Gift of peace from Myanmar: giant Lord Buddha statue

Mumbai: A giant marble statue of Lord Buddha, standing 21 feet tall, has been gifted by Myanmar to the Global Vipassana Foundation (GVF), and will be installed next week at Mumbai’s Pagoda complex, called the World Monument of Peace and Harmony.

The statue weighs a whopping 60 tonnes and is carved from a single piece of marble, an official from the GVF told IANS here. It has been created by the renowned U Taw Taw Group of Myanmar.

The giant statue, depicting Lord Buddha sitting in a meditating posture, will be unveiled on Buddha Purnima day – May 27 – by Satyanarayan Goenka, at a function to be held at the Pagoda complex, an official said.

The statue will enhance the magnificence of the landmark GVF Pagoda that looms majestically over north Mumbai’s Arabian Sea shoreline. It was inaugurated by President Pratibha Patil Feb 8 last year.

The golden-hued 325 feet tall Pagoda stands in the lush green 13-acre complex near Gorai village.

It is accessible by a short boat ride from north Mumbai or a long drive via Thane.

At the centre of the Pagoda stands the world’s tallest pillarless dome – measuring 280 feet in diameter and 90 feet in height.

Below the dome is a massive 6,000-sq metre pillarless meditation hall which can accommodate over 8,000 people. It is more than three times the size of the existing largest masonry structure – the Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur – which is 90 feet in diameter.

The original bone relics of Lord Buddha, donated by the Sri Lankan government and the Mahabodhi Society of India, have been enshrined in the central locking stone of the dome, above the Dhamma Chakra.

The main Pagoda is flanked by two smaller Pagodas, each 60 feet tall, and the massive complex is visible from tall buildings as far as Bandra, Borivli east and Bhayander in Thane.

Since the past year, it has become a must-see destination of Mumbai with thousands of domestic and foreign tourists visiting it daily.

It has been designed by Indian architect Chandubhai Sompura on the lines of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar, and was constructed by nearly 700 labourers who toiled daily for 11 years.

The Pagoda has been constructed mainly with donations received from former students and devotees around the world.

For instance, the people of Myanmar donated the marble used for the flooring and the umbrella placed atop the Pagoda. The people of Thailand donated the golden paint – typically used in Pagodas, which is not available in India.

In addition, a student’s family donated the land while other past students of Vipassana contributed around Rs.800 million to construct the entire structure, and the latest addition is the Lord Buddha statue donated by the Myanmar government.

Southeast Command condemns NMSP as “illegal” at USDA conference

Southeast Command condemns NMSP as “illegal” at USDA conference

According to sources, during a May 7th meeting between members of the Mudon and Moulmein Townships’ Union Solidarity and Development Associations (USDA) and the Burmese government’s Southeast Command (SEC), the latter’s Maj. Gen. Thet Naing Winwarned USDA members that the New Mon State Party (NMSP) should now be considered and “illegal” armed group.

The meeting was held at SEC headquarters in Moulmein city, and attended by a small group of top USDA officials from Mudon and Moulmein. The USDA is a civilian, allegedly non-political, organization controlled by the Burmese military government; the group is most frequently used by the Burmese regime to organize Burma’s civil society.

“Maj. Gen. Thet Naing Win said at the meeting, we now [should] recognize the NMSP group as a not legal armed group. [Because of this, they told] the USDA members to be careful,”  a USDA member, and meeting attendee, who asked that his personal details remain anonymous explained.

This USDA member also informed IMNA that Thet Naing Win informed meeting attendees that the NMSP had been unofficially considered an illegal armed group since April 28th of this year, the deadline for the party to submit the Burmese government’s desire to turn the NMSP’s armed wing into a state-controlled militia group. The party has also refused to participate in the upcoming 2010 Burmese elections; under the 2008 Burmese constitution, this renders the party “illegal”.

