Thursday, 28 August 2008

Burmese refugee stops in Utica after 3,000-mile walk

DAVE LONDRES / Observer-Dispatch
Burmese refugee Athein speaks with Compass director Shelly Callahan at the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees Wednesday, August 27, 2008.

GateHouse News Service
27 August 2008 - UTICA

Burmese refugee Athein visited Utica after a 3,000-mile walk from Portland, Ore., to the United Nations building in New York City.

Athein, who said he did not have a surname, and friend Zaw Min Htwe stopped here Wednesday because of the large Burmese population, he said. His next stop: Washington, D.C.

“We are going to walk toward peaceful freedom and to witness to Burma,” he said, referring to the widespread persecution and lack of freedom reported in that country, now known as Myanmar.

Peter Vogelaar, executive director of Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees, said that the Burmese man’s walk was especially significant now because at this time last year, the Saffron Revolution began in Burma.

The Saffron Revolution is the name for massive protests by Burmese citizens, and comes from the saffron-colored robes worn by the thousands of monks involved in the protests.
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Gambari meets Indonesian President – ASEAN divided

Mizzima News, 27 August 2008 - United Nations Special Envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, today concluded a meeting with the President of Indonesia concerning his ongoing efforts toward brokering a political solution to the fractured country.

Speaking in Jakarta, Indonesian presidential spokesperson Dino Patti Djalal told reporters that Gambari refused to divulge details of his visit last week to Burma, maintaining that he must first brief U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

According to Dino, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudyohono informed the Special Envoy of Indonesia's desire that he increase the frequency of his visits to Burma in the run-up to the 2010 general elections, as this would assist in enhancing Burma's credibility in the view of the international community.

Also, with Gambari having failed yet again to meet with the top leaders of the junta, Dino added that, "The President also promised to maintain correspondence with Myanmar's Senior General Shwe."

However, Gambari has recently received mixed messages from ASEAN members Indonesia and Thailand as to what Burma's political landscape – and specifically the 2010 general elections – should look like going forward.

Meeting yesterday with Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda, the Special Envoy was again apprised of Indonesia's belief that opposition and National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi must be involved in the 2010 general elections.

Yet, Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, in meeting with Gambari ahead of the latter's stop in Jakarta, was quite clear in his remarks to the Special Envoy that insistence on the inclusion of Aung San Suu Kyi only hinders the process, referring to the opposition leader as a "political tool" of the West.

Instead, Samak advised the Special Envoy on Monday that the international community "should talk about how to bring democracy to Burma and focus on the constitution and the elections,'' instead of focusing on the incorporation of the Nobel Laureate into the process.

It is expected that Gambari will discuss his latest trip to Burma with Ban during a stopover in Italy in the upcoming days.

As for ASEAN, with Burma continuing to loom as decisive as ever, the ten nation consortium is poised to hold its summit this December in Bangkok, as Thailand currently holds the chair.

Ad industry in a spot over Mayor's order

Mizzima News

New Delhi — Chaos laced with loss of revenue prevails following a new order by Rangoon's Mayor where outdoor advertising companies are being forced to remove all advertising hoardings that have 'provocative' pictures.

Rangoon's City Mayor Brig. Gen Aung Thein Linn at a meeting on Tuesday told advertising companies to remove all 'provocative' outdoor advertising, including billboards, causing panic among advertising firms.

A proprietor of Burma's leading advertising company told Mizzima that the Mayor gave a deadline of a week to replace all outdoor advertisements that have indecent pictures as it is against Burmese tradition and culture.

According to the proprietor, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, the Mayor's order has to do with removing all pictures that reveals much of women's bodies, women dressed in night gowns, and sensual postures of couples.

"The Mayor showed us pictures of some of the billboards with a projector and told us to replace them," the proprietor said.

The Mayor's presentation included pictures of model Moe Hay Ko in black leather shorts revealing her cleavage that is used in Rangoon's famous lottery shop, Moe Yan Shwe Lamin, the proprietor said.

It also included Nivea's body lotion advertisement in which a woman in a mini-skirt reveals much of her back as well as other parts of her torso, he added.

The Mayor was silent on compensating the companies for the removal and replacement of pictures and designs on outdoor hoardings.

Burma's amateur advertising industry, according to proprietors and marketing executives, has been struggling to survive amidst the agonizing procedures of getting permission from the Yangon City Development Committee, a civic body that oversees development of the city.

Advertising companies, before they can set up outdoor advertising such as billboards or light boxes, have to seek permission from the YCDC, which then checks and scrutinizes the contents of the advertisement before granting permission.

A marketing executive in Rangoon said, in order to obtain permission smoothly the palms of officials at the YCDC have to be greased heavily. And most businesses maintain a relationship, where they regularly pay the officials, to operate smoothly.

But the latest hurdle, according to another advertising business proprietor, impacts not only the advertising firms but the client companies that are advertising as it will require re-designing of the advertisements.

"As for us, we will not charge clients anything but incur all the expenses ourselves because they will be incurring expenses while redesigning the advertisements," said the proprietor.

He added that the new order entails taking pictures of outdoor advertisements and submitting it to the YCDC for fresh scrutiny.

"We will have to change whatever the YCDC finds unacceptable," he added.

A marketing executive of another advertising company said her company will bear all the expenses relating to the removal and change of the billboards, while the advertisers will incur expenses relating to changing the design or re-designing the advertisement.

"This means a loss for both, but we have to give priority to the clients because relationship with them is important," she added.

Cambodian MP urges UN, ASEAN to fulfill Burma promise


27 August 2008, New Delhi (Mizzima)- A Cambodian Parliamentarian on Wednesday called on the Secretary Generals of the United Nations and Association of Southeast Asian Nations to fulfill their promise on Burma by initiating a new approach to finding a political solution for the country.

Son Chhay, Chairperson of Committee on Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Media of the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia, in separate letters on Wednesday reminded both the Secretary Generals of UN and ASEAN the need for them to abide by their promises on Burma.

"They have both promised to look into the sufferings of the Burmese people and find a solution to the crisis. But till date there is no solid evidence that the promise has been kept or put into practice," Son Chhay told Mizzima over telephone.

Son Chhay, who is also the Chairperson of ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) Cambodia Chapter, said it is a matter of deep concern for the international community to hear reports about detained Burmese democracy icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi living without food.

"I believe that she [Aung San Suu Kyi] is on hunger strike… I think it is the right time to remind them [UN and ASEAN General Secretaries], that they must abide to their promise," Son Chhay.

Reports said Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under detention for the last 12 of 18 years, has refused to accept food supplies since mid-August, though the reason for her refusal is still not known.

A Burmese political party in exile told Mizzima earlier that Aung San Suu Kyi might be on hunger strike demanding direct talks with the ruling generals with regard to the ensuing 2010 general elections.

But spokesperson of her party – the National League for Democracy – Nyan Win said they could not confirm the information as they lack communication with their detained leader.

Son Chhay said Ban Ki-moon should realize that the current process of interaction with the Burmese military junta is not leading to a solution but is strengthening their rule.

Though Gambari had visited military-ruled country several times, there has been no productive outcome, Son Chhay said, adding that he agrees with Aung San Suu Kyi's decision not to meet the UN envoy during his last visit.

"We want a more serious action. Perhaps, the UN Secretary General should appoint somebody else," he added.

He said, Gambari had not been very effective or capable of producing any positive solution to the problems of Burma.

"I think it is about time that we find someone who is more capable," Son Chhay added.

And similarly, Son Chhay urged the ASEAN Secretary General, Surin Pitsuwan, to pay a personal visit to Burma and find a realistic solution to the political crisis in the country.

Meanwhile, the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC), in a press statement released on Wednesday expressed its concern over reports of Aung San Suu Kyi refusing food.

The AIPMC called on the UN and ASEAN to intervene and to ensure that Aung San Suu Kyi is given necessary attention.

The group urged the ASEAN Secretary-General to personally visit Aung San Suu Kyi and conduct a comprehensive assessment on her health.

"The Secretary General should also look into the reasons as to why she is refusing her food supply," the statement said.

The group also said Aung San Suu Kyi's refusal to meet visiting UN Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari last week is "an indication that his mandate is failing."

Dialogue Suu Kyi’s Real Motive

The Irrawaddy News

The burning question is: What was the real meaning and motive behind Aung San Suu Kyi’s refusal to meet UN Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari last week?

Does it represent the first step in a new political strategy to blunt the relentless march to the 2010 elections?

The Nobel Peace Laureate may feel that time is running out for the country’s opposition, and the momentum is now in favor of the ruling military regime in its effort to establish a civilian government based on “disciplined democracy.”

There’s no doubt she sent a strong message to the world, and many observers call it a “smart, but risky move.”

Yes, it’s smart and risky, but she had no other choice. It was time for a bold move, and she made it.

Actually the motive is clear—to initiate an effective, long-sought direct dialogue between her and the top military leaders. She clearly believes a dialogue—with compromise on both sides—is the most effective chance to establish real democracy in Burma, which she has called for since she entered politics in 1988.

