[ReadingRoom] News on Burma - 9/10/08
- Labor rights activist Su Su Nway stages prison protest
- Five Burmese educational journals shut down
- Shan state villagers forced to grow crops
- PTTEP sees Myanmar M-9 gas project ready end of 2011
- Myanmar agrees to move forward hydropower plant proposal
- Myanmar junta raises suppression, says opposition
- New role for an old Indian road
- NLD seeking to negotiate 'democratic reforms'
- Myanmar army moves against refugees, aid organization says
- Bangladesh to procure 100,000 tons of rice from Myanmar
- U.N. chief Ban may drop plans for Myanmar visit
- Credential challenge to continue, say exiled MPs
- Blocking humanitarian assistance: a crime against humanity?
- Senior USDA leader says they will definitely win 2010 elections
- Detained activists protest against trial conditions
- Arrests, restrictions hamper cyclone relief work
- Vietnam to exploit oil and gas in Myanmar
- U.N. blocked on Burma child soldiers
- Don't forget about Burma's democrats
- A new constitution for a blossoming political society
- Burma's Muslim Rohingya minority dwell at the "brink of extermination"
- New report documents huge increase in Burma political prisoners, in defiance of UN Security Council
- Where would Burma be without Suu Kyi?
Labor rights activist Su Su Nway stages prison protest - Saw Yan Naing
Irrawaddy: Wed 8 Oct 2008
Jailed Burmese labor rights activist Su Su Nway is refusing to accept medical treatment in protest at not being allowed to be treated outside prison, according to her sister.
Htay Htay Kyi said her sister, who was imprisoned in November 2007, also refused to attend a scheduled court session in Rangoon's Insein prison on Wednesday. Her lawyer, Khin Htay Kywe, said her non-appearance was also a gesture of protest.
Htay Htay Kyi said the authorities had prevented her from visiting her sister for more than two months after she visited the Rangoon office of the International Labor Organization (ILO) to report on Su Su Nway's deteriorating health.
Su Su Nway suffers from heart trouble and hypertension and was now experiencing glandular problems, Htay Htay Kyi said.
Su Su Nway, a member of the opposition National League for Democracy, was arrested after participating in a demonstration in November 2007 and charged with "threatening the stability of the government," under articles 124, 130 and 505 of the penal code.
In 2006, she was awarded the John Humphrey Freedom Award for her work in promoting labor rights.
Htay Htay Kyi said the Insein prison court rescheduled Su Su Nway's appearance for next Wednesday.
Five Burmese educational journals shut down
Irrawaddy: Wed 8 Oct 2008
Five educational journals have disappeared from Burmese schools following a publication ban imposed by the Ministry of Education, according to informed sources.
The ban, imposed in July, closed down publication of Educator, Prime, Digital Way, Nyein and Pan Daing ["Goal"], which were aimed at middle and high school students.
A member of the Educator staff said no reason had been given for the ban, which had been imposed by the Press Scrutiny and Registration Board on the instructions of the Ministry of Education.
Staff of the five publications are reportedly discussing with the Press Scrutiny and Registration Board a possible resumption of publication.
The Board is currently reviewing 80 educational books, according to media sources.
Several parents and teachers expressed concern about the disappearance of the five banned publications. "It will have an effect on most high school students," said one Rangoon resident.
The five publications were valued as supplements to the inadequate teaching material provided by state schools.
Educator, a fortnightly journal, was founded in 2001 and reached a circulation of 15,000, mostly tenth graders. Nyein was also a fortnightly.
Prime and Digital Way, both weeklies, were founded in 2005 for middle and high school students. Pan Diang was published monthly.
Shan state villagers forced to grow crops - Nan Kham Kaew
Democratic Voice of Burma: Wed 8 Oct 2008
The Burmese government's Light Infantry Battalion 99 based in Lin Khe township in southern Shan state has been forcing locals to grow physic nut and sesame for the military since 22 August, locals said.
Locals said those who owned tillers were told to use their equipment to contribute in the cultivation and those who did not were told to work with their hands.
Six villages located north of Lin Khe were given similar orders by LIB 99 in September, according to Nan Mway Ngin from DVB's Shan ethnic programme.
"The six villages - Wan Nong Lum, Wan Than Kan, Wan Nam Thoke, Nam Thim, Nam Naw and Lom Kaw - have been forced to grow the crops that LIB 99 wanted," Nan Mway Ngin said.
"The forced labour has been going on since the end of September in those villages and is still going on now," she said.
"It was only for the military and the villagers will get no benefit from the work."
PTTEP sees Myanmar M-9 gas project ready end of 2011
Reuters: Wed 8 Oct 2008
PTT Exploration and Production, a unit of Thailand's top energy firm, said on Wednesday it expected its M-9 natural gas project in Myanmar to be completed by the end of 2011."It will be done by the end of 2011," Asdakorn Limpiti, vice president in PTTEP's strategy and capability development division, told Reuters at the Africa Upstream 2008 oil conference in Cape Town. (Reporting by Paul Simao)
Myanmar agrees to move forward hydropower plant proposal
Xinhua: Wed 8 Oct 2008
Visiting Myanmar high official Wednesday agreed to move forward a Bangladesh proposal to set up a hydro power plant project in Myanmar from which Bangladesh will get electricity.
This came during the meeting here between Myanmar Energy Minister Brig General Lun Thi and his counterpart, the Bangladesh caretaker government Chief Adviser's Special Assistant for Power and Energy Ministry M Tamim.
As per the proposal, Bangladesh will build up the plant in Myanmar at its own cost and get 70 percent of the electricity from the project while Myanmar will get 30 percent as royalty.
Tamim after the meeting told reporters that the neighboring country's minister assured him of taking necessary steps to move forward the scheme.
The hydropower-project proposal was initiated by Bangladesh about two years ago. Both sides also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to implement the project.
As a follow-up step, Bangladesh offered to conduct a joint visit to select a project site in the Rakhine state of Myanmar about six months ago.
