Thursday, 27 May 2010

Rights group slams Myanmar junta on poll anniversary

BANGKOK — A leading rights group marked the 20th anniversary of Myanmar's last elections on Thursday by calling on the junta's allies to demand a credible political process ahead of this year's polls.
The military-ruled country's last national vote, held on May 27, 1990, was won by a landslide by the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi, but the ruling generals never let her party take power.
"The 1990 elections sent a clear message to the Burmese military that the people wanted them out of power," said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at New York-based Human Rights Watch. Burma is Myanmar's former name.
"The generals won?t make the same mistake twice. The past 20 years have been a stage-managed process to ensure the military controls the future parliament," she said in a statement.
The country's first elections since 1990 are due to be held by the end of November this year.
The NLD was forcibly dissolved after refusing to meet a May 6 deadline to re-register as a political party -- a move that would have forced it to expel its own leader and recognise the junta's controversial constitution.
Suu Kyi has spent much of the past 20 years in jail or house arrest.
Human Rights Watch said the upcoming elections "appear designed to enshrine military rule with a civilian face".
"Only the most cynical of governments could endorse Burma's deeply flawed process," Pearson said, urging Myanmar's diplomatic and trade partners, such as China, India, Russia, and Singapore, to exert pressure on the government.
"On the 20th anniversary of a crushed election, Burma's friends should insist on the immediate release of political prisoners and an inclusive and credible political process."
Human Rights Watch also called on the international community to impose more "calibrated and targeted" sanctions on Myanmar's military and its business associates.
On Wednesday the nations of Southeast Asia and the European Union urged Myanmar to ensure forthcoming elections are "credible and transparent", as the EU pressed the junta to allow a team to visit the country to discuss the polls.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The Burmese option...

The government does not want to negotiate, so I think many more people will die," said "Red Shirt" leader Sean Boonpracong in Bangkok. "This will end as our Tiananmen Square." Or more precisely, it may end up as Thailand's "8888": the massacre by the Burmese army of thousands of civilians demanding democracy on August 8, 1988.

The army still rules Burma today, and commits further massacres whenever the citizens show resistance (most recently in 2007). The Burmese army's successful resort to violence in 1988, after so many Asian dictatorships had been overthrown by non-violent demonstrations, may have even emboldened the Chinese Communists to use extreme violence on Tiananmen Square in 1989. But I would never have put Thailand in the same category.

Even two months ago, I would have said that Thailand is a flawed but genuine democracy, and I would have pointed to the non-violent behaviour of the pro-democracy "Red Shirts" who took over central Bangkok in mid-March as evidence that the Thais would sort it out peacefully in the end. But a lot of people have been killed by the Thai army since then, and now I'm not so sure that there will be a happy ending in Thailand.

It's quite possible that there will be a massacre in Bangkok, and that the military will end up back in control permanently, riding a tiger from which they cannot dismount. Then the whole country would start down the road to Burmese-style tyranny, isolation and poverty.

Thailand wouldn't get there right away, of course. It took 40 years of repression to transform Burma from the richest country in South-East Asia to the poorest, and Thai generals are not ill-educated thugs like their Burmese counterparts. But they would find themselves in essentially the same position: Condemned to hold the whole country hostage at the point of a gun forever.

The roots of this crisis are in the military coup of 2006, when the Thai army overthrew the elected government of Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin, an ex-policeman who became a telecommunications billionaire, was not an ideal prime minister: His "war on drugs" involved thousands of illegal killings of dealers and addicts. But he endeared himself to Thailand's poor.

Thailand has been a democracy since 1992, but Thaksin was the first politician to appeal directly to the interests of the rural poor. He promised them debt relief, cheap loans, better health care, and he delivered - but that was not how the urban elite wanted their tax money spent.

A "Yellow Shirt" movement seized control of the streets of Bangkok, seeking Thaksin's removal and demanding strict curbs on the voting rights of peasants. After months of confrontation on the streets, the army took control in 2006, ejecting Thaksin from office - but it was not unequivocally on the side of the "Yellow Shirts" either.

The soldiers allowed a new election in late 2007 - and Thaksin's supporters won again, of course. His opponents used the courts to dismiss two prime ministers drawn from the pro-Thaksin party for "conflict of interest" (in one case because the prime minister appeared on a television cooking show), and ultimately simply had the whole party banned and its members ejected from parliament.

Thai army officers are not usually from the privileged Bangkok elite that sponsored the "Yellow Shirts". Many are from humble backgrounds, and most of their troops are country people, just like the "Red Shirts" behind the barricades.

There is still some hope, but the situation is very grave. People are being killed every day, and there are predictions of civil war if the protesters in Bangkok are massacred. Nobody knows for sure which way the army will jump, but if it "restores order" in the way that the elite wants, then a long, dark night will fall on Thailand.

