BurmaNet News, January 10, 2008
editor at burmanet.org
Thu Jan 10 13:31:08 EST 2008
January 10, 2008 Issue # 3377
Voice of America: Burma's control of transportation system contributes to
Narinjara News: Forced labor on road construction
Mizzima News: Detained Burmese opposition leader applies for satellite
Mizzima News: Naga activists call for boycott of Naga New Year festival
Irrawaddy: Young activists wage pro-democracy poster campaign in Myitkyina
Irrawaddy: Zarganar plans Aung San film
DVB: NLD member slams independence day disruptions
DVB: Russian and Chinese experts visit Tenasserim division
Kachin News Group: Over 350 anti-junta posters distributed on State Day eve
ON THE BORDER
Irrawaddy: Exiled Kachin accuse regime of taking over their culture
Irrawaddy: A tale of two tyrants
Asia Times: Myanmar deal right neighborly of India
Canoe.ca: Calgary group to help Myanmar refugees Bill Kaufmann
Scotsman.com: Deportation threat is lifted from Shetland family after
OPINION / OTHER
Mizzma News: Not by word, but by action India needs to support Burmese
democracy - Plato Van Rung Mang
UKDID: Douglas Alexander to meet Burmese refugees on Thai-Burma border
January 10, Voice of America
Burma's control of transportation system contributes to hunger Luis Ramirez
The World Food Program is renewing its calls for donations to help feed
the millions it says are suffering malnutrition in Burma, or Myanmar as it
is also known. WFP officials say the military government's rigid control
of the transportation system and the cost of moving goods are major causes
of the problem. VOA's Luis Ramirez reports from our Southeast Asia bureau
Burma is not short of food. The country saw a rise in its rice exports in
2007. But the United Nations World Food Program says the military
government's tight restrictions on the movement of people and goods within
the country is keeping an estimated five million Burmese without adequate
Paul Risley, the WFP's Asia spokesman, tells VOA getting food to the
remote areas where it is needed most is one of the biggest challenges the
agency faces. Transportation is tightly controlled, he says, and very
"The transportation system is very much a closed...state-regulated,
state-administered program," he said. "So much of our food is transferred
and transported by companies and transport companies that are owned by the
government and the ruling elite."
WFP officials say entrusting food shipments and paying donated money to
the corruption-ridden state transportation system presents a dilemma for
the agency. Risley says the WFP has controls in place to make sure the
food ends up in the right hands.
"All of the food that we distribute is grown locally. We purchase rice
that is grown in the delta regions of Myanmar, and thus usually our
biggest expense is in transporting that rice or other food commodities
toward the remote regions where we provide it to the communities," said
Risley. "So, we are very concerned that our funding be spent solely on the
transport of rice and other commodities, and not to go to the benefit of
any particular individuals and families or people that are associated with
the government of Myanmar."
The WFP says Burma's military government has eased recently eased
transport restrictions in one area of Rakhine state. Agency officials say
they hope more areas will follow.
Some governments including that of the United States have restricted
direct aid to Burma as the country's military rulers continue to crack
down on political dissent. However, U.S. and WFP officials plan to meet in
Washington and Rome in the coming days to discuss a possible boost in U.S.
U.S. First Lady Laura Bush, who has taken the issue of Burma as a personal
cause, last week issued a statement condemning the Burmese military rulers
on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the country's independence.
Mrs. Bush said the Burmese people are living in fear and poverty under the
leadership of the generals, who she said have plundered the country's
economy and rich natural resources, making Burma one of the poorest
countries in the region.
January 10, Narinjara News
Forced labor on road construction
Township authorities have forced villagers to work on motor road
construction in Pauktaw Township, 20 miles east of Arakan State's capital
Sittwe, without payment, reports a villager from the area.
The villager said, "We have not received any wages for the reconstruction
despite having to work all day everyday. All our households are working on
the road construction on a quota system after the authority allocated the
road in several small plots to be worked on by the villagers."
The road is being constructed to connect Taungfu and Thawin Chaung Village
a few miles outside of Pauktaw, and many residents from both villages have
had to work on the road's construction.
"We heard the government allocated 6 million kyat for the road
construction from the state revenue, but township authorities forced us to
work on it after they took the money for their own interests," the
A source close to the township authority said the allocated state funds
had been misappropriated by three administers, including Pauktaw
Township's chairman and two chairmen from Taungfu and Thawin Chaung
The villager said there is a rumor the money for the road was taken by
township chairman U Kyaw Zaw Hla and village chairman U Aung Tun Win from
Taungfu Village for their personal use.
Every household in the two villages has been working on the road
construction in twelve-foot lengths as allocated by the authority. The
township authority ordered the villagers to complete the road before
Burmese army day.
"In two villages, there are over 1,000 households and all villagers are
now working at the road construction to be finished before March 2008," he
Moreover, the authority forced some residents of other nearby villages to
work at breaking the stones needed to pave the road.
January 10, Mizzima News
Detained Burmese opposition leader applies for satellite receiver Mungpi
Burma's detained opposition party leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has recently
applied to the ruling junta for installation of a satellite receiver for
television, diplomatic sources in Rangoon said. She under detention for
12 of the past 18 years she has been in Burma.
The application by San Suu Kyi is not the first time in several years, the
While the government has rejected her earlier applications to install a
satellite receiver at her lakeside villa in Rangoon's University Avenue,
where she is under house arrest, the source said, the government has not
yet responded to her recent application.
