Saturday, July 30, 2011

Rebecca interviews Suu Kyi


Friday, July 29, 2011

Disappearing line between confiscating land, and stealing it

Friday, 29 July 2011 12:20 U Myo

(Commentary) - For generations, Burma’s land-holding patterns have been riddled with inequalities and injustices. In the feudal era, the King possessed most lands and serfs were forced to work his estates. In the colonial era, large landowners exploited class and ethnic inequities in order to advance British interests.

Burmese farmers are frequent victims of unfair land
confiscation. They are not allowed to own the land that
they work. Photo: Mizzima
Unfortunately, after six decades of independence, similar inequalities with respect to land issues persist for the people of Burma.

One reason that small landowners and tenants face ongoing insecurity is because of arbitrary government confiscations of land. The confiscations have largely been executed without compensation or opportunity for legal recourse. As a result, the livelihoods of small landowners and tenant farmers have grown more tenuous. The government has conducted the confiscations for the purpose of lining the pockets of government officials and their allies with the money of foreign investors.

This phenomenon was previously documented in “Burmese government land grab: Farmers without rights”.

The government can conduct land confiscation with impunity due at least partially to inadequate protections for private property in domestic law. For example, though the Law Safeguarding Peasant Rights states that a Civil Court “shall not make a decree or order for….confiscation of agricultural land… nor the produce of agricultural land,” the very next section allows for such a confiscation to occur where the government’s actions are taken “for the obtaining of government revenue” or for “law and order.”

Meanwhile, laws that provide for landowners to be compensated following government confiscations or expropriations leave loopholes for the Burmese government to exploit. For example, the Land Nationalisation Act of 1953, which replaced the Land Nationalization Act of 1948, states that compensation shall be afforded for a confiscation “except where agricultural lands are liable to be resumed possession by the State for default or conditions prescribed under any other law for the time being in force.” Though the domestic laws in various countries confer similar powers on national governments, in Burma there is neither a legitimate democratic electoral system nor a developed rule of law to prevent government officials from lining their own pockets at the expense of landowners. In a government marked by authoritarianism and corruption, this is too often exactly what happens.

The aforementioned clawback clauses, which enable abuse by Burmese officials, stand in contrast to the approaches of other countries that have laws to guard against precisely this type of abuse of government power. The United States, for example, has entrenched the idea that private property shall not be taken by the government for public use “without just compensation” within the 5th Amendment of its Constitution. In Canada, provincial Expropriation Acts mandate that adequate compensation be given for every government seizure of land for public use. In Germany, expropriation is only permissible for the public good, and any expropriation must be specifically mandated by a statute regulating the nature and extent of compensation. Further, the landowner’s right to contest the taking in court is guaranteed by the German Constitution.

While all of these countries allow public taking of private land, they have established an emphasis on safeguarding the rights of the landowners, including homeowners and small-scale farmers, over the privileges of the government. Furthermore, there is a consistent guarantee, in all of these systems, of adequate compensation.

In Burma, due to clawback clauses and loopholes like the ones within the Land Nationalisation Act of 1953, there are no such guarantees. Nor is there an appropriate emphasis on the rights of the individual landowner; instead, the government has a license to use state power to arbitrarily force people from their lands with neither due process nor appropriate judicial safeguards.

Even when landowners have recourse through judicial review, the membership of the judiciary is composed of pro-military members who owe their appointments and their continued job security to Burma’s generals. As a result, they are typically unable and unwilling to act as an independent arbitrator in disputes between private landowners and the government.

In a democratic country, elected officials frequently develop and pass legislation related to land. Where legislation has the effect of confiscating or expropriating land, landowners are compensated. In Burma, on the other hand, the ruling elite and their cronies who came to power through the sham election in 2010, unilaterally make decisions with respect to land. Inadequate protections for private property in domestic law allow them to seize land without providing compensation.

There is no doubt that farmers and other landowners in Burma are suffering from a land insecurity crisis. Land throughout the country is liable to be confiscated at any time by the government. No genuine opportunity for legal recourse exists for aggrieved landowners.

In order to rectify this situation it would be necessary to create entrenched guarantees of compensation for land confiscations within domestic law. However, merely strengthening legislation to protect landowners from uncompensated confiscations would not necessarily prevent the government from continuing to seize land in a capricious manner. Instead, a legitimate, democratically elected government that is answerable to the electorate of Burma would have to be in place in order to ensure an end to arbitrary and destructive land confiscations.
Thursday, July 28, 2011

NLD classes on political science successfully completed

Thursday, 28 July 2011 21:28 Ko Pauk

New Delhi (Mizzima) – A one-week series of political science classes for members of the Burmese National League for Democracy (NLD) were successfully completed on Thursday.

The classes were conducted from July 22 to July 28, without incident, NLD spokesman Ohn Kyaing told Mizzima.

Senior NLD leaders Win Tin, left, and Secretary-General
Aung San Suu Kyi at a ceremony for the first journalism
training class offered by the NLD at headquarters in
Rangoon. Photo: Mizzima
“The classes were completed successfully in accordance with our plan. No obstacles were encountered,” he said.

The classes were taught by Dr. Brendam Howe and Dr. Mathias Maas from Ewha Woman’s University in the Republic of Korea. More than 70 students attended.

“The classes were conducted in the form of a workshop so the students were very interested in the subjects. They solved problems and prepared papers,” Ohn Kyaing said.

Subjects included Human Security and Human Development, State Security and State Development, the Art of Negotiation, Negotiation Processes and Introduction to International Relations. NLD member Win Htein, who was in charge of the classes, Dr. Myo Aung and Myo Yan Naung Thein served as translators.

On Thursday evening, at a ceremony to mark the completion of the course, Ohn Kyaing told Mizzima that Dr. Mathias Maas told the students that they now had the foundation to continue to study political science on their own.

NLD Vice Chairman Tin Oo chaired the ceremony. Central executive committee members including Than Tun, Hla Pe, Ohn Kyaing, Win Myint and May Win Myint attended the ceremony. On Tuesday, Aung San Suu Kyi hosted a one-hour lunch meeting with the two professors.

Thirty-three students from the Bayda Institute, who were not registered for the classes, also attended.

Ohn Kyaing said that in the past, the NLD had arranged for political science workshops and classes to be taught by Burmese Professors, but they were cancelled for unknown reasons.

Since Suu Kyi was released from house arrest, a series of training sessions, especially for young people, have been arranged by the NLD that include agricultural principles, computer training, English language, and now political science classes. The NLD said that it would conduct more political science classes in future.

Hooliganism by Burmese soccer fans ends World Cup qualifying match

Thursday, 28 July 2011 20:58 Myo Thant

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The Burma versus Oman match in a World Cup qualifying game in Rangoon had to be stopped after 39 minutes because of hooliganism by Burmese soccer fans, resulting in a 2-0 defeat of the Burmese team.

Burmese soccer fans threw stones, umbrellas, footwear and drinking bottles onto the pitch. Dozens of police were not able to control the crowd and the match was called off.

Burmese teen captain Khin Maung Lwin, in red number 20, and Oman teen captain Fawzi are challenging for the ball during the second leg of the World Cup qualifier match at Thuwunna Stadium in Rangon on Thursday, July 28, 2011. The match was forced to stop after Burmese football hooligans staged a riot. Oman won 2-0 against the underdog Burmese team. Photo: Mizzima

According to the Associated Press, Oman won by an aggregate of 4:0 and advanced to the third stage in the World Cup qualifying matches.

Midfielder Fawzi Backsher scored the first goal for Oman at 23 minutes into the game. The next goal was scored by a penalty kick by striker Ismail at 39 minutes into the game.

Myanmar Football Federation (MFF) chairman and Max Myanmar owner Zaw Zaw tried to control the crowd by loudspeaker, but without success.

Burmese fans started the hooliganism when the Oman team scored a second goal.

The Thuwunna stadium, which can accommodate 30,000 spectators, was filled with Burmese soccer fans. A spectator told Mizzima that home-team fans sang the national anthem at the match after losing to the visiting team. In an away match in Oman on July 23, Burma lost to Oman by 2-0.

SSA-S troops ambush government convoys

Thursday, 28 July 2011 20:44 Kun Chan

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – A government reinforcement convoy to be deployed against the besieged Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP) headquarters at Wan Hai was ambushed by Shan State Army (South) (SSA-S) troops, said spokesman Major Sai Lao Sai.

