Friday, April 30, 2010

‘Bomb scares’ spur 80pc drop in trade fair turnout

Friday, 30 April 2010 01:02 Myo Thein

Rangoon (Mizzima) - Turnout at the “Lifestyle and IT 2010” exhibition, which started on Wednesday at the Tatmadaw (Armed Forces) Hall in Rangoon, has seen an 80 per cent drop in visitor numbers compared with other trade fairs held this year, organisers say.
About 10,000 visitors registered on the first day of this four-day show. Previous fairs this year saw 50,000 participants daily, a staff member of the organiser, Milky Way International, said. The show was opened by Rangoon Command chief Major General Win Myint and Lieutenant General Myint Swe from the Ministry of Defence.

“We arranged detailed security measures for this exhibition. I think the people are scared after recent bomb blasts. Even on the opening day, only few visitors came,” the Milky Way staff member said. lifestyle-it2010exhibition1s

There are more than 100 exhibitions by more than 50 companies, displaying computer goods, electrical appliances, furniture, clothes, foodstuffs and general merchandise. Products are available for sale.

Due to the low visitor turnout, a number of company representatives said the show would be unprofitable and that they would probably not cover costs.

“I think the bomb threat has driven people away from crowded places. Another possible factor is the high daytime temperature, which forces people to stay at home”, a marketing manager with a prominent computer exhibitor said.

Most visitors are interested only in product promotions, which are “half-entertainment” by models and dance troupes, the manager said.

Only a few DVD players, televisions, electronic products, cosmetic items and low-priced household goods were sold on opening day, another exhibitor said.

A woman selling food in front of the exhibition hall said: “I hired this space for my restaurant at the price of 250,000 Kyats (US$250) for the four days. I earned only about 30,000 [by end of trading] … Visitors come in dribs and drabs only.

“At this rate, I’m going to lose a lot in my business,” she said.

Social work to go on without party’s name, NLD says

Friday, 30 April 2010 00:05 Myint Maung

New Delhi (Mizzima) - The main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, will carry out social work among the people by officially registered with the authority concerned, but not in the party’s name, the party’s vice-chairman says.
National League for Democracy (NLD) vice-chairman Tin Oo told Mizzima the group would avoid using any name containing “NLD”.
“We won’t take names like Social Aid Group NLD or Legal Aid Group NLD. If we took such names … the authority concerned would not accept [registration] by accusing us of conducting party activities under these names. It would be against the law,” he said.

The party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) meeting held at party headquarters in Bahan Township today passed the resolution. It was attended by all members except party general secretary Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest, and other sick members, chairman Aung Shwe and secretary U Lwin. Committee member Lun Tin was also absent.

“We need to be registered under the existing ‘Associations Act’ in Burma … Even if we cannot register our work, we shall continue our work based on our own spirit and will”, Tin Oo said.

NLD party has decided pulled out of the elections and said it would start social work after May 6 when the party expires as a legal entity under the new electoral laws.

But members at the CEC meeting on Monday had failed to reach a decision on whether the party’s name would be used in future party social work.

Besides continuing social work assisting families of political prisoners, caring for HIV/Aids patients and providing legal aid for the redress of grievances; the party would assist other democratic forces, the party decided.

The party also decided to issue guiding directives to all party branches in States and Divisions on the party’s stance.

“We instructed our party states and division branches against voluntarily lowering our party flags and removing party signboards. And we told them to pack our belongings and destroy unnecessary party documents, to keep all financial accounts according to law and to settle all accounts before the expiry date,” Tin Oo said. “We also instructed them to settle [all matters] with the landlords of our party offices in a peaceful manner in accordance with local conditions at each and every branch.”

There are more than 300 party branches in states, divisions and townships across Burma.
Thursday, April 29, 2010

Migrants lose money, peace of mind in Thai protests

Thursday, 29 April 2010 18:58 Usa Pichai

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Migrant workers who work near the sites of now six-week old political protests in Bangkok have suffered financial losses and raised stress levels by security restrictions from both government security officials and the anti-government “red-shirt” demonstrators.
International Rescue Committee advocacy officer Adisorn Kerdmongkol told Mizzima the majority of migrant workers in Bangkok were not directly affected by the protests but that they were obstructed from work and feared travelling around the city, especially near the main demonstration site at the Ratchaprasong intersection in the city’s biggest shopping district. Mr. Adisorn works closely with migrants from Thailand’s neighbours.

“There is a migrant learning centre near the demonstration area but workers can’t attend classes and fear leaving their accommodations,” he said.

Mr. Adisorn said migrants workers just want to work in Thailand and want to stay away from the unrest as they were aware of government concerns about migrants taking part in protests.

Since the demonstration started last month, the authorities have urged employers of migrant workers to monitor their employees to ensure they refrain from joining political movements after claims by security officials that some groups have brought in migrant workers to fill their ranks.

The Ministry of Labour also warned migrant workers that if officials found them participating in internal political movements their temporary permission to live in Thailand would be revoked.

Wanchai, an ethnic-Mon worker in a small restaurant near Ratchaprasong said the several checkpoints set up by officials made it difficult for him to travel to work. “Even though I have a work permit they asked many questions that made me scared,” he said.
He could continue to work, he said, but a number of construction labourers in the area had to stop work because they were prevented from taking tools and equipment to building sites.

“It made them worried because they are losing pay, which is handed out on a daily basis. The violence also made us worried about safety,” he said.

Red-shirts demonstrators had also set up checkpoints and barricades on streets leading to the protest sites to screen people and protect themselves from other groups, the police and the army.

According to Ministry of Labour estimates, 200,000 migrants mainly from Burma work in Bangkok.

However, the political turmoil has spread to several other provinces.

A Shan construction worker in Chiang Mai said police had stepped up inspections of trucks that carry them to work on construction sites.

“Many of us who don’t have work documents are scared to leave home because the restrictions are greater,” the Shan worker said.

Officials have increased restrictions on people’s movements and weapons searches after several bomb attacks in crowded places, including a department store and outside the Chiang Mai Administrative Court this month.

The ministry said it would support small-to-large enterprises in the business sector and aid at least 20,000 workers affected by the crisis, with relief funds to compensate those laid off or who have suffered wage cuts.

Report outlines regime’s post-Nargis ‘failure’

Thursday, 29 April 2010 22:50 Thomas Maung Shwe

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - A report just issued by New York-based Human Rights Watch sharply counters claims made by some that following Cyclone Nargis there was a general opening of space across Burma.
Human Rights Watch notes in its extensive research that despite making some significant gains in fixing areas severely affected by the cyclone the “Burmese government continues to deny basic freedoms and place undue restrictions on aid.”

The rights body’s deputy Asia director, Elaine Pearson, said: “Two years after one of the world’s worst natural disasters, local aid workers still feel the brunt of continued repression by the military authorities.”

She added: “Intense international pressure pushed the military government to open the door to foreign aid agencies, but Burma’s generals have kept it shut for domestic critics, many of whom remain in prison for speaking out for fellow citizens in need.”

The interviews and evidence presented in the report paints a stark picture of life in Nargis-affected areas where the Burmese regime’s dictatorial and corrupt methods have severely hampered a rapid recovery.

One of those interviewed for the report was Khin Mar Wai (not her real name), a young woman from an isolated village in Laputta Township.

She failed to receive any assistance of any kind for more than a month after the cyclone and told an interviewer: “No one came to rescue us. When we heard there were donations in other villages we went there and begged for food. We begged from the cars passing on the road. We got [into] trouble from the authorities ... we ran to the cars and asked for donations. Later we were forced to return to our village by the authorities. They said the local officials would come [and] give us donations. We were threatened that we would be arrested if we did not return.”

Her story and the many others presented in the report offer a stark contrast to the glowing claims of some international NGOs who praised the post-Nargis conduct of the Burmese regime. Last May, in an interview in The New York Times, Oxfam’s former Burma policy adviser Lilianne Fan optimistically claimed that with regards to Nargis, the “overall response of the government has been remarkable”. Fan went as far as to suggest that those in the regime “are ‘getting it’ more and more each day that they are involved in the recovery process”.

The report exposes the Burmese military regime’s obsession with conducting what the group called a “sham” constitutional referendum in the wake of the worst natural disaster to hit the country in decades. A young woman from Dedaye Township described the referendum process to Human Rights Watch this way: “I have no idea what the constitution is. But we did vote after Nargis. We were told just to cast a ‘Yes’ vote. I don’t know how the result came out. At the time, people were struggling hard to survive. We just did what we were told.”

Documented in the report are the great lengths the Burmese regime undertook to deter private individuals from helping their fellow citizens. “Notice to Philanthropists, Donors” is the title of one of the regime’s pamphlets distributed in Nargis-affected areas that is featured in the report. The pamphlet strongly discourages private donors from giving assistance to those affected by the cyclone claiming that doing so “destroys people’s motivation to return to their previous vocations”.

It is a fitting tribute that the report takes its title from an interview comedian and relief activist Zargana gave with exile media just before his arrest in June 2008.

“I want to save my own people. That’s why we go with any donations we can get. But the government doesn’t like our work. It is not interested in helping people. It just wants to tell the world and the rest of the country that everything is under control and that it has already saved its people.”

The much-loved comedian was jailed for 35 years after “illegally” delivering aid to victims of the cyclone.

Locals interrogated on Myitsone bomb blasts

Thursday, 29 April 2010 21:51 Salai Han Thar San

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Local people from three nearby villages are being interrogated in connection with the serial bomb blasts in Myitsone, Kachin State, by the army unit based in the area.
The local Burmese Army Infantry Battalion 29 (IB 29) summoned villagers and questioned them in connection with the series of blasts in the Asia World company office building at the Myitsone hydropower project site and two nearby villages on April 17.

