BurmaNet News, August 10, 2010
editor at burmanet.org
Tue Aug 10 13:59:42 EDT 2010
August 10, 2010 Issue #4016
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"It is a source of frustration ... that Myanmar has been unresponsive so
far to these efforts
. A lack of cooperation at this critical moment
represents nothing less than a lost opportunity for Myanmar." Ban
Ki-Moon, United Nations Secretary General (Reuters)
AFP: Myanmar democracy party complains of intimidation
Irrawaddy: Than Shwe misses party for his white elephant
New Light of Myanmar: White elephant arrives in Nay Pyi Taw
ON THE BORDER
VOA: UN Human Rights Rapporteur meets Burma activists in Thailand
Reuters Alertnet: Myanmar migrants struggle with HIV in Thailand
BUSINESS / TRADE
Bangkok Post: 100 ATMs to offer services in Burmese
The Nation (Thailand): PTTEP to sell some shares in Burma gas
Reuters: U.N. chief irked by Myanmar leaders ahead of vote
DVB: Zarganar protests planned for Edinburgh festival thumbnail
OPINION / OTHER
Irrawaddy: A day of unity that must live on Khin Ohmar
Irrawaddy: Walking away from an unfair election Ko Htwe with Phyo Min Thein
DVB: Food related unrest to hit the table? Joseph Allchin
BCUK: One year on from Suu Kyi sentencing A year of inaction by UN
August 10, Agence France Presse
Myanmar democracy party complains of intimidation
Yangon A pro-democracy party in Myanmar backed by three daughters of
former top ministers said Tuesday it had complained to the election
authorities about intimidation of its members by security personnel.
Democratic Party chairman Thu Wai said special branch police were visiting
members' homes and asking them for their curriculum vitaes and two photos
"We have sent a letter of complaint to the Union Election Commission in
Naypyidaw to solve this issue. It's like threatening people to get scared.
Some party members might resign from the party as they're worried," Thu
The party said it had sent a list of 1,000 members to the commission,
which forwarded the names to intelligence officials.
"We can assume they do not want our party to get bigger," said 78-year-old
Thu Wai, adding that his party now has more than 3,000 members.
Among them are Mya Than Than Nu and Nay Yee Ba Swe, both daughters of
former prime ministers of Myanmar -- formerly known as Burma -- and Cho
Cho Kyaw Nyein, the daughter of a late deputy premier.
The party is one of about 40 that have so far been allowed to register for
the elections, which Western countries fear are a sham aimed at shoring up
the junta's half-century grip on power.
The military leaders have not yet announced a date for the polls, which
are scheduled for some time later this year.
Detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for
Democracy won the last polls in 1990 by a landslide but the military never
allowed the party to take power.
Suu Kyi has spent much of the past 20 years in jail or under house arrest
and is barred from standing in the next polls because she is a serving
The NLD opted to boycott the vote because of rules laid down by the junta
that would have effectively forced it to expel Suu Kyi and other members
in prison before it could participate.
Thu Wai said ordinary voters whom his party had visited said they were
ready to support pro-democracy candidates and did not want to back
pro-government parties such as the Union Solidarity and Development Party
"Wherever we went, people said openly they were waiting for us. They said
they would like to vote for the party which works fairly," Thu Wai said.
August 10, Irrawaddy
Than Shwe misses party for his white elephant Ko Htwe
The most important expected guest was missing when Burma's ruling generals
threw a welcome party for the auspicious white elephant recently captured
in Burma's northwestern Arakan State.
The elephant was taken to Naypyidaw to be presented to the country's top
leader, Snr-Gen Than Shwe. But the elderly general was absent from the
ceremony and even members of his family weren't there.
The government mouthpiece The New Light of Myanmar said the government's
Secretary-1, Gen Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo, led other junta members
in welcoming the elephant, which has been named Bhaddavati ("One Who is
Endowed With Goodness.")
The elephant was anointed with scented water by Minister for Religious
Affairs Thura Myint Maung in a ceremony at the Uppatasanti Pagoda.
The absence of Than Shwe and his family sparked rumors about his state of
healthand possibly his death. The 77-year-old junta chief, who is known
to suffer from diabetes, was briefly hospitalized last week at Pun Hlaing
International Hospital in Rangoon.
For centuries, white elephants have been revered as a symbol of power and
good fortune in Southeast Asia. If one is found it is revered as an
auspicious sign that the nation will prosper, with wise and just rulers.
In Burma, the white elephant appears on one side of the new currency note
introduced into circulation last year.
Bhaddavati is the fourth white elephant captured in Burma in recent years.
Three were found in Arakan State between the years 2000 and 2002.
Former Military Intelligence chief and Prime Minister Gen Khin Nyunt built
an enclosure for the elephants on Min Dhamma hill in Rangoon's Insein
Township. A male elephant is now 18 years old, and two females are 32 and
The elephants brought Khin Nyunt no good fortune, however. He was ousted
in 2004 and is now under house arrest.
August 10, New Light of Myanmar
White elephant arrives in Nay Pyi Taw
Nay Pyi Taw White elephant, together with its companions, visited
Uppatasanti Pagoda here this afternoon.
