BurmaNet News, September 14, 2009
editor at burmanet.org
Mon Sep 14 20:06:07 EDT 2009
September 14, 2009 Issue #3796
Reuters: Myanmar police release veteran opposition leader
Irrawaddy: Female dissident put in solitary confinement: AAPP
Radio Free Asia: Conflict children in forced labor
DPA: Daughter of first Myanmar prime minister forms political party
ON THE BORDER
Irrawaddy: Crackdown on Burmese dissidents in Chiang Mai
Narinjara: Take Myanmar's military ambition seriously, says BIPPS
BUSINESS / TRADE
Xinhua: Myanmar, Hong Kong SAR to boost trade co-op
Xinhua: Myanmar strives for expansion of gems market
The Korea Herald: Myanmar - a headache for ASEAN
OPINION / OTHER
International Crisis Group: New Report: Chinas Myanmar dilemma
Irrawaddy: Interview - Chinese blood on Burmese soil
September 12, Reuters
Myanmar police release veteran opposition leader
Yangon Veteran Myanmar opposition leader Win Tin said he was taken in
for questioning by police intelligence but released after a few hours late
on Saturday with a warning he could be called in again.
The 80-year-old is a founding member of the National League for Democracy
(NLD) led by Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi and was the
longest-serving political prisoner in army-ruled Myanmar until his release
in an amnesty in September last year.
"They said that they wanted to ask me some questions in connection with
information they got from some people during interrogation under
detention," Win Tin told Reuters, giving no details on the information or
the other people.
"They treated me well but all their questions were groundless so I denied
them all," he added.
"They said they would send me back home this time for health reasons but
might call me in again if necessary."
Win Tin has had heart problems and recently had a pacemaker fitted.
He is a close aide to party leader Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest and
has spent 14 of the past 20 years in detention of one form or another.
Win Tin said he was not asked anything about an opinion piece written by
him and published in the Washington Post last week, in which he criticized
plans being drawn up by the military regime for an election next year in
the former Burma.
In the article, Win Tin said "the showcase election planned by the
military regime makes a mockery of the freedom sought by our people and
would make military dictatorship permanent."
The United States is in the process of reviewing its policy toward
Myanmar, although it has said closer ties would depend, among other
things, on the release of political prisoners including Suu Kyi.
Win Tin wrote in the article: "Some international observers view next
year's planned elections as an opportunity. But under the circumstances
imposed by the military's constitution, the election will be a sham."
September 14, Irrawaddy
Female Dissident Put in Solitary Confinement: AAPP
An imprisoned female activist of the 88 Generation Students group faces
additional anguish after being put in solitary confinement in a remote
prison, a human rights group said on Monday.
Thailand-based Burmese human rights group the Assistance Association for
Political Prisoners (AAPP) said that prison authorities incarcerated Nobel
Aye (aka Hnin May Aung), 28, in a solitary confinement cell in Monywa
Prison in Sagaing Division recently.
The AAPP did not specify the reasons for the solitary confinement
punishment in its press release on Monday. However, Tate Naing, the
secretary of the group, told The Irrawaddy by telephone that political
prisoners in Burma have often faced additional punishments or solitary
confinement if they complain about human rights violations or prison
Nobel Aye has been arrested twice. The first time was in 1998 when she
faced a 42-year jail sentence for non-violent political activities. She
was released under an amnesty in July 2005 following Gen Khin Nyunt and
his military intelligence apparatus downfall.
She was arrested again in August 23, 2007, after the 88 Generation
Students group led a protest against a hike in fuel prices that sparked
monk-led national demonstrations.
In November 2008, she was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment and
transferred to Monywa Prison in February 2009.
Since she is not well, we are very concerned about her life in prison,
said Tate Naing.
According to the AAPP, Nobel Aye is one of 191 female political prisoners
in Burma. The Burmese regime currently keeps 2,211 political dissidents
September 14, Radio Free Asia
Conflict Children in Forced Labor, Khin May Zaw
Burmese refugees say more and more youngsters are being press-ganged into
working as military porters.
A group of Karen children, who say they were used as porters by soldiers
in Burma, gather in a village for refugees in northern Thailand, Aug. 23,
Northern ThailandChildren as young as 10 are being forced to work as
porters for the Burmese military and ethnic minority Karen troops amid
intensifying conflict near the border with Thailand, according to refugees
in northern Thailand.
One village here in a Karen region houses 95 Burmese refugees, including
39 children under age 12. All say they were taken from their villages in
Burma and forced to work as military porters.
