Saturday, January 31, 2009

Burma Still Using Child Soldiers: HREIB

by Than Htaik Oo
Thursday, 31 January 2008 00:00

Chiang Mai: The 'Human Rights Education Institute of Burma' (HREIB) today said that it was not true there were no child soldiers in Burma as claimed by the military regime.

Today's issue of the state-run 'New Light of Myanmar' says, "expatriates national traitors with negative views in collusion with some foreign media are making groundless accusations that there are child soldiers in Myanmar Tatmadaw (armed forces) with the intention of attacking the nation" and "Tatmadaw systematically recruits in accordance with the laws, rules, orders and directives". But Thai based HREIB said it was not true.

"We are still receiving news of recruiting minors. We got the news recently saying that a Sergeant came and bought children at Kemmendine fish market and took them to the recruiting camp. If they dare do such recruiting in downtown Rangoon, you can imagine how much worse it is in other areas. There are many child soldiers still serving in the army", Director of HREIB Aung Myo Min said.

The state-run newspaper also said that the officials concerned were instructed to continue to take measures in line with the law and to enforce the subordinate organizations to abide by the law, rules and regulations promulgated in the interests of the children.

They are still denying it. Talking alone is not enough to do away with child soldiers in the armed forces," U Aung Myo Min added.

But according to the 'Human Rights Watch' report issued in November 2007, there are over 60,000 child soldiers in Burmese armed forces.

"This figure maybe correct and valid according to the statements of child soldier deserters who fled to the border and complaints lodged by the guardians and parents in this regard," Aung Myo Min said.

The local authorities of Putao, Kachin State forcibly took away over 120 Lisu ethnic race teenage high school students to the basic military training depot and about 10 of them escaped from the recruiting unit, Ko Leonard, Vice-Chairman of 'All Kachin Students and Youth Union' (AKSYU) said citing the local residents.

"The officials forcibly took away over 120 teenaged Lisu, Rawan ethnic tribes in October from Putao to the recruitment centre for basic military training. They were taken to Rangoon and 10 of them refusing forcefully to be enlisted in the army, were then sent back to their homes. The rest of them, 108 children, are still serving in No. 46 Infantry Battalion (IB 46)," he said.

Aung Myo Min said that the regime is weak in stopping the use of force in recruiting minors and it is important to take action at an earliest time against the complaints lodged.

"If they really wish to stop the use of force in recruiting minors, they must look into all the complaints lodged with them and sent them back to their respective parents. And also there should be a mechanism for lodging complaints and start public awareness in this regard. They also should establish rehabilitation centres for the child soldier deserters where they could be nurtured back into their child life. Only in this way, the child soldier issue can be eradicated and tackled.


Military Junta Continues Crackdown, Political Prisoners Increase: AAPP

by Mizzima News
Thursday, 31 January 2008 00:00

New Delhi - World body United Nations estimate of 31 deaths and 74 people missing in Burma following the brutal crackdown on monk-led protests in September is far from accurate, an activist group said today.

UN Human Rights Expert Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, who visited Burma in November to investigate the brutal crackdown on the monks and people, has found very little to go upon, as he was given limited access to all the places he wanted to visit, according to the Thailand based Assistance Association of Political Prisoners – Burma (AAPP-B).

"UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma, Mr. Pinheiro, failed to yield any real results," said Tate Naing, Secretary of the AAPP-B adding, "He did not get to visit the places he wanted to but was only allowed to go to the places which were well prepared by the junta before his visit."

The AAPP-B in its statement released today said, the Burmese military junta has substantively arrested and detained more people in connection with politics in 2007 than the previous years.

During 2007, at least 706 people have been added to the more than one thousand political prisoners already languishing in prisons across Burma, the AAPP-B said.
"There are currently at least 1864 political prisoners in Burma, not including all the cases of detention since the crackdown," AAPP-B said.

Even as the Burmese military junta has constantly maintained a tight grip on dissidents by arresting them at the slightest provocation, the August and September protests saw the largest number of activists being arrested, the AAPP-B said.

"Most of the detainees have been arrested during the August and September uprising and till today the crackdown has not stopped as more activists are still being arrested," Tate Naing said.

