Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Burmese Parliament rejects motion to repeal Emergency Provisions Act

Wednesday, 31 August 2011 11:23 Myo Thant

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – A motion in the Burmese Lower House to repeal the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, which is used to imprison democracy activists, has been overwhelmingly rejected by the majority opposition dominated by the Union Solidarity and Development Party.

Only 7 MPs supported the motion made by New Democracy Party MP Thein Nyunt. The motion was voted down by 220 USDP MPs; 99 military-appointed MPs; 16 MPs from the National Unity Party (NUP) and other smaller-party MPs. Forty-one MPs abstained.

A joint session of the Burmese Parliament in Naypyitaw, the capital. Photo: Mizzima

Voting in favour on Monday were Dr. Than Win and Khaing Khing Maung Yee from the National Democratic Force; Nan Wah Nu from the Shan Nationalities Development Party; Thein Nyunt and Kyi Myint from the New Democracy Party, Zar Telem from the Chin National Party and Myint Than from the All Mon Region Democracy Party.

MPs who rose to speak against the motion were USDP members Than Oo from the Myawaddy constituency; Aung Kyaw Soe from the Natmauk constituency; Soe Paing from the Wuntho constituency; and Zaung Khaung from the Hsawlaw constituency.

In speaking against the motion, Thein Oo argued that the law should be in force because insurgency was still taking place, referring to recent fighting between the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and government troops.

USDP MP Zaung Khaung said the Emergency Provisions Act was essential to the country, citing recent fighting between the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and government troops.

The late Prime Minister U Nu enacted the emergency act two years after Burma regained independence in 1948, to be used for suppression of the civil war. The law says that those who obstruct or delay the performance of duty by the armed forces or police force or those who intend or act to undermine the stability in the government can receive up to life in prison term or capital punishment.

“We are not in a state of emergency. So this law is irrelevant in the current time,” said Khaing Khin Maung Yee, who supported the motion.

According to the figures released by the exile-based Assistance Association of Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP-B), out of a total of 1,995 political prisoners 500 prisoners were charged and imprisoned under the Emergency Provisions Act.

According to parliamentary procedures, a motion must be seconded and moved by at least one MP for deliberation in the house.

In other Lower House business:

––USDP MP Soe Thar moved a motion to explore ways to help business enterprises which have been struggling as a result of the falling US dollar. MP Nyi Nyi seconded the motion and it will be brought up for deliberation at a later date.

––Former Minister of National Planning and Economic Development Soe Thar told MPs that there was an increase of import volume by 78 per cent in the 2010-11 fiscal year and there was a trade deficit of 796 million kyat (US$1.1 million), decreasing export values and volume of rice, pulses and beans, and fish in moving his motion.

––USDP MP Maung Maung Thein from the Kayan constituency made a motion to exempt income tax on interest earned by treasury bills issued by the government. The motion was seconded by MP Nan Wah Nu from the Kunhing constituency and the motion will be deliberated at a later date. House Speaker Thura Shwe Mahn urged the lawmakers to consult with the Finance and Revenue Ministry and Parliament Bills Committee regarding their motion.

The sessions of the lower and upper houses concluded at 3 p.m. There will be a joint session of Parliament on September 5.

Snails destroy more than 100 acres of paddy crops in Mon State

Wednesday, 31 August 2011 23:04 Kun Chan

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – A large, invasive species of snail has destroyed rice crops around seven villages in Chaungzon Township in Mon State, according to local farmers.

Since July, the snails have attacked fields in the seaside villages of Kanyaw, Boenakkyi, Downyak, Kawmupon, Selpalar, Hinthakyun and Natmhaw.

Mon State Chief Minister U Ohn Myint visited Kawmupon village last week to inspect the villagers’ effort to combat the snail, according to the state-run newspaper New Light of Myanmar.

He told the farmers to prevent the outbreak of snails from spreading to other paddy fields, the newspaper said, and suggested that the farmers replace the spoiled rice crops with a second crop of new rice plants.

In Mon State, rainy season rice crops are grown from early June to late July, according to a retired township agricultural official.

Farmers said the snails lay a cluster of eggs on rice plants or grasses and their birth rate is very high, making it difficult for farmers to control the plague of snails.

“We have not seen these snails before. They appeared this year. They are different than the usual farm snails, and they are very big. The weight of a snail is about 0.4 kg,” a farmer in Downyak village told Mizzima.

An assistant professor of botany at Rangoon University said in the weekly The Voice Journal on August 29 that the snail was the “Golden Apple Snail,” and it was similar to regular Burmese farm snails.

A retired township agricultural official told Mizzima, “The snails are not a Burmese species. Burmese farm snails also eat duckweeds and rice plants, but they are not as dangerous as these snails. These snails really like rice plants.”

Presidential adviser discusses amnesty for Burmese exiles

Wednesday, 31 August 2011 21:16 Tun Tun

(Interview) – Burmese President Thein Sein recently encouraged Burmese exiles to return home. One of his presidential advisers  says Parliament will pass a bill to implement the offer. Mizzima correspondent Tun Tun asked Ko Ko Hlaing, a presidential adviser, how the amnesty offer will work. Ko Ko Hlaing explained that all exiles could return and no one would be punished except people who have committed criminal offenses, and he described other aspects of the bill to be introduced in Parliament.

Question: How will this amnesty offer for exiles work?

Answer: As far as I know, no one will be punished except people who committed “personal offences” against someone such as murder, robbery or physical assault and so on. Except for punishing people who committed crimes against someone, the government will not punish exiles. The details will be disclosed when the law is officially approved in Parliament. They are arranging to put forward that bill. You will know the details when the bill has been brought before Parliament. Then, they will debate and vote on the bill.

Burmese President Thein Sein, here shown in traditional dress in Parliament, has invited exiles to return home. A bill to enact the offer will be introduced in Parliament. Photo: Mizzima

Q: So the only penalties will concern people who committed crimes against someone?

A: Yes. The reason is that the nation cannot forgive a person who harmed someone, because there is a person who has suffered. The nation cannot pardon those culprits. Otherwise, the other side will accuse the government of bias. For rebelling against the nation such as membership in an illegal association or joining rebels and so on, some criminal cases are unavoidable. But former amnesties forgave all of those kinds of people if they didn’t commit criminal crimes.

Even insurgents were forgiven. So, there is no reason not to forgive others.

Q: For example, how would the All Burma Students' Democratic Front and ethnic armed groups be treated?

A: If they lay down their arms, the government is ready to grant amnesty. If they want to return to the legal fold immediately, they will be accepted immediately. Regarding the killing of soldiers during fighting, fighting is an armed conflict. The army will shoot rebels. Rebels will attack the army. There are such cases in every country.

But, there is one exception. If someone killed villagers after alleging that they [villagers] gave information to the army….for instance, the case in Sinzwe Village, we cannot forgive those kinds of cases.

Q: Do you mean that they would be punished in accordance with the current laws?

A: If they committed crimes against villagers, those will be exceptional cases. Mutual shootings between armed groups are usual. Armed groups have the right to shot each other. They have the right to protect themselves. For villagers, they are not armed to protect themselves. In the past, “Red Flag Communist” led by Thakhin Soe [now deceased] killed all the villagers of Sinzwe Village.

Now, for instance, on some occasions, the SSA and some armed groups killed female teachers. In those cases, they will receive the punishment they deserve, and then they will be free.

Q: Does the government have a plan about how to reintroduce exiles back into the country?

A: I don’t know exactly because I’m neither a member of the government nor an MP. I think that the government will plan to resettle them in Burma and so on. The administrative bodies will do the necessary things after the amnesty, I think.

Q: In your opinion, how soon could the law to bring back exiles be passed and ready to implement?

A: Now parliament is beginning to work on this. Parliament will put up the bill. The bill will be debated and amended in one house first. Then if the house approves the bill, it will be submitted to the other house. If both houses approve the bill, it will be forwarded to the president. When the president signs the bill, it can be enforced as a law. I don’t know how long the process will take. That depends on the Parliament.

Q: Some people have criticized the offer and expressed distrust of the government. How will you overcome such doubts?

A: Nothing [no description] can be as transparent and strong as a law. If laws are passed and enforced, nothing can be better than that. Do you agree?”

Q: So, we have to wait and see the law.

A: Laws govern each country. We need to do everything in accordance with the law, so everyone, from the president to ordinary staff, must obey the laws. There is no better guarantee than enforcing the laws.