The increased press-ganging of villagers, including children, into work as
porters comes in the wake of intensified fighting in recent months between
Burmese government forces supported by elements of the Democratic Karen
Buddhist Army (DKBA) on the one side and the mostly Christian Karen
National Union (KNU) troops on the other, the refugees said.
Thousands more are believed also to have fled their homes in Burma since
June and to be hiding in villages on the Thai side of the border,
according to human rights and aid workers.
The prolonged military conflict in the region has meant that none of the
Karen children has ever been able to attend school.
"I am 10 years old," one shy girl told a visiting reporter.
Another, who said she was 16, said she had had to carry dozens of cans of
rice in a basket on her back for five days at a stretch and was only given
rice with salt and chili peppers to eat.
"When it rained we had to sleep under trees, so we would get completely
wet from the rain," she added.
Pulling children through the jungle
A Karen woman in a village for refugees in northern Thailand demonstrates
how she was forced her to cover her young sons mouth to keep him from
crying while carrying supplies for soldiers in Burma, August 23, 2009.
RFA/Khin May Zaw
Burmese soldiers forced anyone who had no physical disability to carry
goods and ammunition for them, the refugees said. No one was paid for his
or her labor.
The porters said they don't know if the troops who have press-ganged them
into service belong to the DKBA or a joint force comprising soldiers for
the DKBA and the ruling junta.
Fathers with children able to walk on their own but not big enough to work
as porters themselves must hold onto their children while carrying
ammunition on their backs, sometimes pulling the children through heavy
jungle vegetation, they said.
Parents and children are required to sleep separately to prevent them from
running away, they said, and the men are told their wives will be taken by
soldiers if they try to flee.
Parents in the camp said they had no choice but to bring their children,
as the only people left behind in their villages were very elderly or too
disabled to look after anyone but themselves.
One woman carrying her three-year-old son in a sling in front of her
demonstrated how she had to carry artillery shells in a basket on her back
at the same time.
If her child cried, she was told to put her hand over his face to silence
him or face a reprimand from the soldiers.
She said she had had to carry the shells for four days at a time and was
allowed to stop and rest only two or three times a day.
"In the past, they would need porters once a month only," said the head of
the village that the group of refugees left behind them.
"But now they need them three or four times a month, and we would even
have to go to the front line. We would have to supply three soldiers per
village, and if the village was bigger we would have had to supply up to
20 soldiers," he said.
"If we cannot supply the soldiers we would have to pay 30,000 baht (about
U.S. $880). If we cannot give them the money, they would send us to jail,"
Karen refugees have so far received no aid from international agencies,
nor from the Thai government, they said. Sometimes, soldiers from the DKBA
stole their goods, even on the Thai side of the border, they added.
"When I left I brought with me the best bullock I had, but when I got to
Thailand the DKBA stole the bullock from me," she said.
"I had to pay them 1,500 baht (U.S. $44) to get my bullock back."
According to the Burma-based Karen Human Rights Group, the DKBA began a
stepped-up recruitment drive in August 2008 in response to an escalating
series of DKBA and joint DKBA/government attacks on KNU and Karen National
Liberation Army (KNLA) positions in the Dooplaya and Pa'an Districts of
Those attacks have greatly intensified since the start of the year, the
group said in a report published on its Web site.
Partly under the control of the Burmese government, the DKBA has again
increased recruitment as it prepares to transform itself into a Border
Guard Force as required by the military junta ahead of elections in 2011.
"By June 7, over 3,000 villagers, including the Ler Per Her camp
population of just over 1,200 people as well as nearly 2,000 residents
from other villages in the area, had fled to neighboring Thailand to avoid
fighting as well as forced conscription into work as porters and human
minesweepers for DKBA and SPDC forces," the group said Aug. 25.
The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, says there are more than 100,000
registered Burmese refugees inside Thailand today, most of them Karen.
Original reporting in Burmese by Khin May Zaw. Translated by Soe Thinn.
Burmese service director: Nancy Shwe. Written for the Web in English by
Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.
September 14, Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Daughter of first Myanmar prime minister forms political party
Yangon - A daughter of Myanmar's first and last democratically-elected prime
minister, U Nu, has set up a political party to contest a general election
for 2010, party sources said Monday.
"Daw (Madame) Than Than Nu, a daughter of U Nu, is a secretary
general for the newly formed Democratic Party," Thu Wei, chairman of
to the newly established party, told a press conference.
The party will be registered after an election law is promulgated
by the ruling junta, Thu Wei said.
