KAOWAO NEWS NO. 106
Newsletter for social justice and freedom in Burma
February 28- March 15, 2006
Mon monks and cultural committees creating educational opportunities
Burmese migrant workers head back to Burma
SPDC rounds up another 13 villagers for interrogation
Mon environmentalist urges government intervention on Burmese forests
SPDC degrading river ecosystem in Mon State and Tenasserim Division
Mon Women’s Day Joint Statement
Provision of Anti terror Law Delays Entry of Refugees
Democracy or Hypocrisy: Kanbawza Win
NLD Plan of National Reconciliation and Offer Lack Essential Ingredients
The Secret War Against The Defenseless People Of West Papua
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On Aung San Suu Kyi and the UN Secretary General (By Nehginpao Kipgen)
I have read your statement on Aung San Suu Kyi and UNSG and I felt very impressed. Your views are very much materialistic. However, I would like to point out a few things on the SPDC and the current situation of Suu Kyi. The SPDC may wish her to get rid her out of the country in order of no reason. On the other hand, SPDC is using her party and herself as a tool of their bureaucracy so that they are sustainable. Moreover, SPDC may abolish her party in case they don't need that with whichever emergency provision act. Therefore, my final opinion is "Don't you think it might be better if she reach out of the country and see new impact?"
Thanks for being impressed by my writing on "Aung San Suu Kyi and the U.N. Secretary General" and the pertinent feedback. It was not a statement, but analysis. It is not only you; there are many analysts and observers who opt to see your way happen. By the way, the article caught the attention of several news media in Asia particularly. If you may like to reread it, here is a quick link from the Kuki International Forum website at;
In it, I had cited one example why she would choose to remain in the country despite the continued incommunicado state. Also to reiterate, there are a number of reasons why she is not likely to become the next UN Secretary General.
One simple aye side of your assertion is that she will freely have extensive contact with the international community. The nay side of the story is the sympathy and solidarity she now enjoys may wane down. The overwhelming support she has is largely because of the cause she stands for. My personal opinion is that it is better she remains inside the country. It is a matter of time when realistic changes take place, and so is to Burma. We now have her two children living abroad, her cousin Dr. Sein Win, the Prime Minister of exiled NCGUB government and us, pro-democracy groups, around the world. We can all collectively or individually advocate what we like her to do if she be out of the country. Instead, let us anticipate a day to see her representing the country, traveling around the world thanking our supporting friends and governments.
This is one of my many analytical articles been published. Some of my recent articles can be found from the worldwide web by typing my first name "Nehginpao" at any search engine such as google, yahoo, etc.
Mon monks and cultural committees creating educational opportunities
(Kaowao: March 15, 2006)
Mudon -- Mon Summer Schools in southern Burma opens their doors on March 10 to thousands of eager students.
“Under its own budget from Mon community coffers, Mon Buddhist monks in joint partnership with the Mon literature and culture committees (in Burma) will be responsible for coordinating educational activities for the school,” a young Mon university student said from central Mon State to Kaowao by satellite phone.
n previous years, there have been about 40,000 students attending the summer classes in Buddhist temples, as the government does not provide education to the Mon communities. The community also provides desks, blackboards, chairs and other school equipment.
Two decades ago, the Buddhist monk community launched education programs to better meet the needs of children and their families in their community who couldn’t afford public education, since then the Mon Summer School has made a strong impact on early educational development throughout the Mon community. Mon Buddhist monks for centuries held sway over education and have at times been at loggerheads with the local authorities over its implementation.
A decade ago, Mon Buddhist monks decided to partner up with the Mon literature and culture committees to develop plans for comprehensive and integrated services, especially for disadvantaged children who have had no primary education.
The following states and divisions have begun summer classes: Mon State, Karen State, Tanesserim Division and Pegu, Rangoon, and Mandalay cities are all open for classes
Another advantage of the program is that Mon university students will have the opportunity to expand their skills through teaching and fostering effective classroom practices with the monks and the cultural committees.
Burmese migrant workers head back to Burma
(Kaowao: March 12, 2006)
Sangkhalaburi -- Job hungry migrant workers have been heading back to Burma daily across the border after learning they have to pay a 50,000 baht registration fee, sources from the Thai Burma border said.
“About 70 per cent of Burmese migrants who work on rubber plantations in southern Thailand have decided to go back to Burma,” an illegal Mon migrant from the area said. According to a source from the Mae Sod border, about 400 and 500 cross the border daily. Most of them are Karen and Burmese. Sources from Three Pagodas Pass say that at least 500 migrants are crossing daily and as many as a 1000 migrants have crossed in one day, most of them are Mon.
Sources from Mahachai province said Thai employers are not happy with this new policy from their government. Thai employers asked for 50,000 baht from migrants who want to apply for work in their industries.
“They ask for 50,000 Bahts when the migrants apply for a work permit,” Nai Lun a fishery worker in the province said. “Nobody can pay that amount.”
Only a few Mon migrants working on rubber plantations in southern Thailand are able to pay the amount asked by the government. Migrants who go back to Burma along the road from Mae Sod to Karen and Mon States are facing problems going through the most notorious checkpoint, Tin-Gan-Nyi-Noung near the border town of Myawaddy.
The State Peace Development Council security personnel have photos to check for suspects and could be arrested if found.
“SPDC security guards show the face of suspects before the general public by holding photos of people, a practice seriously prohibited in Thailand even,” a Mon NGO from Mae Sod said. “In Burma, a presumption of innocence is unheard of and this is carried out at most checkpoints, which creates a situation that presents an immediate and serious threat that everyone is guilty and if they find people who have the same face with the picture they are holding, they can be arrested for questioning and subsequently subjected to degrading treatment by the military,” the NGO worker added.
