Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Labor Activist Gets Solitary as Prison Conditions Worsen - Su Su Nway

Caption: A security officer tries to arrest Su Su Nway, in blue,
during a Rangoon demonstration in last year's August. (Photo: DVB)

The Irrawaddy News

An imprisoned Burmese labor activist has been put into solitary confinement after requesting medical treatment, according to a human rights advocacy group that is reporting worsening conditions at Rangoon’s notorious Insein Prison.

Bo Kyi, joint secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP), told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that Su Su Nway, a prominent labor activist, was put into solitary confinement recently after she asked prison authorities for better medical care.

“She suffers from heart problems and requested regular checkups. But prison officials denied her request and put her into solitary confinement instead,” said Bo Kyi.

According to AAPP, security at Insein Prison, where Su Su Nway and many other political prisoners are being held, has been tightened since an incident two months ago, when Cyclone Nargis blew the roof off of one of the prison buildings. In the ensuing panic, 36 inmates were shot to death by prison guards and riot police.

Since the May 2-3 cyclone, prison authorities have imposed new restrictions, such as refusing to allow relatives of some political prisoners to visit regularly or bring provisions. Walking exercise time has also been reduced from one hour to just 20 minutes a day, according to AAPP.

When asked why the new restrictions were needed, prison authorities said that were being implemented for “security reasons,” said Bo Kyi.

Prison authorities have come down hard on prisoners they deem to be uncooperative.
Two student activists, Nyan Lin Aung, who was arrested in June after taking part in Cyclone Nargis relief efforts, and Maung Maung Latt were recently placed in solitary confinement for arguing with prison wardens, according to AAPP.

Recently, human rights group Amnesty International expressed concern over the health of 79-year-old Win Tin, Burma’s longest-serving prisoner of conscience, who has been in prison since 1989.

Win Tin needs urgent medical attention and has been suffering from severe asthma attacks and lung problems, along with heart disease and spondylitis (inflammation of the joints of the spine), the group said in a July 4 press release.

Human rights groups estimate as many as 1,800 political prisoners are still behind bars in Burma.

Villages deserted as residents flee to border to escape military persecution

By Hseng Khio Fah
Shan Herald Agency for News

Long Keng village in Mong Pan township, southern Shan State, became deserted when villagers fled to border after some of them were detained and tortured and some disappeared as the military accused them of killing their members one month ago, reported SHAN correspondent from southern Shan State.

On the following day of the May 10 referendum at 22:00, a sergeant and two soldiers from Mong Pan-based Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 385, which is under the command of Lt-Col Kyaw Han, were shot at the vegetable garden of a Hophai villager while taking the vegetables without telling its owner. The sergeant was shot at his chest twice and died instantly while the other two escaped unscathed, according to Long Keng village secretary, who escaped to the border.

“The three were on duty to provide security of the farm owned by Sai Ni.”

At the end of April, Mong Pan Area Commander , Lt. Col. Kyaw Than, and Chairman of Mong Pan Township Peace and Development Council, Sai Zam Win, confiscated some 12 acres of farm owned by 12 farmers in Mong Pan and planted summer paddy seeds for the LIB 520, LIB 332 and LIB 385. Three soldiers from each battalion had been assigned to provide security for the paddy field.

The dead body was taken to Mong Pan hospital. The checkup found that he was shot by handmade bullets made of lead.

As soon as the authorities learned the news, they went to arrest the farm owner Sai Ni,45, his wife Nang Poi, 30, and his son Sai Kham ,18, on 12 May at 10:00. They were accused of planning to kill its members and of being spies of Shan State Army (SSA). The family was beaten during the interrogation, the source said. But the family just answered they did not know who the gunmen were.

Nang Poi and son were released on 14 May except for Sai Ni. In the evening of 16 May the authorities went to arrest all the farmers whose land they had seized and took them to the LIB 520 command post but some were able to escape. Those detained were Long Keng village headman Zarm Hsa, Sai Nu, Sai Kham (Sai Ni’s son), Ai Di, Ai Kya and Zingna. They all were beaten and tortured everyday and later were moved to the LIB 332.

Again on 19 May, the authorities went to detain Ai Mart and Kungna from Long Keng. Also detained were the Kong Kieng tract headman, the village headman and the secretary. All were taken to the LIB 332 command post. Since then the families have to send the meals day and night.

