As I travel through my country, people often ask me how it feels to have been imprisoned in my home –first for six years, then for 19 months. How could I stand the separation from family and friends? It is ironic, I say, that in an authoritarian state it is only the prisoner of conscience who is genuinely free. Yes, we have given up our right to a normal life. But we have stayed true to that most precious part of our humanity–our conscience.

Traveling across Burma, I ask people why they want democracy. Very often the answer is, “We just want to be free.” They do not have to elaborate. I understand what they mean. They want to be able to live their lives without the oppressive sense that their destiny is not theirs to shape. They do not want their daily existence to be ruled by the orders and whims of those whose authority is based on might of arms.

When I ask young people what they mean by freedom, they say that they want to be able to speak their minds. They want to be able to voice their discontent with an education system that does not challenge their intellect. They want to be able to discuss, criticize, argue; to be able to gather in the thousands or even hundreds of thousands to sing, to shout, to cheer. Burma’s young people want to play out the vitality of their youth in its full spectrum of hope and wonder–its uncertainties, its arrogance, its fancies, its brilliance, it rebelliousness, its harshness, its tenderness.

What do the women of Burma want? They tell me that they want to be free from the tyranny of rising prices that make a household an exhausting business. They want to be free from anxiety that their husbands might be penalized for independent thinking–or that their children might not be given a chance in life. Many — too many —
long to be free from having to sell their bodies to support their families.

The farmers and peasants I meet want to sow and plant as they wish, to be able to market their products at will, unhampered by the coercion to sell it to the state at cruelly low prices. They struggle daily with the land. They do not want unreasonable decrees and incomprehensible authority to add to their burden.

And what about those of us in the National League of Democracy? Why are we working so hard to free our country? Is it not that we see democracy through a haze of optimism. We know that democracy is a jewel that must be polished constantly to maintain its luster. To prevent it from being damaged or stolen, democracy must be guarded and unremitting vigilance.

We are working so hard for freedom because only in a free Burma will we be able to build a nation that respects and cherishes human dignity.

As I travel through my country, people often ask me how it feels to have been imprisoned in my home –first for six years, then for 19 months. How could I stand the separation from family and friends? It is ironic, I say, that in an authoritarian state it is only the prisoner of conscience who is genuinely free. Yes, we have given up our right to a normal life. But we have stayed true to that most precious part of our humanity–our conscience.

Here is what I want most for my people: I want the security of genuine freedom and the freedom of genuine security. I would like to see the crippling fetters of fear removed, that the people of Burma may be able to hold their heads high as free human beings. I would like to see them striving in unity and joy to build a safer, happier society
for us all.

I would especially like to see our younger people stride confidently into the future, their richness of spirit soaring to meet all challenges. I would like to be able to say: “This is a nation worthy of all those who loved it and lived and died for it–that we might be proud of our heritage.” These are not dreams. These constitute the reality towards which we have been working for years, firm in our faith that the will of the people will ultimately triumph.

(published in Parade Magazine (U.S. national syndicate) March 9 2003)

Bargaining Burma’s Political Prisoners by Huffington Post

MAE SOT — United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appears to have been granted a belated booby prize from Burma’s military rulers after his recent trip. On July 13, Ban bleakly reported to the Security Council that his visit was a major lost opportunity for the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) to demonstrate their commitment to change. They did not allow him to visit Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi nor did they release any political prisoners.

Yet after Ban’s speech, the Burmese ambassador to the UN, Than Shwe, said that his government was “processing to grant amnesty to prisoners on humanitarian grounds and with a view to enabling them to participate in the 2010 elections.” This step was one of three benchmarks Ban announced before his visit, the others being the resumption of a substantive dialogue inside Burma, and to create conditions conducive to a credible and legitimate election.

Burma’s president, General Than Shwe (no relation to the ambassador), had assured Ban during his visit that the long-planned elections would be “free, fair, and credible.”

Can the SPDC be trusted to release all of Burma’s 2,100 political prisoners and allow them to run in elections? Unfortunately we’ve been through this all before.

Recent amnesties in Burma have been little more than public relations stunts. In September 2008, 9,000 prisoners were released, but only six of them, including the 78-year-old journalist U Win Tin were political activists. The amnesty was to detract attention from the one-year anniversary of the brutal 2007 crackdown against monks and other activists in which at least 21 people were killed. In February this year, to illustrate cooperation with a visiting UN human rights envoy, another amnesty freed 6,000 prisoners. Only 24 of these were imprisoned for political activities.

Meanwhile, in the two years since the 2007 crackdown, the number of political prisoners in Burma doubled, to 2,100 and courts have sentenced hundreds of activists to long prison terms.

Political prisoners in Burma are incarcerated because they have called on the military government to protect basic freedoms. They have urged Burma’s rulers to engage with Burmese society and address long neglected social issues such as health, education and basic living standards. Or they have spoken to foreigners about repression in their country. Continue reading “Bargaining Burma’s Political Prisoners by Huffington Post”

“It is mandatory from now on for Chinese tourists to send the advisory letter to the Chief of Staff (Army) Office before entering Burma.