SPDC rounds up another 13 villagers for interrogation
(Kaowao: March 7, 2006)
The State Peace and Development Council arrested another 13 people including a village headman and a couple of women for interrogation in connection to the gas pipeline explosion in Mudon Township last month, central Mon State, a source from the village said.
The 13 detained people are: Nai Kun Saik, the current village headman and his wife Mi Tan, Nai Pan Tong, a former village headman, Nai Tala Aie, a former NMSP medical worker and his wife Mi Sajan, a former NMSP medical worker, Nai Shein, Nai Mon Sorn, Ms Min Winn Kyi, the village clerk, Nai Yein and Nai Bai, a migrant worker from Thailand, Nai Hla Shwe, a former village headman, Nai Dot and Nai Win. The suspects are all from Kwan Hlar village, which is located close to gas pipeline explosion.
"The interrogation has started in an attempt to find the culprits,” Ahwin (not his real name), a Kwan Hlar villager said.
According to a New Mon State Party senior member, the SPDC also wants NMSP to hand over Nai Aie Chan for interrogation because he is from the village, but the party refused. He is targeted because he was connected to Nai Yekkha’s who charged as a state assassination plot in 2003 along with 11 other members. However, the SPDC itself does not accuse of NMSP.
In order to barricade the pipeline with a fence and to dig a ditch to lay the pipeline deep in the ground, the SPDC local authorities is forcefully collecting 10, 000 Kyats from each household from three villages: Kwan Hlar, Yan Dong and Hnee Pa Doh made up of about 2000 households. The villagers have been order to guard the pipeline around the clock since the explosion occurred in the first week of February.
The Burmese authorities have not said how they will confirm their innocence or guilt, meanwhile, Nai Raer Jear and Janoke were arrested earlier shortly after the explosion in the first week of February and are still being held in detention with no word on their release or on whether some will be charged with connection to the explosion.
Mon environmentalist urges government intervention on Burmese forests
March 13, 2006)
A Mon environmental group is urging the Thai and Burmese governments to extend the necessary cooperation to find ways to establish enforcement power in managing Burmese forests.
"The governments of Thailand and Burma must seek ways to protect forests' and wildlife on both sides of the border. The authorities of the ethnic armed groups, who control the area, must also play a role in protecting our forests," a member of a Mon Environmental Group (MEG) said.
According to residents, Thai people cross the Three Pagodas Pass border town daily to purchase and then smuggle forest products to Bangkok and western markets. It all comes down to supply and demand: Thai tourists find and sell many kinds of forestry products: several species of birds and other wildlife, such as baby deer, wildcats, and snakes, which are highly prized in the western markets as well as Burmese pythons which are especially sought after by pet stores in America, says the young environmentalist.
A baby deer, about 7 kilograms in weight, goes for around 4000 and 5000 baht, a baby wild cat for about 1500 baht, a pair of parrots (male and female) 1400 to 1500 baht, a green-winged pigeon or emerald dove for 30 baht, a king-crow, a lively and chatty bird which is a hot item, often seen in cages around tourist areas in Thailand goes for around 25 and 30 baht, snakes for 1000 baht. There are also many kinds of exotic birds as well which are sold for a pittance at 20 baht.
Nai Lwin, a resident of the border town said there are about 30 well-established animal hunters in the area. They use glue (homemade) and a net to capture the birds. They capture birds when they feed on fruit trees by climbing big trees to capture parrots and the king-crow. Sometimes they capture baby parrots and the king crow with their hands, a bird that has no fear of humans.
"They sell about 100 birds daily," said the resident to Kaowao over phone. Most customers are Thai tourists or Thai nationals who visit Three Pagodas border regularly. Some Buddhists who want to set a bird free to reduce bad fortune also buy birds on a regular basis.
"You can buy many kinds of wildlife from a 'wildlife' shop owned by a Thai national known as Phu Yai Wichan," he added. "You can buy many kinds of forest products like jungle goat horns, forest bull, and other kinds of highly valued forest products."
"What is happening is completely unsustainable and we will face catastrophe in the future if we ignore this. We must implement intensive prevention measures to preserve our heritage."
"There is a sense of powerlessness among those who want to do something, as the demand is so high and the practice so entrenched. It is like 'economic terrorism,' which is plundering our forests. Both the Thai and Burmese governments are not strong in combating this situation and we fear it will get only worse," said the Mon Environmental Group member who regularly visits southern Burma and who requested not to be named for security reasons.
SPDC degrading river ecosystem in Mon State and Tenasserim Division
(Kaowao: March 6, 2006)
The Ye State Peace and Development Council Development Council and their families have been collecting stones of different sizes from streambeds to build military camps and selling the rocks to local people as part of the policy, says Miss Mi Pakaomoh, an environmental activist.
“Removing the stones from the streams will degrade the river’s environment and will destroy the balance of the aquatic system. The stones check erosion of the riverbed and protect animal and plant life. Each rock has an important influence on both the water flow and the species of animals and plants that thrive in this environment,” she explained.
“The steams are very vulnerable to human activity and what the SPDC is doing is a direct assault on the streams by taking the stones which will affect water flow. The swifter current will dry up the river ecosystem quickly. It will also disrupt the life cycle of small plants and fish in the stream, eventually many species will die for lack of water and oxygen during the summer season which is drier and the aquatic life will have no chance,” the young woman said.
“The SPDC has been removing the stones from streams in Mon and Tenasserim Division for several years now since they signed a ceasefire with the New Mon State Party which allowed them to collect the stones without intervention from them,” she added.
