Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Canada urged to probe Ivanhoe over ‘arms-for-copper’ deal

Wednesday, 30 June 2010 15:41 Thomas Maung Shwe

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The Canadian Friends of Burma has called on the government of Canada to investigate reports first made by Mizzima that Vancouver-based Ivanhoe Mines violated Canadian sanctions by allowing its 50 per cent stake in Burma’s largest mine, the Myanmar Ivanhoe Copper Company Limited (MICCL), to be sold to junta cronies closely connected with Chinese business interests late last year.

CFOB executive director Tin Maung Htoo told Mizzima his organisation was also calling on the Canadian government to probe Ivanhoe’s role in what CFOB called the “arms-for-copper” howitzer (artillery guns) deal. The deal was first reported by the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), in which the Burmese regime was alleged to have exchanged copper from Monywa for howitzers built by Chinese weapon’s manufacturer China North Industries Corporation (Norinco).

Norinco, revealed on its web site last week that early this month its chairman, Zhang Guoqing, had signed the “Monywa Copper Mine Project Co-operation Contract” with Major-General Win Than of the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings, which Burma analysts document is a profit vehicle that provides secondary incomes for ruling military junta personnel and their families.

While the Norinco release omitted details of the Monywa agreement, DVB reported yesterday that it had learned from sources that several weeks prior to the official signing ceremony senior members of the Burmese regime visited China to “check on the shipments” of SH-1 155mm self-propelled howitzer cannons made by Norinco. The howitzer vehicles were then sent to Burma.

Jane’s Defence Weekly reported online that the SH-1 is a self-contained six-wheeled truck bearing the 155mm howitzer and a 12.7mm machine gun. It has a top road speed of 90km/h and the artillery piece has a maximum range of 33 miles (53 kilometres).

Analysts contacted by DVB speculated that the howitzers were exchanged for copper from Monywa. CFOB’s Tin Maung Htoo said these latest allegations were extremely disturbing but very credible, pointing out that senior executives from Daewoo were convicted in a Korean court for helping the Burmese regime build a weapons factory as part of a deal to pave the way for Daewoo’s access to Burma’s offshore gas.

“The Norinco arms-for-copper deal is a win-win for both China and Burma; the weapons manufacturer gets cheap copper and the Burmese regime gets howitzers to use against its own people,” Tin Maung Htoo said. “Sadly, more innocent civilians will die because of this; we can thank Ivanhoe Mines and its chairman Robert Friedland for building one of ‘the lowest-cost copper mines in the world’ for the Burmese regime.”

Tin Maung Htoo told CFOB that his organisation was preparing an official letter to be sent to the sanctions division at the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. He added that it would also send a letter to Marketa Evans, the department’s recently appointed extractive sector corporate social responsibility counsellor. Evans’ office is mandated to investigate whether Canadian firms comply with a set of voluntary corporate social responsibility guidelines.

The exact status of the Monywa mine has remained unclear since February 2007 when Ivanhoe announced it had “sold” its 50 per cent stake in MICCL, the operator of Burma’s largest mine, to an “independent third-party trust” in return for a guarantee that when the trust sold the stake, Ivanhoe would then be paid.

As part of the trust deal Ivanhoe continued to receive money from the mine and by way of the trust remained owners of half of MICCL. Ivanhoe Mines spokesperson Bob Williamson told Mizzima last week that the secretive “independent trust” had not sold Ivanhoe’s 50 per cent stake in the mine. Mizzima learned however from a source close to Burmese commercial affairs that the “independent trust” had concluded a deal at the end of last year to sell its stake in MICCL to Burmese cronies of the military regime who have strong connections to Chinese business interests.

If indeed Ivanhoe’s stake in the lucrative Monywa joint venture was sold to junta cronies this would contradict Ivanhoe’s claim that the “independent trust” would not sell the stake to Burmese or American citizens. More importantly, such a sale would also violate US and Canadian sanctions.

In light of the apparent violation of Canadian sanctions Tin Maung Htoo also believes Canadian authorities must confront Ivanhoe and force the firm to publicly disclose everything it knows about Monywa and seriously examine whether any violation of Canadian sanctions has occurred. He added: “Ivanhoe can’t hide behind their secret trust forever; Canadian civil society and the Canadian public won’t allow it.”

Ivanhoe chairman ‘Toxic Bob’

Before he went into business with the Burmese regime, Ivanhoe chairman Robert Friedland was chief executive of Galactic Resources, a Canadian firm that operated the Summitville gold mine in Colorado during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Under his management, tens of thousands of gallons of toxic mining waste containing heavy metals and acid seeped from the mine’s ponds into creeks and the Alamosa River causing havoc with the area’s delicate ecosystem. The run-off from the mine killed all fish in the river for at least 17 miles (27 kilometres), thus earning Friedland the name “Toxic Bob”.

Friedland’s lawyers fought American officials for nearly 10 years before he agreed in December 2000 to personally pay US$27.5 million for his role in the disaster. The payment however represented a fraction of the mine’s total clean-up cost and the profits his company had made. The US and Colorado governments have so far spent a combined total of more than US$200 million on remediation at Summitville. It is often referred to as the most expensive environmental disaster in American mining.

Before it was closed, the mine had extracted at today’s prices, US$366 million in gold and about US$5.9 million in silver.

Friedland versus the Mongolian people

Ivanhoe is presently constructing a massive mine at its new project in Oyu Tolgoi, Mongolia. Because of the enormous ecological footprint the joint venture with Rio Tinto and the Mongolian government will create, many Mongolians are strongly opposed to it.

Friedland also earned the ire of Mongolians when the local media reported that while promoting Oyu Tolgoi at an international mining conference in Florida, he had boasted that Mongolia was a great location for a mine because it was devoid of people. According to Friedland: “The nice thing about this, there’s no people around … There’s no NGOs … You’ve got lots of room for waste dumps without disrupting the population.”

Unsurprisingly, he was later burned in effigy at an anti-Ivanhoe protest in the Mongolian capital in April 2006, one of the largest mass gatherings in the nation’s history.

15 Burmese workers detained in Bangkok unrest

Wednesday, 30 June 2010 17:12 Kyaw Kha

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Fifteen Burmese migrant workers were detained during Thailand’s recent political unrest, according to the Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma, an NGO based in Bangkok.

After the Thai government crackdown against the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (red-shirt) rally that had paralysed central Bangkok, the Thai police department said 13 of the 417 red-shirt detainees were Burmese, but based on the latest information obtained by the NGO, the number held was 15.

Ten of the group were arrested on their way home from work at a construction site in Nonthaburi province for violating the night-time curfew imposed on May 19. They were arrested by Thai troops and police officers.

“They already have been sentenced. They [allegedly] interfered in Thai politics, so it’s difficult to appeal against their sentences,” Thai Action Committee director Myint Wai told Mizzima.

Two of the 10 detainees who had violated the curfew were released because they could pay the fine of 8,000 baht (US$245). The rest were detained for 40 days in the detention centre at Thanyaburi because they were unable to pay the fine.

The recent chapter of political unrest in Thailand started in March and continued until May 19 as red shirts camped out behind barricades in a central Bangkok shopping district were cleared away in a Thai army assault. After red shirt leaders’ announced their surrender and were arrested, disgruntled militant red-shirt faction members spread out across the capital, ransacking shops and setting fire to buildings.

In the wake of the violence, the government imposed a curfew for at least a week, at first between 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., and prohibited gatherings of more than five people.

Nu Khun, 27, a Burmese migrant worker among those detained for curfew violation, was sentenced to 16 months in Klong Prem Central Prison for breaking the Emergency Decree and the Immigration Act.

Four other Burmese were also being held at Klong Prem but the Thai Action Committee has been denied access to them, and details of their sentencing remained unknown, Myint Wai said. He added that a lawyer from the group continued to follow up on their cases.

The Abhisit government prohibited migrant workers from participating in the red-shirt protests, saying violators faced a fine of 100,000 baht (about US$3080) and five years in prison, according to the migrant workers department of National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB).

NCGUB official Thet Khaing said that Burmese migrant workers who work in Thailand should obey the country’s laws.

“Migrant workers should avoid doing things that can interfere with their host country, Thailand,” he told Mizzima. “They should not participate in the politics of the host nation, no matter who persuades them.”

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on June 2 signed an order for police to intensify a crackdown on illegal workers in Thailand.

According to the NCGUB migrant workers section, more than 10,000 Burmese migrant workers in Pathum Thani, Mahachai, Chonburi, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon, Bangkok and Phuket provinces were arrested during the crackdown.

Activists estimated that there were more than two million Burmese migrant workers in Thailand. About 900,000 were working legally, according to workers’ rights groups’ estimates.

Publishers fear delays by new censor board

Wednesday, 30 June 2010 19:24 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Publishers in Burma have expressed concern over the formation of new censorship teams under the junta’s tough media watchdog fearing even further difficulties for their publications under a regime already infamous for its stranglehold on the press.

The media is concerned over potential publishing delays after system changes at the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (censor board) – under the Ministry of Information – at Bahan Township, Rangoon. Publications were censored by five teams comprising three members each but a 12-member single team was established last week, and publishers are worried about the team’s ability to finish their work as quickly.

“We are worrying about timely completion of their censorship work as they [team members] have to scrutinise more than 20 journals,” a Rangoon-based weekly journal’s editor said. “We are concerned over delays in our publications and possibly more complications in the process.”

The current board director is Major Tint Swe and additional director Lieutenant Colonel Myo Myint Maung from the navy, who took office at the end of last month.

Tint Swe will be promoted to deputy director general of a department under the Information Ministry soon, and Myo Myint Maung will assume the directorship.

The latter has already been working in news censorship, tightening rules on political reports. Journals used to be able to submit supplementary news or breaking news a day later when the office was under the control of Tint Swe. Myo Myint Maung has changed this system, however, and ordered that journals submit work during office hours, the editor of another journal said.

