BurmaNet News, May 3, 2007
editor at burmanet.org
Thu May 3 11:34:53 EDT 2007
May 3, 2007 Issue # 3196
Reuters: Myanmar opposition urges U.N. probe of 2003 clash
Mizzima: Soe Win moves to military hospital from Singapore
SHAN: Shan rebel leader seeks peaceful ways with guns ready
Irrawaddy: Press Freedom Day means nothing to Burmas censors
Irrawaddy: Beaten rights activists face trial
Network Media Group: One killed, over 4,000 villagers flee fresh Burma
BUSINESS / TRADE
AP: ASEAN aims to ink free trade pact with Japan in November
Mizzima: Burma second from bottom in press freedom
OPINION / OTHER
Irrawaddy: Climate change to attribute health crisis on Burmas border? -
International Press Institute: IPI Names Mizzima News "Free Media Pioneer
May 2, Reuters
Myanmar opposition urges U.N. probe of 2003 clash
United Nations: More than 30 members of Myanmar's opposition have asked
the United Nations to inquire into a bloody clash four years ago that led
to the latest detention of their leader, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
The letter, signed by 34 members of the National League for Democracy, or
NLD, who said they were "victims and survivors" of the incident, was
addressed to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay
Khalilzad. It was made public on Wednesday by the U.S. Campaign for Burma,
the former name of Myanmar.
May 30 marks the fourth anniversary of the killings near Depayin Township
in central Myanmar. The group said it had taken years for some of the
survivors to come forward and asked the press to withhold their names.
The letter called on Ban and Khalilzad, current president of the Security
Council, to launch an international commission of inquiry into the clash
between backers of the ruling military junta and opposition figures.
Opposition supporters say about 100 NLD members were killed in the
incident. The West has accused junta supporters of ambushing Suu Kyi's
convoy, a charge the government has denied.
The government blamed Suu Kyi, who won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, for the
violence and took her into "protective custody." She and her deputy, U Tin
Oo, have been in jail or under house arrest since the incident.
The letter called for the release of both. "We are not demanding revenge,
but we are calling for accountability of those responsible and to stop the
practice of violence and terror in Burma/Myanmar," it said.
The NLD overwhelmingly won parliamentary elections in 1990 -- the first in
30 years -- but the military, which has ruled Myanmar in one form or
another since 1962, ignored the result and refused to relinquish power.
Aung Din, policy director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma, said his
organization was hoping for U.N. action during May, in which the United
States, a leading critic of the Myanmar government, is chairing the
May 3, Mizzima News
Soe Win moves to military hospital from Singapore
Prime Minister Soe Win shifted to a military hospital in Burma after over
two months medical treatment in a Singapore hospital for an unannounced
General Soe Win, in his early sixties, returned to Rangoon last week and
was admitted to No.2 Military Hospital after treatment in Singapore since
late February. Security around the hospital has been tightened since his
There is no official statement as to his medical problem, but sources to
Mizzima suggest that he suffers blood cancer.
"Possibly he will have to stay in the hospital for sometime," said
Thailand based military analyst Win Min.
However, despite reports he is considering retiring soon, signs show he
will remain in his position until his last day.
"He just opened an office at the military hospital", Win Min said.
Senior General Than Shwe, the head of the military junta visited Rangoon
yesterday to see him.
Soe Win is the accused notorious mastermind behind the mass killing of
followers of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Sagaing Divison in May
2003, as well as being a commander who gave orders to shoot democracy
protestors in 1988 in front of Rangoon General Hospital.
Suu Kyi and her followers were ambushed in Depayin by authority back-up
thugs while traveling on a political tour on 30 May, she was afterward
imprisoned and remains under house arrest.
Soe Win succeeded to the position of Prime Minister in October 2004 in a
military shake-up which ousted then Prime Minister Khin Nyunt.
May 3, Shan Herald Agency for News
Shan rebel leader seeks peaceful ways with guns ready
One should not give up hoping for the best when it comes to resolving by
peaceful means Burma's long standing problems, but one should also be
prepared against the worst to defend one's rights by military means, said
Col Yawdserk, leader of the Shan State Army (SSA) "South" yesterday.
"Hkun Tun Oo (leader of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy-SNLD)
didn't have a military force," the 50-year old Yawdserk told the latest
batch of fighters who recently completed their basic course. "He was only
seeking a peaceful solution that would keep the country unified. He was
nevertheless accused of trying to destroy the union and shamelessly
Hkun Tun Oo and 8 of his colleague were detained and sentenced to long
term imprisonment from 79-106 years in 2005. One of them, Math Myint Than,
died on 2 May 2006.