Tamim said the Myanmar side Wednesday agreed to conduct the joint visit by experts to select project site. "We've urged the Myanmar minister to expedite the move," he said.
Myanmar junta raises suppression, says opposition
Associated Press: Wed 8 Oct 2008
Myanmar's military rulers have stepped up suppression of political opponents ahead of the country's elections in 2010, an opposition party spokesman said Wednesday.
Nyan Win, of the National League for Democracy, said many party members arrested since last year were now facing trials, with at least 30 having been sentenced to at least 2 1/2 years in prison between September and early this month.
The regime has increased pressure on opponents and critics "so that they can manipulate the elections any way they like," he said.
The junta has announced elections in 2010 as part of a "roadmap to democracy" that critics have slammed as a sham designed to cement the military's power. A military-backed constitution was approved in a national referendum in May, but the party charges that the vote was unfair.
International human rights groups say the junta now holds more than 2,100 political prisoners, compared with nearly 1,200 in June, 2007.
Among those detained is Nobel Peace Prize laureate and NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for more than 12 of the past 19 years.
Nyan Win said party members Soe Kywe, Khin Aye and Myint Thein - as well as a regime critic, Soe Kywe - were given 2 1/2 year prison sentences Monday for allegedly "disturbing tranquility."
The spokesman said Hline Aye and San Pwint, two other party members, were jailed for the same term on Sept. 22 for similar offenses.
New role for an old Indian road - Ranjita Biswas
Inter Press Service: Wed 8 Oct 2008
The Stilwell Road, built during World War II as a strategic link between India and Myanmar (then Burma), is being resurrected as part of India's "Look East" policy of improving economic links with its Southeast Asian neighbors.
The 1,726 kilometer road, named after General Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell, was built in the latter months of the war to supply weapons to Chiang Kai Shek, China's leader during the Second Sino-Japanese War, as his Kuomintang forces battled the retreating Japanese in China's Yunnan province.
It was constructed as alternative to a hazardous air supply route to Kunming dubbed the "aluminum trail" due to the litter of crashed aircraft that marked its way through the mountains. The road was opened on May 20, 1945 after 28,000 US and British engineers completed what they called "the toughest job". Their efforts inspired the 1945 film Stilwell Road which starred Ronald Reagan as its lead narrator.
After the war ended, the road - which began in Ledo in Assam and passed through Mytkyina, Myanmar, before finishing at Kunming in the Yunnan province of China - fell into disuse, partly because of the turbulent events in Myanmar and also due to a general neglect of India's insurgency-prone northeastern states.
But India's Ministry of Commerce has indicated it targets to have the Stilwell Road operational by 2010, hoping its revival will brighten the economic outlook for the entire Assam region, giving it direct access to international hub Bangkok.
"All these years we were isolated from the rest of India, save for the narrow link between West Bengal and Assam. Today, people are waking up to the possibilities of mutual economic benefits with neighboring countries to the east," Assam state's minister for industries and commerce Prodyut Bordoloi told the Inter Press Service.
The Look East policy, launched in 1992 to mark a strategic shift in India's vision of its place in the evolving global economy, had the aim of renewing India's ancient links with Southeast Asian nations. India has since became a summit level partner of the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
India's northeast had maintained commercial and socio-cultural exchanges with Indochina for centuries before drifting apart in the 20th century. The Ahoms, who ruled Assam for over 600 years and gave the state its name, are believed to have migrated from Thailand.
Thailand has been enthusiastic about the planned restoration of the Stilwell Road and is a keen member of the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral and Technical Cooperation) that groups Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand. Tourists moving from Thailand to southern China and Bhutan are already showing an interest in India's northeast, according to tour operators.
India sees in BIMSTEC an opportunity to change the northeast region from one beset with security problems into a land of economic opportunity.
"Reviving the Stilwell Road is seen as a way to open India's northeast to China and Southeast Asia," said Mahesh K Saharia, chairman of the North East Regional Council of the Indian Chamber of Commerce. "The opening of the road is not so much political but for commercial reasons and the development of the northeast."
Saharia says the logic is simple. "Although 40% of the world's people live in China and India, they represent less than 9% of world trade, and intra-trade between the two neighbors accounts for less than 3.5% of it."
If intra-trade doubles as projected a land route remains the best option for moving the huge tonnage of goods, he said.
China has already built a highway to reach Mytkyina on the old Burma Road, reducing the distance from India to Kunming considerably. In fact, Kunming will then be only 700 kilometers from upper Assam, Saharia points out.
"Stilwell Road is not a new road. From ancient days, the 12th century particularly, it has been a trans-migrational route for people of different tribes. Now we have to renew those ties."
There are security concerns - the jungles of Myanmar are alleged to be training grounds for insurgents in the northeastern region and are known to be used as a staging ground for the movement of narcotics from the infamous Golden Triangle.
Bordoloi brushes aside the fears. "We need to review old ideas; you can't look at everything through the prism of security. Old paradigms do not work. If there is better infrastructure and connectivity, narco-terrorism can be controlled better."
Myanmar's military junta has been wary about the Stilwell Road because a 300 kilometer-stretch runs through the jungle blanketed valleys of insurgency hit Kachin state, over which it exercises limited control.
However, according to Papori Phukan, a researcher for the New Delhi-based Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, the junta cannot afford to ignore certain geographical realities. "The area is not connected with mainland Myanmar and the locals who live in and around the Pangsau pass already procure their basic requirements from Nampong in India, where the Burmese are allowed to visit without passports," she said.
Similarly, people from Arunachal Pradesh state regularly cross over into Myamnar using the Stilwell road, to buy goods from Pangsau, Papori said.
NLD seeking to negotiate 'democratic reforms' - Saw Yan Naing
Irrawaddy:Tue 7 Oct 2008
The National League for Democracy (NLD) is seeking to negotiate "democratic reform" with the Burmese generals if they will establish a constitution review committee, a NLD spokesperson said on Tuesday.
"If we get those chances, we will hold bilateral negotiations and go on based on our agreement," said Nyan Win, an NLD spokesperson. "Our idea is for 'democratic reform.' We willingly want to negotiate with them [authorities]."
