KAO WAO NEWS No. 60

An electronic newsletter for social justice and freedom in Burma

January 6-23, 2004

 

Best wishes for a very happy Year of the Monkey!

 

**********************************************

 

READER’S FRONT

VILLAGERS TORTURED FOR NOT SPEAKING BURMESE

PRO RANGOON TROOPS CLASH DURING CEASE-FIRE TALKS

ETHNIC CONFLICT TARGETED AT BURMA DONOR FORUM

CHOLERA SPREADS ALONG THE BORDER

MON DANCE GAINS POPULARITY ON THAI SOIL

JUNTA DESTROYS CORN CROPS IN MUDON

DKBA SMUGGLING BUSINESS

JUNTA HOLDS HISTORIC PEACE TALKS WITH KAREN

MONKS ARRESETED FOR CURFEW VIOLATIONS

A LAND WITHOUT EVIL: NEW BOOK ON BURMA

 

***********************************************

 

READERS' FRONT

 

Dear Readers,

We invite comments and suggestions on improvements to Kao-Wao newsletter. With your help, we hope that Kao-Wao News will continue to grow to serve better the needs of those seeking social justice and open society in Burma. And we hope that it will become an important forum for discussion and debate and help readers to keep abreast of issues and news. Above all, we hope the newsletter will be used as a vehicle for those who want to share their views and experiences.  We reserve the right to edit and reject articles without prior notification. You can use a pseudonym but we encourage you to include your full name and address.

 

Regards,

Editor

kaowao@hotmail.com, kaowao@shaw.ca

www.kaowao.org

__________________________________

 

On Kanbawza Win’s Burmese Thugs Have Become A Little Educated

 

Kao Wao Editor,

Kanbawza Win has been confusing us with no direction in attacking the Burmese thugs.  He is not fighting against the junta but every body in the movement, ethnic, democratic leaders, activist and all groups such as NCGUB, ENSCC, D4B discussion group and individuals.  As a professional writer, he should upgrade himself and learn from others to clearly prove his speculation on accurate information.  Otherwise, he is advocating for the SPDC and is bringing misunderstanding among us.

 

Thanks,

Ko Aye

 

_____________________________________

 

If I follow up Kanbawza Win’s title, French oil giant Total becomes a little educated. They now recognize they are dealing with political issues with the senior leaders of the Burmese military junta.  Number 2 of Total went to Rangoon last November to convince them the Road Map should include Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  It’s great news because Total had always argued they were only doing business and drilling oil as accusations led to forced labour and human rights violations.

 

Best regards,

Farid Ghehioueche

Chairman of Info Birmanie

France

___________________________________________

 

Kanbawza Win is a free-lance journalist. So, why is it that what flows from his pen is treated like an important thunder among us? It is just wild and uninformed finger pointing.  But as a free-lance writer, he is welcomed to write and say anything -- and if anyone is to be blamed for promoting squabbles and internal conflict then those who post this kind of article, unthinkingly and indiscriminately, must be blamed.

 

TY

Canada

 

********************************************

 

Mon State at war

 

VILLAGERS TORTURED FOR NOT SPEAKING BURMESE

(By Taramon, Kao Wao)

 

Sangkhlaburi, January 18, 2004 -- Villagers from the young to the old in southern Ye township were ordered to sit in the sun as punishment for not speaking Burmese by the Burmese Army according to refugees who fled to the Thai Burma border last week.

 

“The SPDC captain said we are like animals because we don’t understand their (Burmese) language, so they treat us as such,” said a 50-year-old Mon woman from Waeng Kyam village who recently arrived to the Thai-Burma border.

 

Victims were ordered to sit under the hot sun from 7 AM to 6 PM.  Farmers from 15 villages were arrested by the SPDC troops who had launched an offensive against the Mon armed group in the area since early December 2003.

 

“We are even refused to drink water,” said a villager who was taken by the BA last December and accused as being rebel supporter for not understanding the Burmese language.

