after a short break, we are resuming our update news on Burma.
for your encouragements.
-CHAN Beng Seng-
- Cyclone Nargis offers sobering lessons, says
- Burma's security force's cash in on rain damage
- Burmese needs divide the aid industry
- Rise of factions roils relations within Burmese
- Monks are heroes in Burma
- When a disastrous regime continues
- Burma's declining basic education
- Thousands of Karenni IDPs hide in jungle
- World Bank will not support junta, says NLD
- Indian company to start drilling gas in Myanmar
- Most ceasefire groups undecided on 2010
- Prosecution alters charge against blogger
- Junta profits from growing gap in value of cash and
- Forced labor widely used in road construction
- Why the generals are winning
- Sons of 1962 and future of Burma's political
- Burmese generals surfing the internet
- Myanmar cyclone victims saved from traffickers
- An alternative road map is needed now
- China signs natural gas deal with Myanmar
Cyclone Nargis offers sobering lessons, says
environmentalist - Violet Cho
Irrawaddy: Fri 11 Jul 2008
A prominent Burmese environmental group has found a silver lining in the
devastation wrought by Cyclone Nargis on May 2-3: a growing awareness among both
government officials and ordinary citizens about the need to pay greater
attention to the environment.
"It was a blessing from the sky," said U Ohn, general secretary of the Forest
Resource Environment Development and Conservation Association (FREDA). "It was
terrible that many people died in the storm, but this cyclone also provided an
effective warning to the stakeholders to open their eyes to the
The Rangoon-based FREDA, one of the few local nongovernmental organizations
(NGOs) devoted to conserving Burma's forests, has been active in establishing
mangrove nurseries and installing mangrove plantations in abandoned paddy lands
in the Irrawaddy delta, which bore the brunt of Nargis' fury.
U Ohn said that both officials and ordinary Burmese had long taken the
environment for granted, but after Cyclone Nargis, they now know that they
ignore nature's delicate balance at their own peril.
"This is the direct impact of the failure to protect the environment, so if
we are not initiating efforts to preserve our forests now, we will definitely
face this kind of catastrophe again," he added.
Burma contains some 34 million hectares of natural forest - the
second-largest area in Southeast Asia after Indonesia - but deforestation in the
Irrawaddy delta region has been catastrophic, with more than 20 percent of
mangrove forests having been lost between 1990 and 2000, according to research
done by the Washington-based non-profit organization Conservation
Cyclone Nargis also destroyed many self-sustaining mangrove forests in the
Irrawaddy delta, in addition to the thousands of trees - some of them nearly a
century old - felled by the storm in the former capital, Rangoon.
According to an official from the Department of Garden and Playground Parks
under the Rangoon City Development Committee, around 531 of the more than 10,000
trees destroyed by the cyclone were more than 50 years old.
The Rangoon-based weekly, 7-Day News, reported on Thursday that Burma's
military government was planning to use the roots and branches of cyclone-downed
trees collected in the Rangoon municipal area to make sculptures to be auctioned
to local and foreign entrepreneurs.
Meanwhile, the local journal Bi-Weekly Eleven reported government plans to
plant more than 30,000 shade-providing trees in cyclone-affected areas.
Burma's security force's cash in on rain damage
Kaladan Press Network: Fri 11 Jul 2008
Burma's border security force is engaged in a lucrative business following
damage to the Maungdaw-Buthidaung Road due to heavy rains over the last two
Nasaka personnel are carrying passengers on their motorcycles over a distance
of five miles and taking Kyat 10,000 per head on the Maungdaw-Buthidaung Road .
The Nasaka of Maungdaw town has been ferrying passengers as there are no cars
plying on the road due to the damage. The Naska offers a 15 minute ride on their
motorbikes to passengers. They have not reduced the charges although the
passengers have complained to the concerned authorities, said a trader in
The Maungdaw-Buthidaung road was badly damaged due to heavy rain over the
last two weeks. It is 16 miles long of which five miles have been totally
destroyed and vehicles are not able to ply on the road.
Passengers are able to go up to seven miles by car from Maungdaw town and
after that they have to travel five miles on Nasaka's motorcycles. And the rest
four miles distance can be traversed by car again, said a passenger who went to
Buthidaung Town from Maungdaw Town .
Some bridges have also been destroyed from the seven mile point to the 12
mile point. Therefore labourers charge Kyat 500 to carry a 50 kilogram rice bag
over the five mile distance.
Communication problems on the Maungdaw-Buthidaung road have led to a price
hike of essential commodities in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships. People are
in dire straits and the authorities are not bothered, said ex-school
Villagers from both townships are forced to repair the Maungdaw-Buthidaung
road without any support from the government. This season is important for
farmers to grow paddy.
The road is a key transportation link between Buthidaung and Maungdaw
townships. Every year during the rainy season the road suffers blockages and
bridges collapse but the authorities neglect to repair them in time.
Burmese needs divide the aid industry - Aung
Irrawaddy: Fri 11 Jul 2008
If the deadly Cylone Nargis helped create a greater humanitarian space inside
Burma, it would be welcome news indeed. More aid and more relief workers should
be able to enter Burma and assist the Burmese.
John Holmes, UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, has told a
press conference: "The relief operation is proceeding. The access for
international humanitarian relief workers has improved markedly over the last
six weeks; though we are still working on that. But, I think, we have made
Questioned about access to the Irrawaddy delta, Holmes said conditions had
changed a lot and relief workers were being allowed to go there - "Not unlimited
as we would like, but it is improving all the time. Access is improving and is
being made easier."
Cyclone Nargis and its aftermath are doubtless a mega challenge for every
humanitarian group. UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations
(INGOs), who have previously played only a limited role in helping the needy,
can now sense that their post-cyclone efforts could be expanded beyond the
If the generals are smart enough to relate to UN and international agencies
and open more doors to them, more aid will flood into Burma.
Many INGOs are waiting for the opportunity to work inside the country and to
have more access to the local population. INGOs engaged in a wide range of work
have their own agenda in advancing their operations inside the country.
Perhaps the opportunity now arises for the international community to create
a space inside Burma to open up local communities and work with them.
Despite a measure of optimism, shared by John Holmes, much skepticism remains
about the regime's policy toward the UN and INGOs.