“People from every house in our village are being questioned. They are being asked whether they knew the bomber or heard the bomb blasts. They called us to Asia World office building and questioned us there,” a woman villager from Tan Paye village near Myitsone, who was interrogated, told Mizzima.

Similarly villagers from Kyein Karan and Lone Karzuap villages are being questioned, it is learnt.

Four bombs exploded in Long Karzuap based Asia World Company’s office building, six miles south of Myitsone dam project, on the morning of April 17. Eight bombs exploded in Tan Paye village and two exploded in Kyein Karan village the same day.

An engineer was injured in the blasts and five heavy duty trucks carrying quarry material and two bulldozers were damaged but no arrests have been made yet.

Since the blasts, curfew has been imposed after 9 p.m. in the villages and many checkpoints erected on the way to Myitsone from Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State. A villager from Myitsone (Tan Paye) said that all travellers on the road were being questioned and stringent checks made. Myitsone hydropower project, which will be the biggest in Burma with a generating capacity of 3500 MW is being constructed jointly by Asia World Company, junta’s No. 1 Ministry of Industry and China Power Investment Corporation (CPI) since last year.

Over 60 villages upstream of Myitsone dam project site have to be relocated. Since over 20 villages and even Myitkyina are at risk should the dam collapse, local people and environmentalists are demanding a halt to the project.

At least five bomb explosions occurred elsewhere in Burma this month.

DVB reporter’s appeal rejected

Thursday, 29 April 2010 20:46 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - A reporter for a non-profit media organisation lost her appeal in the Magway Division Court against a jail term of more than a quarter of a century handed down in Pakokku, her lawyer said yesterday.
Hla Hla Win, video reporter for the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), based in Norway, was sentenced to 27 years in Myitkyina prison in Kachin State. Oral arguments of lawyers from both sides on her appeal against the decision handed down in a Pakokku court were heard on April 5 and the court rejected her appeal yesterday.

“The court said upheld the decision of the Pakokku court, thus rejecting the appeal,” Shwe Hla, Hla Hla Win’s lawyer said

Hla Hla Win was sentenced 20 years for violating the draconian Electronics Act and the Video Act, 505 (b) and seven years for violating the Import-Export Act, 5 (1) (for riding an unlicensed motorcycle).

Her lawyer said he would lodge an appeal with the Mandalay Division Supreme Court. “My client did not commit any illegal act. So, the decisions of the inferior courts are unfair,” he said. “After we have copied the judgments of the inferior courts, we will try to get the deserved legal right .We will point out that the inferior courts’ decisions were unlawful, and continue pursuing legal proceedings in this case.”

New Mon State Party prepares for war

Thursday, 29 April 2010 00:07 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - The New Mon State Party is making preparations in case war breaks out between it and the Burmese Army, after its militia under ceasefire rejected the junta’s order for it to be brought under the command of the Border Guard Force, a spokesman said.
The junta had given the party until April 22 to respond to its offer of a place for the party’s militia in the new guard force. The party rejected the offer and since has secured all documents from its communication offices and ceased their operations except for those in Moulmein, in preparation for a crackdown, party spokesman Naing Chay Mon said.

“We answered the junta at the deadline on April 22 that we could not accept their proposal. So, we have closed the offices so that if the junta takes action against our organisation, most of our members will not be left in the area,” he said.

He said Rangoon, Ye Township, Myawaddy Township, Three Pagodas Pass and Than Phyu Za Yap offices have been closed, and only two staff members are left in charge at Moulmein, capital of Mon State.

The party agreed to a ceasefire with the junta in 1995, after which the offices were opened for bilateral communications with the government. Its rights to do business were revoked, so the party had no concerns about economic loss from the closures, former party member Naing Tin Aung said.

“We had invested heavily in timber businesses. Later [some years after the ceasefire], the government revoked our permits to conduct those businesses. So, we have nothing to lose from the closures,” he said.

After initial years of ceasefire, the party also ran bus lines and import-export businesses but those permits were also revoked later by the regime.

Tension was building between the junta and the New Mon State Party and both sides were preparing for possible armed clashes, political analyst Aung Thu Nyein in Thailand said.

The junta has three military units and one military operations command centre at Ye.

It also has three units at Three Pagodas Pass, the South Eastern Command is at Moulmein, and many military units are positioned between Moulmein and Mu Done Township.

About 700 soldiers from the party control all or parts of the following areas: Moulmein District, Tavoy District, Tha Htone District, Bahoquin at the top of Ye stream and Three Pagodas Pass.

Sources said that more than 400 villagers from Toehaparouk, Ani, Chelltike, Waisin and Naungbwae in Ye Township had fled to the Hlokhani Mon refugee camp on the Thai-Burmese border on April 25 because the worry about war.

Mon separatists formed the Mon Peoples Front, which was later superseded by the New Mon State Party (NMSP) in 1962. Since 1949, the eastern hills of the state (as well as portions of Thaninthaya Division) have been under control of the NMSP.

The NMSP was formed in 1958 and they continued the for self-determination and the rights of other ethnic minorities.

Many Mon were against the 1995 ceasefire agreement, but the NMSP convinced them to try a political compromise with the regime. In 2003, the party joined the national constitutional convention, where it proposed that the junta create a federal union of Burma. The junta turned down the proposal, and in 2007 the party sent only observers to the convention. NMSP leaders say the 2008 constitution is undemocratic, allowing for no ethnic rights.

Moderate quake wakes Sittwe

Thursday, 29 April 2010 20:23 Khaing Suu

New Delhi (Mizzima) - A 5.5 magnitude earthquake struck southeast of the coastal city of Sittwe, in the western state of Arakan (Rakhine) last night, a local resident and US geologists say.
The quake struck at 12:31 a.m. and was centered 55 miles (90 kilometres) southeast of Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State, 21.5 miles (35 kilometres) underground, according to the website of the United States Geological Survey.

“Nothing was damaged. It struck and the room was shaking, which woke us from our sleep, so we got up to watch the scene”, a resident from Kyaung Tak street, Sittwe told Mizzima in a phone interview.

No immediate tsunami warning was issued and there were no immediate reports of damage, the US geologists said.

The last quake reported to have struck the state was a 20-second, magnitude 5 tremor that hit Maungdaw District in November 2007. One child was killed.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010

PM and cabinet ministers resign from military posts

Wednesday, 28 April 2010 22:22 Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Twenty-two of the junta’s cabinet ministers including Prime Minister Thein Sein resigned from their military posts this week, in what is seen by observers as paving the way for them to join the new “civilian” government.
Sources close to the authorities told Mizzima that the list included Agriculture and Irrigation Minister Major General Htay Oo (General Secretary of Union Solidarity and Development Association - USDA); Rail Transport Minister Major General Aung Min; Commerce Minister Brigadier General Tin Naing Thein; No. 1 Electrical Power Minister Colonel Zaw Min; No.2, Major General Khin Maung Myint; and Deputy Home Minister Brigadier General Phone Swe.

Though the junta failed to officially announce the resignations, today’s issues of state-run papers first referred to the prime minister as U Thein Sein, omitting his former military rank of general. “U” is the equivalent of Mr. in Burmese.

Opposition activists and political observers see the resignations as a sign the ministers are set to run in upcoming elections to seats in the new “civilian government”. They predicted that the ministers would soon start campaigning openly.

A military source said that another batch of military officers of remaining ministers and deputy ministers would soon resign from their military posts.

Opposition groups and critics said the junta was using the polls to ensure a favourable outcome in the polls and maintain a tight grip on power. As per the 2008 constitution, 25 per cent of seats are reserved for military personnel in all legislatures, namely the People’s Parliament (lower house), the National Parliament (upper house), and the States and Regions Parliament (state assembly).

The act of resigning from military posts means they will not be included in the 25 per cent quota.

The as yet undated polls will be the first since those of 1990, which were won in a massive landslide by the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

Longing for my home

Wednesday, 28 April 2010 13:55 Hnin Pan Eain

(Mizzima) - On the 14th Waxing of Kasone, the moon looks down on our refugee camp and splashes its light upon us. The breeze blowing from Noe Boe Mountain just after the rain brings the scented smell of earth. I recollect Myoma Nyein’s ‘Let’s stay two of us alone under the moonlight’, thinking of the Maha Myaing forest and the reflection of moonlight in the Irrawaddy.
But there’s no chit-chat under the moonlight here. There’s no spacious ground for us to freely enjoy. There’s no one roaming after 9 o’clock in the night as a standing curfew is imposed. Everybody in the refugee camp has to stay in their huts. Some try to fall asleep, while some who cannot sleep try to interpret the lyrics of Myoma Nyein’s ‘Two of us alone’. In this way, the entire refugee camp is silent and quiet and eventually falls asleep as the full moon slowly rises.

Under such moonlight my son and I once slept on a riverboat on the Chindwin after visiting Kalemyo prison to meet my imprisoned husband. The waves on the river rocked the boat which lulled to sleep my son. Though my son fell asleep I could not sleep on that night because of worrying about my beloved husband languishing in jail and our future. I cried silently. The thought of being unable to look at the moon and my husband from the same roof deeply hurt me. The full moon of Tazaungmone (November) only worsened my pining and longing.

Small huts lined the banks of the Chindwin in the reed forest; the lanterns on fishing boats flickering in the dark. Zats (theatrical companies) were performing their dances and drama so the boatmen informed us that we would make a stopover to enjoy the festival. Passengers heartily welcomed the news. But the deeply wearied mother and son could not enjoy the Zats. I stayed to spend the night on the boat along with the old women.

In the monsoon season, travelling the Chindwin is perilous because of the notorious whirlpools. Boatmen run their engines slowly when they reach these whirlpools and passengers pray to gods and deities for their lives, feeding all the water creatures inhabiting the depths to insure safe passage.

