Christians in Burma’s former capital of Rangoon find themselves in a precarious state as local authorities on Monday banned the holding of regular church services and threatened to seal off churches if congregations failed to comply.

mizzima: The Kyauktada Township Peace and Development Council on Monday summoned a meeting of local church pastors from leading downtown Rangoon churches and informed them to stop the conduct of worship services in residential apartments.

“They [the authorities] warned us that our churches would be sealed off if we continue worshipping,” said a pastor of a church in Pabedan Township who attended the meeting.

The pastor, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, told Mizzima that nearly 50 church leaders and pastors who attended the meeting were made to sign more than five papers of pledges concerning the cessation of church services.

“The papers also said that we could be punished [and could be jailed] if we fail to obey the order and the church would be sealed off,” the pastor said.

When contacted by Mizzima, an official at the Kyauktada Township Peace and Development Council office confirmed a meeting was held on Monday but declined to further elaborate on the substance of the ensuing dialogue.

However, according to the pastor, authorities sent an invitation to representatives from over 100 churches, mostly located in the downtown Rangoon area, and informed them of the new order. continue

Land seized and resold at a premium by headman in Karen State

Wed 07 Jan 2009, Asah, IMNA
A regime-appointed village headman in Karen State is reselling land after organizing road construction that significantly increased land values.

In December, the headman of Thanle village, Hpa-an Township, seized a swath of land to construct a half-mile long new road connecting the village to the Zarthapyin (Zathabyin ) to Myawaddy road.

According to villagers, no one raised any opposition because the headman, Nai Kyaw San, lead residents to believe that the road construction was a government-organized project. The construction work was carried out by government employees, who Nai Kyaw San hired away from road repairs on a nearby section of the Myawaddy road.

Nai Kyaw San then put 20 parcels of land up for sale on either side of the new road, which offers a shorter, more direct connection to the main road than the existing, circuitous route.

Land parcels are being sold for 6 kyat-tha, and descend in value to 5 and then 4 kyat-tha as their distance from the village extends. Kyat-tha are a Burmese measurement used to quantify prices in terms of gold, used by many villages in the area. According to a source in Thanle, 1 kyat-tha is currently equal to 460,000 kyat.

According to a woman from the village, six of the land parcels have already been sold.

Thai fishing boats seized daily by authorities in southern Burma

Wed 07 Jan 2009, Krak Nai
Burmese authorities are seizing at least one Thai fishing boat per day for illegally fishing in Burmese waters, say sources in southern Tenasserim Division.

About 300 Thai fishing boats have official five-year fishing concessions, said a Burmese intelligence source in Kaw Thaung, a border town at the southernmost tip of Burma’s Tenasserim Peninsula. Another 100 or more Thai boats operate in Burmese waters with un-official permission purchased from local authorities, added the source.

Seizure and taxation of the Thai fishing fleet is the largest source of income for army and navy officials in the area, the intelligence source told IMNA. Boat owners must pay between 50,000 and 60,000 baht per month for unofficial fishing rights, depending on the size of the boat, said source. This fee was confirmed by local fisherman.

According to the intelligence source and fishermen, boats with unofficial fishing rights that stray from permitted areas are subject seizure, as are the scores of other Thai boats the operate in the area without permission of any sort.

“The army or navy arrests Thai boats everyday – at least one or two in a day, but they are released once they [the authorities] get paid,” said the intelligence source, who is close to Lieutenant Colonel Nyan Naing of the area Tactical Command. continue

301 Myanmarese boat people found adrift in Aceh

The Jakarta Post , Banda Aceh | Wed, 01/07/2009 2:18 PM | National

A group of 301 boat people from Myanmar on their way to Malaysia were found in Aceh on Tuesday night.

Local fishermen discovered the refugees adrift in a small boat off the Weh islands.

On Wednesday, Sabang mayor Munawar L. Zein said that many members of the group were suffering illnesses as they had run out of food during their voyage.

The sick are currently being treated at a local hospital, while local authorities are coordinating with Jakarta over their fate.

The group had apparently fled Myanmar because of its military junta, and were seeking a better life in Malaysia.

A similar incident occurred in 2004 when around 200 Myanmarese boat people were discovered in Aceh on their way to Malaysia.

Myanmar’s export through border trade amounted to 666 million U.S. dollars in the first 11 months of 2008, an increase of 10 million dollars from the same period of 2007 which registered 656 million dollars, local media reported Wednesday, quoting the Ministry of Commerce.

The export volume was up due to increased export of agricultural produces and forest products which accounted for 355 million dollars and 75 million dollars respectively, the 7-Day News said.

However, the export of animal, marine and mineral products declined during the 11-month period, it added.

There are 13 border points where Myanmar is trading with four neighboring countries — Thailand, China, India and Bangladesh. continue

MYANMAR: Farmers lament post-Nargis harvest

THAUK KYAR, 7 January 2009 (IRIN) – U Nay Aung, a resident of Thauk Kyar village in Dedaye Township, is one of thousands of farmers across the cyclone-affected area who never gave up, succeeding after the fourth attempt to yield some harvest.

