Thursday, June 30, 2011

15 Burmese workers detained in Bangkok unrest

Wednesday, 30 June 2010 17:12 Kyaw Kha

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Fifteen Burmese migrant workers were detained during Thailand’s recent political unrest, according to the Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma, an NGO based in Bangkok.

After the Thai government crackdown against the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (red-shirt) rally that had paralysed central Bangkok, the Thai police department said 13 of the 417 red-shirt detainees were Burmese, but based on the latest information obtained by the NGO, the number held was 15.

Ten of the group were arrested on their way home from work at a construction site in Nonthaburi province for violating the night-time curfew imposed on May 19. They were arrested by Thai troops and police officers.

“They already have been sentenced. They [allegedly] interfered in Thai politics, so it’s difficult to appeal against their sentences,”  Thai Action Committee director Myint Wai told Mizzima.

Two of the 10 detainees who had violated the curfew were released because they could pay the fine of 8,000 baht (US$245). The rest were detained for 40 days in the detention centre at Thanyaburi because they were unable to pay the fine.

The recent chapter of political unrest in Thailand started in March and continued until May 19 as red shirts camped out behind barricades in a central Bangkok shopping district were cleared away in a Thai army assault. After red shirt leaders’ announced their surrender and were arrested, disgruntled militant red-shirt faction members  spread out across the capital, ransacking shops and setting fire to buildings.

In the wake of the violence, the government imposed a curfew for at least a week, at first between 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., and prohibited gatherings of more than five people.

Nu Khun, 27, a Burmese migrant worker among those detained for curfew violation, was sentenced to 16 months in Klong Prem Central Prison for breaking the Emergency Decree and the Immigration Act.

Four other Burmese were also being held at Klong Prem but the Thai Action Committee has been denied access to them, and details of their sentencing remained unknown, Myint Wai said. He added that a lawyer from the group continued to follow up on their cases.

The Abhisit government prohibited migrant workers from participating in the red-shirt protests, saying violators faced a fine of 100,000 baht (about US$3080) and five years in prison, according to the migrant workers department of National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB).

NCGUB official Thet Khaing said that Burmese migrant workers who work in Thailand should obey the country’s laws.

“Migrant workers should avoid doing things that can interfere with their host country, Thailand,” he told Mizzima. “They should not participate in the politics of the host nation, no matter who persuades them.”

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on June 2 signed an order for police to intensify a crackdown on illegal workers in Thailand.

According to the NCGUB migrant workers section, more than 10,000 Burmese migrant workers in Pathum Thani, Mahachai, Chonburi, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon, Bangkok and Phuket provinces were arrested during the crackdown.

Activists estimated that there were more than two million Burmese migrant workers in Thailand. About 900,000 were working legally, according to workers’ rights groups’ estimates.

Ross Dunkley sentenced to one-month; will not serve time

Thursday, 30 June 2011 16:05 Mizzima News

(Mizzima) – The Australian journalist Ross Dunkley, the former chief executive officer of the Myanmar Consolidated Media Group Ltd, has received a one-month prison sentence, but he will not serve time because he was detained for 44 days in Insein Prison following his arrest.

Dunkley said he would appeal the conviction by the Kamayut Township Court.

Ross Dunkley outside Kamayut Court after his conviction
on charges of assaulting a woman. Photo: Mizzima

After a five-month trial, the court in Rangoon on Thursday handed down a one-month sentence after finding him guilty of assaulting a female plaintiff, Khaing Zar Lin. He was also  fined 100,000 kyat (about US$ 142) for violating the Burmese Immigration act.

“I did not beat her,” Dunkley said.  “I did not give her drugs. I did not commit any crime, so I will file an appeal against the court’s decision.”

Shortly after the judge delivered the verdict, Dunkley told his lawyers to challenge the decision.

“Filing an appeal is the right of the defendant. He said he wanted to file an appeal, so we will help him,” Dunkley’s lawyer Min Sein told Mizzima.

Dunkley’s visa expired on January 17. He has applied to extend his current visa that will expire in late August.

Lawyer Min Sein said that it was difficult to know whether Dunkley’s visa could be renewed or not, beause of the guilty verdict.

“The Immigration Department has his visa in the palm of its hand. In the past, some foreigners who committed a crime could not renew their visa while others could. Ross Dunkley did not involve himself in politics. He is just working on a journal. His stay will depend on the Immigration Department.”

It is not clear whether the Myanmar Consolidated Media Group Ltd would reappoint Dunkley as its chief executive officer.

“I don’t know. The decision must be made by the board of directors of the Myanmar Times,” said Wai Lin, a spokesman of the English-language newspaper.

Following Dunkley’s arrest, Dr. Tin Tun Oo, a shareholder of the Myanmar Consolidated Media Group Ltd, was named chief executive officer of the company.

After Dunkley was released from Insein Prison on bail, he continued working as the English editor in the Myanmar Times. Originally from Perth, Australia, Dunkley was the first foreigner to enter the Burmese domestic journal market in 2000.

Gunmen set two buses on fire and take six hostages in Mon State

Thursday, 30 June 2011 11:37 Kun Chan

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – About 20 gunmen set two passenger buses on fire on the Ye-Thanbyuzayat Road in Mon State and took a total of six drivers and conductors hostage at around 9 a.m. on Wednesday, according to witnesses.

The gunmen took the six hostages and set fire to the Yazamin and Shweli Yadanar buses near Thayaaye village, which is located 30 miles north of Ye.

“They stopped about 20 vehicles and then ordered all the passengers to get off the buses. Then they set fire to the buses, but they did nothing to the cars and passengers,” a monk told Mizzima.

He said that there were about 20 gunmen; most were armed and some had heavy weapons, the monk said.

A villager from Thakkaw village in Thanbyuzayat Township told Mizzima: “When we arrived at the scene, the buses were completely destroyed. Police and soldiers were investigating.”

Meanwhile, a bomb exploded on Wedneday in the compound of the Township Administrative office in Thanbyuzayat at about 12:30 p.m. There were no casualties, said a township resident.

Similarly, on May 22, an unknown armed group fired on and stopped five passenger buses en route from Ye on the Ye-Thanbyuzayat Road between Kanikamauk and Lainmawchan villages in Ye Township, Mon State, and took a driver and six conductors hostage, the state-run newspaper New Light of Myanmar reported on May 24.

The state-run newspaper said the Karen National Union (KNU) was responsible. The KNU denied the allegation.

Meanwhile, authorities in Thanbyuzayat, Kyaikmayaw and some townships in Mon State have ordered members of cease-fire groups to handover their weapons to police stations no later than June 30.

A cease-fire group, the Mon Peace and Defense Front (MPDF), the Karen Peace Force, some members of New Mon State Party and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army all have activities in villages in the townships.

Members of six Burmese political parties to visit Japan

Thursday, 30 June 2011 14:11 Mizzima News

Rangoon (Mizzima) – Members of six political parties including the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) will leave for a week-long study tour of Japan on July 13, USDP General-Secretary Htay Oo said in a press conference in Rangoon on Wednesday.

Ten members of the USDP; two from the National Democratic Force (NDF) ; two from the Shan Nationalities and Development Party (SNDP) aka White Tiger Party; two from the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP); two from the National Unity Party (NUP) and two from the All Mon Region Democracy Party (AMDP) will make the tour.

Lower House MP Aung Thein Lin (USDP), Soe Win (NDF), Htay Oo (USDP), Tun Yi (NUP) at a press conference at USDP headquarters in Rangoon on Wednesday, June 29, 2011. Photo: Mizzima

Htay Oo said, “The Japanese government told us it wanted to invite party members who were under 35 to visit Japan. Then they asked us if we would accept the invitation if they also invited members from other political parties. As for me, we all have the same objectives, so despite the different party names I don’t see them as members of other parties. I willingly accepted the invitation.”

He advised the members not to divide themselves into separate political groups during the tour and to remember they were first Burmese citizens.

RNDP General-Secretary Hla Saw said the tour should benefit the political process in Burma.

On Tuesday, Htay Oo met with Japan’s Parliamentary Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Makiko Kikuta. “I told her that we would hold a meeting with the other five political parties,” Htay Oo said in the press conference.

