Sunday, August 30, 2009

Nearly 30,000 civilians flee conflicts in Northeastern Burma: UN

by Mungpi
Saturday, 29 August 2009 13:48

New Delhi (Mizzima) – As many as 30,000 civilians have fled to China in the wake of fighting between government troops and ethnic rebels in Burma’s north-eastern region, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Friday.

“Our information is that as many as 30,000 people may have taken shelter in Nansan County since August 8, saying they were fleeing fighting between Myanmar [Burma] government troops and ethnic minority groups,” Andrej Mahecic, UNHCR spokesperson said at the press briefing, on Friday in Geneva.

Mahecic said the UNHCR is “liaising with the authorities to investigate what their needs are,” and expressed appreciation of China for not sending away the refugees as a respect to the non-refoulement principle.

“We have been informed that local authorities in Yunnan Province have already provided emergency shelter, food and medical care to the refugees,” Mahecic said.

As thousands continued crossing the Sino-Burma border on Friday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry in a statement posted on its website said China hopes that “Myanmar [Burma] can appropriately solve its relevant internal problems and safeguard the stability of the China-Myanmar border."

“We also urge Myanmar [Burma] to protect the safety and legal rights of Chinese citizens in Myanmar [Burma]," said spokeswoman Jiang Yu in the statement.

On Friday skirmishes continued in at least three places including in Lao Kai, capital of the Kokang region.

Tension between the two sides, building up since early August sparked a conflict on Thursday and violated 20 years of ceasefire agreement.

According to Sein Kyi, Editor of the Thailand-based Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN), the conflict is likely to mount further and even spread to full-fledged civil war, as the Kokang group, is now joined by its allies – the United Wa State Army – another ethnic armed group.

Trouble between the Kokang, also known as the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the junta began to snowball when the latter in early August began moving in more troops on the pretext of a drug eradication programme.

Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Burmese analyst based at the Sino-Burma border, said the ruling junta is disappointed with the cease-fired group following its refusal to accept the junta’s proposal to transform their army into a border guard force.

The tension escalated on August 8 and on August 23 when the residence of Kokang’s supreme leader Peng Jiasheng was raided in searching of illicit drugs and weapons. However, Peng evaded both the raids.

The junta then issued an arrest warrant for Peng and the military occupied Peng’s former headquarters of Loa Kai.

“Now Peng and his troops are in the jungles ,” said Sein Kyi.

The MNDAA, UWSA, Mongla or Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) in mid-August formed an alliance dubbed the Myanmar Peace and Democracy Front (MPDF).
Saturday, August 29, 2009

Thousands flee as Kokang and government troops fight

by Myo Gyi & Mungpi
Friday, 28 August 2009 22:48

Ruili, New Delhi (Mizzima) - Thousands of refugees on Friday continued fleeing to the Sino-Burma border as clashes between the Burmese Army and Kokang rebels entered the second day.

Tension, which had been building up since early August, between the two armies sparked a gun fight on Thursday and on Friday skirmishes continued in various locations near the Sino-Burma border and in the Kokang capital of Lao Kai.

“Most refugees are from Lao Kai town. They include various groups of people including businessmen. They continued coming until this morning,” a refugee, who crossed over to the Chinese town of Nam San on Friday morning, told Mizzima.

He said, as most refugees are not concentrated in one location it is difficult to determine the exact number but he believes it would be thousands.

On Friday morning, sources said, a skirmish took place in Loa Kai town between the Kokang troops, who remain loyal to their supreme leader Peng Jiasheng, and the government troops, who have lately taken control of the Kokang headquarters of Lao Kai.

According to Sein Kyi, editor of the Thailand-based Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN), the fighting broke out as supporters of Peng, who remain hidden in parts of the town, attacked the Burmese soldiers and police in Loa Kai town.

Lao Kai, the once fortified headquarters of Peng, was overun by the Burmese soldiers and police on Monday, after Peng, the supreme leader of the Kokang Army, along with three others were issued arrest warrants.

On Tuesday, with the help of government troops, Peng’s deputy Bai Suoqian was appointed the new leader of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).

“But Peng still enjoys the support of most of the Kokang Army and some of them still remain inside Loa Kai. This morning, they attacked the Burmese Army,” Sein Kyi, who is closely monitoring the situation in Kokang, told Mizzima.

He said fighting also took place in separate areas along the Loa Kai-Qing Shui He (Chin Shwe Haw), and also in other places along the Sino-Burma border.

But with clashes mounting, villagers and local residents continue to flee to the Chinese side of the border and are being forced to live in terrible conditions.

“We have to survive on our own. We have to rent and arrange our own food. So far I still did not get any assistance from anywhere. Chinese authorities, are crossing checking us but it is not so strict. Even this morning there were a lot of people arriving,” a refugee told Mizzima.

The mass exodus, which some reports state to be over 10,000, began after tension broke out between the Kokang and the junta’s troops in early August. On August 8, government troops conducted a raid on Peng’s residence on the pretext of eliminating drugs.

And on August 23, the Burmese soldiers conducted yet another raid on Peng’s house on the pretext of searching for a hidden arms factory. But in both the raids, Peng escaped arrest. But later, the Lashio police served a summons to him and three others to appear before the court.

But when Peng refused to appear, an arrest warrant was issued for him and three others including his brother.

“Earlier, I thought Peng and his troops will hold on to their line of ‘No shooting first’ but now it seems they are not hesitating to fire,” Sein Kyi said.

The fight on Thursday near Qing Shui He was first launched by the Kokang Army, said Sein Kyi adding that the Kokang Army had warned the Burmese soldiers not to cross over to their remaining territory.

The tension between the Kokang forces and government troops slowly began after Peng’s troops rejected the junta’s proposal to transform their army into a Border Guard Force, an army to be controlled by the Burmese Army.

Observers believe that the junta is using the same old devious tactic of divide and rule in order to eliminate groups that rejected its proposal.

Phoe Than Gyuang, spokesperson of the once powerful Burma Communist Party (BCP), said “we have seen the junta’s tactics earlier and this is similar. We can expect the junta to launch attacks on other groups soon.”

Peng’s Kokang Army has former members of the once powerful Communist Party of Burma (CPB). The MNDAA broke away from the CPB in 1989 and signed a peace agreement with the Burmese junta the same year.

Following the ceasefire pact, the Kokang Amry had been given special privileges including self-administration of the Kokang area known as Special region (1). But the once cosy relationship between the two armies, following the junta’s proposal to turn the Kokang Army into a Border Guard force, has soured.

Sein Kyi said, “Fighting is likely to continue as the Kokang seems to be determined to keep its territory intact. And I was also receiving information that the Wa army has send troops to help the Kokang.”

The United Wa State Army, also a group that broke away from the CPB and signed a peace agreement with the junta in 1989, had recently formed an alliance with three other armed groups – the Kokang Army or MNDAA, the Mongla or Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) and the Kachin Independence Organisation.

All the four groups that formed the Myanmar Peace and Democracy Front (MPDF) had all rejected the junta’s proposal to transform their armies.

But as fighting between the armies continue, more villagers are forced to flee to the Chinese border as refugees of war or hide in the jungles as internally displaced people.

US set to announce new Burma policy

by Mungpi
Friday, 28 August 2009 20:25

New Delhi (Mizzima) - United States is set to announce its new policy on Burma as the Obama administration is on the verge of completing its review, visiting Congress staff members on Friday told leaders of Burma’s opposition party – the National League for Democracy.

Three staff members of the House Foreign Relations Committee of the United States Congress on Friday told leaders of Aung San Suu Kyi’s party that the new policy review is to be completed and announced soon.

“The officials said, however, that the new policy, under review, is unlikely to bring about a drastic change in the current policy,” Ohn Kyaing, a member of the NLD’s information committee, told Mizzima.

Lynne Weil, Communications Director, Jessica Lee, Professional Staff Member, Dennis Halpin, Professional Staff Member of the US Congress on Thursday arrived in Rangoon and on Friday met four Central Executive Committee members of the NLD along with the party’s information committee members.

“During the meeting, the officials mainly asked us our views on Burmese politics and we told them as we view the situation,” Ohn Kyaing said.

The three US officials, during their stay in Burma, will also meet US embassy officials, non-governmental organisations, and US aid recipients in the country. They will also travel to Cyclone Nargis-affected regions.

The meeting on Friday is the second that the NLD leaders have had with US officials in a month. Earlier this month, Senator Jim Webb visited Burma and met NLD leaders in Naypyitaw as well as Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon.

Following Webb’s visit, there has been widespread speculation among Burma watchers and observers over the possibilities of a change in Washington’s policy towards Burma.

The US State Department on Wednesday said the policy review on Burma is to be completed soon but failed to explain whether the new policy would favour economic sanctions or favour engagement.

NLD’s spokesperson Nyan Win after his meeting with the visiting US Congress officials told Mizzima that the NLD is “happy and satisfied with the meeting” but did not elaborate.

The officials, according to sources, will conclude their visit to Burma in Sunday and will also visit other regional countries with an objective of reviewing US public diplomacy and assistance programmes.


Monks form secret organizations

by Phanida
Friday, 28 August 2009 22:40

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The internet has revealed more and more statements relating to forming of anti-junta secret organizations by monks.

The statements issued by the All Burma Students Union said branch organizations under the aegis of the underground All Burma Monks Organization were formed in Pegu, Irrawaddy and Rangoon Division. The information is being disseminated among Burmese internet users.

The All Burma Monks Organization Foreign Affairs in-charge Sayadaw U Eithiriya said that these branches were formed with the intention of toppling the military junta through mass movements, taking to the streets unitedly and with solidarity in order to achieve victory.

"We have consolidated all monk organizations such as Sangha Samaggi (Sangha Union), Young Monks Union and Thawthuzana. But for all these organizations, it is very difficult to form a unified organization. So we have now arranged to let all these organizations conduct their movements in their own area under the unified command and instruction of a central leadership," he said.

