Friday, September 30, 2011

Speech on environment by cartoonist Aw P Kyel suspended

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Friday, 30 September 2011 22:15 Te Te

New Delhi (Mizzima) – A scheduled speech to the Myanmar Fisheries Federation (MFF) by cartoonist Aw P Kyel has been suspended by authorities. Three days before the order, the MFF requested him not to talk about matters regarding Myitsone Dam, he told Mizzima.

“As soon as I heard that [the government] decided to halt the Myitsone project, the fisheries federation called me. They said the authorities ordered them to suspend the literary talk,” said Aw P Kyel.

He said, “The MFF has organized literary talks for many years, so they have a lot of experience. MFF officials cancelled the arrangement because the authorities sent the order and they [MFF officials] cannot refuse it.”

Aw P Kyel, a well-known conservationist, had planned to deliver a speech titled “Help in Pushing” that would have covered topics regarding environmental conservation and Burma’s current status among neighbouring countries.

“For instance, if the wheels of a bullock cart are stuck in mud, we cannot move forward. The country cannot improve. To improve, we need to struggle from the mud. I had planned to talk about it. I’ve talked about it for two or three months [in previous speeches],” he said.

The MFF and the Myanmar Shrimp Association jointly invite writers and scholars every two weeks to deliver speeches at the MFF headquarters.
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Activist group calls for cancellation of seven dams on Irrawaddy River

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Friday, 30 September 2011 21:49 Mizzima News

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burma Rivers Network (BRN) released a press statement on Friday saying that China Power Investment must cancel not only the Myitsone Dam project, but all seven dam projects on the Irrawaddy River.

The statement said that it was encouraged by Burmese President Thein Sein's decision on Friday to halt the construction of the Myitsone Dam, but it wanted to see China Power Investment (CPI) remove all its personnel and equipment from the dam construction site.

An artist's conception of the controversial Myitsone Dam project on the Irrawaddy River, which is the subject of increasing protests by environmental groups.

“Only their actions will confirm whether the dam is indeed suspended,” the statement said. It also urged that villagers who had been forced to move to a relocation camp because of the construction of the dam should be allowed to return to their homes.

Ah Nan, the assistant BRN coordinator, said in the statement, “Until the Chinese project holders publicly declare their cancellation of the Myitsone Dam and pull out from the dam site, we must assume the project is going ahead.”

China Power Investment Corporation (CPI) is a Chinese state-owned electrical company that partnered with Burma’s state power utility Myanma Electric Power Enterprise (MEPE) and the Burmese conglomerate Asia World.

"BRN also urges continued pressure on the military government and the CPI to immediately cancel the other six mega-dams planned on the Irrawaddy source rivers, which will have the same devastating impacts on the country," said the statement.

BRN said that even if construction of the dam is halted and the project cancelled, the group's campaign to stop all seven hydropower dams at the source of Burma's largest river will continue.

"Building these six dams will also cause irreparable environmental destruction, unpredictable water surges and shortages, and inflict social and economic damage to the millions who depend on the Irrawaddy. Thousands of Kachin villagers will also be forced to relocate," the statement said.

BRN sent a letter to the President Hu Jintao of China, urging him to reconsider China's dam policy in Burma and to conduct proper environmental and social impact studies in the areas surrounding the dam sites, Mizzima reported in December 2007.

"If the Myitsone project is indeed cancelled, this would be a great victory for the people of Burma, especially the brave villagers at the Myitsone site who stood up to the Burmese Army and refused to make way for the project," said the BRN statement.
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Seven suspects arrested in connection with kidnappers’ group

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Friday, 30 September 2011 21:23 Mizzima News

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Authorities have arrested seven suspects in connection with an armed group that has staged a series of kidnappings in the Three Pagoda Pass area in Karen State, Burma.

Troops of the Three Pagoda-based Burmese Infantry Unit No. 32 arrested seven people last week including the owner of a rubber plantation and turned them over to police, according to a source close to the issue.

“Some suspects had weapons and some of them had to be released because of a lack of evidence,” said a source who asked not to be identified.

One of those arrested, Nai Balai, 56, a member of the Mon Literature and Culture Association in Three Pagoda Pass Township, was released on bail that was guaranteed by a monk and community leaders on Thursday. The remaining six suspects have been detained in the police station, according to sources, who said a kidnapping group has been active in the area since early August.

In the name of the “Mon State Rehabilitation Force,” unidentified members extorted money by letters sent to 28 businessmen including owners of rubber plantations and gold shops, sources said.

On August 7, a group kidnapped a rubber plantation owner and his two employees in Ward No. 4 in Three Pagoda Pass and received a ransom of 50,000 baht (about US$ 1,600), sources said. At least four similar kidnappings were committed around Three Pagoda Pass. All the victims were rubber plantation owners.

On August 10, Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Saw Yan Naing of Infantry Unit No. 284, the township Administrative Office chief Thein Tun and 60 owners of rubber plantations held a meeting to try to solve the problem. They formed a “Three Pagoda Pass People’s Militant Group,” but its members could not protect residents from kidnappings.

“I’m afraid of being kidnapped. I’m afraid to go to my plantation,” said an owner of a rubber plantation.

On June 14, a group of unknown gunmen fired on the Aung Tin Win gold shop-cum-home in downtown Three Pagoda Pass, where the Karen National Union, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army and the New Mon State Party are active.

On June 5, four masked gunmen fired into the government’s Military Affairs Security office and a religious hall.
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Reactions to the halt of the Myitsone Dam project

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Friday, 30 September 2011 19:38 Tun Tun

New Delhi (Mizzima) – President Thein Sein sent a letter to both houses of the Burmese Parliament on Friday: “Our government is elected by the people so we must pay attention to the will of the people. We are obliged to focus on resolving the worries and anxieties of the people. Thus the Myitsone Dam project will be suspended during the term of our government.”

His message said that the dam project could be “damaging the natural beauty of Myitsone, damaging the livelihood of the local people, damaging the rubber plantations and crops grown by private capital, a dam collapse due to climate change could kill many people living near the dam site and downstream could also be damaged.”

He said the government would negotiate with the Chinese government in order not to damage bilateral relations and mutual friendship. Mizzima reporter Tun Tun interviewed environmentalists, politicians, artists and anti-dam campaigners about the government’s decision.

U Ohn (environmental academic):

This is good news for us, but we don’t know yet whether this dam project will be suspended or totally stopped. Suspending the dam project for the time being is the good news for us. It will be better if this dam project is stopped absolutely because it can damage the rare species of fauna and flora in this biodiversity hotspot of Kachin State. It will be best not to touch this place.