While the information could not be independently verified, her party the
National League for Democracy spokesperson, U Nyan Win, said he is not
aware of any such development.
"I have not heard anything like that and I am not aware of her [Daw Aung
San Suu Kyi] having applied," Nyan Win said.
The detained Nobel peace laureate has been deliberately cut-off from the
outside world. She has been denied a telephone connection, and access to a
television set, Nyan Win said.
"She only has a radio to listen to. And that's the only thing she relies
on for access to information," Nyan Win said.
The Burmese democracy icon is denied access to the internet despite
possessing a computer, the diplomatic source said sarcastically.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi applying for the installation of a satellite receiver
came amidst rumors of uncertain annual license fees.
Earlier, rumors spread in Rangoon and other parts of Burma that the annual
license fees for satellite receivers would increase to 10 million Kyat
from what was previously 6000 Kyat. However, the rumor comes in the wake
of another that suggests that the fees have drastically gone down to
Satellite Dish owners in Rangoon said, the government, however, has not
made any announcement on the license fees and has not accepted any
"I have not paid my Sat TV receivers' annual license fee. The authorities
are still not accepting any license renewal. So, I am still waiting and if
the fees are not too much I will renew but if the fees are high I will
have to disconnect," Nyan Win said.
Following the rumor of the hike in the annual license fees, owners of Sat
TV dishes are reportedly preparing to disconnect their receivers as the
hike in fees are beyond their affordability.
Interestingly, on January 4, Burma's Independence Day, a Burmese
broadcasting station Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) in exile which
has direct satellite broadcasting facility into Burma, announced that it
is increasing its broadcasting airtime to daily from the previous
broadcast during weekends.
January 10, Mizzima News
Naga activists call for boycott of Naga New Year festival Maung Dee
The Burmese military junta's planned Naga New Year celebration slated for
mid-January in Western Burma's Sagaing division, is just a tourist
attraction to earn foreign exchange to will fill the junta's coffers, a
Naga organization in exile said.
The Naga National Democratic Organisation (NNDO), has called on all Nagas
and supporters to boycott the junta's Naga New Year festival in Lashi town
on the Naga Hill track in Sagaing division saying the festival is aimed at
attracting tourists which will earn foreign exchange for the junta. It
does not aim to promote the Naga culture.
"We are boycotting the festival as it is meant to showcase the culture of
the Nagas to earn some foreign exchange. So, we want to tell tourists not
to come to the festival. Because by coming to the festival they will be
indirectly supporting the junta," Aung Ba, spokesperson of the NNDO told
"We want to invite tourists as well as others only when we are allowed to
do so freely by ourselves," added Aung Ba.
Aung Ba said prior to 2003 the Nagas, ethnic minorities of Burma residing
on the Naga Hill tracts along the indo-Burmese border, under the cultural
committee had agreed to celebrate the New Year festival, that falls on
January 15, in the major Naga inhabitant towns including Khamti, Nanyun,
Lashi and Lahe, by rotation.
However, following the Burmese junta's declaration of the Naga Hills as
tourist site in 2003, the Nagas are only allowed to conduct New Year
festivals in Lashi and Lahe towns under the supervision of the junta, Aung
Ba said in a statement released on Wednesday.
According to the statement, the junta in 2003 handed a contract to a
business company, Diamond Palace, to organize the annual festival in the
As preparation for the festival, villagers are being forced to build
temporary tents, stores, and even hotels for tourists to stay with out any
monetary compensation, Aung Ba said.
"In fact we the locals have nothing to benefit from the festival. All we
get is extra work without any compensation. There are no development
projects being undertaken for the festival," Aung Ba said.
The Naga traditional dances and a variety of cultural practices, which the
Nagas have preserved with great effort has turned into an entertainment
business for tourists and others, the statement released by the NNDO said.
"Dances are our traditional and cultural legacy, which we do with love and
to build relationships among one another. But it is used for entertainment
this is the worst part of it. If you watch State TV, you will see that no
dancer has smiling faces, because they are forced to dance," Aung Ba said.
The NNDO in the statement, urged all Nagas to unite against the
exploitation by the ruling junta, saying as long as the military junta
rules Burma the Naga tradition and culture will continue to be used to
showcase and earn foreign exchange.
Ethnic Nagas, who mainly inhabit the western hill tracts of Sagaing
division in Burma , share a common identity with the Nagas living across
the border in northeastern India .
The Nagas, under the umbrella of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim
(NSCN), one of the longest operating insurgent groups in South Asia, has
been waging an independence war against the Burmese regime as well as the
While the Khaplang faction of the NSCN leads the struggle in Burma, the
Isaac/Muiva (IM) faction of NSCN leads the struggle in India.
January 10, Irrawaddy
Young activists wage pro-democracy poster campaign in Myitkyina Saw Yan
More than three months after the September pro-democracy crackdown,
guerilla-style, anti-government publicity campaigns are still going on,
the most recent in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State.
Kachin youth in Myitkyina have launched a campaign of putting up posters
and distributing leaflets against the military regime in downtown areas, a
source in Myitkyina told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.
One resident, who took part in the campaign, said the effort was organized
by members of the All Kachin Students Union.
The young political activists were divided into two teams, according to
the source. One team put up more than 100 posters on walls, utility poles
and other areas downtown and the other team distributed leaflets to people
attending the Kachin Manau Festival.
The aim of the campaign is to speed up the peoples movement, he said.
