Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pegu official’s office bombed

Khaing Suu

New Delhi (Mizzima) – A bomb was detonated last night in a ward peace and development council office in the capital of Pegu Division, residents said. No injuries were reported.

The blast went off at about 9:40 p.m. behind a cupboard in the Pegu Myothit Ward Peace and Development Council chairman’s office, destroying the wall and furniture, a resident said.

“We heard a loud bang at around 9:40 p.m. yesterday. We thought that it was a tyre blowout. But this morning, we learned that it was a bomb blast,” the resident who lives near the ward office told Mizzima.

The ex-servicemen’s association in Pegu confirmed it was an explosion but were unable to provide any details.

Other residents told Mizzima there was an explosion last night and that no one was hurt. Although Mizzima tried to contact Pegu Police Station No. 3 and the township’s peace and development council office, officials there offered no comment.

Residents were concerned that there would be more blasts, a resident of Pegu said. “I feel uneasy about the explosion in our town. After the incident, I felt too afraid to go to the cinema,” she said.


Arakanese abbot handed eight years in jail on sex charges

Khaing Suu

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Arakanese abbot and historian Ashin Pyinnya Sara yesterday received eight years and three months in prison and a 10,000 kyat fine from Sittwe District Court in Arakan State, his lawyer said. He had been accused of having sexual relations with a woman.

Deputy Chief Justice Wah Wah Tun sentenced the 57-year-old abbot under the Burmese Penal Code’s section 292 (handling obscene materials) to three months in prison; under section 295 (insulting religion) to two years; under section 406 (criminal breach of trust) to three years; under section 24(1) of the foreign exchange act to three years, and fined him 10,000 kyat (US$10) under section 68 (c) of the municipal act, his lawyer, Aye Nu Sein, told Mizzima.

In accordance with the abbot’s wishes, an appeal will be sought with the superior court to review the sentence, Aye Nu Sein said.

The abbot, 57, was accused of having sexual relations with an unspecified woman after his arrest on July 27 and local authorities closed his Buddha Vihara Mahamuni monastery.

His trial started on August 10 and about 60 local residents attended but he was prevented from speaking to anyone afterwards. He was sent directly to Sittwe Prison after the verdict was handed down, Aye Nu Sein said.

The authorities seized Arakanese literature and ancient coins from the monastery and sent about 100 children from its orphanage to other institutions.

The Rakhine Nationalities Development Party issued a statement on August 9 that the junta should return the orphans to the monastery and the artefacts of Arakan State’s cultural inheritance to the state in western Burma.

On September 7, 15 senior monks from Sittwe, Minbya and Ponnagyun sent a letter to the military’s Western Command chief, urging that the case be handled lawfully.

Local residents estimated that the monk would be sentenced to a long prison term and that superior authorities might force to the court to impose serve sentence, Rakhine Nationalities Development Party secretary Khin Pyi Soe told Mizzima.

“The sentence is too heavy. Both the district and state courts should consider the appeal and reduce the sentence,” he said.

Although Ashin Pyinnya Sara’s hometown is Ramree Township in southern Arakan State, he lived in Sittwe in the north of the state. He is well known for his research on Arakanese literature and history.

Local residents described tight security around monasteries and at crossroads in Sittwe yesterday.


Student unions condemn 'unlawful' arrest of activists urging poll boycott

Mizzima News

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The All Burma Federation of Student Unions yesterday condemned the unlawful arrest of six student activists who urged the public to boycott the junta’s election on November 7, according to statement from the umbrella group.

Six university students from North Okkalapa Township, aged between 19 and 24, distributed the leaflets calling for a boycott of the vote were arrested this month. The All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABSFU) said that the students’ activity was lawful and in accordance with basic human rights.

Chapter 1, article 3 of the National Parliament Electoral Law stated that “an element of one’s electoral right is the right to vote or the right to choose not to vote” and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed by many countries including Burma, said: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression”, the statement pointed out.

So in accord with the junta’s existing laws and basic human rights, the people have right to opt out of voting and the federation condemned the junta’s unlawful act of detaining the student activists for distributing the leaflets, it said.

The statement also demanded the students’ immediate release.

List of detained student activists, all from North Okkalapa
1. Tha Htoo Aung, 20, final-year engineering student, J Ward. Father’s Name: Khin Maung Oo.
2. Zin Min Htet, second-year distance education history student, K Ward. Father’s Name: Ohn Khine.
3. Kyaw Thi Ha, aka Kyaw Kyaw, 24, geography student, K Ward. Father’s Name: Nyi Nyi Lwin.
4. Zarni Lin, aka Lin Lin, 21, student from Hmawbi Technological University, K Ward. Father’s Name: Khin Zaw.
5. Kyaw Thu Soe, aka Arnold, 19, first-year Dagon University distance education student of geography, K Ward. Father’s Name: Aye Shwe.
6. Ye Lin Phyo, aka Ko Phyo, 21, first-year Dagon University distance education economics student, J Ward. Father’s Name: Thaung Myint.


Junta crony uses influence to cut voters’ power bills

Salai Han Thar San

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Burmese junta crony businessman Htay Myint has reached a price-cutting deal with local electricity suppliers for his constituents in Myeik District, Tenasserim Division, as a part of his electoral campaign.

The Yuzana chairman and candidate for the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) in southern Burma negotiated an agreement with the firms to reduce electricity charges for the people of his hometown.

Htay Myint is one of Burma’s richest businessmen. His Yuzana Company runs many interests in farming, construction and hotel and real estate across the country and he also owns Southern Myanmar Football Club, one of the professional teams in the Myanmar National League. He is subject to sanctions from countries including the United States, Canada and Britain, for his junta links.

He met local private power firm heads at Myeik District Peace and Development Council office on September 15 and told them to reduce electricity charges from 400 kyat [about 40 US cents] to 300 kyat per kilowatt hour for local residents. In return, he agreed to reduce the diesel price from 140,000 kyat to 120,000 kyat per barrel, a Myeik Electric Power Corporation official told Mizzima.

“Htay Myint … told them to reduce the electricity charges between December and next year March,” the official said.

He will contest for a Myeik seat in the People’s Assembly in the first nationwide elections to be held in Burma since 1990 on November 7.

Since 2008, local businessmen set up supply companies including Boethicho, Kya Maung, and Tavoy Community to distribute electricity 24 hours a day.

“We had to spend about 40,000-80,000 kyat [about US$80] for electricity in the past [but] now we’ll be spending less on electricity. I’ve not decided which party to vote for,” a businessman from Saitnge Ward told Mizzima.

The main parties contesting seats in the townships within Myeik District are the junta-backed USDP and the National Unity Party (NUP). The USDP candidates are also Tin Shein and Moe Myint for seats in the National Assembly and Khin Zaw, Dr. Kyaw San and Saw Ha Bee for the States and Regions Assembly.

The NUP’s are Pyi Aye for the People’s Assembly; Han Soe and Han Tint for the National Assembly; and Kan Htun and Maung Maung Naing for the States and Regions Assembly.

Exile media reports say Htay Myint has been or remains president of the Construction Owners’ Association, the Fishing Vessel Owners’ Association and the Myanmar Project Association.

According to Burma analyst Bertil Lintner, his junta contacts were strongest with former prime minister General Khin Nyunt, ousted in a purge in October 2004. “But the fact that Yuzana is still doing booming business in Burma indicates that he must have other high-level contacts as well,” he wrote in the Asia Times online newspaper.

Htay Myint and Yuzana are both on the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctions list as they conduct business with the junta, and are therefore complicit in the ruling Burmese military government’s large-scale repression of the democratic opposition in Burma, among many other abuses.

His company is also being sued by farmers in Kachin State, northern Burma over land seized in the Hukawng Valley “tiger reserve”.

Meanwhile, another leading businessman, Dr. Khin Shwe [chairman of Zaykabar Construction, another group on many countries’ sanctions lists] will stand in Rangoon Division’s National Assembly constituency nine, which includes Kungyangon, Twantay and Kawhmu. The former president of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry will contest Sagaing Division National Assembly for Shwebo constituency.

The USDP is led by serving Prime Minister Thein Sein, a “former” top military officer, and comprises 1,134 candidates standing for 330 constituencies across Burma.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010

General and Than Shwe confidant to head military-run conglomerate

Wednesday, 29 September 2010 01:37 Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Former Coastal Region Command chief Khin Zaw Oo, who is on Britain’s financial sanctions list, has been appointed to head one of the top two military-controlled conglomerates.

Major General Khin Zaw Oo, promoted to the post of adjutant general in a major military reshuffle last month, also took up the position of chairman of Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (UMEHL), the state-run newspaper New Light of Myanmar reported on Sunday.

The group’s former chairman, Lieutenant General Tin Aye, has retired from his military position, but was still a member of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the junta’s name for itself.

Khin Zaw Oo was a graduate of Rangoon University and also of the Officer Training School (OTS) in Hmawbi Township, one of Burma’s old military academies. Brigadier General Khin Maung Htay has taken over Coastal Command.

According to a 2004 report by Burma Campaign UK titled, “The European Union and Burma: The Case for Targeted Sanctions”, UMEHL and the Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) are the two major industrial conglomerates controlled by the military, dominating key economic sectors.

The former’s shareholders were limited to the military establishment, the report said. According to a leaked UMEHL 1995-96 annual report, two of its main objectives were “to support military personnel and their families” and “to try and become the main logistics and support organisation for the military by gradually establishing industries”, in a manner akin to Haliburton’s services to US forces, the report said.