Wider implications also come into play. Because of the attention claimed by
Cyclone Nargis, it is feared that there will be less money available to help
more than 100,000 Burmese refugees living in camps along the Thai-Burmese
border. Some observers express concern that border-based projects and
cross-border operations will be jeopardized.
In recent years there has been a shift in the attention given to the plight
of the refugees and in the flow of aid.
Burma watchers say that after the Global Fund stopped funding the fight
inside Burma against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in 2005, bitter
competition over funding developed between INGOS working inside and outside the
The Global Fund, which had pledged US $100 million over five years, said it
halted its Burma program because of increased travel restrictions inside the
country made it difficult for aid workers to function properly, although
political reasons were also reported to be behind the decision.
The Three Diseases (3-D) Fund took over the fight to control Burma's three
main killer diseases, but competition between the INGOs over territory and
funding continues. Concern deepens that long-established humanitarian projects
will be neglected and refugees and migrants will be left alone and
There has never been much love lost between groups working inside Burma and
those outside the country. Border-based INGOs accuse those working within the
country of allowing themselves to be compromised by the regime and even
kowtowing to the junta, mixing politics and humanitarian concerns.
There are even reports of rowdy INGO parties in Rangoon's luxury hotels. "My
downtown hotel was packed with INGO workers and the bar was doing great
business," one US philanthropist told The Irrawaddy. "There were young aid
workers there who had never stayed in such a hotel and who seemed to forget why
they were there at all."
A similar scene has been reported by some visitors to the Thai-Burmese border
town of Mae Sot, which also has a lively night-life.
The foreign aid workers and policy makers advocating Burma-based projects
often accuse border-based NGOs of being narrow-minded, political, divisive and
of exploiting local communities for religious and political purposes.
They claim that those with vested interests want to keep refugees in the
camps - security officials, rebel and political groups are anxious to maintain
the status quo and even rice traders with lucrative deals to supply the
It is indeed ironic that while more than 2 million Burmese are living and
working in Thailand, 100,000 refugees continue to live in the camps.
Relief missions working within Burma insist that more assistance is needed
there given the degree of poverty and the large population. Refugees in the
border camps, they claim, are better off than people in the rural areas of
Burma. Cross-border aid is just throwing water into the sand, they maintain.
Although the division between the two groups doubtless has an impact on local
communities who really are in need of assistance, there's no sign of a
reconciliation of views.
At the same time, cooperation and communication between Burmese living on the
border and those inside the country have increased and intensified.
Burmese have been traveling in and out of Burma, establishing contacts and
building networks and making friends. Exiled Burmese have organized fund-raising
ceremonies and contributed donations to causes inside Burma.
Several influential Buddhist monks inside and outside Burma have cooperated
in raising money to help people in the affected areas.
Cyclone Nargis swept away the old divisions. There is no more "inside" and
After all, Burma is a poor and crisis-torn country and a perfect place for
"emergency cowboys", consultants, international foundations and the UN to
For the past 20 years, relief workers of all kinds have been coming and
going, but at the end of the day it is the Burmese who have to work to rebuild
The relief workers thrive on crisis. Cyclone Nargis and its aftermath will
soon be no longer an emergency that warranted huge international aid. The aid
machine will move on, propelled by many who are building careers on crisis
They will leave behind the true crisis managers - the Burmese themselves, on
whose shoulders falls the greatest weight of reconstructing their shattered
Rise of factions roils relations within Burmese
junta - Min Lwin
Irrawaddy: Thu 10 Jul 2008
On the surface, the high-ranking generals in the Burmese military junta
appear to be united. But since a reshuffle in early June, speculation has been
rife that the regime is undergoing a major realignment, with competing forces
jostling for influence.
There are persistent rumors that several of the former Bureau of Special
Operations heads who were sacked in June are now under investigation on
corruption charges. Some are even believed to be under house arrest, facing
charges of high treason.
Although international news agencies reported that around 150 officers were
reshuffled, well-informed observers say the number who were reassigned or
removed outright was probably closer to 400.
It is believed that three powerful factions have now emerged, all of them
loyal to Snr-Gen Than Shwe, who remains the commander in chief of the armed
The three factions are led by Gen Thura Shwe Mann, Lt-Gen Myint Swe and
Lt-Gen Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo.
Thura Shwe Mann, 60, is the third-ranking general in the military hierarchy,
holding the title of joint chief of staff. He has been groomed to take over as
commander in chief of the armed forces when Than Shwe sees fit to step down.
Shwe Mann also has the lofty title of "Coordinator of the Special Operations,
Army, Navy and Air Force" - a position that allows him to oversee all the main
branches of the military, including the powerful Bureaus of Special
Shwe Mann is seen as a protégé of Than Shwe. He is also close to several
businessmen and scholars who have recently been involved in getting humanitarian
assistance to cyclone-affected areas of the Irrawaddy delta.
Shwe Mann's son, Aung Thet Mann, is involved in the fertilizer and rice mill
business in the delta. The Shwe Mann camp has recently been releasing news that
the general is business-minded and in favor of cooperating with the United
Nations and the international community. His close friend and former classmate,
Lt-Gen Soe Thein, was recently removed from his position as navy chief and named
minister for industry (2).
Another rising star is Lt-Gen Myint Swe, 59, who heads Bureau of Special
Operations 5 (BSO-5).
Myint Swe is an ethnic Mon who has played a key role in controlling security
in Rangoon since the early 2000's. He is a distant relative of Than Shwe's wife,
Kyaing Kyaing, and is known to be close to the senior leader. He was involved in
several important operations against top leaders, including the arrest of former
Prime Minister Gen Khin Nyunt, who was ousted in October 2004.
Myint Swe has been seen in the state-run media more frequently since Cyclone
Nargis slammed into Burma in early May, prompting observers to wonder if he is
in line to assume a top commander position.
Lt-Gen Tin Aung Myint Oo, the quartermaster-general who was named secretary-1
of the State Peace and Development Council in 2007, is the putative leader of a
Burmese observers believe that Tin Aung Myint Oo was one of the regime's main
opponents of foreign assistance and UN involvement in the Cyclone Nargis relief
effort. He recently visited the Irrawaddy delta and was named deputy head of the
National Disaster Preparedness Central Committee.
