Monday, January 31, 2011

The future of the exiled media

Monday, 31 January 2011 13:39 Mizzima News

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Burmese exiled media is undergoing some funding cuts by international donors and governments, both in response to the worldwide financial crisis and policy changes among donor groups and governments. Mizzima reporter Tun Tun talks with Burma Media Association (BMA) chairman Maung Maung Myint on the implications, the change in policies and the affect on Burmese exiled media.

Q: How does BMA view the current cuts in funding and the policy changes that are underway?

A: The financial and funding cuts will affect most of our Burmese exiled media. In fact, it is only the free, exiled-based media that can disseminate impartial news to people both inside and outside Burma.

Now the junta is convening its Parliament shortly. Some of the donors believe these cosmetic changes offer opportunities and are ready to go inside Burma and give funding to organisations inside and to try to co-operate with the new government. There are many such donor governments and organisations. I must say they are wrong if they believe they can work with the new government and give funding to the organizations inside instead.

No matter what government appears in Burma, it will be controlled by the military under the current circumstances. And the military tightly controls the media. The governments, NGOs and INGOs that work in Burma can not know what the government is doing and how it governs without the free exiled media. The organisations that currently face financial difficulties are not only the small organizations but also the big media organisations such as the BBC and DVB. These financial difficulties affect them too. Its impact affects almost the entire media world that the Burmese people rely on for real news and information.

Q: If this trend continues, what will be the long term effects?

A: At the least, the exiled media will let some of their staff go and reduce their output of news and other information. Some of them will stop the publication of their print media and or reduce their publication of other printed matter.

But the Burmese exiled media has struggled for a long time. It has grown from nothing to what it is today. The people who work on these publications will not give up even through the donors stop or shift their funds. All will keep working, keep the movement going. This is how I see them.

Q: Is the current funding cut largely a change in policies among donors? What is the change?

A: It’s a variety of views and factors. Some believe that the atmosphere inside Burma is changing and that there are new opportunities inside the country and more work should be done there.

We shouldn’t be too upset and disappointed because many foreign governments such as the US administration still believe there is no genuine progress yet in Burma, and they must continue to provide financial assistance, while some other countries, including some Asean countries, are currently advocating a reverse in their policy towards the Burmese government and offer financial assistance to them in various ways.

Generally speaking in my overall view, the international governments and other organizations have not had yet made drastic policy changes towards Burma. But the current economic crisis in the US and in Europe adversely affects their people and that affects their overseas financial assistance. This is the main reason, I think.

Q: Do you think there will be more such cuts in the future? How do you see this problem?

A: We cannot say exactly what will be the next step after the current round of cuts. If it becomes clear that the cuts have adversely set back conditions in Burma, we may regain our previous funding levels. The other factor is the global economic crisis especially in Western countries. If the economy of these countries picks up again from the recession we are likely to get our funding back.

The next factor is the domestic political situation. If the military regime engages in dialogue and negotiations for national reconciliation with the NLD and ethnic parties as Western countries are demanding, the domestic Burmese media might be the priority for their funding. The exiled media could suffer in that situation.

So generally speaking, it depends on how the situation inside Burma plays out. That is probably what will effect the exiled media the most.

Karenni leader Khun Hte Bu Peh dies

Monday, 31 January 2011 13:51 Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) chairman Khun Hte Bu Peh died of throat cancer on Thursday in Mae Hon Song, Thailand, according to his relatives and party officials.

Burial was scheduled for Monday, January 31, at a location on the Karenni State border with Thailand. A Baptist Christian, he is survived by his wife Day Daw Phaw and five children.

Khun Hte Bu Peh, 74, had been in the resistance movement for more than 45 years and served as general secretary of the KNPP and prime minister of Karenni government.

His daughter, Maw Se Mar, told Mizzima, ‘He could not speak, and he had to breathe with a respirator. After meeting with all of his children, the oxygen pipe was removed and he died at 3:25 p.m.’

Khun Hte Bu Peh graduated from Rangoon University in 1960 in political science. During his life, he worked to compile an English-Karenni dictionary. He had reached the letter ‘R’ but could not complete the work, his daughter said.

‘His dream was to improve the Karenni script. He didn’t call our written language literature, it was still in script, he always said. We must try hard to uplift our written language to literature from the current script stage, he always said to us’, she said.

Party Secretary 2 Aung San Myint told Mizzima, ‘Our chairman never appeared sick, but he suffered from his disease himself without revealing his suffering and pain to anyone else. He lost his appetite just one or two weeks before being hospitalised. He died in this first ever hospitalisation’.

He served as chairman of the Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC) of the Union of Burma and as a member of the Emergence of Federal Union.

KNPP central executive committee member and Home Affairs Department In-charge Khu Hte Bu said Khun Hte Bu Peh was born in Kay Lra village in Phrusoe Township in Karenni State. He held the view that Karenni State was an independent country in historical terms, but believed Karenni State should coexist with other ethnic nationalities because it was landlocked and had a small population. He said he believed in ethnic unity and the emergence of a ‘federal army’.

Thailand to set up more nationality verification centers

Monday, 31 January 2011 13:26 Aung Myat Soe

Bangkok (Mizzima) - The Thai government will set up more nationality verification centers for Burmese workers in Thailand, according to The Nation newspaper.

The Thai Labour Minister Chalermchai Sri-on visited Burma last week to meet with Burmese deputy foreign minister Maung Myint.

‘The Burmese authorities will establish an office to identify workers' nationality in Ranong and also send more officials to Chiang Rai's Mae Sai checkpoint’, the newspaper quoted the Labour Minister as saying. Mae Sai is opposite the Burmese border town of Tachilek.

Labour Minister Chalermchai Sri-on added that Burmese authorities might send officials to be stationed at a border checkpoint in Nakhon Sawan Province, as a replacement for the nationality verification center in Mae Sot, which has been closed.

‘We have asked for more nationality verification centers for a long time. Moreover, the authorities of the two countries should put pressure on the broker companies to reduce service fees. Currently, the service fees are high’, he said.

In the nationality verification process, it cost 200 baht (about US$ 6) for the temporary passport and 1,900 baht (about US$ 62) for a Thai visa.

However, many migrant workers have to pay about 5,500 Baht (about US$ 177) including the service fees and transportation fees to private broker companies, which assist the workers in making application. Some workers pay nearly 10,000 baht (about US$ 322), observers say.

According to a source close to the Thai Labour Ministry, Burma wanted to know the total number of Burmese migrant workers in Thailand. Organizations which assist migrant workers say there are a total of about two million Burmese migrant workers in Thailand.

According to the Migrant Information Note issued by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on November 26, 188,323 out of more than 800,000 legal Burmese migrant workers have completed the nationality verification process as of September 30, 2010.

The Thai Ministry of Labour had earlier estimated that all the nationality verification process should be completed by the end of February 2012, the IOM said.

USDP member elected chief of Mon State Assembly

Monday, 31 January 2011 21:33 Ko Pauk

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Members of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) were elected as chief, assistant chief and chairman of the Mon State Assembly.

Kyin Pe, a lawmaker from Chaungzon Township constituency No. (2), was elected as chief of the assembly; Htay Lwin, a lawmaker from Kyaikto constituency No. (1), was elected as the assistant chief; and Ohn Myint, a retired Brigadier General, and a lawmaker from Mudon constituency No. (1) was elected chairman.

Naing Ngwe Thein, the chairman of the All Mon Region Democracy Party (AMRDP), told Mizzima that his party nominated Dr. Min Nwe Soe, who received seven votes. Kyin Pe received 24 votes.

Similary, the USDP nominated Htay Lwin assistant chief of the assembly and the AMRDP nominated Min Nwe Soe again. Htay Lwin defeated Min Nwe Soe, 23 votes to eight.

There are a total of 31 lawmakers in the Mon State Assembly; 11 are from the USDP; seven from the AMRDP; two from the National Unity Party; eight from the military and three are ethnic parliamentary representatives.

The parliamentary session was held in the Yamanya Hall, which is also the site of the Mon State Peace and Development Council office.

Naing Ngwe Thein said there was no other business conducted during the assembly session. Later, the president of the national Parliament will appoint a regional assembly president and various regional ministers.

USDP members new chief, chairman of Rangoon Assembly

Monday, 31 January 2011 19:56 Tun Tun

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Two members of the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) were elected as the chief of the assembly and the chairman of the assembly of the Rangoon Regional Assembly, according to a source close to the assembly.

Sein Tin Win of Kunchankone Township was elected chief of the assembly and Maung Maung Win of Shwepyithar Township was elected chairman of the assembly, the source said.

‘So far, we only have information from the Rangoon Division Assembly’, he told Mizzima.

There are a total of 123 lawmakers in the Rangoon Division Assembly; 31 of them are from the military; two are ethnic parliamentary representatives; 73 are from the USDP; and 17 are from other political parties.

Local residents said the Rangoon Division Assembly was held in the old parliament building on Pyi Road in Rangoon that was built during the socialist era.

Authorities strengthened security around the area.

‘Many security forces and police cars have been stationed outside the parliamentary building. I think there were more than 20 cars’, said one source. He said groups of about five armed guards were posted at every major intersection.

‘I think a police car contained about four or five security personnel. Cars were checked by security personnel at night. Both the drivers and the passengers were examined’, he said.

Speakers elected to both houses of Parliament

Monday, 31 January 2011 18:47 Phanida

Naypyidaw (Mizzima) – The first convening of the national and regional Parliaments in Burma took place on Monday including the first elected speakers of the lower and upper houses.

Thura Shwe Man, the military junta's former No. 3 man as joint chief of staff, was elected speaker of the Lower House, which has 440 members.