According to other sources, Burma’s longest bridge the Moulmein and Martaban Bridge was completed in 2003 and this also causes widespread erosion with over 100 acres of farmland in Beluukyun Island.
Mon Women’s Day Joint Statement
By Mon Women’s Organization of America and Mon Women’s Organization (Canada)
12th day of 12th Month Lunar Calendar (March 10, 2006)
Today, Mon women's organizations inside Burma as well as Mon women's organizations in exile are marking the Mon Women's Day, which is celebrated on the birth date of a famous Mon queen Mi Jao Bu (12th day of 12th Month Lunar Calendar) in honor of her ability, grace, and truthfulness that brought the Honsawaddy Mon kingdom to the glory of peace and prosperity. Queen Mi Jao Bu was the only queen reigned in the history of Burma.
On this occasion, we would like to take the opportunity to express our deep concerns about the widespread sexual violence and sexual slavery, committed by Burmese soldiers and commanders, against ethnic women in Burma.
Burmese military regime is using systematic sexual violence against ethnic women as a weapon of war against Burma's ethnic nationalities. Refugees International has confirmed in its report titled "No Safe Place" that sexual violence is systematic and committed both by officers and lower ranking soldiers, and rape is widespread and is affecting women from many ethnic groups including Mon, Karen, Karenni, and Shan.
Burmese army troops have committed crimes against humanity. Local human rights groups have documented that in some incidents women and girls are raped while their family members are forced to watch at gunpoint. Rape survivors and their families have suffered from such serious trauma that some end up committing suicide. Some have fled to the Thailand-Burma border areas where they face various hardships.
Sadly, as of this time, no mechanisms that will protect rape survivors from further risk are in place inside Burma or the border areas. Those who raise the issue of rape and sexual violence have been threatened and harassed by the military authorities. We are deeply concerned about the insecurity for rape survivors, their families, and their communities.
On the occasion of Mon Women's Day, we appeal to international community:
To use all possible means to pressure the Burmese military regime to end all forms of human rights violations;
To urgently take all necessary measures to ensure protection and humanitarian assistance to victims of sexual violence in Burma;
And, we call for the Burmese military regime:
To immediately stop human rights abuses, particularly sexual violence against ethnic women and girls
To immediately withdraw all its troops from ethnic areas;
To immediately begin tripartite dialogue with the National League for Democracy (NLD) and representatives of ethnic nationalities and begin the process the process of national reconciliation.
Mi Jarai Mon
Provision of Anti-terror Law Delays Entry of Refugees
(New York Times: March 7, 2006)
WASHINGTON - About 9,500 Burmese refugees scheduled to be resettled in the United States from Thailand this year are in limbo because their indirect support for armed rebels opposed to their repressive government has put them in technical violation of American antiterrorism law, government officials say.
The Burmese are the largest of several groups, including refugees from Cuba, Vietnam, Liberia and Somalia, whose admission to the United States has been jeopardized by a provision in the USA Patriot Act that denies entry to anyone who has provided material support to a terrorist or armed rebel group. The provision applies even if that support was coerced or the aims of the group in question match those of American foreign policy.
The law broadens the definition of terrorist groups to include organizations that do not appear on the State Department's list of designated terrorist groups, effectively barring refugees loosely linked to armed groups that have resisted authoritarian governments like those in Cuba and Myanmar, formerly Burma.
Some of the refugees paid taxes to rebel groups that controlled their communities. Others offered food or small sums to relatives or acquaintances in groups with ties to rebels or were forced to provide such support, refugee resettlement officials said.
Officials in the Homeland Security and State Departments have been working for several months to define guidelines for a waiver to the statute that would allow the resettlement of the refugees, who are fleeing religious, ethnic and political persecution, and refugee officials said they hope for a resolution soon.
But with thousands of families stranded in refugee camps overseas, officials from the United Nations and Republicans and Democrats in Congress have begun warning in recent weeks that the law is leaving refugees increasingly at risk.
The law has already delayed the resettlement of 146 Cubans who offered support to armed opponents of Fidel Castro in the 1960's; 200 Burmese refugees housed in Malaysia; 30 Hmong refugees in Thailand; 11 Vietnamese Montagnard refugees in Cambodia; and a small number of Liberians and Somalis, United Nations statistics show.
The United Nations is still awaiting a formal decision on the 9,500 Burmese refugees in Thailand. United Nations officials and members of Congress said the refugees posed no known security risks to the United States. By tagging them as having links to terrorists, the United Nations says, the Bush administration will make it difficult to find other countries willing to accept them. It may also lead countries providing the refugees with temporary shelter to reconsider their welcome.
The delay in issuing a waiver to the statute has led the United Nations to suspend the American resettlement of hundreds of Colombian refugees, many of whom were forced to make payments to rebel forces, and of 1,300 Burmese refugees housed in Malaysia, who made donations to ethnic groups linked to armed opponents of the Burmese government.
It has also prevented some 500 asylum seekers in the United States from being granted permanent refuge here. Many of those cases are being appealed.
"Until this issue is resolved, many deserving refugees and applicants for asylum fleeing religious, ethnic or other forms of persecution will be unfairly denied or postponed from achieving safe haven," Representatives Christopher H. Smith, Republican of New Jersey, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican of Florida, said last week in a letter to the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff.
The antiterrorism law, which was passed in 2001 and which Congress reauthorized on Tuesday, has been increasingly applied to refugees in the past two years. So has the Real ID Act, which further broadened the definition of terrorist groups when it was enacted last year.
"That procedure should ensure that terrorists do not abuse refugee status or the asylum laws of the United States," Mr. Smith and Ms. Ros-Lehtinen wrote.