Though fearsome of swelling water in the rainy season, the river is lovely. A baritone Zat performer sang in a sad voice and his song reached our boat, carried by the autumn breeze. The song was ‘Letwei Thone Dara’.

In the wilderness even the sun’s rays can’t penetrate, live in sadness and depression
Tall trees, big trees and under all of these trees
Whoever enters this wilderness will be in fear and be thrilled
Misty and cloudy everywhere
I’m longing for my home and the palace.

The song made all of us on the boat cry. When dawn broke our motorboat departed the small village. Then the boatman sang ‘Letwei Thone Dara’ again. Amidst laughter, passengers told him the motor was not driven by diesel but by tears flowing from the passengers listening to his sweet and sad song.

But years later, when I reached the refugee camp, I realized that life is interwoven by what we want it to be, what we do not want it to be, what is impossible and what is not impossible.

In our new life all news is essential for us. We have to listen to the news on our situation, the opinions of donor countries and the political situation in our home country.

One news report said refugees in Thailand since 1983 have become a burden for donors around the world. So, after the 2010 general election all refugees will be sent back to their home country. As this news directly is concerned the fate and destiny of all refugees staying in the camp, the news quickly spread. After hearing this news, people had to consider if they should continue mending their homes. They said to each other, ‘Let me stay next door to you in Naypyitaw (the new capital built by the generals) when we are repatriated. Let us not part ways.’

Meanwhile, resettlement interviews are an examination of entire lives. Answers in these examinations and sudden changes of laws in third countries can put the resettlement process on hold without any prior notice. Some unlucky refugees are confronted with fingerprints matching those of criminals in third countries. Then they have to wait until all pending cases can be cleared if they are ever to be resettled.

I once said every time I receive refugee benefits I feel my dignity and self-esteem torn apart, given as a price for these benefits. I had to wait over a year to get food rations in this camp. I feel extremely sorry whenever my life is priced with a packet of rice and a liter of cooking oil. Though we are getting rice, oil and charcoal as food rations, we have to find meat and vegetables ourselves.
We cannot work outside the camp and there are few chances to work inside the camp. A young Pa-O lady remarked, “After some time living in this way, life becomes similar to a cow in the cow shed, which forgets how to work.” So our only way out is from asking for help from friends resettled in third countries. The whole camp is noisy with phone calls made to parents, relatives and friends sending their SOS messages.

The meat available in our refugee camp is frozen meat, while vegetables are scarce and expensive. Sometimes we long for eating freshwater fish and fruits. There are no seasonal fruits and vegetables here. We cannot know the season by seeing the seasonal flowers.

We used to live under the shade of our parents and relatives in our homes. Our country has priceless natural resources. Our countrymen have patriotism. Refugees are looking forward to the restoration of democracy in Burma and the release of all political prisoners including our democracy icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. After toppling the military dictatorship we shall march together to our new country built on genuine democracy. And these are the aspirations of all people in our country, not only us refugees.
The most pining thing on our minds are the pagodas in our land. On auspicious occasions we visited these pagodas and performed meritorious deeds. But in this refugee life we have no pagodas, no gilded archways, no bells under the htis (umbrellas on top of pagodas) and no lion statues guarding over the entrances.

While we are living away from our traditions we awake to the report of gunfire at wee hours instead of sweet drumbeats and song. Everybody is scared. We have heard such gunfire many times in our country too, during the Rangoon University massacre, 8888 uprising and Saffron Revolution.

We have nowhere to flee to from this camp. We have to wait until the day breaks to enquire about the gunfire. We cannot beat gongs in this camp to alert friends and neighbors. We cannot call out for help from here.

Under the moonlit clear sky of Kasone I travel in my mind everywhere. Fist travelling on the Chindwin River and then walking in the Sagaing mountain range, visiting Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon and the Maha Myat Muni gilded Buddha in Mandalay. I am lying in the small hut built in this refugee camp in the deep forest surrounded by many mountains accessible only by crossing many mountains and river valleys. This is the Mae Zar of neither Letwei Thone Dara nor writer Dagon Tarya. This is my own Mae Zar.

Pining to my home town far away from here
Father of yours who pampered you
Now living in this remote land as punishment for the sins committed in my past life.

I again hear this song in my mind that once deeply moved my heart when travelling in a boat on the Chindwin River.
If I could, I would have returned to my county long before.

Pressure mounts on foreign energy firms in Burma to come clean

Wednesday, 28 April 2010 20:07 Larry Jagan and Mizzima News

(In the earlier version of this article published online on April 27 there were several misquotations, errors of concision, errors of fact, a typographical error within a quote and the policy of one company was incorrectly attributed to another. Mizzima deeply regrets these errors, which are detailed in retractions below the following article.)
Bangkok (Mizzima) - International pressure is mounting on multinational oil and gas companies operating in Burma to reveal how much they have paid to the junta over the last 18 years, campaigners say.

Matthew Smith, a campaigner for EarthRights International, which is leading a new campaign to make the oil companies that operate in Burma more transparent, told Mizzima: “These companies should open their books to public scrutiny.”

“Burma is lacking in freedom of information,” he said. “As a result of several complex factors, including billions of dollars in gas revenues, the Burmese regime has remained largely immune to democratic pressures from governments and the people of Burma. Transparency frustrates that phenomenon.

“Everyone would benefit from their [the junta’s] greater transparency and accountability,” Mr Smith said, clarifying that by “everyone” he meant the companies themselves, investors and capital providers and the people of Burma.

The French company, Total, US-based Chevron and Thailand’s PTTEP company are all working with the Burmese government to develop the Yadana gas field in the Andaman Sea, eastern Burma, and the pipeline that connects the project to Thailand.

They are being urged to set an example for all international oil and gas companies operating inside the country and reveal how much they have paid the regime in taxes, royalties, fees and benefits since they started the project in 1992.

“This could provide a model for the future and help set international standards and practises for the country’s lucrative oil and gas industry,” Naing Htoo, also of EarthRights, told the press conference for the campaign’s launch in Bangkok.

All the companies involved in this sector are foreign owned but co-operate with the Burmese government and local companies. Burma’s oil and gas industry creates more than 60 per cent of the country’s national income - estimated to be more than US$3 billion a year. The junta is taking most of this, the campaigners say.

Through currency-exchange manipulation and fraudulent activities - less than 1 per cent of this ends up in the government’s coffers for use on education, health and social provisions. Since the Yadana project started producing gas in 2000, until 2008, it has generated more than US$7 billion, of which nearly US$5 billion went to the junta. Most of that share has ended up in secret accounts at two banks in Singapore, Mr Smith said.

This kind of secrecy also contributes to repression. The massive militarisation and excessive human rights abuses in the areas where there are oil and gas projects, according to Wong Aung of the Shwe Gas Movement, which monitors developments in Burma. “Land confiscation and forced labour are routine in these areas,” he said.

In the past month, more than a thousand villagers in the country’s west near the new Chinese pipeline project have been forced to sign away their land without compensation - leaving them destitute and hungry with no prospect of planting their normal rice crop in the coming season, according to the Shwe group.

“In too many countries, dictators use the country’s natural-resource wealth to keep themselves in power,” Professor Michael Ross, a political scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the United States, said. “Revenue secrecy makes that possible - revenue transparency can help to change that.”

The campaign is supported by 160 non-government organisations, labour unions, investment firms, scholars and policymakers, including the former prime minister of Norway Kjell Magne Bondevik and the former president of Ireland and former head of the UN Human Rights Council, Mary Robinson.

Mr Smith said two of the companies involved in the Yadana project, Total and Chevron, had supported revenue transparency through the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). The World-Bank-endorsed EITI sets a global standard for transparency in oil, gas and mining, with the goal of making natural resources benefit all. It is a “coalition of governments, companies and civil society” that sets a standard for companies to publish what they pay and for governments to disclose what they receive.

He added that Chevron had practised revenue transparency in Thailand, “so why not [in] Burma?”

Referring to private discussions that Total, the operator of the Yadana project, had had with some of its shareholders, he said: “We’ve been in touch with shareholders who have contacted Total to discuss revenue transparency in Burma, and they were told by Total that the company was contractually restricted from practising transparency in Burma, which is untrue.”

The government and the country could only benefit from these sorts of disclosures, the campaigners said.

“It’s fundamental information for macroeconomic policymaking,” Dr. Sean Turnell, an economist at Macquarie University, Australia, told Mizzima. “It would have an impact on taxation planning, exchange-rate movements and interest rates.”

Burma is routinely listed as the one of the most corrupt countries in the world, and greater scrutiny of oil and gas earnings would improve governance and lead to greater economic stability and development in the long run, according to the campaigners.

This kind of transparency would give Burma a greater chance to avoid being robbed blind by its leaders.

“The people of Burma have a right to know the financial dealings surrounding the country’s natural resources, including payments made from foreign oil companies,” said Mr Htoo.

The activists said this would become even more important if the country did move towards having a civilian government after this year’s planned elections, the activists said.

“Burma’s generals are kleptocrats, and the international community should do all it can to avoid aiding and abetting their larceny,” Dr Turnell said.

Retractions. Some corrections have been made in the text above and the following is a retraction of the most obvious errors.

“The Burmese junta is a bunch of crooks who are pocketing millions of dollars, siphoned off from these oil companies and should be brought to book,” Mr Smith said.

Correction: Matthew Smith states categorically that he never said this.

Out of quotation marks, the story said:

The key company in this conglomerate, Chevron, already practises revenue transparency in many of its other operations worldwide, including developing countries.

Correction: Chevron is not the “key company”, Matthew Smith told Mizzima, adding: “Total is the operator of the Yadana project and Chevron does not practice revenue transparency in many of its other operations worldwide - I did not say they did.”