Other NLD members said that if the military government is willing to review the constitution, the opposition NLD party may be willing to take part in the national elections in 2010.
The junta held a referendum in May on the constitution, which was drafted by its hand-picked delegates. After the referendum, it announced that more than 92 percent of the voters approved the constitution. Critics and opposition groups inside and outside the country called the constitution and referendum a sham.
The constitution guarantees the military continues to dominate the country's political future by assigning its own representatives seats in the people's parliament without contesting in elections.
On September 22, the NLD released a statement calling for a review of the constitutional process, calling the draft constitution "one-sided" and lacking the participation of the 1990-elected members of parliament.
Nyan Win did not discuss any details it might propose regarding the constitution. The Burmese authorities have not responded to the request
Some observers said they were pessimistic the junta would review its own constitution.
Cin Sian Thang, the chairman of the Zomi National Congress, said he didn't think the generals would agree to a review because they are in the middle of their "seven-step road map" to democracy.
"Even if we [ethnic leaders and NLD leaders] didn't agree with the junta's road map, they [Burmese authorities] are likely to continue. If they finish their process, the situation in Burma will only worsen," he said.
The UN Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari earlier this year also asked the junta to review the constitution but Information Minister Brig-Gen Kyaw Hsan told the envoy in March, "It is impossible to review or rewrite the constitution which was drawn with the participation of delegates from all walks of life."
Thakin Chan Htun, a veteran Burmese politician in Rangoon, said the general election should be free and fair and the detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi should be allowed to participate.
To be a free and fair election, he said, the junta should first release all political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi.
All Burmese citizens should be allowed to vote in the multi-party election and the international community, including UN representatives, foreign observers and journalists, should be allowed to freely report on the general election, said Thakin Chan Htun.
The state constitution is step three of the regime's seven-step "road map." The fifth-step is the 2010 general election.
On September 25, after releasing a statement calling for a review of the constitution, the NLD was warned by the head of Burma's police, Brig-Gen Khin Yi, to withdraw the statement. The authorities said it might motivate citizens to undertake activities critical of the military government and undermine the security of the state.
The NLD, the main opposition party in Burma, won a landslide victory 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.
Myanmar army moves against refugees, aid organization says
Deutsche Presse-Agentur: Tue 7 Oct 2008
Myanmar's army and their allies the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) have launched an offensive against Karen refugees in the border region with Thailand, an aid organization said Tuesday. Speaking from the border town Mae Sot in northern Thailand, Help Without Frontiers, an Italian-based organization aimed at helping refugees of the long-running Karen insurgency, said several villages have been overrun already.
"The villagers are chased, rice barns and food are sequestered or destroyed, large cornfields are burned as well as several houses in different villages," the NGO said in a statement.
Five schools and two hospitals the organization was operating in the region with donations from Europe had to be closed. The helpers were still trying to treat the often heavily injured victims despite the fighting.
Myanmar's army was moving against members of the Karen ethnic minority with the aid of the DKBA, a breakaway from the Karen National Union (KNU), a rebel group that has been fighting for the autonomy of the Karen State for the past six decades.
In an attempt to escape the violence many fled to the border region with Thailand. The organization accused Thai authorities of driving back refugees across the border, after Myanmar soldiers and militiamen crossed into Thailand and committed acts of violence.
"And the international community is silent," noted the NGO.
Bangladesh to procure 100,000 tons of rice from Myanmar
Xinhua: Tue 7 Oct 2008
Bangladesh will procure 100,000 tons of rice from Myanmar on a regular basis as Dhaka mooted several proposals to expand bilateral trade and economic cooperation with Yangon.
The proposals included a gas pipeline from Myanmar to produce fertilizer in Bangladesh to meet Yangon's demand as well as contract farming by taking lease of Myanmar's agricultural lands.
The propositions were made during official talks between Bangladeshi caretaker government Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed and visiting Vice-Chairman of the State Peace and Development Council of Myanmar Vice Senior General Maung Aye.
During the talks the two leaders discussed early construction of a 23-km road linkage inside Myanmar at a cost of 20.3 million U.S. dollars.
The Bangladeshi side proposed that the road linkage could be extended up to China to establish a direct road connecting China, Myanmar and Bangladesh. The Myanmar side said they would think about the proposal since it requires funding.
Briefing reporters, Foreign Adviser Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury said, the two leaders also discussed delimitation of maritime boundary. "Talks were extremely fruitful," he said.
The two sides also focused on how to increase bilateral trade from current 140 million U.S. dollars to 500 million U.S. dollars as Myanmar showed interest in importing more pharmaceutic products from Bangladesh.
Present volume of trade is tilted towards Myanmar.
Besides, the two sides discussed intensifying military to military cooperation through training programs and exchange of visits between the two countries.
An agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation was signed after the meeting.
U.N. chief Ban may drop plans for Myanmar visit - Claudia Parsons
Reuters: Tue 7 Oct 2008
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday he would drop plans to make a long talked-about visit to Myanmar unless he is confident it would achieve tangible results in promoting democracy.Ban has been asked by the U.N. Security Council to do his utmost to pursue reforms in military-ruled Myanmar, which drew international condemnation a year ago for a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters led by monks.
Ban's special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, made a sixth visit to the former Burma in August, but failed to meet the 63-year-old Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi who has been under house arrest for most of the past five years.
A visit by Ban has long been discussed but no date had been set. Ban made a first visit to Myanmar after Cyclone Nargis in May to pressure the junta to cooperate more with international aid workers.
Ban said he would remain "constantly and personally engaged" in Myanmar.
"I would be willing to (make) a return visit to Myanmar at an appropriate time, but you should also know that without any tangible or very favorable result to be achieved, then I may not be in a position to visit Myanmar," Ban told reporters.
"I'm now in the process of making some groundwork which may allow me to consider my own visit, but … I need some more time. I will have to consider all the circumstances, (and) when would be appropriate timing for me to visit," he said.
