THAILAND: Three Years after Coup, Political Divisions Remain

By Marwaan Macan-Markar

KHON KAEN, Thailand, Sep 15 (IPS) – A year after Thailand’s last coup d’état, in September 2006, a village that straddles the northern boarder of this provincial city took on a new name. It began to call itself Baan Samaki Phattana, which translates to Unity Development Village.

“The idea came from our village headman,” says Sawaen Seenakhanath, who earns a living scavenging through the streets of this north-eastern city when he is not herding cattle in the nearby flat, green fields. “He wanted to have unity because there were divisions in our community after the coup.”

But the village headman’s hope still remains elusive, admits Sawaen, a 60-year-old resident of the village, which is home to over 100 families. “We are more divided about politics now compared to three years ago. Sometimes it (the division) is even in one home, between the husband and wife.”

The political faultline that runs through Sawaen’s village – where people earn a living farming the rice fields that surround Khon Kaen or working in government offices and commercial establishments – surfaces in other parts of this city and its rural fringes. It pits those who are strong supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was turfed out of power by the military three years ago, against the anti-Thaksin crowd.

And like the rest of Thailand’s colour-coded politics that has emerged since the 2006 coup, Khon Kaen, too, mirrors the national trend. Those who continue to back Thaksin identify with the views of the pro-Thaksin protest movement, the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), which stands out for the colour of the shirts its supporters wear – deep red. His opponents, spearheaded by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), the protest movement that, despite its name, backed the coup and military intervention in politics, has its own distinct colour of identity – yellow shirts.

“There are more red-shirt supporters in the villages, among the farming communities. The city is divided; it has yellow-shirt followers,” says Bamrung Boonpanya, senior advisor to the Non-Governmental Organisation Coordinating Committee for Development in the North-east (NGOCord), a grassroots lobby. “Both groups are very passionate about their views.” Continue reading “THAILAND: Three Years after Coup, Political Divisions Remain”

Ceasefire groups ponder whose side Beijing is on

TUESDAY, 15 SEPTEMBER 2009 15:29 S.H.A.N.
“We used to think whatever happened, China’s our friend,” said a middle-aged officer from one of the ceasefire groups located on the Sino-Burma frontier. “After Kokang, I’m not sure.”

Kachin, Kokang, Wa and Mongla have always believed that they, together with Shans, would be collectively treated as a buffer, as North Korea is, to successive Burmese governments’ efforts to establish détente with the west especially the United States.

That was until Kokang, the ethnic Chinese dominant territory of Burma, was not only invaded but resoundly beaten last month by the Burma Army that prompted only a few complaints from Beijing.

Many of those questioned by SHAN admitted they “can’t help but feel that we have been let down by the provincial government, if not the central government.”The following, they say, are the reasons for their suspicions:
• When tensions between Naypyitaw and Kokang mounted triggering people to flee across the border, there were already temporary camps where they could stay complete with mats and blankets (The International Crisis Group meanwhile says Beijing “was not even forewarned”)
• “During the fighting, we heard the Burma Army had requested that the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) to move back a few hundred meters from the boundary,” said an officer, “The PLA just ‘obeyed’.”
• One of the Wa sources said when they went across the common border with Kokang to help defend Qingshuihe against the Burma Army attack, they were ‘advised’ to wait resulting in the Kokang stronghold’s fall
• The deposed Kokang leader Peng Jiasheng’s assets inside China are also being seized
• Both Panghsang and Mongla were also ‘advised’ to keep their territories off limits not only to Peng and his family but also to anyone associated with his Kokang army
• Most recently, banks along the border were ordered to set a limit to how much the depositor could withdraw. “One of my friends went to withdraw Ұ100,000 ($14,300) a few days ago,” said an officer, “and he was told the bank first needed to know how he was going to spend that kind of money.” Continue reading “Ceasefire groups ponder whose side Beijing is on”

Youth Forcibly Conscripted in Arakan

Sittwe: The Burmese army stationed in Arakan State has been forcibly recruiting youth from villages to serve in the army, said a retired teacher.

“The system for forced recruitment of soldiers has been missing for a long time, but now it has appeared again. The army authority ordered village councils to recruit five youth from each village to serve in the army,” he said.

The Burmese army has conscripted youth from Arakanese villages in the past by pressuring village councils, but the system had not been used for nearly a decade after people protested.

“The army authority has failed to recruit voluntary soldiers in Arakan because many Arakanese youth have refused to join the army. The army authority has resumed the old tactic for drafting soldiers in Arakan,” he said.

Many local army battalions stationed in Buthidaung, Rathidaung, Sittwe, Pauktaw, Kyauktaw, Paletwa, Mrauk U, Min Bya, and Kyauk Pru in Arakan State have ordered their respective villages to recruit five youth to send to army headquarters.

In the past, many villages in Arakan had to spend a lot of money in order to recruit youth to serve in the army. Every village had to send two youths to army headquarters as the army authority collected soldiers from the villages on a quota system.

“We had to send two youths to army headquarters each year in the past. We looked for youths who were jobless, and who wanted to join the army after we paid him. We had to pay at least 200,000 kyat to a youth to get their agreement to join the army. People suffered from the system. So people opposed it and later the system disappeared,” he said. Continue reading “Youth Forcibly Conscripted in Arakan”

The daughter of the first civilian prime minister of Burma, U Nu, has been appointed a senior position in a party set to run in the 2010 elections, scheduled for March next year.

