Friday, 29 February 2008

NLD chair charged for holding forced labour report

by Aye Nai

Feb 27, 2008 (DVB)–The National League for Democracy chairperson in San Chaung township, Rangoon division, has been charged with threatening national stability for holding information on forced labour.

NLD chairperson U Thet Wei was arrested on 19 February after authorities tried to seize a memory stick from him containing information about the Burmese’ government’s forced labour practices to be reported to the International Labour Organisation.

Thet Wei was previously arrested on 9 January at a court hearing at Kyauktada township court for solo protestor U Ohn Than.

In an interview with DVB on 13 February, Thet Wei said he had asked police sergeant Hla Phone during the hearing if he could talk to Ohn Than.

“During our talk, U Ohn Than handed me a letter he had written, and I thought it was just a letter to his family and accepted it,” Thet Wei said.

“But Hla Phone saw it and tried to grab it from me, and that’s when the problems started.”

Thet Wei said that Hla Phone then asked him to go to the police station.

“So I handed my wallet, identity card and a memory stick containing documents about the ILO to U Ohn Than’s daughter,” Thet Wei said.

“But Hla Phone tried to seize the memory stick, so I told them it only contained documents about the ILO that have nothing to do with him.”

When Thet Wei tried to stop his memory stick being taken and asked to see a warrant, he was charged with harassing an officer on duty and intimidation.

Thet Wei went to court on 19 February to face these charges, but was arrested again during this court hearing.

The court rejected one of the original charges, but added additional charges relating to dissemination of sensitive material that could undermine national stability, according to his wife, Daw Than Than.

“The new charges are all about the memory stick,” Daw Than Than said.

“He was supposed to drop it in at the ILO after the court hearing but he never made it there and they took it from him.”

Thet Wei, a 50-year-old former political prisoner, is now being held in Pabedan police station.

He is due to appear in court on 4 March to hear the latest charges against him.

The SPDC agreed with the ILO in February 2007 that incidences of forced labour can be freely reported to the ILO and that those who report these cases should not face harassment or arrest.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Myanmar pursuing goal of democracy with transparency and time frame

U Pyay Kyaw

The Union of Myanmar is an independent and sovereign nation. In the past, the country was subjugated for 123 years by the British, and during the period, the colonizer exploited and unjustly took out of the nation the precious stones such as gold, silver, diamond, jade, ruby and sapphire including natural resources, agricultural produce and royal gems.

Like Myanmar, many other world countries fell under the colonial rule of the western industrialized countries such as the Britain, France, Belgium, the Dutch, Spain, Portugal and the US. They also exploited all the natural resources of the colonies. At that time, the dictionaries in circulation in the colonialist countries did not carry some words such as freedom, liberty, independence, democracy, human rights, non-aggression and non-interference. Unlike in the past, now they are repeatedly shouting the expressions of freedom, human rights, and democracy. At the same time, they are invading, imposing economic sanctions against, and interfering in the internal affairs of former colonies that are now engaged in national reconstruction tasks.

They are none other than hypocrites. In the course of history, Myanmar people had led a peaceful life, sharing joys and sorrows. Myanmar came under acts of aggressions of the colonialists in 1824, and since then, the people had fought back the colonizers in unity. The regaining of the State’s territory and sovereignty (independence) cost a large number of lives and limbs of the people. Since 4 January 1948 on which the nation regained independence, the people had fallen victims to internal armed conflicts that occurred at the instigation of the colonialists and due to the sectarianism.

It was known to the international community that the Union was on the edge of an abyss, and the nation almost lost independence and encountered bloodshed four times—from 1948 to 1950, from 1958 to 1960, in the early 1962, and in 1988, and thus the people and the Tatmadaw had to defend the Union in collaboration. Anyhow, peace has been restored in Myanmar since 1989. Seventeen national race armed groups returned to the legal fold in consideration of the public interests. Myanmar enjoyed the taste of development at the unprecedented level from 1988 to 2008. With community peace and stability of the State, the government is now implementing the fourth step of the road map.

In 1992, the government held discussions with the ten legal political parties (including NLD) and reached an agreement to hold the National Convention in order to lay down fundamental principles for a constitution. In 1990, Sein Win and some NLD member MPs fled to the camp of armed insurgents in border areas and illegally formed a so-called parallel government. Thus, NLD Chairman U Aung Shwe removed Daw Suu Kyi’s cousin expatriate Sein Win and NLD member accomplices, and U Tin Oo and Daw Suu Kyi who violated the law and incited riots, as member of the NLD headquarters. In addition, he sent a letter with his signature to the Multi-party Democracy General Election Commission, requesting that the commission remove them as representatives-elect.

Five NLD HQ members and nearly 100 NLD representatives led by U Aung Shwe had attended the National Convention since 1993, implying that NLD accepted the concept that a State constitution was essential for the nation. It is common knowledge that the State Constitution Drafting Committee under the leadership of General Aung San drew the 1947 constitution in haste. At that time, the nation was still under the rule of the British government. Under the coercion and pressure of some Shan sawbwas (chieftains), the constitution enumerated some principles on the rights to secede from the Union 10 years after independence.

In the early March 1962, the ruling Pa-Hta-Sa (Union) government was not in a position at all to control the federal movement designed to secede from the Union and then join the South-East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) led by the US. In consequence, the government could no longer practise the 1947 constitution.

In 1974, a new constitution was introduced on the basis of Socialism. Nonetheless, in the pragmatic world, the nation practising Socialist Constitution Law did not achieve much economic growth due to various reasons. Again the 1974 constitution was abrogated in 1988, resulting from the objection in the mass protests. A five-warship fleet including an aircraft carrier of a big country intruded into the Myanmar’s waters, prompting the Tatmadaw to take up State responsibilities.

The Union was witnessing general deterioration, stemming from inhumane killings of Myanmar people by same compatriots, burning down public property, looting of shops and government warehouses, and vying each other for power. So, the people and the Tatmadaw again had to save the Union. The process of drawing an enduring constitution was carried out, taking lessons from defects and loopholes of the 1947 constitution and the 1974 constitution.

The National Convention was attended by more than 1000 representatives from ten legal political parties, representatives of representativeselect, independent representatives-elect, representatives of national races from various townships, representatives of peasants, workers, intellectuals and intelligentsia and State service personnel, legal experts and representatives from national race peace groups.
Proposal papers of respective delegate groups, collections of the panel of chairmen of the National Convention plenary sessions, clarifications of the National Convention Convening Commission, and fundamental principles and detailed basic principles adopted with the approval of the plenary sessions received media coverage.

Proposal papers submitted to and discussions held at the National Convention, and principles of the chapters were collected into a book after the National Convention was completed on 3 September 2007. And copies were distributed at the reasonable prices. Nonetheless, renegades, the media under the influence of the colonialists, and internal traitorous national axe-handles are saying that the discussions held and principles adopted at the National Convention are incomprehensible lacking transparency. I would like to urge them to find them up in the old newspapers. The newspapers carried 15 chapters or principles for 15 chapters to be included in the constitution as follows:—

Chapter (1)

The State

28-8-2007

Chapter (2)

The State Structure

28-8-2007

Chapter (3)

The Head of State

28-8-2007

Chapter (4)

Legislature

29-8-2007

Chapter (5)

Executive

30-8-2007

Chapter (6)

Judiciary

1-9-2007

Chapter (7)

The Tatmadaw

2-9-2007

Chapter (8)

Citizens, Fundamental Principles and Responsiblities
of Citizens

2-9-2007

Chapter (9)

Election

2-9-2007

Chapter (10)

Political Parties

2-9-2007

Chapter (11)

Provisions on State of Emergency

3-9-2007

Chapter (12)

Amendment of the Constitution

3-9-2007

Chapter (13)

State Flag, State Seal, National Anthem and the Capital

3-9-2007

Chapter (14)

Transitory Provisions

3-9-2007

Chapter (15)

General Provisions

3-9-2007


During the period when Daw Suu Kyi and U Tin Oo were placed under restrictions, U Aung Shwe and NLD central executive committee attended the meeting to coordinate for holding the National Convention and agreed to the resolutions. Nearly 90 NLD representatives including U Aung Shwe attended the National Convention that was launched on 9 January 1993. NLD representatives led by U Aung Shwe and representatives of Shan NLD led by U Khun Tun Oo attended the National Convention till it laid down Chapter (1) “State Fundamental Principles”, Chapter (2) “The detailed basic principles for The State Structure”, Chapter (3) “The detailed basic principles for The Head of State”, Chapter (4) “The detailed basic principles for Formation of Legislature”, Chapter (5) “The detailed basic principles for Formation of Executive”, and Chapter (6) “The detailed basic principles for Formation of Judiciary”.