All three powerful generals have visited the affected area. Shwe Mann
accompanied Than Shwe, while Tin Aung Myint Oo went with Maung Aye, the deputy
commander in chief of the armed forces and army chief, along with other powerful
commanders, including air defense department and intelligence chiefs. Myint Swe
toured the affected area alone, giving "necessary instructions" to
Insiders have noted that all three are close to Than Shwe and his family,
removing any likelihood of a coup against the top commander.
Meanwhile, Maung Aye, the army chief, remains the second-most powerful
military leader in the armed forces. Maung Aye was locked in a bitter fight with
Gen Khin Nyunt, and Than Shwe benefited from the power struggle between the two.
Now Maung Aye, who has little political ambition, is not a threat to Than
But if speculation about the emergence of three powerful factions within the
top command turns out to be true, it is likely that further purges and changes
at the top are in store.
Monks are heroes in Burma - Tad Trueblood
The Spectrum: Thu 10 Jul 2008
They are more prominent in the villages right now, since the government has
cracked down on them in urban areas, but they're everywhere in Burma. With
shaved heads and flowing maroon colored robes (yellow "saffron" robes are worn
elsewhere), Burmese monks are at the forefront of flood relief efforts and man
the front lines of a not-so-quiet resistance movement.
Boys as young as 7 can enter monkhood, and young men often join for a short
time as a way to honor their families. Only about 15 percent of Burma's monks
decide to make it a lifelong calling.
There are about 500,000 monks in Burma, and they don't stay in isolated
shrines. They live among the people, are supported by them and serve in many
capacities. They also have a strong tradition of activism that has frequently
crossed into the political sphere. They supported pro-independence groups during
British colonial rule. In 1988, they supported a pro-democracy movement that was
able to change the junta's leadership (after 3,000 people were killed) and
wrested some reform measures from the authoritarian government.
When an emboldened democratic opposition won elections in 1990 and the junta
refused to step down, the monks "excommunicated" the regime by refusing all
government donations. In Buddhist culture, the giving of alms (through the
monks) conveys blessings and legitimacy. The government responded by tightly
restricting activities of senior monks and making a clumsy PR effort to
highlight the building of temples.
In September of 2007, unrest surged again joined by thousands of monks. The
protests initially were about poor economic conditions but morphed into demands
for greater freedom. In successively larger marches, thousands of red-robed
monks walked peacefully through the streets. The regime, however, eventually
sent soldiers to violently disperse protesters (monks among them) and imprisoned
many. Only a few deaths among the monks were reported, but numbers are
The 2007 "saffron revolution" drove the wedge between the people and
government even deeper, and for most everyday Burmese the bravery and dedication
of the monks was highlighted. During the mass marches, students and regular
citizens walked alongside the monks, forming human walls to protect them from
soldiers' batons and bullets.
The devastation of Cyclone Nargis in May (more than 80,000 dead and about
50,000 missing) and the despicable reaction of the government has increased the
stature of the monks still further. While the regime refused to allow most
foreign aid organizations in and turned away a U.S. military humanitarian task
force, the monks have been at work.
Again, they have refused donations from the regime (pointedly denying the
junta any popular legitimacy) and are coordinating with donor organizations
directly. Many donors are now only working with the monks to deliver aid.
Fortunately, a second wave of deaths (from hunger and disease) has been
averted. But across Burma, the credit goes to monks who stood with the people,
died with them in the floods and mobilized to help them recover. The regime is
more reviled than ever. It is the monks who have legitimacy.
* Tad Trueblood has more than 20 years in the U.S. Air Force and the
national security community. He blogs at
When a disastrous regime continues - Nava
The Seoul Times: Thu 10 Jul 2008
The devastating cyclone Nargis that struck southern Burma two months ago, has
revealed to the world that it was even less disastrous than its military regime,
which can ignore its own people in urgent needs and even could prevent and
restrict relief from international communities for the hundred thousand victims
of the disaster with the apprehension that it might create an atmosphere for
another people's uprising in the country.
Since August 2007, Burma continued to receive massive international media
headlines. After 1988, it was for the first time, when hundred thousands
Buddhist monks and common people of Burma came to the streets raising voices
against the military regime known as the State Peace and Development Council.
The movement was crushed by the military people and its thugs. Nearly hundred
died and thousands were sent to jails, many of them are still behind the
But this time, the junta has been challenged by the nature. A tropical
cyclone moved towards the Burmese land from the Bay of Bengal on the night of
May 2 and it devastated the entire Irrawaddy and Rangoon divisions of the
country. The deadly cyclone Nargis also embraced three other divisions and
states (Bago, Mon and Kayin) to kill nearly ninety thousand people and made
another few thousands homeless. Nargis also left its trail of devastation on
social infrastructures and killing thousands of livestock and also causing flood
to paddy fields, which were made ready for Burma's primary crops (rice
According to the latest government information, the storm killed 84,537
people, leaving 53,836 missing and 19,359 injured. The United Nations estimates
that Nargis affected 2.4 million people and directly made hundred thousands
homeless. At the same time, over 300,000 water buffalo and cows died in
Irrawaddy delta and Rangoon localities. More over, nearly 1,000,000 acres of
farmland in Irrawaddy and 300,000 acres in Rangoon Division were destroyed. Over
one million acres of fertile lands also were flooded with the salty seawater
But the response to the disaster by its own rulers was very shocking. First
the rulers couldn't provide immediate relief to the victims and then they tried
to prevent (and restrict) the international aid for their very own people, who
were in desperate need of food, medicine and shelter. Thirdly the junta went
ahead with the referendum (in two phases) in the country with a number of
pro-military provisions for their new constitution amidst all the chaos.
Fourthly, the rulers extended the detention of the pro-democracy icon Daw Aung
San Suu Kyi for one more year that prompted harsh criticism from the
"If a regime is challenged by the people, the rulers might have choices to
deploy its forces and the SPDC did during last year's popular uprising. But this
time, the junta has been challenged by none other than the nature (read
cyclone). So what did military rulers do? As they can never go against the
nature, they went against the innocent people! Have you heard of a government,
which not only denied timely and adequate relief to those victims of
circumstances, but also bent preventing the same from outside sources?,"
commented a Rangoon based political activist Win Naing (name changed).
