Saturday, March 30, 2013

Thai police continue to dispute cause of refugee camp fire

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Saturaday, 30 March 2013 20:53 The Bangkok Post

Several clues indicate that the cause of the fire that killed 37 people at Mae Surin refugee camp was arson, the district police chief insists.

Mae Surin refugee camp after the fire on Friday, March 22, 2013. (PHOTO: TBC)

Khun Yuam district police chief Pol Col Nitinart Wittayawuthikul says he stands by his remarks despite the fact that authorities have unofficially concluded the fire was an accident.

Mae Hong Son police chief Sompong Chingduang, meanwhile, reiterated that Pol Col Nitinart was transferred to an inactive post because he had failed to carry out his duties properly.

Pol Maj Gen Sompong said Pol Col Nitinart was negligent in the way he handled operations to put out the fire.

Pol Col Nitinart was temporarily transferred to an inactive post at Mae Hong Son provincial police office following the disaster.

However, he claimed his transfer was because he refused to conclude the Mae Surin fire on March 22 was an accident.
He insisted his team was among the first to arrive at the camp that evening.

In an interview with the Bangkok Post, he said there were several clues which indicated the fire might have been started intentionally.

He said more than 10 Karen refugees gave statements to his team that they had seen a burning object fall from an aircraft flying over the camp a few minutes before the fire was discovered.

How the fire spread was unusual, he said. It began in a house in Zone 1 of the camp and spread to Zone 4, rather than Zone 2.

Joa Pa Hu, 26, the owner of the house where it is thought the fire started, told police he was not at home when the blaze began.

Eyewitnesses told police they had seen fires flaring up from different points at the same time, and that there was no wind at the time, Pol Col Nitinart said.

He said the fire seemed to have been set to "encircle" the camp.

The colour of the smoke was also suspicious, he said.

"The smoke appeared dark, such as what you see with the burning of chemical substances or rubber tyres," the officer said.

"Smoke from a burning house mostly made from natural materials such as bamboo and leaves should be more white."
Liquid phosphorus might have been used to spark the fire, he said.

A source from the police forensics team said traces of phosphorus had been found in the grounds of the house where the blaze was believed to have started.

The motive, if the fire was deliberate, could have been the high cost of maintaining the camp, Pol Col Nitinart said.

"Some people have told me to shut my mouth," he claimed. "But I can't. Those refugees have spilt blood and lost lives. So I have to tell the truth."

A military source in Mae Hong Son told the Bangkok Post that the cause of the fire was unlikely to have been a cooking mishap, as authorities claim. However, he could not rule it out.

A police source said the investigation is mainly being conducted by officers from outside Khun Yuam district.
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This article was first published in The Bangkok Post on March 30, 2013.
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For more background:

  1. Mae Surin fire was accident, says Thai security chief
  2. Refugee camp fire not an accident, says police chief
  3. Refugee camp death toll rises to 42


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President’s Office refutes UN envoy allegations

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Saturday, 30 March 2013 20:22 AFP

Myanmar on Friday strongly rejected comments by a senior United Nations official linking the state with recent anti-Muslim riots that have left at least 40 people dead and seen mosques razed in several towns.

Ye Htut

The UN's special rapporteur on Myanmar human rights Tomas Ojea Quintana on Thursday said he had "received reports of state involvement in some of the acts of violence", prompting the rebuttal from Myanmar's presidential spokesman.

"I totally reject what Quintana's saying about some sections of the state being involved in violence," Ye Htut said in comments posted on his Facebook page.

"It is regrettable that Mr Quintana has commented on the situation, based on second hand information without correctly studying the situation on the ground." Buddhist mobs have marauded through several towns in central Myanmar since religious violence erupted on March 20, prompting the government to impose emergency rule and curfews in some areas.

The situation appeared to have calmed on Friday, a day after President Thein Sein vowed a tough response to those behind the violence which he attributed to "political opportunists and religious extremists."

In his statement Quintana accused "the military, police and other civilian law enforcement forces" of "standing by while atrocities have been committed ... this may indicate direct involvement by some sections of the state or implicit collusion".

Security forces fired warning shots on Wednesday to disperse rioters and dozens of people have been detained. However, Muslim leaders have criticized the security forces for failing to stop the attacks.

According to the United Nations, the recent clashes—which were apparently triggered by an argument in a gold shop that turned into a riot—have seen some 12,000 people displaced.

It is the worst sectarian strife since violence between Buddhists and Muslims in the western state of Rakhine last year left at least 180 people dead and more than 110,000 displaced.

Myanmar's Muslims—largely of Indian, Chinese and Bangladeshi descent—account for an estimated four per cent of the population of roughly 60 million.
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Friday, March 29, 2013

UK priest in bizarre blood ritual for Burma

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Saturday, 30 March 2013 13:40 Mizzima News

In one of the more bizarre protests against oil and gas investment in Myanmar in recent times, an English priest commemorated the Christian festival of Good Friday on March 29 by pouring his own blood over the floor of a petrol station before lying down to block the entrance.

English vicars Fathers David Fudger and Keith Hebden outside Total petrol Station in Mansfield on Friday, March 29, 2013. (PHOTO: St. Mark's Church magazine)

According to the Christian think-tank Ekklesia, the Rev. Dr. Keith Hebden of Mansfield in Nottinghamshire took action to protest French company Total’s investments in Myanmar.

“After pouring his blood, he laid down in front of the entrance with a notice reading: ‘Boycott Total for the sake of Burma: Total Regime Change Now!’” the report said.

Church of England vicar Hebden, who is also an associate of Ekklesia and an advisor to the Seeking Justice campaign at his local deanery, is quoted as saying: “There are things we can do to bring about change. Boycott Total Oil and Barclays Bank and put pressure on their directors to disinvest in the killing fields of Burma before it’s too late and the genocide is complete.”

Friday was not the first time that Rev. Hebden had brought attention to his cause with an act of public demonstration; Gloucestershire media reported in 2011 that the vicar had nailed books to a cross as part of a protest against cuts at a local library.

Full Ekklesia report: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/18267
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Jimmy Carter to visit Myanmar

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Friday, 29 March 2013 17:10 Mizzima News

[Photo: The Carter Center]
Former US President Jimmy Carter will come to Myanmar next week to explore ways to support the country's ongoing democratic transition.

Jimmy Carter is leading members of the Carter Center, an NGO that he founded with his wife, around the world to encourage democracy and human rights. He is visiting Nepal ahead of his trip to Myanmar.