SSA-S troops line up for review. Photo: Mizzima
“This was a mutual-help military operation even though we cannot help them directly in their frontlines. Fighting the enemy troops in our area can help our allies in their battles with government troops,” Major Sai Lao Sai told Mizzima, referring to their ally, the Shan State Army (North) that is under heavy attack by the central government.

SSPP spokesman Major Sai Hla said the ambush by the SSA-S was helpful militarily.

Major Sai Lao Sai said that the ambush which lasted about 10 minutes occurred at the Wan Kyein village tract about 10 miles south of the Wan Hai headquarters.

He said Colonel Win Nyunt, a corporal and a private with Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 577 under the government’s Military Operation Command 2 were wounded. Mizzima could not get independent verification.

At the same time, Major Sai Hla said SSA-N troops staged two separate ambushes on five Chinese-made tractor-trailers commandeered by LIB 325 for transporting army rations to its troops.

In the first ambush, a private was killed and five soldiers were wounded including a corporal and a lance corporal. The second ambush resulted in more injuries, but the exact number was not known, he said.

Since July 11, government troops have launched multiple offensives against SSA-N troops, forcing the closure of one affiliated high school, a charity school and 13 primary schools in 20 villages. More than 1,000 students have sought safety in other areas.

SSPP officers said about 20 battalions of government troops are deployed at positions three miles southeast and five miles west of Wan Hai headquarters. Government troops sent two local monks to Wan Hai headquarters on Monday to talk about a cease-fire, but the offer was not serious, said the SSPP.

Suu Kyi’s ‘Open Letter’ calls for immediate cease-fire in ethnic areas

Thursday, 28 July 2011 20:03 Tun Tun

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday made her first open entreaty, urging Burmese government troops and ethnic armed groups to stop fighting as soon as possible and to solve problems by using peaceful ways.

Burmese pro-democracy leader
Aung San Suu Kyi speaks at the National
League for Democracy headquarters in
Rangoon. Photo: Mizzima
The open letter, signed by Suu Kyi and addressed to President Thein Sein, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the Karen National Union (KNU), the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the Shan State Army (SSA), said, “With the sole purpose of promoting the well-being of all nationalities in the land, I call for immediate cease-fires and the peaceful resolution of the conflicts.

“These conflicts are resulting in tragic outcomes such as loss of life, destruction of costly physical infrastructures and economic projects and a condition of general deterioration. Besides causing enormous suffering among local communities, these conflicts come with a potential risk of spilling over and spreading across Burma’s immediate neighbourhoods,” the statement continued.

“The (post-independence) Union of Burma was co-founded by different nationalities. Like siblings from a single family, all these nationalities had cohabited this land since time immemorial. Therefore, forging peaceful ties and unity among the nationalities is of paramount importance.”

A day after the general elections in November 2010, fighting began in Karen State followed by fighting in Kachin, Shan and Mon states.

Among the issues was an order by the former junta forcing ethnic cease-fire groups to transform their armies into a Union Border Guard Force under the control of the central government. Most ethnic groups opposed the order.

Meanwhile, the Naypyitaw government has pursued a policy that calls for the country to have only one army.  So far, senior government officials in Naypyitaw have not publicly discussed the recent fighting in ethnic areas, according to sources close to officials. Political parties have had little success in trying to discuss the issue in Parliament.

Some political parties, such as Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, have repeatedly called for dialogue and national reconciliation.

In her letter, Suu Kyi said, “On my part I am prepared, and pledge, to do everything in my power towards the cessation of armed conflicts and building peace in the Union. ”

Win Tin, a NLD central executive committee member, said, “Now, the country is in the horrors of a civil war. Discussions and negotiations with regard to these affairs are always essential.”

Major Sai Lao Hseng of the Shan State Army (SSA) said, “On behalf of all ethnic people, if Aung San Suu Kyi calls for a nationwide cease-fire from the government and mediates, we will welcome it. We hope for that too.”

Fighting has continued in Shan and Kachin states until Tuesday. Many schools have been closed. Earlier, the SSA said Burmese government military aircraft dropped bombs on its troops. The reports could not be confirmed by outside sources.

Despite negotiations to reach a cease-fire agreement between the KIO and the Burmese government, often via mail or e-mail, there has been no significant let up in the fighting. More than 16,000 war refugees are in need of aid and medicine, according to a KIO health department official.

Similarly, in Karen State, continuing clashes have taken place until this week, with both sides firing heavy artillery. Government troops ordered villagers in Myawaddy Township not to go outside the village after it learned that DKBA Major General Bo Moustache’s troops were active near Myawaddy.

The All Mon Region Democracy Party chairman, Nai Ngwe Thein, said, “We want peace via any means. We don’t want fighting against each other…”

On Thursday, in a meeting between the Union Election Commission and 37 political parties, the Mon, Arakanese, Phalon-Sawaw, Shan and Chin ethnic parties all urged the authorities to set up a peace-making commission. In response to their call, the EU commission chairman Tin Aye said the parties should introduce the issue in Parliament.

Saw Bi Kyin Oo, the secretary of the Phalon-Sawaw Democratic Party, said, “Peace has not been established in Karen State. Fighting has broken out frequently. People cannot live peacefully. The fighting enters the villages. Under the circumstances, the most important thing we need is peace.”

Aung San Suu Kyi’s ‘Open Letter’ to President Thein Sein

The following is an unofficial translation of a letter Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi sent to the president of Burma and others on Thursday.

1)     U Thein Sein, President, Union of Myanmar
2)     Kachin Independence Organization (KIO)
3)     Karen National Union (KNU)
4)     New Mon State Party (NMSP)
5)     Shan State Army (SSA)

28 July 2011

The (post-independence) Union of Burma was cofounded by different nationalities. Like siblings from a single family, all these nationalities had cohabited this land since time immemorial.  Therefore, forging peaceful ties and unity among the nationalities is of paramount importance.

Of late, there have been news stories about military conflicts between the country’s Armed Forces and the armed nationalities groups in various regions such as the Kachin, the Shan, the Karen, the Mon and so on. These conflicts are resulting in tragic outcomes such as loss of life, destruction of costly physical infrastructures and economic projects and a condition of general deterioration. Besides causing enormous suffering among local communities, these conflicts come with a potential risk of spilling over and spreading across Burma’s immediate neighbourhoods.

The use of force to resolve the conflicts is only going to be mutually harmful to all parties concerned.   National reconciliation and unity cannot be built on might.  It can only be pursued through political negotiations. Only through political negotiations can genuine national unity be established.  Only such unity among nationalities can guarantee the country’s (peaceful) future.  In the absence of genuine peace and reconciliation the potential spread of civil war always lurks beneath.

Conflicts among nationalities can surely be resolved on the basis of mutual respect and mutual understanding, leading ultimately to the Union’s peace and stability. Only when the Union is genuinely peaceful and stable can nation-building programmes be implemented successfully.  Therefore, with the sole purpose of promoting the well being of all nationalities in the land I call for immediate cease-fires and the peaceful resolution of the conflicts.

On my part, I am prepared, and pledge, to do everything in my power towards the cessation of armed conflicts and building peace in the Union.

Aung San Suu Kyi
54/56 University Avenue, Rangoon

Suu Kyi to spend three days in meditation centre in Rangoon

Thursday, 28 July 2011 17:53 Myo Thant

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – National League for Democracy (NLD) General-Secretary Aung San Suu Kyi will go on a three-day retreat in a Rangoon meditation centre from Friday to Sunday, according to Win Htein, the NLD office chief.

National League for Democracy (NLD) leader
Aung San Suu Kyi donates robes to a Buddhist monk
outside NLD headquarters in Rangoon in 2010. Both
giver and receiver are said to earn merit from such
a donation. Photo: Mizzima
National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi donates robes to a Buddhist monk outside NLD headquarters in Rangoon in 2010. Both giver and receiver are said to earn merit from such a donation.

“Starting Friday she will spend three days in the meditation centre at the Shwetaunggone Pannita Yama Monastery to practise meditation,” he told Mizzima. The monastery has three branches in Rangoon and he declined to identify the monastery, but some observers said it is believed to be the Shwetaunggone Pannita Yama Monastery at “10-Mile Hill” in Rangoon.  After her release from house arrest in November 2010, she donated food to monks in the Shwetaunggone Pannita Yama Monastery at “10-Mile Hill.”

