Karen flags of ceasefire groups removed

Adopting a tough stand, the Burmese military junta yesterday ordered the removal of the Karen national flag from the gates and military camps of ceasefire groups in Karen State.

“The order to remove Karen flags was released at 9:30 am yesterday.  All the flags were removed by 3 pm, a DKBA soldier told KIC.

According to DKBA sources, the order came from Col. Khin Maung Htay of MOC 12, who is directly appointed by Nay Pyi Daw to solve border issues.

A Kawkareik local on condition of anonymity said that the removal of Karen flags was done in Myawaddy, Kawkareik, and Pa-an in Karen state. The DKBA and other ceasefire groups were ordered to remove Karen flags, he added.

“When I saw the Karen flag being removed, I felt a pang in my heart that a thing of heritage is being done away with,” a DKBA soldier from 999 gate said in a pained voice.

Among Karen ceasefire groups, are the DKBA, Karen Peace Council (KPC), Hong Thayaw special region, Phayar Gone ceasefire group, and Thantaung special region.

The removal of Karen flags is a temporary act because high ranking junta officials will come to their area, a soldier from KPC told KIC.

“The idea is to keep the flag away from the pole temporarily because senior junta officials will come. Representatives of MAS (Military Affairs Security) checked every gate at midday yesterday. Some gates are yet to remove the flags. Our gate (KPC gate), Kyauk Phyar gate has removed the flag,” the KPC soldier added.

“Our leader Saw Ba Oo Gyi had said Karen can create the future of Karen. We will raise the Karen flag wherever we are based,” a commander from the brigade of Col. Saw Lar Pwe, who rejected transformation to the junta’s Border Guard Force (BGF) said.

Since August 3, the Burmese Army has told ceasefire groups that if they go downtown, they should not wear uniforms and not carry weapons, which can be carried only in army camps.

Myawaddy locals said the Burmese Army will transform DKBA 999 brigade into BGF in Myawaddy town on August 16.

Major Saw Mauk Thon, a commander of DKBA Kalo Htoo Baw strategic command, accepted transformation to BGF on August 2. He has been helping DKBA soldiers sign the agreement in his office in Myawaddy.

“Soldiers came to Maj Mauk Thon’s house, which is also the office of the strategic command for three days. DKBA vehicles carrying solders also came to his house and signed the agreement with Maj Mauk Thon at his gate,” a woman eyewitness said.

According to ceasefire groups and locals, Lt. Gen. Khin Zaw, commander of the costal division, and Brig. Thet Naing, commander of north east military command, are already in Myawaddy.

Even though Col. Than Naing Win, commander of MOC 19, is responsible for the area of Thaung Yin River, which demarcates Thailand and Burma, Col. Khin Maung Htay, commander of MOC 12, took over the duty on July 30.

KIC news

DKBA 999 hands over weapons to junta

In a significant development the DKBA 999 regiment, which had signed a ceasefire agreement with the military junta, handed over its weapons to the Burmese Army.

On August 3 afternoon, DKBA officers and soldiers left Myawaddy for Shwe Kukko, the DKBA headquarters, in seven vehicles to surrender the weapons, a Myawaddy local, who is close to DKBA members, said.

“They had to hand over all the weapons from their regiments to the military regime, and then the Burmese Army will issue new weapons to them,” he said.

This handing over was only meant for DKBA 999 regiment in Myawaddy and Kawkareik areas. Other regiments have to hand over weapons later, he added

However, DKBA Brigade (5) commander Major Saw Lar Pwe (a) Major Nauk Kham Mwe and his troops have rejected the proposal to transform to BGF.

The DKBA decided to sign the agreement on changing to BGF with the junta at the end of last month following which the 999 regiment handed over its weapons.

Regarding this the local Military Affairs Security (MAS) had a meeting with DKBA brass but the MAS did not force us to hand over the weapons, a DKBA officer said on condition of anonymity.

“MAS told us we can keep weapons, but it has to be kept at regiments, squadrons, gates and platoon during a meeting on August 3. We can’t carry weapons in the city. This is mandatory for all ceasefire groups as well as DKBA,” he added.

If ceasefire groups transform to BGF, they have to re-organize their armies on the structure of the Burmese Army. That is why they have to hand over their weapons, a KNU officer said on condition of anonymity.

“It is normal. If they transform to BGF, they have to surrender their weapons, and then the Burmese Army will issue new weapons with serial numbers,” he said.

On the BGF issue, there is serious disagreement among DKBA forces and some soldiers have joined KNU, he added.

An unofficial source from Three Pagoda Pass said the regime is trying to arrest DKBA Brigade (5) commander Major Saw Lar Pwe (a) Nauk Kham Mwe.

DKBA split from KUN in 1994.

nmg news

Junta Troops Take DKBA Border Gate

Burmese junta troops in Myawaddy Township on Thursday seized the main border trade gate operated by Brigade 999 of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army on the Thai-Burma border, according to Karen sources.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Friday, a source close to the DKBA in Myawaddy said, “They [the regime] have deployed troops in front of the door controlled by Brigade 999. They won’t allow anyone through. If DKBA troops want to leave their position, they won’t let them come back.

