjacent to Ukhrul district of Manipur).”

Sources on the Indo-Burma border earlier told Mizzima that Indian militant outfits have been seen camping in Tamu district of Sagaing division in North-western Burma, bordering India.

But the source failed to identify which groups the militants belong to.

Webb’s hearing on Burma to feature prominent Burma experts

by Mungpi
Friday, 25 September 2009 17:33

New Delhi (Mizzima) - United States Senator James Webb, a strong advocate of engagement with Burma, will have four Burma experts including Professor David I. Steinberg testifying on the importance of engagement with Burma, during the senate hearing he will chair on September 30.

The hearing, entitled “U.S. Policy Toward Burma: Its Impact and Effectiveness” will also have Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Department of State, Mr. Thant Myint-U, Burmese historian, Professor David C. Williams, and John S. Hastings Professor of Law at Indiana University Bloomington.

The hearing will review the current US policy of sanctions and discuss the role the US should adopt in promoting democratic changes in Burma, according to Webb’s office in a statement.

Secretary Hillary Clinton on Wednesday gave a preview of the Burma Policy, which she said is under review for over six months. She said the US has come up with a new policy of applying both sanctions and engagement with the Burmese regime.

While the fundamental objectives of achieving democratic changes in Burma remain the same, Clinton said, US will directly engage the Burmese military generals in order to open new channels of communication that will contribute in promoting change.

She had earlier in February said, the current US policy of imposing sanctions as well as the engagement policy of neighbouring countries, including members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), China and India have missed the target.

US State department spokesperson Ian Kelly, during a regular press briefing on Thursday, said Kurt Campbell will be leading the Burma policy along with several other interlocutors, who will be named soon.

Earlier the Senate Committee hearing was scheduled for October 1, but Webb’s office confirmed that the dates have been changed to September 30, at 3 p.m. (local time).

Friday, September 25, 2009

Clinton’s ‘Burma Policy’ preview: For better or worse?

by Mungpi
Thursday, 24 September 2009 23:07

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Washington’s preview of its Burma policy that will include engaging the Burmese generals has been received with mixed reactions with some saying it could be for the better but others maintaining it could render greater legitimacy to the rogue regime.

The US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday said Washington will engage directly with Burmese military generals in a bid to promote democratic changes in the Southeast Asian Nation.

Clinton, in her preview of the Burma policy review, which is soon to be concluded, said sanctions alone have not changed the behaviour of the Burmese government.

“We want credible, democratic reform; a government that respond to the needs of the Burmese people; immediate, unconditional release of political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi; serious dialogue with the opposition and minority ethnic groups,” Clinton said.

But she said, the fundamental objectives are not changed, and that US believes “that sanctions remain important as part of our policy, but by themselves, they have not produced the results that had been hoped for on behalf of the people of Burma.”

Earlier in February, Clinton had said, US is conducting a review of its Burma Policy as both western sanctions and engagement by regional countries have failed to produce substantive political change in Burma.

The policy preview, according to the Chiang Mai-based Burmese analyst Win Min, has come as expected including both ‘carrot and stick’.

“The policy is what we have all expected. It includes both sanctions and engagement. So, I think it is good. It is a combination of both ‘carrot and stick’,” Win Min said.

Win Min said, both the western sanctions as well as Burma’s neighbouring countries’ engagement policy have so far failed to bring about political change in the country and the combination of both could be a new approach.

“It will send a message to the generals that if they do good, the sticks would be lesser and the carrots would increase, but if they chose to continue behaving like this the carrots would decrease,” he added.

Clinton said, she had revealed the policy preview at the meeting of the Group of Friends of Burma convened by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, as she wished to let Burmese leaders, who are attending the UNGA, know of the process of the policy review.

“But I wanted to preview this policy for our partners in the Friends of Burma group, and also to signal that the United States will be moving in a direction of both engagement and continued sanctions, to be sure that the Burmese leaders – some of whom, as you know, are in our country or about to come to our country – understand where we are in our policy review process,” Clinton told reporters during a press briefing in New York.

Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win is currently in New York attending the 64th UNGA and he would be joined by Prime Minister Thein Sein, who will be arriving on Sunday, for the first time in 14 years, since the junta’s second in command Vice-Senior General Maung Aye attended in 1995.

The policy review, which has taken more than six months now, has been much debated among Burma observers, particularly, after Senator James Webb in August visited the military-ruled country and met junta leader Snr Gen Than Shwe and detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Supporters of engagement including Webb have said, US sanctions has negatively impacted the country’s economy and is further pushing the generals to isolation. It also puts the US in a position with no leverage to influence, while friends of the regime like China take a stronger foothold in the country.