"We must at all times be ready to resolve them by an eye for an eye, a
tooth for a tooth means," he added.
No further details about the ceremony yesterday was found in the SSA's
website in Shan, www.taifreedom.com.
The SSA South is the only armed opposition "with some teeth" that Burma's
military junta has refused to negotiate with. It has however held several
talks with two other groups: Karen National Union (KNU) and Karenni
National Progressive Party (KNPP), though no significant progress has been
reported. The groups have charged Burma's ruling military of trying to
destroy them by employing divide and conquer as well as 'camel in the
Arab's tent' tactics.
May 3, Irrawaddy
Press Freedom Day means nothing to Burmas censors - Kyaw Zwa Moe
A reddish rose on a black background may indeed not be the ideal color
combination for the cover of a book, but that judgment doesnt originate
with an artist, layout designer or photographer. It comes from a certain
group of people who are allergic to the colors black and red.
They dont like black, red colors and sometimes even rose, said a famous
Burmese writer in Rangoon. They are members of the Burmese governments
censorship board. According to the writer, the board banned the cover of a
book featuring a rose on a black background.
In their eyes, black might be associated with a dark era [referring to
the military rule], red can be seen as a symbol of revolution and a rose
might be Daw Suu, the writer said, referring to detained opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The writer asked not to be named for fear of
being arrested for criticizing government censorship.
Draconian censorship by Burmas military government is nothing new. Burma
is annually categorized in a list of the worlds most censored countries.
On Wednesday, on the eve of Press Freedom Day, the Committee to Protect
Journalists, a press group based in New York, stated Burma is among the
worst-rated countries for press freedom. Burma belongs to an infamous
group that includes Cuba, Libya, North Korea and Turkmenistan.
The Burmese governments Press Scrutiny and Registration Division assesses
not only illustrations and designs, but also tries to decipher hidden
meanings behind words suspected of hiding anti-governmental sentiments or
anything negative about the ruling leaders and their policies. They look
for anything conveying obliquely or vaguely a politically motivated
In March, publication of a monthly magazine was banned because of its
cover, according to journalists in Rangoon. The cover of Padauk Pwint Thit
featured a portrait of Thakin Kodaw Hmaing, a widely respected veteran of
the post-colonial nationalist movement and independence hero. The
government simply doesnt like people who can politically motivate the
Such censorship affects all books and publications, including more than
300 news journals and magazines across the country.
Journalists and writers in Burma agree that members of the censor board
are not only allergic to writing they judge to be political. Words like
charcoal, mangrove, even the iron bars of windows are also sensitive for
When we write a story about charcoal and mangrove forest, they would
suppose that the direction of the story is going to hint that the
government authorities allow businessmen to destroy the mangrove forest to
make charcoal, the writer said. So it becomes a serious environmental
issue. Then it is banned.
The iron bars of windows might mean jail or detention to them, the
writer continued. If we use the words iron bars, we have to be careful.
The authorities would believe that the words and the story that include
them are referring to prison and political prisoners in jail, or their
lives. She was referring to about 1,100 political prisoners now
incarcerated in the regimes jails.
Writers and journalist joke that they have passed through several ages of
Burmese literaturesuch as the ripping age, silver ink age, block
age and blank age, all the methods the censorship board used to
obliterate articles or sections of writing they didnt like.
But such methods are a thing of the past, the writer said. They dont
apply them any more; they remove all articles or paragraphs before being
And she added: Press freedom is a thing we never enjoy but if I hear that
word, I feel excited. Today is press freedom day. But for us, it doesnt
May 3, Irrawaddy
Beaten rights activists face trial - Shah Paung
Burmese human rights activists who were beaten by members of the
junta-backed group Union Solidarity Development Association in mid-April
will face trial on Friday in a local court in Hinthada Township, Irrawaddy
Division, according to the group leader.
The activistsmembers of the group Human Rights Defenders and
Promoterswere denied bail on Wednesday, according to the groups leader
We are the ones who were beaten. Now they [Burmese authorities] have
arrested our members and put them in jail, Myint Aye told The Irrawaddy
on Thursday. It is unfair.
Six members of the rights group were jailed in Hinthada for causing public
mischief, according to Myint Aye. Their trial is set to begin on Friday.