The secretary-general of the Union Solidarty and Development Party (USDP), Htay Oo, and senior leader Htun Yee of the National Unity Party at a press conference at USDP headquarters in Rangoon on Wednesday, June 29, 2011. Photo: Mizzima

Makiko Kikuta is the first senior Japanese envoy to Burma since Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in November 2010. On Wednesday, she met with Suu Kyi and NLD leaders and said that Japan would continue to support the establishment of democracy in Burma.

She also met with government officials including Lower House Vice Speaker Nanda Kyaw Swar in Naypyitaw and officials from political parties at the Japanese Embassy in Rangoon.

Japan has donated US$ 5.87 million worth of food supplies (1,700 tons) and edible cooking oil (1,625 ton) to Burma thorough the UN World Food Programme.

Because of human rights violations and the violent suppression of the pro-democracy movement in Burma since 2003, Japan withdrew its economic support to Burma except for humanitarian and emergency aid.

NLD says it’s legal; not opposed to Parliament, government

Thursday, 30 June 2011 12:06 Myo Thant

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Responding to a letter from the Burmese government challenging the legal status of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and its activities, the NLD on Wednesday sent a letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs saying it is a legal political party and it did not oppose the Parliament or the government.

The headquarters of the National League for Democracy
in Rangoon. Photo: Mizzima
The letter, signed by NLD General-Secretary Aung San Suu Kyi, was addressed to the Home Affairs Minister Lieutenant General Ko Ko. Mizzima received a copy of the letter that said the NLD could not be dissolved under the law.

The ministry’s letter to the NLD noted that it had failed to re-register as a political party for the 2010 general elections and said it was dissolved in accordance with the law. In response to the ministry, the NLD argued that it could legally continue as a political party, referring to the former junta’s 2008 Constitution.

“Section 409 of the Constitution says that the Union Parliament shall enact necessary laws concerning political parties, so the NLD cannot be dissolved,” the letter said. The legal point the NLD is making seems to be contained in the idea that dissolving a political party falls under the prerogative of Parliament, which makes laws under the Constitution. Before it sent the letter to the ministry, NLD leaders held an emergency meeting to discuss the issue.

“There are many laws. Briefly, we think that the NLD cannot be dissolved under the [existing] laws. That’s why we put up NLD signs and we continue to do activities as NLD members,” NLD central executive committee member Nyan Win told Mizzima.

The NLD letter said, “The NLD attitude is not to oppose the parliamentary system and the government. The NLD obeys the laws for the sake of the prevalence of law and order.”

The letter also referred to a NLD lawsuit against the Union Election Commission decision to dissolve the NLD.

The letter also urged Lieutenant General Ko Ko to arrange a dialogue for the sake of the stability and maintenance of law and order, according to Nyan Win.

“In our opinion, if we all really want effective enforcement of law and order, the problems can be solved,” Nyan Win said.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Put Burmese regime on trial at ICC, People’s Court urges

Tuesday, 29 June 2010 23:46 Salai Han Thar San

New Delhi (Mizzima) – A “People’s Court” in Japan passed its verdict on Monday to put the Burmese military regime on trial at the International Criminal Court for its crimes against women in Burma.

The verdict was reached during a mock trial at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo, after a five-member panel of experienced judges heard the testimony of four victims from Burma and arguments from prosecution and defence counsels.

“The judges passed eight verdicts during the court’s session, including their finding that the [Burmese] military regime was guilty of committing crimes against women based on the testimonies given by victims and that it should be put on trial at the ICC,” Women’s League of Burma presidium board member Thin Thin Aung told Mizzima.

The panel comprised Japanese former Supreme Court justice Kunio Hamada, Chiba University law professor Hiroko Goto, Aoyama Gakuin University law professor Osamu Niikura, International Association of Democratic Lawyers secretary-general Miho Shikita, Japan Federation of Bar Associations former vice-president Hideaki Kobori.

The United Nations was urged to form a commission to investigate the junta’s crimes and said the international community including Japan should make concerted efforts to stop their heinous acts, the verdicts say Kyi Kyi Khin, Pu Sein, Tin Tin Nyo from WLB on behalf of Naw Sunset and WLB representative Mra Yar Zar Lin testified during proceedings between 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. Eight lawyers acted for the prosecution and three conducted the junta’s defence.

“I testified …  telling them [the judges] how I was put in a dark cell during interrogation by intelligence officers and of the other gross human rights violations in prison I experienced while serving my sentence”, former political prisoner Kyi Kyi Khin said.

The military regime arrested former NLD party and All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) members in 1990 for distributing pamphlets commemorating the July 7 massacre at Rangoon University in 1962. For 28 days Kyi Kyi Khin suffered brutality under questioning at the Military Intelligence No. 4 detention centre, where she was held in darkness and subjected to a variety of cruel and unusual torture methods. She was then sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and was released in May 1992.

The mock trial’s organiser, Cho Cho Aye, said Japanese lawyers representing the military regime presented their arguments for their clients’ defence. Cho Cho Aye is representative of the Burmese Women’s Union (BWU) Japanese branch.

“The defence counsels questioned the testimony, evidence and exhibits presented in court [by the prosecution,” she said. “In cross-examination, they also questioned whether [junta chief Senior General] Than Shwe was responsible for the crimes committed by the army’s rank and file.”

The proceedings were the first mock trial in a People’s Court conducted in Japan, which was also organised by Japan-based Human Rights Now. More than 300 Japanese and Burmese attended.

A similar trial was organised by the WLB and female Nobel laureates of the Nobel Women’s Initiative in New York in early March. At that trial, 12 Burmese victims of human rights violations testified to crimes visited upon them by the military junta.

“We shall continue our campaign in the international community until we can put the Burmese regime on trial at the ICC,” Thin Thin Aung said. “This campaign can … warn the junta leaders against committing their crimes against humanity in fear of facing trial at the ICC in future.”

ICC, founded in July 1998 and based in the Netherlands, is funded by states’ parties, international governments and organisations, and individuals. It is the main independent international legal body “established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community”.

The court usually indicts and presents verdicts on genocide committed across the world, along with serious international crimes, crimes against humanity and war crimes, by exercising powers granted it under the Rome Statute, the treaty signed by the parties that established the court.

The trial’s organisers will present the panel’s verdicts to the Japanese government and will urge it to shun the Burmese general election results unless the regime releases all political prisoners, including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is being held under house arrest by the junta on spurious charges. She has been held in various forms of detention for 15 of the past 21 years.

The trial follows UN special rapporteur for human rights in Burma Tomas Ojea Quintana’s report to the UN Security Council, which similarly called for the UN to form a commission of inquiry to investigate the gross violations of human rights committed by the junta.

Burma’s censorship board bans magazine cover with photo of Suu Kyi

Wednesday, 29 June 2011 19:44 Tun Tun

New Delhi (Mizzima) – A picture of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on the cover of the Rangoon-based Dharma Yeik Buddhist magazine has been banned, according to the editor of the magazine.

The Dharma Yeik Buddhist magazine cover
that was banned by the censorship board.
In the photo, Suu Kyi is shown donating a robe to a young Buddhist novice. It was to be used as the cover of the magazine’s July issue. The magazine has substituted a picture of a flower for Suu Kyi’s photo on its front cover.

‘We submitted the manuscript with the cover featuring Suu Kyi’s photo; the censor board told us to use another photo. Suu Kyi’s photo was not allowed’, the editor, Moe Tun, told Mizzima.

Under Burma’s new censorship policy, religious publications still must pass their manuscripts and pictures through the censorship board and also the Directorate of Religious Affairs. The religious magazine carries news, poems, cartoons and articles on Buddhism.

The magazine was launched in 2006, but it was suspended in 2007. It restarted in 2009. It has previously had articles, poems and other material censored.

‘One illustration accompanying a poem was a picture of barbed wire on a banyan leaf. The picture meant that as I grow older, I have faced more difficulties in life. But the censor board told me to remove the picture of the barbed wire’, Moe Tun said.

According to Rangoon-based editors, the censorship board has allowed some Suu Kyi photos and news about Suu Kyi, but her photo on a front cover and photographs larger than 3 x 5 inches may not be allowed.

Suu Kyi says NLD ‘stronger now’; discusses suffering and fear

Wednesday, 29 June 2011 19:16 Mizzima News

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Aung San Suu Kyi envies the people of Tunisia and Egypt their relatively bloodless transition from ‘dictatorship to democracy’ and admits that real democracy for Burma is slow in coming.

