Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Resentment simmers in Burma a year after unabated crackdown

By Huaipi & Myint Maung

New Delhi (Mizzima)– The unabated crackdown by the military junta notwithstanding, resentment against the regime is not likely to diminish, activists and opposition forces inside Burma said on Tuesday.

Members of Burma's main opposition party – the National League for Democracy - students and activists said on the first anniversary of the Saffron Revolution against the sudden fuel price hike and soaring essential commodity prices, that resentment is ever increasing despite the junta's brutal crackdown.

"The discontent and resentment among people simmers. People are dissatisfied with the current situation," Nyan Win, spokesman of the NLD said.

Aung Moe Hein, an activist operating secretly in Rangoon, said, "The resentment against oppression by the junta boils in the heart and soul of each person. We are determined to continue our struggle till victory is achieved."

Nyan Win said, the violent crackdown by the ruling junta on protesters cannot resolve the current economic crisis. It is akin to wrong treatment for a severely ill patient.

"This treatment cannot cure the root cause of the disease. They should not arrest individuals. They should strive for the betterment and development of the economy to stem unrests," he said.

On August 19, 2007, several 88 Generation Students including Min Ko Naing led a peaceful protest march in solidarity with poor people who were hardest hit by the sudden fuel price hike that caused prices of basic commodities to escalate.

However, the regime deploying its puppet civilian organizations – the Union Solidarity and Development Association and Swan Arrshin – cracked down on sporadic protests that started since August 19, 2007.

The regime reacted swiftly crushing protests by arresting 13 of the key 88 generation student leaders including Min Ko Naing during a midnight raid on August 21.

Despite the junta's attempt to put down the protests, the discontent of the people eventually snowballed when the peaceful protests were joined by Buddhist monks. It inflamed further when Burmese Army troops harshly cracked down on protesting monks in the central Burmese town of Pakokku.

This led to the monks calling for a nation-wide boycott of the ruling junta and ignited what was to be known later as the 'Saffron Revolution'.

But the junta, which has a history of brutality in dealing with public protests, violently cracked down on protesting monks and civilians, by opening fire on the marching crowds on September 26, 2007.

While the United Nations has gone on record as saying that the junta killed at least 30 people, opposition parties and observers said more than 200 were killed while over 6,000 people were detained.

Activists said, despite a year having gone by, the junta continues to arrest activists and protesters and keeps a close watch on activists and politicians.

"I can see a lot of people around my house keeping watch over my movement. There are about three or four people keeping vigil round the clock near my house including at bus stops," a woman member of the 88 Generation Students said.

A NLD Youth member who took part in the 1988 popular uprising and 2007 September protests told Mizzima that they live under constant fear and anxiety over their safety. He said that they could be arrested by the junta any time, anywhere.

"Whenever I wake up, I wonder whether I will still see my friend whom I talked to yesterday or whether he will be arrested. I also fear whether it will be my friends or me who will be arrested first. I am in constant fear wondering when they will come and arrest me," he said.

Despite the junta's unabated efforts to arrest and search for activists, those including NLD youth members and 88 Generation Students said the crackdown will not break their spirit and will not stop their activities. They would continue their struggle for change.

"We are making sacrifices for the Burmese people. We will continue our struggle to achieve the goal of democracy and restoration of human rights. This is our task. To arrest us is their task," Aung Moe Hein said.

"We shall win one day. I firmly hope and believe that the people standing and fighting for truth and justice shall someday prevail," he added.

100 posters against Burmese Army's human rights violation

(Kachin) -University students in Northern Burma are up in arms against the Burmese Army in Kachin State yet again. Early this morning, university students pasted 100 posters condemning human rights violations by soldiers in Kachin State's capital Myitkyina.

The posters were mainly put up in Myitkyina University, State High School No. (1) and No. (3), Government Technical College (GTC), small roadside markets near schools and main road junctions in Myitkyina downtown, a student leader Naw Awng told KNG today.

The two square feet posters were pasted in the township before 6 a.m. Burma Standard Time and was hand written. It had three main points ----1) No human rights violation by the army of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), 2) Collapse military junta and 3) Democratic revolution must be accomplished, student activists said.

The poster movement was organized by the All Kachin Students Union (AKSU), an underground ethnic Kachin students’ organization in the state. This is the first agitation that the Burmese junta's new Kachin State commander or Northern Command (Ma-Pa-Kha) commander Maj-Gen Soe Win, who took over charge of the region in late June, has had to face.

AKSU leaders in Myitkyina strongly condemned the rape and murder of the 15-year old Kachin schoolgirl Nhkum Hkawn Din in Nam Sai village in Momauk (N'mawk) township in Bhamo District in the state by soldiers of the Burmese Army's Light Infantry Battalion No. 437 based in Momauk on July 27.