Another is to show the unity of all Burmese people. The fortune of the
country is in the hands of the people. It is what I want to show.
Authorities removed some of the posters on Thursday, he said, and a few
people who possessed the leaflets were questioned by local authorities. No
campaigners were arrested, he said.
Myitkyina is one of the most active sites for pro-democracy activists.
During the government crackdown in Myitkyina, one Buddhist abbot, the Ven.
U Thilavantha of Yuzana Kyaunghtai Monastery, died on September 26 from
injuries he received when he was beaten by soldiers and security forces.
The posters and leaflets called for the release of political prisoners who
were detained in Septembers demonstrations and urged the government to
start a tripartite dialogue toward national reconciliation.
The campaigners said they also opposed the constitutional referendum and
want a halt to the constructions of dams in Kachin State.
Recently, a similar public information campaign occurred in Rangoon, which
included stickers that were attached to vehicles with the words, Release
A related expression of political dissent took place on January 4 when
about 12 members of the National League for Democracy held a brief vigil
in front of the partys headquarters dressed in the blue uniforms of
prisoners and called for the release of all political prisoners.
According to Amnesty International, more than 1,300 political prisoners
were being detained in Burma.
January 10, Irrawaddy
Zarganar plans Aung San film Min Lwin
Burmese film director Maung Thurabetter known as the comedian Zarganaris
writing a script for a movie he hopes will be made about the life of
Burmas independence hero Aung San.
Aung San, father of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, is a tabu
subject in his native Burma, where successive regimes have suppressed any
plans to honor him with a film biography.
Zarganar, who has repeatedly fallen foul of the present regime because of
his iconoclastic humor and pro-democracy activities, told The Irrawaddy he
wanted the film to be made by a foreign producer. He is anyway banned by
the regime from film and video work.
I am not interested in working with local producers, he said. I am
going to show my script to international producers.
Zarganar is, in the meantime, publishing his script on his Web site
http://www.zarganar-windoor.blogspot.com , inviting readers to contribute
The scenario begins with the assassination of Aung San and 17 comrades on
July 19, 1947, and then recounts his life in flashback.
Aung San played a key role in Burmas history and it cant fade,
January 10, Democratic Voice of Burma
NLD member slams independence day disruptions
A National League for Democracy member who was detained to prevent him
attending an independence day celebration has claimed that authorities did
all they could to disrupt the NLD event.
NLD member Dr Aung Moe Nyo was detained on 2 January, along with five
other members of Pwint Phyu NLD, as they were preparing to travel to Yay
Nan Chaung to attend an independence day celebration at the home of NLD
chairman U Khin Win.
The six were arrested at midnight during an overnight stop in Nyaung Pin
Zauk village on the way to Yay Nan Chaung, and were detained for two
To stop other members crossing the river to Yay Nan Chaung, Pwint Phyu
authorities closed the jetty all day on 3 January, which caused problems
for other travellers and meant that boatmen and oarsmen lost a day's
The six were held at Pwint Phyu township police station, where they were
interrogated by U Aung Ngwe Kyi, a police official.
The detainees were asked about their planned route to Yay Nan Chaung as
well as their opinion on the seven-step road map laid out by the military
After responding to all the questions, they were asked to sign an
interrogation form but they refused, in accordance with the directions
from the central NLD party.
Instead, they wrote a letter stating that they had given genuine answers
to the questions asked of them.
During the interrogation, Dr Aung Moe Nyo claimed he overheard
instructions given to the police official by Peace and Development Council
chairman U Hla Htay over the telephone.
The PDC chairman reportedly told U Aung Ngwe Kyi to continue questioning
the group and keep them under pressure to prevent them attending the
independence day celebrations.
I heard [U Hla Htay] saying Keep questioning the bastards, Keep giving
them pressure', 'Don't release them until 9am on independence day,' 'Let
them go if they are heading to the jetty but take all the oars away from
the boats' and 'Keep all the keys from the motorboats," said Dr Aung Moe
I heard every word including If they carry on, ambush them with pellets
using catapults and Throw plastic bags full of faeces at them.
Dr Aung Moe Nyo said that these excessive tactics were intended to stop
the NLD members attending the ceremony, and claimed that officials were
also told to be thuggish if the members were still determined to travel to
the ceremony despite the delay.
Dr Aung Moe Nyo criticised the authorities actions as disrespectful and
"It is most disappointing to witness that authorities who are supposed to
be working for peace and the development of the nation are acting more
like thugs and criminals," Dr Aung Moe Nyo said.
January 10, Democratic Voice of Burma
Russian and Chinese experts visit Tenasserim division
Recent visits by Chinese and Russian agricultural experts to the coastal
areas of Tenasserim division have been met with suspicion by the Karen
A commander from the Karen National Liberation Army, the armed wing of the
KNU, said that one Russian and two South African nationals had arrived at
Maw Taung camp on the Thai-Burma border on 6 January, while three Chinese
experts arrived at I-wine village in Tavoy township the following day.
They were accompanied by heavy government security and staff from Burmese
tycoon Tayza's Htoo Trading Company and the Yuzana Business Group owned by
U Htay Myint.
The experts had reportedly come to the area to inspect palm oil
plantations, but U Htay Aung, a military analyst on the Thai-Burma border,
did not believe people from these countries would have the necessary
"Russians are not experts in palm oil plantations, U Htay Aung said.
The plantations could get experts from Malaysia instead who are
well-respected in this kind of agricultural production.