Last November, Suu Kyi sent a message through Gambari in which she again called for direct dialogue with top military leaders, rather than with Aung Kyi, the liaison minister appointed by the junta last year in a move to ease mounting international pressure following the monk-led uprising in 2007 September.

Also, Suu Kyi, in the past months, has sent a specific message to the UN, one critical of its lack of backbone in demanding a time-bound dialogue process and sticking to substantive issues, rather than allowing itself to be manipulated by the junta’s efforts to legitimize itself.

Nyan Win, the spokesperson for her opposition group, the National League for democracy, quoting her when she met with seven NLD executive members in January 2007, said, “She must be really disappointed with the UN’s current process because of the lack of a time frame,”

Nyan Win recently told The Irrawaddy, “It would be one of causes of her refusal to meet with the UN envoy.”

“We can’t continue to work with Mr Gambari under this condition without a time frame,” said Nyan Win. During Gambari’s latest trip, said Nyan Win, he discussed the upcoming elections in meetings with the NLD executive members, and he met with junta-backed political and civil groups. “That was not on the list of what he is supposed to do,” said Nyan Win. “It’s outside his mission.”

Earlier, Gambari had said the UN has offered to assist in the upcoming elections in an effort to ensure fairness and establish international credibility. “We suggested that he not talk about the upcoming 2010 elections,” said Nyan Win. “But he said nothing about our suggestion.”

Gambari’s publically stated mission includes securing the release of all political prisoners, including Suu Kyi, and restarting direct talks between Suu Kyi and top junta leaders.

Nyan Win bluntly said Gambari’s latest trip was a waste of time. Marie Okabe, a deputy spokeswoman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, countered such criticism, calling the envoy’s visits a “process, not an event.”

Suu Kyi must believe that she has very little time left to craft a constructive agreement with the junta that could bring true democracy to Burma. She knows the junta is good at using “a process” to stall. The countdown to the 2010 elections draws nearer with each day.

Indeed, Suu Kyi has probably made a risky move, but it may be the only chance left to alter the junta’s march to a “disciplined democracy,” a euphemism for military rule.

Arrested Monks Held in Rangoon Detention Center

The Irrawaddy News

Two young monks arrested at their Rangoon monastery on Saturday are being held at Insein interrogation center, according to colleagues.

A senior monk told The Irrawaddy that Burmese police and local authorities arrested the two monks, Damathara and Nandara, at Thardu monastery in Rangoon’s Kyimyindaing Township. He said it wasn’t known why they were arrested.

Meanwhile, the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma)—the AAPP—reported on Tuesday that at least seven detained monks, including U Gambira, leader of the All Burma Monks Association (ABMA), are in poor health. Three had been tortured and stripped of their monks’ robes, the AAPP said.

The AAPP said on Wednesday that 196 monks were among Burma’s more than 2,000 political prisoners.

One prominent prisoner, Ashin Gambira, leader of the All Burma Monks’ Alliance (ABMA), had been disrobed by the authorities and appeared in court on August 20 charged with offences he allegedly committed in the aftermath of the September 2007 uprising, the AAPP said.

Gambira’s lawyer, Aung Thein, told The Irrawaddy that the charges are connected with immigration laws, contacting banned organizations, illegal contacts with foreign organizations through the Internet and other offenses.

Pyinnya Jota, a leading ABMA member who fled to Thailand in February, said: “The military government never respects monks, the sons of Buddha, if they affect the government’s interests.”

Several thousand monks led last September’s massive pro-democracy demonstrations, which were brutally suppressed by the military.

More Deaths Reported from Famine in Chin State

The Irrawaddy News

Famine deaths are still being reported from a region of Burma’s northwestern Chin State, where inhabitants of 45 villages are being forced to forage for food in the jungle because their rice stocks have been lost to a plague of rats.

The villages are in the State’s Tlangtlang Township, the worst-hit area.

More than 40 children have already died in the famine, according to Chin humanitarian groups in exile.

Many of the children died from food poisoning as a result of eating plants foraged in the jungle.

"The people are hungry, so they are eating whatever they can find in the forest," said a Christian missionary in Vawng Tu village.

Exiled Chin groups say the famine is affecting about 20 percent of the state’s population, or at least 100,000 people. Many are leaving for Chin State towns or even neighboring Bangladesh in search of food and assistance.

Several UN agencies and international non-government organizations are working on a relief program for the region. They hope to launch the six-month program in early September.

Global, Asean Intervention Needed on Suu Kyi Case: AIPMC

The Irrawaddy News

Influential international and regional leaders should act immediately to help detained Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi get her message out to the world, according to a leading rights group.

Speaking with The Irrawaddy on Wednesday, Roshan Jason, executive director and spokesperson for Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC), said, “We don’t know what Suu Kyi’s intentions are. She could be refusing food for many reasons. It may be a protest. But, if there is a problem, we cannot find out.

“Suu Kyi is not a criminal. We must at least allow her to have a voice. She cannot be cut off from the world.

“We are calling for international intervention from Asean’s secretary-general and the UN secretary-general to get involved,” he added. “The very least they should do is check her status—is she really on hunger strike?”

In a statement released on Wednesday, AIPMC urged UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, as well as Surin Pitsuwan, the general-secretary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to pay visits to Burma and meet with Suu Kyi as soon as possible.

The statement said that Suu Kyi’s refusal to receive UN Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari during his visit to Burma last week was a sign that his mandate is failing.

A comprehensive assessment of Suu Kyi’s health must be carried out as soon as possible, the statement concluded, adding that the secretary-general of Asean should also look into the reasons as to why she may be refusing her food supplies.

Suu Kyi, who has spent more than 13 of the past 19 years under house arrest, has reportedly refused to accept food supplies since August 15. Some observers have suggested she is on hunger strike.

The AIPMC also reminded the UN and Asean that the continued well-being of Suu Kyi is vital to achieving a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Burma.

Meanwhile, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who met with Ibrahim Gambari on Wednesday, said that the UN envoy’s mission to Burma had not failed yet, and that the “Group of Friends on Myanmar” still supported his role.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Self-criticism and Burma’s democracy movement

Aug 26, 2008 (DVB)–While there have been no tangible political improvements 20 years after the 8888 uprising, the thinking and ideas of the people have changed and there has been open and outspoken criticism of the government.

This change in mentality could be said to be the most significant sign of progress in the past 20 years.

But political analysts and journalists have said this level of analysis and criticism should not only be directed against the military government but should also focus on pro-democracy groups.

At the same time, some political activists are concerned that such open self-criticism within the democracy movement is tantamount to “airing one’s dirty linen in public” and is ripe for exploitation by the military government.

DVB’s Htet Aung Kyaw asked Irrawaddy editor Aung Zaw, political analyst Aung Naing Oo and elected National League for Democracy MP Khun Myint Tun how far they thought this culture of criticism should apply to the democracy movement.

Aung Zaw: “There are two parts to this discussion. In my view, the people inside Burma – despite the oppression – are daring more and more to express their opinions and are becoming more willing to say these kinds of things to the outside media such as the DVB or BBC radio stations. It shows how brave they are despite the massive oppression. I think this is positive.

“At the same time, there is more communication between those inside and outside. Before, when you made phone calls from abroad, as we are living outside the country, they didn’t know whether we were with the governments or the opposition or rebel groups. People didn’t dare to meet us or speak to us. But the line between inside and outside is becoming more blurred and that is a good thing.

“When we talk about criticism among the opposition and pro-democracy people, it is mostly personal attacks. When it comes to the culture of criticism towards each other, we are still weak in using facts and figures and lacking the skills to make the other side hear us out calmly.

“But at the same time, if you look at bloggers, the internet, websites and Irrawaddy publications, we have been looking at the weaknesses of the opposition almost constantly. But it is still weak. At the same time, we also see that this side thinks that they should be considerate to the other side. This is because people who are now working in these organisations were at one time involved in opposition groups themselves – they are ex-activists, ex-student leaders, ex-students of 88 generation. They have reined in their criticism and feel they should be more considerate.”

Aung Naing Oo: “My view is that if there is no criticism, there can not be much improvement. When it comes to criticism itself, it is not criticising with closed eyes. One should accept it when it is done appropriately and for the right reasons. In a word, it becomes necessary to have what is termed “critical thinking” in which we have to think properly, deeply, reciprocally. Therefore, at the 20-year point, if we say the movement has not been successful for one year, two years, three years, 20 years, it is necessary to think why it has not been successful. As far as this goes, we are in a position where have to employ other people to “air our dirty linen” instead of doing it ourselves. So we need to think about whether we cannot accept criticisms or can’t be bothered to listen because we don’t share our views.

“When it comes to the nature of conflict, if you see it in black and white, there can be no solution. But within this conflict, there are also shades of grey. Therefore, instead of just concentrating on the black and white, if one could look at other nuances, people, subjects, interests contained in the conflict more properly and inclusively, we will be able to understand and see the criticism within a wider context.”

But many political activists believe this kind of public self-criticism could serve as ammunition for opponents of pro-democracy groups.