Q: Some observers have alleged that the government has made this offer because it wants to chair Asean in 2014. How do you respond to such charges?

A: Whether we can chair Asean or not, they [the exiles] are Burmese citizens. I will work for the sake of the people and the nation. We work together for everyone’s sake. Some people in foreign countries are criticizing the offer based on their own views. They can criticize in various ways. But our good intentions will be obvious later because of our actions.

If we invite exiles to return to Burma just to show off, they can criticize us for being fake. If our invitation is genuine, the people will recognize that and then believe the offer is real.

Protest to call for release of Burma VJ, other political prisoners

Wednesday, 31 August 2011 14:22 Mizzima News

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The Free Burma VJ Campaign plans a demonstration on September 9 outside the Burmese embassy in Bangkok to call for the release of imprisoned video journalist, Hla Hla Win.

Imprisoned video journalist Hla Hla Win.
Photo: Free Burma VJ NGO
The NGO plans to hand a letter to the embassy calling for the release of the Burmese video journalist or VJ, and the release of the 1,995 political prisoners currently held in Burma.

Two years ago, Hla Hla Win was arrested and sentenced to 27 years in jail for doing her job as a journalist, according to a press release issued by the NGO. She was sentenced to seven years under the Import/Export act for using an unregistered motorcycle and under interrogation admitted to sending video footage to the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) and was sentenced to a further 20 years under the Electronics Act.

Similar protests will be held on the same day in Paris, London and Geneva, with members of Info Birmanie, Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, the Fédération International des ligues des Droits de l’Homme and  Burma Campaign UK in front of their countries’ respective Burmese embassies.

Hla Hla Win, 27, and 17 other DVB VJs are currently in prison in Burma.

According to the press release, “A democracy doesn't keep its journalists behind bars and respects basic human rights: including those of freedom of expression, freedom of information and association. The ceaseless harassment on journalists by the Burmese authorities proves that democracy in Burma remains a distant prospect for those journalists in jail.”

For details of Hla Hla Win’s case, click here.

For details of the protest in Bangkok, click here.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Commemoration of International Literacy Day

Tuesday, 30 August 2011 18:59 Evan

(Commentary) – There was a well-known Burmese movie during the Burmese Socialist Programme Party era. It was about a 40-year-old farmer. One day, a group of students from Yangon University reached his village and started to teach the elderly people how to read and write Burmese script. After 40 years without literacy, the farmer finally learned how to write and wrote a letter of appreciation to his beloved teachers. The joy the man achieved from learning to write was immense. The movie was popular and the actor won an Academy Prize for his role as the farmer.

Similar to this story, two years ago one of my distant aunts showed me a letter from her son who is working in Malaysia and asked me to read it. I was quite surprised. She was 60 years old and not literate. I had not realized that in my own family there were those who could not read and write. It seemed to me that one cannot survive in this modern world without this skill. There are millions in Burma in this position and their survival is obviously marginal.

A quick read? Retail booths called "Media Corners" (in background) are being built by the Myanmar Writers and Journalists Association in six townships in Rangoon. The media corners will sell newspapers, magazines, books, phone cards and computer accessories. Photo: Mizzima

Our country is usually ranked high in the worldwide literacy index at 89.9 per cent, according to the CIA Factbook. It is much higher than neighbouring countries Bangladesh, 47.9 per cent, India, 61 per cent, and Laos 73 per cent. However, Thailand has better rankings at 92 per cent. Despite this ranking, the Burmese government holds on to its own claim of 93.3 per cent and proudly declares it is one of the best scores in Asia.

Out of around 60 million people living in Burma, 6 million are unable to read and write. Such a figure is greater than the number of inhabitants of the biggest city in Burma, Yangon (Rangoon). Therefore, the need for literacy is a challenge for our country.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) says one in five adults in the world is still not literate and about two-thirds of them are women. Those who lack literacy number a massive 800 million—three times the population of the United States.

This challenge of tackling illiteracy does not receive sufficient attention amid other global problems, such as terrorism and global warming. It is of utmost importance that we do not forget one problem just because another problem exists.

Since 1966, the UN has marked September 8 as International Literacy Day. The UN also assigned the years 2003 to 2012 as the United Nations Literacy Decade. One of the Millennium Development Goals was to achieve universal primary education by 2015.
Literacy and education are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN and various governments around the world are working to fulfill this basic human right.

In the past, the Burmese government was also truly devoted to elimination of illiteracy. UNESCO even awarded Burma with two literacy prizes. One of them was the Mohammad Reza Pahlevi Prize in 1971 for the voluntary participation of students and youths in the literacy movement and the second was the Noma Literary Prize in 1983 for post literacy literature and activities.

Today, we are not clear on the priority the Burmese government gives to the literacy issue. Reports show the government spent only a small percentage of its overall budget for education in comparison with a large percentage for the military.

The government should be more involved and devoted to the promotion of education rights in parallel with the rest of the world. The government should co-operate with international donors in promoting literacy and education.

Self-applause regarding Burmese literacy ranking should not be a priority. Instead, the government’s emphasis should be on educational opportunities. The joy of literacy should be extended to every farmer in the country. Then they will be able to play an Academy Prize-winning role in their real lives.

Evan is a pseudonym for a commentator living in Burma.

Mandalay flood victims taking refuge wherever they can find it

Tuesday, 30 August 2011 22:30 Zwe Khant

New Delhi (Mizzima) – After heavy flooding in Mandalay for more than a week, hundreds of flood victims are now living in monasteries and temporary camps and compounds in the city.

Sainyaungso (meaning Green) members help flood
victims in Aungchanthar Quarter in Mandalay on
Monday, August 29, 2011. Photo: Saineyaungso
Presently, 357 people are living in the Pyinnyar Parami Monastery in Aungchantha Quarter; about 550 people are living in the compound of the Kuthodaw Pagoda; and about 250 people are in a temporary camp between 88th Street and 90th Street.

The Bawa Alinyaung group is providing help to flood victims in the Nyaunggwel Quarter who can not get to the camps. In the affected quarter, an estimated 7,000 out of 10,000 residents are flood victims, according Sayadaw U Ottama Thara, a monk who is a member of the Bawa Alinyaung group.

“In some locations, the water level has reached my chest. But, some people are going here and there [in the flood]. Some people were catching fish,” the monk said.

Government departments are distributing food packets to the victims, said residents. Local charity groups, private donors, a blood donor group and the Saneyaungso charity organization are also distributing food packets, biscuits and drinking water.

“Nearly every day, there are about 200 patients in a clinic. Children have suffered from diarrhea,” said Sayadaw U Ottama Thara.

With the cooperation of the Bawa Alinyaung group, a health service comprising 16 people including eight doctors is providing health services to the flood victims. Members of Red Cross in the Mandalay Region Health Department are also going to the camps to provide health services.

The flood was caused by incessant rain during the third week of August. In the Nyaunggwel Quarter, the Mandalay Municipality was pumping water from the quarter into the Irrawaddy River using 11 water pumps, residents said.

However, the government did not supplying fuel to operate the water pumps, and private donors had to step in to provide fuel, according to the residents.

“Some donated one or two gallons of fuel. We run the water pumps with the fuel. When the fuel runs out, we cannot pump the water,” a resident from the quarter told Mizzima.

In 2010, floods also hit Mandalay because of incessant heavy rain. Flooding affects Mandalay during the rainy season each year. The rainfall in Mandalay in August was one inch higher than the total rainfall in the month for the past 24 years. According to observations by the Upper Burma Metrology and Hydrology Department, the rainfall in Mandalay on August 23 was 7.99 inches.

Some banned Web sites now accessible in Burma

Tuesday, 30 August 2011 21:25 Tun Tun

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Some previously banned Web sites including Mizzima’s Burmese language Web site and other exile-based news Web sites and blogs are now accessible in Burma. IT experts could not explain the new availability and warned that it could be temporary.

The English language Web site of Mizzima is still banned, however.

Likewise, the Norway-based DVB (Democratic Voice of Burma) Web site’s Burmese section and the BBC, RFA and VOA Web sites are still banned in Burma.

An Internet user in Rangoon looks at the Mizzima Burmese language Web site. The English language version is still banned. Photo: Mizzima

Since the 2007 Saffron Revolution, the government has banned news Web sites of exile-based opposition media, some international news agencies’ Web sites and opposition-oriented blogs. Certain Web sites have been banned since 2000. However, many people in Burma visit the banned Web sites using proxy servers.