Win Tin (central executive committee member, National League for Democracy):

It is good to see the president exercise his authority and do his job bravely and resolutely. This is first thing. And the next thing is he made this decision by considering the will of the people and accommodated the will of the people.

We don’t know everything about it yet especially since one of his cabinet ministers, Zaw Min, told the media recently that they would continue the project no matter what people said. Now it’s good to see him override his own minister and make this decision. There are many more things to do in our country, such as the political prisoner issue, etc. It’s clear now that there are some ministers in his cabinet who disrupted and hampered his work and authority. At the same time, some cabinet members agree with him.

But one thing we have to bear in mind is that his term lasts only five years. I think the president should urge the next president not to continue this project when his current term expires. In this way, successive presidents might do the same thing and the dam project will be stopped permanently.

Cartoonist Aw Pi Kye:

It is a success rather than a victory, because it is like passing a single subject in a final exam. We need to pass all the subjects to pass the final exam. I assume that it is because of the work jointly done by academics and activists but it is just a suspension not a stop to the project. We don’t want the studies to be stopped. These studies should be done by academics, scholars, internationally recognized academics and well-known academics in the country. They should do field studies in both the lower and upper reaches of the Irrawaddy River on environmental impacts, social impacts, hydrology, etc.

In this case, another party in this agreement is a foreign country, a powerful and mighty country. There are many issues to be resolved if one party stops such signed agreements and obligations, payments must be made as per the agreement etc. We don’t want to damage the mutual friendship between the two countries, and at the same time we don’t want to see damage to the lifeline of our country. So I think it needs to be done very systematically. We need to present these matters of the agreement and who did what in accordance with the agreement at a public forum or national convention.

There are still many more steps to go. We must go step by step but it should not take very long time. It should not take one year for each step. We want speedy and effective steps.

For some people, the Myitsone matter is a dilemma. They swallowed too much, and now they dare not vomit otherwise people will see what they swallowed. So they are in a dilemma about what to do next, swallow or vomit what they ate in the past. I see the current situation this way from a cartoonist’s perspective.

Win Cho (anti-Myitsone Dam signature campaigner):

I’d like to say we have achieved a unity between the  government and people thanks to the Irrawaddy River. We see the new government’s will to negotiate and consult with the people was fulfilled by the unity of the people. If we cannot maintain our unity, there will be some problems. If they continue in this way of working in unity with the people, there will be no difficulties because they have already recognized the will of the people.
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Suu Kyi and gov’t minister discuss amnesty and establishing peace

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Friday, 30 September 2011 18:20 Mizzima News

Rangoon (Mizzima) – Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and government Labour Minister Aung Kyi discussed granting amnesty and establishing peace with ethnic armed groups on Friday.

At a joint press conference after their 77-minute meeting in Rangoon, they also said they discussed cooperating in conservation efforts to protect the Irrawaddy River and to cooperate for the stability of the country and the prevalence of law and order. They also also said the meetings will continue.

Aung San Suu Kyi speaks to the media in Rangoon after her third meeting with Burmese government Minister of Labour Aung Kyi on Friday, September 30, 2011. They discussed amnesty, the halt of the Myitsone Dam project and peace with ethnic armed groups. Photo: Mizzima

It was Suu Kyi’s third meeting with Union Minister Aung Kyi under the new government led by President Thein Sein.

Suu Kyi also told reporters that she welcomed President Thein Sein’s decision to halt the Myitsone Dam project at some point during his government’s tenure.

Suu Kyi said, “It’s very good that [the government] listens to the people’s voice. That is a task every government must do. Governments need to work to solve the problems that make people worry.”

On Friday, President Thein Sein informed both houses of the Burmese Parliament by letter that the Myitsone Dam project on the Irrawaddy River would be halted at some point during his government’s tenure, citing people’s concern about the dam’s impact on the environment.

The letter also said that without spoiling the friendship between China and Burma, the government would discuss the contract agreed to with China, which is funding the dam project that will generate 6,000 megawatts of electricity

Meanwhile, many people have welcomed the president’s decision on the Internet.

In reply to a question whether the National League for Democracy (NLD) and its leader Suu Kyi would contest in the coming by-election or not, the labour minister answered that if the NLD registers as a political party, the government is ready to cooperate with the NLD. Presently, the NLD is the main opposition group outside of the Burmese Parliament.

Regarding registering as a political party, Suu Kyi, who spent 14 years under house arrest, said that she must first consult with the NLD leadership. The NLD did not re-register to become a political party prior to the 2010 elections.

“We don’t oppose elections according to any policy. We have already accepted that elections are a part of a democratic system,” Suu Kyi said.
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Bauk Ja to sue Chinese company building Myitsone Dam project

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Friday, 30 September 2011 19:52 Phanida

(Interview) – Despite President Thein Sein’s decision to halt the Myitsone dam project, National Democratic Force member Bauk Ja said that she would sue China Power Investment Corporation for losses and damages on the project.

Bauk Ja has collected signatures from states and regions located along the Irrawaddy River for a signature campaign against the dam project.

Mizzima correspondent Phanida talked with Bauk Ja about her opinion of President Thein Sein’s decision to halt the project during his tenure and other issues surrounding the dam project.

Question: What is you think about President Thein Sein’s decision to halt the Myitsone dam project?

Answer: A temporary suspension is not certain [that the dam will stop permanently]. It seems that they have acceded acceded to people’s request because they are afraid that people will stage an uprising. They did not say the project has been completely stopped.

Q: What do you want to happen regarding the dam project?

A: We want China to stop the dam construction. Just temporarily acceding to people’s request is like giving a child a snack to make the child silent. We cannot be quieted. If the suspension is just temporary, people cannot celebrate. They will be in suspense, wondering when it [the construction] will start again. If the government is concerned about citizens’ welfare, the project should be halted permanently and we should cancel the contract with China, then the people will be satisfied.

Q: If the contract between the Burmese government and the Chinese government is cancelled, what could happen?

A: China may ask for compensation. If the [Burmese government] cancels the contract, they may demand compensation.

Q: Will you stop conducting your campaign against the Myitsone Dam project?

A: We will continue. We will do it until [the authorities] stop the project [permanently]. We will sue China’s CPI Company because many things in the area were damaged. We will sue it to prevent it from continuing the project.

Q: Do you think people are happy because the president has decided to halt the project after people raised widespread objections?