The former president will meet with President Thein Sein, government officials, Daw Aung Suu Kyi, political leaders and civil society representatives during his visit.

*This article was amended from the original: President Carter arrived in Nepal on March 29; he will travel to Myanmar on April 2 and is due to stay until April 6.
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Myanmar must take ‘bold steps’ to tackle unrest: UN envoy

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Friday, 29 March 2013 16:03 Mizzima News

Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana. UN Photo/Pierre-Michel Virot

The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, on Friday issued a statement from Geneva expressing his “serious concerns” about the spread of violence between Muslim and Buddhist communities in Myanmar and urged the Thein Sein government to take “bold steps” to counteract what he called a “frightening trend”.

“The Government must take immediate action to stop the violence from spreading to other parts of the country and undermining the reform process,” Quintana said. “This includes stemming campaigns of discrimination and hate speech which are fuelling racist and, in particular, anti-Muslim feeling in the country.”

The UN envoy was undoubtedly referring to the emergence of Buddhist extremists, in many cases led by monks, who stand accused of masterminding the violence. A group calling itself “969”, which appears to be spearheaded by a Buddhist monk named Wirathu, has inundated social media with anti-Muslim vitriol and called for a boycott of all Muslim businesses.

“The warning signs have been there since the communal violence in Rakhine State last June, and the Government has simply not done enough to address the spread of discrimination and prejudice against Muslim communities across the country, and to tackle the organised and coordinated mobs that are inciting hatred and violently attacking Muslim communities,” Quintana said.

He called for Myanmar’s authorities to hold to account those responsible for acts of violence and destruction against religious and ethnic minorities.

Quintana also alluded to allegations that some State officials, including local politicians and administrators, have been encouraging discriminatory views and inciting hatred.

“The Government must clearly distance itself from such incitement to hatred, and instruct its officials to do likewise,” the UN envoy said. “Although Myanmar is a majority Buddhist country, the Government must promote tolerance of all faiths and religions.”

Quintana went on to say that he had received reports that the military, police and other civilian law enforcement forces had stood by “while atrocities have been committed before their very eyes, including by well organised ultra-nationalist Buddhist mobs.”

He called for Myanmar to also hold to account those military and police officers who were responsible for tolerating attacks against Muslims.

Quintana praised the work of 88 Generation leaders, such as Min Ko Naing, who had travelled to Meiktila following the violence and worked to ease tensions and promote understanding.

In the Special Rapporteur’s latest report to the UN Human Rights Council earlier this month, he warned that the crisis in Rakhine State could spread to other parts of the country, and issued a number of recommendations to the Government aimed at addressing the widespread discrimination and prejudice against ethnic and religious minority groups in Myanmar, including lifting restrictions on discriminatory practices against Muslim communities, and reviewing the functions of the border security forces.
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For more background:

  1. Thein Sein warns: ‘I will not hesitate to use force’
  2. Mob violence spreads in Bago
  3. Rohingya face ongoing humanitarian crisis


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Kachin human rights issues must be addressed

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Friday, 29 March 2013 14:57 Rosie Gogan-Keogh

As peace talks continue in the Kachin State, the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) has recommended immediate de-mining; no forced recruitment of soldiers; and easy access for humanitarian aid to the conflict-stricken region.

The makeshift shelter of a Kachin family displaced by war. (PHOTO Partners Relief and Development)

The calls came in a statement released on March 28, following the latest round of peace talks between the Myanmar government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) in Ruili on March 11-12.

"The MNHRC wholeheartedly welcomes the statement that the Union Government will accelerate development and rehabilitation tasks in the Kachin State as the process to achieve ceasefire has commenced," said the organization's statement.

However, the group said that addressing crucial human rights issues in Kachin State should be "implemented as a priority" to encourage the ongoing peace process.

No ceasefire agreement was reached during the last round of negotiations. Speaking after the meeting, Doi Pi Sar, a non-military official of the KIO, said, “What they [the government delegation] want and what we want are two different things. Their primary goal is the signing of a ceasefire agreement. However, judging by our past experiences, the hasty signing of a ceasefire agreement is not in our interests.

“We need to continue holding discussions until we are in a situation where a ceasefire agreement is the correct course of action,” he said. “Our differences cannot be solved by just one meeting. So, we have agreed to meet again.”

Peace broker Hla Maung Shwe told Mizzima at the time that, “I would like to say that this was the most fruitful meeting in the past 10 months.”

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in Kachin state since June 2011, when a 17-year ceasefire between government forces and the KIO’s military wing, the Kachin Independence Army, broke down.

The total number of casualties is unknown, but the government said in January that 35 soldiers had been killed and 190 injured in a series of ambushes by the rebels since 2011.

Humanitarian aid to the region has notoriously been blocked by the government until recently when the UN announced that a 10-vehicle convoy was permitted to travel to the Hpakant area to bring shelter, blankets, mosquito nets, cooking sets, clothes and sanitary items to more than 2,000 refugees between February 17 and 21.

The visit was the first to the area since January 2012 by the UN.
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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thein Sein warns: ‘I will not hesitate to use force’

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Thursday, 28 March 2013 19:22 Mizzima News

In a televised address to the nation on Thursday at 6 pm local time, Myanmar President Thein Sein said he was saddened by the religious violence that has taken part in central Myanmar in recent days, and warned instigators that he had the power to deploy security forces to protect his fellow citizens.

“In general, I do not endorse the use of force to solve problems,” he said. “However, I will not hesitate to use force as a last resort to protect the lives and safeguard the property of [the] general public.”

Thein Sein spoke in response to a series of anti-Muslim riots which have taken place in Myanmar’s Bago and Mandalay regions since Friday when an otherwise innocuous disagreement in a Muslim-owned gold shop spilled over into mob violence.

The riots spread south to other townships that have large Muslim populations, and sources have told Mizzima that attacks on Muslim property and mosques have been well-organized and may be orchestrated by extremists. At least 40 people have been killed since Friday.

Headed by a Buddhist monk named Wirathu, an anti-Muslim campaign known as “969” has spread among Myanmar’s social media this week spouting much vitriol and propaganda against Muslims.

Many activists have suggested that a military hand may be pulling the strings, but in his speech Thein Sein distanced himself from anti-Muslim sentiments.  