The monks’ organization’s has demanded that the junta make a formal apology for its atrocities, killings and persecution committed against monks. The apology should come before the deadline of October 2, noon.

The monk-led demonstrations spread like wildfire across the country after the local authorities beat up monks in Pakokku in early September 2007.

The monks took to the streets and chanted Metta sutra in Rangoon, Mandalay and other major cities. The security forces retaliated by brutally cracking down on the demonstrators, killing and arresting them.

Among the instances of brutal crackdowns, is the infamous incident, where the security forces raided Ngwe Kyar Yan monastery in Rangoon on November 24, 2007 and beat up all the monks they found inside and arrested them.

The Minister of Ministry of Religion accused the arrested monks of being imposters.

The statement issued by the All Burma Monks Organization is being widely disseminated among the people of Burma. A spokesperson of the organization U Dhama Wuntha told Mizzima that the monks in Burma are facing difficulty in going about their movement.

"In fact, we are mobilizing people through this movement. We showed them what we are doing and are trying to boost their morale. We are into this movement inside Burma without almost any political space. First we launched a poster campaign as part of an awareness campaign among the people and to encourage them to join us. Now we can no longer do these," he said.

The spokesman of the underground student organization Zar Ni said that they were getting ready to join the ex-communicative boycott when the All Burma Monk Organization launches it.

"To what extent the monks launch the boycott and how much it will spread, depend on the leading monks. When this movement forges ahead, our All Burma Federation of Student Union will join them and will fight the junta at the forefront," he said.

According to a source from Naypyidaw War Office, the junta has intelligence inputs on such a monk-led movement and they are monitoring the situation closely.

Race held demanding Aung San Suu Kyi’s release

by Mizzima News
Friday, 28 August 2009 21:01

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Hundreds of students of Delhi University’s Lady Shri Ram College for Women on Friday ran a distance of 3. 3 kilometres in a campaign to demand the release of detained former LSR student and Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

The pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Laureate, recently sentenced to another 18 months in detention in Burma, is a former student of Lady Shri Ram College for Women in India’s capital, New Delhi.

Dr. Meenakshi Gopinath said the race was organized as a campaign to promote awareness on the struggle for freedom in Burma from military dictatorship and for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

“Aung San Suu Kyi or ‘Suu’ as we used to call her in college is a symbol of courage and inspiration for us… and we condemn her being sentenced to another 18 months in detention,” Dr. Gopinath told Mizzima.

Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of Burma’s Independence architect General Aung San, was a student of Lady Shri Ram College in 1964. She came to New Delhi with her mother Daw Khin Kyi, who was appointed ambassador to India, in 1960.

The democracy icon has been detained for 14 of the past 19 years and was sentenced on August 11 to another term of detention of 18 months after being charged with violating her previous detention rules by accepting an American man at her lakeside home.

The race on Friday in New Delhi was one of the myriad activities across the world organised by Aung San Suu Kyi’s supporters to promote awareness regarding her detention. Her latest incarceration has galvanized activists across the world to organize protests rallies and other demonstrations in various towns and cities.

Print media allowed only 15 liquor ads

by May Kyaw
Friday, 28 August 2009 19:39

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Before the blanket ban on liquor advertisements come into effect on January 1, 2010, the Burmese Censor Board is allowing ads for only 15 brands of liquor and beverages in the in print media, journal and magazines.

Though the ban on liquor advertisements in the print media in Burma starts on January 1, next year, some brands are exempted until that deadline.

They are the Grand Royal and Eagle manufactured by IBTC, all beers manufactured by Myanmar Brewery, Myanmar Whisky, May Myo Wine, Label 99 and Royal Club manufactured by PMG (Peace Myanmar Group), sources close to the Censor Board said.

The board, notorious for its stringent censorship rules, declined to comment on its criteria while drawing up the exemption list. The board did not clarify this with a formal announcement. However, local media circles believe that the exemptions are for all the ads which have already been paid for by customers to the print media.

"They (censor board) recognize all these ads more than we do. They even notice as soon as the design of the ads is changed," a magazine editor said.

For the majority of the print media in Burma, liquor and beverage ads are the main source of revenue. A news weekly journal source said that the ban will affect their publication.

"The revenue from liquor and beverage advertisements can cover 10 to 25 per cent of the total publication costs. If they are totally banned, it is certain that the sustainability of the publication of this media will be at stake," an editor said.

Since 2007 November, the government has banned billboards and hoardings relating to all liquor, beverages and cigarettes. Such a ban was enforced in television earlier.
Friday, August 28, 2009

Fighting breaks out between Kokang and government troops

by Mungpi
Thursday, 27 August 2009 22:41

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The palpable tension between Kokang and Burmese troops, finally sparked a clash on Thursday with at least three separate gun battles taking place along the Sino-Burmese border.

The first clash, according to border sources, occurred at about 7 a.m. (local time) near the town of Yan Lone Chai on the Sino-Burmese border. In another incident, the Peng Jiasheng led faction of the Kokang Army ambushed government troops which were trailing them in the jungle. Later in the evening, the two armies skirmished near the town of Chin Shui Haw along the border for more than an hour.

“The battle has begun between the Kokang and the junta’s troops,” said Sino-Burmese border based analyst Aung Kyaw Zaw.

On Tuesday, he told Mizzima that fighting seemed imminent as tension between the two groups was building up.

According to Aung Kyaw Zaw and other observers, tension began to mount between the Peng Jiasheng led Kokang rebels and Tatmadaw soldiers after the Kokang, like many other armed ceasefire groups, rejected the junta’s proposal of transforming their army into a Border Guard Force to be controlled by the regime.

Unable to persuade the ceasefire groups to transform, the junta had extended the deadline for the groups to decide on the proposal to October.

Though Peng and his loyalists had rejected the proposal, the junta exploited fissures in the Kokang force as Bai Xuoqian, deputy to Peng, was keen to comply with the junta’s proposal.

Meanwhile, government troops have been infiltrating Kokang Special Region (1) under the pretext of drug eradication, setting up a Regional Operation Command in Lao Kai.

Government troops and police raided Peng’s residence in Lao Kai on August 8 and again on August 21. But Peng evaded both the raids.

Following the raids, the Lashio police station on August 22 served a summons to Peng and three other colleagues, including his brother, to appear before the court. But the four did not show up and as a result the court issued an arrest warrant for Peng and his group.

On the wanted list of the Burmese junta, Peng and his troops, as of Tuesday, moved out of Lao Kai to the north, having lost control over Kokang’s capital.

On Tuesday, sources said government troops reorganized the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and installed Bai Xuoqian as their leader.

But Aung Kyaw Zaw said, “Most of the Kokang troops have joined Peng and only a few remain with Bai in Lao Kai. Bai does not really have an army with him.”

Once members of the powerful Burma Communist Party (BCP), MNDAA, or the Kokang Army, broke away from the BCP in 1989 and signed a ceasefire agreement with the ruling junta the same year. The ethnic Chinese Kokang, following the ceasefire pact, enjoyed special privileges and were allotted several business concessions.

Mizzima’s correspondent on the Sino-Burmese border added, “Peng’s troops are now literally breaking away from the ceasefire agreement and are hiding in the jungles.”

Phoe Than Gyaung, spokesperson of the Burma Communist Party, on Thursday said he is aware of the ongoing conflict and tension in the Kokang area and feels sad that they have also fallen victim to the junta’s old and devious trick of divide and rule.

“It is the junta’s tactic to always divide the groups. Though the Kokang has broken away from us, we consider them our good friends and it is sad that there is a conflict amidst them,” Phoe Than Gyuang elaborated.

But he hoped that the Burmese junta might not come down heavily on the Kokang Army as they are busy with plans for the 2010 general election and handling the internal political situation revolving around the sentencing of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Aung Naing Oo, a Thailand-based analyst, on Wednesday told Mizzima that the Kokang case is another classic example of the junta’s tactics in action, and other ceasefire groups including the United Wa State Army (UWSA) can start preparing for their turn.

The UWSA and Kokang Army both broke away from the BCP, once a powerful group that posed a direct threat to the Rangoon government. But the loss of the UWSA, Kokang Army and other groups drastically weakened the BCP to where it is, today, almost non-functional with only a few remaining members.


US House delegation arrives in Burma

by Mizzima News
Thursday, 27 August 2009 22:50

Chaing Mai (Mizzima) - A three-member United States delegation arrived in Burma today as part of Washington's ongoing review of its public diplomacy and assistance program, according to diplomatic sources.

The delegation of staff members from the House Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to visit Cyclone Nargis-affected areas as well as meet with non-governmental organizations, prior to their departure on Sunday.

The US officials, noted one source, have also visited other regional countries during their trip.


Fighting unabated between Kokang and Burmese Army

by Mizzima News
Thursday, 27 August 2009 20:24

(Time of reporting – 6:45 p.m. Burmese Standard Time)

Ruili (Mizzima) - Another clash broke out between the Kokang and Burmese Army near the Sino-Burma border on Thursday evening.

The gunfight between the Peng Jiasheng led Kokang group and the Burmese Army, began an hour ago and is continuing till the time of filing this report, near the Chin Shui Haw town on the Sino-Burma border.

Earlier in the morning, a clash occurred near Yan Lone Chai town between Peng’s army and the Burmese battalion, which has been tracking them.

Similarly, Peng’s Army, which was driven out of Lao Kai capital of the Kokang, ambushed the Burmese troops following them in the jungles near the Sino-Burma border.

The Kokang region is located east of Salween River and is close to the Chinese border.


Burma to ban liquor advertisements

by Mizzima News
Thursday, 27 August 2009 18:24

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - The Burmese Ministry of Information has announced that it will ban liquor advertisements in magazines and journals from next year.

