Monitoring Burma

The New Straits Times, Malaysia
October 15, 2010

Assuming that all statements made by the Burmese authorities are to be believed and that the Nov 7 ballot will really herald civilian rule, then the only test of whether elections will usher in a new era of democracy is that they are free and fair.

While a boycott as urged by Burma’s oppositionists may serve to signal the international community that the results will not reflect popular sentiment, non-participation is likely to benefit the ruling military junta. Presumably, those not opting to exercise their right to vote would be staunch democrats who abhor the machinations of a dictatorial few.

Others suspect that the odds would be stacked against parties competing against the Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP), which is supported by the junta. Nevertheless, the 1990 elections had rejected the current rulers. Although the victory by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) was subsequently rescinded, another go at the polls could still in some measure reflect public opinion.

If sentiments have remained unchanged after 20 years, free and fair elections could end up with an adverse result for the USDP because of its connections to the junta. This time around the NLD is not in the running but, although not ideal, there are still 36 parties to choose from. The generals’ fears of a sudden loss of power would be allayed by their quota of seats in the new Parliament.

The United Nations is urging Asean to play a role in ensuring that democracy will be at work in spite of the junta’s stranglehold on the conduct of the elections. These elections will be the best chance yet for Asean to repair the damage that Burma has done to its credentials.

Whatever the election outcome, the 20 per cent of parliamentary seats reserved for the military under the new constitution ensures it of a continuing role in government. Asean, always careful about not interfering in members’ affairs, can press the generals for a free and fair vote without the implicit suggestion that they should be booted out. This can be achieved by sending teams from member nations to monitor the elections. The civilian population can then be assured of some freedom from military interference. If Indonesia is anything to go by, a military-backed transition to genuine civilian leadership can ultimately produce an elected legislature worthy of the name.

While it is true that loosening campaign restrictions and releasing political detainees will prove the junta’s good intentions, accepting monitoring by its Asean partners will reflect a long-delayed appreciation of Burma’s membership.


Tavoy deep-sea port project brings fears of relocation

October 15th, 2010

Dawei Development Project

Taw Lawi : Construction of a new deep-sea port in Tavoy District, in southern Burma’s Tenasserim Division will commence in early 2011, staff members on the Tavoy Seaport Department report.

According to one department staff member, the sea port will be located on Tavoy beach, where the villages of Nabule, Le shoung, Htin Kyi, Ma Yin Kyi, and Taraba village are located. This staff member reported that preliminary preparations for the project are already underway; surveys for the construction of temporary buildings are being conducted, and workers have begun measuring the main road near the future construction site, as well as taking the measurements of future construction areas.

“The deep-sea port will be implemented on the beach of the Nabule area. It is due to the beach [being located on] the deep sea, that beach is deep water, has good currents and does not have rock masses on water. It is a better beach than the others. It [construction on the port] will start at the beginning of 2011”, the staff member said.

According to The Bangkok Post’s July 25th article “Supporters see a depth of opportunities in Dawei [Tavoy] port”, the construction of the port will be the second phase of a 40 billion baht economic routing project between Thailand and Burma. The first of these phases will involve the construction of a highway running from Tavoy to Thailand’s Kanchanaburi province.

According to sources at the Land Records Department in Tavoy District, the highway is intended to be roughly 130 kilometers long, and according to plans will start in Nabule village, Yebyu township Tenasserim Division. Measurements for the highway have also reportedly begun; the Tavoy Land Record Department claimed that the highway’s outline has already been marked from Nabule village, through several communities, across the Tavoy river, all the way through  I Wine village.

The Tavoy deep-sea port project will be constructed through the cooperation of the Burmese government, the Thai government, and Italian construction companies; each group will sign a Memorandum of Understanding, according to the office staff member from Tavoy Seaport Department. He reported that talks for the project commenced in 2005.

Far from receiving unanimous support, the project has sparked intense concern in local Tavoy villagers living on or near the future construction site. Many say that they fear that they will be relocated to make way for the project, and consequently lose their plantations, livelihoods and native communities.

According to a land owner who lives near the site of the future project, relocation for some villagers has already commenced; individuals with homes and lands located at the periphery of the sea port construction site have already been told to leave. The residents of Nabule have not yet been ordered to relocate.

When contacted about the village relocation claims, Tavoy sea port authorities denied that any relocations had taken place.

According to Coordinator of the “Shwe Gas Movement” Ko Wang Aung, whose campaign targets gas pipeline development in central Burma, the construction of the seaport could lead to social and economic consequences throughout southern Burma.