“I would like to warn all political opportunists and religious extremists who exploit the noble teachings of these religions and tried to plant hatred among people of different faiths for their own self-interest,” he said. “We [the government] will take all necessary and effective action to stop their operations in accordance with our Constitution and our existing laws.”

He said that the nation must expect these conflicts and difficulties to arise during its period of democratic transition, but called on Myanmar citizens to “overcome these challenges while building a harmonious society that safeguards human dignity.”

With regard to criticisms of the security forces who have been accused of failing to intervene to stop the violence, Thein Sein said that the police must be able to act against rioters within the rule of law.

No mention was made, however, of the riot police’s failures in the English version of the speech (below).

Speaking to Mizzima directly after hearing the speech, Khin Maung Swe, founder of the National Democratic Force, said, “It is essential to take action against political opportunists and religious extremists.

“Moreover, people should have been protected by Myanmar’s Police Task Force. The riots spread because of the weakness of the police.”

President’s speech in full (official translation):

“My fellow citizens,

“I would like to take this opportunity to explain to you the circumstances giving rise to the recent riots in Meiktila and the attempts of a small number of people to cause the spread of rioting to other parts of the country. I am deeply saddened to find out that a simple private dispute led to a deadly riot and that some unruly instigators, taking advantage of the disingenuousness of the public, tried to spread the riots to other parts of the country. I will like to reflect my government's position on these riots.

“In general, I do not endorse the use of force to solve problems. However, I will not hesitate to use force as a last resort to protect the lives and safeguard the property of general public.

“Individual freedom, which we consider to be the fundamental ingredient of democracy, is the kind of freedom that does not infringe on the civil liberties of others. Our Constitution guarantees the right of all citizens to worship freely any religion they choose. I would like to warn all political opportunists and religious extremists who exploit the noble teachings of these religions and tried to plant hatred among people of different faiths for their own self-interest. We will take all necessary and effective action to stop their operations in accordance with our Constitution and our existing laws.

“We must expect these conflicts and difficulties to arise during our period of democratic transition. With a united effort, we must face and overcome these challenges together. As we rebuild our society, we must rise above sixty years of historical bitterness, confrontational approaches, and a zero-sum attitude in solving our differences. I want to call on all citizens to rise above these previous erroneous methods, unite our different strengths, and chart a path towards consensus building and democratic deliberation to solve the challenges faced in this transition.

“We have already seen a different approach in this Meiktila incident. To rebuild mutual understanding and trust in the community, it is important to bring together civil society participation, leadership from various religious communities, assistance from international organizations, and responsible reporting from the media. In addition, the tatmadaw [Myanmar armed forces] has also played a meaningful role in safeguarding property and the rehabilitation of victims.

“I am proud to see a concerted effort from civil society organizations, leaders of communities, governmental agencies and security forces to prevent the spread of conflict to other cities and towns. This indicates that citizens from different ethnic and religious groups have worked together to create a civilized society and a proud nation that is based on mutual respect and understanding.

“We did not resort to the use of force immediately mainly because we do not want to let anything happen to our ongoing democratic transition and reform efforts. That said, I am firmly committed to use the power to deploy the security forces vested in me by the Constitution and existing laws to prevent and protect life, liberty and security of my fellow citizens. My fellow citizens, I want to urge you to cooperate with each other on the basis of compassion, tolerance, open-mindedness, and empathy.

“As a nation, it is our firm belief that an inclusive democratic society based on equality for all citizens will ensure peace and stability, especially in our country made up of various ethnic nationalities, religious beliefs, and cultures. Despite our differences, we must find a common ground to coexist peacefully while upholding our democratic ideals. It is my firm belief that we will be able to overcome both our immediate and future challenges if we can embrace our differences and stand united in face of adversity as one people. However, some irresponsible individuals have spread rumors that could incite riots, causing fear among the general public who only wish to live peacefully. I am also very pleased to see local authorities, community and religious leaders coming together to form riot-prevention committees to protect the people

“I would like to make a commitment to the people of Myanmar. In this time of change towards an open society, my government will share information in a truthful and transparent manner. I would also like to request a commitment from you in return. As citizens of this country, we must also distinguish facts from fiction and overcome the dangers posed by rumors in a wise and open-minded manner. If we can keep our commitments, we can overcome these challenges while building a harmonious society that safeguards human dignity.”
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Mae Surin fire was accident, says Thai security chief

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Thursday, 28 March 2013 16:05  The Bangkok Post

The blaze that raged through the Mae Surin refugee camp in Mae Hong Son's Khun Yuam district on Friday was probably an accident, [Thailand’s] National Security Council secretary-general Paradorn Pattanatabut said.

The aftermath of Friday's fire at Mae Surin refugee camp in which at least 37 people were killed. Photo: TBC

He said there seemed to be no motive for an act of arson.

He was responding to embattled Khun Yuam district police chief Pol Col Nitinart Wittayawuthikul who told the Bangkok Post his investigation indicated the fire started in the camp and is unlikely to have been an accident.

The district police chief was transferred to an inactive post at Mae Hong Son provincial police office on Monday for alleged negligence in his handling of Friday's disaster. He was also removed from the investigation team.

The officer believes he was moved because he did not agree to conclude that the fire was accidental.

Lt Gen Paradorn brushed aside claims by refugees that they saw a helicopter fly over the camp and drop something which they believe caused the fire.

"I don't see any reason why the camp should be struck by arson. Who would do that kind of thing? It could be an accident," Lt Gen Paradorn said.

Air force chief Prajin Jantong also believed the blaze could have been an accident rather than arson.

ACM Prajin said people may have burnt garbage carelessly while the strong wind in the mountains could have contributed to the rapid spread of the blaze, he said. Officials at the camp should ensure the refugees dispose of garbage properly without causing fires, he said.

Suttha Saiwanich, Mae Hong Son deputy governor, said both central and local forensic teams concluded that the fire was accidental. Damage was severe because of strong winds and the camp being on a slope.

Song Klinprathum, director of the Royal Rain-making Operations Centre in the upper North based in Chiang Mai, said the centre launched an operation last Friday to make artificial rain to ease the choking haze in Mae Hong Son, and Khun Yuam district was chosen as the operation base.

Three helicopters were deployed to improve air quality, he said.

Mr Song insisted chemicals used in rain-making did not cause the fire.

"I am confident those chemicals have nothing to do with the fire. Moreover, the helicopters operated at high altitudes so there was no chance that they would create a fire on the ground below."

