BurmaNet News, July 3, 2007
editor at burmanet.org
Tue Jul 3 11:59:23 EDT 2007
July 3, 2007 Issue # 3239
AP: No date set yet for referendum on Myanmar's unfinished constitution
Asian Tribune: Burmese journalists demand release of 78-year old journalist
Irrawaddy: Myanmar Womens Day draws criticism from Burmese women
Kaowao News: Mawlamyine University students closely watched
BUSINESS / TRADE
Xinhua: Brunei tariff exemption boosts Myanmar textile production
Irrawaddy: Smugglers drive illegal Chinese motorbikes into Burma
KNG: Multi-government agencies forcibly collect tax from traders
HEALTH / AIDS
Irrawaddy: Freed HIV/AIDS activist calls for government cooperation
IPS: Rights-Burma: Junta will stop recruiting child soldiers
Mizzima News; Burma scores 2.5 on inaugural Evil Meter
OPINION / OTHER
Washington Post: Red Cross Alert; An extraordinary condemnation of Burma's
HRDU: Burma Human Rights Yearbook 2006 now available online
July 3, Associated Press
No date set yet for referendum on Myanmar's unfinished constitution
Myanmar's acting prime minister called on the public Tuesday to use wisdom
when voting in a referendum on the country's unfinished draft
constitution, but did not say when it will be held, state-run media
"When the time comes to do so, it is important people make their decision
based on wisdom and be able to distinguish right and wrong," the New Light
of Myanmar quoted Lt. Gen. Thein Sein saying.
Thein Sein did not say when the draft constitution will be ready. A
National Convention that is drawing up guidelines for the constitution is
scheduled to resume July 18.
The junta says the convention is the first of seven steps on a "roadmap to
democracy" which is supposed to culminate in free elections. The junta
hand-picked most of the convention's 1,000 delegates.
Critics say the proceedings have been manipulated and should not be taken
seriously because opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is under house arrest
and cannot attend. Her National League for Democracy party has boycotted
the convention to protest her detention and that of other NLD leaders.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi has been in prison or under house
arrest for more than 12 of the past 18 years.
The current junta, which took power in 1988 after crushing pro-democracy
demonstrations, held general elections in 1990 but refused to cede power
after a landslide NLD victory.
Myanmar has been without a constitution since 1988, when its 1974 charter
The junta first convened the convention in 1993, but it was aborted in
1996 after NLD delegates walked out in protest, saying it was undemocratic
and the military was manipulating the proceedings. The convention was
resurrected in 2004.
Myanmar, also called Burma, has been military-ruled since 1962.
Thein Sein, a top-ranking member of Myanmar's junta, is performing the
prime minister's duties for ailing Gen. Soe Win, who reportedly has acute
July 3, Asian Tribune
Burmese journalists demand release of 78-year old journalist U Win Tin
after 18 years in prison
The Burma Media Association (BMA) has called on authorities in Burma today
to immediately release distinguished journalist U Win Tin, who is
languishing in prison. He has spent 18 years of a 20-year sentence in
prison on an alleged fabricated anti-government charges.
U Win Tin, who is the country's longest serving political prisoner, was
originally imprisoned in 4 July 1989. He has been sentenced three times,
each time while incarcerated. At present he is serving a seven-year
sentence following a testimony he sent to the UN about the human rights
violations of political prisoners.
The journalist recently told a friend who is allowed to visit him: "Two
prison officers asked me at a special meeting last week whether I would
resume political activities if I were released. I told them that I will
definitely do so since it is my duty as a citizen to strive for
U Win Tin has constantly refused to sign a document promising to give up
political activities as a condition of his release.
The journalist has had two heart attacks and has suffered from high blood
pressure, diabetes and an inflammatory disease that affects spine. His
poor state of health was exacerbated by ill treatment in prison, which has
included torture, inadequate access to medical treatment, solitary
confinement without bedding, and being deprived of food and water for long
periods of time.
Even though he is checked twice a month by a prison doctor, he is
dependent on the help of his friends who regularly bring him medication
"No sensible person can accept such cruelty of this military regime which
has imprisoned a sick 78-year-old man for 18 years. According to prison
laws he has been eligible for early release since July 2006," said BMA
secretary Son Moe Wai. "We call for him to be freed at once."
The journalist was awarded the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom
Prize, the World Association of Newspapers' Golden Pen of Freedom Award
and Reporters Without Border/Foundation de France Prize for his efforts to
defend and promote freedom of expression.