In May, his 4.6 hectares of paddy fields were badly affected by the tidal surge that accompanied Cyclone Nargis. When the donated seeds did not take, he borrowed money to buy his own.

However, compared with the previous year, when he managed a US$700 profit from the 8MT of paddy harvested, this December, U Nay Aung harvested less than 5MT while his overheads spiralled following three failed planting attempts.

At a lower market price of about $250/MT, U Nay Aung estimates he will earn less than half the amount in 2007.
Eight months after Cyclone Nargis, this year’s monsoon paddy harvest is less than hoped


Remember Burma (Myanmar)?

Posted on January 6th, 2009 by Jonas Blume in Asian NewsRead 237 times.
Burma, or as their military has renamed it, Myanmar is a forgotten country which most people would not even think to look at on a map. As the news reported some time ago, several monks were killed in a government protest. After everyone read about it, they were shocked.

But what most people don’t consider is that this nation has been suffering under a fascist-militaristic rule for roughly 40 years. Nor is it a pleasant place under the government if an individual chooses a religion different from the Buddhist faith.

Somewhere between the Thai and Myanmar borders are dozens of refugee camps over-crowded with various former Burmese residents, many of them from hill tribes forced off their land. There are teenagers living in these camps who have never been outside them. Meanwhile, dozens of activists illegally cross the Thai border daily to bring supplies, education, drug rehabilitation, and all other sorts of help as they risk whatever consequences they might face by the Burmese government.

Ironically, the government still has plenty of contact with the international community. This would include deals with Chinese corporations, the black market (as one of the world’s largest opium suppliers), and tourism, yet the government was extremely reluctant to allow the UN passage to offer aid after thousands of people were killed in the cyclone that hit it less than a year ago. Rumor has it that governments of a few Western nations have their hands in the Burmese cookie jar as well.

While many people rant about how miserable governments in places like Iraq, Congo, North Korea, and countless other places, why is it that we rarely hear about Burma?

Detained Hip Hop singer Yan Yan Chan released

by Mizzima: Wednesday, 07 January 2009 19:29

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The Burmese military junta authorities on Tuesday released popular Hip Hop singer Yan Yan Chan, who was arrested in April 2008.

The popular singer was released on Tuesday evening by the western district court in the notorious Insein prison in Rangoon after the judge during the court session ordered his release, a lawyer close to the singer’s family said.

“The judge ordered his release and so he was freed yesterday evening,” the lawyer said.

The lawyer, however, said he is not aware of the charges against the singer and the reasons for his release.

“As far as I understand, he [Yan Yan Chan] was charged in a drug related crime but I am not sure what the charges exactly were. I have not been able to speak to him yet,” the lawyer, who requested anonymity, told Mizzima.

When contacted, Yan Yan Chan’s family members confirmed his released but refused to elaborate.

Yan Yan Chan was arrested in early April 2008, while staying at his friend’s residence in Monywa town in upper Burma.

Yan Yan Chan along with Kyaw Kyaw (alias) Zeya Thaw, was arrested in February 2008 for his political activities and for being a member of the ‘Generation Wave (GW)’. He co-founded the first Burmese hip hop band the ‘Acid’.

–Activist Khin Maung Win was able to marry his fiancée Pan Wah in court on Monday immediately after being sentenced, despite having had permission for the marriage refused by authorities.

hin Maung Win, a member of National League for Democracy (Liberated Area) in Malaysia, was arrested in Rangoon on 10 October last year.
At that time, working in an underground movement with a group named Justice, which was formed after the September 2007 demonstrations.
He was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment with hard labour by Southern Dagon township court on Monday under the Immigration Act for illegally entering the country and under the Unlawful Association Act.
He made a request to the judges during last week’s court hearing to allow him to marry his fiancée Pan Wah, 29, but it was turned down by the judges on the day he was sentenced, according to a lawyer who was in the court.
“I saw them in court on Monday while I was there to attend the hearing of my client De Nyein Lin,” the lawyer said.
“Khin Maung Win didn’t hire a lawyer and did not deny the accusations made against him, so his hearing was kind of quick.”
“During a court hearing last week, he requested to the court to allow him to marry his girlfriend but they rejected it on Monday,” the lawyer said.
“After he heard his sentence, he and the girl signed their marriage contract in front of the court in the presence of the parents from both sides,” he said.
“I salute the woman. Her new husband was sent to Bago prison on the day of their marriage so we don’t know whether to feel happy or sad.”
Pan Wah said the couple’s wedding plans had been disrupted by his arrest last year.
“We had planned to get married in October 2008 but then he was arrested on the 10th of that month,” Pan Wah said.
“The judges refused to assist us with our marriage so we just signed the contract on our own,” she said.
“I am proud of both him and us. [Khin Maung Win] did what he did for the good of our country.”