“All we are asking them to do is to follow this practice, which they themselves extol,” Mr Smith said. “At previous shareholders’ meetings the company’s senior executives have said that the confidentiality clause in their contracts with the Burmese regime prevents them disclosing this kind of revenue information.” … “This is patently untrue,” said Mr Smith.

Correction: Matthew Smith states categorically that he never said this. Further amendment of what was said is included in text above.

A point regarding Total and Chevron:

Correction: Matthew Smith states Total not Chevron was the subject of discussion. “We have no information that suggests Chevron told investors they cannot practice transparency in Burma,” he has said since the article was published.

“The people of Burma have a right to know the financial dealings surrounding the country’s natural resources, including payments made to foreign oil companies,” said Mr Htoo.

Correction: This should have read “from foreign oil companies”, Matthew Smith said in response to the published article.

Win Tin unhappy over EU parleys with junta

Wednesday, 28 April 2010 13:09 Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Though European Union’s extension of its existing economic sanctions against Burma for one more year was welcomed by the National League for Democracy (NLD), Win Tin, a senior leader was unhappy with its decision to continue parleys with the junta.
“When we wanted them to apply more pressure on the junta, they still wanted to talk with the regime. We are unhappy with this,” Win Tin a Central Executive Committee member of NLD said.

Given that the appalling human rights situation has not shown any improvement, European Union foreign ministers decided to extend sanctions against military-ruled Burma for one more year at a meeting in Luxemberg on April 26. At the same time the meeting decided to send a diplomatic mission to Burma for parleys with the junta.

Western countries should persuade veto power holders like China and Russia to take practical actions on Burma through the United Nations Security Council, such as weapons sanctions and strong diplomatic pressure, Win Tin said.

EU had imposed sanctions against Burma since 1996. These include, ban on sale of weapons to Burma, halt to visas for regime officials, their families and their cronies so that they are unable to visit EU countries, stopping aid, except humanitarian aid, sealing bank accounts of Burmese military officials, and restricted diplomatic relations with Burma.

The judges, who initiated legal action against Aung San Suu Kyi were added to the sanction list last year. EU has also called for the unconditional release of political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

However, the chairman of the Union of Myanmar National Political Force, Aye Lwin, who has opposed sanctions by western countries, since 2006, said it is impractical.

“The sanction is a negative approach, where it ignores the political, economical and social opportunities of Burmese people while we proceed towards democracy”, he told Mizzima.

He pointed out that the EU had said the junta’s electoral laws cannot ensure free and fair election, because the NLD and its allies among ethnic parties did not like the electoral laws.

Sanctions affect not only the junta but also the people, so they should revoke the sanction to sympathize with the Burmese people, Aye Lwin added.

“Sanctions are an obstacle to investment and it is negative in nature. If the head of a family has been pushed aside, negative effects will impact his family members,” he said.

Though Win Tin accepts the fact that sanctions can affect the ordinary people, it hurts the junta more, he felt. “Watering a burning house is not enough, sometimes we need to tear and break bamboo walls and roofs,” he said.

London based Burma Campaign (UK), the organization fighting for democracy in Burma, also welcomed the EU’s decision. They said if EU revokes the sanction, the junta will have the opportunity to abuse human rights more freely.

The EU statement welcomed and supported the report of Qunitana, the United Nations human rights envoy to Burma. They urged cooperation with the UN envoy. In Quintana’s report, he urged the UN to consider establishing a Commission of Inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Burmese military junta.

Karen ceasefire group apparently defies junta orders

Wednesday, 28 April 2010 16:40 Mizzima News

Mizzima News - The Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army (KNU/KNLA) Peace Council, an armed ethnic ceasefire group, has apparently defied the Burmese junta’s order to transform into a state militia, saying the junta has not fulfilled its ceasefire agreements.

In a letter to Burmese Chief of Military Intelligence Lieutenant General Ye Myint, Chairman of the KNU/KNLA Peace Council, General Htay Maung, rejected the offer, stipulating that his group would not transform into a “Burma Army Militia Group”.

General Htay Maung’s letter, the authenticity of which could not be verified with KNU/KNLA Peace Council sources at the time of writing, is in response to Lieutenant General Ye Myint’s proposal to the KNU/KNLA Peace Council extended on April 7th at Moulmein in southern Burma.

According to the letter, Lieutenant General Ye Myint held a meeting with representatives of the KNU/KNLA Peace Council on April 7th at which he proposed that the group transform itself, setting a deadline of April 22nd to respond to the proposal.

The KNU/KNLA Peace Council was formerly part of the Karen National Union’s (KNU) 7th Brigade, fighting against successive central Burmese governments for over 60 years.

However, the KNU/KNLA Peace Council broke away from the KNU in February 2007, signing a separate peace deal with the junta.

Htay Maung, in the missive, said his group opposes any kind of military program and that his group would like to maintain peace and stability within Karen State, accusing the junta of breaking their peace agreement by continuing to increase military activities.

“Part of the conditions stated in our peace agreement with you is not to increase military activity or power on either side… but in three years since achieving peace, we have not seen evidence of any benefit on your part towards our Karen people except building houses and roads to enable us to live where we are,” Htay Maung is credited with writing in the correspondence.

During the meeting in Moulmein the Burmese Army threatened the KNU/KNLA Peace Council that it would be declared an ‘illegal’ outfit if the group failed to positively respond by the deadline of April 22nd.

Ye Myint also reportedly cautioned the group not to expand its army and not to maintain contact with any other ethnic group.

Htay Maung, in his replay, said, “I would like to clarify to you that no matter what name you come up with, we will not agree or respond to any kind of military program which disturbs the peace and security of the lives of our Karen.”

He said Karen people are feeling threatened and insecure with all the junta’s ongoing military programs, forcing many to join the KNU/KNLA Peace Council Peace Force for their own defense.

“If it appears that we are increasing our forces it is due to your own military programs, not ours,” allegedly argues Htay Maung.
With regard to the junta’s demand not to meet and talk with the KNU, Htay Maung responded, “We Karen, all of us, are one family. Unity within the Karen is a top priority under the KNU umbrella. Unity among ourselves will only enhance the unity desired for the whole nation. The KNU/KNLA Peace Council holds no enemies.”

The Burmese junta earlier pressured the KNU/KNLA Peace Council to transform into a Border Guard Force under the administration of the Burma Army. But the group also refused that offer.

The KNU, representing the ethnic Karen’s struggle for political autonomy, is the oldest rebel group in Burma. But the group suffered a heavy blow in 1994 when a fraction - the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) - broke away and entered into a peace agreement with the Burmese junta.

The junta has in recent months pressured ethnic ceasefire groups to transform into a Border Guard Force to be administered by the Burma Army, encouraging the groups to join in its planned elections for later this year.

While a few groups, including the DKBA, have consented to the junta’s proposal, major ceasefire groups including the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and United Wa State Army (UWSA) have steadfastly rejected the proposal.

Htay Maung, in the letter, told Ye Myint that Burma today does not need any more military programs and that it is in critical need of peace and development, urging the junta to make the upcoming election inclusive.

“If by our refusal to bow to your military programs you then call us ‘illegal’, and by doing so declare war, you are no longer just faced with a one-party issue but with all the ethnic groups from every corner of Burma,” cautioned Htay Aung.

“Mark my words. The whole world will know who has destroyed the peace and stability of the nation,” he emphasized. “It is your call.”

Suspected artillery strike wounds four at dam project

Wednesday, 28 April 2010 23:52 Myint Maung

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Four workers were injured at the Thaukyegat hydropower project in Htantabin Township after shells believed to be fired by Karen National Union troops fell on the site operated by a subsidiary of Asia World Company, which has close ties to Burma’s ruling junta.
At least two shells hit the site in Pegu (Bago) Division yesterday. The injured were being treated at one of two Taungoo Township hospitals.

“We are not yet clear about [details of] the attack … whether it was a clash or an attack on the project to teach the junta a lesson for going ahead with the project against the wishes of the local people. But there was a skirmish,” KNU Joint Secretary (1) Major Saw Hla Ngwe said.

He said the project had started after land was confiscated from farmers and forced labour was used.

The more than 70 Chinese experts from Yunnan Province who work at the site left after the suspected artillery attack.

A series of blasts hit the Myitsone hydropower project site in Kachin State on April 17, injuring a Chinese engineer.

Both the Thaukyegat and Myitsone projects are managed by Asia World Construction, a subsidiary of Asia World, which is owned by Tun Myint Naing (a.k.a. Steven Law), son of the notorious drug lord Lo Hsing Han.

The parent company is the subject of direct sanctions by the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States over close links to drug-trafficking and the Burmese junta, the governments’ sanctions websites report.

Press Scrutiny and Registration Division director to be promoted

Wednesday, 28 April 2010 12:23 Salai Han Thar San

New Delhi (Mizzima) - The Ministry of Information's Press Scrutiny and Registration Division’s (PSRD) top official, Major Tint Swe, will be promoted to a position within a different department.
As he is to become Deputy Chief Director in another department also under the Ministry of Information, Lieutenant Colonel Myo Myint Aung will assume the position vacated by the departure of Major Tint Swe.

Lieutenant Colonel Myo Myint Aung joined PSRD as a Joint Director. Meanwhile, concerns have arisen over the possibility that rules and regulations governed by the PSRD will become stricter.

“Every time there is a change in the PSRD’s director position there is more censorship regarding the literature and media community. In fact, it would be best if there is nobody to mismanage the post,” commented one experienced magazine editor.

Major Tint Swe has worked as a director in the PSRD since 2005. Prior to joining the PSRD he worked at Myawaddy Magazine House. He has penned some articles under the alias ‘Ye Yint Tint Swe’.

The PSRD censors not only news media, but also songs, religious books, biographies, historical and political works.

Writers, musicians and artists - referencing Japan’s fascist police that occupied much of Burma during World War II - contemptuously refer to the division as “Literature Kempatai”.

