- Life of a Burmese landmine refugee
- KIA encourages defection in Burmese Army
- YCDC strips out vendors in Yangon
- Kachin say 10K people flee fighting in N. Myanmar
- Myanmar rebels eye China mediation in clashes
- Lower US dollar value hits rice business and
- Energy projects ‘fuelling’ border fighting
- China’s hand in the renewed civil war in Burma
- Vietnam, Burma seek reciprocal support
- Myanmar to launch satellite in cooperation with three
- Amnesty Int’l repeats call for inquiry into human rights
abuses in Burma
- A new ‘civilian’ government revives an old civil
- Doing what’s ‘appropriate’
- A grim trade: Trafficking Palaung women to China
- As dollar falls, FECs plummet
- North Korea keeps silent on ship’s turnaround
- Burma starts a new civil war with Kachin and Shan
- Illusion of freedom in Myanmar
- They never want to see ethnic unity’
- Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to the 100th International Labour
- U.S. said to turn back North Korea missile
- United Nations desire to help address country’s
- Burma must not be allowed to fail
- Burma’s richest man
- Can you travel responsibly in Burma?
- Myanmar gets record $20B investment pledges
Life of a Burmese landmine refugee – Simon
CNN International: Fri 17 Jun 2011
their home country to escape oppression, what is to become of the thousands of
Burmese refugees in Thailand? With his crutches resting against the clinic bed,
Than Tin rolls up his trouser leg, gingerly pointing to a heavily bandaged leg
“All I remember is being blasted up in the air,” recalls the
48-year-old father-of-five, hoisting both arms to suggest the impact of the
landmine. “First was no pain, but half my leg was gone, but then it was like so
He was logging in the forests around Myawaddy, a trading
town in Myanmar close to the border with Thailand, the site of one of the
world’s longest-running civil wars.
Countless landmines litter the hilly
jungle terrain, on and off the tracks close to where government soldiers fight
ethnic minority rebel militias; thousands of beleaguered civilians hide out or
make the arduous trek to a precarious refuge in Thailand.
the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), Myanmar’s government
continues to lay antipersonnel mines, mostly in regions populated by ethnic
The larger of these minorities maintain their own militias
and political parties, and have become accustomed to de facto local autonomy
even as the government holds out against their calls for the creation of a
Some rebel groups also plant mines, though they say they
only lay them on roads near army bases, and inform villagers of the location of
Not just for refugees
A landmine took half of Saw Maw
Kel’s left leg in 1986 while he was fighting in the jungle.
the prosthetics trade from medics and non-governmental organizations during his
recuperation. The clinic where he works employs six people, turning out around
200 replacement legs a year, mostly for landmine victims from
“Not just refugees come here,” he says, referring to the Mae Tao
clinic in Mae Sot, “but ordinary Burmese who cannot pay for treatment at
The Burmese remain among the poorest in Asia, with an annual per
capita income of US$469 according to 2010 U.S. State Department
Despite growing foreign investment, over US$20billion in 2010
alone according to the Burmese government, and a sanctions-busting multi-billion
dollar oil, gas and gemstone revenue windfall, health spending for 2011 will be
just 1.3 percent of the national budget, against 25 percent to be spent on the
Myanmar has been ruled by the army since 1962 and in the
country’s first elections for two decades last November — which were widely
condemned as neither free nor fair by independent outside observers — the army
and its political affiliates won 89 percent of parliamentary seats and 26 out of
The government is uncomfortable with some activity along
the border, which they think is a haven for opposition groups. This is no doubt
boosted by the presence of people like Zipporah Sein, head of the political wing
of the main Karen group, the Karen National Union (K.N.U.).
The Karen are
a mix of animists, Buddhists, Christians and Muslims. They have fought the
central Burmese government, and sometimes each other, for much of the time since
independence from Great Britain in 1947.
In an interview
at her office on the border, the day after the Burmese authorities blamed the
KNU for a train bombing in central Myanmar last May, Sein dismisses the
allegation: “The Burmese regime always blames the K.N.U. when something like
this happens, but we do not get involved in such activity.”
in the area, where then K.N.U. leader Mahn Sha Lar Pahn was assassinated in
2008, no doubt irks the Burmese authorities.
The Mae Sot-Myawaddy border
crossing remains closed on the Burmese side.
Thai traders say that they
are losing out and a number of Thai officials have made ominous statements in
recent months about sending the refugees back.
Thailand’s Prime Minister
Abhisit Vejjajiva said that repatriation would not take place unless it was safe
for the refugees to go back, but nonetheless some are keeping a low profile in
their temporary abode, wary of tensions surrounding their presence.
arrivals are sometimes hiding in Thai villages,” says Poe Shan of the Karen
Human Rights Group.
New arrivals have crossed the border almost every day
since the November 2010 elections, and ongoing fighting in Myanmar’s ethnic
regions suggests that calls for the refugees to go back are
“The Burmese army has a shoot-on-sight policy in some places,
and that includes civilians as well as rebels,” says Mahn Mahn, head of the
Backpack Health Workers Team, a group of mobile medics operating secretly in
Myanmar’s ethnic minority regions.
Hard to go home
“There is no
protection for many people inside, how can they go back?” he asks.
La, the biggest of the nine refugee camps along the Thailand-Myanmar frontier,
and a 45-minute drive north of Mae Sot, around 45,000 people live in closely
packed timber huts on stilts, their brown roofs dovetailing with leafy green
foliage and low clouds on the rain-soaked cliff tops behind.
by the Saturday afternoon downpour, two groups of men play takraw, a sort-of
soccer-volleyball hybrid, at the camp’s edge.
“If you go inside the camp,
it might mean trouble for us,” says Aung Aung, a pseudonym for one of the
players, who asked for his real name to be withheld.
Since 2005, around
70,000 Burmese refugees have been resettled, including 50,000 to the United
States, sparking a whispering campaign that some of those entering the camps are
economic migrants seeking a ticket to a new life in the West.
off this suggestion, Aung Aung says, “I don’t know about everyone in the camps.
For me, I do not want to go the West at all, even though my grandmother is
already in Indiana.”
