Tuesday, 26 August 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He is now in Insein prison awaiting trial.

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw

Arakan youth issues ultimatum on detained activists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reporting by Yee May Aung

Riot police clash with youths in Sittwe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw

Former Maggin abbot banned from collecting alms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reporting by Yee May Aung

Authorities extort money from cyclone victims

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reporting by Aye Nai

Burmese Protests Not Allowed in Singapore

The Irrawaddy News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cyclone Victims Turn to Towns for Handouts

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

The Irrawaddy News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suu Kyi Refuses to Accept Food: Exiled NLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UN wants to continue mission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aiding Burma's Recovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will it be A Paper Tiger?

Prof. Kanbawza Win

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

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

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

The Backdrop

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

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

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

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

The Burmese Case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Responsibility to Protect (R2P)

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Asian Tribune -

Ghosts amid the wreckage in Myanmar

By Seth Mydans
August 25, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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