Jul 7th, 2012
AFP – 20 student leaders arrested in Myanmar: activist
AFP – 10 aid workers held in Myanmar: UN
Reuters – Myanmar detains Thai villagers in unclear border area
IRIN – Coaxing farmers to grow tea, not opium
Bangkok Post – Japan assistance sought for Dawei
Bangkok Post – Thais detained in Myanmar ‘to be freed soon’
The Nation – Govt seeks release of more than 80 Thais captured in Myanmar
CNN – Will vice president’s exit boost Myanmar’s reform efforts?
Sin Chew Jit Poh – Myanmar, US agree to re-establish diplomatic relations at ambassadorial level
UPI – Myanmar army approaches Indian militants
20 student leaders arrested in Myanmar: activist
AFP – 3 hrs ago
At least 20 student leaders were detained in Myanmar Saturday, ahead of a rally to commemorate a 1962 suppression of a student movement, an activist said, in the biggest crackdown of its kind since the dissolution of the junta.
The detentions raise questions about the true extent of Myanmar’s reforms since it dropped outright military rule last year in favour of a quasi-civilian government led by reformist president Thein Sein.
Five student leaders were held in Yangon and others were taken in for questioning by police in three other locations across the country, according to an activist.
“Apart from those five arrested in Yangon… five student activists (were arrested) in Shwebo, six in Mandalay, four in Lashio,” Thet Zaw, one of the leaders of a student uprising in 1988 that was brutally suppressed, told AFP.
Kyo Kyo Gyi, another veteran of that uprising — known as Generation ‘88 — said the five held in Yangon were “taken for no reason”, adding that “the authorities said they wanted to talk with them”.
Saturday’s anniversary of the bloody 1962 crackdown on students protesting against military rule in Yangon University was expected to draw veteran activists as well as younger pro-democracy supporters.
The day after the crackdown (July the student union building was destroyed with dynamite by the junta while some injured students were hiding were still inside.
Ceremonies to remember the event were low key under the junta for fear of provoking the army, but plans were underway to hold a wider event on Saturday at the Generation ‘88 office.
Myanmar has undergone a series of reforms since Thein Sein took over from a military-ruled government, including the release of hundreds of political prisoners and elections which propelled dozens of opposition party members to parliament.
The international community has responded by dropping some sanctions and pledging support for Myanmar’s fledgling democracy.
Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has urged caution over the reforms, despite their fast pace, also calling on the reform-minded government to release those still in custody from the junta era.
Lawmakers from her National League for Democracy party are currently in Naypyidaw, the capital city, attending a parliamentary session as they move from the role of dissidents to the heart of political decision making.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who returned last week from a triumphant tour of Europe, is due to join the session on Monday.
Thein Sein has repeatedly warned of obstacles to democratic progress, but has focused on ethnic conflicts and the recent deadly communal violence in western Rakhine state.
10 aid workers held in Myanmar: UN
AFP – 9 hrs ago
Ten aid workers including some UN staff have been detained in western Myanmar in the wake of deadly communal unrest, the body said Friday, as rights groups warned of mass detentions of Muslims in the restive area.
In a bulletin on the situation in violence-wracked Rakhine state, the UN said humanitarian staff have been held for “questioning” — adding that Myanmar’s government has failed to respond to queries about those detained.
More than 80 people were killed in a wave of communal violence between ethnic Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya which swept the state in June, forcing tens of thousands to flee as homes were torched and communities ripped apart.
“At the moment, some 10 UN and INGO (international non-government organisation) staff are kept in custody by the authorities of Rakhine state for questioning,” said a statement from the United nation’s humanitarian agency, OCHA.
The UN “has reported to government the situation on several occasions and has requested the government for information about each detained staff member.”
Six local staff from Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) were among those held, MSF confirmed in a statement to AFP on Friday, although one has since been released.
“We do not have full information on the reasons,” MSF said. The medical charity temporarily suspended activities and reduced staff last month in its Rakhine state projects.
Although security forces have quelled the worst of the unrest, tens of thousands of people remain in government-run relief camps with the UN’s World Food Programme reporting that it has provided food to some 100,000 people.
Ten Muslims were killed on June 3 by a Buddhist mob seeking revenge for the rape and murder of a local woman — the apparent spark for the unrest.
Both sides have accused each other of violent attacks.
A state of emergency is still in force over several areas and Human Rights Watch on Friday alleged some within Myanmar’s security forces have carried out “mass round-ups” and other abuses on Muslim communities.
“While the Burmese army has largely contained the sectarian violence, abuses by security forces against Rohingya communities appear to be on the upsurge in recent weeks,” HRW said using Myanmar’s colonial-era name.
“The mass arrests ongoing in northern Arakan (Rakhine) state seem to be discriminatory, as the authorities in these townships do not appear to be investigating or apprehending Arakan suspected of criminal offences.”
Decades of discrimination have left the Muslim Rohingya stateless and viewed by the United Nations as among the most persecuted minorities on the planet.
