Ten tips for ‘humanising’ Asean

The Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) was established recently at the Asean Summit in Cha-am, Thailand, with the blessings of the heads of government. It is a ten-member body, with one representative drawn from each Asean country. Amidst the flurry of comment on the nature of its composition/selection and a degree of divergence between some countries and civil society on its formation, the AICHR ‘s work now begins with great anticipation.n reality, predictions on its work and related expectations should be modest, given that Asean itself is not a human rights organisation but remains quintessentially a political-security entity with some economic orientation.

Three projected meetings of the Commission will formally set the ball rolling next year, preceded possibly by an informal meeting in Thailand at the end of 2009, before Vietnam takes over from Thailand as Asean chair.

In this setting, it is worth recalling the long and winding road towards the establishment of the AICHR. It was after the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights in 1993 that the Asean foreign ministers stated in their communique that they would look to the possibility of a human rights mechanism in Asean. The pledge would almost have been forgotten, had it not been for civil society which kept the dream of such a mechanism on the agenda.

The Civil Society Working Group for an Asean Human Rights Mechanism was formed in the 1990s specifically for this purpose and it was joined by other civil society groups which increasingly pressed for the setting up of a mechanism covering the Asean region. At the end of the decade, they put to the Asean foreign ministers a draft agreement to establish an Asean Human Rights Commission, but the body language from official circles was that Asean was not yet ready to make that quantum leap. Continue reading “Ten tips for ‘humanising’ Asean”

Thai/Cambodia:Squabbling Harms Asean solidarity

By The Nation
Published on November 10, 2009

Thailand and Cambodia must resolve their disputes for the sake of regional unity

The ongoing Thai-Cambodian quarrel is a good indication that the future of the Asean Community still has a long way to go. Just look at the way Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen chose to ignore the plea from the Thai government not to get involved with a Thai fugitive. This will be a case study in the history of the regional grouping, when a leader within Asean does not really understand the requirements of responsible diplomacy regarding sovereignty vis-a-vis the opposition movement in neighbouring countries.

How can Asean form a single community when an Asean leader does not understand where to push and where to draw back in the internal dynamics of a neighbour? In the future, Asean’s integration could become more problematic because it will certainly involve sensitive issues such as the rule of law, human rights and good governance.

Looking at the future of Asean through the Thai-Cambodian conflict, there will not be much comfort for supporters of further Asean integration. Prime Minister Hun Sen has been in power for the past 25 years, and has shown no sign of retiring.

No wonder Asean Secretary-General Dr Surin Pitsuwan expressed serious concern a few days ago over the Thai-Cambodian tensions. He urged both sides to exercise “maximum restraint”. Somehow, his advice fell on deaf ears.

Neither side has stood down from its position, and this has already had a detrimental effect on border trade and people-to-people contact. Surin urged the respective foreign ministers to settle the bilateral dispute amicably and as soon as possible.

Surin was right in pointing out that the dispute could undermine the reputation of Asean ahead of the Apec meeting and Asean-US Summit to be held later this week in Singapore. So far, only the government of Singapore, the summit’s host, has openly expressed concern over the situation. But the other Asean members have kept quiet. A few Asean members have contacted Thailand and asked for information. Continue reading “Thai/Cambodia:Squabbling Harms Asean solidarity”

NMSP builds pagoda in Mudon Township, monks pledge their support of party policies


TUESDAY, 10 NOVEMBER 2009 16:58

A ground-breaking ceremony was held yesterday on November 9th near Kamawet village, Mudon Township, at the site of a new pagoda and monastery that will be built over the upcoming year by the New Mon State Party (NMSP).

Despite the increased emergence of Mon splinter groups advocating for various responses to the 2010 Burmese elections, an abbot who presides over another of the many monasteries near Kamawat informed IMNA’s reporter at the ceremony that Mon State’s monastic communities will continue to support the NMSP.

“We just believe in the New Mon State Party (NMSP), we don’t care about the other new Mon [splinter] groups” the abbot said at the November 9th ceremony, which was held at the site of the pagoda in the Kamawat forest. The pagoda is to be called “Kyaik Jamoi Dein” [“Hoping for Country”], and its construction will be overseen by both the NMSP and a local Kamawet land development organization.

This abbot claims that the vast majority of Mon State’s monastic community supports the NMSP’s public refusal to participate in the 2010 elections without certain changes to the Burmese government’s 2008 constitution; this announcement was issued on January 27th.

The abbot interviewed by IMNA at the November 9th ceremony also reported that the monk-run organization “They plan to release a statement proclaiming its support of NMSP policies in the near future.