He says his family was involved in opposition
politics in Myanmar, and worked with the National League for Democracy, the
officially proscribed party headed by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel peace
prize winner who was released from house arrest by the Burmese authorities in
“I am from Rangoon,” says Aung Aung. “What I really want
is to go back there, if ever there is a real democracy.”
KIA encourages defection in Burmese
Kachin News Group: Thu 16 Jun 2011
In a bid to
encourage desertion in the Burmese Army, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has
welcomed willing Burmese soldiers to join the KIA, in a statement today.“We are
fighting on the front line and if some of the Burmese soldiers want to join us
we will warmly welcome them,” said the statement.
The join secretary the
Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) the political arm of the KIA explaining
the statement said, “We have in an order to all battalions said we are doing
this because we should.”
A KIO officer from the front line said, “This
morning we got the order that says we should treat well all Burmese soldiers,
who want to desert from the Burmese Army to our side and injured Burmese
soldiers would be sent away immediately from the front line.”
point statement said KIA was fighting for restoration of a real federal system
with political means by ending the regime in Burma, said KIA.
At the same
time KIA said they believe if dictatorship or military rule ends then real
federalism with freedom and justice can be restored in the country.
YCDC strips out vendors in Yangon – Aung Khin
Eleven Media Group: Thu 16 Jun 2011
Not only in
downtown but also in suburban areas, Yangon City Development Committee is
removing street vendors from their roadside.In fact, vendors only from crowded
areas should be stripped out, but roadside seller from some areas in Yangon
should be spared with time limitation, said a civil expert.
removing of vendors on the motorways and roadside vendors are meant to prevent
obstructions on the platforms and traffics, vehicles parking on the roads are
the major causes of traffic-jams, according to the city dwellers.
were no parking areas at the high-rises which were constructed since a decade
ago. When the vehicles are parked on the roads and commuter buses are not driven
systematically, traffic-jams have occurred. Chaotic traffics should be managed
first to avoid traffic hitch. The lives of dependent family members are to be
considered when strict regulations are issued for street vendors,” said a
Most of the street vendors are grass root people relying on
daily income, and hundreds thousands of family members are depending on them.
Therefore, they should be allowed to lay their trays on the roadsides with
limited times and places, according to civil experts.
records, staff personnel of district and township offices under the management
of YCDC (Management Department) are removing the vendors.
snacks at 30th Street. Responsible persons warned us that we were prohibited not
to display our shops at 30th Street since 9 June. One day ahead, they asked and
recorded our names and addresses. They also told us that they do not want to
confiscate our items,” said a female vendor.
Dates of prohibition against
selling goods at the roadside areas are different from one street to another and
one township to another. It was learnt that vendors are permitted to sell the
goods after 12 noon near Bogalay Bazaar.
“Vendors have not been forbidden
to sell the goods near Sanpya Market in Thingangyun Township, while street
vendors have already disappeared near Theingyi Market in downtown. Roadside
sellers in Yangon downtown areas, Hlawga, Hmawbi and Htaukkyant townships have
been ordered not to open their shops. No vendors are seen near Tamwe Market at
present,” said a vendor.
Street vendors were allowed with market stall
taxes on the roads and near the markets. To manage the accommodations for
vendors, plans were made to set up evening markets. However, it did not
materialize. Although another plan to open an evening market at the Lahapyin
(Open Space) Market was drawn up similar to Bangkok of Thailand, it did not
“There are 150 thousands domestic migrants in Yangon within five
years. Most of them have to rely on daily income. Their livelihoods are selling
on the roadside. So, enough time should be taken in the changing trend for the
consideration of the dependant family members of vendors,” said a
According to official statistics, there were over 40
thousands of vendors in 33 townships of YCDC jurisdiction in 2009. Civil experts
estimate that the figure is possible to double at present. As hundred thousands
of family members are depending on street vendors, the prevailing campaign of
YCDC is sure to cause difficulties for the grass root people. Street vendors are
the highest number among the millions of people who come into Yangon City every
“Mutual understanding should be kept between sellers and
pedestrians. Vendors should place their trays of goods only at the permitted
places and times. They should properly discard their garbage and wasted water,”
said a resident in Yangon.
“The case of street vendors in Yangon cannot
be tackled immediately as in foreign countries. As a third world country, there
are many grass root people here. Except traffic-jam areas and crowded places,
the shops of street vendors should be allowed with a fixed time and place.
Vendors and night markets are major tourist attractions in Bangkok,” said a
businessperson in Yangon.
“At the moment, the prices of shops and other
charges are high. As today’s profit is the capital for tomorrow and they are
depending on daily income, the vendors have to sell their goods at the crowded
areas near offices and companies,” said a resident in Yangon.
“It can be
said that removing street vendors is a good system instead of permitting street
vendors with a fixed time and with stall market taxes in the past. It is true
that street vendors are nuisances of the characteristics of a city. However, the
difficulties of their family members should be considered. This plan should be
carried out only in traffic-jam areas,” said a civil expert.
Kachin say 10K people flee fighting in N.
Myanmar – Grant Peck
Associated Press: Thu 16 Jun 2011
Bangkok – More than 10,000 people in northern Myanmar have fled fighting
between government troops and an ethnic minority group’s militia, and are living
in temporary camps near the Chinese border as refugees, members of the minority
group said Thursday.The website of the Kachin News Group, associated with Kachin
anti-government exiles, quoted one of the group’s leaders saying that refugees
have fled territory under government control.
The report cited Kachin
Independence Organization civil administration officer Salang Kaba Doi Pyi Sa
saying that China had closed the border to refugees, but in Beijing, Foreign
Ministry spokesman Hong Lei denied the allegation.
“Since the outbreak of
the conflict, some of the people from Myanmar crossed the border and went to
China to find their relatives and friends,” Hong said. “China has provided
necessary assistance in accordance with common practice.”
the remote area cannot be independently confirmed.
The fighting began
June 9 when government troops allegedly shelled a Kachin base in a bid to force
the rebel fighters from a strategic region where China is constructing major
The total number of casualties so far remains unclear.
Col. James Lum Dau, a Kachin spokesman in Thailand, said Thursday that 16 people
on the government side had been killed, and 150 wounded. He said he was unable
to give the number of Kachin casualties.
Myanmar’s state-controlled media
have not reported the fighting.