Army Directorate restricts entry of Chinese travellers
by Myo Gyi
Wednesday, 29 July 2009 20:11

Ruili (Mizzima) – As of now Chinese travellers wanting to visit Burma through the border entry points must get prior approval of the Chief of Staff (Army) Office.

The new rule has come into effect from July 16 for Chinese travellers to Burma.

“It is mandatory from now on for Chinese tourists to send the advisory letter to the Chief of Staff (Army) Office before entering Burma. Their tour guide must escort them to Lashio first. If the persons in the list do not match with the persons at the exit point and someone is missing, the guide will be responsible for the missing person(s) and he or she will be interrogated. The guide must take full responsibility for all his guests,” a person close to Chinese traders told Mizzima.

An official of the Mya Padamya Travel Agency in Muse and a resident from Jie Gong, which is near the Sino-Burma border gate, confirmed the new immigration rules.

Chinese tourists have to first apply for approval from the CS (Army) office at Naypyitaw through the Immigration Department on the Sino-Burma border. They can enter Burma only after getting approval from the CS (Army) Office. Previously they could enter Burma easily with the help of travel agencies.

The restriction on visits by Chinese travellers with tour visas is because of visits by the tourists to restricted areas, the person close to Chinese traders said.

“Earlier, they visited Mandalay with ordinary travel permits. Then they visited restricted areas such as Pha Kant and the gold mines. Now the government has restricted their movement inside Burma,” he said.

Eyewitnesses on the border, however, said Chinese jade traders are still entering Burma as they did earlier.

Those who wish to visit Burma for other purposes need invitation letters from their concerned companies and departments.

“If they receive invitation letters from concerned departments for specific purposes such as visiting mining sites, exploratory visits, checking plots owned by their company, economic seminars, then they can get entry permits as either individuals or as part of a package tour. Such visitors must apply for visa at the Burmese embassies. As for border visits, these formalities are not needed. Tourism companies from both countries can arrange it themselves,” he added.

Moreover, illegal import of Chinese goods has been banned since early this month.

This warden message is to alert U.S. citizens traveling to and residing in Burma that the Burmese authorities are likely to increase security throughout Burma and in Rangoon

Date : July 29, 2009
Embassy of the United States of America
Rangoon, Burma
110 University Ave.
Kamayut Township

Tel: (95-1) 536-509

This warden message is to alert U.S. citizens traveling to and residing in Burma that the Burmese authorities are likely to increase security throughout Burma and in Rangoon over the course of the coming few weeks. A Burmese court has announced it plans to deliver a verdict in the trial of detained democracy activist Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on July 31, 2009. In addition, August 8, 2009, will be the 21st anniversary of the 1988 popular uprising against the Burmese government. As in the past, security forces may be on alert for public gatherings at places of detention or imprisonment, monasteries, pagodas, political party offices, government offices, and the general Rangoon downtown area. American citizens resident in Burma should avoid any gatherings, demonstrations, or processions, which could turn violent with little or no warning. The Burmese Government has a standing ban of all gatherings of more than five people. The Embassy also advises U.S. citizens not to photograph or film the military and police because doing so could be interpreted as provocative.
We wish to remind U.S. citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. U.S. citizens are therefore urged to exercise discretion when moving about and to avoid any large public gatherings, any visible military presence, and any area cordoned off by security forces. For the latest security information, U.S. citizens living and traveling abroad should regularly monitor the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs website at, where the current Worldwide Cautions, Travel Alerts, and Travel Warnings can be found. Security information can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. To 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Burma are encouraged to register with the Department of State or the U.S. Embassy. Registration can be done on-line through the State Department’s travel registration website, or via the Embassy’s website The Embassy is located at 110 University Ave, Kamayut Township, Rangoon. The Embassy’s phone numbers are (95-1) 536-509, 536-756, and 538-038. The Consular Section’s extension is 4240, and email address is The Embassy’s after-hours emergency numbers are the same as above, all followed by extension 4014. The after-hours mobile phone number is 09-512-4330 (calling inside Burma) or 95-9-512-4330 (calling outside Burma). The Embassy’s hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday thru Friday (except U.S. federal and Burmese holidays).

New Mon ‘working committee’ enters the political arena in advance of 2010 election.

Wed 29 Jul 2009, IMNA
A New Mon political committee, describing itself as a “working committee” has appeared in order to take its place in the coming 2010 election of a new Burmese government. The party has no official name yet, but, according to a source, its 15 members intend to work towards being part of a free and fair election.

The committee thus far is comprised of retired New Mon State Party (NMSP) members, members of the Mon National Democratic Front (MNDF), and retired Burmese civil servants.

The committee found after the New Mon State Party’s 14th anniversary of its ceasefire agreement, celebrated on June 29th. On May 12, 2008 NMSP released an official statement rejecting the new constitution, and said that that if Burmese government would not review their constitution, they will not participate 2010 election. During the third week of January, NMSP reaffirmed its stance by making a joint statement with the MNDF officially stated that it would not participate in the 2010 election.

