Burma’s junta blocking treatment for AIDS

Bangkok, Thailand — Monday is World AIDS Day, and people around the world will be commemorating the occasion. According to estimates by UNAIDS, there are now 33.2 million people living with HIV throughout the world, including 2.5 million children.

During 2007, some 2.5 million people became newly infected with the virus. Around half of all people with HIV are infected before 25 years of age and die of AIDS before 35. Around 95 percent of people with HIV/AIDS live in developing nations. But HIV today is a threat to men, women and children on all continents around the world.

World AIDS Day is important in reminding people that HIV has not gone away and that there is still much to be done. However, in Burma, HIV/AIDS activists and volunteers are being threatened and suppressed daily by the military authorities.

Maggin Monastery in Rangoon’s Thingangyun township, where HIV patients were being cared for, was raided in September, 2007. According to witnesses, soldiers and riot police broke into the monastery and violently arrested four monks, including the abbot and four people caring for the HIV patients. Then Burma’s military authorities sealed the monastery and forced a number of monks suspected of being supporters of the National League for Democracy, led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as the dozen HIV/AIDS patients who lived there, to leave.


No let up in jade mining despite market condition and US sanctions

here is no let up in jade mining activities in Hpakant (Phakant) in Burma’s northern Kachin state despite the jade markets being in the doldrums in the country and abroad in the wake of the current world economic meltdown and US sanctions on importing Burmese gems, said local sources.

A column of power shovels in Hpakant jade land, Kachin state, Burma.

Daily mining activities with hundreds of modern sophisticated machines continue and the mining activities have been resumed last month after a break in the monsoons, local jade traders in Hpakant said.

Soon after China’s Beijing Olympic Games in August, the Ministry of Mines under of the Burmese ruling junta created more than 400 new jade mining blocks in Hpakant, Lonkin (Lawng Hkang) and Taw Maw, according to ethnic Kachin jade merchants in Hpakant.

Local jade traders added, the Ministry has granted most new jade mining blocks to Burman tycoon Tay Za or Teza, the owner of the country’s former capital Rangoon-based Htoo Company and son-in-law of the junta’s Senior General Than Shwe. Now, Tay Za controls all the jade mines of Tingkaw (Taungkaw), Kawng San and golf field in Lonkin and most jade mining areas in Maw See Zar.

Other private jade companies without direct links with the junta, have to bribe over 200 million kyats (est. US $163,934) for a mining permission to the top five high ranking officials in Naypyidaw, the new capital of the country— senior general Than Shwe, vice-senior general Maung Aye, the junta’s No. 3 Gen. Thura Shwe Mann, Prime Minister Gen. Thein Sein and Brig-Gen Ohn Myint, the Minister of Mines, said jade companies sources.

New jade mining blocks are granted to private jade companies only with the approval and signatures of all five military brasses in Naypyidaw, added jade companies in Hpakant.

On the other hand, the junta has set up a new jade mining system known as “Naing-ngan-daw Akyoto” meaning mutual benefit between the junta and jade companies in Hpakant jade mining areas since 2005. Jade mining areas are also confiscated under that category.

All jade companies are allowed to mine under the ‘Naing-ngan-daw Akyoto’ with small mining permission fees by the junta. However the companies have to pay 40 per cent out of each jade sale, said sources close to the jade companies in the ‘Naing-ngan-daw Akyoto’.

All jade stones from companies in both private and ‘Naing-ngan-daw Akyoto’ have to sell at the junta-held emporium every three months in Rangoon in which private jade companies have to pay 10 per cent from each jade sale to the junta, said jade traders.

Jade is the third highest foreign exchange earner for ruling junta and it earned an estimated $400 million from Hpakant jade industries in 2007.

Residents in Rangoon have trying time with beggars

Begging has become a menace in Rangoon, the former capital of Burma and residents are having a tough time dealing with what has assumed the proportions of a major problem, a source said.

According to a Sanchaung Township resident, now they see beggars on almost every lane and street. The beggars do not restrict themselves to begging on the streets alone but also come to the homes and flats of residents ring the bell on all the floors.

There are more beggars on the streets than last year. And they beg even at night at the shops like beer bars. The beggars range from children to elderly people.

The shops in Rangoon also have to deal with beggars and complained that if they gave money to one beggar, many more beggars came and begged for money.

She added that they could understand the situation of the beggars but if they keep begging from them how could they give them money regularly given the economic crisis.
source Kachinnews

Journalists caught in crackdown by Myanmar junta

YANGON, Myanmar -Two journalists have been jailed for seven years each on charges of undermining Myanmar’s military junta after they were caught with a U.N. human rights report.A court in a northeastern suburb of Yangon on Friday sentenced Thet Zin, editor of the local Myanmar-language journal News Watch, and Sein Win Maung, the paper’s manager, under the country’s draconian Printing and Publishing Law.

The convictions are part of a renewed crackdown by the regime in the past month that has led to more than 100 people including activists, writers, musicians and Buddhist monks receiving jail sentences of as long as 68 years. Many have been transferred to prisons in remote regions.

The journalists’ jailing came on the same day a court inside Yangon’s Insein prison sentenced the remaining 13 members of the 88 Generation Students, a group at the forefront of a 1988 pro-democracy uprising, to six years for undermining stability, family members said.