Myanmar detains Thai villagers in unclear border area
Reuters – 10 hrs ago
BANGKOK (Reuters) – Myanmar’s army has detained 75 Thai villagers suspected of encroaching on Myanmar soil in an area where the border is not properly demarcated, a Thai deputy prime minister said on Friday.
The villagers were rounded up by Myanmar soldiers on Wednesday night from land by Kra Buri district in Ranong province, 570 km (350 miles) southwest of the Thai capital, Bangkok, Yutthasak Sasiprapa told a news conference.
“We are in discussions with Myanmar to find a way out of this situation. Thai army officials in the area and our Foreign Affairs Ministry are negotiating with counterparts in Myanmar,” he said.
The ministry said in a statement 50 villagers were being held.
The villagers may have trespassed onto Myanmar soil, with some even establishing rubber plantations on what could be the wrong side of the border, Yutthasak said, adding the Thai army was under orders to stop villagers crossing illegally into Myanmar.
Thanit Kumthorn, the district chief of Kra Buri, told Reuters by telephone he understood the villagers had not been harmed and were being properly taken care of. He had not heard any reports of deaths during the incident.
There are believed to be several parts of the long and largely unmarked border that could be disputed but both Thailand and Myanmar will be keen to avoid arguments and focus on cooperation as Myanmar opens up after decades of insular military rule.
Coaxing farmers to grow tea, not opium
BANGKOK, 6 July 2012 (IRIN) – Before opium, green tea was the cash crop of choice in Myanmar, and donors have tried for years to convince farmers to grow tea and other crops again. But these are less lucrative than opium poppies, the country’s highest-earning crop, and few growers have been persuaded.
“There are many challenges in persuading farmers to abandon poppy cultivation,” said Brian Agland, country director of Care International in Myanmar, an NGO that has worked with poppy growers since 2005.
Poppy seeds contain the crudest form of opium and bring in nine to 15 times more money per hectare than rice, says the most recent opium survey by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
When Care International started working with farmers in the northern Wa and Kokang special regions, it found that the poor soil and scant water for irrigation on the high slopes were sufficient for opium poppies, but little else, said Agland.
“In the early stages we faced many difficulties experimenting with agricultural crops in these remote harsher conditions. Rice and maize and tea are more labour intensive than poppies, and require expensive inputs such as fertilizers to cultivate and access to nearby markets.”
For the past decade, UNODC has tried to do the same with farmers in northeastern Shan State, who are responsible for 91 percent of Myanmar’s opium production.
The opium trade has long fuelled conflict in Myanmar, with armed groups cashing in on opium as their main source of income. Local media have reported continued clashes in parts of Shan State as recently as late June 2012, despite a ceasefire agreed in December 2011 between the government and one of the main armed groups.
Shan villagers told international media earlier in 2012 that they had lost money growing garlic, sugar and plants used in local cigarettes because there were fewer buyers and lower prices.
With support from the European Union and the Swiss and Norwegian governments, Care International instead tried tea. Agland noted that before the introduction of poppy seeds, tea had been the main cash crop in Wa and Kokang special regions for hundreds of years.
“Poppy farmers, like most farmers, are interested in the profit margin. In the opium industry, poppy farmers are at the bottom of the value-chain and sell their raw product at a low price to middlemen, who produce the opium and make most of the money.”
Persuading farmers that the long-term profits from non-poppy crops can bring in more cash than short-term poppy harvests is often the key to change. But there is little assurance farmers will not grow it again if they do not have access to loans, roads, technology, and markets, Jason Eligh, UNODC’s country manager in Myanmar, told IRIN in 2011.
For Care International, this meant combining “longer-term interventions with short-term activities such as food-for-work, income generation activities such as pig and chicken raising, home gardens, construction of rural roads, and school building”, said Agland. The NGO is preparing to start helping farmers export their tea.
Opium poppy cultivation in Myanmar increased by 14 percent in 2011, with an estimated US$275 million being paid to farmers, making it the world’s second largest opium poppy producer after Afghanistan.
Bangkok Post – Japan assistance sought for Dawei
Ital-Thai insists Max Myanmar still a partner
Published: 7/07/2012 at 03:36 AM
Newspaper section: Business
Italian-Thai Development Plc (ITD) expects to get soft loans from Japan to finance up to 75% of the US$8.6 billion required for infrastructure development at its Dawei project in Myanmar.
Premchai Karnasuta, Ital-Thai’s president, is scheduled to visit Japan from July 16-17 and hopes to clinch financial support for the Dawei project from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
Ital-Thai’s Dawei Development Co (DDC) has been in talks with Japanese investors who have expressed keen interest in co-investing in infrastructure projects at Dawei such as the road from the Thai-Myanmar border to Dawei, said Somchet Thinaphong, DDC’s managing director.
“Japan has an infrastructure fund. We expect to get soft loans from the fund at very low interest rates,” Dr Somchet said on the sidelines of a seminar about Myanmar hosted by Krung Thai Bank.