UMEHL has gained monopolies in a wide range of businesses in Burma, such as export of consumer goods, gems, agricultural products, timber, rubber and import of staple foods and cars.

Moreover, the state-run business of Bo Aung Kyaw Port terminal and Burma’s Five Stars Ship Company had been privatised under UMEHL. The group had also bought the building that housed state-run People’s Department Store on Pansodan Street, Rangoon, and renovated it to be reopened as the Ruby Mart shopping centre.

UMEHL also owns Bandoola Transportation Company Limited (a passenger bus and freight firm), Myawaddy Bank and Myawaddy Trading Limited.

Khin Zaw Oo was a close confidant of junta leader Than Shwe, which was the reason for his choice as chairman of UMEHL, a former military officer in exile said.

The Burma Campaign’s 2004 report also said UMEHL had been managing the military armed forces’ pension funds, giving it a ready source of financing.

By 1999, the group had also established nearly 50 joint ventures with foreign firms.

The US State Department’s 2008 investment climate statement on Burma said that to set up a joint venture, foreign firms had reported that an affiliation with UMEHL or MEC proved useful to help them receive the proper business permits.

The report warned however that “entering into business with UMEHL or MEC does not guarantee success for foreign partners. Some investors report that their Burmese military partners are parasitic, make unreasonable demands, provide no cost-sharing, and sometimes muscle out the foreign investor after an investment becomes profitable”.

Even so, dealing with such organs that provide material support to the repressive Burmese regime is illegal in the United States as many of such companies, their leaders and families are subject to EU, US and British sanctions.

Lithuania joins chorus seeking UN inquiry on Burma abuses

Thea Forbes

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Lithuania has joined the growing list of countries supporting calls for a UN commission of inquiry into the Burmese junta’s documented cases of human rights abuses, after France and Ireland in the past week.

The call came in a statement the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent to Mizzima.

“Lithuania is deeply concerned by the situation in Burma/Myanmar, especially by the situation of human rights and by the detention of political prisoners, pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi among them … [The] Lithuanian Government supports the launching of the UN commission of inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma,” it said, using the Burmese female honorific, daw, to refer to the Nobel Peace laureate, whom the junta continued to detain under house arrest.

“Having in mind the gross and systematic nature of human rights violations mentioned in Special Rapporteur Quintana’s report last March, the situation must be properly investigated,” it added.

It was referring to the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, who in March submitted a report to the UN Human Rights Council stating that in Burma there existed a pattern of “gross and systematic” human rights abuses that suggested the abuses were a state policy that involved authorities at all levels of the executive, military and judiciary. The report also stated that the “possibility exists that some of these human rights violations may entail categories of crimes against humanity or war crimes under the terms of the [Rome] Statute of the International Criminal Court”.

Lithuania said it supported the initiation of such an inquiry with a specific fact-finding mandate, stating that it would be one of the best ways to evaluate the nature and scope of the human rights violations committed in Burma.

London-based rights advocacy Burma Campaign UK welcomed the country’s backing of such an inquiry. The organisation’s international co-ordinator, Zoya Phan, commended Lithuania’s decision. “I am grateful to the government of Lithuania for listening to the voice of the people of Burma, and standing by us in our struggle for justice and democracy.”

Lithuania is the 7th country in the European Union to offer its support for the inquiry and Zoya Phan hoped this addition would signal the beginning of work towards official support from the European Union.

With the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s recent evasion of comment on the commission of inquiry proposal after the Group of Friends of Myanmar (Burma) meeting in New York on Monday, immediate substantial progress is however clearly some way off.
Mizzima also questioned Lithuania on its stance regarding the widely reproached general election due on November 7.

“We must also admit with regret that the elections planned on the 7th of November… do not meet the criteria of a free, fair and democratic electoral process and cannot be accepted as such,” the ministry statement said.

It also condemned the military regime’s decision to formally dissolve Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Group of Friends reiterates standard theoretical appeal

Mizzima News

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Group of Friends on Myanmar once again failed to identify any shared concrete measures to be implemented over the continuing political stand-off in Burma, as they convened late on Monday in New York.

In America’s largest city for the 65th meeting of the UN General Assembly, the leaders from the group’s 14 member countries departed the meeting echoing the same language that had been a feature of the divergent grouping since its inauguration in December 2007. The group comprises Australia, Britain, China, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

“Members called for steps to be taken for the release of political detainees including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” Ban told reporters in New York following the hour-long hour closed-door discussion. “This is essential for the election to be seen as credible and to contribute to Myanmar’s [Burma’s] stability and development.”

Appealing for an inclusive electoral process characterised by transparency, Ban cautioned: “Failure to meet these expectations could undermine the credibility of the process, which, in turn, could reflect on Asean’s collective values and principles.”

The Secretary General’s comments reiterated the message from the Group of Friends.
However, the significance of the gathering was as apparent in what was reportedly excluded as what was included in discussions.

With momentum for a UN commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity in Burma steadily growing over recent weeks, the subject remained contentious among the group, representative of divisions of policy on the commission among the governments represented.

Supported by members such as Australia, Britain, France and the US, the commission has failed to draw any backing from among Asean countries, Russia, India or China.

While Ban declined to comment on the matter of such an inquiry in his post-meeting debriefing on Monday, scepticism of any potential advances on the issue were already evident in recent public statements from US officials.

Both US State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley and assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs Dr. Kurt Campbell had in preceding days given notice that Washington was willing to play a “wait-and-see” game regarding any possible discussion of a commission into extensively reported human rights abuses.

Also emblematic of Ban’s stated growing frustration on the issue of Burma, nine months after the Secretary General removed his then special envoy to Burma, Dr. Ibrahim Gambari, an apt replacement was still yet to be identified.

Burma was not represented at Monday’s meeting, the third such gathering of the grouping at the foreign ministerial level.


Thai PM urges ‘inclusive process’ after Burmese polls

Thea Forbes

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has called for the Burmese junta to initiate a more “inclusive process” after the nation’s first general elections in 20 years on November 7, according to a report in The Washington Post.

Abhisit was talking to the Post a day before attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Friday.

He characterised the Burmese elections as the first step in a continuing process and flagged widely held scepticism over the extent of change possible from the military regime after its controversial vote.

“Realistically, nobody expected that just having these elections would shift things … I think it should be seen as a first step. Whether that step is big enough depends on your expectations and perspective on things,” Abhisit told the Post.

The Thai prime minister added: “For us, what is important is that once they go ahead, they lead to a more inclusive process which would lay the foundation for further steps and also for reconciliation with the minority groups.”

Thailand has an interest in the regime’s reconciliation with minority groups as the porous nature of the Thai-Burmese border has meant the migration of hundreds of thousands of refugees and workers into Thailand over the past two decades.

On whether detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party could regain their stance in the public arena, he said: “They [the junta leaders] should do all they can to open up the process.”

Suu Kyi is a Nobel Peace laureate who has spent 15 of the last 21 years in some form of detention including house arrest since her party’s landslide victory in 1990 elections. The military leadership refused to recognise the vote and cede power to the democratically elected government.

The NLD was effectively dissolved on September 14 after opting out of registering for the polls because of laws it cited as “unjust and unfair” and the regime’s refusal to release political prisoners.

Reuters reported on Friday that a staff member at the Union Election Commission office in Suu Kyi’s Bahan Township, who requested anonymity, confirmed her name on the electoral role for the polls. Last month, she had advised members of her now-defunct party not to vote in the election. Some ethnic groups under ceasefire had also welcomed NLD calls for a boycott.

It had been assumed Suu Kyi would be barred from taking part in any capacity since Burma’s controversial 2008 constitution states “persons serving prison terms” were prevented from voting or running as candidates, Reuters said.

She was found guilty last August of breaking an internal security law after US citizen John Yettaw swam across Inya Lake to stay at her home and is serving a sentence of 18 months under house arrest. She was due for release one week after the election.

Nyan Win, Suu Kyi’s lawyer and spokesman for the NLD, told Reuters he was baffled by her inclusion on the electoral roll. “It’s tantamount to saying that she is not a prisoner.”

The Washington Post said Abhisit had noted Suu Kyi was barred from participating in this year’s elections.

Along with her party, ethnic minorities, monks, students, human rights groups and many Western governments have denounced the polls as a sham. Criticism has been levelled at the elections also because of crippling media censorship of opposition parties and the exclusion of Suu Kyi.

The polls have been called a cynical charade by which the military junta was seeking to establish a “legitimate” civilian government, further citing the 2008 constitution, which sets aside 25 per cent of seats in all three parliaments for military personnel. Also, junta leaders have stepped out of uniform to join the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party. Prime Minister Thein Sein is the party’s leader.

Whether the result of the coming election was likely to lead to a more “inclusive process” remains to be seen as Burmese state media had reported that some areas of five ethnic-minority states (Kachin, Karenni, Karen, Mon and Shan) were to be excluded from participating.

The state claimed the areas marked for exclusion lacked the appropriate conditions for a “free and fair” vote, perhaps because of the power that armed enthic groups, such as the Kachin Independence Organisation and factions of the Shan State Army, wielded in those areas.