The next step is the election of three vice presidents on Tuesday, followed by the election of a president from among the vice presidents. The date for the election of the president is not clear.

Speculation is centering on Thein Sein, the prime minister and head of the Union Solidarity and Development Party, as the front runner to be elected president.

Nanda Kyaw Swar was elected vice speaker of the Lower House, according to an Arakanese member of parliament, Dr. Aye Maung.

Nanda Kyaw Swar is the son of Brigadier General Tin Pe, a member of the revolutionary council in 1962 led by the Ne Win government. Brig-Gen Tin Phe is best remembered as one of the the key architect’s of Ne Win’s state planned economy, regarded by most observers as a complete disaster.

Former Cultural minister Khin Aung Myint was elected speaker of the Upper House, which has 224 members. Mya Nyein, former director general of the Attorney General’s Office, was elected vice speaker.

Aye Maung told Mizzima that ethnic members of Parliament will try to elect an ethnic MP to a vice president position, but expect the motion to be defeated on Tuesday by votes cast by members of the Union Solidarity and Development Party, which, along with appointed military members of Parliament, controls more than 80 percent of the votes in Parliament.

NLD website created by anonymous source

Monday, 31 January 2011 20:10 Myint Maung

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was reportedly pleased with the creation of a National League for Democracy (NLD) party website by an unidentified third party outside of Burma.

A greeting message sent by Aung San Suu Kyi was posted on the Internet website which was inaugurated on Sunday evening.

‘I am very pleased indeed that there is now a web page that will make the policies and activities of the National League for Democracy known around the globe’, she wrote. ‘A good communication system is essential in our endeavour to set up a people's network for democracy that will span the whole world.’

‘By communicating through the web page, with strong supporters of our cause, as well as with those who want to know more about our movement for democracy and about the NLD, I believe we will be able to achieve our goal of a democratic union at a faster pace’, she said.

NLD officials noted that the NLD itself had no role in backing or creating the website. The identity of the developer of the website is not known.

Party Information Department In-charge Ohn Kyaing told Mizzima that the NLD had no contact with the webmaster of the website and the party could not have such a website itself in light of many laws and restrictions in Burma.

‘There are many general limitations inside Burma’, he said, ‘both technical, financial and legal constraints’.

The website address is It posts information in both English and Burmese. There are website sections devoted to organisation, media and press releases, social welfare, education, health, international affairs, law and ethnic affairs.

NLD Vice Chairman Tin Oo also welcomed the creation of the website.

“We welcome the opening of a web page dedicated to promoting the interest of the NLD”, said a message signed by Tin Oo.

The organisation section lists state and division party branches, youth and women and the Committee Representing People’s Parliament. The media and press release section contains past press releases, interviews, articles and media related information.

In the social welfare section are listings for emergency help, political prisoners and other information. Under health is information about HIV/AIDs programs. Under international affairs information about the United Nations, Asean, India/China, North America and Europe is provided. The webiste also includes video clips and a photo gallery of NLD activities.

Ohn Kyaing said, ‘All of the press releases are those that have already been released. If we did this website from Burma, all of us would be arrested. We cannot release even a newsletter from our office’.

Speakers elected to both houses of Parliament

Type your summary here. Type the rest of your post here.

Monday, 31 January 2011 18:47 Phanida

Naypyidaw (Mizzima) – The first convening of the national and regional Parliaments in Burma took place on Monday including the first elected speakers of the lower and upper houses. 

Thura Shwe Man
Thura Shwe Man.
Thura Shwe Man, the military junta's former No. 3 man as joint chief of staff, was elected speaker of the Lower House, which has 440 members.

The next step is the election of three vice presidents on Tuesday, followed by the election of a president from among the vice presidents. The date for the election of the president is not clear. 

Speculation is centering on Thein Sein, the prime minister and head of the Union Solidarity and Development Party, as the front runner to be elected president. 

Nanda Kyaw Swar was elected vice speaker of the Lower House, according to an Arakanese member of parliament, Dr. Aye Maung. 

Nanda Kyaw Swar is the son of Brigadier General Tin Pe, a member of the revolutionary council in 1962 led by the Ne Win government. Brig-Gen Tin Phe is best remembered as one of the the key architect’s of Ne Win’s state planned economy, regarded by most observers as a complete disaster.

Former Cultural minister Khin Aung Myint was elected speaker of the Upper House, which has 224 members. Mya Nyein, former director general of the Attorney General’s Office, was elected vice speaker.

Aye Maung told Mizzima that ethnic members of Parliament will try to elect an ethnic MP to a vice president position, but expect the motion to be defeated on Tuesday by votes cast by members of the Union Solidarity and Development Party, which, along with appointed military members of Parliament, controls more than 80 percent of the votes in Parliament. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Critics blast Junta’s presentation at UN Rights Council

Saturday, 29 January 2011 11:26 Thomas Maung Shwe

Mizzima - Opposition critics hit back at the Burmese regime following its diplomatic corps defense of Burma’s human rights record at before the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on Thursday.

The junta’s appearance before the human rights council was the first time its rights record has been scrutinized under the newly reformatted Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which all UN members must undergo.

The revised process entails a public review of the human rights record of each UN Member State every four years. During the three-hour session, representatives of the Burmese regime sought to portray critical statements made by Western diplomats as inaccurate and outrageous.

Responding to written submissions made by Human Rights Watch and other NGOs about the Burmese armed forces continued use of violence against ethnic minorities the regime’s representatives claimed that ‘accusations of rape against ethnic women are baseless, with the aim of discrediting armed forces’.

The Burmese regime’s attempt to convince the international community that there was no need for concern also included the director general of Burma’s prison system, Zaw Win, telling the council that Burma had no political prisoners and that all of those currently jailed in Burma were criminals who had violated the law.

Zaw Win’s attempt to deny the claims of human rights groups that Burma has more than 2,100 political prisoners failed to impress Tihar Yazar, a former political prisoner who spent 17 and half years in Burma’s prison system for participating in Burma’s opposition.

Thiha Yarzar told Mizzima “the Burmese military regime always denies they have political prisoners, but it’s just not true and everyone knows it.”

Another Burmese representative’s claim that the regime’s armed forces ‘have a zero tolerance policy towards serious human rights violations, including sexual violence’, was another example of the regime’s offensive behavior, according to Thailand-based Cheery Zahau, the coordinator for the Human Rights Education Institute of Burma.

Cheery, who followed the regime’s testimony via live web broadcast told Mizzima, ‘The SPDC report was outrageous, they denied everything. It was farcical’.

The human rights activist noted, however, that the UPR process was still important because it creates a chance for governments around the world to grill the military regime on human rights and allowed for detailed submissions written by organizations dedicated to the human rights situation in Burma like the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners Burma (AAPPB) and the Chin Human Rights Organization.

The US State Department took part in the session, and strongly critised the Burmese regime’s ongoing stifling of political dissent. US participation in the UPR is opposed by some conservative Republican politicians because the new system gives Iran, Syria, Cuba and North Korea the opportunity to criticize the American government’s own human rights record every four years. In a video press release issued by the State Department just before the session, the US Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council, Eileen Donahue, defended the Obama administrations participation in the UPR.

Donahoe was featured in the video press release say, ‘I do believe that the Human Rights Council review process, the Universal Period Review, of Burma can contribute to an improvement in the human rights situation on the ground in Burma, specifically because representatives of the Burmese government will travel here and be required to convey their perspective on their own human rights record and then listen to the deep concerns by all members of the international community as well as civil society with respect to their record.’

Donahoe’s appearance in the video press release closely followed the position that she and the US government would take during the hearing. Donahoe described the release of Aung San Suu Kyi as ‘wonderful’, but added ‘we can’t lose sight of the fact she should have never been in prison and there are still 2,100 political prisoners being detained, and even though there was an election, it was nowhere near to being a free or fair election’.

Burma UK Campaign director Mark Farmaner told Mizzima that he hoped the international community would hold the Burmese regime’s representatives to account for what he found to be totally dishonest testimony by Burma’s representatives.

According to Farmaner, ‘The Junta’s Geneva representative should have gone into movies rather than the military, perhaps specializing in fantasy movies. If a person lies in court they can be jailed for perjury. When a country lies to the United Nations, there are no penalties. The lies told by the dictatorship at the UPR are shameless and outrageous. The Human Rights Council shouldn’t let this pass without comment or consequences’.
Friday, January 28, 2011

DVB plans to cut radio programmes, expand TV

Friday, 28 January 2011 20:20 Tun Tun

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), which suffered funding cut recently, says it will eliminate some morning radio programmes.

At the same time, as the sole exile TV broadcaster, DVB is making preparations to expand its TV programmes.

Mizzima reporter Tun Tun interviewed DVB Executive Director Aye Chan Naing on the funding cuts, trends in the exiled Burmese media, stopping the short wave radio programmes and the implications and changes in the policies of organizations that fund DVB and other exiled media.

Q: What is the percentage of the funding cuts and what is the amount?

A: It’s about 15 percent and the amount is approximate US$ 500,000.

Q: Because of the funding cuts what programmes in your regular operations will be affected?

A: We have to cut our airtime in radio programmes and some entertainment programmes. We have to reduce some of our office operations, too.

Q: What will be the impact of the reductions in your operations?

A: I think the main impact will be on our radio programmes. The impact will be severe in this area. But on the other hand, we will balance program cuts with overhead costs cut at our Oslo office to minimise the impact on our listeners and audiences in Burma.
For instance, if we can significantly reduce operational costs in the Oslo office, there will be no impact on our programmes.

Q: What is likely to be the impact on the audiences inside Burma due to some programme cuts?

