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[ReadingRoom] News on Burma - 30/1/08

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  • CHAN Beng Seng
    1.. EU urges new govt to promote democracy in Burma 2.. Burmese Generals probably happy with Thailand s new government 3.. EU envoy calls for release of
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 30 12:37 AM
      1. EU urges new govt to promote democracy in Burma
      2. Burmese Generals probably happy with Thailand's new government
      3. EU envoy calls for release of Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi
      4. Gambari in New Delhi to urge fresh Indian support
      5. China continues to supply Burma with military equipment
      6. Japan gives $1.79m to Myanmar
      7. Electric power sector major attractor of foreign investment in Myanmar
      8. Army offensive in Eastern Burma creates growing humanitarian crisis
      9. Burmese bloggers hide from police
      10. Burma's government tightens its grip on international aid agencies
      11. Irrawaddy dam construction begins, human rights abuses begin
      12. Burmese junta force villagers to pay for road construction
      13. Democracy activists demand government dialogue with opposition
      14. Statement of the 2007 Generation Students' Union

      EU urges new govt to promote democracy in Burma
      The Nation: 30/1/08

      The European Union (EU) has urged the new government, which will to take the chairmanship of Asean in July, to commit to cooperation with the international community to promote human rights, democracy and peace in neighbouring Burma.

      "The EU wants to cooperate with Thailand's government to promote a positive solution in Burma," said Piero Fassino, EU Special Envoy to Burma.

      Thailand as the next chairman of Asean can play a significant role in moving Burma towards democracy and human rights as the group has adopted a new charter promoting both these important issues.

      Fassino was in Thailand Tuesday to obtain cooperation to facilitate political dialogue in the juntaruled Burma, which has been in political deadlock for years.

      The latest violence occurred in late September when 31 people died in a military crackdown on street protests led by Buddhist monks.

      The EU envoy met outgoing Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram, who said the Thai government under leadership of Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont has similar wishes as the international community and the EU to see full democracy and human rights in Burma.

      Fassino, appointed as the special envoy on Burma in November, is on an Asian tour that has already taken him to Beijing and Jakarta. He will visit India, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Japan over the next two months to seek cooperation in achieving his mission.

      The EU's strategy is to promote a dialogue between all the different actors in Burma's society; the junta, the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and representatives of ethnic minorities, he said.

      The EU envoy said he was working in collaboration with the United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari, whom he hoped would have a chance to visit Burma soon to facilitate political dialogue.

      "The meeting with lady Aung San Suu Kyi and the representatives of junta was very important but now it's necessary to open a new, more concrete phase. I think it's necessary to open a real dialogue between the junta and the opposition and all sectors in Burmese society," he said.

      by Supalak G Khundee

      Burmese Generals probably happy with Thailand's new government - Kyaw Zwa Moe
      Irrawaddy: Tue 29 Jan 2008

      Burma's ruling generals in the isolated capital of Naypyidaw are probably smiling over the election of Thailand's 25th prime minister on Monday.

      The junta no doubt views the new prime minister, Samak Sundaravej, as a proxy for deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Sinawatra, as does most of the Thai public.

      Thaksin, who makes many of the decisions for the newly formed government, was widely regarded as a Burma supporter who saw the country as a potential business partner.

      But in terms of the two countries political systems, Burma and Thailand are no longer the same, following Thailand's recent democratic election and the end of rule for Thailand's military junta, which governed the country for more than one year.

      From September 2006 until December 2008, the two governments were the same—generals ruled.

      Thailand's new Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej is the ostensible leader of the People Power Party. He admitted to being a "proxy" for Thaksin, who is currently residing in exile in Hong Kong. Samak was nominated by Thaksin to lead the People Power Party, which was founded after Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai Party was dissolved by Thailand's coup leaders.

      Burmese generals probably anticipate much smoother—and more supportive—relations with Thailand's new government.

      Thaksin was a friend of Burma's military regime when he was prime minister from 2001 to 2006. He was criticized for courting the junta by supporting business concessions and defending the military leaders.

      Thailand is one of Burma's biggest investors, and state-owned industries such as PTT and EGAT (the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand) are still the largest purchaser of gas from Burma, contributing almost US $2 billion a year to the military regime.