Secretary-1 of the State Peace and Development Council General Thiha Thura
Tin Aung Myint Oo, Nay Pyi Taw Command Commander Maj-Gen Wai Lwin,
Minister for Progress of Border Areas and National Races and Development
Affairs Nay Pyi Taw Mayor U Thein Nyunt, Minister for Forestry U Thein
Aung and Minister for Religious Affairs Thura U Myint Maung sprinkled
Payeik water (water endowed with powers through recitation of Suttas to
ward off harm) and scented water onto the white elephant as Abhinandana
The white elephant together with companions visited the pagoda clockwise.
Pilgrims fed the white elephant food.
At White Elephant Hall in the east of the pagoda, responsible persons
undertook Anantayika Mingala (Warding off harm), Gehapavesana Mingala
(Housewarming), Battabhunjana Mingala (Feeding), Ravindudasana Mingala
(Showing to the sun and the moon), Namakarana Mingala (Naming) in
accordance with tradition. The elephant endowed with characteristics of
white elephant is named Bhaddavati.
It was got at 4.25 pm on 26 June in Maungdaw Township, Rakhine State and
was sent to Nay Pyi Taw today. It is about 38 years old, seven feet and
four inches tall and its girth is 10 feet and 11 inches.
The white elephant is living happily at White Elephant Hall on sacred
ground of Uppatasanti Pagoda with its companions.
Eighteen monks led by Presiding Sayadaw Abhidhaja Maha Ratta Guru
Bhaddanta Pannasiri of Ngwetaung Tawya Monastery in Nay Pyi Taw Tatkon
recited Parittas at White Elephant Hall on sacred ground of Uppatasanti
Pagoda at 5.30 a.m. yesterday. - MNA
ON THE BORDER
August 10, Voice of America
UN Human Rights Rapporteur meets Burma activists in Thailand Ron Corben
Bangkok The United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Burma
has met with human rights groups and former political prisoners during a
visit to Thailand. The information he gathered from the meetings is
expected to be part of a report to the United Nations.
Tomas Quintana's four-day visit included trips to the Thai border town of
Mae Sot, and the northern city of Chiang Mai, where he met with Burmese
human rights groups.
Rights activists describe the United Nations special rapporteur's trip as
a "fact-finding mission". United Nations sources said he left Thailand
At Mae Sot, where thousands of Burmese refugees and exiles live, Quintana
met with the Association Assistance for Political Prisoners in Burma.
"The reason why he visited the Thai-Burma border is to getting information
about Burmese human rights violations," explained Bo Kyi, the
association's joint secretary. "So therefore his visit to us we did
discuss about torture, and inside Burma and then torture in prisons and
then the judicial system in Burma, medication for political prisoners and
prisoners - that is like what he discussed."
Bo Kyi says Quintana expressed frustration over Burma's rights situation.
Human rights groups say Burma's military government holds more than 2,000
political prisoners, including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who is
under house arrest.
Not many details
Other groups VOA contacted were reluctant to divulge details of the talks
they had with Quintana. He did not meet with the news media on the trip.
Debbie Stothardt, spokeswoman for the Alternative ASEAN Network, says
Quintana was seeking first-hand knowledge of the situation facing Burmese
refugees in Thailand.
"It's a very practical move for Mr. Quintana to go to the border and to
also see for himself some of the long-term consequences of the Burmese
regime's human rights abuses," Stothardt said. "At least going to the
border he will see for himself what impacts of the regime's human rights
abuses have been."
Quintana had sought to make his fourth trip to Burma, but activists say
the Burmese government did not grant him a visa.
Rights groups say that may be a consequence of Qintana's call for a
commission of inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity by
Burma's government, known as the State Peace and Development Council or
Stothardt says the refusal to grant a visa was a set-back.
"It's not a good sign that the SPDC has refused access to Burma especially
at this time when the regime is supposedly organizing elections to improve
the situation," she said.
The military says it will hold elections later this year, but no date has
been announced. Rights groups say the election, the first in 20 years, and
the country's new constitution will further entrench the military's
On Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Burma's government has
been unresponsive in the U.N.'s efforts to discuss concerns over the
election. He also said he is in the process of preparing an annual report
to the General Assembly in which his views about Burma will be outlined.
Burma activists say Quintana is expected to submit a report on the
government's rights violations later this year.
August 10, Reuters Alertnet
Myanmar migrants struggle with HIV in Thailand
Ranong, Thailand A few months after crossing illegally from Myanmar into
Thailand, former political prisoner Aung found out he was HIV positive.
His wife, Lei, was pregnant with their second daughter when he fell sick.
He had diarrhoea and could not eat. By the time he was diagnosed, he was
skin and bones and his CD4 count - white blood cells that attack
infections - was 26.
Most healthcare providers start life-saving antiretroviral drugs (ARV)
when CD4 counts go below 350.
"We didn't even have the money to go to the clinic. We had no one who
could help us, no parents or relatives," said Lei, sitting in their small
hut in a migrant workers' compound.
With her husband unwell, Lei got a job on a construction site just 45 days
after giving birth. Aung, employed on the same site, only stopped working
for a month at the height of his illness.
"With a newborn baby, I couldn't afford not to go to work," he said.