In July 1995, restrictions placed on Daw Suu Kyi were lifted. Since then, the 86 NLD representatives left the National Convention under the orders of Daw Suu Kyi. Then, NLD resorted to various means to disrupt the progress of the National Convention.

Hearing the announcement that the National Convention would resume on 17 May 2004, NLD informed that it would attend the convention. In response, an invitation letter was delivered to NLD.

The party said that it was required to hold a meeting of the NLD executive committee with Daw Suu Kyi and U Tin Oo to decide whether or not it would attend the convention again. Following the news aired by VOA and BBC, NLD coerced the government to lay down State fundamental principles that the NLD representatives had agreed to. State fundamental principles were laid down by the National Convention, not by the government. So, any of the State fundamental principles could not be omitted, rejected, or amended.

If NLD had been clever enough to achieve its intention, it would have attended the convention again and would have submitted its wishes to it.

On the evening of 14 May 2004, VOA and BBC broadcast a news story that NLD would not attend the National Convention again, and it was news to me. I wondered if NLD did not know how to practise politics, or it had no power to do on its own. It turned its back to the National Convention for the second time. Had not it left the convention and continued to attend it in 1995, Hluttaw would have gone through its term two times by now.

I wonder whether it was NLD’s own decision that it would not attend the National Convention in May 2004. Then, expatriates and some western radio stations such as BBC, VOA and RFA claimed that the convention would not be meaningful unless NLD attended it. NLD changed its mind so easily.

From 2004 to 2007, those who were anxious to disrupt the progress of the National Convention used media and explosives, and agitated the people, and then tried to use the UN. Whatever it may be, the entire national people are determined to continue the State’s seven-step Road Map. The people expressed their support for the National Convention by holding mass rallies throughout the nation.

An accusation said that the tasks for emergence of a new constitution were not transparent. They will never realize the tasks so long as they are turning a blind eye to them. Now, the entire Myanmar people are accustomed to such accusations.

Another comment said that the Myanmar government said it was working for transition to democracy, but there was no time frame. The National Convention was completed on 3 September 2007, and before long a 54-member commission for drafting the State constitution was formed. The 54 members included legal experts from states and divisions, professors of various fields, and those who are well-versed in the political, economic and administrative affairs.

On 3 December 2007, the commission launched the drafting of the State constitution based on the principles the National Convention had adopted. On 19 February 2008, the commission plenary session adopted the draft and all the commission members signed the draft on 20 February.

On 9 February 2008, the State Peace and Development Council released Announcement No 1/ 2008 and said that the draft will be approved through a referendum in May 2008. The announcement was aired on TV and radio and stated in the newspapers, and journals and it was posted on the Internet.

On 9 February 2008, the SPDC issued Announcement No 2/2008 and said that it will hold the multi-party democracy general elections in accordance with the new State Constitution in 2010. The process of building a discipline-flourishing democratic nation is transparent with a time frame. I would like to put a question. When will the US and Europe (NATO) withdraw their troops from Iraq and Afghanistan? They are urged to present a time frame to the international community for transparency.

The US President Bush is showing total disregard for the demand of the US citizens and US Congress to present a time frame of pulling back the US troops.

Then, why did he demand a time frame in the Myanmar affairs? I have heard that he invited the UN Secretary-General and put pressure on him to deal with the Myanmar issue. Asia News Channel news said that the US government said that Myanmar would have to redraw the constitution. In this regard, I have to remind it that Myanmar people solely have the right to draw and practise the constitution of the nation.

Representatives of various national races and the people participated in the process of holding the National Convention and drawing the State Constitution, and the entire people will participate in the holding of referendum, approving the draft and implementing the democratic transition processes. So, public participation will make historyof the nation. I have no spare time to pay attention to the words of those negative attitude in the Myanmar’s internal affairs. Myanmar people will continue to serve the interests of the nation with the strength of the national forces.

