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[ReadingRoom] News on Burma - 9/6/09

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  • CHAN Beng Seng
    1.. Constitutional loophole leaves door open for forced labor 2.. Warning to members is a threat to party 3.. Junta clampdown on exiled radio listeners 4..
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 9, 2009
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      1. Constitutional loophole leaves door open for forced labor
      2. Warning to members is a threat to party
      3. Junta clampdown on exiled radio listeners
      4. Burma's Karen flee army offensive
      5. The world is ready for a President Aung San Suu Kyi
      6. Jurists Want Security Council to open war crimes probe
      7. Burma plays long in trial of Aung San Suu Kyi
      8. Myanmar democracy movement appears to be weakening
      9. Forced labour increases in Maungdaw Township
      10. Junta confiscates private lands
      11. Keep up the international pressure: activists
      12. Burmese dictators get a free pass
      13. Keep up the pressure, urges Win Tin
      14. Burmese junta allows felling of 100,000 tons of timber per company annually
      15. Health problems increasing for political prisoners
      16. Darkness descends on Burma's lady by the lake
      17. Regime fears growing China dominance of Burma's economy
      18. Fund crunch threatens rice production in Burma: WFP
      19. Time to make good on promise to Myanmar
      20. NLD claims junta only interested in own security
      21. DKBA starts border guard recruitment
      22. Need for political change in Burma for regional stability
      23. Burma ranks 126th in Global Peace Index
      24. What the U.N. can't ignore in Burma
      25. Burmese govt. in exile plans new strategy

      Constitutional loophole leaves door open for forced labor: ILO
      Mizzima News: Mon 8 Jun 2009

      A committee on International Labor Standards has called on Burma's military government to both amend existing legislation and address shortcomings in a new Constitution due to take effect next year in order to ensure the cessation of forced labor in the country.

      Referencing the Forced Labor Convention of 1930, an International Labor Organization (ILO) expert committee ruled that the practice of forced labor continues to prevail throughout the country, in all but one of the 14 States and Divisions - citing a lack of political will on the part of authorities to address the problem.

      The committee told the government it must amend both existing legislation and the new Constitution to effectively ban forced labor, publicize the ban and punish those who defy the ban - appealing to the government to "redouble their efforts" in enacting "long-overdue steps" to stamp out forced labor in Burma once and for all.

      Disagreeing with the Burmese government's interpretation of the 2008 Constitution, the committee concluded that the text of the document provides for the possible permission of forced labor, specifically drawing attention to a clause referencing "duties assigned thereupon by the State in accord with the law in the interests of the people."

      Additionally, the committee voiced the opinion that "even those constitutional provisions which expressly prohibit forced or compulsory labour may become inoperative where forced or compulsory labour is imposed by legislation itself."

      The junta, however, rebuked the view of the committee, noting the Constitution was approved by over 90 percent of voters in a May 2008 referendum and quoting paragraph 15 of Chapter VIII of the Constitution, which iterates: "The State prohibits any form of forced labour except hard labour as a punishment for crime duly convicted and duties assigned thereupon by the State in accord with the law in the interests of the people."

      Yet, it is precisely paragraph 15 of Chapter VIII, along with the Village and Towns Acts, which the ILO contends demands immediate attention in the amendment or retraction of text contained therein.

      Further, in response to more than 600 pages of evidence to the practice of forced labor in Burma submitted by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the ILO committee accused the government of failing to address the specifics of the cases brought forward, instead merely regurgitating previous statements to the general condition in Burma and practices of the government without providing any proof in support of the government's position.

      Included in the transcripts provided by the ITUC was evidence of direct demands of forced labor made by Burma's military of Karen and Chin villagers as well as forced labor relating to the reconstruction of the country's cyclone ravished delta region.

      The committee, in justifying their verdict, reminded the government that no military personnel have yet to be held accountable for any alleged rights violations, with the exception of three cases which resulted in salary reductions or loss of seniority as opposed to reprimands following from application of the penal code.

      China, India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), however, all came to the defense of the Burmese regime, with China and India opting to focus on the junta's positive achievements to date in putting an end to forced labor, while Singapore criticized those groups and countries choosing to raise the issue of Aung San Suu Kyi in conjunction with that of forced labor.

      Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is currently facing trial for breeching the terms of her house detention; charges which many critics and observers believe are purely political in motivation.

      Burma, under the government of democratically elected Prime Minister U Nu, ratified the Forced Labor Convention in 1955 - some fifty years ahead of fellow ASEAN members Philippines and Vietnam.

      The United States, China and Canada are three of the countries that have yet to ratify the 1930 Convention.

      The committee decided against referring the situation in Burma to the International Court of Justice, the highest venue for dealing with forced labor abuses.