“Land confiscation, relocation, local fishing jobs, and other jobs at the area –  not only where they are building the deep-sea port but also in villages all the way to the Thai border- will be affected. The Burmese government will not be careful for the people because they want the money from foreign investments, and to cooperate with ASEAN countries, and Thailand also wants to extend its business at Burma,” he told IMNA in a phone interview.

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Karen state election commission allays voters’ fears by KIC

In a bid to allay fears that the elections may not be free and fair, U Saw Aung Pwint, Chairman of the Karen State Election Commission has said voters in Karen State can vote for whichever party they chose to.

“Every voter has the right to vote for his favourite party. The laws have been framed for it. It’s a secret voting system,” U Saw Aung Pwint told KIC.

The State Election Commission sent ballot boxes to the Township Election Commission last month. Polling stations will be set up just before the date of the election.

Despite the Election Commission’s assurance there is something missing in reality, Nan Say Awar, a candidate of the Phalon-Sawaw Democratic Party contesting from the Pa-an constituency No.1, said.

“The Election Commission’s assurances notwithstanding when we go to villages we see some strong political parties have been giving incentives to locals like repairing roads in Karen State. In some villages, the junta backed political party the USDP forcibly recruited 50 members from each village. Some of the recruited people are our party members,” Naw Say Awar said. Continue reading “Karen state election commission allays voters’ fears by KIC”

Commander kills soldier for being critical

A Burmese Army commander killed a soldier for being critical of his unseemly and abusive behaviour, while they were traveling to the frontline, said a relative of the victim.

The murdered soldier was identified as U Thein Shwe, a native of Yho Ta Yoke Village in Ponna Kyunt Township in Arakan State.

LIB550The killing occurred when a platoon of the Light Infantry Battalion 550 of the Burmese Army based in Ponna Kyunt travelled to the frontlines of the Indian border under the leadership of Lt. Colonel Aye Naing in early August.

“On the way to the Indian border, the commander used villagers as porters and forced women in some villages to have sex with him. U Thein Shwe criticized the commander’s behaviour. Because of it, the commander ordered some other soldiers to beat him to death,” the relative said.

When U Thein Shwe lost consciousness following the beating, Lt. Colonel Aye Naing reportedly pulled out his pistol and shot him.

“After the murder, the commander reported to the higher military authorities that U Thein Shwe deserted the army with his gun and fled to the Indian border to join an insurgent group. At the same time, the commander forced 10 soldiers, who were involved in the killing, to drink consecrated water to bind their loyalty to him in the case,” the relative said.

Despite efforts at cover up, news of the killing has been spreading among army families since the platoon returned to their battalion base in Ponna Kyunt, 18 miles north of Sittwe, the state capital.

“Some soldiers are angry with the murder of U Thein Shwe, so they told their wives and friends about the killing. Now the news is spreading among the people,” he added.

Commander Aye Naing also drove U Thein Shwe’s widow and two-year-old daughter out of their family quarters in the battalion compound. His widow, 21-year-old Ma Htay Htay Win, who is pregnant, left the battalion base for her home village of Yho Ta Yoke.

According to the source, the family of the victim has consulted some lawyers about filing a complaint with higher military authorities in Naypyidaw for justice. However, most family members are frightened because the commander has the power to retaliate at anytime if they do file a complaint against him.

Narinjara news


KSDDP fields four candidates in Karen State

The Kayin State Democracy and Development Party (KSDDP) has nominated four candidates to contest the elections on November 7 in Karen State.

The KSDDP was formed with 27 CEC members including the Chairman Saw Thar Htoo Kyaw, Vice-Chairman Saw Aung Nge, and Secretary Saw Thaung Myat. Four candidates of the KSDDP will contest for State and National Parliament from Hlaing Bwe, Myawaddy and Kyar Inn Seik Gyi township, a candidate said.

Among the four candidates, Saw Thar Htoo Kyaw will contest for State Hluttaw in constituency No. 2 in Hlaing Bwe township, Saw Aung Ngwe will contest for National Hluttaw in constituency No. 1 in Hlaing Bwe township, Sai Chit Hlaing will contest for State Hluttaw in Myawaddy township and Mann Aung Tin Myint will contest for National Hluttaw in Kyar Inn Seik Gyi township.

On October 11, Chairman Saw Thar Htoo Kyaw broadcast the party’s policy on TV saying that the aim of forming KSDDP and contesting the election was to work for people in Karen State and to cooperate with other parties for the future of Burma.

The KSDDP will cooperate with people to implement “non-disintegration of the Union”, “non-disintegration of national solidarity”, “perpetuation of sovereignty” and “building a peaceful and modern nation”. The party will also cooperate with local people to work for Karen State’s development, peace and democracy, party members said.

However till now the candidates have not started campaigning in their respective constituencies.