Khun Myint Tun: “The main basis of democracy is transparency. The NLD has policies. The first policy of the NLD is openness, honesty and mutual respect. In order to be open, we must be able to criticise ourselves and our organisation. But this criticism has to be constructive. Especially among ourselves, we need to be disciplined and take care not to damage our unity.

“We have to accept it if it is done in a spirit of improvement and development, and we have to listen to it whether we like it or not when it is done in this way. This is because everyone has individual strengths and weaknesses. In order to build on our strengths and address our weaknesses, we need criticism from within our community. We should not just ignore these criticisms from our peers and do whatever we want. Criticism is necessary for individuals and for the country. But, it must not be excessive. For example, some people in the past have used the media to carry out political attacks on one another. This is not good. One thing that is necessary is to criticise logically from the top, within the framework of the revolution.”

How could one criticise within the limits of the revolution? By criticising the military government harshly and the opposition gently?

Aung Zaw: “In my view, compared to the past, [the opposition] has become thick-skinned. This habit has been developed inside and outside [Burma]. Those who are under the military government are pushing the issue imperceptibly. On the outside, those who were involved in the opposition groups and their sympathisers in the media are doing the same for the opposition groups.

“When we were writing in around 1996-97, they [pro-democracy groups] were rather touchy about it. We heard, ‘We will sue you’ and so on. Some armed groups even threatened our lives. But in this day and age, some are becoming quite thick-skinned. We are seeing more self-criticism. Within 20 years, we see that there are more people who are criticising themselves. Why did we lose? Where did we go wrong? What is happening to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi? What is wrong with her strategy? What should the strategy of the NLD be? We are seeing these questions more than before.

“I think it is healthy, but as I said before: are we criticising the people, are we talking about the policies, are we talking with facts and figures, are we doing it in an acceptable way, are we talking like adults as much as we can? If we could increase that culture, if we could do that among ourselves, be more precise and behave like adults, there could be more maturity.”

Aung Zaw was himself threatened with a lawsuit ten years ago for saying in an editorial that an exile government was impracticable.

Aung Naing Oo: “There is severe criticism of the military government. If mistakes are made by opposition groups and activists and no one is allowed to point this out – this is not the right thing. If we talk about the faults of the military government while ignoring the faults of the opposition, it doesn’t bode well for our country’s future prospects. In 2004, I wrote an article saying that the actions of the military government and some opposition groups are quite similar and that it is quite worrying. For this, some opposition groups criticised me. ‘Why did you write this? This should not be written,’ I was told. Then, I asked them, ‘Was what I said wrong?’ – ‘What you said was not wrong,’ was the reply. ‘If it is not wrong, I will stand by my point,’ I said. Then, I faced a situation in which our relationship deteriorated. Therefore, if something is wrong, we need to point out the mistake for what it is.”

Khun Myint Tun: “It is useless to attack ourselves with chicken feathers and others with rakes. Even when we criticize the SPDC, we need to criticise it honestly on the basis of the revolution. It is the same when we do it to each other, but we have to avoid actions that could destroy our unity.

“In our view, during our revolution, if everyone in the revolution is an analyst and there are no revolutionaries and political activists, it will be useless. As we have people who really oppose, leaders and people who take responsibilities, we also really need people to watch and criticise these people. Just as in football we need not only coaches for footballers to instruct them, we also need the spectators.

“Whatever it is, we accept and welcome criticism. But, in the Burmese language, some people see the word ‘wayban’ [criticise] in a bad light. We welcome and accept it if it is done in the spirit of improvement. But in human nature, our subconscious doesn’t like criticism. I am the same way. In my subconscious, when someone criticises me, I feel that that person sees me in a negative way and so your conscience needs to accept the fact that you need to accept criticism.”

What is the outlook for the future?

Khun Myint Tun: “When it comes to the limits of freedom, many things have been said. Each person has a different idea of what the limits of freedom should be. But as we love freedom, we welcome free criticism. We must also practise accepting it. The more we can tolerate criticism, the more chance for the emergence of democracy, that’s our view. But the people [of Burma] regard broadcasters such as DVB as the voice of the revolutionary. As it is, it is necessary to allow the free expression of views within the boundaries of the revolution.”

Aung Naing Oo: “We are currently seeing people are criticising not only the military government but also the opposition groups. We also hear people criticising Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. We are hearing endless criticism of the military government. Inside the country, there are some people whispering their opinions and others speaking out loudly. Some people are bravely expressing their dislike of the military government to the international newspapers.

“When we look back over the past 20 years, there has been considerable openness and I think that’s a very good thing. Instead of keeping it inside our hearts, if we can express it properly and openly, become more daring in our criticism and think carefully about the subject of criticism, and if necessary, make changes, then that will be a good basis for the future.”

Aung Zaw: “That is the weakness of 8888, I think. [The] ‘I know how to do it and I am right about everything’ [attitude]. I haven’t seen much in the past twenty years. I observe people examining where it went wrong, what could have been done with the right opportunities, how things could have been handled better and so on. I think this is good. It takes a certain time to reach the destination; 20 years is actually a fairly short time.

“We have to work harder to ingrain that culture in us, because, if you look at neighbouring countries, we can see that their sense of democracy is more mature than ours. Even then, people are still threatened with lawsuits, murder and so on for making criticisms. In these circumstances, how are we going to criticise each other? Are we going throw flowers at each other? Or as I said before, are we going to attack each other personally? Do we have the facts, the grounds? We need to think about that. We need to assess whether we are saying it out of love or out of personal hatred. If we can do that, we can reach our desired destination in the future.”

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw

Burma's opposition politician attacked by unknown perpetrator


(Mizzima) - A political leader of the Opposition in Burma on Saturday was injured after he was deliberately tripped by an unknown man from behind.

Aye Thar Aung, a member of the 'Committee Representing People's Parliament', an opposition group comprising Members of Parliament elected in the 1990 elections, said he was purposely tripped by the man, who he suspects belongs to the military intelligence, while getting down from a bus in downtown Rangoon.

Aye Thar Aung said he was on his way to a barbershop on Saturday at about 1 p.m. (local time) and was getting off the No. 38 route bus, when he was suddenly tripped on the stairs of the bus. He fell on the ground and sustained injuries on his knees and palms.

"I lost control and fell down. I sustained bruises and injuries on my palms and on my right knee. I can't stand properly now but have no fractures. I am lucky not to have got a head injury," Aye Thar Aung told Mizzima over telephone.

While it was not clear who tripped him, Aye Thar Aung, secretary of the Arakan League for Democracy (ALD) party said the person has been constantly following him wherever he went. Aung believes he belongs to Burma's notorious 'Military Affairs Security'.

"He is just about 20 years old and he has been following me all through," said Aye Thar Aung, adding that the person had purposely put forward one foot on the bus to trip him.

The 63 year-old Arakan leader said, he lodged a complaint at the Pazundaung Township Police Station, adding the man continued to follow him to the gates of the police station.

Aye Thar Aung said, the man reportedly told people in the neighborhood that he had been assigned to follow the politician.

"I heard that he told people in my neighborhood that he was unhappy with me for roaming around the city without any work, as he has to continuously follow me. I think he tripped me because of that," Aye Thar Aung said.

Burma's Opposition party members in recent times have been subjected to frequent attacks by unknown perpetrators. But the law enforcement agencies of the military government have failed to bring the culprits to book every time an opposition member has been attacked.

In June, an elected Member of Parliament, Than Lwin, from Madaya township of Mandalay division was hit on the face with a knuckle-duster by an unknown person.

Similarly, Tin Yu, a member of Burma's main opposition party – the National League for Democracy – in Rangoon Division's Hliang Thar Yar Township, had to undergo a minor operation where he received 21 stitches for an injury he sustained from a beating by unknown group of people in April.

In March, a Human Rights activist, Myint Aye (57) sustained head injuries from a similar beating by unknown people. Myint Hlaing, chairman of the Hlaing Thar Yar NLD was also attacked by unknown people the same month.

In February, political activists Moe Nay Soe and Phone Gyi from Taungup town of Arakan State in western Burma were also beaten up by an unknown group.

In all the cases, though the victims said they had lodged complaints with the police, so far there have been no reports of arrests or effort at finding the culprits.

MAI to hire F-100 aircraft for Bangkok-Kuala Lumpur flights

Nem Davies

New Delhi (Mizzima)– The Myanmar Airways International, one of the few international airlines in Burma will hire a Fokker-100 aircraft from AirBagan, another airline, for its Bangkok-Kuala Lumpur flights.

MAI's Marketing executive in Rangoon told Mizzima on Tuesday that the company will hire a 36-seat F-100 aircraft from AirBagan on a three-month contract starting August end to November.

"Currently we are facing a shortage of aircrafts that's why we have decided to hire for a three month period. We will look for other aircrafts from December 1. In fact, we are filling in with aircraft from AirBagan while we are finding replacements," the executive said.

MAI, which operates international flights to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, had earlier hired a M-82 aircraft from Thailand's 12Go and used it for its flights from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur.

Sources said MAI will use the F-100 aircraft in place of the M-82 to operate flights between Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur, as MAI has to terminate its contract with 12Go over problems related to insurance.