July 3, Irrawaddy
Myanmar Womens Day draws criticism from Burmese women - Aye Lae
Claims of equality between the sexes by Burmese government-backed womens
groups commemorating the countrys Myanmar Womens Day on Tuesday have
drawn criticism from activists in exile.
This Womens Day needs to represent all women in Burma, Nang Yain,
secretary of the Thailand-based Womens League of Burma, told The
Irrawaddy on Tuesday. What they are doing is just a show of the wives of
members of the State Peace and Development Council.
Myanmar Womens Day is held annually on July 3 to mark the creation in
1996 of the Myanmar National Committee for Womens Affairs, a
state-sponsored organization largely comprising the wives of Burmas
ruling generals and other top officials.
[Myanmar Womens Day] has nothing to do with me. The group (MNCWF)
doesnt stand for us women and doesnt help solve our problems, a woman
in Bahan Township, who asked not to be named, told The Irrawaddy by phone.
An editorial on Tuesday in state-run The New Light of Myanmar described
the MNCWF as a national force that is serving the interest of the state
and the people.
The same editorial added the following claim: According to culture,
traditions and laws, Myanmar women have enjoyed rights on equal terms
with men since time immemorial.
Many women in and outside Burma dont accept the July 3 celebration of
Burmese women as anything more than a state-sponsored event honoring an
organization that does nothing for the majority of Burmas women.
We hold the day for Burmese women as the birthday of Daw Aung San Suu
Kyi, Su Su Nway, a prominent woman activist based in Rangoon, told The
Su Su Nway, who has been arrested several times, added that the
government-backed womens group pays no attention to women in Burmas
prisons or women in the sex trade.
There are currently 53 female political prisoners in prisons across Burma,
some of whom are serving life sentences, according to the Thailand-based
Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
Despite government claims that Burmese women enjoy equal rights with men,
one female author says the treatment of female authors contradicts such
Kyi Oo, a well-known writer, said that much of the writing about real
life conditions faced by Burmese women is not allowed to be published.
Many of her own articles about powerful and successful Burmese women
throughout history have not made it past Burmas censors at the Press
Scrutiny and Registration Board.
This practice does absolutely nothing good for the women of Burma, the
writer in her 80s said.
July 3, Kaowao News
Mawlamyine University students closely watched
Mawlamyine University students are being closely monitored by the State
Peace and Development Councils (SPDC's) intelligence wing, according to
sources in the campus in the capital of Mon State, southern Burma.
"There are many new faces and strangers since the University opened in
June. If they are our (university) students from the previous semester in
2006, we ought to know their faces," said Ko Lin (not his real name), a
final year student from the Mawlamyine University.
These strangers or informers are everywhere. They sit in the teashops,
pretending to be students and watch the situation in the campus, according
to another student from the same major.
The owners of private hostels and teashops have been directed by the SPDC
to inform the authorities of any 'suspicious' activities including public
gatherings and political talk. An owner of a teashop near the campus said
the SPDC has warned that they will take action on those who fail to inform
them if any unrest or demonstration began.
There are about 50 teashops and 70 private hostels near the Mawlamyine
The SPDC has imposed regulations on local residents including ordering
teashops near the campus to be closed by 10 p.m. and ensuring the women's
hostels are locked after 8 p.m.
A university student, whose father works for the SPDC's intelligence wing,
said there are about 200 informers who watch the activities of university
students in Mawlamyine.
However, the Literature and Culture Clubs (Associations) belonging to
ethnic minorities have not been given any warning by the SPDC. As is
normal when there is a gathering, the SPDC asks to be informed and closely
watches the event, said a teacher from the Mon Literature and Culture
BUSINESS / TRADE
July 3, Xinhua General News Service
Brunei tariff exemption boosts Myanmar textile production
Brunei's recent tariff exemption on hundreds of items of products imported
from Myanmar has shown a sign of boosting textile production in northern
part of Myanmar, the local news journal Pyi Myanmar reported Tuesday.
The textile production in upper Myanmar will be tripled thanks to Brunei's
tariff exemption measure, textile traders in Mandalay were quoted as
Textile is among over 200 items of goods imported from Myanmar to enjoy
tariff exemption in Brunei's bid to boost its trade with Myanmar which is
The import tariff of 204 Myanmar products were lifted under the ASEAN
Integration System of Preference program, according to the Ministry of
These products cover cosmetics, tyre, wood products, plywood, parquet,
carpet, clothes, fabrics, jewelry (excluding diamond), electrical
appliance and musical instrument.