The AAPP-B also revealed that the junta used several education facilities and stadiums as make-shift detention camps, in order to accommodate the large number of detainees taken into custody during the monk-led protests.

"In Burma, nearly all activists are arrested without warrant and held for varying

lengths of time in detention. They are denied access to legal counsel and in most cases are unfairly tried and sentenced," the AAPP-B said.

According to the AAPP-B, many activists have been charged with criminal acts and sent to labour camps. "Those detained in the September 2007 protests still await their sentences from a corrupt and unjust legal system," the organization revealed.

"The junta arrests anybody who they see as a threat in order to hold on to power," said Tate Naing adding that the junta was continuing its rampant crackdown on dissidents.
Friday, January 30, 2009

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi meets NLD party leaders

by Mungpi
Wednesday, 30 January 2008 00:00

New Delhi – Burma's detained pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday was given a rare chance to meet with top leaders of her party – National League for Democracy – according to a party official.

U Aung Thein, an official of the NLD, said party leaders including members of the central executive committee along with spokesperson Nyan Win have met the detained party leader at a military guest house in Rangoon.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was taken this afternoon at approximately 1 p.m. from her lakeside villa on Rangoon's University Avenue, where she has spent 12 of the past 18 years under house arrest, to the meeting venue, Aung Thein said.

"We don't know what they will be discussing," said Aung Thein, adding that it was unclear whether the meeting was exclusively for NLD leadership.

The meeting, which came as a surprise, is the second such permitted gathering since the Burmese democracy icon was last detained in May 2003.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi previously met party leaders on November 9 of last year.


Aung San Suu Kyi' Dissatisfied' Over Talks With Junta

by Mungpi
Wednesday, 30 January 2008 00:00

Noble peace laureate opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi under detention has expressed her dissatisfaction with the current pace of talks for political reforms in Burma, spokesmen of her party the National League for Democracy said on Wednesday.

The Burmese democracy icon told her party leaders in no uncertain terms during a rare meeting today, that she is frustrated over the lack of progress on talks for political reforms in the country with the ruling junta. The meetings with the military junta's Liaison Minister have not been fruitful.

Nyan Win, NLD spokesperson, who was among the seven NLD leaders who met detained the party secretary today, said, "She is not satisfied with the current pace of talks. She would like to see concrete progress."

For the second time in three months, Aung San Suu Kyi was allowed a rare meeting with her party leaders for 90 minutes in the military guest house in Rangoon.

In the wake of the meeting, the junta's Liaison Minister Aung Kyi was said to have met Aung San Suu Kyi for the fifth time, since he was appointed mediator between Aung San Suu Kyi and the junta Supremo Snr. Gen. Than Shwe.

Aung San Suu Kyi said, while the meetings, both with the NLD leaders and Aung Kyi, do not show any sign of progress, "Let's hope for the best and prepare for the worst," Nyan Win quoted her as saying.

In the course of the meeting, Aung San Suu Kyi briefed them about the details of her fourth meeting with Aung Kyi but expressed concern that the meetings, including the second meeting with party leaders, might give rise to "false hope", Nyan Win said.

Aung San Suu Kyi told Aung Kyi that the talks must include representatives of Burma's many ethnic groups, who are fighting for autonomy or independence for the last five decades.

"She also said talks should not be delayed for too long," said Nyan Win adding that NLD had asked the regime to allow party leaders to have frequent meetings with her to discuss party affairs as well as the current status of the talks.

The talks, which began in the aftermath of the bloody crackdown on protesters in September, have not yielded any meaningful dividend, Nyan Win said.

The monk-led protest in September, which was the biggest threat to the Burmese junta in nearly two decades, was brutally suppressed by the iron fisted regime. The UN said at least 31 people died and 74 went missing during the crackdown, but activists believe the number to be higher.

In a bid to counter international outrage, the Burmese junta, allowed visits by UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari and UN rights expert Paulo Sergio Pinheiro to the strife torn country.

Following the visits by the UN envoys, the junta assured that it will stop arresting and detaining dissidents, a promise it did not live up to.