Aung San Suu Kyi delivers a speech. Photo: Mizzima
In an address and response to questions as part of the BBC 2011 Reith Lecture broadcast on Tuesday, the pro-democracy campaigner and leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) talked about what securing freedom means for her and her party in Burma.

The address was pre-recorded in Burma. A second address will be broadcast on Tuesday next week.

At a time when the National League for Democracy (NLD) is being labeled an ‘illegal party’ by the Burmese authorities and coming under pressure, Suu Kyi talked of the parallels and differences between her party’s freedom struggle and the Arab Spring in the Middle East that has seen dictatorships crumble under the pressure of people power.

Elections were held in November 2010 in Burma under what the NLD claim was an unacceptable Constitution and the resulting government, they claim, is controlled by the Burmese military.

‘The universal aspirations to be free have been brought home to us by the developments in the Middle East’, said Suu Kyi in her prepared address. ‘The Burmese are as excited by these events as peoples elsewhere. Our interest is particularly keen as there are notable similarities between the 10 December revolution in Tunisia and our own 1988 uprising. Both started with what at that time seemed like small unimportant events.

‘A fruit seller in a Tunisian town unknown to the world at large gave an unforgettable demonstration of the importance of human rights. One humble man showed his right was more precious than life itself. This sparked off a whole revolution. In Burma a quarrel in a Rangoon teashop between university students and local men was handled by the police in a way that the students considered unjust. This led to demonstrations that resulted in the death of a student. This was the spark that fired nationwide demonstrations against the dictatorship of the Burmese socialist party’.

Suu Kyi said she envied the people of Tunisia and Egypt. ‘We do wish for a quick and peaceful transition. More than envy is a sense of solidarity and a renewed cause which is a cause of all women and men who value freedom and dignity’.

She spoke of her admiration for young people struggling for democracy, including young Burmese rap singers, a number of whom were imprisoned following the 2007 Saffron Revolution protests.

‘The Burmese authorities, like the Tunisian government, are not fond of intense young people. They see them as a threat to the kind of order they intend to impose on our country. For those who believe in freedom, young rappers present a freedom unbound by prejudice and arbitrary rules and regulations, by oppression and injustice'.

She said the similarities between Tunisia and Burma are the similarities that bind people all over the world who long for freedom. But ‘the Tunisian army did not fire on their people; the Burmese army did’.

The communications revolution played a powerful part in the Arab revolts in the Middle East, she said. ‘This not only enabled them to better organize and coordinate their movement, it kept the attention of the whole world firmly focused on them. Not just every single death but every single wounded became known to the world within minutes. In Libya, Syria and Yemen now, the revolutionaries keep the world informed of the atrocities of those in power. The picture of a 13-year-old boy tortured to death in Syria aroused such anger and indignation that world leaders had to raise their voices in condemnation’.

Suu Kyi said there were a number of reasons why the Arab Spring has not drifted over Burma. She said there was a difference in terms of the communications revolution, geopolitical considerations, the shooting of protestors and the lack of images on TV and the Internet to rouse the world.

‘I have said I adhere to nonviolence for practical reasons because I think it is best for the country and even Gandhi-ji, who is supposed to be the leader of the nonviolent movement, said between cowardice and violence, he would choose violence any time’, she said.

Living in a state of ‘unfreedom’ and ‘living without’ as a dissident has clearly been a test for the 1991 Nobel laureate, but she said she gets inspiration from a number of places. In the lecture, she recalled being inspired reading a book at the age of 13 called ‘Seven Years Solitary’ by a Hungarian dissident, Edith Bone. And she is inspired by the sacrifices of her fellow NLD members, young and old, who struggle in difficult circumstances often with no pay for the cause. The NLD headquarters is hardly plush and hi-tech.

People dub the NLD a ‘cowshed’, but as she points out, ‘We do not take offence. Didn’t one of the world’s most influential movements begin in a cowshed?’

She recalled the horror of being attacked by unknown assailants in May 2003 in her motorcade in Depayin.

Part of a violent mob that attacked a Suu Kyi motorcade in
Depayin in 2003. Photo: Mizzima
Nothing was heard of the fate of the attackers, she said, but, ‘We the victims were placed under arrest.  I was taken to the notorious Insein jail and kept alone, and have to admit, kept rather well, in a small building kept apart from the quarters of other prisoners.

'One morning while going though my daily set of physical exercises, keeping fit as possible was the first duty of a political prisoner, I found myself thinking, “this is not me”. I would not have been capable of carrying on calmly like this, I would have been curled up weakly in my bed, worrying my head about wondering about the fate of those who had been in Depayin with me. How many of them had been severely beaten up? How many of them had been dragged away I did not know where? How many of them had died and what was happening to the rest of the NLD? I would have been laid low by anxiety and uncertainty. This was not me working out as conscientiously as any keep-fit fanatic. This is not me, this is somebody else that suffers. I could never face that'.

She stressed the strong bond of ‘those of us who only had our inner resources to fall back on when we were most in need of strength and endurance’.

Passion is needed to be a dissident, said Suu Kyi. What is passion? she asked. Liberty, which translates as suffering, and she contends, in a political context, it is a religious one; a deliberate decision to grasp the cup.

‘We would rather let it pass. It is not a decision made lightly. We do not enjoy suffering, we are not masochists. It is because of the high value we put on the object of our passion’, she said.

As she noted, Buddhism teaches that the ultimate liberation is the liberation from all desire. ‘It could be argued the Buddha is animical to the desire of movements for human rights and political reform. However, when the Buddhist monks went on a muuta, loving kindness, march in 2007 they were protesting against the sudden steep rise in the price of fuel that had led to a devastating rise in food prices. They were using their spiritual authority to move for the basic right of the people to buy food. Spiritual freedom does not need to be an indifference to the practical rights and freedoms that are generally seen as necessary’, she said.

Suu Kyi pointed to a basic human right that she values highly—freedom from fear. ‘Since the very beginning of the democracy movement we have had to contend with the debilitating sense of fear that permeates a whole society. Visitors to Burma are quick to remark that the Burmese are warm and hospitable. I would also add, sadly, that the Burmese are afraid to discuss political issues.

‘Fear is the first adversary we have to get past when we set out to battle for freedom and often it is the one that remains until the very end. But freedom from fear does not have to be complete; it only has to be sufficient to enable us to carry on. To carry on in spite of fear requires tremendous courage’.

During a question time, someone asked if she was worried, given the fate of her father, Aung San, who was assassinated in 1947, that she might lose her life fighting for democracy in Burma. ‘We all come to terms with such a possibility early on. It is always a possibility but you might also get knocked down by a bus on the high street’, she quipped.

Suu Kyi said that one of the reasons they go on is, ‘We don’t know how to stop, we don’t know how to turn our backs on our beliefs, we don’t know how to abandon our comrades, we don’t know how to do these things, so we go on’.

For a link to the BBC Reith Lecture 2011, go to

Bomb explodes in Toungoo; no one injured

Wednesday, 29 June 2011 16:26 Kyaw Kha

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Township authorities confirmed that a strong bomb exploded on grassland in Taungoo on Wednesday afternoon.

The bomb exploded on the corner of Matetabala Street and Mingyinyo Street in the 20th Quarter in Taungoo in the eastern part of Pegu Region at about 1 p.m. There were no casualties, according to Taungoo Township Police Station No.1.

‘We assume it was a time bomb. The explosion seemed very powerful. The whole town could hear the explosion. When we reached the scene, there was a hole in the grassland, but there were no buildings nearby’, said a municipal official who went to the scene shortly after the incident.

Police sealed off the area, and a bomb disposal squad is investigating. Vehicles driving in the area have been examined. A resident in Taungoo said that authorities occasionally carried out checks on whether there were unregistered overnight guests in the homes in Taungoo. Vehicles driving on roads were unexpectedly examined during the previous few days, according to one resident.

On June 10, the No. 2 Thoutyaykhat electric power plant in Taungoo Township was fired on by an unknown armed group using rocket-propelled grenades.

The plant, which is under construction, is located on the bank of the Thoutyaykhat Stream, 14 miles east of Taungoo.

After the attack, more than 1,000 employees including a few Chinese citizens from the Thoutyaykhat plant moved to the urban area of Taungoo on June 19.