“According to this new system, we have to complete our draft copies on time and early. Previously we were exempted from their rules and had an understanding with them,” he told Mizzima. “Now … we cannot do this. We must present our draft copies before 3 p.m. while their censorship workshop is in progress. We cannot submit the breaking news we get in the evening.”

The censor board consists of one director, two additional directors, two assistant directors and four officers.
Media outlets can publish only after the censorship teams have read their draft copies, forwarded them to higher authorities and obtained final approval from the director. Draft copies must be submitted three days in advance. The board takes two days to read them and printing takes another two days, which means it takes a week to publishing journals.

“They [the board has] tightened on political news, political educational articles and opinions,” a journal editor said. “They do not give approval on political party movements, and their election campaigns. We must submit political news in our first draft copy. They do not accept submitting them in supplementary copies.”

The journals have to submit draft copies in two parts. First they have to submit news copies and then three more pages on A4 paper as a second draft. The office has reduced it to only two more pages on A4 paper, a journal editor said.

The additional political news shall not be included in these extra two pages on A4 paper, Myo Myint Maung reportedly told a journal editor yesterday.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hoteliers allowed to import ‘sightseeing’ cars – at a price

Tuesday, 29 June 2010 18:48 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burmese authorities are allowing hoteliers to import “tourist sightseeing vehicles”, holding a lottery among proprietors for permits to import a total of 200 cars for the purpose, a hoteliers’ association spokesman said yesterday.

Burma’s auto sector is tightly controlled by the ruling junta, with a quota of only a few thousand cars to be imported each year, high import tariffs and high permit fees.

The objective in allowing the import of the sightseeing vehicles was to revive tourism sector in Burma, Dr. Nay Zin Latt of the Burma Hoteliers’ Association Central chapter said yesterday, adding that current model 15- and seven-seat vehicles would be imported from Japan.

More than 600 hoteliers from Ngapali, Ngwesaung and Chaungtha beaches; Rangoon, Mandalay, Sagaing, Pagan, and Taunggyi and Inle in Shan State, participated in the lottery, he said.

“The quota is for the import of 10 cars per 33 hotels. Each 33 hotels had to draw lots to obtain the permits”, Dr. Nay Zin Latt told Mizzima.

One of the junta’s revenue-generating conglomerates, the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings (UMEH), tendered for hoteliers to import vehicles for the tourism sector, allowing the lot winners to import cars two months later.

The hoteliers must conduct transactions in US dollars, but the exact prices of the cars were unknown before negotiations between the hoteliers and the UMEH.

A total of 160 hoteliers from Rangoon drew lots for permits on June 24, but the winners were unknown until now, Dr. Nay Zin Latt said.

Invitation cards to the negotiating meeting from Burma Hoteliers’ Association Central chapter said only hoteliers who had already paid hotel licence and membership fees to the association or the Rangoon chapter had the right to participate in the lottery.

Although the invitations said winning hoteliers had to deposit five million Kyats (about US$5,000) to the central chapter by June 30, the payment plan was later changed to enable hoteliers to deposit funds just before receiving the cars, he said.

Permit holders must also pay two million Kyats to the central chapter’s fund, three million Kyats for the permit to import a seven-seat car and two million Kyats for the permit to import a 15-seat car to the Rangoon chapter as association funds, according to the invitation card.

A hotelier who attended the meeting told Mizzima that he refused to participate in the lottery because of all the extra fees demanded by the hoteliers’ association.

According to the Myanmar Times journal, the number of individual visitors between May and September last year rose almost 60 per cent year on year from 19,944 in 2008 to 34,168.

The number of visitors between January and May this year was 121,522, according to a report from the Burmese Tourism Promotion Board. Most of the visitors were from Thailand; 24,401 between January and May 5. Next in number were from China, with 12,851 visitors. Other visitors included those from the US, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Last August, private football clubs were allowed to import cars worth US$70,000 by the Burmese Football Federation. There are 11 such clubs, all of which are owned by prominent tycoons, typically with close ties to the junta.

Put Burmese regime on trial at ICC, People’s Court urges

Tuesday, 29 June 2010 23:46 Salai Han Thar San

New Delhi (Mizzima) – A “People’s Court” in Japan passed its verdict on Monday to put the Burmese military regime on trial at the International Criminal Court for its crimes against women in Burma.

The verdict was reached during a mock trial at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo, after a five-member panel of experienced judges heard the testimony of four victims from Burma and arguments from prosecution and defence counsels.

“The judges passed eight verdicts during the court’s session, including their finding that the [Burmese] military regime was guilty of committing crimes against women based on the testimonies given by victims and that it should be put on trial at the ICC,” Women’s League of Burma presidium board member Thin Thin Aung told Mizzima.

The panel comprised Japanese former Supreme Court justice Kunio Hamada, Chiba University law professor Hiroko Goto, Aoyama Gakuin University law professor Osamu Niikura, International Association of Democratic Lawyers secretary-general Miho Shikita, Japan Federation of Bar Associations former vice-president Hideaki Kobori.

The United Nations was urged to form a commission to investigate the junta’s crimes and said the international community including Japan should make concerted efforts to stop their heinous acts, the verdicts say Kyi Kyi Khin, Pu Sein, Tin Tin Nyo from WLB on behalf of Naw Sunset and WLB representative Mra Yar Zar Lin testified during proceedings between 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. Eight lawyers acted for the prosecution and three conducted the junta’s defence.

“I testified … telling them [the judges] how I was put in a dark cell during interrogation by intelligence officers and of the other gross human rights violations in prison I experienced while serving my sentence”, former political prisoner Kyi Kyi Khin said.

The military regime arrested former NLD party and All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) members in 1990 for distributing pamphlets commemorating the July 7 massacre at Rangoon University in 1962. For 28 days Kyi Kyi Khin suffered brutality under questioning at the Military Intelligence No. 4 detention centre, where she was held in darkness and subjected to a variety of cruel and unusual torture methods. She was then sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and was released in May 1992.

The mock trial’s organiser, Cho Cho Aye, said Japanese lawyers representing the military regime presented their arguments for their clients’ defence. Cho Cho Aye is representative of the Burmese Women’s Union (BWU) Japanese branch.

“The defence counsels questioned the testimony, evidence and exhibits presented in court [by the prosecution,” she said. “In cross-examination, they also questioned whether [junta chief Senior General] Than Shwe was responsible for the crimes committed by the army’s rank and file.”

The proceedings were the first mock trial in a People’s Court conducted in Japan, which was also organised by Japan-based Human Rights Now. More than 300 Japanese and Burmese attended.

A similar trial was organised by the WLB and female Nobel laureates of the Nobel Women’s Initiative in New York in early March. At that trial, 12 Burmese victims of human rights violations testified to crimes visited upon them by the military junta.

“We shall continue our campaign in the international community until we can put the Burmese regime on trial at the ICC,” Thin Thin Aung said. “This campaign can … warn the junta leaders against committing their crimes against humanity in fear of facing trial at the ICC in future.”

ICC, founded in July 1998 and based in the Netherlands, is funded by states’ parties, international governments and organisations, and individuals. It is the main independent international legal body “established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community”.

The court usually indicts and presents verdicts on genocide committed across the world, along with serious international crimes, crimes against humanity and war crimes, by exercising powers granted it under the Rome Statute, the treaty signed by the parties that established the court.

The trial’s organisers will present the panel’s verdicts to the Japanese government and will urge it to shun the Burmese general election results unless the regime releases all political prisoners, including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is being held under house arrest by the junta on spurious charges. She has been held in various forms of detention for 15 of the past 21 years.

The trial follows UN special rapporteur for human rights in Burma Tomas Ojea Quintana’s report to the UN Security Council, which similarly called for the UN to form a commission of inquiry to investigate the gross violations of human rights committed by the junta.
Monday, June 28, 2010

EU cancels visit after request to meet Suu Kyi denied

Monday, 28 June 2010 21:48 Perry Santanachote

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – A scheduled European Union high-level visit to Burma was cancelled recently after the Burmese ruling junta denied a request from the EU Presidency Council to meet pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

German ambassador to Burma, Julius Georg Luy, representing the EU presidency currently held by Spain, had on June 15 asked State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) Foreign Affairs Minister Nyan Win in Naypyidaw for a meeting with Suu Kyi, the world’s most well-known political prisoner. It was to be part of a high-level EU visit but the junta declined the request, months ahead of its as yet unscheduled elections.

The SPDC is the Burmese ruling junta’s self-styled title.

“I cannot comment whether the meeting’s been cancelled because of [the] SPDC’s refusal to allow access to Aung San Suu Kyi or other reasons,” EU regional delegation spokeswoman Suvi Seppalainen said.

She added that the high-level meeting would not take place during the Spanish presidency of the EU, which ends on Wednesday, but was unable to speculate whether it would be tabled again. She was also without the agenda for the proposed meeting and had no knowledge of what was to be discussed with Suu Kyi.

“I think it’s quite clear why it would be high on their wish list to meet with ‘The Lady’ herself,” she said. “But unfortunately this request was not transferred [sic] by the government.”

The junta’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs could not be reached for comment.

In response to the junta’s decision to bar EU access to Suu Kyi, the National Council of the Union of Burma (NCUB), a coalition of Burmese pro-democracy groups and political dissidents, released a statement condemning the military regime.

The council’s joint general secretary No.1, Myint Thein of the National League for Democracy (Liberated Area), called upon the EU to reaffirm international demands and denounce the junta’s upcoming election and its results.

“They still don’t have any plans to release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the other political prisoners,” he said of the military regime. “They have refused proposals from all world leaders to release her and have dialogue.”

Myint Thein said the election would neither be free nor fair and that the military had repeatedly refused to take any steps towards changing the political situation in Burma. For those reasons he called on the international community, including the EU, to take a stronger stance against the junta. However the EU is not yet talking about rejecting any election results.

“That would be premature,” Seppalainen said, adding however that the EU was standing its ground. “We’ve been calling for free and fair elections; this has been the EU line for a while and this has not changed.”

Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi remains under house arrest after spending around 15 of the past 21 years held by the Burmese junta in various forms of detention. Her National League for Democracy Party won the last elections in 1990 by a landslide but the junta refused to allow the party to form a government and jailed many NLD members.

The party on May 6 was declared illegal and disbanded by the ruling military junta after the NLD chose not to re-register for upcoming elections under electoral laws it deemed unfair and unjust as they were targetted to exclude anyone serving a prison sentence, automatically excluding the party’s leader and imprisoned members.
Sunday, June 27, 2010

Chinese arms maker’s copper mine deal raises queries over Canadian stake

Sunday, 27 June 2010 12:34 Thomas Maung Shwe

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – One of China’s biggest arms makers signed a contract with a Burmese junta-controlled entity this month involving “co-operation” in a Monywa copper mine, raising serious questions over the status of Canadian miner Ivanhoe’s holdings in the town northwest of Mandalay and whether Burma sanctions have been violated.

Defence contractor China North Industries Corporation (Norinco), one of the Chinese military’s biggest suppliers, disclosed in a press release that in the first week of this month its chairman, Zhang Guoqing, had signed the “Monywa Copper Mine Project Co-operation Contract” with Major-General Win Than of the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited, a major revenue generator for the Burmese military regime.

While Norinco kept from view any financial details, it did say the agreement was signed in the presence of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein during the former’s two-day tour of Burma. The firm makes a wide range of weapons and has long been the subject of intense western scrutiny for its activities. The Bush administration alleged that Norinco exported missile technology to Iran and took steps to penalise the firm in 2003 and 2005.

Norinco’s Burmese copper play was strongly criticised by pro-democracy rights group Canadian Friends of Burma (CFOB), who termed the deal the “arms-for-copper” affair. The Ottawa-based advocacy group on Thursday called for Canadian authorities to launch an independent investigation to assess the present ownership status of the Monywa mine’s operator, Myanmar Ivanhoe Copper Capital Company Limited (MICCL).

MICCL was created as a 50/50 joint venture between Canada’s Ivanhoe Mines and a Burmese state-controlled firm, Mining Enterprise No. 1. MICCL has operated Monywa, Burma’s largest mine, since production began in 1999.

In a move critics said was a blatant attempt to hide the firm’s Burmese operations, Ivanhoe Mines reported in February 2007 that it had “sold” its 50 per cent stake in MICCL to an “independent third-party trust” in exchange for a guarantee that Ivanhoe would receive payment when the trust sold its stake.

Following the September 2007 “saffron revolution”, in which scores of protesting monks and citizens were killed by junta soldiers in Rangoon, Ivanhoe and the Monywa mine made headlines when Andy Hoffman of Canadian national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, reported that despite Ivanhoe’s claims it had pulled out of Burma its financial filings showed it was still receiving profits from its 50 per cent stake in MICCL, held by the allegedly “independent trust”.

Ivanhoe claimed in October 2007 that it had determined it was “prudent to record a $134.3 million write-down” in the value of their 50 per cent stake, thereby reducing its value to nothing, in what the Canadian Friends of Burma said was a clever ploy to avoid revealing any details about the Monywa mine in its regulatory filings.

State-controlled The Myanmar Times quoted MICCL’s general manager Glenn Ford as saying last year that Monywa was in fact “one of the lowest-cost production mines in the world”, despite Ivanhoe’s claim that the mine was worth nothing.

Ivanhoe denies ‘trust’ has sold stake in Monywa

When asked to comment on the current status of the Monywa mine, Ivanhoe spokesman Bob Williamson told Mizzima on Wednesday that the “independent trust” had not sold the 50 per cent stake to anyone. Since the trust’s creation, Ivanhoe has refused to reveal any of the individuals or firms who oversee the entity, offering only that they were not employees of Ivanhoe Mines.

Ivanhoe had said when the trust was created that the stake in MICCL would not be sold by the trust to anyone it termed “excluded persons” – employees or directors of both Ivanhoe Mines and Rio Tinto, the British-Australian firm that controls a sizable minority stake in Ivanhoe. It also said “residents or entities controlled by citizens or residents of Myanmar (Burma) or the United States” would also be barred from buying the stake.

Source tells Mizzima sale of Ivanhoe’s stake completed last year

Contrary to that claim, however, a source in Burma’s business community told Mizzima that the “independent trust” completed the sale of its 50 per cent stake late last year to cronies of the Burmese junta who have ties to Chinese business interests.

The alleged secret sale came as no surprise to CFOB executive director Tin Maung Htoo, who believed “from the very beginning Ivanhoe has been totally dishonest about its operations in Burma and this so-called ‘independent trust’ charade gives Ivanhoe chairman Robert Friedland ample opportunity to keep the mine for himself or sell to it the regime’s cronies or do whatever he wants”.

Were Ivanhoe’s stake in MICCL to have been bought by cronies of the Burmese regime, this would violate US and EU sanctions. In January last year, MICCL was added to the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) list of banned entities, an action that Ivanhoe failed to mention in any of its subsequent statements or filings that discuss the “independent trust”. Ivanhoe also failed to tell its shareholders that the European Union had added MICCL to its Burma sanctions list in November 2007.

Ivanhoe’s Burmese venture refuses comment

When Mizzima called MICCL’s Rangoon office yesterday and asked who now owned Ivanhoe’s 50 per cent stake in the joint venture, an staff member refused to answer. Requests to speak to the company’s Monywa general manger Glenn Ford or even learn his nationality was also declined.

While Glenn Ford was unavailable for comment, a Google search for his name and “Ivanhoe” revealed an interesting posting in March last year by a “Glenn Ford” on Australian business news commentary website, Business Spectator. It said Norinco had teamed up with China’s massive Chinalco to aim for Ivanhoe’s Burmese holdings. The posting made in reference to the proposed purchase of Rio Tinto by Chinalco stated “Now Chinalco, in partnership with Chinese state-owned arms dealer Norinco, is buying the whole copper deposit of Ivanhoe and the Myanmar government.” Glenn Ford of MICCL could not be reached to confirm if this had been his posting.

Tin Maung Htoo believed the MICCL general manager had indeed posted the statement. “How many people named Glenn Ford are there around posting intimate details of Norinco’s Burmese operations; Norinco’s own statement about their Monywa copper deal would suggest that this post was genuine.”

Concerns that Chinalco had purchased the stake were also raised last year by CFOB. Citing SEC filings from February 2008 by China Resources Limited, a small start-up firm whose chief financial officer Gerald Nugewela was a former MICCL employee, CFOB alleged Chinalco had bought the stake in possible violation of US sanctions directed against MICCL. In a widely distributed press release, CFOB quoted the following text from Nugawela’s career summary, included in at least seven separate SEC filings:

“From 2005 to January 2007, Mr. Nugawela was employed by Ivanhoe Mines as Commercial Manager of Myanmar Ivanhoe Copper Co. Ltd. At Ivanhoe, Mr. Nugawela was responsible for managing treasury operations, accounting, supply and contracts administration, output agreements, business analysis and planning. Mr. Nugawela was instrumental in arranging the sale of the company to Chinese Aluminum Company [Aluminum Corporation of China or Chinalco]. He prepared the valuation model and met with prospective purchasers in their due-diligence investigation of the company.”

In a tersely worded “open letter” addressed to CFOB that accused the NGO of running a disinformation campaign, Ivanhoe chief executive John Macken, while acknowledging that Nugawela had indeed worked at MICCL, denied that he had been employed by Ivanhoe Mines as Nugawela had stated. He also denied that Nugawela had brokered the sale, claiming that “neither Ivanhoe Mines nor MICCL has been sold, or ever offered for sale, to anybody”.

Several lines later, Macken, in an apparent contradiction of his earlier claim, stated the independent trust was indeed trying to sell the MICCL stake, writing that the trust was “endeavouring to negotiate its sale to potential buyers”.

Local villagers report pollution, high security around mine site

For many years reports from villagers living in the vicinity of the mine are that neighbouring farmland has become too acidic to grow crops because of chemicals used in the mining process, driving many farmers into extreme poverty. Villagers also say that the Burmese regime has long maintained a heavy security presence in the area. The Irrawaddy magazine reported on Thursday that since Ivanhoe’s apparent departure “Chinese workers and engineers” have been busy working in the area.

Extreme poverty means they cannot meet the basic needs for food, water, shelter, sanitation and health care. The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than US$1.25 per day.
Friday, June 25, 2010

No big policy shifts from new Australian PM, activists say

Friday, 25 June 2010 18:48 Kyaw Mya

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Burmese activists in Australia are not expecting any big foreign policy shifts on Burma, they said, after Julia Gillard was sworn in as the country’s first woman prime minister, vowing to bring changes to the government on the domestic front.

Labor Party incumbent Kevin Rudd stepped aside for his former deputy Gillard to take power early yesterday in an apparent bid to save face ahead of a party leadership vote he was assured he would lose.

It was a speedy exit for the first Labor prime minister to be ousted in his first term, spurred by party fears over recent polls that put the opposition ahead of Labor for the first time since January 2006, according to a June 3 Nielsen poll. National broadcaster ABC’s PM programme last night reported that: “A little under 24 hours passed between the time Ms Gillard was convinced to run and the moment she was elected unopposed.”

“The only change is the deputy prime minister and the prime minister so I don’t think there will be any dynamic changes in Burmese-related issues,” Dr. Myint Cho, a spokesman for Burma Campaign Australia, said.

Dr. Myint Cho added that Rudd’s position towards military-ruled Burma had been satisfactory because of his depth of knowledge on Burmese issues from his previous stint as shadow minister of foreign affairs.

