Monday, 7 July 2008

Burma's longest-held political prisoner

By Zin Linn
UPI Asia Online

Bangkok, Thailand — U Win Tin, a veteran Burmese journalist, is the world’s longest serving prisoner of conscience.

Two press freedom associations, Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association, have issued a statement calling for the release of the veteran journalist, who has spent 19 years in solitary confinement under the inhumane junta’s detention.

His health has deteriorated in the past few days. U Win Tin suffers from a serious heart condition and is being treated at the Rangoon General Hospital where he is confined to a tiny box cell designed for political prisoners.

“It will be exactly 19 years on July 4 since Burma’s military arrested Win Tin,” the groups’ statement said. “The government, which has a responsibility to protect the life of its citizens, should now release him,” it went on.

The famous imprisoned journalist has constantly refused to sign a confession promising to abandon his political career as a condition of his release. The 79-year-old was admitted to the hospital for a second surgical treatment for a hernia in January. The first surgery was in March 1995.

The former editor-in-chief of The Hantharwaddy Daily of Mandalay was awarded the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, the World Association of Newspapers' Golden Pen of Freedom Award and Reporters without Border/Foundation de France Prize for his efforts to defend and promote freedom of expression.

Burma has been called “the world's largest prison for prisoners of conscience” including political prisoners and journalists. In addition to being one of Burma's most established journalists, U Win Tin is an executive member of the National League for Democracy. He has spent one-fourth of his life in prison.

U Win Tin has been imprisoned since July 4, 1989, in a special cell of the infamous Insein Prison in Rangoon. He was convicted and sentenced to three consecutive prison terms for a total of 21 years. One of the charges against him stems from his 1995 human rights abuses report to Yozo Yokota, the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in Burma.

U Win Tin was also imprisoned because of his senior position as key consultant to Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy. Additional years were added to his sentence because of his attempts to inform the United Nations about human rights violations in prisons under the military rule. Military rulers also accused him of writing political commentaries and poems to be circulated among political prisoners in Insein Prison, where possession of writing materials was forbidden.

The journalist told a friend who was allowed to visit him in 2007: "Two prison officers asked me at a special meeting last week whether I would resume political activities if I were released. I told them that I will definitely do so since it is my duty as a citizen to strive for democracy."

In 1996, military intelligence personnel regularly visited U Win Tin in prison in order to examine his political stand. They took him to their office in the prison and questioned him on various topics. They frequently tried to persuade him to join the junta. But U Win Tin always turned down their offers.

U Win Tin told the author, who was in the same cell block at that time, about an incident with the authorities. “It happened in 1991,” he said. “They took me out of my cell to an exhibition – ‘The Real Story behind the Big Waves and Strong Winds’ – held at Envoy Hall in Rangoon. The aim of the exhibition was to deplore the 1988 uprising as a riot created by destructive elements and terrorists,” said U Win Tin.

He recounted that there was a big character poster at the doorway of the exhibition saying, “Only when the Tatmadaw (military) is strong, will the nation be strong.” There were many galleries in the show. Each gallery highlighted the role of the army and emphasized that it was the sole force that could defend the nation.

The show also described the junta's discrimination against the role of the democratic institutions and societies. “The final conclusion is that no one except the generals can protect the unity of the nation including its sovereignty," said U Win Tin.

After witnessing the show, the authorities asked U Win Tin what he thought about the exhibition. They gave him some paper and a pen and told him to write down his opinion. "I wrote down my criticism. I used 25 sheets of paper. It was a blunt commentary. I made my explanation in a sense of sincerity and openness. But it irritated them severely," he told me later.

First of all, he criticized the army’s motto, “Only when the army is strong will the country be strong.”

“It's the logic of the generals to consolidate militarism in Burma,” he explained to me later. ‘Their logic tells us that they are more important than the people. They used to say they are the saviors of the country; that’s why they grabbed the sovereign power. That means they neglect the people’s wishes.”

Thus he wrote: “The slogan tells us that Burma is going against a policy of peace and prosperity.” He went on to explain his understanding of the role of the army as the guardian of the nation but with no obligation to be involved in administrative affairs.

He said, “The real thing is that the military comes out of the womb of the people. Thus, the slogan must be like this: ‘The people are the only parents of the military.’ Anyone who does not care about his own parents is a rogue,” he pointed out to the generals.

He also emphasized that if the generals really loved peace and wanted prosperity for the nation, they needed to truthfully reflect on their limitations. The generals might want what’s best for the country, but they did not know how to handle the entire state of affairs. They are accustomed to mismanagement.

“Eventually, I came straight to the point: The army must go back to the barracks. That will make everything better in Burma,” he told me plainly.

The junta was very disgruntled with his criticism and accused him of advising Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to launch a civil disobedience campaign in 1989. Then, they made another lawsuit against him and increased his jail term by 11 years.

They put him alone in his cell. The cell was 8.5 by 11.5 feet. There was only a bamboo mat on the concrete floor. He had to sleep, eat, walk and use the toilet in the same place. He could not see the sun, the moon or the stars. He was intentionally barred from breathing fresh air, tasting nourishing food and drinking a drop of fresh water. The worst thing was throwing the old writer into solitary confinement in such a cage for two decades.