      Business relations under Thaksin's government were better than ever for the Burmese government. In 2003, Shin Corp, the telecom company once owned by Thaksin's family, signed a deal with Bagan Cybertech, the Burmese internet service provider, owned by Ye Naing Win, the son of the deposed Prime Minister Gen Khin Nyunt.

      In 2004, Thaksin traveled to the ancient capital of Pagan, Burma, to sell his "Economic Cooperation Strategy," and he promised the Burmese junta aid and support worth $45 million.

      In December 2003, Thaksin's government hosted the "Bangkok Process" to advance democracy in Burma. In addition to two foreign ministers from the host country and Burma, the meeting included representatives from Australia, Austria, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan and Singapore. The meeting yielded nothing even though Thai Foreign Minister Surakiat Sathirathai heralded it a "breakthrough."

      After the junta's harsh crack down on the monk-led demonstrations last September, the generals have faced growing international pressure. Even the regime's traditional supporters such as China, India and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have become more vocally critical even as they stick to their noninterference policies, saying Burmese politics is an "internal affair."

      Burma needs more friends to support its policies internationally. But the generals are always skeptical and reserved when they deal with foreign countries. They like to say they have no "always friends" or "always enemies." They focus on their own interest based on the present.

      However, it's likely they see the new Thai government as an old friend. And they will probably benefit from it.

      EU envoy calls for release of Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi
      Agence France Presse: Tue 29 Jan 2008

      The EU's special envoy for Myanmar on Tuesday urged the country's military regime to free democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi as he kicked off an Asian tour aimed at pressuring the junta for reform.

      "I hope the lady Aung San Suu Kyi can be free as soon as possible," Piero Fassino told reporters after a meeting with Thai Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram.

      Aung San Suu Kyi, a 62-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner, has spent 12 of the past 18 years under house arrest in Yangon.

      The ruling junta, in an apparent bid to defuse global pressure after its bloody crackdown on protests last September, appointed Labour Minister Aung Kyi in October to handle contacts with the detained opposition leader.

      Since then, Aung San Suu Kyi and Aung Kyi met four times, including their last meeting on January 11, but the military government has given no details of their talks.

      Fassino, a former Italian justice minister, said he supported the junta's dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi but urged the regime to make concrete progress.

      "Now it's necessary to open new phases. I think it's necessary to open real dialogue between the junta and the opposition and all different sectors of Myanmar society," he said.

      Fassino was appointed the EU special envoy on Myanmar last November and said he would travel to Indonesia, India, Vietnam, Laos and Japan over the next two months in a bid to garner Asian support to press Myanmar for reform.

      The Italian diplomat also called on the regime to allow the United Nations special envoy to Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, to return to the Southeast Asian country "as soon as possible."

      Gambari has visited Myanmar twice since the bloody military crackdown in September on peaceful protests led by Buddhist monks, who spearheaded the biggest pro-democracy uprising in nearly 20 years.

      The United Nations says at least 31 people were killed during the suppression, and 74 remain missing.

      Gambari has asked to return to Myanmar this month but was told by authorities there that they would consider an April visit.

      Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962.

      Gambari in New Delhi to urge fresh Indian support - Mungpi
      Mizzima News: Tue 29 Jan 2008

      New Delhi, India – In his second trip to India, United Nations Special Envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, arrived in New Delhi on Monday and is scheduled to meet with Indian government officials, a UN spokesperson said.

      Rajiv Chandran, Information Officer for the UN in New Delhi, said the Special Envoy arrived on Monday evening and will begin official meetings on Wednesday.

      "We [the UN] have requested four appointments, with the Foreign Secretary, Foreign Minister, Prime Minister and Vice President," Chandran said.

      Chandran, however, said Gambari is unlikely to hold any press conference during the trip and the Indian government has yet to respond to the meeting requests.

      Gambari, who will travel to China later, is expected to discuss with Indian leaders how best to push for democratic reform in military-ruled Burma.

      The Special Envoy, in his earlier visit to New Delhi, said he was satisfied with the Indian response to the UN Secretary General's initiative for reforms in Burma.

      However, the Nigerian diplomat urged India to further use its leverage on Burma to pressure the military junta to implement reforms.

      India came under the international spotlight and was widely criticized for its failure to condemn the Burmese military junta for its use of violence to crackdown on protestors in September.

