With the ASEAN member countries having agreed to develop the Buddhist Circuit/Pilgrimage Tourism for ASEAN and India, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is positive that this will be another great effort which will encourage all members to work together in close cooperation in tourism promotion and marketing within ASEAN.

Therefore, to ensure that the set objectives are achieved, TAT has been actively working on this project. The Union of Myanmar is one of the pilot countries with whom TAT is keen to join hands in promoting the “Buddhist Circuit”. Apart from having participated in the seminar held during 24-28 August, 2008, in the Union of Myanmar, TAT recently organized an educational trip covering the Bangkok-Chiang Rai-Thachilek-Kengtung-Bagan-Yangon-Bangkok route during 17-21 February, 2009. A total of 22 participants including representatives from the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT), the Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA), the Chiang Rai Tourism Society, as well as travel writers, took part in the trip which was headed by Mr Suraphon Svetasreni, TAT Deputy Governor for Policy and Planning.

This educational trip was not only part of the “Buddhist Circuit” route survey, but was also an opportunity for the Thai private sector and travel writers to meet and exchange information with their counterparts.

Fruitful results of the Thailand-Myanmar Buddhist Circuit packages and other tourism promotion and marketing activities are another step forward that both Thailand and Myanmar expect following the trip.

This educational trip was not only a part of the “Buddhist Circuit” route survey, but was also an opportunity for the Thai private sector and travel writers to meet and exchange information with their counterparts. The fruitful results of the Thailand-Myanmar Buddhist Circuit packages and other activities in terms of tourism promotion and marketing are another step forward that both Thailand and Myanmar expected after the trip was completed. Besides, the upcoming hosting of the Buddhism Pilgrimage documentary film production team from India, both countries are optimistic to welcome more cooperation from other ASEAN members which may join to fulfill the ASEAN-India Buddhist Circuit Tourism in the near future.

Buddhist Circuit in Land of MONKS_KILLERS

People Forced to Transport Army Rations

A local source said the army authority has also been transporting many heavy weapons to Tharaw Ai camp located on the Indian border through Paletwa Township. The army is reportedly building up a Military Operation Planning Burea No 1 at Tharaw Ai Village on the upper Kaladan River.

Kyauktaw: Villagers from the Indo-Burma border have been forced by army authorities to transport army rations from an inland port to army camps stationed along the border, said a village leader in the area.
“The army has gathered the rations, mostly rice, in the border camps, but I do not know how many border camps have been distributed rations. We are transporting the rations to some camps along the border without any wages,” he said.

The Burmese army has been transporting the rice from the Arakanese town Kyauktaw to Paletwa in Chin State with small engine boats via the Kaladan River.

The rice can be transported by boat as far as Taungbro Port in Paletwa Township, at which point the authority is using locals to carry the rice to the border camps.

Villagers from several villages, including Tharaw Ai, Do Chaung Wa, Adai Wa and Own Thee Wa in Paletwa Township have been forced by army authorities to transport the army rations.

“The army officials told us that as the number of battalions are being increased in the western border area recently, they need more rations for them. So they have to transport rice and other goods to the border area,” the man said.

The Burmese army has added three more battalions along the western Burmese border, where four battalions were previously stationed.

Maj-Gen Soe Win, the northern regional or Kachin State command commander of the Burmese ruling junta has amassed a huge amount of money by fleecing drug smugglers, said sources close to him.

In Kachin State, every northern regional command (Ma Pa Kha) commander has earned money from jade mines, gold mines, timber, illicit drugs, and giving out a variety of business permits. Now, however, the amount of income from illicit drugs has topped the list for northern commanders starting from former northern regional commander Maj-Gen Ohn Myint to the present commander Maj-Gen Soe Win.

The junta’s Northern Regional Command Commander Maj-Gen Soe Win.

According to local Kachin businessmen, the northern regional commander is the most powerful man in the command. However they cannot make vast amounts of money from other business ventures in Kachin State except from illicit drug trade because other business ventures are directly under the control of Naypyidaw, the capital of the country.

Local reliable sources close to Maj-Gen Soe Win said, he has already received some 600 million kyats in cash which is equivalent US $ 606,061 each from two major drug smuggling gangs in the country as bribe. And the bribes are for permission from the commander Maj-Gen Soe Win to freely distribute different kinds of drugs in Kachin State.

