Thursday, 6 March 2008

Corrupt regime authorities aiding the spread of opium production in Shan State

Mon News
March 5, 2008

The number of private producers of opium poppies has increased in Man Tong Township, Northern Shan State, Palaung area, according to a local source. The report is confirmed by The Palaung Women's Organization, based on Thai-Burma border in Mae Sot, which recently reported that opium production has become widespread since the Palaung Liberation Army gave up arms to the Burmese Army in 2005.

Many wealthy businessmen in Palaung Area, Man Tong Township, Shan State, are investing their money in the poppies, used to make lucrative drugs like opium and heroin. Most opium crops are grown in the hills, where they are not likely to be seen by local people, said the source, who recently left Palaung area to the Thai-Burma border area.

According to the US State Department, Burma is the second largest producer of opium poppies, second only to Afghanistan. While a United Nations Development Project subsidizes other crops in an attempt to limit opium production the program extends only into regions controlled by the Burmese Army. As the area is not suited to rice farming, the main agricultural product in the area is tea, or would be were opium farming not more lucrative.

Most opium products are traded to Chinese merchants at a price of one million one kyat per viss [Burmese measurement, equivalent to 1.6 kilograms]. The local merchants then trade to businessmen in China at double the price.

Many local people are afraid to grow opium crops because they fear government crack downs. While poorer or small-scale poppy farmers are likely to be arrested, the source from Shan state said that bribery means the larger projects of wealthy businessmen are rarely harassed. The local authorities know the location of opium crops, he said, but they do nothing.

Most people in the area can barely provide for their families, and work as laborers on the poppy farms for 2,000 kyat a day.

As the local businessman get rich, the people suffer. "Our community is broken. Young men and women are addicted opium. If a husband uses drugs, the wife cannot refuse him and she has to use opium too," said the source. "Finding opium in the area is easy.

Many people are addicted. There is much illegal gambling. Things are often stolen. People are scared by their community, and many would like to leave." But while people are afraid of the changes in their community wrought by opium, they are also afraid to complain because of the economic relationship between local authorities and opium producers.

NLD member loses sight due to lack of treatment

By Aye Nai

March 5, 2008 (DVB)-A detained Mandalay division National League for Democracy member has gone blind in his left eye due to lack of treatment for problems arising after an attack last year, his wife said.

U Than Lwin, an NLD member and elected member of parliament from Maddaya township, was sent to Mandalay hospital from prison on 23 February to undergo an operation on his left eye, which was severely damaged during a knuckle-duster attack by an unknown assailant in mid-2007.

But doctors at the hospital said that it was already too late for them to save his sight in that eye, and he was sent back to prison on 29 February.

Than Lwin's wife, Daw Khin Thi, said that an earlier intervention could have saved Than Lwin's sight.

"The doctors said it was already about two months late to treat his eye and there was nothing they could do to help him," Khin Thi said.

"Specialist eye doctors said all the nerves in his eye had been destroyed due to the growth of cataracts," she said.

"It has been a long time since we found out he was suffering from cataracts and needed immediate medical assistance. We requested permission for treatment from the prison authorities and government leaders in Naypyidaw, but they only approved it about two months later and it was already too late by that time."

Than Lwin was attacked in June last year by a man with a knuckle-duster, who fled into the Union Solidarity and Development Association office after the attack.

He suffered harassment from USDA members while in hospital recovering from the attack, and was arrested on 2 September, allegedly in connection with commodity price protests.

Junta to repair Irrawaddy Bridge

Kachin News

March 5, 2008 - The Balaminhtin-Irrawaddy River (Mali Hka) Bridge in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State will be closed on March 12 for repairs. The announcement of the closure was made by the Burmese military junta.

The bridge pillar number 3 (P-3) slopes into the water and if we look carefully, the bridge appears slanted, an eyewitness in Myitkyina told KNG.

