Demanding authentic reconciliation before 2010 Burma polls

Nava Thakuria: On the International Human Rights Day (December 10), a number of civil society and advocacy groups from Burma and other parts of the world came together with consensus in demanding a genuine political reconciliation before the proposed general election the Southeast Asian country and to release all political prisoners including the pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

In a combined statement, over hundred organizations based in different parts of the globe urged for an inclusive dialogue with key pro-democracy stakeholders, ethnic nationalities and also a comprehensive review of the 2008 Constitution designed by the military rulers of Burma. It also asked for immediate cessation of systematic human rights abuses and criminal hostilities against ethnic groups, political activists, journalists and civil society workers in the country.

“We, the reaffirm the necessity for genuine political reconciliation before the 2010 elections and call on the international community to take immediate action to ensure viable democratic change occurs in Burma. The people of Burma are entitled to have a genuine choice and the international community has an obligation to ensure that the people get this choice,” said in the statement endorsed by influential organizations like Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (Altsean-Burma), Burma Partnership, Burma Campaign UK, Burma Centre Delhi, Burma Lawyers Council, Burmese American Democratic Alliance, Ethnic Nationalities Council, Shwe Gas Movement, Women League of Chin-land etc. Continue reading “Demanding authentic reconciliation before 2010 Burma polls”

Junta chief ‘used child soldiers for bodyguards’

Dec 14, 2009 (DVB)–Burma’s junta strongman Than Shwe has surrounded himself with a special bodyguard unit that took root 15 years ago and reportedly included child soldiers, sources close to the army have said.

The unit was designed independently by Than Shwe as means to create a “private family army” that will aid his efforts to control the parliament and the army after the 2010 elections.
“It was arranged by the old man [Than Shwe] and regular majors don’t even have any say in it,” said a source close to senior army officials, speaking to DVB on condition of anonymity.
The majority of the unit is made up of children of ethnic origin who were orphaned during Burmese military operations in Karen and Shan state around 15 years ago, he said.
He added that military training given to the unit was of a superior quality than regular army training. The children were trained at No. 6. Central Divisional Training School near Oktwin, in Bago division, and Yeh Mon training school in Rangoon division.
“The orphans were collected from various places and are quite old now, but they could be exploited and handled,” he said. “No one else gives them orders as it is a matter that can only be decided by [Than Shwe].” Continue reading “Junta chief ‘used child soldiers for bodyguards’”

Thai Media Trade Fairness for National Security

CHIANG MAI, Thailand, Dec 13 (IPS/TerraViva) – When it comes to reporting about their neighbouring countries, journalists in Thailand’s mainstream media display a national security bias, often presenting a distorted view of reality and reflecting some prejudices against them.

The ongoing diplomatic spat between wealthier Thailand and its less affluent eastern neighbour Cambodia, a country with which it has had a chequered history, is a vivid example where the Thai media has “contributed to the problem,” Puangthong Pawakapan, assistant professor at the department of international relations at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, told the just- concluded Mekong Media Forum here.

The forum, organised by IPS Asia-Pacific and the Philippine-based Probe Media Foundation, brought together more than 220 media professionals, notably journalists, and other participants from the six Mekong countries.

“The Thai media revealed a lack of professionalism in reporting about the Preah Vihear temple dispute,” said Puangthong Pawakapan, assistant professor at the department of international relations at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University. “Misinformation fed the feelings in most Thai press reports.”

“The media displayed a very nationalistic streak,” added Puangthong. “As long as the Thai media adopt a nationalistic view and refuse to investigate all the available documents related to the temple issue, they are part of the obstacles to a peaceful solution to the Thai-Cambodia problem.”

Preah Vihear is the 10th-century Hindu temple at the heart of this latest dispute between the South-east Asian neighbours, and has fired nationalistic passions in both countries. The Preah Vihear temple sits on the edge of a steep cliff along the Thai-Cambodian border. Continue reading “Thai Media Trade Fairness for National Security”