      Warning to members is a threat to party: Win Tin - Salai Pi Pi
      Mizzima News: Mon 8 Jun 2009

      The National League for Democracy (NLD) is faced with a new threat with the ruling junta having warned and restricted it from issuing statements, an executive member of the party said on Monday.

      Win Tin, a veteran journalist and Central Executive Committee (CEC) member of the NLD, said the junta's warning to party leaders and youths came in the wake of a statement issued last week by the Youth Working Group. It is a new threat to the party and also signals an increasing crackdown on party activities.

      The NLD Youth Working Group on June 2 issued a statement condemning the ongoing trial of party leader Aung San Suu Kyi saying that the junta is applying an ineffective law of the 1974 constitution to sue her and to continue to detain her.

      The youth group also said that the trial was not free and fair as the defendant was only allowed one witness while the prosecution presented 14.

      In a vindictive response to the statement, the junta authorities on Friday summoned the NLD CEC members along with leaders of the Youth Working Group and warned them. They made them sign a pledge not to repeat such accusations.

      The junta, in its mouthpiece newspaper, the New Light of Myanmar, on Saturday said the statement by the NLD youth was "misleading and was disturbing the court's proceedings," in Aung San Suu Kyi's trial.

      "It is a threat to us as our members, including youths, have been warned about issuing statements, which we as a legal political party used to issue and have the right to," Win Tin said.

      "It is also a restriction of freedom of expression," Win Tin added.

      On June 4, the authorities called members of the NLD youth wing Hla Thein, Myo Nyunt, Hla Oo and Aye Tun and on June 5 called CEC members Than Htun, Nyunt Wei, Hla Phe and Soe Myint and warned them against issuing statements.

      "When we were summoned, they read out a paper the content of which was similar to the context in the newspaper. They said, we had broken the law," a youth member told Mizzima.

      "After they finished reading, they told us to sign the paper as a confession that we had committed a crime," he added.


      Junta clampdown on exiled radio listeners - Thet Aung Kyaw
      Democratic Voice of Burma: Mon 8 Jun 2009

      The Burmese junta has clamped down on the rising numbers of unlicensed radio owners in a move that media experts see as restriction on the freedom of media and access to pro-democracy broadcasts.

      The ruling junta yesterday issued a warning in the New Light of Myanmar newspaper that those listening to radio without holding a license could be prosecuted under the Wireless Act.

      The warning carried no information on why people would be prosecuted nor why numbers of listeners are increasing, but a Burmese journalist on the China-Burma border said the increase was linked to the political crisis.

      "People tend to buy radios when there is a stir in politics," he said.

      "[The 2007 protests] was like it is now. As soon as it was like that, people bought radios. During 2003 Depayin (massacre), people bought [radios]."

      He added that sales of shortwave radios manufactured by China, which are used by exiled Burmese media groups to broadcast, were also on the rise.

      Coverage of the trial of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi by domestic Burmese media is heavily controlled.

      Heavily censored private newspapers and journals are restricted from publishing any information that isn't covered in the state-run publications.

      Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders last month criticised the trial reporting as one-sided.

      "Even with limited access, the Burmese public is not being properly informed as the military's prior censorship prevents any independent coverage."

      The chairman of the exiled Burma Media Association (BMA) said the move is an attempt to restrict the freedom of media and a means to arrest listeners of exiled media.

      "The military government's…legal actions on radio listeners who do not pay license fees… is an effort to hamper the people of Burma who have been depending more and more on foreign radios lately," said Maung Maung Myint.

      "Let's say, if they want to take action on listeners of foreign radios, they want to create a scenario in which they could arrest them not for listening to the radio but for not licensing their radios."


      Burma's Karen flee army offensive
      BBC News: Mon 8 Jun 2009

      About 3,000 ethnic Karen villagers have reportedly fled from Burma into Thailand in recent days because of a new Burmese military offensive.

      Aid groups say the refugees are from Ler Per Her camp in eastern Karen state, near where the Burmese army is reported to be attacking Karen rebels.

      It is thought to be one of the largest movements of refugees across the Thai-Burma border in a decade.

      Meanwhile Burma still faces pressure to halt Aung San Suu Kyi's trial.

      The pro-democracy leader is charged with breaching the terms of her house arrest, a charge that could leave her in jail for up to five years.

      Former Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong visited Burma on a "goodwill trip" on Monday, as international anger against the regime continued to mount.

      'Largest exodus for a decade'

      The Free Burma Rangers aid group said refugees began streaming out of the Ler Per Her camp on Friday and continued to arrive in Thailand throughout the weekend.

      The Karen Human Rights Group, a Thai-based humanitarian group, put the number of refugees at about 3,000 - and so too did a Thai army official speaking to local media.

      The Burmese government has refused to comment on these reports.

      The Karen Human Rights Group said the influx was "the largest exodus from Karen state on a single occasion" since the government launched a major offensive against the Karen rebels in 1997.

