Profits from Burma’s opium trade are working their way into the pockets of local government authorities, claims a report which found an increase in poppy cultivation last year across Burma’s northeastern Shan state.

Junta rely on drug money to stay in power
Apr 10, 2009 (DVB)–Profits from Burma’s opium trade are working their way into the pockets of local government authorities, claims a report which found an increase in poppy cultivation last year across Burma’s northeastern Shan state.

Increased numbers of poppy farms and comparatively healthy crops occurred throughout Shan state last year, resulting in a 15 per cent drop in the price of opium, said the Lahu National Development Organisation.
The report discovered that village authorities and militia heads continue to collect a tax from opium farmers, suggesting that capital from the opium trade is reaching local, if not senior, government.
“Each house had to pay two tical (32.66 grams) of opium to a local authority,” said the report.
“Depending on the area, this could be a militia chief, a village headman, or a “middle-man”, all of whom then pass the tax to a local Burma Army battalion or township authority.”
The pro-government armed group United Wa State Army control the majority of the opium trade in Shan state, placing restrictions on who traffickers can sell the drug to.
The report said no progress had been seen in the fight against the opium trade because of the government’s hand in it.
“The ruling military clique has been relying on drug money to run businesses and stay in power,” it said.
It added that the government’s claims of success in eradicating poppy cultivation were in order to receive international assistance.
Burma is second to Afghanistan in global opium production according to the United States.

KNU braces for peace talks

by Daniel Pedersen
Friday, 10 April 2009 19:24

Mae Sot (Mizzima) – For more than 60 years the Karen National Union (KNU) and Burma’s ruling military junta have been at war. Now, after a hiatus of 14 years, the two sides are again to hear each other out, in a bid to thrash out a deal to end the bloodshed.

Thailand, the current chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – of which Burma is a member – has cast itself in the role of mediator.

KNU Vice-President David Takapaw, speaking from the Thai-Burma border, said the KNU was committed to peaceful resolution of the conflict and would certainly meet with Burma’s generals.

“Of course we will meet with them, but not in Burma, it must be in a neutral location,” he said.

The Karen National Liberation Army’s (KNLA) Colonel Nerdah Mya, the eldest son of the late General Bo Mya – former KNU president, has welcomed the talks.

“I really don’t know much of the details…but I think if both sides are sincere then such an opportunity is to be welcomed,” said Colonel Nerdah. Continue reading “KNU braces for peace talks”

Observer says Karen defection “insignificant”

by Nem Davies
Friday, 10 April 2009 14:09

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The defection of another Karen National Union group resulted largely from a personal matter and has nothing to do with issues concerning the broader Karen ethnic nationality, according to an observer.

In the two weeks since March 30th, 161 Karen rebels led by Captain Saw Nay Soe Mya, son of late KNU Chairman General Bo Mya, have defected to join the Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army Peace Council (KNU/KNLA Peace Council) led by Major General Htay Maung.

But Sino-Burmese border-based analyst Aung Kyaw Zaw said, “It is nothing significant. Saw Nay Soe Mya is just the son of General Bo Mya. He is not Bo Mya himself. There will be many more such incidents in the course of a revolution. It is more of a personal matter and does not have anything to do with the entire nationality. We can call him a traitor of the family and from the viewpoint of the family.”

On Thursday, Burma’s state-run media, The New Light of Myanmar, carried a front-page story of Captain Saw Nay Soe Mya being welcomed by local residents in Karen state, terming his change in orientation as ‘returning to the legal fold’. Continue reading “Observer says Karen defection “insignificant””

NLD to hold nation-wide party meeting

by Myint Maung
Friday, 10 April 2009 22:51

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Burma’s chief opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), has called for a nation-wide party meeting, in a bid to discuss the ruling military junta’s Constitution and the current political situation in the country.

The meeting is to be held from April 20 to April 29, at the party head office in Rangoon. All branch offices across the country, including youth and women’s wings have been invited to attend the meeting, party spokesperson Nyan Win said.

“We will be discussing the Constitution, and future activities of the party. We have extended an invitation to all branch offices, requesting them to send two delegates each. We are expecting about 100 to 150 participants at the meeting,” Nyan Win told Mizzima on Friday.

During the meeting, the party Central Executive Committee would give a policy paper that they had drafted to all the delegates, who would attend the meeting from across the country, he added.

