[ReadingRoom] News on Burma - 3/10/08
- Myanmar detains political ally of Aung San Suu Kyi
- Swan Ahr Shin and police support Sittwe monks
- NLD youth member reported dead in custody
- Lawyer Aung Thein withdraws representation
- Than Shwe delays signing election law
- Llyod's writes to all agents to 'reconsider' business deals with Burma
- 'The Revolving Door': Plight of Burmese refugees in Malaysia
- Burma stonewalls at the UN
- Do sanctions hinder development?
- Burma's censors suspend two publications
- Chinese dam incurs KIO wrath
- US group studies potential war crimes by Myanmar military
- Jade trade in Myanmar thrives on exploitation, rights abuses
- Winds of change fail to stir Myanmar
- Opposition must cooperate: Win Tin
- FO warns Lloyd's over Burma
- China's grip on Burma 'cause for concern'
- Burma's bluff
Myanmar detains political ally of Aung San Suu Kyi
Associated Press: Thu 2 Oct 2008
Myanmar's military authorities have detained a prominent former journalist and political ally of detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition party said Thursday.Police took 64-year-old Ohn Kyaing from his home Wednesday evening, said Nyan Win, the spokesman for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.
"The reason why he was detained was not known," Nyan Win said.
Ohn Kyaing was released from prison in 2005 after serving 15 years of a 17-year prison sentence for "writing and distributing seditious pamphlets" and threatening state security.
Ohn Kyaing joined the NLD after a long career in journalism and won a parliamentary seat in 1990 - elections that were overwhelmingly won by Suu Kyi's party but which the military junta refused to recognize.
Until then, he had worked at several newspapers and written articles under the pen name "Aung Wint."
Ohn Kyaing is a close friend and former colleague of Win Tin, another former journalist turned opposition politician, who was the longest-serving political prisoner in Myanmar until his release Sept. 23. Win Tin served 19 years behind bars.
Asked to comment on the detention of Ohn Kyaing, Win Tin said, it "is not unusual and something we have to expect. He is a close colleague, a good friend and a highly qualified man."
The Home Ministry, which is in charge of police, could not be reached for comment Thursday. Authorities seldom comment on arrests of this nature.
Myanmar has been under military rule for 46 years and is one of the world's poorest and most authoritarian nations. Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has been detained for 13 of the last 19 years.
Swan Ahr Shin and police support Sittwe monks
Narinjara News: Thu 2 Oct 2008
Members of Swan Ahr Shin, the police, and the riot police have supported the anti-government movement led by monks in Sittwe because they are suffering the same difficulties in their daily lives, said monk leader Rakhaputta in Sittwe.
He said, "We received not only the people's support, but also the support of members of Swan Ahr Shin, riot police, and the police force for our movement at present, because they are unable to tolerate the economic hardship of their daily lives under the current military government."
People in Sittwe typically support the monk led demonstrations against the military government, but members of Swan Ahr Shin and riot police have never in the past supported the anti-government demonstrations.
Rakhaputta, who is now leading monks in Sittwe, said yesterday over the phone, "Our movement against the military government is still going on without any disturbances by the authorities because we received information from officials from those groups about how the authority plans to crack down on our movement."
He added that members of Swan Ahr Shin are also members of the public and they are suffering like everyone else. "They are in the same boat, so they understand the current situation of Burma and support our movement," he said.
Swan Ahr Shin was formed by the government with retired soldiers and police, local supporters of the government, and criminals, in order to attack people and monks when they lead anti-government activities anywhere in Burma.
During last year's Saffron Revolution, members of Swan Ahr Shin along with the police and riot police attacked many democratic and human rights activists. The authority placed Swan Ahr Shin at the forefront of the crackdown on the democracy movement in Burma.
The monk said, "You can see there have not been activities by Swan Ahr Shin this year, because they do not want to support the government again. In Sittwe, there are some members of Swan Ahr Shin but they are very close with the monks right now because they understand why monks are attempting to stage demonstrations as well as who the demonstrations are for."
The authority is still beefing up security in Sittwe after the anniversary of the Saffron Revolution has passed because there are rumors that monks in Sittwe are secretly preparing to stage demonstrations to demand the release of all monks who were detained after last year's protests.
NLD youth member reported dead in custody
Democratic Voice of Burma: Thu 2 Oct 2008
Aung Moe Lwin, a 36-year-old youth member of the National League for Democracy in Natmauk township, Magwe division, is said to have died in detention, according to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
His family has been informed of his death.
Aung Moe Lwin went to Rangoon last year for training before the Saffron Revolution in September and stayed at Maggin monastery, where became friendly with the monks and helped look after AIDS patients.
He stayed with the monks during the demonstrations up until the monastery was sealed off and was interviewed about the arrests and beatings of monks in the crackdown.
When he suddenly disappeared from South Dagon at the beginning of August, people assumed he had gone to another monastery, as he had made friends with monks from other monasteries and stayed with them on previous occasions.
It did not become clear that Aung Moe Lwin had been arrested until a fellow detainee who had been released said that he had seen him being tortured in prison and that he was in a serious condition.
Once his arrest and detention was made public, his family expected that he would be transferred to Insein prison where they could come and visit him.
But five days ago, Aung Moe Lwin's brother in Kyaukpadaung received a telephone call from an unnamed person who informed him that Aung Moe Lwin and another person from Meikhtila had died from an 'over-zealous hand' during interrogation.
On hearing this, Aung Moe Lwin's parents went to the Rangoon divisional office where their son was last known to have been held, but they were told by an official that he was not there.
Aung Moe Lwin's father U Thein Aung said he was determined to find out what happened to his son.
"I am proud of my son and I allowed him to do good things for the public," U Thein Aung said.
"I will look for him until I find him. I don't think it will be easy, but I will search until I find him," he said.
"I won't give up until I find him. It is necessary to uncover the truth and I will continue to do so."
U Thein Aung arrived in Rangoon today, and has been to Rangoon divisional office, Kyeemyintaing court and Insein prison.
So far his investigations have met with denials from the authorities.
"The authorities have only said, 'We don't know and he is not here'," U Thein Aung said.