      The refugees are now taking shelter about 100 km (62 miles) north of Mae Sot, a Thai border town.

      The rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide and other organisations have called on the United Nations to intervene to prevent a humanitarian crisis along the border.

      Rebels from the Karen National Union (KNU) have been fighting for greater autonomy from Burma's central government for more than half a century.

      But the KNU is weakening under the impact of continued army offensives, as well as divisions within its ranks and with other Karen groups.

      Another group, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Amy (DKBA), made a pact with the Burmese government and is reportedly now involved in the current fighting on the government side.


      The world is ready for a President Aung San Suu Kyi - Editorial
      Irrawaddy: Mon 8 Jun 2009

      In a functioning democracy facing a general election, Aung San Suu Kyi would be president-in-waiting of a country yearning for her leadership. A fair and free election would give her the leadership mandate she and her party won in 1990, only to have it annulled by a regime determined to hold on to power.

      After its defeat in 1990, the regime can now be expected to use every ruse to make sure it retains executive power after the 2010 election. The rigged constitution forced on the country in May 2008 bars Suu Kyi from holding high political office, while her National League for Democracy is already experiencing pre-election intimidation.

      It's painful indeed to see a country that would benefit immeasurably from Suu Kyi's leadership being shoved by a frightened military regime deeper into the abyss. That scenario, however, should not be allowed to silence the legitimate demand for Suu Kyi to be recognized as the rightful president of Burma. The board of The Irrawaddy wholeheartedly endorses that demand.

      She warrants that title not only through public acclaim but also because of her outstanding leadership qualities and strength of character, which more than 13 years of house arrest and now the additional ordeal of a stage-managed trial have done nothing to blunt.

      Despite the injustices and humiliation heaped upon her by a malicious regime and its thuggish supporters, Suu Kyi has never shown any antagonism towards her jailers, calling instead for national reconciliation and peaceful political dialogue. She has coolly displayed style and substance, winning support across the political spectrum in Burma.

      Much of that support has been silenced behind prison walls where more than 2,000 political prisoners are serving draconian sentences. The country could benefit greatly from a Suu Kyi leadership drawing on the talents of people like the Shan leader Hkun Htun Oo, former Defense Minister General Tin Oo who is now under house arrest, veteran journalist-activist Win Tin, 88 Student Generation leaders Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi, Jimmy, Nilar Thein and Su Su Nway.

      Former army officers could also be called on to help lead the country in a new direction, while Burmese expatriates would willingly return to join in the effort.

      Realistically, Suu Kyi couldn't be expected to have the silver bullet to solve all Burma's grave problems, but nobody else has the qualities necessary to build a broad coalition, win the trust of ethnic nationalities and open up Burma to the rest of the world. She would recreate an untarnished international image of Burma and restore the confidence of important countries, including China and India.

      She would also clean up the image of Burma's armed forces and their leaders and, by virtue of her own lack of rancor, save them from the Burmese people's wrath.

      A president Suu Kyi would be comfortable on the world stage with leaders like US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown - both of whom have spoken out strongly on her behalf. She would speak on equal terms with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Thai Prime Minister Abihist Vejjajiva and restore her country's moral authority in the region. Burma would at last have a national leader who is assured of a warm welcome in all the world's capitals.

      The pariah regime now ruling Burma doesn't like to hear these truths, of course, but its leading generals should have the sense to realize by now that enough is enough, that only Suu Kyi can restore to the country the dignity they seem to value so much.

      The world at large and Burma's oppressed citizens are more than ready to welcome and extend hands of friendship and co-operation to a President Aung San Suu Kyi.


      Jurists Want Security Council to open war crimes probe - Marwaan Macan-Markar
      Inter-Press Service: Mon 8 Jun 2009

      Thanks to support from China and Russia, Burma's military regime has escaped harsh criticism at the U.N. Security Council. But this diplomatic deal could come under pressure following the release of a report commissioned by leading international jurists, accusing the regime of committing "war crimes."

      "We call on the U.N. Security Council urgently to establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate and report on crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burma," wrote the five jurists from Britan, Mongolia, South Africa, the United States and Venezuela in the introduction to the report, 'Crimes in Burma.'

      "The world cannot wait while the military regime continues its atrocities against the people of Burma," added the jurists, who include South Africa's Richard Goldstone, Britain's Sir Geoffrey Nice and Venezuela's Pedro Nikken. "The report's findings are both disturbing and compelling."

      The report, which was released in late May, accuses the regime in Burma, or Myanmar, of perpetrating "epidemic levels" of forced labour, the recruitment of tens of thousands of child soldiers, widespread sexual violence, extrajudicial killings and torture, and displacement of more than a million people.

      The scale of violence - as the Burmese military continues its decades-long campaign to crush ethnic rebel movements in the eastern corner of this Southeast Asian nation - has also left a trail of destruction that has parallels with the brutal civil war in Sudan.