U Nu was Myanmar's first prime minister after the South-East Asian
country was granted independence in 1948 from Great Britain, it's
former colonial master.
He served three premierships until 1962, when U Nu was overthrown
by a coup led by General Ne Win, the strongman who dragged Myanmar,
also called Burma, down its disastrous slide into socialism under
military dictatorship. U Nu died in 1995.
The current ruling junta has vowed to hold an election next year
to usher in "discipline flourishing" democracy, which will include a
senate top-heavy with appointed military men and controls over the
The junta has yet to issue an election law that will make clear
which political parties will qualify to contest next year's polls.
It remains to be seen whether the National League for Democracy
(NLD) party, led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, will
contest the polls, although party officials have indicated they will
The NLD won the last election in 1990 by a landslide, but was
blocked from assuming power by the military.
ON THE BORDER
September 14, Irrawaddy
Crackdown on Burmese Dissidents in Chiang Mai
Thai police officers on Sunday raided the offices of several exiled
Burmese opposition groups including the Human Rights Education Institute
of Burma, the Burmese Womens Union and the National Health and Education
A Burmese source confirmed that 10 Burmese women from the Burmese Womens
Union who were attending a capacity-building workshop in Chiang Mai were
apprehended and are now in custody.
The police came with information and photos of the locations of Burmese
offices. The arrests took place on Sunday when many offices were closed
for the weekend.
The offices of several Chiang Mai-based Burmese opposition groups and
media organizations have remained temporarily closed on Monday. The motive
for the arrests and the reason why Burmese human rights workers and
dissidents have been targeted is not yet known.
Several exiled Burmese and foreign groups have opened NGOs and advocacy
offices in Chiang Mai in recent years.
Burmese groups faced the most repressive times under Prime Minister
Thaksin Shinawatras administration in the early 2000s. Many offices were
shut down for several weeks due to fears of intimidation and crackdowns.
International human rights groups and Western governments expressed
concern for the safety of exiled Burmese dissidents living in Thailand at
Under the current Thai government, Burmese groups in Thailand have enjoyed
relative freedom without any major harassment.
According to diplomatic sources, Western embassies in Bangkok are closely
watching the situation.
September 14, Narinjara
Take Myanmar's Military Ambition Seriously, Says BIPPS
Dhaka - Bangladesh needs to take the issue of Myanmar's reinforced
military presence along the border more seriously, in order to safeguard
its national security, The Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security
Studies (BIPSS) was reported as saying in a 12 September article in the
The BIPSS is a think-tank that deals with security issues in South and
Southeast Asia. It recently issued a publication suggesting that there are
many contentious issues with neighboring Myanmar that need to be resolved
to protect the national interest.
Such issues as the Rohingya refugees and the dispute over the maritime
boundary have daunted relations between the two neighbors recently, said
an article published in the periodical BIPSS Focus.
The article said that Myanmar's recent strengthening of its military
presence in Rakhine State, which borders Bangladesh, is a big concern.
"Bangladesh needs to take Myanmar's recent military ambition seriously,"
the article, titled "Bangladesh-Myanmar Relations: The Security Dimension"
stated. The article points out that Myanmar has increased movement of
troops while construction of concrete pillars and barbed-wire fences along
the border has been sped up.
The military junta in Myanmar has also extended the runway of the Sittwe
airport, enabling operation of MiG-29 multi-role combat aircraft and all
12 MiG-29 aircraft of the Myanmar Air Force currently deployed in Sittwe,
the article stated. Land has also been acquired for the construction of
another airport in Buthidaung, it adds.
The BIPSS says that massive repair and reconstruction of road, bridges,
and culverts is being carried out in the Western Command area while tanks,
artillery guns, Recoilless Rifles, and mortars are being unloaded
regularly at the Buthidaung river jetty.
Saying that such developments are "alarming" for Bangladesh, the BIPSS
article adds that Myanmar has been constructing barbed-wire fencing along
the border with Bangladesh since March 2009, and approximately 38
kilometers of fencing was completed by July of this year.
Considering all these issues, the article states, "It is observed that
Bangladesh - Myanmar relations have developed through phases of
cooperation and conflict."
"Conflict in this case is not meant in the sense of confrontation, but
only in the sense of conflict of interests and resultant diplomatic
face-off," it says.
The article further warns that "unfriendly relations with Myanmar can
benefit small insurgent groups living in the hilly jungle areas of the
southern portion of the Chittagong Hill Tract, which can cause some degree
of instability in the area and become a serious concern for national
The article also suggests that Bangladesh can benefit in ways by
maintaining a good relationship with Myanmar, which in turn has a good
friendship with China.