Suu Kyi claims she was sustained during her long periods of house arrest by her Vipassana meditation practice, according to interviews with the media. Commenting on her long isolation, she said, “Isolation is not difficult for me. Maybe it’s because of my Buddhist upbringing.”

In an interview with the Shambhala Sun in the United States, she said she meditates because everybody, as human beings, “has a spiritual dimension which cannot be neglected. Overall, I think of myself as a very ordinary Burmese Buddhist who will devote more time to religion in my older years.”

Recently, Suu Kyi made a personal pilgrimage to Bagan, the ancient temple site in Central Burma, and was surrounded by several thousand local residents at a market. Large crowds routinely appear wherever she travels in public.

Suu Kyi to visit Bago Region to open libraries dedicated to her

Thursday, 28 July 2011 10:08 Myo Thant

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – In August, pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi will travel to Bago for the opening of two libraries dedicated to her, according to Myat Hla, a branch leader of her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). No date has been set for the openings.

Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Photo: Mizzima
The libraries  are named “Aung San Jar Mon” in the Kachin (Jingpaw) language, which means “Aung San Golden Pollen.” The phrase “Golden Pollen” is given to eldest daughters in a family to be followed by their surname.

In 1989, Suu Kyi heard “Aung San Jar Mon” chanted during her tour of Kachin State. “Kachin ladies chanted ‘Aung San Jar Mon’, ‘Aung San Jar Mon’. Aung San Suu Kyi liked these words very much,” Myat Hla told Mizzima.

The libraries, located on Pan Hlaing 23rd Street in Bago and Min Street in Thanatpin Town, will have more than 4,000 books donated by local people and each cost about US$ 1,250, said Myat Hla. The books include works by NLD members, politics, religion, short stories and novels.

If Suu Kyi travels to Bago, it would be her second trip outside of Rangoon since her release from house arrest in November 2010. Bago (Pegu) is 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Rangoon.

Myat Hla told Mizzima that people in Bago eagerly followed Suu Kyi’s private pilgrimage earlier this month to Bagan, where she toured the vast temple complex. The visit to Bagan, well known for its ancient temples, was described as a personal pilgrimage. At the end of this trip, about 3,000 people milled around to greet her. NLD members provided her with security.

“Many people asked about her visit here,” Myat Hla said about the visit to Bago. “This visit may be an organizational tour. People have asked me many times about her visiting Bago. We don’t know how many people might turn out to greet her. The people here are excited and looking forward to see her.”

Suu Kyi met with Social Welfare Minister Aung Kyi on Monday in a meeting that was described by both parties as "constructive."
Wednesday, July 27, 2011

EC chairman urges all political parties to oppose Western sanctions

Wednesday, 27 July 2011 21:21 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Union Election Commission (UEC) chairman Tin Aye urged all 37 registered political parties to take part in working for the lifting of sanctions imposed on Burma by foreign countries at a meeting held in Naypyitaw on Wednesday.

Union Election Commission chairman
Tin Aye. Photo: Mizzima
He said that the sanctions did not have an impact on the government and its business associates but they harmed common people, said Democratic Party (Myanmar) (DPM) chairman Thu Wei.

According to Thu Wei, Tin Aye said these sanctions are hurdles and obstacles to the economic development of the country. Tin Aye said Western countries imposed these sanctions, noting that while some said that it affected government and businessmen only, this was not true.

The UEC chairman told the political parties to follow the electoral laws and rules enacted in early March 2010. He said political parties would be dissolved if they accept members of exile-based unlawful associations.

Each political party delegate was allowed two minutes to comment during the meeting. In the presentations, a Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP) delegate proposed that ethnic party representatives be involved in peace talks with armed ethnic groups that are fighting government troops, Rakhine Nationality Development Party (RNDP) Chairman Dr. Aye Maung said.

"The delegate proposed the inclusion of all ethnic parties in these peace talks but the UEC chairman said that the election commission could not do it and told them to present the issue to Parliament,” Aye Maung said. The proposal was endorsed by ethnic parties of the Chin, Inn, Phalon Sawaw and Rakhine.

Aye Maung said the commission chairman told the delegates about his military career, joining the army when he was 18, and he told them not to drive wedges and sow dissension in the armed forces.

“Tin Aye said in general that the armed conflicts were being handled in accordance with the Constitution, but they want peace too. They have the will to restore peace but only in negotiations, and the 2008 Constitution clearly stipulates there must be a sole army in the country,” Aye Maung said.

Former Lieutenant General Tin Aye served as chairman of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. (MEHL), whose resources went toward funding the army during the rule of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). He is also a member of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). He became chairman of the UEC on February 17 after being nominated by President Thein Sein.

Aye Maung suggested that more meetings be held and delegates should have more time to present their views.

The 10-party Friends of Democracy presented a paper to the UEC which discussed weaknesses and rampant vote rigging in the past election. This group includes the NDF, Democracy and Peace Party, Union Democracy Party and ethnic political parties representing Karen, Shan, Mon, Chin and Rakhine.

“In our joint paper we said the electoral laws and rules in the last general election were violated. We urged them to avoid these malpractices and to remedy them. And we urged them not to take absentee votes and to conduct vote counting only in the presence of the vote observers. He said that he had already read the paper and promised to make changes,” Aye Maung said.

Domestic private media were not allowed to cover the meeting, but state-run media were present. Delegates said that private media should also be allowed to attend.

The UEC said nothing about the date of the upcoming by-election and constituencies, Thu Wei said.

Delegates from 36 parties attended the meeting. The Union Democracy Party led by Thein Tin Aung was not present.

Highest US diplomat in Burma to retire

Wednesday, 27 July 2011 20:04 Aye Lae

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The highest US diplomat in Burma, Charge d'Affaires Ad Interim Larry Dinger, will retire in August after completing a three-year tenure, the US embassy in Rangoon said.

Highest US diplomat in Rangoon, Larry Dinger, left, with
US Senator John McCain to retire in August.
Photo: Mizzima
Dinger, 65, is a strong supporter of US sanctions, and he is known for closely following the affairs of the Burmese pro-democracy opposition parties.

“Since he will be 65 years old in August, he will retire in accord with Foreign Service regulations.” a Rangoon embassy spokesman told Mizzima.

The United States downgraded its ambassador in Burma to a charge d'affaires in response to the human rights violations of the Burmese military, which governed the country until early this year when an elected Parliament took office.

Dinger is an expert on the Burmese democracy struggle and is well known by opposition groups.

Nyan Win, a spokesman for the National League for Democracy, said Dinger was “friendly and frank with us.”

National Democratic Force (NDF) leader Khin Maung Swe said, “I met him as soon as I was released from prison.” Dinger was tough on imposing US sanctions against Burma, he said.

“His opinion is that it will not be easy to lift these US sanctions because they cannot do anything as long as the political prisoners are behind bars,” he said.

US diplomatic cables published on the Wikileaks web site included an e-mail by Dinger called “Commencing talks with Burmese generals.” The e-mail said the military establishment is a xenophobic, top-down bureaucracy with a goal of maintaining national unity. Dinger said the top brass want to be respected in the international community and among their people.

During his tenure, Dinger hosted high-level US political leaders including senators Jim Webb and John McCain and US Deputy Undersecretary of State Joseph Yung. Dinger graduated from Macalester College, Harvard Law School and the National War College.

President Thein Sein visits flood areas

Wednesday, 27 July 2011 18:45 Mizzima News

Chaing Mai (Mizzima) – The Burmese president toured Hinthada in Irrawaddy Region on Wednesday, an area hit by heavy flooding during the past week.

President Thein Sein spent about three hours in the area including a ceremony in which businessmen donated 40 million kyat (about US$ 50,000), and rice, cooking oil, salt, medicine and household appliances.

President Thein Sein, second left, and Myanmar Tourism Board Chairman Khin Shwe, left, in Naypyidaw. Thein Sein on Wednesday went to Hinthada in Irrawaddy Region to tour areas hit by heavy flooding. Photo: Mizzima 

Two helicopters carrying Thein Sein arrived in Hinthada at 8 a.m. along with his delegation which included the construction minister, education minister, social welfare, relief and resettlement minister, transportation minister, health minister, electric power minister and agriculture and irrigation minister.