Sai Ni, Sai Kham and Ai Di, 46, reportedly were not seen on 7 June when the family went to send the meal and asked to see them. But the authorities would not show them. They [authorities] just told to the family that “the three are already full. We feed them very well. But they did mistakes that were unforgiveable, so we will keep them with us,” according to a relative of the victims. “It means they [authorities] have already killed them if they can’t show us.”

The remaining 8 detainees were taken on the truck to move to the police station west of the town. However, Kung Na ran away on the way and was able to escape from the fire of the authorities. The rest were detained at the police station.

Until now, there has been no information about them whether they will be released or not. Likewise, no information of the three people who had disappeared has been no reported.

“Whenever we went to ask about the disappeared people, they [authorities] just always tell us they are alive and well but they never let us see them,” said a relative of the victims. “When we asked other soldiers, they said they had not seen the three.”

Since the event had taken place, the authorities went to take properties from the villagers and always cause trouble for the villagers in many ways. The villagers were afraid to stay in the village and some moved to the town. Others fled to the Thai-Burma border on 15 June by motorbikes and some by cars, according to the Long Keng village secretary.

There are 45 households in Long Keng village but it seems to be empty, said the secretary.

22 villagers from Long Keng fled to Fang district where the Thai authorities recently raided and 19 people were detained.

The new arrivals are now forced to stay in hiding because they have no official documents allowing them to stay in Thailand and have no paying jobs to feed themselves, according to a local villager of Fang.

“More are still on their way to the border,” said a villager who is currently seeking asylum at Fang on the Thai-Burma border. “We were not happy staying there anymore, so we decided to come here.”

Local Authorities Borrow Rice and Medicine to Show as Cyclone Relief

Maungdaw (Narinjara): Authorities in Maungdaw Township have borrowed rice and medicine from local traders to show as Nargis relief aid when the new western commander visits Maungdaw, reported one trader who had his rice borrowed.

He said, "The authorities from the township and district administrative offices came to my house yesterday to borrow 25 sacks of rice from me to show to the new western command commander as Nargis relief when he arrives in Maungdaw. The authorities told me that the rice will be returned to me when the commander leaves Maungdaw."

Many rice traders in Maungdaw are wary of lending their rice to the authorities as they fear that it will not be returned to them as promised.

The new western commander, Major General Pyi Son, has been doing his tours around Arakan State since the first week of July after he was promoted to the position, and he is expected to visit Maungdaw on 7 or 8 July.

The authorities in Maungdaw want to show large scale donations of goods for relief from the people of Maungdaw in order to get in good favor with the new western command commander.

"I heard the authority wants to record the goods on video and camera as Nargis relief in front of the new western command commander to propagate the news story in state-run media, including TV and newspapers," the resident said.

The authorities have also borrowed medicine packages from pharmacies to show as relief aid to the new western commander.

One owner of a pharmacy shop said, "We do not want to lend medicine to the authority but I am unable to avoid it because the authority could withdraw my license from me if I refuse."

The authorities in Maungdaw have gathered the many rice bags and medicine inside the town hall to display to the new western command commander as donated relief goods.

The western command commander reportedly arrived yesterday at Buthidaung a few miles east of Maungdaw, but he is unable to travel to Maungdaw today as the road between the two towns has been blocked by landslides and collapsed bridges after heavy rains in the region. #

Forced Labor Widely Used in Road Construction

Maungdaw (Narinjara): A large number of people in Maungdaw Township have been used as forced labor by local authorities on repair work on the Buthidaung - Maungdaw roadway since the road and bridges collapsed in heavy rains, said a resident from Maungdaw.

He said, "We have to go do the road repair along the motor road after the authorities summoned 50 people from each ward in downtown Maungdaw through Rayaka, the ward councils. The forced labor began on Monday."

In Maungdaw, there are six wards altogether, and each had to send 50 people yesterday to the locations where the road was damaged with their own mattocks and pickaxes to do repair work. They had to work from 9 am to 4 pm yesterday without pay.

"We had to work there from 9 am to 4 pm without payment, but the authority did not provide any assistance with any food or drinking water during the work time. We brought our own food from our homes to the road repair sites," the resident said.

A local source said the authority not only summoned people from downtown Maungdaw, but also a large number of people from rural villages located along the Buthidaung - Maungdaw motor road.

