(Interview with former student leader)-Absence of unions has been a bane for students

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Absence of students’ unions in Burma, which can operate freely, have led to many sacrifices by students with no guarantee of education, a former student leader of the 7th July student movement said.

The student leader recalled the 7th July 1962 student movement which protested against lack of students’ rights, democratic rights and the military dictatorship in Rangoon University.

The Revolutionary Council led by former dictator Gen. Ne Win grabbed power in a coup from a democratically elected civilian government on March 2, 1962. The students staged peaceful protests against this coup d’etat. The regime quelled the student demonstration brutally by opening fire on peaceful and unarmed students. This student demonstration and massacre was later dubbed the 7th July incident.

On this ill-fated day, hundreds of students were killed and the junta dynamited the student union building situated in Rangoon University campus the next day, July 8 1962.

Though it has been 47 years now, successive Burmese governments still ignore the rightful demands of students and have suppressed student movements brutally till today.

Mizzima reporter Phanida interviewed a former student leader (who wished not to be named on security grounds) on the background of the 7th July student movement, students’ rights and current Burmese politics. The interview is presented here.

Q: Students have sacrificed their lives for democratic rights and an end to military dictatorships in all ages. Why do you think they have not yet achieved their goal?

A: There are two parts to this question, pre-1962 and post-1962. Our democratic struggle took too much time. It took the whole of post-independence period. We must introspect on it. This is very important for all of us. Naturally the sacrifices and losses are inevitable. But Burma experienced two historical ages in its 60-year long post-independence period. This is the significant point of Burma’s history. Another significant point is the complexity of ideology in our movement; the right, left and centrist lines. The last point is there were many separations in our movement. Continue reading “(Interview with former student leader)-Absence of unions has been a bane for students”

An extraordinary film – Burma VJ-screening inLondon and Singapore

The film will be screened in Singapore on July 16. Please see below for details.
“This film BURMA VJ is comprised largely by material shot by undercover reporters in Burma. Some elements of the film have been reconstructed in close collaboration with the actual persons involved, just as some names, places, and other recognizable facts have been altered for security reasons and in order to protect individuals. ”
Armed with small handy cams undercover Video Journalists in Burma keep up the flow of news from their closed country. Going beyond the occasional news clip from Burma, acclaimed director Anders Østergaard, brings us close to the video journalists who deliver the footage. Though risking torture and life in jail, courageous young citizens of Burma live the essence of journalism as they insist on keeping up the flow of news from their closed country. The Burma VJs stop at nothing to make their reportages from the streets of Rangoon.
Their material is smuggled out of the country and broadcast back into Burma via satellite and offered as free usage for international media. The whole world has witnessed single event clips made by the VJs, but for the very first time, their individual images have been carefully put together and at once, they tell a much bigger story. ”Joshua”, age 27, is one of the young video journalists, who works undercover to counter the propaganda of the military regime. Foreign TV crews are suddenly banned from the country, so it’s left to Joshua and his crew to keep the revolution alive on TV screens all over.
With Joshua as the psychological lens, the Burmese condition is made tangible to a global audience so we can understand it, feel it, and smell it. The film offers a unique insight into high-risk journalism and dissidence in a police state, while at the same time providing a thorough documentation of the historical and dramatic days of September 2007, when the Buddhist monks started marching.
The screening of the film in Singapore is as follows:
16 July Thursday 7-10pm.
Jubilee Hall Raffles Hotel 3rd Level facing North Bridge Mcdonalds
Screening starts at 7.30pm promptly.
Admission Free.
Seating begins from 7pm.
First-come-first served basis.
Burma VJ website.