Area dams are full, and the gates have been opened. Hinthada, with about 400 homes, was flooded on July 19. Homes in Myawaddy, Kanaungsu, Tarlay Myothit and Thonepinkwin quarters were severely affected by flooding.

Thein Sein visited flooded areas of Pegu on Tuesday.

Two monks approach the Shan State Army-North with a cease-fire offer

Wednesday, 27 July 2011 18:23 Kun Chan

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP) said on Wednesday the government apparently sent two local monks to talk about a cease-fire, but they could offer no other details or guarantees, according to Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) spokesman Major Sai Hla. The names of the monks were not available.

Troops of the Shan State Army-South Photo: Mizzima
“Sending two monks does not constitute a peace talk offer so our leaders told them to tell the government to withdraw all government troops first from our Wan Hai headquarters area if they really want peace here,” Major Sai Hla told Mizzima.

The SSPP wants peace, but it also wants a nationwide cease-fire, he said.

Government troops launched a major offensive against the SSA-N on July 11. Schools in more than 20 villages are closed and an estimated 1,000 students from a high school, one charity school and 13 primary schools had to flee to safer areas.

Teachers were sent to Wan Hai headquarters on Monday and told to reopen schools.

“The schools were not closed by us. If they really look to the welfare of the children, they must withdraw their troops from this area. Then the schools will be reopened automatically,” Major Sai Hla said.

Currently, government troops are stationed three miles southeast and five miles west of the Wan Hai headquarters. A total of 20 government battalions are positioned around SSPP headquarters, sources said.

The government allegedly bombed a joint force of SSA-N and SSA-S July 13 and Shan forces attacked government troops on July 18 and 20, SSA-South spokesman Major Sai Lao Sai said. The bombing report could not be confirmed by outside sources.

SSA-S chief Lieutenant General Ywet Sit told the media during the  53rd Shan Revolution Day anniversary on May 21, 2011 that the SSA-N and SSA-S are being integrated into a combined force. Major Sai Lao Sai said that technical details were still to be worked out, however.

The SSA-N led by Major General Hse Htin reached a cease-fire agreement with the military government in 1989. When the government put pressure on SSA-N to convert its forces into a People’s Militia Force, troops led by Chief of Staff Major General Kai Pha refused to accept the government’s pressure and converted his army into the SSA/SSPP.

Major general’s sacking example of clean government?

Wednesday, 27 July 2011 17:13 Ko Pauk

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The sacking of former Major General Tin Ngwe, a chief of Bureau of Special Operations, by the new Burmese government is being viewed by some as an example to encourage clean government, say Burma observers.

Although the reason to dismiss Major General Tin Ngwe was not publically disclosed, he was believed to be in line to become commander in chief of Defense Services.

Rumours said that he was dismissed because he was involved in land corruption deals in Aung Pinle in Mandalay when he was the Central Command commander

Former Major General Tin Ngwe is known as a close associate of former junta leader Senior-General Than Shwe and Vice Senior-General Maung Aye.

“Although he was a close associate of the junta’s top leaders, there was proof that he was involved in corruption––that’s why he was sacked,” said Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Burma observer. “Generally, all top military officers were involved in corruption, but the amount of money may be different. Maybe his corruption was very clear and the information was spread in Rangoon, so he was dismissed.”

The former general was also involved in corruption in selling land in Pyigyitagun and Chanmyathazi in Mandalay to associates, a local resident told Mizzima.

“When he was about to leave his Central Command position, he sold some land to his associates at amazingly cheap prices.  When the next commander took the position, problems arose. In some cases, same plots were sold to two or three people,” he said.

A resident in Aung Pinle said that Tin Ngwe also sold some plots near 48th Road and 49th Road, on which authorities planned to build stadiums, schools and gardens.

“He divided large plots into smaller plots and sold them. He also prepared the land near 35th Road and sold it,” he said.

He said land traders carried out the land deals. “Traders in the city sold the land, most of them plots worth hundreds of millions of kyat. But others got that money.”

The resident said, on the other hand, that the commander’s reputation was not tainted by corruption during the time he was in the area.

“The traders said that there were very little problems when he was commander. And they heard that he was rarely involved in the corruption,” he said.

Under the former junta, commanders were like regional kings and most of them were involved in corruption, observers said.

Abbot will not hand over ancient Mrauk-U Buddha statues

Wednesday, 27 July 2011 16:32 Zwe Khant

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Thirty-six ancient Buddha statues unearthed at Lawka Myinzu pagoda in Yadana Theinkha in Mrauk-U in western Burma will not be handed over to the state archeology department, according to reidents.

A visitor to Mrauk-U, an ancient city in northern Arakan
State, enters Sakya Manaung Pagoda. Three pagodas
at the national heritage site were damaged during
construction of the Kyauktaw-Mrauk-U section of the
Sittwe-Ann-Minbu railway. Photo: Mizzima
Abbot U Wayameinda told more than 2,000 people who attended a sermon-meeting on Monday that he would resist moves to send the ancient Buddha statues to the state Archeology Department under the Ministry of Culture.

Buddha statues and other relics were found while construction work was going on at Lawka Myinzu Pagoda in Yadana Theinkha in old Mrauk-U city. The largest relic, a Buddha statue, weighed 4 viss, 64 ticals (16.7 lbs) and was 12-inches high. Mrauk-U, the ancient city of Rakhine Kingdom (15th Century), is known for its old temples with wall paintings of Indian cultural influence.

“The abbot told local people that the new government must respect the people unlike their predecessors. If the government forcibly moves the statues, he is determined to sacrifice his life to defend the statues,” a resident said.

The abbot’s talk was attended by residents from Kyauktaw, Minbya, Ahpauk Wa, Peletwa and Mrauk-U.

Rangoon court to hold first hearing on Hot News journal suit

Wednesday, 27 July 2011 11:18 Te Te

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The defamation suit against the Hot News journal and its Chief Editor Hay Mar will begin on Friday, according to Ye Myint, the lawyer for the plaintiff, the Shwegondine Specialist Center (SSC) hospital in Rangoon.

Hot News editor Hay Mar Photo: Mizzima
The SSC suit, filed with the Rangoon Region Court, seeks 2 billion kyat as compensation. A second suit for libel will be heard in Bahan Township Court on August 5.

A negotiator tried to mediate between the two sides, but no agreement has been reached, said Ye Myint.

The mediator is Kanbawza Bank owner Aung Ko Win, a close associate of the former junta’s second in command Maung Aye.

Chief Editor Hay Mar aka Ma Ma told Mizzima: “I met with the officials from the SSC at the headquarters of Kanbawza, but we could not reach an agreement. They said the information given by the patient’s family was false, and I said that we reported the complaint voiced by the SSC’s customer.”

Dr. Zaw Tun and Dr. Htay Htay Yi, the major shareholders of the SSC, attended the meeting. On July 8, the Hot News journal held a press conference and announced that it would defend itself against the suits. The meeting with SSC officials was held after the press conference.

In the journal’s first issue in June, it reported on alleged poor health care services at SSC. On June 6, the SSC sent a warning letter to the journal, saying it must apologize no later than June 30 because the information was false.

On June 24, the family of a patient sent letters to President Thein Sein, the Rangoon Region government and Myanmar Medical Council complaining about poor health care services provided by SSC, according to Hay Mar.

Hay Mar said she put a question regarding the case to Rangoon Region Minister Nyan Tun Oo at a press conference and it resulted in an argument.

“I asked him about the Rangoon Region authorities’ actions regarding with the case because there has been no action, and then he (Nyan Tun Oo) and I argued,” Hay Mar said.

Hay Mar aka Ma Ma is a daughter of retired Lieutenant General Khin Maung Than. She is also the executive editor of Payphoohlwar Magazine and the publisher of Faces Magazine.

In addition to the lawsuits filed by SSC, the Hot News journal faces a suit filed by the Myanmar [Burma] Tourism Promotion Board based on an article about the board’s activities.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Presidential adviser undergoes head surgery

Tuesday, 26 July 2011 19:48 Mizzima News

(Mizzima) – A Burmese presidential political adviser, Ye Tint, 69, has undergone head surgery at Rangoon General Hospital (RGH) for a blood clot.