"[Myanmar] is the potential gateway for an alternative land route opening
towards China and Southeast Asia other than the sea," it says. "Such a
road link has the potentiality for a greater communication network between
Bangladesh and Southeast Asian countries including Thailand, Malaysia, and
Moreover, with a rich natural resource base, Myanmar is a country with
considerable potential, the article continued. "Myanmar's forests and
other natural resources like gas, oil, and stones are enormous, from which
Bangladesh can be benefited enormously," it says.
The article suggests that policymakers review the existing defense
priorities to suit the magnitude of the threat currently facing
"The policy regarding Myanmar needs to be a careful combination of
effective diplomacy while safeguarding our security interests," it said.
BUSINESS / TRADE
September 13, Xinhua
Myanmar, Hong Kong SAR to boost trade co-op
Yangon -- The Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and
Industry (UMFCCI) and Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HTDC) have met
in Yangon to seek cooperation in boosting bilateral trade, the local
weekly Voice reported Sunday.
Representatives of the HTDC paid a four-day visit to Myanmar from Sept. 7
to 10 to observe opportunities for investment in the country, meeting with
members of the Myanmar Garment Manufactures' Association (MGMA),
Construction Entrepreneurs Association and other business counterparts, it
Hong Kong stood the third in Myanmar's exporting partners after Thailand
and India, while the fourth went to the Chinese mainland with over 500
Bilateral trade between Myanmar and the Hong Kong Special Administrative
Region (SAR) hit 701 million U.S. dollars in the March- ended fiscal year
of 2008-09, according to Myanmar's monthly economic indicators.
Of the total, Myanmar's export to the Hong Kong SAR amounted to668.68
million dollars, while its import from HKSAR took 32.9 million dollars,
enjoying a trade surplus of 635.78 million dollars.
The HKSAR's investment in Myanmar was registered at 504.218 million
dollars in 31 projects as of May this year, standing the 6th largest
foreign investor in the country after Thailand, the United Kingdom,
Singapore, the Chinese mainland and Malaysia.
September 13, Xinhua
Myanmar strives for expansion of gems market
Yangon -- Myanmar is striving for the expansion of its gems market,
introducing domestically several gems emporiums annually and joining
international gem shows occasionally.
In recent years, Myanmar have sought attendance of gems shows in China,
Thailand and Sri Lanka to display the country's quality jade, ruby,
sapphire and pearl in the international shows to attract more foreign
In July this year, Myanmar gems merchants took part in a gem show of the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) held in Kunming, capital of
southwest China's Yunnan Province.
Later this month, Myanmar will also take part in another five-day ASEAN
gem show scheduled to launch in Bangkok, Thailand.
On the occasion of the forthcoming 6th China-ASEAN trade fair slated for
next month in Nanning, capital of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of
China, a total of 70 Myanmar gems companies will head for the event.
Moreover, Myanmar is also seeking gem trade with Sri Lanka, participating
in some gem shows held in Colombo, capital of Sri Lanka for the market
In another endeavors of its gem market expansion, Myanmar eyes the United
Arab Emirates and Oman, planning to launch gem shows there within three
Myanmar's gem market in Asia seems to have not been much affected by the
global economic downturn as seen by observers as the country's gems and
jewelry stand high in demand among the Asian countries.
Myanmar, a well-known producer of gems in the world, boasts ruby, diamond,
cat's eye, emerald, topaz, pearl, sapphire, coral and a variety of garnet
tinged with yellow.
The country started to hold gem shows at home annually in 1964,introducing
the mid-year one in 1992 and the special one in 2004.
The authorities designated the proceeds from the sale of gems at these
emporiums as legal export earning to encourage the private sector in the
development of the gem industry.
In March this year, an annual gems emporium, which was the 46th,was held
in Yangon on the basis of competitive bidding. In the emporium, more than
5,000 jade lots were displayed and 191 million U.S. dollars worth gems and
jewelry were sold out.
The event was attended by over 2,300 foreign traders mostly from China and
China's Hong Kong.
The gem merchants attending the show are mainly from Asian countries of
China, China's Hong Kong, China's Taiwan and Singapore.
In June this year, a special Myanmar gem emporium again attracted more
than 3,000 foreign gem traders, registering the highest number of visitors
compared with the last few years' and the proceeds from it amounted to 292
Meanwhile, the country will launch another mid-year gems emporium here in
October-November this year to encourage local private gem traders to sell
more quality items of gems, jade, pearl and jewelry.