Lei has now discovered she is also HIV positive and the couple fear their
baby may be as well.
The family were referred to Marist Mission Ranong (MMR), a Christian
non-governmental organisation (NGO)working to improve health and education
for Myanmar migrants and their children.
Father John Larsen, head of MMR, told AlertNet: "One of the biggest needs
we see is for migrant workers struggling with HIV/AIDS" - families like
Aung's, who need to work every day to make ends meet and yet are unable to
do so because of their health.
MMR provides home visits and subsidises the cost of medication for Myanmar
migrant workers living with HIV/AIDS.
Myanmar's military junta, which has ruled the country for nearly five
decades, has cracked down hard on political opponents and ethnic
minorities, forcing many to flee their homes.
Every year, thousands risk their lives to cross into Thailand, to escape
civil strife, political upheaval and economic stagnation.
There are thought to be up to 2 millions Myanmar workers in Thailand, many
of them illegal.
Aung, a former student activist, spent seven years in jail in Myanmar. He
has a university degree, but as a former political prisoner his
opportunities after his release were severely limited.
He and his family decided to flee while he was working at a palm oil
plantation in the southern port town of Kawthaung, where he likened
conditions to a prison.
Ranong, a lush provincial town, is a 30-minute boat ride from Kawthaung
and teeming with migrant workers from Myanmar.
Aid workers estimate there could be up to 200,000 Myanmar workers in
Ranong, more than twice the local population, with many more scattered
around the province of the same name. Many migrants in Ranong are from
ethnic minorities in southern areas of Myanmar who have faced
discrimination and repression.
In Ranong the migrants do low-pay work in fishing, seafood processing and
There are no official statistics on how many migrants are infected with
HIV/AIDs because most are fearful of going to hospitals or asking for help
due to their illegal status and lack of money.
"It is very difficult to know the numbers and how serious the situation is
and it can be frustrating because I don't think we're reaching enough
patients," Larsen said.
"My feeling is that we are not hearing about them enough because for most
of the people, it is a combination of fear and lack of education."
HIGH COST OF TREATMENT
Many turn up at the hospital or turn to MMR in the last stages of the
disease, when they are no longer able to work, Larsen said.
Aung and Lei are lucky. Both are now on antiretroviral drugs (ARV) paid
for by MMR. The monthly cost of medication, at around 2,400 baht (about
$80), is too much for the couple, who have a combined income of 200 baht a
day and are now expecting their third child.
The cost of HIV/AIDS treatment is also a burden to the local health
service, which has been funding treatment for 3,000 migrant patients but a
lack of funds is preventing them from providing the same service to
"They require constant care throughout the patients' lives and it can be
quite a strain on the hospital," deputy director of Ranong Hospital Pichet
Pitikuakoon said. "So we need to rely on NGOs like MMR to pay for that
because we can't pay for the cost of ARV for new patients."
MMR says its aim is to help migrant workers get better so they are able to
pay for the medicines themselves, allowing MMR to fund more patients for
Lwin, a typical Myanmar migrant worker employed on a fishing boat for
months at a time, is an example.
Both he and his wife are infected and their 11-month-old son who died
recently was also suspected of having the virus.
But thanks to the scheme, Lwin is now fit enough to work again and is
paying for 75 percent of his ARV.
(Names have been shortened or changed to protect people's identities)
BUSINESS / TRADE
August 10, Bangkok Post
100 ATMs to offer services in Burmese
Kasikornbank has added a Burmese language option to about 100 ATMs in
different provinces to serve the growing number of Burmese living and
working in Thailand.
Eighty percent of the ATMs with the Burmese language are in Samut Sakhon's
Muang district where there is a large Burmese population involved in the
fishing industry. The rest are in Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Ranong
and Trat, KBank senior vice-president Wirawat Panthawangkun said
Business operators who hire Burmese staff asked for the language option to
help foreign workers use ATMs.
KBank first introduced Burmese language options to ATMs in Samut Sakhon in
"[Burmese customer] financial transactions have increased by about 20% per
ATM after [the introduction] mainly [involving] money deposits,
withdrawals and cash transfers," Mr Wirawat said.
"The bank can target the segment directly with marketing campaigns, as
well." KBank plans to provide services in other neighbouring languages,
especially Cambodian and Lao in select areas, according to customer
The bank would maintain its main focus on its core customer base of Thai
people before making any decisions, he said. Too many languages on ATM
screens could cause confusion or lead to dissatisfaction among Thai
The bank has no plans to expand its loan services to Burmese borrowers
because of the low demand and risk factor, Mr Wirawat said.
KBank offers four standard languages at about 7,500 ATMs nationwide: Thai,
English, Chinese and Japanese.
August 11, The Nation (Thailand)
PTTEP to sell some shares in Burma gas
PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP) will sell some of its shares in
five gas exploration blocks in Burma to strategic partners in a move to
diversify investment risks.
While cutting risks in Burma, PTTEP looks to strengthen its presence in
Vietnam. President and chief executive officer, Anon Sirisaengtaksin said
his company is ready to join in the bid for BP's assets in Vietnam, which
include a power plant, a gas field, and gas pipelines. Vietnam is one of
the focus areas, and we will make a bid whenever BP announces details, he
On the sale of shares in Burma gas blocks M3, M4, M7, M9 and M11 - Anon
said despite the share sale, PTTEP would remain as the blocks' operator.