Sources said he slipped and fell in his home about one month ago.

21st Century Geopolitics, a book by
Presidential Adviser Ye Tint.
“After learning of his appointment as a presidential adviser, he returned to Burma from Australia,” said a source. “He visited Naypyitaw to attend a meeting along with his colleagues Nay Zin Latt and Ko Ko Hlaing. After the visit, he slipped on the staircase in his home and fell. Since then, he has not visited Naypyitaw,” a source said.

According to sources at RGH, police officers from the special branch came to the hospital and took his medical chart because Ye Tint had not informed them he was undergoing treatment at the hospital.

“They came and asked for the patient’s chart and case file, but we didn’t give it to them because we didn’t have the consent of the family members. But they took what they wanted forcefully,” said a nurse at RGH.

Ye Tint is the former chief editor of The Mirror and is known as a translator of novels and other books. He recently won a national literary prize in the translation category for Blood and Oil.

Meiktila Muslims stop bulldozing of Sunni cemetery

Tuesday, 26 July 2011 18:15 Salai Han Thar San

New Delhi (Mizzima) – A construction company in Meiktila bulldozed a 100-year-old Muslim cemetery on Monday, knocking down walls and tombstones before residents forced the company to stop, sources said.

Apparently, plans to bulldoze the cemetery have been longstanding. In 2008 and in March and May 2011, Islamic religious leaders reportedly sent letters to the authorities, urging them not to bulldoze the cemetery, but the authorities did not reply, sources said.

 At around 2 a.m. on Monday, three bulldozers from the Myanmar Sane Lan So Pyay Yay Company entered the old cemetery in the Aungzayyar Quarter and began bulldozing before residents could object.

“The area of the cemetery is about 8.5 acres. Now, about four acres have been bulldozed. The bulldozers knocked down stone walls and brick tombs,” a resident said.

During the uproar that followed, the district and township head arrived and the company stopped bulldozing.

The company said in a meeting held in the Township Administrative Office on Thursday that it had bought the land and would bulldoze the land, said a source who attended the meeting.

Muslims in Meiktila held an emergency meeting on Monday and prepared to file a lawsuit against the company.

Since 2001, the cemetery has not been used and Muslims have been buried in Myintawkan, six miles from Meiktila.

Heavy flooding in Bago and Karen states reported

Tuesday, 26 July 2011 12:48 Kyaw Kha

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – New areas in Rakhine and Karen states and Bago are flooded now as unseasonably heavy rains have passed over parts of Burma.

Twenty villages in Kawa Township and 18 blocks in Bago have had to use boats to get around in the city after the Bago River overran its banks. Similarly five blocks in Hpa-an city near the Thalyin River were flooded and the residents have taken shelter in nearby schools and monasteries.

Bago flooding has caused townspeople to take to boats to get around. Photo: Mizzima 

Locations that have reported more than 4-foot deep flood water include Kyaukgyisu, Ywathit, Kyauktwinkone, Myothit, Oaksettan, Mazin, Zaiganaing south, Olaysu, Klayani, Kyunthayar, Goungsaykyun, Shwethalyaung and Oaktha Myothit Block No. 7.

“Flood water has been chest-deep for four days and has not yet receded. We cannot cook meals in our home. We need boats for commuting in the city. The electricity power lines are disconnected in the city because of flooding,” a local resident from Oaktha Myothit in Bago told Mizzima.

Social aid groups, monasteries and businessmen have donated meal packets to flood victims to be distributed by township authorities.

At the same time, thousands of acres of farmlands are inundated by floodwater in over 20 villages in Kawa Township including Neikban, Paikyone, Taunggyi, Nabepin, Moe Khaing, Kyartet, Kamar and Kale villages.

“All the farmlands in this area are inundated. They are using boats to go to other villages and for shopping. We could not work for last four days. The floodwater is up to 5-feet deep in our villages,” said a farmer from Kamar Kale village.

Water in Bago has reached 4-feet above ground level in some areas. Photo: Mizzima

Water in Bago has reached 4-feet above ground level in some areas.

Farmers said that they would lose nursery paddy for the second time this year.

“In the first flood, we lost our seedlings and we had to grow a second crop. Now we lost it again. We cannot afford to buy paddy seedlings again,” a villager in Paikyone told Mizzima.

Block No. 1,2,3, 5 and 6 Hpa-an near the Thanlyin River were flooded with about 5-foot deep water. Schools are closed and the flood victims were taking shelter in high schools and the Shweyin Hmyar pagoda. Some have been given assistance by the Social Welfare and Relief Department and Health Department, the flood victims said.

“We cannot stay at our homes since the floors are below the flood water. We are afraid of snakes and other poisonous creatures. Most of the victims are taking shelter in relief camps and are praying for the water to recede soon,” a flood victim in No. 2 block said.

Seven townships flooded by record monsoon rain on July 18 saw water receding.

Meteorologist Dr. Tun Lwin of the Myanmar Climate Change Watch said that there were many record monsoon rainfalls recorded in states and regions.
Monday, July 25, 2011

Burma organizes committee to host Asean Summit

Monday, 25 July 2011 21:17 Nyi Thit

Rangoon (Mizzima)  – In anticipation of hosting a 2014 Asean Summit meeting in Naypyitaw, the Burmese government has made plans to  form committees, prepare buildings and other contingencies.

A general view of foreign ministers attending the East
Asia Summit Plenary Session held on the sidelines of
the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ministerial
meetings in Bali on July 22, 2011. Photos: AFP
The committee chairman is Foreign Affairs Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, and his committee comprises about 20 members including Union deputy ministers.

At the 18th Asean Regional Forum in July in Bali, Dr. R.M. Marty M. Natalegawa, the Indonesian minister for foreign affairs told journalists that Asean is still waiting and observing political changes in Burma and a meeting of Asean foreign ministers would decide the question at a later date.

The Burmese government has reportedly informed the Office of the secretary-general of Asean in Jakarta that it is ready to take its turn to chair the 2014 Asean Summit, but the final decision is still being awaited.

In May, at the 18th Asean Summit, Laos supported Burma’s application to chair the summit, but there was international opposition to the application with many parties citing Burma’s political prisoners and human rights violations.

Myanmar [Burma] Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin, left, shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Foreign Ministers Meeting in Bali on Thursday, July 21, 2011. Photo: AFP

Myanmar [Burma] Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin, left, shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Foreign Ministers Meeting in Bali on Thursday, July 21, 2011. Photo: AFP
Burma’s turn to chair Asean came up in 2006, but it passed over the opportunity because of controversy surrounding the junta-led government and its human rights record. In fact, the 2014 Asean presidency should go to Laos, but it has agreed to swap places with Burma for the chairmanship. Officially, the Asean chair goes to an Asean country in accordance with the alphabetical order of the member countries. In 2012, Cambodia will chair Asean; in 2013, Brunei.

In addition to the application for Asean chair, the Burmese government has started building various stadiums in Naypyitaw to host the Southeast Asian Games in 2013.

Myanmar [Burma] Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin,
left, shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang
Jiechi on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian
Nations Foreign Ministers Meeting in Bali on Thursday,
July 21, 2011. Photo: AFP
If Burma is granted the rotating Asean chair in 2014, a National Convention Center that was built by a Chinese company is ready to host the summit, said officials. However, observers said that Burma would have much work to do to overcome other challenges to host the summit such as an improved communication system.

The planning committee comprises several sub-committees such as a committee for ceremony, an information committee, transportation committee, health committee, entertainment committee, security committee, finance committee, city development committee and others. The committee would also be charged with choosing subjects to be discussed in accordance with formal procedures and providing translators.

Suu Kyi satisfied with meeting with gov’t minister; more to follow

Monday, 25 July 2011 18:10 Ko Pauk

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi told reporters on Monday that her one-hour meeting with Union level Minister Aung Kyi was constructive and she felt satisfied with the meeting.

“Whatever I talk with whoever, I do it for the sake of the people and the country,” Suu Kyi said.

Aung San Suu Kyi and Burmese government Minister Aung Kyi after their 70-minute meeting on Monday. Both sides expressed satisfaction with the discussions. Photo: Mizzima

The meeting was held in a state guesthouse at 1 p.m. and lasted about 70 minutes.  National League for Democracy (NLD) spokesman Ohn Kyaing told Mizzima that they had not disclosed the details of the meeting.