Without specific date set, the 18th Mid-Year Myanmar Gems Emporium will
take place at the Myanmar Convention Center.
In the latest development, Myanmar will hold its biannual pearl auction
for the first time in the country's largest gems museum newly built in new
capital of Nay Pyi Taw in late this month.
The three-day auction, which runs from Sept. 23 to 25, is expected to draw
increased number of local pearl traders from two major cities of Yangon
Myanmar cultures about 400,000 units of pearls every year from eight pearl
farms in the country with investment from Australia, Japan, Indonesia, the
Philippines, China and Thailand, according to report.
Myanmar's ruby, diamond, cat's eye, emerald, topaz, pearl, sapphire, coral
and pearl gain reputation in the world market.
The government's Central Statistical Organization revealed that in the
fiscal year 2008-09, Myanmar produced 32,921 tons of jade and 18,728
million carats of gems which include ruby, sapphire, spinel and peridot,
as well as 201,081 mommis (754 kilograms) of pearl.
September 14, The Korea Herald
Myanmar - a headache for ASEAN - Yoav Cerralbo
Burma has become a major stumbling block for the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations and to a lesser extent, Asia, said Khin Ohmar, the secretary
for the Foreign Affairs Committee for the political coalition group Forum
for Democracy in Burma.
"There is no way ASEAN will be able to move forward to achieve economic
development and prosperity for the ASEAN community as a whole by 2015."
Ohmar wears several hats: In addition to her role with the Forum for
Democracy, she is the chairperson for the Network for Democracy and
Development, and the vice chair for the Burmese Women's Union.
During her recent two-day stay in Seoul she explained the current
situation in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.
"ASEAN has traditional policies of non-interference and constructive
engagement. However, Burma will never be able to resolve its issues and
will become more problematic for the whole region," she said.
The spillover effects are worse than the problems and challenges Myanmar
"Right now, the democratization process of the region is fragile but if
there is democratic change in Burma, then there is definitely another
democratic ally within ASEAN," Ohmar said.
Kicking Myanmar out of ASEAN is not an option, she pointed out. Instead,
she would like to see ASEAN demonstrate their new leadership by going
beyond their traditional dealings in the region vis-a-vis Myanmar.
She noted that, in spite of ASEAN's non-interference policy, they are
already involved through business dealings, natural resource extraction
and their harsh condemnation of the Myanmar junta during the trial of
Nobel Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
Suu Kyi was recently convicted for sheltering an American man who swam to
her lakeside home. She was found guilty and ordered to spend 18 months
under house arrest which will keep her far removed from the political
scene during crucial elections scheduled for 2010.
"Since its founding 40 years ago, ASEAN now has a charter so there are
certain rules that member states must respect, even though there is no
such clause that forces them to comply," Ohmar said.
For ASEAN to show their legitimacy on the international scene, Ohmar
believes that the two most powerful nations on the block - Indonesia and
Thailand - need to step up and prove to the world that what ASEAN has
ratified is a "living document."
When the trial of Suu Kyi broke, ASEAN quickly called for the
democratization of Myanmar, the release of Suu Kyi and all political
prisoners, and demanded that the regime make the election legitimate.
"The all-inclusive political process ASEAN demanded is something we've
been calling for," she said. "Also, we want them to review the 2008
Constitution that's been forcibly adopted by the regime whose only goal is
to entrench military rule in Burma forever."
Ohmar would like to see the situation in Myanmar made part of the official
agenda at next month's 15th ASEAN Summit in Hua Hin, Thailand.
"We already have political support from some ASEAN parliamentarians who
are calling for the suspension of Burma's membership if the regime doesn't
comply with their appeal," she said.
Ohmar predicted that sanctions would never be enforced by ASEAN, mostly
because of China and India's involvement in Myanmar's energy-rich sector.
Instead, her group as a democratic movement is recommending to the United
Nations and international governments that a national reconciliation
proposal be offered to Myanmar's regime but she stands firm that there
would have to be a certain acknowledgment before any meeting could occur.
That would include the release of Suu Kyi and other political prisoners
and would involve talks with various ethnic groups that currently oppose
Ohmar explained that the current proposal by the regime is not the answer
because it only offers the pretense of democracy, instead of giving true
democracy to the people. It does not address the many problems currently
plaguing the nation, including unemployment, AIDS, internally-displaced
people, migrants and refugees.
The way the regime's "democracy" will work is it will create its own
opposition run by businesspeople who have received privileges in the past
by the junta, Ohmar elaborated.