"I want them to tell me where he is and what happened but they are hiding it, it is hard to cope with."
U Thein Aung said he had told his wife that their son was missing and wants his case to be treated as a missing person, feared dead, until the facts are established.
Lawyer Aung Thein withdraws representation - Htet Aung Kyaw
Democratic Voice of Burma: Thu 2 Oct 2008
Prominent lawyer U Aung Thein has said he is to stop representing clients such as U Gambira and other activists in protest at the court's refusal to allow him enough time to prepare a defence.
Aung Thein said he will no longer work on the cases of those detained for their involvement in last year's public demonstrations.
Contrary to legal requirements, Aung Thein said he had not been given sufficient time to gather evidence and prepare his clients' defence cases.
"I asked the court to give us enough time, and the court said, 'We can't do that, we have to finish this case'," he said.
"U Gambira's lawyer also said he could not conduct cross-examinations. After they refused to grant me enough time, I said I wouldn't continue with the case - I would withdraw my representation."
Aung Thein added that it could never be fair for prosecutors to read out accusations against the suspects and not allow them to properly defend themselves.
The lawyer was particularly dismayed by the one-sided decisions passed against political prisoners by Ahlon township judge Daw Thiri Tin in Insein prison.
Aung Thein's clients include U Gambira and his brother Ko Aung Kyaw Kyaw, U Eindreia from Maggin monastery, U Eindaka from Mandalay, U Thumana, Ko Kyaw Naing from Myitche, Ko Than Naing from taungdwinggyi, Ko Wunna Maung from Mandalay, Ko Shwe Maung, and Ko Zaw Win.
Aung Thein said the court's decision not to allow him to cross-examine witnesses had also made it impossible for him to properly defend his clients.
He rejected the suggestion that his stance could make the situation worse for his clients, and said he had their full support.
"I consulted with the clients and withdrew representation with their consent. We can't even think about the good or bad consequences," he said.
"The court took an instant decision and if we didn't take an instant decision, what should we do? I had no other option but to withdraw my representation," he explained.
"The clients agreed that there was no justice and gave their signatures in support."
Than Shwe delays signing election law - Min Lwin
Irrawaddy: Thu 2 Oct 2008
The head of the Burmese military regime, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, has still not approved the country's election law, which authorizes an election in 2010 and the constitutional backing for the Burmese armed forces to retain at least 25 percent of parliamentary seats.
Sources within the Burmese military said that although the election law had been approved by the constitution process, it was still on Than Shwe's desk waiting to be signed.
Win Min, a Burmese military analyst based in Thailand, said that Than Shwe will not authorize the document until closer to the election date.
Rumors are circulating in Naypyidaw and Rangoon that Than Shwe and his No 2, Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye, have argued recently about which officers would be given parliamentary seats and which would continue in military service.
Military sources said that Than Shwe is the key player in deciding which military officers run in the election.
Meanwhile, at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win said that the fifth step of the junta's "road map" - a general election - will be completed in 2010 and that all necessary measures are being taken for the election.
He also said in his speech that all citizens, regardless of political affiliation, will have equal rights to form political parties and the government will make every effort to ensure that the election will be free and fair.
According to the constitution approved in May, 25 percent of the seats in the Burmese parliament will be reserved for members of the military, nominated by the Commander-in-Chief of the Burmese Defence Services.
Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Burmese military analyst living on the China-Burma border, said that Than Shwe wanted to keep his grip on power and was preparing to form a political party to compete in the 2010 election.
According to military sources, regional military commanders competed for Than Shwe's approval during the constitutional referendum in May. The commanders were told that unless their regions produced a high percentage of Yes votes, they could find themselves "retired" or transferred to inactive positions.
Official figures concluded that more than 90 percent of the electorate voted "Yes" despite the process being labeled a "sham" by most observers.
Since Than Shwe seized power in 1992, he has relegated his colleagues and opponents ruthlessly if he suspected they were not loyal to him. In 2004, he purged former Prime Minister Gen Khin Nyunt and his supporters for disobeying him. Khin Nyunt has been under house arrest ever since.
Llyod's writes to all agents to 'reconsider' business deals with Burma - Solomon
Mizzima News: Thu 2 Oct 2008
UK's leading insurance marketplace, Lloyd's of London, said it has written to all its managing agents to reconsider their business involvement with Burma's military junta.
Louise Shield, Head of Communications of Lloyd's, told Mizzima that the marketplace's chairman has received a letter from the British Government's Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) stating its disapproval over the market's involvement with Burma.
"We have been asking the government for guidance on doing business in Burma, and now we have received a letter. And we are writing to all our managing agents," Shield said.
But Shield said, the market's businesses in Burma are not significant and pulling out of the country will not have much impact on the market.
"We have very small amount of insurance business [in Burma]," said Shield. "Probably there is no significant effect in our business."
The response of Lloyd's of London, a leading marketplace in England dealing in reinsurance business, came after campaigners urged several insurance companies across the world to stop dealing with the Burmese military junta, as the regime is profiting from them.
Burma Campaign UK, a group advocating for human rights and democracy in Burma, has named 16 insurance companies including Lloyd's of London, Hannover Re, Catlin, Atrium, XL, Tokio Marine, Sompo Japan and Mitsui Sumitomo as groups having business dealings with the junta.
BCUK, in its report 'Insuring the generals' released in July said, these companies and insurers are providing billions of dollars to the Burmese military regime that is infamously known for repressing its citizens.
Johnny Chatterton, Campaigns Officer of BCUK said, "We welcome the impact of the government's letter, they [Lloyd's of London] now have to write to the entire marketplace."
Chatterton said, while a few other leading insurance companies of the world have pulled out of Burma, Lloyd's has turned a deaf ear to the call made by him and his colleagues to cut all business ties with Burma's military regime.
In August, two of the world's leading insurance companies Chubb and XL capitals announced a stop to all business deals with Burma's military government in response to the BUCK's campaign.
"The British government clearly wants them to pull out, we want them to pull out," said Chatterton adding that the Burmese regime could lose tens of millions of Dollars if the Lloyd's stop insuring oil and natural gas in the Southeast Asian nation.