He said the company plans to raise 75% of the total infrastructure cost in yen, with the rest a mixture of baht and US-dollar loans.
The Dawei Special Economic Zone, which is being developed under a 75-year concession from the Myanmar government, once again came into the spotlight after Max Myanmar, which owns 25% of DDC, announced its intention to pull out of the venture gradually.
The withdrawal raised questions about the viability of the project, but Dr Somchet yesterday pointed out that Max Myanmar remains DDC’s partner and said there are no politics behind the move.
Max Myanmar, which is owned by Zaw Zaw, a Myanmar entrepreneur, is a private company with investments in property, agriculture, trading and jewellery.
“Max Myanmar does not want to inject more money into DDC through a capital increase in the future. Consequently, the company will see its ownership diluted from the current 25%,” said Dr Somchet, adding that DDC’s registered capital of $1 billion is not fully paid up.
He said DDC has been in talks with four or five potential local partners.
The first phase of Dawei’s deep-sea port is scheduled to be operational in 2016.
Winston Set Aung, an economic adviser to Myanmar’s president, said given the problems with fundraising and joint investment partners, the start of the Dawei project will be delayed from original schedule.
He reaffirmed the Myanmar government fully supports the massive project.
The governments of both countries should have discussions to finalise the project’s structure – state holdings might be one of the options, said Mr Set Aung.
“Technical problems faced by the project and the structural changes required will cause delays at the start, but it will be implemented on time,” he said.
Apart from Dawei, there are two other special economic zones in Myanmar including Thilawa.
Given the fact that infrastructure is already in place, Thilawa will be much faster realised than Dawei, said Mr Set Aung.
Thinn Htut Thidar, a former deputy director of Myanmar’s International Trade Promotion Department, said challenges remain for companies entering the country such as the level of education and the mismatch of labour skills and job descriptions.
Kittinan Kunapermsiri, the regional marketing director at Boonrawd Trading, warned that Thai companies should make sure they understand the Myanmar market before entering it.
Items such as water are listed in the limited import category but are in fact still prohibited, he said.
Boonrawd has nevertheless been able to export beer and soda water to Myanmar.
It is important to know the market and the actual procedures there, Mr Kittinan noted, adding that political stability remains a concern.
Mr Set Aung said the elected government is working on the reform of three sectors – telecommunications, electricity and finance – in order to allow private participation.
The reforms serve Myanmar’s needs by creating employment and reducing poverty.
Labour-intensive industries are acceptable under this strategy, but a sustainable approach must be taken, said Mr Set Aung.
ITD shares closed yesterday on the Stock Exchange of Thailand at 3.08 baht, down two satang, in trade worth 37.7 million baht.
Bangkok Post – Thais detained in Myanmar ‘to be freed soon’
Unknown number held on encroachment rap
Published: 7/07/2012 at 03:40 AM
Newspaper section: News
The army says a number of Thai nationals arrested and detained in Myanmar on charges of encroachment opposite Ranong’s Kra Buri district will be freed soon .
Fourth Army commander Lt Gen Udomchai Thamsarorach yesterday said Thailand and Myanmar were coordinating the release of the detained Thais.
Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha had ordered the 4th Army, which oversees the country’s southern regions, to accelerate the coordination process, Lt Gen Udomchai said.
An unconfirmed number of Thais from Ban Inthaninkwan in Kra Buri were arrested on Wednesday by Myanmar forces after allegedly encroaching on more than 6,000 rai of Myanmar territory.
Lt Gen Udomchai the number of Thais detained was not as high as the 50 to 70 reported by the Foreign Ministry yesterday.
He said the actual figure was closer to 30. However, he said he did not yet know the exact number.
There was also an unconfirmed report yesterday that a number of Thai villagers had fought back against the raid by the Myanmar troops on Wednesday and 10 of them had died in the clash.
However, Defence Minister ACM Sukumpol Suwanatat said no Thais were killed or injured during the raid on Wednesday.
He said the Thai military has already discussed the matter with Myanmar and the Myanmar army agreed to launch a probe into the reported raid.
Deputy Prime Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa, who oversees security affairs, said all of the detained Thais were safe and none of them had yet been charged. Gen Yutthasak said relations between Thai and
Myanmar soldiers were good and both sides could always coordinate through the Thai-Myanmar Border Committee and the Regional Border Committee mechanisms.
The army has an assistant military attache to Myanmar inquiring with his Myanmar counterpart about the incident and trying to help bring the Thai detainees back home, Gen Yutthasak said.
Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said he had been told that the arrested Thais had been persuaded by a broker to work in rubber plantations in vacant areas in Myanmar without asking for permission from the Myanmar government.
Mr Surapong said the Foreign Ministry has assigned officials from the Department of the Treaties and Legal Affairs to oversee the case.
Meanwhile, two more Thais who escaped the raid gave their accounts of the incident upon arriving back in Thailand yesterday.
A 43-year-old man from Surat Thani’s Phunphin district who preferred to be identified only as Sukhum said he was at his rubber plantation at the time the Myanmar troops raided the village where the Thais were staying.