The arrests were made following an attack on two of the groups
membersMyint Naing and Maung Maung Layon April 18 by a group of about
100 USDA members carrying clubs and sharpened bamboo sticks. Four other
activists not involved in the attacks were also arrested.
Myint Aye said the activists were operating within the law during their
rights campaign in Hanthada when they were attacked and beaten by a group
of people who operate outside the law.
Myint Naing and Maung Maung Lay sustained serious injuries and were
admitted to Rangoon General Hospital following the attack.
We are fortune that they were not beaten to death, said Myint Aye. If
they had, no one could give details about the attacks during the trial.
Burmese authorities also jailed three other members of the rights group on
May Day in Latha Township, Rangoon Division, and sentenced them to seven
days in Insein Prison.
May 2, Network Media Group
One killed, over 4,000 villagers flee fresh Burma Army offensive - Saw Yan
A villager was killed, another injured and over 4,000 villagers, from 18
villages, in Pha Pun district, Karen state fled and are hiding in the
jungles after the Burma Army launched a fresh offensive in the end of
An official of the 'Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People'
(CIDKP) said that Burma Army's battalions from 'Military Operation
Command' No. 1 and Brigade 88 attacked Khay Pu and Naw Yo Tar area with
heavy artillery on April 28.
"They resorted to heavy artillery fire, firing about 65 shells in the area
starting April 28. They attacked villages. Their aim is to ensure that
nobody lives in the area. Over 4,300 villagers from 18 villages are now in
hiding in the jungle and spreading out. Used to hiding in the jungle they
are now living under trees."
The Burmese military government had scaled down operations in Pha Pu
district, Karen state during February but it re-launched attacks in April.
The Burmese Army started military operations on April 7 and the military
regime pushed in many military columns on April 26. They attacked villages
by using heavy artillery fire power.
The Burmese military fired on seven villages - Bo Nar Del, Taw Khu Mu Del,
Htee Bwee Khee, Htee Thay Khee, Hkay Pu, Ka Lal Mu, Sue Htar. Saw Aw Hkar
(61) from Htee Bwee Khee village, was killed and Mg Tin Hkay (55) from Tha
Min Khee village, was injured.
He said that villagers will face food shortage next year because Burmese
forces fired on forests rice farms, rice-stores, and killed villagers.
They have also warned the people not work in their farms.
Saw Htoo Ka Lee, who works for Karen Office for Relief and Development
(KORD), said that the Burmese forces fired on villages and attacked places
where villagers were probably hiding.
The Burmese Army is continuing its offensive in these areas. Therefore
villagers are afraid to go back home.
An official of the CIDKP said that they worried about the villagers
because the monsoon is coming.
"If the Burmese forces continue military operations, the villagers will
need shelters and plastic sheets. When the rain comes and if they don't
have shelters and mosquito-nets they will suffer from malaria and other
diseases. They will have difficulties cooking. Schools cannot open. They
will suffer from various difficulties in education, health, daily life
among other things."
The Burma Army's Light Infantry Battalion No. 103, 301, 416, Infantry
Battalion No. 13 and Battalions under the military operation command No. 1
are actively operating in Hkay Pu and Naw Yo Htar village areas.
BUSINESS / TRADE
May 3, Associated Press
ASEAN aims to ink free trade pact with Japan in November - Eileen Ng
Kuala Lumpur: Southeast Asian countries aim to sign a free trade pact with
Japan in November, and will try to remove obstacles in the negotiations at
a ministerial meeting in Brunei this week, an official said Thursday.
Ong Keng Yong, secretary-general of the 10-member Association of Southeast
Asian Nations, said the bloc's economic ministers and their Japanese
counterpart would discuss ways to free trade in goods during talks Friday.
The two sides will spell out the percentage of total trade that will be
tariff-free by an agreed date, the amount that will be subject to a
gradual tariff reduction, and sensitive items that will be excluded
altogether because of domestic concerns, he said.
"After the ministers agree on the modalities, actual negotiations can
begin. The aim is to complete it in time for signing during the ASEAN
leaders' summit on Nov. 18-21 in Singapore," Ong said in a telephone
interview from Brunei.
Japan was ASEAN's second-largest trading partner in 2005 after the United
States, with two-way trade totaling US$153.8 billion (euro118 billion) or
12.6 percent of the region's total trade, according to ASEAN.
ASEAN economic ministers began a two-day retreat in Brunei on Thursday.
They are to meet with Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Akira
Amari as well as European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson on Friday.