“He worked very hard to draw [the] attention of parliamentarians and government to focus on Burmese issues,” he said. “When he was the opposition leader he promised me that if he restores [Labor to] the administration, he would try to lobby international communities to introduce the idea of a global arms embargo and commissions of inquiry into crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by the Burmese regime. When he became prime minister he did as he had spoken.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith told Parliament in an update on Burma in February that Australia had placed financial sanctions on the military regime in 2007 – a response to the violent crackdown on protests led by monks against the junta, the “saffron revolution”. It also recently began engaging the regime on counter-narcotics, human trafficking and disaster relief challenges.

He said Australia welcomed the US approach that combined engagement, sanctions and humanitarian assistance, and outlined that Australian aid was to increase over the next three years to A$50 million (US$43.3 million) annually. Last year, Aung Sang Suu Kyi asked the junta for a meeting with representatives from the European Union, the US and Australia to discuss the withdrawal of international sanctions.

Australia agreed with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that to lift sanctions would send the wrong message but agreed not to expand them. Australia continues to push for dialogue with the Burmese authorities, Smith said.

Though Gillard is expected to leave Australia’s external relations unchanged, she is under pressure from the Labor Party, keen to yet again appeal to key voters – sections of the Australian working and lower-middle classes – in a crackdown on asylum-seeking boatpeople. Gillard said she understood Australians’ concerns over the number of boat arrivals and pledged stronger border control, according to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald.

Unlike Rudd, a former diplomat and foreign policy expert, Gillard has little experience in the field. Gillard’s holding of the portfolios of education, employment and workplace relations and social inclusion, led Dr. Myint Cho to conclude that she would not be as interested in Burmese issues as was her predecessor.

“But the good thing is there are lots of Labor MPs [members of parliament] who are interested in Burmese issues,” he said. “As long as foreign minister Stephen Smith is in position, I don’t worry about their [Australia’s] position on Burma issues.”

But activist groups working on Burmese issues disagree with Australia’s stasis regarding sanctions, and have sought their widening, citing Australian investment in Burma’s energy resources, which they said supported a brutal regime.

Australia’s Twinza Oil is the parent company of Danford Equities Corporation, which is conducting tests in the Yetagun East Block, in the Gulf of Martaban, after signing a production exploration contract with the state-owned Burma (Myanmar) Oil and Gas Enterprise in November 2006, according to Burma Campaign Australia.

Twinza Oil’s project will provide the military regime with an estimated US$2.5 billion, and it is believed that with the help of such investments the regime’s nuclear ambitions are also proceeding, it said.

On the deal, Sharan Burrow, president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions wrote in the New Matilda online journal last year that: “By itself, this contract with an Australian company promises the Burmese junta enough money to run roughly one quarter of its military – the world’s 12th-largest – for a decade.”

That is also a lot of money that will never reach Burmese people.

Smith also told the Australian Parliament in February that half of Burma’s roughly 50 million people live in extreme poverty, which means they cannot meet the basic needs for food, water, shelter, sanitation, and health care. The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than US$1.25 per day.

Additional reporting by Perry Santanchote
Thursday, June 24, 2010

Junta poll watchdog bans party marches, slogans

Thursday, 24 June 2010 11:35 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burma’s electoral watchdog has banned marching in procession, holding flags, chanting slogans or any act urging supporters to protest against the ruling government, further tightening the junta’s stranglehold on public space ahead of upcoming national elections.

The bans came in a Union Election Commission 14-point directive dated June 21, and was followed by criticism from political parties preparing to contest in elections to be held this year. Parties must have at least 1,000 members to take part in the as yet unscheduled polls.

The directive also bars “disturbances” outside any public places including government offices, organisations, factories, workshops, markets, sports grounds, religious institutions, schools and hospitals. Even if parties plan to hold meetings at their offices, they are required to inform local branches of the commission at least one week in advance, the directive says. If they plan gatherings outside their offices they need to apply for a permit also one week in advance.

It also orders parties to ensure no assemblies take place outside buildings or halls while parties are holding meetings or making speeches at any venues. Moreover, it bans speaking out against the junta or the state in speeches, publishing or printing. Speeches or publishing that tarnish the image of the military are also prohibited.

Agence France-Presse reported yesterday that the United States said the day before Burma’s polls would “not be free or fair and will lack international legitimacy”.

Holding knives, weapons or ammunition are also banned, along with “misuse of religion for political gains”, AFP quoted state media as saying. The religious rule appears to be a bid to deny political involvement of Buddhist monks, who led protests in August 2007 known as the “saffron revolution” against fuel price rises that inspired a nationwide revolt against the junta the following month.

Forty-two parties have applied to the commission for registration, out of which, 33 parties have been approved.

One of the directive’s critics, Union of Myanmar Federation of National Politics party chairman Aye Lwin, said it would create hurdles to party work in recruiting members. He is believed to have close ties to the military regime.

“I think it is childish. Even religious organisations and soccer teams can wave flags during their activities,” he said. “Political parties are official organisations so they should have the right to use their flags freely, [especially] after getting permission from the EC [Election Commission] to be registered as political parties.”

The directive places extreme restrictions on the movement of political parties to contest the upcoming election but the regime has yet to disclose a poll date.

Union Democratic Party chairman Phyo Min Thein said, “Even charity organisations can use flags to appeal for donations,” adding that he could not understand the move.

According to electoral laws published last March, in Burma’s transition to “disciplined democracy”, the commission can deregister political parties if it deems the parties have violated prohibitions and restrictions in their organisational and canvassing work.

Meanwhile, the commission has said nothing about granting parties airtime, even though such access to state-run television and radio stations for campaigning was granted in the last election 20 years ago.

Detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, which won the 1990 elections by an overwhelming majority, has decided not to contest the elections and demanded that the regime amend the 2008 constitution and electoral laws. The laws ban political prisoners including Suu Kyi from running.

USDP uses coercive canvassing tactics in Mon State

Thursday, 24 June 2010 11:23 Kyaw Kha

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The party created by Burma’s ruling military junta is employing coercive measures to recruit new members while canvassing in Chaungsone Township, Mon State, according to residents.

On an election campaign tour this week, Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) township organiser Myo Min Hlaing’s team ordered village peace and development council chairmen to assemble 50 people from each village to tell them to vote for the USDP, led by Prime Minister Thein Sein, a resident said.

The team had started village-to-village canvassing work on Monday but surprisingly they were yet to visit Chaungsone town centre, he said.

“Before coming here, they had already ordered the village heads in advance to assemble 50 people,” a resident of Kataungsein village told Mizzima. “As soon as they arrived they started making speeches about the elections … they took our photographs and pasted them on [voting forms] that had already been filled out.”

The organisers said that only their USDP party would win the elections, he said.

“They told us to vote for the lion [the election logo of the USDP] in case we made a mistake in voting,” the villager said. “‘The lion is the king of forest and no other beasts can win against it,’ they said.”

“So in this election too, the lion will certainly win and they warned us not to have any regrets about voting”, he told Mizzima, in what sounded like a threat against voting for another party.

The party organisers referred their “Lion” party logo in their speeches.

Among the 42 parties that have applied for registration with the Union Election Commission, the USDP intends to contest in all constituencies across the country.

The only group representing ethnic Mon people in Mon State, the All Mon Regions Democratic Party (AMRDP), was as yet unable to start organising and canvassing in the state, party chairman Nai Ngwe Thein told Mizzima.

The AMRDP said that USDP and the National Unity Party were its main rivals in this election. The latter grouping was formed by members that include past members of former dictator Ne Win’s Burma Socialist Programme Party.

“We will rely only on our local people while canvassing,” party spokesman Dr. Min New Soe told Mizzima. “We will present our party policies to our people and we will hear and accept their demands. We will not forcibly organise them.”

The junta first formed the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) as a nationalist social organisation, and from its members then created the USDP.

They used public funds to build roads and clinics so their party had become well known, a USDP leader from Rangoon Division said.

However, it remained unclear whether the USDA would continue as a separate social organisation, he said. Organisers were still awaiting orders from junta leaders in their secluded capital of Naypyidaw.

Junta chief Senior General Than Shwe is one of the patrons of USDA. During the junta’s tri-annual meeting last month, he told all regional military commanders to rally around the USDP and work for the victory of the party in the upcoming polls.

World Cup kicks traditional dancers off stage

Thursday, 24 June 2010 12:05 Kyaw Kha

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burmese traditional dance troupes have had to postpone shows until the World Cup ends, putting about 2,000 performers temporarily out of work, dancers said yesterday.

The 2010 World Cup in South Africa, which will finish on July 11, has taken attention away from other forms of entertainment, forcing traditional theatre companies to shut down to avoid financial losses. The closures have also affected, backstage personnel and anyone else linked to such shows.

Forty-eight theatre troupes are registered with the Burmese Theatrical Association and an average of about 40 people work for each troupe.

Pantara U Mya Kyi, from a Sagaing theatre company said: “the World Cup has caused us a lot of problems. It’s really hit our income”.

Moe Win and Hanza Moe Win theatre group from Mandalay planned to perform onstage in Plake Township, Mandalay last week but the team had to put off their shows until the end of the World cup because very few people had bought tickets, a group manager said. Dates for the next performances remain undecided.

“We have postponed our shows, but after the World Cup we will entertain audiences again”, a troupe manager from the group told Mizzima, adding that three days of shows cancelled would cost the group about 4.2 million Kyats (about US$4,200).

Meanwhile the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported Fédération Internationale de Football Association (Fifa) president Sepp Blatter would visit Burma in November at the invitation of Zaw Zaw, chairman of the Burmese Football Federation. He invited Blatter while attending the 60th Fifa Congress in South Africa.

31 Rohingya make day 10 of hunger strike in Australia

Thursday, 24 June 2010 15:15 Thomas Maung Shwe

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Thirty-one Rohingya refugees in a detention centre in Darwin, Australia are entering the 10th day of a hunger strike today in protest at the Australian government’s delay in processing their asylum claims, an average of nine months after their boats’ interception.