According to tests made by Mizzima reporters in Rangoon on Tuesday, the Web sites of CNN, the English- language Bangkok Post and Reuters are still banned.

Currently, two Internet service providers (ISP) are located in Burma: Myanmar Post and Telegraph (MPT) and Yadanabon Teleport. The You Tube Web site can be visited through MPT, which is mostly used by the business community, and Yadanabon Teleport, which is mostly used by Internet cafés. At the same time, the Mizzima TV Web site is accessible and offers TV news programmes and videos now.

The BBC Burmese Service Web site is still not available, but people can access the BBC World Service and also the mail Web sites of Hotmail and Yahoo.

Despite some opening up of banned Web sites, Internet users said that the speed is now slower than before. An Internet café shop owner said that the highest speed available on Tuesday was 50 Kbps.

There was no explanation of the increase in available Web sites. Some IT experts speculated that it was due to the maintenance of servers.

“Lifting the ban means lifting the ban on all Web sites by these ISPs. Some are still banned and some are now accessible. So we cannot say they lifted the ban on these Web sites,” said Maung Maung, a computer security post-graduate student.

Burma now has more than 400,000 Internet users and 802 registered Public Access Centres (PACs); 584 PACs are located in Rangoon City; 21 in Mandalay; and 197 are in other cities, according to statistics issued by Myanmar Info Tech at the end of February 2011.

The government imposes restrictions when granting a PAC license that bans visiting exile-based news and media Web sites. PACs are responsible for controlling leaks of news and information that could undermine state security. Violators could face up to five years in prison under the Official Secrets Act.

Reporters Sans Frontier (RSF) listed Burma as an enemy of the Internet because of the government’s restrictions and the imprisonment of bloggers and others who pass routine information using e-mail and other Internet services. The US-based Freedom House listed Burma as the second worst country in the world for Internet freedom.

Verdict expected soon in inheritance dispute between Suu Kyi, brother

Tuesday, 30 August 2011 18:30 Myo Thant

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The Burmese Supreme Court will issue a ruling soon in an inheritance suit involving the brother of Aung San Suu Kyi, who has appealed for an injunction to stop her from renovating her lakeside home.

Attorney Nyan Win, Suu Kyi’s lawyer, said her brother, Aung San Oo, lodged an appeal against the Rangoon Region High Court’s rejection of a request for a court order blocking Suu Kyi from renovating her family’s lakeside property.

Aung San Suu Kyi reads a book at the side of her family home, which is the subject of a lawsuit filed against her by her brother. Photo: Mizzima

“The case has reached the last stage,” said Nyan Win, and the court’s ruling could be delivered at any time now.

Attorneys for Aung San Oo and Suu Kyi testified before the Supreme Court in Rangoon on Tuesday morning.

The roof of Suu Kyi’s house on University Avenue Road was destroyed after Cyclone Nargis hit Burma in May 2008. The Rangoon Municipality permitted her to renovate the home, which underwent work from November 2008 to April 2010. Aung San Oo sought an injunction from the Rangoon Region High Court in January 2010 to halt the renovations of the house, which is an inheritance from their mother. The court rejected his plea in April 2010, and he appealed to the Supreme Court in Rangoon Region on May 13, 2010.

The late Prime Minister U Nu gave the colonial-era house to Khin Kyi, Suu Kyi’s and Aung San Oo’s mother, while she served as envoy to India. Since 1988, Suu Kyi has lived in the house in Bahan Township.

Aung San Oo had filed a lawsuit against Aung San Suu Kyi in 2001 for manipulating the inheritance.

On August 8, Suu Kyi filed a lawsuit against Aung San Oo for an interview he gave to the Rangoon-based Monitor Journal, in which he said he won his lawsuit against Suu Kyi. She also sued Hla Myint Swe, the publisher of the journal, and chief editor Myat Khaing.

Nyan Win told Mizzima that the Rangoon Region High Court had accepted Suu Kyi’s lawsuit.

Suu Kyi article suppressed by Burma’s censorship board

Tuesday, 30 August 2011 15:44 Kyaw Kha

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s first effort to publish an article in a Burmese journal has been censored, and she has withdrawn it from publication. The article was about her personal pilgrimage to Bagan, the ancient temple complex in central Burma.

The Burmese censorship board is typically referred to as the “Press Kempeitai” by the literary community, which refers to the Japanese army’s brutal military police wing that was part of the occupation forces in Burma during World War II.

An undated picture of the Burmese
opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
An article by her for a local Burmese
journal has been censored, and she
has decided not to publish the article.
Photo: Mizzima
Suu Kyi gave the Rangoon-based People’s Era Journal the article about her trip to Bagan earlier this year. The censorship board told the journal to remove several paragraphs of the article.

When the journal informed Suu Kyi that her article could not be published unless those paragraphs were removed, she withdrew the article, the journal’s editor Maung Wun Tha told Mizzima.

“As usual, the censorship board told us to remove certain paragraphs. When they tell us to remove something in articles written by us, we remove them,” Maung Wun Tha said.

Maung Wun Tha did not disclose the contents of the paragraphs to be cut from Suu Kyi’s article.

Pe Myint, the chief editor of People’s Era, said that the journal would appeal the decision and try to publish the entire article by Suu Kyi.

“We will talk with the board and resubmit the article again. If the circumstances improve, the article will be allowed,” Pe Myint told Mizzima. The article is one page in length, he said.

Suu Kyi’s article about her trip to Bagan has already been published in English by The Mainichi Daily News in Japan.

An official at the censorship board said that Suu Kyi’s article was in a “postponed status,” and there was a possibility to publish it at an opportune time in the future.

“For instance, there are six paragraphs in an article. If four out of the six paragraphs conflict with policy, we have to remove them. So, just two paragraphs are not enough to be published and the whole story cannot be used. Now, the article is in a ‘postponed status’. The article has not been banned permanently. There is a possibility to publish it. Now, we are reading it again and scrutinizing it,” the official said.

President Thein Sein said in his opening speech to Parliament early this year that the government will respect the role of the media, traditionally the fourth pillar of a country, and he urged publications to present information that people needed to know. He said that constructive suggestions offered by the media should be respected, and suggestions and criticism of the government by the media would be welcomed as a step in establishing freedom of the press,

Lower House Speaker Thura Shwe Mann said at the opening session of the second regular session of Parliament, which started on August 22, that media would be permitted to compile news about parliamentary sessions. Despite his statement, the censorship board has removed certain criticisms of government policies, said local journalists who cover the parliamentary sessions.

Burmese writers organize to protect works of prolific writer Paragu

Tuesday, 30 August 2011 11:18 Mizzima News

Rangoon (Mizzima) – Hundreds of books written by one of Burma’s most popular authors have been subject to copyright infringement, but the works will now be protected by his friends in the literary community.

Lawyer Aung Soe Oo said that a committee, called the “Literature Police,” would protect Paragu’s books from future copyright infringement and try to regain royalties.

Artist Myo Khin (Htan Yeik Nyo), left, and writer
Ledwinthar Saw Chit, right, are members of a
committee to protect the late writer Paragu’s
books from copyright infringement.
Photo: Mizzima
Paragu wrote 145 books. The committee was formed to make the reprinting of his books more organized and systematic, to protect the works from future copyright infringement and to raise funds for the Paragu Shantiniketan Library. The writer died at the age of 89 on April 9, 2011.

“His books are commercially exploited,” said Aung Soe Oo, and the committee will conduct an investigation on copyright violations.

A ceremony to form the committee was held in Rangoon on Monday. Aung Soe Oo cited two of Paragu’s books, “Chitralekha” and “Visalee,” that were re-edited and distributed five times without permission.

The committee’s secretary Ye Htet said that the money earned will be donated to the Paragu Shantiniketan Library, which the late writer established.

“He wrote in his will that the money from his books should be spent for the library,” Ye Htet said.

Writer Ko Tar will chair the committee. The vice chairmen are artist Myo Khin (Htan Yeik Nyo); and writer Min Kyawt Shein; secretaries are writers Ye Htet and Than Soe Naing; the trustee is Dr. Khin Mu Mu; the legal advisor is Aung Soe Oo and other members are poet and editor Thura Zaw, poet Saw Wai and Zaw Min Aye (Moesanpan).

Poet Saw Wai said that the committee would first try to negotiate with people who breached the copyrights.

“Some bookshops reprinted the books because of large demand. They knew that the books were out of stock because they are very familiar with the literary community. We will negotiate with them to avoid filing lawsuits,” he said.