The two drug smuggling syndicates trade in heroin, Yama or also called Methamphetamines and other kinds of drugs except opium from the Burma’s northeast Shan State bordering China to Hpakant jade mining city in Kachin State. This is one of the largest drug markets in the country, said local sources close to drug smugglers.

The Burma Army has received Russian-made 1L117 radar last month, a group of border watchers reported recently.

More hi-tech gimmicks for the Army
by admin — last modified 2009-03-03 07:19

3 March 2009

An unknown number of the radar sets were transferred to the Army in Rangoon on 23 February and 25 February, according to the report.

One of them is due to be installed at Loi Mwe, 20 miles south of Kengtung and 82 miles north of Maesai.

The radar provides a maximum range of 350 km (218.75 miles). Besides, it has the advantages of “low cost, high reliability, simplicity and friendliness of operation control” plus “Built-in identification ‘friend or foe’ (IFF) interrogator,” according to its catalogue.

The Russians already have an improved updated model: 1L117M.

SHAN reported in January that the Burma Army has put to use the UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator) maps and has been training in another Russian-made lgla MANPADS (Man portable Air Defense System).
china riffles,russian radar…..hey UN, what,s about arms embargo?

Karen Human Rights Group report:Cycles of Displacement: Forced relocation and civilian responses in Nyaunglebin District

Over the past three years, the Burma Army has conducted an extensive forced relocation campaign in Nyaunglebin District. As part of the wider offensive in northern Karen State, the forced relocations in Nyaunglebin District have aimed to bring the region’s entire civilian population into more easily controllable settlements in the plains, along vehicle roads and alongside army camps and bases. Local villagers, however, have resisted these efforts in numerous ways. Villagers’ resistance strategies include: fleeing into hiding to evade forced relocation; negotiating with local SPDC commanders to avoid relocation or garner increased freedom of movement at relocation sites; and covertly leaving relocation sites to temporarily or permanently return to their former homes and lands. The Burma Army’s attacks against civilian communities in hiding, combined with forced relocation efforts and civilian evasion in Nyaunglebin District, have created ongoing cycles of displacement.

Breaking News 28 February 2009 The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) can confirm that 23 political prisoners were released from various prisons in Burma 21st February 2009.

The list of released:
Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, Member of Parliament from the NLD. (Myintkyina prison)
U Pe Sein, Township organizer, Mohnyin, Kachin State. (Myintkyina prison)
U Naw Naw (Myintkyina prison)
Arkar Soe (Myintkyina prison)
U Kaythara (a) U Kyaw Min Thet (Insein)
U Ingura (a) U Aye Tun Thar (Insein)
U Thireina (a) U Kyaw Moe (Insein)
U Marlaina (a) U Min Zaw Aung (Insein)
U Ardatesa (a) U Aung Ko (Insein)
U Takekanateya (a) U Maung Zaw (Insein)
U Damitika (a) U Tun Tun (Insein)
U Tun Zaw Htay (a) Tun Tun (Insein)
U Khaing Ba Myint (Insein)
U Soe (Insein)
U Nandathiri (a) U Htay Ye Tun (Insein)
U Sandima (a) U Zaw Min Htet (Insein)
Ma Hmwe (a) Ma Kyin Haw (Insein)
Ma Khin Khin Leah (Insein)
Tin Hlaing (Insein)
U Thet Wai (a) Pauk Sa (Insein)
Ma Htay (Insein)
U Tin Htay (Kale prison)
U Than Htay (Kale prison)
Zaw Naing Htwe (a) Kat Net (Labourcamp)
Charry Aung (Katha Prison)
Aung San Oo (aka) Kyauk Khe (Thayet Prison)
Sai Nook (Thayet Prison)
Min Han (Thayet Prison)
Nyo Gyi (NLD) deputy-chair of Maddaya NLD (Khamti)

“They were sentenced yesterday without their defense lawyer,” Moe Thway, one of the members of GW, who is hiding and communicating with the media, said. “Nyein Chan has one more trial in the Yangon (Rangoon) Divisional Court,” he added.

There are 10 GW members, who have been sentenced up to 10 years and altogether 17 members are being detained, said the group.

The military junta has granted amnesty for 6,313 prisoners, announced on February 20, after the end of United Nations Human Rights expert Tomas Ojea Quintana’s six day trip to the country.

However, according to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP-B) till today only 30 political prisoners have been released.

The activists and opposition party in exile criticized the amnesty of the junta, saying it just meant easing off pressure from the international community as they did in the past.