Friday, 21 May 2010

US says troubled by Myanmar developments

*US says troubled by Myanmar developments

The top US diplomat for Asia said on Wednesday Washington is troubled that
Myanmar has not moved on any of the issues standing in the way of better
American ties with the military-ruled state.

Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific,
said his visit to Myanmar this month for talks with the military left him
disappointed on a full range of bilateral disputes.

"The United States remains quite dissatisfied with what we've seen to date
in terms of movement on the part of the government with the specific issues
that we've laid out," he said.

Campbell had called on Myanmar to hold dialogue with opposition parties and
ethnic groups ahead of elections this year and for the immediate release of
the country's estimated 2,100 political prisoners.

He had also expressed concern that Myanmar was seeking to acquire nuclear
technology from North Korea in violation of UN Security Council sanctions.

"On each of these issues we are troubled by developments," Campbell told a
news briefing.

Campbell's visit followed up a trip in November last year — the first to the
former Burma in 14 years by a senior US official — under Washington's new
policy of deeper engagement with a regime it has disparaged for years.

He met with government officials, leaders of opposition parties and ethnic
groups and long-detained Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, the
country's charismatic pro-democracy icon.

Source: reposted by Burma Democratic Concern (BDC)


May 18, 2010

Andrew Selth

*Burma-North Korea Ties Worry the World*

For the past 10 years, Burma has been accused of trying to acquire a nuclear
weapon. A number of developments during this period — notably Burma’s
growing relationship with North Korea — have raised international concerns.
Yet, to date, no hard evidence of such a plan has been produced.

Claims of a secret nuclear weapons program date back to 2000, when Burma’s
military government announced that it was going to purchase a small research
reactor from Russia. These accusations were repeated in 2003, when it was
suggested by a respected news magazine that North Korea had taken over from
Russia as the source of Burma’s nuclear technology. In the years that
followed, the issue resurfaced periodically on activist Web sites, but in
August 2009 it attracted global attention when a story appeared in the
Sydney Morning Herald citing Australia National University professor Des
Ball and the Thai-based journalist Phil Thornton.

The SMH claimed that there were in fact two nuclear projects running in
Burma. The first was the Russian research center, which was to be operated
under international safeguards. (Contrary to the SMH story, construction of
this reactor has not yet begun). The second was said to be a secret project
to build a reactor and associated nuclear fuel processing plants with North
Korean help. According to the SMH, if all went according to plan Burma would
have a nuclear weapon by 2014 and “a handful” of such devices by 2020. The
main sources for these claims were two Burmese “defectors” and commercial
satellite imagery of suspect facilities in Burma.

Needless to say, such claims have been the subject of close scrutiny by the
United States and other governments. There have also been comprehensive
studies of the issue by think tanks like the International Institute for
Strategic Studies in London and the Institute for Science and International
Security in Washington.

The US government has expressed its concern about the defense ties that
appear to have developed between Burma and North Korea over the past decade.
These links reportedly include the sale of conventional arms to Burma, North
Korean help with the development of Burma’s defense infrastructure
(including the construction of various underground facilities), assistance
to Burma’s arms industries and training in fields like air defense. In 2004,
the US blocked the sale of North Korean short-range ballistic missiles to

The Obama administration has also stated its wish to discuss a number of
proliferation issues with Burma, including the possible transfer of nuclear
technology from North Korea. Significantly, however, at no time has the US
government stated that Burma is attempting to develop a nuclear weapon, with
or without North Korean help. Indeed, despite considerable pressure from
members of Congress, activists and journalists, Washington has refused to be
drawn on the subject. Its position seems to reflect either a belief that
Burma does not have a secret nuclear weapons program, or a lack of hard
evidence to support such a claim.

This approach has been shared by other countries, including Britain and
Australia, both of which have referred only to “unconfirmed” reports of a
secret nuclear program. For their part, the IISS and ISIS have both stated
that there is insufficient evidence to support the claims. The IISS, for
example, said in late 2009 that Burma “has no known capabilities that would
lend themselves to a nuclear weapons program.”

Even so, both governments and think tanks remain suspicious of Burma’s
intentions, and point to a number of factors which they believe warrant
continuing close attention.

Of all Southeast Asian countries, Burma has the strongest strategic
rationale for a nuclear weapons program. Since the abortive pro-democracy
uprising in 1988, the military government has feared armed intervention by
the United States and its allies. The regime has also suffered from economic
sanctions and other punitive measures. Burma’s generals envy North Korea’s
ability to resist such pressures and still win concessions from the
international community. They reportedly believe that this influence derives
from Pyongyang’s possession of nuclear weapons.