 

The BA rounds up 7 villagers from every village in the offensive area for portering and also are used as human shields during its patrol into the Mon territory, said the local villagers.

 

The SPDC soldiers treat the local Mon people as animals because they cannot speak Burmese said the woman who can speaks it fluently.  Many villagers are often beaten and slapped violently by the Burmese soldiers when they cannot answer in Burmese.  She added that she became an elite in this area where most people do not understand the Burmese.

 

The lady was born in Mudon Township and moved to this area after marriage.

 

Some villagers suspected as rebel sympathizers or supporters were brutally tortured and put in the detention center said a witness who fled from the village.

 

“The SPDC soldiers puts razor blades inside the mouths of suspects, then hits or punches them on the cheek,” said Mi Dut, a Mon woman. “But they could not help the SPDC’s Battalion. They only know the Burmese soldiers who have always treated them inhumanly ever since independence was achieved in the 1940s.”

 

An elderly couple, parents in law of the rebel leader Nai Bin, were severely beaten and sent to the detention center said the source.

 

“I saw them being tortured in front of their house,” the woman added.

 

Another 30-year-old woman said that Mon women, whose husbands fled to the jungle when the army entered the village, were tortured after being accused as rebel supporters even though they are known to be innocent farmers.

 

The BA killed livestock and other animals for food during the military operation; some animals died unable to access water during the weeklong water shortage during the offensive.

 

The Mon local sources reported that the BA launched a major offensive against the Mon splinter group who had split from the New Mon State Party after the party reached a cease-fire agreement in 1995.

 

The Pa-An based Regiment No. 22 of Southeast Military Command led by Colonel Nyi Nyi Swe took civilians and forced them to march in front of the BA during the offensive.  The front line office of about a thousand troops was stationed at Khawzar village, southern Ye township since early December 2003.

 

******************************************

 

PRO RANGOON TROOPS CLASH DURING CEASEFIRE TALKS

(Kao Wao: January 16, 2004)

 

A skirmish between the cease-fire New Mon State Party and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army took place on January 16 at the Thai-Burma border while KNU leaders were in Rangoon for a cease-fire chat with the military regime.

 

According to the NMSP spoke person, the fighting occurred in the early evening when the NMSP fired upon the DKBA when they approached their camp without warning.

 

On January 6, 2004, a clash between the NMSP and the DKBA occurred near the Three Pagodas Pass area near the Thai Burma border after the NMSP fighters tried to stop a group of DKBA members trafficking drugs through NMSP territory.

 

According to Nai Banya Mon, the NMSP spokesman, one DKBA fighter was killed and two were seriously wounded while the NMSP remained intact. Three packets of amphetamine pills and a M-16 assault rifle were also seized from the drug dealers.

 

“The one in plain clothes with a gun was killed and the other three escaped”, said the NMSP officer.  The NMSP accused the dealers for shooting the Mon checkpoint from their truck after they first refused to identify themselves as DKBA members.

 

The NMSP’s Drug Eradication Force founded last year is active along the border area under its control.

 

After the New Mon State Party troops killed the drug dealer, the DKBA troops moved in over a period of ten days and surrounded the NMSP’s camp, local villagers were tense and frustrated from the situation, says a local villager from Palaing Japan.

 

The fighting took place during the cease-fire talks in Rangoon with the KNU amid speculation from the democratic camp that the junta might create conflict in territorial control.  In the past the regime often resorts to its divide and rule tactic to create confusion and instability among the different ethnic groups; lately the DKBA troops aligned with the junta have expanded control into the Mon areas.

 

The NMSP entered a ceasefire agreement with the military regime of Burma in 1995 and the DKBA surrendered to the regime after it split from the KNU.

 

************************************

 

ETHNIC CONFLICT TARGETED AT BURMA DONOR FORUM

(Kao Wao: January 17, 2004)

 

Oslo ­ Donors, support groups, and democratic leaders met here for a Burma Donor Forum on January 15-17.