Meanwhile, a similar committee to protect the works of writers Shwe Oo Daung, Lin Yone Thit Lwin and E Kyar Kway has been formed.

ABFSU to restart political activity in Burma to test new government

Tuesday, 30 August 2011 11:04 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – To test the new Burmese government’s openness to democracy, the student underground group All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) is ready to restart political activities inside the country.

A ceremony to mark the fourth anniversary of the revived
All Burma Federation of Student Unions was held on
Sunday at the home of Dr. Ne Win in Insein Township,
Rangoon. Photo: ABFSU
Han Win Aung, the group’s spokesman, said that to mark the fourth anniversary of the revived ABFSU, the pro-democracy student activists met on Sunday with more than 60 families of political prisoners in what it called a test of the new government. The ABFSU wants to be recognized as a legal organization, he said.

Without informing the authorities, the student activists organized a meeting with families of prisoners at the home of Phyo Phyo Aung, who is a member of the ABFSU, in Insein Township, Rangoon. In the meeting, parents of political prisoners discussed their sons and daughters and the current state of politics in Burma, especially in light of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s recent meetings with President Thein Sein and other government figures.

“We just want to test how the government will respond to our activity. It will show whether the two leaders are trying to negotiate just between themselves or trying to negotiate between the government and other organizations also and if these negotiations can help the people,” Han Win Aung said.

“This will be the beginning of our effort to start our activities in public with confidence. We do our work now unofficially, but we are active among the people and students to try to regain the organization’s role,” he said.

On May 8, 1936, the first students’ conference was held in Rangoon. The conference was organized by the Rangoon University Students’ Union, and it marked the formation of the All Burma Students’ Union (ABSU). In 1951, the ABSU changed its name to All Burma Federation of Student Unions to represent all students in Burma.

Among the topics discussed were the plight of political
prisoners and the current state of Burmese politics.
ABFSU members said they will renew their activities
inside the country to test the openness of the new
Burmese government. Photo: ABFSU
In 1962, the late General Ne Win’s “Revolution Council” launched a coup. On July 7, 1962, the army suppressed a peaceful demonstration by students in which many students were killed. The following morning the government dynamited the historic Student Union building.

In 1988, during widespread civil unrest and mass demonstrations in Burma, the ABFSU re-emerged under the leadership of student leaders including Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi, who are currently serving 65-year prison terms.

When the army launched a coup in 1988, many student leaders were arrested and many members fled to foreign countries.  In 2007, a new generation of students reorganized the ABFSU and named Kyaw Ko Ko its leader. In 2008, Kyaw Ko Ko was arrested and sentenced to eight years in prison.
Monday, August 29, 2011

The Sandalwood Evolution

Monday, 29 August 2011 11:40 Dr. Sein Myint

(Commentary) – Even though French perfumes had been introduced to the Ladies in the Court of Ava as early as 18th century, the sweet and soft sandalwood traditional fragrance has always been the favorite “tha-nat-khar” in Burma. Sandalwood bark is ground on a flat stone surface producing a watery perfume paste and was donned by most Burmese ladies until very recently. Naturally, we are familiar and used to a sandalwood smell radiating from our mothers and sisters in our homes.

Recently, the fall of Tripoli to the Libyan rebels has captured world media headlines and cable news networks along with the intense political drama played out in Washington DC. But at the same time, a soft and subtle “sandalwood evolution” has taken place in Naypyitaw, the capital of Burma, not mentioned in any world media headlines except for the Burmese exile news media and the Burmese news services of the VOA, RAF & BBC, and web blogs.

Lawmakers pose at the opening of the second regular session of the Burmese Parliament this month. Photo: Mizzima

Under the watchful eyes of exiled Burmese political dissidents and International Burma experts and observers, the new civilian government led by President Thein Sein, an ex-general and prime minster in previous military regimes, has ambivalently embarked upon the road to democracy with small steps taken in the right direction.

President Thein Sein has called upon the ethnic armed groups for cease-fire negotiations, invited exiles to return home, met with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to work together on common issues confronting the nation, and pledged to work on eliminating corruption and alleviating the poverty of the masses. The speakers of the Lower and Upper houses, Thuya Shwe Mann and Khin Aung Myint, recently met UN human rights envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana and promised to promote and protect human rights and other related rights issues in on-going parliament sessions.

Reactions from Burmese political exiles, dissidents, ethnic armed groups and international Burma experts to these political developments ranged from a cautions welcome to outright rejection, with the majority adapting a wait-and-see attitude in the coming months.  Foremost among the issues is the release of political prisoners in order to achieve genuine national reconciliation.

There are many factors that might have influenced the minds of the leaders in Naypyitaw to embark upon steps towards a reform process. Many skeptics view it all as a staged show designed to present the civilian government in a favourable light to obtain international and regional recognition, especially eligibility for the up-coming Asean chairmanship. Ironically, these factors might have influenced the leaders in Naypyitaw to overcome their internal fears to engage the opposition in a political dialogue, perhaps with a push from the presidential advisory team of experts.

Similar to a Mount Everest climber who is constantly under imminent danger of avalanches, blizzards and storms, all political reform processes have slippery slopes and trenches littered with the skeletons of many reformers. Just like a climber who looks for a window of favourable weather to reach the top, the stakeholders in the reform process should take this window of opportunity to achieve genuine national reconciliation while keeping vigilant to the dangers of potential political avalanches while trying to preserve the sweet and soft smell of sandalwood afloat in the land of pagodas.

Exiles put forward ‘benchmarks’ for Burma’s government


Monday, 29 August 2011 11:20 Mizzima News

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Burmese democracy activists in exile say they do not see the on-going interactions between Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese government as a “dialogue” but rather as “talks.”

Speaking at a seminar on "Democratization and Reconciliation: Burma at the Crossroads," the activists put forward three key benchmarks if Burma is to see real democratization.

“The release of 2,000 political prisoners, stopping the attacks against ethnic nationalities and holding an inclusive dialogue are the three benchmarks necessary for democratization and reconciliation in Burma,” said Khin Ohmar, a representative of the Thailand-based Forum for Democracy in Burma.

Conference on Democratization and Reconciliation: Burma At Crossroads at the India International Center, New Delhi, on Saturday, August 27, 2011

Supporting the call of the country’s armed ethnic groups for a nation-wide cease-fire, Khin Ohmar said Burma continues to witness widespread human rights violations. “We call for establishing a ‘Commission of Inquiry’ as a way of ‘truth seeking’ and this has already been called for by three successive UN Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights in Burma, including Tomas Ojea Quintana who made the five-day visit to Burma ending on 25 August.”

Questioning whether recent developments in Burma, such as the release of Burma’s opposition leader Suu Kyi from house arrest in November and the Burmese President Thein Sein meeting with her represents a “real democratization process,” the activists said Burma needs a genuine political dialogue for peace.

“They seem not to be coming out for a real change. It seems the Burmese government is in total disarray,” said Nyo Ohn Myint, a leader of National League for Demcoracy (Liberated Area) based in Thailand.

Shirley Seng of the Kachin Women’s Association-Thailand highlighted the on-going abuses by the Burmese military in the ethnic minority areas and the coming together of ethnic armed groups including the Karen, Kachin, Mon, Shan and Chin under the banner of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) in February 2010.

“We, ethnic nationalities, want to live together within the Union provided that we have our own rights guaranteed. We work together with Aung San Suu Kyi and the democracy movement for a peaceful reconciliation,” Shirley Seng said in her discussion.

She noted that the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) had attempted several times since 1963 to open a dialogue with successive ruling military regimes in Burma, including during the 1994 cease-fire agreement, however all had failed because the central government was not interested in a “genuine political dialogue.”

The three-member delegation from Thailand-based Burmese activists is presently on a political tour to India to interact and meet with different sections of society including Indian members of Parliament and political parties.

Focusing on India, the world’s largest democracy and Burma’s neighbour, the Burmese activists at the seminar asked the Indian government to develop a pro-active Burma policy in support of democratization and reconciliation in Burma.

“India should impose an arms embargo against Burma, support the refugees and support the call for establishing a Commission of Inquiry (COI),” said Khin Ohmar, who noted that no Asian country has supported the call for a COI in Burma. Sixteen countries including Australia, Ireland and the United States have called for a COI.

Dr. Baladas Goshal, a senior researcher at New Delhi’s Centre for Policy Research, who supported the activists call for the release of political prisoners and respect for human rights, added that there needs to be two “legitimate forces” for a reconciliation to happen. “In Burma, both sides (the opposition movement and the Burmese regime) need to recognize each other,” Goshal said.