Answering queries from Asia Sentinel, Naing, a supporter of the pro-democracy
movement led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, also added, "The military regime
at Nay Pyi Taw always remained blind to the political power and they can go to
all extends to maintain it. Hence they could ignore all the troubles faced by
the cyclone victims. The SPDC chief Senior General Than Shwe got time to visit
those victims only after international criticism surfaced in a bigger way. Mind
it, they can easily sacrifice the people, but never tolerate international
access (through the aid workers) to its common people."
The callousness of the junta was also criticized by Suzanne DiMaggio,
Director of the Asia Society's Social Issues Program (and former Vice President
of Global Policy Programs at the United Nations Association of the USA) saying
that for nearly five decades, Burma's military rulers have systematically
undermined the interests of their own citizens'.
Referring to the cyclone Narigs, she stated that the junta-controlled news
media failed to announce warnings about the approaching cyclone.
"The entry of UN humanitarian personnel, has been delayed due to the
government's refusal to allow aid workers into the country without first
applying for visas. Moreover, the military leaders are dragging their feet on
easing restrictions on the import of humanitarian supplies and allowing a UN
assessment team into the country," she added.
Similar views were expressed by a Burmese exile living in Europe, who claimed
that nearly two million people, mostly farmers and their families, were still
living in horrible situations. Talking to Asia Sentinel from London, Tyaza
Thuria expressed his anger that the military regime was only interested in
retaining its power.
"Hence they have gone ahead with their plans for referendum (only to
forcefully approve the pro-military constitution) and finally to install a
puppet civilian regime after the 2010 polls," he asserted adding that the junta
had done nothing for the rehabilitation for the cyclone victims. They did not
also put any effort to warn the people about the deadly storm. In reality the
junta just doesn't care about the people.
The junta went with their own roadmap to democracy', where the Army would
enjoy the emergency power in need and could even topple an elected government
(for the National security). Moreover seats will be reserved for the people with
Armed forces background in the Parliament. The new constitution will also
prevent Suu Kyi from contesting the election as she had married a non-Burmese
More to add it, the junta had extended the period of house arrest for Suu Kyi
for one more year. The Nobel laureate had already spent five full years under
detention since May, 2003. Hence the decision of the junta on Suu Kyi's
detention invited prompt and harsh criticism from the world communities. From
the United Nations to European Union and the United States to other
pro-democratic regimes, all came out with stronger words of condemnation against
the military regime.
Mentionable that the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon visited Burma and met
the SPDC chief Than Shwe on May 23, days ahead of junta's decision (on Suu Kyi)
and he had no other option than expressing regret on the development. He however
commented that the sooner the restrictions on Suu Kyi and other political
figures are lifted, the sooner Burma will be able to move towards inclusive
national reconciliation, the restoration of democracy and full respect for human
Even the UN chief also invited criticism from various advocacy groups that he
was silent about Suu Kyi's prolonged detention while discussing with Than Shwe
in Burma. Of course, he made it clear, while talking to media persons in New
York, that his trip was a purely humanitarian one intended to save lives, not
to press a pro-democracy agenda,'
The Secretary-General also added, "I went there with a message of solidarity
and hope, telling the survivors (of cyclone Nargis) that the world is with you
and that the world is ready to help you."
Nargis hit the country in a critical period of the year. The month of May in
English calendar year brings the season for preparing rice seedlings, to be
planted later. Like many South and Southeast Asian countries, rice is the
primary crop (also the staple food) of Burma. The traditional rice plantation
needs to be completed within the rainy season, more preferably by the July end.
The harvesting time starts from October.
Hence the May 2-3 disaster can put a heavy toll on rice production in Burma.
The cyclone in one hand flooded the arable lands with the salty sea water,
destroyed the already grown saplings and on the other hand it killed the water
buffalos (also cows), which remained essential for the poor Burmese cultivators
for ploughing. If immediate actions are not taken to support the farmers with
tiller and fresh rice saplings, it can be guessed that Burma might face food
crisis at the end of the year; Because the Irrawaddy (river) delta region
produces most (almost 60 %) of the country's rice.
Besides rice, the region also contributes in fish productions. The cyclone
damaged most of the fishing ponds, hatcheries and shrimp farms of the area and
it could add more people under poverty tag in the coming days.
Meanwhile the UN Undersecretary-General Noeleen Heyzer issued a clarion call
for supplying fuel (to run the power tillers) for the Burmese farmers. Heyzer
had reportedly stated that this initiative was crucial for the affected Burmese
farmers to meet their planting season' to rebuild their livelihood.
Earlier the Burmese Agriculture minister Htay Oo informed that they urgently
needed diesel (it might be a volume of five million litre) to run around 5,000
power tillers. It may be mentioned that, understanding the real and immediate
difficulties of the rice growers, many countries including China and Thailand
donated the power tillers to the farmers.
Burma, which was once known as the rice bowl of Asia, has slowly lost the
volume of rice production. Four decades of non-governance under the military
rule and disastrous economic policies of the junta has left Burma in such a
pathetic condition that the farmers now lost their interest and motivation for
Amidst all the troubles and uncertainties looming over Burma, Win Naing, who
keeps a closer look at the political developments in the entire country, hopes
for a major uprising in the country. And he has arguments what he and many of
his friends are expecting.
"The cyclone has taught the Burmese people that there is nothing like
governance in Burma and they have to face all the problems with their own with
outside supports. In fact, they come to realize the presence of outer agencies
in a bigger way after the disaster. It will definitely enrich their optimism for
a change," Naing argued.
He also added, "During the saffron revolution (September, 2007), the Burmese
people (over 80% of them are Buddhist) witnessed how their government could
torture the monks, the most respected community in the country, to remain in
power. This time, they have seen the cruelty of the government towards them. I
apprehend try the junta will slip into a bigger trouble very soon as the regime
has started losing its influence on the monks and the common people. We expect
if it would happen little earlier!"
Burma's declining basic education - Moe Aye
Democratic Voice of Burma: Thu 10 Jul 2008
Former Rangoon University lecturer Daw Nyein Khet Khet has criticised the
two-tier education system in Burma for denying children from poor families an
adequate basic education.