According to the ministry, the tariff exemption applies to Myanmar
products made with local raw materials whereas products made with foreign
raw materials, the exemption is qualified only for those using at least 40
percent of local contents.
Brunei stands as the 7th in terms of trade with Myanmar among member
countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ( ASEAN) ahead of
Cambodia and Laos. Myanmar-Brunei bilateral trade accounted for about
800,000 U.S. dollars out of Myanmar's total trade with ASEAN members which
stood at 4.06 billion dollars in the fiscal year 2006-07 which ended in
The tariff exemption program, initiated in 2001, is aimed at better
integrating the economy of ASEAN's four newest members -- Myanmar,
Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam with that of its six more developed original
members -- Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and
The regional members have agreed to eliminate all import duties by 2010
for its six oldest members and by 2015 for the four latest members under
the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) scheme.
Meanwhile, Thailand will also reduce tariff on agricultural imports from
member countries of the Ayeyawaddy-Chao Phraya- Mekong Economic
Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) under a contract farming scheme with
July 3, Irrawaddy
Smugglers drive illegal Chinese motorbikes into Burma - Khun Sam
Every day hundreds of illegal Chinese motorcycles are smuggled across
Burmas northern Shan State border with Chinas Yunnan Province, according
to border sources.
Hundreds of motorcycles pass by on the road in front of my house every
day, said an elder resident of Namhputka, a small town near the Chinese
border. This is not the only routeother smugglers use other ways outside
Chinese motorbikes are bought in Ruili, a southern Yunnan border town, at
prices between 400,000 to 600,000 kyat (US $320 to $480) depending on the
type of motorcycle. They are then illegally driven into Burma and resold
with an add-on price of 50,000 to 100,000 kyat ($40 to $80) each,
depending on how far a motorcycle is driven into the country.
Motorcycles are also illegally transported by boat on the Shweli River
near the Burmese border town of Muse, opposite Ruili, according to
Many smugglers bypass checkpoints at night and then bribe their way down
the Muse-Lashio-Mandalay road.
Motorcycles from China are replacing the once-popular Japanese brands,
such as Honda and Yamaha, not only in upper Burma but also in central
Burma, especially in cities such as Mandalay.
Price is a major factoran illegal Chinese Luojia or Kenbo motorcycle
sells for between 580,000 to 600,000 kyat (about $470), whereas a legally
imported, licensed motorcycle of the same model sells for more than
1million kyat ($800). A Suzuki motorcycle assembled at the Japanese
companys plant in Mandalay goes for between 1 million to 3 million kyat.
The motorcycle smuggling business is also a lucrative source of income for
corrupt government officials at highway checkpoints who demand bribes from
Numerous checkpoints lie between Muse and Mandalay. Besides the
government, ethnic paramilitary militia groups in northern Shan State and
ceasefire groups also demand "transit fees" when smugglers enter and leave
their controlled areas.
In China, we can buy a Luojia for 500,000 kyat ($400)," said Brang Awng,
a Kachin motorcycle smuggler who travels to Lashio and Mandalay to sell
"We can resell it in Lashio for about 550,000 kyat ($440) and in Mandalay
for about 580,000 kyat ($470). But, overall we have to bribe authorities
along the wayeverything depends on the situation.
Motorcycle smuggling began about a decade ago. Now, even high school
students become involved in the business to earn school fees. Smugglers
earn a quick profit, but they face the threat of robbery by gangs and
ambushes by armed troops, said Brang Awng, who makes smuggling runs about
twice a week.
Sometimes police shoot at smugglers. One day we tried to bypass a
checkpoint, but when we reappeared on the road the police followed us and
just before they lost us, they shot at us.
At least ten smugglers have died in shooting incidents over the past few
years, sources say.
Everyone knows smuggling is very dangerous, but most people do it because
they have no other choice to earn a living, said a Muse-based elder
resident whose two sons are involved in smuggling.
If you work with a hoe on a farm, you earn 2,000 kyat ($1.50) a day. But
in this business, it is like you risk your life and get 5,000 kyat ($4).
"Life is not important here, he said.
Quick profits are also a lure into other areas of criminal activity. Many
motorcycle smugglers double-up and also carry illegal goods for traders
while driving the illegal bikes.