U Htay Aung said that the visit could be linked to military cooperation
between these countries and Burma.
The government has been relocating villagers in Maw Taung region for some
time now and we have heard they are going to build a regional defence
center in this location," U Htay Aung said.
"The junta bought a couple of Mig-29 fighter jets from Russia in 2002 as
well as rocket missiles and radar equipments," he said.
"We have confirmed information about the government installing this
equipment in defence centres built on off-shore islands in Tenasserim
January 10, Kachin News Group
Over 350 anti-junta posters distributed on State Day eve
The Burmese military junta is once again facing flak in Kachin State. Over
350 A-4 size posters against the regime were distributed yesterday on eve
of the 60th anniversary of State Day in Myitkyina Township , capital of
Kachin State, Northern Burma , said student activists.
A student activist Gam Shawng who spearheaded the poster movement told KNG
today, "We distributed over 200 handout posters to the people
participating in the State Day Manau festival. The rest were pasted on
key government offices, high schools, roadside walls and roadside electric
poles in Myitkyina."
The posters with a four-point charter of demand opposing the junta have
the support of the people. The posters demanded a halt to the Myitsone Dam
project in Irrawaddy River (Mali Hka), release of all political prisoners
and people who have been arrested for revealing their attitude, and to
resolve the country's problems through a "Tripartite dialogue between the
junta, the opposition and ethnic leaders", said student leaders.
The movement is the first of its kind in the New Year and was organized by
the All Kachin Students Union (AKSU), student leaders added.
"The movement is aimed at showing solidarity of all the people's movements
in Burma as well as to increase the momentum of people's movements," an
AKSU spokesperson, Shadang Naw Awng told KNG.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people are participating in the Kachin
cultural Manau festival in
Kachin National Manau Park marking the 60th anniversary of Kachin State
which falls today -- January 10.
The junta's Kachin State military commander Maj-Gen Ohn Myint and head of
Kachin Cultural Office Majoi Gintawng Yup Zau Hkawng delivered speeches in
a special ceremony of the 60th State Day in front of Majoi Gawknu (Majoi
Hall). The function started at 8 a.m. local time before the "Peace Manau
Dance" began, said participants.
ON THE BORDER
January 10, Irrawaddy
Exiled Kachin accuse regime of taking over their culture Saw Yan Naing
Kachin leaders in exile accuse Burmas military regime of taking over not
only Kachin politics but such special traditions as Thursdays Kachin
State Day observances.
Uma Tu, spokesman of the Kachin National Organization in exile, told a
press conference in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, that, by organizing the
traditional Kachin Manua festival, the regime appeared to be trying to
send out the message that the Kachin people and other ethnic groups are
happy under military rule.
The Kachin ethnic movement within Burma, the Kachin Independence
Organization (KIO), signed a ceasefire agreement with the military
government, in February 1994. The KIO was founded in February, 1994, and
is based at Laiza, o¬n the China-Burma border.
Uma Tu claimed the Kachin people were prevented from even studying their
own history. Young people, denied political involvement, were at risk from
reliance on drugs.
More than 100,000 Kachin people under the age of 40 died from drug abuse
or AIDS between 1997 and 2007, according to Kachin research results.
January 10, Irrawaddy
A tale of two tyrants - Wai Moe
Indonesias ex-dictator Suharto is on his death bed. Reports from his
hospital in Jakarta say that his condition is deteriorating, with signs of
internal bleeding and a build-up of fluid on his lungs. The history books
might record him as a despotic leader; however, contrary to many reports,
he is not Indonesias Ne Win.
Born in 1921 on the island of Java, Suharto is now 86. He seized power in
a military coup in 1967; five years after Gen Ne Win had done the same in
Burma. Suharto ruled with an iron fist for three decades, finally stepping
down in 1998.
Suhartos 1967 coup detat was a mixture of brute force and political
maneuvering, set against the backdrop of international and domestic
unrest, including the threat of a Communist revolution in the worlds
largest Muslim country.
During the early years of his rule, Suhartos forces executed half a
million of his opponents, an amount even higher than Ne Win and his
However, while Suhartos government raised the Indonesian economy into
Asian Tiger status in the 1980s, Ne Win drove Burma downhill until it
officially became one of the worlds least developed countries. Ne Win led
Burma into isolation by refusing international aid, and he nationalized
all growth industries nationwide, killing the countrys economy for
Suharto, on the other hand, opened his doors to foreign investment and
supported businesses and the growth of the private sector. Indonesia, an
oil-rich country, had already become an OPEC member back in December 1962,
five years before Suhartos coup, and its economy had been steadily
But Ne Win and Suharto shared similar traitsboth dictators looted their
own countries. Transparency International estimated that Suharto misused
between US $15 billion and $35 billion in state assets while in power.
Not surprisingly, relations between the Burmese military rulers and
Suhartos regime have always been friendly. The Indonesian economic
success under Suharto was a good model for the Burmese junta in the 1990s,
according to Burmas state media.
Analysts say that the Burmese generals replicated Suhartos party, Golkar,
in setting up the Union Solitary and Development Association in 1993.
However, the partnership started to wane during the democratic transition
In 1997, Ne Win visited Indonesia for a three-day visit. He was invited as
a special guest of Suharto and arrived on a private plane with family
members. The following May, Suharto was forced to step down.
Ten years previously, Ne Win had been forced out in similar circumstances.