A high-ranking NMSP member, who requested that IMNA withhold his identity, confirmed his party’s yet-unannounced illegal status; he added that the party is currently unsure of the Burmese government’s policy regarding “illegal groups”, and that the date of the official announcement of the NMSP’s status is highly uncertain.

“Maybe they will announce [our illegal status] today, maybe they will announce it next year,” he elaborated.

The NMSP’s public refusal of the State Peace and Development Council’s (SPDC) “militia group offer” at the end of April 2010 sparked widespread speculation and fear in communities across Mon State. Many fear that the party’s decent into “illegal” status will lead to the end of the ceasefire agreement reached with the Burmese government in 1995.

“The NMSP agreed to a ceasefire with the Burmese government about 15 years ago, the people can [currently] live in their areas in peace, the people want to live with no violence into their areas,” a   public service personnel from Mudon town explained to IMNA.

“If the NMSP and SPDC fight, we will have problems, and things will be not safe for us” he added.

monnews Imna

All Mon Region Democracy Party submits party flag and symbol for Commission approval

The New Light of Myanmar’s May 16th publication featured the AMRDP’s flag (pictured on the left), and the party’s symbol (pictured on the right).

The All Mon Region Democracy Party (AMRDP) submitted its party’s name, flag and symbol to the Myanmar Union Election Commission on May 14th,  the government-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar reported  yesterday. The party also opened its head office in the capital of Mon State, Moulmein City, at Myaing Tha Yar quarter, stated the newspaper.

The party flag is a new design that differs greatly from those of other existing Mon political parties, party Chairman Nai Ngwe Thein informed IMNA. The party flag sports a white guiding star in front of a Golden Sheldrake (a sacred bird from Mon history) in flight on a red background. The party’s symbol is a flying  Sheldrake.

“We have to wait and see whether the commission will approve of our leaders, flag, and symbol,” Nai Ngwe Thein reported.

The AMRDP is led by Chairman Nai Ngwe Thein and Vice-chairman Nai Hla Aung, who were elected during the party’s most recent meeting on May 10th. The party’s flag and symbol were chosen the same day by committee members.

The AMRDP is, at present, the only Mon political group legally participating in the upcoming 2010 Burmese elections, as per the election laws enforced by the Myanmar Union Election Commission. Other Mon political groups, including the New Mon State Party (NMSP), refused to participate in the electoral process, in part because participation requires a party to uphold the much contested 2008 Burmese Constitution, a document that the NMSP has publicly denounced.

“Participating in the elections does not mean that we are going to be the government’s slaves and do whatever the government wants. We are going to raise our voice for our people in the parliament” Nai Ngwe Thein told IMNA today.

The AMRDP aims to  represent Mon people in all regions of Burma, as well as other ethnic groups living in Mon-controlled areas of the country. The party has planed to campaign in a variety of areas in southern Burma, including Pegu (once part of the ancient Monland empite), Mon State as it was created in 1974, some areas of Karen state, and in Taninsserin Division.

According to The New Light of Myanmar’s May 14th publication, the Election Commission has permitted the  formation of 28 out of 32 political parties that have applied for approval, and 4 out of 13 political parties are already completely registered.


Junta’s election cards not above board

The Burmese military junta has and is playing its election cards the way it wants to, albeit throwing to the winds all electoral norms.

It has taken legislative measures and unfolded step by step the details of its road map to its so called “disciplined democracy.” But the central act, namely the announcement of the date of the election has been conveniently bypassed to suit the regime.

Fixing the deadline for registration of political parties, without having fixed the election date is illegal and therefore untenable. The two dates are collateral. The date of registration, last date for filing of nomination papers, the scrutiny, and the campaign period, are all correlated and time bound. But the pivot is the date of the election. Without having fulfilled that condition, acts prior to it   are void. In the eye of the law, the Registration of Political Parties law is not enforceable.