"However, the procedure should also properly weigh situations in which individuals are acting under duress or are legitimately resisting illegitimate and tyrannical regimes."
Senators Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, both Democrats, wrote a similar letter last week.
Bill Strassberger, a spokesman for the Homeland Security Department, said his agency was working with the Departments of State and Justice to resolve the problem.
"Part of the consternation over this issue is that this process is taking some time," Mr.
Strassberger said. "The process is made difficult because of the need to balance national security with our deep commitment to assisting refugees and providing a safe refuge."
Those affected by the law include a Colombian woman forced by rebels to hand over livestock. The rebels killed her husband and raped her before she escaped the country. Because her forced support for the rebels would bar her from admission to the United States, the United Nations settled her in another country.
Researchers from the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School, who traveled to Thailand and Malaysia, interviewed scores of additional refugees. Two of them — one who gave a hat to a cousin who belonged to an opposition group and another who was taxed a basket of rice annually by the group — are among the Burmese who still hope to find refuge in the United States.
Lawyers at the Homeland Security Department have also argued that the laws now bar the United States from admitting Afghan refugees who supported the Northern Alliance in its battle against the Taliban or South Africans who supported the African National Congress when it was deemed a terrorist group.
The lawyers made that case in January as they tried to persuade a panel of judges to deny asylum to a Burmese woman who had donated money to an opposition group.
The woman, a Christian who has been detained in Texas since she entered this country in 2004, said she had been persecuted in Myanmar for her religious beliefs and her ethnicity.
The woman, who is being represented by Edward Neufville and who will not allow her name to be used because her case is pending, remains in detention, awaiting the judges' decision. "I am still hoping," she said in a telephone interview on Friday.
Democracy or Hypocrisy
Within days of President George W Bush's visit and the joint declaration of India and US where the two countries declare their solidarity for the restoration of democracy and the release of the Burmese people’s leader Daw Aung San Su Kyi, India has embark on a grand effort to the engage the military regime. President APJ Abdul Kalam, accompanied by Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran and other senior officers are now in Rangoon relishing the Burmese food and hospitality. Thus, making it the highest-level contact between India and the Burmese military regime, after almost two decades, why only now? No Indian President has visited Burma since Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited Yangon in 1987.
It has been quite sometimes that India has betrayed the historic noble cause for prevalence of democracy and human rights in Burma and has been warming up with the Burmese Junta, in an unprecedented manner as part of its 'Look East' policy. Obviously she was alarmed that Burma has been completely in the embrace of China and is trying to woo back the Generals, who are sorely afraid of the phrase “Democracy and Human Rights.” The Indian leaders knew very well that the Generals have no policy whatever except to stay in power as long as they can. Hence this visit seems to indicate that the Indian leaders have convinced the ruthless generals that they have nothing to fear from democracy or self determination. The India government has proved this by cracking down on the Burmese democracy movement and the ethnic resistance movements in the Indo-Burma border. They have attacked the ethnic Chin (CNF) from the back and killed some of the Arakanes leaders in their custody. What more they have cooperated with the Burmese military intelligence to apprehende the pro democracy movement seeking asylum in the Indo-Burma border. As far as Burma is concerned, the Indian leaders did not have any thought about democracy or human rights. Perhaps the Burmese phrase of Indian mentality has proved to be true.
According to sources, India is expected to firm up a string of offers to the Military Junta when President Kalam visits the strategically-located country that has for long been pampered by both China and India. Burma is a critical playground for the growing Sino-Indian competition for spheres of influence in the region. Well founded sources said India would offer specialist assistance to build war ships, training of more military personnel of the Burmese military in Indian institutions, and at least three naval aircraft at "friendly prices" from Indian Navy. Despite recent objections by the British government against Indian Navy's move to gift three Islander aircraft to Burmese regime at "friendly price", sources said, the aircraft would definitely delivered. But if the British-made Islander multi-utility aircraft are gifted to the military junta then the spare parts supply would be snapped under the European Union codes.
India would be also providing the Burmese navy with expertise in building naval ships in their dockyards. Personnel from India's naval ship building yards would soon be in Rangoon for assisting them. Definitely India would also offer military training for the Burmese men in uniform, by increasing the number of personnel trained in Indian military institutions.
It is paradoxical that the Indian leaders felt no guilt or ashamed in their approach to real politik vis a vis China even as they opted to be the Asian leader. These military assistance would be among a series of efforts from the Indian side to step up its influence in Burma, which for sometime now been exhibiting an eagerness to move away from the shadows of China. At last India has sacrifice democracy at the altar of hypocrisy.
NLD Plan of National Reconciliation and Offer Lack Essential Ingredients
By Mahn Kyaw Swe and Megan S. Mills
March 8, 2006
The NLD (National League for Democracy) party has offered the SPDC (State Peace and Development Council) recognition. If the results of the 1990 election are adopted, a military role will be accepted in national politics. The National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB) has supported the NLD’s reconciliation offer in Burmese communities overseas, yet the offer lacks important ingredients, towards a number of probabilities. Most important is the offer’s lack of a good faith inclusion towards ending human rights violations in ethnic areas and lesser known political prisoners throughout the country, Burma.
The Best Case Scenario
If the SPDC generals accept the NLD offer, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will engage in an interim government supervised by a leader or leaders from the ASEAN community. In this scenario, DASSK and ASEAN leaders could persuade the SPDC to free Burma’s political prisoners without exception. The NLD and DASSK, the SPDC and ethnic opposition groups would draft a federal democratic constitution suiting the needs of a multi-ethnic nation, and the international community, the UNDP (United Nations Development Program and the WHO (World Health Organizations) could begin to tackle Burma’s poverty, environmental decay, HIV/AIDs crisis and malnutrition. Dam projects would pause, and resume with proper advance planning schemes. DASSK could request an end to all military operations against ethnic resistance forces like the KNU (Karen National Union), KNPP (Karenni National Progressive Party), and Shan State Army South, and all human rights violations affecting ethnic civilians. Burma could then enact a national reconciliation plan of various elected representatives.