The Thai leader’s urging for the political process in Burma to open up also came ahead of a meeting between leaders of other Southeast Asian nations and US President Barack Obama on Friday, the second meeting of its kind. The Post reported that Abhisit said the US-Asean meetings demonstrated the Obama administration’s re-engagement with the region.

Summit yields calls for regional peace, release of political detainees in Burma

Obama and Asean leaders on Friday called for a peaceful resolution to disputes over territory in the South China Sea, an issue Beijing had warned Washington over, Reuters reported, quoting a joint White House-Asean statement.

The news agency reported their agreement on “the importance of peaceful resolution of disputes, freedom of navigation, regional stability, and respect for international law, including in the South China Sea”.

Obama and the Asian leaders also called on Burma to “embark on a process of national reconciliation by releasing all political prisoners”, including Suu Kyi, and by holding free and fair elections in November.
Monday, September 27, 2010

New Mon State Party issues troops shoot-on-sight orders

Monday, 27 September 2010 13:53 Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The New Mon State Party has ordered its soldiers to shoot at junta troops if they intrude into areas under its control, Mon military adviser Colonel Kaung Yuk (retired) said.

The shoot-on-sight order was issued after a three-day NMSP central committee meeting, he said.

“We have issued orders to our troops to shoot at anyone intruding without prior notice into our five-mile (8-kilometre) radius base areas,” Kaung Yuk said.

“We told them [our troops] they didn’t have to seek orders from higher authorities and that they could shoot at anyone in pre-emptive strikes. The shoot-on-sight order is in effect for anyone intruding into our areas with a hostile objective without informing us,” he added.

During ceasefire negotiations with the junta, 14 base areas including Minywa near Kawbein village, on the banks of the Jai River in Mon State; Inngwa village, in Kyainnseikgyi Township, Karen State; and Pinchaungphya village, in Tavoy District near the Thai-Burmese border, were designated NMSP-controlled areas.

The junta has exerted increasing pressure of various kinds on the NMSP’s 7,000-strong armed wing, the Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA), to bring its troops under junta command within the Burmese Army’s Border Guard Forces (BGF). It has also brought its powers of persuasion to bear on local people’s militia outside the terms of the ceasefire agreement reached with the junta in 1995. However, the NMSP has defied the junta’s pressure and ultimatums.

Early this month, former Southeast Command chief Major General Thet Naing Win threatened the NMSP that its troops would be regarded as insurgents if they failed to surrender their arms.

The NMSP has continued to reject all junta pressure and responded that they would like to resolve political issues only through political means and would continue negotiations with the government elected on November 7. They have also rejected participation in those polls.

The junta answered by imposing tight restrictions on NMSP movement by asking them to report itineraries in advance, a move that had also spurred the shoot-on-sight order, on suspicion of the junta’s military objectives, the retired Mon colonel said.
Only district committee members and office assistants remained at the NMSP’s Moulmein liaison offices and the rest had been withdrawn, he said.

Junta troops near the Mon-controlled areas comprised 10 battalions under the Yay-based Military Operations Command No. 19 and five battalions under the control of Thaton-based artillery division No. 606. However, no significant junta troop movements have been seen, a source said.

The junta has been exerting increasing pressure on ceasefire groups to bring their troops under the BGF since April 2008. However, only the NDAK or Kachin State Special Region No. 1, Karenni Nationalities Liberation Force or Kayah State Special Region No. 1 and the Kokang or Shan State (North) Special Region No. 1, have accepted the proposal.

The Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), which broke away from the Karen National Union also recently accepted the BGF but the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) had been as strong in their rejection of the BGF as the NMSP.

The junta (the State Peace and Development Council or SPDC) had imposed travel restrictions on the KIO, ordering its members to seek permission from Military Affairs Security (military intelligence) and the Northern Region Command before travelling. The KIO also answered with a policy to shoot at SPDC forces if they intruded into areas under its control without prior notice.

The NMSP and the Mon National Liberation Army were created in 1958 from the Mon separatist group, the Mon People’s Front, and have continued to fight for self-determination and the rights of all ethnic minorities. They have controlled the eastern hills of Mon State and portions of Tenasserim Division since 1949.

KSPP dissolves over denied registration, junta harassment


Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The Kachin State Progressive Party was to announce on Saturday its formal dissolution, after the junta’s electoral watchdog rejected its registration and in the face of military intelligence harassment, the party’s secretary has said.

The party, formed with 39 central committee members including Dr. Manam Tu Ja, was prevented from standing in Burma’s first elections in 20 years by the Union Election Commission (UEC). Around 4,000 party members will be informed about the dissolution, according to a decision reached at a party meeting on Thursday.

“We will cease [the existence of] our party”, party secretary Tu Raw said.

Around 14 party leaders had also tried to stand for polls as independent candidates but the UEC rejected all of their candidatures, reports said.

However, Waw Thar, from the Lasang Awng Wa Peace Group (LAWPG), was accepted by UEC to stand in Waimaw constituency two. The faction led by Colonel Lasan Awng Wah broke from the Kachin Independence Organisation’s (KIO) forces last October and accepted the junta’s proposal of conversion into the Border Guard Forces (BGF) under Burmese Army command.

Regime leaders including Minister of Industry (1) Aung Thaung had accused KSPP leaders of continuing links with the KIO ceasefire group, allegations that Kachin leaders denied, saying the KSPP leaders in question had already officially resigned their KIO posts.

A member of the Kachin Consultative Committee said that the decision to dissolve also came after harassment by Military Affairs Security (military intelligence) staff.

“Military intelligence personnel asked them [party members] various questions, such as with whom they were contacting and working with, in fear of their opposition. So we will officially announce the party is no more. It’s better to dissolve it as we can’t do anything with this party,” he told Mizzima.

The UEC’s rejection of registering the KSPP gives the junta-supported National Unity Party (NUP) a major advantage, a local resident and former KSPP member told Mizzima.

“They [NUP leaders] might field some candidates from NUP in some [local] constituencies under these circumstances,” the resident said.

Nine candidates from the United Democratic Party of Kachin State (UDPKS) will contest in various Hluttaw (parliament) constituencies. The UDPKS is deemed an ally of the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party.
Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ireland weighs in on UN inquiry into Burma abuses

Saturday, 25 September 2010 13:05 Thomas Maung Shwe

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen’s Irish government has joined a growing list of Eurpoean Union and other countries voicing support for a UN inquiry into crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by Burma’s ruling junta.

The Irish government led by Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen (pictured above, during a trip to China in October 2008) has joined a growing list of nations voicing support for a UN commission of inquiry into human rights abuses and war crimes committed in Burma. Photo: Courtesy of the Republic of Ireland

In an e-mail sent to Mizzima in which it was confirmed Ireland supports such a UN commission of inquiry, Irish Department of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Amanda Bane wrote: “We remain actively engaged at national, EU and international level in monitoring the situation in Burma and in our efforts to support the Burmese people in their struggle for democracy and human rights.”

In March, the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, submitted a report to the UN Human Rights Council, which stated that in Burma there existed a pattern of “gross and systematic” human rights abuses that suggested the abuses were a state policy that involved authorities at all levels of the executive, military and judiciary. It also stated that the “possibility exists that some of these human rights violations may entail categories of crimes against humanity or war crimes under the terms of the [Rome] Statute of the International Criminal Court”.

He urged the UN to look further into rights abuses committed by the Burmese regime and consider launching a “commission of inquiry with a specific fact-finding mandate to address the question of international crimes”.

Ireland sees ‘no indication’ that regime listening to international criticism

Bane, also told Mizzima that it was the view of Dublin that at this point “there are no indications” that the Burmese regime had responded to calls by representatives of the Irish government “for the release without delay of all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi and for the initiation of a process of national dialogue and reconciliation, involving all opposition and ethnic groups, in advance of the elections”.

Five youth organisations form poll-boycott alliance

Saturday, 25 September 2010 00:08 Salai Han Thar San

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Five youth organisations including the 2007-Generation All Burma Federation of Student Unions formed an alliance to stimulate activities towards a boycott of the first Burmese elections in 20 years.

The youth groups, which also include New Generation, Saffron Generation, Midland Students and Pro-democracy Student and Youth Activists from Rangoon Division; formed the alliance on August 8, on the 22nd anniversary of the “8888” pro-democracy uprising in Burma.

“Our aim is to stimulate activities to boycott the forthcoming election for which we have drawn up a plan to carry out our mission … for the pre-election period to the post-election period,” an alliance spokesman told Mizzima.
The alliance comprises more than 200 separate chapters of youth groups in Rangoon, Mandalay, Pegu, and Irrawaddy divisions and in Kachin and Arakan states

The group also distributed more than 1,000 postcards calling for a boycott of the election to businessmen and government offices across the country via the postal service last week, on the occasion of the “Saffron Revolution’s” third anniversary.

“We want the international community not to recognise Burma’s forthcoming election. All parties that contest in the election are mere puppets of the junta. We want to urge people, soldiers and monks to also boycott those parties”, the spokesman said.
Friday, September 24, 2010

Thai police charge men over arms theft, sale to Wa rebels

Friday, 24 September 2010 21:29 Thomas Maung Shwe

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Thai authorities accused an artillery sergeant, two civilian military contractors and two other civilians of being members of a weapons-theft ring, which stole arms from an army ordnance depot in Lop Buri province and sold some to ethnic Wa rebels from Burma, a Bangkok newspaper reported today.

The sergeant and three civilians were arrested recently and police were still looking for the fifth civilian suspect, The Nation English-language daily report said.