Translation: MS
Myanma Alin, Kyemon: 27-2-2008


The National Convention was completed on 3 September 2007, and before long a 54-member Commission for Drafting the State Constitution was formed. The 54 members included legal experts from states and divisions, professors of various fields, and those who are well-versed in the political, economic and administrative affairs. On 3 December 2007, the commission launched the drafting of the State constitution based on the principles the National Convention had adopted. On 19 February 2008, the commission plenary session adopted the draft and all the commission members signed the draft on 20 February.

~~~---~~~

The Union of Myanmar
The State Peace and Development Council
The Referendum Law for the Approval of the Draft Constitution of
the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, 2008
(The State Peace and Development Council Law No 1/2008)
The 5th Waning Day of Tabodwe 1369ME
(26th February,2008)

Preamble

The Commission for Drafting the State Constitution has drafted the State Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar leading to non-disintegration of the Union, non-disintegration of the national solidarity and perpetuation of sovereignty; building of the modern, developed and well-disciplined democratic State for which the entire people are longing; and for the long-term interest of all nationalities who are residing in the Union in accordance with the basic principles and detailed basic principles adopted by the National Convention. The State Peace and Development Council hereby enacts the following Law to enable the adoption of the draft law drafted as such by the entire people through referendum.

Chapter 1
Title and Definition

1. This Law shall be called the Referendum Law for the Approval of the Draft Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, 2008.
2. The following expressions contained in this Law shall have the meanings
given here under:
(a) This Law means the Referendum Law for the Approval of the Draft Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, 2008:
(b) Referendum means the Referendum held for enabling the approval of the draft State Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar;
(c) Commission means the Commission for Holding Referendum;
(d) State or Divisional Sub-commission means the State or Divisional Sub-commission for Holding Referendum. The said expression also includes the Sub-commission of the Shan State(North), Shan State (East) and Bago Division (West);
(e) District Sub-commission means the District Sub-commission for Holding Referendum;
(f) Township Sub-commission means the Township Sub-commission for Holding Referendum;
(g) Ward or Village-tract Sub-commission means Ward or Village-tract Sub-commission for Holding Referendum;
(h) Citizen means the person who is already a citizen of the Union of Myanmar according to the existing law;
(i) Member of religious order means:
(i) in the case of Buddhists, monks, novices, religious laymen and nuns;
Explanation: The expression, member of religious order, applies to a religious monk or a member of the religious order while he is serving temporarily as such;
(ii) in the case of Christians, persons who have been recognized and ordained or assigned duties by the relevant Churches as an individual who has dedicated himself mainly to serving the Christian religious order, persons included in the group of individuals or organization which of their own volition have submitted to the control of the respective head according to the religion professed as organized by religious discipline or vow;
(iii) in the case of Hindus, Sanyazi, Mahant or Hindu priest;
(j) Referendum Area means ward of village-tract prescribed by the
Commission to vote for holding referendum;
(k) Voting roll means the roll of persons who are at the prescribed referendum areas and have the right to vote;
(l) Polling Booth Team means the team appointed by the relevant Subcommission for carrying out voting in collective responsibility at a polling booth;
(m) Polling Booth Officer means the leader of the polling booth team appointed by the relevant Sub-commission;
(n) Cancelled Vote means:
(1) the ballot paper of advance ballot paper which has no prescribed mark,
(2) the ballot paper or advance ballot paper scrutinised and decided by the polling booth team to be a fake ballot paper or advance ballot paper, and
(3) the ballot paper destroyed by any means and inserted in the ballot
box.

Chapter II
Convening the Referendum

3. (a) The referendum shall be held for the approval of the draft constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar;
(b) The referendum shall be held completely within the period prescribed by the Commission.
4. (a) The Commission shall declare the day on which the referendum is to be held at least 21days advance;
(b) The Township Sub-commission and the Ward or Village-tract Subcommissions shall declare the list of the persons who have the right to vote according to their referendum area for holding referendum at least 7 days in advance.

Chapter III
Formation of the Commission and Sub-commissions

5. (a) The State Peace and Development Council shall form a referendum commission for holding referendum with the necessary number of suitable citizens;
(b) The commission formed under sub-section (a) shall form or may cause to be formed the following sub-commissions:
(1) a State or Divisional Sub-commission in a State or Division, comprising 15 members;
(2) a District Sub-commission in a district, comprising 15 members;
(3) a Township Sub-commission in a township, comprising 15 members;
(4) a Ward or Village-tract Sub-commission in a ward or villagetract, comprising 5 to 20 members.

Chapter IV
Duties and Powers of the Commission for Holding Referendum and Subcommissions

6. The duties and powers of the Commission are as follows:
(a) holding referendum;
(b) forming, guiding and supervising the sub-commissions;
(c) determining and declaring the referendum areas for holding referendum;
(d) prescribing the period to hold referendum;
(e) guiding and supervising for preparation of list and schedule relating to holding referendum;
(f) prescribing the forms, seals, ballot papers and advance ballot papers to be used by the Commission and Sub-commissions for holding referendum;
(g) issuing ballot papers and advance ballot papers to the respective District Sub-commission;
(h) sending the advance ballot papers to the relevant head of embassy or consulate through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to enable the persons who are abroad and having the right to vote, to cast vote;
(i) declaring the number of person eligible to vote, persons who cast vote, persons who cast vote-in-favour and their comparison in percentage, reporting to the State Peace and Development Council after the referendum has been held;
(j) carrying out other necessary matters relating to the referendum.
7. The Duties and powers of the State or Divisional Sub-commissions are as follows:
(a) forming District Sub-commissions and Township Sub-commissions in accordance with the directive of the Commission;
(b) supervising and coordinating the performance of the works of the District, Township and Wards or Village-tract Sub-commissions;
(c) reporting the performance of the works of State and Divisional Subcommissions to the Commission;
(d) sending in advance to the Commission the lists of persons eligible to vote sent by the Township Sub-commissions according to the township;
(e) sending the list to the Commission by preparing it in accordance with stipulations by differentiating the list of persons eligible to vote, persons who cast vote, votes-in-favor, votes-against and cancelled votes after collecting the number of votes sent by Township Subcommissions after the referendum has been held.
8. The Duties and Powers of the District Sub-commissions are as follows:
(a) requesting necessary for ballot papers and advance ballot papers for
Township Sub-commissions from the Commission and distributing them sufficiently to Township Sub-commissions;
(b) supervising and coordinating the performance of works of Townships Sub-commissions and Ward or Village-tract Sub-commissions;
(c) carrying out in accordance with the directives of the Commission and State or Divisional Sub-commissions.
9. The Duties and Powers of Township Sub-commissions are as follows:
(a) forming Ward or Village-tract Sub-commissions in accordance with the directive of the Commission;
(b) supervising the referendum held in ward or village-tract;
(c) declaring, adding, amending and approving the voting rolls according to the relevant referendum areas relating to the referendum, sending in advance of the approved list of persons eligible to vote to the relevant State or Divisional Sub-commission;
(d) requesting necessary ballot papers and advance ballot papers for referendum areas in the township from the District Sub-commission and distributing them sufficiently to the Ward or Village-tract Subcommissions according to referendum areas and the teams contained in clauses (2), (3), (4), (5) and (6) of sub-section (d) of section 12;
(e) declaring the days to vote at the referendum areas in the township;
(f) reporting the list to the State and Divisional Sub-commission after preparing it by differentiating the list of persons who cast vote, votes in favour, votes-against and cancelled votes after collecting the number of votes sent by Ward or Village-tract Sub-commissions, and sending the copy to the Commission and relevant District Sub-commissions;
(g) reporting the performance of the works of Township Sub-commission to District Sub-commission and sending the copy to the Commission and relevant State or Divisional Sub-commissions;
(h) carrying out other necessary matters relating to the referendum.
10. The Duties and Powers of Ward or Village-tract Sub-commissions are as follows:
(a) carrying out and taking responsibility for the referendum held in ward or village-tract;
(b) submitting to the relevant Township Sub-commission for approval after preparing voting roll for referendum and declaring the approved voting roll in ward or village-tract;
(c) declaring the polling booth areas and locations in ward or village-tract referendum area with the approval of Township Sub-commission and appointing members of polling booth team and polling booth officer;
