Monday, August 23, 2010

New Links on Burma Monitor, Aug 23, 2010

Dawnmanhon (Burmee)

Zar Ti Man - Aung Yin

Warrior Refugees vs the Humanitarian Imperative

Colourful Yangon

State Seal of Burma

Forest Resource Environment Development and Conservation Association.

Shan State Army - South

New Light of Myanmar Headlines, Aug 22, 2010

7 November election important to all citizens PM urges people to choose good, smart, patriotic persons who want to serve national interest
Pyay (Shwedaga)-Paukkaung railroad section opens
NAY PYI TAW, 22 Aug-Pyay (Shwedaga)- Paukkaung railroad section, part of Pyay (Shwedaga)- Toungoo (Kyaydaw)-Nay Pyi Taw railroad project being implemented by the Ministry of Rail Transportation was inaugurated at Shwedaga Station in Pyay Township, Bago Region this morning with an opening address by Prime Minister U Thein Sein.[ more + ]
Border guard forces take pride in having opportunity to discharge national defence duties
Border Guard Forces set up in Mepale of Myawady Township, Kayin State
NAY PYI TAW, 22 Aug-National race peace groups that have been contributing towards restoration of regional peace, stability and development across the Union of Myanmar are transformed into border guard forces with the rights to legally hold arms in line with the constitution. A ceremony to set up the Border Guard Forces of DKBA took place on a grand scale in Mepale of Myawady Township, Kayin State, on 20 August.[ more + ]
Industry-1 Minister visits factories in Kyaukse, Paleik, Yamethin
NAY PYI TAW, 22 Aug- Minister for Industry- 1 U Aung Thaung visited Win Thuza Shop in Kyaukse yesterday.[ more + ]
Housing handed over in Yinmabin Township
NAY PYI TAW, 22 Aug-Chairman of Sagaing Region Peace and Development Council Commander of North-West Command Maj-Gen Myint Soe and Minister for Information U Kyaw Hsan attended a ceremony to open Shwepyisoe guest house of Sagaing Region War Veterans Supervisory Committee and to hand over the housing in Aung Zeya Myothit in Yinmabin Township, Monywa District, Sagaing Region on 18 August.[ more + ]
Mandalay Mayor attends monsoon tree planting ceremony
NAY PYI TAW, 22 Aug- A monsoon tree planting ceremony took place at Chanmyathazi Township, Mandalay Region on 19 August morning.[ more + ]
40th ISD Volleyball Tournament concludes
YANGON, 22 Aug- At today’s prize presentation held at Aung San Gymnasium, here, Yangon Region secured the first prizes in the women’s and men’s events of the 40th Inter-State/Division U-25 Volleyball Tournament.[ more + ]
Water level of Dokhtawady River likely to fall
NAY PYI TAW, 22 Aug- The Department of Meteorology and Hydrology announced today that according to the 12.30 hr MST observation today, the water level of Dokhtawady River at Myitnge is 867 cm and it is forecast to fall gradually below its danger level 870 cm.[ more + ]
Changhong Electronics at Botahtaung Pagoda St
YANGON, 22 Aug- Htewawin Trading Co Ltd opened Changhong Electronics showroom and honoured sales agents on 20 August. Changhong TV stands No.1 in China electronic market for 15 years in a row and LED, LCD, Plasma and CRT televisions are available.[ more + ]
Traffic rules lectured in Mawlamyine
YANGON, 22 Aug- Mawlamyine Township Traffic Police Force organized the educative talks on traffic rules at No. 3 Basic Education High School in Mawlamyine on 12 August.[ more + ]

Last updated on Monday, August 23, 2010.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Burma Today Aug 23, 2010 News, in Burmese

Hello Everyone,

Burma Today news updates are as follows:

Burmese Regime’s Authorities limited Phyoe Wai Aung’s Prisoner’s Rights (News Report) August 23, 2010
သႀကၤန္ ဗံုးေပါက္ကြဲမွဳ တရားခံအျဖစ္ စြတ္စြဲခံရသူ ကိုၿဖိဳးေ၀ေအာင္ အက်ဥ္းသား အခြင့္အေရး ဆံုးရွံဳးေန

Burmese Community News
ျမန္မာအသိုင္းအ၀ိုင္းဆိုင္ရာ သတင္းမ်ား

Shan Leader U Shwe Ohn Funeral Service held in Rangoon
ရွမ္းအမ်ိဳးသား ၀ါရင့္ႏိုင္ငံေရးသမားႀကီး ဦးေရႊအုံုးရဲ့ စ်ာပန ရန္ကုန္တြင္ က်င္းပ ခဲ့

Taung Chaung Villagers inform Village Chief’s Fraud to Local Authority
ရန္ကုန္တိုင္း ေကာ့မွဴးၿမိဳ့နယ္ ေတာင္ေခ်ာင္ေက်းရြာ ဥကၠ႒ရဲ့ မသမာမွဳကို ၿမိဳ့နယ္အာဏာပိုင္အား တိုင္ၾကား

AAPP (Burma) Calls for Prisoner’s Rights
ႏိုင္ငံေရးအက်ဥ္းသားမ်ားအား ေဆးကု မေပးတဲ့အေပၚ ေအေအပီပီ ကန္႔ကြက္

Burmese Concert in North Carolina (Photo News)
ေျမာက္ကာရိုလိုင္းနားက ေခတ္ေပၚျမန္မာ့ဂီတ ေဖ်ာ္ေျဖပြဲ

Protest Against Burmese Celebrity (Photo News)
ေျမာက္ကာရိုလိုင္းနားက ျမန္မာအႏုပညာရွင္မ်ားအား ဆႏၵျပပြဲ