But the mainstream Burmese opposition including senior members of Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, such as Win Tin, said sanctions are not the factor behind Burma’s poverty but sent a strong message to the junta that their actions are not acceptable and it must begin the national reconciliation process before they can be internationally accepted.

“For the Burmese junta, though they want the US to lift sanctions, this policy would be still good, as it would open up a new channel of communication. The junta wants to engage with the US, particularly as it draws closer to their elections in 2010,” Win Min said.

But he said, the engagement would not be in the way the junta wants it, and would require the regime to prove by improving the human rights situation in the country and moving forward with its political process.

“Because the policy has a check-and-balance,” he added.

But unlike Win Min, in-charge of Foreign Affairs Committee of the NLD in exiled, Nyo Ohn Myint said, the new policy, while incorporating both sanctions and engagement, would be largely legitimizing the junta.

“Once there is a channel of engagement, without any pre-conditions, it would only legitimise the junta. So, under the new policy, though sanctions are not abandoned, will send a message to the generals that they are being accepted and recognised by the US,” Nyo Ohn Myint said.

While admitting that sanctions have failed to produce the desired political changes, Nyo Ohn Myint said, the US should have pre-conditions such as release of political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi, and the start of a process of national reconciliation.

“It is also important to recognise the issue of ethnic groups, and their aspiration in the US policy, and the role of Aung San Suu Kyi in national reconciliation because by merely releasing her will not solve the problems,” he added.

Nyo Ohn Myint reiterates that the US should realise that engagement could be the beginning of their failed diplomacy on Burma and might not have the kind of leverage that they needed to push for change in the country.

While pro-engagement groups including Webb advocate that engagement with Burma would give greater economic development to the country as well as have more leverage to influence the ruling generals, but Nyo Ohn Myint said, it might only be legitimising the junta.

Aung Din, director of US Campaign for Burma, in an email message to Mizzima commented on Senator Webb’s advocacy on Burma that the senator is deriving his advocacy on the belief that sanctions and pressures by the US pushes the junta under the influence of China.

“In my opinion, [Webb] is trying to stop China's influence in Burma by engaging and supporting the regime. Democracy movement and egregious suffering of ethnic nationalities are not in his interest,” Aung Din said. He added that “We are hoping that the Obama's administration does not fall into [Webb]’s advocacy.” Aung Din said,

India, which was a strong supporter of the Burmese democracy movement, in their apprehension of increasing Chinese influence, changed its policy and adopted the “Look East” policy. But despite appeasing the junta with state visits, military training, loans, investments, and development assistance, India still failed to counter Chinese influence in Burma. “I hope the Obama's administration would not follow the path of India,” Aung Din said.


Arrested Nargis donors not allowed to meet families

by Pho Zaw
Thursday, 24 September 2009 22:58

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Five social activists including Dr. Wint Thu from Myingyan, Mandalay Division were arrested and detained at the Special Branch (SB) of the Police office at the foot of the Mandalay hill, a source who is close to Dr. Wint Thu's family said.

Pol. Col. Thet Wei from Mandalay Division SB along with 20 police personnel arrested five activists including Dr. Wint Thu without giving any reason, from their homes on September 16. When their family members learnt that they were being detained at the Divisional SB office, they went there and tried to meet them on September 22 but they were not allowed to do so.

"They are being held at the SB office. Their family members went there but were not allowed to meet them. No official came out and met them. Only a young policeman came out and told them that they could leave the parcels if they wished but they were not sure if these parcels would reach their family members. So they decided not to leave anything," a source close to Dr. Wint Thu's family told Mizzima.

The authorities arrested Dr. Wint Thu, Myo Han, Aung Myo Latt, Hla Myo Kyaw a.k.a. ET, Yargyi a.k.a. Soe Yarzar Phyu from their homes on September 16 at 3 a.m.

"About 20 police personnel in three police vehicles surrounded our house and asked about my brother. My elder brother was not at home. Only my mother was at home. When she asked them if they wanted to arrest my brother they said no. They just wanted to question him. My mother asked them to come in the afternoon. They said that the matter had come up a moment before. My brother visited the SB office next morning when he heard about his colleagues arrest," Dr. Wint Thu’s younger sister told Mizzima.

When Dr. Wint Thu heard about his brother-in-law Kyi Win being arrested by SB, he visited the SB office next morning. He was arrested. After that Kyi Win was released.

Dr. Wint Thu collected donation along with likeminded friends for Cyclone Nargis victims and donated tens of millions of Kyats.

Moreover they took an active part in the ‘White Campaign’ movement organized by the National League for Democracy (NLD), praying for the release of political prisoners including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at the pagoda by wearing white clothes. He and his colleagues were once mobbed at the pagoda by junta backed USDA members. And then about 200 people encircled the USDA members from outside. This incident was much talked about in Myingyan.