In 1994, U.S. Congressman Bill Richardson met U Win Tin at Insein jail. Since that time he has continuously suffered from various health problems including his hernia, heart disease, failing eyesight and hemorrhoids. It is a surprise to everyone how tough this gallant journalist is.

For the junta, U Win Tin is really a man of steel. Although they wish to defeat him, they could never do it.

U Win Tin’s case is a good example of human rights violations under an inhumane regime. Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

But, the 79-year-old-man has been suffering a variety of inhumane tortures and unjust punishments for 19 years. The United Nations must take responsibility to flex its muscles when human rights are ignored by such an unmanageable regime as that in Burma.


(Zin Linn is a freelance Burmese journalist in exile. He spent nine years in a Burmese prison as a prisoner of conscience. He now serves as information director of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, and is vice-president of the Burma Media Association. ©Copyright Zin Linn.)

Villagers tortured for "not seeing" the rebels

By Hseng Khio Fah
Shan Herald Agency for News

Three villagers from Kunhing, southern Shan State were beaten by the Burmese Army on 3 July and after they denied seeing and knowing the whereabouts of the Shan State Army (SSA) "South" fighters in the areas, reports Shan Herald correspondent from southern Shan State.

A 22 strong patrol from Kholam based Light Infantry Battalion 66 led by Lt Aung Chan Tha detained villagers of Nayang, Wan Phai village tract, while working in their fields and asked about the SSA and whether it was operating in the area.

When the villagers denied seeing the SSA, Lt Aung Chan Tha himself beat Long Hsu,60, Sai Lern Hsai, 18, and Sai Doo, 18, until blood came out of their mouths and their heads and faces became swollen.

“Those three were in great pain, but dared not complain anything,” a villager told to Shan Herald on condition of anonymity.

LIB 66 was based in Namzang and moved to Kho Lam about 4 years ago. It is always patrolling around the neighboring Kunhing areas, according to SHAN sources.

Since the May 10 referendum was held, clashes between SSA and Burma Army have increased and several abuses like sexual violence, forced labor and forced portering have been occurring.

For more details, please contact Tel- 0801260064

Ceasefire group under pressure to surrender - NDAA-ESS

Shan Herald Agency for News

The National Democratic Alliance Army-Eastern Shan State (NDAA-ESS), commonly known as the Mongla group, has been urged twice last June to “exchange arms for peace,” a euphemism for surrender, according to a senior Shan officer from Mongla, opposite China’s Daluo.

“They told us the draft constitution will go into effect in 2010,” he said on condition of anonymity. “All armed groups in Burma would then come under the single command. Accordingly, independent armed groups would no longer be tolerated.”

The Mongla group, officially known as Shan State Special Region #4, has been given another choice: to become a special combat police force under the new ‘civilian’ government.

Another demand was also made for Mongla, led by 62-year old Sai Leun aka Lin Mingxian, to withdraw from Hsop Lwe, the mouth of the Lwe river that flows into the Mekong, which is strategically and commercially important for Mongla’s survival.

Apart from Hsop Lwe, Sai Leun was urged to remove his troops from Mongyu and Monglwe, both south of the Nam Lwe. He was also told to give up villages surrounding Hsaleu, headquarters of its 369th Brigade. “That was not only to cut off Mongla from Hsaleu, but also from Mongphen (in Wa territory),” the officer explained. “In the event of offensive by the Burma Army, not only we cannot expect any support from the United Wa State Army (UWSA), both Hsaleu and Mongla will be completely and separately surrounded.”

So far Mongla has yet to respond to the demands.

The Shan State Army (SSA) “North,” officially Shan State Special Region #3, meanwhile has been urged to seriously consider the following proposition by junta authorities, according to an SSA source:
  • For the leadership to retire and form a political party
  • For the younger officers to take over the command
  • The SSA North will recruit new soldiers and the Burma Army will train them
  • The Burma Army will be responsible for salaries and all expenditures
“The offer of course was only short of saying we would become a part of the Tatmadaw (Armed Forces of Burma),” an officer commented wryly. (Another interview conducted just before the release of this report said Mongla had received the same offer.)

SHAN has yet to hear from other groups. There were 15 armed groups that had concluded ceasefire with Rangoon: 9 in Shan State, 2 in Kachin State, 3 in Kayah (Karenni) State and 1 in Mon State until 2005, when two of them: Palaung State Liberation Army (PSLA) and Shan State National Army (SSNA), both based in Shan State, were forced to surrender.

Burmese Refugees Moved to Better Camps in Bangladesh

Photo: Narinjara News

Narinjara News

Dhaka, 4 July'08: Burmese Muslim refugees, known as Rohingya, who have been staying in a makeshift camp outside of Teknaf in Bangladesh, began moving to a new refugee camp on Wednesday, in hopes of a better living standard, reported one resident from the camp.

He said, "The program to move Burmese refugees from the makeshift camp to the new camp started on Wednesday and the process is still going on. On the first day, 275 refugee families had to move, and over 150 families moved to the new camp yesterday."

There are 1,900 families and about 7,500 individual refugees who have been living at the makeshift camp for years without legal status after seeking refuge on Bangladesh soil.