BCUK, however, said Lloyd's refusal to reveal the contents of the FCO's letter indicates that it wants to hide its involvement in Burma.
While admitting that Lloyd's has received a letter from the FCO, Shield said they cannot reveal the contents as it is "Private".
BCUK warned that avoiding to act in accordance with the letter would be breaking the government's guidelines and damaging their own reputation.
"If they don't end their involvement in Burma soon they will be branded by Burma in the same way that Barclays was in Apartheid South Africa and Exxon with climate change," Chatterton said in a press statement released on Monday.
"We warmly welcome the government's firm stand against Lloyd's, they should continue their leading role by pushing for targeted EU sanctions banning the provision of insurance services to Burma," Chatterton added.
'The Revolving Door': Plight of Burmese refugees in Malaysia - Zarni
Mizzima News: Thu 2 Oct 2008
In the first ever instance of highlighting the lives of refugees, particularly Burmese, Malaysian rights campaigners have launched a new book compiling eight stories on the pathetic situation of Burmese refugees.
The book titled, 'The Revolving Door', highlights the precarious state that Burmese refugees are in, in Malaysia while seeking refuge from persecution in their home country - Burma.
Dr. Irene Fernandez, author of the book, which was launched on Saturday, said, "I wrote this book as we need to present the responsibilities and understanding of the Malaysians, and also the international community to know more about violence towards these people."
Dr. Fernandez, in her book highlights the need for Malaysians to understand refugees and other foreign workers in their land. She said Burmese refugees and other foreign workers are often subjected to deportation from the border on arrest by the Malaysian authorities.
In the process of deportation of the refugees from the Malaysian border, the refugees are exposed and are vulnerable to human traffickers, who wait for Malaysian authorities to deport them and then charge a huge sum of money to help them get back into Malaysia, she said.
"This situation that the refugees are facing is like a revolving door, so I named the book 'The Revolving Door'," Dr, Fernandez told Mizzima.
According to her, most refugees, including women, children, pregnant women and elders, once arrested by Malaysian authorities are deported to the Thai-Malay border after the courts take a decision. And right at the border, the refugees are met by human traffickers, who demand huge sums of money to help them go back in.
Most often the refugees are charged between 1300 and 2000 Malaysian Ringgits (377 to 581 US Dollar) by the traffickers.
Dr. Fernandez hopes the book, which compiles eight stories of Burmese refugees, will bring about a better understanding about the lives and struggles of refugees and foreign workers in Malaysia.
"We hope that there will be some changes from this. Once people read this book they will understand these poor people and may think for them and they could recognize the refugees," said Dr. Fernandez.
Malaysia, an emerging economic tiger of Southeast Asia, in recent years has become a destination for many refugees and migrant workers from regional countries including Burma, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Nepal.
According to the Kuala Lumpur based Burma Workers' Rights Protection Committee, Malaysia hosts at least 400,000 refugees and migrants from Burma alone.
Meanwhile, Burmese refugees and migrant workers said with the continued harassment by Malaysian Volunteer Corps known as RELA, the book would bring some light on the plight they have long suffered.
"We welcome this book both for Burmese refugees and Burmese migrant workers. We feel like it is a ray of hope for Burmese in Malaysia, who are out of range of protection both from workers' rights and human rights groups," said Ye Min Htun, Secretary of BWRPC.
According to Burmese workers and refugees, they are often raided by RELA groups and are randomly arrested even if they hold legal work permits or refugee recognition certificates issued by the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR).
The Burmese then are forcibly imprisoned in detention camps and are sentenced for deportation.
Dr. Fernandez said her book urges the Malaysian government to recognise the Burmese refugees and stop violating their rights.
"We would also like to urge the international community to respond on this horrific situation of Burmese refugees in Malaysia," Dr. Fernandez added.
Dr. Fernandez was awarded 'The Right Livelihood Award' in 2005 for her courageous and outstanding work against human rights violations. The award was established in 1980 by Jakob von Uexkull, and is presented annually, usually on December 9, to honour those 'working on practical and exemplary solutions to the most urgent challenges facing the world today'.
In 1995, Dr. Fernandez was arrested by Malaysian authorities and charged with 'maliciously publishing false news' on the abuse of the rights of migrant workers, malnutrition, physical and sexual abuses, the appalling working conditions of workers and for presenting facts about the situation in detention camps, where many migrant workers end up and die.
Despite being on bail pending an appeal, she - the founder of Tenaganita organization, courageously carries on her work to stand for the rights of refugees and foreign workers.
Burma stonewalls at the UN
Irrawaddy: Thu 2 Oct 2008
At the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday, Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win tried to appease countries concerned with Burma's political deadlock and repression of dissidents, maintaining the regime's "roadmap to democracy" offers the best chance for a return to civilian rule.
He said nothing about freedom for political prisoners, including Burma's democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and or a willingness to talk to the political opposition, a point raised by the UN's ad hoc "Group of Friends of Myanmar" two days earlier.
On Saturday, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly ministerial session, the group, which includes the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the European Union, the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France, called on the junta to cooperate with the UN. The Security Council has also demanded that the military regime release all political prisoners, talk with pro-democracy groups, open up the political process and end human rights abuses.
Paradoxically, the Burmese foreign minister never referred to such calls. Instead, he demanded the international community, notably the United States and EU countries, lift "unjustified" economic sanctions, which he said, "hurt the development and progress of Burma's people."
Nyan Win noted that Burma's constitution was approved by a national referendum in May this year - a referendum held without independent observers - and the next step on the junta's "roadmap to democracy" would take place with national elections in 2010.
Obliquely responding to the General Assembly ministers, he said only that "the international community can best assist Myanmar's [Burma's] democratization process by respecting the will of its people."
Respecting the will of the Burmese people?
In fact, the Burmese regime has jailed nearly 2,000 political prisoners, along with the world's only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient.
If the regime has the will to promote a genuine transition to an elected civilian government, now is the time to create the political preconditions to allow the public to participate in the process without restraint.
Included in the process would be the release of all political prisoners, including Suu Kyi and detained ethnic leaders.
Thus far, it's clear the generals lack the will to compromise with opposition groups, most notably the National League for Democracy and its allies who swept the majority of parliamentary seats in the voided 1990 election.