“It is to notify that advertisement of liquors will be banned from January 1, 2010,” said the statement released by the Ministry of Information through the censorship board.

The statement, circulated among magazine and journal publishers, said advertising liquors in magazines and journals negatively affects the moral and character and also impacts the health and education of the people.


China to promote trade with Thailand and Burma

by Usa Pichai
Thursday, 27 August 2009 19:20

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - With China keen on opening one more border trade checkpoint with Burma, a boost in trade is likely by corporates in Northern Thailand and southern China.

Thailand’s Department of Exporting Promotion organized an event on Wednesday to promote trading and investing in Xishuangbanna Prefecture in Yunnan Province, southern China close to Shan State in Burma.

Apmornphan Nimanan, Chiang Mai province Governor presided over the event and said that Thailand and Xishuangbanna have close cultural ties. Besides, transportation is smooth along Mekong River and over land by R3A route between Thailand – Lao – China or R3B between Thailand – Burma – China, according to a report in the government run Thailand’s News Bureau website.

Earlier, regarding discussions with officials in Chiang Rai Province, Qian Min, the Director of Trade Office’s Xixuangbanna said R3B is the shorter route but there are many checkpoints in Burma that result in excessive transport costs.

“Our officials will discuss this issue with the Burmese authority in Keng Tung and open the Mongla-Daluo border checkpoint soon,” he said. Kieng Tung is located in Shan State, Burma.

The Burmese side of the Mongla-Daluo checkpoint is under the control of the ceasefire group the National Democratic Alliance Army-Eastern Shan State (NDAA-ESS), led by Sai Linn aka Lin Mingxian, which is also known as Shan State Special Region 4.

Dao Linyin, Governor of Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture said in Chiang Mai that the R3A is used officially, which would benefit trading between China and Southeast Asian nations.

“China would speed up cooperation with Thailand in commercial, investment and tourism and infrastructure development. We will also provide more support for investors with special privileges. If there are problems that the local government can solve, we will do so immediately,” she said.

Early this year, Chinese authorities placed restrictions on this border checkpoint to curb drug smuggling, where trading and other business including casinos were affected.

Burma’s cross-border trade was banned by the late dictator Gen. Ne Win after the military assumed power in 1962 but the ban was lifted following negotiations in 1988.

Bilateral trade has risen steadily since, increasing by 60 per cent in the fiscal year ending 31 March, 2008, and constitutes 24 per cent of Burma's trade, making China a major trading partner, second only to Thailand.

Trading between China and Thailand has also risen steadily. In 2008 it was more than 36,000 million US$ which rose by about 20 per cent compared to 2007 but the global economic meltdown resulted in a significant drop early this year.

Indian- Burmese military officials meet

by Salai Pi Pi
Thursday, 27 August 2009 16:36

New Delhi (Mizzima) – A six-day meeting between Indian and Burmese military officers began on Wednesday in Kalemyo town, Sagaing division in North-western Burma, to discuss issues relating to border management, as part of an ongoing military level cooperation.

The bi-annual India-Burma border meeting is the 37th held between military officials of the two countries. A 14-member Indian Army delegation led by Major General S S Pawar, Chief Of Staff of the Assam Rifle’s Headquarter 3 Corps based in Imphal, capital of Manipur state, has travelled to Kalaymyo town.

An Assam Rifles press release said, the meeting will enhance on border management, including curbing activities of insurgent groups operating along the border.

“The India-Burma Border Liaison Meet is a landmark event, where representatives of both the armies interact and coordinate on border management activities,” the press release said.

“The event also provides an opportunity to all the delegates to know each other on a personal level and helps in further strengthening the bonds of friendship between both the countries,” the press release added.

The meeting being held between August 26 and 31 and is held twice annually. Military cooperation between the two countries, in areas including tackling insurgents, arms smuggling, and cross border crimes, is part of bilateral relationship.

India and Burma share a porous border of 1,643 kilometres. The Indian military establishment as well as sources on the border said, several Indian insurgents including the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), a Manipuri militant outfit, are based in Sagaing division in Burma.

The last meeting was held at the headquarters of Assam Rifles’ 3 Corps in Imphal of Manipur state in May.

Following the meeting, a Burmese Army delegation led by Brig Gen Tin Maung Ohn, Deputy Commander of the Northwest Military Command, went to Kolkata, West Bengal in India and met with military officers of the Eastern Command.


Japanese FM exhorts Burma to release Aung San Suu Kyi

by Mungpi
Thursday, 27 August 2009 14:36

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone reiterated Japan’s expectation from Burma’s ruling junta to release detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi expeditiously.

Nakasone, during a brief meeting with visiting Burmese Agriculture and Irrigation Minister Maj-Gen Htay Oo, on Tuesday said Tokyo strongly expects that the Burmese regime will swiftly release Aung San Suu Kyi and allow her to participate in the process of democratization in Burma.

Nakasone said, for the general elections slated for 2010 to be acceptable by the international community, “Japan strongly expects that Myanmar [Burma] proceed with the democratization process with the participation of all the parties concerned.”

Japan is also taking note that the Burmese government referred to the possible early release of Aung San Suu Kyi and urged the Burmese junta to quickly implement it, as releasing her and allowing her to participate in the democratization process would be of great benefit to Burma, Nakasone said.

Responding to Nakasone, Htay Oo said, his government is considering the early release of Aung San Suu Kyi, “if she leads an honest life” during her 18-month detention.

Htay Oo, who is also secretary of the junta-backed civilian organisation, the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), said Aung San Suu Kyi has been dealt with in accordance with the law but as a gesture of respect to her late father, General Aung San, Snr. Gen Than Shwe had commuted her sentence to 18 months and allowed her to serve it at her home.

On August 11, Aung San Suu Kyi and her two live-in party house mates, were sentenced to three years in prison with hard labour by the Insein prison special court on charges of violating her previous detention terms by allowing an American, John Yettaw, to visit her at her lakeside home.

But Than Shwe, Burma’s supreme military leader, issued an executive order commuting the sentence to half of that pronounced by the court. He allowed her and her two friends to serve time in her home with restrictions.

The sponsored trip of Htay Oo and the delegation he led, including Tin Htut Oo, Director General of the Agricultural Department and other officials of the Military Affairs Security (MAS), according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry, is meant to explore possible cooperation with Japan on agriculture and irrigation sectors.

Yuki Akimoto, a Japanese researcher on Burma, said the trip could be a sign indicating the increasingly cosy relationship between Japan and the Burmese Generals.

But Dr. Min Nyo, in-charge of an exiled group, Burma Office, in Tokyo, said Japan, despite its continued engagement with the Burmese ruling junta, has lately become vocal particularly over the trial and sentencing of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Dr Min Nyo said he expects Japan’s new government to take a stronger stance on Burma’s military rulers.

According to Akimoto, Japan wants Burma to conduct the elections in a way that the international community could endorse, as it wants to step up its engagement with Burma. And in accordance, has provided training to at least five Burmese officials on electoral mores.


Opposition activists launch yellow campaign

by Myint Maung
Thursday, 27 August 2009 14:06

New Delhi (Mizzima) – With the second anniversary of the ‘Saffron Revolution’ round the corner, 10 opposition activists launched a campaign in Rangoon last Tuesday to pay tribute to monks, who took part in chanting Metta sutra two years ago.

The activists donned yellow symbols during their weekly so-called 'Tuesday prayer campaign', conducted in Shwedagon pagoda for the release of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

"September is drawing close. So we wore yellow ribbons, yellow hairpins, yellow flowers and yellow dresses as symbols, while paying tribute to the ‘Saffron Revolution’ during our prayer campaign. We prayed for the release of our leader," Naw Ohn Hla, one of the campaigners, told Mizzima.

Officials of the Burmese military junta keep a hawk’s eye on the prayer campaign, suspicious and apprehensive that it would again become part of a growing mass movement against the regime. There have been several instances when campaigners have been arrested.

The activists plan to forge ahead with the yellow campaign with their prayer meetings and prayer services at pagodas every Tuesday until September 25.

"This campaign has started in Rangoon. Other towns and cities can join us. It (junta) cannot do anything to us for just wearing these yellow symbols. So we request all to join us. I'd like to say do not forget our religion and sasana," Naw Ohn Hla said.

Thousands of monks hit the streets in September 2007 and chanted Metta Sutra in Rangoon and other cities. But the security forces came down heavily in a brutal crackdown, killing, maiming and arresting at random, breaking up the demonstrations.

The junta, however, claimed 10 people, including some monks were killed during the movement, but the opposition forces felt that the actual death toll was much higher than the official statistics dished out.

According to the Thai based 'Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners-Burma' (AAPP-B), formed by former Burmese political prisoners, over 200 monks were arrested during the demonstration. More than 2,100 political prisoners are languishing in jails throughout Burma, AAPP said.

Prayer campaigns were also launched in other cities such as Mandalay, Meiktila, Yemethin, Yenanchaung and Pegu by activists yesterday, calling for the release of detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.

Meanwhile, activists lodged a complaint with the junta supremo Senior Gen. Than Shwe by sending a letter, which says that the local authorities tried to threaten the monasteries where the Naw Ohn Hla led group were conducting prayers and offerings were being made to Buddhist monks.
Thursday, August 27, 2009

Kokangs victim of junta’s old tactics: observers

by Mungpi
Thursday, 27 August 2009 00:28

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Burma’s military rulers have yet again resorted to a divide and rule policy to break up the Kokang ceasefire armed group, which refused to toe the junta’s line of transforming its army to a border guard force, observers said.

On Wednesday, Peng Jiasheng, the Supreme Commander of the Kokang Army lost his capital Lao Kai and was forced along with his troops out of the town, as his deputy Bai Souqian and other Kokang militias took over the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), also known as the Kokang Army, reports said.