A: I think there will be little impact on our audiences. In radio programmes, we will stop our broadcasting of the morning programme. There will be some impact on short wave radio programmes. But at the same time, we will expand our TV programmes. Currently, we telecast our programmes two to three times daily. We will now extend this airtime considerably, especially for news programmes.

We have airtime for round the clock TV telecasts, so we will expand TV programmes in many areas. The TV audiences inside Burma will be more informed about what is going on in Burma.

Q: What are the reasons for the funding cuts?

A: Actually, it’s not a funding cut. The donors, for their own reasons, may simply not make a contribution for some years. In the long term, we could face similar loss of funds by other existing donors. So we have to consider our long term plan in facing such a financial crisis.

This is not a budget cut to DVB because of unsatisfactory performance and operations. The lack of funding is due to their own problems and policies.

Q: The BBC Burmese Service had similar funding cuts. Some online exiled media had to stop their magazines and journals in the English language. Do you see any structural changes in the exiled media under the reduced funding situation?

A: I think there is one point that all of our exiled media should consider seriously. Our donors are not giving funds to us as media organisations. Their funding philosophy and objective of giving funds to us is concerned with politics. They are providing these funds to us because there is no media freedom in Burma and because of the unfavourable political landscape for a free press. If they change their political policy, certainly it will have an impact.

So there is a danger for us, challenges that are immense, because we must commit to our schedule and programmes in advance. We cannot stop our programmes. So we must have long term plans. If we cannot build sound and reliable funding, the danger will be very serious to us and to all exiled media, for Mizzima or the Irrawaddy or DVB. All of us.

One more thing. What is even worse is the lack of media freedom inside Burma. There are human rights violations inside Burma. The statements made on Friday by the delegates sent by SPDC (junta) to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) are blatant lies. Only the exiled media can expose such lies made in the international arena.

The domestic media cannot do so. So under this circumstance, the role of exiled media is very important for the people of Burma, foreign governments, NGOs and people in foreign countries. They need to know what is really going on in Burma by relying on the exiled media. If the exiled media cannot survive, it will be dangerous for everyone.

Q: Some observers are saying that the donors’ priority is to channel their funds into Burma?

A: Some of the rumours are true. Some are real. But I see also that some of our donors, from Europe and the US, already have operations inside Burma. At the same time, they have a commitment to continue their funding to the exiled organisations too.

But on the other hand, we should ask what are they thinking, why have they stopped funding some of us? We should consider the overall view because all of these donors have supported and funded the Burmese pro-democracy movement for 20 years. Now their ideology, their thoughts, and their tactics are changing.

So all of us need to consider why they have changed. In our view, the changes inside Burma are not real change, only cosmetic changes. They conducted a general election, we have a Constitution now and a new civilian government will emerge soon. If they [donors] really believe in all these cosmetic changes, it must be because of our failure to convince them these are just superficial changes.

Q: What will DVB do if you have more cuts?

A: We have started our own contingency plans. We must consider how we can continue our funding and generate income from our current operations. We have full faith on our existing donor organisations. They also believe and recognise our important role. So we don’t have to worry about our funding for the next four to six years because the role of the exiled media will be important as long as there is no change inside Burma and there is no media freedom in Burma.

If the SPDC really changes by giving media freedom and everybody can say whatever they wish; we don’t need to stay as an exile organization, we don’t need to work here anymore. We will re-enter our country. So I see all of these changes also to be dependent on the Burmese government.

If they still gag the media, if they ban media freedom and freedom of expression in Burma, our role will be important. So the democracy-loving governments and Western countries will continue their support to us and funding to us. I have no doubt of it. But we must prepare ourselves to cope with the changes. Some Western governments might have changed their tactics, but they are not naïve enough to believe all of what the SPDC is trying to tell them.

Another point I’d like to make about the policy changes being made by these Western governments. They can change their policy, but there are people, social communities and NGOs in their countries too. They listen to and care about what these communities are saying. They cannot alone change their policies.

Q: The people from Burma have concerns about DVB reducing its services. What would you like to say to them?

A: We are extremely sorry for cutting our airtime in radio programmes but on the other hand, we will try to maintain our present work standards. Another good point in the changes is the expansion of TV programmes by airing more programmes and more airtime in telecasting news in almost real time. Unfortunately, for listeners of our short wave radio programmes, which are accessible in all nooks and corners of the country, this programing will be cut. TV programmes do have a limitation. But we will try to telecast real time programmes daily, maybe for the first time in our country.

Coverage of Parliament by journalists in doubt

Friday, 28 January 2011 20:26 Ko Pauk

New Delhi (Mizzima) – With only three days remaining before the opening of the People’s Parliament and National Parliament, no one is certain if foreign and local journalists will be allowed to cover the proceedings of the assemblies.

The first parliamentary sessions will be held in Naypyidaw on Monday.

Aye Aye Win, a writer for The Associated Press in Rangoon, told Mizzima that journalists were waiting for a yes or no from the military regime, and the longer the wait, the more doubts they have.

A journal editor in Rangoon said, ‘We haven’t received an invitation letter. I’m not sure whether they will invite us or not’.

One journal editor told Mizzima that local journalists were not welcomed when the National Convention met and this could be a similar situation, because of the nature of the discussions and debate that could occur in Parliament.

He said, ‘That means they don’t want the journalists to know about parliamentary events because the journalists will inform the people about the events’.

In the National Convention, which began in 1993 and was completed in 2007, the Ministry of Information invited some resident correspondents of foreign news organizations and some foreign correspondents attend the sessions.

Many new members of Parliament are now in the capital, lodged in special guesthouses located downtown. A room costs 1,500 kyat (about US$ 1.50), including two meals.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Myanmar (FCCM) held a meeting in Rangoon on January 18 and decided to apply to the Ministry of Information for access to parliamentary sessions to cover the events.

“We applied via the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division. But, we haven’t got any reply. We are still waiting’, a Rangoon-based correspondent from a foreign news agency told Mizzima.

However, during an opening ceremony for a library in Thaketa Township in Rangoon on January 17, Information Minister Kyaw Hsan told resident correspondents from a foreign news agency that the Ministry of Information would invite journalists from foreign news agencies to cover parliamentary sessions.

Section 52 of new Parliamentary laws says anyone (except lawmakers) who enters the parliament building without permission of the Parliamentary chairman could be sentenced to a minimum of one year in prison or fined kyat 100,000 (about US$ 100) or both.

Burma defends its human rights record at UN council

Friday, 28 January 2011 13:16 Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The UN Human Rights Council met in Geneva on Thursday morning to hear Burmese representatives defend the country’s human rights record.

The three-hour review was conducted as a process of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which involves a review of the human rights record of all UN members once every four years.

The proceedings were broadcast live on the webpage of the UN human rights council.

The Burmese representatives included Dr. Myint Kyi, a member of the Burmese Human Rights Committee; Ye Htut of the Ministry of Information; Bo Win, the director of the Ministry of Education; Zaw Win, the director general of the Prison Department; Nyunt Shwe, the director general of Foreign Affairs; and Khin Saw Oo of the Finance and Revenue Department

The UN human rights council representatives raised questions regarding the fairness of the recent national election and allegations of recruitment of child soldiers, sexual violence including rape by soldiers, the right to form public associations and freedom of speech and the press.

Representatives from the US, UK, France and Germany welcomed the release of Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, but they urged Burma to release all of the remaining political prisoners, which number more than 2,100, according to human rights groups.

In defending its human rights record, Burmese representative Myint Kyi told council members that more than 30 political parties, including ethnic parties, contested in the recent election, and the parties could canvass freely. She said that foreign journalists in Burma could observe the polls. The last national election in Burma was in 1990.

Prison director Zaw Win told the council that there were no political prisoners in Burma and all prisoners were detained because they violated the existing laws. He denied allegations that the conditions in Burmese prisons were below accepted standards and that prisoners were denied adequate health care.

He said that Burma’s prison health facilities met UN standards, and if a prison hospital could not cure a prisoner, he or she would be taken to a public hospital.

Ye Htut of the Ministry of Information said that Burma has allowed private publications since 2008 and there were now more than 160 journals, more than 180 magazines and more than 170 publishing houses in Burma.

Burma had freedom of the press, he said, adding that the authorities had recently allowed the formation of the Committee for Professional Conduct (CPC) to represent reporters and private journals. He said only a few of the members were Ministry of Information personnel. In a recent related development, the CPC representative of the Eleven Media Group, a Rangoon-based media organization, resigned from the CPC, citing a lack of belief that the committee could work to achieve press freedom.

The secretary of the CPC is Myo Myint Maung, the director of the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD) under the Ministry of Information. Many observers in the media refer to the PSRD as ‘literature Kempatai’. [Kempatai refers to the Japan’s fascist police who occupied much of Burma during World War II.]

In related news, the Burma Forum on the Universal Periodic Review (BF-UPR), a coalition of 14 human rights organisations, held a public meeting in Geneva on Thursday. The group’s leaders said they will issue a statement on Monday, January 31, on whether the junta’s representatives’ statements to the human rights council should be accepted or not.

The Myanmar Human Rights Committee (MHRC) was formed on April 26, 2000. Its chairman is Maung Oo (a retired major general), the head of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The MHRC comprises nine subcommittees: the home affairs committee, the legal committee, the social committee, the labour committee, the health committee, the education committee, the international relations committee, the religious affairs committee and the women affairs committee.

Win Tin, environmentalists alarmed by Myitsone Dam

Friday, 28 January 2011 14:54 Thomas Maung Shwe

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Win Tin, the co-founder of the National League for Democracy, says he and his colleagues are “deeply concerned” by the potentially devastating impact of the 152-meter high Myitsone Dam now under construction on the upper Irrawaddy River in northern Kachin State.

