A New Role for Aung San Suu Kyi?

Looking across the mighty Hlaing River, one does not need to know much of Burmese history to realize that Rangoon was once a culturally rich city. But in 2005, the Burmese regime led by the State Peace and Development Council famously decided to abandon the beautifully crafted capital city to the greenfield site in Naypyidaw as the country’s new government center.

Today the old power center is fast declining into a state of decay. Historical monuments urgently need restoration. Some of the damaged buildings caused by Cyclone Nargis in 2007 are still left unattended. Rangoon’s physical degeneration has partly been exacerbated by the long years of authoritarianism that Burma has endured since the military took over and pushed out civilian rule in 1962. The dilapidated old capital has emerged as a symbol of political turmoil: falling, frustrating and hopeless.

When the SPDC, under the leadership of the military strongman Senior General Than Shwe, declared that it would hold general elections in 2010 for the first time in 20 years, some of the Rangoon residents were delighted, albeit skeptical. Observers believe it will be held on Oct. 10, considered an auspicious date by the Burmese generals.

Not everyone really understood how the upcoming election would reinstall the lost concept of democracy. But all were dreaming that some changes would take place under a new democratic rule. However, these dreams have been demolished following the recent announcement that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy, would not be allowed to participate in the election.

At a gathering of leading scholars of Burma at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore on April 5, nobody seemed to be able to predict Suu Ky’s future role now that both she and her party will not be contesting in the election. But what is predictable is that the election will go on, that Western governments will reject the legitimacy of whoever will come to power and that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will go along with the new administration without asking too many questions. Continue reading “A New Role for Aung San Suu Kyi?”

Naypyitaw officials visit Kachin churches with donations

Burmese military officials, from the capital Naypyitaw, visited ethnic Kachin churches during religious services, in the country’s northern Kachin State and made donations early this week, local church sources said.

Brig-Gen Lun Aung, Auditor General of the ruling junta, visited to Loije, or Lweje town, in Bhamo District, near the China Border on Sunday, April 4. He donated 1 million kyat (US$1,020) to the local Kachin Roman Catholic Church, during Easter Sunday services, said church followers.He met local people, including members of the junta-sponsored Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) and church leaders from both Baptist and Roman Catholic Churches at the Town Administrative Office, also called the Town Peace and Development Council, the local attendees told the Kachin News Group today.

People at the meeting said he spoke to local Kachin Baptists and Catholics about the upcoming elections, for which no date has been announced yet. He also talked about the Kachin Independence Organization, the last remaining Kachin armed group, saying it should accept the junta-proposed Border Guard Force, like other Kachin armed groups have.

The residents of Loije criticized Brig-Gen Lun Aung, his wife and his entourage, because they said the local children crowded around when the visitors threw hundreds of Kyat 200 and Kyat 500 banknotes on the road as they left. Continue reading “Naypyitaw officials visit Kachin churches with donations”

Sittwe Public Barred from Water Festival Celebration

The state military authority is currently preparing to observe the New Year festivities in Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State, but Arakanese people have been denied the chance to celebrate the famous Rakhine festival in Sittwe this year, said a town elder.

“The authority has started the construction of many pavilions in front of government buildings and in front of the Vasila sports ground for Burmese style water play, but the authority is not allowing residents to construct the pavilions in the respective wards around Sittwe,” the elder said.

The water festival starts on 13 April but the people will be engaging in the water play from 14 to 16 April.

The elder added, “The authority seems to not want people to celebrate the biggest Arakanese water festival in Sittwe this new year because the authority is afraid untoward incidents such as anti-government protests will break out in Sittwe during the water festival.”

During the 2008 and 2009 new year celebrations, some Arakanese youths participated in anti-government activities by wearing t-shirts saying “No Vote” and “Ven Uttama”. Many of the youths were detained by police in Sittwe but later released on bail.

“During this year’s water festival, such anti-government activities may arise again in Sittwe because this year is very crucial in Burma with the election. So the authority is likely to fear this and bar celebration of the Arakanese water festival in the downtown area of Sittwe,” he said. Continue reading “Sittwe Public Barred from Water Festival Celebration”

Burmese Refugees Unable to Attend UNHCR’s Bengali Language School

The UNHCR on Monday opened a Bengali language class for Burmese urban refugees in Cox’s Bazar, a sea resort town in southern Bangladesh.

But none of the refugees are able to attend the class because they are simply struggling for their daily survival, said Khaing Pray Thein, a Burmese urban refugee sheltering in Cox’s Bazar.