      "One statistic may stand out above all others, however: the destruction, displacement or damage of over 3,000 ethnic nationality villages over the past 12 years - many burned to the ground," the report revealed. "This is comparable to the number of villages estimated to have been destroyed or damaged in Dafur."

      Prodding the Security Council to consider the violations in Burma as it has done with Dafur is only one part of the argument being pushed in this initiative to trigger a probe. The other is the source of the details revealed about the on-going violations in Burma. The information was culled from reports submitted over the years by U.N. special envoys assigned as part of a monitoring mechanism to inform the world body about the situation in Burma.

      "U.N. mechanisms have noted there are widespread abuses in Burma," says Tyler Giannini, a co-author of the report that was prepared by the International Human Rights Clinic at the law school of the U.S.-based Harvard University. "There is a prima facie case for the U.N. Security Council to set up a commission to investigate crimes against humanity in Burma."

      U.N. General Assembly resolutions on Burma reflect this. "Discrimination and violations suffered by persons belonging to ethnic nationalities of Myanmar [include] extrajudicial killing, rape and other forms of sexual violence persistently carried out by members of the armed forces," stated one resolution before the General Assembly in 2007.

      But, for the Security Council to issue a binding resolution to establish a special commission of inquiry is a daunting task. "It is a very tough job," says Thaung Htun, U.N. affairs representative for the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB), the democratically-elected government forced into exile.

      "The Security Council is very much divided on Burma, with France, the U.S. and U.K. in one camp and Russia and China in another," Htun told IPS. "Russia and China continue to say that the situation in Burma is not a threat to international peace and security."

      That argument by the Burmese junta's strongest backers in the Security Council embodies the hurdles that have been placed ahead of any resolution calling the regime to account for its litany of abuses. The first breakthrough was in 2006, when the Burmese situation was placed for discussion on the Council's agenda.

      That was followed in late 2007 by a statement released by the president of the Council following a harsh crackdown of peaceful, pro-democracy protesters led by thousands of Buddhist monks in September 2007.

      In late May this year, the Council issued a unanimous press statement calling for the release of the over 2,100 political prisoners in Burma - including that of democratically-elected prime minister and pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi. The statement also expressed concern over the recent trial Suu Kyi has been subject to.

      This slight opening in the Council to comment on Burma came after the other available U.N. mechanisms proved ineffective. The military regime has barely demonstrated a shift in policy since 1992, when resolutions critical of the regime began to be placed annually at the General Assembly. The junta responded with a similar cold shoulder when hauled up for violations at the U.N. human rights body in Geneva.

      But there was no mention of war crimes being committed by the regime in those U.N. reports and resolutions spanning the last 16 years. Consequently, the Harvard University report commissioned by the five international jurists marks a watershed.

      "There has been some talk within the Burmese democracy movement about this issue of war crimes but it did not result in a report like the Harvard one," says Khin Ohmar, foreign affairs secretary at the Forum for Democracy in Burma, a network of Burmese political exiles. "This is the first time such a case has been made formally."

      "But we should not let this move overshadow the need for dialogue and reconciliation in Burma," she said in an interview. "I see it as two separate issues. This is all about justice. Seeking justice cannot be undermined by the political process."

      Another factor has also helped in placing the Burmese regime in this new line of fire - the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2002 in The Hague.

      Currently the ICC - which has the authority under the international treaty that created it to investigate crimes against humanity and war crimes - is probing violations in Northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and Dafur.

      "The emergence of a new international justice order is a factor to push for a probe into crimes against humanity in Burma," says David Scott Mathieson, the Burma consultant for Human Rights Watch, the New York-based rights watchdog. "And the international community now knows more of what is now happening in Burma."


      Burma plays long in trial of Aung San Suu Kyi - Mark Canning
      Guardian (UK): Mon 8 Jun 2009

      In the face of a wave of condemnation, Burma's military leaders are bending over backwards to project an impression of openness. They have now allowed Aung San Suu Kyi's defence team to appeal the decision of the trial judges to disallow three of the four witnesses her team had wanted to put on the stand.

      A ruling is expected this week from a higher court, allowing for the resumption of the trial next Friday. Nobody expects it to alter the final verdict, but it may be that the government has come to realise the value of playing things long as a means of dissipating criticism.

      But they still find themselves in a fix, because of course nobody has forgotten about the trial. It remains the subject of huge interest - and anger - among the Burmese, and as soon as proceedings move back to the courtroom in Insein that gaze will intensify once more.

      The government has in the meantime lashed out at the younger members of Daw Suu's* party - the NLD, which swept to a landslide victory in the 1990 elections - for having criticised the trial in an internet posting, and has threatened to unleash the considerable powers of the Press and Publications Act.

