Conflicts, crackdowns mar 2008 Asian rights record: HRW

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Human Rights Watch (HRW) Wednesday blamed Asian giants China and India for abuses against their own citizens but also for backing military dictatorships such as Myanmar.
In its annual report for 2008, the New York-based group detailed worsening trends in much of Asia, including China’s Olympic-year crackdown on civil liberties and its repression of protests across the Tibetan plateau.

Burma’s gem industry: profit that fills the generals’ pockets

mizzima,by Mungpi & Solomon
Wednesday, 14 January 2009 23:21

New Delhi (Mizzima) – To promote production of gems and jewellery, Burma’s Ministry of Mines said it is allocating six blocks in three states to local entrepreneurs to mine gems, an official at the ministry said.

An official at the Ministry of Mines in Naypyitaw said, the six blocks, located in Shan state’s Mongshu and Namhyar, Kachin state’s Moenyin and Sagaing division’s Mawhan, Mawlu and Hkamti will be leased out to private entrepreneurs for a three-year term.

“These areas are regular mining zones and we are giving out new blocks in these areas. Those who are interested can apply now,” the official told Mizzima.

While Burma’s military government by occasionally granting gem mining blocks claims that it is promoting domestic entrepreneurs, local residents in the mining areas said mining and the gem trade has largely deteriorated since the current batch of generals grabbed power in 1988.

A local businessman in Mogoke in Mandalay division, a mining town which produces one of the world’s finest rubies, said, mining business has largely been monopolized by a few businessmen who maintain a close relationship with the junta. continue

Food Aid Starting to Reach Chin Villages

The director of the Country Agency for Rural Development (CAD), a nongovernmental organization, says his group has handed out food aid to about 20 villages in Chin State, in an area that has experienced food shortages for about two years.

At least 70,000 Chin have faced food shortages after rice crops in Chin State were destroyed by a rat infestation and drought, according to NGO workers in Rangoon.

“There are thirty more villages where our aid hasn’t reached yet because of poor transportation,” said Joseph Win Hlaing Oo, the CAD director. He said the Burmese military government allowed aid groups to distribute rice starting in the middle of November 2008.


Burmese Expatriates Bid Farewell to the First Lady

Written by Nehginpao Kipgen
Laura Bush’s campaign to highlight the plight of Burmese refugees wins gratitude

It is less than 10 days before America’s 44th president takes office on January 20. It has come the day for the Bush’s family to bid adieu to the White House and begin a new journey of life. The significant role played by the First Lady, Laura Bush, is also coming to an end, yet her legacy will remain a living history in an administration that has precious few high spots. continue

Journalists in Burma faced Orwellian-type scrutiny and were subjected to imprisonment and intimidation throughout 2008 while exiled Burmese media groups were also attacked—via their computers.

by Irrawaddy news
2008 should have been a year when Burma’s reporters reached a worldwide audience. The country was constantly in the global spotlight—hundreds of political activists from September 2007’s monk-led demonstrations were imprisoned, the Irrawaddy delta was devastated by a killer cyclone and a junta-sponsored constitutional referendum was pushed through.

Yet except for the state-run mouthpieces, Burma’s private newspapers, journals and magazines were muzzled while their reporters faced summary harassment by thugs employed by the Burmese authorities.

At least ten journalists in Burma were detained last year. Some received prison sentences of up to 19 years.

Fortunately, there were no reports of Burmese journalists killed. Nevertheless, international media watchdog Reporters without Borders included Burma in its overview of persecution of journalists in the same breath as Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan. continue