In July 1988, the Burmese leader resigned his official posts, his corrupt
regime facing a series of protests, a popular uprising looming on the
horizon. Ne Win was said to have held influence right up to the year 2000,
but his amassed fortune was gone, and his family members were charged with
treason by his successors in March, 2002. Accused of plotting a coup, Ne
Win and his daughter, Sandar Win, were put under house arrest, while his
son-in-law and grandsons were sent to prison.
A few months later, Ne Win passed away peacefully. The junta declined to
even run an obituary for the former president in the media. Nobody except
his loyal daughter and his former colleague, Aung Kyi, were allowed at the
Unlike Ne Win, the Indonesian strongman continued to wield influence long
after his resignation. Even following an economic collapse, widespread
demonstrations, the loss of support from the military and members of the
government, Suharto still received members of the political and business
elites at his home every year on his birthday to pay their respects.
The current Indonesian president, Susilo Bamgang Yudhoyono, recently
called on the nation to pray for Suhartos health. And a former president,
Abhurrahman Wahid, also spoke publicly in support of the dying dictator:
He (Suharto) made mistakes, said Wahid. But he also did a great service
to the nation.
Suharto has faced numerous charges of corruptions and human rights abuses
for years, but his trials were always postponed for health reasons.
Comparing the two despots, Thakin Chan Tun, a veteran politician from
Rangoon, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday: Ne Wins and Suhartos deaths
should serve as a good lesson for the ruling Burmese generals. Suharto was
as bad as Ne Win. But at least Suharto shifted his country toward
development. He did something for Indonesias democratic transition.
It seems that Suharto, forever the survivor, will still be respected after
his death. Ne Win, on the other hand, died in disgrace.
January 10, Asia Times
Myanmar deal right neighborly of India - Brian McCartan
India, in the face of Western criticism, continues to economically engage
Myanmars ruling generals, providing the junta a much-needed investment
lifeline at a time when the US and European Union have imposed new
punitive sanctions against the rights-abusing regime.
The Indian government earlier this week committed US$120 million to
rebuild Myanmars western Sittwe port and construct road and water links
through the facility, which will connect Myanmars western Arakan State to
Indias northeastern state of Mizoram. The build-transfer-use Kaladan
Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project comes on top of a previous $27
million investment to improve the 160-kilometer road from Mizoram to
Kalewa, in Myanmars Sagaing division, northeast of Sittwe.
Final agreement for the Sittwe project, which has been under consideration
for more than six years and will take nearly three years to complete, is
expected to be signed during a visit of high-level officials from Myanmar
to India in April.
The agreement highlights divergent strains in Indias policy towards
Myanmar. Since the Myanmar military regimes crackdown last year on
peaceful street demonstrators, New Delhi has gently indicated its support
for political change and national reconciliation in its neighbor. That
position was seemingly underscored in December by Indias unofficial halt
of arms transfers to Myanmar. Yet Indias state-owned companies continue
to sign business deals with the regime and the government, while tacitly
supporting political change, has declared that it does not support
Western-led new sanctions, preferring dialogue and negotiations to promote
India voted in favor of a resolution at the United Nations Human Rights
Council condemning the regimes violent crackdown and calling for the
release of detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. However,
Indias support for the resolution was watered down by an official
reservation that the final text of the statement was not in accordance
with Indias preferred approach of constructively engaging Myanmar.
India gained some mileage out of a January 2 meeting between prime
minister Manmohan Singh and visiting Myanmar foreign minister Nyan Win.
According to Indian foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna, the foreign
minister was told that there was "greater urgency in bringing political
reform and national reconciliation" and that "this process had to be
broad-based to include all sections of society including Aung San Suu Kyi
and various ethnic groups in Myanmar." At the same time the prime minister
also affirmed Indias desire to build on the two sides already strong
India's approach has attracted criticism from both outside and within
India. There is widespread local support for Suu Kyi and her National
League for Democracy party, judging by the well-attended protest rallies
held in New Delhi coinciding with Nyan Wins visit. All of Indias major
political parties, including Congress, the Communists and Bharatiya Janta
Party, have called on the government to change its policy on Myanmar.
Civil society groups have joined this call, especially those representing
ethnic groups located in Indias northeastern regions, which share a
border with Myanmar.
In late December, it was reported that India had quietly stopped all arms
sales and transfers to Myanmar. Although the policy was not officially
announced, a Washington Post article cited "diplomatic sources" who said
that it "had been privately confirmed by New Delhi to top US officials".
If so, it would represent a major turn-around in policy since military
contacts had increased during 2007, with India offering large quantities
of military hardware to the junta.
India is currently one of Myanmars two main military hardware suppliers,
the other being China. India came under sharp media criticism in 2007 for
its sale of weapons that would possibly violate European Union arms
embargoes now in place against Myanmar. In August, Myanmar took delivery
from India of two BN-2 Defender maritime surveillance aircraft. The deal
was done over the objections of the British government, which originally
sold the aircraft to India.
In July, a report by UK-based rights group Amnesty International and
several other EU nongovernmental organizations condemned India for the
possible sale of advanced light helicopters to Myanmar. The aircraft, made
by Hindustan Aeronautical Ltd. (HAL), can be equipped with rockets and
machine guns, and human rights groups fear they will be used against
insurgent ethnic minority groups and possibly future street demonstrators.