Residents said the authorities have declared the closure of the bridge but they have not announced when it will be reopened. The Bridge connects Myitkyina to Waingmaw Township.

"We just heard of the closure date but we have no idea when the bridge will be reopened," a resident told KNG.

NLD expects meeting with Gambari

Nem Davies
Mizzima News
March 5, 2008

New Delhi – Leaders of Burma's main opposition party – National League for Democracy – are likely to meet the visiting UN special envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari.

Gambari, who will arrive in Burma on Thursday, according the United Nations, has communicated with NLD leaders of a possible meeting, the NLD spokesperson Nyan Win said.

"I cannot reveal everything now. But we have information that he [Gambari] will meet us," Nyan Win told Mizzima over telephone.

Gambari's visit on Thursday will be the third since Burma's ruling junta brutally suppressed monk-led protests in September. According to the UN, at least 31 people were killed and thousands arrested during the crackdown.

Following Gambari's visit in October, the ruling junta appointed a Liaison Minister to mediate between detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and junta leader Snr. Gen Than Shwe.

Critics, however, said Gambari has by and large failed in his mission, as talks between Aung San Suu Kyi and junta's Labour Minister Aung Kyi, despite five meetings, has not progressed into genuine talks that could kick-start a process of national reconciliation.

"We cannot hope for changes immediately. But we can hope for progressive development in the meetings," Nyan Win said.

Anti-referendum posters in Central Burma

Mizzima News
March 5, 2008

New Delhi – In a fresh act of defiance against the Burmese military junta, several anti-referendum and 'Free Burma' campaign posters were found in Amarapura township of Mandalay in central Burma, local residents said.

'Free Burma', 'Free Aung San Suu Kyi' and 'Free Dr. Zaw Myint Maung', MP from Amarapura constituency, who is serving a long prison term, were written with spray guns in palm sized red coloured letters, locals said.

Anti-referendum posters were also seen pasted on the walls of the State High School in Laysu Ward, opposite the Taungthaman Bridge and on the main street, the local said.

The ruling junta has announced holding a constitution approval referendum in May.

"The posters urged the people to boycott the forthcoming referendum and oppose the constitution for the future generation to be free from 46-years of military dictatorship," a local woman, who saw the posters, told Mizzima.

"I saw these posters on March 3 in the morning and they were stuck in an aluminum pot shop to Taungthaman Bridge. We heard that the posters were found elsewhere in Amarapura," another local resident said.

On the same day, a policeman along with three members of Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), the junta backed civil organization, came by on two motorcycles and removed all the posters and white washed the sprayed letters, the locals added.

"Despite white washing, the words 'Free Burma' can still be seen faintly. The letters say 2-3-2008 written by a spray gun," the second local resident said.

Calendar size portraits of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi wearing her party election campaign logo - bamboo hat - were also seen pasted in front of the State High School at the main gate and were also removed by the local authorities later.

Samak to Visit Burma

The Irrawaddy News

Thailand’s premier, Samak Sundaravej, will visit Burma next week to witness the signing of an investment protection pact between the two countries, according to the Bangkok-based English-language daily, The Nation.

The Thai prime minister will pay the official visit to Burma’s new capital, Naypyidaw, on March 12, and will also encourage Thai businessmen to pay more attention to Burma, according to a Thai commercial counselor in Burma quoted by The Nation in its Wednesday edition.

The commercial counselor, Matyawongse Amatyakul, said “the draft on investment protection has been drawn up by both countries and is now waiting for the ministers to sign.”

The agreement will also increase cooperation between the two countries through trade and investment, said the report. Thai businessmen will be encouraged to invest more and set up businesses in Burma, which will benefit from higher employment and economic growth, added the report.

Burma is currently the target of US sanctions. The companies of Tay Za, a crony of the leader of the ruling regime, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, and Tun Myint Naing, one of the richest tycoons in Burma, are among those blacklisted by the US government sanctions.