The ceremony was attended by NMSP Central Executive Committee member Nai Tala Nyi, as well as 30 monks from the area, including Rev. Palita from Kamawet village. The site for the future Kyaik Jamoi Dein pagoda is located 3 miles from the Winhanon dam in Mudon Township.

The construction of the pagoda is a significant testament the Mon people’s quest for independence, both due to its nationalistic name (“searching for country”), and because of its proximity to land previously occupied by the Mon People’s Front (MPF), one of the first armed Mon independence groups, formed after the departure of Burma’s British occupiers in the mid-20th century.

“The place where the NMSP built the pagoda, the Mon People’ Front (MPF) was based in that area in 1949. We also made the name for the pagoda “Kyaik Jamoi Dein,” said the abbot interviewed at the ceremony in Kamawet village.

In 1994, the Burmese government granted the NMSP roughly 5000 acres of land in Southern Mudon Township to use in its land development program. IMNA’s reporter learned that the party received special permission from the Burmese authorities for the land grant needed for the pagoda’s construction.

USDA to hold nationwide conference

by Salai Hanthar San
Tuesday, 10 November 2009 18:49

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), the pro-junta social organization will hold a nationwide conference starting November 23 at its head office in Dekhina Thiri town in Nay Pyi Taw Division.

“All secretaries from each township, district, State and Division branch offices have been invited to come to Le Way town not later than November 20. The meeting begins on November 23. One person from our office has been selected to go,” a member of Le Way Township USDA told Mizzima. Le Way is located south of Dekhina Thiri and in Nay Pyi Taw Division.

A member of the Rangoon Division, Tamwe Township USDA will have to go to Naypyitaw by November 20 also.
The conference will be attended by nearly 700 delegates from 325 townships across the country but the duration of the conference is yet to be announced.

The USDA, is notorious for its brutal crackdown on opposition forces along with security forces. Last year, its conference was held in Ywa Taw interrogation camp, near Pobba Thiri new satellite township in Naypyitaw Division. It was attended by over 600 delegates.

The rumours among members say the USDA will contest the general elections as a political party but officially the organization is silent on the matter. An announcement is expected on the organization’s stand and policy on the 2010 general elections, as part of the junta’s 7-step road-map to democracy. The organization claims they have 22 million members as of 2005. Continue reading “USDA to hold nationwide conference”

Junta Readies 300,000 Troops To Eliminate Ethnic Rebels

The Burmese military junta is secretly readying special troops totaling 300,000 for the elimination of ethnic rebels after the 2010 elections in the country, said sources close to senior Burmese military officers in capital Naypyidaw.

Young, active and healthy soldiers from Burmese Army battalions in the country have been selected for the special force, which is being mobilized to eliminate ethnic armed groups, which rejected the junta-proposed Border Guard Force (BGF), said a retired military officer whose son is in the special force.
A Naypyidaw insider said, the special troops are being imparted special military training in the name of “upgrading military training” in different military bases in the country.

The junta proposes to declare the ethnic rebels, who rejected the Burmese Army-controlled BGF, as illegal armed groups after next year’s elections, which it plans to win, said Burmese military insiders.

Civil war will erupt in the ethnic rebel areas soon after the announcement, said sources close to the Burmese military.

The junta’s No. 2 Vice Senior General Maung Aye has already informed Burmese troops to eliminate all ethnic armed groups including the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), according to KIO officials.

Burmese army deserters in Northeast Shan State recently told KNG, that the Burmese Army has already transported unique chemical-laced mortar shells to its military bases in Mongkoe areas the former territory of Mongkoe Defense Army (MDA) led by Mungsa La.

The soldiers have explained the effects of the chemical-laced mortar shells — temporarily feeling faint, difficulty in breathing and loss of vision. The shells cannot be used without orders from senior military officers.

Sources close to Naypyidaw military officers said, the junta is now learning how Cambodia eliminated Khmer Rouge rebels and Sri Lanka eliminated Tamil Tiger rebels.

Suu Kyi’s Release?

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Tuesday after the announcement that Suu Kyi would be released soon, Nyan Win, the spokesman for the Rangoon-based National League for Democracy (NLD) said, “This is what many people wanted to hear.”

“It is going strengthen the NLD party if she is released. She will organize the election campaign effectively for the party and can perform well on the political stage,” he said.

Speaking to The Associated Press in Manila on Monday, Min Lwin, a senior Burmese diplomat, said, “There is a plan to release her [Suu Kyi] soon … so she can organize her party.”

NLD leader Win Tin, who is a close friend of Suu Kyi, said there will be a change if she is released.

Suu Kyi has been detained for 14 of the past 20 years. Her latest detention began in May 2003 after convoy of vehicles in which she was traveling was attacked by junta thugs during a canvassing trip at Depayin. Suu Kyi has been unable to speak publicly since.