The report noted that the weapons and many of the systems within the
helicopters originated in EU countries and thus could violate the arms
In a November 2006 meeting between Indian Defense Secretary Shekhar Dutt
and Myanmar Vice Senior General Maung Aye, India offered the helicopters
along with T55 tanks it was retiring from its inventory, 105mm artillery
pieces, armored personnel carriers, ammunition and avionics upgrades for
Myanmars Russian and Chinese-made aircraft. Although it is unclear
whether any of this hardware has reached Myanmar, reports indicate that
shipments of aircraft, artillery, armored personnel carriers, tanks,
ships, small arms and ammunition are expected to be sent in 2008. During
the same meeting, India also offered counterinsurgency training to
Rights groups have in the wake of last years bloody crackdown called for
a United Nations Security Council-enforced arms embargo against Myanmar.
Support for such a measure is high in the United States, although any
resolution would have to overcome likely vetoes from China and Russia,
which have in the past come to Myanmars defense. Indias quiet halting of
arms transfers may be a way of staving off a full-blown arms embargo and
resuming transfers when the international clamor has died down. Indeed
India had for years sent arms, ammunition and other military equipment to
Myanmar with very little international criticism or attention until 2007.
Many of the reports concerning sales and transfers of Indian military
equipment have been linked to joint operations along the India-Myanmar
border against insurgents based on the Myanmar side of the border.
Myanmars northwest Sagaing Division and Chin State insurgencies are
small, but the army has shown a marked lethargy and lack of commitment in
its suppression operations.
At the same time, India has made no shift in its economic policy towards
Myanmar, which critics say is providing the ruling junta with much-needed
cash flow to stay financially afloat and buy weapons. For instance, during
Nyan Wins recent visit to New Delhi, trade and cooperation in oil-and-gas
were reportedly discussed. Bilateral trade between the two countries is
estimated at nearly $1 billion and Indian investments in Myanmar include
gas, oil, agriculture, fisheries, pearl cultivation, infrastructure
projects, mining and tourism ventures.
Those outlays mark a controversial policy u-turn. India initially
supported Myanmars pro-democracy movement after the popular uprising of
1988 and general elections of 1990, serving as the first nation to condemn
the military regime when it annulled the 1990 elections it resoundingly
lost. Suu Kyi was later awarded the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Award for
International Understanding and successive Indian governments allowed
refugees and political activists to reside in India.
In the mid-1990s, the policy shifted and official criticisms of the
Myanmar regime stopped while business and military delegations made
increasingly frequent visits to the country. Since, over $100 million has
been extended to Myanmar in the form of credit, including $27 million for
road improvements for the link connecting the town of Tamu on the border
with Mizoram State and Kalewa in Sagaing Division.
India has since grown into Myanmars second-largest market, trailing only
Thailand. Top Indian officials, including the president, government
ministers and senior military officers, have all in recent years made
high- and low-profile visits to Myanmar. Senior General Than Shwe, the
chairman of Myanmars ruling State Peace and Development Council, last
visited India in 2004. Indian President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam visited Myanmar
in 2006 and reportedly avoided mention of the countrys political problems
or the detention of Suu Kyi during his stay.
Myanmar has become a key component in Indias "Look East" policy, which
strategically views the neighboring country as a geographical springboard
to markets in mainland Southeast Asia. Myanmars membership in the Bay of
Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation
(BIMSTEC) grouping makes it a key partner in the development of regional
projects in trade energy and tourism, as well as in the economic
development of northeast India.
Indias real politik policy is also aimed at diluting Chinas regional
influence. China, which has border disputes with India and with whom it
fought a brief war in 1962, views Myanmar as an outlet for trade from its
remote, landlocked southwestern Yunnan province. It is also eager to
secure oil, gas and other natural resource concessions from Myanmar to
fuel its rapidly surging economy.
While protests in Yangon and other towns reached their height last
September, Indian Petroleum Minister Murali Deora signed a $150 million
gas exploration deal with the SPDC and the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise
on behalf of Oil and Natural Gas Company (ONGC) Videsh. As part of the
deal, the state-controlled Indian company was granted rights to explore in
three separate offshore blocks.
Myanmar, for its part, appears to play the two countries off against each
other. India was reportedly disappointed by Myanmars decision last August
to give the nod to Chinese state-owned PetroChina for highly coveted gas
concessions in the large Shwe fields off the coast of Myanmars Arakan
State. China edged out South Koreas Daewoo International and Indias two
state energy companies, which are currently developing the field. The Shwe
gas field reserves are estimated to be worth between $37 billion and $52
billion, with the SPDC scheduled to receive $12 billion and $17 billion
over a 20-year period.
Meanwhile, on December 12, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed to set
up a center for the sharing of information technology skills in the old
Myanmar capital of Yangon. The agreement to set up the India-Myanmar
Center for the Enhancement of Information Technology Skills (IMCEITS) was
signed by deputy foreign minister Kyaw Thu during the first official visit
to India of a Myanmar official since the crackdown.
Indias increasingly cozy relations with Myanmar come at a cost. Armed
groups including the United Liberation Front of Asom, the National
Socialist Council of Nagaland and the United National Liberation Front are
all involved in a decades-old insurgency in Indias northeastern areas and
have traditionally used base areas in Myanmars jungle-covered
northwestern territories. Although joint operations are periodically
announced, very little is reportedly actually done on the Myanmar side,
with some speculation that at the local level the insurgents have good
relations with Myanmar army officers and intelligence officials.