War Crime by Senior General Than Shwe, Burmese Army Chief (VOA Report)
ဗိုလ္ခ်ဳပ္သန္းေရႊ က်ဴးလြန္တဲ့ ခရစၥတီးကၽြန္းေပၚက အစုလိုက္အၿပံဳလိုက္ လူသတ္မွဳ

With All My Respect, Heart, and Soul to You (Tu Maung Nyo)
ေလးစားမွဳျဖင့္ အၿမဲ သတိတရ ရွိေနမည္သာ (ကြယ္လြန္သူ ဘဘ ဦးေရႊအံုး သို႔) တူေမာင္ညိဳ

Attachment(s) from Burma Today
7 of 7 File(s)

Houses Destroyed, Children Hurt in Myawaddy Gas Blast

Smuggling warning Myawaddy, Burma (Myanmar)Image by rhaddon via FlickrIrrawaddy
Monday, August 23, 2010

Two houses were destroyed and three children seriously injured in a gas explosion in the Burmese-Thai border town of Myawaddy on Sunday, according to sources in the area.

A Myawaddy resident said the explosion occurred on a bus that was transporting gas cylinders.

Two houses caught fire in the explosion and were destroyed, the sources said. The injured children were admitted to hospital in Myawaddy.

A similar gas explosion occurred last year in Myawaddy.

Gas cylinders are frequently smuggled from neighboring Thailand after Burmese authorities closed the border for trade more than one month ago.
Enhanced by Zemanta

DKBA Leaders Likely to Contest Election

By SAW YAN NAING Monday, August 23, 2010

Several top leaders of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) are likely to form a political party to contest the general election on Nov.7, according to sources close to the DKBA.

The leaders include Thar Htoo Kyaw, who is the chairman of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Organization, the political wing of the DKBA, and educated Karen elders such as Saw Aung Ngwe and Saw Than Myat, the sources said.

In this photo from about 2007, DKBA soldiers wear wreaths of flowers over their DKBA uniforms. Since agreeing the BGF plan however, DKBA troops are issued Burmese army uniforms to wear. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)
“We heard that Thar Htoo Kyaw's party will run in the election,” said one source who added that it appeared that Thar Htoo Kyaw and his colleagues were forming a party because they are now too old to continue armed struggle.

The name of the party is as yet unknown as is the size of its membership. The party has not yet officially applied to the Election Commission to register for the election with the deadline to do so only one week away.

Nang Khin Htwe Myint, a female Karen politician who is the chairperson of the Pa-an-branch of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, said the DKBA party plans to contest seats only in Karen State.

Observers said that Thar Htoo Kyaw’s party may win a few constituencies in Karen State, especially in constituencies where the DKBA is strong, such as Myawaddy, Myaing Gyi Nyu, Kawkareik and Kyar Aye Seint Kyi townships.

They also claimed that the Burmese regime has given a green light for the DKBA leaders to form the party as part of a deal resulting from the DKBA acceeding on Aug. 20 to the junta's border guard force (BGF) plan.

Meanwhile, the Burmese military government has held a series of ceremonies across Karen State to honor the DKBA for joining the BGF.

DKBA commanders were publicly presented with cash gifts as rewards for joining the Burmese army-led joint force.

According to the Burmese state-run newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar, the DKBA troops will officially be allowed to hold weapons, and will be assigned to duties aligned with securing and guarding the Thai-Burmese border.

Some observers have suggested that DKBA commanders may lose power as part of the BGF plan after they come under Burmese army command. Over the past few years, several DKBA leaders have established lucrative business deals through border trade in the region.

According to Burma’s 2008 Constitution, the BGF will be incorporated into Burma's national armed forces, and soldiers from participating groups, such as the DKBA, will receive the same salaries as Burmese army troops.

The DKBA split from its mother organization, the Karen National Union, and signed a cease-fire agreement with the Burmese military government in 1995. It has six brigades with an estimated 6,000 armed fighters.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Myanmar to file human rights report to U.N. next year

United Nations Human Rights Council logo.Image via WikipediaPeople's Daily Online
Aug 23, 2010

Myanmar has completed the first draft on report about the country's human rights status to prepare for submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council in February 2011, the local Weekly Eleven News reported Monday.

The draft of the Myanmar human rights report is yet to be finalized and translated into English version for the submission, the report said.

Myanmar's human rights committee, established in April 2000, is chaired by Minister of Home Affairs U Maung Oo.

The committee comprises of some sub-committees dealing with home affairs, law, social affairs, labor, health, education, international affairs, religion and women's affairs.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Myanmar: Market situation remains unchanged

An elephant inside a teak forest, near KalpettaImage via WikipediaAugust 23, 2010
The market situation for teak and other hardwoods remains unchanged from the previous month. It is reported that in spite of substantial flow of plantation teak to India, the demand for teak from natural forests remains strong.
Although some teak dealers in India are selling the previous year's SG-7 (ER1) teak logs at very competitive prices, the market demand for fresh quality teak logs, even at higher prices, is good. However, smaller size fresh teak logs from unpopular areas are not selling well.

Indian buyers believe that the market is going to pick up in a month or two, when the Monsoon season ends. According to some analysts, demand for teak in India will remain strong as the country continues to rely on imports to meet domestic requirements.
The market for pyinkado and Gurjan logs remains weak. These species are facing strong competition from similar species from Indonesia and Malaysia.

Downward trend in shipments
Harwood shipments in the first four months of fiscal year 2010-11 are on a downward trend. Shipments from Myanmar are not a good reflection of the market demand due to the longer lead times between sales and shipments.