In addition, Burma has for some years been working closely with two North
Korean trading entities that have a record of proliferating sensitive
nuclear and missile technologies. Also, Burma has imported a number of
sophisticated machines and items of dual-use equipment from Europe and Japan
that could conceivably be used in a nuclear program. The number of Burmese
sent to Russia for nuclear-related training seems to be more than that
required for a peaceful research program. Furthermore, some of the claims
made by the “defectors” are plausible.

None of these factors in themselves prove that Burma has embarked on a
nuclear weapons program. After the mistakes of the Iraq war, no government
wants to rush to judgment based on incomplete or unverified intelligence.
Having been caught napping a few years ago, however, when it was discovered
that Syria was building a reactor with North Korean help, the international
community is now looking carefully for hard evidence of a secret Burmese
nuclear program.

East Asia Forum

Andrew Selth is a research fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute in

Source: reposted by Burma Democratic Concern (BDC)


*Myanmar: Hip-hop's revolution*

Posted May 19, 2010, 11:08 am

Alex Ellgee Special to GlobalPost

MAE SOT, Thailand — Behind the rusty prison bars, two men lie on the floor
in light blue fatigues. A stream of light pours in through a small window
near the top of their cell. All is still.

Suddenly, loud music begins to blare. The men leap up and clang their iron
shackles as smoke drifts into their cell. They start singing against a heavy
beat: “Never turn back, never give up.”

Despite appearances, these men are not criminals and they are not in prison
– at least not in a literal sense.

9KT and MK are famous Myanmar hip-hop artists on the set of their latest
music video, "Never Give Up." Donning black masks and using pseudonyms,
these musicians aim to keep their political tunes under the radar of a
dictatorship as oppressive as Myanmar, formerly called Burma.

“We wanted to film in a prison cell in order to represent for all our
members and friends who are now behind bars,” said 9KT, arranging his mask
on the set of the music video. “We are trying to tell the government, even
if they imprison us they cannot stop us fighting for freedom; we will always
carry on.”

“We are telling the people that they shouldn’t give up,” he said. “Burmese
youth can’t be afraid of the Burmese junta, they need to fight for freedom
in our country.”

Already a prominent hip-hop artist in Myanmar, 9KT grew inspired to make
more subversive songs when he heard the political hip-hop of refugees from
his country in Australia. He wanted to similarly address the extreme
suffering he saw around him.

He traveled to Mae Sot, Thailand, near the Myanmar border, more than a year
ago. The area has for more tahn two decades played host to an array of
organizations opposing the Myanmar junta.

There, he joined up with an underground political group called Generation
Wave (GW). He later met MK through GW, and they immediately found common
ground in their love for music and the desire to “wake up the youth.” In Mae
Sot, they can produce their music with relative safety, away from the police
presence in Yangon, Myanmar's capital.

GW itself was formed after the "Saffron Revolution" in September 2007 when
rising fuel prices provoked thousands of monks to take to the streets in
protest. Civilians joined the movement, but the military junta cracked down,
leaving hundreds dead and thousands imprisoned.

Following the crackdown, a group of protesters, who had been friends since
high school, started GW as a way to inspire new activists inside Myanmar.
Having analyzed revolutions worldwide and the opposition movement in their
country they decided to focus on non-violent resistance.

In two and half years, the group has carried out what they call “action
campaigns” almost every week. Their main activities include anti-government
graffiti in busy places, handing out pamphlets and writing and distributing
political music.

“The youth of Burma have seen so many activists thrown behind bars, they
have seen monks killed in the streets, so many are turning their back to the
struggle for human rights,” said Min Yan Naing, founder of GW. “Our job and
aim is to bring them back and make them feel the responsibility to change
our country and better the lives for all Burmese people.”

Just association with GW risks a hefty prison sentence. Thirty GW members
have been arrested. Nyie Chan was handed the longest sentence, 32 years, and
is said to be suffering from severe stomach problems in Myanmar’s notorious
Insein prison near Yangon.

Zayar Thaw, another famous hip-hop artist, was arrested and sentenced to six
years. Minutes before Zayar Thaw was sentenced, he wrote a statement, which
was leaked to GW members. “Tell the people to have the courage to reject the
things they don’t like, and even if they don’t dare to openly support the
right thing, tell them not to support the wrong thing,” he said in his

The young musician pioneered the hip-hop industry in Myanmar, releasing the
first-ever rap album in the country in 2003. The rock ‘n’ roll music fans of
Myanmar’s crumbling cities found a new passion overnight.

Zayar Thaw's thirst for hip-hop was married to his desire to further
democracy in Myanmar. The most prolific of GW campaigns, which saw the
phrase “Change New Government” being applied to Change Nitric Gas stickers,
was his brainchild. This motto is also spray-painted across the gate of GW’s
safe house in Mae Sot.

All the walls of the GW safe house are covered in graffiti. One wall has
“Freedom” splattered across it. Another has "Generation Wave" stenciled in
red, with a large clenched fist giving a thumbs up — GW’s logo.