“They put up a Burmese national flag and took down the DKBA’s flag, and they changed the name of the gate from Brigade 999 to Dawna Taung [the name of a well-known mountain in Karen State].”
The Brigade 999 trade gate is the main crossing point in Myawaddy where Thai products enter and exit Burma. Control of the gate is a major source of DKBA funds. Continue reading “Junta Troops Take DKBA Border Gate”

How we bully our migrant workers

So we want migrant workers from Burma to be legal with passports and all, yet we still want them to submit to our old oppressive ways, is that it?

If not, then why have we refused to give legal migrant workers driving licences – on the grounds that they still pose a threat to national security?

Last week, the provincial authorities in Ranong stopped issuing driving licences to a batch of legal Burmese workers, following a protest from some 200 Ranong motorcyclists who feared that migrant workers would steal their jobs if allowed to drive.

Worse, they might abuse their new privilege and smuggle drugs and illegal workers into the country, said the motorcyclists.

Their concerns are understandable. But isn’t it the job of the police to arrest law breakers? Aren’t drug and human trafficking rings reportedly run by men in uniform, and not by migrant workers?

Also, is it right to comply to a demand which violates a basic human right of another person? Do we not consider the right to movement a basic human right? Or do we simply not see migrant workers as human? What is our real problem?

These workers have fled harsh poverty and persecution in Burma to toil here doing dirty and dangerous work at pitiful wages. Yet we condemn them as unwanted outsiders who burden us with social problems and infectious diseases. We dismiss the fact that it is our government’s support for the atrocious Burmese junta that has forced them to flee their homeland.

And it is our prejudice that makes us blind to their slave-like conditions.

We Thais pride ourselves as free people in a free land. Yet we celebrate confinement, which is part of slavery, for migrant workers. Why is that so?

Since we brand them illegal, which is criminal in our view, we believe the problems from migrant workers and human trafficking will disappear if all Burmese workers have legal entry. So we forcibly deport them to face danger, extortion and complex red tape back in Burma in order to obtain the passports, not to mention the astronomical fees involved. So far, only about 90,000 out of 2-3 million Burmese migrant workers in Thailand have succeeded in obtaining their passports.

Yet, after going through a difficult process, these legal workers are not promised the legal minimum wage nor the right to change employers. They are allowed to work only as labourers and domestic workers and, as before, denied the freedom of movement. With such little benefits, most migrant workers prefer to stay underground and remain exploited while human trafficking rings continue to thrive.

Regarding the Ranong incident, the driving licences for migrant workers are actually private and cannot be used for plying or running taxis or taxi-motorcycles. Also, migrant workers – legal or illegal – cannot travel outside their restricted zones. So a driving licence would only help them to commute within their area without fear of police extortion. Yet, this too is beyond their reach.

No, I am not writing about all this because it is a matter of life and death for migrant workers in Ranong to go buy food on their motorcycles. But it is a matter of life and death for us. Continue reading “How we bully our migrant workers”

A Human Rights activist requested not to issue driving license to the people holding temporary passport

A Human Rights activist requested not to issue driving license to the people holding temporary passport

Nai Sanort, a Ranong (Thailand) based Human Rights activist requested from the town authorities not to issue driving licenses to the people only holding a temporary passport. He explained that Thai taxi drivers were facing unemployment because Burmese workers were holding driving licenses and were getting involved in bikes driving business.

On August 1st, he thus submitted a letter to the authorities, asking them to agree on the five following points:

1. To withdraw driving licenses from the people holding temporary passport.

2. Not to issue driving license to people holding red passport.

3. To recall issued driving licenses and re-check.

4. To call a meeting with the workers and explained them the results.

5. To form a board of inquiry and broadcast in the media information regarding the whole process of issuing license.

Nai Wonchabonchaihtana, Ranong administrator, also called an order to stop issuing driving licenses to Burmese migrant workers. He said that, according to law, driving licenses should be issued only after obtaining permission from the Mainland transportation department, and also to the international level passports.

Regarding this kind of demands, Phang Nga based Foundation for Education and Development (FED)’s executive director, Mr. Htoo Chit, declared: “The idea that Thai bike and taxi drivers face unemployment because of migrant workers’ driving licenses, is not reliable information. According to international laws, anybody holding legal documents can apply to a driving license. The so-called Human Rights activists requesting such things should first respect international human rights standards”.

According to Kao-Sok online press published on August 2nd, only two Burmese migrant workers have been issued driving licenses, although many Burmese people are driving bikes without.

Last month Thai taxi drivers went on strike, to protest against the increasing number of Burmese migrant workers driving motorbikes.

According to a governmental agreement signed by both countries, Burmese migrants holding temporary passports should enjoy the same rights as Thai workers, and thus they should be able to apply to a driving license and to travel freely in the whole of Thailand.