Win Tin told Mizzima that he is worried the project will cause increased ethnic tensions because of the widespread displacement of villagers and the impact on the environment.

The project’s critics also fear that restricting the flow of the river on the upper Irrawaddy will have devastating consequences farther downstream, depleting fish stocks and severely impacting agricultural production in the Irrawaddy delta where 60 percent of Burma’s rice is produced.

Construction and financing on the project is headed by the China Power Investment Corporation (CPI), a state-owned giant electrical company that has partnered with Burma’s state power utility Myanma Electric Power Enterprise (MEPE) and the Burmese conglomerate Asia World, which is controlled by Stephen Law and his family. Law’s father, Lo Sit Han, the chairman of Asia World, has been labeled a ‘narco warlord’ and linked to money laundering by the US government.

The Myitsone Dam will be built at the confluence of the Mali Hka and Nmai Hka rivers and, according to Burmese state media, will generate 6,000MW. Last September in a report on Sino Burmese relations the Brussels-based think tank, the International Crisis Group, citing Chinese state media, concluded that when completed the Myitsone dam “is expected to send most of the power generated to China.”

Environmental activists with the Burma Rivers Network, a coalition comprised of organizations representing various dam-affected communities in Burma and one of its members, the Kachin Development Networking Group, said that the creation of the dam’s reservoir will flood an area larger than Singapore and will displace scores of villages with an estimated population of around 15,000 people while also destroying ecologically sensitive areas, something Win Tin said is unacceptable.

‘The relocation of thousands of Kachin villagers is a great problem,’ Win Tin said. The veteran politician, who served a lengthy jail sentence as a political prisoner, noted that when the project started a few years ago ‘there was no consultation with the people’.

He called the dam’s development the latest act of ‘land grabbing’ by the Burmese regime, which has routinely confiscated land throughout the country without giving compensation to pursue massive development projects.

Win Tin also said he feared that the Kachin people affected by the project ‘may not be able to discern that this is a project imposed on them by the SPDC and does not represent the will of the majority of Burma’s people’. He added that he feared ramifications of the project would lead to increased ethnic tension in a country wracked by decades of civil war and ethnic conflict.

Win Tin is not alone. Sai Sai, the coordinator of the Burma Rivers Network, said the Myitsone dam will ‘have a major disruptive impact on people living downstream from the project’.

Sai Sai and his fellow activists are particularly concerned that because of the dam, water on Burma’s most important river ‘will be stored and released depending on the electricity needs of the Chinese, leading to unpredictable water shortages and surges’.

Ah Nan, a researcher with the Burma Rivers Network, told Mizzima that several hundred villagers were forced to move already last year and the new living areas the Burmese regime provided are totally inadequate.

Ah Nan said, ‘Most of these villagers are subsistence farmers who have worked the land for generations, but at little notice the Burmese regime orders them to move and making matters worse, they aren’t even allowed to bring their livestock with them.

These people who were self reliant before, will be left with nothing and driven into poverty, this is a major disaster in the making.’

The Myitsone dam will be the first of seven cascading dams on the upper Irrawaddy in Kachin state. An article in the industry journal Power in Asia last September said the massive project will generate a combined capacity of 16,500 MW, slightly less than the present 18,200 MW generating capacity of China’s huge Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest dam.

As the Burma Rivers Network has pointed out, the seven dams on the Irrawaddy’s headwaters will produce five times the total current power production capacity of Burma.

The other six dams, like the Myitsone, will be built and operated by CPI in partnership with MEPE and Asia World. In July of last year, the Burmese regime’s Union of Myanmar Government Gazette reported that in December 2009 the three entities had established the Irrawaddy Myitsone-Myintnya-MyintWan Hydropower Company Limited to build and operate the dams.

‘As we’ve seen with other dam projects of this kind in Burma, the regime’s priority is to enrich itself and make money for the foreign investors while the needs of the people of Burma are ignored’, Sai Sai added.

Power in Asia also revealed that official Chinese figures put the estimated total cost of the 15-year, seven-dam mega project at US $30 billion (200 billion yuan).

According to reports, the Chinese firms will bring in their own work force to build the dams thus creating fewer local jobs, a common practice by Chinese firms operating overseas.

Bomb attacks on dam site

Last year, a series of at least 10 separate bombs exploded on April 17, 2010 at the Myitsone Dam construction site, injuring a Chinese worker and destroying several temporary buildings belonging to Asia World and vehicles owned by the firm.

Within days of the explosions, the Burmese regime detained more than 70 local people, mostly youth affiliated with the Education and Economic Development for Youth, the youth wing of Burma’s second largest cease-fire group, the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO).

The KIO, which has publicly opposed the dam, denied any responsibility for the explosions and eventually most of the people arrested were released. According to the KIO, its concerns about the dam have been ignored by the regime, which has pressed ahead on the project.

In an interview with Mizzima last November, Lana Gumhpan, a senior figure in the de facto government that administers the territory controlled by the Kachin Independence Organisation, said that the Burmese regime’s reckless pursuit of the dam project was more evidence that the junta was quite willing to ‘ignore the concerns of Burma’s ethnic minorities’.

Supreme Court dismisses NLD appeal against dissolution

Friday, 28 January 2011 13:56 Thel Thel

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burma’s Supreme Court in Naypyidaw on Friday dismissed the National League for Democracy’s second appeal against the dissolution of the party for failing to register prior to last year’s election.

On January 13, the court agreed to hear a special appeal, which was heard on Monday.

Kyaw Hoe, one of the NLD lawyers, said there is still one more chance for the NLD, if it files a final appeal with the court’s Chief Justice.

However, Kyaw Hoe said, ‘We haven’t decided whether we will lodge the final appeal or not’.

The NLD decided not to re-register as a political party in protest against the recent general elections, which it said was unfair and undemocratic. As a result, the Union Election Commission (UEC) officially declared the NLD dissolved on September 14, 2010.

On November 22, 2010, the Supreme Court dismissed the first appeal and later dismissed a second special appeal.

Two publications suspended for using ‘indecent photos’

Friday, 28 January 2011 13:44 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Two Rangoon publications which covered the wedding reception of popular film stars Pyay Ti Oo and Eindra Kyaw Zin have been suspended by censors in the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division for publishing ‘indecent’ photographs.

The publications, Monitor and Hello, were suspended for two weeks and one week, respectively.

‘We have been suspended for printing alleged indecent photos’, Monitor chief editor Myat Khaing told Mizzima.

The publications were suspended when editors met with press scrutiny officials at the Information Ministry, he said.

Journalists say censors provide no clear definition of ‘indecent’. In the past, actresses bearing their legs and other areas have been taken to task for ‘inappropriate’ dress.

Burmese authorities routinely punish entertainers by banning them from performing and acting in films, if they wear long hair or clothes they consider indecent, claiming the government is preserving traditional Burmese culture.

Photos of the film stars who attended the actors’ wedding reception held at the Inya Lake Hotel in Rangoon on January 21 appeared in many publications.

Authorities find a time bomb planted at gas pipeline

Friday, 28 January 2011 20:34 Mizzima News

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The state-run newspaper ‘The Mirror’ on Friday reported that security personnel defused a time bomb planted beneath a gas pipeline on Dedaye-Pyarpon Road in Phyarpon Township in Irrawaddy Division on Wednesday, January 26.

The bomb was planted beneath a gas pipeline beside concrete bridge No 1/13 at mile post No. 12/ 5, the newspaper said.

Authorities said the time bomb was made with four 4-inch long, 2-inch wide and 1-inch thick gunpowder blocks, with a 7 foot-long blasting cable, one detonator and four dry cell batteries, according to the newspaper.

Junta enacts special economic zone law

Friday, 28 January 2011 16:05 Mizzima News

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – To attract foreign investment, the Burmese junta has enacted the Myanmar Special Economic Zone Law, the state-run newspaper New Light of Myanmar reported on Friday.

The law comprises 12 sections including ‘Special Privileges of Investors’, ‘Land Use’, and ‘Banks and Financial Management and Insurance’.

Since the military junta came into power in 1988, about 430 companies from 31 countries have invested in 12 economic sectors in Burma.

Among the sectors, the highest earnings are from oil and natural gas, which are projected to total from US$ 20 to 30 billion over the life of the projects, according to industry observers.
Thursday, January 27, 2011

Problems of a legal migrant worker

Thursday, 27 January 2011 18:49 Mizzima News

Dear Editor,

I’m a Burmese migrant worker in Thailand.

I have a legal migrant ID card issued by Thai authorities. As a low-paid worker, my average salary is about 4,500 baht (about US$ 146) a month.

In previous years, Thai authorities announced that we need to verify our nationality and apply for temporary passports. So, I lodged an application to obtain a passport with the help of a legal Thai broker company. I had to pay 5,800 baht. (about US$ 188).

Moreover, I had to pay 1,900 baht (about US$ 62) for a medical check-up and for health insurance each year. Then I had to apply for a work permit. I need to pay 3,800 baht (about US$ 124) every two years.

Then, the company gave me receipts and a letter that said to go to the immigration office after 90 days. But, we did not get the work permit card. They told us to go to the labour office with the receipt to get the work permit card.

We need to report every 90 days to the immigration office. When we went to the labour office to get our work permit card, we did not get it and the office made another appointment. Similarly, at the second appointment, the labour office made another appointment again. I don’t know what they will do.

We are workers. We have to go to work every weekday and some weekends. But we cannot go to work on the days we need to go to the labour office because the employers will cut our salaries for the unpaid leave.