Police told The Nation that Sergeant Sema Khotchaphate, confessed under questioning to having sold Wa rebels a rocket-propelled grenade for 1,500 baht and M16 ammunition at five baht per bullet. Police also said they had charged the four with burglary.

According to police, the suspects on September 2 stole 9,000 M60 machine-gun rounds and 10 rocket-propelled grenades from a military warehouse and returned three days later in a bid to steal 60 rocket-propelled grenades and another 31 rockets.
The second robbery attempt was unsuccessful and military authorities found the items still in the warehouse in cloth bags, apparently placed there by the alleged thieves in preparation for easy transport.

It remained unclear whether the Wa rebels in question were members of Burma’s most powerful armed ethnic group, the United Wa State Army (UWSA), or were Wa rebels affiliated with smaller armed groups or factions.

Second white elephant caught this year in western Burma

Friday, 24 September 2010 04:14 Khaing Suu

New Delhi (Mizzima) – For the second time this year, in what officials will see as a fortuitous omen ahead of general elections scheduled for November, a rare white elephant has been captured in Burma.

Western Command troops led by Brigadier General Soe Thein along with other military and civilian authorities worked together to catch the female elephant yesterday north of the border township of Maungdaw in Arakan State.

The white elephant was a member of a five-head herd spotted on September 20, about 27 miles (43 kilometres) north of Maungdaw, across the Naf River from Bangladesh.

“It was caught today [Thursday] at about 12 noon. Lieutenant General Ko Ko from the Ministry of Defence came by helicopter yesterday. The Western commander had arrived in advance. The army surrounded the elephants. They used four trained elephants to catch the wild white elephant,” a person close to the township’s peace and development council office told Mizzima.

A forestry department official estimated the age of the female white elephant to be 29 years.

Traditionally, white elephants, associated as they are with the birth of Buddha, were regarded as an indication of peace, prosperity and the legitimacy of the ruling monarch in Buddhist Southeast Asian society. Though Thailand is today the only country where a monarch continues to occupy political space, white elephants are still revered by many throughout the populations.

On June 26, again in Maungdaw Township, a 38-year-old female white elephant was captured. Christened Badda Waddy, she is being kept in Naypyidaw on the premises of the Uppata Thanthi Pagoda. In 2002, a large female white elephant and a smaller white elephant were also caught in Maungdaw Township.

Poet and altruist Moe Hein succumbs to ‘angel of death’

Friday, 24 September 2010 01:08 Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burmese poet, writer and altruist Moe Hein died of throat cancer in Rangoon yesterday morning at the age of 68.

The youngest son of journalist and Journal Kyaw editor Chit Maung and prolific writer Journal Kyaw Ma Ma Lay, died at 9 a.m. in Shwegondaing Specialist Hospital.

He had written about the impact of his diagnosis in the article: “An Open Letter to the Angel of Death”, which said “the arrow shot by infirmity, right-hand man of the angel of death, hit me in the throat in late 2008”.

The writing appeared to be an exercise preparing him for death, as he expressed his belief that “the angel” was giving him a chance at contrition and was providing a form of dharma lesson for him to contemplate. In light of that, before his death he embarked on religious affairs, literary and social work.

“I hold the pen to inherit the literary legacy of my parents. I hold chalk to distribute the legacy of education from my masters to others, writing in the belief to serve many rather than one or one group – busy with writing, teaching and charity works. I don’t want to confine myself in ego, but in altruism. I don’t want to devote my life to literature and teaching but to altruism,” he wrote.

He taught English, Buddhist philosophy and ethics at Rangoon Pariyatti Sasana University and taught English in free charity classes. He had also since 2007 taught at the Dahat model charity nursery ground founded by artist Myo Khin.

Similarly, he sponsored the building of the 36-foot-wide, 36-foot-high Maha Paritta pagoda, at Shwegugyi monastery, between Nahtogyi and Myingyan townships in Mandalay Division.

“The foundation-laying ceremony has been held and now we are shaping the basement platform. There will be four entrances and a cave, on which the pagoda will be built. This is a most pleasant task for me. Whenever I think of this pagoda, I feel my cancer cells are shrinking. I once said I can face death calmly and happily now after doing these works,” he wrote.

The pagoda’s abbot, Ashin Wei Polla, said Moe Hein, who had dreamed of building a pagoda for 11 years, met him through a Myingyan youth charity worker and then his dream came true.

Fellow poet Zaw Naung said Moe Hein approached problems from a Buddhist viewpoint, citing Moe Hein’s anthology, Harmony of Head and Heart, which was written in English and published in 1999.

“You will know his philosophy after reading his poetry book. He devoted all his life to religion”, he added.

He and his older brother Maung Thein Dan (deceased) attended school in Darjeeling, India. The brother was an actor who starred in Hna Ma Let Shaw Nay Lay Daw (Dear Darling, Please Curb Your Desire). Older sister Dr. Daw Khin Lay Myint was the noted French scholar who died in 2007. She had translated their mother’s works Mone Ywe Ma Hu (Hatred) and Thway (Blood), into French, and also translated some French literature into Burmese, including Prince and the tome, 20th Century Modern French Short Stories. Her translations are well known among Burmese people.

After peace talks between dictator Ne Win’s Revolutionary Council and underground parties in armed struggle against the regime failed, Moe Hein, his mother and stepfather were detained by the regime along with many overt activist politicians and writers. After his release from prison, he translated Nandar Thein Zan’s notable work Through Life’s Perils in 1983 and the anthology, Sweet Scent of Padauk and Dockchampa, in 2002

He published an anthology of his articles and poetry titled, First Turning Point. One of his latest works was a compilation travelogue published early this year based on his visit to the University of Iowa in the United States and titled An Outside Dream. He recently translated a work by Pegu’s Dr. Ashin Pyin Nyeint Thara titled Mind and Concise Vipassana.

His second poetry book, Midnight Rainbow, in English was still being prepared for publication, Zaw Naung said.

Moe Hein had worked in the economics department of the Indonesian embassy in Rangoon but switched to writing 10 years ago. He was awarded a US poetry prize.

His stepfather Aung Zeya, who had received radiotherapy with him, also for throat cancer, died last year.

Candidate to use payout for land-policy revamp

Friday, 24 September 2010 04:48 Myo Thein

Rangoon (Mizzima) – Retired middle-school teacher Tin Aye is preparing to contest November’s general election with the 4.6 million kyat (US$4,600) he received as compensation for the seizure of his farmland when Naypyidaw was built.

Standing for election as an independent candidate for the Pyithu Hluttaw (lower house), Lewei constituency, Tin Aye, 67, likens the financing of his campaign with funds awarded as compensation for seized land as “frying a fish in its own fat”.

Mizzima’s Myo Thein spoke to the Rangoon University graduate and retired teacher of 38 years’ service about his political outlook for himself and the country.

When did you decide to stand?
I decided a long time before to stand for election. I was detained in 1990 and could not stand for election that year. This year I’m a free man.

Can you speak about the network of independent candidates across Burma?
I contacted a weekly journal when I heard about U Yan Kyaw participating [in the elections]. Then I had a talk with him and formed this alliance group. We made this network with people who don’t want to join any formal party. I like the formation of this group, without the posts of leader and chairman. There are 14 in our group.

What is your position on land seizure?
This issue arises because there is no ‘land for tillers’ policy in our country. We can’t own our land. We can work only on this land. Even under the communist system there is a ‘land for tillers’ policy. This land policy changed in the age of the socialist government rule [in Burma]. In the 2008 constitution, they just mention that this issue is to be further deliberated upon. So, I shall certainly raise this issue on behalf of farmers when I’m elected to the parliament.

Many people criticise the education system in our country. How do you see the issue as a retired schoolteacher?
Former education minister Than Aung, during his tenure, introduced the ‘everybody-passes’ system without examinations. There was no first semester exam, second semester exam or final exam under his rule. Then, at the matriculation exam, which can decide the destiny of a student, students try by all means to pass the exam and gain admission to a good university. If a student passed this exam by cheating, he’d become a cheat and swindler later in life.

Today, people have to buy their education. So, the education system in our country has become totally wrong. All parents want to see their children become a doctor or an engineer. But an engineer becomes a thief. He steals iron rods, cement, sand and pebble from his worksite. Meanwhile, doctors also become robbers, looting money from patients. Why are they doing these things? They are just trying to recover the investment they made in their studies. The system of buying an education is totally wrong.

You will be up against candidates from the USDP and NUP. What is your strategy?
Those who destroyed and demolished the Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) were its own party members. I don’t think people will vote for the National Unity Party (NUP) [The NUP is seen as a product of the BSPP]. Similarly, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) will succumb to its own executive committee members who will demolish the party. Old party members resent the upstarts, who have benefited more financially. There is growing dissension and resentment.

Do you mean the USDP will demolish itself only in Lewei, or throughout the country?
The whole country, not only in Lewei. This is the general situation for the entire country.

As you stand as an independent have you received harassment from the authorities?
No, there has been no harassment from them [authorities] because I am a retired teacher. I was their teacher. For instance, there will be 120 polling booths in Lewei constituency alone. Many people asked me if I would appoint a polling agent. But I will not hire an agent as all of the local election commission members and Ward Peace and Development Council members are my former students. So they don’t give me any trouble.