A witness said, "I saw a large number of people leave for the 7-miles bridge in many vehicles from the central market to repair the road, and most people were day laborers from Maungdaw."

According to another report, many wealthier families have had to pay 2,000 kyat to the ward council in order to hire a day laborer if they were unable to send someone from their own families to do the work.

In Maungdaw's government construction department, there is no machinery such as excavators or dump trucks to aid the repair work, so authorities have used locals as manpower to do all the necessary tasks.

The road constructed is expected by some to take as much as a year to complete by the people without any machinery due to the heavy damaged it sustained in the rains.

According to a local source, many people from Maungdaw are preparing to work at the road construction today after the township authority summoned them to do so.

The Buthidaung - Maungdaw motor road is a key transportation link along the western border and is central to the border trade with Bangladesh. Every rainy season the road suffers blockages and bridge collapses but the authority has neglected to repair such weaknesses as they arise.

Former Kachin state commander destroys documents of his tenure

Kachin News

In a surreptitious move the Burmese military junta's former Northern Command or Kachin state Commander Maj-Gen. Ohn Myint destroyed all documents pertaining to his tenure before leaving the state in June on being transferred, local sources said.

All documents related to finance and other important papers related to his period, in the office of the Kachin State Peace and Development Council (Pa-Ya-Ka) in Myitkyina Township, the capital of Kachin state were checked and burnt by the office staff even as the commander's men kept an eye, said Pa-Ya-Ka sources.

There is no document relating to former Commander Maj-Gen Ohn Myint's tenure in the Pa-Ya-Ka office. All documents were destroyed as soon as he was transferred from Kachin state, according to sources close to Pa-Ya-Ka.

It is not unusual that the former Commander Ohn Myint destroyed his documents as his four predecessors did the same before they departed from Kachin state, sources added.

Maj-Gen. Ohn Myint successfully pressurized the main Kachin ceasefire group, Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) to change its neutral stand and support the referendum on the country's new constitution during his tenure in Kachin state.

Maj-Gen. Ohn Myint was promoted to Commander of No. (1) Bureau of Special Operation or Commander of Special Operation for Northern Burma of the Burmese ruling junta.

Maj-Gen. Ohn Myint ruled Kachin state from the middle of 2005 to June, 2008. He earned praised as a loyalist except when he was drunk by junta supremo Senior General Than Shwe.

Sons of 1962 and future of Burma's political freedom

By Ma Ng
Mizzima News

The Burmese Army grabbed political power in a coup on 2 March 1962; and Burma again lost its political freedom 14 years after independence, to the native military dictatorship instead of a foreign colonial power.

Within a few months, in a move to crush the students protest against the army takeover the Burmese military dynamited the Rangoon University Student Union building on 7 July 1962. And from the beginning the military dictators proved to be more ruthless and destructive than the foreign invaders.

During the 1962 crackdown, the army generals were no doubt confident that the last of students' rebellion has been extinguished, for good. But 26 years later, Ko Min Ko Naing and Ko Moe Thee Zun who were born in 1962, like many others in their generation, became student leaders of the 1988 uprising. The number of student protesters exploded from a few hundreds in 1962 to hundreds of thousands in 1988.

Ko Moe Thee Zun, the student leader in exile said that, in 1988 the military did not expect the student rebels to survive the harsh and difficult conditions in the opposition camps. But like the Karen, Shan and other ethnic organizations that came before them, after decades of trials and errors, the student organization led by Ko Moe Thee Zun has also matured into one more challenger to the junta's rule.

While the military's credibility as the saviour of the nation and protector of the people has diminished, the students' political commitment has earned respect and credibility. It became evident when the 2007 fuel price protest led by the '88 student leaders escalated into a full blown Saffron uprising last fall.

While the military generals are increasingly isolated in their citadel; according to Ko Moe Thee Zun, the difficulties experienced by the students in the jungles, since 1988 have helped Burman majority urban-elites gain greater understanding of the ethnic political movement. An invaluable common bond and respect has also been forged among the students and ethnic political oppositions to help shape durable peace in Burma, later.

The ethnic armed rebels, who were perceived to have been more concerned with the ethnic right of self determination instead of aiming for a larger political change, are finally evolving into more politically correct organizations after decades of violent conflicts with the military regime in Burma. The surviving armed rebels are no longer tainted with drug trafficking or political and ideological confusion. Their aim for a genuine democratic change, and, their support for Aung San Suu Kyi and the legacy of her father, has never been clearer.