While these contacts may not extend to the top of Myanmars leadership,
the insurgency is often used as a bargaining chip by the Myanmar regime to
gain Indias support and military hardware in exchange for proposed
offensives against the insurgents.
Indias northeastern border problems go beyond the insurgency, with
rampant drug trafficking, arms smuggling and an increasing HIV/AIDS
epidemic all contributing to instability. Other than close the border
periodically when local trade disputes arise, Myanmar does little to stop
Refugees fleeing human rights abuses on the Myanmar side of the border
have also become a problem for India and communal disputes have frequently
broken out in border communities between Myanmar refugees and Indians. At
least for now, though, India seems willing to look the other way as long
as commercial profits and fuel flow from the other side of the border.
Brian McCartan is a Chiang Mai-based freelance journalist.
January 10, Canoe.ca
Calgary group to help Myanmar refugees Bill Kaufmann
Victims of the brutal Myanmar regime will soon receive aid from 13 members
of a Calgary-based medical team who departed today for the troubled
The Alberta doctors and nurses of the group Medical Mercy Canada (MMC)
will assist refugees in camps along the Myanmar border in India and
Thailand some of whom have been exiles since a military coup overthrew
democratically-elected Aung San Su Kyi and slaughtered thousands of
civilians in 1988.
Theyre bringing with them 15 tote boxes filled with medical supplies,
clothing and gifts, said MMC spokesman Morris Prokop.
Theyll operate blood banks, help out with orphanages and hold medical
dental clinics, said Prokop, wholl head to the refugee camps in March.
A violent crackdown by the government against dissident monks and others
late last years has only worsened the refugee situation, say humans rights
groups, while the displaced persons claim their host countries are hostile
At the end of 2002, there were more than half a million Myanmar refugees
in neighbouring countries, 350,000 of them in Thailand.
Prokop said the refugees are forced to be constantly on the move and often
lack the most basic necessities.
Its a pretty sad story...they have medical needs and lack food, water,
shelter, he said. MMC leaders and founders, Calgary physician Myron
Semkuley and his wife Elaine, will remain in the area then aid the poor in
Nepal until mid-March said Prokop.
The group began its forays to assist Myanmar refugees, he added, nearly 16
They began helping out while visiting a refugee camp and decided then and
there thats where theyre needed, said Prokop.
MMC is funded largely from private donations
January 10, Scotsman.com
Deportation threat is lifted from Shetland family after four-year fight
A BURMESE mother and her two adopted sons who were facing deportation
from Shetland have won a long-running battle to stay on the islands.
Hazel Minn and her sons, Simon and Vincent, first fled to Britain in 2002
to escape Burma's military regime.
Miss Minn, 40, had criticised the military regime as an activist with the
Baptist Church in Burma and sold all her possessions to pay for flights
to Britain for herself and her sons.
They arrived on Shetland to stay with the children's grandparents and
subsequently applied for political asylum. However, in 2004 they were
told by the Home Office that they would have to leave the country.
Almost 7,000 islanders, a third of the population of Shetland, signed a
petition calling for the family to be allowed to stay in Scotland.
The campaign was also supported by Shetland Islands Council and local
Yesterday, Miss Minn paid tribute to the people of her adopted home as
she spoke of her joy and relief after the Home Office ruled that she and
Simon, 15, and Vincent, 14, could remain in their new home at Stucca,
Hillswick, on the remote north-west tip of the Shetland mainland, where
they live with the boys' grandparents, Lilian and Bert Armstrong.
Miss Minn said she felt like was "living in a dream", adding: "It's a
huge relief for me and the boys are delighted.
"I would like to thank all our supporters. So many people supported us
and without all their help we wouldn't be here. We love living here. The
people are kind and friendly and helpful."
Miss Minn explained that she had been interviewed at Lerwick police
station in December 2006 and told there would be a final decision soon.
However, the family heard nothing until earlier this week.
"I had to prepare everything in case the Home Office came and took me
away," said Miss Minn. "I was really scared and depressed and couldn't
sleep. All I could do was pray and cry myself to sleep. "
Mr Armstrong, 71, said of the Home Office's letter stating that Miss Minn
could say in Scotland:
"I was expecting bad news. But when I read (the letter] I couldn't
believe it. It took several minutes to realise we'd finally cracked it.
It's just wonderful news for Hazel and the two boys.
"It's a whole new way of life for them and five-and-half years of worry
has now been lifted from us."
Burma is ruled by a strict military junta and political activities are
heavily suppressed. Last September, anti-government protests led by
thousands of Buddhist monks were met with a violent crackdown.
Mr Armstrong added: "
If Hazel had been forced to go back, she would have been arrested
immediately she came off that plane and nobody would have heard of her
"It's like the monks in the latest troubles in Burma. They have vanished
since the uprising and nobody knows where they are."
The letter states that, following review of Miss Minn's case, she has been
granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland, was
at the forefront of the campaign to fight the deportation.
He said: "This is tremendous news which has been a long time coming.
"It is outrageous that it takes as long as this to get a decision in what
should be a fairly straightforward case."
He added: "I have no doubt the support Hazel received from the community
played a significant role in this decision.
"This is a victory for the whole community."
OPINION / OTHER
January 10, Mizzma News
Not by word, but by action India needs to support Burmese democracy -
Plato Van Rung Mang
In today's geopolitical world, India is rising as a promising state among
major world powers backed by its strong economy and human resources. In
other words, we can say that India is now reaping the fruits of its
democratization. It is a matter of pride for India, to have lived up to
the dreams of Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi. However, India's
credibility as the world's largest democracy, on the moral ground is a big
The question is the way India embraces its policy on Burma , especially in
the aftermath of the popular 'Saffron Revolution' in September, 2007.