Harwood shipments for the first four months of fiscal year 2010-11 (Hoppus ton)
Other hardwood
April '10
May '10
June '10
July '10

Myanmar Log Prices (natural forests)
Teak Logs, FOB
€ Avg per Hoppus Ton
(traded volume)
Veneer Quality
2nd Quality 6,600
(3 tons)
(3 tons)
3rd Quality 6,388
(5 tons)
(4 tons)
4th Quality 5,009
(10 tons)
(11 tons)
Sawing Quality

Grade 1 (SG-1) 3,095
(38 tons)
(36 tons)
Grade 2 (SG-2) 2,633
(45 tons)
(29 tons)
Grade 3 (SG-3) nil nil
Grade 4 (SG-4) 2,045
(210 tons)
(223 tons)
Grade 5 (SG-5) Assorted 1,206
(124 tons)
(121 tons)
Grade 6 (SG-6) Domestic 1,040
(112 tons)
(102 tons)
Grade 7 (ER-1) 839
(77 tons)
(107 tons)
Grade 8 (ER-2) 591
(8 tons)
Short Logs 6 ft. / 7 ft.
nil nil

Hoppus ton=1.8m³; All grades, except SG-3/5/6, are length 8' x girth 5' &up. SG-3/4/6 are girth 4' &up. SG-3 grade is higher than SG-4 but with lower girth and price.
Prices differ due to quality or girth at the time of the transaction.
(ITTO's Tropical Timber Market Report)
Enhanced by Zemanta

Regions drawn for second parliament

Democratic Voice of Burma
Regions drawn for second parliament thumbnail
A worker runs in front of the new parliament building in Naypyidaw (Reuters)


Published: 23 August 2010

Burma’s seven geographical divisions have been relabelled as “regions” for the country’s second parliament as canvassing continues, with the prime minister and head of a competing party issuing a warning to voters.

The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper on Saturday announced that along the with the changes for the divisions, the area around the new capital, Naypyidaw, has been renamed ‘Naypyidaw district’, and carved up into eight townships to form the Union Territories.

It is all in keeping with the controversial 2008 constitution, which will come into force following elections on 7 November – Burma’s first in two decades. Some 330 constituencies have already been drawn for the People’s Parliament, and the latest changes are in lieu of the formation of the Regions Parliament.

Burma is made up of seven divisions and seven states, the latter home to the country’s sizeable ethnic minority populations which largely populate the border regions. With the formation of the Union Territories, a new ‘region’ will be added.

So-called “self-administered zones” have also been delineated in the Wa and Danu areas of Shan state, and the Naga area in Sagaing division. The three are all names of ethnic minority groups in Burma, from where a number of pro-government parties have emanated.

Critics of the ruling junta, which has ruled Burma in various guises since 1962, have decried the elections as a sham aimed at cementing military rule. They are only the second set of polls to be held since the coup in 1962, and the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) headed by current prime minister, Thein Sein, has been widely tipped to win.

The New Light of Myanmar today paraphrased a speech given by Thein Sein on Sunday extolling the virtues of the elections and the need to defend Burma from “destructive acts”.

“In conclusion, the Prime Minister urged people to choose good, smart, patriotic persons who want to serve the national interest upholding the policy of nondisintegration of the Union,” it added.

He’ll be joined in the party by a number of other current government ministers, likely including Foreign Minister Nyan Win. It is not clear what will happen to junta supremo, Than Shwe, who has ruled Burma since 1992.

Sai Hla Kyaw, a senior official in the Shan National Democratic Party (SNDP), said that the looming deadline for submission of candidate lists to the Election Commission (EC) meant that competition may be weak, with the USDP able to offer incentives to would-be members.

“There were cases with the USDP drawing away our potential candidates by offering them a lot of advantages and in some cases, some individuals had no choice to but follow them,” he told DVB.

Additional reporting by Nay Thwin
Enhanced by Zemanta

Myanmar PM warns against destructive acts over election

Welcome town sign of Pyay, Myanmar.Image via WikipediaTMCnews
Aug 23, 2010

YANGON, Aug 23, 2010 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Myanmar Prime Minister U Thein Sein has warned against any destructive act over the coming multi-party general election set for Nov. 7, reported the official New Light of Myanmar daily Monday.

Thein Sein gave the warning at a ceremony to open a railroad section in Pyay, Bago division on Sunday.

Thein Sein stressed the very importance of the election for all citizens, saying that "So they were to prevent any destructive acts so that the elections would meet with success".

Thein Sein urged people "to choose good, smart, patriotic persons who want to serve the national interest upholding the policy of non-disintegration of the union".

The prime minister has organized a political party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party, to contest in the election.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Feds Investigate Transocean’s Possible Ties to Burmese Drug Clan

Rear view of the Treasury Department building ...Image via WikipediaAlterNet
Aug 23, 2010

This post originally appeared on Mother Jones.

The world’s most infamous drilling firm, Transocean, has been slapped with a subpoena by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) over one of its projects in Burma. Basically, the drilling-platform operator best known for its exploding Deepwater Horizon rig is drilling in Burmese waters co-owned by a family of drug lords (including the “Godfather of Heroin”) with whom it is verboten to do business under federal sanctions. The government wants to know if any sanctioned parties are actually listed on the drilling contract, and if Transocean was aware who it was dealing with.

I want to know something different: Who cares?