He did not give further details about expectations from the move or the
proportion of shares to be sold.
PTTEP currently holds 100 per cent of all five blocks. Aside from new
partners, Burmese national oil company Myanma Oil & Gas Enterprise (MOGE)
will shortly take up 1520 per cent shares in all five blocks under a
"Though we are selling some stakes to other investors and MOGE, PTTEP's
stake in the five blocks will be maintained at no less than 50 per cent
for management control," Anon said.
PTTEP recently signed a deal with PTT to supply natural gas from Block M9
and partially from Block M11 to Thailand.
After more than 20 years of operation, PTTEP is engaged in exploration and
production in more than 40 projects, extending from the Gulf of Thailand
to other Southeast Asian countries, the Middle East, North Africa and
Anon said the company's net profit this year was likely to exceed its
projection, as the net in the first half of Bt21 billion was higher than
50 per cent of its fullyear target. Gas demand in the second half remains
high, so it expects sales volume this year at 254,000 barrels of oil
equivalent per day, 34 per cent higher than the expectation. Gas sales
volume in the first half of this year was at 260,000boed.
He said the company expected its gas Block 162 in Vietnam to start
operation in the second half of 2011 with production volume of 40,000boed.
August 10, Reuters
U.N. chief irked by Myanmar leaders ahead of vote
United Nations U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday expressed
frustration with Myanmar's military junta, saying they have ignored his
efforts to engage the Southeast Asian nation ahead of this year's
Myanmar's now-defunct National League for Democracy party (NLD), led by
long-detained Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, said in March that it would
boycott the polls over "unfair and unjust" election laws and imprisonment
of many of its members in the country formerly known as Burma.
"In Myanmar, my special adviser (Vijay Nambiar) and I are deploying every
effort to continue to engage with the authorities," Ban told reporters
during a monthly news conference.
He said that his concerns include the elections planned for this year,
which opposition leaders, human rights groups and Myanmar's neighbors are
worried will be rigged.
"It is a source of frustration ... that Myanmar has been unresponsive so
far to these efforts" to engage it, Ban said. "A lack of cooperation at
this critical moment represents nothing less than a lost opportunity for
Last week the chairman of the pro-democracy Union Democracy Party (UDP),
Phyo Min Thein, resigned over his concerns about this year's long-awaited
He said the election laws were too strict and had been drafted in a way
that ensured a party backed by the junta would win most house seats and
prolong its grip on power.
Myanmar has not yet set a date for its first multi-party election in two
decades, but says the polls will take place this year and will be free,
fair and inclusive.
Suu Kyi's NLD won the last election in 1990 by a landslide but the junta
refused to hand over power.
Critics have already derided this year's election as a sham to entrench
nearly five decades of military rule and say a constitution passed in 2008
reserves only a limited role for politicians who are not allied with the
(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau, editing by Cynthia Osterman)
August 10, Democratic Voice of Burma
Zarganar protests planned for Edinburgh festival thumbnail Gayatri
One of Burmas most popular comedians, Zarganar, who is serving a 35-year
sentence for speaking out against the military regime, will be the focus
of protest and publicity at the upcoming Edinburgh festival, the largest
cultural festival in the world . Amnesty International, a worldwide human
rights group, vows to organise protests throughout the length of the
festival beginning on August the 13th to further the cause of his freedom
and highlight his plight.
Zargnar is serving his sentence at Myitkina prison in northern Kachin
state for criticising the military regimes inadequate measures in
response to 2008s Cyclone Nargis. The artist is said to be suffering from
poor health owing to lack of medical facilities a normal state of
affairs in the countrys prisons.
The 49-year-old, who has been politically active since the 8888 uprising,
has been a political prisoner on a number of occasions for openly
criticising the military governments breaches of human rights. Whilst
since 2006, Zarganar has faced a ban on performing publicly.
Amnesty International volunteers at the Edinburgh festival will be
engaging with a global audience spreading awareness about Zarganars case
and requesting that they send letters to the Burmese authorities on behalf
of the comedian and other political prisoners in the country. An event
called Stand up for freedom will be organised featuring German comedian
Michael Mittermeiser and other renowned comedians from the world over, in
line with the protests.
Visitors at the festival will be given the opportunity to take pictures
with Zarganars, or any other political prisoners name written on their
palms. These pictures would then make it to the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM)
to be held in Brussels in October with the aim of adding international
pressure on the military junta.
We believe that Zarganar is a prisoner of conscience who has been
imprisoned solely because of expression of his beliefs. He should
therefore be immediately and unconditionally released, Steve Ballinger of
Amnesty International told DVB.
Zarganar, an avid football fan, will have a football match dedicated to
support his release on August 16. The match between critics and
comedians will witness all players taking to the field wearing jerseys
with Zarganars picture on them.
Readers who wish to join Amnestys cause of demanding the release of
Zarganar and/or other political prisoners can log on to
www.amnesty.org.uk/zarganar and write directly to the Burmese authorities.
