Thailand Burma Border Consortium

December 2008 -January 2009
Review of the past year
Rarely has survival at the year’s end been celebrated as in 2008. Still in the throws of an unprecedented global finan-
cial crisis and with many ongoing conflicts around the globe, the world was keen to move on and to dare hope for better
things in 2009.
Certainly 2008 was a dreadful year for Burma with the devastating Cyclone Nargis in May and renewed political oppression
and human rights abuses as the junta began to prepare for a general election in 2010.
It was also one of the most difficult years ever faced by TBBC with a financial crisis brought on by the Global Food Crisis, ex-
acerbated by donor frustration at the lack of progress in resolving the refugee crisis after 24 years. The conflict continued in
eastern Burma and TBBC recorded at least another 66,000 people internally displaced during the year and an ongoing influx of
new refugees who, together with new born in the camps, largely balanced out the 17,000 leaving to start new lives in third
countries. A major concern was the growing number of unregistered people in the camps and the lack of an effective screening
procedure to determine genuine asylum seekers.
Despite the difficulties, all essential refugee services were sustained. Under such circumstances, this should be considered a
major achievement.

During 2009 TBBC will have been working with Burmese refugees for 25 years but of course continues to hope that the day
will come before too long when the situation changes and they can go home. Until that day it will remain a huge challenge to
sustain interest, support and funding with so many other competing demands elsewhere. The key to this will be establishing
effective refugee screening procedures and finding ways forward to help refugees become more self-reliant.

On behalf of the Burmese refugees and displaced people we would like to thank all of our supporters and do-
nors for your generosity and encouragement.
read all http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900sid/LSGZ-7NPHN2/$File/full_report.pdf

http://www.tbbc.org/

Despite his defence of the Thai armed forces and related security agencies in their treatment of the migrants, Mr. Abhisit, conceded that there might be some Thai officials involved with human trafficking syndicates, and said that he had ordered an investigation into the matter.

Thailand wants UN refugee agency in regional meeting on Rohingyas
BANGKOK, Jan 27 (TNA) – Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva advised on Tuesday that the United Nations’ refugee agency be invited to join the recently proposed regional talks involving countries most concerned with resolution of the issue of ethnic Muslim minority Rohingya migrants from Myanmar.

The Thai foreign ministry said its proposal to host the meeting with countries affected by the flow of intending migrants had received positive responses from Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, India and Bangladesh.

Mr. Abhisit said he had discussed with the foreign ministry the possibility of inviting the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to join the regional meeting in an attempt to tackle the problem at its root cause.

“The UNHCR should be invited to join the proposed meeting as the Rohingya problem is a transnational issue and Thailand is not the cause of the problem,” Mr. Abhisit said.

The Thai premier made his remarks following recent foreign media reports about Rohingya migrants allegedly being mistreated by the Royal Thai Navy before being pushed back into international waters in the Andaman Sea. continue http://enews.mcot.net/view.php?id=8350

Myanmar to help Thailand on Rohingyas minority http://enews.mcot.net/view.php?id=8342

Help? Helping hand will send them to labour camps…

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM BURMA: Another 14 people wrongly convicted over September 2007 protests

20 January 2009
Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has been collecting and documenting cases of illegal arrest and imprisonment of persons accused over the September 2007 protests in Burma. In this appeal we give the details of another 14 persons who in November were convicted without evidence on a variety of offences.

CASE DETAILS

The 14 people convicted in this latest case documented by the AHRC arising from the massive anti-government protests in Burma during 2007 are alleged to have committed acts that threatened the lives and safety of government servants.
SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write to the persons listed below to call for the charges against the 14 persons to be reviewed and for them to be released without delay. Please note that for the purpose of the letter, the country should be referred to by its official title of Myanmar, rather than Burma.