      India, which also shares an over 1,400 kilometer porous border with Burma, is being attacked by rights groups as well as by Western nations for its reported supply of military hardware to the Burmese generals.

      However India, in a turn of events, has since raised its voice and urged the Burmese military junta to restrain from the use of violence and called for a broad-based dialogue with opposition groups toward kick-starting national reconciliation.

      But critics say India's policy on Burma remains hypocritical. While India has made rhetorical calls for changes in troubled Burma, it maintains and official relationship with the generals, including the signing of agreements and memorandum of understandings for an enhanced economic relationship.

      In what seems to be a refute of the criticisms made by human rights groups and Western nations on its supply of military hardware to Burmese generals, unconfirmed information that it has ceased its supply of military hardware to Burma has spread among the media, making critics think India is shifting its policy on Burma.

      However, Rahul Bedi, a Jane's Defence Weekly correspondent who covers Indo-Burmese military relations, says India has never changed its policy and has not ceased all supplies of military hardware to the generals.

      "But, India has temporarily halted the supply of military hardware following the September protests," Bedi told Mizzima.

      Following the Burmese general's bloody crackdown on protests led by Buddhist monks in September, India was widely criticized for its silence and continuing engagement with the junta.

      "In response to international calls, India has temporarily halted the supply of military hardware to the Burmese junta", Bedi said, adding that "we cannot assume that India has totally stopped its arms supply to the generals."

      He added that India has its own interests to look after in terms of dealing with the Burmese generals, and increasing Chinese influence in the Southeast Asian nation seems to pose a greater threat for Indian policy makers rather than continuing its vague support for democracy and human rights in Burma.

      While the Burmese crisis seems to be sandwiched between its two giant neighbors' struggles for greater influence on the internationally isolated country, both Indian and Chinese leaders have expressed their support for the UN Secretary General's initiative to push for reforms in Burma.

      Gambari, who is New Delhi to garner fresh support, is expected to highlight the importance of India's role and is likely to urge India to use its leverage on the Burmese generals to implement reforms.

      Following his Indian visit Gambari will visit China, but Chandran said, "He will leave on 31st January, the day after his meeting with the Indian government and will not go directly to China from here, it will be later."

      China continues to supply Burma with military equipment
      The Observers: Tue 29 Jan 2008

      A blog by Burmese exiles in Thailand (Vimutti) has published photos of new military vehicles delivered to Burma from China on 15 January. The vans are the same model that was used to transport soldiers and prisoners during September's crackdown. However, Chinese diplomats insist they are working hard to get the Junta to negotiate with the opposition and to make efforts in terms of human rights. Kio, our Observer for Burma, comments on the situation.

      China's been supplying the Junta with military equipment since 1988. They even gave them a million-dollar loan to be able to buy the stuff, which is mainly heavy artillery and military vehicles. The Chinese authorities have reason to want a calm Junta. They don't want any trouble because the Olympic Games are on their way, and also because they want to avoid an influx of refugees. That's why they openly criticised the crackdown in September. That was a first. But at the same time, they want to maintain their trade links, particularly to sustain sales of military material. However, competition has recently increased, especially with India, who actually succeeded in selling fighter-planes to Burma last year. The trucks that come through the Sino-Burmese border - the FAW models - have been used by the army for the past 20 years. According to the blog that published these photos, they were giving a ‘present' to the junta, probably in exchange for jade, teak or farming produce."


      Japan gives $1.79m to Myanmar - Kyaw Hsu Mon
      Myanmar Times: Tue 29 Jan 2008

      The government of Japan pledged US$1.79 million to UNICEF Myanmar last week to support an eight-phase project aimed at improving maternal and child healthcare services.

      The agreement for the grant was signed on January 14 at Sedona Hotel in Yangon between Mr Yasuaki Nogawa, the Japanese ambassador to Myanmar, and Mr Ramesh Shrestha, UNICEF's country representative.

      Mr Shrestha said at the signing ceremony that the money will be used to support collective effort to protect Myanmar's children against vaccine-preventable diseases, malaria and other fatal ailments, and to save their mothers from pregnancy-related deaths.

      "UNICEF will ensure that this assistance will target those most in need," he said, adding that most of the aid will target rural areas.