For two decades, the needs of the Burmese people have gone unmet.
Now is the time for the UN, Asean and the international community to push the generals harder than ever before to open up the political, economic and social life of the country by participating in meaningful dialogue with opposition groups and ethnic leaders.
Burma's economy: Do sanctions hinder development? - Mungpi
Mizzima News: Thu 2 Oct 2008
Poverty and the slow-pace of economic development in Burma, which was once known as the 'Rice Bowl' of Southeast Asia, is not the result of the current economic sanctions imposed by western nations but because of the ruling junta's mismanagement and inept economic decision making, said an economic expert.
Sean Turnell, Associate Professor and member of the Burma Economic Watch, at the Economics Department of Macquarie University in Sydney said he disagrees with the Burmese Foreign Minister's statement that sanctions have hindered economic development in Burma.
Nyan Win, in his address to the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday, called for an end to what he described as 'immoral sanctions' against his country, saying sanctions hamper economic development and harm the people.
Nyan Win, in his speech, said sanctions are "unwarranted," and "They are not only unfair but immoral. They are counter-productive and deprive countries of their right to development."
But Sean, a long time observer of Burmese economy, said Burma's economy is hardest hit by the junta's mismanagement and its self-imposed isolation.
"Burma's poverty is not a result of sanctions, but 45 years of extraordinarily inept economic decision making by Burma's military regimes," Sean said in an email to Mizzima.
He added that the regime has self-imposed sanctions by creating an economic environment that makes international investment, in true productive industry, utterly impossible.
The United States and the European Union have recently stepped up sanctions against Burma's military government for its suppression of pro-democracy groups and its refusal to improve the situation of human rights including the release of political prisoners.
However, the Burmese Foreign Minister, in his speech said, for Burma to be able to implement economic development, it needs "unfettered access" to markets, modern technology and investment, which according to him has been deprived to Burma due to the imposition of sanctions.
"The sooner the unjust sanctions are revoked and the barriers removed, the sooner will the country be in a position to become the rice bowl of the region and a reliable source of energy," he added.
Economic development without sanctions?
Aung Naing Oo, a Burmese analyst based in Thailand, said while lifting economic sanctions cannot improve Burma's economy over-night, it will, however, allow space for development in the long-run.
According to him, Burma, which has been isolated for nearly half a century and suffered nearly two decades of economic sanctions, a 'command economy' is prevailing, whereby the ruling generals dictate the economy and provide opportunities only to their cronies.
He said, therefore, lifting sanctions and allowing free flow of direct foreign investments, in the long run, would help open up new space for development as well as create new political space.
He added that economic sanctions, which the opposition group led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi have called for and was imposed by the US and EU, does not encourage political reconciliation in Burma.
The Burmese junta is annoyed with the west because of the sanctions but are even more so on the opposition led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for urging the west to impose sanctions, he said.
"[T]here has been a sore relationship between the junta and the opposition. So, international sanctions are an obstacle to reconciliation," Aung Naing Oo said.
However, he said, unless the junta drops its 'Command Economy', cronyism, and corruption, lifting sanctions will not help in developing the economy.
But Nyo Ohn Myint, the foreign affairs in-charge of the National League for Democracy - Liberated Area (NLD-LA), said sanctions have its causes and effects, but the deteriorating economic situation in Burma is mainly caused by the junta's corruption, nepotism and cronyism.
Nyo Ohn Myint, who closely monitors Burmese economy, said western sanctions does not put on hold the possibility of foreign investment, which mostly are from neighbouring countries including members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
But he said, Burma failed to attract foreign investors due to the lack of political stability, and transparency, which investors see as an unhealthy atmosphere for business deals.
"Despite the sanctions, we see that Burma's bilateral trade with neighbouring countries like India and China are increasing," Nyo Ohn Myint said.
Even with sanctions imposed by US and EU, there are several companies still operating in Burma, Nyo Ohn Myint said, but he added that that the junta's failure to demonstrate stability and mismanagement of the economy has slowed down Burma's economic development.
According to Sean, sanctions by any means are "not a full solution" they are, however, useful in an array of strategies.
"Often overlooked is that sanctions can be an avenue, through their progressive lifting, for sponsoring genuine reforms," he added.
Despite the sanctions Burma has several opportunities to implement economic development, Sean said, adding that Burma can still "bring about wholesale reform - especially in the areas of property rights and rational decision-making."
But under the current circumstance corporates and companies are "hardly going to invest in a place where expropriation is a real possibility, where poverty is such that a viable market is barely achievable, and where corruption imposes such high a 'tax' on genuine activity," Sean said.
Burma's censors suspend two publications - Lawi Weng and Moe Myint Yan
Irrawaddy: Wed 1 Oct 2008
Two weekly publications have been suspended by Burma's notorious censorship board, after being accused of violating rules and regulations, according to local journalists.
True News was ordered to suspend publication for two months after a large photograph depicting a Burmese child working on a construction site in Thailand appeared on the front page of its Tuesday issue.
The second journal, The Action Times, was ordered to suspend publication for one month after defying a censorship board instruction to drop a brief report on dissident journalist Win Tin, who was released last week after 19 years imprisonment.
"The Press Scrutiny and Registration Board summoned the editors of True News and The Action Times [on Tuesday] and ordered them to stop publishing their journals for two months and one month respectively," said a Rangoon-based journalist with connections to staff at the two publications.
The editor of The Action Times declined to comment on the ban on his publication when approached by The Irrawaddy. The journal was ordered to drop a brief report on the release of Win Tin and a profile of the journalist - formerly editor of the influential newspaper Hanthawaddy and vice-chairman of the Writers' Union, who served a total of 19 years in prison for his part in the 1988 pro-democracy uprising.
"I think this is why The Action Times has been banned for a month," a Rangoon journalist told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.
A freelance journalist in Rangoon who requested anonymity told The Irrawaddy that the censorship board's order suspending the publication of True News for two months was related to the sensitive photograph published on its front page.
The caption under the photograph read: "A Burmese child working on a construction site in Phuket, Thailand."
The censorship board reportedly accused the editors of failing to submit clear draft layouts to its office for inspection.