Western countries have condemned as a sham a May referendum on Myanmar's army-drafted constitution, part of a seven-step "roadmap to democracy" that is meant to culminate in multiparty elections in 2010 and end a nearly 20-year political stalemate.
Gambari has met government officials on his visits to Myanmar but has made little progress in promoting dialogue with Suu Kyi or the release of political prisoners.
Credential challenge to continue, say exiled MPs - Lalit K Jha
Irrawaddy: Tue 7 Oct 2008
The Members of Parliament Union (Burma), an exiled group of elected MPs who are heading the campaign to challenge the credentials of the Burmese military junta at the United Nations, have said that they are not deterred by the initial negative response from the UN, and that they would "intensify" their drive to have the junta denied recognition by the world body.
In addition, the "credential challenge campaign" of the Members of Parliament Union (Burma) has hired the services of two eminent US law firms, which will aid and advise it on the legal path to be followed, said Vice-president San San.
In his original letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on September 8, San San challenged the credentials of the military junta to represent the people of Burma at the UN.
Asserting that the Members of Parliament Union (Burma) are the legitimate, democratically elected leaders of Burma, San San said they had appointed Thein Oo as their representative to the UN and as such he should be considered Burma's Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
The office of the secretary-general responded to the letter about a fortnight later, which was interpreted by many that the request had been rejected by Ban.
However, a copy of a letter signed by a senior UN official on behalf of the UN secretary-general indicates that Ban's office has raised technical points regarding legal requirements.
"The secretary-general's role is limited to a technical role in reviewing the formal criteria for credentials set forth in the Rules of Procedure," said the senior official.
The procedure for the execution, submission and examination of credentials of representatives is set out in rules 27 through 29 of the Rules of Procedures of the General Assembly.
Rule 27 provides inter alia that "the credentials of representatives and the names of members of a delegation shall be submitted to the Secretary-General," while Rule 28 provides that a committee "shall examine the credentials of representatives."
"As such, the Secretary-General has decided not to take any action on your letter as it does not comply with the formal legal requirement set out in rule 27," the letter said.
"The Secretary-General, however, has taken note of the contents of your letter which together with its attachments, will remain on file with the Office of Legal Affairs, available for perusal by any member of the Credentials Committee at their request," the UN official said.
Members of Parliament Union (Burma) Secretary Ko Ko Lay said members of the campaign committee are not at all disappointed with the response from the UN.
He said that his team was now aided by a battery of eminent attorneys who were looking into how they can fulfill the legal requirements set out in rule 27.
"Credential challenge is only the first step in a new initiative to use all available international legal and political mechanisms to challenge the legitimacy of the regime and bring to light the multitude of abuses the regime commits against Burmese people," he said.
Encouraged by the support the Credential Challenge Campaign has been receiving from the international community, especially from Western nations, Ko Ko Lay said he was hopeful that they could achieve their goal within a few years.
At the same time, he conceded that none of Burma's neighbors have been willing to support the committee on the issue.
Blocking humanitarian assistance: a crime against humanity? - John D Kraemer
The Lancet (US): Tue 7 Oct 2008
In May, Cyclone Nargis left nearly 140,000 people dead or missing in Burma, while the Government severely restricted international assistance.1 More recently, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe cut off international assistance, apparently to manipulate an election but leaving millions without food aid or medical care. The global community has a long and sad history of exalting human rights in the abstract but failing to protect them in practice. When political leaders wilfully block vital humanitarian aid to their people, they violate international human rights and potentially commit a crime against humanity. Such violations give the international community a legal right of intervention, with force if necessary. While intervention is best pursuant to authorisation from the UN Security Council, without such authorisation regional organisations or individual nations should prioritise the survival of large populations over the sovereignty claims of despotic leaders.Can a right to health overcome barriers of national sovereignty? Human rights prevent states from claiming that systematic maltreatment of their nationals is exclusively a domestic concern. International law holds the state accountable for safeguarding the human rights of its people, and legitimises the actions of the international community to monitor and redress violations. This view was affirmed in the UN Charter, which proclaimed the UN's mission as solving international humanitarian concerns through international cooperation.3The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantees the right to life, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights codifies the right to health. Neither has been signed by Burma, although Zimbabwe has signed both but respected neither. Nonetheless, the rights to life and health are so widely accepted that they are part of international customary law. WHO's Constitution also requires nations to seek to attain the highest possible level of health for all peoples.4 But it stops short of mandating countries to accept international aid during crises.
The right to health requires states to respect, protect, and fulfil basic health needs. This demands, at the least, the bare minimums to ensure survival, including medical aid and supplies, potable water, and food for the most vulnerable populations.5 During crises, countries have limited capacity to secure these public goods, but international law requires cooperation with the international community to meet these obligations. Additionally, the right to life is a non-derogable right, and even the most hardened isolationist regimes must respect it.
Even governments as repressive as Burma and Zimbabwe have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which recognises the rights to health and life, and demands international cooperation. The CRC requires states to ensure to the maximum extent possible children's survival and development, including access to basic determinants of health. Moreover, signatories must "promote and encourage international cooperation with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the right".6 Consequently, they cannot invoke sovereignty to belie obligations to secure the health and wellbeing of their children. Humanity knows no borders and, though imperfect, human-rights laws should be applied vigorously to secure health and life during intentionally exacerbated public-health emergencies.
International crimes-which include genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity-are breaches of international norms that result in individual liability. The primary purpose of international criminal law is to bring the perpetrators of international crimes to justice. But when officials commit atrocities, the international community should not remain idle. If leaders act, or fail to act, in ways that will lead to widespread death-and then block those who seek to prevent it-they commit a crime against humanity and intervention is appropriate.
Assessing a county's response to crises under a lens of preventing potential crimes against humanity proffers a useful and pragmatic standard. Generally, crimes against humanity are particularly serious attacks on human dignity. A finding of such crimes rests solely on the widespread or systematic practice of atrocities. Unlike war crimes, crimes against humanity may be committed during times of peace. And unlike genocide, crimes against humanity do not require a special intent to kill on account of group status. Perpetrators need only act with the wilful intent to inflict widespread or systematic harm on their victims-a bar that is readily met when officials block assistance to large populations with vital need.
