Ashin Issariya: “We will march – If they try to stop us or not”

TBF: The Burmese monks have demanded the military junta to apologize for the killing and insulting of monks and the religion not later than October 2, 2009 or face the consequences of excommunication starting on October 3, 2009. How is the situation inside Burma now?

Ashin Issariya: The situation is extremely tense because the Burmese government is obviously afraid of the monks. They fear, that we monks might start walking again, might build a movement again and initiate a revolution. That is why today the Burmese monks are followed, restricted and controlled so much. In this situation a lot of monks are on the run, hiding somewhere, having changed their robes to laymen clothes. Some monks left Burma and came to Mae Sot, Thailand. Yes, some monks had run away from Myanmar because of the harsh persecution.

Today, many monks are engaging themselves with politics for the sake of our country. These monks don’t care if they get arrested or not. The government is very afraid of these monks. Its because of these Burmese monks’ dedication to offer their lifes for the freedom of our country, that the Burmese government is so afraid of them. One of my friends just told me: “It doesn’t matter if we get killed or not, we offer our lifes for our country.” We, this includes myself, offer our lifes because we can’t accept the ruling of the military junta in our country.
As you know a lot of monks are already in jail. And they are our friends. We feel a great responsibility to help them, to protect them, to try to get them released from the prisons. All Burmese monks share this concern. It is our responsibility to free the monks from the Burmese jails.

TBF: In an amnesty the military junta released 7,000 prisoners including 128 political dissidents and of them only 4 monks, what do you think about that? Continue reading “Ashin Issariya: “We will march – If they try to stop us or not””

ASEAN’s Silence on Burma at the UN Human Rights Council: Don’t Speak Ill of Your Family in Front of Others

Fri, 25/09/2009 – 11:34
(23 September 2009, Geneva/Bangkok) The United Nations Human Rights Council (Council) concluded its general debate yesterday, under “agenda item 4: human rights situations that require the Council’s attention”. This crucial agenda item is to provide the Council with the opportunity to bring to attention country-specific human rights situations. Regrettably, however, this was not the case at the 12th regular session of the Council with only 14 member and observer States addressing the Council on Burma.

The common thread of the statements delivered by Sweden (on behalf of the European Union), France, Netherlands, Norway, United Kingdom, Japan, Belgium, United States, Canada, Ireland, Denmark, Australia, Czech Republic and New Zealand, centered around the deep disappointment at the continued detention of Aung San Suu Kyi, the call for the release of all other political prisoners and the need to continue with the process towards democratisation, particularly in light of the upcoming 2010 elections.

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) also seized this opportunity under agenda item 4 to highlight the pressing human rights situation in Burma. In its oral statement delivered on 22 September, FORUM-ASIA focused on the failure of the 2008 Constitution to uphold the principles of a free and fair referendum process, as well as the fundamental flaws contained in it, namely, the Constitution effectively subordinates civilian authorities to the country’s military establishment and fails to provide a full separation of powers between the branches of the government. Continue reading “ASEAN’s Silence on Burma at the UN Human Rights Council: Don’t Speak Ill of Your Family in Front of Others”

Joint Press Statement: Immigration Detention Centres: How many more must die?

Mon, 28/09/2009 – 10:25
On 3 September 2009, it was reported that a Burmese detainee at KLIA Immigration Detention Centre died on 29 August 2009 due to an unknown illness and six other detainees with similar symptoms were hospitalised at Putrajaya General Hospital[1]. On 25 September 2009, it was reported that six Burmese detainees have died at an undisclosed detention centre allegedly due to Leptospirosis[2]. Leptospirosis is an infectious disease that occurs due to water or food contaminated by animal urine.

