US citizen was ‘visiting cancer sick mother’

Dec 11, 2009 (DVB)–The Burmese-born US citizen standing trial in Burma on charges of fraud had flown to the country to visit his mother, who is sick with cancer, his wife wrote today in The Nation newspaper.

In a heartfelt plea to the international community to step up pressure on the Burmese junta to release the country’s 2,100 political prisoners, the wife of Kyaw Zaw Lwin, also known as Nyi Nyi Aung, wrote of her pain at learning of his arrest in early September.
“I felt sick, but not surprised – although Nyi Nyi has always been a non-violent activist, the junta will say anything to justify its actions,” she said.
The story draws parallels with that of the husband of detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who in 1997 was denied entry to Burma to visit his wife after learning that he had prostate cancer.
Kyaw Zaw Lwin was arrested upon arrival at Rangoon International Airport on 3 September, with initial speculation that the government would try him on terrorism charges.
The terrorism charges have been dropped, but he now faces charges of fraud and possession of excessive amounts of the Burmese currency, which together carry a maximum sentence of 17 years. Continue reading “US citizen was ‘visiting cancer sick mother’”

Burma’s crimes against humanity must not be ignored

Caroline Cox and Benedict Rogers

As we remember the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and mark International Human Rights Day tomorrow, there are many countries and people who deserve our immediate attention, including, urgently, Burma.

We have just returned from another visit to Burma’s borders. Over the past fifteen years, both of us have travelled regularly to Burma’s borderlands, to meet refugees who have fled the country, and internally displaced people trapped behind the borders in the conflict zones.

Burma is ruled by one of the world’s most brutal military regimes, with the Orwellian name of the State Peace and Development Council. It is guilty of every possible human rights violation. In 1990, the junta held elections, which were overwhelmingly won by the Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). They won 82 per cent of the parliamentary seats, yet the military rejected the results, imprisoned the victors and intensified its grip on power. Most of those elected 19 years ago remain in prison or in exile today. Aung San Suu Kyi has spent more than 14 years under house arrest, and was given a further 18 months in a sham trial earlier this year.

Aung San Suu Kyi deserves our utmost respect, and serves as a crucial symbolic figure for the suffering of her people. But she at least receives some international media attention. Many of her fellow prisoners suffer unreported. More than 2,000 political activists are in prison, subjected to horrific torture, denied medical treatment and, according to eye-witnesses, in labour camps they are yoked like oxen and forced to plough the fields.

Even more forgotten are Burma’s ethnic nationalities, who to varying degrees are suffering a campaign of ethnic cleansing, religious persecution and crimes against humanity. They face cultural genocide, and there may even be a case of attempted genocide to investigate.

Last month, we visited the Chin people of western Burma, along the border with India. The Chin are predominantly Christian, and are persecuted for their religion as well as their ethnicity. They have a tradition of building crosses on hill-tops, but in recent years the Burma Army has forced Chin Christian villages to tear down the crosses, and construct Buddhist pagodas in their place. Chin children are lured from Christian homes, and forced to become novice Buddhist monks. From the regime which brutally slaughtered Buddhist monks protesting in September 2007, it is the ultimate irony – it is a regime which will use any tool to stay in power, including religion. Continue reading “Burma’s crimes against humanity must not be ignored”

Soldiers camp in village inconveniencing people

Khonumthung News
THURSDAY, 10 DECEMBER 2009 15:26

10 December 2009: A village has been turned into a camp for 38 military personnel by the Burmese Army’s LIB 228, based in Lungler, Thantlang Township in Chin state, seriously inconveniencing villagers.

A report said the Chief Commander Soe Kyaw Thait and his troops are staying in the houses of Mr. San Thu, Mr. Thleilian and two other houses in Lungler village, Thantlang Township from November 27, 2009.

“It is very frustrating and difficult staying with them. We cannot feel free. The Block Peace and Development Council (BPDC) is taking care of them by arranging for food, water and firewood for cooking,” said a local woman in the village.

Earlier troops had stayed in a monastery, which is at some distance from the village, but this time the troops want to stay close to civilians.

“They told us that they wanted to stay with us in the village, but we don’t know why they want to. It is a burden for villagers,” she added.

The soldiers are patrolling five out of eight valleys in Thantlang Township and they sometimes confiscate domestic animals and money from the villagers.

The reason for settling in the village may be because the military wants to avoid using forced labour for constructing their new camp as civilians have been reporting all news and events inside Burma to the media in exile.

There are 46 villages in five valleys in Lungler military areas.

Arakan’s commander prepares for 2010 election

Sittwe: Major General Thaung Aye, Commander of the Burmese Army in Arakan State, has directed local officers at the district and township level administrations and the police forces across the state to raise funds and undertake security preparations for the forthcoming election, said an official from Arakan State’s Peace and Development Council.

The orders came from the commander during a two-day meeting with officers from December 7 to December 8, 2009, in Arakan’s PDC office hall in the capital, Sittwe.

The official said that the commander called the meeting to implement decisions taken during the quarterly meeting of the junta’s top brass held in the last week of November in Naypyidaw.

“I heard that senior officers of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) government specially focussed on holding the 2010 elections peacefully at their recent meeting in Naypyidaw. One of the decisions at the meeting was that every state and division has to use its own budget for holding the election. That is probably why the commander has ordered his local officers to raise funds for the election in Arakan State,” he told Narinjara on condition of anonymity.