 

The Danish Burma Committee, Norwegian Burma Committee and Olof Palme Foundation at the Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway jointly organized “The Ethnic Dimension of the Conflict in Burma”.

 

Scholars and activists reiterated that independent states of nationalities had flourished for several centuries in Burma, the region was continuously evolving into a unique amalgam of different states, and each group had a vibrant history and culture when it fell into the hands of the British. The Union of Burma was formed in 1947 by virtue of the Panglong Agreement made up of the Burman, Shan, Chin, Kachin and Karenni leaders.

 

The ethnic nationalities in Burma are not minorities but equal partners in the union and the Mon and the Arakanese are the earliest inhabitants in the region as represented by their rich histories said Dr. Aye Kyaw, an Arakanese scholar based in New York said at the panel discussion.

 

Dr. Lian Sakhong of the UNLD argued that the crisis in Burma today is based on the Constitutional Crisis and the Shan, Chin, Kachin and Karenni nationalities lived in the unoccupied territories as independent land for centuries.

 

Cham Toik of the Mon Unity League spoke to the audience that the Mon fought against the colonial rule with other nationalities and inevitably took up arms against the central government after the appeals for basic rights were denied; Mon leaders were arrested and assassinated at that time.

 

General Secretary of the Shan Democratic Union Sai Wansai calls (written comment) for diverse action as the upcoming military-sponsored National Convention draws near.  He outlined three main strategic options or tasks: to lobby for regime change; to attend the forthcoming National Convention; and to lobby for "power mediation".

 

Panelists were comprised of Dr Aye Kyaw (Arakanese) of New York University; Dr Laraw Maran of Kachin-Americans and friends; Dr. Lian Sakhong (Chin), Naw May Oo (Karen) and Cham Toik of the Mon Unity League.

 

"I am really impressed that the (ethnic) issue is raised here; in the past, the (European) people only know Burma as a democracy crisis and Aung San Suu Kyi", said Kyaw Kyaw an observer at the meeting.

 

The NCGUB delegates led by Prime Minister Dr. Sein Win briefed the seminar; and Dr. Chao Tzang Yawnghwe and Mandy Sadan also provided presentation of the historical, social, and political dimension of Burma’s diverse ethnic peoples.

 

*****************************************************

 

CHOLERA SPREADS ALONG THE BORDER

(By Taramon /Sangkhlaburi: Jan 4, 2004)

 

Cholera is spreading along the southern Thai-Burma border where children have been mostly affected, a characteristic feature of the disease known as Vibria cholerae, the source from Mon medical workers reported.

 

“Almost all the children who have come to the hospital are infected with diarrhea”, said Nai Ong Janeh from the Palang-Japan hospital near Three Pagodas Pass border town. It takes about one week for the children to recover from dehydration.

 

The medic believes it is cholera, which is causing the diarrhea, a bacterium that was probably spread through contaminated water and fruits around the village area. The patients need intravenous D5S drip due for severe dehydration, as ORS cannot stop the diarrhea and vomiting.

 

The other medical worker who opened a private clinic in the area said that about 40% of the child patients are suffering from diarrhea at the moment, the community needs swift medical attention to treat the bacteria or as much as 50 % case-fatality rates may occur. The common disease in this area is malaria in which most local people have been infected.

 

******************************************************

 

MON DANCE GAINS POPULARITY ON THAI SOIL

(By Taramon / Three Pagodas Pass: January 10, 2004)

 

The Mon cultural dance gains popularity among Thai societies according to a local community from the Thai Burma border town.

 

The Sangkhalaburi based Mon Culture Restoration Organization has 20 young dancers who are enthusiastic to perform it well even though they cannot read and write in their own language.