“Both of them said they were satisfied with the discussions,” he said. “Our party will present our views on Tuesday evening.”

Joint Statement of Aung San Suu Kyi and Aung Kyi

“Holding a dialogue is our long-time policy to solve all problems. Our general-secretary (Suu Kyi) said that we would meet one day or another. It’s good that we can engage in discussions. The meeting is welcome,” Ohn Kyaing said.

Aung Kyi is the minister of Labour and also the Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement minister.

Minister Aung Kyi said, “For the welfare of the people, we will meet again at a convenient time to discuss cooperation, opportunities, the prevalence of law and order and national reconciliation.”

This was the first meeting between Suu Kyi and a top government leader under the new military-dominated government led by President Thein Sein.

In October 2007, the former junta Senior-General Than Shwe appointed Aung Kyi as a liaison minister to smooth relations with pro-democracy leader Suu Kyi. He met with Suu Kyi on October 25, November 9 and November 19 in 2007; January 11 and January 30 in 2008; and October 3 and October 7 in 2009.

Local people protest coal mining in eastern Shan State

Monday, 25 July 2011 12:16 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Environment groups and local villagers in Burma and Thailand launched a protest against the Mong Koke coal-mining project in eastern Shan State last week.

Anti-coal mine campaign coordinator
Montree Chantawong Terra.
The project is a joint operation by the Dawei deep sea port project developer, the
Italian-Thai Company, ITD, and Thailand’s Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand’ (EGAT).

“This Mong Koke coal mining project will cause a greenhouse effect in the region, and it will affect the local environment. It will create pollution and destroy the ecological system of the Chiang Rai River. We don’t want this Mong Koke coal mining project,” said Suphakit Nuntavorakarn, an environmental activist.

EGAT expects the plant to generate 370 MW of power and 15,000 MW electricity power over the next 20 years.

The project is located in Burma 40 kms north of Thailand’s Chiang Rai border. EGAT and the Burmese government signed an agreement to produce 1.5 million tons of coal annually for 10 years and to build a 405 MW thermal power station of which 369 MW will be sold to Thailand.

Thai power demand is 23,900 MW (150,000 million KWh) and it is expected to increase to 54,000 MW in the next 20 years. About 45 per cent is produced by coal-fired power stations. The coal to be used in the power units will be produced by the Mae Mao coalmine and imported coal.

The agreement with the Burmese government must be renewed every five years; the total project tenure is 25 years. Burma will begin selling energy to Thailand in early 2016, according to officials.

About 20 villages south of Mogok were forcibly relocated in March. The military regime ordered the villagers to sell their farmland at a set price of 20,000 kyat (US$ 25) per acre to the company. Local residents said the authorities violated the human rights of local villagers.

The protesters said the project would include about 200 trucks that will transport coal daily through the area causing noise and coal dust pollution.

The report compiled by the Mong Koke activist group said Burmese military units persecuted and tortured local villagers in 2007 when it accused them of giving support to the Shan State Army – South (SSA-S).

SSA-S and government troops frequently clash in the Mong Koke area and Burmese troops have deployed extra security to protect the project. The report said that about 1,000 Shan, Akha and Lahu villagers fled to Thailand in fear of persecution.

Thai social groups have sent letters and expressed their opposition to the project to the Thai Human Right Commission, the Thai Lawyers Council and the Chiang Rai authorities since 2009.

Residents in northern Thailand also worry that pollution will affect the Koke River. The Koke River is a main waterway for people in northern Thailand and is a popular tourist attraction. The power station is projected to use water from the Koke River and wastewater from the power station will be put into the river again. The report said the project would emit many harmful chemicals and destroy wildlife and plants in the region. Coal mining and coal burning emits many poisonous chemicals such as arsenic, mercury, chromium and cadmium, the report said.

Meanwhile, a coal-mining project in Pinlaung Township in Burma has created dangerous water and air pollution, according to local residents. About 20,000 people from Tikyit and Se Gaung villages are suffering from skin diseases caused by the pollution, according to “Poisoned Cloud,” a report prepared by Thai-based Pa-O Youth Organization released in January.
Friday, July 22, 2011

A brief history of the Pa-O road to revolution

Friday, 22 July 2011 21:19 Colonel Khun Okkar, PNLO chairman

(Mizzima) – The Pa-O revolution was born along with the Karen National Union (KNU) revolution in 1949. Pa-O national leader Hla Pe was then the vice-chairman of the KNU.

Khun Okkar, the chairman of the PNLO. Photo: Mizzima
After chairman Saw Ba Oo Gyi was killed in action, Hla Pe was given the chairman post but he turned it down. Then he resigned from the KNU and led the Pa-O revolution on December 11, 1949 with his Pa-O National Liberation Army (PNLA). He surrendered to then Brigadier General Aung Shwe (the current National League for Democracy chairman) in 1958 along with 1,200 troops under the slogan “arms for democracy,” and then he established a political party called the Union Pa-O National Organization (UPNO) and contested in the 1958, ’59 and ‘60 elections.

After taking power in a coup in 1962, General Ne Win arrested many political leaders including Hla Pe and other Pa-O leaders. General San Thein who was not included in those arrested Pa-O then led and reignited the Pa-O revolution in 1966 with arms that had been left in the forest. This revolution was called the second revolution of Pa-O and it is still going on.

General San Thein was killed in action in 1968. Then Chairman Takele (Karenlar) led the revolution. The organization was renamed the Shan Nationalities People’s Liberation Organization (SNPLO) to keep it compatible with the policy of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB). After being released from prison in 1969-70, Hla Pe met Pa-O students including Khun Okkar who agreed to go to the countryside. (Colonel) Khun Okkar first joined the revolution in March 1972. Hla Pe also rejoined the revolution in June 1972. Then they continued their revolution in the name of the SNPLO.

Then that organization split into two factions in September 1973. Nationalist leaders led the first faction and CPB followers led the second one. Chairman Takele led the second faction and followed the CPB line.

The first faction led by Hla Pe, Aung Kham Hti, Sayadaw Nay Mi and Kyaw Sein reestablished their organization as the Pa-O National Organization (PNO). Hla Pe became chairman and Aung Kham Hte became secretary. Hla Pe died of a disease in 1975. Kyaw Sein became chairman and Aung Kham Hti remained as secretary. Kyaw Sein retired from the party post and surrendered to the government in Taunggyi in 1979. Then Aung Kham Hti and Khun Okkar became chairman and secretary respectively.

Then the PNO was split into two factions again in 1991 when Aung Kham Hti reached a cease-fire agreement with then General Khin Nyunt. The PNO led by Aung Kham Hti contested in the 2010 general election, but he did not stand for election. Khun Okkar established the Pa-O People’s Liberation Organization (PPLO) on the Thai-Burma border.

Takele reached a cease-fire agreement with the government too in 1994 and then he disarmed. Then about 100 SNPLO soldiers led by Major Thurein came to the border and joined with the PPLO. These two factions were renamed the Pa-O National Liberation Organization (PNLO) and continue today. Its chairman is Khun Okkar and the former SNPLO is now defunct.

The PNLO headquarters is based in Burma near the Thai-Burmese border opposite Mae Hong Song. Its operational areas are in Hse Hseng, Hopong and Mawkmai townships.

High-ranking former intelligence officer remains in Burmese prison

Friday, 22 July 2011 18:55 Myo Thant

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – A former military intelligence officer, ex-Col San Pwint, who was imprisoned by the Burmese military government in 2004, remained in prison on Friday, according to a family member.

A file photo of ex-Col San Pwint. Photo: S.H.A.N
An article in The Irrawaddy on Tuesday mistakenly said San Pwint, a key player in ethnic affairs and former spy chief ex-Gen Khin Nyunt's deputy head of ethnic affairs at the Directorate of Defense Services Intelligence (DDSI), had been released in June.

A family member who asked to speak anonymously told Mizzima that San Pwint is still in Thayet Prison in Magwe Division, serving a 43-year sentence, where family members visited him recently.

San Pwint, in his early 60s, was one of the right-hand men of Gen Khin Nyunt, who is now serving a suspended 44-year jail term under house arrest. He was sentenced following a nationwide crackdown on DDSI in August 2004. Many intelligence officers received long prison terms.