After hearing three gunshots he rushed home and saw five Myanmar soldiers there.
He said he then ran away up a hill and travelled on foot to the nearest Thai military outpost over the course of one full day.
Some of his fellow villagers tried to flee in a pickup truck but the Myanmar soldiers shot out its tyres to bring them to a halt, Mr Sukhum said.
A 28-year-old woman who asked to be identified only as Noi said she sneaked out with a neighbour through the back of her plantation when the raid took place.
She said she had some minor injuries as a result of running through the jungle.
The first three escapees arrived in Thailand on Thursday.
The Nation – Govt seeks release of more than 80 Thais captured in Myanmar
July 7, 2012 1:00 am
Officials in Ranong province are seeking to negotiate the release of more than 80 Thai nationals caught by Myanmar authorities on Wednesday for encroaching into their land.
The first round of talks between the two military units, held yesterday afternoon via two-way radio, failed, turning the issue into a bilateral one.
News reports did not cite any reasons behind this failure other than that the matter is snowballing bilaterally. Thai authorities have been trying to talk their Myanmar counterparts into relocating the detainees to an area closer to the border, but have not received any replies yet.
Rations have been made available by the Kra Buri district office and were delivered to the detainees yesterday evening.
Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul said the detainees had been duped into planting rubber trees in a large plot of land and settling there by an unnamed person, who allegedly said that he had sought permission from Myanmar authorities. Surapong said the prisoners were safe and they should not be detained for much longer.
A number of ministry officials have been dispatched to Ranong to coordinate with Myanmar officials and help take care of the detainees’ welfare, he added.
Commander of Fourth Army Area, Lt-General Udomchai Thammasaroj, said a senior Myanmar military commander would meet his Thai counterpart today to discuss the issue and find a solution.
Deputy Prime Minister General Yuthasak Sasiprapha said this issue had not affected bilateral ties and that Myanmar President Thein Sein would still visit Thailand on July 22-24 as scheduled.
Authorities believe that hundreds of Thai nationals are either stranded or hiding on the other side of the border after Myanmar officials cracked down on alleged encroachers on Wednesday afternoon.
Officials and Thai nationals, who have fled home, said more than 300 Thai families have cleared forests and set up a community in the area between the Thai-Myanmar border across from Ranong’s Kra Buri district. They also said that about 800 Thai nationals were in hiding after the crackdown.
Colonel Pornsak Poolsawat, commander of the 25th Infantry Regiment’s Taskforce, said Thai authorities were still waiting for a chance to negotiate the release of the detainees.
Ranong Deputy Governor Patthawee Paratkhajariya said Pornsak, who chairs the joint Thai-Myanmar Border Committee, was prepared to hold talks and was hoping to have the detainees released as soon as possble.
He said the Kra Buri district chief had been instructed to have a medical team on standby in case Thai nationals get wounded while trying to flee back home across the border.
Will vice president’s exit boost Myanmar’s reform efforts?
By Vanessa Ko, for CNN
updated 3:06 AM EDT, Fri July 6, 2012
Hong Kong (CNN) — The resignation of Myanmar’s first vice president could pave the way for the introduction of more reformers into President Thein Sein’s government, experts say.
The departure of Tin Aung Myint Oo was announced by the government on Wednesday. An official statement said he was in Singapore receiving treatment for a medical condition.
A former general with close ties to Myanmar’s retired dictator, Than Shwe, Tin has long been viewed by observers as a hardliner who did not agree with the president’s reform agenda — and the vacated cabinet spot presents an opportunity for a change of direction.
“A lot of people are hoping that the president will have time to choose a more moderate vice president, perhaps one who sees eye to eye with him to move the reform process forward,” said Aung Zaw, the editor of Thailand-based Irrawaddy magazine, which covers Myanmar news.
In April, Britain’s Financial Times reported that several conservative leaders in Myanmar — including the vice president — were in danger of being replaced.
Thein Sein has been praised for the country’s dramatic changes over the past year, most notably with elections that introduced pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of her party to Parliament. But Myanmar watchers lament the slow pace of change, which some attribute to the administration’s conservative faction, led by Tin.
With his resignation, observers believe a cabinet reshuffle could increase the pace of reform, especially long-awaited economic legislation, following a recent suspension of sanctions against Myanmar by the United States and the European Union.
The Foreign Investment Law is meant to encourage overseas businesses to invest in the country by protecting their legal rights. The finalization of the law, however, has met with an unexplained delay.
Aung Zaw said the current administration as ineffective, filled with people who do not work well together or talk to each other, and are resistant to change. If Thein Sein does not remove a few such ministers from his government, he said, the president risks undoing the progress that has been made so far.
Yet it is not wholly up to the president to fill the empty seat — far from it. According to Myanmar law, the new vice president will again be a member of the armed forces, nominated by the Parliament’s military members.
Even so, the armed forces’ nomination will likely be a joint decision along with the rest of Parliament and the president.