OPINION / OTHER
August 10, Irrawaddy
A day of unity that must live on Khin Ohmar
It has been 22 years since 8.8.88, but the memory and spirit of that
fateful day still lives on vividly in my heart, and the heart of so many
activists inside and outside Burma.
Even to this day, I can remember adrenaline coursing through my body in
anticipation of what we hoped would be the most significant demonstration
in Burma to date.
This was the day we had planned for through covert underground organizing
and reaching out to people from all segments of societyhigh school
students, farmers, civil servants, workers, men, women, and many more. We
had barely any resources at our disposal, no computers, no Internet, no
mobile phonesnothing but our own belief, unity and commitment to bring
about justice and truth.
Luckily, when the opportunity arose to have an interview with a BBC
reporter Christopher Gunness, we were able to voice the call for a general
strike on Aug. 8, 1988, to all the people of Burma.
The catalyst for the general strike was the death of a fellow student on
March 13, 1988. Phone Maw came across a small student protest at the
Rangoon Institute of Technology at the same moment riot police stormed the
demonstration and opened fire indiscriminately. The authorities refused to
allow his parents to reveal the truth about his death. The grieving
parents were not even allowed to hold a funeral.
We were outraged and demanded that the authorities reveal the truth about
their actions. By this time, the dire economic circumstances throughout
Burma had struck at the heart of the general public, and catalyzed by the
vigor of the student movement, people were ready for a public call for
On Aug. 7, 1988, after our final preparation meeting for 8.8.88, I
returned home lost in my own thoughts, imagining and envisioning the
demonstrations and all the people protesting on the streets, united in
their desire for freedom and change.
As I entered the house, I heard my mother cry out, and saw my mother, two
sisters and brother all waiting for me with frantic, concerned
Since I first joined my fellow students in the Red Bridge protest on March
16, which resulted in beatings and arrests, my family did not approve of
my involvement in politics in fear of my personal safety.
So on the eve of the 8.8.88 protests, my family staged an intervention.
They told me not to participate in the demonstrations, beseeching me to
consider my mothers concerns, asking if I would allow our mother to die
from worrying about me getting shot and killed on the streets. My sisters
asked me to lie to my mother to allay her fears and slip out early in the
morning. But I knew I was doing the right thing in seeking justice and
change for Burma, and I refused to compromise my values and lie to my
But no sooner had I declared my unwillingness to give in did my brother
snap. He was a caring brother, but in that moment, that brotherly love
compelled him to beat me in order to prevent me from joining the protests.
He dragged me into his car and took me to his apartment in downtown
Rangoon, only two blocks away from the City Hall and Sule Pagoda, the
central meeting point for the demonstrations.
That night, I could not sleep. I was overwhelmed with despair and guilt
for not being able to join in the historic event that I took part in
organizing with my 88 brothers such as Min Zeya, Htay Kywe, Ant Bwe Kyaw,
Hla Myo Naung, who were all imprisoned after 1988. Their continued efforts
calling for national reconciliation and democracy in the 8888 spirit after
release from prison resulted in their second prison terms of 65 years
following the Saffron Revolution.
Finally, the morning of 8.8.88 arrived. Looking down from my brothers
apartment balcony, I grew increasingly nervous. Would people support our
call to join in the general strike? Would people come out to the streets
to protest against the dictatorship?
Up until 9 a.m., the streets were quiet. But by 10 a.m., I started to see
small groups forming on the street. Over the course of the day, I watched
as the demonstrations expanded. Small groups became large gatherings, and
gatherings became crowds. There was anxiety and hope written on the faces
of the demonstratorstheir anxiety of the unknown and fear of a crackdown
mingled with their fervent aspirations for freedom. Waves of people filled
the streets, bearing signs and flags with the fighting peacock, chanting,
Down with the one party system! Down with the military dictatorship! in
one strong, unified voice. I still feel chills every time I recall this
Dusk fell and the chanting continued. Demonstrators gathered in front of
city hall. The authorities aimed their loudspeakers at the demonstrators,
shouting for them to disburse.
Although the protests were overwhelmingly promising and inspiring, I still
had a sense that the army could carry out a brutal crackdown on the
demonstrators. I kept crying and praying to Buddha that the day would end
and come midnight, all would end peacefully.
My wish was not fulfilled. At approximately a quarter to midnight, armed
policemen from the Kyauktada Police Station, located behind my brothers
apartment, marched into the streets. Within a minute, I could hear the
clear, harrowing sound of gunfire and peoples screams and footsteps as
they fled the scene. As the gunfire and screams died down, I heard trucks
full of arrested protestors drive off, leaving only the sounds of the
authorities securing the scene and declaring their might. I cried out
loud. Some had predicted the shootings. Before he resigned, Gen. Ne Win
declared, guns will not shoot upwards. Ne Win and his successor
Brig-Gen. Sein Lwin kept their promise.
Aug. 8 ended in death and bloodshed but the momentum of the uprising
increased, and I continued to work with my colleagues.