Proviso: If any polling booth officer and member of polling booth team is unable to carry out the duty assigned for any reasons on the day of referendum, any suitable citizen who is respected by the local public may be assigned in substitution.
Such assignment shall be reported to the Township Subcommission.
(d) distributing ballot papers and advance ballot papers obtained from Township Sub-commission to polling booth teams sufficiently;
(e) making ballot boxes in accordance with the stipulations;
(f) opening ballot boxes of each polling booth at the said polling booth and supervising in counting votes;
(g) sending list to Township Sub-commission after preparing it in accordance with stipulations by differentiating list of persons who cast vote, votes in-favour, votes-against, cancelled votes, ballot paper and advance ballot paper received, remaining ballot papers and advance ballot papers;
(h) reporting the performance of the works of Ward or Village-tract Subcommission to Township Sub-commission;
(i) carrying out other necessary matters relating to the referendum.

Chapter V
Preparing Voting Rolls

11. (a) Every citizen, associate citizen, naturalized citizen and temporary certificate holder who has completed the age of eighteen years on the day of referendum shall have the right to vote at the referendum. Every person who is so entitled to vote shall be mentioned in the voting roll.
(b) The names of the following persons who are in conformity with the provisions contained in sub-section (a) are entitled to be mentioned in the voting roll:
(1) the diplomats, diplomatic staff, consular staff of the Union of Myanmar and members of their household;
(2) members of army, navy or air force of Tatmadaw who are out of referendum area on duty on the day of referendum although they live within military unit, and members of their household living together with them;
(3) persons who are appointed by the Government to carry out duties outside the Union of Myanmar and members of their household;
(4) State scholars who are abroad and members of their household living together with them;
(5) other persons who are abroad with the permission of the Government;
(6) students who are studying at various universities, degree colleges, colleges, institutes and schools;

Explanation: University, degree-college, college, institute and school means the universities, degree-colleges, colleges, institutes and schools opened or recognized by the Government for study by students. The said expression includes vocational schools, social welfare schools and homes or universities or schools established by the Tatmadaw.

Among the students studying at universities, degree colleges, colleges, institutes and schools, students who come from other region and are studying there other than students who are included in voting roll of the area where the relevant university, degree-college, college, institute and school is established, are entitled to vote in accordance with the provisions of this Law.

(7) persons who are taking medical treatment as in-patient in hospital and service personnel who are on duty;
(8) persons who are at the worksite of other region, having left their base camp, under the assignment of any Government department or organization;
(9) detainees in custody of police station or prisons;
(c) In preparing the voting roll, temporary workers who come from referendum area of permanent residence to other referendum area individually or in group until the day of referendum is over, they may be included in the voting roll of the referendum area where they are now present. The relevant Township Sub-commission shall be informed to cancel the list of the names of such persons from the voting roll of the referendum area where they originally resided.
(d) The following persons shall not be included in the voting roll:
(1) members of religious orders;
(2) persons who have been adjudged to be of unsound mind as provided for in the relevant law;
(3) persons serving prison terms, having been convicted under order or sentence of a court for any offence;
(4) persons who are illegally abroad;
(5) foreigners.
12. (a) The voting roll shall be prepared by the Ward or Village-tract Subcommissions according to their ward or village-tract.
(b) The Ward or Village-tract Sub-commissions shall include the name of every eligible voter who lives in their ward or village-tract under subsection (a) of section 11 in the voting roll.
(c) In preparing voting roll under sub-section (a), the names of persons mentioned in sub-section (b) of section 11 shall not be included in the voting roll of Ward or Village-tract where they reside. If it is included in that voting roll, the name of such person shall be removed from the voting roll.
(d) In preparing the voting roll for the persons included in sub-section (b) of section 11, the following teams formed with suitable number of members as directed by the Commission shall prepare it:
(1) for the persons who are abroad and eligible to vote and members of their household living with them, head of the relevant embassy and team or head of consulate and team;
(2) for the members of army, navy, air force of Tatmadaw who are out of referendum area on duty on the day of referendum although they reside in military unit and members of their household living together with them, relevant commanding office and team;
(3) for the students who are studying at various universities, degree colleges, colleges, institutes and schools, rector of the university and team if it is the university; principal and team, if it is the degree-college and college; principal and team, if it is the institute and school; head of such school and team, if it is the school for social welfare; head of the school and team, if it is the home, head of the home;
(4) for persons taking medical treatments as in-patient in hospital and service personnel who are on duty, medical superintendent of the hospital and team;
(5) for the persons who are at the work-site of other region, having left their base camp, under the assignment of any Government department or organization, head of such worksite and team;
(6) for detainees in custody of police station, officer-in-charge of relevant police station and team, for detainees in prison, warden and team.
(e) in preparing voting roll for members of army, navy and air force of Tatmadaw who are eligible to vote under sub-section (a) of section 11 and members of their household, Ward or Village-tract Sub-commission shall carry out as follows:
(1) including the names of members of army, navy and air force of Tatmadaw who reside at the regiments, military units, military commands based within their relevant Ward or Village-tract and members of their household with the help of relevant commanding officer;
(2) including the names of members of army, navy and air force of Tatmadaw who are out of relevant military unit and the names of members of their household living together with them, in the voting roll of referendum area where they reside.
13. (a) The Ward or Village-tract Sub-commissions shall carry out inspection, declaration, amending and adding to the voting roll. However, in respect of amending, adding to the voting roll, the approval of the relevant Township Sub-commission shall be obtained.
(b) The teams formed under sub-section (d) of Section 12 shall carry out inspection, declaration, amending, adding and approving the voting roll like the Ward or Village-tract Sub-commissions. If dispute arises relating to voting-roll, approval shall be obtained, for the team formed under clauses (1) and (2) of sub-section (d) of section 12, from the Commission, and for other teams, from their relevant Township Sub commission. The decision of the Commission and Township Subcommission shall be final and conclusive.

Chapter VI
Voting

14. (a) Every person who is included in the voting roll for the referendum is entitled to vote.
(b) The person who is entitled to vote shall cast vote only at the polling booth of the referendum area in which his name is included.
15. Stipulated ballot box shall be placed at a conspicuous place for public to enable voters to cast vote conveniently at every polling booth where referendum is to be held.
16. A person who is entitled to vote shall have the right to vote only once at the referendum.
17. A person eligible to vote shall obtain the ballot paper from Polling Booth Officer or person assigned by Polling Booth Officer, express his wish secretly at the stipulated place in the polling booth and put it into the ballot box.
18. The persons eligible to vote who are abroad, and persons who are to travel out of the referendum area where they reside on the day referendum is held are entitled to vote with advance ballot paper in accordance with the stipulations.
19. The manner of voting for the persons mentioned in sub-section (b) of section 11 shall be as stipulated in the Rules made under this Law.

Chapter VII
Postponing and Dissolving of Voting

20. (a) The relevant Township Sub-commission may postpone once to a suitable date for enabling voting at all polling booths or some polling booths or a polling booth within the stipulated period under sub-section
(d) of section 6, if free and fair referendum may not be held stably due to natural disaster or situation affecting the security or any other disaster. In addition, polling booths may be immediately transferred to a place it deems appropriate. Such postponement and transfer shall be submitted to District Sub-commission and the copy shall be submitted to the Commission and relevant State or Divisional Sub-commissions.
(b) If the persons eligible to vote are unable to vote at any polling booth on stipulated day to vote due to any reasons contained in sub-section (a), the Polling Booth Team shall declare postponement of voting. If it is postponed while being voted, Polling Booth Team shall close the ballot box in the presence of 5 persons eligible to vote and such process of the event shall be submitted immediately to respective the Ward or Village-tract Sub-commission. Such Sub-commission shall report to Township Sub-commission with its recommendation.
(c) The Ward or Village-tract Sub-commission shall determine and declare a day within the stipulated period under sub-section (d) of section 6 and venue for casting vote by remaining persons eligible to vote at the polling booth declared for postponement.