China which claims to be rising peacefully has nevertheless unilaterally supported the military dictatorship in Burma. China's support for the Burmese regime has been devastating for the armed resistance in Burma.

However, since the end of the Vietnam War, long before the war in Iraq, armed conflicts alone no longer determine the political future of a country. After the cold war, many nations gained democracy through mass protests and peaceful political uprising, in places where civil wars have already ended.

The enormous military apparatus in Burma is a threat mostly to the military junta which has to feed and support such an enormous and costly apparatus that do not contribute to the wellbeing of the rulers or the citizens of Burma.

There is no need for such a large army even just to suppress the urban dissidents or the armed rebels. It is only for the psychological need of the generals. And it reflects the operational inefficiency of the Burmese military.

The end result of such great inadequacy is calculated to be in billions of dollars of losses for Burma. Within weeks after the Tsunami in December of 2004, the storm relief efforts received two and a half billion dollars worth of pledges from around the world. The United States alone provided 90 helicopters involving military assistance with 12,600 personnel and 21 ships, immediately after the storm.

Whether the people in Irrawaddy delta are barely surviving or not, Burma can certainly use such great outside humanitarian assistance.

Not only the regime's inability to overcome the distrust of outside powers, the military's inability to convince the world's of its sincerity toward helping its own people has also cost Burma dearly, by earning less than two hundred million dollars worth of pledges for a disaster as overwhelming as Tsunami of 2004.

The military's violent crackdown on peaceful monks and the regime's intentional neglect of Cyclone Nargis victims, have sparked a renewed call to bring the Myanmar government before the International Criminal Court, for committing crimes against humanity.

In addition, the UN Security Council has recently passed a resolution, condemning rape as "a war crime, a crime against humanity, or a constitutive act with respect to genocide," while the Burmese Army continues to use rape as a weapon of war against the ethnic minority.

It has been shown that the enormous private wealth can no longer protect the world's tyrants from prosecutions for the crimes they have committed. Jean-Pierre Bemba who is accused of committing atrocities in the Central African Republic in 2002, and the former Liberian president Charles Taylor who begins to stand trial in front of a special tribunal in The Hague for alleged war crimes in Sierra Leone, will join two former Khmer Rouge, ministers Ieng Sary, and his wife, Ieng Thirith who are being charged with war crimes and crime against humanity for their alleged role in Cambodia's 1970s genocide.

Aung San Suu Kyi has often said that politics is everyone's business and people should overcome fear to involve themselves in politics. Hillary Clinton said last January during her bid for presidency that, "some of us put ourselves out there against pretty difficult odds because we care about our country."

The Burmese struggle for democracy has come of age like the student leaders. For Burma to be able to move closer towards its democratic goal, the political, economic and military elite will all have to shed fear and come forward to bear their share of responsibility.

Burmese people can no longer sit back and play the role of virtuous sages. Blaming the military dictatorship founded by a postal clerk, and sustained by illiterate generals and their business cronies; is no longer sufficient. People should begin to take their own fate into their hands, instead of blaming others.

Kishmore Mahbubani, Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore wrote that Western principles of democracy, the rule of law, and social justice are among the world's best bets. And he continued that the world does not need to invent any new principles to improve global governance; the concept of domestic good governance can and should be applied to the international community.

And even if the above concept of democracy were written in an Asian language other than English, its fundamental value will not be lost to the people of Burma. The belief in democracy and freedom is fully supported by the Burmese Buddhist tradition as well.

Ashin Gambira the famous monk leader said in March, 2008 that, if the people no longer want to live under the cruel military dictatorship they will have to speak up and protest. Unless they resist the military rule with courage, absolute military power will continue indefinitely.

As Aung San Suu Kyi warned after the military crackdown on the monks last September, the Burmese people can no longer sit around and simply hope for the best. They must all begin preparing for the worst to come until the end of military tyranny in Burma.

The recent Cyclone Nargis in the Irrawaddy delta has proven that the downtrodden people of Burma can still take care off themselves even with minimal outside help, and will manage to survive. There is no longer doubt if they have the power to change their future. The people of Burma can and must work together to end the military dictatorship. No one else can do it for them.

May Ng is from the Southern Shan State of Burma and NY regional director of Justice for Human Rights in Burma.