Despite international pressure on the Burmese regime following its brutal crackdown on monk-led protests in September 2007, Thailand has shown little inclination to join Western countries and the United Nations in their condemnation. Instead, it has indicated that it will continue its business deals with the Burmese generals and seek new opportunities to invest in Burma.

After the September crackdown, Thailand’s former premier, Surayud Chulanont, proposed four-party talks involving China, India, the United Nations and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), including Thailand and Burma, to seek a resolution to the Burmese crisis. However, the proposal, based on a similar multiparty approach that successfully defused tensions over North Korea’s nuclear arms program, never got off the ground.

Meanwhile, Apiradi Tantraporn, director general of Thailand’s Foreign Trade Department, said the government has a clear policy to promote Thai investment overseas, especially in other Asean countries, as the region moves towards integration as a single economic community in 2015.

According to the Foreign Trade Department, Thailand ranked third among foreign investors in Burma, with investment reaching US $1.34 billion in 2007, while the United Kingdom and Singapore were identified as the first and second largest investors in Burma.

Thailand’s exports to Burma rose 14.6 percent to 33.06 billion baht in 2007, while imports increased 9.8 percent to 80.03 billion baht. Exports from Thailand to Burma are expected to surge 20 percent in 2008, according to The Nation.

USDA—The Regime’s Protégé

The Irrawaddy News

“A central secretary of the USDA, the minister of Industry 1, U Aung Thaung, attended a ceremony at a monastery in Myothit Township in upper Burma.” This report, which ran in the Burmese newspaper, Myanma Alin, on Tuesday, is typical of a journalistic trend that has been appearing more and more frequently in the state-run press.

The writing style is not unusual for a press dictated by a totalitarian regime. But what is new in Burma—and something the Burmese public was not exposed to before March 1—is the deferential reporting of activities related to members of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA).

Every word in Burmese newspapers and journals is written or edited by officials from the Information Ministry. And, reading between the lines in Burma’s state-run media of late, one gets the distinct impression that members of the USDA are being held in higher esteem than most cabinet members.

Analysts say that this kind of news reporting was prevalent in the state media of communist regimes, especially after World War II in Eastern Europe.
Burma’s junta seems to be following Stalin’s lead in paying homage to his front line against the public, the thuggish USDA.

Since March 1, the state-run newspapers in Burma have led with articles marking the activities of USDA members ahead of government ministers, clearly placing their roles in pole position.

The Burmese generals already indicated their reliance on the USDA in announcing that the one-million member organization would organize and oversee the upcoming referendum in May and the national elections in 2010.

Sein Hla Oo, a veteran journalist in Rangoon, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that reporting in Burma’s state-run-newspapers is directed by the authorities. “Everything in the newspapers is the regime’s propaganda,” he said.

“Under the Burma Socialist Program Party era, newspapers had to report on leading party members in order of their ministerial title,” he said. “Now there is a similar situation—except that it’s the USDA that is the focus, not the party. People are saying that the USDA will be transformed into the junta’s political party in the future. But nobody knows exactly when.”

On Tuesday, Myanma Alin reported that “A member of the central executive committee of the USDA and minister of national planning and economic development, Soe Thar, visited a monastery in Rangoon Division on March 3.” Observers noted that his USDA position was put before his ministerial role in the government.

Other examples followed in the state newspapers on Tuesday: “USDA executive member and minister of forestry, Brig-Gen Thein Aung, inspected the forest around Naypyidaw region”; “An executive member of the USDA and minister of railways, Maj-Gen Aung Min, went to Rangoon to inspect train engines which were imported from India.”

The USDA was formed in 1993 by the military junta. The Central Panel of Patrons of the USDA are top generals: Snr-Gen Than Shwe, vice deputy Snr-Gen Maung Aye, Gen Shwe Mann, Gen Thein Sein and Lt-Gen Tin Aung Myint Oo.