Crimes against humanity require the infliction of "great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health"-or extermination.7 Both acts that directly inflict injury and refusals to act can constitute a crime. In 2003, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia found a physician guilty of extermination for the treatment of prisoners during the 1990s' Bosnian-Serb conflict, including for "conditions imposed on a [prisoner] whose health was fragile, [which] alone would inevitably cause his death".8 The Court held that it was not only the resultant deaths but also the creation of conditions leading to a large number of deaths that justified a conviction. Accordingly, where governments block food, medical supplies, and health care to meet basic survival needs, preventing atrocities is consonant with securing the right to health.
Does international law permit humanitarian intervention? During humanitarian crises, the desire for assistance by the affected country almost invariably exceeds its available resources. Thus the normal crisis model is to request assistance from donor countries. However, when official conduct constitutes a crime against humanity, either by refusing aid to those in need (as in Burma) or actively creating a humanitarian emergency (Zimbabwe), ameliorating the emergency may require foreign intervention without host-country consent.
The UN Charter prohibits countries from intervening "in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction" of another state.3 However, under modern conceptions, sovereignty inheres in the people, not the government, so a government's sovereign authority is conditional on refraining from grievous violations of human dignity.9 Thus sovereignty yields to human rights when a government has wilfully taken steps to cause death or widespread suffering.
Non-consensual intervention to relieve grave humanitarian need would likely require military force or its threat if relief efforts were resisted or endangered. This point subjects humanitarian intervention to the body of use-of-force law that prohibits the use or threat of force "against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations."3
Intervention sanctioned by the UN Security Council to ameliorate a crime against humanity would be legal. The Charter permits the Council to authorise intervention if a crisis poses a "threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression".3 Threats to the peace extend beyond armed attack and include widespread suffering and crimes against humanity. This was the basis of the Council's determination in 1992 that the "human tragedy" of famine in Somalia, exacerbated by deteriorations in that country's stability, posed a "threat to international peace and security" even though the effects of the crisis were not significantly felt outside of Somalia.10 Upon a subsequent finding that non-forcible measures were unlikely to succeed, the Council authorised an American-led contingent to ensure delivery of humanitarian aid to starving Somalis.10
A 2005 resolution of the UN General Assembly reiterated the Council's power to act when governments "manifestly fail to protect their populations from…crimes against humanity" if peaceful means cannot avert the crisis.11 This authority would permit limited interventions, such as airdrops, but, if necessary, would permit broader Somalia-style "boots on the ground" interventions.
Unfortunately, the Council is often paralysed by its five permanent members' ability to veto initiatives, necessitating examination of the legality of unilateral or coalition interventions. Notably, the Charter prohibits force only where "inconsistent" with UN purposes and when used against the "territorial integrity or political independence of any state". "Territorial integrity" refers to shifting international borders, and "political independence" to states gaining control of other's political machinations. Intervention solely to stop a crime against humanity infringes on neither of these, so it does not fall within the Charter's force prohibition. Furthermore, humanitarian intervention is within the principles of the UN, because the Charter's dual purposes are preserving peace and promoting human rights.12
Additionally, international law requires the existence of grave violations of human rights, an exhaustion of non-forcible responses, and the unavailability of UN-sanctioned action. The response must be proportionate-no more than necessary to achieve humanitarian ends-and it must not interfere unnecessarily with a country's self-determination. Finally, the interveners must disengage upon securing fundamental rights and report their actions to the Security Council.13
Nations should be justifiably cautious about using or threatening intervention to stop crimes against humanity. Policy makers must carefully consider risks to relief workers, civilians, and troops, as well as the danger of complicating future health-promotion activities. Forced intervention is a complex policy question, but blanket rejection may condemn innocent civilians and prevent deterrence of crimes against humanity. Where leaders engage in intentional acts of cruelty toward their populations, wealthy nations should be prepared to intervene beyond their borders to safeguard health and human rights.
We declare that we have no conflict of interest.
Senior USDA leader says they will definitely win 2010 elections
Kachin News Group: Mon 6 Oct 2008
The junta sponsored Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) in northern Burma has claimed it will definitely win the 2010 elections in Burma. This was declared by a senior leader, said local people.
Salang Rawang Jung, general secretary of Kachin State's USDA told ethnic Kachin Christian Church leaders in Machyangbaw, a beautiful city on the riverside of Mali Hka River in Putao District in Kachin State, northern Burma that "In the 2010 elections, political parties not affiliated to the junta could win seats but our party (USDA) is a strong and stable party. We will win and we will definitely win and form the government," said meeting participants.
Rawang Jung, a native of Putao officially told this to Church leaders and followers in Rawang Baptist Convention (RBC), Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) and Church of Christ (COC) in Machyangbaw city. They were invited to the meeting at Gubar Hall in Gubar guesthouse in the city on August 26 (Tuesday), according to Church sources in the city.
According to participants, the USDA meeting was attended by more than five Church leaders and local USDA members. Participants were promised Burmese traditional suits as gifts by Rawang Jung. But the attendants are yet to receive the promised gifts.
A day before his Machyangbaw trip, the USDA general secretary Rawang Jung first met over 50 leaders of Christian denominations in No. 1 Basic State High School in Kawng Kahtawng quarter in Putao city and gifted Burmese traditional suits to each participant.
On September 19, Brig-Gen Thein Zaw, who is born in Kachin State and the junta's Kachin State's organizer and Minister of Post, Communication and Telegraph, and Northern Command (Kachin State) commander Maj-Gen Soe Win met ethnic Kachin Christians in Nawngnang and Pa La Na villages in Myitkyina to garner support for the 2010 election.
Meanwhile, the junta-sponsored USDA members in Kachin State as well as members of the Kachin State Interim Committee (KSIC) formed by the three main biggest Kachin political organizations- Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), New Democratic Army-Kachin (NDA-K) and Kachin National Consultative Assembly (KNCA) are steadily mobilizing people in the state for the 2010 general elections in keeping with the junta's seven-step roadmap to so-called disciplined democracy in the country.