Please don't prevent the hearse crossing your ward.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010 14:43 Khaing Suu

Interview with Kyaw Thu

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Kyaw Thu, actor turned founder of free funeral service, has been honoured with the "Citizen of Burma" award by the expatriate Burmese community through online voting.
Burmese communities living in 14 cities in the U.S. have voted to honour several leading social activists with "Citizens of Burma awards" on April 24 this year.

Q: Tell us how you feel on receiving the award?

A: I am glad that the expatriate Burmese acknowledge social workers in the country. I also thank them. I knew I got the award when the free funeral service association from Muse Township telephoned and congratulated me, but I did not believe it. I was sure after reading my e-mail when I got back home. I was informed by the group in the evening.

Q: Why do you think you were honoured?

A: I do my best in my work and carry out my responsibility. I believe I received the award because I adhere to morals while I am working. It is a kind of morale booster for me, like a dose of energetic drug. I will be more committed to my social work.

Q: What do you think of the voting system for the Citizen of Burma Award?

A: "Of course it is a good system. This kind of system is practiced everywhere in the world, except in Burma. For example, our film academy awards are not selected like this. It should follow the selection system of Oscar awards. The academy awards in Burma are so selective and handpicked. The citizen of Burma awards are voted for five from 24 candidates and then one among them is selected.

Q: Whom do you want to thank for this award?

A: I turned myself from film actor into humanitarian worker because of my wife, Shwe Zi Gwet. I got interested in social and religious work because of my son, Pyi Thein Kyaw and my daughter, Myit-mo Kyaw. I thank them. I am also thankful to those who voted for me and the expatriate Burmese who organized this award.

Q:Please tell us about your social work?

A: We are providing free funeral services regardless of being rich or poor. We also help to support sanghas and monks when they die. We also assist poor communities withThu-kha free clinic for medical care and conduct summer English classes for poor kids and open Thu-kha Alin (Delightful light) library where you can study for their development.

Q: How did you change yourself from a film star into social worker?

A: I was annoyed dealing with several people, while I was acting as a film star. Then I went to uncle U Thu Kha and told him my bad feeling. He told me, "Maung Kyaw Thu.. Uncle wants to ask you. Do you know the name of the Prime Minister of France? I said I don't know. Then he asked me the name of Italy's Prime Minister, which I did not know either. Then he asked me do you know Charlie Chaplin and I said 'yes'. This is the answer, he said. If a famous actor works for welfare of others, he would be more well-known and successful than others, he suggested. Then I used my popularity as a stepping stone for humanitarian work.

My parents had worked in the film industry. As I knew film directors well, I started acting in "Chit Kyo Lay Ta-Myin" (a thread of love) after I married and got well-known. I felt tired when I acted for almost 25 years. My son and daughter went to a dharma talk of Aung-San Taw-Ya abbot when they were studying in fourth or fifth standard and they asked me would actors suffer in hell. I was shocked by the question and I started religious work. With guidance of the abbot, I read books and with guidance of uncle U Thu Kha, I turned myself into humanitarian work.

Q: What difficulties do you face when working for welfare of others?

A: I have had many difficulties, since I can't do social and humanitarian work undisturbed. I am not doing politics, but some still see us as interfering with the government. There are so many problems. I even faced many obstacles, until I was about to be sued or imprisoned. I have been resolutely working for what I think is right and we are surviving till now. I don't take a penny as donation since I started my humanitarian work in 2001. I go to different free funeral associations on my own expense. I spend for my food from my own pocket. But I pay for staff who should earn salaries.

Q: How do you evaluate the 10-year progress of your work?

A: We have started our work with 20 or 25 people. Now we can organize more than 200 staff members, including volunteers. The funeral vans have also expanded to 17 or 18, from one or two. The association runs systematically now and has expanded to motor vehicles department and the medical department.

Q: Where do you get funding?

A: I don't raise funds. I spend what I get from donors. Our NGO is not similar to NGOs in foreign countries, as we don't submit proposal for our works. But we spend systematically what we receive.

Q: Then how did you start your work?

A: At the beginning, the people who were involved in the association donated money and bought a funeral van. Later we continued to work with donations we received from local communities and Burmese living abroad. The donation we received is fair and square for our work. Burmese living abroad donate to us annually. They collectively donated for the X-ray room. We also receive funding from returnee sailors.

Q: What are your monthly or annual expenses and is it enough for your work?

A: Just for free funeral servicing and for the clinic, our spending is roughly 300 Lakhs (30 million Kyat) a month. For a year, it could be 36 million Kyats. We get enough funding and we spend only for what is necessary. We don't waste the funds for unnecessary items. Until now, it is working fairly.

Q: What are your immediate needs?

A: We are renovating some buildings. The X-ray room should be finished in June. But we don't have an office for free funeral service. We run the office in the clinic in a room. We have to repair the patients' care room. We have to build car garages, buy a generator and dig a deep-well. These are immediate needs.

Q: What if you get permission (from authorities who prevent you) to work in the entertainment industry?

A: I have been prohibited since 2007. I am not allowed to act or to write. Even if I were granted permission for such entertainment work, I will not do it. I don't enjoy such work, as I have to work with many people and I will not earn merit by doing such work. I will continue my humanitarian work which earns merit for me. If the situation is favourable, I want to direct some films on real historical events. I will commit myself on welfare of others.

Q: We hear that you have difficulty using Facebook?

A: Yes, But I didn't register myself, as friends from England and Singapore helped me register on Facebook. I write and upload on what I have been working. When I got more than 10,000 fans, I don't know who complained against me to the facebook authorities and they switched me off. I can't write anymore. Now I can give comments, but I can't upload new items on what I want to write. It is not good to interfere with people who are providing free funeral service and free medical care.

Q: Does Facebook support to some extent your humanitarian work?

A: Yes. It is very supportive. I receive many donations through Facebook. Expatriate Burmese, who are living in different corners of the world and are losing contact with Burma, can know about our free funeral service and make donations. Similarly, I think the Citizen of Burma award appears widely in Facebook. That is why I thank friends who assisted me to run a Facebook page.

Q: Is there any other branches apart from Rangoon office for your free funeral service?

A: Similar associations in other townships are separate from ours. They were formed by emulating our work. But they invited me during opening ceremonies and I went to more than 50 townships prior to 2007. I couldn't go to such ceremonies after 2007, as I have difficulty getting a travel permit. I also deliver some talks for removing superstitious thinking and I drive the funeral van myself to take bodies to funerals.

Q: Anything you want to add for the readers?

A: I will continue this social work for the rest of my life. This kind of humanitarian work can be done only in our manly world (existence) in 31 realms of existence of beings. For this reason, I commit myself for such deeds. I see the superstition of our people when I perform funeral service. Please help me to eradicate such social malaise. If a funeral van comes onto a street, the locals resist saying that it should not come this way or that way and many people assume a funeral van is not a blessed thing. Some locals resist a funeral van from entering their street because they just paved a new road. These actions are not good. Are the people from that road immortal? Please help the dead to go straight to the burial sites. These people chop, cut and eat animals. I would like to say please don't prevent the hearse carrying the dead from passing along the road or the ward where you live.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Asia World doubles tolls on road to Bassein

Tuesday, 27 April 2010 17:17 Myo Thein

Rangoon (Mizzima) - Junta crony firm Asia World has without notice, since the Buddhist New Year, more than doubled tolls and is charging for river crossings on the Rangoon-Bassein (Pathein) Road, truck drivers say.
The total fees for using the road and bridge crossings rose from 35,000 Kyats (US$35) to 75,000 Kyats for a 10-wheeled truck (20 tons) and for a 12-wheeled truck (40 tons), from 40,000 Kyats to 90,000 Kyats.

Asia World rebuilt and upgraded the road on a build-operate-transfer basis.

There had been no need to pay for crossing small bridges along the road, but now the toll per bridge is 3,000 Kyats for a six-wheeler, 8,000 Kyats for a 10-wheeler and 10,000 Kyats for a 12-wheeler.

“Since the day after Thingyan [traditional water festival], the toll fees were increased. The vouchers they [staff at toll gates] handed out did not have the usual notice: ‘the toll rate is classified based on the weight of the vehicle’. The message was also not displayed at the toll gates,” a driver of a 10-wheeled truck, from Bayintnaung wholesale market in Rangoon, said. “They [gate staff] said they collected the tolls as directed by their superiors [Asia World].”

The tolls were increased for all types of vehicles.

Owners of trucks that use the road have discussed raising freight fees, but owners of passenger vehicles such as buses have no plans to increase fares.

Asia World and its subsidiaries, owned by Tun Myint Naing (a.k.a. Steven Law) - son of the notorious drug lord Lo Hsing Han - are the subject of sanctions by the European Union, United Kingdom and the United States over close links to drug-trafficking and the Burmese junta, according to the governments’ websites.

With temperature air conditioner sales soar

Tuesday, 27 April 2010 12:07 Mizzima News

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Soaring temperatures in Rangoon has sent air conditioners flying of shop shelves with sales figures sky rocketing to 150 per cent compared to last year.
Rangoon boasts over 50 air conditioner shops. The machines are made in Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and China. The China made ‘Chigo’ brand of air conditioners are the most popular and sell the most because they come cheap. The Chigo air conditioner prices range from 180,000 Kyat (180 US$) to 1300,000 Kyat (1,300 US$).

An air conditioner shop owner on 39 Street, Kyauktada Township told Mizzima, “The temperatures began rising this week, along with it sale of air conditioners went up. About six or seven machines on an average are sold every day. The temperature has gone over 40 degrees Celsius”.

According to the Department of Meteorology the temperature was 44.3 Celsius in Chauk (Magway Division), 44.2 in Minbu (Magway Division), 43 in Magway (Magway Division), 43.5 in Mandalay (Mandalay Division), and 43 in Myin Chan (Mandalay Division) yesterday.