A: They cannot be happy because it’s just a temporary suspension. If the project is completely cancelled, we will be very happy. Temporary suspension makes me more worried. And it’s not sure whether they really will halt the project. Despite their words about halting the project, they may continue the project [secretly]. And we cannot guess how they will negotiate [with China]. It’s not just Myitsone Dam. We want the authorities not to build any dam along the Irrawaddy River. They never satisfy the demands of the people. Because of their dishonest actions, people find it hard to trust them.

Q: So, how can you prove that they are worthy of trust?

A: Regarding fighting, although they say they will try their best to establish peace, they are fighting bitterly [in ethnic areas]. That shows who they really are. They did it [the Myitsone announcement] because they are afraid of a mass uprising.Bauk Ja to sue Chinese company building Myitsone Dam project

Phanida

(Interview) – Despite President Thein Sein’s decision to halt the Myitsone dam project, National Democratic Force member Bauk Ja said that she would sue China Power Investment Corporation for losses and damages on the project.

Bauk Ja has collected signatures from states and regions located along the Irrawaddy River for a signature campaign against the dam project.

Mizzima correspondent Phanida talked with Bauk Ja about her opinion of President Thein Sein’s decision to halt the project during his tenure and other issues surrounding the dam project.

Question: What is you think about President Thein Sein’s decision to halt the Myitsone dam project?

Answer: A temporary suspension is not certain [that the dam will stop permanently]. It seems that they have acceded acceded to people’s request because they are afraid that people will stage an uprising. They did not say the project has been completely stopped.

Q: What do you want to happen regarding the dam project?

A: We want China to stop the dam construction. Just temporarily acceding to people’s request is like giving a child a snack to make the child silent. We cannot be quieted. If the suspension is just temporary, people cannot celebrate. They will be in suspense, wondering when it [the construction] will start again. If the government is concerned about citizens’ welfare, the project should be halted permanently and we should cancel the contract with China, then the people will be satisfied.

Q: If the contract between the Burmese government and the Chinese government is cancelled, what could happen?

A: China may ask for compensation. If the [Burmese government] cancels the contract, they may demand compensation.

Q: Will you stop conducting your campaign against the Myitsone Dam project?

A: We will continue. We will do it until [the authorities] stop the project [permanently]. We will sue China’s CPI Company because many things in the area were damaged. We will sue it to prevent it from continuing the project.

Q: Do you think people are happy because the president has decided to halt the project after people raised widespread objections?

A: They cannot be happy because it’s just a temporary suspension. If the project is completely cancelled, we will be very happy. Temporary suspension makes me more worried. And it’s not sure whether they really will halt the project. Despite their words about halting the project, they may continue the project [secretly]. And we cannot guess how they will negotiate [with China]. It’s not just Myitsone Dam. We want the authorities not to build any dam along the Irrawaddy River. They never satisfy the demands of the people. Because of their dishonest actions, people find it hard to trust them.

A: So, how can you prove that they are worthy of trust?

A: Regarding fighting, although they say they will try their best to establish peace, they are fighting bitterly [in ethnic areas]. That shows who they really are. They did it [the Myitsone announcement] because they are afraid of a mass uprising.
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Photo News - September 2011

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After their third meeting under the new government led by President Thein Sein, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and government representative Labour Minister Aung Kyi spoke with the press on Friday September 30, 2011. Their talks included the Burmese government's planned amnesty, protecting the Irrawaddy River, peace talks with ethnic armed groups and stability and law and order in the country. Photo: Mizzima


U Nay Min Da and Ashin Issariya, right, speak to a large crowd gathered in Chiang Mai, Thailand, to mark the fourth anniversary of the 'Saffron Revolution' on Tuesday, September 27, 2011. Photo: Mizzima


A candlelight march in Chiang Mai, Thailand, was held on Tuesday, September 27, 2011, to mark the fourth anniversary of the 'Saffron Revolution' in Burma. Photo: Mizzima


Protestors say 'loving kindness' prayers on the platform near the Meteorology and Hydrology Department on Kabaraye Pagoda Road in Rangoon on Monday, September 26, 2011, to mark the fourth anniversary of the 'Saffron Revolution.' The protesters were stopped and dispersed by police as they attempted to go to Sule Pagoda. Photo: Mizzima

Security police photograph protesters as they chant 'loving kindness' prayers in Rangoon on Monday, September 26, 2011. The protesters were   prevented from walking to Shule Pagoda and dispersed. Photo: Mizzima

A Rangoon police official and a protestor talk. The authorities stopped  three buses carrying the protesters from North Okkalapa Township. They planned to mark the fourth anniversary of the 'Saffron Revolution' at Sule Pagoda. The protestors tried to march to the pagoda but police forbade them, saying that a gathering of more than five people was against the law. The crowd dispersed peacefully. Photo: Mizzima

Aung San Suu Kyi studies a picture at 'The Sketch Of A River-The Ayeyarwady' art exhibition in Rangoon on Thursday, September 22, 2011. Photo: Mizzima


Aung San Suu Kyi is surrounded by viewers and the media at 'The Sketch of a River' art exhibition in Rangoon on Thursday, September 22, 2011. Photo Mizzima


Aung San Suu Kyi signs the art exhibition book for 'The Sketch of A River' exhibition in Rangoon on Thursday, September 22, 2011. Photo: Mizzima


Aung San Suu Kyi poses for pictures in front of art work about the possible negative impacts on the Irrawaddy River, if the Myitsone Dam is completed. The exhibition, 'The Sketch of a River,' will run through Saturday. Photo: Mizzima


Seven shops were damaged in a fire caused by a burning candle in Thanlyin in Rangoon Region on Tuesday, September 20, 2011. Photo: Mizzima


Police guards were posted near the Chinese embassy in Dagon Township in Rangoon at around noon on Monday, September 19, 2011. Rumors circulated that the embassy would be the site of demonstrations by environmental activists. Photo: Mizzima


National League for Democracy central executive committee member Win Tin, left, poet Ant Maung, lawyer Aung Thein and Ko Gyi (The Mirror) at a ceremony to commemorate the first anniversary of the death of veteran politician Thakhin Ohn Myint, held  in Yankin Township, Rangoon, on Saturday, September 17, 2011. Thakhin Ohn Myint, who died at age 93, was detained in the Coco Islands in 1958 for his political activities. He was also imprisoned in 1989 for three years and in 1998 for seven years. Photo: Mizzima


NLD chairman Aung Shwe and Vice Chairman Tin Oo attend a ceremony to commemorate the first anniversary of the death of veteran politician Thakhin Ohn Myint in Yankin Township, Rangoon, on Saturday, September 17, 2011. Thakhin Ohn Myint, who died at age 93, joined Dobama (Our Burma) Association in 1933 and carried out political activities his entire life. Photo: Mizzima