"He could donate tens of millions of Kyats to Nargis victims along with his friends. They constructed buildings for eight primary schools and paid salaries to about 30 teachers in these schools. I think he was arrested for these activities," Meiktila Township NLD Secretary Myint Myint Aye said.

Two days after Dr. Wint Thu and four other activists were arrested, another five persons including Than Htike Aung from No. 6 Ward, Myingyan were also picked up.

Ban urges junta to create conditions for credible election

by Mizzima News
Thursday, 24 September 2009 22:56

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The United Nations Secretary General on Wednesday urged the Burmese government to create conditions for credible elections in 2010 and to allow the UN a role in the process of national reconciliation.

Ban Ki-moon made the appeal in the meeting of the ‘Group of Friends on Myanmar’, which was attended by foreign ministers of 14 countries, on Wednesday.

In a statement released after the meeting Ban said the meeting has given the ‘Group of Friends’ a chance to consolidate unity in their support on Burma and “called on the Friends, especially Myanmar's [Burma] friends and neighbours, to do more in the best interests of Myanmar [Burma] and its people.”

Ban said the year 2010 is “critical” for Burma as the first elections in 20 years will be held. It must be “held in an inclusive and credible manner to advance prospects for stability, democracy and national development.”

The UN Chief also said he is encouraged by the participation of the ‘Group of Friends’ and the constructive discussions saying, “I welcome the willingness of the Friends to make joint efforts towards national reconciliation, a democratic transition and genuine respect for human rights in Myanmar.”

The group of friends, formed in 2007 by the World Body leader, is made up of Australia, Britain, China, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Norway, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam, plus the European Union.


Thai FM meets Friends of Burma

by Usa Pichai
Thursday, 24 September 2009 20:50

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) —The Thai Foreign Minister held discussions with the Group of Friends of UNSG on Myanmar. The group wants the general election in 2010 in Burma to be “free”.

On Wednesday the Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya participated in the High-Level Ministerial Meeting of the Group of Friends of UNSG on Myanmar (GoF) chaired by Mr Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, according to a statement released on Thursday from Thailand Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Kasit accompanied Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to attend the opening of the General Debate of the 64th Session of the UN General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York.

The participants, comprising Foreign Ministers or high-level representatives from 15 countries and the European Commission, expressed their appreciation and support to the good offices undertaken by the United Nations and Ibrahim Gambari, Special Advisor to the UNSG on Myanmar.

“They stressed that the general election to be held by the Myanmar government in 2010 has to be free, fair and inclusive. Prior to the GoF, the Foreign Minister had a bilateral meeting to exchange views on the issue with Mr. Gambari as well,” the statement added.

Foreign Minister Kasit also met Eric Schwartz, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. Both sides exchanged views on the issues of Laotian Hmongs and displaced persons from Burma who illegally entered Thailand.

On Tuesday Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva commented that the United States and Europe appeared to be moving towards engaging Burma rather than a policy of sanctions only as a means of encouraging political change in the military-ruled country, according to a report in Associated Press.

Abhisit told an audience at Columbia University, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly that Thailand shares a long border with Burma, and he believes talks with the country's military leaders are the best way to effect political change, improve human rights and curb drug trafficking.

"Engagement is more productive than alienation and isolation," said Abhisit. The United States and the European Union, he said, appear to be questioning the "thinking that more and more sanctions" will cause change. He did not elaborate.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also raised the issue at the UN General Assembly on the possibility of an eventual easing or lifting of sanctions if US engagement produces political changes in Burma.

Clinton told reporters that "we believe that sanctions remain important as part of our policy, but by themselves they have not produced the results that had been hoped for on behalf of the people of Burma. Clinton said she could "preview" the new approach towards Burma, because a policy review begun by the administration days after it assumed office in January was almost complete.


Burma to circulate 5,000 Kyat currency note

by Mizzima News
Thursday, 24 September 2009 20:15

(Mizzima) - Burma’s state-run media on Thursday announced that a new 5,000 Kyat denomination currency note will be in circulation from October 1.

The announcement by the Naypyitaw-based Central Bank of Myanmar on MRTV on Thursday evening said, the new currency note, that carries a picture of a white elephant and the Naypyitaw city, would be circulated as of October 1.

The announcement took the people by surprise and triggered fears of an impending price-hike, Mizzima’s correspondent in Rangoon said.
Thursday, September 24, 2009

US embassy protests maltreatment of detained citizen

by Mungpi
Thursday, 24 September 2009 15:13

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The US embassy in Rangoon has officially protested against the alleged maltreatment of detained American citizen, Kyaw Zaw Lwin (alias) Nyi Nyi Aung, as the Burmese junta on Thursday publicly announced his arrest.