According to the board's regulations, every journal in Burma must submit a draft of its final layout with clear photographs, captions and pullouts.
However, another source, who claimed to have spoken to a reporter at True News, said the censorship board had passed the photo and its caption, so the journal published it.
According to a source within the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, certain authorities were annoyed by the photo and the censorship board's failure to spot it.
The source said the head of the censorship board, Maj Tint Swe, was reportedly admonished by Minister of Information Kyaw Hsan over the incident.
Chinese dam incurs KIO wrath - Saw Yan Naing
Irrawaddy: Wed 1 Oct 2008
A Chinese-Burmese joint project to construct a series of hydroelectric dams in Kachin State has met with resistance from the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), said sources close to the armed ethnic group.
The KIO, which signed a ceasefire with the Burmese junta in 1994, was reportedly unhappy that several projects to build dams in Kachin State in northern Burma were agreed in 2007 between the Burmese regime and representatives of the China Datang Corporation (CDC) without consulting the KIO, which claims control over the area.
Tensions soared two weeks ago when Chinese authorities refused to pay tax to the KIO, which responded by deploying soldiers around the two dams in progress - Tarpein 1 and Tarpein 2 - which are being constructed on the Tarpein River in Momauk Township by Burma's Ministry of Electric Power No 1 and a conglomerate of Chinese companies, including China Datang Corporation.
Soon after two battalions of armed KIO soldiers took up positions around the dams the Chinese construction workers on the project fled, causing construction to be suspended.
Sources close to the KIO said that the workers returned and the project resumed about one week ago after Chinese authorities paid 1.5 million yuan (US $220,916) to the KIO. The negotiation was reportedly mediated by newly appointed Commander of Northern Command Brig-Gen Soe Win.
The Tarpein 1 hydroelectric dam is designed to generate a capacity of 240 megawatts and is located about 3.5 miles (6 km) from Momauk Township, while Tarpein 2, which should generate 168 megawatts, is located about 6 miles (10 km) downstream of Tarpein 1.
According to a Kachin environmentalist, Naw La, who is coordinator of the Chiang Mai-based Kachin Environmental Organization, about 30 percent of the Tarpein 1 construction has been completed.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Wednesday, Naw La said, "Our concern is that the authorities don't allow local residents any involvement in the decision-making process. Not only that, the profits from the dams will only benefit the Burmese government and Chinese authorities - not the local residents.
Detrimental environmental effects - such as deforestation and flooding - will most likely result if the dams are completed, he added.
The Burmese junta has agreed a plan with Chinese representatives to build a total of nine hydroelectric dams in Kachin State, the largest of which - the 3,600-megawatt Myitsone hydropower project - is due to be built about 26 miles (42 km) north of Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin state, according to the Kachin Environmental Organization.
US group studies potential war crimes by Myanmar military
Agence France Presse: Wed 1 Oct 2008
An independent US group is to carry out unprecedented studies to determine whether Myanmar's military rulers, accused of rampant human rights abuses, have committed international crimes.
The Center for Constitutional Democracy at Indiana University's school of law said it would launch the research based on anecdotal evidence of "severe mistreatment" of marginalized ethnic groups by the junta.
"At this stage of the project, I can't honestly say that there are international crimes," the center's executive director, David Williams, told AFP by telephone.
"What I can say is there may be, and part of our goal would be to gather the evidence and try to come out with some objective conclusions about whether there are or not," he said.
The center's goal, he said, was to make focused research "in areas where perhaps it is most likely that international crimes were committed."
Only the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) can determine whether international crimes, such as war crimes and crimes against humanity, have been committed by any individual or group.
So far, Williams said, there has been no institutional focus on possible international crimes committed by Myanmar's junta, which imposed a bloody crackdown of pro-democracy protests in September earning global condemnation.
The crackdown - according to United Nations figures - left 31 people dead and 74 others missing, and resulted in thousands of arrests.
The military rulers had also come under international fire and were called "heartless" by some humanitarian groups for initially not allowing foreign aid when a cyclone left 138,000 people dead or missing in May.
Myanmar also houses more than 2,100 political prisoners, including democracy icon and Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent more than 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest.
Williams said that although the ICC had not initiated any study on the military junta's record so far, "ours might be a good place for them to get started.
"It might help the various investigators know where to go and what allegations to examine and so forth," he said.
When asked whether in his personal opinion some of the junta's actions could be deemed as international crimes, Williams said: "What I might be able to say is that it looks to me, in my professional opinion, like there is a good chance that it is.
"And it makes sense therefore to bring a prosecution because there is enough evidence that a court should be able to see it."
The university group's staff had been for the last six years helping ethnic groups inside Myanmar - at their request - draw up constitutional reforms in their struggle to win greater freedom and rights.
Law professor Williams had smuggled himself into Myanmar on various occasions and worked on constitutional reforms with the Karen ethnic group, fighting the government since 1947 in the world's longest running civil war.
"I am hearing endless stories about how the military government is murdering villagers, it's blowing up rice paddies so that they dry out, it's setting fires to villages, it's laying mines in those villages so that when the people come back some of them get blown up," he said.
"The result is that they have to move often to hills and find a new place to build a village and start growing rice. That means in a relatively short period of time there is famine because old rice paddies have to be abandoned."
Williams said while he did not witness the Myanmar military units attacking the Karen guerilla resistance units, he saw "evidence of the military going after the civilian population.
"That's just the tip of the iceberg in itself and that doesn't constitute conclusive evidence of an international crime but it makes you think," he said.
Jade trade in Myanmar thrives on exploitation, rights abuses - Rajeshree Sisodia
The National (UAE): Tue 30 Sep 2008
The town of Hpakant is asleep as dawn breaks. Earthmovers slumber on huge slag heaps, guarded by fluorescent lights. Lush, dense jungle gives way to land more reminiscent of a frontier Wild West town, stripped bare by the Myanmar junta's relentless pursuit of jade.
With a population of about 100,000, Hpakant is the centre of Myanmar's jade mining industry. Two state-run high schools and a bustling market lend an air of normality. Hpakant is tucked away in the remote north of the country, in Kachin state, between India and China, and foreigners are forbidden from entering the area by Myanmar's military dictatorship.