Aung San Suu Kyi speaks at the office of the National League for Democracy in Rangoon at a ceremony to mark International Democracy Day on Thursday, September 15, 2011. Suu Kyi said Burma is in a process of political change. The Burmese government will hold a ceremony in  Parliament to mark the occasion. Photo: Mizzima

Aung San Suu Kyi and senior leaders of the  National League for Democracy opposition party at a ceremony in Rangoon to mark International Democracy Day on Thursday, September 15, 2011. Photo: Mizzima

The Myanmar Football Federation chairman Zaw Zaw greets opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi who joined him to watch a football match between Myanmar and Laos in the AFF under-19 championship at Thuwunna Stadium in Rangoon on Wednesday, September 14, 2011. Zaw Zaw is on a list of sanctioned individuals by the U.S. government for his association with the former military junta. Photo: Mizzima


Officials of the Myanmar Football Federation welcome the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi who joined them to watch a football match between Myanmar and Laos in the AFF U-19 championship at Thuwunna Stadium in Rangoon on Wednesday, September 14, 2011. Photo: Mizzima


US special envoy to Burma Derek Mitchell meets with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi Monday, September 12, 2011 at her house. They met to discuss US-Burma related policies and issues. Photo: Mizzima


Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at her house after meeting with US special envoy to Burma Derek Mitchell on Monday, September 12, 2011. Photo: Mizzima

A main street in the border town of Mae Sot, Thailand, turned into a flowing stream of water after heavy rain in the area on Monday, September 12, 2011. Photo: Albert Guzman

A policeman watches cars trying to drive on flooded streets in Mae Sot, Thailand, after heavy rain caused flooding in the border town on Monday, September 12, 2011. Photo: Albert Guzman

Tun Lwin, the well-known, retired Burmese meteorologist, delivers a speech titled “Save the Irrawaddy” at Zabuthiri Monastery in Mingalardon Township, Rangoon, on Saturday, September 10, 2011.  He said he opposed the Myitsone dam project. About 500 people attended the talk organized by the Zabuthiri charity youth group. Photo: Mizzima

Audience members at the “Save the Irrawaddy” panel discussion by writer Maung Sein Win (String of Beads), Ko Tar and meteorologist Dr. Tun Lwin at the Zambuthiri Monastery in Mingalardon Township, Rangoon, on Saturday, September 10, 2011. Tun Lwin said that he opposed the Myitsone dam construction project on the upper Irrawaddy River. Photo: Mizzima

Mrs Kristalina Georgieva, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, meets with Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at her house in Rangoon on September 10, 2011. Photo: Mizzima. Mrs Kristalina Georgieva visited Burma to meet with government ministers and other stakeholders including the secretary general of the National League for Democracy to discuss issues related to European Commission-funded humanitarian aid, according to a press release issued by the European Commission.

Burma activists wearing cutout photographs portraying Hla Hla Win, a reporter for the Norway-based 'Democratic Voice of Burma,' hold posters during a rally outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok on Friday, September 9, 2011. Burma activists are demanding the release of all political prisoners and journalists in Burmese prisons. Photo: AFP

Indian lawmakers D. Raja and Syed Azeez Pasha were among those who spoke on behalf of the Parliamentarians’ Forum for Democracy in Burma at a press conference calling for the  release of  political prisoners in Burma. A letter signed by 104 Indian MPs will be sent to Burmese President Thein Sein through Aung San Suu Kyi, the general-secretary of the National League for Democracy in Burma. Photo: Mizzima

A young man reads an article by Aung San Suu Kyi published in the People’s Era Journal near a poster that advertises the journal at a shop in Rangoon on Tuesday, September 6, 2011. Last week, the state censorship board told the journal to remove some paragraphs of Suu Kyi’s article—her first effort to publish in a local journal since her release from house arrest— but  later allowed the article to be published without changes. The article recounts her personal pilgrimage to Bagan, the ancient temple site. Photo: Mizzima

A vendor shows the article by Suu Kyi in the People’s Era Journal on Tuesday, September 6, 2011. The article, 'Letter from Burma: Holiday-1,' recounts her recent personal pilgrimage to Bagan. English and Japanese versions of the article were published in the Japan-based Mainichi newspaper on July 19. Photo: Mizzima


 A journal vendor carries a copy of 'People’s Era Journal' on Tuesday, September 6, 2011. The journal includes an  article written by Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi about her recent personal pilgrimage to Bagan and an article by Win Tin, a National League for Democracy leader,  titled “Fifth Pillar” about the role of the media in society. Photo: Mizzima

Forty four companies displayed computers and related accessories in 71 showrooms at the third 'ICT Expo 2011' in Mandalay  from Friday to Sunday, September 2-4, 2011, in City Hall. Large crowds attended the displays. Photo: Mizzima


The Mandalay Region Myanmar Computer Professionals Association and Myanmar Computer Industry Association jointly organized the ICT Expo 2011 in Mandalay City Hall from Friday to Sunday, September 2-4, 2011. Photo: Mizzima

A large crowd gathers around one passenger coach of the Rangoon 'circle' train that derailed on Thursday, September 1, 2011. The last coach of the inbound train slipped off the tracks at 1:55 p.m local time and derailed, seriously injuring four passengers. Photo: Mizzima
 
A crowd of onlookers inspect the last coach of the Rangoon 'circle' train which derailed at 1:55 p.m. on Thursday, September 1, 2011.  Four people were seriously injured, authorities said. Photo: Mizzima
One of four passengers who were injured when the last coach of the  Rangoon 'circle' train went off the tracks on Thursday, September 1, 2011. Photo: Mizzima

The engine of the Rangoon 'circle' train, which lost the rear passenger coach when it went off the tracks on Thursday, September 1, 2011. Photo: Mizzima

Aung Khin, the railway minister of Rangoon Region, visits the site of the train derailment on Thursday, September 1, 2011. The last passenger coach of the inbound Rangoon 'circle' train derailed and four passengers were seriously injured, authorities said. Photo: Mizzima

A refugee from Burma looks out at the corridor at his home after settling in Kuala Lumpur on August 31, 2011. Australia's High Court dealt a heavy blow to the government on August 31 by blocking its plans to send asylum-seekers to Malaysia, ruling they could not go to a nation lacking legal safeguards. Australia had hoped to send up to 800 asylum-seekers to the Asian nation in exchange for resettling 4,000 of its refugees, and the decision leaves hundreds of boat people in legal limbo. Photo: AFP

Former refugees and their children from Burma who had settled in Malaysia chat in their house in Kuala Lumpur on August 31, 2011. Australia's High Court dealt a heavy blow to the government on August 31 by blocking its plans to send asylum-seekers to Malaysia, ruling they could not go to a nation lacking legal safeguards. Photo: AFP

Refugee children from Burma now settled in Malaysia with their family sleep in their rented private housing in Kuala Lumpur on August 31, 2011. Australia's High Court dealt a heavy blow to the government on August 31 by blocking its plans to send asylum-seekers to Malaysia, ruling they could not go to a nation lacking legal safeguards. Photo: AFP
















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Burma to halt Myitsone Dam project: media reports

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Friday, 30 September 2011 14:15 Mizzima News

(Mizzima) – Burma’s President Thein Sein informed both houses of the Burmese Parliament by letter on Friday that the controversial Myitsone Dam project on the Irrawaddy River would be halted during his government’s term.

thei-sein-speakAccording to Rangoon media reports, he cited general public concern about the environmental destruction that the project would cause.