Security beefed up in Rangoon on July 7 Anniversary Day

Mizzima News - 07 July 2008

Chiang Mai – The authorities in Rangoon have beefed up security in townships today on the occasion of the July 7 Anniversary Day.

The government backed 'Swanahshin' has been deployed at crowded junctions, near the university campuses and in front of the NLD headquarters today the 46th anniversary July 7 day. Soldiers are patrolling the city in vehicles.

"The security is tight today. But we could not find the police. There were about 50-60 'Swanahshin' personnel in front of the NLD headquarters in four Toyota Dyna light trucks. There were another 30-40 'Swanahshin' personnel at the Sule pagoda", Ko Naing Ngan Linn, a NLD Youth in-charge said.

"The soldiers have been patrolling the city since last night in police cars. Today security personnel were deployed in an unusual move in mufti by the 'Swanahshin' at many crowded junctions and key places in the city," an undercover reporter of Mizzima said.

About 20 'Swanahshin' personnel were deployed at the town hall in the city centre today by the Police Col. in a Mazda jeep and a riot police truck, he added.

Police personnel, soldiers and 'Swanahshin' in plain clothes were deployed at many crowded junctions such as Kokkai, Shwegondaing, Sule, Thingangyun, Kyimyindine, Sanchaung, Hledan, South Okkalapa, Lanmadaw and Latha townships, a Rangoon local resident said.

The Dawbon Township 'Peace and Development Council' (PDC) asked for about 80 'Swanahshin' from the township to deploy them at Dagon University and 'Tarwa' University campuses in Rangoon Division for security, it is learnt.

The Revolutionary Council led by Gen. Ne Win who grabbed power in a coup brutally killed unarmed students who were staging demonstrations for freedom in education on July 7, 1962 -- 46 years ago.

"They are always scared of student demonstrations. The 'All Burma Federation of Student Union' (ABFSU) launched a poster campaign in almost all university campuses today," Ko Myo Tayza, spokesperson of ABFSU, said.

The copies of the ABFSU statement called 'Revolting against enslavement by military, Let's fly fighting peacock flag' were found pasted on the walls of Arts and Science University, Computer College, Government Technical College (GTC), Government Technological University campuses.

"The best and smoothest way for a breakthrough in the current political impasse is to release all political prisoners including students, monks and nuns who are unfairly imprisoned unconditionally and immediately, and enter into a dialogue with the opposition", the statement said.

"Education is politics. Without freedom of education, we cannot achieve political freedom. We are at the forefront of this struggle and leading the students to encourage them to express their will and desire freely and for freedom of education", Ko Myo Tay Za said.

"Resolving the current political crisis through coercion and bullying unilaterally by using arms and thugs will not be successful and will exacerbate the situation in the future. It will also ensure many more protests, calamities and unrests which will lead the country to utter devastation and finally to a failed state," the ABFSU statement added.

The University Student Union building which was a historical monument of anti-colonial and anti-fascist struggles was dynamited by the 'Revolutionary Council" led by Gen. Ne Win in the early morning of July 8, 1962.

Burma introduces WCDMA

Mizzima News - 07 July 2008

New Delhi - Introducing a new communication technology, Burma's military junta authorities have started distributing Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) telephones, an official at the Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) Department said.

However, due to infrastructure inadequacies the authorities have only been able to distribute 50 WCDMA sets on trial since the beginning of July, said the official, who requested anonymity as he is not authorized to speak to the press.

"We need to do a lot more in terms of construction of towers and need more time for tests, after that more telephones will be offered," the official said.

About 200,000 mobile phones have been distributed across the country once the infrastructure is in place, he added.

The WCDMA is the latest to be introduced in Burma, where the government has provided limited numbers of Global System for Mobile (GSM), and various kinds of CDMA phones.

Despite the new introduction, obtaining a mobile phone is not always easy for ordinary Burmese citizens. One has to go through a lot of procedures at an extraordinary cost.

According to the official, the new WCDMA sets are priced at 2.8 million Kyat (US$ 2150), while a GSM costs about 2.3 million Kyat (US$ 1800). A CDMA costs about 2.1 million Kyat (US$ 1615).

These are black market prices and normally it is impossible for ordinary people to buy mobile phones.

"If you want to apply for a mobile phone, you need to submit your identity card, address proof, occupation and pay 1.5 million Kyat (US$ 1192) on receiving the permit," the official explained.