Myanmar’s central government has tenuous
control of many parts of the country where minority groups many of which
maintain their own militias are strongest. It has reached cease-fire agreements
with 17 ethnic minority rebel militias since 1989 and most have been allowed to
keep their weapons and maintain some autonomy over their areas.
8,000-strong Kachin militia reached a peace deal with the country’s former
ruling junta in 1994, but the truce broke down last year after the militia
rejected a call by the government for them become border guards under army
leadership. The junta made the appeal ahead of last November’s elections,
Myanmar’s first in 20 years, which introduced the nominally civilian government
now in power.
Reached by phone, Chinese local officials said refugees who
had fled into China required little government assistance, as they found food
and shelter with their friends and relatives, and that many have returned to
“As the situation gradually eases, the Myanmar border residents
have started to go back to the Myanmar side,” said Sun Konglong, vice
general-secretary of the government of Dehong, a border prefecture in Yunnan
Another official, Shen Yu, from the Dehong emergency affairs
office, said the refugees started arriving June 8 and numbered up to 300. Shen
said more than half of them have already returned to Myanmar.
Associated Press writer Gillian Wong and researcher Yu Bing in Beijing
contributed to this report.
Myanmar rebels eye China mediation in
Agence France Presse: Thu 16 Jun 2011
Myanmar ethnic minority rebels on Thursday appealed for China to help end a
deadly standoff with government troops as Beijing called for calm after people
fled across the countries’ shared border.Fierce fighting began a week ago near a
large hydropower project being built in Myanmar’s northern Kachin State to
provide power to China, and has since spread to northern areas of neighbouring
China — one of the Myanmar military’s closest allies — on
Thursday urged both sides to “resolve their differences through peaceful
“We are closely following the situation on the border
between China and Myanmar and call on the parties in conflict to remain calm and
exercise restraint so as to avoid an escalation of the situation,” foreign
ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.
The remarks came after the Kachin
Independence Army (KIA) said it wanted China to be a “referee” in any potential
“Without the involvement of another country as a witness,
as a facilitator… there is no solution,” KIA press spokesman Henry Branglai told
AFP from the group’s headquarters near the Chinese border in Kachin
Battles with the national military continued to rage on Thursday,
a week after hostilities began with what Branglai said was a government
incursion into KIA-held territory “to get some influence over that
More than 10,000 people have massed on the Myanmar side of the
frontier, with many people seeking out KIA-held areas as they look to avoid
being forced into carrying supplies for the Myanmar military, according to the
Branglai said thousands had crossed the border during the
fighting and were being allowed to move back and forth between the
Hong denied reports that Beijing was not allowing Myanmar
refugees to cross the border and said China was providing support.
local official in the Yunnan province foreign affairs department, who refused to
give his name, said there were no refugees at all.
“The borders are open
as per usual. Myanmarese nationals come and go every day. We are not considering
providing tents or food as at the moment. There is no need,” he said.
authorities in Myanmar — where power was handed to a nominally civilian
government in March after almost half a century of military rule — have given no
information about casualties or displaced people.
But a government
official confirmed the fighting on Wednesday and said some bridges had been
Myanmar has been plagued by decades of civil war with armed
ethnic minority rebels in various parts of the country since independence in
The mainly Baptist and Catholic Kachin account for about seven
percent of Myanmar’s population and an insurgency agitating for greater autonomy
gathered momentum from the 1960s until a ceasefire was signed in
The KIA, thought to have at least several thousand fighters, used
to be one of the most powerful rebel groups but was until recently considered to
be open to dialogue.
Relations between the army and ceasefire groups have
soured over the past year as ethnic minority fighters were pressured to give up
their weapons or come under state control in the run-up to a controversial
Several local Kachin parties were refused permission
to contest the vote, dashing long-held hopes for greater
Rights groups accuse the army, which has doubled to 400,000
personnel over the past two decades, of waging a brutal counter-insurgency
campaign in areas where civil war continues involving the rape, torture and
murder of villagers.
Myanmar’s military rulers earned a rare rebuke from
China in 2009 when an offensive against ethnic Chinese Kokang rebels in the
country’s northeast caused tens of thousands of people to spill over the
Lower US dollar value hits rice business and
farmers – Yan Pai
Irrawaddy: Thu 16 Jun 2011
rice have declined in Burma as exporters, including the military-owned Union of
Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd (UMEHL), have stopped buying from domestic traders
following a drop in the value of their overseas earnings, according to business
sources.With the US dollar recently reaching as low as 750 kyat, down from
around 1,000 kyat last year, exporters have been reluctant to convert their
earnings back into the Burmese currency.
Although licensed trading
companies in Burma enjoy a preferential exchange rate, currently around 800 kyat
to the dollar, this has done little to offset the overall decline of the dollar
against the kyat, the currency used for purchasing rice and other domestic
Further complicating matters is the fact that foreign currency
transactions are illegal in Burma, although trading companies sometimes
informally use dollars, euros and Japanese yen when doing business with each
“Exporters are suffering great losses right now, so they’re just
holding on to their earnings and watching the situation. This means that
domestic rice traders are also in a bind, as they usually rely on exporters to
buy much of their rice,” a rice dealer from Rangoon’s Bayintnaung rice market
told The Irrawaddy.
To make up for the loss of sales to exporters, some
rice traders are trying to sell off some of their stock domestically. However,
with few buyers around with cash in hand, this hasn’t been easy.
sales have had the effect of driving down prices. According to dealers in
Rangoon, a sack of export-quality rice now sells for 12,500 kyat (US $16), down
from 13,500 kyat ($17).
Falling rice prices will add to the burden of
already struggling farmers, who say that they may be unable to repay government
agricultural loans and other debts if the dollar continues to fall, putting
further pressure on overseas demand.
“Everything depends on the exchange
rate, so it will be difficult in the long run it things continue the way they’re
going. At the end of the day, it will be farmers who have to shoulder the
burden,” said a farmer from Thayawaddy District in northern Pegu
He added that while the price of rice has gone down, the cost
of producing it hasn’t. Fertilizer and fuel remain expensive, and wages for farm
laborers are rising all the time, he said, warning that unless these trends
change, there could be a disruption in rice production.