What will be your first task if you are elected?
There are three issues. The first one concerns badly torn notes. Then, I will raise the question of badly paid pensioners. I myself am drawing only 3,202.58 kyat as a monthly pension. The third and final matter will be the situation of farmers. If these are successfully dealt with, I shall raise other issues later.

Do you think these issues stand a chance of success?
Yes, there is a big chance of success because many military commanders from the 120 polling booths will be the sons of farmers and teachers. They themselves have the same feelings on these issues. They see their fathers, mothers and teachers surviving on meager pensions. Even if they dare not raise these issues they will give their support to the one who dares to raise them. I do believe it.

What is your feeling about those who support a boycott of the election?
Some argue we must amend the 2008 constitution. My belief is not to say anything on amending the constitution while I am just an ordinary citizen. I was excluded from the electoral process in 1990 as I was under detention. Now I’m a free man able to contest the polls. Some people say they will not contest this election based on their own views. They also say that even if we’re elected we’ll only become ‘YES’ parliamentarians. I think this mentality is like ‘entering war with empty quivers [arrow holders]’.

Kachin teacher, land activist to stand in Phakant for NDF

Friday, 24 September 2010 02:38 Mizzima News

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Bawk Jar, who organised farmers to sue controversial junta crony company Yuzana over its land grabs, will stand for Phakant constituency in Kachin State for People’s Assembly in the forthcoming election as a candidate of the National Democratic Force party.

Yuzana is one of Burma’s largest businesses and is chaired by Htay Myint, a real estate tycoon on US and EU sanctions list who is also standing in Burma’s elections on November 7. It has been involved in a land struggle in northern Burma’s remote Hukaung Valley with farmers who are defying one of the country’s most powerful tycoons as Yuzana establishes massive mono-crop plantations in the world’s largest tiger reserve.

Mizzima’s Zaw Shan spoke to Bawk Jar about her political ambitions, policies and obstacles to electoral success in the township within Myitkyina District, which hosts the capital of Kachin State.

Are you concerned that the authorities have a grudge against you?

No, I don’t worry about that because I’ve prepared for the worst. If they trouble me, an honest person, it will be very unfair.

If you win the seat, what will you do for Kachin State?

I will give my voice to the farmers who are abused by the authorities like this. I’ll demand equal rights for the grass roots. That’s why I have decided to contest in the forthcoming election. The living standards in villages in Kachin State are very low; there are no schools or clinics.

What important things need to be done in Kachin State?

Farmers have lost their land, so they have become jobless and some don’t have anything to eat. The compensation payments they received a month ago – 80,000 kyat (about US$80) each – have already run out. They have been jobless for about three years, so they are in debt and are struggling to pay off those debts … I was unsure whether Yuzana hired the authorities or the authorities hired Yuzana to seize the farmers’ land. Everything was controlled by the authorities, so the farmers have encountered many difficulties. In fact, the authorities should take the farmers’ side, but in reality the farmers were interrogated by the junta’s intelligence agency and threatened by other authorities.

You have fought for the farmers’ rights on their behalf. Did you carry out that work as a representative of the National Democratic Force (NDF)?

No, it was done on a personal basis. My farmland was also seized and I have been fighting since 2001 to reclaim it. I complained about it to Naypyidaw and [UN workers’ rights body] the International Labour Organisation but the case continues. At first, I wasn’t interested in being a candidate but later I thought I should grasp this chance to promote the lives of the farmers. And I like the policies of the NDF, so I approached the party to be a candidate.

How much do you think you can do for the farmers?

We have for about two or three years continued to demand [adequate] compensation for the loss and we have lost about 100,000 kyat (about US$100) on repairs. We must not lose our farmlands and will fight to the end to get them back.
Are there other farmers who have been denied compensation? How many?

Yes, so many farmers haven’t received compensation – about 30 or 40.

Did you consult the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) about this case?

Yes, I informed them when the farmlands were seized via mail. But, they said they didn’t have the right to solve that problem.

Currently, many people have estimated that the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and National Unity Party (NUP) would win the most seats in all parliaments. On top of that, the constitution reserves 25 per cent of seats in all parliaments for the military. So, even if you win a seat, do you think you can do anything substantial for your Kachin people?

I do it [take part in the elections] for the people, not for self-interest. I’m ready to sacrifice my life for the people, so I believe that I can work for people effectively.

Do you believe that the court will judge the farmers’ cases fairly?

I don’t think so … we are poor and honest people. If God is on our side, our fight will end in success. I believe it. The authorities took Yuzana’s side, so all we can do is follow God.


Name: Bawk Jar, aka Lum Nyoi

Parents: Khaung Lone and Labang Roi

Ethinicity: Kachin

Religion: Christian

Date of birth: December 4, 1967

Bawk Jar was born in Indawgyi, Mohnyin Township. She worked as a primary teacher in Shwenyaungpin, Myitkyina in 1985-86 and was awarded a bachelor of arts degree in history at Rangoon University in 1992. Rangoon City Development Committee employed her from 1993 to 2000, during which she represented the city council as a sportswoman in shooting, volleyball and rowing events.

After 2000, she worked as a gold prospector and ran her own farmland in Warazup village, where she also founded a preschool and worked as a teacher.

She organised farmers to sue Yuzana over the seized lands and the case was pending in Kachin State Court. Moreover, about 10 grass-roots Yuzana employees asked her for help to sue the company over irregular salary payments, she said.

US-Asean summit ‘a chance for unity in policy on Burma’

Friday, 24 September 2010 07:33 Mizzima News

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Today’s summit between US President Barack Obama and leaders from Southeast Asia is being heralded as a potentially defining moment in relations between Washington and Southeast Asian governments, offering an opportunity “to align divergent policies ahead of elections” in Burma.

Human Rights Watch, based in New York, in a statement released yesterday, urged Obama and his Southeast Asian counterparts to unite in pressuring the Burmese junta to release political prisoners and initiate dialogue in the run-up to what the research and advocacy NGO deemed “Burma’s flawed elections” to take place on November 7.

The leaders are scheduled to meet a day shy of the third anniversary of the biggest monk-led demonstrations to grip Rangoon, known as the “saffron revolution”.

“This summit is an opportunity for the US and Asean leaders to send a clear message to Burma’s rulers that their intransigence, denial of basic freedoms and cynical election manipulation harm the region’s progress,” Human Rights Watch acting Asia director Sophie Richardson said.

“Asean should be raising the bar on democracy in Southeast Asia, not lowering it,” Dr. Richardson added, while arguing that the realisation of justice and human rights should be paramount to Washington interests in Southeast Asia.

The call comes at a time when relations between the United States and Southeast Asia continue to ebb and flow.

Human Rights Watch maintains that the reaction of regional governments to the situation in Burma and specifically the approaching elections has been left wanting, with statements from respective authorities failing to pressure the Burmese regime to change its policies and hopeful for some kind of positive outcome from the polling.

However, curbs on freedom of expression, assembly and association are identified as ensuring the election will be far from meeting international standards, while a lack of resources for competing parties leaves the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), contesting in every district, with a distinct advantage.

“The only way to seize the minds of the generals, those still serving and the recently retired ones preparing for their new roles as parliamentarians,” said Richardson in the appeal to Obama and Asean leaders, “is to close ranks against the ongoing repression in Burma”.

Party canvassing on state media heavily censored

Friday, 24 September 2010 23:40 Myint Maung

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Burmese junta’s electoral watchdog has refused permits for at least three political parties seeking to canvass on state-run radio and television, claiming the transcripts contained messages that could harm the state.

The Union Election Commission (UEC) has rejected transcripts of the Democratic Party (Myanmar), the Union of Myanmar Federation of National Politics and 88 Generation Student Youths (Union of Myanmar), to canvass on television, and told the parties they must be modified.

“The whole transcript of our party to canvass on TV was rejected. Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV) informed us that our talks slandered the state. They told us that we could modify our transcript and after that canvass for votes on radio, if the electoral commission approved it,” Democratic Party secretary Than Than Nu, a daughter of the first prime minister of Burma, U Nu, said.

Similarly, the UEC on Thursday informed the two other parties it had rejected their transcripts, saying they breached restrictions it had imposed. It failed to state which sections breached the restrictions.

“Our original transcript contains the message that we need civil government elected by democratic principles. Before that perfect condition, our human rights will still be denied and democracy will not be established. I don’t think they liked that message”, Union of Myanmar Federation of National Politics chairman Aye Lwin told Mizzima.

“The political parties should have the right to present stances and policies to the public. But, because of the tight restrictions, we can do nothing,” Aye Lwin added.

Similarly, the transcript of the 88 Generation Student Youths (Union of Myanmar) party was also rejected.

Union Democratic Party (UDP) chairman Thein Htay said his party had submitted its transcript to the UEC, but said if the commission told the party to modify or remove any part of it, the party would revisit its plan to canvass on state media.

“The manuscript contains our party’s policies and stances. If it is censored, we will need to review our plan to canvass on [state] radio and TV. Currently, we are just waiting to see their response,” Thein Htay said.

The UEC was allowing 37 political parties to present their policy programmes on state radio and television from yesterday until next Thursday to canvass for votes. The presentations were recorded two days in advance of broadcast, and the presentations will be transmitted twice.