Burmese Migrant Worker Dead, Another Injured

Friday, 11 December 2009 11:25
A Burmese migrant worker died and another was injured following a beating by a group of Thai youths outside the Taisin Sewing Factory in Soi Pasiphitohnnoi, Mahachaing, on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand. The dead victim was Soe Oo aged 19, son of U Tun Kyi and Daw Tin Hla from Shwe Kokko village, Myawaddy Township.
“We had finished working overtime about 20:30 and were having dinner when Soe Oo looked at three young Thai youths aged about 16. Maybe that’s the reason for being beaten,” said A Saw, who escaped with injuries to his back from an iron bar.
“We stepped out from the Ferry and had dinner at a small restaurant when the three Thai boys became aggressive and hit the table noisily. Soe Oo just looked at them, but did nothing. When we finished our meal and went outside into the dark they came out and started beating us with an iron bar. Soe Oo was hit on the back of his head and fell down. They continued beating him and shouting ‘Why’ ‘Why’, and pulled him by his legs and hit his head with a rock. I was still half standing and was only hit in the back. I ran and called to the night watchman, then came back with him, Soe Oo was already dead,” he explained.
The young Thai suspects were arrested within hours, following accounts given by witnesses and video footage from a camera set up at the edge of the market.,
Ko Htwe, cousin of the victim said; “It was almost 2 years since Soe Oo arrived in Thailand. He is the second of five children. He worked to feed his family. I have rung his parents. We cannot work and survive in our own country so we come to Thailand, but as migrant workers, our lives are not protected.”
A Saw, who was also beaten said; “We know that we are treated with injustice, but we can do nothing. How do we stop the same thing from happening again? We asked the police and they explained that the Thai gang said that they gave punishment for us looking at them, but why do they beat us until someone dies?”
He added that others should take care not to look at Thai youths, particularly if they were drunk, and to avoid dark areas when travelling at night.

Workers Flee Gun Wielding Boss

Friday, 11 December 2009 11:25
Workers from a small ice factory located at Kyaunghtaung Road, Dakha Naing, Bangkok, had to flee after asking for their wages, as their Boss showed and threatened them with a gun.
Ma Aye Misan, Tun Tun Win, Wei Linn and Thein Zan, all workers from the small factory, escaped by jumping off the truck when delivering ice this morning.
According to one of the workers, the women work from 3 am to 8 pm and the men till 10 pm, but they hadn’t been paid for their work and didn’t have any food to eat.
“Our stomachs felt hot from having only fish paste and chili daily as he didn’t pay our wages. We have no way to leave and nothing to eat. When we asked for our wages, the Boss went to his room and got the gun. He told us he didn’t pay our wages because he was worried we would run away. He paid us only 200 – 300 baht when we told him that we had nothing to eat. We work very hard but we cannot even have eggs, our life is bad. We were afraid when he showed the gun. We had to run, even though we didn’t get our wages.” said Ma Aye Misan, who escaped. Continue reading “Workers Flee Gun Wielding Boss”

Burmese Migrant Workers Arrested in Bangkok Night Bazaar

Burmese migrant workers selling goods in the Lonmany night bazaar in the centre of Bangkok have been arrested since the market began earlier this month. About 3700 shops employing thousands of Burmese migrants working in the market had previously paid 1,000 Baht per worker to the local police. Store owners discontinued these illegal payments once work permits had been obtained.
However, those without legal documents still need to pay 2,000 baht, and stores selling fake commodities must pay 7,000 baht on a regular basis. Early in the morning on 2nd December, police waited until the opening of the market and arrested shop assistants entering through gate No-6. These workers where sent in a truck to a police station, and then police returned to make further arrests.
“Even though we have a work ID, we are arrested because we don’t have permission to sell goods. And although we tried to negotiate to pay more money, they wouldn’t release us. The market here has a lot of Burmese migrant workers. Many Burmese can speak English and selling commodities is not hard work. Thai workers are weak in English and are unable to work hard so there were a lot of Burmese migrant workers in the Bazaar,” said one of the workers from the market.
A Burmese worker initially earns 6,000 baht, but wages can increase depending on English speaking skills and ability to persuade customers to buy goods.
A worker of 4 years experience [earning about 12,000 baht] said; “We had to pay police 2,000 baht in 2008 but this was reduced to 1,000 in 2009, and then our Boss stopped paying after we got our work ID”.
During the night operation at least 30 people were arrested and taken to the police station. One of the witnesses, a female Burmese student said; “I saw with my own eyes that our Burmese migrant workers were arrested, even though they had a work ID. I felt very sad. I saw women crying. One of the girls told me that a policeman told her that if she didn’t have a legal document she could sleep with him so she wouldn’t be sent to Mae Sod.”
Usually illegal migrant workers are sent back to the Thai-Burmese border if they are arrested. For Thai owners, it is important to have skilled Burmese workers with good English and selling skills. But recent issues concerning work ID’s have arisen because the ID’s do not include a permit to sell goods. So, whether we like it or not, they need to make a deal and pay money to the police every month.