Please be informed that the AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteurs on Myanmar and independence of judges and lawyers as well as the UN Special Representative on human rights defenders, the UN Working Group on arbitrary detention and the regional human rights office for Southeast Asia, calling for interventions into this case.
MYANMAR: 14 people wrongly convicted over 2007 protests

Accused persons:
1. Kyaw Win, of Shwenantthar Ward, Bahan Township, Yangon
2. Myo Tint Aung, also of Shwenantthar Ward
3. Ne Win, also of Shwenantthar Ward
4. Than Zaw, also of Shwenantthar Ward
5. Aung Ko Min, also of Shwenantthar Ward
6. Thein Zaw, of Yetarshe Ward, Bahan Township
7. Than Nyunt, of Shwenantthar Ward
8. Tin Tin Htwe
9. Thein Lwin
10. Kyaing Kyaing Thin (F), also of Shwenantthar Ward
11. Tin Nu, also of Shwenantthar Ward
12. Thant Zin, of Ward 2, North Okkalapa Township, Yangon
13. San San Myint (F), also of Shwenantthar Ward
14. Htwe Min also of Shwenantthar Ward
Primary officials involved:
1. Police Captain Myint Aung, Special Branch
2. Sub Inspector Win Thein, Special Branch
3. Police Lieutenant Colonel Thet Lwin, Commander, Police Battalion 1
4. Sub Inspector Than Htay Aung, Detective, Bahan Police Station
5. Police Sergeant Aung Saw Oo
6. Police Lance Corporal Khin Maung Htwe, Police Battalion 8
7. Police Lance Corporal U Tin Thein
8. Constable Kyaw Zeya Htun
Charge and trial: Charged under sections 332 (causing hurt to a public servant), 336 (endangering life), 294 (obscenity) and 114 (abetting) of the Penal Code, Felony Case No. 265/2008; Yankin Township Court, Judge Htay Htay (special power) presiding; judgment passed on 24 November 2008; defendants each sentenced three years with hard labour under section 332 and three months with hard labour under section 294, served consecutively with time deducted for periods already imprisoned

I am deeply disturbed to hear of yet another 14 persons in Myanmar who have been convicted without any strong evidence of alleged offences committed during the demonstrations in Yangon of September 2007 and I am appealing to you for an immediate review of their case and for their release.

According to the police, at around midday on 26 September 2007 the accused were part of a group of around 1000 protesting civilians and 400 monks that gathered at the eastern staircase of the Shwedagon Pagoda where they supposedly obstructed attempts to restore security, threw rocks and attempted to injure the security forces, causing simple injuries to six of them, and swore abusively at them. They also laid charges against 15 others whom they allege were involved but could not be apprehended.

The case was based on a few witness depositions to the court that in a crowd of thousands these few accused who could be plucked out were somehow the ones responsible for any acts of supposed violence towards the government personnel. In fact, the photographs of the crowd presented to the court as evidence reveal only two of the accused, Thein Lwin and Kyaing Kyaing Thin. The other defendants testified contrary to the prosecution story they had remained at shops and homes after orders from local officials, with Htwe Min stating that he was not even in the city as he had gone to do farming at Myinchan because of the shutdown of business with the demonstrations.

However, the judge did not take these testimonies into consideration at all in passing the verdict and even though the case against the 14 persons was not proven, on 24 November 2008 the judge convicted them without any reasoning or analysis of the evidence and testimonies presented and sentenced them to 3 years and 3 months each with hard labour.

In view of the legal requirement in Myanmar that the burden of proof lies with the prosecution and the patent lack of evidence presented in this case with which to reach a conviction, I call for the Minister of Home Affairs and the Attorney General and other concerned officials to review it promptly with a view to seeing the 13 persons released without delay.

Finally, I take this opportunity to remind the Government of Myanmar of the need to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross access to places of detention and not least of all, access to those persons and forcibly disrobed monks and nuns who have been held in violation of criminal procedure and without charge or trial since September 2007.
http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2008/3096/

Shipwrecked Thailand must stop turning a blind eye to its army’s abuse of Burmese refugees

By any measure of misery, the persecuted Rohingyas of Burma are suffering a particularly wretched fate. Each winter thousands of these Muslim outcasts set sail for Thailand, en route for work or asylum in Malaysia. This winter nearly 1,000 of these refugees have been captured by Thailand’s military and towed back out to sea, where they have been left to their fate in boats that had no engines and that carried little food. Several boats sank.