      The funding will be used to purchase rapid test kits and medicine for malaria, vaccines for measles and tetanus, and essential medicines and equipment for reproductive health, according to an announce-ment from the Japanese embassy.

      Japan has provided assistance for seven consecutive phases of the same project amounting to US$31.9 million from 1999 to 2006.

      Electric power sector major attractor of foreign investment in Myanmar
      Xinhua General News Service: Tue 29 Jan 2008

      Myanmar's electric power sector has attracted 6.311 billion U.S. dollars of foreign investment as of the end of 2007, the Weekly Eleven News, one of the leading private-run news journals, reported Tuesday.

      Of a total contracted foreign investment of 14.736 billion dollars in 417 projects, the electric power sector stands as the biggest attractor of foreign investment, the report quoted the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development as saying.

      It was followed by oil and gas with 3.243 billion dollars, manufacturing 1.629 billion dollars, real estate development 1.056 billion dollars, hotels and tourism 1.034 billion dollars, mining 534.89 million dollars, livestock breeding and fisheries 324.35 million dollars and transport and communications 313.27 million dollars.

      Of the 417 projects, electric power accounted for 42.83 percent, oil and gas 22 percent, manufacturing 11.06 percent, real estate 7. 73 percent and hotels and tourism 7.02 percent, said the report.

      The foreign investment in Myanmar came from 28 countries and regions, of which Thailand, Singapore, the United Kingdom and Malaysia were leading.

      In 2005-06 fiscal year (April-March), Myanmar absorbed the highest annual contracted foreign investment of 6.065 billion dollars which mainly came from Thailand with 6.03 billion dollars in a major power project — the 7,110-megawatt Tar-hsan hydropower project on the Thanlwin River in eastern Shan state's Tachilek.

      In 2006-07, the country brought in 752 million dollars of investment with 471.48 million dollars in the oil and gas sector from the United Kingdom (240.68 million dollars), Singapore (160 million dollars), South Korea (37 million dollars) and Russian Federation (33 million dollars), and 281.22 million dollars in the power sector from China alone, according to the figures of the Central Statistical Organization (CSO).

      Meanwhile, Myanmar companies made most investment in industry in 2007, followed by real estate, another local weekly the 7-Day reported earlier by quoting the Myanmar Industrial Producers Association.

      Of the total private investment of 141.381 billion Kyats (about 112.2 million dollars) in 677 projects, that in industry amounted to 34.041 billion Kyats, while that in real estate 30.081 billion Kyats, the report quoted the Myanmar Investment Commission as saying.

      Myanmar enacted the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Law in late 1988 when it started to adopt a market-oriented economic policy.

      Army offensive in Eastern Burma creates growing humanitarian crisis - Rory Byrne and Wido Schlichting
      Voice of America: Tue 29 Jan 2008

      Reports from Karen State in eastern Burma say that the army's annual dry season offensive against the Karen National Union is under way. The KNU has been fighting for freedom from the military government for almost 60 years. In the past two years, rights groups say the Burmese army has intensified a scorched earth campaign in Karen State, resulting in a growing humanitarian crisis. Rory Byrne and Wido Schlichting report from the Thai-Burma border.

      The war between the Burmese army and the Karen ethnic minority in Burma is thought to be the world's longest running civil war. War broke out shortly after independence from Britain in 1949 when the Karen were denied autonomy from the government in Rangoon, dominated by ethnic Burmese.

      Burma's military government justifies its harsh rule in part by saying it is necessary to keep different ethnic groups from trying to split the country. Over the years, more than 17 ethnic groups have fought the government, although in the past decade several signed peace agreements. But in Karen State the fighting continues and villagers are caught in the middle.

      Human rights groups say the Burmese army uses scorched-earth tactics to deny Karen guerrillas a support base. Villagers are killed or forced to flee, livestock are shot, homes are burned and landmines are laid to prevent people from returning.

      Aid groups say that about 370 villagers have been killed since late 2006. About 30,000 have been displaced.

      Debbie Stothard is the coordinator for the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma. She told us, "In the past two and a half years we have seen no let up in the attack – it's no longer a seasonal offensive, it's an on-going intense offensive and that has meant that people – many, many communities – have not been able to grow rice for two years. Twenty-five thousand people are facing imminent starvation."