This letter is intended to let the people know about the lives and problems of migrant workers.

A Migrant Worker

WLB to continue efforts to put generals on trial

Thursday, 27 January 2011 22:18 Myo Thein

Mizzima News – The Women's League of Burma (WLB) said on Thursday that it would continue its campaign to bring Burmese junta leaders before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The sixth congress of the WLB was held on the Thai-Burma border for three days starting Monday.

The pro-democracy opposition women’s organisation issued a statement that said it would continue work to create a UN Commission of Inquiry to investigate allegations of human rights violations in Burma and to put junta leaders, including Senior General Than Shwe, on trial for war crimes, including sexual violence against women.

Since Burma is not a signatory of the ICC statute, the junta’s generals cannot be brought directly before the ICC.

The women’s group is directing its efforts to the UN Security Council, which could refer its investigative findings to the ICC, which would then consider a further investigation.

In its statement, the WLB said it viewed the 2008 Burmese Constitution as anti-democratic and that the new Parliament to be formed on Jan. 31 will not lead to genuine political change in the country.

The organization said it in 2011 it will use the media as a tactical tool to bring attention to their three main goals: building peace, national reconciliation and fighting for women’s rights.

The group also accepted the Kayan Women Organisation (KyWO) as a new member of the organisation.

The WLB was established on December 9, 1999, comprising 12 Burmese women’s organisations based along the border of Bangladesh, India and Thailand.

Three political prisoners released

Thursday, 27 January 2011 22:23 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Three Burmese political prisoners who had served their full sentences were released on Wednesday.

Writer Aung Kyaw San, the publisher of the Myanmar Tribune, was released from Taunggyi Prison in Shan State; veterinary surgeon Dr. Nay Win was released from Hpaan Prison in Karen State; and Phone Pyace Kywe was released from Sittwe Prison in Arakan State.

They were sentenced to two years in prison under section 7 of the Unlawful Association Act by the Insein Prison court, according to Aung Kyaw San, who was arrested for collecting and burying corpses in the aftermath of Nargis Cyclone.

‘I was sentenced to eight years in prison, but my sentence was reduced’, said Aung Kyaw San. ‘I served two years and seven months and 11 days including the interrogation period. My detention during the interrogation was not counted. The junta seems flexible, but in fact they have become worse. Political prisoners didn’t get some rights which other prisoners got’, he told Mizzima.

Describing prison conditions, he said reading is allowed in Taunggyi Prison and political prisoners were allowed to watch TV two days per week, but could not watch the news. Other types of prisoners had daily access to TV, he said.

He said that in 1989, he had been arrested for his political actions, but in 2008 when he was arrested it was for working on cyclone relief operations, and it was unfair.

He said he was arrested by a Military Affairs Security Unit on his way from Bogale Township to Rangoon, after burying and cremating the dead bodies of cyclone victims.

While in prison, he said he translated books by Dr. Than Tun, a Burmese historian, and he planned to publish the books, along with some books by Ludu Daw Ah Mar.

His journal Myanmar Manager was banned in 1996. He published the Myanmar Tribune before his arrest.

He said that among his fellow prisoners were Mya Aye and Jimmy, leaders of the 1988 Generation students; 2007-Generation student leader Kyaw Ko Ko; Taunngyi NLD chairman Kyaw Khin, and Thura Soe and Pe Htoo. He said Mya Aye suffered a heart attack, and was only allowed to consult with an inexperienced doctor.

Veterinary surgeon Dr. Nay Win, 51, said that on his release that he was in good health. In the past, he said he had also been detained, from 1989 to 2004 for his political actions.

Nay Win that that he planned to do social work and that he wanted the international community to know about the lives of the political prisoners in Burma.

‘The lives of political prisoners are miserable’, he said. ‘They suffered in prisons and labour camps. They are unlawfully charged and unfairly detained. I want the international community to understand it. I want our people to enjoy human rights like the people in democratic countries’.

He said there are 15 political prisoners in Hpaan Prison: Hlaing Tun, NLD member Nay Kyaw; blogger Nay Phone Latt; NLD member Kyaw Kyaw Naing; Phatapah (Karen National Union); 88-Generation student leader Nyan Lin; cameraman Thant Zin Aung; Nanda Sint Aung (2003 Generation All Burma Federation of Student Unions member; Pyace Phyo Aung of Pathein; Aung Ko Ko Htet of Kalay’ Kyaw Aye of the KNU; Aung Khine; Warti (aka) Ahshaung; and Nyi Nyi Tun (aka) Nga Pyaw Kyaw.

He said Hlaing Tun, who has served an 8-year prison term, has suffered mental illness and Nay Kyaw has suffered from a heart attack and hypertension.

The third released prisoner, Phone Pyace Kywe, who was released from Sittwe Prison, has stayed in Sittwe for two days but has plans to go to Rangoon soon.

Along with the three political prisoners who were released, ABFSU member Phyo Phyo Aung, a daughter of Dr. Nay Win; and Shane Yarzar Tun and Aung Than Zin Oo were also arrested in 2008.

Phyo Phyo Aung, Shane Yarzar Tun and Aung Than Zin Oo were detained for four years in Moulmein Prison in Mon State, in Taungoo Prison in Pegu Division and Bhamo Prison in Kachin State under section 6 and 7 of the Unlawful Association Act.

Oldest Rangoon University graduate passes away

Thursday, 27 January 2011 22:14 Mizzima News

Mizzima News – Former Myoma Girls’ High School Principal Saw Yin, 105, died at her residence on Cheng Chaung Avenue in Rangoon on Wednesday, January 26.

The wife of poet and academic Saya Zawgyi, who died in 1990, she was born on March 13, 1906. She was the mother of Dr. Khin Hla Han, a historical researcher on the Yadanbon period, and the aunt of the late Rangoon University geography Prof. Dr. Tin Htoo (Boonki) and former physics Prof. Tin Oo Hlaing.

She graduated from Rangoon University with a bachelor degree in 1930 and a bachelor of education degree in 1934. She taught at National High School, served as principal at Mandalay Buddhist Middle School and as a teacher at Myoma Girls’ High School until 1941 when she married Saya Zawgyi. They had three daughters.

From 1951 to 1962, she served as assistant editor at Sarpay Beikman and compiled school textbooks including Travel in Burma, Geography of Burma and Topography of Burma. She also wrote stories for children in Lonmalay magazine and Mingalmaungme, a periodical, under the pseudonym Kyee Kyee Saw until the 1990s. Her Zarnime stories were popular among readers.

While she served as principal at Mandalay school, she and her husband served as mentors for U Hla and Ma Ahmar (writer Mya Myintzu).

Her body was cremated in ceremonies on Thursday at Yeway cemetery.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011

No arrest warrant issued for Bauk Ja, says lawyer

Wednesday, 26 January 2011 22:13 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – No arrest warrant has been issued for Bauk Ja, an outspoken critic of the Burmese junta, her lawyer said on Wednesday.

Lawyer Myint Thwin appeared before the election tribunal to represent Bauk Ja, a National Democratic Front (NDF) candidate, who has filed a complaint against the winning candidate, Ohn Myint of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), in the Phakant Township constituency in Kachin State, alleging that he violated electoral practices.

‘If the arrest warrant had been issued against her, she would have been arrested before she appeared at the tribunal’, her lawyer said.

Both Bauk Ja and Ohn Myint, a retired general, appeared before the court.

Police in the Special Branch, which handles political cases, came to Bauk Ja’s residence in Aungya village in Phakant Township two weeks ago and asked her whereabouts, her lawyer said. She was in Mandalay at the time.

A rumour spread that Northern Command Commander Brigadier General Zeyar Aung had issued an arrest warrant against her on January 17.

Bauk Ja is assisting 24 farmers from Phakant Township in their suit for damages against the Yuzana Company, which is owned by a junta business associate, Htay Myint. The company claimed that Htay Myint is not responsible in the case, which it said was handled by an employee.

The farmers named Htay Myint as the chief defendant in the lawsuit and the Kachin State civil court will hear arguments from both sides on February 1 to determine whether Htay Myint should be excluded from the case, lawyer Myint Thwin said.

In other election news, another lawsuit was heard on Wednesday in Naypyidaw by the election commission tribunal involving the USDP candidate Tetkatho ‘University’ Myat Thu, who filed a lawsuit against the winning candidate, Dr. Myat Nyarna Soe of the NDF party, alleging vote rigging and electoral fraud.

The commission said it will hear the case on February 10.

Meanwhile, many elected members of Parliament from various political parties across the country have begun arriving in Naypyidaw to attend the upcoming Parliament session, which begins on Jan. 31.

All MPs must report to the election commission not later than Thursday.

Goldpetrol drills for oil in old Burmese oilfields

Wednesday, 26 January 2011 20:52 Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The Goldpetrol Joint Operation Company is producing crude oil from old oil wells in the Yenanchaung and Chauk oilfields in Magwe Division in middle Burma.

Singapore-based Interra Resources Limited which owns 60 percent of Goldpetrol’s shares posted the information on its website on January 17.

Among these old oil wells, Well No. 2459 in the Yenanchaug oil field, which had been drilled down to 900 feet in 1931 and closed during WWII, and the Chauk-950 oil well, which was first drilled in Chauk Township in 1956 and closed in 1982, are included in the project. The Chauk-950 well could produce more than 206,000 barrels of crude oil in the past.

Since last year, Goldpetrol has re-drilled the old oil wells, and they now produce up to 90 barrels per day, according to Interra Resources.

The Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) under the Myanmar Energy Ministry and Goldpetrol signed a 20-year contract granting exploration rights which will end in 2017. MOGE controls the exploration and production of oil and gas in Burma.