Though it sounds juicy, this story entirely misses the forest for the trees. This isn’t the first time Transocean has worked in Burma: It also handled exploratory drilling for Daewoo’s stake in the country’s giant Shwe gas reserves; but since Daewoo’s not blacklisted, that was okay. And Transocean isn’t the only American company with interests in Burmese energy. Chevron helps operate a pipeline that earned the dictatorship more than $1 billion in 2008 and is the single largest source of income for a regime that propagates genocide and is allegedly trying to build nukes. But that’s okay because Chevron lobbyists got some big fat loopholes in the US sanctions, guaranteeing the company doesn’t have to divest. All of which doesn’t matter much anyhow, because the plenty of other countries profiting off Burma’s resources would be happy to grab up the American companies’ stakes if they had to abandon them. Even the Congressional Research Service recently released a report (pdf) saying that more than a decade of US sanctions hasn’t had any demonstrable impact on the junta’s finances or power.

The Transocean probe will likely end up being as inconsequential as the sanctions the company might be violating. “We do not expect the liability,” Transocean has stated in company filings, “if any, resulting from these inquiries to have a material adverse effect on our consolidated statement of financial position, results of operations or cash flows.” In this case, the company’s rosy PR assessment probably isn’t just spin.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Burma: The Long Road to the Hague

NYC - United Nations HeadquartersImage by wallyg via FlickrIrrawaddy via Global Transitional Justice
Aug 23, 2010

Irrawaddy article: Q&A with James Ross

“Question: Civil wars in Burma have been ongoing since the late 1940s. Why are there calls for a UN inquiry now?

Answer: The recent calls for an international Commission of Inquiry into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma stem from the March 2010 report by UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Burma Tómas Quintana. Quintana outlined a pattern of serious crimes that he said could indicate “a state policy that involves authorities in the executive, military and judiciary at all levels” and called on the UN to consider an inquiry with a fact-finding mission to investigate international crimes.

The United Nations has issued highly critical human rights reports on Burma annually for nearly 20 years, describing widespread, egregious and systematic abuses by government security forces. And there have been 19 General Assembly resolutions on the human rights situation in the country. But it’s not enough for the UN to simply continue to churn out reports, however critical. The UN should make use of these reports as a basis for establishing an impartial international Commission of Inquiry that can conduct investigations into abuses by both government forces and non-state armed groups, determine whether international crimes have been committed, and suggest a mechanism for bringing justice to the victims and holding perpetrators to account.

Human Rights Watch is calling on the UN General Assembly to adopt a resolution in its upcoming session requesting that the secretary-general establish such a Commission of Inquiry.

Calls for an international Commission of Inquiry have been made for a number of years by many others in addition to Human Rights Watch, including the Harvard Law School Human Rights Clinic and Amnesty International. The proposal isn’t new, but the momentum to take action is…..”
Enhanced by Zemanta

Restoration Council of the Shan State (RCSS)Supports UN Commission of Inquiry in Burma

DSC00920/Burma/Shan State/Women waiting transp...Image by dany13 via Flickr democracy for burma

Restoration Council of the Shan State (RCSS) has decided to back the proposal to create a UN commission of inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma allegedly committed by Burmese military government, said a letter of RCSS sending to UN.

The letter signed by Lt. Gen Yawd Serk, Chairman of RCSS said that RCSS endorses the creation of an international commission of inquiry to investigate alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma as was earlier called for by UN Special Rapporteur Tomás Quintana.

RCSS will render its support in any way needed to expose to the international community what has been taking place in Burma for decades, said the letter.

So far, the U.S, Britain, the Czech Republic, Australia and Slovakia have also voiced support for an inquiry.
Enhanced by Zemanta

State censor board bans use of bamboo-hat logo, seal

bamboo hatImage by Jesslee Cuizon via FlickrMizzima

Monday, 23 August 2010 23:11 Khai Suu

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Burma’s state censor has banned news journals using in their reporting the seal and logo of the party that broke away from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, National Democratic Front party leader Khin Maung Swe said.

The Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, the Burmese junta’s censor board had cut the NDF’s bamboo-hat logo from interviews and news presented by Rangoon-based journals Monitor, Hot News and The Voice weekly since the first week of this month, he said.

“Some journals could report only interviews; some journals could report both interviews and use the logo. The journals replied that the logo was deleted by the censor board when it was contacted,” NDF party leader Khin Maung Swe told Mizzima.

Sources close to the journals confirmed the ban.

“We presented our draft copy of interviews and the bamboo-hat logo but the censor deleted both interviews featuring the NDF and the logo,” an editor with links to these journals said.

“We can print the seals and logos of other parties … As far as we know, they even turned down the draft copy attached with the clippings of state-run media bearing this logo,” a source close to Hot News told Mizzima.

The NDF said the censor had restricted news coverage containing its logo, though the seals and logos of other parties remained unaffected by the restriction, adding that the party should be allowed the same freedoms as other officially registered parties.

The party said the logo and seal was permitted in the media only when the dispute between the NDF and NLD arose. The Monitor denied the claim.

“Why should the logo recognised and permitted by the [election] commission be banned? No, the censor board permitted our journal and other journals to cover the news and its logo,” Monitor editor-in-chief Myat Khaing told Mizzima. Last month’s issue of the journal was allowed to cover NDF news and use its logo and bamboo hat.

Censor board section head Yu Yu Win said: “I think this logo might also have appeared in other journals. We permit these logos if they are officially recognised by the [electoral] commission. I can say only this.”

The dispute of using this logo arose when the NDF applied for party registration with the electoral commission, which permitted use of the logo. The commission however failed to communicate its approval to the censor board, a source close to the censor said.

Similarly, Snapshot journal was barred from running an interview with NDF party chairman Dr. Than Nyein two months ago, a source close to the journal said.

“It seems the authorities are building more hurdles … for our election campaign as the polling date draws nearer,” Khin Maung Swe said.