 

“All of the young girls are between 8 to 13 years old”, said a founder and dance trainer Ms Mi Yin Sein.  “They cannot read Mon and it’s so difficult when we teach the songs to perform with the dance”, she added.

 

The Mon children can dance very well but the MCRO has difficulty to recruit singers due to the language barrier.

 

Most members are not granted Thai citizenship status and face difficulty to travel to other areas in the country to entertain the wider Thai Mon community even though some communities have requested the group in the Kingdom.

 

Mon Culture Restoration Organization was founded in Sangkhlaburi, Karnchanaburi Province in Thailand last year with an aim to preserve and promote the old tradition and was invited by local authorities to entertain with other Thai cultural groups such as on the King’s birthday and other events.

 

*****************************************

 

Life in Mon State

 

JUNTA DESTROYS CORN CROPS IN MUDON

(Independent Mon News Agency: January 7, 2004)

 

Township Peace and Development Council and irrigation officials of Mudon Township forced villagers to uproot maize plants belonging to farmers in Mon State, southern Burma.

 

The local witnesses reported that farmland near Sat-Thwe village was uprooted of maize plants as the crop plantation was not following the orders of the government project plan.

 

On their inspection trip to Sat-Thwe village on January 3, the TPDC members and irrigation officials blamed the village headman and farmers for using water from the dam in growing the maize instead of rice.

 

On the same day, the village headman was ordered to gather one person from each household and to destroy the maize plants grown by Mon farmers Nai One and Mi Woot.

 

Even though farmers had traditionally planted maize before the dam was constructed, the TPDC members demanded the villagers uprooted the maize plants.  After the village headman and villagers unwillingly uprooted about one acre of maize plants, they felt pity for the owners and returned home, said a villager.

 

According to the villager, “no body wants to continue to uproot the maize plants and we feel so sorry for Nai One and Mi Woot”.

 

The TPDC members and officials ordered them again to destroy the plants but the villagers remain disobedient.

 

The source close to the TPDC member says that the reason why maize must be uprooted is to show their senior officers that rice was grown with water from the dam during inspection.

 

In reality, farmers had not irrigated with water from the dam and their maize was grown with lake water instead, said the local villagers.

 

The government’s Win Pa Non dam cannot provide sufficient water for growing rice however the irrigation fee was collected from the farmers years ago. 

Also, in the recent year, farmers are forced to grow summer rice in their field, but refused to obey the order due to insufficient water.

 

*****************************************************

 

DKBA SMUGGLING BUSINESS

(By Taramon / Sangkhlaburi: January 15, 2004)

 

The pro-Rangoon Democratic Karen Buddhist Army has been actively involved in the illegal vehicle business along the Three Pagodas Pass- Thanbyuzayat motor road this year, reported a business community from the Thai-Burma border.

 

Local businessmen who once cooperated business agreements with the cease-fire New Mon State Party in the past now turn to the DKBA to earn more money and gain opportunity in dealing with the Burmese authorities.

 

The motor car smuggling business from neighboring Thailand to the pariah state or Burma along this road is getting busier after the DKBA expanded its business chain from Myawaddy- Moulmein road to Three Pagodas Pass- Moulmein.

 

“The DKBA has more power than the NMSP and that is why the local businessmen turn to the DKBA despite the Mon businessmen comprising about 80 percent”, said an officer from the NMSP checkpoint.

 

A trader said that they have suffered from high taxation and discrimination made by the Karen National Union’s check-point and now pay more tax than what was agreed to in a prior agreement between the rebels and traders.

 

“The verbal agreement was to tax 100 Baht per one car crossing a KNU checkpoint (gate) but in reality, traders have been taxed for 70 Baht per one pack”, complained a businessman.

 

According to the passengers, the SPDC’s checkpoint in Nankween is the worst and the traders are rudely treated as if they are not human beings.

 

However the check-point officers cannot tax the vehicles run by the DKBA group while the NMSP members were taxed for the illegal car business.

