Abbot U Gaw Thita sentenced to seven years in prison

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Burmese military junta’s judiciary continued to hand down harsh verdicts, with an abbot, who had assisted Cyclone Nargis victims, being sentenced to seven years in prison yesterday by a special court in session inside the Insein prison precincts.

The Rangoon western district court sentenced Abbot U Gaw Thita from the Rangoon Nga Htat Gyi monastery under the Immigration Act, Foreign Exchange Regulation Act and Unlawful Associations Act.

“Deputy District Judge (3) Tin Htut and law officer (public prosecutor) Daw Khin Po pronounced the judgment from the western district court bench,” an opposition source said.

The monk was arrested from Rangoon Mingaladon airport on August 28 last year after returning from Taiwan. Seven other monks were also arrested along with him on the same day from the airport but they were released after being questioned for a day. Abbot U Gaw Thita was the only one to be prosecuted.

Rangoon based legal advisor Aung Thein told Mizzima that trying a person entering the country with a valid passport and visa under the Immigration Act and Unlawful Associations Act is not in keeping with the law. Continue reading “Abbot U Gaw Thita sentenced to seven years in prison”

The Last Letter from Karen refugees in Nong Bua and Usu Tha by Cross-border News

Cross Border News Agency
To the Thai people, via Cross-border News Agency,

Since 24/01/10 that the Cross-border News Agency started to circulate information relating to the coerced repatriation of Karen refugees in Nong Bua and Usu Tha temporary shelter on the Thai-Burma border to the Thai public, our stories have been discussed more in Thai media. From news and reports being monitored, we found that in fact, the Thai PM and authorities including Thai military have the very same stand with us; that is ‘refugees will be allowed in Thailand when there are still threats in their homeland. When the situation is better, they must go back.’

We definitely agreed. We only asked to take refuge in Thailand temporarily. We do not wish to continue living in Thailand when the threats are gone. Our intention is to go back home as soon as possible.

However, we and you may understand or see ‘the proper situation that is safe for return’ differently. In addition, we may understand the term ‘voluntary return’ differently from the Thai military that insisted some of us have returned to our homeland voluntarily.

Therefore, we would like to explain a few points via CBNA to Thai decision makers and public as follow;

About us

1. Although the refugees in Nong Bua and Usu Tha came to Thailand at the same time during lMay- June 2009, they are from different villages, with different past and current conditions and situations. Ler Por Hur is in KNU controlled area while others are in DKBA’s or in between. A decision from a person in a village regarding the possibility and readiness to return home cannot be interpreted to be decisions of all.

2. It is not the first time for numbers of people in this group to take refuge in Thailand. Every time we came, we went back quickly as soon as possible. The example is in December 2001 when Ler Por Hur was burnt down. We returned to build our new village within one month, when the Burmese and DKBA’s army went back. Yet this time the situation is different. Therefore we cannot go back home easily and quickly as in the past.

3. As refugees, we do not wish Thailand to bear the burden alone. We seek for international protection and responsibilities. Currently, assistances are from foreign humanitarian groups, and the UNHCR is ready to perform protection role if the Thai government allow it to do. Continue reading “The Last Letter from Karen refugees in Nong Bua and Usu Tha by Cross-border News”

No country for Karen

uwan Kolaihiran, Cross Border News Agency
‘They say we go, we have to go. They say we stay, we have to stay, whether here, in Loepohoe or in Mae La (refugee camp).’ This is what Nomaele told me last September.

Nomaele is a plump woman, aged beyond her years by hard work. Every time we met I mistakenly called her ‘auntie’ although she is only 35. Her family and 2 others, 12 people in all, were sent across the Moei River to her home in Loepohoe at 8 in the morning of 5 February.

‘We don’t think this was set up by the UN because in the morning, when the first group were being sent back, the second group were packing their things ready when the UN officials came and the soldiers who were sending them back suddenly changed their attitude.

‘From loading them onto vehicles to take them to the ferry, they switched to asking them where they were going,’ an aged friend of Nomaele told me, a smile creasing the corner of his mouth.

We sat and chatted in a bamboo house whose walls had been dismantled ready to move. The owner, missing both legs after stepping on a mine in the last rainy season, sat listening. I was there on the night of 4 February. The soldiers withdrew, leaving just one volunteer. Out-of-uniform soldiers milling about did not appear to be checking passes as strictly as they had been doing in the past 3 months, when not even a chicken could get through.

For many people, living in crumbling bamboo houses covered with torn sheeting is better than being sent back to the big strong houses they built with their own hands in Burma. Continue reading “No country for Karen”

Through Art, A Look at Migrants’ Temporary State of Being

BANGKOK, Feb 18, 2010 (IPS) – “Migrant workers are not aliens,” sang a local music band here called Paradon. “Any kind of work that Thais don’t do, they do it for Thais. No matter how dirty, they do it for Thai. Which job is dangerous, they do. They do it for Thais. Though it is a demeaning job, they do it. They do it for Thais.”

Sung by the band to open an art exhibition on migrant workers in Thailand this week, the lyrics – like the art works on show at gallery — aim to get Thais thinking about the more than two million migrants who live in their midst but are often deprived of key rights in the host society that benefits from their labour.

Both the art works, ranging from paintings to photography to video, installation art and animation, and the song aim to use creative means to discuss publicly – and more perhaps more effectively — the human face of migrants and the challenges they face.