Night curfew has been imposed in Kachin State's capital Myitkyina starting from 10 pm local time by a new Northern Command commander Maj-Gen Soe Win soon after underground Kachin students pasted anti-regime posters on September 18, the day of the 20th anniversary of the military coup in the country.
Detained activists protest against trial conditions - Min Lwin
Irrawaddy: Mon 6 Oct 2008
Detained members of the 88 Generation Students Group will refuse to cooperate with the court at their trial unless family members are allowed to attend, their lawyers have announced.
Aung Tun, brother of activist Ko Ko Gyi, said the authorities had informed families of the accused on Friday that they would not be allowed to attend court hearings in Insein Prison.
Family members were admitted to a previous hearing in early September. Aung Tun said it wasn't known why they were being excluded from the next sessions of the Rangoon East district court.
The authorities have also changed the days for family visits, and refused Htay Htay Kyi, the sister of detained political and labor activist Su Su Nway, permission to visit her.
Tate Naing, secretary of the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP)-said family members of detained political activists have the right to attend court hearings.
Prominent leaders of the 88 Generation Students group were arrested in August 2007, at the start of demonstrations leading up to September's uprising. They included Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi, Htay Win Aung, Min Zeya, Kyaw Min Yu (also known as Jimmy) and Mya Aye. They had led a march on August 19 protesting against sharp increases in the prices of fuel and other commodities.
Many former student leaders are serving long prison terms-some have been in prison for more than 15 years.
On Monday, activist Soe Myint Hein was sentenced to four years and six months imprisonment. A woman activist, Khin Aye, and other two others received sentences of two years and six months.
Two Burmese human rights groups released a report on Monday saying the number of political prisoners in Burma had nearly doubled in little more than one year.
A UN report in June 2007 gave the number of political prisoners as 1,192 political prisoners in Burma. The number now was at least 2,123, said a report issued jointly by the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) and the United States Campaign for Burma, based in Washington, DC.
The report accused the Burmese military government of defying a UN Security Council demand in October 2007 for the release of all political prisoners, including the world's only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi.
"By nearly doubling the number of political prisoners, the Burmese regime is directly defying the UN, including the UN Security Council," said Bo Kyi, a former political prisoner and co-founder of the AAPP.
The AAPP and USCB sent an open letter to the UN Secretary-General calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners, including Suu Kyi.
Arrests, restrictions hamper cyclone relief work - Violet Cho
Irrawaddy: Mon 6 Oct 2008
The Burmese regime's assumption of control over cyclone relief efforts and the arrests of several activist aid volunteers would have a direct affect on future humanitarian work, according to the cyclone relief committee of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD).
Shortly after Cyclone Nargis hit the Irrawaddy delta and Rangoon Division in May, the military government enforced regulations requiring all relief organizations to obtain official permission to carry out relief work.
The NLD's cyclone relief committee maintains that this requirement deterred private donors from providing assistance to cyclone victims.
The regulation had resulted in a "huge decrease" in aid from private donors, said Dr Win Naing, a cyclone relief committee member. "They (donors) do not want to deal with the authorities."
"The military authorities always said that they enforced these regulations because they do not want aid to be overlapping," he said. "However, the main reason is that they want to have control over everything."
An aid worker in Rangoon said her organization had suspended its relief operation because of lack of funds.
"There are many international NGOs in the area [struck by the cyclone] and we believe they can do more, as they can easily come to an agreement with the local authorities," she said.
Last week, Rangoon authorities arrested the chairman of the cyclone relief committee, Ohn Kyaing, who had been actively involved in taking aid to cyclone survivors in the Irrawaddy delta.
"We still don't know why he was arrested," said Win Naing. Despite Ohn Kyaing's arrest, the committee would continue its aid work, he said.
Several other prominent people have also been arrested after joining in the relief effort-including the popular satirist Zarganar, leading journalist Zaw Thet Htwe and the chief editor of the Myanmar Tribune weekly journal, Aung Kyaw San.
Vietnam to exploit oil and gas in Myanmar
Vietnam News Agency: Mon 6 Oct 2008
PetroVietnam's affiliates - Exploration and Production Corp. (PVEP) and VietsovPetro (VSP) - will get involved in oil ands gas exploitation in block M-2 offshore Myanmar.
Under a contract signed with the Eden group and Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprises (MOGE) in Nay Pyi Taw on Oct. 2, the PVEP will hold 45 percent of stakes, VSP, 40 percent and Eden group, 15 percent.
This is Vietnam's first oil and gas project in Myanmar and its second overseas. The first one was signed by PVEP and VSP and Tunisia in February 2008.
Vietnam and Myanmar signed a memorandum of understanding on oil and gas cooperation during Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung's visit to Myanmar in August 2007.
U.N. blocked on Burma child soldiers
Radio Free Asia: Mon 6 Oct 2008
Political obstruction and lack of access to affected areas have blocked U.N. efforts to end recruitment of child soldiers in Burma.
A U.N. panel charged with fighting the recruitment of child soldiers has notably failed to make progress in Burma, where school-age children are conscripted by both the ruling junta and ethnic rebel armies, experts say.
"The United Nations team in Burma is severely restricted in what it can do, where it can go, and what kind of information it can collect," Jo Becker, children's rights advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, said in an interview.
"And so it's been very hampered in coming up with any documentation about the recruitment and use of child soldiers by Burma's military."
The military is the single most powerful institution in Burma, having run the country without interruption since seizing control in a 1962 coup. Military generals have crushed political dissent and battled ethnic separatist movements ever since. Officers and their families enjoy privileges unknown to civilians.
According to New York-based Human Rights Watch, the Burmese regime may have the largest number of child soldiers in the world-with thousands swept up in massive recruitment drives.
Some are as young as 10, Human Rights Watch says, their enlistment papers routinely falsified to indicate their ages as 18 or older.