The president of the Burmese Rohingya Community in Australia, Kyaw Maung Shamsul Islam told Mizzima in a Burmese-language phone interview conducted late on Wednesday that three of the protesters had been taken to hospital because of the effects of their fast.

According to him, all 42 of the Rohingya refugees began the strike while held at the immigration detention centre in Darwin, the capital of Australia’s Northern Territory, but 11 dropped out because of the physical toll.

Kyaw Maung said the 42 refugees were transferred to Darwin from Australia’s offshore detention centre on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean two months ago with the promise that they would be quickly processed and released. The group comprises two groups of Rohingya who were intercepted eight and 11 months ago while attempting to reach Australia from Indonesia. He said they the Rohingya protesters were very worried about the safety of the loved ones they had left behind.

“They have spent too much time in the detention centre. It has been a long time since immigration officers and social service groups have visited the detention center. So, they’ve lost their rights and have gone on a hunger strike”, said Soe Lwin, an employee from the Voluntary Social Work in Brisbane, capital of Queensland State, said.

According to Australia’s public broadcaster ABC, Australian immigration officials in Darwin coldly responded to inquiries about the hunger strike by saying that such actions would not speed up the processing of their asylum applications.

Suicide attempt unsuccessful

An Australian newspaper the Northern Territory News reported yesterday that one of the hunger strikers had attempted to hang himself on Tuesday morning but a fellow refugee intervened to save his life.

Immigration Department national communications branch manager Sandi Logan declined to reveal details in the report but said the suicidal refugee was “receiving appropriate care, including mental health support”. At the time of writing Mizzima was unable to contact any representatives of the Australian government for further comment.

Ian Rintoul, a spokesman for Australian advocacy network Refugee Action Coalition in Sydney told Mizzima that he had recently spoken on the phone with an Afghan refugee who was detained in the same area as the group of Rohingya hunger strikers. The Afghan described many of the Rohingya as “very weak” because of the far north Australian heat and their refusal to drink liquids.

A long-time refugee and rights advocate based in Sydney, Rintoul said the Australian government’s security check process was what was causing the lengthy delays in the Rohingya’s asylum claims. He criticised the government for stalling the process despite the fact that Australia considers the Rohingya a resettlement priority.

Rintoul told Mizzima that there was “no justifiable reason” for continuing to detain the refugees, adding that the government has refused to disclose what the security screening process entails.

Rintoul and others seeking to help the detained refugees have extremely limited access to them as they are housed far away from the Australian population centres. Further complicating matters is the government’s policy of limiting each detained refugee to make no more 10 minutes a week in phone calls. He believed this was one of the main reasons that details of the hunger strike have trickled out very slowly.

A contested history

The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic minority group that hail from Burma’s western Arakan State and who speak a separate language from Arakanese or Burmese. Despite the fact that many can prove their families have lived in Burma for several generations, most Rohingya do not have Burmese citizenship. Many Arakanese nationalist organisations dispute the legitimacy of the Rohingya people, claiming they are merely Bengalis, a claim Rohingya activists say is a deliberate over-simplification and a misrepresentation of history.

Rohingya activists point out that during the time of U Nu’s democratic post-war government, Rohingya were elected to the national parliament and Burmese state radio even had regular Rohingya language broadcasts.

Over the last 20 years tensions in Arakan state between Muslims and Buddhists have been exacerbated by scarce land resources. Outbreaks of violent intra-communal bloodshed that many Rohingya believe were instigated by the Burmese military regime have sent hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fleeing into neighbouring Bangladesh. It is estimated that at present several hundred thousands Rohingya living illegally as refugees in Bangladesh.

The plight of the Rohingya briefly made headlines across the world last year when dozens of boats containing Rohingya refugees were pushed back into the ocean by Thai authorities.

In an attempt to counter the sympathetic coverage the Rohingya boat people received, Burma’s top diplomatic representative in Hong Kong Consul-General Ye Myint Aung sent a letter to his fellow diplomats in the territory that stated his regime’s position on the Rohingya issue. In the letter he claimed that the Rohingya could not possibly be Burmese citizens because their “complexion is dark brown” and that they are as “ugly as ogres”.

The Rohingya communities’ most famous political prisoner is Kyaw Min, leader of the small Arakan-based opposition party, the National Democratic Party for Human Rights (NDPHR) and an MP elected from Arakan State in the May 1990 election. Kyaw Min, served as a member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s alliance of ethnic-minority MPs, called the Committee for the Restoration of the People’s Parliament (CRPP).

Kyaw Min was arrested in 2005 after meeting representatives from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Rangoon. He was stripped of his citizenship and given a 47-year jail sentence. His wife Daw Tiza, his two daughters Kin Kin Nu and Way Way Nu and his son Maung Aung Naing were all given 17-year terms and also made stateless.

Australia tried to trade Rohingya refugees for Haitians and Cubans

In April 2007, the Australian government proposed a US-Australian refugee deterrence trading plan. To launch the programme, the Australian government wanted to send eight Rohingya refugees and 82 Tamil refugees who had been detained attempting to make it to Australia by ship with a similar number of Haitian and Cuban refugees who had been captured at sea by American coast guard authorities.

Australia’s then Prime Minister John Howard claimed the bartering of asylum-seekers would limit the number of refugees trying to flee to Australia. “I think people who want to come to Australia will be deterred by anything that sends a message that getting to the Australian mainland illegally is not going to happen,” Mr Howard told a reporter from The Age newspaper when this initiative was announced.

The famously tough-on-refugees prime minister added “I think people who set out for this country with the full knowledge that they’ll be prevented from coming to the Australian mainland will be additionally deterred” by the US-Australia trading scheme.

According to Rintoul, following a national outcry from refugee advocates and opposition politicians, the Howard government’s refugee-trading proposal was abandoned and no refugees were actually exchanged.

Additional reporting by Salai Tun

Starting trade union unlawful, police say

Thursday, 24 June 2010 23:36 Myint Maung

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Aspiring trade unionists had their request to form a national industrial and farm workers union flatly rejected yesterday by police carrying the response from junta leader Senior General Than Shwe, according to the workers’ representatives.

Rangoon Division Western District Police Colonel Aung Daing met seven workers’ representatives at his station and told them forming a trade union would be “unlawful” and that police would take action if they went ahead.

Twenty-two trade union activists including eminent labour rights lawyer Pho Phyu had told the junta leader in a letter that they intended to form a “Trade Union for the Protection of National Industrial Workers’ and Farmers’ Interests” and asked for permission to do so.

“No right at all to form such union. It’s unlawful, they told us”, Pho Phyu said.

According to Pho Phyu, they responded to authorities that to protect the rights of workers and farmers that they would go ahead with their plan at the risk of being arrested and imprisoned.

“The working people and Burmese citizens have suffered bitterly for many years, even many decades. Now it’s time for a trade union for them”, he said.

But this was not the first rejection or fierce reaction from authorities Pho Phyu has experienced. He represented farmers whose lands were seized by the army and then he himself was imprisoned last March. He was released from prison just three months ago.

If they went ahead with their trade union, it would be considered “unlawful association” and a violation of the law. Moreover publishing and printing about this organisation will be in violation of the printers and publishers act and will be subjected to stern action, Aung Daing told the workers’ representatives.

In the early morning on the same day, Labour Department Director-General Thet Naing Oo also met trade union leaders and told them to wait until the new government takes office after the general election.

Though it was a private meeting, about 20 intelligence personnel watched the unionists and took photographs and video recordings.

Tin Oo, vice-chairman of main opposition party, the National League for Democracy , said the government should not make such a prohibition.

Other trade union leaders who met with authorities are Par Lay and Win Naing from Taungdwingyi, Kyi Lin from South Dagon Township, Ma Nwe Yee Win from Tharyarwady, Khaing Thazin from Hlaingtharyar and Aye Chan Pye from Shwepyithar.

Federation of Trade Unions of Burma joint general-secretary Dr. Zaw Win Aung said: “The regime should enact laws permitting freedom to form trade unions and they should eliminate all hurdles and obstacles to that end.”

Out of the more than 2,100 political prisoners behind bars, 15 are trade union activists, Bo Kyi said. He is joint general-secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma, based in Thailand.

The successive military regimes since 1962 have banned unions and deprived Burmese of the right to freedom of association, but rebellion against these abuses have increased in the past year.

Workers at private industries have staged at least 10 strikes since December, demanding better wages and work environments.

Aide to US Senator John Kerry meets NLD leaders

Thursday, 24 June 2010 12:15 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – US Senator John Kerry’s assistant Robin Lerner met senior members of the National League for Democracy on Tuesday to discuss the party’s stance on upcoming national elections, NLD spokesman Nyan Win told Mizzima.

Lerner, a counsel to the Senate foreign relations committee who arrived in Burma on June 19, met NLD vice-chairman Tin Oo and central executive committee members Nyan Win, Nyunt Wai, Than Tun, Hla Pe, Han Tha Myint, May Win Myint and Win Myint. According to Nyan Win, the one-hour meeting took place at the Rangoon residence of chargé d’affaires Larry Dinger, the most senior US diplomat in Burma.

Tin Oo explained the party’s current situation, future plans and outlined the party’s decision not to re-register with the junta’s Union Election Commission in time for the junta’s March 29 party-registration deadline.

“In keeping with the junta’s one-sided electoral laws, if the party wanted to contest the election, it needed to expel our members who are in prison,” Nyan Win told Mizzima. “This would include the party’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Our vice-chairman Tin Oo explained to Ms Lerner that we can’t expel the members who are in prison, a point she understood.”

According to Nyan Win, Lerner asked the NLD how it expected to survive after the forthcoming election and Win Tin, the elderly but spry former political prisoner responded that as things were still up in the air the group could not provide an answer.

He told Mizzima that the NLD leadership also told Lerner that other opposition political parties, which have officially registered with the junta’s Union Election Commission, were being prevented from campaigning freely and therefore an election held this year would be far from fair.