The Worst Case Scenario
The SPDC may ignore the NLD offer and continue the propaganda of enforcing national security, viewing DASSK as a threat to this security, and extending her house arrest for another year, together with U Tin Oo. There will be new harassment of NLD party members and Shan, Kachin, PaOo, Palaung, Mon and Karreni leaders, new detentions, and the SPDC may also continue to violate ceasefire agreements, forcing groups to surrender or ‘turning’ them to local militias for an elaborate proxy war of Karen against Karen, Kachin against Kachin, Shan against Shan, or Pa-O against Pa-O, and between different ethnic groups. The SPDC could also promote its USDA (Union Solidarity and Development Association) over the long term, barring other opposition groups, led by the NLD and ethnic parties that won the 1990 election. In this case, there would be increased pressure on ceasefire groups such as the Kachin Independent Organization (KIO), Shan State Army – North (SSA-N), Shan State National Army (SSNA), Kayan New Land Party (KNLP) and the Karenni State Nationalities People’s Liberation Front (KNPLF).
The SPDC may accept the NLD nominally, only to prolong its rule of tyranny by stalling negotiations after freeing DASSK. Talks could be inconsequential, a distraction for foreign observers, while the military continues its campaign against ceasefire and non-ceasefire observing opposition groups. Releasing DASSK would reduce international criticism as other political prisoners remained incarcerated, whether NLD or other political persons or human right activists. In short, by appearing to support the agreement, the SPDC may be capable of far more military activity and forced labour drafts, slapping a moratorium on past practices in the countryside. Military and civil authorities could collaborate, for instance, to cover up forced labour, warning village heads not to divulge information to delegates of the International Labour Organization (ILO) or other visiting bodies. It is likely, too, that the SPDC would use the NLD party to broker talks with armed ethnic factions, just as the SPDC prime minister, Khin Nyunt, used religious figures, intellectuals, and monks to lure the KNU to a ceasefire, as created deep distrust of all peace efforts. If the NLD was used in this manner, through U Aung Shwe, and ignoring DASSK, or other leaders, the NLD would become just another vehicle of junta policy, forfeiting its popular support, as would mean the end of the NLD Party in Burma’s political history.
As it stands, the NLD and NCGUB must be alert to SPDC tactics, emphasizing such issues as forced labour, the destruction of villages, internal displacement and refugee flows, not to mention extortion and random killings, atop overall corruption. A regime committed to reform will rein in its troops and reduce abuses, but no such thing is happening. The NLD should have demanded an end to human rights abuses as a preliminary term when the offer was first made. At the very least, the offer should echo the statement of the CRPP, but it does not.
The Face of Reality
The SPDC generals can maintain their dignity by aiding domestic peace, reconciliation and Burma’s economic reconstruction. This means recognizing the 1990 election result and as a past refusal to recognize the 1990 election has underlain military rule which has been a fundamental cause of Burma’s socioeconomic decline. The NLD and ethnic factions have all sustained bad experiences of the SPDC, towards wide scale resentment and general distrust.
In 1995, the New Mon State Party (NMSP) – the principal Mon opposition group – entered a ceasefire agreement with Rangoon, at the urging of the regime and Thai political and business interests, but the aftermath saw resumed forced labour and confiscations of land and food. According to Nai Kasauh Mon of the Human Rights Foundation of Monland, “the ceasefire [agreement] with the government has only had a negative impact on the Mon people because [the regime] has confiscated private rubber plantations … and increased troop levels throughout Mon State”. Recently, the NMSP refused to participate in the junta’s national convention, openly denouncing the convention as fruitless with regard to ethnic rights.
For the Karen National Union (KNU), a meeting backed by Thai military and business leaders produced a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ to end problems of refugees, internally displaced persons, and human rights violation in Karen State, but the so-called gentleman’s agreement fell apart with Gen. Khin Nyunt’s ouster, last year, without a formal ceasefire agreement. The SPDC sent in religious and intellectual figures to meet KNU leaders for pre-ceasefire discussions so that the KNU leader, Saw Bo Mya, ordered KNLA soldiers to avoid any engagement with government troops. “We do not actively engage Burmese soldiers because of the peace talks,” said one of the soldiers of Battalion 101, “we try to keep away from them, but they always find us and attack.”
In September 2005, an 800-strong brigade of the Shan State Army North (SSAN) abandoned their base rather than disarm but the SPDC’s information minister, Kyaw Hsan, stated that “peace” had been secured with Burma’s armed ethnic movements. Nam Khur Hsen, an SSA-S spokeswoman commented, “if things are improving, why are people fleeing to Thailand every day?” The Army presence in Shan State has increased dramatically, from about 40 battalions in 1988 to a current strength above 200, according to Khuensai Jaiyen, of the Shan Herald Agency for News. In November 2005, the Shan leaders Hkun Htun Oo, Sai Nyunt Lwin, Maj-Gen. Hso Ten, Ba Thin, Myint Than, Nyi Moe, Myo Min Htun, Tun Nyo, Sai Hla Aung and Sao Tha Oo received 79 to 106-year jail sentences, charged with defaming the state, association with illegal parties and conspiracy against the state. Defendants were denied their choice of legal counsel.