Khin Maung Nyo, a
Rangoon-based economist, also suggested that the rising value of the kyat could
cause lasting damage to the Burmese economy. If the currency makes prices for
Burma’s goods too uncompetitive, exports will suffer, domestic producers will
lose out and job opportunities will be affected, he said.
Energy projects ‘fuelling’ border fighting –
Democratic Voice of Burma: Thu 16 Jun 2011
The Burmese government’s campaign to rout armed ethnic groups along its
northern border has at its heart the goal of securing areas around lucrative
China-backed hydropower projects, environmental groups claim.Two of the main
flashpoints over the past week are in southern in Kachin state, where the Kachin
Independence Army (KIA) controls territory close to the Shweli and Taping dams.
The KIA recently ended a 17-year ceasefire with the Burmese government, sparking
heavy fighting on 9 June.
Nine dams financed by Chinese companies are
being constructed in Burma’s northernmost Kachin state, according to Burma
Rivers Network. It said that the Taping fighting follows a warning letter from
the KIA that if construction of the controversial Myitsone Dam in Kachin state
proceeds, civil war will break out.
“Mega dams in Burma have severe
negative social, economic and environmental impacts while the majority of
electricity generated is exported to neighbouring countries or used by the
military,” said BRN. “Most of the dams are located in ethnic states and allow
the expansion of Burma Army control into these areas.”
The KIA has
destroyed several roads and bridges close to hydropower sites, which are deeply
unpopular amongst many civilians who are often the victims of forced relocations
but who see little reward from the ventures.
Burma’s relationship with
China to an extent hinges on these energy projects, thus necessitating the need
for the Burmese army to secure territory surrounding them.
escalated in Kachin, Shan and Karen states since late last year following the
refusal of armed groups to assimilate into the Burmese army.
central Shan state witnessed several clashes between Burmese troops and the Shan
State Army, whose northern faction also recently ended a 15-year truce with the
government. The epicentre of the fighting was close to the town of Hsipaw, where
the highly lucrative Shwe gas pipeline will run through en route to
Burmese army reinforcements were also sent to the site of the
Ywathit Dam in Karenni state, which is being built by China’s Datang company. In
December last year the Karenni Army, one of the myriad ethnic armed groups
operating in Burma’s border regions, attacked a convoy of trucks transporting
equipment to the dam, BRN said.
China’s hand in the renewed civil war in Burma
– Ba Kaung
Irrawaddy: Thu 16 Jun 2011
The current armed
conflict in Burma’s northern Kachin State has effectively ended nearly two
decades of ceasefire between the country’s second largest ethnic army, the
Kachin Independence Army (KIA), and the newly sworn-in Naypyidaw government,
bringing a strategic region near the Chinese border to the verge of a civil
war.The gunfire that was exchanged between the KIA and the Burmese army over the
past seven days has claimed only a few casualties on both sides. But, despite
concerns that the fighting will spread to other areas, no other clashes have
been reported in the region since midday on Monday.
The past week’s
conflict is extraordinarily significant because for the first time it has
reignited a civil war in northern Burma which has been in hibernation mode since
a fragile “gentlemen’s” agreement was reached in 1994.
The clashes that
broke out last Thursday presented a new challenge in the armed struggle of
Kachin rebels who initially demanded independence in 1961 but later called for a
The new and daunting challenge for the KIA today is its
neighbor China. Across Kachin State, Chinese state-owned mega-corporations such
as China Power Investment and China Datang are constructing a number of
large-scale hydropower dams. And the electricity from those dams will be
exported to China.
KIA spokesperson La Na told The Irrawaddy on Thursday
that the immediate cause of the latest fighting stemmed from the Burmese army’s
aggressive attempts to control areas surrounding the hydropower dams, which are
located near the Chinese border—areas which have long been under the control of
KIA forces, and just a few kilometers away from China’s strategic oil pipeline
from the Bay of Bengal to Yunnan Province which passes through central
La Na said that these massive investments were implemented without
the consent of the local public or stakeholders such as the KIA, and these
economic interests have already pushed Beijing into becoming an ally of the
“When we approached the Chinese company officials working
at these dams, their response is that they already have agreements with
Naypyidaw,” he said. “China wants to get resources from Burma. So it seems that
their policy is to secure our country’s resources by any means necessary and, in
this case, with the connivance of the Burmese authorities.”
Burma Rivers Network, an independent environmental group, these dams have severe
social, economic and environmental impacts. In addition, the majority of the
power is to be exported to neighboring countries, necessitating the expansion of
Burmese army control in the areas where these dams are being built.
NGO said in a statement on Wednesday that the latest fighting near the Dapein
and Shweli hydropower dams in northern Burma shows how the build-up of Burmese
government troops in the region fuels the conflict and adds to the deep
resentment against the widely unpopular dam projects.
Given China’s huge
investment in the region, it is interesting to question whether the Burmese
armed forces tried to dispel the KIA battalions from the areas near these
projects only after it received explicit approval from Beijing.
ongoing armed clashes in Kachin State come just a few weeks after Burmese
President Thein Sein visited Beijing and the two countries announced the
establishment of a strategic relationship. During the visit, Chinese Premier Wen
Jiabo appealed to Thein Sein “for the smooth implementation of infrastructure
projects, including oil and gas pipelines, hydroelectric power and
transportation,” according to state news agency Xinhua.
China kept mum on
the latest crisis near its border—unlike during the Burmese government’s
surprise offensive in 2009 against the small Kokang ethnic militia group in
northeastern Shan State. At that time, China reprimanded Naypyidaw for creating
On Thursday, only a week later after the fightings,
China has called for restraint on both parties and de-escalation of the
Despite repeated stress on the importance of border stability
from both Chinese and Burmese governments, the KIA official said the words
lacked sincerity, describing it as “stability forced on the ethnic people by
Asked if China had possibly given a green light to the
Burmese army to clear the KIA-controlled areas, Jim Della-Giacoma, the Southeast
Asian Director of International Crisis Group, said, “We don’t think Beijing
would have been caught off-guard by this [the latest clashes] as they were by
the Kokang fighting of August 2009, but their larger interests
The ICG report last year said that the Kokang conflict and the
rise in tensions along the border prompted Beijing to increasingly view Burma’s
ethnic groups as a liability rather than a means of strategic leverage. It also
said that the ethnic groups’ view China’s support for them as provisional and
driven by its own economic and security interests.