The leaders also told Lerner unequivocally that they could not accept the junta’s extremely undemocratic line that declared members of the military were able to “participate in the national political leadership role of the State”. This contentious clause appears in the first chapter of the constitution ratified in a disputed May 2008 referendum widely viewed as rigged. The constitutional vote was also conducted days after Cyclone Nargis hit, as millions of Burmese struggled to cope with its devastating impact.

John Kerry, chairman of the US Senate’s foreign relations committee, was chosen as the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004 but lost to George W. Bush. Like his fellow Democrat Senator Jim Webb, Kerry is a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War.

Last August, former Kerry chief of staff turned pro-engagement lobbyist Frances Zwenig told The Washington Post that a few months earlier in May, the Burmese regime’s ambassador to the US offered Kerry, who had last visited Burma in 1999, a chance to return. This trip never occurred and Webb went instead in August.

Zwenig is a controversial figure in Washington, scorned by many Burma pro-democracy activists because she used political contacts established when she worked for Kerry to work as a pro-engagement advocate during the 1990’s. Zwenig successfully sought large amounts of corporate money to pay for an October 1997 high-level pro-business fact-finding trip that included three former senior government officials including two former ambassadors and neoconservative Richard Armitage, former assistant secretary of defence during the 1980’s. He was to become deputy secretary of state under Colin Powell and Bush, and gained notoriety in 2003 for leaking information to columnist Robert Novak, “outing” Valerie Plame as a CIA agent.

According to the Post in July 1997, Zwenig’s pro-engagement organisation received US$50,000 from Unocal to educate Washington on Burma engagement issues. Unocal, a partner in the Yadana Natural Gas Pipeline, was revealed in a lawsuit launched by Burmese villagers against the firm to have paid the Burmese military to help with the Yadana project. Earth Rights International, the legal NGO representing the villagers documented that battalions of Burmese soldiers hired by Unocal and its partners violently forced the relocation of thousands and used unpaid forced labour to assist in the pipeline’s construction. Unocal was later bought by Chevron who took over the firm’s infamous Burma operations.

As part of President Barack Obama’s stated goal of fostering productive dialogue with the Burmese regime, both US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Dr. Kurt Campbell, and chairman of the US foreign relations subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Senator Jim Webb, have travelled to Burma since Obama took office.

Campbell, who met Suu Kyi most recently last month, said that the forthcoming election would be unfair and that the international community should reject the results. He also revealed early this year that secret deals between the Burmese junta and North Korea had violated UN Resolution 1874, which bans North Korean overseas military shipments.

Webb, who met junta leader Senior General Than Shwe last August, has criticised US sanctions on Burma, claiming in his book A Time to Fight: Reclaiming a Fair and Just America that more US engagement with the Burmese regime could have prevented the September 2007 bloody crackdown against protesting monks and citizens. When Webb abruptly cancelled his trip to Burma early this month he cited allegations that the regime was co-operating with North Korea to develop a nuclear programme. He still maintains that Burma’s national election, which he predicts will happen in October, is the best way forward for Burma and therefore the international community should support the polls.

Shortly after Webb met Than Shwe, officials from the US State Department were allowed to escort jailed American tourist John Yettaw back to the US. Yettaw, whose family described him as mentally unwell, twice took it upon himself to twice swim across Inya Lake to visit the world’s most famous political prisoner. Following his second amphibious landing at the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s family home, Suu Kyi was arrested and jailed for “violating” the terms of her house arrest. Had Yettaw not intervened, Suu Kyi’s sentence of house arrest would have expired in two weeks. After an international outcry, the widowed opposition leader was released from prison and taken home to serve her sentence of 18 months under house arrest.

Additional reporting by Thomas Maung Shwe
Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Gold prices hit fresh high

Wednesday, 23 June 2010 12:18 Salai Han Thar San

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The price of gold on the Burmese market hit a fresh high today, at 658,000 Kyats (around US$658) per tical (one tical equals 15 grams), after last month’s record of 641,000 Kyats, according to traders in Rangoon.

The trend though was not unique to Burma, the traders said.

“The main reason is the increase of gold prices in the global market,” a gold shop owner on 29th Street in Pabedan Township, Rangoon said. “So the Burmese gold market has shown sharp fluctuations as well.”

Prices in the global market normally set trends on the domestic front. The precious metal is heading for its 10th straight annual increase, the longest run since 1920.

Although in recent months gold fell 12.6 per cent from December to February and rebounded 16 per cent in the three months that followed, the price of gold in the Burmese market has been on a steady incline since the beginning of this month. But it shot up in the third week of June from 645,000 Kyats to 658,000.

The current world gold price is US$1,260 per ounce. Over the past two and a half months, gold prices worldwide have advanced more than 10 per cent. In the past three years, gold has gone up 84 per cent – nearly 30 per cent within the past year alone.

As the price of gold in Burma rises, sales in rural areas has decreased.

“There are just a few buyers from rural area,” said a gold merchant on 22nd Street in Latha Township, Rangoon. “Anyway, we are not eager to sell gold because the price has continuously increased, so it’s no problem to hold it.”

One explanation for the abrupt climb in gold prices is the steady devaluation of the US dollar. Gold is priced in the United States currency so the price of gold tends to rise as the currency falls. Last month the exchange rate for the dollar was 990 Kyats in Burma. It declined to 982 Kyats on Monday.

Gold merchants, most of whom are located on 29th Street, are required to abide by the prices set by the Gold Traders’ Association on Shwebonthar Road in Pabedan Township, which was formed by the Ministry of Home Affairs in 2002.

Burmese mission official steps on Suu Kyi’s ‘face’

Wednesday, 23 June 2010 15:55 Perry Santanachote

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Protests outside Burma’s permanent mission to the UN in New York were victim to junta violence of a singular kind at the weekend as a staff member made a rare appearance to enter the building, but not before putting his foot on the face of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi displayed on a poster.

Burmese activists often rally in front of the mission at 10 East 77th Street, Manhattan in continuing calls for the release of Suu Kyi and the more than 2,100 political prisoners held by Burma’s military junta, but its staff almost never show their faces.

However, during a rally in honour of Suu Kyi’s 65th birthday on Saturday, the employee’s act was one activists plan to name and shame throughout the international community. For Burmese, the head is the most sacred part of the body while feet are the most inferior. Even pointing one’s foot in another’s direction is considered highly offensive, let alone this official putting his foot on the venerated leader’s face.

Rights groups Amnesty International USA and Burma Point organised the gathering at which protesters donning matching T-shirts held up posters of Suu Kyi bearing the message: “I stand with Aung San Suu Kyi.” Activists also laid 65 yellow roses in front of the steps of the mission.

The Burma mission’s response was literally a kick in her face. As the employee walked through the crowd to enter the building, he paused to sweep aside the flowers with his foot then planted it on the poster directly over Suu Kyi’s face.

“He started yelling at us to leave the compound,” Aung Moe Win, an activist who witnessed the event, said. “All of us were in shock and angered by it.”

If the affront was meant to discourage the protestors, it had the opposite effect. The crowd simply crossed the street and peacefully but loudly shouted at the people inside the white-brick embassy.

“We chanted, ‘What do you want? Suu Kyi’s freedom! When do you want it? Now!’ for about 20 minutes,” Aung Moe Win said.

After the protesters moved on to the UN building about three miles (five kilometres) across town, Khaing Aung Kyaw, leader of the International Foundation for Burma National Congress, resolved to draft a statement on the event. He condemned the staff member for kicking the picture, saying that such actions were far from good diplomatic behaviour. He said his group found the rude act utterly intolerable.

The mission failed to answer its phones out after Mizzima’s repeated attempts to contact it for comment.

25-inch Burmese boy reaches for world record

Wednesday, 23 June 2010 16:37 Nyein Thu

Rangoon (Mizzima) – At a mere 25 inches (63.5 centimetres) tall, Zaw Bala Aung had lofty dreams of breaking a Guinness World Record, but at 10 years old, he will not officially qualify for the world’s shortest man for another eight years.

The boy, also known as Balagyi, was born in a Burmese village called Htanpoutkone in Kyaukpadaung Township on March 10, 2000, the second child of four and the only son for parents Win Lwin and Khin Hla. However, he is the only one of his siblings with primordial dwarfism and weighs 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms), with a head circumference of 13 inches (33 centimetres).

Yesterday he and his family decided it was time to throw his name in the hat for the title of the world’s shortest man and held a press conference at Karaweik Hall in Burma’s former capital, Rangoon.

“He was medically examined and his medical record is fine,” said a reporter named Khin who was representing the family. “His bone growth had stopped.”

Khin said they recently sent Zaw Bala Aung’s measurements and medical records to Guinness for consideration. Unfortunately, he will not pass the age test.

“To quality for the Guinness World Records title of world’s shortest man, claimants must be 18 years or older (assuming the first year of life is considered year 0, and not year 1),” the measurement body’s website says. “This is irrespective of sexual maturity or a society’s legal, ritualistic or religious coming of age.”

Supporting the entire family by selling shwe yin aye, a traditional Burmese dessert, his father said he was happy that they could do this for his son.

The Guinness World Records has yet to declare a successor to He Pingping, who held the title until March this year when he died at the age of 21. He measured 2 foot, five inches or 74.61 centimetres.

However, Zaw Bala Aung has competition. Nepalese teenager Khagendra Thapa Magar, who is 17 years and eight months and reaches only 20 inches, claims he should be officially verified as the world’s shortest man, but the official body has rejected the claim, at least for another four months.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Migrant workers in fear amid Thai crackdown

Tuesday, 22 June 2010 12:40 Usa Pichai

Samut Sakhon, Thailand (Mizzima) – Migrant workers in Thailand are living in fear amid a police crackdown over the past week that has led to the arrests of more than a thousand migrants in several regions around the country, some said yesterday.

Nida, a Mon worker in the Mahachai district of Samut Sakhon, a province neighbouring Bangkok on the southern seaboard, told Mizzima today that her family members and friends who work in Thailand were afraid to leave their homes.