According to refugee sources, the living standard of the refugees at the makeshift camp has been very poor, and food and clean drinking water was scarce. The camp is situated along the highway close to the Naff River, where the refugees lived packed into shelters constructed from wood and small pieces of plastic.

The refugee said, "I think the new camp is better than the previous makeshift camps, and there are a few facilities for refugees, including homes, food, and drinking water. We also received a ration book issued by the UNHCR for food, including rice, sugar, and cooking oil, for when we arrive at the new refugee camp."

In the makeshift camp many refugees were recently suffering with diarrhea, and at least three individuals died from the treatable disease.

At present there are around 26,000 refugees at two UNHCR refugee camps, Kutapalong and Nayapara. There were an estimated 7,500 refugees unrecognized by the UNHCR that were living in the makeshift camp.

The camp residents, however, will be given recognition as refugees by the UNHCR as they arrive at the new refugee camp located in Nila Township between Cox's Bazar and Teknaf Highway.

Bangladesh Proposes Repatriation of 133 Burmese Prisoners

Dhaka: The Bangladesh foreign ministry recently sent a letter to its Burmese counterpart asking Burma to receive 133 Burmese prisoners that are currently languishing in several prisons in Bangladesh, said a local office report.

The report said that the Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already sent a letter to the Burmese military government about taking back their citizens, but the Burmese authorities have yet to agree to the request.

An official source said that a total of 133 Burmese citizens, including one woman, have been languishing in different jails in Bangladesh for the last 10 to 12 years.

These prisoners have been waiting in the jails after serving out their sentences. Of the total prisoners, 97 are in Cox's Bazar District jail, 21 are in the Dhaka Central Jail, three are in the Chittagong jail, nine are in the Bandarban District jail, and three are at the Rangamati District jail.

The report said many of the detainees awaiting their release are Burmese Muslims and Buddhists, members of the Rakhine community in Burma.

Bangladesh jail authorities have written a number of letters to the ministries of foreign and home affairs requesting a process for the return of these Burmese citizens over the last decade.

Md. Alamgir, Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also wrote a letter to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs on 12 June (2008) calling for a prompt solution to the problems of the Burmese citizens in detention.

According to Md. Helal Uddin, Superintendent of the Cox's Bazar jail, all 133 prisoners have been passing their days and nights in different jails of Bangladesh after completing their punishments.

Sources have also provided information that many had completed their sentences 10 to 12 years ago, but they are still living in the jails. The Bangladesh Jail Directorate does not have additional funds budgeted for the Burmese citizens.

It has also been learned that some prisoners were acquitted of their charges in 1996, and some in 1998, but they have been unable to return to the homeland because the Burmese military authority is not interested in receiving its own citizens and has not cooperated on their repatriation.

Extended Cyclone Relief Efforts Aided From Space

Flooded areas of the central Irrawaddy division derived from ALOS Palsar radar data of 6 May 2008 (in light blue), with normal water levels as shown by Landsat-7 data from 2000 (in dark blue). Flooded areas may also contain regions covered by water before the disaster due to the prevalence of wet rice cultivation.
Credit: DLR ZKI, Charter (EO data: ALOS Palsar - JAXA 2008; Landsat-7 - USGS 2000)

Science Daily

Earth observation satellites have provided vital information to relief workers in Myanmar throughout a particularly long crisis response window following the devastating Cyclone Nargis that hit the country on 2 and 3 May 2008.

Immediately after the disaster, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) asked the International Charter on 'Space and Major Disasters', referred to as ‘the Charter’, for support by providing immediate crisis mapping of the affected areas.

Following the request, rapid mapping products were created with Earth observation (EO) satellite acquisitions taken in the wake of the event to derive an estimation of the flood surge impact and other damage information to help plan emergency response operations.

Damage maps were able to be created quickly because the RESPOND project, which delivers satellite mapping for disaster reduction and humanitarian aid, had delivered EO-derived topographic maps of Myanmar a month before the disaster.

This activity was part of a project to help local communities reduce exposure to disaster risks. This enabled the RESPOND team to compare up-to-date basic maps before the disaster with satellite images acquired during or after the cyclone impact.

Thanks to the Charter more than 10 different sensors – radar and optical – from several EO missions provided more than 60 satellite images, which were used to derive 29 damage maps.

These maps were provided to the UN community in Myanmar and Bangkok for the emergency response phase, which lasted more than 40 days because of the scale of devastation caused by Nargis and the difficulties encountered by the international humanitarian community to access the country.

To provide aid workers with timely and synoptic damage information, space agencies and service providers worked around the clock. RESPOND’s partner UNOSAT – UN provider of EO mapping services to the humanitarian aid community – called on RESPOND providers SERTIT of France and the German Centre for satellite-based crisis information (ZKI) of DLR to join their mapping efforts under the coordination of Infoterra UK.

"It is important to differentiate map products according to the needs and, in a case like this, to firstly get an overview and then move into more detailed assessments as the relief operation progresses," explained Dr Einar Bjorgo, head of UNOSAT, who was designated as the Project Manager for this activation, a rotating role assigned by Charter members.