Although there has been no claim of responsibility, a police officer at Taungoo Township Police Station No. 1 told Mizzima that it was probable that the attack was carried out by the Karen National Union.

Earlier this week, three nearly simultaneous bomb explosions occurred in Naypyitaw, Mandalay and Pyinoolwin (Maymyo) on June 24. Authorities said three people were injured. Authorities have named three suspects who allegedly plotted the bomb blasts.

Location of bomb explosion in Toungoo Credit: Google maps

NLD, Suu Kyi receive official letter challenging its legal status and activities

Wednesday, 29 June 2011 15:45 Mizzima News

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burma’s central government has officially informed prominent National League for Democracy (NLD) leaders of their precarious legal status, a little less than a month before the opposition party plans to undertake a national tour of the country.

The NLD party led by Aung San Suu Kyi has been directly
challenged in an official government letter only weeks
before she is scheduled to undertake a nationwide tour.
Photo: Mizzima
In the Wednesday edition of the state-run New Light of Myanmar, the government’s English language daily, an article says the Ministry of Home Affairs has sent a letter to  NLD General- Secretary Aung San Suu Kyi and party chairman U Aung Shwe informing them of the importance of abiding by the country’s laws.

The letter––which contains several direct warnings that the NLD has violated laws––comes as Suu Kyi prepares for a countrywide tour starting July 22, her first foray beyond the limits of Rangoon since her most recent release from house arrest in November 2010. Her ability to travel unencumbered throughout the country is seen by many as a crucial test of her freedom.

The ministry’s letter said that because the NLD failed to re-register as a political party for the 2010 general elections, it has forfeited its right to exist as a legal political entity.  The letter said that the NLD continues to operate party offices and conduct party affairs despite its formal dissolution.

‘The NLD is found to have kept opening its party headquarters and branches in states and regions and other towns, erecting signboards and hoisting flags at some offices, issuing statements, publishing periodicals and videos, meeting with other organizations and holding meetings and ceremonies’, the letter said, according to the New Light of Myanmar.

The government said that NLD activities were potentially disruptive to the parliamentary system and threatened national stability.

‘If they [the NLD] really want to accept and practise democracy effectively, they are to stop such acts that can harm peace and stability and the rule of law as well as the unity among the people including monks and service personnel’, the letter said.

The NLD has not recognized the legitimacy of the 2010 election, opting instead to uphold the validity of the 1990 poll, citing the lack of a free and fair democratic process in both the 2008 constitutional referendum and the general election.

The government warned the NLD that if wants to continue work as a social organization it must apply for a license from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

In a 2003 tour of the country, Suu Kyi’s motorcade was attacked by a government-sponsored mob outside the village of Depayin in Sagaing Region. The resulting clash led to scores of dead and injured, and Suu Kyi narrowly escaped. The opposition leader was subsequently detained and sentenced to house arrest, only to be released a week after the 2010 general election.

Mon State authorities orders cease-fire group members to handover weapons

Wednesday, 29 June 2011 15:15 Kun Chan

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burmese authorities in some townships in Mon State have ordered members of cease-fire groups to turn in their weapons at nearby police stations.

Troops of the New Mon State Party Photo: Kaowao
Officials in Thanbyuzayat Township announced on Monday via loudspeakers that members of cease-fire groups turn in their weapons to police stations no later than Thursday.

The order appears to be directed at the New Mon State Party and other cease-fire groups.

Under orders by the government’s Southeast Command, authorities in Thanbyuzayat Township have posted notices about the order in public locations. The Kyaikmayaw Township Administrative Office issued the notice 10 days ago.

‘The notice says people must hand in their weapons to police stations no later than the end of this month. Otherwise, they will be punished under the law. That’s all. The notice does not say how the people who fail to give up their weapons will be punished’, a resident in Thanbyuzayat told Mizzima.

This is the first instance of the Mon State Government trying to confiscate weapons from cease-fire group members.

Naing Aung Mangay, the secretary of Thaton District’s New Mon State Party (NMSP), said that the target of the order was not the NMSP. The NMSP has offices in Kyaikmayaw in Mon State and Kawkareik in Karen State.

‘The township authorities ordered the village’s authorities to post the notices. They did it in accordance with their laws. They do not target us’, said  Naing Aung Ma Ngay, who is a central committee member of NMSP.

On the other hand, a military analyst in Burma said that the authorities are in fact targeting the NMSP.

‘In Mon State, the New Mon State Party is the strongest armed group. The authorities will execute the order in some villages and their next target is the NMSP’, the analyst said. Despite the order, the armed group will not give up their arms to authorities, he said.

An unknown armed group launched an attack on a telephone exchange office near Mudon Township on May 14, 2011. Since early June, the authorities have tightened security along the Mawlamyaing-Yay Road in Mon State.

In addition to the four existing security checkpoints along the road, the authorities have set up three more checkpoints which are located in Nyaungkon (the entrance to Mudon), Yogo the entrance to Mawlamyaing) and Welkali village near Thanbyuzayat.

NMSP foreign affairs official Naing Han Tha Paing Khine said that the order was issued because of the recent bomb blasts in central Burma and because of the fighting in Kachin State. On June 24, four bomb blasts occurred in Naypyitaw, Mandalay and Maymyo.

The Mon Peace and Defense Front (MPDF), the Karen Peace Force, some members of New Mon State Party and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army all have activities in villages in the townships where the authorities have ordered weapons to be turned in.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Suu Kyi calls for young NLD members to prepare for greater roles

Tuesday, 28 June 2011 21:34 Ko Pauk

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Aung San Suu Kyi has told a youth meeting she wants more young members in the National League for Democracy (NLD) party and they should prepare themselves to assume greater responsibilities.

NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi at a young people's meeting
on Tuesday. Photo: NLD Youth
A meeting of about 80 young members  from seven states and regions including Mandalay, Sagaing, Magwe regions and Shan, Kachin, Chin and Kayah states was held at party headquarter on Tuesday, the first meeting between Suu Kyi and young members from upper Burma.

‘She told us to prepare ourselves to replace the senior party members when they retire from their duties. She also urged us to pay respect to these elders’, Myo Nyunt told Mizzima.

Suu Kyi talked about inducting more young members and placing them in learning positions throughout the organization, he said.

Vice Chairman Tin Oo also urged young members to frankly discuss political issues and the party’s affairs. Aung San Suu Kyi discussed the differences between adults and young members and said such differences are negotiable.

A young NLD member asks Suu Kyi a question on Tuesday.
The Mandalay Region Youth Works Implementing group in-charge Zaw Zaw Aung told Mizzima that change could be expected only if the role of youth members was strengthened.

‘The role of youth will be more important in the future. The people who attended this meeting discussed this issue enthusiastically. The young people want to assume more duties in the party’, he said.

The NLD has had a Central Youth Group in the past but it is now defunct due to various difficulties. It has now been reestablished as the Central Youth Works Implementing Group.

Suu Kyi also said that youth members should network with non-NLD youth. She will meet young members from Rangoon, Bago, Tanintharyi, Irrawaddy, Karen, Mon and Rakhine states and regions on Wednesday.
Tuesday, 28 June 2011 17:58 Jim Andrews

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Post-election coverage of Burma’s political scene by the country’s state-controlled press, TV and radio continues to ignore professional journalistic standards, according to two reports issued by the media monitoring organization MEMO 98.

Ivan godarsky, left, and Zaw Win discuss the MEMO 98 report
on the media in Burma at the Foreign Correspondents Club of
Thailand in Bangkok on Tuesday. Photo: Mizzima
Monitors employed by the Slovakia-based MEMO 98 within and outside Burma followed media coverage of the Burmese political scene for several months before, during and after the 7 November 2010 election.

Two separate studies of coverage by the domestic and exile media found nothing had changed under the new administration in Naypyitaw.

‘While the media coverage in state-controlled outlets focused on the election, its coverage was narrow and lacked any analytical or critical views of the process’, said a report based on a two-week study conducted directly after the election.

‘Clear bias in favour of state officials and incumbents, compounded by a complete lack of any critical coverage of the authorities and a lack of coverage of opposition views characterized the coverage offered by the Burmese state media’, the report said.