“We are selling about 10 air conditioners a day. The temperature is soaring higher and higher. And sales have shot up to about 150 per cent compared to last year,” an air conditioner shop owner from Thingangyun Township told Mizzima.

Power cuts, however, are hampering sales, shop owners said.

A person on 33 Street (Kyauktada Township), who bought an air conditioner, said, “We are aware the power consumption by an air conditioner is very high. However, we can’t withstand the heat. So, we had to save money to buy one. An air conditioner cannot be used whenever one wants to because of frequent power cuts. And we don’t have our own generator”.

Senator seeks Burmese perspective on US policy

Tuesday, 27 April 2010 18:46 Mungpi

Oklahoma City (Mizzima) - Burmese activists and community leaders in the United States have urged US Senator Richard Lugar to continue pushing for targeted sanctions on Burma’s military rulers, as they say the junta has failed to respond positively to the Obama administration’s new engagement policy, according to a senatorial aide.
Keith Luse, a senior Foreign Relations Committee assistant to Senator Lugar, told Mizzima that Burmese ethnic leaders at a meeting in the senator’s electorate of Indiana state on Sunday had expressed their view that the US should maintain targeted economic sanctions against the regime.

The meeting was held to obtain feedback from Burmese activists and community leaders on the new US-Burma policy, launched by Democrat US President Barack Obama last September, Mr Luse said.

Senator Lugar, a Republican, is the ranking opposition leader on the committee. Democrat Senator John Kerry is the panel’s chairman.

According to Luse, with the Burmese junta not responding positively to the Obama administration’s engagement efforts, the various Burmese ethnic leaders at the meeting said, “Senator Lugar should continue to support sanctions ‘[more targeted against the junta]. And, the senator and Congress should encourage the Obama administration to press the UNSC to act on Burma being referred to the International Criminal Court,” added Luse, who attended the meeting on behalf of Senator Lugar, referring to the United Nations Security Council.

After more than a decade of imposing financial sanctions and diplomatically isolating the Southeast Asian nation, the US last September announced a policy to seek direct engagement with the Burmese military rulers, while maintaining existing sanctions.

US and Burmese officials then held meetings that included a visit by the US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Dr Kurt Campbell, the highest ranking US official to visit Burma in 14 years.

However, no significant progress was made and the Burmese junta has lately been busy with its election plans, which the US ranks below international standards.

“As you are aware, the Obama administration has embarked on a new Burma policy. Senator Lugar is interested in obtaining feedback from Burmese in Indiana about this new policy approach. Do they agree, or do they have other suggestions?” Luse told Mizzima about the meeting on Sunday.

Fort Wayne, Indiana, is home to about 1,500 Burmese, the largest contingent of Burmese dissidents in the United States. Many were active in student and labour unions and political parties such as the opposition National League for Democracy. They had fled their homeland to escape the oppressive military regime.

EU renews sanctions against Burmese regime

Tuesday, 27 April 2010 11:08 Mungpi

Oklahoma City (Mizzima) - European Union foreign ministers on Monday agreed to extend its existing economic sanctions against military-ruled Burma for another year, and called on the military regime to stop “violation of international human rights and humanitarian law”.
“The Council deems it necessary to extend the restrictive measures provided for in the current EU decision by another year,” a statement by the Foreign Ministers of the 27 European nations said.

But the council emphasised its readiness to revise, amend or reinforce the restrictive measures in the light of developments on the ground.

“The EU stands ready to respond positively to genuine progress in Burma/Myanmar,” the group said.

EU also urged the Burmese regime to co-operate with the United Nations and its special envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana and comply with the UN recommendations “by taking urgent measures to put an end to violations of international human rights and humanitarian law”.

The Council also called on the Burmese military regime to embark on a genuine political dialogue between all stakeholders, including the ethnic groups and the opposition to bring about a peaceful transition to a democratic, civilian and inclusive system of government. It, however, expressed serious concerns over election laws published by the junta in early March saying they “do not provide for free and fair elections and notes that the authorities of Burma/Myanmar still have to take the steps necessary to make the planned elections later this year a credible, transparent and inclusive process”.

The European Union first introduced sanctions on Burma in 1996. The sanctions have been updated, renewed and extended every year in April.

They include visa bans, an arms embargo, limiting diplomatic contacts, freezing officials’ offshore accounts and suspending non-humanitarian aid or development programmes.

EU’s extension of sanctions on the Burmese regime for another year was applauded by campaigners, with the Burma Campaign UK director Mark Farmaner saying, “The EU is right to maintain existing sanctions in light of the deteriorating human rights situation in Burma.”

“We welcome the EU’s call for the regime to respect international human rights law, but are disappointed that they have not explicitly expressed support for the recommendation of the UN Burma expert that a UN commission of inquiry should be established,” Mr. Farmaner said in a statement released on Monday.

The Burma rights group said relaxing sanctions would be a green light to the generals to increase human rights abuses, help finance increased abuses, and give up potential leverage against the regime.

It also urged the 27 member-countries of the EU to abide by its common policy on Burma and to use the sanctions to effectively target the junta as part of co-ordinated diplomatic efforts.

Wa Region needs export crops, Wa party says

Tuesday, 27 April 2010 23:51 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Exportable crops need to be planted in Wa regions that have yet to substitute opium cultivation with other crops, an ethnic Wa political party that is to register with the Election Commission, said. Wa National Unity Party patron Saw Philip Sam said the soil in the region was suitable for growing opium but substitute crops had failed to thrive.

“We need to raise the living standards of farmers. So, we need to review the foreign markets and … grow [cash] crops suited to the region. After that, we will be able to export the crops to foreign countries”, he told Mizzima.

One of the parties from that has remained active since the 1990 election, the party formerly known as the Wa National Development Party has five former party members and 10 new members. It will register with the Election Commission at Naypyidaw this week.

The party was seeking advice from foreign agriculturalists about growing crops for export, Saw Philip Sam said.

Most of the party leaders are farmers and traders, not politicians.

“We will register the party to discuss and give advice on ethnic issues and to promote ethnic rights”, party secretary Nyi Pa Loap who will go to Naypyidaw to register the party, said.

However, he conceded that the 2008 constitution failed to guarantee ethnic rights, although he participated in the 14-year process of drafting the law.

Wa National Unity Party will be based at Lashio, Shan State, and it will contest in three of six townships in Wa State where Wa people live. The targeted townships are Ho Pang, Tang Yang and Kyaing Tong.

“Our policies will be social democratic. We will choose policies that are not extreme. We’ll take and apply the good points from the political left and right,” Saw Philip Sam said. “We will judge whether a policy is good or not, based on the nature of our people, our region and our culture.”

Although Wa State was developed economically, it was underdeveloped in terms of civil rights, education and health care, he continued.

Moreover, the United Wa State Army (UWSA) would continue to reject the junta’s proposal for its troops to join the Burmese army’s Board Guard Force (BGF) as long as the group was denied ethnic rights, he added. He said the election process would be all-embracing, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

Wa National Development Party was registered in 1989 and contested the two constituencies, Ho Pang and Tang Yang, in the 1990 election, but failed to win any seats.

Some leaders of the former party died and were replaced. The party applied to the Election Commission on April 22 to continue operating but it was rejected and told to apply as a new party, the chairman of the new party, Loap Paung said.

Some of the existing parties from the 1990 polls, the National Unity Party, Mro or Khami National Solidarity Organisation, the Lahu National Development Party, and the Union Karen League, have applied to continue as political parties.

Twenty-one parties have applied for registration. Among them are parties from 13 ethnic groups, including Kachin, Kayang, Karen, Pa-O, Chin, Mro or Khami, Shan and Taaung (Palaung).

Pakokku gale crushes three under tree

Tuesday, 27 April 2010 23:02 Kyaw Kha

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - A rainstorm has ripped through the riverside town of Pakokku in central Burma, destroying 30 houses and killing at least three residents, including two children, pinned beneath a toppled tree, residents said.
The gale started at 5:30 p.m. on Monday in Pakokku, which lies about 19 miles (30 kilometres) from Bagan, on the west bank of the Irrawaddy River in Magwe Division. The town was soon strewn with debris from damaged houses, and trees and power lines were down. Two children and one adult were crushed to death under a fallen tree and many people were injured, a resident said.

Mizzima was unable as yet to verify the number of injuries.

“Heavy wind and rain combined. Some trees were wrenched from the ground [as if] by the roots. Some trees snapped in the middle and fell,” a resident of Myakantha Quarter, on the west side of Pakokku, said.

“The rain and wind came with such great force that we [my family and I] closed the doors of our home and stayed inside. When we came out to survey the damage we saw that trees were uprooted … and the zinc roofing of a house on the opposite side of the street had been blown away.”

Residents said more than 30 houses were destroyed in the town that is the country’s second-largest centre for Buddhist learning.

The worst hit area was No. 15 Quarter.

“Many trees and lamp posts fell down, even in this street. Municipal workers and firemen are still clearing the broken branches and wires …the storm hit almost the entire town, so they can’t repair it all in a day,” a person who lives near Myoma Market said.

A scholar from Burma’s department of Metrology and Hydrology, Dr Tun Lwin has warned of thunder and windstorms across the country from March until May 20.

A bureau map shows the area covered in cloud and a storm in the Bay of Bengal.

Burmese youth detained ‘with 1,000 speed pills’

Tuesday, 27 April 2010 17:26 Nyein Chan

Dhaka (Mizzima) - A Burmese national has been arrested for alleged drug-trafficking by Bangladeshi border guards near the southernmost mainland border town of Teknaf in Chittagong division, sources close to the situation said.
Teknaf-based Bangaldeshi Rifles troop No. 42 detained Shu Ku, 24, on Saturday at Asia Body village, about three miles (five kilometres) south of Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar district, after he crossed the border illegally from No. 4 Quarter, Butheetaung Township, Arakan (Rakhine) State. He was allegedly carrying 1,000 amphetamine pills worth about 2 million kyats (US$2,000).