State media muzzles

The electoral commission has ordered political parties seeking to canvass on state radio or television:

not to give any talks that can harm “non-disintegration of the Union”, “non-disintegration of national solidarity” or “perpetuation of sovereignty”.

not to give any talks that can harm security, the rule of law and community peace,

not to disobey the State Constitution of Burma and existing laws,

not to stimulate sedition or give any talks that can tarnish the image of the state,

not to give any talks that can lead to the collapse of the armed forces or tarnish the image of the armed forces,

not to give any talks or take organising measures that can lead to conflict or harm to dignity or moral conduct in connection with racism, or religion or the affairs of an individual or community,

not to abuse religion for political ends,

not to give any talks that can harm the peaceful pursuit of education,

not to give any talks that can discourage service personnel from performing their duties or abet them to stage protests against the government.
Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rights abuses surge ahead of November polls

Thursday, 23 September 2010 12:14 Mizzima News

(Mizzima) – A periodic review of human rights transgressions in Burma reveals a spike in election related violations as the date for the country’s first general election in twenty years draws ever nearer.

The survey, compiled by the Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma (ND-Burma), identified 60 cases of election related rights violations in the first seven months of this year.

The most prevalent instance of abuse, accounting for 27 percent of all cases, concerned intimidation and coercion, including civilians being required to give money and census information to the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

Second most prominent was the denial of freedom of movement, documented in 23 percent of cases. With respect to the approaching elections, ND-Burma found “monks and other influential villagers suspected of organizing in preparation for the elections closely watched and denied travel documents, restricting their movement.”

Yet, electoral related violations alone account for only a fraction of all abuses throughout the country.

In total, 352 instances of rights infractions committed by the regime are chronicled for the period covering January through July 2010. Of these, 69 cases dealt with forced labour and 56 the confiscation or destruction of property.

However, in the recently released report, ND-Burma draws special attention to a further 238 chronicled cases of arbitrary taxation.

“The military,” contends the findings, “has transformed taxation from a routine and legitimate function of government into a tool of repression and extortion.”

In a country estimated to realize two-thirds of its population employed in agriculture, ND-Burma points to the “average subsistence farmer in Burma maybe being forced to pay more than 50% of his or her livelihood in so-called ‘taxes’.”

Bolstering the assessments of a number of foreign governments recently airing their support for the establishment of a UN commission of inquiry into rights abuses in Burma, ND-Burma believes the violations documented “are acts that may constitute breaches of international humanitarian law and international human rights law” owing to their widespread and systemic occurrence.

Other documented transgressions directly linked with the elections include arbitrary arrest, lack of freedom of expression, vote buying and favors extended with an agreement to in turn support the USDP at the polls on November 7.

Graphic: From the Network for Human Rights Documentation’s Report on the Human Rights Situation in Burma January to July 2010.

Download the complete report

Elections ‘a cynical process of fake regime change’

Thursday, 23 September 2010 01:57 Mizzima News

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Human Rights Watch Asia section senior researcher David Scott Mathieson on Tuesday described Burmese elections in November as an “elaborate scheme to ensure future power for the military”.

His comments came after a panel discussion on Burma and Tibet hosted by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of South Asia in the Indian capital of New Delhi last night, during a tour in which he will meet Indian UNHCR and Human Rights Watch representatives.

According to the Australian National University website, the PhD candidate’s research looks “at the relationship between civilians and insurgents, conflict displacement, the political economy of war and the politics and history of modern Burma”.

As part of his research and his work with Human Rights Watch, he has done fieldwork in border areas of Thailand, Burma, Malaysia and India, and spent a lot of time working with displaced Shan communities and refugees along the Thai-Burmese border.

After a talk that focused mainly on Burma’s upcoming polls, Mathieson spoke to Mizzima’s Pamela Sanyal and Suchetana Paul on a range of issues surrounding political realities in Burma, the elections and the conditions under which they are being held.

Do you think the upcoming elections will be beneficial for the people of Burma?

I can’t say that the coming elections are beneficial for the majority of people in Burma at all, and in fact, the elections are not really for the people of Burma but for the military and people close to them, to gain legitimacy. You’re seeing a transfer of the centre of power from serving military officers to a parliament that is the same thing. Retired military officers’ wearing civilian clothes instead of uniforms is the same thing. This parliament is all about preserving the current power structure, just modified a little bit for the foreign audience. But I don’t think that many people in Burma will be relieved because it’s not designed to actually incorporate most people in the country. Most of the people have been excluded from it. So no, I don’t think it’s going to benefit many people at all.

Many activists, NGOs, Western governments and Burma analysts have described the upcoming elections as a sham? What is your take on this characterisation?

I would call it a sham, a travesty and a cynical process of fake regime change. It’s an elaborate scheme to ensure future power for the military.

In what ways does Human Rights Watch support the struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma?

We don’t necessarily support the struggle so much; our job is to document human rights violations and abuses with the aim of seeking change. We don’t take sides and stand by the victims of human rights violations everywhere. That includes victims of abuses by the Burmese military but also victims of abuses by the non-state armed groups in Burma. We are there to promote respect for human rights and necessarily, respect for democracy is part of that. Our role is documentation to affect change.

Since 2007, why has there been a doubling in the number of political prisoners?

It’s really because you had a dispute group of people working in different areas in Rangoon, but also other places of Burma, who were staging non-confrontational, far more effective campaigns and demonstrations against the government. They were writing letters to [Senior] General Than Shwe and were doing demonstrations about declining living standards about electricity and poor health. Basically, [they were] raising issues through a lot of people in the country who were feeling frustrated. The military saw them always as a threat and realised that by arresting representatives … [from across the movements’ leadership] it would decapitate any kind of a merging social movement in the country. So that doubling was really about a thousand people [who] represented a broader threat to military rule because of the potential for broader society to come behind that kind of movement. So, basically, the leaders of an alternative division of Burma are in prison.

What would you say about Than Shwe’s recent visit to India and the signing of the five treaties?

I think it’s far more positive for the Burmese military and certain business people. They will benefit from it, but I don’t say that it’s going to benefit the people of India that much. Than Shwe came to India to get support from the Indian government and several weeks later went to China to do pretty much the same thing. He’s basically selling off the financial wealth of Burma to ensure their [the junta and its leadership] hold on power and to buy, if not loyalty from the neighbours, then neutrality. That’s what he is achieving by this.

What are Human Rights Watch’s current and future projects with regards to Burma?

HRW has done a lot of work for the past few years on a number of issues: on political prisoners; we did big investigations on post-Cyclone Nargis; child soldiers; and we’re doing a lot of work on calls for a [UN] commission of inquiry into serious violations of humanitarian law. We’re also looking at the elections as closely as we can at the moment. We plan our work on looking at the most serious human rights situation in the country and unfortunately, with a country such as Burma, there are a lot of situations that we have to look at. So, we’ll be following the post-election landscape … very closely. But also looking at abuses in ethnic conflict areas and basically looking towards the future; looking at what kind of country Burma is becoming and how we can help; [we’re] more [of an] independent, research and advocacy organisation. We’re just one voice in many international systems; we document very carefully human rights violations in the country with the aim of actually making positive changes and will continue to do that.

How do you think HRW could try to help the Burmese people more?

Our work everywhere is about documenting serious violations and following that documentation and reporting through into getting policy change. We do a lot of different work on refugee protection, protection of migrant workers, the death penalty, [in] really hard-core conflict areas such as the Congo, Afghanistan. We’re not a service delivery organisation, which makes us a little different. We don’t provide tents, blankets and food to people. We’re purely a research and advocacy organisation.

Do you think that as Burma is a divided society, it paves the way for exploitation by the military junta to justify its repressive rule?

I think successive military regimes have benefited from deep divisions within the society; that they’ve also existed to achieve their aims. This is not just in terms of the ethnic differences … but also between rich and poor and between different regions. People in Upper Burma and Burman areas have very few ideas about what it’s like in Rangoon and other places. So I think it’s a very simplistic, effective, brutal way of keeping power in the country; exploiting divide and rule.

Is it true that many political prisoners, like those who had won seats in the last election, are expelled from contesting in the upcoming elections because they propose a challenge to the military government?

I think that every political prisoner poses a challenge on some level to the junta; that’s why they’re in prison. Whether they’re from the National League for Democracy; whether they’re people like Min Ko Naing from various generations of students and many other people. …There are cross sections of Burmese society who have chosen to stand up and speak up [and] that’s why they’re in prison. Not necessarily because of what they’ve said but because of what they represent to the broader society and that is a threat to the regime. That’s why we do a lot of work trying to promote who these people are and the disgrace of the way they’ve been treated. It’s not just what’s being done to them; it’s what’s being done to Burmese society as well. They are a broader cross section; they are a promise of what Burmese society could actually be there.

George Soros of OSI donated US$100 million to Human Rights Watch over 10 years. Will that influx of funds benefit the promotion of human rights and democracy in Burma as a part of that extension plan?

I can’t comment on that.

Is Human Rights Watch taking any steps against the military junta?

We don’t take steps against anyone, we document situations as we see it and we advocate with various governments, agencies and communities around the world to improve human rights situations wherever we find them. We are completely independent and basically expose perpetrators of human rights violations, and try to get them ended and to protect people. Our basic function is the promotion of human rights around the world.

Do you think that by signing agreements with Than Shwe, India is indirectly supporting military rule?