A further six-week study conducted after the installation of a new administration in Naypyitaw confirmed that nothing had changed, despite the relaxation of pre-publication censorship of about half Burma’s newspapers, magazines and journals.

‘While it can generally be seen as a move towards media freedom, it is also believed that censors might repeat methods similar to those used before the military takeover in 1988’, said a report on the six-week study.

The report echoed the findings of the earlier research of the two-week post election study. ‘It is…possible to conclude that the monitored state-controlled media in Burma do not follow any journalistic standards, but serve only as a mouthpiece of the ruling powers.

‘With more than half a year after the flawed 2010 parliamentary elections, condemned by the United Nations and the whole international community, the main news programmes of state-controlled TV channels once again showed only the top state officials and completely ignored any other stakeholders’.

Retail booths called ‘Media Corners’, in background, are being
built by the Myanmar Writers and Journalists Association in
six townships in Rangoon. The media corners will sell
newspapers, magazines, books, phone cards and computer
accessories. Photo: Mizzima
The release from house arrest of Burma’s most famous political prisoner, Aung San Suu Kyi had commanded ‘extremely limited’ attention in the state media and was ‘insignificant in comparison with the extent of [media] presentation of the authorities’, MEMO 98 said.

The exile media escaped MEMO 98 criticism, with the exception of the Democratic Voice of Burma, which the organization said had ‘on several occasions made some factual or technical mistakes when presenting their news reports. As such the channel’s professional reputation was challenged, as similar instances have been noticed in the previous monitoring periods.’

The MEMO 98 report did not elaborate on its criticism of DVB. DVB’s Chiang Mai Bureau chief said the lack of any details to support the accusation made it difficult for his organization to respond.

Toe Zaw Latt told Mizzima: ‘As the report did not elaborate on MEMO's criticism, it is very difficult for us to comment directly on it. But what we can say is that we take seriously the quality of all our news stories, and that is an everyday challenge for us in our newsroom’.

The MEMO 98 monitors reported that, among the monitored exile news sites, Mizzima covered the biggest number of political subjects—31 (including 24 political parties).

MEMO 98 was founded in Bratislava, Slovakia, in 1998 to monitor press coverage of the country’s first free election. Since then it has monitored the media of several countries of the former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, South America and Africa.

‘The Burma project was our first in this part of the world’, MEMO 98 media and legal consultant Ivan Godarksy told Mizzima. ‘We are very pleased with the comprehensive nature of the project, but obviously very concerned about the picture it has provided of the state of Burma’s domestic media’.
Monday, June 27, 2011

Vice President calls for more effort to clean up polluted Inlay Lake

Monday, 27 June 2011 22:01 Tun Tun

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Vice President Sai Mauk Kham urged people not to build more floating cultivated islands in Inlay Lake, which has been polluted with toxins and is facing depleted water levels.

Sai Mauk Kham spoke at an environment meeting at Inlay Lake on Sunday that was attended by ministers from the Forest Ministry, Agriculture and Irrigation Ministry and officials from the Myanmar Agriculture Department.

Cultivating floating vegetable islands, in rear, with chemical fertilizers is a cause of pollution on Inlay Lake. Photo: Mizzima

He urged people not ‘to build more cultivated floating islands and houses on the lake, and to clear the unnecessary floating islands, algae and flotsam in order to de-silt the lake’. He also called for no logging around a 20-mile radius of the lake.

There are 36 village tracts inhabited by 170,000 people at Inlay Lake and its surrounding area.

Environmentalist U Ohn of the Forest Resource Environment Development and Conservation Association (FREDA) noted that local people would face severe restrictions on their incomes if the recommendations were implemented without effective government support.

‘Livelihood is important for the local people’, he said. ‘The local people have settled here for many generations and survived by this lake so we must give priority to the people. Development and environment is always in a tug-of-war. It will be successful only if we can handle this issue cleverly and patiently’, he told Mizzima.

Depleted water levels of Inlay Lake are caused by silting and the logging of timber around around the lake, in addition to other factors. Photo: Mizzima

The Inlay region-based Inn National Development Party Chairman Win Myint said, ‘Manufacturing, cottage industry and small-scale industry should be established here in order to make living on the shore more attractive for local people. This way the local people could get employment and could reduce waste in the lake’.

Previously Inlay Lake had a surface area of 100 square miles. That decreased to 23 square miles in 2007, when the lake faced a devastating drought. The depth of the lake is an average 7 feet in the summer and rises to bout 12 feet in the rainy season.

Sai Mauk Kham also called for more trees to be planted in the region and embankments to be improved to prevent silting.

He called for more conservation of the environment and more awareness campaigns, saying it was one of the duties of the government, and he urged more cooperation between local residents and businesses to improve conservation.

Inlay Lake is one of Burma’s major natural attractions and is listed by the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) as a heritage site.

Tourists buy items from vendors on Inlay Lake, a major tourist attraction which is recognized as an Asean heritage site. Photo: Mizzima

Conservationist U Ohn said it would take at least 10 years to restore Inlay Lake to its normal condition and would require special laws in addition to restrictions and regulations.

‘The existing laws are not adequate. For instance, we don’t have any environment law yet. More importantly for conservation, lnlay Lake needs a biodiversity law. I mean we should use bio-fertilizer rather than chemical fertilizers when growing vegetables in the lake’.

According to Win Myint, pollution in the lake is caused by the use of chemical fertilizers in the cultivation of about 8,000 acres of floating cultivating islands.

‘Water quality in the lake is being degraded’, he said. ‘The use of chemical fertilizers in tomato cultivation on the floating islands causes pollution and degrades water quality. But it has not yet reached a dangerous level. If we do not contain and control this issue in time, it will reach dangerous toxin level within next five years’, he said.

The government has established a supervisory committee for conservation of the lake but it can only be successful if all ministries work together, U Ohn said.

‘The vice president should coordinate all the government departments and ministries for the success of this effort. Not only one or two ministries, but all governmental departments should be placed under the control of the vice president for the task of conservation of Inlay Lake’, he said. He said the forest, agriculture and irrigation, fishery, hotel and travel departments should all work in tandem on the effort.

Burmese journals free to publish without prior approval warned by censors

Monday, 27 June 2011 20:52 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The Burmese censorship board has issued warnings to some newspapers and magazines that are free to publish without prior censorship, according to journalists in Rangoon.

Publications in Burma have been issued warnings by the
censorship board, citing material 'culturally inappropriate'.
Photo: Mizzima
The Press Scrutiny and Registration Division under the Information Ministry warned some newspapers and magazines including a medical journal that some articles were culturally inappropriate.

Since June 10, at least 10 pubications have been warned, said Rangoon journalists.

Burmese censorship rules are now divided into two categories of newspapers and magazines: Group 1 includes 178 publications focusing on sports, health, arts, children’s literature, and technology, which don’t need to pass articles through censors prior to publication, but must submit copies after publication.

Group 2 includes 180 publications focusing on news, crimes, education, economics, and religion, which must pass articles through censors prior to publication.

In accordance with a new regulation imposed by the Information Ministry, if a publication violates the rules three times, it must deposit 5 million kyat with the censorship board and if the publication violates the regulations a fourth time, the money will be seized by the government.

An editor of a popular newspaper said, ‘We must act according to the circumstances’.

Another editor pointed out that despite the new censorship policy, warnings to publications means there is still censorship in Burma.

‘Nothing has changed’, he said. ‘The only difference is that earlier they scrutinized the manuscripts and now they scrutinize the publications. That means they still have censorship. Forcing the editors to sign pledges for a bond or fine, that’s not appropriate’.

Most of the editors at weekly journals said that they were required to publish the news about fighting between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Kachin State using only the government’s viewpoint.

‘We could quote the state-run newspapers and Shwe Mann’s words, but we could not give the views of local residents in Kachin State and the KIO spokesman’, a prominent editor told Mizzima.

Another editor said, ‘Mostly, the news about the fighting in Kachin State was not allowed. These days, we have to publish the news based on what the state-run newspapers say’.

Meanwhile, some news journals did succeed in publishing information about the consequences of the fighting including the information that the border trade has declined.

‘We can write about the situation of the refugees. We can publish news that said trade has fallen. And we can quote the news about fighting that was published in the state-run newspaper’, said another newspaper editor.