In order to earn more profit, we serve as carriers for businessmen," said
the Muse resident. "Sometimes we dont know what we are carrying.
Sometimes it's very heavy, but the owners of the goods do not let us open
July 3, Kachin News Group
Multi-government agencies forcibly collect tax from traders
In arm twisting and of the people that has become routine, almost all
multi-governmental agencies of the Burmese military junta are forcibly
collecting tax from local traders at the three major gates in Kachin
State, northern Burma.
The three major gates in Myitkyina's Bala Min Htin Ayeyarwaddy River
Bridge, Waimaw Township and Shwe Nyaung Pyin and sometimes in Aung May
(1)) on the highway between Myitkyina-Bhamo, are manned by
multi-governmental agencies, said a local logger.
They collect tax on all exports and imports to and from Laiza, a
Sino-Burma border trade centre in Kachin Independence Organization (KIO)
controlled-area. All the goods are detained if the trader does not
negotiate with each agency at the gate, local businessmen said.
Sometimes, the goods are detained in unspecified places by local Military
Strategic Command after passing the three major gates and again the goods
are detained by the major gates after the local Military Strategic
Commands allows it go through, local traders said.
Unlawfully collected tax from the local traders is shared by all the
agencies manning the gates depending on the amount of tax collected, said
local trade sources.
According to a trader of Kachin State 's capital Myitkyina, there are 18
multi-governmental agencies except Education, Health and, Road and
Construction Agencies at the gates who forcibly collect taxes.
Among the government agencies in the three major gates, some of them are
the Burma Army, Military Police (MP), Military Intelligence (Sa-Ya-Pha),
Military Strategic Command, Police forces (special branch, drug, crime),
Customs, Immigration, Municipal, Forestry, Township Administration Office
(Ma-Ya-Ka), Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), Fire
Fighter, among others.
Currently, the unspecified amount of tax has to be paid at each major gate
depending on the kind of goods being ferried. The items include food,
teak, jade and timber and the tax for a motorcycle with goods is Kyat
1,000 to 5,000 (about US $ 0.8 to 4) and a car or a truck laden goods is
Kyat 100,000 to 3 million Kyat (about US $ 81.3 to 2,439), local traders
At the moment, small-scale border trade in Kachin State is run by KIO
controlled areas of Laiza and mainly Burmese teak, jade and timber are
exported to China while Chinese garlic, plastic materials, fuel, paper and
stationery, beer and motorcycles are imported to Kachin State, traders
All the roadside gates and military checkpoints on Myitkyina-Bhamo road
have been closed by the Commander Maj-Gen Ohn Myint when he arrived in
Kachin State, in 2005.
Residents of Kachin State mainly depend on cheap and low-quality Chinese
goods imported from KIO controlled area of Laiza near China's Yunnan
Province in Kachin State, northern Burma.
HEALTH / AIDS
July 3, Irrawaddy
Freed HIV/AIDS activist calls for government cooperation - Htet Aung
Newly-freed HIV/AIDS activist Phyu Phyu Thin called on the Burmese
government on Tuesday to set aside its differences with the countrys
opposition and to join the fight to control the disease and help its
Phyu Phyu Thin, 36, was back at work assisting and advising HIV/AIDS
patients less than a day after her release from more than one months
detention. She interrupted a meeting with visiting patients at her home to
appeal in an interview with The Irrawaddy: Lets set aside who you are
and which side you stand [the government or the opposition]
We are ready
to cooperate not only with the government but also with any organizations
to combat HIV/AIDS.
Phyu Phyu Thin, a member of the opposition National League for Democracy,
was arrested on May 21 at her home after taking part in a campaign of
prayer for the release of the party leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
No explanation was given for her arrest, and she staged a hunger strike to
back her demand to be told why she was being held. She said she broke off
the hunger strike after one week when a senior Rangoon Division police
official promised her that she would hear positive news within a few days.
At the time of her release on Monday evening she was told she could
continue with her work, she said.
Phyu Phyu Thin said the government had a primary responsibility to combat
HIV/AIDS, but there are no government organizations that are giving such
services as we do
What we can give to the patients is time, sympathy and
We cant stand aside by doing nothing.
Currently, Phyu Phyu Thin and other youth members of the NLD are providing
care and counseling services for about 200 patients nationwide, including
government civil servants, police, army personnel and even some members of
the regime-supported Union Solidarity and Development Associationthe
organization whose members took part in the arrest in May of activists
participating in the prayer campaign for Aung San Suu Kyis release.