Goldpetrol hired Paris-based Schlumberger Logelco Inc to conduct a survey for further field development opportunities in eight locations having potential of improved petroleum recovery. The company has conducted studies which say that the area has a potential of producing 1,715-3,639 million barrels, Interra Resources said.

Shwe Gas campaign has released a report which says that Burma has received a US$ 2.5 billion investment in the oil and gas sectors since 1988. Shwe Gas campaign studies and exposes human rights violations related to oil and gas exploration and production in Rakhine State.

BBC World Service to cut some services

Wednesday, 26 January 2011 20:30 Mizzima News

Mizzima – The BBC World Service will carry out a fundamental restructure in order to meet a 16 percent savings target required by the British government.

To ensure the 16 percent target is achieved and other unavoidable cost increases are met, the BBC will cut five full language services, end selected radio programmes in seven languages and refocuse those services on online and new media content and distribution and reduce most short wave and medium wave distribution of remaining radio services.

BBC Global News Director Peter Horrocks said: ‘This is a painful day for BBC World Service and the 180 million people around the world who rely on the BBC's global news services every week. We are making cuts in services that we would rather not be making.

‘What won't change is the BBC's aim to continue to be the world's best known and most trusted provider of high quality impartial and editorially independent international news’.

Under the cuts, 480 posts are expected to close over the next year.

It is expected that audiences will fall by more than 30 million from the current weekly audience of 180 million as a result of the changes this year.

The changes in detail are:

Full language service closures - There will be the complete closure of five language services – Albanian, Macedonian, Portuguese for Africa and Serbian languages; as well as the English for the Caribbean regional service.

End of radio programming - BBC World Service will cease all radio programming – focusing instead, as appropriate, on online, mobile and television content and distribution – in the following languages: Azeri, Mandarin Chinese (note that Cantonese radio programming continues), Russian (save for some programmes which will be distributed online only), Spanish for Cuba, Turkish, Vietnamese, and Ukrainian.

Reductions in short wave and medium wave radio distribution
- There will be a phased reduction in medium wave and short wave throughout the period.

English language short wave and medium wave broadcasts to Russia and the Former Soviet Union are planned to end in March 2011. The 648 medium wave service covering Western Europe and south-east England will end in March 2011. Listeners in the UK can continue to listen on DAB, digital television and online. Those in Europe can continue to listen online or direct to home free-to-air satellite via Hotbird and UK Astra. By March 2014, short wave broadcasts of the English service could be reduced to two hours per day in Africa and Asia.

BBC World Service will cease all short wave distribution of its radio content in March 2011 in: Hindi, Indonesian, Kyrgyz, Nepali, Swahili and the Great Lakes service (for Rwanda and Burundi).

These radio services will continue to be available for audiences by other means of distribution such as FM radio (direct broadcasts and via partners); online; mobiles and other new media devices.

Short wave broadcasts in remaining languages other than English are expected to end by March 2014 with the exception of a small number of ‘lifeline’ services such as Burmese and Somali.

English language programmes - There will be a new schedule for World Service English language programming – a focus on four daily news titles (BBC Newshour, BBC World Today, BBC World Briefing, and BBC World Have Your Say); and a new morning programme for Africa. There will be a new daily edition of From Our Own Correspondent; and an expansion of the interactive World Have Your Say programme.

There will be a reduction from seven to five daily pre-recorded ‘non-news; programmes on the English service. This includes the loss of one of the four weekly documentary strands. Some programmes will be shortened. Titles such as Politics UK, Europe Today, World Of Music, Something Understood, Letter From…, and Crossing Continents will all close. There will also be the loss of some correspondent posts.

Audience reduction - Audiences will fall by more than 30 million as a result of the changes announced on 26 January 2011. Investments in new services are planned in order to offset further net audience losses resulting from additional savings in the 2012-14 period.

Professional Services - There will be a substantial reduction in an already tight overhead budget. Teams in Finance, HR, Business Development, Strategy, Marketing and other administrative operations will face cuts averaging 33 per cent.

Job losses - Under these proposals 480 posts would be declared redundant; of these 26 posts are currently unfilled vacancies.

BBC World Service is proposing to open 21 new posts. Therefore the net impact of these proposed changes could result in up to 433 posts being closed this financial year against a total staff number of 2400.

For more information, visit

Burmese dance troupe to perform in Chiang Mai

Wednesday, 26 January 2011 20:27 Kyaw Kha

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - The Thee Lay Thee traditional dance troupe will perform in Chiang Mai on Thursday to mark the 50th birthday of Zarganar, the well-known comedian and political prisoner.

The performance will be in the Art Museum at Chiang Mai University in honor of Zarganar, who is the troop’s mentor.

In addition to dancer Mya Sabai Ngone, the comedians Pan Thee, Kyel Thee and Zee Thee will perform in the show, which will start at 6:30 p.m.

Admission is 50 and 100 baht. The comedian Zee Thee told Mizzima that the troop prepared for the show during the past two months.

In 1987, the comedian Zarganar and his colleagues, entertainers A Yine, King Kong, Poe Phyu, Nga Pyaw Kyaw and Godzilla, organised a dance troupe called Mya Ponenama and the group occasionally satirised the Burmese government.

In 2005, the Thee Lay Thee dance troupe was formed and their political humour and criticism against the junta attracted large audiences in Southeast Asia and abroad.

Thee Lay Thee comprises comedians Godzilla, Sein Thee, Kyel Thee, Pan Thee, Zee Thee and dancers Chaw Su Myo and Mya Sabai Ngone.

The troupe has performed shows in many countries since 2008.

On Thursday, in honour of Zarganar, a Mae Sot based human rights group, Social Action for Women, will also donate food to monks and hold a prayer ceremony in a monastery.

Zarganar (aka) Thura was arrested at his home in June 2008 at a time when he was actively involved in the Cyclone Nargis relief operations.

In November 2008, the Insein Prison court sentenced him to 59 years in prison on eight charges including the violation of the Electronic Act. On February 13, 2010, his sentence was commuted to 35 years by the Rangoon Division court.

Currently, he is in Myitkyina Prison, and his family has not been allowed to meet with him for eight months ago.

Zarganar’s sister-in-law, Ma Nyein, told Mizzima, ‘We will donate food to a monastery tomorrow, as he did when he was free’.

Striking Burmese workers win demands

Wednesday, 26 January 2011 13:31 Aung Myat Soe

Mizzima – More than 800 Burmese migrant workers went on strike at the V & K pineapple factory in Bankha Township in Latburi Province in Thailand on Tuesday after a supervisor hit a worker with his fist.

The supervisor, riding a motorcycle, accidentally struck a Burmese worker and then assaulted him, said striking workers.

The next day about 800 Burmese workers staged a protest, saying they could not tolerate anymore violations of their rights and physical assaults against them.

“The accident victim stared at the motorcycle driver when he was hit. And then the driver hit him with his fist. After that, an interpreter was also hit again when he asked why he hit the worker. Now they have swollen faces,’ Maung Maung, a protest leader, told Mizzima.

There were similar physical assaults against the Burmese workers in the past, said one source. ‘The workers were struck arbitrarily with sticks’, he said.

About 40 officials from the immigration office, the labour office, police and soldiers appeared at the factory about 11 a.m. along with two firefighters, and three ambulances, in addition to local officials.

The Burmese workers put forward an 8-point demand and continued their protest through the night. A relative of the factory owner, who was out of the country, met with the protestors and agreed to all their demands, according to Maung Maung.

The demands included: (1) equal work for both Thai and Burmese workers (2) settle wages systematically (3) no more physical assaults against Burmese workers by Thai nationals (4) provide a receipt when payments are made (5) give prior notice about deductions made on their wages (6) provide adequate toilets for workers (7) provide more sanitation for workers and provide transport by car or motorcycle to workers when they have to visit hospitals and clinics (8) give equal rights to piece-work workers.

‘The agreement on our demands was signed by nine representatives of the Burmese workers and the responsible officials from the factory and then copies of the agreement were kept by both sides’, Maung Maung said.

The factory provided only three toilets for all workers and one of them was out of order, workers said. The workers had to pay a fine if they spent more than 10 minutes using toilets.

Out of a total of 1,000 workers in the food processing factory, 800 workers are Burmese nationals.

KIO and KNO agree to work together

Wednesday, 26 January 2011 12:07 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) and the foreign-based Kachin National Organisation (KNO) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to co-operate with each other while working for the rights of Kachin people.

agreement-letterIn the past, the two organisations have competed with each other in politics for 12 years. On January 21 and 22, the top leaders of both groups met to discuss ways to co-operate with each other for the sake of the Kachin, according to KIO vice chairman Gauri Zaw Seng.

‘In the past, we have had some differences, and we competed. So, some people misunderstood us. From now on, we will work together’, Gauri Zaw Seng told Mizzima.

The KNO was formed to communicate with the international community, which is beyond the KIO’s reach.

Among the areas of mutual agreement was the need to form a federal Union with the co-operation of other pro-democracy ethnic groups, officials said. In the MOU, they also agreed to work to seek racial equality for all ethnic people including Burmese, Chin, Kachin, Karen, Karenni, Mon, Shan and Arakanese.

The KNO was formed in Chiang Mai, Thailand, on January 9, 1999, by Duwa Bawmwang La Raw, a businessman.

KNO members in various countries have staged protests against the junta’s 2008 Constitution, the 2010 elections and the Myitsone Dam Project in Kachin State.

KNO chairman Duwa Bawmwang La Raw said that they have tried to inform the world about human rights abuses in Kachin State and the need to form a genuine federal Union to protect the rights of ethnic people.