Many local journals quoted the news published on June 18 in state-run newspapers saying the Burmese army had counterattacked the KIA in order to protect the people and the nation’s hydropower projects in the area.

From June 9 to June 25, there have been repeated clashes between government troops and the KIA. The state media has reported accounts of clashes only one time.

Chinese and Burmese gem traders clash in Mandalay

Monday, 27 June 2011 14:25 Mizzima News

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – A fight broke out between ethnic Chinese gem traders and local Burmese gem traders at a gem market in Mahaaungmyay Township in Mandalay on Monday morning. The gem market was closed after the clash.

Police arrested some participants in a clash between
Chinese gem traders and Burmese gem traders at a
gem market in Mahaaungmyay Township in Mandalay
on Monday, June 27, 2011. Photo: Citizen journalist
The fight started after Chinese traders refused to buy a jewel although they had earlier reached an agreement on the price, according to gem traders at the market.

Although the reason for the fight is not clear, residents said that Chinese traders reportedly assaulted a Burmese trader and Burmese residents came to his defence.

‘Many Burmese people surrounded a shop where the Chinese people were. So police from five townships came to the market. The administrative office ordered the people to disperse, but more and more Burmese gathered. Later, police escorted the Chinese traders out of the market via a police car’, a resident said on his Facebook page.

A police official at Police Station No. 7 in Mandalay said by telephone, ‘It’s a gem market, and it was in a state of turmoil. Officials are still investigating’.

A clash broke out between ethnic Chinese gem traders and Burmese gem traders in a gem market in Mahaaungmyay Township in Mandalay on Monday. Security police removed the Chinese traders to the safe location, and the market was closed after the altercation. Photo: Citizen Journalist Ethnic Chinese gem traders were involved in the clash with Burmese gem traders in Mandalay on Monday, June 27, 2011. Photo: Citizen Journalist Police arrested some participants in a clash between Chinese gem traders and Burmese gem traders at a gem market in Mahaaungmyay Township in Mandalay on Monday, June 27, 2011. Photo: Citizen journalist

Chinese arms maker’s copper mine deal raises queries over Canadian stake

Sunday, 27 June 2010 12:34 Thomas Maung Shwe

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – One of China’s biggest arms makers signed a contract with a Burmese junta-controlled entity this month involving “co-operation” in a Monywa copper mine, raising serious questions over the status of Canadian miner Ivanhoe’s holdings in the town northwest of Mandalay and whether Burma sanctions have been violated.

Defence contractor China North Industries Corporation (Norinco), one of the Chinese military’s biggest suppliers, disclosed in a press release that in the first week of this month its chairman, Zhang Guoqing, had signed the “Monywa Copper Mine Project Co-operation Contract” with Major-General Win Than of the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited, a major revenue generator for the Burmese military regime.

While Norinco kept from view any financial details, it did say the agreement was signed in the presence of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein during the former’s two-day tour of Burma. The firm makes a wide range of weapons and has long been the subject of intense western scrutiny for its activities. The Bush administration alleged that Norinco exported missile technology to Iran and took steps to penalise the firm in 2003 and 2005.

Norinco’s Burmese copper play was strongly criticised by pro-democracy rights group Canadian Friends of Burma (CFOB), who termed the deal the “arms-for-copper” affair. The Ottawa-based advocacy group on Thursday called for Canadian authorities to launch an independent investigation to assess the present ownership status of the Monywa mine’s operator, Myanmar Ivanhoe Copper Capital Company Limited (MICCL).

MICCL was created as a 50/50 joint venture between Canada’s Ivanhoe Mines and a Burmese state-controlled firm, Mining Enterprise No. 1. MICCL has operated Monywa, Burma’s largest mine, since production began in 1999.

In a move critics said was a blatant attempt to hide the firm’s Burmese operations, Ivanhoe Mines reported in February 2007 that it had “sold” its 50 per cent stake in MICCL to an “independent third-party trust” in exchange for a guarantee that Ivanhoe would receive payment when the trust sold its stake.

Following the September 2007 “saffron revolution”, in which scores of protesting monks and citizens were killed by junta soldiers in Rangoon, Ivanhoe and the Monywa mine made headlines when Andy Hoffman of Canadian national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, reported that despite Ivanhoe’s claims it had pulled out of Burma its financial filings showed it was still receiving profits from its 50 per cent stake in MICCL, held by the allegedly “independent trust”.

Ivanhoe claimed in October 2007 that it had determined it was “prudent to record a $134.3 million write-down” in the value of their 50 per cent stake, thereby reducing its value to nothing, in what the Canadian Friends of Burma said was a clever ploy to avoid revealing any details about the Monywa mine in its regulatory filings.

State-controlled The Myanmar Times quoted MICCL’s general manager Glenn Ford as saying last year that Monywa was in fact “one of the lowest-cost production mines in the world”, despite Ivanhoe’s claim that the mine was worth nothing.

Ivanhoe denies ‘trust’ has sold stake in Monywa

When asked to comment on the current status of the Monywa mine, Ivanhoe spokesman Bob Williamson told Mizzima on Wednesday that the “independent trust” had not sold the 50 per cent stake to anyone. Since the trust’s creation, Ivanhoe has refused to reveal any of the individuals or firms who oversee the entity, offering only that they were not employees of Ivanhoe Mines.

Ivanhoe had said when the trust was created that the stake in MICCL would not be sold by the trust to anyone it termed “excluded persons” – employees or directors of both Ivanhoe Mines and Rio Tinto, the British-Australian firm that controls a sizable minority stake in Ivanhoe. It also said “residents or entities controlled by citizens or residents of Myanmar (Burma) or the United States” would also be barred from buying the stake.

Source tells Mizzima sale of Ivanhoe’s stake completed last year

Contrary to that claim, however, a source in Burma’s business community told Mizzima that the “independent trust” completed the sale of its 50 per cent stake late last year to cronies of the Burmese junta who have ties to Chinese business interests.

The alleged secret sale came as no surprise to CFOB executive director Tin Maung Htoo, who believed “from the very beginning Ivanhoe has been totally dishonest about its operations in Burma and this so-called ‘independent trust’ charade gives Ivanhoe chairman Robert Friedland ample opportunity to keep the mine for himself or sell to it the regime’s cronies or do whatever he wants”.

Were Ivanhoe’s stake in MICCL to have been bought by cronies of the Burmese regime, this would violate US and EU sanctions. In January last year, MICCL was added to the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) list of banned entities, an action that Ivanhoe failed to mention in any of its subsequent statements or filings that discuss the “independent trust”. Ivanhoe also failed to tell its shareholders that the European Union had added MICCL to its Burma sanctions list in November 2007.

Ivanhoe’s Burmese venture refuses comment

When Mizzima called MICCL’s Rangoon office yesterday and asked who now owned Ivanhoe’s 50 per cent stake in the joint venture, an staff member refused to answer. Requests to speak to the company’s Monywa general manger Glenn Ford or even learn his nationality was also declined.

While Glenn Ford was unavailable for comment, a Google search for his name and “Ivanhoe” revealed an interesting posting in March last year by a “Glenn Ford” on Australian business news commentary website, Business Spectator. It said Norinco had teamed up with China’s massive Chinalco to aim for Ivanhoe’s Burmese holdings. The posting made in reference to the proposed purchase of Rio Tinto by Chinalco stated “Now Chinalco, in partnership with Chinese state-owned arms dealer Norinco, is buying the whole copper deposit of Ivanhoe and the Myanmar government.” Glenn Ford of MICCL could not be reached to confirm if this had been his posting.

Tin Maung Htoo believed the MICCL general manager had indeed posted the statement. “How many people named Glenn Ford are there around posting intimate details of Norinco’s Burmese operations; Norinco’s own statement about their Monywa copper deal would suggest that this post was genuine.”

Concerns that Chinalco had purchased the stake were also raised last year by CFOB. Citing SEC filings from February 2008 by China Resources Limited, a small start-up firm whose chief financial officer Gerald Nugewela was a former MICCL employee, CFOB alleged Chinalco had bought the stake in possible violation of US sanctions directed against MICCL. In a widely distributed press release, CFOB quoted the following text from Nugawela’s career summary, included in at least seven separate SEC filings:

“From 2005 to January 2007, Mr. Nugawela was employed by Ivanhoe Mines as Commercial Manager of Myanmar Ivanhoe Copper Co. Ltd. At Ivanhoe, Mr. Nugawela was responsible for managing treasury operations, accounting, supply and contracts administration, output agreements, business analysis and planning. Mr. Nugawela was instrumental in arranging the sale of the company to Chinese Aluminum Company [Aluminum Corporation of China or Chinalco]. He prepared the valuation model and met with prospective purchasers in their due-diligence investigation of the company.”