Charged with violating the terms of her house arrest in May a few weeks before the end of her detention, Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest for a further 18 months in August.

Suu Kyi said she was satisfied with the recent meeting with the US delegation led by Kurt Campbell and she thanked the Burmese regime for allowing it to happen.

Observers say the release of Suu Kyi should not come as a surprise because junta chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe said in August Suu Kyi would be granted amnesty before her suspended sentence expired if she behaved “well” at her Inya Lake home under the restrictions imposed on her. Continue reading “Suu Kyi’s Release?”

Migrants call for passport office in Thailand

More than 200 migrant workers who attended a seminar held at the Chiangmai University yesterday said they deeply distrusted the ongoing Nationality Verification Process after which temporary passports are being issued to qualified applicants. Only 4 had expressed confidence.
So far only about 2,000 have received their passports, including 72 from Chiangmai province, according to a Thai official from the labor ministry.

Andy Hall, Director of the Migrant Justice Program, said there were two reasons why the process has been going at a snail’s pace: the exhorbitant expenses involved and poverty of information.

According to Sai Lao, who had traveled to Tachilek in September to obtain his passport, he spent a total of 8,000 baht ($240), including B 2,000 ($60) for visa fee. The fee has been reduced to B 500 ($15) since October.

Altogether, a passport applicant has to spend around B 8,000 ($240) excluding other expenses, such as food and transportation:
Payment on the Thai side of the border B 3,000
Payment on the Burmese side of the border B 700
Visa fee (as of October) B 500
Work permit B 3,800
Total B 8,000

“If you are using a middleman, the amount may double,” said Somsak Plaiyoowong, Director, Thai Cenfer for Labor Rights (TCLR). “The government should get rid of middlemen and do the job itself.” Continue reading “Migrants call for passport office in Thailand”

အမ်ဳိးသားလြတ္ေျမာက္ေရး လႈပ္ရွားမႈေကာ္မတီက လူထုလႈပ္ရွားမႈ ပို႔စ္ကဒ္မ်ား ျဖန္႔ေဝ

TUESDAY, 10 NOVEMBER 2009 16:16 ႐ုိးမ ၃
သံဃာ့အဖြဲ႔ခ်ဳပ္(ျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံ) ဦးေဆာင္မႈျဖင့္ ဖြဲ႔စည္းထားသည့္ အမ်ဳိးသားလြတ္ေျမာက္ေရး လႈပ္ရွားမႈေကာ္မတီက ေႂကြးေၾကာ္သံ (၄) းခ်က္ပါသည့္ ပို႔စ္ကဒ္မ်ား ျဖန္႔ေဝျခင္းလႈပ္ရွားမႈကို ယမန္ေန႔က ျပဳလုပ္ခဲ့သည္။

ေဒၚေအာင္ဆန္းစုၾကည္ႏွင့္ ႏိုင္ငံေရးအက်ဥ္းသားမ်ား လြတ္ေျမာက္ေရး၊ ႏိုင္ငံအဝွမ္း သမဂၢမ်ား ေပၚေပါက္ေရး၊ ျပည္သူ႔အစိုးရတရပ္ ေပၚေပါက္ေရးႏွင့္ အမ်ဳိးသားလြတ္ေျမာက္ေရး လႈပ္ရွားမႈ ေအာင္ျမင္ေရးဟူသည့္ ေႂကြးေၾကာ္သံ (၄) ခ်က္အေကာင္ထည္ေဖာ္ရာတြင္ ျပည္သူမ်ား ပါဝင္လာေစရန္အတြက္ ယခုကဲ့သို႔ လႈပ္ရွားမႈ ျပဳလုပ္ခဲ့ျခင္းျဖစ္သည္။
ျပင္ဦးလြင္ၿမိဳ႕မ်ားရွိ ဘုန္းႀကီးေက်ာင္း၊ တကၠသိုလ္၊ ေကာလိပ္၊ ေစ်းဆုိင္မ်ား၊ ဓါတ္တုိင္မ်ားႏွင့္ ေနအိမ္မ်ားတြင္ ပို႔စ္ကဒ္ အခု ၅၀၀ ေက်ာ္အား ျဖန္႔ေဝကပ္ထားျခင္းမ်ား ျပဳလုပ္ခဲ့ျခင္းျဖစ္သည္။ Continue reading “အမ်ဳိးသားလြတ္ေျမာက္ေရး လႈပ္ရွားမႈေကာ္မတီက လူထုလႈပ္ရွားမႈ ပို႔စ္ကဒ္မ်ား ျဖန္႔ေဝ”