Meanwhile, United Nations special envoy to Burma, Mr. Ibrahim Gambari is making his fourth visit to military-ruled Burma within this week.

Junta bent on wiping out ethnic Kachins says KNO

(Kachin) -The Burmese military junta is vigourously pursuing its policy of ethnic cleansing of Kachins in Burma. Oppression is at its peak by the regime to wipe out the Kachin people. One of the weapons used for ethnic cleansing is rape and it is being used as a weapon of war against ethnic minorities in Burma, said the Kachin National Organization (KNO) in exile.

“After the cease-fire agreement between the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the junta so-called State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), we could see that the SPDC continued to oppress the Kachins by various methods and its target is to wipe out the Kachins,” said Mahkaw Hkun Sa, general secretary of Kachin National Council (KNC) and KNO.

The KNO released a statement yesterday regarding the gang rape and murder of a Kachin schoolgirl Nhkum Hkawn Din by Burmese soldiers on July 27.

“Despite the ceasefire agreement between the KIO and the SPDC, Burmese soldiers have repeatedly violated its terms of agreement and repeatedly carried out brutal and violent crimes against the Kachin people,” the statement said.

According to Burma Campaign UK, rape is systematically used as a weapon of war against ethnic minorities in Burma. More than a thousand cases have been documented.

“In this case of gang rape, the military regime once again showed how brutal it is and we [the Burma Campaign UK] are trying to make the international community aware of the case,” said Nang Seng, Campaign Officer of Burma Campaign UK.

With the United Nations special envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari arriving yesterday in Burma, the Burma Campaign UK sent word of the gang rape and murder of a Kachin School girl before Gambari leaves so that he can raise the issue concerning human rights violations in the country, Nang Seng said.

“We hope Gambari will talk with the government about the gang rape and killing of the Kachin schoolgirl as one of the many gruesome crimes against humanity in keeping with the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution 1820,” Nang Seng said.

The UN Security Council Resolution 1820 describes rape and sexual violence as a crime against humanity.

Meanwhile, as the village of Nam Sai where the rape and murder occurred is also a development project village controlled by the 1st battalion of Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the KIA has sent a letter about the brutal case to its headquarters.

U Gambira charged with 10 offences

Aug 19, 2008 (DVB)–Eleven people detained in connection with last September’s public demonstrations, including prominent monk U Gambira, have appeared before Insein prison court to hear charges against them, said family members.

U Gambira's sister Ma Khin Thu Htay said the monk was charged with 10 different violations at his first court appearance yesterday.

The charges included violations of article 13/1 of the Illegal Border Crossing Act, 17/1 of the Unlawful Association Act and 5(j) of the Emergency Protection Act, as well as inciting a riot, causing public alarm, bringing the Sasana into disrepute and violating the press law.

"We weren't informed of the court hearing – we only heard about it from a friend so we went," said Khin Thu Htay.

She said the next court hearings were scheduled for 20, 27 and 28 August and 1 September.

The other defendants were identified as U Gambira's brother Ko Aung Kyaw Kyaw, Maggin abbot U Eindria, Ko Than Naing of Taung Twin Gyi, Ko Kyaw Kyaw Naing of Myit Che, monk U Kaylatha of Mandalay, monk U Thumana, U Shwe Maung, Ko Wunna Maung from Mandalay and one unknown person.

They faced up to five charges each and will appear at their next court hearing on 27 August.

Reporting by Nan Kham Kaew

Voters and officials punished for ‘No’ votes

Aug 19, 2008 (DVB)–Local officials in charge of areas that voted No in the constitutional referendum in May have been dismissed, while No voters have also faced retaliation from the authorities, local residents told DVB.

Officials in charges of some wards and villages in Katha, Sagaing division, where residents voted overwhelmingly against the military regime’s proposed constitution, have been removed from their posts in the last month, according to local residents.

In Yenangyaung in Magwe Division, the authorities cut off the electricity supply and street lights in wards whose residents had voted against the constitution, while wards inhabited by the authorities and the pro-junta Union and Solidarity and Development Association members have been given 24-hour electricity.

Authorities have also been collecting lists of those who voted No to the referendum in other states and divisions.

The Burmese military government enacted its new constitution after referendums on 10 and 24 May which were marred by reports of intimidation, corruption and vote-rigging.

The regime claimed the constitution was approved by over 92 percent of voters, but is has been dismissed as a “sham” by pro-democracy groups and international commentators.

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

International Insurance Companies Leave Burma

The Irrawaddy News

Two international insurance companies have announced they will stop doing business in Burma following public campaigns highlighting their business services in the military-run country.