Drake Weisert, Assistant Public Affairs Officer, at the US embassy in Rangoon told Mizzima that Kyaw Zaw Lwin made claims that he had been mistreated when the US consular officer visited him in Insein prison in Rangoon on Sunday.

“The U.S. Embassy has submitted an official message to the Government of Burma protesting the alleged mistreatment of an imprisoned American citizen,” Weisert said.

Sources said Kyaw Zaw Lwin was moved to several different interrogation centres since his arrest on September 3, until finally he was taken to the notorious Insein prison.

He was interrogated all through the night and tortured, where he had to tolerate punches on the face, kicks, and twisting of his arms and deprived of food for several days. Authorities also denied request for medical treatment.

Meanwhile, the Burmese junta in its mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar newspaper said Nyi Nyi Aung was arrested on September 3, on a tip-off by a ‘dutiful citizen’, at Rangoon International Airport as he entered the country from Thailand.

The newspaper said, Nyi Nyi Aung was arrested as he was known to be visiting Burma with the intention of creating unrest, in collaboration with activists inside the country.

The newspaper said, he had visited Burma eight times since November 2005 to September 2009. And he had also linked up with exiled Burmese activists and provided financial assistance to underground activists inside Burma to carry out sabotage and to trigger explosions at strategic locations.

According to the newspaper, Nyi Nyi Aung is a member of the All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF), an armed student group based along the Thai-Burma border, and linked with groups including the Forum for Democracy in Burma (FDB), All Arakan Students and Youths Congress (AASYC) and other exiled Burmese groups.

“Steps are being taken to take action against Nyi Nyi Aung, a citizen of a foreign country who, out of disloyalty to his mother land and people, planned to instigate unrest and launch terrorist attacks, and his internal contacts,” the paper said.

“Further investigations are also being made to be able to expose and arrest his accomplices,” added the newspaper.

While the newspaper did not mention when the charge-sheet will be framed against Nyi Nyi Aung, sources said, authorities are set to charge him on October 1.

Granting nationality to Origami boy champion uncertain

by Usa Pichai
Thursday, 24 September 2009 14:18

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - The Thai born boy, whose parents are from Burma, has become a role model for stateless children in Thailand after he won prizes at the Origami Airplane Contest in Japan. However, the Thai Ministry of Interior still has not guaranteed granting the boy Thai nationality.

Chaovarat Chanvirakul, the Thai Minister of Interior said that he congratulated Mong Thongdee (12), who is just back from the Origami Airplane Contest in Japan, where he won the third prize for Thailand in the individual category but bagged first prize in the team competition.

“However, to grant him Thai citizenship we have to consider other things too, because in the future it will be difficult if tens of thousands of stateless people in Thailand also ask for nationality,” he said, according to a Thai newspaper Komchadluek.

Earlier, the Interior Ministry Minister Chaovarat Chanvirakul was severely criticized and charges of human rights violation were filed by the Thai Lawyer Council after the Ministry refused to issue travel documents to the boy.

Mong has become a role model for stateless children, particularly in his hometown Chiang Mai Northern Thailand.

Naree Manit, a 10-year old girl, who also has no citizenship because her parents are ethnic Shan from Burma like Mong told Mizzima that her mother tells her to study harder so that she may get a good opportunity like Mong.

“I also want to go abroad like Mong. Friends in school are also waiting for news about the competition and it is good that he got prizes for Thailand.” She said.

Naree is studying in a school for migrant children in Fang district of Chiang Mai where thousands of children are stateless. In Thailand there are more than 200,000 stateless children.

Mong Thongdee was born of Burmese migrant workers working in Chiang Mai. His parents are ethnic Shan. He won the first prize in a paper aeroplane making competition held in Bangkok last year.

Following the competition he was entitled to join the Origami Airplane competition held in Japan on September 19 and 20 where he got the prizes.

The Science Ministry will appoint Mong Thongdee, a Thai born but stateless boy, as its youth ambassador.

"We will offer him scholarships too," Science Minister Khunying Kalaya Sophonpanich said on Monday.

She said the scholarships would enable Mong to get a degree and even a doctorate if he wanted.

"He deserves the scholarships because he bolstered the country's reputation and has become an inspiration for other children to learn more about science," Kalaya said.

Mong does not qualify for Thai nationality even though this is where he was born, lives and goes to school because he was born to Burmese migrant workers.

After arriving in Thailand with his prizes, Mong went to Siriraj Hospital to wish His Majesty the King, who was admitted on Saturday, a quick recovery. He also plans to get ordained as a novice for 10 days in dedication to the King.