‘We tried to let the international community know about the problems under the rule of the military junta. To escape from these conditions and establish peace, we need to form a genuine federal Union’, he said.

The memorandum was signed by KIO Lieutenant General N’Ban La Awng, Vice Chairman Gauri Zau Seng, central committee member Lahpai La, patron Duwa Howa Jala, chairman Duwa Bawmwang La Raw, and General-Secretary Dr. Lahtaw Naw Lawn.

Despite the cease-fire agreement between the KIO and the junta, signed in 1994, the KIO has rejected the junta’s Border Guard Force (BGF) plan. State-run newspapers have labeled the KIO an ‘insurgent group’.

The KIO has not met with the junta since September 2010.

The KIO and its armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), were founded on February 5, 1961, by Zau Seng and his brother Zau Tu.

The KNO has branches in the US, Japan, Australia, Denmark, Malaysia, India, Canada, Britain, Norway, Sweden, China and Thailand.

Burma to host Asian Tennis championship

Wednesday, 26 January 2011 20:18 Tun Tun

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The 4-day Asian Tennis Championship tournament for under-14 players, sponsored by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), will be held starting Saturday in Rangoon.

The tournament will be held at the Theinbyu tennis courts from January 29 to February 1, the third such event held in Burma by the ITF.

The tournament is free and open to the public. It will begin at 8:30 a.m.

‘The International Tennis Federation provides the organization and will bear expenses for the tournament and the Myanmar Tennis Federation will also sponsor it’, Myanmar Tennis Federation Director Maung Maung Lay told Mizzima. A similar tournament will be held in Indonesia in March.

Countries expected to participate include Burma, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Laos, Nepal, Pakistan and Vietnam.

Five male and five female tennis players from Burma will compete in the tournament, which includes four events.

‘The events are singles and doubles for both male and female players’, Maung Maung Lay said.

The Burmese players are all students selected from Rangoon, Mandalay, Pegu and Irrawaddy divisions. Maung Maung Lay said he has arranged that the players can attend school and also play tennis.

‘In the morning they do physical exercise training and then play tennis in the evening’, he said. Sixteen players are preparing for the Southeast Asia Games tennis events, he said.

Similar tournaments were held in Burma in 2004 and 2006. Burma won four gold medals in the events.

The Myanmar Tennis Federation was established in 1950, and its heyday was between 1969 and 1975 when the Burmese team won gold medals in many events.

‘We were most successful at that time,’ said a player. ‘We were less successful before and after. We have yet to achieve again this peak period of 1969-75. At that time, we won almost all events’, he said.

Dr. Sein Tun dies at 71

Wednesday, 26 January 2011 11:34 Mizzima News

(Mizzima) - Dr. Sein Tun, 71, the retired head of the Physics Department at Rangoon University, died in Rangoon on Monday, January 24.

Sein Tun, who conducted research in nuclear physics, was recognised by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and was an organizing force behind the construction of a research nuclear reactor at the university, according to one of his students who is a former secretary of the Physicists Association at the university.

He graduated from Saint Paul High School in 1958. He received a bachelor of science degree in physics with first-class honors in 1962. He received a master’s degree and a PhD degree from the University of Surrey in 1967 and 1973, respectively.

He was a member of the Institute of Physics (London) in 1968 and a fellow of the Institute of Physics (London) in 1982. He had been a chartered scientist on the Science Council (London) since 2004.

He published teaching material for advanced physics in English and Burmese. His last book, ‘Nuclear Physics in a Nutshell: Graduate Lectures on Physics’, was published by the Myanmar Academy of Arts and Science in 2010.

From 1994 to 2006, he taught university courses in physics at both the undergraduate and graduate level. He also guided PhD candidates in the field of quantum cosmology, quantum electrodynamics and X-ray crystallography and led a team of professors in upgrading Grade 10 physics material and a teacher’s manual.

‘He was a rare person who valued education in Burma. Like his teacher, Saya Kha (Dr. Maung Maung Kha), and San Tha Aung, he was an outstanding scholar’, said his former student.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011

‘We must speak in one voice’

Tuesday, 25 January 2011 14:49 Mizzima News

(Mizzima) - Recently, the Committee for the Emergence of a Federal Union (CEFU) was formed after a joint meeting of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), the Karen National Union (KNU), the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), the Chin National Front (CNF), the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP) in November 2010.

The committee plans to convene a broad ethnic conference, but one that its leaders describe as different from the proposed second Panglong-type conference that has been proposed by the National League for Democracy and ethnic political parties.
Mizzima reporter Ko Wild interviewed NMSP General-Secretary Nai Han Thar on what type of conference is planned and the issues involved.

Q: The CEFU is comprised of six ethnic organisations, and you’re now in an organizing stage, correct?

A: Yes, we plan to implement our work by coordinating with ethnic alliances such as the National Democratic Front (NDF), the Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC) and the United Nationalities League for Democracy – Liberated Area (UNLD-LA). These alliance groups will send representatives to the conference. An organising committee will be formed first and it will do the preparatory work.

Q: What are the differences between your conference and the conference being initiated by domestic ethnic political parties and the NLD, which has been described as a second Panglong Conference?

A: The conference being initiated in Burma is like the 1947 conference [Panglong Conference], where Burmese representatives and ethnic representatives met and reached an agreement. Their intention is to implement an agreement similar to the one reached at that time between Burman and ethnic people.

Our conference is different. Most of the ethnic people on the border are waging an armed struggle against the government for our self-defence. Now the military regime is preparing to wage war against cease-fire and other groups. So these ethnic groups have to defend themselves in an coordinated effort.

On the other hand, all ethnic people must be united in trying to achieve a federal union. We must speak in one voice. In this way, we can resist the regime’s offensive in unity. We will be stronger if we can all unite on the same political platform.

Then we can represent ethnic people in a tripartite dialogue, which we are calling for. So our conference will work on all these issues.

Q: Previously, you formed the NDF and ENC for these purposes too.

A: Yes, we have had similar intentions before, but these two organisations diverged and became different entities over time. Their principles are now different from each other, and it is difficult to reconcile them. Under the circumstances, we need to consolidate ourselves as we resist a military offensive.

Q: In trying to consolidate all ethnic groups, some argue that Burman (Burmese groups) should participate as one of the ethnic groups. Do you agree and can you accept Burman groups as an ethnic group? How do you see the role of the ethnic Burman?

A: We can accept it if an organisation representing ethnic Burmese comes and join us. But there are no such organisations representing ethnic Burmese. Also there are no ethnic Burmese organisations fighting for the cause of ethnic Burmese. They are fighting only for democracy and human rights. This is because of their situation.

They are not suffering from national oppression and facing assimilation issue. They fight against military dictatorship only. Unlike us, they don’t need to fight for national liberation and national rights. You don’t have ethnic Burmese organisations fighting for the cause of ethnic Burmese.

Q: Ethnic groups had the Mae Tha Raw Tha Agreement in 1997-98. Is your current plan related to this agreement or different from it?

A: Yes, they are interrelated. Ethnic people held a seminar in Mae Tha Raw Tha in 1997. At that time, we held the meeting as a seminar. Now we intend to hold a conference. But the objective of a federal state will be the same.

Q: Will you include domestic non-armed ethnic political parties in the conference?

A: I think the domestic ethnic political parties cannot come and join us. According to their situation, their political movement works only inside the country. They are calling for a second Panglong conference. They are conducting their movement in this fashion. So their movement is different from ours.

Q: Even so, among the many armed ethnic groups, you now have only six groups in your organization, the CEFU. How will you attract more groups?

A: We will invite all political and armed ethnic organisations when we can convene this conference by integrating both the NDF and the ENC. Our plan is to unite all the ethnic organisations on the border into a strong, single organisation.

Q: Is Mae Tha Raw Tha the only effort by ethnic people in consolidating themselves? Are there others?

A: As far as I can remember, there was one such meeting in 1976 held in Manerpalaw. At this meeting, 13 organisations attended and formed the NDF. Since then, our sole goal and objective is the emergence of a federal union, not secession.

Q: Can you describe the ethnic conference held in Taunggyi in 1961?

A: The 1961 Taunggyi conference was mainly for the implementation of the federal principle. The ethnic people were joined in an independence struggle. The Panglong agreement was achieved by the ethnic Chin, Kachin and Shan just before regaining independence from Britain. But this agreement could never be implemented and the ethnic people became, in effect, a colony under the Burmese people. So the Taunggyi conference was held to look for ways forward and to maintain a unity among all ethnic people. The conference was held to implement an agreement in building unity and to live as brethren on the basis of equality when we regained independence. This is also the federal principle.

Q: Your NMSP is a cease-fire group. Now you plan to join with non-ceasefire ethnic armed groups who are waging war against the regime. Is there more military tension in your control area because of this?

A: Our cease-fire agreement with the regime has been void since September 1, 2010. They do not recognise it anymore. We have to stand our own now, and we have to join with allied forces.

Q: How do you see the future?

A: Ethnic people will continue to call for a federal system of government. The regime cannot resolve the ethnic issues through military means. Military means have been used for more than 60 years and it cannot destroy even one armed group. In 1947, Bogyoke Aung San tried to resolve the ethnic issues based on national equality and self-determination as the basic principle of the Panglong Conference. Everybody would be happy if the same attitude and the same approach could actually be implemented in coordination with the new government.

Human Rights Watch report blasts 2010 election

Tuesday, 25 January 2011 20:37 Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The US-based Human Right Watch (HRW) has issued a report saying the Burmese regime continually denied the public a fair election in 2010 and the human rights situation continues to deteriorate.