In the 90s, I shared my 8.8.88 experience with hundreds of supporters
around the world during my advocacy trips to raise awareness about our
struggle for democracy. However, for many years I have not been able talk
about this experience again, inhibited by my own feelings of guilt for
having yet to bring about democracy and freedom for our people, even after
so many have sacrificed their lives on the streets, in the jungles and in
But I cannot just hold myself back. I need to move on. We need to move on
from the tragedies towards positive action until we achieve democracy. We
must learn from our past and honor and preserve the spirit of 8.8.88the
spirit of unity, sacrifice and setting aside differences of political
beliefs and opinionsbe they political beliefs, ideology, ethnicity,
religion or gender.
>From the 8.8.88 uprising, we were able to bring down a 26-year-old
authoritarian regime because we were united as a country. It was so pure,
that spirit of unity. We were able to transcend our differences for our
common vision of justice and democracy for all. In 1988, the students and
the general public mobilized as one to carry the flag of change around the
nation. As the people passed the flag to the political leaders, some were
not ready to hoist it up the flag post, since they were unable to overcome
personal egos and differences of beliefs. The democracy relay was cut
short because a lack of unity and discord led various groups to drop the
8.8.88 sowed the seeds of change in the hearts of millions of people in
Burma, and this seed will only continue to grow with each coming
generation. But my greatest wish is for us to retain that same spirit of
unity that captured the countrys imagination more than 22 years ago, as
that cohesiveness is our only chance for genuine national reconciliation
and democracy in Burma.
Our movement for democracy and ethnic equality is dynamic, diverse and
vast, and we must cherish and respect the differences among us. But if we
are not unified in our push for change, if we cling to our differences, or
just rely on our own pride, then we do not need the military to divide
uswe are already dividing ourselves.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said, Our differences should not be our weakness;
our differences should be our strengths. I hope we can echo her vision
and bring an end to military rule with that same spirit of 8.8.88Unity.
August 10, Irrawaddy
Walking away from an unfair election Ko Htwe with Phyo Min Thein
Phyo Min Thein, the chairman of the Union Democracy Party, recently
announced his resignation, saying that the military regime-sponsored 2010
election would not be free and fair. Among the 40 political parties
currently registered with the Union Election Commission (EC), the UDP
chairman was the first party leader to resign. Phyo Miin Thein, 41, took
part in the 1988 uprising. He was arrested in 1990 and released in 2005.
Irrawaddy reporter Ko Htwe interviewed Phyo Min Thein about his
resignation and the planned election.
Question: Why did you decided to take part in the coming election and what
made you withdraw from it?
Answer: I thought if we endorsed the 2008 Constitution, it could help to
end the military rule by forming a new government consisting of civilians
and military personnel. I also hoped that there would be a new order with
the emergence of political parties, entities and multi-social classes,
which would help to march toward democracy and of course, that will also
gradually assist to bring us to a new democratic nation. I simply expected
there to be that sort of political arena. That's why I decided to take
part in the election.
Even though the army will have an automatic 25 percent of the seats in the
parliament, we decided to contest the election with an expectation that
people can directly elect 330 legislators out of 440. If the Union
Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), the National Union Party (NUP)
and other democratic parties contest the rest of the 75 percent of seats
in free and fair circumstances, we, the democratic forces, will win the
election. But, the USDP led by the regime's Prime Minister Thein Sein,
formerly known as Lt-Gen Thein Sein, has attempted to create conditions in
which they will win the election, and they have effectively undermined the
rights of other democratic forces.
For instance, the USDP built concrete roads for some communities. Then,
community members had to apply for the USDP membership. The pressure on
the community members to apply for party membership directly came from
members of the Ward Peace and Development Council. The EC did not say
anything about it while it issued different orders to hinder the movements
of democratic forces. The EC has clearly ignored the USDP's coercive
methods in recruiting new party members. I didn't think the coming
election would be free and fair. Therefore, I walked away from such
circumstances, believing that it wouldn't be right to take part in the
Q: When you decided to contest the election, you ignored the injustices in
the 2008 Constitution?
A: I have my own reasons to accept the 2008 Constitution. I do not like
that Constitution, but I just try to make a better condition out of it.
For instance, when I was in prison, we knew that the jail manual hardly
protected us from abuses, but we used it. When we experienced
ill-treatment from prison officers, we asked the prison authorities to
treat us in conformity with the manual. Just like that. We know and accept
that the 2008 Constitution has loopholes in protecting us and is not based
on democratic principles. If we accepted the Constitution, we thought we
could prevent a system in which orders from the authorities' mouths became
Q: Your statement cited the unfair treatment by the EC, and how it
prevents the holding of a free and fair election.
A: From a party's fund raising activities to campaigning, democratic
forces have been limited by different regulations and orders released by
the EC, but it turns blind no matter what the USPD does. For instance,
Deputy Minister Aung Myo Min of the Ministry of Education stressed in a
speech at the University of Foreign Languages that if the USDP did not win
the election, a coup would be staged. That was a plain insult to the
credibility of the election. The EC did not take any action against that
statement. Such action destroyed my expectation that the EC would work in
a fair manner.
Q: Are the campaign activities of the USDP in accord with the law?
A: The election laws and regulations control the activities of political
parties. But, the USDP is above the legal framework of the election. No
person or party should be above the law. The USDP goes far beyond the
limitations promulgated by the election law. For instance, receiving
state-owned funding and property. That violates the regulations stipulated
by the election law. The EC just ignored the law. In order to hold a free
and fair election, the election law should not be biased. But, some EC
laws make it difficult for the newly founded parties with poor financial
backing to organize.