"We have to stop using the 12Go aircraft because of insurance related problems, which is not our problem. But since we do not want to terminate our operation, and as AirBagan agreed to hire out to us, we are going to use the AirBagan aircraft for the flights," the executive said.

AirBagan, which in June suspended its Rangoon-Singapore flights for three months, said they have agreed to hire its F-100 aircraft to the semi-government owned MAI.

But an official of AirBagan declined to provide further details of the contract between the two airlines saying she was not authorized to speak to the press.

AirBagan is owned by business tycoon Tayza, who reportedly has a close relationship with the ruling junta supremo Snr. Gen Than Shwe.

Following the brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters in September 2007 by the military junta, Tayza was named one among the many cronies of the junta that supported its rule, by the United States and is among the list of people who are barred from entering the US.

Hit by the tightening economic sanctions imposed by the US, AirBagan n October 19, 2007 announced suspension of its flights between Rangoon and Singapore.

Angry Reaction to Samak’s 'Suu Kyi is a Tool' Remark

The Irrawaddy News

Burmese opposition politicians and some political observers and commentators have strongly rejected Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej’s description of Aung San Suu Kyi as a “political tool” of the West.

Samak made the controversial comment to UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari when the two met in Bangkok as the Nigerian diplomat was returning from his latest failed mission to Burma.

“Europe uses Aung San Suu Kyi as a political tool,” Samak told Gambari. “If it's not related to Aung San Suu Kyi, you can have deeper discussions with Myanmar [Burma].”

Samak also told reporters after meeting Gambari: “Efforts to engage the military regime would be more productive if Aung San Suu Kyi was left off the agenda.”

Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) rejected the Thai premier’s comments as inappropriate.

“As the leader of a country, he should not give such comments about the political affairs of other countries,” said NLD Spokesman Nyan Win.

Nyan Win accused Samak of favoring the Burmese regime and ignoring the Burmese people.

Kavi Chongkittavorn, senior editor of the Bangkok English-language daily newspaper The Nation said, “I think Samak’s comment is ridiculous. And he has tarnished Thailand’s reputation as the chairman of the Asean (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations).

“He [Samak] doesn’t even understand the situation in Burma. He has a very sadistic attitude in attacking whoever disagrees with him. Look at the manner he attacks the Thai media everyday.”

A Burmese ethnic leader, Cin Sian Thang, chairman of the Zomi National Congress in Rangoon, accused Samak of “insulting Burmese people.”

Cin Sian Thang charged that Samak “doesn’t support the formation of democracy in Burma.”

A well-known Burmese politician and former ambassador to China in the 1970s, Thakin Chan Htun, said in Rangoon that Samak’s remarks were based on Thailand’s business interests in Burma, which were more important to him than democratic reform.

Although Gambari failed to meet any top Burmese leader or Aung San Suu Kyi on his latest visit, the UN denied the mission was a failure.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s deputy spokeswoman,
Marie Okabe, said in New York on Monday: “One should not make a judgment on the process based on each individual visit.”

During his Bangkok stopover, Gambari urged Samak to continue his support for the UN mission to break the political deadlock in Burma.

Gambari is scheduled to visit Indonesia before returning to New York, where Okabe said he would report to Ban Ki-moon on his latest visit to Burma.

Samak's remarks on Burma do more damage

(The Nation) - The PM adds more salt to the wounds by openly endorsing junta's planned 2010 elections

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's recent comments on Burma were ridiculous, even bordering on absurdity. It showed his total ignorance of the situation, and worse yet, he seems to be completely blind to the ongoing efforts by the international community, especially the UN, to bring peace and stability to one of the world's most backward countries. His latest comments added salt to the wound created by his earlier remarks, which also tarnished Thailand's reputation as a democracy.

Samak showed sadistic tendencies when he started criticising the West for demanding that Aung San Suu Kyi be released from her 12-year-long house arrest. He has completely ignored the reality inside Burma, and even very foolishly observed that the West could have a deeper level of discussions with the junta if the opposition party's leader was not part of the scheme. Obviously Samak forgot that Suu Kyi and her party, National League of Democracy, won the 1990 elections by a landslide, but that the military junta refused to recognise their victory.

He also forgot that over the past two decades, the junta has imposed stringent rules over its citizens, building up a tight police state where the public is under constant surveillance. When the Buddhist monks and students took to the streets in September last year to rally against the junta, they were met with force. Asean came out with the strongest statement in its history condemning one of its members, but the junta remained unrepentant.

Now, the junta is moving confidently ahead in imposing its political roadmap on the Burmese people by passing a new constitution in May and planning national elections in 2010. Meanwhile, Samak continues to completely ignore Burma's hunger for democracy.

Thailand has had to support more than two million refugees and migrant workers escaping hardship and oppression in their country. The Thai administration obviously does not realise that making Burma a democracy would be beneficial because the people would want to return home. As the leader of Thailand, Samak should have understood that it is democracy that gave him power in the first place.

However, when he met UN special envoy for Burma Ibrahim Gambari, Samak ended up openly endorsing the junta's planned 2010 election, saying naively that he would talk the junta into allowing outside observers. Samak should have realised that there is no way anybody could influence the junta.

When the international community wanted to help victims of Cyclone Nargis in early May, the junta was recalcitrant. At first, it blocked outside assistance out of fear of intervention, whereas immediate aid could have saved thousands of lives. After repeated assurances by Asean, some international organisations were allowed in. Now, it appears that the junta benefited handsomely from the tricky foreign policy exchange regulations, which enabled the authorities to put millions in their pockets. It is uncertain how much money they have made off with, but the real picture will emerge soon. Already, the news has had an adverse effect on potential sources of assistance.

It is obvious that Samak's stance on Burma will have huge ramifications on Thailand and its standing in the global community. Samak has always been quick to jump on any chance that would help him maintain power, even if it means serving as a front man for a convicted criminal liked Thaksin Shinawatra. Whether or not Samak can continue as prime minister in the weeks ahead, he has already created enough ways to further isolate Thailand. Worse yet, it would further affect the role of the Asean chair over the next 16 months.

With such a strong endorsement of the Burmese junta, it is now possible that some of the Asean dialogue partners would seek to boycott the meetings scheduled in December in Bangkok. Perhaps we should expect more diplomatic disasters if Samak continues as prime minister.

Reports of Daw Suu Kyi’s refusal of daily food supplies creating serious concern

Kuala Lumpur, 27 August, ( The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) has expressed its deep concern over reports claiming that Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been refusing her daily food supply since 16 August 2008.

AIPMC Steering Committee based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in a press release said, “If these reports are confirmed to be true, then this is a serious concern for all. We strongly call on ASEAN leaders to intervene in this matter and ensure that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is given the necessary attention, which is highly likely needed urgently.

Press release has urged that, regional and international intervention in this matter is exceedingly essential in order to ascertain the veracity of these reports, given that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is denied any access to her friends, family, colleagues, the media and effectively the world outside her home.

AIPMC has requested the ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan to immediately visit Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and to personally ascertain her health status.

The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus has further urged for a comprehensive assessment of Daw Aung Suu Kyi’s health must be carried out as soon as possible. This assessment must include all aspects of her well-being. The Sec-Gen should also look into the reasons as to why she is refusing her food supply.

Further, the AIPMC has called on the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to travel to Burma and meet with Daw Aung Suu Kyi as soon as possible. Her obvious refusal to receive the UN Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari during his visit last week is an indication that his mandate is failing, AIPMC said

AIPMC is of the opinion that a visit by the Sec-Gen will ensure that the United Nations plays a pivotal role in not only solving this latest crisis but also succeed in re-opening tripartite talks in Burma.

The AIPMC has also has reminded to take this opportunity to remind the United Nations and ASEAN that the continued well-being of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is vital in achieving a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Burma.

- Asian Tribune -

U.N. Farce - Diplomacy comforts the dictators of Burma

(Washington Post) - IT HAS BEEN ALMOST a year since the world was stirred by thousands of Burmese monks and ordinary people taking to the streets to demand freedom -- and being bloodily crushed by one of the world's cruelest regimes. Governments everywhere proclaimed that such violence and repression could not stand, and they insisted that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon do something. Mr. Ban sent his special envoy on a mission with explicit goals: Secure the release of democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, and help the National League for Democracy (NLD) to reopen offices throughout the country. The envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, just finished sixth fruitless mission to Burma, and it is clear now that U.N. diplomacy has become a cover for inaction, not a pathway to reform.

Aung San Suu Kyi performed an extraordinary act of bravery during Mr. Gambari's most recent trip. The daughter of Burma's independence hero, she led the NLD to overwhelming victory when the regime last permitted elections in 1990s. The junta refused to recognize the results and has kept Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for most of the years since. Last fall the regime promised Mr. Gambari that it would begin a dialogue with the democracy leader and allow her to meet with NLD colleagues. But supreme leader Gen. Than Shwe reneged on even that meager concession, and she refused to see the U.N. envoy on his latest trip, even as he hobnobbed with one regime crony after another. Since Aung San Suu Kyi is permitted no communication from her confinement, we can only guess at what motivated this snub. But it is likely that the indomitable Nobel Peace Prize winner decided, even at the price of intensifying her own frightful isolation, not to give further legitimacy to a process that was only dignifying the regime.