Accounts from survivors who washed up in Indonesia or on India’s Andaman Islands suggest that 600 of these migrants are dead. Thai denials sound hollow now that photographs have come to light showing the Thai Army towing Rohingya refugees out to sea and abandoning them.

For any government, this is a stain on its human rights record. For Thailand’s Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, who took office last month flaunting a passion for human rights and the rule of law, it is both a crime and a blunder. Not only does it heap fresh abuse on oppressed Rohingyas, it also confirms the fears of those who doubted that Mr Abhisit (who has described the reports of the Rohingyas being cast adrift as “exaggerated”) would be able govern without feeling in debt to the army generals who helped him to gain power. continue http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/leading_article/article5594164.ece

Hotel and tourism minister major-general Soe Naing has ordered the immediate closure of a social support training programme in Pyapon township in the delta region because he feared the course had a political element.

Training programme shut down in PyaponJan 27, 2009 (DVB)–Hotel and tourism minister major-general Soe Naing has ordered the immediate closure of a social support training programme in Pyapon township in the delta region because he feared the course had a political element.

The Lawkadasariya foundation led by abbot U Kawsala, a member of the Rangoon division Head Monks’ Association, rebuilt a school in Kyonku village, Pyapon township, which had been destroyed by Cyclone Nargis.
Villagers recently organised a social support training course with the help of the foundation, which was attended by teachers, villagers, the secretary of the village authority and the abbot, and involved training on personal hygiene, the use of modern toilets and on how to maintain the materials donated after the cyclone.
Soe Naing, who is in charge of Nargis aid supervision in Pyapon region, heard about the course on the first evening and ordered the teachers and trainers to stop it immediately.
Soe Naing reportedly told teachers that they were not obliged to hold the course on premises just because the organisation had funded the school.
Locals said the army officer was concerned by the title of the course, ‘Developing peace and development views’, and thought it had political overtones.
The following day, the head teacher of the school had to go to Pyapon and sign a pledge agreeing not to organise such training courses in the future.
Local residents were angered by Soe Naing’s decision because the training course was organised by a respected monk and was providing useful public information.
http://english.dvb.no/news.php?id=2146

Union and Solidarity and Development Association members in ward 26 of New Dagon township in Rangoon have been recruiting new members by promising repairs to local infrastructure.

USDA promises water to new members Jan 27, 2009 (DVB)–Union and Solidarity and Development Association members in ward 26 of New Dagon township in Rangoon have been recruiting new members by promising repairs to local infrastructure.

On 23 January, USDA members gave out membership application forms to local residents and asked them to fill them in, claiming it was necessary for water supply projects, road repairs and transport improvements.
A local resident said the authorities had told local people that they had to pay the cost of water pipes to their houses and workers’ wages for the water supply project, and for meters to measure the amount of water used.
“They started to distribute water on 23 [January] at 10am. They said that the water would be distributed among those who signed up,” he said.
“Some people filled in the forms and returned them thinking they were only for the water supply, but the majority didn’t return then as they know the water supply project has nothing to do with the membership forms.”
The resident said the form required people to fill in the personal details and membership status of everyone in their household and record the location of any family members living elsewhere in Burma or abroad. http://english.dvb.no/news.php?id=2144

Thugs and Thieves

The mother and uncle of a National League for Democracy member from Hlegu township in Rangoon who were beaten up by a local family have been prosecuted and jailed by authorities.

NLD member’s relatives jailed after being assaulted
Jan 27, 2009 (DVB)–The mother and uncle of a National League for Democracy member from Hlegu township in Rangoon who were beaten up by a local family have been prosecuted and jailed by authorities.