The NDF will field about 100 candidates in the election, which is to be held on November 7.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Burma's Mangrove Forest Under Threat

Irrawaddy via Asia Sentinel
Written by Irawaddy Daily
Monday, 23 August 2010

Women carry firewood on their ridge in Khunchangone, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Rangoon. (Photo: AP)
With no othermeans of livelihood, villagers strip mangrove forests for firewood

The slow pace of rebuilding livelihoods in the cyclone-hit Irrawaddy delta is taking a serious toll on the region's mangrove forests, as growing numbers of people turn to collecting firewood as their job of last resort, environmental groups in Rangoon say.

"More and more local people are cutting down trees in the mangrove forests to make a living," said an official from the Forest Resource Environment Development and Conservation Association (FREDA), a Rangoon-based NGO.

"This job doesn't require any investment. All you need is a machete, so those who can't find any other way to earn money do this to make ends meet."

Farming and fishing are the main occupations in the region, but both industries are still reeling from the effects of Tropical Cyclone Nargis, which slammed into Burma in 2008 and turned into the most destructive natural disaster in Burma's history.

A wall of water 12 to 15 feet high, undeterred because many mangrove swamps along the coast already had been torn out for seafood farms, raced 25 miles inland, sowing unimaginable destruction. The Burmese government estimated a toll of about 90,000 dead and 56,000 missing. That figure has since been updated to about 130,000 dead. Nargis also wrecked as much as 65 percent of Burma's rice crop—at least 200,000 hectares of the Irrawaddy Delta were ruined. Hitting just a few days after the harvest was completed, Nargis also wiped out much of the crop in warehouses.

The further destruction of the mangrove forests removes a critical bastion against future storm surges. Nonetheless, the villagers say they have no choice.

"Almost all of us have problems," said one farmer from Laputta Township. "Tens of thousands of rats have destroyed our rice fields. We couldn't even keep seed paddy. As a result, we don't have rice to sell and we can't pay off our debts."

Fishermen say they are also struggling, as catch sizes—of fish, shrimp and crabs—are too small to even feed their own families.

"Since the cyclone, catches are much smaller. The fishery isn't doing so well, so [fishermen] can barely feed themselves," said an official from the Laputta Township Fishery Department.

With their traditional sources of income no longer providing adequate means of survival, many in the delta have had little choice but to seek out other ways to eke out a living. But their choice of alternative employment is putting a severe strain on already vulnerable natural ecosystems—and officials and environmentalists fear it will only get worse.

"The smaller trees can be used for firewood, but they're also cutting down larger hardwood trees that can be used for building houses," said a Forestry Department official. The pace at which some forests have been stripped has alarmed many.

"Coastal areas with thick mangrove forests have become open expanses within days or months," said one environmental activist. "But villagers say they will die of starvation if they can't cut down the trees for sale."
An official from the Forestry Ministry said that efforts should be made to find new jobs for people in the region to prevent any further deterioration of the mangrove forests.

However, environmental analysts say the authorities should also do more to help regrow the forests. They complain that so far efforts have been very limited, with most of the work being done by NGOs.
"The cyclone destroyed the mangrove forest. Then, after the cyclone, people increased their cutting of trees.

Very few areas have been replanted—and those mostly by organizations such as FREDA. The government has provided very little support," said a well-known environmental activist who asked to remain anonymous.
According to official statistics, there are about 450,000 hectares of mangrove forest in Burma, of which more than 38,000 hectares in Irrawaddy and Rangoon divisions were destroyed by Cyclone Nargis.

Reprinted from the Irawaddy Daily, with which Asia Sentinel has a content-sharing agreement
Enhanced by Zemanta

Asia’s middle class swells, Burma left behind

Democratic Voice of Burma
Asia’s middle class swells, Burma left behind thumbnail
Burmese refugees living on a rubbish dump close to Thailand's Mae Sot (James Mackay)


Published: 23 August 2010

Asia’s middle class “is rapidly increasing its size”, according to an Asian Development Bank (ADB) report that analysts have criticised for omitting the issue of mass economic stagnation in Burma.

An annual report published by the Bank includes a chapter on ‘The Rise of Asia’s Middle Class’, which claims that poverty reduction and economic growth across the continent over the past two decades has pushed more households into the middle class.

It defines middle class “as those consuming between US$2 and US$20 per day”, and adds that the middle class population had risen from a fifth of Asia’s total in 1990 to 56 percent in 2008. “Through its sheer size and dynamism, [the rising middle class] will present a huge opportunity for the region and for the world,” it said.

Asia is the world’s largest and most populous continent, and its traditional boundaries stretch from Egypt to Japan, and China to Indonesia. But within this huge landmass, home to more than four million people – around 60 percent of the world’s total population – is Burma, which according to Australia-based economist, Sean Turnell, “doesn’t fit in [to the report’s findings] at all”.

“This is all based around the narrative that somehow business and economic openings will generate a middle class and space for activity, and demand of more property rights,” he told DVB.

“But if you look at Burma it doesn’t follow the standard Southeast Asia package – it doesn’t have the export-oriented manufacturing firms that were the recipients of aid budgets in South Korea and Thailand and Hong Kong, etc.”

Burma remains one of Asia’s poorest countries, with average annual salaries at little more than US$200 per person. The CIA World Factbook ranks Burma 174 out of 191 countries in GDP per capita – aside from Afghanistan, which ranks at 185, it is the only country outside of Africa to feature in the bottom 21.

Around Burma, however, a number of neighbouring economies have swelled, making the pariah’s condition all the more stark. China is recording the world’s fourth fastest economic growth rates, while four Southeast Asian countries – South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong – were awarded the title of ‘tiger economies’ after maintaining exceptionally high growth rates and rapid industrialisation between the early 1960s and 1990s.