The police on Tuesday arrested a Burmese blogger, Nay Phone Latt, from an internet café in Rangoon, his friends and colleagues said. Similarly, a Burmese poet, Saw Wai, was arrested last week for publishing a Valentine's Day poem, which had the words "Power Crazy Than Shwe" when the initial words of the lines were put together.
Thursday, January 29, 2009

Blogger arrested by police: Friends

by Mizzima News
Tuesday, 29 January 2008 00:00

Chiang Mai, Thailand – Police in the former capital of Burma on Tuesday detained a dissident blogger.

Nay Phone Latt (Nay Bone Latt), a writer was picked up by police at a Rangoon internet café, friends told Mizzima. The reason for his detention is not yet clear.

In addition to being a blogger, Nay Phone Latt works for a private business company.

"I am a youth who is crazy about the arts", he wrote as a self introduction in one of his blogs.

Police searched houses in Thingyankyun and Thuwanna, where he used to live, this morning at about 10:00 a.m., according to a friend.

The blogger's aunt's residence was also raided by police.

Internet users in Burma told Mizzima that over the last few weeks authorities have increasingly monitored online activities.


Burma's Government Tightens Its Grip On International Aid Agencies

by Mizzima News
Tuesday, 29 January 2008 00:00

New Delhi, India – In what seems to be a renewed effort to control the movement of international aid agencies operating in Burma, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoH) has established new sets of regulations for aid groups.

The new instructions, which are supplementary to the existing rules, were told to International Non-governmental Organizations (INGOs) operating in Burma by the Ministry of Home Affairs during a meeting on January 11, 2008, held at Burma's new capital of Naypyitaw, according to the meeting minutes, a copy of which Mizzima has obtained.

According to the meeting notes, circulated among concerned government ministries, departments and INGOs, all travel by representatives of aid agencies to the field will have to be approved by the Ministry of Defense. This directive literally controls the movement of aid groups.

"No permission from Ka-Ka-Kyi [Ministry of Defense], no travel," Dr. San Shwe Win, Deputy Director General of the Department of Health, who chaired the meeting, told the aid agencies.

While the authenticity of the meeting minutes could not be independently confirmed, an aid worker in Rangoon told Mizzima, "Yes, there was a meeting in Naypyitaw and one of our senior members attended."

However the aid worker, who wished not to be named, did not elaborate on the meeting.

During the meeting, the Chairman said all visits by expatriates will be accompanied by government appointed Liaison Officers (LO), as done in previous years, and expatriates are advised to stay close to the LO.

The LO will accompany and stay with the expatriates, "if possible in the same hotel, taking the same flight, using the same vehicle." Additionally, the LO should be included in all activity-related trainings or meetings and the aid agency is to bear all expenses of the LO.

Dr. San Shwe Win said the new time frame for all Memorandum of Understandings between the government and INGOs is set at one year, and aid agencies will be required to apply for renewal at least 3 to 6 months in advance.

The Chairman of the meeting encouraged INGOs to minimize the conduct of surveys or assessments and instead utilize existing information from other agencies.

Burma, which has a tradition of hiding or providing widely inaccurate data on health, has always refused the request of international organizations to conduct extensive surveys in the country.

"Surveys and assessments should be confined to "Health Issues"… and there needs to be prior discussion and agreement with non-health sector areas such as education, socio-economic conditions, etc," the meeting minutes said.

In a closing remark, Dr. San Shwe Win, chairman of the meeting, told representatives of the INGOs to focus only on "pure health activities" in order to obtain Memorandum of Understandings from the government.

"In the future, it will be difficult to get Memorandums of Understanding from the MoH if for health-related or non-health activities," added Dr. San Shwe Win.

The Chairman referenced a famous Burmese saying in advising the representatives under what conditions the restrictions may be lifted. "If a person is liked, then the rules are reduced," meaning rules and regulations can be reduced for close friends, "…so try to be liked first!"

Burmese Bloggers Hide From Police

by Nem Davies
Tuesday, 29 January 2008 00:00

Apprehensive of the relentless crackdown by the Burmese military junta, several Burmese bloggers in Rangoon have gone into hiding. The scare follows the arrest of a Burmese blogger, Nay Phone Latt, earlier in the day.