“Aung San Suu Kyi should not now insist on the 1990 election results. She now leads as a moderator and can reform the regime through a national reconciliation process,” he said. “The Western countries should lift the sanctions with certain conditions, for example, the release of political prisoners.”

Ghoshal and others highlighted the need for Burma to rebuild institutions that have been broken down since the military took power in 1962. “Education needs to be revived. And India, through soft power, can play a role,” Baladas Goshal said.

C.S. Kuppuswamy, representing the South Asia Analysis Group said, “Democratization and reconciliation have to come together. Ethnic issues have to be brought in to the democratic dialogue as well. This process (of democratization and reconciliation) will take longer than it took in Indonesia.”

Indian observers agreed that Suu Kyi was the only leader who enjoyed widespread support across the stakeholders in the country, and the exiled democracy movement also should look at “how best to use the kind of space they have now.” “The current situation needs to be looked at with hope for the future,” said Dr. K  Yhome, a research fellow at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation.

Raising important questions for the Burmese democracy movements, several academics pointed out that the “opposition movement” in Burma needs to look at the past and agree on a common vision for the future of Burma, saying that the West has practiced hypocrisy in various policies.

“When we talk of conflict in the ethnic areas, we need to look at the political economy of those areas. Were there any colonial roots in the conflicts,” said Dr. Vinay Lal, a professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). “When the Burmese (activists) refer to the term 'international community,' which countries do they refer to? When we think of why India should be thinking more about Burmese support, we need also to think about the shared civilization and political and historical ties between Burma and India,” he said.

“The democracy movement needs to look at its own credentials. It has to come up with a common vision. Since Burma is behind 60 to 70 years compared to other countries, it is fortunate to have an opportunity not to go through the same (routes) that others had. It [the movement] should re-imagine what it wants,” said Satya Sivaraman, a veteran Indian journalist.

Indian observers encouraged the Burmese democracy movement not to loose sight of the recent developments in the country, especially in the light of direct meetings and talks between the General-Secretary of National League for Democracy Suu Kyi and the President Thein Sein-led government.

“Yes they are talking now, not in a ‘dialogue.’ But you can persist in the talks that could lead to a dialogue. This could offer an opportunity to Aung San Suu Kyi (and the movement),” said B.G. Verghese, a keen observer on Burma and a veteran Indian journalist.

He also suggested that there should be “multiple dialogues” in all sections including parliamentarians and civil society groups to strengthen capacity building. “India does talk privately to the regime about democratization and national reconciliation in Burma. After all, more than 400,000 Indians, many of them stateless, are living in Burma,” he said.

Armed men fire rocket at Thanbyuzayat police station; no one injured

Monday, 29 August 2011 19:41 Kyaw Kha

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Using a 40 mm rocket launcher, two men opened fire on the Thanbyuzayat Township Police Station in southern Mon State on Monday. No one was injured, according to an officer at the police station.

About 10:40 a.m., a dark red motorcycle passed by the station and the passenger on back fired a 40 mm rocket launcher, according to officers.

“The person on the back seat fired, but he just hit just the fence of the police station,” said an officer who asked not to named. A search is underway by police and soldiers from Infantry Unit No. 62 in Thanbyuzayat.

The Karen National Union, New Mon State Party, Karen Peace Force and breakaway groups of the New Mon State Party are active in the area around Thanbyuzayat Township. In late June, there was a powerful time-bomb blast between the township leader’s residence and the office of the Military Affairs Security Unit in Thanbyuzayat. No one has been arrested in that incident.

Nearby, on May 14 at around 6:30 a.m. five armed men from an unknown group attacked a telephone exchange in Kyonefive Village near Mudon, injuring a security officer and several employees. A CDMA phone tower was damaged.

Burma-Bangladesh border dispute set for UN hearing

Monday, 29 August 2011 16:37 Thomas Maung Shwe

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - The United Nations’ International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) will begin hearings September 5 to resolve a heated maritime border dispute between Burma and Bangladesh.

Transocean International’s semi-submersible drilling rig,
the Actinia. Last year, the Actinia was contracted to
drill in Burmese waters. Photo: Mizzima
Burma’s long-running border dispute with Bangladesh has intensified in recent years as both countries sought to benefit from lucrative offshore oil and gas deposits.

The ITLOS hearings will take place in Hamburg, Germany where the organization is based. The process started in October 2009 when the Bangladeshi government submitted to the ITLOS a formal complaint against Burma regarding the "natural prolongation of the continental shelf and the baseline." Bangladesh has also submitted a similar complaint against India over the disputed maritime boundary both nations share.

Both parties are entitled to appoint a judge of their choice to be part of the panel of judges that will decide the case.  According to a press release issued by ITLOS, Bangladesh has chosen the Ghanaian jurist Thomas Mensah to be its judge ad hoc at the hearing while Burma has chosen an American law professor, Bernard H. Oxman.

According to the Dhaka-based Daily Star newspaper, Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Dipu Moni will lead her country’s delegation at the hearing.  It is unclear if Burma’s newly installed Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin will take part in the hearings.  Declared a “key interlocutor” by the European Union, Wunna Maung Lwin is exempted from the EU travel ban imposed on most of the leading figures in the Burmese regime and is therefore free to travel to Germany for the hearings.

2008 Burmese-Bangladesh naval standoff over gas drilling

On November 2, 2008, the Bangladeshi government announced that the previous day its naval vessel the BNS Nirvoy detected the Burmese navy escorting four drilling ships and a tug pulling the 100-metre-long drill rig Transocean Legend in waters claimed by Dhaka.   The rig, owned and operated by the Swiss American offshore drilling firm Transocean, was under contract to conduct exploratory drilling work for Korea’s Daewoo International.

Dhaka’s accusation that Burma had violated its sovereign maritime territory was the first sign of a serious diplomatic spat that followed with a costly and heated naval stand-off between two of the world’s poorest nations.

The next day November 3, Bangladeshi authorities in Dhaka summoned the Burmese ambassador to issue a strong protest and Bangladeshi’s military-backed interim government, furious at the Burmese regime’s actions, responded by sending four of its own naval ships to the disputed area.

The Bangladesh Navy had caught Transocean’s rig and its Burmese naval escorts in an area the Burmese regime had designated as the AD-7 offshore gas block. Transocean’s SEC filing revealed that Daewoo had hired the rig to conduct drilling exploration at a cost of US$ 424,000 a day. Daewoo and its partner firms Kogas, had bought rights to drill in AD-7 despite the fact that Bangladesh claimed it was their territory.

The joint State Peace and Development Council (SPDC)/Transocean incursion into the disputed waters came three weeks after Burmese Energy Minister Brigadier General Lun Thi had assured his Bangladeshi counterpart that Burma “would not conduct gas exploratory work in the disputed maritime boundary area until the issue was settled” between the two nations, the Bangladeshi daily newspaper New Age quoted him as saying, Lun Thi reportedly made the promise during an October 8, 2008, Dhaka meeting with Dr. M. Tamim, then serving as special assistant to the chief adviser for Bangladesh’s Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources.

Immediately after the Bangladeshi government went public with its complaints, forces from both sides mobilized along their shared land border. One Burmese naval official was quoted by Agence France-Presse on November 5 as saying: “We will try to solve this peacefully, but we are also ready to protect our country if needed … we will not tolerate being insulted, although we do want goodwill. We will continue with exploration.”

Burma’s regime officially responded to the Bangladeshi complaints in a defiant tone through the state-run newspaper, the New Light of Myanmar, declaring it would continue to operate in the disputed territory because Bangladeshi concerns were “mistaken and unlawful.” In an article published November 7, 2008, the newspaper declared that “Myanmar [Burma] rejected the mistakenly made demand of Bangladesh,” and therefore “in order to protect the interests of the country in line with international laws, Myanmar [Burma] will continue to do the work in Block No. AD-7 until its completion.” International law dictates that territorial disputes should be resolved first through peaceful means before drilling takes place.

Two days later, Daewoo, Transocean and the Burmese regime withdrew their vessels.  It was reported that the Korean and Chinese governments had intervened to de-escalate the situation. China is set to be the destination of most of the gas Daewoo and its partners extract from off Burma’s Arakan coast.