A retired general, Thein Sein was quoted as saying, that the “Myitsone Dam construction will be halted during our government term," in a letter he sent to Parliament.


It is unclear when the president’s letter was sent, but an article in The Voice weekly cited five points of public concern about the environmental cost of the project, which is located at the confluence of the Maykha and Malikha rivers in Kachin State.

Thein Sein said the government will discuss the contract agreed to with neighboring China, which is funding the project.

Meanwhile, sources close to Naypyidaw suggested that Vice President Tin Aung Myint Oo, now in China, is visiting Beijing because Chinese leaders want to discuss the Myitsone Dam project.

A key leader of the dam’s opposition, Aung San Suu Kyi, released an open letter calling for the dam’s halt on August 11.

She said the lack of sound planning, the failure to enforce necessary conservation laws and poor ecological awareness “have created diverse problems.”

To carry out the Myitsone Dam project, which will generate 6,000 megawatts, five embankments will be constructed on the Maykha River and two embankments will be built on the Malikha River, according to environmentalists.

Her statement Suu Kyi warned, “Since the commencement of the Myitsone Dam project, the perception long held by Kachin people is that successive Burmese governments have neglected their interests.” Kachin State is now the location of renewed battles between government and Kachin armed groups.

Since 2007, despite the objections of environmentalists and local residents, the project has been carried out by Asia World Company and the China Power Investment Corporation. An estimated 12,000 people from 63 villages have been relocated.

A total of eight dams are scheduled to be built along the Irrawaddy River, the Maykha River, and the Malikha River at Myitsone, Chibwe, Chibwenge, Khaunglanphu, Pashi, Phizaw, Laiza and Lakin. Each dam will generate between1,400 megawatts and 3,600 megawatts for a total power output of 13,360 megawatts, according to government figures.

Earlier, Lama Gumhpan, a senior figure in the de facto government that administers the territory controlled by the Kachin Independence Organization, told Mizzima that the former junta’s reckless pursuit of dam projects was more evidence that it was willing to “ignore the concerns of Burma’s ethnic minorities.”

On March 16, the KIO sent an open letter signed by KIO chairman Lanyaw Zawng Hra to Chinese President Hu Jintao, urging China to stop the planned Myitsone Dam to be built in Kachin State and warned that the controversial project could lead to civil war. The letter said that the KIO would not be responsible if a civil war broke out because of the dam project.

On April 17, 2010, a series of at least 10 separate bombs exploded at the Myitsone Dam construction site. At least one Chinese worker was killed and some temporary buildings were damaged.

Earlier, the Burmese government told the Kachin Independence Army to withdraw its troops from a temporary military base near the Taping Dam project no later than June 11. On June 10, fighting broke out between government and Kachin troops. So far, efforts to broker a cease-fire have failed.

Regarding China, Suu Kyi said in her statement, “We believe that, keeping in mind the interests of both countries, both governments would wish to avoid consequences which might endanger lives and homes.

“We would urge that in the interests of both national and international harmony, concerned parties should reassess the scheme and cooperate to find solutions that would prevent undesirable consequences."

The statement concluded, “Together we can find solutions to problems, ecological, economic, technical, and political, related to the Irrawaddy.”

Earlier, Win Tin, a co-founder of the National League for Democracy, says he and his colleagues were “deeply concerned” by the potentially devastating impact of the 152-meter high Myitsone Dam and worries that the project will cause increased ethnic tensions because of the widespread displacement of villagers and the impact on the environment.

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

Construction and financing on the project is headed by the China Power Investment Corporation (CPI), a state-owned giant electrical company that has partnered with Burma’s state power utility Myanma Electric Power Enterprise (MEPE) and the Burmese conglomerate Asia World, which is controlled by Stephen Law and his family.

The Development Networking Group said that the creation of the dam’s reservoir will flood an area larger than Singapore and will displace scores of villages with an estimated population of around 15,000 people while also destroying ecologically sensitive areas, something Win Tin said is unacceptable.

“The relocation of thousands of Kachin villagers is a great problem,” Win Tin said.

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

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

A research group, Power in Asia, reported that official Chinese figures put the estimated total cost of the 15-year, seven-dam mega project at US $30 billion (200 billion yuan).
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Thursday, September 29, 2011

NLD considers registering as official political party

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Thursday, 29 September 2011 21:35 Tun Tun

New Delhi (Mizzima) – If the government continues to make progressive political changes, the National League for Democracy (NLD) will consider registering as an official political party, according to NLD lawyer Nyan Win.

“We are awaiting the government’s changes,” he said. “We will not decide in advance whether we will register or not. As the conditions change, we will make the decision,” Nyan Win said.

NLD attorney Nyan Win. Photo: Mizzima

Since Burma created a parliamentary government after the election in November 2010, NLD leaders have discussed the issue of re-registering the organization, he said. Currently, he said the NLD thinks that recent governmental changes–although important–have not risen to the level to justify re-registering as a political party.

“It’s unusual. But, we cannot specify what the differences really are,” Nyan Win said.

In the nationwide general election in 1990, the NLD won 82 per cent of the parliamentary seats, but the former military junta did not convene the parliament and began a campaign to arrest and oppress NLD members.

The NLD did not re-register itself as a political party and did not contest in the 2010 general election, alleging that the military-drafted 2008 Constitution and electoral laws for the 2010 general elections were unjust. However, it still claims that it is a legal political party.

On September 14, 2010, the Union Election Commission (UEC) officially declared that the NLD was dissolved because it had failed to re-register. After the announcement, the NLD filed legal appeals, but various courts rejected them.

“In politics, we need to consider the time and the real circumstances. We have not decided. We will consider everything and make a decision,” Nyan Win said.