Phyu Phyu Thin told The Irrawaddy that the network of volunteers caring
for HIV/AIDS patients needed to be expanded because of the nationwide
prevalence of the disease.
The group of activists she heads provides 24-hour care and counseling for
HIV/AIDS patients, accommodation in Rangoon for out-of-town patients and
sends medicines to those living in rural areas.
The NLD has problems financing HIV/AIDS programs because it is unable to
open a bank account to handle funds from outside Burma. For example, it is
unable to access funding from the EU Three Diseases Fund initiative
because the money was transferred in US dollars, which were a prescribed
We have no bank account to receive the funding the 3-D Fund gives us in
dollars, said Phyu Phyu Thin. If we use the dollars, the authorities can
arrest us because holding and using dollars here is illegal.
As a result, the only anti-retroviral therapy was available at the
governments Wai Bar Gi Infectious Diseases Hospital and AZG clinics of
the Dutch branch of the French-based Medecins sans Frontieres. Supplies of
the drug were limited, and since the beginning of this year, AZG clinics
in Rangoon were unable to treat new patients with it, Phyu Phyu Thin said.
July 3, Inter Press Service
Rights-Burma: Junta will stop recruiting child soldiers - Larry Jagan
Talks between a senior United Nations envoy and Burmas acting prime
minister Thein Sein in Rangoon, last week, may actually see an end to the
recruitment of children into the armed forces, say observers.
Following the five-day visit to Burma of U.N. Special Representative for
Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy, Burmas military leaders
agreed to set up a special government post to work with the U.N. on the
issue of using child soldiers to quell ethnic rebellions.
"The good news is they agreed to set up a focal point at the ministry of
social welfare to engage directly with UNICEF," Coomaraswamy told
presspersons. Officials involved in the talks with the government said
Burmese leaders were accommodating and were committed to reducing the
recruitment of children into the army.
"We feel there is a chance the government may be fairly serious about
cooperating -- or at least being seen to be -- on this issue," a U.N.
official told IPS on condition of anonymity. "If nothing else, because
it's on the Security Council agenda and because it gives them a chance to
discredit the figure of 70,000 child soldiers that is being bandied
Opposition activists agree that the governments apparent willingness to
cooperate is because they know this issue comes with a U.N. Security
Council tag, and the last thing the regime wants is for the U.N. to have
another excuse to put Burma back on the Security Council agenda.
The head of the U.N. team in Burma Charles Petrie told IPS that since 2003
the U.N. has been able "to start addressing some very difficult issues"
with the military government, including the problem of child soldiers.
But while the use of child soldiers is still common in the Burmese army,
there has already been a significant drop in the conscription of children
into the army, according to international aid workers working with
children in Burma.
"In the past when army recruiters were short of new recruits they would
press gang young kids from the few street childrens centres that operate
in Rangoon," a former aid worker in Burma Karl Dorning told IPS: "Since
the committee was set up and we pointed out that its illegal to recruit
children under the age of 18, they have left us alone."
Burma has been heavily criticised by human rights groups over the past two
decades for recruiting large numbers of child soldiers, some as young as
The United States-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) estimates that more
than 40 percent of the 350,000-strong army may be child soldiers. These
youngsters are often kidnapped on their way home from school. They are
then brutalised and physically abused during their induction and basic
training before being shipped off to fight in the countrys border areas.
HRW has also accused some ethnic rebel guerrilla groups of using child
During her visit, Coomaraswamy met senior government officials, military
commanders, representatives of civil society and affected children from
conflict areas, according to U.N. officials.
The envoy has been at pains to dismiss suggestions that her trip was a
fact-finding mission. "This was not an investigation mission or a
fact-finding mission," she told journalists in Rangoon at the end of her
trip last week. "There are various reports with regard to child soldiers
and the government gave me their point of view. But the purpose (of this
trip) was to set up a monitoring mechanism, which the government has now
The next step is for the U.N. agencies on the ground in Burma, especially
the U.N. Childrens Fund (UNICEF), to gather information on child soldiers
and clarify the real situation before reporting back to the Security
Council later this year, according to the special envoy.
The government has become increasingly sensitive about the issue of child
soldiers. HRWs comprehensive report, released in late 2002, provoked an
international outcry and stung the junta into doing something about the
forcible recruitment of child soldiers.