The United Nations Secretary General has cited Burma six times since 2002 in reports to the Security Council as among the world's worst perpetrators of child recruitment.
Some armed ethnic groups fighting against the junta also recruit children, experts said. These include the United Wa State Army, Kachin Independence Army, Karenni National People's Liberation Front, Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, Shan State Army-South, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, and Karen National Union Peace Council.
The U.N. Security Council's Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, created in July 2005, monitors and reports on child recruitment in countries of concern around the world. It can also recommend sanctions, including arms embargoes, against governments and armed groups that continue to recruit.
The Working Group maintains a "country task force" in Burma's former capital, Rangoon.
But lack of access to conflict zones has hindered U.N. efforts to locate and help child soldiers in Burma, according to a high-level U.N. report released in November 2007.
"Access to conflict-affected areas is severely restricted by the Government, a situation that impacts greatly on monitoring and possible responses to child rights violations," the report said.
And though Working Group efforts have achieved "concrete results" in Sri Lanka, Cote d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and other countries, Becker said, "Burma is very politicized within the Security Council."
China, a permanent member of the Security Council, has for many years blocked discussion of Burma in the U.N., Becker said.
"Once [Burma] came onto the agenda of the Security Council's Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, China basically obstructed every constructive proposal that was put forward to try and address the problem of ongoing child recruitment in Burma."
"That's one of the reasons why we're seeing such inaction," Becker said.
Calls seeking comment from China's delegation to the United Nations went unreturned.
"The Security Council Working Group is a political body, and in that sense is susceptible to some of the political positions of the [larger] Security Council," said Radhika Coomaraswamy, U.N. Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, speaking in September at the Washington-based U.S. Institute of Peace.
"In certain countries, especially when we deal with governments, they are much less likely to move as fast," Coomaraswamy said. "They will move faster on a non-state actor."
Coomaraswamy noted that Burma's junta has recently sought to "engage" the United Nations on the issue by forming its own monitoring group, called the Committee for the Prevention of Military Recruitment of Underage Children.
"Recruitment continues," though, Coomaraswamy said.
Coomaraswamy has reported that Burmese children have been lured into joining the army with promises of food and shelter-with brokers sometimes receiving as much as U.S. $32 (40,000 kyat) per child recruited from the streets.
Burma's recruitment of child soldiers is now driven largely by desertions from the Burmese army, Becker said.
"Recruiters are under enormous pressure to bring in new soldiers, and they find that children are the most vulnerable targets," Becker said.
"And so they go to marketplaces, train stations, public places, and basically threaten and coerce children, saying, 'If you don't join the army, you're going to go to jail,'" she said.
"The fact that, after six years of reporting from the Secretary General, the [Security] Council has still done so little is clearly at great cost to the children of Burma."
Reported in Washington by Richard Finney. Produced and edited for the Web by Sarah Jackson-Han.
Don't forget about Burma's democrats - U Pyinar Zawta
Wall Street Journal: Mon 6 Oct 2008
I am a Burmese Buddhist monk, and I am in exile. One year ago in September, the Burmese regime brutally crushed peaceful protests in my country. I was one of the monks who helped lead these protests, now known as the Saffron Revolution. The world focused on my country then, but a year later that focus has faded.
As monks, we dedicate our lives to our faith, but also to humankind. We cannot keep silent against the oppression of our fellow Burmese. We live among the people, and we know they have been struggling. Fuel and food prices are too high for many to afford. Some send their children to our monasteries just to survive. We know that millions of dollars are coming into Burma from the sale of our country's natural resources. Teak, gems, and natural gas have made the regime rich, while ordinary people go hungry.
The Burmese regime jailed me for a total of 10 years because I spoke out against injustice in our country. This January, fearing I would be imprisoned once again, I fled to Thailand. I arrived in the U.S. just one month ago. In late September, I read in the news that the Burmese regime released over 9,000 prisoners. State media described this as a sign of the rulers' "loving kindness." But the rulers know neither love, nor kindness. In Burma, anyone can be jailed for anything, anytime, anywhere.
Of the 9,000 prisoners released, only seven were prisoners of conscience. Countless others remain in jail. The poet and writer U Win Tin, who was finally released at age 79, had spent 19 years in prison for criticizing the government. We rejoice that he and six other political prisoners were released, but for this, the regime deserves no credit. These people should never have been imprisoned in the first place.
In fact, the junta rearrested one of the seven political prisoners within a few hours of his release. This follow-up story was barely noted in the international media. If the junta was sincere, it would release all of the political prisoners, including the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, student activist Min Ko Naing, party leader U Tin Oo, and all of the people who have been locked in prison for almost 20 years because they marched together in the 1988 protests.
As a former political prisoner, whose many friends and colleagues are still in jail in Burma, I want to warn the world's leaders who might think the junta has changed. Do not be fooled. As a former prisoner, I protest the immorality of using prisoner release as a tactic to win favor with the international community. The timing of this token release, coinciding with world leaders gathered at the United Nations in New York, is not an accident. The regime yearns to be legitimate in the eyes of the world, and it seeks to distract the world from seeing how its brutal actions have continued since last year. It hopes to receive public praise. I urge you not to fall into the trap.
The international community must continue to press for the release of all political prisoners in Burma. It must demand real change. The Saffron Revolution has not ended.
* U Pyinar Zawta, co-founder of the All Burma Monks Alliance, was until recently deputy abbot of Maggin Monastery in Rangoon, which helped organize last September's protests. He now lives in exile in the U.S.
A new constitution for a blossoming political society - Aung Htoo
Democratic Voice of Burma: Mon 6 Oct 2008
The last demand set out in the National League for Democracy's 27 September statement was the right to freedom of organisation, existence and movement for political parties.
It is obvious that such a demand is intended not only for the benefit of the NLD but also for all existing political parties in Burma. It is understood that there will be no stability and development in a country without the free existence and organisation of political parties and civic organisations and strong movements. The NLD takes this issue very seriously that's why it included this demand in its statement.