Last month, it was reported that a Togolese detainee died in the same detention centre due to Influenza A(H1N1)[3]. In May this year, two Burmese asylum seekers died at Juru Immigration Detention Centre also due to Leptospirosis, an infectious disease that occurs due to contaminated water or food. In April, it was reported that deaths of two detainees occurred at Lenggeng Immigration Detention Centre, where a Bangladeshi migrant worker died days after being tortured by the Malaysian police and another Liberian was found dead with an unrevealed cause of death[4].

We, the undersigned organisations, are deeply disturbed that more deaths have occurred in immigration detention centres and concrete actions to prevent such events have yet to be taken. We have repeatedly highlighted the dire conditions in detention centres such as overcrowding, poor sanitation, insufficient provision of food and water, and inadequate access to necessary medical and health services (including emergency care, treatment for infectious diseases and maternal health services). How many more detainees must be deprived of their right to life before the Malaysian Government will make the necessary changes to improve the conditions in detention centres? Continue reading “Joint Press Statement: Immigration Detention Centres: How many more must die?”

Talks and sanctions

There appears to be a distinct change in the United States’ policy towards Burma, with Hillary Clinton declaring that talks with the junta would be “stepped up” in parallel with the sanctions.
This certainly is a forward progression not least because the imprisoned democratic leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has lent support to the move. There may be hope yet that direct engagement with the rulers will provide the impetus for democratic reforms.

There is increasing realisation in the West that the sanctions regime hasn’t been effective against a ruthless junta that is even prepared to resist diplomatic isolation. There is acknowledgement too in certain quarters that the West’s hard line approach has been a disaster, with scarcely a change in the prolonged predicament of Suu Kyi.

Much will depend on the pace at which Burma names its interlocutor for the bilateral talks. The shift in the US style of engagement becomes clear from the secretary of state’s address at a meeting of the Friends of Burma in New York: “Any debate that pits sanctions against engagement creates a false choice. Going forward, we’ll need to employ both of these tools.”

She has taken care to couch her prescription with the caveat: “Lifting sanctions now would send the wrong signal … But we will be willing to discuss the easing of sanctions in response to significant actions that address the core human rights and democracy issues that are inhibiting Burma’s progress.”

For both sides, it will be a very delicate balance to sustain, given the country’s brutal record in stifling democracy. Yet it must be conceded that the gesture raises hope.

As much is clear from the immediate response of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy: “The new US approach will bring improved and more transparent relations.”

Suu Kyi herself has backed the move with the very reasonable suggestion that the US dealings ought to be conducted with both the junta and the pro-democracy leaders.

One need hardly add that only then will the Obama administration’s review of its policy towards Burma be meaningful.
By The Statesman
New Delhi
Published on September 30, 2009

Chemical Laced Mortars To Be Used Against Ethnic Rebels

Written by KNG
Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:04
Unique mortars laced with chemical ingredients are being supplied by the junta to its military battalions in Kachin State and Shan State, said sources close to the army.

Burmese troops have been instructed by the army that the unique shells, marked with red, yellow and green colours, are to be used in war on the orders of the Burmese Army, said Burmese soldiers in Northeast Shan State.
The places where these mortar shells explode, people will show three symptoms like feeling faint, have breathing difficulties and lose their eyesight, the sources said.

Army sources said the mortars were received from North Korea but the Burmese Army also has mortars made in China, Russia and India. Continue reading “Chemical Laced Mortars To Be Used Against Ethnic Rebels”

US takes a radical turn on Burma

The Barack Obama administration has broken ranks with its recent predecessors in announcing its intention to engage Burma’s ruling generals while also maintaining economic and financial sanctions against the military regime. The outgoing George W Bush administration imposed new financial sanctions against individual regime members and their associates, and often referred to Burma as an “outpost of tyranny”.

The announcement, previewed on the sidelines of a United Nations General Assembly meeting on September 23, marks the most radical shift in US policy towards Burma since economic sanctions were first imposed in the 1990s in response to the regime’s reported human-rights abuses.