He said there could be divergent opinions among party supporters, but the NLD will serve the people and if it re-registers, it will cooperate with other parties.

Meanwhile, NLD General-Secretary Aung San Suu Kyi will meet with the government laison representative Union Minister Aung Kyi on Friday.

It will be Suu Kyi’s third meeting with Aung Kyi under the new government. The meeting will be held at the Sane Lae Kan Thar state guesthouse at 1 p.m.

“This will be a follow-up to previous meetings. We hope that we can take a step forward to seek national reconciliation,” Nyan Win said.

Their last meeting was held on August 12. After the meeting, both sides issued a joint four-point statement of their intent: to cooperate for stability and development in the country; to cooperate for the flourishing of democracy in the country and better development in economic and social areas; to avoid conflicting views; to focus on mutual cooperation and to continue the meetings.

Union Minister Aung Kyi was appointed as liaison minister in October 2007 to meet with Suu Kyi. They have met 11 times.
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AAPP: rechecking number of political prisoners in Burma

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Thursday, 29 September 2011 21:12 Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – How many political prisoners are in Burmese jails? The Thai-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP-B) joint secretary Bo Kyi says his group is updating its records to try to determine an exact number.

“We are making sure of the accuracy of our numbers and updating our list,” he said. “Our list might be incomplete. We know some of them were arrested, but we can’t trace them afterwards and we don’t know their current status, whether they have been released or are being detained.”

A crowd of relatives and friends wait in front of Insein Prison in Rangoon on May 17, 2011, eagerly looking for their loved ones to appear as part of a general prisoner amnesty release. Photo: Mizzima

Bo Kyi responded to Mizzima’s question after presidential adviser Ko Ko Hlaing was interviewed on Radio Free Asia -Burmese Service during his tour of the U.S. In the interview, he said that the actual number of political prisoners was less than the figure cited by AAPP-B when the government rechecked it.

“The actual figure is not as high as their [AAPP] list,” he said. “Some of the prisoners on their list are still prisoners. But I don’t know the exact number.

“Even so, some of the prisoners are imprisoned in connection with heinous crimes such as bombings, illegal drug cases and murder cases. We were told that hundreds of such criminals are included in their political prisoners’ list.”

According to the AAPP-B list, there were 1,998 political prisoners at the end of August 2011.

“Some of these political prisoners were sent to prison labour camps so it took a lot of time to access those in the camps. We cannot access some of them,” Bo Kyi told Mizzima.

The AAPP-B compiled its list from various sources such as government press conferences, prisoners released from prisons and governmental departments. Also the AAPP definition of political prisoners is different from the government’s definition, he said.

“In Burma, there are civil war and ethnic issues. In our definition, those from ethnic armed groups and those arrested for supporting and working in ‘unlawful’ associations are political prisoners,” Bo Kyi said.

He gave an example of the case of DVB reporter Hla Hla Win in making his argument. The reporter was arrested in September 2009 on her way back from interviewing monks in Pakokku. She was then charged under the Export-Import Act because her motorcycle had no license and under the Electronic Law. She was sentenced to 27 years imprisonment and is being detained in Katha Prison.

“We look at why these prisoners were arrested and imprisoned and disregard the charges made by the government under different sections of criminal laws,” Bo Kyi said.

The Burmese government does not recognize the word political prisoners; it only uses the word prisoners.

Attorney Aung Thein, a member of the Legal Aid group of the National League for Democracy (NLD), also cited the example of Myint Aye, a member of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters (HRDP). Some prisoners are arrested, he said, but if the authorities lack evidence the prisoners may be tortured to extract confessions for crimes they didn’t commit. Myint Aye is being detained now in Loikaw Prison, he said.

“We cannot say such prisoners are bombers though the government charged them in a bomb blast case,” he said. He said the NLD is giving some prisoners financial assistance to help in their ordeal.

HRDP member Myint Aye worked in human rights awareness campaigns, but he was charged with the bombing of a Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) office in Rangoon. He was sentenced to prison in November 2008.

Aung Thein said that the government frequently used laws such as sedition, unlawful assembly, unlawful association, illegal border crossing, the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, the 1962 Printers and Publishers Act and the Electronic Law in charging political prisoners.

Some political prisoners are simply framed under false criminal cases, he said.

In May 2011, President Thein Sein issued a limited amnesty which commuted all prison sentences by one year and more than 14,600 prisoners were released from prisons across the country. Only a few political prisoners were included. The number of political prisoners released at that time was not made known, but it was estimated that the number was between 30 and 70.

In an address delivered at the 66th U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, Burmese Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin said that another amnesty order was likely to be issued soon.

Among the more than 1,998 political prisoners, 37 “88-generation” student leaders are serving sentences of more than 65 years; SSA-N (Shan State Army-North) chairman Major General Se Htin is serving 106 years; and Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) party leader Khun Tun Oo is serving a term of 93 years.
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Japanese female tourist raped, murdered in Burma

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Thursday, 29 September 2011 22:06 Zwe Khant

New Delhi (Mizzima) – A motorcycle taxi driver has been arrested and charged following the rape and murder of a Japanese tourist near Kyaukpadaung Township in Magway Region.

A police official told Mizzima the woman hired the taxi driver on Wednesday to go sightseeing in Nyaung-U and the driver attacked her in the area between Nyaung-U and Kyaukpadaung.

Innma villagers caught the suspect, roped him, and informed the police, said a resident.

“Then police came, and he was taken to the police station in handcuffs. When the police arrived, the woman had already died. She was stabbed to death with a knife,” a food shop owner told Mizzima.

Police have not officially identified the woman, but Agence France-Presse said the victim was Chiharu Shiramatsu, 31. No other details were available.

The woman hired the driver to take her sightseeing in the area, which is known for its ancient temple complex. Violent attacks on tourists are rare in Burma, according to authorities.
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Bauk Ja, a Kachin activist, evades police capture

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Thursday, 29 September 2011 19:49 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – National Democratic Force (NDF) member Bauk Ja, who is a leader in the signature campaign against the Myitsone Dam project, said that she has evaded arrest by police since she was informed they were searching for her this week.

On Sunday, while traveling from Rangoon to Mandalay, a person close to a Military Affairs Security Unit in Myitkyina informed Bauk Ja that police were waiting for her in a railway station and at her home to arrest her.

National Democratic Force member Bauk Ja. Photo: Mizzima

“A person informed me,” she said. “When the person asked me where I was, I answered that I was in Mandalay. Then, the person told me not to return because police were waiting for me not only in my home but also the railway station,” Bauk Ja told Mizzima. Similarly, in January police inquired about Bauk Ja at her home in Aungya Village in Hpakant Township in Kachin State. She was informed in advance and evaded police then also.