This is the focus of ‘Illegal, Temporary and Precarious States of Being – Migration’, an exhibition that highlights the contradictions faced by migrant workers who are not always accepted or appreciated for their contributions.

Thailand itself – a magnet for migrants from neighbouring countries like Burma, Cambodia and Laos — is in the midst of a controversial debate about its policy on migrant workers. Continue reading “Through Art, A Look at Migrants’ Temporary State of Being”

Independent UN expert warns of threat of mass deportations from Thailand

18 February 2010 – A large number of migrant workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos face the threat of deportation from Thailand if the Government goes ahead with its nationality verification process, an independent United Nations human rights expert warned today.
In January, the Thai Cabinet passed a resolution allowing for a two-year extension of work permits for approximately 1.3 million migrants provided that they were willing to submit biographical information to their home governments prior to 28 February 2010.

However, migrants who fail to do so by this deadline risk deportation after the 28 February deadline.

Jorge A. Bustamante, the UN expert on the human rights of migrants, noted in a news release that carrying out the verification process in its current form places many documented and undocumented migrant workers at risk after 28 February.

“I am disappointed that that the Government of Thailand has not responded to my letters expressing calls for restraint,” said the expert, who reports to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.

“I reiterate my earlier messages to the Government to reconsider its actions and decisions, and to abide by international instruments,” he added. “If pursued, the threats of mass expulsion will result in unprecedented human suffering and will definitely breach fundamental human rights obligations.”

Mr. Bustamante called on Thailand to respect the principle of ‘non-refoulement,’ noting that among the groups who may potentially be deported are some who may be in need international protection and should not be returned to the country of origin.

Like all UN human rights experts, Mr. Bustamante works in an independent and unpaid capacity.

China worried over losing investments in Burma in event of civil war

China is overtly anxious of losing its huge investments in neighbouring military-ruled Burma with civil war clouds looming between the regime and ethnic armed groups, said sources close to Chinese officials.
ources close to China’s southwestern Yunnan province government, said China’s current investment in Burma is in the region of over 600 billion dollars. It is the biggest foreign investor in Burma.

China has invested mainly in energy and mining sectors in Burma controlled by the junta as well as in business interests of ethnic armed groups along the border.

It stands to reason that China does not want strife along the Burma border, contiguous to its Yunnan province between the junta and ethnic armed groups, who have rejected the junta-proposed plans to disarm, Yunnan government sources said. Continue reading “China worried over losing investments in Burma in event of civil war”

Locals forced into militia for battle in southern Burma

Kaowao News
THURSDAY, 18 FEBRUARY 2010 13:12

The Burmese Army is stepping up its militia strategy to replenish its forces by forcing local people into militia units (Pyi-Thu-Sit) to fight against the armed insurgent groups in southern Mon State and northern Tenasserim Division.

A local community source said, the Light Infantry Battalion No. 282 is pressurizing the village headmen to keep people under control and to ensure that they will not flee when fighting breaks out between the Burmese Army’s militia units and the Mon insurgent groups.

Yar Pu, Kyauk Kadin, Kywe Talin and Aleh Sakhan are key villages, situated along Ye Tavoy motor road near the Yadana gas pipeline, which have been ordered to form local militias with at least 20 people from each village.

Since October 2009, the Burmese Army has ordered the village headmen to form militias in their villages for the Ye Tavoy motor road. The headmen are responsible for sending the villagers to the Burmese government’s militia training division centres.

“This is how the Burmese Army fights against its enemies by forcing the local people to fight against each other. The Burmese militia force is formed to root out the insurgents and weaken the morale of the ethnic armed groups,” said a retired Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA) Colonel Kao Rot, who lives in Thailand, adding that even in areas where no fighting occurs such as in the Kyaik-Maraw area, the Burmese Army is setting up their militia forces to “wipe out the NMSP if the ceasefire crumbles.” Continue reading “Locals forced into militia for battle in southern Burma”

Kya Pikoi,Militia chief becomes battalion commander

Kya Pikoi, well known Naypyitaw-backed militia chief of Nakawngmu, a village in Mongton township, opposite Chiangmai, has been officially promoted to a commander of the newly formed militia battalion, according to Thai and Shan sources on the border.

The ceremony presided over by Lt-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, commander of Shan and Kayah states, took place at the Infantry Battalion#65 command post on Tuesday, 16 February. “Initially, the ceremony had been planned to be held with much pomp and fanfare,” said a resident from the township. “But, thanks to the Shan Herald, the news had spread far and wide, and the authorities thought better of it.”

Kya Pikoi, in his early 50s, was also granted with a permit for 1,200 tons of timber. His operational area ranges from Mongpu in the north to BP( Boundary Pillar) #1 in the south and Tasang in the west to Pianghsa (near Doilang) in the east.

The bulk of his troops are made up of Lahu. “Only those are who were ill informed had joined it,” said a local trader. “Most had shunned it.”

Min Aung Hlaing flew into Nakawngmu around 13:30 and left at 15:00 on a helicopter. Security was tightened up throughout the day. All public mobile phone antennae were ordered to be removed. “Even the Wa fighters coming down from Monghsat (in the east) were stopped at Maeken (12 miles north of Nakawngmu) until his departure.”

According to a report by Network for Democracy and Development (NDD), Burma’s ruling military council plans to set up 1 militia battalion in each village tract. There are 13,725 village tracts in the whole country. Its immediate goal, however, appears to be one battalion per township. There are around 325 townships in Burma.