After the acute phase of the disaster had passed, the range of mapping products was extended to provide further details on the condition of roads, bridges and buildings. For instance, UNOSAT teamed with GISCorps, a US-based non-profit association, to digitise every building pre-disaster from the available data. These maps were highly accurate, showing features of less than one metre in size.

In addition to Charter members, other EO missions’ data were made available by space agencies, such as the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and the German Space Agency (DLR), and imagery providers, such as the Canadian MDA and the American Digital Globe.

To date, the map products have been used by over 40 organisations, including non-governmental aid organisations based in Myanmar, such as the Red Cross, and governmental organisations, such as the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) and the Myanmar Department of Forestry.

The Red Cross printed several sets of maps and sent them with their team to Myanmar, hoping to have better access to the field.

"We download your maps and use [them] in rescue works," Myanmar national rescue worker Prof. Charlie Than said.

Thant Lwin Htoo from Myanmar emergency response actions said he downloaded maps of Hpontawbye village for emergency relief activities.

Products have been used to plan field assessments, provide synoptic views for resource mobilisation and decision-making, and are currently being exploited to gather hazard damage-related information that can be used for reconstruction purposes.

"It was important to continually produce damage assessment maps for aid workers because very severe rain events occurred in the days following Nargis," said SERTIT Director Paul de Fraipont. "Based on feedback from specialists in the field, this made the products even more useful."

Particular attention was paid to the coordinated dissemination of products to ensure aid workers were able to quickly gain access to these maps; all maps using Charter data were made freely available on the RESPOND and UNOSAT websites as soon as they were produced.

In addition, the maps were accessible via UN OCHA’s Reliefweb and Reuters Alertnet with direct RSS feeds constantly accessible to over 400 non-governmental organisations.

The International Charter on 'Space and Major Disasters', an initiative of ESA and the French Space Agency (CNES), currently has 10 members, including the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Argentine Space Agency (CONAE), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the British National Space Centre/Disaster Monitoring Constellation (BNSC/DMC), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

Adapted from materials provided by European Space Agency.

The Menacing Monks Of Myanmar

The Strategy Page

July 5, 2008: There continue to be several religious murders a week in the south. The violence has been declining, but slowly. Since early 2004, over 3,300 have died, and most of the Buddhists living in the Moslem south have left the area. This is what the Islamic radicals want, but the government is determined to defeat this latest insurrection to threaten more than a century of Buddhist Thai rule in the Moslem Malay south.

The ethnic and religious differences have been a constant source of tension, and the current popularity of al Qaeda and drug smugglers has led to an increase in ethnic violence. But several years of work by the police and army intelligence in the south have revealed who the primary terrorists are, and led to increasingly successful search operations in the bush. The capture of terrorist camps, plus the occasional firefights with camp occupants, hurt terrorist recruiting, morale, and capabilities.

The Thais are determined to repeat past campaigns against rebellious Moslems and grind them down and stamp out the violence. That's what appears to be happening, although this time the government is also offering more economic assistance in the south. Unlike the rest of Thailand, which has undergone enormous economic growth in the past few decades, the south has lagged behind. This is largely due to less education and more hostility to outsiders. Attempts to improve education, and the importation of many Buddhist teachers (as there were no Moslem ones available), is one justification for the current Islamic terror campaign. The economic programs are turning some of the southerners away from the gangsters and Islamic terrorists who are behind most of the current unrest.

June 28, 2008: Train service has resumed in the south, less than a week after Islamic terrorists shot up a passenger train.

June 26, 2008: Over the last three years, about 20 percent of the 150,000 Burmese refugees living in camps along the Burmese border, have been resettled in Western countries (most in the United States). Meanwhile, the military dictatorship in Burma (Myanmar) survived the damage (both domestic and diplomatic) from the recent typhoon.

However, the lack of government support for the typhoon victims allowed the Buddhist monks to further enhance their reputation. Many of the half million monks for involved in disaster relief, and the government did not use force to stop them. The monks are the only organized force in the nation that have opposed the dictatorship and survived. That's mainly because most of the 400,000 troops in the armed forces are Buddhist, and reluctant to attack the monks.

Barry Tompkins: What's real, what's faux in Burma?

By Barry Tompkins
Marinij News

'GIVE NOTHING to the monks who come up to you," said Toi - our guide on this day.

Wait a minute. In this country where monks are revered and looked upon as the wisest in their community, you want me to rebuke their asking for a financial offering? "They're not really monks," Toi said, her usually affable face as stern as we'd seen it all day.

Welcome to Burma where things are just never the way they seem. Even as far as the name of the country is concerned. Monks aren't really monks, time isn't really the time, and Burma isn't really Burma anymore. I fully expected to run into Rod Serling of "The Twilight Zone" standing around the next corner.

To the world, the old Burma is the new Myanmar. To the Thai people, the old Myanmar is still Burma. "Myanmar is the ancient name of the country," Toi said. And it seems the new militaristic government that runs it prefers the ancient - in every way.

Westerners are not welcomed in Burma except in the mish-mosh of humanity that is the border town of Tachileik. And, the only way in for anyone holding a U.S. passport is by foot through the northernmost outpost of Thailand. Of course, a visa is required to enter the country and a handsome photograph of the entrant is taken by the Burmese border police, which makes everyone who enters look as though they should be placed immediately on the 10 most wanted list. Somehow, the Burmese camera even made my wife look like Rasputin.