9KT’s latest album, “Never Give Up,” is a direct message to youth. Eleven
tracks, to be released in October in time with Myanmar's elections, mix rock
and hip-hop. One song called “If We All Unite,” talks about coming together
to topple the government; while another, “Negative Thinking,” is a comic
song that mocks the generals for their bad intentions.

“Music can change everything. Popular music can change a lot,” he said.
“When I was young and heard celebrities singing happy songs, it made me
happy, if they sang angrily, it made me angry — so I hope if the people hear
political songs from familiar voices they will become interested in

The cameraman at the music video shoot takes an aerial position. 9KT shakes
a can of spray paint and skillfully tags "2010," to represent the upcoming
elections, on the concrete floor. Without delay he whips out his second can
and aggressively paints a white cross over the digits.

Angrily, he stamps on it and walks off. With a bit of luck a dog walks over
the graffiti. Since dogs are considered lowly creatures, cheers arise from
the group which believes the upcoming election will be a sham — a belief
furthered by new election laws that for the first time allow the junta to
legally arrest opposition politicians who did not register.

As the camera and lights get packed up GW members sit around a table with
guitars discussing their upcoming furtive campaigns.

“We have to do as many as possible during the elections,” Min Yan Naing told
the group. “A revolution is evolving, it might not happen over night but at
least the people will soon realize they have the right to be free.”


*Rising Border Tension Threatens China-Burma Relations*
By Mitch Moxley

BEIJING, May 20, 2010 (IPS) - When the military regime in Burma launched a
campaign last August to disarm the ethnic rebels in the Kokang region, made
up mostly of ethnic Chinese and where a two-decade-long ceasefire had been
in place, the push triggered an exodus of more than 37,000 refugees into
China’s Yunnan province.

The move, which frustrated the Chinese government in Beijing, sheds light on
brewing troubles in China-Burma relations. China has a significant interest
in a stable Burma and a greater influence over the xenophobic regime than
perhaps any other power. But as an election approaches in Burma (officially
known as Myanmar) that the ruling generals dubiously claim will be free and
fair, China-Burma relations are growing increasingly strained.

Complicating matters is growing anxiety that another push against armed
ethnics groups in eastern Burma will cause a second refugee crisis in
southern China’s Yunnan province, which borders the military-ruled South-
east Asian state along with Laos and Vietnam. Observers say the junta is
preparing for a military campaign against the 30,000-strong United Wa State
Army, which is ethnically Chinese and has been accused by the United States
of being a drug cartel.

"What’s happening on the border brings into sharp relief the fault lines in
[China-Burma relations] that have been apparent for some time but are now
more clearly defined," said Dr Ian Storey, a fellow at the Institute of
South East Asian Studies in Singapore.

"This is not a relationship that is based on trust and mutual friendship.
It’s very much a marriage of convenience."

In Burma, distrust of China runs deep, and the junta has for several years
tried to reduce its dependence on the latter by courting other nations,
namely, India and Russia. China, meanwhile, has grown frustrated with
Burma’s lack of progress on political reform and addressing economic
disparities, Dr Storey said.

Burma was one of the first countries to recognise the People’s Republic of
China in 1949, but relations turned for the worse in the 1960s, culminating
in anti-Chinese riots in the then-capital, Rangoon (now known as Yangon).
But when Western countries imposed broad sanctions on Burma following a
crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 1988, China upped aid and arms
shipments and fostered trade relations.

Since then, China has provided broad diplomatic and economic support for the
junta, considered one of the most corrupt in the world. According to state
media, China is Burma’s fourth largest foreign investor and has invested
more than 1 billion U.S. dollars in the country, mostly in the mining
sector. In 2008, bilateral trade grew more than one-quarter to about 2.63
billion dollars.

In October 2009, state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation started
building a crude oil port in Burma, part of a pipeline that will carry 12
million metric tons of crude oil a year from the Middle East and Africa
through Burma into China, roughly 6 percent of China’s total imports last
year. Another pipeline, slated to come online in 2012, will have a capacity
to bring in 12 million cubic metres of gas from Burma into China.

Burma gives China access to the Indian Ocean through its ports, not just for
oil and gas import and export to China’s landlocked southwest, but also for
potential military bases.

The generals, meanwhile, depend on China for money and armaments. In 2006,
during a visit to Yunnan, Burma’s Commerce Minister Tin Naing Thein thanked
Beijing for being a "good neighbour" and offering "vigorous support"
following the 1988 crackdown on pro-democracry prostestors. China also
offers Burma some protection within the United Nations Security Council.

"Burma is isolated from the international community, and the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has put a lot of pressure on Burma to
improve its human rights conditions," said Yu Changsen, an associate
professor in the International Affairs Department of Sun Yat-Sen University,
located in Guandong Province. "Burma depends on China in many aspects… [The
relationship] is somewhat like that of China and North Korea."