Dissidents and human rights groups accuse the USDA of involvement in the crackdown on peaceful demonstrators last year, as well as the brutal ambush on Aung San Suu Kyi and her convoy in May 2003.

Htay Aung, a Burmese researcher in Thailand, said that the junta’s fresh promotion of the USDA in the newspapers indicates the ruling generals want to notify readers, including members of the armed forces, that the USDA is the most important organization in the country.

“The junta may openly highlight the USDA as its political wing,” said Htay Aung. “In late 2005, U Htay Oo, secretary general of the USDA, said at a press conference that if it were necessary, the USDA would run as a political party.

“More recently, U Khin Maung Kyi of the National Unity Party [which was backed by the junta in the 1990 election] said the USDA would run as a political party in the next election.”

Junta Increases Pressure on Media

The Irrawaddy News

Burmese authorities appear to be allowing the Myanmar Nation to start publishing again—on condition it acts as a government mouthpiece.

Only two weeks after the Burmese military government closed the offices of the Myanmar Nation, the military authorities appear to be offering the publishers of the Rangoon-based weekly news journal the opportunity to start printing again, on condition that it toe the junta’s line and counter the exiled Burmese media.

According to a source close the Myanmar Nation, the government’s press scrutiny board director, Maj Tint Shwe, has been putting pressure on the Myanmar Nation’s publisher to restart operations by acting as a mouthpiece for the military regime and confronting exiled media groups which continuously expose the junta’s wrongdoings.

“The military government is pressuring Myat Soe, the Myanmar Nation publisher, to print a journal that counters the exiled Burmese media,” said the source. “Myat Soe would become editor in chief and his daughter would be appointed a member of the editorial board if he would agree to start publishing again under the government’s conditions.”

The authorities recently arrested former Myanmar Nation editor in chief Thet Zin and the office manager after a police raid on the journal’s office on February 15. During the raid, police seized footage of last year’s monk-led demonstrations and a copy of UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights to Burma Paulo Sergio Pinheiro’s recent report. The authorities then ordered the journal to cease publishing.

The case against the two arrested men is still unclear, according to former employees of the Myanmar Nation, because the journal was only published after the approval of the military government’s censorship board. In the meantime, the journalists are being detained in Rangoon’s notorious Insein Prison.

Media right groups, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, have condemned the arrests and say that the government’s ongoing suppression of journalists makes a mockery of its recent announcement to hold a referendum and introduce seemingly democratic reforms in the country.

Burma was recently ranked as among the worst countries in the world for press freedom by Washington-based pro-democracy organization Freedom House.

According to journalists in Rangoon, the military authorities have banned reporters from covering a number of governmental meetings which, in the past, they were free to attend. The reporters, who were questioned intensively, were recently prohibited from attending meetings of the Myanmar Construction Entrepreneurs Association, the Myanmar Info-Tech Meeting, and the Myanmar Forest Products & Timber Merchants Association.

Authorities later rescinded the order, but enforced a strict registration of all reporters who wished to attend the meetings.

According to sources close to Burmese journalists working in Rangoon, a staff member at weekly journal The Voice is being forced to apologize to current Rangoon mayor Brig-Gen Aung Thein Lin for strongly challenging him during a recent press conference.

The press conference was reportedly called by the mayor himself. During the meeting, The Voice’s reporter contradicted statements the mayor had made about the recent crackdown on street vendors, which it is a hot issue in Rangoon at the movement. The question apparently infuriated the mayor and he threatened the journalist with imprisonment.

UN envoy to discuss Burma plans

By Jonathan Head
BBC News, Bangkok

March 6, 2008 - The UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari is due to arrive in Burma for his third visit since September's suppressed mass anti-government protests.

He arrives a month after the junta's surprise announcement of plans to hold a referendum on a new constitution in May and democratic elections by 2010.

The proposals have been condemned as a sham by opposition groups.

Mr Gambari is expected to press the government to make the constitutional drafting process more inclusive.