Khin Thein, 59, and her older brother Tin Maung Win were beaten up by relatives of Myint Lwin, the owner of an alcohol shop situated inside Darpein North police station compound, in September 2006.
Tin Maung Win was sentenced to two months in prison on 8 October 2008 and Khin Thein was given a one-month jail term by Hlegu township judge Thwin Thwin Soe on 21 January.
The attack happened after a dispute between Khin Thein’s daughter San San Thwin, a member of Hlegu township NLD, and Myint Lwin. Myint Lwin then reportedly rallied his family members and beat up San San Thwin’s mother and uncle.
“Ko Myint Lwin, Ma Khin Sein, Ma Khin Thida Lwin and Ma Bokeson beat up my mother twice in one day and my uncle once,” San San Thwin said.
“We reported the first incident, and then my mother was beaten up again as she had reported it. Mother had to go to hospital with a broken hand,” she said.
“My uncle was charged with the false accusation that he attacked Ko Myint Lwin’s wife and while my mother was charged with biting Ma Bokeson’s hand. Dr Khant Win had to write a false medical note for them.”
Khin Thein is due to be transferred to Insein prison today, while Tin Maung Win has now been released.
Khin Thein’s son Kyaw Zwa Win said the actions against the two were a blatant abuse of law and an attempt to oppress opposition members.
Kyaw Zwa Win claimed that officials had told him that his mother and uncle were prosecuted and jailed on the orders of chief police Khin Yi and chief judge Aung Toe.
http://english.dvb.no/news.php?id=2145

Commentary: Constitution and the ethnic nationalities

Aung Htoo

Jan 27, 2009 (DVB)–A constitution which guarantees the rights of the people and restricts the powers of the government is a crucial foundation in the building of a country.