(d) New ballot box shall be used for voting on the day postponed.
21. (a) If situation arises to dissolve voting for referendum due to any reasons contained in section 20, the Ward or Village-tract Sub-commission may dissolve some polling booths or all polling booths within its referendum area. If such situation arises, the Ward or Village-tract Subcommission shall submit its performance immediately to the relevant Township Sub-commission.
(b) The Township Sub-commission shall report the submission of Ward or Village-tract Sub-commission under sub-section (a), to District Subcommission with its recommendation immediately and send the copy to Commission and relevant State or Divisional Sub-commissions.
(c) If situation arises to dissolve voting of referendum due to any reasons contained in section 20, the Township Sub-commission may dissolve a referendum area or up to the half of all stipulated referendum areas in its Township. If situation arises to dissolve over half of all referendum areas, the Township Sub-commission shall report to the relevant District Sub-commission and State or Divisional Sub-commission
immediately with its recommendation.
(d) The State or Divisional Sub-commission shall give decision on the submission of Township Sub-commission under sub-section (c). Such decision shall be final and conclusive. The State or Divisionl Subcommission shall report such decision for dissolution to the Commission and send the copy to relevant District Sub-commissions and Township Sub-commissions.

Chapter VIII
Counting of Votes

22. (a) The polling booth team, immediately after closing the polling booth, shall:
(1) inspect the ballot boxes in the presence of not less than ten persons eligible to vote, open such ballot boxes and count the votes. In so counting, votes-in-favour, votes-against and cancelled votes shall be differentiated and counted;
(2) continue to obtain the votes from remaining eligible voters in the postponed date under sub-section (c) of section 20. Only after closing such polling booth, votes from such polling booth shall be counted by adding the votes from the ballot boxes closed securely under sub-section (b) of section 20;
(3) count only the votes in the ballot boxes closed securely under subsection
(b) of section 20, if voting is unable to be held also on the postponed date under sub-section (c) of section 20;
(4) prepare separately the list of voters contained in voting roll, votes in favour, votes against, cancelled votes, ballot papers received and remaining ballot papers and send to the Ward or Village-tract Sub Commission in conformity with clause (1).
(b) The Ward or Village-tract Sub-Commission shall collect the lists sent under clause (4) of sub-section (a) according to polling booth, prepare combined list, and advance ballot papers received and send to relevant Township Sub-commission with report.
(c) The Township Sub-commission shall send combined list to State or Divisional Sub-commission with report of:
(1) the lists collected and prepared according to the Ward or Villagetract sent by Ward or Village-tract Sub-commissions under subsection (b);
(2) the lists obtained after counting advance ballot papers sent by teams formed under clauses (2), (3), (4), (5) and (6) of sub-section
(d) of section 12 and advance ballot papers sent by Ward or Village-tract Sub-commissions and lists contained in clause (1).
Such Copy shall be sent to the Commission and relevant District Sub-commissions.
(d) The State or Divisional Sub-commission shall collect and send the voting lists sent by the Township Sub-commissions under sub-section
(c) to the Commission.
(e) The Commission shall count the advance ballot papers sent by teams formed under clause (1) of sub-section (d) of section 12 after differentiating votes in favour, votes against and cancelled votes.

Chapter IX
Declaring Votes

23. The Commission shall, after holding the referendum, combine the lists of advance ballot papers submitted by the State or Divisional Sub-commissions under sub-section
(d) of section 22 and lists of advance ballot papers counted by the Commission under sub-section (e) of section 22, declare the number of eligible voters, number of voters in favour and the comparison of them in percentage.

Chapter X
Prohibition and Penalty

24. In respect of the referendum, no one shall do any of the following:
(a) voting more than once;
(b) possessing the fake ballot paper or fake advance ballot paper;
(c) destroying the ballot paper or advance ballot paper;
(d) taking away the ballot paper outside the polling booth;
(e) opening the ballot box without authority, destroying or affecting it in any other manner;
(f) destroying the polling booth;
(g) making or destroying intentionally the lists, notices or other documents issued by the Commission and Sub-commission so as to be unable to be read;
(h) lecturing, distributing papers, using posters or disturbing the voting in any other manner in the polling booth or on the premises of polling booth or at the public or private place to destroy the referendum.
25. Whoever violates any prohibition contained in section 24, attempts to violates as such, commit any criminal act by conspiring to violate or abet in violation, shall, on conviction, be punished with imprisonment not exceeding 3 years or with a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand kyats or, with both.

Chapter XI
Obtaining Financial and Staff Assistance

26. (a) The Commission shall:
(1) submit and request the State Peace and Development Council by
calculating the estimated expenditure for holding referendum and expend;
(2) allocate, as appropriate, out of the fund requested and obtained under clause (1) to the Sub-commissions.
(b) The Sub-commissions shall:
(1) expend the fund allocated by the Commission under sub-section
(a) as directed by the Commission and keep the accounts systematically;
(2) send their balance statements of accounts to the Commission after holding the referendum.
27. The Commission may co-ordinate and obtain necessary staff and material assistance for the Commission and Sub-commissions from the ministries and organizations.

Chapter XII
Miscellaneous

28. The Commission shall submit the report to the State Peace and Development Council after declaring the situation of the vote obtained under section 23.
29. (a) If the office of the member of the Commission becomes vacant for any reason, the State Peace and Development Council may substitute and appoint a member for such office;
(b) If the office of the member of any Sub-commission becomes vacant for any reason, the following Commission or Sub-commissions may substitute and appoint:
(1) if it is the post of the member of State or Divisional Subcommissions, the Commission;
(2) if it is the post of the member of District Sub-commission, relevant State or Divisional Sub-commission;
(3) if it is the post of the member of the Township Sub-commission, relevant State or Divisional Sub-commission;
(4) if it is the post of the member of Ward or Village-tract Subcommission, relevant Township Sub-commission.
(c) The performance of the Commission or Sub-commission shall not be invalidated due to vacancy of the post of the member of the Commission and Sub-commission.
30. For the purpose of implementing the provisions of this Law, the State Peace and Development Council may make such Rules as may be necessary.
31. The Commission may without contravening to the provisions of this Law or Rules made hereunder issue such notifications, orders and directives as may be necessary without.

Sd./ (Than Shwe)
Senior General
Chairman
The State Peace and Development Council

Irrawaddy's 27 February 2008

Stiff Penalties for Resistance to Constitutional Referendum
Burma's junta has enacted a new law threatening stiff punishment for anybody who disturbs the smooth procedure of the planned May referendum on a draft constitution.

ILO Extends “Understanding” with Burmese Regime
The International Labor Organization and the Burmese junta have agreed to continue working together to address the issue of forced labor.

China’s Stand on Burma and Darfur Spurs Boycott Call
As China prepares to host the Olympic Games in August, its foreign policy is coming under increasing scrutiny because of its stand on political events in Burma and Darfur.

Bishops Criticized for Not Seeking Arroyo’s Ouster
Roman Catholic bishops are drawn into the calls for Philippine President Gloria Macapagal’s resignation.

Beyond the 'Oneness' of Ethnicity
Since the tragic assassination of Mahn Sha, the Karen National Union’s general secretary, on February 14, many people have expressed the opinion that non-Karens must have been behind this crime, because “it is impossible that Karens would kill the Karen leader.” Such remarks alert us to the need to re-examine popular notions of ethnicity, which are based on the romantic view that “we are one sharing common interests, but under attack from the Other.”

Today's news - 27 February 2008

Indonesia wants Suu Kyi in democracy process
Wirayuda said that Indonesia, the largest member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations - to which Myanmar also belongs - should along with Asean still engage with the regime to push for an inclusive political process.
Indonesia welcomed the announcement of the May constitutional referendum and 2010 elections, but Indonesia is still advocating an engagement by Asean with Myanmar,รข€‌ Wirayuda told a press briefing.
He said Indonesia supported the mission of UN envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari, who is UN chief Ban Ki-moon's pointman on promoting national reconciliation in Myanmar.

Burmese Authorities Close Weekly Magazine
A media rights group says Burma's military government has ordered the weekly magazine Myanmar Nation to stop publishing and has arrested two of its employees.

The International Freedom of Expression Exchange said Wednesday that the arrests of Thet Zin and Sein Win show that Burma continues to crack down on the independent media, despite plans for a constitutional referendum and other promises of reform. The group said the two are being held without charge.

Burma's allure places travelers in ethical dilemma