 

****************************************************

 

JUNTA HOLDS HISTORIC PEACE TALKS WITH KAREN

(Kao Wao: January 20, 2004)

 

The Burmese military chief Senior General Than Shwe on Tuesday held a meeting with Karen National Union leaders during talks aimed at ending one of the world's longest-running insurgencies according to AFP news.

 

The unprecedented two-hour meeting raised hopes that the regime could soon agree on a ceasefire formalising a deal hammered out in December with one of the last ethnic armies still battling Yangon.  Dressed in traditional Karen costume, General Bo Mya and the KNU delegation met Than Shwe at a military reception centre in the capital Yangon, witnesses said.

 

The length of the unprecedented meeting and the decision to hold it at a venue typically used to receive visiting heads of state indicate the talks are progressing well, observers said. The Karen visitors will also be honoured with a dinner Tuesday on the banks of Yangon's tranquil Kandawgyi Lake, hosted by Prime Minister Khin Nyunt and held in part to mark Bo Mya's 76th birthday.

 

"The signs are good because the talks are continuing. We hope that something positive will come out of this meeting," said a source close to the Karen mediating team. The source said nine of the most senior members of the 20-strong Karen delegation attended the meeting, after which they expected to conclude a number of agreements.

 

The closed-door talks which began on Thursday are aimed at ending half a century of military struggle which has caused extreme hardship for Karen civilians, tens of thousands of whom live in refugee camps on the Thai border.

 

The KNU is the largest of the handful of rebel groups still fighting against Yangon's rule.  The junta estimates there are 7,000 rebels in the insurgent group which took up arms 53 years ago. A successful ceasefire arrangement with the KNU would be a major achievement for the junta as it works to have all rebel ethnic groups attend a national convention to draft a new constitution planned for this year.

 

The inclusion of the ethnic groups is key to the credibility of the convention, the first step in a "road map" to democracy announced last year which the junta hopes will mute international criticism over its failure to embark on reforms.

 

Contacts between the KNU and junta resumed after a long impasse when the regime dispatched its representatives to meet KNU officials at the Thai border town of Mae Sot on November 22. A second round of talk in Yangon in December were arranged after progress was made on a number of issues, including an agreement that no third party be involved in the negotiations. Under the deal, all the talks must be conducted inside Myanmar's territory, either in border towns or the capital, and the opposition National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi is to be excluded. The junta also agreed to the KNU's demand that they negotiate a ceasefire first before surrendering their weapons -- an issue which caused previous talks to fail.

 

The KNU is expected to be seeking the ceasefire before considering whether it will participate in the national convention.  However, the KNU General Secretary Pado Mahn Shah denied the meeting between Bo Mya and Than Shwe according to the Radio Free Asia.

 

Despite the positive mood at the talks, KNU representatives on the Thai-Myanmar border say fighting is continuing and that more refugees are being forced across the frontier.

 

"About 30,000 villagers have been displaced to the jungle in the past week. It's very difficult to find food, and the weather is cold in this area, about zero degrees (Celsius)," Pado Mahn Shah told AFP.

 

**********************************

 

MONKS ARRESTED FOR CURFEW VIOLATIONS

(By Kyaw Zwa Moe / Irrawaddy: January 20, 2004)

 

About 100 monks in Rangoon have been arrested for breaking a curfew imposed by the government at the end of October, said sources inside and outside Burma.

 

The military government has ordered monks across Burma not to leave their monasteries between 7 pm and 4 am to avoid possible religious conflicts with the Muslim population. The curfew was imposed following small clashes between Buddhists and Muslims throughout Burma after about a dozen Muslims were killed during a religious riot in Kyaukse, Mandalay Division, on Oct 19. The riot in Kyaukse was reportedly sparked when three Muslims cut the head off a Buddha image in the town, but local Muslims deny their involvement.

 

Since the curfew was imposed more than 100 monks have been arrested for curfew violations, said the Thai-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAAP).