Burmese bloggers in the former capital are alarmed and have been forced to go underground in fear of the authorities taking action against them. Nay Phone Latt (Nay Bone Latt), a blogger as well as a writer, was arrested from an internet cafe in Thingan Kyun Township.

A blogger, who requested anonymity in fear of reprisals, said, "At the moment we [bloggers] are fleeing in the wake of the arrest of Ko Nay Phone Latt."

Nay Phone Latt has a blog site, where he posted writings about expressions of the youth in Burma.

Another blogger said he believes the authorities have targeted bloggers and confirmed that fellow bloggers are on the run in fear of arrests.

Internet users in Rangoon said, over a few weeks ago, authorities have stepped up surveillance of internet users and asked internet café owners to maintain strict records of users.

Blogging, which is popular among Burmese youth, has become a dangerous pastime in the country. The authority's stranglehold over information flow remains as tight as ever and there is zero tolerance over any critical writing.

During the September protests, a Burmese blogger Thar Phyu, who has a blogsite, was arrested and briefly detained for posting pictures of monks and people demonstrating on the streets.

Meanwhile, authorities have shifted poet Saya Saw Wai, who was arrested last week for writing a Valentines' day poem that contains a hidden word – 'Power Crazy Than Shwe', – to the notorious Insein prison on Saturday, family members said.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Nam Khan Residents Forced To Contribute For VIP Tour

by Myo Gyi
Monday, 28 January 2008 00:00

The Burmese military junta functionaries stop at nothing to fleece people. Authorities are coercing residents in Nam Khan to contribute money at the rate of Kyat 2,000 per household to spend in the inaugural ceremony of Nam Khan suspension bridge across the Shweli River. The ceremony will be attended by SPDC brass from Naypyidaw.

The new bridge will be opened on February 12 by SPDC brass. The local authorities collected money from the residents forcibly to spend in welcoming and entertaining the VIPs and for the inaugural ceremony.

"The Township Peace and Development Council Chairman said Kyatt. 2,000 must be collected per household. They said the Prime Minister will come and open the bridge. The local authorities and local organizations will welcome the VIPs and they need money for dresses to be used for the function," a resident told Mizzima.

Nam Khan PDC Chairman said at the meeting with Ward and Village level PDC Chairmen that the required fund is at the rate of Ks. 2,000 per household. It must be collected from their respective administrative zones to be used for the bridge inaugural ceremony, sources close to local authorities said.

The local authorities have arranged to summon 50 USDA members, 30 women from pro-junta Federation of Women and Maternity and Child welfare, 30 members from fire brigade and Shan and Lisaw ethnic races from each ward and village to the Shweli suspension bridge opening ceremony, this local resident added.

"Yes, they are collecting money for USDA uniforms. But they haven't yet said anything to the people in the township to welcome the VIPs. I think they will summon and inform the people from wards and village at short notice just before the function," another resident said.

The news has been circulated among the local people saying that SPDC Chairman Thein Sein will come to the opening ceremony and about 10,000 people will be summoned to attend the function.

The new Shweli suspension bridge is 600 feet long, 24 feet wide and 35 feet high. It is situated on Nam Khan – Bahmo highway, built near Mang Wing village in 2003, three miles from Nam Khan.
Saturday, January 24, 2009

80 Armed Policemen Disperse Five NLD Members

by Htein Lin
Thursday, 24 January 2008 00:00

New Delhi : About 80 armed Burmese policemen stopped five NLD members in of the Rakhine State, Taungkok NLD from going to their township NLD Vice-Chairman's home this morning.

Ko Than Lwin, Ko Moe Nay Soe and three other NLD members on Wednesday morning left a teashop in Chaungauk ward and were heading for the residence of township NLD Vice-Chairman. Suddenly about 80 armed policemen armed with batons, guns and shields blocked their way on U Uttama Street and ordered them to disperse.

"Five of us [on Wednesday morning] sipped tea at the teashop and were going to U Than Pe's residence. Then about 80 policemen led by Sub-Inspector Win Aung Ni ordered us to disperse," Ko Moe Nay Soe told Mizzima.

He added that security forces are deployed at all crowded places downtown and they are on standby to disperse crowds trying to stage demonstrations.