Q: Your statement also said that the election would not fulfill your
pre-election goals for all people to get involved in the election and
for all political prisoners to be freed to participate in politics.
A: Political prisoners need to participate in Burma's politics, as all the
people of Burma do. We have put our efforts into establishing an
environment where media freedom and fair elections can exist. But I don't
see any indication that political prisoners will be freed. We have also
seen tight restrictions upon the media, which is in a difficult situation
in reporting on political parties.
Q: How significant is the release of political prisoners in Burmese politics?
A: Many key players in Burmese politics are still behind bars. Democracy
leader Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic leader Khun Htoon Oo and student
leaders Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi and Htay Kywe are serving long
imprisonments. They have not been allowed to participate in politics so
far. The election will be held without them. I don't think there should be
an effort to keep them out of Burmese politics.
Q: You mean they would contribute something unique to Burmese politics?
A: If they were allowed to participate in politics, we would have
leadership within the political opposition. Through dialogue between the
regime and Aung San Suu Kyi, we would create national reconciliation that
embraced all of our political forces, ethnic leaders and the military.
Then, our country could be developed as a brand new country on a genuine
Q: How do you see the future and the ability of political parties to
organize and campaign?
A: There are a lot of anxieties among the people at the township level
about participating in a party's campaign activities. It's a fear that has
existed in our society for 20 years, and it prevents our people from
entering politics. If they become involved, people are afraid they will be
detained. That effectively undermines organizing work as well as
campaigning. People are also feeling pressure from the former members of
the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) and Swan-Arr-Shin
(a militia-like organization backed by the ruling regime to oppress the
opposition) at the township levels.
Q: How significant is the freedom of the media in realizing a free and
A: This is one of the most important factors. The election will be
determined to be free or not only if the media can also enjoy the freedom
necessary to do it works. The government may claim it is unfair, but the
media could highlight the whole situation as a forth force. By doing so,
all people could be informed, as well as the international community. The
media could make things more balanced. That's why media freedom is
Q: What sort of difficulty did you face when you published your party
A: At the time our party bulletin was released, we were told by the Press
Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD) that the publication was more
like a journal, and it should be limited to writing about party affairs.
Also, we were instructed to consult with the PSRD on the matter of
publication. More oppressive orders came in publishing the party's
Q: The USDA Constitution has been released. It takes an aggressive stand
toward other parties and talks about recruiting thugs at the grassroots
levels. Were you surprised?
A: The USDP has simply inherited the USDA, which uses the Swan Arr Shin as
a tool of oppression. The Depayin incident is an example. Under democratic
principles, someone shouldn't be defined as an enemy based on their
holding different opinions. We must accept diversity. But as long as the
USDP uses unfair methods to compete in the election, Burma will continue
to struggle with an authoritarian regime.
August 10, Democratic Voice of Burma
Food related unrest to hit the table? Joseph Allchin
The worlds attention has been firmly focused on a smog choked Moscow,
where record temperatures have caused the often icy countryside to burn
with a litany of wild fires, a predicament that lead the government there
to suspend wheat exports to preserve local prices.
Such a move created the steepest rise in wheat prices since 2007/2008 when
prices caused riots globally. And this year after temperature records were
broken in many countries including Burma, are commodity price fluctuations
going to cause social unrest in Burma?
A new report meanwhile has indicated that rising temperatures will have a
negative impact on rice yields. The study from the University of
California, San Diego, found that rice yields fell when night time
temperatures increased. Whilst mildly increased day time temperatures can
in fact increase yields the study indicates that night time temperature
increases significantly lower yields; a researcher on the study told
Reuters that; we see much more consistently increases in night-time
The team included researchers from the International Rice Research
Institute in the Philippines and the U.N.s Food and Agriculture
Organisation (FAO) and studied data from 227 irrigated rice farms in six
Whilst the team also found that several sites for data collection had
already witnessed a slower yield increase as the effects of climate change
kick in and cut into the increased yields derived from greater human
inputs with Reuters indicating that; the past 25 years have already cut
the yield growth rate by 10-20 percent in several locations in the study
Neighbouring Thailand, a leading exporter of key agricultural commodities
such as rice and sugar, witnessed massive rises in prices for key
commodities like sugar and eggs, partly due to the harsh dry season, and
partly perhaps due to increased speculation in the commodities future
In Burma the military government is ever wary of such fluctuations after
almost being deposed twice after fuel price protests morphed into huge,
popular expressions of discontent.
As a result the government has limited opportunities to export, similar to
the emergency measures taken by the Russian government recently, a move
which induced a 50% surge in wheat prices within days. In Burma such moves
come without offering any financial inducements to increase production or
assist in efficiency, on the contrary as economist Professor Sean Turnell
of Australias Maquarie Institute told DVB;
It has the reverse affect in the long term because all you are doing is
destroying the incentive structure to produce the stuff, but the
government always just fixes on that short term; rice prices going up,
thats gonna get people on the street.
so fearful are they of rising rice prices and bringing people out onto
the streets that as soon as there is a slight increase they tend to clamp
down on whatever liberalising measures they have brought in; allowing
people to export and so on, choke it off, keep the rice inside, keep the
The military government have presided over a terrific collapse in Burmas
status as a rice producer. During the colonial period the country was the
largest exporter of rice on the planet. It now exports less than 1/8 of
that which neighbour Thailand does.