While the world community strongly condemned the Burmese regime for their
atrocious killings and suppression of the peaceful demonstrators, India
came in too late to condemn the regime after the Chinese which is soft
towards the regime. These have really hurt the sentiments of the Burmese
people in India, who feel as the largest democracy and neighbour is should
have played a role to take concrete action in the hour of need. However,
India failed to act at this juncture of need to devalue its credibility.
Another more disappointing fact is the invitation of U Nyan Win, the
Foreign Minister of Burma by the Indian government to New Delhi in the
first week of January 2008, to conclude the Kaladan Multi Modal Transit
Transport Project of $120 million, and agreed to expand trade ties between
the two states from the current level of nearly $ 1 billion. The Prime
Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh had stressed the need for greater
urgency in bringing about political reforms and national reconciliation in
Burma at their meeting. India's invitation to the Burmese top leader at
this stage is a clear indication that India is looking only at its
economic interest over the people of Burma and against their long struggle
for democracy and human rights. Apparently, India itself damaged its image
and credibility as the largest democracy in the world.
In fact, India is the right state to back the Burmese people's struggle
for democracy under the true leadership of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu
Kyi, whose party won the general elections in 1990's. The support of
India, not by word, but by action is crucial at this point of time for
democratic transition in Burma, as India's role in establishing democracy
in the world, had been much helpful in the cases of Bangladesh in 1971 and
Nepal in 2006. Besides, India needs to respect the stand of the late Prime
Minister Rajiv Gandhi towards Burma after the 8, 8, 88's nationwide
uprising. He is credited with India's support for democracy by giving
moral and material support for the establishment of democracy in Burma.
But now, where is India standing for democracy?
Therefore, the present Indian government has reason to think and review
its relationship with the Burmese military regime. The time is ripe for
India to reverse its policy on Burma and it need to take concrete actions
on the military regime by cutting all military aids and economic and
diplomatic relations. Because, the sooner there is A democratic government
in Burma, much brighter prospects for the two nations at large will come
(Plato Van Rung Mang is a Political Science graduate from Delhi University
and former General Secretary of Chin Student's Union, Delhi and now
working for Chin Human Rights Organization and a member in the working
committee of Information & publication for Chin National Council)
January 10, UK Department of International Development
Douglas Alexander to meet Burmese refugees on Thai-Burma border
Douglas Alexander, the UK International Development Secretary, will meet
Burmese refugees who have fled the countrys military regime when he
visits the Mae Lae refugee camp - sheltering 45,000 Burmese people - on
the Thai-Burmese border on Thursday 10 January.
DFID announced a doubling of UK aid to Burma from £9m to £18 million a
year by 2010 in October. The two-day visit to Thailand will allow Mr
Alexander to see for himself some of the work that DFID is doing on behalf
of the UK public and what more can be done for those escaping persecution
and suffering under the Burmese junta.
Looking forward to the visit, Douglas Alexander said:
Thousands have fled their homes to escape persecution from the Burmese
military regime, seeking shelter in neighbouring countries, such as
Thailand. The UK is doing more than ever to help support the Burmese
people who are trying to live ordinary lives in extraordinary conditions
until its safe to return home.
Ill be seeing for myself the work that DFID is doing on behalf of the UK
public to tackle the urgent humanitarian needs on the Thai-Burmese border.
Also, the support were providing to ensure children can go to school and
people suffering from malaria, tuberculosis and HIV get the treatment they
My visit hopes to demonstrate the UKs continuing support for the Burmese
people in their plight and to find out what more we can do to help.
People in Burmas border regions have suffered from decades of fighting
between ethnic armed groups and the Burmese army. Despite a ceasefire,
fighting continues between the military and some Karen, Karenni and Shan
armed groups along the Thai border, creating significant human suffering
100,000 people displaced in conflict areas inside Burma, 400,000 more in
ceasefire and government controlled areas, and 150,000 refugees in
In addition to refugees fleeing from Burmas ethnic conflicts, as a result
of the regimes disastrous economic mismanagement there are also many
economic migrants from Burma living in Thailand. Mr Alexander will be
meeting some of Burmas economic migrants when he visits a health clinic
and school in the border region.
In Bangkok, Mr Alexander will meet representatives from NGOs, minority
groups and others who work inside Burma helping to promote change.
Notes to editors
1. UK aid to Burma has increased from £2m a year in 2002 to £18m today,
including an additional £1m announced in early October to meet
humanitarian needs following the recent protests and their violent
crackdown. See press release: 'UK will double aid to fight poverty in
2. In October 2007, Gordon Brown made clear that if there is a process of
genuine political change and significant progress with reconciliation and
democracy the UK would be stand ready - alongside the international
community - to support the recovery of Burma with aid and other support.
3. Since the September protests, the UN has increased its political focus
on Burma - Professor Gambari, the Secretary Generals representative, has
visited twice and Burma has been discussed in the Security Council. The EU
has strengthened its sanctions regime.
4. DFID supports work fighting the three major killer diseases: Malaria TB
and HIV AIDS in Burma and announced funding for the Three Diseases Fund in
August 2006. See press release: 'UK gives £20 million to save 1 million
lives in Burma'.
More information about the BurmaNet