ASEAN diplomats have said Japan is eager for a deal as soon as possible so
it wouldn't be left out, as the bloc has already inked free trade pacts
with South Korea and China.
Ong said Japan has proposed that 1 percent of its trade with ASEAN be
excluded from tariff reductions but didn't specify the items to be
excluded. Tariffs on 88 percent to 92 percent of total trade are expected
to be fully cut and the rest to be removed gradually, he said.
"We want to know what it is that they want to exclude. We cannot accept
the idea of 1 percent exclusion. Trade between ASEAN and Japan is so large
that 1 percent can cover many, many items," he said.
Ong said complications also arose because Japan already has bilateral free
trade pacts with four ASEAN members Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the
Philippines and is negotiating with Indonesia, Vietnam and Brunei.
"Japan has individual FTAs with ASEAN nations, all using different
modalities. The question is how do we weave this into a region-wide
agreement," he said.
"I think we can finish all the broad strokes and have it ready for signing
by November, but we have to work very hard."
Ong said ASEAN ministers would also seek to launch free trade negotiations
with the EU during talks with Mandelson.
Officials from the EU, which currently applies economic and political
sanctions against military-ruled Myanmar, have said talks depend on ASEAN
meeting human rights standards.
ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the
Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
May 2, Mizzima News
Burma second from bottom in press freedom - Christopher Smith
Burma remains rooted as one of the worst places in the world for press
freedom, beaten only by newly embraced North Korea.
The 2007 annual survey, conducted by Freedom House, ranks 195 countries
from around the world. The report concludes that global press freedom is
on the decline and attributes this trend largely to the prevalence of
coups, the suppression of political opposition groups and Internet
The report identifies several aspects of the press environment inside
Burma that contribute toward the country's consistently low ranking,
including extensive government ownership of media outlets and the
regulation and censorship of Internet activity.
Regarding the Internet, Freedom House specifically calls on the military
regime to cease in banning access to external news sources and personal
email services. The regime is additionally urged to desist from
criminalizing the possession of unregistered technology.
The report denounces regulations contained in the 1962 Printers and
Publishers Act and the authority of the Press Scrutiny and Registration
Division, established in 1995 within the Ministry of Information. Both
these tools are used by the regime to monitor and censor information
released by the press.
Additional concern is shown toward the rumored crackdown, launched this
February, against individuals purportedly supplying information to media
sources run by Burmese journalists in exile in neighbouring countries.
Freedom House believes the institution of a free press is inevitably
linked with the attainment of democratic values and ideals.
"The fact that press freedom is in retreat is a deeply troubling sign that
democracy itself will come under further assault in critical parts of the
world," stated Executive Director of Freedom House Jennifer Windsor.
Joining Burma in a tie for the second to last position are Cuba, Libya and
Also scoring poorly in the survey are neighbours China (181) and Laos
(176), while the recent coup in Thailand has contributed to that country's
ranking falling to 126.
Totally, 62 other countries join Burma as meriting Freedom House's 'Not
The release of the annual report comes prior to World Press Freedom Day,
celebrated on the May 3.
OPINION / OTHER
May 3, Irrawaddy
Climate change to attribute health crisis on Burmas border? - Gulielma
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change meeting has opened in Bangkok,
bringing with it dire predictions of future disasters. Flood, famine,
draught and disease are all impending, according to the delegates.
However, several authors of former IPCC reports will not be there. Paul
Reiter from the Pasteur Institute in Paris is one such former member. He
left the IPCC in disgust, finding that its reports were driven more by
politics than science.
The report suggests that diseases like malaria, diarrhea and dengue fever
could spread as temperatures rise and weather becomes increasing erratic,
affecting the poorest of the world's poor.
However, Reiter, in an article published by the American Centers for
Disease Control, argues: Claims that malaria resurgence is due to climate
change ignore [epidemiologic] realities and disregard history
concern should focus on ways to deal with the realities of malaria
transmission, rather than on the weather. He contends that claims about
the spread of other infectious diseases due to global warming are equally
On the other hand, there are effects of the IPCC report itself that could
significantly affect the poorest of the worlds poor. The Bangkok IPCC
report is still being written, but it is safe to say that it will come out
in favor of replacing lower-cost fossil fuels with more expensive and
cumbersome clean energy sources.
Due to the current political situation, clean solar panels are, in fact,
the only option for energy for many medical clinics in Burmas border
areas. Often these clinics have small panels that cost about US $575 and
can provide them with 130 watts of power. This is essentially only enough
to provide emergency lighting.