According to the Thailand based Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN), the former Kokang Army led by Peng were not to be seen in Lao Kai, which is swarming with Burmese soldiers and the police as well as Kokang militias backed by the Burmese Army.

But sources said, Peng and his troops are headed for the north of Loa Kai and tension between the troops is high and a shoot-out could be eminent.

Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Sino-Burma border based military analyst, said, “it is a case of letting the Kokangs fight each other. The junta had applied this tactic a long time back and is now using it again to break the Kokang.”

He said the Burmese Army has sided with Peng’s former deputy Bai Souqian, who is now leading the Kokang militias in Lao Kai. According to reports, he has also reportedly been joined by other Kokang militias including Peng’s arch-rival Yang Mouliang.

Aung Naing Oo, a Burmese analyst based in Thailand said, the junta’s tactics are becoming obsolete and predictable, but sadly, groups are still finding themselves falling into the pit.

“We have seen the junta’s tactics at work with other rebels. The Kokang’s case is similar. The junta knows that by eliminating the Kokang, they can weaken other groups including the United Wa State Army (UWSA),” Aung Naing Oo said.

The MNDAA, the UWSA, the Kachin Independence Organization and the Maila or National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), the four groups that have turned down the junta’s proposal to transform their armies, have recently entered into an alliance called the Myanmar Peace and Democracy Front.

The junta, in April, had proposed to all ceasefire armed groups to transform their army into the Border Guard Force, a force to be controlled and administered by the Burmese Army. But many groups including the four alliances have rejected the proposal.

Aung Naing Oo said it is crucial for the junta to persuade the ceasefire groups to transform their armies, as it is crucial for the junta to conduct elections in areas controlled by the ceasefire groups.

“If the ceasefire groups are rejecting their plan, the credibility of the elections in 2010 will have a severe impact, though it will not be able to stop the junta from conducting it,” he added.

In a bid to eliminate Peng Jiasheng, the Burmese Army has ordered raids at his residence under the pretext of drug eradication. The police in Lashio had also ordered Peng and three others to appear before the court.

But when Peng refused to appear, the authorities issued an arrest warrant for him and three others including his younger brother, Aung Kyaw Zaw said.

“I don’t think they can catch Peng just like that. It will require a fight. But if there is any clash the Burmese Army can say it is between the Kokangs,” he added.

Meanwhile, Aung Naing Oo cautioned that the junta’s tactics of infiltrating into the Kokan leadership should be a step to watch for other ceasefire groups including the UWSA and the KIO.

“We have seen the split of the Karen National Union and how the junta has played its role. Now, it is very likely that they will further move on with their plans for other groups,” he added.


Three million ecstasy tablets seized near Tachileik

by Pho Zaw
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 20:43

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – About three million ecstasy tablets and compressed heroin blocks were seized on August 24 near Tachileik in eastern Shan State, Burma, according to a state run newspaper.

The newspaper report said the drug enforcement officials from Tachileik found and seized the narcotic drugs from two houses in Wang Li and Wang Lone villages in Hong Leik village tract.

Initially, the officials found 964,000 pink coloured stimulant tablets from the first house along with 102 compressed heroin blocks and heroin powder weighing 21 kgs. They also found arms and ammunition including a MADSEN rifle, a 9 mm STEYR M9-41 pistol, 108 rounds of ammunition and a 9 mm Lieuger pistol, the newspaper reported.

The news report added that the officials were investigating Sai Win Naing a.k.a. Ah Phin (30), Ah Young (29), Ah Paung a.k.a. Than Oo (18) and Ma Ah Shin (30) in connection with the case.

Based on their statements to the investigators, the officials found more drugs from a house in Wang Lone village in Hong Leik village tract. The seized drugs include two compressed heroin blocks, 1,960,000 stimulant tablets and 10 kgs of Ice, the newspaper said.

According to the 'New Light of Myanmar' report, a total of 104 compressed heroin blocks were seized and only two of them weigh over 700 kgs. But a local resident close to government officials told Mizzima that the figure mentioned in the state-run paper was incorrect. In fact, each compressed heroin block weighs only 350 gms.

According to this local resident, the officials searched a house owned by Aik Khwet at Taw Kaw (outer) village in Hong Leik village tract at 4 p.m. on the same day and found 24 gms Ice but no one was found in the house.

The Tachileik police station confirmed the news of the seizure of the drugs but declined to provide details as a case had not yet been filed at the station.


Floods from dam near Thai–Burmese border cause concern

by Usa Pichai
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 12:53

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) –The incident of flash floods near the Thai-Burmese border last week points to the ineffectiveness of the authorities in addition to its blatant blacking out of information, environmentalists have pointed out.

Witoon Permpongsacharoen, an environmentalist attached to the ‘Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance’, a Bangkok based organization working closely with environmental issues in the region told Mizzima that the recent flooding from the Srikakarin Dam in the Kanchanaburi Province bordering Burma, affected several villages in the area.

But information on this was not available from the authorities.

“While compensation is necessary it is important that the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) and the Petroleum Authority of Thailand (currently the PTT Public Co. Ltd.) should clarify the facts. Earlier there had been warnings that the dam was vulnerable to earthquakes. Besides there was lack of study on the environmental effect in the area from the construction of the dam,” he said.

“The media seems to have no interest in following up the issue though it affects so many villagers,” he said.

Witoon pointed out that the planned series of dams to be built on the Salween River in Burma will also be at risk from earthquakes “even though the authorities claim that engineering technology could solve this problem and resist damage from earthquakes, measuring up to seven on the Richter scale. But who can guarantee whether earthquakes will not be stronger?” he asked.

The dams has been built on the Srisawat active fault near the Three Pagoda Pass, both on the Thai– Burma border and is at risk from earthquakes.

The incident follows an accident during gas transmission from the Bongkot in the Thai Gulf and Yadana fields in Burma last week. To avoid a power blackout in western Thailand due to the stoppage, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) decided to release water from the Srinakarin Dam in Kanchanaburi province close to the Burmese border to generate power, which resulted in flooding large areas and affecting hundreds of local villagers. There are rumours that the dam has been damaged by an earthquake.

The cabinet was given the report and has acknowledged the technical problems. It was informed that eight villages in Muang district had been affected by floods, along with three resorts, some raft operations and farmlands. A committee has been set up to investigate the sudden release of water from the Srinakarin Dam.

Deputy permanent secretary Norkun Sitthiphong will chair the committee, which has been given seven days to investigate and submit a report.

"The committee will find out why the water had to be released and whether the decision was appropriate. It must also come up with preventive measures," he said, denying reports that the floods were caused by an earthquake.

However, in 2007 the fault line in Burma caused small earthquakes in the Golden Triangle areas, connecting Laos, Burma and Thailand, when a 6.1 magnitude earthquake occurred about 700 kilometres from Bangkok.

Such tremors were however not dangerous, but has been causing worry about fault lines near the capital such as the Sakaing fault in the Andaman Sea, 400 kilometres from Bangkok or the Three Pagoda fault zone and the Srisawat fault in Kanchanaburi, 200 kilometres from Bangkok.


Tesaro beats Yangon United 2-1

by Pho Zaw
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 21:04

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Yangon United Football Club played three friendly mini-matches against Thailand’s Tesaro Sasana Club on Tuesday, where the Thai club won on an aggregate of two goals to one.

The matches began at 3:30 p.m. (local time) in Bangkok and were played out for 30 minutes each. In the first match the teams drew 0-0 goals. In the second Tesaro won 1-0. The last match ended with 1-1 goals.

During its Thailand tour Yangon United played two matches and in both the matches the Burmese club lost. On August 20, Yangon United played against Thai Port and lost 4-3.

During the trip, the Yangon United FC had in the team four Ivory Coast players.

The Yangon United FC team is concluding its tour of Thailand and is heading back to Rangoon on Wednesday.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Spurt in tension between Burmese Army and Kokang rebels

by Mungpi
Tuesday, 25 August 2009 22:46

New Delhi (Mizzima) - With the arrival of over 60 army trucks carrying Burmese troops, fresh tension has flared up between ethnic Kokang rebel groups and the Burmese Army in northeastern Shan State with the ruling junta issuing an arrest warrant for the Kokang leader Peng Jiasheng, sources said.

Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Sino-Burma border based military analyst, said the tension between the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) also known as Kokang Army and the Burmese troops had risen to a new level and that there could be a fresh clash between the two anytime.

“The tension is high and there are possibilities of a fresh conflict. But as of now both sides seem to be restrained,” Aung Kyaw Zaw said.

The tension, according to Aung Kyaw Zaw, began since the MNDAA like many other ceasefire armed groups, rejected the junta’s proposal to transform its army into a ‘Border Guard Force’, an army to be maintained and managed by the ruling junta.

However, the Burmese Army wants to avoid a confrontation with the Kokang Army and is using various tactics to win the group to their side by infiltrating into the groups’ leadership and breaking their unity, Aung Kyaw Zaw said.

“The junta wants to break the Kokang like they did with other armed rebel groups. So, they are dealing with a few Kokang officers, who are interested to join them. And the Burmese Army has named these people new leaders of the Kokang group,” he said.

The fresh tension was in evidence on Monday, when the Burmese Army ordered the Kokang Army to move out of the Kokang Special Region saying they are to take up the security in the region. The Kokang Army, apparently, refused and geared up for a confrontation.

Aung Kyaw Zaw said the Burmese Army is creating tension between the Kokang leadership, which seems to be divided between the Kokang Supreme Commander Peng Jiasheng and his Deputy Commander Bai Souqian.

Bai, reportedly has wooed about 100 soldiers to his side but they do not seem to post any kind of threat to Peng, who enjoys the support of the majority of the army, he added.

Peng Jiasheng, also known as Phone Kyar Shin, escaped arrest at least three times including during the August 23 incident, where he was rounded up by about 100 troops at his home in Lao Kai.