Activists say tourist dollars support the military junta, but many Burmese say they need the income.

Out of the motorized canoe, through a bamboo grove, up wooden stairs to the jungle, and there they are – thousands of stupas and shrines of Indein Village, their pinnacles rising into a cloudless sky.

Japan Backs UN Special Envoy's Efforts on Burma
Senior Japanese government officials Wednesday expressed Tokyo's intention to fully support UN special envoy to Myanmar [Burma] Ibrahim Gambari's efforts to promote democratization in the military-ruled country, the Foreign Ministry said.

Gambari explained to Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka and Deputy Foreign Minister Kenichiro Sasae that he intends to urge the junta during his visit to Myanmar in early March to engage in substantive talks with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest.

Junta Charges 88 Generation Students

By SAW YAN NAING

About 20 well-known Burmese political prisoners including members of the 88 Generation Students group have been charged and could receive sentences of up to 20-years, according to sources close to the activists.

Student leaders including Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi as well as university students who took part in the Buddhist monk-led nationwide uprising in September 2007 have been charged under decree 5/96 dealing with obstruction or opposition to the National Convention.

Win Maung, the father of the 88 Generation Students leader Pyone Cho, recently visited Insein Prison. He told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday, “The new charges were approved on February 20. But, they [prisoners] haven’t been sent to trial yet. University students were also among the group.”

Decree 5/96, concerning opposition to the National Convention, was enacted in 1996, said Aung Thein, a lawyer in Rangoon. The National Convention was convened 14 years ago and charged with making recommendations for a draft constitution, which is set to go before voters in a national referendum in May.

Opposition to the National Convention includes leaflet distribution, public gatherings and lobby campaigns. Any person who organized or supported such activities could be charged, said Tate Naing, the secretary of the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma).

Tate Naing said the 5/96 decree increases the prison time the authorities can give the pro-democracy activists.

Some political prisoners, including Ba Tint and Ba Mint, were jailed by authorities in 2005 under decree 5/96, Tate Naing said.

The student leaders were previously charged under section 17/20 of Burma’s Printing and Publishing Act.

Members of the 88 Generation Students group have been detained since they were arrested in August following their protests against a sharp increase in fuel prices. None has been sentenced by authorities.

Meanwhile, the health condition of detained 88 Generation Students members has improved, according to Tun Myint Aung, a member of the student group who is now in hiding.

According to the London-based Amnesty International, some 1,850 political prisoners are in Burmese prisons, and 96 persons remain unaccounted for following the September demonstrations. An estimated 700 political activists were arrested in September 2007.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Farmers in southern Burma in Catch-22 situation

Lawi Weng

Farmers in southern Burma in Catch-22 situation

February 26, 2008 (IMNA) - The Burmese Army has confiscated 200 acres of paddy fields in Southern Burma, thumbing its nose on the Mon people's decade's long struggle for land rights.

According to Aung Min, a farmer in Doe-mar village, Mudon Township, Mon state, the army simply puts up a sign board announcing that it now controls this land. Over a hundred farmers suffered the same fate.

Until recently, the army in Mudon had only confiscated a small number of rubber plantations and had never permanently taken land from farmers. This stands in marked contrast to nearby Ye Township, where thousands of acres of rubber plantations have been seized.

After the recent spate of land confiscations, farmers in Mudon have begun worrying that they will begin suffering like people in Ye.

While farms in Mudon have been seized during harvest time, the land had always been returned after the army had taken the crops.

This time, the people do not seem to have any hope that their land will be returned. A Mon human rights worker in the area says that farmers are selling their cattle and carts, which they have no use for without land to cultivate.

The army claims that the land seizures occurred because the farmers had planted no crops during the summer season. Farmers explained that they had planted no rice because they could not get enough water for the crops to grow.

In earlier years they had always tried and failed to farm during the summer season because they feared the army's wrath if they did not.

People in Mudon are frustrated as they are forced to grow rice but they cannot get enough water from the government controlled Win-pa-non dam. The dam was built as a government development project in 2000, and is located near Ah-bit village, along the Moulmein to Thanphyuzayart Road.

The goal of the development project was to enable farmers in the area to grow two crops, but government officials ignored the input of people in the area as the dam was being built and it holds insufficient water for farming during the summer season.

The local authorities are well aware that the dam has not enabled people to farm in the summer season, but rather than report the failure to Naypyidaw they continue to force the people into an impossible task.

"They called us to meetings more than ten times after the winter harvest and said that we had to grow rice again in the summer. We did not dare to refuse them; we could only nod our heads," said a farmer.

The farmers in Mudon seem to be stuck in a three-way Catch-22: work hard at farming when they know they will fail, refuse and risk losing their land or turn to corruption, said a village headman.

Farmers planting rice can bribe the dam authorities into giving them extra water, and those who do not want to grow rice can save their land with bribery as well.

Adding insult to injury, the army is free to order dam officers to release enough water to cultivate their fields and farmers whose land has been seized will have to watch it flourish in their absence.

Just as the Win-pa-non dam is not large enough to store sufficient water in the hot season, it is too small to handle the inflow of water during the rainy season.

Water overflowing the dam embankments floods fields, and farmers lose nearly 1800 acres of crops as they rot in too much water. The land has produced less rice every year since the dam was built, say farmers, and they have to plant two or three times to reap one harvest.

The regime has implemented similar development projects throughout the ethnic areas in Burma. Some projects have succeeded, and others have been such utter failures that they displace the local people.

In spite of their mixed success, the government continues to force people to carry out the projects, even when there is little prospect for anything but failure.

According to a political analyst inside Burma, the projects are designed not to help the people but to keep them busy. The government worries if the people have time away from their fields, they will have time to mobilize politically.

Over ten thousand acres of farmlands with paddy, rubber, betel nut and orchards in Mon state were confiscated according to local human rights groups.

Burma Army's oppression increasing in Mon area: Villagers

Mi Kyae Goe

February 26, 2008 (IMNA) - The Burmese Army with the full sanction of the military junta ruthlessly oppresses people in the country. In Southern Mon State villagers have alleged that the oppression of the Burmese (Myanmar ) Army battalions has increased compared to previous years.

Toe Thet Ywar Thit Village from Khaw-za Sub Township , Mon State said that "the villagers from my village have to apply for travel documents for each person in their homes". Even if they have five people, they have to apply for each member.

In previous years, villagers did not need to register each family member with the local Burmese military battalions. Last year they had to register for one travel document per house, said Toe Thet Ywar Thit villagers.

The cost of registration is 1,000 Kyat per book this year compared to last years cost of about 200 Kyat. Other villages are not subject to the new registration regulations in Khaw-za.

On February 22 Burmese Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) No-31 torched about 20 plantations around Yin-ye and Yin-Done villages because they could not capture Mon rebels of Monland Restoration Party (MRP), formerly named Hongsawatoi Restoration Party (HRP), alleged Nai Chan Done, the party operations officer.

"Not only did they (Burmese Army) burn down the villagers' plantations, but they also beat up some villagers," Nai Chan Done said.

The Burmese soldiers set on fire the plantation using only a lighter, but the grass in the plantation was so dry that the fire spread fast from one plantation to another, he added. Most of the plantations produced lemons, nipa palm, areca palm, pepper, pomelo, and lime. MRP party is currently trying to find out who was involved in torching the plantations.

The LIB No-31 has this year begun forcing rubber plantation owners in his village of Toe Thet Ywar Thit to pay 166 Kyat per rubber plant, a villager said.

In addition, LIB No-31 forcibly relocated some Kyone-kanya villagers into an area close to a newly planned road where they have to buy valuable roadside plots from them. The road is still under construction.

"Currently, they (Burmese soldiers) have banned villagers from going to the plantations," said Nai Chan Done.

NLD reacts to barring Daw Suu from contesting elections

Nay Thwin - Mizzima News

February 25, 2008 - The National League for Democracy (NLD) reacted strongly today to the ban on Aung San Suu Kyi contesting the 2010 elections saying that it was a 'personal attack' against her and the regime has no right to do such a thing.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (DASSK) is the daughter of Independence hero Bogyoke (General) Aung San and Daw Khin Kyi and she is also a citizen of Burma. This is a mere personal attack against her, the NLD said.