The crackdown was believed to have been a contest between the infantry and intelligence institutions of the military government.

Meanwhile, ex-Lt-Col Thet Tin Sein, a former general staff officer at the administrative level of DDSI, was released in May under President Thein Sein's one-year commutation, according to a source close to military intelligence.

Both San Pwint and Thet Tin Sein are known as ethnic affairs experts.

Seven townships in Arakan State flooded by record heavy rain

Friday, 22 July 2011 18:38 Kyaw Kha

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Because of record-breaking rainfall in seven townships in Arakan State, farms are flooded, roads are impassable and schools and markets are closed, residents said.

Heavy rain since Tuesday in Mrauk-U, Kyauktaw, Thandwe, Toungup, Gwa, Buthidaung and Maungdaw have left the area flooded, residents said. Many residents and livestock are finding access to food difficult.

The state-run newspaper New Light of Myanmar said that Mrauk-U on Tuesday broke a 33-year rainfall record of 8.90 inches with 9.37 inches of rain; Toungup broke a 15-year rainfall-record of 13.07 inches with 29.10 inches.

The Department of Meteorology and Hydrology in Naypyitaw on Friday issued a forecast calling for heavy rain in Arakan State and heavy rain in Kachin, Karen and Mon states and Pegu and Taninthayi regions during the next 24 hours.

Occasional squalls with rough seas will continue along the Burmese coast with surface wind speed in squalls up to 45 miles per hour, the forecast said.

Flooding severely hit Mrauk-U, where one high school student was killed in the flood. In the quarters of Mrauk-U, the water level reached 4-feet above ground. Flood victims have taken refuge in monasteries and schools, residents said.

“The rain has poured down since four days ago. Because of the continuous rain, the water level has reached the height of a person’s chest,” said a high school teacher in Mrauk-U. “Without using boats, we cannot go anywhere in the town. We cannot go to other towns. The environment is like a sea.”
Tens of thousands of acres of farms have been inundated. Livestock are suffering and have not had food since Monday in many areas.

Flooding also hit Kyauktaw, Thandwe, Toungup, Gwa, Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships. Since Tuesday, the water level has been rising in Toungup and schools have been closed. Residents in Toungup have struggled to buy food.

“The floods are not subsiding. Now, we cannot see the farms and the villages seem like islands. Water inundated the whole area,” said a resident in Toungup.

The Thandwe-Toungup Road is impassable.

A resident in Kyauktaw said, “The rain is still falling. If it continues, we will encounter problems like a famine. Now, there is a scarcity of food in the markets. Because the roads are closed, sellers cannot come here.”

Residents said that the 17-mile long Buthidaung-Maungdaw Road was destroyed at the section eight mile from Buthidaung because it was eroded by torrents of water.

The water level at the Municipal Market in Buthidaung reached 5-feet above the ground. The Taungpuza habour near the market and four quarters in the town are flooded. At least 20 nearby villages have been flooded, according to residents.

“We cannot go anywhere. It’s like a sea. Monks have difficulty getting food. So we have to cook ourselves,” a monk in Buthidaung told Mizzima.

Quarters No. 1 and No. 4 in Thandwe and nine nearby villages are also flooded.

The flooded roads in Arakan State have prevented trucks from Rangoon to access the area starting two days ago, an official with the Rangoon-based Ye Man Aung Transportation told Mizzima.

Twenty villages in Kawa Township in Pegu Region are flooded and paddy fields were inundated. Hinthada Township in Irrawaddy Region is also flooded and the market and a school were closed.
Thursday, July 21, 2011

Government troops open artillery barrage near Myawaddy

Thursday, 21 July 2011 21:22 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Artillery attacks by Burmese government troops moved close to Myawaddy on the Thai-Burmese border as they fired heavy weapons into the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) area in Karen State on Tuesday and Wednesday.

DKBA troops stand for inspection. Photo: Mizzima
A total of 60 Burmese soldiers from the government’s Infantry Unit No. 357 and Border Guard Force Unit No. 1022, led by Lieutenant Bo Shay, fired heavy weapons into the DKBA area near “Stone Mountain,” three miles southeast of Myawaddy.

“They fired heavy weapons from the Lakkhattaung Monastery into our troop area. They fired because they were worried that we would go to the town and attack,” said Major Kawdosoe, the second in command of DKBA Battalion No. 907.

Burmese government troops started their artillery fire on Tuesday, stopped firing for a while, and resumed firing on Wednesday night.

DKBA Captain Saw San Aung said that government troops opened fire because they had hearsay reports that DKBA Major General Bo Moustache’s troops were active near Myawaddy.

Government troops warned villagers that they would fire heavy weapons and told them not to go outside their villages, Captain Saw San Aung said.

Similarly, small clashes between Kawkareik-based DKBA troops led by Colonel Kyaw Thet and government troops broke out, according to Major Kawdosoe, the second in command of DKBA Battalion No. 907.

A resident in Myawaddy said that the sound of heavy weapons could be heard in Myawaddy for two straight nights.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Thai Black Hawk helicopter found near Myeik in Burma

Wednesday, 20 July 2011 22:08 Myo Thant

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The Thai Army Black Hawk helicopter that crashed in bad weather in a forest in Burma near the Thai border on Tuesday afternoon has been found near Myeik in Burma.

A Thai Black Hawk helicopter like the one that crashed
in Burma on Tuesday. Photo: AFP
The Thai Rath news agency said the helicopter was found near the Burmese battalion No. 101 near Myeik, which is one mile from the Thai-Burmese border.

Thai authorities are waiting for permission to recover the bodies of the nine people killed in the crash.

The Black Hawk was carrying nine people including a major general who commanded the elite 9th Infantry Division, two captains and a video journalist. It was flying in connection with the retrieval of the bodies of five soldiers who were killed in an earlier crash of a Huey helicopter in Kaeng Krachan National Park in Ratchaburi Province in Thailand on Saturday.

The crash occurred about 12:30 a.m. local time on Tuesday. The commander of Thailand’s Brigade No.1 said that the crash was caused by bad weather.

On Wednesday, a plane carried the bodies of the five army personnel killed in the Saturday crash to Ratchburi in Thailand, according to Thai newspapers.

Early Wednesday, Thai newspapers reported that 60 Thai soldiers went to the Myeik District on the Burmese side of the border to search for the bodies in the Tuesday crash.

The Black Hawk helicopter had been in service for seven years and according to a recent inspection was in perfect condition, said Thai newspapers.

SCC hospital, Hot News suit set to go to trial

Wednesday, 20 July 2011 20:03 Te Te

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The lawyer for SCC hospital in Rangoon said he has not received word to withdraw the suit against the Hot News journal and the case could go to trial on Friday.

Hot News weekly chief editor Hay Mar aka Ma Ma, right,
at a press conference. Photo: Mizzima
SCC lawyer Ye Myint said he has no instructions to settle out of court, in spite of a meeting between the two parties.

“I know about the meeting but I don’t know about the content of the meeting. I continue with all legal proceedings. We will consider withdrawing the case if they apologize to us,” Ye Myint said.

The court proceeding will start on Friday if the Bahan Township court receives the police report, he said.

An article in Hot News about the services provided by SCC hospital appeared in the first week of June. SCC placed ad notices in state-run daily papers and news journals saying the content of the article was in error and the journal must apologize to SCC.

SCC filed a suit for defamation and damages at Bahan court on June 6. The hospital claimed 20 billion kyat (US$ 2.5 million) in damages. Despite the Hot News journal article, the functions and business of SCC have not been affected, Ye Myint said.

The lawyer for Hot News, Thein Nyunt, who is also a member of Parliament, said, “I have not received a summons sent by the court.” He said that he would uphold the freedom of expression granted in the 2008 Constitution when he represents his client in court. Thein Nyunt said that the case between SSC and Hot News journal was about media freedom and business tycoons.

When Mizzima tried to contact the editor of Hot News, the journal replied that editor-in-chief Ma Ma was not in Rangoon. Ma Ma a.k.a. Hay Mar is the daughter of former Lieutenant General Khin Maung Than. She is also the chief editor of Pay Phu Hlwar magazine.

The Tourism Board also sent a notice to Hot News journal on June 14 and filed a suit. The journal replied to the board but has not yet received a response, said Thein Nyunt.