“The Burmese Army does not want to negotiate with Peng Jiasheng but they want to use some of the Kokang officers who are willing to oblige it. So, they have issued an arrest warrant for the Kokang leader,” Aung Kyaw Zaw said.

On August 22, police in Northern Shan State’s capital Lashio served summons for Peng, his younger brother Jiafu and his two sons to appear in court. But the four, did not show up.

“How can they go, it is an arrest order. It would be difficult for the Burmese Army to arrest Peng Jiasheng,” Aung Kyaw Zaw said.

Analysts said the Burmese junta is deeply disappointed with the rejection by several ceasefire ethnic armed groups over their proposal to transform their armies into a border guard force.

The junta has been persuading the ceasefire groups to transform their armies into the BGF, which will be under the junta’s administration, as their new constitution, does not allow any other armed forces apart from the main ‘Tatmadaw’.

Several armed groups including the MNDAA, Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and United Wa State Army (UWSA) has rejected the junta’s proposal. But Aung Kyaw Zaw said the junta is currently targeting the MNDAA, as the group is the weakest among the armed groups.

“Approximately the MNDAA has about 1,500 troops and the junta thinks that they can threaten them and forcibly persuade them to transform. And besides, the junta already has several army battalions stationed in the Kokang region,” he added.

After the MNDAA rejected the junta’s proposal, the junta has brought in more troops under the pretext of a drug eradication programme and had so far deployed over seven more battalions.

“I think there are about 3,000 Burmese Army troops based in the Kokang area now,” Aung Kyaw Zaw, who maintains a close relationship with armed rebel groups along the Sino-Burmese border said.

Since the problems are not directly with the Burmese Army but more of an internal disagreement, Kokang’s allies including the United Wa State Army (UWSA) are unable to assist.

In a statement released on August 21, the Myanmar Peace and Democratic Front, an alliance of four ceasefire groups – MNDAA, UWSA, Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) and the National Democratic Alliace Army (NDAA) also known as Mailai – condemned the Burmese Army for their interference in the problems of the Kokang Army.

The group said, the Burmese Army’s activities were being conducted under the pretext of drug eradication and expressed their full support to the Kokang Army.

Meanwhile, the fresh tension between the Burmese Army and the Kokang Army has forced several hundred villagers to flee to neighboring China, causing concern to the Chinese authorities.

Reports said, at least 10, 000 villagers have fled to the Chinese border.

A report by the Thailand-based, Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN), said over 700 soldiers of China’s People’s Liberation Army had been deployed along the Sino-BurmA border in anticipation of any hostilities that might break out between the Kokang and the Burmese Army.


MAI to fly to Bodh Gaya

by Mizzima News
Tuesday, 25 August 2009 19:07

Rangoon (Mizzima) – The ‘Myanmar International Airway’ (MAI) will launch a Rangoon-Bodh Gaya (India) flight from October 25.

The ticket reservation centre of the Burmese National Flag carrier said MAI will operate the Rangoon- Bodh Gaya flight twice a week - Wednesdays and Saturdays. The airfare is yet to be fixed.

“We are operating this flight as the number of pilgrims is increasing. We will fly two days a week initially and increase the frequency in keeping with the rise in passengers,” Mie Mie, an official at the MAI ticket reservation centre in Rangoon told Mizzima.

An official of the ‘Nilar’ Bodh Gaya pilgrimage tour said that the number of passengers visiting the Buddhist sacred place had increased since 2005. Bodh Gaya in India’s Bihar state, is considered a sacred place for Buddhists, as it is known as the land where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment.

The MAI is also reportedly planning to increase the frequency of the present Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur flights starting from the ensuing peak season. According to the proposal, the MAI will operate the Rangoon-Bangkok flight seven days a week from the current five days a week, starting October 25. The Rangoon-Kuala Lumpur flight will be increased to five days a week from the current four days.

Sources said the MAI is also gearing up to purchase new aircrafts as the airline is looking at expanding its flight network. MAI sources said, they are also negotiating with Air Bagan, which has stopped its business, for leasing their grounded airplanes.

The MAI currently has regular flights to Guanzhou and Kunming, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Kolkata and Taiwan. But the MAI is all set to expand its flights on the Mandalay-Chiang Mai, Rangoon-Gaya routes and is also negotiating with authorities to fly to Shanghai in China, Vietnam and Japan.


Without constitution amendment elections cannot herald change: NLD

by Mungpi
Tuesday, 25 August 2009 18:12

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Unless Burma’s military regime releases political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and amends the 2008 constitution, the 2010 general elections will be meaningless and will not usher in any kind of change, the National League for Democracy has said.

The 2010 general election, proposed by the ruling junta, is based on the 2008 constitution, which enshrines the role of the military. It cannot provide an opportunity for change unless the regime considers reviewing the constitution, Dr. Win Naing, a spokesperson for the NLD said.

“The 2010 elections cannot be an opportunity for change in Burma unless the junta reviews and amends the constitution,” he said.

It has been 20 years now, and the junta is aware that it cannot continue ruling the country in an illegitimate manner. Since the junta is not prepared to make any kind of drastic reforms, it drafted the constitution to legitimize its role, he added.

Dr. Win Naing’s remarks came in response to the recent report released by the International Crisis Group, which urged all stake holders in Burmese politics to prepare to seize an opportunity of change that is likely to be a fall out of the 2010 elections.

The ICG in its report released on Thursday said the 2010 election is an opportunity for change and urged the international community, the Burmese opposition including the NLD, the military government and other stake holders not to squander the opportunity.

“All stakeholders should be alert to opportunities that may arise to push the new government towards reform and reconciliation,” the report, titled “Myanmar: Towards the Elections”, said.

The report also argues that boycotting or opposing the election would only push things into the hands of the military as it would not prevent the elections from taking place.

But Dr. Win Naing said if the elections take place without any consideration for the opposition’s demands, it would only produce a result that is predictable – continued military rule – and the only difference this time would be “a legitimized military rule”.

“We don’t see it as an opportunity. The conditions before the elections are important and if nothing changes and if the junta goes ahead with its plans, it is predictable,” he added.

But he did not criticize the ICG report stating, “It is their view and we appreciate it for expressing such ideas. It does not matter whether we agree with it or not.”

But functioning within a rigidly controlled environment, Dr. Win Naing said, people living in Burma understand the military’s mentality and need to assess the situation before taking any decision.

“As we have mentioned in our ‘Shwegondine Declaration’ if the ruling government does not implement our proposals, we would be forced to re-think how we should go about the 2010 election,” he added.

On August 11, the NLD’s general secretary Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to a further 18 months in detention, which is widely believed by observers as a move to keep her away from the 2010 election scenario.

Similarly, members of the NLD in Rangoon have been harassed and tortured for their political activities.


Thai citizenship to grant stateless near Burma border

by Usa Pichai
Tuesday, 25 August 2009 12:36

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Citizenship will be granted by Thailand to displaced Thai villagers, who were in Burma, during demarcation by the British a hundred years ago.

Surapong Kongchantuek of the Committee to amend the Thailand Citizenship Act told Mizzima that “the committee will finalize the law that would grant citizenship to Thai villagers near Thailand and the southern Burma border, who became stateless during demarcation.”

The Act formulated would provide an opportunity for the stateless group near the Thailand–Cambodia border for more than 4,000 people that share the same problem.

The 20,000 or so villagers live in Thailand’s Ranong and Prachoub Kirikhan and Chumporn provinces, bordering southern Burma. They are descendants of ethnic Thais who found themselves marooned in Burma by a British colonial demarcation package in 1868. Burma’s rulers would have nothing to do with them. They also face discrimination by the Burmese government.

According to the group some had to contend with land confiscation by the Burmese military without any compensation and some were forced to work as porters for the army.

Gradually whole communities moved from Tavoy and Taninsari south of Burma to neighbouring Siam, now Thailand. But Siam also shunned them, and subsequent Thai governments refused to recognize them as Thai citizens. The stateless status has caused them to lose their rights to access education, medical and other facilities. In addition they also face arrest because they have no ID cards.

Pakawin Saengkong, the representative of the group, who lives in Ranong Province, said that the process of granting citizenship has progressed. He added that they had fought for their rights for nearly a decade together with rights groups and academics.

“Currently, the registered members of the group are in the process of being verified along with the family. The committee consists of representatives from the group and Thai authorities. About 3,800 have been verified as a first step. The group is expected to seek cabinet approval by the end of this year or early 2010,” he said.

In October 2006, about 500 of the group travelled to Bangkok and submitted a letter addressed to the British Embassy in Bangkok, pleading for support in their efforts to get Thai citizenship, which they said resulted from the 19th century British colonial carve-up of a border region of Burma and Siam making them stateless.


Fire breaks out at Grand Royal Distillery again

by Kyaw Kha
Tuesday, 25 August 2009 13:22

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – For the second time, a fire broke out at about noon on Monday at the famous liquor and wine producers, the Grand Royal Distillery in Hlegu Township of Rangoon Division.

This time the fire broke out in the fuel store where paddy husk and corn-cob are kept, local residents said. On Saturday, two liquor distilling containers exploded in the factory precincts.

“The fire is still smouldering where the paddy husk and corn-cob is stored. It cannot be extinguished easily as there are stocks of such fuel in the warehouse to last between one and two years. The fire started after the explosion in the distillery and is still smouldering today. Now there is a fresh fire broke in the fuel storage house,” a local resident in Hlegu told Mizzima yesterday.

A woman from the Hlegu Fire Brigade told over telephone that there were no fire-fighters at their station as all of them have gone out in two fire engines.

Though the fire was not severe, the one on Saturday damaged almost the entire distillery and killed four people. Many were injured and admitted to the Rangoon General Hospital, local residents said.