According to Dr.
Zarni, a Burmese research fellow at the London School of Economics, the Burmese
generals’ insensitivity to the survival needs of local communities has resulted
in the rise in military tensions with respective armed
“The ruling military class in Naypyidaw has condemned the
Burmese people to slavery, and has colonized the ethnic groups with their other
hand,” he said. “Now this ruling class is fulfilling the wishes of the Chinese
government, and what they want in return is China’s political protection on the
Della-Giacoma described the current break in
hostilities in Kachin State as “the lull before the storm.”
“We are not
yet at a point of full resumption of conflict in Kachin, but if the Myanmar
government doesn’t move quickly to create space for a de-escalation, that’s
where this is headed,” he said.
Despite the presumed incentive of
economic interests and the China factor, the core major cause of this conflict,
the KIA official said, is the Burmese army’s attempt to subjugate the KIA under
central command—a move the KIA has rejected, just as many other armed ethnic
groups have done.
Added to the Kachins’ resentment toward Naypyidaw is
that three Kachin political parties that tried to run in the parliamentary
elections last year were banned from doing so on the grounds that their leaders
were linked with the Kachin Independence Organization, the KIA’s political
La Na said the KIA had lost trust in the Burmese government and
will not accept any peace talks inside the country. He said that KIA wants a
neighboring country to host a dialogue between it and the Burmese government, so
that Naypyidaw can be held accountable.
“Our major goal is for a genuine
federal union. We don’t seek independence,” he said.
Chinese hydropower projects in Kachin State being included in any peace talks,
the official said that although the KIA clearly rejects the Myitsone Dam
project, which is not near KIA military bases, it is not in opposition to other
dam projects in Kachin State.
“We wanted to have a say in these projects
and make sure that the revenue from these dams benefits Kachin people too,” he
said, adding that the apparent immediate objective of the Burmese army attack is
to completely control full and direct access to China.
He said he does
not rule out a large-scale major offensive by the Burmese army in the coming
“It depends only on the Burmese government,” La Na said. “We have
prepared a broad defensive military position, just in case.
“But we know
that real victims of war will be the people of the region,” he added. “That’s
why we are not conducting military attacks in any other area except to destroy
bridges to deter the Burmese army tanks coming in.”
Vietnam, Burma seek reciprocal support –
Democratic Voice of Burma: Wed 15 Jun 2011
A delegation from Vietnam has finished a high-level trip to Burma at a
crucial time in regional diplomacy for both countries.The group was lead by
Vietnam’s deputy prime minister, Hoang Trung Hai, and according to the state-run
Vietnamese News Agency signed a raft of agreements on key areas of economic
cooperation, from aviation, agriculture, finance and mining.
there are key geopolitical issues for both countries: for Vietnam its recent
spat with Beijing over South China Sea islands with oil potential will have
necessitated a push by Hai to build regional allies and prize states away from
the regional giant.
Burma’s campaign to garner support in its bid for the
ASEAN chair in 2014 will have likewise been a big factor in the talks. Following
discussions between Hai and Burmese Vice President Tin Aung Myint Oo in
Naypyidaw, the Vietnamese News Agency said Hanoi “supports Myanmar’s [Burma’s]
bid to assume ASEAN 2014 chairmanship”.
But the contested Spratly Islands
in the South China Sea is perhaps the more delicate issue. ASEAN nations such as
Vietnam and the Philippines have attempted to bargain collectively with China,
despite all three nations making separate conflicting claims over the tiny
islands and maritime territories. Burma in this respect will have to tread
After making his first state visit since changing titles from
prime minister to president, Thein Sein will have to balance ASEAN with China
whilst simultaneously bidding for Beijing’s economic, military and diplomatic
power as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. He will also continue to
push for the vital role of ASEAN chairmanship which will be a valuable boost to
the country’s international image.
Vietnam meanwhile began live fire
drills off its coast on Monday which, strikingly given recent history, will be
with the US navy’s Pacific fleet, the world’s largest. The two old adversaries
appear to have warmed in the face of a mutual threat, with the US allegedly
pushing aggressively for stronger relations in order to dent China’s growing
Responding to the Spratly Islands dispute, China’s foreign affairs
spokesperson, Hong Lei, told the Financial Times: “We hope that countries that
are not parties to the South China Sea dispute truly respect the efforts of the
countries concerned to resolve their disputes through consultation.”
Vietnamese meanwhile have allowed street protests against the Chinese and,
perhaps significantly, released lists on its official website detailing who
would be exempt from military conscription should there be a war.
their shared communist histories, Vietnam and China have long had an uneasy
relationship, which resulted in a border war in 1979 shortly after the
Vietnamese had finished vanquishing western powers from the
Vietnam remains an important player in ASEAN, while it is seen
as a natural ally to Burma given its role as a powerful counter-balance to the
more liberal nations such as Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore. The economic
relationship between the two countries also holds tremendous potential, with the
Vietnamese News Agency quoting Thein Sein as “[speaking] highly of Vietnam’s
achievements in its renewal process”.
In this respect Vietnam may provide
the best template for economic reform for Burma, given the integration of
private enterprise and foreign direct investment into its manufacturing sector.
It has also seen huge success in developing its agricultural system to rival
Thailand as a leading exporter of rice, likely prompting the agreement between
Hai and Burmese agriculture minister U Myint Hlaing to cooperate in the
Myanmar to launch satellite in cooperation
with three countries
Xinhua: Wed 15 Jun 2011
Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications authorities are planning to launch a
satellite which cost about 200 million U.S dollars in cooperation with companies
from Russia, China and Japan, local media reported Wednesday.As part of its bid
to promote the country’s telecommunication and information sectors, the
authorities have initiated the program in May this year, the Weekly Eleven
For launching satellite, Myanmar has set up a five-member
central committee and a seven-member working committee.
committee for launching satellite is to lay down policy with the launching of
state-operated satellite, approve satellite-launching memorandums of
understanding and other related documents, and carry out tasks aimed at
obtaining space-related technology.