An amphetamine pill is worth between 150 and 400 Bangladeshi taka in Bangladesh, or 1,000-3000 kyats in Burma. The exchange rate is 1 taka to 14.20 kyat on the Bangladesh-Burma border.

On the Naf River, which forms a border between Bangladesh and Burma, Teknaf has a reputation as a smuggling hot spot.
Monday, April 26, 2010

NDF vows to continue armed struggle

Monday, 26 April 2010 22:50 Mizzima News

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - In a major development that may lead to fresh armed conflict between the armed ceasefire groups and the Burmese Army, the National Democratic Front - Burma (NDF) has declared that it will join hands with its allies to attack the junta on multiple front lines.
“The flames of civil war will be fuelled. We are discussing amongst ourselves to open many front lines around the country if the junta opens even one,” Mai Phone Kyaw, General Secretary of NDF, warned.

The NDF’s Central Committee meeting was held on April 23 and 24 and 18 representatives from seven groups of eight attended and resolved to continue armed struggle.

A NDF statement said it supports the rejection by ceasefire groups of the junta’s proposal to transform their armed wings to the Border Guard Force (BGF).

Mai Phone Kyaw said NDF has established a rapport and a mutual understanding with other ceasefire groups and has already conveyed its intention to them.

He added that the NDF has suggested to the United Wa State Army (UWSA), which was accused of producing opium, to fight for its national rights. He also pointed out that there is enough evidence of top junta leaders’ involvement in opium production operations.

The statement said NDF opposes the 2008 constitution and the junta’s one-sided election, which will only legitimize the military dictatorship and increase its stranglehold on the country. It welcomed the NLD’s decision not to re-register the party with the country’s Election Commission.

The NDF was formed with 13 ethnic armed groups on May 10, 1976, to fight for ethnic rights and self-determination.

Later, some of the groups arrived at a ceasefire agreement with the junta, leaving eight groups, the Karen National Union (KNU), Chin National Front (CNF), New Mon State Party (NMSP), PaO National Liberation Organization (PNLO), Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF), Wa National Organization (WNO), Lahu Democratic Union (LDU), Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) in the National Democratic Front fold.

NLD turns to grass-roots social work on May 7

Monday, 26 April 2010 21:56 Myint Maung

New Delhi (Mizzima) - The main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, is to halt its political activities and “plunge headlong into possible social work” from May 7, an NLD spokesman said.
Ohn Kyaing, a spokesman and party central executive committee member, made the comments today after attending a meeting of the committee at party headquarters in Bahan Township, Rangoon. “We will stop political work from May 7 and we will plunge headlong into possible social work,” he told Mizzima.

The group will provide social services including programmes for: HIV patients; access to pure drinking water for victims of Cyclone Nargis; families of political prisoners; legal aid to clients sued in political cases, and preserving the natural environment, Ohn Kyaing said.

Fellow committee member Win Tin elaborated on the NLD’s new path.

“Our party is a political party, so, when need to carry out tasks; those can help to improve the people’s living conditions,” he said.

“We will help the victims of injustice, we will lead when the people need [us to lead], we will [continue to] fight for the people’s rights. These are social tasks. When we don’t have offices, we need to go to the people and pay for services for them,” he said. “We will find politics among the people. Some tasks may match current tasks or we may find more powerful tasks. Or our tasks may involve ‘soft politics’. Either way, we will move among and provide for the grass roots.”

Sixteen of the 20-member committee attended, apart from the general secretary, Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest; party chairman Aung Shwe, who is unwell; party secretary U Lwin and Lun Tin.

Members also decided against removing party signboards and flags from NLD offices. “We may be able to open the offices, but if the authorities order them closed and locked, there’s nothing we can do. They have the power …,” Win Tin said. All the same, we won’t voluntarily close the offices but we will keep the flag flying.”

Ms Suu Kyi urged her party to keep the signboards and flags up when she met her lawyers on Saturday, despite the party’s automatic dissolution on May 6. The junta released electoral laws on March 8 that appeared designed to directly hamper Suu Kyi and her party as they forbid anyone who has been imprisoned from taking part in polls along with anyone who has been married to a foreigner, both categories with which the NLD leader cannot comply qualifies. Also, parties must re-register before May 6 or cease to be. The NLD chose against re-registering, saying an election under such laws would be unfair and unjust.

Though there were about 300 NLD offices throughout the country, the military junta closed them all after the Depayin massacre in May 2003. But, after it declared the electoral laws on March 8, it allowed NLD to open more than 100 offices.

Details of decisions reached at the party meeting will be declared soon, a source said.
Sunday, April 25, 2010

Police hold 7 youths amid post-blast crackdown

Sunday, 25 April 2010 16:42 Mizzima News

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Seven suspected "activists" in their 20s and 30s have been arrested in central Rangoon amid a security crackdown following blasts during New Year celebrations. Another youth evaded arrest, police and neighbours said.
About 60 armed police raided the home of the youths at No. 29, Ground Floor, 1st Street, Northern Kunchan Block 4, Kamayut near Hledan junction just after midnight on Saturaday morning. They seized three mobile phones and sealed the room.

Officers at divisional and township police stations confirmed the arrests. They called it a political case but declined to give details as their superiors were handling the matter and that they lacked the authority to release information.

“Some guys were half-naked, just wearing shorts because they [apparently] were asleep” a neighbour told Mizzima.

Sources who requested anonymity for safety reasons told Mizzima the detainees were Bo Bo Thein, Thaung Htike Oo, Tin Tun, Soe Moe Kyaw, Saw Yin Shin, Thaw Zin, Aung Aung. Police continue to search for at least one of the youths, known as Kyaw Maung Oo.

Neighbours close to local authorities said police were monitoring the young men for at least a week prior to the raid.

“They were living here by sharing room rent. I have never heard of their indecent activity or wild behaviour,” a neighbour told Mizzima.

Since three serial blasts in Burma’s commercial capital went off at a pavilion built for Buddhist New Year water-festival celebrations, police investigations and arrest reports are increasing amid a security crackdown gripping the country. Journalist Maung Zeya and his son Sithu Zeya were detained on April 17 for taking pictures at the scene of the explosions on April 15.

A military engineer from the team investigating the blasts told Mizzima three hand grenades thrown into crowds at the pavilion were behind the blasts that killed 10 people, the majority of whom were security personnel from the army and the Home Ministry. About 170 people were injured.

Police hold 7 youths amid post-blast crackdown

Sunday, 25 April 2010 16:36 Mizzima News
Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Seven suspected "activists" in their 20s and 30s have been arrested in central Rangoon amid a security crackdown following blasts during New Year celebrations. Another youth evaded arrest, police and neighbours said.
Friday, April 23, 2010

UDP said junta-backed parties will be the main rivals

Friday, 23 April 2010 23:35 Min Thet

Rangoon (Mizzima) - The junta-backed parties will be the main rivals of the Union Democracy Party if it is permitted to contest the forthcoming election, the party’s chairman has predicted.
He expressed his opinion at the party’s press conference about its registration with the Election Commission on U Chit Maung Road, Bahan Township, Rangoon on Friday.

To be a free and fair election, political prisoners should be released, the election process should be inclusive, the media should be free and international election watchdogs should be allowed to enter the country and monitor the polls, former political prisoner Phyo Min Thein said.

Despite the military junta keeping its political allies’ election plans secret, three junta-backed political parties will be formed including Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA, its logo will still be a lion) and the National Progressive Party, a USDA leader told Mizzima.

The military junta would encourage its cronies to register political parties and then would monitor the other parties closely, a Division-level leader of USDA said.

USDA leaders believe that they will win in the forthcoming election.

The political parties, 88 Generation Students (Union of Myanmar) and Union of Myanmar National Political Force have been registered and allowed to run, the state mouthpiece, The New Light of Myanmar, reported today.

The main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, has decided against re-registering because it cannot accept the junta’s unfair electoral laws. Burmese opposition groups in exile have urged the people to boycott the forthcoming election.

Sixteen new political parties and three existing political parties had registered to contest in this year’s election, the date of which has yet to be announced.

One seat for us would benefit Shan State, new party says

Friday, 23 April 2010 22:14 Khaing Suu

New Delhi (Mizzima) - A new ethnic Shan party believes winning even a single seat in the forthcoming election would be to Shan State’s advantage, Shan Nationalities Democratic Party officials said, explaining why they are joining the tough race.
The party had registered with the Election Commission at Nay Pyi Taw on April 8 and will contest in 44 Townships of the 55 in Shan State and some Townships of States or Divisions, the party’s chairman said.

“We will contest both Shan States and some other States or Divisions where there are Shan nationalities. We will contest in the constituencies where there are possibilities that we can win,” party chairman Sai Eik Wawn, 65, told Mizzima. “When the new government is formed, even if we can take one seat in parliament, we will be able to act for the benefit of Shan State and the whole country.”

The former general secretary of the Shan National League for Democracy (SNLD) is also a salt merchant and owns coffee farms. Vice-chairman is Sai Saung Si who was elected to Parliament for Kyauk Mae (2) constituency in the 1990 election.

Sai Eik Wawn is a former teacher and a patron of the Shan Literature and Culture Association. He is well known and well regarded among Shan people in Rangoon. But, his former party, the SNLD, declared that it would consider taking part in the forthcoming election only if the junta released the party’s leaders, who were sentenced to long prison term.

SNLD won 23 seats out of 485 constituencies in which voting was held in 1990 so the party could seize the second place after the NLD (392 seats).

The headquarters of Shan Nationalities Democratic Party will be in Rangoon and the party said it would have the required number of party members on time, its chairman said. The Pa-O National Organisation, and the Palaung National and Wa Democratic parties have already registered.