The report said that the regime held the general election only after further limiting the rights of freedom of speech and the media and after promulgating undemocratic electoral laws which favoured the junta-backed political party in the election.

HRW noted that the regime of taking ‘preventive measures’ to ensure the main opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was banned from the electoral process and her party was disbanded as a legal political party.

Moreover, the regime’s electoral laws prohibited any criticism of the military and the 2008 Constitution and holding meetings in religious buildings and schools.

The report also criticised the process by which a ‘social organisation’, the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), was transformed into a political party as the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and led by 27 junta ministers, including the prime minister, after they resigned from their military posts in April last year.

The junta-backed party inherited funds and other assets owned by the former USDA, the report noted.

Moreover, HRW noted that the regime cancelled polling in 32 townships in Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Mon and Shan states where dissident armed groups dominated the area, claiming security issues.

The general election held in November 2010 was not in accordance with human rights principles and norms, both HRW and the Rangoon-based human rights group, Burma Network for Human Rights (BNHR) pointed out.

The report compiled by BNHR portrayed malpractices, electoral fraud and vote rigging with detailed facts, noting the canvassing of junta ministers by using state-owned funds, vote rigging by using bogus absentee votes, ticking on ballots by polling booth heads on behalf of voters, issuing ballots more than once to some voters, conducting election campaign meetings at religious buildings, not counting votes in the presence of voters as stipulated by electoral laws and other malpracticies.

The report also pointed out the unreliable election results announced by the election commission in which state-run newspapers claimed Ingyanyan constituency No. 2 and Somprabom constituency No. 2 had been won by USDP candidates. In fact, voting in the constituencies was cancelled.

The report also cited the ongoing objections and lawsuits being filed by various opposition political parties and the USDP.

Shwe Man seen as pick to become President

Tuesday, 25 January 2011 20:31 Myo Thein

New Delhi (Mizzima) – According to Naypyidaw observers, retired General Thura Shwe Man has the best chance to become the new President in the upcoming Parliament.

The military is eligible to nominate a vice president from the appointed military representatives in both houses of Parliament, according to the new constitution, giving Thura Shwe Man an advantage, say observers.

Among the civilian MPs, who are dominated by the Union Solidarity Development Party members of Parliament, the lower house is expected to nominate incumbent Prime Minister Thein Sein for vice president, said another source.

Despite a flurry of recent statements by ethnic parties urging the upper house to nominate an ethnic member of Parliament as vice president, the USDP party is likely to nominate a businessman as vice president, said the source.

However, in local assemblies in states and regions, ethnic MPs are expected to have a better chance to be elected as chief ministers of the local governments or speakers of local assemblies, observers said.

The USDP dominates both houses of Parliament with 59 percent in the lower house and 57 percent in the upper house. Nominees supported by the USDP will likely become the new president and two vice presidents.

The most eligible candidate for president will be Thura Shwe Man, who enjoys strong support from the military, said a military source.

Deputy commander in chief of the Armed Forces and No. 2 in the military hierarchy, Vice Senior General Maung Aye, will soon retire and the new mandatory retirement age in the armed forces for top brass, excluding Senior General Than Shwe, will be re-enacted, said the source.

Even though Lieutenant General Myint Aung and Lieutenant General Ko Ko have been nominated to succeed the commander in chief and the vice commander in chief, the timeline for their official succession has not been announced.

Similarly even senior military officers and military observers cannot say yet which post, if any, Senior General Than Shwe will hold in the future.

According to general speculation, Than Shwe will retain his current senior general rank and may likely assume additional posts higher than that of commander in chief, or become a patron of the USDP.

A military officer said that the appointed military MPs will sponsor a motion in Parliament to pass a law endorsing the new military conscript law which has been enacted by the junta.

The source said that the key decisions on the division of power in the national and regional Parliaments will be made in the coming days.

The source also said Myint Swe, the winning USDP candidate from Khanaungto Township and a former commander of the Bureau of Special Operations, has been provisionally endorsed as chief minister in the Rangoon area.

Mon Party to introduce farm ownership bill

Tuesday, 25 January 2011 13:23 Kun Chan

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - The All Mon Region Democracy Party (AMRDP) will introduce a Parliamentary bill to allow farmers to own their farms.

Party leader Nai Ngwe Thein said: ‘We heard recently about the land confiscation cases in Kyaikmaraw to build a cement factory. We discussed that case in our party’s central committee meeting. We want farmers to own their own farms, and we will propose it’.

Last week, Mon MPs-elect traveled to Ye, Thanbyuzayat, Mudon, Chaungzon and Kyaikmaraw to conduct an informal survey of people’s opinions about private ownership of farms.

Many residents in Kyaikmaraw, Mudon and Ye said that their land had been confiscated including some farm land for dam projects, according to the party. Residents in Kyaikmaraw said that the Zaygabar Company Limited had seized more than 800 acres of farm land during the previous months, said party officials.

During 2002-03, the army confiscated land in Ye and Thanbyuzayat in Mon State and Yephyu in Taninsarim Division. More than 12,000 acres of farmland have been confiscated since 2010, according to a report compiled by the Human Rights Foundation of Monland, which is based in Thailand.

The proposal is likely to fail in Parliament, but Nai Ngwe Thein said it was important to introduce the issue for discussion.

The USDP party, which won a majority of seats in Parliament, supports the current law which gives ultimate ownership of farm land to the state.

During mid-January, five ethnic parties including the AMRDP held a meeting in Rangoon and issued a joint statement to urge the junta to release all political prisoners and to give them their full rights.

The statement also urged the international community to lift economic sanctions against Burma and urged the Parliament to select ethnic representatives to be appointed as vice president and ministers in relevant states.

Sixteen out of the 34 AMRDP candidates won parliamentary seats in the recent elections.

Journalists’ group asks for access to parliamentary sessions

Tuesday, 25 January 2011 20:26 Myo Thant

Mizzima – The Committee for Professional Conduct (CPC) has asked the government censorship board for the right to gather news during parliamentary sessions, but the board has not yet replied, according to Ko Ko, the CPC chairman.

The CPC held a meeting on January 18 which included Myo Myint Maung, the director of the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD) under the Ministry of Information.

‘We have not been informed about the request’, said Ko Ko.

‘They have not established any policy on gathering news in the parliamentary sessions. I don’t know whether we can attend the parliamentary sessions or not’.

Myo Myint Maung, a retired major, is also a secretary of the CPC.

The CPC was recently formed to represent reporters and private journals, according to a statement issued on January 18.

Some members of the CPC are government personnel, prompting some critics to say it cannot be an independent organisation.

Besides Ko Ko and Myot Myint Maung, the CPC is made up of 15 representatives of local journals, five delegates from the Myanmar Writers and Journalists Association and three freelance journalists, totaling 25 members.
Monday, January 24, 2011

Political parties urge Than Shwe to investigate electoral fraud

Monday, 24 January 2011 17:45 Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The Union of Myanmar Federation of National Politics (UMFNP) has sent an official letter to Senior General Than Shwe urging him to establish a commission to investigate electoral fraud in the recent elections, according to the party. The letter was sent on January 10.

Party chairman Aye Lwin told Mizzima: ‘Senior General Than Shwe should investigate the reported electoral frauds. If he doesn’t, it will mean that he accepts the unfairness, and he will be an accomplice in the fraud’.

The letter said that the electoral processes in some constituencies, including the one in which his party contested, were illegal, according to Aye Lwin.

Similarly, the 88 Generation Student Youths (Union of Myanmar), led by Ye Tun, Aye Lwin’s younger brother, also requested the creation of an investigating commission.

The two parties contested for a total of 85 parliamentary seats in Sagaing, Magway, Mandalay, Rangoon, Pegu and Irrawaddy divisions and in Chin State. Only the 88 Generation Student Youths (Union of Myanmar) won a parliamentary seat in the Hlaingtharyar Township constituency for the Rangoon Division Assembly.

They parties said that they have filed 28 electoral complaints with the police. The authorities said that the complaints were handed over to the Ministry of Home Affairs. So far, none of the cases has been heard.

Thailand to deport two journalists

Monday, 24 January 2011 12:25 Thomas Maung Shwe

Chiang Mai – Thai authorities are set to deport John San Lin, a Burmese freelance journalist, and his colleague Pascal Schatterman, a Belgian national, after they were arrested in the Mae Sot area on Thursday.

Thai authorities arrested the pair shortly after they entered Thai soil from Burma.

The journalists were covering the SPDC assault against a breakaway faction of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and its impact on local civilians.

The Committee to Project journalists issued a press release on Friday that urged the Thai government not to deport San Lin, saying his life would be in danger if he is sent back to Burma.

In the press release, Shawn Crispin, the CPJ senior Southeast Asia representative, called on Thailand to ‘take into consideration the prospect that San Lin will suffer severe reprisals if he is forcibly returned to Burma’.

According to the CPJ, Thai authorities confiscated their video footage which included ‘images of internally displaced people suffering from severe deprivation in the remote conflict zone’.

San Lin has worked for Aljazeera and France 24 and several other news agencies while covering the Southeast Asia region.

In a chance meeting in Mae Sot last week, San Lin told this reporter that he had come to the border to cover the conflict and was deeply moved by the plight of civilians caught in the crossfire between the Burmese military and other forces.

According to the CPJ on Friday, a Thai court first sentenced San Lin and Schatterman to one-year prison terms, a 500 baht fine but ruled that both men could stay in the Kingdom of Thailand because neither had been convicted of a prior immigration related offence.

The CPJ says, however, that both men were taken back into custody and told they ‘would be deported to their respective countries in the next day or two’ after Thai Immigration police intervened with the judge.