But then, that's the way everyone in this border town looks. Except for the faux monks who confront you immediately as you enter, asking for whatever loose change you might have - be it American quarters, Thai baht or Chinese wan. The rub here is that all the "Rasputins" are actually quite pleasant, and the cute little monks are street urchins in saffron robes impersonating the real thing. Real monks never approach for an offering without being beckoned.

There's a time change as you cross the border into Burma. Not an unusual thing to be sure, but when it's 10 o'clock in Thailand, it's 10:30 in Burma. A HALF HOUR LATER.

At the end of colonization in Burma they wanted nothing whatever to do with the Brits, who, in their minds, had held them hostage for a century or two. So, not only did they toss the Bangers and Mash from their country, they also threw out their tea time. In fact, they threw out their watches. "We'll show you guys," said the Burmese. "We're setting our clocks ahead 30 minutes. Now leave. In fact, you're already a half hour late."

Tachileik seems to be the drain of Burma. That is to say it is a melting pot of people who are lightly regarded by the current regime. Many who have settled in this community did so with the hope of seeking work in neighboring Thailand and thus providing for their families. Others did so because the opium trade - thanks to the efforts of the king's mother - has dried up in Thailand, but is still fertile in Burma.

The Shens, for example, are a sect of Chinese immigrants who, our guide said, are hardworking, familial and industrious. They live across an alley from the Was, another group of Chinese immigrants, about whom she said, many are involved in the drug trade. The two neighbors don't speak. It is a community of contradiction where it seems nobody gets along with anybody except in the marketplace. Fortunately for the well-being of the entire area, the whole town seems to be a marketplace.

Here you can buy just about anything you'd want to whet your appetite. There's live eel or turtle to be whipped up for a scrumptious meal. And some yummy insect larvae and dried grasshopper to munch on before the main course. Dessert could be durian fruit - in season now and a taste treat. Don't let the fact that they smell like sweat socks deter you.

And maybe we can sit down - all of us, visitors who look like Rasputin, Shens, Was and monks both faux and real - and break bread.

Lunch is at 11:30.

Barry Tompkins is a longtime sports broadcaster who lives in Marin. Contact him via Article Launched: 07/05/2008


Source: Ko Htike's blog

On 2nd July 2008, at 01:00 PM in Nyaung Tone Township, near Pwe Yon Seik School, pedestrian U Soe Han aged 40 years old from Kyone Tamar Village was badly hit by a black GMC vehicle.

The responsible person for the accident is U Zaw Zaw, Chairman of Max Myanmar Company. Witnesses saw him driving at that time. Minister for Co-Operative, Mj-Gen Tin Htut was in the same car.

The victim died in Rangoon General Hospital the next day but U Zaw Zaw is still undisturbed and no news of any action taken upon him.

Money, abuse of power, using of fake evidence and witnesses fabricated by authority keep the true culprit above the Law as U Zaw Zaw is away from the long arm of justice freely. Only junta and cronies are having this kind of privilege.

Reported by Thu Ye Kaung.

NLD learns of more arrests of activists

Jul 4, 2008 (DVB)–National League for Democracy members have said the number of activists detained by authorities on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s birthday was more than the 14 previously reported.

An organising member of the NLD youth wing said about 25 people were feared to have been arrested on 19 June.

"We were informed that some other party members are missing by their families; so far we have managed to confirm that two of our members in South Okkalapa township and a youth coordinator are missing,” he said.

“We haven't got all the details yet – but we assume these people were arrested on the same day on their way back home."

The NLD youth member said there had been an increase in government harassment of NLD members since after the 19 June incident in which NLD members and supporters were beaten and arrested as they celebrated Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s birthday.

"The government special police branch and local authorities have been directly and indirectly harassing NLD youth members," he said.

"Some party members were forced to leave their houses as the authorities pressured their landlords to kick them out, while others lost their jobs due to similar pressure on their employers."

NLD information officer U Nyan Win criticised the actions of the local authorities.

"This is a deliberate act of discrimination against NLD members. These people and their families did not break any laws," Nyan Win said.

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

NLD member charged after being beaten

Jul 4, 2008 (DVB)–A National League for Democracy member in North Okkalapa township who monitored the vote counting at a local ballot station on 24 May was beaten up by ward administration officials and now faces criminal charges.

Ko Aye Thaung, a member of North Okkalapa township NLD, was monitoring the local officials' vote count at the township's ballot station (2) on Phaung Taw Oo pagoda street when the delayed referendum was held on 24 May.

After the count, Aye Thaung said he was beaten up by Ko San Htway, a member of Tadagyi ward Union Solidarity and Development Association.

San Htway was accompanied by Kyauk Yay Dwin ward Peace and Development Council chairman U Myint Soe, who threatened the NLD member.

"On 24 May, I went to the ballot station to cast my vote. When I had finished, I asked the station officials to give me permission to watch the vote count but I was denied by the station chief. So I left the station but watched them from outside," Aye Thaung explained.

"Not so long after that, U Myint Soe arrived on the scene and told the people there to beat to death anyone who is causing a disturbance and that he would take care of the consequences," he said.