Around 20,000 people from across Myanmar migrate or are forced to work for hundreds of mine companies that operate in Hpakant.
Arun Htin, 30, who did not want to give his real name, has been an illegal jade miner or jade stealer in Hpakant for the past four years. Originally from Myitkyina, Kachin state's capital, he sifts through dregs of soil dumped by legal mine workers over ground with his hands for slivers of jade they may have overlooked, as he looks for the gem and what he hopes will be a way out.
But in reality, for him and thousands of other illegal and official jade miners, collecting the precious stone has become little more than a ticket to a life of exploitation, poverty and addiction; a passport to the next hit of heroin and cheap rice alcohol.
"I use many kinds of drugs; heroin, alcohol," he said. "I smoke heroin and get it from drug-selling shops in Hpakant. The government, the soldiers do not do anything to close the shops. The drug sellers just give money to the authority leaders and bribe them and sell it freely."
Mr Htin is one of the lucky few; he earns between 50,000 kyat (Dh28,000) and 100,000 kyat a month stealing jade and selling the gems to illegal and legal jade dealers. Most legal jade miners are fortunate to be paid a US$1 (Dh3.67) a day. Mr Htin became an illegal jade collector to help support his family, including his four brothers and parents, who live in Myitkyina. But dire working conditions led him to start smoking heroin a year ago. He spends 15,000 kyat on each fix.
"I started to take heroin to feel happy, because my life is hard. You can work all night and work all day without getting tired. The first time I took it, I remember, I felt high. Our lives are very, very miserable and difficult, stones fall on top of you.
"Some of my friends died because of this work because of rocks falling on top of them. There is no safety equipment, no training, nothing. We just buried their bodies, with no compensation, nothing from the companies."
Imperial green jade is found only in Myanmar. Jewellery made from this kind of jade can sell for millions of dollars on the international market. But Myanmar's mining industry is built on suffering. Forced and child labour, land confiscation, drug abuse, sexual exploitation and environmental damage have scarred the mining trade, according to human rights groups.
Myanmar's mines are either partly or completely owned by the country's military leaders and its business partners. From mining to cutting, polishing, trading and selling, the regime's generals control the gem industry with a vice-like grip. Revenue from the lucrative trade filters straight to the junta, a government that spends about $330 million a year on arms but less than half that amount on education and health care combined.
A new report made public yesterday reveals the growing links between Myanmar's expanding mining, hydropower, natural gas and oil projects and China, a country keen to tap into Myanmar's natural resources to feed its growing energy needs. The report, by EarthRights International (ERI), a non-governmental organisation based in Thailand, points to 69 Chinese multinational corporations working with the junta on various multimillion-dollar projects including mines, dams and gas pipelines in Myanmar. Research by ERI reveals 10 Chinese firms are involved in six mining deals with the regime.
The report outlines Beijing's growing economic involvement with the regime and adds China has supplied arms and financial support to the junta.
Matthew Smith, project co-coordinator at ERI, said Beijing's growing presence in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, played a key role in the continuation of human rights abuses.
"China's involvement perpetuates the status quo. If you really want to understand China's approach to Myanmar, you can look at what's happening on the ground and that is Chinese demand is leading these Chinese multinational companies to increase their involvement in Myanmar's natural resources sector. That in turn is contradictory to China's foreign policy of peaceful coexistence and has a demonstrative impact on the ground in terms of human rights abuses."
Precious stones are among the junta's largest source of foreign revenue along with oil, natural gas and agricultural exports. Myanmar's gem industry plays a crucial role in propping up the regime, a military dictatorship that has shown its willingness to oppress its people through systematic human rights violations since it first seized power in a violent coup in 1962.
The junta's attempts to stifle information about its mining industry has meant research into the jade industry is limited. However, the first report investigating conditions in Myanmar's jade mines, published last month by the New York-based advocacy group 8-8-08 for Burma, highlighted the human rights abuses perpetrated by the junta in jade mining areas.
"An environment of impunity and violence has been created by the military regime and its corporate partners, who inflict beatings on and even kill locals who are caught collecting stones cast off as trash by the mining companies.
"Mining company bosses and local authorities are complicit in a thriving local trade in drugs which - when coupled with a substantial sex industry - has led to a generalized HIV/Aids epidemic that has spilt over the border into China," the document said.
Though no comprehensive research into HIV rates in Kachin state has been carried out, the International Crisis Group has reported that 1.3 per cent of adults in Myanmar, a country of around 55 million, are infected with HIV, one of the highest rates in Asia.
Corruption means government officials long ago turned a blind eye to the narcotics and sex trades. Drug dealers and brothel-owners pay bribes to junta officials, who in many cases protect the flesh and drug industries. The global anti-corruption group, Transparency International, has ranked Myanmar as the second most corrupt country in the world after Somalia, linking corruption as a key factor in the perpetuation of human rights abuses by the junta.
Myanmar's people face an even bleaker future as the global jade industry expands. Campaigners have warned demand for jade, particularly in China with its rising economic growth, is on the increase. Human Rights Watch has estimated that $297m worth of gems, including jade, were exported from Myanmar in the financial year 2006 to 2007. The figure had risen to $647m for the following fiscal year.
Jade mine managers in Myanmar agree the industry is thriving. Sai Joseph, 34, became a mine manager in Hpakant in 2004. At that time, he said, the town was home to between 300 and 400 mines. Now, there are around 3,000 "official" mines and countless others.
Some of Hpakant's official mining firms are joint ventures between private mining companies, both foreign and Myanmar, and the junta. The country's military generals have direct stakes in many of the domestic firms. Other mining companies are private, Myanmar-based firms. The regime's regulations means foreign companies are not allowed to own mines but must either form a partnership with a Myanmar company or with the junta.
Beijing's place at the centre of Myanmar's jade industry, and its economy, is indisputable. Gem-quality jade is highly prized in China. While China does mine some of its own jade, the majority of Myanmar's jade is sold in China. Reliable data is hard to obtain but informal evidence suggests China is the largest consumer of jade from Myanmar.