Not surprisingly, as Than Shwe has intensified the crackdown in his own country -- and, let's not forget, refused international aid for victims of Cyclone Nargis this spring -- U.N. and other international officials have decided to blame the victim. The prime minister of Thailand, which cultivates its own ties with the corrupt regime, on Monday urged other leaders to forget about Aung San Suu Kyi. A fig leaf of international process comforts the regime, those who trade with it -- and those who give flowery speeches about democracy but resist action, such as an arms embargo. It is time for Mr. Ban to say that he won't allow the United Nations to be exploited and humiliated in this way.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

ABFSU member’s parents jailed for 6 years - U Peter and Daw Nu Nu Swe

Aug 22, 2008 (DVB)–The parents of one of the leaders of the All-Burmese Federation of Student Unions, Ko Sithu Maung, have been sentenced to six years’ imprisonment by Hlaing township court for obstructing police investigations.

U Peter and Daw Nu Nu Swe, who are both in their 50s, were found guilty of three charges, including harassing officers on duty and inciting a riot in their ward.

The couple was arrested in October last year after they delayed answering the door to police who came to their house looking for their son.

In their defence, U Peter and Daw Nu Nu Swe testified in court that the police had knocked on their door late at night with no warrant and had not been accompanied by local officials and so they had not let them in at first because they did not know who they were.

But the court found them to have acted illegally and handed down six-year prison terms to the couple.

Ko Sithu Maung was arrested on 9 October last year from a safehouse along with two other ABFSU leaders.

He is now in Insein prison awaiting trial.

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw

Arakan youth issues ultimatum on detained activists

Aug 25, 2008 (DVB)–Young people in Arakan State have threatened to use public pressure against the government if five young activists imprisoned after a peaceful march on 8 August are not released.

The five National League for Democracy youth members were sentenced to two and a half years’ imprisonment after marching to Buddhist temples to pray on the 20th anniversary of the 8888 uprising.

Ko Moe Naing Soe, Ko Maung Maung Thet, Ko Chit Maung Maung, Ko Than Lwin and Ma Ni Ni Nay Myint were among a group of 43 people who joined the silent march.

NLD youth members, activists and students in Taunggok decided to issue the ultimatum at a meeting held on 22 August, and pledged that they would use the strength of the masses to pressure the government if their demand was not met.

One young person who attended the meeting said the group wanted to secure the release of all political prisoners, including those arrested on 8 August.

“The youths who were arrested were innocent, they were walking peacefully and did not curse or threaten anyone,” the youth said.

“As Buddhist youths they have the right to go to temples peacefully without asking for permission,” he said.

“We issued the statement in the name of all youths in Arakan state. Our objective is to gain the unconditional release of all political prisoners who are being detained unlawfully.”

The youth said the group had set a deadline for the government to respond to its request.

“If they are not released by the anniversary of the Saffron Revolution all available means will be used to pressure the SPDC government,” he said.

“First, we will make our demands peacefully. If that does not succeed, the follow-up action will depend on the situation.”

Security has been tightened in Taunggok since the evening of the youth meeting and authorities have been monitoring the homes of the 43 young people who were arrested on the 8888 anniversary, the Arakan youth representative said. (JEG's: very wise, there is where the economy goes, monitoring people instead of feeding them or providing healthcare)

Reporting by Yee May Aung

Riot police clash with youths in Sittwe

Aug 25, 2008 (DVB)–A soldier from the riot police was killed and two others hospitalised after a fight broke out between the officers and about 30 local youths in the Arakan state capital Sittwe, locals said.

A Sittwe resident said the fight had started on Friday at around 9pm after police officers became abusive towards locals in Kathe ward.

“On that day, the three riot police personnel were drunk and they came to the ward and started shouting profanities at people around and chasing them around,” the resident said.

“So the local youths in the neighbourhood lost patience and came out of the ward and started beating them up,” he said.

“As of [yesterday], there is a military and police presence at every electricity pole and also heavy security in the wards near monasteries.”

Lieutenant Saw Myo Htun was killed on the spot, while sergeant Zayar Thaw and another unidentified sergeant were admitted to Sittwe hospital’s emergency unit.

The three were from riot police battalion 12, which is stationed in the Lawka Nandar pagoda compound.

After the incident, three military trucks came to Kathe ward and surrounded the neighbourhood while military personnel went round the houses of the youths who were involved in the fight.

When they were unable to find the young people, they arrested women from their families and elderly relatives instead.

Three youths turned themselves in at the police station on Saturday morning, but some of the family members remain in detention in Sittwe police station 1.

Sittwe police station 1 and officials at Naypyidaw were unavailable for comment.

Authorities are said to be particularly conscious of security in the run-up to the anniversary of the Saffron Revolution, and there have been rumours around the town that monks are planning to start new protests.

The area where the fight took place is close to monasteries where protests began on 28 August last year.

The heavy security presence remained as of Sunday evening, and locals described the atmosphere as tense.

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw

Former Maggin abbot banned from collecting alms

Aug 25, 2008 (DVB)–Elderly monk U Nandiya, who was forced out of Maggin monastery when it was closed down in November last year, has been prevented from collecting alms by local authorities.

U Nandiya was the temporary head monk at Maggin monastery at the time of its closure on 29 November last year, having taken over when his son, the previous abbot, was arrested.

U Nandiya was forced to leave Maggin monastery and was sent to Myo Thit in Taungdwingyi township, Magwe division.

Ko Aung Ko, a resident of Taungdwingyi, said the pressure from the authorities had made it difficult for U Nandiya to support himself.

"The monk is facing a lot of trouble receiving alms from villagers as he has been forbidden from doing that by the local authorities who are also pressuring villagers not to donate anything to him," Ko Aung Ko said.

"He is very miserable at his age with no one to take care of him and provide him with medical support."

Residents said the monk had been finding ways to make ends meet, but was still struggling due to the authorities’ restrictions.

U Nandiya is currently staying in a monastery compound in Shwe Kyaung Gon village.

Reporting by Yee May Aung

Authorities extort money from cyclone victims

Aug 25, 2008 (DVB)–Villagers in Irrawaddy division have complained that local authorities have continued to extort money from cyclone victims under various pretexts, despite a letter of complaint they sent to SPDC leaders to report the practice.

U Than Zin, chairman of Mangay Kalay village Peace and Development Council in Dadaye township, PDC members and U Khin Kyaw (also known as U Htin Kyaw) of the township land survey department extorted money from villagers for receiving aid from donors.

U Ba Kyi, a farmer from Mangay Kalay, said locals had been forced to pay for diesel fuel that had been donated to them.

“There were 1383 gallons of diesel, and they collected 500 kyat a gallon from us – so 919,000 kyat,” U Ba Kyi said.

“But these were actually given to us as donations.”

U Ba Kyi said each household was also told to pay money to help cyclone victims.

“They collected 500 kyat each from 432 families on the pretext of helping the storm victims,” he said.

“We had to pay 216,000 each time and we had to pay four times, totaling around 864,000.”

The authorities reportedly told villagers they needed to collect money to fund the accommodation and hospitality for donors.

“Not satisfied with that, they collected 8000 kyat each from 212 farmers in order to buy fertiliser from the state agricultural organisation – 742 bags of fertilizers – amounting to exactly 1,696,000,” U Ba Kyi said.

“They have been misappropriating the money they have collected.”

The villagers sent their letter of complaint, which they had each signed and given their national identity card number, to junta leader senior general Than Shwe, prime minister general Thein Sein, the social and relocation minister and hotel and tourism minister, and the commander of Western Command, but no action has so far been taken by the authorities.

Similarly in Talokehtaw village in Rangoon division’s Twante township, the village authority chairman and members of the Union Solidarity and Development Association and the Women’s Affairs Federation have been profiting from aid, a villager told DVB.

“In Twante’s Talokehtaw village, when they’re distributing rice or medicine, there have been incidents when they have failed to give out the aid or extorted money,” the villager said.

The villager said that goods had mainly been distributed to people who supported the authorities, while others had to pay to receive materials.

“One day, they gave things out using a raffle ticket system, but each house had to pay 300 kyat to enter the raffle,” the villager said.

“Even if you won something you had to pay 1500 kyat [to receive it],” he said.

“U Maung Thaung, U Aye Thaung and Daw Cho are the main people involved in that.”

Reporting by Aye Nai

Burmese Protests Not Allowed in Singapore

The Irrawaddy News

Myo Tun, one of three Burmese activists who took part in political activities in Singapore, says “Now I have no future.” He is among three activists who were ordered to leave Singapore for demonstrating against the junta.

On August 2, the Singapore government declined to renew visas permits or extensions for Myo Tun and two other Burmese activists for participating in public protests illegally.

Public demonstrations are not allowed in Singapore without a police permit.

In addition to Myo Tun, Soe Thiha and Hlaing Moe were also forced to leave the country. Myo Tun had resided in Singapore for nine years.

The activists were part of a larger group of people who demonstrated against the Burmese junta in November 2007 during the Asean Summit meeting in Singapore.