Myanmar has to hire satellite system
from foreign countries to launch its communication and TV programs such as Sky
Net, Myawady, MRTV and MRTV-4 spending about 15 million USD annually.
part of a move to seek cooperation with foreign counterparts for the
development, the Department of Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV) and the
Department of Public Relations of Thailand have signed a memorandum of
understanding on the aspects.
Myanmar is the third country to receive
Thaicom service after Cambodia and Thailand.
On March 31, 2010, Myanmar
International TV (MITV), which is MRTV-3 channel, began airing its regular
program directing at international audiences.
In cooperation with China
Central Television (CCTV), Cable Networks News (CNN) and the Japan Broadcasting
Corporation (NHK), there are also satellite news available with the
According to statistics, a total of 217 MRTV relay stations has
been launched countrywide.
MRTV was first first launched in June 1980
with four channels including Myanmar and English languages telecasting news,
education and entertainment programs.
Amnesty Int’l repeats call for inquiry into
human rights abuses in Burma – Thea Forbes
Mizzima News: Wed 15
Chiang Mai – Amnesty International has called on Burmese
President Thein Sein to allow the ‘urgent establishment’ of the proposed
international commission of inquiry into human rights abuses in Burma.The
nongovernment group has researched and documented human rights abuses and crimes
against humanity by the Burmese military in war-torn eastern Burma since
Calling Burma’s 2008 Constitution an ‘obstacle to justice’, Amnesty
said, ‘Impunity for human rights violations and possible crimes against humanity
prevails in Myanmar (Burma) and investigation and prosecution of these is
obstructed by Article 445 of the 2008 Constitution’.
effectively eliminates the culpability for any person who was an official in
Burma’s military governments since 1988. It states, ‘No proceeding shall be
instituted against the said Councils (SLORC/SPDC) or any member thereof or any
member of the Government, in respect of any act done in the execution of their
respective duties’. However, the laws would not apply to an international
According to the campaign group’s statement, presented at the
17th UN Human Rights Council session in June in which dialogue was fostered
between Burma and other countries, Burma accepted ‘only 74 of the 190
recommendations made during the review’.
Burma’s conclusion to the
Universal Periodic Review gave responses to only some of the recommendations,
one of which included reassurance that the Burmese military is an ‘all-volunteer
army’. The Burmese response also concluded that ‘… Myanmar [Burma] is still in
the initial stage of a multi-party democratization process which will be
enhanced and strengthened. As this process develops, Myanmar is convinced that
it will be able to further promote and protect the human rights of its
‘In light of this obstacle to
justice, Amnesty International again calls for the urgent establishment of an
international commission of inquiry to investigate crimes against humanity and
possible war crimes in Myanmar (Burma)’, said Amnesty’s statement.
statement also condemned Burma’s ‘vague laws’ that it said the government
utilizes to ‘criminalize peaceful political dissent’.
an Amnesty International Burma researcher, told Mizzima that he thought the
first step to dissolving the shield of impunity surrounding the military is to
launch a commission of inquiry, as proposed by UN special rapporteur on the
human rights situation in Burma, Tomás Ojea Quintana.
commission only becomes relevant when a government is either unable or unwilling
to hold its own officials to account, and the government seems, if not unable,
certainly unwilling…it is now incumbent on the international community to step
in on behalf of the citizens of Myanmar (Burma), where the government itself is
essentially unwilling to do so’, he said.
Aung Myo Min of the Human
Rights Education Institute of Burma also told Mizzima that the 2008 Constitution
allows military personnel in Burma to evade the hand of the law inside
‘The Constitution itself, like Article 445 allows amnesty for the
military or anyone in authority; it provides them with amnesty’, he said.
‘Actually the Constitution should be the one that protects and promotes the
rights of the citizens and guarantees justice for everyone, but the Constitution
itself allows this kind of amnesty and protects the perpetrators and not the
The 2008 Constitution gives final say to the military in Burma,
as exemplified by Article 343 (section b), which states that ‘In the
adjudication of Military justice…the decision of the Commander-in-Chief of the
Defence Services is final and conclusive’.
General Min Aung Hlaing took
over from Than Shwe as commander-in-chief of the Burmese military in
A new ‘civilian’ government revives an old
civil war – Editorial
Irrawaddy: Wed 15 Jun 2011
been a long time coming, but it seems like the vaunted “peace” that Burma’s
former military rulers brought to much of the country over the past two decades
has finally reverted to war.Of course, we use the term “former military rulers”
advisedly. The new government that has taken shape since last year’s bogus
election consists of the same lineup of military hardliners that ruled in the
not-so-distant past. And you can be sure that the one name conspicuously missing
from this list—that of Snr-Gen Than Shwe—is still very much on the lips of his
underlings now at the helm of the new “civilian” regime.
If there was
ever any doubt about this, events in Kachin State since early this week should
dispel them. The return to open hostilities between the Burmese army and the
rebel Kachin Independence Army (KIA), ending a ceasefire that has been in place
since 1994, is just the latest step in Than Shwe’s long-term project of
“national reconsolidation”—his answer to calls for national
That’s why this week’s clashes in the northern Momauk
region, near the Chinese border, should come as no surprise. As early as last
year, Kachin leaders told The Irrawaddy that their refusal to buy into a scheme
that would have put their troops under Burmese command as “border guard forces”
probably made war inevitable.
On Monday, Kachin military commander Gwan
Maw told Radio Free Asia that the conflict could turn into a full-blown civil
war unless the government negotiates with the KIA’s political wing, the Kachin
This is not an idle threat. Ever since a
breakaway faction of a former Karen ceasefire group engaged in fierce fighting
with Burmese troops near the Thai border immediately after last year’s Nov. 7
election, ethnic tensions have been rising. Since March, Shan State has also
seen renewed conflict, with troops from the Shan State Army—including a brigade
from a former ceasefire group—engaging in a series of skirmishes and battles
with the Burmese army that have claimed casualties on both sides and killed
dozens of civilians.