They [the military government] just insist on buying it at a low price
and because they dont provide credit or any sort of support for critical
inputs or so on, what tends to happen is that production is really low,
quality is low, yields per hectare are really low Turnell adds.
The need therefore to maintain prices for political ends can be a double
bind for agriculturalists and traders as artificially low prices make
these people vulnerable to instances such as poor weather conditions that
have been witnessed this year. Bare in mind that 70% of Burmas work force
are employed in agriculture.
This therefore adds, as Turnell suggests to food insecurity. For whilst
greater liberalisation can lead to price fluctuations, competitive
pricings also naturally reflect supply and demand and incentivise farmers
to produce more, which then can create surplus with which to either
export or to store in order that food prices may be maintained when
adverse weather conditions play havoc with crops and subsequent pricing.
The fragile food security issue was highlighted this week as reports from
Rangoon suggested that the closure of the Thai border crossings had
induced a sharp rise in prices for basic commodities that are often
imported from Thailand. A housewife in Rangoon told DVB that prices of
Thai-made food products have gone up significantly the price of a 1.5
litre bottle of cooking-oil which previously stood at 2800 Kyat (US$ 2.80)
has now gone up to 4000 Kyat (US$ 4) and a pack of biscuits at 1400 Kyat
(US$1.40) previously is now 1900 Kyat (US$ 1.90).
The countrys economy is relatively shielded from global commodity
fluctuations being so isolated. It is not however isolated from the
effects of global climate change or the ravages of hunger, amongst either
pure consumers or those agriculturalists ravaged economically by the
government who provide no credit and have destroyed agricultural unions
effectively crippling a massive chunk of the Burmese economy.
Whilst the utter lack of foresight or long term planning means that the
gradual change in climate will most likely reduce harvests year on year.
Without government involvement to mitigate the effects of a harsher
climate, the number of those experiencing food insecurity will grow from
the current estimate of 1 in 10 living below the food poverty line and 1
in 3 children considered chronically malnourished.
Burma has the capacity to feed its people and export, it is in a
privileged position in this respect, yet food insecurity looks like a
spectre that not only ruins the lives of millions in Burma now, but looks
set to be a serious cause of social unrest in years to come.
everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two
things: bread and circuses.
Additional reporting by Naw Noreen
August 10, Burma Campaign UK
One year on from Suu Kyi sentencing A year of inaction by UN
On the eve of the first anniversary of Aung San Suu Kyi being sentenced to
18 months under house arrest, the Burma Campaign UK called on the United
Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to stop dithering and start acting
to bring change to Burma.
On 11th August 2009 Aung San Suu Kyi was given a further 18 months
sentence under house arrest, following a sham trial designed solely to
keep her in detention. Today Aung San Suu Kyi has spent a total of 14
years and 290 days in detention.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is mandated by the UN General Assembly to
try to secure negotiations between the dictatorship, the democracy
movement, and ethnic representatives. However, despite the sentencing of
Aung San Suu Kyi sending the clearest possible signal that elections due
in Burma this year will not bring any significant change, Ban Ki-moon has
ignored the request of the General Assembly, and seems content to wait and
see what will happen at the elections.
While the Secretary General has sat idle, the human rights situation in
Burma has continued to deteriorate. In March 2010 the UN Special
Rapporteur on Myanmar published the most damning UN report yet on the
situation in Burma, even going so far as to call for a UN investigation
into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The fake elections are part of a so-called roadmap to democracy announced
by the dictatorship in 2003 in an attempt to head off economic sanctions
and other pressure following the Depayin Massacre in May 2003. Regime
thugs from the Union Solidarity Development Association (USDA) had
ambushed Aung San Suu Kyis convoy in a failed assassination attempt. Aung
San Suu Kyi escaped and was placed back under house arrest, but dozens of
her supporters were beaten to death. The USDA is now rebranded as the
Union Solidarity Development Party, the main pro-regime party taking part
in the elections.
Since 2003 the UN has followed a failed strategy of trying to reform the
various stages of the dictatorships roadmap, rather than following the
mandate from the General Assembly to secure dialogue leading to genuine
It is not enough for Ban Ki-moon to make the occasional statement that he
is frustrated that the dictatorship has not responded to his polite
requests for change, said Zoya Phan, International Coordinator at Burma
Campaign UK. We all know the elections wont bring anything close to the
change we need to see in Burma. It is time to focus on the real issue. Ban
Ki-moon should be working to unite the international community behind a
UN-led effort to secure genuine dialogue for the first time. The regime
is refusing to enter into dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic
representatives. Only when they are under real pressure will they agree to
this. Ban Ki-moon doesnt seem to understand he is dealing with one of the
most brutal dictatorships in the world. They see soft diplomacy as
weakness. Theyll only respond to strong pressure.
For more information contact Zoya Phan on 44(0)7738630139.
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