There are 55 townships in Shan State. They include six townships in the USDA’s self-administered zone, three in the Pa-O’s, two in the Palaung’s, two in the Kokant’s and two in the Da Nu’s.

Khin Maung Swe may run solo after May 6

Friday, 23 April 2010 01:33 Mizzima News

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Fissures in the National League for Democracy have deepened over the re-registration issue, with party Central Executive Committee member Khin Maung Swe leaning towards going it alone after the May 6 deadline for registration, when the group will cease to exist as a political entity.
Khin Maung Swe has however let it be known he would continue to be loyal to National League for Democracy (NLD) founder Aung San Suu Kyi and the party until the deadline. He is among the few leaders likely to form a party or contest as independents, yet they are averse to being branded disloyal to the NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi, analysts believe.

The main opposition party had unanimously chosen against re-registration with the Election Commission after deciding against contesting the polls. It had said its decision was based on its view that the electoral laws were “unjust and unfair”. Khin Maung Swe was among the few who disagreed with the party on the issue.

“I shall do nothing until the last date for registration, which is May 6 in keeping with my loyalty to both NLD and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” he said.

May 6 is the last date for registration with the Election Commission in accordance with this year’s Political Parties Registration Law. Soon after Khin Maung Swe was publicly critical of the NLD over its decision not to run, a rumour spread that he would join the race anyway. He denied the claim, citing his indecision on the matter.

“It’s not true that I will contest the elections. I have not yet decided to contest as an individual. It is just speculation by some people. I have no intention to do anything for the time being for I am in a wait-and-see mode,” the NLD Information Department member and Central Executive Committee (CEC) member told Mizzima.

If political parties, which won in the 1990 general elections like the NLD, do not re-register with the commission, their legal status will automatically be void.

Fellow CEC member Dr. Than Nyein, Rangoon Division Vice-Chairman, who nurses a similar opinion on re-registration, also said he would continue to be loyal to the NLD until the cut-off date.

“We are members of NLD as long as NLD exists until May 6. We have not yet taken any decision on electoral issues,” he said.

But both declined to say what they would do after the May 6 deadline.

Thais top Burma investor, state news service reports

Friday, 23 April 2010 23:19 Usa Pichai

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Thailand ranked first among country investors into Burma in the 10 years up to 2008, mainly is energy businesses, ahead of Britain and Singapore who apparently take second and third place.
Wassana Mututanond, Thailand’s Board of Investment (BoI) investment advisor said Thailand had invested US$7.41 billion in Burma between 1988 and last year, making it the top investor in Burma in terms of investment value, according to a report on the Thai News Agency website on Friday.

The greatest proportion of investment in Burma by Thailand was in the energy (electricity) sector at 81.7 per cent of total investment, with 8.33 per cent spent on the manufacturing industry and 3.1 per cent in the hotels and tourism.

“Industries that give Thai investors opportunities to invest in Myanmar include agriculture, processed foods, leather, precious stones and mining, and tourism,” She added.

The BoI would conduct 13 events and activities locally and overseas in this fiscal year, she said, it would: provide information; consulting services; help form a state- and private-sector network; and set a forum for “business matching”.

Thailand has major natural-gas development deals with Burma in the Andaman Sea in addition to hydroelectric dam projects. China is a joint developer on the latter.

Human rights groups have urged the Thai government to delay its mega-dam projects in Burma, and to play a stronger role within Asean to urge the Burmese junta to move towards democracy and human rights.

Samart Loifa, Tak province governor told a trading conference on Tuesday the province had plans to develop a route from Mae Sot, through Myawaddy and Moulmein to Rangoon which he claimed would benefit manufacturing investment, agricultural business and tourism.

Trading at the Mae Sot-Myawaddy border crossing had risen 49 per cent year to date compared with the same period last year, according to Mae Sot customs office director Pimkarn Lorsiripaibooon.

She added that in the first four months the total trade across this border was estimated at more than 10 billion baht (US$300 million).

New Zealand Senator against scholarships to Burmese junta employees

Friday, 23 April 2010 22:01 Sai Zuan Sai

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Ms. Maryan Street, a New Zealand Senator has expressed her displeasure and has said today that she will try her utmost to stop her government providing scholarships to Burmese military government employees.
Her reaction came in the wake of a disclosure by New Zealand Foreign Minister Mr. Murray McCully that three Burmese government employees had arrived in the country for further studies. He also said that more will follow soon.

“We are concerned over giving scholarships to Burmese government staff members because it will provide them an opportunity to spy on Burmese dissidents here and be honoured when they go back home,” Ms. Maryan Street of the Opposition new Labour Party told Mizzima.

After severing official ties with Burma in 2008, the New Zealand Foreign Ministry decided to grant scholarships to Burmese government staff at the end of 2009, she said.

Ms. Street is also the Chairwoman of ‘Burma Cross-Party Parliamentary Group’ which is comprised of MPs from all political parties in New Zealand striving to restore democracy in Burma.

“We cannot accept giving such assistance to the military regime,” she said.

A six-month English course at the Autergo University costs USD 35,000 for each Burmese going over to study.

According to the Autergo Daily Times, 35 Burmese have studied in New Zealand since 1998.

Mr. Murry McCully defended his government’s policy of engagement with the military junta saying that it is just following the pro-engagement policy followed by the international community led by the US.

NLD youth leaders gear up for post May 6 days

Friday, 23 April 2010 22:17 Myint Maung

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Gearing up for activities after the junta’s deadline to register as a political party expires on May 6, and the National League for Democracy (NLD) ceases to be a political entity, youth leaders made field visits to 60 townships to explain the party’s position.
The NLD did not re-register with the Election Commission after deciding not to contest the elections because it was of the view that the electoral laws were ‘unjust and unfair.’

The Party Youth Works Implementation Task Force visited Kachin, Shan, Sagaing, Mandalay, Pegu and Irrawaddy Divisions and States in the last two weeks. It held wide ranging discussions with people about its planned social work and activities.

“The main purpose of our visit was to maintain unity till the time Auntie Suu (Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) is released from house arrest and also to avoid erosion of our party strength. We can be involved in social work. They may close our offices. They may remove our party signboards but we must maintain communication with party members,” Aye Tun, In-charge (3) of the task force, who was part of the organizational tour, told Mizzima.

“We will keep our communication channel open with youth members, hold on to our party member strength and avoid disarray in the party ranks. We are coordinating and discussing these. We explained our future plans to party members from township, ward and village tract levels invited by States and Divisions Organizing Committees. The organization shall remain and we shall continue to work,” he added.

After it ceases to exist as a political party after May 6, NLD plans to plunge headlong into social work and activities including caring for HIV/AIDS patients, a youth NLD member from Mandalay Division said.

“Despite losing its legal status and party signboard, NLD will continue its routine work and activities. Party members will continue to work as they would have done if they were in their current party positions,” he said.

NLD had 22 million party members in its heyday and its youth members are in the age group of 18 to 35. The youth wing of the party influences the NLD’s decision making process. The youth leaders also plan to visit remaining States and Divisions.

The party, grappling with how to maintain unity and continue party activities in an unified manner, has become a subject of discussion among party members and observers.

Fire at petrol station near Rangoon clinic

Friday, 23 April 2010 20:52 Mizzima News

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Fire broke out at a petrol station opposite a private hospital in the central northern Rangoon township of Bahan last night, fire officials said.
Five fire engines took about 10 minutes to bring the blaze across from the Shwegondaing Specialist Clinic at 7 East Shwegondaing Road under control Fire crews put out the flames at 5.25 p.m.

A local merchant told Mizzima how it started. “An electric cord dropped onto a petrol can and set it alight. Another can also caught fire,” a shop owner on Shwegondaing Road said.

A Rangoon Central Fire Station official said no one was injured but that the fire department were still investigation the cause of the fire and the value of the damages.
Thursday, April 22, 2010

Chin Progressive Party not to waste poll advantage

Thursday, 22 April 2010 17:20 Mizzima News

New Delhi (Mizzima) - An ethnic Chin political party, which is to register with the Election Commission today, feels that though it is widely known that the junta’s multi-party general election this year will not be free and fair, it needs to participate for ethnic Chin people.
"Many say the forthcoming 2010 election will not be free and fair. But we, ethnic Chin groups that are very poor, must not waste this advantage. At the same time, it is also certain that the advantage will not be fully granted and the polls will not be free and fair at all. But we should not fail to seize this advantage," Pu No Than Kap, a member of the Chin Progressive Party said.

The Chin Progressive Party registers with the Election Commission in Nay Pyi Taw today.

Pu No Than Kap told Mizzima that they should take the opportunity presented by the polls to serve ethnic Chin people. “I believe the door is being opened for Chin state by the elections. So we decided to contest the polls for the betterment of ethnic Chin people and Chin state.”

This is the second time CPP is trying to register though it tried on April 9, because more documents were required to be submitted.

Besides, nine townships in Chin state, the Chin Progressive Party plans to contest the elections in Kalay Township and Tamu Township.

"Though the 2008 constitution is not ‘Genuinely Federal’ but it is almost ‘Quasi Federal.’ The Chin Progressive Party will be working together with the Chin government without discriminating if we win," Pu No Than Kap said.

The Chin Progressive Party has chosen Rangoon as its headquarters. It has 29 members in the central executive committee and 39 central committee members.

As of now there are two political parties which will contest the election in Chin state. The Chin National Party has already registered with the Election Commission on 7 April. It will contest in nine districts in Chin state.

The Chin National League for Democracy Party, which won the 1990 election in three districts in Chin state, will not participate in the election this year.

Pi Za Dim Sung, Secretary of the Chin National League for Democracy said that they had decided not to contest the election because the Burmese junta is dishonest.