“We will prepare our committee for 2010, and if Burmese government reviews their constitution to hold a free and fair election, we will form a political party and participate in the 2010 election,” said a committee member. “If the Burmese government will hold the election without listing to opposition groups opinions, we will boycott it.”

The Burmese government 7 step ‘roadmap’ to a disciplined democracy required the 2008 constitutional referendum in advance of holding the first country wide election since 1990. The constitution referendum was highly controversial, despite Burmese government claims that it was supported by 92.42 percent of the population. Continue reading “New Mon ‘working committee’ enters the political arena in advance of 2010 election.”

Barack Obama came to office with great promise by Roland Watson

U.S. Policy on Burma: More Stick (1 link to article), Less Carrot analyses the many different events surrounding Burma in the last few months, including the visit of Ban Ki-moon, celebrity activism, the Kang Nam 1, and the comments of Hillary Clinton.)

President Obama’s approval rating by the American people is on the decline. According to some polls, it has fallen below 60%. A number of analysts are saying that this is natural, given the depth of the economic recession. I believe, though, that there is another explanation for the decline.

Barack Obama came to office with great promise. As the first African-American President, his election was nothing short of a revolutionary event. Further, and unlike his predecessor George Bush, he is clearly a man of extraordinary ability.

President Obama additionally made specific promises during his campaign, which taken together suggested that his government would bring a period of real change. Translated, this meant – domestically – that the paranoid secrecy of the Bush Administration would be reversed and that the government openness appropriate to democracy would be reestablished; and that the corporate-lobbying fueled corruption of Washington, D.C., would be cleared out and the government would once again serve the American people. Internationally, the Administration would conclude the Iraq misadventure, and restore a positive reputation for the United States. Continue reading “Barack Obama came to office with great promise by Roland Watson”

Security was strengthened around Insein Prison in Rangoon on Wednesday morning, and shopkeepers nearby have been ordered to close on Friday, the day the verdict is scheduled in the trial of detained Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Security Increased for Suu Kyi Verdict

Two police battalions have joined security forces stationed around the prison in preparation for a possible crackdown on protests, according to the sources in Rangoon, who said the authorities were worried about possible protests.Dozens of Suu Kyi’s supporters have regularly gathered outside Insein Prison on each day of the trial.
Prominent opposition leader Win Tin, an executive of the opposition National League for Democracy, has joined the gatherings.

On Tuesday, Win Tin said he went outside Insein Prison and stayed for about 40 minutes to show his support for his colleague, Suu Kyi. Myanmar Opposition Leader

The final arguments for Suu Kyi’s trial ended on Tuesday, and the verdict is to be announced on Friday.

Diplomats said they heard Suu Kyi comment, “I’m afraid the verdict will be painfully obvious,” in court, according to an Associated Press report.

After Tuesday’s final session, Suu Kyi told her lawyer, Nyan Win, that the proceedings would show “whether or not the rule of law exists in the country.”

Suu Kyi could be sentenced up to five years in prison if convicted. She is charged with breaking the terms of her house arrest.

Her trial began on May 18 and has been interrupted by several adjournments.

Suu Kyi has spent nearly 14 of the past 20 years under house arrest. Her latest term of detention began in May 2003.

Irrawaddy org.

IF ever there was a tiger in the room that hardly anyone was talking about, it would have to be the Shan.

BOOK REVIEW 15010-bookreview

A Sweeping Survey of the Shan

The story of Burma’s largest ethnic minority group is finally told—in voluminous detail

IF ever there was a tiger in the room that hardly anyone was talking about, it would have to be the Shan. Burma’s second largest ethnic group—after the majority Burmans—has not had the same domestic or international attention given to their complex history as many smaller ethnic groups. Apart from a handful of Shan, Burmese and Western scholars, Shan State has rarely been studied since the great J.G. Scott wrote his encyclopedic Gazetteer of Upper Burma and the Shan States some 100 years ago.

The Tai people (“Shan” is the Burmese word for the group, derived from “Siam”) stretch from northeastern India, across northern Burma to southern China and throughout northern Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. But it is in northeastern Burma that the Shan have their greatest concentration, after waves of migration from China and the rise and fall of former Shan empires, the Nang-Chao and the Mao, more than 1,000 years ago.

The pre-independence Shan states were, for a few hundred years, a collection of principalities big and small, powerful and obscure, ruled by chaopha (“Lords of the Sky,” or sawbwa in Burmese) who had maintained uneasy relations with their neighbors before their conglomeration into one “state” in 1959, and slow descent into war thereafter.

The book is multi-disciplinary, blending historiography with political analysis, anthropology and naturalist notes on flora and fauna. It has maps, fascinating ephemera of memos, Shan script, letters and photographs, and lengthy extracts of quotes from a wide range of sources. Continue reading “IF ever there was a tiger in the room that hardly anyone was talking about, it would have to be the Shan.”