The generals will no doubt present their new plans to Mr Gambari as evidence they are moving towards a restoration of democratic rule.

'Politely ignored'

But opposition groups have said the proposals will in practice leave the military in power.

Under the proposed constitution, 25% of the seats in the new parliament are reserved for armed forces personnel.

The head of state must have military experience - and the charter specifically bars the main opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from holding office, because she was married to a foreigner.

Merely criticising either the constitution or the referendum is a crime punishable by up to 20 years in jail.

Mr Gambari has already urged the government to consult more widely, and to release Ms Suu Kyi, to make the process more credible.

He says he will repeat those demands during this visit, but there is now little time left to persuade the junta to change course.

And with the international community still divided over how to respond to the intransigence of the generals, his pleas are once again likely to be given a polite hearing, and then ignored.

Suu Kyi’s party fails in bid to sue junta

March 6, 2008, Yangon - The pro-democracy party of Myanmar's detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said yesterday they had failed in a bid to sue the military government for not recognising their 1990 election victory.

The National League for Democracy (NLD) won the last polls held in Myanmar by a landslide, but instead of letting them govern, the junta put Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest and continued to rule with an iron fist.

"We went to the Supreme Court to sue the government, as they had failed in their responsibility to summon the people's parliament," NLD spokesman Nyan Win said.

"But it was rejected, even through we went to the highest court."

The party said in a statement that their chairman Aung Shwe went to the Supreme Court on February 29 to make their case, but it was rejected the same day without a hearing.

They had argued that the junta's own election laws enacted in 1989 stated that an elected parliament should convene after the polls, and therefore the military regime had failed to abide by its own laws.

"The authorities had a responsibility to organise the people's parliament, with the representatives, in accordance with the law," the statement said.

Myanmar's generals February 9 made a surprise announcement that they would bring the recently-completed constitution before the public for approval in May, setting the stage for elections in 2010 -- the first in two decades.

But the regime said Aung San Suu Kyi — a Nobel peace laureate who has been under house arrest for 12 of the past 18 years — could not run.

United Nations envoy Ibrahim Gambari will fly to Myanmar today to press the junta to make the process more inclusive, and Nyan Win said they hoped to meet with the senior diplomat.

"We are expecting to meet Mr Gambari during his visit. We are ready to meet him but we have not been informed of anything yet," he said.

Source: The Peninsula Qatar

Burma: Heed UN Envoy on Constitutional Reform

CONTACT: Human Rights Watch
March 5, 2008

Burma: Heed UN Envoy on Constitutional Reform
Time for Action, Not More Empty Promises From Military Rulers

NEW YORK - March 5 - The Burmese military government should adopt expected calls from UN Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari to allow an open and inclusive political process ahead of a planned constitutional referendum in May, Human Rights Watch said today. Gambari arrives in Burma on March 6, 2008.

On February 19, Burma’s ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) announced that a referendum on a new constitution would be held in May 2008, with multiparty elections following in 2010. But, without input from the public and opposition parties, the process fails to be a real step toward democracy, despite the government’s claims.

“Gambari should tell the generals that marching a fearful population through a stage-managed referendum will not advance democracy or reconciliation in Burma,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “A referendum under these repressive conditions will only cement in place continued military rule.”

Since announcing the referendum, the government issued Law No.1/2008, which denies voting rights to members of religious orders, including monks and nuns. It also imposes a three-year prison sentence on anyone found “lecturing, distributing papers, using posters or disturbing the voting in any other manner in the polling booth or at the public or private place to destroy the referendum.”

Provisions in the draft constitution bar candidates from running for president if they have a foreign spouse or child (such as detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi) and reserve a quarter of parliamentary seats for serving military officers.

Human Rights Watch called on Special Envoy Gambari to seek guarantees from the government to convene an independent election commission, compile a proper voter registration list, lift long-standing restrictions on media, permit freedoms of association, expression, and assembly in Burma, and revoke new regulations that criminalize legitimate debate about the referendum.