 

Authorities arrested ten young monks from the Ngwe Kyar Yan monastery in Rangoon on Nov 22, said Tate Naing, secretary of the AAPP. He added that sources inside Burma report that all the arrested monks are being detained in Insein Prison, outside Rangoon. Some of the monks are being hospitalized in the prison’s hospital because they were beaten during their arrest, said Tate Naing. The arrested monks are immediately sent to Insein Prison and disrobed there. -Abbot from Rangoon

 

According to the AAPP, the arrested monks are from about ten monasteries in Rangoon, including Ngwe Kyar Yan, Tha Yet Taw, and Aung Chan Tha. An abbot from a monastery North Okkalapa Township, Rangoon, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said monks are being arrested without investigation if spotted outside their monastery after 7 pm. "The arrested monks are immediately sent to Insein Prison and disrobed there," he said. "They are later sentenced to at least two years."

 

In November, monks from several Rangoon monasteries staged protests against the curfew, but no arrests from those demonstrations have been reported.

 

The US State Department lists predominantly Buddhist Burma as a "country of particular concern" because of the military government’s restrictions on religious freedom. The International Religious Freedom Report for 2003 says restrictions on religious practice is a problem worldwide, but cited Burma, China, Cuba, Laos, North Korea and Vietnam as the worst offenders.

 

**********************************************************

 

Book

 

A LAND WITHOUT EVIL: NEW BOOK ON BURMA TO BE PUBLISHED

 

A Land Without Evil: Stopping the Genocide of the Burma’s Karen People by Benedict Rogers will be published in March 2004.

 

According to the source, the book tells the history of the Karen people but is focused on the suffering of all the people of Burma.

 

The author, Benedict Rogers who is a journalist and human rights campaigner, currently working for Christian Solidarity Worldwide in Washington, DC, aims to draw attention to the genocide and ethnic cleansing taking place in Burma today. It is not intended to be a scholarly, anthropological book, but more a call to action.

 

The book, contains about 254 pages with photographs, includes chapters on the democracy movement of 1988, the Free Burma Rangers, the Internally Displaced People and refugees, and the armed resistance. It contains inspiring stories of courage, faith and dignity, alongside stories of suffering.

 

Dr. David Aikman, former senior correspondent of TIME in his review said, "Benedict Rogers has written a moving and detailed account of the tragedy of the oppressed Karen people of Burma. He brings to life one of the most under-reported examples of ethnic repression in modern times. A LAND WITHOUT EVIL should be read by every responsible citizen of those nations claiming to espouse the principles of global justice."

 

*********************************************

 

KAO WAO NEWS GROUP

Email: kaowao@hotmail.com, kaowao@shaw.ca

http://www.kaowao.org

Phone + 66 -1 561- 0860, + 1- 403 - 248 2027

On line archive at

http://www.burmalibrary.org/show.php?cat=1215&lo=d&sl=0

Online Burma Library -- http://www.burmalibrary.org

 

ABOUT US

Kao-Woo Newsgroup is committed to social justice, peace, and democracy in Burma. We hope to be able to provide more of an in-depth analysis that will help to promote lasting peace and change within Burma. Editors, reporters, writers, and overseas volunteers are dedicated members of the Mon activist community based in Thailand. Our motto is working together for lasting peace and change.

 

SUBMIT YOUR NEWS

If you are an organization or individual who is committed to the same principles as Kao-Woo, please use this newsletter as a tool to disseminate your views, articles, and issues pertaining to social justice and political, social and cultural freedom. We are open to all but please ensure to source your material either through email contacts or website. To ensure that it is widely read, you can use this email: kaowao@hotmail.com to tell others about this newsletter, and to let them know about your work, events, and public debate.

 

TO UNSUBSCRIBE

If you wish to stop receiving this newsletter send a message from the address you want to remove to us. Please contact editor should you need further assistance.