"The pilots also detected smoke on their radar during the operation. But they didn't realise that the smoke came from the burning camp. They learned later the fire [at the camp] happened near the operation base."

Meanwhile, a group of non-government organisations has asked for cash donations from people around the world to help the refugees affected by the fire.

Sally Thomson, with The Border Consortium, said about 13 million baht (US $433,000) is needed to rebuild houses, warehouses, sanitation systems and to buy food for the refugees.

Extra would be needed to build schools and clinics [for the refugees] which were destroyed by the blaze.

The fire killed 37 Karen and Karenni refugees, injured more than 100, and left more than 2,300 homeless. The camp is home to more than 3,605 people.

Paisarn Thanyawinitchakul, chief of the Mae Hong Son Public Health Office, said eight refugees are still being treated in hospitals. The most serious case is a man who has suffered burns to 53% of his body. He is being treated at Maharaj Nakorn Chiang Mai Hospital. Seven others are in Mae Hong Son hospitals.
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This article was first published in The Bangkok Post on March 28, 2013.
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CPJ condemns threats against journalists in Meiktila

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Thursday, 28 March 2013 16:55 Rosie Gogan-Keogh

Following severe violence and intimidation against reporters covering the inter-communal riots that erupted in Central Myanmar on March 20, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on authorities to ensure the security of journalists.

Journalists at a Myanmar presidential press conference. (Photo: Ye Min / Mizzima)

“We condemn the threats and intimidation of journalists covering the recent communal riots in Burma,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative. “Authorities are obliged to ensure the security of journalists working in conflict areas. We are concerned that Thein Sein's administration has not prioritized its obligation to protect the press.”

Various media outlets have described shocking attacks and intimidation by Buddhist monks and members of the mob on reporters: One AP photographer said that he had a foot-long dagger held to his throat, while he surrendered the memory card from his camera and both the Democratic Voice of Burma and The Irrawaddy said that their reporters were threatened and forced to delete camera footage.

Radio Free Asia (RFA) told of a group of nine journalists who were threatened by a gang of armed Buddhist monks as they photographed them destroying a mosque.

“We saw a group of monks destroying a mosque and a house near Thiri Street [in Meiktila] as we were in a car taking some pictures in town,” RFA reporter Kyaw Zaw Win said.

“The monks saw us. Suddenly, they surrounded our car and forced us out,” he said. “They put a knife to a reporter’s throat. We begged for our lives saying we didn't do anything wrong. They said that they would destroy our cameras. We refused to give them our cameras. Two reporters in our group gave their memory cards.”

The cards were then smashed by the monks, claimed the report.

There have been no journalists killed in the riots yet, according to CPJ research.
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Mob violence spreads in Bago

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Thursday, 28 March 2013 15:37 Khaing Khaing and Saw Zin Nyi

Anti-Muslim mob violence broke out on Wednesday afternoon in Minhla and Zigon villages in the Bago Region, local residents told Mizzima.

At about 1 pm on Wednesday afternoon, about 1,000 people from Minhla and nearby villages destroyed mosques and property owned by Muslims, said Hla Hla Moe, a local resident.

“The mob destroyed some houses and some mosques. We heard that either two or three mosques were seriously damaged. But the mob did not harm anyone,” he said.

At around 4 pm, police and soldiers fired shots into the sky to disperse the mob, said Hla Hla Moe.

By 7 pm the streets were deserted, he said, as security forces enforced the curfew imposed under Section 144 on Tuesday.

Since the night of March 26, authorities have imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew [6 pm to 6 am] in Okpho, Minhla and Gyobingauk townships, all of which are situated along Highway 2 in Bago Region, some 200 km north of Yangon on the road to Pyay.

Under Chapter VIII (Offences against Public Tranquility) of Myanmar’s Penal Code, Section 144 reads: “Whoever, being armed with any deadly weapon, or with anything which used as a weapon of offence, is likely to cause death, is a member of an unlawful assembly, shall be punished with imprisonment of their description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”

On March 25, the Myanmar government issued a press release, saying: “The government is making concerted efforts in democratic reform and development undertakings with added momentum. That is why people are urged to avoid acts of violence and religious extremism that could disrupt the reform process and development tasks.”

Than Aung, a resident living in Zigon, told Mizzima on Wednesday that the security forces failed to take action to prevent the mob from rioting in Zigon.

“They committed violence both yesterday and today. Starting from 3 am, they destroyed [the buildings] and the security forces did nothing. They were just watching the violence. Only when the unruly mob retreated did the security forces fire rubber bullets,” he said.

Local residents told Mizzima that they were unaware of any arrests made in Zigon and that calm was resumed in the town after 4 pm.

Khin Wine, a local resident said, “We heard that there were no casualties. In Zigon, most of the victims are Muslims. We feel very sad because the violence occurred although there was no grudge [against each other]. And the security forces took action only after the violence.”

Khin Wine added that the thugs are residents in the area and that the mob contained about 300 people. She said that the thugs destroyed religious buildings but that they did not harm any people.
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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Security beefs up in Bago

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Wednesday, 27 March 2013 20:31 Saw Zin Nyi


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Rumors of impending riots in the town of Nattalin, about 50 km south of Pyay, have led to an increase in police and military presence in the area on the evening of March 27.

The deputy police officer for the area told Mizzima that the increase in security was due to reports that mobs were planning to riot, following incidents the night before when a mosque and several houses were destroyed in the village.

“We have stretched our troops around the township,” he said. “We have spread them everywhere and there are also some mobile security teams in place.”

The army is now collaborating with the police force and both have taken up positions around Nattalin.

Some groups of rioters were apprehended while marching from nearby Tar-Pwon village earlier on Wednesday.
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Rohingya face ongoing humanitarian crisis

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Wednesday, 27 March 2013 17:59 Rosie Gogan-Keogh

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the Myanmar government of restricting humanitarian aid to Rakhine State and discriminating against Muslim Rohingyas in a report released on March 27.

Displaced people in one section of Ah Nauk Ywe makeshift camp in Rakhine state. (PHOTO: UNHCR/V.Tan)

“Burmese [Myanmar] government restrictions on aid to Rohingya Muslims are creating a humanitarian crisis that will become a disaster when the rainy season arrives,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at HRW. “Instead of addressing the problem, Burma’s leaders seem intent on keeping the Rohingya segregated in camps rather than planning for them to return to their homes.”