Despite appearances, relations in recent years have been increasingly
troubled. For many years, China backed Burmese communists in their armed
struggle with the government, and many of Burma’s current leaders once
fought against the communists. Today, many Burmese view China as a pillager
of resources.

Huang Yunjing, an associate professor at Sun Yat-Sen University’s Asia-
Pacific Research Institute, said that the schisms in China-Burma relations
are overblown, noting that China’s investments in its military-ruled
neighbour continue to grow. "China and Burma share many common interests in
political, economic and security aspects," he said. "We have a good
bilateral partnership, and in many ways we support each other in a mutually
beneficial way."

But China is growing increasingly concerned about more unrest in the
troubled border region. This concern was made apparent with the recent
deployment of 5,000 People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops along China’s
southwestern border with Burma, according to reports by ‘The Irrawaddy’, a
Thailand-based news magazine run by exiled Burmese.

The threat of border skirmishes grows greater as the elections, thought to
be held sometime this summer, draw near. The generals have long sought to
consolidate power in the restive and porous regions that border Yunnan,
where ethnic minorities on both sides share blood ties.

Further violence could disrupt border trade, create a refugee crisis and
lead to increased narcotics production and trafficking. It would also put at
risk a large number of Chinese nationals in the region, according to Dr

"If that happens," Sun Yat-Sen’s Yu said, "it will definitely give the
Chinese government a headache."

Source: reposted by Burma Democratic Concern (BDC)

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

230 Die Of Heat Stress In Burma

230 Die Of Heat Stress In Burma

At least 230 people have died of heat stress in Myanmar's second largest city of Mandalay during the weekend, as temperature recorded at 45 degree Celsius, the local daily quoted Mandalay municipal authorities as reporting Wednesday.

The red-hot temperature has brought many patients of all ages to the Mandalay General Hospital and private clinics, reports China's Xinhua news agency citing the daily.

Among the dead, most were liquor drinkers, the report said, adding that following this, the Mandalay local authorities have banned selling of liquor in the city.

The excessively high weather temperature too dried up some drinking water ponds in suburban areas in Yangon.

It is reported that thousands of fishes, bred in ponds in the country's southwestern Ayeyawaddy division, died of heat stress daily, local fish breeders said.

There were even some cases that all 100,000 fishes died in a single day in Twantay township, Yangon division.

Excessively hot weather temperature in Myanmar over the past two months broke the highest in the history.

From late April through to the mid-May, the day temperatures in central Myanmar were reaching a record high in over four decades, peaking at between 43 and 47 degree Celsius in such regions as Minbu, Magway, Mandalay, Monywa, Nyaung Oo, Chauk and Mingyan as well as in Yangon and Bago over the past week, which are 5 to 8 degree Celsius above April average temperature.
Posted in and Burma Demcratic Concern (BDC) reposted it.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Burma Water Crisis 2010

Burma Water Crisis 2010

People inside Burma are facing water crisis and junta is ignoring the plight of Burmese people. We would never even dream of water crisis would happen in Burma. But Burma is facing it now and junta is ignoring the plight of Burmese people. Burmese people are helping ourselves and please help us to alleviate the suffering of Burmese people inside Burma.

To Donate through Burma Democratic Concern (BDC)

Daw Khin Aye Aye Mar (USA) +001 509 586 8309
U Tint Swe Thiha (USA) + 001 509 5823261
Ko Khin Maung Win (USA) + 001 941-961-2622
Ko Myo Thein (UK) + 44 78 7788 2386
Ma Ohn Mar Oo (UK) + 44 77 2723 6419
BDC Office + 44 208 4939 137
Background Information

Burma enjoys tropical weather with three seasons namely rainy season during which we got heavy rain especially in monsoon, winter with moderate cold and summer with mild temperature. Rivers, streams, creeks, fresh water lakes and ponds can be found everywhere in Burma. Tropical forests were once deeply covered in Kachin, Chin, Shan, Karean, Arakan, Pa-gue, Saninsarri and Sagying divisions. Since military regime came to power, trees were cutting down irresponsibly. The effect of climate change due to deforestation is now causing drought resulting in water drying up of ponds, lakes, wells, underground water and record level of water low in rivers. Addition cyclone Nargis destroyed natural eco-system and which added up the man-made disaster.

It is the Burmese traditional beliefs that under bad rulers the people suffer due to the bad karma of the bad kings. If we look at the glimpse of Burma in recent years, we can see the bad disaster are prevailing such as

• 2008 Nargis hit Burma killing more than 250, 000 people
• 2008 rats infested which caused famine
• 2009 fire broke out most of the places in Burma
• 2010 water shortages in most of the places in Burma
These natural disasters can be translated as the signs which are indicating that (according to the Burmese beliefs) there will definitely be change in Burma. Than Shwe led military regime including Thein Sein’s USDP will soon be outgoing and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi led legitimate leaders will be ruling the country very soon in Burma.