Among the schools in Rangoon under the administration of the military
regime's Ministry of Education, many that are attended by the children of
government officials or those from rich families demand sizeable fees and
contributions from parents.
The schools in which the children of the elite study and those attended by
the majority of ordinary students differ significantly in terms of teaching,
collecting money, quality of teaching, exam results and the percentage of
students who obtain distinctions in their exams.
DVB interviewed Daw Nyein Khet Khet, a former lecturer from Rangoon
University's Burmese Department, to find out about the declining state of
Burma's basic education.
DVB: Why are there differences between schools in terms of exam pass rates
and so on?
NKK: Teachers in Dagon (1) and Latha (2) schools pay close attention to the
students they are teaching. They also teach those students outside classrooms in
return for high tuition fees. As a result, the percentage of children from those
schools who pass their exams has grown.
Because of the high exam pass rate, those schools became popular and later,
the number of students who wanted to study in those schools increased.
Competition for school admission also came about. Paying more money and making
donations became standard in order for children to attend those schools.
In Burma, particularly in schools at ward level in Rangoon, people have to at
least make a donation to be able to send their children to schools. I would say
such practice is a bad practice.
As you know our country faces economic hardship, there are parents who cannot
even afford a small amount of money for their children's education. As a
consequence, children cannot attend schools and many have to drop out.
I don't think investing a lot of money to be able to select good' schools
for primary education is a good indication to basic education. If teachers in
those schools have better teaching skills, it is only because of the
mismanagement of the government.
Every school must have qualified teachers who have the same teaching skills.
And the government has the responsibility to train them to be qualified.
DVB: What do you think is the root cause of these differences?
NKK: I think the main reason lies in the very low rate of pay for teachers.
Because of that teachers have to take on teaching outside the classrooms -
private tuition - to make ends meet.
To earn high tuition fees, teachers try to pay close attention to their
students. And so rich parents who want better attention for their children send
their kids to schools where those teachers are available by spending more
As for teachers who want to make more money, they prefer teaching in those
schools and they seem to take effective care of the children's education only
when they are in those schools. These issues are all interrelated.
On 7 July 1962, university students called for national education. Basically,
they called for teaching on democracy, asking the government to develop an
international-standard curriculum that includes political knowledge students
should be aware of. I would say they called for freedom of education.
If we had freedom of education in our country, we wouldn't need to worry
about the crisis we are currently facing in Burma's basic education system.
Teachers' salaries and school expenses for our children would also no longer be
Despite changes in the basic education curriculum to bring it up to
international standards, the military regime still doesn't consider the rights
of those who work in education and those of the students. It shows that there is
no freedom of education in our country.
Thousands of Karenni IDPs hide in jungle - Saw
Irrawaddy: Wed 9 Jul 2008
An estimated 4,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are currently hiding
in the jungle near Hpasawng Township, about 94 kilometers south of the Karenni
State capital Loikaw, according to a Karenni relief group.
Daniel, a coordinator for the Karenni Social Welfare and Development Center
(KSWDC), which provides aid to Karenni IDPs, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday
that the villagers had fled their homes fearing attacks by the Burmese army.
"More than 4,000 Karenni IDPs are now hiding in Hpasawng Township," said
Daniel, who uses only one name. "It will be very difficult for them if they have
to stay in the jungle for a long time."
The Burmese army's Light Infantry Battalions (LIB) 427, 428 and 337 patrol
the area around Hpasawng and have clashed with Karenni rebels in the area six
times so far this year, according to local sources.
Some of the Karenni IDPs want to move to the Thai-Burmese border, but they
fear possible attacks by Burmese troops along the way, said Daniel.
Poe Byar Shay Reh, chairman of the Karenni Refugee Committee, said that more
than 160 IDPs have arrived at Karenni refugee camps in Thailand's Mae Hong Son
Province since the beginning of 2008.
He said, however, that so far, none of the IDPs currently hiding in the
jungle have reached the refugee camps.
"None of them have arrived at the refugee camps, but we don't know if they'll
start coming later," said Poe Byar Shay Reh.
He added that some of the Karenni IDPs now sheltering in the refugee camps
had fled their villages after being accused by the Burmese army and the
ceasefire Karenni Nationalities People's Liberation Front of supporting the
anti-government Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP).
The KNPP signed a ceasefire agreement with Burma's ruling junta in 1995, but
the truce broke down after just three months when Burmese troops deployed on
There have been several failed attempts since then to restart talks, most
recently in late 2004. However, the junta suspended all contact with the group
following the ouster of Prime Minister Gen Khin Nyunt, who had masterminded a
number of ceasefire agreements with ethnic rebel groups.
Burmese military operations forced around 6,000 Karenni villagers to become
IDPs in 2007, according to a survey conducted by KSWDC.
More than 20,000 Karenni refugees are staying in two camps in Mae Hong Son
Province, according to the Thailand-Burma Border Consortium and the Karenni
World Bank will not support junta, says NLD -
Khin Hnin Htet
Democratic Voice of Burma: Wed 9 Jul 2008
The World Bank does not have any plans to provide the military regime in
Burma with financial assistance, according to Dr Win Naing, a member of the
National League for Democracy Information Committee.
Dr Win Naing told DVB that a delegation from the World Bank met with five
leaders from the pro-democracy party in Rangoon on Friday last week to explain
about the financial institution's current policy on Burma.
"They said they still stood firm on their policy of not giving any financial
loans to the regime," said Dr Win Naing.
"They also told us that they had been involved in the cyclone assessment
process together with UN agencies."
DVB has learned that the World Bank will submit their findings from the
assessment to interested donors to inform their decisions on aid provision.
"They said that based on their findings donors could calculate how to provide
relief supplies to cyclone survivors," said Dr Win Naing.
"They stressed that donors would not channel their support to the victims
through the regime, but would instead provide aid through selected NGOs or
In May this year, the World Bank's executive director Juan Jose Daboub told
journalists that it currently did not have any plans to give financial support
to Burma, which had lost USD 10 billion since Cyclone Nargis hit the country,
because the junta had not paid off the previous debts it owed to the
According to AFP, Burma's military regime has not repaid loans borrowed from
the World Bank since 1988.
Indian company to start drilling gas in Myanmar
Xinhua: Wed 9 Jul 2008
An Indian oil company, the Essar, will start drilling test well at an inland
block in Myanmar's western coastal Rakhine state to explore natural gas in the
coming open season later this year, news journal 7-Day reported on Wednesday.