Fresh demonstrations are likely as residents are facing daily economic hardships and tight security measures. There is growing resentment among them against the regime.

"The voice of peaceful expression of their desire will roar again and again as long as they (the regime) fail to resolve the problems. They have been intimidating the people in all sorts of ways and by any kind of weapon," Ko Moe Nay Soe added.

Thirteen NLD members were arrested in connection with the 'Saffron Revolution' and they are still behind bars. Ward level PDC member Ko Win Maung was arrested last November and has been sentenced to two and-a-half years in prison. But he is still in the Manaung police lockup.

"Ko Win Maung can have a bath only twice a week. He is suffering from backache again. I've no idea why they haven't yet sent him to Kyaukphyu prison. He's got backache and he needs to exercise and have a bath. His health situation will deteriorate in Manaung police lockup," his wife told Mizzima.

He gave an anti-government speech to the people when he was assigned to monitor the people's movement. He was charged under section 143, 505(b) of the Penal Code and then sentenced to two and-a-half years in prison.

Ko Kalashae a.k.a. Than Htay and Ko Zaw Naing were arrested on Tuesday for staging a protest demonstration after they chanted slogans riding bicycles. Till now they are in the township police lockup.

Burmese Opposition MP Loses Eyesight In Prison

by Than Htike Oo
Thursday, 24 January 2008 00:00

Than Lwin, a Member of Parliament has lost sight in one of his eyes at the detention camp in Mandalay, a family member said. He was elected in the last general election in 1990 from Mattaya Township in central Burma.

Daw Khin Thi, wife of Than Lwin, arrested in June 2007 and detained at Ohbo prison in Mandalay, said she found her husband loosing sight in one of his eyes when authorities on Wednesday permitted her to meet him.

"Right now he is no longer complaining of pain in the eye. But he said his ear, nose and eyebrows are aching. He has totally lost sight in one of his eyes," Daw Khin Thi told Mizzima.

On June 15, 2007, Than Lwin, while returning from a prayer session for the release of Burmese opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, was punched on the face by an unidentified person.

Reportedly, his nose was broken and one of his eyes was severely injured. However, even as he went for medical attention authorities arrested him for allegedly attacking a government office.

"He was arrested while applying medication on the wounds from the punch he received last year. So his injuries may have become worse in the prison," Daw Khin Thi added.

Following his arrest, authorities permitted his family members to meet him thrice.

Daw Khin Thi said, she has requested the authorities to allow him an emergency operation of his eyes. However, authorities said that 'we will forward the request to higher authorities'.
Thursday, January 22, 2009

ILO's Intervention - The Only Hope Of Release For Detained Labour Activists

by Mizzima News
Tuesday, 22 January 2008 00:00

The intervention of the International Labour Organization (ILO) seems to be the only hope for the family members of six labour rights activists, who have been sentenced to long term imprisonment, by the authorities.

The family of the labour rights activists, who were arrested on May Day for organizing labour rights discussions at the American Centre in Rangoon, said they had appealed to the ILO to intervene in the case and secure their release.

One of the relatives of the detained activists said, "They [the ILO] have told us that they would try their best and would meet the detainees. Without help from the ILO, we have no hope because they [the junta] have sentenced the activists to lengthy prison terms," he added.

However, the ILO office in Rangoon declined to comment.

The Burmese authorities, meanwhile, sentenced four of the activists, Thu Rein Aung, Wai Lin, Myo Min and Kyaw Min to 28 years of prison term and Kyaw Kyaw and Nyi Nyi Zaw to 20 years.

The activists, who were sentenced in September without a defense counsel, continued to be detained at Burma's notorious Insein prison, relatives, who visit the detainees once a week, said.

Aung Thein, the defense counsel of those arrested said, the divisional Court has rejected their appeal to reconsider the sentences of the activists.

"We are now in the process of filing a petition to the High Court. We have submitted an application to allow a petition. This is our only hope to fight for the detainees," Aung Thein said.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Financial Matters Dominate British PM's Visit To New Delhi

by Mizzima News
Monday, 21 January 2008 00:00

Less than four months after the Burmese junta violently suppressed protests on the streets of Burma, the question of Burma appears only in the background of talks between British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and leaders of India.