When asked about the claims, the Chinese embassy in New Delhi said: "China advocates dialogue instead of imposing pressure. Furthermore, the accusations cannot be proved."
The junta in Myanmar continues to depend on Beijing for political support in the international community. China and Russia last year vetoed a draft United Nations Security Council resolution put forward by the United States and Britain that would have called on the junta to ease political repression and the persecution of ethnic minorities. The United States, the European Union and Canada have imposed arms embargoes on Myanmar, but China, along with Russia and India, continues to sell arms to the regime.
But while human rights activists have urged Beijing to do more to force the regime to improve its human rights track record, some political analysts have warned China will not apply overt political pressure on the junta for fear of creating instability in the region.
Analysts added Beijing is lobbying the junta informally on the regime's human rights violations as China fears instability could affect Myanmar's growing ethnic Chinese population and Chinese business interests.
Myanmar's main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), has confirmed it has been involved in informal talks with Chinese officials to try to steer through progress towards democracy and an eventual improvement in human rights. But the junta has refused to engage in dialogue with the NLD, of which Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is leader.
Aung Naing Oo, a Burmese political analyst based in Thailand, said: "I doubt China has the intention to bring about progress because China and India have a notion of stability in Burma and that stability is provided by the military. If the military disappears, they think the sea of stability will disappear and Burma will disintegrate, ethnic insurgencies will happen.
"Change depends on China's intention and the Burmese military's mindset. But the Chinese government is concerned about the Burmese military's situation of continuing human rights abuses. That's why they have started talking to Burmese opposition groups to find out what is actually happening."
He added political dialogue with the military, rather than a continuation of policies that isolate the junta, could act as a springboard to implement gradual reform.
"Human rights abuses are a key instrument in the US foreign policy. They are non-negotiable. But we need to look for ways to engage in dialogue with the military government and then tackle human rights abuses. We have to keep human rights on the agenda but at the same time, there must be ways to engage with the Burmese military," he said.
"The whole situation is very hopeless. The West won't give up on its ethical position, the military won't change.
"If the West continues to see it in a black and white way it will not contribute to the development of democracy or the improvement of human rights in the country."
Winds of change fail to stir Myanmar - James Rose
New Straits Times (Malaysia): Tue 30 Sep 2008
Last September, peaceful demonstrations let the world know that the people of Myanmar had enough of the crushing oppression of the military junta, yet, today, exactly one year later, Myanmar still languishes in a haze of terror and deprivation. Another year goes by and those monks who are left after the military cracked down after the demonstration are contemplating huge risks once again because the world just didn't get it last time.
If Myanmar is a part of the global family, it is perhaps its most neglected, like a child cast away simply because it was mugged by some bullies and has been held hostage by them ever since. As with most situations of this kind, ostracisation is as much the story of the ostraciser as the ostracised.
It certainly doesn't make sense to ignore the people. Most risk their lives daily in keeping the Saffron Revolution alive and in trying to get the message to the world, they need help.
Led by the community of monks in this devoutly Buddhist country, known as the Sangha, a network of activism has firmed throughout the country since last September. Monks have boycotted the military and continue to thwart their attempts to crush the country's spiritual soul. The military have been largely cut off from the Buddhist clergy and the monks have openly campaigned for an international arms embargo as a means of taking the tools of oppression away from their oppressors.
The Sangha provided the aid and accommodation services the military refused to give to some 70 per cent of homeless survivors from May's Cyclone Nargis in Yangon and around the Irrawaddy delta.
This is a case of the civil overwhelming the political; of citizens and their spiritual leaders, not their political leaders, taking up the slack left neglected by the government.
Perhaps this is why the community of nations finds it difficult to respond more firmly in Myanmar - notions of state sovereignty run deep and tend to undermine many of the good souls who would dearly love to effect positive change in a much-maligned country. A flavour of this was seen in the immediate aftermath of Nargis, as civil aid groups found it more or less impossible to deliver aid over and around an unwilling state government.
Perhaps this is why the global community and its more influential members refuse to demand the release of some 2,000 political prisoners in the country, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi; nor find the will to dam the arms flowing in from Russia and China.
Perhaps this is why the world will not act even as the military backbone to the ruling junta bends and weakens under the force of its own people clamouring for an end to the nightmare.
Structural shifts and widespread dissatisfaction among the ranks, including regular desertions, are enfeebling an already untenable organisation, yet still no one moves to show the generals the door.
The country continues to win all the sort of awards no one wants to win. It has the largest number of child soldiers anywhere in the world, many fighting the world's longest running civil war; it is the world's most corrupt country; and it has probably the world's highest military spending as a percentage of budgetary funds (40 per cent). It has Asia's second-highest child mortality rate and is the third-largest source of refugees in the world.
This in a country with the 10th largest natural gas reserves in the world and in an economy which, despite much resource wealth remaining untapped, receives some $150US million (RM500 million) per month in energy export revenues alone.
One year on from the Saffron Revolution, the world is highly distracted by an economic crisis largely of its own making. As the graphs and stock charts trend downwards, attention is justifiably on the family home, keeping one's job and hoping the whole shooting match doesn't come and end up with blood everywhere.
But this isn't the time to get caught up in our own crises. This is an opportunity to extend crisis thinking outwards. It is a time to remember that even as the world reels, there are those in Myanmar, as in Sudan, Tibet, North Korea, Chad, Zimbabwe, Western Sahara and elsewhere, who need some crisis thinking of their own. In dealing with the economic crisis, let's use that energy and fix-it thinking to extend to other areas.
One year after the Saffron Revolution offers a moment to lift the long-suffering people of Myanmar.
Opposition must cooperate: Win Tin - Saw Yan Naing
Irrawaddy: Mon 29 Sep 2008
Recently freed after 19 years in prison, Win Tin, who was on Saturday reappointed secretary of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) at an event marking the party's 20th anniversary, used the occasion to call for the NLD to cooperate with ethnic leaders and pro-democracy groups in the fight for change in Burma.
"Win Tin said the fight for democracy hasn't ended yet," NLD spokesman Win Naing told The Irrawaddy. "He said the NLD alone can't work it out. He said we need to cooperate together with ethnic and pro-democracy forces."