The drilling will take place at block-L covering Sittway and Maungtaw regions of
Block-L stands one of the two blocks which the Indian company is to explore
gas under a contract signed with the state-run Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise in
May 2005. The exploration on another block A-2 lying off the Rakhine coast will
follow later, earlier report said. The Essar is another Indian company engaged
in oil and gas exploration in Myanmar after the ONGC Videsh Ltd of India and the
Gas Authority of India Ltd (GAIL), both of which are being involved in similar
activities since 2000 at Block A-1 and A-3 in the same offshore area in
partnership with South Korea's Daewoo International Corporation and South Korea
Gas Corporation. The consortium is led by Daewoo.
Myanmar has abundance of natural gas resources especially in the offshore
areas. With three main large offshore oil and gas fields and 19 onshore ones,
Myanmar has proven recoverable reserve of 510 billion cubic-meters out of 2.54
trillion cubic-meters's estimated reserve of offshore and onshore gas, experts
said, adding that the country is also estimated to have 3.2 billion barrels of
recoverable crude oil reserve.
Statistics revealed that foreign investment in Myanmar's oil and gas sector
had reached 3.243 billion dollars in 85 projects as of the end of 2007 since the
country opened to such investment in late 1988, standing the second in the
country's foreign investment sectorally after electric power.
In 2007, foreign investment in the oil and gas sector more than tripled to
474.3 million U.S. dollars compared with 2006, accounting for 90 percent of the
total during the year which stood 504.8 million, according to the Ministry of
National Planning and Economic Development. More statistics show that natural
gas topped Myanmar's exports in 2007-08 with 2.594 billion dollars, up 27.7
percent from 2006- 07's 2.03 billion dollars, representing 42.9 percent of the
total exports during the year.
Most ceasefire groups undecided on 2010
election - Saw Yan Naing
Irrawaddy: Tue 8 Jul 2008
Despite government pressure, most ethnic ceasefire groups are undecided on
whether to disarm and form political parties to contest the Burmese general
election scheduled for 2010, according to sources close to the ceasefire groups.
For one month now, Burmese military authorities have been urging the
ceasefire groups to surrender - in effect, lay down their weapons - and form
political parties. An alternative option for the ceasefire groups could be to
enlist their troops as special combat police, said the sources.
Two ethnic ceasefire groups - the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and the Shan
State Army-North (SSA-N) - have not yet responded to the request of the Burmese
authorities, according to sources in Shan State.
The editor of Thailand-based Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN), Khuensai
Jaiyen, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that no statement had been made as yet.
The UWSA just want autonomy, he added.
The UWSA has an estimated 20,000 soldiers deployed along Burma's borders with
Thailand and China while an estimated 60,000 to 120,000 Wa villagers inhabit
areas of southern Shan State.
Another ethnic ceasefire group, the National Democratic Alliance Army-Eastern
Shan State, also known as the Mongla group, has been under pressure to
decommission its weapons or serve as a special combat police unit under
government command, according to a senior official of the Mongla who was quoted
recently by SHAN.
The Mongla group, however, have not replied to the military government's call
for surrender, the article added.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Tuesday, Sai Murng, deputy spokesman of the Shan
State Army-South (SSA-S), said, "I think the ceasefire groups have only two
options. One is to surrender and do what the regime says. The other is to fight
back against the Burmese army."
Meanwhile, Nai ong Ma-nge, a spokesman for the ethnic Mon ceasefire group,
the New Mon State Party (NMSP), said, "We haven't decided as yet whether to be
involved in the 2010 election. It is a major political change, so we have to
wait for a decision from headquarters."
The NMSP entered into a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese junta in
A source close to a Karen ceasefire group, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army
(DKBA), said, "At this moment, it is impossible for the DKBA to surrender and
form a party. The DKBA has no interest in being involved in the political
process. They will retain their weapons and maintain their development and
business interests in Karen State."
The DKBA is a breakaway group of the Karen National Union - Burma's largest
ethnic insurgency group. The DKBA signed a ceasefire with the military
government in 1994 after splitting from the KNU.
However, an ethnic Kachin ceasefire group, the New Democratic Army-Kachin
(NDA-K), will reportedly lay down its weapons and participate in the 2010
election, said Aung Wa, a Kachin source on the Sino-Burmese border.
The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), which is based along the
Sino-Burmese border, will also take part in the 2010 election, said Aung Wa.
However, it was still unclear whether the KIO would agree to a surrender, he
The KIO, founded in 1961, was one of 17 ethnic armed groups that signed a
ceasefire agreement with the ruling junta in 1990s.
Recently, the Burmese regime published an article in the state-run newspaper
New Light of Myanmar calling the landslide victory of the National League for
Democracy in the 1990 general election "illegal," and calling for the party to
run in the 2010 elections.
Prosecution alters charge against blogger -
Mizzima News: Tue 8 Jul 2008
Author and blogger Nay Phone Latt, in custody for six months, was charged
again under the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act under section 5(j), a switch from
the previous charge under section 32(b) of the Video Act.
"His case has been changed to section 5(j) of Emergency Provisions Act. The
Special Branch (SB) of Police informed him about it in prison on July 2, he
said. He was previously charged under section 32(b). The hearing is now fixed
for July 16. But he also said that he will not be produced before the court on
July 16 but will be remanded again," Aye Aye Than, his mother, who met him in
prison yesterday told Mizzima.
Under section 32(b) of the Video Act, he is facing a maximum of six months in
prison but now faces a maximum of seven years in jail under the new charge under
section 5(j) of Emergency Provisions Act, if convicted, the defense lawyer Aung
"The authorities and the law enforcement agencies do not respect and abide by
the law. They changed the charge according to their wishes. They couldn't
produce the accused before the court as they do not have a sound case. They have
just changed their charge sheet again and again under different sections of
different Acts. He has been in custody for long time," he said.
The authorities arrested blogger Nay Phone Latt on January 29 and remanded
him until today without producing him before the court and now they have changed
their charge against him.
High court lawyer Aung Thein submitted an application to the authorities on
June 16 seeking an interview to get his client's instructions, but has not got
Aye Aye Than said she had requested the authorities to let him have treatment
for his eye disease.