"Then I was beaten up by San Htway."

After the incident, Aye Thaung tried to press charges against San Htway and Myint Soe under section 323 of the penal code for assault, but on 2 July, San Htway countersued him under section 323 and also under section 294 for obscene language.

"Now they are accusing me of violations of sections 323 and 294,” Aye Thaung said.

“But I didn't do any of the things they are accusing me of – if I had, I would have been in jail by now."

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

G-8 spreading itself too thin - Editorial

Arab News

There have always been doubts about how much — besides socializing — the annual G-8 diplomatic pageant achieves. This year’s gathering in Sapporo, Japan, which begins today is creating the usual pessimism, not only because combating world poverty and oil price hikes, the two burning issues of the day, would have been a handful in themselves but also because the G-8 leaders will be sitting down to a full plate of other issues: Iran, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Iraq, Afghanistan, Myanmar, terrorism, the granting of indigenous peoples greater rights and the battle against discrimination. They are all issues of concern but the worry is that the G-8 is spreading itself too thin. Instead of putting their collective thoughts and actions into treating soaring food and fuel prices, they will instead be looking more like the jack-of-all-trades, but master of none.

But the number of deadly food riots triggered this year in a number of countries over prices that have in instances doubled in the past three years makes it imperative that the G-8 pools its resources on this issue alone. In the wake of this year’s shortages and soaring prices in basic grains and other foodstuffs, the major industrial powers are reportedly set to agree on a new system of food reserves to assist hungry nations. Each of the G-8 members will contribute grain to the global reserves by boosting shipments of food, fertilizers, and seeds to the affected countries to lessen the danger of oil shocks. G-8 countries would be obliged to take part in the system and to release grains such as rice, wheat and corn at a time of crisis that would act to stabilize prices.

So at least for a quick fix, the poor will have to depend on the rich, on how fast they take out their checkbooks and the size of the check they write. The hope is that the G-8 will take this initiative though it must at the same time acknowledge that it is no longer the steering committee for the world economy. The relative clout of the core group has shrunk. The G-6 accounted for about 48 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 1975, but by 2006 the G-8’s share had slipped to around 43 percent. Over the same period, the share of five big emerging economies that call themselves the Group of Five — China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa — grew to 27 percent from 12 percent.

It does not make sense that only eight countries are engaged in trying to solve global food and energy problems when China and India, which account for more than one-third of the world’s population, are left out or at most view the proceedings from the sidelines.

At last year’s G-8 summit in Germany, the leaders declared the global economy was in good condition and oil then cost $70 a barrel. The oil and food situation was stable enough that the forecast for today’s summit in Japan was neither food nor oil but climate change and reaching agreement on a post-Kyoto Accord framework to cut greenhouse gas emissions. How much can and has changed in one year.

Tzu Chi continuous relief effort in Myanmar cyclone aftermath

Relief Web

Since tropical cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar on May 2 and 3, Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi continues its relief work to help those victims. Myanmar government has launched many projects including distributing relief supplies to storm-hit region. With the selfless and non political purpose contribution to international community, Tzu Chi gains the trust of Myanmar government and takes part in its relief aid work. Tzu Chi is the first NGO to be awarded official certification by the Myanmar government. Tzu Chi volunteers held aid distributions and provided the medical services for victims in areas near Yangon. Tzu Chi relief team members are currently assessing the situation on the ground to carry out long-term recovery work.

Tzu Chi volunteers held supplies distribution, free clinic and stationary distribution in June. Tzu Chi aid distributions benefited 3,594 families or 14,663 people. And, free medical clinic has provided medical services for 2,881 patients. Tzu Chi volunteers also distributed stationary to 292 students and provided health check to those students.

The aid distributions were mainly carried out near Yangon. The aid supplies are considered as victims most need. The supplies include rice, cooking oil, beans and flashlights. There are 3,594 families or 14,663 people received the aid supplies from 7 distributions in Twantay Old Folk House, Pyat Ta Taik, Taman Gyi, Kan Be, and south Da Gon.

The Tzu Chi disaster relief team continues its aid work by providing free clinic in the Ganbei Village in Twantay Township near Yangon. Patients wait in a quiet and orderly fashion. Local volunteers are helping the seniors filling out forms. Elsewhere in the clinic, volunteers are packaging drugs for patients. Patients are grateful that Tzu Chi volunteers of medical relief team remove pain for them. In June, 2,881 patients received treatment from free medical clinic.

Apart from free clinics and aid distributions, Tzu Chi volunteers in Myanmar are also putting effort into children's education in the cyclone hit region. Volunteers recently visited a nearby school to distribute stationery for 292 students. They also carried out health checks and health lessons at the same time, hoping the children can remain healthy and lively.

As Master Cheng Yen who is the founder of Tzu Chi Foundation says: “ We should consider everyone as our family member” “ There is no one in the world that I don’t love. There is no one in the world that I don’t trust and There is no one in the world that I don’t forgive” All Tzu Chi volunteers respect all receivers in distributions.