“I didn’t break any of Singapore’s criminal laws,” Myo Tun said. “The Singapore government’s treatment of us was unjustified.”

Myo Tun, 38, was jailed three times in Burma as a political prisoner following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising. “It is apparent the Singapore authorities wanted to punish Burmese activists for working for democracy in Burma,” he said.

Burmese activists who are long-time residents of Singapore stepped up their pro-democracy activities following the September 2007 uprising.

In April and May of this year, activists staged demonstrations in front of the Burmese embassy in Singapore against the new constitution.

Hlaing Moe, a part-time student who is now living in Malaysia, said Burmese activists did not commit any crimes against Singaporean law.

“The Singapore Immigration and Checkpoint Authorities didn’t give any reason or explanation for rejecting the renewals or extensions of our visas and permits,” he said.

Kyaw Soe, a member of the Overseas Burmese Patriots (OBP), a group of about 50 Burmese activists, said nine other activists, all permanent residents of Singapore, who participated in public protests in November are not sure their future.

“The Singapore government forced me to leave Singapore as quickly as possible,” Kyaw Soe told The Irrawaddy on Monday.

Meanwhile, The Strait Times newspaper reported on Saturday that Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs has warned Burmese political activists not to ignore repeated police orders to stop illegal public protests and anti-Burma activities.

A ministry spokesperson said that the right of a foreign national to work or stay in Singapore is not a matter of entitlement or a right to be secured by political demand and public pressure, and the activists repeatedly ignored requests from government officials to meet to discuss the group's conduct, according to the newspaper.

A spokesperson singled out the OBP which he said “has chosen to [conduct demonstrations] in open and in persistent defiance of our laws.”

Cyclone Victims Turn to Towns for Handouts

A woman walks amongst the debris of homes still being occupied in the Irrawaddy Delta. (Photo: AFP)

The Irrawaddy News

RANGOON — Economic hardships have forced a growing number of survivors of Cyclone Nargis to leave their homes in rural parts of the Irrawaddy delta to seek assistance in Rangoon and other urban centers, according to local sources.

“I came to Rangoon to look for donors,” said a 50-year-old man from Kyone Chin, a village in Dedaye Township. “We don’t have enough food in our village, and our farming and fishing businesses have still not recovered. We need assistance badly.”

Kyone Chin village lost 50 of its 1,400 inhabitants and ninety percent of its structures in the deadly cyclone, according to the man. He added that food supplies and other assistance from UN agencies and the government have been dwindling over time.

“The whole village was terribly destroyed. The worst thing is that now we are facing hunger,” he said, explaining why he had come to Rangoon to find support for his village.

Private donors played an important role in the early stages of the relief effort, but nearly four months later, their numbers have fallen. Due in part to government efforts to control movements in the cyclone-stricken region, few trucks carrying privately donated relief supplies are now reaching remote villages, say local people.

Other cyclone-hit villages in Dedaye Township, including Leik Kyun, Hmae Bi, Lay Ywa, Mae Kanan, Taw Pone and Yae Pu Wa, are also facing severe shortages of foodstuffs and other basic supplies, according to local residents.

They are not alone in waiting for aid. A volunteer from Rangoon who has been involved in relief and rebuilding efforts in the delta said that many villages in Kungyangone Township, including Taw Kha Yan Gyi, Taw Kha Yan Kalay, Mayan, Maezali and Hti Pha, are also desperate for additional assistance.

“The situation is hard to say,” said the volunteer. “They do get a little assistance from the government and they have received some from UN agencies. But it’s not enough.

“There are still many people living under make-shift temporary shelters constructed with bamboo posts and tarpaulins sheets. Some can’t get rice to eat, so they are just surviving on what little food is available to them,” the volunteer added.

A local journalist who recently returned from Laputta Township said that farmers there were also struggling, as seeds planted late in the season have not been growing well. Fishermen are also worried about their future food security, as poor-quality nets and boats provided by the government have proven to be almost useless.

“In Laputta, there is no immediate concern about rice, since it is mainly provided by the UN,” said the journalist. “The problem is with rebuilding livelihoods. The farmers are not doing well because the tillers provided by the government are often broken, and seeds are not growing properly. Fishermen also have trouble because the boats they received after the cyclone often need fixing, and the nets are useless for fishing.”

The journalist added that much of the aid that does reach some of the more remote villages soon ends up in the hands of village officials, as little effort has been made to rein in widespread corruption.

Meanwhile, in Mawlamyainggyun Township, there are also reports of severe food shortages in the villages of Yae Twin Kone, Pet Pyae, Ta Zaung, Alae Yae Kyaw, Myit Kyi Toe and Pya Leik.

According to a resident of Alae Yae Kyaw, some local villages have sent small groups to Laputta to appeal for aid from local relief organizations based there. The results of their efforts have been disappointing, however.

“When we asked an NGO in Laputta for assistance, they provided just 3 pyi (about 750 ml) of rice per person for the whole month.”

Little aid ever reaches the villages of Mawlamyainggyun Township because of their inaccessibility. Villages located on the boundary of Mawlamyainggyun and Laputta townships, such as Yae Twin Kone, Pet Pyae, Ta Zaung, Alae Yae Kyaw, Myit Kyi Toe and Pya Leik, are especially deprived because they can only be reached by chartered boats and are reportedly not on the government’s list of villages eligible for support.

If villagers in these areas do not receive aid to rebuild their lives soon, the hunger and destitution they face now could result in more severe problems in the future, said a local volunteer who has witnessed the situation.

“Unless they receive some means of surviving, the hunger of these villagers could lead to killings and robbing. If we can’t heal a small sore now, we may face more serious harm in the long run,” said the volunteer.

Suu Kyi Refuses to Accept Food: Exiled NLD

The Irrawaddy News - Detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi refused to accept a food delivery to her home one week ago, according to the exiled National League for Democracy-Liberated Area. It isn’t clear if she has started a hunger strike.

The exiled group released a statement on Monday saying that Suu Kyi has refused to accept food from members of her party for nine days.

However, the NLD headquarters in Rangoon has yet to confirm the news. Nyan Win, a spokesperson for the NLD, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that the party was trying to confirm the report.

Suu Kyi told an NLD member, Myint Soe, who regularly delivers her food not to bring any more after the middle of this month, according to her family lawyer, Kyi Win, who was allowed to meet her twice on August 8 and 17 to discuss legal issues surrounding her continued detention.

One senior NLD member in Rangoon also said that Suu Kyi had a plan to “cut food supplies” unless her demands to meet her lawyer for further discussions were met by the military authorities.

Suu Kyi was concerned with restrictions imposed on her by the regime, the lawyer told The Irrawaddy over the phone from Rangoon on Monday.

The lawyer explained that under restriction (a), Suu Kyi is not allowed to meet and hold talks with diplomats or political organizations. Under restriction (b), she is not allowed to leave her house.

Under these restrictions, Suu Kyi could not, according to the regime’s own rules, meet Gambari or any visiting UN envoys. Kyi Win said that the way the UN officials called her to come out of her house with a loudspeaker would have forced her to violate the restrictions.

Two of Gambari’s aides shouted with a bullhorn in front of Suu Kyi’s house that the envoy wanted to meet her last Friday, the last scheduled day of his sixth visit to Burma for national reconciliation talks between the regime and the NLD. Gambari later added a day to his trip.

Observers said that Suu Kyi’s refusal to meet the UN envoy last week showed her disappointment with his failed attempts to broker a solution to the country’s decades-old political standoff.

Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for 13 of the past 19 years. During most of this time, her food has been supplied exclusively by her colleagues.

In 2003, soon after Suu Kyi’s motorcade was attacked by junta-backed thugs in Upper Burma, the US State Department said that she had started a hunger strike.

UN wants to continue mission

UNITED NATIONS (ST)- THE UN said on Monday it wanted to continue its good offices mission in Myanmar and refused to say why special envoy Ibrahim Gambari failed to meet with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi during his recent trip.

A UN spokeswoman said that Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest, was unable to attend a scheduled meeting with Mr Gambari but that the UN envoy met members of the National League for Democracy (NLD), the opposition party she leads.

'It was Mr Gambari's intention to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, as he did on all previous visits, and the government made arrangements for such a meeting,' Ms Marie Okabe said.

'To his regret, the meeting did not take place. We are not going to speculate as to why she was not able to attend the meeting, but Mr Gambari did meet the NLD party twice.' Mr Okabe warned against judging the Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon's good offices mission by one individual visit.

'We have been saying all along that the Secretary-General's good offices is a process, not an event,' she said. 'One should not make judgment on the process based on each individual visit.'

'The Secretary-General has made clear upon returning from his own visits that he expects his good offices to deepen and broaden through the continued engagement of his special advisor.'

Asked when Mr Ban himself would make another visit to Myanmar, Ms Okabe said the UN chief had 'expressed his intention to go back when conditions are right,' and that part of Mr Gambari's mission was to prepare for any future visit by the secretary general.

Mr Gambari visited Myanmar on August 18-23, in an attempt to restart dialogue between Ms Aung San Suu Kyi and the ruling military regime. He was unable to meet with senior figures in the regime but held talks with the prime minister.