For more information:

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Бирма: Массовое движение

Бирма: Массовое движение

У Вин Тин привело демократических групп в Бирме началось массовое движение, требуя

1. Чтобы освободить Аун Сан Су Чжи, У Кхун Хтун, студенческих лидеров и всех политических заключенных
2. Чтобы изменить конституцию 2008
3. Чтобы изменить законы о выборах 2010
4. Для реализации результатов выборов 1990
5. Созвать парламент людей на основе результатов выборов 1990

PS: Мы считаем, что мы должны работать осуществлению того, что наши законные лидеры направляет нас. Мы приняли более пяти основным требованиям, как наши руководящие принципы работы кампаний в свободной Бирмы.

Источник: перевод и reposted Бирмы Демократической концерна (BDC). Оригинальная версия этой статьи на бирманском языке.

Burma Mass Movement

Monday, 10 May 2010

Scots charity condemns slow progress in Burma since cyclone in 2008

Scots charity condemns slow progress in Burma since cyclone in 2008

Published Date: 10 May 2010
By Tristan Stewart-Robertson
A SCOTS businessman says Burma is still a decade away from "normality" because of the deadly cyclone two years ago.
Edinburgh-based Paul Strachan led a major charity drive to turn two cruise boats into floating hospitals after Cyclone Nargis struck in 2008.

Now, as he plans to set up a formal Scots charity to continue work in the region, the 47-year-old said prADVERTISEMENT

ogress to help Burma has been slow, and warned the country's military junta is a major obstacle.

In total, Mr Strachan's efforts have raised more than £835,000, with still some in the bank to keep aid efforts going.

But he said major work will be needed to tackle problems such as the poisoned water supply. Tens of thousands of new wells need to be dug around the delta region hardest hit, each costing a few thousand pounds.

After the cyclone struck Burma on 2 May, 2008, Mr Strachan loaned the Pandaw II and IV cruise boats from his river cruise business in southeast Asia to the charities Save The Children and Merlin, who turned the barges into floating hospitals getting aid to inaccessible parts of the Irrawaddy delta.

A 128ft boat was then converted into the Pandaw Clinic Barge, which treated 4,487 patients between August 2008 and March 2009. The vessel has only just restarted after being denied a licence for the past six months by the military junta.

Mr Strachan said: "It will take a decade to get things back to normality. There can be 20 to 30 orphan children in a single village being cared for by the community. It's a rice-growing area so people also had a living in farming or trading. There was a terrific loss of livestock, and a buffalo costs as much as a small car.

"People got back to farming quite quickly because they had to, and avoided a famine. The government is a major obstacle. They obstruct aid and non-Burmese nationals. The hospital ship was laid up for six months because it did not have the right licence.

"All the wells were poisoned by the ingress of salt water so you have to dig deeper. The Burmese are very resilient and used to not getting much support from government or much aid. They're very good at fixing things."

During the hot season last year, the floating clinic was used to deliver fresh water to villages. The holds were relined and painted to carry water.

Merlin decided to focus more on health education efforts last year and German charity Myanmar Foundation has now taken on the running of the clinic, supported by the charity efforts in Scotland.

Mr Strachan said they are now looking to set up a formal charity in Scotland to continue funding the hospital barge and other work in Burma.

He added: "All our efforts help, but one does worry it's just a drop in the ocean. This is a massive area."

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Burma likely to let US envoy meet Suu Kyi

Burma's junta is likely to let US envoy Kurt Campbell meet detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, paving the way for him to visit the country next week, an official told AFP Saturday.

This 2009 photo shows Burma democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi at a hotel in Rangoon. Burma's junta is likely to let US envoy Kurt Campbell meet detained opposition leader San Suu Kyi, paving the way for him to visit the country next week

On Friday the US State Department said Campbell, the assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, would only go ahead with the visit if he were allowed to see Aung San Suu Kyi and other opposition members.

Suu Kyi, 64, has been in detention for 14 of the past 20 years. Campbell met her in Rangoon last November when he became the highest-ranking US official to visit Burma in 14 years, part of a new policy by President Barack Obama of engagement with the military-ruled country.

Burma officials told AFP that Campbell would spend three days in Burma next week, including talks Monday with the decision-making committee of Suu Kyi's disbanded party, the National League for Democracy.

"He will meet with nine Central Executive Committee members on Monday. He's also likely to meet with... Aung San Suu Kyi on that day. But it's not confirmed yet," one official said on condition of anonymity.

The officials said Campbell was also scheduled to travel to Burma's remote capital Naypyidaw to meet members of the regime, before returning to the country's main city Rangoon.