“There will be a lot of pre-dialogue and discussions; there are already ongoing discussions,” he said. “I think they already have chosen a person, but the final decision hasn’t come out yet because it’s quite secretive at the moment.
“Governments who watch Burma carefully, I think, will be quietly relieved that the vice president is gone,” he added, using the other name for Myanmar.
Sin Chew Jit Poh – Myanmar, US agree to re-establish diplomatic relations at ambassadorial level
YANGON, July 6 (Xinhua) — The Myanmar civilian government has agreed to the appointment of Derek J Mitchell by the United States government as its Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the country, official media reported Friday.
Myanmar’s acceptance of the appointment of Mitchell, who has been serving as U.S. Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Myanmar, signified the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries at ambassadorial level.
Mitchell will be the first ambassador of the U.S. to Myanmar in 22 years following the country’s historic election in April.
This move is said to be made in recognition of the reform pursued by the Southeast Asian nation.
Mitchell last visited Myanmar in May on his fifth mission.
During the month, Myanmar Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin also met U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington and sought progress in easing U.S. economic sanctions.
Relations between Myanmar and the U.S. have improved following Clinton’s visit to Myanmar in December last year. More visits were successively made by Derek Mitchell, Senator Mitch McConnell and Senator John MaCain in January this year, meeting with Myanmar’s new government leadership and seeking grounds for normalization of the two countries’ diplomatic relations which were stranded for over two decades.
In the latest development, the U.S. Treasury has relaxed some sanctions on Myanmar, allowing financial transactions to support the country’s humanitarian and development projects.
Telegraph(India) – Myanmar picks rebel thorn with NSCN
By Nishit Dholabhai | www.telegraphindia.com – 16 hours ago
New Delhi, July 5: Myanmar has agreed to ask the NSCN (Khaplang) to reduce strength of the Meitei militants to one-third of their current strength.
This could be seen as a move to moderate Myanmar’s failure to push out Manipur-based insurgents out of the country.
The agreement was reached at a meeting of Union ministry of home affairs officials with a nine-member Myanmar delegation in Calcutta on June 26 and 27, sources told The Telegraph.
Another commitment of this decision was made to Indian officials in Myanmar on Wednesday, the source added.
There are at least 3,500 Meitei militants in different camps across Kachin, Sagaing and Chin areas of Myanmar.
India is trying to help the newly democratised Myanmar regime to co-operate on the ground with its forces.
“The cadre strength of Meitei groups will be reduced to one-third by Myanmar,” a government source said.
This would be effected through the NSCN, led by S.S. Khaplang, who mentored several Meitei groups from Manipur for many years without much opposition from the state.
However, a day before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Yangon and Naypyidaw on May 28, the Myanmar government directed Khaplang to ask Manipur-based groups to get out of the country by June 10.
As the Myanmar government geared to flush out insurgents, the Centre has beefed up security in Manipur along the border areas.
The NSCN entered in a peace pact with the Myanmar government in early May. But the pact did not have any impact on the Manipur-based militant groups and they continued to remain entrenched in the camps.
Meitei militant groups are believed to be friends with senior Myanmar army officials and have been able to ward off any plans of offensive action against them.
Indian officials said “two things cannot co-exist” ‘ the privilege of a ceasefire offered to NSCN by Myanmar and the militant group’s continued support to Meitei groups.
Intelligence sources said there was evidence that information about planning offensives were “leaked to militants” in the nick of time. “We have shared a list of 54 camps of the Meitei groups with Myanmar,” said a source.
The Myanmar delegation was led by its director-general (general administration).
“Many of them are believed to have shifted base to other places,” said the official. Besides 54 major camps, the militants have also set up temporary camps that are mobile.
In May, Myanmar President Thein Sein’s message was conveyed to rebel groups like PLA, UNLF and Prepak through Khaplang but the militants simply shifted bases to other areas, including the Chin hills. This time round, the pressure is mounted by New Delhi.
Sein’s directives were in line with what both leaders buttressed later in the joint statement.
“Both leaders reiterated the assurance that territories of either country would not be allowed to be used for activities inimical to the other, including for training, sanctuary and other operations by terrorist and insurgent organisations and their operatives,” the joint statement of May 28 said.
A liaison office will be operationalised by Myanmar in the border town of Panhsaun in Myanmar by October, a source said.
Myanmar army approaches Indian militants
Published: July 6, 2012 at 2:01 PM
GUWAHATI, India, July 6 (UPI) — Myanmar army units are deploying in areas where Indian militant groups are based, but no army operations have yet been launched against the Indian guerrillas.
The hard-line faction of the India’s United Liberation Front of Asom has its mobile military headquarters in Myanmar, the Assam Tribune reported Thursday.
Following the recent visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Myanmar, the government gave him assurances it would take action against the militant groups taking shelter there, and sources speaking on condition of anonymity said the Myanmar army had asked the militants to move out of the area.
As Myanmar slowly emerges from decades of diplomatic isolation to its previous domination by a military junta, India is increasingly seen as a valuable partner in integrating the country into the global community.