While stating that he intends to raise the subject of Burma with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in private talks, Brown's message on his inaugural visit to the sub-continent as Prime Minister makes clear that his administration's chief concern in bilateral relations is the furthering of economic integration and interests.

Earmarking the positive role that a more entrenched India can play on both the regional and worldwide stages, the British Prime Minister yesterday expressed his support for India's joining both a reconfigured permanent United Nations Security Council and the European-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

China, a much maligned supporter of the generals in Naypyidaw, was invited and welcomed as a member of the FATF in 2007.

Brown also extended an offer to increase the transfer of anti-terrorist technology to the New Delhi government to abet in the ongoing fight against drug trafficking and illegal armed actors. India's northeast, abutting Burma, continues to be a flashpoint between competing groups, several of which are armed, from either side of the border. At various times each country has sought the support of the other is suppressing fringe movements in the region.

The positive and encouraging language of Brown during his south Asian stopover comes despite recurring voices accusing New Delhi of sacrificing support for democracy and human rights inside Burma in lieu of financial interests.

"India has shamelessly put its own economic and political interests before human rights and democracy in Burma," according to a 2007 report issued by Burma Campaign UK. "India's current policy towards Burma is devoid of any moral or ethical considerations. The world's largest democracy has shamelessly abandoned Burma's democracy movement."

In one indication of the growing economic interests between India and Burma, bilateral trade between the two neighbors for fiscal year 2006/07 was estimated to top the $1 billion mark for the first time, with New Delhi's involvement in the Shwe gas fields topping the list.

Meanwhile, according to a commentary today in The Times of London, the conciliatory approach of the visiting Prime Minister toward the interests of India is said to be evidence of Britain needing India (and China) more than the burgeoning Asian economies need Britain; bringing into question just how far Britain may be willing to push the regional superpowers over the issue of Burma.

Prior to arriving in New Delhi, Brown paid respects to Chinese leaders in Beijing, where he also broached the subject of Burma amidst an economically dominated agenda. As with New Delhi, Brown says he is convinced of the positive role China can assume toward Burmese reform and reconciliation.


Junta-Backed New Publications Flood Market In Mandalay

by Maung Dee
Monday, 21 January 2008 00:00

New Delhi : The Burmese military is countering the media with the media. Local journalists in Burma's ancient capital city of Mandalay said the authorities have given printing and publishing permits to several private weekly journals.

The latest among the series of new publications is 'Pan Thitsar' weekly journal, which began publishing its first issue on Friday, a local journalist, who request anonymity, told Mizzima.

The new private journals including the Shwe Mandalay, Upper Myanmar, Mandalay Times, Nan Myint, and Maan Taung Yeik, are mostly biased in favour of the government's policies and carry several articles that support the junta's stance, he added.

"These journals are a lot more biased towards the policies and stance of the Union Solidarity and Association Development, [Junta backed civil organization]. For instance, the articles says how bad it is to lean on the US and how the country is making remarkable progress. So, it is like publishing the government's propaganda," a veteran literary figure in Mandalay, who did not wish to be named, told Mizzima.

However, the journals' content are mainly filled with advertisements in order to boost sales as readers cannot be attracted to the articles and news content, another journalist told Mizzima.

While the Burmese authorities seem to be promoting journals and newspapers that support them, it is also reportedly restricting opposition groups from publishing.

Major Tint Swe of the Burmese Press Scrutiny and Registration Department summoned U Nyan Win , spokesperson of Burma's main opposition party – the National League for Democracy – after the party's youth wing on January 4, published a bulletin, named 'Arryone Thit'.

Major Tint Swe reportedly warned Nyan Win and threatened to take action if the party continues with the publication.

"This is unfair. Decicions should be taken on what is being written. If the contents of the journal or publication are false then it can be stopped but what we have written is all true," An NLD youth member, speaking to Mizzima.

He added that media should play a role in furnishing the truth to the people, but the junta is misusing the media to spread its propaganda.

Son Moe Wai, secretary of the Burma Media Association (BMA), said, "They [the junta] know how effective their propaganda is. They are aware of the number of readers for their newspapers and audiences for TV."