But a constitution that denies the rights of the people and the rights to do things for the authorities is certain to destroy the country.
The State Peace and Development Council’s 2008 constitution, which basically denies the rights of the people and prioritises the rights of the ruling authorities, will certainly lead the country to total destruction.
Moreover, the SPDC ratified the constitution in 2008 without any regard for factors that could build trust among ethnic national forces. There are many reasons for this disregard, but here I will only focus on those issues that came out during the drafting of the SPDC’s constitution.
The first and main issue is the uncomfortable situation regarding the SPDC’s legal boundaries for the ceasefire armed groups. While the SPDC has declared many times that armed ethnic national organisations have been entering the legal fold, there have still been no efforts to allow these organisations to set up as legal political entities in accordance with the law.
On 9 June 2004, during the SPDC’s national convention to draw up the constitution, 13 armed ethnic national groups which had signed ceasefire agreements with the government put forward a joint proposal for the formation of a federal union. But the SPDC didn’t take any action on this advice when the national convention finished. That could be said to be the moment the armed ethnic ceasefire groups’ hope was destroyed.
Some ethnic organisations openly reacted against this. At the referendum to ratify the constitution in May 2008, people in areas controlled by the United Wa State Army in northeast Shan State overwhelmingly rejected the constitution. This was the only such incident based on ethnic nationality during the nationwide referendum, and occurred on the territory of the strongest of the armed ethnic groups in Burma.
It is especially notable that this big organisation has clearly shown that it has no faith in the SPDC’s constitution. The reason it was able to do so is that it could prevent the SPDC authorities who came to oversee the referendum from entering its territory. It set up its own ballot boxes, let the people vote and sent the results to the SPDC.
The second issue is the SPDC’s legal harassment of ethnic leaders. Eight Shan leaders including Khun Tun Oo were sentenced to between 75 and 106 years in prison for trying to protect the rights of ethnic nationalities with the SPDC’s legal boundaries.
They received these heavy sentences after they formed the Shan state advisory council of experts to develop a political strategy for the building of a federal union. It now seemed that ethnic organisations were not only trying to build up a momentum for a federal union within the national convention process, but also that Shan leaders led by Khun Tun Oo were trying to push for it outside the convention by forming the council of Shan state experts.
The SPDC is more afraid of the building of a federal union in which ethnic nationals would have equal rights and self-determination than it is of a tiger. The actions against the Shan leaders were a way of stopping the peaceful political activities of ethnic nationals by criminalising them. This injustice gives some indication of how much other Shan ethnic leaders and the public have lost their trust in the SPDC.
The third issue is the loss of trust on the part of the Karen National Union which is still carrying out armed struggle outside the SPDC’s legal boundaries. The KNU’s former leader, the late general Saw Bo Mya, tried to hold discussions with SPDC. But the SPDC instead set a trap for the KNU in the form of the national convention.
When this didn’t achieve the desired effect, the SPDC did not allow the KNU to hold negotiate a ceasefire like other armed organisations. Former intelligence officer Aung Lin Htut explained the reason for this in an interview with DVB television. Aung Lin Htut started out by saying that the KNU is in a pitiable situation. General Than Shwe reportedly ordered that, unlike other groups, the KNU must be forced to lay down its arms. Given that the KNU would never surrender, the move was intended prolong the insurgency and breed more rebels, providing a justification for the army to grow and prosper.
I am not sure whether Aung Lin Htut knows it or not but I want to relate a matter that general Than Shwe pretends that he doesn’t know. From the time the military dictatorship was set up by general Ne Win and under successive military leaders who have consolidated the massive army, it has never in 60 years of civil war been able to defeat any revolutionary group by military means alone.
Given this background, it is almost impossible to build trust between the KNU and the SPDC after the latter played politics with the KNU and placed it in a hopeless situation. But this is not a new development; it has been this way since the SPDC launched offensives on Manaplaw, headquarters of the KNU, and on other fronts.
The Manaplaw headquarters did not fall because of the SPDC’s military skill. It is a matter of historical record that the SPDC troops suffered heavy losses when the joint ethnic revolutionary troops and student army surrounded Khway Eit Taung [Sleeping Dog Hill]. The SPDC had to declare a ceasefire unilaterally on 28 April 1992 because of its losses. Infantry commander major-general Maung Hla declared unequivocally that offensives would be stopped in Karen state for the sake of national unity.
In reality, the idea of the SLORC military leaders working for national unity is like saying the tiger is a vegetarian. The ceasefire was declared because of the lack of military success. Only when it was able to cause a rift between Christians and Buddhists in the KNU did its true nature reemerge. Then, it restarted offensives on 24 December 1994 without giving any reason. The SPDC captured Manaplaw using underhanded means with the help of Buddhist Karen soldiers from the newly-named Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, who showed them the way to the back door of Manaplaw.
Therefore, the SPDC’s claim that it is heading towards ethnic national unity is like a picture drawn on water. If you look at it from the point of view of ethnic national leaders and organisations, there is no reason to believe it.
All that is left is to tear up the SPDC’s 2008 constitution, a constitution with no political legitimacy, no input from major ethnic national organisations, and no aim except to propagate military rule – to tear it to pieces, and dump it into the dustbin of history.
http://english.dvb.no/news.php?id=2148

So, any more bright ideas?  HarnLay
So, any more bright ideas? HarnLay

One of the main problems in the delta is the lower number of aid groups because it is difficult to work freely and negotiate between donors and the military government.

At least four years for full recovery from Nargis devastation: UN
by Solomon
Tuesday, 27 January 2009 20:34

New Delhi (Mizzima) – It will take at least four years for Cyclone Nargis affected people to recover despite the large sum of funds planned, according to the country head of the United Nation in Burma.

Bishow Parajuli, the representative of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), told Mizzima by email that recovery of the cyclone affected areas have continued along with the need for fund and support from all communities.

“This (fully recovery) will take some years, say around four years,” said Parajuli who has 25 years of experience managing humanitarian and development programmes. However, it will not be possible without the continued commitment and support from all stakeholders, including the authorities of Myanmar and the international community,” he said.

The ruling junta changed the country name from Burma to Myanmar in 1989. Cyclone Nargis which lashed Irrawaddy delta and Rangoon in May 2 and 3 killed nearly 138,400 killed and rendered millions homeless.

“Experience of the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, has showed us that after the urgent relief phase is over; recovery efforts are required up to today,” said Parajuli. “It is expected that an equal number of years also will be needed for Myanmar.” continue http://www.mizzima.com/nargis-impact/1608-at-least-four-years-for-full-recovery-from-nargis-devastation-un.html