“I have a working document but still don’t want to go out because some of my friends were detained even though they have documents,” Nida said. “Police justified the arrests by saying they had to inspect their documents thoroughly.”

Bangkok Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lieutenant General Santan Chayanont said on Sunday officers had found that 1, 241 migrant workers of Burmese, Laotian, Cambodian, Iranian and Indian nationalities had entered the Kingdom of Thailand illegally. Most were found to be working in restaurants and factories.

Santan said that after foreigners were alleged to have stolen 12 million baht from a pick-up truck in front of a bank, police were bolstering investigations into the histories of migrant workers who might be drawn into criminal activities.

“In addition, there is the need to investigate the histories of these persons to find out who the masterminds responsible are and who they hired to illegally sneak these workers into the Kingdom of Thailand,” he said, according to a report on the state-run Thai News Agency website. “These histories and this information can then be sent to police headquarters, including information on the different means illegal workers use to sneak into the country to work.”

A shop owner in Mahachai, an area known for its seafood market, added that police had increased the frequency of checks on the migrant community there, while some local mafia had also forced workers to pay them.

According to the Human Rights for Development Foundation (HRDF), whose staff work closely with migrants, around 830 were arrested between last Thursday and Saturday across all nine of Bangkok’s police regions. In Mahachai, a total of 150 were arrested also on Thursday, and on Sunday, around 150 were detained in Sa Kaew province, on the Cambodian border.

The crackdown followed Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s order on June 2 for the immediate launch of a “Special Centre to Suppress, Arrest and Prosecute Migrant Workers who are Working Underground”. Its goal, he said, would be to ensure the effectiveness of the January 19, 2010 Thai cabinet resolution on “nationality verification” for migrant workers from neighbouring countries.

The Thai government expects the process to end in 2012 and that migrants who work in Thailand must have a passport and work permit.

An official in Mahachai said the process was continuing and that more migrants were applying for the verification but that the Burmese government’s demand to recheck the information of each worker was causing delays.

Surapong Kongchantuek, deputy chairman of the Lawyers’ Council of Thailand’s subcommittee on the rights of stateless persons, migrant workers and migrants, said police action would fail to solve the problem as the real trouble was that human traffickers remained at large.

“Officials have been employing this policy (of arresting workers) for about 20 years and the problem is still happening,” he said.

Adisorn Kerdmongkol, manager of a project for the well-being of migrant workers, ethnic minorities, refugees and stateless persons at the Thai Health Promotion Foundation, added that the upcoming general election in Burma may rekindle conflict over migrants and refugees in Thailand amid a continuing divide between the Burmese military junta and those ethnic minorities that have rejected joining the army’s Border Guard Force.

Activists estimate that there are between two million and three million migrant workers in Thailand. Of them, around 90,000 have verified their nationality and carry a passport, while 800,000 have lodged applications to do so.

On Monday, the HRDF released a statement urging Thai government to stop suppression of migrant workers, which it said constitutes a serious threat to human rights. It said Bangkok should open a new round of migrant registrations to provide an opportunity for the estimated 1-1.4 million migrants to register legally instead.

The group also warned the action would lead to a labour shortage in the country and that workers would face more abuses from human traffickers as they could be deceived into finding new jobs, which could open a window for officials to extract bribes from the vulnerable.

NLD top leaders take roadshow to grass roots

Tuesday, 22 June 2010 16:56 Myint Maung

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Leaders of the National League for Democracy are conducting a roadshow of states and divisions to meet grass-roots members, explain policies and listen to the challenges they are facing since the party was declared illegal and disbanded by the ruling military junta early last month after deciding against registering under “unjust” electoral laws, a senior leader said.

The tour comes at the request of NLD general secretary Aung San Suu Kyi, central executive committee member Ohn Kyaing said.

From June 12, NLD central executive committee members Ohn Kyaing and Kyi Win have been on a tour set to take in Moegyoke, Thapatekyin, Mattaya, Patheingyi, Meiktila, Myinchan, Kyaukpadaung, Nyaung Oo in Mandalay Division and Pakokku in Magway Division. Similarly, central executive committee members Dr Win Tin and Han Tha Myint, and Bahan Township NLD chairman Aung Myint, have been touring Karen State since Saturday, Suu Kyi’s 65th birthday.

“We will not hold political meetings, issue political statements or direct the grass roots of the party. But we do need to find out about conditions on the ground,” Ohn Kyaing told Mizzima. “Aung San Suu Kyi told us to meet our political colleagues and listen to their difficulties.”

Suu Kyi issued the directive to listen to grass-roots voices when she met her lawyer Nyan Win. At the meeting, she asked the leaders to carry the message to township leaders that although the NLD had been barred from political activities, the group should continue working for national reconciliation, human rights and democracy as a leading political opposition group.

In the states and divisions visited so far during the NLD tours, the senior party executives explained to grass-roots party members the nature of the junta’s one-sided and unjust electoral laws and the party’s decision against re-registering with the junta’s Union Election Commission (UEC). Township members said they supported the party’s decisions and that they would follow unanimously the leadership of Suu Kyi and party policy, the party sources said.

Ohn Kyaing said: “Aung San Suu Kyi, party’s vice-chairman Tin Oo and CEC member Win Tin told us to carry out non-profit social services under a political agenda.”

CEC members met grass-roots party leaders Thein Tan and Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, NLD leaders in Mandalay Division. NLD members Myo Naing and Maung Maung Than also attended. Ohn Kyaing said the team would visit townships in Magway including Pakkoku after Mandalay.

A group led by Win Tin has since Saturday visited Hlaingbwe and Phaan in Karen State. He called in on the party grass roots in Mandalay, Pegu (Bago) and Rangoon Divisions early this year.
Monday, June 21, 2010

Nucleolus of nuclear Burma

Monday, 21 June 2010 13:04 Dr. Tint Swe

From time to time Burma draws media attention providing news of military coups, people’s uprisings, news of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and the like. The gross human rights violations, the state-sponsored forced labor practices and the use of child soldier issues are not appealing enough to create outside attention. Condemnations and paper resolutions by world bodies did not make many headlines either. But the last piece of nuclear news is like volcanic ashes spreading over the unwarranted preparation of the 2010 election in Burma.

The 37-page Nuclear Related Activities in Burma report by Robert E. Kelley and Ali Fowle was enough to stir the responsible media and the USA. The pre-planned visit of United States Senator Jim Webb cancelled his second trip to Burma because of that news. The neighboring countries, which would be inside the radius of the missile range supposed to be built by Burmese Generals, are yet to express any dissenting opinions on the subject. Nuclear big neighbors know well of complications and compulsions of being nuclear.

The experts call for independent assessment of the information received by the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), the radio and TV broadcasting station based in Oslo run by pro-democracy movement. The writers of the report also scientifically invited official clarification by IAEA. For the people of Burma there is no doubt at all that the military leaders will do everything pertinent that will aid their quest to remain in power.

The authors who are experts in the nuclear field wrote that Burma was ruled by a junta that had no real political philosophy other than greed. To add to the laundry lists of attacks, as the Generals are born-Buddhists they are living not only with Lobha (greed) but Dosa (anger) and Moha (delusion). Fear has always been there in generals’ mindset. They are afraid of losing power and the wealth they now hold illegitimately and want to simply hand it over to their trusted ones and relatives.

The report categorizes that they are unrealistic attempts of the Molecular Laser Isotope Separation project, unprofessional engineering drawings and the crude appearance of items. But today many countries international relations with Burma do business not on real situation as told by the suppressed people. Those governments just care for the other governments they are dealing. Those foreign ministers will be telling that is their foreign policy is pragmatic. There is no reason to suit the national interest if a neighbor becomes destructive nuclear nation.

Indeed, it is true that the regime believes nuclear weapons contribute to immunity which is being sought because they have repeatedly committed crimes against their own people. Burmese people want to know if the perpetrators are immune by possessing such missiles and weapon of mass destruction.

The Association of South-East Asia Nations (ASEAN) whose members jointly signed the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty in 1995, are nothing but proud of nuclear motivation of one of its ten countries. It is because the charter allows being forever constructive to one another. The junta leader will not accept if others tell him that it is against the Bangkok Treaty. Though the junta has been going against the principle of upholding international law with respect to human rights, social justice and multilateral trade, nine others continued non-interference practice. Not only the ASEAN, but the SAARC also wants to embrace the junta. The question is which bloc can pay more to the go-getting generals.

The information gathering started five years ago and revealed that secret plan initiated a decade before. It took only a couple of months for Burmese elected representatives to realize that military would not yield to the results of the 1990 election. When they informed international community about it, it was not approved. Nuclear dream of Burmese junta has been apparent and known by the word since years ago but not believed. Now it is time the world to act. To stop nuclear it needs to stop the junta.

When nuclear experts from Pakistan fled to Burma 10 years ago, no foreigners thought it was true. The unholy alliance between Burma and North Korea was also reported by Burmese language radios. Even in early 2002 there were warning sings of the the suspicious North Korean ship, the Kang Nam I, docked at Thilawa shipyard which was built by the China National Constructional and Agricultural Machinery Import and Export Co (CAMC). Only America took some measures against the North Korean ship. But materials from North Korea, Russia, Germany, Singapore, and Europe are were already in existence at Thabeikkyin, Pyin Oo Lwin, Myaing, and maybe at unknown other sites.

This credible report is the last of leakages of classified information from the junta. In April 2006, Vice Senior General Maung Aye, the number 2, paid an official visit at the invitation of the prime minister of the Russian Federation. General Thura Shwe Mann, the number 3, also made a secret visit to North Korea in November 2008. The leaked information received by pro-democracy side included secret reports of those visits as well as the meeting minute between Indian President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam and Burmese Senior General Than Shwe of 6th March 2006. In January this year Major Win Naing Kyaw and Foreign Ministry official U Thura Kyaw were sentenced to death and U Pyan Sein, a civilian was sentenced to 15 years for revealing state secrets.