The NLD's demand is for all political parties and organisations. It is relevant to every ethnic group and region in the whole country.
If you look at all the countries in the world, you will observe different political systems in different countries. However, you will notice that stable and developed countries have powerful political parties and civic organisations and strong social movements. There is no country in the world that has long-lasting stability and development because of the capacity and leadership of a handful of military generals.
If you look at the background to the military coups in Burma's history, you will learn that the army staged a coup in 1962 because of the lack of power and ineffective efforts of political parties then. The army had the opportunity to take over power when the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League, a popular front organisation that played a key role in Burma's independence movement, split into 'the Clean' and 'the Stable' factions. After the general elections in 1960, the then election winning party, the Union Party, split again into 'the U-Bo' and 'the Masters' groups.
In his history book 'Burma in the Darkness', author Win Tint Htun mentions that U Nu, the then chairperson of the Union Party Caretaker Committee, highlighted the internal disputes and divisions within the party at the UP's National Conference held in Kabaraye Hill on 27 January 1962 as follows:
"How is everything with you, Ko Shwe U-Bo and Ko Shwe Masters? Are you not tired from fighting each other? The fight between U-Bo and Masters is a very good one to watch. If I may use boxing language, they both use feet, heels, kneels, elbows, fists, heads, chins, finger nails and everything they have to defeat each other. It is a serious fight. I think Ko Shwe U-Bo and Ko Shwe Masters have become quite exhausted. Aren't you tired yet?"
In India, a contemporary of Burma's in its independence struggle during the British colonial era, the political parties that were established even before independence are still in existence and powerful. Due to the wide influence of political parties and civic organisations, the very strong Indian army has never been able to take over the country's power. There is no prospect of a military coup in India in the near future.
Nowadays, the Communist Party of Burma is the only political party left in Burma which was actively involved in the independence movement. However, it can no longer operate above ground for a number of reasons. Other political forces from that time such as the We Burmans Association, Burma's Freedom Bloc, the People's Revolutionary Party and the Socialist Party do not exist any more.
As for the Burma Socialist Programme Party founded after the military coup in 1962, it was merely a superficial grouping formed by military dictators to cling on to power and was thus consigned to the trash bin of history during the 1988 '8888' people's uprising.
The NLD came into existence in a country with political party background outlined above. Considered a civic party, the NLD has become a political party that has received enormous support from the nation since the military coup in 1962. As is the nature of a political party, the NLD may have had mistakes in its strategy. However, we have to acknowledge that it has a rightful political claim.
Why can we conclude the NLD has a rightful political claim?
Firstly, the legitimacy of the result of the 1990 May elections was accepted by not only the people of Burma and the international community but also the State Peace and Development Council.
The military regime has never said that the 1990 May elections result is illegitimate. The NLD has been constantly calling for the convening of the parliament based on that result.
Secondly, the NLD pointed out that the procedure of drafting the 2008 state constitution was wrong. It also pointed that the military regime had used different methods such as threats, intimidations, lies, deceptions and power abuses in order to adopt the constitution by force.
Thirdly, the NLD strongly rejects and states that it cannot accept the SPDC-sponsored magic show, the election, to be held in 2010.
In the midst of the NLD's struggling for existence based on its righteous political stance amid incredible hardships and severe restrictions, key party leaders U Win Tin, U Khin Maung Swe and Dr Than Nyein were released from prison.
There is a saying in Burmese that "a boy comes for the good", a metaphor for someone who can bring hope for the future to others. As for those three people, we have to say that it is the older people who have come for the good. Why?
These three leaders are very old now. U Win Tin is almost 80. They had to spend many years in prison and their health deteriorated throughout their prison terms. They could be rearrested and thrown into jail at any time if they say the wrong thing. Former army captain Win Htein, who was granted freedom on the same day these three were freed, was rearrested the next day.
Nonetheless, within a few days of being released from prison U Win Tin, U Khin Maung Swe and Dr Than Nyein announced that they would take assignments and continue serving the NLD.
People tend to say that appreciation and honour should be given only after someone has died as human beings can have many different faces. But these three people should be publicly honoured as democracy heroes even before they die for their announcement that they would steadfastly continue serving the NLD amidst severe restrictions alone.
I hope there will be 30, 300 or more democracy heroes in the NLD like these three people.
There is no shortcut to bring freedom, peace, justice and development to individual and to society as a whole. The only possible way to ensure them is by allowing the formation of strong and powerful political parties and civic organisations. To reach that end, party and organisation building should become a focal point and the persons who build these organisations should become key players.
U Win Tin, a very old man who values the NLD's rightful political stance and will steadfastly continue serving the NLD, cannot be traded with a million youth who don't understand any stance and work for the dictators. Political parties and civic organisations with rightful stances can be strong only if there are people like U Win Tin in these organisations.
We will be able to build a country that enjoys long-lasting freedom, peace and development only if there are a variety of political parties and civic organisations actively playing their roles like the various types of flowers are blooming in a garden.
The present SPDC constitution only allows political parties if their aims include non-disintegration of the union, non-disintegration of national solidarity and perpetuation of sovereignty. It is certain that the growth of genuine political parties and civic organisations will be terminated under such a constitution.
Therefore, the only thing we have to do is to get rid of the SPDC constitution packed with nonsensical articles and to bring about the emergence of a new constitution that permits the right for political parties and civic organisations to enjoy their freedom of organisation, existence and movement. Beautiful flowers will then blossom.
Burma's Muslim Rohingya minority dwell at the "brink of extermination" - Benedict Rogers
Cutting Edge: Mon 6 Oct 2008
It is not often you meet someone who tells you that he is from "a people at the brink of extermination." But the testimonies from refugees in a remote corner of southern Bangladesh, on the border with Burma, justify that assessment. For the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority in northern Arakan State, western Burma, are a stateless people whose very identity is denied.
All the people of Burma are suffering at the hands of one of the world's most brutal, and illegitimate, military regimes. From time to time Burma's crisis hits the headlines, as it did with protests led by Buddhist monks last September, and Cyclone Nargis in May this year. In
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