But yesterday's ‘New Light of Myanmar’, reported that the fire lasted over five hours and killed three people and injured six. The Fire Department sent 47 fire engines, 10 control room vehicles and over 200 fire-fighters to fight the blaze, the paper said.

The duty officer at the Emergency Ward in the Rangoon General Hospital, when contacted over telephone, said the wounded patients were being treated and declined to give details as he was not authorized to answer such queries.

The fire destroyed many vehicles and machinery in the distillery such as cars, and tractors with trailers, machinery and equipments, the canteen and five other private shops.

This distillery controls the lion’s share of the domestic market of up to over 80 per cent with its most famous product the Grand Royal Whisky (black label) produced by the International Beverages Trading Co. Ltd.

Other famous products from this company are Special Reserve Grand Whisky (gold label), Eagle Whisky, Heather Gate Whisky, Royal Special London Dry Gin and London Rum.

Burma's fishery export downward trend continue

by Myo Thein
Tuesday, 25 August 2009 14:31

Rangoon (Mizzima) – (Analysis) Despite Burma’s fishery products being a good revenue earner in the export market, this year also it has taken a beating and failed to achieve the target.

The target for fishery product export sector in the 2009-10 fiscal year is USD 700 million. However, the actual export until over two weeks ago after the first quarter has touched just over 21 per cent of the total export target.

It is learnt that a total trade value of USD 147.922 million has been exported from 1 April 2009 to 15 August 2009. The trade value through normal trade has touched USD 93.862 million so far.

“Our trade volume in the export market is higher than last year but the trade value is lower as the prices are falling following the global financial meltdown. We have to negotiate with our buyers with great difficulty to reach an agreement in a buyer’s market,” a cold storage owner said.

“The trade volume is higher than previous corresponding months. But the trade value is lower than last year so we cannot yet reach the export target,” a director level official from the Fishery Department said.

Fresh water fish export accounts for the lion’s share in the fishery products export with about 26 per cent of the total trade volume. The trade value of such fresh water fish export through ‘Normal Trade’ (going through border exit ports officially) has reached USD 39.619 million of which the major export item is ‘Nga Myit Chin’ (variety of carp), it is learnt.

The deadly cyclone Nargis devastated the Irrawaddy Delta region leaving over 130,000 people dead and millions of people homeless. One of the consequences of the cyclone is decline in fishery product export.

Despite the export target for 2008-09 fiscal year being USD 850 million, the actual export touched only USD 483 million, which was 56 per cent of the target. This trade value was USD 78 million lower than the value of USD 561 million in 2007-08 fiscal year.

Fishery product export through border exit ports such as Myeik (Mergui) and Maungdaw during the four and-a-half months of this fiscal year starting from 1 April are USD 25.163 and 1.881 million respectively. But the export through the sole Sino-Burma border exit port is USD 16.411 million.

The river crab exporters expect more export this year than in the 2008-09 fiscal year. The river crab exporters earned USD 2 million more than in 2007-08 fiscal year. The exporters could do breeding work successfully in a mass production scale in major export items to the China market. The export value rose due to the success in breeding and culture of soft shell fresh water crab, the exporters said.

After exports declined due to the global financial crisis, the fishery department explored the new export market in EU in association with the Myanmar Federation of Fishery and invited experts from EU countries and tried to abide by the stringent EU regulation.

But the requirement of the EU regulations in the fishery market is too high. So many cold storages and jetties withdrew from inspection by EU experts.

The export market is more competitive as fishery products from India entered the Bangladesh market, which is the major trading partner of Burmese fishery exporters.

“Currently India has banned export of fishery products but they enter Bangladesh market through illegal channels as the two countries have a long and porous border. India cannot control all illegal trading. Moreover the traders can save tax by operating through these illegal channels. So our exporters cannot compete with them. We only get a low price,” an exporter said.

Fishery business is flourishing in India but it has currently banned official export of fish and fishery products for self-sufficiency in the domestic market.

Despite the growing export of fishery products, the demand has fallen currently thanks to the global crisis, decline of demand in high-value fishery products and falling prices. So it is very difficult to reach the export target, a member of the Myanmar Federation of Fishery Rangoon Division said.

According to official statistics, the export value of Burmese fishery products is just 12 per cent of the total export earning of the country. It is the fourth largest export earner after gas, beans and pulses, and forest products.


Punishment for a dream – the price of Burmese conscience

by Nay Tin Myint
Tuesday, 25 August 2009 10:52

Mizzima News - William Harvard wrote: "The greatest glory of a free-born people is to transmit that freedom to their children." This is the dream that I had for Burma in 1988, and I still have the same dream today. As a university student in 1988, I never imagined that I would spend the next fifteen years of my life in Burma’s notorious prisons for daring to hope for a better future.

It all began on a beautiful spring day, March 13, 1988, when I was a 21-year-old Rangoon University Zoology student in my senior year. Some Burma Socialist Program Party (BSPP) soldiers shot and killed an engineering student at the campus. Adding insult to injury, afterward the army denied any wrongdoing and ignored the students’ request for an investigation, eventually leading the students to strike.

During the ensuing crackdown, armed government soldiers savagely attacked unarmed student demonstrators, stole their possessions and gang-raped hooded female students in custody. According to eyewitnesses, armed soldiers also threw students into Inya Lake and ponds, watching many students drown. Since that day the "White Bridge" of Rangoon Arts and Science University, where soldiers attacked the unarmed innocent university students, was famously renamed the "Red Bridge" for the blood spilt during those tragic times.

By August 8, 1988, the momentum of the students' strike in the spring mushroomed into a nationwide uprising, with Burmese fed up with the government's negligence rising up against the abusive military junta. During these demonstrations, as one of the founders of the Tri-color Youth Organization, I gave a speech condemning the BSPP ruling party's mismanagement of the country. I demanded justice for the army's brutality and for the government to tell us what happened to the Rangoon University students who disappeared in March. The ruling junta immediately arrested me.

Right after the arrest, government agents began to torture me with the aim of breaking my silence. They forced me to kneel down and crawl over sharp stones with hands cuffed behind my back. Then they hung me from my handcuffs with my legs barely touching the ground while I continued to bleed all night. The tormentors placed a tin bucket on my head and beat it until blood ran down my ears. They offered me no food until the third day, when they brought foul and inedible food accompanied by a scant amount of water. They continued to beat me and torture me with electric shock to force me to disclose the names of my associates. I refused to give up their names, either to stop the torture or to gain my release. I was prepared to die alone under torture rather than to subject other innocent political activists to the same brutal punishments.

The courts in Burma were as lawless and fraudulent as other institutions under military rule. An army colonel, the head of a martial court, asked, "Do you think what you are doing is right?" I answered, "Yes, what I am doing is right and I have a lot of support from the people." I continued to point out the failures of the ruling party and promised that one day they would be defeated. He apparently already had orders to sentence me to three years of hard labor in prison, but after my reply, furious, he increased it to four years. He then asked whether I would like to comment on anything else. I replied, "Yes," but they refused to let me speak and dragged me away.

Similar to other leading political prisoners, they kept me alone in an eight by twelve foot cell in notorious Insein Prison near Rangoon. Although according to the official prison handbook prisoners have the right to take a walk twice a day and to have fifteen bowls of water for bathing, prison authorities locked me in my cell in clear violation of those rights. No prison in Burma followed the guidelines written in the prison manual. When, at the close of 1989, I demanded my rights according to the prison manual, they transferred me to another notorious prison, Tharawaddy, in Pegu.

In Tharawaddy, prison officials made me work in the plantation area. When they assigned me to collect toilet bowls, a job for criminal inmates, I refused, since I was not a criminal. Although I knew that my prison term would be reduced if I obeyed their rules I refused to be humiliated or degraded. Instead, I firmly held on to my convictions and did not surrender my political conscience for personal comfort or freedom.

Next, in an attempt to break my spirit further, they shackled my ankles and placed a metal bar between my legs. They continued to beat and kick me, even while I was shackled. During an episode of solitary confinement my toilet bowl was not collected for a month, and insects began crawling out of it and climbing onto me while I slept with no mattress or blanket on a concrete floor. I was not allowed to own clothing other than what I wore. After one month, my skin became infected and I suffered from stomach pain, but the prison warden refused treatment or for my family to bring any medication. When I tried to report this violation they transferred me to yet another prison, Myingyan, in central Burma in early 1991.

While at Myingyan prison they again immediately placed me in solitary confinement. They supplied only a small amount of food and allowed a bath once every three weeks. I could not wash clothes because there was not enough water. Therefore, I stood on my clothes while bathing and squeezed the water out to wash again. As a punishment for cleverly bathing and washing clothes at the same time, they added a second metal bar to my shackle. They also forced me to crawl over sharp stones with the shackle on, while two prison guards savagely struck me. The shackle stayed on for more than one year, and when it finally came off I was suffering from partial paralysis. I was not able to walk because my shackled legs had been held in an awkward position for so long and from the weakness caused by a general lack of nutrition.

Eventually I saw a prison doctor, but I still received no treatment for my paralysis. Finally, after a long interval, my family was allowed to visit and was permitted to supply medication. Although I was paralyzed I kept exercising my legs and I continued to discipline my mind. I needed to live, not to die in prison. I was determined not to let the military junta triumph over me. To keep my mind focused and sharp, I continued to meditate according to Burmese Buddhism.

In 1992, at the end of my four-year prison term, I was released only because of my physical disability. I spent the next six months in a hospital for medical treatment and physical rehabilitation. During this time I was invited to a meeting between National League for Democracy leaders Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and U Win Tin and the United Nations special representative to Burma. I agreed to have my name submitted to the United Nations for the purpose of this meeting. Soon after, the SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) regime announced that a National Convention would be held to draw up a new constitution for Burma.