The article under the title of “For Development or For Profit?” was written by Maung Lin Thu (St. John) and was based on articles that appeared in Pyi Myanmar Journal and Seven Days journal, the journal said.

Massive backlog of civil suits in Rangoon Region

Wednesday, 20 July 2011 11:37 Salai Han Thar San

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Under the new government, the Rangoon Region Court has transferred hundreds of civil suits to district and township courts, delaying civil trials in Rangoon, according to lawyers.

The Kamayut Township Court in Rangoon
Photo: Mizzima
Each district court in Rangoon Region has received at least 600 civil cases from the Rangoon Region Court, sources said. There are four district courts in Rangoon Region: East District Court, West District Court, South District Court and North District Court.

Lawyers in Rangoon estimated that at least 2,000 civil cases are awaiting trial.

Since early June, district courts in Rangoon have been given authority to handle cases involving suits of up to 500 million kyat (about US$ 625,000). Earlier, the courts could handle trials involving up to 10 million kyat. Township courts have been given the authority to handle trials involving up to 10 million kyat; earlier, the limit was three million kyat.

As a result, a small number of civil lawsuits have not gone to trial, a lawyer in Tamwe Township told Mizzima.

The Rangoon Region Court will handle lawsuits worth more than 500 million kyat. The east, west and south District Courts are located on Bank Road in Kyauktada Township and the North District Court is located on Lower Mingalardon Road in East Ywama Quarter in Insein Township.

Due to the bulk transfers of lawsuits, the identification numbers of some lawsuits have been confused and legal files had been lost, said lawyer Than Zaw.

“Some files have been lost during the transfer. Some files have been misidentified. This has led to lengthy delays,” Than Zaw said.

Lawyer Bo Min, a retired district law official, said some of his cases that were transferred to the West District Court were lost.

In the courts, currently only lawsuits connected with the police are being heard and most civil lawsuits are delayed.

“I went to the court at the day fixed for a hearing. When I arrived, the staff told me that the hearing was canceled. But he did not say what date the hearing would be moved to. He told me to come to the court occasionally to enquire about the date,” a lawyer told Mizzima.

A lawyer in Tamwe Township said: “Long delays make litigants suffer. They need to spend more time and money and they become frustrated. And delays just make lawyers busier.”
Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Suu Kyi ‘thanks’ Burmese gov’t for cooperation on Martyrs’ Day

Tuesday, 19 July 2011 22:15 Ko Pauk

New Delhi (Mizzima) – After leading a 3,000-person march to the Martyrs’ Mausoleum in Rangoon on Tuesday, Aung San Suu Kyi said thanks to the Burmese government for its cooperation on Martyrs’ Day, according to NLD spokesman Nyan Win.

NLD leaders Aung San Suu Kyi and Tin Oo, right, prepare to go to the Martyrs' Mausoleum in Rangoon to honour fallen independence heros on the 64th anniversary of Martyrs' Day on Tuesday. Photo: Mizzima

The public march to the mausoleum paid homage to Burma’s fallen independence heroes, including Aung San, Suu Kyi’s father.

“She said that in accordance with the negotiations between government officials and the NLD, officials carried out their duties and the NLD could pay homage to fallen heroes peacefully and that was a win-win situation, so she would like to say thanks to the authorities and she was happy,” Nyan Win told Mizzima.

Suu Kyi said that it was a good example that showed negotiations could bring successful, he said.

At around 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Suu Kyi appeared at the Martyrs’ Mausoleum through an arrangement with the Home Affairs Ministry. The ministry also provided her transportation.

At 11 p.m., the NLD held a ceremony to commemorate Martyrs’ Day at NLD headquarters in Bahan Township in Rangoon and Suu Kyi delivered a speech focusing on the word “martyr.”

“She explained the meanings of the word.  The word ‘martyr’ does not mean just the person who was killed. It also means a person who suffered greatly due to his or her great works and noble mind. So, the country needed many martyrs with great minds,” Nyan Win said.

The one-hour ceremony at NLD headquarters included a poster exhibition and poetry reading.

More than 4,000 people including foreign diplomats in Rangoon attended the ceremony, according to NLD security officials.

“The headquarters was full. And there were more than 1,000 people outside the office. That number covered only the people who were on the same side of the road as us. There were many people on the other side too. In accordance with the plan, she would leave the office via car after the ceremony,” said the security official.

Suu Kyi accompanied by NLD leaders, leaders of the Committee Representing the People’s Parliament and prominent politicians all went to the mausoleum to pay homage. The crowd queued up and paid homage to the martyrs until 4 p.m.

About 3,000 marchers made their way to the Martyrs' Mausoleum in Rangoon on Tuesday. Photo: Mizzima

A security staff member said: “We cooperated with the authorities. There has been no disturbance. In accordance with the authorities, security staff conducted searches for security reasons. Everyone was allowed to enter the mausoleum. There were more than 4,000 or 5,000 people.” The public march was supervised by members of the NLD youth network.
On July 12, 2011, Suu Kyi accompanied by her son Htein Lin, was also allowed to visit the Martyrs’ Mausoleum to pay homage to the fallen martyrs.

Martyrs’ Day ceremony in Myitkyina

Although the Kachin State Administrative office chief issued an order not to hold a ceremony to commemorate Martyrs’ Day, NLD members held a ceremony in the NLD office in Myitkyina, said Win Bo, an NLD township canvasser.

Kachin State Administrative Office chief Lungjung Ngan Sai told Kachin State NLD chairman Hla Sai and party leaders not to hold the ceremony on Tuesday.

“But, we had arranged every thing, so we held the ceremony,” Win Bo told Mizzima.

Eighty-four NLD members from Mohnyin, Mogaung, Tanai, Waimaw, Hpakant and Myitkyina townships attended. They issued a statement urging the government to release all political prisoners, to secure a cease-fire with ethnic armed groups and halt the Myitsone Dam Project.


Ignoring a request not to hold a ceremony, NLD members in Shwebo commemorated Marytrs’ Day, NLD chairman Tin Win told Mizzima.

“They said it would be better if we did not hold the ceremony,” said Tin Win. About 50 members attended the ceremony, and a politician,Than Nyunt, 90, delivered a speech.

Other towns including Sagaing, Madaya, Yaynanchaung, Yaydashay and Kawthaung also held ceremonies to commemorate Martyrs’ Day.

Rangoon Region Chief Minister Myint Swe meets with journalists

Tuesday, 19 July 2011 11:12 Mizzima News

Rangoon (Mizzima) – The following are statements delivered by Rangoon Region Chief Minister Myint Swe and Rangoon Region Minister Nyan Tun Oo at the Rangoon Regional Parliamentary building on Sunday when they met with journalists.
Rangoon Region Chief Minister Myint Swe

Just explaining about our activities is enough. This meeting is just to make a statement about regional government activities, not a press conference. The Democratic Voice of Burma [a Norway-based non-profit media organization] reported about our first meeting with journalists. Their report caused people and the Union Assembly to misunderstand certain issues. The exile Burmese media also reported about our first meeting. Who sent the information to the exile media? The people who attended the meeting. No one else could have sent it to exile media.

At that time, we talked about schools. Exile media reported about it. In fact, the schools’ pass percentages are high. That’s why the parents of the students want their children to register for these schools, and they donated a lot of money to the schools. So only the children whose parents could afford to donate can register for the schools. We explained that. The exile media always opposes the government.

Minister Nyan Tun Oo

According to a journalist at the meeting: Rangoon Region Minister Nayn Tun Oo said that the regional government has ordered all massage parlours and KTV karaoke lounge bars to close. He added that the regional government is planning to employ the staff from the massage parlours and KTV karaoke lounge bars in other jobs. To make the application process easy, the passport office was moved to another location and applicants can now obtain a passport within three weeks.

On other areas, as a protection against a dengue fever outbreak, the government will improve drainage systems around schools. The government will also carry out environmental conservation work around Rangoon University and the Rangoon Institute of Technology. During the process, the Rangoon Municipality will use power generators to implement the tasks if necessary.

–To eliminate poverty in Rangoon, the regional government is trying to create job opportunities in the industrial sector.

–Minister Nyan Tun Oo said that it was not legal for administrative office chiefs to take 5,000 kyat (about US$ 0.75) each from both the landlord and tenant to make a rent contract.