India’s economy is also boasting growth rates of more than seven percent, and is hungrily eyeing Burma’s lucrative gas sector to feed its swelling population. But despite substantial energy reserves in Burma, the country is still crippled by cronyism and corruption that has seen multi-billion dollar foreign investments disappear into overseas accounts or the military, an apparent waste given that Burma has no external enemies.

“What we’re really dealing with [in Burma] is overt criminal enterprises, such as drugs trade and firms whose whole raison d’etre depends on rent-seeking,” said Turnell. “[These companies are] about getting the import concessions against the regime’s restrictions, not about getting special access to exports.”

Burmese civilians are acutely distrustful of the banking sector, which is famed for money laundering enterprises and cash deposits from the country’s sizeable drugs export market, and instead tend to horde money and gold. The issue of land rights is also highly contentious, with the army frequently appropriating farmland and property left at the mercy of corrupt local officials.

“The whole issue of property rights is massive, and you need [these rights] – no one is going to invest in productive enterprise in Burma when you face the situation that your productive assets could at anytime be taken over by the local authorities or the regional [military] commander or whatever, or if the rules suddenly change,” Turnell said.

The elections slated for 7 November appear set to cement military rule and the status quo in Burma, with the military apparently eyeing a long future after selling off swathes of previously state-owned enterprise to its close friends.

“Privatisation enshrines the present status quo,” added Turnell. “It’s the people with power and connections who’ve benefitted, and we’ve not seen a parcelling out of Burma’s profitable assets to people outside of the system.”
Enhanced by Zemanta

Cho Cho Kyaw Nyein: ‘We’ll not shy away’

Democratic Voice of Burma

Cho Cho Kyaw Nyein [centre] walks with colleagues Nay Ye Ba Swe [L] and Mya Than Than Nu [R]


Published: 23 August 2010

With a date now set for elections in Burma, the 40 parties that have been approved to run are out on the campaign trail. A brief look at candidate lists however shows a conspicuous lack of women in Burmese politics, a sign of a sexually conservative society and heightened male chauvinism, says Cho Cho Kyaw Nyein. She is the daughter of former prime minister, Kyaw Nyein, and will run as a candidate for the Democratic Party alongside the other ‘two princesses’ of Burma, Nay Ye Ba Swe and Mya Than Than Nu.

How are preparations for the elections? What is the environment like?

I have been campaigning in my constituency – Gyobingauk township in Pegu division – on a very low profile for the last two months. There have been many obstacles. They [the junta] are becoming stricter day by day. The rules and regulations are getting tougher. It is very difficult for us to campaign.

In the beginning, our members had to submit their national registration cards (NRC) to the authorities, who in turn ran checks and interrogated our leaders. They asked them whether I had bribed them and demanded reasons for having joined me. This scared many people regarding the consequences of joining our party. Despite all this fear, I have been campaigning in my constituency on and off. A few weeks ago, we were allowed to talk in the monasteries – I could talk to the farmers in their houses. But now with the monsoon setting in, it is that time of the year when farmers need to be in their fields to grow their paddy. It’s become more difficult to find a suitable time.

The rules also state that we can’t gather more than 50 people at a time; we have to inform the authorities seven days ahead of the scheduled meeting. We have to consider the weather as well. We need to send trucks to pick up people from various villages. But we never know when it’s going to rain, that adds to the complications.

Do you think not being allowed to campaign freely is going to affect the election results?

Of course. Some of the parties, which are proxies for them [junta], have been around since two years while we were formed very recently. They have covered quite a lot of ground and are very much ready – finance and other resources – for the elections on 7 November. But it is a headache for the other smaller parties like ours.

Was it a difficult choice to go ahead with contesting elections especially after the National League for Democracy (NLD) backed out?

I don’t think we should shy away from the elections. This military government has been around for more than half a century. We know how they have treated us in the past, and how it might not change if we don’t grab the chair now. So we need to take part in this election, irrespective of it being free and fair. It’s better than sitting in your house and day dreaming. However, it is heartbreaking to hear some members of the NLD declaring, ‘please don’t vote’. The rules are very, very complicated. If people don’t vote, they [military government] will win.

What kind of progress has your party made so far?

Most of our party members have been active since the 1988 uprising. We also participated in the 1990 elections, but we didn’t succeed. This time we have made quite a bit of progress, given the time and money constraints. The most important problem for us is the shortage of funds – the military has set the registration fee very high, at 500,000 kyat [US$500] per candidate, to keep away as many people as possible. Initially, we had about 150 members who had submitted their applications, but now with the registration fee being so high, half of them have dropped out, others will use their personal funds to contest. We were trying to raise funds, but again the deadline for submission of candidate names was brought closer, yet another setback for us.

What do you expect out of these elections, apart from them being free and fair? What do you think is going to be the realistic outcome?

I have been going around the country meeting the common people, and I have come to realise that the Burmese people hate the junta and the proxy parties a lot. They are ready to vote for any party except the proxies. So we have a very good chance of winning. Apart from the problems of funding, I believe that whoever contests will win, if they aren’t proxies. But again, there are so many places where we cannot even compete because the proxy parties have a huge advantage over us. That will give them the lion’s share.

But I think it is definitely better than having a government with only the army. Including civilians is going to bring about some changes. The results will be promising. Of course, there are some rules which we oppose but we are hopeful. Basically, we really don’t care which of the parties win, as long as they aren’t the proxy parties.

There are many proxy parties which are in disguise as well. But the masses can tell them apart from the real candidates. Burmese people are very smart. They have been under this regime for so many years. We don’t have any newspapers which will inform us of what is happening. These campaigns are the only way of knowing who is who.