The recent shooting of 5 members of a Kachin ceasefire group with ties to the Rangoon regime sent shock waves through Kachin State putting the group’s authority in question as Rangoon claimed that the deaths of 5 KIO soldiers and a civilian owed to friendly fire. However, the KIO – drawing on eye witness accounts – says the attack was deliberate. Burmese troops expand their presence in the region where some Kachins have lost faith in their leaders -- despite economic concessions derived from the ceasefire, as in logging, mining and fishing operations that provide much-needed resources for Kachin State’s administration and defense. Sales of some industrial concessions, notably, to Chinese firms, have produced environmental damage.
“Global Witness reports about destructive and unsustainable logging, and exploitation of Burma’s over 100 years old teak wood in Kachin State by Chinese logging companies, is linked to ethnic conflict. The SPDC's mismanagement of internal and foreign relations includes questions of access to natural resources, coercion, non-transparent and poorly planned ceasefire terms, and corruption.”
In the Chin region in November 2005, there were reports of indiscriminate killings, prohibitive orders, extortion and forced labour, before SPDC soldiers shot dead 2 children and critically injured 6 other civilians in Matupi Town, on November 12. The Chin Human Rights Organization states that witnesses identified soldiers of the Light Infantry Battalion 304 responsible for the incident. Chin activists also report religious persecution as in January of 2005 when a Christian cross atop Mount Boi near Matupi town was destroyed, on direct order of Colonel San Aung. More than 90% of the Chin State population are Christians and the 50 foot concrete cross had been erected by local donations at a cost of 3.5 million Kyats. After its destruction troops of the Light Infantry Battalion 304 hoisted a Burmese flag. There are reports that the regime plans to build a pagoda on Mt. Boi.
Burmese political activists and human rights lawyers remain incarcerated. On October 6, 1994, San San Nwe was arrested with her daughter, and found guilty of ‘publishing information harmful to the state’ with a view to ‘fomenting disorder’. She received a 7-year sentence, the maximum provided by emergency law, and a further 3 years for ‘giving biased viewpoints’ to French journalists in April 1993. She was also accused of providing information about the human rights situation to the UN Special Rapporteur for Burma.
In March of 2005, the UN special envoy to Burma, Mr. Razali Ismail, resigned, explaining that trying to talk to the SPDC and Than Shwe was like trying to reason with the American mass-murderer, Charles Manson, as one got nowhere.
“CRPP issued a statement on 30th September 2005… that SLORC and SPDC have repeatedly refused to implement or abide by the resolutions of the General Assembly of the United Nations… they have put a stop to all contact or cooperation with the special UN representative. Beside this deliberate flouting and ignoring process, they are planning to go ahead with implementing their … one-sided agenda. The country's future will be very bleak and hazardous… Political, economic, and social and other problems cannot be ever solved by a one-sided and inequitable agenda. Therefore, all political parties (including the ethnic nationalities), the democratic forces, all other organizations, the monks, students and the masses hereby urge the United Nations Security Council to intervene and take appropriate action to bring an end to the many hardships and the plight of the citizens of Burma.”
The CRPP also asked nations of the UN Security Council to act upon the report submitted by Czech ex-President, Vaclav Havel, and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Desmond Tutu, requesting an end to objections, obstacles and vetoes, towards a peaceful resolution for the people of Burma. However, the humanitarian crisis prevails in the Karen, Karenni and Shan states and other ethnic areas. Burma features more than 1 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) as well as 250,000 refugees forced to leave their homes with what they might carry. Some are relocated to camps where their freedom is severely restricted amid brutal treatment. Livestock is normally confiscated, villages burned to the ground, and landmines sewn to discourage people’s return. Villagers without the option of internment at a concentration site as attacked by the army, the people killed or chased into the jungle.
The regime states that it aims to crush all resistance and ‘punish’ ethnic groups. More than 200,000 from the Karen State now hide along the Thai border, in need of medical care, clothing, school supplies, moral encouragement and spiritual support. Ethnic teams of medics, teachers and church workers have responded, delivering rice, medicines and supplies, regardless of recipients’ ethnicity, religion or political affiliations. More help is needed. Fugitives fear discovery by the army or accusations of contact with outside supporters. The atmosphere of fear owes to past Burmese military actions that have destroyed property as well as the rape, torture and murder of villagers. Where villages survive, residents live under constant surveillance, subject to forced labor and random punishment.
“No transition process is worthy of the name as long as fundamental freedoms of assembly, expression and association are denied; voices advocating democratic reform are silenced; elected representatives are imprisoned; and human rights defenders are criminalized. No progress will be made towards national reconciliation as long as key political representatives are being locked behind bars, their constituents subject to grave and systematic human rights abuses and their political concerns disregarded.” - UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma, Report.
Who is a Political Prisoner?
The KHRG (Karen Human Rights Group) notes how the NLD makes little mention of political prisoners, beyond its own membership, towards human rights summaries that refer to 1100 political prisoners -- in educated, urban persons who are almost exclusively Burmans. Foreign governments tend to accept even narrower assessments of political detentions in Burma when, in truth, there are more than 25,000 political prisoners in farmers, day labourers and others imprisoned under Article 17.1 -- contact with illegal organizations, or Article 17.2 -- rising against the state, although these need not apply, at all, to the circumstances under which ordinary citizens are imprisoned. These mainly rural and ordinary Burmese cities are not seen as political prisoners. No one writes on their behalf or acknowledges their existence, though their treatment is far worse than that of higher profile prisoners. Many of these ‘invisibles’ have been summarily executed, part of a rationale of killing one and frightening a thousand much used by the SPDC.