      Human rights groups say that the army often uses captured civilians as forced labor. The Karen say they want peace but, without a peace agreement, they will keep fighting.

      Johnny is the commander of the KNU's seventh brigade based on the Thai-Burma border. "Even though we are less in number, what we need is sacrifice, perseverance and unity, so then one day we will certainly obtain our victory and surely achieve our goal," he says.

      Sann Aung is a cabinet minister with Burma's government-in-exile, based in Bangkok. He tells VOA, "They would like to negotiate a ceasefire. They have had many talks with the military regime, but the military regime demands their total surrender. That is not acceptable to the KNU [Karen National Union]. That is the situation."

      Aid groups expect that in the coming months, thousands more Karen will be forced to flee and more lives will be lost.


      Burmese bloggers hide from police - Nem Davies
      Mizzima News: Tue 29 Jan 2008

      Apprehensive of the relentless crackdown by the Burmese military junta, several Burmese bloggers in Rangoon have gone into hiding. The scare follows the arrest of a Burmese blogger, Nay Phone Latt, earlier in the day.

      Burmese bloggers in the former capital are alarmed and have been forced to go underground in fear of the authorities taking action against them. Nay Phone Latt (Nay Bone Latt), a blogger as well as a writer, was arrested from an internet cafe in Thingan Kyun Township.

      A blogger, who requested anonymity in fear of reprisals, said, "At the moment we [bloggers] are fleeing in the wake of the arrest of Ko Nay Phone Latt."

      Nay Phone Latt has a blog site www.nayphonelatt.blogspot.com, where he posted writings about expressions of the youth in Burma.

      Another blogger said he believes the authorities have targeted bloggers and confirmed that fellow bloggers are on the run in fear of arrests.

      Internet users in Rangoon said, over a few weeks ago, authorities have stepped up surveillance of internet users and asked internet café owners to maintain strict records of users.

      Blogging, which is popular among Burmese youth, has become a dangerous pastime in the country. The authority's stranglehold over information flow remains as tight as ever and there is zero tolerance over any critical writing.

      During the September protests, a Burmese blogger Thar Phyu, who has a blogsite www.mogokemedia.blogspot.com, was arrested and briefly detained for posting pictures of monks and people demonstrating on the streets.

      Meanwhile, authorities have shifted poet Saya Saw Wai, who was arrested last week for writing a Valentines' day poem that contains a hidden word – ‘Power Crazy Than Shwe', – to the notorious Insein prison on Saturday, family members said.

      Burma's government tightens its grip on international aid agencies - Mungpi
      Mizzima News: Tue 29 Jan 2008

      In what seems to be a renewed effort to control the movement of international aid agencies operating in Burma, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoH) has established new sets of regulations for aid groups.

      The new instructions, which are supplementary to the existing rules, were told to International Non-governmental Organizations (INGOs) operating in Burma by the Ministry of Home Affairs during a meeting on January 11, 2008, held at Burma's new capital of Naypyitaw, according to the meeting minutes, a copy of which Mizzima has obtained.

      According to the meeting notes, circulated among concerned government ministries, departments and INGOs, all travel by representatives of aid agencies to the field will have to be approved by the Ministry of Defense. This directive literally controls the movement of aid groups.

      "No permission from Ka-Ka-Kyi [Ministry of Defense], no travel," Dr. San Shwe Win, Deputy Director General of the Department of Health, who chaired the meeting, told the aid agencies.

      While the authenticity of the meeting minutes could not be independently confirmed, an aid worker in Rangoon told Mizzima, "Yes, there was a meeting in Naypyitaw and one of our senior members attended."

      However the aid worker, who wished not to be named, did not elaborate on the meeting.

      During the meeting, the Chairman said all visits by expatriates will be accompanied by government appointed Liaison Officers (LO), as done in previous years, and expatriates are advised to stay close to the LO.

      The LO will accompany and stay with the expatriates, "if possible in the same hotel, taking the same flight, using the same vehicle." Additionally, the LO should be included in all activity-related trainings or meetings and the aid agency is to bear all expenses of the LO.

      Dr. San Shwe Win said the new time frame for all Memorandum of Understandings between the government and INGOs is set at one year, and aid agencies will be required to apply for renewal at least 3 to 6 months in advance.

      The Chairman of the meeting encouraged INGOs to minimize the conduct of surveys or assessments and instead utilize existing information from other agencies.