Freed as part of a government amnesty, the NLD's Win Tin and Khin Maung Swe were appointed to the party's Central Executive Committee, while another released member, Than Nyein, was reassigned to his former position as vice-chairman of the Rangoon Division Organizing Committee, according to NLD spokesman Win Naing.
Prominent ethnic Arakanese leader Aye Thar Aung, who is secretary of the Committee Representing the People's Parliament (CRPP), welcomed the return of the NLD members and said he believed that the CRPP should also be more active in dealing with the NLD.
Aye Thar Aung told The Irrawaddy that the NLD had not been able to bring about any tangible improvements in democratic reform in Burma within the last 20 years as hoped.
Before his 19 years in prison, Win Tin served as a secretary of the NLD and was senior advisor to detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi. He was arrested in 1989 and sentenced to a total of 20 years imprisonment on a series of trumped up charges, such as "instigation to civil disobedience" and "secretly publishing anti-government propaganda."
He was released on September 23 along with 9,001 other prisoners, only a handful of whom are considered political prisoners. According to a Thailand-based human rights group, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), there are more than 2,000 political prisoners still behind bars in Burma.
During the 20th anniversary ceremony in Rangoon, Win Tin called for the release of all political prisoners, including the detained Buddhist monks, Tin Oo of the NLD and leaders of the 88 Generation Students group - Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi and Htay Kywe.
That same day, several members of the NLD - including active youth member Htet Htet Oo Wai - were arrested by security forces and later released, said Nyan Win, the party's spokesman.
On September 22, the NLD released a statement calling for a review of the junta's constitutional process. The statement urged Burmese authorities to reconsider the state constitution, calling the draft constitution "one-sided" and lacking the participation of the 1990-elected members of parliament.
Then on Saturday at the anniversary ceremony, the NLD released another statement calling for the ruling junta to release all political prisoners, reopen NLD offices and convene a people's parliament. More than 300 participants, including NLD members, veteran Burmese politicians and foreign diplomats, attended the 20th anniversary of the NLD's founding.
The NLD was later warned by the head of Burma's police, Brig-Gen Khin Yi, to withdraw its statement, because the authorities saw it potentially motivating citizens to undertake activities critical of the military government.
The NLD is the main opposition party in Burma and won a landslide victory - 392 out of 492 seats - in parliamentary elections in 1990. However, the current Burmese government, led by Snr-Gen Than Shwe, ignored the election results and refused to transfer power to Suu Kyi's NLD.
Meanwhile, a monk in Sittwe, the capital of Arakan state in western Burma, was briefly summoned and questioned by authorities after joining about 100 Buddhist monks marching in heavy rain on Saturday in protest against the military government, according to another monk in Sittwe.
FO warns Lloyd's over Burma - Nick Mathiason
Guardian (UK): Mon 29 Sep 2008
The Foreign Office has written to Lloyd's of London chairman Lord Levene to outline its disapproval that Lloyd's brokers are trading with the Burmese military dictatorship.
The letter has forced Levene to write to the insurance market's managing agents last week 'urging them to consider' their involvement with the repressive regime.
Levene's intervention has fallen short of suggesting an outright boycott but is still a significant development. Lloyd's has historically been involved in Burma, despite international boycotts. Its syndicates reinsure the junta's aviation and shipping interests, and its involvement is pivotal because it is a 'market maker' encouraging other reinsurers to share risk on Burmese government interests. Without Lloyd's, campaigners believe the repressive regime would be in economic turmoil.
Johnny Chatterton of the Burma Campaign said: 'This is totally humiliating for Lloyd's. For years it has refused to accept that its members are helping to fund the Burmese regime. We welcome the British government's intervention. Lloyd's is now under colossal pressure to cut its links.'
The US government has also recently placed pressure on American insurers to cease trading with the regime. The EU's existing sanctions against Burma do not extend to financial services or energy.
China's grip on Burma 'cause for concern' - William Boot
Irrawaddy: Mon 29 Sep 2008
China's grip on Burma's natural resources has grown considerably in a short time, says a detailed investigation by a US-based human rights organization, EarthRights International (ERI).
The survey identifies 69 Chinese companies engaged in oil, gas, hydropower development and mining - a 250 percent increase on the number thought to be operating in Burma when a similar study was made one year ago.
But the survey says there could be more than 70 Chinese companies operating across Burma because the mining sector is particularly difficult to assess.
"Given what we know about development projects in Burma and the current situation, we're concerned about this marked increase in the number of these projects," says ERI in a report published on Monday.
Washington-based ERI says Burma has become "geopolitically significant" to the Chinese as their mushrooming economy demands ever more natural resources, notably energy related.
Having a compliant neighbor rich in gas, oil, minerals and timber is a big plus for China, but Burma's position on the edge of the Indian Ocean also makes it a "particularly desirable partner in China's pursuit of energy security," says ERI.
This is in reference to Chinese plans to develop ports and pipelines in Burma to transship large volumes of oil and gas from the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere.
"We're concerned about the lack of information about these projects available to the public domain," said Alek Momi, the report's principal researcher.
The survey identifies the most firms in hydropower developments - at least 45 companies actively engaged or planning 63 projects, ranging from small dams to the massive scheme on the River Salween at Tasang.
In Burma's mushrooming oil and gas sectors, at least 16 Chinese companies are named, including all three of China's biggest transnational enterprises, Sinopec, China National Offshore Oil Corporation, and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC).
ERI pinpoints the Arakan coast as one of the most significant strategic locations for China's long-term plans for vacuuming up global oil and gas reserves.
"CNPC has signed a MoU with MOGE [Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise] for a detailed assessment of the potential construction of a crude oil terminal off the coast of Arakan State," says the report.
A terminal for oil shipped in from the Middle East and Africa, plus pipelines across Burma into southwest China, would "increase the efficiency of China's oil and gas imports by providing an alternative to the problematic Straits of Malacca."
ERI names ten Chinese companies involved in mining for minerals - a sector "difficult to assess as many mining projects are small, therefore less visible and attracting less publicity."
The ERI report comes just a few days after the Burmese junta confirmed that Chinese state-controlled China Non-Ferr
(Message over 64 KB, truncated)