The most disturbing aspect of all this is that the
Burmese government, flush with victory on the political battlefield, seems to be
pursuing its policy of crushing its ethnic opponents with renewed
But this isn’t just a matter of getting on with the unfinished
business of reasserting military control over Burma’s hinterlands. Increasingly,
these areas are becoming key to the survival strategy of the country’s
It is no accident, then, that the worst clashes to occur so far
have been in an area where China is building two major dams as part of a
hydroelectric power plant. There have been reports that hundreds of Burmese
government troops were deployed to the northern region to drive out Kachin
forces after they refused to abandon a strategic base near the project. China
officially confirmed that about 30 Chinese engineers from the state-owned China
Datang Corporation were caught up in the conflict.
It is also no
coincidence that the Burmese army’s decision to go on the offensive comes just
weeks after the newly installed president, ex-Gen Thein Sein, traveled to China
for his first official state visit in his new role to cement his government’s
ties with Beijing.
One of the issues the two sides discussed was
stability along their shared border, something that Beijing has been especially
concerned about since 2009, when the Burmese regime routed the ethnic Kokang
army, sending thousands of refugees fleeing into China. The question is, did
Thein Sein get a green light from his hosts to go after the Kachin, in order to
protect a project that is worth billions of dollars to China and Burma’s
If so, the situation looks grim indeed for the KIA, whose
leaders have confided that they will be hard-pressed to hold onto their bases
for more than six months if they are faced with a full-scale offensive. With
somewhere between 5,000 and 8,000 troops, the KIA will be grossly outmatched by
the 400,000-strong Burmese army, and may be hoping that China will intervene to
bring the Burmese to the negotiating table to avoid a bloodbath and a fresh
exodus of refugees across the border.
But it is not only the KIA and the
other ethnic armies that should be worried by these developments. The new
government’s willingness to resort to force is a throwback to the bad habits of
the past, and only serves to confirm that Burma is still in the thralls of Than
Shwe’s political vision of a nation united under his thumb.
Doing what’s ‘appropriate’
Radio Free Asia: Wed 15 Jun 2011
In a program broadcast on June 3,
Aung San Suu Kyi highlights the need for a probe into the 2003 Depayin massacre
and urges participation in a signature campaign demanding the release of
political prisoners.Q:Â The present Burmese government has declared that it is a
new democratic government. But why is this new government slow in exposing the
truth about the Depayin massacre, which occurred during the time of the previous
government? I have heard that leaders of other countries all over the world have
been arrested and that action has been taken against them after massacres were
exposed. But our present government has done nothing with regard to such
A:Â We have asked the authorities to start an investigation with
regard to the Depayin incident. Punitive action and revenge are not the main
issues in our request, though. We want to highlight the fact that it is not
permissible"”in a country where integrity, honor, responsibility, and the rule
of law are prevalent"”to ignore unlawful acts against the people. I think that
with regard to the honor and integrity of the country, you would have to ask
those people who are responsible why they have not done the appropriate thing in
Q:Â Why do people who do not do anything for the country
themselves only like to blame and criticize people who make personal sacrifices
and work in the interests of the country? What would you say to those
A:Â Generally, we can look in two ways at the reasons why people
who will not do anything themselves blame and criticize others. Some have a
guilty conscience for not doing anything themselves, and therefore act in a
reckless manner or as if they are mad. Then there are those who want a lot of
things to happen"”but who, not understanding their own responsibility, blame
others for not being effective in their work and become angry and dissatisfied.
In short, I would just say that these people are irresponsible and ignorant of
their own responsibilities.
Q:Â In 1989, you pledged that NLD members
would participate in the Martyrs"™ Day march to the Martyrs"™ Mausoleum and that
they would pay their respects at the mausoleum. Many NLD members attendedÂ this
march because of your pledge. Just as Martyrs"™ Day drew near, though, many NLD
members got into trouble. Some fled the country, some were arrested, and some
were imprisoned. What is your answer with regard to the accusation that many NLD
followers got into trouble because you, as a leader, retracted your pledge at
A:Â It was I who was responsible for canceling the plan to
march to the Martyrs"™ Mausoleum. It was necessary to change the plan, and I
take responsibility for the consequences. I have not heard that any of the lives
of the people who went to the march were wrecked"”whether they went to the march
because they did not know that the plan had been canceled, or because they did
not accept that the plan had been canceled. As far as I am aware, not one person
who went to the march was given a long prison sentence. Three women who
distributed notices canceling the march were sent to jail for three years. In
fact, quite a lot of people who did not attend the march were also sent to jail.
That was by arrangement of the SLORC. It had nothing to do with our Martyrs"™
Q:Â In my circle of people, whenever I ask them about
human rights or democracy, most answer that they are not interested in politics.
They say that politics is none of their business. And recently, a learned
economist said in an interview with a media organization that politics is none
of his business, and that he is concerned only with the study of economics. When
I heard this, I felt that I could not leave it at that and thought that I should
ask you about this. What I would like to know is, what is the meaning of
politics? And is it appropriate for every citizen to participate and work in
A:Â Just as I have answered this type of question many times, I
think I will have to repeatedly keep saying what politics is and who should be
concerned with it, so that this will be embedded in the hearts and minds of the
people. Politics is a matter that concerns all citizens, whether they want to be
concerned with it or not. To put it simply:Â Isn"™t it true that the government
of a country is closely connected to politics? Whether one likes it or not, a
government"™s actions have an effect on the lives of every citizen. If a person
is an economist, there is no reason for him not to know anything about politics.
Perhaps he has a cold.
Q:Â Foreigners who have an interest in Burma are
asking me whether it would be a good idea to stage demonstrations by all of the
Burmese people both inside Burma and abroad at the same time on the same day to
demand the immediate release of all political prisoners. Isn"™t this the time
when the United Nations and the international community are closely monitoring
the new Burmese government, and also when efforts are being made for the U.N.
Security Council to decide on a resolution regarding the establishment of an
Inquiry Commission on Burma?
A:Â It is a good idea to plan demonstrations
all over the world demanding the release of political prisoners. But for the
moment, I would like you all to enthusiastically participate and help in the
signature campaign that has been organized by the Democracy Network. This
campaign demands the release of political prisoners, a ceasefire in the country,
and the right of Burmese people who have left Burma to be able to return
peacefully. I would like you to urge other Burmese around you, and also those
foreigners who are interested in Burma, to participate and add their signatures
to this campaign.