But applying for a mobile phone at the government's telecommunication office is almost impossible for ordinary people, as government officials and employees are given first priority to receive the limited number of phones.

"Government officials or employees can easily get mobile phone permits," a salesperson at a mobile shop, Global Digital Electronic Centre in Rangoon said.

It has become a fashion for government officials to seek mobile phones permits and rent them again in the black market, he said.

"These officials, who receive multiple phone permits for one family, then rent it out to others at a cost of about 40,000 to 50,000 kyat per month," the sales person said.

"Most businessmen have to rent mobile phones from others," he added.

Flood causes evacuees to shelter in public buildings

Mizzima News

Temporary camps for flood evacuees were set up in Mawlight and Khanti in Sagaing division in western Burma today after the water level rose dangerously in the Chindwin River.

In Khanti, 22 families are sheltered in Paw Mine monastery, 10 families have been put in the Basic Primary School No.3 while 61 families have been provided shelter in Basic Primary School No. 1. Five families are in a Middle Primary School.

In Mawlight, 68 families have been moved to three different accommodations such as the city hall, Basic Primary School No.1 and a stadium.

There are no reports of causalities yet but the weather department officials nearest to this area warned that water levels in Chindwin could rise further in the next 24 hours.

The water level is at 1380 centimeters while the danger level for Mawlight is 1230 centimetres.

In Homelin, the river water level rose to 3021 centimetres, which is 121 centimetres above the danger level. In Kanti it is 1480 centimetres, 120 centimetres above the danger level. In the Kalaywa water is flowing 124 centimetres above the danger level which is 1550 centmetres.

Why the Generals are Winning

The Irrawaddy News

This year is the 20th anniversary of the democracy movement in Burma. In 1988, a few small student protests against late dictator Ne Win’s Burma Socialist Programme Party ignited the flame of democracy which quickly developed into the strongest uprising in Burma’s history.

The flame still burns, and the spirit of democracy—though constantly suppressed—lives on. But to accomplish the task of bringing democracy to Burma, the country needs more than a flame—it needs a wildfire.

Twenty years may not be too long when one talks about changing a country’s political system, but it’s a long time in a person’s life. Many democracy leaders, activists and sympathizers have died, knowing the country was still in the hands of totalitarian dictators.

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi once told me that we should be prepared for a “lifelong struggle” to restore democracy in Burma. Yes, it may take an entire lifetime, especially if the pro-democracy movement fails to unite into an unbeatable political force, one truly strong enough to overwhelm the powerful, ruthless military regime, which is intent on ruling Burma for decades to come.

Over the past 20 years, many committed leaders and activists have joined the struggle, all willing to give everything they had. Their dedication was beyond words: no matter how many times they were imprisoned, they would rejoin the movement when freed. Many thousands of political prisoners, including Suu Kyi, have spent most of the past 20 years in the junta’s notorious prisons.

During this time, the movement has lacked the one essential, most important factor: unity. The movement has never been able to gather everyone—leaders and average Burmese people—into one, united political force.

After 1988, when political parties were allowed to form and contest the 1990 elections, more than 200 political parties mushroomed into existence. It was the first indication of a lack of unity in the pro-democracy movement. Even popular political figures such as former premier U Nu, Suu Kyi and former Brig-Gen Aung Gyi couldn’t provide a collective leadership capable of uniting the disparate political groups opposing the regime.

For instance, even the main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, formed around three leaders, Aung Gyi, Suu Kyi and Tin Oo. Aung Gyi, who was chairman of the NLD, later broke away to form his own political party. He was followed by others.

However, the people of Burma are smart. They knew there was a danger of diluting their voting power among the various opposition parties. They voted for the NLD, giving it 82 percent of the ballots cast.

Unfortunately, the proliferation of too many political parties and organizations has become a trend in recent decades, not only inside the country but in the exiled community as well, often weakening the overall movement. Many groups are simply names, with no worthwhile activities.

In the activist community, there’s a joke that if two Burmese people meet, they will form three groups. First, each person forms his own group and then they both form a coalition group.

It’s a joke, but it captures a shameful truth. The pro-democracy movement lacks the discipline for unity and power.

Recently, one of Burma’s most respected monks, Dr Ashin Nyanissara, noted the lack of collaboration in Burmese society, saying there have been thousands of pro-democracy groups formed since 1988, but little unity. He’s right.