Sources stated that ULFA chief Paresh Baruah has not visited the organization’s camps in the Taga area of Myanmar for some time and that he is currently in Ruilie on Myanmar-China border.
July 06, 2012
More than a month after violence broke out between Muslims and Buddhists in the western Myanmar state of Rakhine, there are no signs of a restoration of order even though the Myanmar government has declared a state of emergency in the region.
According to the United Nations, about 90,000 people who have lost their homes are in need of support from the international community.
The violence erupted after an incident on May 28 in a village in the central part of Rakhine state. Three Muslim members of the Rohingya ethnic group raped and killed a Buddhist woman belonging to the Arakan ethnic group. That incident triggered further attacks and arson throughout the state.
On June 3, a group of Arakan attacked a bus carrying Rohingya in southern Rakhine and 10 people were killed.
On June 10, President Thein Sein declared all of Rakhine in a state of emergency, which gave the military exclusive authority to clamp down on the situation.
The government also restricted domestic reporting on the violence on the grounds such reports only fueled the ethnic confrontation. Foreign reporters have been prohibited from entering the state.
According to U.N. officials, Myanmar staff of nongovernmental organizations operating in Rakhine have been detained as part of efforts to control information flowing out.
The information ministry announced that there were 78 fatalities as of June 24 and another 87 people injured, including law enforcement officials.
About 3,000 homes and other buildings have been confirmed burned to the ground, in addition to attacks on Buddhist temples and Muslim mosques. A total of 52,000 people have lost their homes and although 82 evacuation centers and refugee camps have been constructed, not everyone has been housed.
Meanwhile, Rohingya group members and international NGOs claim there are many more victims of the attacks.
A Rohingya man in his 50s living in northern Rakhine state responded to questions from The Asahi Shimbun.
“I saw 16 people killed before my very eyes. Eleven were shot and five were cut with knives,” he said.
The man witnessed law enforcement officers surround the home of a Rohingya and throw fire bombs at it. As the man and others tried to douse the fire, they were fired upon. Those who tried to run away were attacked by a band armed with long knives and hatchets.
Because many people cannot even leave their homes, the man said, “They are surviving by eating banana leaves growing in their yards.”
Law enforcement officers continue to patrol the neighborhoods, detaining young men they come across.
The man said, “Once they are taken away, they never return. There are only women and children left in the village.”
An individual connected with an aid group who visited the state until June 29 said there may be about 40,000 Rohingya who cannot leave their villages for fear of being attacked. Those people were called living “a forgotten existence” because they were receiving no food or medical assistance.
Meanwhile, although some businesses have resumed operations in Sittwe, the state capital, the market is largely barren because Rohingya workers are nowhere in sight.
The U.N. World Food Program is preparing to provide emergency food assistance for 92,000 people. The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees is also providing tarpaulin sheets, mosquito nets and blankets.
A total of 800,000 Rohingya are said to be living in Rakhine state, with another 200,000 or so living in Bangladesh.
Kei Nemoto, a professor at the Faculty of Foreign Studies at Sophia University who is knowledgeable about Myanmar, said the international community would have to establish a third party to help create a structure in which the two sides could co-exist, much like what has been attempted to deal with the Palestinian territories issue.
“The Myanmar government does not recognize the Rohingya as an ethnic group, but defines them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh,” Nemoto said. “Many Myanmar citizens have similar attitudes so when religious confrontations occur there are stronger efforts to drive out the Rohingya.”
The Irrawaddy – Suu Kyi Hears Constituents’ Concerns
By SAW YAN NAING / THE IRRAWADDY| July 6, 2012 Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday visited her constituency of Kawhmu in the outskirts of Rangoon where she listened to residents describe their daily hardships.
About 300 constituents representing the 61 villages in Kawhmu Township attended a meeting at Aung Zamyu Pariyati monastery in Singyan Village where they voiced concerns to Suu Kyi over land confiscation, dirty waterways, unemployment, road and bridge construction, health care and education programs.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who has recently returned from a highly publicized tour to Europe, missed the first day of the new parliamentary session in Naypyidaw that day, citing tiredness and unfinished work with her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD).
Suu Kyi met with a senior monk at the Aung Zamyu Pariyati monastery, and discussed plans to open five vocational training schools—beautician, electrician, medical, computers and a mechanics’ workshop—with the aim of providing job opportunities for local residents in Kawhmu.
During her election campaign last year, Suu Kyi said that she chose to contest Kawhmu because she wanted to develop the region. Kawhmu is one of the poorest townships in an area where the local population are mainly rice farmers.
Suu Kyi won a seat in Wah Theinkha, a rural village in Kawhmu Township, in recent by-elections. The majority of the village’s population is ethnic Karen.
Many villagers said that they expected that Suu Kyi and the NLD can shepherd in a brighter future for the next generation. Others said they hoped that Suu Kyi could do something to help end the civil war
between the Burmese government and Karen rebels that has plagued the country for more than six decades.