It also apparently puts new pressure on the regime to ensure that democratic elections scheduled for next year are free, fair and inclusive of the political opposition and ethnic minority groups. At a press conference on Monday, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell made official the shift in policy towards a mix of sanctions and engagement.

“For the first time in memory, the Burmese leadership has shown an interest in engaging with the United States, and we intend to explore that interest,” Campbell told reporters.

He also said that the US government will press Burma “to comply with its international obligations, including on nonproliferation, ending any prohibited military or proliferation-related cooperation with North Korea, and full compliance with United Nations [Security Council Resolutions] 1874 and 1718”.

That referred to recent reports that North Korea has provided assistance to Burma’s nascent civilian nuclear program, which some fear could lead eventually to the development of a weapon. The two isolationist regimes were linked in July when a North Korean cargo ship believed to be carrying weapons and headed to Burma was pressured by the US Navy to return to North Korea.

The US policy review process began in February after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that neither sanctions nor the engagement policies practiced by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other Asian nations had achieved positive results in moving the regime towards democratic change and that a new strategy was needed. Senator Jim Webb’s high-profile visit with senior junta members last month also hinted a move towards more policy engagement was on the cards.

US interests go beyond mere political change in Burma. Clinton emphasized in her comments last week the various regional security concerns emanating from Burma, including the outflow of narcotics, rampant human trafficking, large refugee populations in neighboring countries, and communicable disease. She also mentioned the regime’s links to North Korea and the threat of nuclear proliferation in the region.

Washington is clearly hoping that through engagement it can bring Burma into a framework where international norms apply, including in security matters. This may yet be a long hope for a country with a long history of official xenophobia and defiance of international opinion. Yet it is notable that the US State Department said that it was the generals who are seeking engagement with the US, not the other way around.

Both Clinton and Campbell have made it clear that US policy would be unwavering in its commitment to pushing for democratic reform, the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners, including National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and serious dialogue between the regime, the democratic opposition and ethnic minority groups. Clinton said, “Our support for the country’s democratic opposition, including Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy, will not waver.” Continue reading “US takes a radical turn on Burma”

A test of Burma’s sincerity

The emerging new US strategy of greater engagement with Burma represents the biggest shift in Washington’s policy since the imposition of sanctions more than a decade ago, in protest at the trampling of democracy by the military regime, and its flagrant abuses of human rights.

In many respects this fresh approach, a logical extension of the Obama administration’s willingness to reach out to longstanding American foes like Iran and Cuba, makes sense. Sanctions have manifestly failed to achieve their stated goal. Burma’s generals have themselves apparently signalled they would welcome a thaw, while the change of policy in Washington has the support of Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the country’s democratic movement, who remains under house arrest. Moreover, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has pointed out, shunning all contact with Burma makes it even harder to tackle a host of problems in the region, ranging from refugees, narcotics trafficking and disease control to the risk of nuclear proliferation, embodied by the junta’s growing links with North Korea.

Under the new policy, Washington would add carrots to existing sticks. Sanctions, especially “smart sanctions” targeted at senior figures in the regime, would remain in force. But the US will offer greater humanitarian aid – building on the limited assistance provided after last year’s Cyclone Nargis that devastated Burma, killing 150,000 people or more – as well as diplomatic engagement. If the regime takes genuine steps to improve its lamentable human rights record and foster democracy, then the sanctions could be eased. The operative word here however is “genuine”. The acid test of the junta’s sincerity will be the multiparty elections promised in 2010.

If the regime is seeking improved relations, little sign emerged from the speech this week to the United Nations General Assembly by General Thein Sein. The Burmese Prime Minister warned that democracy cannot be imposed from the outside. The odds are that the xenophobic regime will blatantly rig these elections to prolong military rule.

The US is right to stretch out a hand to Burma. But if the carrots are ignored, then Washington should be ready to wield an even stronger stick.
The Independent, UK

Eleven Burmese nationals drown in Naff River

Maungdaw : Eleven Burmese nationals are feared to have drowned when their row boat sank in the Naff River on Monday night, while they were crossing over to Bangladesh illegally from Burma, according to a source.

