The house that Mahn Shah lived in

Joseph Allchin

Feb 16, 2010-In a suburb of the border town of Mae Sot one house is no longer a residence. It has, like many buildings in this town been turned into an ad hoc sweatshop.

It could not be relived in because on the morning of the 14th of February 2008 two men approached on the quiet road, out of their vehicle they carried bouquets of flowers.
They entered the gate of the two story suburban house and climbed the external stairs to the second story balcony that looks over the road and the dusty patch of grass and shrub.
On the balcony was the Karen National Union general secretary, Pado Mahn Shah. The revered leader was sitting reading the papers and would not have been particularly surprised to see people baring gifts or offerings.
He probably wasn’t surprised either when from within said offerings appeared the tools of his demise. He was shot several times in the chest. The last of many assassination attempts.
“For a long time the Burmese regime tried to kill my father” says Mahn Shah’s daughter Zoya Phan speaking to DVB from exile in London. “When I was 15 I survived three assassination attempts.” Continue reading “The house that Mahn Shah lived in”

RIGHTS-BURMA: When Hard Times Hit, Some Children Go to Factories

RANGOON, Feb 16, 2010 (IPS) – Fifteen-year-old Cho Cho Thet knows little about the world outside of the garments factory where she works.

Thet works 14 hours each day – from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. – seven days a week, but receives a salary of only 35,000 kyat (35 U.S. dollars) a month. The factory owner provides free accommodation and meals that include rice and vegetables.

“Working under a roof is better than working in the rice field under the sun or the rain. I don’t feel tired at all here,” Thet told IPS. The girl was recently promoted from helper to operator after two years.

When she was in second grade, Thet was pulled out from school by her mother so she could take care of her younger sister. After her mother died and her father left home, Thet, the eldest in the family, had no choice but to work.

“I had to work the whole day standing in the paddy field to grow rice whether it was raining or sunny,” she said, recalling her life in their village, a three- hour drive from Rangoon.

She was later able to convince her grandmother to send her to the factory where her aunt was working. “I can’t make enough money if I live in the village. There is no regular income, no job except in the farming season,” Thet said.

May Thu Aung, owner of the garments factory, refused to accept Thet because the girl was too young then. Thet’s grandmother left her to work as a babysitter in Aung’s house. Thet said she did not like the job “because I did not even want to take care of my own sister.” After a few months, she was finally able to work in the factory.

“There are many young people applying for jobs in the factory, although we try to reject underage children. If we reject them today, they will come again next week with a new application in which they changed their age,” Aung said. Continue reading “RIGHTS-BURMA: When Hard Times Hit, Some Children Go to Factories”

Nine hundred Karen refugees “return” to Burma

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Over 900 Karen refugees from a camp on the Thai- Burma border returned to Burma since early February after Thai authorities proposed to repatriate Karen refugees from border camps.

Those that have returned are from Oo Thu Hta temporary refugee camp in Thasaungyan Township, Tak Province on the Thai-Burma border.

Plans were in place by Thai authorities to repatriate the Karen refugees from Oo Thu Hta and Noe Boe refugee camps early this month. However, protests from rights groups, forced it to stall the operation.

But the Thai Army clamped down and tightened camp regulations in Oo Thu Hta and pressurized the refugees to return home to Burma. They went back in ones and twos.

“They told us this is not your country and there are no more clashes in your villages. The refugees in the camp are not even being allowed to find wild vegetables nearby. Over 40 security men are deployed in the camp,” a refugee told Mizzima. Continue reading “Nine hundred Karen refugees “return” to Burma”

Joint Burmese column presses 50 villagers into porter service in Kyainnseikyi Township

February 16, 2010
HURFOM: Recently a combined force from Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) No. 402 and the State Peace and Development council (SPDC) Military Operations Management Command (MOMC) No. 8, attempted to approach the area near Khonnawar village, Kyainnseikyi Township, and were ambushed by troops from Karen National Union (KNU) brigade No. 6, according to a Khonnawar village resident.
On January 25th, Military Column (MC) No. 1, a joint force of soldiers from LIB No. 402 and MOMC No. 8, led by lieutenant colonel Yan Myo Aung, were conducting a patrol in KNU brigade No.6 territory. While traveling the column was ambushed by KNU forces. LIB No. 402 forces responded by entering near by Khonnawar where they gathered villagers, accused and blamed them for the ambush, of being sympathizers to KNU insurgents and of being members of KNU forces. Villagers also reported when LIB No. 402 departed they also kidnapped villagers to guard against KNU ambush. Continue reading “Joint Burmese column presses 50 villagers into porter service in Kyainnseikyi Township”