      The NLD comes in for a lot of stick. It is accused in some quarters of being behind the times, of being insufficiently strategic and wedded to a result that is now many years distant. But the members of the party - many of them women - are exceptionally brave people who put themselves at constant risk of arrest and harassment and, in a failing economy, make immeasurably more difficult the task of finding employment.

      The Press and Publications Act is used in some strange ways. Anything with a political content generally falls foul of the censors, but it's puzzling why things that one would have thought might serve to distract the populace from the bigger picture are also blocked.

      There is nothing in the government-controlled media to suggest Burma suffers from road accidents, crime or other nastiness. Buses tip into ravines, natural disasters strike and lurid crimes occur, but rarely is news of any of this carried. Were a Martian to read the New Light of Myanmar he could be forgiven for thinking an extraordinarily successful feat of social engineering had been achieved.

      * Daw Suu is a short form used in Burma for Aung San Suu Kyi


      Myanmar democracy movement appears to be weakening - Charles McDermid
      Los Angeles Times: Mon 8 Jun 2009

      A mishmash of disparate anti-government groups has not been able to persuade foreign powers to push for Aung San Suu Kyi's freedom.

      Even as the trial of activist Aung San Suu Kyi approaches a predictable conclusion in a tumbledown prison courtroom in Yangon, the verdict may already be in for Myanmar's pro-democracy movement.

      The opposition, already reeling before Suu Kyi's arrest, increasingly appears powerless, divided and incapable of mustering the international intervention needed to topple the country's long-ruling military government. As one opposition leader put it, the prevailing sentiment within the opposition is "outrage and utter hopelessness."

      A mishmash of acronyms, ethnic divisions and agendas, seven alliances of about 100 anti-government groups operate inside and outside Myanmar. Galvanized by recent events, the disparate groups have led a chorus of derision for the arrest and trial of Suu Kyi.

      International outrage has followed, with President Obama calling the drama a "show trial." But there have been no changes in the government's stance that Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, violated the terms of her house arrest by allowing an uninvited American to spend two nights at her highly guarded compound. She faces three to five years in jail.

      Hard-core activists are not impressed by the international response.

      "We are very thankful the international community is on our side. But this is only lip service," Khin Maung Swe, an executive committee member of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, said by phone from Yangon.

      Western threats of crippling economic sanctions have yet to materialize, and the government's closest allies, China, Russia and India, have remained silent.

      Sources in Myanmar, also known as Burma, have confirmed that officials from China, Myanmar's biggest supplier of consumer goods and the main investor in the resource-rich country's energy and mineral sectors, have visited in recent days to meet with the ruling generals and hold unofficial talks with opposition leaders.

      Political scientist and author Aung Naing Oo was once foreign secretary of the All Burma Students' Democratic Front, an armed group involved in the violent 1988 protests that catapulted Suu Kyi to prominence. More recently, Aung Naing Oo, who studied at Harvard and now lives in exile in Thailand, has advocated dialogue between the regime and the opposition.

      "Throwing sanctions from 10,000 miles away" won't change the xenophobic mind-set of the regime, he said.

      He blames both the opposition and the regime for stubbornness and inaction, what he calls "old general syndrome."

      "I'll give you an example: A 16-year-old fights his whole life for what he thinks is right. Now he's a general, he's 70, that's all he knows. These old politicians won't change their minds for the country even if they know this is the right way," Aung Naing Oo said.

      With Suu Kyi again detained and many other leaders jailed, the National League for Democracy is facing a crisis of leadership and morale. Moral authority, according to Aung Naing Oo and others, is not enough to carry the day.

      "Moral authority has kept the movement alive, given it a lifeline," he said. But "you need to bring pragmatism into the game. As Bill Clinton said, politics is rhetoric and reality. How to combine the two in Burma, I don't know."

      Meanwhile, sources in Myanmar say the streets of Yangon, the former capital, are cloaked in a renewed reign of fear, rage and helplessness.

      "In every neighborhood of Yangon, there is always one former political prisoner or a family whose son or husband is in jail for political reasons. People are too afraid and too poor to take risks," former prisoner Swe Win said. "Only if someone or some group can successfully initiate a movement so big and so strong for the ordinary people to participate will protests erupt."

      As the trial of Suu Kyi resumes, and the reeling opposition scrambles to rally universal support, the people of Myanmar are left with little more than a day-to-day existence and wishful thinking.

      "Hope is something that keeps Burmese going," Aung Naing Oo said. "When you are Burmese, you have to have hope; otherwise, you have nothing."

      * McDermid is a special correspondent.


      Forced labour increases in Maungdaw Township
      Kaladan Press: Fri 5 Jun 2009

      Forced labour is increasing in Maungdaw Township due to the building of the fence on the Burma-Bangladesh border, after Cyclone Aila lashed the area, a local businessman said on condition of anonymity.

      The storm and tidal waves have destroyed almost 80 percent of the shrimp enclosures of villagers and barrier or walls, which were recently completed on the Burma-Bangladesh border, to erect the fence, said a shrimp owner of Maungdaw Township.