“The bodies of two women were recovered by the Bangladesh Police on Tuesday from the Naff River in Bangladesh, while the Burmese authorities have recovered the bodies of five men near Sanpay Pin Yin village in Maungdaw Township,” he said.

Bangladeshi police officials have confirmed that two bodies of Rohingya women were recovered from the Naff River, near a sluice gate of Jhinapara under Teknaf Township in Bangladesh.

One of the two women has been identified as Mrs Rahima Khatun (60), wife of late Shahidullah of Foyezipara village in Maungdaw Township, said police officials quoting locals.

According to a local source, the two victims were part of the group and they drowned when the boat capsized near the Teknaf border.

A local source said, five bodies of Muslim people were recovered by a Nasaka team from Sanpay Pin Yin outpost located near the bank of the Naff River, a few miles north of Maungdaw, early on Tuesday morning.

However, the Nasaka authorities buried the bodies at a nearby graveyard with the help of the local people without conducting any autopsy at a hospital.

A source from Teknaf said, most of the victims were from Maung Ni Village of Maungdaw Township and they drowned while attempting to cross the Naff River in a row boat illegally at night.

Bangladesh to erect pillars along India-Burma borders

Bangladesh is gearing up to erect pillars for demarcating its land boundary along the borders with neighbouring Burma and India based on agreements, according to the Parliamentary Standing Committee of the Bangladesh Defence Ministry yesterday.

Bangladesh has already decided to erect a total of 314 pillars on the border with Burma and as many as 320 pillars on the border with India and will have no dispute with any of its two neighbours for demarcating its boundary, according to the source.

When Bangladesh will start erecting the pillars along the borders with its two neighbours has not been stated.

Bangladesh had successfully demarcated the land boundary with Burma and is yet to start surveys for identifying its boundary along the border with its largest neighbour India.

Bangladesh shares a 320-km border with Burma, partially demarcated by the Naff River, while it shares a 4,096-km border with India, of which 2,979 km is the land border and 1,116 km is over rivers.

Tension erupted repeatedly between the two normally friendly neighbours Bangladesh and Burma over territory early this year. There was palpable tension when Burma started to fence its land border without formally informing Bangladesh following the dispute over gas and oil explorations in the Bay of Bengal in October last year.

Bangladesh still has disputes with Burma and India over its maritime zone in the Bay of Bengal and has sought formal settlements with its two neighborus from the United Nations.

Mon migrant workers in Malaysia invited to register with the UN

Wed 30 Sep 2009, Asah
On the 15th this upcoming October, 2849 Mon migrant workers in Malaysia will be allowed to register as refugees with the United Nations (UN).

The invitation has been extended not only to Mon workers already residing in Malaysia, but also to Mon refugees living in refugee camps in Thailand, many of whom are now moving to Malaysia to take advantage of the UN’s offer.

Registering as refugees win the UN provides migrants with official United Nation identification documents; such identification aids them in finding employment and provides legal benefits.

According to Nai Sai Wana, chairman of the Malaysia Mon Refugee Organization, migrant workers from many Burmese ethnic minorities will be allowed to register in much higher numbers than last year. Between 600 and 700 Ka Chin, 10, 000 Chin, over 600 Shan, over 2,800 Mon, over 1,000 Karen, and roughly 400 Karen Ni migrant workers from Burma will be allowed to register with the United Nations by then end of a registration period that started on July 17th and will last until the cutoff point on October 15th.

“On the 15th of March 2009, we registered with UN about 5,000 Mon migrants in Malaysia. So, they gave many Mon migrants this special this October. In 2009, those who have been registered at the UN can get a job easier than others. And NGO groups help those who have registered already to get jobs,“ he added. Continue reading “Mon migrant workers in Malaysia invited to register with the UN”