“We have not started campaigning because we do not have the experience and are afraid to go wrong, hence the delay,” a candidate said

The KSDDP has opened an office in Pa-an town in Karen State. The party registered as a political party with the Election commission on August 19. The KSDDP is an offshoot of the DKBA.

The KSDDP is a regime-backed party. It will not contest the election in all townships in Karen State.

The KSDDP is a regime-backed party. It will not contest the election in all townships in Karen State.



Hired by a transnational drug syndicate from the bordering Mae Ai district of Chiang Mai to smuggle meth pills

BANGKOK, Oct 15 – Three members of an alleged transnational drug syndicate in Thailand’s northern region were detained with 200,000 methamphetamine ‘speed’ pills, valued at Bt60 million (about $2 million), in the Lad Prao area, according to a Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) press briefing on Friday.

Sinchai Sanleow, 36, Anucha Sanleow, 34 and Somchart Sanchaichareonkij, 24, were apprehended on Thursday while delivering the meth pills hidden in a fruit cardboard box to his customers in Bangkok, said NSB Commander Pol Lt-Gen Adithep Panjamanon.

Apart from confiscating the 200,000 methamphetamine pills, the drugs police also seized seven cell phones, six black bags and two ATM cards for further investigation and tracking information.

The three detainees said that they were hired by a transnational drug syndicate from the bordering Mae Ai district of Chiang Mai to smuggle meth pills for one baht per pill.

The three suspects later delivered to the drugs to their customers at Talaad Thai fresh fruit and vegetable market in Pathum Thani province before concealing all drugs into cardboard boxes.

According to the plan, the drugs were aimed to send to drug agents in the capital and surrounding provinces.

The trio were charged with possessing the methamphetamine pills for sales.

Cooperating in the drug bust were the Narcotics Suppression Bureau, the Office of the Narcotics Control Board and the Narcotics Suppression Police Region 5. (MCOT online news)

Junta militias emerging as new drug lords in Burma Pro-junta militias operating in Shan State are now the main players in the drug trade, according to new findings by local Shan analysts.

Soldiers suspected in robberies and murder in Yebyu Township

October 15, 2010

WCRP and HURFOM: Burmese soldiers are suspected of a recent series of attacks and robberies in early October in Yebyu Township, according to sources close to witness who survived the attacks.

On October 9th the house of Mi Myit was robbed in Kyaukadin village. Her nephew, who lives near by, was beaten during the robbery, by the intruders who, local resents claim, were soldiers from near by Light Infantry Battalion No. 103.

“When Mi Myit shouted out loud for help, Nai Mon Htaw, her nephew, came to help her because their houses are closed together,” described one witness. “After that the solider shot at him and he laid down on the ground. When they found him the soldiers grabbed his neck and beat his head.”

Though wearing plane clothes during the robbery, villagers are certain the intrusion was the work of soldiers. Soldiers from the State peace and Development Council (SPDC) based themselves in the local monastery in Kyaukadin village. According to a source close to several monks, soldiers have been asking monks about the villagers’ situations – which house is getting the most income, which has sons or daughters working in Thailand, and which house has no men.

A similar attack occurred on October 1st in which an elderly woman Mi Kyi, was murdered and was robbed of 8,500 kyat, a pair of earrings, and two diamond bracelets.  On the 1st, close to mid-night, the intruder climbed up into the house and assaulted 68 years old Mi Kyi; Her 13 year old granddaughter, Mi Aye, ran into the darkness and escaped the attack.

According to a source close to Mi Aye, the granddaughter of Mi Kyi, she described the attack saying, “Only one of them [intruders] climbed up into our house around mid-night. But I don’t know how many people are waiting underneath of our house. He held a knife in his hand. When my grandmother recognized the robber would attack us she command me to run. But I didn’t know where I should run because it’s dark. I ran into the dark and got myself into a basket. After that I heard the robber saying something to grandmother. But I don’t understand what he was saying. He spoke Burmese. After the robber left, I came out from hiding. My grandmother was lying on the floor… After that I shouted to the neighbor for help…When the neighbor arrived they tested my grandmother and they said she is dead.”

One Kyaukadin villager described, “When we arrived there she was already dead, and we saw only a small wounded in her hand by a knife.”

Mi Gyi was divorced from her husband, so had called her grand daughter to stay in her house. The rest of her daughters and sons are working in Thailand.

On October 12, 2010, the tactical commander that is based in Alaesakhan village came to Kyaukadin village and promised that the battalion would care for Nai Mon Htaw’s injuries. Also the commander ordered to the village chairman to announce that Mi Gyi was died by heart attack.

A local resent later noted that the three suspected soldiers who robbed the villagers property have been moved to the other location, but there has been no update on the case or where the three were moved to.