      As a result, the ruling military junta, which had recently carried barbed wires, cement and iron rods from Rangoon to Maungdaw Township by ships, had to take the initiative again to erect the fence in the border area.

      The army accompanied by Burma's border security force (Nasaka) recently ordered every village in Maungdaw Township to provide at least 100 labourers for four days to work at the work site, without any wages and also to take their own food. The concerned authority had already ordered the village tracts of Padaung and Donkhali of Maungdaw Township to provide 100 labourers per village. Having worked at the work site for four days, they had to return to their homes and another group had to go to the work site for another four days, said a school teacher.

      On the other hand, the authority concerned invited some other labourers for fence construction from other places, such as Buthidaung and Rathedaung Townships and other villages. But, they were provided Kyat 1,500 to 2,000 per day according to their work capacity, said a local shopkeeper.

      Erecting the fence on the Burma-Bangladesh border area causes a lot of hardship for the local people of Maungdaw Township and forced labour also escalated.

      Besides, yesterday, the concerned authorities distributed 2 acres of land per family to the new settlers, who were recently brought to Arakan State from Burma proper. The lands were seized from the Rohingya community for Natala villagers. This also upset the Rohingya villagers, said an ex-chairman requesting not to be named.


      Junta confiscates private lands
      Khonumthung News: Fri 5 Jun 2009

      The Burmese military junta authorities confiscated private lands in Kalemyo, Sagaing division western Burma in May this year.

      Mr. Zahleithang of Zohnuai Town Peace and Development Council said that 15 acres of land have been seized by Kalemyo authorities. The land belonged to two farmers.

      "The reason for seizing the land could be that the two farmers could not cultivate their land. The authorities issued an order to confiscate land which is not being maintained by the owner. So the TPDC chairman has grabbed the land on the orders of higher authorities," said a local.

      A total of 200 acres of land have been confiscated by the authorities in Kalemyo area. After seizing the land they ask local people to do the cultivation but the locals hesitate to do so as the lands are confiscated from fellow civilians.

      "Local people depend mainly on cultivation. If the authorities seize the land how can we continue with our farming? The victims are facing many problems in earning their livelihood. Some have sold their lands cheap before it could be seized by the authorities, and then shifted to other villages," said a local.

      The military junta confiscates private lands citing many reasons. The regime never pays any compensation for the lands seized. There are about 1000 villages in Kalay area where 80 percent of the population is into farming.


      Keep up the international pressure: activists - Arkar Moe
      Irrawaddy: Fri 5 Jun 2009

      Burmese politicians and activists are continuing the campaign to urge the International community and world leaders to maintain pressure on the military regime.

      Win Tin, a prominent politician and executive member of National League for Democracy (NLD) told The Irrawaddy on Thursday international pressure has given the democracy movement "a bit of breathing space."

      As the current chair of Asean, Thailand called on May 19 for the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi. In a statement on behalf of Asean, the Thai government said it was ready to help with national reconciliation and democracy efforts in Burma.

      Recently, Burmese state-run-media has exposed a rift between the junta and the current Thai chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) over comments he made about the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi.

      The junta is counter attacking critical comments from neighboring countries: "Foreign countries should realize that the present case concerning Aung San Suu Kyi is not 'trumped up' by the government, as some have been willing to claim," said a statement sent by the foreign ministry to all Burmese embassies.

      Ashin Issariya, a leader of All Burma Monks Alliance (ABMA), said, "I agree and welcome condemnation of the international community. I think it is very effective and has an impact on the Burmese government. If Asean suspends Burma, it will be more effective because Asean has protected the Burmese government in the past."

      Han Thar Myint, a spokesperson for the NLD, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday, "The international criticism is very important for Burmese pro-democracy activists and the Burmese people, because it makes them feel good. Now, Asean has also criticized the Burmese military government. I think it is important because Burma is a member of Asean."

      He said the image of the Burmese military junta has been tarnished, and, "I think they are trying to release international pressure, so they postponed Aung San Suu Kyi's verdict."

      Activists have called for the international community and world leaders to take more effective actions against the junta.

      Win Tin said, "UN chief Ban Ki-moon should go to Burma as soon as possible. But, if he leaves Burma empty-handed, it will be a set back. We must keep up the pressure."

      Many activists said the military regime's real fear is the UN Security Council.

      "The only body that the junta really fears is the Security Council," said the former UN Rapporteur for Human Rights in Burma, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro. "I have personal evidence of this. So the Security Council must address this immediately as a matter of absolute urgency."

      Some observers have called for the International Criminal Court to become involved.

      The monk-activist, Ashin Issariya, said, "Now, International organizations and governments need to take effective measures against the military junta. We should build a case for human-rights abuses by military junta and call for the Security Council to take action to bring it before the International Criminal Court."