The military regime set up a committee for the prevention of military
recruitment of under-age children in January 2004. It developed a plan of
action, which was adopted by the government in October 2004.
But U.N. agencies and diplomats in Rangoon have continued to report the
use of child soldiers by the armed forces as well as by rebel groups.
No independent comprehensive assessment of the use of minors by government
forces and ethnic rebel armies has been conducted since the setting up of
the government committee. But the envoys visit may have helped put a
mechanism into place that will be able to do that in the future.
However, the issue of the use of child soldiers by ethnic rebel armies
remains more problematic. The envoy met representatives of the United Wa
State Army (UWSA) who, apparently, promised to cooperate. But opposition
sources believe this is highly unlikely as the induction and training of
under-age recruits is a routine practice. Talks with three other groups
mentioned by the U.N., the Karen, Karreni and Shan, have no even started
because of government sensitivities, Coomaraswamy conceded.
This was the second visit of a senior U.N. official to Burma in under four
months. The deputy emergency relief coordinator and assistant
secretary-general for humanitarian affairs with the U.N. agency OCHA,
Margareta Wahlstrom, visited Burma in early April and is expected to
return by September, according to U.N. sources.
Diplomats see these visits as a hopeful sign that the junta is becoming
more inclined now to engage the international community than it has been
in the last few years. But it may also be the regime trying to split the
international communitys concerns about Burma.
Just as the special envoy was relatively upbeat about the governments
offer to work with the U.N. on curtailing child recruitment, the
International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) released a damning
statement about the Burmese military regime for causing "immense
suffering" to civilians and prisoners.
The government practice of making thousands of detainees serve as porters
for the armed forces exposes them to the dangers of combat and other
risks, said the ICRC president Jakob Kellenberger. ''The practice known as
'portering' persists today despite numerous representations made by the
ICRC. It constitutes a major violation of various provisions of
international humanitarian law," he said.
Civilians are also routinely used as porters, arbitrarily arrested and
often summarily executed, the ICRC president added.
Burmese soldiers repeatedly commit abuses against men, women and children
living in communities affected by armed conflict along the Thai-Burma
border. These include large-scale destruction of food supplies and means
of production. The armed forces severely restrict the population's freedom
of movement in these areas, making it impossible for many villagers to
work in their fields. This has significantly affected the local economy,
aggravating an already precarious humanitarian situation, according to the
"The behaviour and actions of the armed forces have helped create a
climate of constant fear among the population and have forced thousands of
people to join the ranks of the internally displaced or to flee abroad,
Kellenberger said. Aid workers monitoring and providing food and medical
care to the internally displaced in eastern Burma estimate that there are
already more than half-a-million refugees there.
July 3, Mizzima News
Burma scores 2.5 on inaugural Evil Meter - Christopher Smith
The idiocy of the government in the handling of its domestic affairs is
largely to blame for Burma's score of 2.5 on the first ever Evil Meter.
Lonely Planet founder Tony Wheeler, in his latest travelogue Bad Lands,
has established a new means to rate the 'badness' of a country, the Evil
Wheeler, according to a Lonely Planet press release, "takes into account
each country's attitude to human rights, terrorism and foreign policy, he
asks 'What makes a country truly evil?' and 'How bad is really bad?"
The Evil Meter charts four criteria: personality cult, terrorism, external
threat, and treatment of citizens.
Burma's mid-range score on the Evil Meter is said to reflect the fact that
while the government treats its own citizens horrendously, it poses no
This is an opinion at odds with much of the international community, which
views issues such as infectious diseases, drugs and the pursuit of nuclear
arms as direct threats to international security issues which proved
salient enough to place Burma on the Security Council's permanent agenda
Wheeler admits that the choice of Burma for the volume resulted from its
image as a pariah state in much of the international media.
He has long held that Burma, under the right conditions, could become the
preeminent tourist destination in Southeast Asia, with just as much, if
not more, to offer than current top choices Thailand and Vietnam.
The publication of Bad Lands once again brings to the fore the question of
travel and tourism to Burma, a moratorium on travel and tourism having
long since been championed by Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for
Though again travelling to the country himself to conduct research for his
latest book, Wheeler's inclusion of Burma in the travelogue is anything
but a stamp of approval.