Yes, in merely by doing deals with Than Shwe and bringing him to India; they’re [India’s leaders are] supporting an authoritarian system. But India’s doing this for some kind of self-interest; it’s not as if it loves dealing with dictators. They’re doing it to get trade opportunities and capture the influence from China, which is emerging and growing in Burma. I think India could have a better impact in different ways if a change were to emerge. It could still invest in and engage with Burma in far more productive ways for Burmese people if it just didn’t deal with the Burmese military. It needs to make it very clear that it will not sell any weapons to Burma; if it makes investments, those investments must benefit local communities and must be up to the international standards of human rights monitoring and human rights environmental impacts, absolutely. Also, [India should] seek a long-term growing engagement with Burmese civil society and I think India can play a very important role in that support; not just within communities in Burma but by including bright and young people out of India and training them in a number of different professions. India shouldn’t just see it [engagement] in terms of self-interest but in future, long-term [benefits].

Will China have more influence on Burma or India in the near future?

I think China has a lot of influence on the military leadership in Burma … I don’t think any country has complete influence over the military regime. I think they play countries off each other all the time to get what they want; they’re very skilled in that. I think that China is probably their most important bilateral partner at the moment, but again that could change. That should be the approach of the West – actually engaging various levels of Burmese society and not necessarily the army … to counter that influence. [The West should] At least provide a bit of competition for China and India should do that as well.

Is China providing arms and ammunition to Burma’s military?

Yes, China’s been providing weapons and military training for more than 22 years. They started in 1988 and it’s still providing a lot of weapons, some are from the Russians and North Koreans. This is what is actually fuelling the military authoritarian system in which the military expands and recruits more soldiers. So every time someone from a different country sells weapons you’re actually making sure that the military stays in power. That’s one thing India could do very clearly, saying “we will not sell weapons to the Burmese military at all”.

Northern tensions rise as Kachin troops fire at junta helicopter

Thursday, 23 September 2010 22:06

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Kachin troops fired shots today at a Burmese Army helicopter flying low over one of their strongholds in the north of Kachin State, amid building tensions between the ethnic group and the military junta, an officer said.

The Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) troops were showing the army that they refused to be intimidated, whether the flight was sent to watch or cajole them, an officer of the group’s armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), told Mizzima on condition of anonymity.

“The KIO encampment is in the hills [surrounding Laiza], so, viewed from there, the height of the helicopter seemed a little low as it flew from the south of Laiza to [Kachin State capital] Myitkyina,” the officer said. “So KIO troops tried to shoot it down in order to browbeat them [the junta’s airborne troops].”

The incident occurred as the junta army’s Northern Command is raising the ante against the KIO, which on September 1 passed the junta’s deadline for bringing its armed wing under Burmese Army control within its Border Guard Force (BGF), which the KIO has flatly rejected. The ethnic Kachin group signed a ceasefire deal with the junta in 1994.

“I think the helicopter aimed to observe us, or the flight was intended to frighten us. But, local residents were not afraid. They are carrying on as usual,” the officer said.

The case was still being investigated by the KIO, local residents said.

Mizzima reported on Monday that the KIO had ordered gold mines in areas under its control in the north of the state to halt production, miners said.

The KIO was also moving all its furniture, equipment and documents from its Laiza office to its previous headquarters at Lai Zin Bum (“bum” means mountain in Kachin language), near the Sino-Burmese border. Similarly, local people had moved belongings across the border to China, the miner said.

Early last month, the junta imposed travel restrictions on KIO members, requiring them to report their travel plans first to Military Affairs Security (MAS) and to move only with permission of the Northern Command. The new rules also banned KIO or KIA from wearing uniform or carrying any arms while they travelled.

After that, rice trading had slowed on the Myitkyina-Bamao highway and prices of a range of commodities were rising, a trader in Laiza said.

The junta army was also practising direct saber-rattling, with troops erecting a barbed-wire barricade at their Lajayan checkpoint near Laiza, manned by Infantry Battalion (IB) 142. No one may pass through between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., a source said.

Meanwhile, the Union Election Commission (UEC) issued a notice last Thursday that said village tracts under KIO control were not in a position to host free and fair elections, set by the junta for November 7.

Other exile media were reporting today rapid and sizeable troop build-ups near KIA outposts in the state, and that residents were being forced to build fences and accommodation for the extra soldiers.

France joins calls for UN inquiry into Burma abuses

Thursday, 23 September 2010 03:42 Thomas Maung Shwe

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – French representative Jean-Baptiste Mattei expressed at a UN Human Rights Council meeting last Friday his government’s support to “establish an international commission of inquiry” on human rights abuses in Burma.

His comments were revealed in a summary of the meeting held last Friday, posted recently on the website of the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

France is now the eighth nation to come out in support of the UN launching a commission of inquiry on Burma, joining Australia, Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and the United States, along with many rights groups that have documented such crimes including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, all of which have endorsed such an inquiry.

Aung Din, executive director of rights group, the US Campaign for Burma, welcomed France’s stance. “[The] French coming on board is a positive development,” said the
former political prisoner, who runs the organisation that is also campaigning for a boycott of elections in Burma on November 7.

In March, the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, issued a report to the UN Human Rights Council, which stated that in Burma, there existed a pattern of “gross and systematic” human rights abuses. Quintana’s report called on the UN to consider launching a “commission of inquiry with a specific fact-finding mandate to address the question of international crimes” committed in Burma.

During the meeting several countries including Norway, the US, Ireland, Switzerland and Japan expressed concern about the human rights situation in Burma, the treatment of ethnic minorities and the much-criticised national elections.

During its allotted right-of-reply time, the Burmese regime fired back against the charges, claiming, “that the allegations against Myanmar [Burma] were completely false and unfounded. There were no crimes against humanity in Myanmar and the government had negotiated ceasefires with 17 of the 18 rebel groups. The military only conducted counter-insurgency activities and not acts of military aggression. With regard to the issue of impunity, any member of the military who breached national law was subject to legal punishments. The Myanmar governmental authority said that there was no need to conduct investigations in Myanmar since there were no human rights violations there.”

The Burmese regime representatives at the meeting were likely very pleased when China, used its time to make reference to the French government’s recent wave of deportations of Roma (formerly known as Gypsies) back to Romania and Hungary.

France, a permanent member of the UN Security Council has endured a wave of criticism from within its fellow human rights group and many of its European neighbours since last month’s decision by President Nicolas Sarkozy to proceed with the deportation of thousands of Roma to Eastern Europe, despite the fact they are EU citizens and, in theory, are legally allowed to live anywhere in the European Union.

Other nations present at the meeting that put up a vigorous defence against charges of human rights abuses were North Korea and Iran.

Obama pressed to confront Asean leaders on UN inquiry

Thursday, 23 September 2010 02:56 Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - A leader from Burma’s pro-democracy opposition is calling on US President Barack Obama to raise the issue of a United Nations commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity committed by Burma’s military junta with regional representatives thus far unsupportive of the measure.

Win Tin, a central executive committee member of the National League for Democracy (NLD), has urged the US president to take the initiative during an upcoming meeting with Southeast Asian leaders in New York.

In New York to attend the UN General Assembly, Obama and his Southeast Asian counterparts are scheduled to meet for about two hours tomorrow, discussing security matters, environmental issues, trade and investment, according to the White House.

It is unknown whether Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win will also attend the gathering.

“The junta ignored the people’s desires and the 1990 election result. This is a violation of human rights. So, they should support the organisation of a UN commission of inquiry to put the Burmese regime on trial at the International Criminal Court for its crimes against humanity,” Win Tin told Mizzima.

The establishment of a commission of inquiry has been gaining momentum, with Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen on Tuesday telling Mizzima that the Netherlands will join the ranks of those supporting an investigation into crimes against humanity in Burma.

Australia, Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, Hungary, New Zealand, Slovakia, the United States, and today, France, and have all voiced their support for the formation of such a commission of inquiry. No Southeast Asian government has yet to support the initiative.

Aung Din, executive director at US Campaign for Burma, added that he expected Obama and the US to dismiss the results of the forthcoming general election on November 7 in Burma, but that Asean countries may respond differently.

Obama last met Asean leaders as a group, including Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein, last November in Singapore.

One issue sure to receive attention is the continuing dispute regarding territorial rights to all or part of the Spratly and Paracel island chains in the resource-rich South China Sea.

China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines each claim jurisdiction over at least a portion of the regions in question.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010

People must shun yes-men in polls, independent says

Wednesday, 22 September 2010 00:38 Mizzima News

Rangoon (Mizzima) - Burmese people should not vote for candidates who are “yes-men” in the forthcoming election, independent candidate Yan Kyaw said today, in stinging but indirect remarks against his opponents in breach of junta electoral rules banning open criticism.

The candidate who will contest in the Pazundaung Township constituency for the People’s Assembly was taking part as one of 14 independents at a press conference at Traders’ Hotel in Rangoon at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, held to explain the policies behind their contesting of the election.

“People should not vote for candidates who want to bring to life a paper tiger, who want to take a step backwards to dictatorship, who are yes-men and who are hopelessly vague,” Yan Kyaw said.

His comments came despite a rule from the junta’s electoral watchdog, the Union Election Commission, that forbids criticism against competitors. Audience members told Mizzima that they thought his rebukes were directed at the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) candidates and their allies, so they had clapped enthusiastically.

The candidates said that they had decided to contest in the election on November 7 to overthrow the dictatorship.

Former headmaster Tin Aye, who will contest the seat of Lewe in the Naypyidaw Capital Region, said he had been forced to spend the compensation he had received for the seizure of his farmland by the junta, on his campaign.