      Ashin Issariya said the UN is aware of the scale and severity of rights abuses in Burma, and it is incumbent on the Security Council to authorize a commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity and war crimes in the country.

      Pro-democracy leader Suu Kyi's trial has drawn worldwide condemnation and is seen as an effort of the junta to detain the political leader through elections scheduled for 2010.


      Burmese dictators get a free pass - Frida Ghitis
      Atlanta-Journal Constitution (US): Fri 5 Jun 2009

      Every time we become distracted, the generals in Burma manage to jolt us back to attention. The world's most despotic regime is alive and well, inflicting suffering on its people after five decades in power, while the world does little more than issue an occasional statement of outrage. We've grown awkwardly accustomed to that. Now, security forces in the former capital Rangoon (now named Yangon) have sprung into action. The junta's most recent move comes perfectly timed to ensure continuing hopelessness.

      The latest outrage in Burma, the country renamed Myanmar by its ruling generals, came May 14, when startled witnesses saw a security convoy speeding from the home of pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, headed for the horrific Insein prison. After years of house detention, the ailing Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, was moved to prison to face a show trial. The generals had found a convenient excuse to extend her detention.

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      The 63-year-old Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy was denied its election victory in 1990, has spent most of the past three decades under house arrest as the ruling junta keeps a tight grip on the power it has refused to relinquish since 1962. The latest detention term was set to expire this month. Then, an American man called John Yettaw swam the distance of the lake adjoining Suu Kyi's house and visited with the woman known simply as "The Lady."

      Security forces charged her with violating the terms of her detention, which call for almost complete isolation broken only by a monthly visit by her doctor. Her doctor, too, incidentally, was recently jailed while Suu Kyi's health deteriorated.

      The trial's outcome is all but assured. Now that Suu Kyi's house arrest has officially expired, she is - - in Orwellian fashion - - technically free, but confined to one of the world's worst prisons.

      Some will blame Suu Kyi's new predicament on Yettaw. That misses the point. The unauthorized visitor gave the junta a convenient pretext. The regime was not about to free the one person who stands as a symbol of the Burmese people's endlessly postponed wish for democracy, reminding us all of the illegitimacy of the government. In fact, it is conceivable that the generals knowingly allowed him to dodge security and reach the house. (I attempted to see Suu Kyi in Rangoon several years ago. The plainclothesmen guarding the perimeter made it coldly clear I would get nowhere.)

      After years of sanctions and high-minded rhetoric, the international community has nothing to show for its efforts at persuading the generals to remove their boot from their country's throat. The generals have grown obscenely wealthy exploiting the land's mineral riches as their people live in grinding poverty. Burma spends less on health care than any country.

      When a hurricane swept ashore last year and killed more than 140,000, the toughest task for aid groups was convincing the authorities to let them help. The generals are so intensely despised that a few years ago they suddenly decided to move the capital from the biggest city, Yangon, to a piece of land in the thick of the Asian jungle, where presumable coup attempts would face more difficult odds.

      The junta has spent decades pretending change is just around the corner; that's why they allowed the 1990 election, which Suu Kyi shocked them by winning. Their latest charade says there will be another election in 2010. Nobody expects it to be open. They certainly would not allow Suu Kyi to go free just in time for 2010.

      The Obama administration is reviewing America's failed Burma policy. A new approach should include pressuring Burma's Asian neighbors - - including China - - to take a tough stand against the regime. A dictatorship should receive the message that without freedom for Suu Kyi and true reform, force is an option to bring change.

      During this latest incident, cries for Suu Kyi's freedom have come from Europe and America, but Asia has remained eerily quiet. After all, the governments of countries surrounding Burma have benefitted from its vast natural resources and from trading with the corrupt rulers.

      Aung San Suu Kyi has long stood as a symbol of the Burmese people's hopes for an end to despotism. But her defiant, dignified visage brings to mind more than the aspirations of an oppressed country. It also reminds us of how dismally ineffectual the international community has proven in protecting a people from the brutality of their own government. Suu Kyi reminds us all that we have failed.

      * Frida Ghitis, a resident of Decatur, is a world affairs columnist and author.


      Keep up the pressure, urges Win Tin
      Irrawaddy: Thu 4 Jun 2009

      Win Tin, a prominent member of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), has urged the international community to continue pushing for her release, saying that the pressure on the Burmese junta since her trial began more than two weeks ago has given the democratic opposition more "breathing space."

      Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Thursday, the 79-year-old Win Tin expressed deep appreciation for strongly-worded statements from world leaders condemning the detention of Suu Kyi and asking for the Nobel Peace Prize winner's unconditional release.

      Win Tin at an NLD ceremony shortly after his release last year from 19 years in prison (Photo: AP)

      "That was very significant," he said of the strong messages of support for Suu Kyi from a number of world leaders, including US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

      He also thanked Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and other leading Thai politicians, who have been unusually outspoken in their criticism of Suu Kyi's detention, even raising the issue at meetings of regional leaders.