A spokesman for the NLD called Gambari's visit 'a waste of time.' -- AFP

Aiding Burma's Recovery

VOA - 24 August 2008
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As Burma recovers from the devastation of the May 2nd, Cyclone Nargis, the United States and other international donors continue to provide needed help. The worst disaster in Burma's recorded history, Cyclone Nargis killed up to one-hundred-thousand people. Thousands more are still missing. Damage is estimated at over four-billion dollars.

Relief agency officials say that by now almost all of the more than two-million survivors of the storm and seawater surge have received some food aid. About half of the estimated four-hundred-eighty-eight-thousand households have received some building materials. But the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that despite the delivery of more than twenty-five-thousand tons of food assistance, people in remote areas, "are still living in dire conditions."

To help those most in need, the U.S. Agency for International Development is supporting nonprofit partners, such as Church World Service and the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development, a non-governmental organization based in France, to resume agriculture and other kinds work in vulnerable areas.

Already, eight-hundred drinking ponds that were fouled with salt water have been filtered and cleared of debris, dead animals, and, most tragic, human bodies. Work is underway to repair nine-hundred schools and establish four-hundred temporary safe learning places for sixty-thousand children.

Relief workers are distributing fishing nets as well as seeds and other agricultural inputs in time for the monsoon-planting season, which will end this month. After a tardy response that put many Burmese at risk, the Burmese government has gradually opened the country to outside help.

The U.S. government has given fifty-million dollars in disaster aid to Burma. From May 12 to June 22, the U.S. flew one-hundred-eighty-five airlifts of U.S., Thai, United Nations and non-governmental organization relief supplies from Thailand to Burma. At an August 7 meeting with Burmese democracy activists during his visit to Bangkok, Thailand, President George W. Bush said he is "pleased that a lot of the aid that we paid for is actually getting to the people themselves."

Will it be A Paper Tiger?

Prof. Kanbawza Win

(Asian Tribune) - The UN's special envoy Ibrahim Gambari's fourth visit to Burma had come to a dead end and left the country empty-handed. Even Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has refused to see him knowing full well that nothing would come out of it as his actions speaks more louder than words. From the very beginning why was he chosen? A man bent on keeping his job rather than laying down the platforms for trouble shooting was proven, when he did not have the guts to tell the Generals face to face but instead chose to make a public statement appealing military leaders to put aside their differences and work together on national reconciliation. This infuriated the regime.

Choosing the wrong man at the wrong time had a snowball effect and now his failure to accomplish anything at all, raises serious doubts about the future role of the UN and its mediation efforts in Burma. In other words has the UN become a paper tiger that cannot roar or bite?

If Gambari, is trying to prepare the ground for the forthcoming visit of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon before Christmas "to deal solely on country's political situation," as declared, then he has done his job very badly and is bound to fail, as there is not a single teeth in the tiger. The Secretary General’s first trip in May was met by the supremo Than Shwe, only because he concentrated on relief and reconstruction in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, where the regime demanded 11 billion dollars most of which will line their pockets and let the people die. Mr Ban Ki-Moon will have to make it very clear the hypothesis of either or if the UN were to have some semblance in Burma or elsewhere in the world.

The Backdrop

The Afro-Asian countries, which have thrown the yoke of colonialism, construe humanitarian intervention, as the most sinister plot of imperialist power and a grave threat to their sovereignty. Can nations, acting through the UN Security Council, fulfil a “responsibility to protect” innocent civilians? Or is such a doctrine of a Trojan horse for great power abuse and more mendacity? Are just some of the common questions often asks. No doubt when nations send their military forces it is not only “humanitarian” purposes but often than not pursue their narrow national interest – grabbing territory, gaining geo-strategic advantage, or seizing control of precious natural resources. Leaders hope to win public support by describing such actions in terms of high moral purposes – bringing peace, justice, democracy and civilization to the affected area. In the era of colonialism, European governments all cynically insisted that they acted to promote such higher commitments – the “white man’s burden,” “la mission civilisatrice,” and the likes. There have been some instances in the recent past where countries have opened up to outside aid in the aftermath of natural disasters, but sovereignty remains a sticking point. However, the Burmese case is different.

Even though the UN Charter does not say anything about intervention in matters relating to domestic jurisdiction of any state, the Genocide Convention of 1948 also overrode the nonintervention principle to lay down the commitment of the world community to prevent and punish. Yet inaction in response to the Rwanda genocide in 1994 and failure to halt the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia highlight the complexities of international responses to crimes against humanity, and now the case of Burma is clearly on that category.

In 2000, the Canadian government and several other actors announced the establishment of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) to address the challenge of the international community's responsibility to act in the face of the gravest of human rights violations, while respecting the sovereignty of states. It sought to bridge these two concepts with the 2001 Responsibility to Protect (R2P) report.

A year later, the co-chairs of the commission, wrote: "If the international community is to respond to this challenge, the whole debate must be turned on its head. The issue must be reframed not as an argument about the 'right to intervene' but about the 'responsibility to protect.'" (See Foreign Affairs) The document says it was every state's responsibility to protect its citizens from "genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity." If a state fails to do so, the document says, it then becomes the responsibility of the international community to protect that state's population. This document was unanimously adopted by all member states but is not legally binding. The doctrine was hailed by international affairs specialists as a new dawn for peace and security marking the end of a 350-year period in which the inviolability of borders and the monopoly of force within one's own borders were sovereignty's formal hallmarks. This adoption begins to resolve the historic tension between human rights and states' rights in favor of the individual.

The Burmese Case

Following Burma’s cyclone the regime was incapable of providing relief to millions of affected citizens and it refused to let in international aid and aid workers at the most crucial period and let the people die. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner suggested the United Nations invoke the R2P doctrine as the basis for a resolution to allow the delivery of international aid even without the Junta’s permission. But the French proposal faced opposition from Security Council members Russia, China, and South Africa. China's UN ambassador, Liu Zhenmin, argued it was not an issue for the Security Council.

Some contend that R2P is a Western or Northern invention, being imposed on the global South. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was the first two African Secretaries-General of the United Nations -- Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Kofi Annan -- who first explored evolving notions of sovereignty and humanitarian intervention. And now it is the turn of an Asian Ban Ki-moon to follow it up to the predecessor’s footsteps and implement it in Burma.

Please recollect that it was the African Union has been explicit: in the year 2000, five years before the Summit declaration, the African Union asserted “the right of the Union to intervene in a member State pursuant to a decision of the Assembly in respect of grave circumstances, namely: war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity” Hence it is not at all that the right of intervention is a Western notion.

Equally incorrect is the assumption that the responsibility to protect is in contradiction to sovereignty. Properly understood, R2P is an ally of sovereignty, not an adversary. Strong States protect their people, while weak ones are either unwilling or unable to do so. Protection was one of the core purposes of the formation of States and the Westphalian system. By helping States meet one of their core responsibilities, R2P seeks to strengthen sovereignty, not weaken it. This clearly indicates that the Chinese ambassador to the UN Liu Zhenmin’s argument that Burma is not an issue of the UN Security Council is totally wrong. Every intelligent Burmese knows that this is part and parcel of the Chinese Communist imperialistic design for the whole of Southeast Asia. The definition of the R2P has clearly defined that "overwhelming natural or environmental catastrophes, where the state concerned is either unwilling or unable to cope, or call for assistance, and significant loss of life is occurring or threatened."

Again the proponents of the doctrine say another way to raise pressure for action in Burma is to focus on rebuilding the country. Those who helped write the 2001 report emphasized that R2P embraced not just the "responsibility to react" but the "responsibility to prevent" and the "responsibility to rebuild" as well. If so has any of these responsibilities has been accepted by the Burmese military Junta? For the Burmese government is unlikely to handle reconstruction responsibly given its lack of concern over immediate assistance for cyclone victims. For two decades it has proven beyond doubt that it has no policy whatever (domestic or foreign) but to continue to stay in power by hook or by crook.

If Burma were to be compared with other countries, the question arises whether the Burmese Generals have a human heart at all or just power maniacs. In the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, one of the worst-hit areas was Indonesia's Aceh Province, where the government had been fighting a secessionist movement for more than four decades. The province, under martial law, was off-limits for most international human rights groups, aid organizations, and reporters. But after initial hesitation, the Indonesian government allowed international aid in what Elizabeth Ferris and Lex Rieffel label as "one of the largest disaster recovery and reconstruction efforts in modern times, as well as the peace agreement which led to the election of a former secessionist leader as governor of the province."

Similarly, after a powerful 2005earthquake rocked the long-disputed Kashmir region dividing India and Pakistan, the Pakistani government decided to give access to international relief agencies. Moreover, it accepted food and relief aid from neighboring India, with which it has fought three wars over Kashmir. The move was significant enough for regional experts to ask if this could lead to peace. More recently, an earthquake in China's Sichuan Province in May 2008 led Beijing to make unprecedented moves to open up. The Chinese government, which in the past has spurned foreign aid, accepted international aid publicly, opened a hotline for the U.S. military to have increased communication with its Chinese counterparts, and eased media restrictions. Yet when it comes to Burma the international community bow down to the Illogical argument of the Burmese Generals, Why? Is it because of the Hypocritical Chinese Dragon breathing smoke over it?