Grouped together with the "Axis of Evil", Iran, Iraq and North Korea,
along with other rogue regimes such as Cuba and Libya, Burma or more
appropriately the Burmese government is squarely placed on the side of
Yet, clearly not one to stand unequivocally on one side of the debate,
Wheeler cautions that there are always two sides to every story.
Lonely Planet is at the heart of the tourism question regarding Burma,
consistently updating and marketing its Burma edition.
North Korea easily outpaced the competition for top honors on the Evil
Meter, with a final tally of seven.
Bad Lands is published by Lonely Planet and was released in April of this
OPINION / OTHER
June 30, Washington Post
Red Cross Alert; An extraordinary condemnation of Burma's rogue regime
The International Committee of the Red Cross works behind the scenes. To
maintain access to prisons and other institutions, it shares its findings
with affected governments, not the public. It seeks improvement through
So the very public and virtually unprecedented denunciation of Burma's
government yesterday by ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger was an
astonishing measure of that regime's lawlessness and cruelty. Mr.
Kellenberger described a country where the military routinely abuses the
civilian population, subjecting men, women and children to "numerous acts
of violence . . . including murder" and to arbitrary arrest and detention.
Thousands of detainees are press-ganged to work as porters for the
military, where they are murdered, subjected to "degrading treatment,"
exposed to armed conflict or left to the ravages of exhaustion and
The repeated abuses, Mr. Kellenberger said, "violate many provisions of
international humanitarian law." They were documented "during private
interviews with thousands of civilians and detainees, mainly between 2000
and 2005," he said. However, since 2005 the regime has prevented the ICRC
from visiting places of detention and even from delivering humanitarian
aid. "The organization uses confidential and bilateral dialogue as its
preferred means of achieving results," he said. "However, this presupposes
that parties to a conflict are willing to enter into a serious
That Burma's military junta is a rogue among rogue nations comes as no
surprise to those who have followed its mistreatment of the Southeast
Asian nation's population of 50 million. Leaders here and abroad such as
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), first lady Laura Bush, South Africa's
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and others have called attention to the
depredations. Yet, incredibly, democracies such as South Africa continue
to whitewash Burma's record or even, as in India's case, offer military
training; China and Russia continue to curry favor with the junta.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon should request a briefing from Mr.
Kellenberger and re-energize his Burma diplomacy. There is a legitimate
leader in Burma: Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, whose
pro-democracy party won an overwhelming electoral victory in 1990 but who
remains under house arrest today. The United Nations should heed this
extraordinary message from the Red Cross and insist that Aung San Suu Kyi
and her colleagues be freed and allowed to participate in their country's
June 25, Human Rights Documentation Unit
Burma Human Rights Yearbook 2006 now available online
Monday 25 June 2007, was a day of some significance. The day marked the
eve of not only the 52nd anniversary of the signing of the UN Charter, but
also the 20th anniversary that the UN Convention against Torture (CAT)
entered into force as well as the UN International Day in Support of
Victims of Torture.
It was thus on this day that the Human Rights Documentation Unit (HRDU)
of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB)
released the Burma Human Rights Yearbook 2006 at a press conference at
the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT). The report is the
thirteenth annual edition of the Burma Human Rights Yearbook and, at 850
pages in length, represents the largest, most comprehensive and detailed
Yearbook that the HRDU has produced to date.
The report cites several hundred different sources from across the country
as well as those published internationally to exhaustively document the
continuing and systematic perpetration of human rights violations in Burma
as they occurred throughout 2006. The Burma Human Rights Yearbook 2006
starkly demonstrates that conditions facing the diverse peoples of Burma
have not improved since the first Yearbook was published thirteen years
ago. Rather, the opposite has occurred where the human rights situation
confronting the population has steadily and consistently declined. Members
of the civilian population across the country have continued to be
subjected to forced labour, extortion, arbitrary arrest, summary
execution, rape, forced relocation, the confiscation and/or destruction of
land and property, religious persecution and ethnic discrimination, among
other abuses. All such violations have been committed within a climate
of absolute impunity to ensure that all opposition to the regime is
suppressed and the people left atomized, uninformed, and more easily
monitored, controlled and exploited to bolster the continuation of
The HRDU is proud to announce that the Burma Human Rights Yearbook 2006
and the Report Briefer that accompanies it are both now available for
download in PDF format from the NCGUB website at www.ncgub.net.
For more information and enquiries, please contact the Human Rights
Documentation Unit (HRDU) via email on enquiries.hrdu at gmail.com.
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