130 watts of power cannot even sustain a refrigerator, and as a result,
vaccinations are almost impossible to deliver to vulnerable rural and
internally displaced communities. Blood banking, which can be lifesaving
in the case of a postpartum hemorrhage, severe malaria or landmine injury,
In other words, solar panels are helpful for IDP clinics, but they are not
sufficient as a permanent solution. The meager amount of electricity they
provide mandates a lower standard of medical care.
On a household level, solar panels are far too expensive. However,
electricity could be lifesaving there as well. Household refrigeration
could significantly cut down on the diarrheal diseases. These diseases
account for almost 50 percent of childhood deaths among IDPs, according to
a 2006 report published by Cynthia Maung, head of the Mae Tao Clinic in
Mae Sot, and Chris Beyrer of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public
Electricity could also offer alternatives to cooking over open fires. A
1997 study in India showed that indoor pollution from wood or dung fires
(as opposed to kerosene, charcoal, petroleum, electricity etc) caused a
one-third increase in the risk of acute respiratory infections. ARIs are
the number one killer of children in India and a significant cause of
morbidity and mortality in rural communities in Burma.
Due to the current political situation in Burma, it is hard to imagine the
border communities benefiting from electricity in the near future.
However, some of the most remote clinics could receive electricity with
relative ease from across the border, given significant policy change from
Democratic change could allow expansion of Burmas power gridand with it,
these lifesaving boons of electricityutilizing one of the countrys most
abundant resources: oil. If the IPCC has its way, this expansion would be
hampered and penalized.
Development must, of course, be undertaken with care for the environment,
human rights and safety. (The recent Karen Human Rights Group report,
Development by Decree, is a sobering reminder of this.) Development
should not, however, be shunned on the basis of unfounded alarms about
detrimental effects on human health.
Gulielma Brooke is an American medical researcher working on the
May 2, International Press Institute (IPI)
IPI Names Mizzima News "Free Media Pioneer 2007"
The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors,
media executives and leading journalists, has announced its decision to
honour the Mizzima News Agency with its 2007 Free Media Pioneer Award.
Managing Editor Sein Win will receive the prize on behalf of Mizzima News
at an award ceremony on 15 May, during the IPI World Congress in Istanbul,
Turkey (12-15 May 2007).
Mizzima News was founded in August 1998 by a small group of Burmese
journalists in exile with the declared aim of "promoting awareness about
the ongoing situation in Burma and promoting democracy and freedom of
expression in Burma by improving the flow of information in and out of the
country and through advocacy and lobbying." Today, it has a head office in
New Delhi, India, as well as a news bureau in Thailand, and a team of some
30 employees, including Burmese and foreign journalists, in Bangladesh,
Burma, China, India and Thailand.
Burmas military government has tried to limit Mizzimas ability to
collect and disseminate information, pressuring the Thai government in
2005 to relocate Burmese refugees, including journalists, to camps near
the border with Burma, where they were denied access to the Internet,
phone lines and other means of keeping in touch with their sources of
information. In 2006, the military government started a clampdown on
anybody who provides information to foreign news outlets. New phone
tapping facilities, as well as training programmes for agents in the
Military Security Force to identify and arrest foreign media "informants",
are used by the government to make sure that no uncensored information is
Against this backdrop, Mizzima News has continued to provide accurate and
timely news and information on Burma for both Burmese and English readers
and viewers, including a daily e-mail service; websites (www.mizzima.com
and www.mizzima.tv); a monthly journal, which is often the only source of
print news for exiled Burmese, particularly those living on Thailands
western border with Burma; videos and podcasts; and alerts on press
Previous winners of the Free Media Pioneer Award are: Yemen Times (2006);
SW Radio Africa, UK (2005); the Central Asia and Southern Caucasian
Freedom of Expression Network - CASCFEN (2004); the Media Council of
Tanzania (2003); the independent daily newspaper Danas, Serbia (2002); the
independent on-line newspaper Malaysiakini.com, Malaysia (2001); the Press
and Society Institute - IPYS, Peru (2000); the Ethiopian Free Press
Journalists Association - EFJA (1999); Radio B-92, Yugoslavia (1998); the
Alliance of Independent Journalists - AJI, Indonesia (1997); and NTV,
For more information about the IPI Free Media Pioneer Award, as well as
the IPI World Congress in Istanbul, visit the IPI Websites:
www.freemedia.at and www.ipiturkey.com, or phone IPI at: +43-1-512 90 11
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