"The constitution is not amendable without over 70 percent of the vote, so
you have 25 percent from the military, then you have a certain percentage
who are former military in civilian uniform taking a seat and then some of
these business cronies ... It's an illusion of democracy."
On the international front, Ohmar would like to see Korea take a more
"We want the Security Council to impose an arms embargo and to establish a
commission against war crimes and crimes against humanity," she said.
"These are the two actions we want from the Security Council and we want
Korea to support that."
Ohmar added that she would like to see "Korea take a stand like other
countries are doing. So far Korea has been politically quiet and that
silence has to be broken."
There is also a plan from some of the world's parliamentarians to punish
Myanmar through financial sanctions.
"The international community needs to step up their aggressive diplomatic
engagement by continuing to knock the regime hard and keep forcing them to
comply and if they don't, then this regime needs a timeline," she said.
"They have played the international community with their own timeline for
She noted, every year the U.N. passes at least two resolutions concerning
Myanmar "and yet nothing happens."
OPINION / OTHER
INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP - NEW REPORT
Chinas Myanmar Dilemma
Beijing/Jakarta/Brussels, 14 September 2009: After two decades of failed
international approaches to Myanmar, Western countries and China must find
better ways to work together to push for change in the military-ruled
Chinas Myanmar Dilemma*, the latest International Crisis Group report,
examines Chinese national and provincial policy towards Myanmar and its
implications for international approaches toward the country. While many
believe that China is the key to pushing Myanmar toward political reform,
its influence is overstated.
The Myanmar armys recent raid against the Kokang ceasefire group,
resulting in the flight of 37,000 refugees to China, highlights the
complexity of Chinas relationship with Myanmar. China was unable to
dissuade the generals from launching their bloody campaign. Tensions along
the border remain the highest in 20 years.
The insular and nationalistic generals do not take orders from anyone,
including Beijing, says Robert Templer, Crisis Groups Asia Program
Director. By continuing to simply expect China to take the lead in
solving the problem, a workable international approach to Myanmar will
While China shares the aspiration for a stable and prosperous Myanmar, it
differs from the West on how to achieve these goals. China will not engage
with Myanmar on terms dictated by the West. To bring Beijing on board, the
wider international community will need to pursue a plausible strategy
that takes advantage of areas of common interest as well as Chinas actual
level of influence.
The West should emphasise to China the unsustainable nature of its current
policies and continue to apply pressure in the Security Council and other
fora. At the same time, China is just one among many countries courting
Myanmar. International pressure should not exclude other regional states
pursuing their own narrowly defined self interests in Myanmar.
Both Chinese and international policies towards Myanmar deserve careful
reassessment, explains Donald Steinberg, Crisis Groups Deputy President
for Policy. An effective international approach also requires a united
front by regional actors as well as multilateral institutions such as
ASEAN and the UN.
To support our work in Asia and around the world, please click here.
*Read the full Crisis Group report on our website: http://www.crisisgroup.org
Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) +32 (0) 2 541 1635
Kimberly Abbott (Washington) +1 202 785 1602
The International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) is an independent,
non-profit, non-governmental organisation covering some 60 crisis-affected
countries and territories across four continents, working through
field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly
September 14, Irrawaddy
Interview - Chinese Blood on Burmese Soil
Peng Jiasheng is the Kokang leader whose residence was raided by
government troops on August 8, setting off a regime offensive and leading
to the loss of the Kokang region to junta troops. He was interviewed by
The Irrawaddy on the reasons for the offensive, the role of China, the
allegations of illegal drug trafficking, the borders guard force and the
future of ethnic minorities in Burma.
Question: How would you describe the current situation in the Kokang region?
Answer: The incident on August 8 was the juntas excuse. It wanted to do
away with the local ethnic minority army a long time ago. A larger
nationality wants to eliminate a smaller one. This is typical
nationalistic chauvinism. This was a massacre.
In order to avoid further harm to the Kokang people, the Myanmar National
Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) retreated. This is not what we wanted and
also it is not what the people in the international community who support
our people would like to see.
Now the situation in Kokang is even more complicated. Currently, the
situation is very bad. The government troops took over the Kokang area for
about 10 days, but there were many reported cases where their soldiers
committed robbery, rape and killed civilians. Many people are still afraid
to go back home. Most of the shops owned by Chinese businessmen were
either destroyed or robbed. This is a calamity. The prosperous environment
of Kokang of only a few months ago no longer exists. People are living in
This conflict has brought great trauma to the Kokang people. The war will
be long. It will be impossible to end soon.