Several international aid organizations operating in the region have continually made calls for Rohingya camps located in low-lying paddy fields to be urgently relocated before the rainy season begins and fears of flooding and the spread of waterborne diseases become a reality. HRW has reported that in some sites a handful of latrines are shared by several thousand Rohingyas.

“The government seems untroubled by the dire humanitarian conditions in the camps in Arakan [Rakhine] State, but it will be responsible for the lives unnecessarily lost,” Robertson said. “Concerned donor governments should be demanding that the Burmese government produce an action plan to resolve the crisis because continued inaction will only make the crisis worse.”

On March 20, President Thein Sein’s spokesman, Ye Htut, rebutted the claims of discrimination and told Australia Network’s Newswire: “They [Rohingyas] have enough shelter and food supply for the rainy season.”

However, the Myanmar government has reportedly refused to relocate the Rohingya camps; has restricted Rohingya people from accessing local hospitals; and has failed to register tens of thousands of displaced Rohingyas, denying them both freedom of movement and humanitarian aid.

Unregistered Rohingya have told HRW that they lack food, shelter, medicine, potable water, clothing, and other necessities. A Muslim man in Yangon’s Aung Mingalar Township told HRW that UN agencies had not been able to deliver any aid since June, saying, “We only want permission to bring food from outside to Aung Mingalar.”

HRW said that these ongoing issues mean that the Myanmar government is ultimately failing the test of reform.

The Rohingya population faces widespread hostility from the majority Burmese Buddhist society in Myanmar. The latest violence in the state erupted last June between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims and was followed by further attacks in October.

Following a visit to Myanmar last month, Tomás Ojea Quintana, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar, said that nearly 120,000 people are now living in camps in Rakhine State with a lack of adequate healthcare, and noted that conditions were worse in camps sheltering Rohingyas and other Muslims.

“The situation in this area is extreme,” he warned.
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Indian firm fails to compensate farmers

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Wednesday, 27 March 2013 16:07 Thein Hlaing


Punj Lloyd Upstream Ltd, an Indian company which is building an extension of the Myanmar-China natural gas pipeline, has been accused of failing to compensate for damages relating to the construction of the pipeline.

The accusations have come from local community-based organizations and some of the 161 farmers who utilize a reservoir that the pipeline passes by. The 750-acre community reservoir is located nine miles from the eastern part of Kyaukphyu town and is owned by local farmers.

The gas pipeline extension project was begun in 2011, destroying a part of the dam on the reservoir, leaving farmers unable to cultivate their paddy fields for two years due to the salt entering the reservoir water.

“The farmers asked for compensation from the authorities many times but they have not been paid anything. Since the project has already finished, the farmers here have lost all hope,” said Tun Kywe, a spokesperson from the Myo Chaung region development committee.

He said that he is very disappointed that the company has turned a blind eye to the grievances of the residents and that the residents and local community organizations will fight for adequate compensation.

“I’ve been working on this land my whole life. The reservoir was damaged and it was filled with saltwater after the pipeline extension passed through it. We couldn’t cultivate the paddy fields for two years and we had to sell our buffalos and cows to make a living,” said Aung Kyaw Tun, an 80-year-old farmer from Ka-Paing-Choung village.

The residents said they reported the damage at the reservoir to a local administrative officer four times from May 2011.

Punj Lloyd reportedly sent 200 packs of cement and 500,000 kyat (US $560) through the village administrative officer and let the villagers volunteer to construct the drain pipeline.

They also reportedly gave compensation for some paddy fields but Ma Kyaw Thein, a local farmer, said that local authorities had cut off 4.9 million kyat ($55,680) from the compensation given to five farmers after accusing them of using illegal fertilizers.

Punj Lloyd has been requested to: compensate the value of each destroyed paddy field per year; rebuild all the of the damaged dam frames; conserve the forest from saltwater destruction; and construct better electricity infrastructure, as well as schools, clinics and drinking water ponds.

Punj Lloyd has said that their pipeline extension project will not be finished until May.
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  2. Bridge completed for Burma-China energy pipeline


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Refugee camp fire not an accident, says police chief

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Wednesday, 27 March 2013 16:31 THE BANGKOK POST

The fire that ravaged Mae Surin refugee camp [in Thailand] on Friday was not an accident, embattled Khun Yuam district police chief Pol Col Nitinart Wittayawuthikul claimed Tuesday.

Thai officials examine the aftermath of the fire at Mae Surin refugee camp on Friday, Mar 22, 2013. (PHOTO: TBC)

The district police chief was transferred, pending an investigation, to an inactive post at Mae Hong Son provincial police office on Monday for alleged negligence in his handling of Friday's disaster in Mae Hong Song's Khun Yuam district. He was also removed from the blaze investigation team.

However, Pol Col Nitinart says he is being punished because he refuses to confirm the deadly fire was an accident.
Friday's fire killed 37 Karen and Karenni refugees, injured over 100 and left more than 2,300 homeless. The camp is home to about 3,000 people.

Authorities have so far been unable to determine the cause of the blaze.

Police initially suspected that the fire started in a kitchen. Another theory is that embers from a nearby forest fire blown by the wind could have landed on the thatched roof of a refugee house.

Pol Col Nitinart Tuesday said he had spoken to witnesses before he was removed from the case and said their accounts led him to believe the fire started inside the camp and was not an accident. He stopped short of saying what he believed caused the fire.

"I have extensively questioned the witnesses and I don't think the fire was an accident," Pol Col Nitinart said.

The transfer order was signed by Mae Hong Son police chief Sompong Chingduang, citing Pol Col Nitinart's alleged dereliction of duty when the fire broke out. But Pol Col Nitinart believes the real reason behind the transfer was because he refused to conclude that the fire was an accident.

"Based on my interrogations and fire scene investigations, I could not come to such a conclusion [that the fire was an accident]," Pol Col Nitinart told the Bangkok Post. "Talk to anyone at the camp, ask them what they saw, and you will know how the fire started," he said.

A police investigation source who questioned Mae Surin refugees said several witnesses claimed they saw a helicopter flying above the camp minutes before the fire broke out.

They also reported seeing a burning object dropped from the helicopter on to the roof of a house in Zone 1.

A source from the Office of Aviation for Natural Resource Conservation said none of the office's helicopters had flown above the camp that day. However, he could not confirm if anyone else had flown helicopters over the site.