He added that district and township level authorities from the DPDC or MPDC may collect funds for the election by doubling taxes on private business ventures and municipality related services such as markets, bridges, jetty and ferry launches, which they control in Arakan State.

The source, however, refused to elaborate further on the proposed 2010 election, the date for which is yet to be announced by the junta. Continue reading “Arakan’s commander prepares for 2010 election”

Two farmers involved in a land dispute in Burma which was taken up by the International Labour Organisation were yesterday given seven-year prison sentences.

Dec 11, 2009 (DVB)–Two farmers involved in a land dispute in Burma which was taken up by the International Labour Organisation were yesterday given seven-year prison sentences.

A relative of Nyan Myint and Thura Aung, father and son from Aunglan in central Burma’s Magwe division, said the two were sentenced on charges of misappropriation and damages to public property.
Their case had been taken up by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Rangoon, which has a mandate to deal with land dispute cases in Burma.
The Burmese army in 2007 confiscated farmland belonging to the two farmers, but following intervention from the ILO, it was returned earlier this year.
In August, however, the two were accused of cutting down a eucalyptus tree on the land, and subsequently arrested. According to the relative, who spoke to DVB on condition of anonymity, the trees had however already been damaged. Continue reading “Two farmers involved in a land dispute in Burma which was taken up by the International Labour Organisation were yesterday given seven-year prison sentences.”

Eastern Burma: the Darfur of SE Asia

By Jim Pollard
The Nation

Refugees in the border camps have passed another milestone as the long-running crisis in Burma drags on.
Thailand has been hit by the negative impacts from wars and civil strife in neighbouring countries for years, and that pattern shows no sign of ending anytime soon.

Waves of refugees arrived following the end of the war in Vietnam in 1975 and the advent of communist governments there and in Laos and Cambodia. The situation worsened when hundreds of thousands of Cambodians poured over the eastern border in 1979 after the Vietnamese army swept the horrific Khmer Rouge regime from power in Phnom Penh.

The humanitarian crisis that suddenly swamped Sa Kaew province dragged on for over a decade before a peace settlement in Paris opened the door for Cambodian refugees to return home in the early 90s as a UN peacekeeping force arrived to oversee a much-touted election.

In the midst of that high-profile saga, a much smaller influx of refugees crossed into northern Thailand from eastern Burma. About 10,000 mainly ethnic Karen fled into Tak province after clashes in their home state in 1984.

Members of a committee of international groups supporting Indochinese refugees agreed to go to Mae Sot to help deal with the Burmese influx. Few thought the problem would last. However, massive rallies against the Ne Win dictatorship in Rangoon in 1988 led to a bloody crackdown and an even more brutal military regime, whose methods have slowly transformed eastern Burma – if not the entire country – into another humanitarian tragedy.

The scale of the trauma flared in the mid-90s when the junta reinforced its military campaign against ethnic armies on its eastern frontier. The fall of Manerplaw and other rebel bases in early 1995 was followed by vast forced relocations of villages and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. Continue reading “Eastern Burma: the Darfur of SE Asia”

Ethnic merger re-adopts historic name

FRIDAY, 11 DECEMBER 2009 14:34 S.H.A.N.

A conference held on the Thai-Burma border, 7-9 December, by several PaO movements reached a historic decision to merge together to found the PaO National Liberation Organization (PNLO), the name adopted in 1966, when they returned to the armed struggle after an 8 year hiatus.

The conference elected a 15-member central committee, led by Hkun Okker, a 37 year veteran of the PaO resistance, to lead the continued struggle for the right of self determination against Burma’s ruling military dictatorship.

Others elected include:
Hkun Ti Hsawng Vice President
Hkun Myint Tun General Secretary
Hkun Thurein Assistant General Secretary #1
Hkun Myo Assistant General Secretary #2
Hkun Oh Member
Hkun Aung Kyaw Member

The newly united PaO movement is marking the 60th anniversary of their resistance today.

The PaOs went underground in 1949, a year after independence, to fight against Shan State’s feudal princes, but surrendered in 1958, following the agreement by the princely rulers to relinquish their traditional powers. They returned to the armed struggle in 1966 under the banner of PaO National Liberation Organization (PNLO), according to Bertil Lintner’s Burma in Revolt (1999), this time to fight against Burma’s military rulers.
It later became Shan State Nationalities People’s Liberation Organization (SNPLO) to be allied to the Beijing-backed Communist Party of Burma (CPB), an act that split the group. The anti-communist faction formed the PaO National Organization (PNO) in 1976.

In 1991, the PNO concluded a ceasefire pact with Rangoon, leaving those who were resolved to carry on the struggle under Hkun Okker to form the PaO People’s Liberation Organization (PPLO).

The PNO’s other rival movement the SNPLO made peace with Rangoon 3 years later. In 2007, the faction led by Ti Hsawng and Thurein decided to return to the struggle and re-adopted the old moniker PNLO.

“Our decision to merge together means there is no PPLO, (former) PNLO or any other PaO organization anymore,” said Hkun Okker.

The new PNLO, unlike the PNO under Aung Hkam Hti, that had endorsed military-drawn 2008 constitution, is firmly against it and the planned 2010 elections, according to sources.