In the past two decades, more than 200 million people per year have been affected by natural disasters, "As the earth’s population increases and its atmosphere warms, floods, typhoons and hurricanes will undoubtedly occur more often, and will certainly have political consequences," according to Ferris and Rieffel of Brookings. At present the world community has limited options for responding to these humanitarian crises. UN General Assembly Resolution 46/182 formed guiding principles for the international community's response to humanitarian disasters and was central to the establishment of the office of the UN emergency relief coordinator and the development of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee. Why it is not implemented in the Burmese case?

It is to be admitted that ASEAN played an active role in changing the bull headed Burmese Generals, to let in international aid after the initial refusal, experts say. But "if our methods short of armed force have no impact and we are not willing to threaten to use military action, there are no good options," says Stewart M. Patrick, CFR senior fellow and director of the program on international institutions and global governance. The UN Secretary General on this trip must make it very clear to the Burmese men in uniform that in the political negotiations that if they continue to do as the last two decades they will have to face military action and short of nothing else.

Some people argue that the government may be guilty is a crime of omission rather than commission and that in matters of humanitarian disasters everyone's first concern is for the victims and if one chooses to use force assistance would only make the victims worse off as. But one must remember that Burma is unique, the Generals are notoriously cunning, skilful manipulators, cruel and insincere. They are treating the people much worse than cyclone Nagris? Hence the use of armed forces by the UN is very justified not only for the people of Burma which are desperate but also for the geopolitical factors, including the relevance of the country to the world community, regional stability, and the attitudes of other major players. If there is a big wound the best thing to cure is taking the pus out by a surgeon’s knife (military action) then followed by medication. I recollect David Rieff‘s writings "Use any euphemism you wish, but in the end these interventions have to be about regime change if they are to have any chance of accomplishing their stated goal." ( New York Times Magazine).

Responsibility to Protect (R2P)

R2P is not a new code for humanitarian intervention. Rather, it is built on a more positive and affirmative concept of sovereignty as responsibility -- a concept to be distinguished from its conceptual cousin, human security. The latter, who is broader, posits that policy should take into account the security of people, not just of States, across the whole range of possible threats. Besides this concept of responsibility to protect is more firmly anchored in current international law and adopted by the 2005 World Summit and was subsequently endorsed by both the General Assembly and Security Council. R2P was successfully tested for the first time earlier this year following the elections in Kenya. The combined efforts of the African Union, influential Member States, the United Nations and the esteemed predecessor, Kofi Annan, were instrumental in curbing the post-election violence. As the 2005 Summit recognized, there are times when persuasion and peaceful measures fall short. Then a big stick of military action becomes inevitable.

It is the Secretary General’s obligation that United Nations rules, procedures and practices are developed in line with this bold declaration. In other words, the responsibility to protect does not alter the legal obligation of Member States to refrain from the use of force except in conformity with the Charter. Rather, it reinforces this obligation. By bolstering United Nations prevention, protection, response and rebuilding mechanisms, R2P seeks to enhance the rule of law and expand multilateral options. We know that the United Nations was built on ideas, ideals and aspirations, not on quick fixes, sure things or cynical calculations. Burma has been tried for the last two decades and found it is wanting. But the people of Burma have, nevertheless, kept their faith in the UN because it never tires of trying to accomplish the impossible.

The successive humanitarian disasters in Somalia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda, Kosovo and now Darfur, Sudan, have concentrated attention not on the immunities of sovereign Governments but their responsibilities, both to their own people and to the wider international community.

There is a growing recognition that the issue is not the “right to intervene” of any State, but the “responsibility to protect” of every State when it comes to people suffering from avoidable catastrophe — mass murder and rape, ethnic cleansing by forcible expulsion and terror, and deliberate starvation and exposure to disease. And there is a growing acceptance that while sovereign Governments have the primary responsibility to protect their own citizens from such catastrophes, when they are unable or unwilling to do so that responsibility should be taken up by the wider international community — with it spanning a continuum involving prevention, response to violence, if necessary, and rebuilding shattered societies. The primary focus should be on assisting the cessation of violence through mediation and other tools and the protection of people through such measures as the dispatch of humanitarian, human rights and police missions. Force, if it needs to be used, should be deployed as a last resort as it is clear in the case of Burma.

The UN so far has been neither very consistent nor very effective in dealing with these cases, very often acting too late, too hesitantly or not at all. Burma will be a test case for Ban Ki Moon’s visit in Christmas. At a time when China was eulogizing itself in the success of Beijing Olympics and when the Georgia episodes reveals that that the sphere of influence is very much appreciated by the Ta Yoke (the Burmese word for Chinese because he is Yoke Mar) and Kalar (the Burmese word for Indian derived from degrading Hindi word Kar Loo) as none of them say a single word against the Russian bully, the fate of the Burmese people is still in peril. The nefarious and paradoxical aspect, which every Burmese could not comprehend is why the UN so keen on fait accompli by intending to help the unlawful elections of 2010 derived from the illogical Constitution and did not recognise the lawful elections of 1990?

Prof. Kanbawza Win, the incumbent Dean of the Students of the AEIOU Programme, Chiangmai University, Thailand and Professor at the School of International Studies, Simon Fraser University, of British Columbia, Canada can be reached at the SFU Harbor campus in Vancouver.

- Asian Tribune -

Ghosts amid the wreckage in Myanmar

By Seth Mydans
August 25, 2008

BANGKOK (IHT): Nearly four months after the cyclone, the Irrawaddy Delta in Myanmar is a flat, dark expanse of ruin populated by dazed survivors, unburied bodies and visions of wandering, moaning ghosts.

The region seems to have avoided mass starvation and epidemic, and people are rebuilding their precarious lives in this vast and often flooded marshland where the margin between survival and death has always been thin.

Within that thin margin, recent visitors say, many of the survivors seem to have lost their spark of life, and some of the dead seem not yet to have disappeared as they haunt the minds of those they left behind.

"There is a weariness in people's eyes here," said a photographer who has been chronicling the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, which struck on May 3. He spoke on condition of anonymity because access to the region is forbidden to foreign journalists.

"There's a lost feeling that you get," he said. "People are physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. Some of them don't have the strength to start over."

After an international furor over the government's refusal to admit foreign relief workers, a tightly controlled system has been put in place, and aid is reaching much of the area, where the United Nations says 2.4 million people were affected.

The cyclone left 138,000 people dead or missing and 800,000 homeless, according to UN figures, after tremendous winds and a storm surge that resembled a tsunami.

It leveled most of the fragile thatch homes in its path, uprooted trees, swept away the livestock and fishing boats that provided a livelihood and polluted many rice fields with salt.

For those fields that survived, this year's planting season has now passed, and experts say it may be more than a year before many people see their next decent harvest.

Although some houses are being rebuilt and some fields are being worked, the delta remains a vista of ruin and debris, where human and animal bones and the last decomposing bodies still cluster at the edges of waterways.

Fantastical tales circulate among the survivors, the photographer said, weaving a tapestry of stories from this world and the next.

There is the tale of the boy who survived by clinging to the back of a crocodile, and the story of the boatload of people stranded at low tide who sat waiting on the silt for the water to rise, surrounded by stranded corpses.

There is the story of the mother who was reunited with her baby after it was swept away in a washtub, and the story of the woman who gave birth as the cyclone hit and pulled her baby from the water by its umbilical cord.

And there are the stories of wandering ghosts, whose cries for help can be heard at night in haunted places that no villager dares to enter.

Among these phantoms and traumas, international relief workers have become the survivors' lifeline, delivering aid to all but the most remote parts of the delta.

More than 1,800 visas have been issued to these workers, aid officials say, though access to the hard-hit delta is slowed by an ever-more-complicated process of permissions and paperwork.

By now, most survivors have received aid, said Andrew Kirkwood, country director for the aid group Save the Children. "But very few people have received enough assistance to get them through the next three months, and almost no one has received enough assistance to enable them to rebuild their lives."

He said the reconstruction of schools, clinics and other infrastructure, which should be well under way by now, still lagged because of delays in delivering basic emergency assistance.

The xenophobic military junta that holds Myanmar in its grip prevented large-scale foreign aid deliveries for the first three crucial weeks after the cyclone, then loosened its controls only gradually and partially. It never did allow U.S. and French naval vessels to bring in tons of aid and equipment.

But despite the early demands from around the world that the government permit open deliveries of aid, the United Nations says that nearly half the assistance pledged by foreign donors has yet to appear. Recently it said it had received $339 million in international donations, a shortfall of $300 million.

But life has always been bitter for the people of the Irrawaddy Delta, with 8 out of 10 families living in poverty even before the cyclone, according to Save the Children.

For many people, the harshness of life today may not be so very different from the harshness of the life they have always known.

"They live on a thin line, every day of every year of every decade," the photographer said. "And that is what they are doing now. They just keep going, day by day by day."