On December 15, about a month after the standoff, Reuters reported that a senior Burmese energy ministry official had revealed that test results from the disputed AD-7 block were “not very encouraging.” The anonymous official added, “We still need to dig four or five more test wells before we confirm the deposit is not commercially viable.” A Daewoo International report issued in March 2010 reveals, however, that the firm increased its stake in the contested block after its three partners pulled out. The report did not mention any exploration activity taking place in the disputed block since the standoff in November 2008.

Democratic Party–Myanmar to help people abused by authorities

Monday, 29 August 2011 21:18 Tun Tun

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Burmese citizens who have been abused by the government or businessmen can take their complaint to the Democratic Party (Myanmar) (DPM) and it will try to solve their problem.

The party has formed a committee on relations between Parliament and the public that plans to put forward complaints in the areas of health, society, education and business to the Parliament. Dr. Nyo Nyo Thin, an MP in the Rangoon Region Assembly, said the party had already received about 60 complaints from Rangoon Region. Twenty complaints were filed at the DPM office and the remainder were given to Dr. Nyo Nyo Thin. The DPM won three parliamentary seats in the 2010 general election.

“The problems may seem small to us. But these people have suffered, and the problems are really big for them," Nyo Nyo Thin told Mizzima.

Most of the cases involve land confiscation, disputes about ownerships of apartments, child soldier cases, human trafficking, violation of human rights and unfair trials, he said.

The eight-member committee comprises the party’s central executive committee members and MPs. The chairman is Aung Than Myint, a central executive committee member.

“They [the people] filed their complaints at the relevant departments, but nothing happened. So, they’ve asked for our help,” said party chairman Thu Wai.

The committee, formed in July, has an office at the party’s headquarters in Rangoon. In Mandalay, the party is providing similar help to people with complaints.

“They are very poor. Some of them came to the office on foot. One of them only had three sheets of 50 kyat. Without help, none of them could challenge the authorities,” Nyo Nyo Thin said.

To file a complaint, a person must provide comprehensive documents to determine whether the complaint is acceptable or not. Since the party only has Parliamentary seats in Rangoon Region Assembly, it will ask for help from other political parties who are members of the Friends of Democracy Group.

“If we would like to submit a bill, we transfer it to one MP who is a member of our alliance. If we would like to give upper or lower house speakers or deputy speakers a message, they [MPs of other parties] will forward it,” said Thu Wai, the DPM chairman.

The party is ready to submit two proposals to the second regular parliamentary session, which is now in session, and has prepared five questions or motions to submit to regional assemblies, according to committee members.

Shocking jail term indicates ‘business as usual’ for Burmese political prisoners

Monday, 29 August 2011 12:54 Mizzima News

(Editorial) – The verdict was like a slap in the face—10 years in jail.

Just when people were lulled into thinking the new Burmese government was showing openness, a special court in the notorious Insein Prison sentenced a blood donation group volunteer—pushed into the court in a wheelchair—for breaking the Electronics Act.

Former Burmese army captain Nay Myo Zin
sentenced to 10 years in prison for possessing
an e-mail critical of the military. Photo: Youth
Network For People
In a closed hearing on August 26 that his family was barred from attending, Nay Myo Zin, a former army officer, was sentenced to a lengthy prison term for possessing an e-mail critical of the military on his computer.

The verdict came just a day after UN envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana left Burma after a five-day visit in which he talked with the government about releasing political prisoners and was even allowed to visit Insein Prison, claiming conditions had improved. According to The New Light of Myanmar, the government indicated to Quintana a willingness to release some of the prisoners, though they were at pains to point out that Burma has “no political prisoners,” only prisoners who had committed crimes.

Quintana has long made a nuisance of himself with the Burmese authorities calling for the release of political prisoners. Right now there are said to be 1,995 people in prison in Burma whose only crime was to act out what the UN charter on human rights says should be universal––freedom of speech and conscience. But they were convicted by archaic laws that the authorities use to keep the people silent.

The case of Nay Myo Zin had been in process for four months and the judge was unlikely to be swayed by the recent real-politic of a government trying to show a clean face. Clearly, there is a disconnect between officials chasing down people who have broken Burma’s unjust laws and the leadership of President Thein Sein eager to burnish his country’s image on the world stage.

Superficially, change is in the air. The president recently met Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyitaw and her recent meetings with government minister Aung Kyi held a glint of promise that the government was willing to turn over a new leaf and consider reconciliation. Suu Kyi claimed the discussions had been “constructive.” There has even been talk of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy being allowed to re-register as a political party after its dissolution by the authorities.

But is this all smoke and mirrors?

Quintana, in a statement as he exited Burma, said “the government has taken a number of steps that have the potential to bring about an improvement in the human rights situation” in Burma. Note that word “potential.” No action yet.

Nay Myo Zin’s case is a reminder that it is “business as usual” for Burma’s rulers. The blood donation volunteer is no big league activist. The story is that he fell over in prison and injured his back. But given the nasty tales of brutality in Insein Prison, the question is whether the fall was accidental. More to the point, there should be fears for his health, given he fractured his lower vertebrae, which could leave him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life if not handled properly.

Just what was Nay Myo Zin’s crime? Possessing an e-mail critical of the Tatmadaw, a criticism of his former military colleagues?

Burma’s newly-elected government is propped up by the 2008 Constitution—offering the army the right to step in when they wish—and by the generals living behind their high walls in Naypyitaw who have a manic fear of dissension in their ranks.

So Nay Myo Zin’s case may be used as an example of what happens to those who try to stir up dissent in the military.

All this gives pause to question whether the recent meetings and photo opportunities are all a game.

Just because the president deigns to meet with Suu Kyi does not mean there will be meaningful change in a system designed to keep the generals living in luxury.

Nay Myo Zin’s case is a chilling reminder to the people not to step out of line.

Former Burmese army captain Nay Myo Zin sentenced to 10 years in prison for possessing an e-mail critical of the military. Photo: Youth Network For People.
Saturday, August 27, 2011

Former military officer sentenced to 10 years in prison under Electronics Act

Saturday, 27 August 2011 12:40 Te Te

New Delhi (Mizzima) - The day after the UN human rights envoy left Burma, a special court inside Insein Prison in Rangoon sentenced Nay Myo Zin, a leading volunteer in a blood donation group and a former military officer, to 10 years in prison for possession of an e-mail critical of the military.

Nay Myo Zin, a former Burmese Army
captain and an active volunteer in a
blood donor group, receives a 10-year
prison sentence. Photo: Youth
Network For People
The verdict was reached after a nearly four-month trial, and Nay Myo Zin’s family was not allowed to attend Friday’s one-hour closed hearing. Rangoon North District Judge Khin Maung announced the verdict, saying an article insulting the army was found in Nay Myo Zin’s e-mail account, according to defence attorney Hla Myo Myint.

Because of a lower back injury sustained during a fall in the prison, Nay Myo Zin appeared at the hearing in a wheelchair. According to lawyer Hla Myo Myint, Nay Myo Zin told the judge: “It is totally unfair that the court sentenced a young man who loyally did good things for the country to 10 years in prison. So, I will not make appeal.”

On the other hand, Nay Myo Zin’s lawyers, who members of the National League for Democracy, said they wanted to file an appeal.

“The prosecution could not show clearly that the authorities got the documents from him [Nay Myo Zin]. We argued that the seizure of his documents and computer were not done according to the law,” Hla Myo Myint said.

Nay Myo Zin’s e-mail contained critical comments on the army by Major Aung Lin Htut and NLD central executive committee member Win Tin, which were given to exile media. The comments said that the minds of today’s soldiers were in turmoil, according to sources. Other details were not known.

Nay Myo Zin, 35, resigned from the army as a captain in 2005, after serving nearly 10 years. He is not a member of any political party. He was an active volunteer in a blood donation group before he was arrested. Because of his lower back injury, he was sent from Insein Prison to an orthopedic hospital in Kyimyindine Township in Rangoon Region one week ago.

Nay Myo Zin, the owner of an Internet café, was arrested at his home in South Dagon Township by special police on April 2. Two weeks later, authorities seized his mobile phone and a computer in his home.

He was arrested without an arrest warrant, and he was detained for more than three weeks without being taken before a magistrate. The Asian Human Rights Commission issued a statement in late April saying that Burmese authorities had violated his rights as a citizen according to the 2008 Constitution.

The South Dagon BG blood donation group said that when recent meetings between pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and government officials were underway, they questioned why higher officials appeared to hold one set of views and lower officials another.

Nyi Nyi, a leader of the blood donation group, said, “The inferior officials are spoiling the things that the superior officials do.”