Suu Kyi’s NLD won 43 out of the 44 parliamentary seats it contested in April 1 by-elections..
By LAWI WENG / THE IRRAWADDY| July 6, 2012
Several Arakanese Buddhist monks are boycotting aid from international agencies and NGOs, accusing them of bias in their distribution.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Friday, Venerable Manisara, an abbot who heads a local aid group in Maungdaw in northern Arakan State, said, “The foreign NGOs have only given a minimal amount to our Rakhine [Arakanese] people, but they give a lot to the Bengalis [Rohingyas]. It is not fair and is unacceptable. We cannot trust them and that’s why we must reject their aid.”
Similarly, in Buthidaung and Rathedaung townships, Arakanese Buddhist monks who are helping to shelter displaced Buddhist villagers, said that they too will no longer accept any foreign aid. One monk said that none of the 10 or so international agencies, including the UN groups, in the townships have visited Buddhist monasteries as “they already know that we will reject their aid.”
Venerable Manisara accused the UN and other foreign agencies of favoring Muslims, and of providing not only food and humanitarian aid to them, but also funding road construction, irrigation, well-building, education and medical projects only for the Bengali/Rohingya community in Maungdaw Township.
“I have been living in Maungdaw for a decade,” he said. “I do not see the foreign agencies as a benefit to our people. We will rely on aid from inside Burma as we do not trust them.
“We do not want to hear the words ‘minority’ and ‘majority.’ If they [the foreign agencies] are truly non-racist, they would give an equal supply to everyone. We are all human—both Arakanese and Bengali,” said Venerable Manisara.
However, according to San Hla Kyaw, a central committee member from the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) in Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State, the monks’ decision to reject foreign aid does not reflect the majority consensus among those tens of thousands displaced and affected by the month-long sectarian violence.
“I am worried the monks’ decision might not be popular among refugees. It is purely their own personal opinion,” he said, adding that local aid groups in Sittwe will continue to accept foreign aid.
However, San Hla Kyaw echoed Venerable Manisara’s claim that Médecins Sans Frontières, CARE, and UN aid agencies discriminate in favor of the Rohingyas when providing aid to local people in Maungdaw Township.
Meanwhile, state authorities opened a main public market in Sittwe on Thursday for the first time since the violence began, saying the situation was becoming more calm.
However, New York-based Human Rights Watch released a press statement on Thursday saying “local police, the military, and a border security force known as Nasaka have committed numerous abuses in predominantly Muslim townships.”
It urged the Burmese government to “end arbitrary and incommunicado detention, and redeploy and hold accountable security forces implicated in serious abuses.”
Elaine Pearson, the deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said, “The Burmese government needs to put an immediate end to the abusive sweeps by the security forces against Rohingya communities. Anyone being held should be promptly charged or released, and their relatives given access.”
Burma’s security forces have been implicated in killings and other abuses against Muslim civilians since the sectarian violence in northern Arakan State began in early June, said Human Rights Watch, urging the Burmese authorities to ensure safe access to the area to the UN and independent humanitarian organizations.
By SAW YAN NAING and KYAW KHA/ THE IRRAWADDY| July 6, 2012
More than 1,500 people staged a peaceful protest in Myitkyina on Friday calling for the release of a detained Kachin refugee, Lahtaw Brang Shawng, who they say has been brutally tortured by security forces for three days and nights.
The protesters are mostly Christian Kachin locals in the state capital, including youths and women, as well as pastors from Jan Mai Kawng Baptist Church and Kachin Baptist Convention. They launched two separate protests on Friday—one at a police station, and the other outside the court in Myitkyina.
Burmese authorities arrested Brang Shawng, accusing him of being a captain in the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), a rebel group which is currently fighting government troops in northern Burma.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Friday, Ze Nyoi, the wife of Brang Shawng, said, “Police punched, kicked and beat him for three days and nights. They forced him to admit that he is a KIA captain.
“He was beaten brutally around his head. His nose was bleeding and his left eye was reddened,” she said. “When I saw him he looked traumatized. He is terrified of the police.”
Ze Nyoi said she took part in the demonstration, holding a placard which read: “Release my husband Brang Shawng!” She maintained that her husband was an innocent farmer and that they had been displaced by fighting.
Protesters included Kachin students in school uniform, some wearing Kachin traditional costume, singing hymns and praying for the release of their colleague, Brang Shawng. Other posters read: “We want peace. We want Freedom.”
Lahpai Ja Naw, a pastor who helped organize the demonstration, told The Irrawaddy that Brang Shawng “was detained and tortured unlawfully.
“We pray to God to help us,” he said. “We pray for peace in our country, and to be treated by the government equally. We pray for the government to make the right decision in accordance with the willingness of its citizens.”
More than 90 percent of the Kachin population are Christians, and the vast majority are Baptists. Since the conflict between the government forces and the KIA erupted on June 19 last year, more than 60,000 Kachin civilians have been displaced—24,000 in government-controlled areas and about 40,000 in KIA-controlled regions, according to UN figures.