The National League for Democracy (NLD) was forcibly dissolved Thursday under widely criticised laws governing elections that are scheduled for later this year -- the first in Burma for two decades.

Former top party members said they expected Campbell to meet them and their leader, and that they would urge him to push for a dialogue between the junta and the democracy campaigners.

"We were informed to wait tentatively on Monday to meet with Mr Campbell," said Tin Oo, who was the NLD's vice-chairman.

"We also heard he will meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi separately," he said. "Daw" is a term of respect in Burma.

"We will discuss with him the matter of the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners" as well as the need for the regime to make its election plans more credible, said Tin Oo.

He said their meeting with Campbell would take place at a US diplomatic residence in Rangoon as they could no longer conduct business at their long-time party headquarters.

The NLD refused to meet a May 6 deadline to re-register as a party -- a move that would have forced it to expel its own leader -- and boycotted the vote, which critics say is a sham designed to legitimize the junta's grip on power.

Burma has been ruled by the military since 1962. The NLD won a landslide victory in 1990 elections but the junta never allowed them to take office.

Obama's administration last year launched a policy of engaging the junta in a bid to promote democracy and improve human rights, but has since sharply criticized the junta's approach to elections.

A faction within the NLD said this week it would form a new political party but has not decided whether to run in the elections.

The boycott decision reportedly caused a split in the party between a hardline old guard and a new generation of moderate members who favour greater pragmatism.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Suu Kyi's opposition party becoming social movement after Myanmar law forces it from politics Associated Press

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Leaders of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party said Thursday they would continue working as a social movement after Myanmar's new election law forces its dissolution as a political party at midnight.

Officials at the National League for Democracy tidied their desks, locked their files in cupboards and padlocked the gate to their main office in Yangon at 4 p.m., a quiet end to a political party founded more than 20 years ago to challenge military rule.

The League won a 1990 election but the army refused to cede power. The party declined to register for elections planned sometime this year, a step that will force its dissolution at the midnight deadline. The party says the laws are undemocratic and unfair. Its non-registration is tantamount to an election boycott.

Party officials said some of them would still go to the office as usual but would not engage in political activity.

"We will continue to serve the people and carry out social activities," party vice chairman Tin Oo said before closing the gate.

Other officials confirmed the group would continue to operate, though not as a political party.

"There is no reason for us to be sad. For us, nothing has changed. We are still the party members and our leaders will continue to strive for the goal of democracy and human rights, " said Aye Tun, a member of the party's youth wing.

Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for 14 of the past 20 years, instructed her party not to take down the party signboard or party flag featuring the "fighting peacock" after the deadline.

It is not clear what action authorities could take against such activity. The junta is intolerant of dissent, and has long repressed its opponents. According to the U.N. and human rights groups, there are more than 2,000 political prisoners nationwide.

When asked what action the government will take after the party's dissolution, police chief Brig. Gen. Khin Yi said: "It depends to what extent the party will abide by the law

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Burma Democratic Concern (BDC): UNHCR (Malaysia) must avoid discrimination

Burma Democratic Concern (BDC) today calls for UNHCR (Malaysia) to respect human rights and to avoid discrimination dealing with Burmese refugees from Burma.

Burma is make up with Burmese (Bamar), Kachin, Kayar, Karean, Chin, Mon, Arakan and Shan. Burmese refugees fled from Burma due to military regime’s extreme repression. People of Burma voted for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as their leader and they don’t agree with junta illegitimate rule in Burma. Military regime sees no difference in oppressing people of Burma and always uses ultimate force to crush all the opposition regardless of religion, race or ethnicity.

There are more than 70, 000 Burmese refugees in Malaysia according to the official figures. Since Malaysia is not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or its Protocol, refugees are vulnerable to detention and deportation.

While we applaud the UNHCR tireless efforts helping refugees but we also have reports that UNHCR office in Malaysia is not fair in dealing with Burmese refugees issues. Addition, some of the officers at the UNHCR (Malaysia) office is creating climate of discrimination with regard to dealing with Burmese refugees.

Burma Democratic Concern (BDC) is very concerned on the reports that some UNHCR (Malaysia) officers have misunderstood that the ruling Burmese military junta does not suppress ethnic Burmese people in Burma because they are the majority ethnic group and Buddhist.

Based on unreasonable assumption which is totally wrong, most of the Burmese applying for refugees at the UNHCR (Malaysia) offices are mostly turned down.

“I am surprised to learn some UNHCR (Malaysia) officers’ misconception towards refugees from Burma. These vulnerable refugees had suffered enough at the hand of brutal military regime and they don’t deserve the injustice again especially applying for the refugee at the one of the world’s most respected humanitarian organisation, UNHCR. Mr António Guterres should addresses this matter in the matter of urgency unless it would tarnish UNHCR’s long track record of good reputation”, said Myo Thein, the Director at the Burma Democratic Concern (BDC).