The Electronics Act, which is often used to prosecute people for human rights activities, was imposed in 2004 under the former junta led by Senior-General Than Shwe. Under the Electronics Act, a person who undermines state security, community peace and tranquility or national solidarity can be sentenced from seven to of 15 years in prison.
Friday, August 26, 2011

Opposition MPs in Burma move to release ‘prisoners of conscience’

Friday, 26 August 2011 11:56 Myo Thant

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – A member of Parliament took a new semantic approach on Thursday in a motion asking the Burmese government to release all political prisoners.

Lower House MP Thein Nyunt made a motion to release all  “prisoners of conscience” instead. For decades, Burma’s governments have denied the existence of political prisoners, saying such prisoners were convicted under existing laws and regulations.

MP Thein Nyunt in a file photograph Photo: Mizzima
“Since the government refuses to acknowledge the existence of political prisoners, we had to use ‘prisoners of conscience’ to make the motion eligible in Parliament,” said Lower House MP Khain Khin Maung Yee.

Thein Nyunt made a similar motion in the first session of Parliament in March, but it was rejected because news of the motion had leaked to the media before being moved in Parliament, which violated the body’s rules.

“All of those who worked for change in the country are political prisoners. But they [the government] claim there are no political prisoners in the country. The cases charged the prisoners with the Unlawful Associations Act, high treason, sedition and the 1975 Law for Safeguarding the Nation from the Danger of Subversive Elements. They are regarded as political offenses in the country.

"I believe all of these people are being detained or imprisoned for their political conscience and in the view of State Security they are political prisoners,” Thein Nyunt told Mizzima.

A recent presidential order that commuted all prison sentences by one year issued in May 2011 was not sufficient, Thein Nyunt told lawmakers while introducing his motion.

In a second motion on Thursday, Thein Nyunt moved that the Lower House deliberate the creation of a “Prison Bill for the 21st Century,” which would guarantee human dignity to all prisoners. The motion will be deliberated on Friday.

A motion by Thein Nyunt on Wednesday to repeal the Contempt of Court Act was rejected by lawmakers on Thursday.

MPs raised the following questions in the Lower House on Thursday:

––MP Thein Nyunt asked whether the government had a plan to resume the blaring of sirens on Martyrs’ Day. Information Minister Kyaw Hsan answered that the authorities could not resume the practice since there were so many motor vehicles on the roads and highways now.

––Rangoon Region Insein constituency MP Aye Myint raised a question whether the government had a plan to increase the prize money in the National Literary Award. Information Minister Kyaw Hsan said that the government had no plan to increase the awards, and it had already increased the prize money to 800,000 kyat (US$ 1,111) from 600,000 kyat (US$ 833).

––Kunhing constituency MP Nan War Nu asked about the government’s plan to bring about ethnic unity and peace. Information Minister Kyaw Hsan replied that a Peace Committee and been formed and talks were underway.

––MP Soe Win asked about the government taking action against brothels. Union Minister Ko Ko said the government had taken actions in 2,952 cases related to sex workers and 1,591 cases of women working in karaoke bars.

In Upper House business on Thursday, a motion by MP Dr. Mya Oo on Wednesday to improve rural healthcare was accepted on Thursday, and it will be deliberated in a joint session of Parliament.

––MP Saw Tun Myint Aung raised a question on whether the government had a plan to reopen Hpapun Airport. Construction Minister Khin Maung Myint replied that currently there was no such plan because of security reasons.

Parliament sessions started on Thursday at 10 a.m. The Lower House concluded at 2 p.m.; the Upper House concluded at 4 p.m.

Burmese gov’t tells UN envoy more amnesty releases for prisoners likely

Friday, 26 August 2011 22:34 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – More amnesty releases are likely to be granted to prisoners in Burmese jails, government officials reportedly told Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, when they met in Naypyitaw this week.

An aerial view of Burma's Insein Prison in Rangoon.
Government officials reportedly told UN envoy
Tomas Ojea Quintana this week that more prisoners
would be granted amnesty at a future date.
Photo: Mizzima
Upper House Speaker Khin Aung Myint reportedly told Quintana that he believed releasing Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest and engaging her in a dialogue with government officials was for the benefit of the country, and releasing other prisoners would offer similar benefits. The chairman of the Union Election Commission also reportedly said that Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy could apply to form a political party and contest in elections.

Khin Aung Myint reportedly said more prisoners would be released when it was certain they would not endanger the peace and stability of the state.

During Quintana’s five-day visit to Burma, he met a wide range of government leaders including the speakers of the lower and upper houses of Parliament, government ministers, the chief justice, attorney general, Election Commission chairman and vice police chief.

An article on Friday in the New Light of Myanmar, a state-run newspaper, provided some details of Quintana’s conversations with officials, including  Chief Justice Tun Tun Oo, who reportedly said, “There are no prisoners serving a sentence for their beliefs; prisoners are all serving their terms for the crimes they have committed.” He said that that the Criminal Law (the Indian Penal Code) was enacted in Burma in 1861, and it is still in force.

The UN human rights envoy used the term “prisoners of conscience” in his discussions with government officials to avoid the term “political prisoners,” which has never been accepted by successive Burmese governments. Officials referred only to “prisoners” in their talks with Quintana.

Home Minister Lieutenant General Ko Ko, reportedly said: “On the prisoners issue, the number is different between the government’s figures and the resources of Mr. Quintana.” Referring to some names listed as political prisoners, he said that there are more than 100 prisoners convicted of drug trafficking, murder, bombings, insurgency and other acts. “Some prisoners are serving sentences because they smuggled a large amount of narcotic drugs when they were arrested, so that the prisoners on Mr. Quintana’s list” is really not clear, he said.

Nevertheless, Lieutenant General Ko Ko said it could be expected some of these prisoners would be granted amnesty in the future.

Labour, Social Welfare and Resettlement Minister Aung Kyi reportedly told Quintana that in the future Aung San Suu Kyi together with her National League for Democracy party would participate in “realizing Myanmar [Burma] issues.” Suu Kyi and the government would carry out national tasks on a reciprocal basis, he said.

Union Election Commission Chairman Tin Aye reportedly said that Suu Kyi could apply to form a political party in accordance with the law.

Defence Minister Major General Hla Min reportedly defended the government’s position on the recruitment of child soldiers’ issue, but he admitted, “Due to faults of individual recruiters and others, there were some child soldiers in the armed forces.”

A committee was formed to look into the cases, he said, and as of June, 2,317 minors had been sent back to their parents and 597 minors were allowed to resign from the military forces. Actions were taken against 21 officers and 156 other ranks involved in such cases, he said. Out of 389 child recruitment cases taken up by the International Labour Organization, the government took action in 182 cases and 177 Tatmadaw (armed forces) officers who violated the rules for recruiting soldiers had been dealt with, he said.

Hla Min reportedly refuted accusations that members of the armed forces raped ethnic women, saying the accusations were used by opposition groups and insurgents as a tool to defame the armed forces. Punishment for rape case was harsh, he said.

Regarding the use of landmines, Hla Min said, “It was insurgents who used land mines, and they use land mines as a tactic because they are not strong enough to face the Tatmadaw.”

Vice Police Chief Colonel Zaw Win said human rights courses were now included in the syllabus of the police academy, and officials were now distributing the universal human rights declaration, the UN Convention on Human Rights and a code of conduct book and manuals for investigating cases involving children.

Upper House speaker Khin Aung Myint reportedly told Quintana that as a democratic country, Burma would hold an “International Democracy Day” on September 15.

Japan to accept Burmese refugees from Umpiem camp

Friday, 26 August 2011 19:37 Tun Tun

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Japan will accept the first batch of Burmese refugees from Umpiem refugee camp, the second largest refugee camp on the Thai-Burmese border, in September 2013.

Camp officials, said: “In September 2012, Japan will scrutinize the list of refugees. In September 2013, they [the first batch of refugees] will leave from the camp [for Japan],” Saw Wah Htee, the chairman of the Umpiem refugee camp committee, told Mizzima.

Relevant Japanese officials and officials of the Mae Sot [on the Thai side of the Moei River opposite Myawaddy] branch of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) visited the refugee camp in Tak Province in July and met with 200 refugees who are interested in resettling in Japan. Earlier, Japan accepted refugees from the Mae La refugee camp, the largest on the Thai-Burmese border.