Screening in London
Date: 19 July, Sunday (Burma’s National Martyrs’ Day)
Time: 11.45am
Venue: ICA
Ticket charge: £8

Thailand’s paddy politics threatens rice trade – Feature

Bangkok – Four and a half decades ago, Myanmar, also known as Burma, was the world’s leading rice exporter. A military coup in 1962 followed by the introduction of socialism swiftly stifled free trade in Myanmar, allowing neighboring Thailand to take the top rice-exporter slot, which it has held ever since.
But populist polices in Thailand’s rice fields are slowly undermining its leading role in the trade.
Thailand is arguably unique in Asia. The country produces more than 20 million tons of rice per year, of which 10 million tons are consumed domestically. The remainder is exported.
“We grow rice for business,” said Chookiat Ophaswongse, president of the 90-year-old Thai Rice Exporters Association. “We are not like other countries that grow rice because they want to be self-sufficient in food and just export the surplus.”
There are more than 200 members in the association, plus 50 to 60 other exporters who operate freely on the market.
Business has been good. Last year, during the so-called food crisis when India and Vietnam slapped bans on their own rice exports, Thailand shipped more than 10 million tons, earning the kingdom 200 billion baht (5.6 billion dollars). Continue reading “Thailand’s paddy politics threatens rice trade – Feature”

DKBA meeting with UN chief ‘scripted’ by junta

July 7, 2009 (DVB)–An official from a Burmese pro-junta militia who met with UN chief Ban Ki-moon last week said the meeting was orchestrated by the government, who scripted all questions put to the Secretary General.

Representatives from seven pro-government ceasefire groups, including the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), met with Ban Ki-moon in the capital Naypyidaw during his trip to Burma last weekend.

The DKBA have been supporting the government in their offensive against the opposition Karen Naitonal Union, which has forced thousands of refugees into Thailand over the past month.

A DKBA official told DVB under condition of anonymity that their group’s representatives were not allowed to speak to Ban independently, but only could say what government had told them to say to him.

“Our representatives told us when they came back from [Naypyidaw] that there was no outcome [from the meeting] as they were not allowed to say what they had in mind to say,” the official said.

DKBA representatives had planned to discuss strategies to restore peace along the border areas in Karen state to prevent more fighting, said the official.

“But when they arrived [in Naypyidaw], government officials there gave them a piece of paper and told them to only say what was written on it.”

Representatives were unable to freely answer Ban’s question about the ongoing fights along the border, said the official, who added that state-run newspaper would then frame the meeting as a successful attempt at dialogue.

Ban Ki-moon said on Saturday that he was “deeply disappointed” with his two-day visit to Burma, having had his request to meet with imprisoned opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi denied twice.

Observers have said that not enough emphasis was placed on tackling the issue of the relationship between Burma’s myriad ethnic groups and the predominantly Burman ruling State Peace and Development Council.

Reporting by Naw Noreen

http://www.dvb. no/english/ news.php? id=2689

IOM has now resettled 67,000 refugees from Thai refugee camps since 2004. Of these over 50,000 came from Myanmar and nearly 55,000 – over 80 per cent of the total – went to new homes in the United States.

IOM Refugee Resettlement Tops 67,000

Posted on Tuesday, 07-07-2009

Thailand – IOM has now resettled 67,000 refugees from Thai refugee camps since 2004. Of these over 50,000 came from Myanmar and nearly 55,000 – over 80 per cent of the total – went to new homes in the United States.
In the first half of 2009 through the end of June, IOM Thailand moved nearly 10,000 refugees accepted for resettlement by the US (7,488), Australia (1,396), Canada (402), Norway (225), Finland (216), Sweden (75), New Zealand (59), Denmark (9) and the Netherlands (4).

The largest group of 4,281 came from Ban Mae Nai Soi – a refugee camp on the Thai-Myanmar border in Thailand’s northern Mae Hong Son province. A further 1,691 came from Mae La camp, 1,080 from Umpium Mai camp, and 908 from Nu Po camp – all in Tak province to the south, according to IOM Resettlement Coordinator Hans Beckers.

“The programme is still very challenging, partly because the logistics keep getting tougher as we shift our focus from the more accessible camps in Kanchanaburi and Tak provinces to the most remote – like Ban Mae Nai Soi – in Mae Hong Son,” says Beckers.

Since 2004 IOM Thailand’s refugee resettlement programme has sent a total of 54,757 refugees to the US, 5,701 to Australia, 3,559 to Canada, 1,593 to Norway, 1,234 to Finland, 1,163 Sweden, 453 to New Zealand, 424 to the Netherlands, 276 to the UK, 110 to Denmark and 97 to Ireland.