"He is suffering from eye disease and I requested the prison authority to let
him have treatment. My son said tears come to his eyes at night and he cannot
read books, his sole companion in prison. I worry about his eyesight. He must
get proper treatment before it is too late. The doctor can prescribe him
medicine and vitamins for his eye disease. The eye is the most delicate part of
the human body," his mother said.
Meanwhile another famous human right activist Suu Suu Nwe is suffering from
high blood pressure in solitary confinement.
"I couldn't meet her yesterday. I sent a food parcel to her through prison
authorities. They said that prison meetings with family members are banned for
violation of prison rules and discipline. Her blood pressure was 160-140 mm Hg
when I met her last time on June 30, she said. Our family doctor prescribed
medicines and we sent them to her through the prison authorities. We do not know
whether she's got it," her elder sister Daw Htay Htay Kyi who went yesterday to
meet her said.
A heart patient Suu Suu Nwe hit her head against the brick wall after having
quarreled with the prison authorities at the end of June. After that, she has
been kept in solitary confinement in a prison cell.
"I saw a notice pasted at the prison gate saying she had quarreled with the
prison staff many times and made many complaints and argued with them so she was
punished with 14 days solitary confinement," lawyer Khin Maung Shein said after
visiting the prison on Friday.
Suu Suu Nwe was arrested on 14 November 2007 in front of Myayeiknyo Hotel
while she was into a poster campaign. She was then charged under section 143
& 145 (unlawful assembly), section 505(b) (inciting crime against public
tranquility) and section 124(a) (committing disaffection towards the State) of
the Criminal Code. She will be produced before the court again tomorrow.
Junta profits from growing gap in value of cash
and FECs - Min Lwin
Irrawaddy: Tue 8 Jul 2008
The growing gap between the value of the US dollar and Burmese foreign
exchange certificates (FECs) - introduced in 1994 to ensure that most hard
currency that enters the country ends up in government hands - is turning
Cyclone Nargis relief efforts into a major cash cow for Burma's ruling
All international aid agencies working in Burma are required to deposit money
for operating expenses in accounts at the Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank (MFTB).
These deposits - usually made in US dollars - can only be withdrawn in FECs,
which are technically equal in value.
However, since Cyclone Nargis struck on May 2-3, the actual value of the FEC
has fallen considerably, from slightly lower than the US unit to just over 80
percent of the dollar's black market exchange rate.
According to members of Rangoon's business community, FECs now fetch just 965
kyat per unit, while the dollar is worth around 1170.
Businessmen say the price of FECs started to fall in the wake of Cyclone
Nargis, as Burmese living overseas began to transfer large amounts of cash into
MFTB accounts to support the relief effort.
After the junta finally decided to allow major international aid agencies to
enter the country in late May, the FECs dropped further.
"The demand for FECs [from international relief groups] increased, so the
government just printed more," said a Rangoon-based economic observer. "This
drove down their value, because now the currency market is flooded with
Besides international organizations and foreign-owned businesses, Burmese
employed abroad are also required to hold MFTB accounts to send remittances to
their families in Burma.
"I have to transfer my dollar salary to my MFTB account, but when my family
withdraws the money in FECs, it's worth a lot less," complained a Burmese
engineer working in South Africa. "Nowadays we lose at least 200 kyat on the
A Burmese relief worker said that the more aid that flows into country, the
less the FEC will be worth.
"International agencies and overseas Burmese deposit US dollars for local
purchases, but they can only withdraw FECs. The more dollars that come into
Burma, the more FEC there will be in the market," said the relief worker.
Economic observers pointed out that the government, which has been driving
down the value of the FEC by printing them in large numbers, is now effectively
earning a 20 percent "tax" on all aid coming into the country.
According to figures released by the United Nations, US $134 million has so
far been spent on the international relief mission in Burma, some of it used to
purchase supplies and pay for services locally.
Forced labor widely used in road construction
Narinjara News: Tue 8 Jul 2008
A large number of people in Maungdaw Township have been used as forced labor
by local authorities on repair work on the Buthidaung - Maungdaw roadway since
the road and bridges collapsed in heavy rains, said a resident from Maungdaw.
He said, "We have to go do the road repair along the motor road after the
authorities summoned 50 people from each ward in downtown Maungdaw through
Rayaka, the ward councils. The forced labor began on Monday."
In Maungdaw, there are six wards altogether, and each had to send 50 people
yesterday to the locations where the road was damaged with their own mattocks
and pickaxes to do repair work. They had to work from 9 am to 4 pm yesterday
"We had to work there from 9 am to 4 pm without payment, but the authority
did not provide any assistance with any food or drinking water during the work
time. We brought our own food from our homes to the road repair sites," the
A local source said the authority not only summoned people from downtown
Maungdaw, but also a large number of people from rural villages located along
the Buthidaung - Maungdaw motor road.
A witness said, "I saw a large number of people leave for the 7-miles bridge
in many vehicles from the central market to repair the road, and most people
were day laborers from Maungdaw."
According to another report, many wealthier families have had to pay 2,000
kyat to the ward council in order to hire a day laborer if they were unable to
send someone from their own families to do the work.
In Maungdaw's government construction department, there is no machinery such
as excavators or dump trucks to aid the repair work, so authorities have used
locals as manpower to do all the necessary tasks.
The road constructed is expected by some to take as much as a year to
complete by the people without any machinery due to the heavy damaged it
sustained in the rains.
According to a local source, many people from Maungdaw are preparing to work
at the road construction today after the township authority summoned them to do
The Buthidaung - Maungdaw motor road is a key transportation link along the
western border and is central to the border trade with Bangladesh. Every rainy
season the road suffers blockages and bridge collapses but the authority has
neglected to repair such weaknesses as they arise.
Why the generals are winning - Kyaw Zwa Moe
Irrawaddy: Tue 8 Jul 2008
This year is the 20th anniversary of the democracy movement in Burma. In
1988, a few small student protests against late dictator Ne Win's Burma
Socialist Programme Party ignited the flame of democracy which quickly developed
into the strongest uprising in Burma's history.
The flame still burns, and the spirit of democracy - though constantly
suppressed - lives on. But to accomplish the task of bringing democracy to
Burma, the country needs more than a flame - it needs a wildfire.