Q: The ceasefire agreement you signed with the regime in 1989 has
collapsed. What do you believe was the motive behind the offensive and the
regimes attempt to arrest you?
A: In March 1989, the Kokang people agreed to peace and development. In
the same year, 17 other local ethnic armed forces also started peace talks
with the junta. This brought to an end the large scale of armed conflict
in the country.
The alliance army is also one of the legal ethnic armed forces that were
recognized by the military government. Over the past 20 years of peace and
development, the Kokang was the first group in the country to promise the
international community that we would stop drug production. We enforced
the ban on poppy cultivation in 2002 in our area. The anti-drug production
effort and success were recognized by the UN and the international
communities. With help from the World Food Programme, the Chinese
government and other international aid agencies, we implemented a lot of
poppy substitution projects, mainly to grow sugar crane, tea, walnuts and
other crops. We achieved very good progress in the poppy substitution.
Step by step, the people in our area began to work their way up from
poverty. This can be seen by everybody. However, as the military
government wants to achieve their goal of controlling the whole country,
it felt it needed to take action against the peace and the ceasefire
Q: Soon after the government troops captured Laogai, the state-run-media
repeatedly accused you of involvement in illegal arms factories and drugs.
How do you respond to those allegations?
A: Burma is still a country without a real government. The army cannot
represent the government. After the election in 1990, the junta usurped
power in the country. Ever since then, there has been no proper government
in our country. The international community has never officially
acknowledged them as the government. Burma is currently a country managed
by a temporary council that was set up by the junta. It was called the
State Law and Order Restoration Council and was later changed to the State
Peace and Development Council. The government army is also an ethnic armed
force, so it can not represent this country.
In 1989, for the sake of the peace and welfare of the country, the Kokang
people took the initiative to approach the junta-controlled council. This
was to protect peace in the country, and to let the people live in peace.
Over the past 20 years, we trusted the junta and have been respectful of
them. Our political proposition is always the same: support the central
government, take the road to peace and development, maintain nationality
unification, guard national unity and strive for the autonomous rights of
the Kokang people. We never wanted to separate from the country; we only
wanted a recognized position for the Kokang people among all of Burmas
Q: How many people were killed in the latest conflict?
A: In this conflict, the Kokang people suffered great loss. We had 14
alliance army soldiers killed in battle, but what we do not know is the
number of civilians killed. For example, some na?ve young people joined
with the traitor Bai Suocheng and his army. In the battles, they were to
be used by the government troops to fight against us. These young people
refused because they were Kokang and could not kill their own people. The
government troops took their weapons away and shot them with machine guns.
On Aug. 27, 27 Kokang youth were killed together.
Q: Why did the junta decide to single out your group? Was there any reason
other than the regimes allegation of your involvement in opium and
A: A lot of things happened over the past month that we never thought
could happen. The Kokang alliance army is one of the legal armed forces in
the country. All our weapons are old and the ammunition is left over from
the days of the Burmese Communist Party. Many of these weapons are in need
of repair. It is reasonable to have a factory to repair weapons. This
factory is well known by all the SPDC officials in Kokang. They have
visited it before. But now they used it as an excuse to take action
The motivation behind this is obvious. They want to eliminate the Kokang
and other ethnic armed forces and achieve their goal of a junta-managed
unified country. It goes without saying that the junta will not stop
with the Kokang. They will take the war to other groups with all kinds of
excuses. If you want to condemn something, you can always find a charge.
The government army is the strongest in the country. It can crack down on
whichever ethnic groups it wishes. It can accuse any ceasefire group of
drugs, or weapons
anything. The current situation on drugs, for example,
in the four special regions in Shan State is that there is no poppy
cultivation, according to investigations by the international agencies.
However, in SPDC-controlled areas, there is more than 250,000 mu [Chinese
land unit: 667 square meters] of poppy cultivation. This is the work of
the junta, and this is how it behaves.
Q: Several ethnic ceasefire groups including the MNDAA rejected the
junta's proposal for a Border Guard Force (BGF). Why did you reject the
A: We are not really against the idea of transferring the army to a BGF,
but the terms and conditions were too rigorous. For example, all the
officers above 50 would be forced to retire and find their own livelihood.
The key leaders of the local government and the commanders of the army
would also be appointed by the junta. These proposals are not acceptable
to any of the ceasefire groups. It is also not acceptable to the local
people. Our requirements were simple: we want to have a high level of
national autonomy to protect the interests of the Kokang people.