The list of eligible voters for the election was published on Monday in many wards, but in some, the lists had not yet been released.

Meanwhile, in some wards, local authorities announced they would issue temporary identification (ID) cards for those who were without national ID cards, to allow them to become eligible voters.

Among the 37 political parties, 1,134 candidates of the junta-backed USDP will contest for seats in all assemblies, putting the USDP at the top of the list for numbers of candidates. Following is the National Unity Party, a new incarnation of former dictator Ne Win’s Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP), which has 980 candidates. The National Democratic Force (NDF) has 164 candidates and the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party has 156 candidates in the running.

The 14 independent candidates:

Yan Kyaw (People’s Assembly candidate for Pazundaung constituency)
Ba Tint Swe (People’s Assembly candidate for North Okkalapa Township constituency)
Kyi Thein Oo (States/Divisions Assembly candidate for North Okkalapa constituency No.2)
Thein Htay (candidate for Thanbyuzayat constituency No. 1)
Zaw Min Thein (States/Divisions Assembly candidate for Lemyethna Township constituency No.1)
Tin Aye (People’s Assembly candidate for Lewe Township)
Kaung Myint Htut (People’s Assembly candidate for South Okkalapa constituency)
Dr. Than Myint (States/Divisions Assembly candidate for Amarapura Township constituency No.1)
Dr. Soe Lwin (People’s Assembly candidate for Lemyethna Township constituency)
Win Ko Ko (States/Divisions Assembly candidate for Thanlyin Township in Rangoon Division constituency No.1)
Dr. Saw Naing (States/Divisions Assembly candidate for South Okkalapa Township constituency No.1)
Than Zaw Oo (People’s Assembly candidate for Dala Township)
Hla Shein (States/Divisions Assembly candidate for Moulmein Township constituency No.1)
Win Cho (States/Divisions Assembly candidate for Dala Township constituency No.1).
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Burmese migrant lifestyle choice: a Thai town dump

Tuesday, 21 September 2010 11:04 Albert Guzman

Mae Sot (Mizzima) – The air is harsh, hot and humid, with an oppressive odour that initially assaults the senses. Mounds of refuse, decaying waste and cast-offs – evidence of the Thai-Burmese border town of Mae Sot’s lunge at prosperity – glisten in the occasional sunlight. However, it does not invite closer inspection. A narrow dirt road parallels a long, high mound, while on the other side a large, dank pond is covered with some form of algae. A boatman on a rickety raft floats in the pond looking for something.

A short path leads upwards through the main garbage mound. It reveals several ramshackle structures, built in the form of rice-field huts and festooned with varied, if useful, pickings from the town dump. Some 30 or 40 Burmese people live in these particular huts, while elsewhere in the dump and surrounding area there are many more inhabitants – at least 100. There is a well, not far away, to provide water for the inhabitants, who are all Burmese migrants, though one guesses that leeching from the mounds affects the potability of the water, unless it is boiled, as well as the taste.

The town’s dump and its residents receive visitors from time to time. These range from media and aid or advocacy groups to the merely curious or the local authorities who have, at least once, cleared the inhabitants out. Often the impression is one of utter degradation and destitution, of people down on their luck and who have either given up or been thrown to the wall. “I can’t believe how people can live in such conditions” is a sentence commonly heard afterwards in town among foreign visitors. And to be sure, seeing a man in one hut on his back and suffering from tuberculosis did little to detract from a very negative first impression.

Yet even here, and in the broader migrant community, something far more nuanced is going on; and since many migrants work in large factories within closed gated compounds, here, albeit in stark conditions, one can see people weighing the odds and making what to them are rational choices under the circumstances.

“We are from Mawlamyine [Moulmein, capital of Mon State] and have been here about two years,” a tall, thin man, Min Swe*, said. “I had several different kinds of jobs but now there is nothing more, so we had to come here.”

Min Swe, 40, and his wife, 35, have four children. The youngest is a three-month-old boy who was born inside the hut with the aid of a traditional midwife. There are three daughters. The youngest, eight and four years old, respectively, attend a nearby primary school for migrants, financed and operated with outside assistance. The eldest daughter, 10, works with Min Swe in the dump. They work about three hours in the morning before taking a break for lunch, and continuing for four hours in the afternoon.

“We look for things like this,” he said, holding up a discarded plastic children’s school bag. For enough items such as this, brokers will come from the town and pay the scavengers. Other discards, such as PET bottles, are also wanted but slightly less valuable. Migrants bring these and other wanted items a short distance to collection points. Working together, Min Swe and his daughter can average 70 to 80 baht (US$2.30 to US$2.60) a day. Over a month, provided they work daily, it adds up to the very low end of a single migrant factory worker’s salary.

At first, the family scavenged for food as well. Tins of fish or bits of chicken were among the recyclables used in meals, but that has stopped. They can now afford to buy rice, fried eggs, vegetables and bamboo. Ironically, no one appears dirty and most family members’ clothing, while basic, is noticeably clean.

About 10 metres away is another family hut, the one with the TB patient, where another family of six live. One of the sons has found work at a nearby factory, making 2,400 baht a month. So, with other members looking for things to sell in the dump, the family has effectively doubled its income.

The Burmese migrant situation is a complex and fluid phenomenon, one indicator of utterly failed politics in what should be a rich land. Still, some observations can be made.

Many types of work available to migrants in the borderlands favour the young, the strong and the single. The hours are very long and tiring. Those in the dump are families. And while many Burmese families live and work in Mae Sot, in the town, there is always rent to be paid, however much families double up in small, inconvenient living spaces to reduce the burden.

Further, why were some huts built upon the garbage mound, rather than further away, and on soil? The answer might be that refuse offers, in such a rainy environment in which such huts could be quickly washed away, a more stable foundation allowing for drainage.

Accessibility of the settlement to outsiders offers a small side benefit. While media are not supposed to pay for stories, other visitors, shocked by what they see, have made small donations to the families (and larger ones to the school). A generous Japanese group had been by the week before. These can provide useful supplements to family incomes.

To be sure, the environment of the dump is not healthy; in fact, it is largely the
opposite of healthy. Nor is the possibility of a sustaining income guaranteed; the pickings may decline in value or amount or the authorities may move the people out.

Children not working in the dump can receive some education, valuable for the future, but only up to Fourth Standard. Yet, those people living in the dump were not ones who had given up, dying day by day and merely hoping to stave off the inevitable. Rather, they appeared to be survivors, dealing with the hand they had been dealt and calculating they could master the environment (to the extent that they knew how unhealthy it was) and move on before that environment mastered them.

*Min Swe is a pseudonym.

Activists name day after teen girl shot dead in 1988 protests

Tuesday, 21 September 2010 00:07 Mizzima News

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Burmese pro-democracy activists in the Indian capital have named September 19 as Win Maw Oo Day or Burma’s National Heroes Day after the high-school student shot dead on that day by Burmese soldiers during a bloody crackdown on nationwide pro-democracy protests in 1988.

The demonstration organised by Burmese activists in India on Sunday protested against the ruling junta, its upcoming elections and to commemorate the death of Win Maw Oo. The photo of the 16-year-old girl’s bloodied, limp body being carried to hospital after she was shot by troops has become an icon of the massive anti-junta uprisings across Burma in 1988.

“The main objective of our protest is to commemorate martyrs including Win Maw Oo who lost their lives in the peaceful protests against the military dictatorship. In honour of Win Maw Oo, we have called the day ‘Win Maw Oo Day’ or ‘Burma’s National Heroes Day’,” presidium board member of the Women’s League of Burma, Thin Thin Aung, said.

About 30 pro-democracy activists participated in the protest on Sunday, which went ahead amid heavy monsoonal rain.

One day after the Burmese junta staged a military coup in 1988, Win Maw Oo was shot by troops at the corner of Sule Pagoda and Merchant roads.

“As soon as the army started shooting, chaos broke out. Some students dived to the ground. At the time, Win Maw Oo was kneeling and holding a picture of national hero General Aung San. She was then shot in her left thigh and calf and fell all the way down, but she still held on to the picture of Aung San and tried to stand up again,” Thin Thin Aung, who took part in the protest, said.

The injured Win Maw Oo was carried to Rangoon Hospital by medical students Min Thein and Saw Lwin at 1 p.m., but she died at around 5:30 pm. Junta forces killed more than 3,000 protestors across the country within the few days following the coup, and an estimated 10,000 were killed by the end of 1988, with many more missing.

Win Maw Oo was born on November 19, 1972, the eldest of five siblings of parents Win Kyu and Khin Htay Win. She lived in Pan Pin Gyi Street in Kyeemyindaing Township and studied at that town’s High School No. 4, later joining the students’ union organised in 1988.

Also on Sunday, her family offered alms to monks at their home in Hlaingtharyar Township, in her memory.

A statement from the Burmese pro-democracy activists in New Delhi condemned the junta’s refusal to transfer power to the National League for Democracy (NLD), which won a landslide victory in the 1990 election. It said the junta should not hold elections on November 7 without releasing the more than 2,100 political prisoners languishing in Burma’s jails.

The activists also criticised the junta for electoral laws that reserve for military personnel 25 per cent of the seats in all parliaments and aim to give priority to the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

The election would neither be free nor fair, the statement said.

All political prisoners must be released immediately and the election process should be fully inclusive. The junta should let all people co-operate in the political process including opposition and ethnic leaders, it demanded.