Twenty years may not be too long when one talks about changing a country's
political system, but it's a long time in a person's life. Many democracy
leaders, activists and sympathizers have died, knowing the country was still in
the hands of totalitarian dictators.
Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi once told me that we should be prepared
for a "lifelong struggle" to restore democracy in Burma. Yes, it may take an
entire lifetime, especially if the pro-democracy movement fails to unite into an
unbeatable political force, one truly strong enough to overwhelm the powerful,
ruthless military regime, which is intent on ruling Burma for decades to
Over the past 20 years, many committed leaders and activists have joined the
struggle, all willing to give everything they had. Their dedication was beyond
words: no matter how many times they were imprisoned, they would rejoin the
movement when freed. Many thousands of political prisoners, including Suu Kyi,
have spent most of the past 20 years in the junta's notorious prisons.
During this time, the movement has lacked the one essential, most important
factor: unity. The movement has never been able to gather everyone - leaders and
average Burmese people - into one, united political force.
After 1988, when political parties were allowed to form and contest the 1990
elections, more than 200 political parties mushroomed into existence. It was the
first indication of a lack of unity in the pro-democracy movement. Even popular
political figures such as former premier U Nu, Suu Kyi and former Brig-Gen Aung
Gyi couldn't provide a collective leadership capable of uniting the disparate
political groups opposing the regime.
For instance, even the main opposition party, the National League for
Democracy, formed around three leaders, Aung Gyi, Suu Kyi and Tin Oo. Aung Gyi,
who was chairman of the NLD, later broke away to form his own political party.
He was followed by others.
However, the people of Burma are smart. They knew there was a danger of
diluting their voting power among the various opposition parties. They voted for
the NLD, giving it 82 percent of the ballots cast.
Unfortunately, the proliferation of too many political parties and
organizations has become a trend in recent decades, not only inside the country
but in the exiled community as well, often weakening the overall movement. Many
groups are simply names, with no worthwhile activities.
In the activist community, there's a joke that if two Burmese people meet,
they will form three groups. First, each person forms his own group and then
they both form a coalition group.
It's a joke, but it captures a shameful truth. The pro-democracy movement
lacks the discipline for unity and power.
Recently, one of Burma's most respected monks, Dr Ashin Nyanissara, noted the
lack of collaboration in Burmese society, saying there have been thousands of
pro-democracy groups formed since 1988, but little unity. He's right.
No matter what obstacles we face in the future, the chief priority for all
pro-democracy leaders should be to build a single force capable of uniting the
country around one goal: democracy.
When asked what she wanted to say to pro-democracy groups in an interview
with The Irrawaddy in 2002, Suu Kyi replied, "I have always wanted to see
In every struggle, unity can bring success and disunity can bring failure.
All Burmese opposition groups must focus on unity. Otherwise, the flame of
democracy in Burma will never burst into the wildfire that's needed to sweep
away the military dictatorship.
Sons of 1962 and future of Burma's political
freedom - Ma Ng
Mizzima News: Tue 8 Jul 2008
The Burmese Army grabbed political power in a coup on 2 March 1962; and Burma
again lost its political freedom 14 years after independence, to the native
military dictatorship instead of a foreign colonial power.
Within a few months, in a move to crush the students protest against the army
takeover the Burmese military dynamited the Rangoon University Student Union
building on 7 July 1962. And from the beginning the military dictators proved to
be more ruthless and destructive than the foreign invaders.
During the 1962 crackdown, the army generals were no doubt confident that the
last of students' rebellion has been extinguished, for good. But 26 years later,
Ko Min Ko Naing and Ko Moe Thee Zun who were born in 1962, like many others in
their generation, became student leaders of the 1988 uprising. The number of
student protesters exploded from a few hundreds in 1962 to hundreds of thousands
Ko Moe Thee Zun, the student leader in exile said that, in 1988 the military
did not expect the student rebels to survive the harsh and difficult conditions
in the opposition camps. But like the Karen, Shan and other ethnic organizations
that came before them, after decades of trials and errors, the student
organization led by Ko Moe Thee Zun has also matured into one more challenger to
the junta's rule.
While the military's credibility as the saviour of the nation and protector
of the people has diminished, the students' political commitment has earned
respect and credibility. It became evident when the 2007 fuel price protest led
by the 88 student leaders escalated into a full blown Saffron uprising last
While the military generals are increasingly isolated in their citadel;
according to Ko Moe Thee Zun, the difficulties experienced by the students in
the jungles, since 1988 have helped Burman majority urban-elites gain greater
understanding of the ethnic political movement. An invaluable common bond and
respect has also been forged among the students and ethnic political oppositions
to help shape durable peace in Burma, later.
The ethnic armed rebels, who were perceived to have been more concerned with
the ethnic right of self determination instead of aiming for a larger political
change, are finally evolving into more politically correct organizations after
decades of violent conflicts with the military regime in Burma. The surviving
armed rebels are no longer tainted with drug trafficking or political and
ideological confusion. Their aim for a genuine democratic change, and, their
support for Aung San Suu Kyi and the legacy of her father, has never been
China which claims to be rising peacefully has nevertheless unilaterally
supported the military dictatorship in Burma. China's support for the Burmese
regime has been devastating for the armed resistance in Burma.
However, since the end of the Vietnam War, long before the war in Iraq, armed
conflicts alone no longer determine the political future of a country. After the
cold war, many nations gained democracy through mass protests and peaceful
political uprising, in places where civil wars have already ended.
The enormous military apparatus in Burma is a threat mostly to the military
junta which has to feed and support such an enormous and costly apparatus that
do not contribute to the wellbeing of the rulers or the citizens of Burma.
There is no need for such a large army even just to suppress the urban
dissidents or the armed rebels. It is only for the psychological need of the
generals. And it reflects the operational inefficiency of the Burmese
The end result of such great inadequacy is calculated to be in billions of
dollars of losses for Burma. Within weeks after the Tsunami in December of 2004,
the storm relief efforts received two and a half billion dollars worth of
pledges from around the world. The United States alone provided 90 helicopters
involving military assistance with 12,600 personnel and 21 ships, immediately
after the storm.
Whether the people in Irrawaddy delta a
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