On Sunday and Monday, police asked her lawyer Myint Thwin whether Bauk Ja came to his house in Mandalay and monitored the house, according to Myint Thwin.

“She has to evade them,” he said. “I don’t know exactly the reason. I don’t know what the police want to do. So, I’m still inquiring about it,” Myint Thwin told Mizzima.

Bauk Ja said she has participated in the ongoing signature campaign against the Myitsone Dam project, collecting signatures from people in Rangoon, Irrawaddy, Mandalay, Sagaing, Magway, Pegu [Bago], Bagan and Monywa, all located along the Irrawaddy River.

Originally, along with several lawyers, she had planned to provide training for party canvassing to farmers at the headquarters of the Kachin State National Democratic Force party in Myitkyina, but she was unable to travel there, she said.

She told Mizzima that she thought that the authorities were trying to arrest her to prevent her organizing similar signature campaigns in Kachin State.

The ward administrative office chiefs in Hpakant Township asked Christian churches whether she had organized signature campaign against Myitsone Dam, she said.

Recently, after widespread objections against construction of the dam, Burmese No. 1 Electrical Power Minister Zaw Min cited Parliamentary decisions as the authorization for moving ahead on the project. On the other hand, the NDF headquarters issued a party statement saying the approval of the Myitsone Dam project by Parliament was not enough to continue it and the authorities should ask for people’s opinions.

Bauk Ja has also worked to help farmers file compensation lawsuits against the Yuzana Company owned by former junta business associate Htay Myint, which seized farmland around five villages in Hpakant Township in Mohnyin District.

She ran unsuccessfully in the general election in 2010 as an NDF candidate in Hpakant Township. After the election, she filed a lawsuit with the Election Commission Tribunal against the current Union Minister for Cooperatives, Ohn Myint, (a former major general) of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party for electoral fraud. She later dropped the lawsuit.
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Political parties hope political prisoners to be released soon

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Thursday, 29 September 2011 18:52 Te Te

New Delhi (Mizzima) – After Burma’s Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin told the UN General Assembly that an unspecified number of prisoners will be released soon, political parties are expressing hope that political prisoners will be included in the release.

At the 66th session of the U.N. General Assembly held in New York, Wunna Maung Lwin said that an amnesty would be granted soon.

Burmese Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, wearing traditional dress, addresses the 66th general assembly of the United Nations in New York on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

Ohn Kyaing, the spokesman for the National League for Democracy (NLD), the leading opposition group, said, “I hope [political prisoners] will also be offered [the amnesty]. According to people who recently met with [political] prisoners, we have been encouraged.

“We heard that [authorities] asked [political prisoners] for a brief biography.” he said.

When the new government came into office, hopes were high that all political prisoners would be released under a general amnesty. But, the new president granted a general one-year commutation on May 17. 

Under the one-year presidential commutation, about 20,000 prisoners were released, but there were only a few political prisoners among them.

The National Democratic Force (NDF) party said that the amnesty would be effective only if political prisoners are included. Observers said the issue is related to the government’s demand that Western countries lift the economic sanctions imposed on Burma.

NDF leader Khin Maung Swe, who is a former political prisoner, said:  “Now, we need to attempt national reconciliation. If political prisoners are not included in the amnesty, it will not be effective. The authorities know it.

“The amnesty was delayed because they seem to be pondering whether an uprising could be sparked off again. They may already have a plan about how to quell an uprising, if it arises. I think they have already identified the contacts among people who have [that] potential.”

According to figures compiled by the Thai-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma, there are 1,955 political prisoners in the country.

On September 27, after the meeting of the “Group of Friends on Burma”, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the Burmese government to release all remaining political prisoners and to engage in a constructive dialogue to achieve national reconciliation.
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Parliament debates use of the word ‘Myanmar’

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Wednesday, 28 September 2011 22:12 Myo Thant

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – A military member of the Burmese Parliament on Wednesday put forward two proposals that the word “Myanmar” should be restricted and not used in certain contexts.

One proposal, debated in the Lower House, was defeated by more than 100 votes, according to Lower House MPs.  The other proposal was approved and will be sent to the Upper House.

Lawmakers wore traditional native dress for this meeting of the Burmese Parliament in Naypyitaw. Photo: Mizzima

Colonel Htay Naing submitted a proposal that the use of the word “Myanmar” in phrases such as “Myanmar Karaoke,” “Myanmar Massage” and “Myanmar Entertainment” is not suitable or appropriate.

The proposal said: “To impose a law that the use of the word ‘Myanmar’ is allowed only in writings and publications that can uplift national prestige and noble phrases regarding the country and all ethnic people and ban the use of the word in other inappropriate phrases and logos.”

Seven MPs discussed the proposal; five of them supported it and two opposed.

Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann divided the issue into two proposals; the first proposal would restrict the use of the word ‘Myanmar’ to be used only in “noble usages” and the second proposal would ban the use of the word in “inappropriate phrases and logos.”

The first proposal passed and will be discussed by the other house. The second proposal received 250 no votes; 133 yes votes and 13 abstained.
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U.S., Russian leaders to attend 19th Asean Summit in Bali

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Wednesday, 28 September 2011 21:39 Nyi Thit

Rangoon (Mizzima) – U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will attend the 19th Asean Summit in Bali, Indonesia, from November 14-19, according to sources close to the Asean secretary-general.

In July, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attended the Asean regional forum held in Bali. U.S. President Obama will attend the Asean Summit in November.

Sources close to Naypyitaw said that Burmese President Thein Sein would also attend the summit meeting.

Burma is lobbying to be named the rotating Asean chair in 2014. In August, Burma’s Foreign Affairs Minister Wunna Maung Lwin said that the issue would be decided at the Bali summit meeting.

In October, a delegation led by Dr. R.M. Marty M. Natalegawa, the foreign affairs minister of Indonesia, which currently holds the Asean chair, will visit Burma.
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Writer Dagon Taryar opposed to Myitsone Dam project

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Wednesday, 28 September 2011 20:09 Ko Pauk

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The well-known writer Dagon Taryar, 93, has issued his third “peace appeal” which strongly opposes the Myitsone Dam project to be built upstream of the Irrawaddy River.

The appeal issued on Monday said that the Irrawaddy River has been badly damaged by human activities, and Myitsone Dam will further damage the beauty of the area and also undermine the chances of peace in the region.

Writer Dagon Taryar, speaking with journalists, is one of Burma's most active and respected peace activists. Photo: Mizzima

Dagon Taryar said the Irrawaddy River has existed naturally since immemorial times and the entire country owns it.