Q:Â On the last New Year"™s Day, at the ceremony paying
respects to the elderly held at the NLD headquarters, I saw you presenting the
Unknown/Unsung Heroes Award to three political prisoners. I also saw you,
yourself, signing and supporting the signature campaign demanding that the
country"™s president release all political prisoners that is being organized by
the youth inside the country. What is your view and thinking with regard to the
political prisoners and the unknown/unsung heroes?
A:Â There would be a
lot to say if I were to talk about the political prisoners and the
unknown/unsung heroes. The most important point is that political prisoners are
courageous people who dare to risk prison just to stand up for their political
beliefs. Unknown/unsung heroes are those people who have struggled inspired by
that kind of courage, and who people are unaware of, and yet continue with their
life"™s struggle while holding on to their beliefs.
Q:Â I once read in a
book that in any country, people get the government they deserve. Is this
Burma"™s situation at this moment?
A:Â What I know of this quote is that
this was said by a Frenchman, de Maistre, who desired a government completely
controlled by kings and popes and who opposed science and liberal policies. That
kind of analysis with unbending views is narrow-minded. As for me, I believe
that we must struggle inspired by the belief that every citizen has the ability
to create his or her own country"™s destiny.
A grim trade: Trafficking Palaung women to
China - Simon Roughneen
Irrawaddy: Tue 14 Jun 2011
Bangkok: Unscrupulous traffickers, Burma’s economic decline and
militarization, and a shortage of males caused by China’s "One Child Policy"�
have all combined to contribute to the trafficking of women from the Palaung
region of Burma into China, says a locally based activist group."Since 2007, we
have documented 72 cases of actual and suspected trafficking involving 110
people,"� said Lway Moe Kam of the Palaung Women’s Organisation (PWO). The
caseload includes 11 children under 10 years of age.
of the women trafficked were forced to marry Chinese men and 10 percent of the
caseload were coerced into the sex trade, according to the PWO, which grimly
concluded that nine out of 10 trafficking victims do not
According to a particularly gruesome account given by one victim
of trafficking, she was taken to a building in Shandong, eastern China, where
people were kept as live feed for leeches, used in Chinese medicine. "I saw some
people in that room lying in pools of water. They were all fat, but looked
lifeless and were not moving. Then I saw that there were leeches sucking those
people’s blood,"� said the unnamed woman.
The PWO concedes that the
number of trafficking victims is likely to be higher than reported, with real
figures difficult to determine due to local cultural constraints, further
hampered by the logistical and security challenges confronting researchers
working in the area. In 60 percent of the cases analysed, it remained unclear
exactly what kind of situation the victim was trafficked
"Traffickers work in secret, and the presence of the army means
that we have to be careful when doing research and talking to people,"� said
Lway Aye Nang, another PWO representative.
Palaung culture frowns upon
extramarital sex, meaning that trafficked women who suffer sexual crimes "are
often reluctant to admit they have been trafficked,"� said Lway Moe Kah, the
lead author of the PWO report, "Stolen Lives" Human Trafficking from Palaung
Areas of Burma into China."�
In perhaps a surprising finding, 65 percent
of the trafficking perpetrators were female, a factor that Lway Moe Kam puts
down to the greater trust placed in women by the eventual victim of trafficking.
“It sounds better if the job offer is made by a woman,” she said, though Khin
Ohmar, a Burmese exile activist based in Chiang Mai, cautioned that the female
perpetrators might themselves be coerced into recruitment by other traffickers,
likely male, who dominate the trade.
The investigation focused on the
townships of Namkahn, Namhsan and Mantong in the Palaung region of Shan State,
which sits on the Burma-China frontier. In the absence of recent census date,
the Palaung are thought to number around one million people, mostly
mountain-dwellers in an area laden with gold, silver, zinc and
China’s one Child Policy has contributed to a relative scarcity
of women in the country, with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences recently
predicting that 24 million Chinese men of marrying age could be unable to find a
wife by 2020. While the laws are not as aggressively imposed in rural areas
close to Burma as they are in China’s eastern seaboard cities, they contribute
to a growing gender imbalance, with sex selection abortions "extremely common,"�
according to the Academy.
With families restricted by law to one, or
perhaps two children, a cultural preference for male offspring has been
exacerbated, said the Chinese researchers, resulting in 119 boys born for every
100 girls, a disparity that rises to 130-100 in some rural
According to US government in its 2010 report on global human
trafficking trends, Burma’s government has been working to combat some aspects
of trafficking, such as the international sex trade. Burma prohibits sex and
labor trafficking through its 2005 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law, in which
traffickers are classed in the same category as rapists.
However the US
report said that Burma’s internal trafficking situation had worsened, mentioning
the use of child soldiers and forced labor by the army, abuses that are
particularly common in ethnic minority areas.
However, the law is not
applied on the ground, according to Palaung and Kachin researchers, and Burma’s
policy in other areas directly or indirectly contributes to the trafficking of
women and children, they say, with conflict and economic decline forcing people
to migrate, making them vulnerable to traffickers and criminal
Within Burma, the Palaung are perhaps best known for the local tea
industry, which in recent years has been commandeered by the Burmese army, a
factor that the PWO say has contributed to the human trafficking problem in the
The PWO accuses the Burmese army of monopolising the tea
industry, and of "forcing local people to sell their tea to military-supported
companies at very low prices."� The ensuing income drop contributes to increased
economic migration within Shan State and across the border to China, which
renders local women vulnerable to traffickers.
Describing a similar
scenario in Burma’s now conflict-wracked Kachin State, Khaung Seng Pan of the
Kachin Women’s Association"“Thailand (KWAT) says that "a lack of jobs and the
army’s presence has pushed people out."�
Her organisation says that it is
aware of 130 cases of human trafficking into China from Burma since 2010,
involving women and children from Kachin State.
Kachin State sits north
of the Palaung region in Shan State, similarly sharing a border with China.
Since June 9, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Burmese army have
fought on-off battles, with the KIA accusing the government of breaching a
long-standing ceasefire agreement and of encroaching into KIA-held
Naypyidaw is demanding that the KIA and other ethnic militias
become part of the country’s border guard, a proposal which most of the militias
As dollar falls, FECs plummet
Irrawaddy: Tue 14 Jun 2011
Rangoon — The US do
(Message over 64 KB, truncated)