Tzu Chi volunteers care victims as their family members. They have very good communication between villages after a few consecutive days of services. The doctors from Tzu Chi relief team have prepared mosquito nets for residents which are delivered and hung up by volunteers. The consideration of the disaster relief team not only reduces the risk of villagers contracting dengue fever, it also pulls everyone closer together.

With Myanmar government support, Tzu Chi has delivered love and relief supplies to 6,605 families or 27,258 persons in Myanmar since Tzu Chi relief team first arrived on May 10. The medical relief team has provided medical services for 2,881 patients. The Tzu Chi also distributed stationery for 292 students in June. Tzu Chi continues to put effort on those storm-affected people.

On the Occasion of 7th July Anniversary

By Ye Wai
Source: Asian Tribune

It is now the 46th Anniversary of the occasion of 7th July when Gen.Ne Win ordered his brutal troops to shoot and kill over one hundred Rangoon University students, who were asking for their student rights. Among those who were killed included male and female students of young ages, who were still full of vigour, optimism, hopes and aspirations to start careers in the future. In the Burmese History, this is the first time it ever happened, where a ruling regime committed the brutal killing of its own citizens.

But Gen.Ne Win and the Burma Army did it, with the intention to declare that it was unchallengeable and could be ready to harm its own citizens whenever they think is necassary. This is the way the Burma Army is until now, frequently shooting at its own innocent civilians.

Since the 7th July ‘62 event, the Burma Army had committed similar crimes of killing its own citizens on many occasions. The major ones are as follows:
  1. 7th July ‘62 Massacre at Rangoon University: Over 100 students were killed.

  2. 4th December ‘74 Massacre in Rangoon during Funeral Ceremony of ex-UN General Secretary U Thant: Over 500 were killed.

  3. December ‘74 Massacre at Sim-Ma-Lite Dock yard in Rangoon: Over 460 workers were killed.
  4. 1976 Massacre in Rangoon during 100th Anniversary of famous Burma Statesman Tha-khin Ko-daw Hmaing: Over hundreds were killed.

  5. Massacre in Rangoon during student uprising: Over hundreds were killed and female students were raped.

  6. 8-8-88 Massacre all over Burma: thousands of innocent citizens, majority of them students were killed.

  7. 30th May 2003 Massacre at De-pe-Yin town: hundreds of NLD members were killed.

  8. 2007 September massacre of peacefully demonstrating Buddhist Monks and devotees, all over Burma; hundreds were killed.
All of these events were committed by the Burmese Army, and also now they are ready and willing to kill the citizens. They stole power and held it for 50 years now. But what have they done for the country?

Burma is listed as one of the poorest countries in the world. Burmese people run away from the country and are working abroad just for their survival. In the fields of Health & Education, conditions are getting worse. Social, economic and political situation are also deteriorating. But the junta’s families and their cohorts have become richer with money and resources robbed and stolen from the country. Sen. Gen.Than Shwe’s grandson goes to Singapore by plane everyday to attend the school there. Where does he get the travelling cost for it? During his daughter’s wedding in 2006, it was alleged that, members of the SPDC military regime presented the couple with over 50 million US dollars worth of wedding gifts.

Most of the businesses are owned or run by the families of army leaders and their cohorts. Now also they are trying to introduce a new Constitution, dictated by them to hold power themselves for ever. According to their new Constitution, the proportion of the members of the Parliament is such that, 25% of the descendants of the army will become ‘Permanent Masters’, who will control power forever, while the 75% of the children of the people will become ‘Permanent Slaves’, who have to obey their orders.

These events remind us especially during the Anniversary of 7th July, the people of Burma that, we cannot tolerate anymore their rule and, unless the army leaders give in to the wishes of the people and return power to the people, we the people of Burma must fight back against the military regime. What we want is democracy, freedom, Human Rights and free economy, to rebuild our country under the Rule of Law, not permanent army rule for bullying the people.

Another thing is that some of us people of Burma, who are fighting for democracy, are expecting that the army will readily give up power to fulfil the people’s wishes. They are wrong. Children born after 8-8-88 uprising are now 19 year old mature men or women and, we still cannot see any hint of freedom.

Another thing we would like to point out to some of those, who are fighting against the military regime is, they thought that military regime did the coup d’ tat in 1988, and anti-military regime campaign started on 8-8-88. They should realise that, military rule started since Gen.Ne Win made a coup de’ tat in 1962. This is not a short event of history fighting against the military regime, but a generation game, where their fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers fought against the military regime since after Gen.Ne Win robbed power in 1962. The event of the 7th July Massacre in 1962 is the first event of the bad legacies of the military regime’s brutality.

Since the event of 7th July Massacre, there emerged numbers of opposition movements, organised by the people of Burma, including students. The PDP founded in 1970 by Premier U Nu, is one of the earliest generations, which is until now fighting against the brutal military regime to restore democracy and freedom. Because of this, the PDP would like to invite those who are fighting against the military regime to join us, fight with us, until we get rid of the army regime from our Motherland and restore democracy. We are old peacocks, your ancestors, the same feathers, who are fighting against the murderous military regime for future generations of Burma to be able to enjoy their lives under democracy and the Rule of Law.

Dear citizens of Burma and all other opposition parties - organise ‘Children Festival for Exorcising Military Demons from Burma’.