In a recent visit to Burma, Dr. Kurt Campbell, the US Assistant Secretary of State said “the election will lack international legitimacy. We urge the regime to take immediate steps; open the process in the time remaining before election.” The immediate steps would be to restore normalcy in the existing political climate. The release of all political  prisoners and amnesty to all, who have been  convicted under its law, the exiles, except those who are perpetrators of  human rights  violations. These are some of the urgent measures to revive confidence that the election may be free and fair. This is a human rights issue, which needs resolution at the outset. Campbell has called for greater respect for human rights and release of political prisoners.

He said, “the regime has detained many of Burma’s brightest and most  patriotic citizens, sending them to remote locations throughout the country, where generals hope they will be forgotten. They are not. Burma has historical precedents of amnesty and junta is well aware of them. In Brazil amnesty law was put as the foundation of the new democracy. Amnesty law in Afghanistan is also illuminating. Article 1 states an end to rivalries. Article 2, to all groups and individuals. Article 3, who are still in opposition, if they join the process of reconciliation.

Allowing Campbell to meet Su Kyi and his meeting the junta leaders separately is a positive step. The U.S outlined a proposal for credible dialogue among all stake-holders towards elections planned for this year. The junta must give proper heed to this  proposal  because it is not merely a US proposal coming from the strongest democracy, but it reflects the unanimity of the  international community. Since the date of election has not been fixed Than Swe has time to review the situation and for the  larger interest of the country can reset the planned election.

The NLD has been dissolved and it has become easier to enter into talks with Su Kyi as a senior citizen and statesman. The junta  has also to enter into talks with ethnic leaders and cease-fire groups so that a political environment is  put in  place, conducive to free and fair polls.

Lessons can be drawn from recent elections in the U.K and Philippines. Thailand has set an example about what happens when an election is manipulated.

9 year old, a Burmese migrant’s daughter has been brutally killed!

Friday, 14 May 2010 00:00                      
The corpse of a Burmese girl who was seriously wounded on her head was found near the stream of Lankin’s monastery, in Thai Muang district of Phang-Nga province on 14, May 2010.

The girl was the youngest daughter of the Burmese construction workers U Sein Tin and Daw Mi Mi. The corpse was found after she was missing from her home for the last two days.

“Many wounds on her head, the occipital was damaged, the left ear was cut and bruised on her neck. I think that she had been strangled and we prepared to send to the local hospital even some people are rush to funeral. We are going to organize the funeral service tomorrow,” (15, May, 2010) said Mr. Yin Htwe, who is a social worker in the community.

“My daughter was sleeping when I came to work. Usually, she comes to our construction site at afternoon but she wasn’t arriving this day. I thought that she slept at the house but I did not see her when I came back to my house and we searched for her along our compounds. I don’t know exactly what she was happen,” her father said.

The girl was studying at Thomkhamin’s learning center run by the Foundation for Education and Development (FED) and she was going to attend level 3 this year.

“She is from our school and she passed level 2 last year and she was going to attend the level 3 this year,” Thomkhamin’s

Education’s coordinator Mr. Min Thein Kyaw confirmed. “I was so upset about the accident and she is a very quite girl and look like a boy. I strongly believed that she is totally innocent and did not involve any guilt,” he continued.

Human rights violations, sexual harassment, disappearances, and child trafficking issues are happing in Thailand very frequently.  Recently, two Burmese migrant’s sons were killed, and two other adults by the Thai military near Ranong province, on the Thai-Burma border while the Thai human traffickers run away from Thai military check points. Two Burmese girls also drowned in water and died when Thai police seized the Burmese workers’ construction site in Patong beach in Phuket in March, 2010.

“This kind of accident is not the first time in Thailand and we have found several cases like this in previous times.  We have to know what happened to the girl that’s why we sent the corpse to Surathani’s hospital in order to check for criminal evidence. We are still waiting to get confirmation from the hospital and we are going to follow through with the legal process as soon as we know the extent of the girl’s abuse approved by the hospital’s officers. Now, we are collaborating with our network and going to take legal action on the accident,” said Htoo Chit, the Executive director of FED.