Since the ploy to draw up a new constitution came only after the army lost the 1990 general election, it was clear the generals were just buying time instead of genuinely preparing for a transfer of power. A constitutional convention dominated by handpicked delegates from the military and close associates of the army clearly was not intended to be free or fair. Not surprisingly, the junta intensified the crackdown on political dissidents and elected politicians, even while pushing for the National Convention on the pretext of writing a new constitution.

As democracy activists including myself began organizing with university students for a nationwide movement against the unlawful National Convention, SLORC henchmen came and raided my home, confiscated my personal possessions and arrested me for the second time on charges of distributing protest pamphlets and meeting with United Nations representatives. At my trial in October 1993, the judge told me, "You have been a leader during the 1988 unrest, and now you are protesting against the National Convention with the intention of demeaning the dignity of the country." Along with a false accusation of my conspiring with armed rebels, he sentenced me to twenty years in prison with hard labor.

After holding me in Insein Prison for a few months they again transferred me to Myingyan. Gradually it became clear to me that by sending political prisoners like me to Myingyan again and again, the ruling junta intended not only to torture and break our political will but also planned to systematically kill and eliminate all political opposition without leaving any trace of evidence behind. This plan was instituted with the same efficiency as the plan for ethnic cleansing in remote jungle villages hidden from the view of the international community.

With this understanding, I approached the Myingyan Prison entrance with great apprehension. Upon arrival, I was blindfolded and severely beaten with my hands cuffed behind my back. The beating continued even after I fell to the ground. They shackled my legs and ordered me put in solitary confinement for another seven years.

It all began again with no bath for three months, a small amount of stale food and insufficient drinking water. To make life even more miserable the guards inside continually harassed political prisoners. To prevent contact between political prisoners when one of us was in the aisle, all other political prisoners were forced to sit in an extremely awkward position called "ponzan" at the back of their cells. On one occasion a prison guard savagely knocked me down in the shower after accusing me of making eye contact with other political prisoners, forcing me to crawl back to my cell.

Routine and cold-blooded assaults on political prisoners were meant as part of the punishment. For instance, frequently after I had finished cleaning the floor of my cell with my only sarong, a prison guard would blow the dust back in, subsequently striking me for not properly cleaning my cell. Subsisting all the while on a meager diet of foul rations contaminated with stones and un-hulled paddy grains added misery to our anguished years inside the prison and, consequently, political prisoners in Burma often succumbed to deteriorating health behind bars. When family members brought even a small amount of salt to alleviate the misery, prison authorities often punished the prisoners with more beatings.

According to the official prison manual, family visitations were allowed for up to 15 minutes. However, political prisoners were allowed only three minutes with family members who had often traveled long distances. The ruling junta also created an atmosphere in which family members and friends were forced to put pressure on prisoners to give up politics altogether. The junta frequently imposed penalties on innocent family members in an attempt to break down the political prisoners’ final defenses – forcing them to watch family members suffer by being forced to travel to remote prisons for visitations that tested strength beyond the endurance of even the most dedicated democrats.

I was not allowed to read any book from 1994 to 2000. When the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) came to visit in 2000, restrictions were slightly eased, with authorities allowing us more food and longer showers. After the ICRC chief representative came to meet me in prison and recorded my prison experiences, I was further allowed a few books for reading. I was also able to see a prison doctor and was allowed to do some physical exercise.

In 2001, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the SPDC's General Khin Nyunt reached an agreement to work together. During that time, military intelligence (MI) frequently paid me visits and asked myself and other political prisoners to sign a pledge to never again engage in any political activity, in exchange for our release. Those of us who refused remained locked up in prison.

In early 2005, I was sent to Mandalay prison in upper Burma, where they immediately put me in solitary confinement for another six months. When authorities transferred me back to Myingyan for another stint in violation of my rights, I decided to go on hunger strike. On the sixth day of my hunger strike I was offered some water but the guards subsequently broke the water pot. After four more days without water I became unconscious. The Director General of the Penitentiary Department from Rangoon heard about me, immediately paying me a visit. I was brought to the hospital where I vomited blood and passed out. I was sustained only by the belief that my tormenters "can control me physically, but they cannot control my mind. My mind does not belong to them. My mind belongs to me."

I was eventually released on July 6, 2005, after over 15 years of imprisonment and nearly seven years in solitary confinement. "RELEASED" was just a statement on paper. Inside Burma I was never really free, since government agents continued to follow and watch my every move. Nevertheless, my mind was still occupied with 1988 and democratic aspirations for our people.

The generals in Burma wanted the Burmese people and the world to see that the army had the power to take away our lives, our liberty and our happiness at any time they chose. They wanted everyone to see the scars, the pain and the deaths of those who dared resist their brutal domination.

But even after 15 years in their infernal prisons, the SPDC was not able to make me obey their authority. My vow to continue struggling for democracy remained unbroken and I never wavered from my commitment toward freedom for Burma.

Countless people in Burma have sacrificed their lives and all that they held dear in the name of freedom for their children. The generals in Naypyitaw must see that our leaders, Aung San Suu Kyi and others who are still in prison will never give up their dream for democracy or exchange their political conscience for a life of luxury under the military regime.

Our real leaders know that there would not be an India without Gandhi, a South Africa without Nelson Mandela and an Obama without Martin Luther King, Jr. They also believe that Burma will overcome its troubles one day. Only for now, they need our help to make their dreams come true.

(Nay Tin Myint escaped from Burma to Thailand in 2007. He was granted political asylum in the United States in 2008 and is the Secretary of the National League for Democracy – Liberated Area, USA branch.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cementing Japanese-Burmese relationship

by Mungpi
Monday, 24 August 2009 22:39

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Burmese Agriculture and Irrigation Minister Maj-Gen Htay Oo’s visit to Japan is yet another sign of the cosy relationship that Japan maintains with Burmese military generals, observers said.

Htay Oo, who is also secretary of the pro-junta civilian organization – the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) – is leading a team of delegates to Japan reportedly to explore possible cooperation with Burma on agriculture and irrigation sectors.

“But that is just a pretext. It's an all-expenses-paid trip. I think the visit is the Japanese government's way of telling the junta that Japan very much supports the regime and its "roadmap to democracy" including the 2010 elections,” Yuki Akimoto, a Japanese researcher on Burma, said.

Akimoto also said, the visit could be the Japanese government’s act to “soften the blow” of its statement that expressed “deep disappointment” over the verdict against Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi by the ruling junta.

“At the same time, Japan has always maintained that it has a special channel of communication with the junta, and it does not want to lose that channel by appearing to be aligned with other countries that issued critical statements about the verdict,” she added.

Similarly, Dr. Min Nyo, in-charge of Burma Office in Tokyo said while the visit does not have much significance, it indicates the cosiness in the relationship between Japan and the Burmese junta.

“I don’t think they [Htay Oo and team] can even meet important people here, as every politician is busy campaigning for the elections. But this trip is definitely a part of the two countries bilateral relationship,” Dr. Min Nyo said.

Japan, which is Burma’s largest humanitarian donor, has maintained a good rapport with the Burmese generals and reportedly trained at least five officers in electoral mores as a preparation for the 2010 elections.

Despite its friendly foreign policy vis a vis Burma, Japan, however, joined the international outcry over the sentencing of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi by the ruling generals.

“Before the sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi, Japan refrained from criticising the Burmese junta but following the verdict, I think they were not at all happy,” he added.

Dr. Min Nyo played down the significance of the visit, though it is the first highest Burmese official to visit Japan in four years.

He said, with the elections on, it would be extremely difficult for Japanese ministers both ruling or the opposition parties to entertain their Burmese friends.

However, Akimoto believes that it could be a trip in which the Burmese are trying to persuade the new Japanese government not to change their current policy on Burma.

“The government of Japan [by facilitating the visit] may be hoping that Htay Oo will convince the MPs that it is not necessary to change Japan's policy towards Burma,” Akimoto said.

The Japanese opposition party – Democratic Party of Japan – is speculated to win the current elections and is expected to form the government in the next term.

Meanwhile, a group of Burmese activists in Tokyo held demonstrations in front of the Japanese Foreign Ministry protesting against Htay Oo’s visit.

Activists protest Htay Oo's secret visit to Japan

by Phoe Zaw
Monday, 24 August 2009 22:33

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burmese activists on Monday held a protest rally against the secret visit to Japan by Htay Oo, Secretary of the pro-junta civilian organization – the Union Solidarity and Development Association - outside the hotel where he is staying.

The demonstrators hoisted the flag of the ‘fighting peacock’, a symbol representing the spirit of revolution in front of "The New Otani" hotel in Tokyo, where Htay Oo is putting up.

The flag fluttered along with that of China, Japan, Burma and Thai flags for a while before it was removed by security personnel.

"The security personnel didn't notice it because we went and hoisted it at 5 am. They noticed it at 10 am and pulled it down. But we did it. Now they are treating the case seriously," a demonstrator told Mizzima.

"The action was meant to send a message to the junta, to embarrass it and to humiliate its political status. It is a warning against the regime’s human rights violations,” he added.

Maj-Gen Htay Oo, Minister for Agriculture and Irrigation, who arrived in Japan on August 20, has kept his visit low profile. However, Mizzima reported on his trip before his departure from Rangoon.

In another incident, at least 80 Burmese pro-democracy activists held demonstrations on Monday in front of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, protesting against welcoming members of the junta and the leader of the USDA, which was founded by the military regime.

The demonstrators also called for the immediate release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.

The USDA, a civilian organization, which was founded basically to help the people, has become infamous among the Burmese people as members of the organization are used by the ruling regime to suppress dissidents and political opponents.

USDA members were allegedly behind the brutal attack on the motorcade of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at Debayin town in central Burma, while she was on a political tour in May 2003.

During the September monk-led protests, the USDA members were used by the junta to crackdown on demonstrating crowds.