Burma Democratic Concern (BDC) calls for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Mr António Guterres to investigate fully and take timely action to avoid further discrimination.

For more information please contact Myo Thein at 00-44-78 7788 2386 or 00-44-20 8493 9137.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Suu Kyi's party bids farewell to politics but not to its hopes

This week, more than 21 years after Burma's National League for Democracy sprang to life on a wave of opposition to military rule, it will cease to exist, the dreams of its founders still unrealised, and its leader Aung San Suu Kyi in long-term detention.

Under laws drawn up by Burma's ruling generals to govern elections this year, the NLD was forced to choose between expelling its iconic leader on the grounds that she is a prisoner, or not registering for the vote. It chose the latter, a decision which means the party cannot legally exist after the 6 May deadline for registration.

It is a depressing end to the NLD's long and fruitless battle to bring democracy to Burma. Born out of the failed uprising of 1988, the party won a landslide victory in the last national elections in 1990, but the military never allowed it to take power. Senior members of the party, most of them now elderly, have been harassed, imprisoned and tortured. Yet through all this, and despite this final, killer blow to their party, NLD activists have extraordinary belief.

"We do not feel sad," said Tin Oo, the NLD's 83-year-old deputy leader who has endured several spells in prison and was freed from house arrest in February. "We have honour. One day we will come back; we will be reincarnated by the will of the people."

Dignified to the last, party members have chosen not to take down the NLD sign and red-and-white party flag outside their humble headquarters in Rangoon. The security forces will do that job for them, said Win Tin, Burma's longest-serving political prisoner who was released in 2008 after 19 years in jail, most of them spent in solitary confinement in Rangoon's infamous Insein prison.

"We won't dismantle our party ourselves," said the veteran party activist, who is a remarkably sparkly 80-year-old, despite suffering years of torture. "Symbolically, that would be wrong. But remember, this is nothing new for us. We've seen our offices closed all over the country, our flags and signboards pulled down. We are used to this repression."

From their shabby offices, a two-storey terrace squeezed between shops selling cheap wooden furniture, NLD members plan to continue their social work, which includes small education and health projects and offering financial and moral support for the families of Burma's estimated 2,100 political prisoners.

"But we will not do political work here," said Tin Oo, choosing his words carefully. "We want to avoid any misunderstanding with the authorities."

It is a far cry from the golden days of the late 1980s, said Win Tin, when the NLD's membership topped six million and the movement seemed unstoppable. Beaten down by years of repression, intimidation and crushed uprisings, it is a brave person now who publicly declares allegiance to the NLD.

"In the old days, our supporters had memberships cards, now they support us in their hearts and in their minds," Win Tin said. "There are very few speaking out these days. I am 80 and my health is bad. I have nothing to lose by speaking out so I have to be daring, on behalf of all the others."

This year's election, expected to be held in October or November, will offer little for those longing for change in Burma. Western governments have already dismissed the vote as a sham, saying it will merely put a civilian face on half a century of military rule.

Last week's resignation from the army of the Prime Minister, General Thein Sein, and 22 other cabinet ministers appeared to support this view. According to reports, the general then applied to form a new political party. Under Burma's new constitution, 25 per cent of seats in parliament will already be reserved for the military; soldiers who have recently given up their uniforms will be counted separately as civilians, a way of bulking up military power in the legislature.

"The only reason this election is being held is to legitimise military rule, not because the generals want to share their power with anyone else," said Bertil Lintner, a Burma expert and the author of several books about the country.

He said the regime's manoeuvres are meaningless to the Burmese people. For them, the death of the NLD will not diminish their desire for democracy, or their affection for its leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest at her lakeside home in Rangoon. "In 1990, the Burmese people voted for change, and they didn't get it," Mr Lintner said. "With or without the NLD, that desire for change remains the same."

A history of oppression

1988 Student uprising. Aung San Suu Kyi emerges as political leader

1990 Victory in elections for NLD

1991 Aung San Suu Kyi awarded Nobel Peace Prize for her commitment to peaceful change

1996 Aung San Suu Kyi attends first NLD congress

1998 300 NLD members released from prison

May 2002 Aung San Suu Kyi released after just under 20 months of house arrest

May 2003 Aung San Suu Kyi taken into "protective custody"

November 2003 Five senior NLD leaders released from house arrest after the visit of UN human-rights envoy

2007 Public protest movement led by Buddhist monks leads to crackdown and arrests of NLD activists

2009 Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to 18 months' house arrest

March 2010 Military formally annuls Aung San Suu Kyi's 1990 poll victory

Note: This was posted in The Independent News on 3 May 2010, reposted by Burma Democratic Concern (BDC)