“We cannot expect the political situation in Burma, to improve just because a few political prisoners have been released. This is just a ploy to try and ease international pressure,” said Tate Naing, general secretary of AAPP-B in a statement in February.

The UN Human Rights Expert said in an interview to Mizzima, that he had suggested to the Burmese government to review their judiciary and to make it independent and impartial for protecting the fundamental rights of the people. continue

Independent candidates establish network to contest 2010 elections

by Nem Davies
Tuesday, 03 March 2009 15:18

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Twenty five independent candidates set to contest in the Burmese military junta’s proposed general elections scheduled for 2010, have formed a network.

“We must certainly face 2010 elections, either as an independent or as a party in this multi-party election. We decided to contest as independent candidates. At the same time, we knew that we would be in a weak position, if we contested as independent candidates. So, we have decided to explore how to consolidate our position. Then I proposed a network and all the others agreed,” Nay Myo Wei, who hails from Bogale and is a member of this network said.

He frequently posts his opinion on the internet, criticizing the exiled movement.

All the network members have accepted the junta’s 7-fold roadmap and constitution, which was approved in the May 2008 Referendum.

According to the statement issued by this network received by Mizzima, there will be independent candidates, organizers and sympathizers, who will assist in contesting the elections.

The main opposition party ‘National League for Democracy’ (NLD) has called for reviewing the junta’s unilaterally drafted constitution and said contesting in this election was out of the question for them.

Party spokesperson, Nyan Win, said that if the constitution was not reviewed, it would legitimize military rule and would put the country into more trouble.

The independent candidates, popularly known as the Third Force, said that the politically competent candidates should contest the general elections and should educate the people on how to select their representatives. continue

Drug-producing machine to be smuggled into Burma seized by Thai Army

by Ko Wild
Tuesday, 03 March 2009 16:46

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – A machine, which can produce methamphetamine tablets to be smuggled into Burma through the border, was seized in Mae Sai by the Thai Army last evening.

After receiving a tip-off that an ecstasy machine would be brought from Chiang Mai district, Pang to Mae Sai, the Thai border police waited carefully along the Thai-Burma border creek and finally arrested them.

“They got a tip-off and arrested a person from Chiang Mai, while they were trying to cross into Burma. Another Thai fled from the scene. This machine was to be smuggled into Burma,” a local resident from Mae Sai, who has close contacts with the police, told Mizzima.

The machine was carried in a Chiang Mai registered Mitsubishi car, driven by Thai national, Jumnam Wirot (34). The Thai police inspected the car and found the machine, while the car had stopped and was waiting at a ferry pier in Ward No. 9, Mae Sai.

The driver gave his statement to the police saying that he had no knowledge that this machine was an ecstasy producing machine. He was instructed by the consignor to carry this machine, known to him only as a corn grinding machine.

The ferry pier in Mae Sai is opposite to Parset Ward in Tachileik, Burma. There are many other illegal border entry points along this border creek.

“There are a lot of people at these border gates in the night such as ‘Wa’ gate, Army gate, Border Committee Chairman Maung Lay’s gate, police gate etc. If you want to cross these gates at night, you have to pay Baht 300-500. The toll tax for contraband goods is extra. These gates are crowded with people at night. It is better not to go outside at night. It will be safe for us,” he said.

The Thai police also seized over 10,000 weapons of M16 assault rifle on February 4, this year from a house in Param Ward, Mae Sai in Thailand.

The Thai border police force held a press conference yesterday, briefing the media about the seizure of the ecstasy producing machine. It has been learnt that Mae Sai police will hold a similar press conference this evening.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya must take up the invitation by Burmese counterpart Nyan Win for an official visit before the end of the month. The new government, Mr Kasit in particular, should engage the military regime in straight talk. Now, more than ever, Burma is dragging heavily on bilateral relations, progress by Asean and – especially – the efforts to combat major drug trafficking rings.

Wean Burma off drugs

For the first time in a decade, the Thai government has a greater stake in promoting human rights, democracy and rule of law in Burma than in doing business with the military rulers.

While Asean was holding its summit last weekend, the US State Department issued its annual no-nonsense report on drug trafficking worldwide. This two-volume report has become a standard for anyone with even a cursory interest in the subject. It is objective enough that the US lists itself (and Thailand) as countries that help international criminals by helping money laundering. So this report deserves to be taken seriously when it says that Burma is not just one of the top three drug trafficking nations, but that its government has failed miserably to try to adhere to international obligations to stop it. continue