Burma’s military supremo Senior General Than Shwe is the patron of the USDA, which is supposed to play a leading political role in the forthcoming 2010 general elections.


Army torches over 300 houses of ethnic Shan

by Myo Gyi
Monday, 24 August 2009 22:22

Ruili (Mizzima) – Over 300 houses were torched last month by local Burmese Army columns from townships in southern Shan State, the armed ethnic Shan group statement said.

A statement issued by the 'Restoration Council of Shan State' (RCSS) on August 21 said six Burmese Army battalions set over 300 houses on fire since July 27. RCSS is the political wing of the 'Shan State Army' (South) – SSA-S.

"We want the international community, especially ASEAN and UN human rights organizations to know about the human rights violations in Burma. This statement urges and reminds the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) military clique to stop its human rights violations committed on both Shan people and the entire Burmese people," the SSA-S spokesman Sai Lao Sai told Mizzima. SSA-S has been waging war against the junta for the right to self-determination.

Following clashes between the junta's army and SSA-S in central Shan State last month, the Burmese Army destroyed the villages for their alleged role in supporting Shan rebels by setting their houses on fire in keeping with its four-cuts policy, which includes cutting off communication channels between the villagers and the rebel army.

Over 40 villages, which were forcibly relocated, are from Meng Neng, Kehsi, Meng Kai, Leikha, Panlong, Nam Pan, Mone and Kun Hein in southern Shan State. Villagers from these villages now have to roam and hide in the dense forests, spokesman Sai Lao Sai said.

About 42 houses were burnt down in Tatmauk and Wan Ho Lone villages in Leikha Township by army columns led by Maj. Kyaw Thu Hla and Maj. Zaw Myo from IB 12 under the command of LIB 88, the local villagers said.

In a separate video report sent by Mizzima undercover reporters, 154 houses could be seen torched on July 29 in Hokhe village, Meng Kai Township. It left 641 people homeless.

The villagers fled without being able to take any belongings. Among the losses were a small rice mill, six motorcycles, one hand tractor with a trailer and 50 oxen pulled carts.

The homeless people had to take refuge at the monasteries in nearby villages or stay with their relatives.

"They could not bring anything with them except some pots and some clothes. All the paddy was burnt down along with their houses," an undercover Mizzima reporter, who watched the carnage, said in his report from Burma.

Sai Lao Sai said that they had already compiled the human right violations report with facts and figures committed in Shan State from 1996 to 2008. "In their four-cuts campaign, the junta systematically commits human rights violations against the Shan people. This had forced nearly 1,000 villages to be relocated. Nearly 2 million ethnic Shan people are homeless and displaced.

At least 718 women were sexually assaulted and 12 women were killed in sexual violence in Shan State from 1996 to 2005, the RCSS statement said.

Dengue kills three, afflicts over 300 in Arakan State

by Mizzima News
Monday, 24 August 2009 21:06

New Delhi (mizzima) – At least three people have died and 329 people infected with dengue fever this year in Sittwe and Kyaukphyu of Arakan State in western Burma, according to information from the Ministry of Health.

According to the ministry of health, two people in Sittwe, capital of Arakan state, have died and another in Kyaukphyu town.

"Though dengue is not very dangerous yet two people died in our town scaring people. There are many dengue afflicted child patients in hospital but I cannot tell the exact number. Besides, there are many more unreported cases in the villages. The villagers cannot afford treatment at the hospital. Only the affluent in the town can get admitted to the hospital.

"Dengue has infected not only children but adults as well. There are many people from different age groups being treated at our hospital. Most patients are children and the fever lasts less than a week after which the patient is out of danger," a doctor in Sittwe Hospital said.

But some patients need to be treated for over a week.

"My daughter had dengue since the beginning of this month and was hospitalized as soon as she was infected. Now she has been discharged. Though her condition has improved she has not yet fully recovered. She has been absent from school for over two weeks," a mother of a child patient in Sittwe told Mizzima.

Teachers are worried about their students as many are absent from schools.

"There are many children who cannot come to school because of the flu. Their friends say they either have flu or dengue fever. Some could not come to school for a whole month. We are worried about their education given the long absence from classes," a class teacher in the State High School No. 2 in Sittwe told Mizzima.

Though the symptoms of this disease are coughing, sneezing, fever and body ache but in this type of influenza, similar symptoms are not found, and there are only sudden high fever plus headaches.

Rash, bleeding from the nose and gums, blood stains in the urine and stool were found in these patients. Patients are known to become unconscious, have convulsions, perspire with high fever, vomit continuously and suffer from shock.

Dengue fever cases were also reported in Pyi, Pa-an in Karen State and Htantalan town in Chin State.

The Health Ministry release said that about 30 people die of dengue fever in Rangoon annually.


Aung San Suu Kyi worse off this time in detention: lawyer

by Phanida
Monday, 24 August 2009 20:28

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Detained Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s situation under house arrest this time around is worse than her earlier term, her lawyer Nyan Win said.

The Burmese opposition leader was escorted back to her lakeside house on August 11, after her three-year prison with hard labour was commuted to 18 months.

“But since her return, the situation under which she is detained seems to be far more complicated and is worse than her earlier house arrest term,” said Nyan Win, who is also the spokesperson for her party – the National League for Democracy.

He said, the eight-point condition imposed on her by the regime is amorphous and has created far more confusion.

“We don’t know if she can accept guests or whether the guests have to first seek permission. Even we, her lawyers, are not sure of the implications of the eight-point condition,” Nyan Win said.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s sentence was commuted from three years with hard labour by an executive order from the junta supremo Snr Gen Than Shwe, which was read out in the court on August 11. The order also imposed eight conditions that she had to abide by.

Than Shwe’s order, however, said she could be released if she is found serving her suspended sentence without violating the conditions.

The eight-point condition includes living in her lakeside house, freedom to stroll in the compound of her house, receiving medical treatment, receiving guests with prior permission from the authorities, allowed to watch Myanmar Television (MRTV), allowed to read books and journals and newspapers published after censorship and allowed to write to authorities if she wanted to do anything and seeking the permission of the concerned authorities before doing anything.

Nyan Win said the conditions are confusing and unclear. But he said, these points clearly indicate that the government wants Aung San Suu Kyi to steer clear of politics.

On August 11, the pro-democracy leader was visited by a physician sent by the government for a health check up, Nyan Win said.

“I don’t know if the doctor had examined her [Aung San Suu Kyi], but what she told us is that she had requested the authorities to send her family doctor Dr. Tin Myo Win,” Nyan Win said.

Following her return to her lakeside home, authorities removed two other workers living inside the compound of her house and only allowed her two party housemates – Khin Khin Win and Win Ma Ma – to stay with her.


Old currency notes can cause infection: Doctors

by Mizzima News
Monday, 24 August 2009 19:53

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Old and worn out currency notes in circulation in Burma can cause serious health hazards through infection, doctors said.

The doctors said bacteria, viruses and protozoa besides many kinds of bacteria, which can cause itching, can be found on the torn and worn out currency notes.

"Handling torn and old currency notes can lead to respiratory infectious diseases, skin diseases such as ring worms and sweat fungi. So it is dangerous," Dr. Thiha Maung, Director of the 'National Health and Education Committee', an organization in exile, said.

He advises people to wash their hands and take care not to inhale the gas emanating from torn and old currency notes.

In former capital Rangoon too, people have no choice but use worn out notes.

The old currency notes may not cause as much harm to healthy young people and the middle aged but it can affect the health of babies, the elderly and pregnant women. So the vulnerable sections need to take care while handling old notes.

"It's better to wear surgical masks when counting such notes and then wash your hands," a doctor from Asia Tawwin Hospital in Sanchaung Township in Rangoon said.

Beginning last month, torn and old currency notes can be exchanged with new ones at the Myanmar Central Bank, Currency Department Counter on the corner of Strand Road and Bo Sun Pet Road and branches of the Myanmar Economic Bank.

But the number of torn notes, which can be exchanged with new ones, is limited to only 10 pieces a head. People want the government to raise the limit, it is learnt.

Censorship Board bans Phoenix

by Phanida & Nem Davies
Monday, 24 August 2009 16:54

Chiang Mai & New Delhi (Mizzima) - Burma’s Censorship Board banned the Rangoon-based Weekly Journal, Phoenix on August 21, citing violation of censorship rules and regulations.

The Censorship Board, under the Burmese Ministry of Information, said that the weekly journal, published every Thursday, has been banned as the publication was found to have violated the rules set by the board.

“Yes, it has been put up on the notice board that the weekly has been banned from publishing,” said an official at the Board, but declined to provide details of the violation of the rules.

However, an official at the Phoenix Journal said, “Our officials are still trying to negotiate to get back the license for publication. But, there are only about 30 per cent chances that we will be allowed to publish.”

Phoenix, which has been into publication only for about seven months, was also banned earlier from publishing one of its issues, which carried news and articles sensitive to censorship.

The notice, which was undersigned by the Director of the Censorship Board, Maj Tint Swe, states that the weekly was banned for violating the rules and regulations of censorship time and again. The notice was circulated on August 20, and on August 21 and was put up on the notice board.

The publisher of the Weekly Phoenix Journal is a former Air force officer. It is published by Maj Mar-J, who is also popularly known as writer Mar-J. He was removed from his official post after writing satires on the Burmese junta’s shifting of the capital to Naypyitaw. Besides, his writings were also banned from being published in any other journals or publications.

“It is like he [Mar-J] had been marked. And when the journal violated the rules, it gave the authorities an opportunity to get even with him. If we had worked within the framework of the rules, I do not think there would be any problems,” an editor with another local weekly journal in Rangoon told Mizzima.

Sources close to the Phoenix Journal said as the publication was banned, nearly 20 employees of the journal are in a crisis, as they are no longer employed.