Is a Chin farmer hauled off to an SPDC Army camp, falsely accused of supplying rice for the Chin National Front, not a political prisoner? Is he not a political prisoner when tied up, beaten, slashed with knives, and held down as a gallon of water is poured in his nose, then locked in medieval leg stocks or a pit in the ground, for weeks? When a Karen woman’s husband flees to the forest to avoid forced portering, she is arrested, raped and detained at an Army camp till her “rebel” husband gives himself up for torture and execution. Is the Karen woman not a political prisoner, given the reason for her arrest? According to the SPDC, such persons are not prisoners of conscience and the NLD and international human rights groups exclude them from discussions of political imprisonment, as many more thousands of ethnic citizens undergo not just detention but heinous abuse. The Karen Human Rights Group asserts that the SPDC will hide evidence, just as the NLD continues to neglect mention of ethnic prisoners.
The Role of International Communities
Of course, a regime genuinely pursuing a transition of power would concede the problem and take steps to remedy it, ceasing military sweeps in ethnic areas, just as such a regime would cease burning villages, murdering innocent civilians, and would crack down on incidents of rape and torture. As the international community focuses on DASSK’s house arrest, the SPDC has launched a new offensive in remote areas, to levels of troop movement unseen for almost 10 years. Cross-border aid from surrounding democracies has been blocked by severing supply channels, as Burma’s neighbours have been accused by the SPDC of ‘meddling’ in domestic affairs. Governments are urged to put an end to cross-border humanitarian aid. In view of these developments, the human rights situation seems bound to worsen despite expressions of optimism to do with the NLD Offer. It seems rather obvious that including the SPDC in an interim government involving DASSK, towards democratization, will not benefit Burma’s significant minorities. Workable reform must involve Burma’s ethnic minorities who are certainly entitled to know what deals are being made to shape their future, by a proposed consortium of Burmese military and democratic politicos.
The Role of Citizens and People’s Power
Daw Aung San Su Kyi clearly stated in her speech about NLD policy after the 1990 election ignored by the generals, “we will never give up. The results of the 1990 General Elections must be implemented; a resolution already taken by the United Nations. We already know that the General Assembly of the United Nations has accepted the notion that the will of the people has been expressed in the 1990 General Elections. This is something we can not abandon. It will be to the detriment of our country if after an election has been held, the results are not honoured and we do not resist attempts to trivialize it.”
Burma must establish a political and economic system of benefit to all communities if it is to meet the challenges of Globalization. All citizens must engage in ending the country’s civil war of 6 decades in a manner that does not prompt ethnic groups to break away from the union. A society is rather like a family, and none of us wish to live with abusive family members. SPDC isolationism, wishing to be left alone by the international community, will not be productive in globalization’s competitive environment, as it produces new sources of domestic strife and cross-border instability. An end must be brought to political violence within Burma, and this will require an international role, of some kind.
The Burmese public needs to better understand the ‘open’ political systems of other countries to promote ethnic harmony, acquiring knowledge of participation, rather than relying on a single leader or party. Corruption can be offset by institutions and procedures that help to pre-empt corruption. In all of these regards, Canada offers promising lessons, in a universal charter of rights and freedoms, official multiculturalism, efforts to instill ‘anti-racism’, atop a workable system of confederation that has linked a group of once contrasting colonies, since 1867. Canada has valued citizens of all cultures and languages, towards a unique variety of integration. In this illumination, Burma requires a federal union that can correct the junta’s longstanding propaganda and manipulation of so called separatism, and a political and civic culture that does not see corruption as an excusable, natural feature of government. Rather than fear or apathy, the Burmese public needs to know the capabilities of an open democratic system, as Daw Su Su Nwe demonstrated the path of challenging against SPDC justice system. In Canada, the former Ontario premier, Mike Harris, having to defend his role in the death of Dudley George, an Indian leader at Ipperwash Park. Similarly, the former Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien, had to testify concerning the 2005 sponsorship scandal. These phenomena would be seen as scarcely possible in Burma.
(The author, Mahn Kyaw, is a Canada- based human rights activist who studies anti-racist multiculturalism and Canada’s model of confederation. Megan S. Mills is a Toronto researcher long interested in subjects Asian – and Burmese.)
The Secret War Against The Defenseless People Of West Papua
By John Pilger
The New Statesman: 10 March, 2006
In 1993, I and four others traveled clandestinely across East Timor to gather evidence of the genocide committed by the Indonesian dictatorship. Such was the depth of silence about this tiny country that the only map I could find before I set out was one with blank spaces stamped "Relief Data Incomplete." Yet few places had been as defiled and abused by murderous forces. Not even Pol Pot had succeeded in dispatching, proportionally, as many people as the Indonesian tyrant Suharto had done in collusion with the "international community."
In East Timor, I found a country littered with graves, their black crosses crowding the eye: crosses on peaks, crosses in tiers on the hillsides, crosses beside the road. They announced the murder of entire communities, from babies to the elderly. In 2000, when the East Timorese, displaying a collective act of courage with few historical parallels, finally won their freedom, the United Nations set up a truth commission; on 24 January, its 2,500 pages were published. I have never read anything like it. Using mostly official documents, it recounts in painful detail the entire disgrace of East Timor's blood sacrifice. It says that 180,000 East Timorese were killed by Indonesian troops or died from enforced starvation. It describes the "primary roles" in this carnage of the governments of the United States, Britain and Australia. America's "political and military support were fundamental" in crimes that ranged from "mass executions to forced resettlements, sexual and other horrific forms of torture as well as abuse against children." Britain, a co-conspirator in the invasion, was the main arms supplier. If you want to see through the smokescreen currently around Iraq, and understand true terrorism, read this document.