While IOM plays no part in selecting which refugees are accepted, its global responsibilities in refugee resettlement include medical screening, which comprises physical examinations and chest x-rays for tuberculosis (TB) that is rife in the camps. If laboratory tests confirm the disease, IOM medical staff provide the lengthy treatment needed until the refugee is fit to travel with his or her family to their new home. Continue reading “IOM has now resettled 67,000 refugees from Thai refugee camps since 2004. Of these over 50,000 came from Myanmar and nearly 55,000 – over 80 per cent of the total – went to new homes in the United States.”

Myanmar earns $292 million from jade sales

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) – Military-ruled Myanmar earned more than 209 million euros ($292 million) from the sale of jade at a government-sponsored gems show despite a U.S. ban on their import, a merchant said Tuesday.

Nearly 5,500 lots of jade were sold through competitive bidding at the 13-day auction, with most of the buyers from China, said one of the participants, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisal. The event was attended by more than 5,000 local and foreign gem merchants, the participant said.

The military regime, which normally trumpets the annual emporium, has made no announcement about the June 22-July 4 event.
Myanmar is one of the world’s biggest producers of jade and other gems, as well as the source of up to 90 percent of its rubies.

The United States last year signed legislation banning the import of gems from Myanmar as part of sanctions against the country. Because of U.S. economic sanctions imposed on Myanmar in July 2003, which froze all U.S. dollar remittances to the country, international business transactions — including gem sales — are carried out in euros.

“Despite the gems ban and (world) economic crisis, 72 percent of jade lots displayed at the emporium were sold,” said the merchant.

The largest contingent of buyers, nearly 3,000, came from China, the main market for Myanmar jade.

Most of the jade belongs to private businesses and the government takes a 10 percent tax from sales.

Organized by the Mines Ministry, gem auctions are a major revenue earner for the ruling junta, which faces International condemnation because of its poor human rights record and failure to hand over power to a democratically elected government.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to diplomatic missions, United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations in Yangon, Myanmar on 4 July:

This is my second visit to Myanmar in just over a year. Both visits have been at critical times for the country’s future.

My first visit was in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis. This devastating natural disaster, which took so many lives and created so much hardship, touched hearts across the globe. In Myanmar’s moment of need, the world responded generously.

I want to personally thank everyone here today for your remarkable contributions to the relief and recovery effort. You have saved lives, rejuvenated communities and made it possible for many thousands of people to reclaim their livelihoods. You have helped Myanmar to overcome adversity. It is important that this work continues.

I felt the tragedy of Cyclone Nargis deeply — as a fellow Asian and as Secretary-General. I am Asia’s second Secretary-General. The first was Myanmar’s U Thant. I revere his memory. I also recall his wise words.

U Thant said: “The worth of the individual human being is the most unique and precious of all our assets and must be the beginning and end of all our efforts. Governments, systems, ideologies and institutions come and go, but humanity remains.”

This is why I have returned. As Secretary-General, I attach the highest importance to helping the people of this country to achieve their legitimate aspirations. The United Nations works for people –- their rights, their well-being, their dignity. It is not an option. It is our responsibility.

I have come to show the unequivocal shared commitment of the United Nations to the people of Myanmar. I am here today to say: Myanmar -– you are not alone. We want to work with you for a united, peaceful, prosperous, democratic and modern Myanmar. We want to help you rise from poverty.

We want to work with you so your country can take its place as a respected and responsible member of the international community. We want to help you achieve national reconciliation, durable peace and sustainable development. But, let me emphasize: neither peace nor development can thrive without democracy and respect for human rights. Myanmar is no exception.

The challenges are many. But they are not insurmountable. We know from experience that securing Myanmar’s peaceful, democratic and prosperous future is a complex process. None of Myanmar’s challenges can be solved on their own. Peace, development and human rights are closely interrelated. Failure to address them with equal attention will risk undermining the prospects for democracy, durable peace and prosperity.

However, we also know that where there is a genuine will for dialogue and reconciliation, all obstacles can be overcome. The question today is this: how much longer can Myanmar afford to wait for national reconciliation, democratic transition and full respect for human rights? The cost of delay will be counted in wasted lives, lost opportunities and prolonged isolation from the international community. Let me be clear: all the people of Myanmar must work in the national interest.