"This remark comes from an unauthorized person when there is no constitution and election rule yet. This is a personal and political attack against her," U Nyan Win, NLD spokesman said.

"Barring someone from contesting an election must be in accordance with either the election rule or the constitution. This remark is an unauthorized remark when there is no such rule and constitution so far," he added.

Moreover this restriction violates Article (2) and (21) of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) besides undermining national reconciliation and stability of the Sate, he warned.

"This should not have been said at this crucial juncture when talks are on between DASSK and the regime's Minister of Relations U Aung Kyi for the sake of the country. This can undermine national reconciliation and stability of the State," U Nyan Win said.

"It is premature to say so now. We do not yet know whether the draft constitution will be approved or not by the people in the referendum. The election is still far away and we have no comment to make to this question," he replied when asked if today's statement hinted at NLD's position on apparently contesting the forthcoming election had the regime allowed DASSK to contest.

"There are no such provisions in the existing laws. Such restriction is in qualification of President in the draft constitution, but not included in the qualifications of Member of Parliament", he said.

The regime's Foreign Minister U Nyan Win told his counterparts in Singapore on February 19 that DASSK has been disqualified from contesting the election since she married a British citizen and has two sons who hold British citizenship.

The remark coincided with the optimistic comment on referendum and fresh elections made by the UN special Envoy on Burma and it surprised the ASEAN countries.

Mr. Gambari is currently in Singapore and the Singapore PM George Yeoh urged the regime to ensure that the referendum and elections be 'reliable and all inclusive'.

Mr. Gambari may visit Burma at the end of next month and this visit will focus on discussing with the regime its position relating to DASSK not being allowed to contest the elections.

The regime made two announcements on February 9 on holding a referendum in May this year and elections in 2010.

The opposition forces see these two announcements as an attempt to nullify the 1990 election result and cannot accept it. They pointed out that the NLD won a landslide victory in the election with over 82 percent seats and the regime is still refusing to honour this election result. So, they have turned down the new election formula.

Thailand, Vietnam and some ASEAN countries have given the green signal to the regime's plan to hold a referendum and fresh elections but some countries criticized the regime for banning DASSK from contesting the coming elections.

Meanwhile, the opposition forces are not making official comments on barring DASSK from contesting the election but there are widespread differences and heated debate on whether there should be a 'total boycott' or 'NO' vote in the forthcoming referendum.

Referendum in a country with no freedom of speech and activity

Banyol Kin

IMNA - It is ironic that in a country where there is no freedom of speech and freedom of the press, the Burmese military junta plans to hold a referendum on May 2008 to give validity to its new Constitution.

The Human Rights Watch, an activist organization has urged the regime to allow free speech during the referendum.

The opposition National League for Democracy and ceasefire group the New Mon State Party (NMSP) has condemned the planned referendum.

The NMSP feels the referendum will not help in forming a federal democracy in the country and will not guarantee ethnic rights.

The NMSP continues to exhort the junta to initiate a tripartite dialogue between ethnic leaders, the NLD, and military regime.

While the military regime is going through the motions of having a dialogue with NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, she is not satisfied with the discussion and its pace. She has said "hope for the best and prepare for the worst".

Many observers feel the referendum is not going to be free and fair because there is no freedom of speech and activity in Burma.

On February 15, an editor and a manager of a Myanmar journal were arrested without any case against them and the publication was forced to shut down.

On January 22, poet Saw Wai was detained in Insein prison for writing a poem where the first word of each line formed the words: "Power Crazy Senior General Than Shwe".

The Yangon Based Kumudra Weekly journal was told to stop publishing. The journal stopped its activities on January 25.

According to the journal staff they are unable to get the license to publish. In Burma only people close to the junta are given a license to publish.

The Burma Media Association continues to condemn the military regime for not allowing freedom of the press and arrest of journalists.

A political analyst said during the 1990 election there was some kind of freedom of speech and many newspapers and journals were able to cover the elections without much control by the authorities.

Residents tricked into attending referendum meeting

By Naw Say Phaw

Feb 25, 2008 (DVB)–Residents of Rangoon’s South Dagon township ward 26 were tricked into attending a campaign meeting on the upcoming national referendum, having been told it was a meeting about identity cards.

Ward authorities made an announcement over loudspeakers on 21 February that there would be a meeting where residents could get new identity cards and household lists the following afternoon.

One ward resident said he attended the meeting on 22 February but instead of information about identity cards they were given a talk about the upcoming national referendum.

“In the meeting, they told people to make a wise choice in the national referendum which will be held in accordance with the government’s seven-step road map,” the resident said.

“They told us not to listen to the lies being broadcast by foreign countries.”

The resident said he felt he could not trust the officials when they had lied about the purpose of the meeting.

“Personally, as a Burmese citizen, I have no confidence in what they are doing. Look at today’s meeting for example – they started by telling us lies,” he said.

“When they called the meeting, they said they would arrange our ID cards and household lists within one day, but when I got to the meeting, I realised it was just for them to say whatever they wanted.”

Many people left the meeting when it became clear that they would not get their identity cards, the resident said.

“A lot of the people who attended the meeting got frustrated with the government officials, so they left the meeting before it finished,” he said.

“They only wanted to get their ID cards and household lists – that’s the true people’s desire.”

At the end of the meeting, the ward authorities asked those present if there was anything they need, to which people responded that they wanted genuine democracy.

The officials replied that they were on track to bring about this goal, and immediately left the meeting.

There have been similar campaigns in other townships in Rangoon, run by a district fire brigade and a Red Cross organisation, which have been collecting people’s opinions to find out if there is opposition to the planned referendum.

Brig-Gen Thein Zaw promises more GSM phones to Kachin churches

February 25, 2008 (KNG)- The minister Brig-Gen Thein Zaw of Telecommunications, Post and Telegraphs of Burma's ruling junta promised to grant more GSM mobile phones to two Kachin churches in Myitkyina Township, capital of Kachin State in Northern Burma, said local church sources.

Baptist and Roman Catholic Churches in Du Mare (Du Kahtawng) Quarter in Myitkyina were promised GSM mobiles during his meeting with the leaders of two churches on February 23 at the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) office in Du Mare, a participant told KNG.

Brig-Gen Thein Zaw promised that he will give the GSM mobile phones to all pastors, churches teachers, people who are working on church duty in both Baptist and Catholic churches within three months, added a participant.

Church' sources said that the users have to pay 1,500,000 Kyat (est. US $ 1,226) per mobile phone to the regime for network authorization. The current price for a ready to use GSM mobile phone is about 3,500,000 Kyat (est. US $ 2,862) in Myitkyina.

Teachers demand money for students to enter exam

By Hseng Khio Fah

February 25, 2008 - Early this month, the students from No. 1 High School in Tachileik Town, Eastern Shan State were asked to pay money in order to pass an exam which will be held in the coming month.

On 2nd of February, some teachers from No.1 High School asked students from primary to high school level to pay money in order to get the permission to sit for and pass their exam in March which is the month students in Burma sit for examination.

The fees are demanded by teachers Daw Kyi Kyi Soe, Daw Moe Thandar Hla, Daw Mizzu Aye and the Headmaster U Too Maung. If students fail to pay, they will not only fail the exam for this year but also for the coming year, 2009, said Sai Soe Thant (not his real name), an uncle of a student. He said that the news came from his younger sister, a mother of 3 sons attending in that school, and requested him to tell all the media outlets in Thailand to publish this news.

“Students from Kindergarten to 4th Standard must pay 300 (US $ 9.4) Baht for each subject and students have to take 6 subjects per year. Also, they have to pay in advance for 2 years (2008 and 2009). So, it comes to 3,600 Baht (US $ 113). As for middle and high school, (from 5th Standard to 10th Standard), the fee is 500 (US $ 16) Baht per subject and for two years, it reaches to 6,000 Baht (US $ 188). Every student must pay,” he continued.

“Even parents with one child complain. It is worse for those who have 3 or 4 children. They want their children to quit studying. If it is the case then these poor kids will face school interruption even for their basic education,” said a student parent who wishes to remain anonymous.