"But I think journalists are doing their duty, and they cannot be suppressed. The more the pressure, the more strength they find in doing their job. So, the junta can never totally suppress journalists from doing their job," Son Moe Wai added.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Myanmar Telecom Blocks Bloggers

by Mizzima News
Thursday, 17 January 2008 00:00

In a bid to stop the flow of information outside Burma one of the most popular blog sites has been banned by the Myanmar Post and Telecomm Ministry as of Thursday morning, according to bloggers in the former capital.

In the wake of 'Saffron Revolution', another Internet Service Provider 'Bagan Teleport' has blocked this blog website. And now the remaining ISP under the MPT has blocked this website which bars computers in Burma from accessing the blogs.

Both the ISPs are under the control of the military regime but under two different administrations.

However, an official from MPT in Rangoon denied the report and said that she didn't know why surfers can't visit these blogs when a Mizzima desk reporter contacted her.

Similarly an official from the telecom office said that there was no official instruction given to them to block these blogs sites, but he declined to give further details.

Bloggers played an important role in exposing the secretive and isolated military-ruled country for its crackdown against demonstrators during the people's uprising last September.

Burmese Economic Reform Requires Political Change: Expert

by Mizzima News
Thursday, 17 January 2008 00:00

Only a change in the political system will usher in economic reforms because the economy is in the vice like grip of the Burmese military, said a Burmese economic expert.

According to the Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal's economic freedom listing, Burma, which has been ruled by successive military governments for decades, is ranked near the bottom.

In the 2008 index of economic freedom, which is based on the assessment of 10 areas of the economy, Burma is listed as the 153rd country that enjoys 39.5 percent economic freedom.

Dr. Khin Maung Kyi, a retired Burmese economic expert based in Singapore, said the Burmese economy is largely controlled by the military junta and that accounts for the failure and instability of the economy.

He added that in order to improve the economy, greater freedom is needed, and that requires a change in the political system.

"There is no way to improve the economy of Burma, except by changing the political system. Unless that is done we will see more unpredictable problems as the economy is unstable," Khin Maung Kyi said.

According to the index report, Burma's economy is defined by severely low economic freedoms, with five of 10 areas, at least 35 points below the world average.

"Burma will not develop effectively without serious economic reforms," added the report.

Another factor that the Burmese economy suffers from is the lack of rule of law that can guarantee investment freedom, financial freedom, property rights, and freedom from corruption, the report said.

"The almost complete lack of a judicial system forces domestic and foreign companies to negotiate directly with the government to resolve disputes. Foreign investment is adjudicated in each instance with no clear guidelines for investors," added the report.

Khin Maung Kyi said the Burmese military junta, however, would be reluctant to implement any type of reforms in fear that it might endanger their political power.

"We all know this government [military junta] will never want to usher in any reforms, not even by negotiation or pressure because they do not want to lose their power," Khin Maung Kyi said.

Taungkok Demonstrations Abandoned For Fear Of Violent Backlash

by Htein Lin
Thursday, 17 January 2008 00:00

New Delhi: Hundreds of demonstrators from Taungkok, Rakhine State had to abandon their demonstration planned for today due to fears of violent repression by the local authorities.

The police, riot police, fire brigade members, USDA members and the militia Swanahshin armed with batons, shields and catapults, assembled near the gate of the historical shrine of Phaungdaw Oo pagoda. Meanwhile over 200 people including 10 monks were gathered near the Myoma market downtown to stage demonstrations. They had to abort their plans for fear of violent backlash and were forced to disperse.

"They are ready to crush our planned peaceful demonstration by violent means with batons, shields and catapults. So we dispersed and withdrew from the assembly area to avoid confrontation with them," Moe Nay Soe from the Opposition party---the National League for Democracy told Mizzima.

Army cars were patrolling and more security forces had been seen in the western Burmese town after tension escalated.

Demonstrators said that the Army was forcibly buying paddy from the farmers at the rate of one basket per acre for army rations.

The people are facing economic hardships and suffering due to forced labour, which compelled them to stage this demonstration, sources said.

Meanwhile, 11 members of the Taungkok NLD party including Secretary Khin Hla, Treasurer Min Aung were still behind bars for their involvement in the Saffron Revolution of September last year.