The Japanese government has not disclosed that how many refugees it will accept. Currently, more than 25,000 people live in the Umpiem refugee camp located 75 km south of Mae Sot. Among them, 11,404 people are recognized by the UNHCR and the remainder have applied for refugee status with the UNHCR. Japan said that it would not accept people over age 60 or the handicapped. There are 140 refugees over age 70, and 100 who are handicapped in the Mae La camp, according to officials.

“There are three options for the refugees; going back to Burma, living in Thailand and resettling in a resettlement country. Among them, resettling in a resettlement country is the only option for a brighter future,” said Saw Wah Htee.

He said most refugees would like to resettle in the US; to resettle in Japan requires a longer time. The Umpiem refugee camp was set up in 1999; it has 16 quarters. More than 10,000 refugees from the camp have resettled in resettlement countries; 75 percent of them went to the US and the rest have resettled in Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Norway, Canada and England.

Recently, Thai authorities gave instructions to officials at the Umpiem camp to compile a list that included four areas; the number of refugees who want to return Burma, the number of Burmese refugees who have already arrived in resettlement countries, the number of refugees who have applied to resettlement countries and the number of refugees who want to continue to live in Thailand.

Saw Wah Htee said that they had prepared a list with the education backgrounds of refugees and had made a list of people who were born in Thailand. A final list will be submitted to camp officials by September 7. Because of the instructions, refugees in the camp are concerned that Thai authorities will close the camp sometime in the future.

NLD leader Win Tin declines to participate in press award committee

Friday, 26 August 2011 12:23 Tun Tun

New Delhi (Mizzima) – A National League for Democracy leader says he will not take part in a Burmese group that says it will hand out national-level press awards. NLD central executive committee member Win Tin said he should not participate because he is a member of a political and civic group.

Win Tin, a former journalist who is now a leader in the
National League for Democracy, said he will not join a
media group that will present national-level journalism
awards in early 2012. Photo: Mizzima
On August 18, the Myanmar Writers and Journalists Association (MWJA), private media journalists and some officials of the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD) announced the formation of a national press award committee whose plan is to present five awards.

The awards include best news article award, best feature, best news photo and best cartoon. The awards will be selected from news published in 2011 and be presented in February 2012. The organizing group has met opposition from some journalists on privately owned publications, who say the group has ties to the government and may not be objective.

“Yes, I’m a former journalist. But, they formed the awards assessment group with only people from the writers and journalists’ community. If a person of a party joins the group, I’m afraid it would have an adverse effect in the long run,” Win Tin said.

Officials from the national press award committee will not be included in the group that determines the actual awards, officials said. More than 20 people have been invited to join the committee that will determine the awards, but their names have not yet been disclosed.

“We will hold a formal meeting, and then we will release a press release to disclose the details,” Ko Ko (RIT), the secretary of the award committee, said.

The  PSRD director-general Myo Myint Aung, a former colonel and PSRD deputy director Tint Swe, are included in the organizing committee.

Meanwhile, the Eleven Media Group based in Rangoon has released a statement that it objected to the label “national level press award.” It was too early to present such awards, which should only be awarded after an independent Burmese journalists’ organization has been formed. Such an organization should not be influenced by the government, political parties, political beliefs or business organizations, said a statement on the Eleven Media Group Web site.

“A media group that gives out such awards should be truly objective and of the highest quality. If a group or person is beholden to outside parties, there could be bias and favouritism,” an editor in Burma said on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, officials with the foreign-based Burmese Media Association (BMA) said Burmese journalists should form independent media unions that do not include government officials to promote the media sector and improve the qualifications of journalists.

“I think we can create a media community in accordance with international standards. A media union that is independent and free from the influence of the government or a group should exist in Burma,” Zin Lin, the BMA vice chairman told Mizzima.

Eleven Media Group suggested that if media unions were formed, the leaders should be respected journalists who want to protect the rights of journalists and the press.

NLD central executive committee member Win Tin said: “I believe in independent media unions. We’ll would all be better off if we could establish independent unions.”
Thursday, August 25, 2011

Four Burmese political parties discuss political prisoners with UN envoy

Thursday, 25 August 2011 21:09 Mizzima News

Rangoon (Mizzima) – Four allied political parties including the Democratic Party (Myanmar) met with UN special rapporteur for human rights in Burma Tomas Ojea Quintana on Thursday to discuss the release of all political prisoners.

UN human rights envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana
talks to the press at Yangon International
Airport on August 21, as he arrived in Burma
for the first time in more than a year for talks
with senior government officials. He has been
a vocal critic of Burma's rulers, enraging the
generals after his last trip by suggesting that
human rights violations in the country may
amount to crimes against humanity and could
warrant a UN inquiry. Photo: AFP
Quintana told the politicians that the government had a fear of releasing political prisoners, said Democratic Party (Myanmar) (DPM) chairman Thu Wei.

“We hoped for the release of the political prisoners, but he said that the government told him that they had a fear that a release would lead to social unrest again, when he discussed the issue with officials in Naypyitaw,” Thu Wei said.

Thu Wei, Democracy and Peace Party chairman Aung Than, All Mon Region Democracy Party (AMRDP) central committee member Khin Maung and National Democratic Force (NDF) chairman Dr. Than Nyien met the UN special envoy at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) office in Rangoon from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on Thursday.

Opposition groups at home and abroad say that the release of almost 2,000 political prisoners is a key step in confidence building between the opposition and the new government. The issue has dominated Quintana’s current visit to Burma.

A member of the Democracy and Peace Party said, “The current situation has changed a little bit. They [the government] commuted one year from all prison terms first, and they recently invited opposition members in exile to come back home. The remaining issue is releasing the political prisoners.”

During his five-day visit to Burma to investigate the current human right situation, Quintana has met ministerial-level government officials, Parliament speakers and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. He left Rangoon on Thursday evening.

NDF chairman Dr. Than Nyein said, “As I see him, Quintana understands the current situation. He understands some things are leading to change. Previously, he strongly criticized the human rights situation in Burma.”

In his meeting with the four allied parties, the recruitment of child soldiers and forced labour issues were also discussed. No details of the discussion were disclosed.

Activist stages solo protest in Burma to release all political prisoners

Thursday, 25 August 2011 20:19 Zwe Khant
New Delhi (Mizzima) – A pro-democracy activist in Twante Township in Rangoon urged the Burmese government to release all political prisoners by holding a placard and walking down Twante’s main road from 9 to 9:45 a.m. on Tuesday.

Burmese students in London staged a hunger strike in front of the Burmese embassy on Sunday to call for the release of all political prisoners. Photo: Mizzima

Aung Pe, wearing a blue prison uniform and holding a 2-by-3-foot placard which said “Releasing political prisoners exercises the most fundamental human right [in blue text],” walked from the Independence Column to downtown Twante.

“I want to raise public awareness. At that particular time, it [downtown] was crowded. Initially, I went in front of a police station. Then, I made a turn and walked along Bogyoke Road. Bogyoke Road is the main road in Twante. Especially, it is very crowded near the market. I attracted a lot of public attention when they read my placard,” Aung Pe told Mizzima.

Aung Pe, a well-known private teacher in Twante, has been arrested at least six times for his political protests, he said. On Tuesday, the authorities took his photograph but did nothing to block his protest, he said.

“I want all the political prisoners released. Political prisoners have suffered the most serious violations of their human rights. I am a former political prisoner so I sympathize with them,” he said.

“I selected a time to protest when Quintana [the UN envoy] had arrived in Burma. He is a rapporteur for human rights, and he observes which human rights have been violated in Burma.”

Aung Pe’s teaching license was revoked and since his release from prison, he has not been allowed to teach. He was imprisoned for pro-democracy activities in 2005, 2008 and 2009, he said.

Meanwhile in other protests, pro-democracy activists led by UK-based 88-generation Burmese students staged a 24-hour hunger strike in front of the Burmese embassy in London on Sunday to honour 88-generation student leaders Min Ko Naing and his colleagues who were arrested four years ago, on August 21, 2007.

Ten Burmese students in London and two foreigners took part in the hunger strike.

“The current Burmese government led by President Thein Sein said they were holding a dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi. Does the government really want to have a dialogue?” asked Htet Khaung, the organizer of the hunger strike. “When they say they are a democratic government, they need to release more than 2,000 political prisoners have been unlawfully imprisoned.”

The UK-based 88-generation student group distributed pamphlets containing Suu Kyi quotations and brief biographies of political prisoners to onlookers. During the hunger strike, they shouted slogans such as “Release political prisoners immediately! Release Min Ko Naing immediately! May Thein Sein’s government fall from power!”

The hunger strike ended at noon on Monday.