Even if the elections are a success, do you think more complications will arise because of ethnic nationalities demanding autonomy and other rights?

Let’s hope that ethnic groups will win in their regions. I definitely feel that they will. But of course, there are three or four proxy parties also fighting under ethnic banners. But the minorities hate them so much. Let’s hope that the pro-democratic parties will win.

Do you think the West adding pressure from the outside is going to change anything in terms of the way the elections are conducted, or the way results are tackled?

(Laughs) Let me tell you – this government, they don’t care about the outside world. Nobody can understand this, probably. We have enough natural resources in the country, which we ourselves can’t enjoy. But they [junta] are quite rich in their own capacity. They can invest money in manipulating the system. If they don’t care about their own people, they won’t care about anybody on the outside.

If you do make it to the Parliament, what changes would you bring about?

All Burmese people, excluding their [military authorities’] families, are very poor. It is heartbreaking to confess the truth. We aren’t close to our expectations of livelihood. We are very poor in every aspect. If you go to the hospitals, we don’t have medicines or anything. So if you don’t have the money, you will die. Nobody would like to die because they don’t have money. But in this country, people have to die because they don’t have money. Education is another problem. My grandchildren are suffering from lack of education. But all the families from the cream of Burmese military and their children are attending international schools and then they go abroad to attend university.

In every field, education, health etc., we need to change and we hope that we will be able to bring about change. Of course, you cannot change this abruptly, but in five to ten years’ time, we will change the system and the government.

What is it like to carry your father’s legacy forward? Does it help having a strong background or does it weigh you down because of all the expectations?

My father was a true politician and his thoughts were always considerate about the country and the people. And he handed over this big burden on my shoulders. I am proud to be his daughter. My siblings are in America and whether they like it or not, they cannot come back and work for the country. I am the eldest daughter of my father; I take it as my duty to do whatever for the country and its people that my father loved so much.

Would it have been more difficult to reach where you are today, had it not been for your background, given that you are a woman?

Everybody who hears my father’s name showers me with affection. In fact, they worship him – of course not to the extent of [independence hero] General Aung San – but they really appreciate his doings. In every part of the country that I have been to, I am happy to know that they accepted my father and they are helping me because I am his daughter.

Why don’t we see more women politicians or candidates for these elections? We do see many women politically active in protests but it doesn’t translate into leadership. Why?

There are quite a few women candidates in the coming elections from different walks of life, but not too many. When it comes to leadership, like in any other Asian country – for instance Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan or Indira Gandhi in India – it is quite easy for me, and I consider myself lucky, than any other ordinary Burmese woman.

How many women politicians do you have in your party?

There aren’t many. Of the 150 members, we have barely 10 women. Apart from me, we have former Prime Minister U Nu’s daughter, May Than Than Nu; former Prime Minister during the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League’s (AFPFL) rule U Ba Swe’s daughter, Nay Ye Ba Swe. Burmese women are more housewives more than anything else. The male members are normally leaders, the women always considers themselves mothers and daughters rather than leaders of their families.

There are many male chauvinists in Burma, but I don’t care. Being a woman politician in Burma, you have to meet with a lot of obstacles but now as Burmese women are more educated than we were earlier, the society has come to understand that women are capable. They have to change their outlook. I do not accept male chauvinism.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Military junta sets new BGF deadline for ethnic armed groups

Cockfighting at BangkangImage via WikipediaShan Herald
The ruling Burmese military junta has scheduled another Border Guard Force (BGF) program deadline for two of Burma’s ethnic ceasefire groups: United Wa State Army (UWSA) and National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) aka Mongla group at their latest meeting on 20 August, according to sources from the Sino-Burma border.

The two are ‘instructed’ to give their agreement on transforming themselves into BGF program by the first week of coming September, said a source from Shan State North’s Tangyan, where the meeting between the UWSA and Lt-Gen Ye Myint, Chief of Military Affairs Security (MAS), was held.

In accordance with Naypyitaw’s invitation, the UWSA and NDAA on 20 August met with junta’s negotiators led by Lt-Gen Ye Myint and Maj-Gen Kyaw Phyoe, Commander of Golden Triangle Region Command respectively on the same day, but at different venues.

The UWSA led by Bo Lakham, Chairman of the Political Consultative Conference, met Lt-Gen Ye Myint at Tangyan, 83 miles southwest of Shan State North’s capital Lashio for about half an hour from 9:30 to 10:00 and the NDAA led by its vice chairman Khun Hsang Lu and Sai Kham Mawng, deputy commander of General Staff, met Maj-Gen Kyaw Phyoe at Shan State East’s capital Kengtung at 13:00(local time).

“At the meeting between Ye Myint and the UWSA, Ye Myint said that the election was drawing near so he would urge the UWSA to reconsider its decision over the BGF before the elections,” the source said.

If the groups failed to convert themselves into BGF by the deadline again, it will be automatically designated as “an unlawful association or illegal organizations.”

Nevertheless, Panghsang was said to have given no response to Ye Myint other than saying they were not authorized to make up any decision without their supreme leader’s guidance.

Mongla was given the same message like Panghsang, said an informed source. “The group just said that they had nothing new to inform.”

Concerning the BGF program, many deadlines had been set up for the ceasefire groups, the latest one was 28 April 2010. But after the 28 April deadline, the junta and ethnic ceasefires groups came to meet for a couple of times; one was in May and the second was in June 22. According to resolution from the latest meeting on 22 June, there would be no new deadline for the groups because the military junta just would hand it over to the new government to handle on if the elections are held.