“Gambari should not confuse this sham constitutional process with progress,” said Adams. “Opposition parties risk being punished for simply discussing or sharing information about the proposed constitution.” Human Rights Watch urged the UN special envoy to call on the SPDC to:

* Release political opponents and more than 1,800 political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, leaders of the ‘88 Generation Students, and the leaders of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy arrested in 2005;
* Account for all casualties and missing persons from last September’s crackdown on protests by Buddhist monks and democracy activists, including the whereabouts of missing monks and nuns;
* Secure access to Burma for the incoming UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma; and
* Permit opposition political parties to meet with the special envoy.

Following its brutal crackdown on protesters during August and September 2007, the SPDC promised Gambari to set out clear steps to reform, and to engage in dialogue with the domestic opposition and the international community.

On October 11, 2007, the UN Security Council urged the Burmese government “to create the necessary conditions for a genuine dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all concerned parties and ethnic groups, in order to achieve an inclusive national reconciliation with the direct support of the United Nations.” On November 14, the Security Council expressed its expectation that a “meaningful and timebound dialogue” would take place, and called for the release of political prisoners, accounting for missing persons, and humanitarian access to persons in need throughout the country.

When Gambari visited in November, his activities were closely controlled by the government and he was unable to visit opposition leaders without government supervision. Reforms have not occurred and arrests of political activists and journalists have continued in a climate of fear.

“If the Burmese generals continue their obstructive tactics during Gambari’s visit, the UN Security Council must react to such contempt for UN officials.” said Adams. “Burma’s backers in the international community, including China, Russia, and Thailand, must support Gambari in this effort.”

Source: Common Dreams Org

Myanmar: Food transports for Karen IDPs halted

Relief Web

The closure of a border crossing in the Thai province of Mae Hong Son has left more than 3,900 internally displaced persons in Burma without access to food or medicine, say sources in the area.

The border checkpoint at the village of Mae Sam Laep has been closed since Karen rebels attacked Burmese soldiers on the Salween River on February 24.

Nearly four thousand ethnic Karen IDPs sheltering in the Ei Tu Hta camp, located about two hours by boat from the border crossing, are facing an uncertain future, as Thai authorities have given no indication when they will allow border trade to resume.

'We are not allowed to send anything,' Maw Law, a relief coordinator for the Karen Office of Relief and Development (KORD), told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.

'If they (Thai authorities) keep the border shut all month, people in the camp will definitely face difficulties,' she added.

Although a partial shipment of rice has been sent to the Ei Tu Hta camp, other food supplies, such as oil and salt, have not been allowed to cross the border, according to Maw Law.

For more than two weeks, border trade in Mae Sam Laep has been almost at a standstill, following an attack on Burmese soldiers being transported across the Salween River in a boat owned by a local businessman.

Ten soldiers were wounded in the attack, which was carried out by members of the Karen National Liberation Army, the military wing of the Karen National Union (KNU).

According to Maw Law, there are currently 3,998 IDPs sheltering in the Ei Tu Hta camp, including 118 who fled Burmese Army offensives against Karen rebels in February.

The camp was established in 2006, in response to attacks on Karen villagers by the Burmese Army, which often targets civilians in its ongoing conflict with ethnic rebels.

A number of relief groups, including the Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People, the Karen Women's Organization and the Karen Teacher Working Group, are involved in efforts to provide food, healthcare and education to inhabitants of the camp.

According to sources, KNU leaders are waiting to talk with local Thai authorities to negotiate a reopening of the border.

Meanwhile, businessmen in the area have also expressed frustration with the border closure, which is believed to be costing the local economy about 100,000 baht a day in lost income.

Belgium drops Myanmar rights case against Total

March 5, 2008, BRUSSELS (AFP) - Belgian authorities dropped Wednesday a legal case brought by refugees from Myanmar targetting the French oil group Total, which they accused of crimes against humanity, their lawyer said.