Meanwhile, Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department director-general Chatchai Promlert said he was working with the Provincial Administration Department to design fire prevention measures at refugee camps.

Regular fire drills will be held at nine camps in four provinces to prevent a recurrence of Friday's deadly inferno.

The department is responsible for nine refugee camps in Mae Hong Son, Tak, Kanchanaburi and Ratchaburi provinces.

The measures include regular fire drills, the installation of firefighting equipment, and teaching residents how to prevent and control fires.

Mr Chatchai said the department was working with other agencies to provide food, water, shelter and health care services to refugees affected by the blaze.

National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission secretary-general Thakorn Tanthasit said his agency had sought cooperation from mobile phone operators to send vehicles to areas near the Mae Surin camp.

Thaicom Plc has sent several vehicles to provide phone and internet services in the area, Mr Thakorn said.

Public Health Minister Pradit Sintawanarong, meanwhile, said he had asked health officials to monitor the refugees as some survivors are suffering from psychological trauma and depression.

The officials would also step up measures to prevent the spread of diseases.

Khun Yuam district chief Charnchai Srisathian said many refugees were in dire need of shoes, underwear, powdered milk, soap and toothpaste. He urged the public to donate those items at Mae Hong Son provincial hall or district offices and Red Cross offices nationwide.

This article was first published in The Bangkok Post on March 27, 2013.
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For more background:
  1. Police chief transferred after refugee camp blaze
  2. Private donations needed after refugee camp blaze
  3. Refugee camp death toll rises to 42


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Indonesian cement company solidifies Myanmar deal

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Wednesday, 27 March 2013 15:49 Mizzima News

Indonesia’s largest cement producer, PT Semen Indonesia Tbk, says it will begin building a US $200 million cement plant in Myanmar early in 2014, according to a report in the Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

The Indonesian firm originally announced that it was seeking Myanmar partners and that it intending starting construction by the end of this year.

Semen expects to pitch in about $70 million for the plant, from which it aims to control about a 40 percent stake in the planned joint venture, president-director Dwi Soetjipto told reporters in Jakarta on Monday.

The construction of the cement plant, designated with a capacity of 1 million tons per year, is scheduled to start early next year, while operations are expected to begin in 2017, Jakarta Post quoted Dwi as saying.

The new plant will reportedly serve the Myanmar market and neighboring countries such as Thailand and Bangladesh.
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Full Jakarta Post article: Semen Indonesia plans $200m plant in Myanmar
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Private donations needed after refugee camp blaze

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Wednesday, 27 March 2013 15:24 Mizzima News

The Border Consortium (TBC), an umbrella group of NGOs which supplies humanitarian relief to some 140,000 refugees at the Thai-Myanmar border, has launched an emergency appeal to collect 13 million Thai baht (US $433,000) which it says it needs to replace essential food, homes and community buildings destroyed at Mae Surin refugee camp in a devastating fire on Friday.

Volunteers and refugees help the rebuilding effort in Umpiem Mai camp which was devastated by a fire in February 2012. (PHOTO: TBC)

“TBC is deeply saddened to confirm that 36 people [number has since increased] have tragically died in a fire that broke out in Ban Mae Surin refugee camp, in Mae Hong Son Province, on Friday 22nd March,” the organization said in a statement. “The fire swept through two sections of the camp destroying everything in its path, apparently caused by a cooking accident. The victims reportedly included children, elderly and the disabled who were trapped by the fire, while an additional 200 people sustained injuries from the blaze. Over 400 houses were destroyed leaving 2,300 people homeless, while community buildings, schools, [a] clinic and food warehouses were also razed to the ground.”

TBC confirmed that it is coordinating its response with the Thai government, UNHCR and other NGOs. It said that an immediate concern is to give fund appropriate religious rites for the victims of the tragedy.

Temporary shelters have been set up for those displaced by the blaze. TBC said that it is working closely with camp committees to establish food kitchens and to prepare emergency food supplies for affected families staying in temporary sites or with relatives.      
     
Other expense are estimated to include:    


  • Food and Charcoal: 960,000 baht


(Rice, cooking oil, yellow split peas and charcoal that were in storage in the destroyed warehouses in Section 2 and 4 will need to be replaced. Ten days of emergency rations have also been distributed to all households. Communal cooking facilities will continue to be run by the camp committees.)


  • Construction materials: 11,640,000 baht


(420 houses, 2 food warehouses, 2 charcoal warehouses, and also community facilities need to be completely rebuilt.)


  • Emergency items: 400,000 baht


(Blankets, plastic sheeting, rope, cost associated with funeral arrangements, stoves and cooking pots will be provided.)

Mizzima encourages its staff, its readers and all affiliates to help. Various methods of payment are catered for via the TBC website: http://theborderconsortium.org/donate/donate.htm
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Yangon residents react to rumors of communal violence

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Wednesday, 27 March 2013 13:06 Rosie Gogan-Keogh

In the wake of the Meiktila riots and ongoing Buddhist-Muslim inter-communal fighting across Myanmar, fears have been growing about the violence spreading to Yangon.

Reports of mob violence and mosques being burnt down in Bago, a town 150 km north of the country's biggest city, came as rumors of street fights, anti-Muslim mobs forming and mosques being stoned in various Muslim-populated areas of Yangon stirred.

Myanmar authorities are reported to have reacted by implementing a curfew on businesses in certain areas of Yangon.

"To prevent the occurrence of violence in Yangon amid rumors, Myanmar local township authorities on Monday initially imposed restriction on business hours of shops in some four townships in the city—Tamwe, Pazundaung, Mingla Taung Nyunt and Thakayta—ordering them to close [by] 9 pm local time," according to Xinhua, a Chinese news agency.

The US Embassy also issued a warning to tourists on March 25 "strongly advising" them to not visit the areas near Mingalar Market and Yuzana Plaza in the predominantly Muslim-populated area Mingalar Taung Nyunt that lies Southeast of Kandawgyi Lake.

"A fight broke out in that area today as a result of ongoing tensions, resulting in a heavy police presence. Many shops have closed," claims the embassy statement.

A further report released by International SOS on March 26 advised personnel to anticipate heightened security, saying: "Rumors overnight on March 24/25 that mosques in the city had been set alight triggered minor Muslim-Buddhist scuffles in Yangon's Yuzana Plaza and Ma U Gone areas, while there was also a failed arson attempt against a local mosque."

Additional security forces have reportedly been deployed and local residents have reported an increase in police on motorbikes in the area.