I said this yesterday when I met with representatives of Myanmar’s registered political parties and with those armed groups that have chosen to observe a ceasefire. I encouraged them respectively to honour their commitments to the democratic process and peace.

Nonetheless, the primary responsibility lies with the Government to move the country towards its stated goals of national reconciliation and democracy. Failure to do so will prevent the people of Myanmar from realizing their full potential. Failure to do so will deny the people of Myanmar their right to live in dignity and to pursue better standards of life in larger freedom.

These principles lie at the core of the United Nations Charter, whose opening words are “We the peoples”. The founding Constitution of independent Myanmar echoes these noble words. We must work together to ensure that Myanmar’s future embodies these principles too. Continue reading “SECRETARY-GENERAL, QUOTING PREDECESSOR U THANT, SAYS MYANMAR GOVERNMENT HAS MISSED ‘UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY’ TO MATCH COUNTRY’S EARLY COMMITMENT TO HUMAN RIGHTS”

Security Council condemns latest missile tests by DPR Korea

6 July 2009 – The Security Council today condemned the ballistic missile tests conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) over the weekend, saying they violate Council resolutions and pose a threat to regional and international security.
Ambassador Ruhakana Rugunda of Uganda, which holds the rotating Council presidency this month, read out a statement to journalists this evening saying that the 15-member panel had “expressed grave concerns” following the reported tests off the DPRK coast on 4 July.

Mr. Rugunda said Council members – which held consultations on the issue this afternoon – reiterated that the DPRK must comply with their obligations under all resolutions, including resolution 1874, which was adopted unanimously last month in response to a recent nuclear test by Pyongyang.

That resolution imposed a series of measures on the DPRK that include tougher inspections of cargo suspected of containing banned items related to the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile activities, a tighter arms embargo with the exception of light weapons and new financial restrictions.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had welcomed the resolution and called on Pyongyang to engage in dialogue, including through the Six-Party Talks that brings together the DPRK, the Republic of Korea, Japan, China, Russia and the United States.

Mr. Rugunda said Council members appealed to all parties to refrain from any actions that might escalate the situation, and reiterated their commitment to a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the issue.

Ban Ki Moon:Bangkok, Thailand, 4 July 2009 – Press encounter following departure from Myanmar

SG: Good evening. Thank you for coming to meet me at this late hour of the day.

As you know, I have just come from a two-day visit to Myanmar. I met twice the Senior General Than Shwe, and I had discussions with other government officials.

I also met with leaders of Myanmar’s registered political parties and with those former armed groups that have chosen to observe a cease-fire.

This morning I also had time to visit Kyon Da Village in the Irrawaddy Delta to see the results of recovery and reconstruction work.

Let me first address my meetings with Senior General Than Shwe.

As you know by now, I asked to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

I am deeply disappointed that Senior General Than Shwe refused my request. Allowing a visit to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi would have been an important symbol of the government’s willingness to embark on the kind of meaningful engagement that will be essential if the elections in 2010 are to be seen as credible.

I believe the Government of Myanmar failed to take a unique opportunity to show its commitment to a new era of political openness.

Nonetheless, my visit has enabled me to convey the concerns of the international community very frankly and directly to Senior General Than Shwe and his Government.

My meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, however, should not be seen as the only benchmark for success or failure of my visit. Because I believe that there are many more fundamental issues which we addressed, during the visit, which [will] help move Myanmar forward.

The members of the international community wanted me to tell Myanmar’s leaders that the international community stands ready to help the people of Myanmar achieve their legitimate aspirations.

This is why I went to Myanmar, and this is what we did.

I told Senior General Than Shwe that the international community wants to help Myanmar to achieve democracy, national reconciliation, durable peace and sustainable development.

And I emphasized that neither peace nor development can thrive without democracy and respect for human rights.

I outlined my proposals for progress.

I told Senior General Than Shwe that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners should be released without delay and allowed to participate freely in the political process. Continue reading “Ban Ki Moon:Bangkok, Thailand, 4 July 2009 – Press encounter following departure from Myanmar”