Three Pagodas villagers forced to gather construction materials

HURFOM, TPP: Burmese army Tactical Command (TC) No.3, based in Anankwin village, Three Pagoda Township, Karen State, has forced residents to collect building materials of bamboo poles, wood planks, and leaves for roof thatch and wall packing, for construction on the Tactical Command’s battalion headquarters.
On Feb 3rd, TC No. 3’s colonel Kyaw Myint, commanded headmen from 7 villages under control of the TC No.3 to order villagers to collect the supplies and bring them to the headquarters at Anankwin.
According to sources from the 7 villages, each are taxed as follows: Anankwin village providing 1000 packs of thatch leaf (each pack consisting of a ream of 50 leaves) and 100 planks and bamboo poles; Tanyin village must provide 500 packs of thatch leaf and 100 planks and 100 bamboo poles; Yelphaw village must provide 500 packs of thatch leaf, 500 planks and 100 bamboo poles; Theelone village must provide 250 packs of thatch leaf, 250 planks and 50 bamboo poles; Yathae village must provide 250 packs of thatch leaf, 250 planks and 50 bamboo poles; Puthaw village must provide 500 packs of thatch leaf, 250 planks and 50 bamboo poles; (7) Winkanae village must provide 500 packets of thatch leaf, 100 planks and 100 bamboo poles.
HURFOM’s field reporter estimates that there are nearly 500 hundred households within the 7 villages, and that the estimated total cost of the supplies demanded would be valued at close to 3,000,000 Kyat.
Kyaw Htwe, a 44 year old farmer from Tanyin village, said “We had to pay because they forced us to [pay]. If we did not pay, we couldn’t stay here. We wasted our time collecting bamboo [poles] and cutting planks of wood. We had to leave our jobs to do their jobs. Our village headman asked me to collect 35 planks of wood and 12 straight bamboo [poles]. I had to spend 1 week to get all of that material].”
A 35 year old Anankwin villager, Saw Nay Pa Lu, who is an expert in commodity prices, confirmed HURFOM’s estimate of the total cost of the building materials that colonel Kyaw Myint collected would be over three millions Kyat. “The military battalions never buy materials like that, they just get them from the resident by force. If we do not do what they ordered, they will put our names onto a black list and they can accuse us without reason all the time. Forcing us to collect [supplies] like this has happened many time before but we don’t know who we need to ask for help from to prevent these cases. That’s why whatever they command to us we have to do.[There are] no words to [act] against their orders. Continue reading “Three Pagodas villagers forced to gather construction materials”

Americans should help junta defeat Wa

Visiting Kengtung, capital of Shan State East, that shares border with China, Laos and Thailand yesterday, Lt-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, who oversees Shan and Kayah states, said Washington should have been assisting Burma’s ruling military junta in defeating the United Wa State Army (UWSA), 7 of whose top leaders are on its blacklist.

The 7 are:

Bao Youxiang President
Bao Youri Deputy Secretary General
Bao Youliang Chief of Finance
Bao Huaqiang Deputy Chief of Construction
Wei Xuelong Deputy Chief of Finance
Wei Xuegang Commander, 171st Military Region
Wei Xueyun Deputy Commander, 171st Military Region*

(*All are current offices held by the said Wa leaders, according to information released by the UWSA on 17 April 2009.)

The 8th on the list issued by the Justice Department on 24 January 2005, on Bao Youhua, died on 26 August 2007. Continue reading “Americans should help junta defeat Wa”

Two bombs went off yesterday morning in Laogai

Yet another bomb blast in Laogai
TUESDAY, 16 FEBRUARY 2010 11:25 S.H.A.N.
Two bombs went off yesterday morning in the Kokang capital of Laogai, Shan State North, killing one and wounding 11, 2 of them seriously, according to a report received by SHAN.

The report however did not say who the victim was. According to it, bombs exploded between 08:00-08:30 (Burma Standard Time) at the anti-narcotic drugs museum in the Tongcheng Park. No further details were given.There have been frequent bomb blasts in Laogai since 24 October, almost two months after Kokang was attacked and occupied by the Burma Army, 25-27 August.

The Burma Army had accused the ousted leader Peng Jiasheng, who was replaced with Bai Xuoqian as the culprit. But a source close to Peng denied having anything to do with them.

The blasts occurred this time, while the annual Chinese New Year is being celebrated by Kokang people, most of whom are ethnic Chinese. “I don’t think it is Peng’s men at least this time,” said another source contacted by SHAN. “They would not do anything to disturb the New Year.” Continue reading “Two bombs went off yesterday morning in Laogai”