Headmaster U Too Maung had already announced the deadline (February the 10th) for the exam fees to be paid because there is no formal classes in March as it is preparation time for students. But students from No.2 High School do not have to pay anything he continued.

“The teachers and headmaster who are asking the fees come from central Burma. But the Headmaster of No.2 Standard High School is a native of Shan State and he doesn’t ask any money,” commented a relative of a 10th standard student. The No.2 High School is located the opposite of the well-known Two Dragons Monastery.

“Do you know how hard we tried and invested money to become a teacher at this school? We had to pay Kyat 150, 000 (US $ 125) to the authorities,” a teacher was said to have told to her students while teaching them at the private tuition class at her house.

Both No.1 and No.2 High School have more than 2,000 students each and No.1 school is known to be for wealthier families. The population of Tachilek is more than 72,000, according to a local publication and it is located opposite of Thailand’s Mae Sai.

Source: Shan Herald Agency for News

Villagers persuaded to become soldiers

By Lieng Lern

February 25, 2008 - Burma junta is persuading people to recruit as soldiers or become members of Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) by promising high positions to the public in Nam Kham Township at the Sino-Burma border, reported a local source.

On 22 February 2008 at 10:00 am, Nam Kham Second Police Chief Aung Naing with people from over 20 other departments held a meeting at the youth center in Kay Hkun village which is located at North of Nam Mao (Shweli) River. There were over 100 participants in the meeting.

A participant in the meeting said the police chief told them that "Whoever wants to become soldiers please give your name to us. But you must have secondary or high school level of education. If you are a university graduate, it is even better. We will appoint you at high positions".

"If we don't want to become soldiers we can become members of USDA. If we join them, we can cross the watergate from our village to Nam Kham even after the closing time by showing our USDA cards. The gate opens at 6 am and closes at 6 pm", he added.

Last month, the authorities also collected names of people who are over 18 in Nam Kham Township to send to the new capital for constitution referendum on May 21, 2008. People who do not have current ID cards must renew. But immigration officers said it might be difficult to finish renewing all ID cards citing insufficient time given.

On the same day, 3 meetings were held in other villages: Hat Hin with over 100 participants Nawng Hking with over 80 attendees and Kay Khun.

Local authority allows planting of taxed cucumber

By Lieng Lern

February 25, 2008 (SHAN) - During the first week of this month, Hpa Kant local authorities allowed planting of cucumber after collecting taxes from farmers at Hpa Kant in Kachin State, according to a S.H.A.N reporter:

"If I knew they would permit us to grow cucumber, I wouldn't have come here. Hpa Kant is near China border so it is easy to earn money there. Now, I want to go back but I have no money for my journey. I had to spend a lot of money to come to Thailand," complained a Shan youth who used to reside in Kachin State but has moved to Fang, Chiang Mai province since 26 days ago said.

He received a phone call from his relative in Hpa Kant and they said the authorities have allowed the farmers to plant cucumbers after collection of taxes.

"They taxed Kyat 25,000 ($10) per acre, and when the cucumbers are ready to sell farmers could earn over Kyat 500,000 ($200) per acre. If farmers have nice crops they can get up to Kyat 700,000 to 1 million Kyat ($400)," he continued.

"In the past, Chinese traders would come to Hpa Kant and brought cucumber seeds with them and sold them to farmers. When the cucumbers ripened enough, Chinese businessmen came to buy from farmers. If the cucumbers are big and nice they pay higher price. The prices are depending on the quality of the cucumber but last year the authorities had banned cucumber planting," he added.

Burma Tops List for Landmines

By WAI MOE
The Irrawaddy News - www.irrawaddy.org


February 25, 2008 - The Burmese regime is one of two governments in the world that is using anti-personnel landmines on an ongoing basis, according to the “Landmine Monitor Report 2007: Toward a Mine-Free World,” published recently in Burmese language by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL).

“In this reporting period, since May 2006, two governments are confirmed to have used antipersonnel mines: Myanmar/Burma and Russia,” said the ICBL.

“Despite the growing list of states committed to banning antipersonnel mines, there were discouraging actions among some of the 40 states not party to the treaty. Government forces in Myanmar/Burma and Russia continued to use antipersonnel mines,” stated the report.

The ICBL said there were 232 landmine casualties in Burma in 2006 and 231 in 2005. Among them, at least four non-military persons, including two children, were killed. There were 10,605 landmine survivors in 2006, increasing from 8,864 in the 2005 data.

The organization said Burmese military forces continue to use antipersonnel mines extensively, as they have every year since “Landmine Monitor” began reporting in 1999. Mine use was recorded in Karen, Karenni and Shan states, as well as Tenasserim Division, in 2006 and 2007.

Burma is also one of 13 landmine-producing countries in the world, along with China, Cuba, India, Iran, North Korea, South Korea, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

Blast mines based on the US M-14 design are being manufactured by Myanmar Defense Products Industries at Ngyaung Chay Dauk, in western Bago Division, according to the report.

The Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), the armed wing of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), the Shan State Army-South, the United Wa State Army and several other armed groups continued to use antipersonnel mines in 2006 and early 2007, said the report.

There were also warning signs of mine deployment north of the Yoma Mountains and Yae Tar Shae Township, Mandalay Division, the first time mines have been reported in the area.

“Prolonged military operations in eastern states bordering Thailand increased mine contamination; Burmese migrants gave first reports of mine contamination in Mandalay division,” said the report.

The ICBL also stated that the closing of five International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) field offices failed to serve conflict casualties in border areas.

Landmines in Burma are deployed mainly near borders with Thailand, Bangladesh and India, and in eastern parts of the country marked by decades-old struggles by ethnic minorities for autonomy. Ten of Burma’s 14 states and divisions suffer from some degree of mine contamination, primarily antipersonnel mines, the report stated.

The Burmese military junta has not acceded to the international Mine Ban Treaty, one of 17 countries that abstained from voting on UN General Assembly Resolution 61/84 on December 6, 2006, said the report.

At the time, the Burmese junta stated: “We oppose the indiscriminate use of antipersonnel mines which causes death and injury to innocent people all over the world. At the same time, Myanmar [Burma] believes that all states have the right to self-defense.”

Top ILO Official in Burma

By WAI MOE
The Irrawaddy News - www.irrawaddy.org


February 25, 2008 - A top official from the International Labor Organization (ILO) is today in Burma to meet with Burmese officials regarding extending an agreement relating to forced labor, according to the ILO office in Rangoon.

An official who spoke on anonymity at the ILO Rangoon office told The Irrawaddy on Monday that Kari Tapiola, an executive director with the ILO, is in Rangoon along with ILO liaison officer for Burma, Steven Marshall, and met with staff at the Rangoon office on Monday.

Tapiola is scheduled to visit Burma’s new capital, Naypyidaw, and to meet with junta officials on Tuesday. During a four-day visit he is expected to talk about the extension of an agreement regarding a complaints mechanism between the ILO and the Burmese military government, which will expire on February 26.

Under the terms of the agreement, which was concluded in February 2007, the ILO liaison officer can direct complaints by the victims of forced labor without any retaliatory action against them.

“The current activities of the ILO in Myanmar [Burma] are governed by an understanding between the government of the Union of Myanmar and the International Labour Office concerning the appointment of an ILO Liaison Officer in Myanmar,” said the ILO official website.

“According to this understanding, the liaison officer’s role covers all activities relevant to ensuring the prompt and effective elimination of forced labor in the country.”

The “understanding” reached by the ILO and the regime allows alleged victims of forced labor to lodge complaints with the liaison officer without fear of retaliation. The regime also pledges to investigate complaints.

Aung Kyaw Soe, a member of a human rights group in Burma, the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters (HRDP), said that opening a liaison office in Burma is important to deter forced labor in the country.

“People in rural areas were not so afraid after they heard there was an office where they could complain about forced labor,” he said.

However, he added that villagers in Irrawaddy Division filed a complaint about forced labor in Hinthada Township in April 2007 to the ILO office. As result, an activist, Myint Naing, was beaten by thugs backed by local authorities for his role in encouraging villagers to report the issue to the ILO. Myint Naing was later arrested and sentenced to eight years imprisonment.

In the three months since the establishment of the complaint mechanism from February to May 2007, the ILO office in Rangoon received a total of 20 complaints—six from Rangoon division, five from Irrawaddy Division, four from Magwe Division, two from Pegu and one each from Chin, Kachin and Arakan states.