October 26, 2010 — bdcburma
The Zomi National congress was held on October 22, 2010 in Kalay town, Upper Burma. Ethnic nationalities and Burmese pro democracy leaders called for a second Pinlon conference by signing a declaration called “Kalay Myo Declaration.” It was signed by Kachin, Shan, Chin, Mon, and NLD leaders.
The main purpose of the declaration is to stop the coming civil war, which has been burning Burma inside out since it gained independence from Britain in 1948.
After Burma gained independence from Britain, the new government, which was led by Prime Minister U Nu, faced challenge from communist, socialist, and ethnic nationalities. Civil war broke out and communist and ethnic insurgencies spread throughout the country for decades and still exist today.
General Ne Win’s duty was to fight against the insurgents and he emerged as a powerful military leader. The army became a very strong institution with well trained and obedient soldiers. Ne Win shifted his stance from protecting the country from insurgencies to ruling the country as a dictator by way of a staged coup in March 2, 1962.
Under Ne Win’s rule ethnic resistance groups still existed and controlled the dense forest areas in their respected states. The goal of the ethnic resistance is to form its own country, free from Burma. However after 40 years of civil war and achieving nothing ethnic leaders realized that it is not possible to set up their own. Kachin leaders toured around the world to realize no other country supports their separation from Burma to become an independent country.
After the 1988 uprising, students and activists came out from the cities and joined with the ethnic resistance groups. Both students and ethnic leaders learned from each other and agreed to establish the Federal Union as the best way for all people living in Burma. Ethnic leaders voluntarily abandoned their previous demand, as independent state was a big achievement after 1988.
Ethnic leaders realized that fighting the military dictatorship only to free its own state was narrow minded and it will only benefit for the regime. They are shifting from previous mentality of fighting for their own people for their own state to fighting for the whole country and joining together hand in hand with all ethnic groups.
The current regime has reached a cease-fire agreement with 17 ethnic resistance groups after a decade but after the 2008 constitution was approved by a fake referendum the regime took the next step by pressuring the cease-fire groups to change as border guard forces under the military control. Small groups obeyed the order and changed as border guard forces but stronger resistance groups that have combat experience for four decades refused to accept the regime’s demand. Kachin, Wa, Karen, Mon and Shan resistance groups rejected the regime demand and now their controlled regions are preparing for the very possible oncoming war against them.
These are the situations that Burma is facing now. The calling for Second Pinlon conference is the right approach and it will stop the coming blood bath. Kachin, Wa Karen and Mon areas have been in peace for more than a decade. The newly developed infrastructure and more importantly human lives will be destroyed if the war breaks out.
I demand the international governments and pressure groups to consider the situation in Burma. The coming one sided election will not produce peace and stability to the Burmese people, and the new constitution will not give the rights that ethnic nationalities deserve. Only ethnic conference inside Burma will produce understanding and bring national reconciliation, which will lead the country into a peaceful place.
Htun Aung Gyaw
The days of fear and submission are over for Eh Mon and some other 900 migrant workers from Burma.
An ethnic Shan woman held on tightly to her passport and work permit as she left a factory in Khon Kaen for another plant in Samut Sakhon province.
“I don’t know what the work situation is like over there. But with the legal documents I now have, at least I can go places freely without fear of being arrested and deported,” said the 38-year-old mother whose dream is to earn enough money to support her three children in the war-torn Shan state.
Eh Mon is among the migrant workers who staged a week-long work stoppage at Dechapanich Fishing Net Factory in Khon Kaen last month, to demand the minimum wage and the return of their passports and work permits, which had been confiscated by their employers.
All of them are the first batch of legal migrant workers who have passed the complicated nationality verification process to obtain passports and two-year work permits. The fees cost them an arm and a leg in exchange for legal protection. Their expectations were high. But they found themselves stuck in the same work conditions. Pay below minimum wage. Debt bondage. Confiscation of legal documents. And a life plagued by fear of police extortion and deportation.
The last straw came when they discovered that many of their passports were carrying someone else’s photos. The anger was fuelled by fear of imprisonment should they be arrested for forging legal documents. “That was why we wanted to keep our documents ourselves,” she said. Continue reading “Migrant workers’ on-going fight for legal rights”
October 26, 2010
HURFOM: During the month prior to the election, villagers in northern Ye Township are faceing increased taxation as local militias will be expanded. Resident observers believe the increase is intentionally timed to double the local government militias prior to the November 7th election date. Notably the new additions appear to be ex-soldiers loyal to the current regime. The additions, wich will double monthly taxation, have caused fears amongst local residents that such costs will cause sever economic hardship.