As I read it, my mind went back to the letters Foreign Office officials wrote to concerned members of the public and MPs following the showing of my film Death of a Nation. Knowing the truth, they denied that British-supplied Hawk jets were blowing straw-roofed villages to bits and that British-supplied Heckler and Koch machine guns were finishing off the occupants. They even lied about the scale of suffering.
And it is all happening again, wrapped in the same silence and with the "international community" playing the same part as backer and beneficiary of the crushing of a defenseless people. Indonesia's brutal occupation of West Papua, a vast, resource-rich province -- stolen from its people, like East Timor -- is one of the great secrets of our time. Recently, the Australian minister of "communications", Senator Helen Coonan, failed to place it on the map of her own region, as if it did not exist.
An estimated 100,000 Papuans, or 10 percent of the population, have been killed by the Indonesian military. This is a fraction of the true figure, according to refugees. In January, 43 West Papuans reached Australia's north coast after a hazardous six-week journey in a dugout. They had no food, and had dribbled their last fresh water into their children's mouths. "We knew," said Herman Wainggai, the leader, "that if the Indonesian military had caught us, most of us would have died. They treat West Papuans like animals. They kill us like animals. They have created militias and jihadis to do just that. It is the same as East Timor."
For over a year, an estimated 6,000 people have been hiding in dense jungle after their villages and crops were destroyed by Indonesian special forces. Raising the West Papuan flag is "treason". Two men are serving 15 and ten-year sentences for merely trying. Following an attack on one village, a man was presented as an "example" and petrol poured over him and his hair set alight.
When the Netherlands gave Indonesia its independence in 1949, it argued that West Papua was a separate geographic and ethnic entity with a distinctive national character. A report published last November by the Institute of Netherlands History in The Hague revealed that the Dutch had secretly recognized the "unmistakable beginning of the formation of a Papuan state", but were bullied by the administration of John F Kennedy to accept "temporary" Indonesian control over what a White House adviser called "a few thousand miles of cannibal land".
The West Papuans were conned. The Dutch, Americans, British and Australians backed an "Act of Free Choice" ostensibly run by the UN. The movements of a UN monitoring team of 25 were restricted by the Indonesian military and they were denied interpreters. In 1969, out of a population of 800,000, some 1,000 West Papuans "voted". All were selected by the Indonesians.
At gunpoint, they "agreed" to remain under the rule of General Suharto -- who had seized power in 1965 in what the CIA later described as "one of the worst mass murders of the late 20th century." In 1981, the Tribunal on Human Rights in West Papua, held in exile, heard from Eliezer Bonay, Indonesia's first governor of the province, that approximately 30,000 West Papuans had been murdered during 1963-69. Little of this was reported in the west.
The silence of the "international community" is explained by the fabulous wealth of West Papua. In November 1967, soon after Suharto had consolidated his seizure of power, the Time-Life Corporation sponsored an extraordinary conference in Geneva. The participants included the most powerful capitalists in the world, led by the banker David Rockefeller. Sitting opposite them were Suharto's men, known as the "Berkeley mafia," as several had enjoyed US government scholarships to the University of California at Berkeley. Over three days, the Indonesian economy was carved up, sector by sector. An American and European consortium was handed West Papua's nickel; American, Japanese and French companies got its forests. However, the prize -- the world's largest gold reserve and third-largest copper deposit, literally a mountain of copper and gold -- went to the US mining giant Freeport-McMoran. On the board is Henry Kissinger, who, as US secretary of state, gave the "green light" to Suharto to invade East Timor, says the Dutch report.
Freeport is today probably the biggest single source of revenue for the Indonesian regime: the company is said to have handed Jakarta 33 billion dollars between 1992 and 2004. Little of this has reached the people of West Papua. Last December 55 people reportedly starved to death in the district of Yahukimo. The Jakarta Post noted the "horrible irony" of hunger in such an "immensely rich" province. According to the World Bank, "38 per cent of Papua's population is living in poverty, more than double the national average."
The Freeport mines are guarded by Indonesia's special forces, who are among the world's most seasoned terrorists, as their documented crimes in East Timor demonstrate. Known as Kopassus, they have been armed by the British and trained by the Australians. Last December, the Howard government in Canberra announced that it would resume "co-operation" with Kopassus at the Australian SAS base near Perth. In an inversion of the truth, the then Australian defense minister, Senator Robert Hill, described Kopassus as having "the most effective capability to respond to a counter-hijack or hostage recovery threat." The files of human-rights organizations overflow with evidence of Kopassus's terrorism. On 6 July 1998, on the West Papuan island of Biak, just north of Australia, special forces massacred more than 100 people, most of them women.
However, the Indonesian military has not been able to crush the popular Free Papua Movement (OPM). Since 1965, almost alone, the OPM has reminded the Indonesians, often audaciously, that they are invaders. In the past two months, the resistance has caused the Indonesians to rush more troops to West Papua. Two British-supplied Tactica armoured personnel carriers fitted with water cannon have arrived from Jakarta. These were first delivered during the late Robin Cook's "ethical dimension" in foreign policy. Hawk fighter-bombers, made by BAE Systems, have been used against West Papuan villages.
The fate of the 43 asylum-seekers in Australia is precarious. In contravention of international law, the Howard government has moved them from the mainland to Christmas Island, which is part of an Australian "exclusion zone" for refugees. We should watch carefully what happens to these people. If the history of human rights is not the history of great power's impunity, the UN must return to West Papua, as it did finally to East Timor.
Or do we always have to wait for the crosses to multiply?
* For information on how to help, visit: www.freewestpapua.org.
John Pilger is an internationally renowned investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker. His newest book, Freedom Next Time, will be published in June by Bantam Press. Visit John Pilger's website: www.johnpilger.com. Thanks to Michelle Hunt at Granada Media.
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