Anti-BGF program groups are: the UWSA, the MNDAA, Kachin Independent Army (KIA), Shan State Army (SSA) ‘North’’s First Brigade, the Kayan New Land Party (KNLP) and New Mon State Party (NMSP). All decided to remain unchanged unless their autonomy demands are met and they will not also support or participate in the general elections.

The UWSA and NDAA said they will up holding the following 4 principles: 1) will not surrender, 2) will not transform into BGF unless their autonomy demands are met, 3) will not shoot first, but they are ready to protect themselves and they will not secede from Union, sources said.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Braced for more refugees fleeing Burma

P1070034Image by TZA via

Published: August 23 2010 02:21 | Last updated: August 23 2010 02:55

From Dr Cynthia Maung.

Sir, Tim Johnston’s excellent appraisal of the Burmese election (“Looming poll divides Burma opposition”, August 17) omits one possible but significant result of the forthcoming election: the likely flow of refugees that we expect to see fleeing Burma. The ruling State Peace and Development Council, the junta, has stepped up military activity in states bordering Thailand. Anticipating that further violence will accompany election preparations, more and more Burmese, young and old, will be leaving.

The support for refugees in the border area is at breaking point. I set up a medical clinic in Mae Sot when I fled Burma in 1988. Housed in a dilapidated building, we were reliant on handouts from local charities and had to sterilise our medical equipment in a rice cooker. Today we have a fully fledged medical centre but still struggle to meet the demand from the thousands of Burmese crossing the border.

The local schools and orphanages, many supported by the UK-based Thai Children’s Trust, have seen hundreds of Burmese children arrive unaccompanied in the past few months alone. Feeding them has become a challenge as aid budgets are strained and international donations are hit by currency fluctuations.

While articles like Mr Johnston’s are welcome for bringing attention to Burma and its troubles, the effect that the political situation has, and will have, on countless lives cannot be overlooked. The next few months will be incredibly difficult for us and only when the Burmese feel safe and provided for in their own country will this slow down. Clearly we are many years away from this.

Cynthia Maung,

Founder and Director,

Mae Tao Clinic,

Mae Sot, Thailand
Enhanced by Zemanta

Sharing the Lord’s Supper with Brethren from Myanmar 

Coping with Disasters: Refugees and Displaced ...Image by United Nations Photo via FlickrMandat Mikha

23 August 2010 By Rama Ramanathan | TinyURL TM

I stopped the car at the end of a broken, unpaved, rutted road with tall grass growing in the middle. They unloaded the car. We had brought rice, eggs, baked beans, cooking oil, biscuits, milk powder for mothers and for infants. Also some clothes. All the stuff we brought was placed in the kitchen.

We sat on the floor of the living room, the fan above circulating the air around us, the clean, veneered “timber” flooring cool on my bare feet. On the walls were posters depicting Christian scenes – the Christ, the Last Supper, etc. and some Bible verses. There was also a poster of Ang San Su Kyi. There was a guitar and a hymn book.

The three of us from KL sat opposite them. They were made up of adult men and women, children and infants. The conversation was about their lives since the last time a couple of us had visited them. The subjects were security and health. Two teenage boys in the neighbourhood have been troubling our friends from Myanmar.

These boys attack the foreigners if they are out alone. They even break into their homes and steal. Losses include bicycles and a television set. The Myanmar folks collected a sum of money per head and went to the local RELA chief. He arranged security for a time, but it ended. The unspoken fact was that the money came to an end.

The father of one of the boys was spoken to. The father apologized for his son’s behaviour, but lamented that he could do nothing. The refugees are at their wits end. They want to live in peace with their neighbours. They just want to make a living and wait in safety until the UNHCR relocates them.

Three of the men are in ill health. They have crippling pains. They went to see a doctor at a nearby clinic. They had X-rays and were given some medication. The drugs gave some help, but have been consumed. They are not planning to go back to see the doctor. The unspoken fact is that the money came to an end.

They are not complainers. They ask for nothing. They just answer our questions honestly. They are thankful for our gifts and our visits. They realize they are in Malaysia illegally and we are taking a risk by associating with them. They are grateful.

We sit there struggling to understand them. They have had so many babies since coming here. Why? We know their school-age children receive no formal education. The mothers would like to have jobs, but they do not. They spend their time in one of several rented homes. They look after the children and keep the homes spotlessly clean.

The men are grateful for work. All of them have some kind of work. Some have daytime jobs in small workshops or factories. Others have jobs at night markets, doing menial work. The people help each other, they seem generally healthy. There are signs of sadness, but there are also signs of happiness. Smiles seem genuine.

What are three of us from KL doing here? We are asking them questions, trying to understand their needs. We don’t know how to help them; deep within we grieve because of our inability. We hope to do something for them. We record the answers, we talk to each other to see if we have some ideas on how to help. We feel dejected. All we can think of is which individuals in our network to approach.

Why are we here? We believe all men and women, regardless of nationality, race or status, are made in the image of God. We believe these are our neighbours, brought here by God. We remember the parable of the Good Samaritan which our Lord Jesus told. The “religious people” crossed the road and left the helpless man alone. The Samaritan, the man who did not belong to the “approved religion,” did what God approves of. He responded to the need of a fellow human being.

We re-enact our Lord’s Last Supper. We share the bread and the wine. We pray.

We know it’s a difficult situation. These people fled their own country in order to seek a better life. They are seeking a share in our economy. They don’t pay taxes, they are not citizens. They are needy, but they are willing to work. Our government prefers to bring in foreign workers from Indonesia, Philippines, Bangladesh and Cambodia. Why not allow these folks from Myanmar to work here?
Enhanced by Zemanta