      Burma, which has a tradition of hiding or providing widely inaccurate data on health, has always refused the request of international organizations to conduct extensive surveys in the country.

      "Surveys and assessments should be confined to "Health Issues"… and there needs to be prior discussion and agreement with non-health sector areas such as education, socio-economic conditions, etc," the meeting minutes said.

      In a closing remark, Dr. San Shwe Win, chairman of the meeting, told representatives of the INGOs to focus only on "pure health activities" in order to obtain Memorandum of Understandings from the government.

      "In the future, it will be difficult to get Memorandums of Understanding from the MoH if for health-related or non-health activities," added Dr. San Shwe Win.

      The Chairman referenced a famous Burmese saying in advising the representatives under what conditions the restrictions may be lifted. "If a person is liked, then the rules are reduced," meaning rules and regulations can be reduced for close friends, "…so try to be liked first!"

      Irrawaddy dam construction begins, human rights abuses begin - Saw Yan Naing
      Irrawaddy: Tue 29 Jan 2008

      Burma and China began construction on one of the largest dams in Burma some two months ago; meanwhile, villagers in the area are being extorted and abused by the Burmese army, according to sources.

      The Myitsone hydropower project is being built on the Irrawaddy confluence about 26 miles (42 km) north of Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, in northern Burma.

      A source, who recently observed the dam site, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that about 20 Chinese and a handful of Burmese engineers are working on the site, plus about 300 construction workers from the Asia World Company, owned by Tun Myint Naing, one of the discredited cronies with links to the Burmese regime. The workers have built shelters in the area by the site and are currently tasked with detonating dynamite underneath the Irrawaddy River to break up the rocks and create space for the dam.

      The Burmese state-run newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar, reported in May 2007 that seven hydropower projects on the Irrawaddy River had been designed to generate a combined total of 13,360 megawatts (MW) of electricity. The report said that the largest dam—Myitsone hydropower project—would produce some 3,600 MW.

      The hydropower projects are being implemented under an agreement signed in late 2006 with the state-owned China Power Investment Corporation (CPI) and Burma's Ministry of Electric Power No 1.

      However, while construction is underway, a series of human rights abuses in the local areas have occurred following the arrival of Light Infantry Battalion 121, said residents.

      The source who had observed the dam site said, "The Burmese army didn't stay in their camp. They went to Tanghpare village [some 3 miles (5 km) from the dam site] and took over a library and are staying there. Now they do whatever they want.

      "The army are extorting money form local merchants and taking materials from shops in Tanghpare without paying," he said. "They are also taking vegetables from the villagers' farms and walking away with pigs and chickens."

      The observer said that the Burmese army had been moved into the area as security for the hydroelectric dam site.

      He added that local villagers didn't dare to say anything because they had been threatened by authorities and warned about making contact with foreign or exiled media.

      Naw La, coordinator of the Chiang Mai-based Kachin Environmental Organization, on Tuesday said, "The natural heritage of the Kachin people in Myitsone area will be destroyed. More than 40 villages near the construction site will be flooded if the dam is built. The reinforcement of soldiers, forced relocations, deforestation and floods will follow hand-in-hand with its construction."

      More than 10,000 villagers are currently living in those 40 villages, said Naw La.

      He added: "If they intend to build a dam, the authorities should inform the villagers of the environmental and social impact assessment and let them become involved in the decision making. However, the authorities haven't contacted the villagers since the project's inception."

      Some villagers are anticipating displacement from the dam site area and have already bought houses in Myitkyina, while others have been forced to seek shelter in the mountains near their villages, said the observer in Myitkyina.

      An employee of the Kachin Consultative Assembly said that an earlier letter of complaint had been sent to the government asking it not to build a dam on the Irrawaddy confluence. The letter pointed out that the dam would destroy the lives and property of local people, damage natural resources and cause the loss of irreplaceable natural habitat. However, the government has not responded to the letter, he said.

      Burma is currently cooperating with China and Thailand on several hydropower projects across the country. It expects hydropower projects to double production of electricity in the military-ruled country by 2009.

      Burmese junta force villagers to pay for road construction
      Khonumthung News: Tue 29 Jan 2008

      The Burmese military junta authorities do not bat an eye lid when it comes to collecting money forcibly from the people.