In a tersely worded “open letter” addressed to CFOB that accused the NGO of running a disinformation campaign, Ivanhoe chief executive John Macken, while acknowledging that Nugawela had indeed worked at MICCL, denied that he had been employed by Ivanhoe Mines as Nugawela had stated. He also denied that Nugawela had brokered the sale, claiming that “neither Ivanhoe Mines nor MICCL has been sold, or ever offered for sale, to anybody”.

Several lines later, Macken, in an apparent contradiction of his earlier claim, stated the independent trust was indeed trying to sell the MICCL stake, writing that the trust was “endeavouring to negotiate its sale to potential buyers”.

Local villagers report pollution, high security around mine site

For many years reports from villagers living in the vicinity of the mine are that neighbouring farmland has become too acidic to grow crops because of chemicals used in the mining process, driving many farmers into extreme poverty. Villagers also say that the Burmese regime has long maintained a heavy security presence in the area. The Irrawaddy magazine reported on Thursday that since Ivanhoe’s apparent departure “Chinese workers and engineers” have been busy working in the area.

Extreme poverty means they cannot meet the basic needs for food, water, shelter, sanitation and health care. The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than US$1.25 per day.
Saturday, June 25, 2011

No big policy shifts from new Australian PM, activists say

Friday, 25 June 2010 18:48 Kyaw Mya

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Burmese activists in Australia are not expecting any big foreign policy shifts on Burma, they said, after Julia Gillard was sworn in as the country’s first woman prime minister, vowing to bring changes to the government on the domestic front.

Labor Party incumbent Kevin Rudd stepped aside for his former deputy Gillard to take power early yesterday in an apparent bid to save face ahead of a party leadership vote he was assured he would lose.

It was a speedy exit for the first Labor prime minister to be ousted in his first term, spurred by party fears over recent polls that put the opposition ahead of Labor for the first time since January 2006, according to a June 3 Nielsen poll. National broadcaster ABC’s PM programme last night reported that: “A little under 24 hours passed between the time Ms Gillard was convinced to run and the moment she was elected unopposed.”

“The only change is the deputy prime minister and the prime minister so I don’t think there will be any dynamic changes in Burmese-related issues,” Dr. Myint Cho, a spokesman for Burma Campaign Australia, said.

Dr. Myint Cho added that Rudd’s position towards military-ruled Burma had been satisfactory because of his depth of knowledge on Burmese issues from his previous stint as shadow minister of foreign affairs.

“He worked very hard to draw [the] attention of parliamentarians and government to focus on Burmese issues,” he said. “When he was the opposition leader he promised me that if he restores [Labor to] the administration, he would try to lobby international communities to introduce the idea of a global arms embargo and commissions of inquiry into crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by the Burmese regime. When he became prime minister he did as he had spoken.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith told Parliament in an update on Burma in February that Australia had placed financial sanctions on the military regime in 2007 – a response to the violent crackdown on protests led by monks against the junta,  the “saffron revolution”. It also recently began engaging the regime on counter-narcotics, human trafficking and disaster relief challenges.

He said Australia welcomed the US approach that combined engagement, sanctions and humanitarian assistance, and outlined that Australian aid was to increase over the next three years to A$50 million (US$43.3 million) annually. Last year, Aung Sang Suu Kyi asked the junta for a meeting with representatives from the European Union, the US and Australia to discuss the withdrawal of international sanctions.

Australia agreed with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that to lift sanctions would send the wrong message but agreed not to expand them. Australia continues to push for dialogue with the Burmese authorities, Smith said.

Though Gillard is expected to leave Australia’s external relations unchanged, she is under pressure from the Labor Party, keen to yet again appeal to key voters – sections of the Australian working and lower-middle classes – in a crackdown on asylum-seeking boatpeople. Gillard said she understood Australians’ concerns over the number of boat arrivals and pledged stronger border control, according to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald.

Unlike Rudd, a former diplomat and foreign policy expert, Gillard has little experience in the field. Gillard’s holding of the portfolios of education, employment and workplace relations and social inclusion, led Dr. Myint Cho to conclude that she would not be as interested in Burmese issues as was her predecessor.

“But the good thing is there are lots of Labor MPs [members of parliament] who are interested in Burmese issues,” he said. “As long as foreign minister Stephen Smith is in position, I don’t worry about their [Australia’s] position on Burma issues.”

But activist groups working on Burmese issues disagree with Australia’s stasis regarding sanctions, and have sought their widening, citing Australian investment in Burma’s energy resources, which they said supported a brutal regime.

Australia’s Twinza Oil is the parent company of Danford Equities Corporation, which is conducting tests in the Yetagun East Block, in the Gulf of Martaban, after signing a production exploration contract with the state-owned Burma (Myanmar) Oil and Gas Enterprise in November 2006, according to Burma Campaign Australia.

Twinza Oil’s project will provide the military regime with an estimated US$2.5 billion, and it is believed that with the help of such investments the regime’s nuclear ambitions are also proceeding, it said.

On the deal, Sharan Burrow, president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions wrote in the New Matilda online journal last year that: “By itself, this contract with an Australian company promises the Burmese junta enough money to run roughly one quarter of its military – the world’s 12th-largest – for a decade.”

That is also a lot of money that will never reach Burmese people.

Smith also told the Australian Parliament in February that half of Burma’s roughly 50 million people live in extreme poverty, which means they cannot meet the basic needs for food, water, shelter, sanitation, and health care. The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than US$1.25 per day.

Additional reporting by Perry Santanchote
Friday, June 24, 2011

USDP members directly appointed as Burmese village administrators

Friday, 24 June 2011 19:33 Tun Tun

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Burmese township authorities have directly appointed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) members as ward and village administrators, according to political parties that contested in the election.

‘These reports were sent to us from Rangoon and Bago regions and some townships from Magwe Region’, National Unity Party (NUP) spokesman Han Shwe told Mizzima.

He said the 2008 Constitution Chapter 5 Executive Article 289 stipulated, ‘The administration of wards or village-tracts shall be assigned in accord with the law to a person whose integrity is respected by the community’. It offers no detailed provisions in this regard.

‘The necessary laws for this matter must be made by Parliament. Our party wants, as the Constitution stipulates, the administrators to be people whose integrity is respected by the community’, Han Shwe said.

Unity and Diversity Party chairman Nay Myo Wei said such appointments also occurred in Mingaladon Township and in Bogale. I have been told by my party members that there were no invitations or prior information. All these administrators were appointed directly by an order given by higher authorities’.

Rangoon Region government minister Nyan Tun Oo was quoted by Rangoon journalists in May 2011: ‘The ward and village tract administrators will not be members of any political party'. He also said that the appointments must be made by coordination with local elders and respected community figures.

Observers said only USDP members were appointed as ward or village-tract administrators.

Thirty-five people from Rangoon Region, North Htaukkyat Ward, have sent a letter to the district administrator objecting to the appointments.

‘The USDP manipulated these appointments and no local elders were informed in advance. When you look at what Minister Nyan Tun said and what actually happened it’s clear. There was no transparency’, Shwe Nyein, one of the local elders who signed the letter, told Mizzima.

Residents in wards including Ye Su, Ye Su South, Lay Su Taung, Ywama and Bawlonekwin will also send similar objection letters.

There are 33 townships in Rangoon Region with 2,056 village tracts and 657 wards, according to a domestic news journal quoting Region Command commander Major General Win Myint in January 2010.

Ward and village-tract administrators are influential in handling petty crimes in local areas, making sale deeds of property and performing religious functions, social functions and funerals. They are also the key person in communicating with the township, district and region chairmen for the area. Since the time of the former military regime, local administrators have been directly appointed by higher authorities.

A second bomb goes off in Mandalay–fourth bomb on Friday

Friday, 24 June 2011 16:44 Mizzima News

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – A second bomb exploded in Mandalay on 84th Road between 31st Road and 32nd Road at around 3 p.m. on Friday. There were no injuries.