Q: The Kokang and other ethnic groups are unhappy with the 2008
constitution. What do you see as its faults?
A: Regarding the constitution proposed by the junta in 2008, it is all
about the power and interest of the junta. We do not believe that any
rights and interests of the minorities are ensured in the constitution.
How can we accept such a constitution that does not represent the people
of the country? on the approval of this constitution, there are things
that happened that few people know about. For example, in some of the
Kokang villages, the junta sent people to vote in the referendum. The
local people did not want to participate, so the junta officials
themselves wrote [out] all the votes. There were villages where about 100
people voted No, but on their ballots it was reported that more than 3,000
people voted Yes. This is how it was approved.
Q: You merged with the CPB in the past and led the successful mutiny in
1989. You went to Beijing and you were closely associated with Chinese
officials in the past. Today, China is the closest ally of the regime as
well as a good friend of ethnic groups along the Sino-Burmese border. What
was China's role in the recent conflict in the Kokang region?
A: During the Aug. 8 incident planned by the junta and the armed conflict
afterwards, the Chinese government did not give us assistance. We could
not talk to the Chinese government about protection and asylum. However,
as the Kokang are in fact Chinese, when the refugees fled to China the
local authorities took very good care of them. That we really appreciate.
Q: What is your message to Chinese leaders who plan to build a gas
pipeline through the Kokang region?
A: What I want to say here is no matter what happens in Burma, we are
ethnic Chinese and our roots are in China. This we will never forget. For
the sake of the rights and position of the Chinese in Burma, we will
continue our struggle.
Q: How do you see the future of Burma and the ethnic minorities?
A: Regarding the future of the ethnic minorities in Burma, this is a
complicated issue. If Burma does not set up a democratic government that
is elected by the people and therefore really represents the people, the
future of the minorities in Burma will get worse.
Q: Did you receive any political backing or military support from other
ethnic groups along the border? Are they united in their goals?
A: All the minority ceasefire groups along the China-Burma border areas
have good relations with each other and have supported each other over a
long period of time. Our fate and experiences are the same. But due to
certain difficulties, our alliance is not as strong as it should be.
Therefore the junta had its opportunity, and now the Kokang area is under
Q: Are you worried about losing your personal property and your businesses
in Burma and China?
A: Currently, all my personal property has been confiscated by the junta.
My property in China was also taken away by the relevant department of the
Chinese government. This is a problem that I can not solve by worrying
Q: Please describe the refugee situation. There were reports of government
officials and soldiers attacking Chinese nationals? Was the recent attack
designed to demonstrate that the government is not a puppet of China?
A: I think the reason why the junta attacked the Kokang is because of the
First, the junta wanted to develop better relationships with America,
India and some Western authorities, in particular with America. In order
to improve the relationship with America, the junta is eager to prove that
the junta is not a puppet government supported by the Chinese government.
That is why the junta chose the Kokang to fight against.
They also wanted to test the response of the Chinese government. The
Kokang and the Chinese have a blood relationship. The Kokang people are
basically Chinese; they are part of the Chinese family. The Chinese in
Burma were not officially recognized by the Burmese and therefore for
centuries they lived in a very low economic and social position. Only
after the meeting in Ninakan in 1947, after the national governments
recognition, were the Chinese living in these areas called Kokang. But as
a matter of fact, the Kokang people are Chinese. We are the descendants
of the Yellow emperor. The anti-Chinese movement in 1967 in Burma feels
Even today, many Chinese living in Burma still do not dare to declare that
they are Chinese. In 1989, when the Kokang Alliance Army was established,
all the Chinese in Burma looked at the Chinese armed forces as the
lighthouse. Now the lighthouse has gone off.
The second reason I think is that the SPDC forces were already in Kokang
for more than 10 years, and they understood the situation in Kokang,
including the relationships among the Kokang leaders.
They therefore bought off the traitors Bai Suocheng and Wei Chaoren. This
resulted in an internal split in Kokang before the war broke out. Bai
Suocheng and Wei Chaoren betrayed their people and surrendered to the
Now the junta has taken over the Kokang area, and it is clear about the
response of the Chinese government. So their next step will be to
reinforce the policy of cracking down on other minority groups along the
border. The junta will act recklessly and become more unbridled.
Q: Where are you living now?
A: For many years, I worked in Kokang. I never had a chance to travel to
the big cities in Burma. Now that I have more time, I am travelling in the
big cities in Burma. I really feel that my country is beautiful, and it
deserves a government that can represent the people by building and
developing the country. I currently have no plans to go back to Kokang.
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