      Win Tin also welcomed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's promise to return to Burma "as soon as possible." He added, however, that the UN chief must be prepared to press for tangible results.

      "If he leaves Burma empty-handed, it will be a setback," he said.

      He also warned against any slackening of pressure on the regime, which he said was now stalling Suu Kyi's trial in the hope that the international outcry would lose momentum.

      The veteran politician, who spent 19 years in Rangoon's notorious Insein Prison, where Suu Kyi is currently being held, said that the court agreed to hear an appeal of an earlier decision barring three of her defense witnesses because the regime was trying to buy time.

      The Nobel laureate's trial on charges she violated her house arrest was to have final arguments on Friday, paving the way for a widely expected guilty verdict and a prison sentence of up to five years.

      Suu Kyi, 63, faces three to five years in prison if found guilty of breaking the terms of her house arrest by allowing an American intruder to stay for two days after he swam to her home on May 4.

      Although the trial has resulted in tighter restrictions on Suu Kyi, the intense international attention that it has attracted has actually made life slightly easier for beleaguered democratic opposition forces, according to Win Tin.

      Before Suu Kyi's arrest and transfer to Insein prison, activists and dissidents in Burma were powerless to make a move without the regime pouncing on them, "but now we have some breathing space here," he said.

      Win Tin also said he suspected the regime was behind the bizarre incident that landed Suu Kyi in a special court at Insein Prison.

      "It was a set up," he said, questioning why John William Yettaw, the American man who swam to Suu Kyi's house on May 4, was able to get a visa to return to Burma after police were informed that he had breached the tight security around her home late last year.

      Suu Kyi's personal physician, Tin Myo Win, had reported this first intrusion to the police on December 4, 2008. Yettaw entered her compound on November 30 and was immediately told to leave. It was not clear what prompted him to attempt a repeat of his earlier illegal entry into Suu Kyi's residential compound.

      Win Tin also dismissed the regime's efforts to use the incident to smear Suu Kyi's reputation and justify her continued detention after more than six years under house arrest.

      "People in Burma do not believe the regime's propaganda," said Win Tin, adding that the junta's actions could provoke unrest.

      In a sign that the regime is growing increasingly wary of a backlash, it has beefed up security in Rangoon, where residents said that they saw about 30 police trucks on roads leading to Insein prison yesterday.

      Win Tin also said that despite the military leaders' determination to keep Suu Kyi in prison, the daughter of Burma's independence leader doesn't hold any personal grudge against them.

      "They know her very well. They know that she has no ill will against them, but they want to lock her up or deport her somewhere," he said.

      But the generals were making a serious mistake by attempting to marginalize Suu Kyi, said Win Tin, who said that they would need her when the time comes to cede power.

      "They should realize that she can save them," he said.


      Burmese junta allows felling of 100,000 tons of timber per company annually
      Kachin News Group: Thu 4 Jun 2009

      The Burmese military junta has granted permission to each logging company in the country's northern Kachin State to fell over 100,000 tons of timber except teak every year, said local officers of the Forest Department.

      In reality, both hardwood and teak from forests are Kachin State is mainly transported to neighbouring China through the two countries' border in Kachin State and Rangoon, former capital of the country for export, said local timber companies' sources.

      U Tet Zin, the head of a timber camp near Train Station in Mayan Village between Myitkyina-Mandalay railways said, "We can log unlimited timber. However the military authorities have officially allowed us 5,000 tons of timber in a year."

      He added that the hardwood accumulated in the timber camp in Mayan is jointly owned by the regime's retired generals in Rangoon and retired officers of the Forest Department.

      The trees were felled in the forests along the ascent of Loili River also called Loili Hka in Kachin and Gwi Marit Bum (Gwi Marit Mountain) near Mayan village. The forests have been preserved by generations after generations, said elder Kachin villagers of Mayan who are very upset with the rampant logging in their preserved forests.

      Because the logs are stored at the centre of village, near the railway station in this monsoon, Mayan villagers are being forced to live with the bad smell from the rotting tree skins, said villagers.

      Whenever the village headmen requested moving the timber camp to another place, the log company has refused, added villagers.

      At the moment, there are several timber camps based along the stations between Myitkyina and Mandalay - Mayan, Nammar, Kyauk Gyi and Namti, said local timber company sources.

      Among them, Myat Noo Tu Company in Nammar station and Kyauk Gyi station has timber camps of the Htun Mya Taung Company, Htoo Company and Dagon Company, said eyewitnesses.

      All these companies transport timber to Rangoon only by trains and ships along Irrawaddy River for export, said local sources.

      A KIO official in Myitkyina Relation Office told KNG, "Actually, the source of those timber were protected areas of KIO

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