The bomb exploded near the Sainsabelphoo gold shop and a rubbish pile located near Pariyatti Sasana Association. The location is 800 feet from the site of the first bomb explosion around noon.

Another view of the area in front of the Zaygho Hotel in Mandalay after a bomb exploded in a parked car on Friday, June 24, 2011. Photo: Mizzima

According to authorities, a bomb squad sealed off the area around the dump site around  2 p.m.

On Friday, four bombings have been reported in Burma; two explosions in Mandalay; one in Naypyitaw and one in Pyinoolwin (English name: Maymyo).

The first bomb explosion occured  on 84th Road in Mandalay at noon when a bomb was placed in a Pajero sports utility vehicle with license plate number 3B/1984 parked in front of the Zaygyo Hotel. The second and third explosions occurred in an empty house in Naypyitaw and an empty house in Maymyo (Burmese name: Pyinoolwin), where a large number of military schools are located respectively. The explosions occured in two-storey homes and the blasts occurred on the upper floors nearly simultaneously.

One person in Mandalay was injured in the first explosion.

In other towns, there were no casualties. Military officers are investigating the bomb scenes.

In Maymyo (Pyinoolwin), rumours have circulated that more bombs will be detonated.

Military officers cordon off the area in front of the Zaygho Hotel in Mandalay after a bomb exploded in a parked car on Friday, June 24, 2011. Photo: Mizzima Another view of the area in front of the Zaygho Hotel in Mandalay after a bomb exploded in a parked car on Friday, June 24, 2011. Photo: Mizzima The bomb scene after an explosion occurred in a parked car in front of the Mandalay Zaygho Hotel in Mandalay on Friday afternoon, June 24, 2011. Photo: Sytmhone Glass windows of the nearby May Myanmar Plaza were broken when a bomb exploded in a parked car in front of the Zaygho Hotel in Mandalay on Friday, June 24, 2011. Photo: Sytmhone The bomb scene after a bomb exploded in a parked car in front of Mandalay Zaygho Hotel in Mandalay on Friday afternoon, June 24, 2011. Photo: Sytmhone 

31 Rohingya make day 10 of hunger strike in Australia

Thursday, 24 June 2010 15:15 Thomas Maung Shwe

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Thirty-one Rohingya refugees in a detention centre in Darwin, Australia are entering the 10th day of a hunger strike today in protest at the Australian government’s delay in processing their asylum claims, an average of nine months after their boats’ interception. 

The president of the Burmese Rohingya Community in Australia, Kyaw Maung Shamsul Islam told Mizzima in a Burmese-language phone interview conducted late on Wednesday that three of the protesters had been taken to hospital because of the effects of their fast.

According to him, all 42 of the Rohingya refugees began the strike while held at the immigration detention centre in Darwin, the capital of Australia’s Northern Territory, but 11 dropped out because of the physical toll.

Kyaw Maung said the 42 refugees were transferred to Darwin from Australia’s offshore detention centre on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean two months ago with the promise that they would be quickly processed and released. The group comprises two groups of Rohingya who were intercepted eight and 11 months ago while attempting to reach Australia from Indonesia. He said they the Rohingya protesters were very worried about the safety of the loved ones they had left behind.

“They have spent too much time in the detention centre. It has been a long time since immigration officers and social service groups have visited the detention center. So, they’ve lost their rights and have gone on a hunger strike”, said Soe Lwin, an employee from the Voluntary Social Work in Brisbane, capital of Queensland State, said.

According to Australia’s public broadcaster ABC, Australian immigration officials in Darwin coldly responded to inquiries about the hunger strike by saying that such actions would not speed up the processing of their asylum applications.

Suicide attempt unsuccessful

An Australian newspaper the Northern Territory News reported yesterday that one of the hunger strikers had attempted to hang himself on Tuesday morning but a fellow refugee intervened to save his life.

Immigration Department national communications branch manager Sandi Logan declined to reveal details in the report but said the suicidal refugee was “receiving appropriate care, including mental health support”. At the time of writing Mizzima was unable to contact any representatives of the Australian government for further comment.

Ian Rintoul, a spokesman for Australian advocacy network Refugee Action Coalition in Sydney told Mizzima that he had recently spoken on the phone with an Afghan refugee who was detained in the same area as the group of Rohingya hunger strikers. The Afghan described many of the Rohingya as “very weak” because of the far north Australian heat and their refusal to drink liquids. 

A long-time refugee and rights advocate based in Sydney, Rintoul said the Australian government’s security check process was what was causing the lengthy delays in the Rohingya’s asylum claims. He criticised the government for stalling the process despite the fact that Australia considers the Rohingya a resettlement priority.

Rintoul told Mizzima that there was “no justifiable reason” for continuing to detain the refugees, adding that the government has refused to disclose what the security screening process entails.

Rintoul and others seeking to help the detained refugees have extremely limited access to them as they are housed far away from the Australian population centres. Further complicating matters is the government’s policy of limiting each detained refugee to make no more 10 minutes a week in phone calls. He believed this was one of the main reasons that details of the hunger strike have trickled out very slowly.

A contested history

The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic minority group that hail from Burma’s western Arakan State and who speak a separate language from Arakanese or Burmese. Despite the fact that many can prove their families have lived in Burma for several generations, most Rohingya do not have Burmese citizenship. Many Arakanese nationalist organisations dispute the legitimacy of the Rohingya people, claiming they are merely Bengalis, a claim Rohingya activists say is a deliberate over-simplification and a misrepresentation of history.

Rohingya activists point out that during the time of U Nu’s democratic post-war government, Rohingya were elected to the national parliament and Burmese state radio even had regular Rohingya language broadcasts.

Over the last 20 years tensions in Arakan state between Muslims and Buddhists have been exacerbated by scarce land resources. Outbreaks of violent intra-communal bloodshed that many Rohingya believe were instigated by the Burmese military regime have sent hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fleeing into neighbouring Bangladesh. It is estimated that at present several hundred thousands Rohingya living illegally as refugees in Bangladesh.

The plight of the Rohingya briefly made headlines across the world last year when dozens of boats containing Rohingya refugees were pushed back into the ocean by Thai authorities.

In an attempt to counter the sympathetic coverage the Rohingya boat people received, Burma’s top diplomatic representative in Hong Kong Consul-General Ye Myint Aung sent a letter to his fellow diplomats in the territory that stated his regime’s position on the Rohingya issue. In the letter he claimed that the Rohingya could not possibly be Burmese citizens because their “complexion is dark brown” and that they are as “ugly as ogres”.

The Rohingya communities’ most famous political prisoner is Kyaw Min, leader of the small Arakan-based opposition party, the National Democratic Party for Human Rights (NDPHR) and an MP elected from Arakan State in the May 1990 election. Kyaw Min, served as a member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s alliance of ethnic-minority MPs, called the Committee for the Restoration of the People’s Parliament (CRPP).

Kyaw Min was arrested in 2005 after meeting representatives from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Rangoon. He was stripped of his citizenship and given a 47-year jail sentence. His wife Daw Tiza, his two daughters Kin Kin Nu and Way Way Nu and his son Maung Aung Naing were all given 17-year terms and also made stateless.

Australia tried to trade Rohingya refugees for Haitians and Cubans

In April 2007, the Australian government proposed a US-Australian refugee deterrence trading plan. To launch the programme, the Australian government wanted to send eight Rohingya refugees and 82 Tamil refugees who had been detained attempting to make it to Australia by ship with a similar number of Haitian and Cuban refugees who had been captured at sea by American coast guard authorities.

Australia’s then Prime Minister John Howard claimed the bartering of asylum-seekers would limit the number of refugees trying to flee to Australia. “I think people who want to come to Australia will be deterred by anything that sends a message that getting to the Australian mainland illegally is not going to happen,” Mr Howard told a reporter from The Age newspaper when this initiative was announced.

The famously tough-on-refugees prime minister added “I think people who set out for this country with the full knowledge that they’ll be prevented from coming to the Australian mainland will be additionally deterred” by the US-Australia trading scheme.

According to Rintoul, following a national outcry from refugee advocates and opposition politicians, the Howard government’s refugee-trading proposal was abandoned and no refugees were actually exchanged.

Additional reporting by Salai Tun