      An order has been issued to collect money from villagers for the construction of a road that will connect Hakha, capital of Chin state to Mantaw village in Kalay Township, Sagaing division.

      The order issued by Khuang Hlei Thang, chairman of Township Peace and Development Council in Thangtlang Township in Chin state on January 10 directs each village in Thangtlang to contribute Kyat 200,000 (about US $160) each for the 80 mile long Hakha-Mantaw road project.

      The order further mentioned that each village must pay at the TDPC office in Thangtlang before the end of February.

      The latest move has also added to the trouble of villagers who are facing a famine like situation (food crisis) because of bamboo flowering that helps rats multiply across remote areas Chin state.

      "We have no idea where to find so much money when we can hardly generate our daily meal," said a local from Chin state.

      The village heads have been assigned to collect the money.

      The amount of money to be collected will range from Kyat 2000 to 6000 per household on the basis of the household number in the village. The sum of collected money is estimated to touch Kyat 17,000,000 (US $ 13,654), according to locals.

      The eight feet wide Hakha – Mantaw road construction project began in 2006. Initially, it was targeted to be completed in 2007 with government funding. Later, the local authorities carried out the project with fund from civilians and labour of locals.

      So far, only 50 miles of the 80 miles of the road has been completed.

      On May 2007, the TPDC authorities from Thangtlang town had also collected Kyat 1,000 per household from 85 villages in Thangtlang for labour wages to be paid to road construction workers.

      Democracy activists demand government dialogue with opposition
      Narinjara News: Tue 29 Jan 2008

      Taungup: Democracy activists secretly pasted posters in prominent locations in Taungup town in Arakan State on Monday, demanding that the Burmese military regime release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and initiate a dialogue with opposition leaders.

      The activists pasted posters carrying their demands on the entrance walls of famous Buddhist temples and monasteries, hospitals, the jetty, and markets during the night of January 27, 2008, said a student in Taungup.

      The student said that the demands they wrote on the posters read as follows: "To follow the international Human Rights Declaration adopted by the UN," "To release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners," "To stop the arrest and harassment of people against the law," and "To make a dialogue immediately with the opposition groups."

      Policemen removed all the posters in the early hours of January 28, soon after the news of the posters began spreading among the people.

      Many townspeople read the posters in the morning before the policemen tore them down and all were happy to see the posters and the demands, the student said.

      Authorities in Taungup are now closely watching NLD members and other democracy activists there. Many extra police personnel have been brought in from other townships to Taungup and have been deployed in key places in town, including the monasteries and the central market.

      People in Taungup had plans to stage a demonstration on January 17, 2008 but did not get the chance to gather as authorities blocked all the streets in the town with police forces, the student said.

      Unidentified democracy activists also distributed anti-government flyers on January 19 along the streets of Taungup and Kyaukpru in Arakan State, despite heavy security in the area.

      Taungup town played an active role in Arakan State, and many anti-government activities broke out in the town during and after the Saffron Revolution.

      Statement of the 2007 Generation Students' Union
      Tue 29 Jan 2008

      Today our country, Burma, is facing failures in all aspects like economy, social affairs,

      education and even religion under the evil military dictatorship. All the citizens are suffering a lot daily from such general hardships as starvation, forced labor, poor health care, substandard educational system and loss of freedom and human rights because of oppression by a handful of bureaucratic military dictators. All democracy-loving Burmese people have the responsibility to break free from these dire troubles.

      Like all Burmese people of all walks, we students highly yearn for values of liberty, democracy and human rights that every free people of the world are enjoying. In order to fulfill our hopes, we believe that we students too have as much responsibility as the Burmese people. History has given proof that we students have served in the forefront of all stages in Burma's struggles for liberation and democracy along with other classes, sacrificing blood, sweat and tears. Hence, the duty to work for democracy is the one relayed by history to be borne by us.

      To accomplish this historical task to our utmost by risking our lives, we have established the "2007 Generation Students Union" consisting of students all over Burma. We "2007

      Generation Students Union" would peacefully fight for fundamental rights and democracy for the entire student mass. Therefore the "2007 Generation Students Union" solemnly urge all students throughout Burma to work together with uniform spirit so that our student strata's stature would be glorious.

      "We have responsibility for our history"

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