The insurance companies, XL of Britain, and Chubb of the United States, announced their intentions to pull out of Burma shortly after Burma Campaign UK published a report, “Insuring Repression,” that highlighted how global insurance companies help to facilitate business in the country run by a military dictatorship that is routinely accused of human rights violations.

In the report published in July, the activist group said international insurance companies in Britain, Japan and Singapore, a total of 16 companies, including Lloyd’s of London, Hannover Re, Catlin, Atrium, XL, Tokio Marine, Sompo Japan and Mitsui Sumitomo and their affiliates offered insurance to various businesses and industries in Burma, such as airlines, ports and shipping services.

“The company now has a policy that it will no longer seek to insure Burma companies or operations of companies in Burma,” stated XL capital Ltd.

XL Capital Ltd is a UK financial services company which has more than 3,500 employees and offices on Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America. Its main lines of business are casualty and property insurance and reinsurance.

Chubb Corporation announced it will order its member companies to close offices in Burma.
Chubb Corp is the 10th largest property and casualty insurer in the United States.

Johnny Chatterton, a campaigns officer at the Burma Campaign UK, said, “This is a major embarrassment to Lloyd’s of London; they have never taken this issue seriously and don’t see any problem with helping to finance Burma’s brutal dictatorship.”

After the release of the report by Burma’s Campaign UK, Lloyd’s of London issued a statement saying, “A very small amount of reinsurance is written at Lloyd’s in Burmese shipping and aviation. We are unaware of any businesses at Lloyd’s defying international sanctions. If we discovered any underwriters breaching sanctions we would take action immediately.”

Burmese opposition groups welcomed the announcements by XL and Chubb.

Maung Maung, the general-secretary of the Federation of Trade Union Burma, said, “Insurance companies are facilitating trade and investment in Burma, filling the pockets of the generals. We strongly condemn all insurers that remain involved in our junta-run country. They help keep the generals in power and condemn Burma’s 50 million people to lives of poverty and fear.”

ASEAN considers observer status for Burma's elected government

Radio Australia

ASEAN members meeting in Singapore this week will consider the admission of members of Burma's civilian government in exile as observers of the group.

A delegation of Burmese politicians living in exile has travelled to Singapore to meet with members on the sidelines.

Radio Australia's Katie Hamann reports one of their strongest allies is Indonesia and last week they were invited to the capital Jakarta where they attended a session of parliament.

Last Friday Teddy Buri and four other exiled MP's stepped into the Indonesian House of Representatives for a plenary session marking the 63rd anniversary of the archipelago's independence.

Teddy Buri's 18 years as an elected member of Burma's civilian government has led him everywhere but the seat of power in his homeland.

Elected in 1990 but unable to form government he was driven from Burma by the military junta in 1994.

"I've been out of Burma for nearly 15 years," Mr Buri said.

"It's impossible for me to return unless, you know, I surrender but that's out of the question so in other words I'm unable to return to Burma at all."

Dividing his time between Thailand and Australia he now serves as President of the Burmese Members of Parliament Union or MPU.

Last Friday's invitation was the first time exiled Burmese MP's had attended the government session of an ASEAN member state, on this occasion as the official guests of the house speaker Agung Laksono.

"We got invited officially, which reflects, we believe, Indonesia's support for the Burmese democracy movement and that it also wants to see change in Burma.

"We see Indonesia as the third largest democracy in the world and the largest democracy in the region, so we really see it as very significant," Mr Buri said.

Symbolic, not official

Dr Jason Abbott, a Burma specialist at Briton's University of Surrey, says the delegations visit to Jakarta was mainly a symbolic gesture.

"We shouldn't forget that Indonesia is the largest democracy in ASEAN so there is some symbolic import from this visit.

"I think it's more signficant to the MPU and perhaps to the junta then it is to the Indonesian government as a whole although it is symbolic from the point of view of Indonesian parliamentarians," Mr Abbott said.

"But the fact that it's not an official invitation from the Government itself or from the President means that we should caution against reading too much into this."

Perhaps deliberately, Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono didn't raise the issue of Burma in his address to the house.

As Indonesia's representative at this weeks ASEAN meeting in Singapore, Mr Laksono, however, is one of several South East Asian leaders lobbying for the MPU to be admitted to ASEAN as observers, a proposal first tabled by Indonesia in 2006.

Teddy Buri says he expects it will be rejected because the ASEAN executive committees requires consensus based decisions.

"We are pretty sure that Burma's going to oppose our participation, so it's a foregone conclusion that we are not going to be accorded observer status.

"But still the fact that we have some members that are speaking on our behalf sends a very strong message to the other members as well as the SPDC that there is a need for change in Burma," he said.

You can find the full story at the Connect Asia website: