ASEAN Summit steering committee prepares to tackle possible protests

Thailand’s National Steering Committee for ASEAN Summit, scheduled in late February 2009, has discussed with national security units today (January 27th) about security preparations for the summit. The ASEAN Summit will be organized in the seaside resort of Hua Hin in Prachuap Khiri Khan province.

The committee insisted to the national security units that they would have a contingency plan to tackle possible demonstrations against the government during the summit. The meeting, held at Veranda Resort and Spa Cha-am Hotel in Phetchaburi, also discussed accommodation for top leaders who would attend the summit and security measures both before and after the summit.

In the meeting today, the red-shirted and green-shirted demonstrations against the government and against large-scale factories in Prachuab Khiri Khan were under concern and brought to the discussion.

2009 Humanitarian Action Report set for release

2009 Humanitarian Action Report set for release

Source: United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
Date: 26 Jan 2009

NEW YORK, USA, 26 January 2009 – The 2009 Humanitarian Action Report (HAR) is set to be launched tomorrow in Geneva by UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman and Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Sigrid Kaag. This year’s HAR highlights the plight of children and women in humanitarian emergencies in a total of 36 countries and territories, including Zimbabwe, the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Myanmar.

The report states that emergency needs in eastern and southern Africa have almost doubled, particularly in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Somalia. The report is seeking $981 million – 15 percent more than in 2008 – to cope with the growing severity of emergencies; 38 per cent of the funding will support health and nutrition programmes, and 22 per cent will fund water and sanitation projects.

More than half the funds requested are for the continuation of UNICEF’s support to the five largest humanitarian operations worldwide: in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe. The HAR also notes the challenges presented by high food prices and climate change and their effects on already vulnerable children and families. continue

Burmese migrant workers were fired at the Petrol Plant at Parnan Phetkasar, Samutprakan, Bangkok. Many of them were mothers and pregnancy women who now are facing financial difficulties.

Workers, including pregnant women, Fired from Petrol Plant in Bangkok
Tuesday, 27 January 2009 09:56
Burmese migrant workers were fired at the Petrol Plant at Parnan Phetkasar, Samutprakan, Bangkok. Many of them were mothers and pregnancy women who now are facing financial difficulties.
Ko Min Soe, one of the workers said, “District police came to the plant on 16 January and asked for money for the illegal workers. They compromised with the employer but they continued to demand a huge amount. Our employer could not give them the money. So he had to fire over 70 workers. Some of them were able to find new employment quickly, but over 30 people have not found new jobs yet, including 2 pregnant women in their second trimester of pregnancy and a mother with a 6 month old baby.”
The Burmese Association in Thailand (BAT) is seeking help NGOs to help these pregnant women and a mother.
All the workers have been working in the plant for two years and for some it is very difficult to get a job because they have no legal work permit.
The employer has hired Thai labor in place of the Burmese workers, reported a worker who was been fired from the factory.
The world economic crisis is continuing to affect Thailand and many Burmese migrant workers are losing their jobs all over Thailand.

Thai security against proposed new crossborder coal road

The planned 60km passage between Burma’s Shan State and Thailand’s Chiangrai province as proposed by Saraburi Coal Mining, a subsidiary of Ital-Thai, has run into opposition by officials concerned with security along the border, reported The Manager Online on 23 January.

27 January 2009

Somchai Rungsarkhon, chief officer of Mae Fa Luang district, cited the area on the Thai side as being part of the National Park and the narrowness of the road on the Thai side especially between the border and Pasang, a stretch of some 90 km.

Meanwhile, a border security source raised the long-standing problem of drug trafficking along the border and expressed concern that it will worsen when the road is built. He also pointed out the continued tension between the Burma Army and the anti-Naypyitaw Shan State Army (SSA) South in the area.

Lt-Col Gawnzeun, Commander of the SSA’s Kengtung Force based at Loi Gawwan, agreed. “You will remember that the military confrontations between Burma and Thailand in both 2001 and 2002 began with the SSA’s attacks on drug caravans escorted by the Burma Army units,” he reminded SHAN. “Maejok (the border village on the Burmese side where the proposed road with pass through) has long been a well known transit point for drugs.”

An SSA column, commanded by Capt Liangzeun, had attacked the village on 8 February 2002, put the Infantry Battalion 244 commanded by Maj Tin Lin to rout and seized and destroyed more than 500,000 speed pills. The incident was recorded and aired by Thai TV Channel 7.

An elder from Ban Thoed Thai also brushed off Saraburi’s argument that the proposed passage would shorten the distance. “Maejok is about 10 km south of Yawngkha (former drug-free project site initiated by Thailand, 2002-2005), which means the distance between Mongkok (where the coal concession has reportedly been given by Naypyitaw) and Yawngkha is 50 km,” he said. “From Yawngkha to Tachilek, it is about the same distance, totaling 100 km. But if the proposed road project is approved, the company will have to build and rebuild 60 km inside Burma and 90 inside Thailand, totaling 150 km.”

Gawnzeun thinks the planned project has been masterminded by the Burma Army with the aim to destroy the SSA. “After the road has been built, the junta can terminate the concession with Saraburi anytime,” he warns.

Saraburi has been granted a 30-year contract, according to the Manager Online.

Burmese Monk Talks about Compassion, Obama in Mahachai Thailand

Sitagu Sayadaw (Photo: Myo Thaw)
About 10,000 Burmese migrant workers living in Mahachai, in Thailand’s Samut Sakhon Province, attended a Buddhist sermon on compassion given by Dr Ashin Nyanissara, a famous Burmese monk, on Monday night, said one of the organizers of the talk.

Dr Ashin Nyanissara, who is better known as Sitagu Sayadaw, is the abbot of the Sitagu International Buddhist Missionary Center in Sagaing and one of Burma’s most respected monks. He has been active in raising funds for relief efforts in the Irrawaddy delta, where over 130,000 people were killed by Cyclone Nagris on May 2-3.

Monday’s talk raised about 400,000 baht (US $11,450) in donations, according to Ashin Wayama Sayadaw, a monk who helped organize the event.

This was the second time that Sitagu Sayadaw had come to Mahachai to speak. Last July, he gave a talk to around 5,000 people at the Thai Union Sports Stadium in Mahachai.

In his two-and-a-half-hour sermon, Sitagu Sayadaw discussed the common Buddhist themes of compassion and change. On the latter topic, he focused on the message of new US President Barack Obama, whose inaugural speech last Tuesday attracted worldwide attention.

“Most people who live here want to see change, so [Sitagu Sayadaw’s] talk really spoke to them,” said Ashin Wayama Sayadaw. “It gave them a way out of their feeling. I was also very impressed.” continue

Situation in Burma critical, says exiled prime minister

BURMA IS in crisis, its exiled prime minister said in Dublin yesterday. Dr Sein Win, who was re-elected prime minister of the exiled National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB) last week, said repression under the military regime has worsened.

Political prisoners are receiving longer sentences, he said, and even social workers are being arrested for carrying out humanitarian work.

Dr Win was attending the Members of the Parliamentary Union (MPU), four-yearly congress, held in Malahide, Co Dublin, over the weekend and funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Some 33 Burmese exiled MPs, making up the MPU, travelled from the US, Thailand, India, Norway, Australia and other countries to the seaside town to elect a prime minister and to discuss the situation in Burma. It was the second time the congress was held in Ireland. continue


Prime minister Dr Sein Win (right) and Ashin Sopaka of the International Burma Monks Association, at the Strategic Consultation Forum of exiled MPs and leaders of Burma, in Malahide, Co Dublin, yesterday.

Ashin Sopaka page Donations welcome

Senior National League for Democracy member Win Tin has said the party will not discuss the 2010 elections with United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari when he visits Burma this week.

Gambari is due to visit Burma from 31 January to 3 February, his fifth visit to the country since the government’s violent crackdown on public demonstrations in September 2007.
During his last visit, he was not able to meet with junta leader senior general Than Shwe or detained NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi and was criticised for the lack of tangible progress made.
Win Tin said he did not have high expectations for the special envoy’s upcoming visit.
“[Gambari] has made a lot of visits to Burma in the past but they have barely made any impact,” Win Tin said.
“Recently, he reached the point where Daw Aung San Suu Kyi wouldn’t even receive him. I don’t expect any significant results from this visit either,” he said.
“If he does nothing more than what he does usually on his trips; talking nonsense, visiting places the government wants him to visit and seeing people the government wants him to see, then we would support him but without much appreciation.”
Win Tin said the UN envoy would be welcome to discuss the problems with the constitution adopted by the military regime in 2008, but the NLD would not participate in talks about the planned 2010 elections.
“If the UN wants to give us their opinions and tell us their concerns about the 2008 constitution, we would at least like to listen to them,” Win Tin said.
“We would strongly encourage the UN if they will put in the effort for negotiations on this issue,” he said.
“But if they are only here to talk about the elections, then we won’t listen to them.”
NLD members were disappointed that Gambari raised the issue of the 2010 election during his last visit, and said they could not support an election held on the basis of the 2008 constitution.
Win Tin also criticised the UN officials who called out to Aung San Suu Kyi with a loudspeaker from in front of her house last year, saying that they violated diplomatic ethics.