“The Irrawaddy River existed when Burma appeared as a country,” he said. “It is very long. It is the mega river. It belongs to the whole country. It doesn’t belong to China.”

The Kachin Independence Organization sent an open letter to Chinese President Hu Jindao on March 16 that said the Myitsone Dam issue could lead to renewed civil war and should be suspended.

Similarly, Aung San Suu Kyi issued an appeal on the Myitsone Dam project on August 11, which said the river had many problems, and she appealed for people to work to resolve the issues with the current government.

“By joining hands together, we can resolve all problems of environment, economics, technology and politics,” Suu Kyi said in the letter.

However, the government minister for Electrical Power No. 1, Zaw Min, told a government workshop in September on the environmental impact of hydropower plant projects on the Irrawaddy River Valley that the Myitsone Dam project would continue based on governmental policies and the actions of Parliament.

Earlier, Rakhine Nationalities Development Party General-Secretary Oo Hla Saw told Mizzima that if the decision on the dam project were left up to Parliament and the government only, it would not be fair.

“I don’t think it will be fair if the decision on Myitsone Dam project is made by the Parliament only. The ruling party dominates Parliament and this Parliament cannot guarantee the freedom of individual MPs,” he said.

Writer Dagon Taryar said the Burmese people should be allowed to join in deciding the issue.

“Who started this project is important,” he said. “Who started it?”

The Myitsone Dam project began in December 2009 at the time of the military junta led by Senior-General Than Shwe. China will receive 90 per cent of the 6,000 megawatts of electricity generated by the dam, which is a joint project carried out by the No. 1 Electricity Power Ministry and China Power Investment (CPI) Corporation. The project is being financed by China.
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Villagers accidentally shot as government troops fire at armed group

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Wednesday, 28 September 2011 19:18 Kun Chan

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Two villagers were shot dead accidently on Monday when Burmese government troops opened fire at an armed group that had entered Lawthine Village in Kalaneaung sub-Township in Yebyu Township in Taninthayi Region.

The government’s Light Infantry Unit No. 282 based in Kalaneaung sub-Township confronted 10 members of an unidentified armed group wearing mottled uniforms when they opened fire.

Two male villagers in their fifties were hit by bullets and died.

“When they started to fire, we were in a video theater. When we heard gunfire, all the people in the video theatre ran away. We didn’t know what happened. Nai Wan, who was sitting in a tea shop near the theater, was hit by a bullet and died on the spot,” said a villager.

Villagers said they believed the armed group entered the village to extort money and when confronted by government soldiers the shooting began.

On Monday, the bodies of the two men were buried at the Lawthine village cemetery. Government troops have ordered the villagers not to go outside the village.

Lieutenant Colonel Nyan Tun, a New Mon State Party foreign affairs official, told Mizzima that three small, armed groups were active in the area and they had extorted money and kidnapped and tortured villagers.
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Response to criticism of demonstration on Monday

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Wednesday, 28 September 2011 18:09 Mizzima News

(Letter) – I would like to respond to comments by Ludu Sein Win and Dr. Than Htut Aung (CEO, Eleven Media Group) regarding Monday’s small protest to commemorate the fourth anniversary of a brutal crackdown on a monk-led uprising (2007) in Burma.

See: Ludu Sein Win's and Dr. Than Htut Aung (CEO, Eleven Media Group) comments; News Article: http://www.first-11.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=10281:2011-09-26-07-20-27&catid=43:2009-11-10-07-39-09&Itemid=111

First, I'd like to say that freedom of speech and expression are the most important basic rights provided to any citizen in a democratic state.

Burmese security police photograph marchers as they chant "loving kindness" prayers in Rangoon on Monday, September 26, 2011. The activists were prevented from walking to Sule Pagoda and dispersed. Photo: Mizzima

I have never come across such a disapproving comment regarding a protest from Ludu Sein Win before because he always believes in “People Power.” His response to this matter was quite quick.  He didn't seem to be well informed about what actually happened.

I'd like to recall a similar event in the past.  Just after the 2007 “Saffron Revolution,” one well-known writer (now retired) who is also a former NLD executive committee member, said all Burmese people can do about politics is just demonstrate against the regime in the streets which actually means no more than the A, B, Cs of a democracy movement process.  At that time, I was disappointed because I expected some positive encouragement or intellectual political analysis or something wise from a veteran politician who knows Burmese politics. No wonder that later he actively promoted the regime's 2010 sham election and wrote many articles in favour of the regime's way of democratization.

I respond now because I don't wish to see Sayar Ludu Sein Win to let me down again like the man above. I don’t intend to protest much about Dr. Than Htut Aung's comment because I don't think he is a public figure.  However, I have to say just one thing because he mentioned Aung San Suu Kyi in his comment.  In a recent interview with AFP, Suu Kyi simply referred to Libya’s case that wounds will remain unhealed because of the armed uprising.  It means violent movements didn't answer the problems in Burma, and won't in the future.  She doesn't say anything against peaceful demonstration and I don't think she will say so in the future.

I understand their concerns. But that doesn’t make me accept their comments.  I think they can show their concern by making positive comments regarding the matter.

For example, “The exercise of political rights like peaceful demonstrations should be welcome by all means in this new so-called democratic government.  But we are concerned that it can also affect negatively on the national reconciliation process which is still in the very early stages and very fragile at the moment.”

In my opinion, a protest or a demonstration won't make any kind of trouble to the national reconciliation process in Burma as long as demonstrators maintain nonviolence actions.  Nonviolent movements don’t mean "no demonstration," but it means "peaceful resistance" to achieve a cause by using symbolic protests, civil disobedience, economic or political noncooperation, and any other possible peaceful method.

In fact, the origin of the English word  “democracy” is a Greek word dēmokratía (rule of the people), which was actually coined from dêmos (people) and kratos (power).  There is not a single successful revolution in the history against a dictatorship without involvement of a people power movement.

To conclude, I agree that it's better if we achieve full democratization or national reconciliation only through the means of dialogue between concerned parties.  I have no doubt about Suu Kyi's wisdom and political judgment or her cautiously optimistic words regarding her new approach to deal with the 50-year old regime.  I do understand her current situation and its very limited alternatives.  However, I profoundly believe small incidents like Monday’s event can be the spark to set off nationwide peaceful demonstrations that can also be helpful in some ways to Suu Kyi’s work of persuading the regime to take concrete actions for full democratization and national reconciliation in Burma.

Nyein Chan Aye

Editor: The letter was edited for length.
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