U Nu’s daughter to enter elections
Sept 15, 2009 (DVB)–The daughter of the first civilian prime minister of Burma, U Nu, has been appointed a senior position in a party set to run in the 2010 elections, scheduled for March next year.

Than Than Nu will act as general secretary of the Democratic Party, a recently formed group whose chair, Thu Wei, was once close to the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
She will be joined by Cho Cho Kyaw Nyein as executive general secretary, whose father Kyaw Nyein headed the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League (AFPFL).
AFPFL was Burma’s main political party from 1945 to 1962, founded by U Nu and General Aung San, father of NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Democratic Party has fought off accusations that it has ties to pro-junta groups such as the 88 Generation Students (Union of Myanmar) and the National League for Democracy (Patriot).
“We absolutely have no links with them; they are government-backed groups and we have no contact with the government until now,” he said. Continue reading “The daughter of the first civilian prime minister of Burma, U Nu, has been appointed a senior position in a party set to run in the 2010 elections, scheduled for March next year.”

Karen troops ambush Burmese army

Sept 15, 2009 (DVB)–Four government soldiers were killed and eight were injured after an ambush by ethnic Karen troops on Sunday near to the Thai-Burma border, according to Karen officials.

The attack occurred on a highway about 15 miles outside of Payathonsu (Three Pagodas Pass) border crossing point in southern Karen state.
Troops from the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), the armed wing of the Karen National Union (KNU), carried out ambush against government troops allegedly mobilized in the area for an offensive against the KNLA.
“This was a well planned battle and it didn’t take that long before ending,” said a KNLA official.
“[The government army] suffered four deaths and eight injuries… we only target military personals so we avoided fighting in areas with civilian presence.”
He added that the injured government soldiers are now being treated at a hospital in Three Pagodas Pass. Continue reading “Karen troops ambush Burmese army”

Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been denied entrance to the Rangoon courtroom where she is due to lodge an appeal against her conviction, according to her lawyer.

Suu Kyi barred from courtroom
Sept 15, 2009 (DVB)–Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been denied entrance to the Rangoon courtroom where she is due to lodge an appeal against her conviction, according to her lawyer.

Lawyer Nyan Win on Friday submitted a letter requesting that she be allowed to attend the hearing, set for 18 September, but the following day the request was rejected by the Special Police Information Branch.
“We said [in the letter] that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was willing to attend the hearing in person,” he said.
“There was no solid reason given for the denial. They told us to make the request to the court but actually the court doesn’t have authority to decide.”
“[Under normal circumstances] court hearings are open for public listeners and there is no law prohibiting people from attending the hearing of the case they are involved in,” he said.
Nyan Win said last week that the defence team was lodging an appeal comprising 11 points. Lawyers had met with Suu Kyi on 10 September to finalise the appeal. Continue reading “Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been denied entrance to the Rangoon courtroom where she is due to lodge an appeal against her conviction, according to her lawyer.”

The Burmese Prime Minister General Thein Sein will join world leaders in the United Nations General Assembly on September 21 in New York.

Thein Sein to attend UN General Assembly
by Moe Thu
Tuesday, 15 September 2009 13:35

Rangoon (Mizzima) – The Burmese Prime Minister General Thein Sein will join world leaders in the United Nations General Assembly on September 21 in New York.

General Thein Sein will lead a 15-member delegation. He will be the highest Burmese government official to attend the Assembly in 14 years after Vice Senior General Maung Aye in 1995.

The Prime Minister is expected to hold bilateral meetings with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and other world leaders.

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Media Statement – for immediate release :Female political prisoner punished in Monywa prison

Mae Sot, Thailand] The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) (AAPP) has learnt that Hnin May Aung aka Nobel Aye (female) has been sent to a punishment cell within Monywa prison, in Burma’s Sagaing division. At present, she is also suffering from jaundice. The reason for her punishment is unclear.

Hnin May Aung aka Nobel Aye was arrested on 23 August 2007 and was
sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment on 28 November 2008. She is a member of the 88 Generation Students group and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party.

Hnin May Aung aka Nobel Aye is also a former political prisoner. She was arrested in September 1998 for the first time, and was sentenced to 42 years imprisonment. However, she was released in July 2005 under an amnesty for political prisoners.

For more information, contact:

AAPP Secretary Ko Tate Naing at +66-81-2878751
AAPP Joint-Secretary Ko Bo Kyi at +66-81-3248935

Notes to editors:In relation to her most recent arrest on 23 August 2007, Hnin May Aung aka Nobel Aye was charged under Section 5/96(4) of the Law Protecting the Peaceful and Systematic Transfer of State Responsibility and the Successful Performance of the Functions of the National Convention Against Disturbances and Oppositions (State Law and Order Restoration Council Law No. 5/96 (7 June 1996); Section 505/b of the Penal Code (statements conducive to public mischief) and Section 6 of the Law Relating to the Forming of Organisations (State Law and Order Restoration Council Law No. 6/88 (30 September 1988).
Monywa prison in Burma’s Sagaing division is 517 miles from Rangoon, where Hnin May Aung aka Nobel Aye’s family lives.
Hnin May Aung aka Nobel Aye has been suffering from jaundice since before her transfer to Monywa prison from Insein prison. The exact date of her transfer is unknown, but AAPP received information about her transfer on 6 February 2009, indicating that the transfer took place sometime between 28 November 2008 when she was sentenced, and 6 February 2009.