The new hero major Sai Thein Win is hiding because he does not want to be the next Mordecai Vanunu, a former Israeli nuclear technician who also revealed details of nuclear weapon program of Israel in 1986 . Some Burmese intelligent officers are trained by Mossad, which lured the scientist back.

Before IAEA could investigate, the report proves the nucleolus of nuclear Burma.

The constitution written unilaterally and announced approved in the midst of devastating Cyclone is a part of long term strategy of Burmese Generals. Having the secret nuclear ambition, the generals won’t and can’t share power with parliamentarians from Aung San Suu Kyi’s party. So they keep her under detention and made NLD nonexistent. The upcoming election is nothing but to guard nuclear nightmare alive there in Burma.

World Cup fans angered at telecast failures

Monday, 21 June 2010 13:17 Kyaw Kha

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burmese football fans are up in arms, but they are not doing the Mexican wave, after failure by local stations to broadcast World Cup football matches on consecutive days last week, according to would-be viewers.

The military-backed television station Myawaddy and the state-run MRTV have broadcast two matches and one match respectively each day of the soccer tournament in South Africa from its start on June 11, but from June 16, Myawaddy has encountered technical problems and failed to screen the competition.

“They [Broadcasters] promised us more than they could deliver. They said they would broadcast all of the 64 matches but they can never keep their word”, a football fan in Rangoon told Mizzima.

Moe San Pan Media, which is sponsoring the live broadcasts on MRTV and Myawaddy TV, confirmed the stations’ technical problems. The media firm is owned by Zaw Min Aye, a son of the chairman of Union of Myanmar Economics Holdings (UMEHL), Lieutenant General Tin Aye.

“There is a technical problem between the Fifa transmitter and our receiver. About 11 engineers are trying to solve the glitch”, a Moe San Pan Media technician told Mizzima, referring to world football’s governing body, which runs the contest.

On June 16, state-run MRTV and military owned Myawaddy stopped broadcasting the matches but the former returned to live broadcasting the next day.

Because of Myawaddy’s failure, football fans in Rangoon were forced into bars and tea shops with satellite televisions to follow the action. However fans in rural areas without satellite televisions were infuriated without that option.

“Previously, we had arrived at the village monastery, which has a television set, to watch the soccer matches from around 5:30 p.m.,” a football fan from Hnawkan village, Natmout Township, Magway Division told Mizzima. “Currently, I don’t know what to do when the clock strikes six every evening. I can’t decide whether I should drink green tea or visit a neighbour’s house.”

The village has about 100 homes and there is only one television, which is owned by the monastery.

A resident from Pegu (Bago) and his friend had bought a generator to produce electricity during power cuts so they could watch the fixtures uninterrupted. Now they felt very angry with the government because of the failures, he said.

The licence to broadcast World Cup soccer matches live was purchased from Yangon Entertainment by Moe San Pan Media. The company refused to disclose the price.

Opposition alliance marks Suu Kyi’s 65th birthday

Monday, 21 June 2010 13:40 Perry Santanachote

Bangkok (Mizzima) – The Ten Alliances of Burma, a movement for democracy and ethnic rights, joined the people around the world in marking opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s 65th birthday, two days early. Activists and friends of the opposition gathered on Thursday at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand to honour “The Lady” and her vision for a peaceful and democratic Burma.

The Nobel Peace laureate remains under house arrest after spending around 15 of the past 21 years held by the Burmese junta in various forms of detention. Agence France-Presse reported that Suu Kyi spent her birthday yesterday at her lakeside villa in Rangoon, where she lives with two female assistants, under guard and cut off from the world without phone or internet access. She remains an unflagging icon for the country’s struggle against oppression.

The Ten Alliances also used the event to present the results of its “People’s Elections”, a worldwide campaign that commemorated the anniversary of the landslide victory of Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, in the 1990 elections.

On May 27, 2010, Burmese communities in more than 20 countries demonstrated against the ruling military junta’s proposed upcoming election in their home country. In a “Global Day of Action”, Burmese activists in exile protested against what they coined a “military selection” by holding their own polls. They handed out and collected nearly 40,000 ballots – each a simple face-off between Suu Kyi and junta leader Senior General Than Shwe – to send to Asean and international ambassadors along with a plea to denounce the junta’s elections.

Thwin Linn Aung, co-ordinator of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions foreign affairs team who is also an organiser of the Global Day of Action, said: “The main hope is for the international community to mount pressure on the military regime to meet our causes … one is to release all political prisoners, the second is to stop the attacks in ethnic areas and the third is to have dialogue that includes constitutional review.”

“If these causes are not met, we want the international community to denounce the 2010 election and not recognise its results,” Thwin Linn Aung said.

Canadian ambassador Ron Hoffman was presented with ballot postcards from his country at the event; representatives from the American and Czech embassies were also present to accept ballots from their respective countries.

“There are hundreds of thousands of Canadians who very much identify with Aung San Suu Kyi and the great ideals she’s pursuing,” Hoffman said. “Today we reaffirm our commitment to carry this collective struggle forward. Canada has and will continue to impose the toughest sanctions in the world on Burma’s military regime.”

The United States was also represented. George Kent, political counsellor for the US embassy in Bangkok compared the junta’s treatment of Suu Kyi to that experienced by under the apartheid regime by Nelson Mandela in South Africa, in that she is the key to resolving the country’s challenges.

“It’s simply tragic for the people of Burma and the country that Burma’s generals have rebuffed her efforts and her unshakable commitment to work together to find a peaceful path towards a more prosperous future for the country,” Kent said. “Like Nelson Mandela 20 years ago when he walked out of prison and a now prosperous South Africa [is] successfully hosting the World Cup, Daw Suu [Kyi] could be the greatest possible partner for the regime to manage a successful transition to a better future without recriminations or revenge.” (Daw is the Burmese honorific used to refer to mature women or women in a senior position.)

Kraisak Choonhavan, a Thai member of parliament and president of the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar (Burma) Caucus, began his speech stating his frustrations with the stalemate in Thai-Burmese relations. His grouping of lawmakers from Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines and Cambodia have continuously called for the unconditional release of Suu Kyi and freedom for the more than 2,100 political prisoners in Burma.

“We’re getting used to this almost-permanency of oppression in Burma,” he said. “This is very, very sad because there’s absolutely no chance for us to combine a real effort of development between the two countries without harming the people of Burma. Every single project that we have seems to hurt the people in Burma more than it would help.”

Choonhavan lamented that dialogue with the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) – the junta’s name for itself – had not worked and neither had sanctions, which he said had failed because of greedy businessmen in pursuit of Burma’s natural resources.

“Who am I to say that?” he added. “Thailand is the biggest income-giver to Burma in the world. We buy gas from Burma and to a certain extent we are supporting the SPDC. I have to speak the truth.”

“We support millions of Burmese that live in Thailand too,” he added. “But not enough.”

Statistics support his claim. According to a Thai-Burma Border Consortium survey in April, the 10 camps the alliance of NGOs runs in Thailand house about 140,000 refugees as of April 30. The US State Department says the Thai government has issued temporary work permits to more than one million Burmese who live outside the refugee camps, but migrant worker rights groups estimate that a further million Burmese are undocumented workers in Thailand.

The mood at the event however was mostly cheerful, especially as everyone gathered to blow out candles on the birthday cake for Suu Kyi – a common wish being that she would celebrate her 66th in freedom.

Mon academic Nai Pan Hla dies at 87

Monday, 21 June 2010 23:12 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Mon researcher and academic on Mon literature and culture Dr. Nai Pan Hla died of a stroke aged 87 on Friday.

He was being treated at Hninsi Gone hospital and home for the aged on Kabaaye Street, Rangoon. A cremation ceremony was held yesterday at Yayway Cemetery.

“He was hospitalised first for one month and then taken back home,” his son Min Aye Chan told Mizzima. “He was then admitted again and died on the 18th of this month.”

Dr. Nai Pan Hla was the fourth son of seven siblings born to village headman U Kyua and Daw Cho on March 20, 1923 in Kaw Wein village, Mon State, on the banks of the Gyaing River.

He studied Mon, Burmese and English languages at the monastic school in his village then passed grade seven in the 1939-40 academic year at Karen ABM High School in Moulmein. As the Second World War had reached Burma he returned home from grade eight studies at Moulmein State High School. He moved to Rangoon in 1946, where he studied matriculation at Myoma High School in Rangoon for three months.

At the Ramanya Mon Association he served as secretary of the political group, and took a post as the senior officer for Mon culture at the Ministry of Culture in 1953. Five years later he was visiting professor at Harvard University and in 1967, in China.

During his career he wrote many research articles on Mon-Burmese culture for periodicals in Burma. The Burma Research Society published his prominent work, Yarzardayit Ayaydawpon (Mon King Movement) in Mon language in 1958. Due to its secessionist themes, the book’s Burmese version could only be published 10 years later. The volume came with forewords by history professor Than Tun (deceased), Burmese professor Than Swe and Khin Hnin Yuu, one of the most influential Burmese women writers.

“The original book is good and so is the translation, so I’d like to say we’ve been given a reliable Yarzardayit history book”, Dr. Than Htun said, hailing the book in his foreword.

In 1988 and 1989, he served as visiting professor at Tokyo University and Tokyo International Christian University in Japan.

From there he went to the United States, where he was admitted as a doctoral candidate by Pacific Western University (California) in 1991. There he earned a bachelor’s degree in science and a PhD in cultural anthropology.

For his translation of 11 Mon Dhammasat Texts in English with Ryuji Okudaira he was awarded a doctorate of laws (LLD) in 1992. A dhammasat is a mixture of law, legal advice and poetry based on Buddhist principles. He served as permanent professor of Southeast Asian culture and history at Meio University in Okinawa, Japan from April 1994.

Back home, he also taught Mon literature and stone inscription while living in Bahan Township, Rangoon.

He is survived by a son and six daughters.