However, reports have differed and many residents and a local police officer have claimed that authorities have overreacted to the events in Yangon.

According to The People's Will News Media's Facebook page, Win Aung Ni, a deputy police officer in the Mingalar Taung Nyunt area, said on Monday that police assisted six people who were chased by another group as they were waiting for a taxi.

"Beginning at 8pm [on Sunday evening], there was continuous patrolling around the township to be secured till the sun came out. Some people unnecessarily worried about it. If it keeps going like this, there will be a problem."

He said in another case, police responded to a phone call but that, "In reality, there was nothing happening. However, it could get worse because people worry too much and they have done what they think is right," he said, according to The People's Will News Media's Facebook page.

Several residents in the area have claimed that the situation has been blown severely out of proportion with one resident claiming that the fight that broke out was actually a bar fight, "which, due to current anxieties, was taken out of context," said the source, who preferred to remain anonymous.

He said that he was told that “nationalist” 969 cars were patrolling the streets of the district on March 25 and that evening several mosques and businesses in the area were stoned. However, he said that he then walked on Monday from 88th Street up to 122nd Street, down 101st Street, and back to 88th Street along Myanmar Gone Yi Road. “I saw no evidence of fighting, damage or violence anywhere," he said.

Another 87th Street resident in Mingalar Taung Nyunt said that from what he had seen the curfew had merely meant that 24-hour stores had put up a gate, but that they were still in operation.

As rumors whirred that an anti-Muslim mob was forming in Ahlone Township in Yangon on the evening of March 26, Phil Blackwood, manager of 50th Street, a popular bar in the Downtown area of Yangon, said that, “Business is as usual, although outside lights will be turned off from 9 pm.”

And another Mingalar Taung Nyut resident said that as he passed the mosque on 101st Street there were "plenty of Muslims outside waiting for prayers to start" and during the night nothing happened. "Even the garbage collection service was running," he said.
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Military will continue to play political role, says army chief

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Wednesday, 27 March 2013 12:45 Mizzima News

Addressing more than 6,300 soldiers on Wednesday morning, Myanmar's Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing said that the military will continue to play a political role as the country transforms itself into a democracy, according to a report by Associated Press (AP).

Myanmar’s commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing at during Myanmar’s 68th anniversary celebrations of Armed Forces Day in Naypyidaw, on Wednesday, March 27, 2013. (PHOTO: Ye Htut / Facebook)

Speaking in Naypyitaw on the anniversary of the country’s Armed Forces Day, Min Aung Hlaing is reported saying that the military must strengthen its capabilities and regional alliances to build a "well-disciplined democratic nation."

"While the country is moving toward modern democracy, our military plays a leading role in national politics," he said.

"We will keep on marching to strengthen the democratic administrative path wished by the entire people."

Myanmar’s Armed Forces Day commemorates the date of a national uprising against Japanese occupation forces in 1945.

But even as communal violence spreads close to the capital, this year’s event was “a show of vast and precise power”, said AP, noting that: “Helicopters buzzed over the hills. Fighter planes let off flares. Dozens of mud-green tanks, armored personnel carriers and small artillery guns rolled by.”

Seated in the front row, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was in attendance at the event for the first time.

Myanmar’s Commander-in-Chief spoke of the importance of maintaining national unity and sovereignty, and said his troops will abide by international humanitarian law, AP reported.

In addition, he called for modern weaponry and training, and closer alliances with neighboring countries, particularly member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
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Mosques destroyed by mobs in Bago

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Wednesday, 27 March 2013 12:12 Mizzima News

Fresh Buddhist-Muslim violence broke out late on Monday and again on Tuesday in villages in the Bago Region, some 150 km north of Yangon, with several mosques and dozens of homes reported to have been destroyed, according to AFP.

Myanmar’s state-run television announced that Muslim religious buildings, shops and houses had been damaged.

It also confirmed on Tuesday that eight more bodies had been uncovered from the debris in Meiktila—the central Myanmar town where an innocuous incident in a gold shop last week led to the outbreak of the recent wave of Buddhist-Muslim violence—bringing the total number of dead to 40.

A state of emergency is still in force in Meiktila.

In Bago, also known as Pegu, a curfew from 6 pm to 6 am has been called as security forces act to prevent violence spreading further. Curfews have also been imposed on two other nearby towns.

The BBC reported on Tuesday that mosques and other Muslim buildings were attacked by crowds of Buddhists in towns on the road from Rangoon to Pyay, some 360 km north of Yangon.

Meanwhile, in a statement on Monday, the US embassy in Rangoon advised US citizens "to avoid travel to the Mandalay region because of escalating violence in that area".

Reports of other attacks on mosques and houses were reported on Monday in towns near Meiktila—Oh The Kone, Tatkone and Yamethin.
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For more background:

  1. Communal violence spreads in central Myanmar
  2. Meiktila ‘like a war zone’ in aftermath of rioting
  3. Mobs stalk the streets of Meiktila


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UN envoy slams anti-Muslim campaign

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Wednesday, 27 March 2013 11:13 AFP

Muslim homes have been targeted with "brutal efficiency" in deadly new unrest in Myanmar, a UN envoy who has just been to the troubled country said Tuesday.

Vijay Nambiar, Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Myanmar. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

Envoy Vijay Nambiar said that "incendiary propaganda" had been used to stir unrest between Buddhist and Muslim communities which has erupted again in recent days.

Nambiar has just been on a visit to Myanmar during which he met President Thein Sein and was taken to Meiktila where mosques were burned and charred bodies left in the streets in violence that started March 20.

"It seemed to have been done, in a sense, in almost a kind of brutal efficiency," Nambiar told reporters at UN headquarters from Thailand.

He said he went to shelters in Meiktila where almost 9,000 people had sought protection. About 23 people have been detained in the town, which is about 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of the capital Naypyidaw, the envoy added.

"Most of the people I spoke to tended to suggest the attacks were perpetrated by people they did not really recognize, and they may have been outsiders. But clearly they were targeted," Nambiar said.

The envoy said some "inciteful" articles had been written by Buddhist elements. "Clearly there has been a fair amount of incendiary propaganda which has been going on amongst the various communities, which heightened the feeling between them," Nambiar added.

The UN official said Thein Sein had been "very firm in saying that firm action" would be taken against the perpetrators and to stop the spread of the violence.

