THAILAND: Government, Army to investigate claims of Rohingya abuse (IRIN)

BANGKOK, 20 January 2009 (IRIN) – The head of Thailand’s Army, General Anupong Paochinda, told journalists on 20 January the military was investigating allegations that military authorities abused Burmese Muslim refugees.

This followed assurances by the new Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on 19 January that the government would investigate allegations that the Thai Navy cast hundreds of Rohingya asylum-seekers from Myanmar adrift in the Andaman Sea in southwest Thailand last month.

The defence minister would investigate these accusations and report back to the prime minister as soon as possible, according to Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban.

The premier also assured human rights activists that his government would not tolerate any violation of the rights of the Burmese boat people. continue

Imprisoned Monk Leader Transferred

U Gambira
U Gambira


The prominent monk, Ashin Gambira, who was sentenced to 68 years imprisonment for his role in the 2007 uprising, was transferred on Saturday from Mandalay Prison to remote Hkamti Prison in Sagaing Division, according to his elder sister.

On Wednesday, Gambira’s mother and brother visited Mandalay Prison to check on the monk’s general health, but were told by prison authorities that he had been transferred him to Hkamti Prison. Family members are not usually informed about prison transfers in Burma.
Gambira’s sister said prison authorities had told them that Gambira had been well-treated before his transfer to Sagaing. The report could not be independently confirmed.
Ashin Gambira rose to prominence as a leading demonstrator in the monk-led protests of August-September 2007, which were brutally suppressed by the military regime.

He was sentenced to 68 years by a special court inside Rangoon’s Insein Prison in November 2008.

Gambira was convicted on several charges, including offences under Section 505 A and B of the State Offence Act, Section 13/1 of the Immigration Act, Section 17/1 of the Illegal Organization Act, Section 33 A of the Electronic Act and Section 6 of the Organization Act.

Meanwhile, two members of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions, Kyaw Ko Ko and Nyan Lin Aung, appeared in court in Mingalar Taung Nyut Township in Rangoon on Wednesday, according to a local source.

More than 200 Burmese dissidents were given prison sentences by Burmese courts in November 2008, about 136 of whom were transferred to prisons in isolated areas around Burma.

Summary U Gambira

Monks’ Boycott Committee Urges Senior Monks to Oppose Junta

Sittwe:A boycott committee of monks in Sittwe issued a statement and distributed it among Sittwe monasteries urging senior monks to oppose the military junta in accordance with Buddhist law, said U Saw Hla Kyaw from a human rights organization based in Sittwe.

“The statement was distributed among the monasteries in Sittwe last week and it is intended for some senior monks who are cooperating with the junta authority in favor of opportunities from the government,” he said.

In Sittwe, a few senior monks are close associates of the junta authorities and have received favors from them in the form of cement, timber, robes, tin, and cash, as well as monk titles awarded by the junta annually.

“The authority understands how to mobilize senior monks in Sittwe. So the authority mobilized senior monks by giving favors to monks to support the military government,” Mr. Saw said.

Because of this, a few senior monks in Sittwe have refused entry of youth to study as monks in their monasteries in hopes of further favors from the junta authority.

According to a local source, some monks in Sittwe provided information to the authorities when they saw younger monks’ anti-junta plans and activities.

A monk from Sittwe said, “The authorities know of our plans against the junta before they are carried out because some senior monks here informed the authorities about our activities. So think the statement was likely issued by the monks’ boycott committee with the aim of stopping such senior monks’ actions.”

In the distributed statement, the monks’ committee stated that they are all Buddhist monks and should follow the Buddha’s instructions and counsel, not the junta’s. “If we are following the instruction of the military junta, we are not the son of Buddha, we become the son of junta,” the letter further stated.

The committee further stated that they had sacrificed their lives for their religion, but the junta was now cracking down on their religion with weapons, so monks need to fight back against the military in accordance with Buddhist law.

The monks’ boycott committee was formed by some young monks during the Saffron Revolution protests in 2007 to oppose the Burmese military junta’s oppression of the people and monks in Burma.

China Censors Obama’s Speech

EIJING — The official Chinese translation of President Barack Obama’s inauguration speech was missing his references to communism and dissent, while a live broadcast on state television Wednesday quickly cut away to the anchor when the topic was mentioned.

The comments by the newly installed US president veered into politically sensitive territory for China’s ruling Communist Party, which maintains a tight grip over the Internet and the entirely state-run media. Beijing tolerates little dissent and frequently decries foreign interference in its internal affairs.

At one point, Obama said earlier generations “faced down communism and fascism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.” He later addressed “those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent—know that you are on the wrong side of history.”

The Chinese translation of the speech, credited to the Web site of the official China Daily newspaper, was missing the word “communism” in the first sentence. The paragraph with the sentence on dissent had been removed entirely. continue

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines Contributes to ASEAN’s Continued Humanitarian Effort in Myanmar 21.01.2009

The ASEAN Cooperation Fund for Disaster Assistance received a US$50,000-donation from the Government of the Republic of the Philippines through the Embassy of the Philippines in Yangon, Myanmar today. The Fund is used for ASEAN’s relief and recovery activities in cyclone-hit Myanmar.

Dr Anish Roy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General of ASEAN, received the contribution on behalf of Dr Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN.

The contribution from the Government of the Republic of the Philippines is to support ASEAN’s continued effort and leadership role in humanitarian assistance in Myanmar.

“We would like to extend our sincere thanks to the Government of the Republic of the Philippines for its continued support, which enables ASEAN to reinforce our assistance and commitment to the people of Myanmar affected by Cyclone Nargis,” said Dr Roy.

Contributions made to the ASEAN Cooperation Fund for Disaster Assistance have been utilised to help people recover their livelihoods through community-based early recovery projects in the cyclone-affected areas as well as in disaster risk management and other Nargis-related activities.


HEALTH-THAILAND: Burmese Migrant Workers Key to Fighting Bird Flu

IPS- By Marwaan Macan-Markar

BANGKOK, Jan 21 (IPS) – Thailand’s plans to contain the spread of the deadly avian influenza virus must involve the tens of thousands of Burmese migrant workers employed in this country’s poultry industry, say experts.

‘’They form the frontline of Thailand’s defence against the spread of bird flu,’’ Jasper Gross, research officer for the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF), told IPS. ‘’The industry has to protect these migrant workers, give them proper information, equipment and provide a reporting mechanism.’’

The call for such a programme comes in the wake of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) attempting to drum up attention to help poultry workers and farmers in small and medium-sized chicken farms across South-east Asia. The Geneva-based body is pushing for workers to take on a greater role in detecting and stopping the spread of the deadly H5N1 virus.

‘’If these workers are properly trained, they can help reduce risk of avian influenza spreading,’’ says Tsuyoshi Kawakami, senior specialist on occupational health and safety at the ILO’s regional office in Bangkok. ‘’Workers have expressed some anxiety about how they will be affected. Slaughterhouse workers, meat-processing workers are worried.’’

‘’We cannot discriminate against migrant workers,’’ he told IPS on the sidelines of a meeting held here to share progress of the ILO’s work in Thailand since 2007 and at raising awareness on responding to avian influenza (AI) in the workplace and a possible human pandemic.