Brang Shawng was arrested by Burmese police on June 17 at a refugee camp run by Jan Mai Kawng Baptist Church in a government-controlled area. The authorities later accused him of involvement with the KIA, and of planting bombs and explosives around Myitkyina.
He is reportedly being charged under Article 17/1 the Illegal Organization Act and is due in court in Myitkyina for trial on July 11.
Lahpai Ja Naw said that he will organize further peaceful protests if the authorities don’t release Brang Shawng.
Friday, 06 July 2012 13:21 Mizzima News
The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has rejected the Burmese government’s invitation to meet in July in a government-controlled area in Bhamo (Manmaw) in Kachin State or Muse in Shan State, according to KIO officials. The KIO has met twice with government officials in KIO-controlled areas, and several times in Yunnan Province in China.
The KIO said future meetings should take place in either Laiza or Mai Ja Yang or in neutral territory somewhere on the Bhamo (Manmaw)-Loije road in Kachin State, according to an article on Thursday on the Kachin News Group website.
During two meetings at the beginning and end of June in Mai Ja Yang, the KIO demanded the government withdraw its troops from KIO frontline areas.
The meetings ended in deadlock, as was the case in meetings in Ruili (Shweli) in Yunnan Province, China, in November, January and March. Both sides have been unable to come to agreement on basic terms, in spite of an order by Burmese President Thein Sein that government troops should stand down and fighting should cease in Kachin State.
The government wants the KIO to sign a cease-fire before it will discuss pulling its troops back from the front lines, said negotiators. The KIO won’t discuss the idea of a cease-fire until the Burmese army leaves KIO-controlled areas. It also wants the participation of an international independent body to be involved in a peace agreement.
In May, the KIO urged U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to intervene in the Kachin conflict and do more to provide humanitarian aid to an estimated 75,000 internally displaced persons who have fled from the fighting since June 2011.
The past three months have seen a sharp escalation in the scale of fighting in Kachin State with KIO claims that the government could be preparing an attack on KIO headquarters in Laiza.
Many KIO attacks have been directed at non-military targets, including attacks on railways and bridges. Clashes between government outposts and KIA guerrillas have also picked up.
In May, the New Light of Myanmar, a state-run newspaper, reported that KIO explosives had damaged three bridges. Also, mine attacks destroyed a length of railroad tracks and nine sleeper carriages were derailed on the Myikyina- Mandalay railroad route in Kachin State.
The attacks occurred during ongoing peace talks between the government and the KIO.
State-run media has blamed KIO “hardline leaders” for the failure of progress in peace talks.
“Eternal peace in Kachin State is still a pipe dream for the nationalities there due to some hardline leaders in spite of three rounds of peace talks between the union level peace making group and the KIO,” said an editorial in the New Light of Myanmar on April 23.
The government’s frustration with the lack of progress has surfaced after a series of meetings where no agreement was reached regarding procedures necessary to get the talks started.
The Kachin and the government have been fighting off-and-on for more than five decades.
Friday, 06 July 2012 15:46 Mizzima News
A Thai deputy prime minister said Burmese President Thein Sein will arrive in Thailand for an official visit on July 22-24.
Thein Sein postponed an earlier visit two times, in what was believed to be dissatisfaction with the massive publicity Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi received when she visited the country on her first trip abroad to speak to the World Economic Forum on June 1.
Meanwhile, Gen. Yutthasak Sasiprapa, the deputy prime minister, said on Friday that about 70 Thais have been arrested in Burma for engaging in agriculture and building structures on Burmese territory.
Yutthasak, who is in charge of security affairs, was responding to reports that dozens of Thais had been arrested along a faintly demarcated border area in Kra Buri District of Ranong Province in southern Thailand.
He said Thai authorities were trying to arrange assistance for those detained.
“The Thai government does not want to have a conflict with Myanmar,” he was quoted as saying. “The area where the Thai villagers were reported to have been arrested is where local people of the two countries regularly cross back and forth over the border.”
Southeast Asia to be declared nuclear weapon-free zone
Friday, 06 July 2012 13:29 Mizzima News
After 12 years of negotiations, the five recognized nuclear-weapon states (P5) have agreed to sign the protocol to the treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ) on Thursday in Cambodia, senior officials said on Thursday.
The P5 include the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China and Russia. They will sign the protocol on July 12 during the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), said Koy Kuong, a spokesman for Cambodia’s ministry of foreign affairs and international cooperation, according to Xinhua news agency.
“As the chair of 2012 Asean, Cambodia is pleased to see all the five recognized nuclear-weapon states to sign the protocol,” he said.
The protocol requires the P5 not to contribute to any violation of the treaty and not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons within the SEANWFZ. In addition, the P5 would commit to stopping nuclear weapon proliferation and testing in the Southeast Asia.
Asean leaders signed the SEANWFZ Treaty in Bangkok, Thailand on Dec. 15, 1995, and it took effect two years later. Negotiations between Asean and the five recognized nuclear-weapon states on the protocol have been held since May 2001.
ASEAN includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.