Since the attacks in Meiktila, the Buddhist-Muslim violence has spread this week to towns closer to the main city of Yangon.
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Police chief transferred after refugee camp blaze

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Wednesday, 27 March 2013 10:22 The Bangkok Post

Fire breaks out at Mae Surin refugee camp on Friday, March 22, 2013. PHOTO: Karenni Further Studies Program via Facebook

The Khun Yuam district police chief was hit with a lightning transfer order Monday for alleged negligence in handling Friday's deadly inferno at the Mae Surin refugee camp which resulted in almost 40 deaths.

In the order signed by Mae Hong Son police chief Sompong Chingduang, effective Monday, Pol Col Nitinart Wittayawuthikul has been moved to Mae Hong Son provincial police office for 30 days, pending an investigation.

Pol Maj Gen Sompong said Pol Col Nitinart had failed to perform his duty when the blaze broke out at the refugee camp on Friday afternoon. He would also be excluded from the fire investigation team.

Pol Col Nitinart, however, insisted he had rushed to the scene immediately after learning of the incident.

"I was there [at Mae Surin camp]. I was among the first officers who arrived at the camp to conduct the search and rescue operation," Pol Col Nitinart told The Bangkok Post.

The police officer said he was not informed in advance of his transfer and there was no clear explanation about why he had been moved out of the area.

He said he had made some progress in questioning witnesses about the cause of the blaze.

Pol Maj Gen Sompong said a police investigation committee had been set up to investigate the camp fire. The cause could not be concluded at this stage.

Investigators were still questioning witnesses and affected refugees.

He said police would interview as many refugees as they could.

"We will try to finish the investigation as soon as possible," he said.

He refused to confirm an earlier account by some witnesses that the fire started at a house in Zone 1 of the refugee camp.


While Deputy Interior Minister Pracha Prasopdee insisted Monday the camp blaze was an accident, accounts given by refugees at the camp suggested it might have been man-made.

A police source who questioned Mae Surin camp refugees in the aftermath of the inferno said many witnesses told the officers they saw a helicopter flying above the camp minutes before the fire broke out. They also said they saw a burning object dropped from the helicopter on the roof of a house in Zone 1.

A source from the police forensics team Monday said traces of phosphorus had been found in the grounds of the house where the blaze was believed to have started.

Soil samples from the house would be sent to a Bangkok laboratory for further examination, the source said.

Sunai Phasuk, the Human Rights Watch representative in Thailand, urged the government to quickly and clearly conclude the probe to end all the speculation as the tragedy and the high death toll were being closely watched by human rights organisations and had become a concern among activists.

"The government cannot sit on this issue and let it go with the hope that the public will soon forget about it," he said.

"The government has to come up with an answer."

Meanwhile, the bodies of 36 fire victims at Mae Surin refugee camp were buried Monday in a simple Christian ceremony.

The official death toll is 37. The last victim, a male refugee, succumbed to his injuries at Nakorn Ping Hospital in Chiang Mai on Sunday. His body has yet to be returned to the camp for religious ceremonies.

Sa Mu, 29, who lost his 20-year-old brother and 15-year-old nephew in the blaze, said the fire began in Zone 1 while he was at home in Zone 4.

He ran out to help others in Zone 4 put out the fire.

"In only about 15 minutes, the fire spread quickly to my house. So I had to rush back home," he said, adding that he shouted for his family members to escape before running to a stream next to the camp.

But his brother and nephew could not make it out to the stream.

Joa Pa Hu, 26, the owner of the house where the fire was believed to have started, told police he was not at home when the blaze began.

"I left my two-year-old son sleeping at the house and went out to eat with my mother at another house," he said. "No one was at the house except my son."

He insisted he did not leave a cooking fire burning when he went out.

Toe La Si, 32, said many people heard the sound of a helicopter's rotors and saw sparks and smoke trails falling from the sky.

"It was like someone setting fire to different corners of the camp. It spread quickly from section 1 to 4," she said.

Khun Yuam district chief Charnchai Srisathien Monday said identification of the victims had been finalised. Of the 37 killed, 21 were male and 16 female.

This article was first published in The Bangkok Post on March 25, 2013.
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For more background:

  • Refugee camp death toll rises to 42
  • 30 killed in Karenni refugee camp fire


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Monday, March 25, 2013

Japan grants Myanmar refugees $6.9 million

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Monday, 25 March 2013 19:28 Mizzima News

The Japanese Ambassador Mikio Numata donated US$6.9 million on behalf of Japan to the UN refugee agency in Myanmar in an official ceremony in Naypyitaw on March 22.

A UNHCR member of staff discusses accommodation with colleagues and displaced people at the Ohn Taw Gyi IDP camp near Sittwe, capital of Rakhine state. (Photo: UNHCR/P. Behan)

The ‘Programme for Assistance to Displaced Persons in Ethnic Minority Areas’ grant was part of a package of $215 million given by Japan to various UN agencies in Myanmar and has been earmarked to assist hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) across the country.

“This grant will make an enormous difference to the lives of many people who’ve lost their homes and livelihoods, through no fault of their own,” said Ayaki Ito, UNHCR deputy representative in Myanmar in a statement.

“This extremely generous donation will help us to support approximately 220,000 displaced people and provide them with improved shelter, access to healthcare and water. It will also allow us to better support the most vulnerable among the populations,” said Ito.

There are currently estimated 430,000 IDPs in Myanmar, many in the conflict-effected Kachin and Rakhine States.

According to a statement by the Japanese Embassy, Japan granted Myanmar more than $273 million in development aid in 2012.
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Indonesia to burn $80 million on Myanmar coal

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Monday, 25 March 2013 14:13 Mizzima News

The Jakarta Globe has reported that Bukit Asam, an Indonesian state-owned coal mining company, plans to invest US $80 million in a mine-mouth coal-fired power plant in Myanmar.

PHOTO PT Bukit Asam - Persero Tbk / Facebook

The proposed plant will be the biggest of its kind in the country. It has not yet been announced where the mine will be located.

Speaking to The Jakarta Globe on Friday, Joko Pramono, Bukit Asam’s corporate secretary, said, “This energy project has a capacity of 2x200 megawatts. There is already a research team that has done a study on it.”

There are currently 15 Indonesian state-owned firms eyeing Myanmar for business expansion, said Indonesian Minister Dahlan Iskan, according to the report.

Last November, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa visited Myanmar on a fact-finding visit for ASEAN.
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