“As we are refugees sheltering in Bangladesh, the Bengali language is necessary for all of us, and everyone is interested in learning the local language. But no one is able to attend the class because they have to struggle for their daily subsistence as the UNHCR is not providing any support for their daily food and travel during the training period,” he said.

The language class is being held in U Korsalla Vidya Bihar primary school in Cox’s Bazar, and is being implemented by the local NGO Resource Integration Center for the UNHCR. The training will be given to the refugees for two hours a day from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm, every day except Friday, for three months.

Sangita Barua, the teacher who was appointed by RIC, said, “I can not start my training yet as no one is coming to attend the class. It seems that my trainees may have some difficulties for their studies. I will consult with my organization about the situation as soon as possible.”

According to Khaing Pray Thein, there are nearly 300 Burmese urban refugees that have been recognized by the UNHCR in Bangladesh.

He said that most of the refugees are currently sheltering in remote villages in Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban District in southern Bangladesh and are extremely vulnerable because they have been neglected by the UNHCR and other organizations in regards to their legal protection and aid for food and shelter.

Wa top leader welcomes UN, INGO returnees

The United Wa State Army (UWSA)’s Vice Chairman Xiao Minliang reportedly welcomed and met the returnees of international organizations: UN and INGOs on 6 April at its headquarters in Panghsang, to resume their work in the Wa territory, according to a report received by SHAN.

The meeting was attended by only the UN and INGO staffs, not the Natala (junta personnel) and Burma Army officers.
In mid March, the military junta had ordered all junta personnel and NGOs working in the Wa State to return to their home bases. According to the Wa statistics, there were more than 300 junta personnel who had left.Xiao expressed his appreciation of the agencies to continue their assistance and support to the poor people in the Wa areas again. He then explained the current political circumstances between the group and the Burma Army authorities, until it had led the agencies to face difficulties and limited access.

“The Wa authorities were embarrassed by the difficulties and limited access faced by international agencies due to the current political circumstances but Wa will actively support the agencies,” the report quoted him as saying.

According to him, relationships between Wa and the military junta had been good over the past 20 years until Naypyitaw’s Border Guard Force (BGF) program was introduced in April 2009. Since then the relationship between the two had changed because the two did not share the same visions on the BGF. Continue reading “Wa top leader welcomes UN, INGO returnees”

New Wa proposal deserves junta acceptance

As new information flows in, I’m beginning to feel that the regime is doing itself a disservice by upholding its “Take all or nothing” attitude in dealing with the ceasefire groups vis a vis its Border Guard Force program, particularly with the United Wa State Army (UWSA).

The Wa certainly have come a long way from their November counterproposal.

Yes, they still maintain some of their previous stances:

Mongpawk and Mongphen, considered part of Mongyang township by the regime, should continue to be placed under Wa administration as Mongpawk township
Commanders of both northern and southern military sectors must be Wa and the deputy commanders junta officers

However, on other points, previously unthinkable to them, they have made notable concessions: Continue reading “New Wa proposal deserves junta acceptance”

Ethnic Shan political party registers for elections

A newly formed Shan political party, ‘the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP)’led by Sai Ai Pao, the former General Secretary of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), the second largest winning party in the whole of Burma and the top winning one in Shan State in the 1990 elections, has reportedly registered to contest in the upcoming general elections today.

“However, the party is not sure whether the junta will accept their registration or not,” a Shan resident in Rangoon told SHAN.
The party was formed after a two day meeting held in Rangoon a few days ago by Shans from towns such as Namkham, Kyaukme, Rangoon, Mandalay, Taunggyi, Panglong, Mongkawng (Moegaung in Kachin State) aiming for the Shan people to have choices in the elections.

The party elected Sai Saung Si, former member of SNLD and elected representative of Kyaukme constituency No#2 in 1990, as Vice Chairman. The party also chose 15 people as CEC members.

“If there is no ethnic political party, and only has the junta backed party, then people won’t have any choice but to choose the party they are offered,” a Shan resident in Ragoon told SHAN. “Then, the junta will win the seats by acclamation.”

Another party is the Union Democratic Alliance Organization (UDAO) formed by the veteran Shan politician Shwe Ohn. It has already applied for registration for months. There are altogether12 political parties that have registered for the elections, according to media reports.

For the SNLD, it will not contest until the party is allowed to discuss with its Chairman, Hkun Htun Oo, who is serving a 93 year jail sentence in Puta-O prison in Kachin State, according to party spokesman Sai Leik.
shanland org