No matter what obstacles we face in the future, the chief priority for all pro-democracy leaders should be to build a single force capable of uniting the country around one goal: democracy.

When asked what she wanted to say to pro-democracy groups in an interview with The Irrawaddy in 2002, Suu Kyi replied, “I have always wanted to see unity.”

In every struggle, unity can bring success and disunity can bring failure. All Burmese opposition groups must focus on unity. Otherwise, the flame of democracy in Burma will never burst into the wildfire that’s needed to sweep away the military dictatorship.

NLD Challenged to Contest 2010 Election

The Irrawaddy News

The Burmese opposition group, the National League for Democracy (NLD), was challenged by the military government on Sunday to form a political party to contest the 2010 national election and to forget the results of the “illegal” 1990 election.

An article, “Goodbye 1990 Election Results,” published in the state-backed New Light of Myanmar, said the landslide victory of the NLD in the 1990 general election is now “illegal,” because it “has been ditched by the entire people [sic] who are desirous of the emergence of a new, modern-developed democratic nation.”

“This being so, the NLD’d better join hands with the people and then stand for the 2010 election in line with the laws instead of longing for the result of the 1990 election,” the article said.

In the 1990 election, NLD candidates won 82 percent of the parliamentary seats, but the results were not honored by the military government which continued to retain power. Articles of a political nature that appear in the newspaper are considered to have the approval of the military government.

The government has officially said that 92.48 percent of people who cast ballots in the constitutional referendum held in May voted “yes” for the state-drafted constitution.

The NLD does not recognize the referendum results. Prior to the vote, voicing opposition to the referendum process or the draft constitution was declared illegal by the junta.

NLD party officials dismissed the article as junta-sanctioned propaganda.

Thein Nyunt, an NLD spokesperson who is also a lawyer, said, “Lawfully, the results of the 1990 election cannot vanish. Politically, it [the results] reflected the will of Burmese people. It insults the will of the people to say the result is illegal.”

“An election is meant to reflect the future of the country,” he said. “The authorities should have honored the election’s result.”

Aye Thar Aung, the chairman of the Arakan League for Democracy and secretary of the Committee Representing the People's Parliament (CRPP) “We can’t accept the ‘seven-step road map’ including the state constitution. We also don’t agree with the coming election or the formation of political parties.”

The CRPP was formed in September 1998 and includes the 1990-elected parliament members and ethnic leaders in Burma.

“The junta can hold the election by force,” he said, “but it will not really benefit the people.”

Aye Thar Aung said national reconciliation was needed between the government, opposition groups and ethnic groups before conducting a national election.

Thailand to establish cyclone warning network system for Myanmar

Relief Web-Chinaview

YANGON, Jul 07, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX News Network) -- Thailand is seeking to establish in Myanmar an early warning network system against cyclone and a delegation, led by Minister of Information, Communication and Technology Mun Patanotai, is currently on a visit in Yangon.

According to the official newspaper New Light of Myanmar Tuesday, talks on the move were held between the Thai delegation and its Myanmar counterpart, led by Minister of Transport Major- General Thein Swe, during the visit.

The Thai delegation also met with Deputy Foreign Minister U Kyaw Thu, Chairman of the ASEAN-Myanmar-United Nations Tripartite Core Group representing Myanmar, Monday to seek cooperation on the move, the report said.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has set up an emergency telecommunication center (ETC) in Yangon to help for quick communication access in disaster relief and restoration works, the local Biweekly Eleven reported earlier.

Some Myanmar staff have been trained by the UN Emergency Communication Group operating the center, the report said, adding that the UN group has been rendering assistance for some social organizations based in Bangkok to bring in their relief aid supplies to cyclone-hit areas in Myanmar's Ayeyawaddy division and Yangon division.

Deadly cyclone Nargis, which occurred over the Bay of Bengal, hit five divisions and states -- Ayeyawaddy, Yangon, Bago, Mon and Kayin on last May 2 and 3, of which Ayeyawaddy and Yangon inflicted the heaviest casualties and massive infrastructure damage.

Myanmar estimated the damages and losses caused by the storm at 10.67 billion U.S. dollars with 5.5 million people affected.

The storm has killed 84,537 people and left 53,836 missing and 19,359 injured according to the latest official death toll.