Investigators looking in to the matter "declared the case closed," lawyer Xavier Deswaef told AFP, describing the decision as "surreal".

Although his clients could lodge one final appeal against the decision, they would "think twice before" pursuing further action, Deswaef said.

Last October, Belgian authorities reopened the long-running case in which the refugees accused Total of having used forced labour provided by the military regime to build a gas pipeline.

The four refugees accuse Total of having provided logistic and financial support in the 1990s to the military junta, which they hold responsable for forced labour, deportations, murder, arbitrary executions and torture.

Total has also faced legal action in France against its labour practices in Myanmar, where it has operated since 1992.

But last year the group was cleared of charges in France that it relied on forced labour to build the 1.2-billion-dollar (785-billion-euro) gas pipeline after an out-of-court settlement with the alleged victims.

The Belgian case has run for six years, during which changes to the law have muddied the judicial waters.

However, the court ruled that the defendants should benefit from a 2005 decision in their favour, even though the relevant legislation had subsequently been toughened up.

Three Burmese women receive Homo Homini Award from Czech Republic

Bangkok, 06 March, ( People In Need (PIN), a Czech Republic based Human Rights Organization, is awarding the Homo Homini Award for 2007 to the Burmese female pro-democracy activists Ma Su Su Nway, Ma Phyu Phyu Thin and Ma Nilar Thein for their contribution in the struggle to restore democracy and human rights in Burma.

This award is presented annually by People in Need at the “One World Festival”

Human Rights Documentary Film Festival to individuals who have distinctly contributed to non-violent conflict-solutions, promotion of human rights and democracy within the past year.

The award ceremony will took place on March 5, 2008. None of the award recipient was able to attend the ceremony due to the persecution by the Military Regime in Burma. Instead, Mrs. Ma Leah Leah New will accept this recognition on behalf of the three Burmese women. Ma Leah Leah New is a former political prisoner and she now serves as a member of Foreign Affair committee of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

About the Award Recipients:

Ma Su Su Nway, age 35, is currently detained at Insein Prison for her active role in August and September Saffron Revolution in 2007. She is a member of National League for Democracy (NLD) and a labor activist, stood up for labor rights in defiance of the military government two years ago. She is best known in human rights movement for winning a historic court ruling against local government officials in 2005 by invoking international labor standards. The Military authorities punished her peaceful activism with an 18 month prison sentence for initiating the legal actions against the local authorities. Since that time, she has been in and out of prison several times.

Ma Phyu Phyu Thin works with AIDS/HIV patients. As a member of the NLD party is participated in the 2007 saffron revolution. She is one of wanted activists by the junta and currently hiding in Burma.

Ma Nilar Thein is a member of the “88 Generation” student organization. She was arrested for the first time in 1996 and received a 10 years prison sentence for her participation in the 1996 student rights demonstration. She was released from prison in 2005. After her release from prison she continued working for the restoration of democracy and human rights in Burma. As a result of her activities she was again persecuted and is presently hiding from the Military Authorities. Her present situation is exacerbated as she had to leave behind her newborn child and young daughter. Her husband, a former political prisoner, was re-arrested and is currently detained in Insein Prison.

Ko Tate Naing, Secretary of the AAPP stated: “These three Burmese Women have gravely endangered their lives and tirelessly worked for the restoration of freedom and democracy in Burma. They had a leading role during August 2007 demonstrations against the 500% fuel price increase. They actively supported the monk demonstration September 2007. The “Homo Homini Award” is a special recognition for these women’s outstanding courage and bravery. Moreover, this award highlights the role of women participation in the Burmese political process,” he added. “I really thank “People in Need” for choosing these Burmese Women,” he continued.

Min Ko Naing who is a chair person of All Burma Federation of Student Unions was awarded this Homo Homini award in 2000. He is also currently detained in Insein

Source: Asian Tribune