Chin rebels willing to continue peace talks

by Salai Pi Pi
Friday, 10 April 2009 19:55

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Chin National Front (CNF), an ethnic rebel group, has said it is ready for another round of peace talks with Burma’s military junta, but that the government has so far shown no signs of looking to resume talks.

Dr. Suikhar, Joint General Secretary (1) of the CNF, on Thursday said the rebel group is willing to continue peace talks, which stalled in March 2007, with the State Peace and Development Council – Burma’s military government.

“If the military regime will offer talks, we will accept them because we believe that political problems must be solved by political means,” Suikhar said.

“But so far there has been no offer from the junta,” he added.

Burma’s military government has in recent months stepped up efforts to talk with some ethnic armed rebels, including the Karen National Union. On the behest of Burma’s junta, Thailand has recently summoned a meeting with KNU leaders. Continue reading “Chin rebels willing to continue peace talks”

Asean meeting is besieged by at least 2,000 pro-Thaksin protesters who are now reportedly at the gate of the Royal Cliff Hotel and within 200 metres of the convention hall.

2,000 protesters besiege Pattaya summit

Deput Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban was seen heading to see protest leaders in order to negotiate, reporters at the scene said.

However, no negotiation has taken place and Suthep was later seen retreating into the hotel.

Protester leaders later told reporters that they would pave the way for foreign leaders to get in and out of the hotel. The summit begins this evening with a working dinner.

Lateron in the afternoon Suthep pledged to ensure security for the Asean Summit and Related Summits to proceed as planned.

Suthep said he would try to reason with the red shirts to end the blockade of the meeting venue in Pattaya.

He did not specify the next step if talks failed. He only said certain procedures might have to be adjusted in order to open up access for government leaders to enter the meeting venue. Continue reading “Asean meeting is besieged by at least 2,000 pro-Thaksin protesters who are now reportedly at the gate of the Royal Cliff Hotel and within 200 metres of the convention hall.”

VDO_Don’t Fence Me In: Major Mary and The Karen Refugees from Burma

Since 1962, Burma has been ruled by a military junta. Life has deteriorated markedly for its citizens. Despite its former prosperity and its rich resources, it was voted least developed nation by the UN in 1987, and human rights atrocities continue to prevail. Forced from their homes by the government, more than 100,000 people live in refugee camps along the border between Burma and Thailand; hundreds of thousands more hide in jungles on the Burma side. They are the Karen people, one of the largest ethnic groups in Burma.

Don’t Fence Me In chronicles the life of 70-year-old freedom fighter Major Mary On and her people’s struggle for self-determination. Mary explains how the Karen are fighting for their very survival; the Burmese military’s goal is “to wipe the Karen away so if you want to see them you’ll have to go see them in the museum. See just an image or picture.” Her charismatic storytelling is accompanied by rare, clandestine footage smuggled out of the Karen refugee camps.

She illuminates the plight of the Karen still inside Burma, having little food and hiding in the jungle, yet proving remarkably resilient. While the Karen have lost their land, their way of life, and many of those who lived and fought beside them for independence, they have not lost their ties to a rich and beautiful history that transcends their present day despair. The film reveals the Karen refugees’ spirit and determination to survive as political and historical forces conspire against them. Don’t Fence Me In is an eloquent and moving chronicle of human rights abuses that must finally be brought to the attention of the global community.

“Deeply moving and hauntingly beautiful, Don’t Fence Me In… tells a universal story of struggle against oppression and the creativity and courage that inspire people to make meaning of their lives, as their most basic rights – including the right to live – are systematically violated.” — Ellen Bruno, filmmaker of the award-winning documentary Sacrifice: The Story of Child Prostitutes from Burma
“Don’t Fence Me In… provides a steppingstone for discussion and study in Asian studies, sociology, women’s studies. It is highly recommended.” — reviewed by Karen Hartman, Rutgers University

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Worldwide Short Film Festival, Toronto, Canada, May 2004
Finalist – Short Film & Video Competition, USA Film Festival, Dallas, Texas, 2004
Cracow Film Festival, Poland, 2004
Frame By Frame HBO Documentary Film Series, San Francisco, 2004
26th Annual IFP Market, New York, 2004
FlickerFest International Short Film Festival, Sydney, Australia, 2005
Slamdance Film Festival, Utah, 2005
Intermedia Arts, Minnesota, 2005 Continue reading “VDO_Don’t Fence Me In: Major Mary and The Karen Refugees from Burma”