On October 10th a special meeting regarding, “security and regional influence”, was called in Hnee Hnuu village by the local strategy officer of Burmese army Infantry Battalion (IB) No. 61. The meeting was attended by heads of the Ye Township Peace and Development Council (TPDC), leaders of local village militia units and Village Peace and Development Council (VPDC). VPDC headmen were instructed to reinforce the militia membership and to collect the money from local residents to fund the expansion.
Villages that will be included in the expansion already provide for local militias, each already containing approximately 10 members. These militias are funded by local taxes each month of between 1500 and 3000 kyat per household.
Nai Maung Sein, 48, worked as a teacher at a New Mon State Party (NMSP) Mon national school, before becoming a plantation worker and living in Andinn village-track, Southern Ye Township, Mon State. Nai Maung Sein believes that the increased taxation for the expanded militia will be devastating, and that the presence of militias is only a means by which the regime can exert is influence over the community and create divisions:
To increase the militia forces, they [IB No. 61 officials] have ordered [us] to send more from our little hard-earned income…Before the occurrence of this order, there are always 10 militia members [in our village]. For them, I have to pay at least 1500 kyat, sometimes over 3000 kyat, monthly… In some villages, even the houses of widows – which are very poor and need pity – were also collected from. [The collected fee] can very more or less. The fee has been collected since 10 years ago after the formation of the militia in the village. Now IB No. 61 ordered [that the collected fee] be increased, so you [speaking to interviewer] can guess, using your brain, whether [this order] is fair or not for us – the needy. If we don’t pay the fee, they [the battalion leader and the village headmen] will really get us into trouble…In reality, the increase of them [militia] is not good for our village. The militia, the village authorities and the [governmental] staff are assumed to be higher class in the village. They can live easily. They needn’t pay [the fees] like us…The state needn’t pay the cost and yet gets a staff [for the militia]. So only we will die of starvation, being the downtrodden. Now we have to vote. In the VPDC office, it is posted [on a sign] in big size that the USDP must win. I think [this poster] was put up to show to whom they want us to vote for. It is sure that the ghost who is worse than the tiger will appear. I think nothing will be different. Continue reading “Expansion of militia and civilian strike groups at cost to villagers prior to election”
True Reconciliation a Post-election Priority
The 1990 ethnic political parties that won alongside NLD candidates have issued a statement titled “Declaration of Decision in Kalay Township,” which supports a second Panglong statement with four basic political goals.
The four goals are an end to dictatorship, to restore democracy, to promote human rights and to bring about national reconciliation with the united support of all nationalities.
Moreover, the statement reaffirmed the importance of a federal democratic system while rejecting the unitary system enshrined in the 2008 Constitution. It also rejected any cessation from the union, a charge leveled against ethnic groups by the junta throughout its history.
The first Panglong conference was held in February 1947. Ethnic leaders were united under the leadership of Gen Aung San, in order to attain independence from the British.
In the new statement, ethnic political leaders reaffirmed the leadership of the opposition democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of Gen Aung San, to work for national unity.
The statement was signed by ethnic leaders at the 22nd Anniversary of the Zomi National Congress (ZNC), held in Kalay Township in Sagaing Division on Oct. 24. Among the groups supporting the statement were the NLD, ZNC, Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), Arakan League for Democracy (ALD), Mon National Democratic Front (MNDF), Karen National Congress for Democracy (KNCD) and the United Nationalities Alliance (UNA). Many of the ethnic political parties contested and won in the 1990 election.
The second Panlong statement could be a significant move forward on the part of the NLD and ethnic groups, designed to strengthen the democratic movement and assert leadership in the new political landscape.
For the NLD, it represents a follow-up action to its recent announcement that it will seek opportunities to talk to leaders of ethnic cease-fire groups under its long-term pursuit of genuine national reconciliation.
Although the junta dissolved the NLD, the party’s leadership has been working to expand its activities by conducting organizational tours in ethnic states under the leadership of chairman Tin Oo and secretary Win Tin.
In the past, the junta effectively blocked communication channels between the NLD and ethnic cease-fire groups. The current step forward represents progress, if the NLD can forge a working relationship with the cease-fire groups.
This accelerating dynamic could serve as a focal point for Suu Kyi’s re-engagement in politics, after her presumed release on Nov. 13, one week after the election. Under her leadership, the democratic opposition and ethnic groups could continue to play an important role in post-election politics.
The Burmese people have long believed that only Suu Kyi can bring about national reconciliation. The second Panglong conference is in fact what Suu Kyi called for in the national reconciliation effort of 1988-89 when she arrived in Panglong during a tour of Shan State.
For better or for worse, a new political dynamic out of the parliamentary process will exist after the election. The second Panglong statement by the NLD and ethnic group leaders could offer a framework to strengthen the democratic opposition while working toward genuine national reconciliation.