Dear soldiers, rank and file and high ranking officers from the Burma army - Burma is now run by Military Demons. They do not apply the Rule of Law. Their mouths are the only law and that way they are abusing power. Your families our families are suffering. To safe the country in time, join the PDP. Fight together with the PDP against the murderous military regime, so that we can rebuild Burma as a peaceful, prosperous and democratic country protected by the Rule of Law.

On the occasion of the 46th Anniversary of 7th July ‘62 Massacre, we pray for the souls of those martyrs, who gave their lives during their struggle for freedom and democracy in Burma.

Courtesy: Burma Digest

Burmese State Media Dismiss Aung San Suu Kyi's 1990 Election Win

By VOA News

Burmese state media have dismissed the 1990 election victory by the opposition party of Aung San Suu Kyi, describing it as invalid.

An official newspaper ran a commentary Sunday, saying the recent passage of a military-drafted constitution in a referendum shows that people no longer care about the 1990 results.

The New Light of Myanmar newspaper says Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy should prepare for new elections in 2010 instead of clinging to the results of the 1990 vote.

The NLD party won Burma's 1990 election in a landslide, but the country's military leaders refused to recognize the outcome.

The Burmese military says 92 percent of voters endorsed a new constitution that reinforced its hold on power in a May referendum. The NLD rejected that result, accusing the military of vote rigging.

U.S. President George Bush repeated a call Sunday for Burma's military rulers to free NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.

Mr. Bush also criticized Burma's response to Cyclone Nargis as "unwarranted." The Burmese military waited weeks before accepting help from international relief workers to deal with the storm, which left more than 130,000 Burmese dead or missing in May and more than two million others homeless.

The U.S. president was speaking in Japan where he is attending a summit of the Group of Eight major powers that starts Monday.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

Burma fair to muddling in wake of savage blow

BOGALAY, Burma (SMH): Two months after a cyclone savaged the fertile Irrawaddy Delta, in Burma's south-west, the bones of drowned victims still clutter the muddy banks of waterways.

One bamboo stick at a time, survivors in hundreds of flattened villages are struggling to rebuild their homes. For shelter, they squeeze several families into a single tent. For drinking water, they collect monsoon rainwater that trickles off tarpaulin roof coverings into buckets or salvaged ceramic vases. For food, they cook communal meals with rice, beans and oil from hand-outs. Sometimes it is spoiled.

In one village, survivors kept up a steady pace of sawing and hammering at planks salvaged from the wreckage.

"To work is to be busy, and to be busy helps them forget," said Soe, the village leader.

He said 943 people used to live here. In the storm that came ashore the night of May 2, 660 of them disappeared. Across the vast, maze-like delta, an estimated 130,000 people were killed and 2.4 million affected.

Persistent obstruction by Burma's military rulers has kept aid at tragically meagre levels. International efforts to quickly dispatch emergency assistance were delayed as the xenophobic junta rebuffed offers of help, denied visas to foreign aid workers and required permits for travel within the country.

Aid workers say most survivors of tropical cyclone Nargis have received at least some help but few are even remotely equipped to make their way in coming months. Some communities have only recently been reached by aid teams, who had journeyed for hours on foot, by motorcycle and by boat.

Many of the restrictions have been eased but relief workers say they still operate under erratic, constantly shifting constraints. The logistical challenges remain formidable as they scramble to dispatch seed, tractors and tillers to farmers before the rice-planting season ends this month.

"We have time to farm, but no tractors, no buffaloes and no seed," Mr Soe said.

Tents in the village and passing boats bore the logo of the Htoo trading company, which is owned by Tay Za, a businessman targeted by US sanctions because of his closeness to the junta.

At least 30 big Burmese companies that locals refer to as "cronies" of the junta were assigned to the reconstruction and relief efforts in the delta's townships, raising concerns the companies would collect payback in the form of land concessions.

But Western diplomats and aid workers say that so far, the companies have often proved helpful. Some aid agencies, including Save the Children, have turned to businessmen such as Serge Pun, whose holdings include Yoma Bank, to obtain boats and warehouse space and to speed deliveries to the affected areas.

Working with the company has "absolutely helped cut through the red tape," said Andrew Kirkwood, Save the Children's Burma director.

"I think all of us were frustrated with not being able to do more sooner."

But access to the delta remains a concern. In past weeks, aid agencies have had to seek approval for their activities from an ever-changing combination of ministries and local authorities. Trips into the field are systematically monitored. A World Food Program helicopter shipment was cancelled by an on-board military agent because flight co-ordinates submitted by UN workers were not clear, according to a staffer.

Last week, one ministry cancelled a program by the agency to give cash to survivors around Rangoon, even though another ministry had approved the plan days earlier.

Aid workers and diplomats say the problem at the lower levels is sometimes less wilful neglect than incompetence. But in some places, local authorities have defied their superiors to help in the relief efforts. One Western diplomat said officials in the remote rural hub of Pathein had built a road for supplies, defying senior military officers.

Aid workers praise villagers' resilience. In one village, farmers who own two to four hectares apiece said they united to buy a tractor from officials in Bogalay. They will have to pay in instalments over three years, using rice seed and funds they do not yet have, they said.

The Washington Post